The boys knew the street light was to be avoided, so they moved forward and into the next door neighbour’s front garden. Hunched by the window, they could hear the TV was still on. One at a time, they crawled under the window and made it to the far end of the house. The wooden fence was six feet high, but they knew how to traverse it. Scotty, who was stockier than Steve, was up and over in seconds. He hid by a bush on the far side. Steve had his hands on the top of the fence when the front door clicked open. He moved down the side of the house and lay in the shadows as a man clinked an empty milk bottle and looked around. He closed the door. Steve heard the key turn and waited.
As the quiet returned, he crept back to the fence, reached and launched himself upwards. With his midriff on the top of the fence, he thrust his legs vertically over and landed feet first next to Scotty, who was straight-faced. Crawling past the bush, they waited to see if the coast was clear. The warm air of the day had cooled as they set off down a lane. To their right was a long brick wall and, beyond that, a row of houses. Only a few upstairs windows lights were on, the rest were darkened. To the left was a field holding two shire horses. It was lined with a hedge and a barbed wire fence. A ditch ran along the left-hand side of the lane. A bright moon lit up the night sky, so their next move could be spotted by prying eyes.
They ran in a crouch along the ditch, which was mainly dry, but they sloshed through occasional puddles. The hedgerow cast shadows over the ditch and part-way across the tarmac. They focussed ahead, where the lane met a dual carriageway. The traffic was light up there, but It was by no means safe to cross. An engine revved from behind. It turned a corner and accelerated. The boys dived for cover and hunkered down in the ditch. Steve’s elbows and knees were in pools of water, which seeped into his clothes. It was cold and muddy. The engine grew louder and the car shot past the boys, who averted their eyes from the bright head lamps. The car slowed, signalled left and was away on the faster carriageway. As stillness returned, the boys got up and continued along the ditch.
At the end, they ran down another lane to the left and squeezed through a hedge. Without a word, they lay side by side on a small embankment and watched the carriageway ahead. Steve moved his sleeve back, looking at the luminous dials of his watch. It was 12:08 a.m. There were too many cars up ahead to cross, so the boys waited. Steve looked behind and to his right. He could just make out the edge of the housing estate from where they had come. It glowed with street lights, as did the carriageway ahead. They hid in the shadows and waited. A car sped past from right to left and a lorry behind was only just leaving the roundabout way over to the right. They looked left. Nothing was coming their way. It was time.
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