Viva la madness, p.37
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       Viva La Madness, p.37

           J. J. Connolly

  And Jenna? She can fuck right off, the two-faced cunt … And cousin Miguel? I’ll cut his fuckin head off and keep it in the icebox … Jesus is getting nicely ratcheted up.

  Then Jesus looks at the road sign and realises he’s been travelling, for the last hour, in the wrong direction. After his illusion of power and control, he hits Reality like a fly on the windscreen.

  Jesus – building to frenzy now – pulls off the motorway at the next junction and begins driving very fast down dark lanes again. He makes no alteration between his speed on the motorway and the tight narrow roads. The rear wheels skid and slide. Sammy slips and slides in the boot as Jesus pushes the car round tight corners. He drives faster, more suicidal than homicidal, pedal to the floor, grit and dirt hitting the undercarriage, headlights on full beam, faster and faster, down the local Lover’s Lane. Suddenly he stops with a skid, sending up a cloud of dust. Jesus jumps out of the motor, rushes to the back, opens the boot and drags out the terrified Samuel Laniado. Jesus throws a fresh garrote around his neck.

  Jesus pulls and pulls, the veins in his biceps bulging. Sammy has no fight left in him; he goes into spasm, he’s dying. Jesus thinks he’s fighting back. Suddenly Sammy’s body goes limp but Jesus doesn’t notice. He draws blood, splits the main artery, it sprays out, in pulses, like Sammy was still alive. Jesus releases the garrote and Sammy slides down the motor into the dust, almost under the rear wheel. Jesus retrieves his plastic container of petrol from the boot, still sparky, electric, out of control, spitting and dancing, threatening a dead person with death. Jesus douses Sammy in petrol. It’s become a rite of destruction, a chasing away of bad spirits and curses going back years. Samuel Laniado has become the personification of all that has been, and will ever be, wrong in Jesus Zambrano’s life.

  Then Jesus lights a match from a box of Monarch Club matches, sets the whole box ablaze and ceremoniously drops it onto the now lifeless body of Samuel.

  Samuel instantly catches fire …

  But so does the rental motor …

  Ain’t funny. Jesus watches, powerless, as a trail of flames runs straight to the motor. It instantly ignites – a sudden whoosh – then a blaze, a huge fireball. Jesus runs to the passenger door, flicks it open at arm’s length, and retrieves the bearer bonds from the front seat. In seconds the whole car is ablaze, sending up thick black smoke. The plastic interior drips and spits fiery blobs. Flames curl out of the windows, over the roof. The blaze is rampant. Fuckin spectacular! A joyrider’s Valhalla! The paint blisters, peels in the heat. The windscreen pops. The tyres melt, revealing steel ribbons. The steering wheel buckles. Jesus howls like an animal. He’s been denied and swindled, made to look a fool. Sammy shrivels, devoured by flame – an unrecognisable black mess. Beyond belief and identification. The flames quickly reach their peak, lighting up the surrounding fields, scorching the leaves and the branches of the close-by trees. Jesus sees hellfire everywhere. Jesus thinks the world’s gone fuckin mad, not him. Me? Mad? Never!

  Ancient wisdom – only a madman never questions his own sanity.

  The petrol tank explodes. Jesus is blown off his feet. In seconds the blazing car matches the inferno that is the inside of Jesus’ head. It’s become the perfect flaming symmetry, an exact reflection of all Jesus’ uncontained rage and bile. Jesus picks himself up, bounces back to his feet and screams and spits at the blazing car. But now Jesus thinks he really is jinxed, a curse, a fuck-up. He knew it; he was right all along. Sometimes it’s not so good to be right.

  On a practical level he’s fucked, stranded in Rural Fuckin Wiltshire.

  Jesus leaves the burning car and the remains of Samuel Laniado behind. He trudges aimlessly for a while – dishevelled, covered in soot and mud and blood, like a fashion victim scarecrow, still clutching the boosted bearer bonds. At first light, he finds a car to steal, hotwires it, drives off with the alarm wailing, manages to kill the noise, heads east, towards the M4 and London. An hour later, near Heathrow Airport, he sees a minicab office, orange light flashing outside. He dumps the car and walks into the cab office, asks for a taxi.

  No Cash, No Car says the sign. Jesus’ banknotes are damp from sweat and rain and bloodstained from … So are his clothes. The taxi driver, a Somalian, isn’t going to be helping anyone with their inquiries, but Jesus tells him he’s been to a wild fuckin party, man!

