The Men In The Shadows is almost finished and the last few chapters will be published soon. But in the meantime heres a little short story…
Seven miles to go. He was making good time. The road was empty and the car was behaving itself. The radio was playing “Happy” by Pharrell Williams. He took this as a good sign. Today would be a happy day.
Six miles to go. He knew exactly what he’d do when he got there. He’d park the car and walk along the old footpath that led to the hill. From there it was just a ten minute walk uphill and then he’d see it. It was a special place. A secret place. Their place.
Five miles to go. He thought back to how they first met. The walking holiday. Both of them single. Both of them wanting and hoping they might meet someone with the same interests. The endless jokes about her rucksack. He said it was bigger than she was and he was right. She was so petite.
Four miles to go. They’d swapped numbers. He called her as soon as he got home. They arranged to meet. Georgios in the city. He had pizza. She had Carbonara. She wanted to pay but he was having none of it. He was the man and that’s what men did. He kissed her for the first time that night. She tasted of cheese sauce and bacon. Two things he loved most in the world.
Three miles to go. Within a month she’d moved into his flat. They became inseparable. They did everything together and every year on September 14th they went to their special place. It was the place where he’d first plucked up courage to talk to her. They’d been walking and stopped at a large Oak tree on a hill. He offered her a liver sausage and onion sandwich. She accepted and laughed at his choice of fillings.
Two miles to go. He couldn’t really pin point the day it all started to go wrong. It just did. Little things started to irritate her. She said she didn’t like him picking out her clothes for her. Stupid really because he just wanted her to look her best. Suddenly she decided she wasn’t happy being at home all the time. But he’d made her give up her job because she always looked so tired. Besides, a womans place was in the home. All she had to do was clean and cook.
One mile to go. She said he was controlling. What did that mean? He had no idea. If making all the decisions on the home, holidays, food, clothes, her hair and make up was controlling, then perhaps he was. But it was just to make her life a lot easier. She didn’t have to worry about anything. Just have his tea on the table at 17.57 every evening and that was it.
Half a mile to go. Almost there. He was sure that by now she would have come to her senses. She left on a Wednesday. He’d come home from work and she was gone. No note. Nothing. It was a shock. No tea ready. He had to get fish and chips that night. Which was upsetting because they only had fish and chips on a Friday! That was six months ago. Today was September 14th. Their day. He knew she’d be here.
He pulled into the car park and stopped by the Pay and Display machine. He bought a ticket. It was fifty pence but she was worth it.
He started his journey up the hill and was soon in sight of their special place. He could see a small figure standing at the top of the hill. He smiled. He knew she’d be here.
As he got closer he realised something was different. Something was wrong. Then he realised. The Oak tree was gone. It didn’t matter. At least she was there.
He was less than six feet away from the small framed figure in front of him. The person was looking down at the ground where the Oak tree had fallen. Sawdust was everywhere.
He spoke her name.
The figure turned. To his surprise it wasn’t Doris at all. It was an old man in his seventies. The old man spoke.
“Scandalous isn’t it. Beautiful tree like this vandalised. Someone came here in the early hours of this morning with a chain saw and cut the thing down.”
“Was that anywhere near you Jake?”
Jake heard his name mentioned but was too busy munching on a piece of toast.
“Sorry dad. What was that?”
His dad was staring at the television.
“Hunstanton. It’s in Norfolk somewhere. Is it anywhere close to where you did that course?”
Jake shook his head. Then smiled.
“No dad. It’s about seventy miles from where I did the course. Geography was never your strong point, was it? Why?”
His dad grinned.
“Cheeky bugger. Some blokes been found dead in a ditch up there. They reckon it was some kind of contract killing.”
Jake pretended to know nothing about it.
“Really? Who is he?”
“No name yet. His car was found a mile away. Posh sports car. Obviously a rich bloke.”
Jake carried on eating his breakfast. His mum put a mug of tea in front of him.
“So Jake. What’s your plans for today?”
He sipped his tea and mopped up the last bit of egg with his toast.
