PC WAYNE WINTERBOTTOM: Part 2
PC Wayne Winterbottom sat me on the ledge, then came and lowered himself down beside me. He didn't say a word. Just sat there silently staring straight ahead. Hands lying loosely on his bent knees, legs dangling over the edge. Brave really.
After about ten minutes my crying dried up into funny little hicupping sounds. I couldn't remember the last time I had cried like that. I hadn't cried when my mother died of cancer at just twenty-eight years of age, or when my father was killed five years later in a car crash. I hadn't cried when my first wife left me for another man, or when my second wife left me for another woman. I hadn't cried when my fiancee aborted our first baby two years ago,or when my beautiful seven week old daughter had died of a cot death three days ago. In fact, looking back, I hadn't cried since my dog, Mister Bojangles, had been put down when I was nine years old.
Hell of a long time not to cry.
I wiped my nose on the sleeve of my jacket. Surreal huh? Here was I, sitting on a cold concrete ledge, tens of feet up in the air, cuffing snot onto the sleeve of my expensive grey three-piece suit.
So? Said Pc Wayne Winterbottom. What's this all about?
I physically jolted. I had forgotten about the young policeman sitting there quietly next to me.
I gave a huge sigh and shook my head.
I dunno, I said. Everything is just too much...just too goddam much.
Like what? Asked PC Wayne Winterbottom.
So I told him. Just like that. I told him about my mother, her suffering, how she wouldn't let myself, or my brother Pete, see her right at the end. I told him how my father had gone out on my thirteenth birthday, to get a take-away from the local chinese restaurant, and had been killed on the way back. I told him how my first wife had been sleeping with my best mate for eighteen months behind my back, then had packed her bags and moved in with him. I told him how my second wife had been having an affair with her female yoga instructor for three months, before packing her bags and moving in with her. I told him how my fiancee had aborted our baby, my son, without even telling me, because she hadn't wanted to be a mother just then. Finally I told him how I'd woken up three days ago and gone in to give my seven week old daughter, my beautiful little Jennifer Ann, a peck on the cheek before work, and had found her dead in her cot.
I told PC Wayne Winterbottom everything, leaving nothing out. As I spoke, filling in every tiny detail, I felt something heavy in my body begin to melt. All my life I had carried around this big grey lump of rock. Sitting there, recalling every event in turn, was like taking a pickaxe to that rock, chipping away at it until there was nothing left but a pile of dust.
One puff of wind would be enough to blow it all away.
PC Wayne Winterbottom sat silently beside me. Listening. When I had finished he looked up and his eyes were grave as he spoke.
He told me his wife had just left him. She was eight months pregnant with their first child. She said she'd had enough of the police force interfering with their life. She wanted out. She'd gone back home to her parents. He'd tried everything within his power to get her back, but she was having none of it. Right from the start his in-laws had never liked him. He wasn't good enough for their daughter.
PC Wayne Winterbottom turned to me, his young face old.
He told me he was in terrible debt with his bank. I wouldn't believe how much. There was no way he would ever be able to pay back all the money he owed. Not on his wages.
I tried to interrupt him, let him know that, hey, I was a bank manager; there were ways and means around these things. But he wasn't listening. He just sat there, turning his wedding ring round and round on his finger.
The wind had got up since I had first come out on the ledge and I was getting cold. Expensive my suit may well be, warm it was not. I'd changed my mind. I didn't want to die. Not today. More than anything I wanted to get back to my wife. She was grieving over the loss of our daughter too. She needed me.
I got to my feet, clutching hold of the safety barrier as a strong gust of wind buffeted against my body. I twisted round awkwardly on the narrow ledge, put out my hand to help PC Wayne Winterbottom to his feet.
The ledge was empty.
Down below someone began to scream...