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Heads I Win Tails You Loose
By Colin Belk
Trafford PublishingCopyright © 2014 Colin Belk
All rights reserved.
The alarm sounded loud and clear in Scott's dream. It drove him to the surface away from his world-famous expedition to Mars, back to his bedroom, and back to a school morning.
He eyed the digital display with some contempt. It read 4 a.m.
He sat up still groggy from sleep and hit the stop button, cutting the gadget's throat, the thought of sleep forgotten.
Time to get up.
Scott got out of his warm bed and pulled on a T-shirt, his Tottenham Hotspurs polar fleece, and a pair of cargo pants, scooped up his Nike's, and tiptoed out of his bedroom down the hall and through the lounge to the front door, opening it quietly.
Scott stepped out on to the fourth floor landing, slipped on his Nike's, and bent down to lace them up.
He stood and pulled the front door to the flat closed, trying not to make a sound that would wake the neighbours' little yap, yap dog, and descended into the darkness and bone-numbing cold of Wilkinson Street, South Lambeth.
When he first stepped out into pre-dawn darkness, he did what astronomers have been doing for centuries: he glanced up at the heavens, but heavy rain clouds blocked his view.
Scott gave an involuntary shiver.
'You're not a super hero now, Miller, just a frig-gen paper boy, lad.
Shivers it's cold.'
He started to run towards Horseman Stationers in South Lambeth Road, through the light pre-dawn rain, in an attempt to get warm.
He collected his newspaper sack and started walking through the narrow car-lined streets, delivering the papers to the comfortable people still tucked up in their warm beds, sleeping and dreaming happy dreams.
He made sure the papers didn't get wet.
But he made extra sure that the one he delivered to Casey's house was in the best condition of all.
She was a real beauty with her soft hazel brown hair that fell down past her shoulders and her sporting good looks.
No other girl at school came near to her beauty or brains.
He stood for a moment looking up at her window, wondering if she was dreaming and wondered what she dreamt about.
He would dream about his new supercomputer and all kinds of gadgets and machines.
Oh and about building a laboratory if he could afford the luxury of a sleep in, but it wasn't about to happen so he put that idea right out of his head and kept moving, knowing it to be the best way to keep warm and finish his paper round before dawn when people would start moving round.
Scott turned fifteen last Saturday.
He didn't know what his mother was so stressed out about.
Sure, things were a little tight with money, but he always said he would help her out, and his morning paper round was doing just that.
He just wished there was some money left over to buy things for himself like a new computer and equipment to set up a laboratory of his own rather than having to rely on the school equipment to do his own experiments.
It was always a bit dodgy trying to sneak things into the lab and perform his experiments while the class was going on.
Mr Evans had already caught him once this term and was always prowling around his desk during class, making sure he wasn't up to mischief.
Mr Evans always asked him questions to make sure he was paying attention and because he was one of the few students in his group who could always come up with an answer that made sense.
Scott was pretty good at maths, better at chemistry, and well above his grade in understanding physics.
He had the enquiring brain of the scientist, and his knowledge was well above any of his peers.
It was no use; he just couldn't use the classroom for his own ends any more.
If Casey could be in his class, she could cover for him, but Casey was a year older and was in a different class.
Scott managed to pick up some odd pieces of lab equipment at car boot sales and make repairs to them.
He went to the car boot sale every Saturday, hoping to find pieces he didn't have.
In the meantime, he scavenged any piece of equipment he could find from the rubbish people threw out on rubbish day.
Delivering the morning papers did have its advantages.
He could scavenge the bins before anyone else did looking for hose, old gas heaters, electronics, tools, and machinery that people threw away every week.
His lock-up was a treasure trove of stuff that he was working on to repair and reuse.
He had already restored a video player, a CD and DVD player, a TV, and an old computer.
But pride of place was the rocket engine he was building.
He wanted to learn to fly.
He was already studying for his pilot's license, but with money tight, he was not able to take any practical lessons out at the airfield.
Still, it didn't stop him going out to watch the planes take off and land at Heathrow airport.
Scott ran across the road and up the steps to Mr Evans's house.
He selected a newspaper and folded it to fit the slot in the front door when a shiny new BMW turned into Hartington Road too fast, making the tyres squeal out a tortured protest.
Scott quickly shoved the paper through the slot in Mr Evans's door and turned to watch the car from the shelter of his porch.
The tyres finally gripped slippery pavement, and the big sleek car shot down the narrow road like a bullet fired from a gun, the driver fighting to keep it arrow-straight.
It sped between parked cars lining both sides of the road, with just a few feet of clearance either side without crashing into any of them.
Wow, independent suspension, traction control, and smooth acceleration, Scott thought.
