Carnage in Downham

This is a fictional short story, the the conclusion of a six-part series. It is advisable to read them in order, starting with ‘Jackie Jam-Jar’. It contains some swearing, and descriptions that may offend some readers. Slang references are explained at the end. All the locations are genuine. It is just over 1650 words.

Eddie placed the Sten on the floor between his feet. The thing was, it wasn’t about the guns, and not about the money they were worth either. It wasn’t even about the fact that weeks of work on the blag had all gone out of the window, and the inside man might not be on that run again for months. It was about taking the piss, and not showing respect. He had known Jackie for years, and yet the bastard thought he could swift his shooters, and balls up his job. He must think I’m getting soft, thought Eddie.

Jackie was sitting in the shabby office at the back of his car lot in Downham. He was thinking about how much he hated gangsters, and asking himself for the umpteenth time why he ever allowed himself to get involved with them in the first place. They pretended to be your mate, they acted like you were part of their set-up, but they just took the piss out of you, showed you no respect. Well this time, he had bit back, got one over on them. It wasn’t about the guns, far from it. He was just fed up with being fed up, and tired of being used.

Jackie Jam-Jar wasn’t even a Jackie, or a Jack. He wasn’t even Jack Rose, the name on his sign fronting Downham Way. He was Jacob Rosenberg, and he lived a respectable life, at least as far as his family, friends, and neighbours were concerned. He had been born in Vienna, where his parents ran one of the most respected tailoring shops in a good area. But then Hitler had come to power in Germany, and everyone knew that Austria would be next. He was sent to live with his aunt in London, in the affluent district of Golders Green, where she had a shop selling ladies undergarments. He didn’t hear from mum and dad after that. When he was old enough to understand, Aunt Ada told him that they had probably died in the camps.

He did well at school, and went to Technical College, where he became interested in engines, and the cars that they went in. He got a job at Ford’s in Dagenham, working in the technical development office. Aunt Ada found him clean rooms with a Jewish family in Wanstead. It was there that he met Hester, a cousin of the family, from south London. They decided the pair would be a good match, and a marriage was arranged. Aunt Ada was pleased, and gave Jacob the money to set up his own car company. He found some cheap land with a workshop in Downham, and began with a grand idea, to build his own brand of sports car. But Hester wanted a house, and it had to be somewhere nice, like Bromley. Then she got pregnant, and the money was going fast. After little Anthony was born, Hester wanted only the best, so Jacob had to become Jack, and start selling cars, instead of inventing new ones. He was soon approached by dodgy types, asking for cars that had no history, or bringing him ones that did. This was easy money though, and it was regular too.

Now Anthony was at university, hoping to become a barrister. Hester had declined to have more children. She always said that she had a bad time with her first, and didn’t want to go through that again. Aunt Ada was long dead, and Jacob had become Jackie Jam-Jar, everyone’s friend, living a lie. Hester wanted little more out of life than new furniture, and to talk about the family car company to her posh friends. If only she knew. If only they all knew. There was her brother Terence of course. He was never mentioned. He had been adopted in a moment of madness, before they knew they were expecting Hester. When he turned out to be a monster, they disowned him. But Jackie kept in touch, and kept an eye on his daughter, Carol. The least he could do, with Terry in for fifteen. He lit a cigar, and sat back in the collapsing chair. The shit would hit the fan, he was sure of that. And he had stopped caring. He was sure of that too.

When the cars drove into the yard, Jackie knew. He opened the drawer of his desk and took out the Luger pistol he kept there, laying it across his lap. Angel was in the doorway. “They’re here Jackie,” he stated the obvious. His tone was flat, disinterested. He walked off into the workshop, no doubt to give Tony The Tooth and Pale Ashton the heads-up. In his mind’s eye, Jackie had imagined the scene. Eddie would arrive heavy, shout a lot, threaten him and the boys. Short Phil might wave his bolt-cutters about, and Bangs might even show off his Thompson. But the stuff was long gone, not to be found in his place, anywhere. And he would deny it all, blame Tubby, and tell Eddie to do his worst, but it wasn’t him. They need me, he told himself. Where else would they get the motors and vans they needed all the time? Eddie would have to take this one on the chin, whatever he thought he knew.

But that day, things didn’t work out quite as smoothly as he had anticipated. For once, Mad Eddie was really mad, and he was already planning where to get his motors in future.

Angel had grabbed the twelve-bore from the boot of the Zodiac in the workshop. Tony The Tooth put his Colt .45 automatic in his inside coat pocket, and even Pale Ashton tooled up, getting the old Webley from the red tool box in the corner. Just in case. But the best laid plans…You know the rest.

