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   JACK  a  Synopsis

Copyright J. Gale. 2000

A novel based on real life events set in two parts.

Jack 1 Describes the lifestyle of four teenage miners, in the 1950s, as they grow into maturity. Culminating in a murder and a mining disaster that entombs one of them

Jack 2 After a long absence their reunion now finds them in middle age. One of them has a daughter who dies in very mysterious circumstances. The four friends set about righting a terrible wrong.

Pages 239 Word Count 139,865 Characters 729,823

JACK 1

1.

"Water, cool.. clear.. water."

Keep-a-moving Dan don't you listen to him Dan."

The words of the 1955 Frankie Laine record, 'Cool Water' reverberated around the mineshaft walls. Peter, my mate, was singing his favourite song lyric. The song had been in circulation for over 2 years now but he still sang it at every available opportunity.

The pit cage was being hauled to the surface and because of the echo it was one of Peters favourite places to burst into song. He had quite a good voice really, often singing in our local pub at the weekend, but my mates and I took every opportunity to take a rise out of him, or anyone else for that matter.

"He's a devil not a man

For he spreads the burning sands with water..."

Peter's continued singing,

My main thought at the moment was this coming weekend, Bed, Birds, Boozing and no work, not necessarily in that order but my fervent hope was to try and get at least the first two together. I hadn't succeeded as yet but I didn't cost me nothing to dream.

Today, Friday, was the last shift of the week and although sometimes the mine worked the odd Saturday morning, I steered well clear of that unless I urgently needed the extra money, which normally I didn't, I usually got by. Even so, if I ever got skint before payday on Friday I could always borrow from my Mam or Dad.

"Water.. Cool clear water

Dan can't you see that big green tree

where the waters running free"

Peter carried on with his crooning as I did with my daydreaming.

Can I con her into my getting my way with her sometime this week? Hell, here I am 18 years old and still a virgin. Does it show on my face? I often looked in the mirror and asked myself that.

Her, being my current girlfriend, Shirley Catton. I’ve been seeing her, if seeing is the right word, for the past 6 months and the most I’ve managed to get, up to now, is a bit of a side tit feel and even that was over her jumper. Mind you, that's progress and not too bad considering it took me almost 2 weeks of brain washing before she allowed me to kiss her properly. Prior to that it had only been a single peck on the cheek by way of a goodnight kiss.

"Good girls don't." was the dreaded words I'd heard so many times before. I'll be seeing her on Sunday night; perhaps she’ll come across then.

Ernie, another of my mates, nudged me back to reality. He nodded down to his hand that was holding a plastic water bottle and unscrewed the cap.

"And it’s waiting there for you and me, cool water

Cool clear, Water...

Water...

Water."

Warbled Peter.

Just as the cage came into sight of the pit top and Peter was coming to the end of his song, Ernie turned back and splashed the last remnants of his water bottle directly over Peter’s face. His timing and aim was perfect. Although the cage contained 10 men, very little splashed on anyone else but the intended victim.

"What you playing at?" Spluttered Peter.

"You got what you were asking for! Water." replied Ernie.

All in the cage saw the funny side of the event, even Peter. He knew the act had not been done maliciously but only for a laugh.

We alighted the cage and handed our 'Checks', small brass numbered tokens, into the banks-man which now proved that we were officially now out of the pit and headed for the lamp room to hand in our lamps for recharging.

"Out tonight, Special?" enquired Ernie of Richard.

Special was our nickname for Richard, or Dick Barton the fourth member of our group. ‘Dick Barton, Special Agent’ used to be a favourite children’s program on the wireless. It came on at 5.45 each weekday evening. The announcer was begin "Dick Barton Special Agent" and we kids would all gather round the wireless and listened attentively and tried to visualize about his adventures along with his fictitious sidekicks Snowy and Jock.

I’ve often wondered if Specials mother would still have christened him Richard, Dick for short, if Dick Barton had been on the radio at around the time of his birth.

"Special! Anybody in there? I said are you out tonight?" repeated Ernie.

"Sorry Ernie, I was miles away. Yes I think so." Replied Special.

The four of us began the half-mile trek home to the council estate of Eagleton. There were no showers at the pithead, they were in the process of being built; that was a height of luxury to look forward to. But now, as we had done for almost the past 3 years, we walked home in our pit muck.

The pit we had just left was Eagleton Main. Where they had got the word Main from I know not. It was the only one of that name to my knowledge. It was not even a very large coalmine as mines go, employing around 300. The four of us had worked there since leaving school at fifteen. Ernie, Special and myself were pony drivers, Peter, the forth musketeer, was a coal conveyer belt attendant. We were all turning, or had just turned, 18 and looking forward to the time when we could do coal face training and become proper coal getters, then entering the big money league.

Special was the first of our group to leave as he turned off for home. "Probably see you tonight in the Rat-Trap." was his departing words.

He need not have said anything about seeing us tonight, we all knew without any pre-arrangement where we would be this going this coming evening.

"Yeah, see yer," we all chorused. "Don’t be late."

I got to thinking, why should Special say probably? He knows as we all do that we would be in the Rat-Trap tonight. I asked the others if they knew why he said he'd 'probably' see us. They were as wise as I and said so.

One by one each of us took our leave and soon I was walking down the garden path of my father and mother’s council house.

Eagleton, as council estates go, was not too bad a place to live really. In comparison with other estates of Leeds it was quite modern one. But council was the operative word as most of the semi-detached houses looked like any another. All the wooden doors were painted the same dull dark green and windows frames a mucky cream.Only the tended state of the individual gardens distinguished any one house from other. Next doors garden, for instance, was immaculate. Its tenant, Mr. Bradshaw, had won many firsts and runners up prizes from the local tenants garden association. I looked at my father’s garden in comparison, about the only thing that was similar, was the size. My Da had often told me the privet hedges needed trimming and at one time even refused to lend me any money, when I had been short, until I had cut them back. I easily circumvented that threat and went to my mam. A gardener my father certainly wasn't.

Anyway I had more important things on my mind. Will she come across or won't she? And if so, when? My mates often ragged me about my steady girlfriend asking if I'd got my hands into her knickers yet. I couldn't tell the truth and say no, so I remained non-committal and said "Gentleman don’t kiss and tell." I hated the evasion but I would have hated even more loosing face. I secretly wished I could get my first time over with and not have to make any more excuses.

According to Peter and Ernie, they were doing it all the time. Having said that, the one Ernie was going with, Ginny; I wouldn't touch her with a pit prop. He could have and keep her. Although, as he was fond of saying, he only went with her for one thing, "to get me end away". He treated her like muck, very rarely bought her a drink but she still hung around at pub closing time waiting for him to take her home, which he nearly always did. How does he do it? He is not all that good looking but he does have something of a personality. I really liked Ernie and secretly envied his confidence.

Ernie in stature was not a big lad, short, somewhat squat and sturdy. He had a devil may care attitude to life. Mostly he acted on impulse, jump first then have a look to where his feet were going to land. Although not strictly a fighter he would never back down to anyone. He had a heart like a lion. He could be depended on if a gang fight started. Come to think of it he was the one usually a fight started over. A good mate to have to look after your back. I would trust him with my life and I hoped he felt the same about me.

It was just before 3-O clock in the afternoon as I entered our house, my mother said, as she always did. "Your dinner will be ready in a few minutes."

By the time I had washed my hands in the scullery sink my meal was on the table, Liver and onions. No one could cook like my mother, except probably my Grandma, my mam’s mam. Her cooking, especially her bread cakes were out of this world. Many have been the time when I was younger and she was kneading the dough she would give me a piece to imitate her. Then, after preparing and rolling the flat round oven cakes, she would allow me to poke my finger into the middle prior to putting it in the old 'Yorkshire Range' oven. She died of old age more than 2 years ago. I still love my Grandma and sometimes when the thoughts get to me I miss her terribly.

I had often wondered how the older end could produce such mouth-watering bread using the old coal fired ovens. There was very little heat control other than 'pull the damper in' or pull it out to direct heat, under or away, from the oven area. We now had a modern Gas oven and a regulator can control the oven heat. Yes, my mam was a good cook, almost as good as my Grandma.

Hardly having anything to say, I ate my meal in silence. After it, a pint mug of tea was waiting, heavily sugared. I took a gulp of it, retired to the living room, reached for my 'dirty' pillow from the cupboard, placed it on the floor in front of the fire, lay down and promptly fell asleep.

"Jack, Its half past Five, are you getting up?"

"Yeah, cheers ma," I mumbled as I came back to the real world. I reached for the cold pot of tea that I hadn't finished before my sleep. Tea that had been left to go cold tasted just as good as that which was freshly brewed, even though there was invariably a skimming of milk floating on the top. Funny that, most miners liked cold tea but very rarely did one take it down the pit to drink with his ‘snap’ or sandwiches, plain water was nearly always preferred.

It was the same every weekday after my meal, I would fall asleep on the living room carpet and on wakening drink my cold tea, before having my bath.

Although when my dad was on days, he was employed at the same pit and worked shifts about, he by right, claimed the carpet. I would have to go and get bathed first, then have my meal. After it I would retire to bed for a couple of hours.

I went to get bathed. There was always plenty of hot water in our house; it was supplied from an open fire back boiler. My father’s cheap subsidized 'home coal' ensured that the fire hardly went out from one week to the next, summer or winter.

What am I to put on tonight? I studied. It was my Brown suit, my Grey one or my Teddy-Boy outfit. Not my Zoot suit, for that was very special, I usually reserved that for Saturdays. The Grey one I decided with the white shirt and charcoal grey tie.

Our local pub was called ‘The Eaglet’ but since it had been reported that a Rat had been caught in the ladies toilets The Eaglet had acquired the nickname 'The Rat-Trap' or shortened to just 'The Trap'. The true story really was that the local wag, Eric Mac had been 'Ratting' down at the local refuse tip with his Jack Russell dog. He had fetched a half-dead rat back with him and placed it on the toilet paper holder in a cubicle in the ladies toilet. Alice, an older customer, went into the cubicle for a pee. She sat down and as she raised her eyes they became level with the rat. She is reported to have fled the toilets with her knickers round her knees screaming that a rat had tried to attack her. The rat may have moved because it had been still alive, but it was in no state to attack her. All enjoyed a good laugh and thereby the legendary name was born.

The ‘Rat-Trap’ was a large modern two-story pub with a very large car park. The upper floors of the building were the landlords living premises.

The ground floor consisted of a large 'Tap Room', a 'Singing Room', a small 'Blue Room' and a very small 'tap and bottle' out-sales room.

The inside of the taproom was quite tastefully furnished. There was now real linoleum on the floor that had replaced the painted concrete. Just recently the backrest seats that surrounded the room had been re-upholstered in up to date foam padding and a nylon covering material, replacing the original horsehair stuffed furniture. There were proper curtains now up at the windows, replacing the old black blackout covers. Although looking at the nicotine stained ceiling and walls I reckoned they could all do with a lick of paint or failing that some soapy water, a scrubbing brush and plenty of elbow grease.

At the centre were three tables that were primarily used for playing dominoes. The top table was reserved for the elite older players. Us young ‘uns’ were never invited to play on that, we were resigned to either the lower, or sometimes the middle table. At the Rat-Trap, dominoes had a definite playing pecking order.

I ordered a pint of Melbourne light bitter which had just recently gone up by a penny to One Shilling and a penny. Prices just don’t seem to go up by a halfpenny any more, I reflected, it was always a full penny. I remember when a full penny could buy you...

I was beginning to think like my Ma talked. In her day she often reflected on what you could get for your money. To hear her talk a sixpence would get you into the pictures, with sweets and an ice cream, some chips on the way home and still have change to bring home. Ah! She would often say. "Those were the days." I think she sometimes forgot that very rarely, if ever, did she have a full sixpence all to herself.

I always drank the light bitter, not because I liked the taste but because only pensioners and old people drank the lower gravity dark mild. I certainly did not belong to that group, although the mild, I had to admit, was a smoother drink. Most of my older peers drank bitter, so that was my drink.

I went and sat at the lower table with Ernie who had just arrived just before me. "Peter and Special not come in yet?" was my opening shot.

"No, probably Special will be seeing to his ma first. Peter won't be far behind you."

Special, he'd had a hard life. He was a small and a very inoffensive person, as nice as you are liable to find. He had a reputation, down the pit, of being a very hard worker. He got on with all the staff and Deputies down the pit. We all knew that his father had been seriously injured early on in the last war. He died at home before the war ended. His mother had brought Special up, single handed, on a very small war widow’s pension, which to my knowledge; she was still in receipt of. When Special had begun working at the pit, his was the first wage that had been brought into the house since his father death over eight years ago. Up until very recently he had tipped all his wages up to his mother. His pocket money at that time had been 5 shillings a week. Now, just of late he had begun paying his mother, board and lodgings and was a little better off.

Peter, Ernie and myself knew of Specials circumstances and, without outwardly showing it, we tried to look after him money-wise. As an example we tried to make sure that Special was always the last to pay in anopening round of drink buying. This ensured that at the end of the evening he would not be the last to pay. He probably would end up having bought less beer than he had drunk. I know it was only a small thing but it helps to prove that we thought of him and his circumstances.

Peter entered the bar.

Peter, what can I say about him? He was another nice guy on whom I could trust. What am I thinking, of course he's a nice guy, I wouldn't frequent his company if he weren’t. Peter was the good-looking one of our crew. He always looked smart in whatever he wore. He even looked dapper in his pit muck. His long black, wavy hair was swept back with a Tony Curtis quiff. If there was a bird to be pulled, out of the four of us, Peter would be the one who ended up with her.

Peter was somewhat of a thinker; he rarely did anything on the spur of the moment. Even when he had seemed to act in haste or said anything off the cuff, he'd probably thought about it or rehearsed his actions in his mind, well before the incident.

Peter would never jump in both feet when he could test the water with his toe first, even then the toe he would use would be the little one.

I respected Peter and his judgement. We all respected Peter's judgement

As he came to our table with his pint Ernie promptly delved into his pocket and gave us both one and a penny for our first drinks. This signified that he had bought in the first round. When Special entered he would do the same with him.

"Are we getting a game of dominoes going?" Suggested Peter.

"We can't play partners, there's only three of us yet." I answered.

"We can play our own corners till then." Peter returned.

"How about getting a brag school going?" Ernie put in.

"I'm game," said I. "It's a while since we played brag."

"Yeah me too." Peter then turned to all around. "Anybody for three card brag?"

At this invitation a few other acquaintances joined the table, a pack of cards was produced and the brag school started.

For those who are not familiar about the card game of 'Brag', each player, in this case six, put sixpence,  into the centre of the table as an opening stake. Three cards, face down were then dealt to each one. A player can make the decision to look at his cards or not. If he did not look at them he was then considered to be bragging 'blind' and when it was his turn to brag would only put into the pot half of the stake money. If a player looked at them first before inputting his stake money then he was classed as 'seen' and had to put in the full stake. As it became their turn, all myself included, threw further sixpenny stake money into the centre without bothering to look at our cards. On the 3rd time round, when it was my turn, I decided to look at my cards. King, ten, two. I could carry on but I had only a king high, not a strong hand. If I continued I would have to double my ante to 1 shilling. To my mind the cards were not worth it so I decided to fold.

The others carried on playing with two of them looking, continuing to brag and two folding. Ernie had not looked at his cards and was still bragging blind. The other two players who had seen their cards looked to me to be bluffing and seemed not to have a good hand. To continue they had to pay double the stake of Ernie. The game usually ends when there are only 2 players left. Then one can pay to 'see' the others cards. The problem was that a 'seen' man cannot see a 'blind' man. If you see what I mean. No pun intended.

Ernie continued to put his stake into the centre unseen. The others had no option but to double Ernie's stake. Ernie upped the stake to a shilling. The other players were now required to double it and put 2 shillings each in. There was now almost 3 pounds in the centre. One dropped out now leaving one seen and Ernie unseen. The seen person was now beginning to show his feelings, although not exactly sweating, he had an agitated look on his face.

After a few more rounds and on Ernie's turn he threw his stake into the centre and turned his cards over which denoted 'I'll see you'. It was the first time that anyone, including Ernie, had seen the cards. All he had was a queen high. A look of relief spread over the others face as he turned his pair of two's over. He had won. A nice little pick up to win. Everyone likes to get a result on the first hand, for from that point on, you then feel as if you are playing with someone else's money.

Special entered the bar and joined in our round of drinks he did not sit down at the card table but looked on. Very rarely did he gamble.

"Your a little late tonight, Special. Everything alright?" I enquired.

"Yeah, no problems Jack. I had to have a little talk with my mum, that’s all."

"Fair one." Says I and left it at that, but there was something troubling Special, I could detect it in his answer.

I steadily lost through out the evening but not too large an amount because not being a gambler as such I risked very little stake money and usually looked at my cards quite early rather than brag blind. The trouble with playing that method was that as soon as I began to brag 'seen' all the other players realized I must have something of a hand to brag with and then looked at their cards. Consequently even the hands that I won were not worth a lot.

Towards the middle of the evening the school had risen to seven players and a small crowd of watchers stood around. Someone suggested a 'back' break. All agreed and most left the table to go to the back, meaning the toilet. I remained in my seat.

Standing watching the card game had been Eric Mac. Eric was the joker of the Trap. He, although only a few years older than me, usually played on the top domino table. He was a second cousin of mine and was recognized as having a very agile mind. He was always quick to see an opportunity, when it arose, to have a laugh. He hadn't a bad bone in his body.

Eric Mac said to me and around the table in general, "Jack, you know that’s a mugs game to play?"

"Yeah, so they tell me Eric but it passes the time. Anyway I don't play for big stakes, I'm not that much of a gambler"

As I was saying that Eric had picked up the pack of cards and carried on talking about the evils of gambling. He placed the cards in front of me and said. "Cut them."

I did, he then dealt four hands of 3 cards face down.

"Would you brag on your hand?" He asked.

Without showing him  them, I looked at my cards. I had an Ace, King and a Queen all the same suit. A running flush. I nodded in certain agreement.

"Would you brag with yours? He asked another who was standing in front of the second hand. "Would I! Yeah of course I would," said the man.

The third hand received much the same response from another participant.

"How much would you all bet on your respective hands?"

I said, "Every penny in my pocket and then I would start borrowing." and turned my hand over.

The Second and Third players said something similar. One producing an Ace, two, three which is a very good run and the other hand, was a prial of Fives, meaning three fives.

"Would you have bragged on your respective hands?" asked Eric.

We all nodded in affirmation.

"Then you would all go home broke because there is only one winner, me." Eric turned the remaining hand over for the first time. It contained Three 3s. The highest hand possible at 3-card brag.

What he had just done was impossible. We all were amazed, for to us he seemed not to have handled the cards other than to deal them out. I now realized how Eric had won his esteem within the Pub. He was a master with the cards as well as the Dominoes.

The demonstration seemed to take the shine off the game and a few games after it I became bored.

"What time is it?" I enquired.

"Time to get drunk." was Ernie's almost inevitable reply.

"Are we going into the singing room then?" I enquired of my mates.

"Yes, let's play one more hand round and then I'm finished" said Peter. Ernie and the others agreed.

"Win much?" I asked Ernie as I got up at the conclusion of the game.

"About a quid odd" was his response.

Peter and I had lost about as much as he had won, so it was not such a bad couple of hour’s entertainment, I'd had worse nights. We left the taproom to go outside into the car park and re-entered at the Singing Room door.

The singing room was quite large with built-in backrest seats around the walls and adjacent tables. There was a small raised stage at one end with a piano and drums duo playing mostly the old time songs. Most of the occupants were older than us but sometimes a bit of spare, meaning young single free women, around our age could be found. Strictly speaking only two of the four of us were legally old enough to be in the pub but as long as you quiet and looked nearly old enough you were. In one corner of the room sat my mother and father, a couple of aunts, uncles and their friends.

Propping up the bar was Ginny, as soon as she spotted Ernie her face lit up. The place was heaving with customers, but the four of us managed to squeeze round a table. Ginny came over and greeted Ernie whose only response was to hand over a ten a shilling note and say. "Go get us four pints of bitter."

She took the proffered note and said. "Are you buying me one as well?"

"Am I hell us like. Just get the four, I might get you one later if you behave yourself."

Ernie often said that women were only good for the four Cs. Cooking, Cleaning, Children and I won’t repeat the other one. I had often heard the old proverb 'Keep em well shagged and poorly shod and they'll never leave you.' Ernie was certainly living up to that maxim.

Lily Mac, Eric's older sister, got up to sing. She was as beautiful as her voice. She resembled a film star but I could never determine which one, it all determined how she was made up and dressed on the night. Tonight she looked like Elizabeth Taylor. Lily began to sing:

"Heart of my heart, I love that melody.

Heart of my heart brings back a memory.

When we were kids on the corner of the street,

We were rough and ready guys,

But oh how we could harmonize.

Heart of my heart... "

The entire pub joined in with her rendition of the song. When she had finished they applauded for more. She would not be allowed to sit back down until she had sung at least another song.

Other singers got up and sang current or older songs. How Walter, the piano player, kept in exact time with the singers rather than with the strict tempo of the song music I don't know but he always did. Having said that Walter never did have any music shown. Could he read music? I very much doubted it. 'Plonker' Bill was the drummer. He seemed to beat out the same beat whatever the song, only going faster or slower as the case may be, seemingly to take no real interest in his work. I had always thought that he was nicknamed 'plonker' because he always seemed to beat his drums exactly the same, rarely varying his hand movements other than the tempo. I soon revised my idea when I once saw him stood up against the urinals. I gave his handful a double take. He was hung like a baby’s arm with an apple in it. A very rather large plonker had plonker Bill. I'd bet he easily made his lass's eyes water.

My mind went back to some weeks earlier. I was sure that I had a good voice because I sang in the bath quite often. I knew that I would 'wow' them in the rattrap with my singing. Probably I could become a professional singer if I really tried. My problem being that I could hardly remember the words of a song right through so I decided to learn by heart what was then the top pop song., 'Rip it up' by Little Richard.

All that week I practiced in the bath and when I was alone down the pit. I was word perfect. Saturday night came; I was going to show them all how well I could sing. I rather fancied being a pop star with all them dolly birds swooning around me. I mounted the stage and said to the pianist that I wanted to sing 'Rip it up'. Walter said, "I'm not sure of that one but you carry on I'll follow you." I began to sing:

"Well it's Saturday night and I just got paid,

Fool about money don't try to save,

My heart said Go, Go, Go all the time,

Cause its Saturday night and I feel fine,

I'm going to rock it up...

I'm going to rip it up...

I'm going to break it up...

I'm going to shake it up.

I'm going to rock it up.

At the ball tonight. "

Even now, thinking about the words, they about summed my weekend feelings up. I’d had my Teddy boy outfit on and I felt like a million dollars. I gave it all I got. I even managed a wiggle or two just like I'd seen Little Richard do when he performed the song on film at the pictures.

Normally in the Rat-Trap singing room, everybody gets at least encouraging applause; most singers get an encore shout. Most times the applause may only be a polite one but applause, for trying, they always got.

I finished my song and.......Nothing. No clapping, no one was even looking at me. Everybody seemed to be talking amongst them selves. Had the microphone been on? Had I suddenly become invisible?

I had even rehearsed another song, Frankie Laine's 'Answer Me', because I was certain the audience would clamour for more. They hadn't.

I got off the stage puzzled. None of my mates commented on my singing and I couldn't really ask for their praise.

I went over to where my mother was sitting, fully expecting her to say something complimentary about my singing. She always gave me encouragement in whatever I did. I sat down besides her, expecting her to bring the subject of my singing up. She was busy talking to my aunt. "How did you like my singing, mam?" I interrupted.

"Okay." Was the only answer and she carried on talking to my aunt. One word "okay." that’s all my singing was worth. Was my ego flattened or was my ego flattened.

I promised myself there and then that I will never ever again get up to sing in public. It is their loss not mine I reasoned.

Peter got up to sing his favourite, Frankie Laines 'Water' and as an encore 'Black Gold' I had to hand it to Peter he could not only sing but he looked the part of a pop singer. He always went down well.

Ginny still 'trammed' back and forwards to the bar whenever Ernie waved her over for refills.

Ginny was rather older than any of us; I would put her in the late twenties. She had been married before and had two children of seven and four Her husband had left her years back for a younger woman. Looking at Ginny I began to wonder how at the beginning of the night she looked rough but as the night wore on the better looking she seemed to get. She obviously kept going to the ladies to fix up her make-up I reasoned. I have never been in the position of fancying her; I have never had that much to drink, but towards the backend of the night, well she wasn't half that bad.

By Half Past Ten last orders were called and I had just about had my fill. I had earlier already been to the toilets, the stone, or the back as we called them, and made myself sick. By doing that I reasoned that I could make room and so keep up to the others drinking speeds. Ale never seemed to take its toll on them like it did with me. They always seemed to look sober whereas me, I’ve been told, looked glassy eyed.

By 11-O clock most customers had left. Special and I made our way out. Peter was hanging back for bets; it looked as if he had pulled a bird. There had been two of them and he had asked me to make a foursome but as far as chatting birds up in my state it just was not on.

As we were about to leave I observed to Special that there had not been a fight that night, which in it's self was unusual. There was always some trouble even if it was only a minor scuffle. I have often seen the place in uproar with the singing room, ending up like a cowboy saloon on the pictures. I had no sooner got the words out of my mouth than over in the corner of the room two fellar's began fighting. What for I don't know, females probably would have been involved,  they usually were.

From behind the bar came Charlie Pollard, the landlord. Charlie, in his youth, had been an ex -Castleford Rugby League professional player. He had been capped for England and had toured Australia in the tests; he was considered, by one and all, as a very 'hard' man. He rushed up to the two fighters and without more ado grabbed each by the coat collars at the scruff off their necks and crashed each head together. He released the two men as they bounced apart; they fell to the floor pole axed. It was all done so quickly and efficiently the incident was nipped in the bud. I had often seen such scenes in cowboy films where the sheriff does a somewhat similar act but this was real life. I mentally prepared myself to keep out of Charlie’s way in such altercations.

Arriving home I decided to go straight to bed. I was feeling a little unsteady on my feet and did not want to show myself up in front of my Mam and Dad. I know I can carry my drink but they don't seem to understand. Sometimes I would wait up for some supper and have a talk to them. It usually ended up in a discussion, nothing serious but my Dad doesn’t know what he's talking about sometimes when he's drunk, so it was up to me to put him right on certain points.

As soon as I lay down on my bed, face upwards, and closed my eyes I knew I had made a mistake. I should have stayed up for a while and had something to eat. The bed started spinning and a deep-seated ache gripped within my groin. Why does the bed always start rotating when I’ve had some beer? I could only stop the spin by opening my eyes. But I don't want to open my eyes I want to go to sleep. I think I'll go to the toilet and be sick, which usually helps.

That's better; I should be able to sleep now.

Saturday, I usually don't get up until around midday, Peter called and suggested going for a game of snooker. I agreed, although strictly speaking I didn't really like playing the game. I suppose it was because Peter was so much better and always trounced me. Our nearest snooker hall was a short tram ride away and was always well patronized. Being able to play snooker well was considered a sign of misspent youth but that certainly did not apply to me.

While we were playing snooker Peter told me that our mate Special, was having problems at home. He went on, that last night the beer had loosened Specials tongue somewhat. He had indicated to Peter that his Ma had been very upset the past few weeks. When I asked what her problem was Peter vowed me into a promise that what he had said would go no further. I readily agreed.

It seemed that Special had confided to Peter that his mother had something going on with Big George. Exactly what, Special was trying to find out but his mother was not very forthcoming on that score. Special had said that tears came to his mother’s eyes very easily of late and it was upsetting Special greatly. No amount of coaxing, cajoling or threatening would get his mother to tell all. What had upset Special more than anything was that Big George was in the picture.

Big George was another character of the Rat-Trap, sorry The Eaglet. He had got the prefix 'Big' because he was. He was very heavy set with thick curly ginger hair. His neck seemed not to taper but continued from the width of his head to his shoulders at the same thickness. He looked and talked very 'hard'. George was famous, or I think the word is infamous, around Eagleton. He seemed to have no visible means of support, being unemployed or working for himself I knew not which. If there was any local crime or trouble Big George was sure to be involved. He was reputed to be a fence of stolen property how true that was I don’t know. He was quite free with his money and always had a small gang of hangers on, on whom he could count if he became involved in any fight problems. His hangers on or ‘cronies’ as we called them would act, as waiters any time that George wanted a pint fetching. George was unusual in the fact that he drank dark mild whereas his cronies drank light bitter

At the weekends he would wear a made to measure suit, one of a number that he owned, with a matching waistcoat. When he was dressed up I had to admit he could look quite smart. Usually through the week he wore a brown leather-flying jacket with a Sheepskin collar. The jackets that I had seen many times on the pictures when the film was about American fighter pilots during the last war. He drove an up to date 350 CC BSA Motorcycle. There were very few modern machines in Eagleton, for they were quite expensive to buy and were outside a normal mans pocket. He drove around visually stating, "Look at me and my expensive bike."

Although he had done me know wrong, I didn't like Big George.

I urged Peter to tell me more of what he had heard about Big George and Specials mother, but that was about all that Special had told him. All he knew was that, Special was worried that his mother was involved with such a character. I sympathized; Big George was the last person I would want any member of my family to be aquainted or tainted with.

Saturday night we all met up again in the Rat-Trap. Pretty much the same type of an evening as we had on Friday except that we were dressed up in our Edwardian gear; commonly call Teddy boy outfits or Zoot suits.

I had a deep purple full drape, roll collar, fingertip length Jacket with black piping round the pockets. 16 inch bottomed drainpipe trousers and black crepe soled shoes. Black shirt and a bootlace tie.

Peter had a pillar box red, shawl collar, semi drape, long coat with blue very tight drainpipe strides. Blue suede shoes, white shirt and blue string tie.

Ernie had a similar outfit to mine but his colour suit was a lighter purple and his shirt was white.

Special had a bottle green roll collar semi drape coat. With black trousers, shoes and shirt. Special's get up, I felt, was the best of us four and I secretly wished I had chosen that same colour. Talk about green eyes, Green being the operative word.

When we were dressed up in our finery we felt like royalty, Dukes, Earls or Counts. Is that how you spell the last word?

Peter had arranged to meet the two girls that he had been chatting up the previous night. He invited them over to our table and very nice and likable personalities they had. Ginny was as usual hovering over Ernie. I think a little jealousy was creeping in because she kept inputting snide remarks about the two newcomers. She was not invited to sit down at our table by Ernie. Through out the evening he continued to wipe his feet all over her, she being the doormat that she was, let him.

Peter soon cobbed off with Bridie Jayne and I fancied Marlene. At the beginning of the evening I felt I had a chance with her but the more drink I got inside of me the more morose I began to feel. I should have my regular girlfriend with me rather than chatting other birds up. The more I thought of Shirley, the more I thought of Shirley.

I slowly absented myself from the conversation. My mates called me more than once a wet blanket. I could not, or did not want to snap out of it. I got like that some days why? One day I'd wake up with the joys of spring and felt that nothing could touch my happiness. I would have no particular reason for being so happy but I was. It would last quite a few days and then bump, down I would come. Again, probably having no reason to be upset, I would suddenly feel down. I could feel down even when everything in my life was going strong and perfect. I had read somewhere that it was my hormones that were playing up or maybe something called my biorhythm’s, whatever they were.

Anyway that night I wasn't feeling up to it so I didn't make it a long one. I made my excuses and left them chatting. I arrived home a little earlier than usual. The bed did not spin tonight why?

 

Sundays I nearly always rose late sometimes it would be in the afternoon when my dinner was about ready. Sunday dinner was a ritual in our house; it was about the only time the whole family had their meal at the same time. It was eaten at 3-0 clock or just after, when my dad arrived home from his lunchtime drink.

We all sat down to Sunday dinner. My father, my Twelve-year-old brother Jim, Six-year-old sister Linda and myself. My mother was doing the servings in between eating her meal. The first course, as always, was Yorkshire puddings.

I had heard somewhere that Yorkshire puddings were originally invented by the poorer working class of bye-gone days. It always served first as a belly filler. Less could then be served after, so that one could rise from the table feeling 'full'. I don't know about that but just let my Ma not serve Yorkshire puddings first and it would be a hellhole in our house. My Mams Yorkshires were almost as good as my Grans.

In our family no one ever swore, except for my dads occasional 'Bloody', my mam, not at all. When I was at the pit I swore like every one else. It was the norm to swear there, everyone did from the lowest pony driver up to the pit manager himself. If you didn't swear you would be looked on as 'not quite right'. When I was on top I didn't swear, it was only when I was in a pit environment that I lapsed into a swearing mode.

As my mam was serving the Yorkshires I remembered what had happened a few Sundays prior. I had been telling the table of an incident that had happened down the pit. Momentarily, in my mind, I was underground. "So I told Johnny Hillyard that if he didn't shut his Fuc..." As soon as I uttered the first few letters of the offending word I realized my mistake. I stopped and looked down. The table went quiet. Even my father said nowt.

After the silence that seemed to last an hour my mother spoke. "We realize that everyone swears down the pit but we would appreciate you leaving it there when you come home."

It was not meant as a put down, merely as a statement of fact. "Now what was you saying about Johnny Hillyard?" Asked mother.

"Er... I told him to keep his mouth shut or I’d close it for him." was all I could think of to say. I always watched my Ps and Qs at the dinner table after that.

The second course was Roast Beef, Roast and mashed potatoes, cabbage, peas and thick, thick gravy. By the end of it, as always, I was too full for any sweet course, even if there had been one served, which there never was. Mam's cooking was the second best in the world. Oh! I’ve told you that haven’t I? Sorry

My girlfriend, Shirley was almost sixteen. She was still in school having passed her Eleven Plus exams that qualified her to go to the Thorseby Grammar High School, Leeds. Like my mate Special, her father had died when she was at an early age and her mother had brought her up. Mrs. Catton knew that I was walking out with her daughter and raised no objection, other than I did not take her into any pubs and that she had to be in house by Ten O clock of an evening. I agreed with the conditions as I thought they were very reasonable. I was always made very welcome in her house and felt quite at home. Shirley's mother worked the afternoon shift at 'Soapy Joes' Soap factory in downtown Leeds. I liked Mrs. Catton.

Sunday night as always I took Shirley to the cinema. There were three Picture Houses within a reasonable distance of Eagleton. One was very local, just a few streets away and two were within a short tram ride. Shirley and I always liked to go to the pictures out of Eagleton; it then felt as if we had been somewhere special. Our favourite cinema was a very old building that was nicknamed 'The Bug-hutch' for obvious reasons. It had a series of double seats on the back row. If we got in the queue early enough we could manage to get one and then we could cuddle up in the darkness, especially if I could manage to blow out the small gas pilot light flame that provided the side wall safety lighting. This night I got a little farther than the side tit feel, but not that much.

I would always strive to get her home by the stipulated 10-O clock. As that hour came we would usually be stood by her garden fence. I would peck her on the cheek; her mother was probably peering behind the curtains anyway, say goodnight and nonchalantly stroll off. Once round the corner and out of sight I would race to the Rat-Trap and manage maybe the last twenty minutes, before time was called at 10-30

This night as I entered the bar Ernie said to me, "Have a word with Special. There is something up but he won't say what. He is upset about something."

I wheedled my way into a seat beside Special. "Alright?" I asked.

"Yeah." He replied. A little too stiff and quick for the answer to come out natural.

"Special, tell me to mind my own business if you want but me and the lads think there is something up. What’s the story?"

"Nowt Jack. I can handle it. It is rather personnel at the moment. If I think you can help I will let you know."

His answer seemed to have finality about it and I felt that to delve any further would be intrusive and of no use. "Okay, but if its money or whatever," I said, "you know where we all are if you need us."

"Cheers. It's not money, not now." And with that, the serious part of the conversation was finished.

Part of his answer 'not now' what did that mean? There was obviously more in this than meets the eye.

 

2.

"Jack, are you getting up? It’s just turning six."

My mothers knock accompanied her voice outside of my bedroom door.

"Yeah Ma, I'm awake. Getting up now." Let me think what day is it? Oh! Hell it's Monday. I'm with it now. I don't mind work, in fact some aspects of it are all right, but this getting out of bed and starting the day, was not one of them, this is the part that I can do without.

Will I to get to the bottom of Specials problem?' I pondered. There's more in it than meets the eye. Why should I wake up with that on my mind?

Will Shirley come across tonight at her mothers? What’s up with me? Just lately all I can think of is Sex. I'd better change that subject before I get too exited then I will have to relieve myself, which, although enjoyable at the time, leaves me with a very guilty feeling.

I hope Royal, my pony, is better today. He had a bit of a cough last week I hope he's not sickening for something.

Wembley, the Rugby Leagues Cup Final's on Saturday my mates and I were thinking of going. I’m looking forward to the trip. I have been to London once before when I was at school. Then we were with teachers all of the time, but this time I'll be free to do as I want. Roll on next weekend.

I lay there drifting on the shallow edge of sleep.

"Jack, it's Twenty Past, come on you'd better get up. Now!"

"Yes ma, now." I replied. It seemed only a few seconds ago that she had first woke me at Six; surely Twenty minutes haven't gone since she first called.

Have to get a move on now. I climbed out of bed and into my clean working clothes. One of the very few things that I didn't mind about Mondays, the clean set of working clothes. The rest of the week they are very dusty and make me mucky just putting them on. Ah! well, another day, another dollar, as they say.

My Ma, who always got up before me, was waiting with a pot of tea and egg sandwich for breakfast. My bait tin containing my snap lay on the table and at the side of it was a specky apple. The apple was for my horse. I picked up the snap tin containing probably beef left over's from the Sunday roast. My father was on nights this week and was still in bed, all right for some.

"See you mam."

"Bye love, take care."

I left the house for the Twenty-minute walk to the pit. I could do it in fifteen if I hurried. Ten if I run, which I’ve had to do before today. My shift would begin just before 7-O Clock when we were lowered underground. After seven and a quarter hours underground we would be hauled out again at 2-15 pm. Officially there was no proper snap break but we always managed to get one at sometime or another.

Meeting up with Peter on the way, he enquired if I had got any further on Specials problem the night before. I could only tell him what little more I knew, which was not a lot.

"Still going to Wembley on Friday?" asked Peter.

"Not half and you?

"Yeah. I think Ernie says he will be able to afford it after all. Should be a good lark.

Ernie joined us as were walking across the pit yard to the lamp room. His opening words were. "I got a real bollocking from me ma, Sunday afternoon."

"How come." We asked in unison

"Well you know them new powder blue trousers I was wearing Saturday night? Well, I took Ginny home. As usual when we got in, the living room light was off and only the scullery light on. She says it's more romantic that way but I know she does that so I don't see what a mucky house she's got. Well we got down to it on the rug in front of the fire. I wasn't going to strip off, cos I didn't want to be too late home so I left my strides on. At one point in the proceedings I was doing it, eh, yer know, doggie fashion. Bye, can that lass move.

Anyway, to cut a long story short, I got home in the early hours.

Next morning when we were having Sunday dinner my mother began bollocking me for being so drunk the night before. Well I'd had a good drink, as you all know, but I was certainly far from drunk and told her so. But my ma wouldn't have it; she said that I must have been drunk as to fall over on my way home. I told her that I remembered everything about the previous night and I definitely had not fallen over. Anyway how did she work that out, even if I had fallen over?

She then got up from the table and fetched my Powder blue trousers from upstairs. She showed me two great big mucky stains on the knees. Explain them then? She says.

I couldn't tell her that the stains on the knees were not from falling, but Ginny shitty rug, so I had to keep my mouth shut. Took the bollocking, and said nowt."

With that we all burst out laughing. He can tell a good tale can Ernie and no doubt the gist of it was true.

We entered the cage to begin the first descent of the week.

Stepping from the cage at the pit bottom we entered the large irregular shaped, white-washed brick lined room. Waiting there were the many Deputies of the various coal faces and districts of the mine. I reported to my deputy who was in charge of the number 3s Ebor face. I was the Right hand tailgate pony driver.

I handed him my brass coin shaped check that contained my personnel number. It would be hung on the check board in the side office, to signify that I was now officially down the pit.

Daniel Hambleton was my deputy, most times when I used his shortened name of Dan; I thought of Peter’s favourite song ‘Cool water’ where a character called Dan figures very prominently.

Dan told me that there had been a weight on the face over the weekend and that if I could get any smaller pit props then they would be gratefully received, if not I was to get the usual. The usual were 2-foot props (61cm) but the shorter ones were 1 foot 9 inches (55cm)

I went up to the stable to get my pony, Royal. He was a horse and a half, easily the best in the pit. He might not be the fastest that was Snowy, or the strongest, that was Sam. But without doubt my horse was the brainiest.

Royal was one of the pits few 'paint' ponies, in that he had more than one hair or coat colour. Most of the other horses were just a plain dark brown or a brownie black. A couple of them were Dapple-Grey’s.

My horse was a rich chestnut brown with a large white blaze on his forehead and Black fetlocks. He was, like most of the ponies down Eagleton, of Russian extraction. His forebears were originally bred on the Steppes of Russia. They were distinctive of being small, having great strength and very hard mouths. Because of this hard mouth, other ponies, not my Royal, could sometimes be uncontrollable, however hard one pulled on the rein even though the bit was correctly positioned at the back of the mouth, It would be almost impossible to stop them if they did not want to be stopped.

Other Ponies, when they were in the vicinity of each other, would attempt to kick or bite another horse. Not my Royal he kept well out of the way and was almost docile in temperament. Royal was in another league to them I didn't need a rein, I never put one on him, he would always stop on command. In fact he very rarely needed any words of command. He knew the job better than me. I had only been pony driving for 18 months; Royal had been doing his job for almost eight years. Ponies, down Eagleton were often called Gallowers, why? I don’t know.

My first task of a morning was to give Royal a rub down. Very few of the other drivers took the trouble of doing that. The horses cleanliness was the responsibly of Alf the stableman, but I liked to give him a once over just to make sure. And I know Royal enjoys and appreciates it. Its a two way thing this pony driving, I look after him and he looks after me.

As I am giving him his quick rub down Royal is nudging my pocket, he knows that I usually have something for him. Today it’s an apple. I am aware that too many apples can give a horse colic but I'm not giving him too many, only one. Anyway he wouldn't eat it if it were bad for him, I reasoned. Every weekend my mum gets a couple of pounds of 'specky' apples from our local green grocer especially for my Royal. I give him one every other day interspersed with a carrot.

I pretend, like always, I haven't anything for him but he knows better. Eventually I have to relent and give in to him. Others may not be able to, but I can see the look of appreciation on his face, it's worth its weight in specky apples.

I harness him up and Royal is eager to get out of his stall and be at work. Pit ponies, providing they are treat well, would rather be at work than be stood idly bye for hours in the stables. I suppose I would after being cooped up in a stable stall without light for up to eighteen hours a day.

Royal seems okay this morning. Last week he had a little cough and I hoped he wasn't sickening for something. I had reported my findings to Alfie Day; he said that he would keep an eye on him. Whether he did anything, or gave him any treatment, I don't know but my Gallower seems all right now.

We begin our walk down the drift from the stables, Royal following me, to the Ebor coal seam level. On the way between the air doors is a place where an accumulation of stone dust had collected. I halt, for I know what’s coming. Royal suddenly stops then falls to the ground and begins his routine. He rolls from side to side in an attempt to roll himself completely over. Only when he has managed it, after about six attempts, does he regain his feet and continue to follow me. It is a regular morning ritual. I don’t know what kind of mood he’d been in if I ever deprived him of his dust roll. I often wonder, after it, what was the use of my brushing him down first thing of a morning, I should do it last thing after a shift. When does the stableman do it? I'll have to ask him.

Do you know, I thought, your getting light in the head. You think about Royal as if he was a person. Well he is almost; he's certainly more intelligent than some I can mention.

We reach the pit bottom and I couple my pony's halter chain to 2 tubs full of wood props, there are no short ones, as the deputy had asked for, the coal getters will have to saw the 2 footers down. Lastly I couple up a chariot of 6-foot (2-mtrs) rings. Rings are half round Steel H ring girders for roadway support. I tell Royal to, "Walk on." and off he begins pulling the train at a steady walking pace. I ride on the chariot. Officially it's against rules to ride but no one takes any notice of that rule. I could have a long rope reign from the pony's mouth bit, to myself. Some of the other drivers need one, but I don't, Royal will stop when I tell him to, at any time.

About 200 yards out of the pit bottom Royal, without any word of command from me stopped. I got off and placed a single wooden locker in one of the wheels. This will lock that axle and act as a partial brake for the next coming downward journey.

All pony drivers are aware that 2 lockers should be inserted in 2 separate wheels, one acting as a standby. But by putting 2 in, it meant that your horse then had to pull the tubs down the coming incline rather than letting them run partially under gravity. Having only one locker in saves your horse's energy.

Walk on." Lets Royal know the locker is in and all is in hand. Slowly the incline of the roadway graduates steeper and the gravity on the tubs become so that they are freewheeling down the incline, even with the single brake locker in place. My horse begins to run, keeping just ahead of the tubs, without pulling on them. The halter chain during this time is slack.

The run becomes a 4-legged gallop and Royal, tubs, chariot and self on top are travelling at quite a fair speed. The sides and roof of the roadway flash by only inches away from the width and height of the tubs. Anyone walking in our path would be able to hear us coming and dive for safety in one of the many refuge dugouts cut into the side of the road every twenty yards or so.

The Traveller, the roadway's name, begins to level off; slowly the speed slackens until Royal comes to a stop. I get off the chariot and remove the locker. From here the route is either on the level or a very slight upward incline. But of course the horse knows all this having done it so many times before.

At the end of the Traveller most of the other pony drivers congregate for quarter of an hour or so and have a bit or a natter. Some having a bite to eat from their snap or a drink from water bottles. The weekends gossip and story telling soon begins, who did what to whom and why, it's all brought up to date.

One chilling tale that I heard there and most remembered was: -

‘It was circa 1926. The General strike of the time was at its height. Most industries had closed down, as were all of the pits. The strike at the Belle Hill Pit, near Eagleton, Leeds, had been going on for almost 2 months. No workers went underground except for a deputy who, once a day, descended to check water levels in the shaft sump. He would turn on the electric pumps to extract the accumulated water to prevent flooding. One particular day having done his tasks the Deputy needed to relieve himself of bodily waste. Going a little way out of the pit bottom he backed into a small dugout opening cut into the rock side. He dropped his trousers and began to defecate. Just at that point a hand suddenly clapped on to his backside.

With a scream he pulled up his strides, his body waste running down his legs and raced back to the pit bottom. He rang the winding bell to get himself out of the pit as fast as possible.

On reaching the surface and obviously in distress he was asked what the problem was. He managed to gasp that there was someone or something down the pit. He was assured that no one, other than himself, had been down the pit in weeks. The banksman should know he rang to wind them all down and then again out.

The Deputy was insistent and dropped his trousers. His legs were faeces stained but more important there was a bloody handprint on his backside.

An underground search part was organized but the deputy refused to join it.

On searching the area where the deputy had described they found a man. The front of his face, body and arms were covered in blood and gore. His clothing was in shreds. By the time he was stretchered out of the pit he was dead.

The upshot of the story went that just across the road from the Belle Isle pit was ‘The Wood Lane, Insane Asylum’. The man had escaped from the asylum and entered the precincts of the pit. No one being about he wandered around and soon found him in the pit shaft area. He must have looked down the shaft and seeing the darkness at the bottom, decided to go down. He must have climbed over the safety gate, grasped the cage guide cables and slid down. On reaching the pit bottom, his hands and body must have been covered in blood and gore, he had crawled out to the place where he had managed to touch the Deputy's backside.

The deputy's hair was reported to have gone white overnight and he had refused ever again to go down a pit.

The Belle Hill pit was only a few miles from our Eagleton Main and their extreme working would probably join up to our extremes.

A chilling tale indeed and for many days after its telling I was a little afraid of the dark. Very few people have ever seen real darkness, a total absence of light. When one is accompanied, down a pit, there is no problem but there is nothing so lonely as being by ones self, mile away from anyone. Miles might be a slight exaggeration but it could be up to a mile at the very least.

Anyway after the short break it was time to move towards our face objective. "Walk on Royal." My horse obeyed.

Soon we reached the bottom of the 3s right hand tailgate. The length of this roadway was just short of a mile. Up to now the height of the roadways, other than down the traveller, had been quite generous, sometimes nine feet in height (3 Metres) But

Now, on entering the 3s gate, it lowered. Originally 6-foot rings had been erected but as past weight had bore down on them they had become misshapen and twisted. Most of the way just enough clearance could be gained for the tubs and chariot.

At about half way the roof, because of weight for about three yards, was too low for Royal to walk under. At this point Royal stopped. I uncoupled the chain from his halter bar and again without further command he almost went down on his knees, thus reducing his height, and stumbled forward. When he reached beyond the low he stood up again and waited. I had a spare length of rope that had been left at the side of the roadway especially for the coming purpose. Looping it to the horses halter bar and then to the chain that was coupled to the leading tub, Royal was ordered forward. When the tubs cleared the offending low roof, the rope was taken off and left at the side. The chain from the tubs was re-coupled to the halter and progress could then be continued forward. This action by Royal was a perfect example of how brainy  my horse was.

Eventually we reached the end of the roadway. My job then was to unload the wooden props and throw them forward to the coalface. When ordered, which was usually immediately I had to feed them to the face conveyer belt. The colliers spaced at 12-yard intervals working along the face would take the props off in preparation for them to be set as roof supports.

Once all was loaded to the belt, I could do one of 2 things. If more materials were need at the face then I would have to go back to the pit bottom for them. If not then I might get under the low (coal face) and help the cornerman shovel his coal on to the face conveyer. I liked doing this job because I felt like a real collier, actually getting the coal. It was strictly illegal for me to go on the face until I was in coalface training, but no one else knew only the cornerman and me. If the Deputy came on the scene he would turn a blind eye. Geoff the corner man would tip me half a crown a day for helping him. I didn't just do it for the money but all was gratefully received.

As it happens Geoff would not let me get under the low today because the weight was on and the roof was bitting and unstable. He had himself enough to worry about rather than have to worry about me as well. I was secretly relieved at his decision because it didn't look a too healthy place under there.

As I was deciding what to do next, I had hours to go before I could go to the pit bottom at the end of my shift at Quarter past Two. Dan, the Deputy, came on the scene. He said that rings were needed in the main Loader gate and that I should go back to the pit bottom for a chariot full of nine footers (3 Metres)

Unloading the chariot of the six-foot rings that I had this morning brought I left them at the side of the roadway, the afternoon shift ripping team would erect them.

I led Royal round to the chariot, which was now the leading vehicle, hitched him up and set out for the pit bottom.

On reaching the low roof part, exactly the same thing happened in reverse as when coming up the gate. Royal stumbled forward on his knees. Because of the slight downward decline I didn't need the long rope for Royal to pull the tubs forward I could push them. I re-coupled my pony and continued.

We were travelling at a steady walking pace when suddenly my cap lamp went out. I ordered Royal to "whoa."

The lamp was an electric; lead acid, battery type that hooked to my belt, the flex from it to the lamp that was attached to the cloth cap on my head. Miner’s hard helmets were on issue if one wanted one but as the old colliers were used to the cloth type I tried to emulate them by wearing the same. I began fiddling with both parts of the lamp in attempt to re-light it but there was very little I could do.

I had never ever experienced a lamp failure before they are normally very reliable. I was in complete blackness.

As I’ve previously said, anyone who has never been down a coal mine will probably never have experienced the complete absence of light. In the past I have turned my light off to see, or rather to experience, complete darkness. It was quite reassuring then to know that I could, at any time, re-light my lamp.

Now here I was without light, what do I do?

I had been previously taught at the pit training school that there is one of two choices to make if one is alone and without light. The option, of course, depends on where you are and any danger or potential danger that you may be in. I was not in any present danger.

I could remain where I was. Sometime within the next 2 hours workers would be travelling up or down this gate and would surely find me. If not my check is still in the pit bottom denoting that I am still down the pit and if overdue a search party would be dispatched to find me.

The other choice I had was that in certain circumstances and providing I know exactly where I am and which direction I am facing I could feel my way to the nearest light. By feeling for the rails on the floor I can follow them, providing I know where the rails lead to and of any dangers in between. Or there is another way that the training school’s instructors never told me about, Royal. He is used to being in the dark and completely not afraid of it, which I had to admit to myself, I was a little. Horses have been known to find their way back to the stables completely by themselves. Could Royal do it now?

I decided to chance it and to move on.

"Walk on, Royal" I urged the horse forward. Royal resumed pulling his load exactly at the normal pace as though he could see.

It felt very strange moving in total darkness. I began thinking of my journey ahead. The bottom of this gate joins another roadway at right angles and after a few hundred yards there is a series of air doors.

Air doors are designed to circulate air efficiently around the mine. They are structures that fill the height and width of the gate. The gap between the large square doorjamb and the roadway side is brick filled. Very little air can pass beyond an air door unless it is open. There are always two or more doors in sequence. One has always to be closed before another opened. The doors are self closing. There is a 15-yard space in between each door.

Normally Royal could 'trap' air doors, meaning that if he were going in the right direction of the doors opening, he would nuzzle them open with his head. We were going in the right direction but I could not expect the horse to know where the doors were. Not knowing where the first door was he would, as likely, walk into it. It won't hurt him, I hoped, we were walking very slowly and he was wearing a leather protecting blinkered head cover. When Royal walked into the door he would stop, then I would be able to feel my way forward to open the next door for him.

I felt the motion of the rails turning the train round at right angles indicating that we were now on the road that contained the doors. I was waiting for Royal to suddenly halt as he bumped into the first one.

I felt the movement of the horse slowed somewhat and then I heard the noise of Royal trapping the first air door. He had not walked into it, as I assumed he would, he was opening it by pushing it with his head. He could not possibly have seen the door but he was acting as if he had all the light that he needed. He must have sensed our approach of the ventilation door. Once through it he carried on to the second one. I heard the first door self close as it clanged to. Approaching the second door it was again negotiated easily. We carried on until in the far distance I could see the Conveyer Loader End Station light. Reaching it successfully I relayed my adventure to the 'button man' conveyor attendant.

The old collier, whose nickname was 'Yungun', although he looked to be well over sixty, and was probably only approaching fifty, did not seem surprised at my experience but merely said. "Horses have a sixth sense with which we cannot even begin to understand." I’ve known horses refuse to go into some districts where miners have been killed in accidents. I remember one horse that I drove, I'm going back thirty years now, and it refused to walk past a certain point. Always broke into a gallop well before it reached it. It would run past this point and after doing so it would then act as normal and begin to walk. I once told the stableman about the horse and its antics. He told me that a horse and its driver had been crushed and killed there. The deaths had happened many years before that horse had even been born but somehow that horse knew. Stranger things have happened. Don't treat your horse like a fool, it isn't. It knows things that you don't"

"Oh I'll never do that, me and Royal are a team, I look after him and he looks after me.

"Aye lad that's the way it should be, keep it like that and he will never let you down."

"Changing the subject, Yungun, why do they call you Yungun? That’s not your real name is it?"

Yungun laughed out loud. "No, my Christian name is William, well Bill. When I was a lad I used to drink in the Madhouse Tavern in the market district of Leeds. One time in there I was taking the micky out of this old codger. He'll have been about sixty if he was a day. He was saying nowt back to me, just quietly sitting there. I took it that he was scared of me. I was ribbing him sommat awful. The more I took the rise out of him the more it must have been winding him up. I ended up calling him a silly old fart that wasn't fit to tie my bootlaces. That was the last straw. He jumped up and gave me the hiding of my life. Me a young twenty odd year old and him Sixty plus, it should have been a no contest. He laced my hide and really showed me up in front of all the regulars. Forever more I’ve never mentioned the word old to anyone and everybody I’ve since met, called them ‘Yungun’ Young One! See, so as not to cause any offence. The quite men, these are the ones you have got to watch. It taught me a great lesson of life. That's how I came to have the nickname Yungun."

I again changed the subject. "I'm thinking of continuing my journey to the pit bottom without my light. What do you think? Can Royal handle it?"

"Oh! Your horse can handle it all right, that is not the problem. But you should stay here until someone is going your way. In about an hour they'll be the shot firers going outbye, they will take you."

I now had one of two choices, remain at the station for an hour until I could be escorted to the pit bottom or continue my journey in the dark. For safety reasons I should chose the former but if I stayed where I was then it would make me late getting my materials back to the face and then I would be late getting out of the pit. I was in a quandary. Because I felt a little triumphant, a little exhilarated and also a little afraid, during my last journey I decided to carry on.

"No," I said , "I'll be all right. Royal will look after me." I had a newfound respect for my horse's sixth sense especially after my experience and Yungun's' tales. I decided to carry on. The idea, somewhat, exited me a little.

Nothing untoward happened, reaching the pit bottom quite safely. I reported to John Hindle, the pit bottom Deputy that I needed a fresh lamp sending down from the surface. When he heard of my experience he gave me the rollicking of my life. I had risked the life of my pony. What would have happened if another horse and load had been coming in the opposite direction? I would not have been able to signal my presence. My horse and the on coming one could have been killed. Think of all the reports and forms he would have to fill in to explain the loss of a horse. According to him there were more Mining Regulations governing the welfare of a pit pony than there were for a human.

I realized then that at the first Loader end station I had not thought my problem through. I should have considered all the possibilities of my actions. I should have stayed safe were I was.

Wait a minute I studied, as John was berating me, at no time has he mentioned that I might have been injured. Does he think that the horse is more important than me? He left me with the impression that it was.

Another lamp was dispatched from the lamp room to make up my loss and my day carried on as usual.

I met my mates in the pit bottom at the end of the shift and we rode the cage to the surface together. Giving our checks to the banksman we exited the airdoors to the bright sunshine. It always seems to come as a surprise to see sunshine on reaching the surface. We invariably enter the shaft airdoors when it is dark of a morning. We work in the darkness all day and without thinking about it, when we emerge to daylight it mildly shocks the system.

Just outside the airdoors was a large metal container; the smokers of the pit would always be puffing away right up to the last minute of entering the doors. They would then have the last drag, die it out and deposit the tab and the rest of their fags into the container. On exiting the doors at the end of the shift, the first thing they would do was to retrieve their cigarettes and light up. I had never seen or heard of a miner smoking down a pit.

Ernie smoked, and he went to the container to get his roll ups. I passed a remark about what a dirty habit smoking was.

"His reply was. " It’s no dirtier than you taking snuff. That's still tobacco, you know, just as a cig is."

I had to admit that on occasions, down the pit, I was partial to a pinch of snuff, taking it from one of the many old colliers that partook of it. It made me feel older or more important than my years.

"Did I ever tell you the one about the old widow woman who was a heavy snuff taker?" asked Ernie.

"When she had a period she had a fall of soot?" I was trying to pre-empt Ernie’s Punch line.

"No not that one. That joke was old in Dicks days."

"No, go on then." I groaned.

"This woman came home from the pub one night well oiled. She liked a pinch of snuff but had run out. On the mantelpiece was an urn that contained her dead husband’s ashes. She reached for the urn and removed the lid. With her thumb and forefinger she collected a pinch of the power from the urn. Just as she was about to sniff it up her nose her elder daughter said, "Oh! Ma don't do that, those are my fathers ashes." "Never mind lass," replied the mother, your fathers been up every hole I’ve got he may as well go up these two."

Special, Peter and I fell about laughing it was apt and current. Ernie could think of a joke for every situation.

We walked home together and talked about the coming weekends trip to London. We again tried to get Special to come with us but he was as adamant as before. "I can't leave my mum all alone overnight. I wouldn't be able to really enjoy myself thinking of her." Was how he put it and we had to accept his way of thinking.

I did not make any plans with them for this coming evening as I had planned to see Shirley.

I reached our house I could see my father clipping the privet hedges with the hand shears.

"What you doing Da?" I enquired.

"What does it bloody look like, Salmon fishing?"

"No it's just that I can't understand it," I joked, "it's not like you at all. I didn't know you liked gardening. Are you entering our garden in the tenant’s show this year?" and with that I went in before he had chance to fling the shears at me. I asked my Mam what the story was about me Da clipping the hedges.

She said. "We got a letter this morning from the Housing Authority giving us fourteen days notice, that if the hedges are not clipped to below the 6 feet maximum height then they will apply for an eviction order. It says we are in breach of our tenancy agreement letting them grow so high. Anyway it's frightened your dad enough into doing something about them."

"I'll give him a minute when I’ve had my tea." I offered.

"Yes, he'll appreciate that." Mum responded.

After my meal I did give my dad a break. Funny thing that, if he'd have told me, or asked me I would probably have made some excuses as to why not. By not asking me I had been shamed me into doing my little bit.

I still managed a couple of hour’s sleep and at seven prompt I called for Shirley. She opened her door and let me in. As I was entering I gave her a little kiss on the cheek and was surprised, when she closed the door, and full bloodedly kissed me on the mouth. Things are looking promising I mused. Before I entered the room I made sure that the door was firmly closed on the self locking Yale. Her mother, I knew, was on the afternoon shift and would not get in until exactly, or within a minute of, ten past Nine.

Shirley put on a few records and came and sat with me on the sofa. Natures being what it is I took the opportunity to put my arm round her and after a time, we moved into a loving clinch. She began responding to my kisses like she had never done before. As we moved into a closer embrace I took the initiative to move my right hand up inside her jumper and, accidentally on purpose, touched the side of her brassier covered breast. Because she had not objected yet I slowly began a sideways caressing motion. With her not moving away from my actions, my left hand followed the movements of my right, soon I was smoothly massaging both of her breasts but at that stage I was deliberately avoiding her nipples. I did not want a knockback from her too soon. I was a little surprised that I had got thus far. This was the farthest I had ever gone with Shirley and I did not want to upset the applecart. All the time my hands were circularly caressing, I was passionately kissing her lips, her neck and her ears. She was giving low moans of pleasure. The moans exited me and I enjoyed producing them. I decided that the time was ripe for me to go for the big one and accidentally touch one of her nipples. This is where it will all stop I reckoned. Surprisingly enough, it did not and a new record with her was reached. In for a penny in for a pound with my thumbs hooked under the front of her bra I heaved upwards. Her breasts swung free and soon they were cupped in my hands. Shirley had a fine pair of breasts full and rounded. I had touched others over their clothing and I had seen The Health and Strength magazine of photographs of nudists but... Well it was the first time for me and my emotions were running haywire.

She did not object. I lay to the side of her and asked quietly if I could go a little further, for the big one. Shirley murmured, "Not yet, please." It wasn't a knock back but I was secretly relieved it did not tell me to go further as yet. We were both learning the art of lovemaking.

I turned and I lay atop of her, my weight supported with my elbows and knees and my legs astride hers. I slowly eased my hardness into her groin. By this time I had removed my hands from under her jumper and was openly massaging her breasts over her clothes. I attempted to pull her jumper up over her breasts but she held my hands on them with a slight "No, please."

"I want to look at you." I murmured. "I’ve never seen anyone as nice as you. Your body is so beautiful and I want to see it in all its fullness." I realized that I sounded a little corny but I really meant what I was saying.

"I want you to see me Jack but I'm a little shy, it’s the first time for me and I'm a little afraid."

I did not want to press my luck and turn her off. "Perhaps someday soon?" I said. She nodded in agreement.

We continued as before with me slowly grinding away in pretence of the real thing, each with our clothes still on. At the same time I carried on softly massaging her breast sometimes under, sometimes over her clothing. Soon I felt myself climaxing, although I had done so many times, this was, as Churchill is supposed to have said something like, "My finest hour."

I felt the wetness on the inside of my underpants.

By the time Shirley mother arrived home at Ten past Nine we were both properly tided up and listening to a record. I hoped our still flushed cheeks didn't betray us. Although somehow I felt that I looked different, surely Mrs. Catton could see it in me. Soon after, we decided to go for a walk.

We discussed what had happened; I tried to explain how pleasurable it was and how beautiful it would be to see her in the flesh as well as to feel her.

I asked her. "Did you like me kissing your neck? Like I promised, I didn't make any love bites."

She said, "Yes, it's one of a number of places that turns me on."

"One of the places? What and where are the others places then?" I queried

She laughed.

"Your ears?"

"Yes, and.."

"Where else? I need to find out." I was pretending that I was ignorant of our physical differences.

She giggled and said "That’s for you to find out but there is always one special place on every woman."

"Well I don't know any more places. You will have to show me where it is tomorrow night then." And she giggled some more.

I gave her a goodnight peck on the cheek and left her at her gate on the stroke of ten as usual.

3

The next day’s work was same as the many ones before it.

When I saw Ernie in the stables he told me that Specials problem was something to do with the fact that Big George had been taking his mother out and things looked a little more serious than Special liked.

"Big George taking Specials mother out? You mean taking her out, out? Courting her, I can't believe that." I asked.

"One of our neighbours told my ma she had seen them in a pub in town. She did not know anything other than seeing them. It’s the talk of our street it seems. Don't say anything to Special.

"As if I would. What's he going to do when he finds out the full story?" I asked

"What can he do?" Ernie answered my question with his own question. "Big George is a big lad."

I agreed there was not a lot Special could do, it was his mother’s life to do as she wished. I said that we would have to wait for Special to bring the subject up and until then we would have to mind our own business.

Tuesdays and Thursdays I usually went boxing training. I'd had some success in the Leeds Schoolboy championships and within the last few months I had regained an interest in boxing and joined the White Rose Boxing Club. It was a short bus ride away and I enjoyed keeping fit. On the first Saturday afternoon of every second month they held a boxing tournament. At last months match I had managed to win and I was looking forward to the next. All boxing members had been warned that if they did not train regularly then they could not expect to be included on the program for the next tournament. Arriving at the club that evening I was met by the trainer. "Where were you last Thursday?" He asked.

"Sorry I couldn’t make it, I had to do overtime at the pit." I lied. I had really been round at Shirley’s house trying my luck.

"Just remember if you don't train you won't be considered to be put on the program for next months tournament." he threatened.

"Yeah, sorry Josh, it'll not happen again."

"Right," said he, "get changed and let’s get down to some hard work."

Our Trainer, Josh Stewart, had a set routine with training. It began with General light warm up exercises for the first ten minutes or so gradually becoming more strenuous.

Then all boxers would be sited around the room at a piece of equipment or a strength exercise. The exercises and kit were interspersed. At his whistle command we had to commence the one we were on. It would last for three timed minutes. All the while Josh would be walking around the gymnasium urging trainees on to give of their best. "If it’s not hurting, you are not working hard enough." was his favourite saying. "Work till it hurts. Pain and gain rhyme hand in hand."

At his shout "Last ten seconds. 9..8..7.." all would be urged to give of their utmost, "6..5..4.." going flat out "3..2..1" To the whistle. It signalled a stop and a 1-minute rest. We could not sit or lay down for this interval but had to remain standing or gently walking around to the next exercise. The next whistle would start you on your new exercise or equipment. Again that would last for 3 minutes before another minutes rest. Some four exercises and four pieces of equipment were used Eight three minute rounds. By the end of it all, quite a heavy sweat was on each and everybody. If there weren’t Josh would want to know why.

The speedball, floor to ceiling ball, and the heavy-duty bag and skipping ropes were the equipment in use. Push ups, curl ups and spring and star jumps were the exercises. Afterwards would come sparring in the ring, shadow boxing and then general winding and calming down exercises for a further twenty minutes. All the time individual coaching would be given. Josh Stewart surely knew his job.

"Jack, get the gloves on and give John here a spa."

It turned out that Johnny was a newcomer to the club and looked more like a wrestler than a boxer. He was very short and thickset. I was very surprised that he was around my weight; he looked as though he was at least a couple of stones heavier. He was a fighter whereas I was a boxer. He came lumbering forward all the time and was quite happy to trade punch for punch, which I was not. A good boxer will always beat a good fighter that is provided the fighter does not take the boxers head off first. I managed to keep out of Johnny way for most of the round. I connected quite a number of times but they did not seem to have any effect on him. I managed to slip or ride most of his punches on me and they became glancing blows rather than full blooded. I quickly realized that if he connected a full-blooded punch I would not be awake to feel the pain.

The bell went and our trainer, Joe, said, " Yes that will do nicely. You are evenly matched I may even match you together on the next bill as an exhibition bout."

I shook Jiuhnny’s hand and felt quietly confident at any next proper meeting.

At Nine O clock training promptly finished and most of us retired to the bar downstairs for a parting drink. To prove to my trainer that I am not much of a drinker I only had a couple of halves of shandy then got up to leave. "See you Thursday." I said and bade my farewells.

Wednesdays work was pretty much the same with nothing unusual to report. That evening I knocked on Shirley's door, which was slightly open. I poked my head round it and shouted. "Shirley, are you in?"

"I'm upstairs, Jack, I'm about to get into the bath. Go into the living room and put some records on till I join you later."

Having a bath, I thought. Will there be an opportunity to go up and scrub her back? Chance would be a fine thing.

I had listened to a couple of records when Shirley's voice called out, "Jack, can you get me a towel from the airing cupboard in the kitchen?

Can I bring you a towel? I thought is the sun going to rise tomorrow? My luck is definitely in.

I took a towel upstairs but the bathroom door was firmly locked. "Here's your towel. Are you going to open the door to get it?"

"No. Just leave it outside. I'll get it when you have gone back downstairs."

I left the towel feeling very deflated. I had thought I was getting the come on and I had misread the situation completely.

I could hear Shirley upstairs, open the bathroom door and go into her bedroom. "Jack, you can come up now."

I bounded up the stairs four at a time, very nonchalantly of course. Her bedroom door was open but the light was off. I could see from the landing light that Shirley was lying on her bed with only the towel wrapped around her. Have all my birthdays have come at once? I thought.

I entered the room and lay down beside her on the bed. I cuddled her head in the crook of my left arm and began kissing her. I couldn't wait to reach and break my record point with her and get that towel off.

"Please take it easy with me Jack." Shirley pleaded.

"Of course." I murmured into he ear, "You know I love you and wouldn't want to hurt you in any way."

With that I pulled apart the towel that had been folded around her and tucked in at the top of her breasts. She lay there in all her open glory. It was the very first time that I had ever seen a naked female. The sight of her short and curly blonde pubic hair left me transfixed. My semi hardness became fully erect. My hands now left her breasts and I began to stroke her pelvic area. I had never touched a female down below and was unsure exactly what to expect. My fingers searched for the vent that I knew was there somewhere. They found it and I could feel a sticky substance within, rather like the substance that I ejected when I climaxed.

I stopped my caresses for a moment to take off my clothing and was soon almost naked beside her. For some reason I couldn't wait any longer to take off my socks. I felt a little embarrassed; no one had ever seen me without clothes other than my mother when I was a baby. I was a little grateful for the semi darkness of the room.

I resumed my lovemaking and my fingers found the vent again and began to probe a little deeper. I had been told about a clitoris or the man in the boat or something that was in there but I was unsure exactly what and where it was or what would it feel like when I found it?

I continued my search of her vaginal opening, gently caressing and touching her hidden folds. The more I touched the upper part of her private parts the more exited she and I became. I now realized that this upper area must contain the one place that women have that turns them all on.

I must have been doing something right because all the while Shirley eyes were closed and she was uttering deep contented moans. I could feel myself ready for climaxing and thought I'd better do it now or within the next few minutes I wont be able to do it at all, I will have discharged. I rolled over on to her and my knees gently opened her legs so that mine were in between hers. I could feel my penis on her pubic mound. Feeling down for her opening I grasped my manhood and began to insert it into her. My end entered but just as I was about to push in a little further I could feel myself within milliseconds of ejaculation. I had to withdraw very quickly and my seed splashed on to her stomach. I felt so ashamed and embarrassed. It was my first time ever and I had failed miserably. What ever did she think of me? I apologized for my weakness but she would have none of it.

"Its okay." she whispered. "We have both enjoyed our first time together, both of us are still learning but next time we will have to use something for my protection. I wouldn't dare tell my mother if I ever became pregnant. You would have to marry me you know?" I nodded, there was no way I would ever get her pregnant, I knew exactly what I was doing, but she did have a point about getting protection. She of course meant getting some French Letters but where would I get them. I didn't move around in those circles.

As we lay there I was contemplating beginning the past actions again when I heard a noise downstairs. The outer door was being unlocked. "Who is it?" I whispered to Shirley.

"Only my mother has a key but there is almost another hour to go before she gets home. She's never early. We both bounded naked from the bed. What were we to do? My mind was panicking; who was now opening the door?

