Friday 28 November 1952
Our one night together in Brighton began by us meeting as arranged in the concourse of London Bridge railway station, at five in the afternoon to catch the 17.15 train. I had already picked up the first class tickets from the office. There was a freezing pea-souper in London that Friday afternoon in late November and you could barely see a hand in front of your face. As the weather was so bad I left my rented house in Croydon half an hour early so I was waiting for her when she suddenly appeared out of the mist and kissed me on the cheek.
“Oh, your cheeks are cold, have you been waiting long?” she asked, her voice cheerful, perhaps even excited at the prospects of going away with me for a night and a day.
Frieda is tall, slim, elegant, and very beautiful. Me? I’m no oil painting. I’m just over six foot and slim, well, pretty well everyone in London was slim after thirteen years of deprivation through relentless war and eternal food rationing. But I kept myself fit, clean-shaven and I dressed well, as I used to sell men’s clothing lines before the war and was always expected to be well turned out and, besides, I liked to look smart, and comfortable in any strata of mixed company. I still had a full head of light brown hair, cut short, Brylcreemed and combed under my trilby, with only the odd grey hair to show I was just over 40. I was born in 1911, and thought I was probably fifteen years older that the wife of a seriously nasty gangster, so this affair was a little out of my comfort zone. Frieda’s husband Richard was at least five years older than me, was much bigger in build, but starting to run a little to fat and unfit, being a heavy drinker and smoker. I didn’t smoke because I’d been brought up by parents who smoked heavily and both suffered ill-health later in life for the habit. Both my parents were in their mid-sixties and had long ago moved away from London because of the killer smogs.
“Just got here a few minutes early to get the tickets and make sure I didn’t keep you waiting,” I said, my face open and expressing my pleasure at seeing her, “Shall I take your case?”
Her case was very light. “You always travel this light?” I asked as we started walking down the platform to where our train waited, it still had a few minutes before it was due to pull out and head south.
“It is only for the one night and I am wearing most of my clothes,” she laughed, “it is so cold, I have several layers on and my fur coat on top.”
We settled into the carriage and we were both delighted that by the time the train moved off we were alone together in our relatively comfortable first class compartment. Only the best for this girl, I thought. Soon the heaters under the seats came on and warmed up the carriage and I was able to stand up and take off my heavy trench coat, revealing my best suit, a smart double-breasted in blue pin-stripes made for me a few weeks earlier in Jermyn Street, the tailors begun to make it almost as soon as clothing rationing ended.
“Lovely suit, Jack,” complemented Frieda, as she sloughed her fur coat to reveal a nice dark blue figure-hugging suit over a lemon blouse, with her skirt just a daring inch below her knees and the edges picked out in lemon piping to complement the blouse.
Outside, as we travelled away from the city into the countryside, the suffocating yellow-grey smog of London thinned and disappeared, leaving the clear black starry night all around us.
London in the late 1940s and early 1950s was a hell of a mess, with bombed out buildings still on every street, the country completely bankrupt with the weight of war debt. Families who had relatives abroad were receiving food parcels from the colonies, we were that badly off. We’d thrown everything we had defending ourselves from the Nazis, spent every last penny and borrowed so much we’d be paying interest to the Swiss and American banks for the next half century or more. Everyone was depressed, fogs and smogs strangled London throughout the winter, so people needed what I traded in to cheer them up.
“No trouble getting away?” I asked as I tugged up my trousers from snagging on my boney knees and sat down opposite her, my back to the engine. This was a modern line, electrified all the way between London and Brighton, the ride smooth, the first class carriage clean and comfortable.
“No, Richard and his two brothers actually left yesterday afternoon, to make a long weekend of it. He’s been quiet all week, unusually reflective, so maybe his bookies have a lot riding on this boxing match. He will be drinking heavily from the time they drive off until they come back, and he never thinks it worth bothering to ring me when he’s away. He’ll just come back on Sunday morning or Sunday night stinking of sweat, beer, chips and cheap whore’s perfume.” She smiled a false smile, I thought. “I feel so naughty. Are we signing into the hotel as ‘Mr and Mrs Smith?’” she asked.
