“You,” said Bodie, peering at Doyle intently, “don’t look healthy.”
Doyle flinched away with a scowl. “Gerroff. You’d peel paint with that breath.”
Bodie wasn’t going to be put off that easily. With just over six months of partnership under his belt, he figured he knew the man well enough to tell that he was feeling poorly, versus simply anti-social. He braced a hand on the wall behind Doyle’s head, and blinked to clear away the alcoholic haze fogging his vision.
“You haven’t been drinking much, so it’s not over… overindulgence,” Bodie said, speaking loudly enough to be heard over the band. “Been awhile since Macklin’s had his paws on you. Eyes clear. Hair thick and shiny. Nose...”
“If you say my nose is cool and damp, I’m going to hit you!”
Bodie pretended to duck, and then threw himself down on the bench next to Doyle, grinning. He indicated the crowded pub with an expansive sweep of his hand. “Look at all that seasonal cheer. You should be...,” he paused, a slight line appearing between his eyes as he tried to pronounce his words correctly. “S-seasonally cheering, with the rest of them.”
“Something I ate disagreed with me.”
“Ah!” said Bodie, nodding wisely. “You’ve got a dicky tummy.”
“’S what my mum used to say. A dicky tummy. Needs ginger tea and a hot water bottle.” Bodie smiled at the memory, and then sniggered at a mental image of Doyle in a striped nightshirt tucked neatly into bed with a Beano Annual.
Doyle scowled. “Thank you, Dr. Kildare.”
The crowd broke into a loud cheer, and Bodie glanced over to see Anson climbing up onto a table, cigar clenched between his teeth. Murphy, with limited success, was trying to get the revellers to join him in a chant of “Speech, speech!”
Bodie was so distracted that he almost missed Doyle’s sudden lurch from his seat and his dash for the door of the pub. He caught up with him just as Doyle lost his supper on the front step. Slinging an arm over his shoulder, Bodie steered him towards the kerb and sat him down, fortunately without dropping him in the gutter.
Doyle rested his head on his knees with a groan.
“A bit more of the old year than anyone wants to see,” ventured Bodie after a moment. “Feel better?”
Bodie frowned. “Still feel like you’ve got to spew?” He moved his feet out of the immediate blast radius.
Two of the girls from the typing pool were trying to negotiate the steps outside the pub, their whispers and giggles turning suddenly to loud exclamations of dismay.
Bodie ignored them and slung an arm over Doyle’s shoulders. “Tell Uncle Bodie where it hurts.”
“Stomach,” said Doyle.
“Upper, lower, left or right?” Even rat-arsed, Bodie knew better than to try prodding at Doyle’s stomach. It’d be a good way to end up with his hand chewed off at the wrist.
“Lower. Like something’s trying… to claw right through.” Doyle sounded breathless.
“Right,” said Bodie, decisively. “Up you get. We’re going to the hospital.”
That got Doyle’s head off his knees. “Bollocks!”
“You’re in more pain now than before you threw up,” said Bodie, climbing to his feet. He paused a moment, waiting for the pavement to settle down and become solid again. “You could have a bad appendix.”
“Appendix is just one side. Even I know that!”
“Not if it’s already burst.”
Doyle snorted and grimly used his knees to push himself upright. Bodie watched with concern as he grew two shades paler.
“No one,” said Doyle, “goes to hospital for… an upset stomach.” He turned and began to walk stiffly towards his car.
“It’s better to be sure,” said Bodie, following him. “I knew a bloke once. His appendix ruptured, and we didn’t have… we were four days from a hospital. It wasn’t pretty. His adam… abomin….” Bodie grimaced, frustrated. “His belly swelled up like a balloon, and when he wasn’t throwing up everywhere, he was crying like a baby. You want to end up like that?”
Doyle didn’t answer. He had stopped in the road, and when Bodie stepped in front of him, Doyle was standing with his eyes closed, taking long breaths.
“Besides,” said Bodie, “the one who’s capable of driving gets to pick the destination.”
One eye cracked open to peer balefully at him. “You’re… paralytic.”
“Watch me,” said Bodie, confidently. “I’ll ferry you there like you were my own grandmother.”
“If you start driving like your grandmother,” Doyle took a deep breath, “I'll know you’re too drunk to drive.”
“Said I’d drive like you were my grandmother. Not like I was my grandmother.” Bodie smirked. “The drunk trumps the bloke in pain. Ha.” He took Doyle firmly by the shoulders and steered him towards the passenger side of the car. It was a worrying sign of just how incapacitated Doyle was that he didn’t put up a fight.
Instead, as Bodie started the engine, Doyle said “Didn’t know you had a grandmother. Or a mother, for that matter.”
