Books written by Ray Sullivan

Friday, 14 December 2012

Parallel Lives chapter 32

Jack had tried Karen’s mobile several times, but unbeknownst to either Jack or Karen, she had inadvertently turned the phone off after calling Alan. When she called him back Jack couldn’t stop himself snapping at her.
‘Where the hell have you been?’ Karen flinched at the suddenness of the attack, not being aware of Jack’s day so far. Defensively, she replied.
‘The phone was switched off. Anyway I couldn’t raise you on yours’ earlier, and all I got from your secretary was some vague bull about a meeting. You always leave your mobile on silent buzz when you’re occupied, so frankly I didn’t believe her,’ she said fighting back the tears welling in her eyes. She half turned so that Alan couldn’t see her face clearly, even if he could tell by the tone and words that all was less than peachy.
'So much for married bliss', he thought to himself. Jack checked himself, realising that it wasn’t fair to take it out on Karen, especially as she had no idea of what had happened. Apologising, he spoke softer.
‘Sorry, that wasn’t fair or called for. I’ve had a rough morning and it doesn’t seem to be improving,’ he said. After briefly describing his one-way conversation with the MD he continued to explain that there had been plant failures and maintenance problems all morning. Eventually he remembered why he had been trying to contact Karen.
‘So, how did it go with Jackson? Did you get anywhere with him?’
‘No luck,’ said Karen, bringing Jack up to speed on the mornings events, ‘we think we need to move this one on a bit, and quickly. Alan’s here, I think he should explain his plan,’ she said passing the phone across. Alan took the phone off Karen and placed it to his ear.
‘Jack, I need you to take some time off work,’ he said leaning back into the café chair. There was a marked silence at the other end of the line.
‘Christ, Alan, there’s no chance. I’m under pressure here and to be honest I’ve got to keep my head down, at least until the formalities are complete. In fact, when can we expect the-all clear officially from you. I’ve got the boss on my back and he’s smelling blood, unfortunately mine.’ Alan absorbed the outburst while he thought the problem through. He couldn’t ask Karen to drive to Fylindales to follow any movements out, she had commitments with the kids, he realised. He also knew it would be risky if he turned up in his car, the RAF police had paid him far too much attention for his own liking. He reckoned that he had been captured on a security camera as well, so even if the policeman who had been so rude wasn’t on duty (a probability, he realised), he was on some record there and that could lead to embarrassing questions. Jack broke the silence.
‘You still there Alan?’ Alan nodded, then realised that he ought to speak if he wanted Jack to understand.
‘Yeah, I was just working out an alternative plan. I wanted you outside of that place when I approached Jackson, so you could follow where they took John. It sounds like we need another plan.’ Karen interjected:
‘We could still go to the police,’ she offered. Alan shook his head.
‘We could, but what do we tell them? We have a guy who tells outrageous stories and is believed to have been sent away by a shrink. Sounds both plausible and appropriate to me.'
‘What about John being drugged and taken against his wishes? That should make them sit up,’ Karen replied, not entirely convinced herself.
‘We don’t know for certain John was drugged or taken against his wishes. The first is an assumption we made from very restricted views Jack had from his office window and the latter is pure speculation. However I still believe them both to be true, or very close to the truth. But I don’t think we’ve got anything to take to the police. If anything we could end up getting accused of, I don’t know, wasting police time or something.’ Jack interjected, having heard the exchange over the phone.
‘I doubt if that’s likely, but I also doubt they would do anything either. What about you taking our car and phoning Jackson from it when you’re on the spot. It’s not as personal a touch as you would like, I prefer to look into the eyes of someone when I’m pressurising them too, but at least it cuts down on the logistics. If you let Karen have the use of your car then it might work,’ he said. Alan paused for more thought, stirring the remains of his coffee as his mind ground round. Karen looked impatiently, having sat through half an exchange not knowing what Jack had suggested. She was about to interrupt for an update when Alan spoke again.
‘It still won’t work. Even if I managed to get through the hospital reception barriers to him, and you know how efficient they are at blocking callers at first hand, I can’t loan you my car. It belongs to the department and isn’t insured for any other driver, not even against their own insurance. I couldn’t let Karen run that risk with your kids in, so unless there’s another vehicle available at short notice we need to think of an alternative, sharpish.’ Karen spoke up.
‘How about hiring a car?’ She saw Alan wince and guessed Jack would be mirroring the expression on the other end of the phone. Alan shook his head.
