• 16 Oct - 22 Oct, 2021
  • Mag The Weekly
  • Fiction

Suddenly, Ivor realised something that had not occurred to him before. “I’m not driving,”

he whispered, “I’ve got no control. I think I must be in the passenger seat.”


The young policewoman called Ivor back to the desk from the chair where he had been waiting and told him that Sergeant Francis would see him now in the interview room. He entered the sparsely furnished cubicle and sat down opposite the jovial policeman.

“How are you now, Mr Chenkov?” he greeted him.

“Much better, thank you. Sergeant, there’s something I need to ask you.” He hesitated. “My memory has been coming back a little, and there’s something about that night that doesn’t seem to fit in.”


“Sergeant, is it remotely possible that there were two people in the car?”

The sergeant pursed his lips. “Well now, there’s an interesting one. The passenger seat didn’t take as much force as the driver’s seat. But we didn’t find any evidence of another person. No blood or traces of clothing or anything. I suppose someone could have been completely uninjured and left the scene of the accident before we got there, but it’s highly unlikely. It does happen occasionally though. One person gets cut to pieces, another walks away without a scratch. Why? Do you think you had a passenger that night?”

“No, Officer. I think I was the passenger.”

“Ah, now that possibility I can rule out. You were still in the driver’s seat when we got there, the air bag was jammed into your ribs and your blood was all over the front of the car. You couldn’t have been placed in that seat after the accident. You were the driver all right.”

Ivor gave a slightly disappointed nod.

“Thank you, Sergeant.”


After encountering this dead end, Ivor 2, which was the name he mentally adopted so that he could distinguish clearly between his pre and post accident self, switched his investigations from the facts of Ivor’s life to Ivor’s personality. A lot of the material he had read spoke of personality change resulting from head injury. Had this happened in his own case, he wondered? The first indication that he was on to something was Anna’s reaction to the question – she started to cry. His own reaction surprised him too. He embraced her for the first time.

“You’re a lot nicer,” she told him when the tears had subsided, “Ivor wasn’t a very nice person.” He waited for her to continue but she needed more encouragement.

“In what way? Tell me about him.”

“I’m not supposed to do this. Dr Sullivan said that I mustn’t allow you to think of yourself as two different people. It seems head injury victims often do that. They become schizophrenic, refuse to acknowledge the person they used to be. It’s something he doesn’t want me to encourage.”

“Anna, I don’t think you realize how little I understand about… my life…” he had to stop himself from saying Ivor’s life “before the accident. I’ve got to have the facts if I’m ever going to make sense of it.”

She continued to embrace him and to his surprise he found that he liked the sensation. “You were quite a harsh person. There was no… softness about you. You were confident, and decisive, and you never talked about your feelings. You were secretive about things and very difficult to get close to. The truth is, I didn’t know the old you much better than you do yourself… now.”

He took the information in and turned it over in his mind. He was tempted to ask why she had ever wanted to marry a man like that, but decided to let it pass. He came up with a better approach.

“What about my work. We haven’t talked much about that. I used to work in some kind of finance office, didn’t I?”

“You were the financial director of the London operation of a big American company. I never understood what it was all about but you were an important man.”

“I think I would like to go back there. Pay them a visit; and see if it jogs my memory.”


Ivor’s visit to his previous place of work was an eye-opener in many ways. People were deferential, not just out of politeness but he suspected out of fear. He was the head of a whole department that occupied an entire floor in a very imposing building in the commercial heart of the city. His former office was enormous. He had no idea what the department existed to do. Everybody enquired how he was and when they could expect him back at work. He told them he had no idea. That wasn’t entirely true – in his heart he knew that he would never be able to come back here and do whatever it was that Ivor 1 used to do. He felt like a child who had been invited to come to work for a day with his father to see how Daddy spent his time. The world that these people inhabited was to him completely incomprehensible.

Socialising with people who meant nothing to him, whose names slipped from his memory as soon as they had introduced themselves, was a wearing and stressful experience. He asked to be left for a moment to sit at his old desk, expecting to be left alone. He buried his head in his hands, but when he looked up an attractive young woman of vaguely Indian appearance was sitting by the side of the desk. Her eyes were soft and her presence unthreatening. “I suppose you must be my secretary?” he enquired gently.

“Yes, Mr Chenkov. I’m Baljeet. Can I do anything for you? Can I get you anything?”

He looked at her and thought for a moment. “There is something you could do for me that would be absolutely invaluable. You could tell me truthfully what kind of man I was when I sat at this desk and did whatever it was I used to do.

I don’t want to be flattered,

I want the absolute truth.”

Her eyes flickered as she met his gaze. “Sir?”

“I mean it, Baljeet. It’s all gone, you see. The man you knew, your old boss… he doesn’t exist anymore. You can tell me about him without holding anything back. It would mean a lot to me.”

