art by Unitas Quick
“Superman don’t need no seat belt.” – Muhammad Ali
Bessie had been keeping a low profile ever since the snatch at Goldman’s jewellers in Hatton Garden, but he knew it was Tony’s birthday tonight and felt like getting loaded. He was relieved that among the usual stash of diamonds, gold designer watches and other trinkets he had found the piece of paper he was looking for with the small rectangular-shaped key, the top of which was embedded with tiny emeralds and rubies.
He stared at it quizzically, then carefully wrapped it up in tissue and folded it away. The paper with the key felt old and worn. He reflected over its contents and made a mental note to himself to show it to his friend Deepak. If he couldn’t decipher it, he would take it to his Sikh friend Manju at his local curry house. No need to let on he had it just yet; everything in its own time.
For now, he would have it “large” and celebrate Tony’s birthday in style. First, though, he thought about banging some “sort” at his local strip club just off Tottenham Court Road. He was a regular at Spearmint Rhino. Although this wasn’t a typical British lap dancing club, he enjoyed it anyway. Smiling to himself, he liked to think of it as the “McDonald’s” of Table Dancing—fresh, healthy produce always competitively priced with guaranteed satisfaction. The club was close to Oxford Circus and boasted an exotic variety of international beauties. It had warm, sepia-toned lighting, a leopard print carpet, flashtrash mirrored walls, and a filtered down private vibe.
Outside, the resident bouncers were beefed-up, bald and bolshie. They let Bessie through without paying as he was a regular. Once inside, he recognized the sexy beat of Prince’s “You Got the Look.” There was a floor show on.
He saw his favourite dancer sliding her legs up and down a long, silver-coloured pole. He would ask her for a private dance later. To the right of him at the far end of the club was Leroy the black D. J. He wore his hair braided a la Terence Trent D’arby. He waved and smiled at Bessie as he got closer to the bar. Behind him were a mixture of suits and wide boys wearing Ben Sherman and T. M. Lewin shirts, cheap brands for an easy night out getting pissed. Some women were sitting close to the action right in front of the stage. They had “tango” tans and big boobs. They were laughing loudly, making rude noises. Most of them dressed in Karen Millen or Morgan.
They all had blonde highlights and fake Louis Vuitton purses. They were tipsy now and gradually getting drunker as the evening wore on. A couple of guys sat directly opposite him and in front of them were two dancers provocatively peeling their clothes off to a new, slow-beat dance track, their silicone breasts and long, silky hair creating playful shadows on the softly lit walls.
Alex, the club manager, told him there was a launch party in Shepherds Market Mayfair to find Britain’s Best Nude Dancer. Bessie liked the sound of that and decided to check it out after a private dance with Amazon. He called T from the men’s bathroom to check on his whereabouts. He found him in high spirits. He was obviously tanked up, having started the day on Sol and Corona then, advancing to Cristal, Tequila Shots, Vodka and Mojitos. There was even talk of some of the crowd doing Absinthe.
Ten o’clock the next morning, Bessie was stretched out on a king-size bed. He reached over for Amazon’s warm-body and found her lying naked beside him. A newspaper had been slipped under their room door. Britain’s Best Nude was in all of the press and on television. Bessie tried to think back.
He vaguely recalled a highly respected MP getting frisky with one of the contestants in the show, but everything was a blur. The pictures in the tabloids were of two European socialites tonguing one another and giving each other blow back. Now there was a scandal and allegations of a drug-fuelled orgy to contend with. News hounds, all they ever wanted to do was squeeze the sleaze. He woke Amazon. They showered together. The water was soft and warm, bouncing in long splashes across her swollen nipples. Turned on, he leant down to fuck her, his mouth closing in around her huge bosoms, pink from the heat of the water. Silicone humping gave Bessie such a rush.
Later that morning, they enjoyed a light breakfast of coffee, fried eggs, toast, and fresh juice. Then they left Berner Street and the cosy confines of their luxury hotel and went their separate ways.
When he got home in the early hours of the morning, Scoot was careful to tiptoe up the old wooden stairs, but each one was creaking loudly, cutting the early dawn stillness with an ugly squeak. Suddenly, out from nowhere came the soft pitter patter of tiny feet.
“Oh, my boy’s home. Thank God he’s safe. Hello, hello, my bushka. Are you all right? Do you want some food?” Caught in her maternal grasp, Scoot enjoyed all the fuss and bother as Mrs. Calibresi clucked around him, making him comfortable and safe.
