Chapter Twenty-Eight

Jimmy was nervous, not frightened, but he was nervous, because he knew Freddie was not going to accept his expulsion from the business with easy grace.

Freddie had been given a message to come and see him, and he was psyched up and ready for him. Freddie was a wild card. He had seen some of the stunts he had pulled over the years on people he had seen as doing him down, or, as was more often the case, because he had no further use for them.

He would take this personally because of the blood tie and also because he saw Jimmy as taking what he saw as his by rights. Jimmy was in effect banishing him from what had always been his world, and he was not wavering at all. In fact, he was going to relish telling him.

Jimmy had given him opportunity after opportunity to redeem himself and Freddie, being Freddie, had thrown them all back in his face. Now he was going to find out that he was on the lowest rung of the ladder that denoted their particular food chain, and he was the one calling the shots, not Freddie.

Jimmy had swallowed his knob over the years but that mad bastard he had reared was the final straw. He couldn’t tell Maggie what had happened, and he couldn’t ever let on to anyone else, but Freddie had known what was expected of him and he had not kept his end of the bargain, so he was out.

Not just out of the business but out of his world completely. He did not want to clap eyes on him ever again. If that meant he had to remove him from the face of the earth, then so be it. Jimmy only wished that he had made a point of taking him out sooner.

How Freddie coped with it was up to him, but anyone who employed him would not be able to deal with Jimmy or his workforce ever again, he would make that known everywhere.

Freddie was going to be a pariah and no one except the two of them would know why, and Freddie would understand that he was not going to let him walk away from his problems any more.

He should have done this when Freddie had done Lenny, but he had given him another pass. Well, he was all out of family loyalty now, so fuck him and fuck his poxy kid. Freddie Junior was his father’s son all right, another mad cunt had been unleashed on the world. Well, Freddie Jackson had better take the boy as far away from him and his family as he could, because if he ever saw him he would run him down without a second’s thought.

It was only Maggie that was stopping him from blowing Freddie and that mad little bastard wide open. Maggie had enough to contend with without knowing what had really happened to her boy, and he would protect her as long as he had breath in his body.

She must never, ever know.

Freddie was finished in their world, and that would be punishment enough for him because he lived and breathed his reputation. Well, let him try and muscle in on Jimmy after he had delivered the bad news, and Freddie Jackson would find out exactly what he was dealing with.

He couldn’t wait for that to happen. He was shaking with anticipation, and he was high with adrenaline. Freddie had the shock of his life coming to him, and Jimmy was getting impatient with the waiting game he had been forced to play because he had not wanted to hurt anyone’s feelings.

Family loyalty was a load of old cods. Who in their right mind wanted to be related to those two-faced lying ponces anyway? He had carried them for years, lent them money, sorted out their problems. He was like the Bank of Jimmy.

Well, not any more. Let them stew in their own juices and let them go to their so-called friends in the future.

They were takers, professional takers and they had taken the thing he held most dear to him, and for that alone, he would never forgive, or, more importantly, forget.

This was for his Jimmy, for his own peace of mind. Like Freddie Jackson before him he now held a grudge and that grudge would see him through the dark days ahead.

Jackie was looking at her eldest child but she was not seeing her. She was seeing what she had ignored over the years. Even when she was a young girl Freddie had coveted her sister. He had watched her, and he had wanted her, thought about her, desired her.

These thoughts were not registering on her face. As Kimberley looked at her mother she knew that she was in a state of shock.

Roxanna was also shocked, in fact she’d been almost at fainting point since Jackie had insisted that Maggie must have seduced her father. ‘You can’t believe what you are saying, Mum. Like Maggie would want him anywhere near her.’ The inference being that no woman in her right mind would want her husband, this girl’s own father.

Jackie’s head snapped towards this beautiful daughter who at this moment she could happily strangle. The truth was screaming inside her skull, but being the personality type she was, she could never admit out loud that Freddie wanted her sister, even though she knew it was the truth. Freddie wanted anyone who came near him and was in the least bit shaggable.

Jackie had laughed about it over the years, she had been forced to. It was how she had saved face. Especially when she had found out about him with her friends, with her neighbours, when she had seen young girls looking at her in the pub, and finding her lacking. She had endured knowing that they had intimate knowledge of her man, and that some of them had produced children for him.

She had accepted so much because she could not in any way envisage her life without him somewhere in the background, no matter what he did or how he treated her. And in his own way he had stood by her. She was the only woman he had ever stood by, even though it was in a callous and often degrading way.

Jackie was going to be Freddie Jackson’s wife until the day she died. It afforded her the only kudos she had ever experienced, and it also guaranteed her a level of protection that enabled her to drink and drug with impunity.

Since the turnout with Terry Baker, her confidence, which had never been in abundance, was at rock bottom. Another humiliation was more than she would be able to endure. Freddie was everything to her, he made her a valid person. From the first moment she had been with him, she had felt like she was somebody, and she was, she was Freddie Jackson’s bird, his woman, eventually his wife.

The money was only a small part of it all. She loved him with every fibre of her being, and if Maggie thought she was going to change that she would find out how wrong she could be.

He had lived his life hunting out strange and she had accepted everything, but she could not in all conscience accept this.

She knew this ought to be kept quiet, she actually wanted it kept quiet because the thought of anyone knowing made her feel almost suicidal. But she also knew she could not keep this to herself. A few drinks and it would be blurted out in temper, or worse, she would throw it at Freddie and he would turn it back at her, making a terrible situation even worse.

She needed to strike first, make this common knowledge, cause trouble for Maggie. Jackie knew better than anyone how to play the wronged wife – she had had enough practice over the years after all.

Maggie, dead child or no dead child, had betrayed her. Rape be buggered, the truth would be out there in seconds. Her mind was made up.

Freddie had decided to make a short detour on his way to Jimmy’s office. He pulled up to the pub, and after standing for a few moments, as if surveying his realm, he decided that Jimmy Jackson could come to him, so he sauntered inside and ordered a large Scotch.

Paul and Liselle were pleased to see him, at least as pleased as anyone who knew him could be. Paul refilled his drink as soon as it was empty and the two men smiled at each other. He could feel the usual animosity off Freddie, but today there was a new feeling, an undercurrent of menace that was not usually so evident.

‘You heard anything from Ozzy?’

Paul shrugged as he always did when asked that question. ‘A few lines, that’s all. He doesn’t confide in me, Freddie, you know that.’

This was said in a flat monotone voice, a voice that brooked no more questions and told the enquirer he was keeping his own counsel but also that he knew far more than he was letting on.

He knew it irritated Freddie, even though he never expected a different answer. Today, though, there was an added annoyance that caused Paul to keep close to the shotgun he always kept underneath the bar. It was a weapon that was there mainly for the threat factor, but he would use it if necessary.

‘And you ain’t got no new fucking messages for me from Jimmy, then? After all, Paul, you are normally far more aware of what’s going on than I am, ain’t you? Jimmy, the cunt, tells you much more than he tells me.’

This was said so as to cause the maximum aggro, but Paul smiled carefully before saying quietly, ‘No one’s told me anything about you, or given me any messages, but if I hear anything you’ll be the first to know, OK?’

He was watching Freddie while making sure his hand hovered over the shotgun.

Freddie had been gearing himself up for a while now, and Paul guessed, rightly, that it was all about his discontent. Freddie was being mugged off big time, everyone had noticed that, but that was not Paul’s problem, that was Freddie Jackson’s. Freddie was like a fucking big wet balloon, and he was due to burst soon.

Even the little boy’s death had not softened the edges. In fact, since then Freddie seemed to be even worse, if that was possible.

Poor Jimmy had taken it badly, but that was to be expected. He had lost a child, an only child, a loved and wanted child, but it was Freddie whom the knowledge had seemed to age. As Paul watched him drinking now, so early in the day and so heavily, even though he knew he would insist on driving, he wondered what the added aggravation was this time.

As far as Paul knew, he was still pissing about on the take, and Freddie, being Freddie, that was all he would ever be doing. He never kept anything up for any length of time and he had ideas that were good and which he talked about for days but never came to fruition.

He had seen Freddie looking for a fight before and he was suddenly glad that he was not the recipient of Freddie’s obvious anger and resentment. But that could change, he knew. Freddie Jackson could turn on a coin, and that meant no one was ever really safe from him until he had left the building.

Glenford and Jimmy had lunched at the Ship and Shovel on sandwiches and a few beers, the mainstay of men in their line of work.

They were both aware of the unspoken agreement between them, Glenford was going nowhere, he was sticking it out for the duration. Jimmy was more than aware of what he was taking on but Glenford knew he had a far more intelligent outlook on the situation. Unlike Jimmy he wasn’t that close to the enemy.

Jimmy, for all his hardness, was liable to relent and give Freddie, as usual, the benefit of the doubt. Freddie, however, was never going to let this affront go without a serious fight, and Freddie fought well, it was all he had ever been good at. Glenford was frightened that this friend of his was making the mistake all great men eventually made – they underestimated their enemy, or, even worse, they assumed their enemy possessed qualities that they themselves had. Were far more decent people than they actually were.

Jimmy Jackson had always played the white man, while Freddie had always talked one way and acted another. It was the very nature of the beast he was. Freddie Jackson did not have a decent bone in his large and overly strong body. Of that much, at least, Glenford was sure. He also knew that Jimmy Jackson was not intending to go back on his decision. His worry, if he was honest, was that Jimmy might relent at the last moment and leave himself wide open to attack.

‘Mum, for fuck’s sake…’ Kimberley had just realised what she had actually caused and the knowledge was frightening her now.

Jackie was getting dressed and any thought of sleep was long gone. This was now a woman on a mission, a dangerous mission that entailed murdering her sister in cold blood if necessary.

‘Stop it, Mum, and listen to me. I heard them at Jimmy Junior’s funeral, Dad was baiting her even then, he was being hateful to her even though she had just buried her child-‘

‘Oh my heart’s bleeding for her, the cunt, and don’t you mean their child?’

‘Mum, Maggie would never hurt you, not intentionally. Why do you think she kept it quiet all these years?’

‘If you were shagging my old man wouldn’t you keep it quiet? Jimmy might not be too thrilled when he hears either, love, has that occurred to you yet? All my life she has wanted what I have, she had been jealous of me since day one! I had what she wanted!’

Kim laughed now. ‘You can’t seriously mean me father, can you? Maggie wanting him, are you off your fucking trolley, Mother? And even if she had, Maggie wouldn’t do that to you, she loves you even though you treat her like shit.’

Jackie sighed and then said in a friendly yet sinister way, ‘She is dead, Kimmy, get that through your thick fucking head. She fucked my old man, she had a baby with my old man – your words not mine, Kim – and if you think I am listening to all that old fanny about rape you can get stuffed. I will take her fucking head off her shoulders, and yours with it if you interfere any more.’

Kimberley was absolutely terrified now. ‘Stop this, Mum, and think about it. Why would she be telling him to leave her alone, eh? Why would she have fucked him off out of it?’

Jackie sighed heavily. Her daughter was just what she needed to start off her campaign of hate. No one was accusing her husband of rape. He was a fucking babe, and Maggie had wanted him because he was hers and she was jealous. In Jackie’s mind everyone she fell out with, or had a grudge against, was jealous of her. In her mind she was really something else. Her home was a cause of jealousy, her husband, their lifestyle. It never occurred to Jackie that it was her own vindictive jealousy that caused most of her problems.

To her now, Freddie had been duped, had been led up the garden path by a femme fatale who had been a virgin till Jimmy and who she knew would not have given Freddie Jackson house room if the four-minute warning had just sounded. And they had produced a child – well, for once Maggie could hurt like she had hurt as she watched her little sister make a success of her life, watched her go on to bigger and better things!

Jackie was the eldest, it should have been her who had the salons and the big houses, not Maggie, not little Maggie who she had always used as and when it had suited her and who had suddenly, overnight, become the rich bitch of the family.

How dare she think that she could get one over on her?

Freddie had joked that Jimmy was a Jaffa, and maybe he was right. No other kids had arrived and she knew it wasn’t for want of trying. Maggie was desperate for another one, had been since the birth of little Jimmy Junior. She went on about it enough.

Jackie had, it seemed, cried over her husband’s bastard, and she would not let that go lightly. Baby be damned, little Jimmy had been her husband’s child. He had taken more notice of that boy than he had of any of his own, and she would not forgive that bastard Maggie for that. It was the ultimate betrayal as far as she was concerned. No wonder she had not wanted the poor little flicker, guilt did that to a body, and even her own mother had called her unnatural over her treatment of him.

‘Please, Mum, think about what you are doing. He raped Maggie, raped her. Jimmy will kill him, Jimmy will believe her… Like I do, and other people will.’

The truth of these words didn’t escape Jackie but she fronted it out as always. ‘Oh, Kimmy, what’s the matter, eh? You want me to score a few pills for you, calm you down, like? Or maybe you want me to take back my fucking fist and wipe that pathetic look off your face once and for all? She is a fucking husband-stealing whore and she is me own sister, me own fucking sister. Well, she’s dead, as are you dead if you get in me way.’

She grinned as she dragged her clothes on to her cumbersome body. ‘Come on, sweetheart, it’s your call.’

Roxanna was watching the scene before her and she still had a feeling of terrible doom on her. It was like the first few days before her period, when everything had a weird aftertaste, when she could make ‘Good morning’ sound like a declaration of war.

She knew that if what Kimberley said was true then Maggie had been raped by her father. There was no other way that it could have happened. Maggie would sooner bed down with the local tramp than Freddie Jackson, and she couldn’t blame her. If the boot was on the other foot she would have felt exactly the same. But how was this going to affect her? Her and her Dicky boy? What would happen when all this shit hit the big fan that had now metamorphosised into her mother’s big trap?

She didn’t want Dicky’s mother and the rest of his family finding out about anything like this, it was too extreme even for the Jacksons. It was now her reputation she was worried about, but any reasoning with Jackie about this little lot was likely to be about as much use as a handbrake on a fucking canoe.

Kim had opened up a can of worms, and these were evil worms, vindictive worms and they were worms that were in her mother’s mouth and would therefore be spewed out sooner than any of them might actually believe.

Jackie was still dressing herself, and as she did so Kimberley was trying to convince her that Maggie, poor Maggie, had been the victim. Rox knew that this was the worst thing her sister could do. If her father took an axe and murdered all the neighbours in front of a film crew from Channel Four, her mother would convince herself that it was not true, or that they had done something so heinous his murdering of them was justified.

Roxanna could cheerfully wring Kim’s neck.

She would have to warn poor Maggie and as she wondered about Maggie’s reaction to this news getting out, it hit her that Jimmy, her lovely uncle Jimmy, was as big a force as her father was. In fact, she was aware that he was now a bigger, better-connected force. Dicky was enamoured of her uncle Jimmy to the point of adoration.

This was so serious, she knew it would smash the family apart, and she wished that Kimberley had kept her big nose out of it. Like her mother, Rox liked everything on an even keel and if that meant keeping things swept under the carpet, pretending things were OK, then that was what she was prepared to do.

She wanted to cry. Everything was going to be destroyed, and she knew that life would never be the same again for any of them. But it was her loyalties that were really disturbing her, because if she was pushed to choose, her mother and father wouldn’t stand a chance.

Paul had answered the phone three times and each time it had been Glenford asking if Freddie was still there, and what condition he was in.

He had said each time. ‘Yes and not good.’

He knew something was going down and he was terrified of it happening in front of him and his wife. Liselle had been dispatched off to their flat with a warning that no matter what she heard, she was to keep a low profile.

Freddie was on a roll now, and his handsome face belied the evil that lurked so near to the surface. A girl had arrived an hour earlier, when Freddie had finally been about to depart. The girl was in her twenties with long hair, a crooked smile and a skirt that defied gravity. She was also, to add insult to injury, Liselle’s niece, and she had taken one look at Freddie and love had been born.

What was it with women and Freddie Jackson? The worse he treated them the more they seemed to want him. She was all perfume and mint chewing gum, her clothes were New Look mixed with Dot Perkins and the stomach she was baring was not as washboard as she liked to believe.

She was Freddie’s cup of char all right, up for it, been about long enough to know the score, but still young enough not to have the hard bitter look that Jackie and her cronies had acquired. Jimmy was gone from his mind now. Freddie was on the pull and in an extravagant and exhilarating way, much to the delight of Melanie Connors.

Melanie was funny, she had the chat, the look and the experienced way of young girls who had been at it from too young an age and still hadn’t sussed out that sex was not a bargaining tool for most women.

Her witty ripostes were hilarious, and Freddie was enjoying the arrogance of her youth and her complete confidence in her good looks. But that could all change in seconds if she said something that he considered was disrespectful or downright challenging.

On Melanie’s part, Freddie Jackson might be old enough to be her father, but she wasn’t worried about that. He was, to her, gorgeous, with his dark hair and blue eyes. He also, she was pleased to note, had a wedge that could hold her mother’s front door open in a hurricane, and she knew instinctively that he was hung like a horse. All in all, she was pleased with the way the day had turned out.

Paul, however, was absolutely gutted. He knew that Freddie was on the edge and poor little Melanie had not experienced Freddie with the hump just yet. As she was a relative of his wife’s he would have to step in at some point and that was not something he was looking forward to.

At the moment, though, Freddie was like a sniffer dog in a crack house, happy as a sandboy and enjoying the afternoon’s events. He hunted strange like other men hunted deer. He was quiet, he was watching her every move and when the time was right he was going to shoot this fucker down. If she was good at her trade she might get a second airing, if not she would be forgotten in the time it takes to find a new one with bigger tits and the pure attraction of unknown territory.

It was the chase he loved, the conquering of the girls. Once that was achieved they were history.

Dianna was in bits as both her sisters shouted simultaneously and with equal anger and annoyance, ‘Oh shut up, Di!’

Maggie stared at the three girls she loved with all her being and then she turned to her sister and said quietly, ‘Don’t be so silly, Jackie. Kimberley heard wrong, that was all.’

Kimberley grabbed the branch she was being offered and hoped that it would stop her drowning in her own guilt. ‘That’s right, I was not sure what I was going on about, Mum. We were arguing, and I wanted to hurt you, that’s all.’

‘You fucking lying whore, you fucking junkie slag! You know what happened, I ain’t fucking stupid!’

Maggie was under no illusions about how this knowledge was going to be received by the main antagonists, but she was past caring. Nothing could ever hurt her again and she wasn’t sure she was even capable of keeping the peace with her sister. If push came to shove she was willing to annihilate her. If that’s what it took to shut this slob up, then that was fine by her.

But she forced her voice to sound calm and civil once more. ‘Come on, Jackie, have a drink, a coffee or a vodka, you choose.’

Jackie knew she was being offered a face-saver, a chance to stop this madness before it got out of hand, but Maggie’s utter calmness was her undoing.

Even though she knew without a shadow of a doubt that this girl, and Maggie still looked like a girl, had been raped she could not for the life of her let that fact seep outside her closest circle.

‘You are offering me vodka? Sure you don’t want one now your fucking secret’s out?’

Maggie looked into her sister’s bloated face, remembering when she had been everything to her, had been the mainstay of her life. And she had been, there had been a time when Jackie had been the whole of her world, when she had always included her little sister in everything.

Maggie was more man aware that loneliness had been the real reason then, but it had also been because Maggie had taken on the kids for her.

She had practically brought the girls up, and she had to admit she had enjoyed every second of it, unlike this sorry item in front of her who only saw her kids as a wage each week, people to chain their father to the floor and make him cough up in more ways than one.

Maggie had played with them, bathed them, tidied up for Jackie and listened to her as she had run down everyone within a five-mile range – family especially, mates, and anyone she was jealous of. Since that encompassed everyone in the world she could get very irate. Jackie slaughtered everybody, and she did it in such a way that it was ages before you realised exactly what she was doing.

By the time she had been fourteen Maggie had stopped wanting to be like her, and instead become adamant that her life would be the complete opposite of Jackie’s. She would pay her own bills, look after herself if needs be, but she was determined not to become a part of the man she was with like Jackie had.

Jackie’s biggest fear was being left without a man, her man, but it was the man she loved so much, who had reduced her to the fat, scruffy wreck she was now. She was living proof that love was not the wonderful emotion young girls thought it was going to be. The man she loved had raped her little sister and yet she still had the power to delude herself, because everything was always about Jackie, never about anyone else.

‘Was little Jimmy Freddie’s son? I need to know.’

Jackie sounded so self-righteous and so fucking banal all at the same time, it was better than a play as far as Maggie was concerned. This woman had always been an innate coward, and this was being proved to her once again. Jackie only kicked off when she knew that the fight she had caused would be stopped.

Maggie laughed, but it sounded forced and it also made her sound like a woman who had had enough, enough of life, enough of the world and enough of the woman in front of her.

‘If you really thought that there was anything remotely true in what you are saying, me and you would be rolling around the floor fighting now, Jack, and you know it.’

‘Too fucking right.’

‘But we ain’t, are we, Jackie?’

The sarcasm was evident and Jackie Jackson had to acknowledge that her little sister was a force in her own right.

‘There’s still plenty of time for that, lady.’ She pointed a grubby finger at her sister as she said loudly and in a voice full of her own self-pity, ‘You always had your eye on my fucking Freddie, you always got what you wanted out of life. I was never good enough for Mum and Dad, it was always you! Now, the one thing I have and you fucking think you can take it!’

‘What are you on about, Mum? Maggie is the best thing that ever happened to you, or us!’ Dianna realised immediately she should have kept this gem of wisdom to herself, and Kimberley pushed Roxanne out of her way as she went to her mother and said angrily, ‘I was winding you up, Mum, please listen to me.’

Jackie wanted to take the exit and leave the madness of her world, but she couldn’t. This would eat at her now and she knew she had to sort it out today once and for all, no matter what the cost.

‘Either go home and sober up, Jackie, or talk to me properly, OK?’

There was a steely quality to her sister’s voice that Jackie had never heard before. In fact, she would go as far as to say that it was distinctly disrespectful.

‘I will break your fucking neck, you cunt!’

Maggie sighed once more. ‘Is that really the best you can do, Jack? Call me names, call me a cunt, the one word that I hate more than any other? I just realised, Sis, it sums you up lovely, doesn’t it? I lost my child and you think you can come round here shouting the odds, because you think I wanted the piece of shit you married. You had better sort yourself out, mate. Listen to yourself now and again, you selfish, drunken fat bitch!’

Maggie waved her hand at Jackie like she was nothing and turned to the girls, who were huddled together in various stages of shock.

‘Take her home, for fuck’s sake. Get her out of my sight!’

The animosity was almost tangible between the two women now.

‘I’ll fucking kill you, Maggie Jackson. You’ll fucking regret taking the piss out of me, lady.’

Maggie turned back towards her sister. She spoke quietly, and with menace, enunciating every word slowly and clearly, her own well-manicured finger poking her sister in the face.

‘You lay one hand on me, Jack, and I will wrap you around this house. I am capable of it and all, mate. You don’t scare me any more, you haven’t scared me since I was at school. You are a big, fat, bloated, mouthy, fucking no neck, and that is your problem. You know that better than anyone else does and that knowledge kills you.’

Maggie was shaking her head in disappointed anger. ‘I buried my baby and you would still bring this shit to my door? If there’s any killing to be done this day, it will be done by me, get it? And you remember that if you bring this little soiree into my Jimmy’s world, Freddie and you will both be finished, and I will see to that personally. You are not welcome here, Jackie. I have carried you for years and I don’t fucking need this crap in my life any more. Now fuck off home before I really lose my rag.’