Bradley’s next call was to Archie who had been making the arrangements for Deepak to spend a week on trial with Hearts.
‘Hi Archie, how’s it going?’
‘It’s all going well, Bradley. Deepak and his grandad are arriving next week to put Deepak through his paces. Sounds promising. I’ve also spoken to Drew about his other family and he doesn’t want word getting out that he’s in town, so keep schtum on that front. Shame you couldn’t be here to watch over things. What are you up to?’
‘I’ve had an email from my dad. Seems your contacts were spot on. He’s bought a restaurant and looks like he’s doing really well for once. He’s invited us over to try it out so Jessie and I are flying over on Friday for the weekend. He’s trying to make peace; the least I can do is go and see him. It might be a bit strained, but I owe him that.’ Bradley replied.
‘Makes sense, I’m sure you’ll both be fine when you see each other. Hope it goes well, I might try his place out when I’m in London next time. Let me know what it’s like. Is it okay if I come over to Mijas the following week? Got a few investment things to go through with you and as the weather has been grim in Scotland, I wouldn’t mind getting some sunshine!’
‘Of course you can come over. Not sure if everyone else will still be here, I don’t think Jessie’s parents are leaving until the end of the month, so we could have a bit of a get together. What do you think?’
‘Sounds perfect! Can’t wait, I’ll let you know the dates after Deepak has gone home. I can update you on his trial as well. See you soon, Bradley.’
Jessie was sitting out on their verandah with a cold Coke just chilling out after putting a load of washing on. Bradley told her all about the planned meetings and guests, but noticed she didn’t look too happy.
‘What’s up, babe? You look like you found a fiver and lost a tenner.’ He could tell she had been crying.
‘Nothing really. Just me being silly. I’ve just been calling my old friends to see if we can get together at the weekend and I got the bum’s rush from all of them. Seems nobody wants to know me now; they think I’ve gone all posh on them.’ She sobbed.
Bradley didn’t know what to say. He understood what she meant 100%, as some of his old friends had treated him the same way, even though in his heart of hearts, he knew he was still the same old Bradley Gardner from Duloch Park. He sat down next to her and held her hand.
‘I know what you mean, same happened to me. I guess that’s when you find out who your real friends are. All my best friends are now involved in football in some way, like Alvarez, Jose, some of the Scotland boys, but nobody from my childhood. It’s one of the prices I’ve had to pay for being famous. At least Gary still keeps in touch. What about your family? Can you see something of them? Why don’t you arrange a party for them?’
‘Maybe. I didn’t realise it would come to this. Some of my friends I have known since we were babies. I should have made more effort, I suppose. I just got caught up in the whole merry-go-round of dinner parties, black tie evenings and socialising with other players’ wives.’ She lamented.
He put his arm around her to comfort her and told her that as long as she had him, she would be fine. He considered Jessie his best friend and hope he was her best friend too. That’s all they needed.
‘Come on, I’ll help you set up a party for your cousins. They’ll be pleased to see you.’
With that, she managed a small smile and wiped away the tears. Bradley looked up the number of her closest cousin and phoned her, explaining what the situation was. She told Bradley to leave it all to her and she would get back to him with the arrangements before Friday. Jessie’s small smile turned into a big grin and she gave him a big hug to thank him.
She loved her life with Bradley, he was her soulmate and she knew he was more important than any of her so-called friends.
The club’s travel agent phoned back to confirm the private jet was booked to take them to London City airport on Friday and return for them on the Monday afternoon to take them straight to Malaga. They had also booked them into the award-winning Hotel 41 near Buckingham Palace for the three nights, arranging for a driver to be on call for them at all times. Everything was now in place and they started to pack once again.
Bistro Lucia was once again fully booked for the night and was buzzing with diners enjoying the food and the ambience. When Brian noticed two men loitering outside, he grew a little apprehensive. Then he recognised them as Buster and Duke from the estate where Delroy used to live, and Brian and Lucy stayed briefly. Since they had become so successful, Brian and Lucy had found a nice new apartment not far from the bistro and Delroy had been able to leave the Pitfield Estate and move into his own place in Hoxton, for which he was very proud.
Brian hadn’t seen Buster and Duke since he and Lucy had moved out and he wasn’t sure if Delroy had seen them lately either. Nonetheless, he thought he would take it upon himself to go outside and see what they wanted.
‘It’s Buster and Duke, isn’t it? I recognise you from Pitfield. You’re Delroy’s friends, right?’
They looked menacingly at Brian, then at each other.