“No, ‘Mr and Mrs Freddie Tavistock’, I have his wallet and driving licence.”
“No, he’s deceased, I bought his identity for a fiver and use it on occasions when I want to be discrete. I have no other identification on me and have paid for everything in cash. Richard, will never have evidence that either of us have ever been to Brighton.”
“Sometimes, I think it would please me to let him know, but you are right, it is best he not know.”
“We are only booked into The Grand at Brighton for tonight,” I said, “did you remember your passport, as I have booked a day trip to France for tomorrow?”
We had already agreed that she dared stay only one whole night. She had to get home by Saturday evening, in case the boxing match went bad and Richard wanted to drive home in the early hours of Sunday morning.
“Yes, I remembered it, and some spending money, just in case I see any Chanel No 5 for sale in France.”
“Oh, I can get hold of plenty of that for you, got two whole lock-up garages full of the stuff.”
“Ah, you’re his ‘Mr Fixer’, huh, Mr Jack Tucker? Richard tells me that you can buy anything and sell anything. He said you once bought a battleship and a squadron of bombers. Did you?”
I’ve been an independent buyer since demob, a bit of a wheeler dealer really, not exactly a spiv but then again not too dissimilar either. I basically put together people who’ve got something to sell, with someone who wants to buy, or I may take a chance to buy for myself what I think is a bargain and then look for a buyer. A lot of my deals were not strictly legal and this got me involved with criminals connected to the black market, namely East London gangs. I took personal charge of these miscellaneous items, to protect the other people working for me. They were on a wage and had to do what they were told, I was earning the profits, so I had to step up to the mark and do what I had to do, which was still basically what I was told to do by my clients. Gradually, rationing restrictions were lifted and so by late 1952 most, but not quite all, of my importing was strictly legal and more and more transactions were going through the official ledgers and I had to start paying bloody taxes again. I got around some of that using false inflated invoices “from abroad” to kid the Inland Revenue that I was making a whole lot less money than I actually was. It was easy to falsify accounts at the time because most of my customers paid cash on the nose and I had a dodgy printer who forged invoices, cargo manifests and other useful mitigating documents for me.
I served my country all during the war, as Sergeant Jack Tucker, I even signed up before conscription officially began in 1939. I was a commercial salesman at the time, working for a men’s outfitter wholesaler, hawking designs of men’s clothing up and down the High Streets of towns in the Home Counties. I knew this war, that we’d been expecting ever since the Nazis took over Germany, would last at least as long as the Great War did. My old man was caught up in that one and he still coughs his guts up every morning and all winter long because of the effects of gas, and he was gassed by his own side, not the bloody Germans!
Anyway, I could see that war-time rationing, make-do-&-mend, utility wear and half the country wearing bloody khaki for the next four or five years, would mean that my end of the clothing business would go down the toilet. I thought that if I signed up first I could learn the ropes and get two or three stripes on my arm and earn a bit of seniority and therefore a better share in whatever privileges of the lower ranks that was going spare. So I joined the local county regiment the day war was declared, for basic training, and found out I had a good eye, steady hands and was a damned good shot. I was encouraged to transfer to the Rifle Brigade and trained as a sniper, and worked my way up to three stripes during the phoney war period. Saw a fair share of action in North Africa, Italy, France and Germany and came through it all almost without a scratch, just a bit of shrapnel in a shoulder from a mortar in Italy.
Managed to get demobbed a few months early too, as we were told London needed builders to rebuild the houses destroyed during the Blitz. So I put my hand up saying I was experienced in procuring building materials and they actually believed me. What can I say, I’ve got an honest face!
