Three weeks later Slattery hands in his notice and retires from the force. He says he has no regrets, that he’d do the same again and that these few weeks have given him something that’ll make him feel proud for the rest of his life. I guess you can’t hope for more than that after a lifetime of public service. Most people just get out and don’t look back, in case they realise how little they’ve achieved.
I’ve seen him around the town and whilst he hasn’t changed his penchant for unhealthy, greasy food, alcohol, late nights and dubious company, he has a certain swagger in his step, as if he’s a local celebrity, which I suppose he is.
He didn’t pin much on George Mackie, not the murder of Joseph Derby anyway, but the bribery charges might stick. Mackie’s finished though, after Simon writes his articles. Greenhalgh and his cronies are yet to face trial. No doubt they’ll all mount a robust defence and they’ll probably all be dead before they’re finally found guilty and sentenced but at least it’s another small victory for us little people, and a deterrent to others.
It helps that Gilbert Thornton MP has turned on them and admitted that his naivety and stupidity and lack of oversight allowed these things to happen. None of this seems to have harmed his reputation. He even manages to turn it to his advantage and when he’s on TV, it sounds as if he had some secret role in uncovering the truth. He’s as popular as ever and everyone is re-writing history to make a virtue of his folly. He hasn’t even resigned his role on parliamentary committees. They wouldn’t let him. I guess that’s politics for you.
Simon is on his way too, onwards and very definitely upwards. He didn’t get the job he hoped for but he was taken up by another daily in the city, where he’ll be trained up and given the opportunities he craves. As far as I can tell, Simon got over his feelings for Erin pretty quickly. I guess they weren’t all that deep after all. He’s back in love with himself again and he’s got both eyes set on his future career. I’ll keep watching the paper for his name. My guess is he’ll be the regular guest on TV news and discussion programmes in ten years, the expert they bring in to talk knowledgably about anything, the man with his finger on the pulse of the nation.
And Wayne and Tina? I still can’t figure that, but I’m kind of getting used to it. I guess that now Wayne is the hero of the hour, Mrs Oldfield’s adopted son and Thomas Oldfield’s most trusted friend, the forces must be stacked against them. Thomas offered him a job. Can you believe that? It’s Alasdair Riley’s old position as office manager. Wayne has fought it off so far. He says he doesn’t want a job out of gratitude and that he likes to be independent, making his own way, even if it is just in a factory job. He thinks it’s a bit un-cool, working for Tina’s father, but we’ll see how it goes. My money is on Thomas getting his way eventually, with a little help from Tina.
Still, they’ve been through a lot together, Wayne and Tina; hell, I’ve been a witness to most of it. They’re as devoted as anyone I’ve ever seen, so maybe it’ll work out. I plan to be best man at the wedding if – when – it comes off. I’m still Wayne’s best friend. I always have been, I guess, from way back when it was me and Wayne and Stevie, the Three Musketeers, way back even at the very beginning, before Tina was D’Artagnan.
Even when I thought I wasn’t.
As for me, I’ll be okay. I need a bit of time and space, you know. There’s a vacancy at the Evening Post and I’m tempted; maybe I’ll become a proper writer.
I feel... I guess I feel like I’m trailing a long shadow, like the past is fastened to my feet, and it’s a burden I’m dragging around with me all the time. Some days I hardly feel it, but others – man, it feels like the whole world is locked on there. And late at night, alone, I see Tyrone, aged thirteen, pulling the trigger which sends Joseph Derby to his grave; and I replay, over and over, that last look before he gets in the car and the door closes on his life and he’s so completely, fucking empty. It’ll stay with me forever. So, when it gets too much, I call Wayne and we go out for a drink and we wash away the shadows for a while.
I phoned Erin. Maybe we’ll meet, maybe not. But there’s too much in the world that’s fucked up not to understand, not to let things go; no point adding to the shit pile.
Wayne’s shadows have gone. They disappeared with Tyrone, that night, when Mackie took him. He doesn’t binge anymore, and he leaves other folk alone, which is a mighty relief. I guess he’s past all that. But at the end of the night we still head back to his place or mine, stick a pizza in the oven and watch the rugby.
He’s on the football field at the rec and he’s running away from us towards the goal. No-one can stop him so he pauses, his foot resting on the top of the ball. When he turns, there’s this big smile on his face. I’m twenty yards back and Wayne’s next to me. We look up and we laugh and he laughs back. Then he turns and heads through the open goal and he runs on and on towards the river and the sky, until he fades into nothing.