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THE UPRIGHT MAN
January 13, 1994
Obsession is difficult to explain to someone, especially if they don’t share it. Let’s be honest here, no lies between you and me, boy, what are the odds of someone else sharing your obsession? Slim. Incredibly slim. If by some quirk of fate it happens, that two of you are driven by the same strain of madness, well, that would be unfortunate to say the least.
That was her name.
The object of my desire. I was going to say affection, but there was nothing remotely affectionate about it. Desire is a much better word. Less wholesome. Desire speaks of dark places, of yearning, sweat. It reeks of sex. Affection is something best saved for your grandmother.
Eleanor. My Eleanor.
Sometimes you see a face and you just know. You look at it and something inside you comes alive. I’m not sure I can explain it any better than that. It’s strange trying to remember it now, trying to put into words a feeling felt in 1924 about a face that until yesterday I hadn’t seen for seventy years. But I’m going to try, because I need you to understand. Otherwise everything’s been for nothing. I couldn’t bear that. She deserves to be remembered.
She’s particularly sharp in my mind this morning because it’s the anniversary of her disappearance. It’s funny when you think of it, time being this arbitrary thing we conjured up to delineate a day and assign it a number of hours. Of course hours are equally fictitious. There is day and there is night, the rest of it is all just the space in between where the living is done.
January 13, 1924.
A lifetime ago.
The day Eleanor really became a star.
Before then she’d been working for Gainsborough Pictures on a film, Number 13, Hitchcock’s ill-fated effort that ended up as so much silver nitrate on the Gainsborough books. Eleanor had been cast as one of the down-on-their-luck residents of The Peabody, a low-income building down in Rotherhithe. She never really talked about the experience, or about Hitch, just to say he was a sweet young man with his own demons. I never really thought of him that way—the sweet part—he was always just a man with demons as far as I was concerned. But to be fair it didn’t help his cause that he was instrumental in introducing Seth Lockwood into our lives.
It’s not a name you hear all that much these days, but back then the Lockwoods were the original gangster family running the East End. Nothing happened without their say-so. There was talk, of course. Eleanor was a beautiful woman, Lockwood was a dangerous man, and they were in each other’s orbits. Their courtship had been the talk of certain seedier parts of the town, but the police could never prove anything. But I’ve always thought Lockwood had something to do with her disappearance, even if that meant she’d ended her days propping up some foundation over on Friars Mount. New five- and six-storey buildings were ten a penny back then. They were always building something. Gentrifying the city. The council could try and pretend that the Old Nichol Street Rookery wasn’t a slum and pretty it up with a new name. They could even take the scum out of the slum, but what they couldn’t do was stop it from being a slum, not when men like Seth Lockwood still ran it. It didn’t matter if Cock Lane was called Boundary Street. Those places couldn’t change. Not really. The world doesn’t work like that.
The entire family were nasty pieces of work, but Seth was always the worst of a bad bunch.
I don’t know how he wormed his way in with Hitchcock—money, no doubt. Lockwood had plenty of it, none of it clean, and Number 13 was bankrupt—but from the moment he laid eyes on Eleanor I knew there was another person who truly understood my obsession. And like I said, that was unfortunate.
I heard someone the other day say, “No stories ever truly begin; neither do they end. They just go on off the page, and continue living.” I like that idea. I mean, when I think about it, I could say that this all started at that moment, when Seth Lockwood walked onto the set of Number 13 down in Rotherhithe and fell in love with Eleanor Raines, but that’s not really where it all begins, is it? Because he had to fall in with Hitch first, and Hitch had to run out of money midshoot on Number 13 for that to happen, and none of it would have mattered if Eleanor hadn’t decided she wanted to be a star of the silver screen like Isobel Elsom, who’d captivated her so completely during Onward Christian Soldiers and A Debt of Honour, and of course was a dear friend of Hitchcock’s—you see the convoluted patterns life weaves? Even then, there are a dozen other inciting incidents the tragedy around my life owes its existence to.
