Wednesday - 5:24pm Outbound

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Damien was doing his rounds of the general ward of the hospital. He checked his watch and decided that as soon as he had finished doing the observations for the last few patients, he would go down to the main entrance and hopefully get most of a cigarette in before Lawrence and his mad mate Ben showed up. He had a suspicion he knew what they wanted to talk to him about, and he thought that if he could get a good hit of nicotine into his system before they arrived it would help him answer their questions with a lot more calm and indifference than he actually felt.

He finished up with the second to last patient and wheeled his little blood pressure trolley into the next room, giving the police officer at the window a nod that was barely returned as he entered. It had been strange, at first, the cops hanging around this old man twenty four seven, but Damien had gotten to know a couple of them over the past day or two, and they were generally happy enough to have a chat to relieve the boredom. The old man had done nothing but sleep since he got here, and it was no wonder when Damien saw what drugs they had been pumping him with - enough to put a race horse to sleep for a few days, he thought. The young officer who was on duty now - Damien knew him only as Constable Platt - had been rather chatty last night, had let slip that Mister Walter Spinner, the old guy, had been witness to a murder down at Redton station, and he, Platt, was waiting around until he was awake enough to be questioned. Damien had pricked his ears up at that, and tonight he was determined to get some more information from him.

He leaned over Mister Spinner, and shook his shoulder gently, "Mister Spinner," he said in a slightly raised voice, "Mister Spinner, it's Damien Everett, I'm an orderly here at the hospital. I've come to do your obs - your blood pressure and such. Mister Spinner!"

As usual, the form in the bed muttered slightly, flapped his hands weakly, and fell back to sleep. Damien sighed loudly, disentangled the old man's arm from the blanket, and wrapped the blood pressure cuff around the old man's withered bicep. While the automatic blood pressure monitor sighed and moaned its way through its routine, Damien inserted the thermometer into a fresh disposable sleeve and stuck it into the corner of Mister Spinner's mouth, resting it carefully so it wouldn't fall out from between the slack lips. Instead of waiting idly while the measurements were taken, Damien turned to the police officer, watching him from his post by the window.

"So, Constable, how's things? Sick of waiting for His Nibs to wake up yet?" he said with a slight chuckle and a thumb jabbed in Walter's direction.
"Yeah, you bet," Platt answered, "You guys must have him on some heavy duty gear, he barely opens his eyes at all."
"Hmm. Yeah, it's pretty heavy painkillers he's on." Damien replied and then asked cagily, "So, do you reckon he did it?"
Platt laughed slightly, "Nah. No way he could in his condition, I reckon. But I reckon he could've seen who did do it. He's about the only half solid lead we've got right now. I want to be the one to question him. Earn me some brownie points with the boss." Platt winked roughly at his own quip, his face screwing up slightly as he did so. Damien stared at him, thinking how very young and inexperienced he must be to give so much away so easily, either that or extraordinarily bored, he thought wryly.

The blood pressure monitor squawked just then, and Damien turned back to the machine. He pulled Mister Spinner's chart out of its plastic holder on the end of the bed and scrawled the number displayed on the monitor into the book. He retrieved the thermometer from the old man's mouth and recorded that too. His eyes fell on the opposing pages as he did so, where there was a list of the different drugs that had been fed to him through the intra-venous drip. It was mostly saline to keep him hydrated, but they were giving him some pain killers intra-venously now that he wasn't waking up enough to take the tablets all the time. An idea began to blossom in Damien's mind. He became so pre-occupied with the thoughts in his head that he forgot to say goodbye to Platt. He realised later that he should have thanked him.


