Viva La Madness: Sopranos Meets The Long Firm

The Long Firm meets The Sopranos, this extract from the long-awaited sequel to the cult classic Layer Cake is British crime fiction at it's best.
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I thought I might pop back to the hotel room, have a kip for a couple of hours, but the phone was ringing as I entered. It’s Sonny King in a public phone box.

‘You’re back?’ I ask. ‘I thought you were away for a week.’
‘So did I, mate, so did I.’
‘So what happened?’

‘We come back. Twitchy’s a laugh but you have to have a third party or he starts to become hard work. I don’t know who fills his head with magic. We got on to the holiday firm, told ‘em he’s been burnt half to death with sunburn, told ‘em it was a medical emergency. We had that rep bird terrorised – couldn’t wait to see the back of us! Just goes to show, don’t it?’

‘Yeah, it just goes to show,’ I agree.

Funny – Sonny’s being nice as pie. Morty’s obviously told him to behave.

‘Now,’ says Sonny, all business, ‘we need to have a chat, one on one. You get it? I’ve been thinking. Long flight home. We need to straighten a few things out ... ‘ He pauses, as if referring to notes. ‘Let’s be amicable. Is that the word? Amicable? Let’s be friends, mate―’

‘You sure you’re okay, Sonny?’
‘You can fuck off, pal,’ he says, instantly losing his new found amicability. ‘I fuckin tried. You come to my club at ten. Okay?’
The phone goes dead without Sonny waiting for his reply.

With a name like the Monarch Sonny’s club could be a shithole boozer in some backwater, full of dusty coffindodgers; instead, it’s a cool bijou nightclub tucked in a deadend turning over by Piccadilly. I had the cab drive past so I could get my bearings. It had a small entrance – just red ropes and a black glosspainted front door – with the name picked out in tasteful neon. It appeared surprisingly classy and sophisticated, like it was trying to be the groovy boutique spot rather than the megarave club, aiming for quality rather than quantity. I was quietly impressed by Sonny’s setup; even a tad jealous, if I’m honest.

I had the cab drop me up the street then walked back. Rented white stretch limos were causing gridlock along the street, and there’s a couple of big ‘roidedup geezers, who don’t sniff like cozzers, sat in a BMW X5 checking out everyone, up and down the street. I caught one of them looking straight at me, then making a call on his cell – reporting my arrival to person or persons unknown.

The door seems to have a siege mentality. Very unwelcoming, like it’s some concrete bunker in an Estuary town. The door crew frisk everybody, subjecting them to heavy manners and metal detectors. Nobody escapes the selfimportant security – not the toffs or the hip, young Japanese tourists. It’s busy and pleasantly chaotic but bouncers just opened the red rope as I approached, nodded in recognition, and ushered me in.

One of the bouncers followed me up the tight staircase. ‘Mister King asked that you be shown up to the office,’ he says, like he’d rehearsed the line.

He walks me past the cash desk and even more bouncers but this little firm of heavyweights are trying to look inconspicuous. He leads me into the club, motions above the loud music for me to follow him around the side of the dance floor. He pushes open a concealed door made of smoked glass with his considerable shoulder and leads me up a flight of steep, winding stairs. The bouncer leads me along a corridor filled to the ceiling with boxes of booze and into a small, dimly lit office. The only light is from a banker’s lamp that floods the desk with an intense glow.

‘If ya want a drink ... ‘ he says, pointing at a glassfronted fridge filled with premium imported beers and dinky quarter bottles of champagne, ‘help yerself.’ He turns to leave.

‘Good luck,’ he says.

And then Sonny purposely leaves me sitting like a prize prick, on a battered leather Chesterfield, listening to thumpthumpthumpbassbassbass, nursing a Japanese beer, to await my audience. When he called me earlier and said he wanted me to come by the club to talk, I could hear something in his voice – an anxiety to impress. He doesn’t actually like me, but he desperately wants to impress me.

After a few minutes the door at the bottom of the stairs opens. The music gets louder for a couple of seconds, and then goes back to the muffled thump. Here comes Sonny. But then I unexpectedly hear giggling and laughter. The door flies open and a man and woman come stumbling into the room, kissing one another passionately, pulling at each other’s clothes, oblivious to me. She’s got her legs wrapped tight around his waist – he’s half carrying her. He kicks the door shut with his heel and plants her on the office desk. She’s holding a champagne bottle by the neck, strangling it. She puts it down with a great deal of care but a moment later it gets knocked over in the frenzy and rolls off the table.

