Clean Cut(3)
Author:Lynda La Plante


    Anna nodded. She knew about the massive media coverage of the issue of illegal immigrants, not just how many per se, but how many had been released from prison to disappear without trace, and not just robbers, but armed killers and rapists. It was, as Lewis said, beyond belief; now Langton was paying a terrible price. Lewis, she could see, was also suffering. She changed the subject.

    ‘Why haven’t they allowed any of us to see him?’ she asked.

    ‘Well, he was taken back down to surgery earlier, so I dunno what’s happening, just that he’s not doing too good.’

    As if on cue, a surgeon approached them–one they had met previously. Hugh Huntingdon was a big, affable man and young, considering his qualifications. He drew up a chair to sit beside them.

    ‘We’ve been working on your friend all day, and I think it’s time to bring you up to date. Until now we’ve not been able to ascertain the extent of the damage. So, you want it straight?’

    Anna nodded; he was so calm and easygoing, she felt relaxed. She noticed that both Lewis and Barolli were calmer, too.

    ‘Okay. We have two ferocious machete wounds–one to the chest, and one to the front of the left thigh. The one to his chest sliced through his ribs, just above his nipple, thankfully avoiding, by some miracle, his heart.’

    Huntingdon had a clipboard; he flipped over a couple of pages until he found one blank, and took out a felt-tip pen. ‘Okay,’ he said, rapidly sketching, ‘this is the chest and lung area: his right lung is incised, and so are some of the blood vessels. This has caused a haemopneumothorax, which makes breathing very difficult, and that’s why he’s been on a ventilator since he was admitted. This situation can be fatal. One of the reasons we are keeping him in the ICU is to avoid any kind of possible contamination; if he were to get pneumonia, I doubt he’d have the strength to combat it.’

    Huntingdon looked at his cell phone, on silent; he clicked the caller onto his voicemail and then returned it to his pocket. ‘Sorry about that. Okay, I have no wish to sound such a doom courier, but you wanted it straight. Mr Langton lost a lot of blood, so he needed transfusions; he also had to have his chest drained. All this, combined with his leg injury…It’s really very serious. The wound to his leg has affected the joint. He will need an operation but, due to the chest injury, we’ve got that on hold for the time being. The most important thing right now is we keep him clear of infection. Knee joints are buggers, and he’ll be in a lot of pain, but now for the good news: he’s one hell of a fighter and he is right now holding his own, so all I can say is: keep your fingers crossed.’

    He smiled and flipped the pages back over to cover his drawing. ‘You were lucky to have him brought here. We’ve got a great team working on him. I’m one of the best around!’

    Huntingdon stood up and shook their hands. His cell phone must have trembled again in his pocket; he took it out as he walked off down the corridor.

    They remained silent for a moment. Then Anna stood up too.

    ‘He’s going to make it, I know. I liked that doctor a lot.’

    ‘Me too,’ said Lewis.

    Barolli remained sitting, looking at the floor. ‘Yeah, but that’s his career down the tubes. He’s never going to be able to get back to work.’

    Anna turned on him angrily. ‘Yes, he will, and don’t even go there. He’s going to be working and he won’t need any kind of negative response; we keep his spirits up when we are allowed in to see him. Agreed?’

    They all nodded, but there was a very uneasy feeling between them. They each, in their own way, adored their Gov. It was just unthinkable that he would not pull through.


    SIX WEEKS LATER

    It had been six frustrating weeks with still no result. Anna had been given special leave, and she had spent the time visiting Langton daily. There had been emotional moments that she had found difficult to deal with, not just because of her relationship with Langton: it brought back memories of visiting her beloved father when he was dying of cancer. They were similar in many respects, both such fighters, but her father was resigned to his death and, by the end, wanted to go quietly and peacefully. They had been so close; his love for her and his constant encouragement never faltered, and she adored him. There was never any need for any kind of reproach. His intention was that she should be strong when he had gone. He worried that she would be on her own, but she assured him he had given her a backbone like his; she would be able to cope with life without him. He asked often if she was lonely; she had always insisted that she had lots of friends and had made many new ones at the Academy. This was not actually the truth; she did not have many close female friends and had no boyfriend at the time. Her father had died peacefully, holding her hand, but her loss felt all-consuming. She was glad he had never seen her distraught; never seen her grief become almost unbearable.

    There was no such grief with Langton–he was going to survive. When she had at last been allowed near him, he often asked for her; sometimes when he dozed off, he woke saying her name. She would then grip hold of his hand and whisper that she was there beside him.

    ‘Good; it’s good to know you are here.’ He had a rasp to his voice that sometimes made it difficult to understand what he was saying.

    She had told him often how much she loved him, but he had never reciprocated by saying it back. She wished he would, but took as confirmation the way he smiled when she walked over to his bed. He complained about the food, so she often brought M&S sandwiches and chicken; however, he hardly touched it and it was usually Anna who polished off the grapes left by his many visitors from the murder team. Visiting hours were almost all day and she had to ask the nurses not to allow him to tire himself out.

    Anna had just got home one evening when she received the call to return to the hospital. Just as it seemed Langton was on the road to recovery, they had a terrible setback. They had successfully operated on his knee joint, but he caught a chest infection, which developed into septicaemia. When she was told the news, she almost fainted. For two days and two nights, Langton’s life hung in the balance. The time spent waiting to hear if he would survive was dreadful. Yet again though, he surprised the nursing staff: to their amazement, he pulled through.


    SIX WEEKS AND FOUR DAYS

    Eventually, Langton recovered enough to be sent to a police rehabilitation home. Glebe House nestled deep in the English countryside; its location was deliberately kept secret from the public by the Met. The atmosphere was ordered and yet very relaxed. The house had a fully equipped gym, spa and medical facilities, as well as a bar and a restaurant, and only 140 beds. In the previous year, almost 3,000 police officers had been there, mostly on a short-stay basis. Priority was given to injured officers; the staff were therefore well prepared for the amount of physiotherapy Langton would require. There were also a number of highly qualified psychiatric staff, as many officers arrived with stress-related issues and required counselling. Anna had been relieved when Langton agreed to be transferred; she knew she would be unable to deal with him in her small flat until he was physically recovered. He was a dreadful patient; even the nursing staff at St Stephens were glad to see him leave. They didn’t make Langton aware of it; quite the reverse. A few had written cards wishing him a speedy recovery, and two had brought flowers, but the way they gave encouragement to Anna, and warned Langton to behave himself, made her aware of how much trouble he must have caused. He even got angry about being helped into the wheelchair to take him down to her car; he had wanted to walk, but he was so unsteady that he had been forced to sit on the bed whilst she packed up his few belongings. He moaned and groaned, but did at least thank the staff, handing the boxes of chocolates that Anna had brought around to the nurses.

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