There’s Trouble Brewing in the East End…
Only one can come out on top.
Dave Carter is king of the East End, but someone has their eye on his crown. Martin Morton is determined to make his mark and take down Dave Carter while he’s at it. If anyone stands in his way, he’ll wipe them out.
But has Martin bitten off more than he can chew? When his own family start to turn against him, Martin realises there is trouble brewing in the East End in more ways than one.
Release date: February 28, 2016
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
Print pages: 355
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East End Trouble
Mary Diamond picked up the soapy brush and started scrubbing her front step. She did it every Tuesday afternoon without fail.
In her opinion, the state of a front step said a lot about a family. Alice Pringle, who lived next door, kept hers spotless, but the family across the road were another story altogether. The front of their house was a disgrace. The windows were smeared and dirty, and the front door had a panel missing. The old man was a drunkard, and the wife wasn’t much better. Mary made sure she had nothing to do with the likes of them.
The June sunshine flooded down on Mary as she scrubbed. It was too blasted hot for this kind of work. She pushed back a damp curl of grey hair and smiled with satisfaction at her lovely clean step. She dropped the brush she’d been using into the bucket of soapy water and got to her feet. She carried the bucket through the passage towards the kitchen at the back of the house. She was parched and could murder a cup of tea.
She had another half an hour before her daughter, Kathleen, would be home wanting her dinner. Even though there was no one around, Mary beamed with pride as she thought about her only child. It hadn’t been easy bringing Kathleen up alone after her good-for-nothing father had run off with his fancy woman when Kathleen was barely out of nappies.
Mary filled the kettle and put it on top of the stove to boil. She wiped her wet hands on her white apron.
As the kettle came to a boil and began to whistle, Mary reached for the teapot, but before she could start making the tea, she heard a knock at the front door.
Who could that be at this time? It was an odd time for a visitor to call. Everyone would be home preparing the evening meal. It had to be Kathleen. The silly child had probably forgotten her key.
Mary opened the door, and her mouth dropped open in surprise as she stared at her visitor. It wasn’t Kathleen.
It was Babs Morton.
What on earth had brought that woman to her door? They didn’t exactly move in the same social circles, and Babs wasn’t the type to drop in for a cup of rosie and a chat.
Babs Morton was married to the notorious gangster, Martin Morton, and Babs waltzed around as if she was Queen of the East End these days.
It was boiling outside today, and Babs was standing on Mary’s freshly scrubbed front step in a bleeding mink coat! What a stupid cow. Not that Mary would ever have said that to her face. She wasn’t daft.
“Babs, what a surprise. Er…why don’t you come in?” Mary stammered, finally finding her voice and remembering her manners.
As she was closing the door, she caught sight of her nosy neighbour, Alice Pringle, craning her neck over the fence to get a good look at what was going on.
Mary gave her a hard look and then shut the door firmly behind her.
“Come through,” Mary said. “I was just about to have a cup of tea. Care to join me?”
Babs looked around the small kitchen and turned up her nose as if she’d stepped in something nasty. “No,” she snapped. “I won’t waste time, Mary. I’m here for a reason.”
Mary licked her lips nervously and patted her hair, feeling very self-conscious about her bedraggled state in comparison to Babs’ perfectly groomed appearance.
“And what reason might that be, Babs?”
Babs scowled, and all the lines around her mouth puckered up. “My friends call me Babs. You can call me Mrs. Morton.”
Mary flushed. The uppity cow. Coming around here like she owned the place. Her little two-bedroom house might not be the height of luxury, but it was clean and well-looked after. Mary was proud of the fact she’d managed to hold onto it, meeting the rent by taking on two cleaning jobs after Kathleen’s father had done a runner.
Babs Morton might like to put on airs and graces now that she was married to Martin Morton, but Mary knew she’d grown up in a house just like this one.
Mary bit back the sharp words she wanted to say. It wasn’t worth risking the anger of Martin Morton. She would just have to wait for Babs to say her piece.
“What can I do for you, Mrs. Morton?” Mary asked coldly.
Babs flapped open her coat and fanned herself. “It’s like a bleeding furnace in here. I don’t know how you stand having a pokey little kitchen like this.”
Mary didn’t respond. She knew Babs was trying to rile her for some reason. She would have loved to have pointed out to the snooty cow that if she wore a mink coat in the middle of summer then of course the daft mare was going to be hot.
Mary folded her arms across her chest and waited.
“It’s about that daughter of yours,” Babs said.
Mary felt her stomach clench. “Kathleen? What on earth has she got to do with anything?”
