We pushed one of the empty beds up against the door and one by one, we fell asleep; although I doubt that any of us were fully asleep. Deep in the night, the squeal of shoes on well-polished floors woke me up. I sat up and rubbed the sleep out of my eyes. I could hear whispering in the hallway. When my vision had adjusted to the darkness I saw Jim and Kate were sitting back to back on our bed barricade and listening to the hushed conversation that was going on outside the ward.
I made my way over to them. “What'’s going on?” I asked in a low tone.
They both turned and shushed me. I stepped closer to the door and leaned across Kate to look through the safety glass but didn'’t see anything, not even the movement of a shadow.
“They'’re in there,” a voice in the hallway whispered. The hospital was so deathly quiet that even a whisper carried a long way.
“Well, go tell them to get out,” a second voice said. “We were fine before they showed up.”
“We can'’t just kick them out in the middle of the night, Sean,” the first voice seemed uncertain and full of fear.
“Why the bloody hell not?” A third voice, this one was female. “If it wasn'’t for them, Gavin wouldn'’t be dead.”
“She'’s right, Mervyn,” Sean said. “When can you kick them out? Shall we wait for them to throw more of us at those creatures out there?”
Mervyn. Doctor Webb, conspiring with Sean and some woman, Sean'’s wife would have been my guess.
There was a long silence before Doctor Webb replied.
“No. I just...” Doctor Webb let out a long sigh. “I don'’t know.”
“Look, you'’re the only Doctor in this hospital,” the woman whispered. “They'’ll listen if you tell them to go.”
“Or we can get everyone up here and make them go,” Sean finished his wife'’s train of thought. “We'’ve got a lot of people downstairs wondering if their kids are going to die from the next great idea these idiots come up with.”
Gemma and Dodge padded across the cold floor.
“What you doing?” Gemma asked, half yawning and half sighing.
Jim, Kate and myself turned around and said, “Shhhh!” in unison.
“Sorr-eee,” Gemma crossed her arms huffily and slumped down beside Kate.
Dodge came around and sat next to Jim. Barney decided to stretch out on Dodge'’s bed and catch some more sleep.
“I think I heard something,” Doctor Webb said. “Why don’t we go downstairs and talk about this?”
“Justin and Emma said their daughter, Chelsea is scared to death of that big bald bloke,” Sean'’s wife ignored Doctor Webb and hissed like an angry snake that had been stepped on.
“I think she means you,” I looked at Jim and smiled.
“I fucking know she means me,” Jim kept his voice low, although he clearly wanted to shout.
“Scaring kids, now, Jim?” Kate asked with a big grin on her face. “That'’s just wrong.”
I controlled my urges and smirked rather than allowing myself a laugh.
“Fuck off,” Jim dismissed our jibes with a wave of his hand.
“So you can all talk but I'’ve got to be quiet?” Gemma then snorted loudly, the unmistakeable sound of a disgruntled teenager.
“Shush, Gemma,” Jim moved his ear a little closer to the door.
“So-not-fair,” Gemma stood abruptly and paced back to her bed where she flopped down face first and forced an agitated grunt into her pillow.
“You saw him fighting those monsters,” Sean said. “What if he turns on any of us? We won'’t stand a chance. He'’s a fucking psycho, Mervyn.”
“He'’s on our side,” Doctor Webb told him.
“Until we piss him off,” my mind'’s eye could see a forked tongue stabbing at the air as Sean'’s wife spoke. “He'’s already got it in for Sean.”
“You were at the meeting tonight and heard everyone agree that we'’re better off without them,” Sean’s voice grew louder. “Everyone.”
“They have children too,” Doctor Webb was trying to be the voice of reason but from what I'’d heard so far, he was just wasting words. “What about them? Do we kick them out too?”
“You heard what Travis said about them. Hoodie gangster brothers and a fifteen year old prostitute,” Sean dropped his voice until it was almost inaudible. “They threatened to kill him if he told us about them. He couldn'’t wait to be rid of them and around good, normal people like us.”
“Are those the kind of people you want living with us? Eating our food? Hooligans, bullies and tarts?” Sean’s wife asked.