Megan stretched out in bed, feeling the muscles and tendons in her back relax and realign as she moved, causing pain that was the forerunner to total relaxation as the pressure came off her strained spine. The baby within her kicked and rolled as she stretched, finding room it hadn't had before and, she thought wryly, probably gearing up for a night of acrobatics. Dalton watched her as he undressed, the corner of his mouth lifting as he watched his wife's look of pleasure when she straightened out. He pulled on a pair of cotton boxer shorts and slid into bed beside her, his hand slipping over her satin-covered belly to feel the baby move, pulling himself as close to her as possible.
"How do you feel, honey?" he murmured gently,
"Mmm. Good. Tired." She yawned as she said it, then turned her head to look at him, "I'm glad we went to see Walter."
"Hm. Well. I guess it wasn't all as bad as I thought. Still, the trip wore you out. I don't think you should be doing so much walking."
"You're trying to change the subject." Megan said, playfully poking him in the ribs as she said it. "Besides, the baby can come along whenever she's ready to. Much as I don't really want to go through it, I'd rather have her out than in at the moment." She stuck her belly up as far as could to emphasis her point, "I feel like a beached whale."
Dalton laughed, "Yeah, but you're the cutest beached whale I've ever seen." He looked at her quizzically, "and since when was the baby a she, anyway?"
Megan winked, "Since Great Uncle Walter told me so."
"Ah, so that's what he told you is it? Any other prophesies I should know about, then?"
"Prophesies? No, I don't think so," she said airily and then, her tone becoming serious once more, "But he did go on about some strange stuff, I thought. Asking me to pass on messages."
"Oh really? What kind of strange stuff?"
Megan shrugged, the afternoon had taken a strange turn toward the end of the visit. "I don't know. I really don't know."
There was a pause as husband and wife got lost in their own thoughts. Megan was wondering if there was more than met the eye with her great uncle. When they had arrived, Walter had been in the room on his own, only barely awake and, after the initial introductions and a brief recapping of her mothers' branch of the family tree, he had nodded sagely and they had spoken of general things, centering mostly on the pregnancy and the imminent birth. They had been discussing using private versus public care (the Richmond's had chosen private due to the previous complications Megan had experienced), when a uniformed police officer had entered the room. He had only been young and, seeing guests, had nodded politely at Megan and Dalton, and had ducked back out of the room. Megan had at first thought he must have been visiting a sick relative of his own and had come to the wrong room by accident but as they had gone to leave, he had been sitting patiently outside, waiting for them to leave. Megan had started slightly at this, and had begun to replay the conversation she had held with her great uncle, sifting through it for clues as to the presence of the policeman. Unsuccessful, she had nodded politely at him and grabbed Dalton's arm, wondering if he was going to question the man or walk straight on past. It was then she had heard the wavering voice from within the room, calling, "Oh, Megan, love!". She had patted Dalton's arm then, to instruct him to remain where he was, and had gone back into the room.

Walter was sitting up slightly, looking worn out after the visit, yet a spark lit his eyes from within, as though he had a very important message for her. The uncomfortable thought crossed her mind that this was how he would look if he had a dying wish to impart, some final parting words on his deathbed, but she pushed the thought to the back of her mind. She doubted he was dying, just convalescing, recovering from his hip injury. She stepped to the bedside, the chairs they had been using had been replaced so she perched on the edge of the bed as best she could with her swollen belly. Walter had found her hand, his paper thin desiccated skin rasping against hers as he had spoken, "I want you to know something, lovey." and Megan had nodded, steadying herself. "There's a lot of bad eggs between your mother and I, but all of that is water under the bridge, now."
Megan nodded again, wondering if she would ever find out what 'a lot of bad eggs' might entail, and resolved to question her mother at length about it one day, when Walter continued, "But I want you to look up a name for me, find this girl's family, and pass on a message. Can you do that, love?" Walter's faded blue eyes pierced her suddenly, searching her face for honesty, and she nodded again. Finding her voice, she said "I can try, what's the name?"
Apparently satisfied with the answer she gave, he nodded sagely, and instructed her to find a piece of paper and a pen on the side table. She did as instructed and, using the cheap blue pen on a piece of paper emblazoned with the hospital's logo, she had written down the name as Walter spelled it out from memory.
"Find her mother, her father, and tell them this. I don't know what happened, but I am sorry, so sorry. No young person deserves what she got, and no parent deserves to have a child taken from them in that manner. I wish I could have done more. I should have done more, and I will live in debt to that family for not doing more. And now, seeing you with child, you need to make sure you keep that child tucked under your wing. Teach them how to fly, but always fly right by their side. Do you understand, child?"
Megan nodded yet again, mutely this time, not understanding what had caused this monologue, but somehow feeling its powerful undercurrent, the emotion behind them if not the meaning. She put down her pen, where she had been scribbling the message he had given her and wrapped both hands around her unborn child, caressing the skin as though her own body no longer existed as a shield between her and her offspring, and she stroked the skin of the child itself. Tears sprung to her eyes, unbidden, and she swiped at them quickly, forcing a chuckle when Walter looked at her questioningly, "Damn hormones," she muttered under her breath. But it was not hormones that caused the tears this time, it was the deep emotion she had felt in every one of her great uncle's words, even though she didn't fully understand the meaning.

