Chapter Thirty-Four: The Journey to the Hospital
On this occasion the report of this death did not make the world news. Although, the investigations surrounding the hospital were ramped up by another gear...
‘St Margaret’s on its knees as murder probe continues’
Exactly ten minutes after she had placed the call, a minicab pulled into the side road by Yvonne Shore’s residence.
It was 9:30am but already the sun was shining at its mid-day best. Yvonne had called the cab for her daughter who was getting ready to go out.
Meanwhile Christine was putting on her sunglasses. She didn’t wear them to shield herself from the glare of the sun but rather to hide her swollen eyes. She had spent the whole night in tears, and the better part of the morning trying to erase the anguish from her face.
She had made the decision to wear a black polo neck and a pair of jeans - also the same colour. No one said today was a funeral but she had attended one a few years ago; and all the usual emotional cues were in place. However, this time, there was no catharsis to be had. For today she wasn’t going to see a dead person get buried, she was going to watch a living one die…
“I will eat my hat if this city does not win its bid for the 2012 Summer Olympics,” the taxi driver lambasted as he steered onto the main road. He was of Turkish descent - or so he relayed to Christine, along with several other matters pertaining to politics, commerce and the alike.
Hassan enjoyed conversing with his passengers, and he was lucky. For today Christine was nothing, if not all ears. She had absolutely no intention of pondering over the chilling events that had unfolded in her life over the last two days.
“At this moment in time…” Hassan’s sonorous voice immediately filled the car. He peered up at her through the rearview mirror. He had fair-skin, dark hair, and bushy eyebrows. He continued. “London…is the financial centre of the world – it is booming right now!” he chuckled. “Absolutely booming. My cousin, he come over from Istanbul just before September 11, and he has already set up two convenience stores near Green Lanes.”
He briefly stopped talking so he could expertly manoeuvre his people-carrier around the busy ring road.
“As for me,” he said taking in a deep breath. “What am I doing now?” he posed the question to himself, “well, besides driving this big car of mine, I’m training to become a fully-licensed IMA.”
“An IMA?” Christine spoke softly.
“Yes. An Independent Mortgage Advisor,” Hassan proudly enunciated. “There’s huge potential in real estate market - don’t you know? Property prices are down and the criteria for acquiring a mortgage have never been so advantageous. You can pick up homes, up and down the country - literally for pennies. I’ve lived and worked in London for many years now, and property is definitely the most profitable business to be in. It makes good business sense to me - no?” Hassan said, stealing a quick glance at his passenger and feeling ever more encouraged by Christine’s consistent nods. “In fact, after the initial fear of the Millennium Bug, I think it’s fair to say London has finally arrived at a good place. Don’t you think? All you have to do is look around you, things are definitely on the up,” He said waving his free hand about, he then proceeded to list them to her: “There is tax relief for middle-income earners; people are being encouraged to start-up businesses, landlords are able to accumulate wealth, quickly - and cheaply! And there’s apparently less regulation in capital markets.” He winked up at Christine. “As you can tell, I do read the FT you know,” he said letting out a brash laugh. “Right now prosperity is not just for the rich – it’s for everybody! And that’s a good thing - no?” His thick eyebrows darted upwards. “Although…” there was a pensive pause, “one does have to wonder how long these opportunities can go on for,” he shrugged, “somewhere down the line, someone will have to pay for it all.” However Hassan didn’t ponder on it for too long. He continued. “All the same, it’s 2004 and everyone can be a winner - everyone! And I believe more of us are going to be even better off four to five years from now…”
Hassan immediately slammed the brakes. From out of nowhere a dark blue car had suddenly pulled up in front of them. “NONSENSE!” He barked at the driver. “Many people in this city, they don’t know how to drive - you see that? They come into this country with their foreign licenses and jumbled-up ways. They do you know?” he said nodding up at Christine. “They come in with their foreign licenses which they exchange for British one - just like that!” He clicked his fingers “And once they get their license, they then drive around like maniacs! No regard for the system.”
