This is all 20 parts of my recent serial compiled into one complete story, plus the epilogue. It is a long read, at 17,700 words.
**Contains some swearing!**
I bumped into Nicky again that Friday night in a Bermondsey pub that I liked to hang out in occasionally. Between girlfriends, most mates married or shacked-up, it was nice to be able to go for a drink where people knew your name, and you had more than a few nodding acquaintances propping up the bar.
He was playing the records in the corner, on two decks. Not exactly an official DJ, but he knew what people liked, and the owner slipped him a few quid for his trouble. He grinned as he saw me, and I bought him a beer and took it over. Same old Nicky, slim to the extent of having no spare flesh, and that nervy way of moving that was just shy of a twitch. He was called Nicky because his surname was Nicola. His dad had come over from Cyprus, and he had that black hair and sallow complexion from his genes.
Nobody ever called him anything but Nicky. To be honest, I don’t think any of us knew his first name.
For over a year, I had been working the cabs in South London. Unlicensed taxis, pre-booked only. One of my other mates had got me into it, when I saw how much money could be made, and you could work when you liked. Pay the boss of the cab company a fixed fee to have the radio in your car, show him your taxi insurance and driving licence, and that was it. Everything else you earned was yours, in cash. You got a number that was your callsign to use on the two-way radio, and anytime you wanted to work, you just booked on. I bought myself a new Hillman Hunter, and the next day I was a cabbie.
Despite the music, it wasn’t busy in the pub that night. Tony the owner was upstairs in the flat, leaving the bar to his wife. I managed to have a chat to Nicky when he took a break, and he finished playing the records just before the official closing time of eleven. There was going to be some after-time drinking and card playing, but I didn’t have the money to lose on Three-Card Brag. So when Nicky’s cab failed to turn up, I offered to give him a lift to his place in Thamesmead. It wasn’t exactly out of my way, as I had gone back to living at home, and my parents’ house was in a more genteel suburb a few miles further on.
On the way, Nicky didn’t stop talking. He seemed wired, and I felt sure he had been snorting coke in the pub toilet. When we stopped outside his block on the estate, he was adamant I should go in with him for a drink. “Patsy will love to see you, Paul, and you have never seen little Suzy, she’s two now”.
Up in the flat, you could be forgiven for thinking you were anywhere but Thamesmead. The interior was nothing like you might expect to find in that huge social housing complex on the edges of South London, just inside the Borough of Greenwich. Everything was first rate, from the latest fridge-freezer, to a state of the art TV. Patsy was pleased to see me, and I was able to not look too doe-eyed at the woman I had a terrible crush on. Her mum Janey was there too, and despite the late hour, both the kids were up playing. Little Suzy (with a Z) and five year-old Marky.
It struck me as I sat there with my beer that I was the only person in the flat whose name didn’t end in Y.
Once the kids were in bed, and Janey had gone home to her flat in the same block, I was sat there chatting with Nicky and Patsy, when he suddenly put a proposition to me.
“Look, Paul. You know I’m banned from driving, and it is really affecting my business. I have things to do most weeknights, and I just can’t rely on cabs being available. How about you drive me around instead? I will pay the cab fare, whatever it comes to, cash every night. You can come and have dinner with me and Patsy about six, then drive me around during the night while I do my thing. What do you say?”
Thinking it over, I knew for sure that whatever Nicky’s thing was, it would be illegal. I told him I lived a very straight life, and couldn’t afford to get nicked by the police. He nodded frantically as I spoke, his mouth ready with the answer as soon as I stopped talking.
“But you will only be the cabbie. Just the driver”.
By the time I left Nicky’s flat it was after two in the morning, and I had agreed to give his plan a go, starting the following Monday. I knew that the only reason I had gone along with it was because I would be seeing much more of Patsy, and to be able to hang around their flat four or five nights a week. Besides, I was drifting through life. Early twenties, unsure of what I wanted to do with my future, and the prospect of being part of that small community appealed to me in many ways.
He wasn’t there when I turned up just after six. Patsy had already fed the kids, and her and her mum were sorting out the dinner for the grown-ups. When Nicky turned up, we had already eaten, and he said not to bother for him, as he had been in a Wimpy Bar most of the afternoon. ” I had a Wimpy Grill about two, and five or six coffees since. I’m fine”. He went into the bedroom and returned clutching an Adidas holdall that only had one handle. “Shall we get going then?”
It was already dark, and raining lightly. He asked me to take him to the Ferrier Estate at Kidbrooke. I told him to sit in the back, so he looked like a cab fare. It was a twenty-five minute journey that took almost an hour in the tail end of the rush hour traffic. I parked in Lebrun Square, and he disappeared into one of the nearby blocks of flats. It wasn’t a comfortable place to be sitting around on your own in. One of the burglary hotspots of London, and home to various teenage gangs that would think nothing of smashing up my car for a laugh, before robbing whatever money I had on me. The telescopic wheelbrace hidden under my seat didn’t exactly make me feel safe.
When he came back, he was accompanied by two men. They had a family resemblance that was undeniable, and both were wearing Fred Perry polo shirts, Farah Sta-Prest trousers, and leather loafers. I was introduced to them as Big Buster and Little Buster. My confusion was immediate, as Little Buster was the son, but was twice the size of his dad, Big Buster. They got in the car with Nicky, and he asked me to drive to the Lord Napier pub in Greenwich. That was just across the road from the office of the taxi firm where I worked, so I parked up the side of the pub so I wouldn’t be spotted.
They were inside for ages, and I was starting to get really bored. Looking in the rear-view mirror I noticed that a lot of the people were going into the pub alone, mostly young men, and they were leaving soon after, hardly time to have drunk one beer. I may not have been a criminal, but I knew enough to guess that Nicky was dealing drugs in there, probably under a table in a corner, or in the Gent’s toilets. The Busters must have been his protection, in case someone tried to turn him over.
It dragged on for so long, I was just about to get out of the car and go into the pub to make sure they were still in there, when a sudden knock on the passenger door window made me jump out of my skin. Two men were standing there, dressed scruffily. One was holding a wallet, with a badge in the flap. He motioned for me to wind down the window.
“Polce, mate. You’ve been here a long time. What’s the story?”
I told him I was a cabbie, and had brought someone to the pub who had asked me to wait for him. I showed him one of the business cards advertising the taxi firm across the road, and he seemed happy enough. But the older one wasn’t happy. He walked around to my side, opened the door, and said, “Let’s see what’s in the boot, and your licence and insurance while we are at it”. I opened the boot to show him a spare wheel, an empty petrol can, and a spare fanbelt. There was an adjustable spanner, a screwdriver, and an empty Tizer bottle. He held out his hand for my documents, and shone a small torch on them to read them properly.
Just at that moment, Nicky and the two Busters came out of the pub by the side door. They took one look at the two men talking to me, saw the torch shining, and went back into the pub. Handing back the documents, the older copper changed his tone to friendly.
“So you are just waiting for him? What’s he doing in there, just having a drink?” I shrugged, and smiled politely.
“No idea, officer. I don’t know him, I’m just the driver”.
When the two coppers got fed up hassling me and left, I headed into the pub to tell Nicky the coast was clear. By then it was almost closing time anyway, so he said to take them back. I dropped the two Busters at the Ferrier, then as I was driving back to Thamesmead, Nicky launched into a load of paranoid chat about how come I had attracted their attention, and what did I say to them about him.
That wasn’t surprising, considering how well known he was to the police. Although he had escaped any jail time, he had been nicked more times that he could remember. He had been charged with so many driving offences for never having a driving licence that they had eventually just decided to fine him a grand. That was so much money, he had to sell his car to pay it. There was no point banning him again, as he didn’t have a licence to ban in the first place. Since then, he had decided to keep a lower profile by never being seen driving a car.
Trouble was, people like him and Patsy, her mum Jeany and all their friends didn’t do buses and trains. They needed to be in a motor to stash their stuff, so they had all become dependent on cabs. That was more expensive than running a car, so that cost had to be factored in when selling the stolen goods, or even the drugs. Most of their customers hadn’t taken kindly to the price increases, so they all had to become twice as busy to make up the shortfall. Then there was the trust factor. Using unlicensed cabs meant you never knew who was driving, and whether or not they would grass you up.
