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Short Story – Sharpe

‘Jesus Jo, answer the phone,” Abi said. Jo stirred, the ringing coming into focus. Through the thin membrane of his eyelids the flashing of the phone came into conscious. He was face down, hated it. Arching his back, eyes still closed, he felt the warm hand of his wife Abi on the small of his back.

He reached, screwed up his eyes in preparation for the bright light to squeeze the living daylights out of his pupils.

‘Sharpe’ he said trying to sound as officious and professional his slumber would allow down the phone.

Abi lay there, only another twenty-five years of this on-call bollocks. ‘Yeah be there in ten’ hanging the phone up, hitting silence. The transfer teams normally call and call again while travelling in. It was pointless to have the phone constantly ringing.  He spun round on the bed, the mattress waving in a delayed action. She turned to him ‘you off.’

‘Yeah, paeds coming in, bouncing straight out to the General, just need to anaesthetise it, then hand it over to the transfer team, won’t be long.” He kissed her, mouth parted slightly, the memory of three hours ago whipping into view, he smiled. ‘Hurry home’ Abi said.

It was less than ten minutes, sleeping in his joggers and clean teeshirt when on call made returning to work just that quicker. Changing into another set of PJ’s as soon as he arrived, the green scrubs not familiar with fabric softener. 

Jo entered the department. The smell of Indian food wafted through, Sunday night was takeaway night. 

The empty but spookily corridors of the theatre department. Normally of a hive of activity during the day, in the evening it takes on a more sinister environment. Long shadows, nooks and crannies and the ubiquitous smell of some poor unfortunate soul dying in Recovery.

‘Dr Sharpe, bugger me that was quick’ Carly, smiling the ODP said sloping down the corridor with Take a Break magazine under one arm and the cup that hadn’t seen a sink in at least a month in the other. He took it off her.

He took a slurp ‘you know I have oral herpes’ she said, her hair not the usual tidy tight  bun, he looked at her closely ‘its not active though hey’ he said with a smile taking another draft of the hot sweet tea.

‘I’ll go and make my own then’ tutting she walked off. ‘Anyway, what are you doing here’ she asked kicking the door to the coffee room open. The squeak and the crash caused a stir in the room. The trauma team catching forty winks. The odd groan with the crash of the door ‘shut the fuck up who ever that was, your being paid to sleep, get over it’ Carly cursed.

‘What do you mean what am I doing here, we have an inbound paeds that needs teeing up for transfer, tubed to the General.’

Stirring… as loud as she could to disturb the trauma team even further ‘I haven’t been told, got nothing ready for you babes.’

‘It’ll only take a couple a minutes’ Jo said draining the rest of the tea. He looked any the mug ‘why does tea taste so good from a dirty cup?’

‘Because you didn’t make it, and I made it which means it was made with love’. He smiling, slid the mug along the work surface clinking and knocking the detritus of the staff coffee room.

‘When’s Abi coming back onto the on call rota’ Carly ask sipping the hot tea, burning as her head recoiled.

‘Soon, she’s resisting’.

‘I don’t blame her, after Tilly was born, I didn’t want to come back to work, period’ she said, pointlessly attacking the the hot liquid.

There was voices, Jo craned his neck through the other door that accessed the corridor, paramedics coming down the corridor with the a couple of paediatricians. 

‘We’re on’ Jo said exiting the coffee room, Carly fell in behind.

Setting up the kit, intubating the baby, monitoring until the intensivists and critical care techs arrived. It was minutes to hand over and the child was gone with the distraught parents.

‘Count your blessings’ Carly he said as they trundled down the corridor, the ECG wave thready and weak, the rigid peaks and troughs of the readout starting to broaden. The drama was almost certainly going to happen en-route to the General, there was nothing else Jo or Carly could do.

‘You going back home, want a cuppa before you head out’ Carly asked.

‘Nah, going home, try and…’

The crash bleep beeped, making them both jump TRAUMA CALL, RESUS, TRAUAM CALL RESUS.

‘Spoke to soon, might as well go as I’m here’ Jo said.

Walking quick, resus was a three minute tops. ED was the usual,  an extended elderly care ward. Clinician’s unable to discharge patients back to the community as there are no beds in the community to take them, nor are there any beds on the wards. Patients hooked up to drips, pain killing pumps, drains and catheter bags reading the dog-eared free Sunday Times supplement sat in the waiting room amongst the people that are yet to be seen. The scene represented a refugee aid station, the smell of bodily fluids and…cabbage! ‘Why the fuck does this place always smell of cabbage’ Carly said as their gowns swished into ED like a pair of super heroes.

