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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10. The Truth

The man in the doorway looks nothing like how I thought Greg would look. His hair is grey and it doesn’t stick-up. He is shorter and more round-shouldered than I thought Greg would be, and to be honest, he looks like the sort of person who doesn’t put clean underpants on every day. Even his face doesn’t look like Greg’s. But people can change a lot in twenty-seven years, so I am prepared to put all these concerns to one side, for the greater good. Nevertheless, I decide not to hug him just yet.

“Greg?” I ask. The man looks confused, and perhaps a bit scared. Perhaps a bit angry. He says nothing.

“Algy?” I say, using his real name. Again, he says nothing.

“Are you Greg Lake?” says Tina.

“No,” says the man finally. It is not Greg’s voice.

“Who are you then?” asks Tina.

 

There is a voice behind us, on the path. It is a policeman. He is standing there with Marcia. There is a police car parked on the road nearby.

            “He is Tamas Molocky,” says the policeman. “But at various times over the last twenty-seven years he has assumed your brother’s identity in order to seek advantage. For example, he tricked Appletree Housing Association into giving him a protected tenancy, by telling them that he was your brother. Mr Molocky,” he continues, “I would like you to accompany me to the police station. We would like to question you regarding allegations of various offences.” And with that Molocky is guided firmly to the awaiting police car, and driven to the station.

            “Now’s a good time for that coffee,” says Tina. I am trembling, and the tears are starting to come. Tina and Marcia assist me to the Diana Café.

            “Hi, I’m Marcia,” says Marcia to Tina: I am too far gone to introduce her.

            In the café, I am sobbing pitifully, and Tina is patting me on the back while saying ‘there there.’

            “I thought you were going to take me to Greg.” I say to Marcia, bitterly. Tina feels my pain, and begins to express it as anger.

            “Look here you…” she hesitates, “..Marcia. Madge is fed-up with your riddles. Stop playing games with her and tell her the truth!”

            “I am telling the truth,” says Marcia, perfectly calmly. This infuriates Tina.

            “NO YOU’RE NOT!” she screams. Despite my anguish, I feel sorry for Marcia: Tina’s bollockings are fearsome. “YOU SAID YOU WOULD LEAD US TO GREG. BUT HE WASN’T AT THAT HOUSE! CAN’T YOU SEE HOW MUCH THIS IS HURTING HER?”

            “He is at that house,” interrupted Marcia, again perfectly calmly. For some time there is silence. Finally, Tina says,

            “What do you mean, he is at that house?”

            “Greg lies under that house,” explains Marcia.

 

It takes a while for the magnitude of this sentence to sink-in. At first I imagine Greg living in a very small space under the floor boards. But this would be silly, I tell myself….and then the horror of it hits me. Sweet Greg is dead and his poor little body lies under the house.

I feel sick, and it is difficult to breathe. Then, I think, I fainted.

When I come-to, Tina is still arguing with Marcia. They did not even notice my faint.

            “HOW CAN YOU BE SURE HE’S THERE? WHAT PROOF HAVE YOU GOT? WHY DID YOU TELL MY FRIEND THAT HER BROTHER IS ALIVE AND THEN SAY THIS?”

            Amazingly, Marcia has kept her cool throughout the barrage. Eventually she says,

            “I said that I would help to find her brother. I never said that he would be alive. This is why I asked Madge whether she was ready for the truth. This is why I took so long to reveal myself: I had to be sure she wanted to know the truth.”

Tina’s rant rivalled those of my father in his pomp. But Marcia’s dignified logic won the day. It was true, she had never actually said Greg was alive. It was just that, I had wanted him to be alive so much, I had assumed this is what she meant.

            After a while, Tina has apologised to Marcia, and she is ready to tell her story.

            “Madge,” says Marcia, “first I will tell you what happened to Greg. After that, you have another surprise.” I feel more nervous than Scrooge before meeting the Ghost of Christmas Future. Tina has her arm around me. Marcia continues: “When it burnt down, Turbot was owned by a man called Derrick Simpson. You could say he was the local godfather. After the fire, he hastily had the house re-built, and then gave the new house to a housing society. This magnanimous gesture was designed to show the police that he had turned over a new leaf. In fact, he hoped it would keep them off his back. Because in that house, the kitchen has a concrete floor a metre thick.”

