FEATURE: Shaun Baines’ Five Days In Crime | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Author Shaun Baines is set to release new novel woodcutter in paperback today through Amazon and available on ebook now. Inspired by that, Shaun shared a few words on what inspired the work…

Woodcutter finds Daniel Dayton on the run from his criminal family. When his daughter is harmed, he returns to Newcastle seeking retribution. It’s a dark and gritty tale and, on the face of it, I am the least likely person to write it. I’m not a gangster and I don’t have a criminal record. I’m a bookworm with too much imagination, but I have had a few brushes with crime. Not exactly the Kray twins, but every one is true.

Here are my top five.

I attended Liverpool John Moores University to study English Literature and lived in a desperate part of Everton that didn’t take kindly to students. On my third day, I returned from lectures to notice a teenage boy lingering by the entrance of my halls. He was about thirteen and, as if complying to Scouse stereotype, he wore a shellsuit.

I was a strapping eighteen year old – what did I have to fear? The answer came when he produced a gun from under his jacket, pointing it at my face. Thankfully, no shots were fired. The teenager simply mouthed the word ‘Bang’ and sauntered away. I wished I was half as mobile. Frozen to the spot, I looked for help, but the street was empty.

The next thing I remember is ‘coming-to’ in my grotty bedroom, staring out of the window. I must have made a cup of tea because there was one going cold by my side. It was all a blur.

I later learned it had been a form of hazing; something the locals did at the beginning of every school year. One boy left university after they trapped him inside a telephone box for an hour. Then again, his name was Rupert and he wore yellow, checked trousers. On purpose. If the locals hadn’t run him out of town, I would have.

Working in a factory in Byker, I accidentally spilled the milk of one of my colleagues where it soaked into his precious copy of Autotrader. Someone must have squealed because Mick rushed into the canteen ready to kill. I hadn’t been there long so didn’t know who he was.  My attempts to placate him failed and we squared off. He was smaller than me, but wider. I figured on a fifty-fifty chance of getting to my next shift with all my teeth.

As fists were about to fly, we were interrupted by the floor manager requesting us back to work. The fight came to nothing. My adversary turned to leave and I saw a tattoo on the back of his neck. It read Bad Mick. I later learned he was a known drug dealer with connections to a local gang. Naturally, when my next break came, I avoided the canteen and hightailed it to the newsagents to replace his lactose intolerant magazine.

Oddly, we became friends after that and he attended my twenty-first birthday party. Mick was a genuinely warm, charismatic man who was devoted to his family. He sparked my interest in the dual personalities some criminals exhibit. I never asked about his other life, but Mick told me he worked at the factory as a cover should the police want to know where his money came from. But if the police ever needed to know who Bad Mick was, all they had to do was read the back of his neck.

I was recently caught shoplifting from my local supermarket. At the self-service check-out, I forgot to swipe my plastic bag, escaping the ten pence charge. I realised my error and went back to pay. The shop assistant looked baffled when I explained myself, but I was also over-heard by the security guard. I often go to this supermarket and I know when the security guard is off, he has no replacement. There is just no need. That’s how important he is. Needless-to-say, he doesn’t have his own office and wanted a word with me by the strawberries.

I was given a public dressing down on the importance of remaining vigilant when purchasing plastic bags. He was adamant I not repeat my mistake, hoping I’d learned my lesson. All the while, I’m clutching my ten pence and wondering where to shove it.

Cyber-crime has always baffled me. My own technical abilities stretch to pressing Control/Alt/Delete and no further. I found it hard to believe there were evil nerds out there able to hijack my computer. Until it happened to me.

I’d recently downloaded some software and possibly something malicious with it because an eyeball appeared on the screen. It was an animation, like the eye of Sauron. Suddenly, my cursor moved and began opening up my applications. I watched in horror as it logged on and found my emails. I wrestled with it, dragging the cursor away from causing any damage.

Underneath the eyeball came the words – Stop trying to resist me.

I freaked out. Like computer coding, I have no experience with demonic possession, but that’s what it felt like. I had a nerd in my laptop. I continued moving the cursor, blocking his clicks with mine, but I couldn’t go on like that for ever. Using the one weapon at my disposal, I pressed Control/Alt/Delete and the screen went blank.

I paced the room, gnawing at my fingernails. What if he was still in there? What if turning off my computer was exactly what he wanted? It was an anxious fifteen minute wait before I turned it back on. Sauron was gone, but his memory remained. To this day, I don’t know if he stole my identity or a certain password to BigKnockers.com (I made that name up. If it exists, it’s purely coincidental), but I never downloaded again.

As crimes go, murder is one of the worst, but if you’re young enough and plead ignorance, it’s possible to get away with it. In the days before Health and Safety, the interior doors of our house were full glass. I was nine and my sister was seven. She had angered me in some way. I can’t remember how – possibly knocking over my Domino Rally set or putting a finger into my Angel Delight.

A chase began, Tom and Jerry-like, through the house. My sister stopped, struggling with the closed dining room door. I was on her instantly and all it took was a little push, a single nudge and she was through the glass. It shattered and my sister wailed before the first shard hit the ground.

Luckily for me, no murder was committed. That would happen later when my parents discovered what an idiot I’d been. My sister cut her hand, the gash stopping just short of her wrist. Her blood went everywhere, turning the dining room into a crime scene.

She survived. The glass doors where replaced and I didn’t see sunlight again until my teens. We both had a lucky escape that day.

Woodcutter is available as an ebook and paperback on Amazon.

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