Keeping the plan from Anthony did not sit well with him, not one little bit, but he had promised Danny. The address was near Southampton, which was why Danny had thought it seemed familiar for some reason. He had lived in Southampton as a child. They waited a few days before they went. Everything had fallen quiet. There had been no letters, no bricks, no eerie phone calls, nothing. Everyone was starting to relax slightly, Michael noticed. Chrissie had moved tentatively back in with Anthony. They were working on things. Anthony had promised to tell her the truth from now on, which in some ways made it easier for Michael to keep it from him.
He had to admit, he preferred the idea of him, Danny and Anthony all being together to visit Lee Howard’s estranged brother. But doing it that way would put Anthony in an impossible position. He would have to choose between letting them down, and lying to his wife. Danny was right then, Michael decided, as the two of them set off early on a Friday morning, it was better this way.
Still, knowing that did not stop Michael’s belly from feeling sick from the moment he woke up that morning. They talked for a while about what to take, if anything? What was the plan? What were they going to do when they got there? In the end they just packed themselves and Kurt into the car, and drove off.
Michael fiddled with the radio for a while, finally swearing in disgust and turning it off. “There is no fucking good music these days,” he muttered. “Or if there is, I can’t find it. You found any masterpieces yet at the fat man’s?”
He looked at Danny, sat in the passenger seat with his arms around Kurt. He was staring silently out of the window, and he had been that way for the last few days. Michael had left him to it mostly. He had heard from Lucy after the episode on the beach. “You’re nuts,” he had told her desperately, “please don’t do this! He’ll be a mess, he won’t get it!” Lucy had been crying, trying to explain how she felt. Michael had felt the urge to hang up on her, but he hadn’t.
“I just need to know he really wants me,” she had said, and Michael had thought that was just typical of a woman. He was hoping the rest of the story would come out on the journey. Danny had been brooding for days.
“We should have a night at Chaos, you know,” he suggested, breaking the silence again. “That could be a laugh.”
“It would have to be just you and me,” Danny replied, still staring out of the window.
“You know why. Gotta’ keep away from the rest of them,” Danny turned briefly to give Michael a dark stare. “So they don’t get hurt. Seems to be working lately.” He sighed, and looked back to the window.
“Well not for much longer,” Michael said, “not once we’ve had it out with these three fuckers. It’ll all be over mate. You’ll be able to get on with your life.”
“Sometimes I doubt that will ever happen.”
“Oh don’t you be such a fucking pessimist!” Michael scolded him. “Don’t you pull that on me! I’ve had enough of you sulking around these last few days. You need to keep your chin up. Think positive!”
Danny did not answer. Michael rolled his eyes. They had reached a junction, and he took the opportunity to light up a cigarette and pass another one to Danny. He drove on, rolling down the window to let the smoke out. “So spill the beans then,” he said. “What went on with you and Haskell?”
“The interview. Her pound of flesh. Don’t try and tell me she gave you the addresses for nothing.”
“I’ve only got one address,” Danny corrected him, rolling down his own window and hanging one elbow out.
“One? What happened to the others?”
“We didn’t trust each other,” Danny shrugged. “So I answered five questions for one address. If this works out, I’ll answer some more questions, and so on.”
“Christ,” Michael gave him a puzzled look. “She’s a viper that one, isn’t she? That’s pretty clever that is. What did she ask you anyway?”
“Oh just the usual shit.”
“It was okay then? You didn’t mind?”
“I was drunk to be honest.”
“Oh Danny, you twat!” Michael groaned. “I should have known. I should have come down there and chased her off. What a sneaky bitch! Let me guess, she bought the drinks right?” Danny shrugged in reply.
“It doesn’t matter. It was easier to do it drunk.”
“Whatever you reckon mate. Just be careful with her, I’m telling you. She was relentless about it, eight years ago. I’m serious!” he shot a look at Danny, who yet again refused to meet his eyes. “She followed Jake and Billy and Lucy to school and back, she hounded me and Anthony at the bed-sit, I’m telling you. She wanted a visitors pass to see you inside. She was obsessed!”
“She admitted that herself,” Danny told him, his tone weary. “She said she was there that morning, when the cops brought me out the house. She saw it. She told me all that. I don’t care.”
“Well what does she want exactly? To get famous? What?”