“Well, I’ve got to get over to North London this morning to see a recruitment consultant. The people that ran the course recommended them. Not sure if they can place me in work or not but it’s worth a try.”
His mum’s face lit up.
“That’s great news Jake. Who wouldn’t want a smart man like you working for them especially now you’ve passed that Computer exam.”
Jake smiled and took hold of his mums’ hand.
“Thanks mum. But I’m not getting my hopes up too much. Especially when I have to explain what I’ve been doing for the past ten years.”
There was an awkward silence for a few seconds. Then Jake stood up.
“But I’ve been thinking seriously about things. I’ll try for another couple of weeks to get a job in computing. If I can’t then I’ll go and see Uncle Tom and start work with him.”
Jakes Dad agreed.
“That’s a great idea. I know your mother’s not a big fan of Uncle Tom, she thinks he’s a bit dodgy, but he’s got a heart of gold. And if you work hard for him, he’ll look after you. Me and your mum fully understand that you need some time to yourself after everything you’ve been through, but there comes a time when you have to get back to normal.”
His mum didn’t say a word. Just nodded.
Jake put his arms around both of them.
“Agreed. I just need a couple of weeks to get a few things sorted out and then everything can get back to normal.”
He left the kitchen and went upstairs to take a shower. He took his time getting ready, there was no rush. He wanted to be over in Hampstead for eleven o’clock. He hadn’t slept much during the night. He was hatching a plan for Charlie Spinks. Today would be all about preparation.
He walked towards the railway station but didn’t catch a train. He got a cab from the taxi rank outside.
“Hampstead please mate. Royal Free Hospital.”
It was only ten miles away but the traffic through London was horrific. It took almost an hour. Jake wasn’t worried about the cost. He still had plenty of money left over from his visit to Colin Brown. The cabbie dropped him at the main entrance to the hospital, Jake gave him forty quid and told him to keep the change.
From the main entrance he could see two pubs. To his right was “The Roebuck” and to the left was “The George”. Both of them were close but not suitable. The visitors car park outside would obscure his view. There was no way he’d be able to see who was going in or out.
He entered the building and went up to the main reception. An attractive woman in her thirties smiled at him.
“Can I help you?”
“Yes. My dad is coming in here next week for the start of his chemo treatment. I’m just trying to find out where he’ll have to go. I don’t want it to be confusing for us on his first day. Will he have to come in via the main entrance?”
“Yes. He’ll come in here and then he’ll need to go up to the second floor. That’s where the treatment centre is.”
She pointed to an area behind Jake.
“The lifts are just over there. Second floor. When you get out of the lift, turn right and the treatment room is on the left. It’s well signposted.”
Jake smiled at her.
“Thank you. You’ve been very helpful. Just one more thing. I’ll be staying with him while he’s having the treatment. Is there a quiet area where I can read a book or get a coffee?”
“There is. You can either stay with him in the room or next door is a waiting room. It’s nice and quiet and there’s a coffee and snack machine in there as well.”
Once again Jake thanked her and walked away. But he didn’t leave the building. He walked over to the lifts. The doors opened and Jake pressed the button for the second floor. He turned right out of the lift and saw the treatment room on his left. He walked in.
The room was large and open plan. Around the edges were beds and chairs. Most were full of men and women. Beside them were frames holding drip feeds. Jakes assumed these must hold the chemo drugs. In the centre of the room was a round reception desk. Someone tapped him on the shoulder. He turned round and saw a male nurse in front of him.
“Can I help you?”
Jake kept calm.
“I was looking for a relative of mine who’s having treatment here but I can’t seem to find him.”
“What’s his name?”
“Spinks. Charlie Spinks.”
The nurse smiled.
“Ahh big Charlie. Nice man. He comes in on Tuesdays and Fridays around midday. So you’re a day early I’m afraid. He usually comes in with his sister Alice.”
Jake was grateful for the information. He wasn’t expecting Charlie to be with someone else. He acted disappointed.
“Damn. I was hoping to see him. But I’ll pop back in on Friday. Please don’t mention that I’m coming. I want it to be a big surprise.”
The male nurse agreed and Jake walked away.