Drive by ShootingbyDenham_Forrest©
Copyright© 2009 by Denham Forrest, The Wanderer
My thanks go to my proofreaders LadyCibelle, and my friend SH, for attempting to sort out all of my co ... foul-ups! But I must remind the reader that I still retain my annoying habit (Well I would be surprised if I doesn't get right up their noses, after all the effort they put in on my behalf!) of fiddling with my tales of woe, almost every time that I open them. So blame for typos, spelling mistakes and all grammar foul-ups, should be laid at my door.
The Met = London's Metropolitan Police Force, often erroneously known as Scotland Yard; New Scotland Yard is their headquarters, and they shouldn't be confused with the City of London Police, who police the Square Mile.
HEMS = London's air ambulance and rapid road response medical teams, based at the Royal London Hospital.
Broadmoor and Rampton are high security mental institutions.
Where do I start, I'm not sure? Maybe by explaining that I was away at one of those damned seminars on environmentally-friendly disposal of industrial waste. We're talking a few years ago now, before what could be described as the environmental revolution — or re-evaluation - that's overtaken the world. I can't say that I was particularly enamoured to have been picked-out by my boss to look into our company's waste policies, and generally clean up the company's act in that area.
However, I can't say that I had objected to either kudos I'd gained by the promotion amongst my fellow workers, or raise in pay. The travelling involved — around all the company's different plants — was turning out to be a real pain in the arse though.
Much to my surprise, Maureen took my sudden need to travel in my job in good heart. She understood that it wouldn't be for very long and agreed that - with two young children and a mortgage to pay - the extra cash coming in would prove very useful to us. There were the odd times when she'd have a little gripe but they weren't very often.
Actually I got to enjoy my trips away ... well not so much the trips away, but the coming home again. The kids would be over the moon on my return, and Maureen would try to love me to death on the night of my return and for several nights — well we couldn't behave like that whilst the children were up, could we — after my return.
I must admit that I thought my three or four nights away every week, had given Maureen's libido a bit of a boost. As it does after children - in our case twin girls born within two years of our wedding - come along, our sex life had fallen into a bit of a rut. Even more so after she'd gone back to work (part time) when the girls' started school; we'd been a bit strapped for cash and living a little close — or maybe a little beyond — our means for a while there. So, the moment she got the chance, Maureen went out to see her old employer and then went back working for them on a part time basis. As the children got older, she'd increased her hours until she was almost working full time again.
I can't say that I very much liked idea of Maureen going back working for Norman Coolidge again. But Maureen had a gregarious nature and she hadn't enjoyed being cooped up in the house so much whilst the twins were little.
Oh, Norman Coolidge was all right — well, I thought he was at the time — but his wife when we met her on the odd social occasion — Norman and Greta had both been at our wedding — well, she always struck me as a bit of a weirdo. You know, she always had a strange look about her eyes, kind of unsettled me some. Whatever, Greta Coolidge didn't actually work for the company and from what Maureen told me I gathered she rarely visited the office. Maureen knew her old job well and really enjoyed working with the other girls.
Anyway, that was the state of play, when I went to that five-day seminar in Manchester. I've got to admit that for the most of it I was bored to tears. I'd actually met most of the people giving the presentations and discussed in person with them what they were trying to put over. But there were a couple that were of some interest to me.
It was late that night and I was sitting in one of the lounges discussing the relative merits of different boiler exhaust sulphur scrubbing systems with a couple of guys I'd got to know quite well over the previous year or so when one of them suddenly pointed that the bell boy was wandering around calling out that there was a message for me. You know the sort of thing the lad was apparently touring the public rooms trying to say "Message for Mr Broom!" loud enough to be heard but not too loud as to disturb everyone else.
"Here!" My friend called out and pointed to me.
"There's an urgent message for you at reception, Mr Broom." The young lad said when he reached our table and then he stood there expectantly.
I slipped fifty pence — can I help it if I'm a cheapskate - into his hand and then, telling the guys I'd be back soon, I headed out of the lounge. I figured that Maureen, who for some reason hadn't been in the house when I called earlier, was returning my nightly call home.
