tagNovels and NovellasJogging Memories Ch. 01

Jogging Memories Ch. 01

bySpencerfiction©

This was my first novel, which I've dusted off after five years of neglect and presenting it to you now. There is a complicated plot involving loss of memory, innocence, guilt, deception and avoiding consequences of actions. There is basically a husband with 2 personalities and 2 loving wives; which one will win, and which f. There is a large cast too, so this list in order of appearance may help:

Tommy/"Bob", the jogger who loses his memory, born as Tommy Barlow, also known as "Bob Morris"

Helen, discovers the injured jogger, saves his life, daughter of Sharon Bister

Ben, a nurse, married to Veronica

Sharon, mother of Helen Bister

JJ, Bob's daughter

Tigger, Bob's youngest son

Tom, Bob's son

Jennifer, Bob's wife

Richard, Bob's best friend, Emma Robertson's husband

Emma, Jennifer's best friend, Richard Robertson's wife

Susannah Fincher, Tom's pregnant girlfriend, daughter of Andrew and Madge

Shazza, JJ's best friend

Doctor Harding, hospital surgeon

DC Rachel Webster, police CID

Inspector "Hermann" Goring, Rachel's boss

Sally, Tommy's wife, nee Chapman

Cheryl, a petrol station desk clerk

Ralph, ex-CID, Chief Inspector Mike Haroldson's father

Mike, CID, Ralph Haroldson's son

Ann Barlow, Tommy's mother

Amis Joseph, Bob's boss

Alicia, Hannah Knight's mother

Hannah, abducted girl, saved by the Jogger, daughter of Alicia Knight

Dr Phoebe, Tommy's psychiatrist

Brett, Tommy's eldest son, married to Katie, children Owen and Nellie

Brick Alexander, JJ's ideal boyfriend material

Miriam Chesterton, road traffic accident victim

Jacob, retired motor parts manufacturer, father of Jake

Jake, professional golfer, son of Jacob


*****

PROLOGUE

The rescuer:

Helen held his hand in the tiny side ward, as she had for the last two days. The old man had more colour in his face she thought, compared to yesterday. She almost laughed at the thought; look at him, she said to herself, there wasn't even much of his face to be seen.

The man had a turban-like bandage covering his forehead. Thick pads, held in place with white bandages, covered his eyes. There were a number of tubes up his nose and around his mouth, connected to a ventilator and a bag of water. Other tubes were funnelling water and plasma into veins in his arm. At least they had stopped giving him blood. A bag, running under the blankets, was draining almost black blood from his punctured lung; her mother had been brave enough to ask the nurse what it was on Monday and she had to run to be sick. He had another bag swinging under the bed collecting dark urine, which she had seen the nurse weighing when emptied, noting the amount in a folder for the purpose at the end of the bed. The man's ears were uncovered. To Helen they were old man's ears, large, fleshy and quite hairy.

The male nurse walked back into the room, carrying a flexible bag of clear liquid. The girl released her grip on the man's hand and let her hand fall to her lap next to the other one. She looked up at the nurse. It was the one that she saw most of, a large black male, with a cheerful disposition, and a thick African accent. He had a smile on his face, as usual, so she smiled back.

"You can hold 'is 'and Helen, it is probably doin' you both some therapy," said the nurse, in his deep baritone, "If'n wasn't for you, he wouldn't a got this far."

"Thanks, er ... Ben, isn't it?" Helen said, as she caught his nameplate while he took off an empty water bag and hooked up the fresh one.

"Yeah, that's right." He quickly unscrewed the old fitting and connected up the new, checking for a moment that the drip was flowing correctly. Then he wound up the old tube neatly round the empty bag, ready for disposal.

"I just felt a little self-conscious, Ben, being caught holding hands and ... caring. After all, he is a complete stranger."

"Don't you worry about carin' too much, yo' Mum Sharon was in here las' night from about midnight to fourish, accordin' to the previous shift."

"Yes, I know," Helen laughed, "She'd left a note for me on the fridge, telling me to go to college this afternoon and she would be along to relieve me about lunchtime. You nurses must think we're crazy!"

"Not at all, Ma'am, we think you's angels."

CHAPTER ONE: Coma

The man had started breathing without respiratory aid for the last few hours and was occasionally twitching in his sleep. His eyes had been covered up, as a precaution for when he awoke, since before Helen had come in.

