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Life Exchange - Jenny Dooley

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Chapter one

Luke and Jake
Luke Harrison sat at his desk and looked through the door into the next room. His secretary was preparing the room for the directors' meeting. Luke smiled. On the table, the crystal glasses and golden cigarette box were shining in the light from the lamps. There were red roses to go with the red velvet chairs. Yes, the directors would certainly have a comfortable meeting. The smile left his face. He wasn't so sure of the discussions at the meeting. His partner, Jake Fulbright, was talking to him from the other side of the room. There was anger in his voice.
«Luke! Wake up! The office looks good, doesn't it? Our company is going well, isn't it? Together we've done a good job. And how? By always doing what's best for the company!»
«It's no good, Jake. You are not going to change my mind. Our business is property — land, houses and buildings. We became a great company because we gave the people what they wanted. And they paid us well. Now our city wants us and for a good cause. We have to give them what they want — a children's home. There is more to success than money, Jake. There is pride, and respect...»
«Stop that! Our city needs an office block! And big companies will pay us good money. Think of your family, Luke. Don't you want to do the best for your wife?»
Jake took out a cigarette and lit it.
«If you're so keen on doing the best for yourself, why don't you stop that harmful habit?»
Luke hated smoking and Jake hated being told what to do by anyone, even if it was his old friend and partner. The two men had grown up together, and built their futures together. And together they had found riches and success. But in the past year, something had gone wrong between them. What was it? Luke wished he knew.
«For goodness sake, Luke! Listen to me! I'm going to fight you on this one. I'm going into that meeting and I'm going to persuade those directors to agree to the new office building.»
«I'm sorry, Jake. You can't do that. We are the partners, they are our directors. They can't agree to anything if we don't agree. Those are the rules, Jake.»
«Rules are for losers! I'm a winner, and I take chances!»
Jake banged his fist on the table. Then he looked directly into Luke's eyes.
«He who dares, wins, Luke. Remember? And I dare!»
It was an old saying that the two men had used in the early days of their business. They had used the saying to give each other courage. Now Jake was using it to give him the strength to fight his own partner. Just then, the phone on Luke's desk rang. He heard his wife's gentle, loving voice.
«Is that you, Luke?»
«Yes, darling. How's it going at home?»
«Fine! But what's the matter? You don't sound too happy.»
Dear Megan! She always knew if something was wrong. But she must not know that anything was wrong between Luke and Jake. Luke tried to sound happier.
«I… I'm fine, love. Just a bit busy. You know — usual Friday rush to get things done before the weekend. How are things at home?»
«Pretty busy here, too! Nathan has brought a friend home from school — can't you hear them? They are playing upstairs. And I've got your favourite dinner — beef curry. It's nearly ready. So what time are you coming home?»
«Listen, Megan, love. I'm sorry, but I'm going to be late. There's a meeting this evening.»
«Oh, Luke! Not again! Oh, darling, you've been working too hard lately. Try to get home and relax — we miss you!»
«I know, love. And I'll be home as soon as I can.»
Luke put the phone down. He wished Jake hadn't been in the room listening to the conversation.
«You leave that gorgeous wife of yours alone far too much. If she was my wife, I would never leave her side.»
There was something about Jake when he spoke of Megan — a look in his eye, and a strange tone in his voice. Luke couldn't explain why, but it made him very uncomfortable. But Jake was keeping a secret from his partner. Jake, the man with money and power but without a woman in his life, was in love with Luke's wife. Megan knew nothing of this. She loved her husband, her son and her home. Jake knew this, but Jake still wanted Megan.
«And he who dares, wins!» he told himself.
The awkward moment in the office passed. Just then, the intercom buzzed. Jake pressed a button and listened. It was one of the secretaries.
«All four directors have arrived. Shall I take them into the conference room?»
«Yes, please. We'll be with them in two minutes. Well Luke, this is it. They are all in there. And I'm going to persuade each one of them what is best for this company. Big luxury offices — that will bring us heaps of money.»
Jake looked at Luke. He was daring him to answer. Then he picked up his cigarettes and walked out of the room.
Chapter two
The Accident
Jake was the first to leave the meeting. His face was red with anger. The directors had not agreed to the idea of constructing a new office building but, worse, they had refused to listen to any plan which both Jake and Luke did not agree to. He walked past the secretaries and out to his car. He didn't say anything to Luke because he didn't want to fight him. Not yet. He was going to try once more to change his mind.
