Look, constable, what I don’t understand is, surely he
wouldn't be into blues? Because that was Wayne’s life for
you. A blues single. I mean, if people were music, Wayne
would be like one of those scratchy old numbers, you
know, re-recorded about a hundred times from the
original phonograph cylinder or whatever, with some
old guy with a name like Deaf Orange Robinson standing
knee-deep in the Mississippi and moaning through his
You’d think he'd be more into Heavy Metal or Meatloaf
or someone. But I suppose he’s into everyone. Eventually.
What? Yeah. That’s my van, with Hellfire Disco
painted on it. Wayne can't drive, you see. He’s just
not interested in anything like that. I remember when
I got my first car and we went on holiday, and I did the
driving and, okay, also the repairing, and Wayne worked
the radio trying to keep the pirate stations tuned in. He
didn’t really care where we went as long as it was on high
ground and he could get Caroline or London or whatever,
I didn’t care where we went so long as we went.
I was always more into cars than music. Until now, I
think. I don’t think I want to drive a car again. I’d keep
wondering who’d suddenly turn up in the passenger
seat . .
Sorry. So. Yeah. The disco. Well, the deal was that I
supplied the van, we split the cost of the gear, and Wayne
supplied the records. It was really my idea. I mean, it
seemed a pretty good bet. Wayne lives with his mum but
they’re down to two rooms now because of his record
collection. Lots of people collect records, but I reckon
Wayne really wants - wanted - to own every one that was
ever made. His idea of a fun outing was going to some old
store in some old town and rummaging through the
stock and coming out with something by someone with
a name like Sid Sputnik and the Spacemen, but the thing
was, the funny thing was, you’d get back to his room and
he’d go to a shelf and push all the record aside and
there’d be this neat brown envelope with the name and
date on it and everything - waiting.
Or he’d get me to drive him all the way to Preston or
somewhere to find some guy who’s a self-employed
plumber now but maybe back in 1961 called himself
Ronnie Sequin and made it to number 152 in the charts,
just to see if he’d got a spare copy of his one record which
was really so naff you couldn't even find it in the
Wayne was the kind of collector who couldn’t bear a
hole in his collection It was almost religious, really. He
could out-talk John Peel in any case, but the records he
really knew about were the ones he hadn’t got. He’d wait
years to get some practically demo disc from a punk
group who probably died of safety-pin tetanus, but by
the time he got his hands on it he’d be able to recite
everything down to the name of the cleaning lady
who scrubbed out the studio afterwards. Like I said, a
So I thought, what more do you need to run a disco?
Well, basically just about everything which Wayne
hadn’t got - looks, clothes, common sense, some kind
of idea about electric wiring and the ability to rabbit on
like a prat. But at the time we didn’t look at it like that, so
I flogged the Capri and bought the van and got it nearly
professionally re-sprayed. You can only see the words
Midland Electricity Board on it if you know where to
look. I wanted it to look like the van in the ‘A-Team’,
except where theirs can jump four cars and still hare off
down the road mine has trouble with drain covers.
Yes, I’ve talked to the other officer about the tax and
insurance and MOT. Sorry, sergeant. Don’t worry about
it, I won’t be driving a car ever again. Never.
We bought a load of amplifiers and stuff off Ian Curtis
over in Wyrecliff because he was getting married and
Tracey wanted him at home of a night, bunged some
cards in newsagents’ windows, and waited.
Well, people didn’t exactly fall over themselves to give
us gigs on account of people not really catching on to
Wayne’s style. You don’t have to be a verbal genius to be
a jock, people just expect you to say, ‘Hey!’ and ‘Wow!’
and ‘Get down and boogie’ and stuff. It doesn’t actually
matter if you sound like a pillock, it helps them feel
superior. What they don’t want, when they’re all getting
drunk after the wedding or whatever, is for someone to
stand there with his eyes flashing worse than the lights
saying things like, ‘There’s a rather interesting story
attached to this record.’
Funny thing, though, is that after a while we started to
get popular in a weird word-of-mouth kind of way. What
started it, I reckon, was my sister Beryl's wedding anniversary.
