'We Feel Your Pain'
by Sam Hawksmoor
Published by Hammer & Tong December 2020
Print or Kindle from Amazon
||We Feel Your Pain – So you don’t have to.
Delaney (42) and Asha (22) run the Office of Berg City Oversight. Their role is to expose the scams, keep the city safe from unscrupulous people. When something looks too good to be true – it’s a scam, right? But what if the scam works? What kind of scam is that?
First Review: a captivating adventure that ...could be compared to a Roald Dahl tale filmed by Wes Anderson ..with irrepressible, warm sentiment ...
Life's Little ironies
She had no idea what time it was, or even what day. How long had she been lying here? Stella Palmer tried to move her head to make herself more comfortable, but it was hopeless. She was so very cold. So stiff.
She’d been almost amused at first. The irony of finding herself in this situation, sprawled on the marble floor in her designer kitchen and unable to move was typical. Her phone was up on the counter of course, well beyond reach. She could hear the phone ringing again. Mostly likely it was Paulo, the hairdresser wondering why she hadn’t turned up for her four o’clock appointment. Or Dr Vitch, puzzled she hadn’t appeared for her regular physio. Or perhaps it was Edith; annoyed she hadn’t come by to take her shopping, as she had promised to do.
The phone ceased ringing and she was again reminded of her thirst. The steady drip of the kitchen tap did not help any.
Stella tried once again to inch herself towards a chair but just couldn’t move. She knew her leg was broken, possibly her hip too. She’d slipped on something and fallen hard on the damn marble. Perhaps if she’d been younger, certainly thinner, it might have been possible to get up again, but hauling her weight anywhere now with good legs was hard, never mind with a broken one. At least she wasn’t in pain. She laughed at the very thought. That was exactly the problem. If only she hadn’t heard of those people at the Jirdisham Institute. If only she’d not sold her mother’s empty apartment and had the cash to hand earning no interest at the bank. That was what had made the decision to finally deal with her arthritis.
“You won’t feel pain anymore. You’ll be able to walk again. Go back on the golf course you love so much.” They told her. The devil had placed temptation in front of her and she’d seized the chance to be pain free. They hadn’t lied. Here she was sprawled on the floor with a broken leg and couldn’t feel a thing. How was that for a testimonial? She’d seen the Mayor was promoting the company and called in to complain about the cost. The Mayor had no right to promote something that only the very rich could afford. It wasn’t right to tell people to use it if he wasn’t prepared to pay for the treatment. Stella was a diehard liberal. She felt guilty living well; perhaps that was why she’d got rid of the money so easily. But now she was paying for it.
Her mouth was dreadfully dry. She tried to remember how long she’d been lying there. She’d fallen on Sunday, or was it Saturday? And what day was it now? Was there anyone due to visit? Even if they did, they would most likely go away if she didn’t come to the door. She couldn’t think of anyone who’d come. No one at all. Of course, it was her own fault. How happy she’d been to get divorced five years ago. Finally rid of James and his rotten gambling habits and obsession with porn. How lucky she’d thought herself to be living alone; just pleasing herself. No one to mock her weight every day, even though she knew only too well that she needed to lose at least fifty pounds and how hard that had proven to be.
She cried a little. In the background she could hear Henrietta moving around, wondering why she hadn’t fed her. How long before she would consider nibbling her leg or arms? She was small, but always hungry. Stella was strongly aware that a terrier had only loyalty to her stomach when it came right down to it. Someone would finally find her gnawed to death. It was almost funny. Almost.
That dripping tap was killing her. What she would give for a simple glass of water.
Asha was standing on the balcony wringing out the rain from her hair when Delaney arrived. She looked soaked but didn’t seem unhappy about it.
“Rain. Don’t you just love it?” She called out as he headed towards the kettle. No way he could start his day without a decent coffee.
“You got something dry to wear?” He asked, as Asha moved towards her desk. He tried not to look too closely as her clothes clung to her perfect trim body. But he couldn’t help noticing how she made his heart run a little faster. He should have hired the obese girl with dandruff to be safe. Too late now.
“It’ll dry. Can’t even remember the last time it rained.”
“April 10th. I had a blowout on the Eastern highway. Took about an hour to get the damn wheel nuts off. I caught a cold, remember? Did you get the almond milk? I forgot.”
Asha nodded pointing behind him. “Where’s the dog?”
“Vet. Tail got bitten somehow and it’s septic. Rufus is very proud of his tail.”
Asha made a face. “You’re very proud of his tail. He’s just a lucky dog with a besotted owner. And if you’re going to ask me how wonderful my weekend was, stop right now.”
Delaney rolled his eyes and heaped coffee into the cafetière as the kettle steamed. He briefly glimpsed an image of his wife holding her morning coffee cup with two hands and inhaling the aroma before starting work in the morning. Funny how it’s the small things you recall about a person.
Asha was looking at her computer screen. “Got a weird one for you today. What would you pay to get rid of the pain in your hands?”
Delaney poured a dash of almond milk into the coffees and took one over to Asha.
“This one of your hypotheticals?”
Asha smiled. “How much would you pay to fix that annoying kid who used to live with you? God she was the most self-centered girl I ever met, but I guess I’d be grumpy too if I broke my back.”
Delaney thought about the money he’d spent on Maria’s injuries. Nothing had helped. She and her mother had thankfully walked out on him three months ago and his finances were only just now recovering.
“Since you’re asking, I think I’d need money-back guarantees. The pain would have to be gone forever. I’d pay a great deal for that.”
