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Waterlow Park


This is the final instalment of Waterlow Park. I stopped working on it after this. Hope you enjoyed what there is of it.
Chapter 21

At exactly 8:07 mum comes walk up the garden path to find me shivering outside the house. For a moment she looks puzzled and says nothing. Then she frowns and says: ‘Stephen… What are you doing outside, it’s raining?”

I try to reply but I’m too wet and cold to speak. I sort of mumble something and try to cough out the words. Mum moves over to me and scoops me up in her arms.

“What’s happened Stephen?’ she gently asks.

‘I got locked out!” I splutter, not able to stop the tears. ‘I left my bloody key in my room!’

Mum hugs me close to her chest so that I can smell her perfume and feel her body heat. She does this for several moments and then she suddenly draws away from me as if struck by a thought. ‘But why didn’t Sofia let you in?’ she says. “Have you two been arguing again?’

Some more words leave my mouth but even I cannot make any sense of them. I panic and shake my head back and forth. Mum takes hold of both of my arms and pulls them down by my side. “Look at me Stephen,’ she orders. “Try to stay as calm as possible and slowly tell me what has happened.”

“Sofia’s not here,’ I splutter.

Mum frowns again and then something like a smile seems to creep on to her face. ‘What do you mean she’s not there? Where is she Stephen? Is she hiding?”

‘She’s not here,’ I say again. ‘She’s gone.’

Mum pulls away from me and opens the front door as if she doesn’t believe what I’m saying. ‘Come inside,’ she says, roughly grabbing hold of my hand and heaving me inside the house. The she shuts the front door and begins calling Sofia’s name.

“She’s not here,’ I say. ‘She’s on the Bayswater Road.’

Mum abruptly stops yelling and turns around to stare at me. ‘What did you say?’ she asks. ‘Look Stephen, I’ve just got home from a hard day at work and I can do without this silly nonsense. Now where is Sofia hiding?’

‘She’s on the Bayswater Road,’ I repeat.

‘Stephen!’ she snaps, snarling like an angry dog at me.

And then I sort of slump to the floor and more shouting than talking I tell her all about what has happened since I got home. I tell her about Sofia not being here, about me calling and calling her and only getting voicemail; about me using Find my Phone to trace her whereabouts. And about Bayswater Road.

Mum starts to look worried as she takes this in. ‘Show me,’ she says, her voice raising in pitch.

’What?’

“Show me Find My Phone.’

She follows me upstairs as I try to tell her that it won’t work now. That Sofia’s phone has disappeared. That the red dot is gone. But mum won’t listen until I’ve shown her, and even then she seems either completely unimpressed or unable to understand what I’m showing her. Now she gets angry. ‘Why didn’t you call me?’ she says.

‘You told me I’m not allowed to call you at work,’ I say, looking down at my feet.

Suddenly there is a noise downstairs. The sound of someone putting a key into the door lock. For a moment I feel a deep wave of relief wash over me. Everything going to be all right. Sofia’s home. She late and she’s really gong to catch it from dad but at least she home.

But it isn’t Sofia. It’s dad. He doesn’t say anything but mum ands me both know straight away that it’s him. ‘Tony!’ mum cries.

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Waterlow Park – Chapter 20


Yet another chapter of the dumped ‘ Waterlow park’. My God, I really did do a lot of work on this. If you’re following at all you’ll notice that there are a lot of chapters missing. This is because I jumped a little forward in writing it and intended to go back and fill in the blanks later. I never did. I’ll have those words carved on my gravestone: ‘HERE LIES IAN. HE NEVER DID’.

