As we’re crossing the car park, Wayne’s on the phone to Tina.
‘Time to tell her everything,’ he says, ‘and to tell her it’s all over.’
‘You could’ve told her before; told me too. Why didn’t you?’
Her phone rings out and goes to answer-phone. We stand by the car.
‘When Thomas phoned me, he did it because he trusted me. Can you believe that? Thomas Oldfield trusted Wayne Keech. I mean, I felt like I really belonged, like I was accepted, like me and Tina – well, like it was okay, he was cool with it, even pleased. It felt really, fucking good, Phil. He was worried too, and angry he hadn’t searched those files years ago. I was just to hang on to them for a day or two, nothing more. He didn’t want Tina or Mrs O to know anything in case they worried, or maybe he didn’t want them to think there was anything dodgy in his past. I don’t know. I don’t know why he didn’t just burn the whole, fucking lot; that’s what I’d have done.’
‘Yeah, me too.’
’I think they were insurance, just in case anyone started trouble. He knew enough to realise Greenhalgh, Ross and their cronies were up to no good and he knew Mackie was building his empire on the back of corrupt deals. He also knew Joseph Derby was as bent as the proverbial and he’d heard whispers he was creaming off money behind Mackie’s back. When he went missing, it didn’t take Einstein to figure his double dealing had landed him in the foundations of one of his own projects. Greenhalgh and Mackie sold out their interests in JAYDEE as if they were on fire and Thomas saw a chance. From minute one, the business went legit. He couldn’t trust anyone, though, he knew that, so when the files turned up he decided to hold on to it just in case anyone came laying blame at his door. No-one ever did and they just sat there in the safe. He never even read them, not properly.
‘Anyway, long story…I took the documents, meaning to stash them for a day or two, and then it all went belly-up. Thomas is in hospital, might not make it, I’ve got the documents, everyone is suddenly after them, Tyrone has his own fucking plans and I don’t want Tina finding anything bad about her dad.’
‘So, you go through the documents and get rid of anything that has Thomas’s name on it.’
‘Which takes fucking days because half the time you’re under arrest or fighting off unwanted attention.’
‘And I’m shifting the papers from one place to another because if the police find them I’m pretty sure they’ll disappear and never be seen again.’
‘That might not have been a bad idea.’
‘And let Greenhalgh and his cronies off the hook, let Mackie get away with murder, forget what Tyrone has done. No fucking thanks.’
We drive on in silence.
‘You should’ve trusted us, you know – me and Tina,’ I say at last.
‘Thomas wanted Tina kept out of it. He knows what she’s like – bull at a fucking gate.’
It’s a typical Wayne moment. He grins and goes back to his phone.
‘Still no answer,’ he says.
‘Maybe she’s at the hospital.’
‘The phone’s switched on. If she couldn’t answer she’d text.’
‘Maybe she’s at home asleep.’
‘I’ll phone the house.’
This time the line’s engaged and it stays engaged.
We get in the car and set off and Wayne keeps phoning Tina. Eventually, there’s an answer.
‘Tina?’ he says, ‘I’m just…’
He goes quiet.
I’m just turning though the lights onto the carriageway and the streetlights catch him. He looks like someone drained his blood.
I drop through the gears and pull in to a side road. He turns on the speaker so I can hear. At first there’s nothing, then this humourless, cruel laugh emerges like it’s rising from hell, and then Tyrone’s voice.
‘No, little brother, Tina can’t take your call at the moment. She’s...’ His laugh is like acid on our skins. ‘...otherwise engaged. Tell Mrs Oldfield, it’s a hundred thousand, tonight. I’ll be in touch.’
‘If you hurt her, I’ll kill you,’ Wayne says. ‘I’ll find you and I’ll…’
But the line has gone dead.
I grab the phone and call Slattery.
‘You’ve no choice. We’ve got to trust him now.’
He’s out, so I talk to this desk sergeant, who writes everything down and says he’ll try to find him and won’t someone else do? I tell him it’s got to be Slattery because I don’t trust anyone else, and it’s really fucking urgent.
‘I’ll get him,’ he says, like he knows just what I mean. ‘I know where he is.’
Normally, it takes twenty minutes to get to Tina’s house. Tonight, I do it in ten and even that isn’t quick enough for Wayne. The brakes scream a protest. I swing into the drive and pull up, spraying pellets of gravel, outside the main door. Mrs. Oldfield is already there, a blast of light circling her and merging with lights from other windows across the front of the house.