Back at Luke's house, Nathan heard his father's car coming. He ran to the front door.
«Daddy! You're late! Come and see my model aeroplane! I've nearly finished it! Daddy, it's beef curry for dinner, your favourite! I'm starving, are you? Can we go out on our bikes together tomorrow?
»Hey, slow down a bit!"
«Hello darling! At last!»
«Hello, my love. Ah, it's good to be home.»
They all went into the living room to enjoy the evening together.
The next morning, as they were having breakfast, the telephone rang. It was Jake.
«Good morning Luke! Listen, I've got an idea. Why don't we go out hunting? It's been a long time since we went hunting together. Maybe we can bring a rabbit home for Megan to cook.»
Luke was pleased that Jake was in a good mood. And although it was Saturday, Luke decided to go out with Jake. It was a chance for them to do something together as friends, just as they used to do in the past.
«Good idea! Let's do it! We'll go in my car — I'll come and pick you up in an hour. I need to clean my gun first. I haven't used it for ages.»
It was a glorious day. A perfect day for hunting. The sun was shining through the trees. The birds were singing. As they walked through the woods, Jake started talking about work — and the office building.
«Oh, come on Jake! Let's forget about the office building for today, and just enjoy ourselves.»
«Life isn't that simple, Luke. We have to pay for everything — even days out in the woods. That's why we can't afford to build children's homes, Luke.»
«Jake, I told you. The city needs the home, and we have almost promised we are going to do it. It's the right thing to do.»
«The right thing to do is what's good for us — not the others.»
«Come on, Jake! Let's just hunt rabbits. Now, what's that I see over there? Looks like a nice tasty dinner to me!»
Luke picked up his gun. So did Jake. But Jake wasn't looking at the trees, or the rabbits.
The bullet from Jake's gun flew past Luke's face.
«For goodness sake! What are you thinking of? You almost killed me!»
«I'm sorry. It was an accident. I touched the trigger by mistake. I'm very sorry.»
«Look, I think it's time we went home. We are obviously not going to do any serious hunting today.»
«Well, I didn't mean to do it, and I've said I'm sorry. But if you want to go, then let's go.»
The two men sat in the car and stared at the road in front. Neither of them spoke. Luke changed gear as they came into a narrow road. Jake looked down at the view across the hills and of the city below. Luke turned the steering wheel as they came to abend. There, approaching them, was an enormous lorry on their side of the road. Luke shouted, «Get onto your own side of the road!»
But the lorry driver didn't notice them. He wasn't looking at Luke's car — he was looking at the pleasant view below.
«Move over, you idiot! Watch the road!»
The tyres screeched as Luke tried to move out of the way. But the lorry just came towards them. Luke turned the steering wheel again, fast. The car left the road, and disappeared over the side of the hill. For a moment there was silence as the car flew through the air. Then came the crash.
Neither of the men heard the noise, or felt the flames as the car exploded. Their burnt bodies were thrown out of the car and onto the grass.
Chapter three
Life Exchange
The lorry driver was still shaking when the ambulance arrived. The ambulance men ran towards the burning car. On the black, burnt ground nearby lay the two men. They were lifted into the ambulance and taken to the City Hospital. The ambulance men pushed them on trolleys into the Casualty Department. A nurse stood with them as they waited for the doctors to come. As they lay on their trolleys inside the hospital, one of the men made a noise. The nurse spoke to him.
«Hello. Can you hear me? Can you tell me your name?»
The burned man turned towards his burned friend on the other trolley. He put his hand onto his friend's hand.
«J… a… k… e!»
But that was his last word. He died, with his hand in the hand of his friend.
«Can you hear me? Jake, did you say?»
The nurse lifted the dead man's hand away from his friend's and laid it across his chest.
Megan looked at the clock and told herself not to worry. Luke was probably having a drink with Jake. He would be home soon. The telephone rang.
«Hello. I'd like to speak to Mrs Megan Harrison — er, Luke Harrison's wife, please.»
«Yes, that's me. Who's speaking, please?»
«I'm Police Constable Smithers, from the City Police Station. Mrs Harrison, there's been an accident — a car accident — rather serious.»
Megan caught her breath.
«Oh, no… he isn't… he...»
«Now, keep calm. Your husband is alive, but he is very badly hurt. Now, can you come straight to the Casualty Department at the City Hospital, please? Would you like me to send one of my men to come and get you?»
«No, thank you. I'm coming now; right away.»
Megan drove, praying all the way.
«Oh, please God, let him live! He's such a good man, a good husband, a good father...»
She fought her tears as she drove to the hospital. She quickly found the policeman at the Casualty Department.
«Hello, er, Mrs Harrison? Now, try to relax — I know it's difficult. Your husband's car crashed and went off the road. It was quite bad — the car caught fire and the two men were badly burned. We found the number plate of the car so we were able to find its owner. One of the men died. We were able to identify your husband because he was holding his wedding ring in his hand. A nurse will take you in to see him.»
Shortly afterwards, a doctor came into the room. He sat down on a seat next to Megan.
«Mrs Harrison? I'm Doctor Ramsay. I've been looking after your husband.»
The doctor looked kindly at Megan, and held her hand.
«We are doing everything we can to save him, but he's in a coma, so he won't know you're here.»
«Is he… is he… going to die, Doctor?»
«We hope not, but we must prepare ourselves.»
Megan could no longer see the doctor's kind face — her eyes were filled with tears.
«Oh, Doctor! What about his friend, Jake?»
«There was nothing we could do for him — he died when he arrived here at the hospital. Now, come with me. Your husband is covered in bandages so you won't see much of him. But we all believe it helps the patient to have a loved one nearby — even when they are in a coma.»
Megan followed the doctor to a small side room at the end of a ward. The man under the bandages knew nothing and nobody.
«Oh, Luke! Well, I suppose it's better right now that he doesn't know anything. I mean, he would be in terrible pain if he were awake, wouldn't he, Doctor?»
«Yes. You know, Mrs Harrison, even if he recovers, he might not remember much. He might have amnesia.»
«But it would pass, wouldn't it?»
«Hopefully, yes — in time. Now, let's leave the nurses to take care of him. Go home and get some rest — we will call you if we need you. And come back tomorrow morning.»
The next three days were terrible for Megan. She sat at the side of the bed — waiting for signs of recovery. Then, on the third evening, the head under the bandages moved. Megan saw the eyes and the lips move slowly.
«Oh Luke! My love! Luke, darling — can you hear me? Can you see me?»
The voice was slow and weak.
«Oh Luke, does it hurt? Don't worry. Everything will be all right. You are going to live, and come home. We're all going to be together soon. Oh Luke! I love you so much!»
The face under the bandages moved, the eyes filled with tears. Then they closed, and Luke slept.
Chapter four
New Life — Old Habits
The nurse touched the bandages around Luke's head and smiled at him.
«Well, this is it! Now, will you take it off Luke, or should I?»
It was the last bandage — after the last operation. For six months, doctors had cut skin and repaired the terrible damage from the accident. Luke had been very patient and had been waiting for this moment.
«You do it, Nurse. It's the last time for you — I'll just watch the good work!»
He looked into the mirror, and he couldn't believe his eyes. It was like magic! There were a few tiny lines, but apart from that, it was the same good-looking face of the photographs of Luke Harrison before the accident. The same photographs that the doctors had used to recreate the face. And they had got it right! Luke's eyes filled with tears.
«Oh, I don't know what to say… well… I look exactly like I did before! It's just perfect!»
«I'm very happy for you Luke! But you had better go home to your wife before we all fall in love with you! And here she is!»
Megan walked into the room, carrying a suitcase to take his things home. She put down the case and threw her arms around him.
«Oh Luke! I've got my old Luke back again! Come on, let's get you home, where you belong!»
They drove away from the hospital. It was so nice for Megan to sit in the car with her husband at the wheel again. But she noticed that Luke suddenly seemed sad.
«What is it love? Aren't you happy?»
«Yes, but I'm so sorry that Jake didn't have the same luck. Do you mind if we stop at the cemetery? I'd just like to see his grave.»
Megan wondered why he didn't want to go home first. But it was true. Luke had not yet actually seen the grave of his old friend and partner. He had been very sick at the time of the funeral.
«Of course, love. We'll stop off first and buy some flowers.»
At the graveyard, Megan put the flowers onto the grave. Then she stepped back to let Luke have a moment alone. Luke went down on his knees and cried.
«Oh Jake! My true friend! Why was it you and not me? How can I live without you? I'll never forget you, never!»
