In the latest of his completely fictional and just for fun series This is Norwich '98, Jim Vanderpump looks at the curious case of winger-cum-gangster Neil Adams and his trusty sidekick Craig Bellamy. Capiche?
The first contact I ever had with ‘The Mob’ was when I was 14 and met an incontinent gangster, called Sully. I could tell he was a gangster because he had a little ‘piece’ in his trousers. Coincidentally, that’s also how I could tell he was incontinent. Despite the ever-present stench and having to frequently accompany him to the bathroom, Sully was a stand-up guy, who taught me valuable life lessons.
Lesson number 1: never take no crap from nobody. Lesson number 2: there should be ‘TENA’ for men. Lesson number 3: never show no disrespect to none of your superiors, and lesson number 8: always use double negatives- never don’t use no double negatives…never!
(Lessons 4-7 were all to do with the incontinence thing- carry spare underwear, avoid eating meatballs, wear dark-coloured suits or chinos, etc.)
Having done the dirty work, and it could be dirty, soon Sully trusted me enough to put me to work for the ‘Staff Maf’ (Staffordshire Mafia). I became a hoodlum, racketeering all over Stoke. Remember the ‘Great Sausage Robberies of 1980’ (there was a string of indictments), or the ‘Bubble-gum Wars of Burton Upon Trent’ (the cops couldn’t make it stick), and then there was the notorious incident in the spring of ’81, dubbed by the press as The-time-a-pub-landlord-had-his-shoelaces-tied-together-and-fell-flat-on-his-face-in-a-puddle…-gate.
So now, nearly 20 years later, I have a responsibility to set an example for other up-and-coming mobsters in Norwich. That’s why I let the kid, Bellars, tag-along while I’m patrolling my turf, collecting debts. But it aint always a walk in the park, especially when, like today, we’re in a car, driving.
“How many times do I gotta tell you?” I yell at the kid, beating an open palm on the steering wheel. “Never disrespect the family, capiche?” He doesn’t answer, just uses his sleeve to rub out the cock and balls he’d drawn in the steam on his window, then looks sulkily through the glass, onto the streets.
It’s a grey day out in NR suburbia, the roads and pavements are practically empty.
Eventually, Bellars breaks the silence. “Big Gomez? That word you always say- ‘capiche’- what does it actually mean, like?”
Boy, has this kid got a lot to learn! But I’m done busting his balls today so I let out a sigh and give it to him straight. “It’s a type of fish, you numb-nuts!”
“Eh?” he exclaims, turning to me with that stupid, baby-caveman frown of his.
I gotta explain everything to this kid. “That’s why us wise guys are always saying, ‘you wanna sleep with the fishes, capiche?’”
“Oh right, yeah,” he mumbles and turns back to the window.
A shop door opens, a man appears on the pavement and starts walking up the street, his back to us. Something about the way his long hair bounces around his shoulders with each stride is very familiar.
“Why would anyone want to sleep with fishes?” Bellars asks himself, softly.
I didn’t know the answer to that, but I couldn’t help thinking about the graffiti in the Colney toilets about Chris Llewellyn.
“Maybe a blowfish,” he adds, thoughtfully.
I give him a look, but he’s now lost in his own daydream. As we approach the pedestrian, I’m able to confirm his identity. I pull over and stop the car a few yards behind him. It’s Keith O’Neill, he’s just come out of the chemist, presumably picking up his prescription for that yeast infection.
“Hey!” I shout after him, jumping out the car.
He turns, casually, not batting an eyelid at the sight of me and Bellars coming towards him. Cocky twot’s even holding a bag of crisps in his hand.
“Time to pay up, O’Neill!” I tell him, waving an index finger in his face. He should watch out, cos it’s loaded, with the fury of a wronged wise-guy! Plus, I cut my nails this morning and didn’t file ‘em, so they’re sharp.
“What are you talking about, Adams?” he says, looking into his bag of crisps and swirling it around in his hand like it’s a fine glass of Sauvignon… Red.
“Don’t play games with me, O’Neill” I tell him. “You know who you’re dealing with here? I’m Neil Adams, AKA Big Gomez, Pappa Staffs, First Division winner and Made Guy. And you owe me payment.”
