Ollie And My Office

Most days, I spend a fair bit of time in the small third bedroom. It no longer has a bed in it, just some bookcases, a big desk with my PC on it, and the second hand office chair I have enjoyed sitting in for some years now. The room is always referred to as ‘The Office’.

Ollie likes to be within reach of me at all times, so when I go and sit down in the office, he follows me and lies down on the carpet twelve inches from my chair. Once he realises I am going to be in there for some time, he generally goes to sleep, snoring noisly next to me as I type.

It didn’t take my dog very long to start to identify what he obviously thinks of as ‘signals’.

Me: Moves chair back to reach something behind me.
Ollie: Stands up immediately, no longer asleep. Are we going out now?

Me: Opens a drawer in the desk to find a pen, charging cable, or notebook.
Ollie: Stands up, tail wagging. We must be going out now!

Me: Closes drawer, slides chair back in and resumes typing.
Ollie: Slumps back down. False alarm, we’re not going out yet. Immediately asleep again.

Me: Decide to have another coffee. Stand up and head for the kitchen.
Ollie: Jumps up and follows. He’s heading for the back door, must be time to go out.

Me: Gets a cup and switches on kettle.
Ollie: Slumps down in the kitchen doorway. Looks like we are not going out after all.

Me: Decide to start on the draft for tomorrow’s serial episode.
Ollie: Enough is enough! He’s getting my chin on his leg!

Me: “Come on then, let’s take you out”.

The Job: Part Twelve

This is the twelfth part of a fiction serial, in 780 words. It may contain some swear-words.

Teddy turns up unexpectedly.

Once Gloria had left for work that Sunday morning, Alan got the jiffy bag from the spare room, and checked over the .22. He stripped it, reassembled it, then loaded 10 rounds into the magazine. The long-barrelled Ruger was a very nice pistol, and even with the silencer attached, it still fitted inside the padded jiffy bag. He went back into the bedroom and hid it under his empty case in the small wardrobe. That reminded him that he would have to buy more clothes soon.

It was getting colder in London.

Alan Gill had always used firearms during his relatively short career as an armed robber. They made a lot of noise, and stopped most people wanting to even consider fighting back, or resisting. He favoured revolvers, as they retained the cartridges in the cylinder. Automatic pistols ejected the spent cartridges, and that meant leaving evidence behind, or having to scrabble around to find them. Even weapons that were supplied as untraceable might well have been used in other robberies. So if you got nicked, you could be sure the cops would fit you up with every other crime where the same weapon had been used.

Trouble was, ballistics was getting more accurate every year. That made it harder to be a criminal, no doubt.

During that time, Alan had only ever shot three people deliberately. The first had been a cash-in-transit security guard. The man thought to have a go, by grabbing Alan from behind as they threw the cash boxes into a stolen car. Without hesitation, Alan fired his Bulldog .45 into the man’s right foot, straight through his boot. No chance of killing him, but he definitely released his grip.

The second time, they had been jumped by armed detectives as they came out of a bank with bags full of cash. The nervous young detective had followed procedure, shouting “Halt! Armed police! Drop your weapon!” Alan hadn’t dropped the .38 S&W. He shot the cop in the thigh instead, and they made good their escape.

Following the bank job, they knew they had been grassed. So Alan shot the man who grassed them. And this time, it was fatal.

Lawrence Toomey was known as Larry The Limp. He had been a crappy cat-burglar in Northern Ireland, just about earning a living. Then one day, he burgled the house of a widow in the countryside near Londonderry. She came home from the shops to find a strange man in her house with a calico bag full of her jewellery. Larry thought he might as well rape her while he was there, so threatened her with his crowbar, and told her to strip. But she was made of stern stuff. She spat in his face, fought back like a crazy person, and Larry legged it back to his car parked in a lane nearby.

He had to drive past her house to get away, and she spotted the car. Not many bright red mark four Cortinas in Londonderry back then.

