This is the eighteenth part of a fiction serial, in 895 words. **May contain swearing!**
Leaving Brian to steal the Merc, I drove off and parked along College Road. Inside the wallet was forty quid, a photo of a girl with long black hair, and a driving licence. Toby Hendricks-Cooper. A posh double-barrelled name for a posh boy. I doubted Toby would ever report the car as stolen. He would be far too scared of what Little Legs might do to him if he did. He was going to have to put that down to experience, and realise that’s what happens when you start dealing drugs in circles you have no experience of.
What he had told Brian was going to drag me back to The Ship at Stepney Green, I was well-aware of that. It seemed like Nicky was being given the runaround by men who knew their business much better than he did, and he had made a schoolboy error by travelling around those areas of London carrying a bag with two grand in it. I started to fear the worst for him, to be honest. But there was no point going home until I had followed the last clue.
The traffic was bad, and when I got across the river to Stepney Green, the pub was open for business. I knew if I sat outside I would lose my nerve, so I garbbed the photo of Nicky from my pocket and walked in before I had time to think about what I was doing. There was a man behind the bar. When I told him I wasn’t ordering a drink, he eyed me suspiciously. I showed him the photo of Nicky, and he shook his head. “Nah, he ain’t never been in here, pal”. There were only two other customers, both standing at the end of the bar.
At the risk of upsetting the barman, I walked over and showed them the photo.
One turned his back on me, but the other took the photo off me and stared at it. He was smartly dressed, and a long scar across his forehead suggested he might be a local villain. “Why you looking for this geezer, then?” I repeated my lie about Nicky owing me money for unpaid cab fares. He handed back the photo. “Don’t know him. What is he, Spanish, Italian, Greek maybe?” I confirmed Greek, then threw in that he was supposed to be meeting someone called Lawrence.
That got his interest. “You talking about Larry? Larry Lombardo?” I shrugged. The big man smiled. “Well Larry is doing a life stretch in Parkhurst for murder, son. So he couldn’t have been here to meet your mate, unless the screws were feeling kind, and let him take the ferry from the Isle of Wight”. The barman laughed, and I put the photo away. But scarface hadn’t finished.
“What you wanna do is get yourself over to Clerkenwell, that’s where the Lombardos hang out. Try the Fox and Anchor, near Farringdon Station. You might see Vincent in there, if you’re lucky. Don’t tell him I sent you though”. The barman laughed again. I decided it was time to leave.
Farringdon Station was only twenty minutes or so from The Ship, but at the wrong end of the rush hour, it took me forty minutes to find the pub. There were quite a few City types having after work drinks, so it was busy. A woman with blonde hair was behind the bar, and she smiled as I walked up. When I asked if she knew Vincent Lombardo, the smile vanished. “You a copper or summink?” I assured her I was not a policeman, and she inclined her head to her left and said, “In the corner, on his own at the table. Grey hair”.
The man looked about sixty, wearing an immaculate navy suit, a striped tie, and large gold cufflinks visible on the crisp white cuffs of his shirt. His full head of grey hair was slicked back with some sort of lotion. I was very polite, and asked if he was Vincent Lombardo. He pointed at the empty chair, taking a sip from a glass of red wine he was holding. I sat down.
“Maybe I am Vincent. If I am, what do you want from me?”
He listened patiently as I blurted out the story of Nicky owing me money, and me trying to track him down to get paid. I showed him the photo, and grassed up the big man from Stepney Green, saying he had told me to come to that pub and ask for Vincent. What happened next surprised me completely.
“I don’t know this Nicky you understand, but let’s say I cover his debt. You seem like a nice young man, so how much does he owe you?” I was flummoxed and came up with the first number in my head, one hundred and twenty. That seemed like enough to warrant me running around London trying to recover it. Vincent reached into the inside pocket of his jacket and produced a roll of notes. He counted out twelve tenners onto the table, and slid them across to me.
“That’s you paid, the debt is done, I don’t want no trouble from you, young man, you get me”. I answered as I picked up the money and stood up to leave.
“No trouble from me, I’m just the driver”.