Getting home to South East London, I did start building up new contacts in the building game and marrying up builders with supplies and materials for my first few months in civvies. It was the first industry that got going in those early months of peacetime. Then I got involved with buying up old Army and Royal Air Force surplus and selling them to scrap merchants, all the while building up some capital. I got an office and put in a bank of telephones and staff to use them and soon I had a well-oiled operation up and running, with the money rolling in nicely. I had teams specialising in construction, scrap dealing, confectionery, petrol, clothing, cheese and meat, all goods in short supply and therefore rationed, impossible to find unless palms were greased and you made friends with dangerous people. People like Frieda’s husband, now, he was seriously dangerous.
“Yes, the battleship was stripped of armaments before I got it, but I sold it onto the Chilean Navy about four years ago and it’s just finished its complete refit, it was on the Pathé News at the flicks a couple of months ago. The squadron of Lancaster bombers were just about flyable but too bad to sell on except to a small scrapyard next door to an airfield. I got an old pilot with only one leg to fly them down one by one, then catch a train back to pick up the next one. Kept the pilot happy in a job he loved for a month and the scrap yard’s been working their way through the blasted things for the last five years cutting them up and separating the ferrous metal from aluminium and carting them off to be melted down to make ... tin cans, I expect. The flying club at the airfield are gradually getting more of their airfield back.”
“So where did you get the Chanel perfume?”
“When I first got out of the Army, I worked for the building trade, one of the jobs being reclaiming old bricks from a bombed warehouse in the East India Docks. Basically, chipping off the old mortar and trimming up broken bricks into decent half bricks. The warehouse was over one hundred and fifty years old and some of the solid floor joists and floor board timbers that weren’t burnt were also cleaned up and used for new flooring and stairways. Hard work but profitable. When we worked our way down to ground level, we found there were undamaged basement storerooms underneath, full of stuff. Some of the smaller stuff got pinched before I found out about it and secured the site with guards, but there was a load of high quality personal hygiene goods still packaged up in the original packing crates dating from the late-1930s, including the Chanel.”
“So, did you buy the warehouse or just the bricks and timber?”
“You’re right, of course, I only bought the building materials that I could salvage, but I was also required by the owners to remove all the ‘spoil’, such as the unusable timber, broken bricks and mortar, and those goods we found sure looked ‘spoiled’ to me. I didn’t need a second opinion, so I got them shifted by the truckload that very first night.”
“Then you are to be commended for carrying out your duties to the letter,” she laughed with a lovely tinkly bell-like laugh.
“And I thought so too,” I agreed.
We had a pleasant trip down on the train, an hour and one minute was all it took. A quick cab ride to “The Grand” and we were in our suite by half six.
“We dine at seven, Frieda,” I said, with a smile, “then we can dance until midnight, if you like.”
“Good, I like to dance and I rarely get the chance these days. You look light on your feet, Jack, do you dance well?”
“I dance, that is about the size of it, but dancing with you I know that I will look as though I dance well, because, of course, everyone will be looking at you, not me.”
“You are a charming man, Jack. I have been looking forward to tonight all week. What made you ask me here?”
“I have been obsessed with you ever since I met you, Frieda, but I didn’t want to risk either of us being exposed to the temper and vengeance of your husband.”
Now, by the early 1950s, the member of the Williamson family I mostly had to deal with was Richard, Frieda’s husband, who hated being called ‘Dick’. He was the youngest brother of three, all of them mean-looking killers, and was in his late forties in 1952. Richard Williamson had a mean reputation for extreme violence, not executed by him nowadays, as he played the role of the successful business tycoon, even if he did make his money from brothels and protectionism, but by other thugs on his behalf. In his early years as an extortionist, his favourite way of dealing with bankrupt debtors or rival gang leaders was to tie them up, gag them, tie a coal sack half full of bricks to their legs and a long rope tied around their chest. He’d drop them in the Thames off a wharf that ran right inside a riverside brick warehouse he owned. Once the bubbles stopped coming up, “Bricky Dicky” as he was then known, would haul his victim up, untie the body and dump it downstream. In the late 20s and early 30s there was any number of bankruptees jumping off London bridges, a few more went unnoticed. Richard would cheerfully repeat the process nowadays if you crossed him.