Larry had made a huge mistake. The widow was the wife of an IRA man who had been shot by the British Army while on active service for the cause. She made a phone call. They found him trying to sell some of her Cameo brooches to a fence on the Dungiven Road. In a remote lock-up, he was kneecapped. One shot in the back of each knee, then dumped on the main road. Once he got out of hospital, he did the sensible thing, and left for London. The right knee never healed properly, and left him with a permanent limp.

Nobody in the Irish community in Kilburn or Cricklewood would tolerate him, so he went east, and ended up in Islington. One night, he got Teddy Henderson drunk on cheap brandy, and learned about a bank job that was happening. Better to tell the cops and get a reward, rather than keep trying to burgle basement flats in Barnsbury.

Someone told Alan Larry had been seen talking to Teddy in a pub, and Teddy was drunk as a sack. That was enough for Alan.

The Irishman was easy to find. When Alan knocked on the door of his flat in Laycock Green that night he looked nervous, but let him in. Seeing the old Webley come out of Alan’s coat, he started to plead his case. But it was far too late.

One shot, through the top of his head. He was done. The pistol went into the canal that night, never to be found.

Gloria’s doorbell sounded. It was Teddy Henderson, with a geezer who looked like Arnie, in ‘Terminator’.

Ollie And The Feral Cat

Some years ago, a person here told me about some feral cats living in Beetley. I never encountered one, and thought he was probably teasing me, regarding me as a ‘City Boy’ who had moved to the countryside.

Yesterday was very humid, and after Ollie had taken two dips in the river to cool down, I headed over to Hoe Rough as usual, hoping to make a longer walk of it in dry weather. Ten minutes in, and along the narrow riverside path on the north side, I spotted a cat a couple of hundred yards ahead. It looked scruffy, had no collar, and seemed to be in need of a meal, it was so thin and ragged. It was also a strange colour, with black and tan markings resembling some kind of spotted fur, like a wildcat.

(We don’t have wildcats in England any longer)

When it saw me, it arched its back, like they do in cartoons. But then it noticed Ollie following, and it turned and ran off. Ollie saw the movement, and took off after it at lightning speed. Despite his age, my dog cleared the distance in a remarkably short time, and for a moment I thought he might catch the cat.

Luckily for the feline, there are plenty of trees around there, and it had scooted up one before Ollie was close enough to grab it.

Following at some distance, I could hear Ollie whooping and yelping, sounding like a real hunting dog. When I caught up, I found him at the base of the tree, and up in the top branches was the cat, staring down at us.

Reluctant to leave the tree and the cat seeking sanctuary in it, Ollie eventually followed me along the path. He got as far as the bend in the river before creeping under the wire of the fence and plunging in for a much-needed drink.

At least the cat had made him remember once again that he was one of nature’s hunting predators.

The Job: Part Eleven

This is the eleventh part of a fiction serial, in 743 words. It may contain some swear-words.

Recruiting begins.

As Gloria was going to bed, Alan popped his head around the door of her room. “Glor, is Teddy Henderson still about?” She shrugged. “Last I heard he was living on the Packington Estate, Danny will know where”.

Daniele Ricci was from an old Italian family in Clerkenwell. His dad had run an ice cream firm, with mobile vans touring all over north London. But that was a dangerous game at one time, with others trying to muscle in on the trade. Danny had been roughed up bad. They took a sledgehammer to his ice cream van, then to him. He had been in a wheelchair ever since. He smiled as he pulled the door open, scooting his wheelchair back to let Alan into the ground floor flat.

“Danny, I’m looking for Teddy Henderson. Gloria told me you know where he lives now”. Wheeling across to a chest of drawers, Danny took an address book from the top one. “He was on the Packington until last year, but now he lives in a flat in Golden Lane, Barbican area. It’s above a shop, so I’ve never been there. Hang on, I’ll write down the address for you”. Alan took the post-it-note, and turned to leave. “Thanks, Danny. Good to see you mate”. The less Danny knew about anything, the better.

