Books written by Ray Sullivan

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Parallel Lives chapter 37

Sam was shaking his head, turning from the comatose figure in the bed, tubes and wires feeding into and out of monitors, drips and machines; then back to the sheaf of papers he had clutched for the past ten minutes. He ran his eyes down the hand-written notes, noting the times recorded and the interpretation given by Michael. One item, regarding a bomb explosion in Tel Aviv, was of particular note as it dramatically mirrored a news report he had heard on the way in, perhaps an hour earlier.
The news, described as breaking, had been regarding yet another tragic suicide bomber. That much wasn’t remarkable, from the viewpoint of the project. The turmoil in the Middle East had been increasing for months and several suicide bombs had exploded in Israeli territory over the last few weeks. Almost anyone could feasibly predict such an atrocity with very little risk of missing the mark. A ceasefire prediction would have been more remarkable, if true. But it was the detail that had made Sam sit up. An Israeli suicide bomber, attacking a hotel housing a contingent of envoys representing the more moderate Arab nations, was a twist in the fate of that region. Sam was unsure if there were any recent similar events, or if an Israeli citizen had ever taken it upon himself to retaliate in this way ever before. As his memory served him the report had stated that the location of the hotel used by the envoys had been regarded as a secret, and that the Mossad Head of Operations had been recalled to the Israel Parliament to answer questions about internal security.
All of this had been written, no, scribbled down at least three hours before the event. Some of the details were different, notably the time of occurrence. Additionally the notes were less detailed than the radio report but that wasn’t remarkable, most laymen would distil such a broadcast into fewer words, with considerably less prose, than an experienced broadcaster would. Ultimately the information would have provided enough detail to prevent or minimise the atrocity, had a system been in place to forewarn the Israelis.
As Sam turned back to the page he noted another event, taken from the same session that had identified the suicide bomber. It detailed, much more vaguely, a report about an aircraft crash in the Midlands. There was little or no detail about the type or size of the aircraft, or whether there were casualties. Even the location was indistinct. What intrigued Sam was the mention of the weather at the time of the incident – freezing rain. He hadn’t heard of any aircraft accidents on the news but he had heard of a forecast for freezing rain believed to be sweeping across from the east coast, traversing the Midlands and petering out in mid Wales, with the worst showers expected in the early hours. As he mused this information he was joined by Michael and Martin, who lagged behind the white coated scientist. Michael recognised the sheet that Sam had been reading.
‘Brilliant, or what?’ he asked rhetorically, excitement brimming over. Pointing to the information about the bomber he continued, ‘I expect they only missed him by a few minutes. If we had the system set up correctly we could have averted this tragedy.’ Sam looked up, surprised at the speed that the project was moving.
‘This was reported?’ He couldn’t keep the incredulity out of his voice. Michael nodded, flicking his head towards Martin.
‘Yes, Martin arranged it,’ he said, taking the sheaf of papers out of Sam’s hand in order to locate another substantial piece of supporting evidence to their theory. Sam looked at Martin and saw in the blankness of his eyes that no attempt to forewarn anyone had been made. That much was what he had expected, and was what he believed to be the correct procedure. Michael saw the exchange of glances and turned to Martin.
‘You did try, didn’t you?’ Martin shifted uncomfortably, rocking his head to one side.
‘There wouldn’t have been sufficient time and we didn’t know whether we would have been able to persuade anyone in Israel that our intelligence was sound.’ Martin trailed off, not wishing to be drawn further. Sam intervened.
‘Michael, we need to convince ourselves first, treat this as a scientific experiment.’ Michael wasn’t listening, he turned and thrust the sheaf of pages at Martin’s face.
‘How would you know there wasn’t enough time? We don’t know yet what the time correlation between dimensions are, or the reliability of the events. But we did know the name of the hotel, the names of the victims and the purpose of their gathering. How hard would it have been to confirm the hotel’s existence and the forum? Our intelligence people, your bosom buddies, they would have found out that much. If it had proven to be rubbish, the hotel didn’t exist, the location was different or the meeting was unknown about then we could have sat back and sifted other information. But we could have found out enough to warrant warning the Israelis, they could have intercepted the bomber, reduced the loss of life and still proven the method. It was an ideal opportunity,’ screamed Michael, throwing the papers onto the floor in front of an indifferent Martin.
