So here’s the weekly instalment from Johnny Mack talking of his life as an active member of London’s underworld. It’s a leap forward from last week’s, as Johnny is now a grown man, husband and father, with fully paid up membership to a firm he works closely with and a known “Face” in South London…..
Drinking hours at licenses premises were very stringent back in the early eighties. The line of business I was in would operate out of these establishments. The criminal firms out and about the streets of South London each had their own watering holes.
These pubs would draw their curtains at the official closing time where only the locals were allowed to stay behind. This was our time for doing business and considering 90% of all criminal business was founded, delivered and completed in these places they became known as ‘The Office’’
The trouble was that the law knew the whereabouts of all these offices, which were located throughout the South London area. This meant the owners would have to pay a bribe or let the old bill have a night of their own. My office was the ‘Marlborough Head’ in Goldsmith Road just off Peckham Hill Street. The office was only a five-minute walk from my home. People would come in early to pass on their illegal wares to the likes of me. It could be anything from info on a payroll run right up to the sale of a truckload of stolen Scotch whiskey.
I had contacts for anything and everything and my reputation was sound’ which went a long way in this sort of business. If you ripped someone off in this business and you done that business in the office, then you were extremely fucked! We in the office were those that believed in honour among thieves, a rare commodity in this day and age. The trouble with this business when working out of an office of this nature, was that somehow the law always seemed to know when we were flush.
Then they would put the pressure on and if they were bent, which most were; then they would want a bung. Once you fell into that trap you would end up working for them and I’m afraid that was one trap I was avoiding.
It was dawning on the selected majority that were meant to be 100% trusted that our office had its leaks. We always knew that the place was never 100% grass proof, but we always used our loaf. But when our good pal got collard we knew using our loaf was not as fool proof as first thought.
How it happened was our good pal and business associate got grassed up on a shipment of cigarettes and copped a five stretch. Those of us that were close to him were very, very angry to say the least. The geezer had four kids and had helped every single one of our little crew in the past. So we had to safe guard ourselves and come up with a plan, to make us feel safer. After all this was our business and we needed a safe place to conduct our business from.
Where my pal had been nicked, I went to ground staying away from the office and stopped doing any business with anyone. I had to follow my gut feeling as it was telling me that there was danger in the air. I had always followed it and the proof is in the pudding because as you can see I’m not writing this within the walls of Belmarsh prison finishing off a 30yr stretch. Anyway back to where I left off. My cash float got smaller by the day until I became desperate. That’s not a good position to find oneself in especially in my line of work. One stupid mistake taken when desperate could mean a twenty or thirty stretch in the local hate factory.
Where I was living which was a crime-ridden housing estate, the housing authorities had decided to give the whole estate a multi-million pound face-lift. I suppose they thought by doing that it would spruce the place up and not let it resemble a ghetto. Within weeks of the decision to go ahead the whole estate had workman steaming around from block to block. Of course where there are builders there is also lots and lots of building materials. I was living in one of the newish three bedroom flats that were very roomy.
As I said I was now desperate and decided if I couldn’t go to the office, I’d make the office come to me. Unfortunately I never discussed this with my long-suffering wife. I say suffering because what I’m about to tell you all will make you understand why I used that phrase. Taking our three kids my wife went off to her mothers for the day. I knew they would be gone until the evening, which gave me 8-10 hours to start my new project. Anyway 9 hours later my wife and kids had returned and found me downstairs in the kitchen drinking a cold beer. The shock on there faces was quite funny really because after all I was only drinking a beer. But what they were shocked at was that I was smothered in white dust, which made look like a ghost, well to them it did. My wife came into the kitchen with one of those looks that say, “What the fuck has he been up to this time” My first words were. “Before you say a word sweetheart I want you to vision on what I’m about to tell you, rather than what you’ll about to see once you go upstairs.” With that she flew up the stairs with the kids in tow…I waited. I carried on waiting until I finished my beer, then I took the slow walk up the stairs to an expected barrage of insults.
Once up there the kids were running around our new opened plan flat, the only walls and doors left were my kids’ bedrooms and of course the bathroom. The rest of the flat was open and as I said before the place was roomy to start with. She had her head in her hands and asked why I had demolished our home. Quite simply I said we are about to open a spieller’ so that I can conduct business in a completely safe environment as I did in the pub. I told her it would be membership only so only the most trusted of gangsters’ could enter. We would also sell booze and start gambling sessions, where us being the house would take our 5% commission on all games. The icing on the cake was that I could pick up business with no chance of getting nicked, not like my pal.
Reluctantly she agreed, well I suppose she never had a choice, considering I had just demolished her new home. For the next two weeks I sort of helped myself to the odd pieces of building supplies that I reckoned were to be thrown away. With those supplies I built this beautiful oak and brick bar with a snug area and dance floor. The floor was raised and soundproofed with lovely hard wood flooring. The ceiling was lowered with sunken lighting. The walls were half wood slats with flock wallpaper above. In fact the whole place was a fucking dream of a drinking palace.
For security I had steel doors countersunk with 12” bolts into the walls and floors. There were two of them; one being the front door and the other was on the stairs. We had a fire escape where one end was electrified and the other had sensors. So it was an office of a kind more fitting inside Fort Knox.
We had minders, but really they were never needed because our cliental were of good stock. When we opened we had a fantastic weekend with takings hitting a tune more in line with thousands. We also had our share of complaints from the locals, which of course I had anticipated. I won’t bore you with details but the complaints stopped and every one was more than happy.
No one could enter without there membership card and that included the women. If a geezer had picked up a bird that night and tried to bring her to my club, they were refused entry. This was a simple precaution because that is what old bill would try and do to gain access. But in our club everyone knew one another including the women. After a weekend of it I was worn out and it was now time to replace furniture and turn it back into a home until the next Friday night.
So far I’ve told you about how when desperate the criminal mind can come up with some ingénues ideas or if stupid, the wrong ones. Creating my own office was the answer for me. Business was good, it was made better because business came to me first and I had first dibs. Next week I’m going to tell you about the counterfeit business that came my way. I’m sorry to those of you that were expecting more this week. But it’s important for me that I give you the complete version and that takes time…until next week take care guys