Books written by Ray Sullivan

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Parallel Lives Chapter 18

John sat opposite Sam Jackson silently, intertwining his fingers nervously while he waited for the doctor to cease writing. He had felt uncommonly nervous about admitting that he hadn’t brought his notebook and had been surprised at the amount of questions the subject had raised. He couldn’t understand why it was so bad that his boss had seen the notes and had held onto them for a couple of days. He had felt uncomfortable with the doctor’s lack of concern when he mentioned the apparent strength of the supposedly mild sedatives. He was extremely annoyed that the doctor wanted to cover exactly the same ground as the previous meeting, as though he had never heard the account before. Now the doctor was silently, save for a few sudden grunts, manually writing down copious notes, comparing occasionally with the notes he had made a few days earlier. Eventually he looked up.
‘This boss, the one you lent the notebook to, you said his name was Jack Howells?’ John nodded, exasperation creeping over the tiredness he had been feeling for the last couple of days. He felt obliged to elaborate on his earlier statements:
‘He tells me that he found it very interesting, he’s expecting to finish it tonight.’
‘And this notebook has basically the same information that you’ve been telling me?’ Sam tried to keep the pitch of his voice level, watching the dulled eyes closely as he waited for the reply.
‘Virtually the same information. There may be the odd name or event I haven’t told you about. Some information fades over time, and I find myself reading entries I made in the book some time ago hard to recall. Plus I can’t remember everything I told you today and Monday. I’d be surprised if I’d missed much, though.’ Doctor Jackson, to John’s eyes, did not seem too impressed with that information. He looked over his notes again, swiftly, slipping odd pages into different positions before looking up again at John.
‘I think you may have a medical condition which requires some research and investigation. There’s a specialist I would like you to see, as a residential patient. You would be away a couple of days, maximum.’ Sam looked down at his notes as he finished the suggestion, hoping to avoid eye contact. He was feeling as uncomfortable with the way in which the meeting had gone as John felt. He had wished he could have probed deeper, essentially begun the testing that would prove whether or not John Staples was a level-three candidate. The phone call he had received half an hour before the meeting expressly forbade such probing; he was to endeavour to persuade Staples to start the ‘treatment’ as soon as practical, that day if possible, but he was to refrain from any activity that might skew the preliminary results. Sam had been stung by the suggestion that he did not know how to conduct this element, after all he was one of the group who had pioneered the techniques seven years earlier, but he had to admit, reluctantly, that there was a danger to the research data. Consequently he had followed the line he had agreed to, revisiting the details discussed at the previous meeting. After a pause, John spoke.
‘Will I have to take any more of these tranquillisers?’ Sam looked up, into the dulled eyes of the patient. The tranquillisers had been administered deliberately as a predecessor to the treatment, should it be embarked upon. Not only did it allow a meditative trance-like state to be achieved in a controlled manner, it kept the patient out of circulation. Sam considered his options: to try and make John take more of the same might meet resistance and cause the kind of fuss he needed to avoid; not giving him any tranquillisers meant that he would be awake for the whole journey, and would realise that something was not as it should be. He decided to try and persuade John to take a different medication, but would back off if serious objections were raised, taking the risk that John would fail to sleep on the journey.
‘No, not if they’re causing you problems. I think you should take something, though, as I’m concerned about your stress levels.’ Sam smiled faintly, in the knowledge that he hadn’t told a lie. Keeping the patient’s stress levels down was a cornerstone of the treatment. John weighed the suggestion carefully before acceding to take a ‘milder’ drug. Before they proceeded he expressed his other concerns: how long would he be away? Who would feed his cat? Would he lose his job? These were all non-trivial questions, and John, despite the fog of the tranquilliser, was desperate to find answers. Sam found himself in a position he had hoped to avoid, although it transpired that an opportunity he hadn’t expected would appear in compensation.
‘I can’t say with any certainty how long you will be away. If you are suffering with the complaint I think you may have, then once it’s diagnosed it can be treated, usually with non-invasive methods such as hypnotherapy and counselling, backed up with mild drugs. Obviously, if I have made an error then the treatment may be simpler or more severe – who can tell? That’s why I want you to be seen by my colleagues at, er, Warrington,’ he threw in, suddenly realising he hadn’t prepared a thorough cover story. ‘As for your cat and your job, what arrangements did you make on your previous stop here?’
‘Mr Howells fed my cat, and if fact it’s him I have to inform if I’m off sick. He’s still got my spare key, I could ask him to look after the cat for a little while longer, but he’ll need to buy some food as I’m running low. I could call him, there’s a phone down the corridor.’ Sam shook his head, benevolently.
‘You can use my phone if you wish. Do you have the number?’ John nodded, spun the telephone around to face him and, after a moment while he recalled the company switchboard number, dialled. The receptionist on the main desk passed his call through to Jack, who responded with greater enthusiasm than he had demonstrated a couple of hours earlier. John explained his predicament.
‘Oh, right. So you’ll be away for a while Do you know how long for, and where?’ Jack asked as he swept the pile of maintenance records strewn across his desk out of the way.
‘A few days, I’m told, could be longer. I expect I’ll know more tomorrow. Doctor Jackson says the clinic is near Warrington.’ Momentarily John realised that he had exhausted all that he knew; his addled condition fought to ask more questions, but failed. On the other end of the phone line Jack scribbled down the brief notes before asking:
‘How are you getting there?’
‘Doctor Jackson is going to take me, he’s almost finished his work here and apparently it’s on his way. Can you look after my cat?’
‘Sure, I’ve still got your key and your notebook, for that matter.’ In an act that bordered on contrition Jack felt the need to offer John the book back, despite knowing that he would be unable to take him up on the offer. ‘In fact I’ve got it here, my wife brought it in a little while ago, she thought it was something to do with work.’ John thought for a second before answering.
‘Fine, but could you hang onto it until I get back, unless…’ he looked up at Sam, who had tried to follow the half conversation throughout, ‘you send it to Doctor Jackson here at the hospital.’
Sam mouthed ‘What?’ John scribbled in an imaginary notebook while mouthing its name.
‘He’s got it with him?’ Sam leaned forward, suddenly interested. John nodded. ‘Tell him we’ll spin by at the factory in under an hour, could we pick it up?’ Jack, hearing the exchange over the phone, interrupted:
‘Sure. But isn’t that out of your way, if you’re going to Warrington?’ John relayed this to Sam, who, thinking on his feet stated that he intended going over that side of town to enable John to pick up some overnight stuff. Jack wasn’t completely convinced, but agreed to have the notebook ready for collection at the company reception.
After the phone call Sam arranged for John to receive a different tranquilliser and ensured that all of his afternoon appointments had been successfully rescheduled. As they left the building, just as the cold November winds stung their faces, the tranquilliser began to affect John, causing him to stumble along the gravelled car park. Sam supported him, helping him into his car and strapping him into the seat belt. By the time the BMW had left the car park, John Staples was in a deep sleep.


Copyright Ray Sullivan 2011

The characters, places and events described in this novel are fictitious and any resemblance to persons, places or events, past or present, is coincidence.  All rights reserved

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