Viva La Madness, p.40J. J. Connolly
The late Sammy would supply the tackle, and I would lead the fire sale. Ted was looking for readies up front in exchange for keen prices – unheard of. That’s why he wanted a man of mystery – me – to do his bidding.
The plan was to turn over the shipment of cocaine into ready cash as quick as poss, and give the Brazilian suppliers some love. If that means driving an over-fished market down, dropping the price and nicking business, so be it. It’s a case of needs must. The debt must be paid and although they had been understanding – relatively speaking, for international drug suppliers – they can’t appear to be mugs.
Ted, the elusive pimpernel, doesn’t wanna end his days rotting down some Spanish gorge.
So Ted started collecting false IDs. And buying IDs started giving Ted ideas … But Bridge was there before him. They knew, through Giles, how much money Sonny had in the CBB. Sonny’s money was paid by credit transfer – to keep the paperwork down. Sonny was anal retentive around his money; the very thought of gambling on anything he couldn’t dominate or control was in-con-fuckin-ceivable. But, strange as it may seem, Sonny barely checked the statements; kept it all in his coconut, under his hat – a by-product of Sonny’s illiteracy and belligerent nature.
Ted and Bridget started planning on diverting some of Sonny’s funds – a bridging loan. They need to drop a chunk into a Brazilian bank account as a good faith payment, and the amount of good faith would be dictated by the amount they stumped up.
Curtis would be able to smother it if Giles told him to; Giles didn’t wanna see his pet gangster, Ted, murdered beyond repair. Maybe the funds can be in the two places at the one time, suggested Ted – fuck me, they’re only numbers. As long as there isn’t an audit they’d be okay. But Curtis didn’t like it, wanted an out if the scream went up. Wanted to be able to say the mischief was getting done over in Europe, didn’t want Giles’ Pikeville ‘clients’ shitting on his well-scrubbed doorstep. Oh, and Curtis wanted a drink outta it.
Bridget was cultivating her resentment of Sonny because of his treatment of Eve. A plan was taking shape, but Sonny’s trip over to Barbados was a godsend for Ted and Bridget. Once Morty mentioned that I was out in the Caribbean, having a spot of cash-flow bother myself … and Sonny and Roy were on their way out to deposit a large amount of cash, Ted and Bridget put two and two together and got … Mortimer’s old chum, what’s-his-name, over in Jamaica? He’s a sensible chap … What if, we could work it … two birds, one big stone.
Then Morty mentioned that I might possibly have a spare passport photo knocking about …
They were going to fly me into Amsterdam and pitch me their idea about me being their number one salesman. Apparently I’d been elected to become Mister Berkeley. But when they heard that Sonny was making calls to Giles – to get the sweet with Curtis about some freelance cash Sonny wants to lose – they decided to send me on a detour, to get a visual on Curtis, chief jug wallah at the Conciliated Bank of Barbados. And for Curtis to meet and greet me. Always best to know who you’re dealing with, even if you don’t know you’re dealing with them. When the cute girl back at Curtis’ Bridgetown bank thought I was Mister Berkeley she was ahead of the game.
Ted wanted to appear flush, to get me onside; made a point of advancing me a non-returnable hundred and fifty grand. I’d made a point of transferring the sweetener from their Belgian account back to an account I held in the Jamaican branch of a Canadian bank. Just as well it was gone before Ted asked for it back to put on some nag who was gonna end up in a tin of dog food. It was Bridget’s shoebox money – the smash she keeps for emergencies.
All the preparation was done, they just needed my cooperation, but they were convinced I’d have no problem with the scheme, seeing as Sonny King was such a complete cunt. But when a boisterous Sonny turned up in Bridgetown to deposit Jesus’ readies he attracted the wrong kind of attention, upset some church-going disciples, pissed off an anonymous worker ant, and they alerted someone upstairs who got a bit busy, descended on Curtis’ fiefdom and wanted to know what was going on. Curtis covered it but told Giles to hang fire with the secret personal loans until his superiors went back to the Royal Westmoreland Golf Club. It was about picking the right moment. Meanwhile – prompted by Kevin the Cab’s terminal prognosis – Ted revived an exit plan that had sat on the backburner for a little while.
