Viva La Madness, p.33J. J. Connolly
After Bridget’s call I made a pragmatic decision to inform them about the memory stick, the Zambrano family, Santos and Jesus – I’m here on their dollar so it’s only courteous. But I have other less noble motives. I need a good tale as to why my mooie’s all over the television and papers. And I also think it’s time to put Ted and Bridget, who I realise now are a double act, in the swindle. There’s plenty there for everyone. I’ll tell Bridget and Ted, and then Sonny can do what he wants. I’ll say I was offered no alternative but to give Bridget the heads-up. What’s Sonny going to do? He ain’t gonna kill me; that would cause too much aggravation.
Hopefully Ted might come back to life and put subtle pressure on Sonny and Roy to do a deal with Miguel. Ted will want it sorted – he couldn’t exactly stand up to police scrutiny. At the moment it’s stalemate. Sonny doesn’t wanna approach Miguel. Explore the possibilities, Giles had suggested, and having a big cat like Ted Granger onboard carries weight, makes us look like serious people. Ted’s whack would pay for itself; at the moment we’re carving nothing.
Sonny’s need for secrecy is habitual – tell nobody nothing. He’s buzzing on watching Morty, Giles and me with our tongues hanging out. I also have a theory of my own. It comes from those psychology books, back on the veranda in Negril – psychology is simply mental mechanics.
I think that Sonny is worried about having to step up to Miguel’s level, moving out of the comfort zone where he can bully and control, to break bread with a young thoroughbred like Miguel Zambrano. He fears, unconsciously, that Miguel will mobilise, or liven-up, all his suppressed inadequacies. Like The Wunderkind did with Jesus.
Meanwhile Giles is getting impatient, speculating that Miguel himself will run out of patience and start a campaign of terror, tell the Cowboys to utilise their persuasion techniques.
Something needs to give, Giles told Sonny last night. Sonny takes notice of Giles only when it suits. But I took notice of Giles – we need an icebreaker could have been directed at me. I like Giles; he’s sly in a good way.
I jump off the tube at Holloway Road, walk around the block a couple of times, dodge through a council estate, stroll across a park and finally I arrive at a dry cleaners back on the main road, one of a large chain owned by Bridget Granger – Spick ‘n’ Span. She also owns a string of launderettes; taking money laundering seriously, and literally, is Bridget.
I open the door, a bell rings. The guy on the counter calmly lifts the hatch, and nods me through into the back room without saying a word.
Ted and Bridget are sitting on plastic garden furniture, drinking tea. Bridget is wearing a yellow nylon coverall over her, no doubt, expensive Johnnie Versace creation, with a pair of matching rubber gloves tucked in the pocket. She has a patience-of-a-saint expression because Ted is half-reading the racing pages and is mid-way through a serious moan.
‘Smell them fumes? How do they do it? Work here all day? Don’t it send ya fuckin doolally?’
He’s not wrong. Space is tight, and the huge, clattering steel cylinders full of heavy-duty chemicals give off nasty fumes. My eyes begin to water. A Hoffman press hisses next door and Radio Sedation struggles in the background – all those songs you prayed you’d never hear again. A massive industrial fan redistributes all the fluff and dust, trying, without success, to keep the temperature down to a humane level. Ted sees me but ignores me, and I wouldn’t interrupt a chap doing the thing he loves. Ted relights his snout in spite of all the fluorescent orange signs – STRICTLY NO SMOKING.
‘Them fumes, they’d give ya lung disease,’ says Ted, coughing, missing the irony. ‘Aren’t there rules? Ain’t you worried about being had up?’
Bridget patiently points at a health and safety declaration on the wall. Transpires Bridget owns the chain but she isn’t actually the registered owner. An old Greek fella in a grubby vest walks silently backwards and forwards with hangers full of shirts slung over his shoulder. Ted gets on it.
‘Is he fuckin deaf, that fella?’ asks Ted.
‘As a fuckin post,’ says Bridget.
‘Must be – so noisy in here, Bridge … This tea, too much milk.’
‘Do you ever stop moaning, Ted?’ Bridget asks her twin in all seriousness.
‘Stewed an’ all. Tastes like piss. Too much milk and stewed. Don’t know how you do it.’
‘Fuckin make it yourself next time!’
‘Oh, yer here, are ya?’ says Ted, looking up, studying me. ‘Glad you could make it …’
‘Morning, Ted,’ I say. ‘Morning, Bridget.’