“She’s been sniffing around my Martin. And I’m here to tell you if you don’t put an end to it, I will.”
“It must be some kind of misunderstanding,” Mary said. “Kathleen is just a kid.”
“I hope for your daughter’s sake it is a misunderstanding. Otherwise, she will have me to deal with.”
Mary felt sick. Martin Morton was in his forties. There was no way her Kathleen would be interested in the likes of him.
Babs had clearly been to the hairdressers that morning and wore her makeup as if she’d plastered it on, but as she looked at Mary with an ugly scowl on her face, Babs looked every single one of her forty years.
If Martin had developed an eye for the ladies, Babs wouldn’t like that one bit.
“Well, are you going to talk to her? Talk some sense into that empty little head of hers?”
Mary wanted to slap the old bitch and then hit her over the head with the frying pan for good measure, but instead she just nodded.
“I’ll talk to her when she gets home from work. But I’m sure this has all been a misunderstanding. Kathleen is a good girl.”
Babs gave a cold laugh. “The mothers are always the last to know, aren’t they?” She tossed her dark hair and stalked away, letting herself out of the front door.
When she had gone, Mary eased herself into a wooden chair next to the window. Her legs felt wobbly after that encounter. She couldn’t believe that her Kathleen would have gotten involved with a man like Martin Morton, but something must have tipped off Babs.
For the life of her, Mary couldn’t think of any reason for Babs to be jealous of Kathleen, other than the fact that Kathleen was a pretty little thing and more than twenty years Babs’ junior.
Mary held her head in her hands. She would have it out with Kathleen as soon as she got home. There would be a simple explanation for all this. There had to be.
Kathleen wasn’t stupid. She would listen to reason. The Mortons were not a family to be messed with.
Mary felt a shiver run up her spine. God help them if what Babs said was true.
As Mary Diamond sat with her head in her hands, her daughter, Kathleen, was squeezing herself into a bright red miniskirt.
“You don’t think it’s too much, do you?” she asked her friend Linda as she gazed down at her exposed legs. “It didn’t look this short in the shop.”
“It suits you. You’ve got a fantastic pair of legs so you may as well show them off.” Linda gazed up at her friend through a heavy brown fringe. Linda was a sweet girl, but she wasn’t much of a looker.
“Your outfit is nice too,” Kathleen said to her friend.
Linda was wearing a blue and white striped dress that flared out at the waist and stopped just above the knee. She was a little on the heavy side, and the dress didn’t flatter her figure, but Kathleen wanted to bolster her confidence. She didn’t want Linda to back out of going with her to Morton’s club tonight.
“I dunno. I’m not sure about this. Think what your mum would say if she found out. She wouldn’t be happy,” Linda said.
“What has that got to do with anything? She’s too old fashioned and wouldn’t understand. This is my chance, Linda, and I intend to grab it with both hands. You should follow my example and find yourself a man. There’ll be loads of them there tonight.” Kathleen nudged her friend and giggled.
She had sent Linda’s brother over to her mother’s house with a note telling her she wouldn’t be home for dinner. That way she avoided having to ask her mother’s permission to go out tonight. She didn’t want to risk it. If her mother refused, it would mess up all her plans.
She was eighteen years old and quite old enough to look after herself, but her mum was set in her ways, and Kathleen had learned it was easier to go along with them, or, at least, pretend to.
The girls left Linda’s parents’ house, linking arms as they walked down the street. They’d had a little of Linda’s mum’s secret stash of sherry before they left the house, and Kathleen wobbled a little on her high heels. Linda helped keep her upright.
As they got closer to the club, Linda seemed to get more and more nervous. “Let’s go back now, Kath. I don’t want to go to Morton’s. It’s not a good idea. What if your mum finds out what you’ve been up to? She’ll go spare.”
Kathleen let go of her friend’s arm. “Stop being such a baby. I don’t know why I bother being friends with you. You’ve got no ambition that’s your trouble.”
Linda’s lower lip wobbled and her eyes filled with tears. “It’s not me who is the problem, Kathleen. You’re going to get yourself in trouble.”
Linda whirled around and ran back up the street towards her house.
Kathleen stamped her foot and fumed. Stupid Linda. Why did she have to go and ruin things by being such a baby? Well, Kathleen wouldn’t let her ruin her evening. Her mother would never find out she spent the night at the club rather than Linda’s, so she intended to enjoy herself.
She hadn’t gotten all dressed up for nothing. She had spent a fortune on this new outfit to impress Martin Morton, and she was determined he would see her in it.
Kathleen tossed her hair and stalked towards the club.
