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Then There Were Three (part 7)

 
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Finny, Casper, Onetooth and nurse Maisie sat around the table eating breakfast. They ate in silence. Maisie because she was eating and busy jotting down the things that needed doing that day. The orphans because, well… Let’s put it this way. Nurse Maisie is a substantial woman. She has arms that would look better crushing the windpipe of some poor wrestler while the crowd cheered her on. She had a bosom that could mother a family of five and still have room to balance a TV dinner in comfort. And, finally, she had a face, while not exactly masculine, still had a jawline that looked more chiseled than old man Barret’s whole statue. These things alone would, and did, cower even the most orneriest of patients… but put all of that in a flannelette nightie and adorn her hair with pink plastic curlers and, well, the orphans ate their breakfast in silence.

Down the road, in the town hall, mayor Troy had been busy at her desk for an hour when her daughter turned up with a strange woman in tow. Hyle stood up, and with a nod to Tuki, smiled the mayoral smile and proffered the mayoral hand to the visitor.

Tuki, chewed on her lower lip while this was going on. Then;

“Momma, this is Dr. Unwin… She’s from the Union.”

Hyle’s smile disappeared at the same rate it took her to sit back down in the black leather executive chair. Tuki continued with the introduction.

“She’s here to see our patient.”

The mayor leaned back and indicated the seats in front of her desk with a small gesture of her hand.

“Well, you’d better sit down then.”

While the two visitors took their seats, the eyes of Tuki and her mother met. The eyebrow conversation went something like, “Why is the Union in my town?” “Mom, just hear her out, please?” “Okay, but I’m not liking it.”

With an effort, Hyle produced something resembling her previous smile.

“Doctor Unwin. What can I do for you?”

The Union doctor was clearly uncomfortable. She had been briefed on Hyle Troy. The briefing had been ‘heartfelt’ and well-illustrated with examples of the mayor’s behavior. It was concluded with a warning to watch the eyes. Dr. Unwin sneaked a look into the mayor’s eyes as she sat down. Very blue. Very cold. She dragged her eyes away to fumble with the clasp of her brief case.

“I have here,” she began, lifting out a sheet of official looking paper. “An instruction from the Union Council authori…”

Tukiko coughed and interrupted loudly.

“Mom? We need to know how Worms picked up the Salmonella typhi bacteria. Someone or something gave it to him and we need to prevent it doing the same to anyone else.”

Hyle was listening to her daughter, but she was staring at the paper in the Union doctor’s hand. Then she shifted her gaze to the doctor’s face.

In that moment, Dr. Unwin understood the warning she had been given. Very slowly, as if the paper she was holding was likely to explode, she put it back into her brief case and closed the lid with a loud snap of the clasp. Only then did the icy glare recede and turn back to the mayor’s daughter.

“Go on, doctor Troy.”

“It’s almost certain that Worms picked up the disease within the confines of New Flagstaff, so it is reasonable that the Union medical teams would be best placed to track down the source. Dr, Unwin just needs to ask Worms a few questions, to give them a place to start.”

“Is, ‘Worms?’ Is the boy in any fit state to answer questions? When I saw him yesterday, he looked like he was barely even alive.” Mayor Troy aimed the next sentence directly at the Union woman. “Hardly in a fit state to be interrogated by the damned Union.”

Dr. Unwin bristled.

“Mayor Troy. We need this information to stop any potential spread of the disease.”

Hyle responded with slowly rising anger.

“And never mind what effect your grilling of a sick little boy has on his recovery. The Union doesn’t get to come into my town waving its bits of paper…”

“Mom!”

Hyle reined in her feelings towards the Union. She’d heard the rumours about what went on in their ‘Medical Centre’, it was the icing on the cake for how much she despised what the Union stood for, and here was one of their doctor’s waltzing into… She stopped the thought before it grew into something dangerous.

Tuki was leaning across the desk towards her mother.

“Mom. It has to be done. If typhoid gets a grip on New Flagstaff then it won’t be long before it affects Hope. I won’t let her tire or upset Worms. I’ll be there all the time.”

She had no time for the Union, or its lackies, but Hyle trusted Tukiko, both as her daughter and as a doctor. She took a breath and turned back to a still fuming Dr. Unwin.

“Very well. You can question…” She looked to Tuki. “I thought his name was Oliver?” Tuki just shrugged. Hyle sighed. “You can question the boy, but as soon as Doctor Troy says stop… you don’t even open your mouth or I’ll run you out of Hope on a damned rail. Do you understand me, ‘doctor’?

Dr. Unwin didn’t trust herself to speak. She had what she needed, now she just wanted to get out of this office. She nodded.

Hyle escorted the two doctors to her door. She let the Union woman take a few steps into her secretary’s anteroom before stopping Tuki for a moment.

“Keep your eye on her.”

The office Joe and Tai had been given had been supplied with a pair of camp beds. The night had not been comfortable. Having to join a queue of noisy kids, many of them his workforce, didn’t do anything to improve Joe’s humour. Nor did the fact that Taiyoko seemed to be actually enjoying himself, joking and chatting with the kids like he belonged there.

Sitting down to the congealing mess on his plate, with a gabbling preteen at each elbow and a food fight in full flow on the next table made Joe glad that at least he had insisted on the orphanage serving tea instead of that vile coffee muck. He reached out for the mug of English nectar, just as a greasy half mushroom landed in it with an impressive splash. Joe closed his eyes and sighed. It was going to be a long week.



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