Bodie glanced over. Doyle had his head back against the seat cushion, and his face was shiny with sweat. He stamped down firmly on an impulse to lay his hand over Doyle’s forehead and instead said, “Where did you think baby Bodies come from? Of course I had a mother!”
“You never talk about them.”
Bodie shook his head, and immediately regretted it as the road wavered alarmingly before his eyes. Blinking, he checked the speedometer again, and slowed down to precisely the limit. “Don’t think you’re getting anything out of me, just because you’re sick. I see the way your nose is twitching.”
Doyle sighed pathetically.
“It’s not going to work,” said Bodie. He recalled a girlfriend telling him once that he drove better drunk, than he did sober. He hoped she was right, as he concentrated on the road. Bloody ‘ell, was that the turn off to the hospital back there?
“You could take me home.”
“I’m feeling better.”
“No, you’re not.”
“I’m not dead yet!”
“Good. And with luck the nice doctors at the hospital will keep you that way.” Bodie turned into the car park. “If you’re very good, a pretty nurse will give you a sponge bath.”
“Berk,” growled Doyle.
Bodie was grinning widely as he hauled Doyle through the doors and propped him up against the desk.
The nursing sister looked about fifty, with forearms like a dock worker. She looked the two of them over dubiously, and said, “What’s the trouble?”
“He’s got a dicky tummy!” said Bodie, cheerfully.
Doyle tried to push himself up off the desk. “I’m leaving!” He staggered. Bodie caught him and shoved him back at the nurse. That knocked him off his own rather precarious balance and he staggered, grabbing Doyle’s shoulder for balance.
Her eyebrows rose. “Out for New Year’s, were you?”
“I’m sure it’s just something I ate, and sorry to waste your time…,” said Doyle, trapped between the desk and Bodie. He might have been more convincing if he’d had his eyes open.
“Your name?” She pulled her clipboard forward.
“He was sick over everything,” said Bodie, helpfully.
The nurse immediately reached under the desk and handed over a shallow metal bowl. “You’ll be wanting this, then. Was it just the once so far?”
Bodie tried to think back. “There was the steps of the pub.” He looked down at Doyle. “Any before that?”
“I’m not going to be sick,” said Doyle.
The nurse tapped the bowl. “Keep that, just in case. Have you been sick before?”
“No,” said Doyle.
“Picture of health, that’s us,” said Bodie. “I mean, normally. Not tonight. Well…,” he corrected himself. “I’m healthy. It’s just him that needs doctoring before his appendix explodes.”
“It’s not my appendix!”
“We’ll know in a moment, never fear,” said the nurse, sliding her chair back and standing.
“Told you it wasn’t my appendix,” said Doyle.
They’d been directed to seats at the very back of the packed waiting room. A freshly washed bowl rested on Doyle’s knees. With all the poking and prodding he’d been subjected to at the nurse’s desk, he’d ended up needing it after all. On the bright side, however, he’d managed to keep the thermometer under his tongue long enough to show that his temperature was normal.
“There’s obviously something wrong,” said Bodie.
Doyle made a rude noise.
Bodie looked around, trying to estimate the likely wait. There was a teenager with a bulky bandage wrapped around his head, leaning on the shoulder of another youth with a black eye. An old man looked like he might be expiring on the spot, except for the fact that his noisy wheezing was audible right across the room. An exhausted young woman held a crying infant in a blanket, while a toddler with a snotty nose slept in the chair next to her, thumb in his mouth. And there were more. Many more.
It didn’t look promising.
In fact, things seemed to be getting steadily busier. People were coming through the doors in ones and twos, and then in threes and fours. A second nurse joined the first at the desk.
An ambulance arrived with a bloody form on a stretcher, and went straight through the doors to the examining rooms. A small boy with croup was also ushered inside immediately. A teenage girl with a broken arm, however, was directed to the chairs to wait.
“Do you want anything to drink?” asked Bodie.
Doyle shook his head, silently.
Bodie thought about what the nurse had said, when she was examining Doyle.
Abdominal pain. Just what he’d tried telling Doyle earlier.
He tried saying it now. “Adominum… Adomminib...”
“What are you doing?” demanded Doyle, irritably.
“I can’t say it right.” Bodie tried again. “Abdominable. No, that’s not it.” He blinked and realised that Doyle was almost smiling at him, one corner of his mouth curled up. “What?”
“Abdominable sounds right to me.”
Bodie chuckled, hearing how the word sounded.
“You don’t have to wait,” said Doyle.
“Soon as I turn my back, you’ll rabbit right out of here. No chance.” Bodie snagged a magazine from the table beside him. “Want something to read?”