It was as I approached the desk, that I began to get a bad feeling in my stomach. Standing nearby waiting a little impatiently — or they were looking uncomfortable about being there anyway - were two police officers.
"Broom room 268. You have a message for me?" I said to the young woman stood behind the desk.
As I feared that she was going to do, she took a quick glance towards the two uniformed police officers and then said. "These gentlemen would like a word with you sir!"
My heart sank further, remember Maureen hadn't been home when I'd called and now there were two policemen at the hotel looking for me. I instantly assumed there'd been an accident of some kind and I feared for Maureen and the children.
"Would you mind coming with us sir?" One of the officers said. Immediately heading off towards the managers office.
I followed without answering, dreading what they were going to tell me once we got inside.
As we walked into the office, the manager himself left, closing the door behind him.
"Would you like to take a seat sir?" the first officer said.
"I don't think so; I'd rather know what it is you are putting off saying if you don't mind. Has there been an accident or something? Are my wife and children all right?"
"Your children are fine sir, as far as we know. But I do think you should sit down." The officer replied, physically guiding me towards a chair as he spoke.
Why is it that people think you needed to be seated to receive bad news? Well, he'd said the children were fine; that could only mean that Maureen wasn't, and that she had been involved in some sort of an accident, couldn't it.
"I'm afraid we have to inform you that your wife is in hospital sir. She has sustained some serious injuries and we believe she is being operated on as we speak. The Met has asked us to inform you that you should return to London immediately."
"What sort of injuries; how seriously hurt is she?" I demanded, jumping up from the seat that I'd unconsciously taken.
"We don't have the details sir, other than that your wife is apparently suffering from several bullet wounds."
"Bullet wounds ... what, are you telling me, that she's been shot?" I demanded.
"Apparently so, sir!" The officer replied.
"How? Why?" I said, really not believing what the officer was saying.
"I'm afraid we aren't aware of the circumstances, sir. The Met just asked us to find you, and assist you in getting back to London as soon as possible. There are police cars and drivers waiting to escort you all the way to the hospital sir."
"My children?" I asked.
"They are safe and well, sir, of that one fact I can assure you. I'm sure that the Met officers will have all that in hand. Now, we'd better get moving, there was a distinct sense of urgency in the Met's request." The officer said as he opened the door.
Things certainly got hectic after that, we left the manager's office to be met by a female police officer and one of the hotel staff carrying my bags; it was explained that they'd packed my stuff for me. Then I was bundled into a police car and driven at breakneck speed to somewhere where a helicopter was waiting. I learnt later that the chopper had been laid on by my employers, after the police had got in touch with them asking about my whereabouts.
I'm not sure where the chopper landed in London. But wherever it was, a limousine (also laid on by my employers) was waiting and under police escort I was rushed to the hospital and up to the intensive care unit; where I found an unconscious and very pale looking Maureen hooked up to all the paraphernalia we are so familiar with from all those TV hospital programs. Even down to the beep, beep, beep of the heart rate monitor.
I think it was a doctor who told me that they thought Maureen was going to make it, only not in those words of course. He told me she had sustained six bullet wounds, four that he said had only caused minor injury; but two more that - but for the fact that a Hems unit had been in the vicinity - would most likely have proved fatal.
I'm not sure how long it was that I sat there staring at Maureen's inert body, whilst listening to the incessant beeping of the machines and holding her hand, before a nurse came over and told that there was a police officer waiting who wished to speak to me.
As soon as the officer had introduced himself as Detective Sergeant Sharp, I asked him what had happened.
"I'm afraid that we don't really know, sir." He replied. "About three this afternoon, a neighbour of yours heard some shouting out in the street, followed by what he correctly assumed were a series of gunshots, and then the sound of tires screeching as a car drove away. When he went outside to investigate, he found your wife lying in the road at the rear of her car; he quickly ascertained that she had been shot. Although several other people heard the gun shots no one actually saw who fired them."
