Viva La Madness, p.43J. J. Connolly
They zoom out the yard, ignoring me. I’m taking no chances. I cut out, in the other direction, skidding around corners, feeling the ache from my jog in the tube all over again.
I retrace the route I took with Sonny and Roy – through the alley, over the railway bridge, tumbling down the other side, up the terraced street with its bijou cottages. I keep on running through backstreets, across Paddington Recreation Ground. The game’s up – Sonny’s dead, the gadget lost.
I don’t stop till I hit Maida Vale, staggering like a drunkard. Then I collapse in a shop doorway, an untidy heap of limbs, huffing and puffing …
Sonny has assumed that this is Santos’ handiwork … So did I, for a minute, losing all reason, you do around firearms. But squatting in my comfortable doorway, getting my breath, and my composure, back, I realise I’ve seen that weapon before … And I know where. When you’re terrified, adrenalin pumping, you’ve got the snout of a dog.
Versace perfume … on a Venezuelan gunman? Don’t think so …
Just you wait till I see that bitch Bridget fuckin Granger …
Gonna thank her very much for not shooting me – thanking you most kindly, Miss Bridget.
THE BRIGADIER’S COUP
‘If Bridget wanted you, or Sonny, dead, you’d be dead, but she didn’t – it was a negotiating technique. Anyway, she says he had his fuckin hands around your throat, was gonna squeeze the life outta ya—’
‘Don’t be so fuckin dramatic, Mort!’
My favourite waitress turns round. Morty smiles at her, raises his coffee cup in salute. ‘Keep yer voice down,’ he tells me, still smiling, leaning in closer. ‘Did he or did he not have his hands on ya? Yes, he did. She was keeping an eye on yer. You do get she was shooting to miss?’
‘Shoulda given me a bitta warning—’
‘Couldn’t risk it. He might have riddled it out, mate.’
‘Don’t call me mate.’
‘We didn’t know he was gonna head for Roy’s mum’s. Fortunate, I call it, having Bridget tailing you. Saved your life. She thought Roy might have come out blasting … still don’t know he’s …’
‘I might have had a fuckin heart attack, bullets whistling round me head. I just wanna get that kit and have the sit-down with Miguel.’
‘We all do, mate,’ says Mort, overdoing the amicability.
‘Miguel’s lackeys keep ringing, enquiring about my whereabouts.’
‘Very nice … But if I were you I’d put business before pleasure. Sonny will be a bit more willing to do the deal now.’
‘Or he’ll go completely under, never come out again.’
‘Now who’s being dramatic?’
‘Has he been in contact?’
‘Not yet, but he will. Sonny’s not a quitter.’
‘What happened to Sonny’s two geezers in the Range Rover?’
‘One tap on the window and they were gone – no loyalty, some people. Told you they were mediocre.’
‘So what do we do now?’
‘Wait,’ says Morty, lighting a snout and pouring more coffee. ‘Things are in hand.’
‘Is there anything more you wanna tell me?’
‘Wanna or gonna?’
After we’ve hung out in the park for half an hour, watching the world go by, Dougie Nightingale, of all people, rings. Transpires Sonny is seeking refuge with Dougie – he doesn’t trust criminals anymore. Sonny is convinced that Santos’ team is still trying to kill him …
Dougie rang Sonny a little while after the shooting, over something trivial, as Sonny was making his escape; perfect or bad timing, depending on your point of view. Dougie, realising Sonny was in trouble, and being a charitable soul, offered his partner and friend a sanctuary, so Sonny headed over to see him, to lay low. Morty convinces Dougie to put Sonny on the phone.
‘We need to have a serious chat,’ says Morty. ‘You’re gonna need a second. Bring yer lawyer, if ya like. In fact, I insist, mate.’
‘I insist,’ I can hear Sonny say. ‘You’ve been having it with that cunt too long.’
Smart move, getting Giles to come along.
‘See you in a while.’ Morty ends the call. ‘Come on, let’s go.’
‘We’re gonna go and see Dougie Nightingale. You might have met him – you wouldn’t forget Dougie.’
‘Did Sonny ask about me, if I’m alive?’
‘What do you think?’ says Mister Mortimer.