They are all here, of course.
And if you’ve found my journal, then I imagine you’ve found everything else, Boone. The newspaper cuttings, the reams of notes from my investigation as well as the official police investigation, which was declassified twenty years ago. All of this stuff is in the public domain. There are no secrets here. There are hundreds of interviews and testimonies from people who knew her or were working in the area when she disappeared. Plenty of people who’d run afoul of the Lockwoods came forward with their personal grievances, but eventually the police stopped looking for her. I must have read this stuff ten thousand times over the last seventy years, all of it’s here, and all of it points toward Glass Town and Seth Lockwood. Everything that could possibly help I’ve tried to gather together into one place. This is it, your family legacy, my boy. My gift to you now that I’m gone. There’re old photographs, headshots and stills mainly, and what I believe might be the only extant footage of Number 13, just a few minutes worth of material with Eleanor outside the fictitious Peabody, but it’s all I have left of her to give you. Our celluloid angel.
I’ve tried so hard to forget her—God knows I have tried. I tried for your mother, who has had to live her entire life knowing her husband was in love with her sister and that she could never compete with a ghost, and for my own piece of mind. You cannot live day-to-day with this perfect imaginary woman taking up all the space inside your head and still try and devote yourself to a woman who just happens to be her sister. It won’t work. You’re cheating three people if you try. Not that this is meant to be a lesson in morals—I’m not sure they’ll last after your generation grows up anyway. I can’t remember the last time I saw someone give up their seat on the District Line. Holding the door open for someone is a lost art. Everyone is in so much of a hurry they’re forgetting about the best part of being alive—the here and now. If there’s one thing this old man would love to teach you, boy, it’s that. Live and love in the now. Don’t mourn the past or yearn for the future. I know, I know; do as I say, not do as I do. Not that I think you can. I couldn’t. I never found a way to escape the past, but that was because I never truly wanted to. It’s a dangerous country, the past. Seductive. Alluring. Easy to lose yourself in. Maybe you’re a better man than me. I hope you are, for your sake.
But here you have it, all the elements of my confession. It’s for you to do with as you will. I’m not even sure if I want to hand my obsession on to you. It consumed my life—why should I feed it yours? So ignore it, take it out and make a huge bonfire out of the stuff in the backyard, and be free of this thing. Or don’t.
I’m fighting the urge to tell you more about the personalities involved. I really want to paint you a fuller picture of the Lockwoods and the Raineses, of how they existed in each other’s orbits, and to conjure up some of the other players, too, like the young Hitchcock who’s at the center of it all, and Claire Greet, the actress; Ruben Glass, the King of Glass Town; Damiola, the stage magician; and Eleanor, of course. But I don’t want to color your discovery with my own prejudices. Better that you come at this with new eyes. Perhaps they will see something else? Perhaps after all this time they will see the truth? Or maybe there is no truth? That frightens me. The fact that everything I’ve dedicated my life to could be lies and deception. That frightens me almost as much as Seth Lockwood.
Only one thing remains for me to tell you here, one final confession. I’ve hinted at it already, but here it is: I saw her yesterday. It was a crowded street around Spitalfields. She stepped out of a narrow grotty little alleyway; turned, saw me, but didn’t recognize this grizzled old face of mine because time is such a feckless bastard and makes husks of us all. She disappeared into the crowd before I could catch up with her. I don’t know what I would have said even if I had. I can’t even be sure it was her. It might have been the weight of decades of grief on my soul, the burden of all that longing manifesting itself in her presence, because she hadn’t changed. Not in the slightest. She was still the same heart-stopping beauty. For a few seconds I saw the face your mother might have had, but for a crime that ripped her out of my life and, for a couple of years, was the talk of the town.
