A Cabin Pressure/Sherlock crossover fic. Ish.
Author: Ariane DeVere
Word count: This chapter: c.6,000. (Around 18,200 in total)
Betas, advisors and general hand-holders: verityburns and Mirith Griffin
Characters: Martin Crieff, some incidental OMCs and OFCs, John Watson, Mycroft Holmes, Sherlock Holmes
Tags: A Cabin Pressure/Sherlock crossover with a twist. Friendship. Hurt/Comfort. Psychological trauma. All is not what it seems. Lots of ‘ooh!’ moments if you know your Cabin Pressure and your Sherlock.
Icon merged from two icons by redscharlach
Summary: Martin Crieff wakes up in hospital, unable to remember how he got there. When he is told that his entire life is a lie, should he believe it? And who can help him find out the truth?
Warnings: Angst, emotional distress, psychological issues, hopefully some humour too; attempted assisted suicide in later chapter, violence in later chapter
Disclaimer: I have tried to keep all references to psychological conditions and treatment as non-specific as possible. I did do some research and also took advice from friends, but I didn’t look into the condition which Martin is apparently suffering or its treatment in depth, and I basically murder correct medical protocol for the sake of the story. I’ve deliberately kept the medical bits to a minimum but if you get angry with fic that isn’t a hundred per cent medically accurate and if you object to poor and incorrect treatment of someone with psychological issues, maybe you’d better avoid this story ...
This story is complete, but will be posted in three chapters every few days. Because I iz evil. And because cliffhangers are fun (when you’re not the one who has to read them. *snigger*).
PLEASE read the Warnings and Disclaimer above
“... your eyes please. Come on, open your eyes for me.”
The gentle but insistent voice became clearer and Martin struggled to obey. His eyes were heavy and he felt exhausted even trying, but gradually he managed to force them open. The middle-aged man with white hair who was leaning over him smiled encouragingly.
“That’s right, well done. Look at me.”
Martin blinked several times, feeling a stab of fear as he saw that the man was wearing a white coat and had a stethoscope around his neck. The man – the doctor – straightened up and nodded approvingly, still smiling at him.
“It’s all right,” he said soothingly. “You’re safe. You’re in a hospital, but you’re okay. I’m going to raise the bed a little.”
He picked up a control and pressed a button, and the top half of the bed lifted several inches. As he was raised into more of a sitting position Martin looked anxiously around the room. It contained two armchairs, a couple of cabinets and a wardrobe, and an open door near the bed revealed a small en suite bathroom. The window looked out onto a large lawned garden with several flower beds and the area was surrounded by trees. Clearly this was a hospital room but it immediately radiated an aura of expensiveness and exclusivity, and did nothing to allay Martin’s fears. A uniformed female nurse on the other side of the bed smiled down at him, and a man wearing a suit was standing near the door. Martin looked down and saw that he was wearing hospital pyjamas. A drip had been inserted into the back of his left hand and several leads were stuck onto his chest, presumably monitoring his heart rate. He screwed up his eyes for a moment, trying to remember what could have brought him here.
“You’re perfectly safe,” the man beside the bed told him again. “You’re in St Margaret’s Hospital in Peterborough. I’m Doctor Shelton.”
“How ...” Martin tried to speak but his voice came out in a whisper. He swallowed. “How did I get here? Why Peterborough?”
“Try not to worry,” Shelton told him. “You may be suffering from some memory loss but that’ll come back to you in time. I need to ask you some simple questions – is that all right?”
Martin nodded, still trying to recall what could have happened for him to end up here.
“Can you tell me your name?” Shelton asked.
“Mar-Martin Crieff,” Martin said, automatically adding, “Captain Martin Crieff.”
Shelton nodded, briefly glancing across to the man near the door. “Is that your full name?”
“Martin Richard Crieff.”
“What’s your date of birth?”
“Seventh of July nineteen seventy-five.”
“And your home address?”