The cab didn’t take long to get down to The Barbican at that time of day. There was no reply from the doorbell marked ‘Henderson’, so Alan waited, pretending to browse along the windows of the row of shops. Three cigarettes later, he heard a familiar voice. “Fuck me! Is that a ghost? No, can’t be, ghosts don’t have tans. Alan, you old bastard, you found me. Come on up, I’ve got some decent brandy in the flat”.

Teddy still looked fit, but his face was old. He served the brandy in two mismatched glasses, and sat on the bed. Alan took the small armchair, trying not to look around the shabby studio flat. He came straight to the point. “Teddy mate, I’m looking to put up a team. I need someone like you to sort out five reliable blokes who don’t ask too many questions, and can handle themselves with shooters. And nobody just out of jug, or wanted by the Old Bill. There’s a nice earner in it for you, get you out of this shit-hole”.

Twenty-nine years earlier, Alan had taken Teddy on a job. They used motorbikes and raided a posh jewellers in Knightsbridge. In and out, with a good haul, but Teddy didn’t know the area. He had got himself lost in some back street, and been cornered by two police cars. He decided to shoot his way out, and injured a copper in the leg doing so. Five minutes later, another police car rammed his bike, and put him in hospital.

He went to court for sentencing on a day when the judge was in a shit mood, and got thirty years. Armed robbery, and attempted murder of a police officer. He wouldn’t grass up the others, so got hit hard. Paroled after twenty-two years, his wife had left him, and his flat was gone. Alan had given his wife fifteen grand when Teddy got sent down, then Pauline told him to fuck off, and slammed the door in her face.

He felt he still owed Teddy.

“I was living with my old nan on the Packington, Al. But when she died, I didn’t qualify to keep a two-bed flat. This was the best I could get from the housing trust people. I do know some people who would be up for that, but not me. I’ve had enough mate”. Alan swallowed some more of the cheap brandy. “I just need you to do the recruiting, Teddy. No need to be on the job”. Teddy nodded. “Yeah, I can do that. Got a number where I can contact you, once I set up a meet?” Alan shook his head.

“No phones, Teddy. Come and find me at Gloria’s flat in Highbury Grove when you have something solid”. Reaching into the inside pocket of his jacket, he handed over five hundred pounds. “This is for your time and trouble today, and for using cabs. No hire cars, and like I said, no phones”. He stood up to leave.

“And there’s enough there for a decent bottle of Cognac. Treat yourself”.

Mythaxis Review: Sci-Fi And The Environment

Mythaxis Review Magazine has a feature on Stanley Chen. His new book (and forthcoming film) ‘Waste Tide’ explores the possibility of environmental disasters in the future.
Here is a link to read more.

https://mythaxis.com/2021/06/08/meet-stanley-chen-at-the-wilson-center-forum/

The magazine also has a new regular feature, a News category. Here is what Daniel told me.

“I started a News category. If anyone has any publishing news, even a book release, let me know!”

Here is a contact link for that.
https://mythaxis.com/contact/

The Job: Part Ten

This is the tenth part of a fiction serial, in 801 words. It may contain some swear-words.

Alan talks to Gloria.

With the .22 and its silencer tucked away in an innofensive jiffy bag, Alan headed back to Gloria’s flat to deal with another of his decisions. It wasn’t going to be easy to get her to leave the country, but it would be essential if the job came off. She still worked two days a week for Ronnie, in his florist’s shop near The Angel tube. Not that she needed the money, as it had turned out Vince had good life insurance. But she didn’t want to let Ronnie down, so covered Saturdays and Sunday mornings during his busy time.

If necessary, he would have a quiet word in Ronnie’s ear.