"Where did this happen?" I asked.
"Outside your house, sir. We believe that your wife had just returned home and that she was getting something from the boot of her car. Apparently another car pulled up and after a heated exchange someone in that car shot your wife; we believe from the driver's seat."
"But why?" I asked.
That's what we are trying to ascertain now, sir. At the moment, we don't know if it was a random drive by shooting; a road rage incident that got completely out of hand, or if she was targeted for some reason. Have you or your wife got any enemies who would possibly want to harm her?"
"Not that I'm aware of, Sergeant. We're just your average suburban family. You know, two kids and struggling to make ends meet."
"So there's no problems in the family?" He asked.
"What do you mean by that?" I demanded.
"You and your wife are happy, sir! No ... er, interests out side the home."
"Of course not, Maureen and I have been happily married for fourteen years."
"And you've never..."
"How dare you, of course I haven't! I'm a happily married man with two wonderful little girls."
"I'm sorry, sir, but we have to ask these questions, it's our job. And your wife, to your knowledge she's as happy with the status quo as you are?"
"What the hell do you mean by that?" I demanded.
He could obviously see the angry expression on my face.
"I'm sorry, sir, but these are questions that we have to ask. Someone has seen fit to try to murder your wife. It's our job to find out who and why, and that means we have to ask a lot of unpleasant questions. I don't enjoy asking questions like this, but I have my duty to perform!"
"Well do your bloody duty and find out what nutter shot my wife, but I can assure you that Maureen and I are happy in our marriage." I replied and at that the officer appeared to be satisfied.
Only he wasn't of course, what policeman takes your word for anything? Over the following weeks and months, I learnt that Detective Sergeant Sharp takes no one's word about anything. But I'll get back to that later.
When I asked him about my children, the Sergeant told me that my sister-in-law, Annie and a WPC were at my house looking after them. It was only after the doctor assured me that Maureen was stable and in no danger of dying on me, that I agreed to go home and see them.
The children took it much better than I expected. They'd been worried of course when the police collected them from school that day, but once Annie came on the scene they'd calmed down a lot. Of course, they were never told how close to death Maureen had been, just that she'd had an accident and was in hospital. It didn't take them long to put two and two together once the shooting was reported on TV though; what with all the reporters hanging around near the house. Eventually we moved them to Annie's house and they stayed there for two months, until Maureen — after several operations - was eventually released from hospital.
When I — and the police I suppose — asked Maureen, she told us that she had no recollection of the day she had been shot at all. She definitely could not understand why she'd taken that particular afternoon off work and been arriving home at the time of day she did. Usually Maureen left her office just in time to collect the girls from school.
The only explanation we could come up with was that she'd gone shopping that day. However, no one could work out what she had gone to buy, as there was nothing in the boot of the car when we looked. Although at one time one police officer did hazard the theory that maybe the person who attacked Maureen was a mugger. He put forward the idea that she had been shot for whatever she was removing from the boot of the car. I'm not sure whether DS Sharp ran with that idea though; he appeared to me to be spending all of his time investigating me.
As the weeks turned into months, it slowly got back to me that DS Sharp had interviewed just about everyone I'd ever spoken to, down as far as the cashier in the garage where I usually fill-up with petrol, and every damned regulars at our local pub. That's not counting every employee where I worked and the staff at all the plants I was charged with looking after; even the guys I'd been chatting with in Manchester, the night I'd been told Maureen had been shot.
We also learnt that he did the same with all Maureen's acquaintances, our neighbours and the people who worked in her office. Not that Maureen ever went back to work there, but some of her friends from the office turned up at the hospital and visited her a few times at home, once she'd been released.
I also gathered that the police — I assume in the person of one DS Sharp — on occasions visited the house when I was at work, to ask Maureen whether she'd managed to recall anything about that day. Sometimes Maureen told me he'd called in that day, but other visits I learnt about - through hearsay - from the neighbours.
