My name is Bobby Hero. I live at Number One, Resolution Road. I have lived here all my upright, prosperous life. From the kitchen of this house, I have built a company which makes and sells organic baby food in one hundred per cent recyclable containers. It now operates from my factories in Knowsley, Middlesbrough and Rotherham. I have voluntarily paid back all the money I received in development grants. My workers get an annual pay rise at least half a per cent above the retail price index. Ten pence from the profit on each jar goes to UNICEF. I don’t play golf. I spend most of my free time with my wife, Imelda, and my four children: Ajax, Diana, Archie and Penny. The rest of my week is taken up with voluntary work at the local prison. I teach literacy, numeracy, and skills for business. On average, 8.5 ex-inmates per year become employees of my company. Three of them are now equity partners.
Imelda and I got married, with our parents’ consent, when we were both sixteen. We have been together now for twenty-eight years. Neither of us has ever been unfaithful. Don’t ask me how I know that: I just know it. Once a week I get Imelda a bouquet of flowers which I individually select myself, and write her a poem about how I feel about her, and how much I love being with her and the children. Every time we make love, it is just as wonderful and mind-blowing as it was the first time. I have never stood in the way of Imelda’s personal development. She has an MBA from Cranfield and runs her own business, which makes organic toiletries and cosmetics.
I hope my children will go into business. Despite their young ages, I have given all of them some of the money from their trust funds to invest the way they see fit. Penny makes organic teddy bears. Archie makes organic, non-military toys for boys. Diana makes organic jewellery. Ajax is only starting out but he has an organic paper-round. They have their own regular assembly-meetings and they pass resolutions. They unanimously agreed to regular bedroom-inspections and random drug-testing for each child after the age of twelve. They said they believed it was for the good of the family. I can hear them now, from the next room. They are having quite an argument. It’s about which charities they should prioritise in the next financial year, and the most tax-efficient ways of donating. It sounds as if it is getting too heated. I might have to go in, in a minute, and get them to re-attune.
I have just woken up from what seems to have been a drug-induced stupor to find myself naked, handcuffed and gagged in the back of a van. All I can see apart from the freezing-cold metal interior is an envelope with my name on it. In spite of the handcuffs, I manage to open it. It contains a hand-written letter from Imelda.
I am leaving you and taking the children. We are going somewhere where you can never find us. We are going to find the kind of happiness that you could never provide. Don’t try to locate us. Don’t try to get in touch. Goodbye forever.
Imelda, Ajax, Diana, Archie, Penny.
The handwriting is definitely Imelda’s. I would recognise it anywhere, and the children’s signatures, done in their best hand-writing.
Wait. There is another sheet. It is type-written. It is from a representative of UNICEF.
Dear Mr Hero,
It is with profound regret that I must formally sever the long-standing partnership between our respective organisations. I must also take this opportunity to express my personal sorrow that what seemed so strong has descended so rapidly into such obscene disrepute.
I hope that one day you may be able to put all this behind you but, quite honestly, I doubt that any human being could.
I hear one of the doors in the driver’s compartment open, and some-one getting in. The engine starts and we move off.
We drive for six hours, after which the van boards a cargo plane, which then takes off.