If you’re coming in late, the novel starts here: CHAPTER 1: Some bugger steals my sushi
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I woke up on a hospital stretcher.
Everything hurt so bad I didn’t even have the energy to open my eyes, so for a long time I just lay there, as gradually the feeling in my arms and legs came back. Then I realised that everything hurt, with as much hurt as if I’d been thrown like a rag doll against a brick wall, except that rag dolls can’t feel anything but I sure could. Even my eyeballs hurt. Heck, even my fingernails hurt.
“Mike?” I could hear a voice saying my name quietly. “You hear me? Mike?” I cranked my eyelids open. It was Daniel, leaning over me, and blocking out most of the light from the flicking fluoro strip light on the ceiling. He’s a big guy, and when he’s in a room you know it, just like the floorboards know it.
Medical staff bustling about. Narrow sections of floorspace partitioned off with white curtains. A plastic chair. One of those wire frame things they hang fluid bags from when you’re getting a transfusion of fluid or blood. Not much else.
“Hey, mate,” I said.
“You’re looking good,” he said, tapping me on the shoulder. “Thought you might be dead when I saw you go down under that mob. It didn’t look good for a bit.” He sat on the corner of the bed, and it sagged down.
He sat silent for a few minutes. I just lay there, wondering if every part of my body was injured, or just the parts I could feel. I lifted my hands up slowly, and examined them: my knuckles were bloody and raw, and my nails were broken and dirt-enhanced.
I clenched and unclenched my fists, watching the tatters of skin come loose from where they were beginning to glue themselves back together. The raw mess began to weep and bleed again, from in between crusted dry matter. My wrist-bones were bruised. I didn’t even think you could bruise your wrist-bones, but here was proof, it seemed. My elbows were raw.
“You’re a mess,” Daniel observed.
“Yeah, I am a bit.” I said. I looked down, wondering where my clothes had got to, and who had dressed me into the hospital gown. I hate these things. Who the crap decided that having no back to an outfit and your arse on display is a good look? Some wanker with an arse fetish, I guess. Or a real warped sense of humour.
“Has a doctor seen me yet?”
“Dunno. They wouldn’t let me travel in the ambulance with you. Not “family”. I should have lied. It took me half an hour to get out of that mess, and another half hour to get here. Then I had to find you, and that wasn’t easy – this place is a fricking rabbit warren. So I don’t know who has seen you.”
“So what the hell happened? How did I get here? No – I know that. Ambulance. What happened back at the Octagon. God, all I wanted was a quiet lunch. Fuck like that was going to happen.”
“Didn’t you know there was going to be an anti-corruption protest today? It was on the radio this morning. And you went and blundered right into it, right after it got nasty. Some guy had an argument with one of the cops up behind the Cathedral. Cops thought no-one was looking and gave him a fair kicking, or so the story goes. Except it turns out that there were half a dozen witnesses who said the guy didn’t start it.
“Whatever happened, it was enough to get a full-blown fight happened between three or four cops and a few of the guy’s friends. Next thing, the protesters a few meters down in the Octagon heard what had gone on and joined in the fun. Then the riot police turned up when the hippies stopped their “This is a peaceful protest!” mantra and started hurling rocks.”
“Crap yeah. So you timed it brilliantly, you and your fricking sushi. Next time bring a sandwich to work, hey?”
“Yeah.” I arched my back, and tried to sit up. Pain. Crap again. “Fuck this!”
“Yeah, you poor bugger.” said Daniel, nodding in sympathy.
We sat together, silent for a few moments, until the curtain to my stretcher cubicle was thrust open with a rattle by a scarily efficient-looking medico, her hair in a bun and glasses perched on a very thin nose. Tall, slim, and very, very beautiful in a predatory, super-efficient, super-intelligent, terrifying kind of way. You know the kind of girl. Just looking at them gives you a hernia.
At the same time, you really, really want that hernia. Cause that hernia sure looks good in those tight pants.
“I see you’re awake,” she noted. Medicos just love to state the obvious.
“No bones broken, but sustantial bruising, and some trauma to your hands, arms and feet. They’ll mend, but you’ll be sore for a few days. We’ll give you some painkiller to deal with the pain.”
Crap. I hadn’t even got to how much my feet hurt. Now she mentioned them, I was aware of my toes throbbing, like I’d poured acid on them. Thanks for the wake up call on the feet, doc.
“I don’t need painkillers. I’ll be fine. When can I get my clothes back, and get out of here?”
She stood over me, and took a good, long look at me through those glasses. This woman had been in my personal space exactly thirty seconds, and already she was pissing me off. I think medicos get taught how to “pull the superior” shit when they’re in med school. I dunno, maybe they do body language classes or something. All about gravitas and authority.
“I don’t think so, Mr…mmmm…” She checked my file, “Hocking. You were involved in a violent protest where several officers of the law were attacked, and are wanted for questioning. I think it is best you stay here for now, until the sergeant has time to get around and ask you a few details.”
‘Oh, for God’s sake, ” I said. Fuck it. “I was just unlucky. I got caught in the crossfire. And some bugger nicked my sushi.”
“And his Coke,” added Daniel.
“Yeah. And my Coke,” I said. “I mean, my Coca Cola. Like…not…You know what I mean! I got caught in the middle.”
“He’s a victim, doctor,” said Daniel. “Come on, look at the guy. Does he look mean and nasty to you? Heck, he couldn’t even punch anyone with his hands right now.”
“You’re not helping, mate!” I said, annoyed.
“Sorry, Mike,” said Daniel. “But the guy’s innocent. Let him get home. Give him some painkillers, and you won’t hear from him again. He’s a good guy.”
I looked winningly up at the doc, giving her my Most Charming Guy In The World grin. It must have worked, because she suddenly smiled, and I saw her whole body relax.
“Look,” she said. “You’re probably right. We’ve got more people hurt right here than we can deal with right now, anyway. You’re not in the system yet, so I’ll organise for someone to find you some clothes, and you can get out of here.” Her relaxed smile became rock solid. “With some panadeine forte.”
“And get plenty of rest.”
“No more protests, okay?”
“I wasn’t even in one, doc. I was a bystander. But yes, doc. Sure. Panadeine forte.”
“I’ll grab you some panadeine from the samples cupboard, and see about some clothes.”
Apart from the fact that Daniel had to half-carry my half-naked arse through the hospital, then half-dress me in some seriously ugly secondhand clothes, the rest of the day was pretty uneventful. Except I’m still not thrilled at how a photo of my bare-arsed self, looking like I’m hugging a bloke, ended up on Facebook.
Thanks Tina. I’ll get even.
READ ON: CHAPTER 2: I hide in the Cathedral
Image of hospital by Norbert Loev