Losing Tim

by Nigel Gordon

Chapter 8

Black Country 1963

Timmy's dad was released from hospital on the Wednesday and Timmy went home on the Thursday. Friday, he came down to tell me that they were off to Llandudno for three weeks. It turned out that my father had used his connections to get some charity to arrange a three-week holiday for them, it was the first Timmy had ever been on. I was depressed, I had been looking forward to spending the summer holidays with Timmy but at least I could spend more time with Chris.

That Saturday I met up with Chris in town and we went swimming. There were no afternoon clients and all the evening work was all-nighters, my parents were at home that weekend, so no chance I could go on any. After swimming we caught the bus up to Great Bridge, Terry had got a flat up there and moved in a few months before. Once there Chris used a spare key to let us in, he knew Terry was working for Jock that afternoon and we spent the rest of the afternoon in bed together until it was time for me to get home and Chris to get over to Jock's.

I got home to be informed that I better get packed as we were going on holiday. Nothing had been said before, it turned out Grandma was ill again, and dad had swapped some shifts to get a week off, we were off up to Hull. This completely fucked up my plans as I had arranged to meet Chris in the morning, and we were supposed to be doing a show for Jock in the afternoon.

I told my parents that I had arranged to meet Raj and needed to phone him to say that I would not be there. Raj was an Indian boy who my parents fully approved of, he was at Grammar School and both his parents were professionals, one an accountant the other a solicitor. They never asked how I met Raj, I think they thought we had meet swimming, in fact, I had met him at Jocks, yet another one of the boys working the scene. Though he had more problems getting away than I did, so we had started to cover for each other. I did phone Raj and he seemed a bit nonplussed when I said I could not see him tomorrow as my parents were taking me to Hull for the week. He caught on when I asked him to let Jock and the other boys know. My parents had heard Raj and me talking about Jock and just assumed it was somebody the Raj knew. They never asked any questions about him, so I never had to tell any lies.

The week in Hull was bloody boring. My parents stayed at my cousin's pub, but I was consigned to stay at Grandma's, sleeping on the bed settee in the lounge. That meant that I could not go to bed till everybody had left and Grandma had gone to bed and I had to be up first thing to have it back into a settee before anybody arrived. For an ill, old lady Grandma seemed remarkably fit, also remarkably capable of finding me jobs that needed to be done. I was glad when the week was over.

Back in Wednesbury, I was looking forward to seeing Chris again, only to be tied up in a hundred small jobs that my mother wanted done at the house and having to babysit the kids from next door. The older sister who normally looked after them during the holidays was on a week's training course, so from eight-thirty till four, I found myself with two girls, nine and seven and a five-year-old boy to look after. Not my idea of a good time. By the end of the week I was firmly convinced that at least there was one good thing about being queer, no kids!

My parents were going up to Hull again for the weekend, this time though I had a good excuse not to join them. There was a county Scouts' Swimming Gala coming up and Dave had called round to say he wanted me in the relay medley and that we had a training session on Saturday morning. Unfortunately, it was from seven-thirty to eight-thirty and I had to be at the baths for seven. Is there such a time on a Saturday morning?

Somehow, I made the session, though was a bit late, not that late and fortunately, everybody else in the team was later than me, so I got away with it. The training was all about the starts and the changeover. Doing backstroke, I was the first to go, having to start in the water. I had wondered why Dave actually wanted me for the team as in the District I had always been beaten by Simon, it turned out though that he was putting together an under 15 team and although I had now left school I was still under 15, my birthday being the last possible day to qualify as being 15 in the school year, still being a good three-plus weeks away. Simon, I knew had now turned 16 and was in the Senior Scouts who were not able to take part anyway in this Gala.

The one thing that worried me was that the pools I regularly swam in and trained in were Wednesbury and Darlaston. Wednesbury was an old Victorian pool and 25 yards in length, Darlaston which was post-war was 25 metres but Walsall Gala Baths where the Gala was being held were brand new, they had opened two year ago and the pool there was 33.33 metres. That was nearly a third again longer than I normally swam in training. Though I decided not to worry too much as I still had two more weeks before the competition.