After what DS Sharp had said to me about checking everything - and having no cause to be worried personally - I felt no real animosity towards him about his poking around our private life. Although I did get uppity with him a few times, because I thought his time could be better served elsewhere, finding out who had shot Maureen. Yeah, I took to calling and bugging the guy on a regular basis for about a year or so.
For some inexplicable reason, Maureen showed little or no interest in the investigation, insisting that she'd rather try to forget that it had ever happened. Although her reluctance to go out of the house on her own or return to work, lead me to believe that the shooting had had a far bigger impact on her psyche than she admitted.
After about a year DS Sharpe informed me that the investigation was being wound down. Although he wouldn't say, I got the distinct feeling that he knew - or at least suspected he knew - who had shot Maureen, and I suppose why. But, he also hinted that he had no evidence he could make an arrest on.
I did try to discuss the shooting with Maureen on several occasions, but with little avail. As I have said, Maureen appeared to wish to put all thought of the incident out of her mind.
After about two years went by and Maureen had completely recovered physically from the shooting, if not mentally; she would almost never go out of the house on her own. The children, her sister Annie or I, had to go with her even just to buy a pint of milk from the local shop.
I think it is possible that my worries about her mental condition, had led to me not pushing the subject of the shooting.
Our love life - that had been somewhat curtailed by one of her injuries - returned to about what it had been when the children were young. Although I'll add that after the shooting, I'd refused to travel very much — if at all — for my job. The odd time I did go away, well, eventually Maureen got back to welcoming me home as she had done; although maybe without as much enthusiasm on Maureen's part as I remembered.
Another five years had gone past and our two girls were by then off at university, when everything fell apart. Maureen was home everyday on her own and I had begun to worry about her. When she was younger, she'd been a people's person; I had been worried about her mental condition since the shooting and I couldn't see that being alone in the house all day, everyday, was going to do her any good. But she adamantly refused to go out and find herself another job, even a little part time one.
Then one day I'd just got back from lunch when yet another policeman came into my office to see me. No matter how he tried to hide it, I knew from the expression on his face that he was not the bearer of good tidings; remember I'd seen that expression on a policeman's face before.
"I'm afraid that your wife's had an accident, sir." He explained.
"What kind of an accident? How bad is she injured and where is she now?" I demanded, grabbing my coat.
I'd been there before and was not interested in the niceties of life; I wanted the facts so I could get to the hospital as soon as possible.
"She was pulled out of the Thames near the Albert Bridge about an hour ago, sir."
He was still telling me what hospital Maureen was in, as I raced out of the room. No police escort this time as I raced through the London traffic, paying scant attention to traffic laws or speed limits. It surprised me to learn later that I hadn't been caught by any of the speed camera's I'd raced by. Although it's quite possible that a certain police officer had fixed them for me.
At the hospital, I found Maureen in an ICU unit again.
"We lost her twice, but we managed to restart her heart again." A doctor explained, "they believe that her heart had stopped once already when they pulled her from the water. The River Police got her breathing again." He went on.
"Her long term prognosis?" I asked.
"Difficult to say at the moment, Mr Broom, it all depends on how long her brain was starved of oxygen. She could have sustained some brain damage; we'll get a better idea after we've done a CT scan later. But we won't know for sure until she wakes-up; if she wakes up."
"She might never wake up?" I asked in shock.
"We'll know more after we've done a CT scan! We are waiting for a slot now." He said, and then he left the room, I assume to chase that slot.
I sat by the bed and listened to that damned beep, beep, beep, again. Also taking a little solace in the fact that I could see plenty of squiggles being printed out on some kind of machine on the other side of the bed. I assumed that related to Maureen's brain activity.
I wondered whether to try and contact our girls, but eventually decided that I'd wait until after their classes were over for the day. If Maureen woke up without any long-term ill effects then there was little point that I could see in worrying the girls too much. That decision was probably down to cowardice on my part; I put off telling the girls about their mother's obvious attempted suicide as long as I possibly could. Maybe I hoped someone else would explain to them why she had done it, although at the time I had no idea myself.