Family- Owen Mullen (Digital Sample)

Read on for an exclusive extract from ‘Family’ by Owen Mullen.

FAMILY

…Will Be The Death Of You

Owen Mullen

Prologue

The Metropolitan Police corruption scandal has deepened after The Independent uncovered the existence of a previously secret investigation into criminal officers that went much further than the files destroyed by Scotland Yard.

Operation Zloty, a wide-ranging inquiry spanning at least nine years, found dozens of rogue detectives in the employ of organised crime and operating with ‘virtual immunity’.

The long-term intelligence development operation included information on police corruption originally gathered by 17 other investigations – including Operation Othona, the contents of which were inexplicably shredded sometime around 2003.

Crucially, Zloty included bombshell evidence from Othona about a ‘persistent network’ of corrupt officers that could have been beneficial to a landmark review commissioned by the Home Secretary into how the Stephen Lawrence murder was handled by the Metropolitan Police.

Mark Ellison QC was forced to inform Theresa May earlier this month that he could not finalise conclusions on whether police corruption tainted the Lawrence case because a ‘lorry-load’ of Othona material was mysteriously shredded by the Met more than 10 years ago.

The Independent, 26 March 2014

* * *

The car was back in the drive, parked behind the Merc. Twenty minutes earlier, Cheryl Glass had waved it away with her daughter seated in the rear. A big guy, thickset, in shades and shirt sleeves, sat behind the wheel. Marcus was a monosyllabic troll her husband had put in charge of the school run. She’d objected to a stranger being given responsibility for her daughter.

Their daughter, Danny had reminded her.

They’d had a right royal row about it but of course he hadn’t listened. ‘With the way things are,’ he’d said, ‘Rebecca needs to be protected.’

Hard to argue against, except if they were in danger it was him who’d put them there. Albert Anderson was a man better left alone. Instead, Danny had been edging him out of South London, street by street, until it became an affront that couldn’t be allowed to go on. Wiser to agree the boundaries and live in peace, but Danny Glass didn’t see it that way; as with everything, it was all or nothing.

So, the war began. And Marcus did the school run.

Cheryl leaned in the window, no pretence at friendliness. ‘What’re you doing here? Where’s Rebecca?’

The minder returned the hostility; he’d seen how her husband treated her, clocked the disrespect and aped it. ‘Inside. Forgot Sam.’

Once upon a time Danny would have wiped the floor with anybody who even looked the wrong way at her.

Ancient history.

‘She’s going to be late.’

He shrugged. ‘She wanted the bear, what was I supposed to do? I’m just the taxi driver.’

‘How about get her there before the bell stops ringing?’

Rebecca came running out of the house, bright with excitement, and threw herself against her mother.

Cheryl scolded her. ‘You’re supposed to be on your way to school.’

The six-year-old replied with logic that defied anyone to be annoyed with her.

‘Sam wouldn’t have anybody to talk to. He would’ve been sad.’

Cheryl smiled. Rebecca was absolutely the best thing – the only good thing – to come from the marriage; a small miracle she still struggled to believe she was responsible for bringing into the world.

‘Well, we can’t have that. But you must hurry.’

Rebecca clung to her. ‘You take me.’

‘I can’t, darling. Mummy’s late.’

The child was too young to hide her disappointment. Her mother tried to sound upbeat. ‘For the hairdresser.’

The lie came so easily it shocked her.

‘You want a beautiful mummy, don’t you?’ She knelt to coax her daughter. ‘I’ll see you later. You can tell me what you did today. Go with Marcus.’

‘Want to go with you.’

Marcus listened to the mini-drama – family business, not his. He was paid to do what he was told. If the kid went with him, fine, if not, that was fine too. Babysitting wasn’t what he’d had in mind when he signed on to work for Danny Glass. Rebecca stared with her father’s dark eyes, so cute, and so like him. No wasn’t a concept either recognised.

‘You take me.’ She pleaded as if her mother hadn’t spoken.

