This is the seventeenth part of a fiction serial, in 778 words.
Working through the VHS tapes took a couple of hours. Two more just of Terry kicking footballs around, much to the delight of my dad. Then two showing fishing trips. They were on boats, off what looked like the south coast. Dad with massive rods, those huge reels in the boxes attached. Terry looking on, sometimes being shown how to work the rod once something had taken the hook. Some big fish being landed, not the sort I had ever seen on a slab in Tesco.
Father and son having fun, and sharing activities. That had never happened to me of course.
By the time I put in the last tape, there was nothing left in my flat to drink. I had even found a drizzle of Grand Marnier in a very old bottle, and tipped the bottle high until it ran down into my mouth.
That last tape was hard to watch. My mum in our garden, holding a baby. As Terry was standing next to her, I knew the baby had to be me. Strange to imagine I had ever been that small. My dad’s voice on the tape. “Give him a hold, Terry”. Mum handing me over carefully, and my brother holding me as if I was made of glass. Then mum and dad in shot, presumably filmed by Terry. Dad lifting me high and laughing, then kissing my head as I came back down.
I had to turn it off. It was all too much.
Although I had intended to work through the other boxes, I was choked up after watching the videos, and went to bed instead. When the alarm went off, I grabbed my mobile and rang Penny’s number. I knew she would be on her way in. She always arrived first. I told her I had a stomach upset, and wouldn’t be in for a few days. She was surprisingly friendly.
“Oh, Darren. John’s coming back on Wednesday. Seems it was just a mild Angina attack. They have given him some tablets, and he’s coming back. To be honest, I will be pleased to see the back of that Neil. We thought he was nice at first, but he’s a complete arsehole, if you want my opinion. Get well soon”.
Neil must have shown his true colours over the weekend, and upset Penny, probably young Kelly too. It was good news that John was coming back, but I had other things on my mind now. I had suddenly discovered my family, thirty years too late.
With the day free, I cleared a space in front of the telly, and started to lay out some of the things from the boxes. It wasn’t usual to have post-mortem reports, and I guessed that mum must have had to request copies, and pay for them. I decided not to read them just yet. I wanted the memories of dad and Terry alive on those tapes to linger a while before I read about how they had died.
The report from the Private Investigator intrigued me. That would have cost a lot, even thirty years ago, and why would mum have bothered? I made some strong coffee and sat on the floor in my underpants, gingerly opening the file, unsure of whether or not I wanted to know what was in it.
Not a lot, was the answer. A few pages of spaced reports, mostly times and locations. A photo of a policeman in uniform outside a police station, and another of the same man in normal clothes, getting into a car. Some very clear long-range photos of a suburban house, one zoomed in to show the door number. From what I could see, the detective had been hired to find a police officer, watch him, and find out where he lived and worked. Then he had followed him for what appeared to be two days, and noted down his movements.
The last page in the file was the bill he had sent to mum. One hundred and forty-eight pounds, including some itemised expenses.
Feeling hungry, I made myself a fried egg sandwich, and added all my notes to the laptop as I ate it. Then I decided to start working through the newspapers. There must have been a good reason why mum had bought them, and kept them.
On top of the pile was a copy of The Surrey Comet, dated a few days after my first birthday. Above a photo of a completly wrecked car was the headline. ‘Two killed in fatal crash. Police investigating’. I read the next line, then dropped the paper.
‘The crash happened not far from Chertsey, on the A317’.