Marking Time – Chapter 3 – Talking to a stranger


He didn’t see the man until he had bumped against him. “Sorry” a mumble through slightly parted lips and he started to wander on with just a minor detour.  His head jerked up though as he felt the grip on his shoulder, Now he was alert, every nerve jumping and his heart pounding, fight or flight. 

 “Hello Peter.” 

He turned and confronted the bloke who now lowered his hand. Who the hell was this.  

As if he had spoken aloud his thoughts were answered.  “My name is Phil, Do you have any plan or can you spare me some time?” 

Peter didn’t answer, this was well weird.  He glowered and gave a shrug, it could be taken as a yes or a no – keeping your options open was the way to go. 

“I want to buy you something to eat, if you would like.” Another shrug.  The stranger turned and moved on down the path.  Peter followed, he was going that way

anyway wasn’t he and he could just carry on if he wanted.  When the other man turned into the nearest pub though the smell of hot food was irresistible and so Peter followed and threw himself into a chair in the corner.  “Fish and Chips and coke OK” 

“Yeah.  Thanks.”  While he waited he studied this guy, he was about thirty, well dressed, nice watch.  Smart looking but not showy, but how did he know Peter’s name and what was this about.  Shit, this could be the filth, the Social or the school authorities.  As the thought formed so panic clenched at his stomach.  He tensed and  half rose from the wooden chair but the bloke, Phil, was back and putting the drink down. 

 “It’s OK Peter, I’m not from social services or any other group you may be disinclined to speak to.” 

“Okay, so who are you, how do you know my name and what’s this about?” 

“Why don’t you have your meal, relax and get yourself warm and then we can talk.” 

Peter shrugged again, a free meal wasn’t to be dismissed easily and it was lovely and warm in the pub so why not, he could walk out anytime couldn’t he.  

The plate was emptied and a second glass of coke dispensed with.  Phil took a last swig of his own tonic water and leaned his elbows on the table. Looking Peter straight in the eye he locked into his attention.  “What I’m about to tell you is going to sound untrue or possibly crazy and you will have to suspend your disbelief.” Peter didn’t speak or make any acknowledgement, this guy was going to have to work for any reaction.  

“First of all, I know all the mess that you’ve got yourself into.  I know about your dad’s drinking about how he lost his job.  I know you have big problems at home since you moved back there from your gran’s and that you usually choose to sleep rough or at your mates houses.  I also know about Jake.” 

Peter didn’t answer he lowered his eyes and watched his finger drawing in the condensation on the table. Silent and non-committal he waited to see where this was going. 

Phil carried on undeterred, “I am working for someone who is in a position to help you and if you’ll permit us we can fix all of this.”  

“Fix it, oh you mean like a broken bike, just a couple a screws and a splash of oil and everything all hunky dory again.  Thanks that’d be just great.  Do you think I’m stupid, no way I’m being a bumboy for you or your mates and no way I’m carryin’ drugs for you so you can sit in your posh house when I get sent down.  Thanks for the food but that’s it – bye.” 

He snatched to his feet pushing away from the little round table and turned for the door.  Phil put out a hand and laid it on his arm. 

“Wait Peter, don’t go.  Hear me out.  I understand what you are feeling and you’re right to be suspicious and wary but just hear me out.”  

Peter looked into the blue eyes gazing calmly across the table.  They were clear and calm and Phil looked open and honest.  He flopped back onto the seat.  

“Okay make it quick, I have to get home, some blokes are looking for me and I can’t be out past dark.”  

“First of all let me assure you that nothing illegal will be asked of you.  Nobody will hurt you and you’re free to go your own way at any time.  The man I represent is honest and law-abiding and is a family man.  He will not meet you at the present time.  There’s a chance that in the future that will change but for now I am your contact.  What we’re proposing is the chance for you to go back to full-time education, follow a career path, have a place to stay that is warm and safe and enough money to provide for your reasonable needs.  We will take care of things with your Mum, reassure her and so on. There will be no repayment expected of you except that you live an honest and fruitful life from here on in.”

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