Megan waited for a little while, then she went and took him away from the grave. They walked back to the car in silence. Luke drove them home.
As they walked to the door, Nathan ran out. He threw his arms around Luke.
«Daddy! Oh, Daddy! I'm so happy you're back!»
Nathan pulled Luke by the hand and took him into the living room.
«I want to see you here, by the fire, just like the old days. Oh Daddy, I've missed you so much! I'm going to make sure that nothing bad ever happens to you again!»
The family had dinner together. Megan poured them all some wine.
«Here's to our family — together again!»
«And forever!»
Nathan couldn't stop looking at Luke, and Megan's eyes were shining with happiness. After the meal, Luke put his hand into his pocket. He took out a packet of cigarettes and lit one. Megan and Nathan both spoke at once.
«Luke! You are smoking! But you've never smoked before! You've always hated it!»
«Yes, I know.»
«Don't do it Daddy! It's bad for you!»
«Hey, you two!»
«I'm sorry darling. We didn't mean to complain.»
Megan got up to get an ashtray. Nathan picked up the packet.
«Jake used to smoke those.»
Megan took the packet from Nathan, and handed the ashtray to Luke.
«Thank you. I expect it's a reaction — the shock from the accident is making me want to smoke.»
«Well, let's hope it will pass. Anyway, it's wonderful to have you back. Now, shall we go and sit by the fire and watch a film together?»
Chapter five
Strange Caller
«Welcome back!»
The secretaries, the directors, the cleaners — all the office staff- stood in the office, waiting for Luke. As he walked through the door, they cheered and clapped. Luke's personal secretary, Mary, came up and kissed him.
«It's wonderful to see you. We've all been waiting for this day!»
Luke went into his office with Mary. She explained some of the things that were happening in the company, and showed him the files with all the information he needed. Then the directors came in for a short meeting. The company had managed very well without the two partners, but everyone was glad to have one of the heads of the company back in control. After he had spoken to all of them, Luke sat in his office. It was strange — he was alone now. There was no partner sitting across from him. Nobody to help him make a decision. And nobody to stop him doing whatever he wanted to do. Yes, the company was all his. He looked at the photograph of Megan on his desk. Suddenly he wanted to be with her. He went out and bought some flowers and champagne. Then he went home.
«Hello darling! You're early! What a nice surprise! Oh, what lovely flowers!»
Megan put the flowers into a vase. She carried the vase into the hall, and put it on the table under her favourite photograph. It was a photograph of Luke — handsome, happy, with kind smiling eyes.
Later that evening, they drank the champagne together.
«To a wonderful new start! Cheers, darling!»
«And to my next business deal!»
«What's that, darling? The new building for the children's home?»
«No. To the new office building I am going to build. Right in the middle of the city centre.»
«Office building! But I thought you didn't want the office building!»
«Well, I do want the office building, now. I am going to name it after Jake — The Fulbright Centre — luxury offices.»
«But you wanted the children's home so much! And the city is expecting you to build it.»
Luke looked at Megan. His eyes were wet with tears.
«I must do this, Megan. It was Jake's last wish before he died.»
«Well, I can understand those feelings in your private life. But, Luke, do you think you should listen to your feelings and emotions in your business life?»
«He was my partner, Megan. He died and I lived. I owe him this.»
Just then the telephone rang. Luke went out into the hall to answer it. He picked up the phone and heard a strange noise. It was a voice — well, like a voice -but strange. It seemed very far away, but at the same time as if the speaker was standing right next to him. He looked at the flowers on the hall table, and he tried hard to recognise the voice.
«Why? Tell me why?»
Luke didn't say anything. He waited to hear more.
«Why are you doing this? Why are you doing this?»
The voice got stronger as it repeated the question.
«Why are you doing this?»
Luke was frightened — very frightened. He put the telephone down. At the same moment he looked at the photograph above the table. Megan's favourite photograph of her happy, smiling Luke. The photograph moved. It clearly moved from side to side. Then it moved forward, away from the wall.
Luke stared in horror as it crashed down to the floor. Tiny pieces of glass and tom pieces of photograph flew across the hall.
Megan rushed out into the hall.
«What's that? What happened? Oh, my photograph.»
Luke was white, and frightened. But he answered Megan.
«I… I'm sorry, love. I lifted my arm up — I knocked it off by mistake. I… I'll clear it up.»
Megan looked at him. She was a bit worried.
