Two boys fell through the double-doors, punching each other; laughing and clowning around. When they saw me, they stopped dead in their tracks, and eyed me up and down, annoyed I was there.
“Come in, lads and meet Gavin? He’s offered to give me a hand tonight, and if he likes it, he’ll be back.”
Huh! That really made a difference, John. They still looked hacked-off and came over to us slowly, without taking their eyes off me. Both wore ‘hoodies’ and you’d think they were glued to their heads. The shoving and carry-on hadn’t moved them an inch. Still, shouldn’t judge.
“Hello, lads.” I tried to sound upbeat, knowing full-well I’d have searched them out on the streets. Both boys muttered ‘hello’ and turned towards John.
“Now you’re here, we can carry the football table out. Give us a hand, Gavin? We have to keep it locked away. This hall is used for a playgroup during the day.”
I looked at him in disbelief. Young kids in here?
John pulled a handful of keys from his pocket, carefully picking his way along them, searching for a particular one. When he found it, he took us to a door at the back of the hall, graced with a massive padlock hanging off it. My first thought was, you’d need heavy-duty croppers to cut that off. I could also see where other locks had been screwed to it in the past and splintered wood down the door jam where it looked like a crowbar had been forced in, in places.
“Been burgled before, John?” The two boy’s heads turned fast, glaring at me. I ignored them.
“Just kids pranks, Gavin; nothing serious.”
Who’s he trying to kid?
John removed the padlock swiftly and stuffed it in his pocket. He pushed the door open, put his hand into the dark void and turned a light on. The place was almost filled to the roof, around the walls, with all sort of clutter. Small mattresses were stacked in a pile, nearly hitting the ceiling and beside them were brightly coloured patchwork blankets. Crates of toys of all types were filled way above their tops which made it impossible to stack them properly. They looked bloody dangerous to me.
The boys barged past us, slamming the door back on its hinges creating a loud bang when it made contact with something hard.
“Careful now boys,” John uttered as we followed them in. Now I could see what the door had hit. The football table was behind it and the boys started dragging it across the floor. A high-pitched screech put my teeth on edge. They’d taken no notice of John, giggling between themselves as if we weren’t there.
I went over to them and said to the nearest boy, “You go with John at that end or we’ll never get it out.” He shot me a look but moved along the side of the table. He pushed each handle in as he passed it, making as much noise as possible, glancing at me to gauge my reaction when each buffer hit the wooden frame. I was seething but wouldn’t give him the satisfaction; cheeky little bugger. Then he stood beside John as if butter-wouldn’t-melt. John shrugged his shoulders at me.
I give up!
It was heavier than I expected when we all picked it up but after a few minutes, with a lot of feet shuffling, we placed it down on the floor deep inside the hall.
It wasn’t until we’d turned from the table, I realised we weren’t alone. A gaggle of young girls and a few boys were sitting along the edge of a stage.
Being darker at that end of the hall, I hadn’t even noticed it until now. They were chatting to each other, those that didn’t have ear pieces rammed into their ears.
Those that did had ‘vacant’ stamped across their faces, were oblivious to their surroundings, and the kids next to them.
Why the hell are they here? No ruddy idea.
It’s dead in here tonight and Ben’s other half must have been at him again. She’s enough to make anyone miserable. Don’t know why he bothers serving in here – must put people off.
“Cheer up Ben; might never happen?” He glanced at me with a frown.
Shouldn’t have opened my mouth.
Then he stood up from the sink under the bar and smiled. “She’s finally packed her bags. Not before time, either.” I didn’t like to say I told you so. It wouldn’t have helped him. I just smiled and watched him pull himself a half pint of beer, then I tried to check my make-up in the mirror at the back of the bar. There were too many glasses on the shelf to see properly. I gave up.
“Where is everyone? It’s normally busier than this.”
“There was talk of a barbeque at lunchtime. They’ll be in later. Tim organised it. Thought you’d get an invite, Jane?” Ben looked confused.
“Now you’ve probably guessed why I didn’t?” I could see he had.
“Like that is it?”