He’s reefing her up already – his hand is deep in her knickers – her short skirt is pushed up around her waist. Her eyes are rolling back in her head but she’s also laughing like a banshee. He retrieves his hand for a splitsecond, expertly licks the ends of his own fingertips and slips his hand back down her knickers. She groans and hurriedly drags her own sequined top off, over her head and flings it behind her. She’s skinny but very fit, very fuckable; her tits seem bigger than they should be. She’s dragging him out of his shirt, pulling the buttons off to get it undone. Now she’s desperately trying to undo his strides. Suddenly they drop round his knees. Not very elegant. The whole scene is somewhere between erotic and slapstick.

He’s talking to her the whole time in a posh but slightly camp accent. You’d think he was a nailedon gaylord if he wasn’t trying to fuck a fit bird on the tabletop. He momentarily stops and grabs at his shirt pocket, pulling out a small silver gadget. He holds it up to her nose – concentrating really hard – so she can snort some chacha and get charvered at the same time. She’s snorting and coughing but going back for more, pulling the gadget against her nose and inhaling deeply.

He’s pulling her knickers off now with animallike fumbling and grunting. She’s helping him by wriggling out of them. He pulls them down past her knees until she desperately, anxiously, pulls one leg out. She opens her legs wide and leans back. The discarded black lacy knickers are dangling, swaying off one pointytoed highheeled shoe. She lays back.

He’s kissing her tits, crudely biting and sucking at her nipples. She’s groaning. Then he’s licking and kissing down her stomach, then into her navel, then he holds up one leg and runs his tongue in one flowing moment up the inside of her thigh. But now he’s pulling at the catches on her skirt, desperate to get her totally naked.

‘Leave it,’ she groans, rolling her eyes in the twilight. ‘Just fuck me, you bastard.’

He drags her forward on the desktop. He leans forward – fumbling, impatient, desperate to get his dick in.

‘Wait ... ‘ she says quietly, but then shouts, ‘for fuck’s sake, wait!’

The guy stops, completely still, for a moment. She carefully guides him into her and they both let out a simultaneous, ecstatic moan. Then he starts to fuck her roughly. She grabs his back, tearing and ripping at it with her long nails. Her top lip curls upward. She’s shaking her head so her hair flies in all directions. She bites hard on her own bottom lip. He’s hitting a bitta rhythm. They’re in a world of their own.

All of a sudden he starts talking to her brutally, in a weird, gruff caricature of a cockney accent – ‘You dirty bitch. You love it, don’t ya? Cressida, what kinda name is that? Yer a dirty cunt. What are ya?’

They instantly both go hysterical, weeping – like it’s a running joke.

‘Stop it, Dougie, just fuck me properly, yer dirty cunt,’ she screams in her jollyhockeysticks accent. Always sounds dead horny – wellbred gals begging to get fucked.

So this is Dougie. He doesn’t look like a fruit to me. His heart’s in the right place, or more importantly, his dick is. She pulls herself up – kissing him – her arms around his neck while he pumps away.

‘You’re tense, Dougie,’ she says.

‘I know. Sonny’s gone weird.’ Dougie don’t exactly look tense; he’s hitting his stride now. ‘Metal detectors, roughnecks everywhere. Bad for business. Does that ‘urt? Why ain’t you screaming then, you dirty bitch?’ Dougie says in his hissing mock cockney. He whispers right in her ear, laughing the whole time, ‘Tell me it ‘urts, you posh cunt. You love it, don’t ya, ya dirty bitch! Don’t give it if ya can’t take it, I told ‘em, the cunts!’

He’s giggling so much now and crying with laughter that he can’t catch his breath. It’s bizarre. I work it out – it’s Dougie’s impression of Sonny doing his mucky business.

‘You love it, you posh birds. You’re all the same, love a big fat cock up ya, don’t ya? I’ll flip ya over and do ya up the shitshoot if ya don’t shut up.’

‘Stop it, Dougie, stop.’ She’s telling him to stop but screaming with laughter. ‘Stop talking like that! Fuck me properly!’ But she don’t want him to stop fucking her – she is really loving it. And I wouldn’t spoil anyone’s fun by interrupting. She’s throwing herself around and he’s pulling and moving her about on the tabletop.

‘I’ll do ya up the shitter. It’s my thing, ain’t it,’ Dougie growls. ‘You love it up the dirtbox, you posh slags!’

‘Don’t go offroad now, Dougie, whatever you do!’ She’s laughing like mad.

He stops for an instant. ‘Ask nicely,’ he teases.

‘Please, please, please, fuck me,’ she squeals. He starts fucking her again, hitting a rhythm again.

