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Viva la madness, p.11
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       Viva La Madness, p.11

           J. J. Connolly
 

  ‘You love it, you posh birds. You’re all the same, love a big fat cock up ya, don’t ya? I’ll flip ya over and do ya up the shitshoot if ya don’t shut up.’

  ‘Stop it, Dougie, stop.’ She’s telling him to stop but screaming with laughter. ‘Stop talking like that! Fuck me properly!’ But she don’t want him to stop fucking her – she is really loving it. And I wouldn’t spoil anyone’s fun by interrupting. She’s throwing herself around and he’s pulling and moving her about on the tabletop.

  ‘I’ll do ya up the shitter. It’s my thing, ain’t it,’ Dougie growls. ‘You love it up the dirtbox, you posh slags!’

  ‘Don’t go off-road now, Dougie, whatever you do!’ She’s laughing like mad.

  He stops for an instant. ‘Ask nicely,’ he teases.

  ‘Please, please, please, fuck me,’ she squeals. He starts fucking her again, hitting a rhythm again.

  ‘Do it! Say it!’ he says. ‘Come on, please,’ like it’s his turn to beg.

  ‘No!’

  ‘Please!’ he insists.

  ‘No!’

  ‘Please!’

  ‘Fuck’s sake,’ she says and then in her best pikey voice, ‘come on, you nasty cunt, call that fucking! Oi, mate, that’s nice. You dirty … Fuck me properly, you grubby roughneck cunt!’

  I can hear him groaning and giggling and pumping like mad, all at the same time.

  ‘Fuck me,’ she laughs. ‘Come on! You’ve only got a little knob!’

  Dougie stops dead; a freeze-frame moment. ‘Steady on, girl …’ Dead serious all of a sudden. Then Dougie hits his stride again. And he’s back to his impression of Sonny. ‘I wanna see ya getting fucked by me pals! Like seeing the missus getting chopped, don’t I!’

  ‘Dougie, Dougie!’ she screams. ‘You’re possessed!’

  ‘Ain’t I!’ he screams with a manic laugh. And then he goes into an insane mantra – ‘I’m a dustman, a dirty, dirty dustman! I’m a dustman, a dirty, dirty dustman!’

  Her knickers swing, gathering speed. Dougie howls like a wolf. ‘You’re a dirty whore! And I’m a dirty dustman!’

  Then he carries on till the desk is creaking under the weight. Suddenly Cressida’s looking over Dougie’s shoulder, straight at me, eye-to-eye contact, but she doesn’t say anything for a good five seconds. Should I give her a little wave? Maybe she’d get off on it. Dougie pumps away, groaning, starting to hit the vinegar strokes, getting to where he wants to be.

  ‘Dougie, there’s a man in the corner,’ she says, calm, like she was admiring a lampshade. ‘He’s watching.’

  The Dougie cat is trying to ignore this bit of information, to carry on regardless.

  ‘Stop, Dougie, I’m serious. There’s a man. Look!’

  He stops, white arse motionless. I can hear him breathing heavy. He turns, in slow motion, his eyes all mad and angry.

  ‘Who the fuck are you?’ he snarls, squinting to focus.

  ‘I’m a friend of Sonny’s,’ I say. ‘That’s a spot-on impression.’

  Suddenly Dougie isn’t so intoxicated by the booze, gak and pussy.

  ‘Am I in trouble?’ He asks, half serious, half childlike.

  The girl goes into a fit of hysterical giggles. ‘Oh, Dougie,’ she screams, ‘you are funny. Am I in trouble? You’re not in school!’

  ‘Shut up!’ he tells her. ‘Just shut fucking up!’

  The more she tries to suppress her laughter the more she laughs.

  ‘Sonny’s meant to be meeting me here,’ I tell Dougie.

  ‘In the club?’ he shrieks.

  ‘In this office.’

  ‘Oh, fuck!’ shrieks Dougie.

  He pulls his trousers up and starts frantically buttoning up his shirt, but some of the buttons are missing. It panics him. The girl meanwhile has jumped off the table, pulled her knickers up, found her top in semi-darkness, pulled it back on, straightened – herself-and her skirt – out and is respectable again in seconds, calmly smoothing out her hair and rubbing some mislaid coke into her gums. The mere mention of Sonny turned the arrogant dude upside-down, turned him into a thumb-sucking imbecile – putting the right buttons in the wrong buttonholes.

  The girl starts to drag Dougie out the door without another word. No goodbye. Dougie’s face as he leaves is half naughty schoolboy, half sweaty ziphead. He slams the door and hurries down the corridor. I hear the door at the bottom of the stairs open – thump-thump-thump-bass-bass-bass – then a muffled conversation. Then someone approaching.