I know. I know it’s crazy. Impossible. But there you have it. Perhaps it was an episode. Isn’t that what you like to call it when your old man starts losing his mind? “Oh, don’t worry about Dad, he’s just having an episode.” I’d love to tell you the marbles are all inside the bag and not rattling around on the floor, but I did just confess to seeing a ghost, didn’t I? Or if not a ghost, what? A doppelgänger? Eleanor reincarnated? Or maybe I saw the impossible? Maybe I saw Eleanor Raines step out of 1924 and that’s the reason why no one could ever find her?
So now you have it all—my confession that I never loved your mother, not truly, because my heart belonged to her sister, that she reminded me every day of what I had lost, that in my dotage I’m losing my mind, and that for all of my adult life I have hoarded every piece of memorabilia around your aunt Eleanor’s disappearance, and that’s it, I am unburdened. I wasn’t a good father to you. I know that. You know that. I hope that during the coming weeks and months as you walk a few miles in my shoes you come to understand what drove me, at least. I don’t expect forgiveness. I’ll be rotting long before you ever forgive me. Life isn’t all hearts and flowers. Sometimes it is just holding onto pain too long before letting it go.
Joshua Raines folded up the letter, not sure what to make of it. Twenty-four years had passed since his great-grandfather’s deathbed confession to his son—Josh’s grandfather, Boone. Isaiah Raines had died that year, 1994, just a few weeks after writing the letter, judging by the date. Not that Josh remembered it well, he’d only been eight at the time and the only things he recalled about his great-grandfather were the old-man smell and that he used to leave his false teeth in a glass on the kitchen sink. Isaiah had been nineteen when Eleanor Raines had disappeared, though he hadn’t been a Raines at the time. Isaiah had taken his wife’s name in the summer of 1926, after a long courtship. Reading his confession it was obvious that he had changed his name to be closer somehow to Eleanor, as if by sharing a name they were linked even more so than by the ties of marriage to her twin sister, Lilly. His given name was Isaiah Lockwood. Seth had been his older brother. It was a messy family history, but weren’t they all?
Josh had found the letter among his grandfather’s things that morning. His name had been written on the envelope. One last gift from Boone. He had no idea if his grandfather had ever done anything about it, and as of six days ago the chance to ask him had disappeared forever. Boone Raines, son of Isaiah and Lilly Raines, loving husband of Katherine Raines, devoted father of Barclay Raines (deceased) and doting grandfather of one Josh Raines and his baby sister, Lexy, had shuffled rather ungraciously off this mortal coil at 4:06 a.m. after pitching headfirst down the stairs on the way to the toilet.
His grandfather’s broken neck left Josh and Lexy as the last of the Raineses. It all ended with them, the weight of generations, the continuation of the family name, the passing of the baton, it stopped with them, and given Josh’s inability to nurture a relationship beyond the one-month mark, it was likely to stay that way.
He looked at the grandmother clock in the corner of the room. It ticked on. He had two hours until the funeral. What he didn’t have were the promised notes and pictures Isaiah had left to Boone twenty-four years ago, and he didn’t have the faintest idea where to go looking for them, either.
Josh slipped the letter into the back pocket of his jeans and went through to his grandfather’s kitchen. Like everything else of his grandfather’s, it was impeccably organized to the point of OCD obsessiveness. There were seven aromas of coffee bean in the cupboard and a Swiss-made hand grinder on the bench beside the percolator so he could decide exactly how fine the grounds for each should be depending upon his mood. The cupboard smelled like his grandfather. Everything in the house did. He wasn’t ready to deal with the loss—he didn’t have any coping mechanisms in place. After his father’s death, which he’d been too young to really understand, Boone had stepped up and been the man in his life. But even then it was one thing when death was expected, but it was something else entirely when it came sweeping down from nowhere. Barclay Raines had gone out one morning to pick up his Sunday paper and packet of cigarettes from the corner shop—a habit his wife had always said would kill him one day—and never came home. Some kid trying to rob the store had stuck a six-inch blade in his kidneys and that was that. There was no big argument to hang guiltily over his head for the rest of his life, no last words to hold on to. One minute his father had been there, the next he wasn’t.
