I suddenly became aware of someone trying to blow me up like a balloon, while my ribs where being crushed with sudden jerks.
My mouth tasted as if I had eaten fury old dog shit, as I coughed and threw up at the same time.
My arm was yanked to one side with my head following at one hundred miles an hour.
I tried to open my eyes but the pain was so intense, it was like my eyelids where rough sandpaper and they were extremely sore, as was my throat and now my neck, shoulders, in fact, my whole body felt heavy and lifeless I was exhausted.
I wondered what was happening to me. Where I was and what was I doing? All I could hear were garbled voices and in the distance, sirens wailing, getting louder and louder. I carefully tried again to open my eyes when I heard a voice.
“He’s going to make it!”
Was I dreaming or was this happening to me?
I was trembling and cold, and could only just feel my fingers moving slowly. My legs were heavy, and I couldn’t feel my feet at all.
Still puzzled at what was going on, I felt something cold splash on my face, desperately hoping it was water I opened my mouth trying to get some on my tongue. Once more with great difficulty, I decided to open my eyes, but they were very sore and still felt like they were full of grit.
Not being able to do a great deal, I decided to lay still and try to work out what was going on.
“Are you alright? Can you see me?” the same voice said.
I slowly licked my top lip and managed to say with a strained cough out of my dry, raw, and scratchy throat? “Water, I need water.”
With some help, my head and raised slightly, and my lips became wet, I coughed as I tried to swallow the water, again I fought to open my eyes, but it was as if they were stuck together.
“My eyes… don’t work!” I whispered, the water left my mouth and travelled up my face, my eyelids were forced open in turn and what felt like gallons of liquid was poured into them.
“Is that any better?” the voice said. I forced my eyebrows up as high as possible and squinting I could only just make out bright lights, though it was slightly better, so I nodded.
By this time, I was starting to feel my fingers and hands, my arms would move slightly, and I could lift them up. Again my head was lifted, a bit further this time.
“Keep trying to open your eyes,” the voice said. I tried and tried, this time it became a little more comfortable, everything is blurred, but I could make out dark shadows as I kept blinking.
“How do you feel?” I heard above all the other noises.
“Fucking awful,” I answered with a cough. I sat up slowly, leaning on one arm that started to tremble with my weight on it.
“You are one fortunate man,” the voice said.
“What’s happening to me?” I asked with another loud cough.
“You nearly drowned in the lake.”
I shook my head and said, “I don’t understand.”
“Do you remember swimming in the lake just after the explosion?” I managed with some more help to sit up a bit further, and closing my eyes I thought long and hard. Then it all came back to me in a flash, the boat with Liz, Mick, and John, on board.
An awful feeling rushed through my entire body as I remembered, and then I throw up again as a hand patted me on the back.
I became numb, and my mind went blank as I heard the voice again.
“It’s alright. You will be pleased to know your wife and son both got off before the boat exploded, luckily they were dropped on the island in the middle of the lake, and it’s even luckier for you he was. He’s the one that saved your life. He must be extremely good at swimming!”
Everything was going around in my head I didn’t know what to think.
Then the voice said, “He dived into the lake, swam over to you, pulled you up and held your head out of the water just long enough for someone in another boat to come and picked you up. They brought both of you back to shore.”
I still felt motionless for a second or two, and then it started to sink in.
I can’t describe how I felt. I think relief came first, and then anger. The tears trickled down my face as I lay there in disbelief at how stupid I had been. I tried hard not to cry aloud in front of everyone around me, I put my hands over my sore eyes.
Then I heard a voice say, “Your dad will be alright soon thanks to you son!”
Something touched my hand, and Mick’s voice followed.
“Are you alright dad?”
I sat up and tried hard to open my eyes; I was desperate to focus. I wanted to see Mick for myself. I could only see a shadow in front of me, so I grabbed it, and he sat on my lap. Holding him as tight as possible in my arms, I pulled a cover around his shoulders, I could not find a word to say as the tears welled up in my eyes again, then I sobbed like a baby. I was so thrilled and pleased he was all right.
After a few minutes, I calmed myself down a bit and heard a different voice.
“Can you stand up and come with me over to the ambulance?” I nodded, still clinging tightly to Mick.
“Can you just give me a minute longer?” I asked as someone placed something around my shoulders.
“Thanks, mate, I hear you saved my life.” I kissed him on the cheek, and then I heard him say.
