[Novella – 17, 500 words approx]
The day John Russell became a Have a Go Hero, for accidentally foiling an armed bank robbery, was the day his life changed forever, and all he’d wanted was a nice cup of tea.
An hour or so after John had fallen asleep, the door opened slowly and quietly. Two figures, a woman and a man, crept into John’s room. Both were dressed in white coats with stethoscopes around their necks and both glanced back over their shoulders to check the corridor behind them as they crept into John’s room.
Once they were safely in the room, with the door shut, they both let out the breath they’d been holding, stood up straight and brushed down their white coats. They checked each other out and nodded their approval to one another as they tried to give the impression of professional confidence.
The woman tuned to the man, leaning close as she whispered. ‘If we do this right, it might just be my ticket back to the front page. Instead of wasting my time on this inside page filler stuff, I’ll be back where I belong – with all the celebrity scoops – real journalism.’ Still watching his face, she reached out towards the photographer’s crotch, watching carefully as his eyes widened in increasing pain and alarm as she squeezed. ‘So, don’t bugger this up for me – all right?’
The photographer shook his head frantically.
The reporter tilted her head and squeezed again, even harder. The photographer whimpered in pain again. Then – when he could open his eyes once more – he saw that the reporter regarded his head shaking as the wrong response.
He nodded frantically instead.
The reporter smiled at him. The photographer attempted a weak smile in return, shifting uncomfortably as he tried to rearrange his trousers.
The reporter let him go. ‘I’m so glad we understand each other,’ she said. ‘I think we might make a great team…. Come on, let’s get on with it.’
The reporter sidled up to John’s bed and coughed.
She coughed again. John began to stir. He opened one eye and looked up at her.
‘Hello… er… Mister… er….’ The journalist hastily grabbed John’s chart from the bottom of his bed. ‘Er… yes. Mr Russell. I’m doctor… doctor… Harumph and this is my associate, doctor… A-hem hem.’
John opened both eyes, turned on his light and made a feeble attempt to sit up. ‘Sorry, I didn’t quite catch your… er…?’
‘Yes, well. I see from your chart that the… your… er….’
‘Temperature?’ The photographer offered.
‘Yes, thank you, Doctor a-hem hem…. It says here…’ She tapped the chart ‘that your FA over blood index pressure is verging on the acute. I’d better just….’
She began to mess about with John’s wrist, looking for – but failing to find – his pulse. ‘So… tell me Mr Russell, can I call you John? Tell me, John, how long have you been married?’
‘Eight years, but we were living together since we left university. Acute blood index pressure? Is that serious? It sounds serious.’
‘No, it’s just… er… routine. Tell me, was that woman, you were in the bank with, your wife?’
‘Debbie? No, she’s a friend. From school days, as it happens….’ John turned to look at her. ‘Anyway, what’s that got to do with my blood whatsit index thing?’
‘There are sound medical….’
‘Clinical!’ The photographer said, nudging the reporter.
The reporter glared at the photographer. ‘There are sound medi… clinical reasons for every question we ask you, Mr Russell. So, if you could just co-operate? It is in your own interest.’
‘Oh, yes. Right…. Sorry. But I was warned about some tabloid reporters prowling around.’
‘Really? How strange. Anyway, it… er… my colleague here would like to take a few photographs… of your… your injuries… for….’
‘For our records,’ the photographer interjected.
‘….For insurance company purposes.’ the journalist said, glaring at the photographer for interrupting her and making a squeezing motion with her hand. The photographer gulped and took a step away from her and began preparing his camera.
‘So… this… Debbie. Just how good friends are you?’ the reporter asked.
John stared at her. ‘I don’t think that’s any of your busin….’ He glanced from reporter to cameraman and back again. ‘Hang on, are you really doctors?’ John struggled to sit up and take a close look at the female doctor. ‘Hey, I thought you looked familiar. You were that reporter in that court case a few months ago – you broke into someone’s hospital room… some soap star! I saw you on the news!’ He fumbled for his alarm button and pressed it, while putting his other hand between him and the photographer, blocking the camera.
‘Come on, Suzy. Let’s go! We’ve been rumbled!’ the photographer said, turning to go.
The reporter and the photographer ran for the door.
Just before she left the room the journalist looked back at John, pointing her voice recorder towards him. ‘So, John… Mr Russell. How long have you been shagging this Debbie woman? Does your wife know?’
From the corridor outside, the photographer grabbed for the journalist’s arm, trying to pull her from the room. ‘Come on Suzy! Scarper! That nurse is coming and she’s armed!’
The journalist turned back and peered around the door. ‘Armed?’
‘Yes! She has a bedpan… and it looks like she’s going to use it!’
The journalist shrugged her arm free from the panicking journalist and turned towards John once more, shouting from the doorway. ‘So, John, how doe sit feel to be a Have a Go Hero?’
‘A what?’ John said wincing as his head throbbed in pain.
The reporter stared at John, about to ask the question again when a loud metallic clang came from outside the room.
‘Ow! Shit,’ the photographer yelled from the corridor. ‘Leave me alone! I’m going… I’m going.’
The reporter glanced around the room in panic. She ran to the window and forced it open, then jumped out.
There was a soft thud from outside and a long, low moan.
Nurse Lloyd strode into the room carrying a dented bedpan. She noticed the open window and smiled broadly. Laughing, she walked over to close it.
‘What’s so funny?’ John said. ‘I was having my privacy invaded.’
The nurse hung the clipboard back on the foot of John’s bed. ‘Just below this window is where they leave the bins full of stuff for the incinerator. She just landed in a bin full of used nappies from the children’s ward.’
John smiled in satisfaction as Nurse Lloyd straightened his pillow and sheets and helped him lie back down. ‘Somehow, that seems like an apt fate for a tabloid journalist,’ he said.
Nurse Lloyd nodded. ‘Anyway, settle down now. I’ve alerted security, so there should be no more interruptions or intrusions.’
‘No trouble at all. Good night.’
‘Good night, and thank you, again.’
Nurse Lloyd picked up the battered bedpan and then turned down the light before leaving and closing the door behind her as John tried to get comfortable enough to go back to sleep.
Have a Go: A novella – by David Hadley: