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Part 3

Chapter 4

‘Fuck! Fuck! Oh… fuck!’

Both men knelt down next to Martin – Mannion still cursing like a stuck “Parental Advisory” record. Douglas didn’t touch Martin. He was still out cold, and there was a considerable amount of blood. He shouted to the PA, still frozen in the doorway, to call an ambulance. She darted out, closing the door on the half dozen curious faces of busybodies out in the waiting room.

‘Fuck. That’s him.’ Mannion sat back, his hands clasped to his face. ‘That’s Martin, isn’t it? Oh, shitting Christ, what have I done? I’ll tell you what I’ve done – I’ve just greeted my son for the first time ever by breaking a chair over his head. Fuck. Fuck!’

‘And to think,’ muttered Douglas, ‘he was only saying to me last week that he wasn’t sure how much this whole mess could get any more like Jeremy Kyle.’

‘I didn’t mean to hit him! He was just… there, all of a sudden, and…’

‘No. You were meaning to hit me. I understand.’

‘I wasn’t trying to… it was a warning swing!’

‘Oh, of course. I didn’t realise we were fighting by the Marquis of Queensbury Rules. How could I possibly have forgotten the time honoured tradition of the famous Warning Chair Swing?’

‘Oh, God,’ groaned Mannion. ‘I’m so sorry. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.’

Mannion stayed with Douglas as he accompanied the still unconscious Martin and what blood there was left inside him in the ambulance – quietly “fuck”-ing all the way.

A few minutes after the ambulance had set off, Martin’s eyelids fluttered.

‘Oh, thank fuck,’ breathed Mannion. Douglas hushed him.

‘Martin. How do you feel?’

‘My head,’ grumbled Martin, drowsily. ‘Where’m’I?’

‘In an ambulance,’ Douglas told him. ‘You had a pretty nasty crack to the head. We’re taking you to the nearest A&E. Which, now that Mannion’s lot has had its claws into the NHS for the past two years, will probably take us another half an hour or so.’

‘Now really isn’t the time,’ protested Mannion.

Martin moved his gaze blearily on to Mannion.

‘Oh God, y’re both here,’ he slurred. ‘Awkward.’

‘Slightly.’

‘J’mind ‘f I jus pr’tnd t’still be nconshss frabit?’

The Paramedic with them in the back cleared her throat. ‘Actually, Martin, we need to know what happened to you.’

Martin gazed from the Paramedic to Mannion and back. ‘Floor was slippy,’ he managed. ‘Fell. Chair broke m’fall.’

‘And I suppose that explains Mr Mannion’s injuries, as well?’

‘I slipped too,’ said Mannion, quickly. ‘Trying to stop young Martin from falling. Although it appears that I only made things worse. I’m very sorry about that, Martin. I really am so sorry.’

‘And you managed not to slip,’ added the Paramedic, turning to Douglas.

‘For one man to slip on the floor is unfortunate,’ said Douglas. ‘For two men to slip is rather ridiculous. For three men to slip would be utterly unbelievable.’

‘Right,’ replied the Paramedic, with an arched eyebrow. ‘Well, however it was you hit your head, Martin, you’re going to need a couple of stitches, but apart from that, you should be fine. OK? Nothing seems broken.’

‘Thank God,’ sighed Mannion. ‘So everything’s going to be all…’

His phone went off.

‘Would you mind switching that off?’

‘Fuck. Fuck.’ Mannion glared at the caller number. ‘Sorry. I really do have to take this.’

‘But you can’t…’

‘Sorry. One moment.’ Mannion’s one concession was at least to turn away from the others as he answered the call. ‘What the fuck is it now? No, I can’t! I’m in a fucking ambulance, that’s why! No, not me, although thank you so much for that hypothetical sympathy. It’s my... one of my constituents. Slipped over at surgery, so we’re off to… well. To surgery. For stitches, you idiot! NO! Not me, him! Because I want to make sure he’s all right, all right? Caring MP sees injured man to hospital… no, it doesn’t fucking well indicate blame… yes of course he’s going to an NHS hospital, where else should I take him, the fucking vet…?’

-x-

Mannion’s phone call lasted for the rest of the ambulance journey, and was still going strong and sweary when Martin was taken in to A&E. Mercifully, Mannion took the rest of his call outside, and allowed Douglas to accompany Martin by himself.

‘Why did you do it?’ Martin asked, when they were finally alone – or as alone as they could possibly be on an A&E ward bed with a curtain around them. ‘Why couldn’t you just leave things be?’

‘Because you were miserable,’ replied Douglas, ‘because I felt he should know, and because I thought it might help. But mostly, because I was angry. Have I disappointed you?’

‘I don’t know.’ Martin frowned. ‘I should be disappointed. Well… actually, I suppose I should be furious. But I’m not. I mean – I’m not exactly delighted about any of this either, but… I’m glad to have finally met him. And I’m sort of glad somebody shouted at him on my behalf.’

‘I didn’t just shout at him, Martin. I punched him in the face.’

Martin blurted out a laugh. ‘You didn’t!’

‘Where do you think the bruise on his cheek came from?’

‘Douglas!’ Martin stifled his laugh. ‘You know I really don’t condone that or approve of it in any way.’

‘I know. I apologise. It was reckless and brutish of me. Particularly knowing how much you hate violence…’

‘I do!’

‘And that you’re certainly not the type of bloodthirsty ghoul who’d be in any way flattered by the idea of being physically fought over.’

‘Yes. Well. Martin settled back on his bed, arms folded. ‘Certainly not when I end up bearing the brunt of it. As usual.’

‘Of course.’

There was a short pause.

‘For I am the man,’ crooned Douglas, softly, ‘who will fight for your honour…’

‘Oh, pack it in, Douglas.’

‘Packing it in. Sir.’

Part 5
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