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Authors: Martina Cole

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BOOK: The Graft
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‘What’s happened
now
, Nick? What the fuck is all this about?’

 

Tammy grabbed her sons from him, holding them to her, all the time looking at the door, clearly wondering if the intruder was coming after them. The shock was making her teeth chatter.

 

’A burglar, sweetheart. I caught him . . .’

 

Nick’s voice trailed off and he picked up the phone from the wall.

 

‘What you doing?’

 

‘I’m phoning the police, love.’

 

Tammy stared at the doorway again.

 

‘What if he gets up . . .’

 

The boys started really crying then.

 

Nick shook his head, trying his best to calm them all down.

 

‘He won’t. I promise you, he ain’t going nowhere, darlin’.’

 

He held up a hand to them all for quiet as he heard Emergency Services replying.

 

‘Police, please, we’ve been burgled. I caught the fucker . . .’

 

He was babbling into the receiver now. Aware of it, he passed the phone to his wife.

 

‘You tell them, I’ll check on him.’

 

‘No!’

 

It was a scream. Tammy dropped the phone on to the floor and started to shout in absolute terror.

 

‘He had a gun, Nick, I saw a gun . . . He’ll shoot us all!’

 

She was hysterical. By the time he had calmed her down they could already hear police sirens in the distance.

 

‘Oh, thank God, thank God!’

 

His wife ran out of the house and on to the wide driveway with her sons to greet the police and ambulances.

 

‘He’s got a gun . . . He’s got a gun . . .’

 

She was shouting it over and over again.

 

The police quickly moved her and the boys away from the front door and tried to calm her down. They needed to know if the intruder was still armed, if he was going to try and fight his way out of the house. They wanted to know where her husband was, if he was OK or being held hostage.

 

But she was past any sensible conversation and they realised it. They handed her over to the paramedics.

 

It was the eldest boy, Nick Junior, who filled them in on all the details they needed.

 

Nick Senior meanwhile returned to the study and stared at the body sprawled on the floor. Blood had pooled all around the head. He could smell its sickly sweetness. He backed away and out of the room, finally dropping down on to the small loveseat in the entrance hall when his legs wouldn’t function any more.

 

The police found him there with his head in his hands, muttering over and over, ‘What have I done? Dear God, what have I done tonight?’

 

Book One

 

No beast so fierce but knows some touch of pity.

 
- William Shakespeare Richard III (Act I, scene ii)

 

 
 
Protection is not a principle but an expedient.

 
- Benjamin Disraeli, 1804-1881

 

Chapter One

 

Tammy was finally asleep, the paramedics had seen to that, and the boys were with their nanny in the playroom. Nick could feel the silence hanging over the house and he hated it. Dawn had come and gone and somehow the day had passed. The police had talked to him, over and over, until eventually his doctor had told them he needed breathing space. He was after all in shock. Not that the police had taken that into consideration, of course.

 

But once they had ascertained the intruder’s identity they seemed to go easier with Nick somehow. Were softer, more inclined to believe in his fear for his family. He had worried for a while that they would see him as the villain of the story and not the boy who’d been burgling his house. The world had gone mad that way lately.

 

His mother Angela watched the changing expressions on her son’s face and said stoutly, ‘You’ll be all right, Nick. No one in their right mind would give you a capture for this, son. You was defending your own.’

 

His mother’s voice was harsh, its cockney twang seeming out of place in these palatial surroundings. She had slept through it all thanks to her penchant for a bedtime whisky.

 

‘Let it go, Mum, eh? Make a nice cuppa.’

 

She plugged in the kettle but he could see the anger in her stiff shoulders and the set of her back.

 

He smiled gently then.

 

She was game, his mother, a right little firebrand. He adored her with all his being. But her mouth had often got her into trouble, not just with her family but with others who came into her orbit. Angela Leary never knew when to leave well alone.

 

‘That little fucker was going to get a slap eventually.’

