THE ANGEL'S HEAD: CHAPTER 13 -- Messengers

Jimbo and the Youngest sat watching as the Crescent gang rattled off down the back road.

‘Andrew verses the Eldest?’ Jimbo spoke quietly. ‘That kid has got guts.’

‘He’s going to get thumped.’ The Youngest was impressed too. He replaced the rock that he had picked from the pile but hadn’t dared to throw. Not like Jimbo had.

‘We’re going to have to tell the Eldest about it.’

‘Shouldn’t we just tell Mouse again?’

Jimbo considered this for a few seconds. ‘Nah, they’ll just try to keep it secret like last time.’ Then he turned to the Youngest and grinned. ‘And anyway, I want everyone to know.

This is going to be brilliant!’

***

 There was silence.

Then a bit more silence.

Everyone was sat in the Eldest’s yard. Jimbo, still holding the talk-stick, had just finished passing on Andrew Nuttall’s message. All eyes were on the Eldest. He was pale and his skin looked sort of shiny. The Youngest needed a wee. He had to sit forward and squeeze his knees together to stop himself.

The Eldest held out his hand to take the stick. He looked over at Mouse, who nodded slightly, then at everybody else. Then he started to beat the stick slowly into the palm of his left hand.

‘I am going to smash that little tramp’s face in.’ He said slowly and the colour flushed back into his face.

‘Yeah!’ shouted the Youngest. He hadn’t really meant to. It just leaked out, like the patch of wet in his pants. There was the beginning of a giggle but Mouse stood up and shouted too. Then everyone else joined in.

“Fight, fight, fight, fight, fight!”

***

The Eldest was trying to make plans. In between the red flashes of anger and grey swathes of fear, he needed to get organised. Earlier, Mouse had done a lot of thinking and a fair bit of talking but eventually he had gone home. Now in his room alone, the Eldest stared at the wall. The doubt came in waves, small but powerful like the tide creeping up a sheltered beach.

He wasn’t scared of fighting. He had beaten bigger kids than Andrew Nuttall. No he wasn’t scared.

But then came the doubt: Andrew and the Eldest had scuffled before and he remembered being surprised at how solid the scrawny Crescent kid had felt for his size, how he didn’t flinch or cry and how much power that little fist had carried when it caught the Eldest a glancing blow. Even so, he only caught him once. The Eldest took a deep breath, he wasn’t worried.

There were more pressing problems. That’s why he needed to plan. His Dad wouldn’t mind him fighting, but if his uniform came back torn or dirty then that would be different. Scuffed shoes would be the end of him. He would have to change at school and sneak out without any teachers seeing, maybe just wearing his blazer? Yes that would do it, as long as he wore his dark jeans too, then no one would notice.

What about the gang? Would they all turn up? He was sure they would. Yes sure of it. The thought of everyone standing around watching… did that worry him? Only if he got beaten and there was no way that wasn’t going to happen. He couldn’t help letting the doubt through, even if it was only a trickle. He had to keep building up his confidence like a dam, otherwise that trickle would become a torrent and his castle of confidence would collapse back into the sea. Then he would drown like a scared little kid. He stood up and whirled around, as if to physically push away the thought. He felt a panic start to rise and wanted to scream out. He took more deep breaths and rubbed his eyes so hard that he could feel their shape changing as he squashed them into the sockets. It seemed to trigger flashes of light, even though his eyes were tight shut.

Then an idea struck him and he smiled. He would talk to Mouse tomorrow.

***

‘I want you to do me a favour.’

‘What?’

‘I’ve been thinking about the fight.’

‘Yeh?’

‘I’m going to beat that kid up but it’s not enough. I want to get the lot of them.’

‘You can’t take them all on.’

‘Can’t I?’ the Eldest glared, and then smiled. Mouse was relieved.

‘Nah, I know that, but what if we make sure it, what’s the word - Escalates?’ The Eldest asked and Mouse nodded. ‘Yeah, we need to turn it into a full on gang fight.  Make it a bit of a riot, not a silly boxing match or something. That way we can get them all, put them in their place. That’s why we stole that head in the first place. That’s what we’ve been trying to do since the summer started.’

The Eldest had another thought. It was a way to keep his uniform safe.

‘Another thing that’s bugging me: Why should we wait until after school? Let’s change it to the last day of the holiday. It would be a good way to celebrate the end of the summer.’

Mouse whistled. His eyes were wide and his eyebrows raised. Then he half shrugged and smiled.

‘You’ve got a weird idea of a celebration.’ He said. ‘We’ll need to get a message to them.’

‘Yep, but a bit more direct this time, eh?’

‘Absolutely. How about a messenger to carry the message?’

‘Jimbo and the Youngest seem to be the messengers already. Tell them to do it.’

‘Sure. I guess they know where the Nuttalls live?’

‘Shouldn’t be difficult if they don’t.’ The Eldest snorted. ‘It’ll be the scruffiest house on the road. They’ve probably got a garden full of junk.’

‘What, like Purr-man?’

‘Nah, that’s good junk. I mean broken prams and old milk bottles.’

‘Have you ever been ‘round the Crescent?’ Mouse asked through his laughter.

‘Why the hell would I want to do that?’ The Eldest said and they both collapsed into giggles.

***

The Youngest was walking with his Mum. They had just got off the bus from town at the bottom of the hill, by the phone box. He had not been happy about going shopping for school clothes because it reminded him that the summer holidays were nearly over. He hated those “Back to School” posters on all the shop windows. They should be banned.

His Mum had bought him a milkshake at the golden egg cafe. It was a proper one made with ice cream so that had cheered him up a bit and then she had suggested fish and chips for tea. That put an end to his glum mood. He was almost skipping as he walked and he was happy to hold hands, even though it was bit babyish.

As they got to the back door, the Youngest saw that Jimbo was sitting on the back wall. He let slip his mum's hand.

'Go play, if you want.' She said. She hadn't much enjoyed shopping either.

'Thanks Mum.'

'Back by six though, no later.'

‘Okay.’ Then the Youngest was scrambling up the rockery to where Jimbo was sitting.

‘A’right Young un?’

‘Alright Jimbo.’

‘Shopping?’

‘Aye.’

‘Tough one.’

‘Nah, it was okay. What's going on?’

‘Just had a visit from Mouse. He wants us to take a message to the Crescent.’

‘What?’

‘Yep he wants us to go and knock for Andrew at his house.’

‘On the Crescent?’

‘On the Crescent.’ Jimbo nodded.

‘No way!’

‘That's what I said.’ Jimbo shrugged then spat through his teeth into the dirt on the other side of the wall. ‘But Mouse reckons we'll be safe.’

‘That's easy for him to say. Why don't the Elders ever do anything for themselves?’

‘I know. But Mouse said that it was Andrew that picked us as the messengers in the first place, so it stands to reason that we'll be alright to take him a message back. He said that that is how it works for messengers in wars. It's called "safe passage".’

‘Yeah, well, as long as Andrew and the rest The Crescent know what happens in real wars then we'll be alright. Especially that mad little brother.’

‘Only one way to find out.’

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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