Tubby’s Toe

This is the second part of a fictional story. The first instalment was ‘Jackie Jam Jar.’ I suggest that you read that story first, or this will make little sense. It contains slang references, and unfamiliar words. I will list their meanings at the end. **It also contains swearing and bad language, which may offend some readers.** The locations and street names are all genuine. It is just over 1700 words.

Jackie was in a bad mood. This was unusual for him, as he was normally a genial man, with a ready smile, and a relaxed attitude to life. It was one of Eddie’s boys that was spoiling his day, that skinny bastard, Danny Tubbs. Ever since he started out as one of Eddie’s crew, the runt acted like the hard man, a real face. He hung around the local boozer mouthing off, giving it the big one all the time. Jackie would love to do him. Do him large, he would. But he couldn’t, ’cause that would bring Eddie’s mob down on him, and that meant having to deal with Short Phil. And everyone knew there was no dealing with Short Phil.

He took off his hat, and smoothed down what was left of his hair. He adjusted the red band around the black trilby, and plonked the titfer back on his head. He smiled at the thin man, his hands pressing down and out, in a soothing gesture. ” Calm down now Tubby, don’t let’s get previous now.” He wanted the younger man to stop shouting, to cease this disrespect in his own place, in front of the lads. He had to ride the threats, but still stand up for himself. He mustn’t be seen to back down, but the whole thing was a delicate balancing act, and one he could well do without. He was in the car business, not the bloody House of Commons.

“It’s a straight motor, Tubby. Runs OK, all the right paperwork, and Kosher. It will stand a pull, believe me. It will do you for a few days, then I will get rid of it for you, after the job.” Tubby had been acting flash ever since he turned up, and Jackie was beginning to get really pissed off. But he made the little speech for the boy’s benefit, just to calm him down. Tubby wouldn’t let it go though. “These Commers are crap, Jackie, everyone knows that, and this one’s a real piece of shit. For fuck’s sake, just look at it.” Pale Ashton tried to help out. “This will do you fine, Tubby man. I checked it meself, it’s OK.” He rubbed a filthy rag around his hands as he spoke, as if it was ever going to get them clean, after years of ingrained grease and oil.

Pale Ashton wasn’t exactly pale. After all, he was from Trinidad, and as black as they come. But he suffered from Vitiligo, a skin condition that had left him with light pink patches around his nose and mouth. Nobody in Catford knew what that was, so they just called Ashton ‘Pale Ashton’, to differentiate him from any other West Indian called Ashton who didn’t have Vitiligo. Of course, they had never met anyone else called Ashton, but that wasn’t the point, was it?

“Well that’s alright then, if you say so,” Tubby sneered. “After all you are about as much use as a mechanic as a chocolate fireguard.” Pleased with his witticism, he looked around, grinning. The others stared back, unimpressed. Tubby could see he was getting nowhere. It was the only van on the lot, and he was going to have to take it, whether he liked it or not. He wasn’t going without a fight though. “I need to make sure those doors lock good, Jackie, I don’t want the stuff falling out on the way.” Jackie went to the back doors, turned the small key in the lock, and worked the handle, showing Tubby it was secure. “Sweet as a nut, Tubby me old mate. I wouldn’t give you a wrong ‘un.” He lowered his voice, adding, “What you gonna have in there Tubby, nothing too slippery, I hope?” Tubby looked at the man. As far as he was concerned, Jackie Jam-Jar was small time. A dodgy car dealer who supplied motors to local villains, when he wasn’t stitching up old ladies or kids with cut and shut shit-piles from his car front. He had a big yard in Downham, that was for sure, but he wasn’t hard. He wasn’t one of the chaps.

Tubby puffed his chest out. “There’s a big job on on Monday. Mum’s the word, but this is the back-up van, and I’m holding the shooters.” Old Jackie looked suitably impressed. He passed his fingers over his lips, imitating a zip. “Shtum,” he confirmed. He watched Tubby drive off in the van, and smiled as he heard it revving at the junction. He turned to Pale Ashton and raised his eyebrows. The mechanic grinned, showing his sparkling white teeth. “Won’t get too far in that boss, you can count on that.”

Back in the glorified shed he called The Office, Jackie picked up the phone. It was answered after only one ring, so he wasn’t busy. “Angel, it’s me, Jackie. I need you early on Monday. Bring that Zodiac I lent you last week. There’s a ton in it for you, no grief, just driving.” Jackie wasn’t really concerned about the money. If he only shifted the tools for what it cost to pay the boys, he didn’t mind. If they were too hot, he would grind them up and lose them. But he was going to fit up that little bastard Tubby, if it was the last thing he did.