We drive the long way to Dougie’s apartment; apparently Mort’s been there before. Dougie lives in a mansion block just north of the Marylebone Road, the kinda massive block that people seeking anonymity favour – a labyrinth of corridors. He occupies a penthouse overlooking Regent’s Park.
Dougie lets us in. He’s already charged up on cha-cha, holding a goblet of wine in one hand and a snout in the other. Dougie, apparently, wanted to facilitate us on the seemingly fashionable, but fatal, roof terrace but Sonny preferred to be inside, out of the firing line. Dougie is excited by the thought of having all these gents around to discuss business.
Dougie reports that Miguel and Jenna are in the Monarch most nights – always asking about you guys, always with heavy bodyguards. Good spenders, though.
‘What have you lot been up to?’ says Dougie, fishing. ‘No, don’t tell me I don’t wanna know …’
‘Has Giles arrived yet?’ asks Morty, cutting him off.
‘Not yet, he’s been sent for,’ says Dougie, pushing the door open to a large dining room. ‘Sonny’s in there …’ And then, in a whisper to Mister Mortimer, ‘Sort it out, please.’
Sonny is sat, defiantly, at the long dining table, Gucci briefcase by his side and a large tumbler in his hand.
‘Oh, yer fuckin alive, are ya?’ Sonny says to me, setting the tone.
‘So it would seem.’
‘Knew you’d get away. You’re a natural longtail.’
‘Why the fuck should I even talk to you? Last time you ended up trying to strangle me.’
‘Oh, fuck off,’ he says.
‘Then you fuckin used me to stop you getting shot.’
‘Stop being a fuckin girl! Fuckin holding grudges! We need to get this sorted, mate!’
‘Don’t fuckin call me mate.’
‘You’re me mate, ain’t ya?’
‘Mate? To be honest, Sonny, I always got the impression you didn’t like me.’
‘What’s like got to do with it, ya fuckin mug?’ He isn’t joking. ‘You’re a good geezer to have on the firm.’
‘I shouldn’t even come near you. Someone’s trying to shoot you.’
‘At least I know it’s not you trying to kill me!’
‘You need to fuck off, Sonny.’
‘Oh, that’s nice, ain’t it?’ says Sonny, pretend offended.
‘I meant get outta London.’
‘If I’m going I’m taking that fuckin gadget – it’s gonna keep me alive—’
‘Or get ya fuckin killed, Sonny. It’s worthless to anyone but the Zambranos, you get that?’
‘Now listen, Sonny,’ says Mort, ‘that device is going nowhere. I didn’t wanna be the one to tell you this but Roy has been confirmed dead.’
‘How do you know?’
‘We know … the English Spaniard’s been in touch. The conversation was short, and a surprise. It was a straight hit, if that’s any consolation. He disappeared the body.’
‘He could be bluffing.’
‘So where’s Roy?’ says Morty with a shrug.
‘Roy told his mum he had an appointment,’ says Sonny. ‘Was that Santos?’
‘Dunno, Sonny. We’ll get the griff when we find him.’ Sonny looks absolutely gutted; his eyes are moist. Mort continues, ‘I think Santos was hoping to tell me both you and Roy were dead. Reckons he’s gonna kill the two geezers who fucked up your assassination.’
‘Why weren’t they trying to kill h
‘Was meant to be a witness … bringing back the message – Latino thing, apparently. I don’t think they realised it was him … Santos thinks he’s dead, thought he’d killed the counsellor already. Santos told us that Roy was dead …’ Morty shrugs, ‘and he’s gonna keep after you. Says you’ve insulted him, and his intelligence. What did you say?’
Sonny shrugs, looks mystified; could be a thousand and one things.
‘How did he get your number?’ asks Sonny.
‘They’re military intelligence,’ Morty shrugs. ‘Guess there’s a method to these things.’
‘Poor fuckin Roy.’
‘You owe me an apology, Sonny,’ I say. ‘You said I killed Roy.’
‘Fuck right off – there, that’s yer apology,’ says Sonny.
‘Cut it out,’ says Mort to me. ‘Ain’t got time for this bollocks.’
We sit in silence. Sonny ponders his options. Then Morty asks, ‘You wanna stay alive, Sonny?’
‘Did Hitler like a uniform?’ replies Sonny. ‘Silly question, Mort.’
‘Well I wanna stay alive … it’s only a question of time before this Santos comes after me.’
‘Why would he come after you?’ asks Sonny.
‘Why not, is a better question. If we’d done the deal when Giles suggested it, Roy might be still alive.’ That was seriously below the belt from Mister Mortimer.
‘Or maybe not, Sonny,’ I say.
‘I liked Roy …’ says Sonny, turning to me, ‘he was my fuckin mate. I ain’t the fuckin psycho you seem to think I am.’
‘We appreciate that, Sonny,’ continues Mort, ‘but this Miguel guy is the only option. If Santos starts serving us one by one to get that gadget, he’s gonna try and blackmail Miguel. We do a deal with Miguel, Santos is fucked.’
‘We should get out there and find this cunt once and for all.’
‘You need to be out the way, Spain maybe … get him chasing shadows … Then I’ll get Bridget to find Santos and do the business.’
‘I could keep a low over here.’
‘Out the way,’ says Morty with a degree of finality. ‘Someone needs to sort out Roy’s business down in Spain – the bar and that.’
‘Gonna be tricky,’ says Sonny, ‘without a death certificate.’
‘I think Bridget knows people down there,’ says Morty. Then, calm as you like, ‘And maybe Ted too.’
‘But Ted’s dead …’ says Sonny, but Morty is shaking his head.
‘Ted’s alive, Sonny. It was a get-up, to lose Old Bill.’
‘Ted’s alive! Sly fucker.’
‘Was gonna put a bitta distance between himself and a few outstanding warrants but now things have changed … he’s in this arrangement … and Bridget.’
‘Hang on,’ says Sonny, ‘why the fuck is Ted, and Bridget, Granger suddenly in this?’
‘Woulda thought that was self-evident.’
‘Well, apparently not, Mort,’ says Sonny, sarcastically, ‘you’re gonna have to explain.’
‘Cos they’ve got a shitload of product but no distribution, no salesman, because you are both – you and our friend from Jamaica here – under some death sentence. So he’s got the right zig because he sees it as self-inflicted, the result of you, and Roy, may God have mercy on his soul, turning over this Jesus fella for the parcel that you thought was gonna be a few dozen Rolexes. Freelance is when it doesn’t interfere with Ted’s gig.’ Morty is getting angrier, sharper, ‘And now it transpires that we’re on the verge of being wiped out by some South American lunatic who dresses like Prince fuckin Charles but has no problem ripping the organs out of human beings, kids being a specialty. I had to explain all this to Ted – why you were fuckin about in Barbados. Ted is rightly pissed off. A lot of time and effort went into faking his death. He don’t need fuckin dramas or any attention, nothin spectacular like hordes of Venezuelan gunmen, in London, trying to kill everyone, twoed-up on motorbikes, chasing associates down railway tracks or shooting them dead in the street … People he’s sent for,’ Morty nods at me, ‘ending up all over the evening news. Ted wants a deal with Zambrano. This Miguel is sweetness and light … but could seriously fuck up Ted Granger’s escape plan, if he woke up in a spiteful mood …’
Sonny is taking it in. Morty continues.
‘And to add a fuckin dash of Tabasco, turns out now that Ted Granger and Patsy O’Malley are old comrades … from some prison riot or some such nonsense. Patsy is thinking his brother’s death was something to do with you, Sonny. Not that you shot him, but the killer is in London, on the rampage, because of some mischief you instigated.’
Morty leans forward, both hands on the table. ‘Now, Sonny, you was told not to approach the O’Malleys, but you wouldn’t listen – you knew best. And don’t even think about blaming Roy … You was talking rewards, dead or alive, slinging readies around. You got intoxicated, big-time. We shoulda done what we’re doing now – called it on with Bridget and let her find Santos. He’d be in his oil drum now – job done. Bridget would have found him, and his outfit, and served ’em.’ Morty stops to light a cigarette before continuing, ‘This is the consequences, Sonny – you getting it? That’s why Ted’s in the bust-up, okay? It’s compensation. Ted’s consignment is coming – just like Christmas – his supplier will still have to be paid. We can’t have three lots of South Americans creating mayhem …’ Morty laughs, ‘Would be insane. That money must come from somewhere … otherwise Ted, and Bridget, will not be best pleased.’