That was where I came in, and why I got the offer.
By the time we got outside his flats, he had calmed down and apologised. He weighed me up in cash for the cab fare and waiting time, and didn’t bat an eyelid about how much it was. “Okay, see you tomorow, same time? By the way, can you do me a favour first, I’ll pay the fare. I need you to pop down to the Ancient Foresters and see Mickey Shaughnessy. He’s bound to be in the bar by half-five, and I have this for him”. He started to root around in the Adidas bag.
I was smiling to myself at how casual he was. That pub was in Bermondsey, hardly on the way from my place to Thamesmead. It meant me driving all the way into the area, then all the way back to Nicky’s place to pick him up. I suggested I pick him up first, then he could go in and see Shaughnessy himself. He shook his head. “No, I can’t be seen in there. I owe some money to Freddie Foreman, got to keep out of his way”.
That made me raise my eyebrows. Mickey Shaughnessy was bad enough, what the yanks would have called a hoodlum. Small time enforcer, sometime armed robber, and used by bigger fish to enforce protection rackets. But Freddie Foreman was a different matter. He was mainstream gangster, hard all the way, and an associate of the Krays. He was the got-to man to dispose of bodies of other gangsters, and pretty much untouchable. The Foresters was his pub, despite someone else’s name being over the door. I certainly didn’t want to get involved with his grief. Shaughnessy was approachable, but only just. Unpredictable, probably mentally unstable, and always carried a shooter.
But get mixed up with Freddie Foreman, and my body could end up in the cement propping up a motorway bridge.
He was still holding something in the bag, when he asked me another favour. “I know you don’t usually work days, but I need you to run Patsy and her mate Shell around on Saturday week. They are going up West, hit a few favourites. You know, John Lewis, Marks and Spencer, Selfridges. It’s Christmas in a couple of months and they have been taking lots of orders. People like new clothes for Christmas, don’t they? Her and Shell have been lying low for a few weeks since Shell got nicked in Debenhams, but it’s time for them both to get back on the horse”.
Shelley was another one whose name ended in a Y. At least Freddie Foreman spelled his with IE. Patsy and her mates were top-class shoplifters. They could get you anything to order, in almost any size. If it was on a rack in the shop, they could lift it. It was fairly clean crime too. Only fines, almost never custodial. Worse that could happen would be a lifetime ban from the shop, with the store detectives on the watch for you. But a new wig and a put-on accent could deal with that, at least a few times, until you got sussed again.
I said I would do it. It meant a day out with Patsy in my car, and I wasn’t going to turn that down. Then Nicky handed me a pillowcase. I didn’t need to be a gunsmith to know that there was a revolver in it. He smiled and kissed me on the cheek, all brotherly. “I knew I could count on you, Paul”. As he walked away from the car, I wound down the window, and called after him.
“So much for me being just the driver!”
There was no chance I was going to leave Shaughnessy’s shooter in my car overnight, so when I got home I hid it under my bed. Having to get to The Foresters by half five was a real pain. The traffic would be murder, and then by the time I left to drive back east to Thamesmead, I would be in the thick of the rush hour traffic heading out to Kent. I could kiss goodbye to eating at Nicky and Patsy’s place, so was thinking I might get pie and chips later, while waiting somewhere for Nicky.
By five-fifteen, the pub door was already open, and there was Mickey Shaughnessy propping up the bar holding a large Scotch. He was dressed smartly as usual, two-piece silver mohair suit, crisp white shirt, and a burgundy-coloured tie. The jacket of his suit was open, revealing the handle of a revolver tucked into the side of his trouser waistband. His dark hair was slicked back, old-style, and his red cheeks betrayed his Irish ancestry from long ago.
I had the gun in the pillowcase inside a Fine Fare carrier bag, with a loaf of sliced bread I had bought to cover it. Shaughnessy grinned at me as I walked in, and when he opened the bag, he laughed. “What am I supposed to do with that? Make a fucking sandwich?” He turned to the barmaid, a weary fifty-something who looked like she would sooner be anywhere else. “Give him a double, my usual”.
Although I didn’t really like whisky, when she slid over the double Glenfiddich, I nodded my thanks. No money changed hands, people like Mickey didn’t pay for drinks. He placed the carrier bag between his feet, and raised his glass to me as I downed the Scotch in one to act like I was the same as him. “You’re the driver? Nicky speaks well of you, says you’re staunch. I hope he’s right. Is he right, son?” I nodded, and signalled to the barmaid for two of the same, producing a ten-pound note. If I bought him a drink, it wasn’t free. I told him I had things to do, and swallowed the drink. I knew I couldn’t leave the bar until he said it was okay. “Off you go then, driver. I might have some work for you soon. You will know when I do”. He reached out a hand, and I shook it, feeling him almost crushing the bones in mine.
Back in the car, I wasn’t best pleased. two large Scotches inside me, and the Shaughnessy handshake had confirmed I was in, like it or not. I was a ‘face’, a known associate. Even as I drove away, I imagined some undercover cop was taking a telephoto portrait of me on his camera, from some safe flat across the street. And my motor would be on the flag list.
It was close to seven before I got to Nicky’s place. He was waiting on the street for me, and said we had to go straight to his garage around the corner. No chance of seeing Patsy, obviously. “Did It all go okay with Shaugnessy? Was Freddie there?” He gave me no chance to answer his barrage of questions before we arrived at his lock-up. “I’ve got twenty-odd leather jackets to shift, Paul. If I get rid of most of them, you can take your pick from what’s left”.
After loading the coats into my boot, he sat in the back directing me to an assortment of locations, mostly pubs, all over south-east London. He came and went to and from the car, taking some coats into the pubs, and returning with handfuls of cash. By ten that night, nobody was buying, probably all too drunk to pay a fair price by then. Nicky chucked me a dark brown jacket that was nice Italian leather, but probably one size too big. “Here, have this one. If it doesn’t fit, you can knock it out to someone. But don’t take less than fifteen. They are worth twenty, and that’s bent. Retail is fifty-plus. That’s on top of your fare of course”.
Just after eleven that night, he put the four unsold jackets back into his garage, and paid me in cash. No invite up to his flat, but he looked wacked-out, and I was guessing he was straight to bed. As he walked away, he seemed to have a tinge of guilt, and turned to say something.
“Sorry about Shaughnessy tonight, mate. Don’t forget now. If anyone pulls you, you’re just the driver.”
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.
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”.
Nicky ran back to the car flushed with his deal. He had even left the sports bag with the black geezers, and was holding a wad of cash. My feeling was that he had just had a lucky escape from being stabbed, or worse, and his gear stolen. But he wasn’t listening to me of course, he never did.
“Take me up to Camberwell Grove, Paul. I’m in the mood to see Big Irene”.
I had never met Big Irene, but had heard enough about her to know that she was a forty-something woman on the game, famous for the gigantic tits that gave her the name ‘Big’. To be honest, I couldn’t understand why Nicky would want to pay a prossie probably thirty quid for sex, when his lovely wife Patsy was waiting at home. But it wasn’t up to me to reason why. When I dropped him outside Irene’s flat, he gave me double fare for what I had earned running him around. I told him there was no need, but he was flush with money, and feeling magnanimous.
With Nicky obviously staying for the night, I called up the cab firm on the radio, and worked until almost six in the morning.
The next night when I got to his place, Patsy let me in. “Nicky’s not here, Paul. He’s on the missing list since he went out with you last night. Sit down, I’ll make you a bacon sandwich, I already had dinner with the kids”.
Not knowing what to say, I said nothing, and ate my bacon sandwich. I was enjoying sitting alone with the woman I would have happily died for, and I was reluctant to get into the question of Nicky’s infidelities. As it turned out, she wasn’t that concerned. “He does this a lot, couple of times a month. I know he always comes home eventually, that’s the way of life with Nicky”.
They were both five years older than me, and had been together since school, aged fourteen. I might have sat there wondering why she tolerated him and his lifestyle, but I could never have penetrated almost fifteen years of them being together. When Patsy offered me another cup of tea, I said yes of course, and heard myself offering to go out after and find him. I told her I could retrace my steps to where I had last dropped him off, but didn’t mention where that had been.
Obviously, I went to Camberwell Grove first, and knocked on Big Irene’s door. She presumed I was there for business, held out her hand and said, “Thirty before I let you in. I see the money before you see my tits”. When I told her I was looking for Nicky, she blew smoke in my face from her cigarette, and shrugged. “He couldn’t manage it, darling. He left twenty minutes after he turned up. I ain’t got a clue where he went after that”.
My next port of call should have been the two black guys in Deptford, but no way was I going to get into it with them. So I bit the bullet and went to see Shaughnessy in the Ancient Foresters. The barmaid told me he was in the Southwark Park Tavern, Billy Tarrant’s pub. That was only two minutes away, so I drove there.
Mickey was at the bar with his older brother. He was already drunk, and making a lot of noise. He ignored me when I walked in, so I sloped up to the side of the bar and asked Billy if he had seen Nicky. “Greek Nicky? Nah, he hasn’t been in. If I see him I will say you are looking for him”. Billy had been a face in his time, and was now trying to just be a pub owner. But the old boys wouldn’t let him go, and he now had to suffer free drinks for the Shaughnessys, for as long as they stayed in his pub.
As I was trying to creep out, Mickey spotted me. “Hey, driver! Come and have a drink”. I knew I couldn’t leave until he was happy, so insisted on buying him and his brother a Scotch. Billy charged me for them, I knew he would, no complaints. Mickey’s brother ignored me as if I didn’t exist, but Mickey was on me, worryingly friendly. With a strong arm around me, he spoke close to my face, whisky breath overwhelming me.
“What are you up to here, then?”
I told him I was looking for Nicky, as he had gone on the missing list since last night. But he just laughed.
“Billy, give the boy a Scotch. Do you know this one? He’s just the driver”.
Going to the pub to see if Nicky was around had not been my brightest idea. Once I had accepted Mickey’s drink, his older brother Pat became interested. “So what’s the story then? You free for a job now?” I started to explain that I was only out looking for Nicky, not actually working, but out of the corner of my eye I saw Billy Tarrant shaking his head. So I changed tack, and told Pat I was happy to take him wherever he needed to go.
With both the Shaughnessy brothers in the car, the smell of after shave and hair oil was overwhelming. Pat sat next to me in the front as I drove off. “Amersham Arms, New Cross”. I knew the pub well, a big boozer on a corner, only a few minutes away. It was a bugger to park there, as it was on a one-way system opposite a mainline station. But I managed to get two wheels up on the kerb just past it, outside a car dealer’s forecourt. Pat spoke for the second time. “Leave the engine running, and dont move the car. Okay?” I nodded.
I kept my eye on the rear-view mirror, and it wasn’t long before they were walking back to the car, Mickey with his arm around a third man, who looked white as a sheet, and wasn’t walking too well. When they got in the car, Pat was smiling. “Deptford Creek, son. I will tell you where to stop”. The man in the back with Mickey was actually trembling, but he didn’t say a word as I went back around the one-way and headed north.
Deptford Creek wasn’t the name of a road, it was part of the River Thames, formed by a tributary flowing into it. I actually knew why that area of London was called Deptford, as I had lived there for some years as a child. It was derived from ‘Deep Ford’, and was one of the first places that the Romans used to cross the river during their invasion of Britain. But I doubted the Shaughnessys wanted to hear a history lesson.
My best guess was that they had both been expelled from school before the age of twelve, and begun the apprenticeships in their criminal careers. Access to the side of the Creek was via the aptly named road called Creekside, so I headed for that.
Back then, the area was industrial. Paper merchants yards, scrap dealers, metal workshops, all pretty unsightly. Pat pointed at the entrance to a scrap dealer’s place. “Blow the hooter”. I pressed the car horn a couple of times, and the heavy metal gate slid open. Someone inside was waiting for them. The brothers pulled the trembling man out of the car, and Pat turned to me. “Stay here, back in a minute”.
It was no surprise to me when they came back thirty minutes later without the third man. I had an idea he would be lying at the bottom of the Creek, with an old car engine chained around his legs. But whatever had gone on inside, the brothers had not got their hands dirty. They were both still immaculate in their suits, and Pat smiled as he spoke. “Okay, back to The Tavern”. I went to the top of the road and turned left, and on the short drive back to Billy’s pub, neither of them spoke to me at all.
Ouside the pub, Pat got out and walked straight in. Mickey gave me four ten pound notes. “That should cover it. Well done, son”. I was lucky he paid me anything. He was notoriously tight with money. Even if he had given me nothing, I would have just had to swallow that, and even say thanks. But forty was much more than the actual cab fare, so I was relieved. I wanted to get away from that manor, and decided to drive back to Thamesmead and tell Patsy I couldn’t find Nicky.
When I got there, she was matter of fact. “He rang home just after you left. I wrote the address down where he is, and said you would pick him up when you came back”. I looked at the address, and cursed myself for not ringing Patsy from a phone box. Nicky was all the way over in Dulwich, some posh address off College Road. I couldn’t imagine how he had ended up there, but smiled and told his wife I would go and get him. That was about twelve miles south, a good three quarters of an hour in normal traffic.
On the way, I contemplated what had gone on earlier with Mickey and Pat. If they got lifted for that, I might get dragged into their mess.
And there was no way I could say I was just the driver.
When I got to Dulwich, Nicky was sitting on some steps outside the big house, talking to a young bloke with long blonde hair who was wearing a seersucker suit and brown leather sandals. He waved as he saw my car stop on the street, and shook the young bloke’s hand before walking over. He looked like he had not slept at all, and also like he was still wired on whatever he had been taking.
By the time I had driven to the end of the road, he was fast asleep, sprawled across the back seat. I had to wake him up outisde his flats, and he gave me three five-pound notes as he struggled out of the car. “Sorry, it’s all I’ve got left. See you soon, I won’t be going out for a couple of days”. That left me wondering what he had done wiith the money he had got from the two black guys. My suspicion was that he had done a deal with the posh geezer, and was awaiting delivery of something stronger than hash.
To make up for my lost time, I called in on the taxi radio, and worked until seven the next morning. As I went to bed, I decided to give Nicky a miss for a while.
For the next few days, I avoided Nicky’s place in Thamesmead, and just worked as normal for the cab office. But then I remembered I had to take Patsy and Shell to the West End on Saturday, so didn’t work very late on the Friday night. The only contact number they had for me was through the taxi firm, and I hadn’t had any messages. Nicky knew my parents’ home number, but he was unlikely to ever ring me there. So I went to his flat on the Saturday morning, wondering if the trip was still on.
Patsy was there with Shell, and her mum was there to watch the kids while we were out. Nothing was said about me not being around, and Patsy made me a cup of tea and some toast before we set off. “Nicky’s asleep, Paul. He’s been out of it for a few days now. Said he’s waiting on a good job that’s coming up soon”.
When we got to the back of John Lewis, I hung around Cavendish Square, driving around the one-way system while Patsy and Shell were in the shop. There was nowhere I could park without attracting attention, and the nearby NCP car park was no good. We would need to drive away quickly once they came out. They showed up after about twenty minutes, and as I stopped outside the back entrance to the shop, they opened the car boot and dropped some bags into it. Then they both took Burberry trenchcoats off the back seat, and put them on over what they were wearing.
Selfridges and Marks and Spencer were opposite each other, either side of Orchard Street. I turned left into North Audley Street across the road, and dropped them off on the corner. If I kept my eyes open for traffic wardens and occasional interested coppers, I was okay to stay parked there for a while. I managed forty-five minutes before two motorcycle cops stopped next to the car. One of them pointed down the street, and waved that I should move.
It wouldn’t have been the best idea to tell them I was a taxi from South London, just waiting for a fare. I had a boot full of hooky gear, after all. So I smiled, and drove off. The one-way systems there meant that I had to go down as far as Grosvenor Square, back up Duke Street onto Oxford Street, then back to where I had started in North Audley Street. By the time I got there, Patsy and Shell were walking up and down looking for me. They were both wearing designer sunglasses, despite it being a dull day. Walking out wearing them had obviously been the easiest way to lift them.
