21st Century
The Future
World Travel
Books & Film
Original Fiction
Opinion & Lifestyle
Politics & Living
Film Space
Movies in depth
Kid's Books
Reviews & stories

The International Writers Magazine: UK Life

Seeing Nothing
Linda Regan

Most nights Albert was distracted from his television or radio listening because of the outbursts of fighting in the grounds below. The revving of bikes as gangs arrived followed by raised voices, sounds of metal or glass breaking into skin, then agonizing screams and angry shouting, and now, more frequently, the sound of a gun being fired. But then this was Peckham, this is what happened on estates around here. He had lived on this one, man and boy for sixty-six years. He’d seen them all come and go, the teddy boys, the mods and rockers, the punk era, there was always something.

But never guns, guns were new, and they bothered him. It brought back the nightmares he’d experienced after the war ended. Except, then Elsie was there to comfort him. Now he was widower after fifty three years of marriage, so he would to turn the television up and try and pretend it wasn’t happening. It seemed if you were a youth, in Peckham nowadays, that you needed a gun or a knife to survive. And Albert hoped they would.

There was no one to talk to about it. Everyone he knew on this block had either died or moved away, so he kept himself to himself, only venturing out on his weekly visit to the post office for his pension and to collect the meagre bits of groceries he’d need for the week, to feed himself.

The fighting seemed to always happen under his first floor balcony, or by the lift, not that the lift worked, it had been out of order for a long time now. No engineer would come to this block on account of its reputation for crime and violence. Recently, one had been mugged and beaten badly enough to need stitches, all for the theft of his screwdriver, which was then found later, driven into the eye of a fourteen year old boy.

This particular night the fighting sounded even more menacing, Albert was more nervous. He was watching East Enders, one of his weekly highlights. But the usual raised voices, revved bikes, sounds of glass smashing or crowbars breaking into a skull and the screaming that followed, tonight sounded different.

Albert turned the television down and nervously listened. The voices weren’t familiar, and there were more of them. There was a new gang on the estate, and that had to mean big trouble.

Then he heard a shot, followed by the usual silence. He knew the difference between a gun shot and a car back-firing, it was similar to the sound of a whip cracking the air. You could almost smell the empty fire in the silence that followed. Then another shot rang out, followed by a scream of pain. Another shot followed that, and then another, another and another, until Albert had lost count. He was shaking, and holding his photo of Elsie. Then it stopped.
There was silence.
The silence continued. Had they killed each other he wondered?
Someone else on the estate must have heard.

He crept to the front door. He had a chain fixed, so he felt safe enough to open it, an idge.
That was when he saw the youth. He was crawling along the passage on the first floor, his light brown- skinned hand covering his side, where dark blood was fast dripping through his shaking fingers. He caught Albert staring at him and stretched his blood-soaked hand toward him, his face twisted in pain as he tried to speak, to beg even, for Albert to save his life.

That look on his frightened face touched Albert deeply; it reminded him of himself as a young, frightened soldier.
Visibly shaking, he released the chain to help the boy.
That’s when he saw the other youth, older, darker skinned, peering round the staircase and now walking purposely toward the injured boy, a large gleaming knife in his hand.

The younger tried to stand to defend himself. Albert watched, horror struck, as the older yanked the younger by his wild black hair and the knife sliced its way across the young neck, opening the carteroid artery. Immediately a rush of blood shot out like a released champagne cork, landing on Albert’s only pair of trousers and his checked wool slippers.
The young body slumped dead on the ground. Blood flowed along the passage and over the edge of the balcony.
Albert went to shut his door, but too late the murderer had seen him. Their eyes held each other, one in terror, the other venom.

Albert slammed the door shut.

The police were quick on the scene, and the blood at Albert’s front door led to him being questioned. He was trying to wash the blood off his slippers when they knocked. He found it terrifying being taken down to the station, questioned then shown pictures and asked to identify the murderer.

Of course he said he didn’t recognise the culprit, even though the memory of the youth, the knife and those eyes were now stamped on his brain forever.

He was grateful when they drove him home, even in a police car, he felt too shaken to take the bus.
It was the next morning. He was scraping charcoal off his toast, he had burned the last two slices of his loaf, and he wouldn’t be going out for any more until the end of the week, even if he did have the money.
He thought it was the police again when the doorbell rang. He opened it without the chain.
Those same murdering eyes stared at him.

He tried to shut the door. The foot in it prevented him. Albert felt his saliva dry in his mouth. ‘ they asked me, sh..showed me your picture,’ he said trying to control his stuttering. ‘I s..said I never saw your face. I n…never grassed you up. Leave me alone. Please.’
A hand came up from the youth’s side. It held a .22 revolver, the pack pointing at Albert’s face.
His heartbeat doubled and his voice rose and then broke as he begged. ‘Please, I never told.’ His hand tried to protect his face but was knocked aside as the cold steel of the gun pushed into his wrinkled temple.
He started to cry. ‘I..I..s..said I didn’t know nothing, didn’t recognise you...Please trust me.’
‘That was your mistake, Old Man.’ The cock of the safety catch made Albert gasp. He could no longer speak. His body shook pathetically.
‘Trust no one,’ the youth stated, murmuring the talisman that had kept him alive so far. "Trust no one."
Albert heard the shot, but not the silence that followed.

© Linda Regan November 2007
Linda Regan
Author of Passion Killers

The Aby Davis interview

More Stories


© Hackwriters 1999-2007 all rights reserved - all comments are the writers' own responsibiltiy - no liability accepted by or affiliates.