A short story about a short life. Daisy Chain by Nick Mann.
“We was at war,” Sammy murmured. He looked up with cold eyes, like death.
“What do you mean war?”
“You know what I mean. They had resources, and we wanted them. We couldn’t go to a mediator or the UN. So we killed ‘em. They killed some of us too.”
“How did it start? Did you kill Daisy?”
“Did I fuck.”
“Why are you here?”
‘Because it’s gotta end. Because of Daisy, it has to end.”
Detective Ford felt like he didn’t exist. People saw him, yes, but people see posters and rubbish. They see homelessness and injustice; it doesn’t mean that they have any affect. So, Ford felt ineffective, redundant and impotent.
He had transferred to the inner city to make a difference. The most exciting thing that had happened to him in his rural patch was a bunch of rustlers. Real life rustling just like in the films. But he didn’t have a horse or a Colt Peacemaker. Ford had to go about door-to-door following lines of inquiry until the villains were locked up. Then it was back to speeding and the odd bit of domestic, ultra violence. These country folk are something else. It must be the boredom.
Coming to the city was exciting. Ford thought it would be a challenge. The phones rang off the hook, and you needed an industrial winch to get on top of your case files. “Fuck this,” was the common phrase in his office. One case got him. It pulled him in like a magnet sat on a desk eventually dragging every bit of metal its way. The murder of Daisy Wild.
Daisy was a normal girl, much like Ford’s daughter. She had mates, she had fun and never took things too seriously. At 730pm on a muggy evening in August, she was shot in the head five times. There was not a lot of her left and this kind of brutality, even here, was rare. Ford got the case. There were clues that led to other cases. Initially, there was no connection to anything, but like a car windscreen defogging once you’d put the blowers on, connections became as clear as crystals.
For two years, crime had been escalating; petty stuff, robberies and burglaries. It all pointed to a junk problem. The more Ford worked, the less he solved. Daisy’s murder was a breaking point. This pushed him, and he vowed to himself that he’d be ineffective no more.
The deeper he dug and the more leads he followed a story was uncovering. Then in the blink of an eye, the shutters began to come down, and every hot lead turned colder than January. Ford hit the booze, but he managed to not hit the wife. He had heard that a lot of them do. They take out their frustrations on the ones who’d lie down for them. The people who they are trying to protect. The reason they do it all. Ford didn’t go there, he took it all out on himself and his liver.
December came, his close rate looked darker than the days. From nowhere Sammy Fletcher walked into the station. He said that he wanted a word. Sammy was a face from one of the estates four miles north of the city. A wounded youth with eyes deader than Elvis. Close cut hair, a scar behind his ear and a snarl that would send a chill through the Devil himself. Ford knew of him. Ford understood that he was probably responsible for God knows what and more besides. But nobody would say a word against him.
They had been sat in the interview room for twenty minutes, Sammy just staring into Ford’s eyes. “The very beginning?”
“No better place really, is there?”
“It was simple back then. We just hung out together. Alex was the boss, he always had cash on him. He drove a shit car and had a filing cabinet in his bedroom full of money. We just used to dip in and grab a couple of inches for expenses. We just sold stuff, hooky stuff. It was not a big deal. Then they bought the shop. Turned it into a burger shop,”
“That’s Tastee’s right?”
“Innit. So, they hired like, stupid people to cook burgers and shit. We got vans and had to go cash and carry and stuff like that.”
“When you say hooky stuff what do you mean?”
“Like, we’d go to JD and buy a T-shirt. Then we’d take it over to Raman’s, and he’d copy it with a screen printer and run off 500. We’d have loads of designs innit. And we’d sell them. With like, bootlegs CD’s too innit and DVD. Just copied shit and sold it. It wasn’t a problem cuz if you got caught right, they’d just fine you. But you made more money than the fine anyway, so it didn’t matter.”
“No drugs?” Ford took a pen from inside his pocket and then returned Sammy’s gaze.
“Not yet.” Sammy didn’t move his eyes for a second. He was a prophet of doom reciting a manifesto of death. “That’s what Tastee’s was for innit? It was alright at first. Just a burger shop but in the back, you could buy ecstasy, coke, heroin anything.”
“Who was on site?”
“That was Deli and Sid. But it got popular. Soon we was using the food vans to pick up stuff from like Grimsby and Hull innit. So, they need shops there. That was the fun bit. We’d go to a burger place in the town and be all like, about business innit. Yes, we are from Tastee’s and would like you to join our franchise. At first the ones that come on had no idea what was what. They just were an excuse to keep going there. We were like a normal company, we had HR and everything.”
