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Monday 21 November 2022

Village Day - Chapter 2



An Accident Occurs!

    A black London taxi turned the corner into Buckingham Place finally coming to a stop behind a dark green Lotus Seve parked at the kerb outside the house of number 1.

    It was a perfectly ordinary looking house, but one of the larger ones on that side of the street, just one of many such houses to be found in the city of Westminster. Ground floor, basement and three upper floors, with a total of nineteen front windows, with window boxes at two ground floor windows either side of the front door above which was a white portico, and black spiked railings ran along the front of the house.

    Having paid the taxi driver his fare, the man dressed in a two piece grey suit and black shirt, stood on the pavement looking this way and that, and at the house. Curiously it was one of only two such houses in Buckingham Place to have grey looking shutters at the windows. He stared at the windows which stared back at him, empty, like black eyeless sockets, yet someone had been watering the two window boxes. His attention was then captured by the green, yellow nosed Lotus Seven parked at the kerbside. KAR 120C was the car’s registration number. He recognised the car instantly knowing it to be the owner’s pride and joy. After all he had built it with his own hands, and prided himself that he knew every nut, bolt and cog. Yet he had resented slightly the fact that he himself had not been allowed behind the wheel of the car. KAR 120C looked to be something of an enigma, true the house itself had no garage, and true it was often seen parked outside number 1 Buckingham Place, but why was it parked here if the owner appeared to be away, especially parked on a single yellow line? The hood was down, the car looked as though it was ready for its driver to appear from out of the house. It was clear the Lotus had not been parked there for long. Its paint work gleaming in the sunlight, as though it had only just this morning been polished. Perhaps Janet had had the car looked after, no, that wasn’t Janet’s style at all, she knew nothing about cars and cared even less about them. Standing at the side of the car he put a hand on the bonnet, it was cold. It was then that he noticed the three parking tickets upon the windscreen, all dated for that month, those together with a police warning notice. He removed the parking tickets, each carrying the statuary penalty of £2, payable to the city of Westminster Council, Wilton Road. The police warning notice stated that unless the vehicle was removed within 28 days this car would be towed away and impounded, held in a secure car park for 3 months, and if not collected in that time and the statutory fine of £50 paid, this car would be either sold or destroyed. Curiously there was no date upon the police notice, he screwed it up, together with the three parking tickets, and tossed them onto the passenger seat of the car. Then walking round the frontof the car, crossed the pavement and mounted the three steps leading up to the door of the house. He tried the door, then with clenched fist pounded upon it, but there was no-one there to answer his knocking.


    Turning his back on the house with his attention back to the Lotus, he descended the steps, crossing the pavement he crouched down at the rear near side wheel and from under the wheel arch collected a small black box, which contained a spare ignition key. This he tossed in the air in a gleeful manner, a broad grin upon his face as he caught the key and walked round the back of the car, climbed in, sliding behind the steering wheel, inserting the ignition key, turning it and firing up the engine. He pressed down upon the accelerator gunning the engine, the sound roaring between the two rows of houses of Buckingham Place. The engine sounded fine and it felt good to be behind the wooden steering wheel which he gripped gently but firmly in his hands. Did it still overheat in traffic, he wondered, well he was about to find out, as he pressed down on the clutch, engaged first gear and released the handbrake. Then pressing down on the accelerator and releasing the clutch, the Lotus Seven moved away from the kerb and turned left out of Buckingham Place, merging with the busy London traffic.

    He telephoned Janet Portland earlier that morning and arranged to meet her in Queen Mary’s Gardens in Regents Park. Parking the Lotus on Park Road, the man checked his watch, he was early, it was better like that sometimes, and looked cautiously both up and down Park Road for any old familiar faces, before making his way into Regents Park. It was a pleasant enough afternoon, people were enjoying themselves, boys playing football using their pullovers for goal posts, whilst another was flying his kite with his father or uncle or someone, other people lying on the grass reading, or having a picnic or simply walking the dog. Uniformed nannies pushing babies in their prams, and walking towards him as he approached the boating lake, crossing over Clarence Bridge an old salt dressed in naval cap, bushy moustache, double breasted blazer and grey flannel trousers. He was carrying a large grey painted battleship which was still dripping with water. At the lake side he might have purchased a bag of bread crumbs from a vendor in order to feed the ducks, whilst watching those messing about in boats upon the lake, but there was no time for that kind of nonsense, and he quickly made his way along paths to Queen Mary’s Gardens. He found Janet Portland waiting for him, she had been waiting for several minutes, she was early! At five feet two inches Janet’s figure was hardly slight, nor could he say plump, dressed in a light green sleeveless dress, with matching shoes, a pill-box hat and matching handbag. Her hairstyle fashionable as it was neat, in a debutante bob!

