Authors: J J Salkeld
Hail and Farewell
The Lakeland Murders
, number six.
By J J Salkeld
© copyright J J Salkeld, 2014
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Cover photograph by R F Simpson
Cover art by Michaela Waddell,
Wednesday, April 16th
The car’s suspension sagged slightly as the big bloke climbed in. The younger man in the driver’s seat smiled nervously. The big man was pleased about that. He always liked to see a bit of fear in a subordinate. It reminded them both of who was in charge.
‘How long has he been here?’ asked the big man.
‘About ten minutes. I thought I’d better call you.’
‘You did right, son. He’s been talking to his dealers, is that right?’
‘Aye. He’s got two kids dealing, one by each of the school gates. They’re not choosy about who they sell to, I’ll tell you that for nowt. I’ve got stuff in my fridge that’s older than some of those kids.’
The big man smiled. ‘How old are you then, Dan?’
‘Twenty five. Nearly twenty six, like.’
‘So they’re pushing to anyone with a fiver, is that it?’
‘Aye. Looks like a two for one deal, and all.’
‘Fucking disgraceful. Do you know the kids doing the dealing?’
‘Oh aye, boss. Right little pair of wankers. Don’t worry, we know where they live.’
‘We’ll pay them a visit later, then. It’s our Glaswegian friend I’m interested in just now. Is that his car? The Range Rover?’
‘And he’s one up, is he? There’s not a minder in the car?’
‘No. Reckons himself a bit of hard nut does Tam Skene. They say it took six cops to nick him last time he got nabbed up in Jocktown. And it was only a something and nothing bust. He would have walked, if he hadn’t put three of their bobbies in hospital.’
‘Soft bastards, Glasgow coppers are. Wouldn’t last five minutes down here. Don’t you worry, son, we’ll take Skene, no problem. We’ve got eyes on that house he’s rented?’
‘Do we know if he’s tooled-up, like?’
‘You mean now?’
‘Aye, of course I mean now. For fuck’s sake, Dan. Who cares about yesterday, or tomorrow? I don’t want him pulling a fucking cannon on us.’
The younger man was looking nervous again. He knew what the boss’s temper was like, especially since Tam Skene and his gear had turned up in Workington. So he took his time before he replied.
‘I can’t be sure, boss. So we should maybe assume that he is carrying.’
‘Aye, that’s right, son. Assume the worst, and you’ll not be disappointed. It’s good advice, is that. Works just as well for women as it does for drug dealers, I can tell you.’
The young man smiled, and tried to relax.
‘So what’s the plan then, boss? Do we hit him here?’
‘Of course not, Dan. We’re not going to traumatise a load of fucking twelve year olds.’
‘It’d be more fun than I had at school. Give the kids something to talk about.’
‘I enjoyed school’ said the big man. ‘When I was there, like. No, we’ll take him at his house. Phone the others and tell them to expect us. And hurry up. It looks as if he’s making a move.’
They followed the Range Rover at a distance, and the younger man didn’t worry when they lost the car briefly on the one way system round town. He knew exactly where it was headed, because Tam Skene’s routine had been much the same for the past ten days. He always visited his dealers somewhere on the coast, yesterday had been Whitehaven and the day before it had been Maryport, and Dan was impressed, in a way. He thought it was a bit like the boss of a chain of coffee shops or something, turning up unannounced to make sure that the tables were clean, and that no-one was selling short measures.
He heard the boss talking on the phone as they drove. It would be to Lee ‘Stringer’ Bell. He could just tell from the boss’s tone of voice. Stringer was the boss’s main man, had been for three or four years, and everyone said he was the heir apparent. When the time came Lee would step up, and take the promotion.
‘We’re right behind him, aye. With you in about two minutes. Aye, the usual drill. You and Sam get in his face, and we’ll pull in behind. As soon as he’s out of the car we’ll have him.’ There was a pause while Bell spoke. ‘Aye, let’s assume he’s armed. And as soon as we’ve got him scoop up the rest of his crew. Aye, the street level dealers too. He carries his cash on him, we know that, so it’ll be in the car. His pick up is always on a Wednesday too, so it’ll be twenty grand, minimum.’
