Grovel Greg, Grovel Part 2

A continuation of Grovel Greg, Grovel - Greg moves to London.

It is 1976. Greg is a shy and naive 19 year-old, who has decided to take his chances in the big city.

He must pitch his wits against racism, unemployment, and people who want to take advantage of his inexperience.

But things don’t go well, and by the Autumn, he has disappeared from the face of the Earth.

Or has he?

In Part 2 Greg moves to London, and takes-up residence in the strange lodging house, "Turbot".

Part 3 is set in the present day, as his sister sets out to discover what really happened.

One chapter will be published on Movellas each day, until the story reaches its gripping conclusion.

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14. A Murder

Meanwhile, in a nice town house in South Kensington, Nadia is getting ready to go out. Her boyfriend is picking her up at 7.30. So she wants to look smart. But in truth, she always looks smart. She is neither punk, nor the seventies chick with big flares; she favours a classic look. In truth, she does not give her 'look' a great deal of thought. This is the way she always looks, it is natural to her. Even when she goes to work, her outfit is a subdued version of this 'look'. The 'phone rings- it is her boyfriend. He is going to be late, he says. Not very late, just a little late. The traffic is heavy. Maybe about eight o'clock. She says OK, no problem, and puts the 'phone down. At least she has a few more moments to finish off her make-up. Then, at 7.30, the door bell rings. Her boyfriend must have made-up time - maybe there was no traffic after all. She goes to the door, and answers it. But it is not her boyfriend. The man at the door looks vaguely familiar to Nadia. The way he stands, the shape of his shoulders, his skinny frame covered by a denim jacket- she has seen him before somewhere. But she cannot see his face because it is covered by a balaclava. Only his eyes are visible. Nadia screams. The man pushes his way into her house and shuts the door.

 

Nadia's murder is particularly unpleasant. Even the police are impressed by the amount of blood and the extent to which it is dispersed around the hallway. Her body is discovered by her boyfriend at about 8.00 that evening. He has walked in through the front door which has been left open (presumably) by the murderer as he left, and he finds most of her body there, near the door. At first the police treat her boyfriend as a suspect. The poor fellow's clothes are examined by 'Forensics' - meanwhile he is questioned over and over by the inspectors. The faltering in his voice is regarded as a sign of guilt rather than symptoms of his incomprehension over what has happened. Eventually, the police are satisfied that he is not the murderer. But in the time it takes for them to come to this conclusion, the trail to the real murderer becomes cold.

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Despite the messiness of Nadia's murder, it fails to make much of a splash in the newspapers. Yes, it is a brutal, messy affair, but not quite quirky enough to catch the public's imagination. It needed some kinky aspect or an unusual tool, rather than a common kitchen knife that the police have decided was the likely weapon. Its a while before Greg hears about the murder. By the time he finds-out, England has (as usual) lost the Test Match and he owes The Bookie the small matter of £100. He had spent the next couple of days trying to avoid The Bookie, or Derrick, or anyone else who may be associated with The Bookie. But on Thursday 19th August, there is a knock on the door of Turbot. Greg does not answer it, for fear that it is The Bookie. But this tactic does not work for long, as there is no lock on the door of Turbot. The man simply pushes the door open and walks in. But it is not The Bookie, nor any of his associates. It is a policeman, accompanied by approximately five other policemen. They start running around Turbot, sweating slightly in the heat, and  shouting Greg Lake excitedly as they go. They soon find 'Greg Lake' and bundle him out of the house.

 

Why have I been arrested? Why are the coppers so rough with me- do they think I'm a murderer or something?- Greg asks himself. He tries to recall the things he has done wrong recently. The rent he has not paid to Mr Zabbath. The £100 from AD that he did not declare to the dole office. The £100 he he has not paid to The Bookie yet. The fact that he has not telephoned his Mother since he moved to London. But however guilty he is of any of these misdemeanors, he thinks that none of these alone would justify being dragged out of your gaff by a possy of cops. Maybe, if you keep doing bad things, the cops eventually get fed up with you and arrest you for all of your petty crimes put together? They put handcuffs on him. He wonders if the neighbours are watching. The cops push him in to the van. He stumbles. He cannot put his hands out to break his fall, so he smacks his knee on the floor. It hurts. He wishes his Mum was here, right now.

            Meanwhile, from a safe distance outside Turbot, a skinny man in a denim jacket watches-on. His face does not change as the police van drives Greg away, but the stance of his body relaxes and starts to exude a certain satisfaction. When the van is out of sight, the man calmly walks up to the front door, and into Turbot.

“Ah its you,”  says one of the policemen to Greg when he is in the station. Greg looks at the copper but does not recognise him. All coppers look the same. “Yeah I remember you,” continues the copper, “you're the one that was shagging Miss Nigeria.” All the policemen within earshot start to laugh at this: they remember too. Their laughter is cut short by the entrance of an inspector with a frown so fierce that he may have just seen at least one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse.

Then Greg is taken into a little room with two inspectors and the door is shut and locked.

            “You are Greg Lake, of Turbot, Stockwell Park, London?” says one of them. Greg nods. “Well ARE you?” says the inspector. “Yes,” says Greg. His name is not really 'Greg Lake' but he feels this is not the right time to explain all this. The inspector says: “We are interviewing you in connection with the murder of Miss Nadia Zabbah on the Seventeeth of August 1976…….”

And this is how Greg found-out about Nadia's murder.

 

Greg, like Nadia's boyfriend, is rendered almost speechless by this news, although in truth Greg's distress is only a small percentage of that suffered by her boyfriend. The inspectors ask Greg about his time at Mark Loan, his lunch dates with Nadia, the circumstances of his dismissal from that company; and Greg stammers-out his answers as best he can. They are especially encouraged by the fact that Nadia was Greg's ex-boss's niece. How do they know all this stuff about me? - wonders Greg. How long have they been watching me? The hesitations between his explanations, his um-ing and er-ing, his lack of composure are (as usual) regarded by the police as signs of potential guilt, rather than of shock at the horrid news. Worst still, he has no alibi. “Where were you at about 7.30 on the evening of Seventeenth of August?” He was in Turbot hiding from The Bookie. Nobody saw him; nobody can vouch for him. And Nadia dead, hacked to death with a kitchen knife. Again, he wishes his mother was here. She'd sort it out, she'd tell them that her son could not possibly be the murderer. She'd...well, she'd confirm to Greg that the whole thing had just been a bad dream. She'd take him home to Bury, tuck him into bed, and in the morning everything would be normal again.

Greg has no alibi; but, equally, the police have no evidence, so eventually he is released without charge.

He walks out of the police station, into freedom. As he leaves, he feels the scowls of the bobbies on the back of his neck, annoyed that their gaffers have been unable to pin any charges on this irritating little shit.

The world outside the police station resembles a pleasant summer evening. But to Greg it is now a frightening, strange world. Someone he was fond-of is dead. There is a murderer at large. It slowly dawns on Greg that it could well be someone who knows him. He could, therefore, be in equal peril to that which had shadowed poor Nadia. So as he walks, he makes a sudden decision- to return to Bury. Not just for a visit, but for good. Many times in the last four months had this idea crossed his mind, but each time pride had stopped him. Now, however, things are worse. His own fate seems out of his control. In any case, he had achieved what he had come to London for, to lose his virginity- so why hang-around? And leaving now gives the added bonus of evading his £100 debt to The Bookie. He would never trace him back to Bury. It all makes sense to him. He can even continue to write for AD from his rural retreat: there is no absolute requirement to live in London to undertake this kind of work. He could see bands at Cambridge Corn Exchange or Ipswich Gaumont and write about them.

            Just one 'phone call home would sort it all out. He looks at his watch- 9.30 pm- too late to call his parents. He will ring them first thing tomorrow morning, before his father goes to work. No, on second  thoughts he will ring after his father has gone to work and speak to his Mum. His father may still be vexed at him.

            With this plan in mind, Greg sneaks back towards Turbot. But he has no intention of sleeping there tonight, that would be too dangerous.

Greg goes upstairs in Turbot and opens his bedroom door. The outfit of woman's clothes that Greg had found in Olly's old room a few weeks before, is there, neatly arranged on his bed! The blouse, the little grey skirt and the panties that Greg thought Nadia may have worn. A second later he hears the slamming of car doors in the street outside. From his window he sees more police approaching Turbot!

 

Greg meets the police on the landing. They look like different policemen to those who arrested him earlier. The shifts must have changed.

"I think yule find who yure looking for in that wee room there" says Greg in his best attempt at Scots. He says it with the easy confidence that he learnt from the Attitude Kid.            "Thank you sir," says one of the policemen. Greg slips down the stairs and dawdles out of Turbot, smiling at the officer waiting in the patrol car outside. Once he is out of sight of the house, he sprints as far and as fast as he can away from Stockwell Park.

In Brixton he at last stops and stands for a while, hands on his kness, catching his breath. When his breathing is finally calm, he calls the operator from a phone box. "Can you reverse charges to Bury St Edmunds 60784 please?" says Greg.

