This fifth and final part of our story in five parts.
The Bridge | Part Five| Pat Black
The motion of the taxi did not agree with him; he asked the driver to stop, and once he’d dry-heaved six or seven times on a grass verge in front of a spectral playpark, his body contorted against a fence, he turned around to see that the cab had gone.
The lights of the housing estate glittered up at him. There was the hill, the house where Sybil lived. A stab of something irked him; try as he might, he couldn’t remember much of what happened after the fight. There had been vodka, a moment where he’d bellowed a song at the top of his voice. A complaint from a neighbour, something… He decided to take a longer walk, burping and retching.
It wasn’t long before he spotted Dormer. At first, the boy cut a fearful figure, black coat trailing, waiting for him beneath a pool of the streetlights. There was no one else around.
“Well, if it isn’t Jack the Ripper,” Darren bellowed, chuckling. “You fancy a rematch, freak? Your pals around?”
Dormer smiled and walked on. A few hundred yards down the road, the guide lights of the bridge glittered. Apart from the odd sweeping headlights which passed through the now toll-free entrance, it was hard to see the actual outline of the structure. It was a join-the-dots, an approximation, and absence of a bridge. Dormer joined the dots, long legs covering a lot of ground. Darren, fit from the football, but feeble from the drink, struggled to keep up.
“Hey,” Darren called. “Don’t go up there. I don’t know what you think you’re doing.”
Dormer increased the distance between them. Soon, they were on the crooked throughway, passing along the pedestrian access at the side of the crash barriers. The fence at the side was reassuringly high as they went up the incline of the bridge. Although it had been a mild night, the temperature seemed to drop sharply the higher they climbed; the wind whistled at them, and the odd headlight tore past them on the road to the right.
“Stop, you,” Darren said. “What are you doing?”
Dormer reached one of the main spans, halfway across. Then, with a move so smooth it seemed practised, he reached up for a handhold on the fencing and swung himself upwards, balancing on the edge of a drop Darren could almost feel in his guts.
“Hey,” Darren said, wheezing, closing in on the distance. “Stop. Stop that. Come down.”
“You give a shit, now. Feeling noble, yes?” Dormer sneered. Darren could see the fat lip, the swollen eyes. He’d given him that, Darren realised.
“I’m sorry mate,” Darren said. “It’s my head… When I think about it… I just lose my temper. I’m sorry. Come down.”
“Do you know – that’s the third time you’ve actually attacked me? You did it when I was in primary school. You used my school tie to try and strangle me. Then in my first week at secondary school, you slapped me on the back of the head in the dining hall. I was eating a slice of pizza at the time. I nearly choked. I bet you don’t even remember that, do you?”
Dormer swung one leg over the side of the fence, and sat down on it. His jacket flapped in the sudden wind, the leather shiny where its surface undulated. Somewhere way down below was the water, Darren knew. And the pub car park.
He reached up, gripped the fence, and began to climb, the weight dragging on his arms. Something – a fleck of spare paint, a crack in the railing – snagged on his tracksuit top, tearing it.
“Come down, man. Come down,” Darren said. And then he saw the drop, an appalling black space. There was no sign of the surface of the estuary anywhere down there, no moon or stars above to reflect the waves and ripples. There might as well have been a black hole beneath them, a bottomless pit.
“Ah, here you are. Nice view, eh?” Dormer smiled, and moved to swing his other leg over.
“No!” Darren cried. He reached over.
And that’s when Dormer gripped him by the collar and shoved with all his might. Darren had an impression of a white face and a satisfied smile, spinning over and over and over. He hit the netting beneath – specially constructed for suicides – but ironically, they had not been completely fixed down, and did not hold him.
Neither did a crosswind blow him onto The Golden Eagle’s car park, but he did wash up there, to be discovered by a sixty-three year old woman and her blondish Yorkshire terrier very early on the bright, clear spring morning to come.