‘Apart from the cost, we don’t know how long we need it for. And there’s the logistics of my finding my drivers’ licence and tracking down a rental company with a car for immediate hire,’ he explained. ‘If we’re going to do this we need to do it now,’ he continued, looking at his watch as he spoke. Karen nodded, although she felt the fiscal argument held more water than the rest. It couldn’t take that long to tee up a rental, it could be done by phone while Alan retrieved his licence. The reality was that they had become involved in something that probably was nothing to do with them, might prove to be a storm in a tea cup and would almost certainly fizzle out in a day or two. The common sense part of her guessed that John would breeze into work in a few days time, full of the joys of spring following a relaxing time at a Government sponsored health farm, his head adjusted and his conscience wiped clear by mumbo jumbo jabbering shrinks. In the meantime she, Jack and Alan would have missed sleep, wasted working hours chasing shadows and spent scarce spare cash on car-hires for a man she had never met, Alan had only seen from a distance and Jack had spoken with perhaps four times in the last year, including the burden unloading session that had started all of this. She became aware that Alan was looking at her intently, having said something she hadn’t responded to.
‘I said, where do we go from here? Jack is out of ideas.’ Karen leaned forward, acutely aware that Alan followed the fall of her breasts as she did so, his eyes unashamedly fixed.
‘We actually have very little to go on here. Common sense tells me we shouldn’t be meddling and wasting time and money on this. Part of me thinks that we will invest all of this effort only to find John back in work and unaware of any problems in a few days. But,’ she held a hand up, index finger extended, ‘I don’t think so. You were probably reaching when you decided to follow Jackson the other night. I guess you and Jack both had vibes that didn’t feel right, but if he had driven to a hospital or clinic in Warrington or anywhere else then we would have been justified in walking away. Put it down to experience, whatever. But when Jackson took the guy straight to a military base the alarm bells started to ring. I know we are short on proof that what you saw did happen, and in any case it falls short of suspicious from the police’s perspective, but it doesn’t feel right.’ Alan took up the baton.
‘Even with all of that I might have let it go, but I’m damn well certain I was moved on for a specific purpose that night. There was a collection of parked cars along that road, and it looked as though it was a popular parking place. I’ve seen vehicles outside military installations all over, usually filled with wannabe soldiers and airmen getting their kicks spotting versions of Land Rover or counting the number of Harriers landing. The military don’t usually bother with them while they remain on a public road, after all they can control what is capable of being seen from that vantage point easily enough. Plus, and I can’t be sure of this because of where I was moved onto, I think there was a fracas at the main gate. Certainly there were some raised voices and erratic vehicle movements shortly after Jackson entered the front gates.’ Jack spoke, startling Alan as he had allowed Karen’s mobile phone to drop away from his ear, the voice tinny to both of them.
‘So what’s the solution? I can’t get away, you feel your car is compromised and we can’t swap vehicles. I think it’s fair to say none of us are comfortable about spending perhaps a couple of hundred on car hire when all of this may prove to be nonsense, even though it’s clear there’s something amiss. What’s the alternative? We carry on as though nothing has happened, perhaps keep on pressurising Jackson to the point that it becomes in his interest to give us more on John, always risking his moving the guy again. Karen picks up the kids, I get machines mended in between stand-up bollockings and you write reports for the HSE and coroners. It doesn’t feel as though we’ve done anything, it’s as though we’ve copped out at the first hurdle.’ Alan and Karen had moved their heads close to each other during this diatribe, pitching the phone roughly equidistant between the two so that each could hear Jack. Predictably Alan had focussed on Karen’s blouse again, noticing the separation of the top buttons as she leaned forward. Instinctively she reached up and gathered the loose material together, aware that Alan was spending an inordinate amount of concentration on that area. Alan was unconcerned at Karen’s attempt to close up the slit-like gaps at the top as the action merely tautened the material around the outside of her breasts, squeezing and enhancing them in his opinion. Karen sprang back suddenly, her eyes alight, her hand dropping to strike the table top.
‘That’s it, that’s exactly it. What we need to do, to help John and get to the bottom of this, is get back to doing our jobs. Especially you, Alan.’


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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