Time To Shine - Another Excerpt From My New Psycological Mystery

Posted at 15:40pm on 15th November 2014

Josh was still in his pjs, lying on his bed playing some computer game or other on his cell phone when Carl went to tell him the good news.  The boy seemed strangely lethargic.  Hardly surprising, Carl supposed, given the state of the room - a stinking fug of yesterday's dirty clothes and magazines spread across every surface.  But thankfully, no evidence of a cannabis aroma.  Still, time Julia did her stuff and ventured in here with the vacuum cleaner and a bottle of disinfectant, he thought.

The silent reproof was quickly followed by an image of the regimented precision of his own adolescent bedroom.  No one with a modicum of normality would wish that upon a son.  He wiped the memory from his mind; replaced it with a more acceptable impression.  Josh was simply a twenty-first century teenager.  The possibility of his being on drugs didn't bear thinking about, nor was it worth raising it at this point.  To Carl's way of thinking, it was essential that he earn positive pal points with his son before delving any further.

'You okay, mate?' he asked, standing at the door and feeling, to his surprise, somewhat stiff and uncomfortable.

Memories of his own childhood flooded, again, into his mind, like icy waters swirling, stirring, sweeping his present-day comfort out of reach.  He slammed the door on them.

'Thought we might have some chum time together this morning; take your bike to a scramble.  What d'you think?'

Thumbs still twitching, Josh lifted his gaze, briefly, from the screen in his hands.

'Okay.'

'Have to get a move on, mate.  There's an off-road skills academy starting at noon.  Thought you might like to take part.'

Again to his surprise, Josh suddenly threw down his tablet and scrambled out of bed.

'Thanks, Dad.  You're ace.'

With Josh's bike stowed in the back of the four-by-four, Carl drove down the A38, veered off to pass through Dartington Arts & Craft centre and the ancient town of Totnes, and arrived at the off-road centre, once a farm, in plenty of time for the skills academy.

It was a not a cheap event.  Taking out his Mastercard, Carl passed comment, a jovial reference to his expectations of impoverishment by the time he'd raised two sons and a daughter.  The cost, explained the instructor, took into account that the academy was conducted on the centre's own bikes, with riding kit and safety equipment provided to ensure the highest standards.

'And at the end, your son will have a certificate to say he's completed the course, and a photograph to prove it.'

Initially disappointed that he would not be riding his own bike, Josh soon came round when he was escorted to the locker room, entering into the spirit of the thing and taking his place among the other young people, despite some of them being kids of primary school age.

Watching his son perform in the indoor arena set in the heart of the South Hams, Carl glanced round at the other families present and felt a surge of pride.  Here, among the affluent second-home owners down from London and the Home Counties for the weekend, he could hold his own.  This was his territory!

When Josh's session was over, Carl took him to the coffee bar for a Coke.  Seating himself opposite his son in the converted barn, he grinned across the table.

'Enjoy that?'

'It was great Dad!'  Josh's face was flushed with pleasure.  'Thanks.  Can we come again?'

'Course we can.  Once you get the hang of it, you'll be able to get outside.  I was looking at the aerial shots.'  He indicated a series of framed photographs on the wall.  'There's an MX track all round the lanes and through the fields.  Imagine that.  Might even be tempted to join you.'

Josh grinned.  'Nath's gonna be green when he hears.'

Carl glanced down at his Americano.

'He's not the only one, I don't suppose.  What's this I hear about you having a fight at school?'

When he looked up, Josh's face was scarlet.

'She told you!' he shouted.  'Mum.  I flaming well told her not to.'

Carl felt, rather than saw, heads turn at his son's raised voice.

'She had to tell me, Josh,' he said, evenly.  'I'm your dad.  She may not have understood - mums don't, on the whole.  But you can tell me.  What's it all about?  Some girl jilted you?  Not worth it.  There'll be plenty more in the offing in my experience.'

Josh gyrated the large tetra-cup before him, watching the dark, swirling liquid within.

'It wasn't - it wasn't a girl, Dad.'

'Then what was it?  You're not in trouble with -  It's nothing - illegal, is it?  Please tell me you haven't got involved with -'

'Oh, for heck's sake!  It wasn't me, Dad.  It was you.'

Josh's hand jerked, sloshing some of the Coke onto the table.  He attempted to wipe it with his fingers, succeeding only in spreading the puddle across the table.

Carl picked up a paper napkin from the drinks' tray and wiped it clean.

'Me?'  he said, tight-lipped.  'How come it's always me, Josh, whenever things go wrong?'

'It was you, Dad.'  The look Josh gave was full of fury.  'At least - that's what Mike said.'

'Mike Hammond?  The butcher's son?  So what could he possibly have to say that would make you beat the living daylights out of him?'

'I didn't believe him.  Of course I didn't.  That's why I hit him.  To shut him up.'

'So what did he say?' Carl persisted; and as he heard the words fall from his mouth, the great yawning truth of the matter opened up in his belly.

The pain on Josh's face was all-too evident.  For a moment he looked as though he would remain silent.  Then, like a broken mains water pipe that could no longer be contained, he burst forth.

'He said - he said you owed his dad thousands.  That you never paid your flaming bills.  That he wasn't the only one you owed.  That you were too busy spending your money on that slut you work with.'

Speechless, Carl glugged down the remainder of his coffee.  And as the scalding liquid hit his stomach and nausea rose in his gullet, he wished he hadn't.

READ PAGE ONE HERE

This sort of scenario - and worse - is reality for many children.  The profit from every copy of this book that you buy is for charities tackling these problems, and the ebola crisis.  For further info see Cumcaritas Books.  Do leave a comment below.  As the author of this mystery, solved by a marriage mender, which leads to a Mary Berry style Bake Off, I'd love to hear what you think of what you've read.

 

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