As usual, she was pleased to see him, and asked no questions except for one. “What do you fancy for dinner tonight, love? I could make us a nice steak and kidney pie. Don’t suppose you have had one of those since you were last here?” He didn’t hang around with what he needed to say. “Yeah, a pie would be nice. But I have to talk to you, Glor. Sit down and have a drink with me”. He lit a cigarette, and started coughing again. His sister shook her head. “You should really pack those up you know. Hardly anyone smokes these days. It’s too expensive, and not good for you”.

Pouring two glasses of Black Label, he looked straight into her eyes. “There might be a job on. A very big job. If I decide to go ahead with it, you are going to have to leave before it kicks off. I have a very nice villa in Spain. It’s got a pool, cleaning lady, near the beach and town. You could fly out and enjoy some winter sunshine. Chill out a bit. It’s not like you have any reason to stay now mum has gone. And before you mention Ronnie, he could easy train up a school girl to help out with the flowers”.

Gloria pulled a face at the whisky. It wasn’t really her drink of choice. “Are you asking me, or telling me, Alan? Sounds to me like you’re telling me, and you know that’s not gonna go down well at all”. He looked across the small table at his sister. Her hair was dyed too black, and her fingers were getting too podgy for all the rings she was wearing. Her double chin seemed to quiver when she spoke, and her small even teeth could do with some attention. Nine years older than him, but looking more like his mum every day.

“There is no reason for you to say no, and I am going to have to insist this time. If I pull this off we will be made for life, and then if you want you can come back to England and live anywhere you like. But you do have to go. Do this for me, please sis”. She slid the glass over to him. “If we are having a drink to celebrate something, then you can finish this. I’ll get meself a gin and tonic”. Alan watched her leave the room, then breathed a sigh of relief.

When they had finished the pie, Gloria was pleased that he had eaten so much. “I am going to have to renew my passport though, Alan. I will go to the Post Office tomorrow to see about that”. As he handed her his plate and cutlery, the doorbell rang. It was Reg and Graham. He showed them into the front room, and didn’t offer them a drink.

Looking at Carly’s boyfriend, he wondered what she saw in him. He had to be a fair bit older than her, and he didn’t have much about him. Too meek and mild for Alan’s liking. He came straight to the point.

“If I do this job, you have to be driving the lorry. I need to know I have an inside man I can rely on. And the coppers will be all over you after. Give you a right grilling, threaten you with all sorts of shit. And there’s a good chance the company will sack you, even if you don’t get arrested. So I will give you two hundred and fifty grand, as long as you promise to be sensible with it, and splash none of it about. But like I said, you have to be in the lorry, preferably driving it. That, or the job’s off and I walk away”.

Reg nodded at the man, and Graham finally answered. “Okay, Mister Gill. Whatever you say”. Alan stood up, giving them their cue to leave. He put his hand on Graham’s shoulder by the front door.

“And if you grass, that will be the end of you. Someone will come for you. You got that?”

London Walks: Bermondsey And Rotherhithe

Two more of Joolz’s Guides London walk videos. This time with a very personal connection to beetleypete!
(Each short film is around fifteen minutes long)

The first is a tour of Bermondsey, the district just immediately south and east of Tower Bridge, on the banks of The Thames. We see how the former leather-making district has becme ‘gentrified’ since the 1980s, but all the historic buildings remain. I was born in Bermondsey, and lived there until I was 15, when my parents moved us away to the suburbs. In my youth, the leather industry was still very much in evidence, and the modern-day food markets and smart delicatessens were traditional street markets, and cheap cafes.

The second film features Rotherhithe, which is a continuation of the walk from Bermondsey, along the riverbank to the east. Once again, we see the preserved history, and how docks and warehouses, where my grandfather and my mother worked during WW2, have now been converted into smart (and very expensive) apartments and restaurants. Joolz continues to the famous riverside pubs The Angel and The Mayflower. I moved back to Rotherhithe in 1985, and lived not far from The Mayflower. In fact, I had my second wedding reception in the upstairs restaurant of the pub, in 1989! It has famous connections with The Pilgrim Fathers, and the founding of America.

