Size: 6.00 x 9.00 in
Ryan Kaine is on the attack…
When Angela Shafer’s stalker threatens to kill her, she is forced to call upon the services of The 83 Trust. Ryan Kaine vows to deliver justice in the only way he knows how.
After reaching Angela’s home too late to prevent a terrible atrocity, Kaine calls in reinforcements in the form of his most trusted men; Danny Pinkerton and William Rollason. But in order for Angela and her daughter to be truly safe, Kaine and his team need to dismantle an entire criminal organisation.
As an underworld kingpin and his brutal thugs close in, Kaine will need all the help he can get…
If you like Lee Child, Mark Dawson and Robert Ludlum, you’re going to find the Ryan Kaine series compulsively addictive.
Monday 23rd November—Teddy Tedesco
Ocean Village, Southampton
Jerome ‘Teddy’ Tedesco glared at the empty whisky glass in his hand. He’d have thrown the fucking thing at the wall, or at the Kraut, but his therapist kept telling him to find his inner peace, not to vent his anger on others. To do so wouldn’t help relieve his underlying stress, or lower his blood pressure, or sort out his anger control issues.
Well screw her. Screw the overqualified, overcharging bitch into the wall.
So far, he’d paid the woman a small fortune to leave her Harley Street clinic and make weekly house calls and, after twenty sessions, the best coping strategy she could come up with was meditation?
“Think things through before you act, Mr Tedesco,” she said, before handing over another fucking invoice.
Yeah, and what else had he been doing all his goddamned life?
It was little better than the things Mother told him as a boy.
“Count up to ten, Jerome. Count up to ten. If you do that, the anger will fade and the world will seem a better place.”
If he’d listened to Mother, he’d have saved tens of thousands of pounds worth of therapy over the years, but … sod it. If he’d listened to Mother, he’d still be working for the Shylock in the back street betting shop and wouldn’t be the owner of all he surveyed—half of Southampton’s seafront. He wouldn’t own any of his businesses, the casinos along the south coast, the fishing boats, the pleasure cruisers, the stud farm on the South Downs, or the racecourse. Where would he be if he’d counted to ten and toed the fucking line?
He let the Kraut on the far side of the desk, Schechter, sit and squirm a little longer before delivering judgement.
The moron would be doing plenty more squirming in a minute, but Teddy kept him dangling. He liked to see the minnows suffer. It suited his management style and made the ending all the sweeter. The two slabs of meat standing either side of the door already knew what he was going to say—he told them before they let Schechter into his office, his inner sanctum. They’d be ready for any reaction from the stupid Kraut.
German efficiency be damned.
Teddy had to admit, Schechter looked the part. Tall, blond, square-jawed, broad-shouldered, intelligent blue eyes, the archetypal Aryan—one of Hitler’s supermen. But everyone knew what happened to Hitler and his bully boys. Bottled out and ended up losing a war they should have won. Yeah, Schechter had come highly recommended by a man Teddy once trusted, but that hadn’t worked out too well. Not so far. Not for the Kraut, and not for Grady, the Kraut’s sponsor.
Fuck’s sake, who did he have to screw over to get things done properly these days?
He held up his empty glass and the nearer of the two guards, Ginger, rushed to refill it for him.
Good monkey. Well trained.
Teddy warmed the glass in his cupped hand and inhaled the rich vapours. Smokey and warm. The aroma of peat bogs, oak casks, and heather. Precisely the aroma a Macallan Speyside single malt should give off. Reassuringly expensive. He raised the lead crystal glass and touched the liquid to his lips, allowing his skin to absorb the moisture. He licked away the residue.
Very pleasant. Very rewarding. Well worth the expense.
“Tell me, Schechter, how difficult can it be to get rid of a corpse?”
The Kraut stared back, said nothing. His open-mouthed expression, dumb and stupid. Not a good look for someone about to plead for his life.
Teddy lowered the glass to the coaster in case he lost control, which was on the cards. Wasting any of the nectar wouldn’t do. Wouldn’t do at all.
Meditate. Count to ten.
To make certain, he rolled his chair further away from the desk, distancing himself from the glass and the Kraut. It gave him more perspective. More room to operate.
“It isn’t a rhetorical question, man. Answer me!”
Schechter stiffened. For the first time since he’d joined the organisation, the German showed real fear. Quite right, too. On the other hand, it was the first time he’d fucked up in all that time. Simple thing, but it caused Teddy a monumental fucking headache.