With a little more encouragement, Baljeet began to talk. Ivor 1 had not been an easy man to work for any more than he had been an easy man to be married to. The office had not been a happy place. The company made its money by asset-stripping: buying failing enterprises and selling them off piecemeal, finding ways around redundancy payments and pension commitments, bankrupting their creditors and throwing their loyal employees on to the scrap heap.

Ivor 1 had been a genius at this game; he had made more money for his company than anybody else they had ever employed. His ruthlessness had been legendary. His nickname had been “The Terminator”.

A lot of this did not really surprise Ivor 2, it fitted in with the way people seemed to react to his presence and regard him. But he did learn one thing that he could not have predicted. Baljeet approached the subject very carefully and unwillingly, probably imagining that she was being lured into some kind of trap, but with Ivor 2’s gentle encouragement she eventually let him know that there had been irregularities in Ivor 1’s book-keeping to which the company turned a blind eye. Put crudely, he was skimming off the top. Where millions are changing hands, the occasional hundred thousand can be lost in the small print at the bottom of the auditor’s report without anybody losing too much sleep. At the level at which Ivor 1 operated it was almost expected. A successful company is not going to kill the goose that lays the golden eggs just because it hides away a little cache of gold dust at the bottom of its nest.

Ivor thanked Baljeet profusely. He admitted that he no longer understood the workings of the company sufficiently well to arrange for her promotion, but if she wanted to leave and look for another job he would give her the most enthusiastic reference she could imagine, on company headed notepaper. His career here was over. It was the best he could do. Baljeet glowed with delight, and he could probably have kissed her without risking a negative reaction. He left for his home with the curious knowledge that he was a wealthy man, if he ever remembered where that gold dust was stashed.


For some days, Ivor’s project stalled. It didn’t bother him a great deal, because things had started to ease in his relationship with Anna, and they were even having tentative, slightly self-conscious talk and drawing comfort from long. Anna he found liked to be held quietly until she fell asleep in his arms. More than lovers, Ivor realised, they were becoming friends. After their first meeting Anna had cried and told him that she had not been a good wife, that she had betrayed him, and that she was sorry. Ivor almost laughed.

“Thank heavens you had somebody in your life a bit nicer than that shit Ivor!” he responded, and gave her a hearty squeeze.

“You forgive me then? Really?”

“Don’t be ridiculous. Of course I forgive you. Go in peace and sin no more. Or if you do sin, at least keep me informed.” She smiled but that sadness was still there, just a fraction beneath the surface.

The next real development came in the form of a phone call while Anna was at work. The man spoke very quietly and had a foreign accent of some kind so that Ivor had to concentrate to make out what he was saying. “I was expecting to hear from you, Ivor.”

“Oh, didn’t you know? I had an accident…”

“But you’re home now, right? You’re better. Your payment is overdue.”

“Payment for what?”

There was a pause. “Are you playing games with me? Please don’t do that.”

Ivor paused for too long, unable to think of anything to say. The line went dead.

It hadn’t occurred to him before how precarious his position was. If Ivor 1’s secretary knew what he had been up to no doubt other people did as well. And it sounded as though one of them could prove it and was a blackmailer. He was so silent and pensive in Anna’s arms that night that by the morning she had got him to tell her everything.

“Surely it can’t happen,” she had argued, “you can’t go to jail for something that another person did?”

“It wasn't another person, Anna. Not in the eyes of the law. I’m beginning to understand what Dr Sullivan meant. This doesn’t give you a second chance.

It isn’t a rebirth.”


The following day was a Saturday so Anna didn’t have to go to work. They spent the time quietly together, cooking, cooperating on a few domestic tasks, and then Anna took a relaxing shower which led her to a peaceful sleep in bed. Ivor seemed to have got over his inhibitions at last and it was the best quality time he could remember having.

In the evening, at Ivor’s request, they sat down together at the computer to see what else could be discovered about Ivor 1’s earlier life, beyond the little that he had told Anna.

Although Anna seemed reluctant to delve, and urged Ivan to concentrate more on their future together and less on the past, she was a lot more skilled than Ivor at using the search tools to unearth buried fragments of information. His research notes swelled. His father Yaraslav had been a colourful character in the chess world, though his career had been short-lived. World champion for less than a year, defeated by the American whose title he had won,

then the defection and the marriage, and a year later a comeback match against the same man in which Yaraslav had a breakdown of some kind and was unable to continue.

It was a long time ago now, and these were tiny incidents during an era dominated by America’s involvement in the Korean War and the beginning of the East/West nuclear stalemate that was to terrify all humanity for so long,

but with careful plodding through newspaper archives they were able to follow Yaraslav’s deteriorating mental health and eventual incarceration in a long stay mental hospital a few years before his death in 1988.

to be continued...