LONDON'S BURNING
BEHIND THE CURTAIN

CHAPTER FOUR – Responsible for your Actions


Geoff Pearce had taken it upon himself to tutor young recruits Craig and Zafar. He reckoned he was trying to give them the benefit of his experience, although neither Craig nor Zafar were too happy with the arrangement. At the moment, Pearce was quizzing the pair of them on the workings of various pieces of cutting equipment, much to Jamie McAllister's amusement.

McAllister leaned casually against the door of the pump ladder, sniggering quietly behind Pearce's back and making other stupid gestures, in an attempt to put the trainees off.

"Geoff," Adam was yelling from the stairs. "Your missus is on the phone!"

Pearce glared at Adam, obviously annoyed that his wife Fiona was still calling him at work, even though he had expressly asked her not to, many times.

"I can take over that, Sub," McAllister suddenly offered.

Pearce turned to him. "Thank you Firefighter McAllister. I was just…"

"Yeah I heard," McAllister interrupted. "Hadn't you better go and sort your wife out? She must want you pretty bad if she's calling you at work!"

"Um, yes, I suppose so…" Pearce left them to it and headed towards his office to take the call in private.

Craig and Zafar glanced at each other, unsure of McAllister's intentions. McAllister, however, was grinning, in the way he usually did when he was plotting something.

"Right then class," he rubbed his hands together gleefully. "Let's have some fun, shall we?"

"Um, actually…" Craig started.

McAllister ignored him. "You do want to pass your exams don't you?"

"Well, yeah," Zafar put in. "But I don't think we could learn much from you!" he muttered under his breath.

If McAllister had heard him, he had chosen to ignore the remark. "I could tell you what's gonna come up in the exam, which is a darn sight more than old Poison will!"

"And how would you know?" Zafar challenged.

"I'm not at liberty to reveal my sources. If you wanna pass the easy way, then I'm your man."

Zafar didn't believe that McAllister was being charitable out of the goodness of his heart. There had to be some sort of catch.

"No thanks," he decided not to risk it. "I think I can pass without cheating!"

"Who said anything about cheating! I'm talking about a little extra tuition that's all. Or are you gonna be the Sub's pet instead?!"

Craig shrugged. "I suppose that would be better than being the DO's pet!"

McAllister was grinning. "Good. You up for that Abdul?"

"No," Zafar repeated, holding his ground. "And stop calling me that."

"What are you up to now McAllister?" Alex had interrupted them.

"We're having a little tuition here, aren't we lads?" McAllister glared at Craig and Zafar.

"Um yeah," Craig found himself agreeing, although he wasn't sure why.

Actually he was. He didn't have the bottle to stand up to McAllister the way Zafar had. He found himself agreeing with the stronger link, in this case it happened to be McAllister.

"Really?" Alex seemed far from convinced. "Remind me, when did you join the Samaritans?!"

"Nobody was asking for your input, Harris."

"Make sure you put all that stuff away when you've finished with it," Alex told him.

"Yeah sure, Abdul can do that for his detention for being cheeky to the teacher!" McAllister was wearing a grin that suggested he was joking.

"Piss off," Zafar had seen through him and stormed off.

McAllister shrugged. "Guess it's lines then!"

Alex wasn't impressed either. "I think that's lesson over, McAllister. Pack this kit away and stop being such a jerk!"

McAllister stuck two fingers up at Alex's retreating back. He swung his arm on to Craig's shoulder.

"Stick with me kid, I'll tell you everything you need to know."

Craig was unsure, but found himself agreeing, yet again.

Mick had been waiting anxiously since his station officers interview, even though Ross had already told him the job was his, he wanted to see it written down. He held the official letter in his tense fingers, knowing it was the confirmation but still worried that it could be a rejection. He was interrupted by a knock on his office door.

"Come in," he left the letter on his desk, unopened.

Zafar pushed the door open and stepped shyly into the office. "Um, could I have a word Guv?"

"Sure," Mick invited the young lad inside. "What's up?"

"Well… uh… I just… I'm worried about this exam…"

"You'll be ok," Mick reassured him, failing to notice that this was not the real reason for Zafar's intrusion. "You know everything there is to know! Sometimes I think you know more than the rest of the Watch put together!"

Zafar managed a small shy smile. "Thanks Guv… I just… well, exams you know," he shrugged it off. "Nerves an' all."

"Just relax," Mick advised.

"Um… yeah…" Zafar turned to leave.

"Was that all?" Mick questioned, finally sensing that there could be something else bothering the lad.

"Um…" Zafar seemed to be considering something. "Yes, Guv… Thanks," he left the office quickly.

Mick frowned to himself. There was definitely something bothering Zafar. Mick knew that he couldn't do anything about it, until Zafar told him what it was.

"What are you doing here?" Alex wasn't happy to find Tom the policeman outside the fire station.

"I need to talk to you Alex."

"Really? Well I don't want to talk to you!" she retorted.

"Please," he had to grab her arm to stop her from walking away.

"What's going on?" Adam joined them.

Alex pulled her arm out of Tom's grip. "Nothing."

"Have you even told Katie about me?" Tom was demanding.

"What should I tell her? That her father cared more about his job than her?!"

"You know that's not true."

