To say that Mrs Morris was less than pleased was an understatement.
“What have you done to our Paul?”
“I haven’t done anything. He ran out into the road,” I protested.
“You’re his friend. You should have been looking after him.” The police were now redirecting the traffic down the back lane as Elvis was loaded into the ambulance. The sirens and blue flashing lights had brought out the crowds. Elvis was a celebrity. “Why don’t you have ball boys like they do at real matches?” I think she was being a little bit unreasonable now.
“I’ve got to go now. Your mother will be hearing about this, Peter Wood.” Mrs Morris followed Elvis into the ambulance.
“What’s that smell?” She climbed back out of the ambulance pinching her nose. I could smell it from where I was. It really was a pungent stink. I desperately hoped that Elvis hadn’t disgraced himself and had two accidents for the price of one.
“It’s his trousers Mrs Morris, ” said the ambulance man. I feared the worst.
“Looks like he slipped in some dog muck.”
I glanced at Gilbert. It was his poor shot in the chod chucking competition two days earlier that had caused the accident.
“Isn’t that meant to be lucky?” asked Bumper. “Next goal the winner?” he shouted as we kicked off again.
“This is a strange place to hide.” I was surprised to hear Claire’s voice but didn’t react. “I followed you. I could see you were upset.”
“I wasn’t upset.”
“You didn’t know about me and Kev did you?”
“No, it did come as a bit of a surprise. You seem happy enough though,” I said.
Claire shrugged. “Things change, Pete. You left fifteen years ago, things move on, people move on.”
“I’m happy for you,” I lied.
“I wish I knew what you were really thinking. You never have shown any emotion have you? Nobody can be as cold and heartless as you pretend to be. There must be something bursting to come out. Come on why don’t you say what you really feel, just for once?” Claire placed her hand on my face. “What is it? Are you scared of getting hurt? You’re safe with me, I won’t hurt you.”
I turned and stared out towards the sea. “I used to come here when I was a kid. Any shit at home or school and I would just walk away, come down here and stare at the sea for hours. Nobody ever missed me. I sometimes sneaked out at night and came here. It’s so peaceful. I would watch the light searching across the sea. Funny thing about the lighthouse is, while it appears to be looking for something it’s actually trying to warn people off, keep them away. Save them from getting hurt.”
“Is that what you’re trying to do. Save me from getting hurt? Or are you actually searching for something? I’m a big girl now I can take the knocks. I’ve learnt to roll with the punches.”
“There’s things you don’t know about me, things that you wouldn’t like.”
“You’re not that complicated, Pete. You have to forget about the past, leave it all behind. Then you might actually find what it is you’re looking for.”
“I’ve tried that, remember? I left fifteen years ago and I’m still no further forward. I came back hoping to find some answers but I’m just finding more questions.”
“Why can’t we go?” asked Bumper.
“We’ve told you. It’s too dangerous.” Elvis had returned after his accident. His mother had been reluctant to let him play with us but I think she relented when she got sick of him being under her feet all day. He had a chalk on his leg that we had all signed and also a pair of crutches.
“I don’t get it. How can going to a printers be dangerous?”
We had to have regular breaks from the football now that Elvis was back. Whilst he was on crutches, he still insisted on playing in goal. He couldn’t stand for too long so we got to enjoy the rest. I sucked the moisture from a piece of grass.
“I bet a dog’s peed on that,” said Elvis. “The way they shit all over the place I wouldn’t be surprised.”
I tried to act like I wasn’t bothered when I threw it away.
“Come on, why is it dangerous?”
“What do they print there, Bumper?” I asked.
“Football programmes, you’ve already told me that part.”
“And what is on the back of the programme?”
“I don’t understand.”
“On every football programme you’ve ever seen, what is written on the back page?”
“Exactly,” said Elvis and me in unison.
“You’ve lost me.” Bumper was confused.
“What day is today?”
“And what day is the next match?”
“Saturday,” Bumper replied.
“That’s our point!”
“Your point is that it’s Wednesday?”
“How do they know what the team is going to be on a Wednesday when the match isn’t until Saturday?” I asked.
The penny finally dropped with Bumper. “You mean that Ken Knighton works in the printers?”
“Not exactly but he must tell them the team early in the week. That’s why the security is so tight.”
“Imagine knowing the team before Saturday. We would be celebrities. We have to go.”
I stared at Bumper. He obviously hadn’t listened to a word I had said.
“He’s right though isn’t he?” said Elvis. I couldn’t believe what was coming from his lips. “It’s got to be worth a look.”
“It will be suicide.”
“Not if we have a plan,” said Bumper.
Two burly men passed me as I entered Elvis’ shop, each one carrying a P.C.
“Business picking up?” I asked.
“Not quite. Didn’t you recognise them? That was Tomma and Couzens from school.”
“What were they doing here?”
“Come to collect their insurance payment. I didn’t have the cash so they took stock instead.”
“How much are you paying them? Those computers must be worth a fortune.”
“Too much,” Elvis rubbed his eyes. “What can I do? They work for Kevin Davison.”
“Why didn’t you tell me about Claire and Kev?”
“You’re obsessed, Pete. You always have been. Why can’t you just move on and forget about her?”
“It’s not that easy, Elvis. Do you fancy a pint tonight?”
“Can’t really afford it mate.”
“No problem, I’ll get them in, seven thirty in the Ivy? I’ve got a little business proposition for you.”
Another installment to follow same time next week.
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