“Mister Hill was good business for us. Good business, but a little, how to say it, small time. We have guns, Albanian army and police guns, out of the country during the troubles a few years ago. He has customers. First in the ones and twos, then larger. Then a biggest order.” Tattoos was feeling talkative. Big Bastard was concentrating on driving the BMW X5. They were on Princess Parkway heading into the centre.
“Paid for with money he stole from me.”
“Really? He was telling us you gave it willingly. It was good for us and for him. His customers were not so lucky. They give the money, fifty percent mark up, but the Police attack before we have even shipped a quarter of the merchandise. They go to jail.”
“I nearly went to jail.”
“But you have a good lawyer?”
“I had my innocence.” Joe took Rachel’s hand. They were being allowed to see where they were going, which seemed ominous. “Where are we going?”
“To the delivery point. Container arrived this morning. Customers have keys for it, will be unloading it now. We see if they have our money or if you lie to us.”
“I’ve got nothing to do with your money disappearing! Rachel has even less! If you’re going to do this at least let her go.” Rachel squeezed his hand.
“Hostage is good. Useful.”
They had slowed to a crawl in the traffic. Joe tried the door handle. It was kiddy-locked.
The X5 made its way around the centre and ended up off Cheetham Hill, navigating the post industrial warren of repurposed warehouses and factories. Joe had spent weeks the previous year photographing these buildings but still he was lost. They turned into the car park before a small self storage unit. There was a shipping container in one corner and four men were unloading its contents into a Transit and 5 Series BMW. “Ah good. They are still here.” Tattoos announced.
Why did the bad guys always drive German cars, Joe wondered briefly. Big Bastard opened the door from the outside and Joe and Rachel got out. He paid them little attention after that. Joe motioned toward the gates with a nod of his head. Rachel pointed. Tattoos had produced an AK47 and Big Bastard was holding a tiny machine pistol.
The X5 was between them and the four men unloading the container. Big Bastard stood near the rear and Tattoos walked around the front of the soft roader. “You double cross us.”
One of the men continued loading the van with small, tightly wrapped bricks. One stepped forward to reply. The other two moved toward the 5 Series. “Hill double crossed you. He told you he,” the speaker pointed at Joe, “was holding the cash. Then we were to rob him, take the million and split it. But Hill double crossed us too. He” indicating Joe again, “never had the cash. Never even knew about it, most likely.” Joe remembered waking up on the pavement, his bag stolen. “We’ve all been had.”
“Return the product to us.”
“No fucking chance.” He turned and walked back to the BMW. The two who had been standing by the 5 Series were now sat on the back seat. Joe could see that the nearest one had something on his lap. He didn’t need to know much about body language to see that things would likely get very dangerous very soon. He gripped Rachel’s wrist tightly, glanced at her. She was pale. All her attention was on Big Bastard.
Tattoos raised his AK47. “You give back merchandise.”
The two men in the back of the 5 Series stepped out, raising Kalashnikovs of their own. Joe pulled Rachel to him and dived for cover.
Contrary to what the films tell you, car bodies don’t stop bullets. The X5 was going to quickly turn into a sieve. Joe pulled Rachel down and dragged her to the front wheels. Here he held her tight and huddled behind the engine block, hoping it would provide some protection.
The guns weren’t as loud as he’d have expected. They were firecrackers almost lost in the sound of smashing glass and thuds of impact. There were shouts and screams. Some of them might have been Rachel and Joe’s.
After a while the noise stopped. There was one last squeal of tyres under acceleration then silence.
Joe looked down at Rachel. Had he got her out of the way in time? She was holding him incredibly tightly and he her. There didn’t appear to be any blood on either of them and she was breathing. “Are you okay?”
“I think so.” said a little voice.
“You can let go of me now.”
“I don’t want to.” She did loosen her grip, however, and looked up at him. “You saved my life.”
“You can owe me.”
There were sirens approaching. Joe looked around. Big Bastard was face down on the pavement, a mess of holes in his back and blood pooling around him. Rachel looked at the body, tutted, then looked away. In the other direction lay Tattoos. He wasn’t as shot up and, as Joe stared, he moved. Joe jumped.
“What? What is it?”
“The one with the tattoos is still alive.”
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Technorati tag: Fiction, Crime, Manchester