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Authors: Jim Carrington

In the Bag (9 page)

BOOK: In the Bag
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‘You were right probably, Dad,’ I say. ‘Maybe they found out it was an insurance job.’

Dad shrugs. He goes through to the lounge and I follow him. ‘Let’s put the goggle-box on and have a look.’

We sit down on the sofa. Dad grabs the remote control and flicks it to the news. They’re showing a story about an England batsman who broke his finger in training.

‘Nothing,’ Dad says.

But along the bottom of the screen, there’s a rolling news thing. It says,
BREAKING NEWS:
A BODY HAS BEEN FOUND IN BURNT-OUT FLATS IN A DORSET TOWN
.

‘God,’ I say. ‘They found a body. It’s down at the bottom, Dad.’

Dad reads it as well. ‘Bloody hell,’ he says. He shakes his head.

We both sit in silence staring at the screen. And I’m thinking,
I wonder who was inside the flats? I wonder if I know them
.

The story about the cricketer comes to an end. The newsreader in the studio looks straight into the camera. ‘Breaking news now,’ she says.

And a body has been found in the remains of a fire in an unused block of flats in the East Dorset town of Fayrewood. Fire crews were called to a fire at the flats in the early hours of Saturday morning. Police have today revealed that a body was found in the aftermath of the blaze by fire officers. They are treating the fire and the death as suspicious. Our correspondent Judith Lawson is at the scene . . .’

Dad turns to look at me. His eyebrows are raised. ‘I don’t believe this,’ he says. ‘Not in Fayrewood.’

I don’t say anything. I just look back at the TV. There’s a reporter standing on the pavement less than half a mile down the road. In the background you can see the police tape sealing off the unfinished road that runs down towards the flats. And in front of the tape are a few policemen and policewomen standing around.

‘Details are scarce so far,’ the reporter says. ‘But a police spokesman has said that they are treating the fire, and therefore the death, as suspicious. No formal identification of the body has taken place yet. But we understand that the body is that of a man.’

‘Bev,’ Dad calls to Mum from the sofa, ‘come and watch this.’

I sit there and stare at the screen. There’s an aerial view of the town. For a second I try to find our road and our house on it, but before I can, the camera zooms in on the flats. People are scurrying around outside them. They look like ants from the camera angle.

Mum comes into the room. ‘What is it?’ she says. She stands behind the sofa and stares at the TV.

‘They found a body,’ Dad says, ‘in the flats.’

Mum gasps. ‘No,’ she says. ‘How awful! Who is it?’

Dad looks up at her. He shakes his head. ‘Don’t know. They’ve said it’s suspicious. It’s a man is all they’ve said so far.’

‘That’s horrible,’ Mum says. She turns away from the screen. ‘Oh, that’s made me feel unwell.’

The news story ends and they go on to a story about a suicide bomber in Israel. Dad flicks over to another news channel. But it’s just the adverts. He switches the TV off.

‘Well,’ he says, ‘let’s just hope that it’s no one we know.’

Ash

Mum and Dad pull up outside the house. I get off the sofa and run upstairs. I don’t want to be downstairs when they get in and realise that I’ve been smoking and drinking and chucking up while they’ve been away. I look out of my bedroom window. From up here, I can see Mum and Dad having a go at each other in the car. I watch as Mum shakes her head, shouts something and then gets out. She slams the door shut behind her and marches up to the front door.

I keep watching the car as I hear Mum open the door and come into the house. Dad doesn’t go after Mum. He sits in the driver’s seat and looks at his mobile. He puts the phone to his ear and then has a conversation. I watch as he gesticulates, but I have no idea what he’s saying or who he’s talking to.

After a bit Dad puts his phone away, gets out of the car and opens the boot. He pulls his and Mum’s suitcases up to the door.

Almost as soon as he comes into the house, I hear him and Mum having a go at each other again. Their voices come up through the floor. I can just about make out what they’re saying.

‘I’m working all the bloody hours under the sun to stop my bloody business going tits up. And all you can bloody do is moan!’ Dad shouts.

