It were them adverts what started it. Adults hunting us down like fuckin’ rats or summat. Some bleedin’ hearts social worker types were trying to put the world to rights with a campaign to show what adults thought of us and how wrong they could be. Then the first bunch of kids got done by vigilantes, for real I mean. That were in London and there was loads of similar shit happening in other places. So kids started to retaliate, God knows where they got the sawn-offs from. We had Stanley knives like, but that were for self-protection - nothing else.
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Anyway, I got me first taste of trouble one brilliant summer evening - it were the school holidays. Six excellent weeks away from that dump. Rumours were flying about that our school were going to be late opening up for the autumn. Summat to do with the coppers not wanting too many of us together, silly sods. Not that it bothered us, any extra time away from that place were a bonus.
Me, Gazza and four others were hanging about, like yer do. Sat on this wall, kicking each other, sharing fags and generally having a bit of a laff. The war hadn’t really affected us like, it were mostly inner city stuff. Middenfirth were a little town with sod all to do except a vicar and his poxy youth club, which were a room in the church hall. The Right Rev. had stuck in a coupla pc’s (80 gigabyte hard drives for God’s sake – why bother? And you couldn’t get any porn sites on them) and a knackered pool table, few o them metal foldaway chairs and a trestle table with cans o coke for sale, bags o crisps close to their sell-by dates and that were it. Bleedin’ paradise or what? – Don’t think so.
We got the usual glares from people going past and gave them our usual answers, but it weren’t as if we were looking for bother – it just happened that way. This fat geezer were walking along on the other side of the road. Gazza kicked me foot, nodded at him,
“Wot about him Stoney?
“Dunno, might be good for a giggle.” A look around at the others and it were hoods up like we’d seen on the telly and we started taking the piss outa him,
“Oi, fatty.” that were my witty contribution. He stopped, he were wearing this really long coat, Dannimac I think it were called, but the weather man had said it were sunshine and clear skies for the next week. The coat bothered me but I weren’t gonna try and work out what the stupid bugger were up to. Fatty turned and looked at us for a minute, then carried on walking.
Well, that were rude, so we went after him, taking the piss no end. Eventually he stopped again and said,
“Why don’t you just leave people alone? No wonder your kind are being hunted in the cities,”
Our kind? Our bleedin’ kind? Well, we knew our rights and he shouldn’t have talked to us like that. So Gazza, he’s fourteen, my age but a bit taller, went over and pushed Fatty. So the bloke started looking a bit scared and said,
“You’re not mugging me are you?”
Of course we weren’t bloody mugging him, but Gazza never missed an opportunity and said,
“Yeah, ‘and over yer mobile, fat man.”
I were getting the feeling that we’d gone far enough and muttered,
“C’mon Gazza. That’ll do eh?”
Then Gazza produced a Stanley knife and I hissed,
“Don’t be fuckin’ stupid, Gaz.”
All that crap about things happening in slow mo is true. I were standing about two paces to Gazza’s right. The others had backed off slightly, couldn’t blame ‘em really. I watched the man open his coat, produce a sawn-off shotgun. He pulled back the hammers, click, click. I turned to Gazza, saw the shock on his face just before it disintegrated as Fatty fired the gun once then twice, hitting Gazza in face and body. He dropped to the pavement and everything snapped back to normal speed again.
The shotgun clattered to the ground. Fatty stared wildly at us,
“I had no choice, he was going to stab me, he had a knife, you’re my witnesses, he had a knife, I could’ve been killed, you saw him……….”
Faces had appeared at windows all along the street, I had no doubt fingers were stabbing at phone keypads even as we stood around Gazza’s corpse. Some enterprising bugger might be using his phone camera to video us. I reached down to Gazza’s hand and picked up the knife. There were blood on it and I wiped it off with one hand, then wiped me hand down me face. Bit stupid maybe but I couldn’t think straight anyway. Me best mate were dead, this bastard had killed him and the war had come to town. What better way to celebrate its arrival than putting on war-paint?
I looked at Fatty, his eyes were wide and glistening, I watched sweat gather and run down his face with detached interest. I hadn’t quite taken it in yet, I knew Gazza were dead, but it seemed so bloody ludicrous. All we did was take the piss outa this bloke and he goes and shoots one of us. I wanted to slash the crap outa his fuckin’ fat face with its piggy little eyes and quivering chins. I took a step forward. A hand tugged at me sleeve and Jacko pulled me back from the brink,
“Chrissakes Stoney, bloody run, the filth are coming.”
I could hear sirens getting louder by the second, so I chucked the knife and scarpered.
All over the local paper it were. I picked one up next day, ‘Middenfirth Star’, with its banner headline, ‘HOODED MUGGER SHOT – HAS THE WAR COME TO MIDDENFIRTH?’
