The Reinhardt Testament - Chapter 1

 

Brenda had shown her interest in me ever since she first came to know us. ‘Us’ were five sixteen year olds who came together with guitars and drums and made music. Actually I did not play so much as record, dad had bought the family a reel to reel tape recorder and that got me into their society. They practiced as often as they could and were actually pretty good. The music of the day they particularly liked playing was the tunes of The Shadows. Freddie, our lead guitarist had Hank Marvin’s style and sound off to a tee. When they decided to extend their repertoire from instrumentals to vocals, I volunteered.

In the summer evenings of ’64 we came to know a few girls, friends of our bass guitarist who lived near the Chalkwell promenade.  We hung around the shelters or larked about on the beach when the tide was out but none of us had paired up. As we strolled along the prom one of the lads called out to Brenda,

“You with anyone yet?” To which she replied, “I’ll let you know.”

Brenda dropped back from the group and I stayed with her, at arms reach. But she then stopped, turned to me and slid her fingers under the lapels of my jacket.

“Like your jacket,” she commented, looking up at me. She was short, just up to my chin and comfortable to be with. But I was rather slow on the uptake,

“Thanks, glad you like it, me mum did it.”

She turned away and was about to walk off when suddenly I had this clue that maybe that was not the best response. So I blurted out,

“I like your hair.”

“Do you Mark, what do you like about it?” she queried, eying me to see if I was sincere.

She was a dark brunette, hair length above the shoulders with ends turned in; I think the style was called a ‘bob’.

She sidled back towards me, looking up into my eyes; I could feel my cheeks blushing,

“It suits you and is real cool.”

She returned to the lapels of my jacket, still looking up at me with her round face, big brown eyes and turned up nose; she really was sweet.

“Anything else?”

“Yeh, I think you are real cute.”

“That’s nice; I think you’re okay too.”

My eyes were then distracted away from her eyes and nose to her lips, which she began opening slightly, her tongue momentarily showing. Instinctively I added, “and I love your lips.”

With which I hesitantly lowered mine to hers. It was my first kiss. I had seen plenty of Hollywood movies and so just performed in like manner. I think I did alright, she seemed happy enough with my performance.

“You know I was beginning to think a moment like this would never come,” I commented with a smile, “you are a bit of a tease you know. I do think I have been very patient, don’t you?”

“Yes you have, but now you have my full attention. So what do you want to do?” she asked, very submissively.

“Find somewhere quiet and away from the others?” I suggested.

“Good idea!” With which she led me by the hand down from the promenade to the beach and on to one of the little wooden verandas of a beach hut. Here we sat in each others arms, listened to the sea and kissed and cuddled for the next hour or more.

The sun had set, the tide was coming in and the waves were beginning to roll. We heard some footsteps on the shingle approaching where we sat curled up in a corner. The only light was from distant street lamps behind the hut, so we were in the shadows. We then heard a foreign sounding voice just a few yards from the hut,

“Your gambling debts George, they need repaying, no? I am sure those people you owe are not very patient; they may soon resort to not just verbal persuasion. You have an opportunity; if you keep your nerve your worries can be over. You know what I want, can you get it?”

“Sure,” was the reply, “security systems where they are kept are rather primitive. But I am not a fool, I do this once and I am in your back pocket. You will find other uses for me, no doubt.”

“Who’s to say, who’s to say, I have no crystal ball. Surely George you would once again like to sleep at night, eh? Not be always looking over your shoulder. No?” It was a taunting voice and George was not enjoying it.

“Yeh, yeh, yeh, I guess it’s just another gamble, everything I do is a gamble. What are my odds? What are my choices? I’ll get what you want when the opportunity arises, if I cock it up then, well, what’s the worse anyone can do? I’ll be in touch.”

“That’s the spirit George. Remember, if it is what I am really looking for, there could be a nice fat bonus.”

We peered out of the shadows as the two silhouettes sauntered on but as they passed a lamp post the face nearest me was momentarily lit.

“Uh!” I gasped, immediately stifling my cry, “I know him!” I whispered earnestly in Brenda’s ear.

“How?” She asked.

“At work, he’s an engineer, he sometimes pops in.”

“Where do you work?”

“EKCO, in the printed circuit board department.” Brenda looked blankly at me,

“I’ve heard of EKCO of course, we’ve got an EKCO telly. But what are printed circuits?”

“If you look inside your TV, all the components are soldered onto a thin plastic panel. In the old days they were soldered together with wires, these days the wiring is printed. Well actually what happens is the blank panels start off with a thin layer of copper on one side they then have the circuit printed on with a special ink. The panels are put in a bath of acid and where there is no ink the copper is etched away leaving the pattern you want. Holes are then punched in the panels which are then sent to the assembly line where the components are put in the holes. It then passes over a solder bath which fixes the components to the board.”

“Sounds complicated,” said Brenda looking a bit bleary eyed, “but what do you think these guys were talking about? It sounded very threatening.”

“Well, it seemed to me like George is being pressured into stealing some secrets or something from EKCO. They don’t just make televisions they make military radar systems and other high-tech stuff too.”

“So what should we do, who should we tell?”

“Not sure, I don’t think the police would believe us. What would we tell them anyway? I think I will ask some advice, maybe see a security guy at work.”

We returned to the promenade and I walked her across the road to her house. She lived in this big detached place overlooking the sea. Dad was a car dealer.

“Nice place,” I commented. “Yep,” she replied, “I guess it is.”

“Hey, do you fancy seeing a movie, there’s the new James Bond, ‘From Russia With Love’ on from next Thursday, it should be good.”

“I’d love to, shall we meet somewhere?”

“Well, it’s on at the Odeon which is right near the central train station, so meet you Friday at the exit, near the taxi rank, say seven o’clock?”

“Okay Mark, it’s a date.”

“Hey, it’s been quite an evening, no?” I was now full of confidence and pulled her gently towards me as I spoke, looking down again at her up turned face. She did not reply but pulled my head down to hers, her lips tenderly opening and closing on mine. After a few minutes she at last spoke,

“You’d better make the most of it; I never date a guy for more than two weeks.”

“Dah, still a tease! We shall see.”

With which I planted a quick, final kiss and strode off, feeling very cheerful. The train ride from to Chalkwell to Southend East and walk home from there, I don’t remember.