It was just gone nine when I got out of the baths, much too early for Chris to be around or anybody else for that matter. I went across to the phone box to phone Jock to let him know I was back and that my parents were away till Sunday. He told me that he had some work if I wanted it, I told him yes, but I needed to sort out some cover with Raj, he told me that he had work for Raj as well. I then asked him if Chris would be working, Jock told me he had not seen or heard from Chris since the weekend. I found that a bit worrying as Chris normally would be working for Jock at least a couple of evenings during the week.

I went home to phone Raj, Jock had told me never to call him from home, always to use the phone box. I passed Jock's message onto Raj and he asked his mother if it was alright for us to meet up and have a sleep out. She said Ok, Raj told me he would meet me in Wednesbury at one. Probably not the best news I could have, I expected Chris to in town at about one-thirty and Raj and Chris did not get on that well. For some reason, Chris seemed jealous of Raj, something I found difficult to deal with.

I then phoned grandma's and spoke with mother, telling her I was going on a sleep out with Raj. For some reason Raj's name worked miracles, no questions were asked.

Just before one I got up to the Walsall bus stop, the bus was early, and Raj was just getting off it. We went to the Fish and Chip Café and got some chips and a couple of bottles of Tizer, then went and sat in the bus shelter to eat them. I asked him how things had been while I had been away, he told me very quiet, but he had been over to Birmingham on Thursday, the twins were up and wanted a boy. Jock had told him that they had asked for me but when told I was away then asked for Raj.

I started to get an insight into why Chris might be jealous of Raj. The twins were a couple of East Enders who came up to Birmingham on business every few weeks. What they were doing in Birmingham nobody knew, they came up by train, booked into the Grand Hotel, never stayed more than a couple of nights, then back to London. The word was that they were big gangsters in London, I did not know, what I did know was that they were big tippers. At the moment I had been their favourite boy but if I was not available, they would ask for Chris, that was until Raj came on the scene. Thinking about it I realised that a few of the customers now seemed to ask for either Raj or me by name rather than Chris. This puzzled me a bit as, to be honest Chris still looked younger than either of us. I was only too well aware that for many customers how young a boy was or at least how young he appeared were important factors in their choice. Not that many had a choice, they usually took what they got given by Jock.

We hung around town till gone two but there was no sign of Chris. Then we made our way down to the park thinking that we might have missed him and knowing that he would go there to look for us. When we got there, we checked the shed but there was nobody about and we walked round the park without seeing Chris, though we did bump into Michel who had come to see if any of the boys were about.

As we stood talking, passing time till we could get over to Jock's, it was a strict rule that unless otherwise arranged you never arrived before three-thirty, the shop was closed from one till three and Jock did not want boys hanging around outside. While we were talking Raj pulled my arm and pointed to the children's play area. Mike was there, talking to a couple of young boys, they could not have been more than eight or nine. Michel was also looking at them.

"I don't like that," he commented as Mike walked away with the two boys holding his hands.

"Neither do I, if anything going on it could cause trouble for Jock," Raj added.

"Oh, Jock got rid of him months ago, word is he is running his own group of boys now, some of them quite young."

None of us wanted to get involved with Mike so we made our way to one of the other exits and walked back into town to get the bus to West Bromwich. By time we got to Jock's, I had convinced myself that Chris would be there. I was disappointed, Jock repeated that he had not seen or heard from Chris since the previous weekend. I asked if Terry was coming as I was certain he would know where Chris was but was told that he had been taken on holiday by one of his regulars and would not be back till Wednesday.

The work that night was a private party in Sutton Coalfield, there were six boys altogether who went over, two Michel and Raj I knew well and there was a third boy called Stan who I knew slightly, we had been on a couple of jobs together. Stan was a bit older than us three and heavily into bodybuilding, he had clear well-defined muscles, which some men seemed to like. He was also the first boy I saw who shaved himself all over. I had not seen either of the other two boys before, neither had Michel or Raj, though Stan seemed to know one of them who he called Rik, the other one told us his name was Tom and this was his first time. He told us that he had had sex with men before and done some photographic work, but this was a first time he had gone out to be paid for sex with men.