“Tastee’s is a big franchise. There are some very prominent people on the board.”
“Yeah them wankers. They take the money but don’t get their hands dirty they just look the other way innit.”
“Do they do anything else?”
“Course they do, they bribe the councillors, get us things we need and help with transport. Logistics is what they call it. It was a normal company man, I’d say less than half the staff know what is going on.”
“What’s your job?”
“Am a General innit. I make the war decisions. Cuz that started dinnit. Basically, we got big, if a shop owner didn’t wanna join in whatever city or wherever. My job was to get him onside our out. And we used terror man, like Isis innit. I would go in with my boys, and we’d just wreck the place and threaten murder. We was serious too. They’d fix it up again, and we’d go in and smash it again, then shoot one of ‘em. They’d leave fast. Then we’d move in. Street terror man. That was us.”
“What about the war?”
“Well, we was so busy getting rich and taking over the UK with our cover that we didn’t really notice them that we was pissing off. Loads of little crews. They started getting together in towns and cities. Moving against us. Stoney was the first of it. He was making his rounds doing deliveries and pop! They just shot him, stole the van, all our gear and the money. We didn’t know who it was at first, but we put feelers out. Two more killed. Time was, we had to strike back. And we did. A junkie will tell you anything for a hit or a tenner. So it started. But we didn’t bother with the street people, we went straight to the money.”
“What do you mean?” Ford has been writing, now he stopped. Sammy had his attention. That windscreen was getting clearer by the second.
“Well, think about it. And this is what no one thinks about ever. Those kids on the street yeah? Where do they get the drugs from? We don’t make heroin in England you know? It comes from abroad, which one of those little chav twats has got a boat or the means to fucking hire one? They ain’t even been aboard most of ‘em, have they? So how are they getting their product? Where do the guns come from? Seriously it’s easy to buy a gun if you know how, but where does the guy I’m buying it from get it? Think about that for a minute.”
“Sammy, that’s a puzzle I try to solve daily son.”
“Right. It’s money innit. So, we track the money. Find the businessmen and the people who are in the shade, the ones who help out, grease the wheels, make things happen. You cut off a snake’s head, it can’t fucking bite you.”
“I see your point. But again, what are you telling me?”
“Councillor Beecham, I killed him. That rich Indian guy who lived in that mansion in the park? Had his head cut off? I did that innit. A Scottish bloke, ran loads of dodgy money businesses always on the run, Scott something. Killed him and his bitch. Up in Glasgow last year. Shot him in the face.”
“Are you confessing to multiple murders?”
“I told you. It’s got to stop. Daisy was it.”
“How? I don’t understand the connection.”
“I’ll kill anyone in the game. Anyone. You messing with big money, bringing in drugs and selling ‘em. Caching guns and making bombs, it’s fine to me. But when you drag someone in who has nothing to do with the game then it has to stop.”
“Who killed her?”
“Smiley killed her. He works for me. I’m the General, I make the rules and take care of the war. But top man, big bosses at Tastee’s got involved innit. We did a deal with that MP for Central you know him right?”
“Yes, Thomas Kennedy – Smith, that one?”
“That’s him. He was supposed to get the police off us and onto the enemy. Fucking greedy prick was taking money from both sides like we weren’t paying him enough. Hundred grand a month for that twat. I know because I counted it and delivered it more that once. Not enough for him, he has to have two lines of additional income. Fucking greedy bastard.”
“How does this relate to Daisy?”
“She’s a flower innit. The bosses said we needed to teach Kennedy a lesson. So they put out a contract on innocents. Basically reducing his majority by killing the types that vote for him. Also, random murder can put the house prices down. She was the first, there’ll be more. It has to stop. I chose my path. I’m prepared to die.”
“He won’t help you or them. I will. All of them are meeting at Tastee’s HQ this Friday. I’ll put something in the room so you can listen if you want. You gotta promise me though. It all ends? You lock ‘em all up.”
“What about you?”
“When it’s done I’ll do my time.”
“What about a deal? You’ll need protecting.”
“Did you not hear me? I’m the General, I’ll do my time, and I’ll rise again. This shit now, it has to stop. Are you man enough to stop it? Or are more people gonna die?”
Ford looked at Sammy. He believed him. Ford also feared him. This young lad was as close to evil as he ever wanted to get. He’d take them all down, he didn’t care. This would make things right. In the back of his mind, there was a thought a niggle. Sammy would rise again, of that there was no doubt. But who would help take Sammy down?
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