Angel was far from Angelic. His boyish looks and slight frame belied the fact that he was approaching twenty, and had done a lot in his short life. he might have had the face of an Angel, but that was where the comparison ended. Despite his age, he had trouble getting served drinks in pubs, and even had to argue the toss to get into an ‘X’ film at the pictures. But it stood in him good with the ladies, so he didn’t mind too much. Angel had been around the manor since absconding from the kids’ home at the age of fifteen. Jackie had sorted him out a bent driving licence, and had him running around doing odd jobs ever since. He didn’t mind, as Jackie had been good to him, and never tried it on, like some of the other old blokes he had met. He was even shacked up with Carol, Jackie’s brother-in-law’s daughter, looking after her while Three Times was in the nick, doing fifteen for shooting a copper.

Three Times Terry had got his name from his habit of always shooting everyone three times. For Terry, two in the body, or even the head, still wasn’t enough, he always went for the third shot. “To make fucking sure”, he had told Angel. But when the copper had bumped into him leaving the Orpington branch of Barclays bank with a big bag of cash in his hand, and Stringbacks Dave sitting in the Vauxhall Victor with the engine running, three shots had not made sure. Just as well really, or he would be in Wandsworth for the rest of his natural.

On the Monday, Angel picked up Jackie early. Tony The Tooth came along too, in case of any aggravation. They plotted up not far from Tubby’s gran’s place, and waited for the Commer van to appear. “Follow a couple of cars behind, ” Jackie told Angel. “That van will never make it to Lewisham, Ashton’s sure about that.” When the car in front of Tubby turned sharply, it was a gift. The Commer stalled, and there was no chance that it would start again, not in this life. Angel pulled into the housing estate, parking up where they could watch Tubby. They saw him run across to the phone box, and guessed that he was calling Eddie. He was soon back, sitting in the van again. “If he stays with it now, I’ll just clump him one, and lock him in the back, shall I? ” Suggested Tony.

Tony The Tooth had a lot more than one tooth left. He had lots of teeth in fact, probably more than his fair share. And they stuck out, really stuck out. He could hardly close his mouth, for the huge set of railings that looked like they were about to fall out of it. Tony didn’t really like his name. He once considered asking everyone to call him Tony Hampsteads instead. But he didn’t want anyone to think that he came from a poncy place like Hampstead, so he left it alone.

Jackie was considering the suggestion, when they saw Tubby get out. He slammed the door a few times, then checked the back doors. He walked off quickly, back up Ilderton Road in the direction of South Bermondsey Station. “Off you go, Tony.” Jackie smiled, handing The Tooth the spare keys he had got from Ashton. Tony was in and out in a flash, dropping the heavy bag in the boot of the Zodiac, before climbing into the back next to Jackie. By the time Angel had turned the car around, and started to head for the exit from the estate, Tubby was on his way back, clutching a paper bag. “Go north, Angel, we’ll take the long way.” Jackie hunched down in the seat as they passed Tubby at the junction. He had forgotten he had his hat on though, in all the excitement.

Short Phil closed the bolt cutters around the big toe on Tubby’s right foot, allowing the younger man to feel the pressure. Mad Eddie looked straight into his eyes. “Now, who did you fucking tell?”

Explanation of terms used.

Boozer. A pub. A Public House. A bar where drinks (and sometimes food) are sold.
Giving it the big one. Acting hard and tough. Talking loudly and boastfully.
Do him large. Beat him up very badly, or kill him.
Titfer. From Tit-For-Tat. (= Hat) Rhyming slang.
Kosher. Legal and correct.
A pull. A stop by the Police.
Commer. A medium panel van made by Chrysler UK, until 1979.
Cut and Shut. Two damaged cars of the same make. The front of one welded to the rear of another.
Mums The Word. Say nothing about this.
Shtum. Staying silent. (Yiddish)
Shooters. Firearms, guns.
Zodiac. A large luxury saloon car made by Ford, until 1972.
A Ton. £100 ($155US)
Tools. Firearms, guns.
Fit up. To frame him for something he hadn’t done.
In the Nick. In prison.
Stringbacks. Driving gloves with leather palms, and woven backs.
Vauxhall Victor. A family saloon car made by General Motors, until 1976.
Wandsworth. A high security prison in that district of south-west London.
Hampsteads. From Hampstead Heath. (= Teeth) Rhyming slang.

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10 thoughts on “Tubby’s Toe

    1. I might have slipped up on Millwall, Ro. That’s what I get for not knowing about football, even though I went to some of their matches in the 60s! I will edit this accordingly, and right now. Thanks for pointing it out.
      I doubt it will be exciting enough for a film though. It is primarily about how petty and mundane all that villainy really was. More Mike Leigh than Scorsese.
      Next episode soon…xx

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