Will they even bother? Fans of the series will not be disappointed by this acerbic, funny and surprising story from prolific author, William Stafford. Callum Phillips hung back. The others, Logger, Dogger and Bonk, were already squeezing through the gap in the railings. Years of use had created a space, a distortion in the otherwise vertical plane. It was a bit like those pictures, Callum thought, the ones I can never see. Fucking pussy. Logger scowled. There was no arguing with that. He was king of the nerds. Not that his I.
But soon. There was too much at stake. I can get a bus around the corner. Logger sneered. Typical, said that sneer. And who owned the house they lived in and had a car each and went on skiing holidays instead of having Christmas at home in Dedley like normal people.
Come on, Cal, Dogger urged. It was a matter of pride to him. He had got into the habit of walking the bespectacled boffin to his bus stop. Callum shrugged. An apology. Logger insisted. He followed Dogger through the gap. Get a move on! Logger snapped. Look at him. Specky twat. He gave the specky twat a shove in the small of his back. Callum answered for himself. I told my mum I was meeting some school chums and she asked where, and so I said at the school. She made me put on a clean shirt.
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You said what? You told your mom you was coming here?
This was the most incredible revelation. I told you this was a fucking mistake, said Logger. The three hooded youths frogmarched Callum away from the fence and across the playing field. Callum cringed at every step, concerned about the mud caking his best school shoes but he deemed it prudent not to let his discomfort show on his face.
Not that they were paying him much attention. Dogger would cast an occasional glance over his shoulder while Logger and Bonk brought up the rear. They arrived at a row of bushes that ran along another, much shorter fence, the dividing line between the school field and the municipal car park beyond. Here we are, Dogger announced, coming to a halt. Callum looked around.
Ahead, the yellow sodium glare of the car park lighting revealed an empty lot; behind, only the security lights of the school buildings. The school overlooked the field from an embankment.
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It loomed dark against the evening sky - like a haunted house on a cliff, thought Callum. The boys had skirted the farthest edge of the field in order not to trigger the full blare of the lights and be frozen in brightness like cartoon characters escaping from prison. Watch what? Despite his misgivings, he was keen to impress the uncouth youths; Dogger was the closest thing Callum had to a friend.
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Yeah, said Bonk. He took a step closer to Callum, who took a step back, only to have a branch of a bush poke him in the blazer. All right! He took out his smartphone and handed it to Dogger, who whistled in appreciation. Just wait here, said Dogger. And crouch down a bit in case you can be seen from the car park.
Callum nodded. Within seconds, Callum felt totally alone. He stamped his feet, dreading to think of the state of his shoes, and squatted. He wobbled and feared his trousers might come into contact with the mud.
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He stood up again, making the concession of hunching his shoulders and bending forward from the waist. I should cut across the car park and double back to the bus stop. Those three would kill me. Well, Logger certainly would. Detective Inspector David Brough was depressed. He looped the tape measure around his naked waist again and checked it a second time.
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There was no error. All his adult life, he had been a snake-hipped twenty-eight. Last year, it had crept up to thirty and now, all of a sudden, another couple of inches had been added to his bulk.
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Fat, fat bastard. He glowered at his reflection on the wardrobe door. He turned sideways - oh, God! That looked worse! At my time of life, he reflected - oh, God! The sobering article had marred his appreciation of the photographs of shirtless hunks with oiled and groomed torsos. Manscaping, they called it. Oscar was into all of that. An incoming video call. Brough let out a yelp and threw on his dressing gown.
He jumped onto the bed and opened the device. Other people all over the world recognised that handsome face from cinema screens, billboards, gossip magazines, and the sides of buses, but to David Brough it was the face of his boyfriend, his largely absentee boyfriend. It was still unfathomably surreal. A Hollywood superstar hooked up with a detective in dreary old Dedley of all places. They had met a couple of years back when Oscar Buzz had come to town to film a big-screen adaptation of some dreadful and defunct soap opera.
Since then, the work had been non-stop. It turns out being out in the movie business was no bar to employment after all. The gossip rags were queasy about his sexuality and so they left Brough alone. Which suits me, Brough considered. Um, actually, Brough wrapped his dressing gown tighter. Be a nice change. Know what else is pretty tight? He put a finger in his mouth to wet it. Oscar glanced away. There was knocking at his trailer door. Which is tomorrow morning for you, I guess.