It was a forced march to some secret place.
“Oh, Mr Flowers is going to look forward to seeing you. It seems that you broke your promise to him and that can’t be good. I think, and this is just a conservative guess, that he will take a long time exacting his revenge. I think that you will think, and wish, that you’d never been born. But that’s just me thinking and nobody has ever taken much notice of that.”
Chris was thinking that this was a veritable monologue for such a brute. Whatever was affecting them was obviously bestowing more power both physically and mentally. They were no longer a rag-tag army of truants and racketeers, now they were behaving as if they were in a real force. The fact that this one had a gun, or something that looked like one, did not bode well.
“You’re probably a first, you know,” Chris shot out.
“What do you mean?”
“You’re probably the first person in your entire family that is able to string a few sentences together, and for them to make some kind of sense. You father would be proud of you; if you had one.”
His captor stopped and pushed Chris to the wall.
“You’d better learn to shut that trap of yours before it gets you into trouble.”
“Dah, dah! You may not have realised, but I am in trouble so what I said still stands, you bastard.”
The pistol was pulled from his assailant’s pocket and rammed underneath Chris’s chin. He had played his final card and was winning. If he could make the ginger kid do something stupid on the playground, he might be able to raise the alarm. He’d probably be dead, but it would work.
“Don’t get so close you fat git. You stink and I’d rather not take that to my grave with me.”
The fury was building in the other boy and it was translating itself into a trigger hand that was shaking. Chris’s goading had worked.
“I’m not going to let anyone else have the pleasure of doing this,” the ginger kid said and he roughly pulled Chris away from the wall and down the side of the building.
It led to a rough patch of ground that rose steadily up a small incline before falling away. Once at the top of the mound, Chris was tripped and pushed so that he fell into the dip. His arm screamed out in agony, but he swallowed the pain. He was not going to let this attacker have the satisfaction of that. Once he’d stopped rolling, he turned to face his would-be executioner.
“Any last wishes? Would you like me to tell your mother anything when we find her?”
The gun was being pointed and Chris thought that this was right. He had been a traitor to his own family and had sold his soul for the chance of spending one last day with his father. He thought of his mother and his brothers. Now, he was going the same way as his father and that was good. He deserved it.
With a smile on his face, the other boy pulled back the safety. Mr Flowers had made them do this over and over again during the last few weeks – just to be sure. He liked the feel of the gun in his hand; it was as if it was meant to be. The thing in front of him was unrecognisable from the one that had beaten him in the fight at the beginning of the year. Was it that the Andrews kid had changed so much or had he? It didn’t matter. Soon many would die this way. Unlike this one they would be begging for their lives. Some would be spared and they would be allowed to join the crusade, but many would be left to feed the carrion.
“Nothing to say? Oh, and by the way, I’ve got a silencer on this so that nobody will hear me. Bye…”
But before he could properly finish, a huge force hit him plumb in the back.
The wind rushed from his lungs and stars into his field of vision. He was falling forward in the same manner that the Andrews kid had done and when he landed, he could only turn to see what was probably a foot moving at speed towards his face. The force of it spun him round and blood instantly shot out of his nose. The accompanying crack told him that bones had been broken. Nevertheless, he still attempted to get to his feet before a series of well aimed punches knocked whatever senses he had into a temporary oblivion. He would, at some later stage, wish that it had been permanent.
Michael looked down at his work and was pleased.
His brother was safe and the one who would have murdered him was now unconscious. Next to the inert body was the gun that Michael knelt to retrieve. He picked it up and studied it with a certain detachment. He checked its weight in both hands and looked along the sights. His eyes were blank as he pushed the gun into the temple of the one who was prone.
“Michael, what are you doing? Michael, don’t do it.”
But Michael was someplace else now.
He was in a clearing in a forest and it was winter. At the side of the road were the remains of people. Men, women and children had been herded here to be shot in the skull. There were even babies amongst them. Michael had heard the shooting from the woods and had known what to expect. He had moved quickly and silently towards the place and had come upon this.
His spirit shrieked out in anguish. And then he saw the soldier.
In truth, he was but a boy around the same age as himself, but he was wearing the garbs of the Waffen-SS. His comrades had marched on and had left him to search the corpses for valuables. They were moving fast, taking villages by surprise and they were not taking prisoners. The boy soldier never knew what hit him as the butt of Michaels’s rifle smashed into the side of his head. He lay there in the snow recovering his senses. Blood was streaming along the side of his face and into the snow where it froze almost instantly. His eyes were able to focus on the figure in front of him and his first thought was that this was an angel, a dark avenging angel who had come to punish his misdeeds.
“Don’t kill me,” pleaded the surprisingly childlike voice. “Don’t kill me. I have a mother and family. I am sorry, but I just search the bodies. I do not kill. Please forgive me.”
“It is not my forgiveness that you should ask for, it is theirs,” Michael said pointing at the frozen corpses. “Is there any god that could forgive this? I should shoot you now and save God the trouble.”
The child soldier was losing control and he cried out his pleas though stutters and tears.
“If you kill me, you will be as bad as they are. You will be a killer too.”
Michael thought about this and knew it to be true.
“You will run from this place and you will hide. If ever I see you again wearing that aberration, I will kill you and take you back to Hell myself. Do you understand?”
The boy nodded and attempted to clasp the feet that had spared him. Michael felt revulsion and moved away.
“Michael,” his brother’s voice was calling from somewhere beyond the woods, “don’t do it!”
Michael took the cold metal away from the temple of his brother’s attacker.
“That was close,” he uttered.
Chris nodded and tried to smile. He couldn’t quite pull it off.
Before making their way back into the school, they bound and gagged the ginger boy.
This time, they had the feeling that this act of kindness would come back to haunt them.