tagNovels and NovellasJogging Memories Ch. 02

Jogging Memories Ch. 02


CHAPTER TWO: Remember to forget

"John Doe"

I'm dreaming again, I see flashing lights in the otherwise total blackness. I can see nothing but those lights. My head and ribs are hurting. I stumble around like I'm pissed or something. I roll and keep on rolling. Out of control, limp like a doll, I roll and I hit a tree. I look around and it is lighter. There are trees all around me and I have absolutely no idea where I am. I am cold and wet and I hurt all over. I can't even remember who I am.

I understand that something terrible has happened, though, and that I wanted to, needed to, shut it all out. I didn't want to know what it was. There were images that I didn't ever want to remember. I needed to bury them, destroy them, everything else that was lost was simply collateral, everything else didn't matter, I didn't even matter. But now they, the nurse and the visitor, they want me to remember.

I gave it all up, remember? I let everything slip away, I was gone, I really wanted to go but then she pulled me back. Who's "She" I wonder?

Now I am trying to remember everything, really I am, honest.

Suddenly "John Doe" sits upright.

"I'm Tommy, you know, Tommy Barlow and I was born in 1958, in Nottingham, to Ann and Alan Barlow. I know that I am an engineer, I work a lathe, and I'm happily married to Sally. We've no children yet but we are going to be trying for one as soon as we get somewhere permanent to live."

"All right, Tommy," soothed the male nurse, Ben, "You just relax now and I'll fetch the doctor in a moment or two."

"Yeah, I need a doctor, I can't open my eyes."

"Your eyes are covered up for now, Tommy, while they recover. I'll leave you with Helen here to keep you company for a minute."

"Hi Tommy," said the young woman's voice, gentle and reassuring, "I am so glad you are awake, we were really worried about you."

"Was it you I was speaking to earlier?"

"Yes, but you were only awake for a couple of minutes before you dropped off again for twenty minutes or so."

"You held my hand."

"Yes, I did."

"It was nice."

"Yes ... it was."

"How long have I been here?"

"Four days now ... it's Halloween tonight."

"Halloween? ... Isn't that in November?"

"No, it's the last night of October."

The injured man fell silent. Helen considered that face again. Images filling her head, ranging from the stricken white, blood splattered death mask she first encountered up in the woods, through the passive almost completely bandaged face of the last few days, until the one she had seen this morning after they had removed the breathing tubes and only had the pads over his eyes and the bandage holding his head dressing in place.

His eyes were blue, grey-blue she remembered. Helen had seen them staring up at the sky. That was when she thought he was dead. He had closed them when she poured water over him. She saw them again, very briefly while the paramedics tried to assess how close to consciousness he was. She would like to see them again, to know that he could see and be restored and whole once more.

She marvelled, yet again, how wonderfully swift his recovery appeared to be. She couldn't believe that he had made it this far. Tommy. He said his name was Tommy. It was a young man's name. Either Thomas or Tom would suit him better. Those were mature men's names and Tommy was not a young man any more.

Soon he would be fit again, she thought. Fit! Yes, she smiled. He was fit in every sense of the word, despite being older even than her Mum. He had a strikingly handsome face, long and lean, high cheekbones, a strong nose, a wide, generous smiling mouth. She had been watching him for so long she knew every line in his uncovered face. It looked untroubled, his brow relatively unfurrowed, the only lines being creases around his mouth, his smile. Tommy compared very favourably to her own father, who she hardly ever saw nowadays. Ever since he ran off with a woman Helen's age and had another kid three or four years ago, a half-sister Helen didn't know or want to know. No, Tommy would be a great catch for Sharon, Helen's Mum, if only Tommy wasn't already married. To Sally, she thought he had said a moment ago.

Now he was awake, lying silent, but hardly relaxed. His mind, Helen imagined, must be running at 100 miles an hour. What was he thinking?

"I'm Helen, by the way," she introduced herself.

"Hello, Helen, nice to meet you. Are you a nurse?"

"No, just a visitor, really. The doctors asked me to stay and talk to you," she said, "I - I found you on a track running through the woods on Sunday."

"Woods? What woods?"

"Birkinshaw Woods."

"Where's that?"


"No idea where that is either, I'm sorry."

"Chesterfield, in Derbyshire."

"What am I doing here? Nottingham must be 25 miles or so away. I don't even have a car to get up here."

