Derek And Clive Go Clubbing

Novak and Goode, Going Postal
Derek, Clive and Jules got to the club on time, it was on the upper floor of the pub.
The Union Tavern, King’s Cross Road ,
Mike Quinn
Licence CC BY-SA 2.0

In 1982 Clive left a small Welsh town for London to start his degree course, he had outgrown the town where he had lived all his life and was a couple of years older than the average student; with his beard and build, he looked more like a CID Copper than a student. He spent his teenage years honing his martial arts skills and winning championships and had joined the TA and enjoyed it greatly. His father was ex-forces; during WW2 he trained Commandos in unarmed combat at a training school in Scotland and passed many of his skills onto Clive. In the martial arts world Clive developed a reputation for not feeling pain, give him your best shot even kick him in the bollocks and he would just grin and advance towards you with intent.

Like Clive, Derek was a couple of years older than most of the other students. He had undertaken a variety of jobs but had also outgrown the West Country town where he lived. Neither of them could stand the majority of their student compatriots who were naïve, gullible and foolish. Both had acquired life experience the younger students did not possess. Derek and Clive had each opted to live in halls as this kept the diversity and vibrancy of North London outside but had the downside of exposing them 24 hours a day to wanky students with a shallow range of interests such as spending most of their time discussing the pop charts; trying to be trendier than their compatriots or gossiping about who was snogging who.

Derek and Clive became acquainted one evening in the campus refectory. One of the students had taken to wearing a trilby hat and wore it all the time and everywhere. Derek and Clive were sat at adjacent tables and upon seeing the trilby Clive exclaimed out loud, “What a fucking twat”. Derek started to laugh and the pair became friends. Following this they spent time exploring London and even took a day trip to France as Clive had never been abroad. Derek suggested they go to Calais on the hovercraft as BR sold through tickets. Two days before they travelled, they went to buy tickets at the station and the bloke in the ticket office asked if they had passports, they had not considered this but the clerk told them it was not a problem, the Post Office would sell a British Visitor’s Passport for 50p providing they had suitable ID and a photo.

Derek was in his room the following week when there was a knock on the door, it was Jules, a girl he fancied. Jules was very trendy and had seen a card on the student union notice board seeking staff for a nightclub, “Let’s call the number” she gushed; she telephoned and they were told to attend a pub a few miles away that afternoon. At the pub they met a middle-aged chap called Larry who after a perfunctory interview told them they were both hired as cashiers (it later turned out no one else telephoned as Jules had pocketed the postcard). The job was a night a week each and they could agree which night between them, this suited Jules as she loved going to parties; it also suited Larry as one could cover for the other if sick and at £25 a night it was a big boost to their grants. “Come in on Friday at 8.45pm for training,” Larry said. As they were leaving he asked if they knew anyone wanting door work, Derek said he might and Larry said get him down on Friday for a trial, the money is the same.

Derek, Clive and Jules got to the club on time, it was on the upper floor of the pub used for the interview; the pub was a large 1920s building close to a Tube and on a night bus route. The club had once been a function room but all the windows had been boarded with ply and the whole place painted black. There was a dance floor with a small seating area, a cloakroom, a DJ Cabin, to the right of the bar some toilets; a glitter ball and flashing lights linked to the sound system completed the ensemble, a large wide staircase led to the foyer. A couple of closed rooms were used for pumping beer and general storage, one room led to the external fire escape but these doors were always locked. Downstairs there was a foyer with another cabin inside the foyer containing an old NCR mechanical cash register; Larry was in the foyer. He told Clive to go and say hello to the door staff whilst he “trained” the others on the till. Derek had some experience of this type of machine as he had worked in a bar. Derek noticed that something like a screwdriver had been pushed into the transaction counter mechanism, as a result the counter did not register each transaction. It was £4 for regular punters, £3 for students, they both practiced ringing in multiple amounts and Larry declared they were good to go, however he warned on no account were they to tell anyone who asked how many punters were in.