‘That’s right. Us and Delroy go way back. Looks like you and Delroy are doing okay. Must be making a fortune. Do you have insurance? Just in case something nasty happens?’ Asked Buster.
Brian had an idea where this conversation was going and he didn’t like it. At that moment, he wished Delroy was outside with him.
‘I’m all insured, thanks. Is there any particular reason why you are curious about my insurance cover?’
The two thugs laughed to themselves.
‘We were just saying, this is a nice place. Wouldn’t want anything to happen to it that would change that. Maybe we could look after it for you, if you know what I mean.’ Buster replied.
‘If you’re looking for protection money, you’re out of luck. I’ve still got a load of debt to pay off. If I have to start paying you as well then I’m likely to go tits-up. That wouldn’t help me or you, would it?’ Brian explained.
This seemed to catch them off guard.
‘We got no plans to see you go bust, mister. Just want a slice of the action, if you know what I mean. Nothing too fancy, we were thinking of £1,000 a week for round-the-clock protection. We could also throw in some other services that your clientele might like. Got access to some great recreational pick-me-ups. I’ll bet some of them would love to see it on the dessert menu.’ He laughed.
Brian looked them in the eye and burst out laughing.
‘Are you for real? That kind of scam died out in the seventies. You’ve been watching too many old movies, son. I run a respectable restaurant and I certainly do not intend to get involved in any of that shit. As for a grand a week; you definitely ain’t real. And for your information, I’ve had my phone on record all the time we’ve been talking. Now bugger off before I call the plod.’ Brian spat.
Buster and Duke looked nervously at each other, just as Delroy came out to see what was going on.
’What’s happening guys? What brings you here? Delroy asked.
‘Hey Delroy. Good to see you again. Ain’t seen you round the Pitfield lately. Gone all up-market, I see. Your boss and me were just negotiating some business.’ Buster smiled.
‘By negotiating business, he means trying to extort a grand a week in protection money, plus getting access to our clients to offer them drugs. I told them to fuck off.’ Brian explained to Delroy.
Delroy looked hard at them and told Brian to go inside as he would deal with it. He then invited Buster and Duke to walk down the road with him.
‘I’ve got it all recorded, Delroy. If they want the Police involved, I won’t hesitate to call them.’ Brian shouted as the three of them headed down New North Road, trying not to alarm the diners inside.
Once Delroy and his two companions deviated off the main road and into a service area for one of the new apartment blocks, he pinned them both to the wall and glared at them fiercely.
‘What the fuck do you think you are doing? You don’t pick on my boss, ever. Get it?’ Delroy spat.
‘We just trying to offer him insurance. This is a bad area. Anything could happen, you know.’ Buster begged.
‘After the way my mum looked after you when you were kids getting beat up by any old bloke your mum took in, I think it’s maybe you who should have been paying us protection money. This is how you thank us?’
Buster and Duke reflected on what Delroy had said and relaxed.
’Just trying to hustle some business, Delroy. You know how it is on the estate. Need to make ends meet. What about a discount? Yeah, your mum was always good to us so I’m willing to settle for £500 a week. Does that sound good, Bro?
Delroy let go of Duke and with his free hand punched Buster hard in the stomach, knocking the wind out of him. He knew Duke wouldn’t touch him as Buster always called the shots and deep down, he was frightened of Delroy. He knew he had a bit of a temper and could look after himself. Anyway, he thought Delroy had a point about his mum looking after them all those years ago.
After the punch in the stomach bent Buster double, Delroy raised his knee firmly into Buster’s face, cracking his already deformed nose and causing blood to flow down his face. He grabbed hold of his jacket and lifted his face up until it was level with Delroy’s.
‘If I ever see you again, or anything happens to the restaurant or anyone associated with it, I will fucking kill you, do you understand?’ Delroy’s temper was full on.
Buster spat blood from his broken face and looked at Delroy, realising that he actually meant it.
‘Yeah, okay, I get it. But it wouldn’t hurt for you to help us out now and then, you know.’ Buster implored.
‘You’ve had all the help you’re going to get from us. Now fuck off the pair of you.’ Delroy threw them across the street and walked back to the bistro.
‘Everything alright, Delroy?’ Asked Brian when Delroy walked through the door.
‘It’s all sweet Mr Gardner. They won’t be bothering you again. I’m really sorry this happened. They’re just desperate and thought we would be an easy ride. Ain’t gonna happen. You let me know if you hear from them again.’ Delroy assured him.
That was all Brian wanted just before his son came to see them. He just hoped they didn’t put in an appearance when Bradley and Jessie were there. If they found out that he was Bradley’s dad they could up the stakes.