Josh saw the pair of tickets for tomorrow’s Leyton Orient game at the Matchroom Stadium still pinned to the fridge by magnets.
He ground the coffee, but stopped halfway through. His head was all over the place. He needed to get changed. He hated wearing a tie, but it was the least the old man deserved. He was supposed to say a few words, but so far had nothing beyond “As granddads went, Boone was pretty good, mainly because he was mine. I remember watching Four Weddings and a Funeral with him, and when John Hannah read out W. H. Auden’s “Funeral Blues,” he looked at me and in all seriousness said, ‘I don’t want any of that bollocks at my funeral, son. Promise me. I don’t want people crying. Make sure they play Israel Kamakawiwo’ole’s “Somewhere over the Rainbow” and if you can possibly swing it, have some dancing girls to put a smile on everyone’s face.’ So, smile you miserable bastards, he might be watching.” He wasn’t sure he could do it, though. It was one thing to imagine saying something, saying it over and over again in his mind, even sounding pithy, but it was quite another to let the words out of his mouth.
Suddenly the house felt claustrophobic. His whole life was in this place gathering dust. All of those firsts; first loves, first kisses, first broken bones, broken hearts, and everything else that had happened to him after he’d moved in here with his mum in the wake of the first death. He could hear her bustling about in the front room, puttering around to keep herself busy. This was the second time the man in her life had died on her. He felt an overwhelming surge of sadness and wanted to go and hold her for a moment. She was the last grown-up in his life. Lexy might argue with that, but not for long. She always said she had no intention of growing up if she could help it.
He went through to the lounge.
She looked so much smaller than she had a week ago.
“Mum,” he said, from the doorway. “Strange question, did my great-grandfather know Alfred Hitchcock?”
She cocked her head slightly. It was what she did when she was trying to remember something. “Where on earth would you get an idea like that, love?”
“Just something I read. Did Boone ever mention anything?”
She shook her head.
“Did he ever talk about an actress who disappeared? Eleanor Raines? I guess she’d be my great-great aunt.”
She shook her head again. “He didn’t talk much about the past, you know that. Something happened with his father and the rest of the family before Boone was born. There was life before, and then there was life after, and in the afterlife they were all dead to him.” Josh resisted the temptation to point out that people were usually dead in the afterlife. “You know what a stubborn old bastard Boone could be at the best of times. I don’t think your dad ever met his grandfather. He never talked about it, but you know what families are like,” she shrugged a little. It was an eloquent gesture that basically said: They’re all as nutty as a fruitcake. “And now, well, it’s all ancient history.”
“Don’t you ever get curious? Don’t you ever wonder what happened?”
“Not really, love. And you need to go and get changed, people will be here soon. I’ve laid your suit out on the bed. You can be curious all you want later. Come to think of it, I’m sure some of Boone’s old friends will be at the wake, you can ask them about your great-great aunt.” And with that, his mum turned her attention to the dusting, moving the picture frame on the mantel above the open fireplace she’d already moved half an inch to the right back half an inch to the left. She’d move it back again before we left.
The 1970s flowers in the middle of the stair carpet were worn threadbare from forty years of shuffling feet. Boone’s heavy sheepskin winter coat still hung on the hatstand at the bottom of the stairs, as did his flat cap. Josh must have seen him in that hat and coat a thousand times. His tobacco tin and Rizla rolling papers would be stuffed deep into the right-hand pocket. There was something comfortably reassuring about knowing they’d be in there. Like everything was right with the world, even though it wasn’t.
He couldn’t look at the bottom of the stairs without imagining Boone lying there, broken.
Josh hurried up the stairs.
