At the third attempt the phone, which had been engaged twice, just rang and rang. It wasn’t the indignation of not being rescued by my private knight in shining armour or the disgust of wondering why on earth I was paying such an exorbitant amount in health insurance that was maddening, it was being unable to comprehend why someone would abandon an instrument that a few minutes earlier they seemed inseparable from.
I wheeled myself around the corridors in boredom. I wanted to sleep in a nice soft warm bed but not before a hot soak to remove today’s dirt. I could see myself leaning against the bath watching the day’s grime slide toward the plug until it hit that whirlpool that swished it into the sea forever.
I don’t know how it happened and still to this day any details of my journey from the time I rolled away from the A & E and found myself outside Adeona’s ward, had as much content as Cage’s 4 minutes, 33 seconds. I meandered, but to where still today remains locked inside my subconscious. The journey itself mattered little; what was paramount, above all else, is that I would end up here next to my female tormentor.
I manoeuvred the chair through the ward door as quietly as I could. I guessed she’d be asleep, and I was correct. Temptation rose in me to lift the accursed bed pan and hammer it on the upright frame of her bed under the auspices that I was conducting a scientific experiment to see if another shock would bring her voice back; when really all I wanted was a little cathartic exercise and, of course, to scare her shitless.
I resisted and moved closer toward the bed. She was lying flat and so peaceful was her appearance that I thought her dead and gently grabbed her wrist to reassure myself that her body wasn’t cold -far from it. That heat I felt when first close to her ran through my fingertips and inveigled every vein in my body, every pore in my skin. It’s not her fault after all, I considered, as if the loveliness of her being had called my callousness into question.
I wanted to wake her just to see her perfect eyelids slide back and reveal those gorgeous eyes but resisted, overcome with a sense of selfishness that for the first time I disregarded as a virtue. Nevertheless I yearned to talk to her again, even if the conversation were one-way. I itched to see the animation in her face and to chortle inside when she made those little shapes with her mouth trying to speak out those silent phrases, but there was no movement at all, unlike the first time I’d encountered this sleeping beauty.
I turned the chair around to make my way back to A & E and clipped something with my right wheel. I looked down to see a hypodermic needle rolling away across the floor. There was still some three-quarters liquid inside it; probably part of the sedative they must have given Adeona. Fucking National Health, I could’ve stepped on that, well, if I could walk that is. I propelled myself over to the wall where the vial had come to rest and leant down to retrieve it. A splash of white caught the periphery of my vision and I shot back erect in my chair.
I sat for a moment whilst the random fragments of today’s events that would form a completed logical reason for what I had just seen, swam round chaotically in my head before eventually finding a route to a location where they could sit happily with each other.
Yes it was the same white uniform I’d seen in the car park and yes it contained the same pencil figure that strode strangely away toward the rear of the hospital and yes it was a man – a hit man. The four silent menacing occupants of the car were his employers and assuredly those responsible for the robbery. But why take the risk of being here? They would’ve known she’d be guarded. They didn’t look like amateurs either, so they’d be amongst the first jokers pulled from the police pack of leading suspects.
But then it did make sense. Adeona was the only witness who could put at least one of those man at the scene of the crime. If they wanted to silence her they’d contract the work out but then why be home waiting for the police to arrive not knowing whether they had sufficient evidence or not.
They’re sitting in that car park and they know she can’t talk. They know it unlikely of her being capable of providing a description so quickly. Shut her up now with this transvestite killer and then go home to sleep with their cast iron alibis that can’t be undermined by a corpse lying on a hospital bed.
I felt nauseous. That kind you feel when you want to puke but can’t. I looked at the ward door. It was open. That was the way out. She ran into you, I kept repeating, as I had done for the last twelve hours. Do you want to die, here, in a National Trust establishment? That’s what BUPA was for wasn’t it? I was paying to die clean and pampered and with enough drugs to numb the most cancerous of pains. This killer was quiet and careful or at least that was his remit for this job, to make it look as natural as possible. That’s why he’s knocked her out first. I bet he was going to smother her and I interrupted him. Sure an autopsy would discover the truth but that would give them time and space. Yes she was temporarily mute but conscious she could have fought him, bit him or even reached over and knocked something over to make it more complicated for the coward. But he won’t smother me he’ll strangle me with a curtain cord or something. I’ll die horribly, garrotted like Carlo at the end of the Godfather.
Where were the three imbeciles? I hadn’t seen them on the way up. I should scream for them – it’s their fucking job to get killed in the line of duty. I sell insurance for people that die but don’t want to…I…I…just realised I don’t have a penny against my own miserable existence. Then again I never had anyone I wanted to leave it to. Adeona had nobody either. There she lay sweet and still, awaiting death on a used bed in a characterless ward in a run-down city hospital. Even the floor still had a small pool of her piss that I’d slipped on hours before. Couldn’t she even die in a sanitary fashion? But that last factor only made my decision clearer and less painful.
Rolling carefully toward her bed with the syringe gripped in my right hand I flung myself off the chair and onto the urine. Slipping neatly under the bed I was face to face with the most menacing uniform I’d encountered that day. He had dark eyes and skin and was clean shaven for the job in hand, but this was one uniform I was to gain the upper hand on.
Uncharacteristically, or so I thought, for a hard man, he flinched at the impending impact and tucked his thin sharp head into his chest. As he did so the wig he was wearing reacted a second later like it was part of a macabre Morecombe and Wise skit but more importantly he bared the back of his neck which allowed me an untrammelled passage to his skin. I plunged the needle in deep pushing my thumb down on the plunger and dispersed the contents into him.
That was the scariest time. He jerked back and tumbled out into the open. The wig flew off and as he twisted and rocked the hypodermic snapped leaving part of the needle stuck in the nape. My head had travelled to the far end of the bed and I could see that despite the pain and the immediate effect of the sedative he rose to his feet and tore off the front of his nurse’s uniform to reveal a black shirt and belted pants. It was like the revelation scene in Psycho. Tucked in his belt above his left hip was a revolver with a silencer attached.
His right hand grabbed the gun and he drew down on me, pointing directly at my forehead. Before you could count 1…2…3 he collapsed spilling the revolver which discharged a bullet into my left arm.
The pain was excruciating but he hadn’t broken the bone. I crawled out past his horizontal body and I could see his eyes flipping up and down inside half closed eyelids like a one-arm bandit that can’t finish its last turn whilst simultaneously wanting to start the next. I wondered just how long even the strongest sedative would hold him and decided expediency was paramount.
I dragged myself up onto my two bandaged ankles leaning heavily against the side of Adeona’s bed. The tripod of pain nearly caused me to faint. “Adeona…Adeona…wake up” I shook her but got only a murmur in response. I threw back the blankets. She was sleight, probably a size 8 but that was eight sizes too big for me in my present state.
I screamed for assistance. “Windsor…Tudor…eh,” I couldn’t remember the other guy’s name “help, we need help in here!” I stood there like a fucking idiot but no-one came. It wasn’t that long ago I couldn’t rid myself of them now when it would be an actual pleasure to see them they’re probably having a fag.
Another moan came from below but it was Adeona not the killer and my sphincter relaxed. Her eyes were struggling to open. It was clear she hadn’t received all the sedative but how much animation she could manage was crucial in our escape. I slapped her cheek a couple of times - not hard but firm and she looked at me again and again that Adeona smile broke across her face like a wave dispersing itself across an expansive beach.
“Adeona, we need to move away from here”
She looked at me uncomprehending the danger. She was probably asleep when the killer came in.
“Just trust me – can you get into the chair?”
She nodded obediently but as she rose toward me she saw my bloody arm the nurse lying prone on the floor and pulled away from me in panic.
“It’s not me you stupid woman” I cried, “I’m not the killer – he is”
The “he” threw her until she caught sight of the wig.
I grabbed her with my one good arm and shook her as hard as standing on two tortuous tendons would permit. “We have to move – he has friends here”
She motioned that her head was still shaky. “Fucking hell, I thought you could push me – get in the chair”
I pinioned myself on the back using the chair like a Zimmer frame, and Adeona flopped into it, but her weight swung the chair round as if she were performing a hand brake turn on a formula I car.
“Adeona, not so bloody fast” I cried hopping from one tormented stump to the other. She reached back and gripped my right hand in hers to apologize. It was shaking.
Slowly we made our way out toward the corridor like a crab pushing a Tesco’s trolley with a giant dead jelly fish dumped in it. Intermittently Adeona would shake her head from side to side trying to un-muddy it. After an interminable few minutes we were making our way past the lounge. Only then did I see two sets of footwear underneath the table at the far end of the room. If the contract killer hadn’t killed Tom and Colin, the only thing I could do was try to get help to them. Maybe Turner’s okay, but I doubted it.
“Make for the lift” I squeezed out through clenched teeth.
We passed a skylight and I could see that outside it was starting to get lighter and wondered if this would be the last time I’d witness a morning. But how I thought…
“Adeona – this isn’t the way to the lift! Where are you going?”
