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Authors: Malcolm Mackay

Tags: #Fiction, #Mystery & Detective, #General

The Night the Rich Men Burned (8 page)

BOOK: The Night the Rich Men Burned
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Turning at the bottom of the street and heading towards the west end. Work to do. There’s a difficult collection that Bavidge knows hasn’t been done yet. Other people are avoiding it. They have tough men collecting for them, but this one has been left simmering on the books too long. Has to be done. If he has to be the person that does it, so be it. Never bothered him much, the difficult work. If the job turns nasty, he turns nasty. If it’s awkward, it’s awkward. So what? You can’t expect to work in this business and have no trouble. Accept that whatever is going to happen will happen, and face it. You either survive or you don’t, and Bavidge isn’t too concerned either way right now.

The guy’s name is Jamie Stamford. Tough son of a bitch. Works as muscle for Alex MacArthur, which is reason enough to be cautious. Stamford’s young and nasty. Thirty years old. Chucked twenty grand down a hole gambling on anything that moved and a lot of stuff that didn’t. Patterson bought the debt for 50 per cent. Nobody else would touch something that poisonous, which is why it was going cheap. Hell, the two bookies he bought it from were delighted with 50 per cent. Just getting that much made Patterson their new best friend.

Finding Stamford isn’t hard. One of Patterson’s men knows the gym he goes to pretty much every day. Wait for him outside. Have a conversation. Got to find the bloody place first. Bavidge isn’t one for gyms. His one impressive feat of agility was body-swerving the whole health and fitness movement. Not that he’s unhealthy. He’s trim because he works a lot and doesn’t eat too much. But the gym? Watching yourself sweat and pant in a big mirror while running on a treadmill like a fucking madman? Running to nowhere. No thanks. More of a metaphor than he wants to stare at all day.

Took him a while to find the gym, but he did. Stamford’s car is still in the car park. Swanky-looking gym, swanky-looking car. Gym membership won’t be cheap. Neither is the car. For a guy with a twenty-grand debt, he seems to know how to spend money. How to waste it. That’s because he thinks he can get away with it.

Stamford’s been doing it for years. Gambling like a moron, throwing his money away. Getting into debt, and then hiding behind MacArthur’s skirts. Being MacArthur’s favourite muscle has gotten him off the hook on all sorts of debt. And every time, the debt gets bigger. This twenty-grand debt is the biggest yet. Addiction running further and further out of control. Nobody else wanted to buy it. Nobody else wanted to piss off MacArthur. Patterson basically bought it to make a good impression on the two bookies. But he figures it’s worth trying to pick up.

Bavidge agrees. You let one thug get away with it and they all think they can. A free run for the stupidity collective. Stamford is an example the collection industry can’t afford to set. So you go and get the money. You make an example of him. If he can’t get off the hook, no one can; that sort of example. If MacArthur decides to get pissy about it, you ask him what he would have done. Shit, if the old man’s dumb enough to have someone like Stamford close to him, that’s his problem. MacArthur knows how it works round here. If you owe money, you bloody well pay it.

A few people have come and gone from the gym. All looking bronzed and vacant. All getting into their little mid-range sports cars or gaudy four-by-fours. Then Stamford. A bag slung over his shoulder. Wearing shirt and trousers, looking semiformal. Always a guy that likes to dress well. Those clothes won’t have come cheap either.

Bavidge is out of his car and walking across to Stamford. Intercepting him before he reaches the safety of his car. Black Nissan GT-R, polished to a mirrored shine. Stamford’s seen him coming. Been muscle long enough to know trouble when he sees it. But he’s bigger than Bavidge. Taller, broader, firmer and with a longer reach. All the things he thinks matter. He doesn’t know who Alan Bavidge is. Doesn’t know what he’s done in his life. And his financial management shows that he’s a complacent prick with the judgement of a lemming. So Bavidge isn’t worrying too much.

‘Jamie. Good workout?’

Stamford’s looking at him. Sneering, but with way too much effort to look anything other than dumb. ‘What are you, cop?’

And Bavidge is laughing. A genuine laugh too. Not just doing it to piss Stamford off. Bavidge looks so much younger when he laughs. He can look so happy. It is hilarious that Stamford thinks Bavidge is a cop. Coming to question or arrest Stamford on his own? Yeah, right. He really is dumb muscle if he can’t tell the difference between a collector and a cop.

