Hi how are u?
Good thanks, u?
Good too :0)
I like your profile. You’re a hot guy.
So are you? What brings you to Manchester?
Liam Moseley glanced out of the window of his small flat. The rain pelted down as usual, but no one expected anything different from summer in Manchester.
His phone buzzed again.
Here for work. You live here?
All my life. Can’t you tell by the pale skin?
His flat might be a nondescript one-bedroom box, but he loved it. He’d made it as homely as he could. Growing up with a mother like his, he hadn’t lived in any one place for very long, so it had meant the world to him when he could afford his own place.
A notification came through.
I think you’re very attractive.
Thank you. Where are you from?
He put on his jacket. Harry would be here soon. They had some jobs to do today before heading to his boss, Jonny Wellingham’s, house.
Must be a bit different to Manchester. What you doing here?
He needed to wrap this up before his day began. He’d only gone on the dating app to pass the time while he waited. Usually he would be on his PlayStation, but he didn’t have time to get into that.
Searching for hot pale-skinned men? :0)
Usually on these apps, they got straight down to business, asking measurements and preferences. Having a bit of banter with someone made a nice change.
That your type then?
Putting his cigarettes, phone and keys into his pocket, he left the flat. Liam had always been a loner—he could feel out of place in a crowded room.
Out on the street, he wandered up to the main road. Harry would pick him up there. Time to put his game face on.
His phone vibrated in his pocket again.
It is now.
This guy was a joker.
Handy that. My type is fit Italians. But I’ve got to go to work now, sorry.
He liked to keep the parts of his life separate and wanted to get into the zone of being a Wellingham Boy. The Wellingham gang controlled Manchester. Gay boys were not welcome in that fake family. Jonny had made that abundantly clear over the years.
A black BMW came up the road and stopped right in front of him. The passenger door opened and Harry grinned at him. “You’ll be picking up trade standing there. Get in.”
Liam rolled his eyes and jumped into the car. As Jonny’s right-hand man, Harry had seen it all. A Black man in his early forties, he’d been with Jonny probably longer than Liam had been alive. He’d had his fair share of problems over the years, but Jonny had protected him. Something that Liam respected.
Jonny might be able to scream at his boys for anything under the sun, but God help anyone else who did it.
“Where first?” Liam asked.
“The Hawaiian,” Harry replied. “We need to pick some cash up.”
The Hawaiian Paradise, one of Jonny’s brothels, sat on the edge of the city centre. A rough old spot, most of Manchester had heard of it. Jonny hadn’t spent any money on it in donkey’s years. But he worked on the principle that horny men leaving pubs didn’t really care about interior design.
Another message came in. Glancing at Harry, who seemed focused on the road, he slipped his phone out.
All work and no play. Don’t you English think that is a bad thing?
He had a point.
I get plenty of play.
“Who’s that?” Harry asked. “Some bird?”
Liam looked out of the window at the ring road. So many blocks of flats were being thrown up. Jonny had considered investing but had spent the cash on more stock to offload to the party crowd of Manchester instead. Jonny Wellingham only cared about profit.
“Something like that,” he replied.
It felt quite cosmopolitan to be messaging someone from Rome. He’d barely left Manchester, but one day, when he’d saved up enough money, he dreamt of just taking off. His brother, Shaun, had done that and had the time of his life. But Shaun had ended up in Blackpool.
They drew up outside a kebab shop, a discreet sign above a doorway next to it the only indicator that customers had found their destination. It might not look like anything from the road, but it made Jonny an absolute packet. That, along with three other brothels and the fact that he had the drug supply of Manchester sewn up. He had done for years.
They got out of the car and went up the stairs to the top and the room that served as a waiting area. It contained a nervous-looking man in his early forties who stared at them in terror.
“Relax, sunshine,” Harry said. “Just here to see the management.”
Harry shook his head at Liam as they went through one of the doors that led off the main room to the space used as an office, staff room and store cupboard.
The manager of the place, Deb, sat at the desk, frowning at her computer. The frown dissolved into a grin when she saw them come in. “Who do we have here?” she said. “Dumb and Dumber. What can I do for you?”
Harry sat down on the old sofa. “Came for some cash,” he said. “What else?”
Deb patted him on the arm. “You know, you could have anything you wanted. Mates’ rates.”
“I’ll bear that in mind,” Harry replied. “But today, we need to take Jonny some money. You know how much he loves it.”
Deb sighed and got up. In her mid-thirties, she’d worked her way up to managing the Hawaiian. Liam had known her ever since he’d started running with Jonny a decade ago.
“And here’s our cute little Liam,” she said, pinching his cheek. “That baby face could make a woman want to corrupt it.”
“Never mind all that,” Harry said. “You’ve got a punter outside. He looks like he’s about to scarper as well.”
Deb shook her head. “Gina’s taking too long with her current client. I’ve told her about letting them run on, but she’s such a pro. Everyone comes for Gina, apparently.”
Liam burst out laughing. “We should put that on the sign outside.”
Deb produced a bag of notes from the safe under her desk. She handed it over to Harry, who regarded it with disdain.
“This is a bit fucking light, isn’t it?” he asked.
“I know.” Deb shrugged. “Business has been pretty shit. Don’t be blaming me.”
Harry put the bag inside his coat. “He won’t be happy.”
“Well, maybe if he spent some money on this place, he would get a better return.” Deb sniffed. “Most of the rooms have damp and the mattresses… Well, let’s not go into it.”
It would be a brave man who would tell Jonny how to run his business. Liam left that to Harry. He had been on the receiving end of way too many screaming rants to stick his head above the parapet.
“Right, we’re off,” Harry said, getting up. “Can someone give that poor guy a fucking blowie in the next hour? We clearly can’t afford to watch him leg it.”
Deb huffed. “Fine. I’ll do it myself.”
“Where is everyone, anyway?” Harry asked. “It’s like a bloody morgue in here.”
“Not a clue, love,” Deb said, checking her appearance in the dirty mirror on the wall. “Five of the girls have fucked off. They said they didn’t want to work here no more.”
They went out into the room. Luckily, the man still sat there.
“Right, sunshine,” Deb said. “It’s your lucky day. You got the boss.”
“We’ll leave you to it,” Harry said.
Liam followed him down onto the street. A traffic warden circled his car.
“Don’t even think about it,” Harry said to him. “Wellingham business.”
The traffic warden leapt away from the car as though it were about to explode at any second. “Oh…fine…don’t do it again,” he stammered before scuttling off down the street.
Harry shook his head, and they got in.
“Why do you think business is down?” Liam asked.
“Fuck knows,” Harry replied. “But it’ll be a bloody headache for us, no doubt.”
They set off into the city centre. With Harry focusing on weaving through the traffic, Liam quickly checked his phone. He had another message.
Maybe we should play sometime?
The picture of this guy set all Liam’s emotions running wild. In his early thirties, he had raven-black hair and olive skin. He wore his hair slicked back and stared into the camera as though he owned the world. That kind of arrogance made Liam weak at the knees.
Harry’s phone made them both jump as it rang. He had it linked to the in-car system, so the speakers kicked into life with Simply the Best by Tina Turner.
“Speak of the fucking devil,” Harry said, clicking the Answer button. “What’s up, Jon?”
“Who’ve you got with you?”
“Just our Liam.”
“Right, I want you at the house now,” Jonny said. His abrasive Mancunian accent always sounded like he was ready to lay into someone.
“I’ll tell you when you get here. Pick up Deano on your way.”
The phone went dead.
“Sounds ominous,” Liam said.
Harry sighed. He turned the car around and they sped off towards Salford where Deano lived. Liam hated Deano and Deano hated Liam. He had joined the gang a couple of years ago and made it perfectly clear he had no respect for anyone, including Jonny. He only wanted the cash and the excitement. A dangerous combination.
They got to his house in record time. A very handsome lad, he’d covered most of his body in tattoos in an attempt to come across as hard. His baby face always let him down so he’d created a personality far more ugly.
Deano got into the back of the car. His cheap aftershave made Liam and Harry gasp for air.
“Fucking hell, Deano,” Harry complained, winding the window down. “You earn enough to buy something that wouldn’t strip fucking paint.”
“You don’t know anything about style,” Deano muttered. He swatted Liam on the head. “All right, gayboy? I bet you’ve got all the aftershaves at home.”
Liam ignored him. Deano always called him that. At first, he’d denied it, but it only served to encourage Deano more, so now he just let it slide.
“The boss is in a shit mood,” Harry said. “So if you could be a bit serious, I’m sure we’d all appreciate it.”
Deano settled into his seat, sparking up a cigarette. “He’s always in a shit mood.”
“An even shitter mood,” Liam piped up.
“What’s his fucking problem this time?”
Harry shook his head. “No idea, but he wants us all there pronto.”
“You’d better put your foot down then, Harold,” Deano said.
Liam glanced at Harry. He had a scowl that would sour milk. They had spoken about Deano before and Harry had tried to get Jonny to bin him, but he worked hard and had absolutely no limits. Two things that Jonny Wellingham valued highly.
They carried on in silence. Liam sneaked a look at his phone. A message had come in from Marco.
Name the time and place. I’ll be there.
He smiled to himself. It would have to wait until they dealt with whatever had got up Jonny’s arse. But once he’d finished for the day, he might treat himself to meeting the handsome Italian.
What harm could it do?