His suit was laid out on the bed. It was his interview suit. It was also his “posh” suit for whenever he had to dress up. Now it was his burying-his-grandfather suit. He wasn’t sure he’d ever wear it again after today. In a small voice, Josh mimicked the Wicked Witch of the West, “Help me, I’m melting…” and that was exactly how he felt.
He stripped off, showered quickly, and dressed, transferring the letter from his back pocket to the inside pocket of his jacket. As he struggled with the Windsor knot on his black tie he saw the hearse pull up outside the front door. There were already a number of somberly dressed people in the street; neighbors come to see Boone Raines on his way. Within half an hour there were more than five hundred people out there lining the street. There were people wearing brightly colored scarves declaring their love of Orient, people from his bowling team in their kits, people from the social club where he hid from the rest of the world with a quiet pint standing beside people he’d worked with down at the machine shop, even though he hadn’t worked there for the best part of forty years, and so many other people come to pay their respects.
“Have you looked outside?” Josh said, coming back downstairs in search of shoe polish.
His mum nodded. “A lot of people loved your grandfather.” She had put on her mourning dress, a high-necked black lace gown that wouldn’t have looked out of place at a Victorian funeral.
Josh towered a good six inches above her. He crushed her in a fierce embrace and said, “No one more than us.” And kissed her on the top of the head. He really wasn’t looking forward to the next few hours.
There was a soft knock at the front door.
The undertaker stood on the doorstep in his morning suit. He was a cadaverous soul, gaunt to the point of emaciation. Every bone of his skull protruded starkly from his pasty white skin and the pockmarks where his stubble grew through were deep with shadow. He held a top hat and bone-handled cane in his hands, and looked studiously down at his feet. “It’s time,” Father Death said.
Josh looked at his own shoes, and figured that Boone would let him off with a few scuffs. Without thinking about it, he grabbed his grandfather’s sheepskin coat off the coatrack and put it on.
“It’s a bit tight across the shoulders,” his mum said, ruffling his hair.
“Doesn’t matter,” Josh said and stepped outside.
Not sure what to do in the situation, he shook hands with the undertaker and waited for his mum to emerge from the house. He locked the door and walked arm in arm with her to the lead car. She leaned on him every step of the way. Josh opened the door and helped her in, then closed the door and walked around to the other side. He was incredibly conscious of everyone watching him.
The undertaker walked to the head of the two-car procession, put his hat on, and tapped the cane three times on the asphalt. Taking their cue the drivers started their engines, and followed the undertaker at walking pace through the streets of the Rothery Estate. As the cars pulled out of Albion Close the people on the side of the road began to clap. It was the strangest thing. At first it was only one or two of them, but by the time the hearse bearing Boone’s coffin had rounded the corner all five hundred were clapping. And they followed behind the cars forming a funeral procession that had over two thousand people in it by the time it reached the gates of the church with more people joining the cortege on every street.
The Rothery wasn’t the poorest neighborhood in the city, but it was a long way from middle class, forget any pretensions of polite society it might have had. It was working class to the core. On either side were red-brick terraces, but the estate itself was functional 1970s boxes, no frills, the streets all lined up in neat rows that had long since gone to rack and ruin. Down beyond the communal garages it was more like Beirut than Belgravia, and if you made it as far as the shops—four units squashed in side by side, a bookies, a florist, a newsagent, and a convenience store that doubled as a liquor store—you were taking your life in your hands. Back during the riots last year the worst parts of the Rothery had been torn apart brick by brick. There were still a dozen corpse cars down by the garages, burned-out shells up on bricks like some sort of postapocalyptic nightmare frontier. Back when Boone had moved in, the place had been so full of promise. The parallels with Isaiah’s memories of Friars Mount made Josh smile. He was right, the council men could try and pretty places up and pretend that they weren’t slums, but they’d find a way to slip back into their natural state soon enough. The Rothery had no delusions of grandeur. It was what it was, home to a few thousand Londoners and graveyard for a few thousand dreams.