"Shirley." Her mother’s voice called.

Shirley answered, "Yes mum, I'm in my room I'll be down in a minute. Her voice sounded quite composed. Something I certainly did not feel.

"What do I do?" I asked Shirley.

"Get under my bed and stay there." she said.

I did as she commanded. The yellow candlewick bedspread was pulled and smoothed down. Now only a person searching and getting down on all fours would be able to see me.

Shirley went to her wardrobe; hanging from the door was her dressing gown. She put it on and went downstairs closing the bedroom door behind her.

I could hear her talking to her mother but exactly what they were saying I could not determine. All this time I had been trying to get dressed very quietly in the confined space under the bed. It was not an easy task to do. About ten minutes had elapsed and I heard footsteps. The bedroom door opened. I kept quite and held my breath. I did not know who had entered the room. "See." I heard Shirley's say. "Jacks not in here."

My heart was beating so fast and loud, surely her mother can hear it, I certainly could.

"I didn’t say he was in here love but he could be hiding in your wardrobe for all I know."

"If you don't believe me you had better look."

"No I believe you, there is no need." I heard Mrs. Catlow say.

"No, you just don’t trust me. Look the wardrobes empty.

I heard the wardrobe door open and then close.

Where else do you want to look?"

"I suppose you want to look under the bed now?" Shirley asked. My heart that at one time had been beating like a trip hammer suddenly froze. "For gods sake," I thought, "Shut up silly women, you are going to get us both hung."

"No of course not I believe you." said her mum.

"Have a look, then you can see for yourself, cos I cannot seem to convince you."

I wish she would shut up and stop pushing her mother, I thought, why doesn't she quit whilst she ahead.

"Sorry Love." I heard her mother finally say. "Sorry for not trusting you."

I then heard what I thought to be her mother’s footsteps going back down the stairs and I breathed a heavy, quite, sigh of relief.

The coverall was then swept back and Shirley knelt down to look at me cowering under the bed.

"Give me half an hour and then I will put some records on and turn it up as loud as I dare. If I open the window will you be able to climb out of it and lower yourself to the ground?" She asked.

I nodded in agreement because I couldn't trust myself to speak.

From my hiding place I watched Shirley take off her robe. She was still completely nude. I watched her put her pyjamas on and it did not turn me on one iota. I was more a feared for my life than being titillated. Oh! In other circumstances I thought.

She whispered, "Goodbye, I'll close the window after you have gone. See you tomorrow." and with that she turned off the light and closed the door. I heard her go downstairs.

The half-hour was the longest of my life I wanted to go now but I dare not move. I heard the record playing and it seemed quite loud even from up here in the bedroom.

Slowly and as quietly as I could I crept out from my hiding place. I pushed the window further open. Luckily I am not afraid of heights but even if I had have been I know that I would have conquered the fear just to get away. I lowered myself out of the window, praying that any nosey neighbours would not see me. I hung with my fingertips from the window ledge. Manoeuvring my body I flung myself outwards so that I would clear the ledge of the window sill underneath. It was only a 10-foot drop and I landed in the soft earth of the garden. I crouched there for a while to ensure no alarm had been raised and then I moved off. My breathing did not return to normal until I had got my first pint down in the Rat-Trap.

 

Thursday was like most other Thursdays. Get up, go to work, have my tea, go out, go to bed.

I did go boxing training in the evening. I had considered missing it and calling for Shirley but because I'd let my trainer down too many times in the past, decided to go. I made a right decision because as I returned from training Shirley was waiting at the corner our street. She told me that the reason her mother had come home from work, the previous evening early, was due to a fainting illness at work. She was having the rest of the week off. She also said that when she had come home from school that day her mother had pointed out some footprints in the flowerbed under the living room window. Her mother feared that there had been a prowler outside looking in at them sometime last night.

Did Mrs. Catlow know was she aware of what was going on?

No, Certainly not. Well! I hoped not.

 

4

Friday night the four of us met, as usual, in the Rat-Trap. We were to have a few bevies before Ernie, Peter and I set out for London later in the evening. The Rugby League Cup Final was on this coming Saturday afternoon. Leeds was playing Barrow. It promised to be a great final but more important to us a great weekend for we had planned to stay in digs on the Saturday night.

All three of us had tried, in the past weeks, to get Special to come with us to Wembley but to no avail. He had said all along that he couldn't really afford it, even though we said we would help out best we could.

"Besides my mother is not in the best of spirits." furthered Special.

"Is she badly?" I asked. I was hoping that he might open up to me a little.

"No, not really but within the last week she has been very down and depressed and I can't understand it. I’ve tried and better tried but she just clams up when I talk to her about it. She will burst into tears at the slightest whim. Something’s amiss and I have to get to the bottom of it."

The evening began as it had many times in the past. We made a foursome at Partner Dominoes. I was partnering Peter. We were playing for minor stakes but money was not the object of our play, it was really to show the others what great domino players each of us was.

Eddie Granworth was in with one of his mates, they had called in for a few pints after having returned from rabbiting that afternoon. He had a couple of ferrets in a draw string bag. And in a sack about seven dead rabbits that he had caught that day. He usually sold them for upwards of a half crown each. Freshly caught rabbit was to everyone’s taste. He would easily sell them and be able to booze most of the evening on his catch.

Liz Ticker was an older lady who usually drank in The Blue Room or The Tap and Bottle Room but this evening she was sat on the backrest chatting to a few of the other older regulars.

Winking at Eddie, Eric Mac picked up the bag containing Eddie’s two ferrets and undid the string. He called out to every one in the bar; "Can I have your attention please. I am now going to draw out the names for the Christmas domino handicap. I need a lady to pull out the first name. Alice will you do us the honours?"

He held open the bag containing the ferrets to Alice, supposedly for her to pull out a name. Liz put her hand into the bag and as soon as she felt the warm wriggling furry animal she let out a howl of shock. Her hand was pulled out of the bag very quickly but not fast enough to escape the teeth of one of the ferrets. As her hand came out so did the ferret still with its teeth embedded in the fleshy part of her fingers. It was so funny every body in the pub fell about laughing. Eric hadn't planned that a ferret would bite Liz all he had wanted was to give her a shock and all a good laugh.

Eric was used to dealing with ferrets, being somewhat of a rabbiter himself, placing his thumb and forefinger at either side of its mouth he squeezed and the ferret released its grip on Liz. Not surprising she was the only one who didn't see the funny side of the joke and was almost in a state of shock. Eric apologized somewhat by buying her a double rum. So from her point of view it was almost worth it.

We had been playing dominoes for about half an hour when suddenly at my right elbow appeared Big George. He spoke out loud to all at the table, but to Special in particular.

"If you don't keep your nose out of my business I'm going to flatten it for you. You and your cronies here, keep it out. You have been told, you have been warned." and with that he left.

"What was all that about?" We all almost asked in unison.

"Sorry to involve you lads in my problems. You are not involved really. Me and George had a few words last night and he threatened me, and in doing so he said that he would take it out on you lot as well."

"You never said you'd been talking to him. What is the story and why should he involve us?" Ernie asked.

"Well obviously he knows you are my mates and would take my side in any argument. Don’t worry I have no intentions of involving you."

"How do you mean you'll not involve us?" retorted Ernie. "Your our mate, whether you like it or not, we are involved."

I interrupted. "If we are to become involved, and I think that I speak for the three of us here, I think we should know a little more of the problem. You have told us that it's personal but to back you up a hundred percent we really should know a little more."

"Yes, of course you are quite right, and I want you to know, it all but now is not the time. Besides there are things in it that even I am not sure of at this stage. As I said earlier tonight, I don't know the full story; it involves my ma going out with Big George a few weeks ago. That is as far as even I know it. Me ma won't enlighten me any further. Can we leave it until tomorrow when I may have a bit more to say? Sorry I forgot you are going to Wembly tonight. Anyway leave it until the beginning of next week when the problem will either be solved or I'll know more?"

We all nodded in agreement, with Ernie saying, "If you want my opinion I think we should all go get him now. Show him he can't talk to us like that. If Specials got a problem with the big fellar then that problem is now my problem, whatever it is. We could easily ambush him on the way home and give him a going over. Let him know he's got the four of us to deal with."

"That’s not the answer." Peter spoke for the first time. "I am in full support of Special, and of you two, but I want to know more about it until I can be totally convinced of what to do. Besides Big George and his cronies could wipe the floor with us four."

We all agreed to leave it for the time being.

"Whose drop is it?" I said, indicating the domino game, and attempting to bring a little normality to bear.

"I’ve had enough dominoes for tonight shall we go into the singing room?" offered Ernie

We all agreed that the evening had died a death. What we wanted was to talk about Specials problem but respected that he did not want to say anything more as yet, even if he knew any more. I personally would be glad when quarter past Ten came so we could leave Eagleton on the last tram.

About Five past we made our early excuses to Special and departed to catch our transport into Leeds. We arrived in good time to catch the One-Minute past Midnight milk train to London Kings Cross. It would take us over five hours to reach our destination as the train stopped at practically every station on the way down.

We settled into our seats. It was the first time we had been together, alone without Special.

"I wish I knew what the story was with Special and Big George." Ernie began. "I’ve never liked that fat slob and it would give me great satisfaction to give him a going over. He has always been a bully, even at school. When I was in the juniors and he was in the seniors he and his crew at that time once picked on me. He was five or six years older than me but that didn't hold him back. He pinched an apple and four-pence that I’d had for some chips. He pushed me into a puddle knocking me down. Then I got it from my ma after for coming in all muddy. I'll not forget him. I’ve been waiting to get my own back on him for years. I haven’t forgotten, even though he might have."

"What were you doing for him to pick on you?" I asked Ernie, "probably cheeking him off knowing you." "That’s not the point, he was a lot older than me at the time"

"I’ve got to admit I’ve never liked him." I said. "Although I’ve no axe to grind, I'm definitely on Specials side.

"Me too," said Peter "You know all the problems about money?

"No, do you know something we don't"

"Not much more, but Special promised me to silence last weekend, when he told me that his mother had borrowed some money from Big George. It has since caused some upset. What the outcome was I don't know."

"But isn't she supposed to have been courting Big George at one Stage?" Say's I.

"I don't think she was courting him but she definitely went out with him." replied Ernie.

"Anyway none of us are a match for Big George when it comes to a fight." said I

"No, but the four of us are. We could wait until he gets pissed one night then give him a going over." Put in Ernie.

"Lets leave it until we see Special this coming week. Then we will have at least something definite." Peter said. He was so obviously right that we all agreed.

With that Ernie opened the carrier bag which he had been carrying all along and produced three pint bottles of Tetley Special Ale and a packet of sandwiches. I wasn't in a drinking mood, being rather tired, but it helped.

Midway through the journey I fell asleep and the next thing I knew the train was slowing down.

 

 

 

 

5.

We were pulling into Kings Cross, back to London I thought.

Back to London, that is a laugh, the last and only time I had visited London was also to see the Wembley RL Cup final with the school. I was only 11 at the time. I saw Warrigton beat Widnes 19 points to Nothing and I still remembered the feeling then of the excitement at being in the Capital.

Somehow I did not feel the same sort of excitement as I had expected as I stepped from the train. Although to be fair this time it was just turning Half Five in the morning.

"Wish Special was here with us." Said Peter. "I hope he's alright and nothing happened to him last night."

"Well there is nothing we can do about it here, is there?" responded Ernie. "Let us try and forget about it until we get back home. Lets go get a cup of tea from the station cafe."

The station was almost empty of people other that a few station guards and cleaners. We found the cafe had closed at 5-30 for cleaning and did not re-open until six.

"What do we do now?" asked Peter.

"The desolation of this station reminds me of the London prostitute." Stated Ernie,

"She was very hard up and had not earned a crust all day. She couldn't get any punters on the streets that she usually worked. So she decided to go to a railway station where she thought people would be. The nearest one was here, Kings Cross. When she arrived it was like it is now, no one about, except for one lone person at the far end of platform 3. She walked the whole length of the platform to find a man leaning on a sweeping brush, shaking his head from side to side.

Do you want any business? Asked the prostitute. No answer came from the man, who continued to shake head.

Do you fancy me for money? Repeated the women. Still no answer. The man continued to lean on his brush still shaking his head from side to side.

In desperation the pro said. I want f...ing.

So do I, replied the man. I’ve just swept the wrong platform."

With the punch line it seemed to relieve us of a little of the tensions I think we were all suffering from. It might have been a dumb joke but it served its purpose.

"Come on. Streets of London here I come." Shouted Ernie. We followed him out of the station.

Although there was a little traffic, there still were very few people about. What do we do now?" said Peter.

"We could go sightseeing." Says I. "There is little else to do at this time of a morning it'll be another 5 hours before we can get a pint."

"Okay, sightseeing it is then, where do we go?" said Ernie.

The three of us were at a loss what to do or where to go. Someone suggested the underground and we looked around and there was a sign right next to the Railway station.

In the underground, we had to wait a few minutes whilst it opened at six. We were confronted by the underground map. It looked very straightforward the different coloured lines representing the different lines.

We could see that Kings Cross was on the Northern Line; it also seemed to be on the Victoria line and on the Circle line as well.

"It must be the different levels like you get seams down a pit." I reckoned, "How convenient that all the stations are in an exact straight line with each other and what a small place London is according to this map." Mused Ernie

"By the look of this map we could walk to most of these places." He continued, "They are all near each other."

"No, I don't fancy walking." I answered. "It will be an experience to travel underground for a change."

"They both laughed at my unintended pun.

"Where shall we go first?" Peter said

"Me, I fancy going to see the houses of Parliament. I once went there with the school and we met Hugh Gaitskill, the Leeds MP. Parliament is bound to be central." I offered

It was agreed, Parliament it was.

The trouble was Parliament was not on the map.

"Obviously there is no underground station near the Houses of Parliament." Said Ernie.

"There's bound to be." Said Peter. "Excuse me mate," he said to a passer by, "which is the station nearest to the Houses of Parliament"

"Westminster of course." came the reply.

We had a lot to learn about London, things are not as straightforward as they seem.

We manoeuvred through the system changing once on route and managed to exit Westminster station successfully. There in all its full glory was the Palace of Westminster with Big Ben standing so tall and majestic. A true symbol of Great Britain. Just like it is on the pictures. We even waited until 7-O clock just so that we could hear Big Ben inform the world what the time was. Magical.

As I looked around, I had half expected to be able to see all the known landmarks. Buckingham Palace, Downing Street, the Tower of London, St Paul’s Cathedral but most of them were nowhere in sight. I could, looking down the river See Tower Bridge and what could be the Tower of London. It then began to dawn on me that London is a very big place. Much larger that Leeds and that all the tourist places are strewn within it. It would take more than a few hours to see them all.

We did the rounds, even seeing a small market that was called Petticoat Lane. It seems that it was quite famous for its Sunday Market. Maybe tomorrow we'll come back to see it. There we found a workman’s cafe. We had a full English breakfast for five Bob. It seemed expensive at the time but the plate was overflowing

About 11-0 clock we decided to make our way to Wembly and to sort our selves out with a Pub that was not far away from the ground. We could booze there until around kick off then go see the match. We did not have tickets but we had been told that plenty would be available at the official ticket office or ticket touts.

We came out of the underground at Wembley and began walking along Wembley Way. Crowds were beginning to gather and we decided to try a pub at the opposite end of Wembley Way. There were a few supporters already in from both Leeds and Barrow. It was a little lively.

Before too long we were joining in the singing. Why is it that Yorkshire men always want to sing, ' On Ilkley moor Baht' hat. And the Lancastrians 'She's a lassie from Lancashire'

The beer was flowing. We had all been well aware that London beer is vastly inferior to our own Leeds Melbourne bitter but we supped it under protest. Funny how the taste gets better with every pint. Must be a new barrel they have just put on. The beer continued to flow.

Later on in the early sunny afternoon we retreated with the other Leeds and Barrow Supporters to the beer garden round the back of the pub.

Members of each teams supporter's began trying to outdo the others with physical tests. It started with who could do the most press-ups. Then chin ups on a high fence railing.

I showed them my party piece where, standing on one leg I extended the other outwards and in front. I then sat down on my haunch still on one leg and still with the other stretched out in front. That was the easy bit the hard part was to regain my standing position on the same leg without touching the ground with any other part of my body. I had practiced it a lot in the past and it is quite hard to do. It took me a few goes, because of the beer I kept falling over. To my surprise one of the Barrow lads did it quite easily.

Ernie, not to be outdone, said to one of the Loiners, "Lend me your Leeds scarf." The supporter did. Ernie then began to climb the wooden flagpole that was erected in the garden. At the top was flying the Union Jack. Inch by inch Ernie climbed with his arms wrapped round and his body close to the pole. Higher and higher he got, all the pub conversation stopped to look at him. He was now near to the top and almost within reach of the union flag, about, I would estimate 30 foot up. Taking the Leeds scarf out of his mouth, where he had been holding it, he began to trying to tie it round the flagpole. Unfortunately he could not hold on and tie the scarf as well but he was trying.

Suddenly he lost his grip and he fell, luckily he was still holding the flagpole as he did so. That fact probably broke most of his fall. We all rushed to his aid. For about a minute he was unconscious. I tried to take charge of him as I had a little knowledge of first aid gained during my underground training. I made sure he was breathing and was not apparently bleeding anywhere. I shouted to someone to phone for an ambulance. I did not want to move him unduly, as I had been taught. Another person came over and said that he was an off duty ambulance man. Together we made him as comfortably as possible without disturbing his position too much. When he became conscious he tried to get up. We convinced him to lie still, with him insisting that he was all right and was just out of breath

Within a few minutes an ambulance was at the scene. Ernie was loaded to a stretcher. Peter and I asked that we be allowed to accompany him, the ambulance man agreed

The ambulance set of with its bell clanging to clear away the traffic ahead.

We seemed to reach the Royal Edgware Hospital in double quick time. Ernie by this time was trying to sit up. The attendant had to restrain him for his own good.

Once inside the hospital he was whisked away to the casualty department, we were left in the waiting room.

About half an hour later a nurse came to see us and explained that Ernie had now fully gained his faculties and wanted to see us. She said that the patient was threatening to sign himself out of hospital, which was not a good idea at this time. Could we try to dissuade him?

When we entered the small cubicle that Ernie was in, he was still laying on a stretcher but as soon as he saw us he sat up. I advised him against it but he was insistent. A lady doctor came to see us. She explained that Ernie had been fully examined and at this stage no serious injury could be diagnosed. He had a small bruise to the side of his forehead and he had obviously winded himself on his enforced descent of the flagpole but he had recovered from that. The unconscious bit worried her a little, especially since he was complaining of a headache and slight dizziness. She said it would be wise for him to remain overnight in hospital for observation.

On hearing this Ernie would have none of it. He wanted to get out now. "Give me any forms you want and I'll sign my release now." He said.

The doctor, seeing that he was so insistent on leaving, said would he meet her half way and remain in a recovery room for at least the next two hours? It would make her a little happier. She was worried about the onset of posttraumatic shock, whatever that was.

The two of us urged Ernie to listen to the doctor, as she knew best and threatened that even if he left we would spend the next two hours in this hospital, with or without him.

Ernie agreed to the lady doctors suggestion and our threats, we all retired to a recovery room.

A nurse popped in to see if Ernie was okay. She seemed to be chatty and have plenty of time. She wanted to know, because of our accents, where we came from and why we were in London. When we said we were up for the Cup. She said "Which Cup?" Are these Londoners thick or something? I thought

She had no idea that the Rugby League Challenge Cup was about to kick off within the next half-hour and we were going miss it. Ernie had suggested that we leave him and go to the match; meeting him later but we would have none of it.

The nurse kept calling in and chatting. Her visits were becoming longer each time. Peter was making great headway with her. The fourth time she came in she brought another nurse with her. Both of them were quite tidy. I certainly wouldn't kick either of them out of bed.

Peter began his spiel.

"What time do you both get off duty?" "Six O Clock."

"What are you doing tonight?" "Have you any suggestion’s."

"Can you get a third girlfriend?"

"Should think so"

"Where shall we meet?"

"Outside of the hospital at 6-15"

"Wow! Have we fell on our feet here." I said to the two of them when the nurses had gone. "Now I'm glad you fell off the flagpole and didn't manage to fall on your feet. You probably fell on your head, that is why you have no real injuries."

"Very funny." said Ernie. "Anyway, changing the subject. I bags the fat one."

Of the two nurses neither was fat but one of them was a little, plump, but nice with it. Peter would obviously get the good-looking one, he’d been cultivating her all afternoon, that left me as an also ran.

"I didn't want a bird anyway." I said pretending sour grapes.

Peter said. "She said that she was bringing a third bird so that we would  all be all set up."

"Yeah! But knowing my luck."

There we were outside the Royal Edgware Hospital when, exactly on time, emerged the two nurses accompanied by a third.

The third was out of this world. She was.. She was.. She was perfect. The only trouble, and without doubt, I was not in her league. I wouldn't have a chance with her. We all introduced ourselves. The plump one was called Bernice; Peter had been chatting up Sarah and the third was called Virginia.

"Virgin for short but not for long." I heard myself say, not believing how crass my remark had just been. Virginia did not react to my observation. Instantly I began to apologize, saying I only meant it as a bit of fun and hadn't meant to offend her.

"It's okay." She said. " I’ve heard the joke so many times in the past that now it falls on stony ground.

What falls on stony ground? I thought, but dared not to ask.

"Where are we all going?" Peter said to the group.

"Well we have to go back to our flat to get changed out of uniform first. It's only a few hundred yards away.

"No problem for me," he said, "you can keep your uniform on, and it’s beginning to turn me on. I’ve never been out with a nurse before."

"If you are lucky I might be able to teach you mouth to mouth artificial respiration later on this evening." said Sarah.

I remembered vaguely from my underground first aid training that a new form of artificial respiration had just been perfected and had just entered the St John's First Aid Manual.

"I look forward to it" Peter said.

As we were walking down Edgware Road Ernie said "Did I ever tell you about the trainee fireman who had been taught Artificial respiration?"

"No, go on." We all groaned.

"Well there was this lad who was in training to be a fireman. He was taught all about the different types of fire he may have to deal with and how to put them out.

He was trained on the erection and the climbing of ladders. Hydrants, Fireman’s lift he was taught it all.

He also took a course in First Aid. Fractures Splints, Wounds and such. The two manual methods of Artificial Respiration, Schaffer, Sylvester was taught the and he was also given instruction on the new Mouth to Mouth technique. He successfully passed out of fireman’s college.

On his first day at work proper the alarm bell went and they all slid down the pole and mounted the fire engine.

Blue light and fire bell clanking, they reached the fire. Looking up towards the building smoke was billowing out of a window and a damsel in distress was calling for help. She was a beautiful blonde with a perfect figure and wearing a very flimsy nightie. Just then she fell back into the room. The chief fireman, the fellar with the white hat, said to the newly trained fireman. "Seeing as this is your first rescue, get the ladder set up and go and save her."

The ladder was erected; the trainee climbed it and stepped over the sill into the room. By this time the fire was about contained and there was very little smoke now coming out of the bedroom.

The new lad had been in quite a long time in showing himself, so the chief said to his men. "He must be in trouble follow me, we will have to save him." They all climbed up the ladder and clambered into the room. Inside they saw that the woman was laid out on her back unconscious. The lad had lifted up her nightie, pulled down his trousers and was giving her one. He was on his vinegar stroke and just about finished.

"Hey! Stop that. What do you think you are doing?" said White helmet.

"Well, began the trainee, She was not breathing when I got to her. I tried the Shaffer method of artificial respiration, which is when she was face down and I press on her back. That didn't work so I turned her over on to her back and tried the Sylvester method that’s pressing on her chest.

That didn't work either so I began mouth to mouth resuscitation and.... Well, one thing led to another."

We all burst out laughing, as much at Ernie's daring to tell such a suggestive joke, as in the joke itself, but the nurses obviously enjoyed it and took it all in good part. It proved to be a great icebreaker. The night was young and the six of us was going to enjoy every minute of it.

When we reached the flat, it transpired that the three of them shared it. Each had her own room with communal lounge, toilet and kitchen. It was quite reasonably furnished and clean. They gave each of us a glass of red wine and left us whilst they changed, into something more comfortable, as they put it.

About twenty minutes later they re-entered the room. More wine was produced and although I'm not too keen on wine, after a few glasses I realized that I could quite get used to it.

We all decided to go to their local pub further down off Edgware Road. Although completely different in layout to our own local, the Rat-Trap, it had similar clientele. Customers were getting up to sing to a small four man group who had the knack, like our own pianist at the Eaglet, of being able to follow any and all singers.

Peter gave his Tennessee Ernie Ford's rendition of the last year’s hit of '16 Tons' about the hard life of a miner. It went: -

 

'Some people say a miner is made out of mud

A poor man made out of Muscle and blood,

Muscle and blood and skin and bone

A mind that’s weak and a back that's strong.

You load Sixteen tons and what do you get

Another day older and deeper in debt

St Peter don't you call me cause I can't go...

I owe my soul to the company store.'

 

It didn't exactly describe a modern British coal miner of today but the filling, shovelling or loading of the coal did.

All of us and the rest of the clientele joined in. It turned out to be a great evening, one that I was sure to remember for the rest of my life.

Virginia and I got on like a house on fire; she was a little older than I at 20 was. Although I began the evening being unsure as to why she took to me, for I felt that she was far too sophisticated. Every drink I had made me more relaxed with her. At one stage I realized that I might be in danger of having too much to drink, I kept retiring to the toilets, like I did at home in the Trap, to make myself sick. It would help, not to keep me sober, but to help stop me from getting too drunk. I certainly would not thank myself for doing that.

I wanted to enjoy every minute of the night, for when we had explained to the ladies that we had to search for some digs before we could completely relax for the evening; they insisted that we doss down on their lounge floor, chairs or settee.

At one stage of the evening Virginia said to me. "I do that as well."

"What?" I enquired.

"Well every so often, rather than have too much to drink and get the worse for wear, I go to the toilets and vomit. I have noticed you have been doing that as well."

How she had known I did not know but she was correct. I had to admit it to her but instead of being disgusted at the habit she thought I was being rather sensible. The more I spoke to her the more I wanted to say. She seemed to be able to look into my thoughts and strip away all my fears and self-consciousness. I felt as if I had known her all my life. She was the perfect woman and I would bet she had a chip pan at home as well.

Up to this point I had not believed in love at first sight, now I was not so sure.

At one stage of the evening a little voice said to me what about Shirley? And then another little voice countered Shirley who?

The bar closed at eleven, half an hour later than the Eaglet I noted. We had already got a carry out of a couple of bottles of wine and a crate of beer. We three lads shared the cost, being able to afford it, not having to pay for digs or rugby match tickets.

Virginia and I offered to carry the beer and wine back to the flat whilst the others went for fish and chips, they agreed.

As soon as we entered the room and without a word being said, we met in a loving embrace. It didn't just feel like a sexual embrace, it was more natural, more... Well natural, there isn't a better word for it.

When the others returned we both must have looked a little flustered because they all laughed and said in unison. "What have you two been up to?"

I was beyond being embarrassed; I wanted the world and his wife to know that I could pull such a cracker of a bird like Virginia. If I can pull her, I can pull anyone; she was doing a lot for my ego.

After the fish and chips, although I didn't eat much, the wines and beer were broke out. The party started, long discussions began that lasted well into the early hours.

Ernie began to tell us about a party at his house.

"Two years ago on New Years Eve we had a party at our house. It was going along swingingly, there were music, dancing and laughter all around. The doorbell rang and when I opened it there was a snail on the doorstep. The snail said "Can you keep the noise down I can't get to sleep" I thought blow this for a game of soldiers and gave it one almighty kick. It flew through the air and landed in a field opposite.

Last New Years Eve we held another party. The doorbell rang again, on opening it; there was the same snail. It said, "What did you do that for?"

It was a highly amusing tale and the girls loved it, mildly rebuking Ernie for being so cruel to the snail.

At about 2-30 Peter said to Sara. "Are we going to bed then? I'm shattered."

She nodded; they both got up bade their farewells, and departed to her room.

Obviously Peter and Sara had previously made it all up between them what they were doing that night.

Ernie said to his bird, Bridie. "What are we doing?"

"You can stay in my room if you like." she replied and with that they retired.

"That just leaves you and me." I said enquiringly.

"Do you mind if we don't Jack? Said Virginia.

I tried to sound not too disappointed but I was. "No of course not. I don’t want to spoil anything between us. I’ve had a night that I will remember for the rest of my life."

"You have just said the right words and seeing as you are so understanding and I now think I can trust you. I will be honoured to have you stay in my room with me, to sleep with me but not to have full sex. That's if you want to? If you can not handle it that way then I will understand."

"Want to? I'd pay the earth to stay with you. Sex or no Sex."

We went to bed and lay naked in each other’s arms.

I am not going to say here whether or not we eventually did have full sex, suffice to say we both thoroughly enjoyed what happened between us. I learned a lot about lovemaking that night with my nurse.

Gentlemen with a true lady, do not kiss and tell.

Sunday morning I awoke to feverish activity within the flat, the three were on duty at Ten O Clock and were rushing around trying to get ready.

We walked them to work. I noted Virginia’s address, promised to keep in touch and we all bade our farewells. I didn't actually cry but at the time I felt like it.

"What are we going to do now?" said Peter.

"Find a pub that's open." responded Ernie.

"It's a bit early for that. What about going down Petty Coat Lane?" I ventured.

"Sounds promising." agreed Peter.

As we entered the street market I was amazed at the number of Stalls, Spivs, and Street traders all shouting at the top of their voices to attract attention to their wares. Thousands of potential customers were walking shoulder to shoulder between the numerous stalls. All and everything was on sale, from Vegetables to violins, tools to tallboys. I felt that if I had wanted a second hand battleship it would be around here somewhere. All I had to do was look hard enough. My only problem then would have been what colour did I want it in.

A very pleasant two hours was spent in the Petty Coat Lane market.

We mutually decided that we would go for a lunchtime drink and catch the six thirty evening train home.

"Let’s go down Soho." Ernie announced.

"What do we want to go down there for?" I queried, although the thought of Soho, the red light district of London exited me a little. "It'll be bit of a laugh, besides we should be able to see a few cultural exhibitions.

We both looked at him quizzically.

"In the nude of course." He laughed

Peter and I agreed to go along with Ernie's suggestion. We asked a passer bye for directions to Soho.

It was early afternoon when we arrived and I was a little disappointed. I had expected glaring flashing lights, loud music, with pimps and Prostitutes abound. Just like I had read about in the News of the World Sunday paper. Nothing was further from the truth; there again it was Sunday afternoon. There were a few Cellar type bars that were open but no noise or very little light came from them.

"Live strip show, Lads?" said a lady spieler at the door to a bar come club. "No entry fee. Just starting now."

"Come on." urged Ernie, "I fancy a bit of fresh I couldn't manage to do owt last night, I was too drunk."

Peter and I were very reluctant but we gave way to Ernie's insistence.

We entered the doorway and descended some steps. Through a beaded certain was a low ceilinged room. As we were about to enter a man, whom we later learned was the manager said. "That will be Ten shillings each lads."

The woman at the door said no entrance fee." I began to argue.

"Ah! That is for members. This ten shillings is to make you life members. With your membership card you can come in here at anytime without any charge." Explained the man.

I didn't like the idea but Ernie was already going into his pocket for the cash. I stumped up my ten Bob.

As we pushed through the beaded curtain about six or seven women rushed up to us and began clawing at us saying "He's mine." or "I saw him first." or some such words.

All of the women within the club were dolls, beautifully made up and dressed like film stars. There were three clawing at me, each of them vying for me. I felt very wanted.

Before I had chance to make a preference, two of them left and I was escorted to a table with a most handsome young lady. She was immaculately dressed and made up to perfection. Something similar had happened to my mates and before we knew it we were all separated and sat at extreme ends of the room.

I had no sooner sat down before a half pint drink appeared at my elbow placed there by a waitress. One was also placed in front of the lady. A bill was thrust under my nose. Two beers Sixteen shillings. Eight bob a piece for a glass of beer.

"I didn't order this." I started. But the hostess shushed me into silence saying.

"They only serve this one type of beer, unless you wanted a spirit or Champagne? The trouble is those are quite expensive. Did you want something else? I can order anything you like.

There was no way I was going to buy whisky or Champagne at these prices, if beer is Sixteen bob a pint what do spirits cost?

She continued. "I know the beer is quite weak in here, not nearly as strong or as good as the beers you big Yorkshire men are used to drinking. But this is a very special place. You can afford Sixteen Shillings, can't you?"

I was shamed into saying. "Of course I can. It was all so sudden that’s all."

I handed a pound note to the waitress and tasted my beer. It wasn't even beer it tasted like watered down shandy. I had no sooner drunk half of it than another waitress delivered two more drinks. Again the bill was for sixteen bob. When I queried about my change from the first pound, my hostess said that waitress had assumed it was her tip. Her tip I inwardly fumed, her tip had been the equivalent of three pints of beer at the Rat-Trap prices. Over in the far corners sat Ernie with one hostess and Peter with another. They seemed to be enjoying themselves. How had we become so separated so easily?

My hostess chatted to me very expertly; she wanted to know all about me where I had come from what I did for a living. How brave of me to work underground. What a quaint Yorkshire accent I had. How tall and handsome I was. She made me feel very special. All the time she was promising that the live strip show would soon come on.

She asked me if I fancied her. She was available she said. Funny enough, beautiful as she was, I didn't. I'd had a pleasurable evening with Virginia and I still couldn’t get her out of my mind. Inwardly I was very flattered that such a beautiful looking woman fancied me but I politely declined her offer.

A third set of drinks appeared I had hardly started the second one. "I didn't order or want these drinks." I objected.

My hostess appealed to my good nature. "Please pay for them or I will get the sack. I have two children at home and they depend on my earning from this place. The show starts in a minute and I promise you it is well worth seeing."

I paid for the drinks but I said that was the last, I was paying for no more. With that the hostess got up and left. Pretty soon the manager came over and said that to remain in the club I must buy drinks. If not would I quietly leave?

I decided to go. The manager escorted me on my way.

As I was leaving I managed to call out to Ernie and Peter that I was going and that I would meet them in Kings Cross-Station for the Half past Six train. They seemed to be having a good time with their individual hostesses and I didn't want to spoil things for them. I waved to them and left.

All I had left in my pocket was Fifteen Bob.

As I was walking down the road Peter rushed up to me and said, "Wait on Jack."

"I thought you were staying." I said.

"No way. I couldn't afford that place. My first set of drinks cost me sixteen bob but the second set cost one pound Five. As I was querying the differing prices, a third set came over also at twenty-five bob. I had already decided that I was not enjoying myself and when I saw you going I thought I'd follow. I asked Ernie if he was coming and he said he was taking his hostess home and would meet us at the station before six O Clock so I left him to it."

Peter and I walked around and looked around for a cafe. We found one. Over a cup of tea we discussed the Soho experience. Somewhere in the back of my mind I recalled reading about such places in The News of the World, where very experienced hostesses expertly relieve punters of their cash. We had fell hook line and sinker.

First we were made to feel individually special, with loads of dolly birds wanting us. Then we were separated. Drinks that were not ordered came and before they were finished more drinks at extravagant prices came. We were made to feel ashamed if we could not afford the ladies drinks. All the time the girls were paying us compliments. How quaint the Yorkshire dialect is. How strong Northern men are. How come good looking men like us are still single and have not been snapped up and Married. Just buy the next round of beers because the sex floorshow is about to come on. I now doubted if there was such a thing as a sex floor show. They knew exactly how far they could take us, always promising but never keeping to them. We had been fleeced by experts. We had no where to go by now all the Sunday lunch time pubs had shut. We decided to walk to the station.

Later at about Four Thirty Ernie entered the station and on spotting us sat on a bench, came over. "Did you get owt?" was his first question.

"Course not, did you?

"Buy us a cup of tea, cos I ain't got no money, and I'll tell you."

We retired to the Station Cafeteria.

Ernie began his tale. "Before I knew it, this bird had grabbed me and we were sat down. These drinks came over. I had to pay a pound for them ten bob a piece. That’s a pound a pint!" He exclaimed. "When I protested about the price to the hostess, she said that her wages depended on my buying drinks. When I tasted the beer I told her that I did not want any more drink; that I would rather pay her for her body than pay for the drinks. She told me that I could have her; all I had to do was buy a few drinks to keep up appearances.

She said that when her shift finished in about half an hour she would take me back to her flat. The drinks kept arriving and I kept paying. Towards the end I told her that I only had Seven pounds left. She said only a few minutes and then her dayshift would be over. She could then leave with me.

She said. "Give me five pounds, that is for me. Pay for this last round and then we'll go back to my flat." She told me that because she fancied me I could stay the night with her if I wanted. I had no intentions of doing that, all I wanted was a quickie, a wham bam thank you mam shag. I paid for the last round and gave her the five.

"Come on lets go." I said to her. As I got up to leave she said that she couldn't be seen leaving with me, the boss was watching. She said that she was not supposed to fraternize with members outside of working hours. She told me that she would go and get her coat and handbag then would meet me outside in five minutes. I went outside and waited; and waited and waited. I thought blow this for a game of soldiers; I'll go see where she is. As I was about to re-enter the club the manager came out. "Where are you going?" he asked.

"None of your business." I told him. "I'm a member in here."

He said. "Oh! Are you? Have you got a membership card then?"

I realized that he hadn't given me one and I told him so. He said that he knew what the story was and warned me to go before there was any serious trouble. He left me in no doubt what the score was so I left with my tail between my legs.

As I was going up the street. I got to studying; they can't treat me like this I'm returning to get my money back. I went back and again entered the club. I could see the hostess, the one I had been with, sitting at the bar with the rest of the girls. She had been lying when she said that she would take me back to her pad. She'd just taken me for a ride

I was about to go in and demand my Fiver back from the woman when this big Fijian bouncer appeared. He was built like a brick shithouse. He was standing in front of me barring my way into the main room. "Where do you think you are going?" he demanded. I told him it was nothing to do with him

"The Manager has already told you once to be on your way," the bouncer said, "now I'm telling you. Piss off!" With that he put his hand into the inside of his jacket pocket and pulled out this long stiletto knife that suddenly flicked open. It was nearer a foot than an inch. He waved it to within a hairs breadth of my face and said. "This is the one and only time I’m going to warn you. Now fXXX off!"

And I did."

It could only happen to Ernie.

We had all been systematically and very efficiently fleeced by professionals. We should have known better.

Soon our train was announced as standing at platform one. We boarded it and settled in for the four-hour journey back to Leeds. We never did get to see the Rugby final but looking back on the weekend it turned out to have been a very memorable one. I learned later that Leeds beat Barrow 9-7 or something like that and was a very attractive game but even if we had seen the match, that weekend could not have been more memorable.

6.

Monday morning, back to work.

I coupled up with Ernie and Peter on the way to the pit. "Seen owt of Special this morning?" Ernie asked.

None of us had and said so.

He was not in the Stables when I went to pick up my pony, Royal.

Alfie Day the stable man said that he must be 'knocking' today as someone else had already taken his horse out to do his job.

That’s odd, I thought, Special knocking. To my knowledge it would be a first for him. I had never ever known him knock a shift.

Much of the day was about the same as usual. Nothing untoward happened during the shift. Water had broken out on the 3s face. The conditions that Geoff, the corner man was having to work in were dreadful. The face being just 24 inches in height meant that to work comfortably, a filler had to half lay and half crouch to shovel his coal on to the conveyer. But with water continually dripping from the roof and collecting in puddles meant that within minutes of him getting under the low, he was thoroughly saturated. Geoff would be wet for the whole of his shift and what made it worse was that the water had a high salt content and played havoc with any cuts one had to the skin. Many colliers who worked regularly in wet conditions suffered skin rashes and boils. The face had always been a 'cold' one, in that there was plenty of ventilation and that only added to his wind chill discomfort. I felt sorry for Geoff but I never heard him complain he accepted it as part and parcel of a collier’s lot.

That evening I called for Shirley. I had debated with myself if should I tell her about my escapade with Virginia in London over the weekend? But had decided not to. It would only cause problems and Shirley would definitely not understand, nor could I expect her to.

Shirley’s mother, who had been ill last week, had returned to work and was still on the afternoon shift.

Shirley invited me in. We put some records on the radiogram and before long we were in a lovers clinch.

She asked me if I had bought any protection. I had to admit that I had not had the opportunity. "There is no way we can go any further then." She said.

"I'll make sure I do not do anything silly, I'll pull out in plenty of time." I tried to pressure her.

She was having none of it. "No." was her ultimate response. "I am not going all the way. We can still make love if you want but I am not going all the way." I had to accept the situation. We made pretend love with me grinding my loins over her pubic area, both still fully clothed. It was very frustrating and unrewarding I needed to do it for real and this time there would be no mistake on my part. I resigned that by this coming Wednesday I would make sure that I had some Johnny’s in my possession.

That evening after saying goodnight to Shirley at Ten. I decided to go for the last half-hour in the Rat-Trap. Something was bugging me about why Special had knocked a shift today. Although Special did not go drinking on Mondays, Ernie did having said that Ernie drank most evenings; maybe he’d heard something.

Entering the Eaglet I saw that Peter was also in, he didn't normally go in Mondays either. He must have been having the same thoughts as myself.

"Heard anything about Special?" I asked as I went to sit down with them.

"Seems as if he had a run in with Big George on Saturday night. George gave him a hiding on the way home. Eddie and Mrs. Leather told me that as I came in." Said Ernie. I think we should go round now and see if he's all right.

"It's a bit late to go tonight," said Peter. "Lets wait to see if he turns in for work tomorrow and get the full SP. If he doesn’t then we could visit him tomorrow evening at his house."

We all agreed to wait until the morrow.

Special did not turn in to work the next day. And as agreed we met on the corner of the Square, where Special lived, at six that evening.

Knocking on Specials door, his mother answered. It was obvious to us that she was very upset and had been crying. Although she could not be considered beautiful, Specials mother was very attractive in a motherly kind of way, but at this moment she seemed to have aged Ten years, her eyes and cheeks seemed very hollow. I wanted to ask what the matter was but I felt too embarrassed.

She invited us in.

Special was sat in an armchair; the wireless was quietly playing.

Just one look at his face told us that he had been in a war. Both his eyes were almost closed with blue, black swellings. He had a cut over his nose and there was bruising around his cheekbones.

"What happened to you?" We asked, almost in unison.

"Nowt. I had a few too much to drink on Saturday night that's all."

"Will you make him tell you what’s happened?" Interrupted his mother, breaking out into a new flood of tears. "He refuses to talk to me. "I know it’s been all my fault but what can I do?"

To special she implored, "I'm sorry son what can I do to make it right?""

"Nowt Ma. Leave it will you please. I'll figure it all out."

The three of us almost fell over our selves to reassure her that Special would be all right, especially that now we were here. We would look after him.

"Shall we go for a walk?" Peter offered.

"We all agreed.

Bidding Mrs. Barton Goodnight, and at the same time trying to reassure her that we would look after her son and that no further harm would come to him, we left. But by the look of her tear filled face we hadn't made any headway in the reassurance department.

We had no sooner cleared his garden path than we all asked in unison what the story was.

Special began. "On Saturday I had a long talk with my mother about what had been going on over the past few weeks with Big George. I told her that I knew something was up and I wanted the full truth. And that I wanted it now.

She soon broke into a flood of tears. She wanted the situation to end and wanted to forget all about it. She did not really want to tell me and I had to drag it out of her.

I told her that I would not be able to rest until I knew the truth about what was happening or had happened. She made me promise that I would not fly off the handle whatever the problem was, so she relented and decided to open up.

It seems as if all the years since my dad died she has wanted to put a proper stone gravestone on my father’s plot in the cemetery. Up until now all that has been there is an old pitted aluminium urn for small flowers. She has always felt inadequate about my dad’s final resting-place. Although over the years she's regularly visited it and tends to it the best she can; she’s never been satisfied, always feeling as if she should do something more.

Afore this I didn't know she felt that way about my dads grave. I knew she visited it but that was all, she never told me any of her true inner feelings.

Having said that, I have never been able to discuss emotional feeling with my mother, it doesn't feel quite manly somehow.

Anyway, it seems a month or so ago the gas and electric bills were due in and she knew she had not the money to do all she would have liked.

I told her that I wished she had come to me. I would have sorted things out. She replied to that suggestion that it was as if, all her life, she had been putting on me. She said she didn't want to hold me back any longer.

She has often said to me. "Get out with your mates instead of staying in with me. You’ve got to live your own life."

Oh! How I wish she had told me how she felt, I know I could have done something, reassured her, whatever."

At this point Special went into a pensive mood, he looked so sad. I couldn't see into his eyes proper because of the swellings but I'm sure, if I could, they would have been tear filled.

"To cut a long story short," Special began again, "She borrowed Twenty Five Pounds from Big George to pay back at Two pounds a week for Six months."

"But that’s paying back Fifty pounds for Twenty Five." Peter butted in.

"That’s right," continued Special. "Fifty Two Pounds to be exact.

Anyway, after she had borrowed the twenty-five she reckoned up the full amount that she would have to pay back. The gas and electric bill would be about ten. That would have left fifteen for the headstone. She began to have second thoughts. She realized that she still could not afford the headstone at this time, promising herself to do it at a later date.

After only two days she went back to big George and tried to explain the situation, offering fifteen of the twenty-five back.

But he would have none of it; he wanted the full Fifty-Two at Two pound a week

She tried to explain her mistake; she only wanted to borrow the Ten and again tried to give the Fifteen back. No, was his answer. He would certainly take the Fifteen pounds but she would still owe him thirty-seven.

She was now at her wits end.

As I’ve said all this happened seven or eight weeks ago. She has been paying George back at Two pounds a week, missed a couple of weeks and getting herself deeper in debt. The money that was for my dad’s headstone has all gone to pay back the original loan. All she managed to pay out of it was the Gas and the Electric bills. And it won’t be long before they are due in again. She was worried sick.

She went to see Big George and tried to explain her position. She could not afford the original repayments. Could he lower them? The short and sweet answer was no. He offered to lend her some more money to pay off her arrears and coming bills but she would then be further in debt and owe him even more money and over a longer period.

According to my mother he had no compassion for her plight at all.

There was one way that she could pay off her debt to him, by going out with him one evening. Suggested George.

She took this to mean that the whole debt would be cleared. She doesn't know Big George like we do.

In desperation she foolishly agreed and he took her to a club in town.

I didn't know all this was going on. I asked her why she hadn't told me about her troubles. She said she was too ashamed to tell me about it. When I thought back I remembered about the time of her going out with George, she was a little late in and when I asked her where she'd been, she said that she had been visiting her sister and had been chatting and had forgotten the time. I did not exactly see her when she came in, because she went straight up to her room. And when I come to think of it that is about the time when my mothers personality changed, when the least little thing would bring her out in floods of tears.

Anyway to cut a long story short, it seems on the way home from the club in town, George suggested that they get off the tram a few stops before and walk part of the way, as it was a nice evening. My mother, not wanting to antagonize him, foolishly agreed. The route partly took them through the park. When they reached the wooded area he tried it on with her. She refused any physical contact with him and he became annoyed. He then forced her into some bushes. She struggled and according to what she has told me and without going into horrible detail, he had his way with her. He had forcible intercourse."

Special was almost crying at this point. We had all been emotionally silenced by the gravity of what had just been told to us.

"You mean George raped your mother?" The passion in Ernie voice was so evident. "That's it as far as I am concerned he's a dead man." Ernie's words described the way Peter and I were thinking and feeling.

"You’re sure he raped her?" I said.

"Yes, of that I am sure. I could not ask my mam to go into the minute detail of what happened but yes he certainly did have sexual intercourse with her even though she was fighting him off. He was too big and strong for her. She said he forcibly entered her.

"What did the police say?"

"That's the point I have been making to my mother all this weekend and up to now. She did not go and report it. She says that she was too ashamed to admit it had ever happened. She agonized over reporting the incident but reasoned that the police would take the view that she had entered into a bargain to repay a debt. That's what Big George had told her that he would say if she ever reported the incident.

If she reported it, he said, he would make sure every one in Leeds would know. Her name would be mud around Eagleton. She felt that she would never be able to hold her head up again. She would be branded as a common prostitute, doing it for money.

This rape incident happened three weeks ago. My mother hasn't been the same since. She bursts into tears at the slightest whim; she's certainly let herself go, walking around the house in a slovenly daze. I knew there was something up before but she wouldn't talk to me. I only just got to know the full story late Saturday afternoon. I hadn't realized how serious it all was.

As soon as I heard about it I was incensed, my bottle went. I went out and I tried to find out where Big George lived, I was going to go to his house. I didn't know exactly where it was or what I was going to do, my head had gone. When my thoughts cleared a bit I realized that he would be in the Rat-Trap that night. I lay in wait for hours outside for him.

When he came out with his mates I knew I wouldn't be able to take them all on so I followed him home. I waited until his cronies had left and I crept up behind him. I had every intentions of doing him in for what he did to my mother. I had a piece of four by two timber I even knew that when I hit him that first time I would not be able to stop until I had done him in. I crept up behind him and was just about to crack him on the back of the head with it, but I must have made a noise, he turned round. He saw the blow coming and took it on his forearm. He then got to grips and set about me. He really went to town me, on causing these injuries." Special indicated his facial brusings.

"My ribs hurt a lot, that is the main reason why I haven’t been able to work yesterday or today. It will be next week before I can go back.

But I swear to you on my father’s grave that I'll do for Big George, even if I have to wait forever for my chance.

"We have all got to study this out," said Peter, ever the thinker.

"What do you mean study it out? I say we get the bastard tonight. He can't take the four of us on." Ernie raged.

"No. Peter's right." I said. "We do need to think about what we are doing. Without question, Specials problem is ours now. I am full weight, and I'm sure you two are, behind Special but we have to think about exactly what we are to do to solve it. It's no good going out at half cock. That will not solve anything. It could cause Special more trouble than he's got already. Lets go for a drink and talk about what are our options."

We walked into the Rat-Trap and sat huddled in a corner, discussing, debating, reasoning, and questioning, all to an end of finding an answer to our shared problem.

Special, a number of times tried to excuse us from his worries. It wasn't ours, he said, it was his and he would find a way of solving it. As far as he was concerned Big George had way overstepped the decency mark by raping his mother. George was not fit to live on this Earth or even Fullers come to that. He would see to it that he didn't.

Peter again, tried to calm things down and for us to think things logically and together. As he succinctly put it, "Four heads are better than one, even if they are only sheep's heads."

It wasn't a very funny remark considering the past events but when we broke up that night we agreed that the problem was a shared one. Nothing was to be done by any of us until we thought more deeply about it. When we all were in complete agreement then we could act.

I later realized that I had missed Boxing training that evening and would have some explaining to do to my trainer but that was the least of my thoughts as I went to sleep that night.

 

7.

The following morning when we met at the pit, minus Special, very little could be added to what had already been said the previous evening. Ernie was still in a very aggressive mood and was all for sticking a knife into George’s back at the earliest opportunity but he still he agreed not to do anything until all four had sanctioned it.

The day’s work was much like any other with not much unduly happening. I had been in one of my down moods all day. As Peter had remarked when I once explained my mood swings to him, it might be my hormones or even my Biorhythms may be out of kilter. He even laughing said it might be my coming on time, time of the month, whatever it was I felt low.

When I deposited my lamp in its rack in the lamp-room Ben Wilkinson, the safety and training officer, had left me a note. It asked me to call in and see him on the completion of my shift. What did he want with me? To my knowledge I hadn't done anything wrong.

I reported to his office. He said that he wanted to see me for two reasons.

One, that I was to begin my Coal face training this coming Monday day shift and that I was to report to Con Rhodes who was the corner man on the South East 2s face. I would be with him for an initial period of Forty days coal filling training. After that there would be twenty days coal cutting machine training. The final Twenty days would be Chocking Belting and Ripping. I would then become fully coal face trained and could then be given any face job within the mine.

To begin face training, and then to complete it, was every pit lad’s dream. It would mean, on completion, a passport to the big money jobs. Very good wages were being earned at the coalface. I couldn't wait for Monday to arrive. The news knocked my hormones back into kilter. I felt better all ready.

The second reason he wanted to see me was that this coming Saturday, there was to be the Wakefield and District miners Gala. It was to be held in the Central Park. There would be a procession of lorry floats to the Gala ground and most pits were to enter a lorry float. Eagleton Main was to be no exception. Ben had come up with and idea and was organizing a float with the Teddy Boys Picnic as a theme. He asked me if my mates and I would take part in the procession dressed in our Teddy boy clothes. It was arranged that I would report to him of the outcome the following day

That afternoon when I got home I went straight into the bath before my meal. I explained to my mother that I had someone to see and something to do around half past Four. She didn't enquire with whom or what, I had to do; I wondered what her reactions would be if she knew that I was to visit the chemist to buy, 'something for weekend', as Johnny’s were often advertised.

I entered the Chemist and a young lass on the other side of the counter enquired what she could do to help me. I hadn't thought about it or realized that it was going to be so hard to get some French Letters. The sight of the female threw me. There was no way I could ask for a packet of Three from a woman, let alone one who looked even younger than myself.

"Eh!.. Ehm!.. I ‘v got a headache have you any Aspirin or something?" was the only thing I could think of. A tape of Eight Aspirin was produced. Did I detect a slight smirk on the lassie's face as she accepted my money?

"Will that be all?" Had she been in this situation before? She looked as if she was enjoying making me squirm.

Here was my chance again. "Yes, eh... No, thank you." I'd fluffed it again.

I retreated the chemist with my tail between my legs rather than having my third leg expectant and prepared and ready for the coming action. Coming being the operative word.

There were two chemists, very near each other, in Eagleton. I'll go to the other Chemist and this time I will ask for what I want no matter who is the assistant is, I thought.

I walked across the road to the other one only to find that it was Wednesday their half day closing day. Just my luck I'll have to go back to the other one and start again.

I did. Just as I was about to enter, through the class door window, I could see the same shop assistant at the counter. My nerve failed once more there was no way I was going in there, I about turned.

What am I to do? It’s too late now to go into town.

The barbers that are the answer, I decided as I was walking away from the chemist. They sell Durex. When I have been having my haircut I have often seen the pictured advertisement of a barber asking a man, whose hair he had just cut, saying. "Something for the weekend sir?" At least the barber is a man.

I didn't need my haircutting having had it trimmed only last week. What can I go in for? I studied. Yeah! Brylcreem. I didn’t use the stuff but it’s as good excuse as any.

I walked up the steps leading to the first floor barbershop. Luckily there were only a few old codgers in; none of them probably knew me. Johnny Barber, I never knew his proper surname, Johnny Barber was what everybody called him, was busy cutting someone’s hair. I went over and stood to the side of him. He stopped cutting. "Yes Jack, what can I do you for?" Johnny knew me from being little. "A jar of Brylcreem please, Johnny."

"You’ve come all this way for Brylcreem? You could have got it at the chemist you know?" Johnny had known me most of my life and where I lived.

"Yeah I know John but I was just passing and anyway the chemist is on a Wednesday half day closing today."

"Yes, but the Co-op one is not." He said as he reached for the jar of hair cream. If only you knew, I thought.

As I got my money out to pay him this was the time I had planned to, off handedly say, "Oh! By the way I may as well have some Durex as well," but the words were not coming out of my mouth as I had expected.

I handed Johnny a Ten Bob note.

"Anything Else?" Said Johnny.

"Eh..." I hesitated, again the words were not coming out.

"Packet of Three as well?" Johnny suggested. It was my chance. "Yes I may as well whilst I am here." I tried to make it sound as if the rubber goods were an afterthought, whether I did or not, well.

The Durex were mine, not exactly as I had planned, but mine they were.

As I walked out of the room and down the stairs I heard a murmur of voices and a few laughs. Was I the butt of their humour? I don't know, but at that stage I didn't really care for I had achieved my objective.

That evening I called round to Shirley's. I couldn't wait to tell her of my success at getting our protection.

Before long we were ensconced on her bed. Shirley insisted that the bedroom light was off and the landing door closed. I didn't mind that idea, although I would not have admitted it to her I was embarrassed at nudity as well, mine not hers. Especially when it would come to fitting the protection. Within minutes we both undressing. It took me quite a while to unfasten the hooks and eyes of her bra at the back; I had to have her help. By the time I had removed my trousers my erection was complete. Soon we were both completely nude.

There had been very little foreplay on my part; I couldn't wait to put the French Letter on.

Oh to hell. They were in my trouser pocket

My trousers were on the bedroom floor somewhere. I couldn't see them; I would have to turn on the bedroom light, which meant I would be in an embarrassing position of being nude and stood up. Shirley would e able to see my wedding tackle; I certainly didn't fancy that idea.

I got off the bed and in almost a crouching position; I reached up and opened the door to let the light from the landing in. I found my strides, felt in the pocket and took out the packet of Durex. With a little fuss, for the cellophane wouldn't come of cleanly, I opened the packet and took one, of the three individual packets, out. I realized now that I should have done some preparation before our coupling.

I tore off the individual cover and extracted its contents.

But by all this time of fumbling and the distraction my erection wasn't. It was now only a semi.

I would have to start all over again.

Eventually, after a little foreplay, I re-reached the point of putting on the rubber. I'd never done it before and felt very inept. Placing it on my bulbous end I tried to roll it down. It didn't roll down as smoothly as I had expected. It wasn't until afterwards that I realized that I had put it on inside out. It didn't really matter, it still went on but the confusing time taken was a little embarrassing.

I slowly entered Shirley and thrust, not too hard, but firmly inside of her. She gave a little cry, not exactly a cry of pain, more of sheer ecstasy. It gave me a heightened sense of my power to produce it. Each time I almost withdrew then thrusting firmly again I attempted to reproduce the cry. It maybe my first time but it was the most natural thing to do in the world. It was as if I had been doing this almost the whole of my life.

I felt like crying out myself. The feeling of being fully, up to the hilt, inside a female was like nothing I had ever experienced before. Nothing could be compared to it. I was the king, Emperor, and God all rolled into one. It was the most enlightening experience but at the same time it was the most normal natural feeling. At last I had become a man and I felt as if I had made a girl into a woman.

I ejaculated. I wanted the feeling to last forever. I did not want to pull out. I lay there, still on top, still inside of her. I wanted to remain there for the rest of my life, but all good things must come to an end and my erection lowered. I wanted to begin all over again but knew that I would not be able to become stiff again for a while. My mind was willing but my flesh was weak.

It came to the point that it was about all over. I pulled out and lay satisfied to the side of Shirley.

Then I realized that I was not still wearing the rubber. Because I had lost my erection soon after climaxing and on withdrawing from her, the Durex had slipped from me and remained inside my lady friend.

Does she know what has happened? Can she feel that it is still in her? How embarrassing, how do I broach the subject?

"The Johnny’s come off." I announced. I seem to have a descriptive way with words in times of crisis.

I turned to her; she was still lying on her back and still nude, and felt for the rubber. Part of it was still inside her and part was hanging out. Thankfully none of my semen had leaked, or was not leaking, out. Well I hoped not. I withdrew it very carefully.

Up to this stage Shirley had not spoken. Her first words were. "What are you going to do with it?"

I hadn't thought about its disposal at this stage but said. "I'll flush it down the toilet of course."

I got dressed and took the used Durex to the bathroom. After using the toilet and dropping the rubber into it was flushed.

Going downstairs I waited for Shirley to join me

I heard her go into the bathroom and lock the door.

Ten minutes later she came downstairs and entered the room.

She said. "The Frenchie would not flush away. Every time I flushed the lavatory it floated to the top."

I realized that because I had tied a knot in the top, air trapped inside it, must have caused it to float.

She continued. "If I had not have looked down into the bowl and seen it, what would have happened if my mam had come home and seen it floating around in there? She'd have gone off her head. You will have to be more careful in future. I am under age you know."

I'd never thought of that. She is under age. She is still only Fifteen, two months she'll be Sixteen but now only Fifteen. Marvellous how a woman can bring a man down with such a few words

Later that evening I remembered when opening the packet of Durex there had been three rubbers in it and a small piece of paper. I had not read it at the time as I was otherwise engaged. I now took out the packet and extracted the paper. It read:

Please supply ...... packet/s of Durex Protective's.

Thank-You

I retained the paper, realizing that by inserting a number on the dotted lines I could order another packet, or packets, from wherever, without ordering them by word of mouth. It could save me further embarrassment at a later date.

 

8.

Thursday began not as any other Thursday but as the first Thursday of being as a man. Or the first Thursday of feeling like a man. I wanted to talk to my mates of what I had experienced without letting them know of the fact that it had been my first time.

Sex was usually, subject normal, with our crew and I thought I just might give it a nudge this morning.

"Nothing like a good shag to stop your balls aching." I passingly commented at a lull in the conversation, with my two mates, as we walked down the road to the pit.

"Oh! So you got it for the first time then last night?" said Ernie laughing.

Could I be seen through so easily? I thought.

"What do you mean first time?" I retorted. "That was so long ago I'd almost forgotten about it."

"Bollocks." was Ernie's repartee. He'd a way with words had Ernie.

"You’ll have a pair when you’re a man." Was all I could muster in the way of a reply. "I just might try doing it the Doggie way sometime." Again I tried to prove how experienced I was.

"Where are you going to get a dog this time of a morning?" quipped Ernie

"Shut up Jack," I thought, "you are not going to win this verbal exchange, call it a draw."

"Are we calling for Special tonight and take him in the Trap." Peter changed the subject.

"Yeah, I'm game," said Ernie. "What time?"

"I can't," says I, "I must go boxing training tonight I missed Tuesday. But I can meet you there at about half Nine."

"Fair one." said Peter. "Me and Ernie will pick him up and we'll meet you there then."

We agreed to meet in the Rat-Trap.

I went to pick Royal up in the stables and began to brush him down. As usual he seemed pleased to see me, for that matter I was pleased to see him. Although now thinking about it today and tomorrow will be the last days of our partnership. I didn't like that idea at all. I had come to think of Royal as my own personal property. If a mate can be called property.

I got to thinking, who will be lucky enough to get Royal? Or more important will Royal get a good and compassionate driver? I inwardly promised Royal that I will keep my eyes and ears open with regard to the welfare of my pony. If I hear of any

mistreatment, I'll sort them out.

"Come on, me old gallower, lets get thee done up." I set about harnessing him. Thursday was a carrot day, I gave it to him and he crunched it gratefully.

Petty much the same happened as it had so many times in the past.

He had his roll in the dust on the Drift Road. We picked up 3 tubs of pit props and a chariot of rings from the pit bottom, and set out upon our journey.

Royal stopped as usual, without command at the top of the steeply inclined Traveller. I put a wooden locker into the back wheels of the first tub and urged my pony to. "Walk on."

Slowly at first the incline of the Traveller got steeper. Royal was now not pulling the train but keeping just a little ahead of the gravity fed tubs. Faster and faster they rolled until Royal was into his four-legged gallop. The severity of the incline lasts about 200 yards before it begins to level out. The roof and sides flash by with just a few inches clearance. I have to keep my head down during most of this time but I could see a little forward over the horse and tubs.

Suddenly above all the noise of the gallop and the rolling wheels I heard a sharp snapping sound. It is the sound I’ve never heard before but one I had a dreading of ever hearing. It was the noise of the breaking of the wooden locker. There now was no braking system to the train of tubs. With no check they began to roll faster and faster. Royal must have realized the problem because he was now running faster that I had ever seen him. He had to keep in front of the tubs.

I had a spare wooden locker that I always carried for such emergencies. I tried to lean over the left side, for the roadway was a little wider on that side, to try to re-locker one of the rear wheels of the chariot. It would not halt the train but it may help to check its speed. It was impossible, the sides of the roadway were too near, I was in danger of being decapitated. If the roadway was wider I might have succeeded. Royal at this time was I danger of being outrun by the runaway train. He was trying to check its speed by making contact with his backside haunches, proving what an intelligent horse he was. In normal circumstances he would have succeeded but the tubs were travelling much too fast. If he can just outrun them another minute, I thought, the roadway will then begin to level off.

We had only about another hundred odd yards to go when I became aware of flashing lights waving from side to side in the far distance. I realized that there was a hold up of some sort down there. I was shouting to Royal to "Whoa" but I knew that the horse wanted to stop the train just as much as I did. I was crying out more in sheer desperation than as an order.

I had heard off such incidents as I was now in from other older Pony drivers and how scary it is. They hadn't exaggerated one bit. I was now scared for my life, still trying to re-locker the rear wheel; it was the only thing I could do. I had no other options open to me. Again attempting to push the protruding end of a locker into the iron spokes of the wheel, I almost succeeded but it was rotating too fast. The spinning wheel twisted the locker out of my hand and in doing so it gave my wrist a sharp wrap. I felt no pain; the adrenaline flushing through my system was taking care of that.

The lights were getting nearer. Royal's attempt at checking the speed was slowly succeeding but the speed and distance to travel was too much for him to halt the train in time. I knew now, with ultimate certainty that we were to be in collision with whatever was in front. It had to happen and there was nothing I could do about it.

Within 20 yards of the blockage I jumped from the back of chariot. The horse and train sped on.

I had no sooner hit the floor than I heard the noise of tubs and materials colliding into one another. And I swear, above it all, I heard the squeal of my horse's pain. It was a noise I will hear for the rest of my life. I never want to hear of its kind again.

As I reached the scene of the carnage I saw my train of tubs had collided with another train. Royal had attempted to save himself from being squashed between the two trains by trying to squeeze between the tubs in front and the side wall. If there had been a little more space he may have succeeded, but space there was at a premium. He was wedged firmly between the wall side and a tub.

The forward pony driver shouted to me to run back and warn following drivers to stop their trains so that they would not run into mine. I was almost glad of the excuse to leave my pony, for I couldn't bear to hear or see the pain that he obviously was in. His squealing, that is the only way I can describe it, was going round and round in my head.

I ran back up the roadway and began waving my lamp from side to side warning the following driver that there was an emergency ahead. Thankfully he managed to stop and then went back to warn any other followers.

I retreated my steps to the scene of the carnage. Carnage was the only way I can described it and my Royal was in the middle of it. I managed to squirm my way to the front of my now derailed and askew tubs.

The initial problem had been that one of the tubs, of the train in front of me, had been come off the rails. In normal circumstances it would be no problem, it happened regularly. They can easily be lifted or levered back on.

Because my locker had broken, my train of tubs had been travelling far too fast for my horse to stop. My train and the one in front had collided.

I ran the events over in my head. If the problem had happened in a place where the roadway was wider, and then the horse could have run to the sides of the forward derailed tubs and avoid getting squashed between. This wasn't a normal time, place or circumstance. It was here and now and it had happened to me and my horse.

Royal by now had stopped making noises of pain. I didn't have to be a horse doctor to know his injuries were life threatening. He was showing the whites of his eyes, they were wide and the pupils were dilated. He was as aware of his serious injuries as I was.

One of the older, more experienced drivers, Len Harvey, began to take charge of the incident. As soon the tubs that were holding Royal up were moved, he fell down. Len arranged for the front train to be put back on the rails. The driver was ordered on as if nothing had happened, being told that when he got to the first conveyer station he was to telephone the pit bottom and relate the accident. Informing them that the area Vet was needed at our location urgently but that there were no injuries to any worker.

Royal was attempting to stand up; with our help he managed it. Len Harvey then began to urge him forward the twenty or so yards to where the road widened. I tried to tell him that Royal was in pain. His hind leg looked serious and by moving him he may be causing the injuries to become more serious.

"Does the pit have to come to a standstill because of a horse?" he said. "It will be at least three hours before the area vet gets here. All he'll do then is to put a gun to its head and then clear it out of the way. In the meantime the drivers behind are waiting to get their loads to the faces. Without pit props the fillers will be in danger, the faces will have to stop. Are you going to be responsible for the pit stopping? If so, you take charge." The ball was back in my court. Balls to you, I thought, he might just as well have said that. Of course he was right and of course I had to agree.

"Your right but that doesn't mean to say I got to like it.

"Like it or lump it, get your horse out of the way."

Royal and my heart limped the Twenty yards inroad. I felt every step he took. My tubs and chariot were then pushed down. The following train of horses were allowed forward and each horse, in turn, was recoupled to the train in front.

Until the area vet came I would be left alone with my pony. He kept hobbling as though he was about to fall but miraculously he continued to remain standing. I examined his exterior for signs of injury and of the obvious cuts, there were none that seemed life threatening. Most of his weight was on three of his legs. The right back one was hanging a little; it obviously hurt Royal to put any weight on it.

All the time, I kept talking, trying to comfort him. I took out my snap tin and offered him a sandwich; he didn't seem to be interested. Normally he would have wolfed it down. I was aware that you do not give an injured person anything to eat or drink in case that person has to be operated on later. That would not of course apply to an injured pony. I did it more to make myself think I was doing something constructive. A way of saying sorry, of making amends. I opened the top of my plastic water bottle, pushed it into his mouth and tipped it up. Royal drank a little.

After about an hour Alfie Day, the stableman, came down the road with a pony pulling a flat bed chariot with no sides. I was glad of his company. He gave a cursory examination of Royal and said. "There's no hope for that. It should be put down now but I do not have the authority to do it. We'll just have to wait for the Vet but you can be sure he will put it down"

I wished he would not talk like that, especially in front of my horse. I was sure Royal understood all that was said. I tried to change the subject by asking what time it was? He said. " Eight O clock and we'll be lucky to see the Vet this side of Twelve. That horse is going to be in pain for the next three or four hours and there is nothing I can do about it."

He then went on to describe what would happen when the Vet finally arrives and what he would do. He obviously had been in this position before but that did not help me. I wished he shut up about it. The waiting was the longest period of my life.

The Vet came at about 10-30 and I was a little relieved. Just as he arrived Royal began to pass water. It had a reddish tinge to it. The vet said that indicated internal bleeding, as well as a massive injury to the rear fetlock. He would have to put him down. Why can't he just do it without talking about it in front of my horse, I thought.

Out of his case he produced what I can only described as a Vairy Light Pistol. He pushed forward a side lever and on a hinge, it broke in two. Loading it up with what I assumed to be a compressed air cartridge he placed it to the horse’s forehead and pulled the trigger. The compressed air forced out a bolt that penetrated into the horse’s brain. It killed my horse instantly.

I swear, at the moment of him firing the pistol Royal looked into my eyes and gave me absolution. The best horse, at this pit, or any other for that matter, had just died and it was my fault.

The carcass fell lifeless. At least it was quick and he suffered no pain. From the Vet taking the gun out of the box, loading and firing it, to the horse falling, took no longer than Fifteen seconds. In one way I was glad he was suffering no longer and in another I desperately wanted to put the clock back.

"I'm going for a piss." I said to the two and walked down the roadway a little standing to one side of the roadway I pretended to pee, really I wanted to get out of sight for I was crying. Not just inwardly now, I had been doing that for the last few hours, but blubbering like a child. I had to quickly recover myself, grown men don't cry. I pretended to shake off the urine drops but at the same time I was wiping the teardrops from my eyes. I returned to the scene.

"Give us a hand Jack." said Alfie Day. The flat bed, none sided, chariot had been manoeuvred to the side of Royal before he had been put down. As the horse collapsed the bulk of him had fallen on to it. The Area Vet then produced a lump hammer and set wedge. He placed the set blade on the horse’s spinal column and sharply hit the blunt end, thereby breaking the horses back. The horse could then be more easily positioned on to the flatbed. Rope was fastened to its legs to prevent them flapping outward of the chariot edges.

By this time another driver had arrived on the scene walking a new horse. I was given the opportunity to take it and continue with my duties on Ebor 3s. "Or would you rather drive Royal's body back to the pit bottom and let this driver do your job?" was how Alfie put it. I said I would like to remain with Royal a little longer. He seemed to understand and the other driver hitched up to my load and drove off to service my tailgate.

Alfie said that towards the back end of the shift would I go to his office in the stables and make a statement as to how the accident occurred. He would have to submit a written report. I was then instructed to drive the new horse, pulling Royal's carcass, to the pit bottom.

I remembered little about the actual journey back but I do recall constantly apologizing to the carcass of how stupid I had been.

Why had I not put two lockers in at the top of the Traveller? Just because others used only one did not excuse my foolish actions.

Why hadn't I seen the warning lights earlier? It would have given Royal more of a chance of stopping.

Why hadn't I tried earlier or harder to get another locker in when it was running away?

Why didn't I try to get a locker in the right side of the chariot? It was a little narrow but I still should have tried.

