"A must read! Wonderful characters . . . F*** off plot. And you can quote me on that." —Martina Cole, author, Close
Gangsters Wivesby Lee Martin
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Sadie, Nicky, Poppy and Kate. Four women who are on the surface sexy, confident and wealthy -- but each of them is trapped in a loveless and sometimes violent marriage to four of the most feared London gangsters. For years they have lived a life of idle luxury -- shopping, lunching, and occasionally playing away -- but all the time loyally staying behind the scenes while their men rule the East End criminal underworld with violence and terror. But times change and events conspire and they decide to fight back and take their men on at their own game. Because when it comes to getting the money, the female is definitely more deadly than the male...
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By Lee Martin
Oldcastle BooksCopyright © 2007 Lee Martin
All rights reserved.
Sadie Ross was at it that morning. Lately it seemed she was always at it. Young men mostly. With good bodies and stamina. The pool boy, a waiter from the bistro where she lunched with her girlfriends, her hairdresser (who surprisingly wasn't gay), her personal trainer from one of the gyms she frequented to keep her fit body even fitter, and that day, Tony, the boy who did odd jobs around the house. She wasn't that fussy really. As long as they didn't talk too much and wore a condom, and of course gave her satisfaction, almost anyone would do. If it crossed her mind it could get depressing. So she rarely allowed it to. Bollocks to it. But toy boys, who would've thought it? Not that Sadie was old. Thirty-five was nothing these days she knew. Thirty-five, and pretty damn good for her age. Tall and blonde. Natural, with just a little help from the bottle. Blonde down below too. Matching collar and cuffs, her husband Eddie called it. Brazilian of course. Figure still firm, and face unlined. Besides, in the twenty-first century anything was possible if you had the cash. And she and Eddie did. Nips, tucks, boob jobs, liposuction. She'd still look good into her fifties and beyond. Only sometimes she saw Eddie looking at her, and she wondered what he was thinking. Mates of his had dumped their first wives and moved down a generation, or even two, for another go with young birds who were nowhere near close to thinking about plastic surgery. But that thought depressed her too, so she left it alone as well.
So that morning, the only odd job Tony was doing was servicing the lady of the house.
Christ, if Eddie knew, she thought, as Tony threw her down on top of her marital bed. There'd be murders done. Literally. Eddie Ross wasn't a man to be trifled with. The polite term for how he earned his living was businessman/entrepreneur. In fact he was a gangster. A thief. An armed robber when necessary, and a torturer if that was what was needed. He was the brains behind a loose conglomerate of men who worked together when a job came up. Eddie planned the work, and they did as they were told. In fact if Eddie had put as much effort into some kind of legitimate business, he'd probably have been a captain of industry. But Eddie hated anything legit. Anything straight. 'No fun,' he'd say. 'No fucking fun at all.' So Eddie kept his eyes and ears open for a spot of anything that brought in fast, clean cash, and everyone was happy. But in that kind of business, things could change fast.
* * *
Eddie Ross had been at it too that morning. A nice little tickle which had yielded about forty grand in cash as his share. A hit on a diamond wholesaler on the south coast swiftly turned into real money at a fence in Guildford. Used notes, mainly tens and twenties, with a few fifties thrown in, which he didn't like. People were too suspicious of fifties these days. Didn't like taking them. Too many snides about. But money was money. So he reckoned he'd give them to his coke dealer for a pile of charlie and let him get the grief of getting rid of them. Eddie grinned to himself as he gunned the engine of his dark blue Audi A8 off the motorway. He was proud of his motor, which he'd got brand new. It looked like a doctor's car but went like shit off a shovel, and he dropped a gear and put his foot down as he headed for home. Everything had gone so sweet that he was early. Give Sadie a surprise was his plan. A quick fuck, then a long lunch at their favourite Thai restaurant in Greenwich. It would be a nice change to have a shag with his missus, instead of some mystery he'd pulled on a night out with the lads. A real nice change. Not that he didn't know that she played away. Course he did. He wouldn't have been Eddie Ross otherwise. Silly cow thought she'd got one over him. More than one. Lots more. But Eddie really didn't care. The bloom was well and truly off the rose with Sadie. Not that she didn't keep herself tidy, because she did. Always on a diet. Always exercising. And when they went out together, which Eddie had to admit wasn't as often as it used to be, she took great care with her appearance, and had lots of other blokes frothing at the mouth. But Eddie was just a bit tired of her. And there were always ways and means to get a bit of revenge. But that could wait until the time was right.