‘I thought it was Tina. She’s not back yet. I’m really worried about her. I keep phoning but there’s no answer. What could have happened to her?’
Wayne takes her arm and leads her back inside and gently explains, but I’m not sure how ‘gentle’ helps in a situation like this. Jesus, that poor woman, she must wonder what the hell she’s done to deserve any of this.
‘Tina,’ she says, and that one word says everything we want to say. It says what we’re feeling, what we’re worrying about, what scares us, what we hope.
‘Nothing will happen to Tina,’ Wayne says. ‘I won’t let it.’
He means it too.
‘Can you get the money together?’ I ask, for want of anything gentle to say.
She nods towards the drawing room.
‘From when… the blackmail letter… you know… It’s in some overnight bags.’
‘You mean, you’ve had a hundred grand sitting on the floor of the drawing room?’
‘Tina said it was silly, that I should put it back in the bank, but I’ve been so busy at the hospital. I’m not good with money matters, you know. Thomas and I…’ she shrugs. ‘We’re just ordinary, working people really. We were just lucky…’
Their luck seems to have taken a nose dive recently, I think, but I don’t say anything. I just smile sympathetically.
There’s nothing meaningful to say now. We just sit there in silence, in the Oldfield’s lounge, waiting. Occasionally one of us stirs and brews coffee or makes sandwiches which no-one eats. I flick listlessly through the pages of a magazine, without seeing anything. We’re trying to blank out the images that rise, uninvited, into our minds. We don’t want to think about what’s happening out there.
Mrs Oldfield’s phone lies closed on the table. Wayne’s is beside him on the chair arm. Every few seconds he checks the screen for a message that doesn’t appear.
Slattery phones me at one thirty. He’s at the hospital.
‘Tyrone has had a busy, fucking night,’ he tells me, ‘but I’m on my way now.’
Half an hour later there’s a knock at the door and Wayne is on his feet before Mrs Oldfield can stir from her seat.
Slattery pushes through the door and stands there, uncertain what to say or do.
‘He got her at the hospital,’ he says, ‘in the car park. I think he was waiting near her car.’
Mrs Oldfield emits an unearthly moan.
‘He left a message, with Simon,’ he says. ‘He just walked in the hospital as if he was invisible, then walked out again. We’ve got him on camera for all the good it’ll do. He doesn’t care who sees him.’
‘How the hell could they let him just walk in like that?’ I ask.
‘It was a cock-up, a complete, fucking cock-up. Excuse my language, Mrs Oldfield.’
Mrs Oldfield doesn’t give a shit about his language. Why would she, under the circumstances?
Slattery clears his throat and continues.
’Simon heard footsteps on the ward but he thought it was the nurse bringing him something to help him sleep, so he didn’t pay much attention. He heard someone walk round the end of the bed and sweep the curtain closed. That’s when he opened his eyes and saw Tyrone staring down at him, like some fucking horror story. Tyrone pressed a hand across his mouth and whispered a few suitable threats. Then he opened a phone and held it in front of Simon, so he could see the photograph on the screen.’ Slattery clears his throat and lowers his voice. He’s doing ‘gentle’ too. ‘It was a photo of Tina,’ he says.
‘How did she look?’ Wayne asks. ‘Had he hurt her?’
‘No, I don’t think so. She looks pretty defiant if you ask me. Here.’
He has the phone in a plastic bag, which he opens and empties on the chair. He picks it up and brings the picture up on the screen. It’s Tina and she’s lying in the boot of a car, bound and gagged. She’s scared but she’s not letting Tyrone know that. She’s staring defiantly at the camera.
‘Yeah,’ Wayne says. ‘I know that look.’ He tries to smile at Mrs Oldfield. ‘Don’t worry. She’s tough. She won’t scare easily.’
It’s scant comfort, I think, but Mrs Oldfield grasps it like someone drowning.
‘He says he wants a hundred thousand pounds, tonight, or...’ Slattery glances at Mrs Oldfield and doesn’t finish the sentence. But we know what he’s saying. ‘A hundred thousand pounds tonight, or she’s dead.’
‘We’ve got the money,’ I tell him and watch the look of surprise and incomprehension flit across his gnarled brow. ‘It’s on the drawing room floor.’
Mrs Oldfield looks from one to the other of us. ’How could he kidnap her in a hospital car park? How could they let him?Hospitals are supposed to be safe places, aren’t they? How could that happen?’
‘The lights near her car were smashed,’ Slattery says, ‘the cameras too. At that time of night there’d be no-one about. He had time to tie her up and bundle her into the car. Then he walked into the hospital like he owned the fucking place. No-one spoke to him. He might as well have been invisible. Ten minutes later he’s on his way out, Simon’s screaming the place down, nurses are running in from all directions and people are sitting up in their beds and wailing, but it’s all too late.’
A silence descends like a shroud.
‘Poor Simon,’ Mrs Oldfield says at last. ‘He must have been terribly scared.’
I want to say, ‘Fuck Simon,’ but I don’t. He’s had a pretty mixed day. He gets the break he’s always wanted and then Tyrone turns up. Yeah, that’s an up-and-downer alright. Maybe Erin’s been to see him too.
‘I’ve got half the force out,’ Slattery says, as he packs the phone away again. ‘There’s no point being subtle or keeping quiet. He knows we’re looking for him. He doesn’t care.’
Mrs Oldfield’s eyes are closed, and her head is resting against a cushion, but she stirs herself and turns to Slattery. ‘Can we offer you a coffee?’ she asks, ‘or a sandwich maybe? There are plenty.’ Her voice is hollow and blank, like she’s speaking from memory, without meaning.
‘No, thank you,’ he says, which is a surprise. Maybe the sandwiches aren’t greasy enough.
‘When do you think we’ll hear from him?’ I ask.
‘Soon, I think. He’s not got much time.’
Wayne sits down beside Mrs Oldfield and stares at the floor, his head in his hands.
‘You say you’ve got the money?’ Slattery asks.
‘Everyone has been most helpful,’ Mrs Oldfield says, vacantly.
Wayne goes through to the drawing room and returns dragging two plain looking, blue holdalls. He drops them beside the lounge door. ‘It’s been there since the blackmail letter.’
Slattery nods. ‘Good,’ he says. ‘Then we just have to wait.’
It’s just after four when the phone rings and suddenly we’re all sitting on the edge of our chairs. Wayne pauses for just a second then answers.
He listens and I notice how he’s restraining every muscle, how he’s trying to hide anything that might give away his feelings. Only, I know him and I can read him and I can imagine the sneering and the taunting coming from Tyrone. This is just cigarette burns all over again, only these burns are deeper and more painful and it takes every gram of courage Wayne possesses to hide what he’s feeling.
‘I want to speak to Tina,’ he says at last and only the slightest tremor betrays him. ‘If I don’t speak to her, I won’t even get out of my chair.’
I imagine the icy laughter at the other end of the phone.
‘I mean it,’ Wayne says. ‘We’ve got the money. It’s here. It’s yours – and don’t pretend you don’t need it to get away from Mackie. You’re in no position to waste time playing games. I want to speak to Tina or there’s no deal.’
Only then do I see pain and desperation on Wayne’s face and I know it’s mirrored on mine. Mrs Oldfield leans forward, as if to catch the sound of her daughter’s voice. It’s like something precious spilling through her hands.
‘Tina,’ she murmurs, ‘Oh Tina.’
‘Tina? How are you? Has he hurt you? Okay, okay. Keep strong. I’m coming for you.’
Tyrone is back on now and I see Wayne’s face harden. ‘Just tell me where and when,’ he says.
He listens for a moment then he closes the phone and sits down.
‘What did he say?’ Slattery is impatient. He doesn’t like waiting and now he sees an opportunity to move, to plan and to take control.
‘He says I already know where.’
‘Do you?’ I ask.
‘Yeah, I think so.’
He stands up and paces to the door and back.
‘I need to borrow your car, Phil.’
‘What’s the matter? What did he say?’
‘He didn’t say anything, that’s the problem. He didn’t tell me to come alone, he didn’t tell me not to speak to the police, he didn’t warn me not to try anything. He just gave me a time.’
‘You think he’s up to something?’
‘Tyrone is always up to something.’
I take a deep breath. ‘I’m coming with you. You can’t do this on your own.’
I can see Slattery is itching to bring out the police, the army, the navy - even the coastguard and Inland Revenue if he has to – but he holds back.
‘Do you want the police involved?’ he asks Mrs Oldfield. ‘It’s your call.’
She looks at Wayne for advice. It’s funny how everyone is looking to Wayne now. Since when did he become so dependable and the source of all sound judgement? Since Thomas Oldfield chose to trust him, I guess, and Tina lavished her affections on him and Mrs Oldfield simply liked him. I want to feel bitter and envious but I don’t. He’s earned it, I suppose, from way back.
He shakes his head. ‘He wouldn’t hesitate...’ He pauses out of respect for Mrs Oldfield but we know what he means. Tyrone wouldn’t hesitate to kill her, not for one second. ‘But I’d like you to come along, Slattery, maybe stick around nearby, just out of sight. Can you have a few cars there, but not too close, within five minutes, maybe?’
‘Sure,’ Slattery nods. ‘I’ll arrange it.’
Wayne turns to Mrs Oldfield. ‘Have you got a local map?’ he says.
She pulls one from a drawer and we lay it out on the table. Wayne scans it expertly. ‘Maybe if there were cars around here,’ he says, pointing, ‘and here and here.’
It’s a wide circle but I focus on the area to the centre and I feel a tremor of anxiety which approaches panic. I look at Wayne.
‘You’re fucking kidding me, right?’ I say.
‘I might be wrong,’ he says, but we both know he’s not. It’s the last fucking knee in the groin, the last, ironic cigarette burn; it’s Tyrone and he’s saying, “Fuck you. Fuck all of you.”
Wayne draws Slattery to one side, leaving me to stare, gut-wrenchingly, at the map, as they speak in whispers. Then they both disappear for a few minutes and I get the feeling they’re plotting and I fight back a surge of resentment. It’s my friend and my police contact and now it’s like they’re best buddies, co-conspirators and I’m left out in the cold.
But it’s no time for feelings like that, so I store them for later use.
When Slattery returns, he phones a few colleagues he thinks he can trust.
‘It’s a good job I’m retiring. I’ll have no fucking job after this. If this goes wrong...’ He doesn’t expand on this thought. He doesn’t need to.
Wayne reappears. He’s got a dark outer coat and he’s ready.
‘What time did he say?’ I ask.
‘Now.’ His mouth tightens in a grim smile. He turns to Mrs Oldfield. ‘I’ll phone you as soon as Tina’s safe. Don’t worry. I won’t let anything happen to her. I promise.’
That’s one hell of a promise, I think, but I see Wayne means it, every word, and I want to believe him, I really do. Slattery says nothing. I think he’s calculating the odds. Psycho bent on escape and revenge, needs money for a clean getaway but wants to leave a painful memory, like a raw wound in each of us. His expression is impassive but serious and he’s got more wrinkles on that furrowed brow than a bull’s testicles.
‘We’ll do everything we can,’ he says.
Mrs Oldfield grasps the straw and nods optimistically. Poor woman, she looks twenty years older. It’s been a hell of a few weeks.
Five minutes later we’re in the car and I’m driving. I look in the mirror and I see Slattery following us. It’s still dark and the streets are pretty quiet as we head out towards the suburbs.
‘He won’t let her go,’ Wayne says, and his voice is leaden and empty. ‘Tyrone will never let Tina go. He’s paying us back.’
‘I don’t get it. We did nothing. It was him, always him. What’s the payback for?’
‘For everything,’ Wayne says, ‘for his whole fucking life.’
‘Because that’ll hurt us most and because she was there.’
‘Jesus, Wayne, what are we going to do?’
‘Whatever it takes,’ he says. Then he turns and stares at me. ‘That’s okay with you, Phil, isn’t it? I mean, we’ve got to get her out, yeah, no matter what?’
‘Yeah, of course,’ I say, but there’s something in his eyes that scares me.
We drive on in silence. After a few minutes, I turn off the main road into a maze of houses and eventually into that old, familiar street. Even now, after all these years, I get a feeling of nausea and I shudder. I pull up at the end of the street and Slattery draws up behind us. He turns off the engine and the lights go out. I wipe my hands and grip the steering wheel to stop them trembling.
‘Ready?’ I ask.
He nods and I ease the car into gear and drive slowly on until we reach the house where Wayne and Tyrone and their mother lived, the house where Stevie died, beaten to death by the man who now holds Tina captive.
‘What about the people who live there now?’ I ask.
‘Yeah,’ says Wayne. ‘I was wondering about that.’
We leave the car parked at the kerbside and open the front gate. The house is in darkness, its curtains pulled tight as if the occupants are safely asleep in their beds. The front door looms ahead of us like the gateway to hell. There’s no time to think about anything now, no time for fear, no time for doubt. Whatever demons lie within, we have to face them. We don’t even look at each other; we don’t speak because there’s nothing left to say. We take a deep breath, we pause for one moment to calm our hearts, and then we step forward.
The door opens easily and we step inside.