Like a middle class kid on a gap year in Thailand, I found myself back in the office.
For the first time in this case I had a concrete lead. Based on the information given to me by The Usher, I only really had one option and that was to pay a visit to this “Better Case Management” outfit. What awaited me there was anyone’s guess but I reckon I would get pretty good odds from the guys at the track on it being something to do with Mad Freddie. I could hear fate rumbling towards me.
Seconds after I heard the rumble of fate, the whiff of a flatulent cat assaulted my nostrils. If any money came in for this case that damned cat was having a visit to the vets to get some charcoal pills.
I needed to prepare myself. There was a yard arm somewhere in the world that had the sun over it. I opened the desk drawer to my left and fished out a bottle of something strong and Scottish. I reached back into the drawer and found a heavy glass. I bolted down a shot and poured myself another.
Irn Bru always brought me comfort.
I opened the right hand desk drawer. I reached deep into its recesses and my fingers wrapped felt the cold metal of what I was looking for. As I took hold of it I could feel the snub nose nestle into my palm. I knew it was loaded with a full clip in the slide, ready to go. I did not ordinarily carry this with me but going after these papers could get messy and a stapler could come in very handy.
If I wasn’t desperate for the cash there was no way my weary feet would have carried me down to the port. Just off the harbour was a square of grass with a few benches dotted around. It crossed my mind that no one knew where I was. I had better leave a bit of a trail, in case I needed finding. I got my iPhone out, took a selfie and quickly posted it to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram with the caption “Dix on Off Dock Green”. If anyone could be bothered to look for me they may know where to start.
It wasn’t difficult to find “Better Case Management”, they had clearly spent a lot of money on making this look the part. It was draped in a banner – “Grand Opening 6th January”. I avoided the front door and headed round the back to see if there was a window where I could get a look inside.
And this is where I was at the receiving end of the old one-two, known locally as the Danczuk-Benn. As I tried to peer through the window I had no chance of being able to see the repeated low blows that came from my right and out of the sun. That was the Danczuk. That was quickly followed by a heavy blow from behind with a blunt instrument that gave me no chance at all. And that was the Benn. I was out for a standing count, if it had been a boxing match my corner would have thrown in the towel.
I was carried by my two assailants through a door and into the building. As these two thugs dragged me my mind was dragging itself through a fug of semi-consciousness like a drowning man, drowning in a thick soup but just about managing to tread water. Or soup.
Anyways, my mind finally grabbed hold of a passing crouton of clarity and I realised I had company. And plenty of it. Of course, front and centre was Mad Freddie.
I don’t know whether you have ever had the pleasure of Mad Freddie’s company? In my experience those that rise to the top of the game in crime are either egotistical, megalomaniac pyscopaths or egotistical, megalomaniac pyscopaths who are also a bit weird. Mad Freddie feel into the last category.
Most grown men cannot get away with wearing a purple dressing gown everywhere they go. But Mad Freddie could. And nobody gave it a second thought. Like nobody gave the hair a second glance either, not if they knew what was good for them. Mad Freddie had a toupee that made Donald Trump and that Wogan fella look like an advert for Timotei.
And he wasn’t alone. In the room he seemed to have his whole crew with him. My welcoming party I now recognised. It was the Greek hitman, Stare Decisis and the Queen of the switchblade “Razor” Judy Carter.
Standing next to Mad Freddie was his current squeeze. I seem to recall that she was French Creole or somesuch. I also recall that she had ways of torturing you that could have a grown man cry. She also had a network of snitches that fed information back to old Mad Freddie. So she was part gangster’s moll and part out and out gangster. Kaci Progreçion was a piece of work, I don’t mind telling you.
There is nothing worse than a turncoat. Except, I guess, murderers. And I guess it depends on the way your coat has been turned. If you change your allegiance from one soccer team to another, I guess that ain’t a capital crime. But there were not many things worse than a cop gone bad. And that cop gone bad was Smollenski.
Smollenski used to be a stand up kind of guy. Until he got knocked down. But I am getting ahead of myself. He was a cops’ cop. Busting balls and cracking heads. But they were bad guys’ balls. And heads. We were in the force together for years. Things went wrong one day when he was out on a regular collar for some traffic violations. The perp got angsty and tried to run. Sadly Smollenski got in the way and the perp ran right over him in his low riding, pimped up Fiat Cinquecento.
He was in a pretty bad way afterwards. Most of his injuries healed. They gave him a desk job for a while, to give him time to get back on active duty. But it wasn’t gonna happen. His leg had been bust up pretty bad, leaving it shorter than the other. And I knows we shouldn’t have done it, but we gave him a nickname, on account of him having one leg shorter than its partner. And it was when he heard what we were calling him that he flipped. I reckon that was the moment he crossed from good cop to being a bad cop, and not the kind of bad cop we all have to be from time to time in order to be a good cop. That was the moment Smollenski turned his back on the force and embraced crime.
We should never have called him the Listing Officer.
It wasn’t just Mad Freddie’s crew that were in the room. There were some serious out of town players here too. Guys even further up the food chain than Freddie. Men like Lincoln “Cool” Johnson, or LCJ to his friends, who ran the Strand crew. His enforcer was also here, Phil Ford. There were others I didn’t recognise, private contractors just here to make a fast, mercenary buck out of whatever was going down.
And what was going down? I needed to find that out like a man needs to know what the inside of his coffin is going to look like.
“It’s Dix, isn’t it,” Mad Freddie asked. “I thought I’d told you I never wanted to see you again, not after you kept me waiting that time. You know I don’t like being kept waiting, boy. What brings you here?”
Like my Equitable Life Pension, I decide honesty was the best policy. So I explained about Katie Rocquet and the missing papers. Freddie viewed me with murderous contempt.
“Look Dix, my friends here and me, we got something new hitting the streets. PTPH is going to be the only show in town. And we don’t need complications, which is what you have just become.”
I looked around for Harry the office cat. She wasn’t there. Then I realised, this time, I was really smelling fear. My fear.
“So here is what we going to do, boy. I am going to give you and Rocquet a break. The papers you want are downtown, in a speakeasy called Case Lines. I’m gonna give you a password, just knock on the door, give em the password and you’ll get your papers.”
I tried to thank Mad Freddie but my words came out of my mouth with all the order and sense of the early doors customers of Argos on Black Friday.
“Dix, don’t speak. Don’t even breathe. Just take a message back to Rocquet. She is either with me or she is out of business. And on this deal her cut has gone down from 33% to 25%. And the clock is running. I don’t do credit. I am old school in a new world. Do we understand each other?”
I didn’t have a clue what he was talking about. That didn’t stop me nodding. It was time to make like a celebrity and get out of there. I nodded my way right out of the room and away from the assembled assembley of assholes and assassins.
The papers were exactly where Freddie said they would be. Case solved. Invoice sent to Miss Rocquet. Cheque in the post. Or so she kept saying. Every time I called.