Viva la madness, p.16
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       Viva La Madness, p.16

           J. J. Connolly

  Try as they might they couldn’t get the room safe open so they called in a specialist who happened to be in the area. This guy could open a safe as easy as most people can open up the Sunday paper. In the safe they found three passports – one Venezuelan, one Spanish, one US of A – same smudge but different names, bundles of cashish – pounds, euros and dollars – plus train and air tickets outta London by half a dozen routes. They’re just cleaning him out when timing plays its hand. Sonny gets the situation report from his couple in the next booth – in London picking up a parcel? Interesting; we like the sound of Jee-zuss.

  So Sonny rings the firm in Jesus’ hotel room and tells them – hold yer horses. We’re missing a trick. They replace everything in the safe and lock it again. Sonny has decided – we’re gonna sit on this cunt, see how this goes down. Sonny’s such a cunning fucker, a good example of someone who’s undeniably intelligent in his own stratum of society but in some respects is ridiculously reckless and unable to comprehend the consequences of his actions. Sounds like the prison psychiatrist’s assessment, but it’s also true. A money-spinning nightclub, a thriving drug business and transportation franchise isn’t enough for Sonny; at the sniff of easy readies he reverts to being a greedy junior with his snout in the trough. Sonny decides he wants Jesus watched day and night.

  Q. Who’s the expert in the black arts of surveillance and countersurveillance?

  A. Roy ‘Twitchy’ Burns: One-man sleeper cell.

  Location: Marbella, Southern Spain.

  ‘Ring, ring,’ said Roy’s mobile phone. Roy eyed it suspiciously, a noticeable twitch beginning to appear above his right eyebrow.

  No answer. One of Sonny’s team flew down to Malaga the morning after Jesus’ appearance in the Monarch, drove to Marbella, explained the coup to Roy. He was recruited and was landing at Stansted Airport in time for a late luncheon and full tactical briefing with Sonny King. Roy had been waiting for his opportunity to dazzle. He’s put inconspicuous guys in the lobby to liaise with Flavio, and in motors around the hotel. The concierge is texting Sonny’s crew with up-to-the minute updates, sit-reps, and photos from one of those camera phones. The afternoon after his arrival Jesus had a short meeting in the Cosmopolitan with a smooth South American gent. They drank tea, talked with their heads a foot apart, and then parted. It looked and smelt nice and dodgy.

  Either it was Jesus’ original plan to steal the parcel or somewhere he did a mental shift of gears, started thinking – fuck this, peddling over to London like the hired help? What am I? A gofer? Do you know who …

  Something suggested he was going to abscond with the consignment. He’s got plane and train tickets and three passports, not including the one that’s been left at reception. Maybe he was now planning something treacherous. Roy’s crew are following him everywhere. He’s gone down to the British Airways office on Piccadilly and bought another four open airline tickets – Miami to Heathrow. Bringing in reinforcements? Plus a single ticket to – fuck me, Paris to Zurich, paying cash. Now he’s got a collection of airline and rail tickets. Zurich really made Sonny’s ears prick up because Switzerland is famous for …?

  ‘Clocks and watches?’ says one of the crew.

  ‘And?’ says Sonny.

  ‘Skiing and mountains?’

  ‘No, you cunts! Banks! Switzerland is famous for fuckin banks!’

  Maybe Jesus was heading out to do a freelance geldwäsche of his own but meanwhile he’s a fixture in the Monarch Club every night. Ain’t exactly doing the open-top bus tour. Jesus is living in a five hundred yard radius of the Cosmo P. Hotel, Bond Street, and he’s down the Monarch more than Dougie Nightingale, doing serious readies on his gold-to-match-his-suit Mummy-and-Daddy card. Sonny had the bar manager ring American Express to see if the card was stolen – not a problem, not been used much lately but … thanks for your call, sir. Roy, meanwhile, is researching the Zambrano Clan, utilising the Internet, and getting a tingling in his testicles.

  Flavio – who’s well webbed up by now – rings one day to report that …

  A. He has just ascertained from the off-duty night porter that Jesus Federal-Expressed an envelope to a post office box address in Miami the previous evening.