Bellars brings the dispute to an end by going over and snatching the bag of crisps out of O’Neill’s hand, then returns to stand alongside me.
“Last week,” I say, calmly dipping my hand into the bag of saturated fatty snacks, “you were desperate for a bag of Quavers but you didn’t have any change for the vending machine. I bought you a bag under the proviso that you would pay me back, with interest.”
O’Neill rolls his eyes but he can’t hide the drool at the corners of his mouth which tells me he’s lusting after the starchy corn nibbles now under my control. I go on, “The terms of our agreement were two crisps interest per week. Every second you fail to pay, will result in the loss of one finger.”
To show him I mean business, I pull out one of the Monster Munch.
“You wouldn’t,” he says, but his voice is trembling.
“I mean it, O’Neill, I’ll bite off every finger in this bag until you’ve got nothing left but a load of weird-tasting Hoola Hoops!”
I hold the first hand-shaped crisp up to my mouth and bare my teeth.
He cracks, “alright, alright, take the full bag!”
But that’s not how it works, and I tell him so, “We’ll take two crisps today, one each for me and my associate here, and you still owe us a full bag, to be collected at a later date.”
That’s the beauty of loan-sharking, you never let ‘em pay off the whole debt. I’ve got the same racket still going in Oldham. Thanks to Paul Warhurst’s addiction to Frazzles I haven’t bought my own bag in nearly ten years.
O’Neill realises he’s in over his head. “Ah, look, come ‘ere,” he says. Instinctively I take half a step towards him, like I always do when an Irishman says ‘come ‘ere’, then I remember that it’s just a thing they do, so step back again. “Maybe I could come up wi’ anudder way of paying youse back.”
Dirty bastard, I think. That explains the yeast infection.
“See, I know some boys down at the docks.”
Me and Bellars exchange a sideways glance, from my side it reads, ‘not interested,’ but I can’t tell from the curvature of his eyebrow if on Bellars’ part he’s agreeing with me, or saying, ‘well, I’m game if you are!’
“Not what you’re t’inking,” O’Neill clarifies, holding up a Monster Munch orange palm. “They’re dock workers. They’ve told me they’ve a shipment coming in, dis afternoon. From Amsterdam.”
Bada-bing, now we’re getting somewhere. He’s offering us a stick-up job.
“Shipment?” I say, playing it cool. I don’t want to reveal my hand too soon, especially because it’s also tainted by the orange, gritty crisp residue. “What kind of shipment? Furs, Amphetamines- furry amphetamines?”
“Of course, old Mary Jane.”
“No, not pot. Pots. Ceramics.”
“…Is there a market for ceramics?”
“I’m sure Loose’s will take ‘em.”
Goddammit he’s right, Loose’s take everything.
I tell him he’s got himself a deal and am about to shake, thus marrying our two orange palms in one salty union, when I feel my wrists being grabbed and forced behind my back. I hear the familiar rattlesnake-click of handcuffs being fastened and crane my neck to see a police officer standing behind me. A shorter one is cuffing Bellars.
“Neil Adams, I’m arresting you for conspiracy to commit a crime, extortion…” Yadda yadda yadda.
“This is entrapment,” I yell as they drag me away, down the street. I look back at O’Neill, who has retrieved the bag of Monster Munch from the pavement and recommences his slow mastication of its contents. He smiles and waves his orange hand like a mocking Oompa Loompa. Son of a bitch must have been wearing a wire!
“You aint got nothing on me, pig!” I shout as I’m pushed around the cop car.
“He made me do it, he made me do all of it,” Bellars whines to his Cop. Rat bastard flipped quicker than a pancake in a tumble-dryer.
“Bellars, don’t say nothing to nobody!” I tell him before he disappears into the back of the car.
“Shut it, Adams, you’re going downtown,” says the Fed.
“Yeah,” says the second. “But, hey, if you behave yourself I might ‘make you a coffee you couldn’t refuse’.”
“Ha,” laughs the first Fed. “You better make it an Al Ca-Pacino.”
I’m shoved down and into the backseat of the car. The door slams shut and the noise of their laughter is dramatically silenced. Me and Bellars sit side-by-side, quietly contemplating a long hard stretch in the big house.
“I might also shag a red puffer fish,” says Bellars. “Capiche?”