Helen Bister had arrived at eight in the morning, relieving her mum, Sharon, who had been there since midnight, maintaining their vigil over this poor man.

Helen thought she had found a dead body when she came upon him the previous Sunday, early in the afternoon. Since she had taken up exercising again a few months earlier, she often ran through the open moorland in the late afternoon, after her college studies during the week, and in the mornings at weekends. Helen was a bright and attractive young woman but had felt self conscious that she was no longer as fit as she had been eight years earlier when she finished her education. On her runs she usually avoided entering the woods on the edge of the moor. Last Sunday, though, it was unseasonably warm for late October and, being a Sunday, she thought there was likely to be more children and walking families around. So she decided to chance it by taking a short cut through those woods, to get home early for a welcome cooling shower before she started preparing the evening meal for her mother and herself. As it turned out, she didn't get home until late evening and by then didn't have either the energy or the appetite to eat at all.

Helen saw the man lying quite still, flat on his back on the ground in full bright sunlight, his eyes open, unblinking. She first saw something in front of her from a distance away as she followed a narrow track that looked like a short cut. Initially she was uncertain what the object was, possibly a dead deer. She slowed down, sensing that something definitely wasn't right. She was tempted to take a different path, but something made her warily walk towards the object, while looking all around for any sign of a trap.

It wasn't that she was naturally paranoid, but she had heard so many stories and been warned so many times by her mother, about being alone in a dangerous place, that she felt her cautious approach was sensible. Helen unclipped her mobile phone, to have it at the ready, but immediately noticed that there was no signal to be had there, which made her even more wary as she approached.

The nearer she got, the more certain she became that the body was clearly a man, not a deer. She became more and more convinced that whoever he was, he was already dead. He definitely looked dead. Helen had never seen a dead body before but this had all the signs she expected would constitute a dead body. He looked like he had been beaten up or murdered. He had dried blood on his head, a lot of blood on his bandaged arm and spread on the grass all around him. She tentatively touched his forehead. His skin was hot to touch, burning up in the unrelenting sunshine. She wasn't sure, did this heat mean he was still alive or that his death was very recent? Dare she check his breathing, pulse or heartbeat?

Helen shook him by the shoulder, gently at first and then shook him harder but he was so deeply out of it, she got no response. It was as if he was finally at peace and heading towards paradise. He didn't seem to be breathing. He had clearly been a runner, dressed as he was. His running shoes were reasonably well worn, probably much more comfortable than her own recently broken-in ones were. He was old, probably retired she thought, fair-haired going grey, thin-faced, even pinched although surprisingly, his face was relatively unlined, like someone who was spiritually at peace, ready to meet his maker.

Helen had about a quarter of a litre of water left in the bottle she carried with her. She splashed a little on his face. Some water must have gone up his nose as he suddenly started flailing his arms about and spluttering and trying to breathe. However, she was sure that he never actually woke up.

Helen pulled out her ineffectual mobile phone again, no signal.

"I'm sorry," she told the man, "I will call an ambulance, but I have to move, no signal here."

"Sig-nal?" the man croaked, at least that was what the man seemed to be saying.

Startled that he spoke, Helen, continued, "Yes, no signals out here."

"Sig-nals keep chang-ing col-ours but noth-ing mov-ing."

At least that's what Helen thought he said. He must be rambling.

"I must go, I won't be long."

Helen ran down the path towards the houses. She watched the screen on the phone as she ran, hoping she would get bars up showing she was in range of a transmitter. As soon as a couple of bars appeared to indicate reception, she hit 999 and got through straight away, immediately requesting ambulance and police, using what she felt must have been hysterical screams.

Helen waited for the ambulance, while the operator kept talking to her. Helen was in a daze and not paying any attention to the disembodied voice of reassurance. All that occupied Helen's mind was the hope that the old man wouldn't die while she was still waiting for help to arrive. She reminded herself that, as she had never seen a dead person before, she really didn't want to see him again if he had died in the meantime. She was both excited and disgusted by those thoughts. She felt dirty and guilty about such feelings, imagining how she would feel if the roles were reversed and she knew the discoverer's thoughts. She wouldn't want to die out there all alone. So Helen was conflicted, standing on a track somewhere out in no-man's land, hovering between the isolated scene of the crime and the sanctuary of the houses and the reassurance of human company. As soon as she heard the siren and saw the flashing lights, she ran to the nearest road and guided them to the scene.

