Authors: Paul Cornell
In the last ten years or so, he’d seen off all his rivals or, more often than not, absorbed them. He held actual territory in the thirty-three boroughs, in an age when most Organized
Criminal Networks found that much too stressful. He regularly had soldiers coming to him, ratting out their bosses, saying where the money bunched in market folds would be counted tonight. Because
everyone knew that in the Toshack OCN you got to do all the posing and none of the getting shot at. It was at that point that Rob would make their bosses a peaceable offer, backed up by some sort
of threat, the details but not the results of which were kept from his own inner circle of soldiers. The smaller boss then took the offer and vanished. Always.
Those incredibly efficient freelancers of his.
It made it doubly strange that tonight Rob was out on the warpath with his own people right beside him.
Absorbing soldiers from so many different gangs was how the Toshack set had come to be different from most OCNs, composed of people who’d known each other in the schoolyard, but diverse,
like on TV where the producers could imply that these guys dealt heroin but not that they might be a tiny bit racist with it. Costain and Sefton had come aboard when Toshack had taken over the Toil
to join Shiv and Mick and Lazlo, the League of Nations. Rob had looked after them, with so many loans and smoothings of the way, and also the taking asides for a little chat that started out with
terror, then became about whisky and good advice from this man who looked at you with eyes that said he’d been there.
Costain liked to feel free. ‘I’m this guy who’s got no karma,’ he’d once said to Rob during one of those whisky conversations. ‘Half of what people think
there are laws about, there really aren’t. You can do what you like, but people are just afraid.’
‘Amen to that, Blakey,’ Rob had said, clinking glasses with him.
He loved the freedom Rob gave him. The freedom of someone who could still afford the diesel for a fleet of SUVs. The freedom of someone who was not a victim. Only now he was carrying a burden in
the middle of his back that could bring them both down. One way or the other, this free lunch looked likely to end tonight. Costain glanced at his watch. His tape was going to last up to, what . .
. midnight? What was he going to do? He’d put a certain something aside for when he got out of this, and he hoped to God that neither side had discovered
. Was now the time for him
to cash in and run?
‘What goes around comes around,’ declared Rob. Then he turned to look at Costain and Sefton. ‘Well, that’s not always true, is it? Not necessarily.’
Costain pursed his lips. A sudden memory had been set off by those words, but Quill had planted it in him.
Why he always thought he was going to get burned. Because he was the bad guy
The memory went like this: he was leaning closer to one Sammy Cliff, taking him into his confidence after the informer had again ranted on about how he felt about himself, describing himself in the
most derogatory terms. ‘But it’s not about what you are, is it?’ Costain had said, making his tone sound like the sort of kindly teacher he’d seen in old movies.
‘It’s about what you
be. One of the good guys – one of
– fighting the good fight against gang culture. I think it’s time I assigned you a code
name, mate. I have been given five randomly generated subject names to pick from, so do you want to choose?’
Sammy had shaken his head, unable to stop himself from looking eager, he’d so wanted to be named.
‘I think,’ Costain had said, ‘I’m going to call you Tiger Feet.’
And then he remembered what had happened soon after that: Sammy Cliff hanging there, the burned remains of his feet, of his face.
Costain shoved that memory down again. ‘Nah,’ he said, ‘you’re right there, Rob.’
‘Depends,’ said Sefton. ‘Depends on what he means. What exactly do you mean, chief?’ Costain wondered if Sefton knew about the Nagra, if his fucking brilliant strategy
now was going to be to ask loads of bloody
. Like UCs never normally did.
‘I mean that, for the last ten years, what goes around
come around for me. And it
come around now, Blakey, Kev, Mick. I’m going to get out of
it this time too, like every other time.’
‘Sure you are, Rob.’
‘I got all of this ’cos of my brother. All down to him, oh yes.’ He laughed gently, as if at some irony that Costain himself wasn’t aware of. ‘I’m not going
to let it go.’ He hit the button to lower the window, inviting a freezing blast of air in, and shoved the gun out. He fired it in the air and kept firing, with an absurdly precise gap between
each shot, as if he was waving a flag that fired bullets. Maybe he expected similar from the convoy behind him, but Costain heard nothing. He imagined bullets falling into the streets of semis
standing below the underpass.
demonstrated real freedom, but he could sense Sefton having the temerity to worry and fear and bridle at it.
