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Authors: Mark Timlin

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BOOK: Guns Of Brixton
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    'Leave
her, it's all right,' said Mark.

    'Why
didn't you come to my wedding?' she asked. 'You could've got off with one of
the bridesmaids. Or their mums.'

    'I
didn't miss much by all accounts.'

    'You
cheeky sod. Dad, tell him.'

    'You
started it,' said Jenner, memories of so many times when he'd been called in to
referee between them in the past.

    'You
always did take his side,' said Martine.

    'That's
not true.'

    'Sorry,
Martine,' said Mark, seeing the hurt in her expression. 'I was out of order.'

    'So
was I. Now come here so's I can give you a cuddle.'

    Mark
stood up and she gave him a quick hug before going over to her father and
kissing him on the cheek. 'How many of those have you smoked today, Daddy?' she
asked, looking at the roach in the ashtray.

    'Enough.'

    'You
had your morphine?'

    He
shook his head. 'Me and Mark have been talking.'

    'I
just bet you have.' She turned on the younger man. 'He should be resting, not
sitting up here talking to you.'

    'I'll
be all right, 'Tine,' said Jenner. 'There's things we have to talk about.'

    'You'll
kill yourself,' she said, her expression softening.

    'It's
not me that's killing myself, it's this damn cancer. Mark's staying over. I'll rest
later. What are you doing? You eating with us?'

    'No.
I just came back to change. Girl's night out.'

    'Up
west?'

    'No.
There's a new bar in Clapham. Lots of lovely men.' And she looked at Mark with
a challenging expression.

    He'd
sat back down again and pretended to pay her no attention.

    'Right,'
she said. 'I can tell you're going to ignore me. I'll go and have a shower and
put on my gladrags. I don't want to take the car in this weather. Can Chas
drive me? It'll only take him twenty minutes.'

    'Course
he will,' said Jenner. 'How're you going to get home?'

    'I'll
get a cab.'

    'Is
the snow getting worse?'

    'It
comes and goes.'

    'Well,
take your mobile and call us if you need a lift home.'

    'Have
you ever known me to go out without my mobile?' she said back.

    'No,
love. I know it's welded to your ear. I have to pay the bills.'

    'Don't
be a meanie.' 'Have I ever been?'

    She
went over to him again and gave him another kiss and a long hug. 'Never. Not my
dad.'

    'Go
on then, 'Tine,' said the older man. 'Go and make yourself beautiful.' 'More
beautiful, you mean.' She danced out of the room and up the stairs.

    'Tootsie
was right,' said Mark. 'She does light up the room. I'd forgotten.'

    'She's
still hurting though,' said Jenner. 'Don't you believe all that.' 'I could
tell. What was he like? The husband.' 'Not good enough for her.'

    'You'd
say that if it was Prince Charles she'd married.' 'Especially if it was Prince
Charles.' 'Bad example. But you know what I mean.' 'Course I do.'

    They
sat talking for another few minutes before there were foot steps on the stairs
again and Martine burst back into the room like a small tornado. She'd changed
into a short black dress, black nylons and high heeled strappy shoes.

    'Just
the thing for the weather,' said Mark dryly. 'But I've got a Bentley,' said
Martine, and stuck out her tongue. Her, face was newly made up and she did
indeed look beautiful as she shrugged back into her coat. 'Coming, Chas,' she
shouted over her shoulder. 'Won't be late, Dad,' she said. 'Work tomorrow.
You'll be here for breakfast, Mark?' And when he nodded, she said. 'It'll be
just like old times.'

    'What,
you in your Rupert The Bear jammies?' said Mark. 'I don't wear jammies to bed
anymore,' she said. 'You'd be surprised what I do wear.' Mark laughed.

    'You
take care,' said her father as she kissed him farewell.

    'Always
do,' she said and vanished, slamming the door behind her. 'Except when it comes
to husbands,' he said with a trace of bitterness. 'Now where were we?'

    'You
were going to tell me about you and Dad,' said Mark. 'What, when we were at
school?'

    'No,
later than that. When you started all this. Before he became a copper.'

    'All
right, son,' said Jenner. 'But you've got to remember, it was a different world
in those days.'

Chapter 5

    

    It
had been summer then. The late summer of 1965, and John Jenner was nineteen
years old. He remembered the morning as easily as if it had been yesterday. Sitting
in that elegant room talking to his late best. friend's son, the memory was so
clear he could almost smell it. The excitement. The possibilities.

    The
mid 60s, and, like the song says, England swings like a pendulum do. But it
hadn't swung soon or hard enough for John Jenner and his best friend Billy
Farrow, so they decided to do something about it. They'd talked about it often.
There they were in their late teens, going nowhere, whilst other boys of their
own age were killing and being killed in southeast Asia, and others were
jetting about the world making fortunes with their music. Something seemed to
have gone wrong with their lives.

    Pills
were the answer. Little blue, yellow and purple pills chock full of
amphetamines that fuelled the lifestyle of mods and rockers alike. John knew
how to get hold of thousands of them. And at a tanner each - forty for a pound
in the pubs and clubs of London - and an investment of precisely nothing to get
them, he and Billy would be rich within weeks if not days. John worked in a
print works in Stockwell. He earned the princely sum of fifteen pounds a week
before deductions. He made up his wages with petty theft and shoplifting. He
knew that couldn't last. Eventually he'd get his collar felt and go away. So be
it, he thought. But if he was going to do bird it would be for something
worthwhile. Hence the burglary he was planning. He knew about the pills because
the firm he worked for did some printing for a pharmaceutical import/export
company, and he'd been sent down with proofs enough times that he almost had
free run of the place.

