The black Mercedes turned into the disused warehouse complex near the docks and stopped in an alley between two buildings. The windows of the car were glazed with dark reflective glass that denied any view of the passengers. The car remained stationary but no one got out. Lucky Bright was waiting.
He was very proud of this car. It had been advertised by the Embassy of one of the Arab states, whose Ambassador had been ordered to leave England at very short notice for crimes against the state - he had apparently been arrested in Trafalgar Square, dressed in punk gear, complete with earrings and stud in his nostril and accused of inciting a riot. His plea that all he'd been trying to do was pick up a typical young English girl for a night of sensuality was rejected and after claiming diplomatic immunity he was bundled on a plane and sent home in disgrace.
The car was one of his relics, put up for sale after he and all his wives had departed. When Lucky first eyed the long sleek car his heart missed a beat as he visualised himself in the corner of the back seat, his minions in the seats in front and Joey The Wheels, in a peaked cap driving.
Despite his excitement and determination to acquire it, he had kept his usual cool and argued over the price for a good thirty minutes, remembering how his father had described wartime visits to the bazaars of Egypt and Libya.
Status symbols were very important to Lucky and none more than the car he was driven in; he was after all the uncrowned king of crime in the bottom half of the town. His organisation controlled drugs, prostitution, sales of all black market tickets to the big matches and boxing, most of the one armed bandits in the clubs and many of the clubs themselves.
He financed three pop groups who were paying big dividends for the influence he brought to bear in setting up their gigs and owned a nice little electrical goods warehouse where they fenced all the car radios and video sets the kids of the neighbourhood nicked whenever they were short of a little ready. He was Mr. Big, and no one challenged his authority.
It had not always been so good. He had clawed his way up from nothing, a mere strong arm for Benny The Butcher Belino, doing his dirty work while he sat around on his fat arse with pretty young girls serving him drinks and anything else he'd fancied. Lucky had sworn a secret oath that he would one day oust the gang boss and take all the pickings for himself but it had taken three years of patiently watching and learning before he felt he was ready to strike.
His opportunity to step into Benny's shoes came suddenly and took all Lucky's courage to see it through; he discovered the gang boss' weakness for young girls and put it to work in his grand design by secretly sending the young wives of gang members to Benny's bed every time their husbands had been ordered out on a job.
Belino thought it was Christmas every day and took it as a gesture of his 'boys' regard for him until Lucky, in a grand confrontation witnessed by all the gang members and their wives at a party he'd set up, copying the gangster dinners of Chicago in the thirties, accused his boss of treachery, debauchery and fornication. The older man was stunned at the sudden turn of events; especially when the girls started to confirm the accusation and then went on to describe Benny's limitations as a lover.
Their anger slowly turned to laughter and, much to Lucky's relief, his boss had slunk away and withdrawn from sight in his embarrassment and shame, leaving the field open for his aggressive strong-arm man.
He had immediately stepped in to keep the gang together and, as instigator of the downfall - without violence - of Belino was accepted as his successor by virtually all. After a couple of smashed noses and broken ribs his succession had been accepted unanimously and he had set to work to build up the organisation, bringing in more up-to-date methods of management and introducing up to the minute scams.
The car was his present to himself, chosen to show the world that Lucky was a man of presence, a man to respect and not to trifle with. It certainly succeeded with the men who worked for him; they could not wait for an opportunity to be seen getting out of, or into the Mercedes with their boss, taking care that anyone in the vicinity was aware they were doing so.
The car, gliding quietly around the borough with it's mysterious darkened windows keeping an anonymous watch on everyone, kept Lucky's control firm and unchallenged until, that is, word was sent that Dolla Jim Coaley, leader of the topside gang, was rustling some of their business.
Lucky had always been an honourable man, never trespassing over the agreed borders of his territory and stamping down firmly on any member who abused the agreement, but now Coaley was, apparently, blatantly crossing the line and action had to be taken. He had made contact with Dolla and set up this meet.
Joey The Wheels leaned forward over the steering wheel, looking at the desolate scene of the half wrecked buildings on each side of the empty alley:
"I don't like this, Boss, it's too quiet," he said.
"Relax, Joey, we'll just wait here a while. They'll show," Lucky replied.
"Who suggested this place, you or Dolla?" Quickfinger Bolter asked.
"They did, but stop worrying," Lucky said, settling back comfortably into the depth of the back seat. He swore he could smell the perfume of the Arab's wives every time his face touched the fabric of the seat, and he smiled with comfortable satisfaction.
"I don't trust that slimy bastard Coaley. He's up to something," Quickfinger said.
"He's up to something alright," Lucky agreed, "But this is just a preliminary meet to clear the air. He'll let slip if he's got any idea of knuckling in on us and then I can make up my mind how I'll deal with him."
"We should both come with you and flash a bit of metal, just in case he tries anything," Joey said.
"No. The agreement is just the two of us and no hardware. You know me, my word is my bond. When they show, you two stay here. I don't want them to even know you've come with me, right?"
