Rejects. Chapter 5

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Chapter 5.
Fire in the Bakery.

The first thing Thomas tried to do was ring the police. Needless to say, they didn't believe him. 'Kid, when I need prank phone calls, I call my son. Go away.' The Sergeant yelled down the phone before he hung up. Thomas hung up the pay-phone and walked away dejectedly. He didn't know what to do.
The police didn't believe him, he only had a little money and his father would be looking for him, probably with some sort of hi-tech gadget that would be tracking him at that very moment. He had had the last thought many times and had finally dumped his cellphone in a 'All old phones welcome.' bin for the Salvation Army, that sat beside a restaurant.
Thomas looked at the night sky and then Lola. She'd was tired from a big day and so was Thomas. He wandered around, looking for a place to sleep but most of the best nooks were taken up by old beggars and their families. It wasn't a big town, Caversham, but it was expensive to buy a house there and many people lived on the streets.
Thomas finally found a spot to sleep down an alley, in a lean-to he made from several old rotting planks of wood. He placed down the survival blanket and lay on it. Lola lay on top of Thomas, warming him with her thick shaggy coat. He would buy food in the morning and see what he had in his inventory. He fell asleep.

***

When Thomas woke Lola had gone. He found her rolling in smelly dead rat carcasses. It took much cajoling to get her out of them but in the end she left them be. Thomas took inventory of what he had with him.
A survival blanket, 24 dollars, Lola's food and dog bowl, her socks she used as toys, a bag of apples and some stale bread, a drink bottle, a leash, a small backpack and a pocketknife was all he had. He ate the bread and an apple and saved the rest for later.He also fed Lola a portion of the bag of dry dog biscuits.
'First things first' He said to Lola. 'We need to upgrade our mansion.' For the next few hours he and Lola went searching for new materials in a scrap heap, to replace the old planks they slept under. The dog enjoyed this completely as she grabbed the pieces of wood Thomas thought was too small or not sturdy and carefully shredded them with her teeth. Thomas was ecstatic when he found a sheet of corrugated iron, commonly used on roofs. Towards the afternoon they stopped, Thomas happy with the objects they gathered and Lola just plain happy. The duo then went back to their alley and threw the mouldy planks into the skip they shared their lane with. They then spent many hours assembling their equipment into a suitable house for both of them. They then shared a late lunch and sat under their shelter wondering what to do. While Lola had a snooze Thomas decided to go and buy some food and find where he could find fresh water. He didn't have to travel far it surmised, as there was a leaky tap, sitting forgotten, on the wall of a dairy. The owner of the aforementioned store did not mind him using some of their water, as she wasn't sure how clean it was and he looked so dirty she said she had to let him. Being extremely kind, she gave him some stale food only half the price. 'I would throw it out otherwise.' She explained. Thomas thanked her heartily and was on his way, back to his shelter.

***

Over the ensuing weeks Thomas went back to the dairy, sometimes followed by Lola, sometimes by other dirty beggars. The old lady who owned the store did not mind, so long as they left her customers and her wares alone.
When Thomas wasn't getting food or walking Lola, he was sitting in his alley, watching who went by. Thomas and some other beggar boys -Backstreet Boys they called themselves- he met played a game, who could spot the best dressed person, although as the weeks passed many would be better kempt than the boys and dog. Since the alley overlooked one of the main roads leading to the centre of town there were many well-dressed people who passed by. When the Backstreet Boys were off doing whatever they did Thomas would play the game by himself.
He tended to see patterns in when and where a person is going or had been.
The lady with the diamond bracelet always went to the hairdresser on Thursday afternoons, the ferrety man with the books and glasses, the library.
Thomas noticed many routines but there was one person he liked watching the best, a girl with slightly bronze skin and dark brown hair in French plaits rolling down her back. She almost always wore a large lumpy purple sweater that disguised her figure.
The meaner of the beggar boys often teased him, saying that she would have a boyfriend and why would she pick Thomas? Thomas and his boys often beat them up saying the boys should get back to their alleyway and often the boys scarpered, with Thomas and his beggar boys calling after them with names that were the highest insults in the Backstreet Boys world.
Every day Thomas felt himself getting tougher and tougher, if only mentally. His biceps were as limp as his straggly brown hair although his tongue often scared the smaller kids away.
It gave him a feeling of power to see them shrink away like that. In the darkest recesses of his mind, Thomas knew it was wrong but his tough side snuffed out those thoughts. The soft hearted Thomas who was bullied was no more, he was a Backstreet Boy.

***

Thomas was sitting on a roof, overlooking a bakery, next to one of the Backstreet Boys, Alex.
Alex was a tousled, red haired, gangly, lean and tough youth, not exactly well dressed, but to a beggar he looked like a king. In a way he was a king as he was the leader of the Backstreet Boys, a well known circle in the back streets of Caversham.

It was almost two months since he had left his father stranded on the bathroom floor and Thomas's money had run out. The old lady did not give free food. He had left her shop alone.
Lola was sitting on the street beneath him, whining. Thomas looked down and she picked up one of her socks. Thomas looked back up with a smile on his face, he must be on alert or the plan would not work. The Backstreet Boys had come up with a plan to steal food from the bakery they were watching. The baker and his wife had a lot of money so a few loaves of bread wouldn't be missed. The bakery was void of people and the baker didn't have security cameras, quite stupid decision in this part of town. It was night and they weren't able to see any of the other boys who crouched on top of the electronics store sitting next to the bakery.
The signal was all they were waiting for.
It came.
Fifteen boys jumped from two rooftops, the sounds masked by the many cars going along a nearby highway. They raced to the windows and doors and the few boys who could pick locks came to the front to show off their talents. Alex wanted it all to be over as quick as possible. The locks clicked. Fifteen boys poured into the bakery. They lifted loaves of bread, stuffed shortbread into their shirts and it was only seconds before Alex shouted from the storeroom.
'Get Out!'
Thomas thought that it was a bit early to get everyone out and so, it seemed, thought everyone else. Alex ran into the room panic-stricken. Fourteen boys looked at him. His eyes bugged out. 'Fire!' He yelled. There was silence for a few seconds then the sound of many boys panicking as they ran out of the bakery, carrying their stolen goods. Thomas was helping the smaller kids out of the building when he saw Alex fall over. He pulled the last twelve year old through the window and he jumped into the burning building. He looked around. Smoke was pouring in from the storeroom and fire was licking the doorframe. Thomas pulled Alex up and Alex groaned. Damn, Thomas thought. Sprained ankle.
He pushed Alex through the window just as the flames spread to the counter. Thomas clambered out himself and looked around. There were walls on three sides and a busy street on another. Thomas yelled at the top of his lungs and was heard over the midnight traffic. Two boys hung their arms down from the roof of the electronics store and grabbed Alex's. Together they boosted Alex up onto the roof and many more boys carried him across the rooftops, heading for their alley. A few boys hung back and offered Thomas a hand but he declined. He could climb. The boys shrugged and ran after the others. Thomas looked at the bakery and the spreading flames. He heard fire engines in the distance. He started to climb the wall.ngers gripped the top a strange thing happened. He froze. Not out of fear, he just froze. Try as he might he couldn't move. His arms felt like they were made of lead. He could not move up. There was only one way for him to go when his fingers released, much to Thomas's horror.

Thirteen boys out of fifteen made it from the fire unscathed. Alex sprained his ankle and Thomas, well, Thomas fell into the fires waiting arms.

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