WHAT HAS GONE BEFORE …
Jackie Knowles is an accomplice in a burglary in a Soho jeweller’s shop. After being forced to ditch the car, he returns home and receives a visit from his girl-friend, Kitty, who offers him money for his escape after learning of his part in the hold-up. However, Jackie is caught and sentenced to three years, to be spent in a Borstal institution. He has been there only a short time before Sparrow, another inmate, suggests an escape, but Jackie firmly refuses. He asks Bill, whose time is up, to visit his mother and girl-friend in London, and Bill agrees. Meanwhile, Bossie, Alfie and Sparrow plan their escape. Jackie’s refusal to join in brings about a fight, which is interrupted by Bill.
“What’s the meeting in aid of?”
“It’s a dramatic class, and we’re rehearsing a play,” Casey panted.
“If you want to know,” said Alfie, “we’re planning a getaway.”
Sparrow spat. “Can’t you keep your big mouth shut?”
“We can trust Bill.”
“I’d like to come with you, Casey,” said Bill.
“But you’ve only just got back.”
“And I want to go away again.”
“Ah, we’ll soon have the whole ruddy institution with us,” Casey declared.
“Yeah,” ‘Said Alfie. “‘Except Jackie.”
“Why,” Bill asked, “has he swallowed the anchor?”
“He wants us to give up the whole idea.”
“You’re ruining your chances of making good after,” Jackie argued.
“Making good after!” Bill snorted. “They all said I was the sort who would make good after. First thing they tell you when you leave here is break away from all this – get new ideas-get yourself a new life. Got myself a job. A good job. I was carpentering in a big workshop. I’d made a start and I was happy. Well, I hadn’t been there more than a week when I found that every man in that place knew I was from Borstal. Whenever a tool or anything was missing, I was blamed. Nobody said anything, but I knew what they were thinking.
“One day somebody did say something. There was a fight, and I was slung out. Of course, I had to report to the Association, and I got a right bawling out for fighting, but I didn’t lose my licence.
“I had another go. I got another job. Same thing. Sacked. Job after job, after job, after job, they all ended the same way-sacked”
“Why did they send you back, Bill? ” Alfie asked.
“Well, the last job I got, I thought that-well, if everyone thinks I’m going to pinch something, I might just as well. So I helped myself to twenty pounds put of the till, and here I am.”
Casey turned to Jackie. “Well, what about it? Do you still think we should try and make good, or will you come with us?”
Jackie turned to Bill. “What do you ‘Say?”
“All right, I’m with you.”
In the library sat Bossy, Basher, Spud, . Alfie, Casey and Bill. At one of the shelves stood another intern, Dusty. Sparrow sauntered over to Dusty.
“You got to go now, Dusty, haven’t you?”
“Because reading’s bad for your eyes.”
“Who ‘Said so?”
“You heard what he said.” Basher was at Dusty’s other shoulder.
“See him off, will you, Spud?” Sparrow asked.
Spud saw the little chap out of the room.
“Okay, Spud,” said Casey. “Stay by the door.” He turned to the rest of the boys. “First of all, the clothes and the money are down in the village. A pal of Bossy’s left them there this morning. But there’s a snag, though. They’ve got to be collected by someone wearing civvies. Sparrow’s going to collect them.”
“Wearing what?” Sparrow asked.
“The suit we’re going to borrow from one of the masters.”
“I’ve had my eye on that new striped suit of Knight’s. Nice and refined. About my size and all.”
“All right. You’ll have it.” Casey _ turned his attention to the group. “Now we wait for the night of the concert. The place will be full of visitors, so the ‘Screws will be run off their feet. Directly our bit’s over, somebody sneaks up to Knight’s room and nicks a suit for Sparrow. The rest of us wait downstairs. Then over the wall together, right?”
“Right,” they chorused.
“Bossy, it’s your job to pinch the key to Knight’s room. Wait till the morning of the concert and get it from the rack in his office. Okay?”
“I’ll get it.”
“Once we’re over the wall, Sparrow goes off to the village for clothes and the doh-ray-me. We wait at the farm till he gets back.”
“Who’s going to crack the crib?” Sparrow asked.
“I’ll do it,” Basher volunteered.
“No, fair’s fair,” Casey told Basher. “We’ll draw for it.”
“What do you want to draw for?” Basher protested. “I’ll do it, I tell you.”
“Quiet, big head,” said Sparrow. “We want to get out.”
Alfie had torn the paper. “That’s eight. The one that gets the one with the cross on does the job, eh ?”
Sparrow took his slip. “No.”
Basher took his slip. “No.”
Spud took his slip. “No.”
Bossy took his slip. “No, not me.”
Bill took his slip. “No.”
“Leaves you and me, Jackie,” said Alfie.
Alfie dipped his hand into the basket and drew out a slip.
“No.” He turned. “Congratulations, Jackie.”
The boys were back in the dormitory.
“Come on, now, Jackie,” Alfie warned. “Bell’s gone.”
Jackie turned a worried face to his companion. “Alfie, I’ve changed my mind.”
“What do you mean?”
“I’m not going with you.”
“No, I’m not scared. I’m just going to do my time. If I come with you, I’ll soon be back.”
“Left it a bit late, haven’t you?”
“I’m sorry. But I’m not joining in no getaway. l won’t tell nobody about it, I promise. I’m just not coming, see? I’m sorry, Alfie, but I… but I’ve got my Mum to think about, and I’ve got a girl, too.”
“I wish I had a girl. Must be nice to have a photo to keep you company in a place like this. They’ve all got them, haven’t they? Even old Bill’s brought one back this time. Has it sort of shut away, Have you seen it?”
“Love from Kitty.”
Jackie was interested.
Jackie looked across at his photo with the inscription “Love from Kitty.”
“I suppose · I’d better be going now,” said Alfie.
Jackie wasn’t listening. He was looking at the photograph. He could hear Bill’s words that day he left” If ever I do find her I’ll get her. No matter who she is or who she belongs· to, I’ll get her.”
“About that other thing,” said Alfie. “If that’s the way you feel about it, well, I suppose it will be all right. I’ll try and explain to the others.”
“Forget it. I’ll come.”
Inside the gym. the audience intently watched the ‘Stage as the boys went through “Julius Caesar.”
“Fare thee well, Strato.” Brutus Alfie broke into soliloquy. “Caesar now be still. I killed thee not with half so good a will.” Alfie lunged the sword through his armpit and staggered to the floor as the other actors grouped around his body. The curtain dropped.
Mr. Knight rushed on to the curtained stage. Tigson was with him.
“Well done, lads,” said Tigson. “Well done. Now, come on, you scene- shifters, get cracking with these pillars. We’ve only got three minutes.”
Casey sidled up to Jackie. “Time to get going.”
Jackie gave a nod and turned on his heel.
Amongst the audience sat Kitty and Mrs. Knowles.
“I wonder where Jackie is?” Mrs. Knowles asked.
“I’ll go and find out, if you like,” said Kitty.
Kitty went across the room and stopped beside an attendant dressed in blue.
“Excuse me,” she said. “I wonder if you could tell me where to find Jackie Knowles?”
“Yes, certainly,” said Plato.
Backstage the boys were arranging the music stands. Jackie was amongst them. Casey gave him the nod. Unobtrusively, Jackie slipped out into the corridor.
“Talk of the angels,” said Plato. “Here he is.”
“Hello, Jackie,” Kitty smiled.
Plato noticed the dead-pan of Jackie’s face. “I thought you’d be surprised,” he said. “What are you doing out here, anyway? · Thought you were supposed to be in there helping Tigson and Knight with the scenery?”
“I – just came out for a breather. I felt a bit faint. I think perhaps I’d better go back now.”
“Are you crazy ? Can’t you see you’ve got a visitor? You take my tip and go on feeling faint. I’ll fix Tigson for you. Plato winked at Kitty. “Cheerio.”
“Well!” Kitty half asked, half exclaimed to Jackie.
“What do you want, Kitty?” Jackie asked aggressively. “You’re not allowed out here. You’ll only get me into trouble.”
“Why aren’t you in there watching the show?”
“Because I’d rather be out here , talking to you. I thought you’d be pleased to see me, too.”
“Are you sure it’s me you’ve come to see?”
Kitty frowned. “What’s the matter with you?”
“You’ve been seeing Bill Foster all the time he’s been outside, haven’t you?”
“What if I have, there’s no harm in it.”
“Excuse me, miss.” It was Alfie. “I’m sorry to interrupt you, Jackie, but you’re wanted up in Mr. Knight’s room right away.”
“Just a minute, Alfie.”
“I shouldn’t keep him waiting if I were you, Jackie.”
Jackie turned to Kitty, “I’ll have to go now Kitty. I’ll see you later.”
Two minutes later Jackie found Knight’s room and opened the door. He· headed for the main light and took out the bulb. Crossing the room slowly, he made for the wardrobe. His progress was cut short as the telephone rang. He spun round and gave a curse. It kept ringing. He opened the wardrobe door, picked the suit off the hanger. The door opened and a shaft of light fell across the floor. Jackie ducked behind the open wardrobe door as Knight stepped into the room.
Jackie pushed hard against the wall as Knight came across the room and closed the wardrobe door. Then he caught sight of Jackie.
“Here!” Knight lunged forward.
Jackie caught him with a powerful right to the stomach. As Knight doubled up, Jackie followed through with an upper-cut that had in it every ounce of power he could muster.
Jackie was frantic. He ran across to the bed and picked up the reading lamp. Knight was on his feet and came at Jackie again. The boy swung the lamp wildly. He felt it ‘Strike Knight’s head, and the man fell limp to the floor. Jackie dropped to the bed, momentarily dazed. He looked at the bleeding body on the floor.
The door opened and in stepped Sparrow. “Come on,” he whispered. “What are you doing?”
Jackie turned frightened eyes on Sparrow. “He’s dead. He’s dead. I killed him.” Sparrow came across to the bed. “He’s dead, Sparrow.”
“‘Quiet, you fool, yo:u’ll have the whole building up here. Pull yourself together.”
“I never meant to kill him,” Jackie sobbed. “I never meant it. But he wouldn’t let go, Sparrow; he wouldn’t let go!”
“Shut up. What’s done’s done. Come on, we’ve got to get out.”
“We can’t leave him like this. We’ve got to do something. We ought to get a doctor …. “
“Shut up, I tell you. We’ve got to get out of here, and quick. That’s what we’ve got to do. It’s us or him, and it ain’t going to be me. Come on.”