And about bloody time too.
Mr. Carstairs waved his hand airily. ‘You can pick up the sick leave form and your prescription at reception.’
Not quite the words Orson had been waiting to hear, for what seemed like months. ‘Sick leave form? Prescription?’
‘Another two weeks on Warfarin should sort it out … weekly checks here. Otherwise, rest at home; let your body get back to normal.’
Back to normal? Orson brightened up. That sounded promising. No more bloody milk-shakes; he’d must have lost umpteen pounds. Instead, all-day breakfasts swilled down with healthy pints of beer.
Mr. Carstairs must have read his mind. ‘Lay off the booze and fry-ups.’
Orson put on a pitiful look. ‘Chocolate?’
Be thankful for small mercies – only two more weeks of torture.
By the end of day one, Orson was just as bored at home looking at blank walls, as he had been at the Medical Clinic. Sophie had got her life back together – amazing transformation – she was coping well. Day two, he wrapped up and pottered around outside – even shovelled snow off the driveway. Day three, he opened the garage door and tried to start his Astra. He had left the handbrake off so it wouldn’t freeze up, and the engine kicked into life before the battery conked out. But it was close, and he decided to take the car for a run and recharge it.
Whether it was a subconscious reaction or premeditated, he decided to visit Marty. He parked up at Cheltenham hospital and went to find him. Ward 13, the lady at reception said.
Orson wandered in to the ward. No one had stopped him; he could have been a murderer. He passed a couple of old codgers by the entrance; they were playing cards – moving matches up and down a crib board. Not exactly a hive of energy; no FI pit stops here.
Marty had a frown on his face. He seemed to be having a bad dream; his body was twitching and he was groaning. Orson coughed and pulled up a chair, scraping the feet on the tiled floor. The noise was enough. Marty’s body tensed, his eyes flashed open, almost a look of terror, before he recognised him.
Orson felt he needed to throw in the first comment. ‘Security here isn’t up to much.’
That had Marty shaking and looking wildly around; his eyes habitually staring at the ward entrance. ‘Why ...? You saw anyone ...?’
‘Skulking around with a knife, you mean? The answer is no.’
Marty breathed a deep sigh, and relaxed. ‘I see you’re up and running. What brings you here?’
Orson waved his paw at nothing in particular. ‘Grapevine ... heard you had a run-in with a bottle?’
From the look on Marty’s face, Orson had hit a nerve. ‘My fault ... should have looked where I was going.’
Orson cottoned on. ‘Like that, was it? Want to tell me about it?’
Orson wasn’t put off. Countless interviews had refined his technique. ‘Anyone I know?’
Marty raised an eyebrow. A knowing look passed between them; a glimmer of a smile on Marty’s lips. It wasn’t hard to guess.
Orson could see he’d scored a goal. He glanced around to make sure no one was in listening distance. Satisfied, he turned back: spoke softly. ‘We’re off-duty ... that means off the record.’
Marty seemed to consider whether to spill any confidences, but he came to a decision. ‘I upset some unsavoury characters ... allegedly, Hillock is in their pockets ... I found out he owes them several favours. I was sent a message ... keep my nose out of it.’
‘Guv ... believe me, you don’t want to go there.’
Orson sighed. Reading between the lines, Marty could have used his information to wriggle out of the misconduct charge. He could have pushed Hillock too far – knowing Marty, he would exploit any weakness. All conjecture, maybe, but Hillock had warned him off.
He tried another angle. ‘I’m puzzled. Why is Hillock gunning for Jackie?’
Marty shook his head. ‘I don’t know.’