'That Ed Nelson?' a rough and ready cockney voice wanted to know when I snatched up the phone.
'He's emigrated to Constantinople,' I returned, cheerfully casual.
'Don't muck me about, yuh burk,' the voice snarled savagely. 'This is Ray Williams an' I bleedin' well know that's you.'
'No it isn't,' I shrieked at him. 'I've gone away and I'm never coming back.'
'Awright, Ed.' He chuckled menacingly. 'I enjoy a giggle same as the next bloke - 'ave yuh little joke, lark about all yuh soddin' well like. Go on the telly for all I care, butcha ain't gonna get all that far up the ladder to stardom, ole son. An' I'll tell yuh for why - a stand-up comedian wiv busted kneecaps ain't no good at standin' up no more, geddit?'
I got it but decided to go on playing it dumb. 'What the hell are you on about.' I gulped a lungful of air. 'I don't know any Ray Williams. I reckon you must've dialled the wrong number, sir. There are fourteen other Ed Nelsons in the London telephone directory to my certain knowledge . . .'
'Cut the cackle,' he interrupted. 'Me'ounds are on their way over to see yuh. I've told 'em to batter yuh double-jointed an' slam yuh all over the bloody West End till there ain't nuffink left a yuh boat race 'cept a soggy pulp a crushed strawberries.'
The graphic description got my bottle going two bob, half a crown.
'Leave off, Ray,' I bleated, 'you know you don't mean that.'
'Me, meself personally,' he confided. 'I don't reckon all that punchin' flash gits like you up in the air. But me bruvva Pete's a right terror when 'e's roused, know what I mean? Ain't no reasoning wiv 'im when 'e's got the dead needle like.'
'Any way of calling the hounds off? I inquired meekly. I knew there had to be, otherwise he wouldn't have bothered to phone.
' 'And over the bird and the Jodhpur diamond,' he replied earnestly. 'Otherwise it's curtains, goddit?'
'I'll do it. I'll do it,' I squealed. 'Give me twenty-four hours, that's all I ask.'