CHAPTER: 12345, 6789101112131415161718192021222324252627, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32EPILOGUE

Judd sits at the table in the sterile room. There’s a mirror on one wall, bright against the dull grey of the concrete bricks. He taps his fingers on the table, following a random rhythm that’s appeared in his head. He doesn’t know where the tune has come from, or what it is, but it’s stuck there and as he waits he can’t keep his fingers still. He knows that there are people on the other side of the glass, watching probably. He doesn’t like being cooped up, he hates having people look at him, especially when he can’t see it. The door creaks open. Judd looks up.

Asif is led into the room by a police officer who gently undoes the cuffs around the older man’s wrists. He nods to Asif and steps out of the room, drawing the door shut as he goes. Asif watches the door close and when the sound of the click of the lock echoes through the room he rushes forwards and wraps his arms around Judd. Judd freezes for a moment before he hugs his father back. He feels the thin muscles beneath his dad’s clothing, the almost fragile feeling bones of Asif’s body and for the first time he realises that his father is now shorter than him. There’s still strength in Asif’s arms though, he almost breaks a few of Judd’s ribs as he squeezes his son so tightly.

Eventually though they break apart and take separate seats on either side of the table. Asif rests his hands on the table top, clasped together and leaning on his elbows. Judd copies the pose and leans closer to his dad.

“Are they treating you ok?” he asks quietly.

“Of course they are,” Asif scoffs, “This is England not Guantanamo Bay. They’re very polite and respectful.”

“Well that’s good,” Judd says.

He looks away, he just doesn’t know what to say to his father. A hand on his brings his attention back.

“There’s something that I need you to do for me Judd,” Asif says solemnly

“Of course!” Judd says, “I’ll do anything that you need me to, just name it,”

“I need you to look after Sally for me,” his father says, “I don’t know how long I’m going to be away for but I need you to look after Sally while I’m gone. I need to know that she’s safe, protected and cared for while I’m not there to do it. You’re the only one I trust to make sure that she’s ok,”

“Of course I’ll look after her,” Judd says, squeezing his father’s hands, “You know she’s like a mother to me. I’d never just ignore her, especially not with you gone.”

“Good, good,” Asif says, nodding. He looks at Judd and smiles fondly, “I know she seems like a strong woman and she is, but she is vulnerable sometimes. She needs to know that help is there when she needs it. Sometimes you’ll need to force the help on her, her pride can get in the way and stop her asking for help from time to time. I need to know that someone who knows her almost as well as I do will be there to help her. She’s got no one else, all of her family’s on the other side of the country. I’m all she’s got, me and you, that’s her family.”

“Dad,” Judd says firmly, looking at his father, “I would never ignore Sally or abandon her. I love her to bits, she’s been like a mother to me since you first met her. I don’t think I could live with myself if I just left her.”

“Do you promise?” Asif asks, shaking his son’s hands in his, “Please, promise me you’ll look after her.”

“I promise that I will look after Sally, Dad,” Judd replies, “I promise that I will do everything that I can to help her until you come back.”

“Good,” Asif says.

He lets Judd’s hands go and sits back. He looks away but Judd knows him well enough to know when he is thinking. And whatever Asif is thinking it’s a very big topic.

“Ok,” Judd finally says as the moment of silence stretches on more than is comfortable, “What’s on your mind?”

“I was wrong,” Asif says with a sigh, “Retribution, justice, we don’t carry it out. We have to allow others to carry it out for us.”

Asif leans forward and stares at Judd intently.

“I need you to learn from my mistakes Judd,” Asif says solemnly, “I need you to look at what has happened to me and take a different path. I thought that they only way to keep our family safe was to create my own system of justice. But I was wrong. I almost killed that boy, all for a bottle of cider and to send a message. I put him in hospital. That isn’t justice. It could never be justice,”

“Dad…” Judd starts to say.

Asif holds up a hand and cuts him off.

“Please son, let me finish,” he says quietly. “What I did was wrong. I should never have run after that boy. I should never have laid a finger on him. I wasn’t protecting myself, I wasn’t protecting my family, I wasn’t even protecting my shop. All I did was take out my rage and anger on this poor boy and I nearly killed him. Justice is not to be carried out by the wronged, I see that now. I thought I was right but I wasn’t. The wronged have no place in carrying out a punishment. We’re too close to the situation, we feel it too closely, too deeply. Judd,” he reaches out and takes Judd’s hand in his, “Judd I need you to look at what I’ve become and learn from them. See the way not to be and see the way that you should take. Make sure that you don’t make the same mistakes I do.”

Judd is about to reply when the door swings open and the police officer walks in.

“Time’s up,” he says quietly, nodding at Judd, “Say your goodbyes and leave so your father can see his wife.”

Asif stands as Judd does and reaches out to his son. Judd wraps his arms around his dad. He’s filled with memories of when he was younger, getting hugs after school from Asif. He remembered feeling so safe, so protected and loved when his father held him like this. Now though all he feels is a sadness, filling his entire being. These hugs always said that Asif would always be there. Now they are saying that he’s going away and won’t be there to help any time that Judd might call. Judd squeezes Asif tightly one more time and sighs as he lets his father go.

“Good bye,” Asif says, “Be a good boy and look after Sally for me,”

“Bye Dad,” Judd says as he walks to the door, “Try not to get in to too much trouble in there.”

He hears Asif laughing as the door shuts behind him, blocking out the laughter. As he walks back into the waiting area he passes a sobbing Sally, going in the opposite direction, walking towards the room where Asif is waiting. There’s another police officer at her side, guiding her way. Judd sees that her eyes are rimmed with red and she’s sniffling and sobbing in to a soggy and crinkled handkerchief. Judd takes a seat in the waiting area and thinks about what his dad has just said. Is the way of life that he’d always known the right one? Was his dad right? Was vengeance the wrong path to take in life? As soon as he gets home to his flat Judd calls Connie. He just needs someone to talk to. He would normally call Reece but he’s already learned, from their earlier conversation, that things aren’t as easy between them anymore. He wonders why he thought they would be but then figures that it was probably out of reflex. Now though he just needs to talk to someone, anyone, without them butting in with other opinions and thoughts.

“Judd?” Connie says when she picks up, “I wasn’t expecting to hear from you so soon. Is everything ok?”

“I just left the trial,” he says, “They’re waiting to sentence my dad,”

“Oh sweetheart,” she says softly, “Are you ok? I can’t believe that they found him guilty,”

“They were right to,” Judd admits with a heavy sigh, “What my dad did was wrong and he knows it. Heck, he was practically begging to be convicted and punished. It’s just a bit hard to accept that’s all,”

“I’m sure it is,” Connie says quietly, “Even if you know it’s the right thing to do, the fact that your dad’s being charged and locked away can’t be easy,”

“It really isn’t,” Judd says slowly, “I mean… before I went in I was sure that he deserved to be let off. But then he was talking and saying how sorry he was. And I started to wonder whether maybe he was wrong, that he’d been teaching me wrong all these years,”

“And how do you feel now?” Connie asks, a little hesitant, “How do you feel about your dad’s change of mind?”

“It’s sudden,” Judd says frankly, “It’s sudden but I think deep down it wasn’t unexpected. Dad crossed a line and even I knew that. But still, there’s something wrong with your dad turning around and telling you that he’s been wrong all of his life, that the ideas and ways of life that he’s been teaching you for as long as you can remember are wrong. I don’t quite know what to make of it all,”

“It’s going to be a shock, I know,” Connie said. “But at least the worst bit is over right? Now you know for sure he’s going to be in prison and there’s no waiting to see if he’ll come back or not. How long is he in for?”

“I don’t know,” Judd says, sighing heavily again, “The judge is making his decision about sentencing tomorrow. Until then my dad’s in holding.”

“That’s a long time,” Connie says, surprised, “Normally they can make a decision within a few minute of the jury’s verdict coming in. I’ve never heard of a judge waiting an entire day before.”

“Apparently it’s a special case,” Judd says, “The judge wants to send a message to everyone else who wants to be a vigilante but at the same time he wants to be fair with my dad, especially because he’s realised that he’s in the wrong. I think the fact that Dad’s struggling with what he’s done and feeling really guilty might actually work in his favour.”

“What changed his mind?” Connie asks, “Wasn’t he completely convinced that he was in the right last time?”

“I don’t know,” Judd says with a shrug. He lies back on his bed and stares at the ceiling, “Maybe he spoke to the boy’s parents? Maybe seeing me there made him realise that he’d seriously hurt someone else’s son? I have no idea. But I think… no, I know, that I’m proud of him for admitting the truth of how he’s feeling. And for admitting that he’s been wrong for   his entire life. That can’t be easy,”

“No, I imagine it can’t be,” Connie agrees. “Listen, I was just about to put the kettle on. Do you want to come round for a cup of tea or something? We can talk about all this a little more if you wanted.”

“No,” Judd says, sighing again, “I’ve got other things that I need to be doing. But thank you for the offer,”

“Anytime,” Connie says. Judd can hear the smile in her voice, “And if you ever want to talk like this again you know where I am. Doesn’t matter what time, night or day, just get in touch and I’ll make sure that I’m there for you,”

“Thank you,” Judd says softly. He’s smiling but he can feel tears prickling at the corners of his eyes. Something in his chest fills with warmth at her words. He bites back tears as he speaks, “It means a lot to me. Good bye,”

“Good bye Judd.” Connie says quietly.

Judd hangs up the phone and drops it on to the bed beside him. Now that he’s finished talking to Connie he still doesn’t know what to do. He feels lost and confused and too emotional. But he needs to do something, he can’t stay still, it feels like his body is full of too much energy, making his skin tingle and his legs restless. He has to do something.

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