‘Hooded mugger’ my arse. I read the report, it seems that Fatty, Jonathan Davis – but I’ll always affectionately know him as Fatty, was from Manchester. A lot of hunting, killing and retaliation were centred around there just lately. Davis had armed himself as a matter of course because he was out on his own and us ‘packs of feral teenage thugs’ – his words, bloody charming, were out at night. Apparently a team of detectives were being called in from nearby Salford to investigate. Innit marvellous eh? They’re a ‘team’ but we’re a ‘pack’. I threw the paper in a bin, disgusted with the way every bugger were calling us animals and thieves and what have you.
Naturally I ‘helped the police with their enquiries’ at the local nick. Some smart-arse old bitch (she were at least thirty-five) had filmed the incident and knew me by sight as well. So I sat in Interview Room 2 and answered their questions as unhelpfully as possible. There were a social worker there, Daniel Jackson, as a propriate adult or some such shit. He were all goatee beard, glasses, long hair and little help. He kept repeating all the DS’s questions, only slower, to make sure I understood. Don’t know about the sergeant but this geezer was soon getting on my tits. Eventually I were let loose and Jackson offered to drive me home. He were behaving like he’d just rescued me or summat.
So Mr Hero delivered me into the arms of me loving parents and I were subjected to the ‘oh-where-did-we-go-wrong’ bollocks accompanied by synchronised, agonised limb-flinging and hand wringing. I slumped on the settee, hands in combats pockets watching them pace about and wondered if they were ever gonna shut up. After a coupla lifetimes and a bite of summat to eat they got off me case and I escaped to me cave / pig-sty / bedroom and onto me pc.
Before visiting me favourite porn site, it had a ‘boss is coming’ button that I could click on and bring up a fake spreadsheet screen, I dropped in on a chatroom. I wanted to get in touch with Jacko and the others.
What I read drove all thoughts of Luscious Linda and her whoppin’ knockers right outa me mind, well alright, pushed ‘em to the back then. Kids from Manchester, Leeds, Birmingham and god knows where else were posting comments calling us bloody heroes and Gazza a martyr (whatever that were).
One bird, ‘Angel eyes’ were really impressed with me putting on the war-paint. The news channels must’ve screened what that woman recorded. That made me grin with delight, Angel eyes were a crackin’ bit of stuff, only a year older than me. Anyhow I found Jacko online with MSN and we started chatting,
‘Jacko, it’s Stoney – the filth talked to u yet?’
‘Yeah, gr8 place 4 a chat & a cuppa innit?’
Then Shank cut in,
‘Guys – they’re gonna let fatso go – check beeb website.’
I were there in a coupla key-presses and couldn’t fuckin’ believe it. Shank was right, the filth were calling it a ‘tragic accident where a man more used to the hoody packs in cities had acted in self-defence because he believed his life to be in danger’. Davis were gonna stand trial but in the meantime they was allowing him out on bail. A slap on the bloody wrist were all he was gonna get and Gazza were lying on a slab, colder than yesterday’s tea.
Furious is the best word I could think of. Pissed off as hell sprung to mind an’ all. I got back on the chatroom and started talking to the Manchester hoodies.
A parcel turned up the day after Gazza’s funeral. The coppers released his body almost straight away – well they had no need for it, open and shut case weren’t it? But not as far as I were concerned. I took the parcel to me room and ripped open the paper wrapping. Inside were a shoe-box. I opened this as me old man walked in, he nodded to the box,
“That the erm stuff from ebay?”
“S’right.” I muttered, “LA Crime Squad an’ ‘Crime Squad Miami’ an’ a bunch of other games an’ all.”
Right on top lay the PS2 games I’d mentioned packed around with them polystyrene bits.
“Oh alright then. But any porn and I take the pc off you again, this time for a month.”
“Dad, stop worrying will yer – all PS2 stuff, honest to god.”
Okay I were lying, but there weren’t no porn. When the bedroom door shut, I scrabbled the bits out and found an envelope taped to the bottom of the box. Ripped it open and a locker key fell out along with a train ticket and a scrap of paper with Davis’s address in Manchester on it. The war hadn’t come to Middenfirth yet, but I had unfinished business elsewhere.
As soon as I reached Manchester, I reached a ‘Bench’ bag outa its locker and found the nearest toilet. Inside a cubicle that stank of shit and beer, I reached into the bag and pulled out a sawn off shotgun with along two cartridges. I stroked its short barrel lovingly then pushed the cartridges into me coat pocket – no hoody today, the filth would stop me otherwise. I put the gun back into the bag, pulled the drawstring tight then left after flushing the toilet. I should’ve put the gun back into the locker maybe, got the first train back to Middenfirth. But I knew I couldn’t let Gazza’s death go unpunished. I stared at the thin face in the mirror as I washed me hands. It stared back, eyes still red-rimmed from lack of sleep and crying. Drying me hands on toilet paper cos the air-drier were knackered, I took a deep breath and walked outa the loo.
In five hundred years time, most of us will be forgotten dust. But Hitler will still be remembered, God loves irony.