Payback for Noddy

Payback for Noddy

Old Kent Road

Old Kent Road

The whole thing got rolling when Jello walked into a private room upstairs in the King’s Head just off the Old Kent Road, splashed a few fingers of Lennie’s best into a tumbler, bit off the end of a pricey looking cigar and said, “Time for talkin’s over. We needs to get this show on the road. Roxy, gimme a light, huh.” He removed his sheepskin overcoat and glared at the others. “Trouble is with youse guys, youse all talk. Thanks, Roxy, youse a doll.”

Lennie discreetly moved the bottle away from the table and passed over an ashtray. “Cheez, boss, we was waitin’ for you on this one. I mean, it ain’t our usual caper. It ain’t what we’re used to.”

Jerry stood up from where he was leaning against the fridge door, “Yeah, Jello, Lennie’s right. We don’t normally do this sort of thing. It seems right queer, sort of.  And I don’t reckon Noddy would agreed to it. Ain’t the way he works things.”

The room went quiet. Jello looked across at Jerry. “Listen boyo, Noddy ain’t here. And he ain’t gonna be here for another two years. He’s away and we all knows why and we can’t do nothin’ about it. So while he’s away, I calls the shots. Me, Jello, you unnerstand. And we don’t have no arguments on this one. Out of respect for Noddy. I mean, he’s the Man. We gotta show respect. Remember, this job’s for Noddy, huh. It’s like a tribute, if you knows what I mean. A tribute to the Main Man. And payback.

“And think of Roxy, huh. Stop bringing Noddy into every sentence. Think how Roxy feels. Noddy away for so long. You think she don’t miss him? You think she don’t feel the pain? Huh?

“Enough Noddy now. Time to get busy and be busy.”

He turned to Roxy, “Hey, you okay, doll? You handlin’ this?”

She chewed her gum thoughtfully. “It’s okay, boss. I’m okay. I can do this. I can handle the bein’ apart. He’s alive. He ain’t dead. It ain’t forever.

“And it’s a bleeding miracle those doctors got him back on his feet. Got the bullets out. It was so close. I thought he was a goner. We owes ‘em somethin’ good.”

Jello puffed thoughtfully on his smoke. “Yeah, they did good. Who woulda thought it? We owes them.”

A murmur of agreement ran through the room, “Yeah, we owes them”.

“So, people, any ideas about this job. C’mon people, let’s get started,” said Jello.

“No guns,” said Lennie.

Roxy snorted. Jerry looked surprised. “Hey, Lennie. Youse gonna leave your peashooter at home. That’s a first for you. You ain’t gonna be scared?”

“Yeah, no hardware,” agreed Jello. “Not needed. We does this one without. Don’t need no guns. Leave ‘em at home, huh. Try and remember that, huh. Break your habit.”

“On Christmas day,” volunteered Roxy. “They won’t be expecting us and they’ll be short-staffed.”

“No way, boss! Christmas day! No way! I’m with Josephine! That’s one of our days together!”

“C’mon, Jerry. Christmas day is for you to be with your missus and your kids, not with bleedin’ Josephine. I mean, let’s get things right. Christmas is special, huh, for family, not for your bit on the side. Nah, but this Christmas it ain’t your wife and it ain’t Josephine unless you wants to bring one of ‘em with you. Or both, maybe. Maybe they should meet. We could all sing Jingle Bells together. Whaddaya say, huh?”

The tension in the room eased. “Yeah, yeah, okay, I guess. This time. Anyhow, it’s for Noddy ain’t it. This one’s for Noddy.”

“ Yeah, for Noddy,” echoed Jello.

“So far, Christmas day. And no guns. Getting’ weird,” said Roxy. “Travel by sleigh, will be next on the agenda.”

“Transport? I reckons we picks up some wheels from the suburbs. Get there, park all legit in the official car park. Don’t draw no attention to ourselves. All legal, like.”

“Hey, Lennie, brain cells active? What’s you been smokin’?” said Jerry.

It was Roxy again. “I’s been thinkin’ about what to wear. We has to dress down, play it cool. I mean, cheez, boss, that coat of yours, you comes across like a second class villain from a third rate television series; that just ain’t gonna work for us. So, as I says, I’s been thinkin’ about it.” She stopped chewing, for effect, “And I reckon on simple gear. Like ordinary citizens. The usual. Trainers. Track-suit bottoms. T-shirts.

“And white coats!”

The room went quiet. Jerry examined the sole of his left shoe as though something unpleasant had attached itself. Jello peered at the band on his cigar, trying to read the small print.

“More drinks, people?” asked Lennie as he pushed the bottle forward.

Jerry wandered over to gaze at the oil hanging on the far wall. Harlequin Head. “Hey, ain’t this the one that went missin’ from the Kuntshal a while back?”

“Shut your mouth,” said Lennie, cover the painting with a kitchen towel. “That’s a copy. Course it is. Got it cheap down Petticoat Lane.”

“Bloody thieves,” said Jerry.

Jello waved his hands in the air trying to disperse the thick cloud of smoke and cultural shock that was threatening to engulf them all. “White, huh? Not my colour, it ain’t. White? Huh? Huh? White coats?”

He paused, sucking in air through pursed lips. “Different. But could work. We’ll blend in. Hey, Roxy, that’s good. We’ll blend into the background. It’s like a disguise, like camouflage. That’s what I call strategic. Genius, Roxy, pure bloody genius.

“Pour the drinks, Lennie. Doubles. Doubles all round. We’s got us a plan.

“So here’s what I says. We meets outside the Running Turkey at seven – yeah, yeah, it’s early, just getta good night’s sleep before – Lennie picks up the wheels – and makes sure there’s enough juice in the tank this time – collects us and we drives to the target to get there by seven thirty sharp. It’s white coats, Roxy gets these for us, and no tools. Our only weapons is up here. We uses our noggins,” pointing to his head. “When we gets in, through the front door, we has to pass a reception area. I does the talkin’ and then youse lot takes your lead from me. Everyone okay with that? Okay. We do it, huh.

“This is for you, Noddy. It’s payback time.”

That Christmas day the Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead had four unexpected volunteers turn up offering to work as porters. It’s for Noddy, they said. The duty manager reported that he hadn’t come across such hard working and caring individuals for a while. The three men and a woman had said they would return the next year if they were at liberty to do so. For Noddy, they had said. Payback.

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