Exactly Five Years Ago: The Shock Still Reverberates

15 September 2011

Janet has called me from Scotland and wants us to meet up. She tells me that she wants to discuss the writing of the book but is not happy to send an email; she would rather meet in person.

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I wonder why she wants to meet. Why not tell me by email? It’s an awfully long way from Scotland to Cheshire.

I think about it. She didn’t sound in the least bit perturbed – just, well, flat really. It crosses my mind that she might not want to proceed with the book. Her emails have been light-hearted, entertaining stories of life, miles from anywhere and with few people to bother her. It could be she has achieved closure. She might wish to put the whole episode of what happened at Ball Beard Farm behind her and move on.

I have to prepare myself for the fact that she might not want to continue with the book as it’s a distinct possibility.

The sun is shining. Janet looks slim and trim in her black jeans and boots but her face is more lined than I remember it and her hair lies flat and white on her head. Her blue eyes are wary but as I embrace her I think she realises that it is possible for us to carry on where we left off: we do have a relationship and I’d go so far as to say it’s one based on trust.

We talk about our lives generally and then she asks me if I’ve got my tape recorder with me. I lift it out of my bag and turn it on. We continue chatting about this and that; my writing, my family, Steven King and the liberties he takes in his latest book (would an unknown writer be able to switch from third person to first person as nonchalantly as him and get away with it?).

“Is that runnin’” she asks, pointing to the tape recorder. I nod and she launches straight in.

“Last year, when I went to Scotland, I still felt like I’d been hit by a truck. It’s a bit difficult to explain – but I got up to Cannich in the winter and I started feelin’ a lot better. I was parked up in the middle of nowhere; a perfect place by a transmission mast which meant I had great reception on my phone but no telly for some reason. The beach was nearby and I started to relax at a level I’ve never known before – in fact I had to go to the doctors because I started getting dizzy spells. I’ve been on blood pressure tablets for the best part of 15 years and when I went into the doctors he found that I’d relaxed so much my blood pressure had come down and the tablets were forcing it down too much. My pulse rate was 38. He put me on a heart machine and said it looked fine. I told him I’d had a lot of stress but now I’d retired and everything was going smoothly, I felt good. He said I’d relaxed enough to come off the tablets.

“Then as I relaxed more, over the summer, the last two to three months, I’ve had more memories come back to me, but, unlike last time – when I felt as if I’d been hit with a train -these memories came with no emotion at all. It came back to me: I know what happened now.

I know what happened to Fred.


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