CHAPTER: 12345, 6789101112131415161718192021222324252627, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32EPILOGUE

Judd leaves the building, backpack slung over one shoulder casually. It’s cloudy overhead and getting darker by the minute. There’s a slight wind blowing and out on the main street it’s carrying the chill of winter already. There are people huddling under the bus awning for shelter. If he were a poorer man he would be waiting there too, wearing some long coat and gloves. Then again if he were a poorer man he would probably be living with Sally still and working the shop during the day. Judd loves the life that he has now, the money and the luxury, even if his job does have its down sides. Judd nods at a few of the people waiting, recognising them from around the college. They nod back and he continues onward. He can feel their eyes on his back, probably wondering why he isn’t catching the bus like they are. Judd starts whistling to himself and spins the key ring to his car around his finger.

He smiles as he catches sight of his favourite girl. She is sat there, in her usual parking space, all shiny and black. Judd can’t help but run his hands over her surface as he walks past and opens the door. This car is his dream car, the one thing he has always imagined owning since he was a little boy. He settles himself into the seat, relaxing in to the leather. It’s a tall car, letting him see out over the other cars. And it’s well made, as all Porsches are. The car practically purrs as Judd starts the engine and he smoothly pulls away. He sends a glare at the council sign over his parking space and the one that sits by the entrance to the car park.

Nine pounds a week is just too much to be paying the council for the privilege of renting this space but there’s no other choice. It just feels wrong to Judd, paying for a space that should by rights be his. He owns the property after all, he pays his taxes just like everyone else and he contributes to the economy. Shouldn’t that mean that he be allowed to park somewhere or even own a parking space. It riles him. He likes owning things, not renting them. That was why he saved for months to afford his Porsche 4x4. He’d only had it for a few weeks and it had been bought second hand of course but still. It was his and no one could take that away from him. He still can’t believe that the previous owner had only owned it for a few months before selling it on.

“Ah well,” he says quietly to himself, “Their loss is my gain,”

As he waits at a red light he pulls his smart phone from his pocket and uses the bluetooth to connect to the car’s phone. He can’t help but look up and down the street, eyes peeled for any drug deals that are happening. He smirks to himself, all too aware that virtual reality and real life are getting dangerously mixed up in his head. He needs to remember that dead is dead in this world. The car beeps, telling him that the connection between the phones has been made.

“Call Reece,” he says clearly.

He drives slowly as he listens to the ringing on the other end. There’s a click.

“Yo,” Reece says in a relaxed tone, “What’s up man?”

“Just heading to class,” Judd says, “Are we still on?”

“On for what?” Reece asks.

Judd can hear the sounds of a different computer game in the background, one that Reece is always talking about and playing when he isn’t working. He sighs and rolls his eyes.

“The meeting tomorrow afternoon…” he says. Reece hums, “Mate! Pause your stupid game and listen to me.”

“Ok, ok, I’m listening” Reece cries. The background seems quieter now and Reece sounds more alert and concentrated.

“We’ve got that meeting tomorrow afternoon,” Judd explains again, slowly this time. “I want to make sure that you’re still coming. Will you be there?”

“I’m your number two aren’t I?” Reece says. Judd can practically hear the grin on his face. “Of course I’ll be there!”

“Good.” Judd says. “Oh and don’t forget to bring Emmet. We need him on board for this part to work properly,”

“Sir, yes Sir!” Reece cries.

The two men laugh and then Reece hangs up with a click.

“Disconnect,” Judd says as he clears a roundabout.

The phone clicks off and for a moment the car is filled with the sound of static. Then Judd flicks a switch and the tones of slow dubstep fill the space instead. Judd likes to drive to dubstep, especially melodic dubstep. It calms him, stops him raging at all the idiot drivers that seem to be filling the streets more and more each day. He drives along the fly over, glancing down to the underpasses below and smiles. He can see cyclists taking those paths, disappearing into the shadows beneath the road and into the trees beyond. He has fond memories of those paths and how useful they had been in the years gone by. He passes more and more of the underpasses and the bike lanes. He starts looking closer as he gets nearer to the college. He wonders whether there is anyone he knows cycling around down there. There should be, there usually is. He decided to check later. He wanted to make sure there were no shifty characters lurking around and bothering his boys. He’d heard strange rumours around, whispers of people on the underpasses that shouldn’t be there. That wouldn’t do.

Judd reaches the final roundabout before he gets to the college. He’s taking it slow, all too aware that even though he’s in a big car and very safe the cars around him aren’t and are probably being driven by idiots. He doesn’t want a single scratch or ding on his baby. Suddenly a car cuts in front of him, pulling out unexpectedly from the last approach road before his turning. He slams on the brakes and hits his horn. Hard.

“You stupid cow!” he shouts inside his vehicle.

