Taking the Long Shot Ch. 03-04byDenham_Forrest©
Taking the Long Shot Ch. 03
It was a bright sunny morning; too sunny for me really, the light hurt my eyes. I'd left my shit-hole of a room the moment I could see straight. Hey, you probably remember how the song went.
Well, I woke up Sunday morning with no way to hold my head that didn't hurt, and the beer I had for breakfast wasn't bad, so I had one more for dessert. Then I fumbled in my closet to my clothes and found my cleanest dirty shirt and I washed my face and combed my hair, then stumbled down the stairs to meet the day.****
Yeah well, it wasn't a Sunday — I don't think — but that was just about my usual morning routine anyway. Only when I hit the street I had a mission; I headed for the local supermarket where I purchased my usual two six packs of the cheapest beer they had in stock. It wasn't a social cheque day, so the pub was out of the question.
Then I headed towards the seafront and took my morning constitutional along the promenade.
They had rules in town that you couldn't drink alcohol on the streets — or on the beach - so I was heading for the sand dunes at the edge of town. I had my usual spot there where I could settle down and drink the day away in peace.
It was still illegal to drink there amongst the dunes. But the local police were a little reticent to actually approach me by then. We had a sort of understanding, I didn't create any scenes, kept myself to myself and usually out of sight; they pretended that they never saw me or even knew I existed.
The only time I'd spoken — civilly — to one of the local police. Had been the day I'd pulled the young holidaymaker from the surf. Apparently she'd taken a clout on the head from her surfboard or something; I'd spotted her little brother struggling — unsuccessfully - to hold her head above the waves. It was pretty obvious that he had little chance of pulling her from the water.
I'm not sure what made me drop my beers and rush into the sea to drag her to safety, but I did.
Then I was confronted with the problem that she was no longer breathing and — besides her little brother — there was no other bugger about to resuscitate her. Well, no shit who came forward to assist anyway!
I have no idea what the little bitch made of it when she eventually opened her eyes to find a scruffy — soaking wet — tramp, who smelt of stale beer crouching over her. But a young copper arrived about that time and took over, so I never did find out.
I did discover that some bastard had nicked my bleeding beer whilst I'd been occupied though; so I weren't in the best of moods as I made my way to my spot in the dunes, to sleep away a dry day.
A little later that morning, the young copper arrived at my hideaway and handed me some clean — dry - clothes. A guy who came with him was carrying two six-packs of half-decent beer that he handed to me. Then he thanked me for saving his daughter's life and even offered me some cash, but I refused it; I hadn't sunk that low that I took money for saving someone's life.
For the rest of the day, the young copper — and one of his oppo's had hung around on the beach not far away from my squat. I think they were there to head-off any reporters who tried to approach me. The local police were well aware that police officers and reporters weren't on my list of favourite people.
Anyway where was I? I've digressed; got a nasty habit of doing that lately. Yeah, I got my usual two six-packs and made my way down to the beach. It was pretty busy that morning, what with the sunshine and all. Not that anyone — even the holidaymakers - would trouble me once I reached my little hideaway.
Having dug up and filled my old galvanised bucket with water from a farmer's trough in the field at the back edge of the dunes; I dropped my cans in the water to keep them cool-ish. Cheap beer is one thing; hot beer — because the sun was blazing down that day — would have been a whole different ball game.
Whatever, I shed my shirt, downed a can or two; then stretched out to have a doze.
As the sun rose higher I was forced to cover my eyes with an old newspaper I'd picked up along the promenade. The sun on my eyes was preventing me form falling asleep. Mind, I think I probably downed another can before I did so.
I have no idea what time it was when I became aware of someone standing above me. He'd arrived silently and it must have been his shadow falling on my naked torso that alerted me to his presence.
"Fuck off!" I said, I sticking to my usual greeting, not even shifting the newspaper to see who'd trespassed on my solitude.
But the bugger didn't go away, whoever it was just stood there.
"For fucks sake, will you get out of my bleeding sun?" I eventually said, pushing the newspaper aside so I could see who'd invaded my private world.
I might add, that my free hand had surreptitiously slid beneath the sand and made contact with the eighteen-inch length of galvanised iron gas pipe that always lay hidden there, just in case it was required.