Resus was an extended extension of the elderly care ward, only two major bays available for incoming trauma, Jock, the on-call registrar stood on the phone, he clocked Jo coming in, hangs up.

‘Jo, stop,’ ignoring one of his trainees, Jo carries on walking, he catches up with him, grabs his arm, Jo stops and looks down ‘please Jo, stop here.’

‘Whats going on’ he said, trying to peer over the work-surface.

‘Its Abi’ Jock said Jo looked at him ‘Abi’ he let it sink in, it wasn’t. ‘My Abi’ he asked.

‘Yeah, she called police apparently, I’ve intubated her mate, Doug Clarke is coming in.’

 Jo stood there, suddenly feeling vulnerable and exposed.

‘Jock, what do mean, my Abi and  you’ve tubed her, what the fuck’ he said, Carly gently took his arm, he snapped it away.

‘I don’t believe you’ looking at his wrist watch, he had only been away for a little over an hour, he pulled his phone out ten missed calls.

His legs became weak, he almost fell. Carly grabbed the polyprop chair form under the counter by the blood gas machine.

He clicked the phone open, with the missed calls, there was three text messages Jo, theres someone in the house, just called the police, pick up you’re fucking phone.

‘What happened Jock’ Jo asked tugging at his arm.

‘Mate, I don’t know, the police will fill you in, I have to get Abi up to the unit, do you wanna come mate’ he said.

‘Er, yeah, erm, lets go.’

‘What was the rationale to tube her’ Jo asked.

‘Her GCS was poor mate, she has a head injury, I bunged her in the scanner’ Jock turned to the screen, clicked the mouse, the familiar image of a brain rendered. The swelling obvious to Jo, covering his mouth and pinching his nose, his eyes saying everything. He scanned the image looking for the name, date of birth, hoping that the information on there was someone else. His heart sank Abigail Sharpe, the doctor was omitted to Just a Miss, Abi would have hated that. Stickler for accuracy and detail. 

Jo grabbed the edges of the work-surface, knuckles turning white, eyes closed. ‘I don’t get it’, Jock placed his hand on the nape of his friends neck and squeezed gently ‘I know mate, thats why I have Clarky coming in.’

Jo realised ‘shit Jock, sorry man, you and Abi go way back’ he said, he knew that that they were close friends form medical school. Jo was in shock and confused. But being the on-call registrar when a friend is wheeled in can be equally as disturbing, Jocks eyes were glistening as they filled. Jo grabbed him, ‘I’m glad it was you here brother’ almost hugging the life out of him.

‘I don’t understand, I literally left her just over an hour ago, she was in bed asleep.’

‘Ive informed the police, they want to talk you, Jo.’

Jo nodded, out of respect, he asked ‘can I see her mate.’

Jock stiffened, ‘fuck, course Jo, just..you know…’ he grabbed Jo’s shoulder, ‘…be prepared buddy.’

Jo walked round the counter, Abi laying motionless, her skin exposed. The bruises peppering her body like someone attacked her with a Sharpie. The mauve side under her nails along with the emergency team detritus littering the floor told Jo that she had been lucky. 

He looked up at the monitor as he curled his warm hands through her cold fingers squeezing. The steady blip of Abi’s QRS complex on the ECG gave Jo reassurance that she was okay. This was a far he wanted to go.

‘Shit’ Jo said squeezing Abi’s hand, ‘where Oliver,’ frantically looking around the bays.

‘Jo, its Okay, you’re neighbours have him, you’re parents apparently are on their way to pick him up. The Police have said that he’s safe bro’ Jock said, scribbling into the notes.

The mood changed, Doctor Clarke had entered resus, nick named the Sith lord, an air somewhat like Darth Vader. The path cleared. He stood at the end of the bed. Jo always shit himself when Clarky walked in, even as a consultant. But today was different. Clarky and Jock were speaking but Jo heard nothing. People were milling around, things happening in slow motion. Images of Abi, lying on the beach, washboard tanned tummy, the soft downy hair swirling on her belly. Abi sipping a hot chocolate on the mini break to Copenhagen last year. The smell of her hair. The beeps and the familiar sound of the ventilator rushing aid in and out of Abi’s lungs. 

‘What the fuck’ he said sitting. He didn’t know the chair was their but the sub conscious had clocked it.

It had been two weeks since Abi had been rushed to the ED. Jo had been to work three times, light duties. After Abi was extubated, her short term memory was vague with what had happened. The rape kit had indicated that a sexual assault had taken place. 

The indignity of laboratory reports, Jo’s semen was present and having to give a sperm sample was the final indignity as a DNA would have taken weeks. Present also was a spermicide, condom, the bastards had consciously thought about gloving-it up. The police doctor asking Jo, if he sometimes wore one.