Doyle shook his head again, and leaned back in his chair, closing his eyes.
Bodie shrugged, and turned over the cover of his magazine. Paris Match. French mag. “Bugger,” he muttered. Flipping to a photo spread of a leggy actress, Bodie settled in for a long wait.
Two hours later, the New Year had arrived without fanfare, Doyle was enduring mutely, and Bodie was ready to start grabbing doctors at random and forcing them to look at his partner.
Enquiries at the desk achieved nothing. “Terribly sorry, but you’ll have to wait your turn,” said the sister, sounding harried.
At first he’d been philosophical about the number of people being seen before Doyle. Obviously sucking chest wounds had priority over a dodgy stomach. And probably broken limbs and gaping lacerations did, too. But some of the others getting in ahead looked almost healthy, comparatively speaking.
“You’d think they’d give you something,” said Bodie, darkly. “Instead of making you wait.” The problem was that Doyle had been too bloody stoic throughout the examination, and Bodie had a sneaking suspicion he was being brushed off as “the drunken friend”.
Not that he was that drunk anymore…
Doyle didn’t say anything. He’d stopped talking a good hour earlier, after telling Bodie that when he felt better he was going to make him pay for dragging him down here. He declined to share the exact details of his vengeance, but he assured Bodie that it would be suitably painful and protracted.
Bodie wouldn’t go so far as to hope Doyle had something seriously wrong with him, and he wasn’t the sort to go in for praying either. But it would undoubtedly make life easier if it turned out that Doyle’s ailment was the sort that actually required medical intervention. He rather liked the idea of being lauded for having the foresight to drag his partner into Casualty, for saving the ungrateful, ratty-tempered berk’s life.
And Doyle wouldn’t be able to exact revenge from a hospital bed.
The arrival of a policeman interrupted Bodie’s unlikely fantasy of Cowley pumping his hand in gratitude while the rest of CI5 looked on in admiration. The bobby had his hand in the collar of a dishevelled looking man in an oversized shirt. The man was smiling benignly, and appeared to be uninjured.
The older nurse stood up. “I’ve told you lot before, this is not where you bring your head cases.” She sounded frustrated.
“I didn’t know where to go,” said the bobby, straightening his helmet. “The men in white coats are having a busy night, and said we’d have to bring him in ourselves.” He looked barely old enough to shave.
Bodie straightened, watching with interest.
“I’m not crazy,” said the man, confidentially to the room at large.
“The ones that say they’re not crazy,” said Doyle, quietly, “are always the craziest.”
Bodie glanced over at him. Doyle hadn’t opened his eyes.
The nurse was trying to explain to the bobby that what he wanted was the third floor, second building over. Bodie saw the man’s fingers working busily behind his back, doing something to cuffs restraining his wrists. Bodie stood up, feeling happy anticipation begin to build.
“Don’t do anything Father wouldn’t like,” said Doyle.
Unnoticed by the bobby, the cuffs slipped off the man’s hands and he stuffed them into his pocket. Bodie bounced on his toes. Entertainment. Exercise. Just the thing to brighten up his night. Every pair of eyes in the room, except Doyle’s obviously, were focussed on the lunatic in the policeman’s grasp. Bodie counted down under his breath from five. And right on zero, the man dropped to his knees and slipped out of his shirt.
Just a split second, and the bobby was left holding nothing but limp fabric, as his now bare-chested charge scrambled for the exit. Bodie had a moment’s impression of startled faces as he vaulted the row of chairs in front of him and took off after the escapee.
His hand landed on the man’s shoulder who instantly stopped in his tracks, shrieked, and threw both hands up in the air, startling Bodie badly. For a brief moment, he seriously considered jabbing the pathetic sod in the back to see if he could get him to run further. But the bobby had already caught up and was pulling his captive’s arms down and back. Bodie backed off quickly, disappointed.
“How did you do that? Where are my handcuffs?” demanded the bobby, shaking his prisoner.
“You can’t hold me!” replied the madman. “No one can hold me!”
“Look in his pockets,” said Bodie, as he turned to go. Behind him, he could hear the bobby’s frustrated exclamations.
He threw himself back down into his chair beside Doyle. “That wasn’t much fun,” he said, after a few minutes. The bobby seemed to be making unexpected headway in convincing the hospital to take his prisoner off his hands. Some men in white coats had arrived.
“No blood,” said Doyle.
“No gunfights,” agreed Bodie. “Hang about--.” He stood up and shouted, “Oi! He’s doing it again!”
The bobby turned around with a curse, caught the handcuffs before they could hit the floor, and snapped them back onto his prisoner’s hands.
