At eighty-four, he was confident the earthly verdict upon him had already been delivered. If there was a Last Judgment, surely it was the other side of death. Earthly life was secure.
But instead, judgment comes now. He is cast into a kind of pre-humous hell. Others will visit him; news of the living will reach him; but there will be little to hope for.
What can he do, sent home on bail, awaiting sentencing? This house he will not return to? This freedom he will not taste again? There’s so many things he could do; the email and the letterbox bursting with both hate and those few hanging on loyally, defenders to be thanked and share commiserations with. Oh, the letters can wait until prison.
But going out to dinner to his favourite restaurant on the Thames is unthinkable. The disdain of the waitstaff, the stares of the other diners. The journalists turning up. The food would stick in his throat; this world has already passed.
There is nowhere he can go, nowhere he can escape. He won’t see Perth again, certainly won’t be cheered into Bassendean with the keys to the town. Because he made himself ubiquitous (remember that sketch from The Goodies where the Rolfs take over the countryside?) his shame is ubiquitous, he wears the mark of Cain wherever he goes.
How would this story have panned out with the same beginning, the same middle, but a different end? How many repentant celebrity offenders have we ever known? What would the world do with an offender who saw clearly, who repented, who humbly confessed?
In truth, there could be a little grace, a little forgiveness – with some people – but not a great deal. He has crossed some threshold. The drug cheat, the alcoholic, even the adulterer are redeemable; but not the sex offender.