Read an extract from Martina Cole’s iconic first novel – DANGEROUS LADY


An extract from Martina Cole's DANGEROUS LADY, her iconic first novel - available now for the first time in hardback.

Posted on February 27, 2017 in Extract
Tags: Dangerous Lady, Extract, First novel, Martina Cole, Maura Ryan, Maura's Game, Queen of Crime

Margaret and Maura were in Maura’s bedroom, painting their nails. They had worked out a system. On the nights that Maura saw Terry, Margaret would come to the house and they would get ready there as if they were going out together. In reality, Maura was meeting Terry and Margaret, Dennis. Maura had been seeing Terry for nearly five months, and miraculously had managed to keep him a secret. Sometimes though a terrible feeling of dread came over her. She knew that she was playing with fire but couldn’t help herself. She was absolutely besotted with him.

‘How’s you and Den these days, Marge?’

‘Great! We’re getting engaged.’

Maura’s eyes rounded. ‘You’re joking?’

‘Oh no I ain’t! We get on so well. He’s got a good job and mine ain’t that bad. We’re thinking of saving up a deposit for a little house.’

Maura was impressed.

‘Good luck to you, Marge. Dennis is lovely, and you can see how much he thinks of you.’

‘He’s all right, I suppose.’ Margaret was embarrassed. ‘How about you and Terry? You doo-dahed yet?’

‘No, we most certainly have not!’ Maura’s voice sounded shocked even to her own ears. ‘No disrespect to you, Marge, but I want to save myself for when I get
married.’ Even as she spoke she knew she was being a hypocrite. She wanted to do it more than anything in life.

Margaret laughed. ‘You can’t fool me, Maws. You’re more worried about your brothers. It’s 1966, for Christ’s sake. Saving yourself for marriage, my Aunt Nellie!’ Maura ignored the jibe and started to apply mascara. ‘I have all me life to do that.’

‘That’s just it though, ain’t it? You don’t! Imagine still doing it at forty!’ Both girls laughed. To them forty seemed positively ancient.

‘I’ll think about what you said, Marge. Now can we drop the subject?’

‘Be a damn sight better if you dropped your drawers and got it over with!’

‘Marge!’ Maura’s voice had lost its joviality now and she sounded annoyed.

‘All right, all right, keep your hair on! I’m sorry!’

‘I should bloody well think so and all! You’re obsessed with it.’

Margaret glanced at her watch and jumped off the bed.

‘Come on, Maws. Get a move on. It’s nearly a quarter past seven.’

Both girls scrambled into their coats. It was October and the nights had turned very cold. They hurried down
the stairs. Michael and Geoffrey were in the hallway.

Geoffrey whistled at them.

‘You two look nice. Who’s the lucky lads then?’ Maura thought she was going to faint with fright.

Mickey glanced at Margaret and chucked her under the chin. ‘You might be little, Margie, but you poke out in all the right places.’

Sarah’s voice stopped Margaret from having to answer.

‘Will you leave the poor girl alone! I don’t know what comes over you sometimes, Michael. You can see she’s embarrassed.’

He picked Margaret up and hugged her. ‘She knows I’m only joking, don’t you, Margie?’ Margaret smiled shyly and nodded her head. He placed her gently on the
floor and turned to Maura.

‘Now you, Princess, you look absolutely gorgeous!’ He frowned. ‘I wish you’d lay off the make-up, though.’

Maura rolled her eyes up to the ceiling. ‘Everyone wears their make-up like this, Mickey. It’s the fashion.’

Her voice, as usual when talking to Michael, was strained.

‘Well, I think it suits her.’ This from Garry who had just come in the front door. ‘You look a cracker, girl.’

‘Thanks, Gal.’ Maura smiled gratefully at him. He was the only brother who allowed her to live her own life. He worked for Michael but wasn’t as subservient towards him as the other boys. And though Michael acted as if he was annoyed with Garry when he spoke out of turn, Maura also got the impression that he admired Garry for it.

