Carol is a small-time cocaine dealer in 1987 London. A single parent to a young daughter, she is a good mother who is especially careful in her work life, introducing herself to customers as “Simone.” One of these customers is Phil, a financial analyst in the City who, in the haze of a coke binge, fantasizes with longtime friend and fellow analyst Jack about a cocaine futures market. When the scheme becomes a reality, Carol has an opportunity to go for a big deal that could be her ticket out of the business altogether, but that could also bring her into direct conflict with Gordon Murray and his brothers, the men at the top of the wholesale business who are prepared to do whatever it takes to stay there. Adding to the drama are a stock market crash that creates havoc, and a once-in-a-lifetime hurricane that sweeps across London, jeopardizing the communications system of the stock market itself. Carol is about to find herself at the intersection where three very different worlds are about to collide in this gripping crime novel.
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About the Author
John Barker is a writer and book indexer. He is the author of Bending the Bars, a memoir of the time he spent in prison as a result of a conviction for conspiring to cause explosions. He served an additional five-year sentence in the early 1990s for conspiring to import cannabis.
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By John Barker
PM PressCopyright © 2014 John Barker
All rights reserved.
I wanted to say: Look pal I read the papers, I know the flavour of the month when I see it, and I've got a body to offer. What else do you want?
That's what I wanted to tell Graham Curtis. He's the DCS who came out smelling of roses when they had the stampede out of the Robbery squad and on to the Drugs. You know, just to speed the whole thing up because I had a lot on my mind plus the Italian at six, the Iranian at eight and a social function at which nine was the latest I could show my face. What I said was, Quite Graham, quite. You've got to be reasonable, Graham's got to talk in code. Him and his dad, maybe even his grandad, they've been at it a long time and he likes a bit of respect for the form or maybe he's just forgotten how to talk any other way. But this time the thing was it was so simple, and I was busy. That's what was giving me the hump.
I waited for him to say his next bit, to put it on the line, and stared at the pastel colours on my office wall. It's a bit of a joke this particular place of mine, a wine bar top end of Commercial Road, but my property advisor tells me it's a good bet for the long run. How long's the long run I ask myself. I mean Docklands Development, millionaire's enclave and all that, all very well but the Commercial Road? The Pakis have got most of it for one thing. But when all's said and done I like having my office here. It's modest and if there's one thing I don't like it's flash.
I sat there waiting for Graham to get down to business and carried on looking at the walls that are in ochre and light olive green. They're supposed to be calming. That's what my Design Advisor told me. Funny thing is while I was staring I remembered that even as a young jack-the-lad I'd known how to say, Is-there -anything-we-can-do-about-this-guv to a Curtis clone. There was as it happened. Cost me but it kept me clean and that's the way I still am. A bit of Borstal that's all, and who gives a monkey's about a youthful transgression these days. Some places it's a plus.
"You see Gordon, it's a social evil," Curtis said.
I nodded and told him how true that was. Chasing dragons on council estates, I said, they ought to put a stop to it. That and the spades, they're making themselves busy just lately.
"Which is exactly what we're trying to do Gordon, but to do that it's no good just hitting a few pathetic users. We've got to hit the suppliers and hit them hard."
I nodded again, said Quite and resigned myself to more bollox. What it is, is maybe Curtis half thinks I'm taping our little chats. Which I'm not. I've dabbled with the idea. Several times. But in the death there's something gives me the creeps. Like these mobile phones things.
I looked at those walls again. When that Design Consultant of mine said they create a relaxing ambience I wanted to say, A relaxing ambience you cunt. But I didn't. It might be true, and if so it can only benefit my brothers, Keith and Derek.
"We're looking for the public's help on this one Gordon, to combat this evil."