Chapter 20
The house is quiet when I get home which is a bit odd because Sofia usually gets back before I do. She goes to Coleridge Primary School and it’s only 0.75 miles on foot. I know this because I used to go to Coleridge and most days Sofia and I would walk to and from school together. I sort of miss doing this. In fact, I really miss Coleridge. The new school is so much tougher and more serious. At my old school we didn’t get any homework but at William Ellis we get some almost every night.
I go into the living room and switch on the TV. I flick from channel to channel but there’s nothing on but the news so I go upstairs to my room. As I enter I find myself instinctively feeling behind the boiler to see if bag of money is still there and of course it is. Except there isn’t much left of the £10,000. I decide to count it and lay out the money on my bed, keeping an ear out for the sound of anybody coming into the house. There is exactly £3,275 remaining. This means that I’ve managed to get rid of £6,625; of course, I gave a lot of it to dad but it’s still pretty frightening to discover how quickly you can get rid of money. I lay on my bed and try to remember everything I bought with the money.
I soon lose track of time and begin to get bored all alone in the house. Mum and dad should be home some time around 8.00pm and even though most of the time Sofia irritates me I’m missing her company. I can’t remember if she has joined an after-school club. She hates after-school clubs but mum and dad are always putting pressure on her to join one; same with me, actually. I’m pretty sure she hasn’t so I decide to call her. She has my old phone, which is an iPhone 4s. I got this when dad upgraded and gave it to Sofia the next time he upgraded. She’s lowest on the mobile phone food chain so she always gets the worst. I ring her but it goes straight to voicemail. I try a second time time and a third but the same thing happens. I leave a message: ‘Answer the phone you little idiot. Where are you?’
I go downstairs and try the TV again. I watch an episode of Futurama which is ok but not very realistic. Then I go upstairs again and play The Sims for a while. ‘I’m lost in the game when I notice that it is beginning to get dark outside I check my phone. It is 5:45pm. Sofia is more than two hours late. This is getting really strange. I call her again but she still doesn’t answer. By now I would normally have cooked her dinner – beans on toast tonight – and I’m starting to feel hungry myself. This makes me angry with her. How could she be so late? What does she think she’s playing at? The spoiled little brat!
I have a brainwave: I quit The Sims and launch Safari on my iMac. Because it’s such as old iMac – dad got it from his office for me – it takes ages to load. I drum my fingers on the desk in irritation until it’s finally ready. On Safari I go to Find My Phone – this will allow me to trace the location of Sofia’s iPhone – and type in her user name and password. I know the user name and password of everyone in our house. I study the computer screen as a map appears with a small red dot that represents Sofia’s phone. I watch for a few moments as the dot slowly moves along a road. She’s heading west along a road I’ve never heard of before called Bayswater Road. This puzzles me so I zoom out of the map only to discover that it’s 6.8 miles away from our house. What’s Sofia doing so far away from home?
I sit quietly for a moment wondering what to do next. It’s going to take Sofia ages to get home and she’ll probably miss her dinner. She’s really going to be in trouble when dad gets home. I move closer to the screen again and scrutinise the map. And it suddenly occurs to me that Sofia is heading away from home; she’s actually going in the opposite direction. Why? Why is she doing this? I can feel myself starting to get worried; I can feel my face redden like I’m embarrassed. Then I realise that Sofia sometimes gets invited to birthday parties and I feel a bit better. Yes that’s it: she’s been invited to a birthday party at someone’s house. But I don’t think that Sofia knows anyone who lives so far away from us. And Sofia has never been invited to a birthday party on a Wednesday evening. They’re always on the weekend. Now I feel bad again.
I call Sofia for the fourth time and again I get nothing but her voicemail. I call her a fifth time. And then a sixth. But then, as the phone is ringing, something weird happens. Without warning the little dot moving along Bayswater Road disappears. I frown and quickly refresh the page and as I’m doing so I get put through to voicemail again. I leave a second message: “Sofia it’s your brother. You better come home right away. Dad’s gong to be very mad if you don’t!’ I frown and refresh the web page and when the little dot doesn’t reappear I refresh it again. My heart begins to pound like a little drum in my chest. I don’t know why it’s pounding but the house is so quiet that I can even hear it. Then I have another idea. Sofia’s phone has been stolen and she must be at school. She must be there right now, waling for me to go and get her. She’s probably crying because her phone’s been stolen and she thinks dad will shout at her.
I drop everything and put my coat on and leave the house. I half run and half walk to the school and I’m there in under ten minutes. The gates are still open and a few kids are playing on the swings; I rush into the main building. This is the first time that I’ve been here since I left Coleridge last summer. It looks identical but there are no people around at all and the inner doors are locked. I move into the playground and then walk around the grounds looking for Sofia. Without really noticing that I am doing it I begin calling ‘Sofia! Sofia!’ at the top of my voice. Some of the kids stop playing on the swings and look over in my direction. I ask them if they know where Sofia is but they’re in a different year than her and have never heard of her. I leave the school and run back home full pelt. By the time I get there I’m out of breath and my lungs are burning. To make matters even worse, I fish around in my pockets and can’t find my front door key! In my rush to leave the house I must have left it on my computer table, which is where I always put it when I get home.
Now I have to fight to stop myself from crying. My lip is trembling and I’m suddenly freezing cold. I reach into my pocket and pull out my phone. I call Sofia again and again again but she still won’t answer. As I stand by the front door to the house it starts to rain. This is no gentle shower either. It really starts to bucket down. The rain is like shards of ice; it cuts into my face and burns my skin. I’m cold and wet and miserable and I don’t know what to do. I just don’t know what to do. For a moment I think about calling Debra. Debra used to be out childminder when we were babies. She only lives in the next street and she would probably invite me indoors and keep me warm until mum and dad get home. Then I remember what dad said to me: ’Stephen, you must never – I repeat NEVER – mention to any adults that you look after Sofia when we’re not at home. We could get into big trouble if you do that. And if we get into to trouble that’s nothing compared to the trouble you’ll be in…’
I put my phone back into my pocket and sit down on the cold front step. The rain beats down on me like it will never stop as I wait for mum and dad to get home.

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Waterlow Park. Chapter 10

  

Chapter 10
It’s Saturday morning and Mum’s not working today. As we all sit eating our breakfast on our knees dad suddenly gets to his feet and makes a momentous announcement. ‘I’m not going to the pub today,’ he says. 

