Newcastle, 1978. John is sleeping with Mary. Mary is married to Daniel. Both men work for her father, the Top Man. Daniel is his son-in-law, next in line to take over his little empire. John is muscle. The Top Man orchestrates robberies—banks, pay rolls, anything that will bring in some easy money. When Daniel discovers his wife’s illicit liaison, he wants John dead. The Top Man signs off on it.
But John’s a man you only get one shot at. When Daniel happens to botch that one shot, then everyone involved needs to watch their back. Because John will be coming for them, and he won’t stop until he’s taken revenge on every last one involved in leaving him for dead.
Praise for CUTTHROAT:
“Paul Heatley remains a master of savagery, of bloody men and how they live, how they die, how they kill.” —Rob Pierce, author of Tommy Shakes
Praise for Paul Heatley:
“Heatley is becoming a master of American noir in the vein of Jim Thompson and James M. Cain.” —David Nemeth
Here's an excerpt from the latest from All Due Respect Books...
There were no pictures on John Riddell’s walls. No framed photographs of family members on the window sills or the electric fire’s mantelpiece. He didn’t own records. He didn’t have a television. There were no books. The paint on the walls was peeling. There was a patch of damp in the top-left corner of the ceiling opposite the front door.
The only thing close to approaching decoration could be the naked woman lying on the bed, writhing on the crumpled bed sheets, waiting for him to undress.
There were only three rooms. A sitting room/kitchen. Bedroom. Bathroom. The bathroom stank of mould. John didn’t take care of his home. It looked like he was ready to up and leave at a moment’s notice. Likely, he was. Leave the city the same way he arrived.
No one knew much about him, other than his appearance and temperament. He was a big man, broad-shouldered and big-knuckled. He was laid back. He took the piss out of people he knew, and those he didn’t. He was calm. Until he wasn’t. And when he wasn’t, no one wanted to be around him. He left chaos the equivalent of a bomb blast. And though people couldn’t be sure when he’d first arrived in Newcastle and started making a name for himself, they knew he was a Geordie, if only through his accent. No one could claim to have gone to school with him. No one had knocked around with him in their youth. No one knew who his parents or extended family were. There were stories that he’d been in borstal, the explanation as to why he was such a mystery man, but John would neither confirm nor deny anything.
Even the woman on his bed knew little about him beyond his name, appearance, and her attraction for him.
She wasn’t his girlfriend.
Wasn’t his wife, either.
Her name was Mary Irons.
She was someone’s wife. The only item she still wore was her wedding ring.
“You gonna take much longer, then?” she said, propping herself up on her elbows.
John undid the buttons on his shirt, hung it from a hanger on the back of his bedroom door. “Just admiring the view, pet.”
Mary looked him over in turn. His body was mostly muscle, though a little softer in the midsection. A few scars that looked like slashes from a knife on his left shoulder, and another across his right pectoral. She’d asked about them, the first time. His answer had been simple. “Fighting.”
“I don’t have all night,” Mary said.
“We’ve got long enough,” John said. He winked at her, loosened his belt buckle.
“I like it slow.”
“I know exactly how you like it.”
She giggled, spread her legs a little wider as he stepped out of his pants. He hooked them through the hanger with the shirt, then climbed onto the bed with her, into her arms and between her legs.
After, they lay together and shared a cigarette. “I’ve gotta get away in a minute,” John said.
“See? Telt ye there was a rush.” Mary drew on the cigarette, held it up to his lips.
“And I told you we had time. And we did.”
“Who you gotta go see?”
“Your fella. That’s how I knew there wasn’t any rush.”
Mary sat up a little. “Shit, where at?”
“Nowhere near here, divvint worry. I’ll be goin into town.”
She settled down, the back of her head resting on his scarred shoulder. “Got some business goin?”
“Could be. Divvint kna yet, but only time he ever wants to see me is when there’s a job in the works.
He mentioned anything to you?”
“He never talks about that stuff with me.”
“What about yer dad? He ever mention anything?”
“What about when you were a little girl? Did he regale you with stories of his daring daylight robbery exploits?”
“Never saw him when I was a bairn. He was usually locked up.”
“I’m sure you went to visit.”
“Depended where they had him. Sometimes it was just me mam went down, left us with me grandma for a few days. Whenever I did see him he was never talking about what he’d done. It was all, Divvint worry pet, I’ll be out before you know it.” She deepened her voice in an approximation of her father’s. John had to admit it was a good impression. “And I’ll never get caught again, promise. Aye, that’s what he said. Never promised to go on the straight and narrow so there’d be no excuse to lock him up. Promised never to get caught again.”
