This is the tenth part of a fiction serial, in 758 words.
They took Johnny from his home at six in the morning. It had been a long time coming, as the police took their time building a case by watching Johnny and his dad for close to three months, accumulating evidence on them and the men delivering the stolen goods.
Georgie was arrested at dawn too, but he was in the bed of Big Viv, another market stall holder. Viv deserved her name, with breasts that arrived a few minutes before the rest of her, and a huge mop of home-dyed auburn hair. She must have been getting on a bit, but Georgie had obviously fallen for her charms, and was tracked down to her flat by the cops. She was arrested too, but released for lack of evidence.
With Johnny and Georgie getting bail, and determined to plead not guilty at their trial, everyone in the district was speculating about who could have grassed them up. Receiving stolen goods and tax evasion didn’t add up to a long stretch, but it would mean the end of their careers as market traders, as their licences would be withdrawn. They also had to worry about the actual robbers who were implicated, as four of them had also been arrested.
Safe to say I was not even considered as a suspect for grassing them. Where we came from, you didn’t grass, so it was simply presumed that someone from outside the borough had done it, probably to get a lesser sentence for whatever he had been charged with. Not grassing also applied to Johnny and his dad. No chance they were going to name names to get any charges dropped or reduced. Their lives wouldn’t have been worth living if they had done that. The local criminals had a long reach, even from behind bars.
For a few weeks, everyone was talking about it. I did the decent thing, and went to see Johnny at home. Him and his dad looked scared, and his mum couldn’t stop crying. They had phoned his brother in Brighton, but Graham was not coming up for the trial. He was getting his own back on Georgie for how he had been treated in the past. Johnny told me that Terry had driven over to offer his condolences, but hadn’t stayed long before rushing back to his wife and baby.
Keith probably didn’t know what had happened. He was totally immersed in his life in Oxford. He wouldn’t have cared even if he did know.
When I told Susan, she was unimpressed. “Serves him right. He was getting really flash, and above himself. Reckoned he was some sort of gangster if you ask me. A bit of time inside won’t hurt him, and might teach him a lesson”. She had never forgiven him for his outburst at The Anchor. And neither had I of course.
Neither Johnny nor his dad had any preious convictions, but electing for a trial by jury must have upset the powers that be. They were found guilty by that jury, and the judge was in a bad mood when sentencing arrived. Georgie got eighteen months, and Johnny twelve months. They were also heavily fined, fifteen hundred each. That was a considerable sum back then, and wiped out their savings.
Johnny’s mum didn’t take it well. Not only were her husband and son going inside, there was the extra bad news that Georgie had been found in bed with Big Viv. Susan felt sorry for her, and I said I would pop round occasionally, and see if she was alright. Jean Simpson liked to be called Jeannie, and she was alright for her age. Alright enough to make you wonder why her husband was over the side with Big Viv, a woman who could easily take on a regiment of soldiers if she was in the mood.
I kept my promise, and checked on Jeannie at the first opportunity. The experience had definitely hardened her. “I won’t be taking Georgie back when he gets out, Danny. He can go and live at his sister’s place in Charlton, for all I care”. I was very sympathetic. Sympathetic enough that on my third visit, Jeannie suggested going upstairs to the bedroom, and I willingly followed her.
When it was over, she lit a cigarette and cuddled up to me. “If it’s good enough for Georgie, then it’s good enough for me. Will you come and see me again next week, Danny?” I said I would.
Well it was the least I could do, wasn’t it?