Recently, Richard had been inviting me over to his luxury West End flat, maybe once or twice a week for the last couple of months. Richard had aspirations to be a respectable businessman and could afford an expensive apartment. On my visits I was invited to share a meal with him and his beautiful missus in the early evening, all sitting together in his posh dining room, and he expected me to dress up like a bleeding penguin for his formal dinners. They had a proper cook and a stuck up butler who served the meal with his nose pointing at the ceiling. Richard’s lovely wife Frieda was ever present in the room with us while dining, until we menfolk retired to his private sitting room to discuss whatever dodgy business he needed me for.
Every time there was always business to discuss, whether it be chasing progress on his previous requests, or adding something new for me to find or get rid off for him. Some items were straightforward, the odd Luger pistol and ammunition, and a shotgun going out, with imported German cheeses and beers coming in. Some of his requests were more difficult or took time to get hold of, like wanting authentic silk kimonos from Japan, cut crystal glass from Bohemia. Some items he explained were personal for his wife or him, some were presents for family and friends, and with Christmas coming up fast, he had a continual flow of requests and seemingly bottomless pockets. I was the one dealer known by Richard to be able to find a buyer for anything and find anything a buyer wanted. I was there for business, friendly, but we were never friends. I daren’t not attend either the meeting or the meal. There was one other reason why I didn’t mind visiting as often as he requested I attend. Frieda.
He had actually married one of his brothel ‘working girls’ about two years earlier, a classic German beauty, tall, elegant, dark haired, blue eyed with translucent white skin. Her name was Frieda and I assumed that she was half his age, in her mid-to-late-20s. Not far off about half my age either. She was stunning, always done up to the nines in an evening gown to die for, absolutely spellbinding she was. I had to keep as focused as I was when I was an Army sniper to concentrate on what Richard was saying over our succulent dinner, rather than stare at Frieda all night with my eyes glazed over and my tongue hanging out to dry.
Richard told me, on one of my first visits, when we were alone after the meal, that I had actually brought Frieda over to England for one of his brothels in ‘48, but I really couldn’t remember her. I couldn’t remember any of them. He thanked me, while we were alone later, and told me that she was the best dick sucker he’d ever had and that’s why he had to keep her for himself.
Frieda’d probably worked as a prostitute in Germany, as I’d had a deal with someone in West Berlin who shifted the working girls around, “to keep the brothels ‘fresh’ for regulars” he said. For for a couple of years or so I had paid for regular shipments of a couple of dozen of the younger, less well worn ones each shipment, smuggled over in lorries with false compartments. The girls were often refugees from all over Europe and the Williamson’s expanding brothels couldn’t get enough of them. It wasn’t a trade I was proud of and I was pleased when the demand seemed to dry up naturally around 1949/1950 and didn’t have to do much more of it by the time we are talking about.
So, I was visiting Richard one, two, even three evenings a week sometimes, in company with the beautiful Frieda, and several times over those eight weeks or so, he’d had a phone call emergency and left Frieda and me alone to eat the meal. I couldn’t just leave, as he tended to discuss business after the meal, with strong coffee and brandy. Each time he left he promised he would be back in an hour or two. As I was clearly attracted to Frieda, any red bloodied man would be, and she was nervous being left alone with me, it made an awkward hour or two for me, especially the first time we were left alone.
The second time Richard took the call and left, he kissed her on the cheek and I heard him whisper that she should look after me. So, as soon as the dishes were cleared away and the paid help left us, she took my hand with a smile and started to lead me to the bedroom.
I was really attracted to her, but if there’s an unwritten rule that you don’t mess with these gangsters, with Richard Williamson I thought that was a solid golden rule. I would rather swim in safe waters than sink like a brick in the river.
