It’s a bit longer than my first FFF effort. I’ve edited and edited but it kept getting away from me...
With thanks to Cormac Brown for Pork Pie’s new Titfer-tat.
"The strange man dressed as Carmen Miranda walked into the bar and demanded to know who had taken his pet iguana."
Saturday night and The Winchester was heaving. I guessed Carmen was another karaoke drunk. Drunk and heading for a beating as I watched Frank curse and put down his half eaten sandwich. Frank was, apart from being my friend and landlord, the owner cum bouncer. Six foot six and with hands like coal shovels. The only thing short about him was his temper.
I felt a paw grip my shoulder. A gorilla towered over me with a threatening bulge under his jacket.
Around us the punters roared as Frank began to frogmarch the pissed drag queen, minus iguana, towards the exit.
The gorilla leaned in close and I smelt his bad breath and cheap, spicy aftershave. “Backroom. Now!”
A cloud of blue tinged cigar smoke floated in the air of the back room like a menacing omen. Sitting under it Pork Pie looked immaculate. Black, three button, single breasted two piece suit. White shirt and a plain dark necktie. A powder blue handkerchief peaked from his suit breast pocket. He was puffing on his usual fat Cuban and idly twirling his leather flat topped hat.
“Sit,” Pork Pie commanded.
Pork Pie was a vicious South London criminal kingpin; my cracked ribs were a testament to his ruthless reputation.
“You owe me Valentine,” Pork Pie continued, his voice full of gravel. “And this is the start of payback.”
“Sure Mr P.”
Pork Pie’s reptilian eyes locked onto mine. “I need you to find a man for me.”
“I know the number of a good dating agency.”
If Pork Pie gave a signal then I missed it. Or maybe the gorilla used his initiative. The punch to my gut was swift and ferocious. I fell off the chair and puked a beer and whisky mixture.
Pork Pie sighed impatiently, hunched down and gave me a close up of his highly polished brogues and a face full of smoke. “That smartarse mouth of yours...” He put the cigar down and grabbed my balls. “And your dick will be the death of you...” The brass knuckles on his other hand felt cold against my cheek. “Shut the fuck up gumshoe or that wisecrack will be your last.”
So Pork Pie talked and I listened.
Albie Perkins was Pork Pie’s bean counter. He was the magician behind the tricks and illusions that laundered Pork Pie’s fortune clean and out of the VAT-man’s clutches. Albie had disappeared three weeks ago. Taking a tidy little nest egg with him.
Pork Pie wanted Albie and the loot found.
It took me a week to find Albie; he was entering a dodgy health club called The Erogenous Zone, a spit away from The Oval tube station. Three hours later he left with a rake thin, dark haired, twentyish looking guy.
I guessed they’d found each other's zones.
I snapped some pictures and followed them back to a Bayswater hotel. Forty eight hours later and Pork Pie had Aaron Grant’s address in Vauxhall, bank account details, star sign and mother’s maiden name.
I’m good at my job and thorough.
I did the decent thing before I made that final call to Pork Pie and knocked on Albie’s hotel door.
“Why Albie?” I asked, already knowing the answer.
Albie looked haunted, his face covered in salt n pepper stubble. “I thought I’d found love Val,” he said, full of melancholy.
Frank had closed early. I was alone, sat at the bar, with a guilty conscience and a bottle of Chivas Regal for company. I'd already drunk down to the label.
The South London Press lay open on the varnished bar top. I’d read the article umpteen times. Aaron Grant’s body had been found in his Vauxhall bedsit. The smell had finally become too much for the neighbours and they’d called Plod. Another, unsolved, murder statistic.
Albie was counting beans again and making them disappear. Safe until his usefulness to Pork Pie waned. A harsh lesson learned that love, of any persuasion, played no part in Pork Pie’s villainous empire.
I poured another hefty shot of whisky and savoured the aroma and taste while I contemplated a change of scene and profession.
I dropped a couple of pound coins into the jukebox and after a few beats I drunkenly joined in. “Working for the rat race. You know you’re wasting your time. Working for the rat race. Your no friend of mine”.
I turned quickly at the sound of scratching. A large green, spiky backed, lizard flashed a tongue at me. It’s long, black striped and whip-like, tail snaked behind it as it quickly scuttled away.
“Well I’ll be fucked,” I said.
Albie Perkins certainly was.
© 2009 Alan Griffiths