‘Do it! Say it!’ he says. ‘Come on, please,’ like it’s his turn to beg.
‘Please!’ he insists.

‘Fuck’s sake,’ she says and then in her best pikey voice, ‘come on, you nasty cunt, call that fucking! Oi, mate, that’s nice. You dirty ... Fuck me properly, you grubby roughneck cunt!’

I can hear him groaning and giggling and pumping like mad, all at the same time.

‘Fuck me,’ she laughs. ‘Come on! You’ve only got a little knob!’

Dougie stops dead; a freezeframe moment. ‘Steady on, girl ... ’ Dead serious all of a sudden. Then Dougie hits his stride again. And he’s back to his impression of Sonny. ‘I wanna see ya getting fucked by me pals! Like seeing the missus getting chopped, don’t I!’

‘Dougie, Dougie!’ she screams. ‘You’re possessed!’

‘Ain’t I!’ he screams with a manic laugh. And then he goes into an insane mantra – ‘I’m a dustman, a dirty, dirty dustman! I’m a dustman, a dirty, dirty dustman!’

Once we get downstairs I can see why a gentleman like Sonny would want a share in a Mayfair nightspot, one like the Monarch Club. Apart from the obvious bagwash opportunities – and the incredibly good chances of indulging in bellybumping sessions with extremely fit upperclass women – the whole gaff is one gigantic egofest for Sonny

Her knickers swing, gathering speed. Dougie howls like a wolf. ‘You’re a dirty whore! And I’m a dirty dustman!’

Then he carries on till the desk is creaking under the weight. Suddenly Cressida’s looking over Dougie’s shoulder, straight at me, eyetoeye contact, but she doesn’t say anything for a good five seconds. Should I give her a little wave? Maybe she’d get off on it.

Dougie pumps away, groaning, starting to hit the vinegar strokes, getting to where he wants to be.

‘Dougie, there’s a man in the corner,’ she says, calm, like she was admiring a lampshade. ‘He’s watching.’

The Dougie cat is trying to ignore this bit of information, to carry on regardless.

‘Stop, Dougie, I’m serious. There’s a man. Look!’

He stops, white arse motionless. I can hear him breathing heavy. He turns, in slow motion, his eyes all mad and angry.

‘Who the fuck are you?’ he snarls, squinting to focus.
‘I’m a friend of Sonny’s,’ I say. ‘And that’s a spoton impression.’

Suddenly Dougie isn’t so intoxicated by the booze, gak and pussy.

‘Am I in trouble?’ He asks, half serious, half childlike.

The girl goes into a fit of hysterical giggles. ‘Oh, Dougie,’ she screams, ‘you are funny. Am I in trouble? You’re not in school!’
‘Shut up!’ he tells her. ‘Just shut fucking up!’

The more she tries to suppress her laughter the more she giggles.

‘Sonny’s meant to be meeting me here,’ I tell Dougie.
‘In the club?’ he shrieks.
‘In this office.’
‘Oh, fuck!’ shrieks Dougie.

He pulls his trousers up and starts frantically buttoning up his shirt, but some of the buttons are missing. It panics him. The girl meanwhile has jumped off the table, pulled her knickers up, found her top in semidarkness, pulled it back on, straightened herself – and her skirt – out and is respectable again in seconds, calmly smoothing out her hair and rubbing some mislaid coke into her gums. The mere mention of Sonny turned the arrogant dude upsidedown, turned him into a thumbsucking imbecile – putting the right buttons in the wrong buttonholes.

The girl starts to drag Dougie out the door without another word. No goodbye. Dougie’s face as he leaves is half naughty schoolboy, half sweaty ziphead. He slams the door and hurries down the corridor. I hear the door at the bottom of the stairs open – thumpthumpthumpbassbassbass – then a muffled conversation. Then someone approaching.

The door swings opens and Sonny King walks in with Roy “Twitchy” Burns trailing behind. He turns the lights on, dazzling me. ‘See him, that geezer,’ says Sonny, pointing with his thumb, ‘I don’t know how, but he can’t half nick a bird ... ‘

‘Who’s that?’ I ask.
‘Oh, right, you didn’t meet him,’ says Sonny, bewildered, pondering the unfathomable. ‘You woulda thought he was a dot on the card gaylord.’

‘Who we talkin about, Sonny?’ I ask. ‘I’m lost.’
‘Don’t matter, pal,’ he says, shaking his head.

Sonny leans on the front of the desk facing me – arms folded, dead envious – where two minutes before Dougie was chopping doublehorny Cressida, suggesting he’ll do her up the dirtbox ...

