Angie Fuller was not a psychiatrist. On the front door of her shabby one-bedroom flat at the side of Berwick Street Market was a cardboard sign on which the words ‘YOUNG MODEL INSIDE’ had been roughly scrawled in biro. This was usually ignored by both the local constabulary and any members of the Trading Standards Commission who happened to be passing. Her modelling days were long gone and she was no student of Freud. But she was happy to play that role so long as her hourly rate did not drop.
‘I don’t know why you bother with him,’ she said. ‘He’s always causin’ trouble.’
‘Well I suppose I like him,’ said Dino softly. ‘He’s a decent kid. And he really could have been someone. One of the greats you know. It’s a crying shame.’
Angie was thirty-nine-years-of-age but could have passed for ten years older. The drugs had mostly done that to her but she also suspected that being fucked by up to fifteen different men a day for the last twenty years may have played a part. That and the four kids.
‘You know most fighters hang around outside the gym asking for money,’ said Dino. ‘And most fighters try to tap you up for a couple of hundred, sometimes a couple of grand. But with Ollie it was always ‘Can I borrow a fiver for the weekend? Can I borrow twenty?’. He hasn’t got a bad bone in his body that one.’
‘But you can’t let him hit you like that,’ said Angie soothingly.
‘I know darlin’,’ said Dino. ‘I know.’
Angie was sitting naked in bed smoking a Marlboro Light. Beside her, also naked, Dino was absent-mindedly scratching his balls. Dino had been calling on Angie for almost as long as he had been at Carnaby Street. Although he still paid for the privilege of spending time with her, in many ways they were a couple. They were used to each other: comfortable and at ease in each other’s company. He never felt this way with his wife.
‘What you gonna do then?’ she asked.
‘I dunno. He’s getting that eye checked out. Depends how bad it is. With any luck we can get him training again in a couple of weeks. Problem is, I don’t think the Italians are gonna bite a second time. I could be out of pocket big time.’
‘I told you you should have paid the insurance darlin’.’
‘Thanks Angie, that makes me feel a lot better…’
‘Poor little Dino…’
Angie’s breasts hung loose and heavy, no longer the prized assets that they used to be when she worked in the clubs. As gravity had made its inevitable impression on her body, so the fees that Angie charged had also headed downwards over the years. She knew that she was entering a pivotal phase of her career, if you can call it that. In a year or so’s time she would be struggling to find a punter willing to pay for her services. Christ, it was happening already.
For this reason she was grateful to have Dino as a regular. He visited three or four times a week and stayed for at least an hour. He always settled up, never hurt her, and wasn’t really that interested in the sex. It was a secondary consideration for him. You almost felt that that he was going through the motions because he had to, because it was somehow expected of him. Angie and Dino had much in common: in his heyday he was renowned as a person who could finish off a street fight in seconds rather than minutes; and Angie was equally businesslike when it came to finishing off her clients.
Dino didn’t come to see her for physical contact. He came mainly to talk:
‘Yes poor little Dino. Well might you say that…’
‘What about Jimmy Smith?’
‘I went to see him, didn’t I?’
‘Did he help you out?’
‘I dunno. He might he might not.’
‘Ungrateful little rat. After all you’ve done for him.’
‘He don’t owe me nothing, Ange. Just cos I knew his father…’
‘You more than just knew him… You and Billy were like that.’ Angie bowed her fingers to illustrate the degree of closeness.
‘It don’t work that way, love. Jimmy’s his own man, just like his dad was.’
‘What about Vincent Mortego?’
Dino frowned. ‘Why’d you mention him?’ he asked. ‘What’s he got to do with anything?’
‘Well he’s got money, ain’t he?’
‘So he reckons.’
‘He could… Couldn’t he, you know, make an investment?’
‘An investment? An investment in what?’
‘You know – in one of your fighters.’
Dino usually valued Angie’s advice. Lord knows she’d helped him out over the years. But he felt himself growing irritated.
‘Angie, I’ve been managing fighters for thirty years and I’ve never sold a piece of them to anyone.’
‘And I’ve got no intention of starting now. Anyway, Bill Saxon in New York tells me Mortego – and that’s not even his real name – gets all his money from cocaine. I’m not going anywhere near that.’
‘What about Mickey and Jarvis?’
‘I’m not going to them… It’d be… Humiliating.’
There was a pause. Angie stubbed out her cigarette and lit up another one.
‘They won’t do you any good, you know,’ said Dino.
‘Them’s the least of my problems Dino,’ laughed Angie.
Dino rolled off the bed and began to dress. ‘Well I’m not spending the afternoon catching cancer,’ he said.
‘So what are you gonna do?’ asked Angie, suddenly growing serious.
‘I dunno. We’ll have to wait and see. Something will turn up.’
The phone rang almost as soon as Dino had left the building. From a café in the market one of Vincent Mortego’s many lookouts had immediately got on the phone to his employer, who in turn called Angie straight away.
‘Jesus Angie, I don’t know how you can bear to look at that big fat lump of shit,’ said Vincent Mortego.
‘He’s all right Vince, at least he don’t bother me.’
‘Did you do what I said?’
‘Is that all?’
‘What do you mean?’
‘Jesus, it’s like getting blood from a fucking stone! Explain… Elaborate… Give me a fucking description of what happened. That’s what I’m fucking paying you for!’
‘I did what you asked. I told him to go to you.’
‘What did he say?’
‘Jesus fucking Christ!’
‘Sorry Vincent!’ echoed Vincent Mortego.
‘Anything fucking else! Did he say anything else! Jesus!’
‘Not really. Only that Long’s been cut.’
‘Oliver Long got cut in sparring.’
‘Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!’
‘What’s the matter, Vince?’
‘Mind your own business Angie.’