Books written by Ray Sullivan

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Parallel Lives chapter 49

Alfred Makeson stood looking out of the ante room’s window which overlooked the car park.
‘I’m not concerned that you felt the need to change the report, even at the late stage of proceedings. Well, that’s not strictly correct, I do not enjoy late changes in these matters. I would prefer that any substantial changes to your formal submission be made more timely, or if that is unavoidable then I would prefer that you advised my office that there is to be a revision. I was sorely tempted to postpone this inquest when I read your revised report, but I am extremely conscious that the family of the man who lost his life will have steeled themselves for this day.’ Alan felt he ought to speak.
‘I didn’t think the general thrust of the report had changed that much,’ he said lamely.
Alan had a rough plan that involved allowing himself to be hauled over the coals, but his instinct was to react enough to make it look as though he hadn’t realised that the change in report would cause waves.
‘Hadn’t changed? The whole thrust is different. At first look it reads as though the list of witnesses called forward is inadequate, but then, buried deep inside the report, it transpires that there isn’t anything relevant for half of the people called to say. If it wasn’t for the police report, especially the supporting testimony from SOCO which broadly supports your eventual conclusions, I would have been looking for criminal enquiries to be underway,’ ranted Makeson. He leaned forward on the desk that separated him and Alan. ‘As it is, I hope to call only a few witnesses, including yourself. Can I rely on you sticking to the facts and avoiding deviating from the most recent version of your report?’ Alan nodded, recognising that he had gotten off lightly. Makeson shuffled some papers that had been lying loosely on the table and Alan took that as a cue to leave. As he was opening the door to go, Alfred Makeson fired one last shot.
‘I hope you have the decency to let me know what your reason was some day, Mr Parkinson. I know enough about your work to realise that this change in report to be out of character,’ he said, holding his stare on Alan’s.
Outside, Alan sighed relief. It had been easier than he expected, but he wondered if he would ever be able to start to explain any of the events of the last few weeks to the Coroner. He decided his next step was to see if Makeson had bothered to strike any of the witnesses previously called off the formal list, in light of his preceding statement. Making his way to the main hall area where the officials and members of the public were gathering, Alan scoured the heads of the assembled people in an attempt to locate the Coroner’s assistant, who had wandered away from the desk parked outside the ante room. He found him busy arranging the seating at the front and laying out the relevant documentation and rapidly ascertained that there hadn’t been any change formally, but there wasn’t any expectation of calling John Staples, amongst others. Jack would be called, of course, as would Alan himself but it left an opportunity that had been considered. The only issue was going to be separating John from his escorts, and that was something that hadn’t been thought through anywhere deeply enough for Alan’s peace of mind.
Looking around the hall Alan saw that Jack and Karen had both sat, but in different areas. Jack was amongst the group of people who had been asked to come as potential witnesses, a group that included John Staples, Jack’s boss and a couple of the company directors. Immediately behind Staples was the man that Alan had followed to Fylingdales that cold, dank November evening, along with a ginger haired youngish man who looked extremely uncomfortable on the folding seating placed on the wooden floor. Karen didn’t seem to have tried to get close to Staples, instead was sat with a sparse group of spectators halfway down the hall, sat near the aisle. Jack thought about talking to Karen, but decided that she must have some reason for sitting where she had. Probably, he thought, it was to do with Jackson. She had had that meeting with him and had admitted that he gave her the creeps. As Jack had ended up, by design or otherwise, several seats from John it looked as though it was up to Alan to try and make contact.
Walking over to the area that was marked as seating for witnesses, Alan carefully avoided looking at Jack as he slid into the seat immediately to the right of John. He nodded politely and muttered a quiet ‘good morning’ as he sat, placing his official card calling him to the inquest on the seat to his right and sliding his briefcase under the folding chair. Pausing for a few seconds while he pretended to search his pockets, Alan viewed John out of the corner of his eye. Staples hadn’t reacted, moved or spoken when Alan arrived and now he just stared straight ahead as if in a daydream. Alan leaned close to the man who had dominated his life over the past few weeks, pretending not to notice the lack of reaction.
‘Excuse me, do you have a pen I can borrow? I seem to have forgotten to bring mine,’ he asked. He looked hard into John Staple’s eyes, observing a total lack of recognition; the man was wholly unaware of his surroundings, as if drugged. Alan decided to improvise, probably the most robust of the tactics he and Jack had discussed. He put his arm around John Staple’s shoulder while enquiring over-loudly about John’s well being.
‘Are you alright, sir?’ he asked while pushing John forward. Alan had assumed that John Staples would fall forward easily, based on the belief that he was drugged to the eyeballs, and was surprised to find the man difficult to move. He called across to Jack, who had turned when he heard the commotion a few seats down. ‘Jack, can you give a hand? I think this man needs fresh air, he’s looking quite unwell,’ he asked, starting to force the now leaning man to a semi-standing position. Jack reached across as he started to stand, looking directly into the eyes of the man that he had watched enter the foyer of the factory recently to pick up a notebook. Jackson was half stood himself, leaning and pulling John Staples back towards his seat.
