Read the 1st four chapters of Without Rules and meet China, Chip and Jak.
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China ran and she ran and she ran. A lung-busting pace quelled the anxiety inside her. She pushed herself. Punished her body and distracted her mind before her guests arrived at Candy’s World. They were already waiting. Two wet and cold men huddled outside her front door. China had been running since Karl and Jenny Grant took Rose to Room 203 at the Paradise Hills resort.
“I am coming,” she shouted.
She removed the chain. Undid the door’s deadlocks. Dried herself with a towel. Her two unwanted guests bypassed her as if she was invisible. Normally goat boys barely disguised their urge to download on her software. She noticed the stench of excrement overpowered large pans of chilli and bolognese simmering on her Aga. Switchblade Eddie in badly stained jeans was the culprit. He grabbed a bottle of Lynchburg, Tennessee’s finest sour mash. Filled a lead crystal tumbler and swigged from the bottle.
“You want a slug, catch,” said Eddie.
He chucked the Jack Daniels towards the stranger, who made no attempt to catch. When it smashed, the stranger looked at her. She noticed ice-cold clear blue eyes. China was big on eyes. The windows to the soul, if you looked deep and hard enough.
“Drink is the first and last refuge of the gutless. I’ll take that as an offer of a friendly drink rather than an unwise act of aggression,” said the stranger. “Think you need to go home.”
“Wanker,” said Eddie. He hurled the tumbler at the floor-to-ceiling window overlooking the resort golf course. The tumbler shattered. The window stayed intact.
China stepped back. She didn’t want to get hurt in the crossfire. She had seen Switchblade Eddie kick the unconscious further into unconsciousness too many times.
“When you’ve finished your tantrum close the door behind you,” said the stranger.
He switched on a twenty-four-hour news channel.
All three watched the scrolling newsflash: city centre shooting, unconfirmed police reports say four people dead.
“Four,” the stranger said to himself. “Four, the fourth?”
“Jak, we need to call Chip,” said Eddie, his voice timid after his outburst.
“You still here?” asked Jak.
“Got to keep him in the picture.”
“Can’t he watch TV like the rest of us?”
China glanced at the huge two-way mirrors that dominated the massive open-plan ground floor. Unseen CCTV cameras recorded every movement, every word.
A mobile rang.
“China, I believe our friends have finally arrived. Entertain them until darkness falls,” said Chip.
“Shall I fuck them?”
Jak noticed her when the ‘fuck’ word was aired. He turned from the TV screen. Gave her the once over. Like she was a second-hand motor on its last legs. He wasn’t the first to view her as white trash and would not be the last. She eyed him up too. Although she did not want a fuck buddy. China lusted after a white stallion man to ride to her and Rose’s rescue. A hero not intimidated by Chip and his cronies.
“No need to be so crude, I was thinking of a cup of tea, a slice of cake, maybe brunch,” said Chip. “Ask Eddie and Jak if their Christian DeVeres mission was successful?”
“Yes, your man is toast.”
“A total fuck-up. Jimmy’s bloody dead. Saw it with my own eyes. Jesus, Chip. A fucking nightmare,” said Switchblade Eddie as he opened a second bottle of Jack D.
“The man lost his head.”
She heard a snort from Chip. He didn’t give a toss about Jimmy Doyle’s death. Or Christian DeVeres, who had hung around her kitchen when he cooked the books, cleaned dirty money and Rose played, danced and skipped.
What unpredictable madness had taken place? Chip had lost the plot. He ranted at her. “No more cock-ups. Stay put until collection. No calls. No contact with any one. Understand, China? You’re responsible for them two. Tell them and get their approval.”
She did as she was told. They nodded, imperceptibly.
“I’ve got to go, China. Fucking them might be a good idea. Stop them killing each other. Better still, let them fight. Save us a lot of bother,” said Chip, before he cut the call.
“You two better behave or I’ll give you both a spanking.”
They ignored her. The two of them less than a dozen paces apart. Eddie produced a blade. Eight inches of Sheffield cold steel. Clasped in his right hand.
Jak looked nonplussed. “You as good at maths as your brother was at riding a motorcycle? What happened to the shooter?” He took off his jacket and black t-shirt, pulled off black boots, unbuttoned 501 black jeans. Stood there almost naked in CK boxers. “These need washing and drying. Did you count? How many bullets left? How fast are you, Eddie? Faster than a Black Talon bullet?”
Eddie backed off towards the door, away from Jak.
“Chip said stay.”
“Open the door,” said Jak. He watched Switchblade Eddie pull on the JD. “Put the knife down, unless your mum wants a two-for-one funeral deal.”
A single loud sob from Eddie broke the tension. Bizarrely, China felt sorry for him. She didn’t know if sorrow and hatred were complementary emotions. She was an emotional cripple herself. Only Rose kept her sane.
“You’re not having my blade, you cunt,” cried Eddie. Jak’s intensity had reduced him to tears.
She opened the door. He glided out into the cold and the wet. She slammed the door shut. China looked over at Jak to see what would happen next. She searched for the words to make the right impression. He took the decision away from her. Pointed to his dirty laundry. Pulled out a pistol from his jacket.
“One bullet left. We only had five. He made the right choice. Put my clothes in the wash. Now, about this fuck?”
The young girl had more potential than all the other children combined: a skinny strawberry blonde with freckles, a natural elastic swing and a cool temperament to match.
“How old is she?” Chip asked Rob Dean, his senior golf pro at the Chip Mackie Paradise Hills Golf Academy. He moved towards the child before Rob answered, played to his audience of young golfers, parents, a prominent broadsheet journalist, her photographer and an expensive PR consultant he was part-funding.
“What’s your name?”
“Amy,” she replied.
“How old are you?”
Just the right age, thought Chip. Catch them when they were young. Soon Rose would be ready for serious lessons.
“Take your stance.”
He knelt down in front of Amy. Felt the warm glow emanate from proud parents. The six-time tour champion and Open runner-up Chip Mackie had singled out their daughter for special attention. They were chuffed their Amy was going to be photographed by the national press. He checked out Amy’s grip. Positioned her hands around the shaft until he was happy with the way she held it. “Really important to get the grip right. Firm, not too firm. Do the first part of your swing for me.”
Amy did as requested and Chip demonstrated the movement needed. First he rotated her hips, then her shoulders with his hands. His fingers outlined to her parents the various muscle groups needed to power the swing.
“These generate the extra yards that will win Amy championships.”
In his peripheral vision his business partner supervised a motorcade of half a dozen expensive luxury cars. The Khans, Tommy and Bobby, had arrived to attend an Asian wedding and to collect some very special powdery golf balls.
“Perfect. The final tip is to stick your butt out just so. That way your body shape can really get in position to give those balls a right thwack,” Chip said. He adjusted his clothing and handed the session back to Rob. He needed to talk to Hugh ‘Bing’ Bingham, his ‘toff’ business partner.
“Were we successful with our situation?” asked Bing.
“Depends what you call a ‘success’. Your chirpy bean-counter won’t be coming back to work anytime soon,” said Chip.
“I’ve not heard anything,” said Bing.
“You will do soon enough. Soon be headline news for the next forty-eight hours. Jimmy took a tumble. I’ve got Jimmy and the shooter holed up nearby. Your man Turner still OK to extricate as per our plan or do we need an alternative?”
“Like?” asked Bing.
Elimination was Chip’s preferred option. Dead men didn’t grass. The accountant was tried, sentenced and executed within twenty-four hours by a judge and jury of one, Chip. A plan conceived in the time it took to play a couple of golf holes. Not that he would share his opinion with Bing. Despite a gene pool that dated back to the Middle Ages, Bing was weak, like all the toffs who believed they were still feudal lords who ruled over the peasants. Chip had their cards marked, all of them.
Chip called Ged. He barely heard him above the Stone Roses, who wanted to be adored. He pictured the twins side by side in the van as they sang and pretended they were still in their twenties.
“Two hours max,” shouted Ged. “Everything OK?”
“Sure,” said Chip. “Everything is always OK. You bothered listening to the news?”
“You what, is the Pope Catholic?” asked Ged. “Laters, Bud …”
Much as he loved Ged, he was a hothead and did not need to be wound up more than usual. He would be annoyed they had used an outsider to wipe out Chris DeVeres. Ged always said things should stay in-house. Chip spotted Tommy and Bobby Khan as they headed towards the hotel reception. The heavyweight businessmen did not only have access to cash to buy wholesale cocaine-shaped golf balls, but they had also hired him the gun and sold him five explosive Black Talon bullets. They were here to collect the coke balls hidden amongst legitimate product. Their cash purchase would give Chip a larger bite of Paradise and keep greedy creditors at bay while they waited for sales to pick up.
His migraine eased when he watched Amy’s cute swing. He so wanted to introduce Rose to golf today, although he knew he had to be patient, which wasn’t his forte. He dug into his pocket. Brought out his mobile. Went to the live CCTV stream broadcast from cameras placed behind mirrors. China and Turner’s monkey banged away like rabbits.
Once, China had been as cute as Amy and Rose before she deviated. He had loved her so much and she had loved him. Gradually, she turned, became distant and withdrawn, swung from adoration to insolence. He had given her the best and asked only for unconditional love in return. When her golf had gone to pot, he paid for piano lessons, dance lessons, singing lessons, any bloody lessons she wanted to make her happy. He knew the ultimate answer to China’s problems was abdication, unless she accepted a subservient role at King Chip’s and Princess Rose’s court.
An updated newsflash: four dead, one a police officer, the second an arrested man who had been in the custody of the police. She assumed the latter was Chris. There was nothing about the other two. Jimmy Doyle was the third. The fourth? There weren’t meant to be any dead bodies.
“About the fuck?” he asked.
All men were goats. Sex the only language they truly understood. She posed in front of him. Hands on hips. Played to his fantasies. China had her own fantasies about escape. A beach in the sun. A little business that served freshly cooked food to tourists and the locals. Europe, possibly Italy or Spain, some place with a decent climate. A simple menu for people who appreciated good unpretentious food. Pots of chilli and bolognese, lasagne and a dish for the veggies. Once a pot was two-thirds empty another would be made. She didn’t want to change the world with her little restaurant by the sea. Two dozen covers, a couple of waiting staff. Rose would love it. They would have pets too. Music and laughter would fill her restaurant. A distant dumb fantasy. Cheeky to want better when the cold stark reality was stood in front of her. What did the song say: world was on fire, no one could save me but you? Nobody but Jak, her white stallion man who was about to receive a once-in-a-lifetime, two-for-one offer.
“Let’s ride,” said China.
“Anything for this?” asked Jak. CK boxers hit the deck. She checked out his semi-tumescence. Noticed his badly grazed body.
“You want me to clean you up? Must be really painful,” said China.
“Afterwards. Anything?” he asked.
She dipped into a box on a table and pulled out a condom and lube.
“Whatever you do, don’t pull my hair.”
She pulled skin tight black Lycra leggings down over her hips and thighs. The most important fuck of her life. He moved behind the settee, motioned for her to stand in front of him. Took the package from her hand and ripped.
“Going to be pretty rudimentary,” he said. “You want to grease up the frying pan a bit. Dry is no fun for you or me.”
She unscrewed the top. Dabbed cold gel on hot fingers. Her free hand grabbed him. She bent forward. Let him position her. She looked at the two tall mirrors nearest her. Kept her face neutral. Cameras would record the dirty deed.
Jak entered her and watched TV. China viewed him in the mirrors. Chip’s modus operandi had changed forever. She had one free hit at Chip and his band of sociopaths.
“Feel good?” asked China.
“It’s OK. Who’s Danny?” he asked and touched the red, green and blue ‘shield’ tattoo on her right buttock.
“Her father,” she said, and nodded towards framed photographs of her and Rose.
“That awful age. Fast approaching six.”
“Ugly I think, not very attractive at all. Not very special,” she said.
“Boost her confidence, why not?”
“How long you planning on taking?” she asked. Her buttocks gyrated into his groin to hurry him up.
“She’s not going to burst in?”
“On a weekend?”
“I was working,” she lied. “Before you interrupted and entered.”
An on-the-spot female reporter talked direct to camera. Behind her blue lights flashed outside the city’s most exclusive hotel. Top left, a grainy CCTV snapshot of the shooter appeared. The reporter said the man was armed and dangerous and should not be approached under any circumstances.
And here he was, deep inside her.
“You going to take all day?”
She felt him pull her hair. Wanted to ride her like a horse. He knew the score. She knew the score. After she asked him so fucking politely. He had watched too many porno movies. A sharp elbow was driven hard into his ribs. Hurt her, hurt him more. He grunted.
“Leave my hair,” she said.
His rhythm was interrupted. They almost tumbled. He slipped out and was back in again, his hands grasped her hips.
“Sorry,” he said.
She felt his body tighten and jerk as the TV screen revealed the two other dead: one of the perpetrators and a four-year-old-boy caught in the crossfire.
“Four years of age,” he whispered.
The child’s age didn’t interfere with his climax. She never understood men. They were wired differently to women for sure. They killed and fucked and felt nothing.
A four-year-old child? The news comes same time as me. I buckle, hold her torso, replay the execution.
Action review: I had fired four shots. We had come in at the wrong angle. The error had cost us vital seconds, given the mark’s escort reaction time. A woman in a black leather jacket. Too late to adjust. Caught her in the front of her skull. The second a direct hit between the male target’s eyes. Two more into his chest. The child must have been hit by a bullet passing through the man’s body. I’ve been involved in killing young children before. The last time caused major meltdown, post-traumatic stress disorder said Turner at Alex’s funeral. I held it together until the burial. Alex’s mother and sisters cried rivers of tears between them. They never said anything, too proud to reveal raw emotion, but it was clear each one of them had secretly wished it was me the insurgents had hacked to pieces. Turner knew better — ex-military made good in the security business. He understood combat, he understood life and he understood death.
“It’s the price of war, Jak, the price of freedom, Jak. Not your fault, Jak. We’ve just paid the ultimate price but it’s always us or them. Don’t take yourself too seriously. They fight dirty. Don’t wear uniforms like we do. They mix in with the natives, Jak. Mix in so well you cannot be expected to differentiate. Them kids, Jak, they’re just as likely to detonate themselves as the other mad suicide fuckers. You walk away and you hold your head up high. You’ve done nothing wrong, no reason to be ashamed. You and Alex are heroes. Think of the lives you’ve saved. Think of the boys and girls in this great country of ours who sleep safe and sound because of what you’ve done. You won’t understand now, you’re grieving the loss of your best friend, my son, but when you do, I’ll be here. You can rely on me, Jak. You were the last person to see my son alive. You fought to save him. That’s a unique bond no other two people on earth can ever share. We’re united forever by our love of Alex. It is our destiny and our fate.”
Not my fault. The words stick in my head before the binge starts at Turner’s country house where the bereaved father hires a huge wedding marquee to say goodbye to his only son. His own personal helicopter is parked outside. Free drinks for everyone while a diddly band played dance music until the early hours. “Not my fault,” I say, when I finally sober up in the clink. Turner agrees and helps me back on to my feet.
I enjoyed her even if she whacks me dead hard as I climax. I smile until I remember I have just murdered a child.