 

Her voice rose with her anger and her animosity at what had occurred. To enter her son’s home armed! It was the gun that frightened her most, that and the fact the boy turned out to have been a known drug user and all-round thief. When the paramedic had removed his balaclava the investigating officers had instantly identified him. In fact, he was well known to all the police round about. He was in short a little fucker, and a dangerous little fucker at that.

 

Ignoring her son’s need for peace, Angela Leary carried on talking.

 

‘Who do these people think they are? Coming in other people’s houses to rob them,
harm
them. Creeping around while decent people sleep in their beds . . . beds paid for with graft, not thievery. And he had a gun! Jesus Christ, when I think of what might have happened, I feel ill with the fright of it all. Shot in your beds, you could have been . . .’

 

Nick felt as if his head was going to explode at any moment.

 

’All right, Mum, we get the picture.’

 

He was shouting at her now.

 

She instantly came towards him, all concern. She looked old and frail and he wanted to cry with the love he felt for her then. Angela Leary had fought all her life, first to get money from the drunken sot she had married, then to put a roof over her family’s heads and food in their bellies. She’d been up and out at four in the morning cleaning other people’s houses, scrubbing and polishing for strangers. Then home to get her kids off to school before she was out again to work in the plastics factory in Romford. Nick adored her and never raised his voice to her but today he was on edge. He couldn’t listen to her any longer.

 

‘I’m sorry, Mum, but it’s still all so raw . . .’

 

His voice trailed off.

 

‘No, I’m sorry, son, I should know when to shut me trap. But I can’t believe anyone would do that to me or mine. If I’d have got my hands on him . . .’ She shrugged. ‘Let’s hope he don’t die anyway. Let him live and go to prison. Though they don’t put them in prison now, do they? He’ll probably end up on holiday in bleeding Africa or somewhere. You know what them bleeding bleeding hearts are like!’

 

Nick would have laughed if he’d had a laugh left in him. Angela made the tea and carried on ranting and raving at the world but he had tuned her out now.

 

The boy was alive.

 

That was all Nick could think about.

 

The boy was still alive.

 

 
‘Your son is very ill, Mrs Hatcher.’

 

The doctor’s voice was quiet and she looked into his face steadily.

 

‘I ain’t surprised, are you? His head was caved in with a baseball bat.’

 

She laughed, a nervous high sound, and the doctor’s heart went out to her.

 

‘You really should think about what I said. Organ donation can be very comforting to some relatives. It’s as if a part of a person lives on . . .’

 

She turned on the doctor then, her eyes bright and her voice harsh with emotion.

 

‘I ain’t turning nothing off! He’ll be all right. A fighter, my Sonny, a strong boy.’ The tears spilled over on to her cheeks. ‘He’ll be all right, love him. He just needs a bit of sleep, that’s all.’

 

The doctor shook his head at the nurse sitting beside the distraught woman and sighed.

 

She grabbed her son’s hand once more and said gaily, ‘My Sonny Boy will be awake soon. He’s only seventeen. They never get up before five in the afternoon, do they, teenagers?’

 

She nodded at the nurse for confirmation of what she’d said. The absolute misery in the woman’s eyes made the nurse feel like crying herself.

 

‘I’ll get you some more tea.’

 

She left the room with the doctor. Both of them knew that Sonny Hatcher would never open his eyes again. He was brain dead.

 

Judy Hatcher closed her eyes and tried to stem the tears. Her face was haggard, but these days it always was. Drink and drugs had seen to that. Her blond hair was greasy and scraped back off her face. Her blue eyes were listless, almost as dead as her son’s, and her naturally slim body emaciated from too much vodka and a liking for weekends devoted to cocaine and amphetamines though heroin was her drug of choice. She was supposed to be trying to get off it but methadone didn’t have the same kick, the same way of obliterating all her troubles and thoughts.

