We made a conscious effort to dress older by buying a couple of second hand demob suits that Sarah altered for us. We wore them with starched white shirts and dark sombre ties, a uniform which helped me look perhaps eighteen and Joe a young twenty. We also adopted a morose, almost funereal demeanour when dealing with people, which helped to detach us from any childlike qualities. Physically speaking, both of us looked tough and well capable of taking care of ourselves, which was the one thing we could thank our fathers for, so there was no need to work on that.
The first few times we went out Alfie accompanied us, mainly so people would know we worked for him and we acted on his behalf, but it was also to see how we operated.
We always worked it the same. I was the mouth, he was the muscle, which is to say, it was me who did the talking whilst Joe stood behind me and looked menacing. If I was given any excuses, or, as was quite often the case, any abuse, I would take the rearguard position and Joe would step up and leave the person in no doubt about their options, completely unfazed by their size or age. Several times I had seen Joe deck a man for refusing to part with the cash, but they only did it once. One run in with Joe was more than enough to persuade most people that the boys with whom they were dealing meant business – and believe me, the men we were up against were not the sort you could convince easily.
Alfie was obviously confident in our abilities because after two or three stints as chaperone he sent us out on our own. Me as the voice of reason, Joe as the enforcer.
Continues tomorrow or download the complete novel here