‘Honey, I don’t have time and I don’t have my car.’

‘Why not?’

‘Because it’s in the garage.’

‘We can go in another car.’

Cheryl glanced at her watch and sighed. ‘All right. Come on.’

She snapped at Marcus. ‘You’re not needed.’

He started to object but she cut him off and walked to the house and a man standing at the door with his hands folded behind his back. Cheryl didn’t know his name. So many people worked for Danny these days it was impossible to keep up.

‘You’re driving and we have to go now, school’s started.’

Rebecca ran to the Mercedes, scrambled across the back seat and sat Sam in the middle.

Marcus made a last attempt to reason with her. ‘Your husband isn’t gonna like this. It isn’t safe. You know the score.’

She brushed past him – he’d had his chance. ‘I couldn’t care less what my husband won’t like. Move!’

The new guy got behind the wheel, took Cheryl’s instructions and pulled out of the shadow of the house into the London sunshine.

Rebecca said, ‘Where’s Daddy?’

Her mother was tempted to reply that she had no idea where Daddy was because he hadn’t come home again last night. Instead she lied. ‘He’s busy, baby. He said to give you a kiss from him.’

Albert Anderson was causing trouble, that much Cheryl knew, yet the previous day she’d called her husband’s mobile and whined like a stereotypical suburban housewife unable to function without her man.

‘It won’t start, it just won’t.’

Danny’s response had been curt. ‘Use the Merc.’

That was the last time they’d spoken.

The child pointed her finger at the driver, then at her mother, herself and the teddy. She counted. ‘One, two, three, four.’

Cheryl checked her watch, her manicured fingers strumming the leather upholstery. She hated being late for anything, especially where she was going. Rebecca held the teddy bear to the window and began a game without rules. She turned to her mother. ‘I like when you take me to school.’

‘I’m going to take you every day from now on.’

‘I love you, Mummy.’

The child drifted into a story, telling Sam about her friend, Amanda. Cheryl stroked her daughter’s hair, blonde like her own. ‘I love you too, darling.’

* * *

There was no warning. The car left the road, lifted by the force of the blast. Pieces of metal and glass ripped through a bus queue waiting for the 185 to Victoria. In that moment lives were irrevocably changed: people fell to the ground, blood pouring from wounds they hadn’t had a second ago; the windscreen of a Vectra coming in the opposite direction shattered, blinding the driver, who lost control and ploughed into a West Indian fruit and veg shop, crushing a teenage assistant at the beginning of only her second day in the job; on the pavement, a man in his thirties hurrying to the beat from his iPod suddenly collapsed, his leg severed at the knee.

In the immediate aftermath of the explosion, silence hung in the smoke, then the full horror hit, people with blood on their faces screamed and ran and burst into tears. Sam lay in the gutter, undamaged apart from a patch of singed fur. The device had been hidden under the driver’s seat so the new guy didn’t exist any more.

Cheryl and Rebecca Glass died without knowing it.

* * *

His voice might have been coming from outer space – cracked and tinny and far away.

they’re dead, Luke

that bastard Anderson

It was the first contact I’d had from my brother in days. Lately, I felt less and less like I was his good right hand as he waged the war against his enemy without consulting me.

The name was almost the only detail I was able to process; everything else was noise in my head. Realising I’d never see them again was unbearable. I smashed the mobile off the floor and overturned a coffee table, roaring against what Anderson had done. When something closer to sanity returned, I grabbed my jacket and ran to my car, determined to put him in the ground where he belonged.

Albert Anderson was a creature of habit. Every morning he had breakfast at the Marlborough Cafe, a greasy spoon in Bishopsgate that reminded him of the London he’d known as a boy. In his time, he’d done all right. Better than all right. He didn’t need the rough and tumble any more, he’d made his money. Which begged the question: why fight Danny when he could’ve retired, quietly, no fuss no bother? Maybe Albert had been king of the castle for so long he couldn’t give it up.

