Ray Sullivan publishes science based fiction adventures on Amazon, Smashwords, Apple iBookstore, Barnes & Noble, Sony, WH Smith and other good eBook retailers as e-books. Additionally all of his books are available in paperback on Amazon. He also muses on technology, posts comedic books in serial format and discusses the world of self publishing.
Books written by Ray Sullivan
Monday, 12 November 2012
Parallel Lives Chapter 17
Jack had been in work twenty minutes when John arrived,
flustered and anxious; he had barely ten minutes to spare before the connecting
bus to the hospital arrived. The sight of Jack, pale and drawn behind his desk
took John aback as much as John’s own countenance struck Jack. Both men stared
at each other for several seconds, neither knowing how to start. Eventually
Jack regained his composure.
‘Come in, John. You look worse than I feel.’ A wan smile
broached John’s face as he entered the room.
‘Thanks. I might as well give up now, then.’ Jack waved to
the chair he left at right angles to the foot of his desk, only to be dismissed
by a shake of John’s head.
‘I can’t stop, Mr Howells, I’ve a bus to catch in few
minutes.’ Jack realised that there was a slur in John’s voice, minor and
miss-able, but nonetheless it was there. He looked into the dull eyes, now
empty of any emotion that had surfaced during the opening banter.
‘You don’t look too good, John. I hope they’re looking
‘They are, Mr Howells. I’m being treated by one of their
consultants, Dr Jackson. He’s insisted on seeing me again today. I can’t
complain, I’ve read that it sometimes takes months to be seen for the first
time, let alone to receive a follow up.’ Jack found himself nodding, having
read similar tales in the popular press. He was about to enquire into John’s
purpose for calling, not quite knowing how to ask the question without sounding
crass; why should he need a reason to visit, he had been through a trauma and
had, as far as Jack could ascertain, no immediate family or friends to call on.
John relieved Jack of the quandary by pitching in with his request.
‘Have you got my notebook? Dr Jackson asked me to bring it
along today. I tried to call yesterday, did call, but you were away.’ Jack felt
his pale cheeks flush as he realised he hadn’t a clue as to the book’s
whereabouts; mentally he scoured his recollection of the places he had visited
since waking, including the bathroom, where he had spent much of the morning
face down in the toilet. The more he thought, the more convinced he became that
the notebook hadn’t been anywhere at home. Karen may have intercepted it last
night, put it somewhere safe, but she hadn’t said. It may have ended up crushed
in his coat pocket, but he felt certain he would have felt it this morning when
he had been wearing the coat. John interrupted Jack’s train of thought.
‘My notebook, Mr Howells? Do you have it?’ Jack shook his
‘It’s at home, John. I hadn’t realised you would need it
back so soon. I haven’t finished reading it yet, I’ve been so busy, but the
subject is fascinating.’ Jack waved expansively across his desk to indicate how
busy he had been; it was a useful ruse to avoid eye contact with the man who’s
property he had mislaid. Pushing his still aching brain cells as hard as he
could, Jack realised that the last time he had seen the notebook had been the
previous evening, pushed to one side, in part to allow more space for the
accumulating empty and full pint glasses on the small, round table. Jack was
convinced that that was where the book had remained, almost certain he could
remember it lying there as he had swimmingly surveyed the bar on leaving. He
nodded, as if to confirm his false recollection: ‘Yes, I think it’s on the
kitchen sideboard. Can I drop it off to you tonight?’ John’s irritation started
to shine through the haze fogging his eyes.
‘Sure. I can’t stop, my bus is only a couple of minutes
away.’ He started to leave, not rapidly, yet in a hurry. Jack started to offer
John a lift, stopping when he remembered that Karen had run him into work,
unwilling to let him to drive. As he saw the silhouette of John fade in the
crazed glass of his office door, Jack sank his aching head towards the desk
top, regret brimming up. He wasn’t a liar by any token, generally he was
offended by liars, preferring to tell and receive the truth no matter how
distasteful or unwelcome it was. But he had lied without considering telling
John what he believed, rejecting automatically the option of saying ‘I think
you’re possibly a killer, and I’ve been using your own words to try and prove
your guilt. Unfortunately, I think I’ve left them in a pub a few miles from
here, available for anybody to read.’
Then the consideration that he had no evidence,
circumstantial or otherwise, occurred to him. He would have to contact the pub,
to try and locate the book; he would have to phone Karen as well, just in case
he was mistaken about seeing it on the table as he left. And what if neither
option bore fruit? What if it had fallen out of his pocket as he had staggered
home whilst leaning heavily on Alan’s shoulder, slipping off pavement
kerbstones and bouncing into generally benign shop windows? On its own the book
was meaningless, even given the subsequent events at the factory; without the
book any evidence turned up regarding John’s involvement with the valve that
failed was unlikely to be sufficient to warrant a formal investigation. Not for
the first time that day Jack buried his throbbing head into his hands, his eyes
By the time Alan arrived, Jack had pulled some semblance of
control into his actions. His head still pounded, but the Paracetamol tablets
and hot, strong coffee had successfully conspired to ease the pain. His
spirits, though, were low as the phone calls made home and to the pub had not
revealed the whereabouts of the notebook. Alan, looking as though he had turned
in early the previous evening with nothing stronger than cocoa for refreshment,
looked at Jack quizzically.
‘You’re looking rough. Something you ate?’ Alan was used to
colleagues and other professional acquaintances failing to cope with a drinking
session he had initiated. He was less used to being summoned to a pub by
someone so obviously inexperienced in the ways of the barley and the hops. Jack
shook his head, forcing a feeble smile.
‘Last time I try to keep pace with you.’ Jack nodded to the
chair declined earlier by John Staples, this time readily accepted. ‘Look, I’ve
– we’ve got a problem.’ Alan leaned forward, his elbows resting on the desk.
Jack fumbled with a few papers ‘I’ve lost the notebook, we’re going to have to
find something conclusive with the maintenance records if we’re to nail
Staples.’ Alan reached into his jacket inside pocket to extract the missing
‘What, this one? You were going to leave this on the table
back at the pub, I thought I ought to take care of it,’ Alan smiled; he had
guessed that Jack would have forgotten about the book. He continued, ‘I’ve
photocopied it, as well. Front to back, including the covers. Now, where’s
those maintenance records?