Charlie Grey

by Peter Street

It was Tuesday 8th when Tony died. It was his birthday too. Who ever did it must have had a warped sense of humour. Saying that he would have loved it himself. He was like that. I think it’s why we got on so well. It was his unpredictable sense of humour. We go back a long way. We shared the same school, same teacher and the same desk. We were both five years old when we met on that first day at Holy Infants. From the word go, he called me Ben. I was christened Brian. Everyone else called me Brian. That’s what I mean about there being something different about him. We became inseparable. Sadly, I wasn’t there the night when they, who ever they were, put two bullets in the back of his head. An execution the police called it.

Looking back, he never smiled once that week. For someone who is, was, the life and soul of the party that was quite something. He certainly lived up to his name of “joker.” He really believed a laugh a day kept the doctor away. That was his motto. Maybe one of his jokes, pranks, call it them what you will, backfired

Fun was the way he led his life. He was one of those people everyone got on with….Yet, he must have upset someone. Who? Who or why would anyone want to go and put a couple of bullets through his head is beyond me and that’s what I kept telling the police. Worse still the police didn’t think it was a case of mistaken identity. That was the first thing I asked. No. They were certain he was the target. They went through his house like a dose of salts. Nothing. His bank details were spot on. Everything about him was spot on.

I wondered if it had something to do with those two kids, who him and Charlie Grey caught thieving from the old ladies car. I couldn’t get my head around, how he boasted to all and sundry how he would actually enjoy smashing their fingers to a pulp. That wasn’t like him at all. He deplored violence. Also what frightened me was the way he said, “They’ll think twice before doing an old lady again.”
He had a glint in his eyes and sly smile, the like which I’d never seen before. I kept thinking this wasn’t the boy I grew up with. I blamed Charlie Grey. I told the police as much.

For the last two weeks of his forty five years it was all Charlie this and Charlie that. Yes, they had known each other in nursery, and their mothers had been close. But he’d been off the scene for forty years or so and then he suddenly turns up out of the blue and then very quickly they are best friends. Of course I was jealous. Strange how Tony wished he had a boxers face like Charlie Grey. Me and Tony had known each other for almost forty years. Neither of us had ever been in a bit of bother, in fact we could count the number of fights we’d been involved on one hand.

Fighting wasn’t us, its why I didn’t get this thing he had about wanting ‘A boxers face’ I just didn’t get it. So why, after all those years would he chose Charlie as his best friend? Who looked and acted every bit of the gangster he was. Why did Tony need to be with someone like that?

Sheila, Tony’s wife was the one who found him with his hands tied behind his back. The police think he was shot while kneeling. She’s not stop crying since finding him. Another thing: strange how Charlie, out of the blue had become their next door neighbour and that was just a couple of weeks before the shooting. Sheila said Charlie had been brilliant how he had been supporting her, admitting she couldn’t have got through it on her own.

I never understood why she never phoned me, I was there waiting at the end of the phone for her to contact me; just once would have made me happy. I’ve always been there for her. But Sheila and Charlie went way back well before she met Tony. After she and Charlie finished and before she took up with Tony, I must have asked her half a dozen times without any luck.

I think the reason Charlie came around was to see about getting back with Sheila but she was had been too much involved with Tony. Besides it was far too soon ( if ever) to think of a date . It was so obvious Charlie still held a candle for her from all those years ago. It’s probably the reason why he moved next door to her and Tony. Funny, how just a couple of months after the Tony killing, again on the 8th the same happened: though this time it was Charlie lying there with two bullets in the back of his head.

This time there was no Coppers knocking on the door just big men dressed head to foot in black, bursting twhile shouting, “Police don’t move in.”

A plain clothes one sergeant stepped forward, first intruding himself very politely before holding out a dirty cloth and indicating a gun, the very same gun I’d bought from a man who knew a man.

Peter Street © 2015