Joshua Arrives in England during WWII

Joshua Arrives in England during WWII

A Story by hvysmker

Excerpt from a much longer story. Josh is an ex- mobster joining the fledgling US Army Air Corp. It's his first night in England.

Background: This section of a much longer story involves Josh, a former mobster, and his friend Jim, an average guy.  In the US Army at the beginning of WWII for us Yanks, they’ve just landed in England and are on their first pass.  They are among the first US troops in that area….

Getting to town was simple.  As with most military bases, there were a line of taxis waiting outside the gate. Josh also noticed row upon row of bicycle racks lined up across the street, along with a parking lot for private automobiles.Take us to a good bar, will ya’ bud?”  Josh asked the driver.Look’a him, Josh,” Jim whispered. “He’s on the wrong side of the seat.”  Jim leaned forward to peer over the seat-back in front of him.  "The steering wheel is too.  Man, what a backward country.”  He shook his head in wonderment.

The driver, knowing his clients were military, dropped them off on a street of GI bars.  There were very few civilians but a multitude of uniformed personnel.   It wasn’t a place where anyone would take their wife for a drink -- unless their wife happened to be a hooker, that is.  And there were plenty of them around.

The two looked out of place among British army and navy uniforms.  It being a naval town, the white of sailor suits prevailed.  They soon found out a few things.  First of all, you didn’t find a bar that held both navy and army, only one or the other.  Secondly, the two of them seemed to get along well with both, being anomalies.  Apparently they were the only Americans in town.  

Thirdly, Josh found himself completely at home there.  It was essentially the same kind of an environment he'd grown up in.  Hell, he had not only run hookers before but done just about every task a small bar needed done, from bouncer to manager.This one looks good.”  Jim started into one of the flashier business establishments.

Josh grabbed his shoulder to pull him back, away from the doorway.Too flashy.  And see those two big guys standing alongside the door, smoking?  Two standing out here on a break mean at least that many inside.  A lot of bouncers mean a place is used to trouble. They'll charge more to pay for wages and repairs and it cuts down on the fun."  

He steered Jim to a side street, more like a wide alley, knowing there would be a small out of the way drinking establishment somewhere in there.  It was encouraging to see a bum sleeping beside a row of trash cans. That proved the safety of the alley.  Local homeless and alcoholics knew such places better than soldiers did and stayed away from the more dangerous ones.There’s always a small cheap bar around, somewhere the locals hang out.  Nice friendly places, not out to skin you,” Josh explained.  

They found it near the end of the narrow lane.  Without even a sign, they wouldn’t have known it was a drinking-hole except for an open door for ventilation.  When they entered, they found no uniforms of any type inside.

The two sat at a table in the shadows, far from the bar itself.Yeah, Josh, but I want a woman too.”  Jim looked around.They’ll be in here soon, after they make their money in the flashier places,”  Josh told him. “Hookers stop in these out-of-the-way bars when they’re flush, to have a quiet drink with each other and the regulars before going home.”  Josh continued, “You just wait.  By the time they get here they’ll already be half-drunk and tired from being on their feet.  Treat them nice, like ladies, and you’ll find you can get them cheap or free.  After an afternoon and evening of crude pawing, they appreciate a gentleman.”  

He didn’t tell Jim that he used to treat his girls in Chicago that way.  That you get more bar girls with soft soap than you do with hard s**t.Can I help you laddies,”  a pretty dark-haired waitress asked.Seven-seven,” Jim told her. “What you want Josh?  I’m buying.”Straight Jim Beam, if you have it -- and I want it from the top bottle.”  He fixed her with a smile, eyes hard above it.  She blushed before smiling back and going for the drinks.What was that about?”  Jim asked, settling down on his padded seat.A lot of these bars have two or three bottles of each expensive drink.  The top ones are authentic, for the inspectors and fresh customers -- meaning the ones getting their first drink or two,”  Josh explained.  “They keep another bottle of the same brand with cheaper booze poured into an expensive bottle, on a lower shelf.  When someone's drunk, they can’t tell the difference and get the bottom bottle.  Always be suspicious of a bar that opens a lower cabinet to pour your drink.  At least in Chicago, the inspectors can’t open cabinets to check the quality of that booze, only what's in sight.  It stays hidden during inspections.I’ll bet if you go behind these bars on garbage pickup day, you’ll find burlap bags filled with smashed liquor bottles in the trash, no tax stamps over the tops or the tops missing.  The bars acquire illegal, homemade or untaxed liquor and pour it into old bottles containing tax stamps. There's always a good market for bootleg liquor in these places.  If the British bases here have liquor stores, the bars probably get much of their stock from them.”  Josh used to do the same.  He would instruct his girls to trade sex for military PX liquor.

They were having a good time, drinking and waiting for the girls to come in, figuring on getting back by morning formation.  Not drinking in a GI bar, nobody told them about a countrywide curfew in effect.  

