Bad Brother

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Mystery and Crime  |  House: Booksie Classic
In the 1960s Chris Ellroy was the king of the Manchester underworld. With his brother Tony they ruled the city. Then the neighbouring Salford firm tried their luck. What happened next would turn Chris's world upside down.

Submitted: September 30, 2015

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Submitted: September 30, 2015

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Chris Ellroy lit a cigarette. He looked around the café. He waved a hand. The waitress hurriedly brought over a fresh cup of tea. Thanks, love. He turned his attention back to the man shifting nervously in the seat facing him. Chris took a gulp of hot tea.

‘You’ve got some balls, Eric, I’ll give you that. Sitting there and telling me you haven’t got the money you owe me. Brave move that, mate.’

‘Chris, I’m sorry. I’m just having a few cash flow problems right now.’

‘Then you shouldn’t have been running up debts playing poker in my club, should you?’

Eric said nothing.

‘You’re making me look ridiculous. It’s an insult. By not paying what you owe, what you assured me you would, it’s telling the whole of Manchester that my operation is nothing.’

‘No, Chris, please-’

‘So you don’t think I’m nothing?’

‘No, of course I don’t. I didn’t mean to insult you.’

‘You’re lucky it’s me and not my brother you’re dealing with. Tony would have you chopped into bits and tossed in that deep fat fryer.’ Chris laughed.

Eric went pale. He waited for Chris Ellroy’s verdict. Anyone involved in Manchester’s criminal underworld in the 1960s knew the name of Chris Ellroy and they spoke of his brother Tony. It was said that Tony was the man you had to watch. You had a chance of reasoning with Chris. Tony was the opposite. He needed no reason to fly of the handle. Chris glared at the trembling man in front of him. He leaned forward.

‘Five o’clock. Friday.’ he growled. ‘If you haven’t paid by then our Tony will want a word with you.’

Eric’s eye widened at the mention of Tony.

‘Tony can be very persuasive. People usually come round to his way of thinking.’

‘You will get your money.’

‘No, get out of my sight.’

Eric nodded and got to his feet. He shuffled quickly towards the door. Chris hurled his tea cup. It smashed against the doorframe. A few customers shrieked in surprise. Eric rushed through the door. Chris stood up. He straightened his tie. He shrugged into his overcoat. He reached and took out a thick wad of cash. He peeled a five pound note and tossed it onto the table. He called out thanks Esther as he strode towards the door. The waitress told him to be good. He gave her a wink and left.

He climbed in the back of his gleaming Jaguar. The driver started the engine. Chris gave him an address across the city. He had a few bits of business to deal with. Tommy, his driver, nodded. Chris stared out the window at the city rolling past. This city, this Manchester, belonged to him and his brother. They had fought hard. Chris still had the scars from running street battles with rival gangs. And now they were reaping the rewards.

Later that evening Chris headed to a snooker hall just off Deansgate. They had owned the place for years. It was one of the many places across Manchester that they used as a base.

He entered the large room dotted with snooker tables. The men, most dressed in expensive dark suits, played snooker, or drank and smoked as they chatted. Some laughed and joked around, others were in deep discussion about business. Cigarette smoke hung in the air thick like a fog. Chris moved towards the bar. His associates greeted him with respect. They shook his hand, patted him on the back. The barmaid placed a double Jameson’s whiskey in front of him. Chris nodded, thanks. He took a sip. The liquor felt good as it burned his throat. If you put in the graft, he thought, then you could have whatever you wanted. You just had to be prepared to stop at nothing. If you were willing to go to any lengths then you could have it all. His world was all about power, respect and fear.

‘Here he is.’ called a voice.

He turned to see his brother Tony grinning at him. He had a pint of bitter in one hand and a cigar in the other. They hugged each other.

‘Hey Tony. How you doing?’

‘Christopher, I’m good thanks.’

‘You heard the rumours about the Salford lot?’

‘Salford lads thinking they’re big time. We need to nip that in the bud right away.’ said Tony.

‘We’ll keep an ear out. It may come to nothing.’

They took seats in a dark corner of the club.

‘Did Eric Colder get sorted out?’ asked Tony.

‘Yeah. I took care of it.’

‘Really? He paid up?’

‘I gave him until Friday.’ said Chris.

‘You did what? People will be saying we’re a soft touch.’

Chris looked at his brother. They were almost identical in his dark suits. Tony was leaner, more handsome somehow. Chris adjusted the cuffs of his shirt. He stared at Tony.

‘I gave him till Friday. It’s done.’

‘And if he doesn’t pay up?’

‘Then you can take care of it.’

Tony grinned at the thought.

Chris and Tony spent the evening among friends and associates. They chatted about who was ‘away’, who had just been released and other bits of business. They had hundreds of people on the payroll. If a robbery took place anywhere in the city then they got a slice of the action. They word was that it was literally more than your life was worth not to pay your dues to the Ellroys. Information was key and it pad well. Even the civilians, those not directly connected to their world, could earn a fair few quid. A word in the right ear about a certain delivery you knew was coming in and when the security guards changed shift could get you a nice little pay out.

A few days later Chris and Tony paid a visit to an illegal bookmaker who worked for them. The betting shop was run from a tiny room in Gorton. The two men marched through the door. Newspaper betting pages were pinned to the walls. Transistor radios broadcasted the latest races. Punters studied the forms and handed over their pound, shillings and pence to the woman behind the counter.

‘Hi love. Is Martin about?’

‘He’s upstairs. He’s a bit tied up at the moment.’

‘Just tell him the Ellroys are here to see him.’

The woman, in her fifties and caked in make up, hurried out back. A few minutes later a man appeared. He had stains on his tie and needed a shave and a hair cut. He smiled but his eyes said he was terrified.

‘Morning Martin.’ said Tony. ‘How are you?’

‘Yeah, fine, yeah. Good to see you.’

‘How’s business?’ asked Chris.

‘Very good.’

‘So we hear. And you’ve been taking bets from that Salford lot.’

‘Chris, I had no choice.’

‘We told you.’ Tony pointed at him. ‘those fuckers don’t get anything from our city.’

‘They were going to trash the shop.’

Chris and Tony looked around. The last of the gamblers were dashing out the door. They knew trouble was coming. Before the bookmaker could move Chris and Tony stormed behind the counter. They shoved him into the corner. He raised his hands, pleaded with them not to hurt him.

‘You do not do business with the Burns crew. Salford aint welcome here. Do you understand?’ said Chris.

Martin nodded.

‘I don’t think he gets it, Chris.’

‘Me neither, Tony.’

Chris smashed a fist into his face. The guy crumped to the cheap lino. Tony jumped on top of him. He slammed hard rights and lefts into his face. He pummelled away. A few minutes later Chris felt they had made their point.

‘Right Tony,’ he said. ‘I think he understands.’

Tony continued his assault. He drew back a fist. Chris grabbed hold of his arm.

‘No more. That’s enough.’

Tony had a crazed look in his eye. Chris knew that he wanted to kill the man. Chris shook his head. Breathing hard Tony wiped his blood-covered fists on the bookmakers shirt. They stared down at the bleeding slumped figure.

‘I think he got the message.’ said Chris.

They climbed in the back of the Jaguar. Chris told the driver to take them to an apartment on Piccadilly. Tony wiped his bloody hands on his personalised handkerchief. Chris smoothed down his hair and fiddled with his cufflinks.

‘What happened to you, Chris? Time was we were both vicious. You’ve gone soft.’

‘Times have changed, mate. We don’t have to be fighting wars all the time.’

‘War is coming. I can feel it.’

‘We’re living the good life. This is what we’ve worked so hard for. We should be enjoying it.’

Tony simply stated at the last traces of blood on his fists.

Friday. Eleven thirty in the evening. The club was packed with a mixture of gang members and civilians. Each group enjoyed rubbing shoulders with the other. The gangsters liked having civilians around. It was good to have somewhere you could bring your missus that was a bit more upmarket. You could buy your lady a drink; show her off, without trouble breaking out every five minutes. The civilians, on the other hand, delighted in associating with known criminals. For them it was dangerous and exciting. It was something they could tell their friends.

Eric Colder went to the bar for another drink. He still hadn’t paid Chris Ellroy what he owed but he was sure they could sort something out. He took a swig of his pint.

‘Look at this. Poor Eric can’t afford to pay us what he owes yet somehow he can afford to be drinking in here.’ said Tony.

‘What are you playing at, Eric?’ asked Chris.

Eric put down his pint. He shrugged.

‘I’ll be honest. I haven’t got it. Maybe next week.’

‘Maybe next week?’ said Chris. ‘You could always pay tuppence a week like we’re running a fucking catalogue.’

‘Here,’ snarled Tony, ‘have a drink on us.’

Tony snatched his pint from the bar. He slammed the glass into the side of his head. As he fell Chris grabbed him. They fumbled him out the back door of the club. They dragged him into the narrow yard. Even in the darkness Chris could see the panic on his face. Blood trickled from the side of his head. He did not appear to notice the wound. What had happened seemed to be unimportant compared to what would happen next. Eric said nothing.  He knew pleading and promising would only infuriate his debtors. Chris Ellroy spoke in a low mutter.

‘I gave you till five o’clock today. Not only do you not pay up but you go drinking around town. I don’t know what to say.’

‘You’re mugging us off, Eric.’ added Tony. ‘Do you think we got where we are by letting toe-rags like you take the piss? Your actions are sending the message that we can be pushed around.’

‘Here’s a message from us.’

Moonlight glistened on the blade in Tony’s hand. Eric’s screams pierced the cold Manchester air as the knife slashed deep across his right cheek. He fell to the floor clutching his bleeding face. He sobbed and wailed.

‘You drop the money off at the club by midnight tomorrow or it’ll be your throat that gets cut. Do you hear me?’

Eric managed to nod his head.

Chris and Tony cleaned themselves up and returned to the club. All eyes watched them as they got drinks and joined their friends in a booth. They civilians wondered just what had happened out back. The gangsters knew exactly what had gone down.

The next evening an envelope was handed in at the club. The brown envelope was marked From Eric and contained every penny that Eric Colder owed.

One night the following week Chris and Tony were in an illicit gaming club. These clubs were known as spielers. They had spielers dotted all over the city. This club, Sarah Lou’s, was one of their favourite places. Card games and roulette were in full swing. Those not gambling watched the action with a few drinks.

One of their lads rushed through the doors. He walked quickly over to Chris and Tony. His face said that he had news. Chris took a drag on his cigarette.

‘What is it?’

The lad leaned in and spoke in a quiet voice.

‘Ten of the Salford crew are drinking in the Nag’s Head.’

Chris nodded. This was it. The Burns lads, after much rumour, gossip and speculation, had finally come to try their luck with their neighbour. Tony had a glint in his eye. He was like a soldier about to go off to war.

Ten minutes later, tooled up with pistols, Chris, Tony and a handful of their top men marched down Market Street. They turned onto Cross Street. People stopped and stared at the group storming purposefully across the city.

They paused outside the tiny red brick pub down a narrow side street. Chris looked at Tony. His brother stared back. As one the two men crashed into the pub. Their troops followed behind.

They found the Burns crew in one corner of the pub. The men were acting up, smashing pint pots they had emptied. The Ellroy firm formed a line. Chris and Tony stepped forward.

‘Evening, gentlemen. You’re not in Salford now. How about acting with a bit of decorum?’

One of the Salford crew walked slowly upto them. He stood nose to nose with Chris.

‘Fuck you. Don’t you know who I am? I’m one of Dave Burns top lads. Now why don’t you lot run along and leave us real men to it.’

‘Now, that is a shame.’ said Chris.

Tony whipped his pistol out. He pushed it into the temple of the Salfordian. His eyes widened.

‘Think you’re hard men because you’re tooled up?’

‘Yeah.’ whispered Chris.

Tony pulled the trigger. Blood and matter burst out of the man’s head. He slumped to the carpet. Chris, Tony and the others aimed their weapons at the rest of the Salford lads. The Burns crew were on their feet spitting curses and vowing vengeance. Chris smiled.

‘What’s that? I’m a dead man?’ He pointed his pistol at the body on the floor. ‘Nah, he’s a dead man.’

‘Anyone else? Any more hard men?’ growled Tony.

‘No? In that case it’s time you lads were leaving. Go on. Back to your Salford slums.’

The Burns lads picked up the body of their fallen comrade. Still swearing revenge they filed out of the pub. As the door closed behind them the Ellroy firm let out a roar. They celebrated like Manchester United had just won the FA Cup. The men, all in expensive King Street suits, talked excitedly about what had gone down. This was it. They were officially at war with the Dave Burns firm. This was what they had signed up for. Mindless violence was good. Organised crime was getter. All out gang warfare was the dog’s bollocks.

The next evening word reached Chris and Tony that one of their clubs on Albert Square had been petrol bombed. By some miracle nobody had been killed. Torching the club that looked out on Manchester town hall was certainly a message. And the Ellory operation were in no doubt as to the sender.

Chris, Tony and a dozen of their gathered in Manchester’s grandest square. They watched in awe and horror as the firefighters struggled to control and put out the blaze. Chris’s mind went back to one of his earliest memories. Manchester being blasted by the Luftwaffe during the Blitz. That was the Second World War. This attack was part of another war. This time Chris and Tony were the generals and not merely children.

The morning after they checked out the damage. They stared at the charred ruin of what had been one of their smartest clubs. Black and burnt, nothing was untouched. Tables, chairs, fixtures and fittings, all black and twisted beyond recognition.

Tony looked as gutted as the surroundings.

‘I thought you’d be happy.’ said Chris.

‘How’s that?’

‘You’ve got the war you wanted.’

Tony said nothing. The murderous gleam returned to his eyes. Chris turned to the men standing around. He jabbed a finger at the air.

‘I want you all working on this Burns scum. Get your men on it. Get them to get their mates on it too. I want all eyes across the city on the look out. I want to know what’s going on in Salford. Anyone connected to their operation is now a target. Spread the word. We will pay very well for info.’

The men nodded then left to put the plans into action.

Twenty four hours later. Chris and Tony had names and photographs of all the Burns crew key players. The photos were circulated. Faces were memorised. Careful trips across the River Irwell were taken searching for targets. One of their men was shot in the shoulder as he asked discreet questions in the Rialto Club in Broughton.

Late the next evening Chris got a message at the casino. He barked his orders and charged out of the door. They had caught one of the Salford crew. A high ranking member of the firm had been spotted on the wrong side of the river. Calls had been made from a payphone and he had been bundled into the back of a van.

Chris and Tony entered their burned out club. The men followed. Their prisoner was tied to a chair in the middle of the room. As the electrics were still out candles glowed around the room. The man watched them enter. He puffed out his chest. He did his best tough guy stare.

‘You should be careful with those candles. You could start a fire.’ he laughed.

Chris drove a fist into his face. The guy reeled, spitting blood. His eyes burned with defiance. He gave them a sneering smirk.

‘Your boss, Dave Burns, seems to be keeping a low profile.’ said Chris. ‘Where can we find him?’

The guy merely swore at them.

‘I don’t think our friend here appreciates the gravity of the situation, Tony.’

Before Chris could answer their prisoner shouted.

‘Drop the pretence. Just do your worst.’

‘You’re making a bit mistake messing with me and my brother.’ said Chris.

‘You don’t have a brother.’ he replied.

‘What about Tony?’

Chris jerked a thumb to his brother standing beside him.

‘Stop the act. It’s all you. It’s always been just you. It’s well known. You have this thing going about your brother Tony but it’s just you. One person, Chris Ellroy.’

‘What are you talking about?’

‘People let you carry on this charade because they are terrified of you.’

‘As well they should be.’ said Tony.

A knife appeared in his hand. He slit the guy’s throat before he could say another word. He struggled against his restraints for a moment. He slumped lifelessly to one side.

Tony turned to Chris, blood on his hands. Chris looked down at his own hands. He now held the blade. Was it true? Were his and Tony’s hands one and the same? Tony answered the question for him.

‘You’ve always known deep down. On the surface you were the reasonable one. But the horror and the carnage, that you put down to me, the bad brother, that was you.’

Chris thought back to his childhood. When they had got into trouble it had always been Tony’s fault. He would explain to his parents that it was his brother who had started it. Tony was the naughty child. His parents had always punished the two of them. He had always put that down to there being two of them. Had it actually been because there was no Tony?

And that first day of primary school, all those years ago, the kids had tried pushing Chris around. He and Tony had fought back. They had stood up to all of them. They had been feared ever since.

Unless, he thought, it was just me. Was it all in my head?

‘You are in my head.’

‘That is what made us who we are. That put us where we are today. We own this city.’

Chris turned to his men. They stared at the floor, avoided his eye. He pointed at the dead Salford man.

‘Get rid of him.’

He rushed out of the club.

Chris Ellroy stumbled and staggered across the city. His brother Tony, the person who he had shared his whole life with, was a figment of his imagination.

He spent the next six days holed up in a small flat overlooking the River Irwell. He almost climbed the walls. He felt like he was losing his mind completely. He drifted in and out of sleep. Hours and days passed by without him noticing. His mind whirled and played tricks. At times he thought he was Tony, other times he thought that his whole life was a dream from which he had just woken up. Occasionally he would have flashbacks of his life, seeing things how they had really been. He and Tony at the opening of a club, except it was just him. In another vision he was in a meeting with Tony and his crew, except only he was talking, he expressed both his and Tony’s viewpoint. No Tony. He saw himself beating a man to a bloody pulp. The man had been attacked by Tony in Chris’s normal recollection.

While he was holed up he did not dress or shave. He could not recall the last time he’d eaten anything. Rumours were rife across Manchester and Salford. Some said that he had killed himself. Others said that the Salford crew had killed him. The Ellroy firm simply stated that the boss was ‘away on business’.

A week to the day of his exile he awoke. He felt different. He felt strong, powerful, a bit more like his old self. He showered, shaved and dressed in his finest suit. He slicked back his hair. He checked his reflection in the mirror. There he was. Chris Fucking Ellroy.

‘So,’ said Tony. ‘are were going to take care of these scumbags?’

Chris turned to Tony. He smiled.

‘I think people need reminding just who they are fucking with.’

‘Couldn’t have put it better myself.’ replied Tony.

Later that day he made calls to his top men. He was back and going nowhere. And these Salford scallies needed teaching a lesson once and for all.

A minor member of the Burns crew was spotted on the outskirts of the cit. Forty minutes later he was in the back room of a bookmakers in Ancoats. Chris Ellroy sat behind a desk facing the Salford gangster. A pistol lay in front of him on the desk. Two men stood guard on the door. Tony stood just behind Chris.

The Salford man glared at the rival gang boss.

‘There’s been a lot of talk about me recently. But, here I am.’ He spread his hands wife. ‘What have you got to say about that?’

‘They say you’re mad. They reckon you’ve got a brother that only you can see.’

‘Oh, that? I don’t know why everyone is so hung up about that. And for your information, just because he is in my head doesn’t mean he’s not real. Show them, Tony.’

Tony stepped forward. He picked up the pistol. He fired three shots into the Salfordian’s chest. For a split second Chris saw things how they actually were. He was the one firing the gun. It was he, himself, that was doing the things that his mind attributed to Tony. Maybe that was how he could be so ruthless. The worst of his actions were not on his conscience. It was not his doing. Tony was the really mean bastard.

Chris Ellroy sensed that there would be no stopping him now. This was it. He knew the way things were. He saw things clearly for the first time in his life. This would be the beginning of his empire rising to even greater heights.

In the days that followed the Salford firm fought back. One of his lieutenants was riddled with bullets as he went to buy a newspaper one morning. Three of his clubs were torched on the same night.

One day the next week Chris got word that Dave Burns would be dining at a pub in Eccles that Sunday evening. Unusually he would be alone. There would be just him and his wife. They returned to the pub they met in years ago for their anniversary. For one night of the year he wanted to be the family man, the ordinary bloke, and not the gang boss.

Chris had paid extremely well for this snippet of information. This was the chance he had been waiting for.

His first thought was to storm the pub with an army and blast Dave Burns and his wife off the face of the Earth. But he changed his mind. Out of respect he would go alone. He would go along and insist Burns accompanied him outside to ‘discuss business’. The Salford man would know the game was up but would never case a scene in front of his wife. Then, once out of the view of his missus, Chris would blow his brains out. You did not kill a man in front of his wife. They were businessmen not animals.

Chris sat back in his chair. He stared into space. Victory would soon be his. Once Burns was disposed of Ellroy would send his troops into Salford. Of course his wife could tell the police that Chris had asked her husband to step outside, but that was not evidence of murder. Chris would explain to any questioning authorities that they had been discussing a joint business venture. He would insist that when he left Burns had been alive and well.

Tony leaned against the filing cabinet. He grinned at Chris.

‘Not long now. Then we’ll control two of the most important cities in the North West. Who knows where we go from there.’

Chris raised his whiskey glass.

Just after eight o’clock on Sunday evening Chris pulled up outside the pub. Tony was beside him. Barley Farm looked lovely. Despite being just off the main road it had the feel of the countryside. Perhaps when this was done and he was in control of Salford he would frequent the place. He grabbed the pistol from the glove compartment.

‘Let’s do this.’ he said.

‘Taking care of business.’ Tony agreed.

They crossed the car park. There were a few cars parked out front. Chris guessed they belonged to the bar and kitchen staff. He tucked the pistol into the waistband of his trousers. He opened the double doors and entered the pub.

The place was deserted. The lights were on but all the tables were empty. The bar was free of drinkers and bar staff. Where was everyone? Chris swore. He heard the doors being bolted shut behind him. He half turned. A man jabbed the barrel of a pistol into the side of his head. The guy snatched Chris’s pistol from his belt.

‘Ellroy is here.’ he called.

Five men entered from behind the bar. They came and stood in front of Chris. He recognised them as being Dave Burns and his top lads. Each of them aimed a pistol at Chris. He was shoved into the middle of the room. He spotted another man in the corner. He walked over to Chris. The man had a scar running down the right side of his face. Eric Colder.

‘Colder? You sold me out to these wankers?’

Colder pointed to the healing scar on his cheek.

‘Did you expect loyalty after this? Besides, who did you think gave me the money to pay you back? You left me with no choice.’

Dave Burns stared at Chris with pure hatred in his eyes. He aimed the pistol at Chris’s head.

‘You Mancunians are something else. Always looking down your nose at Salford. Well, Mister Big Shot, Salford has been your downfall. We are taking over. Just got to finish up here first.’

He pulled the trigger. Chris fell to the floor. He felt strange. He knew he had been shot. He knew he didn’t have long left. This was the end. He was dying.

The last thing he saw was Tony staring down at him.


© Copyright 2020 CTPlatt. All rights reserved.

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