Authors: Col Bury
Caffeine Nights Publishing
Fiction aimed at the heart
and the head..
Published by Caffeine Nights Publishing 2015
Copyright © Col Bury 2015
Col Bury has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1998 to be identified as the author of this work
CONDITIONS OF SALE
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, scanning, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of the publisher
This book has been sold subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, resold, hired out, or otherwise circulated without the publisher’s prior consent in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.
All characters in this publication are fictitious and any resemblance to real persons, living or dead is purely coincidental
Published in Great Britain by
Caffeine Nights Publishing
4 Eton Close
www. caffeine-nights com
British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data.
A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library
Cover design by
Mark (Wills) Williams
Everything else by
Default, Luck and Accident
With me every step of the way has been talented writer David Barber – in our teens we formed “Eccles Writers’ Line”, as there weren’t enough of us to form a “circle”! For being a great friend and mentor, Matt Hilton deserves a huge mention, as does Graham Smith, whose drunken late night phone calls kept me going. Special thanks to Darren Laws and the team at Caffeine Nights for having faith in my writing.
The fantastic crime (and horror) writing community has been brilliant, especially… Paul Brazill, Richard Godwin, Lily Childs, Lee Hughes, Nick Quantrill, Howard Linskey, Pete Sortwell, Michael Malone, Sheila Quigley, Tony Schumacher, Luca Veste, Mandasue Heller, Kimberley Chambers, Bob and Carol Bridgestock, Maxim Jakubowski, and all those from online writing groups, ezines and social media sites, with whom I’ve ‘chewed the fat’ over the years.
Thanks must also go to legendary New York agent, Nat Sobel, for teaching me so much about the writing process and the business. Plus, those colleagues, whose eyes didn’t glaze over and who didn’t stifle yawns whenever I rambled on about writing!
A special mention goes to my mum, Vera Bury, brother Dek and sister Deb for their continued support and interest in my endeavours, and to the rest of my family for putting up with me! And finally, my wonderful wife, Mandy and our beautiful kids, Olivia and Joe – heartfelt thanks for your support, patience and understanding.
“Fast dialogue and edgy plots, keeps you turning the pages. Cracking!”
Sheila Quigley, author of the Seahills series, and the Holy Island trilogy
“Bury is going places. He shows boldness by tackling different styles of writing which encompass humour, paranoia, action thrillers and urban discontent.”
“In ‘The Cops of Manchester’, Col Bury pulls no punches, landing a flurry of hard jabs to the solar plexus that leaves us breathless. This is tight, gritty, bare-knuckle writing.”
Howard Linskey, author of The Drop
“Bury has the ability to draw you into a story fast, gripping the reader by lapels and not letting you go. With razor sharp dialogue and a vast array of grim characters, Col Bury epitomises the term ‘Brit Grit’.”
Luca Veste, author of Dead Gone
“Darkly funny, muscular prose with stark imagery. A must read.”
Richard Godwin, author of Apostle Rising
“I've been impressed by Col’s writing and been happy to have the opportunity to publish him, three times.”
Maxim Jakubowski, author, editor and publisher
“Snappy and powerful with realistic characters.”
Nick Quantrill, author of Broken Dreams
“I read ‘Manchester 6’ in one sitting, such was the intensity of the writing.”
Graham Smith, author of Snatched From Home
“Col writes with a realism and grittiness that ranks right up there with the best crime authors the UK has to offer.”
Paul Grzegorzek, author of The Follow
“Col Bury’s ‘Manchester 6’ may well be the epitome of Brit Grit.”
Paul D Brazill, widely published British noir writer
“Top selection, filled with dark humour, pathos and gritty action.”
Matt Hilton, author of the Joe Hunter thriller series
“Short, sharp, shocking - and all set in my beloved Manchester. Great Stuff!”
Mandasue Heller, bestselling crime writer
For my mum, Vera Bury - my number one fan. Pity Dad wasn’t here to see this. x
“It’s time, boys. Are you ready?” No answers, just steely expressions. “Right, let’s do it.” DJ flipped his hood up, covering his shaven head. “Jack, drive to the top level of the multi-storey.”