Now, if he had said something to me about “help yourself, mate, fill yer boots!”, then maybe I would seriously have considered finding out how good at sucking dick his missus really was, but I felt she had misunderstood Richard’s request and I stopped her in her tracks before we even left the dining room. Her English was excellent and I explained what I understood was a clear misunderstanding between the three of us and we ended up drinking coffee and brandy in the sitting room for a couple of hours until Richard returned.
Alone over brandy later, he asked me about whether I enjoyed the meal, which I said was up to his cook’s outstanding standard, but I didn’t say anything about his wife’s approach, and I’m pretty sure she didn’t say anything to him either.
Over the next couple of months, Richard would disappear every third or fourth time I visited and Frieda and I would simply enjoy our meal and sit around in relatively comfortable and relaxed conversation. She was an attentive hostess and good conversationalist and I really enjoyed our brief interludes alone together. As we were all quite friendly now, she often greeted and said farewell to me in front of her husband, with a friendly kiss on the cheek.
So it transpired, in late November, after we heard that Richard and both of his brothers were spending the coming weekend in Liverpool to see a big money boxing match, that Frieda was quite surprised when we were left alone again, and that this time I whispered that I would like to take her to Brighton the following Friday. She lifted an elegant eyebrow in surprise, before she smiled and asked, “when and where do we meet?”
“Indeed,” Frieda continued our conversation in our Brighton suite, “I have suffered from his temper before and now I fear he is no longer in love with me.”
“How have you suffered? And why do you feel unloved? When I am dining with you and Richard, he is quite attentive to you,” I said.
“He slaps me around, punches me where it won’t show, unpleasant but survivable. I think he has to show others that I am his when we are in company, although when we are alone I feel he is no longer mine, inattentive and distracted, particularly these last few days, and he disappears at all hours of the night.”
I nod, after all she lives with him and knows him well, I do not.
“Bathe or shower and change as you will, but we need to be at our table by seven sharp. I know a lot of the places you eat in the East and West Ends are supplied by the black market, but this hotel complies with the rules of rationing and it’s a set three-course meal and served in one sitting at seven.”
She put on a brief pout, but then smiled her brilliant smile.
“Well, we do have all the rest of the night, don’t we?”
“Yes, Frieda, we do, dancing until midnight, but we have to be up early to catch the boat to France at the Pier. I brought my travel alarm clock, set for half-past five.”
“Half-five! I need my beauty sleep!”
“Just think, Caron, Coty, Chanel...”
“Half-five, can we order coffee, black, for five-thirty-five?”
“I’ve brought my favourite coffee with me and handed it to the Concierge as we arrived. It’s still in short supply and the quality varies so much. They will have plenty over to enjoy a few pots themselves with my compliments after we have our early morning beverage.”
“All right, I’ll change in the bedroom and be ready in ten minutes.”
I changed in the sitting room of the suite having bathed at home before I left. I had a new dinner jacket, again from my tailor, so that I would feel dressed differently to our shared meals with her husband. She noticed and complimented me. I would have taken bets she wouldn’t have noticed, but it both made me feel good about tonight and bad, too. Until now, I had never knowingly slept with a married woman. As for my own marriage, that was over thirteen years ago and I wouldn’t recognise Janice now even if I partnered her in a ‘Gentleman’s Excuse Me’ tonight.
She looked stunning in her yellow silk evening dress that left little to the imagination. It made her pale skin even more translucent and her dark hair darker and more lustrous. Her eye shadow made her eyes look bigger, somehow more innocent and in need of protection, and, in her red glossy lipstick she could have been a Hollywood film star. Funnily enough, her fragrance I recognised as N’Aimez Que Moi, one that my mother always wore and somehow this softened my ardour and made me feel a little warmer towards her as a person rather than simply an object of desire.
