Read an Extract from best selling crime novelist, Kerry Barnes’ 'Ruthless', a gripping, gritty thriller.
Mary lay in her bed, listening to the birds outside. Bill, her husband, got up early, cooked himself a good fry-up, which he loved on a Sunday, and went to do the paperwork at the yard.
The phone was ringing and she heard Dan, her eldest, clamber down the stairs.
The arthritis in her spine had worsened over the years and some days the stiffening was too much to allow for rushing around – especially on a Sunday morning. Instead, she lay awake, relaxed and warm, wrapped in her bed sheets and daydreaming.
The boys, knowing how she suffered, tried to get up before her, just so she could rest rather than have to struggle to cook their breakfasts or iron their shirts. Even though they were grown up now, she still fussed and cared for them as if they were kids.
Mary looked tired; the years of anguish had taken their toll on her once bright and youthful skin. Raising four lively lads required mountains of energy, without the added worry of which one next would serve time at her majesty’s pleasure. She was desperately scrambling to hold together what was left of her family. God knows she had seen more prisons than she had beaches. Nevertheless, they weren’t that unruly in the grand scheme of things, and their stints in the clink were for minor issues. None of the boys had done any real bird – unlike their father, who had served a tidy lump.
But despite the fights and trials of raising four sons, her biggest worry was her daughter – not knowing from day to day how she fared, what she was doing or even what she looked like.
Mary, being the envy of most women in her neighbourhood, with her platinum blonde hair and hourglass figure, was never short of a date. Bill Vincent was a Face in the East End and the local men respected him. His business wasn’t big, but then he was a youngster. A good head on his shoulders, and an eye for a money earner, he was going places – and to add to his financial status, he looked polished, with shiny, thick black locks and steel-blue eyes.
He had eyed her up for six months before he plucked up the courage to ask for a date. When he walked into the local club on a Friday night, followed by his mates, he drew attention from the girls. They would be gawking and whispering, checking themselves in the toilets, adding another layer of hair lacquer to their ever-increasing beehives, slapping on the lipstick and wiggling their way onto the dance floor, forever hoping they could catch his attention. Bill would gaze around to see who caught his eye, grab a pint, and stand at the bar with his gang.
He had the polished chromed motorbike, with the black leather jacket, as did his mates, yet he didn’t class himself as a rocker. Mary was laid-back and easy going. She didn’t bother flirting and she had no need to, as her good looks gave her respect. Her friends were undoubtedly very envious. “Where did you get that lovely frock?” they would ask, or, “I wish I could get away with wearing that,” and, “Who does your hair?”
She was a kind person, who never liked to start trouble but, if it landed on her lap, she stood her own and chucked a right hook like a bloke. Living on a rough estate – and the hardship that went with it – gave her tenacity. Fortunately, however, the odd fight left no scars on her pretty face.
Bill watched her out of the corner of his eye. He loved to see her dance; she could twist like no other. Her figure, with ample bosom and small waist, was accentuated by the 1960s fashionable pencil dress. She looked glamorous. He waited for his moment before he made his move. The packed club, filled with blue smoke and excited women’s chattering, rendered the atmosphere buzzing. He’d had two pints of beer, just enough to give him the courage to get on the dance floor. Full of confidence, Bill knew that whoever he asked to dance would never turn him down. Then there was Mary, the one he truly liked, but it took months before he had the guts to ask her for a date.
The club dated back to before the war and although the owner tried to brighten it up, painting the woodwork maroon and covering the seats in cheap red velvet, it was still a glorified wooden shed. The owner hadn’t bothered with a complete overhaul; he just continued to rake in the money and wait for the building to collapse. He ignored the underage drinkers and patched up any aggro before anyone called the police. As their local haunt, everyone got themselves rigged out and ready for their Friday night dance.
Mary wore a red dress and her hair in a beehive with a silk poppy on the side. Her full lips, glossed with red lipstick, radiated her face. He watched her every move and noticed she was eyeing him too. He smiled her way and she coyly grinned back. The music played, and she danced with extra sensual moves. Just as the record came to an end, Bill got up from his bar stool and walked towards her.
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