    Simple.

    That
summery Saturday morning, John woke up in a strange bed in Edith Grove,
Chelsea, just a few hundred yards from the big river.

    In
those days, John was a handsome young man, everyone said so. A shade over six
feet tall in his socks, his Anello Davide elastic-sided boots adding two
inches with their Cuban heels. His hair, which was thick and curly just like
his daughter's would be in thirty-five years time, had been allowed to grow
into a full
Beatles For Sale
LP cover style, and his j dress was on the
cusp of mod and rock star. That Saturday morning he - was wearing black
drainpipe trousers, a pale blue tab-collared shirt; without a tie, and a blue
and white striped single breasted seersucker jacket with narrow lapels and
three buttons. The previous night he had dropped into a club in Fulham to see a
new band, and had met the girl who was fast asleep in the narrow bed on which
he sat to tug on his boots.

    John
hated putting on soiled clothing. He hated not having shaved and being forced
to clean his teeth with a stranger's brush. But he'd enjoyed fucking the girl
he'd met at the club. She was what the boys he ran with called 'a posh sort',
and he couldn't wait to tell them what contortions he'd put her through that'd
left her still snoring under the tangled sheets, as the sun rose high over
London town.

    The
house was crammed with bedsits and somewhere he heard a toilet flush and
someone had a radio playing, tuned to one of the pirate stations. The song was
'Satisfaction' by the Stones, and he sat for a moment and listened to it,
strained through the tiny speakers of the transistor.

    He
smiled to himself and shook the girl's shoulder as he remembered the satisfaction
they had both enjoyed all night long.

    'Whassamatter,'
she mumbled after a minute.

    Now
what the fuck was her name? he thought, and then it came to him. 'Matilda,' he
said.

    'Wha'?'

    'I
gotta go.'

    'What
time is it?'

    He
looked at his cheap watch. 'Ten.' '

    'Shit.
Middle of the night.'

    'Sure.
But I got things to do.'

    She
opened her puffy, mascara-smeared eyes. 'Don't go,' she said. 'We can screw
again.'

    'Did
you like it?' he asked.

    'Lovely.
I'm all sticky and sore.'

    'Me
too. But I've got to meet someone. Business.'

    'Sure?'

    'Sure.'

    'You
cockneys are all the same. Love 'em and leave em.'

    He
grinned, leant down and kissed her, and her sweetsour bed smell almost made him
relent and get back in for another go. 'I'll call you,' he said.

    'No
you won't.'

    'Course
I will.'

    'Promise.'

    'Promise.'

    She
sat up and the sheets slid off her breasts and the sight of her baby pink nipples
reinforced his urge to stay, but he knew that Billy would be calling for him
soon, and if he didn't show he'd never hear the end of it.

    'Give
us that pen,' she said. He passed her the Bic and she wrote a Chelsea number on
the back of his hand.

    'The
Yardbirds are on at the Marquee on Monday. Will you take me?' she asked.

    'Sure.'

    'Then
call me.'

    He
kissed her once more and checked his hair in the mirror before he left. He
never saw her again.

    Outside
the sun was shining and the birds were singing, and the red buses running down
the King's Road sparkled like new. John smiled and strolled down to the river
and looked down at the mud exposed by the low tide and decided that there was
no greater city in which to live. And Saturday morning was the best time of the
week. Especially when it was the one Saturday in four he didn't have to turn up
to work. Not long now,

    he
thought, and I'll have every Saturday off. Every day of the week for that
matter.

    He
hopped on a 137 bus to Streatham Hill, then walked to his parents' house in a
narrow, mean street between Brixton and Tulse Hill.

    It
took him well over an hour to make the journey. Christ, he thought, I've got to
get a car. He'd had his licence for six months already, but the deposit for a
motor was still well out of reach. Not for much longer, he thought, as he
trudged the last half mile. The midday sun was hot and he was sweating through
his creased clothing, and the cheap leather of his boots. One day soon I'll
have a hundred pairs, he thought. If they get dirty I'll just chuck them away.
The thought cheered him up and he straightened his shoulders and lengthened his
stride as he entered the street he knew so well.

    His
mum and dad were sitting in the kitchen when he arrived home, listening to the
same station that had been playing at Matilda's. His father, Arthur Jenner,
detested modern pop but the boy and his mother persisted, and during the day
when there was nothing on the TV, he relented, even if he still moaned and groaned
that he couldn't understand the words of the jungle music. He worked as a
market porter at Covent Garden Market and had only arrived home from work a few
minutes before John rolled in. As usual, he'd been to one of the market pubs on
his way and smelled strongly of mild and bitter.

    'What
time do you call this?' he said when his only son walked into the room.

    It
was par for the course, the sort of family exchange that had become ritual as
John had got older. Almost a game. John made a big deal of examining his watch
face. 'Eleven thirty precisely, and all's well.'

    'Don't
be funny with me, boy. Out all night with some loose tart I suppose.'

BOOK: Guns Of Brixton
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