Today, I am taking part in the blog tour for Vendetta, the latest book from Manchester-based author, Heather Burnside. Like her previous books Slur, A Gangster’s Grip and Danger by Association, Vendetta is a Manchester-set crime thriller. I am pleased to be able to share an extract from the book with you.
When Adele’s brother, Peter, gets banged up for GBH she reluctantly agrees to run his nightclub, The Golden Bell. Strong opposition from Peter’s thuggish number two, Glynn, who isn’t best pleased about answering to a woman, isn’t the only challenge she faces.
The Manchester club scene of the 1990s is a dangerous place, at the mercy of illicit protection rackets and rampaging gangs, and, despite Adele’s efforts to keep everything legal, the club is beginning to feel like a poisoned chalice.
Meanwhile, Glynn is playing his own ruthless game, and when a savage gang attack has devastating consequences Adele is ready to walk away. But Peter has always stood by her and she owes him big time. Besides, where else would an ex-con find work? And someone has to protect her brother’s empire from his enemies. Right now, Adele knows she is the only one that Peter can trust, but the stakes may soon get too high…
Adele had now been managing the Golden Bell for several weeks. She was enjoying the challenge but it was difficult trying to keep up with the office work while also keeping an eye on things inside the club. It was late when she arrived at work on that Monday after another busy weekend. She walked up the back stairs carrying her cup of freshly brewed coffee, which she’d collected from a nearby sandwich shop.
On the way to her office she passed her brother’s old office and spotted Glynn through the door that was slightly ajar. Not for the first time she felt a pang of irritation at the way he had made himself so at home in Peter’s office. She wondered just what he found to do in there or was it perhaps just his way of making a statement?
‘Morning!’ he shouted sarcastically as she tried to creep past unnoticed.
Adele grunted in response then continued on her way. Yet again she could feel annoyance burgeoning inside her and regretted her decision to retain her old office. Initially she had planned to move into Peter’s office but had then changed her mind when she’d realised the logistics of shifting all her files and computer. But the main reason she had decided to keep her old office was because the safe was kept there, and she wanted it where she could see it.
Adele hadn’t been at her desk long when she received a call from Glynn to say that a lady had arrived to see her.
‘OK, send her to my office,’ she instructed.
‘What’s it about?’ he asked as though he had a right to know.
‘You’ll find out soon enough,’ said Adele, quickly replacing the telephone receiver.
Expecting a knock on her office door, Adele was surprised when two minutes later Glynn barged in instead. ‘Hang on there a minute,’ he said to someone outside the door. Then, looking across at Adele, he said, ‘It’s Margaret Jackson to see you.’
The statement sounded more like a question but Adele wasn’t prepared to let him know just who Margaret Jackson was. At least, not yet anyway.
‘OK, send her in, please,’ she said frostily.
Glynn spun around but was stopped by Adele just as he was walking back out of the door. ‘Oh, and, Glynn?’ she said. He turned back till he was facing her again, a look of annoyance on his face. ‘Can you make sure Peter’s office is clear and tidy, please? I’m going to need it shortly.’
‘What d’you mean?’ he asked, his tone aggressive and his eyebrows knitted together in anger. ‘I’m working in there.’
‘What exactly are you doing?’ she asked.
He sidled up to her desk, leaning across till his face was inches from hers, then said in a low growl, ‘None of your fuckin’ business.’
Adele felt the first stirrings of fear as her heart rate speeded up. ‘It is my business,’ she said, trying to disguise the slight quiver in her voice. ‘Peter’s left me in charge so I decide who works where. You shouldn’t need an office anyway. I mean, security isn’t exactly an office-based job, is it?’
She didn’t hide the cynicism she displayed whenever discussing security with Glynn. They both knew it was a glorified title used to describe what really went on. It was a protection racket. Glynn and his gang would offer to protect pubs and clubs from trouble, at a price. If the owners and landlords didn’t buy into their services, Glynn and his gang would make things very difficult for them until they paid up.
Adele had a good idea of what their work entailed, and she wanted nothing to do with it. She’d agreed to run Peter’s legal businesses but wasn’t prepared to get involved in the shadier side of things, which Peter had left in Glynn’s hands.
‘I’ve got things I need to sort out and I need a fuckin’ office to do it in,’ he snarled.
‘And what sort of things are they?’ she asked, knowing he wouldn’t want to discuss any of his activities with her.
‘None of your fuckin’ business,’ he repeated, then he stomped out of the office, leaving Margaret Jackson outside in the corridor.
‘Come in!’ shouted Adele, realising that the poor woman would be bemused by Glynn’s lack of manners.
Margaret Jackson strode into the office. Aged in her late forties, she stood tall and smart in a grey tweed fitted jacket and black knee-length skirt. Her hair was drawn back from her handsome face in neat layers. It was a face that spoke of experience and a no-nonsense approach, and Adele noticed a wry smile cross her lips and an amused twinkle light up her eyes as she approached the desk.
‘Don’t worry about him,’ said Adele. ‘Please, take a seat. What can I get you to drink?’
‘Nothing for me, thanks,’ said Margaret, who appeared unfazed despite Glynn’s stroppiness.
Adele smiled across the desk at her, sure in her own mind that Margaret was the perfect choice for the job of bookkeeper and personal assistant. As she took in Margaret’s cool demeanour she knew that this woman wouldn’t let Glynn push her around. And she was the perfect age too. Adele had had enough of Glynn flirting with the bar staff downstairs; she could do without him playing up to the office staff too.
‘So, Margaret,’ Adele began. ‘I explained to you in the interview that you would be responsible for all the accounts for the nightclub, the sunbed shops and the bookmakers. I’ll be in as much as I can to help you but with the nightclub to run it won’t always be early, I’m afraid.’
‘That’s all right,’ Margaret assured her. ‘If there’s anything I’m not sure about I can always put it to one side till you’re available.’
As Adele ran through the basic requirements with Margaret, she warmed to her more and more. Margaret had a confident, efficient air about her and Adele felt sure that she would be leaving things in capable hands. It was a relief because she was struggling to keep up with everything since she had taken on responsibility for all Peter’s businesses, and it would be good to have a second pair of hands.
When she had finished explaining everything to Margaret, Adele said, ‘Oh, there’s just one more thing. Glynn runs a security business for my brother. You won’t really find yourself getting involved in that side of things but the security staff will sometimes come to put the takings in the safe until we can take them to the bank the following day.’
Margaret nodded her understanding although Adele wasn’t sure that Margaret knew what was meant by ‘security’. ‘I want you to have a spare set of keys to my office and the safe,’ Adele continued. ‘If I’m not around would you please make sure you count the cash and lock it up in the safe? Also, ask which of the businesses it relates to, whether it’s one of the sunbed shops, the bookmakers or security. We bank the money for the security business but other than that you won’t have to get involved.’
‘Yes, certainly,’ said Margaret.
‘Right, well, I guess that’s about it, then,’ said Adele. ‘The only thing that’s left is for me to show you your new office.’ Then she got up from her seat, walked past Margaret and said, ‘Follow me.’
To Adele’s consternation when she reached Peter’s office Glynn was still sitting at the desk. He quickly slipped some papers inside a file as she knocked sharply on the door then stepped inside.
‘Glynn, I think it’s time for me to introduce my new bookkeeper and personal assistant, Margaret Jackson,’ she said.
Margaret strode confidently across the room and grasped Glynn’s hand then shook it profusely. ‘Pleased to meet you,’ she said, with a hint of sarcasm.
With thanks to Vicky Joss for organising the blog tour.
Google Play: http://bit.ly/2OW79PR