“I warned him enough times that I knew he was seeing someone else. We had a blazing row yesterday.” Just as the last word left my mouth the bar door pushed open and a guy walked in. I’d seen him in here before. I was always with mates and had never given him a second thought.
“What can I get you, Gavin?” Ben waited, expectantly.
“Lager top, Ben, please. Slack in here tonight?” He glanced around the bar.
Ben had a pint glass in his hand and came along the bar to use the pump beside me.
“I was just telling Jane, they’re at a barbeque.” I caught the glint in Gavin’s eyes. He nodded to me and moved along the bar, sitting on the stool next to mine.
Thanks, Ben, that’s all I need. I’ll go out for a smoke, that’ll get rid of him.
I stood up, hooked my bag over my shoulder and picked up my drink. “I’m going out the back, Ben.” He nodded and continued polishing the glass in his hands.
“I’ll join you.”
Oh, how wonderful!
I heard him smirk when I pushed through the back door to the adjoining bar and curse when it hit him. I giggled; couldn’t help it.
Shouldn’t poke your nose in! When I pulled the handle on the door, the other side of that bar, his hand gripped the edge of the door, above my head from behind.
“I’ve got it.”
Yeah! That’s not all you’ll get in a minute. I heard him laugh again.
Given that Ben had tried to make the outside seating area comfortable for smokers, regulations stated that he couldn’t close the end up and it was always chilly out there. I yanked two of the chairs down that had been up-ended on the nearest table top. My bag was dumped on one. I pulled my coat around me; sank down onto its sister and hoped like hell he didn’t sit at my table.
He didn’t. Instead, he perched his bum in a gap of chair legs, on the table-top opposite, and watched me with an amused smile on his face.
I turned my attention from him; raked around in my bag for my tobacco and started to roll a cigarette. I’d rolled them for years and could make them in the dark, which gave me the perfect opportunity to grab a quick glance at him. He’d done the same and our eyes met.
He’d lit up a tailor-made and before he pushed the packet back into the top pocket of his denim jacket, he offered it to me.
I shook my head, dropped my eyes and continued my little job in hand.
“Go on,” he offered again.
Now you’ve done it! Before I opened my mouth I heard that smirk again and raised my eyes to look him square in the face.
“I’m not a pauper!” I snapped at him. “I hear your thoughts, too and remember this; I’m not some ‘hottie’ you can pick up in a bar!” I blasted. Oh God; why did you say that?
“Because it’s the truth,” he countered my thoughts and his face broke out into a friendly smile.
“Well… you can wipe that off your face, right now!” I quipped; turned my head and tried to look really interested in the open end of this makeshift habitat, after blocking him from hearing my thoughts.
I heard him titter, and the chair opposite drag across the table-top when it was pulled off.
I squared up to him. “What exactly do you want from me?”
“Nothing, Jane,” he said, parking his backside on the chair.
“That’ll be a first,” I answered, in a clipped tone.
“Maybe it could be. I’m not like all the rest,” he said, gently.
I looked behind his eyes and he let me rake around inside his head for a while.
“Why would a copper want anything to do with me, Gavin? You know exactly what I’ve done.”
“What you had to do, to feed your habit, had nothing to do with anyone else, not even me. You’ve been clean for a couple of years and I commend you for kicking it, without help from anyone. If he wasn’t already dead, I’d have strangled that…”
“Sorry, Jane. I never gave it a thought you didn’t know, and you’ve blocked me, remember?”
“So I did.” I laughed at him and began to relax opposite this person who’d restored my faith that there were good guys out there. “What happened to him?”
“Knifed in the shower block. Too good for him, if you want my opinion.”
I glanced at Gavin. “How long have you known I could read minds?”
“Since the first time I ever saw you in here. You were with Tim and looked happy enough with him. I’ve never been one to barge in on a partnership.”
“I suppose you knew he was seeing that slapper.” Sorry, I shouldn’t have asked that.
“I don’t mind answering you. As long as you have, Jane. I poked my oar into a relationship once before and had my fingers burned. I lost a good friend that day.”
I heard the door open behind me and Gavin looked up at Tim coming through it with the tart. I’d heard them from the main bar and I was sure he had too.