"Maybe you ran all the way," Helen laughed.

"That's a nice laugh," Tommy said, automatically, it was the only nice thing to come into his confused world since he woke up, other than her soft warm hand. "Sorry, Miss, I said that thought out loud. I er, didn't mean to er..."

"That's all right," Helen giggled, "I am just so pleased to see that you are not only awake but feeling so much better. I was so worried, when I found you; you were as pale as a ghost. Now, though, you are as red as a tomato!"

"Well, I'm embarrassed. Me, a newly-married man, being caught red-handed and red-faced, chatting up a pretty woman."

"If you could see me, you'd know I am not that pretty." Her voice faded away as that bastard Bruce came to mind again; he had called her pretty once, or at least he made her believe she was before he moved into her flat, before he started abusing her. That was a long time ago, before she dumped him and moved back in with Mum.

"I think you sound lovely. Yes, a bit on the posh side but loverly, er, Helen, was it?"

"Yes, Helen Bister, I was jogging on Sunday morning and took a short cut through the woods. I never usually go through there; I was a bit lost and following more of an animal track than a proper path. I was trying to find a short cut."

"Are you telling me that it was lucky I was discovered at all?"

"Well, I don't know about that ... but you were in an isolated spot and in a pretty bad way."

"I was a mess then, was I?"

"Yes, you were, actually. I - I didn't think you would pull through and the paramedics -"


"The paramedics, the ambulance men?" Helen explained, "They were efficient but they clearly looked unhappy. They said all the right positive things they are supposed to say to me but they didn't sound that confident you'd pull through."

"Well, I'm here now, thank goodness. Someone needs to get in touch with my wife," Tommy said, "Let her know where I am. I think she sent me up the shops for something ... milk, that's it, a pint of silver top milk. That was the main thing I went for, milk for her tea, plus a few other things. She gave me a list ... and I was out of cigarettes, an'all. Only don't tell her about the ciggies, she thinks I've given them up."

"You didn't have a phone on you, Tommy. What's your wife's number? You are not supposed to use phones in here but perhaps I could give her a quick ring?"

"No, we are not on the phone, yet. We rent a small flat, sort of, just the upstairs half of a converted house really. We've just the two rooms and a bathroom. Haven't been married very long. You know, lots of bills coming in, not much in the way of savings. Only my wages, and with me stuck in here, I don't know how we'll manage. I don't get no sick pay at Laleham's."

Just then the doctor came into the side ward with the nurse, Ben.

"Well, Mr Barlow is it?" asked the doctor.


"Well, I'm Doctor Harding. You have been of some concern to us for the last few days, Mr Barlow. Let me know how you feel?"

"Well, I can't see nothing at the moment, Doc. I think you'd better run down what happened to me, cos, quite frankly, I don't have a clue where I am and what went on."

"OK, for a start you are in Chesterfield Royal Hospital. You were admitted on Sunday, with aggravated injuries. You were in severe shock, having lost a lot of blood from an earlier wound and severely dehydrated. You have stitches in head and arm wounds and two broken ribs. Your hands were badly bruised and lacerated while you were defending yourself from the beating you received, which is why they are presently wrapped up in bandages. We also kept you heavily sedated since you came in. That was to stop you unconsciously interfering with the breathing and intravenous tubes. Other than a tube lung insertion, to drain off fluids from a punctured lung, you have nothing to worry about and should be out of here in the next week or so. I think you could probably start jogging again in about two or three weeks."


"Yes, you are clearly a regular runner, you came in wearing jogging shorts and top. We had to cut them off you of course, but your socks and trainers should be fine to use, although your trainers, particularly the right shoe, are heavily bloodstained."

"Everyone keeps talking about me running, Doc. I never run, well, not since games periods at school. I like my pint and a fag too much. Also, I've been dying for a fag since I woke up. I doubt I'd have enough puff in me on a good day to catch the bus, even without a hole in my lung."

"You was wearin' some pretty fancy trainers, for a guy what don't run much," chipped in Ben. "Them trainers must a' cost a hundred and twenty quid, easy."

"They can't be mine then, I don't take home that much in a month at Laleham's. What with the rent, I can hardly afford the bus fare to work. It's too far to run to from home anyway, at least three or four miles."

There was a silence for a moment. Ben chipped in with "Them Saucony Hurricanes running shoes, they is pretty well worn, so maybe you picked them up from a charity shop?"

"A charity shop?"

"Mr Barlow," Doctor Harding said, "I can assure you that you have the physique of someone who runs considerable distances and with some regularity. I doubt you have a gram of excess fat on your body. I'd also be very surprised if you have been a smoker or even much of a drinker for many years. Certainly nothing came up on the toxicology report for either nicotine or alcohol. So, before leaving you here in Ben's most capable hands, is there anything else you feel you want to ask me?"

"I'll think of something Doc, right now, though, I think I need to rest. I've got a lot to think about, to be honest, I'm more'n a bit confused."

"Good idea," Harding replied, scribbling notes in the patient record at the foot of the bed. "Rest is the best medicine that I can prescribe, Mr Barlow. I can understand you being a little disorientated. However, I believe the police will want to speak to you now that you are awake."

"Oh? Really? What am I supposed to have done?"

"Nothing you should be ashamed of, I assure you, Mr Barlow. You've been on the local news twice this week, to my knowledge. Quite the celebrity. Anyway, I must be on the rest of my rounds, now. Rest easy today, Mr Barlow, keep taking in as much liquid as you can and I'll see you again tomorrow morning."

The doctor left the room with Ben in tow, leaving Tommy and Helen alone.

"He's always as brusque as that, Mr Barlow. Seems to go with the territory. The nurse says he's the best doctor they have."

"The nurse?"

"Yes Ben, he is the nurse."

"But he's a man, with a really thick accent I can't place, it sounds a bit odd."

"Yes, I think he is African, from Nigeria I think. I didn't actually ask him where he was from. He's done a great job of looking after you though. He's very nice, too. And he's quite handsome!" Helen giggled, "Did you want a drink? There's some cold water here, Mr Barlow."

"Yes thanks," Tommy was quieter now. "Please call me Tommy, Helen, you make me sound like my old Dad."

"OK, Tommy," Helen grinned, pouring some water for him and helping him get the end of the bendy drinking straw in his mouth.

Helen wondered whether to ask him for any more information. She was itching to find out what had happened to Tommy. She had heard snippets of conversation between the uniform policeman and the new woman detective who was down to see him yesterday. Her mother, Sharon, had heard a few things as well and they had tried to put the facts they had gleaned together this morning when Helen relieved her. Between them they had tried to cover as many of the hours between eight in the morning and ten at night. During the week Sharon was free of work so she often popped in during the night if she couldn't sleep, like she had last night.

The nursing staff, even the policeman at the scene that first day, were sympathetic to their almost continual presence. Especially that first day when nothing at all was known about him and Helen had been their sole source of information. That state of affairs had continued through to Wednesday.

In just the last two days, though, it had emerged that Tommy, still referred in the news broadcasts as "John Doe", had became regarded as something of a hero. It seems that he had bravely taken on two potential abductors, probable intent on becoming rapists, after they had dragged a young girl off the established footpath through the woods into an isolated clearing. Tommy had diverted their attention enough to release their grip on the girl, who was able to run off to safety, unharmed. Then the thugs set about beating this poor man almost to his death, kicking in his ribs and his head.

Once Ben returned, Helen left the room to go ring her Mum with the news, knowing that she would probably drop everything and come up to the Royal. At the doorway she took a backwards glance at him. Tommy lay there silently in the hospital bed, long and lean and vulnerable, still unable to see, his eyes covered in bandages, occupied with his thoughts.

Helen's heart went out to him.


It was a dank early November morning. Everything dripped from the heavy overnight dew. Fallen leaves, blown down in the storms of several nights ago, were blocking the drains and there were puddles everywhere. Such a contrast to the beautiful Indian Summer weather they had enjoyed until a few days ago.

Detective Constable Rachel Webster hurried from the car park towards the hospital main entrance. She hadn't been in the Royal Hospital on two consecutive days since the time she had been a beat constable, some two years or so ago. Back then she regularly came down here to A&E, or Casualty as it was once known.

Yeah, she remembered those Friday and Saturday nights. She was often down here on those two nights for longer than she was at the Station all the rest of the week. It was all so different now that she had moved over to CID, though. She had to start at the bottom of course, though, doing all the crap jobs.