Jack Striker felt the growing tension in his shoulders and neck stiffening, as the infamous Manchester rain spattered incessantly on the stolen Ford Escort’s windscreen. The intermittent squeaks of the wipers did little to abate the downpour. A small part of Jack was relieved to leave behind the angry revs of impatient drivers clogged around Moss Range precinct’s one-way system. He was pleased to see the back of the orange-and-white double-decker bus he’d been stuck behind, bound for Manchester city centre five miles up the A56. The bus proffered a parting shot in the guise of lead-laced fumes, prompting Jack to suppress a heave and wind his window up a notch, leaving a gap to allow their cigarette smoke to escape.
Beneath gloomy clouds, the crime-ridden high-rises looming over the precinct eased out of view as Jack took a left into the multi-storey. He flicked the wipers off and exchanged stern looks with each of his friends, DJ in the front passenger seat, then Wozza, Lenny and Ged in the back. All, DJ apart, seemed apprehensive.
Heading up the first incline Jack asked, “You sure about this?”
DJ clapped his hands confidently. “Course I’m sure. Chill, mate.”
Jack felt uneasy at being in the stolen car, let alone driving it as part of DJ’s ‘master-plan’. The contents of the boot scared the shit out of him. Okay, so he was the best driver – the only one with a licence in fact, not that that mattered. He’d only reluctantly agreed to help because his dad had been made redundant from the now-defunct Bullsmead power station. Times were hard at home and the loan sharks had been knocking. Plus, these
his mates, right?
Up he drove, soon reaching the top of the incline. The first level was virtually full of cars, the odd shopper dotted about carrying their respective purchases back to their vehicles. Some pigeons cooed from makeshift perches on rusting girders supporting the floor above, bird shit spattering the graffiti on the wall below. The lighting on the low ceiling struggled to brighten the dowdy greyness of the vast car park.
Turning sharply right to avoid the yellow-and-black-striped crash barriers along the gradient, he heard a faint screech of rubber on concrete.
“What if they just take the gear without paying? We’re not armed, so we’d be fucked,” said Jack.
“We’ve discussed this already. Your arse twitching, Jack? Don’t yer want yer cut then?” asked DJ with a sneer.
Jack’s grip tightened on the steering wheel.
This floor was three-quarters full, and Jack knew they were slowly reaching the point of no return. However, he still had nagging reservations.
“We all know what the Crew are like. Do we really trust ’em?” The silence answered his question. “Anyhow, it’s too late now. Everyone watch each other’s backs.”
“That’s the spirit, partner.” DJ patted Jack on the shoulder.
“Yeah, come on, lads. Let’s just get this done smoothly and we’ll be on the ale counting the money in no time. I’m with you all the way, mate,” said freckle-faced Wozza from the rear, reaching forward to receive a high-five from DJ.
“You up for it too, Lenny?” DJ turned, offering the same high-five to Lenny in the middle. Lenny obliged, as lightly as someone may tap a puppy on the head for being a good boy.
“What about you, Giant?” asked DJ, calling Ged by his nickname.
“Yeah, let’s roll. Bring it on and stick together.”
Jack mentally noted Ged hadn’t given a high-five. He guessed that the cousins, Lenny and Ged, were as unconvinced as himself. He briefly regarded Lenny in his rear-view mirror; his boyish, pallid looks and cheeky smile momentarily relaxed Jack a fraction. Nonetheless, Jack could see trepidation behind his expression, echoing his own feelings. He seriously considered whether to just turn back.
Guilt pricked him, having twirled his parents, saying he couldn’t accompany them and his sister Lucy for the visit to their posh relatives in Hale, Cheshire. He’d lied about having a job interview, which had pleased his dad somewhat, secretly fuelling Jack’s guilt. The way he felt now though, listening to Aunt Alice ramble on about herself would have been the safer option.