Eddie grinned again and looked in the rear view mirror at his reflection. Not bad for a man in his early forties, he thought. He was big, and well in shape thanks to his personal trainer at the gym. He knew the young bloke was shafting Sadie, and he would've been tied to his Nautilus machine with so many weights loaded on it his arms would rip out of their sockets if Eddie had cared more. His time would come too. Eddie knew some very nasty boys, who'd be happy to do him a favour for old time's sake. Best served cold, his dad had always said. Revenge. Best served cold. As the car shot past an articulated lorry Eddie stroked his bald, bullet head and grinned some more. There was just one cloud over Eddie's parade. Later that month he was up at the Bailey on robbery and conspiracy charges. A bit of bad luck after a mail van robbery on the old Great West Road had led to Eddie being given a pull and charged. Fucking bent coppers, thought Eddie as his smile vanished. Can't trust the bastards, that's the trouble. And straight ones were even worse. You never knew where you were with them. His number one inside man in the Met had gone and been done for conspiracy to pervert, had offered Eddie up as a sweetener to lessen the charge, and it was unfortunate timing that Eddie hadn't got rid of the incriminating evidence at the lockup in Custom House that he used as a bolt-hole. He'd always thought no one knew about the place, but the slag of a copper must've been a better detective than Eddie thought he was, and one morning at six there'd been warrants served at the house and the garage, and Eddie had been caught bang to rights. Of course there were ways and means there too, which was why Eddie had been at work the previous couple of days. Money talks, he thought as he left the motorway, and the money from the diamond robbery had a lot of talking to do if he was going to walk free from court.
Eddie slowed as he drove through the A and B roads that led to the house just outside Laindon in Essex. It was an ugly bastard of a place. A mishmash of Art Deco and fake Tudor, but Eddie didn't care. As long as it had a snooker room, an inside swimming pool and a home cinema it was all right with him. And it had all of those and more. After all, he didn't have to look at it when he was inside. He steered the car into the private road where the house sat and pushed the control on the dash to open the double gates, and he was home and dry. Job done.
Sadie was just reaching the point of orgasm when she heard the rumble of her husband's motor hitting the drive. You couldn't mistake the unique sound of the V8 engine as it pulled through the gates.
'Shit,' she shouted as Tony hit the short strokes. 'It's Eddie.'
Tony flinched and tried to withdraw out of her, but she sank her acrylic nails into his shoulders and pulled him in deeper.
'Keep going,' she said through gritted teeth. 'I want to come, you little fucker.'
But Tony had lost it and she felt him shrink, pull out and roll over, the Durex slipping off his cock.
He was pasty white with fright as he struggled into his T-shirt and jeans and headed for the door. He knew Eddie and his reputation, and he wasn't about to stick around and get his legs broken. It had been crazy to get involved with Sadie in the first place, but she was something else in bed. And generous with it. 'Not that way stupid,' said Sadie. 'Use the sodding window.'
The bedroom was on the first floor with a balcony outside the French doors leading to a narrow balcony overlooking the back garden, and Tony did as he was told. Better a broken leg from a fall than two from Eddie. 'What about these?' said Sadie as she tossed him his underwear. Calvin Kleins. Real ones. Twenty quid a pair from a boutique in Lakeside, not cheap knockoffs from a stall in Romford market. Tony grabbed them, hopped over the balcony and landed on a flower bed just as Eddie opened the front door.
He headed straight upstairs to find his wife straightening the bedspread, dressed in a silk kimono. 'What are you doing here?' she said. 'I wasn't expecting you 'til tonight.'
'All done and dealt with darlin',' he replied. 'And look at what I've got.'
