Viva la madness, p.10
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       Viva La Madness, p.10

           J. J. Connolly

  ‘How long had you been planning something like this?’ I ask Ted.

  ‘All my life,’ Ted replies with a sip of tea.

  ‘But why do you need to be dead?’

  ‘Why not?’

  It’s a good criminal career move, to be dead. Will the police stamp his file ‘deceased’? Who knows with the law? They’ve seen it all before, go to college to learn how to be sceptical.

  Ted hands me an original copy of a Spanish death certificate – Certificado de Defunción – folded neatly in four, like it’s been steam-pressed. For something that was only issued by a Spanish civil servant yesterday morning it looks incredibly worn.

  I read aloud, ‘La causa de la muerte – lesiones múltiples.’

  Cause of death – multiple injuries.

  ‘Don’t be starting with all that Spanish bollocks,’ says Ted. ‘I won’t miss the fuckin lingo.’

  ‘You never learnt Spanish?’ I ask Ted.

  ‘Never had to,’ he replies defensively.

  ‘It’s easy, really. All those languages derive from Latin.’

  ‘Do you know how mad that sounds …? All those languages derive from Latin? Where the fuck did Morty find you? I suppose you speak Spanish?’ he asks.

  ‘I lived in Costa Rica for a while. Nobody spoke English. It was learn or starve. You pick it up listening to football on the radio, talking to people in bars.’

  ‘Birds, you mean? I can see you’re a lover not a fighter.’

  ‘What’s the beef between you and Sonny?’ I ask, curious now. ‘You’ve never met him.’

  ‘What’s that got to do with anything?’

  ‘Quite a lot, I woulda thought.’

  ‘Now you’re sounding like the counsel for the prosecution. I trust him to get the gear to where it’s meant to be … Listen, Sonny’s a good moneygetter. We need him.’

  ‘But you don’t like Sonny?’

  ‘I thought I’d made that clear, pal,’ says Ted with an edge.

  We sit in silence, watching Ted thinking hard. Suddenly he’s alight again.

  ‘Sonny was always turnin up in Spain, sniffin about, lookin for a move. He knew a few geezers I had on the firm. I had no reason to talk to him. He was flash – drew attention, slinging money around. I couldn’t have eejits round me. I was making moves with geezers from all over the world. I didn’t need some slipkid. It was Bridget who said he’d come in useful.’

  But it was Morty who first piped up he could work with him, two years ago. Sonny can move a lotta product and do the distribution for Ted’s tackle. Any business is all about distribution. Sonny needed coaching in how to behave, needed the really rough edges smoothing. What we’ve got now is the refined version of Sonny King, the one who’s been to finishing school.

  ‘But he still ain’t proper …’ shrugs Ted, ‘but I know he ain’t a grass. Some of these fellas nowadays … They’d go QE like that.’ He clicks his fingers. The dry sound echoes. ‘Sonny always likes to knock about with the top geezers.’ He nods at Morty as if presenting exhibit A. ‘Thought something would rub off on him …’

  ‘Likes a toff, does our Sonny,’ adds Morty.

  Ted turns to Mort, slaps his arm, ‘Tell him that story about Evey and the chavvie stranded at the airport.’

  ‘He’s heard it, from the man himself,’ says Morty.

  ‘What a dog-move, aye?’ Ted says to me, looking for me to agree.

  ‘Was she okay?’ I ask, ‘Eve?’

  ‘Don’t worry about Evey. Born survivor. Just loves a wrong ’un …’

  Ted gets out a folded piece of paper and hands it to me. The paper is quality – powder blue, watermarked and flecked – again, like the death certificate, folded exactly into four quarters. I open it up. It has a fourteen-digit phone number, an American bank sort code, account number, bank membership number and Personal Identity Number, printed on separate rows.

  ‘Call that an advance, a sign of goodwill. There’s just shy of a hundred and fifty grand in that account. Ring that number. It’s automatic, those numbers take you through security, and then you tell the bird in the call centre where it’s going.’

  ‘Where’s the call centre?’

  ‘Fuck knows. Timbuktu. Atlanta, Georgia. It’s not important.’

  ‘Won’t they want clearance with that amount?’