Asha nodded. “But you didn’t actually come up with a figure. Would you sell your nice little house with a view of the harbor?”
Delaney wrinkled his nose as he considered it. “That’s a pretty big ask. But some days, when the pain is really bad, I’d probably consider it.”
“Serious?” Asha asked, her eyebrows raised.
“Until you’ve been in pain constantly for months or years, you can’t know how desperate you can get, Ash. Money-back guarantee, I’d go for it.”
Asha was impressed. Until this moment she hadn’t appreciated just how bad his pain really was. “Well then, I guess you are the exact right person to interview our first contestant this morning.”
Delaney grinned. This is why he’d hired Asha. She had a sense of humor and understood possibly how pointless most of what they did was half the time.
“Mr Abrams. Ten o’clock. Spent thirty grand at ‘Jirdasham - We feel your Pain – So you don’t have to.’ And now he wants his money back.”
Delaney almost laughed. “He did what? How much? Who?”
“‘We feel your pain – so you don’t have to.’ You haven’t seen the Insta ads?” Asha rolled her eyes. Of course, he hadn’t, he didn’t do social media.
“Seriously, this is a thing? Thirty grand? Is this even in our purview? It has to be medical surely and the Health and Safety department would handle this. If City Hall still has one.”
Asha shook her head. “This was Alice’s stuff. She dumped it on me. It’s a scam and guess who investigate scams – us. She made an appointment for you.”
“But what has this got to do with City Hall?”
Asha read from her computer screen.
“Jirdasham: 'We feel your pain' is the most innovative and promising organization I have seen that deals with drug-free pain control. If we are to get on top of the scandal of people dying from opiates, legal and otherwise, we need to work with organizations like ‘Jirdasham Pain Control.’ Mayor Caesar Stoll. Quote - unquote.” She adjusted her seat before adding, “it was in all the papers months ago.”
Delaney groaned. “And how much was he paid to say that? Shit, Ash. This can’t be true. He’s pushing some scam artists and what happens if we expose them?”
“I guess we look for new jobs.” Asha replied shrugging. “But who knows, Chief. They might be genuine. Ye of little faith.”
Delaney sipped his coffee. “It stinks. No one can fix pain. I know. I’ve tried them all.”
Asha read more. ‘The Jirdasham Method is 100% natural with no dependency issues.”
“Don’t buy their shares just yet, Ash.”
“As if. Alice was looking into this. There’s a whole lot of complaints.”
Delaney rolled his eyes. “Well that’s a surprise.” He didn’t need this. Of course, it was a scam. No one could get rid of pain without addressing the causes of pain, like Maria’s fractured spine.
His desk phone rang. He just hoped it wasn’t the Mayor.
“City Oversight. Delaney speaking.”
“Mr Delaney. Forgive me for this late call but I believe we have a ten o’clock appointment.”
Delaney hoped he was cancelling. “Mr er …” He’d forgotten already.
“Abrams. If I may request that we meet at my store, Mr Delaney. I’m in too much pain to walk today and I can promise you an excellent coffee for your trouble. BookBank. You know it well, if I’m not mistaken.”
Delaney smiled with recognition. “I’ve spent many hours browsing in Bookbank, Mr Abrams, even bought a few books and your excellent coffee.”
“Then you’ll know that I wouldn’t ask you to come if I could avoid it.”
Delaney glanced at his watch – six blocks, all uphill. “Make it 10.15, Mr Abrams. See you then.”
Asha was watching him. “He owns BookBank? Tragedy about his daughter, Lily. I used to worship her. She was quite an activist for the environment. So sad she killed herself.”
Delaney frowned. The beautiful Lily was dead? He made a note in his screen diary. All his appointments had to be accounted for in case of audits from City Hall. “She’s really gone? I didn’t know. I hope Mr Abrams doesn’t remember me. I used to haunt his bookshop when I was young. Had such a real crush on Lily. Tall, brown, with vivid green eyes and the best smile ever.”
“You didn’t know she was gay?”
Delaney frowned. “No way. All the guys worshipped her.”
Asha laughed. “Typical male. So, you didn’t know she married the women’s champion tennis player Sinca Fermind?”
Delaney drew a blank. He hadn’t really thought much about Lily since he’d gone to University and found girls more amenable to his attentions.
“She taught African History at my college and I know for a fact that she had affairs with some of the girls. Even though she was older, she always looked great. She had wonderful style and that amazing voice.”
Delaney felt a twinge of disappointment. Lily had meant so much to him once and he’d lived for her brilliant smile.
“I find it hard to believe someone like her would kill themselves. She got me reading stuff I would never had tried, just so I’d have a chance to discuss them with her.”
Asha was looking at Delaney in a new light. He was a romantic. Sweet.
“She had cancer. I guess didn’t want to suffer. I can’t believe you don’t know all this.”
Delaney glanced at Asha and nodded. He’d been in Europe for eight years before starting this agency. Things had changed, people moved on, or died. Perhaps he was too wrapped up in his own pain and Rufus to catch up. Poor Lily. Poor Mr Abrams. He’d been devoted to his beautiful daughter.
“I’m going. Don’t sign us up for anything else this crazy today, OK?”
© Sam Hawksmoor - January 2021 - all rights reserved
'All pain teaches us something - it is for you to understand what that lesson might be'.
- Guru Gurajani
'We Feel Your Pain' available in Print or Kindle from Amazon Books here