I am pleased to announce that I have now fixed a launch date of 7th October for my forthcoming crime thriller, “A Gangster’s Grip”.
To give you a taster, I have included the first chapter below:
Saturday 9th March 1991 – early afternoon
Rita couldn’t wait to get to her parents’ house, and had been discussing it with her husband, Yansis, during the taxi ride from the airport. It had been so long since she’d been back from Greece, and she had missed everyone, despite their shortcomings. She got out of the cab, and waited for the driver to take their cases out of the boot.
Once the cases were on the pavement, Yansis carried them to the front door while Rita settled the cab fare. She had no sooner taken her purse out of her handbag than she spotted something in her peripheral vision, causing her to look up.
Before she knew what was happening, a youth swung by on a bike. Maintaining his speed while riding one-handed, he snatched her purse and zoomed past.
She gave chase, yelling and screaming. Yansis joined her when he realised she had been robbed. But it was no use. They couldn’t keep up with a bike, especially Rita in her high heels, and the youth was soon out of sight.
“Fine bloody start that is!” she cursed. Walking back to the taxi driver, she continued her rant, “And a lot of help you were.”
“Don’t blame me, love. If you think I’m leaving my cab round here, you’ve got another think coming.”
“Oh, come off it! Just because my purse has been snatched, doesn’t mean your cab’s gonna be robbed.”
“Doesn’t it? You don’t know what it’s like! How long is it since you’ve been back, love?”
“A few years. Why?”
“I think you’ll find it’s changed, and not for the better either.”
Rita shrugged off his comments, anxious to get inside the house, while Yansis paid the cab fare.
Her mother, Joan, answered the door. “Hiya love, how are you? Where’s that lovely husband of yours?” she asked, hugging Rita.
“I’ve just been robbed, Mam. Some bugger’s just whipped my purse out of my hands while I was trying to pay for the taxi.”
“You’re joking! The bloody swines! What happened? Where are they?” her mother replied and, within seconds, her parents were both outside, searching up and down the street.
“You’re too late; he’ll be long gone. There was only one of them; some kid on a bike. He was off like lighting.”
“Well, what did he look like?” asked Joan. “We might be able to find out who he is.”
“I don’t know. I only saw the back of him. Young, a teenager, I think. He had a dark hoody on, navy or black, and jeans. That’s about all I saw. It all happened so fast.”
“Oh, I’m sorry Reet. That’s all you need when you’ve only just got here!”
“I know,” Rita replied, her voice shaking. “It’s gonna be loads of hassle … I’ll have to cancel all my cards … I’ll need to find out the bank’s phone number …”
“Can’t trust no-one these days,” interrupted her father, Ged, who was hovering behind her mother looking shifty. That wasn’t unusual for him, but he looked even more shifty than usual. Rita released her mother and gave him a tentative hug while her mother greeted Yansis.
When they had spent a few minutes in the hallway discussing the theft, Joan said to Rita and Yansis, “Come on you two, I’ll make you a cuppa; I bet you could do with one after that. Let’s get in and have a sit down.”
Although tiny at 5ft 1, Rita had a big presence. Her towering heels increased her height, and her liberal application of make-up enhanced her moderately attractive features. She had dark brown hair, which she wore in a fashionable textured bob, and was dressed casual but smart.
Leaving their cases in the hallway, they headed towards the living room. Rita was the first to step into the room and stopped short at the sight of a large, mean-looking black man sprawled across the sofa. Spliff in one hand, can of lager in the other, he was resting against some cushions with his legs stretched out across the coffee table. As Rita entered the room, he took a long hard drag on the spliff as though challenging her. Then he slowly exhaled the smoke, his face forming a sneer, as he examined her in minute detail.
Rita noted the scar that cut across his forehead, the primed muscles and the abundance of tattoos. She saw the letters H-A-T-E tattooed across the fingers of his right hand. ‘Why did these self-professed hard men always have to make a statement with this LOVE and HATE tattoo thing? It was so corny and pathetic,’ she thought.
When he lifted his can of lager, she glimpsed the tattoo spread across the fingers of his other hand, expecting to see the letters L-O-V-E. However, disconcertingly, that also bore the letters H-A-T-E.
There was a break in the tension as Rita’s father dashed to her side, “This is Leroy, Jenny’s boyfriend,” he gushed.
