This is the sixth part of a fiction serial, in 868 words. **May contain swearing!**
Those few hours with Teddy had earned me much more than I could have made working taxi jobs all night, so I took the chance to have time off. It felt strange to be finished so early, and I drove down to the stall on the corner of Dunton Road and the Old Kent Road and bought myself a pie and chips. With the pubs almost at chucking-out time, the stall was busy.
In the queue, I bumped into Christine, a girl I knew from schooldays. She seemed happy to see me, but the bloke with her was giving me the evil eye. Then she introduced him as her husband, and reminded me he had been at our school too. I hadn’t recognised him, as he had already lost most of his hair.
Not wanting any aggravation from his jealousy, I drove off and parked in Lynton Road, to eat my grub in peace.
The next night, Nicky was fit and well, and seemed over-excited when I arrived. Patsy was cooking us ham, eggs, and chips for dinner, and she was very chatty too. Nicky had already heard about my evening out with Teddy Kennedy, and seemed impressed. “You’re moving up in the world, mate. Seems like the chaps have taken a liking to you”. I reminded him that I wasn’t really interested in working for small-time gangsters, but I had to admit the pay was good. He carried on with the same theme. “You ought to get yourself a better motor, one of them big Rover three-point-fives, maybe even a Merc diesel. You ought to have some classy wheels when you are hanging around with them blokes”.
He wasn’t listening, so I gave up and ate my dinner.
That night, Nicky was exploring some new territory. He wanted to go across the river, so we went through the Blackwall Tunnel, heading for Stepney Green. This was not only north of the river, but east end territory. I knew the roads well enough, but I didn’t know the people, and I was worried that Nicky didn’t know them either. His sports bag was packed with gear that smelled strong enough for me to know it was grass, and he had told me to go to a pub called The Ship. He was meeting someone in there called Lawrence. To me, that sounded like a made-up name. I had never heard of any criminal called Lawrence in my twenty-two years in London. Not even one called the shortened version, Larry, which would at least have ended in Y.
When I parked up right outside, he went into the pub, all smiles. I was shaking my head as I sat in the car, sure he was being stitched up.
There must have been a juke box inside, as I could hear music. It was old school rock and roll stuff, not my thing. On the cab radio, I could tell the firm was busy already. The despatcher was calling for anyone available, holding jobs all over. But getting paid for sitting in my parked car was a better deal financially, so I turned down the volume and ignored it.
Almost an hour later, Nicky came back, and he didn’t look happy. “That bloody Lawrence hasn’t shown. And nobody in there knows him. The barmaid laughed at me when I asked if she knew him”. He would never be told, but coming across the river to meet someone he didn’t know, and didn’t even know what he looked like, was never going to be a good idea. As well as that, sitting in a strange boozer holding hundreds of quid’s worth of illegal substances was bordering on foolhardiness, as far as I was concerned.
Nicky was edgy now. “It’s a wild goose chase, that’s what it is, Paul. I’m out of pocket on your fare, and no customers. Let’s go back over Tower Bridge, I know where I can shift most of this”.
After a couple of stops that didn’t pan out, we ended up in Watergate Street, Deptford. Nicky spotted two black blokes standing next to a mark three Ford Zodiac, and told me to pull up across the street from them. He jumped out, leaving the bag in the car. One of the men he spoke to was a sharp dresser, wearing a three-piece suit and an overcoat draped around his shoulders. His mate was three times the size, and glared at me as Nicky spoke to the smart one. He was obviously the muscle, the bodyguard.
I wasn’t comfortable. Everyone knew to leave the black blokes alone back then. We stuck with who we knew, and let them do their own thing. After some close face to face talking, Nicky finally shook hands with the suited and booted bloke, and the big man walked over to the car. He opened the back door and picked up the holdall. Still glaring at me as if I had done something to upset him, he leaned forward over the passenger seat. I could smell his sour breath as he spoke to me.
“No trouble now. Y’hear me, man”. I nodded.
“No trouble from me mate, I’m just the driver”.