More than thirty-six hours elapsed before full consciousness returned to Louisa Calleray, hours during which Jimmy Vine refused point-blank to move from the side of Louisa’s bed. The Penney’s also spent more hours than they could really afford at Louisa’s bedside, travelling from the West Country to London twice in that mercifully short period of time.
Other visitors to the hospital were Mayor Jellis and his wife, several councillors and the local press. The earnest young reporter who had covered the award Louisa had received from Mayor Jellis was in attendance for a good number of the hours Louisa Calleray remained unconscious.
Jessica Norman was a pretty-in-a-plain-way girl of twenty-four who had aspirations to marry the much older editor of the newspaper for which they both worked, Charlie Cohen. The ‘slight’ complication of a wife and the fact that he hardly noticed her other than to berate her for some minor infraction fazed her not in the slightest. Jessica believed that she and Charlie Cohen were destined to be together and that by hook or by crook it would come to be one day. In the meantime she admired from afar and undertook the assignments he often begrudgingly handed to her with an approximation of a smile. More often than not all she received in return for her efforts was a sour-faced scowl.
Jessica had been impressed with Louisa Calleray when she had met her at the award ceremony. Although she and Louisa had spoken only briefly, Jessica had felt the strength and steeliness in Louisa that had sustained her through the difficult periods in her life. As she waited for some sign that Louisa was waking, she made copious entries in her notebook, deciding on the ‘angle’ her article would take. She hoped that it would not only be good enough to impress Charlie Cohen, but that it would be good enough to appear on the front page. Louisa Calleray was, after all, a sort-of celebrity in their neck of the woods.
Pain. It felt as though every single part of her body was in pain. Louisa cried out weakly, her voice hoarse and indistinct. Jimmy Vine leapt to his feet and ran yelling into the hallway.
“Awake! Awake! AWAKE!”
Louisa’s befuddled brain heard Jimmy, but could not process what it was hearing. Weakened and exhausted it shut down again. By the time Sister and a nurse came running into the private side-room Louisa Calleray had slipped back in to deep restful slumber.
“Aye, Jimmy-lad, ye mesta imagined it, so yer did” the broad Glaswegian accent of the Ward Sister said kindly to the confused young man holding tightly onto Louisa’s hand.
“Awake! Miss Louise awake!” Jimmy insisted, shaking the recumbent patient by the shoulder. “Wake up, Miss Louise!” he called, tearfully.
“I think you must have fallen asleep yourself for a while, Jimmy” the pretty nurse said kindly. “Perhaps you dreamed it, eh?” she suggested.
“No, no, NO!” Jimmy insisted, becoming agitated. “Hurt. Miss Louise hurting.” he said, looking at the woman he had come to almost worship. “Miss Louise hurting” he repeated as fat teardrops began to run down his guileless face.
“Aye, that she is, Jimmy-lad. That’s why she needs t’be sleepin’ s’much” Sister said kindly. “Look now, Jimmy-lad, she’s a-sleeping now, again.”
“She did speak to me, din’t you, Miss Louise?” Jimmy said, wiping his arm across his eyes.
“Sure she did Jimmy,” the nurse agreed. "Let’s let her sleep now, yes?” she added as she carefully and gently disentangled Jimmy’s fingers from Louisa’s. Jimmy sat heavily on the seat by Louisa’s bed and sniffed loudly. He was so sure he had heard her speak. But nurses were clever and Sister was cleverer than even the nurses so she must know what was what, he decided.
Her face was still swollen and mostly covered with ugly purple and black bruising. Medical gauze and bandages covered several painful-looking abrasions and three rows of sutures on her scalp, Even so, Louisa Calleray looked better than she had in the five days she had been in hospital.
She was still in a great deal of pain, especially from the broken ribs that hurt even when she breathed too hard.
“Luckily none of them punctured a lung.’ the ridiculously young-looking Chinese consultant had told her in what was being called ‘Oxbridge English’: the precise English language spoken by foreign students who attended either of England’s premier Universities, Oxford and Cambridge.
