He was still being followed. He fingered the Lugar. His lips tightened. If all else failed there remained the cyanide capsule lodged behind a back tooth. Don’t look round. He crossed the road barely in time, swerving left to run beside the truck that had so nearly run him over and swerved again, right this time, down the alleyway that ran parallel to Warbreck Moor. His eyes scanned the desolate lane. Not even a cat moved. Someway in the distance were a row of bins. Something to hide behind. His pace quickened. There were footsteps behind him. Remorseless and fast. Oberfuhrer Gessler. He dived behind the nearest bin sending the others crashing along the cobbles. His Lugar was out now, the capsule resting between two teeth, waiting to be crushed. He thought of Gabrielle and glanced longingly behind him at an alley that seemed to stretch for ever. So close.
“Mike, do you think you’ve passed?”
“Hope so.” I slipped the Lugar into my pocket, swallowed the mint.
“Me too,” said Tony.
It was unlikely though. Despite every hope I knew I hadn’t passed. Had known from the start. Those who would pass were in a different class, the same building - a long prefabricated building separated by a thin partition - but a different class. They were taught by Mr Fylde, a lean man with glasses and a jacket of grey tweed. We were taught by a motherly woman who wore a brown cardigan. We were the non-hopers, and I, having lost two years of schooling, was at the bottom of the heap. Both Sister Philip and Sister Kevin were very conscientious. They took remedial reading which was conducted across a brilliantly lit billiard table in the Men’s Institute adjacent to the school. We turned the pages of our ‘Janet and John’ books as directed by which ever nun it was, who would touch our nose with a billiard cue when it was our turn to read.
The Eleven Plus exam was taken and failed, the school sorting out the sheep from the goats. I envied most the shiny leather satchels and the new bikes given to those who would now go to Grammar School. Vaguely we knew that they would go to University and become doctors and lawyers, even wear tweed jackets. We would go to Secondary Modern Schools and do dirty jobs, though even that was a challenge because our Catholic Secondary Modern hadn’t yet been built. So it was goodbye to Gabrielle Moffat, my first great love (she never knew it) and another four years at Blessed Sacrament before, at fifteen, I'd finally be released. Or so I thought.