Although both women were carrying at least five bags of stuff, they didn’t waste time opening the boot, and got into the back with them. Shell wasn’t amused. “Fuck me, Paul. I thought you had bottled it and pissed off”. I explained about being moved on by the cops, as I headed south in the traffic to get across Westminster Bridge.
Patsy didn’t want to go back to her flat. They had to drop the stuff off at a friend’s place, so she gave me the address in Rotherhithe. Whe we got there, I helped them carry the bags into a terraced house in Brunel Road, and Patsy gave me thirty quid and a pair of very expensive Loake shoes two sizes too big for me. “Is that enough, Paul? We are going to be here for a while, so you can do whatever you need to be getting on with”.
Part of me was hoping I would be asked to stay there with her. But I could see that as far as she was concerned, I was just the driver.
With any hope of something happening between me and Patsy shattered, and Nicky moving into the dangerous world of dealing blow, I made the decision to keep clear of the whole area for a while. I went back to my normal night shifts, earning regular money without having to look over my shoulder. Christmas was a big earner for cabbies. Double time after midnight on Christmas Eve until midnight on Boxing Day. And with the drink-drive laws being clamped down on, at least in the suburbs, we had more bookings than ever.
Nothing was heard from Nicky, and no messages received in the cab office from the Shaughnessys or their associates. Three-quarters of me was relieved, but the other quarter had the niggling feeling that I was missing the relative danger. Not that I was in any personal danger unless I grassed anyone up, but there was an undeniable cachet about hanging around with blokes that everyone was scared of. And it came with another bonus.
You were untouchable, one of them. Everyone left you alone.
New Year’s Eve came and went, another double time shift. Then as the winter gave way to the spring of 1975, fate drew me back to Bermondsey once again. I picked up a young woman in Greenwich, and she asked me to take her to Abbey Street, near the junction with Tower Bridge Road. I knew it well of course, and after dropping her off outside her flats, I decided to pop in and see Tony, the nominal owner of the pub where Nicky used to play the records.
I say nominal, as his name was above the door. But there was every chance he was fronting for someone with a criminal record, who would not have been able to get an alcohol licence. The pub was called Simon The Tanner, a nod to the leather-manufacturing heritage of the area. And it was literally across the road in Long lane, opposite the Caledonian Market. Despite being almost closing time, I felt sure Tony wouldn’t mind me having one drink. The small bar wasn’t that crowded, but I recognised one man standing at the bar immediately.
If Tony hadn’t spotted me and started to pour me a beer, I would have walked out there and then.
Little Legs was very appropriately named. Barely five-one in shoes, you might be mistaken for assuming he was a very sharp-dressed schoolboy. But only from behind, as when he turned around, you could see he was about forty. His name was Brian, and he liked to be called that. Woe betide anyone who called him Little Legs to his face, unless they were also a much-feared gangster. He was known to always carry a pistol, and would not hesitate to use the butt like a hammer on your face if he thought you were mocking him.
Fortunately for me, he didn’t know my name, and was in loud conversation with another man at the bar who was dressed like a workman. As I made small talk with Tony, I couldn’t help but overhear Brian. “So you reckon Sunday night would be best? You sure the stuff is being delivered Saturday? Don’t fuck me about now. If I turn up with a team on Sunday and that place is empty, it’s you I’ll come looking for. You know the Shaughnessys? I’ll send them after you if you are stitching me up”. The other man was nodding furiously, his face white. “Straight up, Brian, so help me. It will be there on Sunday, and will be shipped out first thing Monday. Sunday night’s your best bet, too busy around here on Saturdays.
Reaching into his inside pocket, Brian produced some cash, folded the notes in half, and gave them to the white-faced man who left the pub immediately. Then he turned to Tony, “Same again, Tone”. Seeing me glance in his direction, he didn’t hesitate. “Who the fuck are you? You been earoling me?” Even though he knew I could not have avoided hearing his conversation, I certainly couldn’t admit to that. Before I could say anything that might get my cheekbones broken, Tony stepped in. “He’s okay, Brian. Paul, he’s a cabbie, been here plenty of times. He’s straight-up”.
Brian gave me a grin that could have curdled milk. “Cabbie, eh? Well it so happens I have need of your services. When I have finished my drink, you can take me to Cleaver Square.” I knew where that was of course, in Kennington, halfway between the Elephant and Castle district, and Camberwell. Brian didn’t live in the area where he liked to work, and where he enjoyed using the pubs. For a few seconds, I contemplated telling him I already had a booking. But I knew better.
On the way, Brian spent the time naming names, and asking me if I knew the people. When he got to the Shaughnessys, I nodded. No point lying. As he paid me the correct fare and walked away, I gave him a parting shot.
“But I’m just the driver”.
Driving away from Cleaver Square, I was so annoyed with myself for stupidly venturing into Tony’s pub. Little Legs was far worse than the Shaughnessys, at least you knew what to expect from them. He was a Jekyll and Hyde character, amiable one minute, unstable and dangerous the next. I called up on the cab radio and made myself available for work.
Anything to take my mind off encountering Brian.
Before I started work on the Saturday, I drove down to the office to pay my radio rent. Sue was taking calls in the back room, and she waved at me to stop as I was leaving. When she came off the phone, she stubbed out her cigarette and reached for a piece of paper. “You have a booking, tomorrow night. They asked for you specifically, Paul”. I thanked her and took the job slip, then waited until I was in my car to read it, already guessing what would be on it.
Sure enough, I was to pick up ‘Mickey’ in The Ancient Foresters, at ten tomorrow. I worked the rest of that Saturday shift in a daze, wondering what was going to happen the next night. I took a late run to Heathrow at half-six, a couple jetting off to some exotic destination, holding hands in the back and excited. I envied them.
There was no point going into work before picking up Shaughnessy, so I slept late and had some dinner before leaving around nine on Sunday night.
Mickey told the barmaid to give me a drink when I turned up. His brother Pat was talking to two men at the other end of the bar, and as he left he turned to Mickey. “Off to get the van, see you there”. The three of them walked out, and Mickey swallowed his drink. “Okay, let’s make a move, we have to pick up you-know-who at Cleaver Square”.
Little Legs was waiting ouside his house when we got there. He got in the front next to me, dropping a canvas toolbag onto the floor as he sat down. He looked distant, perhaps tense. I said nothing, and let Mickey do the talking. “Pat’s gone to get the van from the lockup, by the time we get there he shouldn’t be far behind us”. Then he spoke to me, just a few words. “Pages Walk. I will tell you where”.
No need to ask where that was. I had lived just up the road from there from the age of eight, until my parents moved us to the suburbs when I was fifteen.
The street was mainly industrial. Warehouses, workshops, that sort of thing. Mickey told me to stop outside a premises that had a heavy shutter door, locked on both sides with big padlocks. We then had to sit there waiting until Pat and the two men drove up behind the car in a large van marked up in the livery of a bread company. Brian got out with his tools, and didn’t even bother to check the street before applying heavy bolt-cutters to each padlock in turn. When he had freed the locks, one of Pat’s men brought over a long crowbar, and it took both of them to lever up the shutter, which was obviously bolted on the inside.
Pat reversed the bread van into the opening, and Brian took a pistol out of the toolbag. Mickey shook his head at him. “No need for that, there’s no watchman. Besides, I have that covered”. He patted his suit jacket. Raising his voice as he spoke to me, Mickey snapped me out of my nervousness. “Driver! You go to the end of the road. If you see any coppers coming, drive past here again and sound the hooter, okay? Come back in half an hour if not.” As I drove off, he pulled down the shutter.
I wasn’t sure which end of the road Mickey had intended me to wait at, so chose the junction with Willow Walk. I hadn’t banked on being used as a lookout, and having that job suddenly made me extremely nervous. Fortunately, very few cars passed me, and none of them were police cars. Checking my watch, I was back outside the place as Pat drove the van out, and Brian pulled down the shutter. Taking off a pair of leather gloves, he threw them into the toolbag, and handed that to one of Pat’s men. Then he turned to me. “You want a new telly son?” I shook my head, and thanked him. I didn’t want to run around with a stolen television in the back of my car, or explain to my mum how I had acquired it.
