by Andrew Foote
The weather, given it was December and Christmas just around the corner, was still on the parky side although nowhere near as cold as it had been two weeks before.
Our respective boxes still had tenants in residence which meant that Callum and I still shared sleeping bags.
We had gone from using just one to zipping two together giving us space to turn over without necessarily disturbing each other.
I don't know why we hadn't gone back to the old arrangement of separate bags…… well I do now, but back then?
, but when we were ready for sleep, we'd turn away from each other but why we woke come the morning almost on top of each other was weird, but a nice, cosy weird!
The night before the meet, we were doing our normal chatting when I thought struck me.
"Hey Callum? Did you ever watch that program on telly called The A Team?"
"Yeah! I loved it!"
"Well, it's like we've got our own A Team right here in this room."
"Really? And what makes you think that?"
"Think about it for a moment. You have to be the leader, the Colonel, what was his name…… Hannibal Smith was it? Pip has to be Face, you know, like the schemer, the ideas man, the charmer of the bunch, then you've got Malc and Tiny, I mean they seem to be able to get hold of almost anything so they must be B.A. Barrachus!"
"But then there's you. You haven't left yourself much wriggle-room, therefore you have to be Mad Murdoch!!"
"Ah fuck it, I must be mad if only for choosing to live like this!"
"Can I have a hug? Just a quickie?"
I drew him into me and gave him a cuddle, only about three or four seconds but then he kissed me on the nose and pushing me away smiling said,
"I love it when a plan comes together!!"
So as not to draw attention to themselves, the kids left in dribs and drabs making their way to St Stephen's Square with Pip, Callum and I following on close behind.
Callum had again gone over the 'what to do and what not to do' so many times that none of them could've been in any doubt as to what was expected of them.
For the three of us, it was different. Once I'd spotted Mr Bushby and having received no warning signals, I was to approach him and do the business. Pip and Callum would casually follow me and sit as close to us as they could without rousing any suspicions, the idea being, if something were to kick off, they'd be there to spirit me away but as things turned out, there was no need for concern.
Mr Bushby turned up dot on time but with a lady and two children in tow.
I had to smile as he, and both the kids were sporting reindeer antlers, just as he had told me!
Just let me say, this is my rest day, no one knows I'm here, no one has come with me except my family so you've no need to be concerned, alright?"
"Thanks for that but you understand why I have to be careful?"
"Yes. I just wish things were different for you."
"I'm doing okay.
You want the gear I guess?"
"Here you go. The bank card. Have you got a pen?
The PIN is 5131.
One Samsung Galaxy S4 together with charger.
Can I go now?"
"Of course? You're not under arrest afterall but please…… just spare me a moment more?"
"Okay but my friends will be getting twitchy."
"I've been surrounded have I?"
"Big time, but I bet you can't see them."
"No need, no interest, but I do need to tell you a few things, things that might help you."
"Like…… I know who you are, where you lived, what school you attended, do you want me to continue?"
My mouth went dry and I had this burning desire to burst into tears…… so I did!
Pip must've counted to five before he was up on his feet, then confronted Mr Bushby head on.
"Hey, hey, hey! What's going on? Leave the kid alone you pervert? Jesus H., you guys ought to be castrated, you know that?"
"I, I, it's nothing like that! We were just talking!"
Pip looked at me and winked.
"Well, just so long as that's all you're doing it." Then looking at me with a straight face, "You okay mate? Want us to call the cops or anything?"
I tried very hard to keep control of my giggles.
"I'm fine but thanks…… thanks anyway mate."
After Pip sat back down next to Callum, Mr Bushby looked somewhat shocked.
"One of yours?"
"Yeah. One of the best."
"Do you think they'd come over and join us for a minute?"
I beckoned them over.
They looked at each other, shrugged their shoulders and came over.
"You had me shitting myself there! Nice to see a spirit of camaraderie though.
I've just told Edward that A, we know who he is and B, where he lived, C, we know where he went to school and D…… where he stays now but please, please don't worry yourselves.
I'm a senior Police Officer whose only concern is to nail those who traffic drugs. Yes of course petty crime is wrong, but my time is limited enough as things stand so my interest in you is purely humanitarian. Stay safe and if possible, out of trouble, and just one final thing? Phones.
It really doesn't make any difference whether your phone is PAYG or contract. Your address is of no consequence because every mobile has a signature and once we know the caller I.D. we are able to latch onto it and trace you to within around five hundred feet.
Again, don't worry. None of your phones are being tapped or traced and no calls are being intercepted.
Now run along, meet up with your friends and buy them all a hot drink on me.
Edward? I'll be in touch."
"That was almost surreal! I'm talking to cop, a senior bloody cop at that!
Jesus Ed? The places life takes you!"
"Yes well…… what I want to know is where the next stop is.
Did the lads do okay do you know? Any defaulters or problems?"
"Not that I'm aware of. They did pretty well considering all the temptations around them."
