Bad Blood (50)

Vic was getting above his station and had to be put back in his place.
Alfie wanted to make a statement. He intended to send a full crew – which meant at least six of his best. And that included Joe and me.

Alfie did not question Joe’s loyalty but Vic was still his father, so wanted to be sure that Joe was comfortable with what was about to happen.

He took Joe aside and asked him if he would be willing to go with the rest of the crew to Vic’s; if he was not there would be no hard feelings, he would understand. Joe just looked at Alfie square in the eyes and said with meaning, “I’ve wanted to see that bastard squeal for the last seventeen years and there’s no way I’m gonna miss it.” That was all Alfie needed to hear. Joe was in and so was I.

The crew was led by Alfie and a guy called Dog Tooth who was Noakes’ number one. Tooth towered over most people and was built like a brick shithouse – to get on the wrong side of him was most definitely not a good idea. Four more of Vinnie’s hardest came along too.

We pulled up outside a row of three dirty, red brick terraced houses from which Vic ran a stable of over twenty whores. All the rooms were squalid and filthy, but the clientele that frequented them were not the sort to care. On the door of the centre house were two burly guards who none of us recognised. The rumours so far seemed to be true; Vic did indeed have outside help.

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Bad Blood (49)

Chapter Four

Vic Cassidy was starting to cause trouble; word around the manor said that he was bad-mouthing Alfie and Vinnie, a situation which was wholly unacceptable. The main source of irritation was the fact that Vic was refusing to make protection payments, a crime which could not go unpunished.

Although the house Vic ran was owned by Big Jack, protection still had to be paid to Vinnie as part of the conditions he and Anderson had agreed upon prior to the place being set up. Which in Jack’s view, was an unnecessary and demeaning proviso which had always rankled.

However, according to Jack, he no longer had any control over Vic and had washed his hands of both him and the whorehouse completely. Not a very likely story, but one that was difficult to disprove.

The upshot of all this was that Vic owed money and with Anderson suspiciously and uncharacteristically reluctant to do anything about it, the matter was left up to Vinnie to sort out.

At first, Vinnie had instructed Alfie to send a team in to collect the revenue, but they returned with no money, just a number of cuts and bruises – courtesy of some heavies who, it was rumoured, had been supplied to Vic by a firm from the East End.

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Bad Blood (48)

Outside, the night air was chilly and Sarah snuggled into me, tucking her arm underneath mine and taking hold of my hand; her smooth, delicate fingers linking perfectly with the rough, calloused ones of mine.

We walked together for an uncertain length of time, our destination unknown and not discussed. We talked sporadically, when the mood came over us and at other times remained quiet, completely at ease in each others company and not at all awkward with the lengthy silences. It was as if we were meant to be together and both of us knew it.

We bought chips from a shop near the river, smothering them in salt and vinegar, then ate them out of soggy newspaper as we strolled arm in arm by the dark waters of the Thames, the lights of the city glittering like a Christmas tree upon its surface to conjure up a magically romantic setting.
And then it happened.

As we leant on the railings over looking the river, I glanced down at Sarah to see her staring up at me. God she was beautiful. Her gorgeous dark eyes, her long lustrous hair, and her plump red lips, just waiting to be kissed and I could resist no longer.

At first, when our lips touched it was tender and gentle, tentative even, as each of us responded to the others kiss. Her lips tasted of salt and vinegar and shandy. Delicious. Added to that was the sweet aroma of her light perfume, making it an utterly intoxicating cocktail from which I would want to drink again and again.

A second passed, in which, I suspected, a psychological barrier came down allowing her to succumb fully to the moment, then her mouth opened and I felt her warm tongue searching for mine. I responded eagerly. Suddenly, as our passion intensified, the remains of our chips were discarded onto the cobble stone ground and we embraced with all the desire that had for so long, been hidden.

“I love you,” I blurted. I could not help it. It was true and I had to tell her.

“I love you too, Sean,” she gasped breathlessly, before smothering my mouth with hers once more.


My world was in a whirl and I could not believe my good fortune. As I left Sarah at her door, a little before midnight, the light in her front room still burning brightly and the shadow of Joe’s anxious figure standing inside, I wondered how come it was that I was born to be so lucky.

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Bad Blood (47)

Later, on the way back from the gym, Joe became more serious. “Listen, Sean,” he said, “Sarah’s been through an awful lot in her life, some of which you already know about. But there are other things you don’t. Things that you probably can’t even imagine. It’s not my place to tell you what they are, if she wants you to know, then she’ll tell you – when she feels ready. But, for now, just take it slow, okay. Be gentle with her, she deserves it.”


That night, I took Sarah out for the first time. Just me and her and no one else.
We went for a drink in a quiet little pub in Camberwell where the lighting was soft and we could just sit in one of the dimly lit corners and talk.

We talked about many things; about our hopes and dreams; about our plans for the future. Her father was never mentioned and when she spoke of family it was only of Joe. Like it was only them, as if their father and, indeed, their mother, never existed.

As twins, Joe and Sarah’s bond had been naturally close, but their upbringing had forced them to become more than that, almost as if they were one. Now I was on the scene, disrupting that bond, but in a good way I hoped. When I suggested this to Sarah, she giggled musically and her eyes sparkled with mischief. “Yes, Mr. Reilly,” she said, “I have noticed that you have a very distracting way about you.” Under the table, she took my hand and squeezed it, “But it’s very welcome,” she whispered.

Suddenly our eyes were locked together and so badly I wanted to kiss her, and I suspected she was willing me to. But I could not, not there, not in the pub.
I suggested that we should perhaps finish our drinks, then maybe take a stroll, and she eagerly agreed.

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Bad Blood (46)

Joe instantly let go of the punch bag and for a split second glared directly into my eyes. Then, inexplicably, without further confrontation, he turned away from me and hung his head low as if in defeat. He walked slowly to the line of lockers that dominated the back wall of the gym and silently opened the one in which his kit was stowed. He started to take out his clothes, not once looking back and I felt like a traitor. Of all his possible reactions, I had least expected this.

It had not gone as planned, I had blown it completely and destroyed our friendship in the process. Not to mention ruining any chance I might have had with Sarah in the future.

Christ I was a fool; I knew how much Sarah meant to him, so what on earth was I thinking?

Looking at Joe’s back as he got dressed, I felt terrible, as if I had betrayed his trust. Why couldn’t he have just punched me and forgotten that I had ever asked?

I walked up behind him, but not too close, just in case he started swinging. “I’m sorry Joe,” I said pathetically, “I love Sarah, but I know what she means to you, If you don’t want me to see her then that’s…” Suddenly I noticed Joe’s shoulder’s shaking. I walked around to the side of him so I could see his face, which he was trying to bury in his locker but it did not work, I could still see it.

He was laughing. Not just chuckling, but very nearly guffawing. “Christ, Sean,” he said, with tears rolling down his face “It’s taken you since Christmas Eve to finally ask me – Sarah and me thought you’d never get around to it!”

Suddenly the reality of the situation finally dawned on me – he already knew.
“You bastard!” I exclaimed, “How long have you known?”

Trying to get himself under control, but not really succeeding, he laughed, “I’ve known for ages – it’s been bloody obvious!”

Now starting to feel very stupid indeed, I asked, “Did Sarah know?”

“Don’t worry, Sean, Sarah didn’t have a clue, not until Christmas Eve. I didn’t even know she felt the same way until about an hour before your birthday party.”

“You mean, she told you!” I was appalled.

“Of course she told me. We’re twins, we tell each other everything – you should know that!”

“And you don’t mind?” I asked incredulously.

“Of course I don’t mind. My best friend going out with my sister, I couldn’t be happier. If I can’t trust you, then who can I trust? – I know you’ll look after her.”

My heart soared. I felt so relieved, so happy.

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Bad Blood (45)

I had rehearsed what I was going to say to Joe a thousand times, but as yet had not had a good chance to ask him. Every time I got close something would happen to divert his attention or, if I am completely honest, on the odd occasions that I did have an opportunity, my bottle had failed me.

It was the first week of January 1951 and Joe and I had just celebrated the last New Year we would spend together for a very long time – not that either of us knew this on the cold Wednesday morning at Alfie’s gym, when I had finally plucked up the courage to inform Joe of my intentions. It was now or never.
Joe was holding the punch bag for me and I was banging away at it wearing a pair of old leather boxing gloves. I figured that if things turned nasty, at least I was in a position to defend myself. I was pumped up with adrenaline, ready for the onslaught, should it go the wrong way.

“Joe?” I said.

“What?” He replied.

“What would you say—.” I thumped the bag, grateful for the pause as I tried to summon up the words. “What would you say if—.” Again I smashed at the bag, I was drawing out the inevitable, making it worse, ‘Get on with it, man!’ Screamed the voice in my head, ‘Just bloody say it!’

“For Chrissakes, Sean, spit it out! What would I say if what?” Joe already sounded pissed off.

However, I steeled myself nonetheless. “What would you say if— if I was to ask Sarah out on a date?”

The deed was done.

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Bad Blood (44)

On the morning of Christmas Eve, Joe, Sarah and I were at Ivy Reynolds’ house as she had invited us all for lunch. Joe and Mum were in deep conversation in the kitchen and Ivy was upstairs looking out yet more photos of her boys. Sarah and I were alone in the living room.

It was now or never.

“I’m sorry you couldn’t come to my party,” I said. “It was thoughtless of me to have it at Ruby’s and besides—” I took a deep breath and threw caution to the wind, “— I missed you.”

Sarah looked at me with her dark, round eyes, her face truly beautiful. At seventeen she had grown into the woman I always knew she would. She was silent for a long moment, registering the meaning of what I had just said. Then, just when my nerve was starting to break, she whispered, “I missed you too.”

For a second I was taken aback. She did have feelings for me and that was surely proof of it. With my confidence wavering, I decided to take a bolder step before my courage deserted me entirely.

“I wondered if you’d like to come out with me sometime?” And then, just to save face, in case of instant rejection, I added, “Just as friends of course.”

That last bit seemed to sour her mood and suddenly she sounded irritated, “Oh, you mean you, me and Joseph?” She asked almost scornfully.

Sensing I had upset her, I blurted out rashly, “No, just you and me! Perhaps we could go to the pictures?”

“What? And not invite Joseph?” She teased, her mood lightening again and clearly enjoying my discomfort. “But surely that would be classed as a date, wouldn’t it?”

I had been rumbled. She knew exactly what I had meant but wanted to hear me say it, “Well, yes. I suppose it would – will you come?” I asked sheepishly.

Sarah smiled widely, “Sean Reilly, if you only knew how long I’ve wanted you to ask me. Of course I’ll come.” She giggled, took hold of my shaking hand and kissed me quickly on the cheek. Then added mischievously, “But you’ll have to clear it with Joseph first.”

Sarah stood up, almost as if to let me examine the prize that would be mine if I passed the test, smiled at me again, and with a knowing twinkle in her beguiling dark eyes said, “Don’t worry, he’ll be a pushover.” With that, she turned and glided innocently into the kitchen.

After she had dropped her bombshell, I sat on Ivy Reynolds sofa and stared blankly at the wall, trying to come to terms with the enormity of the task Sarah had set me; I had got to ask Joe if I could date his precious sister, I might just as well have killed myself there and then.

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Bad Blood (43)

In the years that had passed, my feelings for Sarah had not diminished, in fact, if anything, they had grown, yet I still had not acted upon them and it was steadily driving me insane. But I had begun to notice that my feelings may be reciprocated. Most notably on the night of my birthday party at Ruby’s. When I went to call for Joe, Sarah answered the door. She was normally warm and friendly and on this night I had expected perhaps a little more; a kiss perhaps, or at least a “Happy birthday, Sean.” But she was anything but warm, in fact, she was downright hostile. “Oh, it’s you,” she said, “I suppose you’re off to celebrate your birthday with a bang.”