    As Janet saw the man approaching, she hesitated, she was nervous, and looked about her as though she had expected to have been followed. She saw no-one she recognized, save for the man now afew feet away.


    “It’s good to see you Janet” he told her, yet she looked tired and drawn, something which she had tried to hide beneath her make up.

    “I can’t tell you how good it is to see you, I’ve been out of my mind with worry” Janet told him.

    This he could see in the lines of her face and relieved no doubt to see him, “let’s walk shall we” he suggested offering his arm which Janet gladly took.

    “Why did we have to meet here?” she asked, trying to be nonchalant, but not making a very good job of it.

    “Well its public and out in the open, and besides I didn’t want to meet with your father Sir Charles. Best he doesn’t know I’m back just yet” the man explained as he guided Janet by his arm, his eyes carefully taking in everything about them.

    “You will help me, wont you?”

    “I will do all that I can, all that is within my power to do, that is all I can promise and all that anyone can do. He could be simply working, don’t you think, unable to contact you. You know the kind of work he does for your father, certainly it should come as no surprise to you that he may not be able to contact you for a year, perhaps longer.”

    Janet looked at the man whose arm she suddenly released “Oh don’t you start! You’re a great help, of course I knew that working for my father the way he did.”

    “Then your father……”

    “I told him that he knew where he is” Janet began to explain “all this time that he has known and he’s let me go through this hell. That he’s sent him on a mission and he can’t get in touch with me, my

fiancé. My father told me that he honestly doesn’t know if he can get in touch with me, that he hasn’t sent him on a mission. When I asked him, he said that I must realize that he is telling me more than I should,  that he shouldn’t even tell me that! Apparently even my father doesn’t know where he is, he told me that he has no idea. And when I told him that he must know someone who does, all he said was, there again I can’t help you! It’s awful, I don’t know whether he’s telling the truth or not.”

    “That’s Sir Charles for you, never could give a straightforward answer to a straightforward question, mind you he’ll not exactly welcome me back with open arms, and there’s the department…….”

    “But you’ll do what you can, I mean you will be able to find him?” Janet pleaded.

    “If he’s able to be found, if he wants to be found, of course I will.”

    Janet looked at the man sternly “What do you mean if he wants to be found?”

    They walked on “When did you last see your fiancé?”

    Janet looked at him with a tearful eye and fingered her engagement ring “It’s been over a year now, well there was that time when……” and there came a far away look in Janet’s eye.

    “Janet……. except for that time when…..” he prompted.


    The far away look in her eyes disappeared “Well it was strange really, it seems stupid now, I couldn’t explain it then and cannot explain it now,  but at the time it was like, well like losing him all over again.”

    “You mean he came back?” he asked.

    “No, well in a way….. at the time I thought…… There was this man you see, he said he was a friend, it all happened a few days before my birthday. I was walking down Buckingham Place and saw his car parked out his house, I thought he must be back, and couldn’t wait to see him. My heart was pounding as I rushed up the steps and knocked on the door, and then the surprise of having the door opened by a man who I had never seen before. I asked if he was with him, and this man told me that he was, so I brushed passed him into the hallway and called out for my darling, then went about the house looking for him.”

    “This man, what was he like?”

    “Perfectly ordinary, I asked him who he was, how he knew my name, what he was doing there and how he got hold of his car. He told me that my fiancé was here, when it was perfectly clear that he wasn’t! He said he was a friend and when I asked where he was, my fiancé, and why he left without a word to me he came up with some story about my fiancé seeing me last night, and told him that he had done so, that he had had dinner with me after the fitting for my dress of yellow silk. But I hadn’t seen him the previous night, that had been a year before, at the time I took him to the final fitting……. I haven’t seen him since.”

    He led Janet to a nearby bench and sat her down “So he made a mistake about the date.”

    “And the year’ Janet added “he couldn’t have seen him, even if he had he couldn’t have made that mistake. And then this man, who was acting very strangely admitted that he must have got it wrong. I asked him what he was doing there and how he got in. But he talked about the kind of work he did, and the possibility that he, my fiancé, may not be able to get in touch for a year, or even longer, well you know that. But then he told me that he may have a message for me soon. I asked him when and he told me that he would bring it to my birthday party.”