If anyone is planning a visit to London, watch to the end of the second video. You will see that you can book Joolz for a personalised tour of London, and contact details are shown. I couldn’t think of anyone better to show you around, except me of course!

The Job: Part Nine

This is the ninth part of a fiction serial, in 787 words. It may contain some swear-words.

Alan makes some decisions.

By the time he had woken up the next morning, Alan had made some firm decisions. One meant he would have to see Graham sooner rather than later, so after breakfast he walked to Old Reg’s flat off the Essex Road. The place was shabby, and smelled bad inside. Since Reg had lost his wife to breast cancer over twenty years earlier, he hadn’t kept up any domestic routine to speak of. Hattie had been his childhood sweetheart, and the love of his life. Reg had taken it hard when she went.

Not even wanting to sit down on the greasy furniture, Alan spoke in a friendly manner. “Reg mate, I can’t stop, things to do. But I wanted to tell you that I am going to have to meet with Graham again, soon as. Can you get him to Gloria’s place tonight d’you reckon?” The old man nodded. “Well if it’s important, he’ll have to come, won’t he? Leave it with me, Alan. We will be there”.

Next stop was Rupert’s shop in Camden Passage. As it wasn’t raining, Alan walked there too.

“Alan Gill, well as I live and breathe. I didn’t expect to see you again old love”. Rupert turned the sign on the door to read ‘Sorry, we’re closed’, and slipped the top bolt into place. “Come out the back, and we will have a drinkie to celebrate your return”. As usual, Rupert was immaculate. Fresh flower in the buttonhole of his jacket, and his military striped tie firmly done in a nice Windsor knot. He hadn’t seemed to gain an ounce in weight in the last twenty-five years, and only a large bald patch on the back of his head betrayed his advancing years.

Gloria had been rude about him, when asked if he was still around. “Rupert? You mean that bum-bandit? Yeah, his shop is still going”. Alan didn’t concern himself about the man’s sexuality. He was good at what he did. The best.

In the comfortable office behind the shop counter, Alan was handed a very large whisky in a crystal tumbler. “Single malt old love, only the best for you. I take it you are here on business of some kind? I don’t suppose you came all the way from wherever you got that tan to buy some Ming vases of dubious heritage?” Alan sipped the whisky and made an appreciative face.

“Let’s suppose I had a job that needed a bit of firepower for show. Let’s suppose I wanted four good revolvers and a couple of shotguns. What are we talking about, Rupert old mate?” Smiling, the dealer stood up, his military bearing still very much in evidence. “Bring your drink and follow me”.

The small yard at the back was completely filled by a metal shed the size of a shipping container that left no room to even walk up the side of it. Rupert unlocked the huge padlock with a combination, and switched on a light before walking in. Behind random stacks of furniture and vases were some old trunks, the sort rich people used to take on world cruises. Laying out his wares on an antique Chinese table, he described each one in turn.

“You have your basic S&W .38, short-barrel, completely reliable. Or my recommendation of these Colt Pythons. They take a .357 magnum round, and the six-inch barrel gives more accuracy. And shotguns are so ninteen-sixties, old love. What I have for you are a couple of Chinese-made AK-47 paratroop assault rifles. Stick twenty-eight rounds in the magazine, and let go on full automatic. Nobody will still be looking at you after that, believe me. They are still in their packing grease, never been fired, and I have ammuntion for everything. If you don’t fire any of them, I will buy them back for half the price. But if they are used, dump them somewhere. They are all untraceable, you know me”.

Nodding at the Colt pistols, Alan smiled. “I’ll take four of the Pythons, and two of the AKs. Just enough ammo to load each one though, I don’t intend ending up in a firefight. And I don’t need them yet. If it turns out I don’t need them at all, I will bung you something for your trouble of cleaning them and getting them ready. There is something I need now though. Have you got a smallish .22 automatic? I’ll take a short silencer for it too, and maybe twenty rounds”.