Rob closed the window and turned back to them again, laughing. ‘I’m sorry, boys, I’ve had some of the other, so I feel a bit free and easy tonight. I used to do that down the
shopping centres in Peckham, you know, walking along with a pump-action. Window of a business that’s giving us gyp, bang! The glaziers used to love me back then. I’d take down the
Neighbourhood Watch stickers, saying they no longer applied, and they never got put up again, because everyone was afraid of me. That was before your time, Blakey. It was just me . . . it
just me in this city, invulnerable.’
Sefton spoke up
. ‘Yeah, boss? We sort of took that as read. So why are you going on about it finishing?’
Costain felt his teeth grind at yet another question. Questions broke the flow of the other bloke telling you something. They weren’t part of a normal chat. They just raised more
questions. Sefton was Quill’s favourite, but the little shit was acting like a bloody amateur.
But Rob had suddenly started yelling at Mick, the driver. ‘Right here, quick, down here!’ And they were off down a slip road, the rest of the convoy blaring their horns and making
other cars swerve out of their way as the convoy was forced to follow.
Costain glimpsed a gasometer and rows of neat little houses, some of them still with their Christmas lights up. They were somewhere in the Wembley area, he decided. He used to take his bike up
here as a kid: these rows of homes all with their own little gardens, everything in the shadow of the stadium and the dirty great warehouse stores. Little people living here in the shadows of
stuff. Rob was meanwhile giving directions to Mick, looking at a map on his phone, but keeping one hand cupped round it. Even now he didn’t want anyone seeing their destination.
They roared round a corner, past a square-built pub with a crowd of smokers outside who cheered without knowing what they were cheering. It was the first pub in three streets that hadn’t
been boarded up. They took a left down a side street.
‘That one,’ Rob pointed. ‘Park up nice like. Don’t disturb the garden.’
The suburban street was fully lined with cars, so ‘nice’ meant double parking. A home owner came out, calling that he’d need to get his car out later, but Rob vaguely waved the
gun at him and he went running back inside. That was how they were rolling tonight, then. Costain felt the others were up for it, into it, experiencing some action with the boss at last – not
just serving as his drinking buddies now. Rob led his soldiers to the door of a house, and they formed up outside, ready to rock.
Rob rang the bell. And then twice more. He turned to them. ‘Could someone—?’
The soldiers came forward to help, the big Russian trying to do it with one kick. The door went down in three, and then they were rushing inside. Costain hung back, Sefton alongside him, ready
to let any shooting start ahead of them.
But, inside, the gang were wheeling about through a bare and freezing lounge and heading into a kitchen with no fittings and with broken windows looking out to the rear. There was thin carpet
and a front parlour space with paintwork yellowed from cigarette smoke. ‘Doesn’t look as if anyone lives here,’ said Mick. ‘Not even as a squat.’
‘I know what it looks like, Michael,’ said Rob. ‘Just search the place.’
So they turned out empty drawers lined with newspaper, and peered under what little furniture there was, the soldiers kicking about inside what looked like their nan’s house. Rob himself
went upstairs, and Costain and Sefton – always at his shoulder – followed. Empty bedrooms. Nothing. ‘What are we looking for, then, boss?’ asked Sefton.
‘We’re making a noise,’ said Rob, raising his voice as if to address the ceiling. ‘Making it clear we’re here. Loads of us to choose from.’ He grabbed a
shotgun and slammed the butt up into a trapdoor of what must be a loft, and the big lads helped him up inside it. But a few moments later he was back down again. ‘Get in there,’ he
said, pointing, ‘and root around a bit.’ Costain studied Rob’s face as he marched past. He seemed to have come here with hope and then lost it.
Costain managed to investigate the back room downstairs on his own. Then he turned round to see that Sefton had entered. But nobody else. They could hear the sounds of the search continuing in
every other room around them, carried out swiftly and offhand as every soldier wondered when he’d hear sirens approach to cut off their limited exit. Sefton closed the door behind him.
‘How do you want us to proceed, skip?’
‘As the tribunal will hear from the tape, I then asked the lead officer in the field to inform me of his plans . . .’