I turned to Pip.
"You were fantastic! How on earth did you come up with that stunt?"
"The bloody 'what the fuck pervert' thing, you idiot!"
"Oh right! Well, I really was worried you know? Of course I knew well enough he wasn't a pervert, but then he didn't know I knew that so I just went for it I guess.
It was fun!"
Both Callum and I burst out laughing and as if with one voice shouted 'FACE!'"
"Nothing…… private joke already!"
Pip shook his head then grinned.
"Fucking head-cases, the pair of you!
None of our kids had transgressed, none of them had come back with dodgy goods and none had been arrested, so just before story-time, I thanked them.
"Cheers for this afternoon guys, I mean I know you must've been tempted to take full advantage of the situation but you all did me one massive kindness, and I won't forget it in a hurry.
I still can't let on why I had to do what I did, but safe to say, that bloke I met up with is a pretty high ranking policeman. There's no need to freak out, everything's cool, just go about your lives as normal and everything will be cushtie."
I read until the torch gave out then, after Pip tended the fire we all bedded down for the night.
I'd only managed to read for around three-quarters of an hour which was frustrating. Maybe I could've carried on using the light from the fire, but my eyes were sore as it was.
"What I wouldn't give for electric light. Reading by torch light is okay but it's putting a strain on my eyes and besides, we're eating batteries and they don't come cheap."
"Get some of the kids to nick some then…… but that won't help your eyes, will it."
"No it won't and anyway, is that your solution to everything, steal it?"
Alright, at the moment we have some money, but it isn't like a bottomless pit Ed?"
"I know it.
Now if you wanted them to nick summat useful, get them to nick a generator!"
"Try, generate our own electricity maybe?"
"But we've already got one."
Where! I've never seen one?
Why didn't you mention this before?"
"'Cos I think it's fucked."
"What makes you think that?"
"I got it to run once but it sounded like a pile of shit, plus the pissing thing scared the pants off me!"
"You'll have to show me in the morning."
"Yeah sure, but I think it's a lost cause to be honest.
C'mon, let's get some sleep."
"There you go? One totally totalled generator!"
"Jesus! I wondered why this passageway always reeked of diesel? Now I know why, and anyhow, that's not a generator, it's a fucking museum piece!"
"Not in the first flush of youth I grant you!"
"Any sign of an instruction manual?"
"There was one…… if I can but remember what I did with it.
Hang on, I'll go have a ferret about."
Callum was back with me a few minutes later.
"Found it. Don't know if all the pages are there though."
"Let's take it outside so we can get a better look at it."
"Bollinder Crude Oil Engines, Eskilstuna, Sweden.
I was right, it is a bloody museum piece! They sold out to Volvo just shortly after the war!
Water cooled single cylinder two stroke heavy oil engine ideally suited for many applications including blah – blah – blah…… did you say it ran rough?"
"Terminally so. It sort of farted and coughed a lot, blew loads of smoke out of the exhaust then the revs went up to the point where I took cover just in case it exploded!"
"I don't think that should've happened!
It says here that the maximum working revolutions should be limited to three hundred, your average car ticks over at around eight hundred if memory serves so this old girl should run really slowly."
"Uh-uh. That beast was going like full chat. Scared the living crap out of me it did!
You carry on reading and I'll make us some coffee."
"Okay then. I reckon I've got a handle on it. Actually, even though I'm no engineer, it's pretty simple.
Can you show me what you did to get it running?"
"I probably did it all wrong 'cos all I could do was look at the pictures, I can't read remember?
First there was this one. It shows a sight glass and that arrow there I thought must be the lowest level for the engine oil so I hopped next door and…… borrowed some and filled it right to the top.
Next picture shows some bloke with his foot on a peg sticking out of what I guessed was the flywheel and the next picture shows him kicking the engine over.
I tell you, it fucking nearly killed me. It took me ages to even get any sign of life out of it!"
"Yes but there's a page missing, so maybe you missed something.
They say something about a glowing taper that should be screwed into the top of the cylinder head so let's go take a closer look."
"Fuck this! We need a generator to fix the generator! I can hardly see a thing in this light!"
"I'll go get the torch shall I?"
"The batteries are dead, remember?"
"Ha-ha! So they are!
We did eventually find the taper holder, unscrewing it was some something of a challenge but with the aid of a large stone and a lump of wood, we managed to free it off and remove it.
Other bits that needed attention included the fuel tank which had rusted through in places but the lower half was still in one piece so probably good enough to hold something at least.
All the unions attaching the fuel line to the engine were loose which probably accounted for the stench of fuel so we needed spanners but aside from that, it looked okay to me.
At ten o'clock we abandoned it in favour of schooling but in the afternoon we returned to it having had time to think.
"So what do we need these taper-things for Ed?"
"I think the idea is that they warm the fuel making it easier to ignite, but where or how we get hold of any, God only knows."
