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Love and Money

We pulled up in one of the better streets, in one of better suburbs in the town. We had been summoned, just me and Bob, by Duke to a party at his house. I had never really thought of Duke as living anywhere but looking around I was a little shocked at how up market the area was. I was making good money now, I could have afforded to move off the estate, but I couldn’t keep making money anywhere else. So I could see with a few steps up and a few more links between you and street level crime you could live in a place like this but still I wasn’t mentally set up to deal with it. Duke was a harden criminal you didn’t think of him living in a nice street when he worked in a strip club.

The where cars scattered around the street as we walked up it, hoods up even thou no one was watching, and counted the houses looking for the number that was scribbled on my hand. I was worried, any change in the norm worried me, I had no idea what was happening and I was walking into it with my boss. Bob never looked scared, he just didn’t have it in him, but I could feel the tension coming off him. People like us did not go to the home of people like Duke, he met us in back rooms or abandoned buildings not in the light.

The front door was open. We stuck out like sour thumbs, men is shirts and jackets, women in cocktail dresses, and us in heavy hoodies and jeans. I knew some of the men, clean names of the King’s more legitimate businesses, bent lawyers, high up heavies and Lts but the where other that I didn’t know some of which looked just as out of place as we were but they were at the other end of the spectrum, normal people. Most of the women were wives and girlfriends of the men but I could pick out the pros worked the room. I knew some of them, the better looking girls from the club, but others must have been of a higher price, they were here to keep the single guys entrained and maybe the married guys if their wives weren’t looking.

I stuck to the edge of the room working towards the back trying not to be noticed, Bob was not so carful. He strode through the party getting sideways glances and hostile stares from the people he pushed passed. I felt really uncomfortable, like when you fell someone behind you, I didn’t have the personal skill or the emotional intelligent to deal with it. In those days give me a back alley brawl over a cocktail party any day of the week.

“Mingle Rave” Bob said to me “I will go find Duke”

I saw King across the room and ducked into the kitchen not to be in the same room as him, he wouldn’t want to be in the same room as someone like me without a good reason. I don’t know how but I ended up making a man called Goodson, I made him feel very uncomfortable, spreading the misery. He was a crooked real-estate developer who I knew after Duke had introduced him so we could do some work for him.

Most of the town, hell most northern towns, where built on the cheap between 1850 and 1900 as places to store the workforce for the pits and mills. And then with the urban regeneration of the 50’s and 60’s resulted in a back lash with some nuts listing some really strange building. Now sometimes I can understand grade 1 listing on a building of real importance but on an old brick church that has no priest, no congregation, and no one to look after it what is the point. If it had been grade 2 someone could have done something with the inside but no. So these places had been left to rot, kids broke in because that is what kids do, and they became squats, dumping grounds or worse. That was where Mr Goodson had come in, he wanted to build on the sights and needed them gone, so my crew had picked up a few quid clearing the places and doing a little pyrotechnic remodelling so the building inspector, after being greased, would call them unsafe so they could be pulled down.

His wife, who was much too attractive to be married to him for anything other than his money, clearly had no idea why her man was being so painfully polite to the aggressive young man that was talking to him. She looked at me with a mixture of fascination and fear, the look women give snakes in the zoo, it pissed me off, but Goodson paid me money so I did my best to be nice. I was struck with the feeling that if I set fire to the building and killed all those inside the world would be a much better place but then I was one of them.

I let him go after I located Dukes alcohol, it was good stuff, whisky that was older than me if I was going to be forced to attend this thing I was going to enjoy it. I watched one of the pros work her way across the room towards me, a smile of genuine warmth on her face. Her name was Cassie or at least that was the name she danced under, she was one of King’s best girls working the peak hours at the club and had her own following of men that came just to watch her dance. She was impressive to say the least, her hips seemed to sway even when she was standing still, the only reason I didn’t think her breast where fake was because I didn’t know anyone that could have done such a good job. Her face went from innocent to sex kitten with her expression. The way she moved must have taken practise, each tiny action came with a full body movement that made the best of her assets.

Cassie was an estate girl and as I had been getting work at the club now that Cain was gone we had got to talking as I waited. She liked me. Most girls will tell you that they don’t like aggressive men, and they don’t, but on some level they want an alpha male, I was cut and bruised and angry and confident and the right girls seemed to eat it up.

