The Habit

THREE

The bar was unusually packed for a Monday night, I noted as I entered the trendy Putney restaurant. So many of the capital’s new restaurants had expensive bars added on as an extra feature. I enjoyed them. They were all full of good looking totty and I appreciated a bit of scenery! I looked around the bar and couldn’t see Frank so I squeezed myself into a gap between two groups of suitably pretty girls and waited to be served. I listened to the different conversations going on around me. One on shopping at Joseph in South Ken and the other, far more interesting, about boyfriends and men trouble.
‘Yes sport?’ The Aussie barman smiled at me amongst the bevy of beauties.
‘Gin and tonic and a vodka, lime and soda please.’
‘No worries mate.’ The barman replied as he filled two glasses with ice. If it weren’t for Australians in London, we would never get a drink. All bar staff seemed to be Aussies now.
‘…bloody bastard! I knew he’d been seeing her all along. I can’t believe I was so naïve. Why did I let him get away with it?’
‘Don’t be so hard on yourself Susie. I can’t blame you, he was divine and what’s more, great in bed, wasn’t he? I think I would have ignored the signals too!’
‘Eight fifty please’ requested the bar man, as he plonked the glasses on the bar.
My gin and tonic was an inviting aquamarine, shimmering under the glaze of the bar lights. I closed my eyes and took two big gulps. First drink of the evening was always the best, I thought as I put my drink down and took out a Silk Cut. I was a social smoker, I could never smoke in the office, I hated being away from the desk and also the smoking room was at the far end of the dealing floor. But I loved a cigarette with a drink. Frank smoked too, but unlike me he was a professional. He smoked for England! During the course of one of our normal nights out he would smoke thirty-five to my fifteen.
‘Excuse me sir. You don’t by any chance have a light, do you?’ I turned to see Frank with an unlit cigarette hanging from his moustached mouth. We had been mates since school. I had left after my appalling ‘O’ level results and started in the City at the age of seventeen, working for a firm of stockbrokers. My boss was a friend of the family and had been happy to take me on. Frank meanwhile, had gone on to sit his ‘A’ levels and then studied Psychology at Nottingham University. He’d become a policeman and had worked his way up to detective sergeant. He had always felt a little hard done by with me earning my ‘fortune’ in the City whilst he struggled to earn a half-decent living working his butt off. It was a standing joke between the two of us.
‘Hey Frankie! How’s it hanging?’ I greeted him with the flame from my lighter and a phoney New York accent.
‘Still struggling. How are you, you rich bastard?’ He asked, blowing out a plume of smoke.
‘Yeah, good thanks. In fact, very good. I’m so rich I got the drinks in!’ I answered sarcastically, handing Frank his Vodka.
‘I like your chosen spot at the bar mate. I think I’m in heaven!’ Frank commented, surveying the surrounding talent, ‘She’s got great tits.’ He whispered, nodding towards the redhead to my right.
‘Too right and look at her legs. They’d look good wrapped round your neck!’ I laughed.
‘Yes please. Do you know how long it’s been Rog?’
‘What happened to that solicitor you were knocking off?’
‘Far too intelligent for me and besides, she used to question me like the accused in a courtroom if I wasn’t where I said I was going to be, when I was supposed to be!’ Henson sighed. ‘So I finished it last week and it’s just been one long barren patch since!’
‘Oh there, there! You’re breaking my fucking heart.’ I mocked, playfully stroking my imaginary violin. ‘A whole week without sex. I can’t begin to think what that must be doing to you! But I presume you’ve got a couple of girls waiting in the wings?’
Frank kept himself very fit in the police gym and had a great body, the kind I’d like if I wasn’t sat on my backside all day at work. He had scruffy, brown hair and jet black, piercing eyes most women died for. He had a bushy, brown moustache and normally a couple of day’s stubble on the rest of his face, as he did tonight. Looking at him reminded me of Tom Sellick. He was wearing a pair of black jeans, a white T-shirt and a black leather jacket. He was envious of my money and I was envious of his good looks. I had already noticed the girls around us eyeing up Henson and raising their eyebrows at his hunky physique.
‘No, not yet mate, maybe by the end of tonight. I didn’t get out at all last week ‘cause of these fucking rape cases I’ve been working on. They’ve really begun to get to me, I’ve got so much paperwork outstanding.’
‘What a nightmare.’ I truly sympathised with him. ‘How are things progressing? You said there had been some developments.’
‘Well, we’re not absolutely sure but we think all the rapes are connected. All four have been committed in the same area, Fulham, Chelsea, West Kensington and Parsons Green. But the big break is this. I know I don’t need to say this but, what I’m about to tell you is classified. I could…’
‘Fuck off Henson!’ I cut him short. He always swore me to secrecy before telling me anything confidential and I hated it. ‘Just tell me.’
‘Sorry Rog. It might just be a coincidence but all four victims had been travelling in a taxi just before the rapes. We think they were all raped by a London taxi driver!’
I barely caught the last sentence; Frank had whispered it so quietly. ‘Bloody hell! A serial rapist.’
‘Well, I think so, but not everyone agrees. We haven’t got enough evidence. One of the girls doesn’t remember anything about her ordeal, and the one raped in Chelsea can only remember being in a taxi on her way home and the next thing she remembers is waking up in a gutter. The other two girls were raped by their drivers. Our councillors are trying to gain as much info as possible, but you can imagine it’s not easy going.’
‘Shit, the fact that two of the victims say they were raped by taxi drivers would be enough of a coincidence for me.’ I was trembling. This was so exciting, being on the inside of a police investigation. I had always wanted to be a private investigator, like Mel Gibson in Lethal Weapon. Riggs and Murtar were my two favourite detective characters. I envied them and Frank, tracking down and putting away the scum that crawled around the streets. ‘So how are you going to trace this cabby or cabbies? There must be thousands of them.’
‘Roughly eighteen thousand! We have a lot of people working on it. We were lucky enough to get a specimen of semen from one of the girls. Its not often we are able to get evidence like that. A rape victim’s first instinct is to scrub herself clean. This girl was very brave and went straight to a police station to report the incident. We’re waiting for the DNA analysis to come back from the lab. The Chief wants me to appear on Crimewatch on Thursday. You know, the usual stuff, appeal for witnesses, give a photo-fit, reconstruct one of the rapes, that sort of thing.’
‘Can you imagine, my mate Frank on TV! Can I have your autograph now before you’re famous?’ I jabbed him in the ribs.
‘Bollocks! I’m more excited about meeting Sarah Swan.’ Sarah Swan was the young lady who hosted the show and most guys I knew thought she was lovely. I couldn’t believe Frank was getting to meet her.
‘You lucky bastard! Well, I hope something comes up for you.’ I said sincerely.
‘Oh I don’t think I need to worry. It will if you know what I mean!’ He pumped his arm upwards and made a perverted grin. We both fell about laughing. ‘Anyway, enough about work. Look at all these women waiting for me.’ Frank said, eagerly rubbing his hands together. ‘You get the drinks in again and we’ll go have some fun!’

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Copyright © 2002 Richard Armour