Rita already knew that her sister, Jenny, had a boyfriend, but she didn’t know much about him. Despite her automatic reservations, she tried to appear friendly as she said, “Hello, Leroy, pleased to meet you.”
Leroy briefly nodded his head in response then continued to take drags of his spliff while Rita’s mother, Joan, and Yansis entered the room. When Joan introduced Yansis, he received the same cool appraisal. During this time Leroy remained seated and didn’t attempt to converse with them.
Rita suspected that her parents were equally aware of the uncomfortable atmosphere created by Leroy. This was borne out by her mother’s waffling, “Rita and Yansis have got a restaurant in Greece but they’ve come back to stay for a while, haven’t you love? It’s alright though; Yansis has got a big family so there’s plenty of people to look after the place for them while they’re over here. You’re looking well our Rita. You’ve got a lovely tan and I love that leather jacket. Was the flight alright? You two must be shattered. Let me make you that cup of tea …”
“Where’s Jenny?” asked Rita.
“She’s just nipped to the loo. She’ll be down in a minute,” said Joan. “Oh, here she is now.”
Rita turned round and rushed towards her sister, but stopped when she noticed Jenny’s swollen stomach, “Jesus, when did that happen? You might have bloody well told me!”
“How about congratulations?” said Jenny.
“Sorry, it’s just … it’s a lot to take in. There’s been a lot of changes since I was home. Yeah, congratulations. I’m pleased for you; you look well.”
Rita gave Jenny’s arm a gentle squeeze, attempting to hide her mounting levels of unease, and surreptitiously flashing Yansis a concerned look. Apart from the pregnancy, Jenny had changed in other ways in the few years since Rita had last seen her.
Like Rita, she was tiny, although taller than Rita at 5ft 2, but there was now a maturity about her. She was an attractive girl and pregnancy suited her, bringing with it a radiant glow.
“I’m sorry, Reet,” said Joan. “We were going to tell you, but it didn’t sound right in a letter and I never seemed to find time on the phone. You know how it is phoning there. It costs a bloody fortune, and I’ve no sooner said hiya than the pips are going. Anyway, I knew you’d be coming home soon so I thought I’d tell you face to face.”
“Soon! She’s about five bloody months gone.”
“Twenty two weeks actually,” verified Jenny.
“What’s the big deal?” asked Leroy.
Rita turned to see a look of undisguised aggression cross Leroy’s face, and decided not to pursue the matter.
“Anyway, are we having that cuppa, Mam, or what?” she asked.
While Joan went to make the drinks, everybody else sat down on the three piece suite. Her father, Ged, took an armchair and Jenny settled herself next to Leroy. Rita felt uncomfortable sitting next to them, so she sat on the remaining armchair and invited Yansis to sit on the arm. They told Jenny about the theft of Rita’s purse, and she seemed concerned, but Leroy showed no emotion.
Apart from the discomfort of sharing her parents’ living room with the hostile Leroy, Rita was bothered about the sleeping arrangements. Her parents’ house was a three bedroom modern terraced on a council housing estate. It had two decent sized bedrooms and a further bedroom that was only big enough for a single bed. She had hoped that she and Yansis could share one of the large bedrooms, and that Jenny wouldn’t mind staying in the single room temporarily. In fact, as her parents had been aware of her imminent arrival, she hoped they had already arranged this. Rita therefore broached the subject when her mother returned carrying a tray of drinks.
“You have a seat here, Mam. Me and Yansis will take our cases up and, if you want, we can fetch a couple of chairs from the kitchen. Are we in the front bedroom?”
“The front bedroom’s already taken by me and Jenny,” growled Leroy, with an air of menace, which took Rita by surprise.
She turned to her mother, “Are we in the small bedroom then?”
Rita was trying to visualise how she and Yansis would manage with a single bed in a room that measured no more than 10 foot by 6 foot, but she figured it would have to do. After all, her sister was pregnant so it was only fair that she and Leroy had more space.
As she was mulling over the possibilities, Joan replied, “Ooh, that’s something I need to have a word with you about, Rita. There isn’t a bed in that room anymore. We didn’t see a need for one after you’d left. It’s been such a long time since you’ve been home so we use it for storage now. You’re welcome to the settee, though, and I can fix you up with a sleeping bag, if you like, so Yansis can kip down next to you.”
“You’re joking! We could be here for months. How can we manage for months on the settee and the floor? And where will we put our stuff?”
