Grovel Greg, Grovel Part 3

Do you remember 1976? Madge does.

She was a 15 year-old school girl in that long, hot summer. She remembers the heatwave, the stand pipes in the streets, and the first strains of punk music from her transistor radio.

But she remembers it for another reason too.

For this was the year that her brother Greg disappeared, just five months after starting his new life in London.

Nearly 30 years later, Madge re-traces his steps, and tries to find-out what really happened to him.

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11. Babafemi

At that moment, the door bell rings. Tina gets it for me. Then I hear Tina and Marcia talking in the hall.

            “Marcia’s here!” says Tina. I am pleased about this. But Marcia looks ill.

            “What’s the matter?” I ask her. But she denies that there is anything wrong with her. Then she says,

            “I am sorry about earlier. It was all a big shock for you. I should have found a better way of telling you.”

            “Never mind, I am OK now. So what is my surprise?”

            “He’s waiting outside your house,” says Marcia.

Presently, a young man is led into the house for me to see. I recognise him immediately – the young man who was staring at me at that school a few weeks ago. Instantly I feel my hackles rise.

            “You?” I say. I am annoyed at Tina and Marcia for letting him in to my flat. They probably think he will somehow cheer me up, perhaps flattered by the attentions of a younger man.

            “This is your nephew,” says Marcia. The young man gives a big smile, and I faint (again).

Some minutes later, I have recovered, and the four of us are sitting around my kitchen table, smiling and laughing.

            “You keep running away from me!” the young man says, still grinning. His name is Babafemi.

            “I thought you were coming on to me!” I explain. Babafemi is the son of Leomi and Greg. He was born after Greg died in the fire. Greg probably hadn’t even known he was going to become a father. “How did you know I was your aunty?” I ask.

            “You look like me! I recognised you straight away. I knew it was you.” he says. I stare hard at him. I decide that he doesn’t look like me, but he does look like Greg.

            Babafemi explains that his mother took him to Nigeria when he was a small child. She told him that she had lost contact with his father, and that, it seemed, was that. But when Babafemi was old enough, he decided to come back to England, and then became curious about who his father was. After making some enquiries, Marcia had got to hear about this, and decided to share her information with him. I had been the final part of the jigsaw.

            “We’ve been waiting for you for a couple of years now,” says Marcia, pretending to be cross about this.

            “I explained all this to you in the night club,” says Babafemi. Tina and I look at each other. Of course! That club in Piccadilly Circus! “I left my number on your mobile that night. You said you would ring me the next day.”

            “Did I?”

            “She was off her face that night,” explains Tina. I fish my mobile ‘phone from the depths of my kitchen drawer. The battery is dead. I lost interest in the mobile when I failed to receive any calls in response to my leaflet drop.

            “I don’t really use it,” I explain. Look again at the information I already have – that’s what Marcia had said, and the answer had only ever been a ‘phone call away, if only I’d looked at the contacts on my mobile. I glance over to Marcia. To my surprise, her eyes are closed. “Marcia,” I call, but she does not open her eyes. “Is she asleep?” I ask.

            “Its the drugs,” says Babafemi. “She’s got an illness and she has to take very strong painkillers.”

They next few weeks of my life are both bitter and sweet. I have a fantastic time with my ‘new’ nephew. He is a wonderful chap. And it is wonderful to find-out that I was not alone in this world, after all. But these are also bitter weeks, because I learn how serious Marcia’s illness is. She has cancer. She is dying. That fierce face that she pulled on the netball court was caused by pain, not aggression. She had made the decision to enjoy her body right up to the last possible moment, forcing herself through each match by strength of character, refusing to be beaten by pain alone.

Meanwhile, there are interesting developments in Stockwell Park. The house on the site of Turbot is cordoned-off by the police, while its floor is dismantled and excavated by forensic archaeologists.

This takes a long time. But eventually, in November, important discoveries are announced. The remains of two bodies are found. A DNA match with myself and Babafemi confirms that one of the bodies must be that of Greg. The other body is thought to belong to Olly, but no relatives can be found to do a DNA test with. The scientists say it is impossible to prove how either person died. Detective Constable Flyte, who is leading the investigations, says “The coroner is likely to record an open verdict.” Nevertheless, Molocky is to be charged with being an accessory to attempted murder, as well as for various frauds.

šDuring November, Babafemi and I spend virtually every spare moment of the waking day together, visiting Marcia in hospital, or otherwise locked together in an emotional cocoon to protect us from each horrific new revelation. I’m sure we’ve become closer than even a mother and son. And I fascinate myself by finding similarities to Greg in him. Baba sees himself as a cool black, but he often approaches matters in a formal and cautious way, just like Greg did.

 

šOn one of the hospital visits to Marcia, I ask her why Olly would have wanted to murder Greg. As soon as I have finished asking the question, I feel guilty for taxing poor Marcia’s mind. But she answers willingly enough:

“Olly tought Greg was dating Nadia. Olly had become infatuated by Nadia from the moment he first set eyes on her. She was only fifteen then. He got insane wid jealously when he saw Greg wid her. But I don’t think Greg was going out wid her though, that was the ironic ting.” Marcia’s accent was becoming more and more Jamaican as her illness progressed. It reminded me that she was directly from Jamaica. All the other netball girls are second generation, and they speak in a London way. Marcia is the last of the old guard still doing the business on the netball court. I suddenly felt very proud of her and felt her courage flowing through my veins. I decided that I would play netball for as long as I could, too. Then, out of the blue she said: “I tink he killed dat Nadia too, but I cannot be sure of it.”

This last remark was a bombshell to me. I’d heard of Nadia- Greg had mentioned her in his letters. But I didn’t know she was dead.

I reported this to the Police after I left the hospital.

“Yes, we are aware of the allegation,” said the detective. He confirmed that Nadia had indeed been murdered, in 1976, and that the crime had never been solved. “Mr Molocky is shedding some light on it, but I am not sure how much progress we can make now that a suspect is dead.”

š

On a grey day late in November, Marcia lapsed into a drug-induced coma, and passed-away shortly afterwards. Babafemi had told me of her desire to ‘sort all this out’ before she died. She’d done it. It had been on her mind for all those years, Baba said. Just before she died, she said to me, “Madge, the truth will always come out in the end, if you wait long enough.”

On 1st December, there are three funerals, one after the other, all at the same cemetery. It is a suitably wet and gloomy morning. Nevertheless, Marcia’s (her funeral is first) is a lively affair, with all the netball crowd there, and a wreath fashioned into a netball goal. One of the players gives what I thought was an excellent eulogy:

“Before I wrote this eulogy, I did my research. I asked all of Marcia’s friends for anecdotes, memories, thoughts. Then I tried to put it all together, and summarise it. Then I had to find a Bible passage that epitomised her life. But I couldn’t find one that said ‘She was a hard bitch, but she had a heart of gold’….” This raised a good laugh from the congregation, but it was as much as the speaker could manage before tears took over, and she was helped from the lectern by a friend.

Then, without warning, Babafemi stood up. He said  “Can I say something?” Then, for what seemed an eternity, nothing more would come out of his mouth. I felt my toes curling. But at last he said, in a clear voice: “Marcia had dignity man, dignity. She helped me find my family, even though she was dying.” Then he sat down. A number of people nodded, and one of them said “Here here.” Then another of the netball girls stood up and shouted:

“She was our leader! She led us. She showed us the way!” She punched the air as she said this. The sound of more concurring from the congregation.

Later, when we are outside, a netball is thrown in her grave along with the coffin. It has to be thrown through the hoop made out of the wreath, and into the grave. But this takes several attempts- the ball keeps hitting the side of the hoop and bouncing away across the cemetery. “What sort of goal shooter have we got?” joke the girls. The priest looks uneasy, but it is surprising how dignified such a hijink can be, when it is done with love.

Afterwards, I congratulate Baba. “I thought what you said was nice. It takes guts to stand-up in front of everyone and say something.”

“I just suddenly decided to do it. I didn’t think I had it in me. Would my father have done something like that?”

“Yes, but he would have preferred to have written it, not said it out aloud.”

I take a look at Marcia’s headstone. Marcia Simpson 1946 – 2003. ‘Simpson’ – she had the same surname as Derrick. And then it dawns on me: Marcia was once Derrick’s wife.

Greg’s funeral is much quieter. “Its going to be a bit plain,” I warn Tina, Babafemi, and DC Flyte, who led the investigations.

“You’re Baptists aren’t you?” says Tina.  I nod. “Well,” she continues. “that’s alright then. Baptists have plain funerals. Its ok.”

The four of us stand arm-in-arm in a semi-circle and stare at the coffin before it is earthed-in. It is the end of a very long journey for  Babafemi and I. And for Greg. It is as if he has had two lives, his ‘proper’ life from 1957 to 1976, and a ‘half’ life from 1976 until now, where he lived only as a possibility in my mind. Now he can finally be put to rest. As far as my feelings are concerned, a calmness has come over me. And now I understand that the ‘strangeness’ that I’ve experienced for all these years was in fact this journey. Now I can stand still again, for the first time in twenty-seven years.

“Madge, I have something for you,” says Baba after the funeral. He hands me an old notebook. “It is my father’s diary. Marcia gave it to me just before she died.” I grab it, hold it an inch from my face, and stare at it, in order to convince myself that it is real.

“Where did Marcia get it from?” I ask, at last.

“By then, she was too ill to tell me,” says Baba.

The saddest of the three funerals is Olly’s. He has no relatives at all. The only person who knew him who could have come along is Molocky. Although he’s been remanded in custody, the police offered him the chance to attend. He declined. “Look’s like its just going to be me then,” says DC Flyte.

“No, I’m staying for Olly’s too,” I say.

“Me too,” says Babafemi.

“Me too,” says Tina.

            I have no hate for Olly. How could I have now, so many years later, and when he has no friend or relative to mourn him?

 

THE END

(Almost)

 

Epilogue

It is now July 2005 – summer time again, though its not quite as hot as 2003, or ’76 for that matter.

            It is two years since I delved into my past. Enough time for the dust to have settled, and long enough to be able to reflect on the events of 2003.

            I am glad I delved. So glad. As a consequence, I now have a family, a flat in Vauxhall, a netball career, and many more friends than I had before I set-out on my adventure.

            Meanwhile, back in Bury, I am pleased to report that the cathedral has (finally) been given a tower (this has only taken five hundred years), and the Small Gardeners of Saint Edmundsbury are growing ever larger (this,despite my absence) and they plan to open their gardens to the public once again next month, and in so doing raise yet more money for charity.

THE ABSOLUTE END

 

Grovel Greg, Grovel is available to download on Kindle: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Grovel-Greg-ebook/dp/B00AD9Y3E2/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1355003344&sr=1-1

All three parts for just £1.53.

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