This is the twenty-third part of a fiction serial, in 840 words.
After the conversation with Keith at his new house, I was getting very worried about Terry. There were so many ways that Keith could affect his life, I started to imagine what he might do. Perhaps invent some corruption around the plumbing contract, or maybe grass him up to the income tax people. I didn’t expect that Terry’s tax situation was in very good order. But what would be achieved by ruining him?
If Terry had no future left, he was far more likely to break down and tell someone what had happened to Johnny on that fateful night in the caravan.
Then life got in the way of my worries. A boom time for me at work, the swish house close to Dulwich Park had become a reality, and Stephen was doing so well at Dulwich College, he seemed to have a great future ahead of him. Susan became rather snobbish following the house move, but remained a great wife to me, a wonderful mum to Stephen, and a real home-maker. We had dragged ourselves up from the back streets of Deptford, and were now decidedly upper-middle-class in one of the best districts south of the Thames.
Terry slipped my mind for a while, and Keith was still being touted as a potential leader of the Conservatives. We had less and less to do with him and Maddy. Though we had elevated our social status, my brother-in-law’s right wing views didn’t sit well with either of us. He seemed determined to push his party further to the extremes of its policies, and loved to appear on political talk shows causing controversy with his openly racist and classist comments.
In the middle of all that, we got a double shock in the same week. My mum had been diagnosed with breast cancer, and was facing drastic surgery to attempt to cure her. On the Friday of that same week, my dad dropped dead of a heart attack just after eating his breakfast. For a long time, Terry was the last thing on my mind.
The new house had four big bedrooms, so Susan suggested moving my mum in with us. Mum didn’t want to give up the Deptford house, but agreed to stay with us to recuperate from her surgery. Susan was marvellous. Driving mum back and forth for radiotherapy, and sitting up at night with her when she was sick from the Chemo. When mum’s hair fell out, Susan bought her an expensive wig from a place in the West End, and helped her style it.
I was feeling very grown up and responsible by then, and the old days of The Four Musketeers were becoming a distant memory.
Then following a speaking engagement at Oxford University, Keith was attacked by a group of left-wing agitators. He ended up in hospital and made a publicity event out of it. I was left wondering if he hadn’t engineered the whole thing, as nobody was ever arrested for the assault on him. When I mentioned that to Susan, she said she had thought exactly the same thing.
Mum went into remission, and insisted on returning to her old house. Susan helped where she could, but mum was stubborn, and sure she could cope. The doctors said that if she remained cancer-free for five years, they would consider her cured. So she became fixated on making those five years, and the first year went by without incident.
Another promotion followed for me, and that meant I had to move to a new call centre that I was to manage. It was outside Central London, close to Croydon, so I was now commuting by car. And that car was now a company car, a Mercedes. Susan loved to travel in that silver Merc, feeling like we had really arrived. With the new job came longer hours, and much more pay. We talked about moving to a bigger house, but I was reluctant to do that. The house we had was certainly big enough, and the area was such a great place to live.
So we stayed in Dulwich Village.
One thing we did splash out on was a new television, a top-of-the-range Sony. The day it was delivered, I was expected to set it up when I got home from work. Susan hated to mess around with anything technical. By the time I had it tuned in, she was in the kitchen preparing dinner, and I waited until we had eaten to sit and watch something. I chose the nine o’clock news.
Halfway down the day’s news, there was a report from Harlesden. There had been a gas explosion at a house undergoing renovation. The house had been more or less demolished by the blast, and two men had been killed. It was believed that they were plumbers installing a new central heating system, but their names were not given. As the camera panned around the scene away from the news reporter, I caught my breath.
The van parked in the street outside was Terry’s.