A few minutes before twelve, they wanted to find another place and walked back out to the road, only to find the street empty of uniforms and outside lights off.  The two walked back to the bar in the alley, finding several ladies had come in while they'd been gone.Hey, what’s going on here?  Where everybody go?”  Jim asked one of the new women, a pretty blonde.Curfew, mate,”  she told him. “You better hurry.  This place closes up in a few minutes.”We didn’t know anything about a curfew,” Jim told her. “How do we get back to base?”Ain’t no buses,” the bartender answered from across the room. “Ain’t no taxis left, either.  Trams and buses stop running by here until morning.  Once you guys leave, ain't no reason to come all the way down here to the coast.”Christ,” Josh muttered, “what the hell we gonna do now?”  He looked up to see the girls smiling at each other.  “Ladies, can we talk to you a minute?” he asked.

They both came over and sat down.  Having seen them smile at each other and the bartender, streetwise Josh knew there was a scam in the air, figuring they probably ran it whenever they could. Whenever a GI missed his ride. 

The girls would have a solution.  Although he didn't know what it was, it figured to cost Jim and him money.  The way the bartender was looking away with a smirk on his face as glimpsed in a mirror convinced Josh.Sorry, mate,” the dark-haired lovely frowned. “Didn’t know you were new here. Someone should’a warned you.”  She shook her head with a serious look. “Guess you’re just screwed, have to sleep in the alley.”  

The hell they couldn’t tell an American in uniform was new.Marilyn.  Maybe we could ... you know?”  the blonde chipped in.No. I don’t think so, Joanie.  It’s my time'a the month ... you know.  I just can’t do it tonight.” She looked at Jim. “Girl stuff.  You know what I mean?”Maybe just give them a place to sleep, out on the back porch or somethin’?”I don’t know ... and your boyfriend'll probably be over later, too,”  the brunette reminded her friend. “You can’t forget that.”  She turned to Josh.  “They’re getting married next month, you know?”We’d be glad to pay you something for a place to sleep.”  Jim took the bait.  "Any place at all.  Better than an alley, that is."You would?”  the blond chirped.  “Rent IS coming due at the end of the month, Marilyn.  Come on?  We could use a bit’a extra lolly.”  

Marilyn pondered the problem for a few moments. “Well ... I guess it's all right but only the back porch.  How much can you give us toward our rent?”

It almost sounded genuine, Josh thought.  The problem was that the blonde seemed to be speaking from a script -- not very spontaneous.  They must have used the routine often.  Now, all he had to worry about was where the bartender came in.  From his actions, Josh figured he was in on the scam.  

The question was, did he simply get a cut for helping that far or was he going to have a future role?  Josh snuck a look back at where the man was cleaning the bar.  The bartender was pretty good-sized, which meant he just might have a more physical role later.

The two made a deal with the girls and, a few minutes later, walked home with them.  Josh was hoping they'd sent a signal -- like he had arranged with Silas's girls back home -- just to get it over with.  After his relatively sedentary time in the army and with a few drinks under his belt, Josh was kind of looking forward to a workout.

They were led down a series of darkened streets, no lights showing whatsoever.  Josh knew that was also on purpose, to confuse them later if the police asked where to find the place.

"Awful dark back here," Jim noted.Blackout.  Didn’t they tell ya’ bout them?”  Joanie asked. "So's Jerry can't see to bomb us."  

Finally, they came to a two-story wooden house, one that looked to have seen better days.  They mounted a small wooden porch and Marilyn unlocked the door.  “Now, don't make yourself at home, guys.  We gotta go to bed -- alone.  It’s been a hard day.”Come on now.  You’re soldiers.  You can take it.”  Joanie opened a door at the back of the narrow apartment.  “At least it’s covered from rain and has a couple of couches.”  Here ya’ go.” Marilyn stepped aside.  When they'd paid her and were both on the back porch, she told them, “Nighty, night. Don't let the bedbugs bite,” closed and locked the door.

Jim felt for a light switch.  He found one but the bulb was gone, maybe because of the blackout? he thought.  There were two comfortable couches along the 25‘x6' enclosed space the length of the apartment inside.  It was long and narrow with a screen along the outside and wooden ends.  A steady cool breeze stirred their hair.  The cries of fighting cats came from a distance.

While Jim picked boxes off a couch at one end of the porch to lie down, Josh walked around, examining the porch itself.  He found what he wanted near the other end.  Two shelves were built into the side wall, holding gardening supplies.  Most such houses had small "Victory Gardens" to supplement their rations.  Among the tools, Josh picked out a rusted butcher knife with a chipped blade, the tip broken off.

It was crude, rusty and dull -- but it would serve his purposes.  There was also a large cardboard box of clean rags, probably saved to donate for the war effort.  It would serve as his bed.  In any case, Josh didn’t plan to sleep for awhile.

Knife in hand, he went back to the couches at the other end.See ya’ in the mornin’, Jim.”  His friend was already stretched out, a stuffed teddy bear under his head for a pillow.Yeah.  Hope they don’t have any bedcheck back at the company.”Not likely, especially with the few men we got here.”  

Jim yawned. “First night here, yet.”Damn curfews.  I heard about them.  Catch any GIs out, they get turned in for company punishment.  If we made it through the civil defense, MPs, and civilian police, the gate guards would still turn us in.”  

