You’ll Never Believe A Man Can Fly, Part 7

Posted: 15 January 2013 in fiction, writing, You'll Never Believe A Man Can Fly
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Chapter Four

The Guardian, 15th October 2003
The Book of Revelation is not part of the Old Testament, as we mistakenly stated in the article on 22nd September 2003. It is the final book of the New Testament.

The soft natural light had left the sky, giving way to glaring neon, as signs advertising a thousand products sent their messages out to the masses. Well, primarily to those walking through Piccadilly Circus. Under normal circumstances, Jez Docherty enjoyed looking at the garish view.

To him it represented all that was normal about the world. He was convinced, various attempts to persuade him otherwise having failed, that the best way of judging the state of the world was by advertising, and the amount of it. If ever the amount spent on advertising fell, he knew that he had a rough time coming. Conversely, when the quantity of advertising grew intensely, he believed that his masters would be getting nervous. There was no justification for this that he could have convincingly explained, but then he’d discovered over the years that everyone had their superstitions and why should anyone say his were any stranger than those that others held to?

And when he saw the stark neon the same as it was the previous day, he was always comforted.

But not tonight. This night, Jez Docherty was worried. He walked past the signs advertising camera films, soft drinks and fast food without even pausing, his pace fast and determined.

His meetings with Toster and Clooney had been inconclusive. He knew three things, he had immediately concluded. He disliked Toster immensely, while he liked Clooney a lot. However, he was sure that one of them was lying. And if he had to, he’d have bet his salary on it being the former. But he wasn’t quite that sure yet.

Crossing the street at a fast, yet natural, pace, he stopped by the newspaper kiosk directly outside the main entrance to his offices. He picked up a copy of the final edition of the newspaper he’d shown Clooney earlier and briefly read the story on the front page, absorbing the new information the reporters thought they possessed. This wasn’t good, not at all. With more details coming out the whole time, how long would it be before…?

His thoughts were intruded upon by the man in the newspaper kiosk. “We’re not a bleeding library, mate,” the older man said, with a grimace, and Docherty dug in his pocket for some change. He handed it over with a muttered apology and headed for the front door of his office. The newspaper seller regarded him with jaundiced, knowing eyes, then turned away to another customer.

Docherty flashed his ID at the scanner by the door and a moment later was buzzed in.

“One of these days,” he said to the armed security guard on duty as he showed his ID again, watching as it was closely examined.

“What? Old Langbridge?” laughed the security guard. “He’s like that with all you new boys.” The guard handed back Docherty’s ID and the latter slid it into his side pocket.

“New boys?” Docherty asked, raising an eyebrow. He’d been with the department a little under ten years. Although, he thought, as he took the stairs to the second floor where his office was located, Langridge had retired before Docherty had joined; the newspaper stand was a concession to his long service. No doubt he regarded the Permanent Secretary, who’d been with the department coming up to twenty years, as a new boy as well.

He entered his office and threw his jacket at the coat stand. It landed on top of the stand and hung in a manner that suggested it was about to fall at any moment. From long experience, Docherty knew that wasn’t the case and he sat at his desk, to check his email before writing his report. The yellow envelope placed on his keyboard put paid to any ideas of that nature and also, he suspected, any plans he had for that evening. A yellow envelope meant “most urgent” and “most secret”, not necessarily in that order. Docherty opened the envelope gingerly and pulled out the single sheet of paper. It was printed on pale yellow paper, which meant that it was from Head of Section.

He sighed as he read it. He had been hoping that it was going to be something minor, but the fact that it was in a ‘yellow’ should have warned him that it was a forlorn hope. He read the memo from Head of Section again, suddenly curious. It was stark and devastatingly brief: Any and all operatives with information relating to the explosion near the National Provident Bank of this date are requested and required to file a PX473 in these offices upon receipt of this memorandum.

He put the paper down and leaned back, flicking on the powerful fan behind him. A blast of cold air circulated around the room. Smoking may have been banned years ago in most government buildings, but the security services? No one would have dared suggest it. As a fop to those who detested the habit, it was a convention that fans were required if a cigarette was wanted. And he most certainly wanted one now.

A PX743? But why?

He pulled out his cigarettes and lit one, inhaling slowly, trying to work it out, to put the connections together. A PX743 was, at first glance, a standard document. It acknowledged that the signatory was aware of the confidential nature of the contents of the file referred to therein, and that breach of that confidentiality could lead to criminal prosecution. However, despite the ostensibly harmless nature, Docherty had only ever been aware of one department wide signing previously. And that was as a favour to the Americans.

Wait a moment…!

What was it that Clooney woman had said, if only in jest? That the material had come from America? What if she’d actually been right? And it had been lost? Holy hell.

Whatever plans Docherty had for looking for the person, who several eye-witnesses had confirmed had been soaked by the cloud, suddenly took on a more urgent nature. He flicked on his computer and opened up various applications, including the email. He dumped the memo and envelope in his in-tray, intending to file the paperwork later.

It didn’t quite work out that way. He had seventeen emails waiting for him, but the one with the title in capitals garnered his attention. Headed MOST URGENT/TOP PRIORITY, it contained the same message as the memo, and was marked with a ‘receipt when read’ instruction. Damn. Docherty gave up the one-sided battle and left his office, heading for Head of Section’s rooms to sign the form, hoping that the stranger that had been at the scene of the abortive robbery, whoever he was, was still alive.

– o –

“Urgh, I feel like death,” said Davies, as he rolled over.

“Well, you’re not quite there yet, laddie,” said a kind voice, and Davies opened his eyes to find a petite older woman, in a nurse’s uniform, looking at him.

“Where…?” he managed to get out and the nurse smiled at him.

“You’re in Central London Hospital,” the nurse said, leaning to her side and lifting a telephone receiver. “Aye,” she said into the receiver, “could you page Dr Jordan? Yes, Mr Davies is awake.”

Davies looked down and saw that he was in a bed, and from what was visible over the covers, was dressed in a cotton robe. Across the room, the open door of a cupboard showed him his clothes, pressed and hanging up. He glanced around the room and saw that it was almost like a hotel room. He guessed that it was a private hospital and a quick glance at the menu card by his bed pretty much confirmed it for him. His wallet and keys were on a small table by the side of the bed, and he realised that she must have known his name from the plethora of identification he had in the wallet, everything from business cards, to credit cards, from his underground pass, to a library card. Which reminded him that he had a couple of books that were overdue for return.

I’m mad, he thought. Here I am in hospital and I’m worried about bloody library cards? He shook his head to clear it and immediately regretted doing so, as his shoulder ached. He reached back towards it and the nurse stopped him, her hand gently removing his own and placing it back on his chest.

“Not just yet, eh, Mr Davies? Just wait for the doctor.” His memory was returning and he recalled the events immediately prior to his loss of consciousness. Had he really been shot? Shot?

“Doctor Jordan will be here in a minute,” the nurse said, and as she said it, the large door opened and the woman he’d seen earlier at the aborted mugging walked in. She looked different, and for a moment it shook him, and then he realised that, of course, she was wearing a white coat. That and, he presumed, she’d taken the pearls off.

He was wrong though; as she approached him and smiled at him, the pearls around her neck caught the light. He could see she was wearing the same evening clothes she’d been wearing earlier and the natural assumption was that she’d brought him to the hospital and then stayed around.

“Good evening, Mr Davies, I’m Doctor Jordan. How are you feeling?” Beth Jordan asked. “And don’t say ‘fine’.”

There must have been quizzical look on his face, as she carried on. “Well, the last time you said that was immediately after you’d flown down an alley, disarmed a mugger and been shot in the shoulder. So I can only presume you define the word ‘fine’ somewhat differently than the rest of us.” She smiled again, to take any sting out of her words and Davies knew a pang of regret, for he guessed that the man had been her husband, and the boy her child.

“How…?” he realised that his two questions so far had been single words, but he was finding it difficult to talk. He rubbed his neck and was surprised at the tenderness there.

“Erm, yes, sorry about that,” the doctor looked sheepish for a moment and Davies had no idea why. She handed him a glass of water and, after she had cautioned him about drinking too much in one swallow, he sipped at the water. It was cold, very cold and it felt wonderful going down.

“When you came in,” Jordan said, “we couldn’t detect a heartbeat, nor a pulse, but it was obvious that you were breathing. We had to stick a tube inside you to check.”

“And…?” Davies asked.

“And what?” responded the doctor.

“And what did you find?” asked Davies, delighted to finally put a sentence together. He had been wondering if he’d ever get a chance to.

“That’s the thing. We didn’t find anything. Any images we were hoping to get from your insides wouldn’t transmit through fibre optics. Weirdest thing I’ve ever seen. But then we saw your shoulder and somehow things didn’t seem quite so impossible any more.” Jordan scratched her head, in a manner that Davies found curiously endearing.

Fatalistic about the answer, Davies asked “what do you mean?”

“Mr Davies,” said Jordan, “before I go on, I’ve been incredibly and unforgivably rude.” Her professional demeanour wavered, as if it was making its mind up whether or not to depart and then it said to hell with it and booked a trip to Tahiti. Tears sprung to her eyes and she grasped Davies’ hand firmly. “Thank you. Thank you so much…”

Davies felt uncomfortable and wanted to take his hand back, but wasn’t sure it was appropriate. He needed to be sure what he was being thanked for. “Erm, for…?” he got as far as asking before the woman in front of him interrupted with “well, for stopping that mugging!”

His memory was still a little vague but as she told of her wonder at what he’d done, it began to creep back into his mind exactly what had happened. But one thing was bothering him. Both originally and when she repeated the tale, she’d said that he’d flown. He presumed that she was describing his running, but then she stopped him short with, “OK, let’s have a look at that back of yours. Though, mind you, it wouldn’t surprise me if you had wings!”

“What’s that supposed to mean, Doctor?”

And that was when Jordan explained to Davies that when she referred to him flying down the alley, she wasn’t using a descriptive vanity; he had actually left the ground.

And that was when he fainted again. As he fell unconscious, he heard the words that were going to cause him so much trouble in the next few months:

“You know,” Doctor Jordan said, looking at her nurse, a gently mocking though exasperated tone to her voice, “you wouldn’t think a real life super-hero would faint so much, would you?”

– o –

© Lee Barnett, 2013

To read part 8 of You’ll Never Believe A Man Can Fly, click here.


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