Adnan buttoned his white shirt and knotted his tie, checking his appearance in the mirror. He brushed aside the loose strands of black hair which were strewn over his forehead. As he did so, his finger grazed the deep cut on his forehead. He paused momentarily, his finger absent-mindedly running over the inscrutable scar. Then he collected his thoughts and straightened his tie. He had to get to work before he ended up being late.
Adnan turned away from the mirror, picking up his coat from the rack near the door. It was at that moment that he heard the knock on the door. After glancing through the peephole and a brief deliberation, he opened it. A lady and a man stood in the doorway, dressed in black coats.
‘Hi, how can I help?’ Adnan queried incredulously.
‘Good morning, I’m Detective Constable Kathryn O’Hara and this is Constable Frank Phillips,’ the lady said. Adnan stared expectantly at them.
‘We’re looking for Salim Akhtar,’ Kathryn O’Hara explained. Adnan’s brow furrowed. ‘There’s no Salim Akhtar here. I’m Adnan and I live alone,’ he responded.
Kathryn nodded. ‘Maybe this’ll help,’ Kathryn said. She removed a folded plastic wallet from a pocket in her coat. She unfurled the wallet, displaying the photo inside. Adnan drew a ragged breath as he gaped at the photo. His heart began pounding in his chest. His eyes narrowed. It was a photo of himself from 15 years ago.
Time had elapsed since the photo had been revealed to Salim. He sat still on the couch. His elbows rested on his knees, his open hands cradling his downcast face. Tears streamed down his cheeks.
Kathryn and Frank sat on the adjacent couch, waiting patiently. After a prolonged silence, Kathryn spoke.
‘What do you remember?’ She asked gently. Salim turned his wet eyes to the Police.
‘The first thing I remember is waking up near the shore, soaking wet. I didn’t know who I was or where I was. I didn’t even know my name. All I had on me was £90 in £10 notes in this leather pouch. I had a bleeding gash on my forehead. I didn’t know what to do. I just got up and walked out of that forest. I kept walking. I didn’t know where to go. I had no idea.
‘I used the money to go as far as I could. The next few years were a struggle as I did odd jobs to survive,’ Salim recounted. Anguish was etched over his face. Kathryn waited, her eyes intently observing Salim.
‘Then I met Mr and Mrs Khan. They were kindhearted. They had lost their son in an accident years earlier. They took me in. Things got easier. I started another life,’ he continued. When he was finished, Salim drew a deep breath, his body shuddering.
A long silence ensued. Tentatively, Kathryn probed, ‘do you remember what happened before you came-to in the forest? Do you remember how you ended up there?’
Salim returned her gaze, tears obscuring his vision. ‘I-I can’t remember. I’ve never been able to remember, however hard I’ve tried,’ he responded.
Kathryn nodded perceptively. ‘We can recommend a psychiatrist to you. When you’re ready we can also reintroduce you to your parents,’ she advised. Salim wiped his eyes. ‘I’d like that, thank you,’ he said.
Kathryn stood, Frank following suit. ‘Take care of yourself,’ she said. Salim accompanied them to the door.
When they stepped outside, they were greeted by the sunshine. The sun stood high in the sky, it’s rays illuminating everything that lay below. Despite the sunshine, a chilly breeze drifted across the two officers.
‘It’s so strange, his whole previous life gone. He had to start from scratch all over again, I can’t imagine how tough that would’ve been,’ Frank mused. ‘Hmm. It’s likely a case of fugue caused by the head injury. There have been some cases like this one,’ Kathryn surmised, ‘it’s a tough business we’re in.’
They began walking down the cobbled road, which was flanked by grassy banks. Kathryn turned to Frank.
‘Ok, update me, is a handwriting expert studying the notes and comparing it with samples from Robert Smith’s colleagues, friends and family?’ She enquired.
‘Yes boss, anybody from whom we don’t have a writing sample is being asked to come to provide one,’ Frank responded promptly.
‘Good, good,’ Kathryn approved, as she unlocked the car and climbed inside. ‘Is someone going through Mr Smith’s office register to see any repeat guests visiting him over the last year?’ Kathryn questioned.
‘Yup, we’ve just put Eleanor on it,’ Frank answered, fastening his seatbelt. ‘Good,’ Kathryn said. The sun gleamed, casting a yellow hue over the windshield. Kathryn’s eyes focused on the horizon that lay ahead.
‘We’ve now got to question Mr Fred Williams,’ she said. With that, she drove away from Salim Akhtar’s house.