"I don't like it," Joey said again.
"I wouldn't trust him with my whoring grandmother," Quickfinger said. "Just don’t stand in my line of fire when you get out there, in case he plays dirty."
"Here he is," Joey said, interrupting his companion.
From the other end of the alley another car drove towards them slowly and stopped some fifty yards away. What little sun there was shone directly onto the windscreen, obscuring their view of the faces of the driver and the passenger.
"It's alright, there's only Dolla and his driver. Stay here like I said." Lucky got out of the Mercedes and straightened his tie and smoothed down his jacket before walking slowly forward, his hands held wide in evidence of his unarmed state and his eyes never leaving the windscreen of the car in front of him. He saw, to his relief, the passenger door open and a smiling Dolla Coaley emerged, his hands held wide in acknowledgement of their agreement.
They stopped, facing each other, a few yards apart.
"You're looking prosperous Lucky, it's nice to see," Dolla said.
"I can't complain," he replied. "I can make a living without breaking the rules and crossing the border, which would appear to be more than I can say for you."
"Now that's not a very nice thing to say to an old friend."
"Come off it Dolla! The only reason we're here today is to sort this out. Let's not fart around the bush," Lucky said sharply.
"It's a big town, Lucky, there's plenty out there for us without quarrelling over it. My boys only take what's mine." Dolla's permanent grin was getting up Lucky's nose and he had to take a grip on himself to avoid losing his temper, which, he sensed, was just what Coaley wanted.
"We had an agreement that was fair and has worked well until now.
You had the topside of the town and I had the bottom. I've always stuck to my bottom, why aren't you?" 'Oh Christ,' he thought as soon as he'd said it, 'I wish I'd said it differently to that.'
Coaley's grin widened but he did not take advantage of his opportunity.
"I don't remember making an agreement with you, Lucky," he said, instead.
"We've always had an agreement, ever since Benny's day."
"Ah yes, but that was with Benny. It didn't say anything about splitting up the town with you, did it?" The smile had gone and suddenly Dolla was a different man.
"That agreement is the only thing that can prevent chaos, with both of us going after the same jobs. It may have been made with Benny but I'm running the bottom side now and it's just as important that we observe it," Lucky said.
"Well that's another thing altogether." Dolla Coaley hesitated, a suggestion of the grin catching the corners of his mouth.
"What's that supposed to mean?" Lucky asked sharply.
"There are those who don't like the way you came to be running the bottom side. There are those who think you were a bit too clever in the way you got my old friend Benny out."
"Oh yer," Lucky mumbled, concerned, suddenly, with the way the meeting was going and completely unprepared for it. "Benny did for himself by chasing too much skirt. When he started laying his blokes' birds he lost their respect and support. I didn't get him out, he walked out of his own accord." "But it was you what set him up."
"Are you saying I pimped for him? You must be off you rocker!"
Tension had crept into the meeting. They glared at each other like two belligerent stags. Dolla answered slowly:
"I don't say it, Benny says it."
"You listen to him?" Lucky scoffed. "He walked out without a word because the girls were laughing at his performance in the sack. I couldn't have arranged that even if I'd tried."
"Benny thinks you did. The girl's mockery was his final humiliation. You wounded him where it hurts worst and he can't forgive you for that."
"Well if he wants to do something about it tell him to have a go, I'll be ready to deal with Mister Bloody Benny."
"Oh you needn't worry, Lucky, he's done it already. He's given me half his business in the bottom side," Dolla said slowly, seeking maximum impact. He turned and held his hand out towards the car.
The driver's door opened and Benny, looking a little older and wearier, got out. "Meet my new partner," Dolla said.
"You didn't think I would give everything up to a little shit like you, did you Lucky?" Benny said and put an arm around Dolla's shoulder. "Me and my partner are coming back to pick up the pieces of my business and there wont be any room for you in the new set up. There won’t be no bottom side and topside anymore, just one big friendly family, me and my friend Dolla."
"You've got to be joking! Do you think the lads will fall for that after the way you treated them. You are Mr Yesterday, Benny, They'll back me every time against you and your boy friend," Lucky said angrily.
"That was always a danger we had to consider, but if you're not around they can't, can they?" Dolla said, smirking.
"You wont frighten me off easily. You two are starting a war. From the moment I walk away from here there'll be no peace until it's settled and I control both sides."
"Sadly, I was afraid you'd say that," Dolla said.
"Well, so be it. At least shake hands for the last time."
Lucky looked at his adversary suspiciously then slowly extended his hand.
"Goodbye Lucky," Dolla said, shaking hands.
"Goodbye Lucky," Benny said solemnly and shook his hand.
Lucky stood glued to the spot, the awful truth slowly dawning on him.
"You bastards,” he said as the single crack of the rifle shot rang out from a window on the ruined first floor of the old warehouse behind them and the bullet found it's mark, striking him neatly below the heart.
"Oh my God," he gasped as he fell and his life came to an end.