From one bridge, they rode to another: the Lea Bridge, straddling the river. As they crossed it, Jamie saw that Caroline’s barge was gone and he guessed that Edwyn and has BMW had vanished too. The guess proved right: the car park behind the Princess Of Wales was quite empty. Melvyn came to a halt there and he and Jamie dismounted. Removing their helmets again, they stood in the clear light of the summer’s morning and Melvyn asked his remaining son, “So why have we come here?”
“It’s just a spot I like,” said Jamie. “It’s peaceful here.”
And it was; at least, it was as peaceful as it could ever be. Few cars roared on the road and no nutters yelled. No cyclists or joggers on the towpath. Just the two of them, both crazy-eyed and weak with lack of sleep. Jamie felt strong, though, in a different way.
They went down to the river’s edge and waited for each other, looking into the depths. Jamie said to Melvyn: “What’s in the bag?”
“Oh, it’s just...” Melvyn looked away. “It’s nothing much.”
“It must be horrible,” said Jamie, “Missing Sean.”
“Yeah, yeah,” admitted Melvyn, focussing on the ground, the water, then the sky. And holding on to the bag at the same time. “Do you miss him?” he asked.
“Not really,” Jamie replied.
“No, well. You never got on, I suppose.”
Melvyn said, “He wasn’t perfect, I know.”
Jamie held off. Melvyn reached into the bag. He produced the cardboard folder that Lisa had shown Jamie earlier; the Sean dossier; a work of wishful thinking fiction, as Jamie could now see.
“It’s just some stuff about him.”
“What sort of stuff?” asked Jamie.
“Oh, I don’t know...”
Melvyn opened the flap and let the sheaf of paper spring back against his thumb, just the way Lisa had done in Olive’s room.
“It was an accident, wasn’t it?” asked Jamie innocently.
Melvyn shuffled a bit, then sighed; a deep and damaged sigh that Jamie would remember till it was his turn to die. “I think it probably was,” he replied.
He had the folder in his hand now, holding it uselessly yet fatalistically, as though it were doing the holding; holding him.
“Go on, Dad,” Jamie said. “Get rid of it.”
Melvyn shrank from the words as though they were a physical blow. He put his spare hand to his forehead. A shudder took hold of him and he spoke with his face turned away.
“You do it,” he said.
For card and paper, it sank very easily. One second it was flying, the next it had slipped clean out of sight, beginning its long process of decay. Melvyn sat down and shook with surreptitious tears. Jamie’s mobile rang. He thought it would be his mother, but it was only his alarm.
“You’re Beautiful,” it sang.
It was the start of a new day.