“That’s Ok!” Then He squeezed me tighter before he let go.
“Come on Dad the man wants to put you in the Ambulance.”
“Will you help me? I can’t see properly yet!”
Mick stood in front of me and pulled my arms, I tried to stand up, but there wasn’t much feeling there. As my legs started to wobble, two hands grabbed me under each arm and sat me back down on the ground.
“I can’t stand up!”
“Sit there and I will get you a stretcher.”
While I waited, Mick held my hand tight. Still squinting and wiggling my toes, I tried desperately to focus on something. I realised the longer I could keep my eyes open the better they seemed to be, the shadows started to get brighter.
By the time the ambulance man returned, I could see more, and the feeling in my legs and feet was getting better.
As I was lifted on to the stretcher, I tried to see what was happening all around.
I could see dark shadows moving in the distance and lights, hundreds of lights flashing, the noises I could hear was the hum of people talking, crying and shouting.
In the distance, I could hear speedboat engines speeding up and slowing down, and the trickle of the water was very close.
Looking up at the ambulance man, I asked,
“Can I try and walk now?”
“Are you sure you are up to it?”
“I think so.”
We stopped, and they lowered the stretcher a little, I swivelled around and placed one foot on the ground, it felt OK, so I tried the other. Mick stood next to me and held my wrist.
“Come on dad you can do it,” he said as he pulled me up again.
Apart from slight pins and needles here and there I was a lot better, I stood for a while, and then tried a couple of steps slowly.
“I’m alright now thanks,” I said pulling the blanket around my shoulders. With Mick’s help, we made our way over towards the ambulance, and it was then I realised my sight was much better too.
The more I walked, the better I felt. As we walked through the crowds of people, everyone was patting Mick on the back and shouting “WELL DONE!!!”
I’m sure he had a smile from ear to ear and was enjoying every well-deserved moment.
As we approached the ambulance, I looked for Liz to see if she was all right, but I couldn’t make her out in the crowds.
I carefully climb up the steps into the back of the ambulance.
“Let’s just see if you’re ok,” the man said holding my other arm.
It was then I heard Liz shouting. ”HE’S MY HUSBAND, LET ME GO!”
As I turned and sat down on the bed, I could see her fighting off two ambulance men; she had what looked like a small plaster just above her left eye.
“What happened?” I asked.
“It’s nothing just a small cut; I think something from the boat landed on me.”
“How do you feel?” she said, sitting down.
“I’m fine,” I answered as my head forced backwards.
“This may sting a little, and your vision will disappear again for a few moments, but it will be back soon I promise!”
He wasn’t joking!
Then Liz grabbed my hand and moved closer to me as I held my eyes closed tight. Then I heard her ask, “What on earth made you jump in the water? You don’t like it, and you can’t swim!”
I dropped my head forward, and rubbing my eyes then said, “When the boat exploded, someone shouted you and Mick were on the boat with John.”
I shook my head from side to side and shrugged my shoulders. “I don’t know, Impulse maybe.”
“Stupidity, more like!”
Here we go I thought, I’ve only been back from the dead five minutes, and she is off on one already. Then she kissed my cheek and said, “Thanks anyway, it was very courageous of you.”
It was a good job my eyes were still sore and watered, I was shocked and didn’t know what to do.
“Talking about brave! Where’s my mate the lifesaver?”
“He will be with you in a moment!” Someone said.
“We are just having a look at the Hero, making sure he is ok too.”
My eyes were starting to focus again, and over Liz’s shoulder I just make out Debbie by the lake. It looked like she was leaning or crying on Simons’ shoulder.
Then Liz turned and looked towards her.
“That poor girl,” Liz said as she turned back.
“Will you be all right if I go and see her?”
“Yes, I am fine now.”
As Liz stood up and climbed out the ambulance, Mick moved and sat in her place.
“And you,” I said throwing my arm around his shoulder.
“I think I must owe you a big present.”
Mick smiled as the medic said, “A big one, no way, it must be colossal.”
Mick smiled embarrassingly and sat quietly for a while, then I heard him whisperer in my ear, “what’s colossal?”
As I went to whisper back, the medic smiled and said “it means massive, gigantic even enormous, that’s how big the present should be!.”
Mick nodded with a huge grin.
I was in the ambulance for about ten minutes before they let me out, after checking me over.