“Twenty-five Parkside Terrace, Fitton,” Martin said. “How did I get here?”
“I assure you, Martin, we’ll answer your questions shortly,” Shelton said. “What’s your phone number?”
Martin related his mobile number. At the door, the other man took a notebook from his jacket pocket and began writing in it.
“Who’s your next of kin?” asked Shelton.
Martin stared at him. The doctor smiled reassuringly.
“It’s just a question. I promise you, you’re in no danger.”
“Oh. Um, Wendy Crieff, my mother. She lives in Wokingham. Her number’s on my phone.”
“Can you tell me where you work?”
“I’m an airline captain – I work for MJN Air, based at Fitton Airfield.”
Shelton nodded. “All right. Answer me a couple of general questions, please,” he said. “These are just to test your memory recall. Where does the Queen live?”
“Buckingham Palace,” Martin said bemusedly.
“Who lives at number ten Downing Street?”
“The Prime Minister.”
“And who’s the current Prime Minister?”
Martin opened his mouth, then frowned. “I ... I don’t remember,” he said. He was looking at the doctor as he spoke but from the corner of his eye it seemed as if the other man nodded and smiled a little. By the time Martin turned his head, the man’s face was straight again and he didn’t look up as he continued writing.
Martin turned back to Doctor Shelton. “Please tell me what’s happened,” he said anxiously. “Was there an accident? I don’t remember how I got here.”
“You were found in a state of distress and an ambulance was called,” Shelton told him. “You were taken to a nearby hospital, and after evaluation you were referred here.”
“Where was I?” Martin asked, widening his eyes as a horrific thought struck him. “Oh, God, was it at the airfield? Was I on the plane at the time?”
“Martin, you need to stay calm,” Shelton said as Martin began to breathe erratically. “You weren’t on a plane, I promise you.” He glanced at the man at the door again. “You weren’t with any of your friends or family when it happened.”
“Why can’t I remember?” Martin asked, beginning to panic.
“You have had what is known as a ‘brief reactive psychosis’,” Doctor Shelton told him gently. “It’s a mental condition often brought on by extreme stress. Memory loss is not unusual in such circumstances, but I’m confident that it will return in time.”
“I’ve had a nervous breakdown, haven’t I?” Martin said frantically. “Oh God – they’ll never let me fly again ...”
“A brief reactive psychosis is not the same as a mental breakdown,” Shelton said. “What you have undergone is a little more complicated, but it can be treated and I have every confidence that in time you will be fit and well and able to return to work.”
“I need to phone my mum,” Martin said. “She’ll be worried about me.”
“I’m afraid we can’t allow that at present,” Shelton said. “During the first stage of your treatment we’ll be putting you on a course of antipsychotic drugs. They will make you rather drowsy and confused at times, and it’s best for you that you don’t have contact with anyone other than your medical staff. However, I can assure you that your family are aware of what has happened ...” again he glanced across to the man in the suit, “... and they have been reassured that you are in no danger. We’ll keep them updated on a regular basis.”
Martin stared at him as the truth began to dawn. “I’ve been sectioned, haven’t I?” he asked quietly.
“You have been detained under the Mental Health Act, yes,” Shelton said. “When you were found you were in a very confused and bewildered state. After assessment and consultation, it was decided that you should be detained for your own safety and so that we can make a proper determination of the best way to treat you. One of our administrators will visit you in the next couple of days to explain your rights to you, and they’ll give you some paperwork that provides more information.”
He finally introduced the man who had been standing silently at the door. “This is Mr. ... Mr. Gregory,” he said. “Mr. Gregory is what is known as your responsible clinician. He is a ... a psychologist who will be assisting with your treatment.”
Martin didn’t have a lot of talent at reading body language, but even he could tell that Doctor Shelton was nervous in front of the man who now stepped forward. Martin wasn’t exactly surprised – the small smile that Mr. Gregory produced was tight and rather intimidating, and the doctor wilted under the man’s gaze.