Q. Would Sonny have been repaid?
A. Tricky question … but if anything untoward happened to Sonny … I don’t believe Ted would be informing Sonny’s next of kin …
With the best will in the world Bridget and Ted might be convinced they would repay Sonny … but wake up one day and decide that it’s too much aggravation …
It’s all a bit too fuckin messy, Ted … putting stuff back … it’s not what we do.
You’re so right, Bridge … Pass the marmalade.
Bridget and Ted are insistent, swearing on bibles, that they would have repaid the funds to Sonny after they got up and running with Sammy Laniado’s zip; they also needed Sonny King, he made them lots of money, and that rankled. But self-righteous indignation, coupled with greed, can have us doing some strange shit. I couldn’t condone murder, not to thieve a man’s money …
Their bizarre justification for taking liberties with Sonny’s identity is they wanted revenge for Evey, on account of the Infamous Airport Abandonment. They seem to think it was a seminal experience in Eve’s insane life. But Eve was never right in the first place and she wasn’t going to be seeing any of Sonny’s money … And now Evey was dead.
And what does my old pal Mister Morty know about all this? Maybe he believed that the readies would flow back to Sonny. He bought into Ted and Bridget’s sneaky condemnation of Sonny’s despicable behaviour.
Ted’s Lazarus Project was slightly desperate; not well thought through, now they’re displaying a high degree of criminal vanity. There’s a lot of conceit in Ted’s deceit. Sonny would not skip lightly into the night. The Brazilians obviously didn’t buy Ted’s death – they sent a couple of teams over to investigate and apply pressure. The exits were shutting. Sammy Laniado, the key piece in the plan, has been cremated like most people think Ted has. Two weeks ago the suppliers also sent another red letter – do not ignore this notice. Where’s our fuckin shekels?
Ted had missed a payment instalment. The Brazilian suppliers had eventually found Ted and issued an ultimatum. They wanted to be taken seriously. The tube shooting was a warning, but that went very wrong for them. Today’s attempt on Bridget is them upping the ante. It’s all fuckin messy.
Ted now wants Giles and me to do the deal with Miguel as soon as. We still have to get the memory stick; Ted believes this will not be a problem. I agree, but on condition they don’t kill Sonny.
‘I thought you didn’t like Sonny?’
‘I don’t particularly, but it’s not right to borrow his funds … or serve the geezer.’
Ted shrugs. He wants to roll on, put a meet together with Roy for this evening.
I feel like telling Ted to fuck off. I’m a bit fragged with all this criminal hierarchy bollocks. A couple of days ago I wanted Ted to influence Sonny but now I don’t want Ted, with his history of finesse, anywhere near me or the memory stick. These Brazilians might send a fuckin army or call in an air strike.
‘We don’t know, do we, Ted, who these Brazilians will shoot next. Could be Sonny, or Mort, or me, or Bridget. Could be anyone, except you, cos they want their money.’ Ted says nothing. ‘This is the deal, Ted, we can get you out of your difficulties with the Brazilians. Hopefully all those guys who died are just hired help. You reckon you can influence Roy – we’ll try it your way. We’ll make it a condition of our deal with Miguel’s people that your debt gets paid or discharged. I think Miguel may have some influence … but if anything happens to Sonny King, the deal is off.’
‘What yer saying?’ asks Ted.
‘I will square it with Sonny and I will personally safeguard his interests.’
‘Yeah,’ I say, meeting his eyes.
‘Who give you the shout?’ asks Ted, dead stroppy, leaning forward. ‘Since when did you—’
‘Ted …’ says Bridget, interrupting, looking at Ted, nodding towards me, ‘people are trying to kill him … and me … yeah?’ Ted nods, lips zipped. ‘So just shut the fuck up for once and realise you’ve got a deal, okay?’ Bridget goes to get up. ‘I better get back … get it sorted …’ Get Evey vanished, pulped in a concrete mixer, poured into oil drums. Where Santos ended up … Business is good for Bridget’s sideline. ‘Don’t like the idea of her being out there … all on her own …’
Bridget walks towards the cafeteria exit, with Ted tailing her out. She stops, turns back to whisper in my ear, ‘Best we don’t tell Mortimer ’bout Evey – know what I mean?’
I nod, then Bridget whispers one more thing … and leaves.
Morty picked me up outside Tottenham Hale Underground station. Ted has decided to go seriously cloak-and-dagger and made a meet on the edge of town – Royski likes all that skullduggery – away from prying eyes and accidental encounters.