The younger man drove in silence. He wondered the boss wanted him to do. He didn’t have to wonder for long.
‘When he stops get in close behind, Dan, and stay in the car, with the engine running.’
‘Don’t you want my help, boss?’
‘What have you got in mind? You want to be the one to take him down? Prove yourself, like?’
The young man hardly hesitated.
‘Aye, I’ll do it. Give me the gun, boss.’
‘I don’t carry a gun, lad. We’ve got people who do that. Specialists, like. If I take him I won’t need a shooter anyway. Tell you what, why don’t I do it this time, and you can see how it’s done. Then you’ll be ready, when it’s your turn to step up, like.’
This time there was no hesitation at all.
‘Aye, boss, right. But I’m ready. Just say the word. I’m your man.’
The Range Rover had turned into a street of modern, detached houses.
‘Close up now, son. And as soon as you see Lee get out of the car you get me up right up Skene’s arse. And fast, you hear me?’
‘What if he spots us?’
‘He won’t. He’ll be too busy trying to process what’s in front of him to notice what’s happening in the mirror. Don’t you worry, son. We’ve done this before, like’
The Range Rover slowed, and pulled up to the kerb. Lee and Sam came out of their car fast, and ran towards the Range Rover. Dan accelerated as hard as he could, then slammed on the brakes. For a second he thought they’d rear-end the Range Rover, and he started to brace himself. But he stopped barely a yard short, and as he glanced across at the passenger seat he saw that the door was open and the boss was already out of the car.
After that it all happened fast. The Range Rover door was open too, and he saw Skene roll out into the street. It was like something from a war film, and Dan knew exactly what came next. He watched Skene bring his right hand up, and he saw the gun pointing straight at Lee.
‘Christ’ he said out loud, ‘he can’t fucking miss.’
He fought with his seat belt, trying to get it undone, and glanced down for a moment. When he looked back up he saw the boss, kicking out at Skene’s arm. The gun went off, and as Dan opened the door he expected to see Lee going down bleeding. He must have been hit. Just like in the films.
But Skene had missed, and Sam and the boss were on top of Skene now, and the boss had the gun. Dan heard the punches and the kicks as much as saw them. And then it stopped. Skene was bleeding, but he was conscious - just. Dan watched the boss pull up his head by the hair, and push the barrel of the gun hard into the man’s cheek. If he pulled the trigger now the bullet would blast straight through Skene’s brain. He looked like he was struggling to focus.
‘Who are you? Jack Moffet, is it?’
The boss let go of Skene’s hair and watched his head bounce an inch or two off the tarmac.
‘Moffett? What makes you think that? He probably doesn’t even know you’re here, and even if he does he could never take your lot on. But I can.’
‘George Hayton then?’
‘Aye, I’m Hayton. And this is your first and last warning. So tell your bosses that if you, or any of your people, turn up anywhere west of Carlisle again then I’ll have them. And it won’t be a friendly little chat next time, not like this. Do you understand?’
Hayton grabbed Skene’s hair and pulled his head up. ‘Nod if you understand what I’m saying to you.’
‘And you’ll pass on the message.’
‘Oh, aye, I will that. You can count on it.’
‘Good. Now I’m taking this gun, and we’ll have the cash from your car. Think of it as a fine, like. Then we’ll leave you here, to relax, just for a few minutes. But if you’re not gone in half an hour then I’ll come back, stuff you in a weighted sack and drop you off my yacht in the Solway. Who know, you might even wash up on the shores of bonnie Scotland. You do understand what I’m telling you, don’t you, son?’
Skene nodded, and Hayton let go of his hair again. This time he must have been ready, because his head didn’t bounce quite so far.
Twenty minutes later Dan was driving George Hayton back to his car, which he’d left in Tesco’s car park.
‘Can I ask you something, boss?’
‘Aye. And I bet I can guess what you want to know. You’re wondering why I didn’t say I was Moffett, so Skene’s bosses go after him instead of us.’
