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Authors: Ted Lewis

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All the Way Home and All the Night Through

BOOK: All the Way Home and All the Night Through
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all the

way home and

all the

night through

 

 

Ted Lewis

 

 

 

 

 

SYNDICATE BOOKS

NEW YORK

Copyright

This edition published in 2015 by Syndicate Books

www.syndicatebooks.com

Copyright © 2015 The Estate of Edward Lewis

eISBN 978-0-9842125-7-6

 

Other Books by Ted Lewis

The Jack Carter Trilogy

Get Carter

Jack Carter's Law

Jack Carter and the Mafia Pigeon

Crime Novels

Plender

Billy Rags

Boldt

GBH

Other Novels

The Rabbit

 

 

About the Author

Born in Manchester, England, Ted Lewis (1940-1982) spent most of his youth in Barton-upon-Humber in the north of England. After graduating from Hull Art School, Lewis moved to London and first worked in advertising before becoming an animation specialist, working on the Beatles'
Yellow Submarine
. His novels are the product of his lifelong fascination with the criminal lifestyle of London's Soho district and the down-and-out lifestyle of the English factory town. Lewis's novels pioneered the British noir school. He authored nine novels, the second of which was famously adapted in 1971 as the now iconic
Get Carter
, which stars Michael Caine.

 

 

 

ALL THE

WAY HOME

AND ALL THE

NIGHT THROUGH

 

 

 

PART ONE

 

“I can't help it!”

On the screen two men were fighting each other.

“I've always been honest with you. You always said to me that I must be honest with you, whatever happened.”

Far down below us, an usherette was leaning against the rail of the balcony, chewing at the end of her torch.

“I can't explain it, don't ask me to. Please. Please, no, don't do that. Can't you see that's useless?”

Laughter and joy rose up from the front rows of the stalls as an actor was knocked down. A trolley bus went by out in the street, its sound and rattle muffled by the damp outside and the warmth within. A man, sitting lower down the circle, woke up, looked round, and got up to leave. The usherette didn't move.

“It won't work anymore, things have changed. I'm sorry. Perhaps, oh, I don't know. . .”

She turned away from me and stared at the screen, absently, miserably. I waited.

“You see, perhaps if it was two years from now or in a different place. But now, right now, the way we are now, it just isn't the same anymore.”

After a while she murmured something that sounded like “Oh God,” passed a hand through the front of her hair, and sighed. The colours from the screen flickered on the side of my face. The reflections almost seemed warm. As I couldn't marshal up the thoughts which were churning about in my mind (or was it my stomach?) I tried to sit still, waiting for her to go on. She didn't say anything else, so I sighed. I supposed the time had come for me to speak. I was aware that I was almost calm, except for centers of agitation in the pit of my stomach and at the top of my chest. I breathed out.

“That's how you feel.”

It was a statement, hopeful that the question inherent in the statement might be answered favourably. No reply. So, onward, say all the words, the inevitable words, each sentence answered in the inevitable way, but with hope staying the whole distance, until the two of us are no longer together, so that hope can turn into rationalization and self-deception, still uselessly trying to deflect the truth. The hard, hard truth.

“I mean, you're sure. You're really sure of what you're saying? You're not forcing yourself to do this for what you might think is the best?”

“No,” said a small voice next to me.

“Oh God,” I said, and leant forward in my seat, holding my arms round me. She took pity and put her hand on my neck. I felt my body convulse as though I'd been exposed to an icicle wind. How sad and hopeless I felt.

“I'm sorry, sweetest one,” she said.

“I'm sorry, too,” I said, and turned to look at her. “I'm sorry, too, I'm sorry, too,” and then I broke down and very quickly my head and shoulders were being cradled by her, as if I were a small, lost child.

After a while, when tears had given way to a dry fluttering sensation, I said:

“Well, we'd better go. I'll catch the ten past seven ferry. I think—”

“Vic, look, I'm sorry. It shouldn't have—like this—you know.”

“I know.”

I saw she had been crying, too, quiet girl tears.

“Come on,” I said. “Let's go.”

I felt that I had to get out of the cinema. At lunch time we'd had a few drinks, and the stout I'd drunk was beginning to feel heavy and depressing inside me. Then, at dinnertime, I'd not been sure how she felt. I'd thought that she still loved me and was really not wanting to end it but instead was trying to be sure of me for the last time, to be finally sure.

