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Authors: Howard Engel

The Memory Book

BOOK: The Memory Book
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is the creator of the enduring and beloved detective Benny Cooperman, who, through his appearance in twelve best-selling novels, has become an internationally recognized fictional sleuth. Two of Engel’s novels have been adapted for TV movies, and his books have been translated into several languages. He is the winner of numerous awards, including the 2005 Writers’ Trust of Canada Matt Cohen Award, the 1990 Harbourfront Festival Prize for Canadian Literature and an Arthur Ellis Award for crime fiction. Howard Engel lives in Toronto.

Also in the Benny Cooperman series

The Suicide Murders

Murder on Location

Murder Sees the Light

The Ransom Game

A City Called July

A Victim Must Be Found

Dead and Buried

There Was An Old Woman

Getting Away with Murder

The Cooperman Variations

East of Suez

Also by Howard Engel

Murder in Montparnasse

Mr. Doyle & Dr. Bell



With an Afterword

by Oliver Sacks, MD


Published by the Penguin Group

Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M4P 2Y3 (a division of Pearson Canada Inc.)

Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, U.S.A. Penguin Books Ltd, 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England

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Penguin Books Ltd, Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England

Published in Penguin Canada paperback by Penguin Group (Canada), a division of Pearson Canada Inc., 2005, 2006

Published in this edition, 2008

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 (WEB)

Copyright © Howard Engel, 2005

Afterword copyright © Oliver Sacks, 2005

All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise), without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book.

Publisher’s note: This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

Simcoe College is a fictionalized college at the University of Toronto.

Manufactured in Canada.

ISBN-13: 978-0-14-316752-5

Library and Archives Canada Cataloguing in Publication data available upon request to the publisher.

Except in the United States of America, this book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, re-sold, hired out, or otherwise circulated without the publisher’s prior consent in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.

Visit the Penguin Group (Canada) website at

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or call 1-800-810-3104, ext. 477 or 474

This work is for

Cathy Nelson




The train was putting on speed. The wheels chattered, the pitch became higher. My fellow passengers didn’t notice. Anna Abraham, sitting beside me, continued to read her book. Through the window and ahead of me, the tracks maintained a steady, level cut across the landscape. I could see a curve to the left, a tight curve. We were going into it too fast! The wheels were screaming. Nightmare sounds of metal on metal. The coaches were bending away from the tracks. Wheels were coming off the steel. I could feel the danger in my spine. We were going to turn over. Centrifugal or centripetal forces. I couldn’t remember which. Maybe both.

The train lurched. Brakes screeched. Then an uncanny silence, like the silence of falling. I couldn’t see Anna anywhere. We
turning over! Briefcases and luggage tumbled over me. I thought of the pictures in
Alice in Wonderland
. Coffee cups and playing cards flew around me and overhead. Paper money and change were momentarily suspended in mid-air as the bottom of the coach became the top. Newspapers and glossy magazines obscured the inverted landscape outside the window. A suitcase with metal-reinforced corners came floating toward
me through the confusion of flying objects. I tried to avoid it, not too difficult a task since everything seemed to be moving in slow motion. But the heavy suitcase clipped me above my left eye, into blackness, and I went down in a tempest of flying objects.


It is a truth universally acknowledged that a private investigator who acts on his own behalf is an idiot who has a fool for a client. However true this may be, a circumstance occurred a year ago that may go a mile or two toward rehabilitating the fool. It all began when I opened my eyes on strange surroundings: white walls and suspended curtains. A face near mine spoke.

” I yelled.

, ‘Do you know where you are?’” She was looking down at me, her face rather closer to mine than needed for normal conversation. And who was she, anyway?

“Do you know who I am?” Her hair smelled clean. Her face was close again. It came and went, like it was swinging on a string, or seen through a playful zoom lens. A horizontal yo-yo. It came closest when she talked, as though I might not understand her at a greater distance.

“No, I don’t think so,” I said. “But it seems like a good place to start. Who are you? You look familiar somehow.”

I put that last part in to be polite. Part of it was nervousness. It’s hard talking to strangers from a horizontal position. I was caught in an unfamiliar corner. This woman might be the key to something important.

“I’m Carol McKay, rhymes with ‘day.’ I’m a nurse here at the hospital. Do you remember that you are in the hospital?”