‘You all right?’ Sonny asks.
‘I’m sweet,’ I reply. ‘You okay?’

Sonny ignores the question but just one look tells me that they’re a pair of troubled souls, but both trying hard to appear relaxed. Roy is swivelling round and round in an office chair – like he ain’t got a care in the world – stopping only to drum out a nervous telltale tattoo.

‘What do you need to talk to me about, Sonny?’ I say at last.

‘I just wanted you to drop by, to have a word. See, I was thinking ... You being here in London is all fine and dandy, but I might need to go under myself, so now might not be the best time for your state visit, you understand?’

‘No, I don’t understand,’ I say, truthfully. ‘You might need to explain ... ‘ They look at me like I’m mad. I start again, ‘If this is about Ted being dead, it’s business as usual. Bridget was more involved than―’

‘Bridget Granger don’t like me – never did,’ snaps Sonny.

I could tell him that the late Ted Granger never liked him either but that wouldn’t be diplomatic. Instead I say, ‘I don’t see, Sonny, how that matters.’

Sonny pushes himself off the tabletop so he’s standing up now, suddenly angry. ‘Don’t be fuckin telling ... ‘ his voice peters out. He rolls up his fist in frustration, like he’d love to punch me in the mouth. I don’t feel danger; if Sonny wanted me shuffled to the bottom of the pack, I’d be gone already. He leans back on the desktop, picks his words with care.

‘You fuck me over – make me look a cunt in front of Morty or Bridget Granger – I’ll kill ya. Don’t make me an enemy―’
‘Listen, Sonny, I’m here cos Ted Granger wanted me―’
‘You’re a right smart cunt. Always got something to say―’
‘I ain’t got time to fuck about.’
‘And you think I have?’ says Sonny. ‘You don’t know the half of it. I’ve got naughty people wanting to do me and him ... ‘ he nods at Roy, ‘ ... damage.’

Roy snaps to attention, his face breaking out in a twitch.
‘Sonny,’ I ask, actually curious, ‘who wants to do you damage?’

Sonny gets up, strides three short paces over to the wall and punches the plasterboard partition, hard enough to leave a crumbling dent. He doesn’t seem bothered by physical pain, might as well be patting a balloon.

‘I’m confused,’ I say. ‘You think that people want to do you damage?’

‘Listen, don’t ask me questions. Disregard everything I’ve just said. And don’t be telling Morty about anything either.’ Then, as an afterthought, he adds, ‘Or Bridget either. They don’t need to know!’
‘Know fuckin what, Sonny?’ I’m getting the zig now.
‘Nuffin, they don’t need to know nuffin, okay? You understand?’
‘No, I don’t. I’m confused if I’m honest―’

‘This conversation never happened,’ he says, suddenly exhausted. ‘There’s something about you I don’t like. I ain’t worked out what it is yet ... ‘
‘You asked me to come over here for what, exactly?’
‘To tell you to fuckin behave yourself―’
‘And now, Sonny, you’re talking in riddles – don’t tell Morty about youknowwhat or Bridget Granger either―’

‘Don’t get fuckin smart with me!’ screams Sonny, pushing off the table, eyes locked in. ‘I ain’t impressed with you!’ he says, his face getting red. ‘I’d just as easy bury you. Don’t think I wouldn’t, pal, cos I’d fuckin enjoy it! Maybe I will, you cunt!’

Sonny steps in closer, then stops dead. He’s spotted something on the carpet.
‘Wassat?’ he says, pointing down.
‘What is it, Sonny?’ Roy is out of the seat, on red alert. ‘What ya found?’
‘Easy, Royski,’ says Sonny, the calm one now, ‘nice and easy ...’ Sonny bends down, picks up something delicate, studies it intensely then holds it up to the light. ‘It’s a button,’ he says, ‘a fuckin pearly button. See that ... ‘ He shows it to me, tiny in the palm of his hand. ‘What the fuck’s that doin here?’
‘Fuck knows, Sonny,’ I reply.

It captures his imagination for a few seconds before he flicks it away, shrugs with a worried forehead, then he’s back on me. Lost his thread but regained his temper. ‘Anyway, you behave yourself, shift some weight, we’ll get along famously.’

Sonny moves towards the door, happy again. ‘Come on you two – lively! Let’s go downstairs, have a little sherb. Now you’re here, pal,’ he says to me, ‘I want you to meet someone.’

Sonny King, I’m thinking, following him out, is more scared of Sister Bridget than he is of Mister Mortimer or the ghost of Ted “Duppy” Granger.

