Upon the bed lay the body of Walter Morris. Broken, battered and covered in blood, it lay motionless. A doctor was pumping hard on his chest and then blew into his mouth with urgency, as a nurse hurried around the bed with syringes and life-saving drugs. The crowd at the door, complete with journalists and photographers, suggested that Walter had a story to tell, and judging by their worried faces, hope was all they had left. The heart monitor machine had flat-lined about two minutes ago and now the doctor had placed defibrillator paddles on Walter’s chest as he shouted,
“Clear,” and the nurse stepped back.
Walter’s body juddered as it rose momentarily off the bed.
As the doctor examined the heart monitor, he groaned as it failed to register life. He placed the paddles on Walter’s chest for a second time and shouted,
Again Walter’s body juddered and rose off the bed and again there was no response. The Doctor dived onto his chest and began pumping again as the defibrillator charged up for one final attempt. All eyes were on the heart monitor as the doctor placed the paddles on both side of Walter’s heart and shouted,
At 06:45 precisely, an alarm clock sounded. It was an old fashioned alarm clock that had bells on the top that were thrashed with a little hammer in the middle. It sat on top of a small wooden cabinet that had books and magazines stored neatly inside it. Next to the cabinet was a simple single bed and in the haze of a bright, summer morning, an arm slowly moved. There was a gentle tap at the door, a pause and then it slowly opened. Walter Morris blinked as he looked around his small bedroom.
“Good morning, Walter.” said a friendly cheerful female voice.
Mary Jones breezed into the bedroom with a breakfast tray. She put it down on a table next to the bed and opened the curtains. Bright sunshine blasted into the room with ferocious speed and it made Walter’s eyes scream in protest. She turned her plump figure back towards the bed and helped eighty seven year old Walter sit up. Once he was comfortable she placed his breakfast tray across his lap and sat on a stool.
“Now eat up all your breakfast, you have a busy day today,” ordered Mary.
Mary Jones was Walter’s full time care assistant. She had been for the last ten years, a single fifty eight year old spinster with no children; Mary enjoyed looking after old Walter, it made her feel needed. Walter slowly tucked into his boiled egg and slurped his hot tea.
“Thank you,” he said softly.
Mary gave him a loving smile as she got up and examined the contents of his wardrobe. Today was a special day for Walter; he was to travel to London. The Lord Chamberlain had invited him on behalf of the Queen to a war veterans’ garden party at Buckingham Palace, scheduled for the following day. Walter had a distinguished war record that saw him decorated on many occasions. But his greatest achievement was rescuing his best friend Colin Hall from certain death. As Walter descended into the fog of his mind he recalled the incident that made him a true hero. After he and his comrades stormed a Normandy beach on D-Day, Colin was shot in the leg and fell to the floor. Walter had managed to find cover next to a rock and looked back to see his friend withering in agony as he tried desperately to join his comrades. In his mind, Walter could still the see the terror in Colin’s eyes as he feared death was upon him. But Walter had other ideas and in a selfless act of bravery he threw himself onto to Colin, shielding him and eventually dragging him to safety. For many years Walter thought about the laws of nature. Colin Hall was naturally unlucky; he was always in the wrong place at the wrong time. After Walter had saved him from certain death, Colin lived on for another thirty years with many amusing mishaps and episodes. But then came that awful night when his bad luck came to a fatal end, when, on a stormy night a fierce gust of wind blew Colin’s car into a river. He managed to break a window, climb out and swim to shore until a tree blew over and killed him. Walter’s train of thought was interrupted as a familiar voice bounced around his head,
“Walter, dear, I have got you your suit for tomorrow, it’s time we got you ready.”
