The Blue King Club was situated along Old Street in the East End of a London. It was an unassuming place housed above a row of Georgian shops.
It was one of London’s best kept secrets during the sixties. It was not as exuberant as its West End neighbours, there was nothing about the exterior that was welcoming, let alone to let you know it was in fact a nightclub.
To the unassuming passer by they would just assume they were walking past a Haberdashers and an Asian restaurant. Yet sandwiched between the two was a brown door.
A knock on that door and Fred, adorned in his favourite flat cap and nursing an old shrapnel wound in his leg, would open it inviting you up the cramped staircase.
Once you had ascended the creaky bare wooden stairs, a sharp right would take you through a beaded curtain and into the main area of The Blue King.
First timers were always surprised having travelled up the most narrowest of staircases how large the club actually was. It filled the top floor of both the Haberdashers and Asian restaurant that neighboured below.
Immediately to your left was the bar area made of mahogany with the occasional stool dotted around it for the casual patron just popping in for a quick fix.
Along the wood panelled sides was a small corridor that led to the less than luxurious restrooms. The Male cubicle often occupied by a patron who has seen too much of the show that the girls put on.
When not out on show the girls would be housed in a tiny changing room towards the back of the club. It was no bigger than a broom cupboard where they would scramble for any available space to change into a variety of lingerie.
On the opposite side behind a thick wooden door was a larger room. Inside a huge desk dominated the middle with a larger leather chair behind. This was the office of Jimmy Calvin, the owner of The Blue King.
In essence Jimmy was just a petty criminal with unrealistic dreams of being a big time gangster. His office was adorned with photos of all the celebrities, sports stars and those higher up the echelons of the underworld he had met.
Despite Jimmy’s lofty ambitions he knew his place in the hierarchy. He was small fry, a loner who could only be relied upon for the odd job. He was rarely trusted with anything important.
He acquired The Blue King after he took the blame for some crime carried out by someone in The Kray’s firm. ‘A little favour for Reggie’ is all he used to say about it. Five years inside and he emerges as the proprietor of his very own nightclub.
The larger Firms were wary of Jimmy simply for the fact that unchecked ambition can lead to negligence. For his part, Jimmy was largely content with his little slice of the London underworld. He ruled The Blue King and this kept him from doing anything stupid
Every night he would emerge from his office, dressed in a tuxedo, his cummerbund straining at the expanse of his belly. His hair was always slicked back with a middle parting. His rosy cheeks would flush, smiling as he observed his kingdom; dramatically lighting a cigar to emphasise you were on his turf. He had beady little eyes and an upturned nose, which the girls thought made him resemble a pig; Piggy Calvin is what they would giggle after he had done his obligatory tour of their dressing room.
He’d then move to the centre of the club amongst the tiny circular tables covered in red velvet tablecloth, a small green lamp provided limited illumination. Here is where the more important guests would sit and those who Jimmy wished to impress the most.
Should they require a favour from him they would engage in conversation, otherwise there would be some brief pleasantries before Jimmy moved to edge of the bar and sat observing the Kingdom he ruled.
Although his resemblance to a pig was clear I often felt he was an owl. I would catch sight of him from where I was on the stage.
I could see Jimmy craning his neck and observing all those who walked in. He wanted to be noticed. He wanted to be somebody. I, on the other hand remained content to be unnoticed. In this place it was good to be nobody.
I begun working at The Blue King when I was sixteen in the cloakroom. Jimmy gave me the job as a favour to my Dad who wanted me out of his hair. Even though the relationship between Jimmy and my Dad soured I stayed on at the club, working my way up to selling cigarettes, followed by a brief stint behind the bar to eventually being the resident club singer.
The latter occurred by accident when the normal singer failed to show, Jimmy approached me and asked if I could sing. My vague response of ‘a little bit’ was enough to secure me the position.
Jimmy didn’t care about a singer. No one turned up to hear me sing a few Alma Colgan numbers. They were there to ogle at the girls while finalising some shady deals.
The girls paraded on stage as the less refined men at the back of the club whooped and cheered getting their quick arousing fix. Those at the tables would sit in quiet contemplation, studying the girls, choosing which one would provide company later on. A quick word with Jimmy and he’d ensure that the girl of their choice would provide a suitably entertaining climax to the evening.
I was never ‘chosen’ and that suited me fine. I could live with the shouts of ‘take your top off’ as I sung, the awkward silence as I finished and walked to the bar. It never bothered me. Sing, have a drink, get my money, go home. It was a simple uncomplicated life.
Yet on that one night in February my life got incredibly complicated.
I had just finished singing Sugartime to the echo of horny silence and with a happy shrug left the stage to get myself a drink, a straight whiskey which I would swallow in one before meeting Jimmy at the end of the bar to get my wages, then it was down the stairs, a cheery goodbye to Fred and home.