Civil Defense Wardens would be patrolling the streets at night, looking for lights showing from houses.  Blackouts were to keep German aircraft from seeing cities from the air and were taken very seriously there in England.  

After Jim was asleep, which didn’t take long, Josh went back to the other end of the porch and half lay, half sat in his pile of rags.  It was comfortable and, despite his intentions, he found himself drifting off to sleep.  Maybe he was wrong? he thought.

Josh woke to the clicking sound of a door closing. Opening his eyes, he saw a dark figure standing near the entrance to the apartment, hand still on the handle.  The blob crept silently across to the screen-door leading to a small backyard, only a few steps away.  It unlatched and swung the door to the yard open with a slight wooden "clunk."  The intruder then turned to face the couches, arm extended.

Things happened fast after that, as Jim opened both eyes and sat up, rubbing them.Alright, there, mate. Let’s just have it now, will we?”  Despite an attempt to alter his voice, Josh could tell it was the bartender trying to look like he'd come in from the backyard.  “This’s a gun here.  Don’t give me any trouble and you can go right back to sleep.”  He jerked his hand toward Jim.  “Just give it here like a good lad.”  His head swept back and forth.  “And where yur’ mate be, uh?”

Using mugger tactics, Josh swept in behind the brute.  He placed the old blade under the intruder’s chin, pushing it upwards under a folded handkerchief mask to cut the skin.Get his gun, Jim,”  Josh whispered to his ‘mate.’  "And hurry it up.”

Cautiously Jim stood and jerked an ancient Webley revolver out of the bartender's hand.Now, as for you,” Josh whispered menacingly, “on the f*****g floor.”

While Jim held the huge old weapon on him, Josh went back to the gardening supplies and soon had the man tied hand and foot.  Just as he finished, he could hear a slight sound as the door began to open again.

Josh grabbed the edge of the opening, jerking it open to spill Marilyn onto the porch.  He caught her before she could stumble across and down the back steps.  Not that he saved her from injury, since he turned her around and slammed her into the back of the house, face first.

She clasped a bloody face and collapsed while Josh shoved her body through the open doorway.  

Jim was too surprised at what was happening to do anything but stand there, heavy revolver in a sagging hand.

The ex-mobster caught Joanie from behind as she was hurrying out of the room.  Turning the woman, dressed in pajamas and robe, Josh punched her full in the face.  Another blow, to the guts that time, sent her to the floor in agony.Come on, Jim, bring that f****r inside and close that damned door.”  Josh hurriedly checked the rest of the apartment.What should I do with them?  This woman is bleeding all over the floor,”  Jim called to Josh, who was checking through dresser drawers.  He found a fancy jewelry box and opened it.Who gives a damn?  It’s her floor.  Put her anywhere.  Keep them quiet.”  Josh looked over the contents of the box.  Mostly junk but he pocketed a ring that might be expensive and a watch that could be worth something if he sold it to one of the other soldiers.  Another drawer held a small stash of local currency.

When he finished, Josh went back to the living room.  Joanie had finished puking and was now sitting on the floor, looking sad and forlorn.  On a whim, Josh swerved to kick her in the stomach as he passed by.What the hell you doing to her?”  Jim stood, shocked at the gratuitous violence.  He had even sat the bartender in a chair and removed his handkerchief gag.  He had been wiping blood from Marilyn’s face when Josh returned, as well as trying to stop her nose from bleeding.You can leave the room if you can’t take it,” Josh told his partner, “but I intend to teach these three a lesson.  Not to screw around with us -- or any American GIs.  One they won’t quickly forget.”

Jim did leave after Josh started work on the bartender, breaking his leg with a cricket bat he found in a closet.  He then tied up the girls before beating the hell out of them and, of course, taking the bartender's wallet.  Hell, a man had to make a profit, didn’t he?  And the guy had been trying to rob Josh.  You three b******s take it easy, you hear me?  I'll be checking on you before we leave, so you better be f*****g quiet,”  he told them before joining Jim in the kitchen to wait for morning.

When the sun came up, Josh untied Joanie, who seemed in the worst shape, and he and Jim left for the base.  Not being completely heartless, he didn't want them to starve to death while hogtied.  He hoped he had put enough fear in them that they wouldn’t cause any trouble.  That process had worked well back in Chicago.  Josh hadn't acted out of anger.  He'd simply learned that if you make people frightened enough of you they left you alone.  And those three were definitely afraid of American Gis.

Later on, Josh is captured by the Nazis.  A sergeant impersonating a colonel, he ends up running a POW camp.  ( Something like that old “Hogan’s Heroes” tv show. )


© 2019 hvysmker

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Added on October 26, 2019
Last Updated on October 26, 2019
Tags: war, military, crime, POW



Fremont, OH

I'm retired, 81 yrs old. My best friend is a virtual rat named Oscar, who is, himself, a fiction writer. I write prose in almost any genre but don't do poetry. Oscar writes only rodent oriented st.. more..