Chapter 2

          About two o’clock after a tough session with a policewoman Doris got home and sat down and cried that let it all out crying. Then she rang her mum who she knew would answer the phone which was right by her wheelchair. One of the motorised ones so she could get about when her dad was at work.

She told her about the monkeys and the guns and Stanley, how cool he had been and how he looked out for her. That a monkey had shot a hole in the ceiling and like it was something from the movies. She said Charlie was a jerk for working her too hard and that he had said she could have a pay rise so she could work less and he would take on another waitress so the shifts could be split. Her mum said maybe he was not such a jerk but she said that he was because it was only Stanley saying to him because Charlie had told her what Stanley had said. And that made her feel better, getting more time and everything. Then she asked how her mum was and she had said not too bad but Doris knew that meant she was having a bad time. She did not know too much about MS but did know that it could be a tough disease to manage. Then Katie had come home and said hi to Grandma and Doris had told the story to Katie and that Stanley was coming to dinner on Sunday and Katie could help her make the pie.

 Six years ago in a couple of weeks and that was when she had been dumped on her own. He had gone off to work with a goodbye kiss and a kiss for Katie who was six that day, then did not come home. Doris did not know where he was, if he was alright, so she had rung the hospitals and all the other places he might have been. A week later she had a call and he said, “It’s me. I’m sorry but I’m not coming home, I want my life to change so I’m going away. Say bye to Katie for me,” and that was all and he’d just hung up before she could say anything other than a, “but, but,”  as she tried to speak but did not get the chance and she was devastated and took a long time to recover even enough to make a bit of sense of things.

She had phoned her mum who said, “Come live with us, we can take care of you and Katie.” Their place was a smart house on a nice road out of the city a bit but small and crammed with big furniture, those massive sofas with wide padded arms and that dark oak furniture that seemed to suck out the light. With her and Katie there it felt all cramped and stifling. It had a nice garden which was just as well as that summer it was hot and the house was hot inside making it so stifling. She had been brought up in that house but things were different then. There was just her and her mum worked while she was at school and her dad was away a lot when he worked in international sales. Now he was nine to five and a desk jockey but he liked that. Not having all the air travel and congested airports and cheap hotel food. While she was there her mum had said it was because they had married young but she did not say that eighteen was too young and I had told you so. Even though she had when they had a bit of a row those few years ago when Doris had come in and said she was getting married. Then a few years later Katie came along and things were great for a few years. She just said it kind and gentle, about eighteen being too young and did what she could to put Doris back together. Things were fine until her mum got sick and then it got tough and it got tougher a bit later on when her mum needed the wheelchair and in that small house it became more cramped.

That was when her dad had said one day almost in tears, “I can’t cope with your mum with you and Katie being here. It’s too much for me. I can find you a place in town and will pay your bills until you find a job. You know I’m always here for you, don’t you? But all this is cracking me up and I need a break and the best way is if you can get your own place in town.”

She had said, “Sure dad it’s not a problem, I understand and was thinking about moving out anyway.” Which was one of those trying to be kind, nice lies that everyone says at sometime and no one really thinks is a lie anyway. Now Katie will be twelve in two weeks. She looked like her, everyone said so which was good because she knew she would have a bad time if Katie had looked like him and she had to look at her everyday and be reminded of him. Life was tough enough anyway.

 A ground floor flat was where they lived, in a small complex, not big, but big enough for the two of them. She had filled it with light wood furniture keeping the space and making it bright, with a shared garden, closer to the city so she could work without traveling far and Katie would have a good school close by. Her dad paid the rent and gave her an allowance and then that stopped when she started working at Charlie’s place. Then things started to get tight. She had worked there about six months when Stanley came in and that was the first time she saw Stanley and he looked in a terrible way. He looked like the whole world had dumped on him.

He had come in through the swing door and it had been raining, but not too much, so he was only dripping a small bit. He had no coat on and his jacket, one of those sports jackets with a little check, had the collar up giving him a kind of huddled up look. He had come in and sat at the back in the corner with an empty table next to him as though he did not want company anywhere close. His long hair was all ruffled and his face looked like he was having a migraine or something being sad looking and frown creased.