‘She’s my wife’ he said. The investigation was driven callously, without feeling or regard to Jo or his wife. ‘Some couples practice weird stuff’ the police said. 

‘Like the presence of a condom’ Jo said, he looked at the floor ‘we have maybe used a condom three or four times, and that was years ago, the chances are it the intruders.’

The policeman stopped scribbling ‘alleged.’

Apparently lubes carry the same spermicide in them that are used for sex toys.

The police had already moved on, ‘unlikely find the perpetrators responsible, but if we do, we will be in touch.’

‘So thats it’ Jo said, ‘my wife had been violated and you have just sat there and said that you won’t find them.’

‘What about the pikey’s down the road on the lay-by, have you spoken to them.’

Dick and Doof as they had become known as to Jo, looking awkwardly at each other ‘The travellers down the road from your house have alibis, theres nothing we can do with that, its a dead end!’ 

Frustrated, Jo was driving home after another pointless meeting with the police. Gripping his steering wheel, he realised that his jaw ached. He was sat clenching his teeth, biting down, grinding. The car winding its way through the leafy lanes back home, passing the hospital. The lay-by came into view, without thinking, he swung the car into the lay-by, the tyres bumping over the curbs and rubbish from over spilling bins. Screeching the brakes. Pale faces turned and stared. He didn’t think, he was seeing red. Got out the car, his arms not swinging, fists clenched, shoulders ridgid, the door left open. 

The door of one of the caravans swung open, creaking on it’s hinges. A large burley man, well dressed in Levis, a Timberland shirt and Nike trainers stepped out wiping his hands with a towel, eyed Jo walking from his car. The pale faces turned to the man, waiting.

‘I want to speak to whom ever is in charge of this…this, this’ he was looking around ‘this shit hole,’ Jo’s schooling giving him away amongst the ramshackle lay-by. Eight caravans, huge and pristine nestled between four horses, multiple engine blocks, sofas and washing machines, weirdly one was running. It seemed incongruous to Jo that it would working outside. Pallets up ended created a gate. Faces looked up, Jo had counted twenty children, filthy and angry looking. Well trained.

The man stepped down ‘dat would be me’ he said. His voice gruff, heavily accented in Irish, the lines ran deep through his face giving him a menacing look. He was big. Hands like shovels, his nose had seen the wrong end of  more than one fist, ‘dis ‘ill be my shoit ‘ole’ he said.

A small boy stood on the other side of the pallets spat at Jo, the globulous phlegmy gloop spattered against Jo’s top ‘fucking hell’ Jo shouted.

‘Aways witcha yer wee shoite’s’ the man barked, the children ran off laughing. The young boy that spat at Jo stayed, eyeing him with hatred. Gripping the top of the pallets, Jo noticed the boys knuckles blanching white, the sneer across his face unsettling. A giant hand of the man cupped around the boys face pulling away ‘go on yer wee langer.’

Jo noticed the Northern Irish accent, it was harsh, brittle, intimidating.

The man stood, ‘yer from down de road’ he said picking at his nails, not giving Jo the eye contact he needed, he didn’t give Jo the chance to reply, ‘Oi know why yis ‘ere’ spitting on the floor, he stepped closer and stared right into jo’s eyes. Jo’s bravado disintegrating and rapidly being replaced with dread.

‘What ever yis looking’ for, yer not gonna fend it ‘ere’ he said, his eyes blue and piercing into Jo, suddenly feeling vulnerable. 

Jo heard a car pull up behind, he glanced over, his BMW now blocked in by another car. All four doors opening. Jo’s heart sank, his guts twisted, the feeling of contrite was cursing through his veins like flames on petrol.

Five sidled up, sandwiching him. A hand pushed him against the pallet, sniggering. One man was badly beaten, that was some time ago, the yellowing of the bruises looked unsightly.

‘Yer gran Billy’ a voice said.

‘Aye, we’re good, this doctor was making and house call, he’s about to fuck rioght off aint yer Jo,’ Jo stunned that the man used his name

The men filed through a small gap that was made, the bruised man the last, he leered at Jo, a shiver rattled through him. Billy lovingly tapped the man on the side of the face thee times ‘Git yerself in de caravan and wait for me dare.’

Jo watched the men walk casually down, entering different caravans.

‘Calum’ Billy pointed to his face ‘the one with the bruises, he’s your mahn’ Billy lent onto the pallets ‘Oi dealt wi’ ‘im for was ‘appened’

‘You think beating the animal that raped my wife is appropriate.’