“Do you fancy a walk, Jane? The air has suddenly become really stale in here.”
I giggled at him, picked up my bag and caught the thunderous look on Tim’s face as I stood up. “Yeah, you’re right. It stinks in here; funny that.” The fact that a force nine gale was blowing in from the open end, made it all the more hysterical to me and I couldn’t help laughing as Tim dragged his new conquest to the opposite corner to us, which caught the blast, full-on. I knew they’d want our seats, once we were gone, so I made a meal of up-ending the two chairs I’d used, Gavin did the same, and we fiddled around, lining them up nice and tidy on the edge of the table, just to make them wait.
We both could hear Tim slagging us off in his head so I pushed a few memorable words into his before we left. I should get down the clinic. I hear she’s booked a season ticket.
Gavin giggled but Tim stood up, furious. One, because I’d hurt his pride, and two, he now knew that my parting speech, which I’d blasted at him, informing him I’d been listening to his thoughts for weeks about said slapper, was actually true. He stepped towards me. Gavin took hold of my elbow. “I’d sit down if you don’t want to spend a night in the cells. You’ve had smack in your pocket and it would take forensics two minutes to find residue in your jeans.” The blood drained from Tim’s face, fast, and he sat down. Gavin hadn’t finished though.
He turned to lady muck. She looked like a cross between the renowned drag queen Lilly Savage, and Jordon. I heard Gavin laugh in my head but when he spoke to her, he was deadly serious, “Have you told him you’re on a caution?” I could see her shake but her thoughts proved what Gavin already knew. She was bricking it. Her jaw moved to say words but nothing came out. “Just as well you’re unable to speak, Julie. You’d incriminate yourself further and what would Tim think of you then?” He cast his eyes back to Tim, “Good luck with that.” The sarcasm bit into Tim’s head but all he could do was sit there with his mouth open.
“Shall we go, Gavin? The smell of fear is getting right up my nose.”
He smiled at me and pulled open the door. I was stepping through it when he spoke to them again. “If you come in here, I’ll know exactly what you’ve had your mucky little hands in. You wouldn’t want that, would you?” He didn’t wait for an answer. We both heard their thoughts as the door filled the hole behind us. They wouldn’t set foot in here, ever again.
Before we got to the door on the other side of the bar, Gavin stopped me to ask a question, “Are you going to trust me, from now on, Jane?
“When I looked inside your head, I knew you were the same as me. How come you’re in the police force and get away with it in there?”
“Let’s sit in the corner and I’ll tell you.” That bar was always empty and today was no exception. We sat opposite each other. Me on a bench and Gavin on a stool, with his elbows on the small round table between us.
“What I’m going to tell you comes under the Official Secrets Act. I was sworn never to reveal it to anyone, but as you’re the same as me, I think you should know. I joined the force after being approached by Government Officials. They knew what I was before I opened my mouth; how I don’t know. I ended up, after basic training, in a small town on the outskirts of Manchester. There were ten of us, all Hybrids like me.
“It lasted a few weeks, that’s all. One idiot changed in public and caused a riot. Everything was hushed up and we were all moved to different locations. I lost touch with a couple of people I’d become mates with. This lot here don’t know what I am, nor the fact I read minds. We were told of a hybrid near London who runs their murder squad. He surprised them so much, they set our team up, to be bigger and better. You can see how that backfired? I’m supposed to wait until they set up another, but I’m cheesed off with the wait.”
“Well, I wasn’t expecting that, Gavin. You must have a hell of a job at work, hiding it from them.”
“As long as I feed every day, I’m fine. They provide me with what I need and what you do is fine by me, so please don’t worry about that.”
“You’re the only person who’s ever known, apart from that b…”
“Don’t think of him anymore, Jane. He’s gone and your life will change a bit from now on.”
He thought for a minute, put his hand on the table and I took hold of it. He smiled and asked, “Do you fancy going for a walk?”