Driving across the city, I set aside every thought except the thought of killing him.

He was sitting with two of his heavies under a blue and white awning, out of the sun, all eighteen stone of him, reading a copy of the Daily Mail and forking scrambled eggs into the ugly hole in his face – a white-haired pensioner with a favourite-uncle smile, kindly and obese. Except, he wasn’t kind. Anderson was ruthless, a thug who didn’t let murdering innocent civilians affect his appetite.

When my car mounted the kerb and squealed to a stop a yard from his table, he dropped his fork and ran.

The bodyguards jumped to their feet. Hard geezers. But with a madman charging towards them they responded like the amateur tough guys they were. I crashed a chair over the first one’s head and kicked his gorilla mate in the groin. Big and slow, he went down in instalments.

If you pay peanuts…

Running had never been Albert’s game. He lumbered, half staggered, across the street fifty yards ahead, dragging his fat arse. For a big man, his pace was deceptive; he was slower than he looked.

I smiled. I could afford to. I had him.

Until he disappeared from sight.

I raced to where he’d been, certain he must have ducked into a shop and was posing as a customer. No sign. Panic started in me. I’d been enjoying myself, savouring what I had intended to do instead of nailing the bastard. Out of the corner of my eye, a cage registered, rising against the side of a building under construction, a taller-than-tall mother no doubt destined to be the new home of some Far East banking corporation, the sort of eyesore that dominated the city skyline. Anderson was inside, staring at me through the mesh grill. Our eyes locked and we both understood how it would end. Going up against Danny had been a mistake. Climbing into the sky was another one.

Dumb, Albert! Dumb!

The tension in me melted. He was trapped.

* * *

I came around a corner into grey space, cool air, plaster walls and a black water tank sitting like a Buddha in the middle of the floor. Far below, London whispered. In the morning light the Thames was a silver ribbon carelessly cast on the ground, and south of the river firemen would have finished hosing water on the car’s charred shell.

they’re dead, Luke

Anderson was standing on the other side of the room, sweat glistening on his bulldog jowls, the corner of his mouth twitching. Behind him, through the opening where a window would go, a plane streaked towards Heathrow. Over his shoulder I read the logo on the tail, and brought my eyes back to the bastard, expecting him to produce a weapon, come at me, do something. It didn’t happen. He’d assumed his men would be enough.

Another mistake.

Albert was having a bad day.

Fear rolled off him in waves. He stepped away, protesting his innocence. ‘It wasn’t me. Nothing to do with it.’

He was remarkably well informed considering the bomb had gone off less than thirty minutes ago. I hadn’t told him, so how did he know?

I shook my head. For all his success he was thick.

‘Don’t believe you, Albert.’

He seemed disappointed, as if he’d expected me to take him at his word, then remembered I was Danny Glass’s brother and, of course, couldn’t be trusted to see it his way.

He’d got that right.

His fingers left sweat marks on the pale concrete. Underneath his coat he was trembling. I moved closer, close enough to smell him. A baby step backwards took his heel over the lip; the wind ruffled what was left of his hair while gravity tugged at his shoes. Workmen in another futuristic high-rise stopped what they were doing and pointed at us.

Anderson swayed; the layers of his bloated jaw quivered. ‘What would I have to gain?’

Forty-three stories up, on the edge of nowhere, it was a good question. I assumed it was rhetorical and let it pass.

‘It wasn’t me.’

‘Yeah, it was you all right.’

Somewhere behind me I heard the lift start the descent to the ground. Albert heard it too and knew his men were coming. Hope washed through him, his massive shoulders relaxed, the familiar cunning returned to his eyes, and he sighed, imagining he was about to be saved. Spoiling it for him was a pleasure.

‘Forget it. They won’t make it in time.’

He realised I was telling the truth, dragged a sleeve over his brow and played his last card. ‘Four hundred thousand. In cash. And a truce.’