I sigh. I hate it when they argue, which at the moment is pretty much all the time.

‘When you are here you’re always bloody drunk,’ Mum says.

‘Ha! The words pot, kettle and black spring to mind,’ Dad says. ‘You can bloody talk!’

I can’t be doing with this. I go and put some music on, bang it right up, drown Mum and Dad out. And then I go and sit behind my drum kit. To think that I was worried they were gonna come in and have a go at me because the place was a mess. They couldn’t care less about anything but themselves. I start playing along to the track, good and loud, so I can’t hear anything else.

About a minute later, my door swings open and Dad stands in the doorway. He says something, but I carry on playing. I look away from him. But out of the corner of my eye, I see him move into my room. He comes and stands in front of me. I stop playing, look at him and roll my eyes. ‘What?’

‘Can you keep the noise down?’ he says. But it doesn’t sound much like a question to me, more of a threat.

‘Why? Can’t you hear yourselves shouting?’

Just for a second, Dad looks like he’s gonna explode and shout at me. But he doesn’t. He just breathes deeply. ‘You making a noise isn’t going to help the situation,’ he says.

I kind of snort with laughter, though it isn’t funny.

‘Please,’ Dad says. He’s trying to stay calm with me.

I roll my eyes and get off the drum stool, go and sit on my bed. ‘Fine,’ I say. ‘I’ll be quiet so that you and Mum can enjoy your argument.’

Dad’s eyes narrow for a second. ‘Thank you,’ he says. But instead of leaving my room, he keeps on standing there. ‘How was your weekend?’ he asks.

I shrug. ‘OK.’

Dad rocks on his heels. ‘Good,’ he says. ‘Good.’

And then there’s a silence. I don’t even look at Dad. I can sense him standing there with his hands in his pockets. ‘Have you done your homework?’ he says eventually.

I shake my head. ‘We didn’t get any,’ I say. Which is a lie. ‘I’ve only got one week left.’

‘Well, you should be revising, then,’ Dad says. ‘The next month or so is gonna be one of the most important times of your life.’

I lie back on my bed. ‘I know,’ I say. I’m not really in the mood for the lecture right now. ‘I’ll start revising next week.’

Even without looking I know Dad’s hanging around in my room, not saying anything. He stays there for a while. And then, still without saying a word, I hear him walk out of my room and back downstairs to go and carry on his argument with Mum.

MONDAY

Joe

When I go downstairs for breakfast, Mum and Dad are both in the living room watching TV. I stand by the door, looking in at what they’re watching. It’s the news. It’s about the fire at the flats. My curiosity gets the better of me and I walk in.

Mum turns round. ‘Oh, morning, love,’ she says.

Dad’s still watching the TV. He points at the screen. ‘Hey, Joe, have you seen this?’

I read the rolling news bar at the bottom of the screen:
DORSET POLICE CONFIRM THAT THEY HAVE LAUNCHED A MURDER INQUIRY FOLLOWING THE DISCOVERY OF A BODY IN A BURNED-OUT BLOCK OF FLATS
.

I’m not sure what to say. This is weird. Stuff like this doesn’t happen in Fayrewood. It’s not that kind of place.

‘They’re doing a post-mortem as we speak,’ Dad says, still watching the screen.

‘It’s horrible,’ Mum says.

I nod.

Dad puts the TV on standby with the remote and then goes and switches it off at the wall. He turns to me and Mum. ‘There’s a press conference this afternoon,’ he says. He shakes his head and sighs in disbelief. ‘Come on, then, let’s get some breakfast.’

Ash

I’ve been thinking. About what Joe was saying at the rec. About karma. About how we can do some good with the money. It took me ages to think of it, but it’s obvious really. Right under my nose.

Which is why, instead of getting ready for school right now, I’m sitting on my bed counting the money. Mum and Dad have already had a row and both left for work.

I count out twenties. A hundred of them. Two thousand pounds. Then I put them in a big brown envelope, lick the sticky bit and seal it. I pick up a pen, hold it in my left hand and write the name and address. Back in middle school I broke my arm playing football and I had to learn to write with my left hand for a while. I haven’t written with my left hand for years. My writing looks uneven and spidery. Which is just how I want it to look. No one will be able to trace it to me.