After a quick rummage in a tea-chest at the back, Rupert appeared with what Alan had asked for.

“A .22 with a silencer? Dear me, are you going to actually kill someone old love?”

Video: Another London Walk

My friend Antony has sent me another very interesting video from Joolz, the London tour guide. This time, he walks around Fitzrovia, delving into the fascinating history of the area, and some of the quirky shops and buildings too. I often walked through those streets to get to work, and as I lived close to the Post Office Tower which is seen in the film, it brought back a lot of memories for me.

If you ever visit London, you might never see this district, but it is so close to some of the traditional tourist sights, it is worth a short diversion.

The clip is just over twenty minutes long.

The Job: Part Eight

This is the eighth part of a fiction serial, in 734 words. It may contain some swear words.

Back at Gloria’s, Alan sat in the kitchen with a notebook while Gloria heated up the dinner he had arrived home too late for. She knew better than to ask him anything about where he had been, or what he was doing.

It might be too much money. Not too much to handle physically, or to get laundered into other currencies. He still knew people who could manage that for around twenty percent, no questions asked. But the sheer amount of cash was going to attract attention, and everyone would be on the job like flies on a fresh turd. Worse still, he would have to sit on the money for a long time, until the investigation and frantic search subsided.

That meant having to trust people he didn’t know, like Graham. And some people he did know. Like Old Reg, and some fixers he would need to use later.

Alan didn’t trust anyone. Except Gloria.

In the small notebook, he jotted down some ideas. It was good to get them down on paper and look at them, seemed to make more sense. Later on, he would burn the pages in Gloria’s kitchen sink.

If he was going to do this job, he might as well go for broke. Two vans would mean three guys per van, so he had to find himself five useful blokes who would keep a cool head, and not blab about it after. Not easy, when you have been away so long. His old mate Little Alan was off the cast list. Gloria had told Alan the news about him when he had come back for that short trip years earlier.

After the airport job, he had gone cowboy, raiding banks and security vans, firing guns in the street, all sorts of crazy stuff. Then he had made a much bigger mistake. Frankie Toland had sent for him, wanting to know where his tribute money was from all the jobs. Little Alan had fronted him up, acted flash, told him he was old school, and that he could fuck off. Frankie said nothing. The next day, Little Alan disappeared. After two weeks, his girlfriend moved out of their flat and went back to live with her mum.

Chances are that Little Alan’s body was in some concrete on a new motorway bridge. Toland didn’t mess around.

The vans used for the job would have to be stolen, and have genuine plates relating to that type of vehicle. He would need to find somewhere in plain sight to store the cash. The cops would search any rural locations, outbuildings, farms, that kind of thing. So it would be best to get it into the city, where there was just too much to search. They would all need shooters, to make the driver and co-driver scared enough not to resist.

He had asked Gloria if Rupert Pennington still had his antique shop in Camden Passage, and he did. Rupert had to be seventy at least now, but he was the most reliable contact for firearms that Alan had ever used. An ex-Army officer, outwardly straight and honest, he had used his military contacts around the world to source all kinds of good stuff, most of which was shipped to his place stashed inside antique furniture. He had never had his collar felt by the cops, and was so respectable, Gloria said he had been on an antiques valuation programme on telly.

Rupert would be getting a visit soon.

First priority was to make sure Frankie Toland didn’t hear about it. No way was he going to take a small percentage from a job that big. He would stitch them up and take the lot. He had the muscle and manpower, as well as eyes and ears in every pub in the borough. As soon as the job made the news, Frankie would know. He would realise why Alan had stayed on after the funeral, put two and two together, and make five. Then he would come after Alan. Gloria would have to skip with him this time, like it or not. She couldn’t be left behind for Toland to use as a hostage.

When he had eaten the congealed dinner, Alan burned the notebook pages, then ran the tap to flush the ashes down the sink.

Tomorrow, he would have to arrange a second meet with Graham.