The meal was all right, edible, but couldn’t hold a candle to her normal evening meal cooked and served by her own staff. But we enjoyed each other’s company, speaking in whispers over our meal and a single glass of wine. Frieda told me she was married in Berlin just before the war when she was 19, to her childhood sweetheart, so she was older than I thought at 32, nine years my junior. She was from a middle class family and had worked as an English language teacher during the war, which was why her English was so good. Her husband died on the Russian Front in 1943. When the war ended, she was trapped in the American Sector and her parents were shut up in the Russian. Long before the end of the war the Berlin colleges closed and there was no money or appetite to reopen them immediately after the war. She worked for American Intelligence for a while as a translator but when the Russian grip on East Germany intensified, the Americans found out she had close family living in East Berlin and could no longer work for them as she was considered a security risk.
“To stay in my tiny flat I had to sleep with my landlord,” she looked at me, waiting for censure.
“I know a little of your history, Frieda,” I whispered back, “go on.”
Yes, I knew her history. Unable to avoid links with the East End thugs, I had to be particularly careful with the Williamson family, who were active in backstreet prostitution, pornography and racketeering as well as illegal off-course bookies. At the time I had little choice but deal with them. At one time in the late forties I was smuggling in young girls from countries even worse off than we were, like Germans, Italians and Greek girls for Williamson’s brothels, some of them being quite classy West End “gentlemen’s clubs”.
She smiled wanly.
“And then, when he tired of me, my landlord sent me out onto the streets to earn money for him. I was arrested a couple of times for prostitution and then it was the Police who sold me to the first whore house, who sold me on to another a few months later, and then I ended up in a false floor in the floor of a van loaded with other goods and released into the slavery of another whore house in London. Richard seemed to be a regular nightly customer; I didn’t realise he was actually the owner until he decided to take me out of the brothel and install me in his flat.”
Then she giggled.
“Why is that funny?” I asked.
“Well, Richard’s Mother’s a bossy Northerner with a really funny accent and quite straight laced, even if she is married to an East End London gangster and murderer, as are her offspring. She didn’t realise that I was a prostitute, and Richard couldn’t tell her that he had bought me, owned me. The old dear thought I was a nice girl, but living in sin with her son and she insisted to Richard that we get married immediately and make an honest woman of me. I think she was hoping for grandchildren. So we married in a registry office with forged papers for me as a Dutch woman.”
“I know, I got the papers for him, I know a dodgy but very skilful printer in Hackney Borough, prints all sorts of things, including American dollars, on his night shift, while his day staff are in ignorance of what he does.”
Once we had dined on what was fairly average food for most of Britain still under food rationing, seven years after the war ended, we danced. In her high heels she was exactly the same height as me so we could look into each other’s eyes all night as we danced. Frieda moved like a dream, whether it was old-time, waltzes or swing and, with a long slit up one leg, flashed me her shapely leg all the way up to her stocking top. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see other men trying to bribe the band to play an ‘Excuse Me’ without them taking the bribe, but I’d already paid the band double their night’s wages not to.
By 11 the bar closed and at midnight the band stopped playing and we retired to our suite. We clung together in the lift, in part exhaustion and part passion, as Frieda had insisted on only one glass of wine with her meal and one glass of champagne after, and shared the rest of the bottle with the diners at the tables either side of us.
We entered the bedroom and Frieda immediately flopped on the bed. I was the sensible one and turned out the lights in the sitting room, and turned on one of the bedroom side lights and turned off the stark overhead light. It was a lot easier on our tired eyes. I removed my dinner jacket and sat on the edge of the bed, pulling my bow tie undone and loosening the top buttons on my shirt. I removed my cuff links and put them in the clean ash tray on the bedside table on the right hand side of the bed. Where Frieda flopped was clearly favouring the left side, nearest the bathroom. She could have it, I didn’t mind what side I slept. As I dropped my second cuff link I felt a slender hand on my shoulder.
“Unzip me, please?” Frieda said.
She stood up at the bottom of the bed and turned her back to me. I stood and walked around the bed and unfastened the zip, down to the top of the groove of her lovely rounded bum.