Mick and I walked around for a while aimlessly holding hands, Liz was having her head check by another medic, and over by the main entrance. A couple of ambulances were moving out on to the road, still with the lights flashing.
Simon came over and asked if I was all right.
“YOU MUST BE PROUD OF HIM!” a policeman shouted as he walked past us. Then Denise flung her arms around my neck and started crying.
“I thought you were dead,” she blurted out.
While we were standing together, holding each other, I looked over her shoulder for Debbie; I could see most of the others over by the jetty, but not her.
It was a few minutes before I caught a glimpse of Debbie with a policewoman on the grass bank by the boats.
“Excuse me; I must see if Debbie is ok.”
As I walked towards her with Mick holding my hand firmly, I could hear the policewomen asking her questions.
“CAN THIS NOT WAIT FOR A WHILE?” I shouted as we got nearer, “You can see she is upset!”
The policewoman nodded and left, saying she would get a medic to check her over.
“How are you?” I asked as we locked together holding each other as tight as we could just for a couple of seconds.
“I’m, so sorry about John,” I whispered in her ear. I felt Debbie squeeze me harder for a split second; I thought she was going to thank me.
Debbie walked off with the ambulance man, and as she climbed into the back, a few enormous cheers erupted behind me, as Mick was lifted in the air while the others clapped and screamed, then Simon shouted
“THREE CHEERS FOR MICK THE HERO!”
The cheers went off as Andrew placed him back on the floor carefully.
My eyes were almost back to normal, so I slowly looked around to see what was happening in the water.
I noticed a few people diving off their boats into the water where the explosion was, apparently looking for remains or something.
I looked over in the direction of the Ambulances to see what Debbie was doing. I saw her talking to the medic and then noticed another policeman heading towards her again.
“EXCUSE ME,” I shouted, rushing over to Debbie.
“Are you alright?” I asked aloud in front of them both.
“We need a statement,” the young constable said, as Debbie cried harder into her hankie.
“Can you give her some time?” I asked.
“Well, we need to get a statement from everyone that is here.”
He paused for a second. “Well we could start with the others, and come back later!” he said putting his notebook in his top pocket.
With that, he walked away and went over to question someone else.
I whispered into Debbie’s ear.
“It’s all over now he’s gone.” She lifted her head slightly and spoke quietly looking around.
“I can’t believe it; did you have anything to do with what has happened?”
I didn’t expect her to ask me that so soon, especially here with everyone around us. Debbie obviously must have known I was trying to do something to get him away from her with all the phone calls and visits I’d done.
I didn’t have an answer straight away, the only thing I could say was, “don’t be silly, I couldn’t plan something like that, there must have been a fault with the boat.”
Debbie looked at me disbelievingly, with her red sore eyes.
Just to my left, I could see a policewoman coming towards us, as Debbie started crying into her hankie again.
“The police want to ask you some questions; do you feel up to it yet?” I asked. Debbie nodded and turned towards her.
“I am sorry to ask these questions at a time like this, but I need some information, I need to know where you were when the boat burst into flames?”
While Debbie sobbed, she pointed, and with a broken voice said, “I was… sitting over… there on the… grass.”
After a few more simple questions and the policewoman writing the answers in her notepad, she said, “Was you and your husband experiencing any difficulties at home?”
Debbie looked up and said, “How do you mean?”
“What are you trying to say,” I added.
“I’m sorry I have to ask these questions. We need to get the full picture of the events leading up to the incident!”
Debbie looked at me and then turned to the policewomen. “We argue a bit now and again, but that’s all!”
She asked a few more questions while Debbie cried a little more and then she left.
It was then I suddenly remembered the remote control cars were still lying on the grass.
“Will you be alright for a few minutes, I have to speak with Liz?” Debbie nodded.
As I walked away, two ambulance men came over and spoke with her.
I started to panic, as I got closer to the cars. Cautiously looking around, I bent down to pick them up; I froze as someone tapped me on the shoulder.
“I don’t believe we have had a statement from you Mr?” This big, red-faced policeman said with a deep voice.
“Vaughan, Nicholas Vaughan, “I replied nervously standing with the two cars behind my back.
“Where were you when the boat exploded”?
I started to walk back towards the car slowly, “Just about here, at the back of my car. I had been to the clubhouse for a pee and was walking back. I heard the loud bang, and like everyone else looked up to see the bits of the boat dropping into the water”.
“Why did you jump into the lake?”
