Continuing my prequel to The Face in the Window. Anyone who liked reading about 17 year-old-Ace will love fourteen-year-old Ace, who is just the same only more clueless. Will we get insight into why his brothers hate him so much? Will we find out what exactly was his relationship with James?
Ace knew from the sounds he’d been hearing, and the vibrations on the road, that there was traffic, although it wasn’t busy. In panic, he scrambled backwards onto his bottom on the pavement. Hugging his knees, he rocked, trying to get his racing heart and panting breath under control. He was rarely so swamped in panic, but then no one had thrown him in front of traffic before.
At first, he didn’t hear the voice. He heard his tormentors first.
“Come back, you pussy. They won’t….”
“Fuck you, I’m out of here.”
The pounding footsteps confused Ace. Were they running away, or toward him? When someone touched his shoulder, he jumped, panicked. “Don’t hurt me, please,” he gasped, shocked by how much his voice was shaking. He never lost his composure like this.
“Take it easy, love, you’re quite safe now. No one’s going to hurt you.”
Dimly aware that someone was crouching at his side, Ace pressed his forehead to his knees and concentrated on breathing. He’d never had a panic attack before, but it wasn’t difficult to work out why his heart was racing so much its pounding in his ears drowned out everything going on around him.
When the roaring began to fade, Ace became aware of a soothing voice, and a hand rubbing his back. He raised his head and blinked, realising for the first time that he’d lost his glasses. The sunlight cut into his eyes causing him to flinch and rub his eyes. He was surprised to find them wet. He hadn’t been aware of crying. He hardly ever cried. It wasn’t that bad. He’d only almost died.
“Easy there,” the voice said. “You’ll make your eyes sore.”
“Light,” he groaned. “Hurts.”
“Oh, I see.” There was a sound of someone scrabbling, then something was pressed into his hand. “I assume these are yours.”
Ace sighed with relief as he curled his fingers around his sunglasses then settled them back in their accustomed place.
“Yes. I’m sorry.”
“What on earth for?”
“I’m not usually such a mess.”
“I’m guessing you’re not usually attacked and thrown into the road, so it’s not surprising you reacted like this. I’m just sorry I didn’t get to you in time to stop that. I saw it coming but I just couldn’t get here. I guess I need to hit the track. I’m out of shape.”
Ace smiled, and for the first time, took a mental step back to consider his rescuer. She was woman, that much was obvious from her voice, and there was a note of authority that made him think she might not be just a casual passer by. He remembered a strange noise he’d heard but not acknowledged while he was panicking. A hissing sound, like a radio.
“Are you a police officer?”
“Isn’t that obvious by the uniform?” The straightforward humour in her voice led Ace to the conclusion she hadn’t put two and two together yet.
“I can’t see it. I’m blind.”
A sharp intake of breath was the only sign the policewoman made of how shocked she must have been. She muttered under her breath and although a “normal” person would probably not have caught what she said, Ace heard every word loud and clear. “Little bastards.” He smiled
“Are you allowed to swear?”
“What? Oh, sorry I didn’t think you’d hear.”
“It’s my eyes that don’t work, not my ears. In fact, they work really well.”
“I should have realised. Many apologies. Not the most professional behaviour. Can you stand?”
Ace found himself to be shaky but solid enough to stand without help.
“Is there someone I can call?”
“I’m not happy with just letting you walk away. You’re clearly shaken and I’d be inclined to believe if I walked away right now you’d have no idea where you are or where to go. Do you know where the road is?”
“I….” Ace shook his head. He was entirely disoriented and couldn’t even work out in what direction the traffic sounds were coming from.
“Don’t worry. Come on, let’s be British and get a cup of tea. Tea cures everything.”
“I…. You don’t have to. If you show me where the café is I can wait there until my brothers come back.”
“Don’t worry. As long as there are no armed robberies in the next half hour I’ll get you settled and make sure you’re okay and someone is coming for you.”
“My brothers will be here soon.”
“Then I’ll won’t be long, will I.” She took Ace’s arm and guided him along the pavement. Ace soon discovered she was a capable companion, warning him of obstacles in plenty of time. He was worryingly nervous crossing the road and clung to her arm.
“I’m not usually like this,” he said, his voice shaking. “I…I have a stick and I’m more confident with that.”
“Why don’t you have it with you now?”
“I left it in the car.”
“Lesson learned then.”
Ace nodded, not wanting to tell her that the lesson wasn’t his and he would never have left his stick behind if Nick and Logan hadn’t been involved.
A wave of warmth and the scent of coffee washed over Ace when the policewoman opened the door of the coffee shop. Ace’s legs trembled and he had to bite back tears. Relief made him weak. He was safe. The policewoman, who’d told him her name was Jan, got him settled in a seat near the window – he could tell because he could feel the warmth of the sun and the chill next to the glass – while she went to get tea. Ace didn’t like to tell her he preferred coffee. Tea wasn’t horrible and anything warm and sugary would be welcome.