When they got back into the car, Brian smiled, and handed me a hundred in ten pound notes. “Take us back to The Foresters, and if anyone ever asks, you were with us all in the bar until closing time, okay?” After dropping them outside the pub, I breathed a sigh of relief and took the rest of the night off.
If any cops had turned up in Pages Walk that night, I would never have got away with saying I was just the driver.
I knew that it was time to keep away from the area, and made my mind up to do just that. I started to turn down jobs that ended up near there, claiming I needed petrol, or the fanbelt was loose. More and more, I tried to get the longer runs, mostly to airports, or to hospitals in the home counties. And I took on some of the school runs for disabled kids, which meant I had to start much earlier, before four in the afternoon.
All was going well, and for a month or so, life returned to normal. Then one day, I was aked on the radio to call into the cab office. Sue had a message for me.
It was an Inspector John Bromley, from Tower Bridge Police Station, and a contact number. I used the office phone, and spoke to a sergeant who seemed to know why the Inspector wasnted to see me. “Could you pop down to see him later, say six-thirty? He just has a few questions for you”. Of course, I was shitting myself. It didn’t much working out to suspect that I was going to be questioned about the stolen televisions. But it couldn’t be avoided, so I showed up at the cop shop around six-fifteen. The uniformed copper on the desk made a phone call, and five minutes later a plainclothes cop showed up in reception and asked me to follow him.
In a small interview room, I looked across at the man. He was older than my dad, that was for sure. One of those old-school types who still wore a trilby hat and a faded suit. He almost certainly wore an overcoat too, except in the summer. He was okay though, businesslike, and straight to the point. There was no caution read out, and no hint that I was in trouble. He took a statement form from a drawer, and used a pencil to write on it. Back then, there were no recordings or cameras for an ‘informal talk’.
“We have some suspects for a recent break-in and theft of goods. They tell me they were all together in a certain pub on the night, and stayed late. Naturally, that alibi is not much good, as they are bound to say that. However, they tell me you were there too, and can confirm that they did not leave the pub”. As he was talking, he was writing on the form. “You are not known to us except for one motoring conviction, so if you alibi them, that’s good enough for me. But I would be interested to know how you happen to be friends with such characters”.
My story had been concocted on the drive there, and sounded as flimsy as tracing paper to me. I was adamant that I was just a cab driver. I had received a job to pick someone up there, and then they had bought me a drink and not bothered to use the taxi. They were all drunk, and had befriended me, eventually paying me some money for wasting my time. I said he could check with the cab office that I had a booking. Bromley could hardly contain his laughter, but settled for a wide grin as he wrote down what I was saying. Then he slid the statement across to me.
“Read through this, and if you agree it is a true record of what you told me, sign it at the bottom”. As I quickly read more or less what I had made up, other than he had included the names of Mickey, Pat, and Brian, he lit one of those small cigars that come in flat tins. In the small room, the smell of it was overwhelming. I signed the paper, and he picked it up and put it in a file on the desk. Then he leaned forward and smiled. “Might be worth your while to drive over to The Foresters and see Mickey Shaughnessy, I bet he’s expecting you”.
Ouside in the car, I felt more relaxed. Bromley was undoubtedly a bent copper, and on the villains’ payroll.
Given that he had told me Mickey was expecting me, I had to go and see him. I received a warm welcome in the pub, and a drink of course. Mickey told anyone who would listen that I was a stand-up bloke, and my alibi together with Bromley not trying too hard to acquire evidence, had surely got the case against them dropped. Fortunately, Mickey had a date with one of his women, so I was able to get away before nine. He gave me seventy-five quid before I left
As I was driving back to Greenwich, I concluded that I really had to extricate myself from those blokes. And soon. If I ended up in front of a police detective again, I knew I would never get away with saying “I’m just the driver”.
Since the beginning of March that year, I had been seeing a new girlfriend. Not that I saw much of her, as working six days a week on twelve hour night shifts wasn’t exactly conducive to socialising. But I liked her, and she seemed to like me. We had met by chance at a friend’s house. She was working with his wife, and had driven over to join them for dinner. I had popped in during my shift, and we seemed to get on immediately.
She was nothing like any of my previous girlfriends, and lived in a reasonably affluent part of South-West London with her parents. University educated, well-spoken and well-travelled, she had remarked that she was hoping to take time to obtain a teaching qualification, before moving on to become a lecturer at a college of further education. Her life couldn’t have been more different to mine, a cash-job unlicenced cabbie originally from an area she had never heard of, let alone visited.
But she was open to new experiences, and when I asked her for a date, she agreed. However, it was on the condition that she met me there, and could drive herself home.
I chose the Green Man in the Old Kent Road, a pub on the corner of the street where I had gone to school, and known for some very good Jazz nights on certain days of the week. We would both eat before, and meet for drinks reasonably late, after eight-thirty. I met her where she had told me she would park her car, and we went in together. She wanted to buy the first drink, which was very unusual to me. I came from a background where women never paid for anything, and most never learned to drive either.
You would be right to think that the conversation did not flow easily. The Jazz was very good, but rather loud. I had left school without going to university, and the jobs I had been doing before deciding to become a cab driver were nothing to boast about. She also had no idea about the criminal underclass in South-East London. Her rather genteel upbringing had excluded her from anything remotely nasty, or illegal. She was a modern woman from a crime-free suburb, and although we were close in age by just two weeks, we might just have well been from different countries.
During the evening, I asked her about her world travels. Her dad worked for Thomas Cook, the famous travel agency. I had been on a few school trips to France, and only on the ferry boat and trains. I had never been up in an aeroplane. She talked of world cruises, exotic destinations, all free of charge because of her father’s job. The only part of the world she had never visted was the Soviet Union, and The Falkland Islands. But she wasn’t boasting, as she was well-aware of her good fortune.
Later that evening, before we left, she mentioned that she had never been to Tunisia, and asked me if I would like to go with her. I readily agreed. I had briefly met her parents and sister, and they had been kind to me. But I knew that a cockney cab driver was far from their ideal of a partner for their daughter. Maybe a holiday together could be the thing? Before she left, I invited her to my house the next weekend, offering a spare room. She accepted, saying she was happy to share my room if my parents agreed.
My first ‘modern woman’.
I kissed her goodbye at her car, and drove home relishing my good fortune. This young woman would give me the wake-up call I needed to change my life. She had such a refreshing outlook, and expected nothing from me except to try new things. When I got back, my mum was still up, my dad away with his job. I asked my mum if my new girlfriend could stay one weekend. She saw the excitement in my face. “Of course. You’re not a boy anymore, but be careful. Don’t get her pregnant”.
Lying in bed that night, I was thinking about Tunisia. French colonial heritage, deserts, wonderful coastal resorts, and a history including Roman occupation, and Hannibal. I knew what had to happen soon. I had to get a real job, and stop cabbing.
I could no longer be just the driver.
So I worked hard, kept away from south-east London, and saved my money. The holiday to Tunisia was booked, my passport was still valid, and off we went to Sousse. It was the first time I had been on holiday ‘alone’ with a girlfriend, the first time I had flown in an aeroplane, and the first time I had been outside of Europe. I loved all the new experiences, and got on great with my new girlfriend too. Although we didn’t actually say it, it felt like we were going to be together for a long time.
Returning home to reality, I began to think about a career change. I wanted to try something that would be long-term, and still bring in as much money as I could make as a cab driver. But things at home had changed. My dad was out a lot, and not just because of his job. My mum was unsettled, and confided in me that she feared he was having an affair. I needed to stick around to support her, and postponed moving jobs as that might have involved moving out of home too.
Since the holiday, my relationship was more relaxed. It felt like we had known each other for years, and my girlfriend understood the pressures at home, as well as my need to stay focused on earning money with my cab. We saw each other when we could, and she continued to stop over occasionally.