“Thank you, Doctor Shelton,” Mr. Gregory said quietly, and even Martin felt a little anxious for the doctor as he backed away from the bedside, his eyes lowered. The smile that the psychologist then turned on Martin seemed more genuine, albeit no more reassuring. He didn’t often take an instant dislike to people, but there was something about this man which gave him an immediate sense of resentment.
“Hello, Mr. Crieff,” Mr. Gregory said.
“That’s Captain Crieff,” Martin snapped.
Mr. Gregory seemed unfazed. “Perhaps it would be easier if I call you Martin?” he said smoothly.
“Do I get to call you by your first name?” Martin asked, surprised at his irritable tone.
“No,” Mr. Gregory said softly, and Martin’s instinctive desire to argue with the man dissolved under the psychologist’s steady gaze. He tried to continue to meet his eyes but eventually looked away. He could understand why Doctor Shelton was afraid of him. Something about Mr. Gregory hinted at great power and Martin felt that if he wanted to, he could keep him in this hospital forever.
“As Doctor Shelton has explained, you will be placed on a course of drug treatment for a while to assist your psychological recovery,” Mr. Gregory continued. “After that, we will commence one-to-one counselling on a regular basis.”
He gave Martin another non-reassuring smile. “We’ll be seeing a lot of each other in the next few weeks,” he told him.
Already Martin felt that he would be happy never to see the man again.
Martin wasn’t allowed out of his room for the next eight days but had a stream of visitors from amongst the hospital staff. An administrator came in on a couple of occasions, explaining his condition to him again and – as promised – giving him information about his rights, which didn’t seem to amount to anything useful as far as Martin could tell. She also asked him many questions about his work, his family and friends, took all their contact details and reassured him that they would be kept notified of his progress.
Doctor Shelton visited once a day to check Martin’s condition and to modify the drugs which he was now able to take orally, which meant that the drip was removed from his hand. Nurses came in and out of the room frequently to do regular check-ups, to wash him and administer his medication and generally to take care of him. All three of them – Daniel, Lacey and Narinda – were friendly and pleasant, and Lacey in particular was always very chatty and giggly. Another regular visitor was an orderly who cleaned the room, replenished the plastic jugs of drinking water, and brought in cups of tea and coffee and his meals. Martin felt safe with all of the staff although he occasionally became concerned that perhaps the drug treatment was lulling him into a false sense of security.
On the sixth day he felt strong enough to get out of bed for the first time when Narinda and Daniel offered to help him. He found his balance shockingly poor – a side effect of the drugs, Daniel explained – but the nurses helped him to the bathroom and diplomatically stood back while Martin used the toilet and washed his hands. Looking up as he shook the water off his hands, he frowned as he realised that there was no mirror above the sink. Handing him a towel, Narinda answered his question before he even asked.
“We don’t allow patients access to anything that can be made sharp for their first few weeks here,” she said, “for reasons that I’m sure are obvious. It’s also why you’re supervised when you’re eating, and why your water glass and jug are plastic. And that’s why we’ve been doing your shaving for you every morning. If you can manage with an electric shaver and no mirror, I’m happy for you to do it yourself, but I’m afraid we can’t let you have a mirror for a while yet.”
Daniel smiled at him. “It’s not that we don’t trust you, Martin,” he said. “It’s just that ... well, we don’t trust you – not yet anyway!”
Martin nodded. He could understand the staff’s reasons for cautiousness so early in his treatment, but wished his mind didn’t feel so foggy so that he could explain convincingly that he had no intention of doing himself any harm.
As Narinda took the towel and hung it up, Daniel offered him an arm. “How about sitting in the armchair instead of getting back into bed?” he suggested. “D’you feel up to it?”
“Yes please,” Martin said and the nurses supported him as he walked slowly to the armchair. Narinda helped him into a dressing gown and some slippers and he sat down carefully, glad to be out of the bed for a while.
