Serious People, страница 1
Chapter One - Mickey The Bag
“Now this is what I call fucking music!” Mickey said, swaying his hips to the beat coming out of the large speakers surrounding them.
“Now, I’m mainly an Elvis man but Money For Nothing by Dire Straits—fuck —you got to move to this shit,” he said, dancing around the large bag that he had placed on the floor. Every move was carefully choreographed to keep a double measure of whisky safely in his glass. “This song—it’s like our fucking theme tune!”
“Money for nothing!” Mickey was singing now, rocking around his bag. “Chicks for free!”
Mickey looked across hoping to see enthusiasm on the face of Seamus but all he saw was blankness. Stupid fucking retard—clearly no musical education.
“Oh God! My old man always told me, never get involved with gangsters!” The middle aged man tied to a chair screamed. The chair shook and there was a mixture of terror and rage in his voice.
Mickey bristled, so much that he almost lost his timing to the music. He didn’t like the term gangster. Gangster brought to Mickey’s mind American movies about the mafia, and though he liked the movies, there was little symmetry between him and one of the Corleones from The Godfather. The term he was most comfortable with was serious people.
If someone said to him that so and so are coming down from Manchester with a thing and to be on your guard, cause they’re serious people, Mickey would know exactly what to expect. And what to do. Someone alternatively says, so and so are coming down from Manchester with a thing and to be on your guard, cause they’re gangsters… Well? Chances are it would make him laugh.
Mickey had known some serious people in his time. He was born and bread in Hackney, a stone’s throw from the Kray’s stomping ground, and Ronnie and Reggie had been the constant talk of the playground. Despite all that he hadn’t been a fan. He’d mixed with people who had rubbed shoulders with them in their hay day and frankly thought them a pair of celebrity hunting nonces. Sure, they helped write the book on what extortion and being a name could get you—but they were too much about the name. If you asked Mickey they wouldn’t have lasted five minutes in this day and age. You couldn’t give someone a slap and then go down a big west-end club telling anyone who would listen all about it. If you wanted to be successful in this trade, the game was all about keeping your name out of the headlines. Take the fellas Mickey worked for—they had more money between them than the Krays could dream of—but your average Daily Mail reading Joe had never heard of them. Now that’s serious people! Charlie O’Neil puts a gun to your head, when you know he’s done it countless times before, squeezed that trigger and never even had the boys in blue knock on his door as result, let alone bang him up. Yeah, now that’s someone you should be scared of.
Now, don’t think the Krays weren’t scary cunts, they were fucking mental. The Krays were serious people no doubt.
In the Irish Club, which has served as Mickey’s local all his life and, according to the taxman, was how he made his living, there was an old story that was told to almost every new drinker. It was about how Ronnie Kray had stumbled in one day picked up a pool cue and beat the shit out of the only solitary drinker in the place. After spending a good couple of minutes pounding the poor bastard’s head with the cue, he chucked it down, straightened his tie and turned to the barman saying, “I fucking ‘ate these Paddy bastards!” Then calmly walked out the bar.
Most locals thought that it was just one of those stories that most east-end boozers have circulating, but Mickey knew different. He knew different cause the Irish paddy in question was his old man.
The beating had a profound effect on the eight year old Mickey. Up to that point he’d listened to every word his dad said, listened to what was right and what was wrong. He was on course to follow his dad, to a career on the docks, a good decent life, church every Sunday and most evenings in the Irish Club, bringing ‘er in doors with you after church. On the evening that his old dear brought him into the hospital to see his dad the plan changed. Seeing the decent man—who never did anything to anyone—strapped up to a machine that made sure he didn’t stop breathing, he decided. Fuck that. In this world you either get done to or you make sure you do them first.
“’Ere Dunne, you little prick, I hear your old man got done up like a proper cunt by Ronnie Kray last night!”
The next day at school, eight-year-old Mickey Dunne had become a minor celebrity. From the moment he walked through the school gates that morning, he was followed round by a mob of people that wanted to see the kid whose Dad had been mugged off by one the Krays.
He turned to look at the kid who had called him a little prick and his dad a proper cunt. The kid was at least a couple years older than him and twice the size with it. Had a similar thing happened the previous day, he may have run for the nearest place to hide, but not today. Either be done to or do them first.
To the shock of the crowd surrounding him, he leapt at the older kid, almost landing square on his chest. Despite being a small slight child for his age, Mickey’s full body weight and the unprepared state of the older kid, in an instant he had him on the floor. And he was smashing his face with his fist until the older kid barely had a nose left. After more punches than anyone could count, Mickey had to stop the hitting. He stood up in front of the horrified crowd and—for the first time in his life—felt the adrenaline rush of power and fear.
“The Kray brothers, are a bunch of fucking queers!”
Mickey Dunne was serious people.
“Mickey, you know me, please!” The man in the ridiculous velvet suit begged. “This ain’t something I’d do!”
Mickey stopped dancing and looked down coldly at the man strapped to the chair.
He wasn’t sure, which was angering him more. The fact that his Sunday had been ruined by the need to get this current task done or that he had to interrogate a man he considered a friend. In a place he’d always considered one of his haunts.
They were stood on the dance floor of Zebbie’s club. Zebbie sat strapped to a seat underneath a large silver disco ball that would be more in place in a nightclub in the late seventies. Despite the over the top disco décor that covered the club, Mickey had always liked Zebbie’s. The bar, which was positioned on a higher level to the dance floor, was one of the things he liked about the place. This always gave the choice for a good alternate view. If the talk at the bar was not up to much, he could watch the talent on the floor. This was not one of the places he took Mrs Dunne; this was a venue strictly for nights out with the boys.
“Shall I give him a slap Mick?” The large brute of a man, that stood next to Mickey asked.
The brute was Seamus, Mickey’s apprentice of sorts, and a big pain in his arse. Mickey’s boss was convinced, because Seamus had once been a bit of a local name in the boxing game, that he’d be a highly effective part of their ‘ops team’. Mickey rarely had a different opinion to Robert; the guy was one of the smartest people he’d ever known. His brain seemed to be hard wired on how to make a quick penny, while keeping him safe and secure. He could probably have had a successful career in whatever field he’d chosen. But having spent most of his youth in borstal he hadn’t been left many career options.
Seamus was not one of Robert’s better ideas; Mickey was sure he was a borderline retard.
“Seamus, you are here to learn from me. Relax and just watch. We’re businessmen, we’re here with a purpose, and purposes are best achieved through being calm and deliberate.”
“Thanks Mickey. I knew you’d be civil 'bout this confusion...” Zebbie said, starting to look relieved.
“Civil? What the fuck are you talking about? Give him a slap Seamus."
Zebbie’s eyes widened as the giant who was Seamus O’Driscoll
“No, no Mickey! The boys never came round! The money was here waiting for them the whole time!” he cried, trying to struggle in his seat.
Seamus delivered the blow to Zebbie’s midriff in the manner of a trained pugilist. The nightclub manager grimaced with pain, as a cracking sound came from his rib cage.
“Ouch! I felt that,” Mickey said, leaning towards the man. “Do you know, some people, Zebbie, think once the rib is broken the pain has peaked? They’re wrong.”
Zebbie could only groan in reply.
“Now I’m thinking; you don’t want any more of that, do you?” Mickey said, putting his hand on the man’s broken rib cage, bringing an instant wince.
“Mick... Mick...” Zebbie said, now struggling for breath. “The boys never came round. I wouldn’t lie to you.”
“The boys never came round? Oh that’s OK then, ’cause we live in the nineteenth century,” Mickey snapped. “The last time I checked, Zebbie, we’ve got these things called phones! Maybe, even a fucking email!”
Mickey grabbed Zebbie’s throat then pushed him backwards onto the floor.
“What the fuck has happened to this racket! There was a time when you could do this through reputation alone!” Mickey shouted to the ceiling of the club. “Someone would pay you on the basis that they knew what would happen to them if they fucking didn’t. What the hell has changed?”
“I guess the world’s just evolved Mick,” Seamus said, as if under pressure to reply. “We’ve all just evolved.”
“It’s fucking evolved! Jesus, Mary and Joseph! I’ve been paired with Charles fucking Darwin!” Mickey shouted as he walked around to the bar.
“Nah, it’s Seamus O’Driscoll?” his associate replied.
Mickey looked at Seamus and could see there was no sarcasm intended. He shook his head and took a bottle of whiskey from behind the bar to pour himself another drink. Mickey looked across to his bag that was still lying on the floor. I am always in control of my own world.
“Ok Seamus, let’s do it your way.” Mickey said, and he part downed the whiskey.
Zebbie, who was still lying on the floor, strapped to the chair, could see the situation escalating. “I’m sorry Mickey. I thought something was up! I’ve been an idiot! I should have phoned you! I would never disrespect you or Mr O’Neil!”
Seamus turned to Mickey, who nodded back to him. On that cue, Seamus unleashed a barrage of punches on Zebbie. The chair he was tied to rocked from side to side in time to the punches.
Mickey sat back down at the bar and poured himself another drink. His fingers started to drum the side of the glass in time to the beat. Suspicious Minds. This was a tune, he started to move to the music again, every move in perfect time to the King, Elvis. In another world he would have been a musician; he had natural rhythm in his veins.
Mickey watched Seamus attack Zebbie. Seamus was in the main very bad company, he thought while sipping his whisky. They shared little in common, and he certainly wasn’t accustomed to the constant stupid questions. But as he watched Seamus connecting endless punches to Zebbie’s body, he couldn’t deny there was a positive side to having a former boxer as a colleague.
Seamus lifted the chair back off the floor. Zebbie's body was now starting to slump—solely held up by the securing cable ties.
Mickey put his glass down and slowly approached the nightclub manager.
“Where’s the money Zebbie? I think we’ve made our point.”
There was no response from the slumped form. Mickey looked at the remaining liquid in his glass, before throwing it over Zebbie, who started to stir. So Mickey leant closer to him.
“Tell me where the money is Zebbie.”