“Alreet Ar’Rave” she said, the Ar was out of place, we weren’t kin, we weren’t close but she looked good and I wasn’t going to bring it up.

“Alreet Cass”

“I saw you talking to Goodson, now there is pick, do you think I should go tell his wife how quick he is” she had been drinking “do you think I should tell her how much he spends on me.”

“Shouldn’t you be working Cass?”

“I am here to keep people entertained, do I entertain you Rave.” She pushed up against me.

“While I would love to be entertained by you Cass I am not sure I could afford it.”

“I have seen the money you get in those envelops, plus what you make on the corner, I bet you could afford me”

“True but after I have paid of the gang and my crew, the rest goes on things like heating and food” and my ‘I have got to get the hell out of here’ box “so I really can’t be throwing money away on a girl as high class as you”

“Well I guess this is your lucky night because I am all paid up”

“What?”

“You think Duke wants his guessed digging around for cash, nay he paid me for the whole night, so I am free. I come on Rave, take me up stairs otherwise I am going to have to screw one of these old fucks.”

“Aye and I can really see Duke being happy with us going and fuck on his bed, I would like to keep my insides inside”

“We don’t have to use his bed, I think the guess rooms are in use but his daughter is walking around here somewhere as she has to sleep, come on are you really going to turn me down.” I don’t think anyone had ever turned her down and I wasn’t going to be the first so we went to find the kids room. She wasn’t a kid, looking at the room you would put her mid-teens, the bed spread wasn’t that pink.

I kissed Cassie, she tasted of cigarettes and I quietly curse my decision to quit, she was a pro, she knew just how to please in every aspect of sex. Her tongue did a slow dance in my mouth enough to make me respond in kind. She groped my swollen cock through my pants, I grabbed a handful of her hair and pulled her lips away from mine and leaned my head down to nuzzle her neck. She laughed, it sounded fake and hollow, and I slipped my hand up her back looking for the zip to her dress. It came down and I pushed her away, she slinked towards the bed letting the straps fall from her shoulders and the dress fell forward showing off her naked back, no bra, the dress clung to her hips and she gave a tiny shake of her arse to let it fall.

She looked over her shoulder at me and gave me a smile that looked brilliant and at the same time immensely sad, “Are you coming or what”. I pulled my hoodie and T-shirt over my head and let them fall to the ground, she didn’t even bat an eye at the state of my body, she was a pro, this was all an act to her, and I wondered what kind of things she had seen. I fumbled in my wallet off a Johnny, I didn’t normally use protection, it wasn’t the done thing, but she was a pro and I was dumb but not suicidal.

She prized it from my finger and undid my pants with one hand. She worked my cock a few times while taking the Johnny other of the wrapped with her teeth. She blew into it and then slipped it over the head of my cock and rolled it down. She lay back on the bed with her legs open wide using her fingers to spread her lips and I took her. Sex with a condom is a different sensation, not bad by any means but different, I don’t get we so many men have this massive aversion to them. She worked her stomach muscles like a belly dancer moving her hips up and down as I trust in and out, she held eye contact, she was moaning but I could tell she was faking it. She had real skill, I am not going to deny that, it was very enjoyable, but it was just sex. I didn’t hold back and came quite quickly, I am sure she didn’t but if I had asked I bet she would have told me she did.

I slipped out of her and removed the used Johnny and spent a minute finding a bin to put it in, then I sat back on the bed to get my breath back. Cassie made a show of stroking my back. I looked up then, the was a girl standing at the door, I did know her, she looked about my age, had a thin face, blonde curls piled up on top of her head, the dress she wore was covered in silver sequins making it look like fish scales. I had no idea how long she had been there or what she had seen, she just stared at me with pale green eyes for what felt like an age her face blank.

“Hello” Cassie said behind me, and the girl turn and walked away.

“Know her?” I asked.

“No but then again I don’t really know many women of this crowd”

“I really should go find Bob, I will save up and we can do it again sometime” I stood to find my pants.

I was back in the kitchen, no sign of Bob, and was looking out the window onto the back garden, the girl in the fish scale dress was talking to a group of other teenagers who had dressed for the party. I didn’t know most of them, they were not my kind of people, a couple I had seen at the club, one I was pretty sure brought coke from my corner but other than that... and then I saw him. King’s son, lets for the style of things call him Prince, he had nothing to do with people like me, his daddy was very clear on that but we all knew him. He was still a spoilt kid, a vicious little prick, he like to go out clubbing, he knew who his father was as did his friends and like to throw that weight around. King owned half the clubs and bars in town and every door so he had people looking out for him and that is why I knew him. If you were out you avoided him because if you beat the shit out of King’s son it would be very bad for you health. I contemplated what this meant about the girl when I familiar voice came from behind me.

