Books written by Ray Sullivan

Friday, 1 February 2013

Parallel Lives chapter 53

John had found himself making increasing sense of his situation as the day had progressed. Up until the stop at the motorway services, John had been confused and disorientated, finding conflicting versions of events presenting themselves continuously. He had assumed he was in a sleep, having the kind of dreams that unsettle but never frighten enough to wake you up; a strange semi-conscious type of sleep where you know that things aren’t right, but you’re unable to prevent anything from happening. It was the repetition that felt the strangest, situations playing themselves out, sometimes in slightly different ways, sometimes identically, always in a way that John had no control over. Whenever it became too much he would blank for what seemed both an eternity and a fraction of a second. It didn't matter to John either way; it simply meant he could get through the trauma and that was all that mattered.
John had been through the scenario at the Council Hall many times before. Usually it had ended the same, he had been stopped variously at the doorway or a few yards down the street, returned to the inquest and then on to his personal medical team on another long journey. Sometimes he witnessed arguments, sometimes in the hall, sometimes outside in the car park. The common theme to these variations was an unhappy end, a period of confusion and apparent imprisonment. John wasn't sure whether he ever got to the end of these 'dreams' but was sure he never felt happy about the outcome. There were a number of scenarios, however, that had worked out differently and although the dream was also unresolved John felt that he had to follow that path.
To Karen's and Michael's surprise John stopped them both as they left the hall, just as the hydraulically damped solid oak doors slid to a close.
'This way,' he said, pulling Karen through a doorway on her left. Karen resisted momentarily, caught wrong footed by the sudden awareness of the man, still recoiling at the vision of the man who had called almost three weeks earlier. She had gasped when he had eventually stood up in the car park, her realisation that she had known him, albeit vaguely, for some time. However both she and Michael followed John through the door he opened and allowed him to close it behind them. She looked quizzically at Michael, not sure whether events were unfolding in a way she was comfortable with. Michael picked up on the look straight away; he had been expecting this since their chance meeting in the car park.
'We have to trust John. I know you don't know the whole story yet, but he may have an inside track on this one,' Michael said, watching John very closely. Karen responded rapidly.
'It's you I don't know about. I'm here to help him and I find myself depending on the assistance of one of the very people I am trying to protect him from. I don't understand this "inside track'' business you talk of, but I agree that he’s acting with a degree of instinct that I’m prepared to follow, but don’t misunderstand me, I do what I do with great reservation...' Karen stopped, halted by both men holding fingers up to their lips. She heard the voice of Doctor Sam Jackson and another, unfamiliar, voice as they spoke outside of the Hall. Both she and Michael sidled over to the window and listened to the two men debating the fate of her, Michael and John, followed by the exchange between Alan and the other two men. All three stood motionless in the small room while this was going on, with Karen observing the activities of Michael closely. He made no attempt to disclose their position nor did he seem to do anything that might imply he wasn't going to abide by his agreement. Eventually they heard the three men make their way back to the hall. John, who had added nothing to the debate since dragging the pair into the room seemed to perk up, as if he had been waiting for predictable events to pass.
'Come on, we may not have much time. Sometimes they come back a couple of minutes later, but we should have enough time to get clear,' he said with surprising clarity. Karen looked at Michael searchingly, realising that it was make or break time.
'I'm trusting you, in many ways well against my better judgement. By God, if you renege,' she threatened. Before Michael could answer, John spoke.
'You can trust him. I know you don't remember me, but believe me I wouldn’t separate us now unless it was necessary and I do believe this is the only way to go,' he said. Karen shook her head, still not quite understanding what she was hearing. John continued, 'We can't wait any longer, just tell him where to take me, then leave us.' As he spoke he started to slur his speech and Michael found he had to interject.
'Come on, we have to move. If he slips back into a trance I'll never get him clear in time,' he urged. Karen scribbled down an address and watched as the two men exited through the doorway and off towards the main entrance. Waiting a minute or so, she returned to the main hall and the inquest.
Getting John to the car proved to be less problematical than Michael had anticipated, despite John's obvious lapses back into his trance-like state. As they left the car park Michael looked over his shoulder to see if he had been followed, but was gratified to see that his car was the only one joining the streaming traffic.
As he drove through the busy town streets he found himself pulled up behind a Volvo estate at a four way intersection, waiting for the lights to change from red. Checking his mirror he saw a couple of cars pull up behind him, but was certain that the occupants were genuine motorists; his exposure to Martin and his occasional visitors was sufficient experience for Michael. As the lights changed to green the leading car moved off gingerly and Michael revved his accelerator pedal, starting to feel the bite of the clutch. Suddenly John sat up and screamed.
'Stop, don't drive,' he shouted, startling Michael. Instinctively Michael pushed on the brakes hard, even though the car had only just started rolling. He was about to ask John 'what the fuck is the problem' when he was drawn to the events unfolding in front of him. As the Volvo was clearing the first half of the junction a transit van screamed through the right hand red lights, smashing into the rear half off the leading car, popping the rear door and spewing groceries and supermarket bags over the junction. The van slowed momentarily, its rear end sliding crazily to the left, wheels spinning and spattering rubber up the van’s side, then roared off, leaking fuel and venting steam as it pulled away, side swiping two parked cars in the process. As the scene of destruction cleared, with pedestrians running across the road to assist the driver of the hit car, now sitting at forty five degrees to the correct direction of travel, its offside rear tyre deflated, a further commotion ensued. A police car screamed through the scene of destruction, slowed to check for obviously injured persons and, deciding that there were few, if any, then roared off in pursuit of the van.
Michael sat, suddenly aware that his jaw was hanging open, aghast at the devastation he had just witnessed. Faintly he could hear the doors of the cars behind him close as the drivers climbed out to variously assist or just get a closer look at the mess left behind the van's passage. He turned to John, who was sitting relatively calmly, with beads of sweat forming on his own brow.
'You knew that would happen, didn't you?,' he asked. John nodded slowly.
'It's happened before, several times. I knew when you took that last left turning that we were approaching the spot. Sometimes you drive straight on and we hear the sound of the crash in the distance, but the first couple of times we just got in the way...' His voice trailed off and Michael felt his blood run cold.
'So you warn me. Do I always stop driving?' he asked, realising the question had probably just been answered. He starting to look around again, aware that he could drive off, should drive off.
'Not always,' said John grimly, forcing himself back in his seat, sinking back into his dream world, eyes glazing over.
'Christ,' thought Michael, 'how many times have you been through this already, and how many times more will you travel this route?' Pulling hard on his steering wheel, he took a left, leaving the damage behind, aware of the sirens approaching the junction from at least two directions.


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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