 

She leaned over and opened her bag, taking out the photos once more.

 

‘Here, look at this one, Sonny, you and me in Yarmouth. You was only two, remember that?’

 

There was hope in her voice, but in truth she hardly remembered it herself; she had been drunk and stoned for most of that holiday. Tyrell, Sonny’s dad, had still been around then. He’d been so handsome; still was. She gazed sadly at the photo. Sonny was the image of him except his skin wasn’t as dark.

 

She had left a message with Tyrell’s mother and hoped he would come to see Sonny before . . . She wouldn’t think about it. She wasn’t turning nothing off, no matter what they said. Deep inside she wanted Tyrell to come and make the decision for her. But he was in Jamaica with his second wife and their two kids, so he had a long journey back.

 

Tyrell’s mother was in a right state, bless her. She loved this boy but was housebound now, too scared to leave it. Jude would ring her again soon, let her know how he was. She was a good woman, old Verbena, a star really. She was the nearest thing to a mother Jude had ever had, and she adored her eldest grandson. But then she would. She had practically brought him up.

 

Verbena had been good to his mother as well. She had always made sure Jude ate and tried to help her take care of herself. In fact, over the years Jude did not know what she would have done without this help.

 

Verbena was someone she could go to. No matter what Jude did, or more to the point didn’t do, Verbena was always there for her, the only constant in her constantly changing world. She had never judged the mother of her beloved grandson, instead she had tried to understand her.

 

Which was no mean feat as Jude Hatcher had never really understood herself.

 

She wished Verbena was here now, wished Tyrell was here, wished someone, anyone, would come and take this burden from her shoulders. She had never been very good at decisions; she always made the wrong ones.

 

Jude rested her head on the pillow next to Sonny’s and cried. She didn’t know what else to do.

 

 
‘He’s a little bastard, it was bound to happen to him sometime.’

 

Detective Inspector Rudde’s voice was bored-sounding. Once they had realised it was Sonny Hatcher lying broken on the study floor police interest had waned. He was a known creeper, with a string of offences as long as his arm, and was also a mouthy, uneducated little fucker who had been done for practically everything you could be done for bar murder. And by the looks of it, if Nick Leary hadn’t jobbed him he would be up for that now and all.

 

‘He is still a human being, and there’s nothing to say he was actually going to harm anyone . . .’

 

Peter Rudde rolled his eyes to the ceiling in annoyance, his big fat face incredulous at the inanity of what he was hearing.

 

’A loaded fucking gun, a farmhouse with more antiques in it than Sotheby’s, and
you
think he had it for a laugh? Use your fucking loaf! No, I’m recommending to the CPS that no action be taken. Sonny Hatcher was an accident waiting to happen. Fuck me, that geezer Leary just cut our crime rate by forty per cent. They should give him a fucking medal.’

 

DC Ibbotson sighed. It was a waste of time trying to reason with his boss who didn’t know the meaning of the word.

 

‘What, I ask you, would Sonny Boy know about antiques?’ he tried, changing tack.

 

‘Fuck all, I should imagine. Knowing him, he would just have nicked the ashtrays. But that ain’t the point. He thought there was swag there and that would be good enough for him.’

 

Ibbotson persisted.

 

‘Maybe someone else sent him to the house . . . someone who knew what was in there?’

 

Rudde shrugged his enormous shoulders.

 

‘I don’t give a flying fuck, I ain’t taking this no further. As far as I am concerned he done us a right favour. If, and it’s a big if, he was sent in there, we’ll never get to the bottom of it, though I would like to know where he got that gun from. That would be worth knowing anyway. But when I present this case to the CPS I’m going to make it plain it’s a waste of police resources chasing this up. We can only wait and see if they agree with me, though I think they will. Sonny Boy Hatcher was on the road to destruction sooner rather than later, unfortunately. As it happens, he picked on the wrong person tonight.’

BOOK: The Graft
6.47Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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