“I don’t know. It’ll be some big article I think,” Danny smoked out of the window, his other arm carefully wrapped around Kurt. “I’ll get to see it and check it before she publishes it.”
“She’ll be hoping to sell it to the nationals, or some stuck up ladies magazine or something,” Michael shook his head in disgust. “They’ll all be fighting over it mate. She’ll make a fucking fortune, you do know that right?”
“Okay. It’s up to you. You must know what you’re doing.”
“Not really,” Danny sighed again, and looked at him sheepishly. “I sort of went and slept with her afterwards.”
Michael’s mouth fell open. He stared at Danny, but then had to look back to the road. “Jesus fucking Christ!” he exclaimed in disbelief. “You filthy bastard!”
“You must have been hammered!”
“Oh and Lucy had just messed with your head,” Michael was nodding now, as it all began to make sense. He shook his head and grinned sideways at his friend. “Oh well, fair enough, fair enough mate. I don’t blame you. She was hot back then, and she’s still hot now! How was it?”
Danny just groaned and covered his eyes for a second. “Oh Mike don’t ask me that. I feel sick enough about it.”
“Don’t feel sick about it, you idiot, any one of us would have done the same! I know I would have, if she was laying it on a plate for me like that!”
“It’s kind of wrong though?”
“I don’t know,” Michael laughed and shrugged. “Not really. You’re single now thanks to Lucy freaking out about nothing. Isn’t that what she wanted you do do? Sow your wild oats? You’ll have to tell her mate, see if she’s happy now.”
Danny did not answer, and Michael realised that was the cue to change the subject. He chuckled to himself silently though. “You animal,” he murmured in amusement.
“We’re nearly there,” Danny remarked some time later. Michael nodded, and wondered if his guts felt as sick as his own did. Danny had an old a to z spread out on his lap and was frowning down at it. They were driving through a pleasant looking housing estate just outside of Totton, not too far from the city centre. Michael kept his eyes on the road signs, driving slowly.
“You okay?” he asked Danny.
“I’m looking forward to this,” Danny replied, and Michael knew right away that he was lying. Never mind, he thought, if we do this right, we’ll be making progress, we’ll be on the way to sorting this shit out. Danny tapped his fingers on the map and checked the piece of paper Caroline had given him. “Should be next on our left,” he said, looking up. Michael drove on, his stomach tightening further.
“We should have bought weapons,” he commented.
“We’re just gonna’ talk to him Mike. We have to keep cool, okay? In fact, unless I give you the nod, you just stay back and stay quiet, yeah?”
“Okay. No problem.”
Michael pulled up in front of the house, and they both sat in the car, exhaling pent up breath, and staring out at number fifteen Rise View drive. It was an end terrace, possibly two bedrooms by the size of it. The front garden was slightly overgrown, and the drive was empty. There was a side gate, with two broken panels, leading around to the back. The house had a small porch, and the windows were hung with tatty grey net curtains. Michael noticed that there were no obvious signs of children, or family. It looked a lot like a single man lived there alone. Michael breathed out again and nudged Danny. “What do you want to do mate?”
Danny was already getting out of the car. He placed Kurt gently on the seat, left the window slightly open and gestured for Michael to follow. They both stubbed the last of their cigarettes out on the pavement and looked again at the house. “Come on,” Danny muttered, and sinking his hands into his pockets, he headed for the door.
Michael followed, keeping just behind him. Danny pressed the doorbell. Michael felt his stomach do a flip, and his hairs stand on end. He looked around at the rest of the street, but it seemed dead and quiet. The inner door was opened and the shape of a man shuffled into the porch, undoing various locks. Finally the porch door was pulled open and a face peered out at them. If Danny was as taken back as Michael was, he did a fine job not showing it. The face looked uncannily like Lee Howard. The same high brow, the same small eyes, the receding hair-line, and small neat teeth were all identical. The man looked like he had not shaved for a few days, and Michael could see he was wearing an unflattering beige cardigan and grey trousers. “Hi,” Danny said quickly, and again Michael was amazed at how calm and steady his voice came out. “We’re really sorry to bother you sir. Are you Dennis Howard?”