He hammers the horn again and again. Finally he just holds his fist there. The horn blares out, loud and long. He can tell that it’s bothering the driver in the car in front. It’s certainly bothering the other cars around him. One zooms past, the passenger sticking up his middle finger. Judd makes a note of the guy’s face. He’s someone he recognises and Judd can sort him out later. The car in front, that cut him off, flashes its rear lights at him and then takes the same turn off as he does. He lets off the horn as they continue on. The sound is starting to annoy him now. He sees the driver hold up a hand, as though to say sorry. It isn’t enough though, not nearly enough. He swears and shouts, slamming his hands down on the steering wheel over and over again. Judd’s temper is flaring, his blood is running hot and he can barely focus. His hands shake as he turns off the roundabout and onto the road that leads to the college.

Judd continues to drive towards his college and he realises that the car that cut him off is going the same way. For a moment he wonders whether it’s just a fluke but then the car, a Vauxhall Corsa Judd realises as he follows behind it, begins to indicate left even though there are no other turn offs or houses to stop near. They’re both going to the college. Judd gets angrier and angrier, gearing up to give the stupid driver a piece of his mind. There was no way that they could escape him now. He would make them answer for what they had done. The Corsa pulls in to a space close to the building and Judd pulls into a space a few cars down. He makes sure that there is plenty of room between his car and the others. There’s already been one close call today, he’s not risking any other harm coming to his precious car if he can help it. He glances at the Corsa and sees a slim blonde woman climbing out. She’s got a bunch of papers in her arms too.

He undoes his belt and reaches into the backseat for his backpack. If he doesn’t hurry he could be late, or worse, arrive with everyone else. Being early was better, Asif always taught him that, and getting a good seat would give him the chance to check out his other course mates and work out where they sit in comparison to him. There is a tap on the window and Judd looks up from where he was checking that he had everything in his backpack. It’s the blonde Corsa driver Judd practically growls to himself as he winds down the window. How dare she pull out in front of him like that? She could have caused a serious accident.

“Are you stupid?!” he yells as soon as the window is down.

“I am so, so sorry,” the blonde says. “I should have looked. I usually look. I don’t know what went wrong today,”

“Do you realise you could have caused an accident?” Judd asks, a little quieter now he realises that the woman knows that she’s done wrong. “It wouldn’t have been me that was hurt, it would have been you and other drivers. You do realise that right?”

“I know, I know,” the other driver says, “I’m so sorry. I’m normally a really, really good driver. Today’s just an off day for me.”

“If you do it again near me I won’t be shouting at you,” Judd growls. “There are lots worse things in this world than being shouted out. Next time you won’t be so lucky,”

“I know how close I came to creating an accident,” the driver says. “Please forgive me, I meant no harm,”

Judd sighs but eventually nods. The woman smiles and hurries off back to her car. As Judd climbs out he sees that she’s still getting things out of her backseat. He wonders why on earth she would need so many notebooks and course books. Is she intending on studying the entire night? He shrugs and walks towards the building, leaving the woman to struggle to carry her things and lock up her car at the same time. Let that be punishment for her.

The inside of the college building is almost deserted as Judd steps inside. There are one or two people wandering around and the caretaker is locking up some of the classrooms but that is it. Judd knows that the buses won’t be there for a while yet and most of the students will be on the buses. He has checked it out already, wanting to know all that he can about the college before deciding he would definitely go to night school there. The entire building still has that school smell, despite it being after hours. There’s the lingering smell of food, sweat and paper. It’s weird being in the empty school building that looks and feels like it should have lots of people in it. Judd shivers and heads towards the room on his class schedule. There are a few people in the corridors, lurking around as they wait for their friends or for their own classes to start. He checks each room number as he walks past, not finding the one that he needed.

As Judd continues to search the corridors he still can’t find his classroom. He’s glad that he left plenty of time between leaving his flat and the start of class. It gave him time to find his room and he clearly needs it. Finally he finds his classroom and peers through the window in the door. There’s no one there but the lights are on and the name of the course is clearly written on the board. He tries the door and inwardly cheers when he finds it unlocked. He picks out a seat, towards the back but not right on the back row and sets himself up. His jacket goes on the seat to one side of him, his backpack goes on the seat to the other side of him. He didn’t want strangers sitting next to him. Perhaps, once he got to know his classmates, he would let one or two of them sit beside him. He glances at his watch and realises that he’s still got 15 minutes to go so he starts sending off a few text messages, making sure that everything with work is going smoothly.

Time passes and the classroom slowly begins to fill up. Judd is surprised by the number of people who are on the course. And as more people come in he’s happy that he managed to get there early and make sure he got the seat that he wants. Eventually the tide of students slows to a trickle before there is only one or two racing in to the room. Judd is still playing on his phone, just glancing up whenever he hears someone coming through the door. Then he hears the squeaking of wheels and realises that he recognises the sound. A slim blond woman comes through the door and Judd finds himself staring. He recognises her. It is the Corsa driver, the one who had cut him off. He smirks as he realises that she’s going to be part of his class. He can keep an eye on her, make sure that she doesn’t make any more driving mistakes. He will be there to put her right if she goes down the wrong path again.

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