I joined in his fantasy. ‘Shake hands and start again? Clean slate? Everybody on their own side of the fence?’

Desperate enthusiasm bubbled in his voice. ‘Why not? Why not, Luke?’

Yesterday Albert would’ve pissed on the idea, that was why not. And yesterday he hadn’t murdered Cheryl and Rebecca.

‘Should’ve spent that money hiring better people when you had the chance, but then you always were a cheapskate, Albert.’

A police siren wailed in the distance. When I came down, they’d be waiting. That didn’t matter. In the end, as Albert was about to discover, life came down to balance. And duty.

England expects and all that bollocks.

I placed my palm on his beating heart and took a last look at his puffy face. His life was about to end; he was in tears. He whimpered. ‘They’ll throw away the key. Please! Five! Five hundred!’

I wasn’t listening.

‘Goodbye, Albert.’

He fell into space, mouth open, starting on his back and rolling with the grace of a gymnast, slowly getting smaller and smaller. Following his progress was like watching a movie with the sound turned off. His ankles clipped the side of some scaffolding and flipped him in an arc. He landed on his smile on the bonnet of a green Mondeo parked across the street.

If plunging to your death was an Olympic event, he’d have been in the medals for sure.

Part One

1

Seven years later

This is what I know: they let you leave by the front door when they release you from Wandsworth. A nice touch. No goodbye or good luck, none of that. They expect to see you again, and a lot of the time, they’ll be right. But they wouldn’t be right with me. I wasn’t going back. Not ever.

No chance.

My trial and the verdict the jury returned that afternoon seemed like a dream. But it wasn’t. The Crown hadn’t been able to make a murder charge stick. Although witnesses testified to seeing me forty-three stories up standing close to Albert Anderson, none of them could swear I pushed him. I guessed my brother had something to do with that. But the history of Anderson’s family and mine was well known. In the end, the prosecution settled for manslaughter and asked the judge to sentence to the full extent of the law. Lord Justice Peyton Richardson obliged and nobody shed any tears.

I stepped through the gate into rain falling from an overcast sky and a world that hadn’t missed me. The air was as sweet as the clichés promised it would be and an overwhelming sense of relief washed through me: I’d survived. From here on in, what I did with my life was my decision.

Maybe it was because I wasn’t used to the space but the hairs on the back of my neck stood up, my fingers tingled and I had the feeling somebody was watching me. Weird. Between the warders and my fellow cons, I’d had eyes on me night and day for the last seven years. It hadn’t bothered me. After a while you got used to it. I put it down to first-day nerves and shook it off.

Across the road, a slim female in sunglasses leaned against the bonnet of a Lexus with blacked-out windows, waving like we hadn’t seen each other in decades instead of just a week: my sister, Nina. I wasn’t surprised to see her. I knew she would be. Nina was loyal – she’d visited me every week in Wandsworth, keeping me up to date with events beyond the walls. She’d been a difficult teenager – not having a mother or father hadn’t helped – who’d grown into a troubled young woman. As time passed, during our conversations across a table in a crowded room, surrounded by whispering inmates and their visitors, I’d watched her shuck off whatever weight she’d been carrying, step out from the shadow of her brothers, and morph into an assured lady in no doubt about who she was.

Seven years was a long time; a lot could change. Nobody understood that better than me.

I hugged her, she hugged me back, tugged the arm of my suit and made a noise in her throat. ‘Might want to rethink this.’

‘Give me a chance. Only worn it once – for the trial.’

She laughed. ‘No wonder they found you guilty.’

My first question wasn’t intended to set her off, but it did. ‘How’s Danny?’

She pushed the shades up into her dark hair, checked the rear mirror and looked at me across the car, the whites of her eyes milky and clear against her smooth skin. Being her brother didn’t stop me noticing she was a beautiful woman.

‘If you’re asking if he’s still an arsehole, then the answer’s yes.’

