The residents of the estate weren’t used to seeing big flash motors pull up. Usually all they got was a parade of old wrecks held together by rust, which inevitably ended up on bricks when their wheels got nicked. So it was an understatement to say that Shane and his friends were surprised when a brand new Range Rover rolled to a halt before them, black metalwork gleaming in the weak spring sun. Before the doors even opened he was calculating how much he could earn from nicking it. Judging by their excited murmurs, his six friends who formed his little gang were thinking exactly the same thing.
Their lairiness only increased when the front passenger door opened to reveal a pair of long slender legs encased in a tight black skirt.
“Phwoar, look at that,” said Chug, Shane’s best friend and second-in-command of their gang.
The woman must have heard because she cast them a haughty look before hitching her handbag over her shoulder. Gucci, noted Shane. Expensive. Here was real money.
“Cor, I wouldn’t mind a piece of that,” said Chug, his eyes riveted to the woman.
Shane wasn’t surprised. Chug was like a dog with two dicks, hence his nickname, because he was always in his bedroom chugging on himself.
“Give over, she wouldn’t look twice at a shite like you,” replied Lard, a short tubby boy in a baseball cap.
“Maybe she’s after a bit of rough,” leered Chug.
Shane let them banter. He enjoyed listening to it but he rarely joined in. At eighteen he was the eldest of the group and the natural leader. In-keeping with his status he liked to act cool and aloof to raise him above the lower ranks. His little band were responsible for most of the vandalism, intimidation and petty theft on the estate as well as keeping any interlopers at bay. Under his leadership they did it well. Shane had aspirations to the big time and he knew he had the brains to make it, if only someone would give him the opportunity. Hopefully the cash he’d make nicking the Range Rover would go a long way to seeing those dreams come to fruition. With what he’d make he could buy a lot of drugs to sell on. He didn’t touch them himself, that was for mugs.
Chug went silent when the hot woman’s man emerged from the driving seat. He was big and very good looking with thick, stylishly messy dark hair and a physique that said he spent a lot of time at the gym. Shane wasn’t worried. Just because someone was strong didn’t mean they could fight. The man wore a cropped black leather jacket, black trousers and a black shirt, a watch on his wrist that probably cost more than the motor. It was clear they were coined up.
The couple saw the group watching them and looked at each other.
“That’s right, scurry inside,” murmured Shane. That was the usual effect his gang had on people. Hurry into the flats, head bowed, not making eye contact and hope they allowed them to pass unmolested. Sometimes they did. Sometimes they didn’t.
Surprise and indignant outrage seized Shane when the couple smiled at each other and started to walk their way.
“What the fuck do they think they’re doing?” said Chug.
“Must be on a death wish,” glowered Shane, not taking his eyes off the couple, starting to feel uneasy the closer they got. There was something fearless in their determined strides, as though they didn’t give a shit that they were outnumbered and on hostile territory.
They came to a halt right in front of Shane, who straightened up to his full height, which annoyingly was a couple of inches shorter than the man. He couldn’t quite put his finger on why they looked familiar.
With a subtle hand gesture from Shane his friends formed a circle around the couple but still they refused to look afraid. The woman even seemed to find the situation amusing, a smile playing on her lips.
“Are you the leader of this boy scout group?” the man asked Shane in a deep hard voice that was at odds with his posh accent.
“Yeah,” he retorted, a hell of a lot less sure of himself. The stranger was surrounded by an aura of strength and control that smothered Shane, making him feel weak and vulnerable. The man’s grey eyes were as piercing as lasers and he wilted beneath the force of them. Shane realised he’d seriously misjudged the situation. This man had seen real violence, not the stupid scraps he and his friends got into but genuine life-threatening danger. Shane’s eyes flicked to the woman, who stood fearlessly amid his leering friends, barely aware of their presence, her black eyes riveted on her man’s exchange with himself. When he noticed the thick scar on her neck everything clicked into place. Even down here in Nottingham everyone knew who this pair were.
“No Chug, don’t,” Shane called, but it was too late. He’d already slapped the woman’s behind.
She rounded on him with indignation burning in her eyes. Chug grinned and opened his mouth to say the smart comment he’d lined up to accompany the offensive gesture but, before he could speak, she’d grabbed his balls in one hand and twisted, making him scream. When Lard moved to assist his stricken friend she produced a taser from nowhere and jammed it into his shoulder, the jolt knocking him off his feet. She followed this up by headbutting Chug, mercifully silencing his squeals, and he joined his twitching friend on the ground.
“Stop,” Shane ordered when another of the morons tried to go for the woman, but the man’s arm shot out, grabbed him by the throat and hurled him over an overflowing bin.
“Stop it now you daft bastards,” Shane roared at his gang.
They all appeared relieved by the order to stand down and moved backwards, watching the woman warily, who glared at them with black, shark-like eyes.
“I’m so sorry about that,” said Shane.
“You ought to be in better control of this shower,” the man snarled savagely.
Shane had never been so humiliated in all his life. These were the big hitters he longed to be and his friends had embarrassed him in front of them. He finally saw himself and his little tribe for what they really were - playground bullies, amateurs, pathetic and disorganised. They’d have to up their game just to reach the small time. His ego deflated, bringing him back to earth with a thump. No wonder they’d approached them so fearlessly, they’d clocked what they were the moment they’d seen them.
“We’re looking for Estelle Law. We know she’s here, we just don’t know which flat,” said the man, his voice once again smooth and calm.
“Flat twenty three, first floor. You can take the stairs there,” replied Shane, nodding at a flight of stairs at the side of the building. “She’ll be in, she doesn’t go out during the day.”
“Nothing’s changed then,” he replied, disgust in his eyes.
“You’re Ryan and Rachel Law, aren’t you? Estelle told us you were her son but we didn’t believe her, we thought she was just mouthing off.”
Ryan chose to ignore the comment. “We’re going up there now. If we come down and find anything’s happened to our motor I will ensure you pay for it with horrible physical suffering that will remain with you for the rest of your life. Not them,” he said, pointing at his gang. “Just you.”
Shane swallowed hard and fought the urge to look away from his granite gaze.
“If we return and it’s still in pristine condition,” continued Ryan, “there’ll be a bonus in it for you. However, if you are as stupid as you look and think you can damage it or steal it then disappear into this rabbit warren of flats you’re wrong. We will find you and when we do…” He paused to look at his wife. “Rachel, show them.”
With a smile she ground the heel of her stiletto shoe down on Chug’s privates, who was still on the ground. He started to scream all over again, drawing the residents of the flats out onto their balconies, who started to laugh and point. Shane’s cheeks heated. They’d been here two minutes and they were already killing his reputation but he didn’t blame the Laws, he blamed his friends who, he’d just realised, were complete wankers.
“I’ll look after it, no worries,” assured Shane.
Ryan gave him a slow nod before turning away, taking Rachel’s hand and walking towards the staircase that had been pointed out to them.
The boy who’d been thrown over the bin finally got to his feet, panting, the wind knocked out of him. “He’s fucking lucky he did one when he did or I would have kicked the shit out of him.”
Shane blinked at him in disbelief before drawing back his fist and knocking him back to the ground. Then he laid into Chug and Lard, kicking at them while they were still down, furious at how they’d embarrassed him. The rest of the gang stood back, deciding to let Shane get it out of his system otherwise he’d do the same to them.