“Ignore it,” Elizabeth grabbed Kev’s arm.
“What if it’s important?”
He reached over to get to the phone. Elizabeth dragged him back, kissing his shoulder.
“They’ll ring back. I thought you didn’t use your home phone for business.”
She climbed on top of Kev, pinning his shoulders to the bed. He liked it when she was in control.
Kev and Elizabeth had been having an affair for almost two years now. They both knew how dangerous it was. If Joe, her husband, ever found out they would both be dead. Kev suspected that Claire knew, but she had never said anything, he could take care of her regardless. He had been a bit wary when Elizabeth and him first got together; thinking that she might have been spying on him for her old man. For this reason, he kept pillow talk to a minimum, except when he wanted to know something about Joe’s business. No matter how hard she tried, Elizabeth couldn’t help talking. Kev had acted on the information sometimes, leading her husband to think he had a mole in his organisation; not for one moment thinking it was his wife.
Kev looked at the tattoo on her back; Joe was convinced that the Chinese writing was his name; Elizabeth swore that it was Kev’s. He thought he loved her.
Kev climbed out of bed and headed for the bathroom, he left the door open as he urinated. He knew they had been taking more risks recently. Once they would never have dreamed of meeting at Kev’s house, but Claire was picking up her dress for the reunion. Joe was always busy on a Friday in the club. He came back to the bedroom without washing his hands.
“Joe got much on tonight?”
“He wouldn’t say. It’s all very hush-hush.”
“Must be something big going down.”
The phone rang again as he was about to get back into bed. He unplugged it from the wall.
“Come on, we’ve got another hour before Claire gets back.”
He jumped onto the bed and crawled under the covers as he went down on her.
“Where is he?” Tomma was trying to ring Kev on his mobile. “He’s not answering his home phone and his mobile is on voicemail. We have to find him.”
“I thought we weren’t meant to phone him on his home phone.”
“We’re not, but this is an emergency.”
“Why don’t we just go and do the business? We don’t need Kev’s permission to sort out a retard like Tim.”
Jamie was pacing the floor in the flat he shared with Tomma. A large Union Jack hung on one wall, a painting of the Queen on another. The rest of the gang was there, nursing their wounds from the battle in The Whistle.
“You know the rules, we don’t move without his say. He’ll turn up, we’ll just have to wait.”
“Why can’t it be like the olden days? We used to go and sort out anybody who gave us grief, we didn’t need a fucking board meeting.”
“We’re not a bunch of teenage football hooligans anymore, anything we do attracts attention and therefore affects the business. Sit your arse down and wait for Kev’s call, I’ve left him a message.”
“This is our reputation at stake not Kevin bloody Davison’s. In case you have forgotten, it was me who got a bar stool smashed off his head.” Jamie was furious.
“Our reputation is Kev’s reputation. If someone makes a move on his business, then he calls the shots. I’ll not tell you again, sit the fuck down.”
Jamie swung his baseball bat at the coffee table and knocked a number of Budweiser cans and an ashtray onto the far wall.
“Fucking bastards,” he shouted.
“I was drinking that,” moaned Ian Whelan, one of the younger members of the gang. He’d only been with them a couple of months and he was pushing his luck speaking up against Jamie.
“It’ll be your head next time. Where were you when it kicked off? I can’t remember you doing your bit when it was needed.”
“I was in the toilets with some Colombian marching powder. When I came out it was all over.”
“Very convenient. I’ve got my eye on you son, if you step out of line I’ll fucking have you.”
“Where are you, Kev?” Tomma tried the mobile again.
It had been two hours since the fight in The Whistle and there was still no word from Kev.
“Come on Tomma. We can’t leave it any longer, we need to make the decision without Kev.”
He knew that if he didn’t do something they would know something was up. He didn’t want to rouse their suspicions.
“I’m not happy about this, I wish he was here. Right, everyone get tooled up we’re sorting out this Tim fella. Nobody touches Wood though, there’s something about him I don’t like, Kev needs to call the shots on that one.”
Everyone gathered up the weapons, baseball bats, knives and various other tools of the trade.
“Ian, bring the petrol, in case we need to smoke this fucker out.”
“Anything you say, boss.”
“Don’t call me boss.”
This was the last thing that Tomma wanted to be involved in, tonight of all nights.
They packed into two cars and drove the mile to Tim’s house.
“Right everybody knows what they are doing. This is a quick operation, in and out; send a message that nobody fucks with us. Ian, you’re on lookout.” Tomma opened the driver’s door.
“But I want to be involved.”
“You should have got fucking involved when you had the chance then shouldn’t you?”
Tomma looked up and down the street and when he was satisfied it was clear they all got out of the cars.
“Come on let’s do it.”
They jogged across the road. There were no lights on in the house, but that didn’t deter the gang.
“We know you’re in there, retard,” Tomma shouted through the letterbox. Jamie threw a half-brick through the upstairs window.
“We’re coming to get you.” They all whooped and cheered. Another brick went through the downstairs window.
Tim sat in the far corner of the bedroom, knees tucked into his chest. He was sobbing; on his lap were photos of Gilbert growing up. He knew he could have run, but what was the point? He couldn’t run forever. He had no fight left in him and curled up tighter as he heard the front door being kicked in.
The mob streamed into the hall swinging their bats wildly at anything they could see, the telephone table, the mirror, the framed photographs on the wall. They spread out amongst the downstairs rooms, systematically tearing them apart. Tim could hear the bangs and crashes from upstairs and knew it would be his turn next. Tomma took his baseball bat and smashed Tim’s camera into tiny fragments.
“He’s not down here, come on, Jamie.” They headed upstairs.
“We’re coming to get you,” shouted Jamie. “Come to Daddy.”
Tim heard them as they crashed through the door of the first bedroom and then the bathroom. The footsteps moved along the landing towards his room. The door edged open.
“Come on Timmy baby, there’s a good boy.”
A flash of orange light lit the room. Flames licked up the curtains and leapt towards the bed.
“What was that?” said Tomma.
The fierce heat drove them back.
“I know he’s in there. I’m going to do the bastard.” Jamie went for the door again.
“Don’t be fucking stupid, we’ll get burned alive. There’s no way he’ll get out of there in one piece. Let’s leave it.”
“What the fuck was that? The whole place just went up.” Jamie and Tomma ran down the stairs towards the front door.
“Petrol bomb, whoever threw it is in serious trouble.” Tomma was seething.
“Come on, everybody out, playtimes over,” he shouted to the rest of the gang as he walked out of the door.
The flames leapt out of the window above him, the shadowy shape of Ian flickered in the garden.
“What the fuck are you doing here? I told you to stay in the car.”
“Burning him out, somebody had to do the business.”
Tomma threw his whole weight into the punch. Ian’s nose split open as he fell backwards onto the grass.
“Let’s get out of here.”
As they headed for the gate they heard the sirens, then the blue flashing lights of the police van mixed with the orange flames to light the night sky. The lights cast dark eerie shadows across the faces of the gang. They couldn’t escape. Another van approached from the far end of the street. Tomma leaned on his bat, resigned to defeat.
“I knew we should have waited for Kev.”
I slumped to the ground with my back to the wall as the flames spread to the downstairs window. This was my fault, when was it going to stop?
“It has to end tonight,” I thought as I picked myself up.
I was heading back to the lighthouse when the thought hit me.
“What the hell am I going to tell Gilbert?”
“Come on Elvis, we’re going to be late,” Marie was getting annoyed.
“I don’t get it,” Elvis was crouched over his computer, “all this money is in our account and it shouldn’t be there.”
“It’s an internet bank, they’re always making mistakes. It’ll not be there tomorrow.”
“But it’s a million pounds, Marie. Imagine if we just get one day’s interest, we’ll be rich.”
“Well, we won’t, so get your head out of the clouds and get a move on.”
Elvis took one last look at the screen, shook his head and closed down his computer.
“Leave it.” Claire said. The phone was ringing again.
“It might be important,” argued Kev.
“I don’t care, we’re going to this reunion tonight and you promised me that you wouldn’t let business get in the way for once. Everybody will be there already, come on.” Claire was adamant. She put in her earring and straightened her dress.
“How do I look?”
He wished that she made this type of effort for him. The phone stopped ringing.
“How’s the phone ringing downstairs and not in here?” Claire picked up the phone from the bedside cabinet and noticed it wasn’t connected.
“Like you said, we’re not letting business get in the way this evening. I unplugged it, so we weren’t disturbed.”
“Bit drastic, isn’t it? Come on, I don’t want to miss anyone.” She ushered Kev out of the bedroom and switched out the light. “You don’t have to drive tonight, Kev. We can get a taxi if you want a drink.”
“Drinking at a school disco is a bit old fashioned don’t you think?” He didn’t want to go, he had a business to run and Friday was his busiest night.
“Let your hair down for once, you never know, you might enjoy yourself!”
“What do you want to go and do that for?” Elvis was looking worried again
“I have to do it. He has to know who is responsible for his downfall. That’s the whole point,” I said.
“It’s far too risky. He’ll kill you.”
“If I don’t tell him he’ll think it was bad luck or, at worst, one of his competitors muscling in. He has to know it was us, the ones he tormented all those years ago.”
“I’m not sure.”
“He has to feel the guilt, feel remorse,” I said. “There’s no point otherwise. This will all have been worthless.”
“Isn’t it enough to know you are responsible?” Bumper was also concerned.
“No, I want to see his face. I want him to say he is sorry.”
“I don’t get it,” said Elvis.
“I do.” Gilbert had been sitting in silence for some time now.
“You want to come with me then?” I said.
“You must be joking. We still don’t know what he has up his sleeve. I don’t want to be there, but you can send him my regards. Let him know I was part of it.”
“Me too,” said Bumper.
“That just leaves you, Elvis. Are you sure?”
“I can see your point, I’m just a bit worried that…”
“A bit worried that what?”
“…that he’s not finished. That this will all come back to haunt us later.”
“Believe me, he’s finished. There will be no repercussions.”
“Fuck it. Count me in. Let him know. Don’t forget to tell him who’s idea it was to download the pictures from Burns’ files.”
“You’ve got a deal. Sure none of you want to come and see it for yourselves?”
“No, he’s all yours.”
“Any chance of that dance now?” Claire had sneaked up behind me. None of us had noticed.
“Not at the moment. I’ve got a little bit of business to attend to.”
“Don’t take too long. Gilbert here might have swept me off my feet by then.”
She grabbed Gilbert by the hand and led him to the dance-floor. His grin went from ear to ear.
Elvis and I sat at the top of the stairs outside the science blocks. We had gone for a look around the old school; it had changed. The school was now a college and, as you would expect after fifteen years, most of the classrooms had been refurbished.
It had been a funny night seeing all the old faces, making small talk and exchanging pleasantries. I knew the night was far from over, but thought it was only right that I took some time out to talk to Elvis. Everything had happened so quickly since I had come home, and I think it was fair to say that I had turned his world upside down. I owed him an explanation.
“You never did tell me what you had been up to for the last fifteen years,” Elvis flicked his foot at an imaginary object on the stairs, “and after the last fortnight I’m not sure I want to know.”
“Come on, I want to show you something.” I helped Elvis up from the stairs.
He was a little unsure on his feet as he had drunk quite a lot of Stones, despite being under strict instructions from Marie not to get too drunk. He had been doing a lot of that lately.