“Don’t know why they bother,” said Bodie, as the madman was hustled away between two burly orderlies. “Just strap him into a straight-jacket and have done with it.”
Doyle made a disinterested noise, obviously finished with the conversation.
As the next hour crawled by, Bodie tried to entertain himself by imagining other ways the scenario could have played out. Instead of simply making a break for the door, the madman grabbed a scalpel from a passing doctor and held a pretty nurse hostage. A car chase ensued. Or he had accomplices, who’d planted dynamite in the hospital, necessitating a heart-stopping last-second defusing of the bomb. Perhaps his madness was merely a ruse to get to the Prime Minister, who – unknown to almost everyone – was secretly in a private ward having his tonsils removed. Or possibly he’d been bitten by a zombie, á la Night of the Living Dead, and would shortly die only to rise again and spread undead terror throughout the city.
Bodie rubbed his face and wondered if he was still drunk.
Even so, going over the hospital’s security, considering avenues of attack and angles of defence, was a reasonable mental exercise to pass the time. Cowley would approve. Didn’t matter if one was defending against zombies or anarchists, really.
The only real question was why anyone would want to attack this hospital, when it was so clearly failing to function all on its own. Bodie checked his watch. Nearly three hours now, parked on his arse while Doyle continued to suffer silently. So much for the wonders of modern medicine.
“Fucking hospitals,” said Bodie. An old man sitting nearby nodded at his words and grinned toothlessly.
In another few hours, it would be morning and the CI5 clinic would be open, the doctor on staff only slightly hung over. He could take Doyle home, put him to bed, and get him seen…
“Ray Doyle?” said a nurse, loudly.
“Here!” said Bodie, loudly. He nudged Doyle with his elbow.
“Eh?” asked Doyle.
“You’re up!” Bodie was suddenly afraid that if Doyle took too long they’d move on to the next patient.
“Hurray,” said Doyle, colourlessly. He pushed himself to his feet. Bodie watched him disappear behind the doors with the nurse and then sank back into his seat with a sigh of relief.
Bodie was fast asleep with his arms folded over his chest, when he felt a tap on his shoulder. He blinked slowly awake and focussed on the face of a matronly looking nurse.
Giles, Bodie reflected, had lied. Not a single one of the nurses he’d seen on duty tonight had looked anything like the curvaceous young creatures in his Daily Express cartoons.
“Are you here with Mr. Doyle?” asked the nurse. She sounded annoyed.
Bodie was instantly alert. “Yes.”
“He won’t take his medicine!”
“We need you to talk to him. He’s refusing to take his medicine.”
“What’s wrong with him?” asked Bodie, as he followed the nurse through the doors into a room with curtained cubicles on each side.
“Gallstone,” said the nurse.
“That’s it?” asked Bodie. No one ever died of a gallstone attack. Maybe he should have taken Doyle right home…
“If it happens again, he’ll have to have his gallbladder out,” said the nurse, with entirely too much satisfaction in her voice. She sounded as if she liked nothing better than cutting obnoxious patients open.
Bodie pushed aside a curtain to find Doyle sitting up on an examination table, in a backless gown, glaring at yet another nurse. This one wasn’t page three material either, though she was younger than the others.
“Give me my trousers!” said Doyle.
“If you’d just take your medicine…” began the nurse.
Bodie glanced at his wristwatch. Good god, he’d been asleep almost an hour and a half. That made over five hours, just to have Doyle’s stomach looked at. Doyle, for his part, seemed to have some colour back in his face, and was looking much livelier than he had in the waiting room. In fact, he didn’t appear to be in any pain at all. “Why won’t you take your meds?” asked Bodie.
“I don’t need any, now!” said Doyle. “I wouldn’t have minded earlier, would I? Took so long, I got over the attack without their help. Bloody useless the whole lot of them!”
“But we already ordered the medication for him,” protested the nurse, indicating a tray with a needle sitting beside the bed.
“I’m walking out of here,” said Doyle, sliding off the bed, “with or without my trousers.”
Bodie winced. He didn’t fancy explaining to Cowley how Doyle had ended up in the nick charged with indecent exposure. Especially not when the problem was simply Doyle getting his back up over the fact that he’d been made to wait too long. Just sheer stubbornness, that’s all it was. Grabbing the bundle of clothes away from the nurse, Bodie said, “No worries love, I’ll take care of this.”
“Take your bloody meds,” said Bodie, tucking the clothes firmly under his arm.
Doyle lost his smile. “What!”
The nurse ducked out, leaving the two of them alone.
“You… traitor!” said Doyle.
