There’s a saying, ‘if you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.’ I don’t know who said it but it pretty much sums up my situation. Call it God, fate or just some bastard getting in the way. I’m in one of those Escher buildings where you’re always climbing but you just end up where you started.
We can’t find the files.
And we search everywhere. There’s not a cupboard or a drawer that we don’t open and check, although I draw a quick line when we open lingerie drawers. Those are for Tina’s eyes alone. We check the lofts and we check the garages. We check the rooms which no-one uses. We check the lockers by swimming pool. We even check the cars.
Eventually we give up, fall back on the sofa and spend an unproductive hour with Mrs Oldfield, looking through some long-forgotten photos we found in the loft; holidays, Tina on a beach somewhere, on skis somewhere, in a flower meadow somewhere, with a dog they once owned called Bruno. Mrs Oldfield would look at them for the rest of the day, but eventually I have to prise myself away and head for the door. Life’s too short…
‘I’ll take these to show your father tomorrow,’ Mrs Oldfield tells Tina with a big, happy smile. ‘He’ll be so pleased to see them. It’ll cheer him up.’
‘What’ll we do now?’ Tina asks, as we stand outside the front door.
‘I’m going to see Mackie.’
‘You told me that yesterday. I still think you’re crazy.’
‘I’m building up to it. It’s like eating slugs, not something you do without a lot of preparation.’
‘I wouldn’t know.’
‘I suppose you’d need to have your head in the right place.’
‘Not on a table with a knife next to it,’ I think.
I get an unpleasant feeling in the pit of my stomach when I think about that; but I figure Mackie will be as keen as me to get things settled. It’s all getting out of control, people are getting beaten up and hospitalised, even murdered. It can’t be good for business.
Yes, he’s a businessman, isn’t he?
He’ll want to talk.
I persuade myself I’ve got a bit of room for negotiation, if I can talk to him without Tyrone staring me down.
‘First I’m going home to get something to eat and maybe put on an old shirt. No point getting blood on a new one.’
‘Don’t joke about things like that. What are you going to say to him?’
‘Fucked if I know. “Please don’t break any bones?” might be a starting point. What are you going to do?’
‘I’ll go and see Wayne. He’s hiding in my dad’s site office. He should be safe there.’
‘Send him my love,’ I say, ‘and big kisses.’
We pause beside my car, which is parked on the gravel drive adjacent to the swimming pool.
‘Do you remember your birthday party, when your dad gave you that swimming pool? Jesus, Tina, I thought I was lucky if I got a football, a couple of action figures and some sweets. Wayne never got anything unless Tyrone decided to give him a cigarette burn and a bruise or two. He used to steal himself presents and say his dad sent them in the post. Did you know that?’
‘He told me his dad was in the army. I didn’t believe him, of course, but I didn’t say so.’
‘Sometimes he was a spy working in some enemy state, assassinating enemies. The others used to wind him up about it, especially Carl Jeffreys. They were pretty cruel, I remember.’
‘I’ve still got the book he brought for my birthday.’
‘I don’t want to disillusion you but he nicked that from Waterstones; but at least he nicked it especially for you.’
‘I guessed as much.’
’It was the story about his dad being a spy that caused the trouble with Tyrone, you know, way back at the beginning – not that Tyrone needed an excuse to be a malevolent bastard. Wayne was full of his spy-dad stories and I was heavily into private detective stuff, so I fancied going out there and solving crimes. Stevie sort of got caught up in it all. He was a super hero, ready to dive down and save the day.
‘We’d been messing about for days, following old ladies and strange looking guys round the precinct, pretending they were double agents or shoplifters or murderers. Christ, we even followed George Mackie for about twenty yards until our courage gave out. It was Wayne’s idea we follow Tyrone. Apart from Mackie, Tyrone was the nearest we had to an out and out villain in those days, so it was a bit more exciting than old ladies. I wasn’t too keen – cowardice runs deep - but, hey, they were my friends, so I went along.’
‘Poor Stevie,’ Tina says.
‘Yeah, Stevie paid the price for our stupid game.’
‘It was just a game; it was no-one’s fault.’
‘Wayne doesn’t see it like that. He blames himself, he always has.’
‘It’s an awful burden.’
‘It changed us all, I think. I wonder what the future would have been like if it hadn’t happened?’
‘Ripples,’ she says, ‘spreading outwards forever; Wayne talks about that a lot.’