The Paramedics piled the injured man into the ambulance after having trekked him on a stretcher 500 yards down the gravely paths to the nearest road.

The police patrolman, who fractionally arrived first on scene, later asked Helen to accompany them to the hospital so she could give her statement while the man was being treated. Helen was intrigued to find out who he was and where he was from, and so was happy to go. She knew some of the runners who regularly pounded the patchwork of paths hereabouts; she ran every day for an hour or so. She believed she had never seen this man before.

While she waited in the stifling dry heat of the hospital casualty reception area, she called her mother Sharon Bister at work to let her know where she was and ask if she could come and pick her up after she finished work. She had to tell her mother that she hadn't had a chance to cook the Sunday dinner that they were expecting to enjoy in the evening.

When her mother met her several hours later, the doctor was speaking to Helen, asking if she could try and communicate with the man as the doctor understood that while Helen spoke to him back in the woods he had been conscious. Helen wasn't sure if he had actually woken up, rambling almost incoherently, just experiencing different levels of unconsciousness; that is what she believed she had told the policeman. The doctor hoped that Helen could get through to him, as he had otherwise been unresponsive to every other stimulus. When Helen did speak at his bedside, the readings apparently indicated brain activity. The doctor was pleased with the responses he was getting and asked Helen if she could come back as often as possible over the next three or four days. He explained that they intended keeping him in an induced coma while his lung wound healed and they had restored his fluid levels.

Sharon Bister, Helen's mother, worked for an estate agency. She manned a temporary sales office in one of the show houses at the entrance to a rambling new housing development of a long-redundant industrial park. She couldn't leave her post until closing up the office at dusk. At the hospital, she comforted a tearful Helen, who was clearly distraught at her experience.

"Mum, he doesn't seem to have anyone. The police don't know who he is. No one has reported him missing. He's here all alone." A single tear rolled down Helen's cheek.

"Honey, it's still only a few hours since this happened, perhaps he lives alone and his neighbours haven't missed him yet."

"He's wearing a wedding ring, Mum. He doesn't have a wallet or even house keys on him. No car keys either, so he had started out his run from home nearby and someone must be indoors able to let him back in. Someone is expecting him home ... and ... and he nearly died today."

"Oh, God, you must be right," Sharon gasped.

"The doctors have him in the intensive care ward, saying even now that he might not make it through the night, Mum," Helen sobbed.

"What do you want to do, sweetheart?" Sharon smiled. She remembered all those poor animals Helen had brought home as a child because she thought they had lost their mummies and daddies.

"They say I can visit whenever I want, only ... I can't be here all the time." Helen looked that look, as if she was just five years old again, holding a mangled sparrow or the like, and smiled weakly at her mother.

"All right," Sharon laughed, "I'll visit him tomorrow while you are at college."

<<<>>>

The man's daughter:

Nobody ever called JJ, the name she shared with her mother, Jennifer Morris. JJ curled up against the window in the corner of the coach seat. Well, as much as she could, the school's rule on wearing seat belts was rigidly enforced. The seat next to her was empty, as usual. No one wanted to sit next to the skank daughter of a skank mother and everyone had been beastly to her all weekend.

Honestly, JJ thought, I could murder Mum and "Wetshirt" for what they were doing to her.

Tigger sat with her at the outset of the journey home but then he was never still for long and within five minutes of the coach leaving York he was off horsing around with his mates.

Tom joined her for a while but abandoned her after the motorway services stop where he had managed to wangle the use of a mobile phone that still had some battery life left in it after the weekend and was using it to contact his fiancée.

Both brothers probably sensed that JJ was becoming more withdrawn lately, she thought, but neither could possibly understand why or what to do about it. Nobody did. Alone and lonely was JJ. Was that always going to be her fate?

Only her father understood and loved her. But he was fading from her, old before his time, worn out by a deceiving partner he surely couldn't avoid knowing about. That will never happen to me, JJ fiercely resolved.

No man will ever touch me, she resolved, not even that Brick Alexander, at eighteen, two years her senior. She had hoped he would be on this trip at the beginning of the autumn half term but no; he had some football course to attend with his beloved Derby County. JJ had looked at Brick longingly for years, all the girls of her acquaintance had.