By the time she got there, her feet were already sore. Her heels were a little too tight and had rubbed the skin on her toes painfully. She ignored the pain, adjusted her miniskirt. The warm buzz she’d gotten from the sherry was starting to wear off.
There was a man wearing a suit on the door. Kathleen had seen him before, but he wasn’t one of Martin Morton’s inner circle. Kathleen scowled at him as he looked her up and down. There was a small gathering of people outside, queueing to get in, but Kathleen strutted right up to the front of the line.
“Oi, you’re pushing in,” a voice from behind Kathleen shouted.
“Shut your mouth,” Kathleen snapped and turned her attention to the bouncer. “I’ve come to see Martin.”
“Of course you have, love,” the man on the door said with a smirk on his face. “You and all the rest of them.”
Kathleen put a hand on her hip and narrowed her eyes. “You’d better let me in now. Martin won’t be happy when he finds out you’ve kept me waiting.”
A flicker of doubt passed over the bouncer’s face. “What’s your name?”
“Kathleen, and you’d better make sure you remember it for next time.”
The bouncer exchanged a few words with someone inside and then returned to the door, opening it wide so that Kathleen could pass through.
She gave him a cold smile as she entered the club. She wanted to ask the bouncer if Martin was here yet, but she didn’t like the way he was looking at her. Deciding to find Martin herself, she sashayed into the club.
The music was loud, and the club was already in full swing. She looked around for Martin, but she couldn’t see him. She made her way to the bar, feeling a bit self-conscious without Linda by her side. She wished she had her friend with her now. Linda could be a dopey cow, but she always made Kathleen feel more confident.
A bald man with an enormous belly bumped into her, spilling his pint, and leered. “All right, darling. Can I get you a drink?”
Kathleen sneered and was about to tell the man to piss off when she remembered she didn’t have enough money to buy her own drinks all night, and she could do with one now that the effects of the sherry had worn off.
“I’ll have a rum and Coke,” she said, intending to drop the man as soon as she got her drink.
Unfortunately, when the man returned with her drink, he wrapped an arm around her shoulders and had no intention of letting her escape.
Kathleen pulled away and took a sip of her drink. The man smelled sweaty and dirty.
“So, what’s your name, sweetheart?”
Kathleen ignored him and looked around the room, desperate to see Martin. There was no sign of him. Perhaps he was out the back.
“Oh my goodness, look at that,” Kathleen said and pointed at an imaginary object in the distance.
“What?” The bald man turned and gawked in the direction Kathleen had pointed.
Kathleen took the opportunity to slip quickly away. She made her way to the bar and caught the attention of one of the barmaids who looked vaguely familiar.
“Is Martin here tonight?”
“Not yet. He’ll be in later, though.”
Kathleen sulked as the barmaid turned away. Great. She was only able to get away for a couple of hours without her mother noticing anything was awry, and Martin wasn’t even here. Her shoes were pinching her feet, and she had to be up early in the morning for work. Tonight had been a complete waste of time.
Five minutes later, Kathleen was draining her glass of rum and Coke and considering going home, when there was a change of atmosphere in the club. The music continued, but the voices in the club died away as a strange hush fell over the bar. Kathleen looked towards the door.
Martin Morton had arrived. He wore a sharp suit and tie, and his hair was closely trimmed at the sides in a fashionable style. Kathleen felt her heart race as he looked over at her and smiled. His gold tooth glinted as the club lights shone down on him.
Kathleen smiled shyly as he made his way towards her.
His brother and right-hand man, Tony Morton was behind him along with another man Kathleen had seen before but didn’t know by name. His bulky frame loomed behind Martin, and Kathleen knew enough to know that the man was some kind of bodyguard.
Kathleen turned her attention back to Martin.
“Hello, Princess,” he said and nodded to her empty glass. “Did no one get you a drink?”
“I’ve just finished this one.” Kathleen put the glass back on the shiny wooden surface of the bar.
“Another.” Martin snarled at the bar staff.
“I don’t know what I’m paying them for. A bunch of jobsworths.”
Kathleen giggled nervously.
“I don’t want to see this girl with an empty glass again. Understand me?” Martin ordered.
The barmaid nodded. “Yes, sir. Sorry, sir.”
Martin put his hand on the small of Kathleen’s back as she took her new drink. “Let’s go through to the back,” Martin whispered.
Kathleen felt a thrill of excitement as she walked beside Martin. Everyone in the club was looking at her, and she basked in the attention, loving every second of it.
This was it. Kathleen Diamond had arrived.
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