Plans were hatched that lunchtime. Retribution was going to be swift and painful. A message was going to be sent to Joe Ingham that nobody messes with lads from St Pat’s.
Kev, luckily, let me know that he didn’t need everybody to be involved at this stage. It would be a two-man job. I struggled to hide my relief. I didn’t know what would be worse, going along with one of Kev’s plans or letting him know I couldn’t go as I was grounded after the Religious episode. He didn’t tell anybody except Tomma what the plan was. I suspected that he was going with him.
Next morning the school was buzzing again as everybody turned up early to see what had happened. We didn’t have to wait long.
Stephen Ford lived near to Ingham’s right-hand man Junior Carling and he had seen the ambulance. Carling had been hanging around the shops at the far end of Southwick Green with Ingham’s gang. They were on a high after the attack on Dominic and up until now nobody had tried to retaliate. He set off for home about eleven thirty and crossed the road by the bingo hall and walked home past St Hilda’s church. What happened next was unclear but one thing that was certain was that he had turned into a ball of flames before he got to his front door.
“Who originally put in the combination?” I was now at the keypad.
“What’s that got to do with anything?” asked Gilbert.
The sweat was clinging to my forehead.
Louder, faster, louder, faster.
“Who?” I had to raise my voice over the noise of the alarm.
Faster and faster. Louder and louder.
“I don’t … Kev, it was Kev,” Gilbert blurted out.
Beepbeepbeepbeep… Faster and faster… Beepbeepbeep… Louder and louder… Beepbeepbeep…
None of us breathed for what seemed like an eternity.
“What happened?” Elvis was the first to speak.
“One, two, three, four.”
“The combination. One, two, three, four. What other sequence could Kevin Davison remember?” I said.
“Gilbert couldn’t fucking remember it.” Elvis had a point. “I could do without any more surprises like that. I’ve only brought one pair of underpants with me and I think they are already full.”
“Well, we’re in now. Let’s not waste any more time. Good work, Gilbert.”
“Thanks. His office is down here.”
We headed down the passage. Obviously, Claire had more influence over the interior design. Everything was simplistic, with just a few black and white photos breaking up the walls.
“Any of these yours, Gilbert?”
“Yeah. Kev doesn’t know though. I gave them to Claire. He thinks she paid a lot of money for them. Thinks they were done by Lord Lichfield or something.”
“You took these photos?” Elvis was surprised. “You never fail to amaze me, Gilbert.”
I tried the door to the office.
“Shit, It’s locked. He’s obviously got something to hide.”
“Let’s kick it in.” Elvis took a running kick at it and fell flat on his arse. The door didn’t budge.
“Not very subtle, Elvis, the idea is to get in and out without him knowing we’ve been here.”
“Have you got any brighter ideas? Unless The Artful Dodger here knows how to pick locks.”
“We could always use the key.” Gilbert unlocked the door.
“Oh very security conscious, I must say. What the fuck has he given you a key to his office for?” Elvis shook his head in disbelief.
“I told you, he trusts me. I used to water the plants in here every day. He knows I wouldn’t be able to even switch the computer on, never mind discover it’s hidden secrets.”
“Come on, Elvis. Let your fingers do the walking. Find out what you can.” I led Elvis to the desk.
“Expensive bit of kit this. Must have cost a packet,” said Elvis. “Mind you, I could have built it for half the price if he had come to me.”
“A quarter, by the time he took his cut.” I laughed as Elvis switched on the computer.
Gilbert had already lost interest in the conversation. He was checking the plant in the corner.
“See what happens when I leave. This plant is nearly dead. I’m going to have to water it.”
“Leave it, Gilbert. He’s not meant to know we’ve been here. Not yet.”
“No buts. Trust me on this. Come on you can show me the rest of the house. You’ll be all right on your own won’t you, Elvis?”
“Yeah, I’ll work a lot quicker without you two rabbiting in my ear.”
Gilbert took me through to the back lounge that led onto the conservatory and the indoor swimming pool.
“Fancy a dip?” I asked.
“Me neither. Remember swimming lessons at school. I used to fucking hate them.”
“Me too,” said Gilbert, laughing.
I realised it was the first time he had really seen Gilbert smile since I came home. He had been laughing in the pub the other night but that was through the tears he had already shed so I didn’t think it counted.
“Have you never fancied learning to swim since you left school?”
“I struggle enough to keep my head above water when I’m on dry land.”
I thought I knew what Gilbert meant.
The police spent most of that day at our school and interviewed the usual suspects. Everyone knew who the fire starter was but nobody was going to say a word, they didn’t want to be next. I’m sure that the police also knew the culprit but couldn’t prove it. Carling was unwilling or unable to speak and DC Carter was keen to nip this in the bud.
“Come on, Davison. You’re telling me you know nothing about this?”
They were sat in an interview room at Southwick Police station. Kev had one of the carers from the home with him.
“I was at home all night. If Junior Carling wants to spontaneously combust on his way home that’s up to him.”
“That’s not funny, Davison. The poor lad could have died.”
Carter thought back to when he had been the investigating officer for Kev’s father’s death. He had a certain amount of sympathy for the lad after he had sat with his father’s body through out the night but he was rapidly losing patience with him now. The lad was cocky, aggressive and almost definitely guilty. He just couldn’t prove it.
“We know there’s a dispute between you and Ingham. We don’t want this to get out of control.”
Carter went to light a cigarette. He almost offered Kev one but remembered his age.
“I’ll tell you what I know,” Kev sat forward, elbows on the table and stared Carter in the eye. “That gang, Ingham and all his mates. They all sniff gas behind the shops on the Green. I think you should put a stop to it. Anyway, I bet that’s what they were doing and Carling, the thick bastard that he is, probably lit a tab and blew himself up with the fumes.”
Kev slumped back into his chair with a satisfied grin on his face.
“This is a waste of my fucking time! Get out of my face.” Carter was furious.
“Don’t be a stranger.”
“Don’t push your luck, Davison. I’ve got my eye on you.”
Kev laughed as the carer forced him out of the door.
None of the carers were going to dispute Kev’s story, he knew too much. He was in the clear for now but the police let him know in no uncertain terms what the consequences would be if anything like this happened again.
Kev returned to class a hero, much to the distaste of the teachers. I have to admit that I was no more comfortable with it than they were. It was attempted murder after all but I chose to say nothing.
Nothing had happened for a couple of days and it looked like the severity of the attack on Carling had scared off Southwick Comp for good.
We were wrong. Ingham’s revenge was just as vicious but a lot more risky.
Another installment to follow same time next week.
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