“I don’t feel like staying another hour while you argue with the sisters. Take your meds and we can both go home.”
Doyle propped his hands on his hips. “I may not be allowed to hit the nurse, but I can definitely hit you!”
“You could try,” said Bodie, grinning. He’d had some sleep and he was feeling pretty good. Doyle, on the other hand, had been awake all night and in severe pain. Bodie was confident he could take him. And then… Bodie eyed the syringe on the tray speculatively.
A sudden movement in the periphery of his vision was all the warning he had as Doyle lunged for the bundle of clothing. Bodie jumped back. “Ah, ah!” he said, chidingly. And then he had to duck quickly, because Doyle was after him again, his hand outstretched.
Bodie grabbed Doyle’s wrist, and twisted, eliciting a pained yelp. Doyle landed face down on the bed, and Bodie grabbed the syringe. The target was obvious and irresistibly tempting. His thumb on the plunger, Bodie sank the syringe all the way down into Doyle’s right arse cheek.
Doyle howled. Bodie started laughing. He felt Doyle twist beneath him, and had only a split second to register Doyle’s fist before it slammed into his nose. The world exploded in flashes of red and black, and the next thing Bodie knew he was on the floor and seeing stars.
He clamped both hands over his face. “Ow!”
“You had it coming!”
Bodie peered through watering eyes to see Doyle stepping into his jeans. “Did not!”
“I told you I didn’t want to come here.”
“I wuf worried!”
“What gives you the right…” Doyle’s voice trailed off, and he looked puzzled. “What gives…”
“You’re by pardner,” said Bodie. He tried to sit up and immediately thought better of it. Blood was running through his fingers, and his nose felt like it was ballooning up to five times its normal size. If he moved too much it might fall right off his face.
“I think the drug’s kicking in,” said Doyle, abruptly sitting down on the edge of the bed, his shirt in his hand.
The curtain suddenly flew open. “What’s going on in here?” demanded the older nurse. “This is a hospital! I’ll not have you playing silly buggers…”
Bodie waved a bloodied hand at Doyle. “I god him to take his meds!”
“What? You’re not qualified to do that!” The woman looked around the cubicle as if expecting to see someone hiding behind a lamp. “Where’s that girl?”
“Maybe you could get her to look at my partner’s nose instead,” suggested Doyle, brightly. “I might have broken it.”
“You know what I don’t fink is fair?” said Bodie, as they crossed the car park.
“What? That Cowley’s expecting us in his office in half an hour?” The sun was climbing up over the horizon, tinting the sky shades of apricot and rose.
Bodie moved his head carefully from side to side, wincing. “It’s that they gabe you all the good drugs, and didn’t sabe any for me.” He gingerly tried to scratch under the large bandage over his nose.
Doyle smiled benignly at him, the same blissfully drugged smile he’d been giving everyone for the last two hours. “Would you like me to drive?”
“I’m keeping my gallbladder, you know.”
Bodie had located his car, and was now trying to remember in which pocket he’d stashed his keys. “Why? It doesn’t do anything but make stones to plague you.”
“It’s got to be good for something.”
“It’s residual.” Bodie opened the car door and waited for Doyle to get in.
“You mean vestigial.”
“That, too.” Bodie’s headache was resolving into something alarmingly like a hangover, but at least he could see straight. Driving would be a cinch. As he climbed in on his side, he said, “If the doctor says you should have it out, then you’ll have it out.”
“You’ll make sure of that, won’t you?”
An unusual note in Doyle’s voice caught Bodie’s attention. His hand on the ignition, he glanced over.
Doyle was looking at him with clear eyes, completely sober.
“It’s my job,” said Bodie. “I’m your partner.”
“A partner might have suggested going to hospital. Might even have dropped me off. Staying the whole,” Doyle tilted his watch into the street light, “eight hours, was a bit beyond the call.”
“Two hours of that was for me,” said Bodie, starting the car. He had no trouble reading between the lines. And it was very nice to feel appreciated for once, even if Doyle would rather have his fingernails pulled off than come right out and say ‘thanks, mate’.
“Because I smashed your nose in. I think you were only seen as fast as you were because you were bleeding great puddles over the floor.”
“Right!” said Bodie, with happy inspiration. “So the next time you have a gallstone attack–”
“There won’t be a next time.”
“Next time, I’m punching you in the nose, first thing,” said Bodie, as he pulled out of the car park. “That way you can bleed all over Nurse Ratchet’s desk, and get seen right away.”
Doyle chuckled. “And they’ll send us a building over, three floors up, in the company of the men in white coats.”
“Same time next year, then,” said Bodie, miming a toast. “Happy New Year!”