  ‘Joking, ain’t ya? One-fifty, ain’t a big deal. It’s how we do business – bank-to-bank transfer. Put it somewhere safe, it’s yours to keep,’ he says like an insincere game show host. ‘Call it expenses, but there’ll be plenty more when we start shifting weight.’

  ‘Do I need some samples?’ I ask. ‘Sonny said there was some raw in a deposit box.’

  ‘Samples is for kids, but keep that key safe,’ he says. ‘It’s all Brahma gear, quality product. If buyers wanna smash the granny outta it, that’s up to them. I’ll return, to you, two grand on every kilo shipped on any deal you negotiate, whether you’re around or not—’

  ‘But what’s to stop you just—’

  ‘Swindling ya? I want you happy. I’ll account to Mortimer. Two gee a key is a generous deal. I want you workin.’

  Then Ted Duppy Granger goes into a sales pitch worthy of a Miami condominium salesman, full of key words, catchphrases and blue-sky thinking.

  Big plans. Broad strokes, creating dynasties. Expansion and growth rates. Spun readies are better than mountains of cash. Need digits on a balance sheet somewhere. Money up front. Future’s in commodities. Bold speculation. Bulk buying. Raising capital. Reinvestment. Criminal hedge funds. Black money and grey money. Business is too lucrative to be left to criminals. Quick returns on capital investment. Returning a good dividend on the outlay. Speculation. Venture capital. Quick turnover. Cash injection into an ongoing concern. Lucrative returns, not shares – shares mean shareholders, and shareholders mean guaranteed headfuck.

  Anyone who believes this geezer’s a throwback is a fool.

  ‘Any bods with money, that are looking to invest, you reel them in, send them to me. Here’s a word for ya,’ says Ted, by way of grand finale, ‘symbiotic – sym-bi-otic.’


  ‘We – me and Sonny, me and you, you and Sonny – need one another, like the bees need the flowers and the flowers need the bees. And you know what bees make?’


  ‘And you know what we make?’


  ‘Lots of it. How much do you think you can shift?’

  ‘You tell me, Ted,’ I say with a shrug and a laugh. ‘How much you got?’

  ‘See, if you could place a couple of tons, it would really be helping me right out.’

  ‘A couple of tons!’ My voice shooting up an octave. ‘Fuckin tons!’

  ‘You’re in the wrong key, son,’ says Ted, dry as a twig. ‘Why do you think we got you back here? Half those geezers back there are potential punters.’

  ‘Back where?’ I ask.

  ‘Fuck’s sake, son!’ He rolls his eyes. ‘Why’d you think we had a funeral? Coulda been cremated in Spain.’

  ‘Do they know you’re not dead?’

  ‘Fuckin ’course not. But how else was I gonna get all those people in one room?’

  ‘What about Roy Burns?’ I ask. ‘What’s his role in all this?’

  ‘What, silly-bollocks-secret-squirrel Roy? You tell me.’ Ted shakes his head, shrugs. ‘Roy’s a turn – a tonic for the troops. Roy’s a one-man radar station. The only cozzer Roy won’t spot is the one who strolls up and nicks him.’

  That’s the trouble with crims – they love a crank.

  Ted gets up, flicks the kettle on again, puts a teabag in just the one cup. ‘I wanna know why Sonny and Roy are running around like Rottweilers with their tails tied together, but in the meantime be nice to Sonny but don’t be giving him my regards when you see him, okay?’

  ‘Just for the record,’ I say, feeling bold, ‘I’m beginning to feel like I’ve been brought here on false pretences.’

You’re right,’ says Mort, nodding. ‘Dead fuckin right.’

  ‘Thank you, Mister Mortimer,’ I say, feeling vindicated.

  ‘I was actually talking to Ted,’ says Morty. ‘You’re right; he does talk like a cozzer. Brought here under false—’

  ‘I told ya, didn’t I, Mort?’ says Ted, feeling vindicated himself.

  Morty and me get up to leave but Ted sits back down, hitches up his strides, like old geezers do – so their trousers don’t crease – then leans forward. ‘You like riddles?’ he says.

  ‘Not especially, no.’

  ‘Here’s one for ya,’ he says, ignoring my answer. ‘Why do people go to prison? Think about it.’


  ‘Try harder,’ he insists straight away. ‘Why do people go to prison?’

  ‘For committing crime?’ I say.

  ‘No, no,’ he says, shaking his head, pretending to be disappointed. ‘Think again. You’ll kick yourself … It’s not for committin’ crime.’