Sonny’s eyes are widening. He’s in grave shit; Bridget Granger, I’ve riddled out, is a one-stop shop for assassinations, real or counterfeit. Hygienic disposals are her forte. Sonny King’s more terrified of Miss Spick ’n’ Span than of Santos. The threat of Bridget is Morty’s doomsday weapon. And Sonny knows Bridge doesn’t like him …
There is a knock, the door swings open, and Giles appears, all fine and dandy – looks like he’s spent the morning at a spa. Sonny winks at Giles; the numbers have just been evened up.
‘Hello, Giles,’ says Morty. ‘We’ve met before, in Acton. We was just explaining to Sonny …’ Morty gives Giles the Toff what the late Roy Burns would call the sit-rep – his expression instantly changes.
‘Roy is dead?’ says Giles, suddenly worried. He turns to Sonny. ‘This is serious.’ Giles sits down, takes one of Sonny’s snouts and lights it. He doesn’t normally smoke. ‘So, what’s the deal?’ he asks. ‘Where’s the resolution?’
Morty runs his solution past Giles. Mister King will take twenty five percent of any realised funds. Mister Mortimer and Giles Urquhart will look after his interests but he must surrender the memory stick and leave London, if only temporarily. The funds will be routed to the CBB. This is still dependent on Miguel being willing to do a deal; it might get ugly once he knows we can access the memory stick. Giles sits patiently, listening hard. Then he turns to Sonny.
‘Sonny,’ says Giles, ‘what is your fucking problem? This is about realpolitik. That amount of money will see you out for the rest of your life. Why would you put your life or liberty in jeopardy? With that amount of money tucked away, ready to spend, you could live like a lord for the rest of your days. With what you’ve accrued already, you’re talking about turning it into, over the next few years, fifty or sixty million.’
‘See,’ says Sonny, ‘I get the idea that you’re all spivving me.’
‘Sonny,’ says Giles, ‘you asked me to come here.’
‘Like it’s a team effort,’ says Sonny, sulky.
‘Sonny,’ says Morty, fixing Sonny with his eyes, ‘this is really a take-it-or-leave-it deal. We get Bridget out there. Miguel will be looking for Santos as well. We put our heads together. It’s symbiotic—’
‘Don’t start …’ says Sonny, glancing at me, ‘with the big fuckin words …’
‘But does it make sense?’ asks Mort. ‘An alliance?’
‘I can see the sense in it,’ says Sonny.
Without warning, Dougie tumbles, huffing and puffing, into the room. He’s alarmed because out of the blue he’s received an extremely disturbing call – a package, addressed to Mister Sonny King, has been delivered, by hand, to the Monarch Club. It was opened because it looked fishy. It was found to contain a dead fish with a bullet in its mouth, and a message – on quality notepaper, in perfect English, very formal – enquiring about his health but going on to say Mister King, you have to be lucky every day – we only need be lucky once.
Now Dougie is panicking, thinks he’s going to get shot in the head before too long – a not-so-innocent bystander. The afternoon coke has cranked everything up a notch.
‘I don’t know what’s going on,’ he screams dramatically. ‘All I know is someone is trying to kill you, Sonny. Please, do whatever these chaps want you to do,’ he urges Sonny. ‘If there’s a shooting at the club the police will get involved. It will be the end of everything I’ve ever worked for.’
‘You’ve never worked a fuckin day in your life, you fuckin fruit,’ snarls Sonny. Dougie is seriously offended. Morty holds up his hand to silence Dougie before he says something he’ll regret.
‘Hang on, Sonny. Dougie’s not wrong,’ says Morty. ‘If you get shot dead, inside or outside the club, the law will start investigating and the law will end up with that memory stick. You’ll be dead and we’ll get nothing.’
‘Any percentage of something,’ interjects Giles, ‘is better than a large amount of nothing.’
‘This Santos dude has made it personal,’ says Morty. ‘He’s prepared to kill you to force your hand. It’s time, Sonny, to give it up. Let your man Giles look after your interests. That’s why he’s your lawyer. You need to go away for a while, down to Spain, till we sort out you-know-what.’
Viva La Madness by J. J. Connolly / History & Fiction have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes