An Extract From A Song For Bill Robinson

Release day is fast approaching! I am just putting the final touches to everything and double checking everything is okay before I set up the Amazon pre-order link. I hope to have that done in the next few days.

But to keep you entertained, I hope you enjoy this sample chapter from the novel!

12

Bill was lying to both Pete and Summer when he said he knew what he was going to sing on Saturday. He didn’t know, and it was driving him insane. It wasn’t as easy as people imagined. He couldn’t just get up there and sing what he wanted to sing. There was so much more to it than that. There was the audience for one thing. They came expecting entertainment. They didn’t want to be subjected to anything too new, too obscure or too noisy. More than anything, he knew they wanted something to sing along to.

He spent the rest of the week trying to figure it out. He didn’t want to get on the stage and sing karaoke songs like all the others. He wanted to sing. He wanted to perform.

Last time he had been showing off. He’d picked a song from the machine a week in advance, probably the hardest one on there. It was never about emulating the original version. He just listened to the lyrics and thought about what they meant to him. He’d spent hours like that, lying on his bed with the music in his ears and his eyes closed.

He’d mouthed it in silence to begin with, getting to grips with the feel of the words in his mouth. Bill smiled about it now, as he paced his room, picking up records and putting them down again, running through his playlists again and again, thumbing through Spotify and YouTube. What did he want to sing? What did he want to say?

Dog Days Are Over, by Florence and The Machine. He’d picked it because it was shouty and loud. Because he could lose himself in it. Because he liked the words and he thought about Summer when he sang it, and he didn’t even know why, except you had to think about something, someone?

But now? What now?

That had been before. Dog Days Are Over. He’d felt like that…like he could forget about his mother and the horrible aching betrayal of it all, and he could sing anyway. He didn’t sound like her. He didn’t sing or move like her either. He could just be himself and still blow their minds. He could walk around this cesspit with his head held high.

This was after. Now he had to pick a song knowing that the entire estate knew a gang of masked youths had kicked the shit out of him. He had to pick a song after that? And sing it in front of all of them? Including McDonnal? No, it wasn’t easy.

Bill thought about drink warming his belly, fingers of comfort snaking through his veins, bringing him up tall, and what would he sing when he felt like that? Something old and warm and comfortable. He could sing one of his mum’s favourite songs. His voice smooth and silky yet strong and growling when he needed it to be. Something by The Foundations or The Four Tops. The audience would like that. Everyone knew those old soul songs.

He could sing something new he was getting into, but he didn’t know how that would go down. He was into some dark stuff lately which wouldnโ€™t suit the community centre atmosphere. People went there for a good time, or for some company, some support. They went there for hope. He couldn’t take that away from them for the sake of showing off.

Then there was his bloody dad.

They’d always clashed, Bill thought, as he opened the window and felt the cold night air on his cheeks. People said they were too similar; short tempered and impatient, but Bill didn’t buy that. They were nothing alike. He liked to be left alone, whereas Andy craved company. Bill liked to keep his thoughts to himself, but his father liked the sound of his own voice too much. Like now. Bill could hear him downstairs, his voice rising and falling, laughter, punctuated by angry exclamations. He could have been arguing with someone or shouting at the TV or just talking to himself. He could never be still or silent.

His dad was one of those short, angry men, he mused, gazing out of the half open window. He had a chip on his shoulder and a point to prove. He was so annoying most of the time, so over the top, especially lately with all the overprotective crap. He was embarrassing.

But those bastards had made him cry.

Bill didn’t think he would ever forget it. His father leaning over him, touching his hair with tears on his cheeks. It was the first time he had considered what his dad had been through. Until that moment Bill had only viewed the attack through his own eyes. He had not stopped to think about how his father must have felt that night.

And it pissed him off.

Maybe blood was thicker than water after all. Maybe he owed him a good night. He leaned out of the window, pushing it further open. A stroll in the dark was what he needed. A chance to think about it. Something would come to him then. The Clash, maybe. The Buzzcocks. His dad loved all that stuff. A grin pulled at his lips as he pictured himself getting up on the stage to sing something by The Sex Pistols. Then there was Tom Waits. Andy had always been a fan.

