Fate calls the shots

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Mystery and Crime  |  House: Booksie Classic

A short story of how lives can cross paths in the hands of fate. Alfie Fisher is an unsung war hero. His wife suffers from chronic Rheumatoid arthritis. Like most workers Alfie gets by on his pay, but that’s it, he gets by. He hatches a plan to make a lot of money so his can change his families life and fortunes. He seeks help from a gangster and things begin to go wrong.

Before I tell my story, I need to take you back in time. The date is Tuesday 19th September 1944 and a Young Hugo Dexter is part of a crack commando corp being parachuted into Nazi occupied Holland on a mission to secure the Northern end of the Arnhem Bridge. Hugo was late bailing out of the plane due to anti aircraft fire and consequently descended into woodland further south than had been planned. His parachute became tangled in the trees leaving him dangling hopelessly in the air. He could hear the sound of tank engines running and there was a strong smell of Diesel engine oil in the air indicating a German Panza division must be close by. As much as he tried, he was unable to set himself free. He had severe pain in his right arm and both his legs numbly throbbed. He felt he wasn’t going to survive. It was at this point in time a lone soldier appeared from nowhere. The soldier cut him down and carried him to a safe dugout on the other side of the woods. By now German SS troops had been deployed to hunt down stray commandos. Their orders were, 'take no prisoners; shoot to kill!'

As a bloodlike darkness filled the twilight horizon across the skyline the lone soldier makes his move. With Hugo badly wounded and unable to walk the soldier carried him for what seemed like many hours until they came across the tail end of an American Commando troop heading to Oosterbeek across the river. Hugo wasn’t aware of it at the time but it would transpire he had been shot in his right leg and had also broken an arm. Few words were exchanged between the two men. But the soldier did reveal his name and dog tag number. Hugo had promised to look him up and bye him a cold beer when war was over. He would never forget that cockney’s voice ‘I was born in ear shot to the sound of the bow bells and there is no need to keep thanking me, you owe me nothing, Sir’ 

The battle continued to play out with heavy losses from both sides. Though under constant attack by armour and infantry the Arnhem bridge was held and the mission was successful. Hugo Dexter was awarded the Victoria cross for outstanding courage and bravery he had shown throughout the war. His leg had to be amputated and he was confined to an administration role as far as active service was concerned. He worked for the diplomatic security services and made a lot of contacts in Special Branch and the so called British secret services. In the mid-fifties he set up an undercover freelance covert operation that would later turn out to be anything from surveillance to removals and when I say removals I’m not talking home furnishings. 

Fast forward to July 1966. England have just won the World Cup, Grayhound racing it at its peak and London life is in full swing.
Danny Jackson is having a drink with his uncle Alfie Fisher in their local pub ‘The King George'. Danny lost his mother during
 a German bombing raid in 1941 and had been brought up by his Grandmother until he was ten. The family refused to move from the East end even though since the blitz began in 1940, all that remained was a patchwork of craters and crumbling buildings. Danny’s Father Frank had served  in the Royal Navy as an engineer on HMS Warwick. In 1944, the Warwick was torpedoed and sank in minutes taking Petty officer Jackson along with over half its crew of four hundred with it. From around 1950 he had spent the rest of his childhood with his mother’s sister Elsie and his uncle Alfie Fisher. Having been orphaned at such a young age he saw his uncle and auntie as his parents. He absolutely doted on his Aunt Elsie. Throughout his teens he had mixed with those on the wrong side of the law. As much as Alfie and Elsie had tried to steer him clear of trouble he always managed to find it. By now, he was well known to the Police as a petty thief and mover of stolen property. He had been arrested on four occasions for handling stolen goods but strangely was never charged. On a far more positive note, Danny had recently got engaged to his girlfriend Betty. They had met at a dance about a year ago and they had been practically inseparable ever since. So much so, Elsie had suggested she might as well move in with them; which was liberal for the times but then times were changing. Betty was a beautiful young woman with green hazel eyes, raven black hair and a pale complexion and rarely wore makeup; she didn’t need to. They were crazy about each other, but undemonstrative and humorous in their companionship. Danny had made it clear to Betty and his family he was going to go straight. He wanted to get a job, settle down and start a family. It wasn’t going to be easy with no background or references but he was determined to make a go of it. 

Alfie Fisher had joined the Army as a foot soldier on his nineteenth birthday and was packed off to war practically straight away. At first he was drafted into the Burma campaign and then fought in Italy before finding himself in Holland in 1944 supporting the American infantry. He was demobbed a year after VE Day which enable him to married Elsie, his school sweetheart.

Elsie, now in her late forties was to some extent ordinary looking with slightly greying short hair and brown eyes but she had an elegance about her and a smile that brightened up your day. She suffered badly with rheumatoid arthritis and had become depressed with the constant pain. Pain killers helped but both her doctor and hospital consultant recommended the same thing; Lots of sunshine. Alfie had worked as a general labour for the borough council ever since leaving the army. The pay wasn’t  great but it was enough to see ends meet but not enough to get ahead in life. His weather beaten face was proof of a life out doors. He, like Danny was tall and well built. The four of them enjoyed attending the dog track as did thousands of Londoners during the sixties.

For me, this is where the story begins. Elsie’s brother Ronnie breeds greyhounds to earn some extra cash. Alfie often helps school them ready for sale. In this particular litter, two were identical in ever way. Usually he would rear them for twelve weeks then sell them on. It had to be said, the stud dog success at the races was modest. Even so, Alfie was intrigued and decided to keep them for himself. After schooling them for several months it became apparent that one one the dogs was very talented. When they took the dog to train on farmland he was able to catch a hare in the fields, which is no easy feat. Alfie had got it into his head that the dogs could offer a great opportunity of making a lot of money. Alfie had one problem with his idea. He had no money to finance it.

As I was saying, they were in the pub having a few pints when Alfie shared his thoughts with Danny and his friends who had joined them. Eddie who supplied Danny with some of his goods said ‘ I know of just the man for you Alfie, He’ll be able to bye them dogs off you’. Alfie sharply replies, ‘I don’t want to sell them, I want someone to help me finance a decent gamble. He planned to win enough money to enable the family to start a new life in Spain. He was hopeful that the move would stop all the pain Elsie felt with the damp British weather.

Don’t worry Alfie, ‘I know just the man, Freddie Goldman’.

Danny know of Freddie Goldman and quietly advises Alfie not to get involved with him. 

Later that week Alfie is introduced to Freddie Goldman. Freddie Goldman is an elusive character who owns a couple of bookmakers and has a pitch at most of the greyhound stadiums in and around London. That’s his front. He is in fact the boss of an organised criminal gang dealing in drugs, armed robbery and prostitution. He has been linked to at least two murders and numerous other serious crimes but Scotland Yard had failed to make an arrest let alone a conversation. He has a reputation for being a very nasty bastard if you upset him and not someone you want to mess with. Freddie Goldman at five foot seven wasn’t big in stature but made up for it in ego. He was slightly greying at fifty six with angular, taut and austere features which gave him the ability to come over as charming and charismatic; or the type that scare the bejesus out of you depending on his mood. He wears silk shirts and tailored suits complemented with a fresh carnations and thick gold rimed glasses, which gave him an air of importance. Following their meeting, Alfie decided to pursue a deal even though he had been warned and didn't take to him himself. It has to be said, if he had known of his underground activities he wouldn't have gone near him.

Goldman was based at Walthamstow Stadium which was further across London than Alfie’s local track Hackney. Alfie wanted to race at Hackney but Goldman insisted the gamble would be carried out at Walthamstow. Famed for its Art Deco, clock tower and Neon lighting greyhound sign, the track was where Goldman had his lockup and office. He had a bookmakers pitch on the track. 

By August, The gamble was beginning to take shape. A meeting had been set up at Goldmans office. A secret trial was arranged for both dogs. After the trials Goldman was suitably pleased with what he had witnessed and a deal is struck. At the end of the meeting he went to his locker at the back of the office and took out two hundred pounds from a leather holdall. Alfie eyes are in ore of the amount of cash he sees, he has never see so much cash.

Later on that evening, he was talking to Danny about his meeting and let it slip that he had never seen so much cash in all his lifetime. He also told him that he was far from happy with the deal that had been struck. He felt Goldman had stitched him up with a deal of twenty percent. Danny glumly pointed out ‘You didn’t have a choice dad, you don’t argue with Freddie Goldman, I did warn you’.

The gamble was pencilled in for an open race over 800 yards in Saturday 22nd October at Walthenslow. Alfie registered one dog under the name of ‘Faithful Hope’; the other wasn’t registered.

