David stared at the screen and then down at the slip of paper in his hand. Three. Fourteen. Fifteen. Twenty-seven. Forty-two. All five numbers the same. Five and nine. Also the same. All seven numbers flashing across the bottom of the screen matched those held between his oil-stained fingers. He had won. Twenty-seven point three five million pounds. He stared at the figures lined up after the pound sign. Even the second decimal place represented more than twice his annual salary as a mechanic at the local garage. He felt numbed, unable to move, unable to speak, unable even to think. He could do nothing but sit and stare at the screen - at the numbers he had chosen at random just two days before and the numbers that followed that pound sign. He had won.
In his whole life, he had only ever won anything once before, and that had been at a village fete near his home when he had just turned eighteen. Despite the fact he felt that such events were not really the done thing for lads his age, he had gone along all the same. This was entirely because he was hoping to catch a glimpse of Melanie Parker, the attractive and highly popular girl who sat in front of him during his maths class at college. Melanie had failed to put in an appearance at the fete, and it was only months later that he found out she had spent the afternoon with his best friend, Stephen Armitage. Stephen was also supposed to have been meeting him at the fete, but in the end David had given up waiting and wandered around the village green on his own.
He had tried his hand at the coconut shy, but there had been people watching and the pressure had thrown off his aim to such an extent that he had not only failed to miss the coconuts and their posts, but one ball had glanced off the metal bar that held up the safety net and shot into the beer tent. After that, the only other stall he had dared to risk was the tombola.
He considered the tombola to be nothing more than a waste of money, but at least he was taking part and showing willing. It was the usual deal - all he had to do was pull out a ticket ending in a zero or a five. His first three tickets, as he had expected, produced neither, but his forth was a winner. He had won.
‘Four sixty is that, dear?’ Asked the lady behind the stall as she look at the ticket, shielding her eyes from the glare of the sun with one hand. He nodded and she began hunting around for the ticket’s twin. He had spotted it almost immediately, but felt it would be wrong to point it out, as though this would somehow spoil the fun for her. Eventually, after what seemed an almost unbelievable length of time, the lady discovered the ticket taped to a bottle of Scotch whisky. For a panicked moment David had thought the lady was going to ask him for proof that he was old enough, but she handed him the bottle without the slightest hesitation.
‘Four sixty. There’s you go, you lucky thing.’
‘Thank you.’ he said, taking the bottle. ‘Thank you very much.’
He had never actually tried whisky before, considering it to be something of an old man’s drink - he was more used to the cheap, two litre bottles of cider one of his older-looking friends bought - but he was pleased with his prize all the same and, with an extra spring in his step and a smile of his face, he made his way from the village green towards the road where he had parked his mother’s car.
It was then, as he emerged through one of the narrow gates, that it had happened. Two lads suddenly appeared on either side of him, apparently from nowhere, though he assumed they had been waiting for him in the shadow of the hedge. He knew them both from college and even now, years later, he could still remember their names: Justin Blake and Tyler Scott. He could no longer remember their faces, however - in his mind they had become twisted and evil, more like the faces of some kind of nightmare gargoyles than boys. They were both from the local council estate - always getting in trouble. And David was scared of them.