‘What with yer busy schedule,’ says Ted. He folds back the page in the tabloid that features a pixellated television still. ‘A very good likeness, don’t you think?’ I say nothing. ‘This could ruin everything. You’re here to do a job, not rob wallets off dead people.’
‘I didn’t want the card to end up with the law,’ I say. ‘They would have traced it—’
‘If you hadn’t of had it thieved offa ya,’ says Ted, solid in his argument, ‘you wouldn’t of had to steal it back.’
‘Do you wanna tell us,’ says Bridget, ‘what the fuck is going on?’
I start to tell them the whole story, but Ted interrupts.
‘We know the story, beginning to end. Fuckin intriguing – magic sticks, Sonny being stubborn, two lots of Venezuelans,’ he adds sarcastically.
‘You know all this?’ I say.
‘We wanted you to come clean,’ says Bridget.
‘Well, I haven’t seen you,’ I say, ‘since your funeral.’
‘Well, we’re here now,’ says Ted.
‘So you know?’ I say.
‘We know,’ says Bridget. ‘Know everything.’
‘Morty told you?’ I ask. I wish he’d told me.
‘No, young Giles.’
‘Giles the lawyer?’ I ask. ‘You mean Giles the toff?’
‘Giles is our toff,’ says Ted.
‘Yeah, Giles junior,’ says Bridget. ‘Our pet brief.’
I sit down as well. ‘You’re gonna have to explain this.’
Transpires Giles is their man and he’s been feeding information back to Ted and Bridget, keeping an eye on Sonny on behalf of Ted. And how did a swell like Giles Urquhart establish a connection with a wolfpack like the Granger Family? Giles’ father was the Granger family lawyer for donkeys’ years – it’s generational, son, a family business both sides. And when Giles Senior died unexpectedly – heart attack while sniffing amyl nitrate during an energetic session with two hookers in Bayswater – Giles Junior inherited the Granger Family. Giles Senior had got Ted out of messes in the past, and as Ted got cuter he wasn’t getting pinched … but he still needed a crafty brief in the hedge.
‘How do you think,’ Ted asks me, ‘a fuckin sye like Sonny King got a gentleman like Giles Urquhart as a lawyer?’
‘You arranged it?’ I ask, knowing the answer.
‘ We arranged it,’ says Bridget, nodding at Ted, ‘to give the boy a leg up.’
They both have a little smirk at Bridget’s well-practised sarcasm.
Two years ago, after a series of manoeuvres, introductions and chance meetings, Giles was appointed as Sonny’s lawyer. Round-the-flats kids like Sonny are impressed by aristocrats, even if they are duplicitous cunts.
Ted drops his butt into his cup. Bridget doesn’t like it but says nothing.
‘Don’t let this distract you,’ says Ted, waving a finger.
‘Not a lot seems to be happening. Is there a problem?’ I ask Ted.
Bridget answers. ‘You gotta sit tight, everything is on hold—’
‘We’re having small problems,’ says Ted, ‘The supplier has suddenly gone missing.’
‘Might be away, you know, over there,’ says Bridget with a shrug. ‘Not unusual in this game, is it?’
‘Was gonna arrange a meet down in Spain but he’s …’ Ted shrugs at Bridget.
‘See, the cargo was going to be delivered to Spain,’ she says, ‘for Ted to slip into the UK.’
‘Maybe he’s heard?’ says Ted to Bridget.
‘Heard?’ says Bridget. ‘About all the bollocks?’
‘About Stevie O’Malley?’ I ask.
‘Yeah,’ says Bridget. ‘Poor Stevie. Bit backward, wasn’t he?’
‘Apparently,’ I shrug. ‘But I don’t see how it’d make this supplier go under.’
‘You know, killers on the loose,’ shrugs Ted, ‘shooting people at random.’
‘It wasn’t at random, Ted, the geezer was trying to kill me.’
‘How can you be so sure?’ asks Ted.
‘Because, Santos told Sonny King he had already killed me. This Santos thinks I’m dead. We have something in common – people think we’re dead.’
‘You’re sure it was this Santos geezer?’ asks Bridget.
‘He rang Sonny King—’
‘But you’re absolutely sure?’ asks Bridget again, getting on my nerves now.
‘I’m sure, okay?’ I tell her.
‘And you’re trying to find him?’ Ted asks me, ‘This Santos?’