All told it was a fairly good night. There were only six men at the party so there was one boy for each man. Situations like that were always a lot better than when you had ten or eleven men and only three or four boys, that could be hard work.

One of the men only looked about eighteen or nineteen, he took Tom and from what I could see was mostly interested in licking him all over.

It was about three o'clock when the party started to break up. The chap I'd been with, a man in his fifties who spoke with a Northern Irish accent slipped me a five-pound note and told me he wanted to see me again. He never did but in the years that were to follow, I saw him frequently on television as he was speaking about the Unionist cause in Northern Ireland.

The driver picked us up and took us back to Jocks, where we crashed out in the upstairs room, all six of us in the one bed, till the morning. By that time, we were all too tired for any more sex. It was a different matter when we woke in the morning and Tom proved to us that he knew full well what he was doing.

I got home just before one, in time to catch the call from mother saying they were just setting off. Given that they had a six-hour drive I did not expect to see them till gone seven. I spent the rest of the afternoon up in my room, looking through my photos of Chris and worrying about what had gone wrong. I was certain something was wrong. Chris knew I had to be back by now but there had been no contact.

The thing was I could not do anything about it till the weekend. The only person who was likely to know anything was Terry and he was not back till Wednesday. There was no chance of me seeing him then as I had swimming training for the Gala that evening and on Thursday and Friday, I was volunteered by my Scout Troop to help set up the fete and Saturday morning I would be helping marshal it. The earliest I could get away would be Saturday afternoon. I just had to hope that Terry would be in when I could get there.

The fete was one of the big events in the local social whirl, what social whirl there was. There were seven local Scout Troops and covering the fete had been split between us in line with our numbers. As a result, my own troop and the 5th, which was by far the largest in Wednesbury, had the morning, another three troops covered the afternoon and there were two troops which were doing the evening session.

My father of course, would be there, he was a Senior Nursing Officer in the St John's Ambulance Brigade and as such would have to show himself off. Mother, an industrial nurse was on duty at the stand of her employer, providing first aid cover. They would be on duty all day and then be going off to the Gala event at the Town Hall, so would not be back till late, to be more precise the early hours of the morning.

I got down to the park just after eight to report in. The fete did not start till ten-thirty but there was a lot of last-minute setting up to be done which we Scouts were supposed to help with. Not sure how much help we actually were, I think some of the stallholders found us more a hindrance than anything. I found myself assigned to running messages between the committee tent and various gates and stations around the park. The Army Cadets had, as they did every year, put in a field telephone for communication with the gates, etc., and, just as it did every year, it failed to work, so a series of runners were required to pass messages to the different parts of the fete.

This was my fourth year as a Scout at the fete, so I had a good idea what was going to happen. Well, this year was no disappointment, with the exception that it did not start to rain, everything ran the same as it did the previous three years. The gates opened at half-past ten but just as before nobody really started to arrive till gone half eleven and then the main crowd did not start to arrive till after twelve. I ran the occasional messages but spent most of my time guiding people to the locations that they seemed unable to find, which was a fairly simple task and given my state of mind at the time was probably a good thing.

Chris was in the 6th, the troop that we were sharing duties with, not that he was a frequent attendee at Scout meetings.

He had admitted to me the only reason he was in the Scouts was that some of his clients liked him in Scout uniform. I also got the feeling that this was also where he found some of the new boys who he introduced to Jock. I saw a couple of boys in uniform that morning who I had seen at Jock's. Given that there were a lot of free perks to those on duty at the fete I had expected Chris to turn up but there was no sign of him. There was a Patrol Leader from the6th working with me from the committee tent, I knew he also worked for Jock, though we had never been on jobs together. I asked him if he knew if Chris was there as I had not seen him.

"Nah, haven't seen him for over a year, not since he left School." I must have looked somewhat shocked, it never occurred to me, that Chris had left school much less that he had left school a year ago. To me Chris had always seemed younger than Michel and me but now it seemed he was older.

