The storm in his eye

With the help of Mandi’s chosen topic for day 7, things are about to get extraordinary.

(If you are joining our tale today, welcome! Feel free to start the journey here.)

The storm in his eye. J R Manawa.

Rather impatiently, she watched the nurse’s face as the needle was removed from her vein. She couldn’t look at the needle because, well, because she couldn’t look at needles.

“How are you feeling?” the nurse asked, snapping the latex gloves off his hands.

“Grim,” Emmeline said.

He laughed, “You’re actually whiter than a sheet right now.”

“Yes, and it seems it was fainting that got me into this mess,” she said, depreciatively of herself as she pressed the cotton ball he offered to the tiny puncture in her skin.

“Indeed, so don’t go doing it again.” His smile wasn’t patronising at all. It was kind and warm. Emmeline peered under the cotton wool to see if there was any blood. She was glad it hadn’t been the same nurse from earlier who removed it. Briefly she wondered what ridiculous word the woman would have used to describe a fear of needles.

“Well, this has been a great way to spend my New Year’s Day,” she sighed as the nurse tapped the cotton ball down on her arm. She had completely forgotten it was her birthday.

“You and thousands of others would agree,” he said with a nod. The carnage across central London on New Year’s Eve always meant the emergency rooms were full.

“Except that thousands of others don’t have cops waiting to speak with them and a destroyed house to go back to.” She wouldn’t use the word home again.

“Oh,” he said, pausing in his clean up.

“Yeah, oh,” Emmeline maintained the conversation purely because she didn’t know what else to do.

With a good amount of concern he said, “Well, you have been discharged, so you are free to go. You can speak with them now if you like.”

“I don’t want to.”

This time he gave her a really funny look.

“My grandfather is missing,” she said. The reality of this fact was sinking in now, far beneath the teary surface it had hit initially.

“Then you should probably speak with them,” he replied, mortified.

Emmeline pursed her lips, ‘And what?’ she thought, ‘Tell them that my parents went missing when I was ten in exactly the same way? No thanks.’ Tell them that there was a shiny black top hat sitting on the end of her bed that didn’t belong to her, and that there was something about the way the door was smashed in that reminded her of an animal attack, rather than a human invasion? No.

“I’d rather not,” she said finally, watching the telltale shadows of the policemen’s rounded custodian helmets through the smoky glass doors of the ward.

“I’ll tell them to give you a few minutes to get ready,” he said, picked up his tray of needles and wrappers.

Emmeline said nothing as she watched him go to the door, but once he was gone the shadows moved away from the door, and she made up her mind. She sat up and pulled her boots back on, grabbed her coat from the chair and zipped it up to her chin before throwing her bag over her shoulder and marching out the door. She did it calmly and precisely, and walked straight on without looking back to see if anyone was following her. Certainly no one yelled after her.

It wasn’t till she got to the corner of the corridor that she glanced back over her shoulder and realised that the policemen, one man and a woman, were already following her.

“Miss Kharon!” The woman called.

Emmeline broke into a sprint at the corner, and jumped into the first elevator that arrived on the landing.

Miss Kharon! Emmeline!

The doors of the elevator pinged shut.

Emmeline stopped to breathe, and rested her head against the silver wall.

“That was stupid,” she announced out loud.

“Yes, you are possibly right,” said a voice behind her.

She spun around.

Her nurse was in the elevator, the nice male nurse. But it wasn’t him that spoke, and he wasn’t alone.

“Who the hell are you?” Emmeline snapped at the man who stood behind the nurse.

He had a gun to the head of the nurse.

In itself, this perhaps wasn’t that extraordinary. Probability and mathematics told Emmeline’s mind that living in London she was likely to come across a man with a gun at some point in her life. She hadn’t expected that moment to happen in an elevator at a public hospital while she was trying to escape two policemen, albeit, but some things cannot be planned.

There was a moment of transition in her mind when she looked into the gunman’s face and realised that he wasn’t there for the nurse. He was young, maybe only a few years older than her, and unkempt like he’d had a rough night. His hair was dark, and his clothes were torn and covered in dust. But this was not what disturbed Emmeline, it was something different altogether.

The storm in his eyes.

Emmeline wasn’t quite sure how to describe it, and in reality she only had a moment to take it in before the situation changed. But there was a storm in his eyes.

It wasn’t normal. Just like the top hat, and the bonnet, and the scratches on the door.

All this happened in the second it took for him to laugh at her words.

“Funny, aren’t you?” he said, his words not at all funny.

“What do you want?” Emmeline asked the gunman, as she looked into the face of her nurse with concern.

The nurse said nothing, but his breathing was erratic and his face was sweating beads.

“It’s not about what I want,” he said, exasperated at the obvious point that Emmeline was clearly missing, “it’s about what I need.” He clarified, “What we need.”

“I don’t have any money,” the nurse spluttered.

“Shut up!” the gunman said.

An instinct completely opposite to the one that told her to fear needles took over in that moment, and she leaned against the wall ever so carefully while he was talking and nudged the buttons on the elevator control. All of them.

“What have you done?” the gunman demanded as the elevator slowed on its descent.

“What do you want?” Emmeline repeated, her voice as calm as she could manage.

“You know what I want,” he snapped at her, waving the gun in her face.

The doors of the elevator started to open.

“Then let him out here or you don’t get it.” She said. She didn’t know whether to be relieved or terrified when the doors opened and the corridor beyond was revealed to be empty. But she hid her feelings as best she could, and kept her eyes locked on the storm in the gunman’s.

She almost wished he guessed that she was bluffing. Why was she trying to play the hero? That was stupid, irrevocably stupid.

“Well?” she asked, as the doors began to close.

In a sudden burst, the gunman threw the nurse out the door. The nurse tumbled to the floor, looking back in horror as the lift closed with Emmeline still inside.

“We are going to go for a walk,” the gunman said flatly, once the doors closed.

Emmeline said nothing.

“Look, we all just want to go home okay?” he continued, keeping the gun level at her chest, “And every time, you just don’t get it.”

“I have no idea what you are talking about,” Emmeline told him. The elevator hit the next floor, and the doors opened.

“Get out,” he said with exasperation. “We are taking the stairs.”

At the bottom of the stairwell, conscious of the gun only a few feet behind her, she opened the fire exit doors and walked calmly out, and into the arms of the waiting policemen.

“Miss Kharon,” the policewoman said, “you really do have to come with us.”

Emmeline turned, but the doors clanged shut behind her, and the gunman was nowhere to be seen.

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