Her reaction made me smile. Nina and Danny had never got on. When she was in her teens, she’d driven him mad, defying him at every turn, sometimes just because she could. Not untypical behaviour at that age except, even then, there was an edge that didn’t have to be there. Danny’s reputation in South London as a hardman hadn’t impressed her. Anybody else who’d spoken to him the way she did, including me, would’ve landed in the nearest A & E.

‘You two still at it?’

‘You wouldn’t believe it. Didn’t think he could get any worse.’

‘And has he?’

Nina made a face and pulled out into the traffic. ‘The guy’s off his fucking rocker, honest he is. One of the reasons I’m glad you’re back. He’s losing it, Luke. Maybe you can calm him down.’

Except I wasn’t going to be back. Nina couldn’t count on me to referee the feud she and Danny had had going for as long as I could remember.

‘He’s your brother. He loves you and you love him.’

‘Wrong. Can’t stand him. Never could. Only now I know why.’

‘Why?’

‘When you’ve got another seven years of your life to waste, I’ll tell you.’

Reasoning with her wouldn’t get me anywhere but I gave it a shot.

‘You should try more than you do to like him. Don’t forget, he was there for us.’

Nina scoffed at the idea. ‘And he reminds me of it every time he wants me to do something I don’t want to do. Bringing up the past is how he keeps us just where he wants us. Whenever I disagree with him, he goes into his martyr routine and brings up how close we were to ending up in care. If it hadn’t been for him…’ She shook her head and overtook a red Vauxhall dawdling in the centre of the road. ‘He’s a control freak and you can’t see it.’

‘What’s he done now?’

‘It isn’t what he’s done, it’s who he is. He wanted me to manage the property portfolio. Insisted I work out of his office.’

‘Above the pub.’

Her mouth twisted in a smile that failed. ‘I couldn’t take it. He talks to himself, did you know that? Mumbles away under his breath. And the music on that fucking jukebox… it’s the twenty-first century, for Christ’s sake.’

‘Some of it’s all right.’

Nina agreed. ‘Some of it, yeah. In small doses. Not all day every day. Drive anybody round the bend, that would. Which reminds me. Be warned, he’s booked a band. I saw them bringing in their gear as I was leaving. The youngest had to be seventy-five. Can’t blame me for giving it a miss.’

‘You’re not going?’

‘I’ll be in later. If I’m lucky, after the band stops playing.’

Nina wasn’t joking and I didn’t blame her. Guessing the rest of the script wasn’t difficult: outside the pub a sign would say Private Function. Inside, they’d all be there, new guys most of them, press-ganged into raising a glass to their boss’s younger brother, somebody they’d heard a lot about but hadn’t met. Danny would bang on the bar, call for silence and propose a toast.

‘To Luke!’

Cheers for the returning hero. By now, the story of Albert Anderson’s swan dive was urban mythology and me with it. A couple of hookers – part of the tradition – would be laid on. No pun intended.

At some point he’d put an arm round my shoulder and guide me upstairs away from the noise into his vision of the future. He’d light a cigar and sit behind his desk under the framed photograph of the Queen. He was a staunch supporter of the royal family – God knows where that came from, or how it squared with a life of selling girls and drugs. The booze would make him sentimental; he’d tell me he loved me and trot out the spiel I’d been hearing since I was a kid, the Team Glass speech. Then I’d be a bad sport and spoil it with what I intended to say.

‘Will you tell him today?’

‘Maybe. I’ll see how it goes.’

She squeezed my fingers with her free hand and I said, ‘Drop me in Tooting Broadway. Say I’m sorry, I’ll catch up with him. And that the car worked, I’m impressed.’

‘Do your own dirty work. I’m meeting somebody.’

‘Somebody as in…?’

‘As in none of your business.’

‘He won’t be happy at the two of us ducking out.’

Nina turned her face away, the disdain in her voice undisguised, the same cheeky kid she’d always been. ‘He’ll live. It’s good for him not to get his own way all the time. Reminds him he isn’t the big shot he thinks he is. Besides I told you, I’ll probably drop in later.’