He knew the notorious Moss Range Crew were responsible for many of the recent shootings reported in Manchester, dubbed ‘the gun capital of the North’ by the papers. Tit-for-tat shootings had become commonplace with rival gang the Bad Bastard Bullsmead Boys. This year alone three young men had lost their lives in the area, and virtually every day the Manchester Evening News had run a new story of gang-related violence. He also knew that their little gang from the Bullsmead area – though in no way affiliated with the BBBB – were boxing well above their weight with this escapade. He just prayed they could duck and dive enough to avoid a knockout.
Jack had tried to dissuade Wozza in DJ’s absence, but he wouldn’t listen. This had surprised Jack, since Wozza didn’t need the money. His dad owned a sports shop in nearby Bullsmead, the biggest council estate in Manchester; business was booming as a consequence of its trendy, but reasonably priced, sportswear range. The five of them were testament to that in their branded hoodies, and all at wholesale prices. Jack had seen recent signs of Wozza becoming increasingly akin to DJ, especially when dabbling in the magic – or tragic – white powder.
Lenny was from a family of five brothers who, along with their dad, ran PSP – Powers Security Protection – a business successful enough to allow the family to escape Bullsmead. However, Lenny hadn’t settled in ‘Poshville’ and kept returning to his roots. You can take the lad out of Bullsmead, as they say, but you can’t take Bullsmead out of the lad. But now this wasn’t Bullsmead, this was Moss Range: enemy territory.
As for DJ, this was his baby. He was always up to something, forever dreaming up new ways to avoid the rat-race, this being the latest in a long list of money-making schemes. DJ wouldn’t say where he’d acquired the gear in the boot, but Jack knew he’d made a few trips thirty-five miles along the lengthy East Lancashire Road to Liverpool lately, to meet some ‘business associates’.
“Come on, boys, there’s five of us… the Sunnyside Boys. We’ll be sorted. It’s just business to the Crew, innit?” said Wozza enthusiastically.
Jack glanced at Wozza in the mirror; the expression reflecting back was not as chirpy as his words.
It’s just business to the Crew
… He wondered whether his friends were really aware of what they were getting themselves into. What
was getting himself into.
There was now a scarcity of cars, and Jack resisted the overpowering urge to yank on the handbrake and say, ‘Sod this for a lark’. He’d never been one to shirk a challenge, especially where making a few quid and where his mates were involved. The many pool money matches in dodgy Manchester clubs and pubs proved that. They’d had a few bar room brawls after sharking the wrong type of guys. But something in his gut told him that in this game they were playing out of their league.
He turned to DJ, urgency in his voice. “There’s CCTV cameras in here, mate.”
DJ shook his head. “Relax, man. They’re crap. I know lads who’ve nicked cars in here and never been caught.” DJ glanced round at the others with a knowing smile. “Anyway, we’re meeting at the opposite end to the cameras. It’s a blind spot, so chill out, will yer?”
Jack eased the Escort onto the top level with another faint squeak of rubber on tarmac. As anticipated, only the odd car was dotted about and it was completely free of shoppers, creating an eerie feel. Gusts howled from the open sides like scared children. He slowed to five mph as he saw a black Mercedes parked beside a dark green Subaru Impreza on the far side. Both vehicles faced them and had tinted windows.
. He could feel his pulse in his hands on the steering wheel. He drew the Escort to a halt ten feet from the two cars. The distant monotonous booming of rap music resounded from the Subaru.
“Here we go, boys. I’ll do the talking,” said cocksure DJ.
DJ got out with Wozza, ‘Giant’ Ged and Lenny close behind. Jack, as requested by DJ earlier, remained in the driver’s seat with the engine running, ‘just in case’. Despite there being enough smoke in the car to satisfy a chain-smoker, Jack lit another Benson and drew hard. He observed events through the windscreen, akin to watching a widescreen telly.
DJ was flanked by Wozza and Lenny, with Ged a couple of paces behind. They stood and waited about fifteen feet from the Crew’s snazzy cars. Ged kept glancing at Jack. Nothing happened for a minute, as if Jack’s telly had been paused.