Why did I jump off the back end when it was going to crash? I was like a rat deserting a sinking ship. What a coward I had been, never mind been, was.

We reached the pit bottom. The chariot containing Royal's body was pushed into the cage and that was my last sight of him.

When I had been attempting to relocker my chariot as the train was in runaway I had injured my wrist between the spinning locker and the side of the chariot. Up until now I had tried to disregard it. I had a feeling that it was my come uppence. I deserved all I had got.

Reporting to the pit bottom deputy that I had injured my left wrist during the incident he examined it and said it may be broken. The formation of a large bruise was appearing. He put a bandage on it and told me to pour the contents of my water bottle on to the bandage. A cold compress would help to control the swelling. He then ordered me out of the pit to the ambulance room.

The ambulance room was not a treatment centre in its self; it was more of a storage place for persons waiting for a hospital ambulance to arrive. The attendant there probably had only basic knowledge of First Aid. He did not make any attempt to unwrap my injured arm but telephoned for some transport.

Within twenty minutes an ambulance had arrived and whisked me away to the Leeds Royal Infirmary.

The wrist was X Rayed and a doctor diagnosed that it did not appear to be fractured, although it could be of a simple hairline type. A thin Plaster of Paris soaked bandage was wound round the injured limb. I was informed that I had to re-attend in Seven days time for its removal or further treatment.

Bang goes my face training I inwardly moaned.

Because I was still in my muck the infirmary arranged transport back to my pit. I decided that I had better go see Ben Wilkie the Training and Safety Officer and tell him of the outcome. I was to see him anyway about the coming Saturday's Teddy Boys Picnic.

Bennie was in his office when I arrived. "Been having a bit of a problem, I understand?" was his opening words. "You had better sit down and tell me about it."

I began to relate the previous hours down the pit.

All the time he was making notes. It gave me to understand that he would have to make a report to someone of higher authority.

At the end of my story he asked. "Jack, how many lockers did you put in at the top of the drift?"

"One." was my truthful reply.

"You know that you should have inserted two Lockers at the

start of the Traveller incline, don't you."

"If you put two in then the horse has to pull the load all the way down the hill. Nobody ever puts two in its too much for the horse. None of the other drivers do. Anyway the ponies have enough work to do without my adding to it." I tried to explain.

"It will save us all a lot of unnecessary explaining if, when I ask you again, you tell me two lockers were inserted and when one broke the excess weight on the other, broke that one also."

"Is that how it happened?"

I had to study the full meaning of this get out for me. I hardly think that I would be sacked for my actions but it would be easier all round if I agreed with him.

"Yes of course, I remember now, I started off with two lockers in but they both broke.

I reckon that if the lockers had been made of metal they could not break and Royal would be alive today."

"I agree with you Jack," Bennie looked pensive, "that sounds to me like a good idea. Let me think about it and maybe come up with some ideas for steel lockers.

That is about all I have to say on the subject just remember you started out with two lockers and stick to that story."

"But I have already told Alfie Day that I was only using one." I added.

"I'll see Alfie and put him to the wise. Don't worry about that any further."

"Now about your injury, is it broken? And will you be off work with it?

"No and yes." I answered. "The x-ray didn't show up any definite break but it still could be. I have to go back in a week’s time, so I'll be off work at least till then. How does that affect my face training? I was supposed to start with Con Rhodes on Monday."

"Obviously that's out now. We'll wait until you are fit and back at work then we'll work something out. Within a few days of your returning you should be starting face training."

"Thanks." I added. "Now what about this Teddy Boys Picnic on Saturday. Is it still on?"

"Yes, will you still be able to attend with your arm?"

"Oh yer, course, the pot." indicating my wrist, "It should slide inside the sleeve of my jacket."

"How many Teddy Boys have you got?"

"Four including myself." I replied untruthfully, I really hadn't had the chance to see my three mates about the outing what with Specials problem last night. I hope can rely on them I thought.

"Four is just the right number I can get a fifth who will act as the barman. Right then, that is settled. We all meet in the pit yard at ten sharp. It should be an eventful day out for us all. That's about it Jack. If there is nothing more, I will see you Saturday morning."

And with that the interview was obviously over.

When I told my mother of the circumstances surrounding the death of my horse, she had every sympathy for me, but my father seemed to accept that it was just a fact of pit life. "Rather it was the horse than you." Was as he put it. But that didn't exactly help my sadness.

That evening I decided to go to the boxing club and explain my absence on Tuesday night and my injury of today, preventing my training for a while.

When I began to show and explain my injuries to our coach, he assumed that I had been off the Tuesday session also due to the injury. I didn't correct his mistake, what he doesn't know won't hurt him, I reasoned.

I watched a little of the training session but just after eight left to meet my mates in the Eaglet.

As I entered they were already there. Getting a pint I went over to their table.

They had obviously been talking about Specials problem because as I sat down Special was already saying, "Yes, I know, but look this is my problem and the only way I can be at peace and give myself a chance to forget is to do him in." Him I assumed to be Big George. "I don’t expect either of you to stick with me that far."

"There you are wrong. Tell him Jack. It's not just your problem; so get that thought out of your head. It's ours. I personally will help you 'do him in', as you put it." Ernie was the first to line up on Specials side.

"You can't just do him in just like that. It's easy to talk about it but doing it is another thing." Interjected Peter.

"You backing out then?" challenged Ernie

"I did not say that. I just said it is not that easy. Talking about it, yes. Doing it; well it's just not that easy."

At this stage I had to agree with Peter but did not want to voice my opinion, not just yet.

"I am 100 percent behind Special." said Ernie. What about you?" indicating Peter. It was a direct question that only an affirmative or a negative answer was wanted.

"But I..."

"Never mind the buts, are you in or out?"

Of course I am in. All I ask is that we go about it properly, using our heads." Peter was hooked; he could not back out now. I was secretly hoping that I could align myself up with him and talk them out of doing anything so drastic but now I was in a minority of one.

"What about you Jack"

To be truthful I did not like the way this conversation was heading. Giving a fellar a good hiding was one thing, talking about doing him in is another. I didn't want to voice my objections and be thought of as a coward. I already had accused myself of being one earlier today with my pony incident.

Ernie could see the hesitation in my mind. "Well in or out?"

"Yes but I must agree with Peter it has to be done properly." Secretly I was hoping for time in which to prove that murder, for that is what it was, was not a realistic possibility."

"Right then when are we going to do it?" It was the first time that Special had fully got into the conversation.

"Hold your horses," said Peter, "first thing we must decide how, then where. When, comes along way down the line."

"Alright then how? I'm all for creeping up behind him and sticking a knife in his guts." Put in Ernie.

"And me too." agreed Special

"I’ve heard that there are five main ways of killing a person. Let me think of them." Peter studied. "1. Shooting, 2. Sticking a sharp object into them. 3. Poison. 4. Knocking them down with a blunt object, a car, baseball bat or some such and 5., the fifth I can't think of at the moment."

"Which one do you reckons the best?" I asked

"I don’t know, at this stage but it needs more thought. Why don't we all think about it overnight? And we'll discuss it some more on Friday Night. Agreed?"

"We all keep doing this thinking but we don’t seem to be doing anything. Why not just..." said Ernie.

I interrupted. "Look if you suddenly went and stuck a knife in his back and got clean away who would be suspected of it? Not you of course. You have no axe to grind. Special has just been involved in a real set to with Big George. When the police begin to look around for any one who had a grudge with him, Specials name will be on top of the list."

"Yes, you are right, of course." Ernie said and Peter nodded in agreement.

That’s right said Peter we all must be seen on friendly terms with George. Well not necessary friendly but certainly not antagonistic towards him.

We agreed to leave the problem another night.

"Right," said Ernie, "lets change the subject, tell us about you killing your horse."

That’s all I need, up to now I had completely forgotten my sadness now it was to be raked all up again.

I went at length in to all that had happened with my pony driving incident. Even to the fact about the one locker, two locker episode with Bennie Wilkie. I showed them the plaster of Paris bandage on my wrist. They all wanted to sign it and put dirty slogans on it. I didn't mind I could wash or scrub any off that were a bit too near the knuckle.

"Right that's that. I have another situation to put to the three of you." I went on to explain that Bennie Wikinson had asked me, if we all would attend the Teddy Boys Picnic at the Wakefield Miners Gala On Saturday morning. I went on to describe the form of which it would take.

"I don't fancy it." said Special "My eyes look a real sight what with being black"

Peter then began laughing.

"What's so funny?" Enquired Special

"You saying your eyes look a real sight. Sight, eyes. Get it?"

"If we think about it they could be seen as an asset. It will look as if you had been in a Teddy boy gang fight and those are your battle medals." I put in.

"Better still we all could put on a little make up and look as if we all had been in a fight it would then make Special look normal."

Peter seemed all for the miners Gala and asked. "Would you go then Special?"

"Yes, okay it’s the least I can do, seeing as you are backing me up."

I felt a sense of dread. That’s another nail in my coffin it’s going to be very hard to get out of this premeditated killing business. 'Murder they call it' would be how Agatha Christie could call one of her books.

Peter said he would arrange to get the make up for us, saying he would raid his sister’s cosmetics case. All agreed that Saturday should be a good laugh.

"What time is it? Ernie asked and received his expected chorus of "Time to get drunk."

"Whose turn for the beer is it then." The seriousness of the evening was put to one side.

 

9.

Friday morning I awoke with a start. Has my mother slept in and forgot to wake me up? Then I remembered the pot on my wrist. I looked over at the clock on my chest of drawers it was Six-Thirty. I can go back to sleep, all I’ve got to do today is go to the doctors to get a sick note and then to the pit to get my wages. A man of leisure for the next two maybe three weeks. Ah! The luxury of the thought. I went back to sleep.

That morning I queued in the Doctors Surgery for a sick note. Sending it in would enable me to claim sickness benefit for my time off work and because the accident happened at work the money would be topped up a little by a compensation claim.

I was feeling a little better regarding the death of my horse. Last night my mates, two of who were drivers, although ragging me about the accident really understood.

"It could happen to any one of us." Was how they explained it away. "You were not the first nor will you be the last to kill a pit pony."

They may not have outwardly shown their sympathy for me but I knew it was there.

Although as Ernie had put it. "If you are looking for sympathy I can tell you where to find it. It's between Shit and Syphilis in the dictionary."

That afternoon I went to the pit and got my wages. Walking home, who was getting off the bus, was my girlfriend Shirley. She explained that it was a half-day for her, "Teachers rest" as her mum called them. "What have you been doing?" She indicated the plaster of Paris on my wrist.

"It's nowt really." I tried to pass it off as though it was an every day occurrence breaking limbs down the pit. I put my brave soldier face on. She insisted that I come indoors and tell her all about it.

I was always glad of the opportunity to go into her house and make an attempt to get my hand into her knickers.

Shirley made me a cup of tea and we began chatting about my accident. She had every sympathy with me and she genuinely felt sorry for my horse.

I then told her about the Miners gala the following day. She asked if I would take her. I certainly did not like that idea. I was going to have a boozing experience with my mates. I put her off by saying that all of the day would be taken up with us being on the float and there would be very little time for me to be with her. She would be on her own most of the time and I assured her that I did not like that idea. She seemed satisfied with my excuses and we confirmed our coming Sunday evening date.

Shirley said that they had just bought a new fitted carpet for their front room, would I like to see it? Fitted carpet indeed, have they come into some money? They are coming up in the world, only posh people have fitted carpets.

"Yes, Sure." I replied.

As we were about to go into the front room and she asked me to take off my shoes. It had become her mother’s new rule of the house, as far as the front room was concerned. When I saw it, I had to admit it was a beautiful carpet, an Axminister as she called it. It was well fitted and must have cost a bob or two.

Just as I was saying how nice it was she turned to me and looked up into my eyes. "We will have a carpet like this one day not just in our front room but throughout our house. I took hold of her shoulders and began to kiss her. We locked into an embrace.

The standing embrace soon progressed to a lying down one, on the newly fitted carpet. The newness exited me a little. We began to take off a few of our outer clothes, just her cardigan and my jumper, it did not seem right to undress to complete nudity downstairs. Besides keeping a few clothes to add to the naughtiness of the occasion. Her head was in the crook of my left arm resting on the plaster of Paris. I was kissing her or blowing gently into her ear. I'd heard from a very reliable source that by blowing into a woman’s right ear it sends them crazy.

I slowly put my right hand on her knee and began stoking it gently moving upward with every circular movement. I moved my fingers under her skirt and began to caress her pubic mound over the top of her panties.

My manhood was beginning to rise to the occasion.

My fingers were occasionally feeling inside the elasticated sides teasing and temptingly. I felt for the waistband and began to work her knickers down. Shirley assisted the removal by raising her buttocks. By the time they were almost to her knees I had brought up my shoeless right foot, hooked my toe into them and they were down to her feet and off. All in one very skilful manoeuvre even though I say so myself, I was becoming very practiced at this love making job.

My fingers began to tease the insides of her thighs and were soon exploring for her vaginal opening. Shirley moved her legs slightly apart to make my actions easier. She was murmuring like a contented kitten. It was very sensual being in command of this situation.

Undoing my trouser belt and my fly buttons I was just about to slide my strides down when she said.

"Have you got protection?" it was the dreaded question. I hadn't. They were not the kind of thing I carried around with me. In fact they were well hidden under a loose floorboard in my bedroom. Oilcloth then covered the floorboards. God forbid if my Mother should ever find them.

"It wont matter," I answered I'll take great care. I'll withdraw myself, well before time."

"Jack, no, don't."

"Oh! Come on. It'll be alright I promise."

"Please Jack, no." She was insistent.

It was pointless trying any further to reassure her; I just knew she would not relent.

"We can still make love without going the whole way. If that is alright?" Shirley offered.

It had to be. "It's okay love, I understand." It wasn't okay and I didn't understand but there was little point in pursuing the matter.

Up to now I had seen very little of Shirley's body because there had been no proper lighting in the rooms we had been in.

The most I had seen was her blonde pubic hair. That was a puzzle in its self. Her natural hair colouring was slightly mousy but her pubics were a very light blonde, almost white. I had tried to visualize her with head hair the colour of her pubics. She would have been like Jayne Mansfield, the film star; only Shirley's colour would have been completely natural.

It was daylight in the front room. I carried on with my exploration of her private parts. This time I easily found the vent of her it was very moist and almost sticky.

I moved my position somewhat, my left arm I removed from around her neck and it was across her body, her waist was in the crook of my armpit I was looking towards her feet, well not her feet exactly.

My fingers of both hands were exploring her inside. There, at last I have found it, the man in the boat, or the clitoris for I had now learned its proper name. It looked like a mini-penis. By trial and error I had found what turned my girlfriend on. When I delved deep with two fingers into her it did not give the same response or pleasure as just a gentle stroking of one finger on her clitoris. Here was the part that turned her, every woman, on. Whereas I had always thought that my power lay in my biceps now I realized that in some case I had just as much power in my second finger.

Very soon, with the heavy petting, I climaxed. It was not the same mad headlong rush of an ending as I had experienced with full sex. It was not a let down either but it was not full satisfying sex, as I now knew sex could be.

Did I hear a knocking on the door? My heart stopped dead. Not a knocking exactly, I suppose it could have been someone outside in the street or even a dog nuzzling for what it could find in the dustbin next door. We both listened for further noises. Nothing.

Because I realized that Shirley wanted to carry on with our lovemaking, I'd expended myself and would have been quite happy to finish; I again began to caress Shirley's inner private parts. I did not know what to expect, do women climax? I had never had any reliable information on that score, none that I could trust anyway. Where would the sex fluid come from? Deep within? From the clit? Or where? I had already reasoned that the stickiness around her vagina was her seminal fluid. It was just like when I had been in a heavy petting session, without actually coming completely; my penis had a smearing of semen. I was keen to find out if and how a woman climaxes.

With my constant caressing she was becoming very highly aroused and agitated, more than she had ever been at any of our previous sex sessions. Her moans were becoming louder and more defined. I spread her vaginal lips apart to discover if, at her climax, her fluid would gush forth as it does when a man comes. I had reasoned that there, on the mixing of the two fluids, conception would be reached. Something was definitely beginning to happen. Suddenly her whole body shook; she then went rigid for a few seconds. No extra seminal fluid had secreted her opening and I was a little puzzled. I didn't know what to do next. Do I carry on or do I stop? Shirley answered the problem for me by gently removing my hand from herself and pulling my head and shoulders up to hers. She now wanted to kiss and cuddle but all I wanted was to be away.

She kissed me and murmured "Thank you Jack. That was lovely. I love you so very much."

"And I love you too." I responded. That was what I knew she wanted to hear, but did I really?

As soon as I felt polite conversation and a reasonable time had passed I made excuses and was away home.

That night I went to meet my mates in the Rat-Trap, sorry the Eaglet. Special was already in, which in it's self was unusual; he was always the last to arrive. Tonight I was the last.

Obviously they had been talking between themselves before I had got there, because as soon as I sat down Ernie said to Special. "Bring Jack up to date."

Special began. "He's been around to our house this afternoon demanding money off my ma. I was out at the time, at the pit getting my week in hand wages. Big George said she was two weeks behind and this week made three She was so scared of him she offered him two weeks money. Money she could ill afford, but that didn't seem to satisfy him. He ranted and raved and eventually he accepted the two weeks; demanding that next week he would want another two weeks to bring her up to date. Otherwise he threatened to tell all and sundry about how she offered herself for a weeks tally money. That's how cheap she is; he threatened to say.

My mam is out of her wits at the thought of neighbours thinking of her as a common prostitute. I can't stand it any longer I'm going to explode and I can't help it. I know I agreed that I would not do anything unless I had discussed it with you lot but are we all in the same frame of mind as we were last night?"

Ernie nodded vigorously, Peter and I not as much.

"All right then," he continued how are we going to do it and when. Please tell me it’s going to be tonight. I can't bear to think of that animal walking the streets after what he's put my mother through. Especially after today."

Peter interjected. "Special, I know it’s hard for you and I'm feeling for you, we all are, but the idea is to get your revenge without getting into any trouble yourself. It is no use to you, or more important, to your mother, if you do him in, get caught, and have to do life in prison for it. That is not going to help you or your mother; it would only make things worse for her. Do you agree?"

Special nodded quietly. You could see that he didn't like it but he could see the sense in Peter’s argument.

"We have got to make a plan that is as foolproof as we can make it and that means a lot of planning and patience."

I could now see that Peter had now come round to Ernie and Specials way of thinking. I was now the minority of one and even I was coming round to agree with them but could we do it and get away with it?

"Have any of you come up with any plans yet or definite proposals?" I asked.

Peter spoke, and when Peter spoke we usually listened, because mostly he was right.

"Do we all realize the implications of our actions? What we are planning is Murder. Premeditated Homicide. Just by even making plans to commit murder is an offence in its self. I think now is the time to state definitely who is in or out. I for one will not call anyone who backs out now. What is the feeling of you all?

Special?"

"You all know what I think, I am going to do it with or without you. Of course I would prefer it with, but."

"Ernie?"

I'm one hundred percent behind Special. I want to see that bastard from the face of this earth. I'm with Special, with or without you two.

"Jack?"

"I have to admit to you all I have some reservations. If I could believe that we had an even chance of doing it without getting caught then I am in. I just want to say that I am in until I believe we have no chance of doing it. Then I will tell you. At no time will I let you down and at no time will I inform or tell anyone of any plans you make. I will be a full partner until I believe you cannot successfully carry out your plan. Then I will say so."

"What about you Peter? You haven’t exactly said where you stand." Ernie asked.

"Me? I am in. I think, providing we plan it carefully, we have a chance of getting away with it. I have some contingency plans in my mind that will help us even if we do get caught. Those I can explain later."

To me directly he said. "Jack... I understand your reservations but if we are to have that even chance, you were on about; we must have you in 100 percent or out altogether. I know any part of these conversations we are having will go no further, you have no need to reassure us of that, but we must have a definite answer in or out?"

I could see his reasoning. "You are right of course. You are all right. It’s me that's flapping a little. I can see many things that could go disastrously wrong if we don't all pull together. I was just voicing my doubts. I realize you want an answer and my answer is yes, I'm in whatever. But don't expect me to agree with everything you say. If I think you are wrong I will have to say so."

It was not a cheer that went up, it was not applause or a gasp of relief or any combinations of emotions, it might not have been audible but something was there all the same, call it comradeship for want of a better word. After a brief spell of no one speaking Peter broke the silence. "As I was saying the other night there are many ways to kill another person. I mentioned a few last night. Can I go through them again? Shooting, Stabbing. Hitting with a blunt instrument. Poisoning and the one I couldn't think of last night is cutting off the air supply, choking etc.

Before we decide which one we are to use we must have a realistic chance of getting away with it. I have been thinking of ways, same as us all, I have my own thoughts. I'm open to any suggestions that may be better than mine. We can all refine each other’s theories.

As I’ve said many times before, two heads are better than one even if they are only sheep’s heads. In our case we are four heads."

I spoke. "Of the five ways that you have said, there are obvious ones that we have no chance of succeeding with. Shooting, for instance is out, we have no way of getting a gun. All we are familiar with are air pistols or rifles. So I'm assuming that's out. What do you think?"

I had a mate once who had a gun. I could ask him if he has still got it." suggested Ernie.

Peter picked up the ball again. "That’s no good, by borrowing a weapon that brings another into our confidence. Even if you can lend one which I doubt, nobody lends out firearms."

"He's right." said Special if I thought I could get a gun I would have got it by now and used it. Shooting seems to be out."

"Couldn't we buy a twelve bore shotgun? Sometimes I’ve heard of them for sale in the Trap or advertised in the papers." Put in Ernie.

"That’s as good an idea as any." Agreed Peter. "Let us all keep our ear to the ground on that one. We could easily buy one between us. Unlike a rifled gun, shotgun pellets can't be traced to any particular gun. The only problem there I can see is ammunition. Don't you need a gun license to buy ammunition?"

"I'll look into that one." I offered. It was agreed to leave me find out about the acquisition of ammo.

"What about stabbing?" Ernie offered. If we all took him on with a knife each surely that would do the trick."

Again Peter put in." Yes that would do the trick, but where is our alibi. We all must have a cast iron alibi. One that can't be challenged.

We, as friends of Special, are liable to be questioned by the police after any killing of Big George. It may only be routine but if we all give the same alibi that in itself may look suspicious. We want to avoid being seriously questioned by the police if we can help it.

We could stab him. If we decide on that then only two or maybe three would have to do it and the other or others could be somewhere else He or they can give an alibi for the four of us. To be quite honest I think I would be a bit squeamish on the stabbing bit. I don't really know if I could stab a man in cold blood.

Hitting with a blunt instrument is a similar problem. One would have to be somewhere else at the time of death. Alibi problems again.

Knocking him down with a car. To start with we have no car, we could steal one I suppose but again there are too many ifs.

If we can steal one.

If he is in the right place at the right time for us to knock him down.

If we kill him. We may not kill him outright even if we hit him full on.

Can anybody drive a car properly anyway?"

Nobody answered.

"Knocking him down with a car seems out then." said Special. "I suppose the same goes for cutting off his air supply most of us would have to be there to do the dirty deed. I can see where you are leading up to Peter we must formulate a plan taking into consideration all of these things we have discussed."

"See what I mean?" carried on Peter; "There are so many thing that can be discounted. I wish he would fall of his motor bike and break his neck that would solve all our problems.

"That’s a point." Said Special why don't we mess around with the brakes on his motor bike? He might fall off and kill himself."

"Lets think about that." put in Peter "That shows promise. We would have to find out the best way of doctoring it. Can you look into that Special?" Special agreed to the suggestion.

"We haven’t discussed poison yet." I offered. "It does seem to have advantages. It can be administered and death is not instantaneous. Not with the majority of poisons it's not anyway. We could give him it and we will not be there when he dies.

What we have got to think about is which poison and how to administer it. There again we cannot just go into a chemist shop and ask for a bottle of poison, can we?"

"What about Weed killer? Doesn’t it contain Paraquat? I’ve heard that's supposed to be deadly." said Special.

"He's hardly going to drink any weed killer we give him. It probably tastes like it is, poison."

"I’ve got a little idea how to administer it, if it came in a concentrated form." Offered Peter.

"Go on tell us more. We are all ears," said Ernie.

"No. I want to leave it at this stage? Find a poison that is highly concentrated first and then we can decide if it’s feasible. Anyway I want to observe Big George a little more before I say anything. If it's going to be poison what we have to think about is which poison.

Can we all agree, especially you Special and to a lesser extent you Ernie that whatever happens you will both keep your cool?"

"Yes" said Special.

"Yeah." said Ernie.

"And you Jack?

"Jack?"

"What? Oh! Sorry I was thinking about something that's been said, yes of course. I'll keep my head down. Just a point, when we were in Coal mine training school didn't we get told that Mercury was a deadly poison, even in small doses?"

"I don't know did we?" asked Special and Ernie.

"You may have something there Jack," said Peter. Where can we find out more?"

I answered "I still have my old exercise books that I completed during training although I can't remember putting anything about Mercury in them. I also have some mining textbooks. There may be something about them in there. I look it up and report back."

"Right said Peter is that the conclusion of business? Has anyone anything more to be said at this stage." Nobody answered.

"Okay in conclusion, we all keep our eyes and ears open for the acquisition of a shotgun. You Jack are going to look into your books about Mercury and find out about the acquisition of ammunition for a twelve-bore shotgun. We all have to think about ways that we can doctor Big George's motor bike. Keep thinking maybe we can come up with something totally original."

Right then, Singing room is it?"

We all agreed to leave it at that and adjourn to the best room. I had many thoughts buzzing round in my head and I would need to be alone to formulate them.

We entered the best room.

"Jack."

I looked over in the direction that my name had been called. It was Gadge, our local window cleaner. Why was he nicknamed that I never did know? Gadge was another character of the Rat-Trap and inoffensive sort of a guy, he would always do you a favour if he could. I liked Gadge. I went over to where he was sat. "Yes?"

"Did you enjoy yourself this afternoon?" I had no idea what he was talking about and said so.

"On the new carpet with your bird." He laughed a little.

The truth dawned on me he had seen everything. My face reddened over. "Do you mean to say that?"

"Yes, I was about to clean Ma Cattons windows and had just leaned my ladder up the wall. I was just about to start washing the downstairs room windows when I looked in, I can't help it, it's sometimes one of the perks of the job. The sights I have seen I can tell you."

"Did you see it all?" I enquired.

"Not a lot. I could see that you and her were engaged in.. er, how can I put a fine point on it? Sexual foreplay. No seriously I saw that you were enjoying yourselves and I decided to leave you at it. I went quietly away."

"Liar." I said. "You won't have gone away. You probably watched the whole proceedings, knowing you."

"Jack. Honestly I did leave. What do you take me for? " He said

"Just what you are, a bleeding Peeping Tom. I’ve a good mind to report you to the vice squad or the News of the World." I laughed.

"No Jack, I could see you wanted privacy so I left just after she kissed you and said to you, that was lovely Jack. After that I went away, I promise."

I was at first a little relieved and then I thought back, when Shirley had said, that was lovely, and then kissed me, the session had been over anyway. So he had seen everything after all.

I looked around for my mates and went to sit with them.

Peter’s two birds, the ones he was chatting up last Friday, were in. He invited them over to, our table.

One of them ended up sitting by my side. I wondered was that coincidence or was I in luck.

I asked her what her name was and she replied that she had told me the last time she was in, Marlene. Bridie Jayne was the one Peter was talking to. I apologized for my forgetfulness and tried again. "Where are you from?"

"I told you all that as well. I'm an ex Eagleton lass. My family left here when I was about twelve. I’ve lived in Belle Hill for the past six or so years. Don't you remember I asked if you knew me, and you said you didn’t? I told you that I knew you from school days. Didn't you do a bit of boxing?"

"Yes, eh no, sorry, I don't remember much about last Saturday night. I was a little tired."

"You mean a little drunk don't you?"

Well.. Let's say I wasn't feeling myself that day."

"Oh! Whom were you feeling then?" laughed Jayne from across the table.

"Jayne, you keep out of mens talk" said Peter "Or I'll have to give you a stiff talking to."

Marlene giggled and Jayne said. "Promises, promises that’s all I get from him."

"I thought that your name was Bridie?" I said to the girl Peter was chatting to.

"It is, Bridie Jayne, but I usually prefer Jayne. Bridie is what my parents in Ireland call me, but I prefer Jayne."

"Whose turn is it for drinks?" Ernie asked.

"Isn't it marvellous, whenever Ernie asks whose turn it is, it’s always his own." pointed out Peter. "Yours of course."

"Ginny." Ernie leaning backwards shouted out to Ginny who was sat at the bar. "Get us these in." She came over; he gave her a Ten Bob note. "Six pints of bitter and you can get yourself a half for your trouble."

When Ginny brought the Six pints over on a tray and placed them on the table Ernie doled them out, one each to the six of us.

"We don't usually drink pints." said Marlene to me.

"Don't worry just keep topping your half glass up from the pint pot. You'll soon realize that Ernie is trying to get you drunk so that he can have his wicked way with you." I joked.

"When is it your turn to get them in then?"

I was almost home and dry. If I play my cards right I'll end up with the Ace of Hearts. From that moment my confidence got a terrific boost.

It took a turn for the worse though when she said that she remembered about me going to the toilets to be sick last week. It would not have been so bad but when she spoke up, the entire table heard her.

Ernie pointed out that.

"Last week in the tap room this fellar had drunk a little too much and felt  that he was to vomit  it all  back.

As he was rushing to the toilet he was too late and was sick all over the floor near the door. He carried on in to the lavatory.

Just after, a little fellar came into the room and slipped, arse over end, on to the sick covered floor. Covered in sick, he picked himself up and went over to the bar to complain.

Just then another guy entered. He was built like a brick shithouse. He also slipped and fell into the sick. All the back of his coat was dripping in vomit.

The little guy saw him and as the big guy was getting up he said. "I’ve just done that."

With that the big guy clenched his fist and crack! He slotted one on to the little guys nose."

The girls fell about laughing; we'd heard it all before so remained a little stoic.

"What did Gadge want? Asked Peter.

"Oh! Something he saw when he was cleaning windows." I answered "Something very personal." Ernie asked with a knowing wink. I grimaced so only Peter could see it.

" Did he tell you about when he was cleaning windows at the bottom of the Avenue and a bus was standing at the terminus. He thought he’d have a joke on the driver and conductor. He placed his ladders up on the side of the bus and began cleaning the windows of the upper deck. When the conductor and driver stepped off the bus, he asked Gadge what he was doing. Gadge told him he had got the council contract for cleaning the windows of all the buses that now stopped there. They left him to it, scratching their heads. One of the windows was open and an old lady passenger remarked that it was about time the council did something about the cleanliness of the windows. Gadge then said Ah! But the passengers getting on the bus here have to pay me six pence each. When she asked when. Gadge said now. The old lady was about to pay him. He refused laughing.

We all had a good laugh on Gadge.

"Don't forget tomorrows Teddy Boys picnic." I announced to the table.

What Teddy Boys Picnic? Enquired the two girls

I went on to explain about the miner’s gala and our attendance.

"Can we come?" both asked almost at the same time.

"Course you can said Ernie "All are welcome as long as they wear skirts. "Discussions and arrangements were made for them to meet us at the Wakefield Central Park just after Midday.

Ernie told them to bring some money with them.

Other than having Specials problem on our minds a very enjoyable evening was had by us all.

The four, sorry the six of us left just before 11 O clock. Ernie had decided not to go back to Ginny's tonight he was going straight home. Peter and I had in mind to escort the two young ladies to the tram stop for their short journey home. With a bit of luck I might be able to persuade Marlene to linger a little with me in a little out of the way place that I knew. If she plays her cards right I might even walk her all the way home, through the deserted park of course.

We exited the singing room into the large outside car park. Other patrons were leaving from the other, Tap and Blue, rooms.

As we were passing the Tap room exit who should be coming out, Big George. "You! Have you got my money? If not why not?" The question was thrown at Special.

"I do not owe you any money. Any money that is owed to you will be forthcoming." I was amazed how calm and coolly Special had answered.

"Leave Richard alone." Ernie butted in. I noted that Ernie had used Special's correct Christian name. "He does not want any trouble from you."

"You keep your sneb out of this." Roared George. "When I want to see the monkey I'll talk to the organ grinder." George must have thought he had made a funny, because he laughed out loud. His mate did also.

The four of us moved around to the front of Big George. It was highly confrontational. Big George began "That Slag of a mothe..."

With that Special and Ernie moved forward to get within striking distance. Peter and I to either side. Ernie was the nearest and was just about to throw a punch when George grabbed his lapels and head butted him. He went down. In almost the same action George let peg at Peter and connected a full-blooded punch to his nose. I moved forward in a boxing stance trying to get within striking distance and was getting ready to throw a punch when George kicked me straight between the legs. I was taken completely by surprise. I hadn't expected the kick; I was used to fighters come at me head on with their fists. I collapsed in a heap. I was completely out of it. Special flew at him but he was like a fly on a bulls back, and George swatted him. I really did not see that part, for I was way out of the picture.

I understand further kicks for good measure were thrown to Ernie and Peter.

Big George swaggered off. "Shouting pick on someone own size in future." Him and his mate left laughing.

How long it was after the fight, if you can call it that, really it was a massacre, I don't know but we continued on our way. Our tails were between our legs or in my case a large swelling between mine.

When we mentally felt and discussed our injuries nothing serious had been sustained by any of us. Our egos were badly dented though.

In comparison with others, the fight was nothing really. We had all been in a lot worse and physically suffered a lot more. It was the sheer clinical efficiency of how Big George had disposed of us that hurt us more. Picking us off one by one even before we realized we were in a brawl.

Of the regular fights that happen outside the Rat-Trap, ours had been a non-starter. It was over so quick. Luckily there were very few onlookers to see our degradation. That would have been the hardest cross for us to bear.

The hatred that we all felt against George now soared. Up to now both Special and Ernie had a cause for revenge, me I just had not liked him. Now I hated him. Whereas before I had been uncertain about our pact, now my hundred percent point had been reached. I'll think of a way to get him I vowed.

We walked the girls to their tram stop and waited until they had departed, neither Peter or myself having the inclination to walk them home or get into any clinches after this nights fiasco.

10.

Saturday morning I awoke and began to think of the coming day. Teddy Boys Picnic at the Wakefield Miners Gala. Meet the lads at the corner at 9-30 am to arrive at the pit well before the appointed time of 10 O Clock.

Thinking on last night, I'd just better inspect my wedding tackle, my balls ache. Is it because I haven’t ejaculated for a while? That’s usually the reason. No, it’s not that, it's the kicking from that bastard Big George. I'll get me own back on him, if I’ve owt to do with it. I may have been a little uncertain before last night, at the way to deal with Specials problem but now I have a grudge to bear as well.

Anyway laying about here in bed isn't going to get any pots washed up, better get myself up and ready.

Right, out of bed, washed shaved and into my finery. I am quite proud of my Zoot suit. Edwardian dress makes me stand out from the ordinary. Birds take more notice of me. Wonder if Marlene and Jayne will meet us in Wakefield, like they promised?

Meeting the lads on the Coal Pit Road corner, our main subject of conversation most of the way was Big George and how he had taken advantage of us. Kicking a man when he's down was just not done even kicking when he was standing was bad enough. We used to call such people at school, kicker donkeys. Usually when two lads had a fight it would be fair. Most times, if one had an argument, he would offer the other 'outside'. They would then go into the car park to 'have it out'. At such a pre-arranged 'fair fight' no one else would step in. No quarter would be given or taken and no underhanded tactics used. The one gaining the upper hand may at sometime during the fight offer, "Had enough?" If the offer was accepted the fight would finish. The winner would then hold his hand out for it to be taken by the other. This shaking of hands denoted that no grudge would be held or taken of the other. Many times I have seen the winner take the loser back into the pub and buy him a pint. Normal, one to one, fighting was a very civilized action to take and most followed the correct code of practice. I say most, Big George was not amongst them. Although thinking along them lines it wasn't one to one but four to one. Next time things will be different, and there will be a next time I promised myself.

Specials problem, our problem, had united us as never before. One for all and all for one may be a cliché but it was now true in our case nevertheless.

Bennie Wilkie was already waiting for us when we arrived. The lorry float was all decked out in bunting and small Union Jack Flags. A large sign on each side of the lorry proclaimed EAGLETON MAIN COLLIERY and in smaller letters, TEDDY BOYS PICNIC. On the flat back of the lorry was a make believe bar. It had a backdrop of dispenser optics on many different types of spirit bottles; these had been filled with coloured liquids. A make believe older barman was to be in attendance wearing a white shirt, Black trousers and Dickey Bow and a White apron. Screwed to the middle of the lorry floor was a table and four chairs. We were to be seated or standing on the lorry pretending to be drinking or drunk and having a good time. That effect would not be too hard to achieve because Bennie produced a crate of 12 pint bottle of Newcastle Brown Ale for our consumption. He also gave us an envelope containing Five Pounds each expenses.

Peter had brought a little of his sister’s make up, rouge, dark eye shadow and lipstick. We made each other up with a black eye and a red or black scar or two. Specials genuine bruising's were now yellowing so they had to be blackened a little to make them look realistic. Peter already had a shiner from last night’s job so we jokingly asked him to stand still and to pose as a model for Ernie's and my make up.

We had decided at the outset that we would not allow our problem with Big George to mar our enjoyment of the day.

Soon after 10am. the lorry set off for Wakefield arriving at its parking spot half an hour later. We joined the other floats in the procession in Bridge Street. There were about 30 parked up, each depicting different scenes, either of general or colliery life.

The procession was supposed to set off around Eleven am. Well before that time we had drunk the beer that had been supplied. I hopped off the lorry before the procession started and entered the Bridge End pub for bottle replacements.

The procession moved off. It began the slow drive around Wakefield. Young school children were walking on the pavements adjacent to the lorries with collecting buckets; the cash donated by the public would go to miner’s charities.

Before long we were out of beer again now it was Ernie's turn. He jumped off the very slow moving procession and sprinted forward. Ducking into a coming up pub he emerged with five bottles and after handing them up to us, he scrambled back on.

The scene on our float was supposed to depict a group of drunken Teddy boys having as good time. We did not need to act our part. We were Teddy boys, we were drunk and we were having a glorious time.

Half way through the procession the drink had gave us all a little 'Dutch Courage' Peter said. "Watch this." He jumped off the slow moving float, ran up to a group of teenage girls, grabbed one of them and put his arms around her. He bent her over backwards and kissed her full on the lips. A roar of approval came from the crowd. Peter then demanded that the girl put a sixpence in the nearest collector’s charity bucket for the benefit of being kissed by a Teddy Boy. She complied. He then when to a second girl and repeated the action, getting the same response. The crowd loved it and applauded for more. All five succumbed to his daring and half a crown extra went to charity because of Peter's spontaneity. He then dared Ernie to do the same. Ernie, being Ernie, did. Because of his inner self-confidence it also had a successful conclusion. Both then dared Special and I to repeat their actions. We both chickened out. Ernie and Peter tried to shame us into action or demanding that we pay for our under confidence. We each put two shillings in the collector’s bucket as a forfeit rather than show ourselves up. I secretly wished I had the self-confidence of Ernie or Peter.

By the time we reached Central Park all had taken a turn in supplying beer and we were well on the way to being well oiled.

After the float was parked up around the Gala Arena, we headed for the beer tent. Tetley beer was on offer and quite a nice drink it was considering the shaking up the barrel must have gone through before being allowed to 'settle'. Although even if it had been rubbish we were in no position to tell. Funny how at some point in a beer drinking session there is no such thing as bad beer.

"Jack." It was Marlene calling out my name. Both she and Peter's bird, Jayne, had arrived. They had brought another young lass with them called Wendy. She seemed quite petite, tidy and nice. I secretly hoped she would cob off with Special he needed a woman.

Through out the day I noticed that Ernie was steering clear of Wendy. He was making polite conversation with her but made no attempt to 'chat her up'. I realized that he must have thought the same as I had hoped and wanted Special to have Wendy to himself. How understanding of him, I thought. It so happened, later on; Ernie copped of with a local Wakefield lass. It seemed as if one minute he was talking to her and the next both of them were gone. There were a few Rhododendron bushes surrounding the park I wondered if he had taken the advantage of them.

Just before 2-45 the tannoy announced that the floats were now to be judged and all persons should report to their respective displays.

Ernie did not turn up he was still missing.

The display was judged with just the four of us on the back. Eventually we learned that we had been awarded 3rd prize, a standard lamp. It had been earlier agreed with the various float organizers that any and all prizes won would be auctioned off at a later stage of the afternoon. The money again going to the various miner’s charities.

After the judging was finished our trio and the three lasses were walking in amongst the various shows and side stalls. Special noticed a small crowd; it looked like the beginnings of a kerfuffle, about 20 yards away. He pointed it out to Peter and I saying. "Isn't that Ernie amongst them?"

It was and as we moved towards them, we realized Ernie was arguing with a group of other lads, some were in Edwardian dress others not. A fight then started with Ernie by himself in the middle of it. We three waded in and a quick look of relief and appreciation came on Ernie's face. The four of us were battling for our dear lives. I don't know how many of them there were but we were outnumbered and although giving more than we took, numbers meant that slowly we were beginning to lose the affray. Luckily a number of stewards and organizers came on the scene and broke the fight up. I was just a little glad of the intervention. We would have lost, for they were a few too many.

The two groups were separated and ordered to go their separate ways. We gathered ourselves together with our birds and began to lick our wounds. Lick our wounds was in this case done quite literally by Ernie. Blood was oozing from the ends of two fingers of his left hand. When we asked him, "How come?" He said that one of the lads had slotted him and he was in danger of going down. Rather than let that happen he grabbed the youths Edwardian coat lapels to keep contact with him in an effort to gain time for him to 'come round' and raise himself up. Sewn into and behind the lapels had been fishhooks. As he had grabbed the coat his fingers had become embedded. We had often heard of tales of fishhooks or bicycle chains hidden behind lapels or even razor blades sewn into the seams but this was the first time of our encounter.

Having said that, it was just a teenage thing that none of the participants regretted taking part.

Ernie's new bird had remained by his side through out.

"What was it all about? We enquired of Ernie.

"Me and Joan here were just chatting and one of her ex boyfriends opened his big mouth and started calling her a slag for getting off with one of the Leeds lads, me. I wasn't going to stand for that so I let peg. Then it all started."

"So you struck the first punch even though there was a gang of them? Why didn't you wait until you found us before you started something? You could have got yourself lamed." Said I. Special and Peter nodded in agreement.

"Nobody talks about a bird of mine like that and gets away with it. Come on lets go for a drink."

Typical of Ernie, I thought, acts completely on the spur of the moment and jumps in both feet. I like Ernie. What am I saying? I like Peter and Special and Ernie equally. I hope they think of me likewise. I am part of a team.

It wasn't until afterwards, when we were in the beer tent and Peter asked how my injured wrist had held up, that I remembered it. During the fight it was the last thing on my mind. Thinking about it, at one stage, I did remember putting up my left re-inforced wrist to ward off a coming blow. The punch had connected with my plaster of Paris. It must have thrown my opponent because a look of surprise came on his face as he connected. I didn't remember throwing any left handed punches, nor for that matter did I remember holding my left back. If I did use it I didn't feel it.

"I remember a fight I was once in," said Ernie.

"Here we go again," I inwardly moaned, "one of his jokes."

"It was raining cats and dogs. I had this fellar on the ground and was sitting astride his chest punching away at his face for all I was worth. The rain was pouring down. Do you give in? I said to him. No. Was the answer. I was getting soaked. I carried on punching him. Do you give in now? says I. No. Says he. The rain was bucketing it down. Once more I hit him and said. Will you give in now No? says the man. Awe to hell, says I, I give up, you'd better get on top for a change, I'm getting sodden up here."

Groan. We all groaned, though in the nicest possible way. It needed an Ernie type in a group such as ours.

"Where are we going tonight?" Peter asked.

"Don’t go back to Leeds yet." implored the Wakefield lass. Why don't we all go to the Starlight ballroom? We can have a drink and a dance. Can any of you jive? I'll show you how to bop proper."

We all looked at one another, I wasn't really bothered where we went and proclaimed. "I'm easy."

"I know you are," quick as a flash Ernie replied, "but where do you want to go?"

"Bollocks." said I trying to be as fast as Ernie.

"You'll have a pair when you are a man." He came back equally as fast. I knew I couldn't beat him at repartee so I gave up on that score. I expressed an opinion that the Starlight seemed like a good idea.

No one raised any objections so the Starlight ballroom it was to be.

As we entered the dance hall, a quartet on the stage was playing old time music, Paul Jones, Military Two Step and such like. There seemed a very friendly atmosphere about the room. Joan said that normally they play half an hour of each type of music. Old time first, then Modern dance, quickstep, waltz etc. Afterwards there would be a Rock n' Roll session. The jive music being produced from records played by a disc jockey as she called him.

Modern music came on and we all in turn had a few quickstep and Foxtrot dances. Our entire group was enjoying the occasion.

Soon the stage announcer came over the sound system to say that the band was to have a short rest and it was now jive time. 'Rock around the clock' came on. It was two years since it had first been a hit but Bill Haley’s record was easily recognized as the finest Rock and Roll record ever.

Peter got Jayne up to jive.

Joan asked Ernie to get up with her but he declined saying he was too tired. Or "Shagged." as he succinctly put it.

"Any of you two bop?" she asked Special and I. Special said he couldn't bop to save his life. She offered to teach him but he declined. When she asked me, I couldn't really jive that well but rather than admit it said, "I would like to but perhaps you Wakefield lassies bop different to us Leeds lads. Without any more ado she grabbed my hand and said, "I'll teach you our way." Before I knew it I was standing on the dance floor feeling like a fish out of water. "Just stand there and move your feet to the beat of the music." she said. "Hold you right hand out and sometimes as I'm bopping around you I'll take it. Don’t hold on too tight, I will be letting go of it at times. Just keep your hand out and I'll do most of the work. When you get used to my way have a go at leading me."

Within a few minutes I was feeling quite pleased with my self and quite getting the hang of it. I had often tried bopping with other partners before but always felt so ungainly. Joan was able to follow my every actions seemingly to know what I was going to do next even before I knew it myself. I thoroughly enjoyed my experience and was sorry when the half-hour session was up. I came off the floor sweating but a far better bopper than I was when I went on.

The band music came on again; it was a Veleta, because none of us wanted to dance to old time music, someone suggested we retire to the bar for a beer. As we entered, who should be there but the Wakefield mob that we had previously been fighting with at the Miners Gala. Joan suggested we leave but, to a man, we were having none of it. We had lost the first round but now it looked as if we were more evenly numbered and this time we felt as if we could win the second round.

We walked up to the bar, something was said, by whom I know not, it wasn't important both groups knew what was about to happen, again a fight started. The whole place was in an uproar. Even our four girlfriends were joining in fighting against the Wakefield lassies. Tables were overturned and Buffets were being flung across the room. It seemed that the fight was only seconds old, actually it was much longer, when into the room rushed a policeman and a couple of bouncers. Both fighting faction’s respected Police uniform and the fight stopped. All were all placed under arrest, women and all, and thrown into a 'Black Maria' van, being taken to the Wakefield Bridewell. There we were placed into four separate Cells. The Wakefield lads in one, we in another and the females in a third and forth. Each person was taken into a room and interviewed. A statement was taken and a written account was scribed. We were each required to sign our own to say, in effect, that the statement was a true record. Each of us was then given a verbal rollocking.

We seemed to have been in the cells hours when and inspector came in and cautioned us, each in turn, that on this occasion, because the ballroom had decided not to press charges, the police were taking the matter no further. Providing we go home peacefully the matter would be dropped. NFA as they said, I took this to mean No Further Action on the Police part. The statement would remain on file in case of any further trouble. We were let out at Two am. and informed that the Wakefield lads had already been released half an hour earlier and were clear of the area. There was to be no round three.

Because the public transport had stopped running well before midnight and Taxis were too expensive, we would have had to have at least two; we began to walk home. All of us first walked Ernie and his newly found Joan to her home. We dare not leave Ernie in the middle of Wakefield on his own; we would not want the destruction of Wakefield on our consciences if he met our past opponents. Luckily Joan’s house was on our way. The whole journey, in all, was not to be such a long walk, being about eight miles.

The last two it began to rain, we managed to find an empty rhubarb shed with the doors open. We sheltered in it for a while. Marlene and I deciding to go exploring, Peter and Jayne, Special and Wendy, doing the same.

Marlene and I manage to find a secluded corner it was a little dirty underfoot so we had to remain standing. We went into a clinch. Although sex was on my mind, whenever was it not? I was not put off when I grasped her tit but she shrugged me off saying it was too soon for her. It was not a KB (knock back) but at least I knew where I stood. I was quite pleased that I got no Further, for if I had, then I would not be able to fully respect her in the future. I always reasoned that if she let me have it on the first date she would let anyone, or had let anyone. I thoroughly enjoyed my necking session and we vowed to do it again in the very near future.

Shirley, Virginia? Who were they?

Ernie, who had been on his own, shouted that the rain had abated. He rounded every body up and we continued on our way.

Further down the road the rain, although light, started again. Never mind we consoled we've had a great day out. Got paid a fiver, got pissed, got a Bird, got a dance and a fight, no two fights. What more could a young teenager ask for?

I went to bed that night quite smug and self satisfied.

 

"Jack, there's Peter here for you." I heard my mum’s voice shout from the bottom of the stairs.

"Peter? Oh! Er, yer, be down in a minute." I remember now, him saying last night that he would call for me. What time is it? I looked over at the alarm clock, half Twelve? Hell it feels like I have only just got to bed. There again, thinking on, it was a little late when I came in. The house had been in total darkness last night, no this morning well after Three, good job I had a key so I didn't have to wake up my Ma and Da. Slowly the events of the past day washed over me, what a great day I'd had. When had I arranged to see Marlene again? Yer, Tuesday night in The Rat-Trap. Not having any boxing training that night. What am I to do about Shirley? I'm not doing fair to her going out with Marlene. For that matter I'm two-timing Marlene by going out with Shirley. Which one do I want? Obviously its Marlene she's more mature Shirley, I had come to realize, was not old enough. "You selfish get," I thought, "she was old enough before Marlene came on the scene or for that matter before Virginia in London. What about Virginia? You promised to get in touch with her, have you? No, in fact since meeting Marlene you’ve had thoughts for no one but her. What are you going to do?" I made a conscious decision to let Shirley down lightly. I would think of a way to do it without causing aggro.

"Jack are you getting up? Peters still waiting." The urgency in my mother’s voice was evident.

"Yer, sorry ma getting up now tell Peter to wait a mo." I got out of bed and padded to the bathroom, first things first, I surely needed a pee.

"Where are we going this afternoon?" Began Peter as we walked away from our house. "We can always have a change and go and play snooker."

"Have a change and play snooker? That is all we ever do on Sunday afternoons just lately. I fancy having a proper change and going to the trap. Ernie is always in, maybe Special will be there as well."

Peter gave in, the Rat-Trap it was to be.

Ernie was already drinking as we entered. The taproom was quite full and quite lively with the heavy noise of conversation. Over on the top table my father was partnering my uncle at a game of dominoes. Both of them were considered good players. My dad was only a weekend drinker, never going out during the week. I nodded to them both as I passed.

We were served our drinks and went to join Ernie. The general conversation was of the past day and how enjoyable it had been. We all remarked on how Special seemed to have found a new interest in this bird Wendy. I said to Ernie how I had noticed that he had steered well clear of her thereby allowing Special to move in. "It was decent of you." I told him.

"Nah!" said Ernie. "It wasn't that, I just didn't fancy her that's all."

Ernie had shrugged it off as nothing, but the three of us knew he had been looking after a mate just as he would have looked after Peter or I.

Peter said that he and Special had arranged to meet Jayne and Wendy this coming evening. Had I arranged anything with Marlene? I remembered my date with Shirley; we were going to the pictures. Thinking about it I really didn't fancy the idea now. How do I get out of it? "I might get in the last hour." was all I could promise. "If Marlene's in tell her to wait." Tonight I would give Shirley the bad news.

We talked a while about Specials problem, Peter reminding me that I was to research Mercury poisoning in my mining books tomorrow morning.

Special never did come in that afternoon session.

At Ten to Two, "Last orders." announced the barman. Ten minutes later he again called out. "Time gentleman Please." It was a sign that within ten minutes the afternoons drinking time was over.

"Anybody for tossing?" The announcement came from my Uncle Fred to the pub customers around the room. It was an invitation for a game of pitch and Toss. A number of the older end signified that they would be willing participants. Many drank up and moved towards the exit.

Adjacent to the Eaglet was a piece of spare scrubland. In the centre, hidden from the road, amongst bushes a space had been cleared. Because of its regular use there was a large circle where no grass had been allowed to grow, a minor dust bowl. It was the venue for a pitch and toss school. Every Sunday afternoon around 2-15 when drinking hours were up many would congregate for this illegal game of chance.

Before the start of the game a lookout would be posted on the main road. His job would be to warn the players of any oncoming Police Car. About once every two or three months the Police would arrive on the scene. Because of the lookout, the players would already have legged it, leaving the Police empty-handed. Although on occasions punters had been caught and fines imposed at Magistrates court.

On leaving the game any payers would tip the lookout at least the price of a pint and winners, dependant on how much they had won, appreciably more. Ten-shillings was not an unusual tip.

A game of pitch and toss consisted of a number of players, the more the merrier, would congregate in a circle. A punter would step into the centre; he was to be the pitcher. He would balance two coins, usually pennies, on the edge of his index finger or a flat piece of wood. He may announce. "I'll head em for a dollar." or some such amount or "I'll tail em for half a crown." The amount of money offered would be the maximum he would stake at any single bet. The punters around the circle would decide if he could do as he had forecast. If not they would bet against him. The pitcher accepting as many single bets as he could stand. Any punters who thought that his forecast would be correct would side bet with others. Anyone round the circle would be free to engage in any bet, for any amount, from anyone, as they deemed fit.

When all bets were taken up the pitcher would toss the two coins high into the air and allow them to fall to the ground. If the both coins turned up either heads or tails then all bets would then be settled. If the two coins came up a head and a tail then it was a 'no bet' the pitcher would toss again until a result was obtained. Small fortunes, well a lot of money, could be made or lost in a Sunday lunchtime session of 'Tossing'

Certain pitchers would practice for hours at home trying to perfect a method where they could throw the coins to land to order. They were really trying for impossibility. To correctly toss according to unwritten rules the coins they had to be thrown above head height and spun. One time I was watching I saw a short man stooping low to the ground when tossing the coins. Although they went over his head in the prescribed manner and as the rules demanded, they had only a very short fall to the ground. The first time he did it another punter came up behind him and kicked him up the backside. As he floundered in the dust, the comment was "Get thee stood up and toss em properly or get out at middle." He did toss correctly after that.

Gadge, the window cleaner, was gambling in the tossing ring, at his side was his brother Tom. There's was a most unusual relationship. One minute they were as thick as thieves and as close as any brothers can be, the next completely opposites. They often played tricks on each other unmercifully. Sometimes the tricks seemed to be below the belt. Then they would fight tooth and nail, that was not unusual, what was, that whatever had happened the previous day bore no resemblance to the day after. They could be archenemies one day and blood brothers the next. Neither, ever, bore any grudges to the other. One Friday Gadge had completed his window cleaning round for the week. In the evening he set out to collect his takings. He went to the first customer to collect his fee. The housewife said. "I’ve just paid your Tommy only ten minutes ago." The second house he got the same response, "I’ve just paid your Tommy." Tommy being skint and knowing Gadge's window cleaning round had decided to help himself to some easy money. When Gadge caught up with his brother later that night in the Trap, he went to town on him about the theft. But he never did demand his money back. By that time it would have been spent in the pub anyway. Gadge and Tommy were real characters of the Rat-Trap.

Special, Peter or myself did not gamble at pitch and toss, we had watched them a few times but soon becoming bored with the game that seemed to held no skill whatsoever. Ernie often indulged being quite lucky at times.

I arrived home at about 2-30 my mother was preparing Sunday Dinner; the smell emanating from the joint of beef was mouth watering. The meal was always set for 3 O Clock when my Dad arrived in.

Three O Clock came and went, no Father. "When did you last see your father?" My mother asked. That question reminded me of something I couldn't remember what.

"He was still in the Rat-Trap at Quarter past when I left." I answered. "There was going to be a Tossing school, he may have gone to that with my Uncle Fred." I offered.

"But he always comes home on time even when he's been to that. Well we are waiting no longer. Come and get your dinner." my mother announced to my brother, sister and myself. We all sat down and ate in silence. My dad’s dinner was put on a plate and confined to a low-lit oven.

After dinner I went to watch TV in the sitting room. There was a repeat of a new astronomy series called 'The sky's at night' or something like that with a Patrick Moore. I didn't quite understand it all and soon began nodding.

I was awoken by my mother saying. "What time do you call this? Your dinners been in the oven for nearly two hours it'll be burned to a cinder." I got up and went into the kitchen to poke my nose in. My father was covered in mud and grass stains. His suit jacket and a knee of his trousers were torn. His hands and face were grubby.

He began to explain his lateness and appearance to my mother. "At the Pitch and Toss school the lookout shouted ‘Police! We all scooped up our stake moneys and scampered down the track that leads to The Little Wood. The coppers, who normally give up once we head down there, were chasing us all the way. As I was scrambling over the barbed wire fence at the bottom I tripped and tore my suit. We all ran along the railway embankment that leads to the road down by the station. Who was waiting for us? The Police. Unbeknown to us they had been shepherding us into that only other exit. They were waiting for us. Twelve of us were bungled into a Black Maria and taken to Holbeck Police Station. We were charged with illegal betting and released on bail. I am up in the magistrate’s court tomorrow morning. And I was winning as well, I'd almost cleared about eight quid at the time."

It might not have seemed funny to my Da or Ma but I had to go upstairs to my bedroom before I dare laugh out loud. His Eight quid winnings will help pay his fine, I inwardly laughed.

That evening as I left our house Shirley was on the corner as usual. I had gone out late, hoping that she may have got bored and left. I had intended to begin the process of cooling off letting her down gently.

"You are late." She began. "Everything alright?"

Did she have a sixth sense or what? "No, I fell asleep that's all. Where are we going?"

We began walking. "If you want we can go for a drink in the Eaglet. I’ve never been in there. As long as you get me home by ten no one will ever be the wiser."

"No way. I'm not having your mother on my back. I have promised her that I would keep you out of pubs. Anyway you are miles too young and dressed like that you look it." I realized I had said too much as soon as I began speaking. Don't you open you mouth and put both feet in, I thought? What a rotten get you are, saying how young she looks. Even though she does, there was no reason to say it out loud. A look of hurt came into her eyes, not a tear but near enough to one.

"I just want to become more of a part in your life that's all." She explained. "There is something I have to say, something that is worrying me and I didn't know how to begin. I thought it might be easier said over a drink." Now she burst out into tears. She was sobbing like nobody's business. I put my arm around her shoulders to comfort her. "Don't cry I didn't mean what I said. It's just that too many people know you in the Rat-Trap. It would soon get to the landlord how old you are and before long your mother would hear of it. Your mum would blame me; she would have every reason to. I would have broken my promise and let her down. She would insist that I stop seeing you and she would have every right to. You know I don't want to stop seeing you. I love you too much."

What am I saying, here I go again, exactly the opposite of what was true. I want to pack it in and I certainly don't love her.

Her tears stopped a little with my assurances. " I do love you as well Jack," she sobbed, "you know that." Its just that well I haven’t come on yet." She waited for a comment or an answer from me.

'Not come on' I had heard the expression before but I was unsure if I had heard her right. 'Not come on', meaning periods not coming on. Whatever the words for it were, it meant she could be pregnant and going to have a baby, that type of 'Not come on.' Oh! To hell.

I tried to sound composed as I said. "What do you mean you haven’t come on?"

"My unwell period should have started last week and it didn't. I’ve always been exactly on time in the past."

Well you cannot have fallen on. And anyway we have only been together that once and then we used something so it can't be what you think."

"We did not use anything the first time did we?" she asked

I studied. "No, but that first time we can't call the first time because I didn't er. er.. Well, get right in or climax into you. I pulled out well in time. It can't be that time. Anyway I’ve heard that Virgins can't fall on the first time. It was the first time for you as it was for me wasn't it?"

Here I was opening my mouth suggesting it wasn't her first time.

The sobbing began again. "How can you suggest otherwise? Of course it was the first time for me. You should know that. I stopped being a virgin that second time we went together. Besides I know a woman can conceive and still remain a virgin. The girls at school have told me that when a man heavy petts he can get wet at the end, just like a woman, even that is enough to get a girl pregnant. You do not have to fully ejaculate inside to get a girl in the family way.

"No, that is impossible. I know none of my err, sperm, went into you. Are you sure it was me." As soon as I said are you sure it was me I realized I had again gone too far. The tears were full flowing now. He body was racked with sobs. I could not have hurt her more if I had put a knife in her heart. I put my arm around her and tried to apologize for my words. I hadn't realized that a woman could still 'fall on' even being still a virgin.

"I didn't mean to say that about it not being me." I explained.

What did you mean to say? I thought. What a thing to say, you are certain that she is true to you and only to you, then you open you mouth and suggest a something like that? Not just once but twice.

I had just thought up an excuse. "I have heard that the Durex firm always put a pinprick in one out of One every Hundred Johnny’s just so that the population keeps stable." I offered. "Perhaps we got one like that."

That news did nothing to stem her flow of tears. I studied what could have gone wrong. She had been quite right when she said that a man end could be 'wet' after a period of sexual foreplay. Many have been the time after making love without any insertion or ejaculation I have felt sticky at the end. I took my mind back to that very first time. We had indulged in foreplay quite a lot before I inserted into her. I remembered that I did not have the time to thrust myself all the way home. I had no sooner put it in than I'd had to pull out. I was certain that I had not ejaculated inside of her but if, as she had suggested, I was wet before insertion then could that have done the damage? Oh! Hell! What am I going to do now?

"I think you are making a mountain out of a molehill, exactly how many days are you late?" I asked in an effort to comfort her.

"I should have come on last Friday.

"Two days and you are worrying. Forget it two days is nowt. Now if it was two weeks or months then it'd be a different matter. Come on dry your eyes I'm sorry for doubting you. I didn't mean what I said. You know I will stand by you what ever. If we have to get married then so be it."

There I go again opening my mouth before putting my mind into gear. Think before saying. 'I'll stand by you'. 'I love you'. 'I'll marry you'

"Come on lets try and forget all it for a while. I'm sure everything will be okay. You are just a little late that's all. That is all it can be. I know what we will do; we will go to the Rex picture House and see James Dean in 'Rebel without a cause'. You like him he was your heartthrob before he died."

"No Jack, you are my heartthrob I just want you and only to be with you."

"Oh come on lets not get maudlin. Cheer up." I said. "Let’s go see the film." We did see 'Rebel without a cause'. It was exactly as I felt, I wasn't a rebel but I had a cause. Things seem to be piling up on me. I got Shirley home at exactly Ten O clock I had intended to race, to get the last half hour, in the Rat-Trap but with the revelation of tonight I decided to give it a miss. I would be no good in anybody's company tonight I would be as much use as a chocolate fireguard. I was as low as a man can get and this time it was not my hormones or Bio-Rhythms. I was having women problems and as bad as they can get.

 

 

11.

Monday morning the 18th, although my mother hadn't called me I awoke at six. As I lay there I mulled over the past events. The first thing that came into my mind was Shirley's revelation of last night. Specials problem had now paled into insignificance alongside hers that was now mine. How long had she been late, 2 days? three now. That's nowt I tried to comfort myself but it was not working. I have got to try and put it out of mind, at least until there is something definite to worry about. What will happen if she is pregnant, what will her mother say? Never mind about her mother how will I be able to tell mine. Both parents will insist on us getting married. Married me a married man, no way can I visualize that. I can only just afford to keep myself let alone a wife and child.

Another thought she's still only fifteen, nearly sixteen maybe but still under the legal age for sex. I had not worried about that at the time but now the enormity of it fell on me. How do I explain that? There can be no possible explanation; it is a criminal offence to have sex with a person under sixteen. Will they put me in jail? Will the News of the World print it in their Sunday Paper? I'll never be able to show my face in public again. Oh! To hell change the subject. Get out of bed and do something, it might take your mind off it your problem.

Specials problem, that's it, get out your mining books see if there is anything in them that relates to Mercury, especially anything to do with poisoning.

There was nothing related to Mercury in my notebook, other than it is a metallic liquid and commonly used in Thermometers. The four Mining volumes I have are entitled Practical Mining and the only reference to the element is to the Mercurial Barometer and the Mercury Vapour Lamps. Neither reference relates to the poisonous characteristics of the metal? That was a dead end, where do I go from here?

"Doing a little studying in preparation for your coming coal face training?" said my mother when she noticed my head in the mining books.

"No mam, not really, I was just looking up the properties of a substance. The mates and me have been arguing about something and I wanted to show them how wrong they are but there's nothing in these books about it. I would have liked to prove them wrong though."

"Have you tried the local library? There are books on practically every subject in there."

"Mam, you are a star, Cheers." Exactly I thought that's where I'll find out what I want to know. But how do I go about asking the librarian about Mercury Poisoning. I can't just come right out with it. "How do you poison somebody with Mercury?" In the future, after our disposal of Big George, she may remember any inquiry by me, put two and two together and come up with the right answer. I know, I will list a few metals, Mercury being just one of them, and ask how I can obtain information on them all.

The librarian could not have been more helpful. She directed me to a shelf full of Encyclopaedia books. She showed me how to cross-reference the individual books and left me to it. I immediately went to the page about Mercury Poisoning.

 

'MERCURY. Chemical Symbol Hg. is highly toxic.

Poisoning may result from the inhalation of

the vapour, ingestion of a soluble compound

or the absorption through the skin. It causes

destruction of the cell membrane and alters

the permeability. Acute and chronic Mercury

poisoning runs a catastrophic course of nausea,

vomiting and diarrhoea, leading to a shock-like

circularity collapse, either with death in a

few hours or for survivors of this stage to

death in as few days from kidney failure.

TREATMENT cannot be generalized, unfortunately

75% who survive 1/3 will suffer serious brain

damage and severe mental retardation and maybe

blindness.'

That last piece of information seemed very exiting and raised interesting possibilities. It was certainly toxic enough for our purposes. Where we could get some and how we could administer it was another matter.

Most of that day I hung around the house, there seemed to be nowhere to go. I kept getting under my Ma's feet, as she put it. I went for a walk in the park but I just could not get Shirley's not 'coming on' out of my mind. The more I thought about it the more it ballooned into an insurmountable hurdle. I had heard about Back Street Abortionists where knitting needles or some such probe would be used to spear the embryo but that also endangered the female’s life. I could not condone such an action but I now understood the emotions that lay behind any decision to use one. How could I approach and tell my mother? It wasn't my Father I was afraid of upsetting, I felt that although he would not like it, he would understand. The most I would get out of him would be, "Bloody Fool." or some such expletive. My mother would burst into tears of emotion, that I would not be able to handle.

I had arranged to meet Shirley tonight but I had already forewarned her that I had to meet my mates about something urgent. It was not strictly true, I was to report to my mates but there was no real time urgency about it. I just did not want to spend too long with Shirley. What a rat I am I thought. At the first sign of trouble you try to ditch her. Rat, yes that just about describes you.

I knocked on Shirley's door. Her mother would be, as usual at work. As I entered I first reminded Shirley that I couldn't stop long. She immediately burst into tears. It was now pointless asking her if she had come on. Her tears told me what the answer would be. We put on a few records and unlike in the past we did not engage into a clinch. We just sat side by side on the sofa and held hands. We discussed all the implications of our dilemma and I again promised to stand by her. I told her I would ask around, without making it obvious, what our options, if any, there were for us.

At Nine I left and headed for the trap.

My first pint never touched the sides of my throat, not because I was thirsty but because I was in need of the forgetfulness that only alcohol could supply.

My three mates were already in. As soon as I sat down they asked me if I had read my Mining books. I explained the lack of information in them and then of my library search. I showed them a handwritten written copy of the details of Mercury and it’s poisons lethal consequences.

I pointed out that the substance seemed ideal and highly toxic for our uses but it did not describe how much had to be taken for it to be fatal.

"Special said that's all very well but how are we going to get him to swallow it anyway?"

"I think I may have a way." Replied Peter. "I have been observing Big George’s drinking habits. Have you ever seen what Big George drinks? Dark mild, any poison you put in would be hidden by the colour. Have you ever watched him drink? It is always in large mouthfuls."

"Mercury does not dissolve in water or beer you know." I said

"No, of course not but that may be to our advantage. Mercury will not mix and discolour or cloud his beer. The beer will look and taste the same. Have you ever studied him when he has almost finished a pint? I’ve been watching him for the last week or so. As he gets to the bottom of a pint he invariably leaves just enough in the bottom of his glass for one last mouthful. When he is ready for another one he picks up his glass and swigs the last few dregs off all in one go. Anything could be in the bottom of his glass, he would not know what. He would have swallowed it before he realized that he had actually swallowed something."

Peter had a point; Big George did swig his beer back in an exaggerated fashion. Providing he didn't look into his pint first he would swallow anything that was small enough in his glass.

"How do we get it into his glass in the first place?" said Ernie. "We can hardly say to him, excuse me George while I put some Mercury into your glass."

"No," continued Peter, "but if a distraction could be caused so that all heads were turned including his, in that direction, one of us could drop it into his beer. It would only take a split second. The timing would have to be spot on but I feel as if it could be done. What do you all think?"

"It sounds quite feasible to me." I said, "three of us could pretend to have a fight or something whilst the other stands near his table. When he is distracted one of us could lean over as if looking at the fight and drop it in. If he discovers it, it can not be related to us. It is certainly worth a trial run."

Just at that point Big George walked into the taproom. He looked the room over but passed us by with little more than a glance. He went and sat down with two of his cronies. He gave one of them a pound note who then went to the bar for the beer.

We all watched the hanger-on order and fetch the round of drinks. Dark Mild for George and the lighter coloured bitter for them. Big George reached for his pint and with a large gulp he almost downed half of the contents of the pint glass. For the next ten minutes we observed his drinking habits. It was as Peter said, always in large mouthfuls. When he downed the last mouthful I felt that anything could have been in his glass and he would not have noticed it. He had taken four mouthfuls for the pint glass to be emptied.

"Right," said Ernie after observing George, "where do we get some mercury? I only hope that when he drinks it, it takes a full week of catatonic collapse rather than a few hours. I want him to suffer in hell, just like Specials mother has."

"Catastrophic." I corrected. "The encyclopaedia describes catastrophic course of nausea, Vomiting and diarrhoea leading to a circularity collapse.

"Catatonic. Catastrophic. Castrated. Whatever, I hope his balls drop off and he rots in hell blind.

We all nodded in agreement.

"By the way, how is your ma these days?" asked Peter changing the subject.

"She's been a lot better of late. Since I told her a few white lies. I explained to her that I had talked to Big George and he had seen sense and stopped making his threats. I told her that he had agreed to take only the original amount owed at Two pounds a week. I intend to pay the full balance myself. I told her that I had arranged to pay him myself ensuring that he would not call at our house for any further payments. She should never have to clap eyes on him ever again. She was very much relieved. She not back to her old self just yet but that should come in time." "When did you see Big George to make the arrangements?"

"Well I haven’t made any definite arrangements yet, I was hoping to see him to finalize details tonight.

"Tell you what," offered Ernie, "I'll pay you half a Quid a week towards your debt. I'll give it to you every Friday night until the debt is cleared."

Both Peter and myself said almost in unison that we would match Ernie's offer. We would also give him Ten Bob a week every Friday.

Special tried to refuse the offer but we were having none of it. Although ten bob was a fair amount of money, Pit wages were quite good in comparison with other industries and we were all paying our board at home so we could well afford it.

The three of us then dug into our pockets and handed Special a Ten Bob note each telling him to put his with them and go and settle this weeks payment. Special left the three notes in a small pile in front of him.

"Well I’ve already paid him a weeks money last Friday night. When we were all in the Singing Room I went in to the taproom to settle with him. What with him calling on my mother that morning and threatening her I paid him the extra week than we owed. We should be up to date now. That may have set him off and been the reason he pulled us, as we were leaving, last Friday."

