“Do you ever get children misbehaving in here?” asked Bumper.
“All the time, they’re all on glue these days. Those that aren’t on drugs.”
We were sat at a table in the annexe of the library where the educational books were. Mr Wright sat on one side of the table, the three of us on the other. One of the assistants popped her head round the door but soon disappeared when she realised that Mr Wright was on one of his rants about how things were better in his day.
“That’s Wright, W, R, I, G, H, T. Are you sure you’re getting all of this?”
“Every word,” said Bumper sincerely.
I stood up and moved over to the bookshelf.
“So you’re telling us that while there are all these marvellous books here,” I picked up one of the books I was looking for and thumbed through it’s pages, “they don’t read them, they just misbehave?” I shook my head in disgust as I replaced the book on the shelf.
“Disgraceful it is.”
We all nodded.
“Do you have a list of the children who are banned that we could look at?”
I looked at Elvis and Bumper admiringly. Whilst they had been reluctant to get involved, they were both fully into it now. Mr Wright was eating out of their hands.
“Better than that, I’ve got them all up here,” he said pointing to his temple.
We had hoped he would disappear to get the list, giving me time to rifle the books I needed. It was a change to the plan but we would see how it went.
“Thompson, Gelder…” he started to reel of the names. It was the usual suspects. “…Kevin Davison, right little toe rag that one, he’s the ring leader.” This was our chance and Bumper dangled the line in front of him.
“Did you hear the story of how his dad died?”
“No, what happened?”
He took the bait and Bumper started to tell the whole Kevin Davison story. Mr Wright was all ears. While Bumper went through the tale, I took the books I needed and placed them inside a carefully constructed slit in the lining of my blazer. When I had got what I needed I returned to the table.
“We’re going to have to get back. Lunch time is nearly over.”
“You mean that you are doing this work in your own time?” said Mr Wright. “I wish there were more kids like you. I should contact the school and tell them what good lads you are.”
We looked a bit shocked.
“There’s no need for that,“ Bumper said, ”you don’t want to embarrass us and make us look like swots.”
Mr Wright waved us off from the entrance to the library, my blazer now sagging from the extra weight. He straightened his lapels and headed back indoors. We had got away with it.
“Don’t ever ask me to do anything like that again,” Elvis was annoyed. “I nearly did a Gilbert in there.”
It had been two hours since the fight in The Whistle and there was still no word from Kev.
“Come on Tomma. We can’t leave it any longer, we’re going to have to make the decision without Kev.”
He knew that if he didn’t do something they would know something was up. He didn’t want to rouse their suspicions.
“I’m not happy about this, I wish he was here. Right, everyone get tooled up we’re going to sort out this Tim fella. Nobody touches Wood though, there’s something about him I don’t like, Kev’s going to have to call the shots on that one.”
Everyone started gathering up the weapons, baseball bats, knives and various other tools of the trade.
“Ian, bring the petrol, in case we need to smoke this fucker out.”
“Anything you say boss.”
“Don’t call me boss.”
This was the last thing that Tomma wanted to be involved in, tonight of all nights.
They packed into two cars and drove the mile to Tim’s flat.
“Right everybody knows what they are doing. This is a quick operation, in and out; send a message that nobody fucks with us. Ian, you’re on look out.” Tomma opened the driver’s door.
“But I want to be involved.”
“You should have got fucking involved when you had the chance then shouldn’t you?”
Tomma looked up and down the street and when he was satisfied it was clear they all got out of the cars.
“Come on let’s do it.”
They jogged across the road. There were no lights on in the house but that didn’t deter the gang.
“We know you’re in there retard,” Tomma shouted through the letterbox. Jamie threw a half-brick through the upstairs window.
“We’re coming to get you.” They all whooped and cheered. Another brick went though the downstairs window.
Tim sat in the far corner of the bedroom, knees tucked into his chest. He was sobbing; on his lap were photos of Gilbert growing up. He knew he could have run but what was the point? He couldn’t run forever. He had no fight left in him and curled up tighter as he heard the front door being kicked in.
The mob streamed into the hall swinging their bats wildly at anything they could see, the telephone table, the mirror, the framed photographs on the wall. They spread out amongst the downstairs rooms, systematically tearing them apart. Tim could hear the bangs and crashes from upstairs and knew it would be his turn next. Tomma took his baseball bat and smashed Tim’s camera into tiny fragments.
“He’s not down here, come on Jamie.” They headed upstairs.
“We’re coming to get you,” shrieked Jamie. “Come to Daddy.”
Tim heard them as they crashed through the door of the first bedroom and then the bathroom. The footsteps moved along the landing towards his room. The door edged open.
“Come on Timmy baby, there’s a good boy.”
A flash of orange light lit up the room. Flames licked up the curtains and leapt towards the bed.
“What the fuck was that?” shouted Tomma.
The fierce heat drove them back.
“I know he’s in there. I’m going to do the bastard.” Jamie went for the door again.
“Don’t be fucking stupid, we’ll get burned alive. There’s no way he’ll get out of there in one piece. Let’s leave it.”
“What the fuck was that? The whole place just went up.” Jamie and Tomma headed down the stairs towards the front door.
“Petrol bomb, whoever threw it is in serious trouble.” Tomma was seething.
“Come on, everybody out, playtimes over,” he shouted to the rest of the gang as he walked out of the door.
The flames leapt out of the window above him, the shadowy shape of Ian flickered in the garden.
“What the fuck are you doing here? I thought I told you to stay in the car.”
“Burning him out, somebody had to do the business.”
Tomma threw his whole weight into the punch. Ian’s nose split open as he fell backwards onto the grass.
“Let’s get out of here.”
As they headed for the gate they heard the sirens, then the blue flashing lights of the police van mixed with the orange flames to light up the night sky. The lights cast dark eerie shadows across the faces of the gang. They couldn’t escape. Another van approached from the far end of the street. Tomma leaned on his bat, resigned to defeat.
“I knew we should have waited for Kev.”
I slumped to the ground with my back to the wall as the flames spread to the downstairs window. Tears welled up in my eyes. This was my fault, when was it going to stop?
It has to end tonight. I thought as I picked myself up.
I was heading back to the lighthouse when the thought hit me.
What the hell am I going to tell Gilbert?
Another installment of Leg It by Alan Parkinson to follow same time next week.
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