Andy Bowson headed over to St Thomas’. He wasn’t needed for a while and could be spared while the chiefs tried to talk some sense into higher authority. So why so low now after the exhilaration of another breakthrough, another positive in his service book, a step up in his reputation? That young woman from systems, she felt sorry for him, that was it, trying to be nice, cheer him up. She wasn’t unattractive in a way… How can you think that?
Perhaps Henry, no John, could help clear his head. There was no one else; she wasn’t here, how he missed her, his son, he’d never really thought about it before they went. Dear God, things will be different if, when, she was returned, I promise. We’ll make the most of our time together. The chief was too busy, Dager, well, enough, the others looking to him or otherwise too preoccupied. Few real friends, little family that would understand, just someone he hardly knew who changed names like a snake shedding its skin.
He was shown in; it was him alright, sitting in his chair, perspiring from recent effort, sipping some water, he looked up.
“Chief Inspector, this is a pleasant surprise; I was told you were planning to look in. Pull up a chair.”
“How are you… John?”
“Something like that. Making progress, the rehab is a pain, and this place a bore. You can only watch some news reporter speculating in a loop for so long. Were you there?”
Straight down to business I see.
“Yes, not at the end though, really a job for the army and forensics, it’s all grunt work now, following leads, interviewing witnesses, suspects, that sort of thing. The day job, no glamour, we leave that to your sort.”
Just a smile.
“I hear you’ve got yourself a tame mole, something like that could put a huge boost behind your prospects?”
“You’ve heard? Lord knows who or why, but thank heavens for it. How many lives must it have saved up in the Chilterns?”
“Quite a piece of work that was. Any leads?”
“Little enough, hopefully some DNA on a hide, ballistics, no more, they think that just one man inflicted over thirty casualties on armed men and then vanished without trace, just as before. I’m starting to wonder if he, they, are more than human. Our military are denying it, as are your lot, everyone really.”
“So, what did you really come here for?”
To the point, that hasn’t changed with the name anyway.
“Honestly, I don’t know. I don’t know why, but I think I might be able to trust you; there’s no one else. Not my boss; his chief has got too much on his plate, many of the others are looking to me for leadership, certainty; lots of them are having doubts, sympathising with those taking the fight to the jihadis, however they do it.”
“Entirely understandable. What do you think about it?”
Inches or yards, which is it to be today?
“Increasingly I don’t know what to think, I suppose out of habit or duty. I just trust the chief, uphold the law.”
Inches only today, obviously.
“But quite a few are thinking about packing it in, resigning. They don’t believe in it any more, the leadership, the lies; it’s got me wondering.”
“What do you want me to say, everything’s fine and dandy? It’s not; you can see that, some of your colleagues too by the sound of it, I certainly can, people in the service as well. That’s why we have consciences, free will. It’s how we frame them, our choices, which makes us act for good or ill. Chief Inspector, I said before that I think you’re a good man; I’m certain now that I was right about that at least. What does that good man inside tell you?”
The strain on the younger man’s face was evident, poor sap. Like so many others, trying to do his best, a stoker still feeding the fuel into a sinking liner’s engines, focused entirely on doing the duty in front of him, not looking around, and then suddenly he’s got no choice and is well-nigh overwhelmed, confused, terrified. Well, I was there too, and then someone, something, helped me, perhaps…
“Focus on the actors, not the reactors, keep people going I suppose?”
“Tell me, have you ever read any scholastic thought, Thomas Aquinas, Aristotle, that sort of thing? Teleology? Ends, causes and consequences from alpha to omega?”
“No, why would I? Sally liked some of that stuff; we used to argue about it when she started getting all religious. Why?”
“Oh. Hardly surprising, I suppose. It helped me to make sense of things. How things are directed towards an end. Our actions are just part of infinitely complex chain reactions, but our choices can determine the ways they flow, potentially devastating like that quantum butterfly. You need to think about your choices, not just repeat those set before you by others.”
What is he on about, has his near miss made him all mystical?
“I’m sorry; I don’t see how that’s relevant?”
‘John’ was smiling.
“I wish I could make it easy for you, but one thing you learn is that the higher you rise the harder the choices, if you wish to retain your integrity, your humanity. Those around you, the good ones, can help you do that. If they’re uncomfortable, conflicted, shouldn’t you be too? Don’t confuse the current denizens of the establishment with the interests of the state, let alone the country. Ask yourself: who are you there to serve, to protect? Talk to friends you trust, a priest, colleagues, I don’t know, but when you’re clear come and talk to me.”
“Is that it?”
“No, not by a long chalk, but I can’t decide for you, even make you see. We’re all floundering, out of our depth; we just need to hold on to the things we know are true, proven over centuries, no matter how unfashionable, how sneered at by the powerful. I always try to remember that I do it for my old squaddies, their families and people like them: what would they say if they could see? It may prove to be surprisingly simple when you get there, the truth usually is.”
“Thanks, I think. When will they be letting you out?”
“Thanks for asking. A week at most, probably sooner, then rehab and light duties. Let me know when you want to talk again, the same number, I can’t be of much use to anyone else right now.”
As Bowson was opening the door to let himself out, ‘John’ added;
“Oh, by the way, I rather think I would like your wife from what you’ve said. When I get out of here, I promise to do all I can, use all my contacts, to help you find her. Don’t give up hope, please?”
On the way out he passed a well-groomed lady dressed in blue hurrying the other way, another visitor maybe? She didn’t even notice him in her preoccupation; he would have to go home tonight and look up what the hell ’John’ had been on about.
“Hello, how’s your day been, made lots of money?”
“Someone’s feeling better then?”
He was smiling at her; it was like a sunray lamp on her soul, warming, relaxing, cheering.
“The quacks say they may let me out on Monday, if I’m a good boy and have somewhere nice to go. They’ve given me a list of conditions, exercises, potential physios, that sort of thing. The service has offered me somewhere safe, but you seem quite determined?”
“What do they say about recovery time? And yes, I am determined, and you could get on with things much better at my place.”
“I know. About twelve to fourteen weeks for the leg, bit more than ten for the shoulder, depending on how hard I work them, but should be out and about well before then.”
“Good, give me a copy and I’ll get it all set up, and I’ll see the consultant as well. I’ll also arrange some weekends away, beside the sea. It’ll be good for both of us. Anywhere you like particularly?”
“Surprise me, you always do.”
He was in a good mood today.
“Why so cheerful?”
He beckoned her close, ostensibly to embrace him, but really for another whispered conversation.
“Hope for the future, more people awakening, that huge boulder we’ve been trying to move these past years just rolled a little this week, and thanks for your deliverance from folly, Sam’s too, I’m alive, you’re here, lots of reasons.”
Strike while the iron’s hot, he’s opening wide to you.
No, no, I promised.
“I’ve been thinking again I’m afraid.”
He chuckled, muffled because his head was against her shoulder, her hair spilling over him.
“If you won’t stay at my place permanently, have one of the two flats beneath that I own. I can break the lease of the one below in a couple of months, you can have it.”
“I expect I couldn’t afford it, how much?”
She told him.
“I’m sorry, that’s way out of my league and I won’t take your charity; you’ve done too much for me already.”
“It’s a recovery gift, that’s all, a contribution to the cause, with the bonus that you could keep an eye on me without compromising your principles. There’s no knowing what I may get up to next if you don’t.”
“We’ll see. I just don’t know why your ex ever let you get away.”
I was never really his, you still don’t see that do you? She shook herself, this was too distracting.
“What do I do about Sam, what’s he going to do all day? He can’t, won’t, go back until you’re better.
“We’ll find something for him to do when I’m out of here, observation, gathering intelligence; these allies of theirs, we need to find out more about them. Also speed our recruitment up. You’re right about that, as in so many things. Can he stay with you a bit longer?”
“Yes, he can, but we need something longer term for him.”
“And how’s your cousin?”
“She’s fine. She really wants to talk to you about something; I was going to suggest the evening you get discharged.”
“Good, intriguing, something to look forward to, beside you.”
There’s lots I’m looking forward to.
© 1642again 2018