Once Larry had gone upstairs the door staff came over and introduced themselves. Tommy was an Afro Caribbean who was gently spoken the other two were called Bill and Willy. Bill was in his late 40s and very tall but slim and quiet, Willy was smartly dressed, drove an open top sports car, wore a blazer but was very mouthy, all had connections with various martial arts clubs and lived in Woodford. Their martial arts commitments meant none of them held regular jobs; they did door work as it allowed them time to train. The doors opened at 9pm and it was very straight forward. Tommy explained there would be no trouble as they did not let trouble in, anyone who was pissed up or drugged up was turned away or thrown out. It’s always better to keep the trouble outside the door explained Tom. Derek learned that from time to time he might meet Pat who covered if one the boys was busy elsewhere. Only 4 punters were allowed into the lobby at a time and the next group of 4 only admitted when the lobby had emptied. Anyone who was wearing sports gear or who seemed undesirable did not even get into the lobby.

At the end of the evening, Larry appeared and gave Derek a canvas bag, “Put the moolah in there and bring it up,” he said. Jules and Derek followed Larry to his office, “How many were in?” asked Larry, Derek had a rough idea but said, “No idea boss”, Larry beamed saying, “And that is the right answer, here’s your money,” handing over two small brown paper pay packets. “There’s £12.50 in each as you shared the evening and were on trial, I am not paying for two understand?” Jules quickly said, “You told us it was £25,” Larry responded, “Listen love it was a trial, if you don’t like don’t come back, you will get £25 next week if you come in.” Derek and Jules looked at each other. It had not been difficult work and both said they would be back and went to wait for Clive. Larry pulled the same stunt on Clive, “Look it’s a trial, come back next week and its £25,” he said with the door staff standing beside him, Clive was furious but said nothing. On the way home the 3 agreed that Larry was a twat.

Over the next few weeks, they settled in, Derek started to understand the set up and how it operated. Jules wasn’t interested, she was far more concerned about telling her friends she worked at a nightclub; Larry asked her if she knew anyone who wanted to be a cloakroom attendant and she suggested he see two 1st year students who modelled themselves on Jimmy Somerville; Larry gave them both a “trial “and offered the job to the fatter, more camp one but they asked Larry if they could work together splitting the money, Larry didn’t mind as he would only pay half if one turned up and it gave him cover if needed.

Derek watched everything and discovered there was an agreement between Larry and the landlord; the landlord got a % of the door take and Larry got a cut of the bar take, this explained the secrecy around punter numbers. The bar take was calculated by a till total printout but punter numbers were whatever Larry claimed as the till counter at the entrance was kaput. As far as the brewery were concerned the function room was unusable as it breached fire regulations. To keep the books straight the landlord sent the head barman from upstairs to the cash and carry every week to buy the cheapest available keg beers. The club only sold draught bitter and lager, there were a few bottled beers and of course spirits, mixers and wine but nothing was what it seemed and it was all served in crushable plastic “glasses”. Despite a Stella pump being visible, it dispensed whatever lager had been on special offer at the cash and carry. It was the same story for the spirits despite the branded bottles the liquor inside was the cheapest available. The upstairs head barman was a small ginger Irishman, about 5 foot 3 tall who claimed his name was Fergus; he managed a team of equally height diminished Irishmen all of whom seemed to be named Declan or Rory. They never worked in the pub downstairs; Derek assumed they were all signing on; the club staff referred to them collectively as the Diddymen.

The door staff became friendlier as the weeks went by, the hardest one to deal with was Willy; he was mouthy, quick to temper and very “touchy” with the women. It was clear the others tolerated him but Tommy quietly told Derek that if Willy started on him the best thing to do was to say, “Fuck off Willy”. Derek wasn’t sure if he was being set up for a thumping but one evening when it got quiet Willy started, “Oi Derek, are you an Iron?” Derek has no idea what Willy was on about, “You must be an Iron then.” Willy giggled seeking approval from the others, as directed Derek turned to face him and said firmly, “Fuck off Willy”. Willy smirked and went upstairs, Tommy assured Derek he would hear no more from Willy, it was just that he liked to see how far he could push people. It didn’t work so well for Jules; Derek was awoken one Friday night at 3am to find her in tears at his door. Willy had gone on all night about the need for her to “get her tits out”, she tried to ignore him but Willy became more persistent, it culminated in him trying to pull her top up; that was it, she had enough. Next week Derek went in and told Larry Jules was not coming back and he would cover her shift, Larry agreed; the extra money meant the club paid Derek more in a year for 10 hours work a week than his annual grant.