There is silence for a few moments and Sofia and me stop eating and look up from our Frosties at the same time. Then Sofia turns to me and a worried frown appears on her face, almost as if she’s expecting bad news.

But there is no bad news. Dad smiles – the second smile in less than a day – and even gives mum a little wink. ‘I’m not going to the pub because we’re all going to the seaside for the day!’ he says cheerily. “We’re all going to get in the car and we’re going to Brighton. Anyone for fish and chips?”

I’m not lying when I say I can’t remember the last time that dad took us all out for the day. He’s usually too busy or down the pub with his idiots. I just feel happy inside and can’t stop myself from grinning. Sofia grins, too. But then when no-one else is watching she gives me a very strange look, kind of like the look your teacher gives you when you thinks you’re up to no good.
***
It’s lovely and hot and sunny as we leave the house and cram ourselves into the car. It’s an old Nissan Micra that’s way past its sell-by date and keeps breaking down. Dad usually swears at it when he’s driving but today he’s unbelievably jolly. Mum sits in the front as dad heads up the motorway and begins to sing. “Come on!’ he shouts. “Join in! Let’s hear some singing from the back!’

The engine groans as the countryside rushes by but there is a warm glow inside the car. Everyone is happy. Everyone is smiling. Everybody except Sofia, that is, who reaches over and whispers something in my ear.

‘I can’t hear you, you stupid girl!” I spit. What with dad’s singing and the wind whistling by it’s difficult to hear anything. But I don’t need to hear what she is saying to understand. She’s talking about the money again. Doesn’t she ever stop going on about it? But even though she knows I’ve given dad some she doesn’t know how much. I didn’t tell her everything yesterday. I pull a face at her and she pokes her tongue out at me so I pinch one of her thighs really hard and she yells out. 

“Are you two all right at the back?’ smiles mum. 

Everyone’s smiling because of the money. I’m learning that money can buy smiles.
•••
We reach Brighton and dad eventually finds somewhere to park. It’s the first time I’ve ever been here and even though it’s started to rain a tiny bit I find myself running towards the pier, where hundreds of people mill about buying ice-creams and doughnuts and bags of chips. Sofia races alongside me. “Don’t go too far,” yells mum, who is walking slowly behind us with dad. He has his arm around her, another thing that he doesn’t do very often. We spend a couple of hours in the arcade. Dad changes lots of money into 2p pieces and we feed them into the machines, trying to win the little prizes that are sitting on top of the piles of money. My fingers are soon tasting of metal. Then we get taken to have fish and chips. I get a the biggest piece and a really, really horrible gherkin which I wash down with diet Coke. Sofia has chicken nuggets and orange juice.

‘Wouldn’t it be nice it it was always like this?’ says dad, taking a gulp from a frothy pint of black Guinness. “I mean… It’s so great for us all to spend time together…”

“It’s lovely daddy,” says Sofia.

“It’s fantastic,” say I, although deep down I can’t help thinking to myself that the reason that we don’t all spend time together is dad. He’s always so shouty, or down the pub, or sleeping in the bedroom or calling everyone idiots that he sort of forgets all about us most of the time. I can see that Sofia’s thinking that, too. But neither of us say anything. We’re too happy and we don’t want to spoil the mood. Because days like this don’t come around very often. 
•••
We take a walk through the town centre. Dad buys us both some sweets and a comic book. He buys mum some jewellery and even though it’s not very expensive you can see that mum’s beginning to look a little concerned. She’s wondering where he got all this money from. As we walk dad draws us to him so that we’re all sort of huddling together. “Let’s hope this is all a new beginning,’ he says, although I wasn’t aware that anything had ever ended. ‘From now on life his going to be good,” he smiles a deep smile and although his face his beginning to wrinkle up he’s still handsome. His hair might be greying but he has it combed back like Elvis and at least he isn’t going bald like Smitty’s dad. He stops talking and kisses mum. Then he kneels down and kisses Sofia and she closed her eyes and grins. Then I wince as he reaches over and kisses me on the lips and smothers me in his arms; his breath smells of beer.

As the day begins to draw to a close we head for Brighton’s pebble beach. The sun is sinking behind an abandoned pier as dad spots a seagull that is in pain. It has fishing wire wrapped tightly around one of its feet, which has turned black. Dad approaches it slowly and it spots him but is too ill to fly away. With the help of another man who has seen what is happening, dad catches the bird and tries to pull away the fishing wire. As he does so it pecks at his fingers ferociously, making them bleed but that doesn’t stop my father. After a long time dad finally manages to pull away the wire and the bird screeches in agony. Then he puts it down on the floor and it sort of hobbles a little, looking very sorry for itself. It still cannot fly.

Dad turns to the man who helped him and offers him the hand that isn’t bleeding. The man is younger than dad and taller. He is smoking a cigarette. He reluctantly takes dad’s hand and shakes it before moving away quickly without saying a word. As he leaves he turns to look at Sofia and then he turns to look at me. Our eyes sort of meet for a few moments and I find myself looking down at me feet awkwardly. Then it occurs to me: there’s something about the man that is familiar. I’ve seen him somewhere before. I turn around to look at him but he has disappeared into the crowd.
***
On the way home from Brighton something bad happens. 

