Just The Driver: Part Five

This is the fifth part of a fiction serial, in 914 words. **May contain swearing!**

It seemed I had been right about Nicky looking under the weather. When I turned up at six the next night, Patsy told me he had the flu or something, and had been in bed since midnight. I told her not to bother him, and went down to call in on the radio to do my regular work. At least the night passed quickly, with the usual short runs and non-stop calls until at least three in the morning. It saved me spending so much time sitting around in the car, waiting for Nicky to do his thing.

The following night he was still ill, so I popped down to the taxi office to pay my radio rent. Sonia, one of the women who took the phone calls, handed me a slip of paper and gave me a weary look. “He’s phoned three times, and he didn’t sound happy the third time”. On the paper, the pickup address was written at the bottom, ‘Ancient Foresters, Bermondsey’. The name of the caller was underneath that, ‘Mickey’, and my call number was at the top, ‘1-8’.

Sonia was back answering the phones, so I left straight away, wondering what the hell Shaughnessy wanted. Though not at all surprised that he had found out where I worked.

At least he was in a good mood when I walked into the bar. I recognised the man standing next to him, Teddy Kennedy. He always used to joke ‘No relation’, because of the American politician.

Another one with a name ending in Y.

Mickey wrapped an arm around me, and spoke to Teddy. “Good lad this one. Knows his way about, and knows to see and hear nothing”. He turned to me and pulled a roll of money out of his trouser pocket. Peeling off six ten-pound notes, he pushed them into the top pocket of my jacket. “Run my pal Teddy around for a bit, that should cover the fare”. Then he turned back to face the bar, and I walked out, followed by Teddy.

He refused to sit in the back, and produced a list of addresses written on a betting slip. Jabbing a finger at the one at the bottom, he said “Try this one first, see if I can catch him at home”. I was well out of my usual working area, but back where I had been brought up. The first address was a flat in Rotherhithe Street, and I knew it well. Teddy chain-smoked, and stayed quiet. I didn’t need telling that he was collecting debts on behalf of someone, and that someone was higher up in the food chain than Shaughnessy.

He was gone for less than ten minutes, returning with a paper bag bulging with old notes. He gave me the bag. “Stash this somewhere in the car, somewhere that will stand a spin. He was referring to the chance that we might be stopped by the police and they would do a basic search of the car. I didn’t need a translator. I lifted up the rubber mat in the boot, and stuffed the bag into the waterproof holder containing the car jack and wheel nut spanner. After three more calls in the same area, there was no more room in the holder, and there was one more address on Teddy’s list.

That one was a bit of a longer drive, out past Nunhead Green and down on Kitto Road, near Telegraph Hill. Teddy walked up to a big house that was divided into flats, but before he could press a doorbell, the front door flew open, and a skinny bloke ran past Teddy like he was in the hundred yards sprint at the Olympics. Depsite his age and size, Teddy moved fast, and as he ran down the road after the man, he screamed at me. “Don’t just sit there, cut him off, for fuck’s sake!”

I started the car and pulled out into the evening traffic, aware that many people were watching Teddy pounding down the street after someone, his face getting redder from the unfamiliar exercise. I was easily able to overtake Teddy’s quarry, and did a sharp right at the roundabout into Pepys Road on the wrong side of the road, much to the annoyance of the oncoming traffic. Seeing me stopped two wheels up on the kerb on the corner, and presuming I was about to exit the car and grab him, he gave up.

Teddy grabbed his arm and frog-marched him into the small driveway of the nearest house, as I sat there taking abuse from all the drivers trying to get past my car to access the roundabout. When Teddy emerged and came walking back to the car smiling, the skinny man was nowhere to be seen. I guessed he was recovering from a few slaps delivered away from public gaze.

“You done well son”, he said as he got into the car. “Now take me to the Lilliput and you can call it a night”. I knew the pub well. My mum’s uncle had once owned it, before I was born, and my parents had got married in the church opposite. Back in Bermondsey, Teddy waited until I retrieved the bags of cash from the car boot, and gave me five tenners. “That’s for you, on top of what Mickey give ya”.

I really wanted to tell him that I was just the driver. But I knew when to shut up.

29 thoughts on “Just The Driver: Part Five

  1. (1) Here in the Wild West: Being in bed after midnight under the weather means you’re in a sleeping bag out in the desert, with stars overhead.
    (2) In 1969, I sat in on a session of the U.S. Senate during a family vacation to Washington, D.C. I actually got to see Ted Kennedy.
    (3) Mickey peeled off six ten-pound notes. Paul then got in his cab and peeled rubber. #MoneyInHand #LeadFoot
    (4) Chain smoker (fan of Lady Gaga): http://media.cleveland.com/ent_impact_home/photo/gagajpg-edafc0139d621cc2_large.jpg
    (5) I don’t have a rubber mat in my boot. Just an insole for added comfort while hiking.
    (6) The story behind Pepys Road… The street’s original name was Pepsi Road because there was a kid who sold that brand of cola at a roadside stand on hot summer days back in the early 1920’s. It was later mislabeled as Pepsy Road by a mapmaker whose last name ended in Y (pretty much everyone’s name ended in Y back then). Finally, a dyslexic Google employee enshrined the name Pepys Road on the company’s online map. Sadly, that can’t be undone.
    (7) During the French revolution, lots of poor souls were frog-marched to the guillotine.
    (8) Name of the Lilliput pub owner: Golbasto Momarem Evlame Gurdilo Shefin Mully Ully Gue. (A long name for such a small fellow!)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It was a ‘way of life’. Everyone knew the score. Some of us avoided entanglements deliberately, but sometimes they were simply unavoidable, Carolyn. It did not pay to say ‘No’ to certain people. Unlicenced cabbing was a route you took to earn good money. Sometimes, that money came from illegal sources.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks, Stevie. This is more or less a period of my real life in the mid 1970s, with some names changed, though others are real names. The car in the photo is the same one I used when I was cabbing, from 1973-1976. Most of what I am writing about actually happened to me at the time.
      Glad you are enjoying it.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 2 people

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