The man squinted at them both, looking confused and concerned. “Yes,” he said, and Michael noticed his voice was higher than Howard’s, and Jerry’s. And when he spoke, his expression seemed different to theirs too. Michael guessed he must be in his late forties at least but his voice somehow made him sound younger, younger and confused. “That’s me. Can I help you?”
Danny glanced momentarily at Michael, then back at Dennis. “Ah sir, Mr. Howard, this is a bit awkward. This is about your brother Lee? And your dad, Jerry? I really need to talk to you about them. Would we be able to come inside?”
The man’s forehead was creased with concern. “Lee’s dead,” he said, spluttering slightly over his words, spit flying out from between his lips. He let the door open slightly wider though. “That’s my brother. He died.”
Danny looked wonderingly at Michael again. “We know that sir,” he said to Dennis. “Um, can we please come in and talk to you? We really won’t be very long at all.”
“Okay,” the man agreed, sounding brighter then, and pulling the door wide open for him, as he shuffled back out of their way. “You can come in. I’m doing a crossword.”
Michael followed Danny in. Something was not right, he thought. This guy was not what they had expected at all. He closed both doors behind them, and the man led them into his lounge, which was at the front of the house. It smelled of vegetables, Michael thought sniffing, cabbage and leeks, that sort of thing, as if the guy had been eating them all day. Now they were inside, Michael looked closer at Lee Howard’s brother. He was shorter and slighter than Lee had been, sort of stooped over even. He put his hands into the pockets of his loose grey trousers now, and stood sort of clumsily and awkwardly in his own room. Then suddenly his face lit up, as if he had remembered something. “Tea?” he asked them, and Michael saw he had a strange way of looking at them. He sort of kept his head turned away, and looked at them sideways, as if he thought he wasn’t allowed to look right at them. It was odd, Michael thought, really odd. “I can make tea!” he said. Danny looked at Michael and then shook his head at Dennis.
“No thank you Dennis. Can we sit down a minute? We won’t keep you long.”
“Yes, yes, you can sit down there,” he jerked his shoulder towards a short green sofa, and Danny and Michael promptly sat down. The man nodded towards the armchair he was stood next to. There was a newspaper on the seat. “I’m doing a crossword,” he said again. Danny nodded.
“Um, Dennis? Lee was your older brother right? You grew up together?”
“My big brother, yes,” the man replied, closing his eyes as a strange smile pulled his lips out to either side. He kept his hands balled in his pockets. Michael wondered why he did not sit down. “He’s dead now.”
“And Jerry, he’s your dad?”
“Oh yes, yes, my dad, yes.” Again Michael watched him talking to them, with his head turned slightly the other way. He was looking out of the corner of his eye the whole time.
“Do you see your dad much?” Danny asked him.
“No he doesn’t come here,” was the immediate reply. The man screwed up his face as if thinking. “Oh he used to come to River House. He came there!”
“What’s River House?”
“Where I was, where I lived, at River House. He came there! But he doesn’t come here, no.”
Danny looked at Michael and shrugged. Michael mouthed the word simple to him, wonderingly and Danny replied with a quick nod. He looked back at Dennis, who was still standing with his fists in his pockets. “Dennis, you don’t know who I am, do you?”
“No,” the man shook his head, and smiled a little. Danny bit his lip briefly and then sat forward on the sofa, his hands clasped between his knees.
“Dennis, your brother Lee, he was my stepfather for a while.”
Dennis screwed his face up again, his eyes disappearing. “Oh.”
“Yeah, he married my mum, Kay? Did you know that?”
“Oh he had a bad boy, I know that,” Dennis nodded triumphantly, as if he was pleased he had remembered this piece of information. “They told me that. Dad told me that yes. Lee had a boy, he had a bad boy.” He carried on nodding.
“Yeah, that was me,” Danny went on. “We didn’t get on. Do you know what happened to Lee? How he died?”
“Bad boy did it,” Dennis nodded in certainty, eyes on Danny, but head turned.
“That’s right,” Danny said gently. “And I went to prison for a long time. But now I’m out. The thing is, some people are out to get me. I think it might be your dad. Wanting revenge. That’s why we came to see you today. To see if you could help us.”
“Oh,” Dennis said wonderingly. “I don’t see my dad anymore. He’s not proud of me. He was proud of Lee.”
“Yes, I know he was. Why wasn’t he proud of you Dennis?”