Dad’s too tired to sing in the car but we’re all in a good mood as he drives down the motorway – probably a little too quickly. Sofia’s almost asleep, pinned into her seat by the seat belt. I’m thinking about school and wondering what Smitty’s doing when there is suddenly a very loud bang. It sound like a clap of thunder inside the car.

Dad shouts the F-word and turns to mum: ‘Did you see what idiot just did Janie?” he cries, suddenly angry.

Like Sofia, mum was also drowsing. She says nothing at first but looks to the rear of the car to check if me and Sofia are all right.

“He bloody banged right into me!” yells dad, shocked as well as angry.

The everything happens all at once: Dad carries on shouting, attempting to simultaneously keep his eye on the road and watch whatever is happening behind the car. Sofia wakes with a jolt and I grab hold of her hand and look into her eyes, trying to calm her. 

Then there is another bang. If it’s possible this one is even louder than the other one and causes dad to temporarily lose control of the car. He swerves into another lane and several car horns can be heard tooting. Dad says the F-word a second and third time and then the car that bumped into us suddenly pulls up right alongside us. Inside, I think, are three men. From my position in the car I can’t see the driver and whoever is in the passenger seat but I can see the person in the back seat of the car because for a few moments that seem to last a lifetime we are almost nose to nose. 

As we look at each other my mind takes in other detail. I notice that the car is red and looks very clean. I also notice that the car seems to be moving closer to ours, forcing dad to swerve away. As the brakes scream I find myself looking directly into the eyes of the person in the back seat of the other car. He’s probably in his twenties but looks older than he is because he has a long black beard. As our eyes lock the other man slowly smiles and then shakes his head as if to say ‘no’.

I’m suddenly terrified and I yell out ‘Mum!’ 

Mum looks over to me and says: “Are you ok love?’ As she says this there is a roaring of engines and the other car speeds away into the distance.

‘Get his number!’ orders dad. But before anyone can do anything the car has gone.

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Waterlow Park – Chapter 09


Another dollar another day. In truth I don’t remember writing quite so much as this – and there’s a lot more to come. Hope somebody out there is actually reading this.

 

Chapter 09
I don’t know if it’s normal for people to start being nice to you after you’ve discovered a dead body but that’s exactly what’s been happening to me. Three days have passed since Smitty and I found the man in the park and everyone’s been treating me like I’m the one who’s dead. Dad’s hardly shouted at me at all, the teachers in my new school have all been talking to me in grave, gentle voices and I’ve become something of a celebrity among my new schoolmates. Me and Smitty practically have a possé of people following us around at break time. All of them want to know what a dead body is really like.

Actually, there’s another reason why I’ve suddenly become so popular. It started on Tuesday when I couldn’t stop myself from spending a little more of Ali’s change money. I bought some sweets and later shared them with some of the other boys in the playground. They went pretty quickly so I bought some more. It only took a day or so for the older kids to start coming up to me asking for sweets. I’ve already gotten through more than half of the £42.68 that I was carrying in my bag. It’s amazing how easy it is to spend money.

“You’re mad,” says Sofia, when I tell her what I’ve been doing after school.

“No I’m not. I’m just being friendly, that’s all.”

“You mean you’re buying friends.”

“No I’m not.”

“And what if mum and dad find out? What are you going to say if they ask you where you’re getting all this money from?”

“It’s not very much.”

“It doesn’t matter. You know how broke they are at the moment.”

Sofia really gets on my nerves when she’s like this. “Stop being so bloody sensible!” I say.

Sofia gasps and looks shocked.

“What’s up with you?” I ask, knowing exactly what I’ve done wrong. “It’s not swearing.”

“It is swearing.”

“No it’s not – It means ‘by the blood of our lady’.”

“No it doesn’t.”

“Yes it does.”

Then Sofia goes quiet for a moment and I know exactly what’s coming next. Whenever we are alone Sofia cannot stop herself from talking about the man in the park.

“Have you heard anything more?” She whispers.

“About what?” I reply, feigning ignorance.

“About the… The… B…” Sofia refuses to say the word ‘body’. She can only bring herself to say the first letter.

“How would I? I’ve been at school all day?”

“Did you go past the park?”

“Yes.”

“Well?”

Since Smitty and I found the body dad has not allowed me to go into the park. I don’t know why. It’s hardly likely that there’s going to be a dead body there every time we enter. It’s quite annoying as it adds 0.2 of a mile to my journey. Mind you, I’m not completely sure that I can face going into the park again. Still, I walk past it every morning and afternoon.

“The tape’s gone”

“The tape?”

“You know… The ‘CRIME SCENE’ tape. They took it off and people are allowed in again.”

“Oh…” Sofia’s voice drops to a whisper. “Do you think… Do you think… That we’re safe now?”

