Restless Dead (Harry Grimm Book 5), стр. 1
david J. gatward
David J. Gatward
Copyright © 2021 by David J. Gatward
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‘Absence’ from The Collected Poems by Elizabeth Jennings (Carcanet Press), reproduced by permission by David Higham Associates.
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About David J. Gatward
Also by David J. Gatward
Grimm: nickname for a dour and forbidding individual,
from Old High German grim [meaning] ‘stern’, ‘severe’.
From a Germanic personal name, Grima, [meaning] ‘mask’.
It was because the place was just the same
that made your absence seem a savage force,
for under all the gentleness there came
an earthquake tremor: fountain, bird and grass
were shaken by my thinking of your name.
(Elizabeth Jennings: Absence)
When later asked what had actually happened to cause the crash, all that retired Army Colonel James Fletcher could remember was the brightest of lights. It had come from ahead of them, he assumed from a car whose driver simply forgot to dip their headlights, blinding both himself and his wife, Helen. Then out of that astonishingly bright light a corner in the road had come up far too fast for Helen to react to, the vehicle had lost its grip, and as a sturdy drystone wall threw itself in their way, James had been rather surprised to find that although not his whole life, but the last few hours of it anyway, had flashed by in front of his eyes. A movie rewound for his enjoyment only.
As Monday evenings went, it had been a very pleasant one indeed, and James had very much enjoyed driving himself and his beautiful wife, Helen, over from their home in the dales, to spend the evening in a restaurant in Kendal with some old friends. It was a nice, simple way to celebrate his seventy-fifth birthday and they had both been looking forward to it for quite a while. He had seen Ruth, his daughter, and her son, Anthony, earlier in the day, and Patricia, his eldest, had promised to call. There was still time. The weather was cool and the roads clear, and the Land Rover Discovery had eaten up the miles with the ease one would expect of a vehicle that was not only brand new, but which had cost just enough to make James’ eyes water. But what were investments for, if not for spending? And that old military pension really was fantastic.
On the way over, their conversation had been little more than observations about the countryside, and idle chit chat about what they were going to eat that evening. The restaurant, a wonderful little bistro called The Joshua Tree, was well known for its starter and pudding club, and that’s exactly what they were looking forward to—five courses each from a truly delightful selection of sweet and savoury dishes. The wine was awfully good, too. Retirement, for sure, was something that James was really enjoying very much indeed.
Having parked up in town and enjoyed the stroll along to the bistro, James, with Helen on his arm, had entered the Bistro and been welcomed with a huge glass of the best claret he had supped for a long time. And the wine, like the conversation, had flowed easily, with stories dancing around the table, memories being brought to life through laughter and food, which, with every course, seemed to just get more and more delicious. And Helen, bless her, even though she really didn’t like driving in the dark, had said that she would drive, so if he fancied getting a little tipsy, then he could.
At the end of the evening, and having said their goodbyes, James had walked Helen back to their vehicle. On the way he’d slipped off a curb, twisting his ankle just a little, and Helen had helped hold him up as he had hobbled for a while.
‘We’re getting too old for this,’ she had laughed. ‘Well, you are, that’s for sure!’
Fifteen years between them didn’t seem too much, not really, James had thought, but she never really let him forget it.
‘You’re catching up though,’ he had replied. ‘We’re neither of us teenagers, if you hadn’t noticed.’
With this particular conversation replaying in his mind, and the air now filled with the screeching of tyres and the scattering of grit, James found himself wondering just why the wall was taking such a long time to smash into the front of the vehicle. Which was when he remembered asking Helen to dance with him in the dark under a streetlamp.
‘Absolutely not,’ she had said, though he’d noticed the grin threatening to break through her apparent disapproval of such silliness.
‘Then I’ll dance on my own,’ James had said, and after making a bit of a fool of himself, Helen had joined in, and together they had done a little waltz, much to the amusement of some people walking by, heading back to their own homes.
After what seemed like hours, though was clearly mere seconds, the Discovery slammed into the wall and James was aware then of a feeling of weightlessness, as the vehicle felled the wall with the ease of an elephant snapping a sapling. But the weightlessness wasn’t something he’d expected and it took James a moment to realise that it was because they hadn’t actually stopped moving at all but were now airborne.
Having climbed into the car, James had given Helen a somewhat lengthy talk about how