This is the continuation of a fictional series of short stories. It is advisable to read the first three before this. They start with ‘Jackie Jam-Jar’, and continue with ‘Tubby’s Toe’, and ‘Short Phil.’ They contain swearing, and descriptions that some readers may find offensive. Certain slang terms and expressions are explained at the end. The locations are all genuine. It is quite long, at 1750 words.
Tubby was crying with the pain, and Eddie shot Short Phil a look. The look said it all, but Short Phil just shrugged in reply. “Someone better get him down the hospital”, Eddie said to nobody in particular. When the rest of the gang started to look at each other, Eddie chose for them. Turning to the red-faced man at the door, he barked, “Brian, you take him. Drop him at the entrance.” Tall Phil cleared his throat. “What about the toe Eddie?” Eddie walked over to the toe and inspected it. “Chuck it to the dog” he replied. Lighting a cigarette, Eddie wandered out into the warehouse, the yells of pain from Tubby growing faint as he was helped to hop out to the car. He rubbed his face with his hand; there was a headache in there, just waiting to happen, he was sure of that.
Eddie came from East Dulwich. Sandwiched between the rougher manor of Peckham, and the posh district of Dulwich Village, with its upper-class schools and expensive big houses, East Dulwich had never really had its own identity. The long roads leading from the greenery of Peckham Rye, up to the shops in Lordship Lane, could hardly be described as undesirable. In fact, Eddie’s parents actually owned their own house, almost unknown in his crowd. There was a good chance that he would never have encountered the sort of people that he now spent his life with, but he had done the decent thing, and gone into the army, to do his two years of National Service. Many of his peers sought exemptions, fiddled medical records, or just vanished, but he went. He had been brighter than most at school, passed his 11 Plus exam, and got a job as a trainee book-keeper at his mum’s firm in The City. When his call-up papers arrived, he didn’t mind going, hoping to see somewhere exotic, like Singapore, Malaya, or Kenya. He went for his training in Surrey, and was soon marked out by the sergeant, who transferred him to the company office, for clerical duties. From there, it was all ever going to go one way.
Sergeant Douglas was a career soldier. He had been in the war, and decided to stay on, running the stores, and being in charge of the supplies. All the paperwork necessary might have seemed a chore to some, but to the Sarge, it was a licence to print money. He saw the chance to make this Londoner his protege, and to make use of his quick brain, and skill with figures. So, Eddie was roped in to the big fiddles early on. He never got any further than Surrey, and the most exotic place he saw in two years was Guildford. The Sarge kept him close, and made sure he didn’t get posted to some faraway spot. Eddie was happy enough to play the game. Plenty of cash, nights out in the town, the odd bit of skirt to brighten the week. The Sarge shifted the stuff, Eddie cooked the books. They were a good team. When they had to deal with some of the spivs and crooks that pushed their luck, the Sarge expected him to bash a few heads, and break a few bones. He grew up fast, and realised what had to be done. No questions asked. When his time was up, the Sarge tried to talk him into staying on, but Eddie could now see his future, and it wasn’t in uniform.
Mum was upset when Eddie didn’t return to his job in The City. But he told her that he was now into import and export instead, and that impressed her. Dad seemed to know the truth, but it was never mentioned. Eddie soon moved out, into a rented flat just up the road, in Honour Oak. He got in with some blokes from Brockley Cross who were doing all sorts of dodgy deals. Eddie had his savings from his army fiddles, and could front up the money for the jukeboxes and one-armed bandits that were all the rage. It was easy enough. Turn up with a van load at a pub, cafe, or club, and tell the owner that he had to have a fruit machine or jukebox, or both. Wheel it in, plug it in, and tell him you would be back to empty the cash box later that week. If he kicked off, or made a fuss, he got a few slaps, or a bash with a cosh. If he went so far as to get help from some heavies, or throw the machine out after they had left, then they went back mob-handed, smashed the place up, and duffed-up everyone involved.
If they were hard, you just had to be harder.