  The driver nods and grins, doesn’t speak much English. Jesus thinks this is wrong – driving an English car on English roads for English men and English women and you can’t speak fuckin English? Can’t talk to the passengers?

  There’s nothing worse that a self-righteous psychopath. But Jesus has got a call to make, then a train to catch … Jesus gets the cabbie to drop him off around the back of the Cosmopolitan.

  Jesus crept back to his room just as Roy’s ambush team were receiving their final briefing. Jesus had a swift wash and brush-up, the bone-warming shower, while all the time repeating his new mantra – No Sleep Till Paris.

  Jesus was exhausted but he knew he couldn’t sleep, had to keep on moving. Jesus liked his sleep, was usually going to bed around dawn. Missing his kip made him irritable, argumentative, explains why Jesus was so abrupt with Royski later that day … Maybe he thought, when he saw Roy’s Skorpion, here we fuckin go, another round of persecutors. I knew it … Nothing goes my way.

  Jesus retrieved and reloaded his suitcases, just as the cleaning staff were coming on duty, but he needed recognition, like vampires need blood, so Jesus took time out to ring Santos who was in Heathrow arrivals lounge. Santos and the three amigos had just got off the red-eye – Miami—Heathrow, coach class. The promised upgrade hadn’t materialised. Jesus had to tell Santos all about Sammy – to share, as the Americans say. Jesus couldn’t contain himself, couldn’t wait. Santos sat on his suitcase listening to the details, couldn’t get a word in. Santos is thinking he’s gonna have a nice couple of days in London, before splitting to Paris … Jesus eventually tells Santos to get a cab into town. He’s waiting, looking forward to seeing his old friend …

  Jesus calmly checks out of the Cosmo, adios London, skips into his cab for Waterloo, loaded up with The Three Samsonites. Not a vocal harmony group.

  With friends like Jesus, who fuckin needs …



  ‘So Jesus … have I got this right?’ Morty asks Santos, ‘Was crossing borders with three million?’

  Santos shakes his head. ‘Jesus was a lunatic but he was far from stupid …’

  Jesus was taking the suitcases to a freight shipping firm near Waterloo Station. He’d negotiated, over the phone, late at night, a drop of diplomatic immunity; the three suitcases were going into one larger container, to travel to the Venezuelan Embassy in Brussels as a diplomatic bag. Jesus was going to kill a day in Paris and then get reunited with the bags in Belgium – nice – then deposit the money with the guy the late Sammy Laniado had recommended.

  Santos doesn’t know about Roy’s squad ambushing Jesus but he knows where Jesus had hidden the bonds for safekeeping.

  Sonny, or Roy, have never mentioned any bonds. Is it possible that they never knew of their existence, the same way that Santos or Jesus didn’t know the true value of the information held on the memory stick? But knowing Sonny, he wouldn’t have been able to contain himself if he’d stumbled onto nine million dollars in bearer bonds, plus the three mill sterling. Too much of a coup – he would have had a gloat-fest with Morty and me in Barbados, wouldn’t have been able to keep his mouth shut.

  Jesus thought the memory stick was a bumper jumbo blackmail package – the nonsensical hieroglyphics, incriminating recordings of Miguel and his sexually explicit photos of Jenna. Got to be worth another five million dollars. Jesus was selling himself seriously short.

  Chip clicks his fingers and gestures to one of his younger brothers to give Santos a swing on the brandy – fuck me, he needs it.

  ‘Jesus is dead?’ asks Santos, brandy running down his

  Morty nods.

  ‘And his money, Laniado’s money?’

  ‘Gone,’ says Morty, ‘but not my way.’

  ‘But the people who stole Jesus’ money didn’t know about the bonds, no?’

  Morty shrugs, shakes his head.

  ‘There’s a deal to be done,’ says Santos, spitting out blood like a boxer. ‘My safe passage for the information – where I believe the bonds to be located …’

  Santos is getting self-satisfied again, the devil returning to his eyes. You will need me and I will need you.

  ‘Where’s these bonds now?’ asks Chip. ‘Did this Jee-zuss fella have them when he left this hotel?’

  ‘With respect, señor,’ says Santos, ‘I think we need to talk terms before I part with that sort of information.’

  ‘I could easily beat it out of you,’ says Chip.

  ‘That’s unnecessary, my friend,’ says Santos. ‘What difference does it make to you if I’m alive or dead?’

  ‘You killed my brother—’

  ‘I’m trying to make it right, with nine million—’

  ‘Dollars?’ Chip asks Morty. ‘What’s that in real money?’

