Chapter Eleven

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I hate hospitals. The overpowering aroma of bleach and antiseptic, stinging your nostrils and clinging to the back of your throat, and the constant beep beep of the heart monitors, always reminds me of the day my Gran died.

I sat in the visitor’s room, a tiny, blank box with no windows, staring at the circle of uncomfortable, plastic chairs around the circumference, and a square table, fully laden with last years magazines, for nearly three hours.

Frustratingly no one had deigned to come and speak to me since the policewoman who’d interviewed me, earlier. She’d wanted to know who’d delivered the chocolates, and if I knew who they were from, or had any inkling of someone wanting me dead? A strange look crossed her face when I mentioned Vincent’s name.

There was a small glimmer of hope, about two hours later, when a nurse peered around the door, but she merely gave me a sympathetic smile, and disappeared again.

I must have flicked through every tatty, coverless magazine, and read every wall poster repeatedly, until I knew them off-by-heart. Did I know the symptoms of meningitis? Was I eligible for the flu jab? Had I used the gel provided to prevent the spread of MRSA? I was bored out of my tree and fraught with worry.

Finally, another nurse arrived, and I followed her bright pink, plastic sandals through to the single room, where Beth was hooked up through a spaghetti of wires and tubes to a variety of monitoring machines.

The doctor was waiting. “She’s stable for now, but we haven’t been able to fully flush the toxin, and unless we discover what it is and neutralise it, we could still lose her.” He hooked a clipboard back onto the end of Beth’s bed. “We’ve been in touch with her father. He’s on his way.” The Doctor passed by me, about to leave, but then turned at the last minute. “I’m sorry,” he said.

I made myself comfortable in the bedside chair and curled up waiting for sleep to claim me. It didn’t come soon. My head was whirring. I couldn’t lose Beth. She’d been my best friend for like…ever. No. She was going to pull through this. She had to. She was too full of life not to. And I couldn’t shake the thought that the chocolates had been meant for me. Me. Why? Why would anybody want to kill me?

I awoke to the sound of voices outside, seconds before they burst through the door.

“We’re doing all we can. Only we’ve never come across…” the doctor said.

“Mr Morrison. I-I’m so sorry,” I heard myself say.

His head whipped around, and he glared at me, unspeaking, before focussing on the doctor again. I got the message. Mr Morrison blamed me. I had to get out of there. He paid me no attention as I exited and fled down the corridor.

Twenty minutes later, the taxi pulled up outside our flat. I ran around the corner and down the alley. A figure sat on the top step, hands hugging his head, which he lifted upon hearing my approach.

“Sebastian?” I shouted, bounding up the stairs to greet him, with a sudden burst of energy.

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