The next day, Colin was fingerprinted and then released without charge.
“A witness backed up your version of the story,” he was told by a scowling police officer.
Colin didn’t really care. None of that mattered any more. His best mate, someone he had grown up with and had known most of his life, was dead. Murdered by a skinhead he didn’t even know, over something he didn’t even have anything to do with.
Colin fought back the tears as he was given back his possessions and signed a form to confirm they were all present and correct. He did this without question. The loss of his cigarettes and money just didn’t seem important any more. He didn’t even notice his cigarette lighter was also missing.
Stepping out into the glaring sun, Colin saw the short skinhead sitting on a wall outside the police station. The skinhead jumped down and walked toward him.
“What did they do you for?” he asked.
“Nothing,” Colin said, looking down at the skinhead’s boots.
“Jammy bastard. They did me for affray and resisting arrest. Fucking cunts, all I were doing was trying to keep your mate alive until the ambulances got there.”
“Brian’s dead,” Colin said. His voice came out as a squeak, and a tear rolled down his cheek.
The skinhead looked at him in silence for a few seconds, then shook his head. “Mate, that’s a fucking shame. I know we had our differences, but fucking hell. No cunt deserves to die like that.”
Colin sniffed and wiped his nose on the back of his hand.
“You know …” the skinhead began, then looked away. “I … er … I’m sorry I whacked you the other night. You caught me at a bad time. I’d just split up with me bird, you see, and –”
“It doesn’t really matter now, does it?”
“I’m Trog,” the skinhead said, holding out his hand. When Colin didn’t take it, he lowered it to his side. “Have you got any money? Some bastard copper took all mine, and I haven’t got enough for the train. I can pay you back double when we get home, I’ll get me brother to meet us at the train station.”
“No,” Colin said, shaking his head. “They took all my money as well, I’ve only got about sixty pence left. Fuck. How are we going to get home?”
Trog frowned. “Bollocks, I was hoping it were just me. I’ve only got about thirty pence meself. Never mind, I’ve got another idea. Come on.”
* * *
At the train station, Colin waited outside a telephone box while Trog called his brother.
“All sorted,” Trog said when he stepped out.
“You think it will work?” Colin asked.
“Yeah, no worries. Besides, have you got any better ideas?” Colin shook his head. “Well come on then. Trust me.”
They bought a platform ticket each and passed through the barrier onto the platform. Colin bought a pack of ten cigarettes from a kiosk and begged a light from a passing woman. It was the first cigarette he had smoked since the previous night, and on an empty stomach the nicotine rush made him light headed.
When the train arrived they boarded it and headed straight for the toilet in the end carriage. Trog put the toilet lid down and sat on it. Colin squeezed in by a small sink opposite the toilet and closed the door behind him. He was about to lock it when Trog stopped him.
“Don’t lock the door.”
“Why not?” Colin’s hand hovered over the lock, ready to slide it into place.
“The conductor will know there’s someone in here if you lock it, and he’ll wait outside to check our tickets. If he sees it unlocked he’ll think it’s empty and just walk past.”
“But what if someone comes in?” Colin asked.
“Stick your foot against the door, they’ll think it’s jammed.”
Colin sat down on the floor with his back against the door. He pulled out his cigarettes, but Trog told him to put them away. Colin frowned, remembering he didn’t have anything to light them with anyway, and put the cigarettes back in his pocket.
“So how did you know what to do?” he asked.
Trog shrugged. “I used to do it all the time when I were a kid.”
Colin looked up and shook his head. “No, I mean with Brian. That stuff you were doing, and that thing with the belt and all that.”
“Learned it at work, didn’t I?”
“Work?” Colin asked. His eyes widened. He didn’t know anyone his age who had a job, and this revelation came as a complete surprise to him.
“What are you, like a doctor or something?”
Trog laughed. “Nah, I work down the pit. I’m training to be a deputy. I wanted to be an electrician really, but they didn’t have any of them left when I applied, so I went for deputy instead. First aid is part of what a deputy does. You know, for when there’s like an accident or something.”
