I went back into the crowd towards where I'd left Aria with Parvis but couldn't see them.

“Hey Jack, over here” said Vinny who was holding onto the red head with one hand and waving over at me with the other. Aria, Parvis and Trella were close by drinks in hand. I was about to go over to them but before I could take a step I felt the grip of a heavy hand on my shoulder which stopped me in my tracks.

“Where's you going Jack man?”

“Remembered my name now then have we?” I said as I turned around to find the hand belonged to Ossie.

“Now don't be like that Jack. Mitch's my boss and he likes things done like professional. You know what I mean! “

“Yeah, if mute's the new professional” I said and turned to walk away but once again I felt the vice like grip on my shoulder.

“You forgotten something Jack?”

“Don't think so but I've got a sneaking suspicion you're gonna refresh my memory.”

Ossie let out one of his screeching laughs and said

“The club man! The club on Monday. You forgotten you're starting work on Monday already Jack?”

How could I forget I thought to myself!

“Try not to think of work on my nights off” I said.

“Well, better doing some thinking if you know what I mean Jack. Meet me at Leicester Square tube,

Charring Cross Road exit at 12.00 on Monday” said Ossie and turned to walk away.

He'd only taken a step when he stopped, looked back and said “Oh and don't be late Jack. Mitch's gonna be there.”

“Even better” I thought.

“Can't wait Ossie. See you Monday.”

Ossie screeched again and winked before walking off.

I went over to join the group and my face must have told a story coz Aria passed me a drink and said “everything is OK?” whilst giving my hand a supportive squeeze.

“Yeah, I'm fine thanks Aria” then turning to look at Parvis I said “where is everybody?”

“They go with the girls” said Aria.

“Gone where?” I said.

“Gone back to your drum for a Melvyn I should think” said Vinny.

“All of them?" I said hoping I wouldn't end up like one of the three bears in Goldilocks.

“Finbar as well?”

“No, he's gone back to her hotel. George gone with his girl as well” said Parvis.

“Thank god for that” I thought as me and Finbar shared a bedroom.

“Who's Melvyn?” said Aria.

Vinny looked at me and I looked back none the wiser. I mean all this cockney stuff was new to me and I couldn't think of how Melvyn could rhyme with sex.

“A Melvyn Bragg, a shag!” said Vinny looking at us like we were from another planet.

“Who's shagging?” said Parvis.”

Parvis and sex! Time for a double quick subject change.

“D' ya know anywhere around here which plays a good tune?” I said to Vinny.

“Meneo's in Wardour Street's bang on but the Bernard'll be down to Leicester Square by now. I half know the picker so we can try if you like it but I can't guarantee we'll all get in.”

“Who's Bernard?” said Aria.

“Never mind Aria” I said “we all up for it yeah?”

Everyone was on so we finished off our drinks and made our way to the exit where I could see Frank was back controlling the door.

As we went out into the street I stopped and said to Frank “we're going to Meneo's if you fancy it after you've finished here.”

“OK, see you there” he said still grinding his teeth.

We walked through the piazza towards Soho with Vinny and the red head leading the way. Her dress was so low you could see the top of the crack of her kekless arse. Aria saw me looking.

“English girls no feel cold?” she said and smiled.

“Don't look like does it!”

“By the way” said Vinny turning around and pointing to the red head on his arm. “This is Debbie.”

Debbie said “ow ist?” and sort of waved her hand without turning around.

“Ow ist?” I said.

“Yeah, tha knows. Like ya alright duck!”

“Ah I get you! Nice to meet you Debbie” I said wondering how they'd get on. A cockney and a northerner!

Mind you, don’t suppose either of them were planning on doing much talking.

It was a lovely night. Cold but with a clear sky and bone dry and although I was more than worried about my future and particularly how long it'd last I couldn't help but feel warm inside when Aria put her arm around my waist and pulled me towards her.

Vinny took us through China town and the streets were buzzing. People everywhere shouting rather than talking like you do when you've had too much to drink and Chinese guys ferrying supplies to restaurants on sack trucks. Yeah, I was happy to be in London.

As we were coming out of China town I heard Vinny say to himself “mobbo or what!”

I looked across the street and saw “Meneo’s” in neon above a small door which was being guarded by a man mountain of a guy dressed in a dinner jacket complete with dickey bow tie. Either side of him was a queue. The one to the left being enormous whilst the one to the right only massive.

No chance of getting in there I thought to myself.

Vinny stopped at the bottom of Gerrard Street and when we were all together said

“OK, we all walk straight to the door as a group and make it look like we're here every week” which immediately made me feel nervous.

I was even worried of getting knockback in Hooshang's in Sheffield and I was there every week.

“Ready? Let's go then” and off we went with Vinny and Debbie in front.

When we got to the door Vinny said to the doorman “hello mate, how ya been? Is Jay in tonight then?” not stopping to hear the reply and to my amazement the doorman let him go past him up the steep stairs.

Debbie, Parvis and Trella followed suite and then Aria with me close behind her. Just as I was about to walk past the doorman I heard a guy coming down the stairs in the opposite direction shout “no” to the doorman who put his hand firmly on my chest stopping me from going any further.

The doorman looked down at me and said “sorry not tonight mate.”

By now the guy who shouted “no” was standing in front of me. He was about five feet tall wearing makeup and a sort of dress with what looked like a pair of y-fronts on his head. Looked more like a vertically challenged cross dressing brick layer than a West End trend.

“But I'm with the group that's just gone inside” I said.

He looked back up the stairs and shouted “Vinny, is he with you?”

Vinny looked back and said “hello Claude. Yeah, he's a mate of mine. Jack!”

“Well, don't bring him looking like this again” he said pointing at me. “I mean just look at him. No one'll come!”

“OK” said Vinny.

Claude looked at me and said “go on but if you can't make an effort don't bother coming again.”

I said “cheers” but felt like planting him as he'd made me feel as small as a mustard seed in front of a few hundred people and anyway I didn't see much chance of moving the mountain in the dickey bow.

I went up the stairs to where Vinny was waiting for me.

“Who's that twat?” I said.

“Don't worry. Just play the game and give the lovies a gee. He's a bit of a boat and does a few gigs around town so it's worth getting to know him.”

“I was thinking of giving him something else.”

Vinny laughed and said “careful, he might like that.”

Meneo's was dark with all the walls decorated in paintings. Not paintings on the wall but the walls used as canvasses if you get me. We plotted up at the bar and ordered some drinks.

Aria asked me what had happened in Cuff Links and although I didn't really want to go over it I told her I'd been asked to run a club by a local businessman.

Aria looked excited and said “that is good Yack no? What's he named?”

When I said Mr. Maton Vinny overheard and said

“you're gonna work for Mitch Maton? Mitch “Mad” Maton! Are you out of your tiny?”

“Did you say mad?” I said.

“Madder” said Vinny.

Didn't think things could get any worse but things were going pear shaped at more than free fall speed I thought.

“Do you know him then?” I said.

“No I don't but I know of him and he's not someone you wanna play knuckles with. In a word mob! What's he asked you to do anyway?”

“I didn't get the feeling he was asking me. More like told me I'm running a club he's bought on St. Martin's Lane. Going to see it on Monday morning.”

“Why you?” said Vinny.

“Fuck knows. Only thing I can think of is that Frank must have let slip about the clubs we did in Sheffield. To tell you the truth I'm trying not to think about the why but the how as in how am I gonna make it successful when I hardly know anyone in London” I said.

Debbie walked over to Aria and whispered something in her ear.

“Do you mind if I dance with Debbie?” said Aria.

“No, of course not. Enjoy yourself Aria.”

As I watched them walk over to the dance floor I could see Parvis in a tight embrace with Trella and they looked on the point of tongue down.

“D'ya know where the toilets are in here Vinny” I said.

“Yeah, I need a lag as well so I'll show ya.”

Vinny led the way and as I walked I looked to my left where people were sitting down behind low tables which faced the dance floor and noticed one particular guy sitting with his eyes closed and there were a pair of feet sticking out from under the table on the opposite side to where he was.

As we passed you could see that the feet belonged to a girl who was giving him a blow job under the table.

There were people sat at tables either side of him but none of them took a blind bit of notice.

“D'ya see that?” I said to Vinny.

“Par for the course here Jack. Saw a couple walloping in the lobby when I was here once.”

Vinny pushed the toilet door open and said “shit there's a queue.”

When I went inside I saw a queue of blokes lined up waiting for the cubicles but the urinals were free.