The club became more and more popular and a couple of Larry’s friends started to attend on a regular basis. One was Benny, he drove an old Bentley, the other a slight man called Solly. They breezed in and out as they pleased and never paid, Benny was always rude to the staff and would push past queuing punters. Typically, they would arrive 45 minutes before closing and conduct a “Womble” around the club looking for girls who were a “little worse for wear” but who might be convinced to take a ride in Benny’s Bentley to one of his many rental properties in Golders Green for some “fun”. Benny wore a Kippah enhanced with silver braid. Their wombling activities were rarely successful, however, Derek did see once Benny heading out the door with a regular known to the staff as ‘Rabbit Woman’. RW was in her late 20s and always wore a short rabbit skin jacket; when she took it off one could see weeping sores on her arms; Derek did not know if she was a druggie or just diseased. Invariably she would be on her own a few minutes before the club closed and Benny had swooped and taken her out. The club shut and Derek and Clive headed for the bus stop, as they walked, they noticed Benny’s Bentley parked in the alley beside the pub and saw what appeared to be a flickering light inside the car. Clive went over to investigate; the light was in fact a reflection from the street lamp bouncing off Benny’s silver braid embroidered kippah as he gave Rabbit Woman what she later claimed was “a very small portion” on the back seat of his Bentley.

Occasionally Solly would talk with Derek, Solly had known Larry for years and Derek learnt that Larry had “enterprises” across the Finchley/Golders Green area; all were “cash businesses” (no debit cards in the early 1980s) such as launderettes, bedsits and even a used car lot. The club continued to thrive and over time various celebrities came in, Suggs from Madness, Kate from Haysi Fantayzee, Annie Lennox, Boy George, Billy Idol and George Michael to name but a few. The music was a modern mix of Bauhaus, Killing Joke, Bowie, The Clash, The Cure, Wham. Culture Club, Eurythmics and so on, all selected and played by a very thick but fashionable DJ.

It was the same with the clientele, a group of “regulars” soon became visible and they liked to be recognised and welcomed by the staff. Derek got to know several of them by name. One of the strangest was a “South Asian Gentleman” who would always arrive in the last hour dressed as a cowboy in a checked shirt, waistcoat, jeans, leather chaps, cowboy boots and a gun belt containing two cap guns. He said he was “Billy the Kid” and asked the staff to call him Billy. He was always sober and never bought a drink but would, like Benny the Bentley, seek out girls who looked to be worse for wear. On a few occasions female punters complained he was being too free with his hands and the door staff would take him to one side and tell him to “wind his neck in”. There was another time when Derek saw him dragging a fairly drunk and reluctant young girl by her wrist towards the exit, the door staff saw the situation and told Billy to leave the girl and get out, he tried to argue but was pushed into the street. A few weeks later he came back and was contrite but there was something about him that was not right.

During the coming months, Larry started to take Derek into his confidence; once he realised Derek was honest and not trying to screw him over, he reduced his attendance at the club and made Derek the manager. Typically, Larry would arrive in the last hour just to collect the take and the count, being manager meant Derek made up the pay packets for the others and handled the float left in the office.

Larry would sometimes give Derek a lift back to halls and would boast on the way about the “schmucks” he had turned over that week, there was a common thread to all of Larry’s business transactions; once the schmuck had handed over their money to Larry, they were to never see it again no matter what happened. It soon became clear that the pub landlord was being “legged over” by Larry who always undercounted the door. Derek never established the fire regulation limit for punters in the club but doubted the function room had ever been approved for more than 200/220 but 300 – 350 punters a night was now commonplace. Given the club was dark and punters came and went as the night went on and others went to “get their mates” only Derek had an idea of the true number of punters. Larry drove a newish Triumph Stag, given he was too tight to part with money he had never had it serviced and like most Stags it would soon start to overheat. Derek had once had a summer job at a garage and understood the consequences and one night the Stag boiled. Derek explained to Larry he would need a new head gasket and was surprised to find out how little Larry knew about cars even though he had a car lot. When Larry asked if could fix it Derek said yes but when Larry offered him £20, he quickly lost interest.