Over the next three month the slow dog ran five times in various heats between 600 and 800 yards. He finishes last in all of his races. The gamble is now set. Ruthlessly, Goldman disposes of the slow dog. To capitalise on the scam, Goldman enters one of his own dogs in the same race. His dog ‘Golden Boy’ is quite useful and has won a few races. The word had been put out that ‘Golden Boy’ was a certainty. On paper he probably was. However, secretly the two dogs had been raced against one and other on two occasions and both times ‘Faithful Hope’ had beaten ‘Golden Boy’ easily. With the Walthamstow crowd plus a lot of Londons betting habitué betting on Golden Boy the opening price of 20 - 1 about Faithful Hope was expected to hold up. Freddie Goldman had organised his men to go round all the small independent bookies betting between a few pound and ten depending on the affluence of the shop. Each putter on was given one hundred pounds to bet with. Freddie Goldmans bookies were offering above the odds on his dog and the managers were told to take as much money as they can. The staff were well paid and knew the consequence of a loose tongue. 

Saturday 22nd October has arrived. It is a crisp autumn evening and the wind is howling round the trees. The sent from fallen leaves remind you that winter is on its way. The rain had finally stopped but the clouds darken the evening. Alfie, Elsie, Danny and Betty are at Walthenslow to watch Faithful Hope win his race. They will not be betting as the money is already down and any signed of decent bets from connections could effect the starting price relayed back to the betting shops. Whilst Alfie felt he had been short changed by Goldman, he was still looking at a share of around ten thousand pounds from the scam. His dream to buy a small villa on the cos de sole and retire in the sun with Elsie was still on. To put things in perspective his annual wage was just under one thousand pounds. The four of then placed themselves just down from the winning line in anticipation of greeting ‘Faithful Hope’ once he had won his race. In the race itself everything seems to be going to plan. At the final bend  ‘Faithful Hope‘ has a two length lead over ‘Golden Boy’ who was in second place. They were shouting, of course they were, shouting until their voices were hoarse. ‘Go on my son, Go on my son, we’ve done it’ As their shouting peaks the unthinkable happen. The dog stops; drops dead in front of them with only a few strides to go to pass the winning post. Golden Boy flashes pass to win the race. The crowd are stunned but cheerful of the fact that the well backed favourite has won the race. Alfie is mortified. Danny and Betty try to console Elsie. She braved a smile but the pain showed. 

At the same time, Freddie Goldman was jumping up and down and swearing his head off. He feels cursed and wishes he’d never got involved.

Throughout the weekend there was a sad silence that said so much. For Alfie’s the pain though losing his dog was apparent as not getting the money.

On the Monday, all hell brakes out. Freddie Goldman had been robbed. His Walthenslow office had been broken into and the money holdall had gone. He claimed there was over ninety grand in it. One by one people are hauled in. Amongst others, Alfie and Danny are summoned and interrogated. Goldman is convinced Alfie Fisher is the culprit. He orders Danny to shoot Alfie. ‘I want you to get my money back and shoot that thieving bastard of an uncle of yours’ And if you don’t do as I say, you are all fucking dead, starting with your Betty. No one fucks me over. No one,’ He orders two of his heavies to keep an eye on Danny.

Danny confesses to Alfie what he has done. He had stolen the money to give his auntie Elsie a better life. He hated seeing her in so much pain. Alfie hatches a plan to give the heavies the slip and they both go to the police station to report their story. 

There is a knock at the door. The door is opened and three shots are fired, not a sound. The silencer did its job. Two bullets in his head one in his heart. The gunman then calmly walks away. They say it was a very professional hit. No evidence whatsoever. How do I know all of this? Because I am Hugo Dexter and the assassin was the best I had. 

I had been informed through a contact in Scotland Yard what was going on with Alfie and Danny and had acted swiftly. Freddie Goldman had it coming to him. He had become an embarrassment for Scotland Yard and the ministry. Goldman had been responsible for numerous murders, drug smuggling and organised crime.

And, I’m sure you will have realised by now. Alfie Fisher was the lone soldier who saved my life back in 1944.The four of them now live happily in Mabaya on the cos de sole in Spain. Alfie and Elsie are enjoying a retired lifestyle and Elsie is all but pain free. Danny and Betty have opened their own British style pub which is doing well. I attended the opening and brought Alfie that cold beer I had promise him.

Submitted: June 17, 2020

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