There were some cheeky little shits, who sometimes hung around in the dunes; and who - on occasion - had been known to think that they were tough-guys. By then I'd taught most of them that they didn't fuck with me, no matter what their aspirations. But, there was always the possibility that a new one — who didn't know any better - would show up.
The sight I beheld as I pushed the newspaper from my eyes was of a stranger. A big man, - obviously at least six foot tall and looking even bigger from my prone position — and built like a brick shit 'ouse as we used to say when I was a kid. He really did look as broad as he was tall from my perspective.
For a few seconds — whilst I sized the bugger up - he said nothing. During those seconds I chose his right knee as the prospective target for my gas pipe. That should at least have cut the bugger down to my size.
Yeah look, besides the little teenage shits who hung around the sand dunes. Sometimes there was the odd weirdo. You know, the sort who seek out places where the little children like to play hide and seek and the like; do I really have to spell out why? And of course to spy on the courting couples who came to the dunes for their own nefarious reasons.
Anyway, part of my unofficial deal with the local police, was that I discouraged that kind from hanging around the dunes. All the local children — and young courting couples, I might add — knew that providing they stayed well out of my little corner, they could play safely amongst the dunes. They also were well aware that a shout - assistance - would bring me to investigate the disturbance. I'd often arrive at my hidey-hole to find the odd can of beer or lager left as an offering to placate the Dune God (read guard).
Who this guy was and what he was doing there, I didn't know; but I had to be prepared for just about every eventuality.
"Mr Elks?" the man eventually asked with a thick European accent.
"Who's asking?" My stock reply.
"Mr Elks, I am friend of your wife Nada. You call her Cassandra, yes?"
"Oh yeah, well how come I don't recall seeing you before?"
"I not live in this country, Mr Elks. I only come to England to help Nada."
"So, why are you here on this beach?"
"Nada is not well Mr Elks, she has no memory. The doctor, he say that she needs you to help her. Why you not go to her?"
"Cassandra walked away from me four years ago. I'm afraid her disappearance killed the person she married. Look at me, what use can I be to anyone now?"
"You're still her husband, Dan; and whatever you've gone through Cassandra needs you." A voice said from behind me.
I turned my head a saw a trim a woman of about forty standing there with a smile on her face.
"My names Helen Carpenter, Mr Elks. My husband and I have been working with Peter Fox in finding out what happened to Cassandra; we found Dmitar some time ago. We believe that it was seeing him again, with his son in that restaurant that triggered Cassandra's loss of memory. He came all the way from Croatia to try to help her find her past, and you can't come fifty miles up the road?"
The bitch was trying to shame me into going to Cassandra. And well I suppose you can say that it worked.
"Well when you put it that way, I can't really refuse any longer, can I? But I'll be honest with you, Mrs Carpenter; I can't really see that it will do any good. If Cassandra went through what I've been told she went through. Then surely she might be better left as she is."
"The truth might be painful, Dan. But as she is she hasn't got you has she. Do you really think that either of you is better off without the other. Surely this isn't how you planned to spend your life."
"The life I had is gone, Mrs Carpenter. I really don't see much hope in building a new one."
"Balderdash, you think you've had it bad. My husband spent seven years locked away in prison for a murder he didn't commit. We've built a new life together and he's a very respected pillar of the community. It's up to you to take the bull by the horns, Mr Elks. No one is going to do it for you. Now let's get you cleaned up and we can go and sort that mixed up girl out, who you once proudly walked down the aisle with."
Kind-a bossy sort that Helen Carpenter.
As I began to stand, Dmitar grabbed my arm and rather forcibly helped me to my feet. I got the feeling that he and Helen Carpenter had decided that I was going with them to see Cassandra no matter what I'd said. And with Dmitar's size and stature, I doubt I'd have been able to put up much of an argument
But first Helen decreed that a haircut and — as she put it — decent shave was required. Yeah, I was in the habit of shaving, after a fashion. But apparently, not up to Helen Carpenter's requirements.
"Supposing Cassandra wants a kiss from her husband?" She said.
"I somehow doubt that!" I'd retorted, "Remember I see what she's going to see in the mirror every morning."
