“See you tomorrow, gorgeous.”
Dominic gave Tracy one last kiss on the cheek and let his hand slip out of hers as he headed along the path. He waved from the garden gate and then strolled to the back lane which was the shortcut to his home.
Dominic Ledger had been seeing Tracy Cole for just over a week now and life was good. She went to Southwick Comp and was a bit of a stunner. All his friends were jealous.
He swaggered down the back lane laughing to himself, not noticing the figure hiding in the shadows behind the dustbins. The blow to the back of his head knocked him clean off his feet. He wasn’t getting up again.
After the Religious Studies 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 between the pupils of St Patrick’s and Southwick Comprehensive. It followed the same pattern each year and had 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 begun. 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 escalating 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.
Plans were hatched that lunchtime. Retribution would 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 was 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 ideas or letting him know I couldn’t go as I was grounded after the Religious Studies 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 arrived 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 retaliated. 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 combusted into a ball of flames before he got to his front door.
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 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 throughout 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 offered Kev one before remembering 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. I bet that’s what they were doing and Carling, the thick get 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 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 would 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 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 riskier.
I was in the yard having my lunch with Gilbert. I didn’t want to be seen with him as it might have affected my relationship with Kev, so we sat slightly around the corner near to the woodwork block. Kev and the rest of the gang were smoking near to the bike shed that backed on to the old garage. We were facing the lower schoolyard where the younger kids played. It ran alongside the main road towards the heart of Southwick.
There were three lads walking across the yard, I didn’t take much notice. A lot of lads went to Sweaty Val’s chip shop for their lunch and walked back through the lower schoolyard. It was only when they got within a few feet of me that I noticed they weren’t St Pat’s pupils. The badges from their blazers were missing, as were the ties, they were wearing white shirts that nobody wore in our school. I suddenly recognised a face, Ingham. He looked straight at me and then must have decided that we posed no threat so walked straight past us. He was heading towards Kev who had his back to us.
Everyone was watching the fifth-year girls in netball practice and nobody noticed who was coming. I wanted to shout as I saw Ingham pull a black football sock from his pocket, but something stopped me. He raised the battery filled sock and swung it towards Tomma’s head. There was a crunch like a heavy ceramic pot being dropped and Tomma fell to the floor instantly. Everything appeared to be in slow motion. Ingham replaced the sock in his pocket and, along with his two accomplices, walked straight out of the far gate and away.
Nobody reacted for a moment, not even Kev. A large pool of blood had now formed around Tomma’s head. Everyone stood and stared.
Until he started shaking.
Nobody knew what to do as Tomma’s arms and legs flailed.
“What’s happening?” shouted one of the girls.
“He’s swallowed his fucking tongue. He’s having a heppa!”
Bumper pushed through the crowd and elbowed Kev out of the way; a move that would normally have resulted in a hiding, but Kev was just staring in disbelief. He had gone white.
Tomma had now turned blue and was choking. Bumper knelt beside him and steadied his head as he removed his tongue from his throat.
“Get an ambulance,” shouted Bumper as he cradled Tomma’s head.
By now the teachers had come streaming out of the staff room to see what the commotion was about. Miss Shipp came running over with a cushion in her hand.
“Here use this,” she said as she handed it to Bumper.
“Can’t we put it in a carrier bag or something?” Mr Gutteridge the Headmaster was right behind her. “We don’t want him to bleed on it.”
“Fuck off,” Bumper screamed as he snatched the cushion from Miss Shipp. “Can’t you see that he’s dying?”
Gutteridge protested, but he was ushered away by Miss Shipp.
Whilst all this was going on nobody had moved. Bumper stayed with Tomma until the ambulance came and eventually the teachers restored some semblance of order. I went back inside with everyone else and went to the toilet to splash my face. Whilst I was drying my hands I heard somebody throwing up in one of the cubicles.
“Are you alright in there?” I said as I knocked on the door.
“Yeah, I’m okay.”
I waited until Kevin Davison came out to make sure he was alright. He was as white as a sheet.
“Okay, mate?” I asked again.
“You won’t tell anybody about that will you?” It wasn’t a request.
“Don’t worry, I won’t say a word. Come on, let’s get back to class before somebody misses us.”
“I have to finish this.” Kev wiped his mouth with the sleeve of his blazer.
“How do you mean?”
“That was a challenge. He could have taken me out easily if he had wanted to, he chose to take out Tomma instead. He wants to see how I will react.”
“It has to be a one on one. It’s the only way, Ingham and me. I’m going to need some back up though.”
I knew, by the tone of his voice, that there was no way out of this one.
The next chapter will be released soon. If you can’t wait, Leg It is available on Kindle, Paperback and Hardback.