Every now and then a few men would try it on but my demeanour quickly told them I was not interested. Besides I only had to ignore them for five minutes and then then voluptuous Scarlet would be on the stage and I would no longer be in their thoughts.
I would like to think I was attractive enough to justify the attention of the men who frequented the club. But they came here with a certain expectation. They could take what they wanted. If there was the slightest bit of effort involved in they would quickly lose interest.
Therefore I was not totally surprised when a guy approached me. He was tall, completely bald, sunken cheeks and pinhole dark eyes. His smart dressed indicated he was one of Jimmy’s preferred guests.
“Mr Karpinsky would like you to join him” he said he a deep Eastern European accent
“Who’s Mr Karpinsky” I replied.
He pointed over to the furthest table and there sat a overweight man with a heavy black beard, his beady eyes staring over at us.
I wanted to say no but I caught the gaze of Jimmy who was watching. He gestured with his eyes that I was to comply with the request to join Mr Karpinsky .
“Fine” I reluctantly said, grabbing my drink and following the tall man to the table.
I sat down in the vacant chair next to the demanding Mr Karpinsky, who moved closer towards me. A combination of cigar smoke, alcohol and body odour filled my nostrils as his large frame pressed against me.
“You sing like an angel” he said, his voice had the same eastern European accent as his colleague although slightly higher pitched which surprised me given his size.
He placed his thick hand on my thigh as he continued “You look like an angel”.
It was clear by the way his stubby fingers worked their way up my dress what his intentions were. There was no attractive quality about him. I had no desire to fulfil whatever grubby plan he had in mind. I could see Jimmy watching owl like from his perch at the bar.
A gentleman would intervene, see my vacant expression and offer sanctuary to the women being manhandled. But not Jimmy. To Jimmy we were all his property and he was happy to loan us out to the right sort of people. In his club the girls were bargaining chips and commodity he could trade.
As Mr Karpinsky’s fingers continued their journey all I could think about was grabbing the bottle of champagne and smashing it over his large flabby head. But I knew if I did that I would not have a job to return to. Besides, I was unsure how Mr Karpinsky’s colleague would react to me bludgeoning his fat friend to death with a bottle of the cheap shit that Jimmy pretended was high quality champagne.
It was difficult to think with Mr Karpinsky’s wandering hands. I needed to formulate a plan on how I could get out of this with preferably my job and dignity intact. I excused myself politely and walked towards the restrooms. Jimmy’s steely gaze following me on my journey.
I paused in the narrow corridor just outside the entrance to the Ladies. I breathed deeply, the smell of the toilets a strange welcome relief to the putrid odour of Mr Karpinsky. Suddenly I felt someone nudge into me.
“Oh I am terribly sorry” said the man responsible. He was impeccably dressed in a three piece suit, his hair was jet black, dazzling blue eyes and although he must have been in his forties was very attractive. I did not reply, part of me wanted him to try something on with me. Rescue me from the clumsy fondling of Mr Karpinsky but he just smiled and disappeared into the Gents toilet.
I opened the door to the Ladies and splashed water on my face. I contemplated how long I could conceivably stay in here. Perhaps the likes of Scarlet or Divine would distract him enough that he would soon forget about me and I could just go home without his hand taking that any further lumbering steps up my dress.
I heard the low hum of the music indicating that Scarlet was just about to start her show. I dried my face and left the toilets. As you exit, to the left at the far end is a door which lead to a fire escape and into the alleyway adjacent to the club. The girls call it their Escape Plan if things ever got too much. All I had to do was turn left and I would be free, keep out of Jimmy’s way until he calmed down and then back to work like nothing ever happened.
“I hope you ain’t thinking of leaving Mr Karpinsky on his own. He’d be most disappointed”
I turned to see Jimmy leaning up against the wall.
“Look Jimmy….this is more what the girls do. I am just here to sing” I would have continued my pleading but the look in Jimmy’s eyes clearly told me it was futile.
“The girls work for me. You work for me. It’s important we keep our guests…..entertained” he instinctively licked his lips as a he said the last word.
Moving closer to me he continued “Your rent is due at the end of the week, ain’t it? Be a shame if you didn’t have the money to pay him. I hear your landlord will expect something in return if you can’t pay up”.
He cut me off by putting a finger to his lips and making an irritating shushing sound “Now Mr Karpinsky requires a little alone time with you, so you’ll find him in my office. I suggest you hurry up now”
A brief thought of punching Jimmy’s arrogant face and running out the fire escape crossed my mind but it would only be a momentary win. Jimmy was not the sort that would take such impertinence lightly, he would see it as a betrayal, a declaration of war. I couldn’t fight him on my own and I had no-one to help me.