Now that is code for you. Now I was a member of the public, what I call an MPP, a mug of preposterous proportions. I asked him if he thought I could help while I livened up his drink and felt a sudden impulse to drag him down the gym for a workout all scotched up. He's as sharp as a rat, Graham is, but he's overweight and not very healthy which does no one any good. I mean who wants the cardiac arrest of a guy you're paying grands to; of a guy who can ridicule the suggestion that Gordon Murray has got anything to do with anything from behind a plastic cup of scotch; of a guy who can convince any junior zealot that Gordon Murray isn't worth a moment of anyone's attention, which is what counts when manpower shortage is the name of the game. I mean who wants it? Keith maybe. Wouldn't mind Curtis stiff and purple at the bottom of the wall bars because that Five stretch did embitter him. Think of your wife and kids I keep telling him. Two he's got, Keith, a boy and a girl. Plus I drop hints to Graham, I even thrust a BMA report under his nose one time but it didn't do any good. It's like the cunt actually likes having a belly.
"That's up to you of course Gordon," he said.
And I wondered. I have to say that at that moment in time I did wonder about Graham's long-term viability. It wasn't just the health question but knowing that Her Majesty's Customs and Excise Branch have recently received a large injection of capital and Graham doesn't cut much ice with them.
I looked at his shifty eyes across the table and decided that a long-term investment couldn't be dumped, not just like that. If there's one thing my nearly ex–Investment Advisor's emphasised it's to keep your nerve with an investment you really fancy. Besides which I could expect some short-term gains from Curtis at a time when Mickey White was giving me the hump like he was. Mouthy bastard. Robs this and fences that and with enough bevies inside him calls me a no-good cunt in the Ripened Hop.
So I started to tell him how it was, being a club owner. One of my first investments in fact. At one stage I had my doubts but the last two or three years it's come up trumps.
His eyes were greedy out of his pudgy cheeks.
"With a club up West one can't help but pick up a few bits and pieces," I said.
"It's exactly the bits and pieces that can help make the whole picture, like a jigsaw," he said filling his pipe. It may be good for the image but I wanted to say, You don't have to come that pipe shit here Graham, have a Dunhill. I checked myself, at the end of the day you've got to go by the rules. If there were no rules where the fuck would we be. It's something I've been telling Keith for years. As for Derek, I've got to tell him at least twice a week.
"Well Graham, it so happens that a barmaid in my employ reported something directly to me. This very morning in fact."
"Yes," Graham said lighting his pipe in a drawn out way that would have had Derek going potty. But he's still young Derek is and in certain aspects of our business he's a good operative.
"She happened to overhear this conversation at the bar and she's a girl can put two and two together."
"Yes?" Graham said trying to make his eyes twinkle and that's not easy when you put away the scotch he does. I looked at my watch. Ten to four, just one hour and ten minutes before I had to meet Mario, which is what he calls himself. Still he's all right Mario is and if I do have to pay a bit over the odds it's worth having him there in the middle. Who wants to do business direct with Colombians. Now they are headbangers. South Americans, and you remember what old Sir Alf said about them when we won the World Cup. Animals he called them. Yes, ten to four and I suddenly realized everything was on the hurry-up.
"Tony, at least three ounces a week," I said and gave him the address.
Was this Tony mug enough to go spewing out his address as well as his business over a bar counter? Was he fuck. But it wasn't a question Curtis was going to ask because he was going to get a result. Tony was a guy who plied the upper class trade. No problem there but he was a flash little bastard and that's something I can't stand. Just as important there are a lot of Tonys around and he'd do his bird quietly. Name names? No way. Derek would have spelled out the consequences of that kind of stupidity. Crippled nothing. Derek's very good at that kind of thing, he's got this way of coming on like a psychopath from Mars who happens to speak cockney. It goes down a treat that end of the business. Sure he's got Gary and Mo behind him but mostly they're surplus.