"Let me go see if Pip's still around, maybe he'll come up with something."
Ten minutes later and I began to wonder if Callum had been kidnapped but then he reappeared.
"Pip went into town, something about needing to call in a favour but Bubba doesn't think he'll be very long.
Any further forward?"
"A bit. The engine isn't seized which was my biggest worry, but until we work out how we heat the fuel, we'll be doing what you did like bust a gut getting it to fire."
"Never again sunshine.
Do you really understand how these things work or is it pure guess work?"
"Ha! Pure guess work!
I once took our old petrol mower to bits to find out how it worked."
"Well that's something at least?"
"Is it? The sodding thing never did work again. My Dad threw a fit!"
"Not really a confidence booster Ed!
Did you learn anything from it?"
"Oh yeah, massively! If you want peace and harmony at home, don't rip the family lawn mower apart, loose some of the bits then try to cover your tracks!"
"You're really funny!"
"You're really attractive…… "
"Sorry. What did you say?"
"Please don't make me say it again?"
"Why? Don't mess with my head Edward?"
"I…… I think you're…… beautiful-looking damn it!"
"I don't know what to say. I always thought that you and Pip…… "
You and Pip are equally matched when it comes to the love and respect I feel for both of you as friends but…… fuck it, I feel stuff for you that I don't think I should. Things that really confuse me. Stuff happens inside of me when I'm around you. I miss you when you're not with me. You have this knack of making me feel special even though I don't know why, it's sort of a knowing, an inner feeling I have.
Jesus…… I can't even explain it to myself."
Callum fell silent.
I had to say something.
"I've really fucked up big time, haven't I?"
"Yeah…… you have."
"I'm sorry. I'll get my stuff together. I think I'd better leave."
Do you know what'll happen if you leave?
Let me tell you!
You'll be walking away from eighteen of the single most loving and loyal friends you're ever likely to have, and that's just for openers.
For the first time that most of those guys can remember, you've shown them that there can be a future off the streets, you're giving them something to cling on to. Why the fuck do you think they're still here?
Some of them have been out there since they were like six or seven years old, they know well enough how to fend for themselves so it isn't me that keeps them here, it's you, shit for brains?
They might look upon me as a big brother, I mean I've been around the block more times than I should've, but when they see you, they see a steady guy, an educated guy, a caring and responsible guy, someone who knows all about the world outside of the back streets.
Bubba? That fucking huge West Indian lad?
Now you'd think nothing much would upset him would you, but when you read to us, I look around, look at the reactions. Do you remember that bit where that girl was attacked by those sharks? Bubba cried like an infant, Bubba, openly crying?
Jesus Christ Ed? You're able to get past that hard shell they have to have in order to survive, and teach them how to be emotional and what's more, you're able to show them that it's okay to be like that!"
"I don't want to leave but I've messed up, I've upset you and…… "
"Then don't leave!
The only thing, the only person you've upset is you, but…… if you go, not only will you leave a scar on these kid's lives, I'll be devastated as well and I'd most likely pack my bag and follow you."
"Why would you want to do that?"
"For fuck's sake Ed? Don't you get it? I'm in love with you!"
"You are? Like really??"
That night I found you camping in my box, you scared the shit out of me. I'd turned a bad trick and I needed to crash big time but when I saw you, my heart sort of flipped. Don't ask me why 'cos I don't understand it myself.
You stuck around and well…… not only did I not have the heart to tell you to fuck off, I wanted you to stay. I liked you, you were different and okay, I seriously fancied you, I even told you that I wouldn't mind having a boyfriend but not just any old boyfriend? I was trying to send out a message to you that actually, it was you I wanted but when you didn't take the hint, I sort of gave up on the idea, but at night I dream that I'm walking down the street with you, hand in hand. You kiss me and it gives me the shivers but then I wake and it's all over and that's when I cry.
This isn't about ripping your clothes off and having sex with you Ed? Oh God, it's so very much more than that. I get lonely but I've never felt the urge to have anyone else share my life…… well that is before you trespassed on my property!
That was a joke by the way!
Here was someone, someone dead gorgeous that talked to me like a real human being, someone who was great to be around, made me laugh…… sometimes made me cry but mostly, treated me like I wasn't something nasty they'd picked up on the bottom of their shoe.
Can you have any idea how good that made me feel?
I told you how I got my money and, OH MY GOD! You should've seen the look on your face!
It was obvious that you thought I was disgusting, so to stand any chance with you, I gave up the rent because I wanted you to be proud of me.
Please, please don't go?"
[For those who use webmail, or whose regular email client opens when they want to use webmail instead: Please right click the author's name. A menu will open in which you can copy the email address to paste into your webmail system (Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo etc). Each browser is subtly different, each Webmail system is different, or we'd give fuller instructions here. We trust you to know how to use your own system. If the email address pastes with %40 in the middle, replace that with an @ sign.]