Little Beirut


An inner city police station somewhere in England.


            9.30am. Tick-tock, tick-tock, the second hand on the clock ticked its way around the dial. High in a corner of the room a video camera flashed its red light recording the proceedings. A female Detective Sergeant sat facing the man at the opposite side of the Formica topped table, an A4 pad in front of her, fiddling with the pen in her right hand.

‘Mr Harrison, you do know why you are here?’

‘I’m old love, not senile,’ replied sixty four year old Herbert Harrison as he sat tearing frills around the rim of an empty polystyrene cup.

            ‘Sorry Mr Harrison I’d didn’t mean to sound patronising.’

‘Don’t worry about it love, when you get to my age everyone thinks you’re either deaf or daft.’

She glanced at the wall clock.

‘I’m ready whenever you are ready Mr Harrison,’ said the detective, leaning forward on the table with pen poised.

‘Where to start…’ Mr Harrison said thoughtfully, as he sat back in his chair, folding his arms across his chest.

‘The beginning is usually a good place.’

‘We might be here some time.’ Harrison rocked in his chair.

‘Take your time, I’m in no rush.’ She hoped it would not be too long.

‘You know it’s a crying shame, I’ve lived down that street for nigh on all of my life, I was even born in the front room of number 152, back in 1950. Things were a lot different then I can tell you. I went to school two streets away and left when I was fifteen; the brass foundry I worked in was less than a mile away from home. I was there until I was made redundant and the bastards stole whatever pension I was due, but that’s by the by.

It was a real community, there was always someone there that you could rely on. We never used to think twice about going out and leaving the door unlocked, see, we all looked out for each other.

            At the time I thought it was bad luck on my part when my girlfriend fell pregnant. In those days having an abortion wasn’t the done thing, so in the June of 1968 I married Josie, the girl I had been going out with since I was at school. I suppose you could call use childhood sweethearts. Anyway nine months later Tricia was born, a healthy 8lb 6oz bouncing baby. I like to think we gave Tricia a happy childhood. Things were ok. I had a good job and Josie went back to work, fair enough we did have our ups and downs along the way, but then again don’t we all?’

            ‘Is this relevant Mr Harrison, you seem to be going off on a tangent?’

‘It’s relevant to me.’ The police officer decided maybe the long game was the best. ‘It wasn’t until Tricia left school that thing started to go a bit pear shaped.  Tricia made the same mistake we had; she went off and got herself pregnant. She’d met the lad at work, he was a shelf stacker at the local supermarket, not the brightest crayon in the box. When she told him the news he couldn’t run fast enough, and to this day I’ve no idea where he disappeared to.

Well there we were, me, Josie, Tricia and our new addition Aaron, he was a good lad in the early days, bright, know what I mean? I hoped maybe one day he’d go to university. Things went smoothly for a few years until Josie took ill that was when me and Tricia had a bit of a falling out, over money of course and her staying out all hours expecting us to bring the lad up.

            Josie just couldn’t see Tricia was taking advantage of her, and Tricia, well she just didn’t give a damn and I just wasn’t having it.  Needless to say things were said that shouldn’t  have been, resulting in Tricia and Aaron moving out into a one bedroom flat. That was the last I saw of them for a while, not a word, not even a Christmas card.

She decided to show her face at the funeral. See, Josie just went downhill after they left, never fully recovered.        I was in pieces as you would expect, I mean, we’d been together since we were kids. Tricia put on a good show as the caring daughter but that is all that it was, show. Things changed a bit, she started to come and see me once, maybe twice a week, I thought maybe she’d turned over a new leaf. She convinced me to let her and the boy move back in, unknown to me her landlord was in the process of evicting her. I found out once she’d got her feet under the table. Aaron, he was a little bastard, Tricia had no control over him, at thirteen years old he was running wild, and even the school had given up on him. I tried my best with the lad; I really did but just couldn’t get through to him.

            Needless to say it wasn’t long before Tricia found herself a new man, another no hoper. With the lad in tow she moved out, lock-stock and barrel into his council house on the estate just over the flyover. I tried to get her to leave the lad with me.  I thought maybe without her around I’d be able to straighten him out like. She wouldn’t listen. The only time I ever saw Tricia after that was when she was on the cadge for a few quid.

This was about the time the council in their wisdom started to demolish the area, the bulldozers came in and people were sent out to the new estates on the edge of the city. The problem came when the council ran out of readies, leaving half streets standing amongst what amounted to  bomb sites. Families moved out and the rats moved in, you couldn’t walk two hundred yards down the road without seeing one of the disgusting things, and the nights, well they move about in packs don’t they?

Those empty houses that weren’t bulldozed were boarded up and left to rot. It used to be a decent sort of neighbourhood, it really did.  About the same time residents moved out the rats moved in, so did the druggies and the squatters. They just came along, took down the steel plates from the windows and doors and moved in lock stock and barrel, one or two of them were ok, but on the whole they were a bad lot.

It got so bad people were scared to open their front doors, never mind walk down the street and that was in the daytime When it was dark you just had to keep yourself inside with the door locked and the curtains shut.

Do you know, one day last week I had a walk to the supermarket and came back to find dog shit blathered all over my front door. Who did that eh? You tell me? Bren, who lives next door to me was took ill not so long back and the bloody ambulance parked at the top of the street and wouldn’t  go any further until your lot came to escort it because of the gangs. Twenty bleedin minutes they waited for ‘em to turn up!

Dog shit, wheelie bins tipped over, empty cans and syringes, how can decent people live amongst that? I despair, I really do.’

Tick-tock, tick-tock.

Mr Harrison, can we get back to the reason why you are here today?’

‘Aye, well, the gangs began to rule the area. Don’t deny it - you know full well they do, you lot do bugger all about it. Gangs of young kids during the day, some of ‘em can’t be older than twelve, but the buggers frighten you all the same. Soon as it get darks it’s the druggies that take over, but to be honest they don’t bother me so much, it’s not  often I venture out once it does get dark. It’s the kids, proper little bastards, gangs of ‘em.

Aaron, he started running with a group of nasty little bastards and things came to a head this morning. There was all this yelling outside, I looked out of the window but there was bugger all to see. That’s when I opened the back door and the little bastards rushed me, backed me up against the kitchen unit, goading me. They was all wearing them hoodies and shouting and pushing me they were, that’s when I put my hands behind me and grabbed the carving knife off the drainingboard to frighten the buggers. It didn’t work, they just kept pushing, I was holding the knife in front of me. Then the next thing I knew there was blood everywhere, the lad in front of me he backed away and fell to the floor and the others ran out calling me a murdering bastard. I grabbed a tea towel and knelt down next to him.

It was Aaron, he was dead.