“I apologise, Mr Tedesco,” he said in his fucking annoying stiff and precise accent. “It was the result of unforeseen circumstances. We thought—”
“You thought! Fuck off. You didn’t think at all. When Grady recommended you, he said you were bright. A university graduate, no less. It’s not like Grady to be so fucking wrong. Shame really. He used to be my ‘go-to’ guy for new personnel, but not anymore. Timothy and Ginger have acquainted him with a hospital bed. Be drinking his meals through a straw for the next few weeks. He’s not ‘going-to’ go anywhere for quite a while.”
Teddy grabbed a book off the shelf behind him and hurled it at the redheaded fucker, who caught it mid-flight, in front of his nose. Good reactions. Reminded Teddy why he’d kept the bugger around for two years. Not as efficient or bright as Timothy, but acceptable. Although Teddy needed to keep him on his toes. Didn’t pay to let the hired help have ideas above their station.
“What the fuck you laughing at, shit-for-brains? Your job is to stand there, look mean, and do as I say. Did I tell you to laugh? You’re not laughing, are you, Timothy?”
The enormous African at Ginger’s side looked at a point above Teddy’s head, giving it the thousand-yard stare.
“No, Mr Tedesco. Not at all, sir.”
“That’s right. See that, Schechter? Timothy knows when to answer and when to keep his mouth shut. Pity Ginger doesn’t learn from him. He doesn’t know when to keep his ears open and his mouth closed. He will though, given time.”
Ginger shut the book quietly and hugged it to his chest. A thick, leather-bound volume it was, something about the Decline of the Roman Empire. Teddy’s interior designer—the mincing queer—bought a truckload of the dusty books to build the room’s ‘ambience’. In the end, Teddy approved of the look and had even read a couple of the tomes. After all, they’d cost enough. Might as well get some use out of them other than as fuck-off expensive wallpaper.
“You can put it back where it belongs, Ginger. We all know you never learned to read. Yeah, you can laugh at that one. It’s meant to be a joke and people can laugh at my jokes.”
Timothy smirked as Ginger marched across the room, replaced the book with its mates, and returned to his post without so much as a twitch in his expression.
Teddy sat still, giving Schechter the evil eye. What the fuck was he going to do? Things were beginning to slip sideways. If he didn’t get business back on track, the London hyenas would rumble south and start circling, and he couldn’t let it happen. Teddy valued his position in society—and his neck—too much to allow it. No way. Best cauterise the dead tissue before the infection spread, and what better way than to make an example of a young German wise-arse.
Top of his head, Teddy could list a dozen ways to dump a corpse, and all of them would have been better than the one Grady and Schechter chose, stupid mutts. Most of the methods, he’d utilised himself on his way to the top of the tree.
Dig a hole in the woods somewhere and plant the body as fertiliser. Chop it up into pieces and feed it to the pigs. That was a good one, possibly the best. Pigs loved human meat. Ate everything—bones, teeth, hair, the lot, and then crapped it out over the fields as manure. Wonderful. The circle of life. Back in the day, you could drop a body into the foundations of a bridge or a new building and cover the bloody thing with a thousand tonnes of ready-mix.
Couldn’t do that easily these days, though. Not since builders became so bloody security conscious and fenced everything in. Teddy blamed the Health and Safety Executive and all the other Nanny State, do-gooding bastards. Fuck them and fuck all the so-called terrorists who gave good, honest thieves a bad name. Ignorant towel-headed cretins who blew themselves up for a pack of virgins. What use is a virgin to a fucker who’s blown himself into tiny pieces? The lack of logic was hysterical. Comedians could write sketches about it if they weren’t so scared.
Count to ten, Teddy. Savour the moment. Watch the Kraut squirm.
“Okay, Schechter. Let’s have it. I gave you and Grady the simple task of losing Tubby Malahide’s blubber-filled carcase and the whole thing ended up like a dog’s breakfast. Tell me what happened in your own words, and tell me what you’re doing to rectify the situation.”
The Kraut clasped his hands together. A sheen of sweat formed on his upper lip.
Yeah, that’s right, Schechter. You should be sweating.
Teddy retrieved his drink and took a real sip, soaking up the golden liquid and waiting for a story that might just save the German’s life—but he doubted it.
Schechter swallowed and took a breath.
“Come on, I don’t have all day.”