While he waited, Ace closed his eyes, safe behind his glasses and thought over what had happened. It hadn’t been so terrible really, and he hadn’t been very much afraid, at least not until he’d found himself on his knees in the road. It was the vulnerability that did it for him. For a short period he’d felt totally helpless and it had shaken him to pieces. Despite his disability, Ace very rarely felt helpless. In fact, he prided himself on his independence and seemed to spend half his life at home fighting for more of it. Such complete lack of control was alien to him and it highlighted just how big and scary the world was for someone like him. Had he just been lucky until now? Did his stick really make that much difference?
For the first time he could remember, Ace was swamped with a desperate need to be home, safe in his room. He completely understood his mother’s fears and half convinced himself that she was right and he’ be better off staying in his room and not exposing himself to the many dangers the world presented to a blind boy.
“There you go.” Jan’s voice cut through his musings that had begun to rise toward panic again.
What was happening to him? Was he losing his nerve? His confidence? Would he find himself unable to go out on his own again? No. He wasn’t about to let that happen, no matter what.
Pressing the cup to his lips, Ace inhaled deeply. The smell might not be as good as coffee but it was comforting. His mother drank tea and it brought back memories of sitting at the kitchen table with her, working on homework while she worked. There would be frequent breaks for tea and biscuits.
“Right,” Jan said, clearly meaning business. “Who can I call?”
“What?” As if Jan had conjured a demon, Ace’s phone rang with James’ tone. He groaned inwardly. Hames was the last person he wanted to speak to right now. James would know.
“What happened? Why haven’t you been answering? Are you alright?”
Ace chose to respond by text, not wanting James to hear the weakness in his voice. “They were dicks. I’m fine. Having tea.”
“Having tea? Why didn’t you call and let me know you’re alright? I’ve been worried sick. I was about to call the police.”
“Don’t worry, they beat you to it.”
“What do you mean?”
Ace gave James a potted version of what happened, and James went silent. “Shit,” he said at last. “Shit Ace, you could have been really hurt.”
“I could have been, but I wasn’t.”
“I’m going to kill Logan the next time I see him. I’ll have a good swing at Nick too. Why the hell did your mother let them take you into town. She knows what they’re like.
“I don’t think she does. She wouldn’t let them—“
“Oh please, Ace, you know she knows. It’s just easier for her if it looks like you’re all getting on.”
“Can we not get into this right now. There’s a policewoman here with me and she’s looking afully interested in everything you say.”
“So she should be. She should arrest Logan and Nick for what they did.”
“If you don’t shut up, I won’t come down for your birthday.”
“You wouldn’t do that…would you?”
“*roll eyes* sigh. Okay, call me later.”
“A friend?” Jan asked as Ace put his phone on the table.
“Yes, a good friend. He happened to call in the middle of all that and I haven’t even heard the phone ring since then.”
“I have a few times. I was wondering if I ought to answer but I figured whoever it was could wait.”
“James isn’t good at being patient.”
“Who are Logan and Nick?”
Ace sighed, imagining all the trouble he could get into if Jan contacted his parents, or even worse spoke to Nick and Logan.
“Can I take it they were supposed to be sticking with you?”
Ace chuckled. “Can you read my mind?”
“No, but I’m pretty good at reading human nature. Can I give someone a call to pick you up?”
“No.” Ace’s refusal was too quick and too sharp. He bit his lip. “My mother would worry. She’ll be straight here and I won’t be allowed out for the rest of the holidays. She’s…over protective.”
“What about your brothers?”
“They wouldn’t be too pleased.”
“No doubt, but I’m not leaving until I’ve spoken to someone and I figure your brothers would prefer to hear from me on the telephone than to turn up and find me here in person.”
Ace’s mind raced, possibilities flying past before he could hold on to any of them. Which would be worse? What choice could he make that wouldn’t end in disaster? None of them.
“Okay,” he said at last, “you can call Nick. He’s my oldest brother. He has the car. Just to tell him where I am,” he added as he heard Jan pick up his phone.
“This is an um…interesting phone,” Jan commented. Ace briefly wondered what she meant. “Where do I find Nick’s number?”
“It’s speed dial five. I’ve never used it. I don’t call him at all, but my mother insisted. I think he still has the same phone number.”
Ace heard the phone beeps as the calls connected. It seemed to take a long time for Nick to answer and when he did he snapped, “What do you want, freak? This had better be good.”
Jan’s voice was cold. “This is WPC Baxter, can I confirm I’m talking to Nick Richmond.”
“WPC? Why have you got Ace’s phone? Is he alright?”
“I’m with your brother right now, Mr Richmond. There’s been an incident. He’s alright but he’s shaken up and needs to go home.”
“Shit. What do you mean “incident”? Where’s Logan?”
“I presume Logan is your other brother. I’m afraid I have no idea where he is.”
“Stupid fucker. Oh, sorry. Okay, tell me where you are and I’ll be right there.”
Ace bit his lip, groaning inwardly. Nick was going to be so mad Ace had messed up his day.
If you want to read the continuing adventures of Ace and his brothers check keep checking out here, or jump ahead a few years to