Layers of inventive graffiti had been sprayed across the shutters of the shops. There was a colorful gang tag on the corner claiming the street for one bunch of thugs or another. No doubt they’d kill for it, too; a lousy street corner in a lousy housing estate. Hardly worth dying over, but people died for less every day.
The cars eased to a stop just inside the wrought-iron angels of the churchyard, tires crunching gravel chips. “Are you ready for this?” his mum asked, leaning over to pat Josh on the knee. He felt like he was ten again. He wasn’t okay, far from it, but he wasn’t about to tell her that. This was the part where he was supposed to be strong. That was just how it worked. He could be weak later, when he was on his own. It didn’t matter that it felt like an invisible vice was crushing his skull, grief applying another ounce of pressure every few heartbeats.
Four pallbearers waited by the church doors with the vicar. They were laughing and no doubt sharing larger-than-life Boone stories. There were plenty of them to share. That was just the kind of man he had been. One of them finished the cigarette in his hand and scuffed it out underfoot. Josh reached into his coat pocket. He had been right, his grandfather’s tobacco tin and rolling papers were stuffed deep inside. He closed his hand around it. The men nodded to him. He nodded back. All very formal.
“Rosie,” the vicar said to his mother, offering her his hand.
His mother sighed and inclined her head slightly. Sometimes there were no words.
“Well, gentlemen, shall we?” the vicar asked as Rosie Raines entered the church. The pallbearers gathered around the hearse as the undertaker opened the hatchback and together eased the coffin out and onto their shoulders. It was balanced unevenly, as one of them was a good five inches shorter than the others. Josh took a moment on the threshold to turn around and just take in the sheer amount of people who had come to pay their final respects, before he went inside.
The pallbearers carried Boone down the aisle behind him.
Josh walked down the aisle to the front row where Alexandra—Lexy—and his mum sat alone on the family bench. There was no more family to fill the row, but the rest of the pews were packed and people were standing at the back and along the sides. As Josh took his seat, the vicar climbed up to the pulpit, looked out at the congregation, breathed deeply, and said, “A lot of people I haven’t seen in here since they were christened. I wouldn’t have recognized some of you if you hadn’t lost your hair.” That earned a few chuckles. “The last time I talked to Boone he asked me if I thought there was a heaven. I told him I was sure of it. He looked me in the eye and asked, in all seriousness, how did it work? Would we be ghosts up there drifting about? Would he have to learn to play the harp? He seemed really worried about it, so I assured him his lack of musicality wouldn’t be a problem and we are reunited with our bodies in the Hereafter. Never a man of many words he simply said, ‘Bugger.’” That earned a proper laugh from some of the men at the back, who obviously shared the sentiment. “That summed Boone Raines up for me,” the vicar said, looking toward Josh. “But I’d like to ask someone who knew him far better than I did to say a few words. Joshua?”
He eased his way out of the pew and walked up to the lectern.
Looking out at the sea of faces he wished he’d written something down. It was only when he was up there that he realized he hadn’t taken Boone’s coat off. He breathed deeply, inhaling his grandfather’s scent, and it was as though the old man was up there with him. That was magic. “As granddads went, Boone was pretty good,” he said, offering a slight smile. “Mainly, I must admit, because he was mine.” He saw a few smiles on the faces of the congregation. “I remember watching a film with him once, Four Weddings and a Funeral, you’ve probably seen it. When John Hannah read out W. H. Auden’s ‘Funeral Blues,’ he looked at me and said in all seriousness, ‘I don’t want any of that bollocks at my funeral, son. Promise me. I don’t want people crying. Make sure they play Israel Kama’—crap, I can’t pronounce his name. I must have practiced it a hundred times. Sorry, Boone. He asked for some dancing girls to put a smile on everyone’s face.” He let that last line linger, offering a slight smile of his own. “So, smile you miserable bastards. Knowing Pops, he’s watching right now wondering where the dancing girls are.”
