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.
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…”
“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!”