Later, Colin and Brian were in a record shop on the first floor, looking in the bargain bin for anything interesting among the ex-chart singles. Two punk girls flicked through albums on a rack nearby. One kept looking over her shoulder, but every time Colin caught her eye she looked away.
“Nothing here worth having,” Brian said.
“Speak for yourself,” Colin said. He nodded at the two girls.
Brian looked and smiled, then walked up to them. “All right?”
The girls looked around and nodded to Brian, then looked at each other and smirked. One pulled out a punk compilation album and flipped it over. Colin walked over and peered over her shoulder at the band names printed on it.
“Looks pretty good,” he said. “You buying it then?”
“Nah,” the girl said. “Can’t afford it.” She put the album back in the rack and turned to Colin. “So what happened to your face then?”
Colin felt his cheeks burn, and subconsciously touched the still-tender lump on his forehead. He thought about telling her the truth, then changed his mind. She’d probably think he was a wuss.
“Got it while I were dancing.”
Brian snorted, but didn’t contradict him. The girl’s eyes widened. “What, you got all that from dancing?”
Brian nodded. “Yeah, he’s quite the dancer. You should see him in action some time.”
“Nah, you’re all right.” She turned to leave. “Come on, Becky.”
“Beki?” Colin asked. “What, like as in Beki Bondage?”
Becky smiled. “No, as in Rebecca.”
“What’s your mate’s name then, Becky?” Brian asked.
“Bye then, Kaz,” Brian said, waving. “See you, Becky.” As they left he shouted after them. “I’m Brian. The ugly guy is called Colin.”
“Fuck you,” Colin said, grinning. He turned to the album rack and flicked through them while Brian went to have a look at new single releases.
When they left the record shop Becky and Kaz were leaning over the balcony outside, pointing and laughing at shoppers below. Brian sang the opening lines to Last Rockers as he and Colin walked past them. Becky looked around and smiled.
Colin and Brian wandered around the upper level of the shopping centre without any specific destination in mind. Brian paused outside a hifi shop and looked through the window. Colin knew neither of them could afford any of the prices being asked, but that didn’t stop Brian pointing out which ones he was planning to buy in the near future. Colin leaned his back against the shop window and sighed. He was about to take out his cigarettes when he saw Becky and Kaz dart into a nearby shop. As he continued watching, Becky peered out from the shop doorway and ducked back out of sight. Colin smiled to himself and turned to look in the hifi shop window.
“I think them birds are following us,” he said.
Brian turned and looked. “Yeah?”
“Yeah. Let’s go and talk to them.”
Brian shook his head. “Nah, I’ve got a better idea.”
Colin and Brian walked on. They kept an eye on reflections in shop windows to make sure they were still being followed, and veered off into Woolworths. They passed aisles of children’s clothes, then toys, and rode down the escalator to ground level.
A fat security guard glared at them from the kitchenware area, then ducked down to hide behind some boxes. Colin waved to him, he scowled back. Colin knew they would be carefully watched until they left Woolworths, with the security guard trying to hide his massive bulk behind whatever was to hand every time they turned around. Normally they would have some fun with him, at least until one of the other security guards showed up and they were escorted off the premises, but Brian seemed to have other ideas.
Colin looked up, saw Becky and Kaz duck out of sight at the top of the escalator. He shrugged to himself and followed Brian to the music section near the ground floor exit. Through strategically placed anti-shoplifter mirrors he saw the security guard limping after him.
Brian stood by a life-size cardboard cut-out of Abba advertising a forthcoming greatest hits compilation. “Hurry up, get behind here,” he said when Colin approached.
Colin glanced over his shoulder. The security guard dodged into a shopping aisle and peered out from its edge. Colin joined Brian behind the Abba cut-out and crouched down beside him.
“You know he’s already seen us?”
“Who?” Brian asked.
“Fucking Sergeant Hoppalong, he’s been following us since we came downstairs.”
Brian placed a finger over his mouth and cocked his head to one side. Colin heard Becky and Kaz talking nearby.
“They must have gone out,” one said.
“Yeah well, they can’t have gone far,” the other replied.
Brian nodded to Colin. “Now,” he mouthed silently, and leaped out from behind Abba with a roar. The girls jumped and squealed, spun around to face him. Colin walked out and stood beside Brian.
“You looking for us?” Brian asked.
“As if,” Kaz said with a shrug.
“Yeah,” Becky said. “We were wondering if you were going to The Juggler’s Rest on Friday? There’s a band on this week.”
“Who’s on?” Colin asked.
“Never heard of them, are they any good?”
Brian elbowed Colin in the ribs. “Does it matter? Yeah, of course we’ll be going.”
Becky smiled. “Might see you there, then,” she said, and they both turned and walked away.
Colin watched them pass the security guard on their way to the exit. The man seemed torn between following the girls or resuming his vigil of Colin and Brian.
“You got any money?” Colin asked.
Brian shrugged. “Not much, why?”
“I’m fucking starving. Let’s go back upstairs and get a Criss-Cross and a pot of tea.”
* * *
Continued next Friday.
Punk Faction by Marcus Blakeston is also available in paperback and ebook if you don’t want to wait that long.