"Look," Peter said, "we do not want it to look as if we are at loggerheads with George. We have to be seen to have buried the hatchet. Make it look, on the surface, as if all if okay. You will have to go and make your peace with him. Tell him you are sorry that you have caused all this trouble. Inform him that we bear him no grudges. Ask him to accept a further payment so that you will now be a week in front with him. Explain that you will see him every Friday, in here, and pay him his dues. Tell him you are very sorry for all the trouble you have caused him. Tell him owt. Ask him to stay away from your mother, as she is not feeling too well. Don't let on that you know all about him molesting her. Eat Humble pie, crawl on your hands and knees if needs be but make it sound convincing. You will have to put on the act of your life but it will prove to be worth it in the end. Just remember at some time in the future one of us has to be within poisoning distance of his beer, if he suspects us at all then he'll be watching us."

All nodded their assent at what Peter had said but then Special said, "I think I may have been a bit of a fool and acted a little hasty." When we asked him what he meant by that he said. "Last night I felt as if, over the weekend, we had forgotten about our doing away with Big George. I went round to his house in the early hours of this morning. I know that he always parks his motor bike outside in the driveway of his house, in full view of everybody. I crept up to it, it was still dark, and doctored his machine. I was hoping that he might fall off it and break his neck."

We all groaned and Peter summed up what we were all feeling. "Special let us get one thing clear we have not, nor will we ever, forget what George did to your mother. We have promised you our full backing. But to do it right we must plan it very carefully. If we are to get away with it without suspicion we must not act in haste. You will have to control your emotions a little longer. What exactly did you do to his bike? And more important did anyone see you do it?"

"I'm sorry lads I realize now I jumped the gun and have let you down. I was just feeling a little low last night especially with me enjoying myself so much on Saturday. For those few hours in Wakefield I had forgot about my problem and had enjoyed myself. It was only after last nights session with Wendy how I felt as if I had no right to be happy, not with my poor mam at home like she is. I was in a fit of depression and I'm sorry lads."

"Don't keep saying sorry, we understand and sympathize with you. Did anyone see you and what did you do?" repeated Peter.

"No I'm pretty certain that no one saw me it was fully dark at that time and no moon, it was about Oneish. I unscrewed the wing nut from his foot brake rod. The one that couples to the rear break wheel lever. I removed the spring that, under tension, forces the brake off when the foot pedal is released. I then replaced the wing nut exactly as it was before without re-attaching the spring. When the bike is travelling at speed and the foot pedal is operated the brake will apply but then when the brake is released it will not disengage. The brake will remain on. It should cause the back wheel to seize up and to go into a skid, especially if it is going at speed. He will surely come off. It will save us all a lot of trouble if he breaks his neck."

"Amen to that," said Ernie. "But I'm sure nothing has happened as yet, surely something would have been said afore now if he had already come of his bike. He may even have discovered the brake problem by now and corrected it. From now on he may keep a eye on his bike if he knows someone is out to do him harm"

We all agreed to the feeling about Big George breaking his neck but Peter then re-iterated all that he and we had said before; that no one should go off at half cock. Special again apologized and said that he would do nothing like it again.

Peter suggested that he take the money from the table and go and make his peace.

Special picked up the Three notes from the table, put four half crowns to it and went over to Big George's table. We could see them both talking, with George occasionally nodding. His mates at the table were witness to the conversation. Then we saw George take the offered money. Special had a few more words with him and they shook hands. That must have taken some doing by Special. Then Big George looked over to us and waved a greeting. We waved back in recognition. Special came back to the table and said. "I have never had to do anything as difficult as that in all of my life. There I was shaking hands with him and at the same time desperately wanting to stick a knife in his back."

"It will all be for the best." Said Peter. "At least now to his cronies and to all onlookers, we are pals together. I guarantee you that it will be worth it and it will work out right in the end."

"Oh bye the way Jack, I also told George that you said sorry that you got your balls in the way of his boot last Friday. And that you hoped he hadn't hurt his foot too much. He has accepted your apology."

"Wow, Special making a funny, things must be looking up." I said.

"Right," asked Ernie "that's got that out of the way. We still haven’t discussed where we will get the Mercury? "I can't think of any shops that sell it. "As it says in the Encyclopaedia it is often used in Thermometers." I began. "I could go into town later on this week and buy a few. I have plenty of time on my hands I'll try not to get them all from the same shop just in case anyone remembers me. I could take them home and break them open collecting the mercury in an empty small clean tin snuff box."

"Good idea." said Peter "We will leave you to get the stuff." You buy them and we will all split the difference sharing the cost equally. We should be seeing each other before Friday but I say we should look on Friday as the first time we get to administer it. Does everybody agree?"

All assented with Ernie saying. "I volunteer to be the first to slip him the Mickey Finn on Friday."

Friday then, was to be the first poisoning of Big George.

Tuesday I went into town to buy a few thermometers. I had to study, what kind of a shop sells Thermometers? A chemist I supposed. In Boots chemist I asked to see a selection of thermometers I was shown two types. They were both small ones that were designed to take a mouth or an anal temperature. One contained a red liquid and would be of no use to us and the other contained very little Mercury. I reckoned we would have to buy around fifty to get even a small amount. Those were not the answer. I asked the assistant if they had any of the large type ones, they hadn't. He suggested I try a shop that stocks photographic supplies. Howland and Donnitons was the only one I could think of. I entered the shop, sure enough they had the ones I was after, they were Eleven Shillings each. How many do I need? My pocket decided and I bought five.

When I got home I retired to the privacy of my bedroom to break open the thermometers. I had prepared an empty snuff tin to hold the poison. Breaking open one end of the thermometer tube I had expected the Mercury to flow out, it did not, nor did it when I broke the other end of the pipette. I realized that I would have to blow the Mercury out. That meant putting my mouth to the end of the tube. No way was I going to do that, after reading about the catastrophic causes of death Mercury could cause I had to have a re-think. We had an aquarium in the house that had a filter with an air pump. The connection from the pump to the filter was a thin plastic tube. I could use some of that. I went downstairs and disconnecting the air pump I cut a few inches from one end, and reconnected it up.

Upstairs the plastic tube fitted exactly over the thermometer pipette. After blowing down it the Mercury was transferred to the snuff tin. Looking at the deposit I was a little dismayed, there was hardly any there. The amount would hardly cover the head of a pin. It was then I realized that the thermometer glass was designed to magnify the contents of the tube, ensuring it could be seen and also that very little costly Mercury was used. Even the contents of the five thermometers would hardly be enough for our purposes. Having said that how much did we need? Buying enough thermometers for the amount we would probably need was going to be very costly exercise indeed.

We met that evening in the pub as usual. When I related my shopping expedition and showed them the product of my preparations, the abysmal amount looked far too small. They were as perplexed as I was about how to solve the problem of getting more.

"Well how much will it take to do him in?" asked Special.

"The book did not say anything about amounts other than a small amount. What that means is anybody’s guess from a drop to a pint, I don't know." I answered

Ernie said. "I have a neighbour who works at Yellands Scrap Metal, I can ask him how we could get some Mercury."

"Yes." said Peter. "But don't ask him outright. Tell him that you have a mate who has some bent Mercury for sale. Get him talking about the stuff, see if they buy it or even sell it. Ask him who stocks it and how one goes about getting or selling some. Who do you buy it from and where. Ask him general things in conversation don't let on you need it, not at this stage as yet."

Ernie agreed to Peter’s suggestion. Special expressed an opinion that things did not seem to be progressing as we had first thought. We all tried to give him the assurance that even if the Mercury thing did not work we would find another way round, and that we were determined to solve his problem.

"Anyway, I said we still have some Mercury, even though it's a small amount, it may be enough for all we know. We could still give it a trial run as we planned on Friday night."

It was agreed that we would proceed as planned for Friday. Ernie said he would work something out about a distraction.

Things were left at that other than to re-discuss what had already been agreed.

 

Wednesday I mooched about the house most of the morning. In the early afternoon the coal-man came and tipped a ton of house coal outside the front gate. Being a householder my dad was allowed 8 tons per year of subsidized home coal. It costs nothing for the coal but there was a delivery charge to have it brought and tipped outside the front gate. To have it bagged and delivered to the coal cellar was an extra again. My father had ordered it bagged but sometimes it arrived loose, as today

The ton of coal straddled the pavement in a heap almost spilling on to the road. My father was on afternoons this week and so was out at work. My mother went next door and borrowed a wheelbarrow. We both shovelled the coal into the barrow I wheeled it into the house and tipped it into the cellar. A neighbour came and gave us a hand and was rewarded with a few buckets of coal. When I returned the wheelbarrow to Mr. Bradshaw, from whom we borrowed it, it was full of coal as a thank you. Strictly speaking to give even a bucketful of home coal to another party was an offence. Home Coal could, as had been done in the past, be stopped. The coal allowance was very generous and often as not my dad only ordered the coal as and when we needed it, usually only six of the eight tons were ever used in our house per year. I had heard of others 'bending' the delivery man to deliver it to another house or even the delivery man buying it himself to sell on. To my knowledge my dad did not take advantage of this malpractice

That evening I went round to Shirley's, the look on her face told me the answer to my unspoken question, she had not come on.

We discussed the old wives tales of how one could bring on a period. The favourite one being was to get into a very hot bath and drink a bottle of gin.

Another was to insert a length of Slippery elm inside of her and keep it there for Twenty Four hours. What is and where do you get Slippery Elm? Neither of us knew.

Shirley indicated that she had tried jumping down from a chair and the table top, trying to dislodge whatever was up there. That remedy had been without result.

She said that she had heard from someone at school that Quinine was supposed to nudge you into coming on but she expressed an opinion that Quinine could only be obtained on prescription by a doctor. I said that Quinine; as far as I knew, was taken by persons suffering from Malaria and that they usually drank lots of tonic water. Did Tonic water have Quinine in it? Neither of us knew.

Shirley told me that she had been douching herself every day for the past four days, but to no avail. When I asked her what 'douching' was she said that her mother had a douche in the bathroom and used it for inner cleanliness. It was a large stiff plastic tube with a rubber bulb at one end. The bulb was depressed whilst the other end was immersed in warm soapy water. When the bulb released the water was drawn up into the bulb. The other end was inserted into her front passage and the bulb squeezed. The act was usually done whilst sitting or standing in the bath. The water sloshed about inside of her and then ran down the legs. The up front idea behind the douche was for cleanliness but many times it had bought, to be used as an internal wash after sex. A very basic type of birth control.

I said that I wished she had used it that first time and she replied, "I did." Obviously it didn't work on her.

I was glad when her mum came home and I could take my leave. I half hoped Shirley would not suggest we take a little walk for I wanted to be away. She must have been in the same frame of mind because she said goodnight at the door with just a little peck on the cheek. No mention was made, by either of us, of our usual Sunday night date.

I was feeling a little depressed so I decided to have an early night. As I went into our house and said that I was going to bed, my mother asked if everything was all right? Did she suspect something was amiss? Was I sickening for something? If only she knew.

Thursday afternoon I went to the Leeds Royal Infirmary to have the dressing taken from my arm. For the past few days the skin on the inside of the dressing had been itching. The only way of relieving the irritation was to push a probe between the skin and the bandage and scrub away. The few brief seconds when the itch was relieved was sheer bliss.

A nurse cut away the dressing and the skin was clean and pink. Although it felt a little weak there was no pain, even when a doctor, on examining it, twisted and pushed quite hard against the joint. He pronounced no further treatment was necessary and that I could go back to work the coming Monday. I was a little relieved to hear the news about returning to work, getting quite bored at home through the day anyhow.

That evening I went for the last hour in the trap. Ernie was in and I moved over to sit with him. We began discussing tomorrow nights coming action. He said that he had arranged to borrow a dog. When I asked what for, he explained that to cause a distraction he was to get the dog in a fight with Jackie Whites Dog. All eyes would then be on the dogfight.

Jackie White was another character of the Trap. He regularly brought his dog Hox, which was a beautiful White English Bull Terrier, into the taproom. The dog was a reputed fighter and would set about any other dog on Jackie's command. Jackie on the other hand was also a fighter of repute. He would often back himself or his dog, with money, against all comers. He had fought a few times over the years and no one could remember him ever getting beaten. His boast was that, if the price was right, he would fight any man or any dog bare handed. He further boasted that he would back his dog against any other or dog or against any man who dared. Up to this stage no one had ever took him up on his offer but all knew he was serious.

His dog Hox was also quite famous around Eagleton for it's fighting prowess. Although not exceptionally large as many dogs are, Jackie said it had brain and that was what made it unique. One story goes that one-day when Jackie was in the Park with Hox. His dog and another began fighting. The dogfight ended up in the shallows of the park lake. Although the other dog was bigger than Jackie’s, Hox managed to have it by the throat and held it under water only releasing the grip when Hox itself wanted a breath. When doing so, it released it's hold, whilst still holding the other dog under the water with it's paws, quickly getting a breath and regaining a hold on the other dogs throat. The dog drowned rather than being beaten in a fight. The incident, Jackie often boasted, proved his dogs fighting brain.

Jackie was barred from the Singing Room sine die, which I took to mean for ever, because, in the past, he had caused much trouble in there. And at one time the landlord had barred his dog for six months from the Taproom for the same reason. Quite an anomaly that, for at one stage he was barred from the Singing Room but not the taproom and his dog barred from the taproom but not the Singing Room.

Friday evening the four of us met once again in the Trap, taproom. At Ernie's feet, on a length of rope, lay a dog he said he had 'borrowed' from a neighbour. It was a mixed breed Staffordshire bull terrier type that looked well battle scarred. I asked him who had lent him the dog. He said 'lent' was not quite the proper word, 'acquired' was. It seemed the dog belonged to a rather rough family along his street. It often roamed around; people fed it scraps now and again, more out of being afraid of the dog and wanting to appear as a friend, rather than being generous.

Big George, I noted, was not yet in the bar. He was always in his usual seat well before eight.

Jackie White, as usual sat over at the other side of the room, near the bar. His dog was on a leash with the other end looped round a table leg.

Ernie had originally offered to be the first to spike Big George’s drink whilst we made a disturbance, now Ernie, because only he could handle the dog, was to be the cause of the diversion. One of us would have to drop the mercury into George's beer.

Ernie said his plan was that when George had only a last mouthful in his glass he would walk the dog over to the bar on the pretext of getting another drink. He would lead the dog with him, walking over to the end of the bar where Jackie White sat. Ernie knew from past experience as soon as the mongrel saw Jackie's dog it would want to be at it. It would be a foregone conclusion that the loud snarling and barking would set all eyes on the scene. That was when one of us was to slip the poison into George’s drink.

I showed them, under the cover of the table, the tiny amount of Mercury in the small tin box. I demonstrated the fluidity of the substance by tipping it from the container into its lid and again back to the tin base. The Mercury remained in a small ball throughout. The actual slipping it into his drink would be comparatively easy, if the distraction worked. I felt that having possession of the Mercury I should volunteer to do that job. When I offered, Special interrupted and said it should be him that did it. I agreed that he had the moral obligation.

Peter then pointed out that really Special should approach George first and engage him in conversation in the pretext of paying him this weeks tally money. Then either he or myself would lean over the table obscuring George’s drink from him. When George was otherwise engaged, the other would slip the Mercury into his drink.

I again felt obliged and offered to handle the Mercury. My offer was accepted. I also suggested that the deed be done when Big George had a full pint in front of him so that that the Mercury had as much time as possible to permeate with the beer. This was agreed.

We all now had a part to play. Ernie would create the diversion. Special would engage George in conversation. Peter would get in between George and myself. I would do the dirty deed.

It was turning Nine O Clock and Big George had still not entered the bar. We were still sat there at Nine Thirty when the taproom public phone rang. The barman answered it and one of Big George’s cronies was called to it. The cronies put the phone down and regained his seat next to his mate. An urgent conversation, which we could not hear, went on between them.

Not long after, Big George’s mate came over to our table and said that George had had an accident with his motor bike and would not be in this evening. George had just said on the phone that he was to collect the Two pounds owing from Special and, if need be, give a signed receipt. If there was any query, Special had to phone George’s house for confirmation of the arrangement.

"Is George okay? Enquired Peter.

"Oh yes, nothing really serious. It seems as if he went into a slight skid and he came off his bike. He has suffered slight bruising to his elbow and knees but otherwise he's okay. There's hardly any damage to his bike. He's decided to have a few days off and won’t be in until Monday.

Special paid George’s cronie the two pounds, who gave him a signed piece of paper to that effect and left.

We all outwardly groaned. "The best laid plans of mice and men." I said.

"Its all my fault." began Special, "If I hadn't brought you into my problem, if I had been patient and not tampered with his bike." Special looked forlorn I knew he wouldn't, but it almost looked as if he was about to break down.

"Special, don't be so stupid." Said Peter. "You had a problem. We all accepted that problem as a shared one. No one forced our hand, we did not have to get involved, and we each did it at our own violation and for our own reasons. Although, accepted, you shouldn't have messed with his bike without letting us know. I can slate you for that, so can we all, but we each understand why you did it. So lets now accept that there is nothing we can do tonight or even then, until Monday. We are going to have to be patient. Does everybody agree with that?"

All did. "Problem now is because he won’t be in until Monday and Jackie White does not come in that night, we will have to devise another diversion for then." said I. "Anyway are we all going into the Singing Room?"

Everyone agreed.

As we walked out the taproom to the Singing Room, Peter asked what Ernie was going to do with the dog. "You can't take it with you into the Best room you know?" "I'll show you what I'm going to do with the dog." He said and with that he untied the dog and gave it a slight kick. "Get home." He yelled at it. The dog cowered a little at his voice and shot off across the road heading in the general direction of Ernie's Street.

"I thought you said that dog was hard?" Special said to Ernie. Who replied. "You just try and boot it like I did and your foot won't be attached to your ankle for very much longer." We all had a good laugh and entered the Best room. Marlene, Jayne and Special's new girlfriend Wendy were already ensconced at a table. They greeted and beckoned us over; they were saving seats for us all.

Once we got sat down the general hum of the room and atmosphere relaxed us. Our shared problem and particularly mine with Shirley paled into the distance, that being the beauty of alcohol.

"Didn't you once say your first name was Bridie and you originally come from Ireland?" Ernie asked of Jayne.

She affirmed that it was and that her parents still lived on a farm in Northern Ireland.

"I knew a nurse once that came from Ireland." Ernie Began,

"Her boyfriend was a stage ventriloquist. They were to become engaged and the nurse was due her two weeks annual leave from hospital. She wanted to return to Ireland and take her boyfriend home to meet her parents. The ventriloquist, who was very good at his job and could throw his voice to make it appear as if other people were speaking said that he was playing a few important dates that first week but he could travel to Ireland the Second week. He would meet up with her there. It was arranged that the nurse’s father would meet him at the train station, in Ireland, the following week Saturday.

Saturday duly arrived and the nurse’s father met the boyfriend outside of the railway station. They set off for the farm in a small pony and trap.

What do you do for work? Asked the girl’s father. I'm a ventriloquist. answered the boyfriend. The farmer was puzzled; it was a new word for him. I'm not rightly sure what one of those is. Said the farmer.

As they were passing a cow in a field the boyfriend asked that the farmer stop.

He said to the cow, Hello cow, how are you today? The cow apparently answered. "I am very well sir, thank you for your asking. How is your sex life? asked the boyfriend. Oh very good sir, the cow said, I have a bull that serves me at least once a week and very nice it is too, I have a very good sex life Goodbye cow, said the ventriloquist. The cow seemingly bade its farewell. The farmer looked on in amazement. A man who can make cows talk. He could not believe his ears.

I don't believe what you just did, said the farmer. Can you do that again?

There was a horse in a field looking over the hedge into the road. Please stop the trap," he said to the farmer, and I'll see. The trap was stopped. Hello Horse, what’s your name? Dobbin. Said the horse. How is your sex life Dobbin? asked the ventriloquist. Very fine sir I have a stallion that comes and serves me at least twice a week. I enjoy my sex life. Thank you for talking to me Dobbin, good bye. Good bye Sir.

The farmer was astounded; he could not work it all out. He was deep in thought. Soon they reached the farm and the boyfriend was in the farmhouse being greeted by his girlfriend and her mother. I'll just go to lock up the animals, said the farmer, I won’t be long.

He went directly to the shed where he kept two sheep.

He said to the sheep. "We have a Ventriloquist staying with us this week and he may want to look round the farm. If he comes in here and talks to you tell him nothing. I warn you, if he asks you about your sex life and you mention my name, you will be on a plate and surrounded by mint sauce the very next day.

We all fell about laughing Bridie Jayne especially. Ernie seemed to have a joke for every occasion.

Through out the evening Wendy and Special had eyes for no one else. It was a pleasure to see.

Six of us departed the Eaglet after 'Time' was called, leaving Ernie to the coming pleasures of Ginny, who all the time had been keeping an eye on him. She had not been allowed to sit with us and he had bought her only one drink all night.

We paired off into three couples and began to walk the girl’s home to Belle Hill, which is about two miles away. Gradually the distance between pairs got longer until Marlene and I ducked down an alleyway and we were alone. We stopped for a while. Which reminded me of the Frankie Laine song 'Walking my baby back home'.

'We stopped for a while she gave me a smile

She snuggled her head to my chest,

We started to pet and that's when I get

Her powder all over my vest.'

We put our arms around each other and kissed. It was the most natural thing to do. I'd like to say the moon was out and the setting was beautiful and it was very romantic. Well there was no moon, it was overcast and the setting was certainly not beautiful but it was romantic, very romantic. I just did not want to leave her embrace. During the clinch I moved my hands to encircle her breasts, not because I wanted more, but because I felt it was manly and the natural thing to do.

Gently Marlene gently removed my hands saying "Jack, I'm stopping you, not because I don’t want this to happen, someday it will, but because I have to let you know my feelings on the subject of Sex. I think a lot about you and I want our relationship to continue but I promised myself long ago that I will remain a virgin until the day I get married. It’s not a religious thing or anything like that it's just something I have to do. When the time is right I will make love with you without going all the way. If you can accept and try to understand my feeling on the subject then I am sure we can get along famously. How do you feel?"

I was feeling very lovingly towards her and at this precise moment in time I was quite happy just kissing and cuddling her, it seemed very natural just to be with her. At the same time could I handle the thought of going with her for a long courtship without full sex? I had to admit to myself I did not know.

"Every man wants his wife to be a virgin on their wedding day." I began. "Or at least even if they did make love before getting married he still being the first. I have to be honest with you whether I can handle it I don't know. Shall we take each day as it comes? It's miles too early to talk about getting married."

"Jack! I was not proposing to you. I have no intention of getting married for some time yet. I just wanted you to know of my conditions of any relationship. The same conditions would apply even if I were going out with someone else. We can still make love; there are other ways of getting sexual fulfilment without full sex. I just want to be honest with you from the start."

"Enough of the discussion get back into my arms, woman. I want to kiss the face off you." I commanded. We both laughed at my pretend dominance. The seriousness of our discussion was gone. At least I now knew where I stood. Whether I accepted it was up to me. The ball was now in my court, 'Balls to you' how many times have I said that to myself?

 

Saturday passed into Sunday with my doing many of the things I normally do the only thing I was not very happy. Shirley outweighed my thoughts most of the time. I mooched about the house and my depression must have showed. My ma kept asking if I was all right. She said that if something was up I should tell her and that whatever it was she would stand by me. Was she telling me in a round about way that she suspected that Shirley was pregnant? Was she inviting me to get it off my chest? I don't know but I was left with the feeling that she would understand, maybe not like, but understand. Ah! Mothers whatever would we do without them?

I assure her I was in good health and everything was okay. She seemed to accept the fact.

 

 

 

11.

Monday morning the 18th, although my mother hadn't called me I awoke at six. As I lay there I mulled over the past events. The first thing that came into my mind was Shirley's revelation of last night. Specials problem had now paled into insignificance alongside hers that was now mine. How long had she been late, 2 days? three now. That's nowt I tried to comfort myself but it was not working. I have got to try and put it out of mind, at least until there is something definite to worry about. What will happen if she is pregnant, what will her mother say? Never mind about her mother how will I be able to tell mine. Both parents will insist on us getting married. Married me a married man, no way can I visualize that. I can only just afford to keep myself let alone a wife and child.

Another thought she's still only fifteen, nearly sixteen maybe but still under the legal age for sex. I had not worried about that at the time but now the enormity of it fell on me. How do I explain that? There can be no possible explanation; it is a criminal offence to have sex with a person under sixteen. Will they put me in jail? Will the News of the World print it in their Sunday Paper? I'll never be able to show my face in public again. Oh! To hell change the subject. Get out of bed and do something, it might take your mind off it your problem.

Specials problem, that's it, get out your mining books see if there is anything in them that relates to Mercury, especially anything to do with poisoning.

There was nothing related to Mercury in my notebook, other than it is a metallic liquid and commonly used in Thermometers. The four Mining volumes I have are entitled Practical Mining and the only reference to the element is to the Mercurial Barometer and the Mercury Vapour Lamps. Neither reference relates to the poisonous characteristics of the metal? That was a dead end, where do I go from here?

"Doing a little studying in preparation for your coming coal face training?" said my mother when she noticed my head in the mining books.

"No mam, not really, I was just looking up the properties of a substance. The mates and me have been arguing about something and I wanted to show them how wrong they are but there's nothing in these books about it. I would have liked to prove them wrong though."

"Have you tried the local library? There are books on practically every subject in there."

"Mam, you are a star, Cheers." Exactly I thought that's where I'll find out what I want to know. But how do I go about asking the librarian about Mercury Poisoning. I can't just come right out with it. "How do you poison somebody with Mercury?" In the future, after our disposal of Big George, she may remember any inquiry by me, put two and two together and come up with the right answer. I know, I will list a few metals, Mercury being just one of them, and ask how I can obtain information on them all.

The librarian could not have been more helpful. She directed me to a shelf full of Encyclopaedia books. She showed me how to cross-reference the individual books and left me to it. I immediately went to the page about Mercury Poisoning.

 

'MERCURY. Chemical Symbol Hg. is highly toxic.

Poisoning may result from the inhalation of

the vapour, ingestion of a soluble compound

or the absorption through the skin. It causes

destruction of the cell membrane and alters

the permeability. Acute and chronic Mercury

poisoning runs a catastrophic course of nausea,

vomiting and diarrhoea, leading to a shock-like

circularity collapse, either with death in a

few hours or for survivors of this stage to

death in as few days from kidney failure.

TREATMENT cannot be generalized, unfortunately

75% who survive 1/3 will suffer serious brain

damage and severe mental retardation and maybe

blindness.'

That last piece of information seemed very exiting and raised interesting possibilities. It was certainly toxic enough for our purposes. Where we could get some and how we could administer it was another matter.

Most of that day I hung around the house, there seemed to be nowhere to go. I kept getting under my Ma's feet, as she put it. I went for a walk in the park but I just could not get Shirley's not 'coming on' out of my mind. The more I thought about it the more it ballooned into an insurmountable hurdle. I had heard about Back Street Abortionists where knitting needles or some such probe would be used to spear the embryo but that also endangered the female’s life. I could not condone such an action but I now understood the emotions that lay behind any decision to use one. How could I approach and tell my mother? It wasn't my Father I was afraid of upsetting, I felt that although he would not like it, he would understand. The most I would get out of him would be, "Bloody Fool." or some such expletive. My mother would burst into tears of emotion, that I would not be able to handle.

I had arranged to meet Shirley tonight but I had already forewarned her that I had to meet my mates about something urgent. It was not strictly true, I was to report to my mates but there was no real time urgency about it. I just did not want to spend too long with Shirley. What a rat I am I thought. At the first sign of trouble you try to ditch her. Rat, yes that just about describes you.

I knocked on Shirley's door. Her mother would be, as usual at work. As I entered I first reminded Shirley that I couldn't stop long. She immediately burst into tears. It was now pointless asking her if she had come on. Her tears told me what the answer would be. We put on a few records and unlike in the past we did not engage into a clinch. We just sat side by side on the sofa and held hands. We discussed all the implications of our dilemma and I again promised to stand by her. I told her I would ask around, without making it obvious, what our options, if any, there were for us.

At Nine I left and headed for the trap.

My first pint never touched the sides of my throat, not because I was thirsty but because I was in need of the forgetfulness that only alcohol could supply.

My three mates were already in. As soon as I sat down they asked me if I had read my Mining books. I explained the lack of information in them and then of my library search. I showed them a handwritten written copy of the details of Mercury and it’s poisons lethal consequences.

I pointed out that the substance seemed ideal and highly toxic for our uses but it did not describe how much had to be taken for it to be fatal.

"Special said that's all very well but how are we going to get him to swallow it anyway?"

"I think I may have a way." Replied Peter. "I have been observing Big George’s drinking habits. Have you ever seen what Big George drinks? Dark mild, any poison you put in would be hidden by the colour. Have you ever watched him drink? It is always in large mouthfuls."

"Mercury does not dissolve in water or beer you know." I said

"No, of course not but that may be to our advantage. Mercury will not mix and discolour or cloud his beer. The beer will look and taste the same. Have you ever studied him when he has almost finished a pint? I’ve been watching him for the last week or so. As he gets to the bottom of a pint he invariably leaves just enough in the bottom of his glass for one last mouthful. When he is ready for another one he picks up his glass and swigs the last few dregs off all in one go. Anything could be in the bottom of his glass, he would not know what. He would have swallowed it before he realized that he had actually swallowed something."

Peter had a point; Big George did swig his beer back in an exaggerated fashion. Providing he didn't look into his pint first he would swallow anything that was small enough in his glass.

"How do we get it into his glass in the first place?" said Ernie. "We can hardly say to him, excuse me George while I put some Mercury into your glass."

"No," continued Peter, "but if a distraction could be caused so that all heads were turned including his, in that direction, one of us could drop it into his beer. It would only take a split second. The timing would have to be spot on but I feel as if it could be done. What do you all think?"

"It sounds quite feasible to me." I said, "three of us could pretend to have a fight or something whilst the other stands near his table. When he is distracted one of us could lean over as if looking at the fight and drop it in. If he discovers it, it can not be related to us. It is certainly worth a trial run."

Just at that point Big George walked into the taproom. He looked the room over but passed us by with little more than a glance. He went and sat down with two of his cronies. He gave one of them a pound note who then went to the bar for the beer.

We all watched the hanger-on order and fetch the round of drinks. Dark Mild for George and the lighter coloured bitter for them. Big George reached for his pint and with a large gulp he almost downed half of the contents of the pint glass. For the next ten minutes we observed his drinking habits. It was as Peter said, always in large mouthfuls. When he downed the last mouthful I felt that anything could have been in his glass and he would not have noticed it. He had taken four mouthfuls for the pint glass to be emptied.

"Right," said Ernie after observing George, "where do we get some mercury? I only hope that when he drinks it, it takes a full week of catatonic collapse rather than a few hours. I want him to suffer in hell, just like Specials mother has."

"Catastrophic." I corrected. "The encyclopaedia describes catastrophic course of nausea, Vomiting and diarrhoea leading to a circularity collapse.

"Catatonic. Catastrophic. Castrated. Whatever, I hope his balls drop off and he rots in hell blind.

We all nodded in agreement.

"By the way, how is your ma these days?" asked Peter changing the subject.

"She's been a lot better of late. Since I told her a few white lies. I explained to her that I had talked to Big George and he had seen sense and stopped making his threats. I told her that he had agreed to take only the original amount owed at Two pounds a week. I intend to pay the full balance myself. I told her that I had arranged to pay him myself ensuring that he would not call at our house for any further payments. She should never have to clap eyes on him ever again. She was very much relieved. She not back to her old self just yet but that should come in time." "When did you see Big George to make the arrangements?"

"Well I haven’t made any definite arrangements yet, I was hoping to see him to finalize details tonight.

"Tell you what," offered Ernie, "I'll pay you half a Quid a week towards your debt. I'll give it to you every Friday night until the debt is cleared."

Both Peter and myself said almost in unison that we would match Ernie's offer. We would also give him Ten Bob a week every Friday.

Special tried to refuse the offer but we were having none of it. Although ten bob was a fair amount of money, Pit wages were quite good in comparison with other industries and we were all paying our board at home so we could well afford it.

The three of us then dug into our pockets and handed Special a Ten Bob note each telling him to put his with them and go and settle this weeks payment. Special left the three notes in a small pile in front of him.

"Well I’ve already paid him a weeks money last Friday night. When we were all in the Singing Room I went in to the taproom to settle with him. What with him calling on my mother that morning and threatening her I paid him the extra week than we owed. We should be up to date now. That may have set him off and been the reason he pulled us, as we were leaving, last Friday."

"Look," Peter said, "we do not want it to look as if we are at loggerheads with George. We have to be seen to have buried the hatchet. Make it look, on the surface, as if all if okay. You will have to go and make your peace with him. Tell him you are sorry that you have caused all this trouble. Inform him that we bear him no grudges. Ask him to accept a further payment so that you will now be a week in front with him. Explain that you will see him every Friday, in here, and pay him his dues. Tell him you are very sorry for all the trouble you have caused him. Tell him owt. Ask him to stay away from your mother, as she is not feeling too well. Don't let on that you know all about him molesting her. Eat Humble pie, crawl on your hands and knees if needs be but make it sound convincing. You will have to put on the act of your life but it will prove to be worth it in the end. Just remember at some time in the future one of us has to be within poisoning distance of his beer, if he suspects us at all then he'll be watching us."

All nodded their assent at what Peter had said but then Special said, "I think I may have been a bit of a fool and acted a little hasty." When we asked him what he meant by that he said. "Last night I felt as if, over the weekend, we had forgotten about our doing away with Big George. I went round to his house in the early hours of this morning. I know that he always parks his motor bike outside in the driveway of his house, in full view of everybody. I crept up to it, it was still dark, and doctored his machine. I was hoping that he might fall off it and break his neck."

We all groaned and Peter summed up what we were all feeling. "Special let us get one thing clear we have not, nor will we ever, forget what George did to your mother. We have promised you our full backing. But to do it right we must plan it very carefully. If we are to get away with it without suspicion we must not act in haste. You will have to control your emotions a little longer. What exactly did you do to his bike? And more important did anyone see you do it?"

"I'm sorry lads I realize now I jumped the gun and have let you down. I was just feeling a little low last night especially with me enjoying myself so much on Saturday. For those few hours in Wakefield I had forgot about my problem and had enjoyed myself. It was only after last nights session with Wendy how I felt as if I had no right to be happy, not with my poor mam at home like she is. I was in a fit of depression and I'm sorry lads."

"Don't keep saying sorry, we understand and sympathize with you. Did anyone see you and what did you do?" repeated Peter.

"No I'm pretty certain that no one saw me it was fully dark at that time and no moon, it was about Oneish. I unscrewed the wing nut from his foot brake rod. The one that couples to the rear break wheel lever. I removed the spring that, under tension, forces the brake off when the foot pedal is released. I then replaced the wing nut exactly as it was before without re-attaching the spring. When the bike is travelling at speed and the foot pedal is operated the brake will apply but then when the brake is released it will not disengage. The brake will remain on. It should cause the back wheel to seize up and to go into a skid, especially if it is going at speed. He will surely come off. It will save us all a lot of trouble if he breaks his neck."

"Amen to that," said Ernie. "But I'm sure nothing has happened as yet, surely something would have been said afore now if he had already come of his bike. He may even have discovered the brake problem by now and corrected it. From now on he may keep a eye on his bike if he knows someone is out to do him harm"

We all agreed to the feeling about Big George breaking his neck but Peter then re-iterated all that he and we had said before; that no one should go off at half cock. Special again apologized and said that he would do nothing like it again.

Peter suggested that he take the money from the table and go and make his peace.

Special picked up the Three notes from the table, put four half crowns to it and went over to Big George's table. We could see them both talking, with George occasionally nodding. His mates at the table were witness to the conversation. Then we saw George take the offered money. Special had a few more words with him and they shook hands. That must have taken some doing by Special. Then Big George looked over to us and waved a greeting. We waved back in recognition. Special came back to the table and said. "I have never had to do anything as difficult as that in all of my life. There I was shaking hands with him and at the same time desperately wanting to stick a knife in his back."

"It will all be for the best." Said Peter. "At least now to his cronies and to all onlookers, we are pals together. I guarantee you that it will be worth it and it will work out right in the end."

"Oh bye the way Jack, I also told George that you said sorry that you got your balls in the way of his boot last Friday. And that you hoped he hadn't hurt his foot too much. He has accepted your apology."

"Wow, Special making a funny, things must be looking up." I said.

"Right," asked Ernie "that's got that out of the way. We still haven’t discussed where we will get the Mercury? "I can't think of any shops that sell it. "As it says in the Encyclopaedia it is often used in Thermometers." I began. "I could go into town later on this week and buy a few. I have plenty of time on my hands I'll try not to get them all from the same shop just in case anyone remembers me. I could take them home and break them open collecting the mercury in an empty small clean tin snuff box."

"Good idea." said Peter "We will leave you to get the stuff." You buy them and we will all split the difference sharing the cost equally. We should be seeing each other before Friday but I say we should look on Friday as the first time we get to administer it. Does everybody agree?"

All assented with Ernie saying. "I volunteer to be the first to slip him the Mickey Finn on Friday."

Friday then, was to be the first poisoning of Big George.

Tuesday I went into town to buy a few thermometers. I had to study, what kind of a shop sells Thermometers? A chemist I supposed. In Boots chemist I asked to see a selection of thermometers I was shown two types. They were both small ones that were designed to take a mouth or an anal temperature. One contained a red liquid and would be of no use to us and the other contained very little Mercury. I reckoned we would have to buy around fifty to get even a small amount. Those were not the answer. I asked the assistant if they had any of the large type ones, they hadn't. He suggested I try a shop that stocks photographic supplies. Howland and Donnitons was the only one I could think of. I entered the shop, sure enough they had the ones I was after, they were Eleven Shillings each. How many do I need? My pocket decided and I bought five.

When I got home I retired to the privacy of my bedroom to break open the thermometers. I had prepared an empty snuff tin to hold the poison. Breaking open one end of the thermometer tube I had expected the Mercury to flow out, it did not, nor did it when I broke the other end of the pipette. I realized that I would have to blow the Mercury out. That meant putting my mouth to the end of the tube. No way was I going to do that, after reading about the catastrophic causes of death Mercury could cause I had to have a re-think. We had an aquarium in the house that had a filter with an air pump. The connection from the pump to the filter was a thin plastic tube. I could use some of that. I went downstairs and disconnecting the air pump I cut a few inches from one end, and reconnected it up.

Upstairs the plastic tube fitted exactly over the thermometer pipette. After blowing down it the Mercury was transferred to the snuff tin. Looking at the deposit I was a little dismayed, there was hardly any there. The amount would hardly cover the head of a pin. It was then I realized that the thermometer glass was designed to magnify the contents of the tube, ensuring it could be seen and also that very little costly Mercury was used. Even the contents of the five thermometers would hardly be enough for our purposes. Having said that how much did we need? Buying enough thermometers for the amount we would probably need was going to be very costly exercise indeed.

We met that evening in the pub as usual. When I related my shopping expedition and showed them the product of my preparations, the abysmal amount looked far too small. They were as perplexed as I was about how to solve the problem of getting more.

"Well how much will it take to do him in?" asked Special.

"The book did not say anything about amounts other than a small amount. What that means is anybody’s guess from a drop to a pint, I don't know." I answered

Ernie said. "I have a neighbour who works at Yellands Scrap Metal, I can ask him how we could get some Mercury."

"Yes." said Peter. "But don't ask him outright. Tell him that you have a mate who has some bent Mercury for sale. Get him talking about the stuff, see if they buy it or even sell it. Ask him who stocks it and how one goes about getting or selling some. Who do you buy it from and where. Ask him general things in conversation don't let on you need it, not at this stage as yet."

Ernie agreed to Peter’s suggestion. Special expressed an opinion that things did not seem to be progressing as we had first thought. We all tried to give him the assurance that even if the Mercury thing did not work we would find another way round, and that we were determined to solve his problem.

"Anyway, I said we still have some Mercury, even though it's a small amount, it may be enough for all we know. We could still give it a trial run as we planned on Friday night."

It was agreed that we would proceed as planned for Friday. Ernie said he would work something out about a distraction.

Things were left at that other than to re-discuss what had already been agreed.

 

Wednesday I mooched about the house most of the morning. In the early afternoon the coal-man came and tipped a ton of house coal outside the front gate. Being a householder my dad was allowed 8 tons per year of subsidized home coal. It costs nothing for the coal but there was a delivery charge to have it brought and tipped outside the front gate. To have it bagged and delivered to the coal cellar was an extra again. My father had ordered it bagged but sometimes it arrived loose, as today

The ton of coal straddled the pavement in a heap almost spilling on to the road. My father was on afternoons this week and so was out at work. My mother went next door and borrowed a wheelbarrow. We both shovelled the coal into the barrow I wheeled it into the house and tipped it into the cellar. A neighbour came and gave us a hand and was rewarded with a few buckets of coal. When I returned the wheelbarrow to Mr. Bradshaw, from whom we borrowed it, it was full of coal as a thank you. Strictly speaking to give even a bucketful of home coal to another party was an offence. Home Coal could, as had been done in the past, be stopped. The coal allowance was very generous and often as not my dad only ordered the coal as and when we needed it, usually only six of the eight tons were ever used in our house per year. I had heard of others 'bending' the delivery man to deliver it to another house or even the delivery man buying it himself to sell on. To my knowledge my dad did not take advantage of this malpractice

That evening I went round to Shirley's, the look on her face told me the answer to my unspoken question, she had not come on.

We discussed the old wives tales of how one could bring on a period. The favourite one being was to get into a very hot bath and drink a bottle of gin.

Another was to insert a length of Slippery elm inside of her and keep it there for Twenty Four hours. What is and where do you get Slippery Elm? Neither of us knew.

Shirley indicated that she had tried jumping down from a chair and the table top, trying to dislodge whatever was up there. That remedy had been without result.

She said that she had heard from someone at school that Quinine was supposed to nudge you into coming on but she expressed an opinion that Quinine could only be obtained on prescription by a doctor. I said that Quinine; as far as I knew, was taken by persons suffering from Malaria and that they usually drank lots of tonic water. Did Tonic water have Quinine in it? Neither of us knew.

Shirley told me that she had been douching herself every day for the past four days, but to no avail. When I asked her what 'douching' was she said that her mother had a douche in the bathroom and used it for inner cleanliness. It was a large stiff plastic tube with a rubber bulb at one end. The bulb was depressed whilst the other end was immersed in warm soapy water. When the bulb released the water was drawn up into the bulb. The other end was inserted into her front passage and the bulb squeezed. The act was usually done whilst sitting or standing in the bath. The water sloshed about inside of her and then ran down the legs. The up front idea behind the douche was for cleanliness but many times it had bought, to be used as an internal wash after sex. A very basic type of birth control.

I said that I wished she had used it that first time and she replied, "I did." Obviously it didn't work on her.

I was glad when her mum came home and I could take my leave. I half hoped Shirley would not suggest we take a little walk for I wanted to be away. She must have been in the same frame of mind because she said goodnight at the door with just a little peck on the cheek. No mention was made, by either of us, of our usual Sunday night date.

I was feeling a little depressed so I decided to have an early night. As I went into our house and said that I was going to bed, my mother asked if everything was all right? Did she suspect something was amiss? Was I sickening for something? If only she knew.

Thursday afternoon I went to the Leeds Royal Infirmary to have the dressing taken from my arm. For the past few days the skin on the inside of the dressing had been itching. The only way of relieving the irritation was to push a probe between the skin and the bandage and scrub away. The few brief seconds when the itch was relieved was sheer bliss.

A nurse cut away the dressing and the skin was clean and pink. Although it felt a little weak there was no pain, even when a doctor, on examining it, twisted and pushed quite hard against the joint. He pronounced no further treatment was necessary and that I could go back to work the coming Monday. I was a little relieved to hear the news about returning to work, getting quite bored at home through the day anyhow.

That evening I went for the last hour in the trap. Ernie was in and I moved over to sit with him. We began discussing tomorrow nights coming action. He said that he had arranged to borrow a dog. When I asked what for, he explained that to cause a distraction he was to get the dog in a fight with Jackie Whites Dog. All eyes would then be on the dogfight.

Jackie White was another character of the Trap. He regularly brought his dog Hox, which was a beautiful White English Bull Terrier, into the taproom. The dog was a reputed fighter and would set about any other dog on Jackie's command. Jackie on the other hand was also a fighter of repute. He would often back himself or his dog, with money, against all comers. He had fought a few times over the years and no one could remember him ever getting beaten. His boast was that, if the price was right, he would fight any man or any dog bare handed. He further boasted that he would back his dog against any other or dog or against any man who dared. Up to this stage no one had ever took him up on his offer but all knew he was serious.

His dog Hox was also quite famous around Eagleton for it's fighting prowess. Although not exceptionally large as many dogs are, Jackie said it had brain and that was what made it unique. One story goes that one-day when Jackie was in the Park with Hox. His dog and another began fighting. The dogfight ended up in the shallows of the park lake. Although the other dog was bigger than Jackie’s, Hox managed to have it by the throat and held it under water only releasing the grip when Hox itself wanted a breath. When doing so, it released it's hold, whilst still holding the other dog under the water with it's paws, quickly getting a breath and regaining a hold on the other dogs throat. The dog drowned rather than being beaten in a fight. The incident, Jackie often boasted, proved his dogs fighting brain.

Jackie was barred from the Singing Room sine die, which I took to mean for ever, because, in the past, he had caused much trouble in there. And at one time the landlord had barred his dog for six months from the Taproom for the same reason. Quite an anomaly that, for at one stage he was barred from the Singing Room but not the taproom and his dog barred from the taproom but not the Singing Room.

Friday evening the four of us met once again in the Trap, taproom. At Ernie's feet, on a length of rope, lay a dog he said he had 'borrowed' from a neighbour. It was a mixed breed Staffordshire bull terrier type that looked well battle scarred. I asked him who had lent him the dog. He said 'lent' was not quite the proper word, 'acquired' was. It seemed the dog belonged to a rather rough family along his street. It often roamed around; people fed it scraps now and again, more out of being afraid of the dog and wanting to appear as a friend, rather than being generous.

Big George, I noted, was not yet in the bar. He was always in his usual seat well before eight.

Jackie White, as usual sat over at the other side of the room, near the bar. His dog was on a leash with the other end looped round a table leg.

Ernie had originally offered to be the first to spike Big George’s drink whilst we made a disturbance, now Ernie, because only he could handle the dog, was to be the cause of the diversion. One of us would have to drop the mercury into George's beer.

Ernie said his plan was that when George had only a last mouthful in his glass he would walk the dog over to the bar on the pretext of getting another drink. He would lead the dog with him, walking over to the end of the bar where Jackie White sat. Ernie knew from past experience as soon as the mongrel saw Jackie's dog it would want to be at it. It would be a foregone conclusion that the loud snarling and barking would set all eyes on the scene. That was when one of us was to slip the poison into George’s drink.

I showed them, under the cover of the table, the tiny amount of Mercury in the small tin box. I demonstrated the fluidity of the substance by tipping it from the container into its lid and again back to the tin base. The Mercury remained in a small ball throughout. The actual slipping it into his drink would be comparatively easy, if the distraction worked. I felt that having possession of the Mercury I should volunteer to do that job. When I offered, Special interrupted and said it should be him that did it. I agreed that he had the moral obligation.

Peter then pointed out that really Special should approach George first and engage him in conversation in the pretext of paying him this weeks tally money. Then either he or myself would lean over the table obscuring George’s drink from him. When George was otherwise engaged, the other would slip the Mercury into his drink.

I again felt obliged and offered to handle the Mercury. My offer was accepted. I also suggested that the deed be done when Big George had a full pint in front of him so that that the Mercury had as much time as possible to permeate with the beer. This was agreed.

We all now had a part to play. Ernie would create the diversion. Special would engage George in conversation. Peter would get in between George and myself. I would do the dirty deed.

It was turning Nine O Clock and Big George had still not entered the bar. We were still sat there at Nine Thirty when the taproom public phone rang. The barman answered it and one of Big George’s cronies was called to it. The cronies put the phone down and regained his seat next to his mate. An urgent conversation, which we could not hear, went on between them.

Not long after, Big George’s mate came over to our table and said that George had had an accident with his motor bike and would not be in this evening. George had just said on the phone that he was to collect the Two pounds owing from Special and, if need be, give a signed receipt. If there was any query, Special had to phone George’s house for confirmation of the arrangement.

"Is George okay? Enquired Peter.

"Oh yes, nothing really serious. It seems as if he went into a slight skid and he came off his bike. He has suffered slight bruising to his elbow and knees but otherwise he's okay. There's hardly any damage to his bike. He's decided to have a few days off and won’t be in until Monday.

Special paid George’s cronie the two pounds, who gave him a signed piece of paper to that effect and left.

We all outwardly groaned. "The best laid plans of mice and men." I said.

"Its all my fault." began Special, "If I hadn't brought you into my problem, if I had been patient and not tampered with his bike." Special looked forlorn I knew he wouldn't, but it almost looked as if he was about to break down.

"Special, don't be so stupid." Said Peter. "You had a problem. We all accepted that problem as a shared one. No one forced our hand, we did not have to get involved, and we each did it at our own violation and for our own reasons. Although, accepted, you shouldn't have messed with his bike without letting us know. I can slate you for that, so can we all, but we each understand why you did it. So lets now accept that there is nothing we can do tonight or even then, until Monday. We are going to have to be patient. Does everybody agree with that?"

All did. "Problem now is because he won’t be in until Monday and Jackie White does not come in that night, we will have to devise another diversion for then." said I. "Anyway are we all going into the Singing Room?"

Everyone agreed.

As we walked out the taproom to the Singing Room, Peter asked what Ernie was going to do with the dog. "You can't take it with you into the Best room you know?" "I'll show you what I'm going to do with the dog." He said and with that he untied the dog and gave it a slight kick. "Get home." He yelled at it. The dog cowered a little at his voice and shot off across the road heading in the general direction of Ernie's Street.

"I thought you said that dog was hard?" Special said to Ernie. Who replied. "You just try and boot it like I did and your foot won't be attached to your ankle for very much longer." We all had a good laugh and entered the Best room. Marlene, Jayne and Special's new girlfriend Wendy were already ensconced at a table. They greeted and beckoned us over; they were saving seats for us all.

Once we got sat down the general hum of the room and atmosphere relaxed us. Our shared problem and particularly mine with Shirley paled into the distance, that being the beauty of alcohol.

"Didn't you once say your first name was Bridie and you originally come from Ireland?" Ernie asked of Jayne.

She affirmed that it was and that her parents still lived on a farm in Northern Ireland.

"I knew a nurse once that came from Ireland." Ernie Began,

"Her boyfriend was a stage ventriloquist. They were to become engaged and the nurse was due her two weeks annual leave from hospital. She wanted to return to Ireland and take her boyfriend home to meet her parents. The ventriloquist, who was very good at his job and could throw his voice to make it appear as if other people were speaking said that he was playing a few important dates that first week but he could travel to Ireland the Second week. He would meet up with her there. It was arranged that the nurse’s father would meet him at the train station, in Ireland, the following week Saturday.

Saturday duly arrived and the nurse’s father met the boyfriend outside of the railway station. They set off for the farm in a small pony and trap.

What do you do for work? Asked the girl’s father. I'm a ventriloquist. answered the boyfriend. The farmer was puzzled; it was a new word for him. I'm not rightly sure what one of those is. Said the farmer.

As they were passing a cow in a field the boyfriend asked that the farmer stop.

He said to the cow, Hello cow, how are you today? The cow apparently answered. "I am very well sir, thank you for your asking. How is your sex life? asked the boyfriend. Oh very good sir, the cow said, I have a bull that serves me at least once a week and very nice it is too, I have a very good sex life Goodbye cow, said the ventriloquist. The cow seemingly bade its farewell. The farmer looked on in amazement. A man who can make cows talk. He could not believe his ears.

I don't believe what you just did, said the farmer. Can you do that again?

There was a horse in a field looking over the hedge into the road. Please stop the trap," he said to the farmer, and I'll see. The trap was stopped. Hello Horse, what’s your name? Dobbin. Said the horse. How is your sex life Dobbin? asked the ventriloquist. Very fine sir I have a stallion that comes and serves me at least twice a week. I enjoy my sex life. Thank you for talking to me Dobbin, good bye. Good bye Sir.

The farmer was astounded; he could not work it all out. He was deep in thought. Soon they reached the farm and the boyfriend was in the farmhouse being greeted by his girlfriend and her mother. I'll just go to lock up the animals, said the farmer, I won’t be long.

He went directly to the shed where he kept two sheep.

He said to the sheep. "We have a Ventriloquist staying with us this week and he may want to look round the farm. If he comes in here and talks to you tell him nothing. I warn you, if he asks you about your sex life and you mention my name, you will be on a plate and surrounded by mint sauce the very next day.

We all fell about laughing Bridie Jayne especially. Ernie seemed to have a joke for every occasion.

Through out the evening Wendy and Special had eyes for no one else. It was a pleasure to see.

Six of us departed the Eaglet after 'Time' was called, leaving Ernie to the coming pleasures of Ginny, who all the time had been keeping an eye on him. She had not been allowed to sit with us and he had bought her only one drink all night.

We paired off into three couples and began to walk the girl’s home to Belle Hill, which is about two miles away. Gradually the distance between pairs got longer until Marlene and I ducked down an alleyway and we were alone. We stopped for a while. Which reminded me of the Frankie Laine song 'Walking my baby back home'.

'We stopped for a while she gave me a smile

She snuggled her head to my chest,

We started to pet and that's when I get

Her powder all over my vest.'

We put our arms around each other and kissed. It was the most natural thing to do. I'd like to say the moon was out and the setting was beautiful and it was very romantic. Well there was no moon, it was overcast and the setting was certainly not beautiful but it was romantic, very romantic. I just did not want to leave her embrace. During the clinch I moved my hands to encircle her breasts, not because I wanted more, but because I felt it was manly and the natural thing to do.

Gently Marlene gently removed my hands saying "Jack, I'm stopping you, not because I don’t want this to happen, someday it will, but because I have to let you know my feelings on the subject of Sex. I think a lot about you and I want our relationship to continue but I promised myself long ago that I will remain a virgin until the day I get married. It’s not a religious thing or anything like that it's just something I have to do. When the time is right I will make love with you without going all the way. If you can accept and try to understand my feeling on the subject then I am sure we can get along famously. How do you feel?"

I was feeling very lovingly towards her and at this precise moment in time I was quite happy just kissing and cuddling her, it seemed very natural just to be with her. At the same time could I handle the thought of going with her for a long courtship without full sex? I had to admit to myself I did not know.

"Every man wants his wife to be a virgin on their wedding day." I began. "Or at least even if they did make love before getting married he still being the first. I have to be honest with you whether I can handle it I don't know. Shall we take each day as it comes? It's miles too early to talk about getting married."

"Jack! I was not proposing to you. I have no intention of getting married for some time yet. I just wanted you to know of my conditions of any relationship. The same conditions would apply even if I were going out with someone else. We can still make love; there are other ways of getting sexual fulfilment without full sex. I just want to be honest with you from the start."

"Enough of the discussion get back into my arms, woman. I want to kiss the face off you." I commanded. We both laughed at my pretend dominance. The seriousness of our discussion was gone. At least I now knew where I stood. Whether I accepted it was up to me. The ball was now in my court, 'Balls to you' how many times have I said that to myself?

 

Saturday passed into Sunday with my doing many of the things I normally do the only thing I was not very happy. Shirley outweighed my thoughts most of the time. I mooched about the house and my depression must have showed. My ma kept asking if I was all right. She said that if something was up I should tell her and that whatever it was she would stand by me. Was she telling me in a round about way that she suspected that Shirley was pregnant? Was she inviting me to get it off my chest? I don't know but I was left with the feeling that she would understand, maybe not like, but understand. Ah! Mothers whatever would we do without them?

I assure her I was in good health and everything was okay. She seemed to accept the fact.

 

Sunday afternoon, whilst having a nap after a big dinner my mam woke me with the news that Shirley was at the front door asking for me. I went to see her and she was smiling. I did not have to ask the reason. My problems were over I was now back in the world of the living. Someone up there had just lifted a great stone from my shoulders; perhaps he does like me after all. I put my shoes on and we went for a walk. Shirley explained that she had 'come on' that very morning, the pregnancy had been a false alarm. Her bubbly nature had returned and she suggested we take a walk in the park.

I asked her how come she had been so late having her period, Eight days almost nine. She replied that she had confided her fears to an aunt with whom she could trust her secret. The aunt had said there were many reasons for not menstruating on time. One being pregnant of course, but other times it could be just a common cold, the warm weather, cold weather, fears, worries or for just no obvious apparent reason. For an instance it could have been because of the first time of having sex, even that can throw your bodies timing off.

Now that my problem had been solved it meant I could look forward to seeing Marlene in the Rat-Trap tonight. All I had to do was stall Shirley about not going out together this evening. I promised myself that sometime during the walk I would tell her that I couldn't see her anymore. That I wasn't in love with her, that I was in love with another. No, I couldn't go that far and tell her all that. I would let her down very gently telling her what a wonderful person she was, how I was no good for her, how I would always keep her down. Yes, I would make it the least painful as I could, I would put all the blame on myself.

"I’ve got to tell you something." We both began at the same time with exactly the same words.

"You go first." Again we almost spoke together.

"Shirley." I said, "You go first and then me. Okay?"

"Jack... I'm sorry to have to tell you this but I think we may be better off if we had a short break from one another."

"Oh! Why?" I pretended to feel hurt but this was just what I wanted, this lets me off the hook. Just a minute, I was hurt. Why did she not want to go out with me? I was good enough for her before, she was even talking about furnishing our house together. What has changed?

"It's just that after our scare I got to thinking if I had a baby it would completely ruin my life. I am hoping to qualify for University when I have completed Sixth form. At sometime in the future I want a baby, a home and a career, all of those things, but I will not be able to settle down for years yet. We could get together in about eight or so years. Can you understand my feelings? I hope I haven’t let you down too badly."

"No, no of course not. I understand it would not have worked, there is such a huge age gap between us with you being only fifteen."

"Sixteen," she corrected, "well nearly. Anyway what did you want to tell me?"

"Oh! It's nothing now. It was about some arrangements I wanted to know about this evening but now it doesn't matter."

By the end of the conversation, without realizing, it we were heading for home without actually having visited the park. We made polite conversation with each other, reminding ourselves what a great time we'd had, but each knowing that this would be the last time we would be in each other’s company, seriously, ever again. We bade our good-byes promising that we would never forget how special our relationship had once been. We would remember each other for the rest of our lives.

Shirley? Shirley who?"

 

12.

Monday morning I awoke with a spring in my step, well possibly not in my step, for I was still in bed, but it was certainly in my heart. All my worries had disappeared. And after last nights episode with Marlene I realized that I might be in love. I had accepted, in my heart, her conditions of our sexual relationship, or sex without penetration as she called it. Although we had not gone too far exploring each other’s bodies, last night, she had not repulsed me when I caressed her breasts. Marlene was a woman whereas Shirley had been a girl

"Jack are you getting up it's Quarter past?" My mums second calling urged me to get out of bed

On the Coal Road I met up with my three mates. "What a beautiful day it is." I remarked.

"You seem full of the joys of spring just lately Jack." said Peter "Have you won the pools or something."

"It's Marlene, he's in love again." ribbed Ernie.

"No, it's because." I went on to confide in them about Shirley not coming on. How for the past week or so I had been worrying how she might be pregnant.

"See I told you so, said Ernie "Didn't I say he'd bairned her, or at least thought he had."

Peter and Special nodded in agreement.

Obviously the past weeks worries had shown and my mates had discussed it among themselves. They had said nothing to me.

"Anyway, tonight’s the night." declared Ernie. And we all knew what that meant.

When I got down the pit, 3s deputy Daniel Hambleton was surprised to see me back. He took my check from me and said I would be pony driving the 3s Left Hand TailGate as usual. Adding that my stand in driver, of last week, had been useless at the job. "I wouldn't pay him out with washers." Was how he put it. I grew a little in stature to think that the deputy thought so highly of my work.

As I entered the stables the thought of Royal, my late faithful horse, washed over me. At that point I did not feel like driving again. Could or would the same thing happen again? Alphie, the stable man, told me that my pony for the foreseeable future would be Mousey. I had heard about Mousey, he was a young headstrong Dapple-Grey horse.

"Try not to kill this one." Alf chided, was he being serious or just taking the piss?

"Bollocks." was my witty reply.

At the top of the Traveller Drift I stopped my horse by reining in heavily on the rope that was attached to the bit in its mouth. Words of command with this horse seemed pointless. Words like 'Whoa' or 'Ger up' were seemingly ignored, the only way he would stop was with the rein, and to release it when I wanted him to move forward. Mousey was the exact opposite of Royal. I could not see Mousey and I getting on. Thank goodness Bennie Wilkie had promised me face training within a week or so.

I inserted two lockers, released the tension on the rope and flicked it at the same time shouting 'Ger up' it urged Mousey on. The flight down the Traveller was a nightmare. I had travelled it fast many times but never this fast. If the horse tripped up on the uneven ground, the tub train would run straight over its fallen body. I hated every yard, constantly looking forward for any lights flashing danger signals. But there were none and soon the roadway levelled out.

After a bite to eat and a swallow of water at the road-end meeting point with the other drivers, it was time to be on my way forward.

When turning a corner horses would follow the rails round, not Mousey, he would try and shortcut the corner pulling the tubs at an angle. They were then liable to be pulled off the rails. I had to manhandle each one back on before we could travel any further. All of this took up time; Mousey was the thickest horse I had ever handled. Usually horses followed the rails round and did not shortcut. Was Mousey doing it so that he could rest whilst I re-railed the tubs? I considered. No, he just doesn't have enough sense. I quickly learned that when I came to a junction I reigned the horse in, went to its head, and led him the correct route round the rails. At least then I did not have any derailments.

When I reached the low point in the Tail Gate where I had to uncouple my horse and guide him under the low roof I had the devils own job of getting him under. Although Mousey was shorter in height than Royal he had no sense at all. The horse collar kept digging into the roof and he was trying to pull himself through it. I eventually succeeded but that point had to be negotiated at least twice a day and more often than not four times.

By the time I got to the face I was over an hour late. The face men were screaming for pit props. I now realized why last weeks stand in driver had been called useless. He was late in because of the conditions he was working under, what with the unstable horse and the low roof. I would have to mention to Deputy Dan about getting the roof arked out at that low point. Whereas before it was a minor inconvenience now it was a major hurdle.

I was glad when time came that I could travel back to the pit bottom and get out of the mine. Work, today, had been a real 'grueler,' as a breaker in, after having over a week off.

As I entered the Tap Room later that evening I noted that my three mates and Big George were all in their usual seats. I had the Mercury securely in a tin within my pocket.

I sat down we began to discuss what plan we were to operate. There were not a lot of customers in at this stage; Monday nights never get packed as at the weekend. Things were going to look very suspicious if we all crowded round George’s table as we had planned on Friday. It was agreed that Ernie would create a disturbance by tripping and falling on to a table, upturning it's content of glasses, some containing beer, but not much. Big George not being worth too much beer

George, I noticed, for once had gone to the bar for his round of drinks. That in it's self was unusual he nearly always had one of his cronies do the tramming for him.

"Are you ready to create a disturbance now?" I asked Ernie. He replied in the affirmative.

"Right I'm going to the bar now, when I'm at the side of George I'll nod my head, you then make the loudest noise possible. It may give me the chance. At least I'm going to try."

I got up from my seat and went over to the side of George who already had been served with a pint of dark mild and two bitters. It was obvious which drink was George’s. He was counting his change and saying something to the barman. By this time I had secretly opened the tin containing the Mercury and was ready. Without looking at Ernie I nodded my head. At that instant there was an almighty crash, it echoed around the room. It was followed by the foulest of curses imaginable. Ernie was letting rip; the swearing would make a sailor blush. I did not turn round for I was looking at Big George and the barman. They, on hearing the noise turned their heads, as every other head in the bar, towards the noise and the abuse. I quickly, and was so surprised how easily it was, slipped the poison into George’s drink. When order was restored I asked for four pints of bitter. Big George was carrying his beer back to the table. The dirty deed was done

On reaching back to our table there were many congratulations and praises on how well it had all gone.

"I couldn't have done it without you Ernie." I confessed "Your act was brilliant you should take a job on the stage."

"Yer sweeping it." he laughed.

It appeared that Ernie, before my signal, had placed a beer bottle on the floor beside our table of empty and very partial full drink glasses. On my nod he had accidentally, on purpose, put his foot on the bottle and tripped over conveniently managing to land on the table up tipping it. The beer glasses crashed to the ground. He was shouting and swearing at the unknown person who had left the bottle on the ground. By his loud complaints about how his glass had almost been full when it was shattered, it wasn't, he managed to con the barman out of a free replacement pint.

From that point on we were all in fine spirits at last we had done something positive. Although throughout our jollification’s our eyes never strayed from Big George’s glass.

We all breathed a little sigh of relief as he took the first drink. Nothing was unduly said or done by him all appeared normal. We were all now waiting for that final gulp.

I discussed with my mates what the encyclopaedia had indicated about Mercury. My interpretation of it was that although mercury passes through the body and is excreted, a few minute particles are left behind especially when the gastric juices get to work on it. It also followed, to me, that the longer it was in George’s drink atoms would mix with it. It was hoped, by me, that the Mercury would divide into smaller globules enhancing its poisonous properties. I explained that the longer it remains in the body the more disastrous it was for that person. I hoped that he didn't need to go to the toilet or to be sick at least until tomorrow. That would ensure that the Mercury was in his system the longest time possible.

"Why don't we put some cement in his drink as well that should block his system up when it sets." Ernie jokingly suggested

"Or Gravy browning, that'll thicken him up." Peter added.

I had no sooner finished my explanations of my thoughts and reasoning that George was almost to the bottom of his glass. He swigged the remnants of the glass and handed it to one of his cronies indicating that he wanted it filling. By this action he showed that he was happy with that same glass. If there had been anything wrong with the glass, or it's contents, he would have demanded a fresh one. Even if all the contents had not been drunk, on the first go, then they would be after the next pint. We were now on a point of no return; up to now all we had done was talk about it, now our actions spoke louder than any words or promises we had made.

We had started what we meant to finish, we were far from home and dry, that would come on George's death. It is such a horrible word, death. We were beginning to realize that we were now forever bound together with a horrible secret that we could

never, ever, tell anyone.

 

13.

Tuesday night I resumed boxing training, our trainer, Josh, although working me very hard, kept me off punching or strength exercises that used my left hand unduly.

Wednesday was just one of those days that can be passed by without comment. My horse Mousey got sillier if that was possible. I couldn't wait to my face training.

Each time the four of us met at work the premier topic of conversation was of wondering how Big George's health was.

On Thursday morning Special gave us the bad news that he had seen Big George on his motorbike, it had been repaired, and he looked none the worse for wear. We were all downcast on hearing this. Although I have to admit to myself, I hadn't expected too much of Mondays dosing. I hadn't really expected that such a small amount we had given him would kill him outright.

"Right then." said Ernie "we will have to get some more stuff."

"What go and buy some more thermometers?" I asked.

"No," he said, "I think I may have another source now."

"Where from." We all chorused

"Trust your Uncle Ernie I'll get us the goods." He would give us no further explanation.

Friday morning when we met up on the Coal Road, Ernie proudly announced that he had in his possession at least Twenty times the amount I had obtained from the thermometers.

"Where did you get it all? Surely you have not left yourself wide open for any comeback." Peter queried.

"Not at all." Ernie explained I got it from school.

"School." We almost to a man questioned.

"Yes school. You all remember the science teacher at school showing us Mercury or Quicksilver as he sometimes called it. How he could divide and sub-divide it and how it would easily run and come together when allowed. The only fluid metal known to man. Did we ever consider where it came from or where it was kept within the school? Remembering where it was stored. I decided to burgle the school last night. My idea was to break into the science laboratory and then the secure cupboard. It was easy. The lock on the cupboard was so puny I almost ripped it off with my bare hands. Anyway we have no problems about mercury amounts now."

"But don't you realize that as soon as it is known that Mercury is missing and anyone goes down with Mercury poisoning the Police will put two and two together." Asked Peter.

"Credit me with a bit of sense." Retorted Ernie, "I threw around any papers I could find and up tipped chairs and tables to make it look like it was kids just larking around. I broke into other classrooms as well. I didn't do any serious damage. After putting the Mercury in a safe place, I took the mercury bottle and smashed it to the floor. I sprinkled minute amounts of it around, to make it look as if all the stuff had been scattered. The police may be informed of the vandalism but not of any theft, least of all Mercury."

"Brilliant said Peter." "Why didn't I think of that myself?"

We all agreed Ernie was not just a pretty face.

That evening in the Trap Ernie showed us the contents of a small plastic bottle. There was enough Mercury in it to fill fifty thermometers. I also had with me, as arranged my small tin snuffbox. I dropped a tiny amount of Mercury, about the same as before, into it. I closed the lid. We had previously agreed to give George very small and frequent doses. That way we had considered it would be harder to detect and would ensure a longer passage through the body.

Ernie had brought the Mongrel Bull terrier with him as last Friday. The plan was to be the same. We now decided that there was no point in waiting until George had nearly emptied his glass, the poison could be dropped in at anytime. Special said that he would do it this time. I showed him and he had a practice finding how easily the tin box opened and how quickly it could be emptied of its contents. We had decided on three doses tonight if possible, rather than one large one that might more easily be discovered.

Special said that he was ready and Ernie untied the dog and moved over to the bar near where Jackie was sitting with Hox. Special got up and went to George’s table. Peter and I followed. As the three of us neared George he saw us coming and stood up saying something to the effect "Are you three ganging up on me?" or something to that effect. Peter held his hands up and laughed. "No way George, we are going to the back." Indicating the toilet. I appreciated Peter's quite quick thinking. He and I then carried on to the stone. Special remained saying that he had come to pay his dues. He stood beside the now seated George.

Neither Peter nor myself didn't see what exactly happened next but from the toilets we heard an almighty crash and the howling and barking of the dogs. We rushed back into the room and saw Ernie's dog fighting with Jackie’s dog. Ernie was attempting to pull his dog away from Hox and was having very little success. It seems as if Ernie's dog, had approached Hox and started snarling. Hox had lunged forward with its lead still attached to the table leg. The table had gone flying, glasses and all. Jackie by this time had retrieved his dog’s lead and pulled Hox from Ernie dog. It was a good job as well; Hox would have made mincemeat out of the mongrel. The dogs were separated and the barman told Ernie to get his dog out of here now or be barred himself. He took his dog out and returned a few minutes later still grinning. He'd kicked it home again as the other night.

When we returned to our table and was about to apologize to Special for not backing him up, he replied. "No problem I easily doctored his drink. He was too busy counting the money I gave him, it was all in change." We all rejoiced, it had become obvious that if we all surrounded Big George’s table he would suspect there was something amiss, the idea was to do it when he wasn't looking at us and least expected it.

Watching over at George’s table we saw him take his last drink of the glass. He seemed to gulp a little as though he had swallowed something other than beer, which he had, but he then carried on as if nothing had happened.

It was Peter’s turn and he decided to give it a while before doing his dirty deed. He decided to wait until George had downed one more pint, then he would watch until on of his cronies went for the drinks. I was to talk to him and distract his attention. With a bit of luck Peter might then succeed.

I poured a little Mercury into the snuff tin that Peter was to carry and showing him how easy it was to carry he took it. As soon as I saw George’s mate go to the bar for drinks Peter and I got up and joined him, one either side. "Hard dog that." I said to George's mate who had ordered and was waiting for his order.

"What?"

"Jackie’s dog there" I indicated Jackie Whites dog that was now sitting quietly under Jack's table."

"Nah," he said, turning to face me, he was being served his round of drinks. "Big George once had a dog, a Brindle Staffordshire Bull Terrier. That dog was a hard dog. It would lick the hide off any dog I’ve ever seen, including Jackie's dog. Big George used to take it regularly to organized dogfights. He won a lot of money on that dog. His and another would be put in a dog pit and the blood and fur would soon begin to fly. I’ve seen nothing like it, it was a pleasure to watch. He would bring the dog home in all states of injury. Deep gashes about its neck with blood pouring out. I once saw it jaw almost hanging off. But it always won. I’ve seen Big George have to stitch its wounds with an ordinary needle and cotton; he obviously could not take it to a vet of course. The bitch would not flinch just stand there and take it, no aesthetic or owt. Now that was a hard dog."