    “And did he?” he asked sitting next to her.

    “Yes, that was the strange thing, he knew things……..” And then that far away look in her eyes returned.

    “What was the message he had for you?”

    Janet looked at the man beside her “Simply a caress of a cheek, a gentle kiss to my cheeks and nose, then he embraced me, this stranger, and shared a long and passionate kiss, until he let me go…. but it wasn’t him you see, it was my fiancé, only he could have held and kissed me in that way,……. This stranger asked me who else could have given me that message, and I had to admit, not only to him, but to myself, and said………nobody but you. It was him, his mind in another man’s body. He explained to me all that had happened to him since his disappearance, his abduction, to a place called the village. They took away his identity and worse, it was incredible, unbelievable, and yet. He told me there was no-one left he could trust anymore, but that he needed my faith.”


    “I don’t understand?”
    “No neither did I. He asked me for something which he had left with me in case of trouble, a receipt of some kind.”
    “You gave it to him?”
    “And you haven’t seen him since?”

    The two of them sat in silence, Janet composing herself, he thinking how little he had to go on.

    “I’m sorry” she said suddenly “I forgot to ask how you are. How do you live, I haven’t seen anything of you, not since….”

    “I live from day to day, travelling the world, after all a man with my skills is never out of work, if one knows where to find it, and someone is always hiring new help.”

    “And my father doesn’t know you are back yet?”

    “He didn’t, but I’m not so sure about now” the man told him, recognising and old and familiar face two benches down.

    Janet turned to look “You mean the Nanny, could she be one of my father’s people?”

    “No but he is, the man wearing the grubby raincoat, sitting on the bench over there pretending to read the newspaper….. Potter, now he has seen me I have no doubt that your father knows I’m back. Potter would fall over himself in the rush to give Sir Charles Portland that piece of unwanted news.”

    Janet reached into her handbag and produced a photograph of her fiancé, and handed it to the man who was about to stand. Merely giving it a cursory glance he slipped it into his jacket pocket.

    “I have to leave you here, best that we do not leave together’ he told her rising on his feet.

    “You’ll let me know when you find him?” she asked.

    “It could take some time, my resources are limited” he told her.

    “Are you going to see my father?”

    “He’s on my list, but perhaps I’ll be seeing him sooner rather than later” he said glancing at the man called Potter.

    “Look, on second thoughts” helping Janet to her feet “let me get you a taxi home, walk briskly now.”

    Janet taken by the arm was moved briskly along the path and then across the well cut grass and through a gate onto the outer circle of Regents Park and finally the man hailed a taxi on Park Road.

    A black London taxi pulled over to where the couple were standing “Where to guv?” asked the driver.

    Eton Square, Belgravia” the man said opening the door and bundling Janet inside “stay at home and wait for my call.”


    Janet gave him a worried glance “If anything should happen to you, that man Potter….”

    The man took a small card from his wallet and wrote a number upon it and handed it to her “If you don’t hear from me, ring that number and ask for Cedric, he’ll know what to do” he closed the door and watched the taxi pull away, merging with the Park Road traffic.

    Janet watched the man through the rear window as the taxi pulled away, watching him go back through the gate and into Regents Park, and then he was gone.

   Potter had been keeping the couple under the closest possible surveillance from the cover of nearby bushes. He was wondering just which of them to follow, when the taxi pulling away from the kerb had made his mind up for him. She was probably going home anyway he thought, it was then that he felt a hand upon his shoulder.

    “Well, well, if it isn’t the Regents Park prowler, happy in your work Potter?” the man said pulling him roughly out of the bushes.

    Potter, a man in his late thirties, well built and of medium height, a man who showed little or no imagination or aptitude for the job, turned swiftly round.
    “I thought it was you, but then I thought no, he’d never dare return here, not after….”

    The man now had Potter by the throat “Spying on me, weren’t you Potter, not very good at it are you Potter, you should have come over and joined us, I pointed you out to Miss Portland.”

    Potter was finding it increasingly difficult to breath “Not…. spying…. on… you” he spluttered.

    The man felt reluctant to release his vice like grip on Potter’s throat, but did so “Who were you spying on, if not me. Or are you some kind of peeing Tom?”

    Potter bent double, feeling his throat as he coughed and barked, gasping for air “No…. one…cough…. that you… cough…. would know.”