«Don't worry. I'll do it. You look tired dear — go and sit down. Remember, it was your first day back at work for a very long time. I'll make us a drink and we'll go to bed early.»
Chapter six
«Cheers darling! And a happy birthday!»
Megan lifted her wine glass and looked into Luke's eyes.
«And many more of them, together.»
She kissed him, and they drank their wine. Nathan looked at the barbecue.
«Not too many more glasses of wine, Daddy! Look! You're burning the steak!»
Luke turned to the barbecue, and moved the steaks to one side.
«Hey! You used to be really good at cooking barbecues. What's happened?»
«Too much wine!»
«Quiet, Nathan! Luke, you don't look too well. Are you sure you're all right? Here, I have some beef curry for you over there — that should make you feel better.»
But Luke didn't eat the beef curry, or any of the barbecue food. Megan was worried.
«Darling, really! What's the matter?»
«It's O.K. Megan. I'm just not very hungry.»
The telephone rang. Luke went to answer it. A familiar voice spoke to him.
«Happy birthday, partner!»
An echo from the past! Luke's face became white with fear. He put the phone down and walked back into the garden. Megan saw the colour of his face.
«Luke, love. What is it? You look terrible! Who was on the telephone?»
«Nobody. It was a wrong number.»
«Well, come over here and cut your cake. OK everyone! Here he is!»
«Happy birthday to you! Happy birthday to you! Happy birthday dear Luke. Happy birthday to you!»
All the guests cheered and clapped. Luke cut his cake and handed everyone a piece. Soon, he was laughing and joking with them all.
Later in the evening, Megan told Nathan to go and have his bath.
«Oh, Mum! All right. I'll go if Daddy will come up afterwards and say goodnight.»
«Of course I will!»
«And tell me a story?»
«Yes. Now you go and have your bath.»
Nathan came out of the bathroom — clean, tired and happy. Luke was sitting on his bed, waiting for him.
«Hey, Daddy! Aren't you glad you had that birthday? I certainly am! Daddy, will you tell me that story — you know, the one about the fisherman and his wife? The way you used to tell it, with the funny voices?»
«What story is that, Nathan?»
«Oh, you know, Daddy — our story! I'll be the fish, and you'll be the fisherman.»
«I don't think I know that one, Nathan.»
«Oh, don't tease me, Daddy! Of course you do! We've done it a thousand times!»
«Well, I suppose I just don't remember it, then.»
Nathan looked worried. Was Daddy joking or not?
«Daddy, you can't have forgotten it! It's like forgetting your own name, or who you are, or Mummy, or me!»
«Well, it looks as if I have forgotten it. Shall we have a different story? Shall I read you something from a book?»
«Well… yes. If you say so, Daddy.»
Nathan listened to the story and then Luke said goodnight. Nathan heard him going downstairs. Then he lay in bed, worrying about his father.
Something was wrong. Why didn't he know how to do the barbecue? Mummy was worried too. She hadn't said anything, but Nathan knew. He was watching, and listening. And who was phoning him? Why was he upset after the calls? And what about the story? He must know it. He listened to his parents talking. His mother wanted to go somewhere.
«To Lucy's house. You know Lucy, my friend from aerobics. She's having a tea party on Thursday afternoon. A chance for us all to have a good chat. Do you think you could stay here and look after Nathan? I'll be back by nine o'clock.»
«Yes, my dear, of course. I know how you. women love to gossip.»
«Oh, really, Luke! Anyway, Lucy's very nice, you know! You won't forget, will you?»
«No, my love. I'll be here.»
Chapter seven
The Psychic
Megan sat in the garden, enjoying the late afternoon sun with Nathan. They looked up as Luke walked across the grass.
«Hello, dear. Did you have a good day?»
«Mmm, fine. You see, I told you I would remember. Nathan and I are going to have fun while you ladies chat — isn't that right?»
Megan laughed, and went to get ready to leave. She drove in her own car to her friend's house. The front door was open, and she walked into the hall. Lucy saw her.
«Megan! Come in and join us! I'm so glad you came!»
«Mmm… so am I. Oh, look at that table! Lucy you shouldn't have done all that!»
The table was laid with all kinds of sandwiches, pies, cakes and biscuits. There were pots of different kinds of tea from all over the world.
«Come over and say hello first! You know most of the people here, but I want you to meet someone.»
