And Just Like That…Everything Changed

I don’t know about you, but I am experiencing such a mixture of emotions right now that it’s genuinely overwhelming. I’ve got fear and anxiety dipping and rising. I’ve got humour coming and going. I’ve got excitement about the challenges ahead and the thought that maybe, just maybe, this situation will somehow bring some good and make us change the way that we live. I’ve got determination and a kind of let’s just get on with it atttitude popping up from time to time. Sometimes I want to laugh and sometimes I want to cry. I am so grateful for so many things and at the same time unable to really absorb all this, let alone plan. The uncertainty is definitely the most stressful element of it all.

For me, the answer lies in writing. Always. Ever since I was a kid I have written to help me make sense of the world around me and the emotions I am feeling. I don’t often really know what I think or feel until I write it down. So, here I am, soaking up the latest news that UK schools are to close indefinitely this Friday due to the Corona virus outbreak.

A few weeks ago I barely gave the virus a second thought. I think a lot of us ignored it. It was like all the other things we were supposed to be afraid of right? SARS and Bird Flu, Swine Flue, Ebola and Zika virus to name but a few. The biggest things worrying me were climate change and the turmoil that would possibly arise from Brexit.

It was something happening in another country to other people, and that attitude shames me now. Because now we realise, don’t we? How bad things can happen to us too. To any of us, anywhere, at any time. We realise now how scarily fragile everything truly is.

Last week, as the virus started to dominate the news, as other countries started to go into lockdown, it still did not feel real. Until I went into my local Home Bargains and could not buy loo roll. I had enough at home but was mildly surprised and amused to view the stark, empty shelves. I wrote about it on Facebook and I think most people were feeling the same. Well, isn’t that a bit annoying and strange?

A few days after that I went to Tesco late at night, figuring that was the best way to get what we needed. My husband works in a frozen foods supermarket and he was reporting empty shelves and panic buying there. That night at Tesco I started to realise how strange everything had become. The shop was busier than it should have been at 10.45pm. There was no loo roll, no medicines, no soap or handwash, no pasta or rice, barely any tins or packets. I still got most of what we needed so I wasn’t too worried, but it did start to sink in. This is not going away. This is just going to get worse. We are heading towards lockdown, school closures and job losses. Oh shit.

Still, Monday morning rolled around as usual. No change there. School run and work. Busy, busy. No sign that anything was going to change too much in our day to day lives. That day I did make the decision to stop my fortnightly adult writing group until further notice. It’s my least frequent group and I make the least money doing it. Enought people had said they wouldn’t be able to come due to the situation, so I decided to pull the plug. I thought that would be it. But by Tuesday afternoon I had recevied an email from one of the schools I run an after-school writing club at informing me that all after-school clubs were cancelled until further notice. My other school followed suit and I then found out the museum I hold two writing groups at was closing, so those had to be cancelled too.

I wouldn’t say I panicked exactly, but I started to stress about the financial side of it all. Would I have to refund people for the sessions they had paid in advance for and so on. The more I thought about it, the more sad I felt. I’ve spent so long building up this little business and it’s really only been in the last year that things have started to take off for me and make some real money. However, I didn’t feel too sorry for myself for long. I started to think about all the time I would now have to read, write, learn to play the guitar and garden.

And then today, the news we had all been expecting. All schools, colleges, nurseries and so on are to close doors this Friday until further notice. I’m not exactly stressed about it. I am actually quite looking forward to spending more time with my children and I am determined that my 5 year old, in particular, sticks to the same school day he is used to. I am determined that he will have fun. It’s going to be a challenge for us all, but the schools have been absolutely amazing, with the constant updates and reassurances and I am sure they will be sending lots of resources our way. So now I won’t exactly have much free time, but it’s okay. We have a new challenge to adjust to and humans are nothing if not adaptable. We also have a remarkable ability to look on the bright side and make light of things. I think we will see alot of that.

I am of course anxious about food and medicine supplies. I stocked up on our asthma inhalers and hayfever meds this week, just in case. Paractemol is like bloody gold dust now! But we are in a luckier position than some. As long as he does not fall ill, my husband’s supermarket job should be secure. He is utterly exhausted though. They are run off their feet and dealing with very abusive customers at times. We live in a semi-rural location, with only one neighbour. We have a large enough house and a very large garden. I am extremely grateful for my hens and ducks who are all laying very well at the moment and I am putting the extra effort into the vegetable garden. I fully intend to put the kids to work out there too most days, as I feel like now more than ever they need to learn these skills, in case anything like this happens again.