    “Don’t give me that, I saw you following Miss Portland, you sat on that bench over there in your grubby raincoat, pretending to read that well thumbed newspaper of yours.”

    “Its part of my disguise” Potter retorted with pride.

    “Well it’s not a very good one. On whose orders were you following Miss Portland, the Colonel’s?”

    Potter remained silent.

    “If you don’t tell me, that charge of the Regents Park prowler……..”

    “What charge?”

     “Well I ask you, a grubby little man like you, wearing a grubby raincoat lurking here in the bushes….…..”

    “Alright, alright, it was Sir Charles Portland, if you must know.”

    “What contact do you have with Sir Charles?”

    “None, as well you know, the Colonel passed the assignment on to me.”


    “Not a top priority job then” the man quipped with a wry smile “and Sir Charles, does he know I’m back?” the man demanded.

    “Shouldn’t think so, I was going to telephone the office the first chance I got” Potter replied “why have you come back?”

    The man helped Potter to his feet who then began to straighten his hair and raincoat, for what it was worth.

    “Know what you’re going to do Potter, your going to keep quiet about our little meeting” the man suggested strongly.

    “I am?”

    “And in doing so you’ll possibly be helping an old colleague of yours” the man went on to suggest.

    “I wouldn’t help you, not if…….”

    “Not me, another old colleague, and for your information Miss Portland has gone home, I suggest you go there and keep the house under surveillance, there are some bushes in the square there, you should feel very much at home in. But just one more thing Potter” the man then reached into his jacket pocket for the photograph Janet had given him and held it under Potter’s nose.

    The head and shoulders photograph was of a man in his late thirties, with light brown hair and light blue eyes, Potter recognised him instantly.

    “Where is he, ZM seventy-three where is he?”

    “I, I don’t know.”

    “Not good enough!”

    “I heard he stormed into the office one morning” Potter began “ranting and raving about something. He was in a right angry mood, slammed down his letter of resignation on the desk and stormed out. No one has seen or heard of him since. Some people thought he’d sold out, or gone over to the other side.”

    This remark seemed to outrage the man as he once again gripped Potter by the throat “Now mark me Potter and mark me well, you are going to tell me what you know.”

    Potter nodded “I’ve told you, he resigned and no one has seen or heard of him since that morning, and that was over a year ago.”

    “What about the Colonel and Sir Charles, what have they done about it?”

    Potter shrugged his shoulders.

    “When you next see the Colonel, tell him I’m back and that I am looking for answers.”

    Potter was much relieved when the man suddenly up and walked away, he scurried off in the opposite direction towards the nearest telephone box.

    The green yellow nosed Lotus Seven made its way through the busy London traffic, all the time the driver with one eye in the rear view mirror. But even then he failed to take any notice of the occasional glimpse of a black hearse. Along Portland Place and Regents Streetround Trafalgar Square, passed the Palace of Westminster before turning right into Abingdon street, and another right, down the ramp into the underground car park whilst the black hearse turned round and parked, just a few feet from the entrance to the car park.


    The roar of the Ford Cosworth engine was loud and distinctive as the Lotus sped down the ramp and into the underground car park, as it came to a halt at the yellow barrier and ticket dispenser. Taking the automatically dispensed ticket, and seeing the barrier raise itself, the driver pressed on the accelerator and the Lotus moved forward with a roar which echoed loudly around the car park, being unable as it was to escape its confines. With the Lotus parked the driver got out and headed for the pair of double doors WAY OUT and pushed them open stepping through into a dimly lit corridor which he marched sprightly along, his face lit by the occasional overhead light.
   Having left the car park the man made his way along Whitehall and to a particular building. Once inside he made for an office he once knew very well. Pulling open the double doors he calmly entered that office and approached the desk, behind which sat a bald-headed man wearing black rimmed spectacles who stopped writing and slowly looked up from the paperwork on his desk.

    “You still here then?” the man asked leaning over the desk.

    The man looked up blankly at the man staring down at him.

   Sir Charles Portland was already in a meeting when the man was shown into an elaborately decorated and furnished office, sat as he was behind his solid oak desk. He was a man in his fifties with a head of distinguished white hair, wearing his usual attire of dark jacket, grey waistcoat and trousers, white shirt and blue striped tie, oh yes and being a keen Rosarian, he always wore a red rose in his button hole. He looked at the man framed in the doorway, and the two men standing behind him in the corridor “I’m sorry gentlemen” he said turning his attention back to his three colleagues “perhaps we can continue this, this afternoon, shall we say at ten past two.”

