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 Dying to Live

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Anthony van
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PostSubject: Dying to Live   Wed Sep 06, 2017 5:45 pm

Chapter 9

 

Reece had left and, with nothing to do, Ari asked a nurse if there was anything to read. She handed him a Gideon bible from the draw. When he pulled a face she promised she’d try and get some magazines for him. So he relented and started to flick through the pages. The words and the books were vaguely familiar from some of his Gran’s reading but Ari was uninspired until some words in Romans chapter six hit him.

            ‘...buried with Him...’ What a strange phrase! He went back and read the whole chapter. And then he read it again! The words started to have real meaning for him. He read:

            ‘...anyone who has died has been freed from sin ...’

            ‘The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.

            In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.

He saw how it had appeared to him that Juzzy was living a new life. He wasn’t sure she was dead to him, but it seemed that way. He knew it was more about lifestyle but it still stung him. And then he read verse twenty one:

            ‘What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death!’

What benefit indeed? Although his near death experience bore no relation to an iniquitous life (after all he was trying to help someone-he rationalised), no it was more that the meaningless nature of his existence was like death. Any benefits he had sought were for self aggrandizement. He had always been about being right and now he felt so wrong. Maybe he should die. A silly smile crossed his face, ‘dying would solve a lot of problems,’ he thought.

            Later, as Ari was wilting from his depleted condition, he had to endure some administrative questioning by a matronly nurse. After the older nurse had gone, Nurse Evans assisted him in settling down to sleep, adjusting his bedding and tucking him in. Too drained even to engage in banter with the pretty dark haired nurse, Ari closed his eyes and heard her leave. He was exhausted and felt weakened by the effort of appearing well in front of Reece, when most of the time he felt extremely ill.

Do you know that for a fact’? It was Reece’s enquiry that swam around his thoughts as he longed to be rescued by the anaesthesia of sleep. What was his reply? ‘No, but I believe it’s the truth.’  Wasn’t that the contention that had haunted him most of his life. He denied things that others accepted as self evident. He always sought facts whereas his Gran and Juzzy, and even Reece, had accepted Jesus as the truth. They believed Him because of their experiences. It rang true. They didn’t rely on physical proof, though Ari guessed if Jesus was true, the experience of trusting Him would be proof enough. Eventually he dropped into a deep restless sleep.

            Swirling thoughts soon became a macabre dream:

He tumbled through the air. Everything was in slow motion. There was water below... and rocks. He crashed into them. His head hurt. He should be dead. Faces he didn’t recognise looked at him.

‘I think he’s dead,’ said one voice. ‘He should be dead,’ said another voice. The faces disappeared in a black mist. He lay on his back in the stream unable to move, the water feeling like material. More faces passed by. He thought he saw Justine. He called her name. Her long blonde hair framed her face as she turned to him. She was speaking, but he couldn’t hear anything. Somehow he was alone, lying on a road and headlights were bearing down on him. He rolled, but he wasn’t moving. He couldn’t avoid the charging beams. Ari cried out but nothing happened. The lights passed harmlessly by.

Soaked in sweat, Ari woke up late in the afternoon. A movement to his right alerted him. Instinctively he recoiled back in fright. A terrifying dark shadow approached him. Panic filled him as he made an effort to repel the intruder. ‘They were still after him!’ he thought. Desperately struggling to get his hands up to fend off any attack, Ari wanted to call out. His mouth was dry and tongue uncooperative. He didn’t recognise the big stranger who had a serious expression on his face.

“Nooo...,” moaned Ari, encased helplessly by restricting bedclothes, cast and neck brace. Just then a nurse walked in.

“It’s all right Mr James,” she cooed, “You’re okay... it’s safe here.” She moved between the stranger and Ari and raised him up on some pillows.

The quiet visitor took a small step back, apologetically raising his hands.

“It’s okay,” he said in a smooth baritone voice, “I want to help.”

            The quiet manner and his deferential posture started to set Ari at ease. He wore a light grey suit that seemed to emphasise his grey eyes and prematurely greying short hair.

“My name’s Alan Meadows, Detective Alan Meadows, I’m with the police.” He spoke slowly in consideration of Ari’s alarm.

