tagNovels and NovellasJogging Memories Ch. 05

Jogging Memories Ch. 05

bySpencerfiction©

CHAPTER EIGHT: Jennifer at home

"I've spoken to Detective Webster at the end of last week and she's told me so little about you," Alicia Knight said to Tommy, "She didn't think it was a good idea for me coming to see you while you were still poorly but I so wanted to. I hope you don't think it too much of a cheek."

"No, that's perfectly all right, Mrs Knight-"

"Please call me Alicia, Mr Barlow."

Tommy grinned, "OK, Alicia, but only if you call me Tommy."

Alicia reddened a little, smiling nervously, a couple of dimples appearing fleetingly in her rounded cheeks.

"Look, Alicia, I can't speak to you for very long today, as my Mum and a couple of detectives are coming back from lunch any minute, but I'd like a longer chat later on, if that's OK?"

"That'd be great, shall I come back tonight?"

"Why not? I'm not expecting any visitors so it could be a bit flat around here otherwise. Shall we say seven?"

"You've got a date," Alicia flashed her dimples again with a brilliant smile and continued, "See you later, then," turning and disappearing out of the door just as his mother and the two detectives returned from their luncheon.

<<<>>>

It seemed like this was a very nice neighbourhood, Rachel Webster noted, leafy avenues in a private estate dating probably from the 1930s. It was a cut above where she lived, a small mid-terrace Victorian house she started buying with her then boyfriend shortly before they split up, leaving her struggling since with little spare after making the repayments. This street was made up of semi-detached houses, many extended, with extra bedrooms over the garages and dormer windows in some of the tiled roofs. Neatly trimmed hedges, immaculate lawns everywhere, covered in bright red and brown fallen leaves shed by the many mature trees set in grass verges in the generously wide pavements. Rachel pulled up in front of one of the houses and checked the house number against her notes, which tallied. She got out and locked up her car. Glancing round the scene, while she did so, she thought the location was very agreeable. The Morris house was not unusual in comparison with the others. It hadn't been extended over the garage, like maybe a quarter of the others in the street, but the house looked as though it had been recently fitted with double-glazed windows and everything looked neat and tidy.

"Good morning, Mrs Jennifer Morris?" Rachel asked of the short, quite chunky but well dressed blonde woman who answered the door, as she presented her warrant card, "I'm Detective Constable Rachel Webster from the Chesterfield police force, I believe you are expecting me this morning?"

"Yes, come on in Detective, I was warned by the local station that you would be by at ... well, exactly at this time."

Rachel noticed that the woman was nervous, a natural enough response when a member of the public is unused to dealing with the police. In this neighbourhood, that was more than likely what should be expected.

The interior of the house was as neat and tidy as the outside, a bit too prim and fussy for Rachel's personal taste. It seemed to belong to an older woman than Mrs Morris looked. Rachel knew from her research that Mrs Morris was fifteen years younger than her husband.

Rachel was led through the spacious hall and sitting room into the large light and airy conservatory, which seemed to occupy the whole of the back of the house. There was a large area of decking between the conservatory and the garden, Rachel noted through the picture windows. The garden was large and laid down to lawns, shrub and flower beds filled with brightly-coloured winter pansies, with a shed on one side and what looked like a neatly fenced-off vegetable patch behind that. A large greenhouse was situated next to the shed, still showing bright peppers ripening inside, the misted-up windows indicating the presence of some form of heating inside. The row of semi-detached houses were some 150 yards away, so much of the garden was private and secluded.

The mistress of the house offered her a choice of tea or coffee. Rachel expressed the thought that a cup of tea would make a nice change. Jennifer Morris disappeared into the kitchen through another set of French doors from the conservatory.

Rachel took the opportunity to look around the conservatory. Nice solid bamboo furniture, a couple of groups each of settees and armchairs around coffee tables made for comfortable arrangements for coffee mornings or afternoon teas. A Welsh dresser at the back between the two doorways was filled with decorative plates and photo frames. The conservatory was double- or possibly even triple-glazed, with ceiling blinds currently retracted, allowing the wan winter sunshine to light up the room within and show off the garden outside. She had noted on her way through to the back, the large wall-mounted TV screen in the sitting room. This was a comfortable house for a family of five.