She shrugged her shoulders and twisted her head round and mimed sluggishly “I don’t know”. Then I heard the first step.
Step was perhaps an understatement. It sounded more like a slap. Once again I was back in the Godfather movie. I was Michael, pushing his bed-ridden father round, while those crisp claps moved menacingly toward him. I wasn’t as confident that they’d turn out to be as friendly either. It could be Turner. I imagined the feet themselves to be enormous.
I looked at Adeona. She shook her head. She knows – even in her befuddled state - somehow I think she knows. “Can we find the stairwell?” This time she nodded. That was as far as my planning went. What the fuck I would do once we got there I hadn’t considered. Probably throw her down first to the next floor and then me after her and crawl as far as we could to safety.
We made another turn back toward the ward. As we crawled past like some freak show in a Parisian vaudeville, I could see the killer on the floor. His eyes were wide open and gazing directly at us, seeming to track our progress and mentally notate the information to use to hunt us down when once again sentient. Yet even in a comatose state he looked capable of murder. In his hand, though, I noticed a mobile phone. Three quarters of a huge sedative dose in him and the bastard was still strong enough to contact his employers.
Meanwhile the unfriendly smacks of leather on concrete sounded now as if they were in the next corridor. Who was I kidding here? Between the two of us we couldn’t outrun an inebriated snail on a piece of sandpaper. We were three feet from the end of the corridor now which, if anything, seemed to be receding away from us. I looked down at the girl beneath me and wondered if I began to strangle her myself would they let me go? At least I could sit down. If I get out of this I probably won’t walk for a year.
Then we were there. Unfortunately there were two doors. The left was unmarked and the other had a single W with the rest of the wording scratched out. I dithered for just a second but it was enough – the steps ceased. He’s behind us at the other end of the corridor. I waited for the ‘shoomp’ of a silencer but Adeona had turned the chair to the right. Of course - “Way out” – good girl I thought.
Maybe I could jam the chair against the other side of the door. It might just be enough. The adrenaline was surging through me – I hadn’t felt this exhilarated since my first big sale. But this was to save my life – not to make it. We pushed through straight into the W.C.
I couldn’t believe it. When she wanted the loo she couldn’t find it! “You’ve killed us you stupid bitch!” I cried and pushed the chair away from me with what little strength I had left. It rolled toward the far wall. I collapsed on the floor rubbing my feet in vain.
“All that effort. For what?” I croaked hoarsely, “To die in a shit hole?” I could hear her sobbing.
I looked around at the toilet that was soon to be my mausoleum. The floor was clean at least for now. They’d have some blood to mop up later. There were three “traps” all empty, a wash hand basin and four urinals, one set at the obligatory lower level for children and dwarfs. I pulled myself backwards with my good arm until my back was leaning against the rear of the wheelchair. A trail of blood ran off my sleeve and traced my passage.
“Whoever it is they’ll have to make it quick. It’s morning now – there’s a contract killer out cold in your ward and two, possibly three dead policeman on the wing. It’ll be two shots in the head each. We won’t feel a thing. The brain, you see, gives us pain. All the bullet will do is smash the brain. It’ll be like turning on night time in an instant”
The crying had ceased, so I continued my instant philosophy on the merits of early retirement. “We might live until we’re eighty. We could develop Cancer, Parkinson’s disease or have a stroke and be left paralysed. We might end up in a home alone – dying alone…” I shut up then and the loo door opened.
In the 4x4 he had looked huge, standing stock in front of me he was gigantic. He had to stoop and edge himself in sideways and it wasn’t a small door. We’d got a wheelchair through without touching the sides. It wasn’t my forte but cowering or begging was never going to be an option so I humoured him.
“Ah morning Doctor; what can you do for my piles?”
He didn’t answer and for one mad moment I imagined the reason being that he had a high effeminate voice like the guy out of “Are You Being Served” I giggled, he drew a pistol. It, too, was muzzled accordingly.
“Just the ointment please Doctor”
I thought for a minute he smirked – but perhaps it was wind. He knelt down and checked underneath the three traps. Satisfied he stood erect and bolted on his tough guy look.
“Promise me you’ll do it quick; in the head eh? Specially the girl”
He nodded and moved forward, gun primed, those huge feet slapping against the floor again, echoing continuously like thunder in the mountains. That’s it; go there, I thought to myself, back to the Lakes, when I was a teenager. My first holiday alone – wandering around, happy, from field to field with just a tent.
He was above me now. I smiled. Then Doctor Pathmanathan introduced himself.