51 - Bobby Lucas (The Kidnap of Lilly Beauchamp) - A twenty one chapter novel
He walked into The Ship, a dark gloomy pub with its small windows and dull decoration and dark low ceiling beams and had to stand at the short bar next to a smelly old man in a black grubby jacket to wait to get served. It was so depressingly gloomy in there the curtains might as well have been drawn. The old man looked at him and smiled with brown teeth, then said, “old Sid’s down the hole changing a barrel.” Then he turned back to chew his cheek while studying his empty glass sitting on a brightly coloured beer mat tapping out a rhythm with chewed down fingernails. Robert Lucas thought some old men had a look that kind of made them seem sad and this old man seemed sad. Sad and pale. His hands shook a bit and the greying stubble on his chin was patchy like he only had a blunt blade that skipped a bit here and there. That stubble giving him a kind of whitish mouldy look. His eyes had that sort of watery look some older sad people have, looking as though he might be tired, a worn out look and they had a faint redness. Black bags under. That made Bobby shiver. Was he seeing his destiny? He had a dread of a cash strapped old age and a slow decline into that same sad look and saw himself sitting with thin white legs poking from a dead man’s charity shop coat huddled around an open fire as he slowly burned his own furniture struggling to keep warm. He had been forced to suspend his pension payments and that was a worry. Seeing the man's thin lank hair he ran his fingers through his own hair kind of absentmindedly checking its thickness.
The door from out back opened letting in some desperately needed light and a sharp breeze that cleared the air around him. The light a reminder of a hot sunny day that needed dark glasses and a smear of sun-slap to stop his nose burning and going all crusty which then seemed futile when the door closed.
“There you go George,” old Sid said, pulling the new flow through until clear then filling the empty glass with a tall white foamy head. Old Sid had a proper landlord look. Bobby imagined him standing behind the bar drinking the stock with his wide flabby red face chortling at his own jokes and his hands on his hips looking like he was holding up his overlarge stomach. Yup, he had a great landlord look alright.
“Is it a pint you want?” he asked Bobby, looking him in the face and showing a pair of smile worn eyes.
“Yes please,” Bobby, flicking his hair that had shifted to hang over his face. His dark hair shortish down the sides and quite long on top so it could be brushed up and around to make a kind of floppy quiff. “A pint of the best would be great. Do you have any food and what about a garden?”
“Food stopped at two,” he said with one of those slight apologetic shrugs. “Gloria could rustle you up a sandwich though but that’s all we can do at the moment. What would you like? I think the choice will be cheese or ham or cheese and ham and the bread’s going to be white but fresh. She don’t take with that brown stuff. There’s no garden but out front there’s a couple of benches if you want.”
“Well ham and cheese it is then if that’s ok, on white of course but none of that brown pickle if she might be thinking of adding that,” although he suspected pickle was never an option. “I’ll be out front.”
The two benches one each side of the door up against the wall on the narrow heat soaked pavement with a slip road and busy main road maybe twenty feet further away. Lots of loud traffic noise. Both benches had that stolen from a park look with the green paint peeling on the over-thick woodwork. A small table next to the chunky arm that might have been knocked up from an old apple box. The heavy chains bolted to the wall preventing them being stolen back, if they had been stolen in the first place that is. With the sun flat out into his face his wrap-around darks made him look like a downhill skier shading his steely blue eyes, not the piercing type of blue eyes though but having a soft feel that exuded the impression he was a trustful sort. They could be described as kind eyes that matched his youthful kind looking face that masked the fact he was just hitting the forties.
Bobby sat on the bench on the right and it was hot and he had to kind of shuffle about a bit until it cooled enough. The seven eleven next door was busy and a continuous stream of cars trying to park in the slip road gave him a bit of chaos to watch. His car a bit awkwardly parked and getting in the way, kind of taking two slots but without any markings. It was just too close to the corner to get another car parked without jutting out. His car, a worn out black Ford that represented just about all the wealth he had left. He had been living on the Rolex Oyster, a present at twenty one, not one of those rare ones though and the couple of grand he had got not going far when you are broke. The digital petrol station throw away he picked up with the change of a fifty when he filled up kept good time but did not have that great watch look that he missed.
The door banged and the sandwich appeared in the hands of a slim young lady, about thirty something with a pile of blond hair. Quite tall. Not what he had been expecting at all. “You really a Gloria?” he said. He did like the way she had her hair all ruffled up and her strong looking face with one of those bubbly smiles always seemingly happy people have.
In maybe a bit of a stroppy way with an almost frown, she said. “Why not. Anything wrong with that?”
