William was dead. He knew he was because he was standing near to where he was being buried. His mum, dad, siblings and many of the people who lived in his village were standing there, each with their head bowed and listening to the vicar who was praying.
Then he saw his two friends, James Palmer and Edward Jones and he laughed. His normally scruffy best mates were in their Sunday best with over-cleaned faces and hair combed back from their eyes. They even had a pair of shoes on!
He sat watching for a moment longer, then decided enough was enough when he heard his mother crying hysterically in to her handkerchief. She always cried when she had to bury one of her kids. William was the fourth child in a matter of years, so he understood that she did love them all, even if she did throw whatever she could grab hold of to hit them over the head with when they did wrong.
William died in uncertain circumstances. Or that was what the police had told his parents on the night they found him by the side of the road. His neck was broken and thus, making it look like murder.
However, three people knew the truth and if ever the truth did come out, then all Hell would break loose.
William, James, or Jimmy as he liked to be called, and Eddy short for Edward, enjoyed a game of dare, the more daring, the better respect they would get from each other. William loved dangerous dares, ones, which could cause real mayhem, whilst Eddy preferred ones which would not get him into too much trouble if ever his dad found out by local gossip and gave him the leather belt…buckle end.
“Dare you to nick a cart,” Jimmy grinned one cold night when he puffed on a scrag end of a cigarette on the canal bank, then passed it to William who inhaled the tobacco to his lungs.
“You’re joking? There’s no way I’d be daft enough to do that, you nit-twit,” he laughed as he handed the last drag to Eddy.
“Chicken!” Eddy heckled as he and Jimmy flapped their arms like chicken wings.
“All right you two, I’ll do it, only if you let me think of your dares when I have done the deed,” he grinned.
“You’re on, and we have to witness it too. You ain’t gonna pretend you did it, because we’ll lamp you black and blue if we find out you’d not,” Jimmy noted as he scoured the grass where they were sitting for more cigarette butts.
It was early next morning when the boys got out of their beds and headed for the street. The smog was low that morning and each boy’s naked arms pricked up with goose pimples as soon as the cold, damp morning hit them.
They sat on the sodden ground waiting quietly for the coalman to do his daily deliveries in their street. William was as calm as ever as he sat listening hard for the hooves of the Shire horse who would be pulling the heavy cart along the macadam road.
William smiled wickedly when on cue the coalman and his horse passed their bare, dirty feet and stopped outside Mrs. Potts house.
When the coalman was carrying his old sack of coal along...