  The door swings opens and Sonny walks in with Royski trailing behind. He turns the lights on, dazzling me. ‘See him, that geezer,’ says Sonny, pointing with his thumb, ‘I don’t know how, but he can’t half nick a bird …’

  ‘Who’s that?’ I ask.

  ‘Oh, right, you didn’t meet him,’ says Sonny, bewildered, pondering the unfathomable. ‘You woulda thought he was a dot on the card gaylord.’

  ‘Who we talkin about, Sonny?’ I ask. ‘I’m lost.’

  ‘Don’t matter, pal,’ he says, shaking his head.

  Sonny leans on the front of the desk facing me – arms folded, dead envious – where two minutes before Dougie was chopping double-horny Cressida, suggesting he’ll do her up the dirtbox …

  ‘You all right?’ Sonny asks.

  ‘I’m sweet,’ I reply. ‘You okay?’

  Sonny ignores the question but just one look tells me that they’re a pair of troubled souls, but both trying hard to appear relaxed. Roy is swivelling round and round in an office chair – like he ain’t got a care in the world – stopping only to drum out a nervous tell-tale tattoo.

  ‘What do you need to talk to me about, Sonny?’ I say at last.

  ‘I just wanted you to drop by, to have a word. See, I was thinking … You being here in London is all fine and dandy, but I might need to go under myself, so now might not be the best time for your state visit, you understand?’

  ‘No, I don’t understand,’ I say, truthfully. ‘You might need to explain …’ They look at me like I’m mad. I start again, ‘If this is about Ted, it’s business as usual. Bridget was more involved than—’

  ‘Bridget don’t like me – never did,’ snaps Sonny.

  I could tell him that Ted never liked him either but that wouldn’t be diplomatic. Instead I say, ‘I don’t see, Sonny, how that matters.’

  Sonny pushes himself off the tabletop so he’s standing up now, suddenly angry. ‘Don’t be fuckin telling …’his voice peters out. He rolls up his fist in frustration, like he’d love to punch me in the mouth. I don’t feel danger; if Sonny wanted me shuffled to the bottom of the pack, I’d be gone already. He leans back on the desktop, picks his words with care.

  ‘You fuck me over – make me look a cunt in front of Morty or Bridget Granger – I’ll kill ya. Don’t make me an enemy—’

  ‘Listen, Sonny, I’m here cos Ted Granger wanted me—’

  ‘You’re a right smart cunt. Always got something to say—’

  ‘I ain’t got time to fuck about.’

  ‘And you think I have?’ says Sonny. ‘You don’t know the half of it. I’ve got naughty people wanting to do me and him …’ he nods at Roy, ‘… damage.’

  Roy snaps to attention, twitch breaking out.

  ‘Sonny,’ I ask, actually curious, ‘who wants to do you damage?’

  Sonny gets up, strides three short paces over to the wall and punches the plasterboard partition, hard enough to leave a crumbling dent. He doesn’t seem bothered by physical pain, might as well be patting a balloon.

  ‘I’m confused,’ I say. ‘You think that people want to do you damage?’

  ‘Listen, don’t ask me questions. Disregard everything I’ve just said. And don’t be telling Morty about anything either.’ Then, as an afterthought, he adds, ‘Or Bridget either. They don’t need to know!’

  ‘Know fuckin what, Sonny?’ I’m getting the zig now.

  ‘Nuffin, they don’t need to know nuffin, okay? You understand?’

  ‘No,
I don’t. I’m confused if I’m honest—’

  ‘This conversation never happened,’ he says, suddenly exhausted. ‘There’s something about you I don’t like. I ain’t worked out what it is yet …’

  ‘You asked me to come over here for what, exactly?’

  ‘To tell you to fuckin behave yourself—’

  ‘And now, Sonny, you’re talking in riddles – don’t tell Morty about you-know-what or Bridget Granger either—’

  ‘Don’t get fuckin smart with me!’ screams Sonny, pushing off the table, eyes locked in. ‘I ain’t impressed with you!’ he says, his face getting red. ‘I’d just as easy bury you. Don’t think I wouldn’t, pal, cos I’d fuckin enjoy it! Maybe I will, you cunt!’

  Sonny steps in closer, then stops dead. He’s spotted something on the carpet.

  ‘Wassat?’ he says, pointing down.

  ‘What is it, Sonny?’ Roy is out of the seat, on red alert. ‘What ya found?’

  ‘Easy, Royski,’ says Sonny, the calm one now, ‘nice and easy …’ Sonny bends down, picks up something delicate, studies it intensely then holds it up to the light. ‘It’s a button,’ he says, ‘a fuckin pearly button. See that …’ He shows it to me, tiny in the palm of his hand. ‘What the fuck’s that doin here?’

  ‘Fuck knows, Sonny,’ I reply.

  It captures his imagination for a few seconds before he flicks it away, shrugs with a worried forehead, then he’s back on me. Lost his thread but regained his temper. ‘Anyway, you behave yourself, shift some weight, we’ll get along famously.’

  Sonny moves towards the door, happy again. ‘Come on you two – lively! Let’s go downstairs, have a little sherb. Now you’re here, pal,’ he says to me, ‘I want you to meet someone.’

  Sonny King, I’m thinking, following him out, is more scared of Sister Bridget than he is of Mister Mortimer or the ghost of Duppy Ted.

  Once we get downstairs I can see why a gentleman like Sonny would want a share in a Mayfair nightspot, one like the Monarch Club. Apart from the obvious bagwash opportunities – and the incredibly good chances of indulging in belly-bumping sessions with extremely fit upper-class women – the whole gaff is one gigantic ego-fest for Sonny. The VIP area especially is a microcosm where criminal heavyweights and bemused aristocracy come to give each other a jolly good backslapping. It’s that curiously strange but perfectly understandable mix of off-duty villains and never-on-duty aristocrats who get along famously. Who else doesn’t have to get up for work at seven on a cold and frosty morning? Who else has easy-come-easy-go money burning a hole in their pockets, begging to be squandered? Who else regards morality, timekeeping and good manners as purely optional? Who else have what psychology books would call a ‘sociopathic sense of entitlement’?

  Everybody loves a gangster – till they meet one. Everyone loves a toff – till they meet one.

  Sonny, of course, is in his element. Everyone’s showing great respect or laughing till they weep at his war stories. In many respects Sonny’s a basher but he’s grafted, through hard work and ruthlessness, to be the owner of a not insubstantial piece of upmarket property. He might not attain the so-called class of these debonair swell dudes – all hanging-out, poncing off each other, piking-out when the bill arrives – but this is a geezer who’s escaped a kennel in Kilburn, who could buy and sell a lot of these cunts who look down their nose at him.

  Money is flying. International clientele – the so-called Eurotrash, who don’t have anything trashy about them and increasingly don’t have anything Euro about them – have colonised the tables surrounding the dance floor where the minimum spend is a grand. There’s plenty of Dom Perignon and sniff going round but with admirable caution – discreet waiters handing over wraps in matchcovers, diplomatic sorties to the powder room, polite notices advising against drug use. But most of the clientele are charged-up, well pleased with themselves. You could get to thinking that sniffing coke is a bit old, not a lot of imagination involved.

  Sonny wants to park me up in the VIP and feed me champagne and caviar on toast. He formally introduces me to Dougie. In a less forgiving light, Doug is a disaster area – a sweaty cokehead, not pretty. You get the sense that Douglas Nightingale is from a different era – that peculiar mix of ultra-perceptive, seen-it-all-before, and at the same time naïve, childishly stupid, too trusting for this cruel life.

  ‘I thought your paths might have crossed somewhere along the line,’ says Sonny.

  ‘Oh no,’ I say, shaking Dougie’s clammy hand, ‘this is the first time we’ve met, isn’t it?’

  Dougie nods with hostile eyes. Sonny disappears. Dougie – like a half-fucked dog – is transfixed by a girl dancing provocatively in front of him. Then, without a word, Dougie wanders off, leaves me standing like a plum.

  The club is full to bursting now but I don’t really feel in the party spirit, I feel jet-lagged and spun-out. I was at a funeral and then had my head mangled by the deceased. It’s time to go. Then I feel a big slap on the back.

  I turn round to see Sonny with a huge cigar stuck between his teeth. He’s with a well-dressed swell who’s grinning like he’s had a noseful.

  ‘This is my man Giles,’ Sonny shouts above the music. ‘If ya ever wanna buy a Picasso, or a nightclub, then he’s yer boy. A proper lawyer,’ says Sonny with a wink to Giles.

  They both laugh. Giles has a girl on each arm, like some handsome, foppish playboy wastrel who’s escaped from a Broadway musical, but looking at me like he knows something I don’t. I lean in close on Sonny, ‘I was just cutting out, Sonny.’

  ‘And?’ he shrugs, dead dry. ‘That’s up to you. Shame you two couldn’t have a little chinwag.’

  Sonny gets distracted by some passing admirers. He drags them over to the bar, snapping his fingers for champagne.

  ‘Another time, another place, perhaps,’ I say turning to shake Giles’ hand. ‘It’s hello and goodbye at the same time, I’m afraid.’

  ‘Yes, yes,’ says Giles, shaking my hand, nodding his head, looking absorbed, like he’s scheming. He carries on shaking my hand.

  ‘Can I have my hand back, mate?’ I ask.

  ‘Oh, sorry!’ Giles says. The girls laugh and so does Giles, good-naturedly.

  ‘Actually, Giles, I’ve had a long day. I hope you’re not offended – or Sonny – but I’m just off.’

  ‘Offend our Sonny?’ he says. ‘I didn’t believe that was possible, old buddy.’

  Again the girls laugh like it’s the funniest thing ever.

  ‘We’ll meet again, sir,’ says Giles, very loaded, with a small nod.

  ‘Sure, sure,’ I say, suddenly desperately wanting to get gone. ‘Till next time.’

  ‘You’re not wrong, pal,’ says Giles the Toff with a wink and a smidgen of Cockney accent.

  CHAPTER THIRTEEN

  CHA - CHA WITH THE DEVIL YOU KNOW

  Sometimes life is about sitting tight. Right now it’s about waiting on Ted Granger. I slept on it and it’s a good deal – two grand a kilo shipped on any deal negotiated. Nobody’s being greedy. Ted or Bridget need to build in as many buffers as possible. I started getting ideas, working out where we could place product. But, after I left Sonny’s Monarch Club, I got a distinct feeling of being watched. I couldn’t see anyone but, as Ted would say, that don’t mean they ain’t there.

  This morning Morty rang – told me to stand down, it’s Sunday – and suggested a trip out to a restaurant on the river in Berkshire, one of his new haunts. I dodged around on the tube and met Mort outside Baker Street station, by the flower stand. Morty’s old habit – rental motors. My old habit – jumping around on the Underground. Soon we were heading out towards the Home Counties.

  And it was just like old times – all the stories, good food, people on boats, waving as they chugged by; swans, ducks and moorhens – Mort feeding ’em bread. Then he talks bits of business – jogging my memory – old connections for new supplies.

  But talking shop is dangerous. Customs and Excise, or the l
aw, will nowadays try and prosecute using the conspiracy laws rather than possession with intent to supply. They’ll keep an eye on geezers they suspect of being involved with import and supply of powders. If they get a hint of skull-business they can move in and nick them for conspiracy. Years ago to get a conviction the defendants had to be caught red-handed with the gear. But now juries only have to be convinced that these guys conspired with the aim of committing a criminal action – the planning was the crime, not the execution. Guys are getting sent away without the customs seizing product. If the law fancy you’re at it they target you, and your life becomes very difficult.

  I ask Morty what his plans are, but Morty’s plans are, as usual, a lazy shrug of the shoulders. He’s happy to mooch around in the countryside, reminiscing. He’s good company until the sun goes down and we decide to head back into town, Morty gets in the motor and switches, becomes a boy racer.

  I must have spent years of my life in a motor with Mort but I never felt comfortable in the passenger’s seat. I remember how fast Morty drives. As we hit the motorway I remind him I’m still a man who the police would like to help them with their enquiries. We drive real fast for ten or fifteen minutes as it gets dark.

  ‘One second …’ says Mort, holding up a gloved hand, looking in the rear-view mirror more than the road ahead. Now he’s increasing his speed again, to a hundred miles an hour.

  ‘Do ya wanna slow down a bit, Mort?’

  But he ain’t listening. He’s got on something in the rear-view and checking the wing mirrors – taking quick looks, left and right, in case someone’s sneaking up on us.

  Without warning, but double calculated, Mort jerks the wheel down hard to the left and sends the motor hurtling across three lanes, from the inside to the outside. We’re travelling diagonally across the road, tyres screeching, two wheels off the tarmac.

  ‘What the fuck!’ I’m shouting, hanging on tight.

  Morty’s heading for the slip road off the dual carriageway but he’s overshot it. He swings the motor around hard. We’re travelling fast towards the oncoming traffic, dazzled by headlights! Mort then brakes hard. The back of the motor skids round. Mort jerks the wheel down hard to the right – hits the gas – sending us accelerating up the slip road, pushing me back in my seat. I can hear car horns shrieking, braking, skidding of tyres back on the carriageway below. There are traffic lights at the top of the slip – showing red – but Morty speeds over them, maybe didn’t see them. Luckily there’s nothing coming. We hit a large roundabout. Mort opts for an unlit road heading off. And hits the gas.

 
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