Costain looked at Quill’s boy for a moment, then silently blew him a kiss. Sefton stared back at him – apparently astonished that Costain had somehow worked out that Sefton was just
waiting for him to fail somehow, that he’d probably been already sending in carefully neutral reports that damned the lead UC only in the details. Quill hadn’t actually said that
he’d backed up his version of events, had he? Costain was pleased to have finally got under Sefton’s skin. ‘I wouldn’t worry.
‘So you don’t have any . . . particular thing you’d like me to try on Toshack . . . Sarge?’
There came a shout from Rob himself in another part of the house. ‘Right! Next address!’
Quill sat in the back of an unmarked BMW, heading back to Gipsy Hill at speed, with his detective sergeant, Harry Dobson, in the seat beside him, talking into his Airwave
radio. ‘The helicopter used the opportunity of Toshack’s stop-off at that address in Wembley to refuel,’ he told Quill. ‘He’s now moving to resume surveillance by
tracking the bug concealed on Sefton.’
‘Tell him, if he loses them, he’ll be flying Fisher Price.’
Harry raised an eyebrow. ‘He’s about to, anyway, Jimmy. This is the last op, the service is getting cut and the crew are taking early retirement. Like with that Nagra you managed to
get hold of when there was nothing else; we’re riding third-class here. So I’ll call him back with your message, shall I?’
‘Oh, piss off,’ said Quill. Harry had been with him since they’d been in uniform together. Quill liked having someone he could yell at but not have it matter.
‘You really giving Costain another chance?’
‘Nah, I was just trying to motivate the fucker. When this is over, he’s done. I’ll have him up on a charge, if I can. I do a bit of the necessary paperwork every lunchtime
– gives me something to look forward to. If we’d had a better lead in there, or if Sefton had gone in first—’
‘Sefton’s a DC, Costain’s a DS, and Sefton has backed up every single thing that shifty bugger’s said about the Toshack firm. You just don’t like him ’cos
you’ve got your own lines drawn in the sand—’
‘Laws, I like to call them. And where would we be without them? Where we are now, but a bit worse. He had eyes like frigging dinner plates, Harry. He knew I could see that, and all. When
this lot falls apart, we’ll find there was info going the other way, knowingly or not, stuff that he’s been contributing to Toshack’s bloody twilight zone that we can’t get
into. Bet you a fiver.’
‘Operation Goodfellow’s falling apart, and we’ve got this last shindig on triple time. It’s the last night of the Proms. When this goes under, Lofthouse won’t be
able to fend them off no more. The axe’ll then come down, and undercover ops in London will end up being about some old dear telling a DCI what she heard down the bingo. It’s like
Toshack threw us a few coins. There you go, lads, tip for being sodding useless. Now sling your hook.’
‘Bet Sarah’s enjoying it.’
‘Oh, yeah, Harry, she’s ecstatic. I think she’s visiting some distant cousin tonight. Maybe she’ll stay there.’
Harry laughed. ‘You’re never that lucky.’
Quill looked at him a bit sharply, then realized that he had done so and cuffed the DS across the shoulder before he could apologize.
Do as I say, not as I do
; they should have that
written over the door at Hendon. He banged on the back of the driver’s seat, and saw her raising an eyebrow at him in the rear-view mirror. ‘Faster, love. We want to be back at the Ops
Room for “Auld Lang Syne”, don’t we?’
Shit, shit, shit!
Kev Sefton was his
name, and right now he was carefully making himself look out of the window of the SUV because he couldn’t look at that bastard sitting beside him. The
convoy had gone to two more houses, both within ten minutes’ distance of the first. They’d been empty, too. Both times Toshack had headed up into the loft while he got the soldiers to
‘bang about’. Sefton had tried to keep his mind on the job, but . . .
. He’d been on his back since he’d joined Goodfellow, and that was the reason Sefton didn’t know how Costain came to know about his ‘protected
characteristic’, as the blunt jargon put it. He’d always stayed away from the Gay Police Association, the Black Police Association . . . He hadn’t thought much about why he should
have joined them, or why he shouldn’t. He’d been out, sort of, at his last nick. A few of the lads had asked, so he’d told them. And then his DI, Pete Grieves, had, too, over a
pint – deliberately nothing official. ‘I should think you qualify us for some sort of grant, lad, representing two minorities for the price of one,’ he’d said. Sefton had
laughed along, only realizing later how the conversation had left him feeling . . . he still didn’t know
he felt about it.