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Authors: Phil Redmond

Highbridge

BOOK: Highbridge
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Contents

About the Book

About the Author

Title Page

Dedication

Prologue

Chapter 1: Coming Home

Chapter 2: Catch-Up

Chapter 3: First Contact

Chapter 4: Certainty

Chapter 5: Changed Scenario

Chapter 6: Build-Up

Chapter 7: Follow-Up

Chapter 8: Let's Chat

Chapter 9: Go Or No Go

Chapter 10: Consequences

Chapter 11: Resolution

Acknowledgements

Copyright

About the Book

The dramatic novel from the writer and creator of
Brookside, Hollyoaks
and
Grange Hill
.

Three years ago, Janey Nolan was murdered in the centre of town.

Today, no one knows who did it.

Sick of waiting for the powers that be to rid the streets and school gates of dealers, druggies and parasites, Janey's brothers want to avenge her death. While Sean decides to explore the routes and corridors of political power, Joey chooses more direct action in and among the alleys and pathways of the neighbourhood itself.

But can the brothers find Janey's killer without bringing more danger to their town?

THIS IS JUST THE BEGINNING.

THIS IS HIGHBRIDGE.

About the Author

Phil Redmond is best known for creating three of Britain's longest-running drama series
Grange Hill, Brookside
and
Hollyoaks
. Redmond came up with the concept for
Grange Hill
in 1978 and has written extensively for TV, radio and stage, running independent company Mersey Television for 20 years until 2005. A fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and made a CBE in 2004, Redmond was appointed Deputy Chair and Creative Director of Liverpool's time as European Capital of Culture in 2008. Since then he has worked pro bono in the public sector, being influential in getting David Cameron to launch the ill-fated Big Society in Liverpool.

Highbridge
Phil Redmond

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To those who know how long this took and
helped it along its way – especially Mrs. R who
has had to cope with rediscovering what it's
like to have a writer in residence.

Prologue

Like most people, Janey knew she was going to die. But like everyone else she just didn't know when. She never imagined nor expected it to be outside the Co-op.

Like a lot of people she was simply looking forward to a great Friday night out with her sister-in-law and gang of mates, so had stopped at the cash machine. She had just got back to her car and was fumbling for her keys when she felt the shove that sent her one way and her bag and keys the other.

Lying sprawled on the ground she saw the indicators flash, heard the doors unlock, and realised she was being mugged. As the engine started she pushed herself up and leaned over the front of the bonnet holding her hands out, instinctively, perhaps in the vague hope that whoever it was would stop before running her down. But when her eyes locked with the wild, dilated ones peering over the nodding Buddha she kept on the dashboard, she knew there was no hope.

The Peugeot 207's low-profiled front end did what it was designed to do and scooped her up to prevent her being run down. Before the car swerved right to throw her off – where she smashed her skull against the car park wall. This in itself might have been fatal, but the carjacker couldn't know this.

But those wild eyes had seen hers. And her eyes had seen the face that contained them. That was why the car stopped. Then reversed. At speed. To run her over.

Then, just in case, the car jumped forward and crushed any remaining life out of Janey. Then, again, to make sure, reversed. Then leapt forward over what was now nothing more than a lifeless shape. To escape. Swinging out into the High Street and off into the night.

The withdrawal receipt from the cash machine fluttered and blew in the backdraught, coming to rest against the lamppost that illuminated the place where Janey had died. The latest random casualty of the so-called war on drugs.

The receipt was for £45. It was all she had had. Just enough for a night out. Or a night's supply.

Janey never knew her killer. Neither did Buddha. Three years on, nor did anyone else.

1
Coming Home

THE TROUBLE WITH
living in a mediocre town is that you end up having to support a mediocre football team. Something might happen every forty years when, somehow, they get to something like the semi-final of a cup competition. Everyone gets excited. Mayors make fatuous speeches about it being an historic day. Then 95 per cent of the fans are disappointed because the ground is too small to hold them all. Then they get whacked and everybody goes back to sleep for another forty years. But at least they tried. Typically British tosh.

Well, it used to be like that until Sky Sports came along. Now you can see Arsenal and Chelsea shirts in every High Street. And even Man U in cities like Newcastle and Liverpool. At one time that would have been like wearing a suicide vest. These days, it's just kids following the telly, isn't it?

It was one of Joey Nolan's recurring themes as he drifted in and out of consciousness, during his weekly journey home. Back to Highbridge. Where once was a rural village with rural villagers with rural mentalities is now a sprawling urbanised place on a map. A collective of urban dwellers. With urban dwellers' mentalities. Home is where the Internet is.

The town owed a lot to its inn, the Lion, still at its centre but once a famed stopover for its game pies. Then the canal came by and after that the railways, which took the pies the length and breadth of Britain and then the four corners of the Empire. In Rawalpindi and Christchurch they knew of Highbridge pies. And in return people came to see for themselves. This tiny village that supplied the Empire with pies. And so the street market that sold the pies grew. To become a thing in itself.

