You’ll Never Believe A Man Can Fly, Part 11

Posted: 21 January 2013 in fiction, writing, You'll Never Believe A Man Can Fly
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Chapter Six

The Guardian, 30h December 2012
The plural of ‘obiter dictum’, (a statement said in passing) is ‘obiter dicta’, not, as we maintained in a leading article on the Duke of Edinburgh and Attila the Hun, “obita dicta”.

Later, it struck Ian Davies how quickly he’d gotten used to his new… well, he guessed, ‘powers’ was as good a word as any. He was first overtly aware of it when he was watching the television in the hospital room, prior to discharge. Doctor Jordan had told him that the hospital had waived any charges, about which he was more than happy, since he shuddered to think how much the room would have cost.

Apparently, the hospital administrator, though he hadn’t been told the whole story, was more than happy to authorise the write-off, given Davies’ ‘heroism’. The only fly in the ointment was that Davies had felt honour bound to agree to Jordan’s husband, the reporter, driving him home. He reconsidered it for a moment, then remembered the old saw “if it were done, best it were done quickly”. He made up his mind – he’d let himself be interviewed that day.

Davies suddenly realised that he hadn’t thought about work at all, and – a glance at his watch confirmed it – they would certainly be wondering why he wasn’t in today. After all, it was a shade after noon. He thought of what he could tell them. “Yeah, sorry I’m late, but yesterday I got super powers, I can move objects with my mind and I can fly; so, I may be a bit late in.”

Hardly.

On the other hand, he didn’t want to lie outright to them. He found it more amusing than he probably should have to use the same training he’d received while working for them and tell the truth, well part of it anyway. “Misleading by omission” it was called in the trade.

He’d be the first to protest against the idea that the industry’s motto “The truth, and anything but the truth.”; he always thought it was more fairly put as: to tell the truth and nothing but the truth… but for Pete’s sake, not the whole truth.

He picked up his mobile from the side table and then stopped, wincing at the shattered screen and dented top, consequences, he supposed, of having impacted with the mugger and then the ground in succession. No wonder he’d had no calls – if anyone had tried to contact him, their messages would be on voicemail, he supposed. His eye caught the room’s landline on another table. Hey, it’s free, so why not? He dropped the mobile phone on the bed and walked to the phone by the other side of the bed. He picked up the receiver and dialled his work number, judging what he was going to tell them.

And that was when it happened. As the final digits were punched in, Davies realised that the television was too loud and with a glance at the television, the volume decreased. That in itself didn’t surprise him, but then he wondered whether he’d ‘instructed’ the television, or the remote control, to reduce the volume. He was sure that the difference was an important one, but he couldn’t for the life of him think why.

He heard the phone ring twice at the other end and then the receptionist’s voice answer: “Good Morning, Doncaster and Monkton, Staci speaking. How may I help you?” To be more precise, he heard her say, “GoodMorningDoncasterandMonktonStacispeakingHowmayIhelpyou?” but he’d heard it so many times at the office, that his brain made the necessary interpretation.

“Hi Staci,” he said, “it’s Ian. Are Mr Patt, Mr Williams or Mr Monkton around?”

This was obviously a tough question for Staci, who, Davies was convinced, had been hired more for her stunning good looks than for any telephonic or receptionist-like qualities. Though, if the rumours around the office were true, she gave a very good reception to certain senior members of the agency.

A few seconds passed while Staci considered the question before she replied, “Yes.”

Davies sighed and asked if he could speak to one of them.

“Which one, Ian?” asked Staci, and on hearing Davies ask to speak to Monkton, put him through to Patt. This didn’t overly surprise Davies, who, although he knew he was supposed to report to Monkton, had always gotten on better with Patt and, surprisingly, Williams.

There was a brief interlude, and Davies listened to the several renditions of Memories by Elaine Paige which was this year’s ‘music to kill yourself by’ on the phone system, before a sharp click heralded the arrival of Patt on the line. “Ian!” came the hearty voice of Patt, “where are you?”

He didn’t sound overly concerned, more curious, which was par for the course. There was no reason, as far as Davies knew, for Patt to be worried, other than that Davies had been told to report in that morning, and hadn’t.

