The Eldest was out of breath. He was cycling harder than usual along the top road. He reckoned he could get home and changed in about five minutes. The he would catch his breath and go down to the bottom field. So what if they had to wait a few minutes? Once he arrived, they would know for certain that he  was there to fight.

He turned off down the steep hill called Tower Road. One of the Crescent kids was standing on the kerb. The Eldest didn't know the kid's name, but he was definitely from the Crescent. You could tell just from his shoes. Then another one of them appeared on the opposite side. That one was called George. The Eldest had run into him before and knew that wasn't anything to worry about. Tall and skinny he looked like he hadn't been properly fed. He punched like that too. The Eldest carried on down the hill. He wasn't scared. It would need more than two scabby tramps like these to take him. He grinned at the thought.

Then George waved slowly. Still grinning, the Eldest waved back as he passed them. Only then did he realise that it was a signal. Not a wave, and not meant for him. All down the hill loads of scruffy kids on horrible ratty bikes appeared from driveways. The houses on Tower Road were really nice. These kids didn't belong here at all.

Then the Eldest saw him. About half way down, Andrew Nutthall dropped his bike against a low wall and stepped out into the road like he was directing traffic. The Eldest did a quick count. It was nine to one. He didn't fancy those odds at all. All that talk about about a man against man fight in the field had been a trick. The cowardly little .... They were going to jump him. He felt a stab of panic and a wobble in his legs. Then he thought of his Dad. He wouldn't care about the shoes if he knew his son was defending himself against this many, but that would be no consolation after getting a kicking from the whole  of the Crescent gang. His ears started to buzz and his heart thumped like it was trying to beat its way from his chest and up out of his throat.

The kids still on their bikes started to spread out across the road. The first two had already cut him off from going back up the hill. He was going to be trapped.

The Eldest moved.

He let go of the brakes completely and held the grips tight. All of his weight on the right pedal, then the left. On this steep hill he picked up speed quickly, very quickly. The buzzing in his ears seemed to spread to his eyes, narrowing his vision. He concentrated on getting past these kids and their rusty bikes and nothing else.

As he got closer, he started to scream. In a blur he saw them dive out the way as if repelled by his noise and the gleam of his bike. He made eye contact with Andrew, who was still standing in his path. The Eldest stopped screaming.  Then let out a deep guttural roar. He hunched his shoulders and pedalled even harder.

The roar seemed to do it. It took away the fear and brought out his anger. His Dad, The gang, shining those bloody shoes....all of it concentrated on one tiny spot, right between Andrew Nuttall's eyes. And that's where he aimed.

He pushed as hard and as fast as he could. He ignored the burning in his thighs and the dry retch in his throat. He saw Andrew's eyes. Saw right into them and knew that Andrew could see into his. There was a flash of understanding. The Eldest was not going to stop or even swerve. Not for anyone, or anything.

If there had been a nod or some kind of signal, he couldn't really tell. Andrew didn't recoil in fear, but he did move. He simply stepped to one side and the Eldest tore past him. The roar became an a shout of triumph, but there was relief at its core.

"Yes!" he shouted as the hill spat him across the junction on to the main road straight at a rumbling flash of red.

The Youngest was waiting in the field next to the swings as instructed. He was only vaguely aware of the red van coming down the coming down the hill. It wasn't going particularly fast or revving hard. Then the Youngest caught a flash of sun reflected by shiny metal. It was just the kind of gleam that the Eldest polished into his bike. But this gleam wasn't on the road; it was high in the air. Then he saw it properly. Two wheels spinning over each other as the whole bike arced slowly silver and blue high above the deep red of the phone box. He followed it as it landed in a tangle in the grass. He was too far away to properly hear the dull crack that had sounded a moment earlier, but he heard the shrill screech of brakes and tyres and tarmac as the van shuddered to a halt.

Andrew was furious. He had let the fat boy get away. Scared off by a scream? All that planning for nothing.

Then he heard the sounds of hard braking and saw his brothers at the bottom of the hill. Something was wrong.

It only took him a few seconds to get to where they were standing. They were both in tears. Frankie silent, Johnny sobbing.

'What's wrong?'

Frankie just pointed without looking.

Over by the phone box, a man that Andrew didn't recognise was crouching over a bundle of rags at the road side.

The man looked up.

'Hey lad, quickly! Call an ambulance.'

Then Andrew saw what the rags were, and what was pooling in the gutter and his anger became fear.

More about the author

About the author

Russell McAlpine abandoned his polymath ambitions to concentrate on writing and living a quiet life on the South Coast.

The Angel’s Head is his second novel.

He is also working on the screen play of a low budget zombie movie for children and writes poetry that will go to grave with him.

He spends the rest of his spare time watching the horizon.

Follow Russell on Twitter.

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