You know Scrouch the Scrounger. The ruffian-homeless that lives in Scrap Alley? You’ll never believe what he told me yesterday while we were swimming in the sea. Barnaby, are you listening you bloody fool?
Yes, my lord.
The sun beamed into the alley and cast angular shadows which the three boys used to hide in for shade as they played with their marbles. Michael squatted down and rolled his marble gently on the uneven tarmac.
“Better luck next time,” sniggered Johnny. Michael and Denis both rolled their eyes. Then they stopped and looked towards the cloudless blue sky. They could hear a low whistling sound that was getting louder by the second. A loud crash shattered the silence of the alley way. Metal rubbish bins clattered against the walls and rolled to a stop after a few seconds. All three boys found themselves on their feet, staring at the mound of bin bags and other discarded items. Silence again. Then a low groan.
Nervously, Michael inched from the shadow into the sunlight towards the pile.
“Don’t-” pleaded Johnny through gritted teeth, grabbing at his arm and pulling him back but Michael shrugged him away, never taking his eyes from the where he had heard the groan.
Michael stopped halfway between his friends and the rubbish bags. Was that blood? A slow trickle of crimson rolled from beneath the bins towards the drain in the centre of the alley. As quiet as a mouse, Michael crept forward again, knees shaking uncontrollably. He was beginning to think that this was not his greatest idea ever.
Reaching the bin bags, Michael stood on his tiptoes and craned his neck to identify the origin of all the commotion. His heart was in his throat as he stared open eyed at the source of the boys terror. Michael stumbled backwards and suddenly his friends were at his side.
“What is it?!” whispered Denis in a concerned voice, taring straight into Michael’s vacant gaze.
“C-c-c-cowboy…” muttered Michael nonsensically.
“Nice try,” said Johnny, his eyes still fixated on the pile of rubbish.
Another groan broke the silence again and the boys scrambled backwards. Out of the pile of rubbish, old furniture and empty glass bottles rolled the body of a man, until he was lay with his back on the baking tarmac in the heat of the midday summer sun. He was dressed head to toe in a sheriff’s outfit as if he had walked straight out of a spaghetti western that the boys used to sneak in to see in the old cinema last summer. He lay in front of them, groaned his last groan and lay still and dead. Blood oozed from numerous parts of his chest and belly.
“We should get someone,” said Johnny frantically.
“Where did he come from?” asked Denis. Michael squatted over him.
“I don’t know? How do you think he died?” he asked, peering at his damp red shirt.
“Indians! I think he’s a sheriff, don’t see any badge though.”
“Bar fight, must be!”
“Maybe it was a duel? Remember those, from the movies?”
“I bet he was a real hard man. Look how many bullets it took to kill this guy!”
“Either way, we need to get someone quick,” said Dennis as he looked up and down the alley for any passersby. But they were on their own.
Suddenly, from high above them came the same high pitched whistle that preceded the sheriff. The boys looked up and took a few steps back.
CRASH. More bins, bags and bottles went flying from the pile. The boys covered their eyes and noses from the dust and the rotting stench. They stepped over the sheriff to investigate. In the pile of rubbish lay a large spiky green cactus covered in blood.
“He fell into a fucking cactus?!” Johnny guffawed loudly. “Fucking rubbish.”
The boys picked up their marbles and left the alley.