His visitor was not a very impressive man. Truth be told he was quite the opposite. About thirty years old, his suit was rumpled and, Arnold noticed, torn in a couple of places. Jet black hair had been carefully slicked over a prematurely balding head and a mournful hollow-cheeked face gazed mournfully at him for a moment. It was then, that ignoring the pain as he moved his eyes, Arnold saw that the man’s face was scratched and his left hand was bandaged, and not very recently as the white gauze was grey and in some places distinctly black.
‘I see that you’re awake.’ The man had a distinct midlands accent. Was the pointless comment to give him time to think of something intelligent to say?
‘Apparently,’ Arnold said, already disliking the stranger.
Spying a chair filled with Arnold’s bag and clothes the man gently deposited them on the floor and sat down. Arnold decided to have some fun with the man, if for no other reason than because he was bored, and pain always made him flippant. It replaced anger which always got him into trouble.
‘And who are you?’ He decided not to look at the man again; it hurt too much and it was time for the other to do the work.
‘You can call me Ron,’ said the man with a groan as his bandaged hand hit the wooden arm rest of the very low chair which Arnold could no longer see as it was lower than the level of his bed, which itself seemed to have been designed by the Marquis de Sade. He remembered that from the last time he’d been in hospital, and the bruises the rigid frame had left on him. ‘We need to talk,’ said the now disembodied Ron giving up the fight with the chair and struggling to his feet, an action which caused him considerable pain if the realistic groans were anything to go by.
‘Are you from the Inland Revenue?’ demanded Arnold just for something to say. After all it was only the beginning of the new tax year and provided he deposited something with the blood suckers before December they really had nothing to charge him with.
‘Ronald Jenkins,’ said the man now appearing before his eyes, his face even paler now. ‘And I don’t work for the Inland Revenue.’ Arnold began to tire of this. He was sore, he was confused and the anger he had meant to feign was now real.
‘And what do you want from me? If you think I’m going to pay the owner of that crappy warehouse then you can think again. It was the damn boxes that fell on me. All I was doing was guarding the place. If people can’t stack boxes properly then I might just consider suing the man who owns it. And if you’re his solicitor then you can go and tell him to get stu...’
The man held up his hand, the bandaged hand; the movement obviously causing him pain because he instantly dropped it where it fell against his leg, clearly causing him even more pain for with a jerk and muffled swear word he held it back up, obviously not sure where to put it.
‘No, Mister Pratt, I don’t work for the owner of the warehouse, I work...’
Well if you don’t work for him why did you tell me you did? And if he’s getting some ambulance chaser to work for him you can tell him from me that...’
‘Mister Pratt, please.’ Ron’s eyes bulged with either agitation, frustration or fear. Or perhaps all three. But Arnold was not finished yet. '
‘And you “No win, no fee” wallahs aren’t going to get a penny out of me. You wait till I get the Health and Safety people onto this. I reckon they might do some suing of their own.’ Well in the swing of it now Arnold opened his mouth to begin the next round but was prevented from saying another word by the return of the nurse.
‘Are you upsetting my patient? Because if you are you can leave. And you have to leave, anyway,’ she announced with malicious relish, ‘because visiting hours are over.’ She stood before him, magically grown with her fury and as if afraid that the now wavering bandaged hand was about to strike her, pushed it rudely to the side, provoking a howl of agony from the man who opened his mouth to speak, or to shout but again was prevented by the nurse’s other hand. Maybe she was trained in martial arts for a second later she had spun him around and using his good arm for leverage hustled him from the room. From the outside the outraged voice of his visitor was easily overpowered by the nurse promising to fetch the security people and have him thrown off the grounds. And no she didn’t want to see his ID and if he pulled anything else out his his pocket she would get the police to bang him up.
‘He’s gone,’ she said, returning to the room, once more magically shrunk to her previous size. ‘I’ll tell the security to keep an eye on him and if he comes back he’ll be sorry.’ She seemed to be enjoying herself, perhaps someone else had been annoying her and Ronald Jenkins, whoever he was, just happened to be the the brunt of her wrath. ‘Do you want something to eat? It ranges from absolutely horrible to just eatable.’ Arnold smiled at a kindred spirit, but shaking his head thanked her.
‘Can I go in the morning?’ he said. The bed was no hurting him more than his bruises.‘You can go now if you like. Your body came back clean, or rather,’ she smiled, ‘your body scans came back clean. You’ll be in pain for while but you’re fine.’ That was enough for Arnold.