Today I’m delighted to be sharing with you an extract from “Scoop Of The Year” by Tom Claver. I also have one ebook to give away – read on to find out more!
About the book:
Martin, a hapless journalist on a weekly financial magazine, sees his life take a nosedive with the arrival of Tom de Lacy, a well-heeled reporter who grabs the limelight, not to mention the well-paid industrial correspondent’s job that he has his eye on.
He does his level best to sabotage Tom’s career, only to see his rival land a plum job in television.
But watching his rival’s success while his life disintegrates makes Martin a desperate fellow. Falling on hard times can be murder, and in certain circumstances could even give rise to it.
So when Martin gets a scoop on a major corporate scandal, he just has to grab the opportunity with both hands. He sees it as not only his turn to shine, but his duty.
About the author:
Tom Claver is a freelance journalist who has worked in print and television, and was formerly a director of a publishing company. He was brought up in London and now lives in Dorset with his wife.
That evening I felt a frisson of unease ahead of my meeting with Jebb at The Nag’s Head. Caroline waited outside in the car, and was under strict instructions to look for me if I didn’t return after half an hour.
I ordered a beer from the bar, and looked around. It was quite a rough house Jebb had chosen, and packed to the rafters. I moved about, pint in hand, looking for someone who could scare the bejeebers out of me as that was the only description Charles gave of Jebb.
Then I spotted him sitting at a table next to a twinkling-bleeping slot machine. Jebb was a corpulent man with a bulging neck and heavy jowls. He was so big that the chair under him was nowhere to be seen. His cold eyes turned to me as I approached, his bald head mirroring the lights above him. I could see instantly why tenants might want to vacate their property with just the clothes they were wearing after setting eyes on him. I knew immediately I had found the right man to scare the bejeebers out of Uncle Walt. Jebb in his black leather jacket, jogging bottoms, and trainers looked totally indestructible.
‘You made it,’ said Jebb.
I pulled out a stool from under the table and sat opposite him.
‘You never said where you got my name from?’ he asked.
Jebb laughed. ‘That ponce who looks like Karl Marx?’
‘The very same.’
‘Did he tell you how much I charge? With cash up front? No?’
Jebb poured the lager down his throat, dribbling some of it over his chin, before making a loud burp. ‘Sorry about that,’ he said wiping the beer from his lips with the back of a hand the size of a paddle. ‘I get paid five hundred pounds for each tenant I extract, but I require a five-hundred-pound basic starting fee. I don’t need to know any details about who’s done what to you or the damage they’ve caused. If you want them out, that’s good enough for me. Am I clear?’
‘Totally, Mr Jebb.’
‘I like that,’ he said with more laughter. ‘Mr Jebb,’ he repeated in a posh voice, or at least what he perceived to be a posh voice. ‘Mr Jebb,’ he said again for good measure.
It appeared to me that all Jebb had to do was to merely turn up at the house and Uncle Walt would die of fright. Perfect outcome for all parties.
‘So am I hired?’ he said, his eyes brightening. ‘I need to know because I’m singing first when the karaoke starts. Never missed one yet.’
‘So if I’ve got this straight, I would give you a deposit of five hundred pounds.’
‘No deposit, you wuss. I don’t return that. It’s mine. Let’s make this easier for you. How many tenants are we talking about?’
‘Right, that would be five hundred nicker straight down plus five hundred to kick him out. It is a bloke, I presume, because I don’t do ladies. They’re too bloody difficult. You can’t reason with them, and you can’t punch them.’
‘Do you do old men?’
‘Age ain’t the issue. I just got a phobia handling women.’
I thought it best to nod my head.
‘Deal?’ he asked, glancing down at the time on his gold Rolex.
‘Where’s the job?’
‘Dalston in the East End?’
‘No, Marnhull in Dorset to be more precise. It’s where Tess of the d’Urbervilles was fictionally brought up.’
‘Strictly speaking it was called Marlott in Hardy’s book and Tess was a Durbeyfield –’
‘Whatever the hell you’re on, son, you need to get off it quick.’
‘Mr Jebb, I was only trying to give you a bit of colourful background to make your trip to Dorset more stimulating.’
‘Dorset is like Timbuctoo to me. I only do places in London that are on the A-to-Z or otherwise I get lost. I think you’re just wasting my time.’
‘I pay travel expenses.’
‘I pay travel expenses,’ he repeated sarcastically in a posh voice again. ‘I’ll lose a day’s worth of business travelling out there, won’t I? It ain’t the travelling cost, sonny; it’s my opportunity cost, I’m thinking.’
‘For a posh git, you don’t know much, do you? It’s the loss of my other alternative when one alternative is chosen. Bloody hell, the state of today’s education.’
Of course I knew what opportunity cost meant; it just sounded funny coming from someone like him. ‘So how much would you charge?’
‘Blimey. How much do you charge to knock someone off then?’ I knew as soon as it flew out of my mouth, I’d said the wrong thing. Heads turned, and Jebb looked like he was about to explode all over me.
‘Keep your geeky little voice down. What’s a matter with you? I didn’t realise you wanted hard core.’
I tried to say I didn’t, but the words wouldn’t come out fast enough, and he started talking to me again in a considerably lower voice. Almost a whisper.
‘If you want me to dispose of someone, it’s going to cost you a lot more than what we’ve just been talking about.’
‘Mr Jebb –’
‘Hear me out. If someone is really causing you so much aggro then it’s simple arithmetic. Ask yourself how much do I stand to gain if he’s taken out of the frame, and then deduct ten grand. I presume your problem is worth more than ten grand?’
I was just about to say to him that frightening Uncle Walt would be sufficient, when he pushed himself upright from the table on to his feet. I suddenly felt like Fay Wray under King Kong.