    The three men collected their files, papers and briefcases and took their leave as the man was escorted into the room and now stood before Sir Charles Portland, who waited patiently for his colleagues to depart.

    “I had hoped that our paths would never cross again.”

    “I’m only too pleased to have been able to disappoint you Sir Charles” the man quipped “I see nothing has changed, you still enjoy a lavish life style, with all the creature comforts that your position can afford.”

    Sir Charles Portland’s office was more of an elaborate study than a working office, with its plaster columns and busts, military paintings of Cook, Wellington, Gordon, and Marlborough. Book-lined walls, plush carpeting, comfortable armchairs and not forgetting that well stocked drinks cabinet.

    “What is it you think I can do for you?” Sir Charles asked.


    “That’s what I liked about you, straight to the point” the man took the photograph from his jacket pocket and held it out for Sir Charles to see “where is he?”

    Sir Charles gave the picture a cursory glance “No doubt my daughter has put you up to this. I can tell you what I told her, that I honestly don’t know where he is, and I haven’t sent him on a mission, and I told my daughter more than I should. So having spoken to her you now know as much as she does. Now if you will excuse me.”

    He hasn’t been seen for over a year. If you don’t know where he is, then surely you know someone who does, and don’t try and palm me off like you did Janet.”

    “Getting irate will not help the situation in any way.” began Sir Charles “he stormed into the office, shouting his mouth off, slamming down his letter of resignation and stormed out again. And now I’ve told you more than I should.”

    “You haven’t told me anything I haven’t heard before. Resigned, why should he resign? He would never…..he was loyal, he enjoyed his work, you of all men should know that. He was going to marry your daughter. Why should he have given all that up? But then again perhaps he was becoming tired of being used to clear the mess other people had left behind!” the man retorted forcefully “besides that doesn’t account for why he disappeared!”

    “That kind of thing was down to the General, you know the way he and his department operates” Sir Charles told him “anyway it was all rather sudden and unexpected, one day he resigned and the next there he was, gone” the after effects of his future son-in-laws actions still left a bitter taste in the mouth.

    “You haven’t told Janet that her fiancé has resigned from the department, have you?” the man asked sternly.

    “What I do or do not tell my daughter is of no concern to you, just as his current whereabouts are of no concern to me or that of my department” retorted Sir Charles calmly.

    “Possibly not to you personally Sir Charles, but ought to be to your department, I should think his whereabouts are most important, all that knowledge inside his head. That must be of great value to one side or the other, wouldn’t you say? No-one is permitted to resign, well they can of course, but they are kept on a very long leash, more often than not given a menial job of some kind for a few quid a week. Put out into the cold, sometimes to be brought back into the warm. But your department went and lost him, or he lost them!”

    “ZM seventy-three had resigned from a top secret and highly confidential position” Sir Charles began to explain “his whole future lay before him and he threw it away with one selfish action. I was the one who had to pick up the pieces, both professionally and privately, I was the one left to clean up the mess he left behind…. I lost a future son-in-law! Apparently I should have seen it coming, and if I had perhaps the action of having a good man walk out might have been averted, and now I have his capricious and mulish brother to deal with.”


    “He came back, didn’t Janet tell you?”
    “You mean a man turned up one day claiming to be ZM seventy-three.”
    “The Colonel!”
    “You know about that do you? I don’t know who he was, never seen him before?”
    “He told Janet everything, she must have told you, she told me about his abduction to the village, what village might that be?”
    “I have no idea what you are talking about!”

    “I think you do.”

    “He has gone the same way as you, take care that you do not take the same path as he” Sir Charles warned.

    “Then you do know.”
    Unseen Sir Charles pressed a hidden button under his desk. The pair of doors opened and two men in dark suits stepped into the office. At a nod from Sir Charles the two men took the man securely by the arms and escorted him out of the office, and ejected him from the building.

    Sir Charles picked up the receiver of the red telephone upon his desk “He’s been here and is now leaving. He cannot be allowed to pursue this matter further, I leave you to resolve this situation and to bring it to a satisfactory conclusion best suited to both departments. My daughter is my concern, she can do no harm, so keep your men away from her. Is that understood?” replacing the receiver he turned his attention to the papers on his desk, giving the matter no further thought.

    Despite Sir Charles warning, our friend had no option but to pursue the matter, he called on some old familiar faces in the department. He visited many of his old haunts, asking questions here, demanding answers there. It was like hitting his head against a brick wall, people put the shutters up. It was only to be expected, he had become an outcast of the department. People do not forget, old friends and ex-colleagues melt away. His last chance was the Colonel, and that meant a trip out into the country, calling in on the ‘Hope & Anchor’ public house along the way.

    And so it was that he found himself enjoying the pleasures of the open roads of Hertfordshire. The roar of the Cosworth engine, the wind on his chilled face, set in a grimace. The green–yellow nosed Lotus Seven sped along the hedge lined country roads, braking for tight bends, then putting his foot down hard on the accelerator for straight road ahead, then the driver expertly steering the Lotus through a series of ‘S’ bends before coming to a halt at a ‘T’ junction, where the Lotus turned left at the signpost towards ‘Hazelwood’ 2 ½ miles.

    It was in the car park of ‘The Hope & Anchor’ public house that the Lotus finally came to a stop, the driver climbing out and walked smartly inside a large white building with a thatched roof. The public bar was occupied with the usual clientele, the gin and tonic brigade, a courting couple in a booth and a regimental looking gentleman with a bushy moustache reading ‘The Times’ newspaper. A hat stand stood in the corner and upon the oak panelled walls hung paintings of the local hunt. The bar was made from solid oak and behind it stood a barmaid with dark hair and wearing a tight fitting, low cut flowery dress. He leant on the bar and took a ten shilling note from a brown leather wallet and placed it upon the bar.


    “Yes sir, what would you like?” the barmaid asked him.

    “A pint of your best bitter please Doris” he replied with a warm smile, as he watched the barmaid get a glass and pull his pint from a Watney Mann pump.

    Doris, a not unattractive brunette somewhere in her mid thirties, cut a trim figure, with a large bust, which she enjoyed showing off to her customers {well it improved the tips she received} and put the pint filled glass down on the bar and picked up the ten shilling note.

    “How do you know my name sir, I don’t think I’ve seen you in here before.”

    “From a mutual friend, he used to drink here from time to time” the man informed her, and took a photograph from his inside jacket pocket and placed it on the bar under Doris’s nose.

    Doris gave the photograph a cursory glance, then turned to the till and rang up two shillings and sixpence, then closing the till turned back to her customer placing his change on the bar and the photograph.

    The man sipped his pint, picking up the change left the photograph on the bar.

    “Is he the mutual friend?” Doris asked glancing down at the photograph again.

    “Don’t you recognise him?”

    “Yes he used to come here quite often, or at least he used to” Doris told him, picking up the photograph.

    “Used to?”

    “He hasn’t been in for sometime, must be over a year now.”

    The man continued to sip his pint “And you haven’t seen him in all that time?”

    “I would have remembered if I had, quite handsome isn’t he?” Doris smiled handing back the photograph “come to think of it, you look a lot like him, related are you?”

    “You must see and hear a great deal standing behind the bar.”

    “You’re not the law are you?”
    “No, not any more.”
    “Why are you looking for him, what’s he done?”

    The man took a long draught of his beer and put the quarter half filled glass down on the bar and the photograph back into his pocket   


    “He’s disappeared and I’m looking for him that’s all, in fact he disappeared without a trace. He might have been thinking of going away, on holiday. I don’t suppose he told you anything did he?”

    “Why should he do that?” asked Doris suddenly on the defensive.

    “Well some men prefer to confide in a barmaid, rather than their loved ones. Besides drink loosens a man’s tongue.”

    “Not that one sir, that much I can tell you” Doris replied.

    “I just wondered if he ever said anything in passing?” he said pressing her for an answer.

    Doris shook her head “He gave me the impression that he was the kind of man who kept himself to himself, didn’t ask other people about their business and expected them not to ask about his.”

    The man fell silent for a second, as though remembering “Yes he could be like that.”

    “Perhaps he found himself another drinking hole. You could try the ‘George & Angel’ down the road” Doris suggested.

    The man picked up his glass draining it, and to Doris there came a far away look in his eye “The ‘George & Angel’, I used to drink there!”

    “Same again sir?” Doris asked him.

    The man stared into the empty glass, the froth sliding down the inside and placed it upon the bar “No thanks Doris, I’m driving, besides I have a call to make on an old colleague and I don’t think I’m going to be made very welcome.”

    “You’re not in any kind of trouble are you?” Doris asked, looking concerned for her customer.

    “No, but someone’s going to be!” and unsmilingly the man walked briskly out of the pub and into the car park.

    Doris picked up the empty glass off the bar, and watched a man wearing a grubby raincoat fold up the newspaper he had been reading, get up from the corner table and follow the man outside, but thinking nothing further of it, turned to serve another customer at the bar “G & T is it sir?”

    Outside the ‘Hope & Anchor’ our friend climbed into the Lotus, turned the ignition key firing up the engine. Engaging reverse gear he backed round and then drove out of the car park and then sped off at speed along the narrow road.

    The man in the grubby raincoat, stepped into the car park and stood watching until the green-yellow nosed Lotus was out of sight. From a pocket he produced a walkie-talkie, pulled out the aerial and pressed the red button “Potter here, he’s left the Hope & Anchor, he’s on his way to see the Colonel….don’t worry, I’ve seen to it that he doesn’t arrive.”

    There wasn’t another car on the road, it was a beautiful summer’s day and he was enjoying the drive along the B road, so much so that he put his foot down just that little bit harder on the accelerator. The Lotus Seven sped ever faster along the long winding road, and with the great ease of an expert driver. The freedom of the open road, there is nothing quite like it in an open topped sports car, it’s always fresh and exhilarating, the wind in your hair. The needle of the speedometer was north of seventy and pushing eighty. The trees, hedges and green pastures flashed by and beyond the sweeping bend the final straight before Hazelwood, the loud bang of a sudden burst tyre, a blow out! The driver fought to maintain some control of the Lotus as it swerved across the road, straight towards a telegraph pole. The impact was unavoidable, even with the driver’s foot on the brake. The front end of the Lotus was completely crushed and buckled, the hood a sheet of twisted and contorted metal, with the driver slumped over the wooden steering wheel, blood trickling from an open head wound.


    Nothing stirred along that long and deserted road, save for the wind as it whistled in the over head telegraph wires and the mooing of cattle in the pasture as they stared at the crumpled car wreck. The man stirred himself and tried to sit upright, but the tightness of his chest and his trapped legs, together with the confined space he sat in, restricted any kind of movement. His vision was blurred, and what he could make out through a thin veil of blood, was going round and round, and the pain in his head was comparable to a hammer striking an anvil. Suddenly there came the noise, far and in the distance, yet all the time growing louder by the second, the noise of a two tone siren. Again he tried to stir himself, to lift himself up to see what it was that was coming, but the pain forced him to remain slumped over the steering wheel, blackness slowly engulfed him, and he slipped peacefully into unconsciousness.

    The distant siren was getting louder as the white ambulance sped along the road towards the scene of the accident, its blue light flashing, until at last it came to a halt in the road beside the crashed car. Two ambulance man quickly clambered out, the one to attend the unconscious driver, and the second opening up the back to collect a stretcher for the patient who was carefully eased out of the car wreck and onto the said stretcher. Then covered with a blanket, an oxygen mask applied over the patient’s nose and mouth, and carried on the stretcher into the back of the ambulance. One ambulance man stayed in the back of the vehicle, while his colleague climbed into the cab and drove away along that long deserted country lane, siren blaring and blue light flashing far into the distance.

    Drifting in and out of consciousness the patient became aware of movemet, or rather being moved, pushed on a trolley to be exact. The pain he had felt in the car crash was now replaced with a feeling of numbness throughout his entire body. He tried to move, but could not, not even his head from side to side, and all he could do was lie on his back. Through his still blurred vision, he could make out the pale intermittent overhead lights and the shadowy figure who continued to push him along on the trolley, down a long corridor of the hospital.

    A second shadowy figure hurried at his side, keeping pace with the trolley as it was quickly pushed along by the male orderly.


Then came a disembodied voice which wavered, echoed. A female voice which seemed most concerned about him

    “Is he still alive, I can’t find a pulse, is he still alive, I can’t find a pulse, is he still alive, alive, alive, alive?”

    Through a pair of double doors the trolley was pushed. The patient could see only the dim ceiling over head as he was lifted off the trolley and onto the operating table around which other shadowy figures gathered, each wearing green surgical gowns and face masks. The patient tried to speak, lips moved but no sound was uttered. Then a sharp pain in the numbness of his body, and the finger of unconsciousness beckoned him, as blackness engulfed him once more.


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