Welcome to part three of my novella The Sewing Circle from Flights of Fancy. In yesterday’s episode the sewing circle are united in the grief at the loss of their friend. The final part of the story is tomorrow…
Part two of the story with link to part one: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2018/06/03/smorgasbord-short-stories-flights-of-fancy-the-sewing-circle-part-two-by-sally-cronin/
The Sewing Circle – Part Three by Sally Cronin
The next afternoon, instead of sitting around completing sewing projects, the women sat quietly as each held a memento in their laps. The objects were neither expensive nor necessarily attractive, but they all reminded the women of some different aspect of Flo’s personality. Big Sal cradled a little ceramic dog that had obviously been lovingly handled over the years.
“Flo bought this when her little Yorkie died,” she wiped a tear from her cheek. “She was a feisty one that Flo and I bet if she was here she would have a thing or two to say about those bastard Jacksons.”
Sylvia examined her manicured nails and then looked up at the rest of the circle.
“I know if it had been one of us Flo would have marched up to that Sharon Jackson and given her one over the head with her brolly.”
The thought of the tiny Flo giving slovenly Sharon a good slapping made her friends laugh, and within minutes they started to throw in other suggestions of what evil might befall the Jackson clan. As the proposed retribution became more and more virulent, the laughter died away and slowly the five women began to look at each other in silence.
Big Sal picked up her copious black handbag and extracted a pencil and a piece of paper. On the back of an old shopping list she jotted down some of the ideas already mentioned and sat hand poised to record any more.
Maggie Baxter, who was proudly conversant with the entire Bible, clapped her hands and grabbed everyone’s attention.
“Then will I also walk contrary unto you, and will punish you yet seven times for your sins.” Maggie smiled at them all. “That book of Leviticus was sure clear about making those poor Israelites pay and I guess what was good enough for them is good enough for those Jackson’s”
Mary Jones who was the frailest of the group looked worriedly at her friends.
“But what can we do, we are only a few old ladies and those Jacksons have a big family and they are all thugs and thieves.”
Big Sal reached over and patted her hand gently.
“Don’t worry love; I think we can bank on a few recruits from the other residents and what we don’t have in brawn we will make up for in brains.”
Sylvia sat silently, wiping the odd tear from her heavily made up face. What the other members of the sewing circle didn’t know, was that Flo and Sylvia shared a secret from the past, making this violent loss even more poignant.
In her twenties, Sylvia had been vibrantly attractive and had met and married Davy Ross, a minor name in the East End. He had worked for Mike Mitchell who ran an extensive extortion and prostitution racket in the fifties and sixties and Davy was known for his temper, and his ability to collect money with menaces.
Unfortunately for Sylvia, Davy liked to take his work home with him, and she spent quite a bit of time in the casualty department of the local hospital, having ‘bumped into’ fixed objects in her home. Friends tried to persuade her to leave him, but Sylvia knew that he would find her and kill her if she left.
A job had been planned at a large high street bank, and at the last minute, a member of the gang got nicked and a replacement had to be found. Mike Mitchell who had masterminded the job recruited Davy into the team, a little reluctantly bearing in mind his unpredictable temper. He was right to be concerned, as the night watchman at the bank, ended up getting more of a hiding than he might have done with the original set up. Unfortunately for Davy, the guard survived and was able to give the police an accurate description of his assailant. Davy knew the score and accepted his ten years inside without grassing up either the other members of the gang or his boss, who honoured the unspoken code of the East End, by making sure Sylvia was taken care of.
Sylvia knew that with good behaviour, her violent husband might be out in five or six years. She prayed that his temper, and his inability to keep his fists to himself, would ensure he served the full sentence. She had originally trained as a hairdresser and she opened a little shop close to her home and began to live a new life of freedom.
Flo was one of her regular customers, and being from the area was fully aware of Sylvia’s past troubles, although they were never mentioned. Neither was the increasingly frequent visits to the shop by Mike Mitchell, who was crossing the bounds of the accepted code of behaviour by fancying the wife of one of his own men; serving time for one of his jobs.
Sylvia was wary at first, as she knew the man’s reputation, but he was good looking and charming and began to show her a life that she did not know existed. Fancy restaurants and weekends in the country; away from the prying eyes of the East End, and Mike’s wife; definitely clouded her judgement, and she found herself falling in love with the mobster.