He shrugged ‘it’s our law, I hurt him for you’s, he was sorry, wat else do ya want.’

‘I want him to go to prison.’

Billy shook his head ‘I canny do dat, Jo’ the vowel emphasised.

There was a finality to Billy, he wasn’t going to budge.

‘You can fight him if you loike, to de death. We feed either of you’s to the pigs, thats how we deal wit things here.’

Jo looked over Billys shoulder, the brushed man was stood away back, looking bit pensive ‘but I will warn you, Calum is a tasty bastard, knows how to use ‘em ‘eh’ billy said adopting a boxers stances and throwing a coupe of punches.

‘This isn’t over’ Jo said.

‘Don’t start something you canna finish Jo’ Billy said. .

‘Oi make it my business to know what I need to know, you get me eh, you understand that I have to protect my family.’

‘What about my fucking family’ Jo hissed.

‘Aye, I get tyou, but you can settle dis wit a fight, you name the time, we can set he up.’

‘I am not going to fight your baboon’ Jo said Billy started to laugh ‘a baboon, he is that alroight.’

The standoff was papalble, Jo out of his depth, feeling worse now than when he had arrived, Billy broke the silence ‘go home Jo’ his voice compassionate and friendly, the Irish rouge softening. It took courage, courage that Jo didn’t really realise that he had. He sighed and turned on his heels, walked slowly back to the car.

‘Can you move your car please’ jo ask, Billy still resting o the pallets laughed ‘I canny do dat Jo, but remember’ he said pulling out his phone, ‘I got you on de camera, don’t scratch me car.’

Jo’s phone vibrated, sat next the anaesthetic machine in theatre B in day surgery, Abi had text him.

Milk, and grab something for later that has a high carbohydrate and sugar content.

Jo smiled, clicked reply, sent a thumbs up emoji. He was amazed how quickly Abi had bounced back. Extubated a day later, discharged from ICU the day after that. Three more days on one of the wards then bounced out, back home.

It had taken Jo and Abi’s parent a herculean effort to get the house back to normal. The smell of fresh paint, some new furniture filled both of their nostrils when they entered the house. Jo thought that coming back home would be a problem for Abi, but she took it in her stride. Sometimes Jo would catch Abi caught in thought, pain and anguish on her face as her eye relived the moment she couldn’t really talk about right now. Classic suppression. This was going to bite them on the ass at some point further down the road, Jo knew it.

Looking at the screen and ticking the sea of seagulls on the anaesthetic chart, Jo was startled with a crash in the anaesthetic room. He peered around the door, Carly was own her hands and knees. Spent syringes and needles littered the floor.

“Wow, what the…’ Jo said, she looked up, her face said it all. The eight litre sharps bin had tipped off the mount, hitting the floor sending three kilos of half used syringes and needles across the floor.

Morphine, fentanyl, remifentanil, rocuronium, atracurium, potassium…

Jo bent, picked up a syringe, labelled potassium, he rolled the small cylinder in his fingers. Three millimetres of potent potassium. Jo was thinking, his mind entering a dark portal of his psyche. The  thoughts stabbed and ebbed. His moral codes and strict medical ethics hung its coat up at the door and he entered feet first.

He net again, picked up a morphine syringe. Ten milligrams diluted into ten millimetres of saline, standard dose! But we don’t always give the full dose Jo thought. Four millimetres of Pablo Escubar’s finest narcotic. He bent again, picked up a five millimetres syringe of atracurium. Rolling the three syringes in his hand, peeling off the label atracurium, and replacing with the label morphine. He held the syringe up to the light. Clear, like morphine.

‘You gonna help or what’ Carly said, snapping Jo out of his trance. He squatted on his haunches snapping some gloves on. He reached and started two carefully gather the syringes up.

‘What happens to the sharps when the bins are full’ Jo nonchalantly asked gabbing throwing syringes in one at a time.

‘Er, they go to the incinerator, I think’ Carly stopped, ‘actually, they do get incinerated but I stick ‘em in the back corridor. We have to wrap them in this tape now’ she said brandishing a roll of fluorescent green tape.

‘Why’.

‘Cos those Pikey’s right.’

Jo stopped, ‘what do you mean those pikey’s.’

She gestured with her thumb behind ‘you know, the lay-by near your place, they come here and rob the bins.’

‘For the drugs’ Jo asked.

‘Yeah, they nick them, crack them open and then either use or sell the opiates in the syringes, police have checked it out but no-one’s been arrested’ shrugging ‘we have to tape them up now, don’t see how that works to be honest.’

The psychological room that Jo had entered, the door slammed shut, darkness enveloped his mind, a plan was evolving.

