Read Borstal Slags Online

Authors: Tom Graham

Borstal Slags

Borstal Slags

Table of Contents



‘What is it, Tyler?’

‘You’re going to kill us, Guv.’

DCI Gene Hunt was driving as if the devil himself were after them. He floored the pedal, sending the Cortina shrieking through the Manchester evening like a rocket. DI Sam Tyler gripped the dashboard, as Hunt flung the car so recklessly round a bend that its offside wheels lifted off the tarmac. It dropped back heavily onto its suspension, the under-chassis scraping the road and sending out a sudden flare of sparks.

‘I might kill me motor’s springs, Sammy boy, but you and me is safe as houses,’ Gene growled. ‘It’s time you stopped worrying, Tyler, and learnt to trust the Gene Genie.’

The Guv’nor jammed a fag into his gob, taking both hands off the wheel to light it up. He emitted a long, thick, stinking plume of smoke into Sam’s face.

‘Don’t you go worrying your pretty little head, Tyler, I’ll get us there in one piece.’

‘But you’re driving like a maniac, Guv. I don’t know what you’re rushing for.’

‘There’s nowt the matter with rushing. I
rushing. Now shut your cake-hole and look out the window like a good little soldier. Watch the world go by.’

The world was indeed going by, and at a terrifying lick. Sam watched the shopfronts whipping past outside, the names rich with memories of his own childhood: Woolworth’s, Our Price records, Wavy Line. Bathed in the low, golden glow of the setting sun, the last of the evening’s shoppers headed up and down the high street. Sam glimpsed a young mother, no older than twenty, in a bright-red plastic raincoat pushing twins in a buggy. A stooped old woman waited patiently at a zebra crossing, her lined, toothless face peering out from beneath a fake fur hat that looked like a giant powder puff. Hurrying past her went a mustachioed man with collar-length hair and thick sideburns, his beige trousers hugging his crotch so tightly that nothing was left to the imagination.

This is my world now,
Sam thought to himself, watching a kid in a Donny Osmond T-shirt slurping on a rainbow-coloured lolly shaped like a rocket ship.
This is my world, and these are my people – for better or for worse.

These streets, these shoppers, even the orange glare of the setting sun, all seemed much realer to him than the world he had left behind. Two thousand and six was beginning to recede in his mind – or perhaps he was just less and less inclined to think about it. With effort, he could still recall his workstation at CID with its Posturepedic office chair, its PC terminal, its energy efficient desk lamp, its neatly coiled charging cables for his mobile and BlackBerry. But such memories seemed cold and dead to him. He felt no nostalgia for the world of touch screens and instant messaging – though maybe, from time to time, his thumbs hankered for the feel of a gaming console, his taste buds for the savour of sushi, his lungs for the comfort of a smoke-free pub.

The Cortina roared ahead, its headlights blazing through the thickening gloom of evening. With a squeal of rubber, Gene narrowly avoided rear-ending a dawdling middle-aged woman in a VW. The Cortina mounted the pavement, ripped past the VW, and bounced recklessly back onto the road.

‘Dopey mare in a shitty Kraut shoe box!’ Hunt bellowed. ‘Why the hell do they let birds behind the wheel, Tyler? It ain’t natural. You might as well dish out licenses to chimpanzees.’

Sam tried to keep his mind off of his guv’nor’s heart-stopping driving and turned inward instead. He thought back to how he had come to be in here in 1973 in the first place. His expulsion from 2006 had not been voluntary, nor had it been without pain. And it had all happened so fast! He could recall himself – twenty-first century DCI Tyler – pulling up by the side of the road as David Bowie played on the dashboard MP3. He could remember opening the car door and stepping out, in need of air and a moment to collect his thoughts. And then, out of the blue, came the sudden, agonizing impact of a vehicle slamming into him, the rush of air as he was hurled across the road, the bone-shattering crunch as his body smashed back down. Lying there, broken, his mind numb, he had lost all sense of space and time.

Gradually, thought had crept back into his scrambled mind. Sensation had returned to his fingers, his hand, his arm; breath returned to his lungs – and then, with a gasp, he had suddenly got to his feet and found that he was most definitely not in Kansas any more, but somewhere far, far away, well and truly over the rainbow. He was in a strange and alien world called 1973.

And, having worked so hard to escape from that world, Sam had discovered that in reality it was the one place he felt he most belonged. Unlike in 2006, here he felt

But I’m
he thought to himself.
In 2006, I’m
. I jumped from a roof. I died. Which makes me – what? A ghost? A lost soul? Is this heaven? Or hell? Or something in between? Or …?

He shook his head to clear it, refusing to submit to these overwhelming speculations. He wasn’t a philosopher: he was just a copper. He couldn’t answer these huge questions of ultimate reality; all he knew was that he was here, in 1973, and that it felt good. He had a job, a purpose – and he had Annie. WDC Annie Cartwright was the bright beacon at the heart of his world, the one thing more than any other that had drawn him back to this time when he’d had his chance to escape for ever. Being with her, he felt more alive than he had ever done – and that was good enough for Sam.

