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Then There Were Three (part 8)

Joe Spivey's picture
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Finny was sitting, curled up in pajamas and a big fluffy dressing gown, on a tatty lopsided three-legged armchair reading ‘The Adventures of Tom Sawyer’ to a barely responsive Worms. The clothing and the book had been donated by the people of Hope Springs and Finny was rather hoping that she would be allowed to keep them all.

Nurse Maisie, now in uniform scrubs and very business-like, had just finished replacing the tubey thing that, to Finny, seemed to be putting water into Worms where she was pretty sure the blood should be. What Finny knew, and that Worms didn’t, was that next on nurse Maisie’s list of things to do was to give her friend something called a blanket bath. Worms wasn’t going to like that.

Fortunately for Worms, however, proceedings were interrupted by the arrival of Missus Doctor Troy and another lady. Finny tried to make herself very small and quiet in the big chair in the hope that nobody would notice her presence. Finny, though, was still getting to know nurse Maisie, otherwise she wouldn’t have even tried. A stern flick of the nurse’s curly head towards the door and Finny was dismissed. On the plus side, the door to Worms’ room was then closed, which allowed all three remaining orphans to press their ears up against the thin plywood door where they could hear everything that was going on.

After breakfast, Joe and Taiyoko’s day started with a pair of glass tubes left for them on their camp beds. This undignified sampling thing was to be a daily occurrence so it was thought best… well safest, to let both men ‘self-administer’. That out of the way, Taiyoko disappeared to deliver the tubes to the pathology technicians who had set up shop in the big store room next to the ablutions. Joe, meanwhile, got down to work at the desk in their little office.

Being away from the hub of things for several days wasn’t really a problem. Running his affairs ‘on the hoof’ was something Joe was used to. Having the factory closed for a week, however, could be. Joe had warehouse space all over the province, some of it even legal. But storing ammunition was a complicated matter normally involving lots of paperwork. Ever the environmentalist, Joe saw fit to reduce this mountain of paper by simply not telling anyone in officialdom where he stored his bullets and bombs. After a bit of arithmetic on the flip side of a notice about head lice, Joe reckoned he had enough stored ammo to survive the week… just. He looked at the figures in his hand and hoped that the gangs, the factions and the mutants wouldn’t start any new wars for a few days.

Then he wrote a note to Kirsten and passed it through the window to one of the street urchins who was part of his communications network. In return he received a bundle of bits of paper, one of which was from Charlie Farley, the leader of the four boys whose job it was to keep an eye on Finny. They had finally located her, and the other three members of the Reading Group in Hope Springs. There was even a little map. Joe’s lips pursed. He just hoped that bloody woman would keep her claws off them. The last thing he wanted was her corrupting his apprentices.

Nurse Maisie stood next to the door. The thinness of the door worked both ways and Maisie could just make out the faint whispers and accidental tiny taps on the wood. Words would be had, later. For now, she was watching the Union doctor as she filled the warm space just vacated by Finny. The doc had given Maisie a look in passing. A look from which Maisie inferred that the doc wasn’t too happy about this other woman’s presence.

Typhoid fever leaves a body drained of energy and weak as a day-old kitten. Everything ached, even his finger nails for some reason. Worms was vaguely aware of the people around him. He knew Finny. If Finny was here then he was safe. The others, too. He’d tried to acknowledge them as they’d stood awkwardly around his bed but even smiling was an effort. And his eyes, he couldn’t seem to open them more than half way no matter how hard he tried, and trying tired him out.

Worms drifted in and out of sleep. Every now and then this large, curly-haired man would come and lift his arm to take his pulse and measure his blood pressure. He wished the man would tell him, instead of just writing it down on his clipboard. Worms had heard them use the word ‘typhoid’. He knew what it was and he understood that it was in him. He’d even worked out how he’d caught it. They must never know.

Then the two women had come.

“Oliver? Oliver? Can you hear me?”

Worm’s eyes slid to the side. The woman in the chair smiled.

“Good boy. Oliver? You’re very sick, you know that don’t you?”

He held her in his steady, eyes half open gaze for a second and managed to sigh a soft, “yes.”

“We need to find out how you got sick Oliver. So that more little boys and girls don’t get sick too. Do you understand?”

Worms felt hot. His eyes moved to the man by the door. No. Where’s Finny? He wanted Finny. Instead of Finny he noticed the other woman as if for the first time. He knew her… from somewhere.

Tuki noticed the sudden increase in Worms’ rate of breathing. Still shallow, but faster. He would hyper ventilate if he didn’t calm down. She glanced to her head nurse. Maisie had noticed it too. Tuki was pretty sure Dr. Unwin would also have picked up on it.

They all came to the same conclusion. Worms knew, or probably knew how he had picked up the deadly bacteria. Dr. Unwin went straight to it.

“What happened Oliver? Who did you catch it from? Who were you with? Where were you?”

With a huge effort, Worms moved his head to one side and then back again. He wasn’t telling. The Union doctor didn’t like that.

“Oliver. We need to know. So that we can stop more people getting sick. You have to tell me.”

Worms fixed her with his far away stare and his chin came up, clenching his jaw shut. He wasn’t telling her anything. Tuki gently lifted a thin arm and checked his pulse. It was fast, not dangerously so, but his heart was pumping much more than it needed to, depleting his energy reserves. Tuki turned to Dr. Unwin and shook her head.

“No more, doctor. Maybe try again later, or tomorrow.”

“Tomorrow? That may be too late. If we have a patient zero out there then God knows how many people are being infected, right now.”

Dr. Unwin stood up and leaned over Worms.

“Oliver. You need to tell me.” She took Worms by the shoulders and started to shake him. “You’re a selfish little boy. Tell me who it was.”

Worms bounced up and down on the mattress like a floppy doll.

Maisie got to her first and Dr. Unwin found herself being lifted off the floor and carried towards the door. She twisted her neck to look behind her.

“Tell me who it was!”

Then the door opened and Onetooth almost fell into the room, Finny and Casper were left open-mouthed behind him. Onetooth steadied himself and then looked first at his friend gasping on the bed. Then up into the face of the angry Union woman.

“I know where he goes! I can take you. Just make him better.”


Hyle Troy's picture

Well that was enough to get Unwin out of Hope Springs on the Troy Express... 

I would rather die peacefully in my sleep, like Grandad, than screaming, like his passengers

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