Text 8 (August 4th) – Find an object that you have used more than you normally would have done because of lockdown. Find another object that you have used less than you normally would have done because of lockdown. If you can, take a photograph of them. Or maybe sketch them. Bring them with you on Thursday.
Someone Saved My Life Tonight
He put the suitcase on the bed and finally opened it. Inside there were two objects; the two objects he needed right now.
“Hey Google, play Elton John playlist”
As he pulled out the knitting needles, he could just manage to hold the wool between his fingers; knit two, purl two, knit two, purl two, knit two…
… Oh no, no, no, I’m a rocket man.
Rocket man, burning out his fuse up here alone…
Jayden never knew his Dad and his Mum was always at work; never noticing the bruises on his arms or the fact that his trousers were always ripped. Every day he’d run home from school, taking a different route, trying to outsmart them. Today he’d mis-judged it.
His wrist was already starting to bruise. But, just like his hero, knitting was his solace. The world is a much brighter place when you can wear a stripy tank top!
Lying back on his bed, Jayden closed his eyes as he toyed with Elton John’s very own 1976, Porsche 911 key; the genuine article that he’d bought on e-Bay.
If Reginald Dwight could become Elton John, Jayden Kelly could become Zach Dee. He wasn’t ‘Smelly Kelly’, he was Zach Dee; his name in lights on the Vegas strip.
… You know, I’m still standing, better than I ever did.
Looking like a true survivor, feeling like a little kid.
I’m still standing after all this time,
Picking up the pieces of my life without you on my mind.
I’m still standing. Yeah, yeah, yeah…
The Most and Least of it
She put the suitcase on the bed and finally opened it. Inside there were two objects. She clearly remembered, hurriedly throwing them into her case; so much had happened since then, it almost seemed like it was in another lifetime.
2 weeks previously …
I had been so looking forward to having another trip in my new car. A Mercedes-Benz, A series model that I had only purchased, with some of the money from my late mothers’ inheritance, a few days before the Corona virus lockdown measures were put in place. It had seemed to call out to me, from the showroom forecourt. Sitting there, with its gleaming diamond black paint and full leather interior, as if shouting out ‘Buy me.’ After a short period of intense haggling with the sales person, we reached an agreement, concerning both the value of my old Fiat 500, in part-exchange and certain special offers on the new car – I was the proud owner of a 67 plated Mercedes-Benz. Kevin, my loving husband of 25 years, gave me a front filming dash-cam as birthday present and had just fitted it in the Merc for me yesterday.
Mansfield, Saturday July 14th 11.05am.
‘You’re all set for a good trip out, in it now’ he informed me ‘You’ve got enough diesel – remember when you fill up, this one has a diesel engine!’ he joked.
I didn’t need telling twice and gathering up the keys from the antique telephone table, in the hall of their 1950’s built detached home, I almost ran out of the front door, ready to clamber straight into my pride and joy. Kevin leaned in, through the drivers’ door window, to explain how the dash cam’s various buttons worked, straightening up and moving aside, just before I turned on the ignition and the car roared into life and I drove away.
It was such a great feeling, to be back out on the open road. I pressed the electronic widow mechanism and a blast of fresh spring air, washing over my face. I really had no idea where I was going to drive, just away from the confines of a home that I had been kept inside of, as a virtual prisoner for the past 20 weeks!
So it was with something of a shock, that I was brought to an unsuspected halt, by a large Land Rover Freelander, veering across the central reservation strip, from the other side of the dual carriageway and screeching to halt, just ahead. Luckily, I am a careful driver and even more so currently, as I hadn’t driven for weeks and this was my new car. I slammed my foot on the brake, in an emergency stop manoeuvre and simply sat there, shaking, on the verge of tears. As I gained control of my breathing and dared to look out of the windscreen, an incredible scenario was playing out, right in front of me.
Over on the opposite carriageway, an unmarked police car, its sirens screeching, had screeched to a halt, in the fast lane, nearest to the central reservation and out of it jumped 2 armed policemen. As they raced towards the Freelander, screaming ‘Armed Police, Get out of the vehicle, or we’ll shoot’ the hooded man, sat in the passenger seat, smashed the side window and pointed a sawn-off shotgun, at the nearer of the police officers and blasted away.
Meanwhile, the driver reversed and using a handbrake turn, sped off down the carriageway, in the same direction I was pointing. I couldn’t hear anything, as the sound of the shotgun had deafened me but the police officer who had been shot, was writhing on the ground, in what looked like agony, with his colleague obviously shouting into his radio, for assistance. By then, traffic on both sides of the dual carriageway had stopped and people were climbing out of their cars, to see what was happening. Just then another police car arrived and an officer of obvious high rank, got out and began to take control of the situation. He sent a uniformed officer over to my car, as I was obviously the first person, to have arrived on the scene. ‘Do you have dash-cam footage of what happened?’ he enquired, after he’d signalled to me, to lower the drivers window. I shook my head, still unable to clearly hear, or really understand, what exactly was going on. ‘Yes you have!’ he pointed to my newly installed camera system, ‘Are you trying to hamper a police investigation? That’s a criminal offence in its own right’ he screamed. ‘N..n..o, No, I’m not’ I managed to stammer. ‘It’s new, I only got it at the weekend, I didn’t realise what you’d said’. He looked at me again, slightly more kind. ‘I’m sorry ma’am but a colleague is lying dead just yards away and you might have important dash-cam footage, of the perpetrators. Come and sit over there, in my patrol car and explain to me exactly what has just happened.
It all seemed so unreal, as if it was not me who was actually living through the situation but like I was watching a film of someone else being interviewed. I couldn’t quite take it all in, that I had actually witnessed a person being killed! By this time, other officials had arrived, including an ambulance and a plain clothed police woman, young and blonde but suitably official looking, in a dark blue trouser suit, who seemed to have been assigned, to concentrate solely on me and my needs. I later understood that she was not a local officer but from a specialised group of police, known as the National Crime Agency (NCA), of whom I had never heard, before that moment. However, she organised for me to be given, a cup of hot sweet tea as she thought I was still in shock and the three full spoons of sugar she’d put in it, would help me recover.
After what seemed like endless hours, of being questioned, told to wait to see someone else and then being asked the same questions, by a different person, I was finally given some information. The woman police officer, Detective Sergeant Simms, ‘Just call me Cathy’ she had told me earlier, was from the NCA and would accompany me to my home to explain to my husband and quickly shove a few essential items into a suitcase, then arrange for me to be taken somewhere safe, whilst investigations continued into the incident. ‘Why can’t I stay at my own home’ I queried. ‘My husband will be able to watch out for me.’ I was told that I didn’t understand the gravity of the situation. ‘They’re part of an organised crime gang, we’ve been tracking their activities for months’ I was told. ‘If they think you have evidence against them, your life won’t be safe, until we’ve got them safely locked away, in a high security prison.’ I couldn’t believe that my life had been changed forever, in an instant.
So as I opened the case, on my bed in the safe house, that the police had taken me to, the dash cam I had been instructed to remove from my car, was probably the most important but least used thing, I had with me at the time, just after lockdown was easing. Although one of the officers had downloaded the relevant footage, from the camera, during the hours when I had been answering questions for one or other of those involved, I was instructed to download it to my own laptop, whilst I was being kept in the witness protection and keep watching it, periodically. To try and see if it could job any more of my memory, that I might have overlooked during interviews at the time, because of the shock.
Surprisingly, the other item in the top of my hastily packed suitcase, the thing that I had been using a lot more frequently, whilst we were in lockdown, than I’d ever done before, was a package of hair dye. I had always before then, paid to have highlights and my hair colouring, done in a salon, professionally. Hairdressers had turned out to be one of professions, that had been most severely hit, by the lockdown restrictions. Fortunately, in this case, I had been experimenting at home, during the lockdown, taking the chance of being home for most of the time, to try out and experiment on various, more outlandish shades. I had to smile to myself, as I noticed the colour shade, of the current pack, ‘Steel Grey’. Not the most unusual but as Cathy had explained, we need you to get your hair cut and coloured and wear some plain glasses, to alter your appearance, as much as possible. ‘They know that you got a good look at them and you have filmed evidence of them, their van and especially of the chap, who fired the shotgun’ Cathy told me. ‘We can give you a new identity but it all takes time. What work does your husband do? I’m assuming that you want him to have a new identity, too if he agrees?’
As I let Cathy use the sharpest scissors she could find, in the flat I’d been taken to, on the outskirts of Nottingham, to cut my shoulder length brownish, blonde hair, into a shorter more easily manageable style, the true extent and repercussions of today’s experiences, hit me more fully. Cathy could see that I didn’t have much left in reserve, emotionally, ‘Come on let’s use your hair colour then, make you look like a granny!’ she joked, ‘It’s fortunate that you put that in your case, when we popped in at your house’
‘I remembered to pick up that but I didn’t even give my husband a hug or a kiss before we left’ I cried. ‘And I am a grandma! There are seven grandchildren, when will I ever be able to see them again? Little Georgia’s only three.’
Come on now, lets get some Horlicks sorted and get ready for bed. I will be staying with you, or a colleague I will introduce you to, tomorrow, will be here when I’m off duty. Let’s get a good night’s sleep now’. I didn’t believe Cathy but I was so tired and followed, obeying her, dutifully, to the letter.
Clearing her house was not something I wanted to be part of, if I’m truthful. I could not bear the thought of wheeler-dealers trawling through possessions looking for items of value, ignorant of memories shrouding every piece of pottery or jewellery Aunt Matty treasured throughout her eighty years.
She lived a very frugal life, never married, devoted herself staunchly to the Church. Unlikely to be big bucks made from her few worldly possessions. I am her only niece, and felt it only right that dignity was afforded to her, as the material side of things drew to a close. I soon realised she cared little, or craved any of life’s extravagances. Only basic necessities tumbled from cupboards and hideyholes.
Charities were keen to help, clearance completed with respectfulness, for which I was grateful. It just remained for the loft to be cleared. They would return tomorrow.
The loft had probably never been used, other than to store her Xmas tree and decorations that she loved so much. My plan was to take them home with me, I could make them shine and twinkle again in her memory. Sure enough there they were, along with a very primitive rocking cradle, perhaps from a nativity scene, and a battered brownish suitcase, with straps, buckles and strengthened corners, a relic from another era.
Carefully, I managed to squeeze them out of the loft, onto the single bed in the spare room. Everything had been labelled. Snowflakes, icicles, red baubles, and tinsel. Typical, of her. The crib, took me by surprise, beneath the cloth, lay a doll, eyes closed, head resting on a silk blue pillow. A blanket tucked in at the sides. A postcard depicting Mary and Joseph in a manger lay against the pillow. In Aunt’s familiar handwriting she had written, “Unto her a Son was born”.
I released each strap, opened the lid of the suitcase, unsure what I might find. Carefully wrapped in yellowing tissue was a powder blue hand knitted cardigan and bonnet.
Beneath, a certificate of still born male child, December 1935.
Mother: Martha Day. Father: Unknown
I closed the case. His memory will remain loved, in obscurity, in my safe hands.