Here goes, thought Davies, and launched into his prepared tale. “Erm, I’m in hospital.” He sat down on the bed, and realised he’d sat on a pillow. He half stood up and casually threw the pillow to the other side of the bed, then sat down again.

“Hospital?!” came the astonished reply.

“Yes,” said Davies, “Sorry I’m not in, but I got caught up in a mugging yesterday night and… ended up in hospital. Nothing serious,” he added. Nothing serious anymore, he concluded silently. “But they wanted to keep me overnight just to be safe. I’m heading out later and if I feel up to it, I’ll be in tomorrow. That’s ok, isn’t it?”

“Of course, old chap, of course.” Davies couldn’t know that Patt was sitting there in his office, pale white, feeling as if his gut had turned to water. All he heard was the reassuring tone of Patt asking him to be sure to check in when he got home and then wishing him well. Just as Davies was about to end the call, Patt added, in a slightly false tone that puzzled Davies, that he’d have to tell the whole story when he got back to the office.

Davies agreed, ending the call just as the door opened without knocking. Scott Jordan walked into the room. His mind still on the telephone conversation, Davies didn’t hear him. Jordan walked over to Davies and said, in a bluff tone, “Afternoon, Ian, how are…”

He didn’t get any further as Davies spun round – My God, he’s fast! thought Jordan – and grabbed the hand that Jordan had outstretched to offer and shake. It was only a split second, but Jordan was convinced that if Davies hadn’t recognised him, he’d have thrown Jordan clear through the wall. The look on Davies’ face was one of supreme concentration that, after a moment, relaxed into the face that Jordan had come to like.

“Yeah, I’m fine, Scott, fine. Just not sure what the rest of my life’s going to be like.” He didn’t realise it, but as he said this, and showed a touch of frustration, his grip increased. Only marginally, but it was enough to make Jordan wince.

“Well, that’s up to you, surely,” replied Jordan, slowly extricating his hand, and wiggling his fingers to ensure the circulation was still ok.

“Well, not entirely,” Davies said, with a hard stare at Jordan. Then he relaxed again. “Look, Scott, I’ve come to a decision.”

Jordan thought that sounded more ominous than he liked and like any journalist, believing that a good attack was the best form of defence, jumped in with “Look, Davies, if you’re thinking of not doing that inter…” before he realised that it probably wasn’t necessary as Davies laughed.

“No, you’ve got it all wrong. I’ll do the interview, with two provisos: the first is that my real name isn’t mentioned at all, and the second is that I get to read the piece before it goes out.”

“You want copy approval?” asked Jordan in disbelief.

“Not copy approval, but just to ensure that the first condition isn’t breached. You want to write that I’m an arrogant son of a bitch with no business being a ‘have-a-go-hero’, feel free. You want to use me to condemn vigilante justice, have a party. As long as you don’t use my real name! That’s the deal breaker.”

“No, no, I can live with that,” replied Jordan, thinking that Davies was incredibly naïve if he genuinely thought his name would be secret for long. And that being the case, he was quite prepared to save revealing it until the third day of the story. Maybe the second. He’d see.

“All right then,” Davies said, “let’s go and you can interview me on the way home.”

Jordan stopped him with one question. “Ever stayed at The Ritz?”

Davies looked at him, unsure of the reason for the question, but sure about the answer. “No, why?”

“Because you’re not going home, Ian. You’ve promised me an exclusive, and I don’t want to take a chance that someone else is on the story. As soon as you get home, there’s a chance that someone else, I dunno, someone who saw what you can do, will find you. So I’m authorised to put you up at The Ritz for a couple of days.” That wasn’t true, but Jordan was sure that once he filed the story, his editor would stump up the cash. A real live super-hero? And he lived in London? And The Guardian had the world exclusive? Jordan would have bet his pension that he wouldn’t have a problem getting the expenses through.

The implication that he was untrustworthy (for he knew that was the real reason) stung Davies and for a moment, he was tempted to tell Jordan to get stuffed. Then he realised that it was true, he never had stayed at The Ritz, and he quite fancied it. He picked up his wallet and watch, and headed for the door, Jordan following, already phrasing the questions he was going to ask.

On the bed, covered by a casually thrown pillow, his mobile phone remained…

– o –

© Lee Barnett, 2013

To read part 12 of You’ll Never Believe A Man Can Fly, click here.


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