Once we get downstairs I can see why a gentleman like Sonny would want a share in a Mayfair nightspot, one like the Monarch Club. Apart from the obvious bagwash opportunities – and the incredibly good chances of indulging in bellybumping sessions with extremely fit upperclass women – the whole gaff is one gigantic egofest for Sonny. The VIP area especially is a microcosm where criminal heavyweights and bemused aristocracy come to give each other a jolly good backslapping. It’s that curiously strange but perfectly understandable mix of offduty villains and neveronduty aristocrats who get along famously. Who else doesn’t have to get up for work at seven on a cold and frosty morning? Who else has easycomeeasygo money burning a hole in their pockets, begging to be squandered? Who else regards morality, timekeeping and good manners as purely optional? Who else have what psychology books would call a ‘sociopathic sense of entitlement’?

Everybody loves a gangster – till they meet one. Everyone loves a toff – till they meet one.

Sonny, of course, is in his element. Everyone’s showing great respect or laughing till they weep at his war stories. In many respects Sonny’s a basher but he’s grafted, through hard work and ruthlessness, to be the owner of a not insubstantial piece of upmarket property. He might not attain the socalled class of these debonair swell dudes – all hangingout, poncing off each other, pikingout when the bill arrives – but this is a geezer who’s escaped a kennel in Kilburn, who could buy and sell a lot of these cunts who look down their nose at him.

Money is flying. International clientele – the socalled Eurotrash, who don’t have anything trashy about them and increasingly don’t have anything Euro about them – have colonised the tables surrounding the dance floor where the minimum spend is a grand. There’s plenty of Dom Perignon and sniff going round but with admirable caution – discreet waiters handing over wraps in matchcovers, diplomatic sorties to the powder room, polite notices advising against drug use. But most of the clientele are chargedup, well pleased with themselves. You could get to thinking that sniffing coke is a bit old, not a lot of imagination involved.

Sonny wants to park me up in the VIP and feed me champagne and caviar on toast. He formally introduces me to Dougie. In a less forgiving light, Doug is a disaster area – a sweaty cokehead, not pretty. You get the sense that Douglas Nightingale is from a different era – that peculiar mix of ultraperceptive, seenitall before, and at the same time naïve, childishly stupid, too trusting for this cruel life.

‘I thought your paths might have crossed somewhere along the line,’ says Sonny.
‘Oh no,’ I say, shaking Dougie’s clammy hand, ‘this is the first time we’ve met, isn’t it?’

Dougie nods with hostile eyes. Sonny disappears. Dougie – like a halffucked dog – is transfixed by a girl dancing provocatively in front of him. Then, without a word, Dougie wanders off, leaves me standing like a plum.

The club is full to bursting now but I don’t really feel in the party spirit, I feel jetlagged and spunout. Then I feel a big slap on the back.

I turn round to see Sonny with a huge cigar stuck between his teeth. He’s with a welldressed swell who’s grinning like he’s had a noseful.

‘This is my man Giles,’ Sonny shouts above the music. ‘If ya ever wanna buy a Picasso, or a nightclub, then he’s yer boy. A proper lawyer,’ says Sonny with a wink to Giles.

They both laugh. Giles has a girl on each arm, like some handsome, foppish playboy wastrel who’s escaped from a Broadway musical, but looking at me like he knows something I don’t. I lean in close on Sonny, ‘I was just cutting out, Sonny.’
‘And?’ he shrugs, dead dry. ‘That’s up to you. Shame you two couldn’t have a little chinwag.’

Sonny gets distracted by some passing admirers. He drags them over to the bar, snapping his fingers for champagne.
‘Another time, another place, perhaps,’ I say turning to shake Giles’ hand. ‘It’s hello and goodbye at the same time, I’m afraid.’
‘Yes, yes,’ says Giles, shaking my hand, nodding his head, looking absorbed, like he’s scheming. He carries on shaking my hand.
‘Can I have my hand back, mate?’ I ask.

‘Oh, sorry!’ Giles says. The girls laugh and so does Giles, goodnaturedly.
‘Actually, Giles, I’ve had a long day. I hope you’re not offended – or Sonny – but I’m just off.’
‘Offend our Sonny?’ he says. ‘I didn’t believe that was possible, old buddy.’

Again the girls laugh like it’s the funniest thing ever.

‘We’ll meet again, sir,’ says Giles, very loaded, with a small nod.
‘Sure, sure,’ I say, suddenly desperately wanting to get gone. ‘Till next time.’
‘You’re not wrong, pal,’ says Giles the Lawyer with a wink and a smidgen of Cockney accent.

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