Megan followed Lucy across the room.
«Rose is a very special person. She can see into the future — she can see beyond our world. She's amazing!»
«You mean she's a psychic!»
«Yes! Isn't it exciting?»
Megan looked at Rose. She was a pretty woman with bright eyes. She looked up as Megan walked towards her.
«Rose, this is Megan.»
«Hello, Megan.»
Rose held Megan's hands and looked into her face. Suddenly Rose became very still — she seemed to be frozen, or hypnotised. She stared deeply into Megan's eyes, and when she spoke, she sounded shocked.
«Oh, my God! Your husband is dead!»
«No… he can't be! He's at home looking after our son...» Megan took away her hands and Rose's face turned white, her eyes closed, and she fell to the floor. Lucy ran to her.
«She's fainted! She has seen a death!»
«It can't be true! I left him half an hour ago...»
Megan ran from the room, into the hall. She picked up the telephone and dialled her own number. Luke answered.
«Luke? Is that you?»
«Well, yes. Who did you think it would be?»
«Oh, nobody, nothing. I just wanted to check that everything was all right.»
«Megan! I am able to look after a seven-year-old boy, you know!»
Megan walked back into Lucy's living room. Rose was sitting on the settee, drinking tea. Nobody said any more about it. Megan tried to forget about it. She had something to eat, and chatted with different people.
When she was back at home that evening, she told Luke what had happened. Luke became strangely angry.
«Why do you listen to these stupid old women? I knew you shouldn't have gone there!»
«Come on, Luke! There's no need to get angry. She isn't a stupid old woman and she didn't mean to hurt anyone.»
«Hurt? The woman is dangerous! Filling your head with lies! And you — silly enough to believe her!»
«Luke, please don't shout. Nathan will hear you.»
But Nathan had already heard them both, and he was frightened.
«Mummy! Come up and say goodnight!»
«I'm coming, love!»
Upstairs in his room, Nathan was almost in tears. He put out his arms and held Megan tightly.
«Why is Daddy so angry, Mummy? What's the matter with him? He's not the same. He couldn't do the barbecue — he doesn't even remember our fisherman story!»
«Don't worry. It's because of the accident. He's lost a bit of his memory — the doctors told me that might happen.»
«But why is he angry about the lady at the tea party?»
«I don't know, darling. I expect it's all because of the accident. He was very ill for a long time, but he'll get completely better soon, don't worry.»
«What about the people on the telephone?»
«What people? There is nobody on the telephone, darling. You are imagining things. Now, it's very late. Time for boys to be asleep! And you've got the football match tomorrow, haven't you? You'll need lots of energy for that if you want to win!»
«We will win, Mummy! You'll see!»
«I'm sure you will. So, go to sleep, now.»
Megan kissed Nathan, and turned off the light.
Chapter eight
The Past Strikes Back
Luke left for work early the next morning. He was still annoyed about the psychic at the tea party. He was also embarrassed about the quarrel he had had with Megan, and ashamed that Nathan had heard them. When he got into his office he sat at his desk and looked out of the window. He telephoned Megan, and asked her to come to the office later. He would clear up things between them, then he would feel better. Then he sat quietly and watched the world go by. He wanted to be alone for a while, but a few minutes later someone arrived to see him.
A young man walked into his office. He looked about twenty-five years old, and he spoke to Luke as if he knew him.
«Hello, Mr Harrison. It's nice to meet you again. And good to see you looking so well after that terrible accident. Are you all right now?»
Luke was a bit puzzled. He put out his hand to shake hands with the young man.
«Well, I'm very well, thank you. But I don't think we've met, have we?»
«Of course we have! You remember, about the new children's home? I think everything is settled now — we should be able to start on it any time now.»
«Look, I'm very sorry. I think there has been a mistake. First of all, this company is not going to build a children's home. Secondly, you and I have never spoken about building a children's home — or anything, in fact. I have never seen you before.»
The young man was starting to get annoyed.
«Now look here! Don't try those tricks on me!»
«These are no tricks, young man.»
The young man went straight up to Luke. He put his face right in front of Luke's.
«Do you know what? I think there is a big trick here, because if you were really Luke Harrison, you'd certainly know me!»
For a moment, Luke was shocked. If he was really Luke Harrison! Then he spoke.
«Now just what exactly are you trying to say? I advise you to think carefully before you say any more!»