In as far as Curtis's face showed anything at all there was a bit of a grin. A grin pal, that's a fucking luxury on top of what I'm already giving you. That's what I wanted to say but I didn't. I had Mickey White on my mind as well as my Desk Diary that was choc-a. And there was Mario at six, the Iranian, and my function. Deprived kids? Now look at me, I've got to admit I was a bit of a tearaway when I was young and you know what saved me, a boxing club. That's what I'd tell the Princess or whoever I wound up chatting to. The fact was that Tony was replaceable and if Curtis didn't know that he was ten times the plum I took him for. But of course he plays the rules too and he gave me an eye -to-eye Good Citizen of the Month award while pocketing his monthly slice of my money and pulling on that pipe.
Which is when I livened up his scotch for the last time and started the final number of the routine which includes me asking after his yacht. I think he expects me to see him standing at the wheel, pipe in his mouth. Looking at him with his belly and his grey skin I don't think that boat of his ever leaves its mooring. In fact I bet the bar is the only thing in working order. But the rules had to be played down to the last minute so I sat there listening to him going on about tacking and mainbraces while I thought again about Mickey White. Mickey White is a loudmouthed cunt. He's an anachronism. If I'd ever thought it was worth the bother I'd say, Wise up Mickey, this is the 1980s. The truth is that Mickey White is an old-fashioned cop-hater, and mouthy with it.
"You see Gordon it gives you a sense of perspective, the sea does. Here we are, rushing about in this urban world, this ..."
"Concrete jungle," I said.
"Exactly Gordon, rushing about with everything so important but when you're out on the boat there's just the sea and the elements. You can't play around with them."
I thought for a moment he was coming on like some old gyppo woman telling me not to take a journey across water, and then of this feller based on the Isle of Man, a feller with some very interesting financial ideas. I dismissed it as paranoia and carried on saying yes in all the right places. Finally he managed to drag himself away from my scotch and make the great effort required to storm Tony's drum mob-handed.
When he'd gone I forced myself to sit still and not think of anything at all but Mickey White's face bobbed up again. The fact is he's started to be more than an irritant. I got it off Billy Mac the other day when I looked in on the Betting Shop I've got him fronting for me. Shocked he was. You haven't got anything to do with that smack stuff or that cocaine, he says to me. What, I said. Now like Keith says, Billy's as thick as fifteen rounds of ham sandwich but that don't stop him telling me what evil stuff it is and what he's heard. A rumour that has its origins with Mickey White and if he says it enough times some tearaway who's not under Curtis's control might start to take it seriously. And what's more Mickey's started to get mob-handed himself. He's been lording it in the Ripened Hop for years but now he fancies himself as the manor's elder statesman instead of the close to retirement fence he is.
My secretary Chloe came in and asked if there was anything else. I told her to get herself home and tried to concentrate on Mario's little tricks with the sterling-lira exchange rate but Mickey's ugly mug kept popping up. The fact is that Mickey White should not exist. He's an old-fashioned bastard with a big mouth and a lot of luck behind him. Give him half a shake or half a bitter and he'll start on about his working class roots and his working class principles. With another effort of will I got him out of my head and thought about Mario. The simple fact was I wanted a price reduction. He pays a dollar price and the dollar's getting cheaper. He'll say they've raised the dollar price to compensate but that wouldn't be good enough this time. Even from reading the fucking newspapers a member of the public would know that the American market is saturated and they've turned their sights on Europe. Which gives you two reasons they'll swallow a price fall.
It's not a business I'm going to stay in forever but I wanted a bigger slice of it.
Just then Derek rang. Got a problem. Had to have Keith there as well.CHAPTER 2
Phil Stone's office was marked Chief Dollar Analyst, engraved on the door. He was working on-screen, sifting the data on continued Japanese interest in U.S. Treasury bonds. He'd always believed there was an element of We're Here Because We're Here Because We're Here in the strength of the dollar but now in decline, it was the hard bones underneath mattered. Across the room Vicki was typing out the middle section of his monthly analysis which went out-house to institutional investors. He was respected. The firm was respected, strengthened by a pre–Big Bang merger with serious American money.