“If you’re feeling tired and want to go back to bed, or if you need the loo again, push the button,” Narinda told him as she handed him the call button. “Don’t try standing up on your own,” she added sternly before she and Daniel left.
Martin was pleased to be sitting up properly, and the armchair gave him a better view of the pretty gardens outside the window. He gazed at the view while he fretted about what had happened to him – and why, and whether his family and friends were worried. The administrator, Miss Kelly, had been in earlier and told him that Mr. Gregory would start his therapy the following morning. Martin wasn’t sure whether he was looking forward to finding out more about what had caused his collapse, or whether it would only make him feel worse. He had a horrible feeling that this might take a very long time; and despite Doctor Shelton’s reassurances, he was very afraid that he might never be cleared to fly an aeroplane again.
He was still lost in thought when there was a knock on the door and the orderly came in. Martin smiled when he saw him. All the staff were nice but when Jack was in the room Martin somehow felt better. He had taken an instant liking to him, although he didn’t know why specifically. Did he remind him of an old friend, maybe someone from school? He couldn’t seem to dredge up any memories of his school friends, and the more he tried the more tired it made him feel. But anyway, there was something about Jack’s dark blue eyes, his sandy greying hair and his warm smile – and especially his cheerful giggle – that made Martin less afraid of the future.
“Good morning... oh!” Jack said in surprise at seeing him out of bed. “Hullo! Feeling better?”
“Daniel and Narinda suggested I sit out for a while,” Martin told him.
“That’s a good sign,” Jack said with a grin. “Right, let’s get this room clean, shall we? Do you need any water?” He checked the jug on the bedside cabinet. “No, it’s still full.” He frowned. “Why is it still full? You should drink more water – it’s good for you.”
He filled the plastic glass and held it out with what was obviously only a pretend stern look but Martin meekly took the glass and sipped from it, feeling strangely content when Jack nodded approvingly.
While he continued drinking, Jack got on with wiping down all the surfaces and then started to mop the floor. He had almost reached Martin’s chair when Lacey came in wheeling a small trolley.
“Hullo, boys,” she said, then turned to Jack. “I’m here to do Martin’s ten o’clock check-up. Can you work around me?”
“Not really,” Jack grumbled, though his eyes crinkled in a suppressed smile. “You’re heading for the one bit of floor I haven’t cleaned.”
“Then I won’t make your beautiful handiwork dirty,” she said serenely, wheeling her trolley over to Martin’s side and clipping a pulse oximeter to the index finger which he had already obediently raised.
Jack sighed over-dramatically and turned to squeeze out his mop into the nearby bucket while Lacey wrapped a blood pressure cuff around Martin’s arm. “In your own time,” he said with a false air of weary resignation.
“But quite quickly,” Martin added instantly.
Immediately he was appalled at how rude he had sounded. He hadn’t smiled as he spoke and for some reason his voice had dropped to a lower tone which made him sound even worse. Just as he was about to apologise to Lacey, Jack let out a brief explosive noise which sounded almost like a sob. However, when he turned around a couple of seconds later he was smiling and didn’t seem upset by Martin’s rudeness. Nevertheless, Martin instantly looked round at Lacey.
“Sorry,” he said to her. “That wasn’t very good, was it?”
“A bit not good, yeah,” Jack agreed.
Even as Lacey smiled forgivingly, Martin felt bolts of pain shoot through his head. Grimacing, he realised that it felt like a door slamming inside his mind ... no, it was more like a door bursting open and crashing against the wall behind it before bouncing back with the recoil and noisily shutting again. It left a dull ache in his head and a sense of unease that he didn’t understand. It was a long time before the feeling went away.
“This is a private hospital, isn’t it?” Martin asked when Mr. Gregory arrived in his room the next morning.
“What makes you ask that?” Mr. Gregory replied.