This one came through as a crap job, a five-minute exercise that even the "lame duckie" of the department as "Hermann" put it, could handle. "Hermann" Goring was her duty inspector. He'd been a detective in this normally quiet town for twenty years, and thought he had nothing more to learn and resented anyone new coming into his domain, particularly when he knew they were brighter and smarter than he was. And, Rachel being a woman to boot... Yeah, Inspector David "Hermann" Goring was a bastard and Rachel would remain the put-upon rookie until someone retired further up the chain and another forlorn hope from uniform branch became the new recruit. Only then would Rachel be taken seriously, or at least she hoped so.

Now this so-called crap job was beginning to blossom into something just a little bit special, with the local and regional news channels interested. Rachel suspected that "Hermann" wanted back in, but Rachel wasn't letting go, not yet, anyway. She laughed, what "Hermann" didn't know yet was that "John Doe" was awake.

She had seen the side ward that the injured man was in yesterday. Nothing much had changed she thought, looking around. The two women were there again, naturally. There was always at least one of them there; now with the news of his waking up they were both present. She had checked their names in her notebook before coming over, just to make sure she knew who was who. Helen was the younger girl, not much younger than me, she thought, still living at home with her mum, Sharon, who had, reading between the lines, been acrimoniously divorced as the injured party in the last few years.

Rachel had been considering on her way over, whether to kick the two girls out while she interviewed the hero, or keep them present. If they were on her side she'd get the inside track on anything they had already learned or would pick up from him later when she wasn't able to be there.

I'll play it by ear, she thought, although the fact that "Hermann" would have kicked them out without a second thought, went a long way to make her lean towards keeping both the Bister women involved.

"Good morning," Rachel opened, with as cheerful a smile on her face as she could muster, summoning up an image of a bare-buttocked "Hermann", bent over the Sergeants' mess room desk, certainly helping her in this respect.

"Hello, Detective," Sharon replied with a matching smile.

"Hi," chimed in Helen, also smiling broadly.

"Who's that?" asked Tommy, still with two smaller patches than previously completely covering his eyes.

"I'm Detective Constable Rachel Webster, Mr Barlow, please call me Rachel. I just want to ask you a few questions about what happened to you on Sunday. I take it you still can't see anything, then?"

"I think my eyes are going to be OK, Rachel, thanks. Call me Tommy, please, everyone else does. Ben changed the dressings this morning, maybe an hour ago, with the lights down as low as he could manage it and still see what he was doing. And I could see the lights without being able to focus, yet. Made me head spin, though, I can tell you, and has given me a bit of a headache since."

"Sorry to hear that. Are you all right to answer a few questions for me? I can always come back later if not," asked Rachel, putting down her bag and starting to pull a chair from against the wall to across the bed from where the two ladies were sitting together.

"No, that's all right, you fire away when you are ready, but I have to say I can't remember much."

Helen resolutely kept to her chair but Sharon reluctantly started to rise, saying, "Do you want-"

Rachel waved her back down, "That's alright, this is a pretty informal interview, I need to take a few notes but don't need to record this or anything. A formal statement can wait until Mr Barlow's, sorry, Tommy's fit to come down to the station."

"I've been trying to think, Rachel, but I really can't remember anything I can put my finger on." Tommy said, "I can see flashing lights, in fact I can see that it is night and day, it's been raining. I can feel the pain from my injured head and ribs. Trees, I see blasted trees everywhere, I think I rolled around a bit and hit one of the trees."

"Well it wasn't raining on Saturday night or Sunday," chipped in Helen, trying to cut herself off, realising that she wasn't supposed to be talking or adding to the conversation.

"Heavy dew, possibly," suggested Rachel, ignoring the interjection, "Just like this morning. Really autumnal out there it is today. It was lovely out on that Sunday, though, probably the last summery day of the year. The Docs think you were exposed to the elements for at least a couple of hours and another witness reckons you must've been there for about two and a half hours before Miss Bister here, found you."

"Call me Helen, please, Rachel," smiled Helen. Rachel nodded in reply.

"I have racked my little brain since waking yesterday and I cannot remember a thing, since about the 15th, I think. It was a Thursday and I had to go up the shops to put in my pools coupon and buy a bottle of milk and a packet of smokes before the corner shop shut. There was some other stuff that Sally wanted as well, but I forget what they were. Then I was going to have a pint in The Cobbler's in Union Street on the way home, maybe have a game of bar billiards."

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