Arran's Law

Chanelle's boyfriend Arran is accused of murder, and she goes on a one woman mission to clear his name.

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13. The Underworld - Conor

My heart is racing as I dart down the street, sticking to the shadows. My steps are pretty much silent, and every little sound makes me jump. All of my senses are on high alert. Well, I am a gang leader. The police have been after me since that huge fight two weeks ago. Jordan and his crew had been following us, not that we were aware of it. Jordan leapt on Cammy, and threw him to the floor. Then everything just kicked off. Somene must have called the police, cause next thing I know, we here sirens. I don't know or care what happened to Jordan's crew - I just yelled to my people to run. The police know my name, but not what I look like, which is good. If I'm caught now... No, Conor, don't think like that. They've been chasing you for months - what are the chances of them catching you now?

 

I pull out my phone, and check that that message actually sent.

To: Dec, Cammy, Jarrod, Tommo

All of you - meet me in the alley in an hour. And I mean ALL of you - this is an emergency.

Yeah, it sent. They better be there - all of them. They know to come if its an emergency. And this is most definitely an emergency. My baby brother is on trial for a murder he didn't commit.

 

Arran. I remember the day he was thrown out like it was just yesterday. The bastard that I used to call 'Dad' got hold of a letter adressed to Arran. He read it, and found out that he isn't Arran's biological father. Any other dad would have been understadably upset, but I like to think that they wouldn't have taken the same course of action. Dad threw Arran out, all the while calling him horrible names that make me shudder whenever I think about them. I tried to convince Dad to let him stay, so Dad hit me. Right across the face. I almost hit him back. I so wish that I had.

I stayed in that house for two more days - enough time to get all of my stuff together, and call a friend to ask if I could stay with him. He said yes, so I walked out. I told Dad that since he'd kicked out Arran, I was leaving as well. I hope he spends the rest of his days alone. I hope he dies slowly and painfully. I hope he rots in hell.

I looked for Arran, despite what he thought. I didn't care what some stupid DNA test said - Arran is my brother, and nothing will ever change that. I looked everywhere. I called in every favour I was owed, and had loads of people searching for him. But no one found him. I thought he was dead, which tore me apart. I thought that my little brother - the yin to my yang, the one that I'd spent years with, the one that understood me completely - was dead. But now, I finally found him - to have him taken away again. He was right under my nose all this time, living a life with Chanelle.

 

Oh God - Chanelle. I'm jealous of Arran, because he's found her. When I visited him in the nick, he told me how she took him off of the streets, and brought him into her home. He really loves her, and she really loves him. Chanelle smiles whenever I say his name - I don't know if she realizes this. Arran's eyes light up whenever someone says her name. They're the lucky ones. But if I'm hurting over this injustice, I can only imagine the pain Chanelle must be in. I had walked her back to her apartment after hours of trawling through more CCTV. Apart from that one lucky break at the start, we didn't find anything else. But one piece of evidence is a start. She had seemed ok, but I know that she's not. She loves him, and he's been arrested for something he didn't do. It felt really wrong leaving her alone, but there's something I have to do.

 

I enter the alley where I'm supposed to be meeting everybody. I hear the sound of voices. Are they already there? That was really quick. I squint, blocking out the glare of the sun with my hand. I make out the shapes of people at the other end of the alley. I strain my eyes, trying to make out who they are. But when I do, it's not the desired outcome. Oh shit - it's not my people. It's the police.

 

I freeze, not moving a muscle, hardly even breathing. It's ok, they haven't seen me yet. But if they do, then I could get caught, which would leave Chanelle all alone. Arran would kill me, if I didn't do it first. I didn't look after Arran when I should have - the least I can do is look after his girl.

I slowly creep forward, spying a doorway a few feet away where I can hide. I head towards it, not making a sound. I'm almost there, when my foot kicks a can. The can skitters across the concrete ground, making a loud and recognisable noise. Damn it. The voices abruptly cut off. I flee into the doorway, hoping that none of them saw me. I stand there, my back pressed up to the wall, breathing as shallowly as I can, begging, praying that no on saw me. When the voices start up again, my knees almost give out, I'm so relieved. Now, all I have to do is wait. And I don't have to wait long.

 

I hear footsteps entering the alley the same way that I did. I cautiously peek out, to see who it is, to warn them about the police if it's one of mine. It is one of my people, but when I see which one, I have to hold by my groan of frustration. It's Declan.