It could be worse. We are lucky. The government is talking about help for the self-employed and for renters, so there is hope there too. I am going to be sending out weekly writing prompts to the children who normally attend my clubs and I am going to post daily ones on my business page for the writing company. I hope to figure out how to put online classes/workshops together at some point, but I am now rather stretched for time with the home schooling to get my head around.

My main worry is my 74 year old mother who has a heart condition. Her operation has been cancelled and she is in the vulnerable group. She doesn’t seem to see it that way though and so far has not been too good at isolating herself. This worries me greatly and I have tried very hard to impress the importance of it on her.

Anyway, the way I see it now, our job is to stay calm, stay positive, stay kind. Help each other whenever and however we can and be there for our loved ones. Keep busy, keep active, embrace the arts more than ever, and in my case, write my way through it. If you see more blog posts than normal (I’ve been quiet lately on the blogging front due to the business of life) it’s just my way of working through it and making sense of it. I can’t recommend writing strongly enough for easing stress and anxiety.

My main thought right now is how fragile everything is. How quickly things can change. How suddenly the ground can fall away from under you. It should give us all pause to think, especially if we have ever looked down on those less fortunate than us. Now we are all in a vulnerable position. It doesn’t matter how rich or poor you are, what colour your skin, or how much power you have. This is affecting us all. Because truly, we are all one, we are all connected. It’s just that we have forgotten that and lost sight of it. Maybe there are some lessons to be learned in all of this. That’s also the best we can do, I think. Learn from it. Admit where we might have been wrong. Aspire to change.

That’s all I’ve got to say on it for now, but I think I will be back regularly with my thoughts on this and with news on how my drastically changed life is going! Wish me luck with the home schooling, that’s all I can say!

Stay safe folks. Look after each other xx

My 2020 Goals

It’s become a tradition for me to write down my writing goals for the year ahead and then at the end of that year, to compare the goals to the reality. Last week I examined the writing goals I set myself at the start of 2019 to see how well I had done. You can read the results here;https://chantelleatkins.com/2019/12/20/my-2019-writing-goals-vs-the-reality/

So, this is my post for 2020 setting out what I hope to achieve. You might notice the word ‘writing’ is missing from the title, and that is because this time, my goals are not all writing or work related. Other things are just as important, sometimes more so. My list is a little different this time around because my life is a little different and because I feel a lot different. I have blogged about the perimenopause and how it’s affecting me here and I am sure I will blog about it again, as it’s dominating my life so much at the moment. I’m not going to go into it too much now but I will say that my goals this year are different because of it.

