Baby Teeth (Part 2)
‘I don’t believe it.’
As Noel turned the corner, walked back underneath the overhang of the Avion centre, past the graffiti, into the quad, he spotted the boy.
The same fucking boy.
Lurking, right by the doorway to the shop, just as two days ago.
It was like the worst case of deja vu he could conceive.
The first thought that occurred was to spin round on the spot and head to another grocer’s instead, to save the aggravation. Then the image of the excrement on the doormat surfaced once more, as it had several times over the past forty two hours or so, and his blood began to rise, stirring the anger gland.
He dropped the hood of the duffel.
Undid the top couple of buttons.
Not sure why.
Trying to look tougher, perhaps, but it was hard to look intimidating in a coat with wooden buttons.
Past the benches now, again deserted, the young man was no more than five metres away, and still did not appear to have noticed Noel’s approach.
‘Should I just punch him out?’ he thought, picturing the moment mentally, savouring it, noting how satisfying it would be, yet aware how criminal, too.
No way could he do that.
‘Just march past, then, pretend like nothing happened?’
Confrontation avoided, he could walk away with pride intact, knowing he was the better human being. Despite the youngster’s age, the act of posting dog shit had him labelled as scum in Noel’s mind, and little was likely to change that.
Two metres and the boy turned his way.
‘Get us some fags?’ he asked.
‘Does he not even recognise me?’ Noel thought, surprised, the boy’s reaction one that he had not even considered.
‘Don’t need a pack,’ the child continued. ‘Just a couple of singles.’
For two seconds, Noel held his nerve, attempting to pass the boy in resolute silence but, when the hand came up once more and touched his chest again to try to persuade him to make the purchase, he lost control.
‘No, I won’t buy you any fags, you little shit,’ he snapped, only just resisting the urge to smack him right in the mouth, as well.
‘Alright, man, alright.’ The younger one held his hands up in surrender, taking a pace or two back, just as he had two days ago, again sizing Noel up.
Then came the recognition.
‘Heh, I know you, don’t I?’ the blond child said, delight in his voice now.
‘You’re the paedo, ain’tcha?’
‘I am not a paedo.’
‘Yeah, that’s right, you’re the paedo. You’re the one that asks kids to suck your cock for money.’
‘Shut your fucking mouth,’ Noel hissed angrily.
‘And what if I don’t? You gonna stick your dick in it?’
‘Listen, you,’ Noel began, stepping forward, not quite sure what he was going to do, all options removed when something struck him on the side of the head and, dazed, it took him a second or two to realise it had been the boy before him.
But he got no further, another blow landing, this one square on the chin, turning his legs briefly to jelly so that, fleetingly, he felt sure he was going down.
‘Stop it,’ he tried to say, though the words came out slurred, as if he had been drinking so early in the morning, but the boy paid him no attention, landing another blow, straight to the temple and, though the fists were small, the impact felt huge and Noel swayed where he stood, unable to believe what was actually happening.
He was getting the shit kicked out of him by an infant.
Worse still he knew that, should another punch land successfully, he would certainly tumble to the ground.
A wave of nausea swept over him, momentarily closing his airway so that he gagged as if he had swallowed something repellent, simply adding to the humiliation that coursed through him but when three, four, five seconds passed and no further strike landed, he blinked his eyes clear of swimming white dots and looked about.
Of the boy, there was no sign.
Just rounding the corner at the end of the quad, beneath the overhang.
Noel shook his head from side to side, clearing the last residual side effects of the assault, and touched his face tenderly.
But what to do?
Wander into the shop, buy the milk that had been his intention and carry on his day as if nothing unusual had occurred?
If he chose that option, he knew, he could never return to the shopping centre again, for fear of future encounters.
Go into the shop and ask for eye witnesses, in order to contact the police?
Here, too, there were issues. Would they really take his complaint seriously? He was at least fifteen years the boy’s senior. Could he really confess to an officer that he had been beaten up by a child?
It did not appeal.
‘Follow him,’ he thought suddenly. ‘Find out where he lives. Speak to his parents.’
Mind made up, he moved quickly, in the same direction from which he had arrived and where the boy had made good his escape from the scene. Almost sprinting, he slowed his pace as he rounded the corner, moving swiftly underneath the sheltered area. Out from beneath the overhang, onto the pavement proper, Noel looked left, right, left, thinking for a moment that he had lost his quarry but, no, there, some thirty metres away, the boy was walking down the opposite side of the street, away from the Avion Centre, no sense of urgency apparent in his flight, and that only served to infuriate Noel further.
The audacity of it.