The taxi work was busier than ever, but I made another decision. I would move taxi firms, and work from the one closest to home. That would keep me out of the area I wanted to avoid, and hopefully away from the people who knew how to contact me. So I handed in my radio in Greenwich, and went to work for a much smaller outfit in Albany Park. The rent was cheaper, and the local work was busy most days. I went back to taking old ladies to Bingo in the afternoons, picking up overloaded housewives from supermarkets with their bags of shopping, and dropping off groups of excited young girls at the favourite pubs in the area.
At weekends, the more affluent area offered lots of airport runs to Gatwick, pickups from various golf clubs and restaurants, and late night jobs from house parties. It was stress free, and a world away from the same work just 10 miles west. Everyone gave you a tip, and there were few aggressive drunks, argumentative customers, or people trying to jump out at traffic lights to avoid payment.
And no criminals.
Another benefit was the lack of traffic, compared to being closer to the centre of London. I could easily do three local jobs an hour, sometimes four, and that meant I had a good idea what I would earn each shift, as well as using a lot less petrol operating in a much smaller catchment area. Being flexible with my working hours, I soon developed a good relationship with the owner, who ran the place pretty much as a one-man operation. Most of the other permanent drivers had been there a long time, and at busy periods like Saturday nights, we had part-timers supplementing their income from normal day jobs.
For the first time since bumping into Nicky in Bermondsey the previous year, I finally felt I could relax. Nobody at the old place had known where I was going, so if anyone phoned and asked for me by name, or my call number one-eight, they would be told I had left, and that would be that.
Early summer saw me taking time off to go out with my girlfriend. I met some of her friends over in south-west London, and ignored the fact that they looked down on me, raised their eyebrows at my accent, or patronised me during conversation because I had not been to university. I was becoming a regular visitor to her parents’ house, though I never asked to stay over, and wasn’t invited to do so.
We did a lot of things I hadn’t done before. We went to Kew Gardens, took a boat out on the Thames at Sunbury, and had a picnic on Wimbledon Common. I started to take Friday nights off, and that became our night for going to the cinema, with a restaurant meal before or after. We were easy in each other’s company, and she ignored the snobbery of her friends, who were undoubtedly telling her I wasn’t good enough for her.
Then one week night in late July, I got home from work and my mum was still up late, watching TV. She told me there was a message for me. “Someone phoned earlier. I told her you were working until late, but she said you could ring when you got home, whatever the time was. Her name is Patsy, I wrote it down”. Mum handed me the piece of paper, and I got a cold feeling in my stomach. If Patsy had gone so far as to find my home number and call me, something bad had happened. I picked up the house phone in the hallway, and started to dial the number.
If my guess was correct, I was being drawn back in. Once again, just the driver.
Patsy answered on the third ring. Her voice was agitated, but she was very friendly.
“Thanks so much for ringing me back, Paul. I found the number in a book Nicky keeps in the bedside cabinet. The thing is, he has gone missing. Not like before, this is something different. He might have stayed out a couple of nights and not let me know, but now it is over a week, ten days in fact. I rang the cab firm, but they said you didn’t work there. Are you still doing taxi work?”
I hesitated for a moment, and then lied. I told her I had packed up being a cabbie and was in the process of looking for a straight job because I had to be around for my mum. That might not have been the best idea.
“Oh that’s great. If you are not working at the moment then, I really need your help. I have been in touch with everyone I know where he might have gone, and those who might have seen him around or on the street. But you know a lot of others he would never have told me about, so I’m gonna need your help. Can you come and see me tomorrow? I don’t know who else to turn to, I really don’t”.
Anyone not familiar with those sort of people and the area they lived in might be wondering by now why Nicky’s wife hadn’t called the police, and reported him missing. They might have been asking Patsy if she had telephoned all the hospitals to see if he had been admitted unconscious, or worse. But I knew better than to even bother to mention that. People like Patsy never involved the police in anything, and she would not have brought Nicky’s disappearance to public notice by asking around at hospitals.
People who lived their way of life sorted out their own mess, and dealt with their own problems.
That was the moment I should have told Patsy I couldn’t help. Told her I was needed at home, told her I no longer had a car, made up any wild excuse. But I couldn’t do that. Not because I still thought anything could happen between me and Patsy, I had moved on from that.
And not because I thought I owed her or Nicky anything, I had done what they had asked me to do, and been paid for it. I said I would help because I was a decent bloke who had been brought up to do the right thing. Even though I sometimes did things that were not strictly legal.
So I told her I would be there tomorrow evening about six.
The next night, I was expecting Patsy to come with me, but she had no intention of doing that. Besides, she had nobody else there to look after the kids. She was edgy, wearing no make-up, and speaking quickly. All she could give me for background was that ten days earlier Nicky had told her he was going out to do a deal, and was being picked up by a friend. As was his habit, he didn’t mention any names, or what area he was going to.
She gave me a small photo of him that was about five years old, taken at a party somewhere. Luckily, he hadn’t changed much. Patsy said he had taken a leather shoulder bag, and probably would have had at least a hundred quid on him. But she couldn’t remember what he had been wearing, as she had been bathing the kids when he left the flat.
As I drove off, I had no real idea what I was doing. After all, I wasn’t a private detective, or a copper. I had no authority to ask any questions, and no backup if anything turned nasty. My first destination was the house in Dulwich. My gut feeling told me he was doing deals with the posh guy, and there was an outside chance that someone in the house might have known who he was meeting, or who had picked him up that night.
On the way, I thought up a story to explain my interest. I would say that I had been running him around in my cab all that time, and he hadn’t paid me. Looking for someone who owed you money was a common enough thing back then.
It surprised me when the same bloke answered the door. I didn’t need to show him the photo, so just asked if he had seen Nicky, or knew where he might be hiding out. He smiled and shook his head. “Greek Nicky? The last time I saw him was the night you picked him up from here. What’s going on? You work with Nicky?”
Deciding not to say anything about money owed, I smiled back.
“Me? No. I’m just the driver”.
My next port of call had to be Big Irene’s place in Camberwell. I was surprised when she recognised me, and didn’t bother to ask me for thirty quid. “What d’ya want? I’ve got someone arriving in fifteen minutes”. I told her I was looking for Nicky, because he owed me money. What she said next was my first clue.
“The Greek bloke? I haven’t seen him for about a week. Wednesday? Not sure though. Early-ish, before it got dark. He was flush when he came round, paid me extra for a special. Rushed it a bit though, said someone was waiting for him downstairs”. I wasn’t about to ask Irene what she did for a special, but was excited that she had actually seen him since he had disappeared. I asked her if he had been carrying a leather shoulder bag, and if she remembered what he had been wearing. She raised her eyebrows, and extended the palm of her left hand.
“Time’s money in my line of work, sunshine.”
I gave her a ten pound note, and she tucked it inside the waistband of her skirt. “Yes, he had a bag like that. Lots of money inside it too, I saw that when he paid me. As for what he was wearing, please be fucking serious. Do you know how many blokes come through this door in the course of a week? I couldn’t remember what he was wearing if my life depended on it”. I asked if she could tell me anything about the car, and she blew out her cheeks and started to close the door.
“The car? What you think I walked out of my flat stark naked to see what car he was in? You a nutter or summink?’ Now, please do me a favour and fuck off”. Big Irene could afford to be so rude and offhand. She paid for protection.
Upset her, and someone would find you.
Back in my car, I was down ten pounds, but had a definite sighting. Wednesday last week, before it had got dark, so before eight-ish. Trouble was, I didn’t have the first clue what to do with that information. In television dramas or films, Irene would have noticed something about the car, a hot clue that would have had me tracking down Nicky’s next move.
But in real life, she had just been lying on her crumpled bedding, smoking a post-coital cigarette before the next mug arrived.
Despite feeling a bit sick at the thought of it, I knew a pub crawl was going to have to happen. I would start at the Simon The Tanner. If Nicky went for a drink anywhere, that was usually his first choice. I was relieved to find the bar devoid of professional villains, and Tony in a talkative mood.