Geoffrey snatched the books Garry was carrying from under his arm.

Garry and Geoffrey were the only readers in the family.

They shared a common bond, a love of literature. The other boys revelled in baiting them about it, but in a goodnatured way.

Michael put on his best voice and said, ‘And what is one reading this week?’

Garry grimaced at him.

‘I’ve read this, Gal. It’s quite good. Heavy going at first, but then you can get into it.’

‘I’ve read it before, Geoff. I like Voltaire.’

‘I like revoltaire.’ Michael parodied Garry’s voice.

Everyone laughed. Geoffrey looked at Michael.

‘In Candide it says, “If we do not find anything pleasant,at least we shall find something new.” A very astute man. It’s for that reason people like us read, ain’t it, Gal?’

‘Oh, for Gawd’s sake, don’t start on all that crap!’

Mickey’s voice was full of fun. ‘I’ve read a few books in my time, and there’s one thing I’ve learned . . . there’s a difference between education and being well read.’

‘Come on, Marge, before Robin Day turns up to join in the debate!’

‘You saucy cow! Where you off to and we’ll give you a lift?’

‘Oh . . . we’re just off to get the train to Holborn.’ ‘We’ll drop you off. Come on then, Geoff, let’s make tracks.’

Maura and Margaret exchanged dismayed looks.

‘That’s all right, Mickey. We don’t want to put you out.’

‘You’re not. See you all.’ He kissed his mother on the cheek. As he passed Garry he pretended to punch him in the arm. ‘See you later, book features.’

‘Tah rah, Mickey.’ Garry took his books back from Geoffrey.

Inside the Mercedes, Margaret and Maura sat quietly in the back. Maura felt panic building inside her. She was meeting Terry at Holborn, and prayed her brothers would not see him there. If he came over to them she would have to introduce him, and that thought was enough to bring on near hysteria.

Michael’s 280 sports car pulled out of Lancaster Road and into Bramley Street. It was already dark. As he turned the corner a police car pulled out in front of them. Slamming on the brakes, the car skidded to a halt. It was obvious to Michael and Geoffrey that the car had been waiting for them. A policeman waved Michael over to the side of the road. His face dark with temper, he parked
the car.

A plainclothes policeman got leisurely out of the Panda car and walked across the road to them. He looked at the tax disc on the windscreen and motioned Michael to wind down his window.

‘Insurance certificate, please.’ Michael already had it in his hand.
The policeman took it and studied it.

‘Well, well, well. I never thought I would see a Ryan driving a new Merc with all the rent paid.’ ‘Well, officer, we live and learn, don’t we. Now fuck off !’

‘That’s not very nice, Mickey. You should have a bit more respect for the boys in blue.’ The voice dripped sarcasm. ‘It looks like pimping in the West End is a lucrative business. Who’s that in the back? A couple of new girls?’

The policeman was knocked off his feet as Michael jumped from the car.

Geoffrey was trying to drag him back by holding on to his overcoat. He could see what the police were trying to do. They wanted Mickey to lose that famous temper of his so they could legitimately nick him.

‘That’s my sister you’re talking about, you ponce!’

Two uniformed policemen got out of the Panda car and joined their boss. Geoffrey got out of the car and stood in front of Michael, willing him to calm down. If Mickey went berserk here there were too many witnesses. Michael pushed him out of the way. ‘No one talks about my family like that and gets away with it. Do you hear me?’

The two uniforms stood in front of their boss to protect him. They were both terrified. It was true what they had heard: he was crazy all right. ‘Mad Mickey’ they called him. Since the Krays had been sent down, Mickey Ryan was the Number One. The only one left of all the big-time crooks. And unlike the Krays and the Richardsons, Michael Ryan was as cunning as a fox.

‘So that’s your sister in there, is it? I’m sorry, Michael. It was an easy mistake to make. I should have guessed because you don’t have a lot of time for girls, do you?’ He was goading again. He noticed that the veins were standing out on Michael’s forehead and against his will felt a surge of apprehension. Geoffrey tried to save the situation. He grabbed Mickey’s arm.

‘They’re trying to wind you up. Ignore them. If you blow your top, they’ll nick you double quick.’ Michael’s breathing was returning to normal. Geoffrey faced the plainclothes officer. ‘Look, what do you want?’

The man ignored him and carried on talking to Michael. ‘Can’t your club run without you? I heard you had a very good doorman. Gerry Jackson, ain’t it? Another brainless Mick . . .’
Michael shook his head in disbelief.

‘If I’m not mistaken, you’re Detective Inspector Murphy, ain’t you? So you would know all about brainless Micks, wouldn’t you?’

The two uniforms laughed and the Inspector was  annoyed. ‘I wasn’t born in Ireland, Ryan.’ ‘Neither was I, nor any of my brothers. Neither was Gerry Jackson, by the way. Now why don’t you take these two little boys home? It’s way past their bedtime.’ The two uniforms sobered up instantly. Michael was calm now. Maura got out of the car and went to him.

‘Can my brothers and I go now, please?’

The uniforms were giving her the once-over. One of them smiled at her.

‘Who are you smiling at?’ Michael’s voice was loud. The young uniform was in a quandary. He didn’t want to answer Michael, but at the same time didn’t want to look like a coward. He was saved from answering by the DI.

‘Very attractive girl, Michael.’ He smiled at Maura, feeling a little bit sorry for her. He looked at her feet. In her winklepicker shoes they looked enormous. ‘Do your feet go right to the end of those?’

He tried to sound jocular. She was only a kid. He had a daughter about that age himself. Maura looked at him with the arrogance of youth.

‘Do their heads go right to the top of their helmets?’

She jerked her head in the uniforms’ direction.

Everyone looked at her in amazement. Michael and Geoffrey burst out laughing, surprised at Maura’s front, but proud of her all the same.

‘Now, Mr Murphy, can we go? Or would you like to ask us some more questions? Only I don’t know about you, but we’re very busy people.’ She was as surprised as everyone else at her outburst.

But she was annoyed. What gave this man the right to speak to people like he did! She would bet her last pound that her Terry didn’t carry on like that. She got back into the car with Margaret.

Now the excitement had worn off she was shaking. She heard the DI saying, ‘I’m gonna have you, Ryan.’

Michael laughed softly. ‘Yeah, Murphy. Of course you are.’Without bothering to speak again Michael and Geoffrey got back in the Mercedes. The three police stood watching them. Murphy knew when he was beaten and decided to retreat on this occasion. He made a mental note to have Maura Ryan checked out. Young girl she might be, but she was as streetwise as her brothers.

She had made a fool of him and he wouldn’t let that go. Once the uniforms had told their version in the canteen, he would be a laughing stock.

In the car everyone was congratulating her.

‘Oh, Maura, how could you?’ Margaret’s voice was filled with awe.

‘She’s a Ryan, Margie. And she showed that tonight! I thought I was going to piss myself. Murphy’s face!’

Michael was roaring with laughter. ‘I’ll tell you something though, Geoff. I’ll do for that bastard one day. I take oath on that. He winds me up!’

‘You get wound up too easily. They can’t touch us, Bruv. They can’t prove nothing!’ Geoffrey stressed the last two words.

‘I thought we was all gonna get nicked!’ Margaret’s voice was still quavery. Michael looked in the mirror and caught her eye.

‘I can just see you in Holloway,Marge. Them big butch warders would all be after a little thing like you!’

‘Aaow, don’t!’ She put her hand over her mouth.

‘Don’t be rotten, Mickey. Marge, he’s winding you up. What on earth would they nick us for?’

‘That Murphy’s all talk. He couldn’t nick himself shaving.’

They all laughed and joked until they got to Holborn.

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