When the January transfer window slammed shut on the 31st of January, Kevin McNair cracked open a bottle of local Cava and smiled to himself.
Although many clubs were linked with signing Bradley Gardner, nobody had managed to prise him away from Barcelona so he would be remaining there until at least after the World Cup in June, so McNair picked up the phone to call his local bookie who had taken €1,000 at 4/1 that he would move.
‘Hola! It’s Kevin McNair. I believe I have some money to collect.’ McNair told the bookie.
‘Si, I have the money here. Where do you want to meet?’
‘There’s a bar on Fuengirola beach called Pulpo. I’ll meet you there tonight at seven-thirty. I’ll even buy you a drink to commiserate your loss.’ McNair laughed.
The bookie didn’t get the joke and hung up after agreeing to meet McNair at Pulpo.
At 7:25, McNair was sitting outside the Pulpo with a beer. The weather had been exceedingly warm, even for February so he was happy to sit on the terrace overlooking Fuengirola beach watching the people go by. He had only met Ferraro the bookie once when he got talking to him in his usual watering hole, the Bar Asturias near his apartment. They had stuck up a conversation, shared a few beers and talked a lot about football, including how well McNair knew Bradley Gardner.
McNair checked his watch as he ordered another beer. It was gone eight and Ferraro had still not turned up which was taking the edge off his good mood. Picking up his phone once more to check for any messages, he decided to call him and see what the problem was.
‘Ferraro? Where the Hell are you? I’m on my third beer and I need to pay the bill. Are you still coming?’
‘I’m right behind you Kevin.’
McNair swung round just in time to see a block of wood heading towards his face at speed. The force of the blow had knocked him to the ground and left a wide gash on his cheek where blood was already streaming from it. He noticed there were two other men standing there with Ferraro who reminded McNair of Hugh McInally’s two goons, Ludo and Marek, so the odds were stacked against him if he was thinking of fighting his way out.
‘You tried to screw me over with your lies that you know Bradley Gardner. I don’t like being lied to.’ Ferraro spat as he kicked McNair in the side of the head making him see stars.
‘No, really, I do know Gardner. We used to play in the same team at Hearts. He has a place in Mijas and I’ve had a drink with his dad. I was surprised as you were that he didn’t transfer.’ McNair pleaded.
‘If you were truly surprised, why did you bet €1,000 that he would move? Can you afford to waste such a sum of money? No, of course not. I knew you were trying to scam me and now you pay the price.’ Ferraro nodded to his sidekicks who proceeded to give McNair a severe beating, leaving him lying in a bloodied heap with some broken bones and torn clothing.
‘Don’t ever try to fuck with me, McNair. Nobody does that.’ Ferraro told him menacingly as him and his accomplices strolled into the bar and told them they hadn’t seen anything before getting in Ferraro’s blacked out Range Rover and speeding off down Plaza San Rafael towards the centre of Fuengirola.
Once the barman was sure Ferraro had gone, he came out to tend to McNair and call an ambulance.
‘I have called an ambulance, senor. Try not to move, they will be here very soon.’ The barman assured him.
McNair was in a daze and couldn’t see anything due to the blood from his cut face seeping into his eyes. He tried to wipe the blood away, but he couldn’t move his arms and started to panic. What if he was paralysed, he thought. That was his last words before passing out, looking for all intents and purposes, like he had died.
Ten minutes later, the Paramedics arrived and stabilised McNair before loading him into the ambulance for the short trip to Fuengirola Hospital with sirens and flashing lights, such was the seriousness of his injuries.
McNair didn’t wake up until twenty-four hours later when he found himself in a hospital bed connected up to all sorts of machines that were monitoring his breathing and bodily functions. He was sore, which at least meant he still had feeling in his body, and it took him a few minutes for his eyesight to get accustomed to his new surroundings.
When he finally focused, he saw that there was a nurse and a Policeman waiting patiently for him to wake up.
‘Senor Kevin McNair? Is that your name? How are you feeling?’ The Policeman asked.