Time for me to get all big brotherly again. I’ve been thinking about this a lot over the past few days and although I’m not sure that I really believe it, this is my theory as to the dead body:

“Look Sofia, I’ve already told you what happened. The man in the park was a gangster. A dangerous gangster like you see on the TV. He must have owed money to some other gangsters and they… They did him in because he didn’t pay it back to them.”

“But…’

“What?”

“But… Doesn’t this mean that you… That you…”

“That I what?”

“That you…”

I know what Sofia is trying to but finding impossible to say. She’s saying aren’t I responsible for the death of the man in the park? Did me taking the bag of money lead to his death? I’ve thought about this a lot over the past couple of days, too. And I’ve come to the conclusion that it might be a little bit my fault because if I hadn’t taken the money he probably would have been able to pay back what he owed. On the other hand, the man in the park was probably so evil that if he wasn’t killed now he would have been killed sooner or later. And anyway, we don’t even know if he was killed. We’re just assuming that he was. He could have died of something natural. Although he looked so smashed up in the park that it’s difficult to think what.

“…That I killed him? Don’t be such a stupid little brat, “ I say in a horrible shouty voice just like dad’s. “Sometimes you’re such a tool!”
***
I say a few more nasty things and Sofia runs off in tears to her bedroom. Which is good because I’ve suddenly had a really brilliant idea. An idea that could make mum and dad and Sofia really happy and stop us all having egg and chips for Sunday dinner. I go into the airing cupboard and fish around the back where I’ve hidden the money, the £9,950. I pull out a handful and count out exactly £1,000. Then I put the remaining £8,950 back into its hiding place.

“I’m just going out to the shops,” I casually shout as I head for the front door. In her bedroom Sofia says something in response but I don’t listen to what she saying. I slam the front door shut.

Even though Ali’s shop sells exactly what I’m looking for I walk past and go to the newsagent’s on Cressida Road. This is about a five-minute walk from Ali’s shop, a fifteen-minute walk from home. I go into the newsagents and find the stationary section. I choose a brand new pen and a pack of brown A5 envelopes. I pay for them at the counter. An old man with glasses and a disinterested look on his face takes my money.

“Do you sell stamps?” I ask.

“Book?” says the old man.

“Pardon?

“Do you want a book of five or ten stamps?” he asks.

I think for a moment. “Ten,” I reply. Something about having lots of money always seems to make you choose the larger option. I’ve noticed I’ve been doing that when I buy sweets.

I give the man some more money and leave the shop. I walk to the small park on Hornsey Lane where people are always letting their dogs soil the grass and find a quiet bench to sit on. I take out one of the envelopes and write the following on it:

 
**MR ANTHONY PROBERT**

**16 CROWTHER PARK**

**LONDON **

**N19 3TN**

 
I put it all in capital letters and because I want to disguise my own handwriting I use my left hand. It ends up looking quite messy but I don’t care because I’m known as a very neat writer so nobody will suspect that I wrote it. Then I take the £1,000 out of my pocket and slide it into the envelope. It fits quite snugly but I can’t get the gum at the end of the envelope to stick properly. After trying in vain for ages to seal the envelope I have no choice but to walk back to the newsagent’s shop and buy a roll of Scotch tape. The old man looks at me suspiciously this time, as if he senses that I’m doing something I shouldn’t be. I give him some more money then leave the shop and find the nearest letterbox. I have no idea how much it should cost to post an envelope like this. I know that these days you’re supposed to go to the post office and get letters weighed, that’s what mum sometimes does. I puzzle over this for some time and in the end decide to stick five stamps on the envelope. Then I think about it some more and stick the other five on as well. I hold it to my face and take a close look at my handiwork. The whole thing looks a right state. I shrug my shoulders and post it through the letterbox. I hear it drop and start walking home.

3

Waterlow Park Chapter 08


The new book I’m working on is starting to take shape. It’s provisionally entitled: ‘Dangerous’ and is an exercise in self counselling. I’m using writing to try and get some understanding of the feelings I’ve been experiencing due to the death of my father.  In order to do so I’m meeting up with people I haven’t seen for a quarter of a century when I was a sportswriter. Last Friday I saw the boxing manager/advisor Ambrose Mendy. The last time I met him was in 96 when I visited him in Woking Prison. He really is a fascinating character. And if I say so myself, the book is getting interesting.

In the meantime, here’s chapter 08 of my dead and buried kids book ‘ Waterlow Park’. Please read and send me heaps of money if you don’t like it.
Chapter 08

“So you see Mr. Dawkins, we really do recommend that you consider sending Stephen to one of our counsellors. It comes as a shock at any age to see a dead body. Let alone if you’re eleven years old.”
Dad nods his approval and I feel mum squeeze my shoulder. Then dad makes a stupid joke. I think he’s been drinking.

“So, just to confirm,” he says, too cheerfully. “You don’t think that Stephen did it?”

There is a long, long silence and the two police officers turn and look at each other. One of them shakes his head, the other one frowns. Mum squeezes my shoulders harder until it’s almost hurting.