And after that he had nothing.
The silence lasted five seconds. Those five seconds felt like they lasted five minutes.
Josh looked at them all, hoping he’d see someone familiar and that would make him remember a Boone story.
There were a couple of polite coughs from people worried he was about to break down. He had to remind himself they were all friends out there. No one wanted him to screw up.
The church door opened.
Two men were framed in the sunlight: one standing, the other in a wheelchair. People moved aside to let the newcomers in. It took Josh a moment to recognize the pair—Gideon Lockwood, the patriarch of the Lockwood family, in the chair, and a younger man, in his midtwenties pushing it. All heads turned as they came in. The old man raised a hand, as though giving Josh permission to carry on reminiscing. He didn’t. Not at first. His mind raced. Lockwood, here, at Boone’s funeral? The pair weren’t friends. In fact, until he’d found Isaiah’s letter, he would never have known there was anything to link the pair of them, let alone that they were cousins. Josh looked around the nave and realized that more of Lockwood’s people were in attendance. He had no idea what was going on apart from the fact that the silence was growing uncomfortable.
He saw the vicar begin to move toward him, like a comedian getting the hook to haul him offstage, though this was probably a crook, given the whole shepherd of men thing and the presence of the gangster in the congregation. He smiled at that.
“You can tell a lot about a man by the people who come to see him off. Some, probably just want to make sure he’s gone,” he was looking at Lockwood as he said this. “Take a look outside. The streets are lined with people. Some of them are from his bowling team—they gave us an honor guard as we drove here from the house. Then there’s about two hundred football fans out there wrapped up in their scarves and battling the chill. I recognized most of them from the terraces. Boone was part of more than one band of brothers. That says something about the man, doesn’t it? That he could fit in. That people wanted to be around him.
“I remember years ago some kid broke into his house and robbed him after Gran died. He never had much to begin with. They took everything he had apart from the radio. All of Gran’s jewelry. Everything he had of her. I could have only been ten or eleven at the time. We stayed up all through the night listening to the test match ball by ball, talking about Grandma, holidays we’d had down in Brighton, and day trips to Canvey Island. I learned more about my family and who I was in that night than I did over the rest of my life. I understood him. He never had insurance, no private pension, no savings; he lived pretty much hand-to-mouth, but he was a proud man. I remember him telling me how he had to carry sacks of coal home ten miles on his back when he was my age because they couldn’t afford to get it delivered. And how, when he was younger, he’d had trials with Orient, but had to go to work instead because no one paid footballers back then. He was always a giant to me. And that night and every night after he was frightened to be alone, but would never have admitted that to anyone. It was our secret.
“People say things like ‘he’d have given you the shirt off his back’ or ‘he was the salt of the earth’ or some other dreadful platitude that basically means they don’t know how to describe someone, but want to say something nice. I mean, here I am in my grandfather’s coat talking to a room full of people that loved him, and all I want to do is take his tobacco tin out of my pocket and roll a cigarette because that’s exactly what he would have done, but knowing my luck I’ll set off some sort of divine sprinkler system and get drenched in holy water,” he chuckled at that, no more than a little shrug of the shoulders. “But that’s the Boone I’ll remember. That’s my grandfather. The man who wanted dancing girls at his funeral and I think I should probably shut up now before I offend God or something and they end up keeping him out of heaven.” Josh looked across at the vicar, “Then again, if that means he gets a shot at a better body maybe he’d thank me for that?”
He wasn’t sure what he expected, applause, silence, a few muted mumbles and nods; what he didn’t expect was for Gideon Lockwood to call from the back of the church, “If I may say a few words about my cousin?”
The young man pushed Lockwood to the front when there were no objections. The old man rested a hand on Boone’s coffin on the way past. For Josh, looking at the younger man was like looking in the mirror at his darker, wicked twin. Or at least that was how he rationalized it. Where he was fair, the young man was dark, but they were clearly chiseled out of the same genetic building blocks. The young man, for his part, didn’t give Josh a second glance. He angled the wheelchair toward the pulpit, then turned him to face the front and locked the wheel brake in place. He offered a hand and helped the old man rise unsteadily to his feet. This was the king of East London, this frail old shrunken soul. It was hard to imagine him terrifying anyone, and yet even now Josh fancied he could see the steel in the old bastard’s spine and the flint in his eyes. In some people, age should never be mistaken for weakness. Gideon Lockwood was one of those people.
He leaned on the wooden pulpit, surveying his domain.
“The greatest regret of my life is that I never got to know Boone,” he said. “That probably surprises some of you—especially those of you who knew him. And those of you who know me. From what I understand of him, my cousin was a decent, honest, hardworking man when the world allowed it, and then just a decent, honest man when it didn’t.
“I doubt you even realized we were related, did you? I didn’t, until my own grandmother’s funeral, when the priest said ‘Miriam, beloved mother of Seth and Isaiah,’ and I thought, ‘Who the fuck is Isaiah?’ Not the best way to find out you’ve got an entire family you’ve never heard of, right? Burying your dear old gran. That was a long time ago, of course. Christ,” he looked over at the vicar. “Sorry, Father. Bad habit. It was 1963. Boone was already thirty by the time I tracked him down and his old man was already too far gone for help, in and out of Cane Hill Asylum, really not holding it together. We met two or three times that year, but it was hard for Boone. I tried to convince him his place was back with the family—you see, Raines wasn’t his real name; he was a Lockwood, just like me, just like my grandson here. I know, shocking, isn’t it? How can a good man like Boone be related to a sadistic old bugger like me? We could have ruled this place side by side. He could have been the brother I never had.
“Here’s the thing, and this is why I am here, to pay my respects to a rare man. With all the bad blood between our families Boone found a way to stay out of it. He walked the line. He was an upright man. Ain’t many of those about in this world of ours, believe me. So I wanted to come here and say, in front of everyone, as God is my witness, as far as I am concerned it ends here. Our families are straight; the past is a different country. For the good of everyone, from this day forth and so on and so forth, what happened back then is dead and buried with the last good man in London. It’s for the best that it stays that way. Joshua, son,” Lockwood looked at him. There were no smiles. The threat was there in that last line—Don’t go digging around in stuff that doesn’t concern you. The rest of it was just talk for talk’s sake. “You have my word, the old debts are settled. They don’t carry over one generation to another.” He turned to face his own grandson then, the message he came here to deliver delivered. “If there’s any way for you and Josh here to find each other, then maybe something good can come out of this after all. It’d make this old man very happy if you two could become, well, if not family … then friends, at least.” Lockwood turned his attention back to the congregation. “And the rest of you, think on this when you walk out of here in a few minutes: the world is a lesser place today than it was yesterday. It is diminished by the loss of an upright man.” There was a tear on his cheek, and sentimentality aside, Josh couldn’t begin to believe it was genuine. Men like Gideon Lockwood didn’t show emotion in public. Emotion was weakness. They couldn’t afford to be seen as weak. Lockwood wanted the people here to mourn Boone to believe he was genuine. That was different. And that just made Josh all the more determined to find out what secrets the old man was so keen to bury. “Let’s make death a time of healing. I think he would have approved of that.” He nodded to himself. “Yes. I think he would have approved of that. Vale, Boone Raines.”
Lockwood walked unsteadily down from the pulpit to his wheelchair, allowing his grandson to help him into it. As the younger Lockwood pushed him slowly back down the aisle, he reached out and rapped hard on the side of the coffin. Then smiling to himself, said, “Definitely dead then. Had to make sure,” which earned a chuckle from a few parts of the congregation. The old man looked less than amused.
Copyright © 2017 by Steven Savile