Zebbie tried to speak, but could only offer a mixture of slurs and spit from his damaged mouth.
Mickey sighed, shaking his head in anger. He examined Zebbie’s face. The top lip was split open; leaving blood flowing freely.
Mickey looked back at Seamus—what a stupid prick. “You’ve really fucked him up. This is exactly what happens if you’re not cool about things!”
“Mick you said...” Seamus looked down at his feet.
“Get the man a pen, Seamus.”
Seamus hurried behind the bar, looking around for a pen. “Where will one be Mick?”
“Where do you think a pen might be at a bar?” Mickey asked, reverting to his preferred coaching style.
Mickey’s preferred leadership style was to coach. He knew your average Joe would be surprised that a person in Mickey’s trade might have read the odd book about leadership. But they were just small minded. Mickey knew that—actually—life was all about how you influence people. Serious people got this. Serious people knew the power of how to get people to do what you wanted them to do; not because you told them to but because they were motivated. That was a power indeed.
Every trade needs leadership, the criminal trade more than most. Mickey had an anorak type interest in people influencing techniques and he’d read various books on the subject: ‘Good to Great’, ‘Nudge’, ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People’. He considered himself a master at developing his staff; he could take a kid off the street, who thought the way to make an easy buck was to mug the nearest well dressed fella, and get them to understand the power of planning and of seeing the big score. Find out what they did, he taught. How did they make their money? And then work out a way of maxing the score; not clearing their wallet but clearing their bank account.
So Mickey was a self-taught coach. Ask open questions. Enable his students to learn and understand the how.
Seamus looked back at him confused.
Some were harder to coach than others, and some others were just cunts.
“Look by the till,” Mickey replied, pushing his hands back through his hair in exasperation.
Seamus returned with a pen and put it in Zebbie’s hand; then passed him a beer mat to write on.
“Write down where the money is!” Mickey ordered.
Zebbie scribbled something down and Mickey examined the beer mat.
“Jesus Christ!” he said. “The prick must be dyslexic or somethin’!”
“Shit, I can’t read a word,” Seamus said, squinting at the beer mat. “What’s that thing called when you can’t write proper or learn shit?”
“Dear God, have I just landed on planet moron or something?!”
Seamus shrugged confused.
“Draw us a fucking map!” Mickey shouted. And then Seamus shouted too, slamming the beer mat back down on Zebbie’s lap.
“Should I get him a pencil, maybe some different colours?” Seamus said, looking back at Mickey.
Mickey stared back at Seamus.
“You know, add a bit of perspective?”
“Evo-fucking-lution,” Mickey said staring back at his associate.
Chapter Two - Charlie O’Neil
All he could see was her, all he could think of was, her. Every muscle in his body seemed to have gone taught; he had to know that she was ok. Nothing else mattered. His body had turned into a machine with the sole purpose of ensuring she was ok.
Please God don’t take her now, he could hear himself say. He had lost his religion years ago; but in the end it’s remnants were all that was left to him, the hope that someone was in ultimate control. This must be what religion is, what is at its heart, built from human being’s need for hope, in the most hopeless of situations. That something greater than us is in control, and—if we say or do the right thing—that ultimate being will offer some kind of salvation.
How many times had he been that ultimate being, the one being begged for mercy? People had looked into his eyes, desperate to find his soul and asked for leniency. He had never relented of course; he would not have got to where he had in life without the steely determination to achieve what he wanted. He knew the power of being cold, the power of having no emotion. He had started to despise people who tried to use their desperate emotiona
Please God help us, he thought, his knuckles white with desperate determination.
He could hear a voice from somewhere saying, it’s going to be all right Charlie. The voice seemed to form part of his soul. It’s going to be ok; it has to be ok.
“It’s going to be ok Charlie.”
Charlie could see Robert in front of him, holding both his hands, as if he was trying to shake him back into life.
“You’ve got to be positive mate,” Robert said.
Charlie O’Neil was stood outside his wife’s hospital room. He was still wearing the suit he had first put on the morning before, his favourite overcoat, the one he’d always worn when he suspected there’d be trouble. It had been almost an hour since the nurse said to him the doctor would be down in a moment.
“It’s going to be alright Charlie,” Robert Payne said. He was Charlie’s business partner and his best friend. He was the only person Charlie would allow to be with him in times like this.
Charlie put his hands in the pockets of his jacket, to try to hide that they had now become white knuckled fists of rage. He was not used to having to wait for anything; everything he wanted he was used to getting. Who was this doctor who thought he could keep Charlie O’Neil waiting? His fingers clawed the fabric of his pockets, wishing it was the doctor’s face instead.
The jacket though had large enough pockets to discreetly hide this, this being one of the many reasons he had begun to favour the garment more and more over the last few months. One of its other benefits were the host of hidden compartments sewn into the lining, perfect for blades of varied length and even a small pistol. The sleeves though were Charlie’s favourite design feature. They were subtly long, which meant he could cloak a weapon, when needed, or more importantly hide the quiver of his hands, which was the only physical evidence the great man Charlie O’Neil felt fear. This was evidence that Charlie would do his utmost to hide.