We headed back towards the hall and walked into the middle of the Pogues’ Irish Rover. Everyone was swirling around and whooping, not least Claire and Gilbert. Everyone was enjoying themselves; whatever my motives, the reunion had been a success. We walked down the side of the hall to where the Chapel used to be. The pale blue, plastic sliding doors were still there; I was surprised to find the chapel intact when I slid them back. I ushered Elvis inside and closed the door behind us. The doors muffled the sound of the opening bars to Madness’ Baggy Trousers, which was now blasting out of the speakers. We both grinned. The heating duct was still there, and I told Elvis the whole story from beginning to end, leaving nothing out.
“That’s sick,” Elvis was disgusted.
“I hated Riley, but for Burnsy to do that to him was a bit below the belt.”
“Funny all the same,” said Elvis. “I take it you saw the paper the other night?” Elvis now turned serious.
“Yeah, I did. What did you feel when you saw it?”
“Guilty I suppose. He was a sick mother fucker all right, as your story has just proved, but did he deserve to die like that?”
I had no answer and shrugged.
“Look outside,” I said, “everyone’s enjoying themselves and they are all carrying pictures of a dead man, probably the same picture that killed him. This place is fucked up; we’re fucked up.”
“Everybody has a choice in life, you can check out like Burnsy or you can stand up and face the music,” I said.
“Or you could run away,” said Elvis.
“Fair point. What I am trying to say is, that if you make a decision you must stand by it. If Burnsy didn’t want people to see him dressed in a black rubber mask and briefs, then he shouldn’t have taken pictures of himself and posted them on the Net. I feel sorry for his wife, but not for him. She’s the one who has to live with it.”
I’m not sure whether Elvis agreed with me, but he didn’t say.
“Come on, finish the story. What happened after Burns did that to Riley?”
I continued and told him the rest of the tale.
“Now do you understand why I had to leave? Davison was coming back at some point and he was going to come after me.”
“He hasn’t yet. Maybe he doesn’t know.”
“He does, I’m sure of it. I don’t know why he hasn’t acted yet, maybe he is biding his time.”
“So why did you come back? You must have known he would want revenge. You’re taking one hell of a risk.”
We were now both sat on the altar with our feet swinging below.
“I hold all the aces now. I can hurt him more than he can hurt me, he just doesn’t know it yet.”
“I’m not sure,” said Elvis examining one of the candlesticks. “I don’t think you should go there tonight, it’s too dangerous.”
“I have to, I have to finish it.”
“This is all fascinating, but you’ve still avoided the main question. What have you been doing for the past fifteen years?”
I think the story of my past came as a bit of a disappointment to Elvis. I’m sure he was expecting stories of espionage and near-death experiences. The true story was far duller.
“Remember when we did our Computer Studies ‘O’ Level? The programming side of it only went towards twenty per cent of the final result, but I got the full twenty marks,” I said. “There was a software company that wanted to break into the games market. They had some friends on the examining board that tipped them off about anybody with potential. It wasn’t strictly legal, but they had the money, so they could pretty much do as they liked. They contacted me and asked me to go for an interview.”
“Landmark Software?” said Elvis.
“How did you know?”
“They asked me to go down as well. I thought it was a wind up and ignored it.”
Elvis put the candlestick back on the altar. I wasn’t sure whether to continue with the rest of the story.
“And that’s where I’ve been.” I ended it there.
“Surely that’s not all of it. You haven’t been sat in a little office down south for the past fifteen years. Landmark is one of the biggest software companies in the world, admittedly it isn’t Microsoft, but it’s big enough. You must be on a fair wage.”
“When I joined the company, they had just started in the games market. It was beginning to take off with the likes of the Spectrum and Commodore 64, so I was coming in at just the right time. I became one of their brightest games programmers and I got all the benefits that came with it. The fast car, the penthouse flat, I was successful, but I wasn’t happy.”
“How couldn’t you be happy, all that money and flash cars?”
“I had no friends, not like the old days. The lads at work were okay, but they were all computer geeks mainly. Sometimes you want to talk about something other than Bits and Bytes. I occasionally thought about getting in touch, but there was always the spectre of Davison in the back of my mind.”
“You’re home now. What changed your mind?”
