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U3A Writing: Johnathan Capewell

Derek McQueen creates a believable fictional character, sets him down in London's most famous jazz club, then teasingly leaves us to work out what happens next.

Annie and Nora are enjoying the jazz at ‘Ronnie’s’, in Soho, London. Sitting at a table for four, they have been hard pressed to save the other two seats.

Ronnie Scott’s is especially busy tonight. Kenny Burrell is over from the Blue Note Club in New York. Burrell is a legendary guitarist, appearing in London for the first time and the basement club on Wardour Street is packed. Huge photographs of past and present jazz stars line the walls, the darkness of the cellar broken by glowing red table lamps and azure swirls of cigarette smoke in the piercing spotlights. A ‘warm up’ pianist battles the noisy crowd with ‘Night in Tunisia’ by Dizzie Gillespie.

The precious saved seats are for Jonathan Capewell and maybe a friend. Jonathan has something important to tell the girls tonight and he had booked the four £50 tickets some weeks before. As managing owner of Capewell Enterprises, he can easily afford the £400 and more that tonight’s party is going to cost. Dinner and at least two bottles of the very best wine would be £200 for a start.

Jonathan Capewell has not always been ‘in the money’ – far from it. Nor had he always been called Jonathan, or even Capewell for that matter. Born John Carpwell in the East End, thirty-eight years ago, he had worked the markets from the age of 15 and been to prison twice for receiving stolen goods.

Tall and blonde, he had attracted women of all ages. After dozens of affairs, some more lurid than others, he had unexpectedly married a rich divorcee, five years his senior and turned legit. Well, as legitimate as John Carpwell was ever likely to get.

The girls had made their expensive white wine last nearly an hour and the persistent waiters were pushing to take a dinner order.

“This is getting ridiculous,” Annie said. “If he’s so keen to talk to us, why isn’t he here before now? It’s nearly ten.”

“He’s always been very complimentary about me, I have to say. But bringing us here for a special dinner – I just don’t get it. I’ve only worked for him for four months.” Nora said.

“ Well it can’t be to give us the sack.” Annie laughed. “ He’d find a cheaper way than this. To be honest Nora, I don’t believe half he tells me. A bit too slick, I reckon – talk about left hand.”

“ So long as he keeps his right hand well away from me, I’m happy.” Nora said.

One of the shadier nooks and crannies of Capewell Enterprises is Jonathan’s string of ‘Relaxez–Vous', Massage Parlours’ dotted across Camberwell and South West London. These are the real money-spinners. Annie and Nora are part of a team of four in ‘Capewell Sales and Marketing’, buying and selling on Ebay, a small but more respectable arm of the business. Given the computer knowledge and customer skills needed for the job, they were both very poorly paid.

‘Ronnie’s’, Maitre D, approached their table for the third time, but with Jonathan in tow. Six feet tall and with streaked blonde hair emphasising his tanned face, he smiled broadly and stuck out his hand to warmly greet the girls. There was no sign of a ‘friend’.

“ I’m really so sorry I’m late girls – I just couldn’t get a cab, it’s a nightmare out there. You guys must be starving. Let’s order straight away, shall we?”

There was no denying it. Jonathan looked ‘the business’. Light grey Armani suit and red silk tie, Rolex watch studded with diamonds - from Cartier, not the Far East.

A waiter shot over as Jonathan raised his arm for attention.

There would be time enough to put his proposition to the girls in the afterglow of a memorable dinner. His ace card would be to offer to triple Annie and Nora’s present salaries. For the moment though, there was just the jazz to enjoy and the anticipation of the Filet Mignon and Chateau bottled,Bordeaux to come.


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