  1. Achieve a successful, well-stocked, functional vegetable garden! Okay, might sound strange, but this is linked to my current state of mind. Being outside, doing dirty, outdoorsy things in the fresh air, especially things that have a positive impact are very, very good for me right now. The best thing I can do when I feel down is get outside. I’ve had a vegetable patch since we moved here ten years ago. Over the years it had got bigger and better and some years I have been very successful with daily harvests in the summer months and it has been great. The last few years have been a lot less productive for various reasons, but this year it’s my top goal. Weird I know, but more than any writing or work related goal, this is what I want to achieve the most. I’m not sure why other than that I know it does me good to be outside, I know I can do it because I’ve done it before and it might be a wise move what with all the Brexshit uncertainty! It just seems really important for some reason. I will be starting in January. Making plans and buying seeds and starting some off and weeding. I can’t wait. This really is going to be my top priority.
  2. Learn to play the guitar! Another goal not related to writing or work! But another one that suddenly feels very important. Perhaps because I’m increasingly aware of life passing me by, of running out of time and chances. Perhaps because I have always wanted to try. Perhaps because I so admire anyone that can play an instrument. Perhaps because my characters in the Holds End trilogy are playing instruments and writing their own music and it would also be research? Perhaps because my daughter has agreed to teach me and it will be a good thing to do together. I don’t know why. I just know it’s important and I am really excited about trying it.
  3. Release Emily’s Baby in the Spring – Doable. Emily’s Baby is the follow-up to A Song For Bill Robinson, the second book in the Holds End trilogy. It’s having a final round with beta readers at the moment and will have another few rounds of edits/proofreads with me after that but I anticipate a Spring release, perhaps April.
  4. Finish The Search For Summer – Doable. I am currently writing the first draft of this in a notebook and I’m three quarters through. It’s going well. I should easily finish the first draft by early 2020 and will then start the next million drafts and aim to release it towards end of 2020 or perhaps the start of 2021.
  5. Finish Parts Five and Six of The Boy With The Thorn In His Side – These books are currently at draft number four. Next will be a read through on my Kindle, followed by another edit, and then it’s beta reader time. I’d like to think I will release them in 2020 but I think that’s too ambitious so I will just aim to finish them and be happy with them and plan a 2021 release for both books at the same time. It might be wise to finish the Holds End series first and get that promoted and then turn my attention back to this one.
  6. Finish the first draft of the YA series I was working on… – This refers to the post-apocalyptic YA series I started some time ago. The first draft was going very well for the first in a four book series but it got side-lined by The Boy series and the Holds End series…I hope to at least finish the first draft of book one in 2020.
  7. Do a second draft of YA novel We Hate The cool Kids – This was a book that jumped the queue in 2019. I wrote the first draft in a notebook pretty quickly but the ending troubled me. I don’t have any immediate plans to release this but I do think aiming for a second draft and a tied up ending would be good for 2020 depending on how things go.
  8. Continue working hard with Chasing Driftwood Writing Group – No specific goals this year for my little company. I have three new clubs starting after Christmas and this will keep me busy enough. Long term, I would like to get more writers on board to help deliver my ambition of encouraging children and adults to write and keep writing. I hope to get a community project off the ground finally but life is so busy and the after-school clubs take a lot of time and prep, so I am not going to put too much pressure on myself here. Just keeping it all going is enough of a goal
  9. Keep adding stories and poems to a collection – I’m not putting a time scale on this next collection of short stories and poems, but I will try to keep adding to it and working on it when I feel the need!
  10. Slow down, enjoy life, breathe, cry, listen to more music, be outside as much as possible, be honest about my feelings and keep writing them down – a little jumble of goals and aims to end on, but perhaps these are what will make the others achievable. I’m only at the start of this perimenopause fun, and it’s knocked me for six. It’s brought back emotions, thoughts and anxieties I thought I had long walked away from. Sometimes it is genuinely exhausting getting through a normal day. Moods shift and change with no warning. Some days I feel totally normal. Other days I sit in the car and cry. It’s okay. I’m okay. I’ve just got to remember to talk about it, write about it and just allow it. It is what it is.

So, that’s my list for 2020. Longer than last years, but a bit less writing/work related. I feel like it’s more about just surviving!! How about you? Have you got anything you particularly want to achieve in 2020? Please feel free to comment and share!

My 2019 Writing Goals Vs The Reality

At the start of 2019 I wrote my yearly post setting out my writing goals for the year ahead. I only gave myself six goals, so how did I get on? In what has now become a tradition, I will go through them and see how many I achieved! Next week I will set out my 2020 goals.

