They split up soon after, returning along the pathway through the fields. Gill and Raymond were heading to Raymond’s house, to play on his new games console, but William had refused to follow them once they reached the road. ‘I have to get home. And you need to come with me,’ he’d said when DB had complained. He made no attempt to move from the stile however, even after the other two had disappeared down the road. When DB asked him why, he said that he wanted to rest, because he was tired of carrying the rod and the tacklebox, as though this burden had been inflicted upon him by someone else. DB offered to take them for him, but he refused. He felt that William had actually wanted Gill and Raymond to leave. He began scouring the grass by the stile, telling DB about the time he’d found a five pound note around here, soaked through by the dew. Now all that he discovered was a metal nut, which he held up to DB screwing up one eye as he looked through it, as though he was aiming a gun.
‘I’ll bet it came from a bike,’ he said, pocketing the nut as a trophy. ‘There’s a bike riding around and the wheel is only this far away from falling off.’
As they walked back to the main road, DB talked about Cyprus. He asked William if he would come to visit. William didn’t answer directly, saying only that it would cost a lot of money but it would be good, of course, if he could come. They were walking past the car park of the retirement home, and the bus stop that DB walked to every day. The feeling of transgression he’d experienced earlier in the day had been overturned: he felt that it was a waste to be doing only what he would have done during the week. William had stopped to rest, placing the tackle box on the floor. With the fishing rod in one hand, he resembled a sentry from an old war. He had pulled the metal nut from his pocket, and he approached DB slowly, tossing it up, and catching it.
‘Gill is an idiot,’ William said. ‘Him and Bailey. Like Bailey knows anything. I know what I’m talking about.’
‘What do you mean?’
William stood very close. He bent over, curving into DB’s body; their shoulders touched. ‘I’ll tell you that Gill doesn’t know anything. Bailey doesn’t know anything. I know what I’m talking about.’
His voice was low and conspiratorial and DB felt that, had he asked, William would have provided him with access to a new, complete knowledge. But DB didn’t ask. William stood over him, his eyes large and interrogatory; he balanced the weight of the nut in his hand.
Suddenly, he span away from DB and threw it with all his might at the bus timetable. It pinged off the frame and William scrambled after the ricochet, like a fielder after a cricket ball. He tossed the nut to DB.
As DB pulled back his arm, he imagined that the nut hitting the pane glass of the timetable, splashing into it like a surface of clear water. He could see it, the whole liquid weight falling at his feet, but when he thrust his arm outwards and let go of the nut, it only pinged off the surface, and the glass remained pure, without even a scuff to mark it.
He was looking where the nut had fallen when he saw the police car. It had pulled out from the road which led to the school, a small boxy china blue Metro. An orange light began to wink upon the front. A hot, horrid feeling slipped down through DB’s stomach and into his groin.