Five minutes back and already it was as if I’d never been gone.

‘You’re supposed to take me to the King Pot… if neither of us shows up…’

‘I would’ve taken you if you’d wanted to go. I’ll return the car but I’m not staying. No offence, brother, got better things to do.’

‘He won’t be pleased, Nina.’

She went into her pocket and handed me her business card.

‘Yeah,’ she said, ‘I think you’re right. Shame.’

* * *

In Wandsworth the guard had stabbed a finger where he’d wanted me to sign. I’d given a signature in exchange for stuff I’d barely recognised. Apart from the watch it might have belonged to somebody else. The Rolex had been an early birthday present from Danny for my twenty-first, eight years before I was sent down. On the back was an inscription: To L from D. Team Glass. Seeing it again was like unearthing a relic from an ancient civilisation, an ironic reminder of lost time taking me back to when he’d given it to me on a warm summer’s evening. We had been in Ye Grapes in Shepherd Market off Curzon Street in Mayfair, standing near the door drinking Spitfire, surrounded by great-looking women and men old enough to be their fathers. Danny had caught me checking out the ladies. ‘Prostitutes. The most expensive in London. Perks of having a wife who doesn’t understand you and more money than you know what to do with.’

Danny had pointed to a stunning blonde laughing at something a beefy, florid-faced guy who must have been in his late-fifties was whispering in her ear. His elbow had dug into my ribs. ‘Just two professional people enjoying each other’s company. The end of a hard day for one, the beginning of a hard night for the other. That where you’d like to be? Because that’s where we’re headed.’

He’d then pushed a square box into my hand, deep green with a logo in gold on the top.

‘Happy birthday, little brother.’

I’d shaken my head. ‘This is too much.’

‘You’re welcome and no, it bloody isn’t. There’s more where that came from.’

We had moved aside to let the blonde and the man with her pass; close up she’d been gorgeous.

Danny had said, ‘You can’t afford her. Not unless you sell the watch.’ He’d placed a comforting hand on my arm. ‘One day that won’t be true, trust me.’

And I had trusted him. Danny had always been ambitious. Not just for him, for all of us.

* * *

Roland Anderson rested his elbows on the desk, steepled his fingers and focussed on the voice coming from the speaker phone – he’d waited a long time to hear what he was about to be told.

‘I see him. I see our boy.’

‘How does he look?’

‘Fit. Really fit.’

Anderson tried to imagine it and failed. Rollie had been nineteen years old when Luke Glass had sent Albert to his death. He hadn’t seen him since the final day of the trial but the look on Glass’s face when the judge passed sentence had stayed with him; unblinking, standing straight, shoulders back. No sign of remorse. No flicker of regret. Only an expression that said seven years or seventeen years, it had been worth it. When they’d taken him down, he’d glanced at the gallery where his brother was seated, turned his back on the court and disappeared to the cells to start his time. Anderson had hated him then, and every day since he’d thought about what he was going to do to him. Except he hadn’t reckoned with how far Danny Glass was able to reach.

In theory, cons should have been lining up to nail Luke. Instead, thanks to his brother, he was untouchable. Nobody was prepared to take the job on if it meant crossing Danny. Now, finally, the man who’d murdered his father was free and the vengeance Rollie demanded was closer than it had ever been.

The voice echoed in the room. ‘He’s getting into a Lexus with his sister.’

‘Any sign of the other one?’

‘Can’t be sure, the windows are smoked. Could be in the back. You want me to follow him?’

‘No, go ahead to the pub. Tell me when they get there.’

Twenty-five minutes later the information arrived. ‘They’re here. Car’s pulling off the road. Going in the back. What should we do?’

‘Nothing.’

‘Everybody’s in position. Everybody’s ready.’

Anderson wasn’t in a hurry. He said, ‘No rush. It’s a surprise party. Let them get a few down their necks. Then we’ll give them a surprise they won’t forget.’

 

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