“Frankie in four needs a good scrubbing before the Doc will go near him, cubicle two needs an enema and when you have time the sluice room could do with a mop”.
Duffy stared at Martin open mouthed, “And would you like me to clean the toilets while I’m at it?”
“Not really a nurse’s job but they could probably do with a scrub”.
She shook her head in pure disbelief, even Sister MacIntosh never dumped that many disgusting jobs on her at once. The difference between MacIntosh and Martin though was that MacIntosh had both the actual authority and the air of authority to stifle any complaints. Martin didn’t.
“What have I done to you to make you treat me like your own personal slave?”
“I don’t know what you mean” Martin replied, “I just expect all the nurses to pull their weight. You’re the most junior nurse here and I’m afraid that means you might get stuck with some of the less pleasant jobs. It’s nothing personal”.
She took a step closer to him so that she could afford to speak in a more hushed tone, “So it has nothing to do with last night?”
Martin froze momentarily but recovered quickly, “How could it? Nothing happened last night. But I suggest you get on with your work now…”
“Fine” She replied through gritted teeth.
He turned his back on her as a clear indication that the conversation was over, and under slightly different circumstances she would have stuck her tongue out at him, however the tone of his voice implied a threat that unnerved her. The nagging feeling that she’d done more than interrupt a private conversation wouldn’t go away and she kept coming back to the same conclusion: Martin wasn’t what he seemed. The only problem was that she appeared to be the only one to have noticed this, and she wasn’t exactly sure what it was that she had noticed.
Charlie watched their interaction and sighed. It was obviously too much to ask for a quiet, easy day. He rubbed at his temples, cursing the amount he’d had to drink the previous night and making a mental note that continually ordering drinks and downing them does not impress barmaids. The last thing he needed when he was this badly hung over was friction between his staff. He wandered over to Martin to voice his concern.
“What is going on between you two?”
“What d’you mean?” Martin replied innocently, holding Charlie’s gaze until the senior nurse looked away.
“You and Duffy, I know I’m not imagining the tension between you two…”
“Everything is fine, all right?” Martin replied tersely.
“No it’s not all right. Look, I don’t know what went on with you two last night and frankly I don’t much care, but don’t bring it into work with you.”
“What the hell is that supposed to mean!”
“I’m not stupid Martin. I saw you that you two left at the same time, without a word to me or Susie, and although I’m not entirely convinced that relationships with people at work are a very good idea, what you and Duffy get up on your own time is your business. Just don’t let it affect your work.”
Charlie scowled and rubbed his forehead again, “You’re walking a fine line speaking to me like that…”
“Look, I don‘t know what you think happened last night but let me assure you I did not spend the night with her”.
“So what’s this mood between you been about then?” Charlie enquired, unaccountably relieved that Duffy hadn’t become the latest in the long line of Martin’s conquests.
Martin cleared his throat, “I know we’re short staffed and we should be grateful for any help we can get but I’m not sure that taking a student off the wards was such a good idea. I don’t think she belongs here.”
“Yesterday you said she did all right...?”
“She did all right…”
Charlie sighed, “It’s only for a couple of days more Martin. Don‘t be too hard on her, she’s just a kid…”
“Excuse me.” Charlie and Martin turned to see Duffy standing behind them holding a pile of rags at arms length, “Sorry to interrupt. These are Frankie’s clothes, what should I do with them?” She scrunched up her nose and silently thanked the inventor of the latex glove.
“Medical waste bin. There’s no point in sending them to the laundry they’ll disintegrate on contact with soap. Find him something from the donations cupboard.” Duffy nodded to Charlie’s instructions and shuffled off to do as she’d been told.
When she was safely out of earshot again Charlie slumped against the desk. “Do you think she heard that?”
“Me call her a kid?”
“Does it matter?” Martin shrugged, “She’ll be gone by next week”.
Duffy returned to the cubicle downhearted. Charlie had dismissed her as ‘just a kid’, all right so he didn’t fancy her, but she had hoped that her appointment to A&E signified that at least she was respected as a nurse.
She pulled back the curtain to the cubicle and found herself face to face with a scruffy man of indeterminable age, though Duffy reckoned he must have been around fifty, wearing only a hospital gown.
“What d’you want?” He growled at her.
“I’ve got to take you to the showers, remember? Get you cleaned.”
“I don’t want no shower!” The venom with which he barked his words caught her off guard and she recoiled slightly.
“But you want a doctor to see you, right? That’s why you’re here?”
He grunted an affirmative.
“Well Dr Talbot won’t see you until I’ve cleaned you up…”
“So get another doctor!”
“There aren’t any. Dr Talbot’s all there is at the moment and he’s very busy.” She replied, trying to sound authoritative even though she felt rather intimidated.
She heard Charlie’s voice in the back of her head telling her that if she had any trouble with a patient she should go and fetch him, or one of the other senior nurses, but she also heard him telling Martin she was just a kid. Her stubborn streak took over and she decided that she wasn’t a kid and didn’t need Charlie or anyone else to help her.
“I bet that cut on your leg hurts”.
Frankie looked up at her with narrow eyes, clearly suspicious of her new tact, “What of it?”
“When the doctor comes he can give you some stuff to stop it hurting. That’d be nice, wouldn’t it?”
He nodded, though still didn’t look convinced.
“So, having a shower is a small price to pay, innit? To stop it from hurting, like?”
“I s’pose so” He admitted grudgingly.
“Can I take you through to the showers then? I can get you a wheelchair so you don’t have to walk on it. How’s that sound?”
He shrugged, “’Kay”.
Duffy found a wheelchair and helped Frankie into it, feeling rather proud of her self. She had diffused what was potentially a very difficult situation. He wasn’t hurt badly enough to stop him from running amok in the department and causing all kinds of mayhem if he’d wanted to.
With him safely seated she pushed off through the department toward the shower room and decided it might be an easier task if she could engage him in conversation and take is mind off what was going on.
“So how did it happen?” She said inquisitively, “The cut I mean.”
“Oh”. Duffy replied warily, “Fighting with who?”
“Dunno. Some young ruffian. He had a knife.”
“What were you fighting about?”
“He took my place!” He replied as though it were perfectly obvious.
“Under the bridge. It’s my place. I’ve been there for years, and he just comes an’ ‘e takes it. A man’s got to defend what’s rightfully his.” He turned back to look at Duffy, “Hasn’t he?”
“Course” She nodded and smiled to placate him.
“You see. He didn’t see, just pulled his knife, the little b***er”.
“He probably didn’t realise it was your place…” Duffy tried diplomatically.
“No excuse,” He snarled, “Mustn’t take what’s not yours!”
Charlie stood in front of Ewart’s desk, his hands thrust deep into his pockets waiting for an explanation for his summons.
“Sit down Charlie, you make the place look untidy”.
He pulled up a chair and dropped onto it, “I can’t hang about here Ewart; we’re rushed off our feet. It might help if you put in an appearance as well…”
“I’ve been in a meeting all morning.”
“So your secretary said”
“Quite an important one as it happens…”
Charlie was getting exasperated, “Well, come on then, the suspense is killing me. Are they going to close us down or something?”
“No they are not. Rather the opposite actually. We’ve been discussing the feasibility of employing a permanent night shift in casualty. Keeping the department open twenty-four hours a day”
Ewart waited for a reaction, Charlie sat and stared at him as he let the idea sink in.
Eventually he spoke, “So this is what you had in the pipeline, that you wanted my support on?”
“A permanent nightshift?”
“Hence the term ‘permanent nightshift’ Charlie”.
“You have to be kidding!” He laughed.
Ewart didn’t. “I most certainly am not. Come on Charlie, you know as well as I do that this place is wasted twelve hours a day. Much needed - life saving - equipment laying idle while it could be being put to good use.”
“Fair enough Ewart, but the logistics of keeping a place like this open round the clock, well, they’re mind boggling! We’re stretched enough as it is!”
“This isn’t some pie in the sky idea you know. I’ve been in meetings for a while now; the DHSS have had their best business minds looking at the costs. A few finishing touches and it’ll be all ready to go ahead.”
“What sort of finishing touches?”
A smile appeared from under Ewart’s moustache, “The sort you can help with. Staffing.”
Charlie looked at him incredulously, “OK, I’ll bite. What do you want?”
“A senior, reliable, nurse who’d be willing to take on running the nightshift, and his, or her, recommendations for a core group of nurses to staff it on a regular basis, say three or four. Of course there’ll be enough in the kitty for another SHO, as well as extra equipment, medicines and the like. It won’t be an easy job by any means. It’s taken a lot of hard work to get this far and there are plenty of people who’d be happy if it failed.”
“Oh yes. The requesting of extra resources has put a fair few noses out of joint upstairs”.
Charlie grinned, “In that case, you might just have found your man…”
Washing a man who didn’t want to be washed, but who needed it desperately, was something of a grim task, but a spirit of unshakable determination had taken over Duffy and she was finally finished. She gave Frankie a clean gown and helped him do it up round the back.
“There all done. Don’t you feel better now?”
“I’m cold,” he grumbled, “where are me clothes?”
Duffy winced as she remembered the clothes that she’d thrown away earlier, “I’ll get you a blanket”.
“I don’t want a blanket. I want me clothes!” He roared. She pulled away from a little, seeing the fire in his eyes.
“I could get you some new ones, clean smart ones.” He didn’t look impressed.
He moved towards her so they were face to face, “Where are they!”
“I-I-I sent them t-to be cleaned” She could feel the heat of his breath on her face and the smell was nauseating. She tried to move away but he reached up and grabbed her arm. She let out a yelp of alarm.
“You stole ‘em. Didn’t you! Admit it! You took ‘em!”
“I’m sorry. I’ll get you new ones. I promise, anything you want…” The fear was building within her, and she wished she were back in the main department where people could have heard her scream and come to help.
“I want my clothes. Mine. Not no new ones. Mine. Do you hear?” He grabbed her other arm and shook her bodily.
She nodded and whimpered an almost silent “Yes”.
“Where are they?!”
“I-I-I don’t know…”
He shook her again more violently, “I said, where are they?!”
“Please don’t hurt me. Please!” she begged, tears flowing freely down her face. He stopped. Looked at her frightened face, and let go.
“Where did you put them?” He asked again, but slightly quieter.
“In the bin” she whispered.
“Take me to it.”
“It was full. After I put them in I asked the porter to empty it. I’m sorry”. She sniffed back some more tears, but remained rooted to the spot in fear.
“Where do they empty it? Where?!”
“U-Um, the incinerator in the basement”.
He grabbed her again and swung her around to face the door, “Take me there!”.
She didn’t move, she was too frightened to do anything. Suddenly she felt a hefty shove on her back, she tried to regain her balance but slipped on the wet tiles of the shower, falling face down onto the floor. There was a pained crack as her fob watch collided with the tiles breaking its fragile glass.
“Get up!” He shouted, standing over her. She stumbled to her feet, cutting her hand on the glass fragments as she did so. “Now take me to the incinerator. Now!”
Go to Part Nine