 ‘Well, he made that clear to me,’ thought Ari, abstractly dwelling on the exaggerated slowness of his introduction, but confusion still showed on his face. There was also anxiety and mistrust evident in his expression.

“Do you have some ID?” As the detective dug out his police identity Ari apologised, “I’m sorry but I’m beginning to feel a bit paranoid.”

“I understand,” he answered as Ari inspected the badge and document. He then looked up.

“What do you want?”

“I have a story to tell you. I want you to let me know if I’m on the wrong track.” He looked at Ari and motioned to the bed. “Do you mind if I give my feet a rest and sit on the bed?”

“No, it’s fine.”

The nurse moved around for a short time checking various items before leaving. Alan Meadows then began his account of events as he saw them.

 

            ‘On Thursday morning as part of my duties I read a phone report made by the constable on duty. He wrote that someone had rung claiming to have overheard a plot by members of Thomas McLeish’s staff. The caller was anonymous. No details were listed. I instructed that the origin of the call be added to the report – we have ways to trace calls,’ he added as an aside and then explained further. ‘If it was a nuisance call, keeping a record would help us later to locate the culprit. I was told after lunch that the call came from the Parliamentary Library. I gave McLeish’s office a call to see if any staff members were at the library on Wednesday night. I was told they couldn’t know for sure.

            Anyway, I thought no more of it until Friday morning, when I was informed that another call had been made. This time the name ‘Collette Downs’ was mentioned by the caller before the caller suddenly hung up... I checked and the second call was made from the Parliamentary Library as well. This was all still routine procedure, but at least we had a name. You can’t imagine how everything changed a short time later when the data base told me that Collette Downs had been killed on Thursday night.

             I read the accident report and contacted the traffic police involved. I now had your name. I explained that we were looking at the possibility of murder and he said no way, it was clearly an accident. The driver was drunk. I then told him we had been informed before she died that she was a target. Although he held to his judgement that she died from an accident, I rejected the possibility of coincidence. Going to the library I asked to view Thursday’s CCTV footage, but found that it had been removed by other ‘investigating officers’, something I found very suspicious since no one had any record of who these people were.

            Well, I asked to see Friday’s footage. That was still available. It didn’t take long to see your entry and, much more interesting, your departure. I confirmed your identity with the traffic police. Then I went over Miss Downs’ car with some accident investigation officers. And then we interviewed Mr Craig...” Ari interrupted him, “Who’s he?”

            ‘Mr Craig was charged with driving under the influence, culpable driving and was threatened with the possibility of having a manslaughter charge added. Anyway, his story started to fit a more premeditated, sinister scenario. All he could remember was meeting some guys at a bar... then coming to on the side of the road, at the scene of the accident. His blood alcohol reading suggested he was incapable of driving and was probably unconscious for some time. Finally, a medical examination of Craig showed minor bruising from a seat belt from the passenger side of the car. He was found slumped unconscious behind the wheel in his four wheel drive. He was slumped wearing a seatbelt but it showed no bruising on that side. Our conclusions had to be reviewed; much to his relief... throwing considerable doubt on the charge that he was driving the car.

“Does all this make sense so far?” asked the detective.

“It sure does. I’ve lived this for the past few days Detective... sorry what did you say your name was?” Ari rubbed his aching head.

“Call me Alan. Do you want me to stop?”

“No, no, I need to know everything. Have you got them yet?” Ari looked up hopefully.

“Whoa, don’t jump the gun. I’m almost finished.

            ‘So I had to find you. It was this morning that I did a search for you and sure enough, up popped your name... ‘Accident Victim.’ Now the word plot started to really gel in my mind. I found where you were. I was really worried actually. You were listed as in a coma. So here I am. And I’m hoping you can tell me who the murderers are.’

 

            Ari shifted uncomfortably on the bed, “I wish I could say categorically, but I can only tell you that I heard Byron Burke—he’s on McLeish’s staff- and another man talk about eliminating someone. Then later I recorded Burke and McLeish talk about it and mention ‘eliminating the Downs chick’. I was positive they were talking about Collette and tried to warn her. They also mentioned Clarridge, and I assume he’s the one who did the dirty work, and almost got me at the library.”

“Clarridge? I’ll have to run his name through the system.” Meadows wrote the name on his notepad.

“By the way,” Ari started, and then clenched his teeth as a spasm of pain ran through his neck when he tried to tilt his head, “your phone call tipped them off that someone had heard their plans.”

The detective made a face and then said sheepishly, “Sorry, it was all routine at that stage.”

“Yeah, well, I guess we can’t change anything now. Look Alan, all I can say is who I think could have killed Collette. And I’m pretty sure there were more people involved.”

 

            The policeman stood and stretched his legs, and then turned and spoke.

“Okay, what happened next?”

Ari explained how he went to Collette’s home and what he found. He described how they had been waiting for him at his grandmother’s and the chase that ensued. Alan nodded as if the whole picture was beginning to come together.

“So they left you for dead,” he said at the end of the account. It was more statement than question. He went on, “Well now for the big question: what is this plot all about? Why did they want Collette Downs dead?”

“She was a photographer. From what I heard on the recording she took photos that could incriminate McLeish, but she wasn’t aware of their significance.”

“Do you have this recording?”

“It was on my computer which was in my bike satchel. I bet it’s not there now. They took Collette’s computer. They’re very thorough.” Ari was beginning to weaken and gave a trembling sigh.

“You okay?” The detective looked concerned. Ari returned a tiny, limited nod in reply. “I can check your bike for the computer.” He took down another note on his evidence diary, and then continued speaking, “I read on the accident report that someone may have stolen her camera. A very neat puzzle, now... a very neat puzzle.” It was almost as if he appreciated the cleverness of the whole scheme.

 

“Is there anything else?” The detective looked like he’d finished, but he always fished for more.

Ari stared at him almost dead pan, prioritising what he was going to say next.

“Two things... first you have to agree to help me, and then I might be able to help you.”

Meadows looked a bit suspicious. He didn’t like making deals or being manipulated, and it sounded to him that there might be more to this that was being kept from him. Cautiously he replied, “That depends on what you want, go on.”

Ari gave his miniscule nod again, “Thomas’ crowd think I’m dead. I think I’d be a lot safer if they kept thinking that. I need you to help me arrange my funeral.” The concept surprised him at first, but he listened intently as Ari went on.

“They’ll be checking the papers to see if my death is listed, and if nothing shows in a few days they will probably get suspicious. They might even file a ‘missing persons’, since I wouldn’t be turning up for work, and that would be the normal thing to do.”

Alan grinned, “This might be fun. We pronounce you dead and hold your funeral hey? I think I can pull that off. I’ll get permission to have the data base instruct that you are listed as dead for protective reasons, and hope they don’t have anyone on the inside.”

“Can’t you just list me as dead?”

Alan shook his head, “It’s a legal document thing. If we list you as dead, it might be hard to revive you. Computer records are all interlinked and you could have all sorts of complications, if you gather my drift...” He added that to his note book. “So, no one is to know you are alive?” he asked.

“Reece Gobles, a friend of mine already knows, and hospital staff. And I think my Gran has to be in on it. I don’t think I could impose so much grief onto her unnecessarily.”

“A bit of grief will add reality,” suggested Alan, “but I understand where you’re coming from.”

“I think she’d act convincingly if she knew it would lengthen my life,” Ari smiled wryly; “I don’t think there’s anyone else.” His words were a little uncertain as he thought of Justine. ‘How would she react? Did his life mean anything to her any more? She may have filled her life with other people and forgotten about him.

            “All right, if we arrange your demise, how can you help me?”

“I might have the photos that they were after.”

The detective was suddenly fully attentive. Ari then explained about the data key.

“Where is it?” Alan Meadows had a glint of excitement in his eyes.

Becoming a little protective of his one bit of leverage, Ari grinned, “How about I get it to you after we organise my death. Then we can look at them together.”

“Sounds fair,” Alan smiled at Ari and pocketed his diary. “I should go. I have a lot to do. I’ll probably drop in tomorrow and let you know how we’re going.” He made his way toward the door.

            “Okay, bye Alan,” Ari raised his hand tiredly indicating farewell and Meadows responded in kind as he left.
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