Read the first chapter of Murderous Betrayal now.
“I’m just going in now. I’ll see you at the pub later, buy you a beer to help celebrate your good news. A grandfather again—you’ll have quite a tribe to babysit for soon, old man.”
“Funny. I bloody well hope not. Six grandkids are more than enough for a man of my age to keep up with. I just wish I was ten years younger.”
“Gotta fly. It’s raining, and I’m getting wet. See you soon.” Paul Potts ended the call to his brother and entered the communal area of the flats he owned in a district of Bristol. He inhaled a large breath. He was there to collect a couple of rents that were overdue. He’d given the three tenants enough time to get the funds together, and he was about to get tough. He hated being crappy with his tenants, but he was running a business, not a charity. He had his own bills to pay, just like everyone else.
Unfortunately, some of his tenants had recently lost their jobs and hadn’t received their payments from the Social yet. He knew that took a few weeks to sort out, so he’d given them three weeks’ grace already. Now he wanted his money. With his heart pounding, he approached the first door and knocked on it three times.
“Yeah, who is it?” a stern voice asked from behind the closed door.
“Mr. Hawkins, it’s Paul Potts. I’ve come to collect the rent you owe me.”
“Hey, man. When the Social pay me, then I’ll pay you. You have my assurance about that.”
“Open the door, Mr. Hawkins.”
He heard the chain being removed, and the door eased open. “What more can I say? You’ll get your money as soon as I can physically put it in your hand.”
“Have you been down the Social to chase them?”
“Yeah, man, like every bloody day. You know what a bunch of tossers they are. Jesus, what more can I do? If I was a lass, I could go out there and spread my legs for a few quid, but I’m not.”
“There’s no need for you to speak to me like that. I’ll give you until the end of the week.”
Hawkins glared at him through narrowed eyes. “Threats ain’t going to help the situation, either. I’m doing my best. You’ve just got to be more patient.”
“For your information, I’m a very patient man, but you’ve got to get off your arse and get down there. Make a nuisance of yourself. I have a list of people needing a room. It’s not fair to keep them on the waiting list.”
“Yeah, well, I don’t think it would be very fair of you to kick me out, either. The fault lies with the Soc, not me. Give me a break, man.”
“I am. You’ve got until the end of the week.”
Hawkins’s lip turned up at the side, and he slammed the door in Paul’s face.
Crap! One down, only two more to go! I hate this side of things. The money just ain’t worth the bloody hassle.
He trudged up the stairs to the next floor and knocked on the second door in the tiny dark hallway. He looked up at the light overhead and made a mental note to replace the bulb from the box he carried in his car before he left for the evening. The door remained unanswered, so he thumped his fist on it again.
After a few seconds, the door opened. Stuart Rawlinson had obviously just woken up. His ginger hair was a mess, and his eyes seemed to be unfocused as he struggled to see who was standing before him. Paul recognised the strange smell coming from inside the flat as cannabis.
“Hey, how’s it diddling, Paul?”
“Not so good, Stuart. You’re gonna hate me, but I’ve come for the rent you owe me.”
Rawlinson held his arms out to the side and shrugged. “The truth is, I ain’t got two ha’pennies to rub together.”
Paul sighed. That was clearly a lie as the man had recently taken drugs. The evidence was clear. “That’s a shame, Stuart. Then I’m going to have to ask you to vacate the flat immediately.”
Rawlinson shook his head and stuck it forward as if to focus more on Paul. “What? You can’t do that.”
“I’m afraid I can. It’s in your rental agreement, the one you signed the day you moved in. Look, as much as I like to help you guys out, I’m not running a damn charity here. Three of you owe me rent this month. This can’t go on. If you’ve got money for drugs, then you’ve damn well got enough to pay the rent.”
“The drugs were a gift from a mate, man. I swear they were. I’ll get you your money by the end of the week. I promise.”