There was a knock at the door as it opened. Phil looked up, saw Tom Arthur Chief Currency Dealer and looked studiously back at the screen and a rundown of Nomura Securities buying habits.
"Is it serious Phil? Will it hold?"
Phil looked up.
Tom's face showed an unacceptable level of worry.
"What Tom? The dike? Western civilization?"
"Oh thanks. Bloody great. What did you get, an honours degree in being blasé?"
"Look Tom, I'm working. Right? Correction, I'm trying to work, and my job is the Fundamentals. OK, if Sir George comes in and changes my job description, that's another matter. I can resign or accept and if do accept, why then I'll be rushing down in the lift every half hour to give you the gen you've probably already got."
"Look I'm just asking Phil, all right? Just asking."
"OK you're asking, so let's see what's happened. The rest of the world, the world that counts, is saying OK, we did a good job with the Plaza deal. Got the dollar down with no dramatics, an agreement that worked with nothing formal on paper. Now it's time to hold its value for a while. Right?"
"But will it hold, that's what I'm asking."
"I'm doing my best, and take a seat for God's sake. With the Plaza deal all national interests coincided. Not quite like that this time. Strikes me the Europeans and the Japs want jam on it, stabilize the dollar but without them changing their domestic policies to help. Seen any serious moves from them to stoke up their economies? Nakasone promises this and that but has he got the clout? And as for Herr Poehl."
Tom's forehead creased.
"Boss of the Bundesbank, remember him, scarred for life by stories of his granny losing her schloss in the Great Inflation, thinks dropping interest rate on a par with dropping his pants at an IMF meeting."
Tom Arthur sighed. "OK Phil, down a point or two."
"Your interpretation Tom. If it's tomorrow you want, who knows, but seen any sign of a dent in the U.S. trade deficit?"
"So again you're saying, mark it down."
"Take it easy, it's not the whole story. The Japs are still in there holding their U.S. Treasury bonds for the simple reason that the return's still better than anything they'll get at home and with their holdings we're talking $150 billion. Chunky."
"You're sure? No sign of a move out?"
"Well when we've finished this little chat Tom, I'll be back at my screen checking and rechecking but generally speaking I'd say the one thing they're agreed on is not wanting the dollar in freefall. We can curse the average American for not saving enough, we can curse that bloody budget deficit but the fact is even the Yanks don't want a freefall. If it drifts too low all your Japanese dentists might just pull their funds out and then that's exactly what you will get."
"So you're saying a cushioned fall."
"Look what they've got out of the Louvre deal is a commitment from James Baker not to open his gob, no downward nudges thank you. As to Central Banks putting their money where their mouth is, what money they've got, I'd guess it's only the Japs will have a go and there'll be a drift down into late spring. Might change after that, the G7 jamboree in June, Venice this time, and they like to show the world it hasn't just been smalltalk."
Tom Arthur grinned, said when you were in the trees all day long it was good to see some shape to the woods, and how about a drink, his treat.
"Next week Tom, I'm on the wagon. Head down for now."
Tom hurried out the door.
Phil gave a shrug of his eyes.
"When's his ulcer due?" Vicky said.
"Haven't got the data yet. Do we run to in-house medical material?"
"Not mine, that's strictly between me and my GP."
"So you think," Phil said, picking up a phone and tapping out familiar numbers. "Jack, how's life in bullion ... Sure, Futures, but give me Options anytime ... Yes your lobby in an hour. My wheels. By the way, Comrade Brezhnev, last days of, did you get a peek at his medicals ... cardiograph print-out great stuff ... See you soon."
He put the phone down and turned to Vicki.
"There you are. My pal Jack Sharp over in Stammer Casey and Mangledorf, gold analyst, says he had a good look at Brezhnev's health when it mattered."
Excerpted from Futures by John Barker. Copyright © 2014 John Barker. Excerpted by permission of PM Press.
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