“Little Rave it is nice to see a friendly face”

“Hello Peter” Piotr was his real name but he went by Peter. He was Russian, to look on him you wouldn’t think much, but to see and understand his tattoos was to know he was a very bad man. The Russian where a small but growing group in our town, they had moved into a few streets on the Waz about 20 years before and over time had grown in to quite the population. They had taken over control of most of the indoor market, there was no profit in protection on the market so King had let it happen, they made their money off stolen, smuggled and counterfeit goods. The best fences in town now where the Russians if you needed to sell that couldn’t be sold in a pub something rare, valuable or in bulk you talked to them.

Peter was officially ran a discount butcher and fishmonger at the back of the market, it was a good place we got our meat there, but really he ran it all. I knew him from the meat, I knew him better when I needed to sell some of the better things Mike stole, his cousin owned a chop shop that I was now trying to get Mike to give the cars he stole instead of burning them out. To be honest Peter was far more my idea of what a boss should be compared to King. I knew that if he saw an opening he would take over but they where useful so King let them be.

“What are you doing here? It doesn’t seem like He would want people like you here” he asked

“I think there may be work somewhere here, do you know what all this is in aid of?”

“Net. Would they really tell me? Speaking of work you man doesn’t seem to understand that value of a car sometimes he brings in something nice other not so nice.”

“That is Mike for you, it has always been more about the theft than what he got for it. Just pay him a fair price for the car he won’t notice the different believe me.”

“And you trust this man?”

“I have known him sense we were very young, he might not be a very controlled but he is a very good thief” I said.

“What are you looking at little Rave?” I nodded out of the window “Are yes the young Tsars”

“The what?”
“Young Tsars, they are the next generation no, sons of your Men.” he said “Spoilt and soft and weak not like their fathers, when their time comes they will not last long”

“And men like Bob will take over” it was a lie, Peter understood very well the big flaw with British gangsters. Any that made it didn’t raise their children to be strong, they never look to the further, and they didn’t have an organization. You controlled territory so long as you held territory, and then you got old and the only way to keep power was to deal with anyone young and hunger in your own ranks until sooner or later you where just old men and weak children and some young hunger outsider came along and took it from you. King was in his 50’s, Duke was later 40’s and all their top muscle was getting on, they were not going to let go, and there was no one to take it when they were gone.

“So which one is Duke’s kid?” I asked knowing the answer.

“The girl in sliver. Why?”

“I just made a mess of her bed that is all”

“That is very bad of you Rave, what will all these nice people think?” he laughed.

“The nice people hear will try not to meet my eye, the others won’t care. Have you seen Bob”

“He was in the other room Duke and a thin man I didn’t know, he was talking with more animation than I am used to from him”

“I best go find him, it was nice talking to you Peter, I will tell Mike.”

I found myself in the conservatory when I got distracted by Duke’s record collection, I liked records, most of the music I bought was crap Garage, but I had a thing for old records. There were some I had been looking for and I spent some time flipping through them. He had the Aqualung album which I had been after just for the first guitar.

“I would kill for this” I muttered to myself.

“Maybe you should ask my dad to put it in your nest envelope” came a sharp voice from behind me. I turned and saw Duke’s daughter staring at me with the same blank expression as before.

“What?” I asked, trying to buy time while I figured out how I was supposed to act.

“That is how it works he gives people like you envelope and you hurt people for him” there was real bitterness in her voice.

“I have no idea what you are talking about Miss, you father was just nice enough to invite me to the party, I am sure he would never hurt anyone” I tried to sound less like a thug.

“Really” she laughed darkly “then I must have got the bruises some other way, so how much do you cost, I am being give a new handbag for being nice to people and let some of them us my room, what are you getting out of this night?” I stood and move forwards menacingly done playing game with the girl.

“I have done far worse things for far less little one” I let my voice drop to a growl. Her eyes showed fear, the first real emotion she had shown all night, and she took an half step back.

“How much less, what did he give you to sell him your soul?”