  ‘About six mill, Chip,’ says Morty. ‘A nice pension.’

  Santos is looking from face to face. Chip is weighing up his options on behalf of the brothers, who are eerily quiet for once. Do they kill their brother’s killer in revenge, or take his blood money as compo? Morty is studying Santos with narrow eyes. ‘How do I know you’re not lying?’ asks Mort.

  ‘No more clues,’ says Santos, ‘it’s not a game. And …’ he adds, getting eye contact with Mort, ‘I will only do a deal with you. You may be a Negro but I feel you are an honourable man.’

  Morty tries not to laugh, ‘That’s very nice of you to say so.’

  ‘So it’s up to you …’ says Santos, dramatically, looking for a drum roll, ‘the location of the bearer bonds for my life. You get me on a plane or to my embassy – I have contacts there. I will say I have been the victim of a traffic accident. I have a wife and small children at home in Venezuela … I just want to see them again …’ Santos holds his composure well. ‘One more dead South American to dispose of or the chance to get your hands on nine million dollars … I know which one I would choose …’

  He leaves it hanging in the air like cigarette smoke. Suddenly the swing doors fly open. A huge silhouette fills the doorway – pure John Wayne. Could be the law – guns suddenly appear and point at the figure, then they drop. The eldest, biggest brother – man mountain Patrick, six foot twelve – has arrived, making an entrance like something outta an opera.

  Patsy marches across the floor, a huge pistol held straight out, obviously in a blind rage. He aims, goes to shoot Santos – just like he killed Baby Stevie. Patrick O’Malley, the legend, was never bright, he didn’t have to be, but now he’s paralytic, been heavy on the bereavement lash. The rest of the brothers jump in his way. Patsy raises the gun, lets one go, straight into the ceiling. Fuckin stand aside, he roars. Everyone ducks. The bullet ricochets around, bouncing off the concrete walls. Patsy’s making animal noises and roaring incoherently. Suddenly there’s guns waving everywhere. Patsy marches on, swaying slightly, taking one-eyed aim at Santos’ head. The brothers jump on him; there’s a melee.

  Morty tries to intercede but Patsy roars this is your fault, you! Brothers are holding onto Patrick’s back. He’s delivering old-fashioned haymakers with his free hand. The junkie pups are like dogs on a bear. Santos is too bewildered to be scared.

  ‘Listen, Patsy, there’s millions!’ shouts Chip above the noise.

  ‘Fuck off!’ screams Patsy. ‘Get the fuck out of my way.’

  ‘Bearer bonds, Pats!’ shouts Chip.

  ‘Fuck bearer bonds, whoever the fuck he is!’

  I move backwards. The other O’Malleys scream at Pats that there’s a colossal earner in this, all shouting over one another. But Patsy raises his gun again and points it towards Santos. Pats is about to pull the trigger but one of the juniors hits him across the head with a metal chair to calm him down. It draws blood – nasty gash. Patsy sees his own claret running into his eyes – never a pleasant sight.

  Patsy goes ballistic. The brothers leap on him to restrain him but Patsy wrestles free and holds the shooter in both of his huge hands, shuts his eyes, and squeezes – yyyyyyyyyyaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrr he screams, like he’s having a orgasm.

  Patsy shoots Santos in the temple at point-blank range. Santos’ head explodes, sending blood and grey fat flying – up the cast iron column, along the floor. Santos slumps in his chair, dripping onto the dusty floor.

  Always had perfect comic timing, the O’Malley clan. It’s sad, a geezer dying like that, but Santos was undeniably an evil cunt. I wonder if he ever imagined he’d end up getting shot in the wigwam by a notorious Kilburn drunk? I guess there’s a dose of karma in there somewhere and one more dead South American to dispose of.

  Goodbye bearer bond payday. The brothers are arguing and fighting amongst themselves, bodies and chairs flying. Chip fires shots into the ceiling; they ricochet around. Brothers are roaring at Patsy but he’s wailing, making no sense, oblivious to anything. Suddenly Pats stops dead … then he rocks … his eyes roll up in his head, he crumples, then collapses in a heap. His head hits the concrete with a clunk. It’s dead silent … for a count of four … then Patsy starts to mumble. His brothers then carry on fighting and shouting recriminations, not that interested in Pats.

  Morty stands with his arms folded. Patsy goes off to sleep with a snore, still holding his gun. Chip goes over and takes the gun out of his hand. The brothers begin to accept the situation. Things begin to go quiet again.