“Because I was at River House. Because I was a bad boy.”
Michael sat and stared. The guy sounded almost rehearsed in his answers, he thought, as if he had been told the same things again and again.
“You were a bad boy?” Danny was leaning forward even more, just perched on the edge of the sofa now. “What do you mean Dennis? What did you do?”
“Oh it’s a secret,” Dennis whimpered now, his voice a little higher, his eyes darting about the room, his head turned even further the other way. He was turning his body now too, sort of shuffling around, away from their staring eyes.
Danny got up. Michael watched him approach the man slowly, sort of stooping to catch his lowered eyes. “Dennis,” he said in a gentle voice. “It’s okay. I’ve got a secret too you see. Maybe me and you are the same? Did they think you were a bad boy too?”
“Yes!” Dennis said, nodding vehemently, looking distressed now. “Yes I was!”
“But why ? What did you do? We won’t tell anyone, we promise. I can tell you my secrets, if you tell me yours.”
Michael watched, mesmerised from the sofa. If he had imagined this scene in any way, it had never been like this. The guy was obviously not quite right in the head, for whatever reason. It kind of explained why Lee had never mentioned him, he thought, and it explained why Jerry had been so proud of Lee, and had nothing to do with this son. The poor bugger, he found himself thinking.
“It’s because I did bad things,” Dennis spluttered now, his eyes still on Danny. He had pulled his hands out of his pockets and sort of curled them up under his chin, as if trying to protect himself somehow.
“What bad things?” Danny asked him.
“I did bad things with Lee’s friend,” Dennis said then, backing himself up to the wall, his hands knotted under his own chin, his face turned away, but his small eyes still fixed firmly on Danny. There was a shattering silence. Michael got to his feet.
“What friend?” Danny asked, his voice a whisper. Michael stared, waiting, knowing, dreading. He felt vomit rise in his throat and swallowed, coughing and tasting bile on his tongue.
“His friend Jack,” Dennis told them, shrinking even further now. “His good friend Jack. Bad things. I was a bad boy. So I went to River House. Did you go to River House?”
Michael watched Danny’s shoulders fall from behind. “No,” he told the man with a heavy sigh. “I went somewhere else. Jack Freeman was still Lee’s friend when I knew him. I know who you mean.”
The man dropped his hands a little and moved slightly away from the wall. He was staring at Danny in wonder. “Did you do bad things with him too? Is that why you are a bad boy too?”
Danny turned abruptly and nodded at Michael. “Let’s go,” he said gruffly, his eyes down. “We’re sorry we bothered you Dennis. We have to go now.”
Danny headed quickly for the door and Michael followed. He took a last lingering look back at the guy, whose face fell as they left the room. “Goodbye,” he called after them, shuffling slowly into the hall. “Goodbye!”
Michael closed both doors behind him and unlocked the car so Danny could get in. “You okay?” he asked, knowing he would not get an answer. Danny swept Kurt from the seat and hoisted him into the back. Michael sat for a minute, key in the ignition, not sure what to do. He looked at Danny, and saw his face was like thunder, and his fists were clenched tightly in his lap. “Danny?”
“Fuck!” he snarled suddenly, lashing out and punching the dashboard. “Fuck! Fuck’s sake!”
“What is it?”
Danny shook his head, punched the dashboard again and then dropped his head down into his hands. He clawed restlessly at his hair for a moment, and then jerked back violently and smashed his fist into the door. “Danny stop beating up my car!” Michael gasped, hoping to joke him out of it.
“Just drive!” Danny snapped back at him, lifting one foot onto the seat and turning his face to the window. “Just fucking get us out of here!”
“All right, all right, calm down, just calm down, I’m going.” Michael started the car and pulled away from Dennis Howard’s house. “That was weird,” he said, right away. “That was not what I expected at all. The guy was not all there, right?” he glanced at Danny who nodded in return. “Christ. Those bastards. That’s why they never mentioned him, right? They were ashamed of him. Sounds like they shut him away somewhere.” He glanced sideways again. Danny was shaking his head slightly, but quickly, pulling at his bottom lip with his fingers and looking like he wanted to kill someone. “Dan?” Michael pressed gently. “Just tell me you’re okay, yeah? What are you thinking?”