“The first thing I did was to look for my son Mick. I wanted, to see if he was all right, when I couldn’t see him, I looked for Liz, that’s my wife, to see if he was with her. When I couldn’t see either of them I had this awful feeling run through my body because ten minutes before this happened; she asked me if she could go for a ride in the boat. When I couldn’t see either of them, well I suppose I must have panicked. Why I jumped into the lake,” I said slowly shaking my head from side to side.
“God only knows, I’m not even a good swimmer.”
“It’s a good job your son is. You must be very proud of that lad of yours.” He said lifting his eyebrows.
“Yes, I am, extremely proud.”
With that, he closed his pad. “That will do, for now. I don’t think there is anything else at the moment, I’ve spoken to your wife who incidentally is also a fortunate woman, and she gave me your address, so I can contact you there if there’s a need.”
I fumbled for the handle to open the boot; I was still worried about these cars.
“There is one other thing,” he said opening his little pad again and pulling the pencil from his top pocket.
“How well did you know…?” He flicked through the pages of his notepad, “…the deceased.”
“John… and I were old mates, we worked together some years ago in a garage repairing cars, he got married, and we lost contact until last New Years Eve, we bumped into each other, and I have been out with him once since then.”
“Thank you, Mr… Vaughan.”
With that, he turned and walked off towards the lake. I quickly throw the cars in the boot and slammed the lid down.
I made my way over to Liz; she seemed very preoccupied standing on her own.
“Are you alright?” I asked as I walked nearer. “What’s wrong, is it the cut on your head?”
“You tell me!” she said harshly.
“I have just overheard two people talking to each other, saying John’s boat was stolen a couple of weeks ago, and he found it in Manor lane.”
I shook my head, “so?”
“Well if my memory is correct, that was the address on the piece of paper I found in your pocket when I washed your shirt!”
A cold shiver went through me, as Liz looked deep into my eyes waiting for an answer. I paused for a split second.
“…John phoned me last week and told me he found his boat; I obviously wrote the address down as he told me. He… said the man that serviced it had someone else deliver it back and they put it back on the wrong drive, same house number but the wrong part of the road.”
Andrew came walking towards us, so I changed the subject, but I could see by Liz’s face she was not happy with the answer I’d given her.
“Can we go home yet?” I asked Andrew.
“No the police are still taking statements, I just heard someone say the boat was sabotaged” Liz looked horrified and turned away.
“What idiot said that?” I asked, trying to make light of it.
“I don’t know his name, the bloke that was on the boat with John when we arrived; I thought then he was an arsehole.”
As we stood talking my mind veered off, and things started to catch up with me. Andrew was standing in front of us all not having a clue as to what he had just done. Indirectly he was a murderer, and he had no idea as he stood there laughing aloud.
We had to wait for another two hours before the police let us go. Andrew and Denise took Debbie home.
Liz didn’t speak to me for ages.
“What have I done now?” I asked as we weaved our way home through the country lanes.
“I’m not happy about someone trying to blow the boat up with Mick and me on it.”
“If the police suspected foul play, I don’t think they would have let us go, do you?”
As we drove home, I could see she was not happy and deep in thought.
We arrived home about 8.30; Mick had slept all the way, so I carried him straight up to his room and carefully placed him into bed fully clothed, I slid his shoes off and pulled the cover-up over him.
“Thanks again mate for saving my life” I whispered, I kissed him on the cheek, “I will never forget how brave you were today little man!”
He didn’t say anything, just smiled and rolled over. Quietly I shut the door and then I had a bath while Liz unpacked everything and we got into bed exhausted.
The next morning I gave Mick his breakfast as usual, and we left for school. As we drove along the road, Mick asked, “What made the boat blow up dad?”
I don’t know, it must have been the petrol pipes lose or something like that I would think.
Then he said it “How sad it was for them both!”
We pulled up at the gate; I didn’t expect to see Debbie, so I carried on to work. I spent most of the day talking about my eventful weekend.
It was about 4 o’clock and my phone rang out, Don asked me to meet him at the White Swan Railsby, Wednesday at 2 pm.
When I got home that night, Liz told me, Mick apparently drove his mates crazy telling them over and over how he had saved his dad from drowning.
On Wednesday, I arrived at the White Swan to meet Don, a little before 2 pm. I got my self a drink and sat down. As he walked through the doors, he was talking to someone on his massive mobile phone. He waved with the other hand, which had big cigar in between his fingers, then stopped by the cigarette machine. I waited until he came over and sat down.