“I’ve been in NHS hospitals before, especially while Dad ...” he swallowed hard, “... was dying. I’ve not been in a psychiatric hospital before but this has got far too much expensive equipment in it to be National Health. The staff are better dressed than I’ve seen in hospitals before, and even the bedding’s better quality. Plus the food’s actually quite nice.”
Mr. Gregory smiled briefly. “That’s a very good deduction,” he said.
Martin’s eyes widened. “Is Theresa paying for this?” he asked.
Mr. Gregory tilted his head. “Who is Theresa?”
A little embarrassed, Martin replied, “Theresa of Liechtenstein.”
“You make her sound like royalty,” Mr. Gregory said in a bemused tone.
Martin cringed a little. “Um, yes, she is.”
Mr. Gregory looked at him closely. “Are you suggesting that this ‘Theresa’ is a member of the Royal family of Liechtenstein?”
“Martin, for reasons it would take too long to explain, I know the names of all Royal families in Europe,” Mr. Gregory told him. “Trust me when I tell you, there is no princess called Theresa in Liechtenstein.”
“Of course there is!” Martin exclaimed, forgetting his embarrassment. “Her full title is Her Serene Highness Princess Theresa Gustava Bonaventura of Liechtenstein. She’s the Countess of Sponheim and Protector Extraordinary of the Cantons of Nîmes! King Maximilian is her little brother!”
“King Maximilian? Liechtenstein is a Principality. It doesn’t have a king; it has a crown prince, and his name is Hans-Adam. He has a son by that name, but Maximilian is forty-four years old.”
“No!” Martin said vehemently. “Maxi’s only a young boy. And he’s the king! He told us he was the king – repeatedly!”
“Martin, I can assure you – there is no king of Liechtenstein; and no princess called Theresa either.”
“But I kissed her!” Martin said loudly. “I kissed her on our third date, outside Croydon Airport Visitors’ Centre!”
“You ...” Mr. Gregory looked at him seriously. “Really, Martin – you kissed a princess at Croydon Airport? Does that sound even remotely likely?”
Martin stared at him wide-eyed. Mr. Gregory returned his gaze for a long moment, then walked over to the other armchair and sat in it, clasping his hands in his lap.
“I considered it too early to begin this phase of your counselling,” he said, “but in light of this conversation it seems appropriate to commence now. Let me explain again what a brief reactive psychosis is. It can be triggered by immense stress and it causes such symptoms as delusions and hallucinations. The exact cause of the stress which led to your psychosis is currently unknown to you because of your memory loss, but hopefully in time you will remember.”
He cleared his throat and looked at Martin with a calm but determined expression. “We have investigated thoroughly with the Registrar of Births, Marriages and Deaths, and with the National Census. I have to tell you that there is no record of a Martin Crieff.”
He paused for a few seconds while Martin gazed at him blankly. “Furthermore,” he continued, “there is no record of Wendy Crieff, nor of Simon or Caitlin Crieff. And neither can we trace Carolyn Knapp-Shappey, Arthur Shappey or Douglas Richardson.”
Martin shook his head. “That’s ridiculous,” he began.
“We therefore deduce that the stressful event that you have undergone and its resultant psychosis have caused you to adopt a new personality together with a group of family and friends,” Mr. Gregory told him.
“No,” Martin said, still shaking his head.
“Companies House has no record of an air charter service named MJN Air,” Mr. Gregory continued relentlessly.
“No,” Martin insisted. “This is ridiculous. Why are you saying these things? Who are you? Why are you doing this?”
“Everything I have just told you is true,” Mr. Gregory said.
“I don’t believe you,” Martin said firmly.
“I know you don’t,” Mr. Gregory said. “It is my job to convince you. So, let’s pick someone. Do you remember Douglas’ phone number?”
“Of course I do,” Martin said.
Mr. Gregory took a mobile phone from his jacket pocket, then stood up and walked across the room. “Call his number,” he suggested, holding the phone out.
