In the days that followed, Dexy stayed away from everyone except for Gemma and Barney. They would walk in the gardens, talking for hours while Gemma threw a tennis that Barney would excitedly catch and quickly bring back for her to throw again. I'’m sure that dog thought we had gone to heaven, he absolutely loved it there.
When I asked Gemma what they talked about, she told me that he was broken and she was trying to fix him, to bring him back to us.
Dexy decided to bury his young brother on our fourth day in the house. He asked for all of us to be there, even Kate and myself.
“Look, I just wanted to say that,” he paused, taking the time to look each of us in the eye. “I'’m sorry I went off like I did,” he stared at the freshly dug earth with tears streaming down his face.
“It'’s okay, son,” Jim placed his hand on Dexy'’s shoulder and squeezed.
“I'’m so sorry, Dexy,” I walked over and held out my hand.
“I know you are, Bruv,” Dexy took my offered hand and pulled me in for a hug. “He was made up with that book you gave him.”
We stood there for a long time, Dexy cried on my shoulder and I cried on his. My tears weren'’t borne of sadness, but of joy. I had needed his forgiveness and now that he had granted me absolution, I believed that we would get past the death of Dodge and maybe find some morsel of hope within our ever-decreasing group.
Kate stood behind me, as though she were forming an orderly queue to receive forgiving hugs. Turns out that'’s exactly what she was doing. As soon as I pulled away from Dexy, she stepped in, then Jim and finally Gemma. Each offering their own words of comfort and remorse.
We stood at that grave all afternoon and long into the evening. A drop of rain splashed across my nose and I looked up at the sky. It started out as a small shower but quickly became a full blown rain storm. The thick sheets of water drenched our clothes and turned our noses into miniature waterfalls. We remained at the graveside, standing stoically in spite of the inclement weather. Nobody wanted to be the first person that walked away from the graveside of that young boy.
“I know those hoodies,” Dexy'’s voice broke the silence. “Knew.”
All eyes were on him, but nobody spoke. We collectively decided in silence not to ask questions but to let him speak.
“The main one', the one in red, he’s Bryan Campbell. Big time gangster, Kate'’s probably heard of him,” his eyes searched hers for an answer.
“Yeah,” she said quietly, the word instantly swallowed up by the rain. “Always arrested, never convicted.”
“He'’s a right slippery bastard,” Dexy half smiled. “Anyway, him and his boys came up to me last Christmas. They were chatting about how they had the deal of a lifetime and they wanted every crew in London to be a part of it.”
Thunder heads crashed together above us, sending roaring echoes to shatter across the rooftops. Dexy swiped the rain from his face and continued the explanation that we had all been waiting for.
“Said they could get their hands on something brand new, a powder. I 'was well out of the drugs game but I kept listening,” he held his hands out and the rain danced across his palms. “Money'’s money, right? It sounded good at first. They told me about the guy selling it, I can'’t remember his name but he was from Eastern Europe. Bryan said this guy was fucking crazy, scars all over his face, covered in tattoos and saying that this powder would make us rule the world. When I asked how much it would sell for, Bryan said it was just for personal use.”
Barney shook the wet from his fur, decided that enough was enough, and scampered off towards the dry house.
“He said that something big was going to happen early this summer, and that'’s when we should snort the powder. I asked what was going to happen but he got well cagey about it, said he couldn'’t tell me. He told me to call if I wanted the stuff, and that he'’d text everyone on the day. Sounded like a massive wind-up to me, so I didn'’t bother calling. Next time I see him and his crew, they'’re in charge of those zombie looking things at the hospital and shouting my name, like they'’re taking the piss, laughing because I didn'’t turn myself into whatever they are,” He looked up at the erupting sky and closed his eyes as the rain poured across his face.
“I should have taken it more seriously,” he lowered his head and stared down at his brother'’s grave. “Should have asked more questions. Warned somebody, stopped them. I could have saved all my boys that got killed back at the flats. Could have saved my own brother.”
“It would have sounded like fucking bullshit to me too,” Jim said. “Go easy on yourself, there'’s nothing you could have done. No fucker would have believed you.”
“There could be more of them?” Kate asked, her gaze fixed on the grave.
“Could be a gang of them in every borough for all I know,” Dexy shrugged and looked at the house. “Let'’s go inside.”
While we trudged back to the house, Jim pulled at my arm to slow me down. He waited until everyone else was a safe distance ahead before speaking. “If those hoodie fucks are all over London, organising their armies, we'’ve got no choice. It only takes one of them to see us moving around and we’re fucked. We have to try and get out.”
“You think it'’s even possible?” I remembered when Jim had explained that the idea of leaving was a non-starter.
“No,” he wiped his hand across his bald head, skimming the rain down his back. “But the alternative is to sit here and wait for them to come and kill us. We can'’t fight this war, we have to at least try running.”
“Can we wait until the morning before we say anything?” I glanced at Dexy, Gemma and Kate. “Let them get one more decent sleep.”
“As you say, William,” Jim walked past me, stroking his sodden moustache. “As you say.”
“As nice as this place is,” Kate dug around inside a box of cheerios and scooped a handful into her mouth. “Staying here is just delaying the inevitable.”
“They found us at the hospital,” Gemma sank into the oversized brown leather armchair beside the couch that Kate and I were sitting on. She patted her lap and Barney jumped into it, tail wagging as she scratched his ears. “Shame though, I like it here.”
“Dexy?” Jim had a couch to himself, opposite ours. He looked back at Dexy who was standing in front of the huge bay window. “Are you with us?”
Dexy continued to stare through the window, his shoulders sunken and his head low. The morning sun splashed across his face but failed to raise his spirits. He sighed and shrugged with resignation. “Whatever, Bruv.”
“Which way should we go?” I sat forward and clasped my hands onto my knees.
“North,” Jim said.
“What, like, North, North?” Gemma stopped scratching Barney'’s ears, sat up and scowled. “Like, where Northerners live?”
“It'’s better than taking our chances with the army of crazies,” Kate took another handful of cheerios and stuffed them in her mouth, smacking her lips as she chewed.
“That'’s debatable,” Gemma sank back into her chair and pouted.
“We'’re all agreed then,” Jim clapped his hands on his thighs and abruptly jumped up. “Everyone grab as much food and water as you can carry and be ready to fuck off in thirty. Make sure we get some of that single malt.”
We stayed where we were, all wearing the same solemn look on our faces.
“Cheer up, for fucks sake,” Jim pointed out of the bay window. “At least it'’s stopped raining.”