“Thank you,” she said quietly and pushed the dress off both shoulders and let it drop to the floor, leaving her with long gloves, tiny panties, white suspenders and white stockings and still wearing her high heels. She pulled off the heels, turned to face me with her arms folded across her bare breasts and put her right leg on the bed.
“Would you like to help me take off my stockings?” she asked, with a seductive smile, inserting an index finger between her lips and biting it, while keeping her elbow over her nipple.
“Of course,” I replied, the perfect gentleman. I unclasped the front two then the one behind and started to roll the stockings carefully down her thigh, past the knee. When I got to her ankle she lifted it so I could slip the stocking past her heel, then she pressed down her heel and lifted her toe so I could remove the stocking completely.
“Be a dear and place it over the back of that chair for me, would you, Jack?”
“Of course.” By the time I turned around she had the other leg up on the bed and we repeated the same ritual. This time, instead of looking at what I was doing, I looked her in the eye. She looked straight back at me with a Mona Lisa smile on her ruby lips. I turned to hook the other stocking over the chair next to the first, hearing a rustle behind me and by the time I turned she was in bed with the sheets pulled up to her chin.
“Aren’t you going to help me with my shirt buttons?” I asked, as I picked up her dress to hang carefully over the chair.
“As a grown man, do you really need help with your buttons, Jack?” she replied coyly.
“I helped you with yours...”
“Are you comparing poor helpless little me with a big strong boy like you, Jack?”
“You’re right, Frieda, there’s absolutely no comparison.”
“That’s good thinking, Jack, that’s why I like you and why I’d like to watch you undress.”
“I might go and clean my teeth first,” I suggested.
“What? And risk getting toothpaste or tooth powder on that lovely shirt, or on your nice snuggly fitted trousers?” she countered, her face a picture of condescension.
“No,” I agreed, “I wouldn’t want to spoil anything at all tonight,” and started slowly undoing the buttons on my shirt, with Frieda watching my every move, her broad smile above the sheets, her eyes sparkling with amusement and, I imagined, lust. I pulled the shirt out of my trousers and peeled it off, turned my back on her and hung it over the back of the same chair as her stockings and dress.
“Nice body,” Frieda said quietly, “do you exercise regularly?”
“I go to a boxing gym for three or four hours a week, mostly skipping, a little shadow boxing and bag work, and some sparing.”
“You don’t have cauliflower ears or a busted nose,” she observed.
“I try not to get hit, and Jimmy, the owner, makes sure we amateurs wear head gear in the ring. I like to join in because the good boxers need the ring practice and a dozen rounds with twelve different enthusiastic and fresh boxers gives them a good workout and teaches them to expect the unexpected.”
“So, you exercise for fun?”
“Yes,” I agreed as I unbuttoned my trousers, no zips, Jermyn Street do like to stick to their traditions, and removed my trousers, “if it wasn’t fun, I might not go so regularly.” I held the bottom of the trousers under my chin, to help fold them along the creases, and hung those over the chair on top of my shirt, too. Then I took off my socks and suspenders, made from 60% nylon for stretching comfort and harder wearing than plain cotton.
“Nice white briefs,” she commented, her hovering voice on the edge of another giggle.
“We call them y-fronts here ... I don’t mind these getting toothpaste on,” I said as I slowly walked to the bathroom.
“Spoilsport!” she called after me.
After cleaning my teeth I emerged and said, “Now it’s your turn.”
I pulled up the bedclothes on my side of the bed and slipped inside the bed, while she slipped off to the bathroom. I followed her by eye all the way, her body was very slim but still had enough feminine curves to make it more than just interesting.
“Nice white panties,” I called out, “if you need any help...”
“I’ll know who to call,” she half-turned, her right arm across her chest, “what about your briefs?”
“Just slipping them off now,” I said, “they’d suddenly shrunk and were getting painfully tighter and tighter.”
