Descent Into Panic

Chapter 5

"Sam? You okay, Sam?" Al bent over his friend, who was trembling and deathly white. His eyes were getting that glazed, terrified look again. He didn't respond, or even acknowledge that he saw his friend. He was hyperventilating.

"C'mon, Sam," Al chided. "Don't go all phobic on me again. These people need you to save them."

Sam shifted position enough to disentangle his legs from the other two where they had landed together, but otherwise didn't respond.

Ziggy chirped.

"Good idea, Zig," Al commented. "Sam, Ziggy says do some calculations in your head, or recite multiplication tables or chemical formulae or something. She reckons it'll calm you down. Can you hear me, Sam?"

For a while Al thought he had lost his friend to the terrors, but gradually he could see that he had gotten through, and Sam was following his advice. He observed a slight movement of the lips as Sam went through his mantra under his breath, '... tw-twenty one times nine equals one hundred and eighty nine; twenty two times nine equals one hundred and ninety eight; twenty three times nine equals two hundred and seven...'

It was a measure of how tough a battle Sam's brain was engaged in that he'd chosen something so basic, but at least he was holding his own. Al sighed with relief.

While Sam was thus regaining self-control, Drew picked himself up and, having seen that Mr. Quincey appeared physically unhurt, turned his attention to Mr. McFarlane, who hadn't moved since he landed, nor opened his eyes.

"Is he…?" Miss Kingston was the first of the others to move. She looked at the lift attendant and hoped he wouldn't make her voice her fear.

"Uh-oh, Sam," Al became aware of the others as his concern for Sam receded a notch. He consulted the hand link. "You better check him out, Sam, he doesn't look so good."

Sam took a deep breath and fought to still the tremors in his hands. Swallowing hard, he forced himself to get up off his still aching back and join Drew in looking at the fallen McFarlane.

"'You okay, Drew?" Sam asked as he moved around, guessing the young man had felt the strain of their efforts much as he had and wanting to make sure he was fit for the trials to come.

"A bit sore, but I'll be fine, thank you sir," Drew reassured him, giving his lower back a quick rub.

Sam turned his attention to McFarlane and was able to reassure the now tearful Miss Kingston. "He has a pulse," he announced. There was a collective exhalation.

Sam then lifted the eyelids and looked at each of the pupils in turn. "Looks like he may have a concussion," Sam declared, feeling the back of McFarlane's head and finding a large lump. Damn, this was a complication they could do without.

At this point the young man groaned and his eyes flickered open. His hand went to the back of his head as Sam's had just done. He groaned again, "Owwwww, my head!"

"Lie still," Sam advised, as Jerome made a feeble and short-lived attempt to sit up. "Can you tell me if it hurts anywhere else?"

McFarlane thought about it, though thinking made his head ache worse. "Dunno," he declared after a while, his voice little more than a mumble.

"Okay, just lie quiet for a while." Sam began examining him from head to toe, feeling for broken bones. He was just starting to hope they'd gotten away with it when he reached the left ankle.

"Garrrrrrrrrhhhhh," yelled McFarlane, arching his back and clenching his fists, "What the bloody hell...?"

Ms Mancini huffed and looked disapproving at this outburst. Sam ignored her.

"Sorry," Sam apologized to McFarlane sincerely, wishing he had access to an ice pack to help reduce the swelling and numb the pain. "It's broken, but at least it appears undisplaced," he pronounced.

Simultaneously, Ziggy returned her second opinion.

"Dr. Beckett is correct," she corroborated. "Jerome McFarlane has sustained a moderate concussion, in addition to a fracture to the left lateral malleolus. He does not have any internal injuries, nor is his life in immediate danger from his injuries. He should however seek medical attention at the earliest opportunity. Left untreated - especially if he puts any strain on the injury - there is a danger of the fracture displacing, leading to a vulnerability to arthritis."

Sam took off his jacket and folded it neatly, placing it gently under the injured limb to elevate it. The waistcoat became a pillow. McFarlane groaned softly with each shift in his position.

"I don't suppose you carry a first aid kit?" Sam asked Drew, more in hope than expectation.

"I'm afraid not," Drew shook his head regretfully.

"Would my glove be any use as a temporary bandage?" Bryony offered helpfully, starting to pull on the fingers of her left glove.

Sam smiled appreciatively, but shook his head. "Thanks, but it's too stretchy, it wouldn't give enough support."

"Drew, help me please," Sam instructed, getting the attendant to smoothly raise McFarlane's lower leg and support it. "I'll be as gentle as I can, but this will probably hurt," he cautioned the invalid.

Sam then carefully proceeded to remove the shoe on the injured foot. McFarlane drew in a sharp breath, and then let it go with a shudder, followed by, "Arhhh. Shit! Shit!" He slapped the floor with the flat of his hand, emphasizing each expletive.

"Well, really!" complained Allegra Mancini indignantly, obviously not used to hearing such profane language.

"Get over it!" Sam shot at her unsympathetically. He was normally pretty easy going, and tried to see the best in everyone. Right now, though, his nerves were raw as he fought not to succumb to another panic attack, and he was in no mood to suffer pomposity. He was finding Ms. Mancini and the other two men were really irking him with their self-importance and superior strutting. They were going to get a harsh reality check soon, and Sam was almost looking forward to seeing them having to swallow their pride and get with the program or die. He shook his head, trying to rid himself of the uncharitable thoughts.

By contrast to the opera singer, Bryony knelt down and took hold of the young man's hand, resting his head in her lap and stroking his forehead with her other hand. "Take it easy, it'll be over soon," she encouraged. Sam spared her another grateful smile.

Sam took the handkerchief back out of his trouser pocket. Though he'd used it earlier to wipe the perspiration from his face, it was not going to have direct contact with the skin, so he'd have to risk that it would be hygienic enough. He was pleased that it was of generous dimensions. Folding it diagonally in half he made a triangle. Putting the top two corners to the center and then folding it over in half again, he made a long narrow strip. Then he put the center of this strip underneath McFarlane's foot, crossed it over on the top, and took the ends round to the back of the heel where he tied them together. He made sure it was a snug fit across the fractured bone, without pulling it so tight as to risk further damage. Nevertheless, McFarlane winced as Sam tied it off, and gripped Miss Kingston's hand rather tighter than was comfortable. She bravely gave him a reassuring squeeze in return, without complaint, though her eyes watered a little.

Sam met her eyes and acknowledged softly, "Thank you."

"It's far from ideal, but it should help a little until we can get you to a hospital," Sam then told his patient. "Meantime lie as still as possible."

"Thanks," McFarlane finally acknowledged, starting to nod and then thinking better of it.

"No worries," Sam returned, though personally he had quite a few right now.

"Mr. Quincey," McFarlane put out his free hand and caught Sam's arm, pulling him down so he could speak to him without raising his voice.

"What is it? Are you in pain somewhere else?" Sam looked worried. Ziggy hadn't mentioned any other injuries, but then Ziggy had been wrong before.

"I heard... I'm sure I heard... an alarm, a fire alarm! The hotel's on fire!"

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