We'd been bittersweet over the drinks and that had helped me to think on those lines. She probably still loved me, but I knew now that she wanted definitely to end it. I didn't want her to end it, but if suddenly she had wept and said Ho, I don't mean what I'm saying, I love you Vic, sweet, sweet Vic, I love you and gripped my shoulders with a burning earnestness, I knew that I would have said I know and we would have cried and then smiled bravely and told each other how happy we were; even with all this I knew that I'd only be satisfied until I left her. Then, later, I would begin the wondering and the doubting and end with feeling uneasy because of not being capable of believing what I had been told. That was how I was then.

“Vic—”

“We'll have to go.”

We got up to leave.

She put her hand in mine.

“I want to,” she said in answer to the unspoken question. She held my hand hard.

We walked out of the auditorium, across the deserted foyer, and out of the cinema.

Outside it was dark, and it had been raining. We walked a familiar route from the cinema to her bus stop. Our bus stop, where, in the past I must have said to her, “Good-bye” and “I love you” a hundred times. It was directly opposite the art school, to which I no longer belonged. Not since the summer. It was the place where we had met and spent most of our times together. I looked at it and thought about everything. She was still holding my hand tight, holding herself close to me, looking very lost and downcast. She pressed herself to me as though she was a little girl who had been found by a stranger and who never really expected to see her mother again. Then the bus came round the corner. We searched each other's face desperately. Our hands tightened painfully. The bus drew up opposite the stop, its tires swishing. I remember seeing that there was no one on board. The road, in memory, seemed deserted, too.

“I'll write,” she said.

The tears were almost there. Our hands unclasped. She was standing next to the bus holding the center-post.

“No, don't. Don't write,” I said, “It's no use, is it?”

Then she got on the bus and went straight up the stairs. The bus drove off. I walked away in the direction of the dockside and the pier. I was drained of everything.

I walked down the empty dockside. Its hazy streetlights and brilliant railway lines set in the rain-slick cobbled surface of the road made a perfect surrounding for the feelings that were in me. Old fruit and dirty vegetables filled the gutter. The water in the black dock licked limpidly at the greasy sides.

What does anyone think at times like those? The failure to comprehend the truth leads to the creation of fantasies, fantasies where you suddenly turn round at the sound of footsteps behind, and there she is, running (or standing) with an expression on her face which tells you all you want to know. Or somehow she has beaten you to the place you are shuffling off to, or when you are at home or wherever, the telephone will ring, and then...

Thoughts like those dragged their way across my sore mind.

I reached the end of the dockside, turned left down the side of the last warehouse into a suddenly attacking breeze and faced the pier. I stopped next to a rain-spangled bollard and looked at the pier, its approach, its atmosphere, and its rain.

It was like a film set. The pier, lit haphazardly by British Transport light, stood out fuzzily in front of the broad, black river. No lights were visible to separate the opposite side of the river from the other darkness of water and sky. It rested, rural, asleep, and invisible. Lap, lap, went the river and hid behind the shading rain. A lightship somewhere in the middle of the river clanged out the half-minute. Then a damp silence closed round the last vibrations of the bell. I turned my view slightly away from the pier to stare at the buildings on my left. They flanked a broad, short street which, had it not suddenly turned sharp left back toward the city, would have found its way into the mud of a shabby, damply timbered creek. The buildings themselves were brooding, unhappy remains of better days. They grudgingly housed a ticket office and customs authority, waiting room and haulage business, warehouse and café. In the middle of the street (or rather square) stood a low and narrow public convenience. Drizzle landed furtively on its flat concrete roof. Standing on its own, on my immediate left, was a pub, its presence creating a narrow street between itself and the other block.

But Janet wasn't there.

I went into the pub.

I had twenty minutes to kill. I was a conversational acquaintance of the landlady. I used to travel on the ferry quite regularly and I was a recognized customer. The pub did little business in the winter being away from the city center and because of this the landlady treated me as a regular and sometimes we had quite long conversations on routine subjects. I thought that I might have lost myself for a while with her in a talk about the weather or the season, but as soon as I entered the warm pub I saw that there was a replacement, a girl with a long face, sitting behind the bar, moodily reading the evening paper. The only other occupants were two men, middle aged, sitting together at a table, wearing big double-breasted overcoats. They watched me walk the short space from the door to the bar. I ordered a large dark, took it over to a table near the fire, and sat down.

