“I’m his father, Pete.”
“How come, I thought he never knew his Dad?”
“He didn’t, in fact he still doesn’t know the truth.” Tim told me the whole story.
“It’s not something I’m proud of, you have to understand how lonely I was. I had friends, mostly down the shipyards, your Dad included. I always had problems chatting up women though, I was shy and it was killing me. I heard the lads talking in the shipyards, you know how they do, don’t leave anything to the imagination. They were talking about a lass a few of them had slept with who lived in Southwick.”
“Gilbert’s Mam, Eileen?”
Tim nodded. “They were mainly married men as well. At first I was disgusted at the thought, then I met her. She was in the Torrens when we went for a pint after work. She wasn’t the slapper everyone had made out, she was just lonely like me. We only did it the once, upstairs while the two brothers played in the sitting room. Didn’t last long but she was quite sweet, didn’t force me out of the door as soon as I was finished, didn’t make me feel too bad. I decided then that I would never go back.”
There was sadness in his voice. He continued. “A few week’s later I heard the lad’s talking again, Eileen was pregnant. None of them knew that I had been there but somehow I knew it was my baby. Don’t ask me to explain it; it was just a feeling I had. I went round to see Eileen and she said it was definitely mine but she didn’t want anything from me. I offered to marry her but she turned me down, said that it would only confuse the kids. It tore me up inside knowing that I had a baby son and couldn’t see him but there was nothing I could do”
“Could you not have fought for custody?”
“I would never have won. When would I have been able to look after him, I was at work all day? It was for the best.”
Why have you never told Gilbert? It must have been chewing him up thinking he had no father and all the time you were a couple of streets away.”
“I know what you think but I couldn’t; his mother didn’t want me to. As the years went by it got harder; how do you tell someone that for the last thirty years his father has been living round the corner but hasn’t been round to see him? It would crucify him, he would end up hating me.”
“You don’t know that, he’s a forgiving person, he could welcome you with open arms.”
“If your plan doesn’t work I may never get the chance to tell him.”
I felt guilty; while I thought that the other lads all wanted to be involved I hadn’t bothered to stop and ask their families.
“I’ve struck up a bit of a friendship with him over the last couple of years through the photography. I’ve always been into it, as you can see. A few years ago I saw him in the park and he was taking photos of a flowerbed he had laid, really good work it was. You could tell he was proud of it and I struck up a conversation with him, gave him a few tips on lighting etc. I think he was a bit wary at first, he’s had a lot of cruelty in his life so strange men approaching you in the park is bound to set alarm bells ringing. I saw him most days and after a couple of weeks we’d built up some trust between us. He invited me round for tea and showed me some of his work, far better than his old man’s.”
“Possibly not as incriminating. He’s never mentioned you, how come he never told me about any friends?” I asked.
“We sort of drifted apart. He started working more for Kev and he didn’t like me going round there. I’ve still kept an eye on Gilbert; don’t think for one moment that I’ve deserted him. It kills me to see the way that bastard Davison treats him; I’d like to rip his head off with my bare hands.”
“Now you see how I feel.”
“The difference is that I haven’t. When I found out you were back I knew there would be trouble. I know what you have been doing and I didn’t want you to get my son mixed up in your vendettas. I also know how persuasive you can be so I can see how he was convinced.”
“He needs this as much as me.”
“Maybe, but I need you to promise me one thing.”
“You’ve got to make it work, this plan of yours. I don’t want any comeback on Gilbert; he’s not big enough or clever enough to look after himself, especially against the likes of Davison. I’ll still look out for him but I’m not sure that I can deal with Davison. Make it work Pete, put an end to it all, for everybody’s sake.”
He handed me a brown envelope.
“Make sure these end up in the right hands.”
They were photographs, incriminating photographs. Every one of them incriminated Kevin Davison and his gang in one way or another.
“Don’t worry, they’ll definitely end up with the right people. I promise I’ll take care of Gilbert. This time Kevin Davison is not coming out on top.”
As soon as the bell went for lunch we were out of the gate and ran all of the way to Southwick Library. We had come prepared with notebooks, pens and stern looks. We shuffled about for a few minutes before we found what we were looking for. For some reason, schoolchildren are always unfairly treated with suspicion. Admittedly we were planning to steal on this occasion but it wasn’t really the point.
The caretaker at Southwick Library, Mr Wright, was notorious. The slightest bit of misbehaviour and he was onto you. A lifetime ban would be placed on you and your name put in the window.
As we approached Mr Wright, Michael Baker walked through the door. Baker was an unknown quantity; he was in Gilbert’s class at school and had a reputation for violence. On the other hand, whenever we had come across him he had been nothing but friendly. He didn’t look pleased to see us; perhaps he was up to something similar. He nodded at us as he went up to the counter and we nodded back sheepishly, deciding it wasn’t wise to stare and turned away. We knew it was unwise to laugh when we heard the assistant say, “This is overdue isn’t it? Don’t you think you’re a bit old for Noddy and Big Ears?” He told us later that he was returning it for his little brother. We chose to believe him.
Mr Wright was a tall, balding man in his early sixties. He wore one of those brown overalls, the type that only caretakers and woodwork teachers had access to. True to form he eyed us with suspicion. Then Bumper spoke up.
“I wonder if you could help. We are doing a project on the decline of morals in the youth of today. We wondered if you had any views.”
We had hit the jackpot, he had views and boy did he want to share them.
“Where the fuck is he?” Tomma was desperately trying to ring Kev on his mobile. “He’s not answering his home phone and his mobile is on voicemail. We have to find him.”
“I thought we weren’t meant to phone him on his home phone.”
“We’re not but this is a fucking emergency.”
“Why don’t we just go and do the business? We don’t need Kev’s permission to sort out a retard like Tim.”
Jamie was pacing the floor in the flat he shared with Tomma. A large Union Jack hung on one wall, a painting of the Queen on another. The rest of the gang was there, nursing their wounds from the battle in the Whistle.
“You know the rules, we don’t move without his say. He’ll turn up, we’ll just have to wait.”
“Why can’t it be like the olden days? We used to go and sort out anybody who gave us grief, we didn’t need a fucking board meeting.”
“We’re not a bunch of teenage football hooligans anymore, anything we do attracts attention and therefore affects the business. Sit your arse down and wait for Kev’s call, I’ve left him a message.”
“This is our fucking reputation at stake not Kevin bloody Davison’s. In case you have forgotten, it was me who got a bar stool smashed off his head.” Jamie was furious.
“Our reputation is Kev’s reputation. If someone makes a move on his business then he calls the shots. I’ll not tell you again, sit the fuck down.”
Jamie petulantly swung his baseball bat at the coffee table and knocked a number of Budweiser cans and an ashtray onto the far wall.
“Fucking Bastards,” he screamed.
“I was drinking that,” moaned Ian Whelan, one of the younger members of the gang. He’d only been with them a couple of months and he was pushing his luck speaking up against Jamie.
“It’ll be your fucking head next time. Anyway, where were you when it kicked off? I can’t remember you doing your bit when it was needed.”
“I was in the toilets with some Colombian marching powder. When I came out it was all over.”
“Very convenient. I’ve got my eye on you son, if you step out of line I’ll fucking have you.”
“Where the fuck are you Kev?” Tomma tried the mobile again.
Another installment to follow same time next week.
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