“No we don’t think he did, sir,’ the woman police officer eventually replies with a dead straight face.
***

I didn’t know what to do other than call 999 on my mobile. It’s the first time in my life that I’ve ever done this and I was amazed that it took only eight minutes 12 seconds for the police to come sprinting up Waterlow Park. First on the scene was a young looking policeman called PC Foster. Straight away he told Smitty and me to move away from the dead body. Then he knelt over the thing on the ground and took hold of its wrist. Smitty told me later that he must have been checking for a pulse. He said he’d seen people do that on TV. Soon another four policeman arrived, including a lady policeman called PC George. She started asking us questions in a very soothing voice that you could tell was put on. What are your names? How old are you? Where do you live? Who first noticed the body? What time was it when you first noticed the body? Was there anybody else in the park when you found the body? Did you touch the body? Did you take anything away from the body? Loads of questions. So many questions.

While we were busy answering PC George’s questions I kept a sneaky eye on what the other policemen where doing. I managed to catch what a couple of them were saying and the words ‘suspicious’ and ‘murder’ kept getting repeated in hushed tones. One of them had a camera and was taking photographs or maybe it was a video. Another one put his ear to the the body’s heart and touched the face. I guessed that they were checking for signs of life. There was really no need to do that – the man was definitely dead. Anybody could see that.

Then even more people arrived. These were not dressed in police uniforms but you could see that they were probably police. Some where dressed in white uniforms and wore face masks. One of them took some more photos of the body and another one covered the body up with a plastic sheet. Another man stuck a ring of red tape around the body that had the words ‘CRIME SCENE DO NOT DISTURB’ written on it over and over. When I looked behind me at the gates to Waterloo Park I could see that they was also being taped up with the same red tape. “It’s to keep people out of the park,” whispered Smitty.

There was a lot of talking going on and the crackle of police radios. “Why do they use radios?” I asked PC George. “Mobile phones are so much better.” PC George didn’t answer. She just smiled at me.

Finally, we were both asked where our parents worked. I couldn’t them where dad worked but I said that mum was a nurse at the Royal Free. They must have called her because within half an hour she was being led towards us by another policeman. She seemed shocked and gave me a big hug, not even bothering to look at Smitty. A little while later Smitty’s dad turned up and took hold of his hand. He was fat like Smitty, too. Like a bigger version of him. He didn’t bother to look at me.

Next, the police asked mum some questions and she got on the phone to dad. Then Smitty and I were put in separate police cars and driven home. It was the first time that I’d ever been in a police car. I sat in the back seat next to mum. PC Foster and PC George were in the front seat. I pretended to myself that I was a villain wearing handcuffs. The drive home was very quick. When we got out of the car I noticed that a lot of the neighbours were staring out of their windows at us. Some where shaking theirs heads, as if I had done something wrong. I waved to them and they just looked away.
***
After dad made that stupid joke PC Foster and George kind of stopped talking to him and just talked to mum instead. I think they must have guessed that he had been drinking. “So are you all right then young Steven?” says PC Young, holding a notepad in her hands and scribbling something down.

“I’m fine thank-you,” I lie, because I’m far from fine. Actually, I’m really, really scared. So scared that I can’t stop shaking. Lots of thoughts are going around my head. If that was the man we saw in the park the other day then who killed him? Was he killed because of the money? Does whoever killed him know that I took the money? Should I just have done with it and come clean about the money? Will I get into trouble? Will I go to prison for taking the money?

I decide to try and act like I’m not scared. “Why do you use a notepad?” I ask. “Why not use an iPad or something?”

PC George smiles and hesitates before responding: “It’s just tradition,” she says. “Silly old old tradition…”

0

Waterlow Park – Chapter 07


It’s Friday and I’m off to a private members club in Soho to meet a face from my past. Before I go here’s chapter 08 of the dead and buried ‘ Waterlow Park’. Dunno about you but reading it afresh I’m getting a little excited about what’s going to happen next.
Chapter 07

It’s Monday: Smitty’s following me home from school again. He’s like my shadow. A big fat shadow that never stops talking. All weekend I couldn’t stop thinking about the money. Sofia insisted that I put the bundle of banknotes back in the barbecue cupboard with the rest and after she’d hassled me about it for I ages I told her I would. But I didn’t.
I tried hiding it under my bed but I got worried that mum might look under there, even though she hardly ever cleans the house. And then I tried hiding it in the bottom of a Cluedo set that I got for Christmas. That didn’t work: there was too much money to stuff into the box.

In the end I was clever: in my room there’s an airing cupboard that contains a big copper water tank. The tank is covered in some kind of cloth insulation, like it’s wearing a big coat to keep it warm. What I did was put the money down the back of the tank stuffed into the insulation. No-one would ever think to look there. Mum and dad would have heart attacks if they knew that there was £9,950 hidden in my room. Especially as they were really broke on Sunday afternoon. We had to have egg and chips for our Sunday dinner. Dad said he had to borrow £10 from one of the idiots in the pub in order to pay for it. I felt guilty that I had all that money. I kept the change that Ali gave me and put it in my rucksack in an envelope. That means that I’m carrying £42.68p. I’ve got to be careful that I don’t spend any more.