Eddie started firing the Sten before he had even cleared the top step into Jackie’s office. Poor old Jam-Jar didn’t have time to pick up the Luger. He looked at the holes in his belly, the blood already soaking his shirt. It didn’t hurt yet. The shock would have to wear off first. Bangs got out of the other car, firing short bursts with the Thompson at the thin walls of the workshop. Tony gave a yell, and fell over backwards. Angel glanced at him, and saw he wasn’t moving. He poked the barrels of the shotgun through the small doorway, and fired them both, more in panic than with care. Bangs was surprised to find himself on his back. He couldn’t stand up, and suddenly felt very cold. Angel had managed what all those Italians and Germans had never been able to. But in his panic, he had fired both shells, and forgotten to reload. As Bald Norman approached the door, pointing a pistol at his face, Angel pointlessly pulled the triggers on two empty chambers, just before the .38 soft nose bullet entered his head.

Pale Ashton had never been so scared, but he was no coward. He ran out of the back door, and around the side, until he was behind the office. As Eddie walked back down the steps, Ashton shot him in the back, twice. The smart man fell onto his face, and didn’t move. Ashton thought about shooting him again, but then something hit him hard in the side, and he fell as well. He looked up, and saw one of the cars reversing at speed, back out of the entrance into the road. The other car was now empty; doors open, engine running. He thought he could perhaps get into it, and make his escape, so started to crawl towards it. But Bald Norman had other ideas. His first shot had been a fluke from that range, so he was closing the gap for a second try. Pale Ashton realised he was never going to make it. He turned awkwardly, and fired the remaining four rounds at the man approaching him. Norman fired back as he walked forward, but suddenly found himself kneeling on the floor, wondering why he wasn’t upright. The black bloke was dead for sure, but Norman didn’t feel that good either. He guessed it must be something to do with the hole in his shoulder, then his face hit the tarmac.

They got the story in time for the evening papers. It was meaty stuff, sure to sell out the edition.
‘CARNAGE IN DOWNHAM. SEVEN DEAD IN SHOOT-OUT’ The banner headline was repeated on the flyers by the news-stands.

Edna always got a paper on her way home. Although no names were mentioned, a photo of the scene was published, the bodies covered over with sheets or something. She recognised the car, the one with its doors open. It was Eddie’s car, no mistake. She felt sick, as if she was going to pass out. She held onto a wall in Rye Lane, and a lady came up to her. “You alright dear?” She asked.
Janet didn’t find out until the six-o-clock news on the telly that night. She hadn’t been worried, as Eddie was rarely home before seven anyway. She started to cry, and she wasn’t sure if she would ever stop. In Bromley, Hester was watching something different, when the doorbell rang. There were two men in raincoats, and a policewoman in uniform. She showed them in, and when they told her, the scream she let out made them all jump. Carol got a phone call. He mumbled something about Angel, and told her to watch the news. She didn’t cry at first. She had always expected this.

Explanation of terms used.

Sten. A Sten Gun. A sub-machine gun used by the Allies in WW2.
Blag. An armed robbery.
Swift. To steal.
Shooters. Firearms, guns.
Balls-up. To ruin, to spoil.
Took the piss. Mocked, ridiculed.
Jam-Jar. A car (Rhyming slang. Jam-Jar = Car)
In for fifteen. A fifteen-year sentence in prison.
Luger. A German pistol, widely used by the military.
Thompson. An American sub-machine gun, also called a ‘Tommy Gun.’
Twelve bore. A double-barrelled shotgun.
Zodiac. A luxury saloon car, made by Ford.
Webley. A British military revolver.


13 thoughts on “Carnage in Downham

  1. Superb finale, and in the middle of the carnage the calm precision of one of my favourite words in English, so regrettably misused and misunderstood nowadays: disinterested. It is such an important word that I don’t buy the evolution argument that widespread current usage justifies a change in meaning.


    1. I am delighted that you spotted it, and appreciated the difference. (Though I sort-of knew you would…) There may be more to come, when Tubby gets out of hospital. I’m not sure at the moment.
      Best wishes, Pete. x


    1. I thought it might come in useful, Arlene. Half of my readers are not from the UK, and many of those expressions are not used outside of London, or the bigger cities. Glad you liked the stories too.
      Best wishes, Pete.


  2. A dramatic end to a fine series which I truly enjoyed. Fantastic build up, great comedy and a final passage which, as I think you mentioned in one of you comment replies, highlights the pettiness and futility of it all.
    Mind you, with so may dead, I worry that the sequel may never come about!


    1. Glad you enjoyed it, Eddy. I deliberately killed the ‘good ones’ off, as I was becoming addicted to writing a gangland soap-opera, and wanted to stop for now. There may be a return to the theme one day. After all, Tubby is still in the casualty department…
      Cheers mate. Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

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