Derek never had any liking for Larry and the more he found out about him the more his contempt for Larry grew. It was clear that Benny and Solly looked up to Larry and regarded him as an exemplar, although most people who met Larry regarded him as a somewhat seedy loser. If any punter asked Larry his name he would say, “Gary Moore, maybe you have heard of me?” Derek never forgot the time he went upstairs with the takings and knocked on the office door and entered (the noise from the music meant a “come in” was inaudible) only to find Larry giving Rabbit Woman a “portion” on his desk. Derek put the takings onto the desk and quickly exited downstairs.

One Friday Derek went into work and went to the office to get the float; he knocked once and opened the office door only to be confronted by a young girl who looked to be barely 16. “You must be Derek,” she said, and went onto explain (with a level of assuredness that much belied her age) that she was Larry’s girlfriend but Derek could call her Jenny. She said she was living with Larry and his mother as her parents kicked her out when they found out she was seeing a man who was nearly three times her age. She passed over the float bag and said with a wry smile, “Larry has asked me to keep a close eye on you.” Over the next few weeks, Jenny dropped some of her “front” and became less authorative; Derek recognised she was not very bright and Jenny confirmed she had more or less left school at 14, her 16th birthday had been just a few weeks ago. She did not see the need for qualifications when there were men with money like Larry around.

The following week Derek went in on Friday and headed to the office to get the float. He knocked once and went in; Jenny was sat at the desk with her head in her hands sobbing quietly. As she looked up Derek could see she had one hell of a black eye, “What happened?” he asked. Jenny explained that Larry had asked for a fried egg for breakfast, she had cooked one but apparently had not cooked it as Larry liked so he punched her in the face. She was in tears, she didn’t want to go back with Larry that night but had no other choices, would Derek consider, “Taking her back to his place?” she asked, slowly unbuttoning her blouse? Straightaway Derek could see this had the possibility to end badly for his job at the club; now Jenny was good-looking and could be persuasive but Derek could see that her lack of an intellect and the fact she was jailbait were all problems. Derek mumbled, “I will think about it,” and went downstairs to let the punters in. The club closed and Derek took the takings upstairs, Larry was in the office with Jenny. Larry was trying to be cordial with Derek but it did not cut much ice, “I don’t know what she has told you but she got pissed up and fell over, isn’t that right?” Jenny said nothing; Larry scooped up the take and said he would leave in a couple of minutes; he double checked the pay-packets Derek had prepared and said, “OK, give them out.” Derek had only just given the last one to Clive when Larry and Jenny came down the stairs and headed out of the door, as she passed Derek, he heard her say, “Oh well, see you then.” Derek never saw her again.

The next Friday Derek went into work, he was greeted by Solly who explained Larry would be “away” for a few months. On the Monday of that week Larry had been visited at the car lot by two of Jenny’s “uncles” who proceeded to work both him and his beloved Triumph Stag over with a pickaxe handle. Larry was in hospital, he had two broken arms, a broken leg, a smashed kneecap and some ribs; the Stag had been trashed, Solly explained, from now on he would arrive just before closing collect the door take and count each night and deliver them to Larry. Derek asked how long this arrangement would last, Solly replied he was unsure but said, “You know it will be at least 8 weeks before Larry can even wipe his own arse,” and laughed heartily.

It was nearly 4 months before Larry reappeared at the club, he had lost a fair bit of weight and limped. It was now a frequent occurrence that Larry and the landlord would have a bitter row about door numbers, the landlord wanted to put one of the Diddymen in the lobby to count punters but Larry was having none of it. However, the club had done consistently well in his absence and it took Larry a week or two of comments from punters saying the club “was even busier than this last month” and similar for him to realise that Solly had been skimming the numbers and door take before seeing him; in turn Larry had further skimmed the take and numbers before settling with the landlord; the discrepancies were becoming too large to hide because of the double skim. Also, the “numbers” being reported to the landlord had inexplicably jumped upwards upon Larry’s return as Solly had stopped his initial skim yet to the eye the club did not look busier. Derek carried on as usual but increasingly the landlord would try to station a Diddyman at the top of the stairs. After a couple of months, it came to a head, there had been a very busy night, when he printed the bar take off the till the landlord realised there was no way the 211 punters reported by Larry could have drunk the amount sold at the bar and still be standing, the Diddyman had also reported at least 320 punters were in but could not be any more precise. There was a final shouting match between Larry and the landlord and the doors of the club closed seemingly for the last time.