  • Submit some writing-related articles –  I’ve written some well-received articles for Author’s Publish in the past and have quite a few drafts of potential articles. I’ve just not had the time to polish them up and submit them! I need to get back into doing this. It’s fun, it’s great for exposure, it improves writing skills and it pays! I should have more time in 2019 with my youngest finally in full-time school.
  • REALITY; I did this! I think I had three articles accepted by Author’s Publish this year, but I would need to double check that’s correct. But anyway, this one can be ticked off as achieved!
  • Continue To Work On The Six-Part Series, The Boy With The Thorn In His Side and release parts 3 and 4 early in the year – This was a surprising thing that happened in 2018 and pushed some other plans out of the queue. I reworked and revised the original novel into two parts and re-released in 2018. I then wrote a brand new part 3 and reworked what was the sequel This Is The Day, into what will serve as part 4. I then penned a very rough part 5 in a notebook and planned part 6. I know how it will all end and I’m so excited to get it done! In 2019 I aim to release parts 3 and 4 very soon as they are almost ready, and get part 5 to second or third draft status.
  • REALITY; I did this too! In fact, I did more. I released parts three and four at the start of 2019, finished part 5 and wrote part 6! Currently I am working on parts 5 and 6 side by side, and we are at draft number four. I am very happy with how these have turned out and can’t wait to release the final two books probably towards the end of 2020 once they have been fully polished up!
  • Publish A Song For Bill Robinson – this book is ready and has been waiting very patiently for over a year! I spent all of last year polishing up Elliot Pie and getting side-tracked by The Boy series. This YA novel should see a release in 2019. I may try a few small press publishers first and if no joy, I will publish it with Pict and release probably late spring, early summer.
  • REALITY; I did this too! A Song For Bill Robinson was released on 6th December this year. The second book in the trilogy, Emily’s Baby will be released Spring 2020 and I am currently writing the first draft of the third book, The Search For Summer.
  • Continue to work on YA post-apocalyptic series and get first draft of the first book completed– This is another thing that keeps getting pushed back, but I have got to Chapter Twelve now in the first draft of book one. If I can get that first draft done in 2019 I will be very happy.
  • REALITY; Nope, didn’t achieve this. I did work on it now and then and I think I’m at Chapter 20 or something similar. I haven’t worked on it for a while now because A Song For Bill Robinson and Emily’s Baby needed so many more edits/proofreads in the last few months, plus I’ve dedicated every evening to working on The Boy series parts 5 and 6. I hope to get back into this series in 2020.
  • Continue to work on the various writing projects under my Community Interest Company, Chasing Driftwood Writing Group – There are two on the go. One in planning stages. Lots and lots more I want to do, but in 2018 time and fear really got in my way…I’ve decided I really need to get braver and more pro-active with all of this. I started the business in 2015 and became a CIC at the end of 2017. 2018 was my first year as a CIC and I’ve felt out of my depth the entire time. I’ve been on the verge of quitting more than once. I really, really want to do it. Not just the community writing project, but the school project and another project I have in mind. I think about them all the time and feel so passionate about it…yet it all seems too hard sometimes. I’ve decided the main problem is I am all alone. I do have a treasurer and a secretary and they are wonderfully helpful and supportive, but other than that, I’m juggling it all alone. I need to buck my ideas up this year and get things done. I need to work harder and faster and with more determination. And I really really need to work with others!!
  • REALITY; Mixed results on this one. None of the projects I was working on have been launched yet, but one is getting closer and my dream of not working alone all the time came true! For one big project I am working with The Red House Museum and the manager Laura has really been like a mentor to me this year. I also took part in a literary festival this year, giving a talk to teen writers. And I started more writing clubs! I have three new clubs starting after Christmas, and three on the go, so if they all take off, there will be six regular writing clubs. Two for adults, two at schools, and two for home-educated children. It’s still very much an up and down thing for me, but I have got more confident this year and received the kind of feedback and praise I really needed to keep going. Encouraging other writers is my big passion and my company will continue to look into ways of doing this!
  • Work on short story/poetry/blog collection – I would love to say I’ll publish this in 2019, but I think that’s too ambitious, and I know it will get overshadowed by The Boy series and Bill Robinson…Still, I do hope to work on it a bit more. I had so many short stories lying around (some new, some from a previously released collection) that I decided it was time to get them all together and release another collection similar to Bird People. I’ve polished up a few and have loads more I need to work on. I’ve also got some old blog posts I want to include and even some poetry. Eeek! Yes, that’s a bit scary. I’ve always been intimated by poetry, reading it and writing it. But the thing is, my head is so constantly full of words it gets hard sometimes, and I just want to expel some. We will see what happens,  but to release another collection would be really, really fun.
  • REALITY; I didn’t release a collection but I had admitted that was ambitious. I have been working on a collection throughout the year though and it’s really coming together. There are still some stories I need to write and the poems just keep coming. I’m not sure I will release this in 2020 as I don’t get much time to work on it. I think I will just keep adding to it whenever I feel like it and release it when its big and good enough!

So, I didn’t do too badly at all. In fact, if I look back, it has been a pretty good year for my writing and for my company. Everything is heading in the right direction, which is all we can ask for, I guess. I feel positive about these goals and how I tackled them. In other ways, for other reasons, this year has not been easy. When I write my 2020 goals next week you might notice that they are not entirely writing related for the first time.

But over to you! Did you set any goals at the start of 2019? How many did you manage to achieve? Are you going to set any for 2020 or just go with the flow? Please feel free to share and comment!

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 wouldn’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?’

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 what’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.