After a couple of run-ins with my parents and Stevie’s and then the business with Chloe, Tyrone is taking it easy, keeping a low profile. Whenever he sees us he just fixes us with a stare and mutters threats but he doesn’t actually do anything. Even when we get pretty close – like the opposite side of the street – he just skips a stone in our direction and laughs.
‘I don’t give a shit about your parents,’ he shouts, and maybe it’s true. But he’s wary. He saves an especially malevolent look for Stevie.
During this period of relative safety Wayne has his big idea.
‘Let’s follow him and see what he’s up to.’
It kind of fits in with the game we’re playing. We’re an invincible trio, right, a private detective, a soldier of the SAS and a super hero. What can go wrong? It’s a change from football and hide and seek, a perfect game with a lot of real and imaginary danger to spice it up for a trio of nine-year-old kids.
We make a list of imaginary crimes Tyrone’s committed and we settle on one. He’s kidnapped Tina and he’s holding her to ransom.
‘If her dad doesn’t pay up, she’s dead,’ Wayne says.
Stevie’s against the game. He remembers when Tyrone kidnapped Chloe and he doesn’t even want to imagine Tina in danger like that. I think maybe his parents talked to him, explained what Tyrone was doing. He’s a lot more grown up than me and Wayne and his parents probably thought he could handle something nearer the truth. My parents just talk about Tyrone “being unkind.” That’s some fucking euphemism but I don’t know that at the time. I guess I’m just naïve.
‘He’ll not hurt her,’ Wayne says. He’s dead set on playing the hero. ‘We won’t let him.’
‘Can’t he be planning to rob the post office – sawn-off shotguns and everything?’
Wayne won’t budge. In the end, Stevie submits gracefully. He reckons a rescue will call for his super hero skills but Wayne doesn’t like that. If anyone is going to rescue Tina, it’s going to be him. If she’s going to fall into anyone’s arms, it’s going to be his. I use my detective skills to figure out where she’s being held. I decide she’s been taken to the old warehouse on the edge of the estate. It’s empty and deserted. We play there sometimes but not too much because it’s where the older kids hang out and they don’t like us around.
Anyway, we follow Tyrone a few times just for practice and he doesn’t see us. Then one day he meets a few of his gang and heads to the warehouse. They open the secret entrance they made by kicking through part of the wall and covering it with corrugated iron. When they’ve crawled inside, Wayne leads the way and we sneak in and hide behind some old, empty crates. The warehouse is just a huge, empty space with the rusted corpses of long-dead machinery. There’s an iron stair leading to a balcony round the first floor where there used to be offices.
From our hiding place we can spy on Tyrone and his gang who’ve gathered against the wall across the far side. They’re breaking open cans and smoking and laughing. Occasionally one of them picks up a stone and flings it through an office window on the first floor. There aren’t many unbroken panes left and now there are less as the glass shatters and cascades onto the iron steps.
‘Let’s get closer,’ Wayne whispers, ‘find where they’ve hidden Tina.’
Before we have a chance to stop him he slips from cover and runs silently across the floor to the safety of some dismantled, steel scaffolding. He crouches down and gestures to us to follow. The warehouse is pretty dark and Stevie doesn’t want to be outdone – well, which superhero would let himself be beaten by a mere soldier – so he slips from cover and runs across to where Wayne is waiting. I follow less willingly.
That’s as good as it gets.
Half way across, I stumble and dislodge a piece of metal and it echoes round that empty warehouse like the whole place is about to collapse. Suddenly Tyrone and his mates are on their feet and they’re looking round and we haven’t a hope of escaping notice.
Wayne reacts first.
‘Leg it!’ He shouts, and he’s off like a whippet towards the exit. Me and Stevie aren’t far behind but those few yards make all the difference and by the time we reach the corrugated iron and dive through it, Tyrone is right on our heels.
I tell you, I’ve never seen anyone move as fast as Wayne. To watch him you’d think his legs were motorised. They’re a blur when he really gets going and he’s really going now. He’s half way across the open ground outside the warehouse and before we’ve got ten yards he’s ducked between the railings and disappeared. He was bred to run – from the police, from neighbours, from his mother and especially from Tyrone. You’d think his life depended on that turn of speed. Maybe it did.
We’re not so quick and not so lucky. Tyrone and his mates are older and faster and quickly surround us and we’re in trouble and we know it. Tyrone might be scared of our parents, he might even be scared they’ll call the police, but he’s more scared to look weak in front of his gang. Stevie sees the situation is hopeless but he gives it one more go and lashes out at Tyrone, catching him full on the nose. We both look with incredulity as blood trickles, but a nine-year-old fist can’t do real damage. What hurts most is that his mates laugh. Tyrone loses it, not for the first time, and when we eventually limp home we’re bleeding and bruised and shocked and crying.
Our parents react predictably, the police arrive at Wayne’s door, Tyrone and his mates are arrested, the social workers descend again and Tyrone has us marked for further punishment. He’s really got it in for us this time and he makes it clear he’s got plans for us – and for Stevie in particular.
When we next see Wayne, he’s carrying enough bruises to fill a suitcase and he winces when you touch him. I guess he’s covering other injuries he doesn’t want anyone to know about. But it doesn’t stop that grin spreading across his face, like our adventure was the best thing since Jaffa Cakes.
It’s around that time that I learn a new word – irrepressible.
Irrepressible - that’s Wayne.
Anyway, a few weeks go by and we don’t see Tyrone and we think it’s all blown over. Our wounds heal and everything goes back to what passes for normal.
We should’ve known better.