  B. Mister Jesus has just met up with the same South American-looking gentleman as before. They had coffee and a bun. Then Jesus swings by the front desk to ask if it’s okay for his colleague to park his rental motor downstairs in the underground car park. Jesus is gonna be using the car himself and needs a parking spot, stick it on the bill. The South American splits but leaves the rental motor with Jesus. The mystery man gets a taxi outside, tells the driver Paddington Station. West outta London? To the airport? A little later Jesus, watched by Flavio at a distance, hauls three large Samsonite cases, with built-in wheels and telescopic handles, from the rental and moves them, in convoy, up to his room, locks the door and ain’t seen again till morning, by which time he’s made arrangements with the front desk to check out. At ten to nine the next morning he gets in the pre-booked taxi and that was the last known public sighting of him.

  In reality Jesus got into the first taxi to arrive to take him to Waterloo Station. Another one, the legit one that the reception had called, tipped up five minutes later, and found no Jesus. Meanwhile the first taxi trundled towards Waterloo, with Jesus in the back, whistling a happy tune. The taxi driver tells him he’s gonna take an Irish short cut – it’s longer but it’s quicker. He sails due south through Victoria, detouring away from highly protected and police-patrolled Westminster, over Vauxhall Bridge and slings a left up Kennington Road, into darkest Lambeth – Apache country.

  Jesus has stopped whistling now. He’s starting to think this is très fish, starts tapping on the glass partition but gets no response. Instead the driver accelerates, does a sharp left and left again. The taxi is now bouncing up a cobbled street, garages and warehouse entrances on both sides. A couple of cars and an ominous white van are parked up on the pavement. The cab driver skids to a halt. Jesus goes tumbling off his seat into an unruly pile on the floor, screaming and cursing in Spanish – Hijo de puta!

  The driver gets out, walks coolly to a parked car that has just started its engine, leaving Jesus baffled but catching on rápidamente.

  The car skids away. Jesus realises that he’s surrounded by four men, with either sawn-off shotguns or ugly automatic pistols with homemade silencers pointing at his head, all wearing paper coveralls, motorcycle gloves and ski masks. They grab the struggling Jesus – fighting all the way, it must be said – secure his hands and feet with cable ties, slap duct tape over his mouth and eyes, pull a sack over his head and manhandle him into the builder’s van. They speed away, leaving the stolen taxi, doors wide open, meter ticking over.

  The plan was to take him out into the countryside and leave him there, naked, at nightfall – not a very well-thought-out manoeuvre. They didn’t wanna kill him stone dead, thought it would take him a couple of days to find his way back to London, by which time they’d have gone under. Roy would be back down in Spain, without anybody having noticed that he’d been gone. Sonny and his firm still didn’t know what was in the heavy suitcases but they had a very good idea that he hadn’t flown round the world to pick up a dirty book collection.

  Sonny the Mastermind – in time-honoured tradition – was waiting at the Hideout, an associate’s farm. They got the cases out of the van but left Jesus rolling on the floor. They jiggled open the combination locks – piece-a-piss – popped open the cases and – fuckin result! Sonny’s done the scheming, put the two and two together and got three million pounds in used notes, neatly vacuum-packed, high dominations, ‘100k’ handwritten in felt-tip pen on the outside of each mini-parcel.

  Sonny is pleased with the result … for a split-second. Now he thinks there may be more where this came from, and it would be a shame to release Jesus to start his schlep back to London. Sonny tells Royski to give him a few slaps to see if he can find anything out – use some of those interrogatio
n techniques, Roy, the Special Forces ones …

  They drag Jesus into one of the outhouses. They remove the blindfold and tape and start slapping Jesus. He starts telling them they could fuck off if they thought he was going to tell them where it was. When they told him they had it already, the cash, Jesus laughs in their faces – I’d wipe my arse on that! They couldn’t riddle out what Jesus meant. After a while they worked out that he thought he had something they wanted apart from the three mill, but they didn’t know what it was. Jesus thought he was holding out. The bit of a slap turned into torture with a car battery and buckets of water, turned into smashing the geezer half to death. Jesus doesn’t realise he’s a busted flush. He kept laughing at them; the more they hit him, juiced him up and stuck his head under freezing water, the more manically he laughed. He’s the comic book villain, growing stronger with every kick, every jolt.

  Jesus keeps telling them he’s gonna take a shit on them – I shit on you! Queers! Me cago en ustedes putas! Maricones!

