~ Moving On ~
By Susan Brown
Some may find portions of this Chapter uncomfortable
Voices, echoing and drifting as though in a tunnel and from a long way away.
Then a bright light, so bright it took all colour and shadow, yet I didn't need to shield my eyes.
I walked towards that light and saw two figures standing at the end of what did seem to be a long tunnel. The light was behind the figures and I could not make out who it could be.
The light sparkled and seemed to flow like water and I felt myself getting nearer the end of the tunnel and I could… now, yes I could make out who the people were.
Running as fast as I could, I dived into the open arms of my mother and father.
They were smiling and comforting me. I was with them again. I loved them so much and I had missed them terribly.
Ronald Jackson was afraid.
He now knew that it was only a matter of time before he was going to be caught, these idiots didn't understand. As soon as he realized that Katie had run away and why, he quickly packed his bags and in the confusion managed to leave the school grounds without being seen. His car was parked in the school car park around the back of the main building and it was easy enough to get away, unnoticed.
He had always planned to move on, but only after he had a bit of fun with Katie Bright. He knew when he was working for the social services that it was a mistake to show his revulsion at the boy, dressed up as a girl. It wasn’t natural but on reflection it could have been interesting. He could have had more fun, if he had befriended him or her then.
He had worked hard to be employed as a social worker. He always liked children; they were small and malleable, ripe for picking. It had been relatively easy to get one of his friends in the network to come up with a forged identity for him. Eating humble pie and showing ‘true remorse’ had got him a job at the school with forged teaching credentials. It was all so easy.
He couldn’t believe it when he saw Katie at the school; what unbelievable luck, but so full of potential for his kind of fun. That it didn’t work out was a shame but there were always other kids. As he drove away, Jackson smiled at the thought of one small boy, what was his name?–oh, yes, Mark Smith; one of many. He was seven or eight and he was a very timid child.
Jackson felt a flush as he recalled what he was able to do with the child after he had been taken away from his parents. Alleged’ mistreatment by the father, it was all very sad. He smiled widely at the memories.
There was no mistreatment, but fabricating the evidence was easy for someone of Jackson’s particular talents. He got his kicks from having power over children and there were plenty of others in) his network who felt the same. It was somewhat unfortunate that the boy didn’t survive, but such things did happen, never mind, it was good whilst it lasted and importantly, the child’s father got the blame and was stewing in prison. Ignorant fools.
He was on the main road now. He knew where he was going; to a friend outside Birmingham–they had wonderfully similar tastes in children. Jackson had some money put by and he decided that it was time for another change of identity.
He reached the dual carriageway and sped up a bit, no faster than 80 though as he did not wish to attract attention.
I felt the warmth of my mother and father as they hugged me. It was so nice to be with them and away from the awful hell that I had been experiencing. They spoke to me but I didn’t really understand what they were saying. I could feel their warmth and love for me though. I shut my eyes and felt myself get sleepy. I didn’t want to let go but I felt myself being pulled backwards. I opened my eyes and I could see my lovely mother and father going away from me, waving as if to say goodbye. I cried. I wanted them so badly but I was so tired. My eyes shut and the brightness dimmed and then went out and all was dark.
It was getting late now and fewer cars were on the road. Jackson was feeling tired and a bit nauseous. He had some antacid tablets in his pocket and he sucked one. He would have to see a doctor about this as it had happened quite a lot recently. He would have to wait until his change of identity though. No point in taking chances.
Putting on the radio, he scanned the channels to see if there was any news about Katie and the school.
‘Nothing. Perhaps it was still a bit early for that.’
Jackson frowned as his left hand started tingling, and then his arm started to ache as though cramping. He thought that he must be coming down with flu or something. He yawned. It was late; perhaps he should stop at the next services for a break.
Suddenly, he felt awful, heavy and dull and broke out in a cold clammy sweat. His left arm started having shooting pains going up toward his chest. He slowed down and moved to the inside lane, getting ready to stop suddenly feeling a fiery pain in his chest and then, as if a huge strong hand was gripping his heart, he screamed in agony.
In a reflex action, his foot slammed down on the accelerator. His eyes were closed and both hands clutched at his chest over his heart. The car sheared across the road and hit the central reservation barrier and then cannoned across to the other side of the road, going up an embankment and (then) hitting a tree. It was a steep bank and the fields were about ten feet below. The car rolled down the bank coming to a stop upside down, wheels still turning.
Despite the pain in his chest, and the shock of the accident, Jackson opened his eyes.
He realised that he was upside down and felt very disorientated. He could not feel his legs and looking up he saw he was trapped; blood was dripping down from his legs or what was left of them.
He whimpered as the pain increased in his chest.
He could not breathe very well and he was fading away.
In the engine compartment, two wires touched causing a spark. Petrol was leaking from a fractured pipe and there was a dull whoosh as the trickle ignited. In seconds the car was ablaze.
