This is the first part of a fiction serial, in 740 words. It is about criminals/gangsters in London. If you do not understand any of the terminology or expressions, please say so in the comments, and I will translate.
Home from Spain.
London didn’t feel as cold as Alan remembered. Even after twenty-five years in Spain, he didn’t need more than a normal suit that morning. But the tie felt strange, and so did the heavy black shoes. Too long in shorts and a tee shirt, wearing flip-flops for most of the year. Gloria was holding his hand in the back of the car. Her hand felt cold, and he noticed the wrinkles around her neck. She was wearing too much perfume, and he fought back a sneeze.
He wouldn’t have come back if not for mum dying. His older sister had rung him and told him she was ill, but he hadn’t expected her to go that quickly.
Gloria was pleased to see her brother. Since Vince had died, she spent too much time alone.
Some of the locals showed up for the funeral, no doubt mainly for the free drinks and buffet grub at the pub later. Then there were the few remaining relatives, most of whom Alan hadn’t seen since he skipped. Young women came up to him and called him Alan, or cousin Alan, and he didn’t even know who they were.
But he recognised Old Reg, amazed that he was still alive. Reg shook his hand outside the crematorium. “Like to have a chat later, Alan. At the pub, okay?”
On the way back, Alan took in the changes. The area he had grown up in looked the same, but different. The shops were different, the people on the street looked different, and the traffic was bloody awful. Bus Lanes full of buses and taxis, bikes and motorbikes weaving in and out.
Then when they got to the pub, he couldn’t even smoke inside. At least standing outside allowed him to slip the knot on his tie, gratefully running a finger around where his neck was sore from the brand-new unwashed shirt. He had left Gloria inside, doing the meeting and greeting. He put five hundred behind the bar, and told the manager to let him know when that ran out.
Even the pub was different. The Admiral Nelson was owned by a company now, and served cappuccinos and lattes along with the booze. Pie and chips had been replaced by a Panini press, and Gloria said you had to book a table if you wanted to eat. She had arranged for the back bar to be closed to everyone except the funeral party. The manager knew a good earner when he saw one.
A flash motor pulled up. The driver got out and opened the back door. He was a big black guy the size of a grizzly bear, and his grey suit was creased to buggery at the back. Frankie Toland got out of the car, immaculate in a cashmere overcoat and three-piece suit. He still had his hair slicked down, like someone from the sixties. Walking up to Alan, he extended a hand. “Good to see you, Alan. You look like one of the bloody Beach Boys with that sun-bleached hair and tan. How’s life treating you? I just popped in to pay my respects to your old mum. Won’t be staying long.”
Alan returned the firm handshake. “I’m good, Frankie. You’re looking prosperous”. Toland was an old-time villain from back in the day. When everyone had started getting into drugs, he had stayed in the protection rackets, and running girls up West. Looked like he had survived the arrival of the Russians, and still had his spot. But Alan knew gangsters like Frankie were past their sell-by date. He must have been seventy, maybe seventy five years old now, and his time was almost up. Like the dinosaurs, he was set to become extinct.
As he walked inside, Toland turned back for a moment. “You looking for work, Alan? I could find you something”. Alan shook his head. “Heading back to Spain soon, but thanks for the offer”.
On the third cigarette, Old Reg came out to find him. With an arm on his shoulder, he guided him to the street corner, away from any snooping ears.
“Alan, I have to talk to you about something. Can I come and see you at Gloria’s tonight? I want to tell you about it before you go back to Spain, and I think you will want to hear it”. Alan nodded. “Okay, Reg. But what is it about?”
“A job, Alan. A really big one”.