Walter responded with a groan as Mary helped him to get out of bed. Within half an hour, Walter was dressed and looking good. His reasonably thick grey hair had been swept back. He had always had a good head of hair and it showed when he was out and about, as many younger bald men looked on jealously. Walter was a bit of a comedian too, he was always telling jokes. Granted, it took his brain a few hours to warm up these days, but once it was firing, Walter was a funny man. He’d say things like, ‘I'm so old, they've cancelled my blood type.’ He made Mary laugh on many occasions, that’s what she loved about him; he was a kind, funny old man. Although at times he could be a little stubborn and grumpy, she put that down to his age. A beeping noise filtered into the house suggesting that a taxi had arrived.
Outside Leeds City Station, the taxi rolled into a drop-off zone. With Mary’s help, Walter struggled to get out of the vehicle and had a little moan about it. They made their way through the main entrance and Walter instantly took a dislike to the crowds of people bustling for space as they criss-crossed the concourse in a hurry; he thought they looked like sheep in a pen. Mary took hold of his hand and escorted him towards their train as he gingerly stepped forwards, hoping not to collide with anyone, while tutting under his breathe. Soon they were comfortably sitting on the five past nine express train to London, and Walter was feeling relaxed again. A family with two children sat adjacent to them around a table.
Walter winked as he whispered, “Mary, kids are wonderful, but I like mine barbecued.”
Outside a whistle blew and Walter watched from the window as the scenery slowly melted into a blur. Two and a half hours later the train gently glided into London Kings Cross station and stopped. Walter and Mary departed the train and noticed a little man who was waving a piece of paper that had ‘Walter Morris’ written on it. The platform was narrow, filled with herds of people huddled together as they fought to escape the ill-equipped main line station.
“Good Morning, I’m Walter Morris,” said Walter to the little man who was accidently pushed from behind as a family battled to get past. Walter tutted in disgust as the man, Fred Davis, spoke with a chuckle in his voice,
“Never mind gov, it happens all the time. Let’s get you out of here.”
Fred Davis, a jolly forty-something taxi driver escorted Walter and Mary to his hackney cab. Soon the taxi pulled away and within minutes it was sat in stationary traffic.
Walter just nodded; he hadn’t a clue where he was staying, he just knew he had to be at Buckingham Palace for four o clock sharp the next day. Walter watched with interest at the crowded pavements, as people battled for space. His gaze was interrupted when he felt a sensation of violent forwards movement as his seatbelt fought to restrain him. Then a chorus of car horns filled his ears.
“Bloody ‘ell, you daft kipper,” shouted Fred out of his window, “Didn’t you see me?”
Fred chuckled as he wound his window back up,
“Did you see that? He just pulled out in front of me, daft kipper.”
After a few more hair-raising events, the taxi pulled up outside the Hilton London Green Park hotel.
“There you go, gov,” Fred chuckled and pushed his round glasses back up and onto his nose.
“Thank you,” said Mary, “And how much will that be?”
“Eh? Noooo, it’s already been sorted, hasn’t it. You just go and enjoy yourself.”
Fred lugged a couple of suitcases into the hotel and scuttled off after Mary had given him a tip. His legs were so short; he looked like a ball with feet, as he jumped into his taxi, gave a chuckle and drove off. That evening after a wonderful meal, Walter and Mary retired to their separate rooms and slept like babies, even though Mary thought her bed was a little hard.
The following day, Walter was looking sharp in his navy blue suit and polished shoes. His medals hung to his chest with pride as he waited in the foyer. Mary was looking her best too, in a floral dress accompanied by a pale blue cardigan. A special bus, laid on by the Lord Chamberlain, escorted them to Buckingham Palace, where they were greeted by Royal servants. Inside the grounds, Walter was in awe of the sheer size of the place, a beautiful garden went on for what seemed like miles. Tea and cakes decorated the many tables inside the refreshment tents. Walter made his way to one of the tea tents, sat at a table with some old veterans he knew and noticed they looked a little tired. So he cracked a joke.
“The best cure for insomnia is to get a lot of sleep.”
The old veterans sat at the table, cracked up laughing, as one of them giggled,
“Ohhh Walter, you will never change, my old friend.”