John chuckled, finished the cigarette and stubbed it out against the wall next to the headboard, dumped the butt on the sill to clear away later.
“I’m getting chilly,” Mary said, rubbing her arms. “It’s always bloody freezing in this flat. I dunno how you stand it.”
“Hard as nails, man.”
“I don’t doubt it.”
“That and I’m always out. Busy boy. Only ever here with you, really.”
Mary swung her legs over the side of the bed, gathered up her underwear and dress. “I’m flattered. Our little love nest. Special little place all our own.”
“Glad you approve. Love nest—that’s exactly what I was aiming for.” John went to the door, put back on the clothes he’d recently taken off.
“You ever thought about decorating? Fresh lick of paint?”
John shrugged. “What’s the point?”
“Make it feel like a home, that’s the point.”
“This whole block’s rough as a badger’s arse, man. Nowt homely about it.”
“Not with that attitude.”
“Not with any attitude.”
“Whey, y’kna, it’s not like we’re on the Riviera. But we are on the Tyne. No reason why we can’t improve our own personal surroundings and make it something special.”
“I’ve never been to the Riviera, but I reckon it’s canny different to the Tyne.”
“I’ve never been either, but aye, you’re probably right. And you know the point I’m trying to make.”
“Trying to make.”
Mary took a seat on the edge of the bed, pulled on her heels. “So. That’s something new I know about you now.”
John raised an eyebrow. “What’s that?”
“You’ve never been to France.”
“I’ve never been to the Riviera. Never said I hadn’t been to France.”
John said nothing.
“Oh, howay, man! It’s just a place. You can tell us that much.”
John shrugged. “I’ve been all over, me. Can’t keep track of them all.”
Mary shook her head, grinned, got to her feet and went to him. She put her hands on his chest, kissed him. “You’d better get a move on,” she said. “And I’d better get away back home.”
John grunted. “I’ll see you soon.”
“If you’re lucky.”
Mary left the building first. John stood by the window, watched her pass by on the street below. Waited five minutes. He didn’t have to rush. Didn’t mind making them wait.
He headed to the pub on foot, lit a cigarette on the way. Daniel Irons and Malcolm Reay sat in a corner, talking over pints. John took a seat with them, cigarette dangling from the corner of his mouth. “Didn’t get me a drink, like, lads?”
Daniel looked at him, unimpressed. “Didn’t know when you were gonna feel like fuckin showing up, did we?”
Malcolm cleared his throat. “You all right, John-lad? Where’ve you been?”
Malcolm laughed. Daniel didn’t look impressed.
He’d look less impressed if he’d known John had been shagging his wife.
Of course, he never looked impressed anyway. Had the perpetually severe face of a miserable bastard that never cracked a smile. John reckoned he was a real barrel of laughs at home. No wonder Mary came to see him.
Malcolm was more laid back. A modern kind of guy with long hair, a moustache, flared pants. He took a sip of his beer. Froth stuck to the hair on his top lip. He licked it off.
“We gonna be here long, or what?” John said.
“Long enough for you to get yerself a pint, if that’s what you’re asking,” Daniel said.
“Canny. Then I’ll be right back. Divvint gan anywhere.”
Daniel glared at him, but said nothing.
John went to the bar, waited to be served. The atmosphere was thick and smoky, an asthmatic’s nightmare. John lit another cigarette, ordered his pint. He glanced back at Daniel and Malcolm in the corner. They were talking again. Daniel was probably complaining about him, his attitude, being late. Let him complain. They needed John more than John needed them.
“Crack then, lads?” John said, sitting back down.
Daniel stared at him. “You ready? You sure?”
“Good to go.”
Daniel took a long breath through his nose. “What’re you messin around, for? You think I’d call you here if this wasn’t work related? I’m not lookin to fuckin socialise with ye.”
“I know that, Daniel. I wouldn’t wanna hear from you if it wasn’t work related.”
Daniel bristled. “You think this isn’t serious? You got somethin better to be doin?”
“I’ve always got somethin better to be doin, mate. I’m an in-demand lad. It’s a privilege for you to have me here sittin with you.”
Daniel ran his tongue round the inside of his mouth like there was a bad taste there. “I divvint like you, John.”
