Harold watched Edmund Braithwaite and his friend shamble across the park. He’d gone to school with Eddie and although the fellow had been three years his senior Harold could recall several essays he’d written for him. The poor chap had been bottom of his class academically, if not bottom of the school. He’d had a real talent for sports, though, particularly if the sport involved hitting someone and taking their dinner money.
“Eddie.” He nodded as his old schoolmate approached.
Edmund scowled from beneath his baseball cap. It looked ridiculous on him. “Harold Waterman,” he said.
Harold nodded. “Well done,” he said. “How have you been?”
“All right, I suppose. Nothing a new pair of legs wouldn’t cure.” He gave a laugh which turned into a hacking cough.”
“That sounds nasty.”
“Ah. It is.” Edmund lowered himself to the bench next to Harold.
“Ask him how he got it.”
Harold looked up at the speaker. He could only just remember Jimmy Harris for the boy, a perennial member of Eddie’s gang, had sought neither Harold’s services nor his dinner money.
“How he got what? The cough?”
Eddie looked up from inspecting his shoes. “Who you talking to?” he asked.
Harold made a gesture. “Jimmy,” he said.
“You want a bunch of fives?”
Harold leaned back. “Not especially. Why?”
“Jimmy’s bin dead twenty year.”
“He has?” Now that Eddie had mentioned it, Jimmy did look a lot younger than he should. “How did he die?”
“It was nay my fault.” Eddie glared at him, his muscles tense. “How was I to know the car were in gear?”
“You ran him over?”
“Just a bit he did.” Jimmy laughed. At least death hadn’t robbed him of his humour. “The getaway van wouldn’t start so I was checking the engine.”
“How did you know that?” Eddie glared. “Were you there?”
“Lucky guess.” Harold scowled at Jimmy’s laughter. “So how did you end up with emphysema at forty?”
“It was Jimmy’s fault.” Eddie stared out toward the duck pond. “It was him that thought of robbin’ Benny’s tobacconist shop. After he… died… I ‘ad to get rid o’ the evidence.”
“Let me guess.” Harold smiled to himself. “This is just a shot in the dark, but did you smoke them?”
“400 cartons in a week,” said Jimmy. “He couldn’t bear to just throw ‘em.”
© Rachel Green 2007