Doris went over and got her notebook out of her apron pocket and softly said, “Can I get you anything?”

“What’ve you got?” was all he had said in a dull voice and he had said it without looking up.

“Coffee, d’you want some coffee? And anything to eat?  What we've got is on the board on the wall back of the counter,” and she pointed at the large board with it’s endless list. Charlie was standing at the hatch looking out at them, hands on hips, making sure there was no trouble maybe. Just watching.

“Strong black coffee, a double hit please, and a bacon bap with three rashers. And make sure you grill off all the fat. I don’t want the fat.” Stanley had said without looking at the board or Doris.

Doris wrote it down and told Charlie about the fat and Charlie said, “Take your break if you want Doris. Go sit with him a bit if he wants. He’s one that looks like he needs company. I’ll cover for you.”

She picked up his coffee and went back to his table and said, “I’m on my break now, mind if I sit with you? I feel like chatting with someone nice.”

“Suit yourself,” but he looked up into her face and saw a smile and dark brown eyes that smiled as well. So he sat up and took off his jacket and hung it over the back of his chair.

Charlie brought over the bap and a coffee for Doris. Stanley opened up the bap, squirted in a good squelch of ketchup, closed it up and took a bite, licking clean the oozing ketchup, “Stanley Holloway and thanks Doris,” looking at the name badge pinned to her blouse.”

“You warm enough Stanley? You look a bit done in.”

“Yeah but don’t feel the cold at the moment, suppose I wouldn't know if it’s hot or cold, I’ve kind of stopped feeling.”

She thought this one is as depressed as hell and said, trying badly to be subtle, “So, what’s this all about then? What makes you look like you got your head stuck up an elephant's backside?”

“It’s Joan, she died a while back and that’s kind of put me in touch with your elephant,“ he replied, slipping the words out in a whisper she could hardly hear.

“Joan your wife or something?”

“Married thirty five years.”

“Long time. No kids?”

“No kids.”

“No family?”

“Brother up north and he phones early every Saturday morning.”

“Short of someone to listen then. That’s what you need, someone to listen, get it all out there.” said Doris, getting positive, “So we’ll make a deal. How about we make a deal? You want to talk, I’ll listen and for as long as it takes. Then after you come round my home and meet my little girl. You’ll like her and she’ll surely like you alright. But you get all smartened up first though. Have a shave or you’ll scare her.” Doris said this because she saw something there she liked. This man was nice alright.

And he opened up a bit with his dull voice lifting. “A crash. There was this crash. She was driving and turning out onto the main road and this blue pick-up truck, one of those big fronted, strong looking pick-ups appeared from nowhere and whacked into the side of us doing a whole heap of speed. Went through the driver’s door. We all spun round and then stopped but the truck backed up and drove round us and sped off. The cops came. The ambulance came. But Joan had gone. There in her seat, all buckled up, crumpled up to the steering wheel.”

And he went on a bit talking about Joan and how they met one day when he was at the bus station seeing a girl off to college who sat on the bus looking great and sexy smiling that cute smile of hers that made him laugh out loud and waved at him and blew some of those special kisses for a special guy. Who had said she loved him but never came back. He had met Joan there at the bus station. She was coming back from the city and looked a bit tired and was lugging carriers with all the stuff she had bought. He knew her from school, had seen her around, so he offered to carry the bags and they walked up the street chit-chatting about nothing in particular. Then he took her out a few times and he started to like her but in a different way to the other girl and they got together and married early when they were young. But people married younger then anyway so maybe it was not so young really only young by today’s way of doing things. It might have been a rebound thing. Who knows. Then he went home and got showered and shaved and snapped himself up and looked at the torn off bit of waitress paper, at the address and went and met Katie.