“I divvint like yer attitude. Yer a cocky bastard, that’s all you are. We don’t need you.”
“You waited an awful long time for me to get here if you don’t need me.” John grinned.
Malcolm concentrated on his pint, stayed out of their heated discussion.
“You’re a two-bit heavy, that’s all,” Daniel said. “You’re nowt special. We can find another like you just like that.” He clicked his fingers.
“Aye, well, I’m here now so why don’t we just get on with it, eh? Course, if you’re that bothered, maybe you could have a chat with yer father-in-law, see what he has to say. The Top Man.”
The Top Man. Steven Edwards. Mary’s father.
Daniel gritted his teeth at that. John had done plenty of jobs for Steven down the years, and he’d had no complaints.
John cocked his head. “No?”
Malcolm put his hands down flat on the table, playing peacekeeper. “Why don’t we just get on with it, eh? We’re all here now, let’s just get this thing sorted.”
Daniel and John stared at each other, then Daniel broke his gaze and shifted in his seat. “Aye, all right.”
John sat back, smiled.
Daniel popped his knuckles. John wondered if he was supposed to be intimidated. “It happens in three days,” he said. “Are you paying attention?”
Daniel went over the plan. When he’d finished, he looked at them both. “Got that?” Malcolm nodded enthusiastically. John raised his eyebrows.
“Good,” Daniel said. “And I shouldn’t have to say this, but divvint be fuckin late the day of, eh? You reckon you can do that?”
“I’m a professional, Dan.”
“Aye, so you claim.”
“You’ve seen me in action.”
“Aye, and yet I still feel like I’ve gotta keep on at you about doing things the right fuckin way. Funny that, isn’t it?”
“You’re too uptight.”
“The fuckin two of ye are too uptight,” Malcolm said, eyes wide. “Jesus Christ, feels like I’m sitting in the middle of a pissing contest here. Lookit, we’ll get the job done, it’ll gan off without a hitch, it’ll be fine. Everything’ll be fine, all right?”
“You don’t need to persuade me,” John said. “I already know.”
Daniel ground his teeth. Whenever John was round him—and this predated his involvement with Mary—he always seemed to be itching for a fight. John wasn’t sure if that was a trait particular to when he was nearby, or if that was how Daniel went on with everyone. Either way, John would be more than happy to oblige him, if he ever wanted to get down and dirty and throw some fists. Plenty had stepped up before, none of them had walked away intact.
“Well.” Daniel finished his pint. “We’ll just have to find out together, won’t we? But I’ll tell you this now, John—three days’ time, if you’re late, I’m out. You understand? I’ll be walking away. I’m not putting myself at risk over your bullshit. I won’t put myself at risk for anyone.”
“Fair enough,” John said. “Neither would I.”
“Whatever. I’m goin home.” He got to his feet.
“Reckon I’ll stay out for a few more,” John said. He looked round the room. “Might go somewhere with a bit more life to it than this shithole, though.”
Malcolm grinned. John turned to him.
“What about you, Malc? You gotta get home and away to bed like some auld gadgy, or are you up for hitting the Toon?”
“Whey, I’m definitely up for a few more drinks, like,” Malcolm said. “It’s a Tuesday though, I divvint reckon anywhere else is gonna be much livelier than this.”
“We’ll just have to take our chances, then. See what the night brings us.”
Daniel looked between the two of them as they spoke. He was standing, but he hadn’t left the table yet. “Listen, if either of you turn up hungover an’all, it’s off. And I’ll be very pissed. And you can bet yer arse the Top Man will be pissed, too.”
“You think it’ll take us three days to shake a hangover?” John said.
“It worries me that maybe you’ll not stop drinking for three fuckin days.”
John and Malcolm exchanged glances. “We’ll show him,” Malcolm said. “Let’s gan for four!”
“Divvint let his bad influence rub off on you, Malcolm.”
Malcolm laughed. “Trust me, mate, I’ve had me fill of bad influences. There’s not a bad decision I’ve never not made.”
“I know.” Daniel nodded, solemn. “I’ve seen some of your lasses.”
John laughed. He had to hand it to Daniel. That one was funny.
Daniel left. John resisted the urge to tell him to say hello to Mary for him. It wasn’t worth the trouble.
“So,” Malcolm said. “Where we gonna go?”
John downed his pint, started getting to his feet. “Anywhere that isn’t fuckin here.”
Cutthroat is available now from All Due Respect Books. Check it out!