At precisely four o’clock the military band blasted into life, as the tune ricocheted around Walter’s ears until it finally made sense to him what it was. He and his fellow veterans attempted to stand up (not all of them could) and saluted as the Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh arrived to ‘God Save the Queen’ echoing around the garden. Together with other members of the Royal Family, they circulated among their guests. There were presentations and a couple of speeches, which Walter felt were a little long-winded. Unfortunately, it was soon time to leave and Walter was feeling tired.
Once the Queen and her family had officially ended the party two hours later, they left to another rendition of the National Anthem, Walter and Mary headed back to Kings Cross station. They boarded the eight thirty train, which was reasonable busy with the general hum of conversation filling the air. Feeling tired, Walter closed his eyes and drifted off as his head drooped and fell onto Mary’s shoulder; it had been a long day. She gave a little smile as she made him comfortable. The train cut through the night, blurring its way over level crossings and across open fields. After several stops the carriage was almost empty, quiet and peaceful, Walter snored. As Mary flicked through a magazine, she heard a commotion from behind. Loud voices shouting obscenities were followed by loud bangs. As the racket bounced around Walter’s ears, his hazy mind told him it was enemy fire and awoke him. Three youths wearing hooded tops, tracksuit bottoms tucked into white socks and spotted faces were terrorising a young woman who was sitting at the rear of the carriage. They were clearly drunk, shouting and swearing all kinds of obscenities at her as she tried get up and walk away. The tallest youth snarled as he pushed her back into her seat.
“Sit down. Yer not goin’ anywhere,” he slurred as he sat down next to her blocking her escape route. She was now clearly distressed as she began shouting for help. Without any hesitation, Walter stood and made his way towards the commotion. He tried to stand up straight, but failed as his back creaked and swore at him. Holding himself up using the back of a seat, Walter said in a frail voice,
“Excuse me young lad, but that’s not how you treat a lady.”
The tallest youth sitting next to the young lady, slowly turned around and looked into Walters’s eyes, burning a hole of hatred into the back of his head.
“And jusss wata you gunna do about it then, you old fart?”
Walter was furious; Mary was standing behind him, trying her best to calm him down. She knew Walter was a distinguished gentleman, proud and honourable, but now she was scared, scared of where his pride was taking him.
“I was the army boxing champion during the war, you wouldn’t have lasted five minutes with me,” and Walter tried to raise his fists.
Laughing hysterically, one of the other youths shouted,
“Kev, he wants a fight.”
Kevin was not amused. He took a final swig of his can, slammed it down and stood up, pushing Walter in his chest. Walter stumbled backwards and into the arms of
Mary who helped him back to his feet. She was pleading with him to return to his seat, but Walter was not having any of it, and once he had regained his balance, Walter swung a fist that connected beautifully with Kevin’s chin, which made his head turn. Kevin was actually stunned for a moment; not that he had been hit, but stunned that anyone would dare attack him; after all, he was over six foot tall. There was a moment of calm in Walter’s mind, until Kevin’s fist smashed into his face with such force that he ended up on his back on the floor. Not content with knocking him down, Kevin sent Walter’s head sideways with his foot and dived onto his chest like an animal, growling as spit foamed in his mouth. Mary was hysterical, as she screamed, ‘Stop it,’ with tears pouring from her eyes, as Kevin swung at Walter’s head several times until at last he stopped and stood up. He looked into Walter’s battered, bloodied face and sniggered. A few seconds later the train stopped at Doncaster. Kevin and his moronic mates raced out of the door, knocking an off-duty policeman sideways. Catherine, the young lady who Walter went to defend, crouched down next to a very tearful Mary, who was gently cradling Walter’s head. The off-duty policeman made Walter as comfortable as possible, called for an ambulance and went after the thugs.
Kevin and his mates were laughing as they bolted out of the station’s main entrance. PC Adam Jackson was a fit young officer and he soon had the foul-mouthed morons in his sights. Even though Kevin was a thug, he was a clever thug, as he figured out he had a company on his tale and nodded instructions to his accomplices. The three animals darted into a shopping precinct and split up, Kevin leading into a gloomy back alley, as the other two swerved off to the left and the right, with Adam continuing his pursuit of Kevin.
Rain had started to fall; it dripped off Adam’s nose without any hesitation. Like a steam train, his breath chugged out of his mouth, working overtime in hot pursuit. He charged around a corner only to be knocked onto the floor by Kevin’s large right fist. Momentarily stunned, with blood pouring out of a gap where his now missing-tooth had been, Adam lay on the floor, as Kevin began a barrage of punches to his head. Full of alcohol and adrenaline, Kevin was now a crazed lunatic. He was not dealing with a pensioner anymore, but a fit twenty nine year old copper. His eyes glowed with red rage as he stood up and prepared to swing his right foot into Adam’s head with as much force as possible. Adam had come to his senses just in time and managed to deflect Kevin’s foot by grabbing his heel and pushing his foot upwards, which resulted in Kevin losing his balance and falling backwards. Adam seized his chance and dived onto Kevin, kneeing him in the groin.
“You’re coming with me,” snarled Adam.
“Get ov mi, you bastard, I’ll kill you. Get ov mi,” demanded Kevin.
Adam fought hard to keep on top of Kevin as he desperately tried to handcuff the strong thug. Kevin was an uneducated street fighter with no rules, an animal who when threatened, would resort to any tactic to survive, and he did as Adam felt his teeth sink into his ear. Kevin shook his head like a crocodile, trying to tear off the flesh of its victim and succeeded in almost removing Adam’s ear from his head. Adam gave out a blood curdling scream as Kevin managed to squirm from underneath him. Staggering to his feet Kevin watched as Adam crawled around the floor with a blood stained hand held to his ear screaming in agony. Blood dribbled from Kevin’s mouth as he shouted all kinds of obscenities before he launched another sickening attack with his feet and kicked Adam in the stomach, which turned him over and onto his back. Adam lay on his back as blood slivered from his mouth, mixing with the rain and flushing away. He withered in agony, wondering what damage Kevin had caused. He knew physically he would recover but mentally, he wasn’t sure. Earlier, Adam had managed to make a call for backup and several police officers arrived as Kevin’s bulky figure vanished into the mist. Two of the policemen immediately gave chase. Kevin ran. He was in serious trouble and now he had finally worked it out. Adrenaline pumped around his body; his heart felt as if it would explode at any moment as he ran. He couldn’t stop, he had to get away, disappear or hide and the only way of doing that was somehow shaking off more unwanted company. Jumping over fences and sprinting through gardens, Kevin ran like a bat out of hell and soon found himself on a railway embankment. The two police officers were within striking distance and Kevin had one chance, one chance to escape to freedom and hide for a while. He spotted the white lights of an approaching express train and timing was all he needed, just good timing and a slice of luck. The coppers had jumped the last hurdle of somebody’s fence and raced towards their target. The white lights were larger now and the rails began to rumble as they detected a heavy presence approaching. Kevin’s insane plan was to run across the tracks at the last moment and hope the coppers wouldn’t give chase unless they felt suicidal. Kevin waited, waiting for the right moment, and then ran as fast he could towards the tracks.
Driving home after a hard day at work, thirty two year old Doctor Carl Higgins was looking forward to a glass of wine and a takeaway meal with his wife whom he had not seen for the last few days. Her career involved many trips London. As he sat at a red traffic light in a haze, thinking about her, a familiar sound woke him from his trance. An ambulance with its siren filling the quiet air stormed through the junction at high speed. Around five feet eight inches and well built, Carl’s devotion to his work was impeccable. After all, he had just done a twelve hour shift and even when he left, he felt he was abandoning his post. The A&E was busy; it always was and when he left, there were reports of a major accident on the A1. Carl, as dedicated as ever, decided to turn around and return to the hospital. He knew they were short-staffed and felt obliged to help. As he attempted to do a u-turn he was almost hit by a speeding taxi.
Inside the ambulance Mary was beside herself.
“I’ve got a pulse, it’s weak, but it’s a pulse.” the male paramedic said.
“Is he ok, will he pull through?” said a tearfully crackling Mary.
“I don’t know.”
The ambulance hurtled through the streets heading for Doncaster Royal Infirmary. Behind it, a taxi followed with twenty seven year old brunette Catherine Higgins in the back seat. She felt she should be there with Walter and her career demanded it; she was a journalist after all. Her mobile phone was working overtime, she was determined to make Walter a hero and catch Kevin, the moronic lowlife, and bring him to justice. But she had a heart and her main concern was for Walter’s welfare and she whispered a little prayer for him.
“We are losing him,” shouted the male paramedic.
“Pulse has gone, performing CPR.”
Mary looked at Walter and burst out crying again, her eyes were wide with fright.
“Got it, his pulse is back but it’s extremely weak. Come on mate, you can pull through,” demanded the paramedic.
Inside the hospital in a small observation room in intensive care, Doctor Carl Higgins offered his services to a relieved doctor who needed to assist with the victims of the A1 pile up. Mary explained what had happened, the young woman, the thug, and how Walter ended up bloodied and bruised. After hearing of his courage, Carl was glad he was now able to help.
“He’s stable, but critical,” said Doctor Higgins.
Mary gave him a brave smile and said,
“He’s not out of the woods yet. Would you like a drink?”
“Yes thank you, white no sugar”
Doctor Higgins asked a nurse to escort Mary to a seating area outside and provide her with a coffee. Before Mary would go she walked across to Walter and looked down into his closed blackened and bloodied eyes. She placed her hand on his unconscious head and whispered a little prayer. As she left the room Doctor Higgins spotted a familiar face through the open door.
Outside in the waiting area Mary sat down next to Catherine, who was now accompanied by a photographer. She looked into Mary’s eyes and read straight into them that all was not well. She looked down at her feet and a tear fell from her cheek and landed on her black shoe.
“He stood up for me,” she whispered.
Mary took hold of her hand and rubbed it. The nurse reappeared with a coffee, smiled and headed back into Walter’s room. A small crowd had appeared after news had got out about another ‘have-a-go hero’ who had been badly hurt for being decent. Most of the crowd were patients and hospital staff as the word got around. Doctor Higgins walked towards his wife and gave her a hug. She burst into tears as she explained what had happened. Carl Higgins was furious; if he ever got hold of this ‘Kevin’; and then an alarm sounded. Doctor Higgins and a flurry of hospital staff raced into Walter’s room. Feeling sick with fright, Mary headed to the door, only to find a nurse blocking her way. She craned and looked through a small window on the door and witnessed Doctor Higgins pumping hard on Walter’s chest and giving him mouth to mouth resuscitation. Catherine, with tears in her eyes, joined Mary and held her hand. A few hours earlier they had been strangers and now they were joined in common concern for Walter. They could hear Doctor Higgins shout,
And Walter’s body juddered. They heard Doctor Higgins again,
And Walter’s body juddered again and a few seconds later they heard,
Mary watched as Walter’s body juddered and rose momentarily off the bed. She watched as Doctor Higgins stared at the heart monitoring machine, threw the defibrillator paddles on the floor and reattempted CPR. She was white with shock as she watched the heart monitoring machine; it registered nothing; flat line. A half empty cup of coffee fell from her hand and smashed on the floor.Doctor Higgins
would not give up, he had never in his career felt such devotion to saving a man’s life,
a man who had stood up and protected his young wife. Nurse Julie Rogers took Doctor Higgins’ hand and looked him in the face. His eyes were red with a mixture of adrenaline and anger. Sweat was pouring off his forehead as Julie, an experienced nurse, tried to pull him away.
“He’s gone Carl,” she whispered.
Doctor Higgins ignored her and fought hard, harder then he had ever fought in his life. He carried on pumping on Walter’s chest, determined not to give up. Julie had seen many people die, but this was different, Carl was emotional.Walter was a hero and Carl just couldn’t give up; he wanted to say, ‘Thank you’. He carried on hitting Walter’s chest, shouting at him to pull through, trying desperately to restart his heart, and then a hand gently grabbed his wrist.
Doctor Higgins turned in anger and looked into the bloodshot eyes of Mary. She held on to his wrist and repeated,
“It’s over, you did all you could.”
Carl Higgins stared at Mary as he slowly regained his composure. Over her shoulder he caught sight of his wife anxiously watching through the door. Tears were rolling down her face as realisation hit her hard. She had seen the tormented look in her husband’s eyes on several occasions; she knew then that Walter hadn’t made it. Guilt was eating into Carl’s soul and for the first time in his professional career, he broke down and cried. Sure, he had seen a lot of people die, he was tired and emotional, but Walter, he had stood up for his wife. Lost, upset and angry, he felt a pull on his wrist that directed him into the arms of Mary and his wife.
Mary placed a hand on one of Carl’s cheeks as she gently said,
A tear rolled down his cheek and onto Mary’s hand.
Mary removed her hand and gave Carl a small smile as they shared a moment of mutual respect.
“Who is the next of kin?” asked Carl softly.
Mary’s head dropped and then her eyes filled with tears again as she croaked,
“He has a daughter.”
“Do you know how we can contact her?”
Mary sat down.
“He never knew he had a daughter; she was born out of wedlock. Her mother and Walter parted just after she fell pregnant.”
Catherine pulled up a chair. She was a journalist and she had already worked out where Walter’s daughter was,
“It is you, isn’t it?”
“Yes.” There was a pause. “I tracked him down about twenty five years ago when my mother died. I moved into his street and slowly I got to know him. As he got older I began doing little jobs for him, until I ended up as his full time carer. I never had the courage to tell him I was his daughter. Now I’m on my own again.”
Catherine put a hand on her shoulder and said,
“No Mary, you’re not alone.”
Carl knelt down and nodded in agreement,
“Let’s take you home, Mary Morris.”
A week later a tyre parted an abandoned puddle and sent the contents splashing onto the pavement, as the black limousine attached to it pulled up outside a crematorium. The rain had stopped about an hour earlier and now that the sun had escaped the clouds, its rays reflected off the droplets of water scattered everywhere. Mary Morris stepped onto the pavement with Carl and Catherine Higgins. They waited patiently as Walter’s coffin was carefully removed from the hearse and slowly carried into the building. The local Vicar performed a small service as Mary, Catherine and Carl paid Walter their final respects.
“Rest in peace, my hero,” whispered a weeping Catherine.
“Thank you Walter,” croaked Carl.
Arm in arm Carl and Catherine slowly made their way out of the crematorium and into the bright sunshine. Standing in front of his hearse was Roger Barnstaple, the funeral director, who was waiting patiently with his pall bearers. His long black jacket gently flapped in the oncoming breeze.
“Thank you, Roger,” said Carl.
“It’s a pleasure, my friend.”
“No really, thank you. Mary hasn’t much money and I would have covered the costs.”
Roger was a tall man; he looked down and smiled at his old school friend,
“Let’s just say it’s a small repayment for my life; if you remember, you saved it.”
Carl put his hand on his friend’s shoulder, giving him a sign of appreciation.
“Anyway, it doesn’t matter; it’s been a busy week,” continued Roger. “I have another cremation tomorrow.” His eyes narrowed as he looked a little annoyed.
“You ok?” enquired Carl.
“Sorry yes, it’s just that it’s a young lad. He got himself killed on the railway. A train ran him down, pretty nasty; by all accounts, bits everywhere. Apparently the police were chasing him. Such a waste of a young life, it really is.”
Inside the crematorium Mary was standing in front of Walters’s coffin. She stared into open space as she wished she had had the strength to tell him that he had a daughter. She rested a hand on the lid and bowed her head, as tear drops rolled down her face. She whispered,
“Goodbye Daddy, I love you.”
© Copyright 2016 Steven Tea. All rights reserved.