The Welsh dresser had a number of photos on it. Tommy was featured in relatively few of them, mostly only when paired with Jennifer. Clearly, thought Rachel, he was the main photographer in the family. There were a number of photos of their three children, two tall and very handsome boys wreathed in smiles and an unhappy girl who appeared to be hiding behind her hair in all her recent photos, in contrast to more carefree poses in her much younger snaps. Rachel was filled with sympathy for the girl, being immediately reminded of her own difficult teenage years.

Jennifer came through with a tray of tea things and put it down on the coffee table. Rachel moved to one of the settees next to where Jennifer stood and they sat down together. There was a plate of sweet biscuits on the tray but Rachel decided not to indulge. Jennifer was nervous and, after pouring the tea, picked up and put the cup and saucer down more often than was strictly necessary and sipped at it continually, bird-like, without drinking much at all, it seemed. She didn't touch the biscuits either.

"How is my husband?" Jennifer quietly asked as soon as they had sat down.

"Well, he was severely injured, beaten up by two assailants and left for dead," Rachel watched Jennifer for her reaction. The woman put her hands to her mouth; her eyes wide open in shock. That looked like a genuine reaction, thought Rachel.

"He's making excellent progress, though," Rachel continued gently, "The medical staff's more than happy with his rapid rate of recovery. I spoke to Doctor Harding this morning and he thought your husband should be allowed home within a day or two at the most."

"Oh, that's a relief," Jennifer replied, "I was worried when the local police station told me they thought they had found my Bob and that he was in hospital. I, well, I feared the worst."

"The local officer told me you said that there was an argument between you, which led to you believing that perhaps your husband had left you, is that right?"

"Yes, yes," Jennifer replied with some agitation, "But only on a temporary fit of sulking. After all, it was just a minor tiff, the usual married couple sort of thing, nothing of any real importance. Certainly no terminal break, you understand. I fully expected him to come back immediately after his run. When he didn't come back by Sunday lunchtime, I was angry with him rather than upset about the row and I thought he might have stayed away to sulk for a day or two. At that point I wasn't really worried about him at all. To be honest, I thought 'Sod him!' for being so petty about it all and staying away to sulk."

"Do you mind if I ask what specifically the argument was about?" asked Rachel, wondering what the woman had to hide.

Without batting an eyelid, Mrs Morris lied, "If you must know, it was a number of things: firstly, about his obsession with jogging, it was taking up so much time that it was impinging on the lives of our family and our relationship. Secondly, I started working part-time a little while ago, hoping by contributing more to the household income, Bob could afford to come off shifts and work a normal week again. I was prepared to step up my hours to help in that regard. He was just being stubborn about everything. Being the main wage owner. I interpreted it as a 'man' thing."

Rachel smiled at that, hoping Mrs Morris would relax a little, "What time did he leave the house on Sunday morning, Mrs Morris?"

"Call me Jennifer, please, Detective. We continued the row as soon as he came home from his night shift and he left I suppose about five-thirty. I had just woken up at the sound of him coming in. I didn't have my lenses in so didn't really look at the time exactly."

"You can call me Rachel, Jennifer. What was he wearing when he left?"

"Again I'm not sure, as it was still dark, we barely exchanged more than half a dozen tetchy words and then he was off and running as usual. He always went for a long ten-mile run and more at the end of his six-day spell of shifts. He never really felt the cold while he was on the move and running, so he would just have been wearing his shorts and singlet. As it was still pitch black out at that time in the morning I am sure he would have worn one of his lightweight high visibility vests over the top."

"He wasn't wearing the hi-vis vest when he was found, Jennifer, so it is likely that he discarded it somewhere during his run. It was unseasonably hot that October morning."

"Possibly, he has several styles and thicknesses of vests he could've worn, so he may've used and lost one without me noticing that one of them was missing. You said you are from the Chesterfield police force, did Bob run all the way to Chesterfield?"

"Not quite, he was found about three miles west of Chesterfield, a place called Holymoorside, but it looks like he was running for about six hours, probably without stopping."