‘Sonny’s got troops out looking … And he’s offered the O’Malleys a reward to find him.’
‘Waste of time,’ says Ted. ‘Was that Sonny’s idea?’
‘Roy’s idea,’ I say.
‘Jesus wept!’ says Bridget rolling her eyes. ‘Fuckin Twitchy?’
‘It’s not such a good idea – they’ll cause eruptions.’
‘That was Morty’s opinion.’
‘The O’Malleys’ll only find him,’ says Bridget, ‘if he hides down the Basin Club.’
‘You know where I’d hide if I was this Santos geezer?’ Ted asks me, dead serious.
‘Dunno, Ted. Where?’
‘In Patsy’s house, under the soap,’ he says, then cracks up laughing. ‘Come on, Patsy’s pickled,’ says Ted, ‘and the rest of ’em, they’re bonkers.’
‘Is that why you got me over here, to tell me the O’Malleys are mentally unstable?’
Ted doesn’t answer. He gives me a serious look, then goes in his inside pocket and brings out a sealed envelope. He hands it to me, tells me to open it. A United Kingdom passport drops out, nicely aged, with airport security stickers overlapping each other on the back. As a connoisseur I’d say ten out of ten. I shuffle to the back and open it up. The passport photograph, one of the four I sent Morty, is of me. The surname on the passport is Berkeley – same as Sonny’s moniker at the Conciliated Bank of Barbados. Ted nods gently, the baby blues fixed on me, pulling an expression that tries hard to be a smile but ends up a scowl.
‘You getting it now?’ asks Ted.
‘Kinda,’ I reply.
‘Shame, we’ve been saving that for later,’ says Ted, looking at me with one raised eyebrow. ‘But you might as well have it now, seeing as you’re on telly, wanted …’
Bridget burrows about under the table and brings out a couple of Gucci carrier bags. She asks me to have a look inside. There’s shoes, a shirt and tie, a belt, even socks – all from Gucci. I shrug, fail to see the significance.
‘These are for you …’ says Bridget, ‘for Mister Berkeley.’
‘Well, well, all these presents,’ I say.
Bridget goes over to a rail crammed with suit bags and takes one down. Again, it’s from Gucci. She begins to unzip it.
‘Isn’t unclaimed cleaning, is it, Bridget?’ I ask.
She gives me one of her withering looks – intended to shrink your nuts – and hands me the suit bag. ‘Aren’t ya gonna try it on?’ she asks.
‘Why are you getting me clobber?’ I ask.
‘Humour her,’ says Ted, rolling his eyes.
‘Well, try it on,’ insists Bridget.
‘Right here, don’t matter,’ says Bridget, bit too casual. ‘Don’t worry ’bout me. Got brothers – seen it all before.’
Under Bridget’s watchful eye I try on the outfit from Gucci, with her having a reef around – a freebie, truth be told, getting tactile adjusting the tie. The garbs fit but it’s too crisp, too neat. But I think that’s the idea – to make me look like a chap named Berkeley turning up to do his banking. Bridget approves. She has me peel it off again and packs it in the bag it came in while Ted gives me the pointy finger and eye-to-eye contact – be ready to leave, suited and booted, at any time …
‘You might wanna tell me what you have in mind.’
‘All in good time,’ says Ted.
‘Hold fire,’ I say, ‘I was brought here to shift product—’
‘But now,’ says Bridget, ‘you’re trying to extract money out of a notorious South American criminal—’
‘While we pay your hotel bills,’ adds Ted.
‘Or did, till you had to trap cos you had yer coat nicked, while you was stuck up his sister.’
‘Not exactly diplomatic, kid,’ says Ted.
‘We’ve advanced you money,’ points out Bridget dryly, ‘that you’ve transferred—’
‘Okay, okay,’ I say, holding my hands up. ‘Is there anything you wanna tell me?’
‘Sonny,’ says Ted, ‘is gonna help us out – a loan, short term, low interest.’
‘You won’t need a loan if we sell this merch back to the Zambrano Family.’
Bridget asks Ted, ‘Do you know this little firm, Ted?’
‘Big firm – everyone knows the Zambrano mob, Bridge. Semi-legit, am I right?’
‘Correct,’ I say. ‘They’re trying to get totally legit, wouldn’t wanna risk fuckin it up now.’