The young man was surprised, and it showed. ‘That’s it exactly, aye.’
‘It’s easy, son. First of all there’s respect. I want Skene and all his Jock mates to know that it was me who saw him off, me who took his money, his stash, and me who’ll put his street level kids to work. Not that they’ll be selling shit to kids outside the school, mind. Fuck me, I went there, and my kids did too. Let them shit on their own doorstep, if they can afford fucking doorsteps.’
‘So you don’t think they’ll be back?’
‘No way. I’d like to say it’s because we’re too strong for them, but it’s not that. They were just feeling us out. If we’d just folded then they would have moved in, no question. But now they won’t bother. Our market’s too small, too far away, and we’d be too much bother for them.’
‘And we’re really going to sort Moffett out, once and for all?’
‘You can count on it, son. His day is done, believe me. It’s taken me twenty years to get into this position, but a week or ten days from now he’ll be retired, one way or the other. You mark my words.’
‘But he knows we’re after him?’
‘Oh, aye, that’s half the fun. Ramping up the pressure, taking bits of his business, recruiting his best people. It’s been going on for months now. We’ve just chipped away at him. He’s tried to react, but it’s too late for that now. The tide has turned, it’s as simple as that.’
‘So you don’t think his boys will take us on at the game on Friday night? I was looking forward to it, boss.’
‘Oh, aye, I expect they’ll have a few out. They’ve been Uppies for as long as anyone can remember, have the Moffetts. But the Downies will hail the ball three times this year, son, you mark my words. And we’ll send a message to any of his blokes who are too loyal or too bloody stupid to know that we’re the only game in town now. Jack Moffett’s got plenty of straight businesses, and as long as he keeps out of ours he knows that he’s safe. I’ve told him as much. So this is a matter of will, son. Who’s got the bottle to do whatever needs to be done. I have, and he hasn’t. Not any more, anyway. And when the Downies win three-nothing, then everyone in this fucking town will know who it belongs to.’
Thursday, April 17th
DC Keith Iredale locked his road bicycle up in the bike shed at the station, and checked before he left it. He’d had a bike nicked from there before. He didn’t suspect another copper, of course he didn’t, but the trouble with working at a police station was that there were always cons about. And villains just loved nicking expensive bikes like his, especially when they knew that it belonged to a cop.
It had been a lovely ride down from Maryport that morning, and the weather was perfect for pedalling. Overcast, not too warm, and the onshore breeze was about as light as it ever got. Iredale didn’t bother timing himself, but he wouldn’t be surprised if it had been a PB. And his legs still felt fresh as he climbed the stairs to the CID office, three at a a time, after he’d showered and changed.
He was half an hour early for his shift, so he was surprised to see that DI Jimmy Smith and DS Ken Hodgson were already in, although whether they were actually working was another matter. Iredale could hear the laughter coming from the DI’s office, even with the door closed, and Ken Hodgson seemed to be miming a wrestling match, or possibly a struggle with some kind of bear. DI Smith certainly seemed to be enjoying the performance, anyway.
Iredale logged onto the system, and saw a couple of emails from the local CPS office. The burglary case that he was due in court on at ten had gone guilty late the day before, and not before time. The kids involved had been spotted leaving the last of the houses they’d robbed, and most of the gear they’d nicked had been recovered from their bedrooms. The crime of the century it most certainly was not.
So Iredale opened the daily divisional crime log with even more enthusiasm than usual, and hoped for a proper whodunit for once. He’d only been out of uniform for six months, and so far he’d only been involved in a handful of cases where the perpetrator wasn’t so obvious that they might as well have had ‘guilty as charged’ tattooed just above the eyebrows. He scanned the list with the usual feeling of mounting, but mild, disappointment. Because at first glance there wasn’t much to get excited about, and quite a few to try to avoid. He even smiled when he saw the matching ABH reports from one of the station’s most loyal and regular couples. He alleged that she’d assaulted him, and she’d alleged precisely the reverse. So the interview room would be like a marriage counselling centre all day, only with more swearing. Much more swearing.