There was a kind of teasing smile on his face as he said, “Nope, if all Glorias look like you that’s fine with me. Makes me want to up my understanding of how a Gloria looks.”
“Really and just how d’you think a Gloria should look then?” putting down the sandwich on the wonky table.
“My upgraded thoughts think they should look like you of course. It’s definitely the way they should look alright.”
“Previously though before you saw me, how should they have looked then?” She now had a kind of scowl, cute he thought, one of those enquiring sort of scowls.
“Glorias were women with fine clothes and a long string of natural pearls with that sort of twenties flapper girl look, shortish, stylish hair and a cloche hat. But that’s all gone now and I’m right up to date.”
“But why the twenties look then? What’s that all about?” with a little shrug of slender shoulders. The scowl gone and replaced with a tight smile.
“Gloria Swanson. You know the movie star. You’ve heard of Gloria Swanson?”
“Of course, who hasn’t. She’s one of those silent screen stars, isn’t she?”
“You’d be surprised how many haven’t and the worst thing is they say they have when they haven’t. Say to them she was a movie star they go all blank like their brain’s seized up. Those old movies, they’re the best and she was the best. You seen any of her movies?” Bobby was getting enthused with talking his favourite subject.
“What, all that black and white and no talking stuff?” she said with a laughing huff, “No I haven’t, it would never occur to me to watch any.”
“Yeah black and white and silent, some colour though in the later ones. She was a great actress like in that one Sadie Thomson about a prostitute and this guy, Davidson, played by Lionel Barrymore, you heard of Lional Barrymore? and she shook her head, “well he was probably one of the best old-film actors and he kind of falls for her but then kills himself. Bit of a sad ending really. You know she was Academy Award nominated for that. The first ceremony as well. She got another nomination for Sunset Boulevard later though after she got into talkies. You seen Sunset Boulevard? She stars in it but it’s a different era.”
“Don’t think so. Remind me, what’s it about?” Her interest was not fake.
“Sunset Boulevard's a real great film, one of her best, that’s why she got nominated. It opens with William Holden floating face down in the pool with all the cops about the place. He’s been shot by Norma Desmond, that’s Swanson, but you don’t know that till the end, that she shoots him. Bang, bang, bang, shoots him three times in the back and that’s what it’s about, why he ends up getting shot. Like the chimp who died as well….”
“What chimp? How’s a chimp get into it all? That sounds a bit weird.” and there is that cute frown again that sort of creases her eyes, slightly shutting them and kind of sexy and makes him grin.
Bobby holds his hand up in a kind of I will get to that sort of way and says, “She plays this washed-up silent movie star who’s losing it a bit. He’s a struggling script writer who for one reason or another moves in with her. At the end he says he’s leaving her so she says she’s going to kill herself and shows him a gun but just shoots Holden instead as he walks away and that’s when he falls in her pool. You have to see it to appreciate it. She’s got this pet chimpanzee that dies at the beginning and that’s how she meets Joe Gillis, that’s Holden, because she thinks he’s the man bringing a coffin for the chimp. Holden’s character parallels the monkey, that’s why they both die. So it’s all a bit deep in parts and that makes it interesting, picking it apart. So anyway you see now where Gloria came from?”
“Yeah I can see that but I’m not sure if all this is a compliment or if I should be getting annoyed. Should I be getting annoyed?”
“That’s up to you, how you see it all. You see she was a star and beautiful and that takes some beating and coming from me that’s a definite compliment, that your looks beat Gloria Swanson. How about I show you sometime? You can come to my place. I've got all the films. We can watch the movies and eat popcorn. Then you’ll see. You like popcorn at the movies?”
“Sure I do, who doesn't? Sounds like it’s not my thing though but maybe I could be up for being convinced.” she said with a I fancy you because you’re different kind of look. “Give me your name and number and I’ll call you when I can sort out with Sid a night off. Oh, I forgot to ask. You want pickle with that?” And she got a screwed up face. “I’ll take that as a no then shall I,” she laughed as she walked off.
Maybe things were not all as bad he thought as he watched her go through the door. He took a bite and the sandwich was better than it had sounded, much better in fact, with the fresh crusty bread and hand cut ham and that tangy cheddar cheese you get from the posh deli counter. As it happens he liked a cheese and ham sandwich. You could say he was a bit of a connoisseur. Then his phone rang and buzzed in his pocket and was blinking Donny when he pulled it out.
This was Donald Caruthers the guy with the name that brought out thoughts of big game shooting and Tarzan and posh blokes heading off to war starching their upper lips and speaking all Etonesque. He was dapper all right but his south London accent suggested a different story. The kind of fella with an air of mystery.
“So what d’you do then?” Bobby had asked when they first met.