            "Hello? Hello?" It is his father's voice, though he sounds older than before, and a little disorientated. Well, it is late, thinks Greg. His parents would not expect anyone to call at this time, except in emergency.

            "Dad! Dad!" shouts Greg, "Its me, Greg!"

            "Who?" says his father, weakly. But before Greg can reply, there is a simple 'click' at the other end of the line, then silence. His father hung-up on him.

 

3.00 am, Friday 20th August  1976

Greg is sitting on his backside on the remnants of the grass at the very centre of the park near Turbot. The park, incidentally, is called Slade Gardens. It shares its name with that good-times pop band from the early 70s. How different the World of '76 seems, compared with the World of Slade. Nowadays there is racism, unemployment, muggings, strikes, and even a murder. In Slade's day it was all parties, silly clothes, and doing naughty things with girls. Whatever happened to Slade, wonders Greg? He sits there, surprised at how chilly it is in the night time, during a heatwave. Still, the chill helps him to stay awake. He must stay awake to listen for the police, or the murderer. He whiles-away the time by asking himself why his father had hung-up on him. He comes-up with various explanations- but whichever slant he places upon it, it leaves him with a feeling of ghastly emptiness. Finally, with sunrise imminent, he turns his attention to what he should do next.

 

8.00 am, Friday August 20th

In their modest suburban semi in Bury, Madge has finally extracted from her father the identity of the late night caller. But she had already suspected that it was Greg when she heard her father hang-up so abruptly. Her father has been behaving oddly lately, ever since his unsuccessful trip to London to try and pursuade Greg to come back. When he had got back he had declared that Greg would never set-foot in his house again. From then onwards, whenever his family mention Greg in a conversation, he acts as if he does not know who Greg is.

            "What did he say?" Madge asks her father. "What did who say?" he replies. She is worried.

It is now 8.30am. Greg creeps out of Slade Gardens. He is being extra careful not to bump into anyone, as it could be the murderer. He keeps his eyes peeled and looks around him in a 360° sweep to ensure the coast is clear. He leaves through the park gates, and virtually collides with The Bookie! Greg cannot think what to say to The Bookie- "er er" is coming from his lips.

            But the Bookie is cool and laid-back. "Hey man! You guys took another shafting the other day!" he laughs.

            "G..g..g…give us a couple more days," grovels Greg.

            "Don't worry about it man!" he says, still laughing, "have a nice day! And with that he is gone, off to open his little shop for that morning's punters.

            Buoyed by this unlikely escape, Greg sets-off to speak to Shaccara. He realises that this will be difficult, so closely is her life intertwined with that of the pimp. But he plans to survey their residence from a discrete distance, and wait until Rankin has gone out. It is very hard to lurk outside someone's house without looking suspicious, decides Greg. Someone like Olly would be good at it; he is a natural born lurker. But wait Greg does, despite the sensation of twitching curtains, and feeling like a Grade A sexual pervert. He tries putting his hands in his pockets, whistling, and looking at his watch. And his patience is rewarded. After about 30 minutes he sees Rankin leave the house and climb in to his ride. The car pulls-away. Greg goes to the front door and knocks. The door opens. But it is not Shaccara who opens the door. It is Derrick.

Derrick!

Derrick blinks at Greg in the same way that he blinked at Greg when Greg first called at his flat, back in May. Greg blinks back.

How did Derrick get here, wonders Greg? He had not seen him enter the house- he must have been in the house at the same time as Rankin. Derrick is dressed in shorts- not football shorts but the looser-fitting kind that cool people use as pyjamas. Shorts, and nothing else.

            "Who's there darling?" says a voice from inside the house. Greg recognises the voice- it is Shaccara.

            "Its Greg," says Derrick, flatly.

            "What does he want?" asks Shaccara. She asks this with an air of vague curiosity, as if the postman may need a parcel signed-for.

            "What do you want?" repeats Derrick. Nothing comes from Greg's mouth. He seems to be transfixed by Derrick's near-naked body. His muscles, his hairs, his dark skin, his gold necklace: all oozing masculinity. It occurs to Greg that Shaccara must have noticed all this masculinity too. Then he remembers her words- "Who's there, darling?" she had said. The penny finally drops, Derrick was her 'darling'- they had been sleeping together. But how could Derrick be her darling, as well as Rankin, and as well as him, wondered Greg? She had even promised to live with him, in a note! Greg decides that her promise was worthless, 'obviously bollocks' are the precise words he thinks. He turns on his heel, and walks away from the house.

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