CH TWO 31
Frank is wandering along the landing after finishing his day’s work, a slice of angel cake in his pocket. It’s the end slice so there’s not much cream in it but it will do for a late night snack after lights out if he can’t get a fair offer on it from Thorndike. Scrapper Noakes follows him into his cell and hands him an unopened packet of 20 Dunhill cigarettes. ‘You’re a jammy sod,’ he says, as Frank eyes the package suspiciously. ‘It’s not on a piece of elastic is it?’ asks the recipient. ‘No, it’s your winnings from the sweepstake.’ Frank is very surprised to have won, even more so to have been handed his winnings. He opens the pack and takes one of the cigarettes. Without realising what he is doing he offers one to his visitor, who is quick to accept. They light up and lean against the rickety table to enjoy the pleasure of a real smoke.
Corporal Clot comes marching in, a scowl on his face, ‘what are you doing in here?’ he asks Scrapper, ‘if you want to chat you can get out to the association area where I can keep an eye on you.’ He notices that the two are smoking ‘posh’ cigarettes but doesn’t ask where they came from. He wishes he could afford to smoke Dunhill filter tips. He stays in the doorway until Noakes leaves the cell, gives Frank a sneering look and follows him. Frank puts the cigarettes and the cake into his secret hidey hole and ambles along to the association area.
Thorndike is holding Court in his usual corner and beckons Frank to join him. ‘You haven’t forgotten about the snooker contest tomorrow have you?’ He reminds the reluctant participant of the planned re-match with Rocky Vine. ‘We thought the best of five would be a good test, I take it you are in agreement?’ Frank says he is looking forward to it and hopes to show his opponent a thing or two. ‘Don’t tell me that the entrance fee is 20 Dunhill cigarettes, because you’ve had that one,’ grins Frank, ‘they’re mine.’ Thorndike says he wouldn’t dream of depriving the man of his fair winnings and hopes he enjoys smoking them. After all, he himself has made twenty times that out of the deal and stands to gain handsomely whoever wins the snooker contest. In a place like this you have to make your own entertainment and Mr Ridley is proving to be a most welcome distraction.
Scrapper almost knocks Frank flying as he hurries from the wash room trying to hide a bloodied right fist. Frank does an about-turn so as not to get involved in whatever has occurred. As he returns to his cell the alarm sounds and the order goes out for everybody to get back to theirs. A buzz goes round the landing; Roger Black arrives with something hidden in his jacket, which he says he will show Frank once the fuss has died down. ‘This is what started it all off,’ he whispers, ‘that nonce was trying to convince Scrapper that what he does is normal. He was showing him this copy of ‘Forum’ and saying that it must be alright because one of the members of the board of reference is a serving Anglican Minister, but Scrap wasn’t having that. He gave him a right pasting and that Corporal Clot just stood by and watched him do it. They say he did his National Service in Africa and got a liking for violence out there; he gets a kick out of seeing someone get a kicking.’
Once Foyle has been scraped up off the floor and transferred to the sick bay the lags are allowed out of their cells; they gather in the association area eager for news of the beating and most of them feeling satisfaction in knowing that the poor excuse for a man has got what was coming to him.
Everyone agrees that if he survives this assault he will ask to go on Rule 43 and that will be the last they see of him so good riddance.
Rocky Vine takes Frank aside where they will not be observed or overheard amongst the crowd. ‘About tomorrow,’ he says very quietly, causing Frank to lean closer, ‘you win the first two frames, I win the second two then we have a proper match for the decider, okay? We don’t want it going on for hours like the last one.’ Frank agrees and they separate before his lordship gets wind of the idea. He doesn’t control everything on this landing even if he thinks he does, but Frank has learned that if you look after Thorndike he will see you alright. This does not, however, mean that he has to like the man. He pictures Lord Snooty as he delicately lifts a morsel of angel cake to his lips, never suspecting what added delicacy it may contain. He will add something special before handing it over.
Frank lights up another Dunhill and turns to the Sun crossword, which he completes in pencil in four minutes flat then erases the marks so as not to devalue the second-hand rag when he passes it on. He is contemplating whether to have cling peaches or pear halves for supper when his cell mate returns, insisting that he have a look at the copy of ‘Forum’ he has been showing round to all and sundry. It makes uncomfortable reading and Frank throws it back at him after a few minutes. ‘Now you know why I don’t have any time for organised religion or ‘liberals’ who think they can discuss any subject under the sun without revulsion.’ He is clearly angry and Black mumbles some kind of agreement picks the A5 volume up off the floor and walks out with it hidden in his jacket, no doubt hoping to sell it to someone less scrupulous than all the others who have turned him down.
Having lost his appetite, Frank decides to go for an evening stroll before bang-up and wanders along the landing towards the association area where he is greeted by his lordship. ‘I very much enjoyed my afternoon tea,’ drawls the man in his haughty tone, ‘is there any chance for a slice of fruit cake in the near future? I do enjoy a little fruit cake don’t you know.’ I bet you do, thinks Frank as he says he will see what he can do and passes by to where some of the men are playing dominoes. They offer him a game and he joins in, placing his stake in the centre of the table. The pristine Dunhill cigarette looks out of place next to the two roll-ups but no comment is passed and they have time for just the one game before the end of association. His fellow players seem rather disgruntled that he has won but he takes all three cigarettes and offers them a re-match. With his luck he is not surprised when they decline.