The Angel's Head: Chapter 12 -- Another Message

'They know.' The Eldest said quietly.

He was sitting with Mouse in his bedroom. The meeting had broken up hours ago but Mouse had understood, without anything being said, that the Eldest didn't want to be on his own. Mouse had stayed for tea, sat opposite Mr Turner who had eaten in silence with his head in the paper, apart from when he was barking orders to his wife or making snidey comments about swots and teacher's pets. Mouse knew that these were aimed at him, but he didn’t rise to it. At least when he was getting the attention, everyone else was being left alone.

Mrs Turner was lovely and Mouse hated the way Mr Turner spoke to her. His own Mum wouldn't have stood for it. She didn't and maybe that's why his Dad now lived in a flat above a curry house in Bradford. Mouse shrugged inwardly. He didn't mind. It was a brilliant curry house. How many other kids on the Avenue knew how to eat curry properly,  using only your right hand to scoop it up with lovely soft bread. The thought of this made his stomach gurgle a protest at the slop he had just eaten. Some sort of spaghetti and fried meat. It was okay. No it was horrible, but he didn't blame Mrs Turner. She had enough to do. Maybe next time he would offer to cook. He could make a pretty decent chilli con carne and didn't even need to use those packets to make it taste right.

'Are you listening?' The Eldest sounded angry.

' 'course I was listening. You were saying: “they know”.’

'So what do we do?'

‘Why do we have to do anything? They all turned up as usual didn't they?'

'Yeah, but it was weird; like everyone was waiting for me to say something.'

'Yeah, maybe.' Mouse lapsed into silence. He was trying to think about it as a serious problem, just the sort of thing he was always doing. He didn't like to admit it, but he was getting a bit fed up with the Eldest - always whingeing and complaining when he was supposed to be the leader. The other thing was, he couldn't help but admire the way Andrew had put his clever little scheme into operation. Mouse wondered whether this was the way he had planned it, or whether it was just a fluke that the Crescent had managed to rattle the Eldest so badly?

'You're not listening!'

'What?'

'I was asking you a question.'

'Sorry.'

'What do we do next?'

‘Yes. That’s what I was thinking about.’ Mouse allowed his voice to rise a little bit; just enough to show a tiny fraction of the annoyance he really felt. He didn’t need this. ‘Maybe we should talk to the rest of them? If Andrew Nuttall has been talking to everybody in turn, then it’s probably only a matter of time before they start talking to each other.’

‘I told you, they already know! I can tell.’

‘Yes,’ Mouse paused, trying not to sound patronising. ‘But we don’t know whether they’re all talking to each other about it, or what they’re thinking about it.’

‘I suppose.’ The Eldest looked sullen.

‘If they have already been talking,’ Mouse stared at the bare ceiling, ‘then, I don’t know, maybe we should treat it the same as if any other of us had been threatened. It’s a rule of the gang after all.’

‘You mean: “If someone attacks one of us, they attack all of us”?’

‘Exactly.’

‘I know it’s a gang rule, but I don’t need anyone to stick up for me.’ The Eldest said it a bit too loudly and felt himself going red.’

‘Whether you need it or not doesn’t matter. It’s a gang rule. We’ll just be following the rules.’

‘Yeh, well.’ He folded his arms and scowled.

‘It could be a good old fight?’ Mouse shrugged.

‘I hadn’t thought of it like that.’ The Eldest said and his scowl became a grin.

***

Jimbo and the Youngest were on watch. They had given up just hanging around on the back road, bored with standing on their own. Instead they had climbed up to the Citadel.

‘Best place to keep a close eye, eh?’ Jimbo said and the Youngest agreed. He could make it up the tree now as swiftly as any of the others now and he loved it up in the heart of the canopy.

Since that first climb he had found out by looking it up in a book, that it was a Beech tree. Jimbo’s Dad had a whole shelf of books about the countryside and animals. He had another shelf of books about guns and shooting too. That’s what Jimbo’s Dad liked to do on the weekend:  take Judy the dog up to the moors and blow birds out of the sky. Jimbo was desperate to go with him but his Dad said that he was too young. Jimbo said that was rubbish because they made shotguns for seven year olds. That got him a clip ‘round the ear.  His Mum said later that maybe it was because his Dad liked to be out on his own and that it would be too much of a worry having his son with him.

The Youngest couldn’t help thinking that Jimbo with his own shotgun would be much more than a worry. No animal would be safe for miles around. He wasn’t sure if people would be either.

Jimbo contented himself with makeshift bows and arrows, slingshots and catapults. They usually didn’t last long or work very well though. Neither of them had much idea how to build weapons and the catapults needed proper elastic. The stuff he nicked from his Mum’s sewing box was useless.

‘I think we should build a trap.’ Jimbo said.

‘What, for squirrels?’

‘Nah, for the Crescent - to stop them from getting up here. Then we can give up doing this stupid guard duty.’

‘Good idea,’ the Youngest said, even though he always looked forward to taking his turn on guard. ‘But it needs something that would only get the Crescent, not anybody from the Avenue.’

‘I know that!’ Jimbo spat. ‘And anyway, I wasn’t thinking of a bear trap or spikes or anything.’ The Youngest was relieved to hear it, but said nothing. ‘I was more thinking of an alarm or something to scare them off.’

‘Sounds good. Any ideas about how it would work?’

Jimbo paused for a second, his eyebrows pushed together to make a single furry line. ‘Yeah. Some sort of fake hand hold  that could maybe set off a water or flour bomb, then ring a bell too…something like that. Us lot will all know where the real hand holds are so we won’t set it off by accident.’

‘That’d be great.’ The Youngest said, and he meant it. He was surprised the plan didn’t involve a crossbow or at least another pit filled with sharpened stakes.’

‘Yeh,’ Jimbo nodded. ‘I’m going to talk to Mouse about it and see if he can help put it together.’

‘Eh up there!  Yeh you two birds in the tree!’  Jimbo and the Youngest looked at each other in surprise and then down over the planks to the ground below. The whole Crescent gang were there. They hadn’t seen them, or even heard their old bikes coming. So much for being on guard duty.

There they all were.

On the Avenue’s back road.

Just sitting, all relaxed, like it was their own place.

‘What are you doing up there?’ Andrew called.

‘Eating bugs!’ Someone else said.

‘Nah,’ Frankie’s voice rang out, ‘they’re playing Doctors and Nurses!’

Jimbo picked up one of the rocks that were stored on the platform. ‘You’re not allowed around here!’

‘Make us go then.’ Frankie shouted again, then: ‘Oi!’ he screamed as the missile narrowly missed him and clanged against the spokes of his front wheel. ‘I’ll get you for that Martin, we all will.’

‘Leave it Frankie.’ Andrew said and looked back up. ‘I’ve got a message for your Fat friend.’

Jimbo was aiming another rock, but paused.

‘What?’

‘There has been a change of plan.’ Andrew spoke slowly, not really sure what he was about to say. Then he thought about the naked, broken marble in the Cemetery again and his voice strengthened. ‘You’ve still got the Angel. I know it.’

‘So?’ Jimbo shouted. He held the rock in his hand. He was ready.

‘So I want it back.’ He looked around at his brothers and the rest of the Crescent. They looked confused. Andrew hadn’t mentioned this to any of them before.

‘Tell the Fat boy that I will fight him for it. That’s right,’ he was looking at his brothers now, ‘tell him that we’re not going to get him. No ambush, no tricks.’ He winked at Frankie who was looking outraged.

‘The deal is that I fight him one against one. The winner gets the Angel’s Head.

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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