Walter nodded again and, with a little burst of energy, he sat up slightly in bed and reached out with his hand, placing it feather light at the top of her belly, where the swell begun under her breasts. He had looked directly into her eyes, his gaze searching her own, and she had resisted the urge to look away, to blink. Eventually, he had dropped his eyes to her belly again, and looked back up. "She's going to be a lovely little girl, Megan. Healthy, too," he laughed as a kick swelled the skin around his hand. Then he lifted his chin towards the door, "You'd best be going, I think. Your husband is looking restless."
Megan looked up to see Dalton's head poking around the corner, and she smiled at him and stood up, smoothing her long maternity shirt over the elastic-waist pants she wore. She planted a kiss on Walter's rice paper cheek, and whispered as she did so, "I'll find them, I promise." As she lifted her head, she saw Walter's smile, and at that she turned and walked back to her husband. She grabbed his arm and the two had left the room, leaving Walter to sleep.

Once Megan had described all this to Dalton, he looked at her, bewildered, and sat up straight in bed. She smiled as he thought this over. She had always loved the way he thought things through slowly, so carefully, before making any move. He would not speak before he had ordered his thoughts, would not lift a tool before he had planned the project from start to finish, would not make a mark on paper until he knew what he was going to write.
Eventually, thoughts apparently organised, he lifted his head, and said, "I think he's just an old man, Meg. It's probably something that happened forty, fifty years ago. Look it up if you must, but the message seems hardly full of meaning."
Megan had nodded slightly, "It meant a lot to him, though, I think. I would like to do it. Maybe not now, immediately," she said, laying a hand on her stomach as reason, "but eventually."
Dalton nodded and sank back down into the sheets. Megan did likewise, turning on to her side. Her back was to her husband and Dalton wrapped a strong arm around her, pulling her in to the curve of his body. They lay together, breath slowing in duet, when, sleepily, Dalton murmured, "What was the name, anyway?"
Megan pressed back into the warmth of his body, enjoying the heat despite the warm night, and trying to sink further into sleep, not wanting to talk, said, "I don't know, it was a pretty name, Ariana something?"
Dalton's eyes flew open at the name, "Ariana Mathers?" he said, awake now.
Megan turned to look at him, relinquishing the thin hold on the threads of sleep that she had, "Yes, I think so. Why?"
Dalton looked suddenly pale and, whispering, said, "That was the girl at the station."
Megan started, and rolled over to look him in the eye, "The dead girl? Just the other day?" she questioned.
Dalton simply nodded. Neither got much sleep that night.


When Ben arrived at Lawrence's place at half past nine, they were both as jittery as each other. They had climbed into Ben's car and driven in silence for a while, before Lawrence had finally piped up, and asked Ben if he thought that Damien had had anything to do with it. Ben had thought about this for while, chewing at his bottom lip for a while, and when Lawrence had been about to ask the question again, he finally answered, very deliberately, "I don't know. I don't think so. But he can at least fill in the next part of the story. I mean, the last either of us saw her was when they left the party. He went with them, so I guess he will be able to tell us what happens next. Maybe he will be able to tell us if she went off with someone, what his name was. But I think that, if he knew anything of any significance, he would have said something by now. I mean, you live with the guy, you would have noticed if something was off, right?"

Lawrence nodded miserably, thinking that he probably wouldn't notice if something was "off", to use Ben's words. He'd had a few weird days himself with all Elouise's strangeness going on at work, and anyway, he didn't see Damien all that much when he was on night shifts. Lawrence shifted uncomfortably in his seat, wishing suddenly that Ben had never called him, and he had never gotten dragged into this mess.

