In April 1990, as rioters took over Strangeways prison in Manchester, someone killed a little boy at Black Moss.
And no one cared.
No one except Danny Johnston, an inexperienced radio reporter trying to make a name for himself.
More than a quarter of a century later, Danny returns to his home city to revisit the murder that's always haunted him.
If Danny can find out what really happened to the boy, maybe he can cure the emptiness he's felt inside since he too was a child.
But finding out the truth might just be the worst idea Danny Johnston has ever had.
As a factual writer, I’ve never had to write ‘action’ before. I was rather intimidated by it. Here, Danny spends a few hours drinking…
By seven o’clock he was very drunk indeed. If I don’t go home sharpish, I’ll be too pissed to walk. Better go now.
He managed to navigate his way out of the pub and down the road to a nearby row of takeaways. He ordered a burger and chips then took an age to find and count out the money from his pockets. He left and started on the five-minute walk back to his flat. Despite going to the toilet before he left the pub, he soon realised he needed to go again and lurched into an alleyway between two sets of Victorian terraces. It was edging towards darkness now: no one will see me here.
Leaning against the wall at one side of the alley, he put down his food and fumbled for his fly. The plastic bag came over his head with shocking speed and aggression; it gave him no time to protect himself. He inhaled with shock, in the process pulling the bag even tighter across his mouth. The artificial taste of the plastic made him retch. He tried to reach behind but felt nothing. He tried to twist away but that pulled the bag even tighter around his neck. He clawed at his face, but the plastic was like a second skin. There was no air in his lungs to form a shout. He kicked out but only found his foot on the floor, scattering it across the ground. Slipping, he felt himself being swung to the left and his head connected violently with the wall. Once, then twice. His ears buzzed, his eyes fizzed with speckles of black and white light. I can’t fight this. Too drunk. No air. Please. Why are you doing this? Please.
As Danny was thinking this, he was dragged to the other side of the alley and his head was banged fiercely against the right-hand wall too. This was enough to make his knees buckle and Danny dropped to the ground. This at least loosened the plastic bag. Instinctively, he curled into a ball just as the kicks began. None were aimed at his body. Every one of them was aimed at his head. Every one of them found its target.
A shout came from across the street and Danny heard heavy footsteps coming towards him – accompanied by another set running away. The feedback whine in his own head – as a result of the kicks and the lack of air – added to the din. More shouts. More running. The bag was pulled from his face and the air rushed into Danny’s lungs as he looked around, panicking, as if expecting more blows to come his way. None came. There was, however, a man shouting at him, asking if he was alright. The man was telling Danny he was going to be okay and he should breathe slowly and steadily. Although Danny now felt surprisingly sober, he also felt very sick and turned over to threw up violently onto the ground.
‘Christ, Danny,’ said DI John Smithdown. ‘Even by your standards, you’ve really upset some fucker this time.’
Then Danny was sick again. And everything went black
About the Author
David is a multi award-winning author, television producer and crime reporter. He has written a dozen books including Tell the Truth and Shame the Devil, the true story of the largest historic abuse case ever mounted by Greater Manchester Police. He presented a BBC Radio 4 documentary based on the book called The Abuse Trial. It won both the Rose D’Or and the New York International radio awards in 2016. Officers involved in the case helped David with the police procedures featured in Black Moss, particularly the way the system deals with missing children.
You can find him on Twitter: @Nolanwriter
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