This is the third part of a fiction serial, in 916 words.
When the two coppers got fed up hassling me and left, I headed into the pub to tell Nicky the coast was clear. By then it was almost closing time anyway, so he said to take them back. I dropped the two Busters at the Ferrier, then as I was driving back to Thamesmead, Nicky launched into a load of paranoid chat about how come I had attracted their attention, and what did I say to them about him.
That wasn’t surprising, considering how well known he was to the police. Although he had escaped any jail time, he had been nicked more times that he could remember. He had been charged with so many driving offences for never having a driving licence that they had eventually just decided to fine him a grand. That was so much money, he had to sell his car to pay it. There was no point banning him again, as he didn’t have a licence to ban in the first place. Since then, he had decided to keep a lower profile by never being seen driving a car.
Trouble was, people like him and Patsy, her mum Jeany and all their friends didn’t do buses and trains. They needed to be in a motor to stash their stuff, so they had all become dependent on cabs. That was more expensive than running a car, so that cost had to be factored in when selling the stolen goods, or even the drugs. Most of their customers hadn’t taken kindly to the price increases, so they all had to become twice as busy to make up the shortfall. Then there was the trust factor. Using unlicensed cabs meant you never knew who was driving, and whether or not they would grass you up.
That was where I came in, and why I got the offer.
By the time we got outside his flats, he had calmed down and apologised. He weighed me up in cash for the cab fare and waiting time, and didn’t bat an eyelid about how much it was. “Okay, see you tomorow, same time? By the way, can you do me a favour first, I’ll pay the fare. I need you to pop down to the Ancient Foresters and see Mickey Shaughnessy. He’s bound to be in the bar by half-five, and I have this for him”. He started to root around in the Adidas bag.
I was smiling to myself at how casual he was. That pub was in Bermondsey, hardly on the way from my place to Thamesmead. It meant me driving all the way into the area, then all the way back to Nicky’s place to pick him up. I suggested I pick him up first, then he could go in and see Shaughnessy himself. He shook his head. “No, I can’t be seen in there. I owe some money to Freddie Foreman, got to keep out of his way”.
That made me raise my eyebrows. Mickey Shaughnessy was bad enough, what the yanks would have called a hoodlum. Small time enforcer, sometime armed robber, and used by bigger fish to enforce protection rackets. But Freddie Foreman was a different matter. He was mainstream gangster, hard all the way, and an associate of the Krays. He was the got-to man to dispose of bodies of other gangsters, and pretty much untouchable. The Foresters was his pub, despite someone else’s name being over the door. I certainly didn’t want to get involved with his grief. Shaughnessy was approachable, but only just. Unpredictable, probably mentally unstable, and always carried a shooter.
But get mixed up with Freddie Foreman, and my body could end up in the cement propping up a motorway bridge.
He was still holding something in the bag, when he asked me another favour. “I know you don’t usually work days, but I need you to run Patsy and her mate Shell around on Saturday week. They are going up West, hit a few favourites. You know, John Lewis, Marks and Spencer, Selfridges. It’s Christmas in a couple of months and they have been taking lots of orders. People like new clothes for Christmas, don’t they? Her and Shell have been lying low for a few weeks since Shell got nicked in Debenhams, but it’s time for them both to get back on the horse”.
Shelley was another one whose name ended in a Y. At least Freddie Foreman spelled his with IE. Patsy and her mates were top-class shoplifters. They could get you anything to order, in almost any size. If it was on a rack in the shop, they could lift it. It was fairly clean crime too. Only fines, almost never custodial. Worse that could happen would be a lifetime ban from the shop, with the store detectives on the watch for you. But a new wig and a put-on accent could deal with that, at least a few times, until you got sussed again.
I said I would do it. It meant a day out with Patsy in my car, and I wasn’t going to turn that down. Then Nicky handed me a pillowcase. I didn’t need to be a gunsmith to know that there was a revolver in it. He smiled and kissed me on the cheek, all brotherly. “I knew I could count on you, Paul”. As he walked away from the car, I wound down the window, and called after him.
“So much for me being just the driver!”