Something pulled at his mind then. Guitar intro. Low and dark and thrumming, giving the suggestion that something was about to happen. The drums building up with the guitars. And then when it kicked in it was gentler and sadder than expected. He could have jumped up and down in excitement when it finally came to him. He recalled the first verse, something about flirting with death and not caring about it. And it all fell into place, the rest of the words, and the music that spiralled between the two short choruses. It would be blinding. It was exactly what he wanted to say.

He decided to sneak out anyway. He could find it on his phone and wander around having a quiet sing. Bill turned at the exact second the brick came flying towards his head. He felt it spin past his cheekbone and ducked away instinctively covering his head with his arms. It rolled across the bedroom floor and sat there ominously. He rushed to the window, leaned out and looked around.

‘That all you got?’ he roared without thinking. ‘Come on then!’

He regretted his outburst when his father came pounding up the stairs and into his room. Perhaps Bill could have made up an excuse, if Andy had not stubbed his toe on the brick lying in the middle of the carpet.

‘What the bleeding-hell?’

Bill pulled the window shut and whipped the curtains together. He faced his father and watched him pick up the brick and turn it over in his hands. He held it out to Bill, his eyes bright and accusing.

‘This just come through the window?’ Bill paused, and his father reddened. ‘Eh? Did it?’

‘Looks like it, doesn’t it?’ he responded sulkily, pushing past him.

Andy rushed to the window where he yanked back the curtains and stared out. ‘Just like that?’

‘Yes!’

‘Right, that’s it then,’ Andy stormed from the room, taking the brick with him. ‘I’m calling Collins over.’

Bill followed him from the room. ‘Oh, for God’s sake, what’s the point? I didn’t see anyone!’

Andy stopped and faced him on the stairs. ‘That’s all I ever bloody hear from you! I didn’t see anything, I didn’t see anyone! What are you, bloody blind?โ€™

Andy trotted down the rest of the stairs and picked up the phone. He pointed the brick at his son. ‘I’m not sitting here and taking that!’ he told him. ‘This is our home!’

Bill made a noise of disgust and walked through to the kitchen. ‘Go on then!’ he yelled back over his shoulder. ‘You’re wasting your time!’

Bill stalked around the kitchen, shaking his head and feeling penned in. Minutes later his father stormed into the kitchen and stood in the doorway, hands on hips, legs spread.

‘He’s coming over. You’re gonna sit in here and talk to him.’

Bill threw up his hands. ‘About what?’

‘About everything!’ Andy growled in return. ‘Now, I’m not bloody stupid, Billy-boy. I wasn’t born yesterday! I know there’s something you’re not telling me about all of this. Why is someone targeting you?’

Bill slumped into a chair, folded his arms and shook his head. ‘How do you even know the same person threw the brick? Probably just kids mucking about. You’re gonna look a right dick when Collins turns up!’

‘You’re gonna look like a dick when whatever you’re hiding catches up with you!’

‘What?’

‘I’m not stupid,’ Andy warned him again, his breathing finally slowing down. ‘You’re seriously expecting me to believe you was just minding your own business one night, and a whole gang decided to target you? No. There’s more, and I know it. Sit there! And don’t even think about moving a muscle until Collins gets here!’

Andy spun around and marched back into the lounge, where Bill heard him collapse onto the sofa and swear at the dog. Bill rested his elbows on the table and dropped his head into his hands. Suddenly Saturday night seemed a very long way off. He exhaled frustration through his fingers, then dropped his hands and sat back in the chair. A brief glance at the door, considering escape, but Andy must have been a mind reader too.

‘Don’t even think about it, Billy-boy,’ his voice came from the other room. ‘I’m a lot faster than you right now!’

PC Collins knocked on the door twenty minutes later. He came through to the kitchen, his hat in his hands and his cheeks flushed red from the cold night air.

‘Thanks Andy,’ Bill heard him saying, before he glanced at Bill, and then gestured to a chair. ‘Mind if I sit here?’

