Neighbours From Hell : DCI Miller 2: The gripping Manchester thriller with a killer twist, p.1
NEIGHBOURS FROM HELL
Copyright © Steven Suttie 2015
Published by Steven Suttie 2015
Steven Suttie has asserted his rights under the Copyright, Designs
and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.
This novel is a work of fiction. Names and characters are the product of the author’s imagination and any resemblance to any persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
This book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, resold, hired out or otherwise circulated without the publishers prior consent in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser. Whatever that’s supposed to mean.
Cover design by Steven Suttie.
Font type Bodoni MT
1st Edition – published 14th September 2015
I’d like to start with a right massive thank you to all of the people who have read my stuff so far. When you spend a big chunk of your free time writing, like I do –it’s great to know that people are reading it.
Cheers. I really mean that.
I’ve thanked Kaye Moon for helping me to write my first novel, at the beginning of my first two publications. Here is the hat-trick of thank you’s Kaye. Seriously, thanks so much for all those hours of work and positive words of encouragement that you gave me, and continue to do so.
Thanks to Lizzie for the proof reading. I hope you didn’t miss anything!
“Welcome to North West Tonight” said the newsreader, “I’m Roger Thompson. Our top story this evening… a row has erupted in Bury, where the developers of an exclusive new housing development are avoiding bankruptcy, by renting out half of the expensive properties to the council, who plan to use the homes as social housing for homeless families. The announcement this morning was met with anger from the home-owners on the up-market development. Denise Braithwaite is there, and she has this report.”
The television screen changed from the news presenter’s face to a wide angled shot of a stunning new housing estate with four and five bed-roomed detached properties. Outside the homes, small children were playing happily in the sunshine. All of the homes on the report had expensive new cars parked on the drives. It looked like a scene from an ideal homes magazine.
“Imagine that you’d just bought the house behind me. You’d paid between three hundred thousand, to half a million pounds for one of these luxurious properties, only to find out that your neighbours will soon be homeless people, moving in next door as part of a deal that the council have done with the property developers. Well, it might sound like a nightmare, but this is not a bad dream for the home-owners here at Haughton Park, who woke up to the news this morning.”
“It’s absolutely ridiculous. It’s a scandal!” said one angry resident to the television cameras. The image switched to another home-owner. “I thought it was an April Fools joke, I had to check the date. I soon found out, this is no joke.”
“This is Britain today! Punish those people who go out and work, and reward those that stay at home, smoking and watching television. I’d like to say it’s unbelievable, but sadly, it’s not. I’m absolutely appalled. I really am.” Said one, angry older man who looked and sounded like a retired school teacher, as he wagged his finger at the camera while he offered his views.
The reporter, Denise Braithwaite returned to the screen. “Since these homes were built, the mortgage lending industry has crashed. As a result, the developers, Bright New Homes have struggled to sell almost half of the houses. Rather than go bankrupt, and jeopardize the future of its customers, the company has signed a deal with Bury council, a deal which they thought would suit all parties. But from the reaction that we’ve heard today, that’s not quite how it has worked out. We spoke to the Managing Director, Bill Heston from Bright New Homes.”
The screen switched again, this time, a smart looking man in his early fifties appeared, looking very sympathetic and sincere. “We want people to settle down, and trust us with this. All that we have done is what any successful business would do in difficult circumstances, and that it is that we have adapted our core business principle in order to utilize the sustainable stock at our disposal.”
Bill Heston’s face stayed on screen, with a fluffy microphone near his mouth as the reporter asked a question.
“But that doesn’t make any sense, it just sounds like politician talk, which many people would describe as gobble-de-gook, Mr Heston.”
“Well, I’m sorry, I don’t agree. But if you wish to speak in lay man’s terms – I think that what people are concerned about here, is a misguided belief that we are dealing with people who will spit at you when you walk past them. We are not. It’s simply not the case. This hysterical over-reaction is shocking, and it is as though we have announced that we are handing over half of our homes to the very worst people in society – which is quite frankly a disgraceful suggestion and could not be further from the truth.”
“So, what would you say to your customers who are understandably, very concerned about this? Some of them are saying they are scared of what’s going to happen.”
“We are committed to ensuring that our customers, and our new residents will live side by side in harmony. Any suggestion that we are simply dumping people here to satisfy our own financial concerns is just plain wrong. The media are the ones who are whipping this up, yourselves included I’m ashamed to say, and I am appealing to you all to settle down, and keep a sense of balance in your reports. It’s the first rule of journalism, and well you know it.”
“But surely you can see why this is a concern for the people who have paid up to half a million pounds for their property?” Denise Braithwaite wasn’t letting the managing director off the hook so easily.
“Look, I’ve tried being polite. Let me ask you a question. If a couple from a council estate won the lottery, and decided to buy a house here – would your news crew be up here, whipping up hatred?” Bill Heston smiled as Denise Braithwaite paused for a split-second to think of a response.
“Sir, with respect, that is not what is happening. You are handing half of your properties over to homeless families. It’s a recipe for disaster, people are describing it as a desperate, selfish move on your part – which will lose the home-owners many tens of thousands of pounds in their investments, if not more. How can you be so blasé about it Mr Heston?”
“As I have said. This is a temporary arrangement. We have set up a cast-iron agreement that all of the social housing users will be strictly vetted, and extreme consequences will exist to tackle any anti-social behaviour. Our priority concern is our customers being happy with their new home. If anything happens that makes this arrangement unsatisfactory for them - it will be dealt with in the most serious manner. This is very important, and Bury Council understand one hundred and twenty per cent that the temporary tenants will be on a behaviour bond - and if any incident occurs on Haughton Park that they are unhappy with, I hope that they will let me and my staff know in the first instance, where it will be dealt with swiftly and effectively. Now, instead of coming up here and creating hostility, I would appreciate it if you could try and see what a positive, and exciting opportunity this is for everybody involved. Good day.” Bill Heston walked off the pavement and out of view. One home-owner could be heard shouting “You’re a fucking wanker
“So as you have heard,” continued Denise, “we’re at the heart of a very emotive situation tonight at Haughton Park. We’ll have more on this story later in the programme. But for now, back to you in the studio.”
“Thank you Denise, and good luck to everybody who will be affected by this decision. In other news now, and…”
Moving In Day
“God, you weren’t lying! How smart is this estate? You jammy bastards!” Johnny, the van driver hadn’t been up here before, and he was shocked by just how exclusive the new development was, as he drove his van onto Haughton Park. “I’m jealous!”
“Don’t be daft Johnny,” laughed Rachel Birdsworth, as she sat with her partner Mick Crossley in the cab of the bright orange Ford Transit, smiling at their friend’s reaction. “It’s only a temporary move. They’ll have us out of here as soon as a flat comes up.”
“Yeah, it’s a bit like at the end of Bullseye, come and have a look at what you could have won!” said Mick. “This is our speed boat.” All three laughed. It was a bit of a weird feeling, being upgraded from the static caravan site, to a mansion, knowing they’d be back on the council estate as soon as a property became available.
“Look, they’ve even got pillars around the doors.” Johnny was stunned by the attention to detail. “It looks like the kind of place you see on telly. I can see a footballer living somewhere like this. Posh and Becks living next door! You lucky fuckers!”
“Right, here, this is it, number sixteen Fir Trees Grove - next to the one with the white beemer on the drive.” Rachel was smiling from ear-to-ear.
“Well listen, even if it is temporary housing, it’s still fucking amazing! This is the sort of house I’d get if me numbers come up. I’m proper jealous! Green with envy, I’m not gonna lie!” Johnny was staring admiringly at the brand new five bedroom property, as he parked on the double drive-way. He pulled the hand brake on and turned off the engine. Mick opened the passenger door, jumped out, before helping Rachel down the step from the cab.
“Cheers love.” She gave him a kiss on the lips. “So, here we are!” A tear formed in her eye which she was fast to wipe with her sleeve. They laughed and hugged one another. This moment had seemed a long time in coming, since the fire that had gutted the family home eighteen months earlier.
“I can’t wait until the kids come. What time’s your mam dropping them off tomorrow?” asked Mick.
“She said when she’s had enough of them, so probably six in the morning!”
“Come on you two, I’m not unloading it on my own you cheeky bastards!” shouted Johnny from around the back of the van. “We need to get this washing machine out first, I’ve got to drop it off at our Diane’s later.”
“Alright, chillax – I’m coming,” said Mick as he gave Rachel another kiss. This was a fantastic day.
Across the road, Graham Ashworth was watching the new tenants unload the van. He was a portly man, just on the edge of becoming elderly looking. He was standing in his bay window, glaring at the activities across the way, holding a cup of earl grey in one hand, and the saucer in the other.
“Suzanne, they’re here.” He said, his tone was flat. “Oh, I can’t believe my God damn eyes, they’ve been here half a minute and there’s a fucking washing machine dumped on the front lawn. You couldn’t make this up!”
In the kitchen, Suzanne Ashworth rolled her eyes to the ceiling. She clutched the black granite worktop and stared for a moment out of the window, at the rolling valley that meandered off to the horizon, with Manchester city centre at the very bottom. She exhaled quietly out of the side of her mouth.
“What’s that darling?” she asked. She had been dreading this moment all week, since the couple had been and viewed the property, and she had foolishly mentioned it to her husband on his arrival home from work.
“I’m sure you’re going deaf!” he bellowed. “I said they’re here. Straight from filming Jeremy fucking Kyle by the looks of them.”
“Oh, the new neighbours? Let’s have a look.”
“Have a look? You can probably smell them as well!” replied Graham without any hint of humour. Suzanne waltzed through the lounge and over to her husband who was staring out of the window at the three people who were laughing and joking as they walked in and out of the house with black bin bags in their hands.
“That’s all they’ve got in there - bin liners. It doesn’t look like they’ve brought a single item of furniture with them. Can you believe that?”
“They look nice enough Graham. At least give them a chance, eh? We haven’t even spoken to them yet.” Suzanne thought that the lady looked very nice, and the two men that were unloading didn’t look any different to any normal blokes in their early thirties. They were quite handsome actually, she thought.
“Just give them a chance? Listen to Mother Theresa here. You won’t be saying that when they’re nicking your pegs off the washing line. Look at her, with her greasy black roots and bottle blonde hair. And those two chavs look like they’ve been kicked out of borstal. I bet they sell drugs. Look at his tattoos. Moron. You want me to give them a chance? I’ll give them a chance alright Suzanne - first chance I get, I’ll ring the bloody police on them.”
Suzanne could see that her husband was getting worked up. Rather than reply, and potentially stress him out further, she decided to put her arm around him and rub his shoulder gently.
“At the first opportunity Suzanne, I’ll be phoning the police. I’m not putting up with any hassle, and you can mark my words. Look at them, bin bag after bin bag of belongings. It’s quite ridiculous! Fact!”
“Just shove all the bags in that cupboard under the stairs for now. We don’t want to make the place look untidy already! God, look at it - everything is so new and gleaming. I love it!” Rachel was stood in the hall ordering her two volunteer removal men around, knowing that they wouldn’t answer back just yet, at least not until the brews were served.
“Hoi, listen, do you know that bloke?” asked Johnny.
Mick wondered who he was talking about. “Who?”
“The one who’s moving in a few doors up from you,” said Johnny quietly as he neared Mick and threw his two bin bags of clothes into the vast cupboard space below the pine staircase. “Next door but one.”
“Not seen him, don’t know who you’re on about Johnny.”
“Well, get a good look when you go out. He used to live over Hattersley, years ago, but he had to move, rumour had it that he was a grass. Since then, he’s become a bit of a pain in the arse all over Manchester. He’s got about eight kids, all of them have been put in care. He thinks he’s a bit of a main head. Just watch him, he’s a proper snide fucker.”
“Right, yeah, nice one Johnny.” Said Mick, grateful for the heads up from his oldest friend, a man who, through his family connections rather than through choice, knew most of the criminal underclass of Manchester, if not most of the north west’s.
“What are you two whispering about?” said Rachel as she returned from the van with more bin bags. Johnny changed the subject swiftly, there was another neighbour that had caught his attention.
“Rach, come here,” he said. “When you next go out to the van, yeah, check out the bloke directly across the road, proper giving us evils from his window. Don’t make it obvious, but have a look and see if it’s just me imagining it.”
“Which house, that one facing?” asked Mick.
“Yeah, number nine. Take a look on the snide. He’s giving me the heeby jeebies.”
Mick and Rachel burst out laughing.
“The heeby jeebies? Ha ha ha I haven’t heard that for time!” Rachel slapped Johnny on the arm.
“Serious. Come on,” muttered Johnny as he led the way back out towards his van. Rachel and Mick followed him, giggling.
“See?” said Johnny through cl
“Yeah, he doesn’t like us much, does he?” Mick looked annoyed.
“Oh, forget it. They’re expecting Rab C Nesbitt to move in, or thingy, what’s his name off Shameless?”
“Frank Gallagher!” said Johnny, smiling.
“We know how to throw a party!” added Mick, laughing.
“Yeah, well. It’s been on the telly news, North West Tonight, Granada Reports - all the neighbours have been doing petitions and stuff to stop us coming. God knows what they think we’re gonna be like.” Rachel had fully anticipated a frosty reception, following all of the negative news coverage about “social housing service users” in recent weeks.
“Well they’re stuck up pricks then Rach, just ignore them!” offered Johnny, who seemed shocked to hear about this. Having been brought up on a council estate, and still living on one now, he couldn’t understand what all the fuss was about.
“It’ll be reet. As soon as they see we’re alright, they’ll be cool.” Rachel smiled, brushing it aside, and seemingly not too worried about it.
“Is that his bird or his daughter that’s stood with him?” asked Mick as he grabbed a couple more bags from the van and turned to face his new neighbours.
“Don’t stare Mick - you’re as bad as them!” hissed Rachel. Mick walked off sulkily with the bags, annoyed that Johnny’s observation had been so correct.
“Dicks aren’t they?” muttered Johnny to Rachel.
“I’m not sure yet. I’ll tell you after I’ve been over for a cup of sugar. It’s always the best way of finding out.”