Martin took it, trying to stop his hands from shaking as he tapped out Douglas’ mobile number. Instantly the screen showed, ‘Number unobtainable’. He tried a second time but received the same message. He stared up at Mr. Gregory.
“Try Directory Enquiries for his landline number,” the psychologist advised. “Pick any service you want.”
For a moment Martin couldn’t remember any of the various services which ran a phone number search but eventually he dredged one up from his memory and rang it. When they answered he gave Douglas’ name, address and postcode. There was a long silence as the advisor searched his computer but he finally came back on the line.
“I’m sorry, but I can’t find anything under that name and address,” he said. “Can I just check – did you say ‘Fitton’ ...” he spelled out the name, “... and the postcode Foxtrot November twenty-three, four Romeo Delta?”
“That’s right,” Martin replied.
“Please hold,” the advisor said and began typing again. Martin tried to control his anxious breathing, and finally the advisor spoke.
“Sir, I can’t even find a town called Fitton on the system. Are you sure you don’t mean Filton?”
“No!” Martin said loudly. “That’s a different town. This has Tango Tango in the middle, not Lima Tango.”
There was another short silence.
“Sorry,” the man said. “I can’t find it.”
“Thank you,” Martin said numbly and hung up. Mr. Gregory looked at him sympathetically.
“Do you want to try Carolyn’s home telephone or the office of MJN? Or perhaps your brother’s work number?” he asked.
“This isn’t possible,” Martin said frantically. “You must have done something to the phone. That wasn’t the real Directory Enquiries.”
“Yes, it was,” Mr. Gregory said. “As I said, it will take time for you to believe me.”
He went to the door, tapping on it. An elegantly dressed woman opened it, holding a briefcase.
“Laptop, please,” Mr. Gregory told her. She extracted an expensive looking device and handed it to him. Closing the door, Mr. Gregory walked over to Martin’s chair and handed him the computer. “Look up whatever you wish,” he told him.
Opening the lid, Martin looked anxiously at the psychologist as he waited for the computer to boot up. Mr. Gregory gave him one of his not-reassuring smiles.
“I can’t tamper with the entire internet,” he said and then sat back down in the other armchair so that he couldn’t see the computer screen.
Martin went online and typed in MJN’s website address. When the address dropped out as an unfound site, he almost wanted to shove the laptop onto the floor in terror but he steeled himself and sought out a search engine, deciding not to go with the obvious ones and randomly selecting Quest.com instead. Typing ‘MJN Air’ produced no results. Neither did ‘Fitton Airfield’.
“Martin ...” Mr. Gregory began.
“Shut up,” Martin said angrily, keeping his eyes lowered as he blinked back tears of panic. He switched to a different search engine and tried ‘Fitton’, again with no result, then pulled up two different online maps of the Midlands and zoomed in to the appropriate area on each. He stared numbly at the maps for a very long time, unable to comprehend why there was no sign of Fitton or its airfield on either map. At this point he almost wanted Mr. Gregory to say something so that he could shout at him but the man remained patiently silent.
His fingers hovered over the keyboard as he considered searching for information about the Liechtenstein Royal family but he began to tremble so much that he didn’t think he would be able to type. Reluctantly he put the laptop onto the bed and then looked across the room to Mr. Gregory.
“You’re telling me that my mum doesn’t exist,” he said, his eyes burning at the very thought. “I remember her. I remember Simon and Caitlin. I remember my dad’s funeral! Mum gave me his signet ring.” He brandished his hand and the ring at the other man. “He left me his van – I run a removals service when I’m not working for MJN.”
Briefly he considered looking at the online Yellow Pages for Icarus Removals, but he didn’t dare. “How can Fitton not exist?” he continued. “I live there! How can MJN not exist? You’re saying that my friends aren’t real either.” He let out a shaky laugh. “Next thing you’ll be telling me I’m not actually a pilot.”
“Are you a pilot?” Mr. Gregory asked him. “Take a look at your left thumb and tell me.”