Donny had pushed his hand through his ruffled blonde hair and said, “an Estate Agent Bobby, that’s what I do. I sell houses to the rich and famous.” And his face cracked a grin disguising a lie. One of those cheeky ones that lit up his rough but handsome features.
Bobby chewed the last bite as he heard, “hey Bobby how’s your luck then? Still brassic are we and jobless. You out tonight? You know it's a Friday.”
“Sure, I’m in need of a few and a bit of a laugh.”
“Where’s it at tonight then? Where’re you now?”
“In The Ship, you know that great looking little pub in the centre of Ripley. Thought I’d give it a try. At the moment I’m sitting outside in the sun. Inside is real gloomy. I’m having a sandwich and been talking to Gloria.”
“Sounds good. I’m on my way. There in about half an hour.” and he hung up.
They had met about six months ago at the crowded bar in a club with the bass-up beat booming chatting up the same girl who had dithered so Bobby had said, “you can have her,” but Donny replied, “nah, she’s yours.” so she just shrugged and muttered something negative about ping-pong and walked away. Then Donny had said, “want a beer?” and Bobby had said, “sure, why not.”
Bobby had gone straight round Donny’s place when he left work on the Friday a few weeks after they had met after he had stood in the office with the few others when the owner, accompanied by a tall serious looking man in a mac, had said, “sorry guys I’m bust and your jobs have gone. The office closes tonight. No good shouting at me about money because there isn’t any.” Which was remarkable considering they were financial advisors who knew everything about money, where to invest it and how to protect it. It turned out the owner was great at investing for others, rubbish at running a business and great at spending the other's cash. He’d spent the bank account and the client’s money and was destined for a long spell looking out a barred window.
Bobby had flown into Donny’s in a rage. “It’s a bloody nightmare, a travesty in fact,” he shouted, “that bastard’s down the crapper and taken us all with him. The best I can hope for is some small redundancy from the official receiver. That won’t last long, will it? I’ve only been there four years. And the timing could not be worse with this economic downturn and all. Jobs are scarce. No one’s employing.”
Donny, unusually was a bit lost for words. In fact struck almost dumb. The best he could manage was, “that’s a bummer.”
Bobby said, “Thanks for that. Nothing better to say?”
“Hey, don’t take it out on me. I’m just your Friday night let’s go out and have good time fella and newly acquired at that.”
“I’m sorry mate. It’s just I don’t do shocks too well especially if they’re about to pauperise me. You have any great suggestions?”
“What you got in the way of savings? How about selling the house? You can move in here until you get sorted. There’s a few for starters.”
“I’ve got a bit saved and some investments I’ve just started that I can cash in. The house is mortgaged up though. I’ve only just bought it and with maximum finance but you know that, don’t you? There’s a bit of equity but that would go in costs I’m sure and of course house prices are down so I’ll be lucky to even get my money back.”
“Renting? Then move in here.”
“Thought of that but all the rent and some would go on the mortgage and fees. I’d be worse off.”
“Well you would know, being a financial advisor. Why not sell anyway and move in here. At least you're saving the payments. How about that?”
“That would work I suppose.”
“Course it will and then you get a new job and start again.”
Now, six months later, he was down to his last thousand or so and jobless. Sure he had tried to find work but the demand for financial advisors was low and he was doubting he would find anything soon. His house was sold and just waiting for all the legals to be completed but, as he had suspected, any equity was rapidly being sucked up by legal fees that just grew larger with every email. It seemed to him that’s what the legal people were best at. Finding problems and sending loads of emails. Was he becoming desperate? Only one answer to that and that was, yes he certainly thought he was.
He lit a cigarette then stubbed it out. He knew it was stupid and something not affordable but that is what he did these days. Spent tons on cigarettes, then lit them, then put them out. It was either that or patches that also cost a ton but kind of chewed his skin up with a rash as though he had scrubbed his arm with one of those half blunt rasps that a carpenter might use when they half smoothed a lump of rough wood. His doctor had told him he was allergic to the stuff that made the patches sticky. He had a kind of sticky induced rash, or so the doctor had said anyway. So he just lit up to get a whiff then stubbed them out. He had tried gum of course but that pulled a filling with this awful pain resulting in him being robbed by an emergency dentist who turned out to be a quack who only recommended extraction at an extortionate emergency extraction rate but who, after a conversation of a particular kind, agreed to a filling but at the same inflated extraction rate. That basically is where most of his savings had gone, to break a habit and pay a dodgy dentist’s mortgage and of course what was left would fund the kidnap of old Lilly Beauchamp.
This is the first chapter of a 21 chapter book. Click on the link on the HOME PAGE to read more.