A couple of weeks later Larry appeared in the campus refectory looking for Derek; the club was to reopen and Larry had a new location, he asked Derek to return as manager. The new location was far from perfect it was a good bus ride to the nearest Tube and a march through a rough area to the nearest bus stop. It was a much more modern pub with an upstairs function room that served as the club and looked well, like a 1970s function room. It had little atmosphere, there were several large windows which could not be covered. In short, it felt most unlike a club and more like a pub disco, also there was no cloakroom, the Bronski Beat Boys attended once or twice and Derek saw that on one occasion they were deep in conversation with Solly who had turned up with Benny in his Bentley.

The new club was much better lit than the old one, it was far easier for the bar staff to accurately count the clientele. After a few weeks Larry was back at his old trick of trying to skim the door take but much lower numbers of punters meant there were frequent rows with the new landlord. After some 10 weeks that was it; dwindling numbers and mistrust meant that Larry was kicked out and the club closed for good; it seemed that was to be the end but there was to be a further twist in the history of the club.

Two weeks later Derek was sat in the refectory eating lunch when the Bronski Beat boys sidled over. The fatter one explained haughtily to Derek that the club was reopening at the original location and that he was the manager now, Solly had persuaded the landlord to reopen and agreed he would even let one of the Diddymen sit in the alcove at the lobby to count numbers. Bronski Boy explained that to show there are no bad feelings, Derek could be their guest at the reopening; “It’s a special private party with a free bar for the first two hours, we are going to get back on the map,” he minced. More out of curiosity than interest Derek accepted the invitation. He arrived at 9pm, 30 minutes after the party had started, Pat was on the door, he warmly greeted Derek but held a finger to his lips and gestured towards the alcove, there, practically out of sight sat a Diddyman, “Go upstairs,” he said quietly, “I will follow you up.” As Derek started up the stairs, he heard Pat say to the Diddyman, “Just going to the bog boss, can you watch the door, here’s the guest list.” Given it was free entry all the Diddyman had to do was see an invitation or check the list, the chances of trouble were low after all it was a private “family” 21st birthday party.

At the top of the stairs Pat was quick to say, “I don’t like the look of this one, take a look around”; Derek studied the crowd they were far from the usual clientele, many were wearing white and blue football tops which was always a reason for non-admittance. Worse than that many were drinking directly from bottles which again was forbidden, punters always got their drinks served in a shitty plastic cup. Pat was angry, “There are only 3 of us on and those pricks think they are being clever, there’s nearly 400 on the list.” The door to the cloakroom cabin opened and the fatter of the Bronski Beat Boys gestured to Derek to come in; “Don’t side with them,” he said snootily, “I heard what he was saying”. Derek replied, “I think he has a point, what’s with the bottles?” Bronski Boy replied, “Durrr, it’s a free bar,” it appeared the family who booked the bar had been quite specific as to what would be served at the free bar and in order to avoid outrageous amounts of spirits being drunk at their expense, it was to be light ale, cheap lager or bitter (one bottle at a time) or even cheaper white wine. Cockneys love light ale and it is nearly always in a half pint bottle. The idea was at the end of the night the empty bottles would be counted (plus a % for lost and smashed) and a bill presented for the “free” bar. Fergus bought the cheapest brands he could find at the cash and carry and the Diddymen had started out using single use pint plastic glasses, one per bottle was issued but the rate of consumption and guest numbers meant the stock of “glasses” was soon exhausted.

Derek went out of the cabin to talk with Tom and Willy. They were unhappy, they asked Derek to call Bill and Clive to come in. Derek went back to the cabin and noticed that by now small knots of guests had started to form, they were holding bottles aloft and were chanting, “Yiddo, Yiddo”. Derek now realised that the club was full of punters for whom a massive ruck was the perfect end to a night. Back in the cloakroom cabin, the Bronski Beat Boys were dismissive, “We are the management now,” they chorused, they refused point blank to bolster the door. Derek went back to the top of the stairs where the landlord was shouting at Pat, “There are 400 of these fuckers on the list, just how many are in?” Having seen the door list, the Diddyman had obviously panicked and reported in; Pat had to admit he did not know how many but the club was rammed. Over the next 60 minutes as the deadline for the end of the free bar approached; the consumption of free bottles was becoming frenzied, punters were trying to stock up with free bottles before the hammer fell and they would have to pay for drinks, there was more and more shouting and abuse aimed at the Diddymen and the evening became more and more fractious.