The room was clearly lit, and its bright, cosy detail seemed to emphasize the acuteness of my state. The sickly comprehension of things spread through me like the effects of a bad stomachache.

All I could think was: “What a bloody thing to happen.”

Then, of course, came the memories of the times that were so happy that you could have burst with the fullness of the feeling of them. They came and danced round in my chest, stabbing indiscriminately, urging helpless desperation. The feeling was physical in the strength of its wrenching grip. My eyes kept having to change their points of focus, as if the object I was staring at was too intense to bear, but, of course, the real cause for it was each fresh thought and memory of the whole bloody affair.

I took a drink from my glass, put it down, and looked across at the two men. Two men with tired expressions, not drinking for pleasure, just drinking to pass the time.

“What's it like out now?” one of them asked me casually. At first, although I was looking at him, I didn't realize he was speaking to me. He repeated the question. I shifted in my seat and cleared my throat. I told him that it was just beginning to freeze. Not so much on the roads though, mainly on the footpath.

We began a tired conversation. He told me they had travelled across on the ferry that morning. They were in a car, and they said how bad the road conditions had been earlier in the day.

Eventually the conversation trailed off. I went to the bar and bought another drink. I sat down and kept on thinking about it all, although throbbing would have been a better description.

The two men drank up and said that they were going to get the car on to the ferry.

I remembered a time when I stood in the rain with her, at the end of the pier, in the dark, on a night like this, at this time of the year, and I had been unsure of her, of how she had felt. Later, when I had said good-bye to her at the damp, hissing bus station, she had been on the verge of turning her back at last, to go for the bus, to leave me a grey bundle of worry till Monday morning. And then a turnabout toward me, a smile, a warm crinkling of the eyes, and she took my hand and I knew. At least the spine-tingling feeling of the moment, the uncertainty which was necessary to make the moment exciting and full in retrospect, was right, all right. Now, in this final retrospect, the moment seemed more right than ever.

Moments like these came and went. I looked at my watch and decided it was time to go. I drank up and left the bar.

Outside, the weather was still the same. A few people were drifting across the wet expanse to the ferry. I stood on the steps of the Minerva and saw a couple of people I knew walk onto the gangway which led down to the pontoon.

I trailed across the cobblestones to the gangway. When I boarded the ferry, I decided to go and have another drink in the bar.

The bar was empty apart from the steward and the stewardess. It was a squat, narrow room, its woodwork painted in a sickly yellow colour, and yet it had quite a pleasant, private atmosphere to it.

I ordered a large dark and was just about to drink it when the two men from the Minerva came in, rubbing their hands and being hearty in an attempt to dispel the cold and the damp. They were all smiles when they saw me. They said I seemed to be able to find the right place. For some reason one of them bought me a whisky to go with my beer. I said, “Thank you very much, thanks a lot, it's very good of you.” The drink obliged me to keep the conversation going. We drank up and the other man bought a round. We laughed and talked and then the first man bought us all whiskies. Halfway through mine, I left the bar and went into the toilet. I checked my money and saw that I had enough to buy a round of large beers. I was standing in front of the washbowl mirror, and I stopped and looked at my reflection. I moved closer and put my hands on the edge of the wash basin. I leant forward over the bowl and looked right into the mirror's eyes. I closed them and I let my forehead touch the cold glass. I stayed like that for a minute. Then as I moved away, toward the door, I saw that the porthole was open. I walked over to it and stuck my head out into the night. The noise of the paddles sounded very nice to me. The wind coldly tickled my face and ears. Raindrops flashed about near the light from the porthole. I looked at the dark water, slowly churning underneath the ferryboat. The lights of the city winked bleakly through the black night gulf. My face tingled with the cold. I stared at the city. I cried. After that I went away from the window to the sink and sluiced my face with cold water, but my eyes were still red. I dried my face with a paper towel and went back into the bar.

“Sorry I was so long. I wasn't feeling so good. Didn't have any dinner earlier on today. Let's have another drink.”

They asked me if I was sure I could manage it. I didn't have to...

“Yes, I'm okay. No, really, it was just that I was empty. I really will be fine.”

I bought the beer.

We were still drinking it after the ferry had berthed at the other side. We felt the boat bang against the pontoon. The few other people in the bar began to leave and the two men said that they were going to get the car off the ferry, so we all said good-bye to each other, and I stayed behind to finish my drink.

BOOK: All the Way Home and All the Night Through
5.87Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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