Christine nodded but smiled to herself. The ease in which new migrants relayed their prejudices never ceased to amuse her. Then for some unknown reason Hassan started talking about the one topic she did not want to hear about right now.
“When I think of the lack of morality in this country,” he began “All I can think about is the children….The babies…Its crying shame you know that? It’s a crying shame…”
Christine held her breath. She suddenly stopped when she realised what she was doing.
Hassan continued. “When you look around you, and you see 14 to 16 year olds killing each other for status. I say, who can blame them right? When their Governments do exactly the same in another man’s country. What you see is what you do, isn’t that right?” the driver opined.
Hassan had subtly delved into the topic of the recent war on Iraq. Like dark clouds about to bring rain, his bushy eyebrows came together at the centre of his forehead. Christine could tell this was a subject very close to the taxi driver’s heart.
“Seriously, I ask you, is this really how we end terrorism? By becoming terrorist ourselves? Don’t get me wrong! That Saddam is an awful man - evil incarnate! Just like many of these leaders today. But I’m not sure this is the right way to go about this...Our children.” he called out again he sounded mournful. “Forget about religion and the law. What is society teaching children today? Our so-called heads-of-states are quick to dictate to the weaker nations, but lose all their bravado when questioning the actions of the stronger ones. Its hypocrisy I tell you, and it’s disgusting! Don’t they know? Haven’t we learnt? Children never do what you say… They do what they see…
My youngest brother has three kids: one girl, two boys. They are being raised like Americanos. All they eat all day, every day, is that stuff - what do you call it? Chicken nuggets and fries! However, the chicken - had never run, the potato - never saw the sun, and the juice that they drink has no fruit in it. Wow! And it’s only now they want to address the food we are feeding our children. The question is: How was this even allowed to happen in the first place? Before it got to our fridges, somebody said this stuff was fit for consumption - no? They feed our children things they wouldn’t dare give to their animals. But the scary thing is, its human beings that have allowed this to happen. HUMAN BEINGS. Or am I to believe this was decided by computer now?” Hassan tsked his nose was beaded with perspiration. “Although, that doesn’t surprise me much. We’ve grown lazy – imagine? The computer tells us everything, it even tells us how to love. We didn’t have computers in our day but learn - did we not? And now all they talk about is computer skills this, and computer skills that! That’s all well and good,” he said jabbing the air with his index finger, “but not all of life’s skills can be learnt from a computer. If it could be, then, there really would be no need for the rest of us, would there?” He laughed with disdain. “Or maybe this is what life has become. We have finally built a matrix - and locked ourselves inside it! The question is: who is controlling who? Is it me? Or is it insane to think human beings can function like technology; playing life like a computer game. Where everything is all about point-scoring and amassing causalities; rewards and retribution. Is this what our lives have become? Does this seem right to you…?” He tapped his chest with the knuckles of his right hand, “because it doesn’t feel true to me. If this is how people want to play - so be it! But it certainly shouldn’t be the standard by which we live.” He again shook his heavy head. “The children…They’ll be swimming in an even bigger pool of shit – sorry, excuse my French - than the ones that we were born into. And somehow, we’ll not only expect them to make it across, but also come up smelling like roses. But I don’t think it works that way my friend,” he said shaking his head, “I don’t think it does, somehow…some of that muck will stick...” Hassan made a face, he looked like he’d just received a nose-full of rotten eggs. “And the thing that gets me the most about our decision-makers is their immeasurable cowardice and greed. It’s a gamble and a game to them. They are playing Russian roulette with our children’s education, welfare, health and their future livelihoods. Our kids are being groomed into walking causalities. These little ones don’t stand a chance!”
Hassan peered up at Christine. There was a flicker of humour in his eyes when he announced. “And that, my dear friend, is the reason why I’m saving up all my money so I can buy a nice sized farm, which I can run away to,” he chuckled, “A delightful little Çiftlik in a remote village in Turkey. So, ‘Ins’allah’ I will not have to see any of this mess. I will just live out the rest of my days in lush surroundings.” He then let out a big-belly laugh, which Christine also joined in with.