Three days later, a Saturday. The trauma list ran smoothly. The coffee room full of home cooked food and cakes. Empty pizza boxes filled and poked out the sides of the recycling bin. It was familiar to Jo, he loved these days. Easy work, with great colleagues, footie being constantly switched to the Disney channel. The usual male to female stand offs. The odd male standing up for the females and the like wise for the men. It was a healthy banter and an escape from the sourness of home. Jo was sat brooding. Sloped on his chair, legs crossed at the ankles, his lips resting o the hot rim of his coffee mug.

Grabbing a small four litre sharps bin was easy. No one blinked an eye when Jo was in the store room, even finding the time to have a conversation about engine oil with one of the ODP’s. He didn’t even ask. Jo had gone to the changing room, pulled out his rucksack, inserted the bin into the gaping hole. It didn’t even touch the side. Again, no one asked. People bumbled into the changing room, the eyes of men avert as soon as eye meet. There is an etiquette, and asking questions about clothing, bags and body appendages would be crossing the line.

He tinkered with the bin further, breaking the self sealing tabs that lock the bin into place, making access to the contents almost impossible. Placing the bin next to the anaesthetic machine in the anaesthetic room. Sipping his tea in the coffee room, having just checked the bin, already half full. The bin would be overflowing by the time he left the department at 8PM.

Jo’s plan to fill the bin was simple. Each patient required his standard mix of drugs. A twenty millimetre syringe of propofol for induction, 200 mic’s of fentanyl for quick acting pain relief and laryngeal relaxation, ondacestron, dexemethosone for sickness and a one shot antibiotic of the surgeons choice. 

Today, each patient had also potassium to stop the heart, suxethmnuim to paralyse quickly, atracurium to prolong the paralysis, 5% marcain to flood the smooth muscle of the heart with local anaesthetic causing the heart muscle to stop, twenty milligrams of meteraminol to cause a massive spike in blood pressure. A smidgin of tranexamic acid to coagulate the blood, which would start clotting as soon as the vascular system stopped suddenly. Any opiates such as morphine and fentanyl that were left after each case would also be added to the conception. A bot of morphine would give the high before that massive cardio-vascular and potential brain bleed from the blood pressure spike. This was all before the other drugs had their effect. The bastard that takes it will have a blood stream the viscosity of thick honey, with total cardioplegia preventing then heart form beating. Death would be real, constant…felt. The three minutes the shit-bag takes to die will be locked in to the body, unable to call for help due to the total paralysis from the paralysing agents. Lactic acid and build up in the muscles causing acute pain while the build up of carbon dioxide would be unbearably painful. The three minute threshold, the user will feel the brain dying, a slow agonising death as the brain cells burst and mitochondria switches off organelles in the one hundred billion cells. One, then three, then six, within a minute, the brain would be one third fried. In the unlucky event of a resuscitation, the user will be a cabbage, living in a wheel chair and shitting into a nappy, In six minutes they would dead, guaranteed with no chance of reversal or resuscitation

 labelled morphine and thrown into the sharps bin. Working with Carly, she didn’t see, if she did, she didn’t ask. At the end of each case, Carly used the bin to dispose of the drugs used for the patient. It was 4PM and they had smashed six patients, the bin was filling steadily.

The plan was to get the bin in the hands of the pikey’s with out first creating suspicion in the hospital but also the 

Get the sharp bit the hands of the gypos -car park and sees some of them hanging around. They cruise the corridors at night, especially any the weekends. Steeling anything that isn’t nailed down.

Leaves the bin by the door to the mortuary, by the bereavement centre. His car is parked opposite, about twenty metres away. Sits and waits.

The bin duly taken by some scrotes.

Hes made sure that he is on call on the sunday… the first comes in and then another, then another. Jo recognises one of the men he saw the other day, Callum, the bruises had heeled a bit more, bu the there was another bruise on his face. Dead.

Jo notices Billy, sat by the ambulance bay. Leaning against a post. They have a conversation about what he had done. And that karma had been served. Billy accepted it and said that the game was well paid and the debt that had been settled. They shook and an ambulance swings into the bay.

Carly is stretched off. Unconscious, arrested, and then another and then another. A major incident is called. The injured from a club in the city centred had all taken a drug that had killed everyone. There are approximately twenty deaths as well as other ambulatory patients going to another hospital.

Billy leans in and say care full what you wish for, pats him on the back. He knows exactly whats happened. As soon as his boys started dying, he shipped the remaining boys into the town to peddle the contents of the syringes in re-packaged syringes. Gave them out for free.

Jo now has to live with the not only the revenge of killing the pikies, but know innocent people have been killed