‘You ever see Sonny King with a briefcase, a Gucci one?’ asks Bridget, out of the blue, leaning forward. ‘See, we’ve checked the Hampstead gaff and the Monarch Club …’ Roy was right when he said someone was plotting up. ‘It’s only …’ she says with a shrug, ‘we’ve looked everywhere but we don’t seem to be able to find it.’
It’s my turn to pretend to be indifferent. Ted studies me hard. ‘I think you know where it is … I’ll tell you what …’ says Ted, ‘tell me where you think it might be, and I’ll think about having a word with Sonny …’
I tell them it’s somewhere in Missus Burns’ flat. I could have said nothing. But I’ve riddled something out … passport, suit, briefcase … I’m gonna be negotiating the loan.
‘Ted,’ I say, ‘it’s time you broke cover to Sonny and Roy.’
‘The time ain’t right,’ says Bridget, ‘not yet.’
‘Look,’ says Ted, ‘you don’t graft me, okay? Sometimes doing nothing is the best strategy.’
‘While Sonny risks them turning nasty?’
‘I’m fuckin waiting,’ says Ted, annoyed. ‘I’m going to sit tight and see what occurs.’
‘And …’ says Bridget leaning forward, slapping my knee, ‘we didn’t have this conversation, okay?’ The done thing is to ask what conversation? ‘As far as Sonny’s concerned,’ she continues, ‘I don’t know nothing about this gadget. And Ted’s still dead.’
‘My lips are sealed,’ I say, nodding, giving Ted a wink, getting up to leave. ‘We done?’
Ted shrugs. Bridget flicks the kettle on. ‘’Nother cup of tea, Ted?’ she asks.
‘Not at the moment, Bridge,’ says Ted, ringing a horse, ‘I’ll have one in a minute.’
I slip back out into the shop with my bags, and out into the street. My instinct tells me I’ve just witnessed a fine display of studied indifference. Those two are a bit more worried than they care to admit. They’re giving me a lot of information – to jam my circuits – but what’s really bothering them, they ain’t saying. Ted’s not faked his own death for the good of his health. But something’s got them spooked good ’n’ proper, and plotting to turn Sonny King over is a bold move – desperate, even. But I’m starting to get irritated; people are getting on my fuckin nerves. I didn’t come halfway round the world to be fucked about.
SAFE JOURNEY HOME
Marching down Holloway Road to the tube, nicely revved up. All I’ve got to do is convince Ted an
Fuck all that dodging about, ain’t got time. I jump straight into the tube station. Soon as I arrive on the platform there’s a train coming. I don’t bother to sit but I’m spying out the carriage – mostly tourists and a scattering of backpackers, this being August, and a couple of well-dressed Italians, maybe father and son, who got on at the same station but were on the platform before me. I work out my route – Holloway Road to Holborn on the Piccadilly Line, then the Central to Bond Street, change to the Jubilee Line over to Swiss Cottage and home.
I’ve got a theory – those psychology books again. Bridget’s hygiene fixation is resentment and anger, mixed with suppressed sexual desire. A little knowledge can be a dangerous thing. And Ted and Bridget’s desire to borrow Sonny’s money appears very short-sighted and motivated by hatred rather than greed. It could endanger us getting funds from the Ponzi scheme. My hunch is that Bridget rather than Ted is the instigator and she is, beneath it all, the dominant twin. All theory, but it kills the time to Holborn.
As I walk towards the Central Line interchange I realise that the Italian dudes have broke cover and are now front and back of me – one a few metres ahead and the older one lagging behind. They are overly calm, deliberately ignoring me. I sense mischief. The platform has emptied out. I stop dead, to let the tail overtake, to see what he does. He stops too. The lead guy turns to face me. A look passes between them, over my shoulder.
The lead guy, the younger one, starts to pull a gun from under his jacket, but it gets stuck on his belt for a split-second. Wasn’t in the plan. He’s tugging, struggling to untangle the gun. I run straight at him, instinctively know he’s off-balance. I headbutt him. My forehead – his cheekbone. He topples, tries to remain upright but slips, falls off the platform, onto the track, with a scream of pain. He lets go a shot into the ceiling. He’s panicking about the electric current, and still firing shots. He bangs his head on the running rail, tumbles down into the suicide pit – the trench between the rails, designed to catch falling bodies – dropping his shooter. It rattles around, dinking off concrete, lands with a metallic chink. He looks terrified, shouts something to his pal – maybe a dialect, maybe Galician, between French and Spanish.
Viva La Madness by J. J. Connolly / History & Fiction have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes