Dead Cert

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Thrillers  |  House: Booksie Classic
Gangland boss Tony King controlled most of the North West. When a rival villain gets ideas above his station things could escalate. Will there be all out gang warfare raging across Manchester?

Submitted: January 16, 2014

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Submitted: January 16, 2014



The girl stood in my office, the bruises on her face swelling each minute. Her left eye was half closed. She looked like a journey-man boxer who had gone the distance without keeping his guard up. Despite the beating she'd taken it was clear she was a very pretty girl. She had shoulder length chocolate brown hair and olive skin. She must have had some distant relative from the Mediterranean. The black uniform she wore was ripped in places. The sleeves were practically tatters.

First and foremost I was a business man. I made money, I earned. After twenty years of tough graft and doing what needed to be done I was at the top of the foodchain. The papers these days like to use words like 'underworld' and 'gangster' but we were business men who cut corners and banged heads to make a quick pound. The papers and the press carry on as though we all had City & Guilds in illegal activity and demanding money with menaces. In reality though we worked hard to get where we were and fought to maintain our position.

Everyone knew my name. It had connotations. If somebody tried to squeeze a few quid out of the old timer running the corner shop he could nip it in the bud straight off by telling them he was protected by Tony King.

I had a crew working for me and these blokes in turn had blokes they could call on. I ran a few clubs and casinos across the North West. My legal activities. My illegal activities were my bread and butter. The police, judges and the Crown Prosecution Service had long, drawn out names for what I did but I simply made money. By any means necessary. Whether that was from prostitution, drugs or illegal gambling I thought nothing of it.

There were others doing exactly the same and as long as you didn't step on anyone's toes or carry on on anyone else's turf you could make more than a pretty penny.

I was sitting behind my desk. I leant back in my high-backed chair and got ready to listen.

“What happened, Mandy?”

“He punched me-”

“Start from the beginning. Tell me everything.”

“There was two of them. They came in to the bookies. They were dressed in expensive looking suits and walked around like they owned the place. They started of placing a few small bets and talked to each other and took calls on their mobile phones.

“They put a grand a piece on the three o'clock at Chepstow, The horse, Globetrotter, came in second. They looked gutted but instead of cutting their losses one of them marched up to the counter and demanded that I'd made a mistake on the slip. He said he'd backed the horse each way. It just wasn't true.”

Mandy went on to detail how the guy had jumped the counter and screamed abuse at her before beating her up. She began to sob, her shoulders shaking and her hands went to her bruised cheeks.

“It's okay. Trust me. I'll take care of this. Now, any idea who these guys were?”

“The man who hit me, his friend called him Willow.”

“Thank you Mandy. You've been a great help. I'll sort this out. Take as long as you need. And this” I took a large bundle of cash from the breast pocket of my suit and slid it across the desk “ is a little compensation. With my regards. We'll fix you up.”

Mandy picked up the bundle. She was clearly not used to such a large amount of money. She held it the way a person who's never owned a pet would hold a kitten. She nodded and smiled. With that she turned and slowly walked out of my office.

I flipped open my mobile phone. I had somebody to see.


Dave Bartlett wasn't what you'd call a rival of mine but we weren't exactly engaged to be married either. He ran his own crew and apart from the occasional meeting we left each other to our own devices. But when one of his lads takes the piss in one of my bookies collars had to be felt. Maybe Willow thought he could do as he pleased because he was with Bartlett but I couldn't give a rat's arse who you're with, if you take me for a mug you know about it.


Willow was a mindless thug who did a lot of donkey work for Bartlett. His first name was Nigel so you can see why he insisted on being called by his last name. The guy was the sort who loved throwing his weight around. I intended to put a stop to that. I couldn't really claim the moral high ground with my track record but I wasn't the man to fuck with.

I made a few calls to the right people and by three am that morning Bartlett had turned up at one of my snooker halls saying he had come to see me. I arrived fifteen minutes later wearing my suit and overcoat. The suit he was wearing looked creased. He had probably been sorting things out with Willow.

He had a thin yet powerful build like that of a welter-weight boxer. He was slightly shorter than my six foot and his thinning hair was close cropped. His complexion was that of a man who topped up his holiday tan with frequent trips to to tanning salon. The guy with him, his minder, looked like a bear in a suit.

We exchanged greetings and shook hands. I showed him through to the office. We sat around the table and drank Jack Daniels. Our minders hung in back while their bosses talked business. The room was dimly lit and we leant forward to face each other.

“I heard what happened in your bookmakers.”

I nodded and let him continue.

“I apologize for Willow's behavior. We deeply regret his action. Be assured that not only will this not happen again but also rest assured that the matter has been dealt with.”

“Dealt with? I'm going to need more than assurances!”

“I would appreciate if you could see your way to letting me deal with this in-house. Willow has been given a kicking and the debt he owes increased.”

“I'm afraid I don't feel that generous. I want action. Either financial or let me deal with that bastard myself.”

“I have dealt with this!” His tone suggested that there would be no compromise on this.

“If that's your final word then I'd like to thank you for your time.”

I threw on my overcoat and left.


I couldn't believe it. They take  the piss on my turf and expect me to settle for a line off 'it's been dealt with'. No chance in hell. If I let this slide it would send out the message that I was going soft and that people could do as they pleased.

I called my people and told them I wanted Willow. If Bartlett wouldn't sort this out then I would take care of this myself.

The next afternoon I got word that Willow was hiding out in a flat on the outskirts of the city. As soon as I put the phone down I was in my Jag with a couple of my lads.

One of my guys, an ex-prize fighter, Jay went and knocked on the door. I hung back with Martin, a doorman I'd recently stepped up. As Willow opened the door Jay crashed through it. We followed behind. Jay had Willow pinned to the wall just inside the front door. The three of us dragged the struggling Willow into his living room. He was wearing pinstripe trousers and a white vest. He must have took the rest of his suit off and been unwinding. Keeping a low profile. Good idea.

His left eye was puffed up and his mouth swelled at one end. Bartlett was full of shit. A good kicking he said. The kid had been given nothing more than a slap. If you're unlucky enough to get a kicking from me you'll be in A&E with coppers at your bedside asking 'Who did this to you?'.

“You know what this is about?”

He shrugged. “All this because of that shit in the bookies? For fuck's sake!”

“You telling me I'm over-reacting?” I whispered.

“Well,aren't you? C'mon!”

I pulled a cigar from my coat and lit it. I nodded to Martin and he left the room. I blew my cigar smoke across the room.

Bartlettwas given the chance to make amends. He could have apologized and offered some financial compensation. On the other hand he could have told me I was free to sort things out myself with Willow. Willow himself might have tried to smooth things out but I got nothing more than back chat. Way I see it he had it coming.

Martin came back in the room carrying a dining chair in his left hand and a stainless steel carving knife in his right. He placed the chair down and handed me the knife.

“Sit down.” I spat.

“Now hang on a fucking minute!”

Jay lurched forward like a pit-bull on a lead.

“Boss?” he asked.

“No, that won't be necessary. I'm sure Mr. Willow will co-operate. Won't you?”

He looked at Jay and back to me then nodded. He sat down on the dining chair. I stood in front of him, knife in hand. The lads sat on the sofa behind me.

“Tell me what happened.”

“That bitch got my bet wrong! My horse comes in second so I go to collect my winnings but all I get is attitude. She tells me I backed the fucking nag to win. I saw red, natural really.”

“Bullshit. You were worked up at coming so close to a payday and you took it out on the girl. In my bookies, on my manor.”

“I'm with Bartlett. You can't touch me.”

“Don't mess with me. I am a not a pleasant individual.”

“I'm with Bartlett, dickhead, which means that you and your boyfriends here can get to fuck!”

I forced the knife into his chest. I tugged it out and stabbed him again and again. I must have stabbed him around six or seven times. What remained of his lifeless body we left where it was and piled into the Jag. Bartlett would get the message.

You could say I overstepped the mark but in my world respect was everything. Your actions and reputation demanded respect. If someone was disrespectful then they had to be taught a lesson. You never told anyone twice.

Willow's first mistake had been in the bookies. Big mistake. His second mistake was assumed he was invincible because of his connections to Dave Bartlett. Well, his ties with Bartlett didn't stop him being stabbed into a bloody pulp. Let me tell you something, the world I lived in was like a house of cards, no matter your position, who you were with, one wrong move and you could be toppled.

A few days later I had organized for a few high-rollers to take part in a big stake 'corporate' game. It was poker with the stakes through the roof. Large amounts of cash would change hands that night. It was a chance for a select, wealthy, chosen few to bet big. There was of course the expensive entrance fee and a slice of the winnings to yours truly.

It was my game but I let my crew take care of it. I called in on every game to check everything was as it should be. You had to make sure no-one was getting into too much debt to the house. Of course a certain amount of debt was encouraged. Also, you had to make sure tempers weren't running too high.

I called into the apartment just after eleven pm. The game would have been going for a couple of hours and would be warming up nicely. There were seven men sitting around the large card table. Cigar smoke filled the air and Jack Daniels flowed like cheap lager at a sixteenth birthday party.

As I entered the room I looked at one of my guys. He nodded back. Everything was as it should be and everyone was playing nice. I went over to the table. I shook hands and patted  backs of the guests at my game. They loved it. They were all civilians. They earned their wage legally but felt the need for a hit of gambling action. The fact that it was ran by gangsters and villains made it all the more exciting .These surgeons and stock-brokers would be able to tell their colleagues and associates on Monday that they were up all night at one of Tony King's 'corporate' games.

Satisfied that everything was sorted I made my way back to my car. It was a cold night, even for the time of year. The wind brought with it an arctic chill. As I crossed the gravel car park I heard  the sound of tyres crunching the gravel behind me. I looked over my right shoulder and was blinded by head-lights on full beam.

As I stopped in my tracks the vehicle slowed to a halt. I turned to face the head-lights. I couldn't see a thing. I reached for the pistol at the small of my back.

I shrugged, waving my pistol as if to say 'what can I do for you?'. The lights dimmed to an amber glow. The vehicle revealed itself to be a Mitsubishi Warrior. Black, gleaming, it looked as though it had an inky texture. A beautiful piece of kit. It was also the vehicle of choice for one Dave Bartlett.

The four doors of the vehicle opened. Four suited men hopped out. Bartlett was on the front passenger side. Each one of them held a pistol. They came and stood in front of the head-lights.

“It didn't have to be this way, Tony.”

“You're the one who left me with no choice, Bartlett!”

I was out-numbered and we all new it. Even if I managed to take out one or two of them with a bit of nifty marksmanship the minute I did the men left standing would take me out.

I tucked my pistol back into my waistband and held my hands up.

“C'mon chaps. We're all reasonable people. Let's not resort to shooting each other. We can work this out.”

“Y'know, he's got a point lads. Put your weapons away.” Bartlett said. He holstered his piece.

Seizing the opportunity I turned and sprinted across the car park. I dug the balls of my feet into the gravel hard pushing myself forward with all the power I could muster.

“Go get him boys!” I head Bartlett call.

The three hoods racing across the gravel sounded like school kids munching Golden Wonder. The crunching got louder and louder. They were gaining on me. I spent my games lessons during my school days beating the first years' dinner money out of them instead of doing the hundred metres sprint.

The footsteps were right on my heels. I was fucked. The next thing I knew I was rugby tackled and bowled over onto the gravel. And to think I'd just had my suit dry-cleaned. They dragged me back to where Bartlett waited in front of his vehicle. The pistol had returned to his hand. They placed me on my knees in front of their boss.

He looked down at me. His eyes said he was going to kill me. My number was up. Game over. I would breathe my last on my knees in a car park, freezing my tits off. Well, fuck it! Go on, you cunts. Do your worst! My eyes said he could go to hell and that I wasn't going to turn 'yellow' like James Cagney in that film, Angels With Dirty Faces. Beg for my life? Cry like a baby? Get to fuck.

He raised his pistol so the barrel was level with my forehead. He breathed in deeply.

“Any last words, King?”

“You've ruined this suit, you cunt.”

Bartlett shifted his weight from foot to foot, steadying himself. Here we go. He squeezed the trigger. I closed my eyes tight and tried to prepare myself. Click! The sound of the hammer hitting an empty chamber. I opened my eyes to see the four of them climbing back in the vehicle.


The old mock execution. To somebody outside of the life a mock execution may seem a bit pointless. Some might say either you execute someone or you don't. It's about what it suggests. If someone holds a gun to your head, pulls the trigger and you're still breathing with a 'click' echoing in your ears not only will you be crapping yourself at coming so close but you'll also not want to cross the guys again. It is intended as a final warning.

It says you came close to being taken out, next time there will be a bullet in the chamber. It also gives the message that you can do it. If somebody's being protected round the clock and you get to them and perform a mock killing it says you can get to them no matter what protection they have. It sends it home that if you want them dead then there's nothing they can do about it. This works especially well if some fucker has the crazy idea of turning Queen's Evidence. No-one's going to testify after that. It tends to bring on a sudden case of amnesia, if you know what I mean.

This was Dave Bartlett telling me “I was going to kill you, I could've killed you. Next time it'll be for real.” A civilian might wet themselves and leave the country in fear. Someone further down the ladder might stop running with their crew or avoid certain areas for a while. I was a boss. I had a ton of fucking soldiers behind me. You don't scare me into submission. Doing this to me was a really bad idea. I was livid. There was only one way this could go now. This was war. Bartlett had invaded Poland on that car park. It was September third 1939 all over again. Time to mobilize the allied troops.

 The next morning I called my top lads to the casino for an emergency meeting. My suit was back in the dry-cleaners and I was preparing for battle. All ten of my senior crew sat around the long table. I didn't take my seat at the head of the table but instead paced the room. The morning sun peaked in through the blinds and cast long shadows across my board room.

The lads chatted rubbish and drank coffee. I raised my hand. The room fell silent.

“Last night Dave Bartlett put a gun against my head and pulled the trigger.”

The lads cursed quietly and most of them shaking their heads in disgust. They knew what was coming.

“We're going to the mattresses with Bartlett. There's not been gang warfare on these streets since the nineties. Until now!”


'Going to the mattresses' was an old mob phrase for going all out against your enemies. In the old days the mobsters in the battle would hold-up in secret addresses. There would be hundreds of them sleeping on mattresses on floors.

“I need you and the guys in your pockets. I'm going to hit Bartlett with everything I've got. He needs taking out.” The lads made noises about Bartlett 'having to go'.

The meeting of my own personal war-cabinet went on for a couple of hours. I outlined my plans, what I needed, what would happen. My chiefs reached out to the rest of the crew. Word went round.

Later that day, as the sun set and shadows claimed the city streets the windows of the Mary Bartlett Dance Hall were smashed by a terrific amount of petrol bombs. They continued to rain in even when the building was ablaze. I wanted the thing raising to the ground.

Dave Bartlett had opened the dance hall in his mother's last years. His mother loved ballroom dancing and till her death in the early nineties had enjoyed spending what time she could at the hall. So, obviously, it had to go. I got the mandatory 'it's done' phone call from one of my soldiers.

I was in my office when I got the call. I felt the adrenaline pulsing in my body. I was buzzing. I wondered if this was how Churchill felt in the early Forties.

All my crew had been told to be on the look out for the three fuckers who had held me down the night before. I wanted them out of the picture. Bartlett, however, I'd save for my main course. He'd keep. I got the call telling me that two off them, Carr and Griffiths, were drinking in the Old Nags Head in the city. I was on my way.

The young gun who called me was loitering outside the pub. I pulled up to the kerb and flashed my head-lights. He came over and leant in my driver's window.

“Carr and Griffiths are in the second booth in.”

“Thanks son.” I held out a fifty. He took it and shrank away. Out of the corner of my eye I say the pup disappear down a side street.

I climbed out of my car and crossed to the door of the pub. Taking my pistol in my right hand I held it behind my back. My gun hand was shrouded by my black overcoat. I strode into the pub. The two men I wanted were where I was told they'd be. A few old soaks propped the bar up and engaged in yelled conversation. Some students smoked rizlas and drank bottled beers. As far as I was concerned there was only two men in the place.

I stood at the end of their booth and cleared my throat. As they turned to look at me I swung my right arm out revealing the pistol. Wielding it at arms length I hit Carr first, to my left. His face exploded as the bullet made contact and he immediately slumped against the wall of the booth. Before Griffiths could move I caught him in my sights and drilled a couple of caps in his chest. He too fell back in his seat. Job done, I left.

My war was now well under way. Only Evans was outstanding. I wanted Bartlett to be the only one alive who was at my mock execution. Evans would be next. Word came in of his where-about so I rolled up at his house. It was the wee hours and the dark street was half heartedly lit by yellow street lights. I knocked on the door and held my gun behind my back.

Evans pulled open the door wearing only the bottom half of a track suit. Light from his hallway spilled out on to the street. His eyes strained to adjust to the darkness on his doorstep. I think I was the first and the last person he expected to see.

“Remember me?” I growled.


He tried to slam the door but I was too quick for him. I threw myself against the door. Evans lost his footing and landed on his back on the hallway carpet. I closed his front door behind me. I stood over him. The bare light bulb over my head harshly illuminating his hallway. I could see tears welling in his eyes. I had him scared. He had every right to be.

“Don't do this!”

“I'm sorry?”

“Please, Tony. Don't.”

“My name is Mister King.” My voice was slightly higher than a whisper. I held my pistol on him.

“Mr King, I'm begging for my life. I'll do whatever you say.”

Who'd have thought it? Evans was turning Cagney.

“You shouldn't have been there last night. If you hadn't been there then I'd spare you.”

“Mr King, please!”

The word 'please' was drowned out as I fired a round of clips into his body. By the time I stopped firing he was motionless and his eyes were like those on a wax dummy.

Tiredness hit me as I drove across Manchester. It had been a long day. I wound my window down and gripped the wheel at ten-to-two. The last thing I needed was to fall asleep at the wheel. I made it home in one piece and crawled straight upstairs to bed.

The next day was pretty uneventful and I spent the evening playing a few frames of snooker with a couple of lads at one of my halls. I was winning by three frames and having the game of my life. I was about to break when my mobile phone started ringing.


“Your casino is dead tonight, Tony!”

“Who the fuck-”

“Ha ha ha!” The line went dead.


I pulled up outside the casino. The doors were closed. This was a bad sign. Normally the doors were open and a couple of my blokes were on the door. I had an uneasy feeling in my stomach. The three of us our pistols. I lead the way and pushed open the front doors. We went through the hallway. In my head alarm bells were ringing. What I heard gave me real cause for concern. I would have been happier going in there if we'd heard screams or raised voices but we couldn't hear a thing. Silence.

It was a casino. Casinos are noisy places. If it's not the one-armed bandits and fruit machines then it's the general racket of people placing bets with croupiers, chips and  money changing hands, and balls rattling round roulette wheels. So silence was worrying. I marched into the main gaming room.

I've never seen a sight like it. The hall was littered with bloody corpses. The entire room was perforated with bullet holes. All the bodies were clothed in either tuxedoes or casino issue uniform. I couldn't see any civilians. Bartlett's men must have stormed the place with armed soldiers and ordered the gaming public to leave. They would have fled leaving Bartlett's men to kill what looked like every single person on my staff. When we checked the building it was as I feared. No-one survived the assault. The floor of the hall was strewn with bodies. Croupiers either slouched in their seats or clutched at the air, draped over their tables.

This had to be settled. Enough was enough. I'd had it with the tit-for-tat retaliation bollocks. It was time for my men and the Bartlett crew to go head to head. Giving the instruction for one of my guys to 'take care of this' I left the casino and jumped in my car. I had to get away from the mortuary that my casino had become.

Halfway across town I pulled over and called Dave Bartlett on my mobile phone. There was anger in both our voices. We both knew that name calling down the phone would get us nowhere. We also knew that there could be no peaceful solution, no armistice would be signed, no peace in our time.

Battle would commence at midnight the next day on a huge patch of wasteland that lay between the areas of our control. My crew would be coming from the North West side and Bartlett and his rabble from the South East side.

The next day was hectic. I spent most of my time organizing. Things had to be taken care of in the run up to midnight. Either I held meetings in person or gave orders over the phone. Everyone would be tooled up. Some would carry pistols, others swords, samurai or broadsword. I gave word that I wanted everyone to be there, every man and his brother. My crew were well up for it and didn't need telling twice. One City fan in my crew told me it was like 'fucking Derby day'. I would have to take his word for it. The day flew past. It went by quicker than the weekend.


Midnight. There must have been over a hundred of my boys lined up on the north west side of the wasteland. They were all suited and carrying their weapon of choice. I strode up and down in front of them. I felt like Mel Gibson in Braveheart, without the kilt and horse of course.

I tried to think of something profound to say. I could see the enemy troops on the far side of the field. I ditched the moving speeches instead giving a yell.

“C'mon lads, let's fucking do this!”

We charged forward screaming. We yelled at the top of our voices. What a rush! As soon as we charged forward Bartlett's mob did the same. They looked about equal in number. The noise was terrific. The air was charged with the roar of voices and stampeding gangsters heading for each other.

I couldn't help wondering if there had been any great, historic battle fought, lost and won, on this ground. I also wondered what history would write for Tony King and his crew.

We were getting closer to each other. We raced forward as fast as we could go. Those who carried swords held them aloft. As we got a few metres from the enemy shots were fired from both sides. The cracking sounds followed by screaming rang out across the field. Rival pistol carriers picked their enemies off.

Both sides reached each other with a large crashing sound. It felt like being in a car accident. My senses were up the wall. First there was the noise. Grunts, screams and the clang of steel against  steel. Men were sliced up or  decapitated by sword, others were punctured by handgun at point blank range. Others still engaged in hand to hand combat. The scene was in every sense of the word a battlefield. I wielded a broadsword. It made me feel like I was ten feet tall. A real, modern day William Wallace. The sword usually felt quite heavy but then, raging, in the middle of a bloody war zone it felt no heavier than my hand.

I slashed forward and watched as each victims' head went back over their shoulders as though their head itself was a hood they had peeled back. I was buzzing. My head was full of the battle. Nothing entered my mind of what had happened before nor what may happen in the future. I was in the zone. All around me men fought. Men killed and men died.

I turned forty five degrees and opened up the chest of the soldiers in front of me. His white shirt split and blood ran down my blade. He fell to the floor. I stepped over him. Bartlett was directly in front of me. He was scrapping with one of my lads. Both held swords and swung furiously at each other. I called his name. As he turned to me my boy swung at Bartlett's sword arm. The arm, still clutching his sword landed on the ground. My lad, Kirk, was about to go for the kill.

“Kirk! He's mine!” I screamed.

He nodded and proceeded to get entangled with another of the enemy crew. I stood face to face with Bartlett. His left arm cradled what was left of his right. He swore at me. He knew what was coming.

I ran my sword right through him with all the power I had. He grimaced. Then a puzzled look crossed his face. He fell down. The next second was dead. Battle burned all around me. I look around me. A grin on my face. I had done it. I was victorious. The name Tony King would take its place in Manchester's gangland history. I was on top of the world. I felt invincible.

I didn't hear the gunshot that hit me but they say that, don't they? It must have come from somewhere in front of me because the force threw me on my back. That was a second ago.

I'm lying here on wasteland in my best suit. The pain in my chest is excruciating. It feels like a thousand knitting needles stabbing me at once. I expect it's what those patients feel who come round on the operating table in the middle of surgery.

My vision is going blurry. I crane my neck but all I see is blurred shapes moving around. Like watching television under water. My hearing's going funny now. Sounds like I've got my head stuck out a train window. The chest pain is fading.

The past few days has really worn me out. I feel so tired. It's just occurred to me that I might not make it through this. I feel cold, icy cold. Any regrets? Not on your life. Would I have done anything different? Get the fuck out of here. Everyone's got to go sometime. Glad I did it victorious on the battlefield, sword in hand. Fuck, I'm cold. Can't see a thing now. Everything's gone quiet too. As quiet as the grave.

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