Bill sighed, slumping forward again. ‘Look, he’s totally wasting your time. It was just a stupid brick! Could have been anyone!’

Collins flipped open his notebook and started writing. ‘Well,’ he said, sounding weary. ‘The thing is, you might be right, but we have to consider whatโ€™s already gone on, don’t we? Now obviously in the eyes of the law, a brick is not much to go on and no damage was done, but we can’t help connect the dots to other things, eh?’

Bill breathed out and in again, willing his frustration to lay low. ‘Connecting dots is just useless though,’ he tried to point out. ‘That won’t stand up in a court of law, will it?’

‘No, course not, but that’s not the point right now.’

‘What is then?’

‘The point is keeping an eye on the situation,’ Collins explained calmly. ‘Making sure things don’t escalate. Your father did the right thing calling me, and he also did the right thing when he called us about the video. Sometimes lots of small parts add up to the whole, you see?’

Bill shook his head and glowered. ‘Not really.’

Collins laughed softly. ‘Well, you will. Okay, so you were in your room? At the window? The window was open?’

‘Yes,’ he growled. ‘Then I turned away and the brick came through. And no, I didn’t see or hear anything or anyone.’

‘Okay,’ sighed Collins. ‘And you’ve not had any altercations with anyone in the last few days?’

Bill thought briefly about punching Logan in the community centre. ‘No.’

‘Okay-‘

‘Look, can I ask you something?’

Collins lowered his notebook. ‘Of course.’

Bill scratched his head, then pushed his hair back from his face and bit his lip. ‘Just saying…I mean, if I thought I knew who attacked me, but I couldn’t prove it? That still wouldn’t help me, would it?’

Collins closed the notebook, folded his hands on the table top and looked at Bill very seriously. ‘If you have any idea who attacked you, Bill, you need to tell me now.’

‘But what I’m saying is, it won’t help, will it? I can’t prove anything.’

‘Well, let’s say you thought you had an idea, it would depend on why. So, let’s say, hypothetically speaking that you did have an idea? Why that person?’

Bill shrugged. ‘Instinct.’

Collins nodded. ‘Nothing else? No recognition? Of shape or form or voice? Stature?’

Bill shook his head. ‘Nothing obvious. Nothing that can be proven in court. That’s what I’m getting at. You need actual proof, don’t you?’

Collins nodded slowly. ‘Yes, you do. But imagine if I had a name? Then depending on who that might be, and what their reputation and record showed up, I might be able to get a warrant to search their home. You see? I might be able to question them, and you know, sometimes that’s all you need, because they don’t have an alibi for that night, or they’ve got some incriminating evidence in their home.’

Bill smiled softly. ‘No one would be that stupid.’

‘You’d be surprised, Bill.’

Bill shook his head. If there had been any evidence, it would have been destroyed that night. And the gang would provide alibis for each other.

‘There were four of them, you say,’ Collins said to him then. Bill nodded. ‘A chain is only as strong as its weakest link.’

‘What does that mean?’

‘It means not all of those four will be as strong as the others. Someone will crack.’

‘They might,’ Bill corrected him. ‘That’s what I’m saying. Might and maybe are no good for me, are they? You can’t promise me anything.’

‘I can protect you.’

Bill laughed out loud. ‘No, you can’t. No one can do that for anyone. Can I ask you something else?’

Collins slipped his notebook into the breast pocket of his uniform. ‘Go for it.’

‘Has there been any progress on the Lewis Matthews murder?’

‘Well, I’m not obviously meant to discuss that case with anyone.’

‘I’m not just anyone. It might affect me. Have they got any idea who it was? Or why?’

Why is the biggest problem,’ Collins sighed, getting up from the chair. ‘Lewis was a nice kid. Worked hard at school and kept himself to himself.’

‘So, why’d someone stab him then?’

Collins shrugged. ‘The only angle we’ve got to go on is his father’s colourful background, but that’s about all I can say about it to you right now, okay?’

Bill nodded, knowing the officer had already said more than he was supposed to. It was enough anyway, he reasoned. Enough for Summer.

4 thoughts on “An Extract From A Song For Bill Robinson

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