"Left school last year?" I blurted out.

"Yea, he was 15 in the May and after half-term, we never saw him again and he stopped coming to Scouts." Just then we were both called to deliver messages so I could not take the matter further. I did pray on my mind for the rest of the morning, I was starting to find out that Chris was not who I thought he was. He had never told me that he had left school, when I thought about it, he had never told me how old he was or when his birthday was.

As soon as my shift finished, I dashed uptown and to get on a bus to Great Bridge. I was praying that Terry was in. When I got to the bus station, I found that I had just missed the Great Bridge bus and there would not be another for twenty minutes. So, I started to run and ran all the way to Great Bridge. It is actually not that far, and one can comfortably walk it, running it if you are a non-runner is something of a different matter and I was a non-runner. Swimming was fine but running was definitely not my sport. I was, therefore, totally beat by time I got to Terry's door which I pounded more than knocked on. Terry opened the door against which I was leaning trying to get my breath back, so as a result I almost fell into the room.

"Peter, for Gawd's sake what's up?" He caught me as I fell inwards. Levered me around and dumped me into a chair, before closing the door.

"Where's Chris, I can't find him?"

"Chris has gone, didn't he let you know?" I looked at him not wanting to hear what he was saying.

"Clearly not. Look, Pete, he's been seeing a client regularly and the client asked him to go and live with him, he lives in Gloucester. Well, Chris took it, he was fed up with having to share this place with me."

"Chris was living here?" It was a question not, a statement.

"Of course, he had to leave the home when he was sixteen in May and it seemed sensible for the two of us to share the rent here rather than him getting his own place. Though it was only intended to be short term."

I must have looked pretty bad. Terry made some tea, strong, hot and sweet. I sat sipping it, not saying anything for a while then I just sobbed.

"He could have told me."

"He should have, he knew he was leaving a couple of months ago, they just needed time to get him a passport."

"A passport?"

"Yes Pete, the chap was taking him to Italy for a holiday before they move into the new house the bloke has brought for them." It was becoming clear to Chris that this was no spur of the moment thing that had happened, it was something Chris had known about for a long time, but he had said nothing.

For the next hour, I just sat there listening to Terry as he explained things. Although they were actually cousins, they had grown up together, Terry's mother had been Chris's father's sister. She had died when Terry was three and his uncle had taken him in, his dad had been working away. So, they had grown up as brothers. There had been some trouble five years ago and the two boys had been taken into social care and placed at a home near Hill Top. Chris's father was in prison doing twelve years for manslaughter. Chris's mother who had been the cause of everything had hightailed it off to Liverpool, though she did turn up every now and again.

It turned out that Chris had been seeing this client who he had gone off with for nearly three years, from before he met me. They had been planning that Chris would go and live with him for ages. I felt empty.

I thanked Terry for the tea and got up to leave.

"Are you all right Pete, you can stay here if you like. I'm seeing Arthur tonight but will not be late back?"

"Aren't you working?" I knew Jock had a big overnighter on and thought Terry would be there.

"Not anymore, Arthur does not like it, so I have given up the game." I looked at Terry and saw there was something in his eyes when I spoke about Arthur, I had noticed it once when I had seen them together.

"It was Arthur who took you on holiday?"

"Yes, he has asked me to go and live with him when he goes back to the States. At the moment we need to sort the paperwork out, I need a qualification so I'm going to college in September. Arthur is paying the rent on this place and giving me enough to live on. I don't need to be on the game, anyway I love Arthur."

"Does Chris love his bloke?"

"You must be joking, for Chris, he is just a meal ticket, just a better one than working the tricks. I don't think Chris knows what love is, he just uses people." As he said that he looked at me, suddenly realising what he had said.

"Thanks, Terry, I better go, my parents, are expecting me home at five." They weren't, there was nobody waiting for me, there was nobody for me. I thought Chris was there for me, but it was clear now that he had never been. I had been just somebody to make use of and to use. I trudged back to Wednesbury then on over Church Hill to the house. As I did it started to drizzle, cold, wet, drizzle which suited my mood.

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