“Fuck,” Danny said again, and then took a deep breath. “Fuck. Nothing. Just drive.”
Michael did as he was told and drove. As they neared home, Danny spoke up, only to ask if he could drop him at his mother’s house. Michael was concerned. After everything they had just discovered, why did Danny want to go there? “Why?” he asked him.
“Need to talk to her.”
“All right mate.”
There was nothing else he could do. He pulled up and let him out a short while later. Danny took Kurt from the back seat, muttered a thank you and stalked away without another word. Michael watched him go, feeling both bewildered and uneasy. His gut reaction was to contact Anthony, or Lucy, but frustratingly he was not allowed to. He drove on towards home occupying the shell-shocked silence alone.
Having received his message, Kay left work early and hurried home as fast as she could. She arrived to find him sat at the top of the stairs, just outside the door to her flat, with his little dog beside him. She approached cautiously, never certain what mood she would find him in. He had mostly been avoiding and ignoring her lately, so it had automatically filled her with both hope and fear to be summoned this way. She stopped in front of him, and he did not look at her, but merely got stiffly to his feet and waited to be let into the flat. “Are you all right?” she asked him, dragging out her keys.
“No I’m fucking not,” was the terse reply. Kay grimaced and let them both in. Danny slouched into the lounge and sat on the edge of the sofa. She glanced at him worriedly, before dropping her keys and handbag on the side table, and bustling into the kitchen to put on the kettle.
“You want tea?” she asked him over her shoulder. He did not answer, and when she poked her head back around the door, he was staring morosely down at the carpet, his hands laced together tightly between his knees. She thought he looked tightly sprung, as if about to explode at any second. She decided to make him one anyway, almost as a way to delay whatever was about to erupt.
Kay brought the teas and a plate of biscuits through to the lounge, and set them down on the coffee table in front of the sofa. She hovered then, not knowing whether she ought to sit beside him, or on one of the armchairs. She struggled in her mind to decide upon a question. She thought about asking him how the job was going, but then she decided not to delay the inevitable. “What is it?” she asked finally, standing next to him. “What’s wrong?”
“Where do I start?” he sighed, lifting his hands and pressing them briefly to his face. “Fucking everything, how about that? Life is one shit disaster after another, and I wish I’d stayed in fucking prison, how about that?” he dropped his hands and stared up at her, challenging her to disagree. “I’m seriously thinking about disappearing. Just going away. Going far away and never coming back.”
Kay sat down cautiously beside him. She longed to reach out and touch him, but she didn’t dare. She could feel the anger throbbing from him violently. “Why don’t you tell me what’s happened? Start at the beginning?”
“The beginning?” he questioned, gazing at her in wonder, as if he simply did not understand her. “Well I’m not sure where the beginning is mum. I think to be honest it’s when you met a psychopathic maniac and decided to marry him! That might be the beginning!”
“Okaaay,” she nodded slowly. “I can see where this is going. You don’t look like you are coping you know honey. You look awful. I did say before I thought you should get some help?”
“I want to punch something,” he said then, his eyes wide. Kay flinched without meaning to.
“I do. I really fucking do. I want to punch something. I’m gonna go fucking mental in a minute!”
She got up then. She couldn’t stop herself. There was a look in his eye that unsettled her and made her nervous. She picked her tea up from the table and crossed the room to stand next to the patio doors that led out to the balcony. “You need to take some deep breaths, calm down and talk to me Danny,” she looked back and told him. “Either that, or you go somewhere else, somewhere safe and find something to take it out on. Or maybe I should call Lucy?”
Danny laughed then, rolling his eyes at her. “Lucy dumped me mum. Few days ago. She called it quits. It’s over.”
Kay released her breath slowly then, a small amount of relief falling over her. So that was what this was about. It was beginning to make sense. “Okay,” she said carefully. “What did she say?”
He waved a hand at her in frustration, his expression dark. “Oh just a load of crap about me needing to be single! She wants me to shag around or something, so she can be sure I want her.” Danny shook his head, his lips curled. “Fucking bullshit. She just wants out. Simple as that. I’m too much trouble. I’m damaged goods.”
“Don’t say that…”
“But it’s true. That’s what she thinks, I know it. Who can blame her eh?”
“Oh come on now,” Kay tilted her head at him sternly. “Don’t you start all the self-pitying crap with me Danny, you know I won’t stand for it.”
“You are unbelievable,” he said then, and she saw his hands reach out to either side of his legs, gripping onto the edge of the sofa, as if trying to anchor himself in place.
“Danny, I just mean calm down. This won’t do any good.”
“It’s all your fault, you know that don’t you?”
Kay looked at him steadily. She liked the distance between them, but could not stop looking at his hands, gripping the sofa so hard his knuckles had turned white.
“Okay,” she said. “You’re probably right, and we all know that. What do you want to do about it?”
He turned then wildly, letting go and plunging his fist into the sofa cushion. Kay flinched again, and backed closer to the doors. She stood back and watched her son lose control. She watched him digress to nothing more than an enraged infant, as he swiped the cushions, threw them to the floor and kicked them, before turning and knocking the cups and plate from the table so viciously they were hurled across the room, the white china shattering against the far wall. He then stomped towards the wall, kicked at the pieces of broken crockery, before pounding both fists into the wall, one after the other. She heard him grunting with pain and rage. She felt tears in her eyes and longed to touch him, to comfort him and hold him, but her feet remained planted to the ground.
Finally she watched him pull in his fists, wincing in pain, and he turned and sank slowly to the floor, holding one hand in the other, his back sliding down the wall. She went to him then. She put down her mug and crouched down beside him. The anger was slowly ebbing away, and now he hung his head miserably in one hand, pushing his bloodied knuckles back through his hair and hanging on there. Kay touched his cheek, smoothing away his tears. “It’s good to let it out,” she said softly to him then, her face close to his. “It will do you good.”
“I saw his brother,” he said then, his eyes down, his head still hanging. Kay tensed and pulled back.
“Lee’s. I found out where Dennis lived, and me and Mike just went to see him.”
Kay sucked her breath in and looked wildly around the room, shaking her head in confusion. “Dennis?”
“Dennis is mentally handicapped, in some way,” Danny muttered through his hanging hair. “That’s why Lee never saw him or talked about him. He’s simple mum. Backwards.”
Kay waited, blinking in surprise, at a total loss for words, not understanding. Danny crossed his arms over his knees then, and lowered his head, totally obscuring his face from her. She could see his shoulders shaking though. She put her hand on his shoulder, waiting for more. “He said they put him in some kind of home,” he said then. “Because he’d been bad. He’d been bad with Lee’s friend Jack.”
Kay stiffened in confusion. She patted his shoulders and had never felt more useless or lost. “What do you mean?”
“What do you think I mean mum? Jack must have…” he sighed a shuddery sigh, his shoulders heaving slowly up and down as he battled to regain control of himself. “I think he meant Jack messed around with him…They told him he was bad and shut him away.”
Kay tightened her grip slowly on his shoulder, rubbing it firmly. She brought her other hand up then, now that she was sure he would not pull away, and she placed it on his head and gently smoothed back his hair. “This is why you are like this,” she said softly, and watched him nod. “He wasn’t what you expected to find. Oh Danny, when is all this mess ever going to end? Do you want to talk to me Danny? Do you want to talk to me about Jack? You and Jack?”
She felt his head shake slowly under her hand. “I don’t know…” his voice came up muffled. “’Cause I don’t remember…I don’t know.”
“But you think there was something, don’t you honey? You remember something, don’t you?”
Her hand bobbed up and down as he nodded his silent reply, and she felt the tears cascading then, flowing effortlessly down from her eyes, and her cheeks began to sting and she tasted them on her lips. She pressed her forehead down onto his hair.
“I don’t know what was dreams, and what was real,” she heard him mumble, and he sounded so very far away, that she wrapped both her arms tightly around him, keeping her head next to his. “I used to wake up really confused…I thought I dreamt stuff…I thought it was the drugs. I didn’t want to think about it.”
“And that bastard knew though, didn’t he? He knew what Jack had done, what he was capable of…” Kay felt it then, stronger and deeper than ever, the hatred that had been festering inside her for years, she felt it double and intensify, and she had no idea what a person was supposed to do with a feeling like that. If he wasn’t already dead, she thought then, I would kill him.
“I didn’t know that…I didn’t know anything for sure until Anthony found out. He and Jaime Lawler did the digging. It took him ages you know, and he had to pay money. But when he found out, he told me and Mike to stay away and we did.”
“But before that? Before that, you were around at his flat a lot, I remember,” Kay breathed slowly into his hair, wishing that her touch and love alone would be enough to mend him, but knowing in her heart that there would never be anything she could do. “Oh it disgusts me now…to think back, how cosy and nice he made it seem. Like Jack was looking out for you. Giving you somewhere you could hang out. I thought it was really nice of him.”
“I’ve got to find him next.”
Kay pulled back, her arms now loosely around him. “What?”
“Jack. He’s next on my list. This reporter woman is helping me find them. So I can stop all this harassment.”
“Danny look at me.”
He did, painfully slowly, dragging the back of one hand across each wet eye. He met her eyes as if it were the hardest thing in the world to do. “I have to,” he told her. She frowned, shook her head at him and reached out to touch the stitches in his head.
“I don’t want you to. Leave it to the police Danny, please. It isn’t safe. Look what they’ve done to you already.”
“It’s too late. I’ve already started and I’m not giving up now,” Kay looked at him and saw a little light return to his eyes, a little anger and fight, and she wanted to smile at it, but at the same time the thought of what he was proposing was terrifying. “I have to try and end this,” he went on. “To get them to stop and leave you all alone. Leave me alone. I’ll try mum, I’ll try to stop them, but if it doesn’t work, and if the cops do nothing, then I’ll have to leave. I’ll go far away. I’ll be on my own. I’ll have to.”
She looked back at him and she didn’t know what to say except for; “I’ll help you. What can I do to help you?”
“Nothing,” he shook his head. “You all have to stay out of it. I’ve got to do it mum. I’ve got to close the door on all of this for good. It’s the only way. It’s the only chance I’ve got.”
“And what about Lucy? Are you going to close the door on her too?”
Danny blew out a huge breath, blinked a few times and rubbed his face dry with both hands. He got up slowly, using the wall to help, and then stumbled across the room to the sofa. “She’s closed the door on me,” he replied, dumping himself down again and yawning. His little dog had immediately jumped onto the sofa beside him and climbed nimbly onto his lap.
“It’s not like you think,” Kay told him, kneeling down and picking up the pieces of broken crockery. “She loves you. You know she came to see me and told me? She just needs to know she’s enough for you, that you really want her.”
“She told you that?”
Kay looked up and saw him eyeing her cautiously from the sofa. She wondered wearily if he would erupt again. “I told you, she came to see me. To talk about you. Well, a lot of it was her wanting to know how I could have possibly stood by and let Lee…well, you know. But aside from that, she was worried about where you two were heading.”
“Well what does that mean?”
“It means, she spent eight years without you, living a life, gaining a little experience of life and the world, and it didn’t take much for her to work out that you are the one she wants. For good.” Kay got up, dusted down her skirt and carried the broken pieces into the kitchen. She deposited them into the bin, grabbed the half bottle of wine in the fridge, two glasses, and marched back to where he was sprawled on the sofa. “Here,” she poured him a glass and pushed it at him. “You look exhausted. Have that and maybe a good sleep.”
Danny took the glass. “Why can’t she accept that I do want her?” he asked, trying and failing to stifle another huge yawn. “Why can’t she believe that?”
“Well, probably because of what you’ve been through,” Kay sat down beside him. “It’s not a normal situation is it? Maybe you just have to try to trust her Danny. That she’s doing it for the right reasons,” she lifted her shoulders in a shrug and dropped one hand onto his knee. “Maybe a little time apart will do you both good. You know, give you both time to think and take it all in. Being back together after eight years would be tough enough on its own, but then there’s all this other stuff to deal with too. I know you won’t like me saying this, but I do understand what she is doing, I think she is doing it for your own good, and I think somewhere deep inside you do know that.”
Danny did not answer. He finished his wine and rested on the sofa. She watched him smoke two cigarettes, one after the other, before he let his head fall back. Ten minutes later he was asleep. Kay sat and looked at him, a smile trembling on her lips. Reminds me of when you were a baby, she thought to herself, fight, fight, fight, all day long, until you finally crashed, totally exhausted. He stayed the night, covered up on the sofa with a blanket, his little dog curled up beside him. Kay spent the night watching him. It will end for you, she promised him silently, I know it will.