She laughed, “I’ll just hold that thought in mind. Next time, if there is a next time, wear shorts for comfort.”
“But shorts ride up when dancing, very uncomfortable.”
“You could always underdress, like a ‘Piccadilly Commando’,” she giggled.
“And how’s that?”
“I’ll tell you later,” as, just for a moment, with the much brighter bathroom light on behind her, she spread her arms across the door and the door jamb, as she slowly closed the bathroom door. All I could see was her dark silhouette against the bright light, but she presented a very nice outline shape indeed to my fertile imagination.
Lying in the bed I could smell her perfume and her own natural musk from the exertion of dancing. She definitely didn’t smell anything like my mother any more.
I thought about all the dancing we enjoyed. She said Richard didn’t dance at all and didn’t let her dance with anyone either, so on this night of freedom we danced a lot, for most of the four hours available to us. A couple of times, when we were sitting a dance out, and once when I went to the toilet, she would be approached by single men to dance, but she turned them all down as she “was there”, she said, with “her husband”. She still wore her full wedding and engagement ring set and an expensive diamond necklace. We had spoken during and between dancing about regrets, about her life and lack of children. Richard didn’t want any, she said, so they used condoms all the time, which led to speak of her lack of choices and admitted to her anxiety over what we were here for tonight and the consequences of making a mistake.
“What do you think I am doing here, Jack?” She had asked earlier during a gentle waltz, “Why are you here with me when you had rejected me before?” and “Where do we go from here, Jack?”
And there was little substance in my replies too, “Opportunities, for you or for me perhaps. As for where you and I go, I travel as light as your overnight case and haven’t had a settled life for years. Ever since the war I have remained baseless, living in hotels, flats or more recently houses rented by the week. I keep cash in various safe deposit boxes around the city and suburbs with the bare minimum in known bank accounts.”
“Minimising your risks?”
“Minimising risks would mean never doing anything. I get offers in my line of business all the time, but I am not compulsive, and I really have to weigh up the risks of each opportunity and consider that I may be saddled with an item too hot to hold and cannot shift as quickly as I’d like.”
“Am I an item that you cannot shift?” she had asked as we danced, both physically and literally around our present situation.
“I don’t think so, but at your flat, with Richard saying he was coming back in hours or minutes, who knew when that would be? It could’ve been a problem.”
“But tonight you think we can be free of problems?”
“Not necessarily, we still have to be careful,” I had said and she had nodded.
“Do you have someone at home that you have to be careful about, Jack?”
“No, I don’t have any woman in my life. Ever since the war I’ve remained free of ties. I was married to a girl called Janice Evans back in ‘35 and we’d rented a three-bed semi-detached in Beckenham by ‘39 when I voluntarily enlisted, but she’d disappeared with everything in our bank account by the time I was home on leave after my first six weeks’ basic training. All her clothes and stuff gone. I never heard from her again. Fortunately, we never started that family we had talked about having.”
I didn’t tell Frieda that although I didn’t like using working girls for my pleasure much, every couple of months or so I felt I needed to relieve the pressure.
I could see the light was off in the bathroom and the door opened. As she scooted across the room I turned out the bedside light.
“Brrr! It’s cold,” she shivered next to me, her right side touching my left. “The heating’s gone off.”
“Let me put my arms around you, warm you up,” I said, and we cuddled for a while as she warmed up.
“Can we kiss?” she asked. “That was a lovely kiss we had during the last waltz when the lights went down.”
I remembered that kiss and the shorter one we exchanged in the clanking lift. It was a very slow waltz, everybody was up out of their seats for it, the last dance, perhaps our last dance, holding her close to me, feeling her heat against my torso, the lights dropped as low as they went. I just forgot myself and pressed my lips against hers and she responded with growing passion. I think we stopped dancing as we kissed until the music stopped and the lights lifted. We separated and applauded the band and thanked each other for the dance before we joined the evacuating throng.