“Yeah, I did see Nicky last week, not sure which day though. He was with a young bloke. Fair hair, a bit too long. Hippy-type. You know the sort, posh boy who thinks it’s all the rage to go slumming. Bit of a prick, to be honest. I warned Nicky about flashing the cash. He had a shoulder bag stuffed with cash and was buying drinks for the usual crowd, as well as some locals he didn’t even know”. Tony couldn’t remember what he had been wearing, and I decided to abandon that line of questioning. But I did ask him if he knew what car they had been in. Tony liked cars.
“Well, I didn’t see it like, ’cause I was behind the bar. But the hippy bloke put the keys on the bar, and they had the Mercedes symbol on them. So it had to be a Merc, Paul. He said he was going to Billy Tarrant’s pub to see someone, and had to wait until ten for them to be there”.
Thanking Tony for his help, I went and sat in my car. So that hippy bastard in Dulwich had been with Nicky after all, and he had lied through his teeth to me earlier. But I hadn’t seen a car at his house, though that didn’t mean he didn’t have one. After Irene and Tony, I was beginning to feel I was geting somewhere. And my next clue was The Southwark Park Tavern. I knew I had to go and ask Billy if he had seen Nicky that night, but as it was Mickey Shaughnessy’s second favourite pub, I wasn’t best pleased.
Ten minutes later, I was talking to Billy. I breathed a sigh of relief that there was no sign of Shaughnessy, or Little Legs. Tarrant was cagey, but still helpful.
“Yeah, Nicky was in here. He was alone though, and he didn’t have a shoulder bag. For Christ’s sake, who carries one of those in Bermondsey? Why do you want to know?”
Billy accepted my shrug, and believed me. “He owes me a lot of cab fare, Billy. You know me, I’m just the driver”.
After the brief chat with Billy, I just knew that I had to drive around the corner to The Foresters, and face up to asking Mickey Shaughnessy if he had seen Nicky. No point coming all this way and losing my nerve now.
It was getting late, and Mickey was in a heated conversation with three men I didn’t know. They were standing in a corner, and I immediately saw it was not the time to approach him. So I bought a half-pint and hung around on the other side of the bar. A sudden slap on my back caused me to spin round. It was Little Legs, and he had just emerged from the Gent’s toilet. I had to offer him a drink, which he readily accepted, and then he asked me what I was doing in there.
With no intention of bullshitting, I told him Nicky had gone missing big time, and I needed to ask Mickey if he had seen him. Brian leaned in close.
“Not now, son. Definitely not now. I doubt it’s anything to do with Nicky, but Pat hasn’t been seen for three days, and Mickey’s on the warpath. If I was you, I would leave it well alone”. I agreed with Brian that the disappearance of Pat Shaughnessy was probably nothing to do with whatever had happened with Nicky, but inside I couldn’t help feeling it was connected in some way. I was definitely not going to get involved in any search for the missing Shaughnessy brother.
Brian was in a good mood, and bought me another half. “Is that the best idea you’ve got, to ask Mickey? Nobody else know anyfing?” I told him about the posh bloke in Dulwich, and how Tony said he had been with Nicky in his pub. He thought about that for a while. “Dulwich Village, you say? Hmm… Tell you what, pick me up at my place tomorrow afternoon around four, and I will have a word with the bloke in Dulwich for you. But for now, you’d best fuck off before Mickey spots you”.
That was good advice, and I took it.
Before leaving for Cleaver Square the next afternoon, I rang Patsy and told her I was following one clue. She made me promise to ring her back that evening if it came to anything.
Little Legs was ready when I arrived. He came out of his house wearing overalls and carrying a large pair of pliers, which he put on the floor in front of the passenger seat. Chuckling, he turned to me as I drove off. “When we get there, leave it to me. You stay in the car. If this long-haired ponce is at home, I will get the truth out of him. My pliers never let me down”. I was very surpised that he had offered to help out, and I just knew he would want something for his trouble. It wasn’t as if he even knew me or Nicky that well.
As I parked my car across the entrance to the short driveway leading to the house, I spotted a beige Mercedes 200D inside. That confirmed what Tony had said about it being a Mercedes. It had last year’s plates, so was quite new. Brian picked up the pliers and got out of the car. He had a look inside the 200D as he walked to the door and pressed the bell. As the door opened, Brian barged in, and it slammed behind him.
I sat in the car staring at the house. I couldn’t look away, in case something happened. Not that I was remotely classed as ‘backup’, but if anything went bent inside I would have been expected to step up. I felt for the telescopic wheelbrace under my seat, and reassured myself it was easily to hand.
He was in there for about twenty minutes before the door opened, and he came out smiling. When he got back into the car I turned the engine on, but he said to switch off again.
“Leave it for a minute, he won’t be coming out. Well, he was tougher than I thought, even though he was still wearing bloody pyjamas. I broke all the fingers on his left hand and he still said he didn’t know about Nicky. But when I started on his right hand, he lost his bottle. He took Nicky to Tony’s and then to Billy’s to meet someone for a deal about pills. Outside Billys’ place, Nicky left the bag in the car, and this geezer pinched three hundred out of it. He reckons there was at least two grand in there. Then Nicky comes out and says he has to go to a pub in Stepney to see a bloke called Lawrence, so he takes him there. Nicky goes in with the bag, and doesn’t come out. This geezer loses his nerve after an hour, and comes home. That’s it”.
Brian lobbed a wallet onto my thigh, and dangled some car keys from his finger. “I told him I’m taking the Merc, to pay for my time and trouble. You wanna sell it and split the money, or are you happy with the wallet?” I said I was happy with the wallet, and thanked him for what he had found out. As he got out, he looked back in through the open door. “You sure now?” I nodded.
“Yeah, I’m sure, Brian. I’m just the driver”.
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”.
Heading south over Blackfriars Bridge, I stopped at the first phone box I saw, and rang Patsy. I told her I had some information about Nicky, and would go to her flat later and tell her in person. On the way, I stopped in Blue Anchor Lane, and bought pie and chips to eat in the car. Sitting there eating, I made the decision not to tell her about Vincent Lombardo. I would leave the trail at The Ship on Stepney Green, and not mention the next place I visited.
The money from Lombardo had covered my expenses nicely, so after visiting Patsy in Thamesmead, I could take the night off. The stress of running around had taken its toll, and I was feeling worn out.
By the time I knocked on Patsy’s door, the kids were in bed, and her mum had gone home. She looked tired and stressed, but made me a cup of tea and we sat in the kitchen. I explained in detail about Nicky doing deals in Dulwich with Toby. How Little Legs had got the truth out of him by breaking his fingers, and that had led me to the pub in Stepney. Then I gave her the wallet, and told her to keep the forty quid in it. I suggested there was no point in her following the lead from Toby, as I had been to The Ship and they were denying all knowledge of Nicky ever being in there.
She took the news reasonably well, confirming my suspicion that she already knew the worst. Nicky was likely to be in a crushed car in a scrap yard, or in the concrete foundations of one of the many new office blocks springing up all over the city. He had made up his mind to move from being a small time thief and drug dealer, to branching out into the world of major dealing, a world already owned by organised crime.
He was completely out of his league.
Patsy thanked me for my efforts, and told me she still hoped he might turn up. “I reckon they are holding him somewhere. Maybe against a debt, or because he’s upset someone, Paul. Nicky’s like a bad penny, he always turns up”. I hadn’t mentioned how much money he had been carrying around in the shoulder bag. In those days, you could get someone killed for five hundred, and he was carrying close to two grand. As Patsy had suggested he would have only had a hundred on him, I guessed she didn’t have a clue that he had been keeping that secret from her.
Her positive attitude was understandable. After all, Nicky did indeed have a habit of going missing, and turning up later with little or no excuse. But I had seen the look on Vincent’s face as he gave me the money, and that look told me we were never going to see Nicky again.
The next half-hour was awkward. I ran out of things to say, and Patsy sat chain-smoking until my tea went cold. I said I had to go, and she walked me to the door before kissing me on the cheek. “You take care, Paul, and thanks again”.
That was the last time I ever saw her.
In my bedroom that night, I found it hard to get to sleep. The events of the past few months were playing on my mind. I had reluctantly become involved with some of the nastiest small-time gangsters in South London, and also been in contact with some more fearsome organised crime faces. This wasn’t what I wanted to be doing with my life. I knew full well I could end up like Nicky if I wasn’t careful
You didn’t have to do much to upset those people.