Joey grinned when he recalled this bit of history. How where he lived was because someone, at some time, made a great pie. But everything has to start with one idea, he mused, just as the train crossed the motorway. The latest transport revolution, with the strings of pearls and rubies of commuter traffic stretching into the distance. No time for buying pies or napping in that lot, he thought, starting to stir himself as he knew it was now only a few minutes to where the Romans once paused, as did the Saxons, long before it had become the site for a new town, complete with its own industrial estate built not on any entrepreneurial instinct, like that of the piemakers, but from a post-Second World War recovery plan and managed economy.

Out went rationing and dried bananas and in came nylons and the transistor. Gone was rural deference and knowing one's place, replaced by the promise of a welfare state and the white heat of technology where people never had it so good. Or so everyone thought.

For a decade or two they made white goods, nuclear components and secretive parts for the military. But with old technology. And an increasingly expensive as well as increasingly unwilling workforce. The signs of decline were there but nobody wanted to look. Nylons and fresh veg were gradually squeezed out of the market by tights, bin bags and previously owned DVDs. The pies of Empire are still sold in the supermarket where the cattle market used to be, but now they come in artificial atmosphere packaging, delivered by tailored Euro-lorries from the factory in Kent which is owned by a secretive family from Wisconsin who promised to protect jobs but never said which or where.

The factories were razed. Industrial estates became business or retail parks and every now and then money arrived from various European social funds to build inappropriate leisure facilities in inappropriate places. Rural idyll replaced by political ideal. But there are only so many discount three-piece suites you can buy and only so many hours at the health club when either you don't have a job or spend all your time commuting, thought Joey, watching the metal lattice of the railway bridge glide past the window as the train slowed on its approach to Highbridge Station.

He once asked his dad why it was called Highbridge and was told it was because it was higher than the old road bridge. For years he believed this, until Sister Maria had pointed out that it had been called that in the Domesday Book, long before Robert Stephenson and his dad George gave railways to the world. Amazing what you take off your dad when you're a kid.

Joey stood and stretched his aching six-foot frame, then reached up for his holdall. It wasn't there. What the—? He looked up and down the carriage but half were asleep and the others a thousand miles away, tethered to the Internet or their iPods. Then he saw it. The luminous logo. Passing the window.

He grabbed his coat and went up the carriage in the same direction, hitting the platform just in time to see his oversized sports bag heading up the stairs, across the bridge, over the track and towards the station exit. With the weary commuters and weekenders congealing on the stairs and the train still blocking the route across the tracks, Joey decided to go under them. Over the fence into the overflow car park, down the slope and through the underpass.

As Joey turned into the underpass, a couple of miles away, on the hill overlooking Highbridge, his lifelong friend and brother-in-law, Luke Carlton, was pressing his weather-worn face against the buffer, looking down the scope of a Barrett M82A1 suppressed sniper rifle. ‘Where'd Billy get this?' he asked.

‘Where'd you think? He's just got back home.'

‘God Bless America. God Bless al-Qaeda,' whispered Luke, as he turned the ring on the Leupold scope to bring the fat target in the chippy into sharp focus. Nearly a mile away. One squeeze. No frying tonight.

Just under a mile from Luke, on the other side of the hill, Joey's brother Sean was coddling his suntanned face in thick Egyptian cotton as he emerged from his waterfall shower. As always, Sean took too long in the shower for the environmentalists but he reckoned he'd already put in a life's worth of sacrifice as a child, when he, his brother and sister were allowed just one bath a week and then only after the immersion heater had been on for twenty-five minutes. No more. No less. Regardless of time of year, regardless of the water temperature. Now he enjoyed the luxury, probably indulgence, of having constant hot water, his conscience salved by the fact that the water came from a water butt, was heated by solar, used less than a bath and was more fun for two to share.

That would be part of the theme of his speech tonight. Another after-dinner. He'd talk of those memories. The clichéd tales of waking up to iced-up toilets and curtains frozen to the windows. But as he always said, clichés were only clichés because they were truisms. Like, how do you break the chain that stretches from childhood poverty to adult crime?

Yes, he'd give the tale another outing tonight. How he and his siblings had started in deprivation but by their own endeavours were now doing relatively well. How their friends all took different routes but only a few followed a criminal path, and even then often through circumstance rather than choice. And now, how he is wealthy enough to have constant hot water and a body dryer, despite the angst around global warming competing with that instilled by the Christian Brothers, and how the Venerable Bede, the patron saint of writers, taught him to fight for the things you think are important. The things you cherish. Like your life. On the number 10 bus. A memory that took him to where he didn't want to be. Remembering what had happened to his sister.

It was that same early education in survival that drove Joey, as he came out of the underpass and vaulted the fence into the car park opposite the station exit. He came up behind a parked Audi Q7 and, as he passed, tapped on the window and dropped his shoulder bag on the bonnet, nearly causing his wife Natasha to spill her cappuccino into her lap, but then watch, first puzzled, then with rising alarm as she saw her husband slip into that all too familiar purposeful swagger. Even under the bulk of the CAT insulated twill jacket that masked his fit but slender body shape, she could see him stiffen. Shoulders back, arms at his side, fists clenching and unclenching. Then she saw the spin of his hand. She started up and waited. For trouble. For someone.

BOOK: Highbridge
3.07Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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