Noel crossed the road as soon as it was safe to do so, half running, half walking, making up the ground between himself and the boy, anxious lest he turn off suddenly and be forever lost, but the boy seemed almost to be dawdling so that, within a few seconds, Noel had to slow his pace, hang back, not wishing to alert the other to his presence.
Now, the boy did turn off, up a side street, away from the main road. Reaching the corner Noel peered around, all too aware of the suspicious nature of his actions, especially in the same area as being branded a ;’paedo’ just two short days ago, but he was determined to see it through, no matter how it looked.
There, ten feet away, the boy stopped and, briefly, Noel thought he was about to turn around, having sensed he was under observation but, instead, the child simply turned and crossed the road, heading straight for one of the terraced houses opposite, not pausing to knock on the door which was level with the footpath, no garden or driveway as protective buffer from the public at large, instead he simply turned the door handle and walked straight in, closing the door behind him.
Noel stayed where he was, breathing deeply, contemplating his next move.
The door was clearly unlocked, which presumably meant somebody else was home. At nine thirty in the morning, usually parents would be at work but, perhaps, one of them did not work, or had a holiday booked.
A hundred reasons tumbled through his head, along with a hundred reasons simply to give up on this quest and head for home and forget all about the youngster.
A quick investigation of his face put pay to that idea as, now, some swelling could be detected and, doubtless, in a day or two, his head would be ripe with bruising.
‘Get on with it,’ he chided himself, and moved, heading straight for the house, not stopping for a moment before knocking, fearful that, if he gave himself any time to think, he would surely bail.
The door swung open.
The blond boy blinked out at him.
‘What you doing ‘ere?’
‘Could I speak to one of your parents, please?’ Noel asked with a calmness he did not truly feel.
‘Why do you think?’ Noel said, before repeating his request.
‘`Fyawant,’ the boy said with a shrug, turning from the doorway, heading back into the house. When Noel did not move, remaining on the threshold, the boy turned to him, looked at him as if he were stupid.
‘Watchya’ waitin’ for? Christmas? Come in.’
Tentative, troubled by the apparent ease with which he had gained entry, Noel stepped through the door, pushing it shut behind him. The boy had vanished into the room at the end of the hallway – living room or kitchen, Noel assumed. To his left, the stairs, two steps in plain view before turning at a right angle and disappearing to the top floor. Opposite the stairwell, another room, door closed.
Noel crept along the corridor, the breath caught in his chest, feeling for all the world like a trespasser, despite the fact that he had been invited in. As he passed the stairs, the boy reappeared in the doorway at the end of the corridor and looked at Noel, a strange expression smeared across his features.
‘You shouldn’t have come here.’
Noel was about to speak, to explain that he had no choice under the circumstances, when movement behind and to the right caught him off guard and, before he knew what was happening, powerful hands grabbed him around the skull, so large that they encircled his entire head, partially blinding him. The unseen assailant pushed him forward, snapping his neck forward with great force, so Noel had no alternative but to move forward, two steps, three, four, then he was in the room at the end of the corridor. From behind, his legs were kicked from beneath him, two blows to the rear of the knees taking care of that simply enough then, a new sensation, as something was placed into the small of his back, a knee presumably. The hands around his head began to squeeze, the force incredible, almost intolerable, and his head was slowly yanked backward at the same time so that, along with the pressure on his spine, he was compelled to bend backwards so that he was gazing straight up into the air.
From above, a man’s face loomed into view.
‘Wha-wha-wha,’ Noel stuttered, his neck pulled back so harshly it felt as is he were being strangled.
The man smiled at him, opening a mouth to reveal not teeth, but fangs, two rows of them, razor sharp.
‘Did I do good?’ Noel heard the youngster say.
‘You’ve done well son. Of course, we’ll have to move on again once we’ve eaten.’
‘I know. It’s not a problem’
One of the hands around his skull was released, but still the pressure applied pinned Noel in place so that he could only look on as the man lifted the free arm into the air, a claw-hammer clenched in his fist and, with tears now stinging his eyes, Noel awaited the death blow, surprised when the boy interjected, sparing him.
Noel tried to speak again, to thank the boy, to beg for his life if necessary, but no words would form.
The father frowned, disappointment etched across his features.
‘We must eat, son. It is our way.’
‘No, it’s not that it’s just…..don’t kill him Daddy. He’ll taste better fresh.’
The father smiled, revealing the fangs once more, elongating in anticipation.
Noel felt the boy’s head nuzzle up against his neck.
Felt the blond hair tickling at his cheek and chin.
Smelt the vague chemical tint of recently washed hair.
Felt warm lips press against his skin.
Then felt no more.