She’s older than me, you understand. It turned
out that Wayne had brought along just about every
record ever pressed for about a year before they got
married. Not just the top ten, either. The guests were
all around the same age and pretty soon the room was so
full of nostalgia you could hardly move. Wayne just hotwired
all their ignitions and took them for a joyride down
After that we started getting dates from what you
might call the more older types, you know, not exactly
kids but bits haven’t started falling off yet. We were a sort
of speciality disco. At the breaks people would come up
to him to chat about this great number they recalled from
way back or whenever and it would turn out that Wayne
would always have it in the van. If they’d heard of it, he’d
have it. Chances are he’d have it even if they hadn’t
heard of it. Because you could say this about Wayne, he
was a true collector - he didn’t worry whether the stuff
was actually good or not. It just had to exist.
He didn’t put it like that, of course. He’d say there was
always something unique about every record. You might
think that this is a lot of crap, but here was a man who’d
got just about everything ever made over the last forty
years and he really believed there was something special
about each one. He loved them. He sat up there all
through the night, in his room lined with brown envelopes,
and played them one by one. Records that had been
forgotten even by the people who made them. I’ll swear
he loved them all.
Yes, all right. But you’ve got to know about him to
understand what happened next.
We were booked for this Hallowe'en Dance. You could
tell it was Hallowe'en because of all the little bastards
running around the streets shouting, ‘Trickle treat,’ and
threatening you with milk bottles.
He’d sorted out lots of ‘Monster Mash’ type records. He
looked pretty awful, but I didn’t think much of it at the
time. I mean, he always looked awful. It was his normal
look. It came from spending years indoors listening to
records plus he had this bad heart and asthma and
The dance was at … okay, you know all that. A
Hallowe'en dance to raise money for a church hall.
Wayne said that was a big joke, but he didn’t say why.
I expect it was some clever reason. He was always good at
that sort of thing, you know, knowing little details that
other people didn’t know; it used to get him hit a lot at
school, except when I was around. He was the kind of
skinny boy who had his glasses held together with
Elastoplast. I don’t think I ever saw him raise a finger
to anybody only that time when Greebo Greaves broke a
record Wayne had brought to some school disco and four
of us had to pull Wayne off him and prise the iron bar out
of his fingers and there was the police and an ambulance
I let Wayne set everything up, which was one big
mistake but he wanted to do it, and I went and sat
down by what they called the bar, ie, a couple of trestle
tables with a cloth on it.
No, I didn’t drink anything. Well, maybe one cup of
the punch, and that was all fruit juice. All right, two cups.
But I know what I heard, and I’m absolutely certain
about what I saw.
You get the same old bunch at these kinds of gigs.
There’s the organiser, and a few members of the committee,
some lads from the village who’d sort of drifted in
because there wasn’t much on the box except snooker.
Everyone wore a mask but hadn’t made an effort with the
rest of the clothes so it looked as though Frankenstein and
Co had all gone shopping in Marks and Sparks. There were
Scouts’ posters on the wall and those special kinds of
village hall radiators that suck the heat in. It smelled of
tennis shoes. Just to sort of set the seal on it as one of the
hotspots of the world there was a little mirror ball spinning
up the rafters. Half the little mirrors had fallen off.
All right, maybe three cups. But it had bits of apple
floating in it. Nothing serious has bits of apple floating
Wayne started with a few hot numbers to get them
stomping. I’m speaking metaphorically here, you understand.
None of this boogie on down stuff, all you could
hear was people not being as young as they used to be.
Now, I’ve already said Wayne wasn’t exactly cut out for
the business, and that night - last night - he was worse
than usual. He kept mumbling, and staring at the dancers.
He mixed the records up. He even scratched one.
Accidentally, I mean - the only time I’ve ever seen
Wayne really angry, apart from the Greebo business,
was when scratch music came in.
It would have been very bad manners to cut in, so at
the first break I went up to him and, let me tell you, he
was sweating so much it was dropping on to the mixer.
‘It’s that bloke on the floor,’ he said, ‘the one in the
‘Methuselah?’ I said.
'Don't muck about. The black silk suit with the
rhinestones. He’s been doing John Travolta impersonations
all night. Come on, you must have noticed. Platform
soles. Got a silver medallion as big as a plate. Skull
mask. He was over by the door.’
I hadn’t seen anyone like that. Well, you’d remember,
Wayne’s face was frozen with fear. ‘You must have!’
‘So what, anyway?’
‘He keeps staring at me!’
I patted his arm. ‘Impressed by your technique, old
son,’ I said.
I took a look around the hall. Most people were milling
around the punch now, the rascals. Wayne grabbed my
‘Don’t go away!’
'I was just going out for some fresh air.’
‘Don’t…' He pulled himself together. ‘Don’t go. Hang
‘What’s up with you?’
‘Please, John! He keeps looking at me in a funny way!’
He looked really frightened. I gave in. ‘Okay. But point
him out next time.’
I let him get on with things while I tied to neaten up
the towering mess of plugs and adapters that was
Wayne’s usual contribution to electrical safety. If you’ve
got the kind of gear we’ve got - okay, had - you can spend
hours working on it. I mean, do you know how many
different kinds of connectors … all right.
In the middle of the next number Wayne hauled me
back to the decks.
‘There! See him? Right in the middle!’
Well, there wasn’t. There were a couple of girls dancing
with each other, and everyone else were just couples who
were trying to pretend the Seventies hadn’t happened.
Any rhinestone cowboys in that lot would have stood out
like a strawberry in an Irish stew. I could see that some
tact and diplomacy were called for at this point.
‘Wayne,’ I said, ‘I reckon you’re several coupons short
of a toaster.’
‘You can’t see him, can you?’
Well, no. But …
… since he mentioned it , . .
… I could see the space.
There was this patch of floor around the middle of the
hall which everyone was keeping clear of. Except that
they weren’t avoiding it, you see, they just didn’t happen
to be moving into it. It was just sort of accidentally there.
And it stayed there. It moved around a bit, but it never
All right, I know a patch of floor can’t move around.
Just take my word for it, this one did.
The record was ending but Wayne was still in control
enough to have another one spinning. He faded it up, a
bit of an oldie that they’d all know.
‘Is it still there?’ he said, staring down at the desk.
‘It’s a bit closer,’ I said. ‘Perhaps it’s after a spot prize.’
… I wanna live forever …
‘That’s right, be a great help.’
… people will see me and cry …
There were quite a few more people down there now,
but the empty patch was still moving around, all right,
was being avoided, among the dancers.
I went and stood in it.
It was cold. It said: GOOD EVENING.
The voice came from all around me, and everything
seemed to slow down. The dancers were just statues in a
kind of black fog, the music a low rumble.
‘Where are you?’
Now, at a time like this the impulse is to turn around,
but you’d be amazed at how good I was at resisting it.
‘You’ve been frightening my friend,’ I said.
I DID NOT INTEND TO.
THAT DOESN’T WORK, I AM AFRAID.
I did turn around then. He was about seven feet tall in
his, yes, his platform soles. And, yes, he wore flares, but
somehow you’d expect that. Wayne had said they were
black but that wasn’t true. They weren’t any colour at all,
they were simply clothes-shaped holes into Somewhere
Else. Black would have looked blinding white by comparison.
He did look a bit like John Travolta from the
waist down, but only if you buried John Travolta for
about three months.
It really was a skull mask. You could see the sting.
‘Come here often, do you?’
I AM ALWAYS AROUND.
‘Can’t say I’ve noticed you.’ And I would have done.
You don’t meet many seven-foot, seven-stone people
every day, especially ones that walked as though they
had to think about every muscle movement in advance
and acted as though they were alive and dead at the same
time, like Cliff Richard.
YOUR FRIEND HAS AN INTERESTING CHOICE OF
‘Yes. He’s a collector, you know.’
I KNOW. COULD YOU PLEASE INTRODUCE ME TO
‘Could I stop you?’
I DOUBT IT.
All right, perhaps four cups. But the lady serving said
there was hardly anything in it at all except orange
squash and home-made wine, and she looked a dear
old soul. Apart from the Wolfman mask, that is.
But I know all the dancers were standing like statues
and the music was just a faint buzz and there were these,
all these blue and purple shadows around everything. I
mean, drink doesn’t do that.
Wayne wasn’t affected. He stood with his mouth open,
‘Wayne,’ I said, ‘this is-’
‘Whose?’ I said, and you could tell I didn’t take to the
person, because his flares were huge and he wore one of
those silver identity bracelets on his wrist, the sort you
could moor a battleship with, and they look so posey; the
fact that his wrist was solid bone wasn’t doing anything
to help, either. I kept thinking there was a conclusion I
ought to be jumping to, but I couldn’t quite get a
running start. My head seemed to be full of wool.
EVERYONE’S, he said, SOONER OR LATER. I
UNDER-STAND YOU’RE SOMETHING OF A
‘Well, in a small-’ said Wayne.
I GATHER YOU’RE ALMOST AS KEEN AS I AM,
Wayne’s face lit up. That was Wayne, all right. I’ll
swear if you shot him he’d come alive again if it meant
a chance to talk about his hobby, sorry, his lifetime’s
‘Gosh,’ he said. ‘Are you a collector?’
Wayne peered at him. ‘We haven’t met before, have
we?’ he said. ‘I go to most of the collectors’ meetings.
Were you at the Blenheim Record Fest and Auction?’
I DON’T RECALL. I GO TO SO MANY THINGS.
‘That was the one where the auctioneer had a heart
OH. YES. I SEEM TO REMEMBER POPPING IN, JUST
FOR A FEW MINUTES.
‘Very few bargains there, I thought.’
OH. I DON’T KNOW. HE WAS ONLY FORTY-THREE,
All right, inspector. Maybe six drinks. Or maybe it
wasn't the drinks at all. But sometimes you get the
feeling, don’t you, that you can see a little way into
the future? Oh, you don’t. Well, anyway. I might not
have been entirely in my right mind but I was beginning
to feel pretty uncomfortable about all this. Well, anyone
would. Even you.
‘Wayne,’ I said. ‘Stop right now. If you concentrate,
he’ll go away. Settle down a bit. Please. Take a deep
breath. This is all wrong.'
The brick wall on the other side of me paid more
attention. I know Wayne when he meets fellow collectors,
They have these weekend rallies. You see them in
shops. Strange people. But none of them as strange as
this one. He was dead strange.
They both ignored me. And inside my mind bits of my
brain were jumping up and down, shouting and pointing,
and I couldn't let myself believe what they were
OH, I’VE GOT THEM ALL, he said, turning back to
Wayne, ELVIS PRESLEY, BUDDY HOLLY, JIM MORRISON,
JIMI HENDRIX, JOHN LENNON…
‘Fairly wide spread, musically,’ said Wayne. ‘Have you
got the complete Beatles?’
And I swear they started to talk records. I remember Mr
Friend saying he’d got the complete seventeenth-, eighteenth-
and nineteenth-century composers. Well, he
would, wouldn’t he?
I’ve always had to do Wayne’s fighting for him, ever
since we were at primary school, and this had gone far
enough and I grabbed Mr Friend’s shoulder and went
to lay a punch right in the middle of that grinning
And he raised his hand and I felt my fist hit an invisible
wall which yielded like treacle, and he took off his mask
and he said two words to me and then he reached across
and took Wayne’s hand, very gently …
And then the power amp exploded because, like I said,
Wayne wasn’t very good with connectors and the church
hall had electrical wiring that dated back practically to
1800 or something, and then what with the decorations
catching fire and everyone screaming and rushing about
I didn’t really know much about anything until they
brought me round in the car park with half my hair
burned off and the hall going up like a firework
No. I don’t know why they haven’t found him either.
Not so much as a tooth?
No. I don’t know where he is. No, I don’t think he
owed anyone any money,
(But I think he’s got a new job. There’s a collector
who’s got them all - Presley, Hendrix, Lennon, Holly -
and he’s the only collector who’ll ever get a complete
collection, anywhere. And Wayne wouldn’t pass up a
chance like that. Wherever he is now, he’s taking them
out of their jackets with incredible care and spinning
them with love on the turntables of the night …)
Sorry. Talking to myself, there.
I’m just puzzled about one thing. Well, millions of
things, actually, but just one thing right at the moment.
I can’t imagine why Mr Friend bothered to wear a
Because he looked just the same underneath, idio -
What did he say? Well, I daresay he comes to everyone
in some sort of familiar way. Perhaps he just wanted to
give me a hint. He said DRIVE SAFELY.
No. No, really I’ll walk home, thanks.
Yes. I’ll mind how I go.