Books written by Ray Sullivan

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Parallel Lives chapter 46

Karen had arrived later than Jack and Alan, having dropped off the kids at her parents and arranged a flexible schedule to pick them up. Her mother had been obviously perplexed by the sudden request but had assumed there was something private, even romantic, behind the secrecy. Her daughter and son-in-law had been through a rough time in the last few weeks and anything that might compensate would make her feel better. Karen’s father hadn’t pretended to understand, but he never had and never interfered.
The previous week had been a whirlwind of activity and nothingness. Jack had worked all the hours available to prepare the final repairs to the factory boiler-house and the subsequent commissioning. Both of them, no, all three including Alan had spent what remained of the few hours unfilled with work and essential family activities preparing for today. They had reviewed and edited Alan’s final transcript carefully, had debated heatedly the correct timing for its release, anticipating various scenarios it could spark. Eventually they had agreed that none of them would agree on the exact timing and let Alan do his job, trusting his instinct.
Parking opposite the Council Hall, which doubled for other official duties including the needs of the Coroner, Karen spotted Jack and Alan deep in conversation near the entrance. Alan, his hands thrust deep into the trouser pockets of his suit, looked frozen on this bright and breezy morning. If they were both outside then it meant that John Staples hadn’t arrived yet, or he was also outside and they were keeping an eye on him. Karen scanned the small clusters of people scattered around the building; the inevitable and motley crew of smokers, reminding her of the meeting with Jackson at the hospital, some casually dressed and clearly unhappy folk were gathered at one end of the building, a smaller group of equally unhappy people, more conventionally dressed in tired and ill fitting suits at the other end and a cluster of youths passing across the front of the building, messing and fooling with each other. Karen surmised, correctly, that Staples hadn’t arrived yet.
Locking the door of the car Karen caught a glimpse of herself in the window. Spontaneously flushing her suit top down to flatten any wrinkles, she pulled on both ends of the silk scarf loosely draped around her neck. As she finalised the personal checks the reflection of a larger car flashed past, drawing up two parking spaces further along. Looking up and across at Jack she followed his eye line and turned towards the car that had just stopped. At the wheel she recognised Doctor Jackson, unorthodoxly sat on his own in the front, while in the back, squeezed together, were three men. Nearest was a ginger haired man who didn’t ring any bells for Karen, while the other two men were in shadow and unrecognisable. Karen looked back to Jack and Alan, both of whom had now realised she had arrived judging by their eye contact and the slight shake of Jack’s head. They had rehearsed this scenario over and again as a possibility, but Karen hadn’t regarded it as likely, believing she would arrive much earlier or later than Staples. She looked back at the car and saw the ginger haired man was now standing, holding his door while looking around him, as if searching for a colleague. His eyes met hers and he instinctively smiled. Karen smiled back and then turned to pretend to be locking the door she had secured immediately before their car had pulled up. Looking sidewards she saw Alan slip through the Hall’s front door while Jack leaned against the wall casually, his hands lightly behind his back. In the reflection Karen saw Jackson stand up and open the other rear door, speak briefly, then stand away. Although both rear doors were now open, there didn’t appear to be any attempt by the two men sat in the back to make a move. Realising she had now stood fumbling with her keys for much too long, Karen’s mind raced. Placing the car keys into her handbag she shook her hair and strode away, in the opposite direction to the Council Hall.


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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