“Can I get you anything?” he asked.
“No I’m fine thanks” As he sat down and placed his phone on the table, he said these phones are brilliant, but they are heavy aren’t they?”
I nodded and said “I’ve had a bad back since I’ve had mine!”
Don lay his phone down, and then he whispered. “I’m sorry about last week, The Bloke that was coming up to help you at the lake, had a bad car crash on the way.”
“Is he alright?”
“No, not really, he’s in hospital, someone tried to force him off the road!”
I didn’t ask anymore.
“How are you, my spy’s told me it’s all sorted?”
I nodded and took a mouthful of my drink. “Yes, it worked out quite well, I think!”
“Well, I realised something was wrong, so I worked myself up to do it. The kids had played with the cars on the grass, John had filled the boat with petrol, and went out to warm it up as he had done all day.
He told everyone, it would be the last time he could take it out on the lake, so I went for another look for cagoule man as I called him.”
“I couldn’t see him anywhere and was on my way back, as I approached the back of my car, one of my friends picked up the handsets, and the rest you know.”
Don dropped and nodded his head.
“As long as it’s all done and sorted.”
“The only problem was… Liz and Mick were on the boat.” Don’s face dropped, and he went as white as chalk with his hands over his face.
“It’s alright they got off before it exploded, Liz felt sick, so John the driver dropped them off on the island, in the middle of the lake.”
“Thank god for that, he was good for something after all.”
He said breathing a long sigh of relief.
“Is Debbie alright with you?”
“Well we haven’t spoken much really; I thought it best we stay away from each other for a while.”
“Good, the old bill might be watching her movements.” he said looking around the room.
We sat chatting for a while; then I had this question chewing away at me that I had to ask and I couldn’t stop myself, “When did you get involved in this kind of work, shall we say?”
“I don’t know really… It just happened I suppose.”
We talked and reminisced about olden days. Then Don crossed his legs still puffing on his large cigar and looking into the air he said, “Do you remember a crowd of us going on holiday over to the Isle of White, Black Gang Chine I think it was or was it Sandown?”
I shrugged my head and shoulders, “Vaguely.”
“Anyway, I think you were about 12 years old.”
“I remember your red E-type with the roof off driving along the kerb soaking everyone in rainwater.
Don smirked, “I used to love doing that!”
“Was there a lorry or an Ambulance on the beach?
“Did it get stuck and we all had to push it off?”
“Yes that’s right, do you remember what the ambulance was for?”
“Don’t you remember when you and I dug that hole in that beach and covered it with sticks?”
I shuck my head. “No!”
“On top of the sticks I put opened cigarette packets and a delicate sprinkling of sand over the top.
I sat there still shaking my head. “No I don’t remember!”
“Then that big woman stepped into it and snapped her leg in two. When she tried to stand up, it looked like she hadn’t pulled her Wellington boots on far enough up her leg, you didn’t stop laughing for days, and no one would talk to me, they all said I was stupid and irresponsible. I suppose it was! Perhaps that’s when it all started.”
We asked how each other’s family were and slowly strolled out into the car park.
I thanked Don for his help with the boat and just after his favourite saying, I left, and we went our separate ways.
I drove back to the garage and wrote a couple of Invoices before leaving and going home. I remembered to stop at the outdoor to get a bottle of Whiskey to keep me company when Mick and Liz had gone to bed.
I woke next morning with a thick head and a shock looking at my watch. I woke Mick quickly, and after his breakfast, I dropped him at school and carried on to work.
It was a good day, I mean nothing went wrong for a change, in fact, Friday was the same, and on my way home, I stopped at the Gate for a drink with the Friday night brigade. We all meet most Fridays and tell stories of the week and have a few drinks before going home.
On the Saturday morning after Mick had his corn flakes, I drove him into the town.
“For being a clever boy and saving me from drowning, I’m going to buy you a… something present, do you remember the word the Ambulance man used?”
Mick looked at me, he had a big grin and his finger was on his chin. “Err, was it classall?”
“Nearly got it right, colossal.”
“What are you going to buy me then?” he asked.
“It’s a surprise!”
We parked the car and walked into the shopping area, and found the shop.
“A BIKE!” Mick shouted.
“Get your self a racing bike!”
We went all through the different kinds, and eventually, he found the one he wanted, and after driving it around the shop, we took it home.