“What’s it like down the pit? I nearly applied meself when I left school, but me Gran wouldn’t let me.”
Trog snorted. “It’s a bit of a shit hole, but a job’s a job innit? The money’s good, and they’ll always need miners so it’s a job for life. It beats being on the fucking dole anyway. Half my mates are on the dole and they’re always fucking skint.”
* * *
Colin opened the toilet door a few inches when the train pulled into their station. He peered out to check the coast was clear before opening it fully. They left the train and headed for the waiting room, where Trog said he had arranged to meet his brother.
“Piece of fucking piss,” Trog said, smiling. “We’ll get the new platform tickets from me brother, then we’re home free. Fucking literally.”
Trog was still grinning right up until he pushed open the waiting room door. A bald, stocky man in his early fifties glared up at him from a seated position at the far end of the waiting room.
“Dad, what are you doing here?” Trog asked.
Trog’s father lumbered toward him, a look of thunder in his eyes. “You stupid fucking cunt,” he yelled, and struck Trog across the face with the back of his hand. “How many times do I need to tell you?” He punched Trog in the stomach. Trog doubled over, the man brought his knee up into Trog’s face.
Colin stared at the man in shock as Trog fell onto his back. He didn’t know if he should try to help Trog or not, whether he even could do anything against this monster if he wanted to. The man was about to launch a kick at Trog’s prone body when he noticed Colin standing there. He wheeled toward him.
“And you,” the man said, jabbing Colin in the chest with his finger. “You’d better stay away from Stephen from now on, or I’ll fucking kill you. I’m not having cunts like you leading him astray. You got that?”
Colin nodded, backing away.
“Good. Now here’s your fucking ticket, so fuck off. This is family business, nothing to do with you.”
The man threw a platform ticket on the floor. Colin picked it up, his eyes staying on the older man the whole time. He backed out of the waiting room, watched as the man turned his attention back to his son and started yelling.
Colin made his way to the train station exit. His hand shook as he handed over the platform ticket to a guard standing by the barrier. The guard gave the ticket a cursory glance and tore it in half, then waved Colin through the barrier. Colin sighed, not realising he had been holding his breath.
A man sat on a bench outside the train station, reading the local newspaper and smoking a cigarette. Colin approached him and asked for a light. The man looked up from his newspaper. His eyes widened when he took in Colin’s battered appearance, but he nodded. He folded up the newspaper and put it down beside him on the bench, then reached into a pocket. He pulled out a lighter and handed it to Colin.
“Cheers mate,” Colin said. He lit his cigarette and gave the man his lighter back. The man put it away and picked up the newspaper. Colin gaped at the front page headline when the man unfolded the newspaper. He snatched it from the man’s hands so he could read it.
PUNK RIOT, LOCAL YOUTH CRITICAL!
Colin skimmed the story, looking for specific names and details. He smiled, then read the article again from the beginning, just to make sure.
A riot broke out at a Shefferham punk rock concert last night. “It was like something out of a cowboy film,” said the head of security at pop music venue The Maples. Local punk rocker Brian Mathews, unemployed, was rushed to hospital following a stabbing incident during the riot. He is said to be in a stable but critical condition. “He was lucky the police were on hand to give first aid assistance,” said a hospital spokesman. Several other punk rockers were also injured and required hospital treatment. The Star says: Do we really want this punk rock menace on the streets of Shefferham?
Colin held the newspaper out to its owner and grinned. “He’s not dead. He’s not fucking dead!”
The man edged away from Colin, palms raised. Colin smiled at the man, and took a step toward him to give him his newspaper back, but the man turned and ran away. Colin shrugged and put the newspaper down on the bench.
All he had to do now was walk home and think of some excuse he could give his Gran for staying out all night. That and make sure she didn’t see the local paper.
Continued next Friday.
Punk Faction by Marcus Blakeston is also available in paperback and ebook if you don’t want to wait that long.