Not catching the true meaning of what she said, I replied, “I certainly hope so,” and grinned broadly.

“Disgusting!” She spat, as if she had swallowed something horrible.

Joe came up behind her just as I was wondering what I had done wrong. “Don’t worry, Sis,” he said smiling wickedly. “I’ll make sure he doesn’t catch anything.” He kissed her on the cheek, then turned to her seriously and said, “Any trouble, get in the bathroom and lock the door, I’ll be home by midnight.” This was Joe’s usual procedure and he was always home when he said he would be. It made Sarah feel safer.

Joe only came home later than promised once, which was that night. The night he spent with my mother and me at the hospital.

On the way to Ruby’s I asked Joe about Sarah’s strange mood, his response was, “Don’t worry, she’s only jealous.” I took this to mean jealous because we were going to the party and she was not.

With all that ensued that night, I forgot all about what Sarah had said and indeed what Joe had said about her being jealous. It was not until about a week or so later, that I suddenly remembered.

It must have been because we were going to the party, I thought. But then again, Sarah knew what Red Ruby’s was and she would never want to go to that sort of place, so why would Joe say she was jealous. Did he know something I did not?

I had to find out.

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Bad Blood (42)

A taxi dropped us off outside our house and as we stood on the pavement my mother spoke. In a barely audible whisper she said, “Sean, I can’t. I can’t go in there, he’ll kill me next time.”

Ivy Reynolds came out of her house and almost immediately read the situation. “Don’t worry Sean, luv,” she said, “Rita can stay with me until she feels better.” I felt the tension leave my mother’s quivering body instantly.

Ivy was a very sweet little woman, perhaps slightly older than Mum, who had lost her husband and both her boys in the war. She lived alone in a house filled with the memories of those she had loved. Her whole life had been dedicated to looking after her family and now it was gone. She was the ideal person to nurse my mother back to full health. I worked all afternoon and evening and needed to bring in the money. Ivy was a seamstress who worked at home, she could be with Rita all day where as I could not. My father would never make a scene at Ivy’s. He knew she would call the police. Besides, to make a scene would be to say that he cared and he did not.

Until I was able to find a permanent new home for Mum, Ivy’s would do just fine.

My father needless to say, was nowhere to be seen. In fact, I did not set eyes on George Reilly until two months later and, after that, I would never see him again.

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Bad Blood (41)

Both Joe and I raced to the hospital where we found Mum; bruised, bloodied and looking dreadful. She had two black eyes and a split lip, but was sitting up in bed trying hard not to cry. When she saw us, the tears she had so bravely been holding back welled up and spilled down her face. She flung an arm around both of us, pulling us tightly towards her and wept uncontrollably. Her deep breathless sobs piercing my heart and heightening my guilt for not being there in her moment of need; each salty tear feeding the hatred I felt for my father.

Knowing how much Joe cared for my mother, I glanced across at him and saw an expression on his face that I had not previously witnessed. It was like staring straight into hell. His lip was curled and his teeth were clenched and he wore a look of such anger and blood lust that, just for a second, I wished George Reilly would walk through the door.

As we hugged her gently, I asked her what had happened but she was unable to properly respond. Each time she tried to tell us she would breakdown in a state of hysteria, so I decided to let her rest, I could pretty much guess what happened anyway.

Eventually we managed to calm her and after some time she finally fell asleep.
Joe and me spent the night on the wooden benches in the corridor outside her ward. I told Joe to go but he would not. Mum meant as much to him as she did to me.

In the morning the doctor deemed her fit enough to be sent home. Her injuries although painful were not as serious as at first thought and provided she had plenty of rest with no strenuous activity she could be released.

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