Billy cycles like mad through the dark underpass, the large wheels of his bike spraying up water as he slices through puddles. Behind him, he can hear raised voices. A moment later, two kids speed into the tunnel entrance, whooping and yelling. Billy glances over his shoulder and feels a silent scream rise within his throat. They are gaining steadily on him, their legs pumping the pedals energetically. Billy looks in front of him and can see the tunnel exit drawing steadily closer. He pushes onwards, desperate to make it out of the tight confines of the tunnel walls and into the bright, afternoon sunlight. A sudden concern floods his mind. He peers behind him a second time. The two older boys shout out to him, the one in front ringing his bicycle bell playfully. Billy starts to panic. Where is Alistair? The ringleader of the gang. As if in answer to his question, a shadow appears in the tunnel exit, blocking out some of the intruding sunlight. One of Billy’s tires skids over a slippery patch of ice on the ground and he loses control of the bike. Alistair’s laughter echoes through the dark tunnel, as Billy crashes to the floor and cries out in pain. The next thing Billy knows, he has been hoisted off his feet and pinned against the wall.
‘Let go off me.’ Billy protests and flails and twists under the tight grip of Alistair’s cronies.
‘Keep him still.’ Alistair commands and produces a flick-knife from his leather jacket.
Billy’s eyes widen and a small whimper escapes his lips. The older boys cackle devilishly, seeing the poor creature struggle desperately.
‘Teach him a lesson A.’ One of the bullies sneers.
Alistair mimes wet shaving his 5 ‘o’clock shadow and then moves in close to Bill, his flick knife pushing gently into the tender skin beneath Billy’s left eye. A small trickle of blood trickles down the blade as it pierces Billy’s cheek.
‘Hey.’ A voice calls, making them look round.
A bearded tramp staggers down the tunnel towards them, a skinny greyhound padding along beside him.
‘Get lost old man.’ Alistair says stubbornly, stepping back from Billy and waving his knife around.
‘You don’t scare me you little shit.’ The tramp hisses through yellow stained teeth.
Spittle flies from the tramp’s mouth and lands on Alistair’s brand new Docs.
The bully pinning down Billy slackens his grip, momentarily stunned by the old tramp’s stubbornness. Billy seizes his window of opportunity and knees Alistair hard in the groin. Alistair crumples to the floor, clutching his crotch and letting out a howl. Billy slips out of the bullies grip and darts towards the tunnel exit. The old tramp croaks with laughter and one of the bullies covers his nose with a hand, overwhelmed by the tramp’s pungent aroma. Billy darts hastily down the tunnel, longing for freedom. His cheek is hot and throbs dully, as shooting pains run up and down his right leg from where he fell.
‘Deal with the damn hobo.’ Alistair gasps, pulling himself to his feet with the aid of the tunnel wall.
His face is bright red, his temple veins bulging and his eyes burn fiercely. His two cronies glance at one another, slightly worried by their ringleader’s demonic expression. Alistair scoops up the flick knife and hobbles towards the tunnel exit. The skeletal greyhound growls and bares it teeth, as the two bullies turn to face the old tramp.
Billy jogs down a chocolate brick footpath that runs alongside a wide, fast flowing river. It is a frosty morning and the surrounding landscape is covered in a thin sheet of treacherous ice. Billy had emerged from the doomed tunnel in a fluster and made quick progress up the hill and onto the river path. Bad weather conditions had intervened however and he was forced to slow down in order to not loose his footing on the slippery cobbles underfoot. He felt a tad guilty for leaving the poor tramp alone in the tunnel to fend for himself but it was too late now. If he turned around now he would be met with the snarling form of Alistair limping after him, one hand still clutched to his groin. A droplet of blood splashes onto Billy’s shoe and he touches his cheek tentatively. Pulling his hand away, he is surprised at the amount of blood from such a small nip.
‘I’m gonna kill you, you little brat.’ Alistair roars from behind.
Billy panics and speeds up. Bad idea. His foot gives way on a patch of hidden, black ice and Billy’s arms shoot out as he scrambles to remain upright. Luckily he manages to stay on his feet but presses on at a slower rate, more cautious about his footing. A few seconds later, Billy hears a loud yelp and he stops and turns around. Alistair, blinded by fury had attempted to gain on Billy by speeding up. Unfortunately due to his ignorance, he had stormed straight over the same spot of black ice and lost his footing. Billy watches on, mouth agape as Alistair skids towards the edge of the path and slides underneath the gap in the railings. He scrambles frantically at the path and railing but to avail. They are too icy and slip from his grip. There is a loud splash as Alistair disappears beneath the water. Billy moves carefully to the railing and peers over into the dark waters. For a few seconds the waters are still and Billy fears the worse. Then all of a sudden Alistair’s head appears. He claws at the air around him but the current is too strong and pulls him along like a rag doll. He catches sight of Billy and cries out for help. His call is cut off halfway through, as he smacks into a large rock. He rolls over on to his front and lays still. Billy stares at the rushing waters with a horrified expression. The sound of approaching footsteps makes him glance round and to his surprise, he recognizes the old tramp with his dog. As the two pass the tramp flashes him a toothless grin. Billy looks back at the water and feels his mouth curve into a slight smile.
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