“My sweet, precious bambino.” Now he would get to eat some of mama’s finest homemade fare. She busied herself in the kitchen fetching and carrying big bowls of hot spaghetti and heaps of freshly warmed bread topped with lashings of garlic butter. It was around 6:00 a.m. on a Friday morning, but nothing was too much trouble for her dear boy. She was just so glad to see him, thanking God that he was alive and in one piece. Playfully she tugged at his hair and pulled his cheek.
He was relieved that his friend’s associates and “blood brothers” of the street were not there to witness this avalanche of affection. Scoot’s parents lived in South East London, Dulwich, to be precise. It had a quaint village type of atmosphere but was not too far away from Central London and in easy access of Mrs. Calibresi’s former workplace.
She used to be a Company Director but had lost the business and all of her clients when she had taken a gamble on her shares and the market had plummeted. Paper losses were in the millions and she was now facing bankruptcy and high stakes litigation on several fronts. She still however, had assets to save that had tangible value and she was not afraid to fight. Today was court day for Scoot’s mother; that’s why she had been up so early, pacing around, trying to work stuff out. It was partly the reason why he had gone to see her; he wanted to show his support for her even though he wasn’t going to make it to court.
Mrs. Calibresi had successfully postponed this hearing no less than ten times but now she would have to face it. She was also representing herself, having dispensed with her legal team who she felt were just feasting on her misery like overfed cockroaches. They were too expensive, clocking pounds and sense by the hour, more concerned about paperwork and procedure rather than actually winning.
Her stomach was churning slowly inside her, like the cogs of an old fashioned windmill, slow grinding movements that bruised her intestines and made her slightly short of breath. Frozen in time, her thoughts now lay scattered through her brain: an incoherent maze of disconnected facts, legal decisions, and distorted confusion. She walked with a defiant pride and fragile vulnerability. On the surface, her cool aloofness belied the sickening anxiety in her irritated bowel.
Waiting outside the entrance to the court were an assembled team of busy bodies. All were wearing the nondescript colours of navy blue or black, the sobriety of their attire souring the already austere atmosphere that clung to the building in muted tones of conservative gloom. This was a court of law and the bleakness of it a cutting reminder to all who visited there that they did so at their own peril. The opposition had gathered in a small, tight huddle at the far end of the room.
One man stood out from the throng. Dressed in a cheap pin stripe suit, he resembled a nobody man trying hard to be a somebody. He was openly smug and looked like a gerbil on heat. His hair was close shorn and he had pockets of fat around his midriff and his arms. He was a useless fuck and spent most of his nights alone, downloading Russian Porn and watching “slasher” movies. Scoot’s mother wondered how he had ever become a lawyer and remained convinced he was nothing more than a legal clerk, possibly a legal “assistant”; he was a definite non-entity.
Of course she was right, the cheap suit; the unsavoury arrogance, and the bullish hostility were all give-aways. They showed a flawed and broken character; seething with class issues, petty jealousies, and a virulent, almost “biblical” dislike of minorities. She knew she would have a tough time appealing to his sense of “fair play” and “justice.”
He was probably a paid up member of the BNP. He loathed the fact that she was representing herself and it annoyed him that she had the cojones to do so. He was the kind of person who used racist slang in private and didn’t have the balls to repeat it in public. He would try to win the argument with swathes of legal papers, a document war, which was almost entirely technical. She would have to develop a more textured response and explain why her papers were so thin on the ground.
“Can you tell me why we need to go through this section of the matter when it appears you have now abandoned your application, Mr. Bonnet?” asked the judge, with a steely look on his face. He did not appreciate having his time wasted by irrelevant paper wars and knew that the large firm had sent a paper “Joey.” He knew that the firm had access to a troop of lawyers and pen pushers and expansive resources, and they were merely flexing their legal muscles because they knew they could. They wanted to bully and intimidate Mrs. Calibresi and take advantage of her because she was there by herself and she spoke with a pronounced Italian accent. The judge was tired of these slimy tricks in the legal arena. He waited patiently for an answer:
“Please, your Honour, we, er, have indeed abandoned that part of the claim, Sir, but we felt that you should know about it anyway, Sir.”
“Are you suggesting, Mr. Bonnet, that I don’t read all of my papers?”
“Er, no, not at all Sir,” stammered Bonnet.