The sight of his slow, ponderous steps away from me towards the far side of the pub brought considerable relief. People moved aside to make room for the mighty Kong.
Then to my surprise the Stars in Their Eyes theme tune rang out over the speakers, and everyone started clapping and whistling. When I realised the karaoke session was about to start, Jebb was already onstage under the spotlights, ready to sing.
A hand landed on my shoulder, making me jump out of my skin. It was Caroline’s.
‘What are you doing here? I asked.
‘You told me to look for you, if you didn’t come out after thirty minutes.’
She did so, and then asked, ‘Where’s Jebb?’
‘He’s about to sing,’ I said, nodding towards the big man on the stage.
Caroline took one look at him and gasped.
The pub quietened down and a piano played a soft melody over the speakers.
Jebb clasped the mic in both hands and began to sing in a distinctly American accent. To be perfectly honest, I was flabbergasted by his ability on stage. He knew both how to hold a note, and how to reach out to his audience.
‘I know this one,’ shrilled Caroline. ‘It’s, it’s, it’s.’
A man nearby in blue overhauls said ‘Shhh’ to her.
‘Shhh-you too,’ she replied. ‘Oh, it’s really bugging me, Martin,’ she said turning back to me.
‘Caroline. Shut up or you’ll get us kicked out,’ I said in a lowered voice. ‘If you really must know, it’s The Shadow of Your Smile by Johnny Mandel with lyrics by Paul Francis Webster.’
‘I knew that’s what it was,’ snapped Caroline. ‘There’s no need to show off.’
She stopped talking to me as her words were being drowned out by the clapping and whistling around us as Jebb sang the title line of the song.
He seemed very popular with the locals, and the applause he got when he finished was absolutely thundering. Caroline and I both stood up and cheered when he reached our table. He was dabbing his forehead and face with a green paisley handkerchief, and when he sat down the waft of steaming sweat was asphyxiating. But we tried our best not to show that we minded.
A barman brought Jebb and his guests (me and Caroline) a round of free pints. Jebb raised his pint to everyone around him, and got another amazing cheer. He downed his pint in one go, and was about to burp when he saw that a lady was present.
‘And who do we have here?’ he asked, smiling at Caroline, drops of sweat rolling off his nose and landing on the table.
‘I’m Martin’s sister, Caroline,’ she said, trying her best not to look too terrified of him.
‘I’m very pleased to meet you, Caroline,’ he said, taking her hand into his sweaty paw and kissing it. A drop of sweat from his nose splashed on to her wrist.
Steady the Buffs, Caroline, and don’t ruin everything for us.
‘Are you privy to our conversations?’ he asked, looking into her soft grey eyes.
‘Martin and I are in this together. One hundred per cent.’
‘Well, it seems I must accept your offer then. I can’t let a pretty little thing like you down, especially if someone is trying to upset you.’
He’d become King Kong.
Caroline sipped her pint, and then licked her lips, while pretending to look coquettishly into his eyes. Now I never asked her to go that far, and quite frankly it was a pretty damn silly thing to do.
Another karaoke singer was now belting out from the top of her lungs the chorus to Dolly Parton’s Hillbilly Willy.
Jebb didn’t like her voice. I didn’t like it, and by the sounds of the reaction in the pub, half of Romford didn’t either. The girl was lucky not to have had a bottle or two thrown at her.
‘So, Caroline, did you enjoy my singing?’ he asked.
‘You know what I thought?’ she said, showing the sort of chutzpah that made me proud to be her brother. ‘Tony Bennett had opened in Romford.’
‘You’re kidding me! Tony’s my idol,’ replied Jebb with a big smile.
I felt a bit left out of this fast-developing lovefest, and said, ‘I prefer Frank, myself.’
He didn’t move, and looked at me from the corners of his eyes. ‘Frank’s fine,’ he said coldly, ‘but Tony does it better. I met him once when he come over to London.’
‘Frank?’ I asked for clarification.
‘No, Tony. I was hired as one of his minders. Went wherever he went, and he looked after us.’
‘Amazing,’ said Caroline, continuing to act girly and petrified at the same time.
‘He gave me this,’ said Jebb, thrusting under her nose a chunky gold bracelet attached to his wrist.
‘What’s written on it?’ she asked, trying to see.
‘It’s nothing,’ said Jebb, becoming shy, and pulling his arm away again. ‘Tony gave it to me as a token of his appreciation after I saved some fans from getting crushed. The man’s a legend.’
He looked into Caroline’s eyes again, and said, ‘You know, you’ve got beautiful hands?’
I hadn’t realised his hand had been holding hers all this time.
Caroline smiled, and pulled her hand free from his. ‘We have to go,’ she said to him. ‘Our little sister, April, is sick in bed.’
‘Oh, I’m so sorry to hear that. Family comes first,’ he said, nodding with understanding. Then he turned to me. ‘You’ve got yourself a deal. Bring over half the cash here on Friday around the same time, and then you can pay me the rest when the job’s done. How does that sound?’
I looked at Caroline who raised her eyebrows in her usual non-committal way, and then I turned to Jebb to shake on it. I think his squeeze broke my metacarpals.
On the drive back home, Caroline told me that under no circumstances should we get involved with Jebb. He was a creep, and a lech.
‘But he can scare Uncle Walt all the way back to Thailand. The house will be ours free to sell.’
‘What about April?’
‘We both know we can get around her.’
‘Seriously, Martin. You’re just going to have to find someone else to do this job.’
I’m really disappointed I’ve not had a chance to read it yet!
If this has whetted your appetite, and you fancy winning an ecopy, leave me a comment below. I’ll close the giveaway on Friday the 18th and I’ll get a random generator to pick a winner! This is open internationally and is available in any electronic format. Good luck!