«Don't think you can threaten me — it's you who is in the dangerous position, not me.»
«That's enough! Just get out of my office — now!»
Luke walked towards the young man, and the young man walked towards the door. But as he opened the door, the young man had the last word.
«Remember — he who dares, wins!»
Then he walked out and slammed the door behind him. Luke was shaking. How did the young man know about the expression? It was something that Luke and Jake had used between them. Who was this man? Luke sat down and lit a cigarette.
The telephone in front of him rang. He picked it up.
«Hello? Is that Luke Harrison?»
«Yes, it is. Who is speaking?»
«Well, it doesn't really matter who is speaking. It's what I have to say that is important.»
«Oh, yes it does matter! Who are you?»
«Be quiet and listen! I've got news for you, bad news. It's about that new office block you're building.»
The voice was slow, teasing him. Luke spoke sharply into the telephone.
«Who are you? And what about my office block?»
«Well, you see, there's been an accident. Fire. A nasty fire. And it's burned your office block. There's not much left of it now. Sad really. Just when it was nearly finished.»
Luke was really frightened. He shouted into the phone.
«What are you talking about? Who are you? And what has happened to my office block?»
«Oh, dear! Don't you understand English? I said — a fire.»
There was a click at the other end. The line was dead. Luke threw the phone down, and covered his face with his hands.
«Oh, no, no! It can't be! No!»
He stood up, pulled his jacket off his chair, and ran out of the room. Mary looked up from her typewriter in surprise.
«Are you going out, Mr Harrison? Don't forget the meeting this afternoon, will you...»
But Luke wasn't listening. The door slammed, and he was gone.
Chapter nine
Great Grandfather's clock
Megan sat at the other side of the desk and talked to Luke's secretary. Megan liked Mary — she was glad that Luke had someone like her to look after him.
«I was at home, cooking, and Luke telephoned me. He told me to come here because he had something to tell me.»
«That's funny, because he isn't here. He went out in a hurry. But why don't you go and wait for him in his office? It's more comfortable in there.»
«Yes, I think I will.»
She went and sat down in Luke's office. Then she noticed something.
«Oh, that's strange! His clock has stopped. It has never stopped in all the time he's had it.»
She walked over and looked at it. Luke had always loved the clock. It had belonged to his great grandfather. It was a beautiful wall clock with a pretty brass face and old numbers. It had a long pendulum, which gave a gentle «tick tock», and now, for the first time, it had stopped.
«Well, this will not do! You have to tick, my old friend!»
She opened the clock. There was a little key inside the door.
«Fancy Luke forgetting to wind you! He must have a lot on his mind if he forgets that!»
She reached down to the bottom of the clock to get the key, and she found a pile of papers. She laughed.
«Well, really Luke! You are getting worse. You have an excellent secretary to look after your papers — and you leave them in an old clock! Whatever will you do next!»
Megan took the papers out. They were contracts, for agreements and business arrangements for the last two years. Now Megan was puzzled.
«Why on earth would he do this? These are important contracts — they shouldn't be in a clock!»
She looked down at the papers. They had the signatures of the people Luke had made the agreements with. Signatures, stamps, dates. Then Megan noticed something else.
«But what on earth, this isn't Luke's signature! This is Jake's!»
And so it was. J.S. Fulbright. No sign of Luke's name. Megan had seen the signature many times before, on papers both Luke and Jake had signed.
«But these papers must have been signed in the last two years — after Jake died. Why is he using Jake's signature? Why isn't he signing in his own name?»
Then Megan realised something else. Only Jake could write that signature — it was a very personal one. Luke had often joked with Jake about it. 'Eccentric', Luke had called it. Well, it certainly was a strange signature. And certainly only one person could write it. And that was Jake Fulbright.
«But why? And how? Jake is dead. Jake has been dead for two years now — hasn't he?»
Then Megan felt a sick feeling in her stomach. She looked at the ashtray and cigarettes on the desk. Jake's brand of cigarettes. She heard a voice in her head — the voice of the policeman in the hospital. «We identified your husband because he was holding his wedding ring.» Not 'wearing' — 'holding.'
Megan remembered the many strange things that her husband had done since he came home: building the office block — not the children's home, forgetting Nathan's story, not liking beef curry, smoking.
«Your husband is dead,» is what Rose at the tea party had said. Why had Luke been so angry about it? And what had Rose seen?