“Three square meals and a roof over my head, do you really think People Like Me want anything else, but I lost my soul long before I took money for your old man.” I was very close to her now, I could smell her sent, and I was working hard not to hurt this arrogant little girl that wanted to mock me. Without thinking about it I notice my hand brushing up the exposed flesh of her leg below the hem of her dress.

“Rave there you are” boomed Duke, I am thankful to whatever god was looking out for me that the angle I was at meant he could see my swiftly retracting hand. “I see you have met my Angel, is Rave bothering you sweat heart?” one word from her and the rest of my life would have been a matter of days long.

“No daddy we were just talking about our souls, I would love to carry it on again sometime” she pushed passed me to stand next to Duke.

“Honey I am going to show Rave here the new hot tub could, would you go find Mr King and send him out to us” I fell into step with him as he lead me down his garden “Where you really talking about your soul Rave?”

“More or less”

“You really must see the hot tub, I don’t like the idea myself, too much like an outdoor bath but my wife swears by it, says that they are all the rage now.” He said this very loudly as we passed the last group of guest.

The hot tube was in a large wooden room built at the very end of the garden, I am tempted to call it a shed but it was too well made and the inside was too nice, but it didn’t warrant a better name. It was big enough for eight people but no one was using it but it was still on, it took me longer than I care to admit to work out that the noise from the motor would make it harder for anyone to listen in. Bob was standing on one side of the room and I went over to him. The other side of the room was taken by three men, the thin man had a goatee, Duke deferred to him which worried me a little. The second had muscle written all over him and his too small suit. The third was a hoodie but of a totally different sort to me and Bob, his top was white with black squiggles on it and red inside the hood and was worth more than all my clothes, I would have mugged him for his trainers alone but he had enough gold on him in rings and chains to make it really worth it, he was what a rich kid thought a hoodie looked like.

“My niece” the accent was Mancs, people from Manchester that meant trouble, “started see a boy who I do not think is suitable for her, when I made my objection clear she ran off with that junky filth taking some of my property with them.”

“And this is my problem?”

“After having a few conversations with his friends it turned out he comes from your... delightful... little corner of the world and was going to go home. I want you to find them and give my niece back to her brother” he nodded at the want-a-be “and remove the distraction from her life.”

I had a few question that would help me find her, all he had on the boy was a street name and to be honest if I had a penny for everyone that went by Gaz I would be rich, but he had an old photo of the girl, she used so that helped but the was little to go on. If they were on the estate I would find them, I had become good at it, and I was already planning how. We were walking out when the want-a-be came running after us.

“Yo yo yo blood, Blood!” I turned and looked at him not trying very hard to hide me distain.

“Name is Rave, use it”

“When do I meet you?”

“Why would you meet me”

“I am to help you find my sister” from what I had heard I was just supposed to give her to him but really I wasn’t in a position to argue with these people.

“Midday tomorrow, the car park outside the Red Lion”

“Midday is a bit late isn’t it” he asked.

“We can’t do anything tomorrow morning, it is Sunday, Sunday morning truce don’t you know anything” this was true, I would attack anyone on a Sunday morning but that didn’t mean I wouldn’t be working I just didn’t want him looking over my shoulder. I went to find a pay phone it was time to wake people up.

It was hard, they would be lying low with a bit of cash in their pockets, I basically had to find anyone who had just gone from buying one hit to three a day and track them back to see if they were, and I wasn’t nearly close to finding her by midday. I picked up the want-a-be whose name was Jamie and the muscle who never told his name. I dumped them in one of our flats with Lexi and Dee looking after them and took Flea out. It took me the best part of the day to find them, hold up in some squalid little squat near the eastern edge of the estate with one of Gaz’s childhood friends who was doing the running for them. He had been going to 3 different corners for supply so if I had asked around any one corner no one would have known the difference but I had been talking to addicts, they are creatures of habit, and they notice when something changes.

I left Flea there to make sure they didn’t leave and headed back to them. Something was wrong the second I walked in, Lexi was upset, Lexi didn’t get upset she got violent, and the fact that she was repressing her impulses to hit someone meant it was one of the Mancs that had upset her. I shot Dee a look and he wilted under my gaze.

“I told him to leave her alone, he didn’t do anything much” he said, I almost asked which one but it was clear.

“Jamie a word” I dragged him into one of the back rooms “did you touch Lexi”

“It an’t nothing Blood, just made a few suggestion want me and that fine ass could do to pass the time, you feel me” gods how I hate kids that speak new model.

“No I don’t fucking feel you, and I am not your blood, did you fucking touch Lexi?”

“Chill, chill, I didn’t know she was your bit, you should have told me you where pressing that”

“I am not pressing that, no presses that, no one touches her you little fuck” I pushed him hard into the wall. He came back up and he pulled a gun, now this is a rooky mistake in a small space never pull a weapon as a threat, only do it if you are going to use it then and there. But he was a want-a-be with money on his hands and he panicked the second it got violent. Considering that a few months ago using a knife was held in distain you can imagine what the gangs thought about guns. Only the weak needed a gun in a fight. Not that we didn’t have guns around, most where the old bank job special, doubled barrelled sworn off shot guns, but a few handguns were around.

This gun was a short barrelled 35 revolver, not a bad handgun for a criminal, easy to conceal, doesn’t leave spent brass lying around, if you put one in someone’s skull it will bounce around a bit, and it looks like what people expect from a gun which is more of an advantage than you might think. Admittedly over any kind of range you will be lucky to hit anything and on a body shot 5 will get you 10 it is not going to put a big man down but then again it was a close and dirty weapon. He was holding it sideways on trying to look like a big man. I thought all this in the time it took for him to say “not such a big man n...”

I took his hand in mine and pushed it to one side giving a little twist of the wrist to open it and let the gun fall to the floor while I wrapped my other hand around his throat and lifted him bodily of the floor and ramming him into the wall. On a professional this would have got me shot, on him it worked very well.

“Now I think Duke would be very upset if I crushed the life out of you and as he is a major sours of income to me so killing you is not my best interested. And that is why you are still able to walk, no one touches Lexi because of what she does to guys that do, so here are your options. You can go out there and tell her you are very, very sorry or I can tell her that you are not under my protection and we can send you home cut in ways that will make you a joke to men and nothing to women. DO YOU FEEL ME?” I let him drop, gasping, to the floor. I listened to his mumbled apology and then led the way out.

The squat was a drugs den, smoke stained wall, a worn out couch and dirty mattresses to sleep on, burned tin foil and used needles lying around. There were six guys in there, I had no idea which one was Gaz.

“GAZ SIT” I ordered looking for the guy whose knees move slightly, I pointed at him “I said sit” and he did, he was scared, “the rest of you get the hell out of here” and they did. A girl clung to Gaz, she had fallen so far from the photo I had.

“Do you know who I am?” I asked

“You are the Patchwork Man” he nodded.

“Then you know why I am here” I clicked my knife out “so you have got a choice, she can stay and watch or she can go with them now.” Honestly I have been trying to right this for some time, I have wrote what happened and deleted twice, and I figured out that I don’t have the right, there was an emotional exchange, some crying,the girl left with her brother, and then I killed him that is all I am going to write on it.

I sat alone at home that night, I have no idea where dad was, feeling pretty low, and then there was a knock on the door. I let Lexi in.

“I need to thank you Rave” she started

“Why is that?”

“For what you did, I know that it could come back on you”

“You are my crew, and I look after my own. I only wish I could have let you hurt him I know how that makes you feel better” I said, she came over and sat down next to me.

“I know it is a problem, I know it give you problems, I just... can’t be touched” she had her eyes closed “and you have always been so good about it, you never ask, never push me, you look after me. I just want you to know I am sorry and I am working on it.”

“Lexi, my crew consist of Aaron who I think I should write a note to reminding him to breath, Tank who is at least twice the size of his Gran but is so scared of her it is not even funny, Prophet that should be running a small country by now if he could learn to keep his damn mouth shut, Kid Willy name is William Kid, his name if Billy the Kid for fuck sake yet he goes by Kid Willy, Less collects stamps for pities sake, heavens only know all the things that are wrong with Flea and me well I just killed a man because he fell in love with the wrong girl. Believe me you haveing a thing about touching is the least of my problems pretty one.”

That was a mistake, I don’t know why I called her pretty one, she was pretty but you didn’t tell Lexi. I sat there in the now tense silence.

“Do you... do you really think I am pretty?”

“Very” I moved my hand up to stroke her check on instinct but manage to stop myself a few inches from her face, she looked at my hand as if it would bite her. After a second I let it fall to my side. We sat there for a long time, she leaned into me ever so slightly, our shoulders just touching. Sat there, fully clothed, barely touching was one the most interment experiences of my life. We didn’t talk, we didn’t do anything, just sat there feeling a lot better.
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