“I apologise, Mr Tedesco. I was trying to gather my thoughts. I need to make this as clear and concise as possible. On Sunday last, Grady called and told me we had a task to perform on your behalf.”
“Yes, yes. I know all that bollocks. Don’t think you can shift all the blame onto poor old Grady just because he’s not here to defend himself. I already have his explanation and want your side of things before making my final decision. See how generous and fair I can be? That’s why they call me the nicest boss on the south coast. Isn’t that right, Timothy?”
The South African dipped his head.
“That’s right, Mr Tedesco,” he said, in a deep, rumbling voice that could shatter bricks—and kneecaps. “Absolutely right.”
“Good. Now get on with it, Schechter. I’m not a patient man.”
The German shuffled in his chair. “Grady called me to his flat and told me to bring a tarpaulin and a car with a big enough trunk to take the, ah, package—”
“Fuck’s sake, man. We’re all grownups here. Call a shovel a fucking shovel.”
“Entschuldigen sie? Excuse me?”
“Tubby wasn’t a brown paper parcel headed for the Post Office. He was a corpse, a cadaver, a body, a stiff. He might have been dipping his hand in my till, but he already paid for it with his life. Show him some fucking respect!”
“Jawohl! Yes, sir.” Schechter swallowed before continuing. “I drove Grady and the ... body to the quarry, under his directions. It was not a place I had visited before. He said it would be deserted at that time in the evening, but when we removed the body from the car, a dog barked.”
“The mutt you shot?”
“Ja. That’s correct. A woman of middle-age, maybe forty-five, was exercising her animal around the lake that formed from the quarry workings. The animal was brown and white, and stood about so high.” He raised his hand about two and a half feet above the carpet.
“I don’t give a shit how big the dog was. This isn’t Crufts, fuckwit. Get on with the story!”
Teddy jerked his hand and some of the expensive whisky splashed onto his fingers. He licked them clean. Strike one for the Kraut. Any more and he was out. This wasn’t baseball. No second or third strikes in his organisation.
“Grady yelled at me to get her. He can’t run because of his bad knees and one of us had to stay with the body. I gave chase.”
“How far away was this old biddy?”
“Across the lake on the other bank. No more than thirty, thirty-five metres straight across.”
“So, this little old lady was only a few yards away, but she was too fast for you and you let her escape?”
Teddy squeezed the glass so hard, he worried it might shatter under the load.
“It was not like that, Mr Tedesco. Thirty metres in a straight line, but the shore was curved, and she ran directly into the woods. I tried to go straight across, but the wasser was too deep. I had to run around the shoreline. The woman was faster than I expected, but I gained upon her quickly.”
“And you had a gun, right?”
“Yes, sir. I was close enough to shoot her without missing when the dog attacked. Vicious. Look!” He rolled up his shirt sleeve and showed the bandage covering his forearm. “I shot the animal two times in the chest, but it landed on me. Took me down to the ground. By the time I threw it off, the woman had disappeared. It was dark and pouring rain, and I had no taschenlampe, ah, flashlight. And then I heard a car roar away.”
He took a breath before continuing.
“All this time, Grady was yelling at me to come back, so I picked up the dog and carried it back to the car.”
“You took the dog?”
“Yes, sir. I thought it best not to leave any evidence. You know, the bullets inside the animal?”
Teddy took another sip. Collecting the mutt showed initiative. The Kraut had just earned back his first strike. He might be on his way to earning a reprieve, too. Although it was too early to tell.
“Also,” Schechter said, growing more confident, his voice firmer, “the rain was pouring down. It was heavy enough to obscure our tracks, I thought. And there was one other thing, Mr Tedesco.”
“The dog was in good condition. Despite the rain, I could tell it had been professionally groomed. Well looked after. Expensive collar, you know?”
For the first time since his arrival, Schechter’s shoulders relaxed. A smile stretched his thin lips. He reached into his pocket. Timothy and Ginger stiffened and started moving forward, but Teddy raised his glass and shook his head to send them back to their posts. In his other hand, the one not holding the tumbler, he gripped a Sig Sauer P226—the weapon of choice for the US military. Good enough for the Americans, meant good enough for him. Teddy would never be without it and, with Schechter on the other side of the desk at a distance of less than two metres, he wasn’t about to miss.
Despite the state-of-the-art gizmos protecting his office, the body scanners, the x-ray and infra-red cameras, the metal detectors, and the other electronic countermeasures, Teddy was not about to drop his guard. Too many high ranking ‘businessmen’ had grown lazy thinking they were Teflon-coated and died as a result. Well, not Teddy Tedesco. Nobody was going to catch him on the crapper with his trousers around his ankles.