They both laughed because the truth really was funny to hear. There wasn’t anyone who hadn’t secretly entertained the thought of running away from it all. I know, because when I was on earth, I often felt the same way...
Running from land to land, to soak up new ideals, or just to be left alone to preserve the old ones. Running from wars, from anger, from rules. Rules, which no longer delineate the wrong from the true. Running from bad decisions, from corruption, from regrets. Running to survive and to survive - you had to run!
Run! Run! Run! Run!
And that would be anyone’s initial response to the world’s ongoing madness. But sure enough, it was nowhere near the answer to it. So I suppose, I could only imagine, that was why Christine and Hassan laughed so deeply…
“Oh. If it were only that simple,” Christine eventually said with a sigh. She wiped her eyes but left her sun glasses on. “But we can’t run away Hassan….We can’t run away…”
A moment passed.
Christine spoke up. “I guess, it’s a bit like the scouts’ code of honour,” she said with a sad smile. “The babies being born in these times need to be prepared…so much more prepared…” Christine had uttered this statement more for herself than for Hassan’s benefit, but was surprised when he said, “They sure do!” He replied agreeing to something he didn’t quite understand.
Or maybe he did.
He continued. “These babies need to come out with their eyes wide open. For if their leaders are losing their sight - they’re sure as hell are going to need theirs. Along with the will of ten men!” He said issuing a deep laugh. “This is a battlefield they’re facing and very confusing times, I must say. Poor souls. It’s not their fault - it’s our own doing. I’m sure if these little ones could talk they would let us know as much…”
Hassan took a sharp corner and broke out onto Shoreditch High Street.
“Not far to go now.”
Christine looked out of the rear window. The pavements were crowded with people. Her eyes took in the crooked, cobbled, side-streets that seemed to pop up every two metres, or so. They slowly trailed upwards, towards the retail shops which lined the streets above.
The old meets the new
From the corner of her eye she caught a glimpse of the London Gherkin, which, to her, was beginning to resemble a large, elongated, Faberge egg. She had read somewhere that this much-anticipated building was scheduled to be completed at the end of the year. Change was indeed coming to the East End, she realized, noting the high volume in construction sites and the collection of cranes which appeared like grazing mechanical dinosaurs throughout the vicinity. She was both happy and saddened by this change in events but she wasn’t surprised at her reaction to it. Just like catching a cold, she always came down with a strong case of ambivalence whenever the old was superseded by the new.
Christine slowly handed over her spare key to the senior investigating officer. He was in charge of the case now. It was the same key Lydia had supposedly used to let herself into her flat…
The blood had been cleared from the floor but the hazard barriers remained.
‘Of course, it’s still early on in the investigation.’ The officer had said, handing her a clipboard and a pen, ‘but we suspect your friend might have walked in on a robbery of sorts. You did later say that you were missing some items. Your DVD Player and your laptop I believe?’
‘Yes. That’s right. But nothing priceless. Not a reason to...kill...’
‘Oh you’d be surprised what people do in the fear of getting caught. But don’t worry; we’ll keep you informed on everything we have.’
The lounge was the only room she was not allowed to go back into. The forensic team was still at work, looking for finger prints and taking samples for DNA testing...
A botched robbery they say. A botched robbery. This was Manor House not the slums of Mogadishu! Is this feasible? Would a thief violate their victims in such a way? Is this feasible?
IS THIS FEASIBLE?
“Here we are,” Hassan’s gruff voice sliced through her painful thoughts. Hassan glanced again at the emaciated, coffee-coloured woman, who seemed nice enough, but was definitely hiding behind her over-sized sunglasses.
“That’ll be £16.00.” He gave Christine back her change. He hesitated, “You have a good day young lady,” he said somewhat solicitously “And take good care now.” He stole one last look at her before turning on the ignition.
“Thank you Hassan. And you too.”
She watched as the bulky vehicle heaved itself onto the main road before making its rapid ascent into grid-lock central.
She turned around and began to approach the entrance that led to the neonatal ward.