Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Walter Wallace - Chapter 37

Whisky made his way down through the backstreets of Newport Haven. Though he assessed it only as a minor risk, he didn’t much like the idea of pushing his way down the small town’s main street through the crowds – there was a chance that someone (aside from Chips) who could spot him leaving his post.

He had taken a quick glance at the map on his phone before exiting the van and now he was running at a steady pace towards the hospital. He estimated that Chips would return to the van after 30 minutes at the most. This gave him 10 minutes there; ten minutes back; and then minutes at the hospital. The there and back again was the easy part – he could run for days if he had to – but he was still at a loss for what his plan, or even what motivation urged him to see Walter Wallace.

He took a left at the next street, having noticed a short cut on the map that would help him reach the hospital in good time. He rounded another corner and scaled a wire fence at the end of an alley before passing through an intersection almost at a sprint. He barely had time to recognise what had happened as his peripheral caught a flash of warning. He found himself pegged to a telegraph pole, breathing steadily and listening intently for the sound of approaching footsteps.

“Believe it or not I have come up to old Newport Haven a few times in my life.” The voice of Mark Tanenworth carried down the street, revealing his jolly disposition (and his physical position also). A light doorbell tingled and Mark’s voice became slightly muffled. “This pub is a favourite of mine. Match it with some of the best in the city, I reckon. Oi! You coming or not?” There was a slight pause which even Whisky’s heart dare not interrupt before the bell tingled again.

Whisky took a steadying breath and set off again towards his destination. He was quite sure that Mark had been oblivious to him, but he was not so confident about Stevie. This matter would have to be put on hold. The slow burning rush of emotion which began earlier that day was now gaining momentum. He had no memory of this vacancy that had opened up in his stomach like the smashed window of a jet plane at altitude. He had let so many things fall outside of the bounds of his control and what was left at stake was everything that he was, everything he knew. He continued to run and at the next corner the street opened up to reveal the greying exterior of Haven Hospital.

As he suspected there were a number of press related vehicles parked carelessly in the emergency lot. A parking inspector was handing out tickets to each individual van but the reporters saw it as a small price to pay.

Inside, the hospital was similar to a warzone. Nurses were fighting back reporters as patients were backed up on trolleys. Clearly the staff had never experienced such an event and the hospital was not designed to house so many injured. Whisky found it easy t bypass any security procedures and followed the trail of cameras and microphones to the third floor. It was not difficult to spot where Walter was from here. The press had gathered at Room 32 like food scraps in a clogged drain.

As Whisky hung back trying to formulate a plan on how to get in without causing a disturbance he finally had a stroke of luck – a superstition upon which he rarely lay hope or credit – but it was difficult not to on this day where all other pretence had already been dishonoured.

“Lucy? Lucy! Lucy!”

A dark haired woman in a hospital gown limped towards them from the far end of the hallway cradling a severely injured arm. Whisky recognised Dr Lucy Blues as a blessing and a threat. He was fairly confident she had never seen him during her research but could not say for sure and accepted that he would have to leave another outcome in the hands of fate. The press flocked towards the crippled figure and Whisky strode coolly over to Room 32. A policeman stationed at the entrance was swept away by the ruckus and Whisky whipped out a small paperclip and had the door opened and closed in a matter of seconds.

He turned, realising that in his haste that he hadn’t considered the manner of his entry – and further still had not concluded his initial intention – but he was completely caught off guard to find Sam Tank looking at him with raised eyebrows. Sam stood at Walter’s bedside with Walter himself sitting up. It appeared as though the two had been talking, and on rather friendly terms too. On the floor there was a doctor’s coat. Sam had a name tag around his neck but the actual tag was tucked behind his shirt collar. The shades had been pulled shut and the television was up at a noticeable level. Whisky collected all this information within half a breath but at no point could he find a way to explain to either Walter or Sam what his business was.

“Whisky!” Walter said, beaming and still very surprised.

“You...know this man?” Sam said cautiously. Whisky knew the business acumen of Sam Tank. He was quick to take initiative and could assert his influence with superb efficiency. What he didn’t know was Sam’s motivation for being in this room or how he would interpret the arrival of the Boss’s main henchman.

“Yeah this is Whisky. He- Well he actually tried to kidnap me.” Walter said honestly, tagging, “but I think we cleared that up in the jail cell.”

“This is quite alarming news then. We certainly didn’t hear of any kidnapping at Citadel Group. Who do you work for, sir? Whose orders are you following and what business do you have here?” Whisky knew that Sam was both covering him and grilling him at the same time. Right now Walter stood as a buffer between Whisky and imminent termination.

“Whether I work for someone or of my own volition is not your concern. As Walter informed you, we are in fact on somewhat friendly terms and I doubt it is your business to know all the comings and goings of this...individual.” Whisky found no other option than to play hardball with Sam. It was a very dangerous game and the odds were heavily stacked against him. First there was the constant, Walter, who must be maintained in an oblivious state. Second he was playing by Sam’s rules, engaging purely in conversation. And third, Sam had much greater knowledge of Whisky than Whisky did of Sam. However, the only card Whisky had to play was to suggest he acted upon Boss’s wishes, “I come merely as a friend looking to wish another to good health.”

“But how did you get here? I mean, don’t you live down in the city?” Walter said, still in sweet oblivion.

“Yes, Mr...Whisky, you must live in the area to have arrived here so soon.” Sam said, staring intently at Whisky for a trace of guilt.

Whisky understood immediately that Sam had shut down the most obvious response. For him to take it was to admit defeat. “As I said, I am here on a private matter. The business I have in these parts was a special request, not for Walter himself but for the circus that follows him. I was lucky enough to be granted a reprieve from this business and took the chance to visit Mr Wallace.” the words couldn’t quite flow as they did when Sam spoke but Whisky had inadvertently stumbled to the higher ground. He realised that he could hint that his special request was beyond Sam’s knowledge for a good reason. “There are more aspects of my trade then just kidnapping.”

“Well I also seek to ensure the wellbeing of Walter, both personally and as part of my business. Citadel Group has a vested interest and we are glad to see everything is under control – Walter is safe and sound.”

“How did you get in?” Walter interjected, cutting the tension with a samurai sword, “there are plenty of people out there.”

“I saw the lady doctor who you saved down the hallway actually. She sparked the interest of the press outside. Lucy Blues, I believe.” Whisky said matter of factly. The pit in his stomach subsided a moment as he had miraculously clawed to a safe distance of its relentless pull. “It is good to see you so well, Walter. You are quite a special person.”

“So they keep telling me,” Walter replied.

“Well it appears as though everything is under control here. Walter if you trust this man alone with you I shall take my leave as an urgent matter is at hand.” Sam spoke almost as though he were flustered or in a hurry. Whisky didn’t know what to make of this. Surely he had not rattled him to such an extent with his threats. Even as he reconsidered them they seemed weak. But Sam had shaken Walter’s hand, bidding him farewell and made for the door. He paused. “Where are my manners,” he took Whisky’s hand in a firm handshake; “It was very interesting to meet you, Mr Whisky.”

The door opened and Sam slipped away as the noise of the press outside was magnified before being muffled again by the door. Whisky breathed a sigh of relief. He had barely done away with Sam before his brain began to rack itself for holes and weaknesses in his cover. Would Sam contact Boss? Would he contact Chips? Would he even give any weight to Whisky’s apparent dissent? As these issues pressed him and the time slipped away he prepared himself for one more dance with fate. The door opened and Lucy Blues, with a backdrop of cameras and frantic reporters, entered.

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