Mr. Yeung looked about seventeen years old, had large intelligent dark eyes and a ready, reassuring smile for everybody. He had a penchant for smart suits and brightly-coloured bow-ties. Mr. Yeung was also an avid crossword puzzle fan, and in between patients or rounds, could usually be found puzzling over a knotty clue in the notoriously challenging London Times newspaper crossword.
Today Mr. Yeung’s attire comprised a sober charcoal grey three-piece suit with a pristine white shirt and a purple and white polka-dot bow tie. His smile was as bright as his neck-wear.
“Ah, Mrs. Calleray. How are you this fine morning?” he asked brightly even as lightning flashed in the dark sky outside the window and rain lashed noisily against the glass.
“Your sense of comic timing is slightly off kilter, Mr. Yeung” Louisa remarked drily.
“My comic timing is perfect.” the consultant answered. “It is your appreciation of irony that is missing the mark.” he added with a wink and a grin. “Now, let’s see what your chart says.”
He removed the clipboard from the foot of the bed and studied the various notations for a full minute.
“Excellent, really good.” he remarked approvingly. He handed the clipboard to a nurse and sat himself on the edge of Louisa’s bed. “I think it’s about time you stopped idling your days away in my ward and went home.” he told her.
“Really? Oh, that’s wonderful news!” Louisa exclaimed, the first unforced smile in many days breaking out across her face. “It’s been such a chore lazing around here, being waited on hand and foot and the suchlike. A girl could quite get used to this, you know.” she joked.
“I know. That’s why I like to kick out those who outstay their welcome as soon as I can,” Mr. Yeung laughed pleasantly, “even those who are no trouble at all to attend.”
“I have so much to catch-up on… and I still have to face the police” Louisa said, her jocular mood dipping slightly.
“I have told that Sergeant who has been hanging around here that you are not to be questioned about what happened to you until you feel one-hundred percent ready to do so. Is that clear?” Mr. Yeung asked. He was not smiling now.
“Absolutely! I do not want to think about that night – let alone talk about it more than I really have to.” Louisa said as an involuntary shudder rippled along her spine.
What she did not say was that she recalled very little of the assault on her. She remembered clearly the initial contact and being thrown or knocked to the ground. Most of what followed afterwards was mercifully patchy, like snatches of a dream or nightmare immediately after being awoken. Louisa would have preferred that it remained that way, but she was already having flashbacks and recalling moments of the incident with each passing day.
“Now, Mrs. Calleray, there is a young man outside who is, to not put too fine a point on it, absolutely desperate to see you. Shall I ask nurse to allow him in?” Mr. Yeung asked.
Louisa was as keen to see her eager visitor as he was to see her. With a smile on her face she nodded her assent. Seconds later a tornado the size and shape of Jimmy Vine blew into the small room and headed straight for Louisa.
“Awake!” he cried delightedly.
“Yes, Jimmy, I am properly awake.”
Louisa smiled warmly at the manchild who had stolen her heart in a way nobody ever had before. When the nurses had told her that Jimmy had barely left her bedside the whole time she had been unconscious she felt a swell of love for him that still made her heart beat a little faster every time she thought about it.
Jimmy held her hand and chattered non-stop, as though he needed to tell Louisa literally everything that she had missed. She interjected the occasional word or phrase whenever there was a suitable pause in Jimmy’s narrative, but for the most part she let him rattle on at his own pace. It was strangely comforting and normal after the trauma of what had happened to her.
Mr. Yeung told her that it would most likely be several months before she physically felt like her old self. Emotionally, though, was a different matter. It was an area he had no great knowledge of or experience in, he apologised.
Louisa assured him that he need not worry himself. She had survived traumas in the past and would survive this one, she told him as she shook his hand and thanked him for looking after her. She gingerly eased herself into the passenger seat of the taxi-cab she had requested be ordered rather than ask anybody else to come for her. Jimmy Vine sat in the seat immediately behind her, proudly carrying her bags.
“Where are we going, Jimmy?” she asked over her shoulder.
“We’re going home!” Jimmy answered excitedly. “Going home!”
“We know who he is, Mrs. Calleray. We even know where he’s staying, ma’am.”
The police Inspector looked tired and careworn. It was his third visit to Louisa in as many days.
“He’s a dangerous character, that’s for sure. It would be a pleasure to take him off the streets to be frank.” Inspector Waites said earnestly.
“I am so sorry, Inspector, I just cannot be one hundred percent certain that it was actually him who assaulted me. If I was I would have no hesitation in saying so I can assure you.”
“And you never saw his face, not once?” Inspector Waites asked, resignation in his voice. He was about ninety percent certain that Louisa Calleray was not being entirely truthful with him for some reason. Considering that the beating she had taken had come very close to taking her life he could not understand her reluctance to co-operate more fully with him and his team.
“No, Inspector, I did not see the person’s face, as I have told your Sergeant. He was either behind me or I was on the floor.” Louisa said firmly.
“Okay, ma’am. Thank you for your time. It looks like this will remain an unsolved case I’m afraid.” Inspector Waites told Louisa pointedly.
“That is…, unfortunate.” Louisa commented slowly. “It is such a pity that there were no witnesses. Had there been, though, perhaps I would not have been so badly beaten?”
“Perhaps.” agreed Inspector Waites, flatly. “I’ll bid you good day, ma’am, and wish you a speedy recovery.”
“Thank you, Inspector. Good day to you, too.” Louisa smiled.
She watched as the stiff-backed senior police officer walked out of the room. She waited until she heard the street door close firmly after him before releasing the pent-up breath in her lungs.
Never before had she lied to an officer of the law. Her hands shook slightly and she willed herself to breathe slowly and evenly until the shaking stopped. She knew that Inspector Waites believed her to be holding something back from him. He was perfectly correct, of course.
Even if pressed, Louisa Calleray would not have admitted why she had failed to identify to the police the identity of her assailant. He had told her himself that he was Sylvia Urquhart’s cousin. It had taken a matter of a day or two to locate and identify him as the principle and most likely suspect in the attack on Louisa. When presented with his mug-shot Louisa had swallowed back the bile that had risen in her throat at the sight of the thuggish-looking man in the six by eight in black and white photograph. It was definitely the man who had attacked her, Louisa was in no doubt whatsoever.
Yet she had not spoken up, then or since.
In fact she had done her best to cast doubt in the minds of the officers investigating the case. She actually felt a little sorry for Sergeant Chase. He wanted to bring the case to a successful conclusion for her sake, but she could not help him do so. Louisa assumed it was Sergeant Chase’s frustration with her apparent inability to remember key facts and to identify the man in the photograph that had taken him to his Inspector’s office door.
It was guilt that was staying her tongue.
As a reasonably intelligent and sensible woman of mature years, Louisa knew that what she was feeling was irrational. Sylvia Urquhart had got exactly what she deserved and what the law demanded of her for her crimes. Even so, Louisa had not expected the woman who had so cleverly manipulated Louisa and others for so long to fall apart in the fashion that she had, if her cousin was to be believed. Louisa had no reason to disbelieve him; his anger, no, his fury, bore testament to his words. As soon as she was feeling better she would see what could be done to alleviate Sylvia Urquhart’s suffering. As for her cousin? Well, without her to bear witness against him there was no case to be made against him. Louisa was not entirely comfortable with that situation, but she was less comfortable with the situation she had, albeit tangentially, helped put Sylvia in.
To be continued...
Author Notes: Regrettably, due to a massive computer failure a couple of weeks ago, there will not be any further chapters of this story as the rest of it is lost for good!
I am distraught that I cannot finish the story as I invested a lot of time and effort into this one. I do not have the heart or the will to attempt to recreate what is lost.