He took out a pencil and wrote down the registration number in his notebook and shoved it back into his pocket.
A person in the passenger seat wound down the window and threw out something small as the car flew past Mr Evans's porch.
Scott turned in time to see the first police car come around the same corner a full five seconds behind the BMW with lights flashing and siren going.
He followed its progress for a while.
The BMW was well ahead, easily pulling away from the police.
The council's road lights flickered and then turned off as the BMW passed a side road narrowly, missing another police car that had tried to cut it off.
Within ten seconds, it was all over, the lights came back on, and the road fell silent again.
Only the odd dog barked.
Not one blind opened that Scott could see by the normally nosey occupants wanting to see what all the noise was about.
He knew everyone in the road would have been woken up, and he made a mental check of what classes he had today to see if Mr Evans was teaching any of them.
He would be first period on Friday and again fifth period.
Oh no, Scott thought, he will be grumpy today after being woken this early.
Scott decided it wasn't going to be an easy day to get through with it being wet and all the school kids stuck inside plus a grumpy science teacher to put up with as well.
Scott let go a sigh, accepting it as punishment for something he must have done wrong in another life before this one, and went down Mr Evans's stairs to the wet road.
Scott spotted two canvas bags lying on the road between a parked car and a van.
He crouched down and looked at one bag: it had Barclay's Bank inked into the fabric.
It was so full it was tight.
He put it in his paper sack and picked up the other one.
It was exactly the same as the first.
He opened it and pulled out a bundle of 100-pound banknotes.
'Wow! Would you look at that.'
Scott let go a low whistle; he stuffed the money back into the bag as the road lights went out again.
It made him jumpy.
He heard it then: a car engine started down by the turn into Hartington Road, where that driver in the BMW had turned at full speed and nearly butchered it.
His nerves stood on edge, along with the hairs on the back of his neck, making him fumble the job.
He tried to quickly stuff the money into his paper sack while looking over his shoulder but dropped the money bag on to the road again instead.
It partly emptied out on to the slippery ground.
'Jinkers,' Scott whispered in a panic.
He found himself fumbling about in the darkness, grabbed up the bundles of notes, and shoved them into his sack.
Scott ducked down and watched the headlights draw slowly towards him.
At least the road lights are out, he thought only for them to turn back on again.
Well, that's a big help, Scott thought as he looked around for escape options.
The council's darn road lights flickered again, making him nervous.
The headlights stopped beside parked cars, one car back from Scott.
If he moved now, he would be seen.
The passenger window wound down, but no one got out.
Scott rolled away from the car he was hiding behind and under the back of an extra large transit van hopefully out of sight.
Not ideal, but no time to change it now.
The headlights moved forward one parked car length, gliding to a stop right beside his new hiding place.
S Type Jaguar, Scott thought.
He lay on the ground and watched the passenger door open and a big shadow of a man get out.
The road lights went out again.
Phew, Scott thought.
He saw his chance now and crawled out from under the van towards the Jaguar.
For the moment, he was shielded from view by the open passenger door and bonnet of the big car, the darkness and the van being so close.
Scott looked back, watching the shadow look around and under the parked car as the road lights came on again.
The driver got out; Scott watched his feet go towards the rear of the Jaguar.
The shadow began to turn towards him to look under the van.
Scott panicked, thinking only of escape he crawled around to the front of the Jaguar and sat between its headlights, hopefully out of view but caught now with nowhere to run.
The driver looked behind the parked car but found nothing and returned to the open driver's door of the Jaguar and stood waiting there, looking over the bonnet.
Scott sensed his closeness, thinking he might have been spotted and froze.
The shadow by now had moved along the footpath.
He came around the front of the van and stopped on the road in front of Scott and the Jaguar.
He stood looking away from him down the line of the parked cars, wondering where the sacks of money could have got to.
Yikes, Scott thought, I am dead.
'Come on it's not here.'
The shadow turned to look at the driver as the road lights went out again.
All the shadow could see was the powerful full beam of the cars' lights.
He grunted and walked back to the passenger side of the car and then stopped again right beside Scott as the road lights again turned on and a thought came to him.
'Look that door has a newspaper stuffed into it, looks like we gotta find ourselves a wee paper boy.'
He turned and looked over the bonnet of the car towards the driver, who nodded his approval and got back behind the wheel closing his door.
Shadow walked around to the passenger side and got in closing his door.
Scott dived back towards the van, hitting his head on its side blinding himself for the moment as the Jaguar leapt forward running over the edge of his coat, tore off one of his shoes, and crushed part of his bag.
Quite dazed, Scott reached for his shoe and rolled under the van as the Jaguar braked hard and Shadow got out to see what they had just run over.
He could not see anything behind the car.
The driver got out and stood waiting beside his door.