The Kraut’s hand came out of the pocket holding a white plastic disk, no bigger than the lid of a jam jar.
“If that’s a bomb …”
Teddy set the tumbler on the coaster, racked the Sig, and pointed it at Schechter’s face. The Kraut’s eyes bulged and his jaw slackened.
“No, sir. I-It is a microchip reader. Given the dog’s condition, I-I thought it a possibility it had been microchipped. I bought the device at a pet shop this morning.”
With his thumb, Teddy pressed the gun’s de-cocker to lower the hammer and make the weapon safe, but he kept it in plain view and Schechter’s eyes stayed locked on the muzzle. Hardly a surprise. Teddy’d been on the wrong end of a gun a few times in his life. There were few things in the world more terrifying than seeing the black hole in front of you, especially when it was being held by a nut job with evil in his heart.
“And was it?”
“Chipped? Yes, sir,” Schechter said, drawing his eyes from the muzzle back to Teddy. “It was, and I now have the name and address of the owner.”
He turned the scanner to let Teddy read the screen:
Mrs Angela Shafer, #3 Railway Cottages, Old Mill Lane, Hampshire.
Teddy nodded and allowed himself a congratulatory smile. The kid had done well. Saved his own life even if it did upset Timothy and Ginger, who looked as though someone had opened their last Christmas presents by mistake. Not to worry, he’d be able to feed someone else to his murder monkeys soon enough. There were always plenty of people around who tried to put one over on Teddy Tedesco. So far, none had succeeded. At least, not for long—as Tubby’s ghost would confirm.
“Nice one, Schechter. What’s your first name? Grady told me you were smart, but never gave me your full name.”
“Hardy, sir,” Schechter said, swallowing after Teddy slid the Sig back into his top drawer. “My mother named me after the actor, Hardy Kruger. She had a girlhood crush—”
“That’s enough of the back story, son. Don’t get too comfortable. You’re still a fuck-up. All you’ve done with that”—he pointed at the scanner—“is bought yourself a little grace period.”
The grin fell from Schechter’s face.
“Yes, sir. Sorry, sir.”
“I assume the old dear went screaming to the filth?”
Schechter worked a finger between his shirt collar and his neck and pulled. Fucker must have found it difficult to breathe in such a tight collar and with the tie done up so high. Well, sod him. He needed to show some respect and all Teddy’s employees knew the correct dress code. Professional attire at all times. The Kraut should have bought a shirt with a better fit.
“Yes, sir. I have been following the investigation on the police scanners,” Schechter managed to say. “As I expected, they found nothing at the quarry. It would appear they have closed the investigation, more or less.”
“Any press coverage?”
“Minor reports on the local radio and in the local newspaper, but nothing national.”
The information tallied with his own research. Teddy paused for a minute before retrieving the glass.
“Okay, that’s acceptable. What did you do with Tubby’s carcase in the end?”
“Grady knew the location of a different quarry with a lake. Apparently, there are many such abandoned workings in the region. We weighted it down with rocks, sliced the body open from here”—he pointed to a spot below his navel and ran his finger up to his sternum—“to here, to vent accumulated gasses, and threw it off the cliff into the water. It sank like a boulder. No one will ever see Tubby Malahide’s mortal remains again, sir. I promise you.”
Teddy took another sip. It tasted good again.
“They’d better not, Schechter. You won’t survive for long if they do.”
Again, the Kraut made with the nervous smile.
“You want me to pay a visit to Mrs Shafer? Make sure she doesn’t speak to the police again?”
Teddy was about to agree but had second thoughts and shook his head. “No, that won’t be necessary. I have a better idea. Pony’s been bored recently. I’ll set him on the woman. He can have his fun.”
Ginger shuffled his feet and shot a sideways look at Timothy.
Timothy didn’t move. He knew better.
Colour drained from the Kraut’s already pasty face.
“Pony?” Schechter asked, his voice thin and scratchy.
Inwardly, Teddy smirked. The Kraut had definitely heard the whispers. Who inside the organisation hadn’t?
“You’ve met my little brother?” Teddy asked, already knowing the answer.
“No, sir. But I know him … by reputation.”
Teddy laughed and drained his glass. His eyes watered as the rich heat scoured the back of his throat.
“So, you’ve heard the stories?”