Don't get me wrong - Dec is a great guy. We've known each other since we were, like, four. He's my best mate in the whole world. He's fiercely loyal, and can always be depended on - he was the one who took me in after I left home. But, he is also loud, and very hard to miss. He's really tall and strong. Normally, I would be happy to see him, but not now. He could get us caught without even meaning to.

 

I catch Dec's eye. He grins at me, and saunters over. I start miming police, chopping my hand across my throat, mouthing for him to be quiet. But Dec doesn't get it. I don't blame him - we've never been this close to police before, and I've never had to mime things to him before either.

"Conor, what the hell are you doing?" Dec asks in his loud voice. Even more shit.

I leap out of the doorway at Dec like a man possessed. I grab a hold of the front of his jacket, and drag him into the doorway with me. Well, that's the theory. But Dec is a big guy, about five inches taller than me, and he has the strength to match it. He's using his muscle, so dragging him is like dragging a blue whale. After what feels like several minutes but what is in reality is a few seconds, I have managed to drag the human rock that I call Dec into the doorway with me. He starts fighting with me, and I know that if I don't do something, one or both of us could end up seriously hurt. But Dec won't let up for a second to let me talk. So I have to do something drastic.

 

I mentally apologise to Dec, and elbow him in the mouth as hard as I can.

 

Dec stumbles backwards, his hands flying to his mouth. I'm surprised that he actually moved. I put all of my strength behind that blow, and he didn't exactly see it coming - but normally it takes a hell of a lot of strength to shift Dec. Blood is pouring out of the gaps between his fingers. He looks at me with hurt and surprise in his eyes, and I feel horribly guilty.

"You 'ucking 'astard! At really 'urt..." He starts, his voice muffled by his hands. Bloody hell, what does it take to shut him up? I press one of my hands down over his hands, shutting him up.

"Dec, it's the police!" I whisper. Dec's eyes widen, and he doesn't make a sound. Fi-bloody-inally.

 

I peek around the edge of the doorway. The police are still there, but they have no idea of what just happened, which amazes me. I thought the scuffle was pretty loud, but I've been proved wrong.

Dec and I have to stay silent for another minute or so. The police eventually leave, and we can relax.

 

I relax, taking my hand off of Dec's mouth. We step out of the doorway. I lean against the wall of the alley, and sigh in relief.

"You okay?" I ask Dec. Dec takes his hands off of his mouth. His lips are swollen, but it could have been a lot worse. He shrugs.

"Hey, where was the blood coming from?" I say, because there are no visible cuts or gashes or anything like that.

"I bit my tongue..." Dec says. This seems hysterically funny, for some reason, so I burst out laughing. Dec's face only makes it worse.

When I regain my composure, Dec is regarding me with a look of someone who has seen this sort of thing millions of times.

"Anyway, Fearless Leader, if you're quite done. Why did you send out the emergency call?"

I suddenly stop laughing, like all traces of humour have been completely wiped away. For a few seconds there, when it was just me and Dec having a laugh, I could forget. But I have to face up to the bane of my existance.

"I'll tell you when the others arrive. Did you see any of them on your way?" Dec frowns, the way he always does when he remembers something, even if it only happened a few seconds ago.

"I think I saw Jarrod... But I'm not sure. It looked like Jarrod, but we kept our distance." Dec says. This was an idea that we came up with after the police started properly looking for us. If we see each other in public, we stay away from each other, until we arrive at a more secluded location.

"Ok. Well, they should be here soon. Hopefully Jarrod will be on time for a change."

"She should. We all know to be here if it's an emergency." Dec says, flicking his hair out of his eyes. It's funny how most people don't realize that Jarrod, despite the name, is female. I have no idea how she got that name, but it suits her. Time and time again, she has proved that she is as tough as any of us, and twice as deadly in a fight.

 

"Hey, guys." The voice comes from behind Dec, and we both jump about ten feet in the air. I look over Dec's shoulder, and see Jarrod, wearing her familiar grin. Jarrod isn't exactly a beauty queen, but there is something about her which makes you stare. I'm still not exactly sure what it is. Maybe it's the bright auburn hair, or maybe the blue eyes. Or maybe it's the willowy figure, the strong limbs. I think Dec fancies her - not that he'll ever admit it.

Jarrod laughs as she closes the distance between her and us. Cammy and Tommo walk in behind her.

"Omigod, you guys crapped yourselves!" Jarrod says, still grinning. Jarrod looks very pretty when she smiles.

"Yeah, how could you fall for something as simple as that?" Cammy says, his huge dark eyes rolling like marbles. Tommo, as usual, says nothing, but he does smile. But then he takes a good look at Dec.

"What happened to you?" He asks. I jump a little - Tommo hardly ever speaks, but whenever he does, everyone listens to him. He's the strong silent type.

"Oh, Conor elbowed me in the mouth." Dec says like it's completely normal. I bite my lip to hold back my laughter.

"Oh, right. Wait, what?" Jarrod says, looking at me. "Why exactly did you decide to hit him in the face?"

"Elbow," I correct her.

"Well, children," Dec says. I copy Cammy, and roll my eyes. Dec likes to continually remind us all that he's the oldest. It drives me up the wall. "We did just see the police."

"Yeah, and almost got caught!" I jump in. "I was hiding quietly, and then Mr Bloody Big Mouth here, decided to go and speak very loudly! So I hit him."

They all look at me for a second, before simultaneously bursting into laughter. I join in without hesitating. I don't know why it's so funny - it just is.

 

When the laughter dies down, Cammy is the first one to speak.

"Thank you for that little story. But, and it's a big but-"

"Haha! Big but!"

Cammy gives Dec a long look.

"Jesus Chirst Dec, do you ever shut up? Anyway, why did you call us here? You sent out the emergency call."

Once again, it's as if all the happiness, all the laughter, everything good is suddenly gone from the world. For a few minutes there, I didn't have to think about the inevitable. I didn't have to think about my constant pain. I didn't have to think about my baby brother locked away in jail, in amongst real criminals for something he didn't do.

 

I feel the smile leave my face, and my expression harden. The faces of those around me change as well. We are no longer a bunc of mates hanging out. This is official gang business. And I so wish that it wasn't.

"Well, I guess you have all heard that Miranda Lockhart was murdered." Nods all round. "Do you all know that someone has been arrested? Arran Mackenzie?" Nods again. I try not to show it, but it hurts to say his name.

"What does that have to do with this?" Tommo enquires. I look at the floor, and swallow. What I'm about to say next are words that I hoped that I'd never have to say. These words make me look completely weak and helpless as a gang leader. But desperate times call for desperate measure. And I have never been more desperate.

"I need your help."

The words burn like battery acid in my throat on the way out. There is a long pause after I speak. I lift my eyes from the ground, and look at my gang. Their expressions, although on very different faces, are almost identical. They are ones of shock and horror.

"I need you all to find out exactly what happened that night. I need you to ask as many people as you can. I need evidence in Arran Macenzie's favour." I say.

"Why?" Tommo asks

"My reasons are my own. But I really need you guys to do this for me." I say, letting a little bit of my desperation show in my voice.

"Why? What does the Mackenzie guy mean to you? And there is the code of silence. No one is going to say anything!" Cammy says. I know that what he says is true. He doesn't mean it as a challenge. Suddenly, I realize that I'm sick and tired of hiding who Arran really is to me. And if I have any hope of convincing my people to do this for me, they need to know the truth.

"He's my brother." I say.

 

Jarrod gasps. Tommo goes deathly pale. Dec raises a shaking hand to cover his mouth. And Cammy looks like he's just seen a ghost.

"Conor, man, I'm so sorry..." He starts.

"It's ok." I cut him off. "But can you all please do this for me? If there's no evidence, then Arran will die. I lost him once, three years ago - I'm not losing him again."

"Ok." Jarrod says in a loud, clear voice. "If that's what you need us to do, we'll do it. It's only right."

"Yeah." Dec chimes in. "You've done us favours, so we owe you this at the very least."

 

I smile at them all, as they all voice their agreement.

"Thank you so much, guys." I say, my voice full of gratitude.

"Hey," Dec says, smiling at me. "If you're in it, we're in it. Remember the vow?"

"Brothers and sisters in all but blood." We all say together.

 

I don't let it show, but those words hurt. That's the same thing I said to Arran, even though, as far as I'm concerned, he is my brother in blood as well.

 

But if I don't do something, I could lose the last family member I have left.

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