As we approach Waterloo Park, Smitty seems to sense that something is wrong with me. I’m feeling nervous about going into the park but I’m trying to act all normal. “What’s up?” he says. “You’re looking all worried again. Every time you go near this park you look worried.”

“I’m not worried,” I lie. “It’s just that… That…”

“What?”

“Maybe we should take a different route. If we walk up Swain’s Lane we can go into the village and look at the shops.”

“Phew… That’s a long way,” says Smitty.

“Not really,” say I. “It only adds 0.4 of a mile to the journey. It’s not far.”

“Yes but it’s a really steep hill – and I haven’t got any money to spend when we get there.”

“You could do with the exercise. And I’ve got some spare change – I could buy you something.”

“Really? You’d buy me something?”. Smitty looks over at me and a little smile creeps on to his face. “Well… OK… Whatever you want…”

We walk past the gates to Waterlow Park and I can’t resist stopping and peering through. In the distance I can just about make out the patch of ground where I found the money. There’s nobody standing anywhere near it. I huge wave of relief washes over me.

“On second thoughts,” I say. “Let’s go through Waterlow Park.”

“Whatever,’ shrugs Smitty, looking confused but pleased that he no longer has to climb the hill.

Smitty’s not a bad kid, actually. I think I got him all wrong. He collects comics and supports Arsenal. It doesn’t matter that he’s such a fat blob of lard really. As we climb the hill and get closer to where I found the money I pretend to listen to whatever he’s saying about some bug that lives in Africa.

“…And you know that when it hatches it turns into a big golden looking thing that flies around and lives on blood– can you believe it?”he says.

“Is that so?” I mumble.

“And then it grows and grows and grows until it splits in two and loads and loads of baby spiders come out of it… Hey… Hold on… What’s that?”

Smitty stops talking and points at something and I realise that he’s pointing almost exactly towards the patch of ground where I found the money. The blood drains from my face – I can actually hear it draining. I stop and look. For a moment I’m convinced that Smitty has found another bag of money. Bits of whatever is lying in the grass look plasticky and black but this is different to the one I found. It has bits of white cloth hanging out of it.

Smitty grabs my arm. “Let’s go see what it is,” he says.

“No!” I pull away from him and look around frantically to see if anyone is watching us. This could be a trap – someone could have left the bag there so that they could watch who picked it up. But there is no-one in sight. The park is empty.

“Come on!” Smitty rushes towards whatever it is lying in the grass. I watch as he stands over it and bends over to touch it. Then he lets out a scream. A really loud scream.

For a few moments I stand still and then I hurry over to Smitty to see for myself what he has discovered.

At first it’s difficult to make out what it is. It’s black and white and hairy and pink and dirty. It has bits of green on it and then I notice that there’s also some red. A lot of red, actually. Smitty has stopped screaming but is kind of gulping for air like a giant puffer fish. He looks me in the eyes. His face is chalky white. “It’s a dead body!” he says in voice that has gone all quivery.

And he’s right. It is a dead body. Except it’s a dead body that looks nothing like those dead bodies that you see in cowboy films on the TV. This one is all rolled up in a sort of messy bundle. Its arms and legs are sticking out at all sorts of weird angles. And it smells horrible. I let out a gasp and feel my knees to turn to jelly. My body starts to tremble and shake and I take an involuntary step backwards. The man – it is a man – has his eyes closed in sockets that are sunken and black around the edges like meat that has gone off. He has grey stubble growing from his shrivelled chin. There is dried blood coming from his mouth. He’s wearing a black jacket, at least it looks like it used to be black because it’s covered in grass and blood and chunks of dried mud. Clutched in the man’s hand is a leather leash or perhaps a dog’s lead – it’s hard to tell. Even though the man is dead he looks like he’s in a lot of pain. His nose seems to be bashed out of shape and there are bruises all over his face. He looks like he’s been run over by a steamroller.

“How do you know it’s a dead body?” I ask breathlessly, even though I know that it is a dead body.

Smitty looks over at me. “Course it’s dead,’ he says in a voice that is almost a whisper. “He’s not moving is he…”

“Better make sure he’s not breathing,” I say.

“No way!” I’m not touching a dead body!”

And then as he says those words I find myself staring at the man’s face and I’m suddenly recognising it. But before I can speak Smitty has already beaten me to it. “Hey!” he says, louder this time. “I think it’s that bloke we saw in the park the other day!”

2

Waterlow Park – Chapter 06

  
After the shock of the death of David Bowie and life-affirming meetings with a number of people from my past it’s back to posting the defunct ‘ Waterlow Park’. Hope somebody out there is reading it.

***

Sofia is being sensible again: “It was probably the postman or somebody wanting to read the meter,” she says.

“You’ve changed your tune,” I reply. “You didn’t think it was the postman when you were wetting yourself in mum and dad’s room.”