  ‘Oh, I get ya. It’s for gettin’ caught.’

  ‘Now you’ve got it, son. I knew you was a bright kid. It’s for gettin caught committing crime. So be lucky.’

  ‘Very good,’ I say with a weak smile. Morty nods indulgently.

  Ted laughs, slapping his leg. He’s cracked himself right up. ‘Riddles are easy … when you know the answers.’



  I thought I might pop back to the hotel room, have a kip for a couple of hours, but the phone was ringing as I entered. It’s Sonny in a public phone box.

  ‘You’re back?’ I ask. ‘I thought you were away for a week.’

  ‘So did I, mate, so did I.’

  ‘So what happened?’

  ‘We come back. Twitchy’s a laugh but you have to have a third party or he starts to become hard work. I don’t know who fills his head with magic. We got on to the holiday firm, told ’em he’s been burnt half to death with sunburn, told ’em it was a medical emergency. We had that rep bird terrorised – couldn’t wait to see the back of us! Just goes to show, don’t it?’

  ‘Yeah, it just goes to show,’ I agree.

  Funny – Sonny’s being nice as pie. Morty’s obviously told him to behave.

  ‘Now,’ says Sonny, all business, ‘we need to have a chat, one on one. You get it? I’ve been thinking. Long flight home. We need to straighten a few things out …’ He pauses, as if referring to notes. ‘Let’s be amicable. Is that the word? Amicable? Let’s be friends, mate—’

  ‘You sure you’re okay, Sonny?’

  ‘You can fuck off, pal,’ he says, instantly losing his new found amicability. ‘I fuckin tried. You come to my club at ten. Okay?’

  The phone goes dead without Sonny waiting for his reply.

  With a name like the Monarch Sonny’s club could be a shithole boozer in some backwater, full of dusty coffin-dodgers; instead, it’s a cool bijou nightclub tucked in a dead-end turning over by Piccadilly. I had the cab drive past so I could get my bearings. It had a small entrance – just red ropes and a black gloss-painted front door – with the name picked out in tasteful neon. It appeared surprisingly classy and sophisticated, like it was trying to be the groovy boutique spot rather than the mega-rave club, aiming for quality rather than quantity. I was quietly impressed by Sonny’s set-up; even a tad jealous, if I’m honest.

  I had the cab drop me up the street then walked back. Rented white stretch limos were causing gridlock along the street, and there’s a couple of big ’roided-up geezers, who don’t sniff like cozzers, sat in a BMW X5 checking out everyone, up and down the street. I caught one of them looking straight at me, then making a call on his cell – reporting my arrival to person or persons unknown.

  The door seems to have a siege mentality. Very unwelcoming, like it’s some concrete bunker in an Estuary town. The door crew frisk everybody, subjecting them to heavy manners and metal detectors. Nobody escapes the self-important security – not the toffs or the hip, young Japanese tourists. It’s busy and pleasantly chaotic but bouncers just opened the red rope as I approached, nodded in recognition, and ushered me in.

  One of the bouncers followed me up the tight staircase. ‘Mister King asked that you be shown up to the office,’ he says, like he’d rehearsed the line.

  He walks me past the cash desk and even more bouncers but this little firm of heavyweights are trying to look inconspicuous. He leads me into the club, motions above the loud music for me to follow him around the side of the dance floor. He pushes open a concealed door made of smoked glass with his considerable shoulder and leads me up a flight of steep, winding stairs. The bouncer leads me along a corridor filled to the ceiling with boxes of booze and into a small, dimly lit office. The only light is from a banker’s lamp that floods the desk with an intense glow.

  ‘If ya want a drink …’ he says, pointing at a glass-fronted fridge filled with premium imported beers and dinky quarter-bottles of champagne, ‘help yerself.’ He turns to leave.

  ‘Good luck,’ he says.

  And then Sonny purposely leaves me sitting like a prize prick, on a battered leather Chesterfield, listening to thump-thump-thump-bass-bass-bass, nursing a Japanese beer, to await my audience. When he called me earlier and said he wanted me to come by the club to talk, I could hear something in his voice – an anxiety to impress. He doesn’t actually like me, but he desperately wants to impress me.