Something was wrong — horribly wrong. Megan took the contracts with Jake's signature and put them in her handbag. She was going to show them to Luke tonight. She was going to demand an explanation.
The man she had brought home from the hospital was not her husband. Of that, Megan was sure. But she wasn't sure what to do about it. And what did it all mean? Where was the real Luke?
Megan remembered the strange telephone calls. Luke had been very frightened. Who had telephoned him? Suddenly Megan was very frightened, too. She picked up her keys and went out of the office. She walked past Mary.
«Are you leaving, Mrs Harrison?»
«Yes, I can't wait any longer. Tell Luke, when he comes in, that I'll see him at home.»
«All right, Mrs Harrison. See you soon.»
«Yes, Mary. Goodbye.»
Chapter ten
The Chase
Megan came home, tired with worry and sick with fear. She went to the drinks cupboard and poured herself a large brandy. She needed to calm her nerves, and to be able to think. Nathan came home from school, tired from a long day. Megan put him to bed early. She didn't want him to hear anything of the conversation she was going to have.
When Luke came home he was dirty — black from the scene of the fire. He was tired and shocked. It had been a terrible fire. And Megan knew nothing of it yet. She asked him why he was so dirty.
«It's from a fire, Megan. My new office building has gone — it has been completely burnt.»
But Megan did not run to his side to comfort him. The brandy gave her extra confidence. She asked a question.
«Who did it, I wonder. Have you found out?»
Luke looked at her in surprise.
«No, not yet.»
Megan went and poured herself another brandy. She did not pour one for Luke. Instead, she moved around the room. She felt the brandy inside her, making her warm and making her head very light. As she walked, she knocked something from a small table. It crashed to the floor and broke.
«Oh, no! My lovely statue of the Flower Girl. Oh, now what am I going to do?»
Luke spoke to her sharply.
«Oh, come on Megan! It's only a little statue. I'll buy you another one.»
«Another one! There could never be another one! You don't remember buying it for me, do you? Go on, tell me! Where did you buy this present for me?»
«Oh, Megan, I don't know. What's the matter with you? It's really not important.»
«Well, that's where you are wrong! It's very important! And so is this!»
Megan picked up the contracts with Jake's signatures and threw them onto the table. Luke's face went white.
«Wh… where… where did you get those?»
«Never mind where — you tell me where Luke is! Because you are not Luke — you are Jake! You...»
But Megan didn't finish her sentence. She stepped back, away from him, because his hand came up, ready to hit her across the mouth. Megan cried out.
«No! Don't you dare!»
For Megan this was the last and final proof that the man in her house was not her real husband. And now that she knew his secret, he was dangerous. Megan ran from the room and out of the house. She got into her car and drove into the road. She needed to be away from him, and to think.
«But what now? What can I do about it?»
It started to rain. Megan slowed the car down and looked into her driving mirror. His car was right behind her, following her, chasing her.
«Get away from me, can't you? Ah, I know. I'll take that tiny road that goes to the cliff top. He doesn't know it very well.»
It was a little road she had walked along with Luke when they were first married. She waited until she was at the corner before she turned the steering wheel.
But a minute later, she saw him in the mirror. Now he was driving angrily — and getting nearer and nearer. He was chasing her as a fox chases a rabbit — the animal and his prize. And Megan was his prize, and he wasn't going to lose her. Not now. Not after all this.
She was driving faster and taking the comers well. The tyres on her car screeched as she turned. He followed her round another bend, then the road became straighter. It ran along the top of a cliff. He changed gear and looked hard at the back of her car. Now was his chance. He could see the back of her head. He could see her eyes as she looked into her mirror. He looked again. Those were not Megan's eyes! Those were Luke's! Now he couldn't see the car — a figure stood in his way. A tall, light figure, shining against the dark sky. The figure of Luke Harrison!
He screamed at the figure: «Get out of the way, you idiot!»
But the figure stayed there, staring at him, without fear. And it stood between him and Megan, blocking the road. He turned the steering wheel and put on the brakes.
«Get out of the way!»
He was losing control of the car. The wheels were skidding, the car was sliding across the wet road away from the figure, and away from Megan. He screamed, and stared at the figure. Luke's eyes stared back at him. One wheel of the car was sliding over the edge of the road, and then another. As the car plunged over the cliff, he shouted his last word:
Then everything went black...
Hope you have enjoyed the reading!
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