He continued extolling the virtues of the dog. I nodded occasionally to make him think I was avidly interested in dogfights. I was interested, but not in dogfights, how a human being could get pleasure out of seeing one animal inflict pain on another. Well they are not human are they?

Out of the corner of my eye I saw Peter pointing with his right hand to something behind the bar and at the same time his left hand was dropping the Quick Silver into George’s mild. A sleight of hand any conjuror would be proud of. I left George's cronie to his reminiscences.

Peter and I regained our seats we were congratulated on a successful mission.

Ernie said he would do it next. We tried to say that we could leave any further doctoring for the night and resume tomorrow night or Sunday. Ernie would have none of it He hadn't put his boot in yet, as he put it. "I don't want to see him pop his clogs before I have a chance to put my boot in."

We agreed to wait until Ernie had his chance. Half an hour later it came. George and his two cronies got up from the table and went to the stone. Their table was empty with the drinks were standing invitingly. I had already prepared a small dose of the poison in the snuff tin and it was in Ernie’s possession. Seeing George and his henchmen leave, Ernie without any warning to us, also got up and headed for the empty table. A diversion had not been properly prepared at this time. We were at a loss what to do. The bar was very full and customers were milling around. Special suddenly flung his arms out and almost cleared our table of drink they went clashing to the floor again most eyes turned to the noise but they were quickly returned when they saw that all it was, was another few broken glasses, a normal event in the Rat-Trap.

Ernie returned, "There was no need for any diversion no one is looking at any one in particulars drink. It is so easy to drop something in. Know one is taking a blind bit of notice of what anyone else is doing, especially poisoning someone’s drink."

"What time is it?" I asked.

"Time to get drunk." Was the expected chorus.

We decided not to bother waiting to see the results of Ernie’s escapade and retired to the Taproom. Marlene, Jayne and Wendy were already there, saving seats for us all. As we sat down who should appear at Ernie’s elbow was Joan. She had come all the way from Wakefield to see Ernie. He bade her welcome and to sit at his side. He beckoned Ginny over to get drinks for the table. A look of hatred came over her face when she saw Ernie with a bird at his side.

"Yes Ernie, of course Ernie love." Replied Ginny taking the offered money. "I suppose you are buying my drink as usual." She was trying to make a point to Joan that Ernie was her fellar and he usually bought her drinks throughout the night. "Okay," said Ernie, "you can get yourself half. Bring us fellar's pints, the ladies halves, except for Joan here, she's a lady and not a boozer, bring her half of shandy, and turning to Joan said, "Is that alright love?" Joan nodded her agreement. When Ginny had retired to the bar, he turned round and said, "Sorry about that. I apologize to the table, I didn't mean to suggest any of you were not ladies, I was just putting her in her place."

We all knew what he meant. That was Joan’s drink anyway, shandy.

When Ginny returned with the tray of beer she placed it on the table and went off in a huff. It was obvious that she had been blown out in Ernie’s eyes, at least for this night anyway.

All was enjoying a great night and Peter announced that he was about to sing. Joan asked if she could accompany him in a song. "Are you any good?" Answered Peter. "You'll never know until you try me." replied Joan

They agreed to sing 'Cheating Heart'

 

They began: -

"Your Cheating Heart will make you weep

You'll cry and cry and try to sleep

But sleep won't come the whole night through

Your cheating Heart will tell on you.

When tears come down like falling rain

You’ll toss around and call my name.

You'll walk the floor the way I do

You cheating heart will tell on you.

 

Both Peter and Joan sang like a well-rehearsed duo, as though they had rehearsed together many times before. Peter sang the main theme with Joan repeating certain words or lines in descant. At certain times throughout the song she would join in along side Peter but in a different key. My description of their singing may not be musically correct but that is the only way I can describe it. It brought the house down. Strangers in the pub would swear they were hearing professional singers. They were not allowed down from the stage until they sang some more, they turned out to be - 'I believe' and 'Answer me' both made famous by Frankie Laine.

The night was a total success, we Four Musketeers were on top of the world. Walking our chosen bird home we were like pea cocks strutting in front of our hens. We felt that nothing could touch us now.

Marlene and I peeled off from the rest, as we neared her home and turned into small alleyway surrounded by high walls. It was the local lover’s lane, quite secluded and quiet. We immediately went into a clinch and began to make love. Not going all the way like in the sexual kind but making love it certainly was.

As we were saying our goodnights Marlene asked if I would like to meet her mother and father. I hesitated not really liking the idea. I felt a little daunted by the prospect. I said I might be embarrassed by the situation, but at her insistence, in the end I had to agree, especially when she had implored "Just for me." I could do no other. It was arranged the I visited her house for Sunday tea at 4-30

 

Saturday morning and afternoon passed quietly enough and in the evening we met in the Trap. To cut a long story short we dosed Big George's glass a further three times. On the third attempt he took a drink of his ale and as he reached the bottom he spewed the contents to the floor swearing someone had dropped a fag end or ash in his glass. He moaned loudly for a while but soon quietened down. The important thing was that the Mercury had been spat to the floor. There was no incriminating evidence to be found and he did not suspect us. We decided to call it a day, as far as the poisoning was concerned and agreeing to recommence on the next night, Sunday. I reminded my mates that I would not be coming in the taproom tomorrow night as I had arranged to be with Marlene all evening, I would be in the Singing Room though.

Sunday morning Peter came round and suggested we go for a game of snooker, to which I reluctantly agreed. Why does he have to pick on me? I lost four games on the trot and refused a fifth drumming.

I had my Sunday dinner as usual and soon after I had to leave for Marlene's House. This was the part of the weekend I had been dreading.

Marlene introduced me to her father he was called Albert. He took my hand and shook it. It was most unusual for me to shake the hand of another, I think his was the first hand I had ever shook other than in the ring, it made me feel quite an adult. I took to Albert he made me feel most welcome. Her mother was also very nice and I was very impressed with her. She was quite beautiful in an older womanish sort of way. They always say if you want to know what your future wife will look like, or be like when she gets older, look at her mother. Well I was quite taken by her mother and as mother in law's go she looked as if she would be all right. Afterwards when I appraised Marlene of the fact that I liked her mother, she was over the moon. I could not have paid her a greater compliment. I even liked her father who was an ex collier, not at Eagleton though. I enjoyed my tea at Marlene's house even though I had been embarrassed and a little unsure of myself.

Marlene put me off a little while later when she asked, "When am I to meet your parents?" I hadn’t really thought of it before and said I would arrange something.

That evening I took Marlene into the Rat-Trap, I'll have to stop calling it the Rat-Trap when I'm with my woman, only Sunday names are good enough for her. Anyway, like I was saying, I took Marlene into The Eaglet. We went into the best room; Walter was playing the piano with Plonker Bill beating his drums as usual. Special and Wendy were already in. We joined them. I asked about Peter and Ernie to be told they were in the Tap Room waiting for "You now who."

About half Nine Ernie and Peter came to our table to join us. When I asked about 'our friend' Peter said he was going to the toilet. He motioned me to follow him. Making my excuses to Marlene I joined Peter.

"It seemed that Big George could not get in tonight." Peter began. "According to his mates, George's guts were playing up. He's been sick and got diarrhoea. They reckoned it was something that he's eaten and has got food poisoning.

Didn't you say diarrhoea and vomiting are symptoms of Mercury poisoning?" Peter asked.

"Yes," I agreed, " and according to the encyclopaedia next comes a shock-like circularity collapse and liver failure. That's if he's badly because of us, and not just cos he's got an ordinary case of food poisoning."

As we retired back to the table. Ernie said to me. "What do you think?"

"It sounds promising, very promising" I agreed. "Our troubles may soon be over."

"What sounds promising and what troubles may be over?" asked Marlene, "and who is this 'our friend' you mentioned earlier?"

"I tell you," I began, "I’ve heard of walls having ears but women's, theirs must keener than a bats. Nowt goes past them. Keep your sneb out woman." At that we all laughed. "Anyway what time is it?"

"Time to get drunk." Answered Ernie. Whose turn is it for the beer?"

.

 

 

14.

Monday morning began, as had many other Mondays before it. I was a little pleased to hear from my deputy that this was to be my last week of working as a pony driver to the 3s right hand tailgate. The next coming Monday, Benny Wilkie had informed Dan, I was to begin coal face training with Con Rhodes on the South East, as had been earlier arranged.

The journey down to my face was also uneventful, if you can call hurtling down the traveller with Mousey at breakneck speed uneventful. If you can call coming off the rails six times when you should not come off at all, uneventful. Never mind I consoled, soon I would be rid of my Dapple Grey adversary, for that's what the horse seemed to be like at times. I was soon going to join the big money league.

I eventually got to the face, late as usual. The coal fillers were screaming out for me to throw the wooden prop supports that I had brought, on to the face conveyer. Without adequate roof support they was always a danger of roof falls. I emptied my tubs of props and threw them forward. One more throw forward and I will be able to put them onto the conveyer. After completing my primary tasks I unpacked the steel rings from the chariot and stacked them to the side of the gate in waiting for the rippers to erect them.

By the time I had completed my chores, Daniel Hambleton, the deputy, had crawled up the face, mainly in the gob waste, from the central loader gate and was emerging from under the tailgate ripping.

"What are you going to do now Jack?" he asked as he regained his feet in the gate.

I was leading Mousey around the tubs and was about to fasten his halter chain to the now leading chariot. Suddenly the horse set off at a gallop down the gate and soon disappeared into the darkness.

"Well, up to that silly bugger galloping off like that. " I began. "I was going to get a few tub rails from the old two’s gate and then lay them in here. But it know looks as if my first job is to retrieve that stupid idiot of a pony" I answered. "Do you wonder I'm always late of a morning with an idiot gallower like that?"

"Yeah okay," replied Dan, "go get your horse, then I want you to go back into the Loader Gate and fetch.... What the bleeding hells that?"

A piercing ripping noise interrupted his verbal instructions. Then an extremely loud booming noise began. It was rather like thunder only much deeper and continuous. It was a noise, impossible to describe, but no one needed to tell me that it spelt serious danger. The noise seemed to come from the inner walls of the rock, not just from above, below or from the sides but from all around. Geoff the corner-man began scrambling from the face that was collapsing before my very eyes. Looking down the gate the steel ring supports were buckling as though they were made of plastercine. Rocks from above were falling all around; the floor underfoot was rising and breaking up in great long tracts. Geoff, Dan and myself crouched along side the train of tubs. With an involuntary movement we covered our heads with our hands. For a brief second I wished now I was wearing a hard hat rather than my soft one, but just as quickly realized that if one of the large rocks, I could see falling about, hit me anywhere, no hard hat would save me. The air soon filled with coal and stone dust. I could not see a hand before me. I was screaming, for my mother, I think, when I heard a voice saying "Steady on lad, we'll be alright. It will all stop soon." It was Dan Hambleton's stabilizing voice. It did nothing to calm my fears but I knew I was showing myself up with my screaming. Instead of screaming out loud, now my screams remained inside.

We crouched there for what seemed like hours but maybe it was less than a minute. Every second I expected a boulder or rock face to engulf and crush me.

The noise abated a little, it was not very loud now rather like retreating thunder. It slowly subsided, less and less, until all was quiet. There was a deathly silence broken only by the pitting of a few small stones that were setting into new their positions. No one need tell me that I, we, were in a serious predicament, how serious at this stage I just did not know.

The wind, that had been the ventilation of the gate and face, had ceased and the dust-laden atmosphere was slowly beginning to settle. I could now see the deputies cap lamp crouched beside me and before long I could make out one other, it would be Geoff's. My insides and brain were screaming to be let out and I'm sure that if I had been on my own I would have begun to cry out aloud again. Because I was in the company of others, I suppressed my urge. When and if they began to cry then it would give me license to do the same.

The dust had almost cleared now and the light from my cap lamp began to pierce our surroundings. Looking down the gate that used to be an open roadway, I could see that it was almost completely choked-up up with fallen rock and the risings of the floor. Completely blocked off except for a very small space over the top of the debris. My first thought was to attempt an escape and try to scramble over the top of it, feeling that it was a way out of my predicament. But common sense told me the space looked too narrow for an escape that way; anyway for how far that space extended I knew not, it might only be for a few yards in length. I decided to wait until Dan or Geoff made suggestions on that line of thought. There may be an easier way out that I, at this stage don't know about.

The face end of the gate looked completely blocked. I realized that any workers still on the coalface would now be dead; no one could survive that crushing mayhem. The only consoling thought was that their death would have been quick, crushed like the stamping of a foot on a lowly beetle.

"Are you alright Jack?" asked my Deputy. I replied that I thought so. On asking Geoff the same question he received the same affirmative answer. Neither of us asked if Daniel was okay, we assumed that he was.

Nothing was said by any of us for what seemed like hours but it probably was only a few minutes. I think we were all listening and a feared of hearing a repeat of the thunderous noises. FI was frightened that it may all start again, this time maybe for good.

The air condition had now cleared. Very minute particles still hung in suspension, indicating there was no passage of air. I realized that soon our air supply could be exhausted. Looking around the three of us were trapped in an area in length of perhaps ten yards at varying heights of about three feet down to almost nothing. I made an attempt to get up, and was about to search my surroundings but was immediately restrained by Dan who said to both Geoff and myself. " Look, I don't have to tell you about the extremely serious position we are in. You can see the air supply situation. We have to conserve our energy, thereby conserving our air."

"But the amount of air contained in this small space will soon be used up." I was telling them something they already knew. "I vote we try to scramble over the rock down the gate at least then we have an even chance of getting out of this alive."

"Hold it. Said Daniel "Who said anything about chances, we have a good chance of getting out of this unhurt. So lets be hearing nothing about us not getting out."

"Jack's right." Geoff spoke up for the first time. It does look as if there is a way out over the top of that debris down the gate. There is no air in this pocket to speak of. At least we may have a chance down the gate. We could pass rocks that are in the way, back to each other. Tunnel our way out."

"Listen, we are all in this together and if we keep our heads we may survive but if we lose them and start scrambling around we will soon be out of air. Any exertion takes up more air. I doubt if we could work for more than a few minutes before we use up what we have. To dig our way out over the top would take more than any few minutes. Who is to say how far down the gate the rocky barrier is, for all we know it could be the whole length of the gate, a few hundred yards."

We both knew he was right, both Geoff and I were lucky to have someone with such common sense with us. Left to our own devises George and I would be scrambling over the top by now and probably dying of asphyxiation. What a horrible thought.

"Now let me tell you the good news. If you notice the minute particles in the air are not exactly still but are travelling in the right direction, very slowly I admit but travelling they are. That tells us that there is a circulation of air. Very limited I admit but still a circulation no doubt."

Up to this time I had assumed that the parcels in the air were stationary but if by concentrating on a single one, found it did move. Maybe only a little faster than a minute hand on a clock but movement nevertheless. The particles were moving in the proper direction, down the gate. "They are moving, the particles I mean." I said excitedly. "He's right Geoff we do have air."

Geoff agreed and we both now could see the sense in remaining still and conserving our meagre air supply.

"The air circulation will only get better." Daniel began his reassurances again. "Nature hates a vacuum and at any partial depression in air pressure, higher pressured air will always attempt to equalize with it. Air will find new ways of circulating up the loader gate through the face and down this tailgate.

By now the whole pit including the surface will be aware of the serious upheaval on this face. They will know that there may be many pockets such as this one, where men are liable to be trapped. The first thing they will do it to try to maintain an air circulation. Or in the case of this gate re-establish an air circulation. As soon as the rescuers know there is no air, or little air, travelling down this tail gate a fan will be installed at the end. It will be positioned to draw air out of the gate. This will create a mini vacuum or a depression in air pressure at the end of the fall. Air should rush in from the face, past us and over the fall to equalize with it. We will know this has happened when we feel a better circulation of air."

Whereas before my head, heart and guts where churning with fear now it was abating a little after Dan's two speeches. He had taken charge of the situation and seemed to know what he was talking about.

"We must realize that we may be here some time." Continued Dan. "I didn't say we would be, only may be. We could be rescued within the next few hours but we have to prepare for a long wait. Jack, Geoff I suggest you turn your lamps out to conserve their energy, we may have a long wait in front of us and I do not want to be without light for any length of time."

I, perhaps a little too quickly, said. "Do we have to?" My voice obviously betrayed my fears because then Daniel said.

"Here Jack swap me lamps. Mine is a staff lamp. It has a separate small pilot light incorporated into the head. This pilot light operates on half power and should give us at least fifteen hours of minimum lighting. We will all switch off our lights leaving just this pilot light on."

I had to agree with him about conserving our available battery power and was glad of the exchange of lamps. At least of the little light available I had it. Dan was trying to look after me, attempting to alleviate my frightened state.

After a few minutes of silence Dan announced.

"I think I'd better have a look round. I'm going to investigate how far our air pocket extends." And without another word he switched on his light, crawled over me and wriggled off down the gate. Geoff and I could see him begin to climb over the rocky debris and into the very narrow space above it. This was the space that had earlier looked to me as if it was our passage out of our confinement. His boots almost disappeared for a few seconds but soon they were in reverse and Daniel squirmed round and returned to us. "There is definitely no way over that fall and there is no way of telling how far down the gate the fall extends but my guess is that it is more than any few yards. We could never clear away a pathway over it; we just have not got the resources. I am now going to try the face area." Dan then wriggled over both of us and headed off in the opposite direction.

He set off to explore the face, or what was left of it, to me that looked to be completely blocked off. There seemed to be no escape that way. I could see the Deputy removing a few largish stones from a small opening and placing them behind him managing to make a little headway. This time he completely disappeared through the hole he had made. The hole must have been larger than his body width for him to get through but it certainly didn't look too big.

Our Deputy had been gone quite a length of time and my hopes were beginning to lift thinking he may have found an escape route down the face and then into the Loader Gate. Perhaps there is a way out after all. My spirit began to lift a little.

Soon Dan re-emerged from the hole; his feet emerged first indicating that he'd had no room in which to turn around. The look on his face told us the answer to any unspoken questions we had.

"There is no way through the face either. It is completely blocked. I found Henry dead under a stone that must be fifty tons if it an ounce." Henry had been the coal filler, the next in line down from Geoff. "I cannot see any rescue party coming from the face direction. That stone will have to be blasted apart before anyone can get through there. The only consolation for poor Henry is it will have been a quick death.

My fears and mental screams were beginning again. I’ve got to get out of here. The walls were beginning to close in on me. I had never suffered from claustrophobia before but now I knew the mental torture of a sufferer. "Jack, pretty soon the rescuers will be at the other side of this tailgate fall. They will want to know if any men are trapped and the only way we can alert them is by tapping at regular intervals. Say ten taps and then wait for any reply before repeating the tapping. You are the youngest so your hearing will be better than Geoff’s or mine. Can you do that?"

"What? Er.. Yes of course I can". I picked up a piece of rock and began tapping it to another larger one. It didn't seem to make too large a sound.

"Is that loud enough?" I asked.

"It doesn't need to be very loud the sound vibrations will travel quite a distance. Try trapping the stone on the steel ring, it may vibrate a little more." Assured Dan.

I did as he suggested and it did vibrate a little more. Every tenth tap I listened for a return noise but none came. My thoughts soon realized why Dan had given me the job; it helped me to divert my fears from our confinement. My young ears would have been no better than theirs would but Dan had realized I needed a distraction it was his way of looking after me. It helped a little but not that much.

"I wonder what time it is?" said Geoff. I didn’t have the urge to say, "Time to get drunk" as I normally do when asked that question.

The Deputy taking a watch out of his waistcoat pocket answered "Half past Nine." We had been trapped about an hour and up to now Geoff and I hadn't known Daniel even had a watch. I was feeling a little thirsty and said so. Dan asked where our water bottles were, to be answered with "In our coats that were hung up further down the gate."

Tap, tap, tap.. I tapped the recommended ten times and then listened for a minute or so. Dan had earlier said that it may be some time before I would hear any return noise but I was becoming very impatient, I wanted to hear something now.

Dan unfastened the water bottle that he always carried on his belt it was about a quarter full. He unscrewed the bottle cap and poured just enough water to fill it. He handed, without spilling a drop, the cap-full to myself. After I had drunk it he filled a second for Geoff. I noticed that he did not drink one himself.

"When the air circulation gets a little better I'll go see if I can find anything of your coats. We may need the extra water." Announced our Deputy.

That's another of our problems, I studied, water. If we are trapped for any length of time we must have water. I had heard of people going weeks without food but how long can we go without water? One? Two days? What about the heat? I’ve just realized it's getting very hot here. Normally because of the good air circulation, this was a cold gate. Now that the circulation has stopped things were getting decidedly warm. I took off my shirt and made a pillow for my head.

Tap, tap, tap, I continued with my chore.

Our Deputy unhitched his Davy safety lamp from his belt and inserting a key gave it a sharp twist. The flame inside the glass tube lit up and Dan adjusted it until only a blue flame showed. He held the air inlet holes of the lamp as high in the roof as he could. The roof being no more that a yard high. He studied the flame and I looked over his shoulder. The flame had a distinct light bluish tinge at the edge. This denoted that Methane gas was present. It was probably seeping out of the gob. The equal triangle of the bluish tinge indicated that there was approximately two and a half percentage of gas in the atmosphere. It was quite a high percentage, it was not an explosive percentage as yet, but any gas present down a coalmine is not welcome.

Is there any gas present?" Geoff asked. He had seen the flame but was ignorant what the bluish tinge had told the Deputy

"There is a very slight hint." Said Dan, untruthfully. "That is to be expected but its nothing for us to worry about."

I realized that Daniel did not want to alarm us unduly. I had learnt the flame size percentages at the Mine Training School and now I half wished I'd forgotten them. The prescience of gas further alarmed me. I said nothing to Geoff or Dan that I knew what the real percentage was.

Dan turned the knurled wheel on the underside of the safety lamp, which lowered the flame until it went out.

Wouldn't it be better if the lamp was left lit then if the gas gets any higher we will be aware of it?" Asked George. "It will also give us a little extra light." he added.

"Tell him why Jack, that’s if you know." Dan asked of me.

"The flame burns oxygen Geoff, and we have little enough as it as it is. Even if more gas does come in there is little we can do about it." I answered.

"The gas in it's self won't kill or harm us." Added Dan.

We lapsed into silence at the thought of Methane seeping into our tomb. Like Dan had said Methane in itself would not kill us but the space that it took up meant a lack of space for Oxygen. Shortage of Oxygen was a certain killer.

Other than my tappings, we had been quiet, for what seemed like ages, each left to his own thoughts: Will there be another rock upheaval? Will our tiny space be crushed and us with it? Will the gas percentage creep up on us and slowly snuff out our lives. Will we exhaust our air pocket, dying of asphyxiation? Air starvation, will it be like drowning in water? Oh please God don't let me go like that. My mind traversed back to when I was a five-year-old at the seaside paddling, a wave had knocked me over and for a brief second I was underwater still trying to breathe. My mind was screaming for air but all that was going into my mouth was seawater. My father had soon lifted me out of the sea. I know now that I had been in no danger of drowning in the few inches of water but obviously I hadn't known it at the time. This childhood image came back to me. Imagine it being like that brief second, now only with that choking feeling going on for minutes or even hours of having no air. Oh God if I'm going to die please don't let it be like that, make it quick, please let it be quick.

The few times in the past that I had thought death, I had reasoned it would be like going to sleep, just not waking up one morning. Everything being so calm and peaceful. The idea of a violent death where one lingers on the edge before the certainty of no return, I just won't be able to stand it. I'll scream and cry like a baby I'll fight like a man insane. Oh! Don’t let me die like this. Please god don't let me die like this.

Why am I thinking of god all of a sudden? In the past you haven’t bothered with him, even to the point of denying his existence. Why do dying men always turn to religion?

Calm yourself down Jack, you are far from dead yet. I told myself. You are letting your mind play tricks; you will not help yourself by letting your fear get the better of you. You have got to get a grip of yourself; you may need your sanity of mind to get you through all this.

Yeah! It’s all right thinking like this but is this god’s punishment for your action in poisoning Big George? What if I pray for forgiveness? Asking that if I promise to take no further part in his murder, will he help me? There you go, on about God again. Now pack it in, get a hold on yourself. The walls of my prison were beginning to crowd in on me. Help me, please god help me. What about you’re tapping? Come on pull yourself together, act like a man, carrying on tapping Do your duty. Tap, tap.

"So you are going face training on Monday? Eh Jack." Our Deputy broke the silence of what seemed ages.

"Eh! What? Oh, er.. Yes" With all the thoughts churning round in my head, had I stopped tapping? I began them again.

Here was Dan talking quite normally about my going face training. Doesn't he know the predicament we are in? Hasn't he anything better to think about than my face training?

"That's if I get to do it, which now seems unlikely." I replied.

"Course you'll get to do it. That's when the hard work really starts you know? Face work is well paid but it can be extremely hard work at times. Are you courting Jack?"

"Yes. A lass called Marlene."

"Is it serious? Will you be wedding her?" he asked.

Obviously he was trying to take my mind off our present circumstances and for a moment he was succeeding my thoughts went out to Marlene. I wonder what she is doing now? She told me she works in a bank but I have never asked her exactly what her job was; I always assumed she worked behind the counter as a teller. I'll have to ask her when I see her next. When I next see her. That's the way Jack, think positive, not if but when you are going to see her. When you get out. You are far too young to die yet. I felt a little better after thinking like that, not much but certainly not any worse either.

"Jack."

"Yes?"

I was asking you, are you going to marry her?

"Who?"

"Marlene of course, your girlfriend."

"Sorry Dan I was miles away." Tap, tap..

"Well, are you?"

"What?.. Oh Yes probably I’ve only just started courting her but I think she is the right girl for me."

"Are you going to be a man and bed her before you get married or a mouse and bed her after your wedding.

He was laying himself wide open for my reply, which he knew, would surely come, for the joke was as old as the hills. "I'm a rat, I had it last night." It was not strictly true but it was the answer he expected. He was trying, and succeeding a little in laying my fears by talking quite normally within this abnormal situation. Perhaps it was helping him also. Geoff had been very quite up to this time. I hoped he was all right.

"Are you married Geoff? I asked trying to bring him into the conversation.

"No. I'm living.. Err. Yer no, funny."

"Well I’ve heard of men and women living together described in many ways, like living over the brush and such like, but I’ve never heard it described as living funny before." laughed Daniel.

"I have just never felt the need to get married that's all, I'm going to remain a bachelor like my dad." Retorted Geoff

"If your father wasn't married to your mother does that mean you’re a Bas.." I purposely left out the ending of the word for if taken in the wrong context it was a highly offensive word. I was only attempting a suggestive funny and I knew Geoff would see it in that light.

"Yer, an a right bastard an all." He cut in sharply. "I’ve always said, why buy a book when you can join a library.".

The three of us laughed at our idiotical conversation. It was stupid and had all be said before but talking definitely helped the tensions we were feeling.

Tap, Tap.. I continued

What time is it Dan? Geoff asked.

The deputy turned on his lamp, took out his watch and answered. "Almost Ten thirty-five.

Had only an hour had gone since the last time Dan had told us the time. We had now been trapped over 2 Hours and Time had really dragged. Things were beginning to warm up now I was sweating just lying there. It was not through fear I was managing to hold my own now in that department. I could do with a drink I said; "My mouth is parched." Daniel took out his water bottle and gave each of us another capful. This time he indulged.

I carried on with my tapping chore

We had been trapped for nearly three hours, the last one seemed to have dragged but there again the three hours, since the cave in, time had passed quite quickly.

The heat was now most uncomfortable I was still sweating but not as much as before. Was I suffering from dehydration? I closed my eyes for a little while.

After what seemed like hours from when Geoff had last asked the time, although thinking about it probably about half hour, Dan turned on his lamp. He threw a little dust into the air and watched the movement of the particles. There was no extra movement.

"What's it like." I asked in between taps.

"Just as before but there is a definite movement of air. We have no danger of running out of it." Our Deputy had tried to reassure us but on me it did not work the air situation was becoming critical.

"What will be happening now on top?" Geoff asked of our Deputy.

"Well first of all, Area will have been informed and the Wakefield Area Mines Rescue Teams alerted. They will be escorted to this pit with a police blue light escort. This pits coal production will now have ceased. All workers will be on standby for any help that may be needed. Our pit rescue team will have reached the surface and have been kitted out with their rescue equipment.

The team will then descend wearing their individual Proto apparatus breathing bags. They will be carrying canaries in single cages and the team should be heading for this area now. They may already have arrived at the other side of the fall. The rescuers will have with them a complete detailed map of the underground mine area, especially this district. They will be exploring both this gate and the Main Loader gate for any entry they can make. All details will be noted down and a complete report made to the mine manager and all other interested parties.

From this report a plan of action will be formed. Of course I cannot tell you what this plan is, because I don't know the extent of this fall, or how far down the gate it goes. But you can be certain that any plan of action will entail attempts to get the circulation of air going.

Even at this time they may have begun digging out the gate rubble or even exploring over the top of it to see how far they can get. Rest assured that they will not give up any attempts to find any trapped miners. They will not rest until every body is accounted for. The teams will act on the assumption that every miner is still alive and waiting for a rescue. Every miner of this pit, or there again, every miner in the British Isles would volunteer to work at getting other trapped miners out."

Daniel calmed my fears a little. How I wish I could wish my life away, just a few days. I'd wish it was now this coming Wednesday. That should give them plenty of time for us to be rescued. I felt like sleeping, I was becoming very tired. The heat was now getting to me. Someone else, Geoff I think, took over my tapping chores.

"Here Jack sip this." Dan woke me with a further capful of water. I really didn't want it. The water was as hot as my surroundings. It was an effort to drink. I tried to push the water away but Dan insisted I drink it.

"What time is it now Dan." Geoff said.

"Twenty to Seven."

I must have been asleep, the last time I remembered it was around eleven or twelve or something. We had been trapped for nearly Ten hours.

"Are we on overtime now? I could just hear Geoff ask. "Our shift finished at a quarter past Two, are we now on time and a half?"

"I'm sure the coal board will look after you on that score. Answered Dan. I'll certainly book you both in."

I was drifting in and out of sleep now. I wasn’t sure what was happening to me but I reasoned this sleep was better than being awake and worrying about not getting out. The heat was unbearable I felt just to open my eyes would make me sweat with exertion that was why I had to keep them closed.

Special. What you doing here? What a stupid name you’ve got, I never did like that name. I'll never call you Special again. From now on I am going to call you your Sunday name Richard, or Rickie. Yeah Rickie that's a cool name. Listen Ernie, and you Peter, I’ve something important to tell you Special here is now to be called... I’ve forgotten Special's name. What is it now? Mercury no Quicksilver, where the hells that come from? No start again, his Sunday name is? Dick Barton Special agent, no it’s Dick, Rickie. Remember that now it's Richard.

I can feel someone putting water to my lips. The water itself felt burning hot. It didn't help my thirst at all, I didn't want it or need it, I'm alright now leave me alone.

My horse! What happened to my horse Royal, he had bolted... No, wait a minute it was not Royal who had bolted down the tailgate it was Mousey. Yes, I remember now, it was Mousey. He had begun his gallop well before we heard the noise of the cave in. It was like what that fellar, er... What do you call him? Yungun, yes. It's like what Yungun said last week, that Pit ponies have a sixth sense. Mousey must have known what was about to happen. He had been off like a shot. I wonder how far he got? Was he buried somewhere further down the gate or did he manage to get out in time. Was he now comfortable in his stall in the stable, as if nothing has happened? I hope he escaped. I certainly didn't like the horse but I wouldn't wish him being buried alive like us. I hope it got out.

I cannot endure any more of this heat, I'm going for a paddle, I'll watch my step dad, don't worry about me I'm a big boy now I won't fall in. Is that Specials mother at the far end of the beach; she's smiling and waving. She's got over her problem then? What problem? What problem was that? I can't remember. It can't have been much of a problem because she's smiling now. Is that Shirley or is it Virginia? Walking towards me. It must be Shirley. The person I can see is small and fair but why has Shirley got Virginia's smiling face? Ah! There she is, there is the one I'm supposed to meet, Marlene. I'm coming Marlene just let me finish this paddle.

"Jack here, drink this."

"You drink it Marlene, I’ve had enough for tonight I'm going to the toilets to be sick."

I'm happy now. I don't need any more beer I'll never need another drink again. I can see the light shining at the end of the roadway it's through there that I'm going, give me your hand Marlene. It's so peaceful now. I can see the running water falling over a miniature waterfall the grass is certainly greener over on this side.

Is that my Grandma waiting for me? I'm coming Gran.

There is a god after all.

I feel so peaceful now. Water! Who wants water? Not me. It's Peter who wants the water he always wants water. He sings about it often enough:

 

'Water, Water, Cool.. Clear.. Water.

Keep a moving Dan don't you listen to him Dan

He’s a devil not a man

For he spreads the burning sand with water.

Water.. Cool clear water.

Dan can't you see that big green tree

Where the waters running free

And it's waiting there for you and me Cool water

Cool.. Clear water.'

 

Daniel stop putting water to my lips I don’t need it I’ve got plenty of my own, Dan’s giving it to me.


15.

It is here that I must attempt to explain, carry on or even finish Jack's story.

My name is Mark Kidsey, I am the under manager of Eagleton Colliery. On the 1st of May 1957 at about 8-30 am I was within a mile, travelling outbye, from the 3s district when the now famous Eagleton Main Mining Disaster occurred.

The first indications I had that anything was amiss were a low rumbling from somewhere in the far distance. In all of my twenty-two years mining experience I have never heard this kind of noise underground before. It sounded like when there is an electrical storm on the surface; it was the noise of rolling thunder when the storm is many miles away. The sound, to me, only lasted perhaps ten seconds but it was one I do not want to ever hear again. My duty now lay inbye and I about turned to go to the nearest main conveyer belt station where there is a phone.

Now walking against the ventilation I was soon met with a huge cloud of dust and had to stop for a few seconds, it was impossible see further than your outstretched hand. After a few seconds the air current cleared somewhat and I was able to continue. When I reached the Ebor Main Transfer Station, which is at the entrance to the 3s district, I was informed by the button attendant that something serious must be wrong on the 3s face.

The conveyer belt had broken and no one could be raised on the telephone. The attendant had heard the same noise as myself, only as he described it has being very loud. As I entered the Main 3s Loader Gate there was obviously little or no air circulating around the district.

I returned to the Ebor Main Station and telephoned our Mine manager. I informed him of the occurrence and of my intentions to proceed as far as was safe up the Main Loader Gate. I would be taking with me two workers to be used as helpers or runners. I had left a responsible person by this phone to relay any messages that I might sent my runners back with. I suggested that our own Rescue Team be assembled and dispatched and that the Wakefield Mines Rescue Station be informed and placed on standby. I would be keeping him fully informed and would be in contact as soon as further information could be obtained.

Entering the 3s Main heading I lit the flame of my Davey Safety lamp and tested for Methane gas at the entrance. None was detected

With my runners we began our walk up the Main Gate. At regular distances I carried out the testing for gas procedure, none was present up to this time. About Fifty yards from the gate ending at the face I encountered a series of roof falls. It soon became obvious to me that men would be injured, dead or trapped beyond this point. I immediately dispatched one of my workers back to the phone to relay this information to the surface. Requesting that all rescue teams be dispatched immediately.

I then attempted to climb over the rocky debris to search for any survivors. I managed to crawl in the space between the roof and debris and about ten yards from the face I found the face button man's body. He was obviously dead from being crushed by a very large stone, probably weighing many tons. I attempted t o proceed further but the roof fall made any further forward advance, by me, impossible at this time. My safety lamp was now showing the presence of about One and a half percentage of Methane gas.

With my single runner I retraced my steps down the gate and back to the conveyer station. The first runner, with whom I had previously sent with a message, had relayed all that I had told him to the surface. I again telephoned the manager and related first hand of my findings. He told me that our own rescue team were already descending the mine and should be with me within Twenty minutes. I suggested that the Wakefield rescue team be dispatched to this mine soonest, as the urgency was great. He assured me that they were already on their way. I further suggested, on hearing this news, that our own rescue team enter the 3s tailgate first. There was very little that could be done immediately in the Main Gate. I further suggested that the Wakefield team be dispatched to the Loader Main Gate and begin work there first. He agreed to my suggestions and said that he would arrange our pit rescue team to meet me in the Right Hand tailgate. I again set off with my two runners and entered the Tailgate. The ventilation in this gate had obviously also stopped although I could detect a slight movement of air.

On entering the Tailgate I tested for gas and at this time I could not detect any. Two runners and myself began our walk up he roadway. Halfway we found the pony Mousey it was not coupled up to anything and was free standing. Its driver whom I now know to be Jack Garle was not with it

Again about Twenty five yards from what had been the coalface I encountered a rock fall. It was total, solid and impenetrable at this time. At this barrier my safety lamp showed a presence of gas at around three percent. It was at this point that I thought that I could detect a tapping noise although it was very indistinct and I couldn’t be sure. If I had heard correctly then I realised that there was someone was at the other end of the fall. I rapped a reply as loud ass I could but there seemed not to be an answer. There being nothing further I could do at this stage, my two runners and I retreated the gate.

On the way out of the gate I was met with the leader of our mines Rescue team George Lee. I appraised him of the situation in this and the Loader Gate. He stated that he would proceed and try to make a preliminary start at clearing a pathway through the Tailgate rubble and that he would appreciate help soonest.

I retreated the area and my findings were relayed to the surface.

Within the hour three teams from the Wakefield Mines Rescue Service arrived at the conveyer station. I gave them all the information that was available and suggested that One team join our own rescue team in the tailgate and the other two teams go up the Main Loader gate. This suggestion was agreed upon. After further consultations with my manager on the telephone I remained at the Conveyer Station to act as a liaison with the Rescue and Surface.

I had informed management and the rescue services of the lack of ventilation in the area. It was arranged that a portable Extractor fan be dispatch immediately to the scene for erection in the tailgate.

It was decided that at this stage Coal production on this day shift would not be stopped, as this would not achieve any effective positive purposes. The coming afternoon and night shifts were to be stood down but held in readiness to assist the rescue teams.

By Three p.m., that afternoon, the extractor fan had been installed in the tailgate as near to the roof fall as was convenient. It provided a better supply of air for workers and travellers of the gate.

The rescuers had begun clearing away the debris by hand for at this time there was no machinery within the gate.

Mine inspectors from division visited the scene to recommend refinements to the rescue.

The plan of excavations in the tailgate was that a team of rescuers aided by our own workers shovelled and hand moved the debris each passing back materials to the one behind. The debris was stacked at the side of the roadway or packed into horse drawn tubs to be taken away and then unloaded to the main conveyer belt. Shoring timbers and metal sheeting was dispatched to the gates to be erected as required.

In the loader gate much the same type of rescue operation was began except the Main Gate Conveyer was cut near the fall. A return box Conveyer end was installed and the conveyer started. The rubble could then be moved more easily and quickly.

In the tailgate Hollow tube probes were constantly pushed through or under the rubble. It had been established at the outset that there was a tiny air circulation around the two gates and the face. We were expectant that there were survivors trapped within air pockets.

At Eight p.m. that evening a series of intermittent tappings could definitely be detected and a return signals sent. For the first time since the accident we were now certain that there were survivors of the tragedy at this time.

At Three Twelve am Tuesday the 2nd of May, Three miners were discovered within ten yards of the coalface in the tailgate. One of them had already expired the other two were unconscious. They were put in charge of a standing bye doctor who diagnosed Oxygen deficiency, serious dehydration and heat exhaustion. The doctor treated the two survivors with the Di-Carbox apparatus that was standing by for such emergencies. This treatment proved to be critical at this stage and undoubtedly saved their two lives. It was estimated, at the time, that the temperature within the area of entombment was well over 110 degrees Fahrenheit and that of one of the two survivors had a core body temperature of 106. The survivors were given further treatment then placed on waiting stretchers to be dispatched to the Leeds Royal infirmary.

More fatalities were discovered during the excavation of both gates and the 3s face. The final body being released almost five days from when the disaster had occurred.

Of the Fourteen workers on the Right hand Coal face twelve had perished.

At a coroner’s inquiry the official verdict of all deceased person was that four had died of asphyxiation and seven others of various crushing injuries and one of heat exhaustion. All were recorded as accidental deaths and that no workers, staff or The National Coal Board to be held at fault or blame.

Evidence was given to the coroner’s court that an internal inquiry into the accident stated that the Third roof Limestone strata had separated from the Millstone Grit forth. Thereby causing a tremendous three strata weight gain to suddenly bear on the face area of that district. The Third stratum was also found to have had a major dyke fault, making it weak and vulnerable. Any person or persons could, not have foreseen this fault, or its repercussions. I submitted a report proper to the National Mine Safety Inspectorate.

 

Mark Kidsey.

( Under-Manager Eagleton Main Coal Mine)

 

16

The bright light hurt my eyes. It hadn't before why should it be so now? Wait a minute surely my eyes are closed, where the hell am I? Opening my eyes I was amazed to see daylight. Wherever could I be? Looking around it looked to me like a hospital single ward and I was in a bed with clean white starched sheets. What was I doing here? I saw my mother was nodding in a chair across the room. For a long moment I seemed to be coming back from far, far away. Just then my father, with what looked like a cup of tea, entered and on seeing my opened eyes roused my Ma. She rushed over to my bed. She was crying and laughing seemingly all at once. Even my father’s eyes had a little glint, surely not tears from him. Nah.

My mother pressed a red alert button on the bed head panel. Within a few seconds a nurse arrived and welcomed me to the land of the living. She asked. "How are you feeling today?" and on thinking about the question and mentally feeling myself, replied "Okay. I think."

She began to ask me a few questions. "Do you know your name?" What kind of a question is that? "Of course I do." I said and told her.

"Do you know where you are?" Ah! Now that is a little harder I thought. "I assume I'm in a hospital. Which one I don't know."

"And do you remember how you came to be in here?" That is another hard one. The last thing I remember is waving to my Grandma, I thought, no that must have been a dream, Grans been dead at least four years. "No, the last thing I remember is…. Is being trapped underground."

Yes, that's it. It's all coming back to me the very last thing was Dan our Deputy offering me a cup of water to drink, well a capful of water actually. "How are Dan and Geoff?"

"Dan Hambleton and Geoff Gullen? My father looked at me, a serious frown on his face. Geoff is okay. He is in the adjoining room. He's been in to see you a couple of times I'm sure he'll be in when he knows you have come round.

And Dan?"

"Dan, I'm sorry to say he didn’t survive." He was found dead when the rescuers found him. Only you and Geoff survived the roof collapse.

"Daniel dead. Dan, the man who shared his water with us. Dan was the one who kept our insanity intact. He was the one person who stopped me from killing myself when I wanted to scramble over the roof fall. "What did he die of? Surely there wasn't another fall of roof?"

"No. He died of dehydration, being starved of air and the heat, the same as what you and Geoff have been suffering from, only he didn't make it to be rescued alive."

"Dan didn't make it? He was the only one of us with water. He could have saved himself and not given us any, or very little. He was the only one with water." I tried to emphasize how courageous Dan had been.

Dad nodded his head in agreement. "It seems that Dan Hambleton was found near you and Geoff but a little way down the gate. It looked as if he was digging for something in the rubble. The sleeve of a coat had been uncovered. After further digging the coat proved to have a plastic bottle of water in it."

I remembered now, Dan saying that later, when the air circulation got better, he would try to find our coats that had been hung up in the gate before the upheaval. After I passed out he must have tried. He knew there was water in them. Water that could have saved his, our lives. I recalled how when he had first given George and me a capful he hadn't taken one himself. I seemed to remember someone, obviously him, giving me water to sip and me seemingly to refuse it. I'll bet a pound to a penny he made me drink thereby saving my life at the expense of his. I tried to explain to my parents about Dan's courageous actions during our entombment but the words were not making too much sense. I was still feeling a little groggy and a lot tired.

"I owe my life to Daniel. When I get out of this bed I'll make sure the world knows about Dan and his sacrifices. He deserves a medal and I'll make sure he gets one."

Were anyone else killed?

As I’ve said, only you and Geoff survived.

"Out of the whole face?" I asked incredulously. He nodded his reply and went on to tell me as much as he could. It transpired that I had been unconscious for four days. I had been suffering from Oxygen deficiency, dehydration and heat exhaustion. The thinly oxygenated air, the heat and lack of water had taken its toll of me. I still felt a little weak and suddenly I felt very tired.

I closed my eyes.

I heard my dad in the distance telling me that my three mates had been to see me the last couple of evenings and would be in tonight when they heard that I had now come round.

"Come on you old fraud get thee self out of bed. You’ve a lot of boozing to catch up on." I heard Ernie’s voice rollicking me for still being asleep. I opened my eyes and there they were.

"Ernie, Peter, Richard. I'm so glad to see you. How are things?"

"Great." they all chorused. And handed me a bag contained a couple of pint bottles of Tetley's Special Ale. Fruit, Chocolate and goodness knows what else.

I thanked them profusely and said, "You shouldn't have."

"That's what I told them." said Ernie. "We shouldn't have brought him owt. An old fraud like him does not deserve beer like that it’ll only go to waste."

"Richard how's your ma?" I asked.

"She gets better every day. She's quite well and sends her love.

"What's the story calling him Richard? That's his Sunday name." asked Ernie

"That's what his name is," I began and at the same time remembering that his nickname was Special. "For some reason I'm not keen on the name Special any more. Don't ask me why, I don't know but from now on I want to call you Richard or Ricky. If that okay with you?"

"Fine by me, I never did like Special anyway. In fact I would be grateful if you would all call me by my proper name or Richy if you prefer." The three of us nodded to his request. "Richy it is then." We, to a man, spoke in unison.

Right bring me up to date with Richy’s problem how's Big George?"

They each looked at each another." He's dead." announced Peter. He took Sharpe Lane corner too wide on his motorbike and met a lorry coming the other way. Killed him outright on Monday night. "Oh! No, I mean, Oh! Yes. That's great news, when is the funeral

"Should be next Monday." Answered Ernie.

"That’s providing a coroners court gives it’s permission." Warned Peter. "It may be found that he had a quantity of Mercury in his system and the suffering from poisoning caused the accident. What will happen then? We are not out of the woods yet."

"We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it." Ernie off handedly said.

"Are we going to the funeral if it’s on?" I asked

"Are we balls." said Ernie in disgust.

"Oh I don't know," I returned, "We could go, it might turn out to be a good laugh. We could have a wake in reverse at the Trap after it." All of our faces lit up on that remark.

We carried on talking for a further half-hour bringing me up to date with past events at the Trap and the happenings at the pit. They were eager to learn of my experiences and I brought them up to date.

Then, as if at a signal they got up to leave. "What’s happening? Where are you going? You’ve only been here five minutes." I protested.

"I'm sure you have had enough of our company," announced Ernie, "there is some one else who's been waiting patiently outside to see you." And with that they all got up and began their farewells.

"We'll call in tomorrow evening and if you keep your nose clean we may bring you in a couple more bottles." said Peter They all chorused their good-byes and left.

As they trooped out, the door swung open and in came the person who I was really looking forward to seeing, Marlene.

She rushed over into the invitation of my open arms and it felt like she had never left them. In between tears and sobs she said, "Don’t ever leave me like that again I’ve been so desolate without you these past few days and I now realize how near I’ve come to losing you. How I’ve missed you, how I love you so much. Don’t ever leave me ever again."

"How long will it be before you are up and about?" she asked.

I mumbled that at this stage I did not know.

"Well you had better make it quick. We have a lot to catch up on. I want you, I need you and although I still want to wait until my wedding day like we agreed, I want that day to come quick, so be warned.

The statement from Marlene didn’t faze me one little bit, in fact I liked the idea and replied, "And I want that as well and to start a family as soon as possible after. And I want to call our first born Dan, after my Deputy, cos it's bound to be a lad."

 

'Water, Water, Cool.. Clear. Water.

Keep a moving Dan don't you listen to him Dan

He’s a devil not a man

For he spreads the burning sands with water.

Water.. Cool clear water.

Dan can't you see that big green tree

Where the waters running free

And it's waiting there for you and me Cool water

Cool.. Clear water.'

 

 

JACK 2

 

17

Could it be over forty years since I was last here? How time flies and how sometimes I suddenly feel so old even though I ‘m only just pushing 57. Looking out now at the wide expanse of an open field I try to visually remember where the Eagleton Main Colliery had once stood. This was the Coalmine I worked at all those many years ago when I was norbut a lad. It had been closed down on economic grounds some sixteen years past. Where the mine had once stood had now been landscaped and a stranger to the area would find no clue that a mine had ever existed there. The closure must have been an end to the way of life, as the colliers and their families had known it; a way of life never to return, even I was having trouble exactly locating where the mineshafts had once been.

What had become of all those pit workers, my old work-mates? More important, what had happened to my one time three special friends? That’s it! I reminisced on the word special. Special he was one of three. Special was Richard Barton’s nickname, coined after the erstwhile radio programme ‘Dick Barton Special Agent’. Richard’s father had been killed early on in the Second World War and so had been brought up solely by his mother. We had stopped calling him Special after we had solved a serious problem that he and his mother had had. From then on we had used his full name of Richard.

Who were the others? Well there was Peter, yes Peter; he was the good-looking one. If there was a bird to chat up and pull, Peter would be the one to do the pulling. He was the one who took nothing for granted and never acted in haste. I had greatly admired Peter a no nonsense sort of lad.

And then there was Ernie. Ernie was the one who always jumped in both feet without looking where he was to land. He was headstrong with a heart like a lion, a friend to be at your side in the event of any trouble.

Richard, Peter, Ernie and myself were inseparable items at that time. We had even plotted together to commit murder all those many years ago and succeeded. Well partially succeeded if partly was possible in a murder case.

What had happened to them all? Where were they now? How had we all come to lose touch?

My mind continued to go back all those many years ago, to when we worked, played, drank and spent our money as one. When Richard’s mother had been sexually taken advantaged of, well raped was a more descriptive word. The four of us had decided to take revenge on the rapist ‘Big George’ and had cold bloodedly plotted his murder. We had laced his drinks, many times over a period of about a week, with a mercurial solution. An accident with his motorcycle had in fact instantly killed him but a post-mortem soon revealed that Mercury poisoning had directly affected his physical and mental state His kidneys were on the point of collapse. A subsequent coroner’s court had pronounced an open verdict and directed that a police investigation should be opened.

Extensive Police enquiries could find no causal effects of how the poisoning had been administered or by whom. But we felt that the sword of Damocles had hung over our heads for many months to come. It was then, and still relevant now, that an open verdict from a coroner’s court is never closed until a full and proper verdict can be found. Also any subsequent police murder file is never closed until the perpetrators are caught. I remembered that for the first few months after the coroner’s verdict my mates and I had been a feared of any knock on the door. Frightened that that knock might be the police. We four friends had obviously sworn ourselves to secrecy, fully in the knowledge that if one of us weakened then it was curtains for us all. Time, as they say, heals all and as the knock never came we slowly relaxed and put the mental problem to the back of our minds but it could never ever be dismissed forever. It was so, even to this present day.

Also at that time I had other problems on my mind, a mining catastrophe had myself, along with Dan our deputy and Geoff the corner-man entombed in a major roof collapse. Ten Miners had been killed on the same face of coal in that 1958 disaster. I’d been at deaths door for many days after. All three of us had suffered from severe dehydration and heat exhaustion. Dan had died from these effects and in doing so helped Geoff and myself to live. The experience had left me traumatised and I had refused to work underground ever again.

I was off work for over six months suffering from the physical and mental after effects of heat exhaustion and dehydration. During this time I received my call up papers to enlist for national service but I managed to get that deferred due to ill health.

Marlene and I were married within this time and rather foolishly we began trying for a baby.

I was offered and took a job on the surface of the colliery but I could never settle.

After months of a frustrating dead-end surface job and the demise of both my parents, Marlene gave birth to a son. I insisted that he be named after the deputy who undoubtedly saved my life, Dan. Marlene fully understood my position and readily agreed.

Also about this time I made the conscious decision to change my life’s direction and with the agreement of Marlene I decided to try and join the Civil Police.

I managed to pass the physical and mental examinations but during my interview with a chief superintendent I was informed that the Police Service was not a National Service exempted occupation. I would therefore, at sometime, have to serve my two years Military call up before I could join the police. I realised that, we as a family, would not be able to live comfortably on National Service Pay and after much discussion with my wife I decided to join the army as a regular, to make it a career. Married quarters were available for regular servicemen and we felt that we could make a new, different life together.

We, as a family, had a very happy service life together, serving in and visiting many counties of the world. We regretted nothing.

Dan, with the army’s financial help, attended Borden public school and became very successful in his chosen I.T. profession.

In 1986 I was honourably discharged after serving twenty-five years with the Royal Military Police. I was released with a reasonable gratuity and a decent Ex-Staff Sergeants pension. We bought a modest house in Chichester, West Sussex and were looking forward to a long and happy life together.

Subsequently I took up a job as a security guard to supplement our income and also to feel I was still doing something useful with my life.

Eighteen-month’s ago, after a long illness, my wife Marlene died from cancer of the lymph glands and for quite some time I was bereft of emotion. I had no direction to my life my extra income was now not that much of an issue. For a single person I was reasonably well off and so made the decision to retire completely.

Our only son Daniel had some years previous, married and took up a very good job position with IBM in Australia. He and his wife had offered me a place with them in the sun. I accepted, sold my house and possessions, lock stock and barrel and moved down under. But even after a couple of months I realised that Australia was not the place for me. The people were so different, nothing wrong about them, just different. I couldn’t settle.

Having no wish to be a burden or to intrude any further on my son and daughter in law’s way of life I made the decision to relocate back to the U.K. I decided to return to Eagleton for an extended visit and in doing so to re-seek my roots. At the back of my mind I considered returning permanently and was looking for a suitable property to buy. 18

Lets see now where do I start looking for my roots? Well the pub seemed a logical place. Yes the Eaglet that’s it, times won’t have changed it that much. I wonder if Richard, Ernie and Peter still drink there? The Eaglet, in my day, had been nicknamed the RatTrap after a dead rat had been found on the toilet roll holder in the ladies toilets put there by one of the pub jokers.

Right, The Eaglet it was to be then, I mused

Driving though this suburb of Leeds I was immediately attracted to the fact that Eagleton seemed different from last time I was here. Then all the doors and woodwork of the council houses had been the same dull green, now almost every house had a different colour scheme. Many of the houses were now owner occupied, after buying them from the council, and in general their gardens were clean and tidy. Unfortunately that could not be said about every house that was still council owned. It wasn’t that the whole of Eagleton was run down, just small pockets that had been left to the weeds and neighbours who couldn’t be bothered, small ghetto’s within a larger estate.

Approaching the Eaglet I became aware that the pub had been extensively upgraded. A new Westmoreland slated roof was in evidence. The brickwork had been newly sandblasted and re-pointed and the painted woodwork attractively stained. Floodlights lit up the frontage and the swinging colourful sign outside announced that it was now called ‘The New Eaglet’ pub.

Parking my nearly new Ford Sierra in the extensive pub car park I made sure the doors were centrally locked and the alarm set before entering the pub. I was well aware that although the ‘New Eaglet’ seemed to have gone upmarket the rest of Eagleton certainly hadn’t

I was amazed at the transformation on the inside of the pub. I remembered it with a painted concrete floor, now thick carpets covered the whole surface area. Whereas before the Taproom and the singing-room had been separate rooms with it’s own individual door to the outside car park, now an adjoining wall had been knock out and the two rooms had become one.

Thick expensive curtains hung alongside the windows and the walls and ceilings were tastefully decorated. Gone were the centralised domino tables. Pub games seemed not to be in evidence. In the old dartboard corner was now a jukebox and three electronic gambling game's machines. The place looked more of a young fun pub. Few customers were in evidence I took the reason for this being that it was the middle of the afternoon. There was however two lads, around twentish, sat towards the back of the room.

I ordered a pint of Tetley bitter from the young barmaid and when it arrived it tasted like it looked, a pint of washing up water.

It was pointless asking the barmaid for information about the older people of Eagleton; she looked to be just out of school. I went to sit over on one of the backrest seats; these were still of the same design as of forty years ago although now they were covered in an expensive looking material.

Sitting quite close to the two customers I nodded a greeting.

They returned my nod with a look of suspicion without saying anything.

"No offence lads, I’m not the old bill or anything. I’m just visiting the area I used to be quite a regular in here when I was about your ages." The few words of explanation didn’t seem to appease the men but their look of suspicion eased a little.

I supped my pint in silence.

"Where you from then?" Suddenly one of the young men enquired of me.

"I’ve been in the Army and down south for the past thirty years or so." I replied. "I lived in Australia up to a few weeks ago. Now, I’m seeking a few old acquaintances whilst I’m up here. You don’t happen to know of a Peter Wycliffe do you"?

The two men both shook their heads. And the look of suspicion returned to their faces.

" Ernie Hindle or a Richard Brooks" I asked. And again a shake of heads was the return.

It was obvious I wasn’t going to get any information from those two so I went back to supping my pint in silence. Finishing it, I nodded to the two lads, as I got up to leave when one of them said, "You might try the club, a lot of the older people go in there."

"The club," I enquired where's that?"

On Brockle Bank Lane, near the Square. It’s a working men’s club" He replied

"Yes I know Brockle Bank Lane from when I was here in the past I didn’t know there was a club there."

"Been built some twenty years or so. You might find who you are looking for in there."

"Cheers, I’ll certainly try the club." I said and left.

Brockle Bank Lane was off Brockle Bank Road, which is where Richard and his mother used to rent a council house. I wonder if he still lives there? I mused

Driving round to the Square I was confronted by a large, two storey, flat roofed building. It was quite impressive. It was obviously the club because a large sign announced Eagleton Social and Welfare Club. Affiliated to the C. & I. U.

Parking the car I entered the foyer. A doorman asked if I was a member. I shook my head and began to explain my circumstances. He suggested I sign the visitor’s book and after depositing a few coins in the children’s trip collection box I entered the club proper. There seemed to be numerous rooms within the club but most of them were not in use during lunchtime opening. Walking into the games room, which was quite busy with customers, I was met with three full sized snooker tables and numerous card and domino tables. There was a dart playing area in one corner and a pool table in another. Looking around the room I couldn’t believe my eyes, there playing snooker and about to take a shot was my mate Peter. Well, at a second glance, not quite Peter but exactly like Peter had been some thirty-five years ago. There was no mistaking who this youth’s father was, I’d bet my army pension on it. The lads good looks and thick wavy black hair was styled exactly like his dad’s had been. "Peter?" I enquired

"Yeah who wants him replied the youth half turning to look at me

"Is your name Peter Wycliffe?" I asked

"Has been for the past nineteen years" He even spoke like his father, self assuredly.

"You don’t know me but I used to be a big mate of your father. How is he?" I asked

"Fine" replied Peter "Who shall I tell was asking about him?"

"Jack, Jack Garle"

"Yeah I’ve heard him mention your name a few times. Where you not mates with Ernie Hindle and Ricky Barton?"

"Yes the four of us were as thick as thieves in those days. Is your father still living locally?"

"Yeah although he’s come up in the world, he’s got a detached house up Top End." Peter meant that the house was near the Top End of the Park. It was quite a nice residential area of South Leeds. "What you doing round these parts? You joined the army didn’t you?"

I nodded assent and gave brief details of my visit to Eagleton and my intention to look up old friends, his father Peter, Richard and Ernie.

You’ve heard about your mate Ernie’s daughter then?"

" No I didn’t even know he had a daughter. What’s that all about?"

"Well I’d better not say too much on that score. There are rumours and there are rumours and I can tell you most of them are wrong. You’d better hear it from my Da he knows as much about it as anybody. He should be in for the domino handicap in here tonight. He very rarely misses Wednesday games night"

"Should see your father in here tonight then. If you see him before me tell him I asked of him and say that I’m looking forward to meeting him." Was my parting shot to Peter and with that he went back to the game of Snooker.

I headed for the bar area and ordered a pint of Tetley’s bitter. It looked better, tasted like proper beer should, and cost twenty-four pence cheaper than the Eaglet pub. I could see why most drank in here of an afternoon rather than the old RatTrap. Taking my pint to a spare table I looked around, it seemed like a sociable place although atmosphere is very hard to describe, this place had a nice friendly atmosphere.

I’d better start thinking of somewhere to stay, I mused, and I have no relations living in this area now. Both my brother and sister had moved from Eagleton many years ago. I was ashamed to admit I had not kept in touch other than a Christmas card now and then.

I had noticed a small Bed and Breakfast house about half a mile from entering Eagleton that seemed to me about my only option. I’d better make this pint last a while; Two pints can put you over the top in blood alcohol levels. A good hour in here should keep me under the limit.

Late that afternoon I booked in at the B and B and in the evening I took a taxi back to the Social Club.

Entering the games room again I soon spotted Peter, the real Peter. He hadn’t changed a lot other than growing older. He was the same dapper looking person that I remembered. He must have been expecting me because almost instantly on entering his face lit up and he came across to greet me.

He firmly shook my hand as he said, "Jack, me old mate how you doing?"

"Fine Peter. By you’re looking well. Life seems to have treat you with favour."

"Can’t grumble me old son. Come on let me get you a pint we’ve got a lot to catch up on."

It transpired that Peter had left the pit, when it had closed in 1981, with a small pension and a fair gratuity for early retirement. He had invested it in a fish and chip shop and then ploughed the profits into another one, before long he had acquired a third. He employed others now and did very little physical work himself, other than a few hours bookkeeping. Peter was in a very happy financial position.

"How’s Ernie and Special?" I asked.

"Well Special, by the way we don’t call him Special anymore he prefers Rickie or Richard. Ricky’s married with a couple of kids, a boy and a girl. He seems quite happy. He took early retirement just like me and until recently had a part time job. I think he’s looked after his money; his wife works and though not well off he’s comfortable and very happy. He still lives in his mother’s old house.

Now Ernie, Ah! Ernie, what is there to say about him? Well, he’ll never change. About the only thing different about him is that he’s grown older and perhaps sillier. He also took early retirement from the pit and lives off his pension. He had a daughter to Ginny you know? You remember Ginny, in our younger days? She was the older lass whose husband left her with two kids; she always had a shine for Ernie. He used to treat her like shit and she took it. Keep em well f ’d and poorly shod, was Ernie motto and he then lived by it; still does when he can get his end away. Well Ernie had a daughter to Ginny. She swore at the time when he went with her that she couldn’t have anymore kids and he believed her, but she fell on. I think she planned it that way so she could get her claws into him and to make him go and live with her permanently. Ernie was having none of it and remained living with his mother and father. He’s never married even to this day. There was a fire at Ginny’s house, the whole family died from smoke inhalation. All that is, except Ernie's daughter Tina, she was on a weekend overnight visit to Ernie’s parents house. He took that as an opportunity for his daughter to live with him permanently, his parents helped him to bring her up. She’s now coming up sixteen; I think Ernie has got a problem child with her. I know it’s worrying him silly."

Peter went on to describe how Ernie's daughter Tina seemed to have got in with the wrong crowd, in particular a youth called Jed. He began to explain that Jed was the illegitimate son of Big George the fellar whom we’d all had a hand in murdering, such a long time ago. Peter spoke the last few lines quietly. Even now walls could have ears and everything could come crashing around us. He said that she had got in with the drug culture of Eagleton even though she wasn’t yet sixteen.

"But enough said about that," continued Peter, " Ernie’s father died about ten years ago and he still lives at his mother’s house with his daughter. He sometimes comes in here boozing, although on Wednesday nights he generally goes up to the Middleton Arms." Why don’t you come in on Friday night both Ernie and Richard usually come in here for a natter and when they get to know you are back nothing will keep them out. It’ll be like old times."

I agreed and promised the meeting.

Barring the news about Ernie’s daughter problem, I thoroughly enjoyed my evening at the club and my conversation with Peter. As I left I said I might visit Ernie at his mother’s house sometime tomorrow.

From the club I phoned for and received a taxi to take back to my B and B

The next day I drove to Ernie’s house and knocked on his door

"Jack. Jack is that you" Ernie had instantly recognised me. "Come in me old mucker" there was genuine warmth in the invitation. It was the old Ernie that I recognised. ? "Peter phoned earlier and said you were in town."

I entered his house and was quite surprised by the tidiness. The house was clean and well tended. I remarked on the pleasant surrounding and Ernie responded that it all was the work of his mother who was seventy-eight next and could still keep a clean house with the best of them.

It seemed as if even before I had chanced to sit down Ernie’s mother arrived with a cup of tea and a Penguin chocolate biscuit. She also was genuinely pleased to see me. After a few pleasantries Ernie's Ma said she was going for her old age pension. Although I offered to give her a lift she was having none of it. "Whilst God has given me legs that walk, I’ll use them." She insisted. "Anyway you two lads have a lot to catch up on. See you later." And with that she left.

After her departure Ernie went on to update me on present events. Explaining that he now had a daughter but left out the part about her being friendly with Big George’s son, Jed or the drug problem. I did not press him on that subject as I felt it was not my business. He explained how she had come to live with him. I didn’t put him wise that I already knew half of the story.

We spent most of the day chatting and although the friendship was not as deep as in the old times it was surely there and I knew it could be built on. I left with the promise to meet him in the club tomorrow evening, Friday, along with Peter. I’d also said that I intended to visit Special, sorry Ricky, tomorrow.

Friday morning I knocked on Richard’s door a fine looking lady, who seemed to recognise me although I had never met her before, answered it. She asked if I was Jack and on receiving the affirmative, introduced herself as Charlene, Richard’s wife. Charlene said that Richard had heard that I was back in Eagleton and was expecting a visit from me. He was out at the present but was expected back within a few minutes. She ushered me into a very tastefully decorated house. It had the warmth and smell about it that every right thinking man craves; it was indeed a home. It made me almost envious of what I had lost and didn’t now have, a family and roots. Charlene explained that they had a seventeen-year-old son called Christian. Who had never given them a moments trouble whilst growing up Charlene was a very easy person to talk to and get on with, basically she was a very happy woman and it showed. She brought me up to date with the goings on in Eagleton and went on to explain that she hears most of the gossip from her job as a home help. I recognised her as a woman who had a social conscience and I felt the better for knowing her.

As we were talking I heard the outer door being opened and Richard entered the room. He moved swiftly across and, as I arose from the chair, grasped my right hand in his and shook it warmly. He was obviously delighted to meet up with me again. I had been made to feel very welcome and it gave me pleasant feelings.

Ricky then moved over to his wife and gave her a loving greetings kiss on the cheek; it was done openly and quite naturally. Here were two people who had been together over twenty years and were still in love with each other. Richard seemed to have changed drastically since I first remembered him all those years ago. Then he was of very few words preferring to keep into the background of things. Now here he was, not overly self-confident, but a man who knew himself and where he was heading. It was obvious that having a loving marriage and a son heartily agreed with him.

A little after Ricky’s arrival, Charlene took her leave saying she was off to work She had previously explained that she was a social worker helping aged or handicapped people. The work seemed to compliment her personality.

Soon Richard and I were in earnest conversation about all things past and present. All issues were discussed from how close we four were during our underground mining days to how we plotted and carried out the murder of Big George. He was as grateful now as he was at the time and reiterated the debt that he still considered he owed us all. He explained that Big George’s death seemed to cleanse his mother of shame. And how, soon after George’s death, she regained her sense of pride. We discussed how afraid we all were at the slightest knock on the door, at the time, afeared that it might be the police investigating George’s death.

"I’m still in debt to you all, you know?" he said wistfully.

"All that’s forgotten and in the past." I replied

"Not for me it isn’t. A debt like that is a debt of honour and repayment can be collected at any time from any one of you."

I decided to change the subject and asked him what had happened when I left to join the army.

He told me that, soon after he’d secured a well-paid coalface job, he had taken his mothers option to purchase the house from the council at a discounted price and the house was now bought and paid for. His mother had died some years previously.

After a couple of hours of chewing the fat I took my leave promising that I would meet them all in the club later that night.

That evening, after we had all met up together in the Social club, the question was asked of me by Peter. "Jack how do you fancy going to Benidorm?"

"What a great idea." Said Ernie. "Why didn’t I think of that?

"What do you mean?" I replied to Peter’s question. "Benidorm, You mean Benidorm, Spain? Who’s going to Benidorm?"

"We are, we do every year. " Peter continued, "The club runs a men’s trip to Benidorm during the festival week. It usually occurs roundabout the second week in November This year we travel on Saturday the 8th. We’ve been going for the past eight years always the same week. It’s the one chance a year that we, the lads, have of being young again. Anything goes, and usually does, that week. It’s classed as a boozing trip but it’s wine women and song. The women also have their trip the week before. As it happens they go tomorrow."

"Is your wife going?" I asked Peter.

"Usually she does but for the first time this year she is on a seminar at college and can’t get out of it."

"She’s still letting you go then?" I asked

"Why not. She trusts me."

"More fool her then." Laughed Ernie.

"Are you going as well Ernie?" I enquired

"Of course, wouldn't miss it for the world. I’d sell my soul to the devil rather than miss Benidorm. It’s the only time I feel young again. Everybody or most people there are of around our age. They go that week to let off steam. Everybody is in the same frame of mind, to enjoy themselves, without the wife’s or husbands to hold them back. It’s quite an experience I can tell you. "

"So you go a week tomorrow? Is there a spare place on the trip?" I asked.

"It just so happens I know Billy Boyce is a bit short of cash at the moment and he would willingly sell his seat for the going rate. Can you afford to go?" Peter enquired.

"Oh the money’s no problem. I don’t have a family to keep now. With my Army pension and savings I’m not short of a bob or two."

"Well do you want to go?" asked Peter.

"Yeah wouldn’t mind, I have nothing better to do." I replied.

"Great then. I’ll go and see if I can fix it up? I guarantee you’ll have a great time. We’ll all have a great time, we always do."

I nodded my agreement and with that Peter got up and said he was off to see Billy Boyce to fix something up.

Are you going as well Richie? I asked.

"No. I’ve heard so much about it. The lads spend one week a year in Benidorm and fifty-one weeks talking about it. It seems most visitors that week are middle aged trying to regain their youth. And from what I can gather for that week they are successful. I wish I could go I can afford it all right, moneys not the problem. I suppose I could go home and put my foot down and say that I’m going. Charlene wouldn’t kick up a fuss and say no you’re not going. She’d just say nothing but she wouldn’t be happy with it. Rather than cause her any unhappiness I’d rather not go but I assure you I’d love to go especially this year if you manage to get fixed up. "

"We understand Richie," said Ernie, "being single I can do anything I want to, go anywhere I wish but sometimes I envy you for what you’ve got. Good on yer mate."

Ernie’s sentiment was echoed silently by myself. Richard and his wife worked at their marriage that was why it was so successful. We have all wanted at different times what Richard had, a happy marriage. No more so than I at this stage in my life. I’d had it at one time but, on Marlene’s death, it had been cruelly taken from me. Was that what I was searching for another happy marriage? When it all boils down that was probably what it was, a stable loving relationship

"All fixed up," said Peter on his return. "I’ve had a word with Billy and he’s all for it. I knew he would be. Then I spoke to the club president, who organises the trip and he says it will be easy to change the name of the booking to your name. I suggest you get some money out of the bank and pay Billy off soonest, then all can be finalised."

"Will do." I replied. Trying to appear rather blaze about the while thing but secretly I was exited and rather looking forward to a holiday in Spain. Although deep down I would rather be happily married like Richard and not need a singles holiday, now I was single and intended to make the most of any opportunity that came my way.

During the course of the evening my situation was discussed with the other three. I made the point that I would was considering a return to Eagleton for it was here that I felt, for the first time since Marlene’s demise, almost at home.

Peter made the point that if I was looking for a place to stay permanently then he had a self-contained flat over one of his fish and chip shops at the top end of Eagleton. He said that he could arrange a good deal, especially for me, rent wise. I promised to consider the fact and that I would get back to him.

Later that evening I had slowly come round to the idea of living temporarily in Eagleton, maybe not on a permanent basis just yet, but for the time being, "yes" I thought. I asked Peter if the offer of the flat was still on and received the reply that it was. We arranged a meet for the coming morning.

I decided to walk home to my B and B that evening, having a slight spring in my step. It was the first time for a long while that I had felt like this. I had thoroughly enjoyed myself and felt sated after being in the company of what I considered to be my true friends. Thinking ahead, I was glad that I had decided to take Peter up on the offer of the renting of his flat. Providing it was suitable it would at least give me a feeling of belonging, at least until something better turned up. Tomorrow I looked forward to viewing the accommodation.

Saturday morning I met Peter and began an inspection of the flat above the fish and chip shop. It was nothing to write home about but adequate for my immediate needs. The one big draw back of course was the fish and chip shop smell situation but it had all the necessary amenities to enable me to view it as a prospective home; for the time being anyway. We entered into a rental agreement which I thought most generous on Peter’ part. We did not need to shake hands on the deal, there was no need to; both Peter and I trusted one another. In my minds eye I began to plan my move into the flat this coming Monday morning. I had brought very little luggage with me on my visit to Yorkshire in fact, come to think of it; all my worldly goods were at my digs and were easily accommodated in the boot of my car. The move, for me, would be quite an easy affair.

That evening I met Ernie in the Middleton Arms; we had previously planned to have a few quiet pints in there before adjourning to the club later that evening. On entering the pub I was immediately surprised with the transformation of the place The Arms had never been one of our regular watering holes when we had been in our teens, that being the Eaglet. At that time only the old codgers frequented the Arms. Now it looked to be an up market sort of place, which was up market as far as Eagleton was concerned. After being served our pints we retired to a couple of pews in a corner alcove, Ernie and myself had a lot of past and present events to catch up on.

"So you are really going to Benidorm?" Ernie began, once we had sat down. "I guarantee you’ll have a great time. This year will be the ninth time the club has been running the trip. It’s the one time of the year that the married men can let off steam and be single. Everybody acts as though they are teenagers again."

Ernie went on to explain that for the past five years the club lads have met up with a group of Newcastle ladies. They always booked at the same time every year and were all in the same frame of mind. A couple of the clubmen had regular women friends and met them every year. But in general every one who goes that festival week, male or female, are in the party mood, in for a penny in for a pound.

As he further put it, "If you don’t get a bird that week then you are either queer or past it." And he assured me that he was far from past it. "It’s a week of non-stop boozing. That is when you’re not drinking you are sleeping. And you don’t get much sleep I can tell you. Plenty of wine, women and song. The five S’s, sun, sea, sand, Sangria and sex. Not so much of the Sea, Sand and Sangria but plenty of the other two."

The more he described the Benidorm trip the more I warmed to it. It had been quite some time that I had been in serious conversation with a lady and even longer since I’d had a sexual experience. In fact sexually it was well over two years ago and that had been with my wife, Marlene. Slowly I was coming round to the idea that there could be another women in my life, providing it was the right one. In my minds eye I was sure that my late wife would not object to me being happy with a lady again. She would know, wherever she was, that I still loved her and always will, come what may.

"Have you given Billy Boyce his money yet for the holiday?" enquired Ernie.

"What? Oh yeah. Sorry Ernie I was miles away. I gave it to Peter this morning when I saw him about his flat. He promised to pass it on and arrange the name transfer. Did I tell you I’ve taken Peter’s flat? It’s not a bad one at that."

"Yeah, you said last night you were meeting him this morning to view it. So you’ve taken it then? When are you moving in and how long are you planning to stay?"

"Monday morning all being well. And as far as how long for, well I’m going to play that by ear. Being with the army I’ve travelled to many parts of the world but I've never been anywhere where I would have liked to settle down permanently. Even when I set up house with Marlene in Chichester on my service discharge I never felt completely at home. Marlene made up for my unsettlement but once she died I felt that I had nothing to hold me there. Eagleton for all it’s faults, and it certainly has some, offers me more than any place I’ve visited. If I can’t settle here or within reasonable distance from here I can’t settle anywhere."

"Yeah East West homes best." Ernie succinctly put it.

I nodded in return.

"My daughter Tina sometimes comes in her." Ernie had suddenly changed the subject.

"But I thought she was only fifteen?" I interjected.

"She is, well nearly sixteen, but she looks much older. She doesn’t drink much though. Most of the people she hangs round with frequent this place. She’s very beautiful you know. She reminds me so very much of her mother."

As I remembered Tina’s mother Ginny wasn’t very beautiful. Even perhaps the opposite but I realised that time has a way of letting you remember things as how you would have liked them to be, rather than as they were. I could see Ernie had paused for wistful thought. I realised that he had loved or thought highly of his daughter’s mother. Something I had not realised. He obviously, without question, truly loved his daughter very much.

"I don’t much like her coming in here but it’s better than the 'New Eaglet' that’s now a real druggie's den. She sometimes goes in there but she knows I don’t like her frequenting that place," continued Ernie. "I suppose I could put my foot down but I’m certain she would rebel. I can’t blame her I used to go in the Eaglet when I was underage, well we all did, didn’t we?"

"Yes but we were at least seventeen before we started boozing."

"Yeah but the kids are growing up much faster these days."

I couldn’t agree with Ernie about him allowing his fifteen-year-old daughter into pubs, especially into a pub that even he describes as a real druggies den but I felt it was none of my business one way or the other.

"But there is not a lot I can do about it." Ernie continued. "She’s very headstrong, and old for her age, just like her mother was."

Again Ernie described Ginny and once more I remembered her very differently; as a weak person who was easily swayed in the direction she was being led. He then went into a long descriptive story of his daughter’s temperament. Describing how she could twist him round her little finger, how just lately she has been staying out until the early hours of the morning. Sometimes, at the weekend, not coming home at all. He hoped that it was just her hormones that were playing up, puberty she was going though. The more I heard him describe her the more I doubted that it was just a passing phase. Ernie went on to describe how she always seemed to catch colds and flu easily. Always looking white and pasty faced. It seemed that she very rarely went to school and from what I gathered played truant quite often.

I became very concerned for Ernie. I did not like to bring up the subject of drugs, as I had no definite evidence other than what Peter and his son had related to me. But all the signs were there for Ernie to see if he could only stand back and look at the symptoms from a distance. I mentally made a point to remember to discuss the problem with Peter at the next opportunity and to see if there was any way we both could approach Ernie and tell him of our suspicions. Peter knew a lot more about Ernie’s problem than I did.

Later that evening we made our way for the last hour or so in the club. Peter, I was told was upstairs in the concert room of the club with his wife. Ernie and I did not disturb him. It seems that Richie and wife only come out of a Sunday evening together. I was introduced to a number of club members particularly those that were to be on the club holiday next week. As I understood it, tomorrow lunchtime would be the next time that the four of us mates would be together. I looked forward to the meeting. A good evening was enjoyed by one and all.

Sunday lunchtime I entered the club and the place was heaving with customers. There seemed to be more in than the previous night. Although most customers were men there were quite a few ladies seated together on the backrests chewing the rag. Sunday lunchtime’s drinking session was indeed very popular. Peter, Ernie and Richie were already sat at a table along with four other friends. I was introduced to the ones that I didn’t know and a place was made for me at the table. I was made to feel most welcome. Soon I was taking part in the general conversation around the table. I began to feel a sense of belonging, a feeling I’d not had for a long time not since my army days had I felt such camaraderie.

At the end of the lunchtime drinking session Ernie asked me to his home for Sunday lunch. Despite my protestations Ernie insisted, saying that his mother, earlier, had told him to invite me, provided I had no other plans. The meal was typical Tyke food. Yorkshire puddings and thick onion gravy was the starter course followed by roast beef and vegetables. It had been years ago that I had begun a meal with Yorkshire puddings as a separate starter course. With such good fare this is never any need for a sweet course the belly just would not be able to cope with one. It was excellent and I complimented Ernie’s mother on the repast saying that it was as good as my mother and grandmother used to make. By the look on her face I had obviously paid her a huge compliment on her cooking.

Later that evening Ernie and I returned to the club. We were invited to join Peter and Richard with their respective wife’s in the upstairs concert room. I had already met Richards’s wife Charlene and I smiled and nodded my respects to her. Peter introduced me to his wife Claire. She seemed a very nice outward going lady and I felt as if I had made another friend.

During the course of the evening the subject of the Benidorm trip came up. Both the ladies were well aware that it was this coming Saturday. In the course of the conversation Ernie said "It’s a pity you can’t afford to go on the Benidorm trip Richie It would have been like old times the four of us together. The Four Musketeers."

"What do you mean can’t afford to go?" Up piped Richard's wife. "Who says Richard can’t afford to go?"

"Oh sorry, have I opened my big mouth." Apologised Ernie. I thought that was the reason you couldn’t go Richie."

Richards face took on a blank expression. He was saying nothing.

"Did you want to go?" Charlene asked Richard.

"Not really. I couldn’t leave you and Christian. That’s why I’ve never bothered to discuss it with you in the past." replied Richard."

"Don’t worry about us. If you want to go, go. Can you get him a seat?" Charlene directed the question at Ernie.

"I don’t know Ernie answered. What do you think Peter?"

"Can but try, that’s if you really want to go?" Answered Peter

"I don’t know. What do you think Charlene?" Whether Richard knew it or not he was putting the decision to go or not on Charlene. A negative decision she could not really refuse

"Look if you want to go money is not the problem. It would do you good to get away on your own for a holiday. You deserve it. Peter can you find out if there are any available places left?"

"Will do." Replied Peter and with that he was gone, presumably to see the President of the club.

On his return he announced that all the places were booked up but if any late cancellations cropped up the president had promised to keep Richard in mind.

Obviously disappointed, Richard adopted a hangdog look and the conversation about Benidorm died a natural death.

It was announced that the evenings Bingo session was to begin with a few minutes. As was usual, in most cases, the men retired downstairs to the game’s room for a talk amongst themselves.

Once down there Richard pulled Ernie. "What do mean pulling a stroke like that? Announcing to all and sundry that I could not afford to go on the Benidorm trip. Course I can afford the trip. Money was not the problem. I just didn’t think it was fair that I should go on a holiday without my wife."

"Oh! You don’t want to go then?" Countered Ernie.

"I didn’t say that, course I’d like to go, but."

"I made that statement across the table fully knowing you could afford to go." Continued Ernie. "It was a sprat to catch a Mackerel and I caught your Charlene. She was almost insisting that you go. Trying to prove a point to the company that she was not stopping you going. Anyway it’s immaterial now there are no places available. But it would have been good if there had been. The four of us, together in Benidorm. What could have been better?"

"I’ve got to admit, thinking about it I wish there had have been a spare place I really would have liked to have gone now that you are going Jack." Then looking over to me. "Ah well whatever." Sighed Richard.

I almost felt sorry for him.

I walked home to my B&B for the last time. Tomorrow I was to move into my own flat above the Fish and Chip shop.

There is very little to comment on my move to the flat. As expected it went off without hitch. I looked around the flat, it was a little meagre in content but everything I really needed was already installed. I would have to get myself a few personal trinkets, curtains, cushions and the like to make it feel a little more like home for home this now was; at least for the immediate future anyhow.

Another point I mentally made to myself, a phone. I will certainly need a phone of my own. Should I get a British Telecom one or just a mobile phone, which would suit my needs satisfactorily?

Later that afternoon a knock came at my downstairs door that opened to the outside. Answering it I was confronted with Ernie and his mother. Also in attendance was a young lady who I rightly assumed to be Ernie's daughter Tina. Ernie introduced me to her and her beauty immediately struck me. She only looked her age of 15 or even younger but she had a natural beauty and I felt that when she was a few more years older she could be a stunner. Ernie had been right in describing her earlier describe as beautiful, she was but she certainly did not look older than her years, if anything a little younger.

Ernie’s mum presented me with a homemade currant cake. It was, to me a very moving gesture. I thanked her profusely not just for the cake but the thought that went behind it. I put the kettle on to make us a nice cup of tea. The cake would be the first thing to be eaten in my new home.

As we were all discussing things in general I kept glancing sideways at Tina. Despite her beauty she was very pasty faced and very thin. I hoped I was wrong but the more I looked the more I considered that I was looking at a drug addict. Tina added very little to the conversation and I felt that she was in attendance under sufferance. I tried to exchange a few pleasantries with her but they were returned with very few words. At no time was she impolite but I felt that she would have preferred to be elsewhere. Even after the negatives I‘ve described I rather liked her and said that I hoped she would consider me as a friend. She nodded to me in acceptance of the offer and I was rather pleased.

Later that evening I signed myself into the club for a few bevies. I was sitting alone until a man, whom I now know to be the president of the club came over to my table. He introduced himself as Dave Hunter and asked if he might join me. I readily accepted, glad of the company. We made polite inroads into getting to know one another. I explained my past and present circumstances and explained my friendship with Ernie, Peter and Richard. He seemed to know most of my details saying he’d had a few words with Peter. David assured me of any help he could give to ease my path of settling in, in Eagleton. He hinted that if I applied for membership of the club it would save me the trouble of signing in on every visit. I agreed and he said I could be a member before the week was out. He asked if I played dominoes and on my reply he suggested we adjourn to the games room to have a game. Two other players were found and we played partner dominoes and I accompanied Dave. We won a few and lost a few games but I had a very enjoyable evening. I found I had made another new friend in David.

Most of the week I spent in Leeds shopping. Although Peter had lent me some bed linen to be going on with I felt that I needed my own those and other items such as a continental quilt, towels, dishcloths, cleaning materials and the like.

On a sight seeing walking tour around Leeds I was very impressed with how modern the city had become. When I had last seen it, practically all the buildings had been soot stained and looked old and very ugly. Now every building without exception had been sandblasted clean. All seemed to be in a very good state of repair

Leeds Town Hall was particularly impressive in its new guise. In my youth I had always thought that it had been built with black stone rather than the beige sandstone that was. The law courts that used to be held within the Town Hall now had new modern buildings of their own.

A New Yorkshire Playhouse had been erected on the site of the old and infamous Quarry Hill flats and I momentarily remembered that my late wife had been partial to seeing live theatre plays.

The Royal Armouries had been built within five minutes of the city centre and I promised myself a visit there sometime in the future. I had heard that one must spend practically all day to properly appreciate the many exhibits.

There was a general hubbub and bustle of people going about their businesses. Leeds had certainly come upmarket It appeared to be a very thriving city.

Even the old market had been modernised and the old trestle table stalls had been upgraded to outside mini shops.

Harvey Nichols, Harvey Nicks as it is affectionately nicknamed, had set up a business in the Briggate High Street. A sure sign that Leeds was on the up and up.

I enjoyed my shopping trips into Leeds and practically bought myself a whole new wardrobe. As earlier advised I purchased a number of bright, one colour, Polo shirts all with my coming holiday in Benidorm in mind.

I spent a few minutes looking in estate agents windows for property to buy within the Eagleton area. I had no intention yet of buying any thing but it gave me some idea of house prices.

Most of that week the evenings I spent in the club. I didn’t go particularly for the alcohol but for people’s company. I was gradually becoming aquainted with most of the members. David the club President had made good his promise to make me a full member, which I now was.

 

19.

Friday afternoon I heard a knock on my flats outside door. On answering it I was a little surprised on being confronted with Ernie’s daughter Tina. This time she was alone. Her face was a little puffy and she looked as if she had been crying.

"Hello Love," I greeted her, " What a pleasant surprise. What can I do for you?"

"Can I come in for a minute? I need a some advice." She began

"Of course you can. Does your dad know you are here?"

"Err!, no and I’d rather you didn’t say anything to him. Is that okay?"

"Well I can’t promise you that at this stage I don’t want to go behind his back, you know he’s a very special friend of mine."

"Yes I know, that’s why I’m here but I can’t tell my dad my problems and I’ve nobody else to turn to."

"All right then, at this stage I’ll keep this visit to myself until I decide otherwise, then before you go any further I’ll tell you of my intentions. Now come on in, what’s the problem?"

"I don’t know how best to put it but to come right out with it I need to borrow some money."

"Ah," I thought, "we are getting on sticky ground here." What do you want the money for and how much." I didn’t like how this conversation was turning out. I was about to tell her that I couldn’t keep this visit a secret from her father any longer.

It’s a hundred and fifty pounds." She answered "And I owe it to this friend of mine, well he’s not a friend anymore, he’s now become more of an enemy."

"Why do you owe him all this money?" I asked.

"Can I be honest with you? Will you promise not to tell my dad if I tell you it all?"

"Sorry I can’t promise that." I replied, "I’ll do all I can to help but I cannot keep anything from your dad that I think he ought to know. Can’t you see that?"

"That’s it then I can’t tell you anymore. I’m sorry to have troubled you." And with that she got up to leave.

"Hold it. Hold everything. Let’s see if we can work something out. I want you to confide in me and I want to help you but you must realise what tricky position I’m in. I hardly know you."

"That was partly the reason I felt I could open up to you. Anyway I’ve no one else I can tell" she replied

She carried on getting up from the chair in which she had been sitting and made her way over to the door that led to the steps to the ground floor. It was obvious she was definitely about to leave. I just could not let her go without some sort of help from me. After all she was my best friends daughter and I was honour bound to help her in any way I could.

"Just tell me who or what you want the money for. I promise I won’t say anything to your dad whatever you say about that unless you give me permission."

She stopped her walk to the door and turned around. "I won’t tell you why I owe the money other than I owe it to a lad called Jed. You don’t know him He’s a big heavy around here. I owe him and he’s threatened to put me on the streets of Chapletown if I don’t come up with the money before tomorrow night. He’s done it before to others and even myself once. It is impossible to get rid of him other than to buy him off. The original debt I had was for Six Hundred Pounds but I’ve slowly worked that off. It’s just the hundred and fifty now."

Chapletown was the Red light district of Leeds and the hint that this man Jed had threatened to put her on the streets there was very serious indeed. And the thought that he’d already done so made me feel sick inside. I knew then that I had to help this girl, the daughter of one of my friends

"What was the debt for?" I asked, almost knowing the answer.

"If you promise not to tell my dad I’ll tell you all." She replied.

Here I was, in deep water again. "Look you’ve said that the debt will be cleared with a hundred and fifty. I’ll tell you what, I’ll give you the money and promise not to say anything to Ernie if you promise to give it straight to this fellar Jed, whatever his name is. You must give it to him and not have anything more to do with him ever again. Is that a deal?"

"Oh! Yes. I knew I could trust you."

You promise never to have anything to do with this Jed fellow ever again." I emphasised

"Yes. Yes I promise." She affirmed sincerely.

"You’ll have to come with me to the bank at the top of the Avenue. They have a cash point there haven’t they?" She nodded agreement.

I then remembered that I had some holiday money stashed away in my Benidorm holiday luggage. I could give her a hundred and fifty of it and go by myself to the cash point to replace it.

I retreated to my bedroom and upon my return handed the money over to Tina but not before I had again extracted the promise about her having no more dealings with Jed. She again firmly promised and I believed her. She was either a very good actor or was truthful in her intentions.

Tina thanked me profusely as she left saying, "Thanks a million, you’ve really saved my life."

It seemed an odd choice, those last four words, very odd in the circumstances.

About seven thirty that night Ernie, Peter and myself were sat in the middle room of the club when Richard joined us. He had no sooner sat down than he said. "Who do you think visited me yesterday?

"Go on, who." We almost all chorused as one.

"Non other than David Hunter."

"The president of the club David Hunter?" Asked Ernie. "What did he want?"

"Only to ask if I was still interested in going on the Benidorm trip."

"How come? What’s happened?" Enquired Peter

"It seems as if Walt Leggett has been taken to hospital with an enlarged Prostrate Gland. Something or other like that anyway. It seems as if he’s been suffering from it for ages. Well last Wednesday he was taken into St. James for emergency hospital treatment. He’ll be in for at least a couple of weeks. That means curtains for his Benidorm trip. He’s insured of course so he‘ll get his money back. When Dave was told Walt would not be going on the trip he immediately thought of me. He remembered you Peter, asking him last Sunday night if there was any spare seats available."

"Well what’s the outcome?" I asked.

"Charlene was in at the time when David came to the house. When she heard what he’d come for she insisted there and then that I go. She made me go down to the building society and draw Six hundred quid out. That afternoon I gave him Three Hundred and Nine quid to secure the place for me; the rest is spending money. I reckon with the bit of money that I’ve already got I should have about three Hundred and fifty spending money. Do you think that will that be enough?"

"Should be replied Peter I usually spend between Three and four Hundred. That’s provided I don’t buy any expensive presents."

"I’ve always found you can spend a lot or a little as you want at Benidorm. As long as you come back with some money you’ve had a great time." Put in Ernie.

"I’m so glad you are going Richard," I said, "now there will be two new-comers on the trip. It should be like the good old times. All for one and one for all."

"I’ll drink to that." Said Ernie and with that he lifted his glass in a toast. Peter, Richard and myself each raised our glasses and took a good drink.

As the four of us were seated round the table contemplating our Benidorm trip I remembered my visitor of this afternoon. I had to tell Ernie or somebody of the past event concerning Tina. I was sorely torn between my promise to her and my friendship with her father. I decided to confide in Peter as a starter. Let me get his views on the subject as to whether or not I should betray my promise. I could always rely on Peter for good sound advice.

Sometime later it was Peter’s turn to get the drinks in. He left the table to go to the bar. Soon after I followed him.

"Sit down Jack It’s my turn to get the drinks in." Peter began.

"Yes I know Peter but I have something very personal to discuss with you out of earshot of Ernie. It is important can we make an excuse and meet somewhere?"

"Yeah, of course. Listen when we get back sat down. Pretend to go to the bog but instead go through to the lounge and sit towards the back. Very few people will be in there at this time. I’ll join you on the same pretence of going to the toilet. If anything’s said we can say we were discussing the flat that you rent off me. Okay?"

"Yeah, fine see you up there. Cheers Pete."

"No problem" he replied.

Soon after Peter arrived back to the table with the drinks I got up in pretence of going to the toilet.

Peter met me within a few minutes, as promised in the lounge.

"Right what’s it all about then? " Peter asked.

"I know that I don’t have to swear you to secrecy because I appreciate that anything I say will be treat in strict confidence between us."

"You know that, get to the point will you."

"I had a visit from Ernie’s daughter Tina at my flat this afternoon."

"And?"

"She came on the pretence of…" I hesitated. "No that’s not quite right, she came asking me for some advice. What I felt she really wanted was to borrow some money from me."

"How much?"

"A hundred and fifty."

"Did you give it to her?"

I nodded my head in the affirmative. She said she owed a debt to Jed Edwards."

"You know who Jed’s father is, or was?"

Again I nodded in accord. Jed’s father was Big George. He was the one that us four friends in our teenage days had murdered. "Yes," I replied, "Big George’s son. Born on the wrong side of the blanket as I understand."

"Yeah and the shitten side of the blanket at that." Said Peter "For that’s what he is a shit-house. His father, you remember, was bad enough but Jed’s a sociopath. He seems to have no social conscience at all. Besides being a drug pusher he’s reputed to have a string of women whom he pimps for."

"Funny you should say that." Said I. "When Charlene was crying the tail to me this afternoon, she said if she didn’t get the money Jed would put her on the streets of Chapletown to pay off her debt. She said he’d done it to a number of women, her included once."

"Wow, that’s a bit heavy Tina is still only fifteen." Gasped Peter.

"And she looks even younger than that. That’s probably what the perverts that visit Chapletown want, the young uns,"

"Did Tina say what the original debt was for?" Asked Peter

"No but I guessed it was for drugs Jed had supplied her with."

"Our Peter, that’s my son you remember, our Peter says that it’s common knowledge that almost all the drugs sold in Eagleton are supplied by Jed. He starts addicts off even before they leave school. He hooks them by first supplying them free, or at least very cheaply. As soon as they are hooked he hikes up the price."

"I can well believe that. I definitely got the opinion that Tina is addicted to something. She said that the original debt was six hundred pounds but that most of it had been paid and she only now owes One fifty. I gave it to her on the condition that she has nothing more to do with Jed. She convinced me that she had definite intentions of having nothing more to do with this Jed fellar but how far can you trust an addict."

"Are you going to tell Ernie about you giving her the money or of your drug suspicions?"

"I did promise Tina that I would not say anything to her father but now I’m having my doubts about that decision. What do you think?"

"I think you should adopt a wait and see position. I don’t like the idea of going behind Ernie’s back either and I don’t like being the bearer of bad news. What’s been done in the past can’t be changed. Tell you what, I’ll tell our Peter to keep his ear to the ground and try to find out anything he can about Tina. If we have definite proof she is still addicted, or using drugs then Ernie must be told. Lets give her the benefit of the doubt at this stage until we have more definite proof. If we get it then we’ll both go see Ernie together. If anything crops up about you going behind Ernie’s back then I will back you up as we both decided to adopt a wait and see attitude. Does that sound like sense?"

"Agreed I’m glad I’ve confided in you Pete it’s taken quite a load of my mind. Wait and see attitude it is then."

"Right" said Peter "What time is it?"

I recognised the question from our teenage days and it was the first time I’d heard it since all those years ago." Time to get drunk." Was the reply that Peter had expected?

"Come on then we’ll do just that then." And with that Peter got up to leave the lounge room for the middle room and our two mates.

"Where the hell have you two been?" questioned Ernie on our return.

"Just been discussing something personal that happened in the Jack’s flat today." Answered Peter. By putting the answer that way, Peter had not told Ernie a direct lie. We had been discussing something that had happened at my flat today but Peter had made it sound as if it was a shared business problem.

"Fair one". Replied Ernie. "What time is it?"

Peter and I both looked at one another and laughed. "Time to get drunk" we all chorused, Richard included.

 

20

A ringing in my mind woke me up. It took me a few seconds to realize exactly where I was; in my new flat and the noise was my alarm clock warning me it was time to get up. Normally I don't need alarms to awaken me. My past army service had trained my body to get up at whatever time needed without any outside help. Before going to sleep the night I had considered trusting my inner clock to awaken me on time but this morning was different. I could not afford the chance of sleeping in; today I was to begin a week’s holiday in Benidorm.

I was feeling a little under the weather having had just a few pints too much last night. In the past, other than my teenage days, I've suffered very little from hangovers but since revisiting Eagleton I've had more than my fair share. I felt that if I looked at my tongue in the mirror it would show me to be a very poorly man.

I looked at the clock it read four am. By four thirty I was to meet the other members outside the social club. The bus, taking us to Newcastle airport, was to depart at five. Our flight was scheduled to take off at precisely eight fifty-six. When I had previously queried the very early departure from Leeds it was explained that two hours had to be allowed for the road journey, giving the recommended two hours in the airport before our flight.

My suitcase had been packed the evening before so it was a case of my quick ablutions and a cup of heavily sweetened coffee before leaving and locking the door of my flat behind me.

The dark morning‘s weather was frosty underfoot and very cold. It was hard to believe that by early afternoon I would be wearing a thin polo shirt and probably shorts and sandals.

Peter had reliably informed me that the weather on Spain’s Costa Blanca in early November is almost near perfect. It would be between 70 and 80 degrees every day. There would be always a possibility of rain but even then it would still be very warm. Not so hot as in the summer months but usually it was perfect sunbathing weather. Although sunbathing was the last thing we were going on holiday for.

Reaching the club I found the outer doors open. On entering the middle room I was surprised to find that there were already about a dozen members already in attendance. The bar had been specially opened for us departing holidaymakers. The club president, David Hunter, obviously had something to do with that.

Ernie and Peter were sat at a table and each had a pint of bitter in front of them. Uh! The idea of drinking beer at such an early hour makes me feel sick just thinking about it.

"Come on me old son get thee sen sat darn here I'll go get thee tha furst pint." said Ernie, as usual, over exaggerating his Yorkshire accent. With that he got up to go to the bar.

"Cheers Ernie but not for me it's far too early I'm feeling a bit rough round the edges."

"Nonsense, What makes thee poorly makes thee better." He insisted.

"I'd rather not thanks Ernie."

"Go on get one down yer. Start as tha mean to go on. Tha'll be surprised how easy it is after first mouthful."

Ernie hadn't waited for my answer he was already ordering my pint.

"Better make that Two Ernie," said Peter, "Richards just come in.

I looked over my shoulder to see Richard entering. "Morning Richard." I said, "Are you alright?"

"Not too good, I’ve felt better in my time. I never realized there was such a time as four in the morning." Then looking over to Ernie at the bar he said. "Don't get me one of those Ernie I couldn't drink beer to save my life."

"You might as well save your breath Richie," I offered "I tried refusing a drink at first but they've both insisted that we have got to start as we mean to go on."

Ernie had indeed taken no notice of Richard or my protestations about drinking so early. A pint was placed in front of us both. I took a tentative sip it tasted as bad as I'd expected. There was no way I would drink that today.

"Have you got everything?" Enquired Peter. "Money, Passport, condoms."

I laughed at his little joke.

Ernie added "And he's not joking. Those items are the three most vital ingredients that you must take with you. Forget any one of the three and your holiday could be ruined. You won't get out of the country without your passport and you can't buy beer without money. Condoms can be hard to come by in Spain being a predominantly Catholic country and nobody with any sense wants to dip their uncovered pen in a strange inkwell. A married man cannot afford to take anything home to his wife A one night-stand with a stranger doesn’t worry me none, not being married. VD's the last thing on my mind but aids, now that's another kettle of fish. I don't want that again"

I laughed at his little joke. "Seems good sense to me." I answered and with that I took a larger drink of beer than on my first sip.

"We've just got time to get another round in before the bus sets off. Same again lads?" Without waiting for an answer Peter got up to go to the bar.

Drinking at this time of a morning isn't as bad as I had first thought."

"Drink up lads," announced the trip organizer, "bus will be departing in about five minutes."

Before long we were on the bus, heading out of Leeds along the A64 York Road, towards the A1. There was a general air of expectancy among the eighteen members within the coach. All of them, except Richard and I, had been at least once before on the trip. A holiday of a lifetime it had once been described as. I couldn't wait for it to begin proper.

"Where's the piss bucket?" someone shouted.

"It's in the well of the entrance steps." Replied another. Make sure you empty it under the door and it will run outside. With that the first person got up and made his way forward for a pee. I was thankful there was somewhere to 'go' I could feel my bladder already beginning to fill.

"Give us a drag." I heard Ernie ask a younger man in front of him.

"Yer sure." said the man and handed Ernie a long, thick hand made cigarette.

Ernie took a deep drag of it then handed it to Peter who also inhaled of it. It was obviously a cannabis joint for I recognized the smell. In my previous Military Police capacity I had often come across the smoking of it whilst raiding brothels and the out of bounds bars in both Germany and the Far East. The smell of the smoke drifted forward to where I was sitting, it smelled quite inviting.

"Jack?" asked Ernie offering the reefer, inviting my having a drag of it.

"No thanks Ernie. I don't smoke." I felt as if I had to further explain myself. "I’ve no hang ups about others smoking the grass. To me it's harmless but if I have just one smoke then it would be my fifteen-year record of not smoking, going down the drain. Cheers anyway."

Ernie also offered the reefer to Richard who also declined but without any comment.

Peter explained to me that the clubs President David probably knew that joints were being smoked on the bus but turned a blind eye to it. But that he took a very strong line against its use within the club.

We were now well up the A1, or ‘The Great North Road’ as it used to be called when I was younger. One of the men, whom I later learned was nicknamed Conch, made his way forward to the urine bucket. He said that he was feeling a little queasy. Probably from the early morning drinking and the smoking of the joint. Just as he reached the bucket he retched violently and a stream of vomit neatly flew into the bucket. Unfortunately so did the bottom set of his false teeth. There was very little he could do at that time, other than to continue to be sick into the partly filled urine container. After his retching had abated he had no other option but to retrieve his teeth by hand. For a few brief seconds he held them in his hand wondering what to do. Obviously he could not put them back into his mouth. He took out a handkerchief from his pocket and wrapped them up; they would be washed at a later time. Much laughter echoed round the bus. Conch seemed to take it all in his stride and joined in the laughter; there was little else he could do. Although he did mockingly bollock the last user of the bucket for not emptying the previous contents through the bottom of the underside door as we had been instructed earlier to do.

Pretty soon we passed across the A1 bye-pass over the river Tyne, Newcastle airport was only a few more miles away. We were almost there

I have flown many times in my life, mainly to do with my past army service, but Newcastle’s airport appeared to me to be very modern in comparison to some I have flown from. White seemed to be the dominant color of the décor. We checked in and passed through into the departure lounge.

"Jean" Peter exclaimed as he recognized and moved over to a lady among a group of about a dozen. He kissed her warmly on the lips and then proceeded to give each of the others a friendly kiss on the cheek, they, in turn, were obviously pleased to see him. Ernie also went across to greet them; Richard and I remained discreetly in the background.

"Jack, Richard." Peter called over to us. "Here let me introduce you to these gorgeous Geordie lasses, you've heard me talk about them so many times." He then proceeded to introduce Richard and I to each and every one of them. Every one of them that is, except one, he shook her hand and politely introduced himself, then asked her name. Obviously this was her first time on holiday with the group. The new ladies name transpired to be Grace.

A few other members including David the club president and organizer of the trip joined us. David seemed to be paying particular attention to a lady who had been introduced to us as Wendy.

It transpired that the Geordie ladies were on the same flight out to Alicante, our Spanish destination airport. I assumed that the meeting had been previously arranged between the men’s trip and the ladies but was later assured by David that it was a complete coincidence.

We had about an hour and a half’s wait before our flight time. Ernie said to Richard that it was his turn to get the beers in. Richard complied and I followed him to the bar to give him a hand. Soon the beer began to flow and we all relaxed. The holiday had truly begun.

A party atmosphere was in the air I soon became relaxed and the more I drank the more it loosened my tongue. It had been quite a while since I last partied with the opposite sex but my inhibitions soon took leave. I was beginning to enjoy my holiday in earnest.

Grace, the new lady to their group, I learned was a widow of four years. Though not shy she was a little reserved. Her dress sense showed style without being overdressed. She was easy to talk to and appeared interested in what I was saying. I immediately took a shine to her and hoped I might see a little more of her later in the holiday. She in turn seemed quite pleased with my attentions. I began to feel quite tipsy and not wishing to show Grace my drunkenness moved away to rejoin my mates.

It was announced over the airport sound system that our flight was to be delayed for two hours, something to do with the French air traffic control officers, carrying a union work to rule operation. Further delays could also be expected. Although a moan went up from many of the other passengers most, of our and the Geordie group, adopted a couldn't care less attitude. As far as we were concerned the holiday had truly begun. The beer was flowing like water and I was enjoying every mouthful.

At about Ten thirty an announcement was made that the aircraft was ready to be boarded.

Once seated on the 737 a further wait of a half-hour was announced further due to the striking Frenchmen. This time a loud moan came from all of the passengers but there was little anyone could do about it.

The aircraft took off just after Eleven-thirty. I remember little of the flight because, being drunk, I promptly fell asleep. I remember at some stage, being woken by Richard asking if I wanted the in flight meal and my saying no. I went to the toilet for a pee and on returning to my seat, promptly fell asleep again. I vaguely remember the sound of raucous laughter coming from the rear seats of the plane thinking someone was still in a party mood.

The aircraft seatbelt warning light came on and Richard, who was sat in the aisle seat beside me, nudged me awake, the aircraft was coming in to land.

The landing of the aircraft was nothing of note. Once it began it’s taxi across the disembarking apron the captain announced over the intercom that after the aircraft had come to rest, every one still had to remain in their seats; the Spanish police were boarding the aircraft.

Wonder what’s up? "I said to Richard.

"Don’t know but it could be something to do with Ronnie Keebles and his mate Joe Arkright." Answered Richard. "They’ve been seated way back of the aircraft

"Aren’t they in our party?" again I questioned

"Yep. They have been creating a lot of noise throughout the flight. The stewardess has been to see them more than once. Bet it’s something to do with that."

The aeroplane came to a halt. Pretty soon the landing steps were wheeled to the front and rear exits. The doors were opened and four airport policemen entered. After a briefing from the stewardess they passed by our seats and moved to the rear. Practically everyone had their eyes on the policemen. They bent over and obviously spoke to someone. Then two persons, who I now know to be, Ronnie and Joe stood up. The Policemen escorted them off the plane. Pretty soon the rest of the passengers were allowed to disembark.

As soon as we exited the aircraft I felt the change in the temperature. The sun beamed overhead and it was quite hot and very dry. I knew I was going to like this climate.

As we walked up to passport control David Hunter came to us and told us that the airport Police had informed him that the whole of our party had to congregate together and wait before proceeding through Pass Port Control.

Soon all the other passengers had cleared the area and we were stood waiting to proceed further.

An airport Police officer then came and ushered us all into a waiting area. David then accompanied him into a side room and was gone over a half-hour. Much was speculated on the reason we had about being refused entry into Spain.

David emerged and told us that we could now proceed. When we asked him what the story was, he told us that the Ronnie and Joe were being held for further questioning and would not be able to carry on with their holiday. Both of them had affirmed that they and they only, were at fault and that no blame whatsoever should be censured on any other member of our party. At least we could give them credit for blaming no one but them selves.

It appears that the airlines 'No Smoking' rule had been broken which could have put the whole aircraft in jeopardy. One of the two offenders, probably under the influence of drink, had lit a cigarette in full view of everyone. Not only that but one had then thrown a further unlighted cigarette to his mate. The stewardess had ordered them to extinguish the cigarettes. Being drunk and unreasonable, they had laughingly refused saying something like. "Don’t worry we’ll die them out when we’ve finished. It’s not our fault we’ve been delayed."

The airhostess had rebuked them of their actions and the unreasonable behavior and after further abuse from the two men, reported them to the captain. He had radioed ahead and the Police were standing by when the aircraft landed.

The two were to be held in the cells till morning when it was considered that they had sobered up. Their airline tickets were cancelled without any refund. All airlines would be instructed that the two were now blacklisted. On the coming morning’s release they would be ordered to depart the country immediately under their own surety and cost; also warned not to enter Spanish territory for at least Two years

That cigarette had cost them dear.

Luckily the bus to take us to Benidorm was still waiting for our party. Soon we were on our way along the toll road that wends its way adjacent to the coastline. The journey took about an hour and a quarter and at about half past three turned we drove into our holiday destination.

The first sight of the skyline of Benidorm is quite impressive. The skyscrapers of the many hotels were of differing heights and styles and sizes. After stopping the bus at various other hotels for other passengers to disembark we eventually arrived at our hotel, The Presidente. The walls and flooring was made of fawn marble. The whole area was very clean and modern it oozed efficiency. David went to the reception desk and gave details of our party. After handing over my passport temporary until the morning, I signed for a room key. All the rooms were doubles and Ernie was to be my roommate.

"Get unpacked as quick as you can." Said Ernie dumping his suitcase on in of the two single beds. "Let’s get out to the tea-dance. It’ll be jumping about now."

"Tea Dance?" Say’s I.

"Yer you’ll see what I mean. Just hurry up and unpack."

I did as I was bade

"Come on let’s get out." Peter said as he entered our room about half an hour later. "We’ve a lot of beer to drink and a lot of birds to chat up."

"Which room have you got?" I asked

"Same number as you, only one floor up." Replied Richard who had accompanied Peter into our room. "I’m digging with Peter.

Within an hour of us entering the hotel we were exiting it, dressed in light bright summer wear, shorts and shades. "First stop tea dance?" says Ernie.

Off course agreed Peter. "Where else?"

Turning left out our of our hotel we were in a Palm tree lined avenue that, about a hundred yards away, led to the sea conjunction.

Benidorm was alive and buzzing. There were many bars and cafes and from all of them differing music was emanating. There were bars that catered for the English, ones that specialised for Spanish holidaymakers and a few for the Germans. I suppose there were bars for every nationality is you chose to look for them.

We entered a bar that faced onto the seafront, named ‘The Copacobana’ but as I understand it no one ever called it that; it was known by one and all as the tea dance. I soon realised why it was nicknamed that; it was jam-packed with people from aged about thirty to the upper sixties. All the women were dolled up as if there were attending a proper evening dance ball. All the males, like us, were all dressed very casually. A small space in the centre of the room was reserved for dancing. Dancing seemed not to be the operative word, it was just an excuse to get hold of, or be held by, a woman. The place was heaving; it seemed impossible to get any more customers in.

"Don’t be afraid of chatting up any bird you fancy." Advised Ernie. "All the women here are unspoken for. There are all here, just like us, for a good time. None of them are taken, well not yet, but they soon will be. If you want to pull a woman to take out tonight then this is the place to do it. Remember married women do come in here but very rarely with their husbands, they’ve been left back in the UK."

"I’ll go get the beers in." expressed Ernie. "Bottles of Mau is it?"

"Yeah lets start as we mean to go on, the first of many." Replied Peter. "Same for youse two?"

"Mau?" I queried "I’ve always drank San Miguel when I’m in Spain."

"San Miguel, battery acid that’s all that is. Now Mau that’s another tale, just try one and see."

Richard and I agreed and Ernie promptly retired to the bar, although how he would get served was beyond me, the bar was six deep with people trying to get served.

Surprisingly Ernie was not long coming back the bar service must have been very efficient or Ernie had gone in on the blind side. A bottle of Mau was handed out to each of us but no glass to drink it from. "No glasses?" Asked Richard.

"No very few fellar’s use glasses in here. I think we’re all pretending to be young again drinking from bottles. It works for us anyway."

"In for a penny." Says I

"When in Rome," said Richard. And with that he took his first drink in Spain

I did likewise and found the beer was very cold and tasted quite acceptable. I had no sooner got my bottle down by a half than Peter arrived with further bottle. I made no protest but accepted things as they were. I was beginning to like this place and certainly did not regret coming on this holiday.

Peter and Ernie were soon chatting to a group of women who were seated next to where we were standing. They were talking as though they had known them before. When I asked Ernie if he knew them his reply was. "Never seen them before today, probably never see them again. No sweat they are all here to be chatted up and they love it."

I wished I had the same confidence with members of the opposite sex.

Just then the Geordie lasses came into the bar and made there way over to our group.

"Hiya lads." They, to a woman, chorused.

I smiled in greeting but my eyes looked beyond them and saw what I was looking for, Grace. She had looked good in the airport lounge but now she looked stunning. Her hair shone and her dress sense was immaculate. I seemed to remember saying that to myself before but it was and is. I nodded over to her a greeting, which she returned.

The beer was beginning to go to my head and I plucked up the courage to ask one of the Geordie lasses, whom I remembered as Annie, for a dance. She immediately agreed and we made our way to the dance floor. Dance floor being the wrong word is was a small space left by everybody’s mutual consent as the place to dance. I tried to act as if dancing was a natural thing for me to do but soon realised that I was way out of practice. Still I felt as if I had broken my social ice as we returned to the others.

"Just a point," said Ernie when I had returned, "you know when I said that all women here are available?"

I nodded

"Well that’s not quite right, these Geordie women, and we’ve known them for a long time, these Geordie women are the same, out for a good time but I’ve never known, or heard of, any of them go any further. You know what I mean, bed further." They’ll go out with you or others by themselves of an evening but that’s as far as it will go. I’ve known them to invite us to their hotel for coffee or a drink but never for anything else. Know what I mean?"

"Yes I think so Ernie. Having said what you’ve just said, I’m not into one-night stands anyway. That’s not my style either"

"Having said what I’ve just said," furthered Ernie, "there is one of the Geordie women who is having a bit on the side. She and David Hunter have been meeting here for the passed four years. To my knowledge they never communicate though-out the year, but always pre-arranges to meet here this week."

"Who is he having it off with?" I asked

"Wendy."

"Which ones Wendy?"

The smallish one over there next to Jean."

"I looked over at Wendy. She wasn’t much to look at but every one to his own, I supposed. "Is she married?"

"Yes, happily as I understand it. Both her and David have no intention of letting this week’s fling interfere with their individual marriages, and that’s how it is. Who are we to say they are wrong?"

"Yeah nothing to do with us." I agreed. I couldn’t help wondering David didn’t look the sort to play away from home.

Outside through the large plate glass pub frontage, the sun was shining the sea sparkling and the sand white. Tina Turner record ‘simply the best’ was loudly playing and her music seemed to sum up my feelings at the time. The atmosphere was heady and not just because of the drink.

Dutch courage made me want to be near Grace but I felt a little insecure. I decided to go to the toilet and on my way back instead of returning to my place I would try to be near her.

Getting to and using the toilet was an art in it’s self. It took me all of five minutes just to squeeze through the throng of people and then another five queuing to actually use a urinal. Every now and then a woman would laughingly barge through the men’s queue and use the men’s cubicle, shouting their queue was longer than ours and their need was greater. It was all took in fun and the heady consequences of the time.

Retreating back to our crowd, luckily someone had now taken my initial place it was an opportunity to sidle up to Grace.

"Hello. Enjoying yourself?" It wasn’t the most original of chatting up lines but it was the only words I could come up with at the time. Funny that, usually I am quite a self-confident character when speaking or dealing with others on a business basis, but when I’m talking to a lady who attracts me I seem to go to pieces.

"Yes very much so." Replied Grace. "It’s a lot different to what I had been led to expect. I’m usually shy when talking to others but here I feel different. As soon I we walked into this place I felt the party atmosphere. Did you?"

I was very pleased she hadn’t answered my opening question with a few words answer. By replying to me and then asking a question after, indicated that she was being very friendly. For me the ice was broken and I could now relax a little. Trouble was I’d had quite a lot to drink and felt I might not be able to give a good account of myself. I did so want to make good impression on Grace. "I’d ask you to dance but it’s a bit crushy." I offered.

"Crushy, that’s a new word to me is it a Yorkshire slang word?"

"No not really, I just meant that there seems to be little room for a proper dance."

"I know what you mean. Perhaps later on in the week or somewhere else we might find a suitable place. Anyway thank you so much for the almost offer of a dance."

We both laughed at our nuance. Somehow I felt a little closer to her especially when she had said. ‘Perhaps later on in the week or somewhere where we might find a suitable place.’

The party atmosphere continued until around six in the afternoon when slowly the bar began to empty. Peter remarked that most were going back to their hotels for their evening meal. At around half past six someone suggested making the drinks in our hands the last and we all agreed. Paying our parting respects to the Geordie ladies, who were drinking up as well, we made our way out of the bar. I made a particular point of saying goodbye to Grace who replied "We’ll probably see you tonight somewhere in one of the bars." That statement pleased me no end.

As we were walking back to our hotel I asked Peter and Ernie what was on the agenda for tonight. Peter replied that after our evening dinner they usually retired to their room to sleep the afternoons drink off. It was agreed that whoever woke first around, but not before, eleven p.m. would ring the other room as a wakeup call. We could then have a leisurely shower before getting kitted out for the night’s entertainment. I was assured that this coming night or morning in this case, would be a very long one. The evening’s sleep was a very important one.

After a very pleasant dinner, the food being excellent, we retired to our rooms. As soon as my head hit the pillow I was out for the count. Drink does that to me it’s like a sleeping pill.

"Jack, come on are you getting up?" In the far distance I could hear Ernie’s voice rousing me awake.

Slowly I came back to the land of the living and I realised where I was. "Yeah Ernie with you in a minute. My heads pounding I still feel a little drunk."

"You’ve had nothing yet. You’ll be like that for the rest of the week. Great in it?"

"Not too bad I’ve got to admit." I replied but secretly I wondered if I could keep up with the pace. I reassured myself that I certainly was going to try.

"What are you wearing?" I asked. "Suits ties what?"

"You haven’t brought a suit or a tie with you?" he seemed amused by my earlier question.

"Well yeah."

"No way we never wear or even bring suits or ties. Usually its just polo sports shirts and slacks. Occasionally when the evening air is a little cooler we sometimes wear a lightweight jacket. You’ve brought plenty of sports shirts and the like haven’t you?"

I nodded my reply. "Oh yer I’m alright on that score. Casual it is then."

I was just about thinking we should ring Peter and Richard when our internal phone rang. It was Peter with a wakeup call. We were to meet down in the foyer at midnight.

"What we doing tonight then?" Peter asked after we had all met up in the hotel foyer.

"Let’s have a good toby round before we end up in Steptoes." Ernie answered. ‘Toby Round’ meaning going on a pub-crawl.

When Richard queried the word ‘Steptoe's’ Peter told him it was one of their favourite pubs that we would be going in later. The Geordie lasses would probably end up in there. The news was welcome to me I was looking forward to seeing Grace again.

Turning left out of our hotel then first right we soon happened on a bar called ‘Rockies’ That was a very lively place and very noisy. The party atmosphere in there was at its height. We had one bottle of Mau in there before furthering on to the ‘Wooky Hollow’ Again a very lively place, typical of the brash Benidorm type of place I had come to expect. Yorkshire Pride, Sinatra’s, Café Benidorm and The Bahamas all came and went. We had a drink in each of them and all were buzzing. Peter and Ernie were forever chatting to lots of woman. I soon realised that one could chat to anyone without fear of a knock back. I relaxed a little and found this chatting strangers up a little easier. On at least two occasions I felt that if I was given a little more time I might make inroads into a relationship with a lady for the night. But we were on a pub-crawl.

It was about this point that I realised that although I’d had around ten bottles of beer, I was far, or felt far, from drunk. The bottled beer seemed not to be very potent.

"Lets have a wander over to Steptoes 2," suggested Peter.

The word Steptoes was welcome to my ears.

It was agreed and as we wended our way, the time was almost three a.m. and there were more people on the Streets of Benidorm at that time then there were during the day. Bright lights outside the numerous bars made the night almost into daylight. Hot dog stands, Pizza parlours, Kentucky fried chicken and Burger bars seemed to be everywhere. When comparing prices in them I found them very competitive with most places in the UK. In fact I was slowly coming round to the fact that Benidorm was quite a reasonably priced holiday resort. As we walked every body was chatting everybody up all having a good time. Most of the people on the streets were middle aged all seemingly to recapture their youth for the week. And I must admit I was enjoying feeling young again. I soon wended my way into the chatting up game. I felt as if I could give as good as I got. Perhaps it was the beer giving me Dutch courage but what the hell. I was enjoying myself.

We came upon the bar that the neon sign announced as Steptoes 2. Peter went to the bar for his round of drinks. I began looking around for the Geordie lasses and Grace in particular.

They’ll not be in here." Ernie announced.

"Who’ll not?" I tried to appear non-chalante to his statement.

"The Geordie lasses or Grace." Responded Ernie. "They will be in Steptoes. This bar is Steptoes 2. We’ll probably be going to Steptoes 1 after this."

"Oh yeah, I see." I hoped I didn’t sound too disappointed. Ernie had obviously seen the shine I had taken to Grace but with my newly found courage I wasn’t bothered about my appearing bashful.

We had been in the bar about ten minutes when the disk jockey announced that ’Sticky Vickie’ was about to come on stage within the next few minutes. I paid very little attention to the announcement but I noticed that the bar was beginning to fill up a little more. When I remarked on the fact to Peter he said he had seen her act on numerous occasions and that it was old hat to him. He assured me that I should enjoy the act with it being the first time for me. I asked him what he meant but he would not explain other than to say "She’s a strip tease artist with a difference just wait and see. If I were you and Richard I’d get a little closer to the centre dance floor you’ll be able to see her far better from there."

Peter and Ernie remained where they stood at the bar whilst Richard and I moved forward until we were bordering the small-circled wooden dance floor.

A fanfare of taped music heralded the appearance on stage of ‘Sticky Vickie’. She danced in wearing a sparkling long flowing robe with a feather boa draped around her. She was almost within touching distance of Richard and myself.

The taped loud music that announced the act quietened to a low harmony. Without any more ado Sticky Vickie whipped off her robe to reveal herself completely naked other that the feather boa draped round her neck. She danced and twirled around the floor making no attempt top hide her upper or lower regions. Her womanliness was there for all to see, although her face showed her age she would have been very beautiful a long time ago I would have put her in her late forties. Her body was almost perfect as good as any models I’ve seen in photographs or other striptease artistes. Her pubic hair being that of her natural colour affirmed her blonde head hair

She discarded the boa to a chair where she had also deposited her robe. Now she was completely naked.

Suddenly she stooped her gyrations and stood open legged staring down at herself between her legs. The look on her face became one of supprise as she reached down to touch her womanly anatomy. Out of her vaginal opening she extracted an egg, then another one and one more. I was completely amazed I had never seen an act like this before. I realise that conjurors can seem to pull out objects from thin air but these objects are usually hidden in the folds of clothing. Sticky Vickie had no clothing on at all and so it was impossible to hide any objects.

She again looked down to between her legs. Hanging down was a black thread. Slowly pulling at the thread she extracted, one by one, about a dozen razor blades. I assumed the razor blades were fakes because she would certainly have made a mess of her wedding tackle if they had been the real thing. Again looking down she then further pulled out a short bunting of triangular flag on many nations.

The objects were discarded to the floor beside the chair that held her robe. She sat down and picked up the boa, her arms began distracting flailing movements in a kind of sitting down sensual fashion.

I did not realise at the time but this action enabled her to secrete other objects from her robe to within her bodily cavity.

Again standing up she gyrated from the chair to the centre of the floor. Once more she stopped, looked down and with and extravagant flourish produced a bunch of artificial flowers. And they seemed quite a large bunch at that. If anyone had looked at me at that time my jaw would have been hanging open and a look of wonderment would have been on my face.

Now she looked down again and very slowly extracted what looked like a pool cue. It obviously was a telescopic cue but even so how could she secret such and object within herself.

The house lights were turned down and now she was in semi-darkness. From between her legs she slowly pulled out a row of Christmas tree fairy lights and every one of them were lit. As the last one exited the lights went out and were deposited alongside the other objects. Sticky Vickie then produced what looked like an ordinary household electric light bulb. Inserting it between her legs the bulb flashed on and when she removed it from her opening the bulb went out. On off, on off time and again she made the bulb flash. Amazing whatever was coming next.

Vickie then produced a bottle of Schweppes tonic water. She gestured to an onlooker to test and ensure the crimped metal top was correctly fasted. The man did as he was bid and the top fastener was indeed secure. She further handed the bottle to others, including Richard for further confirmation.

She raised her hands to the air holding the bottle in her right hand. Standing legs wide apart, crouching a little. Leaving her left hand in the air, she brought her right hand, holding the bottle at its base, and put it to her private parts. (Well they weren’t very private at this stage.) Suddenly and with great flourish she snapped the bottle downwards and raised it to the air. The top had been removed and tonic water was gushing out of the bottle opening. It had been vigorously shook up with all the previous handling and a little of the mineral water cascaded on me.

The act was over; picking up her belongings Sticky Vicky exited the stage to a tumultuous applause. A more special and unique act I have never witnessed.

Richard and I moved back to the bar area where Ernie and Peter were waiting. The look of incredulity, at what we had just seen, must have told on our faces for our two mates were grinning like Cheshire cats.

"Enjoy that?" said Ernie.

"I don’t believe what I have just seen." Replied Richard. "I remember when, years ago, you first described Sticky Vicky's act and what it consisted of. I always thought that you had been exaggerating but now I realise you definitely weren’t."

"Come on the sup up lets get going." Peter suggested.

"Where to now? "Asked Ernie.

"Might as well go to Steptoes see the girls." Peter responded

"The thought of seeing Grace again exited me.

Steptoes is situated down an alley next to a couple of other bars. As we four walked down the path I could see the Geordie lasses seated at a couple of tables on the outside of the bar. More important Grace was with them.

There was a vacant seat to the side of her and as casually as I could I sidled up and asked if it was vacant. It was and I sat down. We slipped easily into conversation for I found talking to her most rewarding. Although not an intellect she was very intelligent far more so than myself but I did not feel threatened with her intelligence. She made me feel that whatever I said, and it probably was a load of rubbish, was important. We talked about our regrets of the past and dreams for the future. She told me that she had been widowed these past four years and in a way was still grieving although she was healing as time past. This holiday was the first she’d had as a single person and intended to enjoy it to the full without going too far.

We went inside of the bar and had the dance she had promised me earlier in the day, I felt quite heady. At one point in the conversation I boldly asked if I might take her out, just the two of us, this next coming evening. She took great care in not offending me with the refusal but she said she felt that it was too early in the holiday to desert her friends. Although she intimated that if I were to ask her later in the week her answer might well be different. It was the most polite knock-back I’ve ever had and I resolved to ask her again before the holiday was over.

I had noticed earlier that David Hunter was sat with Wendy at another table. Although I’d had it explained that David and Wendy met every year at this time, I was surprised to see how close they were. They were holding hands and oblivious to anybody or anything going on around them. They had eyes for only themselves. It seemed strange that two, otherwise happily married, people could have an affair for just that one week a year, every year. Soon after our party had arrived David and Wendy departed arm in arm. I didn’t bother to speculate where they were going, I knew.

At about a quarter to four Jean announced that it had been a long day and that she’d had enough and was going back to her hotel. Most of her mates, including Grace, agreed that it was time for them to go also. All bade their farewells and left. Their hotel was the ‘Ruidor’ and as they had previously pointed out their room window overlooked the outside bar area in which we were sitting. In fact not long after their departure I heard a woman’s voice shouting Peter, Ernie. It was Jean waving us goodnight from their balcony. From the other side balcony I could also see Grace waving goodnight, I hoped she was waving especially to me.

Peter asked what we were going to do and Ernie suggested Hotel Helios. Peter readily agreed. Ricky and I were ready to fall asleep. "Do you know what the time is?" I asked.

"Yeah time to get drunk." Quipped Ernie.

"No I don’t mean it that way. I’m deadbeat with all the drink we’ve had and the very early start this morning is beginning to take its toll.

"There is no such thing as time in Benidorm. We go back to the hotel when we are either hungry, can’t drink anymore or we’ve got a bird. When in Benidorm do as the Benidormians do." Quipped Ernie

"I can’t see us winning this argument Jack," said Richard. "Perhaps I can manage another beer after a bit of a walk, are you game?"

"I suppose so, lead on McDuff. Anyway what is this Helios place?" I answered.

Peter explained. "The Helios is just a normal Hotel just like ours but a lot bigger. Down in the basement they have a disco for us oldies. All those who haven’t picked up a bed partner for the night gravitate to there. It’s like the Battersea dogs home full of dogs, bitches and lame ducks and that’s just describes the fellar’s. It’s a case of my room or yours after you’ve picked something up in there."

It was about a ten-minute walk from Steptoes to the Hotel Helios, on the way we passed our Hotel Presidente.

"As we entered the Helios basement it was heaving, most of the people were around our age. The disco music was blaring and many couples were coupling, sorry dancing on the dance floor. Peter explained that if one had come in here at three-thirty am then the place would have been empty. It only comes to life around four, one can booze in here twenty-four hours a day and some poor souls even try to do just that.

I got the drinks in at the bar and brought them to the others. Peter and Ernie were already beginning to chat to a couple of ladies.

Richard looked out of place in this bar and I felt it. Two other girls were stood within talking distance of us. Because of my newfound courage, the heady atmosphere and my need to try and prove myself I decided to try a few chat up lines.

"You must be worth a lot of money." I said to the good-looking one of the two.

"Pardon. Are you talking to me?" The lady said rather haughtily.

"Yes, I just remarked that your hair looked immaculate and only a person with a lot of money could afford such a hairstyle." I couldn’t believe what I was saying I was certainly talking in drink.

"Are you trying to be funny?" She sounded offended.

I felt the situation was fast escaping me. "Sorry no All I was doing was remarking what a beautiful head of hair you have, it really suits you. I’m sorry if I’ve offended you." I turned away from her and if I’d have had a tail it would have been between my legs.

She said something like, "idiot" and walked away in a huff. I had fallen at the very first hurdle. Luckily neither of my mates had heard or seen the knock-back I had just had. I tried not to let it worry me and promptly forgot about the incident.

The party atmosphere was in full swing and everyone seemed to be enjoying them selves, myself also.

About and hour later from my rebuff from the female with the nice hair I felt a presence at my left shoulder. I turned to look and there stood the same woman. Our eyes met and she said, "I’m sorry I was so rude earlier I thought you were trying to take the mickey out of my hairdo."

"Of course not." I replied, "All I meant that it was such well styled that you looked a million dollars. The bit about you having a lot of money was a bit rude. I really was only trying to pay you a compliment."

"I understand now. But there are such a lot of idiots; fools and morons in this town one tends to tar all men with the same brush. Can we call a truce?"

I was warming to this lady. She was very attractive and nicely dressed. Her hair was nicely styled even though I had exaggerated a little when I had told her how well it looked. I reckoned her age to be in the early thirties. A little young for me but it would do no harm to my street cred if I ended up with her. We began chatting and I found talking to her refreshing and very easy. I told her all about my past and circumstances and she described herself as single and a nurse from Sheffield. We had been chatting for about an hour and we were getting on like a house on fire. I was certain she was mine, if not for the week, at least for the night.

"How long have you been here?" I casually asked.

"All week." Was the reply. "Our bus picks us up outside our hotel this morning at ten O Clock."

I was immediately fed up, no pissed off are the correct words. Suddenly all my plans for the future of this holiday were in ruins. I didn’t no what to say as a reply."

I remembered earlier Ernie's words and without thinking, uttered them. "Oh so it’s my place or yours for the next few hours you’ve got remaining."

As soon as I had spoke I regretted the words. I was no better than the morons, idiots and fools she had spoke about earlier and my suggestion was certainly the height of unctuousness. I had tried to appear a man with street cred and it came out like a man whose only ambition is between his legs.

"I knew it, you are all the same, after only one thing. Well you’d better look for it elsewhere because you are not getting it from me. And with that she flounced off.

It was pointless my running after her to apologise, I had blown it and nothing I could do or say would make it any better. I was losing one nil.

Before we knew it was Seven-Forty Five by this time we were sat at a table. A seeker in came to us an announced that although this cellar bar was about to close for cleaning purposes there was a side room where drinks could be served and drunk. We decided to call it a draw, supped up and left.

"Breakfast," Ernie announced, "that’s what I want now a full English breakfast."

"Me too." Replied Peter.

How the hell they could stomach any food on top of all that beer was beyond me. Richard announced that all he wanted was a cup of coffee then bed. I concurred with his announcement.

"Wooky Hollow it is then." Peter and Ernie chorused. They had obviously done this all night drinking session before and were quite used to it.

In the Wooky Hollow bar two cowboy breakfasts, two bacon sandwiches and four cups of coffee was ordered and soon before us.

As we munched I remarked on an advertisement on the wall for the Jumbo -Challenge breakfast that could be ordered. Peter went on to explain that all it cost, in Pesetas was the equivalent of three Pounds Fifty. The breakfast consisted of everything that could be put on a plate, breakfast wise. In fact it did not come on a plate but a large silver salver. On the salver were four rounds of eggs, sausages, rashers of bacon and black pudding, together with a portion of chips, fried bread and hash browns. It also came with four slices of toast and four of ordinary bread, all to be washed down with a cup of tea or coffee. He said that if anyone could eat it all in one sitting then that person does not have to pay for the meal. He or she is also presented with a bottle of champagne as a bonus. Peter had asked the waitress if anyone had ever completed the challenge. She had replied that in the eight years since she had been there, it had only been completed once.

The mere thought of even thinking about the breakfast made me feel queasy inside. Having said that I wondered why we were paying for a breakfast in a bar when there would be a perfectly good breakfast to be had in the hotel dining room. After all we had booked and paid for full board. Ah! Well, ours is not to reason why I presumed they probably knew better than I did.

When all were finished eating we departed the bar and walked our way home, home being our hotel room. As Ernie and I were unlocking the door to our room David Hunter was just returning to his. He looked in fine fettle announcing that he’d had a good night’s sleep staying in his girlfriend Wendy’s room. I envied him a little. I’d like a bit of that.

As soon as my head hit the pillow I was asleep.

 

21

"Come get thee self up" It was Ernie trying to rouse me. What does he want now I’ve only just got to bed? "Jack come on we are going for a walk."

"Going for a walk I’ve only just got to sleep."

"Just got to sleep? It’s nearly one o clock."

I grudgingly opened my eyes and glanced at my travel alarm. "Nearly Twelve O clock you mean."

"Well yeah, whatever come on we usually go for a walk around this time. I’ve rung Peter and we are to meet him downstairs in half an hour."

The bed was really pulling and it took very concentrated effort to get out of it. A shit, a shave and a shower in that order and maybe I would feel like a new man. Who was I kidding?

When we met Peter and Ricky down in the foyer they announced that as we were so late we might as well have our mid-day meal in the hotel dining room. Ernie and I agreed and the meal was very acceptable. The lunch was a la carte meaning we had to serve our selves. There were four types of meat dishes with all the vegetable and salads to accompany them. One took as much or as little as one wanted. After the meal I realised I had over eaten it’s a subconscious thing with me. Eating helps to relieve me of any hangover that I may have. The large lunch did not help me at all.

Once out in the sun and walking I relaxed a little. The weather was glorious

And to think that it was almost the middle of November. As soon as we passed a shop selling sunglasses I would have to stop and buy a pair, the sun was hurting my eyes and was doing my headache no good at all.

We walked along the granite lined seafront boulevard. There were many sunbathers on the beach and many of the ladies were topless.

On our walk alongside the beach we passed many sand sculptures and some of them were amazing, especially a full sized portrayal of Jesus on the cross. The cross and figure being flat on the ground, of course.

"Vincent’s bar?" It was Ernie asking us if we fancied going to Vincent’s bar. It seemed this bar was very popular with lunchtime drinkers and was the first bar to be opened in Benidorm many years before Benidorm became fashionable.

"Why not?" answered Peter. And we headed for Vincent’s.

"I am having no beer this lunchtime only coffee. My next drink will be this evening, that’s if I feel all right but it will be next Saturday if I continue to feel like I do now." My three mates laughed at my plight but I was serious, my hangover was getting worse by the minute. I was sure that I was suffering from Alcoholic poisoning. That and the little sleep I’d had made me feel terrible. All I wanted to do was to sit down; No lay down was more like it.

We entered the bar and as Peter went to the bar for the drinks we three found corner seats. Peter returned carrying four bottles of Mau.

"I told you I didn’t want a drink." I protested. "If I try that it will come straight back up and that’s a promise"

"What kills cures." Announced Ernie

"You’ve said that before Ernie but that bottle of cure will certainly kill me if I try to drink it."

""Here," announced Peter passing me a schooner glass full of an almost back liquid. " I’ve also got you a Ferna Blanca."

"A what?" I retorted there’s no way I’m drinking that evil looking brew."

"Ferna Blanca. It’s a hangover cure. Don’t worry it’s non-alcoholic. Drink it all down in one gulp. Don’t try to taste it it’s as foul as it looks. Just knock it back and I guarantee you’ll be cured within minutes."

"Ernie was urging me to drink the cure. I didn’t like the idea but they seemed to know what they were talking about. Putting the schooner to my lips I threw the concoction down. It tasted as awful as Peter had said. Without thinking I picked up my bottle of beer and took a drink to wash my mouth out of the evil taste.

Almost immediately I felt better. Whether it was the hair of the dog I had just drank or the hangover cure, I don’t know but better I felt. Soon I was drinking like a goodun. I was back on form; it was as if I’d never had a drink the night before.

Slowly the bar began to fill up and the part atmosphere took hold. Fill up; being an under-statement, it was jam-packed. Customers were flowing out of the door and onto the streets. The street outside was a very busy thoroughfare but the drinkers took no heed of the traffic. Slowly but surely the whole street outside Vincent's bar became closed to traffic. All traffic had to take a detour, for there was little that could be done to get through. Why the police did not clear the road obstruction I don’t understand, it seems it happens all the time. By Three O Clock there was more people drinking outside than was inside and there were plenty inside I can tell you.

It was a good day I was thoroughly enjoying Vincent’s bar. Around four Ernie asked if we fancied going to the Copacabana tea dance.

All agreed and we walked to the taxi rank for ourselves to be conveyed there.

When we arrived the tea dance was in good swing, looking around I was a little disappointed not to see the Geordie lasses, especially Grace.

I managed to squeeze my way to the bar for the beers and on my way back I overheard two men in mock augment as to who was the fittest. All eyes in the room became focussed on the two men, one young around twentyish and the other being in his middle fifties. It appears that they had agreed to have a race as to who would be first to dive into the sea. They both stripped of to their underpants and at a mates given signal they both rushed towards the door. The crowd parted to make way the clear for the two contestants. Out of the door, across the boulevard, then jumping down to the sand they raced. The bar customers could see all the happenings through the large plate glass front windows. A condition of the race, it seems, was that the winner would be the first one into the sea naked. Both halted momentarily to take off their underpants. Both fell over to the sand in their haste. They recovered almost together and carried on the race to the water. They were almost neck and neck, if anything the older man being slightly behind. The older man must have realised that being behind he was going to lose the race. Rather than admit defeat he desperately dived headlong just as he reached the sea line. It was before he should have done in his vain attempt to be first. Unfortunately he had dived too soon and a little too deep. As he came out of the water blood was pouring from a forehead wound. His mate assisted him out of the sea; they retrieved their undies and walked back to the bar. Both were laughing as they entered the bar but we could see blood oozing from the older mans forehead. He had sustained a deep wide cut. An ambulance was called for and soon he was dispatched to the hospital. I hoped he would be all right.

On discussing the incident with my mates I was told that the Benidorm coast consists of rocky ledges from the road wall down to the sea. The sandy beach being man made. The sand has been imported from the Sahara desert. In fact it still is being imported as thousands of tons of it a year is washed into the ocean. There being no, or very little, tide in the Mediterranean Sea the rest of the beach remains intact.

A good laugh was enjoyed by all, all that is, I suspect, except for the older wounded man.

The past antics seemed to start something. A man jokingly began chasing a woman around the bar threatening to ravish her. She was squealing delightedly and just managing to keep out of his reach. Quite how they found space in which to run I don’t know, because as I’ve said the bar was full at the time. Anyway, room was made for them as they ran around. The woman then ran out of the open door, across the boulevard and on to the sand. All the while she was running she was stripping off her clothes and flinging them high into the air. Soon she was down to just her bra and pants. The man following her was also disrobing to his Y-fronts. Finally the women allowed him to catch up with her. With an exaggerated flourish he flung her down and they both made pretend intercourse on the sand. It was all done in fun and the bar crowd gave them both a big hand when they re-entered the bar area. This holiday gets better by the minute I

Mused.

Soon it was Six-thirty and as the day before, the bar began to slowly empty. We’d also had enough and decided to head for our hotel and an evening meal.

Entering our hotel I moved across to the desk and asked the receptionist for our room key.

"Mr Hindle?" The Spanish assistant asked.

"No that’s my room mate. Shall I get him for you?"

"Yes. It is very urgent." She sounded very ominous

I rejoined my mates who were waiting across the foyer. "Ernie the receptionist wants you at the office desk. I don’t know what it’s about."

"Can’t be much. "Ernie replied as he walked over. "Perhaps we were a little too noisy when we came in this morning. The manager will probably want to give me a bollocking."

Somehow I didn’t think it was just that and I felt a deep sense of foreboding.

The manageress came from around her desk and we could see her talking to Ernie she then escorted him into the back office. As we waited the Thompson's holiday rep entered the hotel and after speaking with the receptionist also went into the back office.

Ernie and the holiday rep emerged from the office after about five minutes. Ernie was ashen faced. He spoke to us in a very quite and subdued voice. "I have to go home, it seems as if my daughter Tina is critically ill in St James hospital. The manager took a telephone call from Thompson’s UK. And they have booked me on a flight home tonight at ten."

Immediately, to a man, we three stated our intentions to return home with him but Ernie was having none of it. He insisted it was pointless ruining our holiday as well. He furthered that his holiday was now stopped. It would not help him if any of ours stopped as well. No, he would be all right. Nothing we can do can help him or his daughter, he reasoned.

We further tried once more. I personally would gladly have escorted him home. Again he was adamant he would return alone.

He said he had just enough time to have an evening meal before packing. The rep had ordered the taxi that would take him to the Airport at Alicante for the flight home.

The meal was taken in subdued silence. None of us could think of anything to say or do that would relieve Ernie of his anguish. Peter tried to suggest that things might not be as serious as they seemed.

Ernie reply was. "They’ve said that Tina is in intensive care. That sounds serious enough to me." He was of course right. There were foreboding times ahead.

Ernie’s taxi had been ordered for eight. As we waved our goodbyes all sorts of thoughts were running through our heads. Up to now none of us could bring them to the surface. Whilst Ernie was there they had to be unspoken. Now, sat in the hotel lounge, we were alone.

Peter was the first to voice his mind. "Do you think it could be anything to do with you know what?"

"You know what?" Richard asked, "What do you mean?"

"Drugs. That’s you know what. Tina’s been on drugs for ages. But no one’s had the heart to tell him."

"I think he knew anyway, or at least suspected it. He just buried his head in the sand hoping it would go away." I offered.

"He’s told me a few times of his fears about that." Came back Richard. "I thought you all knew about it. He told me a few months ago that, although she dabbled in them before, she was clean now and had been for some time."

"Yes but she was still involved with this Jed fellar. I don’t think Ernie knew about that." I then proceeded to update Richard about what had happened at my flat the Friday before.

"She’s been into my ribs before." Replied Richard.

"She borrowed money off you as well?" I asked incredulously.

"Just the once. She told me it was to pay off a debt. She didn’t say who just that if she didn’t get a hundred pounds her life wouldn’t be worth living. I recognised it was serious so I didn’t push her on the subject. Being Ernie’s daughter I felt that I couldn’t refuse her. I was like you, I didn’t know what to do for the best."

"That’s how she made me feel last Friday. What are we to do?"

"What can we do, especially when we are over here? Tell you what I can do, I’ll ring my wife at home, see if she’s heard anything." With that Peter got up to go to the outside phone-box some twenty yards away.

Whilst Ernie was away I took the opportunity to get us a beer apiece.

When Peter returned his news was that no one, at home, knew anything for definite at this stage. Gossip was rife. One Rumour was that Tina had been found dead in a Chapletown bed sit, although it was only a rumour that was not confirmed. Another was that her death was the result of being mistreated by a man whom she was having sex with at the time; again Chapletown was mentioned. Peter told his wife to scotch both rumours informing her that Tina was not dead but in intensive care.

We all felt very frustrated that we could do nothing to help our mate. I didn’t feel like drinking and we just sat there with our beers getting warm, very little out of the bottles had been drunk. We had all seemed to sober up all at once. We tried to get general conversation going but each time a topic was raised it soon was discarded and Ernie’s problem raised its ugly head. At around Nine-Thirty I’d had enough, I announced that I was tired and going to bed. Both mates nodded in agreement and got up to leave. Peter announced that if they decided to go out later he would give me a bell on the telephone.

"Don’t be surprised if I decide not to come out to play tonight I don’t seem to be in the mood." Was my parting shot as I left them in the lift at my floor. Neither replied, they just understood.

Unlocking my room door and realising that all Ernie’s belonging had been removed seemed to hit me. But what can I do? Nothing I frustratingly reasoned. I climbed into bed knowing full well that I would be unable to sleep. Perhaps I should go out, get some beer down. Ale usually has a soporific effect on me. I lay there worried that my actions in lending Ernie’s daughter money last Friday could have been the cause of an overdose of drugs. Having money meant she could obtain further supplies. I knew I should have refused her, I remonstrated with myself. I should have told Ernie of my fears and suspicions. All these problems were washing through my mind there was no way I was going to get any sleep this night.

 

22

The phone rang. I opened my eyes. The sun was shining through the chinks in the drawn heavy curtains. Ernie’s problem immediately came back to mind. Surely I haven’t been to sleep. The sunlight proved I had it was early morning. The phone continued to ring until I picked it up. It was Richard telling me that it was eight am they were about to get out of bed. They would stop off at my floor to pick me up within the next thirty minutes. They were going to have a hotel breakfast today.

When we met there was an uncommon silence at our breakfast table. Usually in whenever any combination our four mates are, there is always something to say. Some topic to discuss, some world problem that when deliberated upon could put the planet to rights. Today was not one of those days. We had made polite conversation about the weather and how when we went to bed last night none of us woke up to go out on the town. No one brought the subject of Ernie up.

None of us, that is, except Richard. Now Richard usually is a very quiet man not very talkative at the best of times but suddenly he leaned forward in his seat and announced. "Look, I know what we are all really thinking and by us not talking about Ernie’s problem will not make it go away. We have got to stand completely in Ernie’s corner on this, whatever it takes. I have been thinking all night about this. I for one have had very little sleep last night. I remember years ago, when I had a serious problem you all took it upon your selves to make it your problem also. I appreciate that to this day. Well I’m now going to put my two-penny worth in. I declare to you both here that whatever Ernie’s problem is and whatever the answer to that problem; I for one am one hundred percent behind him. He and both of you looked after me in my hour of need all those years ago. I still consider that I owe a repayment on that debt. This may just be my opportunity to give Ernie some compensation. Even to the extreme extent of doing away with Big George’s son, Jed. If Ernie wants his pound of flesh I’ll help him get it." Richard regained his posture and leaned back in his seat.

Both Peter and myself had never heard Richard speak like that before or for so long. He obviously meant what he had said; the emotion in his voice conveyed that to us. As far as his closing statement was concerned, that was a blockbuster. Doing away with Jed. He obviously meant murdering Jed. I realised that was an extreme measure but he left us in no doubt precisely how far he was prepared to go.

Peter spoke. "Whoa there, that’s a bit steep are you sure you no exactly what you are suggesting? We may have got away with murder once we were extremely lucky. And I for one don’t know whether I want to be a party to this."

"I did not say you or Jack, all I said was that I am with Ernie One Hundred per cent to whatever end that means. Granted the disposal of that rubbish Jed would be excessive but to me that’s my hundred per cent. I can’t or won’t speak for you two."

It was my turn. "Well let me give you my thoughts. I am completely behind Ernie in his problem. Whatever resources I can contribute they are his. I know, as both you do, that if I had a serious problem and Ernie could help he would so without question. Whether I was right or wrong he would not make judgement on the issue. In Ernie’s eyes, if I thought I was right then, I was.

You both know what kind of person he is, call him what you want but never call him unfaithful. I am with Ricky on this one and promise my complete co-operation."

"Jack, Richard I hear what you are saying but the last time we did anything as extreme as what we are thinking about, we were only bits of kids. Eighteen year old full of confidence and that’s about all. We didn’t think about the consequences then, we didn’t know about the consequences. A lifetime in jail faced us but did we ever contemplate going to jail for a lifetime? The answer is we didn’t, we only thought of getting rid of the problem, not what larger problems would arise if we were caught. Think about now, about what going to jail would mean to each of us if we committed murder and were caught? You Richard, you have a loving wife and a beautiful kid to think of. What would it do to them if you were incarcerated? You Jack do you fancy a lifetime in the nick?"

Richard cut in before I had a chance to speak. "I’ve told you my feelings. Whatever is discussed, whatever is decided, whatever, whatever, whatever. I am one hundred percent behind Ernie.

Yes Peter and I have thought it all out, like I’ve said, I hardly slept a wink last night. I know what I am to do and that is whatever Ernie wants me to do. And I’m sure I can speak for my wife if she knew the whole issue. "

"That about sums me up too." I interjected. "I have less to lose than you both of you. I have no family to sacrifice. I can understand your uncertainty, I was really uncertain the first time. But I say again I am behind Ernie, whatever the solution whatever the outcome.

"Yes I understand both of your feelings," Peter responded, "and I agree with the sentiment. I assure you I’ll back you both up; I mean the three of you up. Anyway I’m sure it won’t come to the extremes we’ve been talking about.

Let us try and forget it now and for the next few days at least. Ernie wouldn’t want us to ruin our holiday. He would want us to enjoy it that is why he refused any of us to accompany him back to the UK. Shall we call it a draw until we have more information which we can consider?"

Richard and I nodded our heads in agreement. I asked them if Ernie could be phoned later today. They replied that Ernie’s house did not have a phone. Peter said he would ring home this evening for any further news."

The dilemma we were facing was to be put to the back of our minds. It would still rear its ugly head at times but we had to try and suppress it, at least for the time being.

"Come on then let’s go for a walk." Suggested Peter. We both agreed.

We strolled along the sea front taking in the sights and sounds of Benidorm; it really was a most remarkable place. Peter told me that this week was a Spanish religious festival and many Spaniards take their holidays this week. Every now and again, seemingly to prove it was a Spanish holiday, a number of repeating firework explosions could be heard. The fireworks were being let professionally let off and they reverberated around the town. The noise echoed from the mountains that surround the resort and a solitary bang could be repeated many times. Peter told me that there was a firework display on Wednesday evening around nine. He said it was the finest display he had ever seen.

Our walk ended up once again in Vincent’s Bar although we seemed to enjoy it and at times I forgot about Ernie’s problem it was always there, daring us to forget about it for two long.

As usual we ended up in the Tea Dance. The Geordie lasses were in attendance and once again I managed to get Grace into conversation. I explained the absence of Ernie without going into too much detail. We promised to meet them in Steptoes around midnight. That evening, Monday, we had our meal and a couple of hours in bed. It still felt strange not having a roommate.

Arising around elevenish to an internal telephone call from Peter I showered, dressed and met my two mates in the foyer.

Peter had overslept so had not phoned home for further news, he said he would do it first thing tomorrow.

We decided to make our way straight to Steptoes and then after a few hours move on to somewhere else.

As previously two nights before, we walked down the alley that had Steptoes on one side and the Hotel Ruidor opposite. The Geordie lasses were already in attendance and we joined them. At a table to one side David Hunter and Wendy were making eyes at each another, at about twelve -thirty they left.

Half an hour later I was just coming back to the table after getting our drinks from the outer side window bar, when in the distance I could hear a woman’s voice calling for Grace. The voice sounded quite urgent. If the voice had been calling any other name but Grace I would have ignored it. I looked around but could see no one calling. As I returned to the table I remarked to Grace about a woman’s voice calling her name. She immediately looked up to the opposite Ruidor balconies. It was her roommate, Wendy trying to attract some attention. Looking up I could also see her waving frantically. Grace and Jean decided to walk across the alley to the Hotel entrance and go see what the matter was, for although Wendy’s voice could not be heard distinctly, it definitely sounded pressing.

About fifteen minutes had passed and I was getting a little impatient for the return of Grace. Just then Jean walked out of the Hotel entrance by herself. There was something amiss I considered.

"Peter," she began, "I have some bad news."

Puzzled Peter enquired, "Yes?"

"It’s David I think he’s dead."

The conversation on our table ceased. We could see by Jean’s face that she was not joking.

"Dead! What do you mean dead?" His question sounded silly. Dead is dead whichever way you looked at it. "Are you sure?"

"I’m sure he’s dead. I’ve checked for a pulse and cannot find one." He must have had a heart attack or something."

"Will you come up to her room and see what we can do?"

"Of course, come on Jack you know a bit of first aid don’t you?"

I nodded agreement but found it an incredulous question. How could a dead man need first aid?

We entered the Ruidor foyer, the hotel receptionist taking no notice of us. They would have no idea whether we were guests, visitors or just plain burglars. From their point of view it was unimportant which.

We climbed the stairs, instead of waiting for the lift, for they were only on the second floor. Entering room 213 we were confronted by Wendy in floods of tears. Grace had her arm round her offering consolation. Peter managed to get the story out of her about what had happened.

It appeared that David and Wendy had decided, as usual, to have and early night. Early meaning that they would have the room to themselves. To cut a long story short David and Wendy were indulging in sex. Suddenly David had rolled off clutching his chest. It became apparent that he was suffering a heart attack or something like it. The writhing attack lasted a few minutes without Wendy knowing what to do. Suddenly David flopped to one side apparently dead. At that point Wendy had come to the outside balcony and frantically called out to her roommate Grace. That was when we became aware that something was wrong.

"Where’s the body?" Peter asked.

"In her and Grace’s room next door." Replied Jean

"We’d better have a look. Give me your key." Grace complied.

Peter and I moved from the room into the landing and opened the door to 211. Slumped across and almost off the bed was the naked, save for a small towel covering his private parts, body of our mate and club president David Hunter.

"Better check his pulse Jack. We must make sure he is in fact dead. If he’s not then a paramedic has got to be called.

I complied with Peters request but could find no signs of life he was obviously dead. His eyes were open and pupils were dilated. I informed Peter of my findings.

"You know what this means?" asked Peter

"What do you mean we can’t alter the fact that he’s dead?

"No but how is it going to look when it comes out that he died in another woman’s bedroom? David is, err was, a very happily married man."

Now I saw the insinuations "We had better tell the others of the possible repercussions of the circumstances of where he has died. They probably haven’t thought of that."

"Yes lets get back there is little we can do here."

I made sure the body was lying lengthways on the bed and put a full cover over it.

We returned to 213. As soon as we entered Jean spoke, "Peter we’ve been discussing the we cannot have a dead man found in Wendy’s room, any of ours for that matter. If it got out to Wendy’s husband it would mean the end of her marriage. And most definitely Benidorm trips for any of us in the future"

"We have just been talking, in the other room, about the same thing Jean. But what can we do?" Returned Peter.

"Can’t you dress him and put him in the outside corridor. Let someone else find him then no one will no he’s been visiting here?"

"That is not the answer." I inputted "What excuse can be found about him being in a strange hotel. No we will just have to inform the proper authorities."

"We can’t do that once it gets out it will be the end of all our Benidorm holiday’s.

I saw what she meant and all the implications. What does anyone suggest then?"

The room went quiet; all appeared to be thinking of a solution to the shared problem

"Couldn’t you just move the body back to your hotel and lay him out on his own bed. He could then have died peacefully in his sleep? That would be better all round." Suggested Grace

I was just about to open my mouth and explain to Grace the impossibility of her reasoning when she said in a pleading voice, "Please Jack."

I heard myself say. "If that’s what you want then that’s what I’ll do." I just could not believe what I had just said. All I had wanted was to impress Grace with my gallantry. I had put my mouth into gear without my turning on the engine. I was considering how to try and retract my foolhardy statement by showing all the pitfalls of such actions, when:

"Oh thank you Jack we will all be always in your debt." Said Grace. The other ladies were nodding in agreement.

Grace’s few words had made me feel ten foot tall. I could not let her down now. I wanted her to be in my debt.

Peter on the other hand tried to show the futility of such actions. "We cannot just carry a dead man through this hotel, along the streets of Benidorm into our hotel. It just isn’t feasible."

"Course it is." Trying to impress Grace again I’d opened my mouth again without thinking ahead. "We’ll have to think the problem through first before any action can be taken. Everyone here will have to help." As I was speaking I was looking round; all were obvious in agreement.

"Couldn’t you pretend he was drunk? You can carry him with his arms around your necks and your arms round his waist." Jean suggested.

"That’s an idea." Agreed Peter. He was warming to the subject of the disposal of the body.

"This is not a film. Have you ever handled a dead body?" The others shook their heads. "They are all floppy and extremely heavy to manoeuvre.

"Why not borrow the invalid chair from reception. I’ve seen one to the side of the reception desk." Suggested Wendy.

"Now that’s a good idea but will the receptionist lend it to you?" I asked.

Maybe not me but he certainly would lend it to Jean. He fancy’s her."

"Jean?" I looked at her enquiringly

"I can but try," she answered. "Pedro does seem to have a shine on me. I’ll go down now and see. Do you think you could dress David whilst I’m gone then if all else fails and we have to report it officially then at least he will be dressed."

"Good idea. "Said Peter "Shall we do the honours Jack?" I nodded.

I’ve never liked the idea of handling a dead body, I’ve done it once before to a stranger during my army days. I didn’t like it then and I was certain I wasn’t going to like it now. I would be glad when it was all over.

Peter and I moved back to room 211 when I pulled back the covering from David’s corpse it stared upwards into Emptiness. I steeled myself and like I’ve seen them do it in the movies, placed my fingers over his eyelids to close them. It isn’t as easy as it looked on film; I had to put a little pressure on the eyelids and in doing so could feel the squashy roundness of his eyeballs underneath. I inwardly gave a little shudder but the eyelids did close.

I had been hoping Peter would take charge of most of the body handling but he picked up David underpants and said, "Hold his legs up so I can slide these on. I didn't like the idea but complied. The hardest part was raising his trunk so that they fitted over his backside. Dressing this dead body was not going to be easy. It took at least half an hour and by this time I was used to handling David’s corpse.

Jean looked in and said that she had arranged the wheelchair. She explained that her story to the desk clerk had been that one of her mate’s boy friend was extremely drunk and no way was he going to be allowed to sleep it off in her room. They wanted him to be moved back to his hotel. The wheelchair would be used to transport the drunken man.

We returned to 213 and I seemed to have been accepted as in charge of events. "We’ll have to have a plan of action if this is going to work." I announced to all. "We’ll all have to know exactly what job in the operation we have. If one of us slips up then we all slip up. Anyone who wants to back out should do so now." I looked around for effect but none gave any negative responses." Right first, have we something to tie David rigid in the wheelchair? We can’t have the corpse falling forward and out. " Grace offered to get dressing gown cords. "I’ll do the pushing of the chair if that’s agreeable to you all? Will you Peter and you Wendy keep to either side of me?" they both nodded. " Grace will you and Jean keep slightly in front of us paving our way clear of any obstacles. When we get down to the foyer if you Jean make a point of talking to Pedro distracting any attention he may give to the wheelchair. Once outside, take up your positions as outriders. If Wendy pretends to talk to the body Peter you might take hold of the hair and move his head now and again, making it look as if he’s drunk or at least alive. We could put a coat over the back of the chair and your hand could go under it keeping it out of sight"

All agreed as to their respective parts in the operation.

"Right then lets begin." I urged

We moved the chair into 211 and Peter and I manhandled the corpse into it. The ladies did not want to be involved at this stage. We tied numerous dressing gown cords around the body and they were secured to the chair. One cord had to be tied, quite tightly round the neck, under the shirt collar to prevent the upper part of the body from lolling forward. We found we had a problem about his head falling forward so that his chin fell to his chest. Peter suggested that a drunk asleep might assume the position with his head in that position. I agreed but repeated my suggestion that every now and then he might reach over with his right hand, between my hands pushing the chair and pull David’s hair backwards. The head would then seem to have some life in it.

"Right lets begin. Grace can you go ring for the lift and when it comes make sure no one is in it or about to enter it on that floor. Give us a shout when all is clear. Wendy you walk downstairs and wait at the lift exit in the foyer if there are any problems don’t let us exit the lift. There should little foot traffic in the foyer at this time." Both Grace and Wendy nodded their agreement and left.

Jean waited outside 211 and waited for Grace’s signal that all was clear and we could proceed. At the given signal we exited the room. Peter had practised his surreptitious hair tugging movements and to an unsuspecting onlooker it almost took on the appearance of being alive, providing one wasn’t allowed to get too closer look that is.

We entered the lift; all was going to plan. The lift stopped and the doors opened at the first floor. I hadn’t prepared for this to happen, who gets in a lift just to travel just one floor? A man, obviously the worse for wear in drink attempted to get in. "Sorry mate. Full up" I said. "These lifts are only allowed to carry four passengers there are four of us in already." Peter, Jean and Grace took up positions in front of the wheelchair and its occupant.

"The lifts already overloaded now, there are five of you." Drink had made the man augmentative. "Anyway why should you have all these woman, I want one for myself let me squeeze beside you my lovely." He was indicating Jean

"He’s all right Jack." Interrupted Peter. He pressed the doors close button and stepped out of the lift, engaging the man in conversation at the same time as saying to me, as the doors closed. "I’ll see you downstairs."

That was a close one. Is it warm in here or am I just sweating with fear? The doors closed and the lift began its descent once more.

By the time it had shuddered to a stop and the doors opened, Peter had run down the steps and had rejoined us. He told Jean to engage Pedro the desk attendant in conversation. She could tell him that the man now walking downstairs was very drunk and that she had been upset her by his crude remarks. This action could kill two birds with one stone; get both Pedro and the drunk off our backs.

Jean complied and walked over to the foyer desk to make her complaints.

Peter by this time had almost perfected his art of making the dead bodies head move, at the same time as he was talking to it. If our action hadn’t have been so serious it would have been a comical situation. It crossed my mind that a film could be made entitled ‘Carry on Corpse’

We egressed the hotel; luckily there was a wheelchair ramp outside the door instead of the four steps to the alley pavement.

Even though the time was well after 2 am. there was plenty of nightlife about. In fact there seemed to be more people about at this hour than during the day. Most were in a state of high inebriation, this would stand us in good stead, and no one would notice us pushing a wheelchair.

Walking up the Steptoe pub alley I was beginning to feel a little confident, our operation seemed to be succeeding. Just then my heart sank at what lay ahead. At the junction of the alley and the main road was parked a blue and white Garda Police Patrol Car. I couldn’t stop and reverse my direction that would definitely look suspicious.

"Peter do your puppet act and talk to our passenger." I hissed under my breath. "Police car ahead. Grace, Jean, Wendy, move a little closer together in front. Block the coppers view." Peter and the girls did as they were commanded. Acting on her own initiative Jean walked on ahead then stopped at the side of the police car and began to ask them directions for ‘Carriages’ pub.

We turned left at the end of the alley. As we passed the police car I glanced to see one of the policemen pointing in the general direction of our travel.

Walking along the main road we, once again, appeared to be in the clear.

I was grateful that nothing of note happened on our remaining journey.

Reaching our hotel we stopped outside to gather our thoughts and prepare coming actions.

When we had looked into David’s pockets earlier and the search had revealed his room passkey. Strictly speaking he should not have the key in his position outside of the hotel they usually are handed in at reception for safekeeping. I was thankful for small mercies at this point.

"Peter you go and get your room key. Talk and keep the receptionist eyes off us and hopefully on to you. Slot into the conversation that it is your roommate that is drunk and incapable, hence the wheelchair. Jean you go with him and give him moral support. I’ll walk straight over to the lift. Wendy you had stay out here. No better still you could return to Steptoe's and keep Richard company, that’s if he’s still there."

I’d forgotten about Richard up to this point. Earlier, before dressing the corpse Peter had gone down to see him and explain our absence without actually telling him about the death. Richard was asked to remain there until we came back for him and to trust us without too many questions at this stage. All would be revealed later. It was better that Richard was not involved with the plot. If we were discovered moving the body the less people involved the better.

It was hard waiting for the lift without turning my head to look at the receptionist. I felt he was looking over in my direction, his eyes boring me in the back. I could hear Peter explaining about his mate who was the worse for drink. It crossed my mind that when the body was discovered in the morning it would not be connected with the wheelchair incident, David, Peter and myself, having different rooms.

After being briefed, Richard would, if questioned, confirm that it was he who had been conveyed in the wheelchair drunk. No connection to David death could therefore be attached to us.

The lift arrived; Peter and Jean stepped in, myself with the wheelchair occupant following. We were almost home and dry.

Relief from our ordeal was slowly beginning to wash over us. Now the four of us couldn’t wait for it all to be over. We could then begin to congratulate ourselves. Talking in hushed exited tones, Peter unlocked the door to David’s room, and he entered first. When we were in almost immediately we began talking almost normally. We moved through the short corridor to the bedroom proper.

"When I saw the police car my heart stopped," began Jean. How I didn’t pee my knickers I’ll never …"

"Shush." The urgency in Peter’s voice was obvious. Then in a whisper he continued. "Look Tommy's in the other bed."

We all froze on seeing the figure in the other bed. Tommy Mannion, David’s roommate, was snoring loudly.

"He most likely will be leg-less drunk. He usually is." Assured Peter "He’s a nice enough fellar but he’s not a full shilling if you know what I mean?"

"What do we do now?" whispered Jean.

"Firstly." I took charge again. "You go back outside and wait for us in the corridor by the lift. Peter you and I have got to undress the body and get it into bed."

Peter and Jean nodded in agreement. Peter and I began untying the body from the wheelchair. Jean left the room quietly.

All the time we were undressing the body we both kept an eye on Tommy. If he awoke now all would be lost. How would we explain our presence and actions? We would have to take him into our confidence and from what I’d heard he wasn’t one to keep a secret, especially when he’s had a few drinks.

There was one point where Tommy did in fact begin moving even to the point of almost taking in his sleep. We both froze our movements, but to our relief all Tommy did was to turn over and almost immediately continued snoring.

I don’t know what all this was doing to Peter but all this tension was getting beyond me. I’ve always been taught never to wish ones life away and I have always tried to live by this attitude but how I wish I could go forward ten minutes.

We shouldn’t have worried Tommy did not wake up. We hung David’s clothes neatly over the side of the bed with his shoes in line. We even took time to put on him a pair of pyjama bottoms.

My coup de gras was to turn up the room heat to full, on the room radiator. I had a fleeting thought that it might confuse a doctor’s official time of death.

As we moved into the lift, now pushing an empty wheelchair, it was as if the entire world and all it’s problems had been lifted from our shoulders.

We wanted to, and did, speak all at once laughing out loud as we moved through the streets of Benidorm. We were home and dry. I even jumped into the wheelchair announcing that I had done the pushing in the past now it was their turn. Jean tried to push it whilst I pretended death. Peter began pulling my hair making my head move up and down; loudly announcing "It’s a puppet."

Jean took the chair back to the hotel whilst we moved further to Steptoe's and Richard.

Richard was still sat at the same table as we had left him although this time there was a very nice looking strange woman by his side. They had obviously become an item.

"Where’ve you been?" he exclaimed when he saw us.

"It’s a long story, let me get the beers in and we’ll tell you."

"By the look of him he won’t be interested he’s got more important things on his mind" Peter laughed indicating the lady at Richard's side.

Richard in turn looked very sheepish. "Don’t get the wrong idea," he explained, "We are just good friends." Another good laugh was enjoyed by all.

Soon Jean and Wendy, and in particular Grace returned to our table. They were full of fun and laughter or was it more of relief?

Grace immediately made her way and sat to my side. The act made it obvious to me that my esteem had gone up in her eyes She showed me newfound respect.

The time now was almost four am. but the night was still young.

There the four of us were sat round a table with four ladies.

23

"Jack" In the depths of my dream I could hear someone calling my name far, far in the distance. It was accompanied by a loud booming noise. I awoke with a start, the shouting of my name and the loud noise turned out to be someone at my room door. Reluctantly I got out of bed to answer it.

"Jack can you come quick?" I can’t wake David." It was Tommy Mannion from next-door, David’s roommate. Or should I say the late David?

"What do you mean can’t wake him?" I pretended ignorance. "Is he drunk or something?"

"Well, yes. No. At least I don’t think so. Will you come and see?" I put on my dressing gown and accompanied Tommy to his room.

David was lying on his bed exactly as we had left him. Now he looked very pale and was obviously lifeless. I pretended surprise at his appearance and as I shook him I could feel the rigidity of his body. Rigor Mortis was already beginning to set in.

"This is serious. We need to seek medical help immediately." I said as I picked up the phone. To the receptionist at the other end of the internal phone I informed him of the circumstances in Room 324

To make it look as if I didn’t like spending too much time in a room with a dead body in it I suggested that Tommy and I remain outside in the corridor until help arrived.

Within a few minutes the hotel manageress entered the corridor, she asked who we were and who had found the body. Full details were given. She unlocked the room with her passkey and entered. After a few minutes she came out and re-locked the door. She asked us if we minded standing guard on the door until someone could come to take charge. We agreed.

Within a few minutes a porter arrived on scene and ten minutes after that a Spanish policeman, accompanied by two paramedics. After giving the policeman details of our identity, he allowed us to leave the situation.

Within two hours of the body being discovered all the residents of the third floor were requested by the management to keep within their rooms for the next ten minutes or to go downstairs. The order was to facilitate the removal of the body and hide it from inquisitive eyes. I had already phoned Peter and told him of the discovery. He and Richard visited me in my room within the time that the body was to be removed Tommy Mannion had already retired to the lounge bar.

In my room Peter and I brought Richard up to date as to the previous nights happenings and why it had necessary for our actions. He unquestioningly agreed to back up any statement we may have to give. Richard was briefed in every detail of the happening.

During Richards briefing we heard the hustle and bustle of David’s body being removed. The next time we would see David, or rather David’s coffin would be back in the UK.

"Come on let’s get out for a drink." I said, "I’m starting to get sober."

We had missed breakfast what with all the goings on and so decided to have one at The Wooky Hollow.

The holiday had fallen flat. The party atmosphere of Benidorm, for us had fallen even flatter.

"Lets have a champagne day," announced Peter.

"What do you mean?" Enquired Richard.

"Well usually by mid-week Ernie and I have had really a skin full of ale. It’s coming out of our ears. Two years back it just happened to be Ernie’s Birthday, it’s on the fifteenth I think. Anyway that year to celebrate it, and for something other to taste rather than beer, I bought a bottle of champagne. It came with the fluted champagne glasses and all. When it was finished and Ernie’s round he promptly went and ordered another bottle of bubbly. We drank champagne all that afternoon and continued when we went out that night. We both were very drunk but somehow we felt completely sober. One of the very few times I have drunk myself sober. We had a great day. It was just a suggestion. Shall we try a champagne day? It might lift our spirits"

"Although in the past champagne hasn’t appealed to me," I responded, "I’ll make one up. It’ll certainly make a change from the taste of Mau."

Richard echoed my agreement.

We began the days boozing with a bottle of champagne in Rocky’s bar. The bubbly tasted like it was, cheap but at least it tasted different from the many beers we’d had since arriving. The second bottle when it arrived tasted a lot better. "This champer’s is not as bad as I at first thought, I could quite get used to this."

Rocky’s pub catered for the few who like a flutter. It was possible to have a bet on the horses or dogs that were running in the UK via the satellite link. Although I have been lucky in not having the gambling bug I like a flutter now and again on special occasions. None of the three of us had any idea on horse racing form so it was like picking a pin in the racing sheet and hoping for the best. We didn’t have a winner all afternoon but it didn’t matter all we could do was giggle. The bubbly had certainly got up our noses.

We stayed in Rocky's all afternoon until time for evening meal and a siesta.

That evening we met the girls in Steptoe's. Grace now seemed to take an obvious shine to me and when I suggested that we take a stroll to another bar she readily agreed. We moved to the ‘Piano’ bar a quite slightly up market sort of place, the sort of place where you can be alone in a crowded room. It’s been a long time since I was in the intimate company of a female and whereas before I was very self-conscious now this was totally natural and all my past seemed far away. I was beginning to look forward to the future. I had a brilliant evening out with Grace. We talked at length about our each individual past. How we both had been married and widowed. We walked back to her hotel and before she entered we had a kiss and cuddle behind some tropical plants outside. The setting was so romantic like one sees on the travel films; I didn’t want it to end. I suggested we remove to her hotel and as soon as I had suggested it I regretted my assumption. Grace graciously declined saying that it was still too early in our relationship for anything like that. I’m glad she felt like she did, for if we had ended up in her room and something sexual had happened it may have took the shine off our potential relationship; then I may have not respected her or myself as much. I’m glad I got a knock-back. And I went to bed that night, I mean that morning, light headed and it was not just because of the Bubbly.

 

 

 

24

The next morning I was up like a lark. I had rang previously told Peter and Richard that I was taking a days absence, I was going out with Grace on the Lemon Express.

A bus met us outside of her hotel at 8-0 am and transported us to a small very old looking ramshackle train station. Soon a train pulled in hauling a number of wooden carriages. The décor and design of the carriages was very basic and old fashioned with open sided windows and doors. After boarding, the train pulled out of the station and soon began chugging slowly in a winding trail upward towards the mountain heights. Most of the time a courier, over a speaker system, was pointing out local views and colour. The natural beauty of the mountains was very pleasant.

The train stopped after about an hour at a tiny village station. All passengers disembarked and we where led to a small guitar factory where the ancient art of Spanish Guitar making was explained and demonstrated. We were invited to purchase a sample of their artistry. I bought Grace a small one as a souvenir. Next came a basket weaving plant. Again basketry was described, shown and sold. Grace and I had a cup of coffee in a typical local Spanish bar, very pleasant.

On the train back to Benidorm the courier opened numerous bottles of cheap champagne and it was offered to us in paper cups. After the previous day of drinking bubbly, Champagne was the last drink I wanted, especially with it tasting like it was, cheap. We had each been given a paper cup full. Although the other passengers took advantage of the free champers, neither Grace nor I wanted to drink it. I had an idea, I took Graces cup from her and as we entered a tunnel I sloshed both cups of champagne down the outside of the carriage. When we exited the tunnel both of us were smiling at my inventiveness. But alas no the courier spotted our now empty paper cups and insisted on giving us a refill. We accepted graciously and had a good laugh at our misfortune.

The cost of the round trip was 2.500 Pesetas, around ten Quid. It would not be my idea of a trip out for a single person but because I was with a lady friend, all in all it turned out to be a very pleasant day

That evening I dined with my two mates. Peter told me that he had been in touch by telephone with his wife. She updated him on the rumours regarding Ernie’s daughter. He went on to say that it had been reported in the ‘Yorkshire Evening Post’ that a woman, whom everyone assumed to be Tina, had definitely been found in a bedsit room, suffering from a drug overdose in Chapletown, the red light district of Leeds. She was still in intensive care and she had not regained conscious from when she had been found. There were many rumours doing the rounds of Eagleton. In some of them Jed's name was mentioned but nothing had been proved one way or the other. Drugs were supposed to be definitely involved. Jed was alleged to have introduced Tina on to cheap drugs in the first place. To make her pay for her habit he pimped for her around downtown Leeds. But as Peter’s wife had stressed, it was all hearsay. The police were questioning her school friends and acquaintances. Jed had been interviewed but no direct evidence, at this stage, could be gathered to link him with Tina. Ernie was said to be devastated.

The news dismayed us all. We felt the frustration that nothing could be done, least ways nothing whilst we were here in Spain.

In this I was split two ways, I wanted to be home with Ernie and to be of help in any way I could. There again I also wanted to be in the company of Grace. She made me feel so special that I felt heady, like a lovesick teenager again. I felt bad about feeling like that at this time but I could not escape my emotions.

My two mates understood my frustration with not being able to help Ernie. They understood because the felt the same way. We all agreed that there was nothing to be gained from worrying about it. Any ways out, we would soon be home again and be able to offer Ernie any succour he needed. When I explained to my two mates how well in I was with Grace they both wished me all the best and to enjoy it whilst I could.

Peter and Richard told me that they had fixed up a foursome meeting this evening and invited grace and I to accompany them. I politely declined with the words that I’d probably see them in Steptoe's this coming early morning.

When I enquired about Richard going on a foursome date. He said it was not a serious date as such, that he had no intention of letting things go too far and that he only was going because Peter’s woman wanted the foursome with her mate. Richard said that he would probably tell his wife, Charlene, all about it when he got home. I believed him, Richard was certainly not a person to two-time.

That evening Grace and I did the rounds of Benidorm old town. The old town is very different to the new town area in which we were staying. It is very antique and has the typical Spanish character throughout. We visited many of the Tapis bars where time seems to have stopped and the impression they give is so 'oldy worldy'.

Grace and I thoroughly enjoyed the quiet few hours to ourselves. We were already beginning to plan a meeting when we returned home to England. It would probably be half way between Newcastle and Leeds, Scotch Corner on the A1or thereabouts. The thought made my future life look very rosy. My devils advocate conscience suggested that I was taking things too far and too fast. Was I falling in love almost at first sight? As soon as I got negative thoughts like that I dismissed them out of hand. I knew what I was doing or thought I did

In the early hours Grace and I met the others in Steptoes as planned. We became part of the crowd but just as surely Grace and I were now a single item.

Friday morning Grace and I said our goodbyes outside her hotel. I had considered asking that I might be allowed up to her room, giving me a chance to go a little further but I didn’t want the answer to be yes. Well not just yet I didn’t. I did not want anything to spoil my newfound relationship and we reaffirmed our intention to meet back in the UK. We had already exchanged addresses and promised to write ASAP. Grace had given me her telephone number and I promise to ring her from our club.

We separated outside of the hotel with a long lingering kiss. It was one that I will remember for the rest of my life. As I’d previously been assured, Benidorm certainly makes one feel alive again.

The bus picked us up outside of our hotel that Saturday morning at seven O clock, plenty of time in which to transport us to Alicante airport for our midday flight home.

Most of the bus journey I felt very lonely, my mind could not be taken from thoughts of Grace.

During the bus journey and in the airport lounge Geoff Ridges and two of his mates continued to drink from a bottle of cheap Spanish plonk. Most of us were invited to partake of the tipple but few took the opportunity.

Almost as soon as the plane took off Geoff complained of sickness. Looking at him across the aisle from me I could see his facial complexion had literally turned green. He was obviously suffering from flight sickness but more probably from alcoholic poisoning. As soon as the stewardess saw him she ushered him to the rear of the aircraft where there was a small sickbay. She prepared him a drink of colourless liquid and then instructed him to lie down fully outstretched on the cot. Luckily by the time the plane touched down he had somewhat recovered and later rejoined us. I have never ever seen anyone with that same green skin colour as Geoff had.

Our aeroplane landed uneventfully and the bus to convey us back to Leeds was waiting outside the airport.

Two and half-hours after, the thoroughfares of Eagleton came into view. Although I had only lived there, this time, just over two weeks it felt as if I was returning home. I now realised that Eagleton had truly become my home once again.

 

 

25

After depositing my suitcase in my flat, the first thing I just had to do was go round to see Ernie.

Knocking at his door it was opened by his mother. "Hello Mrs Hindle is Ernie In?" I could see the obvious sadness in her eyes "Come on in Jack" she invited "He’s in the front room." She ushered me in there then left to go up stairs.

Ernie was sat, no the word is slumped, in an armchair. He looked up on my entrance but his appearance projected utter despair. He obviously had not been sleeping, or washing, or for that matter changing his clothes. He looked like a man who had given up on life.

What could I say? Normally I would have greeted him with something like. "Are you alright?" but he obviously was not all right.

"Ernie," I began as soon as his mother had closed the door of the sitting room. "I know it’s none of my business but can you try and tell me what’s happened, I’ve only just got back and know very little of what has happened."

"It Tina, she’s dead." His words seemed so abrupt, so final. I wasn’t prepared for this news.

"Dead" I exclaimed not wanting to believe my ears. I stopped myself from saying are you sure? That would have been the height of stupidity. "When did all this happen?"

"Thursday afternoon."

I felt so inadequate at what I could do or say. "Is their anything possible that I can do to help?" I began. "You ask anything of me and if it is within my power to do it, you know I will."

Ernie broke down in a flood of noiseless tears. I had never seen him cry, I didn’t believe he knew how. In the past he has always seemed to be on top of his emotions.

I moved over to his armchair and knelt beside it. My right arm encircled his shoulder. I wanted to hug him and take some of the pain from him. For a long while nothing was said by either of us.

"Ernie come on let me take some of the pain from you." I eventually offered.

"My daughter’s dead, my poor innocent daughter." He was now sobbing openly, and noisily.

I nodded in sympathy. There was nothing I could say to help his misery.

"When was it?"

Between sobs he explained. "Thursday afternoon. I’d been at the hospital since I got back from Spain on Monday. I was at her side when she died. When the hospital received her she was taken into intensive care and then placed on a life support machine. Two days after the doctors declared her brain dead and asked my permission to turn her life support off. It was the hardest decision I have ever had to make in my life. I made it on Thursday."

"What’s the story of how she was found?" I asked as gently as I could.

He was becoming a little more composed now. "I know very little myself other than what the police have told me. It seems as if the police down at Millgarth received an anonymous telephone call from a female. She said that something serious had happened in a bed-sit at 24 Churchland Place, off Chapletown Road. The woman refused to identify herself or give them any further information other than Tina’s name and her home address. Obviously that woman knew my daughter personally.

I momentary wondered who this unknown woman was. Could she somehow be traced? Was Jed involved as rumour suggested? How was this woman implicated?

Ernie continued. "On visiting the bed-sit the police found my daughter unconscious. Tina was removed to hospital and then placed into an intensive care ward. The doctor told me that she had been admitted suffering from a drug overdose. When I tried to tell them that, to my knowledge, she was not taking any drugs they said that she had a massive dose of Crack Cocaine in her system."

"Crack?" I exclaimed "Hell that’s serious, where would she have got that from."

"I don’t know but now it has become my life’s work to find out."

"When’s the funeral?"

"Again I don’t know, nobodies said, the coroner will not release the body until proper investigations are made and a coroners court gives it’s verdict."

I spent most of the day with him, offering at one point to take him out for a drink in the club but for the first time, to my knowledge, Ernie refused to go out for a drink.

Instead I went to the off licence and got us a dozen cans of ale. We spent that evening indoors, reminiscing the past and looking at what the future held for us; although in that latter aspect Ernie couldn’t see any further forward that the present day.

I didn’t press Ernie on what he had previously known about his daughter’s drug taking but our conversations intimated that he had suspicions but preferred to keep them to himself.

At one point in the evening Ernie said. "If only I had known to the fullest extent, perhaps I should have done something?"

I picked up on this curious turn of phrase ‘If only I’d known to the fullest extent’. Fullest, suggested that at least he knew something. ‘I should have done something,’ Would one without prior knowledge have used the word should, not could? Maybe his statement was just a slip of the tongue and I was reading too much into his words but I felt that Ernie was certainly blaming himself for not doing something sooner.

As I left early in the hours of Sunday morning I said to Ernie that I would see him in the club Sunday lunchtime. He nodded in agreement but I did not hold out much hope of seeing him.

Peter and Richard were already in the club when I arrived, as expected Ernie had not turned up for the Sunday lunchtime drinking session. Both of them had visited Ernie at his house earlier this morning and been brought up to date on events. They expressed concern over his appearance and demeanour. The upshot of our talk on the subject was that I would go round this afternoon and try and persuade Ernie to come out tonight. I told them that I offered little hope of him doing so but I would try.

When I called round later that afternoon, as expected Ernie didn’t feel up to coming out that evening. I reported to the others and we all made agreement to meet up in the morning and see what could be done.

Ernie’s problem had put a damper on our Sunday evening’s entertainment. The three of us reiterated our decision to meet at my flat in the morning at ten-o-clock before visiting Ernie.

Richard, on the stroke of ten, was first to arrive soon followed by Peter.

Richard first brought up the subject of Ernie. "What are we going to do?"

"What can we do?" Peter replied. "Until the inquest it is pointless doing anything. All we can do is give Ernie all the support we can."

"That’s all well and good and I know Ernie will get all the support he needs from the three of us but isn’t there something more practical we can do in the meantime?" I said.

"Like what?" answered Peter.

"Well! I don’t know can’t we discuss it and see where it takes us?

"Like you once said Jack, two heads are always better than one, even if they are only sheep’s heads." agreed Richard.

"What about trying to find this female who telephoned the police and told them where to find Tina? She must know more that she’s told the police." I responded.

"That’s as good an idea as we’ve had up to now." Put in Peter. "Having said that where do we start looking?"

"We could offer a reward." I said "The woman’s probably short of money."

"She is probably in tow with Jed." Returned Peter. "She might even be one of his prostitutes or he may even have her in his pocket supplying her with drugs. If that’s the case she certainly won’t be coming forward."

"Couldn’t we put the word on the street that a reward is in the offing for information about Tina’s death and that any and all info collected will be treated in the strictest of confidence. Making the point that we are not the police or acting on their behalf." Responded Richard.

"That’s a good idea." I said. "What about letting your son Peter know. Telling him all and putting him under a vow of strict secrecy as to who wants the info."

"Don’t know about that." Replied Peter rather guardedly. "I don’t like the idea of him getting involved. Especially if Jed gets to know he’s interested might bring some trouble on our Peter’s toes."

"Yeah I can see that point." I began "but what if he puts the word to all his mates telling them to spread the word that I myself am putting up the reward. Any flak then drops on my toes. I’m big enough to look after myself. You two don’t necessary have to get involved further than you have to."

"No I don’t like that idea." Began Richard. "I told you back in Benidorm that I will do anything necessary to help Ernie, I owe him a debt of honour. I’m in for a penny in for a pound. I’ll certainly tell my son and daughter to put the word out about the reward."

"Ah!" followed Peter. "I didn’t say I wouldn’t tell our Peter to put the word out I was just being cautious. You are both right we should put the word out and offer a reward and I think it should be substantial. I’ll put five hundred quid into the pot."

"Okay," said Richard "and I’ll put another five hundred in It’s the least I can do."

" I’ll put the third five hundred in," I added, "making it a total of fifteen hundred pound. That should get some tongues wagging.

"I’ve a good idea." I furthered "Why not give out the information about the reward together with a telephone number?"

"Whose number is it to be?" Asked Peter cautiously.

"Yeah I can see a problem there." I continued. "Ah! But wait a minute, thinking about it the first Monday I took over this flat I had decided to get a mobile phone. I can quite easily go into town tomorrow and get one over the counter. Yeah that’s it, I’ll get a mobile; we could use that number."

"That’s right then no one will know whose telephone it is. When the reward offer is put out it could come with a phone confidential phone number." Agreed Richard.

Peter nodded his acceptance of the partial plan.

"Right." Richard jubilantly announced lets get down to the nitty gritty of what we are to say and do from now on.

For the next hour we discussed our coming plans each putting forward a point, having it discussed and amended then when agreed adopting it as part of the plan. By twelve-o-clock our scheme had been finalised.

I would go into Leeds town tomorrow and buy a mobile phone and also apply for a static telephone from British Telecom. "Right." I said, "Are we all finished?" Both nodded. It was then agreed to visit Ernie.

"Come in all of you." Invited Ernie as he answered our knock on his door. "Sorry about the mess me ma just doesn’t seem to have the heart for cleaning just lately. Can’t say I blame her."

"Where is your ma?" Richard asked.

"Gone round to our Margaret's. She spends a lot of time round there just of late." Margaret was Ernie’s aunt.

"Any further news?" I asked

"No nothing to go on. Our Margaret told me ma that there was a rumour going round that Jed is involved in this business somewhere. Nobody seems to know definitely. I’ve been going to go round to his house to find out. Will one of you come with me?"

"I don’t think that is such a good idea I began. Jed will not tell you anything that will incriminate himself even if he is involved. I think, at this stage, you’d better leave that visit out."

"Listen Ernie." Richard began I want to get something off my chest. You remember years ago when you and the lads here helped me over my problem. I’ve never forgot that. With me it’s a debt of honour. It is a debt that I want to repay. Let me affirm here and now that whatever comes about with this Jed fellar, I’m one hundred and ten percent behind you. Even if it comes out that we have to dispose of Jed like we did with his father Big George."

"Hold on do you three know something that I don't?" asked Ernie. "Cos if you do I want to know."

Things were getting very tricky I began to wish Richard had no been so forthcoming in his stance behind Ernie.

Peter chipped in. "What he means Ernie that we are all behind you whatever the outcome. We have heard the rumours that are going round Eagleton. But that’s all they are at this present time, rumours. There is very little that can be done yet. You will have to wait for the inquest."

"Can I say something?" I began "Ernie I’m sure these here won’t mind me telling you, we have put together some kind of a plan. Can I tell you about it?"

Ernie nodded looking at me sideways and cautiously said. "And?"

I then went on to explain the plan we had made earlier with reference to the reward money and telephone number.

"Are you telling me everything Jack?" Ernie asked after I had explained our scheme.

Peter butted in before I could answer. He saved me from lying to Ernie.

"As we’ve said Ernie nobody knows anything definite at this stage. All we can do is wait and bide our time. See what information the offer of our reward brings or what the decision of the coroner’s court is. Then we should be in a better position to act on the information we’ve got.

Ernie was in full agreement saying that he would wait and that he would borrow some money and put up his quarter share of the reward.

"But if I find out that Jed is the cause of our Tina’s death then woe betide him. He’s a dead man

What I would want you to do then will be to get me a loaded gun, then bring the bastard here in front of me. That’s what you could do for me. Then I’ll be forever in your debt."

"There is no way he’ll get away with it. It would become my life’s work to do away with that scum. He’s just like his father was, scum of the earth."

"Steady on Ernie." I put in. "Wait till we have something definite."

"Do you fancy coming out for a pint this afternoon?" Peter offered.

Ernie seemed now to have brightened up. Not his old self but definitely better than what he was at the beginning of our conversation.

"Yeah why not." He replied, "Give me a few minutes to get washed and shaved and I’ll be with you." With that he left the room to go upstairs to change.

Inwardly I breathed a sigh of relief for I didn’t want to get into an explanation of how I head lent his daughter money. I still felt that the money might have been used to buy drugs hence the overdose.

Most of that afternoon’s conversation was about Ernie’s problem, how each in turn assured him that we would stick by him whatever the outcome. Richard was the forerunner in the assurance league; he was determined to pay off some of the debt he felt he owed Ernie.

The following Tuesday I visited the city centre to do some shopping and to view mobile phones. In Hyde Lane I looked in at the Mobyphone warehouse where there were numerous make of mobile phones on display. After taking advice from one of the reps I allowed myself to purchase an ‘Orange Nokia 5.1’ My Visa credit card proved I was a reputable person to trust with a monthly bill contract and I was signed up on the spot. The phone cost over a hundred pounds but that would be offset with lower call charges. I now had a mobile phone that suited my needs and that would only be disclosed to my three friends. That is my three friends and Grace whom I would call later this evening with the fervent hope that she would welcome my call.

I made the call to Grace that night and she sounded pleased to receive it. We chatted at length and I longed to see her again.

I also gave Peter a call and gave him my number. He said he would now tell his son Peter to put the word out to his friends that there was a fifteen Hundred pounds reward for information about the identity of the mysterious woman caller who had reported Tina’s condition and whereabouts. My phone number would also be given but whose number it was would remain anonymous to anyone but us three.

Richard was also phoned and updated. He also said his son would be told of the developments. All we could now do was to wait.

On Friday the 21st I received my first call. A male voice asked me if it was true that I was offering a reward for information concerning the late Tina Hindle. I confirmed that I was and asked him what information he had. The caller asked me my name but when I refused at this stage he hung up but not before giving me some choice foul language. Obviously the word of out intentions was out on the streets.

A few hours later the phone rang again, this time the caller voice was female. She asked me if it was true about the reward and how much it was. When I replied that it was fifteen hundred pounds and maybe more, she asked what information I wanted. I said I wanted to find out how Tina had come to be in the flat and who had been with her prior to being found unconscious. The female said she had been with Tina during a drinking session and how Tina had taken sick and began choking. The caller said she had called the ambulance and then the police but then panicked and left before they arrived.

To me the female seemed to be making up a story as she was telling it. I asked the caller how well she new Tina and she replied that they had been school friends together. Had been? Tina had been of school age at the time of her death.

I asked, "Did you know how old Tina was?"

There was a short pause before I received the answer "Same as me, seventeen or there abouts."

Wrong answer. "What was Tina’s full name and address?"

"Tina Hindle" was the reply but I don’t know her exact address"

Again wrong answer the person who had phoned had given Tina’s address correctly.

"What was the address of the flat they had both been in?"

"I forget the exact address it was in Chapletown." she replied.

The caller’s answers just didn’t seem to ring true. I needed time to think and decided to delay any further information and asked if she could phone me back in an hour. I made the excuse that I wanted some time to make preparations on how or where we could meet up.

"Will you bring the reward money with you?" asked the female.

"Yes probably." I replied

The caller said she would ring back in an hour at around four-o-clock, then hung up.

I was in a quandary. What should I do? I didn’t feel as if this unknown female was the woman whom we wanted to contact but I didn’t want to frighten her off if she was. I decided to call and see Ernie to tell him about the call.

Ernie was quite exited that someone had called. He was all for meeting this female.

"But what if she is not the person who called the police?" What if she is making up the story and only interested in getting her hands on the reward money?" I suggested.

"Ah! But what if she is genuine? If she is we can’t afford to let her go."

"True but we have to be sure. Is there some question I could ask her that only someone who was there could answer?"

"You could ask her what my daughter was wearing when the police found her."

"What was she wearing?"

"That’s the point, the policeman who reported finding her said she was not wearing anything at all, no clothing at all when they found her.

""That’s it." I exclaimed. "Only the person who was with her at the flat would no that. Anything else?"

"She was found on the second floor room 2B. You could ask her about the location of the room she was found in. Tell you what; wait here until she phones you back I want to hear what she has to say.

At exactly four-o-clock my mobile rang again it was the same mysterious female caller.

"Have you got the reward money and where do we meet?" was her first words. She certainly was coming straight to the point.

"Yes but just to clarify matters that you are who you say you are, what was Tina wearing when you last saw her?"

"Err!! Blue jeans and a dark jumper." She quickly answered.

"Ernie whispered, whilst I covered the phone mouthpiece with my hand. "She didn’t ever wear blue jeans she hated trousers. All she would wear was skirts.

"What floor was the flat on in Chapletown Road?" I asked.

"Top floor." came the quick reply. Wrong answer again it had been a four-story house complete with attics. Two questions two wrong answers. We were now certain she was not the woman we wanted to interview.

"You say you went to school with Tina was she in your class?"

"Yes came the immediate reply.

"And how old are you?"

Again came the same answer as before. "Seventeen.

"I’m sorry" I began " you don’t appear to be the person we are looking for and unless you come up with definite proof of who you say you are there is no point in continuing with this conversation."

The female shouted that I had been wasting her time, uttered a number of obscenities and hung up.

" I suppose we had better be prepared for such callers. The reward money will have them coming out of the woodwork."

"I agree," said Ernie he sounded very dejected that the last caller was not the one we wanted.

"Ernie can you tell me everything you know about the circumstances surrounding the police finding Tina? Perhaps then I will be better prepared to weed out such people."

Ernie agreed and updated me as much as he knew

Over the weekend I received four phone calls and all proved to be fakes. All the callers were interested in one thing the reward money.

Grace rang a couple of times and we arranged that some weekend I would travel up to the North East to see her. I was so looking forward to that.

On Monday, eleven days after Tina’s untimely death Ernie told me that a police detective had called on him and took a statement. Ernie had taken the opportunity to voice his suspicions regarding the drug scene around Eagleton and Jed as being the centre of it. The detective had sympathised with Ernie but said that unless hard evidence was forthcoming very little could be proved against Jed. He said that at this stage of their enquiries Jed was not in the picture in that he had a perfect alibi the day of Tina’s death.

When asked if his daughter had definitely suffered an overdose of drugs the detective was officially non-committal but aside said not to be surprised if she had. Where she had got the drugs was anybody’s guess.

This only heightened Ernie’s fears and frustration that the person responsible for supplying drugs could not be traced and looked as if he was going to get away with it scott free.

The rest of the week is a blur. The four of us met frequently in the club and tried to act normal but the situation was not normal past events were anything but. We rallied around Ernie, as best we could but we fully understood his sheer frustration at his helplessness. His daughter was in the mortuary lying on a cold slab, as he put it, and he couldn’t give her a proper funeral until a coroner say so. More than once when he’s had slightly too much to drink had we to stop him from going round to Jed’s house to have it out with him. Practically every night ended up in tears. We all felt for Ernie and what he was going through.

On Friday Ernie received confirmation that the coroner was ready to hold court this coming Thursday.

 

 

26

The morning of Tina’s Coroner’s hearing was upon us. Ernie had previously asked that we, Peter, Richard and myself, that we accompany him. Nothing could have kept any of us away.

It was three weeks to the day that Tina had died. I was a little surprised how quickly the Coroner had called his court together. On speaking to an usher outside the court he said that when there are no unusual circumstances surrounding the death it is usual to hold an inquest quickly to enable bereaved relatives to bury or cremate the body.

"No unusual circumstances surrounding the death" I thought is it an everyday occurrence that a schoolgirls dead body is found in a flat in Chapletown Road? Considering today’s drug scene and in retrospect I supposed it was

The inquest hearing was to be heard in the Leeds Crown Court building number four Court, Mr John Whittaker presiding.

Ernie was sat between Peter and myself. Richard was beside Peter.

The clerk of the court opened proceedings with the announcement Of Tina’s relevant details, Name age address Sex etc.

The Coroner then proceeded to give a brief outline surrounding the finding and subsequent disposal of the body. It was still in the Mortuary at the Leeds General Infirmary and would remain there until the coroner gave his decision for its removal. A Coroners Court order would have to be obtained before Ernie could inter, or otherwise, his daughters body.

Mr Whittaker then read out a written statement from the telephone operator who originally answered the 999 emergency call informing the police and ambulance services about a body in distress at the address of 24 Churchland Place, flat 2B Off Chapletown Road Leeds. The statement said that the caller was that of a female voice who had refused to be identified. The call had been taped at the time and a transcript of the recording was in the Coroners hands if it was need in direct evidence. The unknown female caller had stated that a young woman was in a flat in a house, giving the aforementioned address, apparently lifeless. The female had said that crack cocaine drugs had been involved but refused further information stating that her own life would not be worth living if she said anything further. The caller then gave Tina’s correct name and home address then hung up.

The Coroner then called PC John Willis who gave verbal evidence of how he was called to the address in Churchland Place. He said that after hearing no response to his knocking at the door to the flat in question decided to physically break in, which he did.

He found the body of a female lying naked and uncovered on the only bed in the single room. He now knew the female to be Tina Hindle of 32 Thornton Place, Eagleton Leeds. She was apparently lifeless and appeared not to be breathing. He immediately began mouth to nose method of artificial respiration in conjunction with external cardiac massage. But received no responses. He continued with both methods of resuscitation until paramedics arrived at the scene about five minutes later. They then took charge of the body and it’s treatment. The constable escorted the patient when it was transported to The Leeds General Infirmary.

"How did you say you entered the room Constable?" questioned the Coroner.

"I had to physically break in the door sir." PC Willis replied.

"Was the door locked?"

"Yes Sir"

"Can you ascertain was the door locked from the outside or inside of the room and who locked it?"

"I do not know who locked the door sir. The door lock was a common Yale lock and the person who shut the door automatically locked it.

"But you have no direct evidence who shut the door?"

"To my knowledge no sir I understand that a CID officer, Inspector Collis searched the flat but no evidence was found who else was in the flat or who shut the door."

"Thank you officer. Inspector Collis is to be called to give evidence and we will wait for him to tell us his findings. You are excused officer." The Coroner dismissed the constable.

"Thank-you sir." Replied PC Willis who then stood down.

" Can we now see the medical officer in charge of the case now?" Mr Whittaker asked the clerk of the court.

On the MD’s arrival, who was a female, the coroner asked the doctor to give her identifying details and medical qualifications; then a brief statement as to what she knew of the case.

After identifying herself as Dr Pinkerton MD she gave her medical qualifications, which sounded very impressive. She then went on to describe events leading up to and subsequent medical treatment given to Tina Hindle and then reasoning behind her subsequent death.

Much of the medical terms were beyond our layman’s understanding but basically she said that a white female of approximately fifteen years of age had been admitted to hospital. She now knew that female to be Tina. Her sign ands symptoms suggested that she was suffering from a massive dose of Cocaine poisoning. Soon after her arrival in the hospital she was admitted to intensive care. The doctor stated that paramedics who had first arrived on the scene had reported to her that the patient had been resuscitated from cardiac and respiratory arrest. How long her heart had been stopped could have been anything from 10 to 15 minutes. The doctor stated that any period of cardiac stoppage is always serious but resuscitation after eight minutes almost always results in severe brain damage.

Every effort had been made to maintain and sustain the patient’s life signs whilst in hospital but an ECG scan has shown irreparable damage had been done to the brain. It was almost certain this was due to the cardiac stoppage as earlier described.

The doctor went on to state that on Wednesday the 19th of November it had been diagnosed by herself and two other colleagues, who had also submitted to the court corroborative written evidence, that there was negligible brain electrical and chemical activity in the patient. All three then recommended that the next of Kin Mr Hindle be fully informed and his permission be requested to turn off all life support systems was requested.

The deceased father, Mr Hindle acknowledged the doctor’s recommendations and agreed. On the following day, Thursday at 1435Hrs this recommended action was carried out.

Doctor Pinkerton gave evidence that Heroin at 20 parts per million had also be found in the patient’s bloodstream which suggested that within the last twenty-four hours a high dose of heroine had been taken or administered.

In the doctor’s expert opinion in the opiate field, a derivative of Cocaine commonly known as crack Cocaine had saturated her systolic system, that plus the heroine had been the direct cause of cardiac and then respiratory failure resulting in Tina’s ultimate and untimely death.

Doctor Pinkerton further stated that during treatment Miss Hindle had been One hundred and ten days or approximately three and a half months pregnant. And this fact was confirmed at the ensuing autopsy. In the doctors opinion this pregnancy had not affected in any way the outcome of her death.

The doctor finished her evidence by stating that in her opinion nothing more could possibly have been done that already had been done.

"Thank you Doctor." Said the Coroner "is it possible to ascertain if the overdose was self administered or not and can you say if Miss Hindle was a regular user of Class A drugs?"

"To the first question, no sir I cannot say, one way or the other, that the dosages had been self administered. The fatal dose had been directly intravenously fed into her system via the left upper arm. We found evidence to support that fact in that a small 6mm broken end of the original needle had broken off and was still in situe. There was some evidence of other marks on her body, mainly the arms, which is consistent with hypodermic needles feeding opiates into the body. In my opinion the patient was, or had been a regular user of a Class one drug commonly known as Heroine."

"Did the paramedic’s who first attended the scene report finding any needles or syringes?"

Yes sir, all paramedics are trained to look for any casual effects of injury. Any syringes or other paraphernalia at the scene is always taken charge of it and handed it to the duty doctor on call in the emergency reception area. Such items can yield vital clues to give a doctor better information when deciding upon treatment. In this instance a syringe with a broken needle end was found on the floor at the side of the bed. The syringe contained traces of Cocaine and also very minute traces of Heroine suggesting that either Cocaine or Heroine had been mixed or used on separate occasions. The broken needle was consistent with the 6mm broken needle end found in Ms Hindle’s arm as I have indicated before.

"There is no doubt in your mind that death was caused by Cocaine poisoning." Asked the Coroner.

"That and the earlier administered Heroine dosage, Yes sir, in my opinion death was caused by drugs overdose.

And the pregnancy had no causal effect on the outcome?"

"None Sir."

Thank you for you expert evidence doctor. You are excused of this court.

When we heard that Tina had been over three months pregnant at the time of her death we all inwardly gasped. Ernie breathed out heavily and his shoulders slumped forward.

"She was carrying my grandson." Ernie looked as dejected as I have ever seen anyone before.

"Do you want to go outside for a breather?" I asked him. To which he shook his head. I looked over Ernie’s hunched forward shoulders at Peter who was on the other side of him and silently shook my head. Peter acknowledged the look with frustrated resignation.

"Can we now have the police officer who has had overall control of the case?" Continued the Coroner.

The clerk of the court called to his usher to summon the Officer.

"Detective Chief Inspector Collis R. stationed at Chapletown Road Police Station Leeds." Announced the civilian clothed person who now stood in the witness stand.

"Can you enlighten us as to the events leading up to and subsequently to the case in question." Said Mr Whittaker to the Chief Inspector.

"Yes sir," Began the detective." I became involved with this case on Monday the tenth of November this year. I began by first making a search of the premises where Miss Tina Hindle had been found. Our constable had forced the door to gain entry. No key was found within the premises that fitted the lock on the door to the flat. The door had a single Yale lock that had been set to lock on the closing of the door. There was no evidence who had shut the door be it Miss Hindle or another person leaving. According to subsequent information there were at least two keys to this flat.

Upon investigating whom the mysterious telephone caller who had originally reported the incident, no trace can be found. Extensive enquiries both around Chapletown and Eagleton have been fruitless.

Sir, the owner of the flat has been interviewed and in my opinion it can be proved that he has allowed the premises to be used for the purpose of prostitution and the illegal taking of drugs. The owner is now under police bail and will probably charged for these offences at a later date

No one has come forward to explain how Miss Hindle came to be on the premises. Friends and acquaintances have been interviewed and although one has indicated that Tina Hindle had dabbled in drugs within the past year or so, no one could or wanted to enlighten me where she had been getting her supplies. This reluctance to offer the police information is not unusual in cases that involve drugs.

Inspector Collis further said." Sir if I am permitted I have a small piece of hearsay evidence that I could put to the court."

Please let us have it Inspector." Said the coroner. "As you are aware hearsay evidence can be allowed at an inquest.

"Well sir, one young female witness, who does not want to be identified has stated to me that Miss Hindle had been weaning herself off drugs and had been almost clean for almost two months. This unnamed witness also said that she and Miss Hindle had indulged in prostitution in the past to pay for their drug habits.

Miss Hindle is supposed to have told this young lady that when she found out she was pregnant she had decided to quit drugs as their usage could harm her unborn child.

This witness also said that she believed what Miss Hindle had told her."

At this last statement about Tina selling her body to pay for her habit I really felt for Ernie. No parent wants to hear revelations like this. But this last fact tied up with what she had told that Friday when she had asked me for money. She had not said that her debt had been to Jed or for drugs but I assumed that.

Inspector Collis continued his evidence." Miss Hindle’s family practitioner has been contacted and he was not aware of Miss Hindle’s drug usage or dependency.

I have interviewed Miss Hindle’s father who originally and officially identified his daughter’s body and took a statement from him. He has no knowledge how or why she came to be in a flat in Chapletown Road. He was not aware of his daughters drug dependency."

I looked sideways at Ernie who was nodding noiselessly at what the Detective was saying.

"Has the owner of the building of the flat in question been interviewed?" asked the coroner.

"The owner states that he let the flat for the day to an unknown female. Miss Hindle was not the day tenant. He did not see or know of Miss Hindle. Many known prostitutes around the Chapletown area have been interviewed but no one has been forthcoming with any relevant information. This again is not unusual in cases like this sir."

"Yes I understand your difficulties in this area, Chief inspector. You may stand down."

A number of other witnesses were called to give evidence but none could confirm how Tina came to be in the flat suffering from a drug overdose. Other facts were brought before the Coroner but we could not see the relevance of the evidence. We reasoned that the coroner was progressing through the correct legal sequence of events.

Ernie had been expecting to be called as a witness but surprisingly was not. I explained to him that perhaps all the evidence he could give would be to confirm the identity of his daughter, which he had already done so, and a statement given to the police to that effect. Ernie agreed.

"Is there anyone in this court who has any further relevant information they may have that they can lay before me?" Announced Mr Whittaker to everyone in the room. "Anyone who has, will they please stand up and I can legally recognise them to give evidence?"

All spectators, including myself, looked around the room for any answer to the coroner’s question. No one answered. It was this looking around the room that prompted me to notice two young females who where sat at the back of the public gallery. One was dressed rather oldish and rather flashy for her years, which was about eighteen. She had her hair done up in a rather long, old fashioned, pony tail and was wearing a canary yellow plastic looking three quarter length coat.

The other who looked a couple of years younger was dressed more conservative with nothing remarkable about her other than the fact she looked rather pretty. I looked around for any male person that could be Jed but he did not seem to be in attendance. I wondered if the girls were there at Jed's say so. From what I’d gathered they certainly looked his types.

When he got no response to his public question the Coroner carried on. "I am satisfied that all the medical staff and police have carried out their respective assignments professionally and have done everything possible to help this enquiry.

It is a probability that Miss Hindle had been in company with another or others at the time drugs were being used. But I do not believe they intended any foul play at that time.

It seems to me that we will probably never know whom, if anyone was in the room at the time of the accident. For that it what I believe this happening was; an accident and that no foul play has been committed.

Evidence has been given that Miss Tina Hindle was a habitual drug user. In all probability she administered the drug overdose herself, in the company of another or others. It was an occasion that happens all too frequently these days with the most tragic results.

With all this evidence in mind I pronounce the decision of this court that Tina Hindle of 32 Thornton Place, Eagleton Leeds died from a self-administered overdose of Cocaine.

My verdict is one of misadventure.

This court will now Sanction and authorise the release of the body of Miss Tina Hindle to her next of kin for it’s disposal in a proper and legal fashion."

The Coroner stood up, as did all court officials and spectators in the public gallery.

The four of us moved out of our seats and began making our way out of the courtroom.

"Is that all my daughters life was worth? Death by misadventure." Spluttered Ernie between increasing sobs. "What about my unborn grandson? What have the police done? Sod all that’s what, sod all. They’ve asked a few questions from a few old pros and then been satisfied with negative answers. Why don’t they prosecute them and make them speak up?"

"Steady Ernie." I began. "It’ll not help upsetting yourself like this.

"That’s right." Agreed Richard. It’s not going to help any, ranting and raving what the police have or haven’t done. What we can do is not let this matter rest here. We’ve got to think of a plan of action."

"What can we do that the police, with all their powers, could not do?" put in Peter.

"I don’t know but non of us is as smart as all of us" Retorted Richard

"What does that mean?" enquired Peter.

"Well it’s true." Richard explained. When there is more than pondering on a problem each sees it in at a slightly different angle. One can bounce ideas off the others who then may be able to refine the idea into a more workable solution. Anyway that’s what I think."

"Richard’s right." I said. "We all could sit down and think things over. And just remember Ernie if we come up with any new evidence implicating whomsoever then we can return to the court to have the ruling overturned. A Coroners verdict is never final and can easily be changed."

"If I get any information that anyone had a hand in my daughters death then I for one will not tell the police I want an eye for an eye. They have just proved to me that they are powerless to do their job. Have they interviewed Jed and got the whole truth out of him? No. What I want is my pound of flesh. An eye for an eye."

By now we had exited the court buildings and were walking towards Park Lane where I had parked my car.

"Ernie, didn’t you say that the detective that interviewed you said that Jed had been questioned." Asked Peter.

"Yea but what did they get out of him sweet F all. When I go round to see Jed I’ll take a baseball bat with me. That’ll make him talk."

"That’s too extreme and too obvious and you know it Ernie," I said. "All you’ll do is to bring more trouble on your head. That’s not going to help your Mum or yourself."

"Jack’s right" said Peter "We have no proof at this stage whatsoever that Jed is involved."

"There’s no smoke without fire." Retorted Ernie.

"What about those two young lasses who were at the back of the court. Did any of you notice them? Why would they have been in a place like that unless they had an interest in the verdict?" I put in.

"I noticed that they seemed to be out of place at an inquest. I wonder if they new Tina?" Agreed Richard.

"I didn’t see them." Said Peter.

"Nor me." Agreed Ernie.

"We could go see them ask if they have any information they could tell us." Suggested Richard.

"Wait a minute we may put them on their guard if we approach them when they are together. It may be better if we could see them individually." I suggested.

"We could follow them and see where they go. Find out where they live." Peter put in. it was the first time Peter has made any definite suggestion to get involved with the proceedings.

"Right." Said Richard enthusiastically." Lets go back to the courtroom and see if we can find them."

"Hold on" Urged Peter "Lets do this thing properly. Let’s put in a proper plan of action."

"The plan of action starts here." Began Ernie "I’m going to find them and have it out with them."

"Ernie hold on that will do no good at all. If we are to do anything it’s got to be a joint decision. A decision we all agree to." Demanded Peter. "Lets just tail them see where they go."

"Agreed," says I. "Lets do that. Follow them see where they are headed. Find out where they live and afterwards, when the time is right, we can reason our actions out and discuss further planned action. Action we can all agree to."

"Okay." Agreed Ernie. "At least we’ll be doing something constructive. But what happens if the split up and go there own way?"

"Then we’ll have to separate." I suggested "You Peter follow the tallest one; I’ll point her out, you cant miss her she’s wearing a bright yellow coat. And you Richard you follow the other one she dressed in mostly dark blue. Ernie and I will remain back, well out of sight. If either of you think you have been spotted walk into a shop or something. Make yourself scarce. Ernie or myself will then take over from either of you. Stay well clear of them, better still walk on the other side of the road."

Just as we began walking back to the courthouse the two young ladies were coming out. As soon as I saw the canary yellow coat on one of the girls we about turned quickly walked around the building corner out of sight before they could spot us.

"Peter I suggest you follow them at a reasonable distance behind and on the other side of the road. Ernie you Richard follow Peter keeping well behind him. They are heading up the Headrow: I’ll go back to Park Lane and retrieve the car. I’ll drive along the Headrow and if necessary pick you up. If any of you lose the trail I’ll be waiting at the Corn Exchange building. With a bit of luck that’s where they will be heading to catch a bus back to Eagleton. If that is so we will be able to follow the bus in my car.

They all agreed with my plan and Peter immediately began to walk on ahead and soon the other two followed him. I returned to the car park to get my Sierra.

By the time I had managed to retrieve my car and negotiate the one-way system around the Merrion centre I had lost sight of my three mates. As arranged I drove to the Corn Exchange building. I couldn’t park up there so I began to drive around the one-way system round the Calls and Briggate to return to the Corn Exchange. On the second circuit I saw Ernie and Richard waiting at the kerb.

"Peter is still trailing the two lasses they have not spotted him yet." Richard began. "They have got on an Eagleton bus and he got on the same bus. They went upstairs he down."

"Will you recognise the bus he’s on?" I asked.

Well it’s a number three and that goes up Dewsbury Road. If we hurry we may be able to catch up with it." Replied Richard.

Eventually we did catch up with the bus and as I began overtake it Ernie gave a small wave to Peter who acknowledged it by a slight discreet nod, he didn’t want to make himself known. After a little while I pulled into a lay-by, allowing the bus to overtake us and then discreetly followed behind it.

The two girls dismounted the bus at the Eagleton Park Avenue terminus. And began to walk along Eagle Lane.

Peter was last off the bus and when we were sure the girls were out of sight picked him up.

"They are walking towards the Eaglet." Exclaimed Ernie.

"Certainly looks that way." agreed Peter.

"Lets follow them in and have a word with them." Urged Ernie.