Maybe a few years ago things would have been different. The mere mention of my Dad would have stopped Jimmy from ever making such demands but those days were over. I was alone. Jimmy controlled me and I saw no option but to agree to his demands.
I submissively walked back into the club and across the floor, passing Scarlet who was in the process of removing her bra to the enthusiastic cheers of the audience. I caught her eye as I passed, I thought I saw sympathy in her expression. I had seen her many times go into Jimmy’s office, she knew what I would experience behind that door.
The brief journey to the office seemed to take forever, the music and the cheers a vacant echo in my mind. I felt like a prisoner on death row taking their final walk. I was in a daze and only alerted to the fact that I had reached the door when the handle pushed against me.
I took one final futile look around the club, a desperate glance to see if that suave Gentleman was about to rescue me but all I could see was Jimmy back on his perch watching me. I turned the handle, opened the door and accepted my fate.
When I entered it was clear that Mr Karpinsky had not intention of just wanting me to sing for him. There was to be no romance or companionship. He was in the process of unbuckling his trousers when he said
“Ahhh there’s my angel”
His trousers dropped to the ground exposing his chubby hairy legs. His underpants quickly followed, a tiny penis emerged from the two overhanging flaps of fat which in any other circumstance would have made me laugh at the thought of a tortoise poking its head out to eat some lettuce.
I stood there not moving, still clinging to the hope that someone would barge through the door and end this bizarre and unwanted coupling.
“Don’t be shy” he said “I won’t bite…..It won’t bite.” He grabbed my hand and placed it on his penis, he let out a satisfied moan as his hand encouraged mine to stroke him.
His idea of foreplay was simply to lift up my dress, pull down my tights and bend me over Jimmy’s desk. I felt nothing; whilst that could apply to the vacancy of my thoughts at the point it could equally apply to the fact that I actually felt nothing.
The only indication that he may have been having sex with me was the feel of his large flabby frame pressed against me and comically emphasised grunting.
That’s all I can really remember, his weight getting heavier and heavier on my back, his foul odour filling the room. I was suffocating. Literally suffocating. I just wanted to throw up. Then it stopped. He didn’t cry out in orgasmic pleasure, I felt nothing to indicate he had climaxed, he just lay on top of me.
It seemed like an eternity that I was under him. His full weight trapping me on the table. Then I noticed…. he wasn’t breathing. The possibility there may be a dead guy inside of me was encouragement enough to slide myself from underneath him. It was not an easy task and the momentum caused him to rock back before slamming face first on to the edge of the desk as I prised myself out.
He landed in a heap on the floor, one of Jimmy’s ornaments had fallen off the table and lay by Mr Karpinsky’s lifeless body. My initial thought was simply ‘Jimmy’s not going to like this’.
I contemplated moving the body, but aside from the difficulty I had getting the lumbering mass off me I did not know what good that would do. There was only one way in and out of the office so I couldn’t just say that Mr Karpinsky had popped out to get some cigarettes.
Maybe I could just go speak with Jimmy and explain what had happened, but he was not the most understanding person at the best of times. Besides, the bruise that formed on the side of Mr Karpinsky’s temple meant that ‘He simply died’ would be treated with some suspicion.
My only option was to run. I quickly rearranged my clothes, wiped the tears that formed in my eyes, opened the door and just ran across the club. Jimmy, in his curious owl like way, noticed me running but by the time he had hopped off his perch I was down the corridor and through the fire escape.
I took the rickety staircase two steps at a time fearing at any moment that either Jimmy or Mr Karpinsky’s lanky colleague would catch me. The fact that I had fled meant that I had abandoned any chance It was settled – I had killed Mr Karpinsky.
Tears spilled from eyes as I breathlessly made my way down the staircase. I cursed myself – You should have just turned left when you had the chance.
I tried to put aside any thought of what might become of me. My only goal at that moment was to get far away from The Blue King as possible. I would figure everything else out when I was safe….if I ever could be safe.
I jumped the last few steps and sprinted down the alleyway. My chest cried out in agony as I pushed myself to run as fast as I could. As I neared where the alleyway opens onto Old Street a car pulled across the entrance.
They’ve already found me.
I stopped. Breathing deeply, I looked back into the gloom of the alleyway and thought I could hear footsteps coming up after me. I was trapped. There was nothing more I could do than hope they would listen to reason.
The car window routrolled down. It was not Mr Karpinsky’s colleague but the attractive gentleman who had bumped into me.
“You’re in danger” he shouted to me “But I can help you. Get in.”
He opened the passenger door. Whilst I avoided getting into stranger’s cars I had little choice. With the sound of footsteps getting louder in the alley I ran round to the passenger side of the car and hopped in.
Little did I know this would be the final car journey that Molly Jones would make.