Leaving the wallet with Patsy had been a deliberate act on my part of course. If she ever decided to seek out some of her criminal contacts to find out what had happened to her husband, Toby would be their first port of call. As for me, even if they asked around in The Ship, or managed to track down Vincent Lombardo in Clerkenwell, I wouldn’t feature, as far as anyone was concerned.
They would be told I was just the driver.
Spending time with my new girlfriend was very relaxing, so I started to work longer shifts during weekdays, and stopped driving as a cab on Friday and Saturday nights so I could see her at weekends. It wasn’t too hard to make sure I didn’t take any work that got me back closer to South London, and my mood soon improved.
But I became less aware of what was happening at home. One evening, my mum stayed up late to tell me that my dad was moving out over the weekend. She suggested it might be an idea for me to make myself scarce, to avoid any arguments that I might either start, or become involved in. According to him, he was going to share a house with a male colleague in the Croydon area, saying he felt stifled in the marriage, and needed time to ‘think’.
We both knew that was unlikely to be true, as my dad never did any housework, and nothing remotely domestic. He had also never been without female company since returning from WW2 in 1946. That he had been having an affair and was moving in with his female lover was beyond doubt. But despite mum tackling him on the subject, she received flat denials every time.
At the start of October, the family home was up for sale, and dad was talking about a divorce. That made for a miserable Autumn, and a gloomy Christmas. Mum had decided she would use her share of the money to buy a shop with accommodation above, and she asked me to stay with her and help her achieve that. My girlfriend was very sympathetic, stating that if we managed to do that, she would move in with me above the shop.
One thing attracted me to the prospect of us becoming shopkeepers, and that was that I could finally say goodbye to being a cabbie, and would have a source of income along with a place to live. We began the new year of seventy-six driving around various areas looking at shops for sale, everything from tobacconist’s to small grocery stores. Our only concern was the accommodation. It had to have enough space for us to live relatively separately. That search took us into Surrey, down into the Kent coast area, and even back into Central London.
Eventually, we found a small shop with extensive accommodation above. Formerly a pub in Victorian Times, it now operated as an off-licence, selling alcoholic drinks to be consumed off the premises, alongside sweets, snacks, and cigarettes. We were unable to buy it outright, as the building was owned by one of the big four breweries, but we took a tenancy agreement with them, on the condition that we only sold their beers and wines. That cost mum almost all of her share of the house sale.
By the time we moved in, my dad’s deception had been unmasked. He had been unable to keep away from friends and relatives, and they soon informed us that he was with another woman, and had said his intention was to move away to Northampton, of all places. Surprisingly, she was not young and attractive, as we had suspected. She was a divorced woman the same age as my father, with a son the same age as me, still living at home. He had swapped one family for an identical one, for reasons that we never discovered.
We never saw him again.
My girlfriend made good on her promise, and moved in to share my top-floor rooms, with mum living on the floor beneath. She went to work each day, and mum and I ran the shop during its long opening times until eleven at night. It was in Clapham, South West London, an area unfamiliar to us, but well-known to my girlfriend.
And despite being only seven miles west of Bermondsey, it might as well have been in a different part of England. I would have no reason to ever go back to the areas where I had spent so many anxious months the previous year. Nobody from the old days knew where I was, and they didn’t know our new phone number. If I had emigrated to Australia, I could not have been any further from their influence.
A few weeks after taking over the shop, I traded in the Hillman Hunter for a Volvo saloon car. New home, new area, new job, and now a new car.
I would never be just the driver again, for as long as I lived.
But it did occur to me that this might make an interesting story, perhaps even the plot for a television series. So that is why I am sending you this outline.
After a big break from fiction and serials, I used some old notes to write a twenty-part serial based on the advice, “Write what you know”.
As I hinted at many times, this was actually about me, and a period in my life from late 1974 until the spring of 1976. The driver ‘Paul’ was me, and the events in the serial all happened, with some minor differences. Some of the names were changed, but all the ‘characters’ were real people, many of whom are still alive. The car shown in the photo ahead of every episode is indentical to the one I drove as a taxi during that time.
I am using this epilogue to explain some name and plot changes, also to let readers know about some of the places and people mentioned during the serial.
The Simon The Tanner still trades as a pub. The area underwent a lot of ‘gentrification’ in the 1990s, and it now stands opposite a trendy hotel built on the site of a former antiques market.
The Ancient Foresters is still there too. During the period covered in the story, it was associated with local gangsters.
The Southwark Park Tavern. I am unsure if this is still trading. At that time it was a very popular place to drink.
The Lilliput Hall. Once owned by my great-uncle, it was later converted into apartments. The facade was retained.
The Ship, Stepney Green. This was closed for a long time, then renamed ‘The Ship On The Green’.
The Fox and Anchor, Clerkenwell. This pub still trades, and also offers accommodation in upstairs rooms.
Nicky was/is a real character. Most people called him ‘Nick The Greek’. He was hoping for a career as a DJ, playing records in pubs. He lived in South London with his wife and children, though she was/is not called Patsy and they did not live in Thamesmead. I never found out whether or not he resurfaced after his ‘disappearance’. For all I know, he might still be alive and kicking. The part in the story where I take Patsy and her friend Shell shoplifting is fiction. But the fact that some of them did that is not.
Mickey and Pat Shaughnessy are ‘based-on’ real people who were exactly as they are described in the story. But their surname was not Shaughnessy. I did ‘look after’ a handgun for Nicky, but he collected it. The part where I take it to Mickey is fiction, though having to drive him and his brother around is true. I was used as a reluctant lookout during a warehouse break-in, but it was not televisions that were stolen. I also gave an alibi statement to a police detective like the one described. But he was not called Inspector Bromley. I also took them with the frightened man to the dockside in Deptford. Pat went missing at the time mentioned in the story, and I don’t know if he was ever found.
Teddy Kennedy is an invented name, close to the real name of that person. The incident where I take him to collect a debt from the man who runs off did happen.
Little Legs was a real person. An ‘enforcer’, and a hard-man gangster, despite his size. He did get the information from Toby, and steal his wallet and car, but I was not there when that happened. So that episode was fiction. Many years later, Little Legs was shot and killed in a room in his own house. It was reported as a ‘gangland killing’, as he was suspected of being an informer.
Toby is an invented name. There was a posh young man who lied to me, and was seen around with Nicky. But as he is almost certainly still alive, I did not use the real name.
Freddie Foreman is a real person, and one of the best-known figures in London crime history. He is still alive, and lives in a care home. His son Jamie became an actor. He is still acting, and well-known for playing criminals and villainous roles. He was also in a long-running soap opera on the BBC.
Tony and Billy were pub landlords in those respective pubs. After 1976, I have no idea what happened to them.
Vincent Lombardo is an invented name. He is based on a real Italian/Sicilian gangster who controlled that area for many years and had connections to the Gambino Mafia family in America. I chose not to use the real name. The man I spoke to in the pub that night was almost certainly not him. Vincent was far too important to have been sitting in a pub dealing with ‘messages’. So the grey-haired man was probably one of his minions, and dealt with what he saw might be a problem by giving me cash that was small change to him. There is a good chance he really had no idea who Nicky was.
Being ‘just the driver’ was still very stressful, given the personalities of those involved. However, I was not actually involved as much as it might seem from reading about the events. Using cabs was common, as the police were generally only aware of the cars actually owned by the criminals, and would not be looking out for random cars used as cabs.
The final part about buying the shop and moving away is true, and has been written about on my blog previously. The ‘girlfriend’ mentioned became my first wife, in 1977. She knew nothing at all about the events mentioned in the serial. And even after we split up in 1985, I never told her anything about them.
This reurn to fiction was enjoyable for me. I appreciate everyone who followed the story, read every part, and shared on social media. So far, each episode has received around 75 views, and considering I had that break from fiction, I appreciate that. So, around 1,500 views, and a good amount of engagement and comments too. Tomorrow, I will publish all 20 parts, and this epilogue, as one complete story.