"No" I began "the three of you are too well know around Eagleton, I’ll go in. No one knows me in there. You two wait in the car."

I parked the car round the corner to the pub and walked to the entrance. I tried to enter as nonchalantly as I could but still felt rather conspicuous. I walked up to the bar and out of the corner of my eye I saw the two girls, sat with their back to the centre of the room, in urgent conversation with two male persons who were sat on the wall seats.

Ordering half a pint of Bitter I took it across the room to a table within earshot of the four and sat with my back to them.

I tried to hear what was being said but could not make out the full gist of their conversation. Coroner’s court and accidental death were definite words that I did hear one of the girl’s say.

One of the youths seemed to be in a sour mood because he kept raising his voice berating the two young girls. The other male hardly spoke at all. From what little I could gather whenever the talkative youth questioned either of the two girls and they couldn’t remember what exactly had been said at the inquest, he would raise his voice in a remonstrative way. At one stage I heard what could have been a slap on the face of one of the girls for soon after I heard one of them sobbing. The younger of the two men said. "If you don’t shut up crying I’ll really give you something to cry for." The sobbing ceased.

Soon the girls were dismissed with the younger more assertive man telling them to F off. The two females left the bar immediately. I couldn’t follow them out it would have looked suspicious not that I wanted to I had already decide to stay a while longer to see if I could find out who these two men were. I hoped my mates would take the initiative and follow the two girls to see where they lived.

I decided to go for another drink and ordered myself another half of bitter. On the way to the bar and on my return I scrutinised both men. I say men but really the were only old youths, around the nineteen twenty mark I estimated. I committed their faces and appearances to memory for now I was certain they were implicated in Tina’s death.

The talkative youth was small in stature and rather shallow looking. He was smartly dressed in what appeared to be expensive jacket and trousers. I had never seen him before but I would lie odds on that he was ‘Big George’s’ infamous son Jed Edwards.

The other youth, who appeared older, was taller and thicker set. He was very rough looking. Whether he was Jed’s minder I didn’t know but he certainly looked the part.

Jed, or whom I assumed to be Jed was doing all the talking, trouble was he talked rather quietly now that the girls had gone. It was impossible to hear the full conversation but I did hear him say quite clearly. "Well I’m glad that’s out of the way. Accidental death is the best way out for everybody. She got what she deserved. Perhaps now they’ll all realise that when I speak people have got to listen."

After a decent length of time I got up to leave. I felt both youth’s eyes on me but tried to appear at ease with myself. I gave them a slight nod as I left and although it was not returned it was not rebuffed either.

Ernie was waiting in my parked car. He told me that Richard and Peter had decided to follow the two girls and would meet us later that evening at my flat.

As I put the kettle on back in my kitchen I told Ernie what had been said inside the Eaglet pub and described the two youths. It appeared that I had been right when I had surmised that the short well-dressed youth was Jed. When I described the other one Ernie wasn’t sure who he was but Jed usually had a few hangers on around him.

Ernie appeared exited when he heard me describe Jed’s words to his minder when he said ‘accidental death was the best way out for everybody.’

"That proves Jed was involved with Tina’s death. Don’t it?"

"Well it certainly proves to me that he is more than just a bystander but it does not prove that he is directly involved." I answered.

"He’s involved all right you can bet your bottom dollar." Retorted Ernie.

Yeah! But we need a lot more proof than we have now." I suggest we speak to Peter and Richard."

Just then my mobile phone rang it was Peter. He told me that he and Richard had gone after following the two girls. He suggested we all meet in the club later that night. I agreed and he hung up. I told Ernie what Peter had said and he agreed to meet in the club later.

"Are you saying that your son knows the two young women that were in the Coroner’s court this afternoon?" I asked Peter. The four of us had met in the club as arranged that evening and Peter had suggested that his son Peter knew of the two girls.

"Yes he does. As I’ve said we followed the girls this afternoon and they both went into a house in Thistle Grove, number 32. As you know that’s not far away from where Richard lives.

"Richard butted in. "Yes that’s right I really should have know about that house it’s a regular haunt for dossers and late night parties and the like. Most of the youth of Eagleton know of it."

"Like I said" Peter carried on. I asked my lad if he knew about the house and he did. It’s just like Richard says it’s a rave house where anything and everything can be got. When I described the young lasses to him he instantly recognised them. The one with the ponytail is called Sarah. It seems the house is registered with the council in her name but she shares it with the other one called Tracy. They are both inseparable, where you see one you see the other. They have been called lesbians but I am assured they still turn a trick or two with men. No one really knows for sure. My description to my lad confirms that this Tracy is the other one we saw in the court this afternoon. She is supposed to be the quieter one of the two. Most people like her.

"Lets go round now and see them, make them tell us what they know." Butted in Ernie.

"That’s not the way and you know it Ernie. We cannot be seen to intimidate potential witnesses. " I reminded him. "We’ve got to handle this very carefully. No good jumping in with both feet until we know where our feet are going to land." Both Peter and Richard nodded in agreement to my common sense.

"Well what do you all suggest? Ernie appealed

"I’ve already said to my lad." Peter continued. "That he should keep his eyes and ears open for any information about these two lasses. I’ve not told him the full story but that if he gets the chance to speak to them about the offer of the reward then he should take it. I’ve sworn him to strict secrecy about our involvement and that he has to only put it about that he has heard about it from general gossip. I suggest that we now leave it for the time being and wait for things to develop."

Richard and I instantly agreed with Peter’s suggestion. Ernie looked a little more reluctant but agree he did.

Very little of note happened the rest of the week and soon the weekend was upon us. I had made plans to drive north to see Grace.

 

27

Saturday morning I began my journey to Northumberland to visit Grace. She had described Morpeth, where she lived, as a small quiet picturesque market town that boasted beautiful scenic river views. Grace had described them over the phone and I was much looking forward to walking along the riverbank, with her on my arm. She had said that the best way from Eagleton was to pick up the A1 at Wetherby, just outside of Leeds. The A1 now detoured Newcastle and about ten miles on I should pick up a sign to Morpeth, which is then a couple of miles further.

The directions Grace had given me where adequate and I reached Morpeth Town centre after just about two hours of travel. I had to ask further directions from a passer by where the actual street address was and the stranger seemed genuinely most helpful.

As I got out of my car at Grace’s address and she was quickly out to greet me. A nice warm kiss on the cheek made me feel truly welcome.

Her house was semi-detached and similar to many others in the street but it was the inside that impressed me the most. It had a nice warm cosy glow about it; the house was obviously loved.

Grace showed me to the room I was to use, it was tastefully furnished and the bed looked very comfortable. She then ushered me downstairs and led me to the dining area. She placed before me a light salad lunch, which I thoroughly enjoyed notwithstanding that it had been prepared by someone other than myself.

We had a short afternoon walk around the town and the surrounding countryside. It was the most pleasant afternoon that I had spent in a long time.

That evening we visited a number of local inns and I expressed surprise at the large numbers of young people that seemed to have invaded the town. Grace explained that usually at the weekend, lads and lasses from many of the small hamlets around came into Morpeth. Even though there were large numbers of teenagers very little trouble was in evidence.

I was impressed by the friendliness of the people. I had heard, whilst in the army, that the North Easton peoples have a friendly culture and now I certainly found that to be true.

I learned incidentally that even though they lived well over ten miles from Newcastle they still considered themselves Geordies. Strange that, they being Northumbrian's and Newcastle being in the county of Tyne and Wear.

Grace and I had a little snogging session; that’s the only way I can describe; before going to our separate bedrooms. I’d had a thoroughly good day.

Sunday Morning I was awakened to a light tapping at my bedroom door it was Grace asking if I was awake yet. I answered in the affirmative and invited her to enter my room for a chat. She politely declined saying my breakfast would be on the kitchen table in about fifteen minutes. I quickly showered and shaved and had just walked into the kitchen as breakfast was being served. It was a traditional English breakfast, which was much appreciated. I could quite easily get used to a woman prepare my meals again. I thought.

After the meal we both settled down in cosy armchairs to read the Sunday papers. I felt very relaxed and at home.

Sitting in a large cosy armchair after a meal, the Sunday sun newspaper on my lap and almost dozing this is the life I thought. I almost felt at home.

My mobile phone interrupted my serenity. "You the guy who’s offering the reward money?" was the abrupt male answer to my hello.

"Yes who’s calling please?"

"Never mind who’s calling just let me tell you to keep your sneb out of other peoples business or you just might get it cut off. I’m not in the habit of giving warning’s twice so if I hear of your interfering then I’m out to get you, understand? Now get off the case."

With that the unknown caller hung up. The threat had been interspersed with every four-letter word imaginable. The very broad Yorkshire accent sounded familiar. Had I heard it before I asked myself? It sounded like the voice I’d heard in the Eaglet pub when the girls were reporting back after their visit to the coroners court. Could it have been the voice of Jed Edwards’s? I couldn’t be sure.

Anyway it spoiled my Sunday Morning and brought me back to reality.

A traditional Sunday lunch followed at one-o-clock and Grace suggested an afternoon stroll up the riverbank to walk it off, to which I agreed. To cap the afternoon off we found a cosy inn overlooking the river.

In the evening Grace suggested a drive into Newcastle and visit the Metro Centre. The where the film ‘Pearl Harbour’ was showing. I readily agreed.

We saw the film and then had a meal at the Italian Bistro within the centre. Not only was the film fantastic so was the meal, so was the whole evening. Another ‘snogging’ session followed before we retired to bed, each to his own. I had made no attempt to entice Grace into my bed. I suppose I was afraid of a knock-back.

Monday morning I bade my farewells, assuring Grace that I’d had a most enjoyable weekend in her company and I really meant it. She thanked me and said she had also enjoyed my visit and suggested that we must do it again sometime. I readily agreed and promised to phone her on my safe arrival back in Leeds.

Driving back down the A1 I pondered our relationship, could I detect that Grace was as eager as I to continue it? I certainly hoped so.

 

 

28

I had no sooner entered my flat, after my sojourn with Grace, than my telephone rang it was Peter. He was ringing to update me of events that had happened over the weekend. He said he was coming over right now.

When Peter arrived he explained that on Saturday his son had took up conversation with Sarah and Tracy in the Middleton Arms. He had known her at school and was on ‘nodding’ terms with her. Peter reminded me that Sarah was the older one who had been wearing the Yellow coat at the Coroners Court, Tracy being the younger one. Peter junior had steered the conversation round to local gossip. He asked them if they had heard about the mysterious person who was offering a substantial reward for information about Tina Hindle’s death. Both had said that they had not heard such gossip, what did he know? Peter junior kept to his story that he did not know much more, other than there was word on the street that a reward of at least a fifteen hundred pounds reward being offered by an unknown person wanting information. Sarah had tried to glean more information from Peter but he told them that was all he knew. Sarah had asked if Peter knew the telephone number but he said he hadn’t but he might be able to find it out. Later that evening Peter junior returned to the girls and gave them my mobile phone number, pretending he had just got it from a friend. Sara made a point of writing it down.

At this point I halted Peter’s storey, asking him what day this conversation occurred? When Peter replied "Saturday Night" I told him of the threatening telephone call I had received whilst visiting Grace on Sunday Morning. I explained the male voice abuse and the threats to my life that the caller had made. Could they be linked?

"Wow" said Peter "Things seem to be moving along. Did the caller say who he was?"

"He didn’t give a name but I’m sure I’ve heard the voice before in the Eaglet. The voice just made warnings to keep my nose out of his affairs or else I would end up Like Tina on a slab. I’m pretty certain the voice and Jed Edwards are one and the same."

"Have you told Ernie yet?"

"No I’ve just got in from visiting the North East."

Just then my mobile rang. The caller was female and spoke with a slight Scottish accent. She wanted to know if this was the correct number to give information about Tina Hindle. When I confirmed that it was she asked if the reward money was genuine. I again affirmed that it was providing the information proved to be correct. What did she know?

"I know the full story." Said the voice. "I just wanted to make sure the reward was genuine. I might call you back."

"Wait please don’t hang up." But by the time I had said ‘hang up’, she had

"What was that all about?" Asked Peter.

"I’m not sure. It could have been something or nothing." I went on to explain the enigmatic phone call.

"Could it have been a hoax?"

"Not sure, I suppose it could have been but there again I don’t know. She said she might call back, let’s hope she does"

Peter nodded in agreement.

"You remember it’s Tina’s funeral tomorrow."

"Yea, how could I forget? I’ve already arranged my wreath to be delivered tomorrow morning. The cortege leaves Ernie’s house at eleven, that’s right isn’t it?"

"Yes, for service and interment at eleven-thirty at Cottingly cemetery." He replied.

"I’m not looking forward to that."

"Nor me."

"Shall we call round to Ernie’s and update him on events?" I asked.

Peter Agreed.

 

 

29

Tuesday morning dawned; Tina’s funeral was a day I certainly wasn’t looking forward to. Peering out of the window it looked a cold and miserable November day and it was raining. Perhaps only a drizzle but rain nonetheless. Why does it always seem to rain at funerals?

I didn’t have a black or even a dark suit. I had considered buying one especially for the occasion but realised that nowadays it is not too disrespectful to turn up in clothes other than black.

I dressed in my midnight blue suit; it was the darkest one I owned. White shirt and a new black tie completed my outfit. I had also decided to don my charcoal grey overcoat to guard against the cold and as an added mark of respect.

The cortege was to leave Ernie’s house at eleven and I mentally timed my arrival for about fifteen minutes before that.

Almost to the dot I knocked on the front door of Ernie’s house. He answered the door and looked in a sorry state; his eyes were watery and looked as if he had been weeping but who could blame him. I hugged him in unsaid condolences; there was little I could say that hadn’t already been said. As I entered the front room I could see the coffin that contained his daughter Tina. Although I knew I was coming to a funeral the sight of the open coffin gave me a little shock. In decades gone by, when I was a lad, it was usual for the deceased to be brought home the night before the funeral. Then a vigil of the body could be kept overnight as a mark of respect. This process was now out of date and in these times it was most unusual for even the coffin to be brought into the house at all. The bringing into the house of Tina’s body must have been at the insistence of Mrs Hindle. To her it would have been the right thing to do.

I moved to stand over Tina’s body, my head bowed in respect. Looking down she appeared so young, so innocent and beautiful. Considering that the corpse had undergone a post mortem the undertaker who had applied the cosmetics had done an excellent job. I know it’s an old cliché but Tina looked to be in a deep serene sleep.

Mrs Hindle was in the kitchen preparing food and drink for the coming wake after the burial. She was dressed in a traditional black dress of the old style. I moved over to her and gave her a reassuring hug. Again I was silent I wanted to say the right words but they were not forthcoming. All I could mumble was. "I’m sorry."

Mrs Hindle patted my arm in an understanding way. "Just look after my son will you Jack?"

"Of course." I whispered, "It’s the least I can do. Is there anything, anything I can do for you?"

"No Jack, thanks just look after Ernie." She replied and then carried on with her catering preparations. She obviously wanted to keep busy to take her mind off the funeral for there would have been many willing neighbours to do these chores for her.

I made my way out of the kitchen and into the main room. Peter and Richard were already in attendance and I went over to stand with them. They nodded their unspoken greetings. I learned a little later that Tina’s body had been delivered to Ernie’s home three hours before at eight-o clock this morning. Richard had arranged to be with Ernie from that time to assist him through his vigil. I felt a little disappointed with myself for not suggesting that I also could have kept them company. I didn’t know whether to apologise to Ernie for my inconsideration. I hadn’t known about the vigil so I couldn’t attach any blame to myself but that didn’t make me feel any better. I felt a little let down that I hadn’t been asked to accompany them. Thinking about it I decided not to broach the subject.

There were about twenty in the room waiting, all talking in quiet whispers, probably like myself wishing it was all over.

Just before eleven the undertaker came into the room and asked if all respects had been paid. When no one answered he was about picked up the coffin lid to place it in position when Ernie, now crying openly, rushed over to his dead daughters body and took her by the shoulders. He bowed low over the body and kissed her on each cheek. He was talking quietly to her but what was said was not within my earshot. Ernie then drew back and nodded to the undertaker giving him unsaid permission to secure the coffin. A wheeled chariot was placed under the coffin and it was pushed out to the waiting hearse. Flowers were then arranged around it.

Ernie, his mother and another man and a woman stepped into the only support limousine. When I asked who the man and women were, Richard replied that it was Ernie’s much older brother and wife. I had known Ernie had a brother but as I understood it he left home over forty years ago and had lost contact with Ernie and his mother.

All the other mourners’ embussed into different vehicles to would take them to the cemetery. Richard and Peter had arranged to come with me in my car.

As the cortege drove slowly away from the house Richard nudged Peter and myself and nodded towards the end of the street. Standing there were the two girls we had first seen in the coroner’s court. As the hearse passed by the one we now knew to be Tracy, she bowed her head respectfully. The other on, Sarah, stared intently forward.

Then came the slow five-mile drive to Cottingly cemetery. All other traffic gave way to the hearse and the accompanying vehicles. Many pedestrians stopped and looked on, a couple of gentlemen who were wearing hats doffed them in respect. A sombre occasion in anyone’s eyes.

Soon the congregation was seated in the small chapel. Ernie, his mother and close relations were occupying the right hand front row.

The coffin carrying Tina’s body lay on stands in the front centre aisle Background music was plays Louis Armstrong’s record ‘Wonderful World’ I understood Mrs Hindle had specifically requested it.

When the entire congregation had accessed the chapel the Vicar asked them to stand and a small prayer was said.

Two hymns were sung with a short sermon in between and before long the service was over.

Throughout the service Ernie and his mother sobbed quietly.

Four assistant undertakers bore the coffin down the aisle to the open door. We followed it with the hymn ‘Abide with me’ playing quietly in the background, again at Mrs Hindle’s request. Very little time seemed to have been allotted to the service, probably because other burials were waiting for their time slot.

The cortege followed the borne coffin along the cemetery paths reaching the final resting-place, an open newly dug hole in the ground. The earth that had been excavated was covered with a green simulated grass material. The coffin was placed on two supporting wooden slats that lay across the open grave. Threaded underneath were strong flat canvas ropes that would be used to lower the coffin into the grave. Again the preacher chanted blessings and incantations over the grave. During all this time Mrs Hindle wept quietly into her handkerchief her older long lost son and Ernie supporting her.

At the end of the short service and at the preacher’s direction two pallbearers picked up and lifted the canvas ropes and they now supported the coffin. The wood slats were removed and the wooden box was lowered into the ground.

Ernie who, up to now had been showing his remorse silently, now began to weep loudly and uncontrollably. He then stumbled forward and seemed to want top be near his deceased daughter in the hole. Peter and I moved forward to support him but he seemed to shrug us off and his wet shoes must have slipped on the simulated grass covering for he stumbled into the hole. It was a deeply embarrassing moment both for Ernie and the congregation. Peter and I took hold of his outstretched arms and hoisted him out. Ernie’s suit trousers were badly stained with muddy clay. He then seemed to quickly recover his composure and resumed standing beside the grave with his head bowed and hands clasped in front of him

The preacher indicated that the service was over by bending down and picked up a small handful of earth and handed it to Ernie who responded by giving half of it to his mother then throwing it atop the coffin. It was a small demonstration of the finality of the situation.

Mrs Hindle did the same and then on her eldest son arm left the graveside and headed for the waiting limousine for transport home. Many of the congregation also picked up earth and threw it into the hole before also departing to their parked cars. Soon only Ernie, Peter, Richard and myself were left at the graveside.

Ernie looked at us and growled. "Never let me forget this moment." And then, looking down into the open grave said quietly. "You will be avenged." With that he turned and began walking steadfastly towards the car park. My two friends and I looked at each other in speechless bewilderment. What could we say?

Back at the house the atmosphere had cheered up somewhat, well not exactly cheered up but at least not as sombre.

"I want a drink.," announced Ernie.

"Shall I get you a cup of tea?" Asked his sister in law.

"Tea my arse." He replied

"Owe! I’ll have none of that swearing in this house." Rebuked Mrs Hindle.

"Sorry ma it’s just the way I feel. I’m going to have a can of lager. Do you three want one?"

The three of us nodded. "Why not." We almost to a man chorused.

Slowly but surely the visitors, after having the obligatory cup of tea and a boiled ham sandwich dwindled away. Pretty soon only the four of us mates, Ernie’s brother, sister in law and mother were left.

Ernie announced. "Are we going to the club?"

Us three made no reply. We wanted to go but didn’t want to seem disrespectful to Mrs Hindle.

"You four get yourselves off. Me, Joe and Irene will be alright here." Suggested Mrs Hindle

It was an invitation not to be missed

"Come on then let’s be off. "Decided Ernie and within two minutes we were out of the house and heading for the club.

"I’m glad that’s all over with." Announced Ernie. "I couldn’t have took much more of that.

We nodded in speechless agreement.

"What about the mud on your suit?" Richard asked.

"Leave it, it will remind me of what shitty day I’ve had. I don’t ever want to forget it, nor will I. Someone, someday has got to pay for it."

"Come on." announced Peter. "What time is it?"

"Time to get drunk." Was the obvious reply, and we all chorused the answer.

When the club closed after the afternoon session at three thirty we phoned for a taxi to take us the Eagleton Arms where we stayed until closing time at eleven. By the time we came out of the pub we all were mortal drunk. Through out the day we had drunkenly discussed what we were going to do with Jed, or whoever it was who had murdered Tina. We decided that when we caught up with him he was a dead man.

 

 

30

Wednesday morning I awoke with quite a hangover. My head ached and my mouth was parched. I’d had far too much to drink yesterday. Looking over at my digital bedside clock it read 10-05. Hell, I thought I never sleep late normally if I hadn’t wanted to use the toilet I would still be in bed sleeping off my hangover.

I decided that now I was up I might as well stay up, pointless going back to bed at this time.

Unplugging my mobile phone charger from the wall socket I replaced it with the coffee percolator plug. Almost as a habit I switched on the mobile phone to receive incoming calls and retired to the bathroom to begin my ablutions.

The downstairs doorbell was ringing. I don’t need this I thought not now. I’ll never drink like that again I promised myself, never no more.

It was Peter he said he was just passing and thought he would call in for a natter.

I didn’t say it but thought the last thing I need is a natter. " Come in Peter." I invited trying to sound welcoming but certainly didn’t feel it. "Make yourself at home, I’m just about to have a shit, shower and a shave, the coffees on, when it’s ready pour yourself and me a cup, will you."

Just in the middle of my shave I heard my mobile phone ring. "Answer it Peter." I called out from the bathroom. "The phones on the kitchen worktop." I continued with my shave.

"Jack." I could just about hear Peter shout. "I think you’d better take this call."

Coming into the living room I looked inquisitively at Peter who just shrugged his shoulders as though to say I don’t know whom it is.

"Hello can I help you?" I asked.

"Is that the fellar I was speaking to on Monday?"

"What was it about love." I asked non-comittedly although I recognised the slight Scottish accent of the previous female caller of last Monday.

"About you offering the reward for information about Tina’s death.

"Yes I remember. What information do you have?"

"I was one of the people in the room at the time Tina received her fatal overdose. I saw her become unconscious. I was the one who called the ambulance from an outside call box". The voice answered.

My hair stood on end, almost instantly my hangover had disappeared. If this person was telling the truth then we were definitely on to something.

"What was Tina’s surname and address?" I asked.

"I’ve just told you her name was Tina Hindle what do you want to know her address for?" The voice retorted.

"Well I’ve had a lot of hoax calls this last week, from people who are only interested in the reward money. I want to make sure you are not one of them." I replied.

"Yeah! Sorry, I understand. She lived with her dad and grandma in Acred Terrace and before you ask any further the address of the flat in Chapletown in which she was found was 24 Churchland Place Flat 2B. Does that convince you I was there?"

"Yes up to a point." I continued. "You say you was one of the persons in the room. Who were the others?"

"Hold it, not so fast. I’m treading on thin ice here just by phoning you. If the reward money is genuine then I might be able to make plans. My life won’t be worth that of Tina’s if I’m caught even talking to you let alone telling you the full story."

"I understand. " I began but before I could reassure her any further she butted in.

"Listen let me think about again about this. I thought before that I’d got my head round it but now I’ve made this call I’m having second thoughts, I’m off."

"No! Please wait. Don’t hang up, you sound as if you have a conscience and are sorry about what has happened."

"Of course I’m sorry, what do you think I am? I used to be a mate of Tina’s I just got caught up in it all; it was not my doing. I didn’t do nowt to her."

"I can see that" I pleaded. "Please can we meet?"

"No." Came the immediate response. "I don’t know. I don’t know what I know. I’ll have to have another serious think about what I’m getting into."

"I understand. Look please trust me think about meeting me. We would have to meet sometime even if it’s only for me to hand over the reward money. We would have to talk some more about exactly what happened.

"Look I’m hanging up I want to think some more"

"Will you promise me that you will phone back whatever you decide?" I again pleaded. I promise that any information you give to me will be treated in strict confidence. I wont tell a soul about this or any call you make to me; even the Police."

"The pigs are the last people I’m afraid of." She stressed.

"I won’t tell a soul about this call and I won’t press you about your name if you don’t want to give it to me."

"I’ll have to think about it. I’m hanging up now." And before I could say anything further the caller hung up.

"Wow! I think we are really on to something here." I said to Peter. That female sure knows something. She says she was there when Tina was given the overdose of drugs."

"Tell me all." Peter replied eagerly.

I began to recant what the female caller had told me. Peter in turn was astounded. "Things are really coming to a head at last." He said. "Come on lets go round to Ernie and put him in the picture.

"Yeah I agree but wait until I ring Richard to let him know what’s happened he might want to meet up with us there.

Later that afternoon when we went round to Ernie’s Richard was already there.

Peter began to update them on what had been said to Tracy by his son. Then I took over to explain our most important telephone to date.

Ernie was as usual most impatient and wanted events to happen more quickly. But all we could do at this stage was to await a further phone call.

"It just proves one thing." Said Richard "There definitely was more to your daughters death than misadventure as the coroner decreed. At least two others were in the room when the fatal dose was administered."

"Right." Replied Ernie. "My poor daughter was definitely murdered. I have been right all along about that."

" It could have been an accident." I put in. "at this stage we have no further proof one way or the other."

"Accident my foot. She was murdered and I won’t rest until the murderer gets their just rewards, even if it is a woman.

There was little more to be said.

From that last contact with the Scottish female I seemed forever looking at my phone willing it to ring, wanting it to be the mysterious female again. And every time it rang it startled me but each time it was only either one of my three mates wanting to know if the woman had rang back. If she did, they insisted, I was not to forget to let them know straightaway. I reassured them that I would and left it at that.

Another hoax call was made to me on Thursday morning but by now I was quite practised in handling bogus calls seeing through them with only a minimum of pertinent questions.

"I also received another call from another female urging me to leave well alone with my investigations. I just didn’t know what I was getting myself into, she said. If I had any sense I should pack it all in. I listened to what she had to say hoping to glean any further information and when I didn’t, asked her if she knew of anything that happened concerning the death of Tina Hindle and if she had she should come forward and tell the truth whatever it was. I reminded her that the reward money was still up for offer and that it could be hers. She hung up.

I spent most of Thursday looking at a few properties that were locally for sale. A small detached house or bungalow had been initially been thought of but somehow my mind was unsettled. Did I still want to remain in Eagleton? At first I had thought that, as my roots were here then so should I. But just of late I had my doubts, I was becoming more unsettled, had Grace anything to do with it? I had promised to see her again this weekend and was really looking forward to the coming event.

Thursday evening I was in the bathroom having a wash prior to getting ready for the last couple of hours in the club, when my mobile rang. I hurried into the living room not wanting the caller to become impatient and hang up.

Are you the same person who I was talking before?" asked the caller. I instantly recognised the slight Scottish accented voice of the female who had called earlier that week who had said that she had been in the room when Tina had become comatose

"Yes I am." I replied "Thank you for calling back and for trusting me with another call. Have you come to any decisions?"

. "Yes and no. I want to clear my conscience but am afraid of what will happen to me if do."

"I can understand that and I’ll go along with any reasonable thing you have in mind." I tried to sound reassuring.

"Well let me put you in the picture. I’m in league with some very nasty pieces of work. One especially and if he found out that I was even talking to you then my life will not be worth living. Tina crossed him and look where she is now. I don’t want that to happen to me."

"I fully understand that." I genuinely sympathised.

"How do I know for sure you are not in league with the big fella?" She was beginning to sound unsure of her actions again.

"I don’t know who this big fellow is," I replied "but if I was in league with him don’t you think I would have told him about your earlier call on Monday? That call could only have come from you, being the only one in the room at Tina’s overdose. He, whoever he is, would have been on to you before allowing you to make this second call. Please have faith in me. As I have said I’ll make any arrangements you see fit."

"I know I might be making a wrong decision but I’ll have to trust you. Can you call me back? I’m in a call box well off the estate and I’ll probably run out of change before I finish."

"Of course, what is your number?"

The female gave it to me. Luckily I had a pen and notebook handy and I wrote it down.

I rang the given call box number and it was answered almost immediately.

"Yes?" She answered

"Is that you?" I confirmed.

"Yes what do you want me to tell you?

"Why don’t you describe your story in your own words. If there is anything further I want to know then I’ll ask. Is that okay with you?"

"Okay well to start at the beginning Tina and myself were friends and we used to hang out together. At weekends we would both go to discos and the like, maybe have a joint of grass for devilment but nothing heavy you understand. Anyway to cut a long story short, this fellar at a dance upstairs in the Eagleton Arms offered us some smack and like fools we accepted. It made us feel grown up like. He assured us that the white powder was not habit forming or anything like it. He never said it was a hard drug, just something that would give us a little lift. He didn’t charge us for it, said he just liked to see young people happy. He made us feel very grown up; we were thirteen at the time. All Tina and I wanted was to catch the light, that’s not too much to ask was it?"

I certainly didn’t understand that last statement but didn’t ask for an explanation, preferring not to stop her flow of information.

"We’d never done anything like that before. "She went on. "I know now that he encourages even younger people than we were to take smack. Always gives it to them for free for the first few timers, then starts charging them a small amount but each time the smack gets a little more. Once he has grabbed them he then boasts that they are his for life. His youngest smack-head to my knowledge is only ten years old. Imagine that ten years old. Of course we didn’t know all this at the start."

I wanted her to get on with her story, get to the nitty gritty of how Tina came to be in a room unconscious. But I didn’t want to hurry her for fear of frightening her off.

"Anyway the next weekend," she continued " the same thing happened he asked us if we wanted some more and when we asked how much he said nothing, to buy him a drink was enough. Well we couldn’t get drinks served at the bar because of our ages so we each gave him a pound. Cheap at half the price we thought. From that point on I suppose we became hooked although we didn’t know it then. We began taking smack two or three times a week."

"How did you pay for it?" I asked

"To start with we just used our pocket money but as the smack got more expensive began selling my CDs and CD player and other stuff. I told myself at the time that I didn’t really need a CD player. Then some other stuff I had my Gold birthday necklace stuff like that and when I had nothing more to sell I began pinching money from my mothers purse or dads pockets. They soon got suspicious and began keeping their money where I couldn’t get at it. When I told the big fellar I could not get anymore, he…"

"This fellar." I cut in; "Who is he? What’s his name?"

"Oh! No I can’t tell you that, not yet anyway. If he finds out I’m even talking to you. Oh! No."

I tried to assure her it was ok by saying I understood and encouraged her to continue her story.

"Where was I?" she began. "Oh! Yeah when I told him I had no money he just said that he would trust me to pay him later and he still gave me the smack. Tina was in the same boat as me, she didn’t have the money either. This carried on for a month or so and between us we owed him over a six hundred pounds. Then he suddenly turned; became very heavy with us, threatening that if we didn’t pay him what we owed he would disfigure our faces. He began to knock us about a bit, slapping our faces and suchlike. He made me have sex with him, raped me more like. He even slapped me whilst he was doing it. Seemed to be taking great pleasure in degrading me with his mate looking on all the time. I’ve never felt so degraded in all my life. When he had finished he gave me a fix and told me to F off. When I told Tina what he had done she told me that he had already done something similar to her. From that point onwards we were both at his beck and call, he had sex with us whenever he had a mind to, his mates as well. He made us attend parties in his flat and did the most degrading things to us both.

To cut a long story short he eventually made us go on the game to pay for our fixes and pay off our debts. Although the debts never seemed to be going down, not according to him. Most weekends he would take us to various flats around Leeds. These flats could be in Eagleton, Bramley, Cookridge or Chapletown. Once we were in a flat we would have to perform with various men sometimes as many as seven times a night. A lot of these men liked young schoolgirls and we had to dress up in gymslips and the like. Various sexual acts took place but I don’t want to talk about that. All Tina and I got out of it was a meagre supply of smack. How I got involved with him or drugs I’ll never know, we must have been light in the head. Anyway I’m still on them and still performing tricks. I still owe him five hundred and sixty quid and I’ve been working for him for almost a year now. I’ll never work that figure off that’s why I’m phoning you out of desperation."

Although I was interested in what she had to say I was wishing she would get down to some evidence of how Tina had died. . Although I dare not directly ask her for fear of her confidence in me drying up and then hanging up the phone.

"What do you want to do now?" I asked

"What I want to do now is get the reward money, pay him off and then get out of Eagleton for good. I’m hoping to go back to Scotland to go into a drug rehab unit that I know about. Does that make sense to you?"

"Of course it does and I think you are being very brave and sensible." I replied and this time I was not buttering her up. I genuinely felt sorry for her and was determined to help her in any way I could. One thing though."

"Yes."

"When you get the reward and I’m sure you will, when you get the reward then if I were you I certainly wouldn’t repay any debt to your pimp. You don’t owe him anything. As soon as I pay you get on a train to Scotland, telling no one not even me, where you are going or when. Just vanish. Does that make any sense?"

"Yes thank you for that advice you sound genuine at least. Anyway let me finish. As I was saying we both owed, according to him, close to Six hundred pounds and there was no way we could pay him back. Tina found out she was pregnant. The father could have been anybody more than likely it was our man. Up to now I’ve been lucky in that department.

Anyway Tina decided that enough was enough and was going to quit the drug scene and come off the game. She must have had more will power than me because she tried to wean herself off the drugs by taking less amounts each time. I think she was doing moonlighting tricks for herself and then paying it to the big fellar slowly paying off her debt.

Anyway she still owed about three hundred but she must have got a lump sum from somewhere because on that Saturday afternoon she told me she was going to buy her way out. The upshot of it all was that when she tried to pay the debt to our pimp he became outraged and threatened to scar her for life.

Tina tried to explain that she was pregnant and wanted to keep the baby. Our man couldn’t have cared less Saying he would arrange an abortion. What he would do with her if she tried quitting was nobodies business. He said that he had already booked some punters for us that particular evening and there was no way Tina or anyone was going to let him down. In turn Tina was determined that he should take the money and was not having anymore of prostituting her body for him. She flung the money onto a table and began to walk out of the house. Jed was having none of it."

I immediately noticed the mistake she had made when she had slipped Jed's name into the conversation.

I purposely didn’t let on that I had heard or recognised the name drop. I had also noticed the amount of money Tina was supposed to have owed Jed was Three Hundred Pounds. On that Friday before she had only asked for from me two hundred. I wondered where she had got the other hundred.

The female carried on with her story seeming oblivious to her name-dropping mistake. "He ordered his bodyguard partner to seize Tina, which he did. She was struggling violently and cursing them both. My other friend, who was also in the flat at the time, and I were helpless. We couldn’t intervene he would soon slap us both down as he had so many times before.

Tina was held and injected with what I presumed to be a Heroin filled syringe. She soon calmed down and became tranquil.

Later both of them bundled Tina into the back of his van and I was ordered to get in alongside of her. We were driven to a flat in Chapletown and whilst I had to perform tricks with punters in one room I presumed Tina was performing in the other.

When all the clients had left, Jed came back and he was furious Tina had not performed properly it seemed, many of her customers had complained to Jed and were refusing to pay the full-agreed rate for an almost inanimate body that lay on the bed. He even gave me a slapping just for the hell of it and I’d done nothing."

Again I noticed Jed’s name had slipped into her narration. Had she meant me to hear it or was it another accident?

The female voice on the telephone continued. "Tina by now had come round a little as she lay unclothed on the bed. She was trying to reason with the big fellar about how she was trying to help herself clean herself up, come off the drugs. The afternoon injection he had given her would put her back months. She pleaded that she had paid her debt to him and was now a free agent.

He began slapping the still nude Tina about the face telling her she had to have an abortion. As far as he was concerned she was not a free agent he owned her. He’d show her just how free she was. Our man left the room for a few minutes leaving his henchman to keep an eye on Tina. Soon he arrived back holding another syringe; I assumed it was again Heroin. Once more she was forcibly injected with the contents. I now understand that he broke the needle tip in her arm when he roughly injected her."

At this point I remembered the autopsy report given at Tina’s inquest that stated that a broken fragment of needle had been detected in her arm.

The telephone voice continued. "You won’t kick that and I’ll tell you that for nowt. Our man warned Tina. Once your mine your always mine.

"I now know that the needle contained Crack Cocaine not Heroin as I had first thought. What with the Heroin earlier that day and then this Crack it must have taken her over the top. She soon lapsed into semi-consciousness. Our man ordered me to stay with her until she came round and when she did, to escort her home. He threatened me with untold violence if anyone heard of what went on in that room that night. I believed him I was shit scared of him then as I am now.

Anyway I couldn’t rouse Tina; she had by now lapsed into a full coma.

It was obvious to me that Tina was in serious danger and I didn’t know what to do. If I called an ambulance I would be asked how she came to be in such a state. If I told them then I was afraid that our man would do something similar to me what he had done to Tina. I don’t think our man deliberately meant to kill her, only to get her fully hooked again but this time more under his control hence the Crack. Although as I’ve said I didn’t know it was Crack cocaine at the time. He’d either forgotten about the earlier injection of heroine or just not taken it into account."

At that point I was a little taken aback at her making excuses for Jed. She hadn’t directly told me it was Jed but now I knew it was he for certain. "Don’t make excuses for him." I began to say

"No. No I’m not. I hate his guts but I don’t think he meant to kill her that’s all. Anyway." She continued, " I decided to phone 999 and when the operator came on I gave her the details but wouldn’t leave my name. She must have phoned the Police as well because as I waited in the room looking out of the window I saw the Police car pull up. I went downstairs and let myself out the back door. I must have shut the flat door behind me locking it by accident, because as I was leaving I could hear the Policeman trying to break in.

When I went to tell the big fellar what had happened all he could say was that it was her, Tina’s, own fault and that I should taken heed of what had been done as it could easily happen to me, which I truly believed then and now. He had no sympathy for Tina and even less for the baby she was carrying.

Later he ordered me and my friend to go to the inquest and report back to him, which we did. The Coroner said that…"

I butted in here. "Yes I know what the Coroner said and what the verdict was, I was in the courtroom at the time.

"Oh!" she gasped. "Did you see me?"

"Yes I think I did. Was it you or your mate that was dressed in a yellow coat?"

"My mate. But you’ll still you’ll still keep to your bargain what you said won’t you?"

"Of course I will, trust me. Do you remember going to the Eaglet Hotel; after the Coroners court?" I asked.

"Yes?" her answer came out as a question.

"Well I was sat just behind where you was sitting."

"Ah! I didn’t see you, my friend and I was busy giving our man the court details. Then that means you know who I am?"

"Yes. I don’t know your name yet." I lied for I now knew it to be Tracy. "I can easily find that out if I want to but I’m not interested in you. I’ll stick to my bargain and by what you have told me you have earned your fifteen Hundred pounds. There is only one other point I want to confirm with you now and I’m sure I even know the answer to that question."

"Yes"

"Who is the man you have been talking about?"

There came a long silence.

"Is his name Jed?" I asked.

Again the long silence. Her mind was obviously in turmoil afraid to utter the confirmation that I needed.

"Is it Jed Edwards? I’ve got to know."

"Yes." She eventually replied. I wasn’t going to tell you his name until I was safely on a train to Scotland. But yes it is Jed all right but if it gets out that I’ve told you his name or any of the details about Tina, my life will be as worthless as hers was. You realise that my future is now in your hands?

"Yes of course I do and I still guarantee that Jed will not hear from me anything that you have said. But you are certain that what you have told me is true and that there can be no doubt about anything that you have said?"

"Of course it’s all true I couldn’t tell a story like that even if I’d read it in a book. I can give you dozens; yes dozens of names of young children, some as young as eleven who Jed supplies’s drugs to. I swear on a stack of bibles that what I’ve told you is true. How could I invent a story like that if it wasn’t true? Don’t you believe me?"

She was beginning to sound a little excitable.

"Of course I do it’s just that I have got to be sure. Look can you ring me tomorrow? Then I will have digested all this information that you have given me. We can then arrange a meeting to get some payment to you. I’ll meet you anywhere you want. Leeds City Station if you wish. Just tell me where and when."

"Yes. What time shall I ring?"

"Anytime. Look up the timetables of trains to Scotland if you wish and I’ll meet you at the City station. I’ll even escort you on to the train home. Anything that is convenient to you will be convenient to me. Ring me anytime.

"Right I’ll ring you. It probably will from the station. I want to get out of this town as soon as I can." With those final words she rang off.

I now had definite evidence that the murder of Tina was Jed Edwards. In the eyes of the law I supposed it could be argued that he hadn’t meant to kill her and so it could be proved that he was only guilty of manslaughter. But kill her he nevertheless did. He also injected her with drugs; knowing full well she was pregnant thereby putting the life of her unborn baby at risk. By doing so he had killed them both.

I immediately got in touch with Ernie and said that I had news and was coming round to his place now.

"Right that’s it." Said Ernie when I finished recounting the phone call from the female I now knew to be Tracy. "He’s killed two people not one now he’s a dead man."

In normal circumstances I would have tried to dissuade him from thinking or taking that course but after hearing the full facts from Tracy about Tina’s tragic death I felt utter loathing for Jed. My Mr Hide character within me persuaded me into thinking exactly how Ernie felt.

Later that Thursday evening, Richard and Peter joined Ernie and myself in the club. When they were updated of the occurrences of this day both were equally incensed.

I suggested, half-heartedly, that the police might be informed and to let them deal with the situation, knowing full well that Ernie would not stand for that. He wanted his pound of flesh and was determined to get it.

"What will the Police do?" Was his answer to my suggestion. "That’s if they ever get him into a court and convicted, lock him up for a couple of years? Even the with good behaviour he’ll only do half of the sentence. And even all that depends on this Scottish lass standing up in court and giving evidence that would convict him. This sounds to me very unlikely; if she’d had any morals in the first place she would have been to the Police before now. No I’ve said it many times before an eye for an eye that’s what I want. I want his guts for my garters."

Richard then announced that he was totally behind Ernie in whatever he wanted to do. This resolution of his was irrespective of what Peter or I ‘s decision was.

"That bastard," he said. " Injected Tina with drugs knowing full well she was with child. She was just a child herself. Just how low can life get?" Richard reinstated his debt of honour and was prepared to repay it.

Surprisingly Peter agreed with them both, his sentiment suggested that he realised that his son or young ten-year-old daughter could have become trapped in the drug scene as easily as Tina had been. "There but for the grace of god might have gone my son Peter or my young daughter Clara." Was how he expressed it.

I fully understood Ernie’s situation, what father would not want his pound of flesh from anyone who had violated his daughter. I certainly would. In the past Ernie had always been a live wire, jumping in with both feet without looking as to where he would land. Always he had been full of confidence but of late, since his daughter’s death; he was only a shadow of his former self. Perhaps he felt that only by bringing down Jed could he regain his self-respect.

I understood Richard wanting to repay his debt. He owed the debt to all of us but at this time he could only attempt to repay Ernie. Both Peter and I knew that had it been either of us on the receiving end of the problem then Richard would have been equally determined to repay us.

I also understood Peter, he could also see that Jed could easily have corrupted his son or maybe still could contaminate his daughter Clara. He wanted Jed’s fire put out before it could burn any of his family.

My own thoughts were a mixture of all three sentiments and I agreed with them all. I had returned to my roots, remembering the Eagleton of my youth. Reminiscing how one could walk the streets at anytime of the day or night without apprehension or fear. Doors could be left unlocked at night. Little old ladies could pick up their pensions from the Post Office without having to look behind them to see if they were being followed.

The drug scene then was non-existent. Now I saw all of that had changed for the worst because of young people’s need for money to pay for their drug habit. Perhaps it was not all Jed’s fault but in my mind Jed was the central figure of my hatred. I wanted him removed for a very long time, long enough to take his influence away from growing up children.

I was in much sympathy with Ernie’s point that the courts had no teeth to put Jed away for life for the life that he had taken. Jed would not be charged with murder because it would be established that he had no intention, at the time, of killing Tina; his legal team would easily prove that. The most he would be charged with would be manslaughter, which although carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment it is rarely given. And even if he did get life imprisonment he would, with good behaviour, probably get out in around eight years. Coming out in his early thirties would only manifest himself as a man with more of a grudge against life than he had now. He was a sociopath now what would he be like in a decade or so.

I decided that my three mates were right he had to be taken out, just as we had disposed of his father so should we dispose of the son.

"Well what are we going to do about it?" I put the question to the three of them.

"You know my feeling, let’s do away with him. I want an eye for an eye." Ernie was the first one to reply.

"Yes I agree." Richard almost as quickly put in.

"Agreed." Said Peter. Peter was the one I hadn’t expected to agree with the group decision as quickly as he had.

"I also agree with the decision. It is the correct one and I’m in." I said there was no backing out now, in for a penny in for a pound.

At that point a mutual decision was made to murder Jed. We had not called it murder but murder it most surely was.

We, as if at a given signal, clasped our eight hands together. For the first time in weeks I saw a slight smile on Ernie’s face.

"How are we to do it?" Began Peter. "We will have to give it some very serious thought, we obviously don’t want to get caught."

All nodded in assent.

"Why don’t we all go away and separately think it through?" suggested Richard.

"Yeah!" We all to a man chorused.

"Lets meet in the club tomorrow night to discuss the best way of putting Jed out of commission." I put in.

"For good." Stressed Ernie. Again we all nodded in agreement.

"One other thing." I pointed out. "The reward money, do we all agree that we’ve got all the information we sought?"

"Yes." said Ernie. "Course we have. We all knew all along that it was Jed, all the woman did was to confirm it."

"Then we agree to give her the money?"

"Yes said Peter.

"Yes." said Richard.

Ernie then began to apologise. "At this stage I don’t have the money, I’ll have to arrange a bank loan. Can you put her in the promised land for a few days?"

"That’s alright Ernie." I began. " She is only expecting fifteen hundred pounds. We three have agreed to put in five hundred apiece so that lets you out.

"No! I can’t have that. "Protested Ernie. "It’s not fair you three taking the brunt of the reward. I’ll find a way of getting you the money."

"Look Ernie." Peter said. "We know money’s a bit tight for you at this time what with Tina’s funeral an all. We three are in a better position than you are at the moment. We can afford it I assure you. Five hundred apiece won’t make or break our bank balances. You never know one day you may be abler to help us out."

"Yes." Piped up Richard. Do you remember in our younger days together when I was living with my ma and things were a bit short? All we are doing is helping each other out, just like we used to do, one for all and all for one."

Peter and I confirmed his sentiment and urged Ernie into silence.

"Right the." I announced "I’ll make arrangements to meet with this young girl and then hand over the money. Is that agreeable to you all?"

They all nodded in agreement. Peter said that I would have his share of the money by ten tomorrow. Richard said he would have his as well.

We dispersed in agreement.

 

31

I awoke Friday morning and suddenly remembered that I ‘d forgotten that I was to go up to the Northeast to see Grace for a long weekend. I would have to ringher up and make my excuses. There was no way I could go to Northumberland today, many arrangements would have to be made. When the Scottish female, who I knowknew to be named Tracy, rang I would have to meet her at the railway station to hand over the reward money.

At nine I phoned Grace and told her something most important had come up and that I just wouldn’t new able to come up today. I couldn’t tell her why and I hated to lie, I just said that it was a bit of urgent business that couldn’t be put off. Grace sounded understanding and made no call to ask what the business was. I tried to assure her that I was not cooling off with our relationship but that my business was indeed urgent. I suggested that I might be able to make it tomorrow if I was free.

She just said to call her. She sounded a bit abrupt as she rang off or was I just imagining it? I hoped I was.

I waited patiently in my flat for Tracy to ring; we had arranged she should call sometime today.She just said to call her. She sounded a bit abrupt as she rang off or was I just imagining it? I hoped I was.

Peter arrived at a quarter to ten and was followed by Richard a few minutes later. They had with them five hundred pounds each.

"Has she called yet?" asked Peter.

"No." I replied. "I did say to her anytime today was convenient."

"Yeah! Of course." He replied. "Anyway I must be off I’ve a business to run." and with that Peter left.

"Do you want me to stay for a while?" Richard asked. "I've nothing urgent on that I can’t put off."

"No I’m alright you get yourself about your business I can handle things this end."

"You are sure?"

"Yep get yourself off." And with that final note Richard left as well.

All that day my mobile phone remained silent other than calls from my mates wanting updates on events. I couldn’t tell them anything that they didn’t know already.

"Where was she? Why didn’t she ring? " I voiced my uncertainties to the three later that evening in the club.

"We’ll just have to wait until she calls. " Replied Peter "She knows she has money to come so the onus is on her to contact you. Everything will turn out right in the end, you’ll see.

"I wished that I could be as certain as he was for I had a strange foreboding lurking at the back of my mind.

We discussed how we could dispose of Jed. Various methods were aired but nothing realistic was forthcoming. Ernie suggested we try the same method of poisoning as we had with Jed’s father, big George Edwards all those many years ago. That idea was soon dismissed by reason that we would be unable to get near Jed to administer the mercurial solution without being observed.

No some other method would have to be found. It was generally agreed that the sooner we could carry out the execution the better for all, not excluding the youths and children that were in Jed’s clutches.

As I walked home from the club that night I was looking around to see if anyone was following me. There wasn’t of course but I was becoming very jittery about the whole thing. After hearing what a nasty piece of work Jed was I wouldn’t have put it past him to find out my identity and come looking for me.

Saturday morning Richard came round to my flat. "No one called yet?" he asked.

"No. I’m a little worried. I hope nothing has happened to her."

"I’ll wait with you a while." He announced. "I’ve nothing better to do.

"I’ll put the kettle on then may as well have a cuppa.

The phone rang. I couldn’t get to it fast enough. My fingers were all thumbs in my haste to switch it to receive.

I was a littler disappointed to at the answering voice. "Jack it’s Peter you know Peter’s son, is my dad there?"

"No Peter." I answered. "I haven’t seen him all morning. I don’t know where he is."

"If you see him tell him that there is something going off at Tracy and Sarah’s house in Thistle grove. I’ve been told it’s teeming with police."

"What’s it all about?" I was urgently interested.

"No idea. All I know is that the Police have raided the flat."

"Okay Peter, thanks for ringing. I just might have a wander down there to see what’s going on."

If you see my dad, tell him will you?" Peter said, and with that he hung up.

When I related the news to Richard he agreed that we both should have a walk over to find out what was going on.

Thistle Grove was but a few minutes walk from my flat. When we arrived a single police car was parked outside. Richard and I agreed to walk past the house and observe from the junction at the end of the street. As we were passing, a uniformed policeman came out of the house, got into his patrol car and drove off. Out of the corner of my eye I could see Sarah looking out of the window.

Doesn’t look as if there has been a raid at that House." I remarked to Richard.

"No the door certainly hasn’t been busted in. If the Police have found any drugs or anything they certainly haven’t arrested Sarah.

There was very little else to be observed se we returned to my flat. The mobile phone I carried still remained silent. When was Tracy going to phone? I was now convinced that all was not well with her.

That afternoon I again phoned Grace with more excuses. Both she and I were not happy at our cancelled meeting.

Saturday night we three met up again. There was nothing I could report. Peter explained that he had heard from good authority that there had not been a raid on Tracy and Sarah’s flat other than a Police car had called and was there about an hour. No one had been arrested or any property taken from the flat.

The foreboding I had felt earlier about Tracy not ringing me became more intense. I felt frustrated at not being able to do anything to push events along.

Again on my way home that night I kept taking backward glances. Jed himself, one to one, I felt confident that I could physically handle him. Young as he was he was still short in height and stature. Although I was comparatively old his size would be no match for mine. No it was not the physical Jed I was afraid of; it was his hold and influences over other people that concerned me. His minder for instance was a muscular young buck. I didn’t fancy my chances against him. And the two of them I would stand no chance in a fight. No I considered the sooner this was all over the better. What have I got myself into?

On my safe arrival home I made sure all the doors and windows were secure and then brewed a pot of tea. I turned the television on, though not really wanting to watch anything in particular other than to have a little comforting noise in the flat. I must have dozed off thinking about Tracy and why she had not called.

I awoke to my mobile phone ringing. Normally I switched it off of a night to save battery strength but because I had nodded off waiting for Tracy to call I had left it on.

"Tracy?" I answered without thinking. This was the first time I had ever answered my mobile with anything other than ‘hello’. Tracy must have been uppermost in my thoughts.

A mans voice at the other end launched into a tirade of abuse at me. "Tracy!" he said, "I’ll give you Tracy. You think you have got to her but you haven’t. She’s no good to you now or anyone else for that matter.

He went on to say that:

I had not taken his earlier warning seriously enough.

I didn’t know who or what I was dealing with.

I was sticking my nose in a very serious business.

I had to pay for my interference.

Now he was out to get me.

Those and all other manner of threats were hurled at me. Almost every second word of his threats were four letters swear words. The caller sounded a little drunk but his warnings were very intimidating. I had to admit to myself that I was frightened by his phone call.

The caller rang off and I wondered if he knew my identity. He obviously was the one who had made the threatening phone call of last Sunday and knew Tracy had been in contact with me. I was certain that it was Jed who had made the call.

I looked over at the clock on the mantelpiece it read ten past two, I realised it was early Sunday morning.

My next thought was of my security and I went downstairs to make sure the outer door was secure; it was and just for added piece of mind I jammed a chair behind the room door handle and mentally reminded myself that I now needed added security. Tomorrow I would go to one of the Sunday openings DIY stores to buy extra bolts for the doors and windows.

I didn’t feel secure enough to go to bed I probably wouldn’t have been able to sleep anyway. I turned of the television and lay on my couch wondering how or why I came to be in this position. I was alone and unashamed to admit to myself that I was frightened. The sooner I get rid of my enemy the better; for that was what Jed had now become, my enemy. I resolved to push matters further ahead the next time I met up with my mates.

Mt mind was in turmoil, how could I get rid of this feeling of desperation?

Now that I had turned the TV off all was deathly quiet; I could almost hear the silence. Every now and then I heard a noise or a creak, I reasoned that it was the room contracting as it lost its heat but that reasoning didn’t help me much. Occasionally I would hear a slight noise outside probably a dog rummaging in a dustbin in the back yard. All the natural noises that one doesn’t normally hear were now loud and clear, my mind was reacting to every sound.

To dispose of Jed was the only answer. Now I could see more clearly; before I had been playing a game with my self, planning with the others to murder him but at the same time not accepting that the dirty deed would every have to be done. Now I realised that for my own peace of mind the quicker Jed was disposed of the safer I would feel; the safer I would be.

I must have dozed off again because when I awoke daylight was chinking through the curtains and outside noise indicated that children were outside playing. My clock said eight thirty five, it was Sunday morning.

I busied myself with making some breakfast cooking bacon and eggs knowing full well that was not what I wanted, but at least it was keeping me busy. I did not feel as scared as I had remembered last night but still felt very apprehensive. My mobile phone battery had now discharged it’s self and I hooked it up to it’s charger It would be back in operation in a couple of hours.

Going out of the flat to the newsagent for a Sunday paper I felt as if all eyes were on me. My logic told me that they were not of course but perhaps there was someone looking at me from around a garden hedge waiting to pounce. I was getting paranoid I reasoned. I reaffirmed to myself that on a one to one basis I could take on Jed but almost immediately I reasoned that Jed would not come alone. From now on I would constantly have to watch my back.

Lunchtime, I decide to call round to see Ernie.

As he opened his door to my knock he said. "Where have you been? Peter’s been trying to ring you for the past hour."

"Sorry Ernie, I’ve only just switched my mobile on within the last ten minutes."

"You’ve heard then? He queried.

"Heard what?"

"That Tracy’s been involved in a road accident. It was on the local radio station this morning. A young girl had been involved with a hit and run car accident yesterday afternoon. She died early this morning at St Mary’s Hospital. She never recovered consciousness

"How do you know its Tracy? The police rarely give out names of dead persons until the next of kin have been informed."

"Peter called round an hour ago before he went out on business. He’d heard it on the grapevine. Seems all of Eagleton knows about it except you. That’s probably why there was a police car outside of the house that Tracy shared with Sarah. Where have you been?"

"My mobile was being charged up, I left it switched on all yesterday and last night." I then went on to tell him about the abusive phone call from Jed.

"Nasty! Was his reaction. "I reckon that we will have to get to him first before he can get to you. What say you?"

"That’s exactly my reaction as well."

"Have you got your phone with you?

"Yes"

Why not phone Richard and Peter and make arrangements to meet later today."

At lunchtime, in the club, Peter confirmed that it was Tracy who had been the victim of the hit and run accident.

When I told them of my malicious phone call from Jed I reiterated what he had said especially the words. "Tracy! I’ll give you Tracy. You think you have got to her but you haven’t. She’s no good to you now or anyone else for that matter."

Now it all made sense. Jed knew that Tracy could not be called to give evidence against him. She was dead, having been involved with the hit and run car accident. Jed, or someone who he had arranged, had caused the accident. We were now sure that Jed had committed or caused to be committed two murders.

"Well what are we going to do about it?" Richard spoke the question that was uppermost in all our minds. We are all in agreement that Jed has to be stopped and stopped very soon. In fact the sooner the better if we are to believe Jed’s threats to Jack last night."

"How are we to do it?"

Peter Spoke. "Do you remember when we were teenagers and planning to knock off Jed’s father, Big George? I said then that there are five main ways of killing a person."

We all nodded.

Peter continued. "One cut off his air supply. Choking, throttling etc.

Two, poisoning by spiking his food or drink."

We can’t do that." Cut in Ernie "Jed would never let us get anyway near him let alone near his drink or food.

"No, agreed" Continued Peter "But let me finish the five ways. Three, by stabbing and puncturing a vital organ.

Four, hitting with a blunt instrument about the head. A cosh, lead pipe or even a car just like Tracy was.

"Yes," cut in Richard, "the last one was shooting with a gun or twelve bore.

"Yep those are the five." Continued Peter. "Why don’t we try and eliminate them one by one?"

"Well we just eliminated one." Butted in Ernie. "Poison."

"Yeah that’s obviously out." Agreed Peter. "So is shooting. Where would we get a pistol or rifle? I suppose we could borrow a twelve bore but that brings in a third party. No I think shooting’s out."

"That leaves Stabbing, Throttling or bludgeoning with a blunt instrument." Suggested Ernie.

"We would never get near enough to throttle him anyway he’s always with his minders when he’s out." Said Richard.

You’re quiet Jack" Peter said looking at me. "Haven’t you got any input?"

"I’ve been studying how to get rid of him since he threatened me last night." I answered. "I’ve got the germ of an idea but I haven’t thought it through fully yet. Want to hear of it?"

All eyes and ears were now on me. They all nodded in eager affirmation.

"Well." I said" You seem to have eliminated a couple of ways of doing him in and if you carry on you’ll eliminate all of them because Stabbing, choking and bludgeoning him to death means you have to get near him to do it. Even if you succeed how are we going to hide it? Any one of those five ways can be proved that it was murder by person or person’s unknown."

"Jack, you are telling us something we already know. What are you getting at?" butted in Peter.

"I’ll tell you Peter. We have got to make out this murder was an accident. Once we agree on an overall plan of action then we can, together, refine it, decide who does what and when, and then carry out the plan to the letter." I then went on to detail a general plan of action that had been forming in my head.

"When are we going to do it?" Asked Ernie eagerly.

"When we have a definite strategy and a reasonable chance of carrying it out without being caught. Are we all agreed on that?" I put in.

All agreed that the general outline of the plan I had described had a very good chance of being successful. We began to discuss the plan, making suggestions and refinements; some were accepted some dismissed. Gradually the plan of action was agreed by all as workable. And it was decided that we would be in a position to carry it out the following evening.

Late that afternoon, and because I had only drank two Lager shandies I drove to the B&Q DIY on Roundhay Road shopping for a Yale Lock, two door bolts and three window locks. I had considered buying a do it yourself burglar alarm but after tomorrow, if all goes well, I may not need it. I also bought a small packet of plastic cable ties a short crowbar and a box of thin latex rubber gloves.

That evening I fitted the extra security measure; it made me feel a little better but I was still unsure and fearful. I hated being in this defending situation; I’d rather be tackling the problem, head on. Although not exactly looking forward to tomorrow night I wanted it all done with. I hated this sitting around doing nothing and being afraid.

Later that evening my mobile phone rang and on answering it immediately recognised the voice as the person who had threatened me earlier this morning, Jed. This time when he started his threats I cut him short simply telling him that if he thought he was big enough to come round now and do it. ‘Don’t spew it do it’ was how I succinctly put it. It was pure bravado on my part the last thing I wanted was for him to show up at my flat for I knew of the violence he was capable of. Within a few seconds of my hanging up on him the phone rang once more. It was Jed again "How dare I hang up on him?" I repeated my earlier suggestion and again hung up on him but this time I switched my phone off. I wouldn’t be bothered with him again, well not phone wise anyway. I reasoned that if he already knew where I lived he would have been round before tonight with his henchmen. Still I was taking no chances deciding not to go to the club this evening. I remained on the couch in the living room all night so that I could be up and about in the case of a break in.

Nothing untoward happened and, although not having a perfect nights sleep I awoke feeling reasonably refreshed. It was Eight thirty five Monday morning and outside I could hear the chatter of voices, mothers taking their children to school all; externally, on the surface appeared normal.

I switched my mobile phone on as I made my morning coffee and almost immediately it rang. I was a little hesitant at answering it after the last abusive phone calls from Jed but realising I couldn’t hide from my problems, answered it.

It was Ernie phoning from the call box outside the newsagents. "Are we on for tonight as arranged?" were his opening words.

I replied in the affirmative and asked if he was sure of his part that he played in the plan.

He said he was sure and hung up.

Ten minutes later Peter phone asking roughly the same question I told him that as far as myself was concerned everything was to go as planned. Did he have any reservations? He said he was sure about his part and hung after saying that he would see us all tonight as arranged.

Five minutes after Peter’s call Richard rang. "Was everything on for tonight?"

I assured him that although mine was the first action in a long line of events; I reminded him that his was the second.

He hung up after reaffirming that he would do his bit as arranged.

Everything now seemed to be in place. The fear that Jed had put into me had left, now I felt as if I was somewhat in charge.

About four O clock in the afternoon I left my flat and drove my car out of the Eagleton suburb to the Holdback Moor, wine and spirit retail outlet some six miles away. There I purchased a bottle of Lambs navy rum and two bottles of Bells Whiskey. These I carefully placed under the front passenger seat carefully wedging them with an old jacket to prevent them from breaking.

Returning home I picked up my purchases, got out of the car and made show of locking it. Although it was dark and probably no one saw me do it, I had to pretend just in case of casual observers. Then bending down in the pretence of examining a scratch on the wing I surreptitiously placed my spare set of car keys atop of the front wheel where they were hidden by the wheel arch. I then unlocked and entered the front door to my flat securely locking it behind me. It was now a fully dark November evening.

At seven thirty I looked out of my front window and, as I expected, saw that my car had been driven away. I went downstairs in the pretext of looking for it. I asked a couple of passers by if they had seen anyone driving away a car from my parking space. They shook their heads and said they had seen nothing. I knew they hadn’t for my car had been driven away exactly half an hour earlier by Richard.

Because I had not received a phone call from Richard by seven forty five stage two of our plan could be executed. If in the event of him being routinely stopped by police then he would have been driving my car with my permission. And then a phone call to me would have cancelled further plans.

My car would now be in the position as planned and I could now report to the Police that my White Ford Sierra had been stolen.

As expected my telephone report of my stolen car received very little response from the Police. After taking full details of the vehicle they said it would be logged as stolen and an eye kept out for it by patrolling police vehicles.

It just so happened that at this time my car was just out of the Leeds boundary and just inside the Wakefield one. It would unlikely be found by any West Yorkshire Police Patrol Car. The area my car was in was at the extreme edge of the Wakefield Police boundary and would most unlikely be visited unless called upon to do so. Even then it would require them to drive down a single tracked dirt road. No we were sure the police would not discover my supposedly stolen car.

As arranged the four of us met on the waste ground behind the Eaglet pub. Peter’s van was parked up and we in turn clambered in. Richard assured us that my reported stolen sierra was in place at the predetermined spot. We re-discussed our plans and decided that no changes need to be made to our original agreed formula.

"Right." I said. "Are all systems go?" The words sounded a bit melodramatic but all nodded in agreement. I opened the box of Latex rubber gloves I had purchased earlier and handed two pairs to each of us. I know I didn’t need to remind my mates about wearing them at all times from now on but I did. The second pair would only be needed if the first pair ripped.

"Lets do it." Said Ernie and with that he clambered out of the back door of the van. And made his way to the open front door of the Eaglet pub.

We three followed him and stood just around the back out of sight but within earshot of Ernie.

As I waited I could visualise Ernie standing to one side of the door, mainly out of sight but watching for persons exiting the bar into the entrance passage where one of the offshoot doors led to the gents toilet. If anyone approached the main door to enter or anyone leaving the pub then Ernie would walk away from the doorway trying to appear casual but at the same time not allowing anyone to see exactly whom he was. If in the event anyone did see him and could recognised him at a later date then the plan would be called off until a later date. This part of the plan was crucial; we could not allow it to be proved at a later date that Ernie was in the vicinity of this pub at this time.

Every now and again I could hear the inner door to the bar bang shut indicating that someone had exited the bar either to go to the toilet or to leave the premise. Each time Ernie hissed a muted "No" to us and moved out of sight of the front door.

I glanced at my digital wristwatch and pressed the button to switch on the background face light it read eight-forty five. We had been waiting in this position for about almost an hour.

"Has Jed got Hollow legs?" I whispered to Richard and Peter. "Does he not need a piss? Are we going to have to follow him home before we can get him alone."

I had no sooner got the words out of my mouth than we heard Ernie Hiss "Entered the toilet now. He’ll be out in a couple of minutes."

No one was around in the car park so we moved to the corner wall at the side of the door but still out of sight of the bar entrance.

"Jed! Can I have a word with you?" I heard Ernie say to an unseen person.

"What do you want? I have nothing to say to you or yours."

"A women called me on the phone and said she had information about who was in that room." Ernie hadn’t said whom or to which room he was referring.

At this time I was round the corner to the door entrance peering round it looking at Ernie. Richard and Peter were in single file behind me.

Ernie was now standing framed in the entrance doorway talking to talking to whom we knew to be Jed.

"I no nothing about your slag of a daughter. You’ve no evidence that I’m involved."

Ernie, whilst he was talking to Jed had his hands behind his back making signs that could only be seen by me. These signs had been agreed upon earlier. This time his fingers were outstretched indicating that Jed was standing still.

"According to her you were involved you bastard." Ernie at this stage had taken a step back and to the side nearer us.

"Don’t you call me a bastard. You’ve no proof and you know it."

"Not according to Sarah." Replied Ernie clenching his fingers once, twice and then outstretching his fingers again indicating that Jed had taken a couple of steps towards him. "She tells me that you was in that room in Chapletown."

"That slag of a women knows nowt. She wasn’t even there."

"So you were there after all you bastard." Ernie was trying to goad Jed but at the same time he meant it.

"I’ve told you don’t call me a bastard."

"Bastard." Ernie’s fist had suddenly clenched into a tight ball. It was the signal to that Jed had moved a few paces towards him and was now in a position to be snatched.

"What the fuc..?" Jed did not have time to finish his sentence before the four of us were on him. Ernie dived to Jed’s lower legs and gripping them tight together so Jed could now not move forward or back. Richard had moved to the left of Jed and Peter to the right each securing Jed in a lock. I forced a potato sack had been forced over his head and shoulders. I doubt if Jed had time to recognise his would be kidnappers, it had all happened so fast, not that any recognition was any consequence to us now.

By this time Jed was off his feet and was being bodily carried around the corner and out of sight to where Peter’s van was parked. Although Jed was struggling all the time it made little hindrance to our intended intentions. Jed was of small stature and had no chance against us four determined men. We bundled him into the back of the van and whilst the three of us sat on him Peter closed the rear doors and climbed into the drivers seat.

He started the engine, put it into reverse and did a slow three-point turn and drove out of the car park. He was taking his time not wanting anyone to notice the van being driven off.

As I sat on Jed, who had become fully subdued, I realised that there was no turning back now; we had committed the serious crime of kidnap, which can carry a sentence of life imprisonment. I wondered if the others were thinking of this."

By now Ernie had placed a pair of latex gloves on Jed’s hands and a plastic cable tie around his wrists with his hands placed behind his back.

I could barely hear Jed’s protestations, little that they were, for he had obviously realised that there was little he could do at this time especially as Ernie was sat squarely across Jed’s back making it difficult for him to breathe.

We drove slowly, as planned, down Eaglet lane heading for the outskirts of Eagleton. The hard part was still to come, were we still up to it? Was anyone having second thoughts? I don’t know about Richard or Peter but I was sure Ernie was determined to carry out our plan. He seemed to be enjoying Jed’s ordeal, each time the van ran over a pothole in the road Ernie would exaggerate the vehicles upward movement before coming down squarely on Jed’s chest. Ernie was taking great pleasure giving Jed some of his own physical punishment.

Soon the vehicle was being driven down the single-tracked unmade road that I knew tapered out onto some scrubland to the side of a disused cutting by the side of the Leeds to London railway line. The nearest proper road was about a mile away and anyone approaching our position would easily be seen silhouetted against the skyline. Everything around was in darkness with the nearest street light well over a mile away.

Peter stopped the van at our prearranged spot. Peter got out and opened the back doors.

"Take the hood off." I said to Ernie and he did so.

Richard said to no one in particular. "I’ll get the drink." And left the scene

"What’s this all about?" began Jed in protest.

"Shut up." Commanded Ernie. "We’ll do the talking."

"I only…"

Shut up. I told you to shut." Again ordered Ernie. "The only way you are going to come out of this alive is for you to confess that you killed my daughter."

"I didn’t kill y…" Jed was just about to deny involvement in Tina’s death.

"I told you to shut up." Again commanded Ernie and with that he swiped Jed across the face with his open hand. "We do the questioning you do the answering."

By this time Richard had returned carrying the three bottles of spirits that I had bought earlier this afternoon.

I took a bottle of Whiskey from him and opened it. "Have a drink." I offered the bottle to Jed.

"No I don’t…"

But before Jed could fully refuse Ernie pre-empted him and again swiped Jed across the mouth with the back of his hand, this time with more force. "He wasn’t asking you to have a drink he was telling you. Drink." And with that he grabbed the whisky bottle from me and pushed the bottleneck into Jed’s mouth. Jed's mouth cannot have been fully open for, as the bottle hit his partially closed mouth a small flow of blood oozed from his upper lip.

"Steady Ernie." I didn’t want to admonish Ernie for his actions they were understandable but I didn’t want any unnecessary injuries to Jed.

"Look Jed." I said, "We don’t want to hurt you, unless we have to but if you co-operate with us then we can get this thing over and done with. Then we can all go home."

Ernie looked quizzically at me when I mentioned going home. I briefly shook my head at him letting him know that all I wanted was Jed’s co-operation.

"Here take a drink. It might help you to relax." I proffered the bottle to Jed. Rather than risk Ernie’s wrath at a refusal he took a sip from it.

"Do you know Ernie’s daughter?" Peter for the first time since we had stopped spoke.

"Yes of course I do Most of the young bucks around Eagleton do." Jed replied.

"Why did you call my daughter a slag?" Ernie cut in.

"I didn’t." was Jed’s answer.

"Yes you did outside the pub half an hour ago."

"Have another Drink" This time Richard commanded, to which Jed complied.

"Listen we know you were involved with her death." I began. "All we want is a signed confession from you that we can show the police and then you are free to go."

Ernie, Richard and Peter nodded their heads in agreement showing Jed that there was a possible way out of his predicament.

At my direction Ernie cut the cable tie from around Jed&rsqu