The judge continued scowling as if he had taken a bite out of a very sour cherry. His thin, purple lips and hollow, creased cheeks showing a line of irritation stretching across his already furrowed brow:
“That’s enough, Mr. Bonnet. You’re wasting my time and the court’s time. I am therefore ordering a Wasted Costs Order against your firm for £2000.”
“Yes, Sir. My apologies, Sir.”
Mr. Bonnet had gone from a parading peacock bursting with false pride and tacky arrogance to a silent and servile house mouse. His big talk and self-satisfied smile diffused into regret. The Judge further allowed Mrs. Calibresi’s application to go through, which meant that she had saved her family home once again from a horde of slippery debt collectors and bailiffs.
All’s fair in love and litigation, she thought as she made her way back home.
On his way to score some gear from Tony’s, Luke remembered seeing him and some of his “associates” at a private launch party in Shepherd’s Market Mayfair. He thought of Georgia and Kamilla getting it on for the cameras and smiled to himself, thinking of how the media might react: “Posh totty tongues out,” he could see the headlines now. He also remembered how Jimmy Irish and Big Bernie kept banging on about their new health drug and how it was going to revolutionize club land. Natural Highs: all legit and ready to use. He thought he would ask T about it. Luke had a real talent for making money and was adept at get- rich-quick schemes. With trunkfull’s of easy cash courtesy of his inheritance, he was more than eager to capitalize on this new age phenomena as he had already seen the potential of nouveau “feel good” products on the Pacific Coast. When he got to the flat, he began singing “Johnny was a good boy, yeahhh,” a Marley classic.
Once inside, he found Janey and Sarah there, two highly respected television presenters with a serious coke habit. They were sitting at a large wooden table in the kitchen. With them was Christian X, a well-known Australian underwear model and former Chart Topper, now on the hunt for a solo deal and more money. They were laughing and joking about an actor friend of theirs called Rufus. Apparently, he had been “papped” the other night outside Home House “French kissing” a notorious pre-op Norwegian transsexual “Angie.”
His fiancée had seen the story and was threatening to call off their wedding. In the adjoining room, opposite sat a grim-faced Bernie seething with jealousy and envy. Why was Christian so into this Brazilian fashion designer? In his hand were a set of pictures showing Christian and the mystery guy together. He scrutinized each shot carefully: Christian and “friend” sharing lunch, Christian and “friend” frolicking around London Zoo, Christian and “friend” snogging outside Punk night club. The guy in the photos with Christian was known as Estevez, a gay fashion student from St. Martin’s College of Art who was now the darling of the fashion world and showing to all the big names, for his Final Collection.
He was tipped as a future star of the clothing industry and had already tasted success when a well-known actress had worn his designs to an awards ceremony. Bernie was physically disgusted: shot after shot of his adorable Christian playing around with this gay Casanova. Bernie had now reached boiling point. He knew that Christian was unreliable, narcissistic, and dreamy, but he thought he would at least play the game and pretend to love him. All Christian, however, wanted from Bernie was free booze, free gear, and a celebrity-fuelled lifestyle, as well as a fast track connection to a major record label. Bernie’s cousin Alex was in the music business and could make stuff happen for him if Bernie gave the all clear.
Christian could think of nothing worse than spending the rest of his days with a self-confessed depressive maniac who had a disturbing violent streak and a list of neuroses that made even Woody Allen in Manhattan look sane. Christian was biding his time, waiting for his next big break. Until then, he was content being used, as the resident porch monkey by T and the others. Bernie got up and moved slowly to the door. He decided that Christian had crossed the line. Enough was enough; he would call Dr. Johnson his “witch doctor” for a solution.
Tony stepped out of a room to the left of the flat. “Yo, Luke, how are you, man?” “Yeah, good, thanks, T,” he replied brightly. “I saw you guys down at Shepherd’s Market at the private launch party.” “Yeah, that was blindin’ man, sweet, really good, y’ar know. Was you there when they took pictures of Kamilla and Gerorgie? They were first at Café Boehme and then they were goin’ at it together, but it was the papers that made ’em do it. They were kissin’ and all sorts, the two of ’em.”
“Yeah, I don’t think Kamilla’s father will appreciate the publicity. Listen, man, I saw Bernie and Christian down there. They said something about you needing Investment Funding for that veggie cap business: Legal Highs?”
“Yeah, that’s right. Caroline’s sister works for that bank, y’ar know the one.” Tony looked around him for help with the answer of what bank it might be.
Sarah chimed in with the usual “Barclays NatWest HSBC?”