He upended the sports bag he was carrying and loose notes fell onto the bed like leaves in a storm. 'Christ,' said Sadie. 'A result.'
'Forty K, give or take. Not bad for a night or two's work.'
'You can say that again. Shopping?' Next to fucking her boys, and lunching with her mates, shopping was Sadie's favourite pastime.
'That can wait,' he said as he stuck his hand under her wrap and slid his fingers inside her. 'You're all wet,' he said. 'What have you been up to?'
Sadie almost pissed herself with fear. If Eddie knew what she had been doing ... 'It's you doll,' she replied. 'And all that dough. It's enough to make a nun wet.'
'And you ain't no nun,' said Eddie. 'How about a quickie, then lunch? You can shop tomorrow.'
Sadie forced a smile. Quickies with Eddie were the reason that she used her boys. 'Lovely darlin',' she said. 'Can't think of anything nicer.'
So, on a bed of money Sadie was shagged for the second time that day, and it wasn't even lunchtime yet. But she knew it wouldn't last long. Eddie's fucks never did. And for that she was grateful.CHAPTER 2
Connie Smith, Eddie's partner in the robbery on the diamond merchant, got home at roughly the same time as Eddie. But it was a different kind of homecoming, and a very different location. Not for him a mansion in Essex, but a little end-of-terrace house on the Isle of Dogs where he'd lived with his parents all his life, and had inherited when they'd both died within months of each other ten years before. True, he'd added a conservatory at the back and a brand new kitchen, but Connie had always been careful with his money, and didn't like to be too flash. He'd seen an awful lot of his mates go potty with a few quid, down the casinos and at Walthamstow Dogs in their Bentleys and Jags after a good result, and end up behind bars when someone took exception and grassed them up. Connie drove a Ford Mondeo and liked it. He also knew he didn't have to work for a bit with the forty grand he had in a sports bag, identical to Eddie's. Good graft. He worried about Eddie too. He was a flash monkey, and up in front of a jury at the end of the month for a job that Connie had helped out with. Connie and Joseph and Robbo. They'd been working together since they were kids in the Seventies. Little stuff at first, but as the Eighties came and went they'd moved up into the big time. Armed robbery was their game of preference, and they were bloody good at it. But they were up for any bit of business worth a few bob. They lived charmed lives with the help of backhanders here, there and everywhere. Substantial backhanders, and if they didn't work, a little ultra violence usually did the trick. And Connie was always up for that. True, there'd been a few pulls now and then, with maybe a month or two on remand. But never a guilty verdict. Eddie had got nicked a few months before because of a copper on the payroll who decided to turn Queens to save his own arse. But not a word had been spoken. Eddie had remained staunch. Followed the code. No grassing. Anyway, Eddie had a terrific brief, even if he did cost an arm and a leg, so he wasn't inside long.
Everyone knew Connie was the maddest fucker of them all when it came to putting the frighteners on. Which was exactly why, when the tickle down on the coast had come up, Eddie had rowed Connie in. Joe and Robbo had moaned a bit, but it was strictly a two man operation and both Eddie and Connie had agreed to drop the other two a few bob to keep them sweet.
Connie parked his motor in the resident's zone, took the sports bag, and went to see his wife Niki.
Now, Connie had never had much luck with women. Not until Niki came along. He didn't have the patter that the others did. Didn't have the chat, or the looks. His thinning red hair (that he'd started to lose when in his early twenties) didn't help either. He'd always hated being called a ginger. Hated the nicknames it earned him, which was one reason he'd turned into such a vicious bastard. But then he'd hated going bald worse. No bird ever looked at him twice after that started happening. So one day he'd gone on the net and started surfing. That was when he found a site where young Russian women advertised themselves as looking for husbands in the West. Connie couldn't believe his luck when he found Niki's photo and sparse details. She'd been born twenty years previously in a village outside Moscow. Orphaned at eleven, she'd lived with her grandmother and grandfather until their death and now she wanted out. She was beautiful, olive skinned with green eyes and long, thick black hair. Surely no woman who looked like that could be interested in him, but she was.