“You ought to be bloody grateful we’re putting you up. We’ve not seen hide nor hair of you for donkey’s years,” Ged chipped in.
Rita was about to retaliate; she and her father hadn’t always seen eye to eye, but Yansis changed the subject in order to defuse the situation.
“It’s no problem. We can find somewhere to stay, Rita. Manchester is a big city. There must be lots of hotels.”
“That’ll cost us a bloody fortune,” Rita replied before a thought occurred to her. “Oh don’t worry, we’ll find somewhere.”
A few minutes of uncomfortable silence followed before the phone rang in the dining room and Joan went to answer it.
“Leroy’s expecting an important business call,” boasted Ged.
“Oh, what is your business?” asked Yansis.
“A bit of everything, this and that,” came the guarded reply.
“Leroy, it’s for you,” announced Joan, on returning to the living room.
At last, Leroy prised himself from the sofa to take the call.
“So what exactly is ‘this and that’?” asked Rita, once Leroy had left the room.
“Leroy’s a business man, and a well-respected one too. He deals a lot in imports and, before you go sounding your mouth off, he’s been very good to us,” said Ged.
“I haven’t said anything,” Rita snapped back.
It was obvious she wouldn’t gain anything by continuing to probe, so Rita cleared the finished cups from the living room instead. Although it gave her an excuse to get away from her father’s goading, she was also curious about Leroy’s ‘important business call’.
The kitchen of her parents’ home was next to the dining room, and while she carried the cups through to the kitchen and placed them in the sink, Rita strained to hear Leroy’s conversation. He seemed angry about something, and his voice was becoming louder. She was glad she wasn’t the person on the other end of the phone. As Leroy became increasingly agitated, she stopped what she was doing, realising that it might be best if he didn’t realise she was there. She crept towards the dining room where she could overhear what he was saying more clearly.
“I want the fuckin’ goods. They should have been here yesterday. I’ve got customers waiting, and if I stop supplying, they’ll get them from someone else. I can’t afford to have them taking over my turf.”
There was then a brief pause while Leroy listened to the person on the other end of the line, before adding, “No, the usual, H.”
The call ended abruptly and Rita panicked. If Leroy saw her in the kitchen, he would surmise that she had overheard his conversation. Then she heard him make another call. He had calmed down a little by now so she couldn’t hear everything he was saying, just brief snippets … “It’s sorted … promised tomorrow … It’s sweet … should be a few days … be sorted then … somewhere to store them.”
Rita could sense that the call was ending, so she ran quietly from the kitchen to the living room, on the pretext of checking for more cups. She made sure she was still there when Leroy returned to the living room. Once she was satisfied that he had noted her presence in the living room, she made her way back to the kitchen to finish what she had been doing.
When Rita walked in the living room again, the atmosphere hadn’t improved much. While her mother was asking Yansis about life in Greece, her father was discussing some sort of business deal with Leroy. Rita couldn’t hear everything because of her mother’s chatter, but she got the impression that Leroy was providing goods for her father to sell somewhere. From the tone of the conversation, she could tell that her father held Leroy in high regard. Meanwhile, Jenny stayed silent, snuggled up to Leroy while passively observing.
There was something about the whole scene that didn’t feel right to Rita and, after a short while, she made her excuses and prepared to leave. While she and Yansis were in the hallway saying their goodbyes, her mother announced, “I hope you get fixed up love.”
“We’ll sort something out,” said Rita.
“Well let me know if you don’t. Our Jenny will be getting her council house next week, and Leroy will be moving in with her, so we should have some room then.”
“Now you tell me.”
“Ooh, sorry love. I forgot with all the excitement.”
“Good luck with it, Jenny. I hope it all goes well.”
“Thanks,” Jenny replied.
Rita hugged her mother and sister, said goodbye to her father and shouted goodbye through to the living room for the benefit of Leroy, who remained seated. Although she assured her mother that they would be back if they didn’t find somewhere to stay, she noticed the look that flashed across her father’s face. She knew that as long as Leroy was around, she and Yansis would be about as welcome as a dose of flu.
“A Gangster’s Grip” is the second book in The Riverhill Trilogy. The first book, “Slur” is available from Amazon in both Kindle and print formats. I will be publishing further details of how to obtain a copy of “A Gangster’s Grip” once it becomes available.