Martin lifted his thumb and stared at it, but this told him nothing. Inside his head, however, he felt more crashing from an unseen door slamming against the wall behind it and then banging shut. Grimacing against the pain he lowered his hand and looked across to the psychologist, who shrugged in what seemed to be a resigned manner.
“Talk me through how to fly an aeroplane,” Mr. Gregory said. “Tell me, for instance, about the pre-flight checks. How do you check fuel levels?”
Martin opened his mouth, but the words wouldn’t come. He knew he was a pilot, and he had been flying GERTI for almost six years but none of the standard procedures which he had carried out for all that time would come to him. Frantically he wracked his brain. He desperately wanted to prove Mr. Gregory wrong but he couldn’t think of a single item in the pre-flight check.
Mr. Gregory waited for several seconds, then sat forward a little. “When is your mother’s birthday?” he asked quietly.
“It’s ...” Martin started, but the date wouldn’t come to him. He lowered his head and buried his face in his hands.
“Is there a table in the kitchen of your home or do you eat in the dining room?”
Martin shook his head, not raising it from his hands.
“What was the name of your primary school?”
“Stop it!” Martin said, lifting his head and staring angrily at the psychologist.
“I’m sorry. It is important for you to understand what is happening to you.”
“I don’t want to understand!” Martin shouted. “You’re wrong! I just can’t remember! I don’t know why, but I can’t remember.”
“How do you explain what you just found on the internet?” Mr. Gregory asked.
Martin shook his head again, fighting the tears of frustration which were rising into his eyes.
“You are not simply suffering from amnesia,” Mr. Gregory told him. “Something happened to you which not only blocked your real memories but replaced them with false ones – a whole new family and set of friends, a different job, a girlfriend ... But the people you currently remember – they do not exist.”
“It’s not true,” Martin said desperately.
“I will help you come to terms with this disparity between what is real and what you currently believe,” Mr. Gregory continued. “In time, you will understand that the Crieff family and the people you work with – and the job itself – are fictional.”
He looked at him sympathetically. “I’m afraid it will be a long process, but I am here to help you. Right now I know that you don’t believe me, but I will help you accept the truth, and we will piece your life back together and help you to find out who you really are.”
Martin stared at him, feeling both outraged and bewildered. This man was telling him things that had to be untrue, and he desperately wanted to prove to him that everything he had said made no sense. He wanted to explain to him, clearly and point by point, all the inaccuracies in his assertions but the damned drugs were befuddling his thought processes and all he could see in his mind’s eye was what had been on the computer. He shook his head hard, trying to clear it and stubbornly ignoring the angry tears that persisted in welling up in his eyes.
Appearing to understand his distress, Mr. Gregory stood and walked over to him, stopping a couple of paces away and offering him a linen handkerchief from his breast pocket. Martin glowered at him and then buried his head in his hands again, frantically trying to think. After a while the psychologist returned to his seat.
“Someone help me,” Martin whispered quietly into his hands. “Please, somebody help me.”
Martin was still numb the next morning. Mr. Gregory’s words kept running around his head on a loop, but one phrase repeated more often than the others.
Are you a pilot? Are you a pilot?
He still couldn’t remember how to fly an aeroplane. He had barely slept last night, trying to remember GERTI’s cockpit layout, her buttons and switches and dials but he could only see blurred images in his mind. He couldn’t remember what the cabin looked like and didn’t even know how many seats it contained. He tried to recall Fitton airfield but couldn’t picture it. He could see what his house looked like from outside but he couldn’t see the layout indoors except for a vague image of his attic room. He could clearly picture his mum and Simon and Caitlin and everyone from MJN, but still wasn’t able to remember when his mother’s birthday was, nor those of the others. Why – why – was so much information missing?
The evidence on the internet had been terrifying and horrific but how could it possibly be true? How could he have invented his family, his job, his friends? He was a normal, straightforward man – he didn’t have a vivid imagination at the best of times, so how could he possibly have dreamed all this up? And if ... and the thought made him feel almost nauseous ... if he really wasn’t Martin Crieff, then who was he?