‘No, I’m not a cop. I just wanted to have a wee chat about some money you owe.’

‘I don’t owe any money,’ Stamford’s saying, moving to push past Bavidge to his car. Confident and dismissive and happy that this isn’t a conversation he needs to worry about.

Lay down a marker. You let him push past you once and he keeps trying to push past you. You let him walk away from this conversation and you never get him back. The key to being a good collector is setting the tone. Do it early. Make sure the person knows who controls this. Make sure they know it’s never going to be them.

So Bavidge is shoving hard against Stamford. Shoulder to shoulder. Stamford is bigger, but he’s not expecting it. People don’t shove back against him. So when Bavidge does, Stamford stumbles. And now he’s looking at Bavidge. A little bit of disbelief. A lot of anger. Ready to lash out, which is why Bavidge is acting first. He’s done this sort of thing before, you will have gathered.

‘You throw a punch and this gets out of control fast,’ Bavidge is saying with a snarl. ‘I’m here to let you know how it’s going to be. You owe exactly twenty thousand, one hundred and forty-two pounds. You are going to pay exactly twenty thousand, one hundred and forty-two pounds. No discounts. No deals. No getting off the hook. No hiding behind your boss like a pussy. We have your debt and we are going to collect. Other people might not collect on you, Stamford, but I will. You’re fuck-all to me. No hiding. However far I have to go to get that money, I will go.’

Almost doesn’t matter what you say. Chances are Stamford’s heard some variation of this before, and it meant nothing to him then. He’s wriggled off so many similar hooks, the words don’t matter any more. It’s all about tone. You have to sound threatening. You have to sound confident. You can’t afford to sound like you’re out of control. And you can’t afford to sound like you’re trying your hardest. He has to believe that you have several more gears of the tough-bastard routine to go through.

Stamford’s taking a step back, which is good. Everything he says beyond this point means nothing. Point is, he stepped back. He’s not trying to push through. He’s accepted that Bavidge is controlling this conversation. It ends when Bavidge says it does.

‘You don’t know who you’re fucking with, pal.’

‘Not a pal. And I do know. Jamie Stamford. Slack-jawed piss ant for Alex MacArthur. Problem gambler. Using his boss to get off the hook. Not any more. This is a big debt and a big problem, Jamie. Twenty grand. You need to pay that money, before it buries you.’

Can’t make it clearer than that. But with some people, you can never make it clear enough. Stamford is starting to laugh. Not the nervous laugh of someone trying to look strong in a weak position. The complacent laugh of someone who knows their boss is bigger than any collector in the city. Who knows he has enough standing with the boss to expect yet another bailout.

Kill that complacency. Fast. A punch in the stomach and Stamford is stepping backward. Not a great punch, but he wasn’t expecting it, so it had impact. The second one’s better. Side of the mouth. It’ll definitely bruise, might even loosen a tooth or two. Always leave them something to remember you by. Always leave them with a mark they have to explain to others. Keeps reminding them how serious you are. It’ll bruise Bavidge’s knuckles as well, but he has no one to have to explain that to. Stamford still isn’t down. He’s set his feet well, ready to counter. But this is one of those rare occasions where Stamford is not the more experienced fighter. Bavidge is charging him. Catching him hard with his shoulder, right in the chest. Stamford is down. On his back, instinctively trying to get back to his feet quickly. Ignoring the pain in the back of his head where it hit the concrete to try and get vertical. Always stay on your feet. Golden rule. But Bavidge is on him. He didn’t go down in the charge. That was the point. Now he’s kneeling down. Putting his knee, and all his weight, on the side of Stamford’s neck.

‘You want to go running to MacArthur? Fine, you go running to him. I’ll let you up and you can mince off to him now. You can cry into his fucking lap. Tell him what I did to you. Every time you go to him, he thinks less of you. You do get that, don’t you? You understand that every time he has to rescue you, he hates you a wee bit more? The more he has to help, the less he wants to. That’s rule number one. Never beg from your boss. You’ve been doing that a lot, haven’t you, Jamie?’

‘Get off me. You’re fucking dead.’

‘Sooner or later,’ Bavidge is saying, leaning in closer and lowering his voice, ‘you’re going to have to clean up your own shit. Start with this one. Impress the world by doing your own dirty work for once. Get my twenty grand. If I don’t have it inside a fortnight, I’m coming back for you.’

Bavidge is getting up now. Two people have come out of the gym. They’re standing close to the glass door, watching. Both dressed the same, so they must be staff. Must have seen it on the security camera. Bavidge is turning and walking back towards his car. He can hear the scuff of Stamford getting quickly to his feet. Waiting for the idiot to make a charge at him.

‘Is everything okay?’ one of the staff is shouting across.

Bavidge is ignoring them. So is Stamford. Bavidge is at his car. Dropping into the driver’s seat, facing Stamford. He’s beside his car now, angrily throwing his bag into the passenger seat. Watching Bavidge as he drives away. Didn’t go brilliantly. Didn’t go badly. Probably won’t get the money, which is why he’s going to have to pay Stamford another visit. Something else he won’t bother looking forward to.

9

There are memories. They’re vague, but they’re definitely there. Some of them might be imaginary. Romanticized, at least. But Oliver Peterkinney can remember a few things about the night before. He remembers them as soon as he wakes up on the floor of Alex Glass’s living room. Yeah, that was a good night. He’s blinking heavily, and then looking around. Nobody there. Just him.

Ah, that’s what that bang was. The front door. Someone leaving the flat. Who was it? Probably the silent girl. She didn’t say a lot last night, even after the four of them came back to the flat. She seemed happy, at least. Sure as hell relaxed. And they had a good time. He thinks.

There was more alcohol. There was sex. There, the memories get a little confused. They were in the living room. Glass and his girl went into the only bedroom in the flat. Then there’s another memory. On top of the silent girl. The other girl sitting on the floor behind him. His leg rubbing against the thigh of the other girl while she sat there. Did that happen? Maybe not. Probably not. He remembers the feeling of skin. That’s about it.

He’s wondering what the silent girl thought of him as he finds the pile of his clothes on the couch. Why was he on the floor and the clothes on the couch? No idea. Never mind. What did she think? Not a lot, probably. He doesn’t remember much about his own performance. Did he speak well? Was he intelligent and funny? Did he seduce her and perform manfully? Not bloody likely. He was drunk and high and has little experience with either state. That won’t have helped. And she’s a hooker, after all. How much experience of better men does she have? Ah well, she’s gone anyway. He can make any assumption he wants, and she isn’t here to contradict.

Into the bathroom. Grubby little bathroom. When he gets a place of his own, he’ll keep it cleaner than this. His grandfather’s flat is tiny too, but at least it’s clean. A lot of cold water on his face. He’s nearly woken up now. Feels like he needs a shower. Smells like he needs a shower. Not this shower. He’ll get one when he goes home. Stand in the bath, then wrap himself in a towel and go sit on the radiator in his bedroom in the search for heat. For now, he just needs to be awake.

He’s in the kitchen now, trying to find some coffee. Scruffy kitchen. Not dirty, just everything scratched and scuffed and poorly maintained. The cooker and toaster and kettle all old, on their last legs. The best Glass could afford, but the best isn’t much. Peterkinney’s thinking about Jim Holmes. Jesus, what a mess they made of that. Okay, they got away with it on the night, but come on. What a fucking joke performance. They made enough mistakes to fill a book with. He’s shaking his head. You learn by doing. Learn by making mistakes. Last night they learned a lot.

And he’s thinking about Marty Jones. Slimy bastard. Asking them questions in his brother’s office. Trying to play the king of the castle. He’s well connected though. Everyone knows that. Connected to Peter Jamieson. Everyone knows that much because Marty makes a point of telling them. That’s his protection. People need to know how protected he is. The money he makes from parties like last night’s is one of the reasons he has that protection. He might be slimy and an arsehole, but he always knows how to make good money. That’s a trick worth knowing. A trick to be envied.

They were the victims of the sharp man’s trick last night. Played them like the kids they are. He could have sent anyone to handle that Holmes job. Sent someone more experienced, who would have handled it better. But he didn’t. He chose kids because he wanted someone he didn’t care about. Someone that didn’t matter. If Holmes had battered them. If the cops had caught them. Doesn’t matter. Message is still delivered. Holmes knows that Marty’s willing to try and get him. The quality of the job didn’t matter, just the message. So he sent the kids.

Peterkinney’s filling his mug when Glass wanders in. In boxers and a T-shirt. Grinning like a child at Christmas. Now he’s stopping, looking around.

‘Where’s your girl?’

‘Think she left,’ Peterkinney’s saying with a shrug.

BOOK: The Night the Rich Men Burned
5.91Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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