Obviously your mirror needs a little cleaning or you don't spend enough time looking into it." She replied with a sarcastic smirk.
After my haircut and professional shave, a first for me. They took me to the Grand, the best hotel in town. Where I was instructed to bathe — not a term for it, that I was particularly familiar with or an indulgence I'd been in the habit of undertaking very often by that time - before they frog marched me to the sauna.
After what seemed like hours in a steam room and an over enthusiastic pummelling by a masseuse who looked even bigger than Dmitar, I was presented with a complete new suit of clothes, which much to my surprise were all my size and fitted me perfectly. Only then did we embark on the drive to Fox's private clinic.
During all the proceeding rigmarole, Dmitar had been telling how he and his comrades had rescued Cassandra; not that they had set out to do so. They hadn't even been aware who she was until they attacked the group of bandits - as Dmitar referred to them — who he believed to have been responsible for attacks on a couple of small Croat villages. They found Cassandra locked in a cellar after the battle was over.
Dmitar told me, that they nearly shot her thinking she was one of the bandits, but she looked so much like his own daughter he decided to question her first. That's when he learned that she was British and that her Croatian father had been killed. He - or rather his wife and daughter - also learnt what the bandits had done to Cassandra whilst they held her in captivity; although he sounded too embarrassed to spell it out in detail.
Cassandra had stayed at Dmitar's house for about a month until they thought she'd recovered enough. Then he'd arranged for her to be shipped across the Adriatic to Italy where she was handed over to the embassy in Rome. That had been the last he saw or heard of her until the Carpenters had got in touch with his son who was still studying at Bristol.
I found it interesting that Dmitar referred to Cassandra's kidnappers as bandits. But when I questioned him closer on the subject, he pointed out — in his somewhat broken English - that partisans, freedom fighters or just about any other unofficial paramilitary grouping, are extremely handy flags for common criminals to hide behind. The ensuing chaos that is so often created when they are active, they also find very lucrative.
Fox's Clinic, when we finally arrived there looked more like a large country house, once some landed gentry's country mansion, I suspected. Albeit, with a very discreetly hidden - and also very high - fence surrounding it. There was even a little man who appeared from somewhere and smiled sweetly at Helen Carpenter before opening the massive wrought iron gates to allow us to enter.
Helen drove along the long tree lined drive and swung the car into the large gravelled area in front of the mansion's portico. As we exited the car Peter Fox came out to meet us.
"I'm so pleased to hear that you reconsidered, Mr Elks." He said smiling at me, before greeting Helen with a hug and shaking Dmitar's hand.
"I'm sure that your presence here will do the trick." He continued, taking me gently — almost imperceptibly - by the elbow and leading me inside the building. It wasn't until we had got to his office and he'd closed the door, that I realised Helen and Dmitar were no longer with us.
"Now, before you meet her I'd better explain that Cassie knows that you are coming. But I must warn you that she still holds the belief that she is Sarah Lee; although we are sure that she's beginning to doubt that. What we need is for you to talk about your life together, anything that might bring back a memory, no matter how small."
"I'll do what I can, Dr Fox."
"Call me Peter please, Dan. We try to keep things as informal as possible here. Now I know that Cassie is in the walled garden at the moment, why don't I take you round and introduce you."
"How do I play this, Peter?"
"As you see fit, Dan. I told you, Cassie's condition is very rare, I'm not sure that anyone has ever had to jog someone out of the Fugue state itself before. Usually they reappear as their old self with no memories of the fugue whatsoever. Sometimes with partial or complete amnesia; but often they will regain the greater part of their memories eventually."
I followed Peter Fox through several interconnected rooms of the mansion and out into the garden. Peter briefly passing the time of day with the odd person we ran into on the way. By the time we stepped outside, I thought I was beginning to be able to spot the difference between the staff and patients. Almost everyone was in civvies, but apparently all the staff was wired up with radios much like you see FBI agents in the films. Most of the patients had a radio-equipped staff member in tow somewhere. The good doctor, by the way, had furnished me with a little visitor's badge.
I'm not sure what expression I must have had on my face, but Peter Fox suddenly said.