Their affair lasted two years, and in that time, Sylvia neither wrote nor visited Davy in prison despite his constant demands. Unfortunately, nature stepped in and Sylvia found herself telling Mike that he was going to be a father in seven months’ time. This fact did not overly please him, as he already had four children and a wife who would take him to the cleaners if she found out. Despite being a hard man, Mike loved his family and had to convince Sylvia that if she kept the child it would have to remain a secret. Not only that, but Davy was not going to be happy about finding out, which would be very dangerous for both Sylvia and the child.
This proved to be the case, when a woman who lived in Sylvia’s street, decided to inform her husband on a prison visit of the local gossip, and that Sylvia was expecting. The man got a broken jaw for his trouble when he passed the information onto Davy, and within days, a message was passed to the outside.
Sylvia was locking up her hairdressers for the night, when two men grabbed her from behind and dragged her into a nearby alley. Two hours later Flo was passing on her way to the Bingo hall, when she heard what she thought sounded like a frightened kitten in the narrow gap between the buildings. She ventured a little way into the darkness and saw an arm protruding from behind a heap of rubbish bags. She rushed forward, completely oblivious to her own safety and found Sylvia curled up holding her stomach with one arm, bleeding across the dirty cobblestones.
Flo rushed back into the street, persuading a passing man to go to the nearest phone box and call for the police and ambulance. She returned to cradle Sylvia’s head in her lap while they waited for help. She went with her to the hospital and was by her bedside when she regained consciousness after her operation. Sylvia suffered a broken nose, crushed pelvis, fractured skull, and had lost her baby. As she looked down into the bruised and battered face, Flo knew that this was not the end. That Davy was not going to let it rest and would no doubt finish the job when he finally got out of prison.
Mike Mitchell was also aware that this beating was just an instalment. It was really no surprise to anyone that a week later, Davy Ross unfortunately slipped on some soap in the shower and banged his head. He was dead when the guards found him. Sylvia was notified as she lay in her hospital bed coming to terms with the loss of her baby. She also knew that Mike Mitchell could now never come near her again, in case he was implicated in her husband’s death.
Flo understood, being the mother of so many children herself, and having lost one or two in early pregnancy, how Sylvia must be feeling. She was holding her hand firmly when the doctors told her that due to the beating she had received, she would never be able to have any more children in the future. Over the next few years, Flo and Sylvia became close friends but the events surrounding the beating and death of Davy were never discussed again.
Even the other members of the sewing circle were unaware of the shared past of two of their closest friends, and although they knew that Flo and Sylvia went back a long way, they were taken by surprise at the level of grief that Sylvia experienced. She had cried for two days, refusing to leave her flat or even get dressed in one of her elegant but out-dated suits. She finally appeared at Betty’s flat and sat silently as mourners came and went with their offerings. Eventually her friends gave up trying to get her to talk, taking it in turns to sit beside her, leaning in so that she could feel their comfort.
As a memento of her beloved friend, Sylvia had chosen a pale yellow silk scarf that Flo had worn often. She now ran the scarf through her fingers time after time before looking around at the others as they sat quietly remembering their friend.
“It would be lovely to see the Jacksons brought down and all sorts of evil things done to them, but we have to be realistic about what we can do ourselves.” She sighed wearily as her friends listened intently.
“The younger kids are not to blame but they shouldn’t be with that mother of theirs. They deserve a chance to live a decent life.” She paused and looked down at the scarf wound through her fingers.
“Sharon Jackson and that son of hers deserve everything they get and we need to make sure that they never do this to anyone else again.” She gave a tight smile.
“We have to get to Archie Jackson inside and feed him a story about Sharon and he will take care of her for us.” Her friends listened in fascination as Sylvia displayed a side of her they had never even imagined before. “After that he needs taking care off so that he can have nothing more to do with his kids as they grow up.”
“As for that Darren, he is past redeeming and needs to be got rid of like any other vermin on the estate and we have to get him to do the job on himself.”
The others looked at each other, realising that if they were to undertake this revenge on the Jacksons, they were reverting to the old life that they had known young women living in the East End. They also knew, that if they didn’t do something, then the Jacksons would continue to terrorise this estate and any others they moved to. The key was to cut the head off the clan in the form of Sharon Jackson. Without her around, and Archie taken care of in prison, the younger members of the family would be put into care and unlikely though it seemed, that might give them a chance of a better life than remaining with their mother and father. Darren however had to go, as they knew, without any doubt, that he had cold bloodedly killed Flo. He now had power and he would use it against people for the rest of his life.
The final part of the story is tomorrow….
©sallycronin Flights of Fancy 2009
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