As she drove along, she suddenly found herself remembering that ridiculous film You’ve Got Mail with Tom Hanks and that (red-headed?) woman whose name she could never recall – where the two main characters hated each other at the office but fell in love over the internet. Now, what on earth had made her think of that? She gave the thought an irritated shove to the back of her mind – focus, India, focus!
For his part, Harold was glad to be out and about again and actually doing something – well, sort-of, anyway. Agent India had been the one actually tasked with looking for Reverend Box and he had been sent along, he suspected, to get him out from underfoot, as it were. He didn’t mind though, it was not like he had any devastating insights to offer or any master strategies that would solve the whole mystery. So far his only real use to the team had been as a door-opener of all things – oh, and an ad hoc bomb disposal operative. Actually, that last one was pretty cool, though he did say so himself. He smiled to himself as he stared out the window.
They were passing the construction site, so a sign proclaimed, of 64 luxury apartments with underground parking. A couple of cranes towered overhead, carefully tending their concrete nest. Always building things, these humans.
“I wonder why they call them apartments?” he said, by way of conversation.
India glanced at him and then back at the road.
“No idea,” she replied. “So you can live apart from everybody else in them, I suppose.”
“Pity they don’t build togetherments instead,” Harold said.
“I would have thought you’d relish the idea of humans all living apart in lonely misery.”
“I certainly would,” piped up Teatime. “It’s no more than they deserve. Beastly creatures, most of them.”
“Well I wouldn’t wish that on anyone,” declared Harold.
“Really?” India hauled on the steering wheel and made a right turn. “I thought the whole point of your existence was to increase the sum of human misery by any means possible.”
“Not at all,” replied Harold. He could answer this one with textbook accuracy, having heard it repeated many times by his fellow demons. “Our purpose is to distract mortals away from the light. Misery is often a by-product, of course, and it’s sometimes a tool, but it’s not the point of the exercise as such. We don’t hate humans, you know.” Actually, Harold knew, some demons did hate humans with a vengeance, but most regarded them as merely the material of their trade, like leather to a cobbler or iron to a blacksmith. A material to be worked on.
“Well excuse me if I don’t believe you,” sneered India, “ but it seems to me that, doing what you do, you can’t exactly have our best interests at heart, can you?”
“Hey, don’t blame me! I didn’t make the rules.”
“Ooh, now where have I heard that before?”
“It’s true, though!”
“If I may interrupt for just one moment what I’m sure is going to be a most fascinating discussion,” said Teatime loudly. “We are almost back at the house and we’ve seen no sign of Reverend Box. I suggest that, as we don’t know what has happened to him, we should park along here somewhere and approach the house cautiously, just in case.”
Box was drifting in and out of cosy cotton-wool land. At one point, he was sure he’d heard one of the nurses say something about a parachute, but there was no sign of one anywhere, so that couldn’t have been it. In the ER, they had cut his bike leathers off him to get at his injury (Darn, they’d been expensive!) and had dressed him in one of those stupid gowns with no back to them. Why’d they have to do that anyway? It was so undignified.
Box tried to focus. There was something important he should be doing. What had he been doing before ending up here?
Infinity Recycling! That was it! He needed to tell the others about the white van and the ‘field’ – whatever that was. He looked around him anxiously. Where had they put his phone?
Seeing him trying to struggle to a sitting position, a nurse came bustling over.
“Take it easy, Honey,” she said, pushing him gently but firmly back down into the pillow, “Just try to rest. Dr Morgan is just discussing your case with one of our surgeons. Looks like you’re going to need an operation on that leg. We won’t be long, I promise.”
“I need to make a call,” Box said. “Could you get me my phone, please?”
“Sure, Honey. Oh! Here’s Dr Morgan now.”
“Good afternoon, Mr Box!” Boomed the doctor with that brassy cheerfulness that medics all seem to employ around patients. He was a tall, greying man in his middle years, whose slightly protruding belly proclaimed him something of a stranger to hunger – or want, anyway. “Now let’s see about this leg of yours.” He continued, flipping the pages of Box’s chart. “ Our x-rays show that both of the bones in your lower leg have been badly damaged by the bullet – which is still in there, by the way – so we have no option but to operate and see if we can patch things up. I should warn you that there is a risk – a small one - that we might have to amputate if we can’t piece the bones back together. Dr Giordano will be performing the operation, though, and he’s a really first-rate surgeon. Nurse Hickey here will talk you through all the paperwork. Any questions?”
“How long am I likely to have to stay in hospital after the surgery?”
“At least a week, I’d think,” replied the doctor, “We have to make sure that everything settles in properly – we'd hate for you to come back in as a warrantee job, eh? Then you’ll be needing physical therapy for quite some time after that, I imagine. Now, I must get on.” With that, he turned and strode away. Box let his head fall back into the pillow.
This was terrible. He couldn’t afford to be out of the picture that long, but what choice did he have?
One thing was for sure, he needed to pass on what he’d found out as soon as possible.
“I really need to call and let my folks know what happened,” he said, “Can I have my phone now please?”
Across the street from the entrance to Mercy Hospital, two men sat in a white car.
“Yeah, Jackson winged him, but he got to the hospital before we could stop him and they’ve taken him inside.” One of the men explained. He was holding up his mobile so that its microphone could pick up both his and his companion’s voices and it was set on speakerphone so that they could both hear the woman on the other end.
“That’s not good.” said the woman, “Church didn’t get a look at him, so do we know who he is? Is he from RolexBoy’s list, even?”
“Well, he’s a little runty guy, he’s not black and he’s not a girl, so we’re going for him being Nathaniel Box.”
”OK,” said the woman, “Go in there and see if you can confirm it’s him while I find out what they want us to do about this mess. If they ask, tell the nurses you used to work with him or something.”
“OK, will do.” The man snapped the phone shut and turned to his companion. “Wait here while I go in.” he said, opening the car door and getting out.