Sunday, March 19, 2006
"So, Charlie's having a curry in Brick Lane and he's just about to order another couple of poppadoms and a beer when all of a sudden the waiters are running about like headless chickens and there's coppers all over, creeping all about and eyeballing all the punters..." He paused for a swallow of his pint and a drag on his cigarette. Charlie nodded to Carol to confirm what had already been said; he wasn't too good with words, having had his tongue removed some years previously for speaking out of turn about a rather nasty face's girlfriend.
"Anyway," Billy continued, "Seems one of the boys has been out the back dumping some rubbish or something and he's having a crafty Marlboroughette when he sees these pins sticking out from behind a wheelie bin. Well, he streaks back into the gaff, shaking like a leaf and whiter than a sheet, ain't that right Charlie?" Charlie nodded again with his usual enthusiasm. A dribble of beer ran down his chin. Billy paused for effect, and then, drawing his finger in a slow arc from ear to ear, and lowering his head level with Carol's, he said in a theatrical whisper:
"Throat cut! Almost took her bloody head clean off."
Crazy Carol shivered and gripped Zimmerman's arm. He muttered, "Alright girl, alright," and stroked her hair. Then he ordered her another half of bitter and a Jack Daniels and Coke for himself. "They know who did it?" he asked.
"Bloody hell mate," said Billy, "give them a bleeding chance. It only went down no more than two hours ago. Ain't that right Charlie?" Charlie nodded and held up two fingers at Zimmerman, who responded with an uncomfortable shrug, handing Carol her half and pocketing her change.
"Bet it was her boyfriend, anything you like. Any takers?" It was the Dwarf. He'd just come in and was edging his way Spanish between them to get to the bar.
"Here we go," chortled Billy the Pill, laying his finger lightly on the side of his nose and slipping Charlie a conspiratorial eye. "Here's the man. Now we'll get the inside story. What do you know boss? No, put your money away. I'll get that. Now, come on, you've heard something haven't you?"
"All in the fullness, young man, all in good time."
Billy passed him his pint and the Dwarf took a long pull on it. Meanwhile Crazy Carol, Charlie and Zimmerman tracked his every move with building expectation.
"As it happens," he continued at last, "I had reason - one of my little helpers having been somewhat careless in his endeavours - to be entrammeled for a short period of time this evening in the rather unpleasant environs of Limehouse nick, wherein I stumbled upon..." he paused and eradicated what remained of the contents of his glass. "... a little whisper!"
His audience was entranced: Billy bit the crook of his thumb, a wide-eyed Charlie was trying to lick his beer off his chin with his absent tongue, Carol stared, wide eyed and open-mouthed, and Zimmerman ordered another Jack Daniels.
"Seems the unfortunate young lady was an acquaintance of yours, Carol," said the Dwarf. "Part time brass. Lived down Shandy Street with some Greek nonce?"
Crazy Carol's eyes popped. Her features froze:
"Bleeding hell, boss. It can't be. Not her, not little Alice!"
Zimmerman muttered, "Poor cow. Don't get upset babe," and attempted a sypathetic embrace but Carol pushed him away and shook her head. She fished a pack of cigarettes out of her bag, lit one and blew the smoke in his face.
"Poor cow my arse," she growled. "Bitch owes me fifty frigging quid!"
There followed a milli-second of stunned silence, after which Billy the Pill started to laugh, the Dwarf sniggered, Charlie chortled and Zimmerman's shoulders started to shake.
"Bloody hell Carol," said Billy, "ain't you got no respect for the dead?"
Crazy Carol totally lost control and collapsed into hysterics, whooping with laughter and spraying everybody with beer and spit.
"Yeah?" she spluttered. "Well I'll tell you something else, Billy boy, the bitch was only pregnant, wasn't she? Three months gone mate."
Gales of hilarity shook the big bevelled mirror behind the bar. Glasses rattled on the shelves and the guffaw echoed like a dirty joke all through the pub and out the big swing doors into the street.
Somebody said later that you could hear it all the way down the Mile End Road.