Morty doesn’t think it’s a good idea for Ted, recently deceased, to graft Roy, apparently going bonkers, to graft Sonny, one greedy fucker, to do a deal with Miguel – still an unknown quantity – don’t think it’s a good idea to have Roy sit down with a dead person. I ask if he’s got a better idea …
‘I can’t see why you and Giles don’t go and explain the benefits of the deal to Sonny again – properly gang up on him this time.’
‘We’ll call that Plan B. Got to give Ted one bite of the cherry, even if it’s to prove he’s wrong …’
‘Strange way of doing things …’ says Morty to himself.
We drive on in silence for a while, then we turn off the dual carriageway into a light industrial area. A huge area has been laid waste for redevelopment but then been forgotten about. It’s a blind spot, hemmed in by the railway tracks around two sides so there’s no through traffic. The railway is on two levels, one on the ground, the other over an old viaduct. The arches have businesses in them. A freight train rattles across the viaduct, shaking the street. Motor oil and brake fluid is spilt over the road, and old, unwanted engine parts are strewn about randomly. There’s a scattering of recently broken car window glass that glistens nastily in the late sunlight. Morty stops the car, gets out the motor, looks both ways up and down the street.
‘Fuckin hate comin up this end …’
‘Do you think the motor’ll be okay?’ I say as we walk away.
‘Probably not …’ he shrugs, then laughs. ‘Maybe we’ll have to walk home. Come on, we’re late.’
We walk slowly up the street. It’s now dusk, the sun’s going down, throwing long shadows. There’s nobody about, only a lone tipper lorry and a couple of trucks creeping in and out of yards further up the street. Scrap yards, car-breakers and heavy plant hire firms run off in all directions, enclosed in corrugated steel fences with barbed razorwire running along the top. Some of the gates have heavy-duty chains and padlocks, crude signs warning people away, while others have the doors hanging wide open to welcome in business. Even the lampposts have been vandalised. Peeping over the top of the wire there’s cannibalised motors and builders’ skips that have been piled precariously high. In one of the yards I can hear a vicious dog howling and barking, and another replying. From their ferocious barks you just know they’ve tasted blood and liked it.
Tumbling out of a couple of torn rubbish sacks are piles of everyday bits and pieces, somebody’s personal belongings. It’s like some poor soul’s been evicted from life – like their house contents have been bagged-up, cleared out and discarded, for whatever reason – in this out-of-the-way backstreet. In this case it’s a curious mix of well-worn platform shoes in bright primary colours – purpose-made for kinder whores, perhaps – and some frayed, supposedly sexy underwear that’s anything but. And a poignant and colourful collection of flattened plastic toys, dumped and crushed by the kerb.
The hound-from-hell’s barking is getting louder and closer. The evening sun still sends up a haze. Morty leads the way, all the time a couple of steps ahead of me. He picks up a stick and drags it along the corrugated iron fence, making an irritating clicking sound. We come to a yard with figures chalked up on a tatty blackboard – today’s prices for lead, copper, aluminium, and wire – stripped or burnt. And prowling at the end of a chain is the dog we heard down the street – a big, woolly Alsatian, more wolf than dog. When he sees us he comes alive, leaps at us, straining at the end of the long choker chain, desperate to get at us, snapping and snarling. The dog’s protecting a bleached-out bone that looks like it came from an elephant. Morty walks just out of his range and the dog begins to strangle itself but still won’t give up trying take a bite out of us. Morty ignores him, marches into the yard that’s piled high with scrap metal – radiators, neon light shades, drums of heavy-duty copper cable and mountains of jagged, metal offcuts. A soapy geezer is operating a crane with a humming electromagnet, loading metal onto a conveyer belt. The metal leaps to the magnet. It raises it up, and as he releases a pedal, the magnet is no longer a magnet – the humming stops – the load crashes noisily onto the belt. It gets carried up to a menacingly loud crushing machine. The mesmerised operator doesn’t acknowledge us or look in our direction.