“I was on a train before. There was an accident. A train wreck.”

“You weren’t on a train, Mr. Cooperman.”

“Not a train?”

“Not a car either.”

“Then why am I lying down? What sort of accident was it? Was I hit by a bus? A truck? What day is it?”

“You have no broken bones, Mr. Cooperman. You haven’t had a stroke or heart attack. And this is Friday, the twentieth.”

“The twentieth! I’ve been here for most of the
I don’t know where I got the notion that whatever put me in the hospital must have happened at the beginning of the month. It was just tidier for nasty things to happen at the beginning of the month. I was trying to be tidy. Confusion was the enemy. The nurse’s brown eyes were fixed on me. I wet my lips and cleared my throat. “I haven’t been in hospital since I had my tonsils out when I was a kid. The twentieth! April’s nearly over!” I only had the vaguest notion of time. I don’t know why I picked April. Maybe I was trying to show that I was still on top of things.

“April is over, Mr. Cooperman. So is May. This is
. The twentieth.” She glanced at the chart on the outside of her notebook. “You have been here for six weeks and you were at Mount Sinai for two weeks before that.
You may not remember me, Mr. Cooperman, but you’ve seen me before. In fact, we’ve had this same conversation before. But I’m not surprised you don’t remember it. The brain has its own way of healing. We may have to go over it again tomorrow. It’s all part of what we expect.”

My being here had something to do with a train. Had I been on a trip? I couldn’t remember. I’d forgotten the nurse’s name, too. The pieces of the puzzle were slipping through my fingers.

Maybe I’d been drunk? No, I hadn’t been drinking; it goes against my character, such as it is. This was getting more and more ridiculous. And why hadn’t the news of all this brought me to my feet? When was the last time two weeks—
no, two months
—had vanished into limbo? Why wasn’t I jumping up and down about it? And here I was, taking it in as though she’d been telling me what the menu was for lunch.

“I think I was in a train wreck.”

“No, Mr. Cooperman. No trains, cars, or buses.”

I attempted to return her cool, even look, while trying to swallow at the same time. “Did I have a stroke or something? A heart attack? My father had a heart attack a few years ago. I know that my diet has not been the healthiest. Too many restaurant meals.”

“Mr. Cooperman …”

“… I’ve tried to introduce more vegetables, less fat and …”

“Mr. Cooperman, you came to us from Brain Injuries at Mount Sinai Hospital. You had a trauma to your head.”

Automatically, my hands explored the area on the upper left-hand side of my head, where it still felt tender. “How did I get this? Was I in an accident? Was I hit? Did I fall?”

“The injury is consistent with your having suffered a blow to your cranium.”

“‘Consistent with.’ You sound like a lawyer.”

“Looks like a blow to me. But I’m not a brain specialist; I’ve only been a nurse on this floor for twenty-two years. Nobody has suggested in my hearing that you did that falling. Looks to me as if you were hit from behind on the left-hand side.” Somehow, I wasn’t taking most of this in. It was as if she was telling me about somebody I hadn’t met yet. I tried another tack.

“Do my mother and father know I’m here?”

“They’ve been in to see you almost every other day. They’re staying with your brother. He’s looked in on you, too, from time to time.”

drove in from Toronto? Seventy-five miles? I’ll bet!”

“But you’re
Toronto. It’s your
who’ve had the long drive.”

“Sorry. I’m still a bit thick in the head. Let’s do the basics. I’ll begin with the usual first question: Where am I?”

“Good beginning. This is the Rose of Sharon Rehabilitation Hospital on University Avenue in Toronto. This is the fifth floor and I’m Carol McKay, rhymes with ‘day.’ Next question?”

“How long have I been here?” I’d lost her name again. She consulted her clipboard.

“You were admitted to the hospital on April 11 and came to this ward two weeks later, the twenty-third of April.”

“Will I ever walk again?”

“There’s nothing wrong with your legs, Mr. Cooperman. Don’t you remember going to the bathroom?” As she said it, I seemed to remember the bathroom on the other side of the curtain. The curtain hung from tracks surrounding my bed. It seemed to me that I had dreamed of these tracks in the ceiling, but that memory was too scrambled to sort out. What’s-her-name was looking at me.

BOOK: The Memory Book
4.52Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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