He sat in the armchair beside the bed lost in thought, barely responding to Lacey’s cheerful chatter when she came in to do the early morning check-up. Jack brought in his breakfast a few minutes later but seemed sympathetic to his state of mind and didn’t try to engage him in conversation. Martin continued to stare out of the window while his mind ran riot with frightening possibilities. It was several hours before his attention returned to the world around him.
He had realised several days ago that the door to his room was locked because he heard the staff swiping a card through a reader before they came in. However, in the early afternoon after Narinda had done another regular check-up, she also changed the bedding and had difficulty getting out of the door with one hand full of sheets and pillowcases while wheeling her trolley with the other. Instead of pulling the door closed she let it drift shut and a few minutes later Martin realised that the latch hadn’t caught. He sat and looked at the door for a long time before heaving himself to his feet and walking cautiously across the room and pulling the door open. There was nobody in sight and after some thought he began to hobble down the corridor, feeling frighteningly weak and leaning on the wall to support himself. He had no intention of trying to escape – for one thing, he didn’t know where he could escape to – but he was curious to see more of his surroundings. However, now that he was out he was too nervous to try any of the doors, most of which were marked simply with a number and had a card reader beside them. All the room numbers began with a two and he assumed – both from this and from the view from his bedroom window – that he was on the second floor of the hospital.
He had only made it halfway down the corridor when his legs began threatening to give out under him. A nearby door was marked as a bathroom and didn’t require a card to open it and he stumbled inside, lowered the lid of the toilet and sat down heavily on it, resting there for a while.
When he began to feel stronger, he pushed himself to his feet and prepared to return to his room but stopped when he noticed a mirror above the small sink. Because of the lack of a mirror in his en-suite bathroom he hadn’t seen his reflection since arriving at the hospital, so he looked at himself curiously. He had lost some weight – his cheekbones were very prominent – and he needed a haircut but otherwise he looked fairly healthy, and he was just about to turn away when he frowned. There was something different. He tilted his head forward to get a better look ... and that was when Daniel opened the door.
“What are you doing in here?” he asked worriedly. “We’ve been looking for you! Are you all right?”
“I wasn’t ... I wasn’t doing anything bad,” Martin stuttered. “The-the door to my room was open and I just came out for a look. I was just curious. I’m sorry.”
“Let’s get you back to your room,” Daniel said, taking his arm and slinging it around his own neck before wrapping an arm around his waist and helping him back along the corridor. “You’ll do yourself a mischief,” he scolded as they walked along. “You’re not strong enough to go off on unscheduled walks yet. If you want to go out into the grounds, tell someone and we’ll get you a wheelchair and take you out.”
“I don’t want to be any trouble,” Martin said anxiously.
“It wouldn’t be trouble,” Daniel told him. “We’re here to be troubled.” He grinned and added confidentially, “And if we take a patient outside we have to stay with ’em until they’re ready to come back in, so we get a nice sit-down in the fresh air for a while, which is lovely if the weather’s nice!”
They arrived back at Martin’s room (numbered 221, he noted absently) and Daniel settled him in the armchair and gave him a brief check-up to ensure that he hadn’t over-exerted himself. Reassured, he left after a stern admonition of, “And no more wandering off!” Unsurprisingly, he carefully closed the door behind him.
Martin sat staring out of the window for a long time, initially wondering if he had been mistaken when he had looked in the mirror. But mirrors didn’t lie, the lighting had been bright in the bathroom and the evidence had been plain.
Like many kids with red hair, he had been teased and bullied at school. It had been hard for him, but he had come to terms with it. He had never felt the need to dye his hair to try and disguise its colour, but neither had he felt so rebellious that he had dyed it even more red than its natural shade.
So why, when he looked at his hair in the mirror, had he seen dark brown roots growing out?
On to chapter 2