“No, Don’t Do That” came the voice through the fog, and a little later, “No, Leave That Alone”.
As his senses gradually returned, Adam felt the mask being removed and his drugged stupor gradually subsiding. His first coherent thoughts were how much he hated coming out of a general anaesthetic, unable to think clearly, unable to move. He really ought to make sure this was the last time. He has been in this situation far too often for such a fit young man, with the vast majority of the occasions of his own making.
The problem had started early, or at least made itself known early the previous evening. As he walked off the pitch after a two hour training session, the pain was already creeping up his abdomen, which was really nothing unusual. The core sessions he did as part of his daily workout routine in the gym always left him a little sore, as they should. No Pain No Gain being the gym rats’ universal by-line. On top of that, his brother Dan always managed to get some good punches into his ribs during their rucks and mauls, so he thought nothing of it.
That evening’s events went on much as usual. After they had showered and removed the mud, it was down to the Barbican. The Barbican, the hub of the entertainment area of Plymouth was always busy during the summer months with its numerous pubs and restaurants along the harbour walls, perhaps too busy for hungry, thirsty rugby players after training. But winter was perfect: plenty of space for something to eat and a couple of beers with the squad.
The brothers had almost been inseparable since Adam’s return to England a few months earlier. Dan convinced the head coach at Albion that he would recover from his knee injury that had plagued him for the last year far quicker if Adam were allowed to train with them. Nobody ever said No to Dan, his nickname was Bear but it wasn’t just the 120 kilos of muscle which was daunting in itself. He had a way of charming everyone around him and he always got his own way. Ever since he was a baby, all he had to do was look at you with his big brown eyes and that cheeky grin, to get exactly what he wanted or get away with whatever he had done this time. One look and girls lost their knickers in every country he had played in during his international career as a wing forward for England; at home in Plymouth he was legendary.
Adam hadn’t initially been sure that training with Albion would be a good idea but had allowed himself to be talked into it. It wasn’t that he too hadn’t been a very good rugby player, but he hadn’t played seriously for several years since the boys were at university together. And then it hadn’t been with a Premiership winning team. As a ninety kilo winger having a pack of forwards topping a thousand kilos running at you, was a daunting experience.
The boys or men as they were by now, were the product of an English father and a Singaporean mother. Nobody was sure where their size came from. Many of the couples’ friends joked that they must have really large milkmen in Singapore. Their mother was tiny, with classic South-East Asian looks which the boys had inherited; their father a marine biologist, by no means small, had topped out at a fraction under 6 foot. And had been exceptionally fit until the day that bomb took both their lives.
Ironically, it was the terrorist bombings in Bali where they lived until the boys’ early teens that had brought them back to the UK, only for their parents to get on a tube train in London a few years later and run into another suicide bomber.
Dan’s team mates at Albion had heard all about his brother. In fact, he was famous for his exploits throughout the local rugby community, mostly through Dan’s tales. So he was very welcome within the group both on and off the pitch and constantly harassed for more stories. A particular favourite was one of Jamaica.
Dan had gone to Jamaica to visit Adam and after a nights’ drinking at Pier One, Adam had suggested they go and score some weed from some friends of his that lived on a beach in a ramshackle hotel beside the airport.
It was situated just outside Montego Bay, on an old road that was no longer used since the building of a new one at the other side of the airport. After being dropped off by a bewildered taxi driver, who had tried to tell them the place was closed, Dan was led along the beach to a series of tented cabanas.
It was a classic Jamaican evening with a light breeze blowing off the sea; the huge full moon hanging so low in the sky it appeared to touch the water, with the sound of waves gently breaking over the white sand beach. A setting from paradise, with a surprise Dan was not expecting.
As they got closer, they could hear voices and music playing softly. Pulling the billowing curtains aside, Adam ushered Dan through to where he witnessed four stunning girls, three dark skinned and the fourth fair with long blonde hair. The girls, upon seeing Adam rushed forward to plaster him with kisses.
What Adam hadn’t told his brother was that his friends: these four girls were the most exclusive escorts in Jamaica. They had bought this place as their private retreat when it had closed down as a place to relax and meet with friends when they weren’t out working. Adam being a good friend of the girls, regularly visited them after a night’s partying in Montego Bay. He had told them of his brother’s forthcoming visit, prearranging the evening many days before.
Dan could never remember if he was given their names or not. He did remember being led away by two of the girls, the leggy blonde and a small exquisite dark skinned girl, to a more secluded part of the cabana arrangement, which he realised at some point during the night was made from parachutes.
The brothers spent the rest of the night there, eventually kissing their goodbyes as the sun rose, to head off for an ackee and salt fish breakfast. Of course, nobody ever believed this story, nevertheless it was greatly enjoyed by all the players with frequent requests for retelling by those that hadn’t heard it firsthand.
Part way through the second beer that evening, Adam decided to go home. By then they had the company of several pretty girls, but he wasn’t interested. In fact, he had recently met a girl who he was very interested in. And his abs were seriously hurting by now, so it really was time to go home. Bidding good night to his brother, he got a cab and headed home.
They lived together in a house in Wembury, a couple of miles from Plymouth, which their parents had left them. His dad had built it years before, just outside the village, on the headland overlooking the sea.
So typical of his dad, it wasn’t quite finished and the brothers had left it that way. Not through being lazy or lack of money, neither of the boys had to work, the IP’s their dad had created left them very well off. But this way it reminded them of their dad.
The house was a large modern looking structure with full height windows on both floors and a terrace on the first floor extending the full width of the house. With its unfinished garages and workshops behind, the house sat alone on the rocky headland with breathtaking views out to sea and across Wembury Bay itself.
As the taxi approached the house, the first signs of the coming storm were in the air. Lightning flickered out to sea. The trees beside the unfinished workshop swayed in the wind, their overgrown branches scraping along the roof.
The weather reflected the general talk that winter, which was gloomy, of a severe cold winter ahead, stock market declines, unemployment, the looming general strike and a triple-dip recession in the air. It was all the news channels talked about at the moment.
Getting out of the cab, Adam walked around to the front of the house, noticing the gravel drive already covered in dead leaves from the early autumn, his mood was dropping. Thinking of his dad, Adam sat on a bench beside the porch, looking out over the leaden grey sea, the crest of the waves flecked in white, illuminated by the lightning as they broke upon the rocky shore. The storm was going to be a big one; rain was coming in at 45 degrees already, and the wind was picking up.
Despite that it had been many years since his parents had been murdered by a suicide bomber, he still thought about his father a great deal. In good moods, which they were for the most part, his thoughts were about all the good times.
Although his father was a workaholic, they had spent a lot of time together. He coached their rugby team, taught them to dive and to sail when they were still young boys living in Bali as well as talking about his work and beliefs in a more sustainable future. His passions, particularly in the oceans had rubbed off on Adam.
In his darker moods, as he was by now, he thought how things would have been different if his dad hadn’t gone to London that day. If he hadn’t got on that tube to go to the conference, or if he hadn’t on this very rare occasion taken the boys’ mother with him with a promise of a shopping trip after his presentation.
Up until that fateful day things had been very different. He had been due to go to the University of Bath that September to study marine biology or more importantly to him, play rugby. He and his brother were in the West England Rugby Academy; both were destined for great rugby careers. Dan had achieved his, although his present knee injury had plagued him for the last year. He was now finally on the mend and set to reclaim his No 6 England shirt.
Adam had not. Not that he regretted his choices at all, but instead of going to Bath University, he was too distraught about the death of his parents at the hands of a terrorist who neither knew nor cared who they were. Desperate for some sort of pay back, Adam had joined the Naval Intelligence Services.
He may not have regretted this choice. Like his dad he knew there was no point in that, you learn from it and move on, but he did realize what a stupid decision it was. Adam was not well suited for an army career being extremely opinionated, and possessing a big mouth that he could never learn to keep shut. He got himself into trouble at every turn. Not that at times he hadn’t enjoyed some of it. He’d made lifelong friends and perhaps enemies and learnt skills he never thought at that moment he would need again. After six years he left, knowing how pissed his dad would have been with him for wasting his talents, and he reapplied to Bath.
As luck would have it, his brother was also still at Bath University finishing a Master’s in marine engineering. Not that he had been captured by the marine bug of his dad but he was smart enough to know that even if he did earn a place as a professional rugby player, an education was still important; an injury could end his career in seconds.
Adam, his mood lightening a little, with memories of the two of them terrorising Bath for that year, went into the house. Dropping his soaking wet clothes on the hallway floor, he grabbed himself a protein shake and a handful of pain killers, stuck his feet up on the couch and clicked on the TV.
The lounge was warm as it always was in winter; a large room with little clusters of seating areas, the main one beside the fire where Adam now sat. The blinds to the full-height windows remained open and the lightning out to sea briefly illuminated the darkened room with its intense flashes of cold blue light.
By midnight the pain had eased slightly. Dan still wasn’t home, which wasn’t unusual. He’d probably turn up in the morning rather worse for wear. Adam decided bed was the best option; maybe sleep would help, not that he slept at all in the end. The pain in his abs got worse as he thought,
What have I broken this time and God why did I let Dan talk me into training with them
And the pain rose in waves.
No, this can’t be right I need to do something about it now.
Deciding to take the Pajero, as it was the most comfortable to drive and being an automatic he reckoned that he could manage to drive it despite his present doubled up stature. He pulled on a reasonably clean set of trackies, a hoodie and made his way gingerly down the stairs, making judicious use of the banister for support. Pausing at the front door, Adam thought
Maybe I should call an ambulance
Those 20 metres to the car and the 8 mile drive to the hospital were not enticing, but the alternative! Call an ambulance, wait for an hour, get to the hospital and then get sent home with bruised ribs. No, his brother would never forget that and nor would any of the Albion players, and Dan was sure to tell them all about it. They would all have a field day rubbing that in.
Once in the car the plan seemed achievable. By leaning forward the pain seemed to subside enough to be able to drive. Fortunately, the traffic was light but arriving at the hospital Adam discovered the holes in his plan. The trackies he was wearing had no money in them, nor did there seem to be any change in the car for parking in the usual places he kept it.
After a once around the car park closest to the A&E, only to discover no empty spaces, there seemed to be only one thing to do, dump the car by the fence. If he got onto the grass it wouldn’t block anyone in. Yes he would get tickets but they wouldn’t be able to tow it from there. So, in the words of the numerous coaches he had throughout the years, it was suck it up and get on with it.
Later in recollection, this was going to seem very funny, not that it was at the time.
Open the door, swing out your legs, fall over, grab the fence, pull yourself up and use it as support as far as the crossing. 20 metres to go, hobble over the road, 10 metres to go and make the door. Done, now it should be easy.
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