‘Here we are, Sammo. And you say I never take you anywhere classy.’

The Cortina was nosing its way through the front gates of Kersey’s Scrap Yard. On all sides stood mountains of mangled metal, cast in the raking, golden light of the sunset.

‘This place is an Aladdin’s cave!’ said Gene, glancing about at the heaps of wreckage. ‘Alfa Romeos. A couple of Audis stacked up over there. A tasty little Datsun just rustin’ away.’

‘Not just motors, Guv.’

Sam indicated at a mound of bulky washing machines piled carelessly amid the dead motors.

‘Who the hell chucks away deluxe twin-tubs?’ Gene tutted, shaking his head in disbelief. ‘They’ve got to be worth the best part of a hundred nicker apiece.’

Passing through this mountainous landscape of scrap, Sam spied a pair of mint-coloured Austin 1300s parked up ahead.

‘Patrol cars,’ he said. ‘Looks like uniform’s beaten us to it.’

Gene slewed the Cortina to a needlessly dramatic halt alongside the two Austins, showering them with dust. He flung open the door and strode manfully out, Sam following close behind. Together, they passed a parked lorry with a big open back for transporting junk. Lodged on the dashboard of the cab was a custom-made licence plate bearing the lorry’s name:

Just across from the truck stood the crusher itself, a looming contraption of battered metal and massive pistons, standing still and silent with its half-digested load of ovens just visible, crunched within it. Several uniformed officers had climbed up and were trying to peer inside.

‘Don’t tamper with anything!’ Sam called to them, flourishing his ID. ‘If there really is a body inside that thing then this is a
crime scene
, gentlemen.’

‘Crime scene? It’s a ruddy mess, is what it is,’ one of the PCs called back, clambering down from the crusher. ‘You can see tufts of hair and what looks like a bit of a hand.’

‘Sounds like the missus,’ said Gene. He glanced across at a man in filthy overalls standing anxiously nearby. ‘Are you Kersey? DCI Hunt. Tell me what happened.’

‘Shook me right up,’ Kersey stammered. His hands were still shaking. ‘Never seen the like, not in nigh on twenty year.’

‘Take your time, Mr Kersey,’ said Sam.

Kersey took a breath. ‘We got all this junk delivered in. Old ovens from Friar’s Brook. They’re knocking down the kitchens and boiler rooms over there and shipping ’em to us as scrap. The lads had just finished unloading the ovens from
, and I was starting to munch ’em up before
arrives with a stack of pipes and fridges—’

’s the name of your other lorry, I take it?’ enquired Sam.

‘No, it’s his mother, she’s built like an ox,’ Gene put in, sourly. Then, to Kersey: ‘Keep talking. You were just starting to munch up the junk …’

‘I’d just started, when I see all this red stuff running out.’

Sam nodded thoughtfully: ‘So, Mr Kersey, you saw what you thought was blood coming out and you switched off the crusher straightaway?’


‘Did you touch anything? Move anything? Poke around inside?’

‘Did I ’eck as like! I don’t wanna see what’s in there! I just shut her down and called the law, sharpish.’

‘Good man, you did the right thing. All of your co-workers are accounted for?’ Kersey nodded. ‘And you don’t have a pet dog or anything roaming about the place?’

‘There’s cats and foxes and God knows what all hanging about the yard, sure,’ Kersey said. ‘But I never had ’em go in the crusher before. They got more sense, specially them foxes. It’s a fella in there, you mark my words.’

‘And you have no idea who it might be?’

‘Nope. Or how he got in there. Or why.’

‘Right, then!’ Gene declared suddenly. ‘Let’s get that crusher opened up so we can have a look. You boys, stop monkeying about up there and get your arses off that thing.’ The constables began scrambling back down to the ground. ‘Kersey, throw the lever and open her up.’

‘I – I’m not sure I want to,’ stammered Kersey. His face was ashen.

‘It wasn’t a request, Kersey, it was a polite but firm instruction.’

Kersey froze. He’d seen more than enough blood for one day.

‘Think of it like opening a present on Christmas morning,’ said Gene, not very helpfully. ‘A great big lovely present full of mushed up body parts. That’s what I’m getting
, Tyler.’

Kersey looked to Sam for help.

‘Show me what to do,’ Sam told him. ‘You don’t have to watch.’

‘Turn it on with the key,’ Kersey said. ‘Then release that handle, slowly.’

Even as he spoke, Kersey was backing away, his face turning from white to green.

‘Everybody stand clear,’ Sam announced. ‘You all ready? On the count of three.’

‘It’s not Apollo 12, Tyler,’ grumbled Gene. ‘Just get on with it, you big fanny.’

Sam turned the starter key. The crusher’s mighty pistons rattled and roared into life. Black smoke belched from the motors. He glanced around, just to ensure no one was getting too close – and at that moment a sudden flash of reflected light caught his eye.
’s sister truck was pulling up, just beyond the parked Cortina and the patrol cars; like its counterpart, it too had a custom-made licence plate propped up against the windscreen, which bore the name

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