“Nah, none of those. It’s like a private bank. Anyway, she’s gonna look for funding from them.”
Luke looked politely towards T : “How much are you looking for?”
“About 350k to start with, the biggest expense is the capsule making machine.”
He called out to Bernie, who was on his mobile in the next room.
“Bernie, come here, man, get off the phone man. Luke is here and he needs figures and a bizzo plan for the veggie start up.”
Luke was clearly startled by Tony’s informed chatter. He knew that he was a smart guy; well, he must have been to have evaded police arrest for so long, but he had wrongly assumed that he was similar to most gangsters and street criminals in that he lacked real intellectual capability. He was completely unaware of the fact that T had only turned to drug dealing as a means of survival when his boxing career had nosedived and he had needed more than just government handouts to support his extended family. T’s ultimate plan was to downsize the drug business and then retire altogether. He was counting on the natural high venture as a real alternative to cocaine and cannabis.
Bernie shuffled into the room. He was dressed in an open- necked shirt and some indigo blue jeans that matched the colour of his Mohican. Luke bent down and embraced him, taking the business plan at the same time. Tony left them alone while he went to get some gear for Luke. It was time to drop some blow.
Luke sat down on an enormous, custom-made Dalmatian spotted, leather Chesterfield settee. It was positioned diagonally across from the wooden table in the kitchen and an eye-popping reminder of the vulgarities of modern excess.
Luke examined the detailed proposal carefully and took his time to weigh up the variables. Godwin was moving around with his supersized tureen of frou frou soup; wafts of fresh lime chilies and seasoned meat hung in the air.
“Hello there, Luke,” he grinned.
“Hi, Godwin, how are you keeping?” asked Luke thoughtfully. He thought Godwin was a sweet old man and felt sorry that he was forced into domestic servitude at T’s at his time in life, but Godwin liked it at T’s. He enjoyed feeling useful and liked the nightly comings and goings of all the people who visited.
“Oh, can’t complain, can’t complain. I’m going to Jamaica before Easter, y’ar know, and catch up there. Tony’s getting me an early birthday present so I gets to see some family and ting.”
“Oh, that’s good,” enthused Luke.
“You want some soup? It settles the stomach, you know.”
“No, not for me, not just yet,” replied Luke, touched by the old man’s kindness.
As he pored over the minutiae of the business plan, he noticed the sound of the television volume getting louder. Sky News was reporting that a group of pro-hunt lobbyists had just stormed parliament, brandishing banners and paint bombs. The funniest part of this extraordinary sight was that the intruders were being chased around the Member’s area by the aptly named “Sergeant in Arms” a Dickensian looking character who ordinarily, rolls around in knickerbockers and black stockings. What could be more surreal, thought Luke. Here I am at a drug dealer’s flat in the middle of London on a rainy Wednesday, watching some upper class oiks being chased around Parliament by a bloke straight out of “Barnaby Rudge.” Janey and Sarah started to laugh uncontrollably at the television screen as the Sergeant in Arms wrestled one of the protestors to the ground. It was pure pantomime.
Eventually T came back with the gear; it had been spiked with baby powder and cut for easy consumption. By this time, Luke had inwardly committed himself to a slice of the action on the veggie cap deal and told Bernie as much. He was impressed with the idea and knew it could work. He told Bernie he would have his old man draw up the papers and set up a meeting pronto.
Before he left, Tony explained that the way the pill was cultivated and harvested (in the Far East) gave it amazing medicinal as well as euphoric properties. It was a wonder drug. Luke was convinced of its marketability because it was 100% legal, easily available in Europe and America, and most important of all had no large-scale distribution network in London. Tony was the only supplier.
“It’s a good ’un, completely kosher,” chimed Bernie.
Tony went on:
“All the regulars have put in orders for the veggie caps and those that don’t do drugs, which means it covers everyone. It also comes in liquid form, tea, a balm, and as a concentrated elixir. Different potencies affect different ailments and different levels of sensation.” It’s a fucking miracle, thought Luke contentedly. He needed no further encouragement, shook hands with T, then packed up his gear and promised he’d call him later that day.
Bernie turned briskly to T.
“Once that guy’s sold the idea to his old man, we’ll have enough dosh to send someone to go get that fucking capsule maker.” T smiled, offered the girls more blow and they spliffed the day away with Janice Joplin ease.
Copyright © 2012 by Saira Viola
All rights reserved.