"I told you that jogging was becoming a bit of an obsession, didn't I?" Jennifer said, shaking her head, "The officer at Buxton station also said something about Bob suffering from some memory loss?"

"Yes, he is having some difficulty remembering recent events."

"Huh! ... They wouldn't tell me anything at the station. What are his injuries?"

"His injuries are consistent with those of a severe beating: head trauma, broken ribs, punctured lung, bruising to both his hands, his torso and face. He was lucky he had no broken bones other than a couple of ribs. The main medical concern was that he had lost so much blood and was extremely dehydrated. He had a bad gash on his arm, too, which had been stitched up before his beating but had opened up sometime during his run."

"Oh my God," Jennifer gasped, "And he doesn't remember anything about what happened to him?"

"No, nothing definite. He has these dreams, which indicate that he was aware of the beating and injuries he sustained, of the trees and the bright sunlight. His eyes were burned in the bright sunlight and he only had the bandages covering his eyes removed yesterday, so he needs subdued lighting at present and for a few more days. He tires very quickly too."

"Is his sight going to be alright?"

"Should be fine after a few days, the Doc says."

"That's a relief," Jennifer said, "Have you been able to find out what happened to him?"

"Yes, we've pretty much put together a timeline of what happened to your husband," Rachel said, "A young girl came forward, another jogger, to tell us that she had just been abducted by a couple of foreign workers. She was in the process of being dragged off the main path when your husband flew into the party and distracted them. She managed to get away in the confusion, while he took the beating he got. The girl gave us pretty good descriptions of the two men and we've arrested and charged one suspect. He's not admitting anything presently but we are wearing him down with questioning and weight of forensic evidence. We think we know who his accomplice was but he's done a runner and gone back home to Eastern Europe. It's down to the Interpol guys to track him down now. We are hoping that your husband eventually remembers enough of what happened to back up or add to the young girl's statement and identification."

"So I guess Bob is a bit of a hero, then, is he?" Jennifer said, putting her teacup down again.

"I guess he is, even though he is very modest about it."

"He's a very quiet, modest man," Jennifer said quietly, almost to herself, "Oh, by the way, the gash wound on his arm was an industrial injury, that he sustained on Saturday night. I spoke to his foreman at work. Apparently he needed to correct something that had been assembled incorrectly and his tool slipped and caused the long deep cut. The private night nurse they have on duty at the plant patched him up before the end of the shift."

"That's why we couldn't find an official record of that injury. We tried all the A&E's around the area and nothing came up. Shows up a bit of a loophole in the system, actually. The hospital says that because the stitches came undone and the wound left open and exposed for so long, that he will be badly scarred on his arm. He might need skin grafts. Also, Doc Harding says that a psychiatrist is seeing him today, who will evaluate any treatment that he needs to counteract his memory loss."

"So he's in the Chesterfield Hospital is he?"

"Yes, the Royal, in Chesterfield Road on the A619."

"When can I go see him?"

"I should think you can go and see him at any time. These are the visiting times and this is the ward he is in. I have written the hospital address and postcode for your SatNav," Rachel said, tearing out a page from her notebook and placing it on the table.

"Thank you, Detective, that's very helpful of you."

Her tea finished, Rachel had just one more bit of information to add, "His memory loss doesn't just cover the events leading up to his attack," she paused, having wondered all the way over here how she was going to put this to Mrs Morris. There wasn't an easy way to tell someone that their loved one cannot remember who they are. "You need to be prepared for the fact that at first your husband may not recognise you at all, or your children."

"What do you mean, not recognise us? Has he suffered brain damage?"

"In a way yes. He has been informed about you and the children, accepting that the photo you took into the Buxton station must be him. He says he has no problem seeing you, but doesn't want to upset the children by being unable to recognise them."

"I'll visit him alone tonight then, and see how he is, before I take the kids along to see him. I'll get my friend Emma to sit with them."

"That sounds like a good idea. I'll drop in and see him before then and prepare ... Bob, for your visit."

"How far back has he lost his recent memory?"

"Thirty two years, he cannot remember anything after the middle of October ... 1981."

"What?!" Jennifer exclaimed.

"He still thinks of himself as a 23 year old man. What do you know of his family, his parents?"

"Only what he told us, that they died when he was young," Jennifer replied, still trying to assimilate the devastating news of her husband's state of mind, "He doesn't have any family left at all, only us."

"Do you have his birth certificate and passport?"

"Both'll be in our personal documents," she said, "I'll go fetch them."

She got up and went through to the sitting room and Rachel heard her open a drawer and start to sift through folders.

"When and where did you get married?" Rachel asked through the door.

"Thirteenth of February 1994, at St John's here in Buxton," Jennifer replied, "Why do you ask?"

"He was married once before, but that marriage was sort of ended in 1989."

"Sort of ended?" Jennifer sounded concerned as she returned through the door with a document folder in her hand, "What do you mean by that?"

"The marriage ended because he was officially declared deceased after being missing without any contact from him for seven years. His wife subsequently moved to Australia and has remarried a couple of times since, we understand."

"Well, he never told me that he had ever married before." Jennifer bit her lip, "Does that mean we are not legally married as he lied on his certificate about being married before?"

"Technically it should be illegal, I would think, as he didn't state his legal name on your marriage certificate. However, the onus would on you to challenge the marriage, if you wanted to. Otherwise you could continue as you are, as the courts would protect you and the children for your husband's continued support. He's not a bigamist as he certainly wasn't legally married to his first wife at the time when he married you."

"Oh, God! What a mess."

"He has a son he has never seen in Australia and a couple of grandchildren, too, according to his mother-"

"Mother? Bob's mother's still alive?"

"Yes, she was visiting him this morning at the hospital. The Doc thinks it possible that he may have lost his memory twice and this latest head trauma has brought back his old memories, and wiped out the later ones. He's not who you think he is."

"So who does Bob think he is?"

"He thinks he is Tommy Barlow."

<<<>>>

Ben came around the wards and the side wards with the medication trolley, between afternoon visiting time and before dishing up the evening meal, finding Tommy in a somewhat agitated mood.

"I dunno, Ben, I must be getting used to the idea that I am an old man and a pretty dirty-minded one at that. I wouldn't have looked twice at older ladies like Alicia Knight or Sharon Bister who were old enough to be my mother. Now I find I am flirting with them. I'm even doing the same with Rachel Webster and she's a police detective! I found myself chatting to Alicia earlier this afternoon and thinking how cute she was, in a rough sort of way. And I am ashamed to say that I keep getting boners, even got one looking at Alicia's arse, that wouldn't go down even when Mum and Ralph came back from lunch. I had to pretend I was reading a book and left it face down on my lap!"

"Nothin' wrong with that, man, it shows you's on the mend and healthy. I've seen the way Sharon and Helen look at you, Tommy; they think you're a handsome and charmin' man. That Alicia has probably got you in mind as the hero that saved her daughter from a fate worst than death."

"Really?" Tommy asked doubtfully, "Anyway, I think that I am still in love with my Sally, she was my childhood sweetheart, and she still seems so fresh in my mind. But she's married twice since and forgotten all about me at the other end of the world. I really can't imagine being in love with anyone else right now."

"Just remember, you got plenty of options, man, if it don't work out with this Jennifer lady."

"God! I'd forgotten all about her!" he exclaimed. "It looks like I'm in trouble with women whichever way I turn, aren't I?"

"Ain't that the truth, man! That's the fate of every single gentleman on the planet, Tommy. Take me, for example, I've got my Veronica keepin' me firmly on the straight and narrow and I don't even live with her. Damn woman wants me to move into her house with her and her kid. I get on well with young Frances, so no prob there, but that would leave my junior brother on his own and I don't think he'd cope. Gonna have to do somethin' about it, soon, though - I couldn't imagine the hassle of breakin' in a new woman!"

"Especially when Veronica's got you just where she wants you, huh?"

"Yeah man, you're readin' that right!"

CHAPTER NINE: Jen gets gen

Tommy's visitors had all departed, his mother the most reluctant of all to have to leave, before he had another returnee. This time it was Helen Bister.

"Hey, Tommy, how did today go with meeting your Mum?"

"Hello, Helen, I really missed you and your Mum today." Tommy's face was flushed bright as he looked up from the photo album.

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