“You better, or you’ll be on the streets. That’s my promise to you.” Paul turned away before Stuart could say another word. He flinched when the door slammed shut behind him. He carried on up the next flight of stairs to the top floor of the house and banged on the final door.
Bob Nuttall opened it instantly. “Hi, Paul. Before you start, I should have your money in a few days. You know how it is. I’ve got a cash-flow problem, mate.”
Paul shook his head. His blood was boiling as the anger flooded through him. “Yeah, haven’t we all? Look, you’re the third one in this block to let me down. That in itself gives me a cash-flow problem. I’ll tell you what I’ve just told the bloody others. I’m not running a damn charity here. Either you pay up, or you ship out. I’ve got a long waiting list of people who want to pay for these flats. Get your bloody act together and get the money to me within the next few days, or you’ll be out on the street. Is that clear enough for you, mate?”
“Yep, loud and clear. I’m gonna bust a gut to get your money to you within a few days. Thanks for being so understanding.”
Paul snorted. “Understanding? Seriously, you guys are going to cause me to have a heart attack, the amount of stress you put me under. You do realise that next month’s rent will be due in a few weeks, right? How the hell are you going to pay that on time?”
“I will. I promise you, I will.”
“You better. I’m not going to have this every damn month. Bloody hell, I took you guys in when other landlords refused to open their doors to you—big mistake on my part. Lesson learnt. I won’t put myself in this situation again. I can assure you. I’ll open my doors to female tenants next time. You men just aren’t worth trying to help because you insist on taking the piss.”
Bob shrugged. “What do you expect me to say to that? You’ll have your money in a few days as promised.” He slammed the door in Paul’s face.
Paul retraced his steps down the two flights of stairs and pulled up the collar on his jacket before he stepped out the front door. His car was about fifty feet up the road. Before braving the weather, he paused and waited to see if the rain eased a little. When it didn’t look like it had intention of relenting, he hunkered down into his collar and ran towards the car. No sooner had he left the steps to the building than something heavy struck his neck. He instantly lost his balance and tumbled to the ground. Another blow to his head knocked him out.
When Paul woke up, he didn’t have a clue where he was or how long he’d been unconscious. He tried to sit up in the darkness and banged his head. He was in a confined space,
and there was the smell of petrol close by. His head was woozy, making it difficult for him to think straight. He was moving. He felt a little motion sickness… or was that because of the bang he’d received to his head? It was a few minutes before his situation became clearer. He felt around himself and found a tow rope and a petrol canister. He was sure he was in the boot of a car—his own car.
What the hell is going on? He was unsure whether to bang on the boot or not, afraid that might anger the person who had intentionally knocked him out and abducted him. Damn, what am I supposed to do now?
The car’s speed increased. Does that mean we’re on an open road? A motorway, perhaps? He tried to think if he had anything useful around him that he could use to try to jemmy the boot open, but nothing came to mind. All he could do was lie there and wait for the car to stop. Still, he wasn’t sure how he would proceed even when that happened. Who would do this to me? Why would they do this to me?
Time marched on until the car’s speed finally decreased. He banged his head on the boot as the terrain became bumpy. What the fuck? What the hell is going on?
The car stopped. He heard a door open and slam shut and braced himself to meet his abductor. Then he thought he heard another car arrive and a second door bang. Are there two of them? He wasn’t sure as his head was still too muzzy.
Still no one came to see how he was. Suddenly, the car began to move. He heard laughter in the distance. The ground was bumpier than before, and his head continuously hit the sides and the top of the boot. Jesus, what the hell is happening? He was disorientated, and the only thing he was certain of was that the car had changed angles as if it were going downhill. The speed increased. With nothing to steady him, the force of the car’s momentum turned him around until he was wedged up against the back seats. He tried to push at them, but they refused to budge. As the car’s speed appeared to double, he quickly realised that he was plunging to his death.
“Please… please help me! I don’t want to die like this. Help me!”
A large thud ended his cries for help. He slipped into unconsciousness as water flooded into the boot of the car.