The jukebox was now drowning out the conversation. It was Fresher’s week and the students in the pub with their newly found freedom and student loans had just discovered the late seventies and a wave of nostalgia swept over the four lads sat in the corner of the bar. Jilted John blasted out accompanied by a six-foot banana, an Elvis Costello look-alike, an illiterate, unemployed gardener and a thirty-one-year-old man who for probably the first time in his life felt like he belonged.
“I WAS GOING OUT WITH A GIRL…” sang the quartet of misfits.
“…. AND HER NAME WAS JULIE…”
The students looked on in disbelief. This was their week to get pissed and make fools of themselves and it was being hijacked by a bunch of old farts.
“…GORDON THINKS HE’S BETTER THAN ME, JUST BECAUSE HE’S COOL AND TRENDYYYYY…”
A pissed, looking lad of about eighteen approached us. He was wearing standard black jeans, DM’s and a baggy jumper.
“Do you mind? I didn’t put money in the juke box to listen to you four arseholes.”
He tried to sound threatening but his Home Counties accent didn’t help him.
“…. GORDON IS A MORON, GORDON IS A MORON…” Elvis sang, his face inches away from the student’s.
A couple of his friends ambled over.
Three pints of snakebite had turned the student into a one-man fighting machine and he moved towards us. “Are you going to shut up are am I going to have to make you?”
“…. I DON’T CARE, YEAH, YEAH, I DON’T CARE, YEAH, YEAH…” Bumper stood up and belted out the line.
The student considered his options but obviously thought better of fighting a six-foot banana with a questionable taste in music and decided to back off taking his friends with him.
“So much for a low profile,” said Elvis.
After the religious incident I had been allowed into Kev’s gang but I still didn’t feel entirely welcome. I still felt that it was temporary and needed to prove myself. It didn’t take long for me to get the opportunity. For years a rivalry had been building up between the pupils of St Patrick’s and Southwick Comprehensive. It followed the same pattern each year and had almost become tradition. There wasn’t much of an explanation for it other than young men wanting to mark their territory. Lads from both schools lived on the same estates, sometimes even next door to each other but when rival estates started fighting, the school divisions soon came to the fore. This year was no different.
It had all started quite innocently with Dominic Ledger, one of the quieter lads in our year, going out with a girl called Tracy Cole from Southwick Comp. Unluckily for Dominic he was completely unaware of who Tracy’s ex boyfriend was. Joe Ingham, Southwick Comp’s equivalent of Kevin Davison, wasn’t a happy man.
After Dominic had walked Tracy home one evening he headed down the back lane that was a short cut to his home. When he was halfway down the lane he felt a blow to the back of his head. He felt nothing else until he woke up in hospital the next morning with a fractured jaw, severe bruising and a number of broken ribs. He had been knocked out with the first blow but his assailants had continued to beat him whilst he was unconscious.
The playground was buzzing the next day with tales of his injuries, which had been ridiculously exaggerated and this year’s feud had officially started. The headmaster didn’t help by having a special assembly for Dominic, leaving most to think he was at death’s door. It didn’t take long before two and two were put together and revenge was called for. We were going to war and Joe Ingham was our enemy.
I’m not a violent person, never have been and I had deep reservations about this. This was all going to escalate out of control and somebody was going to get seriously hurt. I didn’t want any part of it but I was now part of Kev’s gang. I had no choice.
“The subject is now entering the building, over.”
“We’re not in the secret service, Bumper. Keep it plain and simple.”
I checked along the road one last time, it was remarkably quiet.
“Alright, keep your hair on. Davison has just gone into the Gym. You should have at least an hour before he comes out.”
“Thanks, Bumper. Keep us informed of his movements.”
“No problem mate. Be careful.”
“We will. See you soon.”
I ended the call.
“Right lads, time to go to work.”
“It’s now or never.” Elvis was visibly shaking.
“Lets do it.”
Gilbert was first out of the car. He opened the gate into Kev’s garden and strode down the path, a man on a mission.
“You alright?” I was worried about Elvis. I had pretty much forced him into this. “You can always back out now if you want.”
“And who’s going to hack into the computer then? Gilbert?”
“If you’re sure?”
“As sure as I’ll ever be, come on.”
We followed Gilbert down the path and round the side of the house.
“How did you manage to get hold of a set of keys then, Gilbert?” asked Elvis.
“I was the gardener, wasn’t I? I needed the keys for the garage to get the tools. Kev also trusted me to look after the house when they were away. He knew I wouldn’t dare take anything, he would kill me.”
Gilbert opened the side door and went in. We followed as he went to switch off the alarm.
“Shit! I forgot it was a keypad alarm.”
“What do you mean?”
“It’s a four digit combination, not a key that switches it off.” Gilbert looked worried.
“Well, I’d gathered that much. Put the combination in then.”
The beeping of the alarm seemed to be getting louder.
“That’s just it, I can’t remember it.”
Our plan was going to fail at the first hurdle.
“You can’t remember it?” Elvis’ voice was getting as high pitched as the beeps of the alarm.
“Well I’ve never been that good with numbers have I?
The beeping got louder, faster.
“I thought it was words you had problems with.”
“I don’t think now is the time to tell us, do you?” Elvis was becoming hysterical.
The alarm was going to go off any second.
Another installment to follow same time next week.
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