The rap music stopped. Eight car doors opened, almost simultaneously. Five black and mixed-race males got out of each vehicle, as strictly no whites were allowed in the Crew. They lined up, ominously facing Jack’s four mates, hard stares all round. He wound down the driver’s side window some more to listen, getting a sickly whiff of car fumes drifting in. He could feel his pulse in his hands again as he gripped the steering wheel. His mouth was becoming parched. He swallowed.
One of the gang stepped forward a pace. Jack recognised his face and gangly frame. Jamo Kingston, the head honcho of the Moss Range Crew, his baggy jeans complimented by a black branded hoodie and snazzy trainers.
“Yo to the Sunnyside Boys,” said Kingston, speaking in a hybrid Jamaican-Manc accent. “Nice to see you on the dark side of the street at long last. Top car, DJ.” He nodded at the decrepit vehicle. “You white boys really look the part.” A couple in the line grinned, one even laughed out loud, but instantly seemed to realise that wasn’t so cool.
Lenny shuffled uneasily on his feet. Wozza looked briefly heavenwards. Ged appeared rigid, almost frozen to the spot, his face paler than the moon as he glanced back at Jack again.
“Just trying to stay low key, Jamo.” DJ sounded almost jovial.
“Good, ’cos if you’ve been followed, man, me tinks me boys won’t be too pleased.” Jamo Kingston tossed a look at his boys.
Jack scanned the line: big fuckers for boys
He had seen one or two of them around, but most concealed their identity with bandanas, slightly skewed caps and hoods, some of the latter over their baseball caps. Like their leader, baggy jeans and dark sports jackets were prominent, but in essence they all appeared menacingly similar. Jack noticed two in the middle had their hands tucked inside their jackets.
“Yer got the money, Jamo?”
“Slow down, man. I’ll call the shots. You got me charlie?”
“Yeah. Course I have.” DJ gestured toward the Escort.
“Who’s the shy boy?” Kingston pointed at Jack.
“He’s cool, and he stays there.”
“You hurt me feelings, DJ. Me tinks you don’t trust me… respect me. You dissin’ me, DJ?”
“Course not, man. Come on, let’s just do the deal.”
“Ok, white boy.
the man.” His sarcastic smile revealed a gold incisor.
DJ led Kingston to the back of the car. He was accompanied by two of his boys, who both tossed Jack the eye. Jack pivoted as the boot opened. He heard the holdall’s zipper.
“Let me see. Cut the bag.”
A few seconds passed.
“Let me taste it.”
A few more seconds.
“Wicked. Top stuff, bro.”
“What did you expect?” asked DJ.
Kingston shouted: “Yo, Jerome, Sniffer. Game on!”
Jack noticed the two in the middle striding toward the Escort. He recognised the stockier of the two, although his face was covered by a black bandana. It was Jerome Grant, the wanker who’d robbed him and DJ when they were kids on Bullsmead Park.
Jack saw Kingston carrying the black holdall containing the cocaine. He passed the front passenger side door purposefully, with DJ pursuing.
“Jamo, what about the money?”
Kingston ignored DJ and walked toward the Merc, passing Sniffer and Jerome, who both pulled out black handguns and pointed them at DJ, Ged, Lenny and Wozza.
“They’ve got shooters,” yelled Jack out of the window, a tad too late.
“Back the fuck up or we’ll bang you down,” shouted Jerome.
Jack flinched, crouched in his seat. Ged, Lenny and Wozza scampered behind their stolen vehicle.
DJ stood his ground. “Jamo, you scamming bastard!”
Jerome pistol-whipped DJ twice across the face and he fell to the floor with a yelp, clutching his face. Some of the others joined in, kicking him on the ground amid a tirade of expletives. DJ squealed in pain, curled into a ball.
Jack revved the car noisily. He heard the rear doors open then slam shut seconds later. Ged, Lenny and Wozza were in a heap inside, panting and cursing. The remainder of the gang paced forward; at least two more, maybe three, had handguns at their sides. One, his face contorted, headed for the car, pointing a pistol at Jack.
“For fuck’s sake, Jack. Do one. Go, go, GO!” cried Wozza.
Jack ducked. “Wait… DJ!” He leaned across, swung open the front passenger door, knocking one of the gunmen off balance. “Get in… quick…”