“Good idea. We can chat without having to stop when anyone wants to go out there.” I nodded to the door we’d come through, stood up, picked up my bag and Gavin escorted me through to the main bar. After saying goodnight to Ben, we left the pub behind and walked down to the park. No one would be around and it was sheltered from the wind. I was sick of straightening my hair. Gavin listened to my thoughts and giggled.
“Be thankful you haven’t got it. I look like Shirley bleeding Temple when it’s wet.” He took hold of my hand and squeezed it, still chuckling.
We’d almost reached the park gates when I started yapping again, “I have to explain a few things to you, Gavin…”
“You don’t have to tell me, you know.”
“I want to. I’d never have used smack; didn’t need to…I get high enough off the blood. He used to smoke it and he kissed me more than a few times with his lungs full, and it wasn’t long before I craved it, too. He knew I used punters to feed off, after following me one night. He was psychic and I couldn’t keep anything from him. I’m sure he got me hooked thinking I’d stay. When he was arrested for dealing it was the best day of my existence. The money I’d stashed from the punters, he stole and you probably know the rest?”
“It was before I came here, Jane, and I’ve never looked it up at work. When he was killed, one of the lads was saying how you were well shot of him. I was on another job and I only remembered it tonight. In any case, what was your business, was precisely that; your business.”
“I’ll tell you then. He’d picked up with another guy who’d set a deal up with him, and they’d arranged to meet up somewhere. The idiot had only made a deal with a copper. When I found that out, I think I laughed for days.” Gavin smirked beside me. “I don’t go with the punters; you know that I hope?” I looked at him.
He stopped us walking and gave me a cuddle. “Half the Hybrids in the country have to feed like that. If they want to cruise for hookers and are fed off instead, I think it’s just desserts. I expect they’re all suffering from Anaemia.” I burst out laughing.
“Yes! Now you come to mention it, some of the regulars do look a little pale, and they must love being hypnotised.” He laughed and pushed open the gate.
“How old are you, Jane?” he asked as he took hold of my hand again.
“Twenty-two. What about you?”
“Twenty-seven. Now tell me your date of birth.” I glanced at him, thinking it didn’t take much working out. He nodded slightly, for me to say it.
“Nineteen-seventy-seven. Why?” Isn’t it obvious?
“Humour me, Jane. Do the sums.” I began adding things up.
“OH, MY GOD! I’m thirty-five!” He grinned at me.
“No, you’re twenty-two and have been stuck there for thirteen years.”
“You know I said I lost touch with a couple of mates – well, one them was called Jack Tomlin. A great guy who explained to me that we have some inbuilt thing, to stop us noticing the years clocking up, for the first twenty or so. I suppose to help us over the shock, the fact we’re not ageing. I didn’t know until then. My date of birth is nineteen-sixty-four. I’ve been stuck at twenty-seven for twenty-one years, so far.”
“This is crazy. Say that bit about not ageing, again?” I’m interested.
Gavin’s eyes sparkled, “We’re never going to age, Jane. You must have been bitten as a kid, like me. We grow up normally and stick at a certain age. It seems to be different for everyone but it happens after puberty.” He sniggered, “I must have been a late developer.” He howled with laughter at himself.
I couldn’t help giggling at him, “As long as you’ve developed now, that’s fine by me.” He had a wicked glint in his eyes when he looked at me.
That’s all right then. I ran off and headed for the swings. The park guy would’ve chased us off, had it been daylight, and I hadn’t been on swings for years.
Gavin took the next one to me and after a few minutes, we could see the street lights, over the top of the cross-bar, on a backwards swing. I stopped trying then and let myself slowly come to a halt.
“Do you like curry, Jane?”
“I love it. In fact, that’s all I eat for hot meals.”
“Me too.” He held his hand out and giggled. “It must be a hybrid thing. We all lived on the stuff, near Manchester. The local curry house must’ve thought they’d won the lottery.” I laughed, grabbed his hand, and we hurried to the best curry house in town.
Over the course of the meal, we talked our heads off. The curry house was virtually empty, due to it being a cold and windy night. It transpired that Gavin wished he could move, to be closer to that other hybrid and maybe work with him, not that he thought it would ever happen. He was resigned to stay in this backwater until an opportunity arose, though the lack of any information that filtered down to him, because his immediate boss didn’t know what he was, meant he’d probably wait for years and he had no way of contacting those Government Officials directly.
I could understand his frustration, he was extremely intelligent and it was a waste of his talents as he had many and that surprised me. I, on the other hand, had different talents to him. He was shocked when I explained mine.
“How on earth do you cope with that, Jane?”
“I’ve seen them all my life, Gavin. I never did well at school because they were always there and a damn nuisance. I couldn’t shut them out. Look around you; you think this place has only two people in it? Let me tell you, I have a queue on my right, nudging each other to be first in line to ask me questions, and the noise is in my head, permanently. I try to ignore them but they win, hands-down.” Gavin glanced to my right. “I could show you if you want?”
“What? How?” He looked astonished.
“Give me your hands and close your eyes.” He put his hands on the table and I took hold of them. “Try not to be shocked or you’d frighten the crap out of that other couple.” I saw the smile touch his lips when he answered me, in my head: Go on, Jane.
I showed him and he physically pulled back when the vision hit his mind. He baulked. There were eight ghosts that shoved and elbowed each other. Some were car wrecks. Flesh hung off their faces on a couple, where they’d obviously been through a windscreen and were ripped to shreds. Another two had injuries to limbs and were covered in blood. They’d bled to death in vehicles. The other four were horrendous, even by my standards. They were decomposed and mostly rotten; skeletons with dried skin stretched over their bones. Ooze dribbled out of holes where maggots had exited their bodies. Eyes gone, leaving empty holes to see with and all were yelling at each other to move aside.
I’d forgotten to tell him about the smell I always received, attached to each victim. He got the lot, unfortunately.
Sorry about that, Gavin. I forgot you’d get it, too. I’ll stop.
He kept hold of my hands and opened his eyes. “Oh, my God, Jane. I don’t envy your life at all. I know I’d go mad with that in my head.” He was completely flummoxed and gripped my hands tighter.
“They all died on the main road out there, or in some of the houses along the street. I only have to be somewhere for a couple of minutes and they find me, and all have a different story to tell. Two of them were murdered and the police didn’t question a thing. They were cremated by the family members who killed them.” His eyes bulged at that statement. He had a completely ludicrous idea bouncing around his head, waiting for him to voice it.
“You’d be a great asset to the police force, Jane.”
I stared at him, “Don’t talk whet! I’m as thick as two short planks, and you know it!” He squeezed my hands again and shook his head with a smile tingeing his face. That annoyed me so I carried on, “I’m not surprised they haven’t been in touch with you; you should be certified!” He laughed at me, and when I looked up, I noticed that the other couple behind him, had watched my tantrum. “It’s all right; he’s talking crap, as usual.” They both giggled at me and I heard Gavin smirk. I turned my head, “Well, you are.”
“I meant every word, Jane. I wish those idiots had told my boss exactly what I am, then you could help me at work.” I stared at him. “I know you don’t believe me and by-the-way, you’re not thick. The fact you couldn’t work at school with all that going on didn’t mean you were thick. I see you have an extraordinary brain. You haven’t been given the chance to use it, that’s all.”
“Now you really are talking crap!” His eyes glistened.
He let go of my hands, picked up his wine and rested back in his seat. “I’ll find a way to make it happen. Watch this space, Jane.” I huffed at him, lifted my fork and played with what was left of my food on the plate.
- HWSNBN Chapters 1/2
- HWSNBN Chapter 3
- HWSNBN Chapter 4
- HWSNBN Chapter 5
- HWSNBN Chapter 6
- HWSNBN Chapter 7
- HWSNBN Chapter 8
- HWSNBN Chapter 9
- HWSNBN Chapter 10
- HWSNBN Chapter 11
- HWSNBN Chapter 12
- HWSNBN Chapter 13
- HWSNBN Chapter 14
- HWSNBN Chapter 15
- HWSNBN Chapter 16
- HWSNBN Chapter 17
- HWSNBN Chapter 18
- HWSNBN Chapter 19
- HWSNBN Chapter 20