It took a while for McNair to gather his thoughts and utter any words. His throat was dry and his head was banging.
‘I feel like crap.’ McNair whispered. ‘What happened?’
‘We were hoping you would be able to tell us that, Senor McNair.’ The Policeman replied in perfect English.
Officer Tavares was fluent in English; he had met his English wife ten years ago when she was on holiday in Fuengirola and as she still couldn’t speak much Spanish, English was the language of choice at home with their two children.
‘I can’t remember anything.’ McNair said. ‘Did I get hit by a car?’
‘No senor, you were hit by something much worse. I think I had better wait until you come round properly before we finish this conversation, but in the meantime, do you know of someone called Ferraro?’
McNair struggled to get his thoughts together, but the name didn’t ring any bells with him and he told Officer Tavares that he didn’t know anyone by that name before slipping back into unconsciousness once more.
Officer Tavares looked at the nurse and told her to let him know as soon as he had regained consciousness so he could interview him properly. The nurse agreed and called for the doctor who was on duty that night.
It wasn’t until the next morning that McNair woke up enough to make sense of where he was. Some of the events leading up to his admission to hospital were slowly coming back to him. He vaguely remembered sitting outside a bar somewhere having a beer in the sunshine, then it all became muddled.
After a while, the doctor came to visit him and check him over before explaining where he was and why.
‘Senor McNair? My name is Doctor Torre and you are in Fuengirola hospital as you appear to have been involved in an attack outside Pulpo Bar. Do you remember anything about the incident?’ The doctor asked as he checked his vital signs.
‘I remember sitting outside a bar, then I think someone hit me with a piece of wood then started kicking me. What’s the damage? I ache all over.’ McNair told him.
‘You had a bleeding on the brain which we had stabilised, a broken arm, some broken ribs and lots of cuts which we have treated. You were very lucky, Senor McNair. Do you know why this happened?’ The doctor asked.
‘No idea, doctor. I was just sitting having a quiet drink.’ McNair’s memory was slowly starting to return. He was meeting someone, something to do with a winning bet that he was collecting. Ferraro. Yes, that was it. That was the bookie he was meeting. Was that the same person who beat him up? Should he tell the Police about this nutter? He thought not, so when Officer Tavares visited him later that morning, he told him he couldn’t remember who he was meeting, although it was clear that the policeman knew who he had met and who was responsible for his injuries. McNair was too scared to name names, if Ferraro found out he could end up in a much worse state. What was it about dealing with dodgy bookmakers? He had been shafted by McInally and now he had been turned over by Ferraro. He worried about the £10,000 bet he had placed with one of the late McInally’s bookie friends. He had wired the money to him and he was now worried that if the bet came in, he wouldn’t get the £100,000 he was offered.
‘If you remember anything else Senor McNair, I will need to talk to you. Here is my card. I wish you well, senor.’ Officer Tavares told him as he left the room. He knew Ferraro was behind it, and he had worked out why as well. Ferraro was well known to the Fuengirola police and was known to have some very nasty connections with other local gangsters and a handful of Russian crooks who had settled in the area. They had been trying to nail him for years but he was too good for them. He had control over the town and without the resources to do their job properly, Fuengirola Police would never catch him he sighed.
As Officer Tavares walked back to his car, he noticed Ferraro and his friends sitting in a car opposite the entrance to the hospital. He walked towards them as Ferraro wound down his window.
‘Well? How is our friend? Is he singing like a canary?’ Ferraro smiled.
‘He’ll survive. You did a good job on him. I think he knows it was you but he’s way too scared to mention anything. He denied knowing your name when I asked, so I don’t think you will have a problem with him. He’s small time and out of his league.’ Officer Tavares assured him.
‘Good work. Here’s something for your trouble.’ Ferraro said as he passed an envelope containing €500.
‘Gracias. Have a good day.’ The officer told him as he slipped the envelope into his back pocket and strolled back to his police car.