Schechter dipped his head. “I have, sir. Yes.”
“All true. Every single one of them. But the stories out in the open aren’t the half of it. I could tell you some that would turn your hair white, if you weren’t already an albino.”
Schechter raised his right hand and smoothed his hair into place in a reflex action he probably didn’t realise he was doing.
“But if you really want to know, I’ll get Pony to tell you himself. Would you like that?”
Schechter shook his head emphatically. “No thank you, sir. It will not be necessary.”
“That’s a shame. He loves an audience. A special case, my baby brother. Now bugger off, but keep your mobile powered up. I might need you later today. One of my tenants is a few days late on his rent.”
Schechter jumped to his feet, clearly unable to leave the room quickly enough. While the Kraut’s back was still turned, Timothy looked at Teddy, a question formed in an arched eyebrow.
Teddy shook his head, confirming the trick with the microchip scanner had saved Schechter’s life. Timothy nodded but couldn’t hide his disappointment. Spending the first fifteen years of his life under the apartheid regime, the ugly South African had every reason to hate blond white men, but he’d have to pull in his horns, for the moment.
Timothy opened the office door and Ginger escorted Schechter from the room, probably about to tell the German how close he’d been to ending up alongside Tubby Malahide.
Teddy grinned. No point hiding the truth from the men. They needed to be kept in line.
“Don’t worry, Timothy,” Teddy said, reaching for his phone. “There’s a little action on the cards in Lymington. A couple of trawler men have developed sticky fingers. You’ll have plenty of opportunities to flex those big muscles of yours.”
“Thanks, Mr Tedesco. Looking forward to it. Want me to leave the room while you talk to your brother?”
“What do you think?”
The big kaffir tapped a finger to his forehead in the nearest action he would ever make to a salute.
“Be right outside when you need me, Mr Tedesco. Don’t forget your dinner with Mrs Tedesco. Roast chicken on the menu tonight, sir. You asked me to remind you.”
Fuck. He had forgotten. So many things to think about.
“Thanks, Timothy,” he said, punching buttons on the phone number pad. “I did remember. And Mother can fucking wait.”
Sorry, Mother. Didn’t mean it.
Timothy closed the door quietly behind him and the call connected.
“That you, Teddy?”
“And who else would be calling you on this private line, baby brother?”
“You got something interesting for me at last?”
“Fancy taking a little trip into the country with that arsewipe boyfriend of yours?”
“Which one?” Pony asked, his high-pitched giggle squealed down the phone line. “I have so many.”
“I was thinking of the one with the beard and the muscles, Pavlovich. You still seeing him?”
In other words, “Is he still alive?”
“No. I have a new special friend. Johnno Ashby. Sweet boy, needs an education though. What’s the job?”
Teddy gave him the outline.
“Any constraints? Want me to make it look like an accident?”
“Don’t care what you do so long as the bitch doesn’t talk to the filth again. You can make it quick if you like but, knowing you, it’ll be slow and …”
He allowed the sentence to trail off, waiting for Pony to jump in. It didn’t take long.
“You know me so well, big brother. I enjoy toying with them. How old is she?”
“No idea, bro. All I have is her name and address. Want me to put one of my investigators on her?”
“That won’t be necessary,” Pony said, using his serious ‘down to business’ voice. “Doing the deep background stuff makes it all the more fun. Adds to the enjoyment, you know? The excitement of the hunt tastes every bit as sweet as the kill itself. By the time I’m finished, I’ll know everything about her from her favourite hairdresser to her daughter’s bra size. Assuming she has a daughter.”
Again, he broke off to giggle—a sound that prickled the fine hairs on Teddy’s neck.
“Give me a couple of days and I’ll have her begging for release.” He let out the breathless laugh that made his victims wet themselves. “And I don’t mean the sweet release of a good long screw, if you know what I mean, bro.”
Teddy wrinkled his nose in disgust.
“Spare me the details, Pony. Just get the job done and make sure no one finds the body. Disposing of a stiff is what gave us this problem in the first place.”
“Ah, Teddy. You were always the squeamish one. But I don’t think of this as a problem. Oh no. This situation is what I like to call an opportunity!”
The line clicked dead on Pony’s breathless laugh. Teddy dropped the phone in its cradle. For a brief moment, he almost felt sorry for the Shafer woman. He shuddered again.
Still, business was business. Move on or move out. Time to dress for dinner. Mother did so love to see him in a smart suit.