  They slopped down the stolen beer, stolen from their dad’s stash. Stanley was thinking it an odd beer for his dad’s stash, real strong stuff and his dad never drank beer except when the fellas from the old days came by. Then he would get falling over drunk on beer. But he had never even bought strong beer before. Only really had beer for his golfing cronies when they called to sponge a swim in the pool and of course the old times fellas. Then he thought he more likely got it for his two boys if he knew they stole from his stash which he probably did as every time he went out he came back to a good few beers short. Maybe he thought the stronger the beer, the quicker they got drunk and the less they would thieve. That was it for sure. A pilfering limitation exercise. Knowing his dad like he did, it was just what he would do. He was smart, was his dad, very smart and quick, a quick mind that had made him millions on the financial markets where he was shrewd enough to rise above all the sharks that fleeced people dry. He had started in those boiler room operations where he did his fair share of fleecing selling cheap stock of near bust companies making it all sound too good to be true and the greedy punters sucking themselves in at the thought of a quick profit too good to miss. He did that before taking a heap of gleaned knowledge and making a fortune. Coming up the hard way, from the London estates, the rough side of town, where he scammed the extra cash to live a life that taught him how to make money and how to conserve it and how to use it to gain advantage. And that skill had rubbed off on Stanley.

The beer was slipping down real good in the sun on the grass outside the back of their mansion sitting on top of the hill way out of town on the exclusive estate where all the millionaires lived. Their millionaire father out with his mates playing for fifty pounds a hole and ten pound bits on the golf course and their mother around Daisy Davidson’s probably trying to keep out of the groping hands of that slime-ball Walter Davidson while she played ladies’ bridge with Walter having the hots for his mother. Everyone knew where Walter’s hots lay these days after Jenny Smythe’s husband, Bob, dumped him on his backside and blooded his nose on the eighteenth hole one dull Sunday morning when Stanley’s father, in full earshot of Bob, said to his partner Dilly Day, the one time bass player who was almost famous and almost deaf from too much bass playing and needed a loud talking at, he had said he had seen Walter with his hand up Jenny’s skirt. He had said that, in that simple way, in a fit of temper when Walter and Bob were about to take the money for the fourth week running and Stanley’s father was sure they played dodgy golf, both having some of those balls that were easy to find in knee deep grass and impenetrable undergrowth. Stanley’s father suspected that Walter’s hots for his wife were fringed a bit with revenge which was about to backfire anytime now as Walter had no idea of Stanley’s dad’s background and the ways employed to protect his own in an environment of street fighting and crime. It was where the villains had recruited. There was no money then so these fellas would come round and ask if anyone wanted to earn some cash running errands and the like and that turned into other things when they got older. But his Dad was too smart to get recruited but he did know the fellas that got sucked into that life. He had grown up with them and they were mates and he knew the score and the ones that remained, that hadn’t been shot or banged up, came round the house on occasion and drank his Dad’s beer. In those days his dad’s best mates were called uncle and Uncle Jimmy was Stanley's favourite. He still called in on Uncle Jimmy now and again to make sure he was okay because he knew his dad would want him to.

 Stanley cracked open a beer and tossed it to Sidney, younger only by just over a year. They looked alike, so alike they could be taken for twins. Same hair, same height and same weight. Stanley then cracked another, taking a long draw. He thought their names a bit old school and up against the trendy names that floated around school, one of those private schools that charged a lot for a good education that few did anything with, their names were odd sounding. His mum had said they were specially chosen so that if they ended up with crap jobs or in prison or something they could go by Stan or Sid and get pally with the hard guys and nutters and if they got nearly famous or had great jobs they could be Stanley and Sidney which sounded a whole lot more upmarket. She called it flexible naming. Stanley just thought it was his dad being smart for them. The way he was smart for them by bringing them up to take care of themselves showing them the street moves and how to dodge the bullets so to speak.

Stanley said, “That Maud in the white house down the hill’s a bit of a case, she’s so full of words she’ll burst. You ever talk to her? She’s a nightmare. Speaks a million words a second. Got way too much gas in her tank and talks about nothing but crap. If she keeps it up the world will run dry in a few years and she’ll be stuffed for sure. I reckon by the time she’s sixty she’ll have spoken ten times more words than the normal person. I spoke with her the other day when she was out the front waiting for a taxi. She did all the talking. I just listened wondering what the hell she was going on about. Most of it just rubbish. Talk about a waste of breath but she’s likely got heaps of that as well. She’s sure a good looker though, don’t you think?”

