John A. A. Logan - Author




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Excerpt From The Survival of Thomas Ford:

Chapter Seven

Thomas Ford was dressed early, sitting upright in the chair by the bed. He was regretting that he’d arranged with Finlay to be picked up at the hospital. It would have been better to just get a taxi by himself, back to the house. But then again he knew he was still unsteady on his feet, safer to fall with Finlay there. By the time Thomas saw Finlay’s head coming through the double doors at the end of the ward he had been ready to just get up and leave on his own anyway though, fall or not. As Finlay drove down towards the roundabout, Thomas felt a kind of terror. It was like a sickly sweet insanity, lapping at the edges of his soul in waves of suggestion. Obviously, Thomas told himself, this is what it has to be like, the first time in a car since the Toyota went into the water. He sat stiffly in Finlay’s passenger seat, trying not to look crazy. He felt his eyeballs swivelling here and there, trying to see too much, too fast. He felt his throat doing rapid swallowing motions. "Alright there Thomas?" Thomas blinked and stared straight ahead. He was surprised to find he couldn’t bring himself to turn his neck and look back at Finlay. Something in him was jammed. He could only sniff and nod as Finlay indicated right and took the car into the long, smooth turn. Soon they were passing through streets full of people, faces, crowds it seemed to Thomas. There had been plenty of people coming and going at the hospital, but this was different. At the hospital everyone had shared a unifying context. Here, outside the car windows, was humanity in the wild. Many of these pairs of eyes would have read about the crash, seen photographs of Lea and himself. Somehow that thought made the crash real in a horrible new way. Thomas thought he recognised a face in the crowd. "Slow down Finlay," said Thomas suddenly. "Sorry man. I can’t go slower here. We’re packed in tight with this traffic." Thomas twisted his neck, trying to look back. The thick black hair had been the same, even something birdlike in the face. Thomas had only glimpsed the face for a moment, in the crowd. Now it was gone, there was no way to tell from the backs of all those heads there, which one might have been the driver of the red car that killed Lea. Thomas turned to face the road ahead again. "I thought I saw someone," he said. "Who?" "No-one. Just my head playing a trick." "Yeah?" "No. Wait. I don’t know. Finlay, stop the car." "I can’t stop here." Thomas punched the dashboard in front of Finlay. "Stop the fucking car here or I’m jumping out!" "Alright. Alright." Thomas was shoving at the door handle. Some part of his brain wouldn’t slip into gear, he just kept fumbling at the handle. He saw his hands doing it and realised the gesture was like Lea in the car, twitching uselessly with her hands, neither undoing her seatbelt nor letting Thomas undo it for her. This was the first moment he felt understanding for the way her hands had behaved in that sinking car. Thomas sensed rather than saw, that Finlay had managed to stop in the traffic. He heard horns beeping from behind. Then, almost as though by accident, Thomas had the passenger door open. He lurched his weight toward the pavement. It was full of moving bodies and his legs were shaking with the unaccustomed effort. The physiotherapists at the hospital had made him walk up stairs and down, but this was different. There were so many ways his legs had forgotten to work, to support him, move him, balance him. "Tom!" Finlay shouted once. But Thomas Ford didn’t hear. He was in the crowd now, moving up Academy Street, past the bank. The mad thought flashed through his mind, that he should go in and check his account. Then he remembered why he had left the car. He looked ahead, as far as the traffic lights. He would have to cross over, then get to the corner, before he would be at the place where he had seen that black hair and bird face in the crowd. He bit his lip, realising that, no, he would have to get much further than that, to catch up with the head. The head had been walking, its body had been walking, when he saw it from the car. Thomas’ legs just wouldn’t move fast enough, to catch up with the man, not unless the man had stopped for some reason, just round the corner. There was a bus-stop just round that corner, and the back entrance to the railway station, and the big shopping centre. Maybe if the man had been going to the bus-stop, that was Thomas’ only chance of catching up with him. Thomas felt his left leg bend too much as he took a step. It was just before the traffic lights. The leg buckled and Thomas fell heavily against a large female thigh, covered in cotton. He made a strange sound, hitting the pavement with his shoulder. Then pain spread out from a point deep in Thomas’ chest. It was as though some wild animal had bitten him there and was now chewing. The pain was so intense and relentless that Thomas had to close his eyes and rest his head fully on the pavement. He was oblivious to the pedestrians, the traffic noise, who he was, or where. Only the pain existed now. Jimmy and Lorna had walked well past the corner by the time Thomas Ford collapsed at the traffic lights behind them. They were not headed for the bus-stop. They were going to the shopping centre. Jimmy liked to stalk its floors and escalators. The observation of the public was both a discipline and a hobby to Jimmy. He enjoyed the feeling of passing anonymously through crowds. His stomach still hurt where his dad had stamped on him. He had to stop and sit for a while on a bench, just inside the shopping centre’s large doorway. He leaned forward on the bench, grinning, looking straight ahead, hugging his belly. "No Jimmy. That’s not right. You should go up to the hospital and get it checked. You could come up with me on the bus when I start my shift. OK?" Jimmy grinned harder and shook his head. He did not look at Lorna. He sighed out air, then sucked in a breath greedily. He blew out quickly twice. He laughed. "Come on," he said. "I’ll get you a coffee up in Starbucks." Jimmy chose the high seats by the window. Lorna was sipping coffee and watching Jimmy watching the people pass by. It was disconcerting, the attitude he had to the passing crowd, as though he was watching television and these people passing were only half-real to him. Sometimes Lorna would see someone in the crowd notice Jimmy staring. The person would look back at Jimmy but Jimmy would not react, he would show no awareness that he was being looked at. He would just continue to grin like an Alsatian dog on a hot day. Lorna looked away from Jimmy, down into her coffee. At that exact moment Jimmy turned his black eyes on her. "Did you talk to that man again at work?" he said. "Who?" "That man you said you’d talked to. The one who had the accident out near Drumnadrochit, at Loch Ness.

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