“No, I...” I felt sorry for Doctor Webb, he didn’t deserve to be placed in the corner that they were putting him in. “They seem like decent people. A little rough but decent, hardworking people.”
“That little pikey fuck,” Jim muttered beneath his breath. “I'’m going to snap his scrawny junkie neck.”
I didn'’t think Jim would get the chance to hurt Travis before we got turfed out, but I wasn'’t going to tell him that. Besides, I would never bet against Jim Croft.
“Alright, Mervyn,” Sean said. “Let'’s leave them for tonight, but you need to make a decision.”
“You know it'’s the right thing to do,” Sean'’s wife said.
“Easy way, hard way,” Sean echoed Jim'’s words to Mason. “We don'’t want to fight them.”
“But we will if we have to,” Sean'’s wife spoke slowly, allowing the menace to sink in.
“Fine,” Doctor Webb sounded defeated. “I'’ll tell them in the morning.”
Sure enough, as soon as the morning sun peeked over the horizon, there was a tapping at our door. We were all awake and waiting for it, we'’d actually been talking about the whispered conversation through most of the night. Gemma was understandably angry that Travis had called her a prostitute, so angry that Jim would have to move fast if he wanted to kill him before she got there first. Dexy and Dodge were also angry, not for what Travis had said about them but because of the risks we had taken back at the flats.
“Should have just left him in his flat,” Dodge said. “Let him get boyed by dem monsters, init?”
Jim looked confused by the choice of words, but we all got the point, and to some extent, I think we all agreed. That'’s what this nightmare has done to us, we agreed that someone would have been better off dead. That an actual life, no matter how insignificant, was worthless. I told them that I felt responsible for Travis turning on us. Told them about the threat I had made when I found him getting high. Even though everyone said I did the right thing, I still felt bad.
“He'’s lucky you found him,” Jim said through gritted teeth. “You gave him one more chance than I fucking would have.”
It was comforting to know that I was almost human.
The Doctor knocked a second time.
I walked across to the door and looked through the thin strip window. Doctor Webb stood there alone. He stared down at the floor and looked as nervous as a wayward student that had been sent to the headmaster for a good talking to.
I pushed the bed barricade clear and opened the door. “Come in, Doctor.”
Everyone stood when he walked inside. Doctor Webb opened his mouth to speak but Jim didn'’t give him the opportunity.
“We know why you'’re here,” he stabbed the air with his index finger. “Sean and his merry fucking band want us out.”
“I'’m so very sorry,” Doctor Webb'’s voice was cracked with nerves. “I really am. They had a meeting and a vote and-”
“And they sent you up here to do their dirty work,” Kate said. “William told us you were a good man, Doctor.”
“I was...” He tapped his hand on his thigh. “I am... I didn'’t want it to come to this. I personally think you'’ve made this a much safer place than it was.”
“Then why are they making us leave?” I asked.
“Yeah we make this place safe and that'’s it? Cheers for that, you mugs, now fuck off?” Dexy waved his hand for effect.
“No, look, if you don'’t go peacefully then they'’ll force you,” he continued tapping his thigh nervously. “My hands are tied.”
“We'’ll go,” Jim said. “But not because of bullshit threats. If we wanted to stay, then there'’s fuck all that bunch of pensioners and beer bellied dads could do about it,” he stepped towards Doctor Webb. The Doctor moved back until he was up against the wall. “We'’ll go because we don'’t want to hurt them. Now, you go tell them that, and if they want trouble, then we'’ve got plenty of it.”
“Okay,” Doctor Webb twisted his body away from Jim and bolted for the door. When he reached it, he turned to face us. “I'’m sorry.”
“Oh, Doctor?” Kate held a finger up in a '‘eureka'’ pose. “Tell Sean that we’ll need the keys to his minibus.”
Doctor Webb nodded in agreement and hurried out of the ward like a rabbit being chased by foxes.
“Good call, sweetheart,” Jim said with a smile.
“Still not your sweetheart, Jim,” Kate told him. “Never will be.”
Jim winked at her and grinned before turning to the rest of us. “Right then, grab what you need and let'’s move the fuck out.”