‘Mr. Hemming … Mr. Hillock sends his regards.’
He watched the Face press the trigger.
And then he screamed…
…and woke up in a pool of sweat. He instinctively felt his crutch while looking at his legs: the left one was encased in a thigh length plaster cast. And he was hooked up to a saline drip; he hoped it was saline and he was going to live, and not morphine…
Ward 13 was a small annex; he had one empty bed as a neighbour. Either the previous occupant had been discharged while Marty was asleep or was now resting in the morgue. A few old codgers, attached to drips, were up at the far end. Security was pretty lax; the staff nurse let any riff-raff wander in. That worried him; the Face could pay him another visit.
The nightmare had begun on the first day in hospital, and had been recurring ever since, with variations. Mostly, the stun gun, sometimes, a wicked piece of sharpened glass slicing into his Achilles, and occasionally he was swimming in his vomit. He scowled; couldn’t shake the memory from his mind. Clipper had been right, if late in warning him.
On his third day, he was fitfully sleeping when he sensed a presence. He opened an eye. A man who looked like an absent-minded professor was staring at his nameplate.
‘I’m Bill Knox, consultant psychiatrist ...’
As if that explained everything. Maybe the surgeon was taking precautions; making sure he was sane, and he wouldn’t have blamed him. A Good Samaritan had spotted him in the lay-by, but would have driven off had he not shown his warrant card. He convinced the worried-looking man to drop him outside the main gate, and he hopped into A&E. According to the nurse there, he looked like an exhausted apparition when he had hobbled in. He told her he’d had one too many and trod on a broken bottle; almost severed his Achilles. He dug out the glass from his pocket and showed it to her; she giggled as if she couldn’t believe he would keep it...
Marty scowled and pointed to his plaster cast with a drainage drip attached. ‘It’s my bloody leg that’s injured, not my head.’
Bill pulled up a chair and put on his bedside manner. ‘Mr. Hemming ...’ he trailed off when Marty’s hand shot up and motioned him to shut it.
‘Don’t ever call me Mr. Hemming.’
Bill gave him a strange look; possibly reasoning that he was experiencing post-operational delusions. He could have been right; the nightmares were evidence...
... Bill was speaking. ‘Can I call you Marty?’
He didn’t answer. By the lack of a response, presumably Bill took it to be a “yes.” Bill asked the obvious question.
The scowl remained. ‘No comment.’
Bill tried another direction. ‘You seem a bit down in the dumps.’
Marty’s scowl changed to an ironic smile. ‘Let’s just say my senior officer is giving me a hard time.’
Bill seemed interested, wanted to know more. ‘Oh, yes?’
Marty pictured the sadistic bastard, looming over him with a stun gun and grinning. The words slid off his tongue like a viper seeking its prey. ‘Acting Detective Chief Inspector bloody Hillock.’
Bill seemed to start as if he recognised the name, but he didn’t elaborate. ‘I’m sorry to hear that.’
‘Yeah, well ... that’s my problem. I can’t wait for Orson to get back.’
Bill frowned. ‘Orson?’
‘Orson Angers, another DCI.’
‘I’m new around here.’
‘Orson’s okay. A bit of a stickler, can be self-centred, but he’s supportive ... when it suits him. As it happens he’s in Cheltenham Medical Clinic ... donated a kidney to his kid sister.’
Bill seemed to be interested. ‘Orson and Hillock ... they get on?’
‘Chalk and cheese ... but Hillock’s pet hate is Orson’s protégé ... wonder woman, Jackie Steel.’
Again Bill seemed to recognise the name, but didn’t explain. Just said, ‘Oh?’
Marty was wary – decided to be cautious. ‘Jackie ... well let’s just say she has her way of looking at the world; black and white, right and wrong, results justify the means.’
They both heard the sound of a tea-trolley. A quick cuppa would be quickly followed by a visit by one of the doctors and a medication round.
Bill stood up. ‘Okay, thanks ... Marty. I’ll catch you another time, perhaps?’
Marty didn’t answer. His scowl returned.
Orson Angers had a scowl on his face as well. It started when Bill introduced himself.
‘I don’t need a shrink ... unless you’ve got some chocolate up your sleeve.’
The man who looked like an underpaid school-teacher – wearing a heavy-duty sweater and corduroy trousers - turned and walked out.
Orson sank back into his pillow and closed his eyes...
...He opened them to the sound of a wrapper being pulled off. The schoolteacher named Bill was back, a mad grin on his face. He was holding a giant chocolate bar; Orson could smell it invading his nostrils. He sniffed appreciatively. Bill spoke.
Orson let out a strangled snort.
Bill shook his head, as if disappointed. ‘I didn’t hear you.’
Orson grimaced, pursed his lips, staring at the chocolate. He watched Bill take a big bite and sigh with pleasure. ‘Ahh, that tastes good.’
Orson held out his hand. He nodded his head, and forced out the words between clenched teeth. ‘Okay, if-it-makes-you-happy. Please ...’
Bill laughed; handed the bar over. ‘See, shrinks can be useful after all.’
Orson didn’t reply. He was too busy cramming a chunk into his mouth. Bill carried on speaking.
‘I’ve been to see Mr. Hemming ... I mean Marty. He hobbled in to Cheltenham A&E with a severed Achilles. He told me you were here.’
Orson looked up, seemed surprised. ‘Oh?’
Bill eyebrows arched, like he had trouble believing the story. ‘Seemed like he had an accident with a broken bottle ...’ Orson waited, but Bill changed the subject. ‘I’m new here ... I’m a forensic physiatrist; you could be seeing me in court in the New Year.’ He laughed again. ‘Shrink-wrapping a defendant.’
Orson nodded. It made sense to sound out the opposition and build a working relationship with the police. But he was puzzled. ‘What did Marty have to say for himself?’
‘He hoped you’d be back in work soon. It appears that a Mr. Hillock is causing trouble all round.’
Orson sat up. ‘What about Hillock?’
Bill gave him a knowing smile. ‘Having a set to with one of yours ... Jackie Steel.’
Orson swore under his breath. So this was the shrink she’d been seeing. He stopped chewing, put down the chocolate on the bedside table. ‘I don’t know what you’re getting at, but Jackie is a good officer ... one of the best ... but she’s stressed and needs a complete break.’
‘So Hillock is acting professionally?’
Orson was wary. He frowned. ‘Why ask me that?’
Bill shrugged. ‘It wasn’t the impression I got.’
Orson poured himself a glass of water from the bedside jug, took a sip, and grimaced. ‘I’d kill for a beer.’
Bill grinned. ‘How long you stuck in here ...? Maybe I could wangle a couple of cans past reception.’
Orson slumped back on his pillow. ‘I’m out of here by the week-end and counting down the days.’
Bill stood up. ‘Okay, thanks ... Orson. I’ll catch you another time, perhaps?’
Orson didn’t answer. His scowl returned.
What else had Hillock got up to? – And why was the shrink sniffing around?