BOVVER BOOTS: Part 3 (for parts 1 & 2 scroll down)
While I had been in the shop, dusk had deepened into night. The overhead streetlamps had blinked on and cold fragile light bathed the pavement. I stood in the shelter of the doorway, loath to step out into the darkness. The sound of a door opening across the road and then banging shut again, made me turn in that direction. I watched as a solitary figure detached itself from the shadows and began to stroll down the street, the burning tip of a cigarette glowing like a single red eye.
I sighed, my breath hanging like a mist before my face, and stepped out of the doorway. I turned my collar up about my ears; the night had grown cold. with the carrier bag rustling at my side, I started for home.
Quarry Road was a dead end. The houses culminating into a small block of garages situated around an asphalt parking area. Most of the garage doors, the ones that were actually pulled down at any rate, were covered in graffiti. The ones that stood open were filled with rubbish: discarded refrigerators and washing machines; battered cardboard boxes overflowing with household junk; mouldy threadbare carpets.
I don't think any of those garages housed a car.
Behind the garage block run a narrow alleyway, this alleyway linked Quarry Road with Radshaw Street: the street where I lived. As I stepped around the back of the garages I wrinkled my nose. The stench of dog piss and a smell not unlike that of rotten cabbages hung heavy in the air. I quickened my pace as soon as I stepped away from the comforting glow of the streetlamps; not wanting to be in this dark hellhole more than was absolutely necessary. My footfalls echoed above my head, reverberating off the high brick walls that flanked me on either side.
Although I could still hear the faint hum of traffic from the High Street, and somewhere nearer at hand a dog barked, I felt isolated. Far from civilization. Vulnerable.
I had taken no more than a dozen steps when I sensed someone was behind me, following silently in my wake.
At first I tried to tell myself I was being paranoid. It was just my imagination working overtime. That walking alone down this dingy unlighted alleyway was giving me the heebie-jeebies. Of course there was no-one there. If I cared to take a look over my shoulder all I would see was the empty passageway stretching away behind me.
But I didn't care to. I wasn't quite brave enough for that. So instead I speeded up.
There was no mistaking the sound of scuffling feet as whoever was behind me speeded up too.
I gulped nervously in my throat. My heart started to beat a steady tattoo in my chest and adrenalin coursed through my body, making me feel curiously light-headed. I bit the inside of my lip, not certain what to do next. Should I slow down and let whoever was behind me overtake? Or should I pretend everything was tickety-boo and just carry on walking, as if I didn't have a care in the world? Or should I...
The person behind me coughed. A small discreet cough. "Hey, mister? You got a light?"
So immense was my relief that I actually laughed out loud. I half turned to face the man that had spoken. "No. I'm sorry. I don't smoke."
The words died a sudden death on my lips.
The young man behind me was tall; his pale white face hovering before me like a ghost in the dark. Dangling from his lips was a cigarette - a lighted cigarette. As I watched he carefully removed it from his mouth, formed his lips into a tight little 'O' and blew out a steady stream of smoke. All the while staring at me with his dark sombre eyes.
I knew I was in trouble.
TO BE CONTINUED....