"Don't concern yourself, Dan, we have no violent patients here. Most of our patients suffer from mood disorders. Manic depressives, you might know them as; but the modern term for the ailment, is Bipolar Disorder. And ... we have a few alcohol dependents in residence as well."
I assumed that the last comment was poignantly directed at me personally. But I was pretty sure that I could stop drinking anytime I wished, so I ignored it completely.
Eventually we came to a door in a large brick wall. Obviously the door led into what was once the house's kitchen garden. When Peter opened it I could see that it had been planted with shrubs and flowers etc., to form a very pleasant and secluded garden.
Just inside the door stood the ubiquitous nurse with her earphone in place. Standing by the small pond in the middle of the garden was Cassandra. Hearing us enter, she turned to look in our direction.
End of chapter 03
****Excerpt from "Sunday Morning Sidewalk" lyrics, respectfully borrowed from Kris Kristofferson's song.
Taking the Long Shot, Chapter 04
Peter Fox — after nodding to the nurse, who immediately left by the same door we'd just come through — led me over to Cassandra; who I could feel was studying me closely.
Cassandra was as beautiful as I remembered. Hey, please remember that Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and that from the first time I saw Cassandra, I'd always thought she was the most beautiful woman in the world.
"Cassie, do you recognise this man?" Pete fox asked.
Cassandra studied me very closely for a few more seconds, before she shook he head in the negative.
"Well Cassie this is Daniel Elks. He's your husband."
Cassandra didn't look convinced. "No I'm sorry, but I cannot recall ever seeing you before Daniel." She said.
"Dan, Cassandra." I corrected her.
For some reason right from when I was a kid, I'd always been Dan, never Danny or Daniel to anyone.
"Dan!" Cassandra said, the expression on her face changing slightly.
I was pretty convinced that she was struggling to recall where or when, she'd heard the name before.
What's in a name, the difference between Daniel and Dan is very little, but to my perception it had meant something to Cassandra.
"Now Cassie, I'm going to leave you and Dan ... alone together for a little while. I want you to listen to what he tells you about your past. We hope that him being here will bring your memories back to you.
Cassandra nodded but didn't reply verbally. Then the doctor told me he'd see me a little later and left us alone in the garden.
"Would you like to sit?" Cassandra asked.
"Why don't you show me around the garden first, Cassandra."
"Why do you do that?"
"Call me Cassandra, everyone here keeps calling me Cassie."
"Because that's who you are, Cassandra Elks, my wife."
"I'm sorry ... Dan ... They tell me that I'm Cassandra Elks, but the only memories I have, are of my life as Sarah Lee."
"Yes I know, Doctor Fox explained all that to me. But take it from me girl," (I thought I spotted another — only just perceivable - twitch in Cassandra's eye, I was sure that her subconscious picked up on one of my habitual sayings. One that she'd often objected to.) "you are not Sarah Lee, you're Cassandra Elks."
We slowly sauntered off around the enclosed garden. Talking about the different plants we came to as we did so. I've omitted all mention of the plants here and just quoted some of the relevant parts of our other conversation. The reader should understand these quotes were interspersed with numerous other subjects, consequently the timeline is somewhat condensed.
"Dan, tell me; what would you make of it, if you woke up one morning and everyone started telling you that you aren't who you know you are? Supposing that Peter Fox was telling you that you were someone else."
"That wouldn't be too hard for me to accept Cassandra; I have been two different people. The Dan Elks BC, before Cassandra left me ... and the one I've been since. The later hasn't been the most pleasant guy in the world."
"Oh dear, I'm sorry."
"Christ it wasn't all your fault, girl." I used the word purposely this time, but regretfully it didn't draw the same reaction from Cassandra. "I'm afraid the police got a little too enthusiastic about finding your murderer."
"Murderer! But I'm not dead."
"Well, I'm afraid that the police, when they couldn't find you, or should I say couldn't find Cassandra Elks, assumed that I'd murdered you."
"Why would they assume that? Peter told me that you were only married to Cassandra for about two weeks."
"It had me confused for a while as well. But apparently you neglected to tell me that you were a very rich woman on the quiet. I've been informed that you came into a very large some of money the moment we said I do."