Next-door-neighbours, Karen and Terri, have always tried to do right by their errant kinds. But when a simple joyride goes horribly wrong and Tomas and Jodie are captured by a county lines drug gang, they’re not sure who to turn to.
Dragged away to the gang’s suburban lair will the two teenagers find the strength to escape?
And even if they do escape, how can they protect their mums and everyone else they love from the gang’s threat of retaliation?
The thing that immediately struck Jodie, was that there were no seat belts. Her mum didn’t have a car but she knew cars had seatbelts for safety. The back seat was very bouncy, too – so that even when they slowed down for a speed bump she nearly hit her head on the car roof! The Spinner twins had squealed with laughter at that.
“Can’t seem to get top gear, for some reason,” Ronnie admitted, grinding the gears as he tried to force them into place.
Jodie gasped at Ronnie’s erratic driving, once they left the confines of the suburbs. He’d break suddenly, thinking it funny that the car’s occupants tumbled forwards or bumped into each other and at one point Jodie thought about asking him to pull over so she could get out because she was starting to feel car sick. She presumed joyriding was partly about driving fast or erratically but she wasn’t enjoying it all. Besides, there wasn’t much room in the back for the three of them. She kept glancing across at Tomas, wanting him to say something, not wanting it to be her to tell Ronnie to slow down or drive more carefully because his driving scared her. But Tomas reached across Mumbles and squeezed her hand. She liked that he seemed to care about her, at least.
Once they got onto a road that pointed out signs for the motorway Jodie tried to relax a bit. She could see that Mumbles was feeling guilty about the way he’d left things with his dad, as he was texting him, SORRY ABOUT B4 DAD. C U LATER. LOVE BILLY XX. Mumbles was Billy’s nickname.
“Right guys. HERE WE GO!” Ronnie yelled as they zoomed down a feeder road onto the motorway and everyone cheered. Martin passed around celebratory roll ups, stuffed with weed.
“Pass ‘em round guys. Here’s a lighter.”
Ronnie started off on the inside lane of the motorway, then moved carefully across into the outside lane and began to accelerate. The car made a high pitched whining noise and seemed to be going very fast to Jodie. Not that she’d been in a car very often. But the car itself was very low to the ground and the road seemed to be whizzing by. They were passing lots of other cars before Ronnie started slowing down.
“Shit. We’re really low on juice. Better get off this racetrack and find a petrol station. Then we can really have some fun. Anyone got any readies for gas?”
“90p,” offered Tomas, with a wink at Jodie.
“Got a fiver in my back pocket if you want it,” said Mumbles.
“Right, well hold on. I need to take a short cut up that road there,” Ronnie informed them, swerving in front of other drivers, intending to come off the motorway.
Apart from disgruntled drivers honking at Ronnie, narrowly avoiding clipping him, Tomas immediately knew something was wrong about the slip road. He’d cruised with the Spinners before. Not loads of times but once or twice; his parents had never driven. Yeah, he could see they were going back on themselves. Surely, that couldn’t be right?
It wasn’t a slip road OFF the motorway. He could see it was a feeder road ONTO the motorway. What the hell was Ronnie thinking? He opened his mouth to warn him.
* * *
Karen had just finished a cursory clean of the flat. It needed a bloody good spring clean is what it really needed but she had neither the energy nor the inclination to do it. She sipped a mug of weak tea. There were no teabags left so she’d fished this one out of the bin, rinsed off debris that had clung to it and boiled the kettle.
“As long as it’s wet and hot I don’t care,” she’d muttered.
The post had arrived. The postman seemed to like shoving lots of letters through her letterbox. Maybe he thought she was popular. But she could see they were not letters as she opened them, yanking at the envelopes. They were just more bills; bills and reminders and, ruddy hell, a Final Notice from the landlord for none payment of rent.
A tear escaped her eye. She was fed up of everything. She’d always hoped that by the time she got to 40 she’d have got a decent home, a bit of money in her purse and a half decent job . . .