            “Why so thick?” I ask innocently. Tina’s grip around my waist becomes a little tighter.

            “So that no-one will find the bodies that lie underneath.” I make a funny squealing noise like a piglet in distress, and nearly faint once more. “Madge, your brother and a guy called Olly lie under that house, they died in that fire. That is what happened to your brother. When I first realised you were looking for him, I decided not to let you find out. But when I saw how determined you were, I changed my mind.”

            “But how can you be so sure that Greg died in the fire?” Tina asks.

            “Around the time of the fire, Derrick had become an extremely heavy drinker. His grip on details had become weak. Molocky was able to convince him that he was Greg, and persuade Derrick to re-house him in the new house when it had been built. When Derrick decided to give the house to the housing society, he recommended ‘Greg’ to become their tenant, but in fact it was Molocky all along. To his dying day, Derrick thought that Molocky had died with Olly in that fire, and that Greg was still alive. But in truth, it was the other way around.

            A few months after the fire, I started to wonder- where have Greg and Olly gone? And how was Molocky so confidently able to accomplish this deception? So I asked him [Molocky]. I told him that if he didn’t tell me the truth, I would tell everyone who he really was.

            He agreed to talk to me. He said he and Olly had been in Turbot at the time of the fire. Olly was planning to kill Greg, and Molocky was to be the look-out and so he waited upstairs, in an empty room. But suddenly the house was on fire, and Molocky jumped from a window and fled. After escaping the fire, he watched from a safe distance but Greg and Olly never came out. He had sussed that the bystanders who’d seen him escape had assumed that he was Greg, so he saw his opportunity to assume Greg’s identity.”

            “But I SAW Greg at Notting Hill Carnival!” I shout. “That was AFTER the fire! He can’t be dead!”

            “Honey, you saw Molocky at the carnival, not Greg. He was impersonating Greg. Perhaps he wanted to take-over Greg’s job as a music reporter.”

 

But on seeing my distress, Tina ends the discussion, but arranges for us to meet Marcia again, tomorrow at my flat.

 

The rest of that morning I spend sobbing pitifully in my flat. Since 1976 I had carried with me a tiny seed, a seed of hope that Greg may still be alive. Over the last couple of weeks, that seed had germinated and grown into a full bush of belief that he really was alive. To have that bush chopped down so abruptly is such a shock. And poor Tina must devote her Saturday consoling the miserable wretch I’ve become. Every so often my sobs are interrupted when I say something like:

            “I don’t know why I’m so upset, I knew he was dead anyway” or “I knew I shouldn’t have started delving into the past.” Tina just says,

            “There there,” and pats me on the back again.

But ever so slowly, I begin to return to ‘normal’ again. My tears eventually dry-up, and I can think a bit more clearly.

            Eventually I say to Tina,

            “I suppose she could be right: I never got a clear view of Greg at the carnival. I only ever saw the back of his head when he was in the pub, but I thought it was him.”

            “The eyes see what the mind wants to see,” says Tina.

            “Yes, I suppose so.”

            “But you also saw Greg outside the pub, didn’t you?”

            “Yes,” I say, “but only from a distance. In the middle of a riot. Again, I may have been mistaken.” Then I remember something else….. “And I had a letter from him after the fire….it was a very strange letter…”

            “You saw Molocky at the Carnival and it was Molocky who wrote the letter,” confirms Tina. “This Molocky is a devil. He’s not just a common or garden fraudster, he is an accessory to attempted murder.” I concur: Molocky is indeed a devil. Tina wants to know what he was like.

            “I never met him, until today, that is. Greg mentioned him a couple of times. A shady character, always lurking in the background. I don’t really think he had a personality at all. He just borrowed other people’s.”

            “Well, let’s hope he gets come-uppence,” says Tina.

            “Do you think Olly murdered Greg, or do you think he died I the fire?” I ask. Tina shrugs.

            “I’m not sure which is worst,” she says. Something else comes to my mind.

            “Didn’t Marcia say I had another surprise coming?”

            “You’ve had enough surprises for one day. You’ll have to wait for tomorrow for that.” says Tina.

            “But I can’t wait for that long!” I begin to get distressed again.

            “I’m sorry darling, but Marcia’s not coming back ’til tomorrow.”

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