Many years ago, this land was one country, undivided. But through this one country, a man drew a line and took for himself the land in the south.
Those in the north were weak.
And the man, Richard Reis Elgayne, was clever and ruthless and people in the south believed they would be better off without the northerners. And so the border remained.
Despite efforts on both sides to remove it, the border remained for nearly a hundred years.
If they catch one killer, thought Alastair Morgan, they have to set up a trial. If they catch a hundred, they have to set up an amnesty.
He mulled it over and maybe he said it aloud because his carer Gareth Price leaned across the wheelchair and said, 'What's that, Mr M?'
'Nothing, my boy. Nothing. Tell me, are there a lot of people here?'
Price stood on tiptoes, scoped the scene. Several hundred people, chains of flags, assorted placards, police, ambulances and burger vans and at the far back the mobile media units parked higgledy-piggledy across the road. He turned back to Morgan, lined with the other wheelchairs up front. 'Yeah,' he said. 'There's a fuckload.'
'Good, good.' They gazed ahead at the City Hall, at the stage set up outside, at the people checking the PA, tapping the microphones. There was bunting pinned across the top of the stage and the wind caught and ripped away a string and the soundmen scrabbled to set it back.
Morgan said, 'Can I have some of my medicine?'
Price rummaged, passed across a bottle of rum.
Morgan shook his head. 'No. My other medicine.'
'You can't have your other medicine. Look at all these fucking police. Just sit tight.'
'Christ.' Price tamped down the blankets around Morgan's shoulders and moved his chair back a few inches out of the wind and the old man clutched the wheel but without the strength to stop him.
'Gareth! Please don't move me into the crowd. I do not want to be recognised.'
Price, who also didn’t want to be recognised, reversed the movement. 'Drink your drink,' he said. Not yet forty, his face hadn't deteriorated to a degree that would offer disguise and having grown up fifty miles east of where they were standing, he was nervous. He wondered what would happen if they were recognised. Morgan might be asked for an autograph. He, Gareth Price, might have a different experience.
'I suppose I should ask for an autograph.'
In a dilapidated wheelchair, barging his way alongside Morgan, a tall man with a thin froth of curls, paddling with his legs, younger than Alastair, perhaps not even 80. He repeated the request for an autograph and Morgan leant forward, relaxing when he made the identification. 'Mr Burris,' he said. 'How apt. The end is truly in the beginning, is it not?'
The other didn't respond.
Morgan said, 'You're a brave man, coming here today.'
Burris coughed, wrung his hands. 'I might say the same to you.'
'Why might you?'
'What do you think you're here to see?'
Morgan looked at the stage outside the City Hall. 'The reunification,' he said. 'The North and South coming together as one country. The end of the border.'
Burris grinned. 'I love it,' he said. 'You people are so gullible. No wonder you're always on the losing side.'
Morgan produced a pipe and, without lighting, sucked on it. 'I don't quite follow.'
'Rats to the cheese, Morgan. Rats to the cheese. Offer up a few fake polls and a big ceremony and they all come running. It's the mousetrap of the century. Let me tell you, there will be no reunification today. At most, there will be a fudge.'
'You truly believe that?'
'What's to be gained from reunification? Nothing. It's a big smokescreen. I think you're in for a nasty shock. '
Price said, 'You've lost the fucking plot, granddad.'
Burris ignored him. He said to Alastair, 'You've lied for years, Morgan. You owed it to people to tell the truth and you've lied.'
'What have I lied about?'
'About the past. About my family. About everything. Always your stupid face on television picking up fat cheques for lying. Things are about to change for you. Are you ready?'
Morgan eyed him. 'I'm ready, Mr Burris. May I call you Raymond? Perhaps not. No matter. I'm ready.'
Price gestured with his chin at the City Hall. 'Looks like these fuckers are ready too.'
The politicians were filing onto the stage. Morgan could identify few of them. The crowd cheered and the politicians milled. A sharp wave of feedback rent the air and then there was a young woman at the microphone, Morgan understood her to be the leader of South Wales. She tapped the mic and glanced at the soundman. Her first sentence - thanking the crowd for the welcome - was lost in the din and she repeated it. The noise quietened and the Leader tapped the mic again. She said, 'Many of you will have come from the North to be here today. You are most welcome. In a month's time….' She paused. Morgan glanced at Burris, saw him smiling.
The Leader continued, 'In a month's time, there will be no North Wales. No South Wales. The two countries will be as one again. We will all be one people.'
Burris' smile recast as if his face were being compressed and maintenance of the smile was the only thing keeping his head whole.
The crowd were cheering and the Leader talked over it, Morgan losing this part of the speech. When he could discern it again, she was talking about the events of six years ago. She said, ‘There was a horror then, a madness that we couldn't wake from. We fell into a pit and no-one helped us to escape for a long time. Some of us have not yet escaped.' She swallowed. 'I have heard it said that there was meaning to the deaths that year. I do not believe it. It makes it sound as though those events had to happen. They didn't. There was no meaning in those deaths and I wish more than anything the dead could be here today to see what we've achieved.' She wiped her cheeks and Morgan wept openly, the tears catching in the folds of his skin. He took two swigs of the rum before Price snatched it away and drained the lot.
The Leader went on to talk about trade and travel. The dissolution of the border and allowing the 90-year old Docks Treaty with England, a treaty as old as South Wales itself, to expire unrenewed. She announced that the capital of the reunified country would be here in Cardiff and she talked of the houses to be built and the promise of a better tomorrow. She talked about reconciliation and the amnesty extended to those convicted of political crimes in 2009. She wrapped up with tributes to the self-determination of the people.
Then the Leader of North Wales, a white-haired man, came to the mic and Morgan gestured impatiently. 'I'm ready to go,' he said. 'I've heard all I need to hear.'
There was a thin channel at the side of the crowd, mined out by the cops and Price pushed the chair through, head down, people bouncing off them and then the crowd opened up and they were borne away from the City Hall, funnelled through into the shopping district, almost running, until they arrived on Queen Street and stopped.
Behind them, Burris. He'd abandoned his wheelchair and was striding without apparent effort, coming to a halt next to Morgan. Price studied him. 'Any more predictions, Nostradamus?'
Burris addressed him for the first time. 'I made the wrong call,' he said. 'Because I under-estimated the extent of the corruption. I see it is endemic. I wonder how much money she was given to sell out every single person who voted for her.' He knelt to Morgan. 'Alastair. This is goodbye. I enjoyed our last meeting. I wish we could've met again before now.'
Morgan didn't look at him. 'Why?'
'You knew him.'
'Who? Your father? Yes, Raymond, I knew your father.'
'No. You knew Richard Elgayne. Not many can say that. You knew him.'
'I have said all I have to say on that matter.'
'Not to me you haven't.' Burris leaned forward. 'Say it to me. Talk to me about Richard Elgayne.'
'Here!' Price jabbed Burris in the back of the neck. 'Steady on, granddad.'
Morgan thought about his response. 'Richard Elgayne's been dead nearly eighty years,' he said. 'There's a lot been written about him. But he's dead. We're alive. It may not be fair but it won't be for long.'
'My father said he acted in good faith. That he didn't want things to be as permanent as they became.'
'That may even be true. But the last hundred years have belonged to him. He drew the border, he signed the treaty. His work ended today. Only today. The things that happened in 2009, that blood is on his hands. So perhaps, at such a distance, there is something about Richard Elgayne that we can agree on.'
'And what might that be?'
Morgan pushed himself closer to Burris. 'That it would've been better had he never been born.'
Burris seemed about to argue the point. He placed his palm on his heart in a gesture of either loyalty or fear. But then he dropped away, hands, eyes, shoulders, he fell into himself and said only, 'Yes, Morgan. Perhaps we can agree on that.'
They left him there, Price and Morgan returning to their car, keeping an eye on him as long as he was visible. But Burris didn't move. He stayed on Queen Street, still staring into nothing until he was recognised.
And then the attacks began.