Books written by Ray Sullivan

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Parallel Lives chapter 88

The wind and cold drove through Karen as she was led past the Puma helicopter, feeling the force of the down-draught and the consequent wind chill. Her scarf wrapped and unwrapped itself around her head a dozen times as she walked, following the man who had extracted her politely but firmly from the car.
He had asked questions about boats and America, none of which meant anything to her, and the noise of the rotors made clarification nigh on impossible. He led her to another man stood watching some commotion by the cliff edge; she looked again and realised it was Jack hauling John up. The second man turned as she approached, smiled and cupped his hand over her ear.
'Mrs. Howells, will Jack listen to you? All we want is Staples back,' he shouted, 'we're prepared to pay.' Karen took a step back, unable to comprehend what was happening. Why were they watching? Why not help Jack? The man was shouting in her ear again.
'Talk to him, tell him to let Staples go, we can cut a deal,' he said. Karen stared, unable to decide if the man was mad or blind.
'He's trying to save him, you fool, can't you see?' The man looked at her, looked at the eyes, started to wonder if he hadn't been misled. Suddenly, they both spun around, alerted by the noise, looking at the ginger haired man.
Jack couldn't understand what was going on, he was losing his grip on John and they were all standing talking, pointing, not helping. John had found a foothold and was beginning to climb up the face, allowing Jack to recover his stance on both legs.
Then he heard the sound, over the helicopter, over the wind, over the shouting and the screaming. The sound he had once loved, lived for; the sound he had subsequently feared, had caused him to scramble quaking in foxholes to hide from, had caused his friend’s head to explode in front of him.
The shot must have missed, because Jack knew he wouldn't have heard it if it had hit. He looked up, stared at beyond Karen and the two men, watching them spin around to face the ginger haired man, watched the two men run at and overpower him, push him to the ground.
Karen recognised the airforce man immediately, remembered the eye to eye contact in the car park that morning which now seemed like days, weeks, months ago. The two men had sprung, literally, and pulled the man down, dragging the gun away from him. She spun again, back to Jack, watched the red stain spread on his right shoulder, watched him realise he had been shot.
The cold had masked the pain, reflex had momentarily boosted his grip. But within two seconds Jack's right arm was useless, his grip gone. Looking first at the red stain, then downwards, he watched John slip loose.
John sensed the change, felt his hand slip further down. He tried to compensate, tried to hold onto the lifeless limb swinging above him but his footing failed, his weight dragging him down. He slipped beyond the fingertips, accelerated, watched rock pass within inches of his face. He struck a piece of jutting outcrop with his left pelvis, felt his body turn turtle, saw his arm smash and bend three times, saw the rocky base to the cliff face approach.
Lying at the base of the cliff, John felt the wet rocks cut into his face, the dribble and blood seep out of his mouth. The cold enveloped him, numbing the pain, easing the transition to darkness. Up above he heard shouts, his name called by voices he didn't recognise. Attempts to turn, to move at all, were futile. Not even his head would turn.
He hadn't expected to survive the fall, had realised when he had hung onto Jack's arm that if he didn't climb back up he would die. But he knew that wasn't the answer, not for him. It would just continue in some other situation, a new collection of memories, more nightmares to wake him screaming and soaked in sweat.
But he was here, at the foot of the cliff, immobile and bleeding. The voices were not those of the people he had known, had travelled down here with. Was this another reality, a slower death, a shorter fall resulting in a longer, fractionally longer, life?
John closed his eyes, felt the darkness surround him, allowed the voices to fade, fade 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

Parallel Lives is published in paperback and as an eBook


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