Sam watched, not believing the scene he was witnessing. He had known Michael for many years, on and off, and considered the man to be a reasonably impassive scientist. And Michael, Sam guessed, would have known Martin for some time, much longer than Sam had known him, and the few short days since their first meeting in the Manchester pub had confirmed how Sam expected him to behave. Like Michael, Sam had met several ‘Martins’ over the years, while engaged on secret Government research. They were all of a muchness, usually bright, well educated, secretive and controlling. Martin wouldn’t use any information at this stage, even if the theory was proven to be correct beyond all doubt. He would be working with others of his ilk to find ways to exploit this intelligence to Her Majesty’s Government’s advantage. All this Sam knew, and had expected that Michael understood it as well. Martin looked briefly at the pages strewn about his feet.
‘A remarkable outburst, and quite out of character,’ he said quietly. ‘Perhaps the strain of the last few days, your obvious good fortune in finding the correct medication levels so quickly, the noted long hours you have put in and your clear concern for the well being of your patient have contrived to shorten your humour. I would prefer you to maintain a better perspective in these matters.
‘Still, I can help you in one of your concerns,’ continued Martin, consulting a folded file he had brought with him. ‘As requested I have had his various fluids tested and the analyses have been interpreted both by the doctor supplied by the RAF and one of our own. Both conclude that, with the exception of minor renal dysfunction, the results are consistent with a man of the patient’s age. The dysfunction itself is not considered a problem, but they have both recommended the monitoring to be stepped up to twice a day.’ He looked directly at Michael. ‘I trust you can arrange that.’ With that Martin pulled another piece of paper from his jacket’s inside pocket, unfolded it and glanced over it in silence before continuing.
‘Despite that reassuring medical report I regret that we will have to suspend the experiment by the weekend, and more importantly we have to return the patient to a state of reasonable compos mentis.’ Sam and Michael looked at each other, puzzled. Michael was still angry, cheeks flushed red, so Sam asked the obvious question.
‘Why? We’ve just started to get some progress, we’re drilling into fresh dimensions every time as far as I can tell from the draft reports and he’s holding up medically. More importantly, I understand the nightmare scenario is starting to form a pattern. Time off the programme before we have completed a full run of tests may well result in us losing the initiative. We may find doors shut all over.’ Martin raised his hand.
‘It’s not my wish, and I have argued at the highest level available to me to ignore this, but John Staples is required to appear before a Coroner’s court next week to give evidence. If he doesn’t show then your hospital will be hit with a writ for Habeas Corpus. We could get him Sectioned, but that is likely to raise the profile unnecessarily; or we could simply disappear him. Given Mr Watson’s misgivings over my handling of the primitive intelligence gained so far, I very much doubt if either of you would countenance such an approach.
‘Besides, we believe Staples’ boss and some friends of his know more or less where Staples is,’ continued Martin, ’and that has made a few of our people nervous.’ Martin examined his fingernails for a few seconds before continuing. ‘Can we get him in a state that will appear consistent with a man undergoing minor psychiatric treatment without drawing too much attention to him. I don’t want the Coroner, or anyone else for that matter, starting to think he is mad enough to have caused that accident.’ Martin looked directly at Michael. ‘Well, can we?’ Michael, still obviously flushed, attempted to regain his composure.
‘I expect we could, but it seems an incredible waste of our time,’ he said, ‘I would have thought your people could have circumvented this kind of problem. It’s what you are noted for.’ Michael struggled for something more tangible to accuse the Government spook of, but found that he had very little to say. In the best tradition of his calling Martin had developed a strategy of avoiding carrying out his work in anyone’s sight. He obviously did things; arranged, sorted and manipulated things, but always in private, quietly and without fuss. It was without doubt the man put the hours in, probably long into the small hours, most days. But you’d never guess unless you were used to this breed of person. After a pause Michael continued: ‘Can’t you pull anything to prevent this, get the Coroner’s court postponed a few weeks or something?’ Martin seemed to weigh up the suggestion, as if it was sufficiently unique to have not been considered previously.
‘To be honest, this isn’t my call any more,’ he stated, lying through his back teeth, ‘nor yours, to be blunt. We’re co-operating on this one and we’ll make the best of it.’ Martin felt disinclined to appraise the two men that he had suppressed most of what had been carried out, including the successes. With that he left, leaving the two Doctors staring at each other. Sam broke the silence that had fallen momentarily.
‘I don’t like this. We’re committed to what we’ve started, and we’re both exposed more than we’d like. This isn’t how I expected things to pan out.’ Michael, shaking his head in resignation, walked away.


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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