Morty leads the way through the yard over to a prefab office. There’s a battered Volkswagen Polo parked outside that could be scrap, but I’ve got a hunch it’s one of Roy’s anonymous work cars. Mort knocks, and without waiting to be asked, enters. I follow him in. It takes me a second to adjust after the sunshine but when I do, I realise that Ted and Roy are sat on either side of a metal desk that’s covered in piles of untidy paperwork, newspapers, dirty chipped mugs, sandwiches in their plastic wrappers and biscuit crumbs. Everything has a thin layer of grimy dust.
Ted’s looking incredibly relaxed – for Ted – feet up on the desk, leaning back, puffing on a matchstick-thin rollie, and chewing gum. The muscles in his jaw and temple pop and bounce, making his head look skull-like. Roy’s twitch, on the other hand, is going full blast – Condition Red. He’s trying to interrupt Ted.
‘Simple, Roy,’ says Ted, ‘I’m entitled to a bitta that gadget everyone’s getting excited about.’
Roy goes to talk. Ted silences him – a finger up to his lips. Behind Ted’s head there’s a handwritten sign, yellow and curly, stuck with rusty pins.
‘You Don’t Have to Be a Cunt to Work Here, but It Helps.’
‘What’s the problem, Roy, stop worryin. You’ll be able to go back down to Spain, switch off.’ Ted turns to Mort, acknowledging him for the very first time. ‘Tell him, Mort – tell him it makes sense.’ But he doesn’t wait for Mort. ‘We need a united front. We go for a percentage of the account balances on the memory stick.’ Giles has, no doubt, explained the practicalities, and Ted is repeating, parrot fashion. ‘The funds are easily transferred. This is my business now. You two, you and your mate Sonny, made it my business.’
I’m not sure how Ted works that out, but Roy’s job is to convince Sonny that this is the best deal for everyone. Roy is on the ropes – Ted follows up.
‘This business with the gadget has wrecked my business. There’s plenty there for everyone. This Jee-zuss kiddie has killed my connection. I want my debts removed … This Zambrano geezer is capable of exerting pressure.’ Ted – calm as a duck pond – is suggesting a pragmatic approach, far too simple to explain. ‘I want you, Roy, to convince Sonny that your share of this stick is with Morty and yer man. Can I trust you with that job?’
Roy needs to think about it; the more he thinks the harder it becomes. There’s another masterpiece of wisdom among the curry house calendars and faded pin-ups, entitled ‘Stress Management Device’ – a felt-tip circle has been drawn with ‘Bang Head Here’ w
‘Okay,’ says Royski, pulling a grimace, ‘I’ll talk to Sonny, but what about the Santos fella? He’s still on the rampage, looking to do a number on him.’ Roy nods in my direction.
‘The Santos geezer is history, Roy … It clears the way for a deal. We use it – a sign of good faith, a gesture to show willing.’
‘Did you kill him, Ted?’
Morty interrupts, ‘It’s not important, Roy.’
But Ted replies to the question, ‘I never laid eyes on the geezer, alive or dead. And Mort’s right, it ain’t—’
‘But you’ve killed people, right?’ asks Roy, almost innocently.
Morty cuts him short, ‘Nitto, Roy …’
Roy doesn’t appear to hear Mort. He carries on, eyes locked into Ted’s, half-intimidating, half-pleading. ‘You’ve served people. I know you have. And did you feel the need to confess, to unburden yourself?’
‘Listen, Roy,’ says Ted, ‘this is too fuckin weird.’
‘That’s not an answer, Ted.’ But then Roy asks him, matter-of-factly, ‘How do I know you’re alive, Ted?’
‘Do what, son?’ asks Ted, concerned about another plan going bandaloo.
‘You could be a ghost, Ted,’ says Roy with a small laugh.
‘That’s not funny,’ says Morty.
‘It’s not a joke, Mort,’ says Roy. ‘How do I know Ted here’s not come back to life?’ Roy waves around the cabin with a manic smile and knowing eyes. ‘How do I know this is happening?’
‘Enough now, Roy!’ snaps Mort. ‘Shut up!’
‘See,’ says Roy, suddenly angry, standing, but close to tears, ‘everybody’s trying to shut me up. I’m not havin it!’
‘Listen, Roy,’ shouts Mort, pointing, ‘Ted was never dead. It was a get-up – he was being threatened. He’s not a ghost.’ Morty slaps Ted on the arm, ‘Look, flesh and blood, Roy, he’s all here – living, breathing.’
Viva La Madness by J. J. Connolly / History & Fiction have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes