Books written by Ray Sullivan

Monday, 19 November 2012

Parallel Lives Chapter 21

Karen sat listening to the two men, that Saturday night, trying to work out whether they were blowing the whole thing out of proportion or whether there was something worthy of absorbing her husband’s time to the extent that it had. It had been the strangest of weeks, with the accident killing one of Jack’s workers and seriously injuring another, creating a maelstrom of work and associated activities for him to plough through in order to keep the factory working. That should have been enough for any man to worry about in his position, but there was this strange business with the man John Staples. She had heard all of the evidence and couldn’t make up her mind; one minute she was convinced he was responsible, in a deliberate manner, the next she was convinced that any involvement by him, if any, was incidental. Then there was this strange new friend of Jack’s, who he had been exceptionally disparaging about only a few days earlier. Now he sat on their chair, drank (lots) of their beer, looked at her in a lingering way that she didn’t enjoy and was now keeping both of them up far later than they would ever think of staying up, even at the weekend.
‘So, where are we then?’ asked Jack, sipping at his beer. Alan sat motionless for a few moments before answering:
‘Well, I think I’m satisfied, once again, that the accident was simply that. No matter what any of us think about this Staples guy, his notebook and his stories, there isn’t a shred of evidence to suggest he tampered with any of that system. It’s not even that he could just be clever, it now seems that the installation design was flawed from the outset.’
‘I should have spotted that, or at least taken notice of what he had said last year,’ muttered Jack, in embarrassment.
‘Don’t be so hard on yourself,’ replied Alan, sinking a draught of lager. ‘That installation has been there for more than five years, you’re the third or maybe fourth maintenance manager in charge of it in that time and countless numbers of well qualified fitters have worked on it.
‘Of more importance to me, and of course to you, is that I have enough evidence for the Coroner to suggest a verdict of accidental death. You’ve already had the new system designed for greater safety and had all the other existing plant systems double checked, so that will bode well with him at the hearing. Your records are exemplary and the degree of co-operation you showed was exceptional. You did alright.’ Jack reached over for Alan’s glass once the speech was over.
‘Thanks for that, now get off your soap-box,’ he said, blushing a little. Karen took both glasses of him and asked, half-heartedly if they wanted another drink. Despite not having met Alan before, she wasn’t too surprised that he was still game.
‘Perhaps a little one,’ he suggested, looking across at Jack with a twinkle in his eye, ‘if that’s not a problem.’ Jack caught Karen’s look, and in his heart he knew he was going to regret such a late night in the morning, especially after the night out at the pub.
‘I’ll sort them,’ he said, retrieving the glasses that Karen had picked up, leaving the room to try and find the Whisky left over from last New Year. Karen sat self consciously, her hands extended, palms together, trapped between her legs. Alan, in contrast, seemed extra-ordinarily relaxed, even if he wasn’t saying anything. He reminded Karen of a man sat on a veranda watching a warm sunset, at ease with life and feeling no need to talk. As it was evident that Jack was having difficulty in finding the Whisky, or perhaps the tumblers she thought, hearing the clanking of various glasses from the kitchen, she decided to re-open the conversation.
‘What about this man’s claims?’ she asked, looking askance at the photocopied notebook sheets strewn over the coffee table. Alan leaned forward, pulling a couple of loose sheets towards him and splaying them like outsize playing cards.
‘There’s something there, I’m sure of that, but I’m buggered if I know what to make of it. I think Jack’s more convinced about the stories than I am, but then again, I’ve never spoken with the man.
‘The trouble is, there’s no sensible, rational explanation for what he’s claiming. I suspect he’s a bit of a mental case, if you’ll excuse my judgemental tone, but beyond that…’ Alan tailed off as Jack returned, holding two half-full tumblers of Whisky, narrowly avoiding spilling any on the carpet. Alan stood up and took his off Jack before any was wasted, not counting the amount he assumed Jack was about to waste on himself.
‘What say you, Jack? What do you make of Staples and his stories?’ Jack asked, sitting back in the chair, resting the tumbler on the arm carefully. Jack pondered as he lowered himself a little clumsily into his seat alongside Karen, who had just poured the remains of the wine bottle into her glass.
‘I agree, it’s difficult to make any sense of what he says, but perhaps he’s just twisting it a little – OK, a lot – and it has something in it.
‘Whatever truth or otherwise is in his stories I have to say I’m a bit concerned over that hospital, though. To get two consultants’ appointments in one week must qualify for a record by any standard, even with different consultants. but to have the consultant then drive him somewhere else is a tad fishy. I’d like to get to the bottom of that one, I feel somehow responsible for Staples.’ Jack could feel the whisky going to his head, and could faintly hear the ringing sound he heard whenever he was approaching drunk. He knew that if it got any louder he would be staggering around, and slurring his speech. Alan was nodding, and Karen, sipping her wine, asked:
‘What can you do about it?’ Alan, draining his whisky and leaning forward said:
‘I’ll tell you what we can do about it. Jack, have you any more of this fine whisky? It’s Oban, if I’m not mistaken.’ Alan leaned back as Jack padded off to refill their glasses, preparing to explain what he had found out since Friday morning.


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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