'You're spooked. It was nothing but your ego,' Shadow said.
'My ego ...? Your ego, you mean.' The driver sounded put out.
'Wait a minute, what is that over there?' The driver pointed at something behind the car. Scott looked over to where the driver was pointing and saw his flat key shining under the road lights.
He closed his eyes and just prayed. If there is a God, can you be on my side?
Shadow walked around the back of the car as the road lights flickered again and went off.
Shadow lost his patience then and turned back to the car.
'It's nothing. Come on let's go,' he growled at the driver.
Please, Scott pleaded with his eyes still shut.
He heard the car doors close and the Jaguar drive away.
Thank you, Scott rolled out from under the van, put on his damaged shoe, and picked up his key.
'That was lucky, young mister Miller. You nearly brought the farm then, lad,' he said to himself.
He jumped up from his crouched position and ran the last of his paper round, nervous of any movement lest it be the two men, and then went to his lock-up behind Granddad's house to hide the money before dropping his paper sack back to Horseman Stationers.
Tomorrow is Saturday so there will be no papers to deliver until Monday.
The weekend had finally arrived, and he was free to do what he wanted as soon as school was out.
Because it was wet, he could expect to be free by two this afternoon.
He ran home to get changed for school and have some breakfast.
In the meantime, what to do with the money?
He decided to check Saturday's paper to try and find out whom it belonged to.
Scott turned the key, entering the warm flat he shared with his solo mum.
The aroma of bacon fat and eggs cooking drifted from the kitchen.
Scott stuck his head around the door on his way to his bedroom.
'Morning, Mum, that smells good.'
'Morning, Scott, breakfast is nearly ready, love.'
'Okay, I won't be long.'
He went to wash and change for school, hoping to get to the kitchen and listen to the news on the radio while he ate breakfast.
He made it just as the BBC news came over the radio, but there was no report about the stolen money or why the police were chasing the BMW.
He decided to wait for the evening news on TV to see if that told him what was going on.
He finished the bacon and mopped up the last of the egg with a piece of toast.
He glanced at the clock on the wall; time was getting on.
'Right, I'm off now, Mum.'
'Go and brush your teeth, and don't forget to take your coat,' Jill Miller said.
'I won't forget,' Scott called out, knowing it was wet outside.
Scott is tall and skinny with messy blond hair that really was a bit long for a boy, but he didn't care.
He liked it that way, and his mother didn't mind.
His eyes appeared to be dark blue, but in the sunlight, you would swear they were more green than blue.
His hands and feet still seemed too large for him, which could only mean he still had a lot more growing to do.
His granddad had named him after his hero the Antarctic explorer Robert Falcon.
His pockets were full with all sorts of quite essential stuff: a pocket knife, a small set of screwdrivers, a pair of pliers, some wire cutters, a small set of ring and open-ended spanners, a voltmeter, some copper wire, a few coins, a notebook and pencil, a set of small Allan keys, a couple of small metal files the size of fingernail files, oh, some emery cloth sandpaper, and a small digital camera.
Scott didn't own a mobile phone like all the other kids.
He couldn't afford one.
But he didn't really have anybody he needed to call during the day to require such a luxury item so he didn't care about them.
He was more interested in getting one to pull apart to see how they worked than owning one to use.
What bothered him most of all was who owned the money?
It didn't belong to the people in the BMW. That was certain; otherwise, they would never have thrown it away.
It was stolen; there was no question about that.
But who would come looking for it?
That was the question.
Would the real owner step forward or would there be a lot of thieves after it?
Scott decided to wait until Monday to see who claimed it.
If no one did, he would take it to the police and hand it in.
He turned into Stockwell Park School gate just as the sky opened up and freezing rain started to pour down heavily, making him run the last 100 metres to the front door and enter the main school building.
The hall was nearly deserted when it would normally be full of people.
Looks like everyone is wagging school today, Scott thought.
It was Friday, raining heavily outside, and the temperature near to freezing.
He couldn't blame people for staying home today.
It seemed like a good idea if you didn't want to learn anything.
He had wagged school once.
It made him feel so guilty that he never did it again, preferring to go to school whatever happened.
Scott was right, Mr Evans was grumpy and the class had only five people: Mark, Jack, Beano, Melissa, and himself.
All the other kids had stayed home.
The rain fell heavily, making it hard to hear what Mr Evans was saying, and he wasn't in any mood to repeat himself when Scott tried to ask.
It was no use so Scott found himself watching the clock until it was 2 p.m., and the bell finally went freeing him at last.
The rain had been heavy all day, causing flooding on the roads.
Excerpted from Heads I Win Tails You Loose by Colin Belk. Copyright © 2014 Colin Belk. Excerpted by permission of Trafford Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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