OLD FRIENDS AND NEW ENEMIES
Those who know don’t speak. Those who speak don’t know.
Jimmy Rafferty was in his twenties when he heard that scrap of ancient wisdom. It appealed to him. He quoted it often without understanding. Or perhaps he did. The mafia had Omerta, in the east end of Glasgow, Rafferty had the Tao. It was enough. The boy from Bridgeton climbed the mountain and for over forty years his empire was held in place by the unsaid. No one discussed him or his business.
All his life Rafferty had been strong, physically and mentally, depending only on himself. Few were brave enough to go up against him. Those who had regretted it. The stroke and the stick that came with it represented what he despised most. Weakness. He had lost weight, a lot of weight; clothes hung on him like hand-me-downs, and his eyes were watery hollows that could no longer intimidate. Illness had aged him. Before, he’d stood ramrod straight, now he stooped and when he walked he shuffled. More and more he found himself thinking of the past. And it wasn’t just his body that had suffered; something at the very centre of his being was missing: the iron will of old was gone. His concentration wandered. At times he wasn’t really there.
That left a question: who would take over?
The trouble the family faced cried out for a leader but his sons didn’t have the stuff. Kevin was thick and Sean was a non-event. In a year what he had achieved would be gone. Between them they would lose it all.
It should’ve been easy. Steal from the thief and bury him where he’d never be found. Jimmy had let Kevin handle it. A mistake.
Rage built in the old man like an approaching train; a murmur on the air, a quiver in the rail, until the monster roared and thundered, unstoppable. His hands trembled, the stick danced. He screamed. ‘You moron! Fucked us right up, haven’t you, boy?’
At the end of a lawn shaded by trees and set back from the road the house held its secrets. Nobody would hear. Kevin fingered the scar running from his ear to his chin and braced himself against the expected tirade. It didn’t come. Instead the tone was gentle; it terrified his eldest son.
‘‘Come on. C’mon, Kevin. Convince me. Tell me it wasn’t your fault.’
Sean watched his brother’s humiliation. Kevin was still scared of his father – maybe understandable in the past – not now. For all his noise Jimmy was spent and knew it. He’d been decisive. A force of nature. Once. With his hold slipping, anger replaced action. The old man’s power was gone; he was impotent.
Jimmy said, ‘How does a guy end up dead before he gives us what we want? I mean, how can that be? We needed him breathin’ in and out. Didn’t even capture his mobile. A bastard monkey could figure it. But not you.’
Kevin’s excuse was worse than feeble. ‘He laughed at me.’
‘So you knifed him. That would take the smile off his face. Taken the smile off mine. Pity you didn’t remember why we lifted him in the first place.’
Kevin blurted out his defence. ‘That guy was a nutter. I pumped him full of shit. It didn’t matter, he was never going to tell. He just kept laughing. I lost it.’
Rafferty’s face was inches from his son’s. Kevin could smell his breath, sour with cigarettes. ‘You never had it to lose,’ his father said. ‘Your brother got the brains.’
Sean knew he wasn’t talking about him.
‘We’re out because a junkie you were working on laughed at you. He thought you were a clown and so do I. Our friend in the sun is expecting results.’
‘He was waiting to make contact. We know he was waiting.’
‘Hear that Sean? Your brother said something that wasn’t stupid. That’s what we have to do. Wait. Sounds like the kind of thing you’d be good at, Kevin. Maybe I should put you in charge. Head of Fucking Waiting.’
The son had endured taunts and jibes and worse from his father all his life. This time it was deserved so he took it but, then, he always did. Getting people to talk was Kevin’s speciality and he enjoyed his job; it shouldn’t have been a problem. Except the thief wasn’t right in the head. He didn’t care. Even with his injuries the bastard was mocking him. With the last “fuck you!” Kevin snapped. The knife felt heavy against his palm. He heard the thud and sensed the blade twist into the heart.
Jimmy Rafferty turned to his sons. The effort had drained him; his chest rose and fell. ‘We’ve still got a chance. Sean, keep an eye on your idiot brother. Make sure he doesn’t screw up.’ He sighed and leaned on the stick. ‘I wish Paul was here. He was young but he was a doer. And he was smart.’
Sean flinched. Paul. Always Paul. Should he tell the deluded old bastard the apple of his eye was a reckless fool who died an unnecessary death proving it? Wouldn’t the great Jimmy be surprised to discover that sainted Paul had mocked him behind his back? Talked about replacing him. Not yet, this wasn’t the moment.
Those who know don’t speak
OLD FRIENDS AND NEW ENEMIES