Jamie climbed on to the back of the motorbike and, as bidden, clasped his arms around his father’s waist. Melvyn had wheeled the machine down the short drive and then a few doors up the road so that when he gunned the engine it wouldn’t wake Olive or Evie. They were doing guystuff behind the ladies’ backs. For Jamie, the hair salon’s boy sweetie, this was a novel experience.
“Hold tight,” said Melvyn, “and lean when I lean.” His voice was muffled, his face, like Jamie’s, concealed under a helmet. Being cut off from each other in this way made being together easier. The waterproof bag rested against Jamie’s elbow, containing something flat he couldn’t see. The bike roared under him and they were away.
Melvyn hadn’t said where they were going. Jamie, though, had a feeling that he knew; a feeling confirmed as Melvyn followed in reverse the route Edwyn had driven earlier, the one Melvyn had walked. They rode quite slowly, though Jamie still felt shockingly exposed. Only as they entered Leytonstone and then cut away through side streets, back towards familiar yesterdays again, did he relax enough to become conscious of his father’s ribs under his fingers, to imagine the hurting beating of his heart.
They idled outside the old house: Melvyn gazed at it a while then drove away, finding his way to Mickey’s snooker hall once more. Its neon was switched off now. The police were gone from outside the corner pub. The streets were uninhabited. Jamie looked up and the sky showed him its first promise of dawn.
There was no need for he and Melvyn to speak; they both knew the journey they would now re-trace. Yet as Melvyn took the turns he must have persuaded himself that Sean had taken on his way to his destruction on the bridge, Jamie began to feel the weight of the greater knowledge he’d acquired during the night: he knew that Sean had been the pursuer, not the pursued; he knew that Sean had been fuelled by the reckless rage of wounded pride.
This was Jamie’s secret, which only Tony and Donna and those cruel companions she’d been in the car with shared. It put power at Jamie’s disposal. As he and Melvyn dismounted next to the crucifix of flowers he’d watched his mother attach to the railings the previous morning, he agonised over how it should be deployed.
They took their helmets off and stood together, before the parapet. There was a second floral tribute: from Donna, Jamie guessed, although he supposed he’d never know. A minute’s silence passed, then Melvyn turned and looked down at the tunnel of road below. The waterproof bag still hung around his shoulders, and he touched it indecisively.
For a second, Jamie had a vision of his father falling: down, down, and smack into the pitiless asphalt below. Then he said: “Dad, there’s a place I’d like to go to.”