“Shut up! I wasn’t wetting myself!”

We’re back in my room now and I’m holding the pile of money in my hands again. Neither of us can stop staring at it.

“I reckon it was somebody looking for this,” I say.

Sofia’s face drops. “Don’t be silly,” she says. “How would they know where you live?”

“I don’t know… Maybe they’ve been following me.”

“Don’t be silly!”

“I’m not being silly. It’s a lot of money. I mean a lot of money. Somebody must have missed it. Maybe they went back to the park to spy. Maybe they’ve been watching everybody who walks by.”

Sofia frowns and looks troubled. For a few moments she is deep in thought. Once again I’m reminded that she’s only little. “I’m scared,” she finally whispers. “We’ve got to tell mum and dad.”

Now I feel my heart racing. “No!” I say. “Not yet…” Although I’m not really sure why, I want to keep hold of the money. I can’t really spend it, can I? Somebody would notice. Wouldn’t they? But still I don’t want to give it back just yet.

“Well I’m going to tell,” says Sofia.

I look at Sofia and get all bossy: “You’re not going to tell,” I say. “Because if you do I’ll say it was you who told me to keep it.”

“What?”

“I will – I’ll tell them that you said we should hide the money.”

Sofia looks appalled and begins to cry. “You’re horrible,” she sobs.

I put my arm around her. “No I’m not,” I say gently, “I was just kidding.”

But I wasn’t kidding. Sometimes I can be really horrible to Sofia. I don’t know why I do it and I always feel really guilty afterwards. I try to make amends:

“Look,” I say. “Come down the shops with me and I’ll buy you a comic.”

Sofia stops crying almost immediately and looks up at me suspiciously. “What sort of comic?’ she asks, her tears drying a little.

“Anything you like…”

“Really?”

“Really.”
***
We walk to the local shop. It’s a five-minute walk. It’s run by a young Turkish man called Ali. It’s one of those shops that sells almost anything you can think of. Oranges, light bulbs, chilli powder, wine, envelopes, breakfast cereal, bread, umbrellas. It’s only a small shop but it’s got everything in it. Ali knows us quite well. We’ve been coming here since we were little babies. First of all with mum. But now we’re allowed to go on our own. Mum’s always sending me out to get milk or tea or firelighters.

“What’s up my little friends?” Ali smiles, sitting on a chair behind a big counter at the front of the shop and watching a football match on a really small fuzzy TV. The counter is covered with every type of crisp, chocolate and sweet you can imagine. On a shelf below the crisps is a selection of comics. Sofia pores over them, looking for the one with the best free gift.

“Hiya Ali,” I say. He’s a very nice man is Ali. Sometimes he gives us free lollipops.

While Sofia chooses her comic I help myself to some sweets. I get a Crunchie, three packets of crisps (Cheese and onion, ready salted, beef and mustard) and some wine gums. I put them on the counter. Sofia taps me on the arm and hands me her choice: a brightly coloured Jacqueline Wilson comic stuffed full of coloured pencils and sweets. 

Ali taps something into the till and says: “That’ll be seven pounds-thirty-two my little friends.”

I reach into my pocked and hand him a £50 note. 

And with that time seems to stand still for a brief moment and then all at once several things happen.

It’s almost as if Ali is waking from a long sleep as he takes the note and suddenly realises what I have just given him. He looks over at me and a worried sort of frown spreads over his face. As this is happening Sofia is also realising what I have just done. She immediately starts to say something but I squeeze her hand really, really hard. She hisses: ‘Ouch!’ and Ali stops looking at me and looks at her instead.

“Are you OK Sofia?” he asks.

She says: ‘Erm… Yes… Thank-you.”

Ali turns back to look at me again. “Stephen,” he says. “This is a great deal of money… Are you sure…”

“It’s his birthday,” Sofia interrupts.

“…Oh…Really… It’s your birthday?” Ali smiles a little uncertainly. “Happy birthday Steven.”

“Thanks,” say I, false-smiling.

“And how old are you?”

How old am I? For a few micro-moments my mind starts racing like a grand prix car. I try to work out what to say but I’m at a loss. If I tell Ali I’m eleven he might remember that I only turned eleven last July and get suspicious. If I tell him I’m twelve he might also remember that I only turned eleven last July and wonder why my birthday came around so quickly. I don’t know what to say.

There is an uncomfortable silence and then Sofia says: “He’s twelve.”

Ali holds the £50 note up to the light and examines it closely. “It’s not that I don’t trust you,’ he says to himself more than me, “but it’s quite unusual to get one of these in here. Especially from someone so young.”

He opens the till and puts the note inside. Then he takes out some other notes and some coins and hands them to me. “Birthday money is it?” he says.

“What?” I splutter.

“I said: birthday money. It’s a present from someone, right?”

“That’s right,” says Sofia. ‘His granddad gave it to him.”

“Lucky you,’ says Ali.

I stare over at Sofia in the way that dad stares at me in public if I do something wrong. We both know that granddad is dead.