There were lots of Eddies around in those days. Big Eddie from Streatham, Eddie Redhead from Coldharbour Lane, and the famous Razor Eddie, from Deptford. So he became East Dulwich Eddie, at least as far as everyone else was concerned. He never settled with that though. It was a bit of a mouthful, and East Dulwich didn’t sound that tough. He decided to create his own nickname, something more inspiring, a better branding for the sort of business he was engaged in. Not long after his twenty-first birthday, he started to refer to himself as Mad Eddie. This wasn’t that easy, as his previous street name had a tendency to stick. He had to get the rest of his associates to start calling him ‘Mad’, and when he was threatening a pub landlord, or club owner, he would say things like, “Tell them Mad Eddie was here.” After a year or so, his new name was widely adopted, and his reputation secured. He now moved on to the next stage of his plan. Taking over the gang.
He wondered why he had ever been worried. It was simplicity itself. Most of the blokes might have been older, and they were all certainly tougher, and more experienced. But they weren’t bright. There was a tendency to fight amongst themselves, and a childish spitefulness that had to be seen to be believed. They had jealousies; worrying about who had more money, or a better jam-jar, or whose bird was better looking. Eddie put it to them that he could organise things. They would have a proper manor, a defined field of operations. regular collections, cash in their pockets, and he would expand into the lucrative market of bent fags and booze. They wouldn’t even have to hijack the shipments. Just straighten up the drivers with some dosh, give them a few smacks for the sake of appearances, and drive off with the stuff. “Leave it all to me boys,” Eddie told them. And they did. Very soon, they acknowledged him as the leader, hardly noticing when the change happened. That was when the good times started.
Eddie took up with Janet that same year. She was three years older than him, and he had seen her hanging around the pubs with her mates. He asked around, showing interest. Nobody seemed to have a handle on her though. Some said her bloke was doing a big stretch, others that she had been married, and her husband was dead somehow. They couldn’t name anyone who had ever been out with her, and the only thing that everyone knew for sure was that she worked in Peek Frean’s biscuit factory, in Bermondsey. One night in the Tigers’s Head, he wandered over, and asked if she wanted a drink. He liked her short skirt, and bobbed hair, and didn’t mind that she wore glasses. Janet was excited to be chatted up by a known villain, a local face. Eddie soon found out that the truth about her was very normal. She lived with her mum and dad in Dockhead, and never had a boyfriend in the nick, or a husband who had been killed. He took her home that night, driving up to her flats in his new Rover P5, with its purring straight six engine. She kissed him in the car, and when she got indoors, told her mum that she had been brought home in a limousine. After that, they were a couple.
Eddie couldn’t help feeling that he was missing out though. The lads had no conversation, as most of them had never done nothing but crime. Janet was nice enough, and she adored him, but after the sex, he didn’t want to talk about the latest records, or her new clothes. He also regretted moving her into his new flat in Forest Hill. It had great views across from the top floor, and he had the latest G-Plan furniture, but she filled it with knick-knacks, girly bits and bobs. She had no taste, that was the problem. But she never forgot her roots, and kept the place nice, as well as always having food on the table whenever he got home. She even learned to drive, and he bought her a mini. Not an everyday one though, a posh one, a Wolseley Hornet. She didn’t have to work at the biscuit factory anymore either, not with the money he was bringing in.
And life was starting to get a lot more difficult too. His success had attracted the attention of the big gangs, and they had started to make noises about ‘including’ Eddie’s gang in their operations. It looked like a takeover was on the cards, and that would be bad news for him. They wanted in on all of it. The girls in Streatham and Balham, the gambling in Brockley and Ladywell, and the machines all over. If he wanted to stay in one piece, he was going to have to walk away from all that, and start working for a living. He would reinvent himself, and his gang, and they would become armed robbers.
Eddie walked over to the metal chest at the back. He fished around in it for a while, finally standing up holding his Sten, and two hand grenades. Behind him, the two Phils gave each other a knowing look. Eddie let out a deep sigh. “Get tooled up, boys,” he told them. “We’re paying Jackie a visit.”
Explanation of terms used.
Manor. The area where someone lived or operated. Any district of London.
Fiddles. (In this context) Cons, illegal trading, obtaining by deception.
Bit of skirt. A young woman.
Spiv. Illegal trader, black marketeer, petty criminal.
One-armed bandit. Old style fruit-machine, with a handle on the side.
Mob-handed. In a large group.
Duffed up. Beaten up badly.
Jam-Jar. A car. (Rhyming slang. Jam-jar = Car.)
Bird. A girl, someone’s girlfriend.
Bent. Stolen. Corrupt.
Straighten up. Bribe.
Dosh. Money, cash.
The Nick. Prison.
Tooled up. Carrying firearms or other weapons.