Jackson was still alive–just–and the last thing he remembered was the heat and the intense pain as the fire engulfed and consumed him.
There was no thought of repentance or prayer, Jackson was baffled as to what was happening…he was a good boy…
‘Katie, Katie, wake up, honey!’
I wanted to sleep. It is warm and fuzzy when I sleep. No worries or pain. No one is after you or trying to hurt you. I…
‘Katie, please wake up!’
‘That’s Nicola.’ I thought. ‘What’s she doing here?’ I opened one gummy eye and blinked because the light hurt. It wasn't that other light, that didn't hurt at all.
‘Oh Katie, you’re awake.’
I managed to open the other eye. Everything was a bit blurry and then clicked into focus.
Nicola was standing over me with a grin on her face and bouncing up and down.
‘Wha’–wha’–?’ It hurt trying to focus on her.
‘Don’t try to speak, I’ll get the nurse.’
I shut my eyes. My head, throat and tummy hurt. I felt sick and as weak as a kitten.
A few seconds later there was a lot of noise as the door banged open and a couple of nurses rushed in.
‘Hello,’ said one with a smile. Woken up at last?’
I nodded and that hurt too.
‘In pain, honey? Don’t worry, the doctor’s just coming and I’m sure she’ll give you something for that. Now pop your mouth open.’
I did as I was told.
She put a cold thermometer in my mouth and checked something on a monitor that was bleeping over my left shoulder.
The other nurse was doing something under the bed, I’m not sure what.
I looked at my arm and noticed that I had a tube stuck in it. It hurt a bit if I moved but as I was in pain in other places, it wasn’t that bad, more uncomfortable really.
The nurse, who had a badge that said ‘Tracy’ on her colourful teddy bear covered tabard, took the thermometer out of my mouth and checked it.
‘Not bad, a wee bit high, but that’s not surprising seeing what you’ve been through.’
Just then a doctor came in. I could see Nicola peering through the glass of the door and smiled a bit but she seemed annoyed that she wasn’t allowed in.
‘Well, Katie. How’re you feeling?’
‘Ugh,’ was all I could manage to utter.
‘Throat a bit sore? Tracy, can you give her a sip of water, please?’
Tracy lifted my head off the pillow and allowed me to drink through a straw out of a plastic cup. The water felt lovely going down my parched and dry throat. After a few sips, Tracy let my head rest back on the pillow again.
‘Are you okay to talk now?’
‘Yes, doctor,’ I said with a slightly rasping voice.
‘Tracy, can you and Sharon let us have a few minutes alone, please. Oh, and take young Nicola off to the waiting room so can she can tell them that our young wanderer is awake now. I’ll come to see them shortly and then they can come visit.’
The nurses left us alone and the doctor pulled up a chair next to the bed and held my hand.
She had a nice smile. She looked about Mummy’s age and was pretty.
‘Right, Katie, can you tell me how you are feeling?’
‘I’m a bit sore and I’ve got a headache. Oh, and my throat hurts a lot.’
‘Right, hang on a mo. She stood up, picked up a syringe and did something with the tube.
It must have been magic as very soon, I was in a lot less pain.
‘Yes, thank you.’
‘Can you tell me what happened?’
Suddenly, the woolly feeling left my head and my memories came rushing back.
‘I wasn’t dead.’ I thought, almost panic stricken ‘Now I will get into trouble and I’ll be put away, why it didn’t work? The pills DIDN’T work. What am I going to do?’
I started crying, just bawled for ages as all the pain and fear came out. I was so upset that it took a minute more for me to calm down and realize that I was being cuddled by the doctor and she was talking to me.
‘There, there, sweetheart. Don’t worry. You’re not in trouble and no one’s going to hurt you, I promise.’
Hearing those soothing words, I started coming down off the ceiling.
‘Yes,’ I sniffed.
‘Good, here’s a tissue; now I want you to promise not to get upset, okay?’
I nodded, calming down and taking deep sobbing breaths.
‘Okay. You were admitted two days ago after taking some sleeping pills. Do you remember doing that?’
I nodded as speaking still hurt. My heart was thumping away as she told me what happened.
‘You were unconscious and we had to put a tube down into your tummy to get all of the pills out. If we didn’t do that, you would have died. Luckily, you had been sick and most of the pills had not been digested, but you had taken enough for it to be a problem. Apart from that, you were in insulin shock, or reaction, as we now like to term it. We dealt with that but you had gone into a light coma. All we could do was keep an eye on you and give you some drugs to help the underlying causes. Do you understand any of that?’
‘Sort of; did I nearly die?’
‘Yes, you did. If you hadn’t been found you would not be here now.’
‘Am I in trouble?’
The doctor smiled. ‘No, dear, you’re not in trouble. We’re all glad that you’re awake, and in particular, your sister. She has refused point blank to leave the hospital, while you’ve been here, and to be frank, has been a right royal pain in the neck. Your parents have been here all the time too, and, as far as I’m aware, not had any sleep. If I’m not mistaking that clamour at the door, they’re impatient to come and see you. I’ll let them in and come visit you later, okay?’
‘Don’t mention it.’ She got up and let my family in, closing the door behind her.
Mummy, Daddy and Nicola came hurrying over to me. They were all smiling. That was a good sign, wasn’t it?
‘Hi, Katie, you okay?’ asked Nicola.
‘Did you know that there’s a bag under your bed and it’s got wee in it?’
Mummy shook her head as she and Daddy sat by the bed and Nicola sat at the end, out of range. Mummy held my hand. ‘How are you, honey? We’ve been so worried about you.’
‘I’m sorry, Mummy. I didn’t mean to make you worried, but after all I did, I thought that I should just go away.’
‘You didn’t do anything, you silly goose. It was that man–Mr Jackson. It was him that caused all this.’
Daddy spoke up. ‘We blame ourselves. We let that man near you and we nearly lost you because of it.’
I was surprised; I didn’t know that men cried, and he definitely had tears in his eyes. Silly, I know, but that was what I was thinking.
‘Don’t cry, Daddy. Everyone was taken in by him, even me. I thought that he was truly sorry for being nasty to me, but I was wrong. But how did you find me?’
‘That was me,’ exclaimed Nicola, proudly. ‘I found your diary and then when I took it to the head, Mummy and Daddy were there. The head went out for a meeting and then it came to me where you would go–to your old house. Aren’t I a clever girl?’
‘Nicola, don’t confuse poor Katie.’
‘Okay, now pipe down while I tell Katie what happened,’
‘Okay, Mummy,’ Nicola replied, raising her eyes heavenwards.
‘Shhh, Nicola or you’ll have to go out.’
Nicola zipped her lips with her fingers and I couldn’t help but smile.
‘Now, where was I? Oh yes. What Nicola said was true. As soon as we realised that you could have gone to your old house, we rushed over there. We were shocked to find you on your bed like that. We saw that you had been sick and Daddy did what he could to keep you alive until the ambulance came. We got to the hospital quickly and the doctors here immediately did things to stabilise you. You were very lucky, because we almost lost you.’
‘Sorry,’ I said, starting to cry.
‘Don’t worry, sweetie. We’re just happy that you’re safe.’
‘WE should be sorry for not protecting you against that monster. There’s going to be an enquiry, and let’s hope some lessons can be learned.’
I felt a bit better now. I wasn’t in trouble and my family still loved me. But I had a confession to make.
‘Erm, you still might be angry with me, and the school may not want me back and I might get locked up.’
‘Why, honey?’ said Daddy.
I gulped and falteringly told them about the fire alarm incident.
For some reason they started laughing and I got a bit annoyed.
‘What’s the joke?’
Mummy stopped laughing first.
‘Well, Katie. It didn’t take long to realise that it was you that set off the alarm.’
‘When the search was on for you, it was realised that your bike had gone from the bike shed. Two and two makes four. We soon decided that you did it because you had to create the diversion. No one blames you for that. The head even said that it showed that you are a very resourceful girl.’
‘I wasn’t very clever then, forgetting that the bike would be missed.’
‘Clever enough,’ said Daddy with a smile. ‘But more seriously, we’re going to have to sort out your diabetes medication and you have to remember to take your meds, check your levels regularly and eat when you should–and don’t give me that look, Katie. I bet you felt strange before you took that overdose.
I nodded. ‘Yes, I was sort of depressed, tired and not feeling right.’
‘Exactly. It was probably one of the reasons why you decided to try to do yourself in. Now, no more lectures, I’m just glad we have you back safely.’
I smiled. I was happy now back with my family and that no one could harm me now. Then a thought struck me and the smile left my face.
‘What’s up, Katie,’ asked Nic.
‘Come on spill it.’
‘Nicola,’ said Mummy, ‘I wish you wouldn’t talk like some Police soap on the telly.’
‘I should think so. Now, Katie, why do you look sad all of a sudden?’
‘Mr Jackson.’ I saw everyone look at each other. ‘What?’ I said, feeling a bit confused.
Daddy held my hand.
‘Mr Jackson won’t be bothering you any more.’
‘Why, erm, how–I don’t understand. Has he been caught by the police?’
‘No honey, he was involved in a car crash the night you ran away and he died.’
I thought about it and smiled.
‘Daddy, I shouldn’t be happy that he’s dead, should I?’
‘Normally no, but from what I’ve heard, the world is a better place without him.’
I thought about it for a second. I could feel a weight lifting from me as I realised that things were going to be all right.
‘Can I have some chocolate?’
To be continued...
Also to Gabi for helping making sense out of madness.
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