Rumours were that Brick was currently unattached, concentrating on his grades, with a scholarship at Cambridge virtually a given. Therefore JJ was trying for Cambridge too, possibly even a year early as her grades were so good.

Even if he ... she snorted, of course not! Brick was the school hunk, destined for better things. No, JJ would be forever cursed as the daughter of the PTA's whore.

<<<>>>

The man:

I am dreaming. At least it seems so. It feels like a dream because I am drifting, in and ' of open moors with the sun low in the sky.

It's hot under that noon sun. Slowly I become aware of my raging thirst and a stabbing pain spreading through my arms, legs, feet and toes. And my ribs! Oh, they torment me so much that I can barely breathe. Now my shoulders ache like I am carrying a great burden, while as tensed up as a drawn bowstring.

I look around me in my dream. I am surrounded by unfamiliar woodland. I realise I am totally, utterly lost, which only intensifies my feeling of desolation. Now I am clearly running out of energy, so I stop to catch my breath for a moment in this open forest. I'm panting, my lungs and every muscle in my body is screaming loudly in protest. My arms and legs shake and everything's going black.

I am standing on a worn track and ahead of me is a hazy figure, the first person I have seen in hours. A woman, I think, maybe a young but statuesque girl in pigtails. She looks overweight.

I don't want to talk to anyone in this state of mind. So I step off the track for a moment, lean against a tree. My legs wobble, everything hurts ... until almost without realising it, I find my ribs and head don't hurt any more. I know that will seize up if I stop, so I rejoin the path.

Good, the girl's gone. I can run. I do run. I remember that I live to run. To pound the ground, drown the sound.

Now I am on the floor, in my dream. I lay unable, unwilling to move even if I could. My ribs hurt badly again, and my head, my lips parched and I can taste the unmistakable metallic flavour of blood. As well as desperate exhaustion, I sense the pain of desolation that is overwhelming, but cannot for the life of me remember any reason why I should feel this way.

I know who I am, of course. I'm Tommy, Tommy Barlow, and I was born in 1958, in Nottingham, to Ann and Alan Barlow. I was recently married to my childhood sweetheart Sally. Yes, dear sweet Sally. I know that I am an engineer, because I can remember working a lathe. Lying here in deep woodland, I can smell that ever-present aroma of hot lubricant oil from the lathe as my skin oils boil in the merciless sun, but everything else is hazy.

I know that I have an overwhelming desire to lose everything, I want to forget, I need to let it all go, every single thing. It's hard to do though, when I have those stark images burned into my brain.

I want to scream but I need to breathe in order to make a sound and it hurts too much to draw breath. There's something wrong with my lungs, like I am drowning.

Even with my eyes shut, the welcoming inky blackness clears and those horrible images return, etched onto the inside of my eyelids in full colour to torment me. Along with a soundtrack, which fills my ears and echoes in my mind, filling me up with abject horror. At least with my eyes open I can only see the clear blue sky.

I think I want to die. No, I don't just think that, I know that I want to die. Die of embarrassment, or is that shame?

My life, in fact any kind of meaningful existence for me, is over. Finished, ended, as if I had never lived. I wish I had never existed, because then I wouldn't hurt so much. If only the pain I feel now would blank out those unbearable pictures.

Where the hell is the "are you sure you want to delete?" button when you want it? Of course I want to delete, yes!

Now I cannot breathe at all. It is as if I'm gasping on my own suffocating sorrow. Like a drowning man I am going under for the last time and I thrash my arms and legs in a desperate bid to get to the surface and draw one last gasping breath. Not to live longer but to taste that life-giving air one last time. Just one final breath. One brief reprise to endure, before that inevitable, welcoming, long time gone. Only a singular gobbet of air to taste and savour before the final hurrah. Then I can sink to my rest for eternity. That's all I want, nothing more.

But then, against both my will and better judgment, my aching lungs insist on breathing a second time, mostly air, but take in some choking liquid too. Perhaps I don't want to die, maybe there's hope for me yet? But no, how can there be hope when I know, I'm absolutely convinced, that all hope has gone? I rationalise that this is not my conscious state wanting to live, more likely my unwilling bid for air is just an automatic survival instinct. My body wants to hopelessly carry on without reason, to continue to exist in spite of myself.

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