Her Majesties Customs and Excise had put the kibosh on Johnny’s parcel scam. He had smuggled hundreds of pounds of sticky black hash into the country and he had become an affluent man on the back of it, but what now? What good is a dealer with no product?
Initially Johnny scored from Buddha, but he never liked that arrangement. The prices were good and so were the deals, but he just didn’t like the idea of being beholden to Buddha. So when Edgar Allen came along Johnny switched to him. Edgar, also known as Poe – though never to his face, was a wealthy man who had been dealing for years and so had loads of contacts. Soon Johnny was once more turning over pounds of hash – until Poe turned him onto charley.
Cocaine was the up and coming thing for the cognoscenti – Johnny had a different class of customer they drove Porsches and ate in fancy restaurants. Johnny aspired to be just like them. He started to drink wine instead of beer; he even had books about it. He took to reading to improve his mind, he had always been the studious type; Stewart Melville’s College had trained him well.
Johnny had a way with the ladies, especially now that he could dress in the sharpest suits and throw a bit of money around. He liked money and he liked the things it could buy. He liked drugs, but not to the extent Buddha and Psycho Peter did, he’d never lose control, he always knew when to knock it on the head.
She danced for him. She liked to dance and he liked to watch her dance. Her moves were purely sexual, not everybody can dance that way. She was going through a pupation; the final emergence of her sex. She was only seventeen years old. She was pretty basic in that she didn’t play games. He liked it like that. He had enough complication in his life. She’d dance for him and they’d dance together. Then they’d snort some coke and fuck some more.
He was chopping up another line and trying to work out how he’d get rid of her. She was young, too young really, but he liked them like that. She was in the bathroom taking a shower. He snorted the cocaine and joined her there.
“I want to shave your pussy,” he said.
“I want to shave your pussy,” he repeated.
“Because I like them like that,” he said, “totally naked like a little girl.”
“I don’t know...” She was towelling herself dry.
“Ever eat pussy?” he asked.
“No,” she replied.
“I want to watch you eat some pussy,” he said.
“Why are you doing this?” she asked.
“Acting all weird.”
“I’m not acting weird,” he said, “I’m just telling you what I want. If you don’t like it you can always leave.”
“Johnny...” she began with a whimper, before she made for the bedroom and put her clothes on.
“Bastard!” she said as she slammed the door on the way out.
Some women had said that he feared commitment and that was true. He feared commitment to the wrong woman. When the right woman came along he’d know. He felt sure he’d know.
He had certain rules of engagement because it was all about power. All relationships have that dynamic; all relationships are a kind of war with one or the other in the dominant role. Johnny wasn’t prepared for that contest again, not yet.
Johnny had other worries on his mind: like the poachers on his turf who were selling cheap adulterated coke at cut price rates.
“There he was – bold as brass doing his loaves and fishes with my fucking coke!” Johnny was obviously angry.
“I’m not responsible for what the punters do with the product after it leaves my hands Johnny and neither are you” replied Buddha.
“No?” answered Johnny. “I’m supplying you and you are supplying Angel and he is undercutting my dealers by selling lactose at fifty quid a gram. You see my problem here Buddha and there is one obvious solution.”
“If I cut off his supply he’ll just go to someone else” observed Buddha.
“But he won’t be selling my coke to my punters at a discount. The wee bastard steps on it three times over before he punts it on – it’s a fuckin disgrace.”
Buddha just smiled – he knew fine well that Johnny stepped on his gear, because it was Buddha who taught him how. First he boiled a woollen sock full of borax for an hour or two – then he dried the borax in a thin layer so that it wouldn’t clump up. Finally he ground it into a crystalline powder that looked exactly like cocaine, weighed the same as cocaine but had no odour or taste – it was the perfect cutting agent and Johnny used it on every batch.
“When he finds another supplier and comes into your clubs – what will you do then?” enquired Buddha.
“I’ll be hiring a couple of Peter’s boys to discourage him.”
Buddha winced at the word ‘discourage’. Peter often discouraged people by breaking their limbs. He was President of the local chapter of Hell’s Angels and had his hands in many pockets. Psycho Peter was not a man to be messed with. Hopefully Angel would take a telling and leave Johnny’s turf alone. Buddha thought it a shame it had come to this; Angel and Johnny had once been the best of friends. He reflected that cocaine had brought on a change in Johnny – he had become hardnosed and ruthless. He wasn’t the sweet schoolboy Buddha had met ten years before, he was unrecognisable.
“Do we have an understanding Buddha?”
“I understand perfectly Johnny – no more charley for Angel.” Buddha felt he’d had the squeeze put on, and on reflection realised that he had. He would have a word with Angel next time they met – which was Johnny’s intention all along. He wanted to avoid these shenanigans if he could, but he’d sell no more of Johnny’s gear to Angel, after all he’d given his word.
Buddha’s attempts to pour oil on troubled waters met with typical Angelic obstinacy.
“Bastard! Who the fuck is he? It’s not like he owns the clubs!”
“As a matter of fact,” interjected Buddha:”He owns shares in at least two of them and has an exclusivity deal with the management of the others – no one else deals in those clubs and they collect a princely kick back from Johnny. It’s all buckshee Angel and you lack the resources to compete. The only reason you aren’t parked in Warriston cemetery is Johnny’s friendship for you.”
“Friendship!” exclaimed Angel “He tries to drive me out of business and calls it friendship!”
“There are other clubs,” soothed Buddha,”you can have your pick of them. From Johnny’s point of view you are encroaching on his franchise and he’d be a poor businessman to allow that wouldn’t he?”
“Businessman?” scoffed Angel “Is that what he is now? I remember him when he was selling quarters to his bum chums at school. He’s a jumped up public school boy – that’s what he is. I could take him with one hand behind my back.”
“I wouldn’t count on that Angel. Johnny has a harder backbone than you realise and that’s why I’m advising you to back off before someone gets hurt.”
“Are you on his side? – did he get you to talk to me? – to threaten me?” Angel was raving mad now and wild about the eyes. He stormed out of Buddha’s flat with a parting shot; “You can tell Johnny to fuck right off back to Morningside and you can join him there Buddha”.
When Buddha heard the news about Angel’s boyfriend Belle he wasn’t surprised. He’d been spied dealing sugary coke in one of Johnny’s clubs and taken a real bad hiding from two biker types. It seemed Johnny was determined to enforce his franchise to the bitter end if needs be. Buddha made a mental note to distance himself from Johnny who was obviously building an empire and when you are building an empire the last thing you need is friends.