“Not really noticed or ever spoken to her. Knew she was there but that’s all,” Sidney replied, “Did see her the other day though, out jogging so might have all that breath you talk about and she looked good alright, in all that tight fitting running kit all the girls wear. All lithe and slippery looking with all that running sweat. Never spoken to her though.”

“Well I’m going to see if she wants a trip out sometime. Get to know her better if you know what I mean. Say, you ever thought how we can make a bit of excitement around here. This place is dead, it's so boring. Been watching the store down the village. D’you know the coke truck comes at eight every Monday and delivers and collects the empties? You know the yard out back? Well, all the empties are just stacked against the fence. Twenty four bottles a crate. Fence is about six feet high. Nick two crates on a Sunday night now and again, a bit at random so not to make a routine, no one would notice. Then the stack is gone first thing Monday before anyone knows different.”

“What’s the point of nicking the empties? Nick the full ones. Why not?”

“Full ones are proper stealing, empties are just a bit of glass and it doesn’t mean the same, does it. And how’d we get shot of the full ones? Think I'm drinking forty eight bottles of coke just to get rid of the stuff? Sell it and it involves loads of people and all their loose ends. Nope, it’s got to be the empties. Then we take them in and get the deposit. Drip feed them, then do it again when we run out of empties. It’s brilliant. Nick them and take them back, then nick them back again. Perpetual money. What d’you think?”

“I think Dad’s rich and we don’t need the dough. That’s what I think.”

“Fair enough. What about the wheeze though? What a scam eh?”

Six months later and Old Man Williams in the store is standing in his brown shop coat buttoned right up with pens poking out the top pocket says to Stanley when Stanley was in collecting some deposits, he says just in a matter of fact way, he just casually asks him how he is and Stanley had replied that he was fine. Then Old Willy said, as he fiddled with one of his pens, he said that he was renewing his insurance and they wanted greater security so he was getting a camera in the rear yard. What did Stanley think of that? And Stanley had said it was a great idea. But Mr Williams never got the camera and the insurance company had not asked him to get one. What did happen was that he stopped shedding empties on a Sunday night.”

 When Stanley left school people asked him with that sort of curiosity your folks friends have when they came round your house for canapes and cocktails and a swim and you were just hanging about, they would say, “So Stanley what’re you up to these days having left school.” Stanley would reply that he was a freelance entrepreneur. So they would ask what that meant. So Stanley replied, “Making money Mr Davidson. Just making money.” Then he would walk away.

Making money like the time he was a tree surgeon for a few days and cut down this big old tree in someone's back garden. When everyone just saw logs and a pile of sawdust and a load of sweaty work Stanley undercut the market and people thought he was crazy doing the job on the cheap. He had said to Mr Burnham whose place it was, he had said, “Hi Mr Burnham I hear you want your tree cut down and that it’s going to be expensive. I’ll cut it down for you and all I’ll want is the timber. I’ve got the men and chainsaws to do it and will have it down, root out and cleared away in three days. What d’you think?” And Mr Burnham thought it was too good to be true but was sucked in by saving a fortune so he had said, “Okay do it.” So Stanley cut it down, in long sections and hauled them to a furniture maker who made over one thousand dining tables with wafer thin walnut veneer and Stanley did not have to work again all year.

And then there was the time he was a cheap demolition expert who saw a pile of oversized bricks of a particular colour where everyone else saw a pile of rubble and dust filled lungs and Stanley watched as a builder rebuilding the frost damaged wall of a grade one listed building with salvaged oversized bricks of a particular colour that were the only ones he was allowed to use. Stanley had time to watch and helped lay the bricks a bit for no charge he was so flush.

That’s how he made a living, staying just inside the law and maybe occasionally stretching the legal limits to breaking point, until his Dad died and left him enough so he could retire. That was about the same time as he lost Joan.


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Chapter 1

Chapter 3

Chapter 4