‘Let me look, I’m a Doctor,’ Sam announced, knowing that the public were all too ready to pass on the responsibility for first aid to anybody claiming medical expertise. Jack and Alan hesitated, neither knowing if now was the time to show their hand. Both wondered if they should call Jackson’s bluff, leaving the other’s cover in place. The decision was taken out of their hands when Karen spoke.
‘Not of medicine, though, Doctor Jackson,’ she said, effectively stopping the melee that was forming around the small group of people. Karen had watched the events with close interest and had started to move towards John as soon as Alan put his arm on his shoulder. Sam was momentarily stunned by the statement and the sudden appearance of 'that' woman again.
‘Come on John, let’s get some air,’ she said, pulling John fully up and slipping one of his arms over her shoulder. Jack took the other arm in the same manner and together they started to walk John round the front of the seats. Jack wondered exactly what they were to do if and when they reached the main entrance, it was hardly the way to make a rapid exit. There was panicked movements from the row containing Sam Jackson, Martin and Jim Forsythe as they scrambled to exit their own row, scattering the front row seats as they went. Martin thrust one of the seats forward and stumbled out of the gap created, squaring up to the two men and one woman. Jim held back, not understanding or liking what he was seeing. Sam slowed down but continued to move towards the group, while other members of the public began to take a close interest in the events.
‘Will you let me take this man outside for some air?’ asked Jack in as reasonable a tone as he could muster. Martin stood square in front, clearly blocking any progress. A constable in uniform, having arrived as the activity had begun, intervened.
‘What’s the matter here?’ he asked, casting a wary eye over all of the persons gathered around. Jack pitched in.
‘This man’s not well, I’m trying to take him outside for some air,’ he said, then added, ‘this man is preventing me from helping him.’ Martin stood back a pace, weighing up the situation. He had guessed who Jack was from his own research, and hadn’t been surprised when he sat close to Staples. The woman he remembered from his meeting at Jackson’s office, but she had wrong footed him by intervening when she did. The policeman, Martin assumed, was genuine and represented a risk he couldn’t afford to take.
‘I was trying to assist, he looks unstable. I don’t know why, but this man seemed to take exception,’ he said. The constable looked at both men and decided that although the explanation seemed reasonable there was too much tension between the men to allow them to continue. He looked at the man supported between one of the men and the woman. He agreed the man looked peaky, but otherwise not too bad. At first glance he had assumed the man to be a drug addict, recognising the all too familiar glazed look in his eyes, but at his second look the man seemed to be taking an interest in his surroundings. Probably become too warm and started to faint, decided the policeman, and was now beginning to feel the benefit of moving around. He was increasingly aware of the gathering group of people taking an interest and the continued stand-off body language of both men and decided he needed to exclude both of them from the situation. A member of the public allowed him the opportunity to separate the disputing couple from the man needing fresh air.
‘How about I take this man outside while you two sort your differences out?’ asked a voice from the sidelines. Martin, Jack and the constable looked at the man, all equally surprised. To Jack’s greater surprise, Martin conceded that it would be a sensible idea.
‘I don’t know why, but we seem to be at cross purposes here,’ he said. Karen interjected, directing her response to the man who had made the suggestion.
‘Why don’t you take his other arm and leave these two to argue,’ she said, indicating Jack and Martin with her free hand. The constable nodded in agreement and guided the two men to one side as Karen and the other man carefully walked John out of the hall. Jack couldn't understand what Karen was up to, but he recognised the tone of her voice and knew that she intended him to back off. Why Martin hadn't argued he couldn't say, but there it was. Looking around he noticed that Alan had button-holed Sam Jackson, preventing him from following the three people, although he saw the ginger haired man follow them. The policeman was intent on ensuring that Jack and the short man didn’t interfere any more and both were made to take their seats which had been re-arranged by those members of the public who had gathered around a minute or two earlier.
Sam Jackson watched as John Staples disappeared through the door, trying to extricate himself from the man posing pointless questions. If it wasn't for the woman, Karen Howells, he wouldn’t have been bothered by the temporary exit, especially as the airforce Sergeant was keeping close to him. He turned to Alan angrily.
‘I don’t care about your opinion, I am sufficiently medically qualified to assist in cases requiring first aid, and I resent your interference,’ he responded to Alan’s point that he shouldn’t be passing himself off as a medical doctor so readily. Alan wasn’t bothered how the man represented himself, he was just giving Karen an opportunity to try and get John away, although he couldn’t see how she intended to achieve it, especially as one of the entourage had clearly followed them outside. Sam moved towards the exit, determining to ignore any further debate, followed by Alan quickening his pace.


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

Parallel Lives is published in paperback and as an eBook

I can be followed on Twitter too - @RayASullivan
or on Facebook - use to find me

Why not take a look at my books and read up on my Biog here

Want to see what B L O'Feld is up to?  Take a look at his website here

Worried/Interested in the secretive world of DLFs?  Take a look at this website dedicated to DLFs here, if you dare!

No comments:

Post a Comment