  Chip turns to Morty. His expression says well, what now?

  Morty shrugs, an exaggerated look of recognition on his face, as if to say well what? You and yours just shot the golden goose, sunshine, not me. ‘We all need to get gone, Chip,’ he says.

  ‘What about these bonds?’ asks Chip.

  ‘Gone, mate,’ Morty nods at the dead Santos. ‘Forget it – needle in a haystack.’ Morty pulls Chip closer. ‘Now, this is important. You’ve got to impress upon your boys that they’re to tell nobody, not a fuckin soul, okay? This is murder, remember that, no matter what he did or didn’t do. It’s murder times four.’

  ‘What about Sonny King’s reward?’

  ‘Sonny wanted him alive, to talk to him … Not much chance of that now. You could ask Sonny for readies but …’

  Mort shrugs. Chip looks sick. Chip is halfways sensible. Chip saw the possibilities but … Too late now. Damage limitation time …

  ‘This didn’t happen, Chip,’ says Mort. ‘I can make a call … to get rid of the bodies. If the law get on this, they’ll charge everyone – that’s twelve heads in the dock.’

  Morty goes into his pocket, puts out a chunk of cash. ‘Take this, leave the other bodies, but we better get it done. And not a word, okay?’

  Chip shrugs but says nothing.

  ‘Not even to Sonny or Roy,’ says Mort, leaning in even closer, ‘if you should meet them on your travels, you understand?’

  Chip nods and takes the money. ‘Fuck Sonny King,’ he says to himself.

  ‘And, Chip, tell Patsy, when he wakes up, to keep quiet, okay?’

  ‘To be honest, Mort,’ says Chip, turning to leave, ‘I doubt very much if Patsy’ll remember a thing.’

  We cut out, retracing our steps. It’s getting light. We drive for five minutes then Morty pulls over at a parade of shops with a phone box in front. He pulls out his phone and finds a number and makes a point of repeating it to remember it. He tells me he’s going to be one minute and trots over to the payphone, leaving his mobile on the seat. I pick it up, curious to see the number – it’s listed in his speed dial as Miss B wrk. Could this be Bridget Granger’s work phone? Could she have a little sideline in disposals? Guess it’s better than having parties where they sell saucy underwear.

  Part of me that
thinks those bonds and the O’Malleys would have brought big trouble. It’s a lethal combination, raw shitkickers with high expectations. I knew I wasn’t going to be in the final bust-up and it would get ugly and chaotic before the end. The boys’ greed would be up and running, fuelled by alcohol, handguns and drugs. The O’Malleys never learnt to share. Half a minute later Morty trots back to the motor.

  ‘You understand why we’re doing this?’ he asks, then answers his own question. ‘Them lot would fuck it up, leave ’em to rot, get us all chored. Best get ’em shifted.’

  ‘Would you have let him – Santos – go home, Mort?’

  Morty starts the engine and pulls away. ‘You shouldn’t ask me questions like that.’

  ‘Do you think he was bluffing? Did he know where those bonds were?’

  ‘Who knows if there were any bonds,’ says Mort. ‘That was a man fighting for his life.’

  ‘He might have got away with it too, if it wasn’t for Pats …’

  ‘He was never going to see Caracas again,’ says Morty pulling onto the dual carriageway. ‘ You are a noble negro – you I do a deal with …’ He starts to laugh. ‘For the time being …’ says Morty – I know what he’s going to say before he says it – ‘let’s agree not to tell Sonny or Roy about Santos, yeah?’ He gives me a little wink. ‘Strictly need-to-know.’

  ‘They won’t hear it from me,’ I say.

  Morty drops me off a few streets away from the luxury flophouse, tells me to get rid of all the clothes I’m wearing and to have a good scrub down. It’s dawn now. I could kip for a week. But then I can’t sleep – it’s that speculation business, burrowing further into the psyche. And more gruesome images to keep me wide awake.

  Riddle me this. Santos denied sending shooters to kill me in the Underground. He admitted killing Stevie; why deny the second attempt? So who tried to shoot me in the Underground? It would be pointless Miguel’s firm trying it; they need me alive, out looking, hoping to cop a reward. While I was in Wembley Miguel’s crew kept leaving proxy phone messages, on behalf of Miguel, about the conversation we had – did I have any further thoughts? Miguel’s behaving like a proper CEO – delegating, distancing himself from the frontline. He believes he’s recruited me to the firm.

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