  Royski knows a little Spanish but now he’s getting the crash course in Venezuelan curses. Jesus is cunting and dogging him non-stop – Pendejos! Maricones! Mama güevos! Hijos de putas! Cunts! Faggots! Eunuchs! Thieves! Fuck you, you faggots!

  Jesus turns the screw on Royski, flips it back on him. Who’s torturing who? Roy’s still in his ski mask – on a balmy August evening – sweating like a pig. No longer in control. Jesus is.

  Then Jesus suddenly, abruptly, tells them all to be quiet – please, please, sirs, señors. He has something to say, sounds very conciliatory. Everything goes quiet. He beckons Royski closer. Jesus locks onto, and then talks to, the eyes in the ski mask. ‘Okay, you got me, I do you deal … You get them but I keep it …’ says Jesus gently. Roy smiles. ‘But when all this is over …’ continues Jesus, spiteful now, ‘I’m gonna find your mother … You queer fucker, you have no wife, no children, never will, no balls, you faggot maricón. I tie Mama up, I beat her, bend Mama over, pull down her drawers and fuck her … right in the arse.’

  Roy shoots Jesus dead.



  Roy obliterates the golden goose with the Czech-made Skorpion automatic – three second burst, full clip. Twelve bullets punch through the walls, seven bullets hit Jesus in the chest, four in the stomach, two in the canister and two through the neck. Blood sprays everywhere.

  The geezer wouldn’t shut up. Roy don’t like being laughed at, and seriously don’t like people insulting his old dear. Sonny told himself that Jesus was killed due to his belligerent attitude. Jesus had told Sonny’s crew non-fuckin-stop that they were lightweights who wouldn’t have the bottle to actually serve him; must have been on some death wish because there’s a time to speak and a time to keep it zipped.

  And so to business. Sonny’s team buried the body out on the acquaintance’s farmland, after knocking out the teeth with a mallet, cutting the fingers and toes off, removing some tattoos – skulls and eagles – and stripping off Jesus’ designer clobber to be burnt with diesel. They dug a narrow but deep trench along a tree line with a mini bulldozer, slung a few bags of lime into it, fired Jesus in, backfilled and flattened the area, slung leaves, twigs and stones around the hole so nobody would know that the clay had been disturbed. Then went back and hosed down the outhouse but those farms are all covered in blood and shit, anyway.

  After getting the prize, none of Sonny’s firm had the smarts to riddle out that maybe Jesus thought they were after something else. Jesus didn’t think that they were only after the three million; he thought he had some power in the negotiation. But all that got forgotten about in the excitement of getting the loot and digging the hole. Sonny was thinking Jesus was in town to collect a parcel of Rolexes or Patek Philippes or firearms – always come in handy – or jewels, cut or uncut, but not pure cash. Now he’s giving out orders and divvying up money – working on the King Principle; instinctively calculating the exact amount he can get away with giving them without provoking a mutiny.

  He splits two hundred and thirty gee between the crew – with the promise of more to come – when, exactly, nobody’s got the bottle to ask.

  Sonny schleps back to London, the remaining readies are sat round, getting his nut, making him para. He knows it must belong to someone naughty. He’s his normal hostile self, but part of him knows there’ll be consequences. It’s making him suspicious – he could get turned over. He also knows at some point he has to negotiate a share with Roy. Sonny doesn’t trust his own firm, knows he’s sold them a line. He doesn’t fear a coup d’état but being a greedy cunt has its disadvantages. So after consulting with Royski – probably not the best person to give sound counsel – and getting spooked, he decides to completely change his routine and living accommodation, hence a skippy exodus to Hampstead, rented with a few grand out of one of the magic suitcases. The paranoia is festering. Roy’s uptight – torturing, killing and burying Jesus wasn’t enough, the insult to his old dear preys on his mind …

  Q. What would you have done?

  A. Exactly the same, Roy.

  A couple of days after the killing Roy was recuperating, watching television in the Hampstead apartment, antennas out, periscope up. He’s sweeping the airwaves for something to get comfortably twitchy about. And he’s found it on a rolling news channel. Be careful what you pray for …

  A Venezuelan national, surprisingly anonymous, an importer of exotic woods, who lived in a picturesque village in Berkshire, had turned up dead sixty miles away in a burnt-out car in rural Wiltshire. No witnesses were coming forward in spite of police appeals and assurances of anonymity. Sweeping through the news channels, Roy found out that the dead man had been garrotted – almost decapitated – and afterwards set on fire.

  Roy started applying lashings of Burns Logic, twitching like a fried egg, and thinking like a detective – if you wanna know why someone died, examine how they lived. The murder was obviously a public announcement from some dangerous people, a message to any of their associates who might be thinking of stealing from them.

  Roy headed out to the Internet café and continued his investigation. The police traced the car back to a rental company. They had identified the charred remains but were putting off naming the victim until they had informed his next of kin. Unfortunately, they couldn’t find her. The police, and Roy, both agreed that the body was intended to be found – it was deliberately messy. Roy guessed that this was the geezer who delivered the money to Jesus. The police didn’t know about Jesus Zambrano. Roy wasn’t going to tell them.

  Roy’s theory was that someone had to take the rap for the disappearance of the Jesus fella and the victim was the nearest thing to a guilty party. As far as the killers were concerned he was the last person to see their courier alive. They had no way of knowing he had delivered their readies. It was guilt by association. The dead Venezuelan’s financial records were meticulously kept and the police couldn’t find anything incriminating. The guy was a genuine clean skin – no record, either side of the Atlantic.

  Sonny wasn’t answering his phone but Flavio down the Cosmo was. Roy told Flavio to go and check if that rental motor is downstairs. Meanwhile Roy went home and flicked through the news channels. There was some breaking news … The Somerset and Avon Police were ready to name the victim in the Wiltshire murder. Samuel Laniado. Who?

  Sonny arrived home. Roy pointed at the telly, briefed Sonny on the developing situation. Sonny fell in straight away. Flavio rang back. The car was gone. Why’s it important? Flavio asked. No reason, replied Roy, just curious.

  Sonny then makes a smart move but takes a few liberties. Ted Granger – before his demise – had informed Mister King that Mister Mortimer was heading out to Jamaica or Miami to recruit me into the sales team. For some reason Sonny didn’t fancy Miami and Morty didn’t like flying into Jamaica, too much airport action. Why not go to Bar-fuckin-bados? Sonny sold Morty on the idea of a meeting with me on neutral territory, and then declared he’d tag
along – with the skanked money – convincing Morty that it was freelance spoils. Sonny wanted Morty incriminated in the Jesus robbery – an extra insurance policy. Going over on a charter flight was Roy’s idea. Morty thought it was a youth club jolly that didn’t offer the right degree of flexibility if they had to vacate. Morty had his own return ticket and snide passport metaphorically tucked down his figurative underpants. Morty, Mister Amicability, agreed to roll a Samsonite suitcase, containing pure readies, out of Grantley Adams Airport, if Sonny could get it on the plane without a scream-up.

  Sonny got Giles to ask Mister Curtis to accept the chunk of cash into his own account. Sonny tells Morty he can introduce me to Mister Curtis who at this stage Sonny hadn’t met himself. Sonny goes to work on Roy and persuades him to come out to Barbados rather than dee-dee to Spain; he’ll wash up his cash and transfer it back later. Sonny promises Roy a job for life, second in command, tells Roy he needs sensible heads, loyal allies. Roy is flattered and agrees – one of nature’s right-hand men.

  Obviously Jesus wasn’t reported to the police as a missing person. The Cosmopolitan started getting calls – plural – looking for Mister Zambrano. The callers were annoyed to be told that the gentleman had checked out a couple of days previous. Another call was made to confirm this, to double-check that the account was paid up and closed. People were looking for Jesus. Sonny and Roy mistakenly thought that Jesus Zambrano could go missing without anyone sending up a flare. This was the sign that they needed to pull the trigger on the Barbados extraction plan. They’d sit tight over there till things settled down.

  So the three wise men ship out. I was right – Sonny did have people in Heathrow who could bypass customs and load the cases straight onto the plane. They arrived and banked the money but on the second day they were there, a few days after Jesus went missing, back in London a couple of discreet, well-dressed Venezuelan guys turned up at the Cosmopolitan Hotel, asking questions and laying money with the receptionists to find answers. They found out that Mister Jesus Zambrano had checked out. Where did he go?

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