“What a touch” I said as I walked over to the urinals expecting Vinny to be next to me but when I turned I could see he'd joined the queue.

“You wanna dump?” I said.

“Don't be daft Jack. I mean, who goes out for a small horse?”

“A small horse?” I said.

“Who's goes out for a pony as in trap as in crap as in a pony is a small horse. Get it?”

“Ahh… yeah! But why're you queuing then?”

“Christ Jack, you really have just got off the boat haven't you. I'll tell ya later.”

“OK, See you by the bar” I said pulling my trouser zip up and left the toilet and the queue to rejoin the rest.

When I got back Parvis was sitting at a table with tongue down and Aria and Debbie were dancing and laughing. How they could understand each other god only knows.

I contented myself leaning against the bar, sipping beer and tapping my feet to the tunes. Have to say the atmosphere was great or “bang on” as Vinny would say with all sorts from rockerbillies to cross dresser trends and with a generous helping of gorgeous girls all mixed together.

“You alright Jack” said Frank as he placed his hand on my shoulder.

“Didn't have any trouble getting in then?” I said turning around. “Think the bloke in the dress hates me.”

“No, I know the doorman” said Frank and then after pausing for a moment whilst looking at his feet and rubbing his nose looked up at me and said “listen, are you angry with me?


“About what happened with Mitch?”

“I'm not so much angry Frank as worried. He doesn't come across as someone you can cross and I don't know or have ever met anyone like him.”

“Why don't you see it as an opportunity?”

“Opportunity to do what?”

“If you can pull it off we'll be someone in the West End of London.”

I didn't like the sound of we as it made me think that Frank had planned it without asking me.

“The point is Frank that Mr. Maton…”

“Mitch” said Frank interrupting me.

“Preferable to “Mad” I grant you but I don't wanna get into the habit of calling him Mitch and letting it slip in front of him after he made it more than clear at least to me that he wanted to be called Mr. Maton” I said.

“The point is Frank that Mr. Maton is heavy and I'm not. Not only am I not heavy but I don't know anyone who is which means I've got no one to have my back if anything goes wrong.”

“I'll have your back” said Frank.

“Thanks Frank” I said and after pausing for a few seconds added ”now don't take this wrong but you ain't exactly “Ice Man” Kuklinski are you and anyway who's got your back? If ever the worst came to the worst we'd be like lambs to the slaughter.”

“Don't be so pessimistic. You'll do OK. It'll be a real win win for both of us you'll see.”

“Well, no point discussing it any longer as it's too late. I start work on Monday.”

“Fancy a bit Frank?” said Vinny who was back from the toilets and was grinding his teeth now as well.

“Yeah OK” said Frank.

Vinny passed something into Frank's hand and off he went to the toilets.

“The queue in the toilet's for a bit of Nicky Lauda” said Vinny as he poured his beer into a glass being careful not to make too much froth.

“Which is?” I said.

“You know. A bit of Boutrous, lemon, Gianluca, Salvador, oats, Charlie!”

“You mean cocaine?”

“That's what I just said innit?” said Vinny as his face sort of contorted like his tongue was trying to get a dry biscuit off the roof of his mouth. “D'ya wanna a bit?”

“Look out” I said “Parvis's coming over so don't mention anything about drugs. He thinks drug dealers should be executed."

“Hello lads” said Parvis beaming more than smiling at Trella who was on his arm. “Let me get a round in before I leave. Me and Trella are going now.”

“Ya alright Parvis. We've already got a few Britneys” said Vinny and seeing Parvis looked puzzled added “beers!”

“No, I insist” said Parvis and ordered beers for me and Vinny.

As he gave Vinny his drink he said “is the bloke in the dress a friend of yours?”

“Not exactly” said Vinny.

“Is he a bent?” said Parvis.

Me and Vinny doubled up laughing and then Vinny said “you don´t say is he a bent you say is he bent. Anyway, you should say gay as nobody uses terms like that these days.”

“Well is he a gay then?”

“Is he gay?” I said trying to get Parvis to see you didn't need the “a” in front of the gay.

“That's what I'd like to know” said Parvis.

“I think we're going round in circles here” said Vinny. “If you wanna know if he likes fellas then I think you'll find he more than likely does.”

Parvis pulled a face and said “we´re going now” and with that Trella moved towards us and gave me and Vinny a kiss on both cheeks and said goodnight.

“Where's Aria? I like to say goodnight to her” said Trella.

“She's over there dancing with Debbie” I said pointing to the dance floor.

Trella went over to say goodnight and Parvis said “what do you think?”

“She's lovely” said Vinny.

I was just about to add my thrupence worth when I heard Frank say

“hello Parvis. You alright?” as he passed whatever Vinny gave him back into his hand.”

“I'm good Frank” said Parvis “you like a drink?”

“Large brandy” said Frank.

Parvis ordered a brandy and handed it to Frank and then after staring at him for a while held out a paper handkerchief and said

“you know you should look after yourself in this weather.”

Me, Frank and Vinny looked at Parvis wondering what he was on about.

“Your nose! Your nose is running. You have to be careful in this weather especially with your job standing outside in the cold.”

Frank looked at me and Vinny as in “is he serious or taking the piss.”

Fortunately, Trella came back and Parvis introduced her to Frank before there was any more talk of Frank's runny nose.

Trella kissed Frank on both cheeks and then her and Parvis left.

I looked over to the dance floor and saw Debbie and Aria were still dancing. Must say I felt a bit guilty as I'd asked Aria out and barely spent half an hour with her.

“Ohhh! Love this tune” said Vinny as the opening bars of “Running Away” by Roy Ayers came out of the speakers.

“Gorra dance to this. Fancy a dance with the girls?” he said.

I didn't answer but just put my beer down on the bar and walked with him over to the dance floor whilst Frank stayed at the bar with his brandy.

When the girls saw us coming they turned towards us, grabbed us by the hands to pull us towards them and started dancing with us.

Seemed like the whole dance floor was mouthing “dippy doo, run, run, run” apart from Aria.

“Everyone like” she shouted into my ear smiling.

“Classic bit of rare groove” I shouted back.

“Rare groove?”

“Yeah, old tunes that stand the test of time.”

The DJ followed with “Rock Creek Park” by the Blackbyrds and continued with a string of rare groove classics and we danced to all of them.

After about half an hour I was sweating.

“Fancy a drink Aria?” I said.

“Yes I fancy” she said and we walked off the dance floor over to the bar whilst Vinny and Debbie went into the gent’s toilet. There was no sign of Frank.

“Debbie go to the man's!” said Aria pointing over to the toilets just as Vinny and Debbie disappeared inside.

“Yeah must be busy in the girls and she can't wait” I said.

I bought us a couple of beers and then looked at Aria and said “listen Aria, I'm sorry about tonight. I mean, I've asked you out and spent hardly any time with you.”

“Don't worry Yack. I enjoy very much and I like your friends. You worry much about your job, no?”

“Well, let's just say it came as a bit of a shock. Between you and me the bloke's a bit heavy.”

“He fat?”

“No. It means he's dangerous or he can be a bit nasty.”

“Ahh! This what Vinny mean when he say mob. Mafioso?”

“Definitely not St. Vincent de Paul” I said but Aria looked puzzled.

“Yeah, I think you're right but let's try not to mention his name. I don´t want it to get back to him that we've been talking about him.”

The club lights came up and the music stopped.

“Looks like the place is closing. D'ya want me to take you home or would you like to come back with me?” I said to Aria.

“I like.”

“You'd like me to take you home or come back with me?”

“Go with you Yack” she said looking into my eyes and smiling.

As she spoke I´m sure I felt my feet rise up off the floor like I was about to ascend off into the blue younder. My bliss was interrupted by Vinny who was back from the toilet with Debbie and contorting his face like he had Bells palsy.

“Anyone fancy a greasy? Harry's will still be open” he said.

“I´m reet clammed” said Debbie and seeing we didn't understand added “I´m starving.”

“I not clammed” said Aria “I knickered!”

“OK Aria” I said knowing she meant knackered. “Shall we get a cab?”

Aria nodded and the four of us made our way down the stairs to the exit. When we got to the street Claude the picker was there smoking a cigarette and giggling: Yeah giggling more than laughing giving court to a group of fag hags.

As we passed them I said “thanks Claude, had a good night.”

He looked me up and down and then as if he remembered our encounter said

“maybe you don't look so bad after all.”

“I bet you say that to all the boys” I said.

“Owwww!” he said in a high pitched voice which set off his entourage who all started laughing in unison as if they'd been queued.

I smiled thinking “twat” and walked away with Aria.

“D'ya know where the best place to get a cab is Vinny”?

“Probably Regent Street this time a night. Me and Debbie are going for a bite down Kingly Street which is close so we can show ya.”

We walked down to Leicester Square from Meneo´s taking a right to Piccadilly Circus and then into Regent Street.

“You should be OK for a smash here. See ya!”

“Yeah OK Vinny. Goodnight Debbie.”

“Sithee duck!” said Debbie and off she went with Vinny to Harry´s.

Me and Aria had only been waiting for a minute when a black cab pulled up next to us.

The window rolled down and a voice from inside said “where to mate?”

“Cricklewood Lane” I said.

I heard “nah” and then the window rolled back up and the cab drove off leaving us standing on the pavement.

Me and Aria looked at each other in disbelief and I said “I thought taxis were supposed to take you where you want to go. Well, they do in Cardiff and Sheffield anyway.”

“Rome also” said Aria.

“Well, apparently not in London” I said.

A couple of minutes later a banged up looking Ford Mondeo pulled up next to us. The window was open and a voice from inside said “you want taxi my friend?”

I couldn't see the driver so I bent down to look inside the car and was greeted by “you want taxi my friend?”

“Are you a taxi?” I said.

“Of course. Where you want to go?”

“Crickelwood Lane.”

“OK, that will be ten pounds.”

I was so tired I would have jumped into a rickshaw pulled by a one legged dwarf with cramp.

Me and Aria got into the back and noticed there was no passenger seat in the front.

“Cricklewood Lane just south of the river yes?”said the driver.

“Close but no cigar! It's North West. From the end of Baker Street it's a straight line” I said trying to remember the route the number 13 bus took.

“Ah Baker Street. Elementary!” said the driver laughing his leg off.

“You been in London long then?” I said.

“Oh yes, three months. I am from Nigeria.”

Fortunately he wasn't one of those drivers who liked talking and that was the last thing he said during the journey home.

I took hold of Aria's hand and just looked out of the window enjoying the view of London Streets. Enjoyed them even more when we passed St.John´s Wood and then Swiss Cottage tube which meant we were headed in the right direction.

The driver pulled up outside the flat in Cricklewood Lane and I paid him and threw in a couple of quid as a tip.

“Thank you my friend. Here's my card. Phone me anytime when you need a taxi. Anytime night or day!” said the taxi driver.

I just waved as speaking was too much of an effort.

Me and Aria half crawled to the front door of the flat and I placed the key in the lock trying not to make a noise and then we went up the stairs on tip toes.

Once inside it was dark and quiet.

“Wait a minute Aria. I'm just gonna make sure no one's in my room.”

I opened the door slowly and stuck my head around and luckily the room was empty.

I took Aria inside and she took her coat off and sat on the bed to take her boots off.

“I'm gonna go to the bathroom” I said.

I walked down the passage to the bathroom concentrating hard to control my bladder as I was bursting.

When I moved the door handle to open the bathroom door horror of horrors. Someone was in there! I was too far gone to wait so I went into the kitchen opened the tap and wazzed into the kitchen sink sighing with relief as I did so.

When I'd finished I cleaned the sink and went back along the passage to go to my bedroom.

I was half way along the passage when suddenly the bathroom door opened and almost smashed me in the face. A head appeared from around the side of the door and I could see it was the girl with the piercings who was with Sean in Cuff Links. The one Parvis was hiding from.

“Ya alright duck” she said.

“Hello. Yeah, I'm OK thanks” I said.

She was wearing Sean's Nottingham Forest football shirt and when I looked down I saw she had his Nottingham Forest football shaving mug in her hand complete with disposable razor and shaving foam.
I looked back up and when our eyes met she raised her eyebrows, shrugged her shoulders and smiled a very naughty looking smile.

“Goodnight then” I said.

“Hope so” she said and went off to Sean's bedroom.

“Who you speak to” said Aria as I closed my bedroom door behind me.

“The girl Sean's with.”

I kicked off my shoes and lay on the bed next to Aria. She snuggled up to me and nestled her head into my chest. I kissed her on the top of the head and said “I really like being with you Aria” but she said nothing. I looked down and she was spark out, fast asleep.

I didn't know it then but that night was the beginning of a new life. Things were about to change.