Thomas visits the Skull and Crossbones

Here is an extract from my book ‘Beyond Hope’; the Hope estate is a run down council estate where Thomas was brought up. He is going to visit the mother of a friend, David Hollis, who he has only just learned looked after him when he was a very small boy. He hopes she can tell him something about his father who went missing when Thomas was four:

I picked up Hollis from the little town car park and he directed me to a route I knew well, to Hope Estate, not the new flats of Top Hope, but the worse area where I lived for a while as a child, Bottom Hope. There’s a pub there which I seem to remember was called something like the Hope and Anchor, a nod to the maritime connection. Now it’s called the Skull and Crossbones and despite being a pirate when I play with my boy it didn’t look a very inviting place. There was a burnt out van in the car park and a load of scruffy kids kicking a football about. I hoped my car would be safe but as we got out, a couple of them called respectful greetings to Hollis. They all seemed a little in awe of him, I was pleased to note for my car’s sake.

The pub was typical of those built on 1960’s estates… maybe it was thought to be modern, but the architect should be shot for this monstrosity. It sat squat like a toad, red brick and ugly… actually toads are nice… I didn’t realize this until we had the garden; I’d never really had much to do with toads before and in fact I gave a little girlie squeak when I first saw one and then glanced round to make sure no-one had heard me. The toad was under some empty compost bags which Geoff had given me; he didn’t seem about to do anything so I put the bags back and when I asked Geoff about him, Geoff told me it was excellent news that the toad was still there, and he would help keep the slugs under control…

The Skull and Crossbones is red brick and angular and of a sort of design which was no doubt thought to be innovative with a peculiar pointy bit of roof which may have been sort of reminiscent of a ships’ prow if you squinted at it and were quite drunk. The windows were narrow oblongs which can’t have let in much light but on the other hand I guess it would be quite difficult to break them, and impossible to get in through them.

The red bricks which were stained black at the top under the gutter as if with mould and green at the bottom as if with some sort of rising damp, should have been cheery and bright, but they looked sinister and bloody… but maybe that was my imagination overworking because I was quite nervous, memories coming back of what a frightening place this estate had been to live in when I was a kid…. And as I mentioned, it was named Hope not for any aspiration but after the nearby village.

We headed towards the pub and as we got through the door we were engulfed in a group of rather drunk and very excited women who apparently were just starting Talisha’s hen party… whoever Talisha was.

I got separated from Hollis and was trapped by a woman with an enormous chest, and I   mean a truly colossal chest. She had shaved sides to her head and the rest of her hair was bleached blond with rainbow streaks. She was already quite drunk and was determined to kiss me because apparently I was the cutest little puppy she had ever seen. I was trying to politely extricate myself from her and her chest when a mountain of a man with the whole of his head and face covered in tattoos grabbed me and I think I would have had my features totally rearranged and no longer be a cute little puppy if Hollis hadn’t rescued me.

Big chest lady staggered off after her friends, tattoo man apologised and I noticed he had metal teeth, and Hollis towed me over to a small round table by the bar and went to get me a drink. I wanted to say a pint of vodka, 70% after that introduction to the Skull and Crossbones… but I asked for a pint of Doom Bar… I don’t usually drink if I’m driving but I needed it now.

Find out how Thomas came to be here, more about David Hollis, and what happens when he meets David’s mother… oh and if he solves the mystery of his missing father:

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