Well before Lawrence was ready to confront his flatmate over the matter, Ben swung his car into the emergency entrance and stopped in the space marked "Reserved for Ambulance". They could see Damien leaning against the wall to the left of the main entrance doors, he had a smouldering cigarette in his hand that had burned down to the filter. As they got out of the car Damien took a last hopeful drag, dropped it on the ground amongst the dozens of others and squashed it under the heel of his soft-soled shoe. He looked up at them through half-closed lids as they approached. He graced Lawrence with a smile, a "Hey, Larry" in greeting and a small nod before turning to Ben and glaring at him. Ben dropped his head as though ashamed, and muttered, "Sorry about the calls mate, I forgot you were doing nights. I was a bit hyped."
"No shit." Damien deadpanned. He sighed slightly, "You're lucky I'm talking to you at all man. Now what to do you want? Did someone get a bit too wasted at your party and you're looking for someone to lay the shit on, huh? Well, I'll tell you, I'm not doing drugs anymore, okay? None, nada."
Lawrence saw the look on Ben's face as he reassured Damien that that was not the reason for the visit, thinking that Ben looked more frightened than he ought to for some reason. Lawrence suddenly realised that Ben thought Damien had done the girl in, despite what he had said in the car on the way over. He was frightened, Lawrence thought as he watched him talking, just about quaking in his boots, like he thinks Damien will do him in next.

Lawrence thought that he had to cut Ben off from talking, before he dug himself into a hole he couldn't get out of. Lawrence held up a hand to Ben to get him to shut up, for god's sake, just shut your mouth. Ben turned to him with wide eyes that were clearly asking Lawrence to help him out. Lawrence jumped in and started speaking,

"Ben. Mate. You know that girl Ariana that I was chatting up the other night at the party? Yeah?"
Damien looked vague for a minute and then said, "Ohh, you mean the brunette with the tits? Yeah, she was awesome. Did you get it on with her? Lucky asshole!"
"Nah, I wish!" Lawrence chuckled, settling into the banter and then called on all his social skills to get him through the next bit without sounding strained, "Well did you hear about the dead body they found at Redton station? Just near our place?"
Damien shook his head, and Lawrence ploughed on through, "Well, her name was Ariana Mathers, and it made me think, you know, maybe it was the same girl. I had a think about it, and the last I saw of her on Saturday night she was walking off down the road with a bunch of her mates form that lot that gatecrashed. The thing is I thought I saw you with them, and I thought that maybe you could tell us what happened after you all left the party. I mean, I didn't see you again until yesterday afternoon, and then Ben here called me about the dead girl they found at Redton and I thought maybe we had better see, you know," The rush of words faltered and stopped, and an awkward, somehow solid silence hung in the air between them as they waited for Damien's answer.
Damien made a face and gave a nonchalant shrug, "Nah, nothing happened. There was me and few of the other guys, and that girl, what did you say her name was? She was all over a couple of the blokes, saying they were going to back to someone's place and have a threesome. She had pills in a little plastic bag in her pocket. I don't know what they were, but whatever it was she was enjoying it. E's I guess." Damien shrugged, "Anyway, I didn't want a bar of it, I'm off the gear now. Anyway, they went one way and I jumped on the train to Redton and went home. I only spent maybe ten minutes with them. Sorry mate. Do you really think it was her?"

Ben looked suspicious, Lawrence just felt relieved, and it showed on his face. He shrugged in response to Damien's question. Somehow it was seeming less and less likely that it was the same girl. He turned to Ben, "C'mon Ben. Let's go back. I'm totally had it. You've been dragging me all over town and I've gotta work tomorrow."

They were turning to leave when Damien suddenly piped up behind them, “Hey Ben!”
Ben whirled around quickly, and Lawrence caught a look at his face, stricken with terror. He stammered slightly but settled for gaping silently at Damien, waiting for him to speak.
"Ben, weren't you with that group? I thought I saw you loitering around in the background when the girl was handing out her pills."
Lawrence peered at Damien, trying to figure out if he was serious, or just winding them up.
"Nuh, not me mate." Ben replied, recovering his speech, "Must have been someone else you saw."
Damien looked doubtful for a second, then cracked a grin, "Gotcha there! See ya round." He said, and turned on heel to head back into the hospital, still chuckling.

Ben and Lawrence moved to the car, but Ben wasn't laughing. In fact, he looked furious, Lawrence thought.


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