Like my father, Vic Cassidy was also embroiled in the world of crime. He ran with an outfit known as The Twenty Ones, so named because they operated out of a club near the docks called The Pontoon. The Twenty Ones were a small time bunch of hoods controlled by Big Jack Anderson, one of the main players in the South London underworld, although he was nowhere near as influential as his cousin, Vinnie Reece, who at that time was the undisputed king of organised crime in London.
Vic Cassidy looked after one of Anderson’s cat houses. The kind of establishment where the girls on offer were the low class, low budget type, but he made a reasonable living from it.
However, for a bit of extra income, Vic did a spot of debt collecting for Jack. A task that he would have gladly performed for nothing – payment was just an added perk of the job.
What he liked most about this kind of work, was when people could not pay, because that meant he was free to inflict some pain which, as a sadist, he had a particular penchant for.
Vic had not gone to war because he had lost three of his toes in a childhood accident and had walked with a slight limp ever since. This as it turned out, was enough to keep him out of the forces, which suited him just fine.
In August 1949 Vic Cassidy killed Ernie Elmore; sliced him up with a razor beyond all recognition.
Ernie, it transpired, in his role as bookie, had owed Big Jack a lot of money after a sizeable win on the horses, but he had not paid up. After Elmore promised and failed to come up with the money on three previous occasions, Anderson finally lost his patience and sent in Vic.
With Ernie gone, Joe and I continued on with the house-breaking alone and with no more third man to pay it was a much more lucrative arrangement. For the first time in Vic’s life he had inadvertently done Joe a favour. Although both of us chose not to dwell too much on what had happened to poor Ernie. Everything just boiled down to money and this was just another chance to get hold of some.
Using one of Ernie’s contacts we fenced out the gear we stole and by Christmas we were making a good enough living to quit our part-time jobs at Smithfield.
A life of crime seemed a much better option.
Continues tomorrow or download the complete novel here