Connie plucked up courage to reply to the advertisement, and after a brief courtship by e-mail he'd sent her a ticket and she came over on holiday. He'd heard of women using false photographs to interest men, and as he stood waiting at the arrivals barrier at Heathrow he wondered if she could be as perfect as she appeared to be on the screen of his PC, but she was. More so in the flesh. Within a month they were married, despite the piss-taking from the rest of the gang. And now she was Mrs Niki Smith. Left alone regularly as she was, she spent the time practising her English skills. In Russia, her family had been the proud owners of a satellite box and dish, which was where Niki had learnt most of her English idiom. Now she loved EastEnders, although it seemed to have little to do with the East End that she lived in. But she gobbled up the slang and used it as much as possible, much to the amusement of Connie and his crowd. But she didn't care.
Niki was waiting in the living room when Connie let himself in. He noted that the place was spotlessly clean, just like he expected it. Niki was an extremely good housekeeper, and that was where Connie liked her to be. In the house. Although she could drive he didn't allow her a licence, or the use of his car. She had no bank account or credit card. He doled out cash when she needed it. Sparingly. He took her shopping and bought her what she needed or wanted. Louis Vuitton handbags, Chanel make-up, anything. She was his exotic bird in a gilded cage. She rarely left the house alone, just occasionally to have lunch with Sadie and the wives of the other members of the gang. Gangsters' wives. Women he could trust. Or so he thought.
He was also insanely jealous of any other man looking at her. A couple of times when they'd been out together he'd seen a young bloke giving her the once over, so he'd taken them outside and delivered a good kicking. In fact, sometimes he thought that was the best part of the marriage.
So Niki knew her place, but Connie never noticed the looks she gave him when his back was turned. Her father and his forefathers before him had been Cossacks. Men who were even more frightening in their capacity for violence than Connie and his gang. She was her father's daughter. Niki wanted what the West could provide. She'd married Connie to get it all, and all she had was a well-decorated prison in East London. When she lay next to him in their bed at night, she often cried herself to sleep. But they were tears of rage, not sorrow. As he mounted her for his twice weekly orgasm, which gave her no pleasure, she knew that one day she would have to kill him to escape. How she envied Sadie, and Joseph and Robbo's wives, their perfect lives nothing like hers. Except nothing in this world is perfect, as they'd all discovered one way or another.CHAPTER 3
Kate Ellis for instance. Beautiful Kate. She of the long red hair and porcelain skin. Married to Robbo Ellis and daughter of Johnny Wade, one of East London's most feared villains of the latter half of the twentieth century. The good old days when anything went, on the dirty streets of Plaistow, Beckton and Canning Town, where Johnny made his fortune from protection and drugs, prostitution and money laundering, and where more than one chancer, trying to muscle in on Johnny's territory, found himself trussed up in the boot of a stolen motor and sent to a watery grave in the old docks.
Johnny was an old man now, but still had the kind of respect in the area that only fear can bring. Robbo had worshipped him, but Kate hated him. He had ruled his extended family with the same kind of violence as he ruled his manor. Four sons who'd accepted anything the old man doled out. Then Kate came along. A late child when her mother and father were already middle-aged. He tried the same medicine with her. Kate had lost count of the times he'd taken his belt to her when she was a teenager, only interested in clothes and house music. So when handsome Robbo Ellis had come along, all flowers, chocolates, flash motors, expensive restaurants and clubbing up West, how could she resist? The answer was she hadn't. She gave up her closely guarded virginity in the bedroom of his flat in Limehouse one Saturday night and he was everything she'd dreamed of, passionate yet tender. Robbo proposed on a floating Chinese restaurant on Millwall Harbour next to Docklands Arena a few months later, where they'd seen Oasis play from the VIP area, and Liam Gallagher had smiled at Kate over chow mein after the concert, as the band dined at the next table. There were roses and an engagement ring worth fifty-grand, with a diamond as big as an egg. So how could she refuse? Once again she couldn't, and the waiter brought champagne as the entire staff and clientele cheered at the news of her acceptance.
Excerpted from Gangsters Wives by Lee Martin. Copyright © 2007 Lee Martin. Excerpted by permission of Oldcastle Books.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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