It was then it started, from the side of the club facing the bar there was a cry of “Yid Armeee, Yid Armeee” and a torrent of bottles descended onto the bar. As soon as the stock of throwable bottles was exhausted the Yiddos stormed the bar, within seconds every Diddyman had produced a half pool cue, a rounders bat or similar and were fighting for their lives and the integrity of the bar space, it was like the last stand at Isandlwana. On the opposite side of the club adjacent to the cloakroom cabin about 20 members of the firm had trapped Pat, Tom and Willy, shoulder to shoulder in a corner, firstly they had been pelted by a barrage of bottles and then the firm had moved in. The floor in front of them was a sea of glass, lying atop of this were 4 members of the firm who had tried to ruck but had been put onto the floor. Some were still, others were groaning and barely moving. Behind them about 20 members of the firm were shouting and gesturing for Pat, Willy and Tommy to come forward, Derek has seen enough and as the Bronski Boys tried to squeeze into an impossibly small cabinet under the cloakroom counter, he exited the cloakroom, turned left and was immediately on the stairs to the main entrance.

As he descended, he passed the landlord and a posse of bar staff, running up the stairs; like the Diddymen they all carried short wooden weapons. Derek had barely reached the bus stop some 50 yards away before the first plod van screeched to a halt outside the club main entrance. Derek then observed 15 SPG in crash helmets carrying small shields and batons swarm into the main door. In the distance he could hear the blaring siren of an approaching second van, just then the bus pulled in and Derek jumped on, within seconds he was on his way home. Clive had always told him that public transport in London was a good way to escape from an “incident”, at the time there was no CCTV on buses and little if any on the Tube, whereas a car description can always be circulated.

The following Monday, Derek was sitting in the campus refectory taking lunch when the Bronski Beat Boys appeared, to Derek’s eye they were somewhat dishevelled and looked terrified, it turned out that they had spent the weekend in the nick, they made a direct line to Derek. Once they sat down it was clear they were very frightened, “You must help us,” they squealed. “Tell me what happened,” asked Derek. Once the SPG arrived, the Yid Army had turned their attention solely onto the police and a terrific battle ensured leading to ambulances being required along with extra plod vans to cart away those arrested. The plod had found the Bronski Beat Boys in the cupboard under the cloakroom counter and after the fatter one admitted to being the “club manager” had nicked them. They were separated at the nick and questioned although it had not been a fruitful exercise. The plod realised they had only caught the “small fry” but wanted information about the “controlling mind” behind the club. The landlord had squirmed out of it by saying it was a private booking taken by the club owner and nothing to do with him and he could add no more so the spotlight had fallen fully upon the Bronski Beat Boys.

It turned out the potential charge sheet was huge, running an unlicenced nightclub, overcrowding, breach of fire regulations, failure to provide adequate security etc. Derek had no idea how many of the “charges” were real or enforceable but the experience had certainly taken its toll on the Bronski Beat Boys. They explained their only means of contacting Solly was by telephone, they had a number they had to call every Thursday at 6pm to get their instructions for the week; they were told to keep calling until they got through. Plod told them the number was a public telephone box in North Finchley. The Bronski Beat Boys had no idea about Solly; his address, or surname, please, please would Derek help them? It was at that point Derek retired from the nightclub business and moved out of halls.

A few weeks later Larry strolled into the campus refectory, where he found Clive eating a sandwich, he asked Clive to come outside for a chat. Later when Clive saw Derek, he told him about the meeting, in short Larry had offered him a day’s close protection work and said that he would be very well paid, Larry had asked if he could come “tooled up” but seemed let down when Clive said he didn’t have a shooter. Clive did not feel it was important to mention to Larry that he had moved out of the campus some weeks before and was now living in Waltham Cross with a girl called Jo.

Clive met Larry at Finchley Tube at 10.30 and found out that the close protection work involved building societies. As they drove through Finchley to Mill Hill and then onto points south in a Cortina from the car lot, Larry explained that the Revenue were circling and they had been sniffing around all his enterprises and that he had put them all into his elderly mother’s name; tomorrow he was going to Texas to join a newly found girlfriend; however today they were going to empty all his building society accounts.