When I’m done writing the address, I stick a stamp on the front and stare at it for ages, wondering if this is the right thing to do. And then I get ready for school.

Joe

It’s all anyone’s talking about at the bus stop. The fire. The body. The murder inquiry. Everyone has their own theory about what happened and who was in the fire. There’s even a rumour that it was our head teacher, Mr Watts.

About quarter past eight, which is when the bus is due, Ash walks up the road towards the bus stop, carrying a brown envelope. As he goes past the postbox, he puts it in and then comes over and stands next to me.

‘Last week of school!’ he says. He lets his bag slide off his shoulder and fall on the ground.

I smile. ‘I know. I can’t believe it. We’re nearly free men.’

‘About bloody time,’ Ash says. ‘I can’t wait for this week to end. Actually, to tell you the truth, I can’t wait for the next two years to be over. I’m gonna get my A levels and then get out of this dump for ever.’

I nod. ‘Yeah.’

‘Hey, you hear about the flats?’ Ash says.

‘Course,’ I say. ‘It’s mad, isn’t it? Murder in Fayrewood.’

Ash laughs. ‘It’s like the hood in Fayrewood nowadays.’

‘Like New York or something. The Bronx.’

Ash smiles. ‘Too right. I can just imagine it,’ he says. ‘Old Mrs Reilly from down my street, cruising down Marshland Road on her mobility scooter.’ He starts miming driving a mobility scooter. ‘She sees someone from a rival gang – Mrs Webster from the WI. She reaches into the basket of her scooter and pulls her piece. AK47!’ Ash mimes an old lady pulling out a gun in slow motion.

I can’t help but laugh.

‘Bang, bang, bang!’ he says. He blows the smoke away from the top of the imaginary weapon. Then he laughs.

As we’re messing around, the bus pulls into the stop. The brakes hiss and the door swings open. The Year Eights get on first. Me and Ash wait and get on last. Ash goes right up the bus to where a couple of Year Eight kids have sat on the back seat.

‘Shift,’ Ash says. He indicates with his thumb. ‘Down the front of the bus where you belong, little boys.’

One of the young kids makes a face at Ash and sticks up his middle finger. Ash lifts his hand as though he’s gonna slap the kid round the face. The kid laughs and gets up from the seat and so do his mates. Ash uses his hand to ruffle the kid’s head and then breaks out into a grin.

‘Gotta admire that in a kid,’ he says. ‘Takes balls to stand up to your elders and betters.’ He looks at his hand. He sniffs it. ‘He could do with washing his hair, though!’

He holds his hand out for me to smell. I turn away.

The bus moves down Marshland Road, turns right at the end and then on to the main road. It trundles along the road, through the middle of the town, stopping at the lights. The bus slows as we get near the flats. Everyone moves over to the right-hand side of the bus and looks out of the window. The block of flats is still cordoned off and it’s surrounded by police and reporters and TV cameras. There are still police standing around; some in uniform and some in suits and ties. There are others in white boiler suits as well. They must be forensics or something.

The bus moves past and everyone sits back down.

As we drive along the road out of town, Ash’s phone beeps to say he has a message. He reads it right away and sighs.

‘What’s the matter?’

He looks out of the window. ‘Nothing,’ he says.

And neither of us says another word all the way to school.

Ash

Rabbit is the first person I see when I get into the playground. And I feel uneasy as soon as I see him. He gives me a really angry look. And I start to dread what’s gonna happen. See, he sent me a text on the bus, saying,
You better be able to explain this
. And it can only mean one thing. It has to be about Saturday night and the money. Though why he’s angry about it, I don’t know.

‘Follow me,’ he says quietly, so no one else can hear.

So we sneak away from everyone else, Rabbit leading and me following. And all the time I’m kind of hoping that this is about something else – about something I said the other night when he was round, or some girl he fancies. But I don’t ask what he wants. I just follow.

BOOK: In the Bag
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