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?”
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”
“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… Doesn’t this mean that you… That you…”
“That I what?”
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.
“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**
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.