At the first society, Clive heard Larry telling the cashiers, “Used 10s and 20s only.” Once it was counted and handed over Larry carefully put the bundles into a brown leather briefcase. This mantra and exercise were repeated 5 more times at different societies across North London. It seemed in each case Larry had telephoned a couple of days before to make sure they had enough cash to cover the account closures. After the sixth society Larry said he would run Clive to the Tube. The work had taken most of the day and as usual Larry had not offered to stop and put his hand in his pocket for even a cup of tea or a sandwich.

The car pulled into a parking bay outside the Tube, Larry reached into his jacket and waved a single banknote at Clive, who grimaced and hit Larry on the side of his head with an open palm jab. With a satisfying smack Larry’s head bounced of the window of the driver’s side door and he slumped stunned over the steering wheel. As he fell forwards his foot slipped off the clutch and the car, which was in gear, lurched forwards into the kerb and stalled. Within seconds Clive had retrieved the briefcase from the rear seat and was out the car. One or two passers-by had stopped and were looking over, “I think he is having a heart attack,” Clive ordered, “stay here I will call an ambulance.” Within 15 seconds he was on his way down the stairs into the Tube station ticket hall, in another 45 seconds he was at the bottom of the escalator leading to the platforms; within another minute or so was looking at the headlights of an approaching train.

Twenty minutes later Derek answered the door to find Clive holding a briefcase, “I need the bog,” said Clive, “Do you have a small pair of scissors? Hold onto this and don’t open it,” he commanded thrusting the briefcase at Derek; taking a proffered pair of nail scissors he disappeared into the bathroom. Fifteen minutes later he emerged, his beard and moustache were gone, “Sorry about your razor but I needed it.” Clive then sat down and described what the “close protection” work had entailed. “I had been thinking of lumping him more and more as the day went on,” he said, “but when we pulled up at the Tube and he waved a score at me I just twatted him, here give me a hand,” Clive asked, opening the briefcase and tipping the contents onto the coffee table. It took them about 15 minutes to each count the money, most of it was in £500 banded bundles with nearly another grand in loose notes and some coins, in total it was the thick end of forty-two grand. There were also half a dozen building society books all marked cancelled, and showing a zero balance, not all were in Larry’s name, but in those days minimal ID was needed to open a building society account.

“Do you have a sports bag or holdall?” asked Clive, Derek went to his room and returned with a black carryall, “Thanks, can you get me a brick from the garden I will drop the briefcase into the waterway on my way to the Tube.” He then headed into the garden and burnt all the society books, once they had turned to ash, he swept the remains into a dustpan and threw the contents up into the air where they dissipated on the breeze. Derek sensed that Clive had a plan but asked, “What are you going to do?” As they talked, Clive said he had had enough of study and was not happy with Jo; he was not going back to Waltham Cross; “Which station is it for the South Coast, do they still do those 50p passports?” he asked with a grin. Derek said I guess, if you go to Victoria or Waterloo, you will get there. Clive stood up, shook Derek’s hand and said, “It’s been a jolly jape,” turned, headed for the door and was gone. Derek never saw Clive again. Over the following few days Larry was seen in the refectory on at least two occasions with a couple of heavies asking punters for the number of Clive’s room in halls but no one could help him.

A few weeks later Derek was having some lunch in the refectory when Jo came in, she saw Derek and made a beeline for his table, “Do you know where Clive is?” she asked. Derek said he had not seen him for quite some weeks, all Jo could tell Derek was that Clive did not come home after going to work and that a few days later she received a letter containing £500 in used £10s and £20s, the letter had a Folkestone postmark and said little other than that it was over and the money was to cover his share of the rent and bills until she found someone else to share the house. Derek noted that she did not seem that upset at all but seemed actually rather relieved it was over, as was he.


Postscript: Derek lived in London for a few more years he eventually moved away, he had a good job and travelled the country. In the early 2000s he was on a train to London flicking through the pages of a discarded tabloid newspaper; inside was a half-page story about the conviction of a prolific sex attacker/rapist who had assaulted women in North London whilst wearing a cowboy outfit, the accompanying photograph was of Billy the Kid. Derek wondered how had it taken the Met’s finest more than 15 years to capture someone so distinctive.

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