  After a few minutes the door at the bottom of the stairs opens. The music gets louder for a couple of seconds, and then goes back to the muffled thump. Here comes Sonny. But then I unexpectedly hear giggling and laughter. The door flies open and a man and woman come stumbling into the room, kissing one another passionately, pulling at each other’s clothes, oblivious to me. She’s got her legs wrapped tight around his waist – he’s half carrying her. He kicks the door shut with his heel and plants her on the office desk. She’s holding a champagne bottle by the neck, strangling it. She puts it down with a great deal of care but a moment later it gets knocked over in the frenzy and rolls off the table.

  He’s reefing her up already – his hand is deep in her knickers – her short skirt is pushed up around her waist. Her eyes are rolling back in her head but she’s also laughing like a banshee. He retrieves his hand for a split-second, expertly licks the ends of his own fingertips and slips his hand back down her knickers. She groans and hurriedly drags her own sequined top off, over her head and flings it behind her. She’s skinny but very fit, very fuckable; her tits seem bigger than they should be. She’s dragging him out of his shirt, pulling the buttons off to get it undone. Now she’s desperately trying to undo his strides. Suddenly they drop round his knees. Not very elegant. The whole scene is somewhere between erotic and slapstick.

  He’s talking to her the whole time in a posh but slightly camp accent. You’d think he was a nailed-on gaylord if he wasn’t trying to fuck a fit bird on the tabletop. He momentarily stops and grabs at his shirt pocket, pulling out a small silver gadget. He holds it up to her nose – concentrating really hard – so she can snort some cha-cha and get charvered at the same time. She’s snorting and coughing but going back for more, pulling the gadget against her nose and inhaling deeply.

  He’s pulling her knickers off now with animal-like fumbling and grunting. She’s helping him by wriggling out of them. He pulls them down past her knees until she desperately, anxiously, pulls one leg out. She opens her legs wide and leans back. The discarded black lacy knickers are dangling, swaying off one pointy-toed high-heeled shoe. She lays back.

  He’s kissing her tits, crudely biting and sucking at her nipples. She’s groaning. Then he’s licking and kissing down her stomach, then into her navel, then he holds up one leg and runs his tongue in one flowing moment up the inside of her thigh. But now he’s pulling at the catches on her skirt, desperate to get her totally naked.

  ‘Leave it,’ she groans, rolling her eyes in the twilight. ‘Just fuck me, you bastard.’
br />   He drags her forward on the desktop. He leans forward – fumbling, impatient, desperate to get his dick in.

  ‘Wait …’ she says quietly, but then shouts, ‘for fuck’s sake, wait!’

  The guy stops, completely still, for a moment. She carefully guides him into her and they both let out a simultaneous, ecstatic moan. Then he starts to fuck her roughly. She grabs his back, tearing and ripping at it with her long nails. Her top lip curls upward. She’s shaking her head so her hair flies in all directions. She bites hard on her own bottom lip. He’s hitting a bitta rhythm. They’re in a world of their own.

  All of a sudden he starts talking to her brutally, in a weird, gruff caricature of a cockney accent – ‘You dirty bitch. You love it, don’t ya? Cressida, what kinda name is that? Yer a dirty cunt. What are ya?’

  They instantly both go hysterical, weeping – like it’s a running joke.

  ‘Stop it, Dougie, just fuck me properly, yer dirty cunt,’ she screams in her jolly-hockey-sticks accent. Always sounds dead horny – well-bred gals begging to get fucked.

  So this is Dougie. He doesn’t look like a fruit to me. His heart’s in the right place, or his dick is. She pulls herself up – kissing him – her arms around his neck while he pumps away.

  ‘You’re tense, Dougie,’ she says.

  ‘I know. Sonny’s gone weird.’ Dougie don’t exactly look tense; he’s hitting his stride now. ‘Metal detectors, roughnecks everywhere. Bad for business. Does that ’urt? Why ain’t you screaming then, you dirty bitch?’ Dougie says in his hissing mock cockney. He whispers right in her ear, laughing the whole time, ‘Tell me it ’urts, you posh cunt. You love it, don’t ya, ya dirty bitch! Don’t give it if ya can’t take it, I told ’em, the cunts!’

  He’s giggling so much now and crying with laughter that he can’t catch his breath. It’s bizarre. I work it out – it’s Dougie’s impression of Sonny doing his mucky business.

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