"He was worried about what might happen to him if his bosses found out that he'd been sleeping with a fourteen year old girl!" Alex explained for Adam's benefit.

"We can't talk about this here," Tom was trying to remain calm. "Not unless you want everyone to know your business!"

Alex shrugged. "Bit late now! Anyone who can add up will start to wonder what a 25 year old woman is doing with a ten year old daughter!"

"I think you should leave," Adam spoke to Tom. "Before I have to get our Guv'nor!"

"Oh yeah, she'd love that! You love being the centre of attention don't you Alex?!" Tom was beginning to loose his cool.

She didn't answer, but turned on her heel and flounced back into the station. Tom was seething.

"I never knew she was fourteen! From the way she behaved, anyone would have thought she was… well, I didn't know, ok!"

"You don't have to explain yourself to me," Adam told him.

Tom sighed, took one last look at the station then returned to his police car. Adam went over to the Watch Room where Alex was watching Tom leave.

"Do you wanna tell me what that was all about?" Adam questioned.

"Like you couldn't guess."

"I never knew you had a kid."

"There's a lot of things you don't know about me Adam," she left him standing alone by the Watch Room.

He knew she was right, he knew nothing about her life before their chance encounter at a fire on Shadbrook's ground some months back. He decided he needed to do something to change that.

Jamie McAllister was still hanging round Craig. Like a bad smell, Zafar considered. He had decided against telling Mick about McAllister's thoughtless choice of words. He felt he didn't want to kick up such a fuss so early in his career. What would everyone else think of him? Oh look there goes the lad who can't stand having things said about him! Quick, hide the Black Magic.

He decided he should perhaps learn to live with the likes of Jamie McAllister. After all, there was no knowing if he really was a racist or if it was just his sadistic sense of humour…

"You not got your head in a book?!" Charlie had interrupted Zafar's thoughts as he entered the mess, where Zafar was sat alone at the table. "Not like you!"

"Is that how you see me?" Zafar wondered. "As a nerd?!"

"Nah, shows you just wanna get a good start in your career… That's all I'm gonna say," Charlie grinned. "I'm gonna start sounding like Poison in a minute!"

Zafar smiled. "But what would you do if someone… well, if they weren't being very nice to you?"

"Weren't being… Oh you mean if they was bein' a bastard?! I dunno, knock 'em out?!" Charlie suggested, very unhelpfully. "Why, who's bein' a bastard?"

Zafar shrugged, not wanting to explain. "No one you know."

"Hey, if someone's giving you grief…"

"They're not, I was just wondering!"

Charlie shrugged and let the subject rest as Pearce entered the mess.

"What are you two doing here?" he demanded. "The Guv'nor wants a drill in the yard," Pearce informed them with some air of authority. "Now," he added.

Charlie and Zafar got up from the table and followed Pearce down to the appliance bay, where Adam was discussing something with Alex and McAllister was, or at least pretending to, advise Craig on some aspect of the job.

"Right," Pearce started as if he was about to make an important announcement. "Adam, Charlie, reverse the appliances into the yard. Then I want the one three five pitching to the second floor of the tower," he explained. "Come on, chop chop," he hurried them along.

Blue Watch slowly geared into action as Mick descended the stairs into the appliance bay. He couldn't keep the grin off his face. It had been a while since he had something to smile about. Pearce clocked this immediately.

"Have you had some news, Sir?"

Mick's grin grew even wider. "It's only my promotion to station officer, Geoff. From now on, I'll be running Blue Watch, officially!"

Pearce tried a fake smile to cover up his own jealously. "Well done, Sir. I've got the lads preparing for that drill you wanted."

"Oh, yes, of course," Mick realised he had completely forgotten about the routine drill that Blue Watch were currently setting up in the yard.

"I don't suppose you know who got the post at Shadbrook?" Pearce quizzed as he and Mick joined the Watch in the yard.

"No, but I'm sure we'll find out. You know what the Brigade's like for gossip!" Mick replied, grinning once again.

"I just think you should give him a chance, that's all," Adam was telling Alex as they each carried a corner of the front end of the long 1-3-5 ladder from the appliance round towards the foot of the tower.

"Why? I don't love him."

"He has a right."

"Who's side are you on?" Alex demanded.

"No-one's, I'm just saying you should at least talk to him, that's talk not shout! Don't you think Katie has a right to know who her father is?"

Alex didn't answer, she knew he was right, but didn't want to admit it.

The ladder was pitched against the second floor of the tower. McAllister set his foot on the bottom rung to check the stability. He then noticed Zafar stood behind him, removed his foot and stepped backwards, purposely into Zafar's path.

"Watch where you're going!" Zafar almost fell over McAllister's outstretched foot.

McAllister just grinned. "Sorry, I didn't see you there, and it's not even dark yet!"

Zafar felt the anger boil up inside him. "You wanna say that again?!"

McAllister turned to confront Zafar, he spoke in barely a whisper so that only Zafar could hear. "Eat my shit, Abdul."

Before he could stop himself, Zafar had taken a swing at McAllister, who fell to the floor, spitting blood from his mouth. This made everyone else turn round to stare, including Mick and Pearce. Zafar immediately regretted his actions.

(uh-oh!)

London's Burning: Behind The Curtain © Kaz 26/01/03