“When a company is paying you that amount of money, they expect you to put the hours in. I was working the clock around; it wasn’t as if I had a social life. My life was computers and I had no time to enjoy the little luxuries I had bought. I spent most nights asleep in the office.”
“It must have been tough.”
I’m not sure whether Elvis was being sarcastic.
“I decided to go it alone, set up my own business. We left on good terms and I left with a large pay off on the understanding that we worked at opposite ends of the games market. You don’t argue with a company like that, so I set up on my own and went from strength to strength. You’ve even got some of my posters up in your shop.”
“I can’t see you as the big businessman. It must be a cut-throat world; how did you deal with it?”
“The games companies pretty much leave each other alone. There’s a certain amount of spying, people infiltrating the company and selling their secrets. You accept it as part of the business. It’s a bit cat and mouse, but it makes life more interesting, you expect a certain amount of gamesmanship, if you excuse the pun, but it never got rough.”
“How do you deal with people like Kev? Did nobody try and muscle in? You can’t move in Sunderland without Davison or Ingham taking a slice. It must be the same down south.”
“They tried, but we were a new type of business. They didn’t quite know how to deal with us. I got a visit one day from a gentleman named Charlie Grenaco. He was well known in the area, a different league altogether from Kev. Despite the name I don’t think he was connected to the Mafia, but he was still someone you didn’t mess with. He offered me an insurance policy for one thousand pounds a week. In the grand scheme of things, it wasn’t a great deal of money, but I wasn’t standing for it.”
“One thousand pounds not a great deal of money? You haven’t been living at the other end of the country, you’ve been on another planet.”
“One thing that Landmark taught me was that although money buys you a certain amount of power, knowledge is where the real power is. I’d become quite a proficient hacker in my time at Landmark and I had employed two of the best computer brains in the country. We froze his bank accounts, had his mobile phone, electricity and gas switched off. We even set up a phantom account with a home protection scheme where they call the police on your behalf whenever your burglar alarm goes off. We set off the imaginary alarm every night for a week. Having the police at the door wasn’t good for business, so he withdrew his offer of insurance. We put everything back to normal for him and he left us alone after that.”
“He could have killed you. People like that don’t take kindly to people taking the piss.”
“I realised that. It was a calculated risk. I told him that I had tapped into his computers and if anything happened to me or any of my associates, the files would mysteriously end up on the computer systems of Kent CID. We had an uneasy alliance. I occasionally did some work for him, information gathering, that sort of thing. Whilst we had the upper hand and I didn’t like breaking the law, I didn’t want to push my luck.”
“Amazing, I didn’t think you had it in you. It’s good to see you are doing well. Any jobs going for an old school friend?”
“I’m out of the business now, mate. I sold up just over a year ago, got out before the dot com bubble burst. It didn’t affect the gaming market that much. We had gambled on moving onto the internet, thought there would be a huge market for multi-player games. I was wrong; it was the first big mistake I made. Luckily, the City had thought it was a great idea at the time and bought me out. I got out by the skin of my teeth. I sold up and went travelling. I’ve only spent three months of the last eighteen in this country.”
“This is all fascinating but there is one thing that is bothering me. You obviously have a fortune and you’ve already said that both money and knowledge get you power. You’ve tapped into computer systems of mobile phone companies and the electricity board. Why did you need Bumper, Gilbert and me to help you break into Davison’s? You could have done it yourself.”
“You’re right I could have. I could have sat at home in the South of England and ruined him. I could have paid someone to bump him off and it would never come back to me but that isn’t the point. He has to know it was us, he has to know that the people who he had made suffer for all those years had come back to haunt him. How did you feel after we had got out of the house?”
“Excited, scared, ecstatic.”
“Exactly, you needed the satisfaction of turning him over as much as I did. It all ends tonight, Elvis. There will be no comeback, he’s finished.”
The next chapter will be released soon. If you can’t wait, Leg It is available on Kindle, Paperback and Hardback.