Thursday, 24 August 2017

White Charcoal. Just an idea for a film.


WHITE CHARCOAL* By Anthony Winston Allsop.

This is a screen intended story set during the mid 70's - 80's era of sibling rivalry taken to the extreme when a disfigured and disillusioned brother decides to steal the face and fortunes of his identical twin. Copyright February 1995*



**1**

Beryl Watson regards her son across the width of her bedroom. He has been allowed to the door of her bedroom but no further.

"Well, what have you got to say for yourself, David?"

Her ever-strident voice cuts across the barrier of time to when he was a little boy. David has always feared his mother's tongue more than he had feared his father's hand, and what's more she only ever called him David when she was angry with him.

"Where would you like me to start, Mom?"

He genuinely can't understand what the animosity is all about. His life of late has been in turmoil. It was as if he was living a nightmare that no amount of pinching would end for him.

Beryl continues her questioning:

"Why have you been so horrible to Mary of late? The poor girl is distraught, she was in a terrible state when she came . . ." David starts to say something but is cut short. ". . , I could understand your brother acting the imbecile, but you, I thought that you were made of better stuff."

His mother's words fly like daggers at David.

"What have I done that is so terrible?" he begs. "I've spent months alone and in agony being cut up, trussed up like a chicken and generally being used as a guinea-pig, all because I loved that stupid brother of mine. I come home to find my wife hates me, my kids hate me and you hate me. The only one around here who appears readily to forgive me is my dog."

A tear runs down David's smooth cheek and as he strokes his faithful pet, his mother humphs.

"Are you trying to tell me that last week's episode never happened!? That you never hit Mary? That you didn't frighten the little ones?"

Beryl's accusations stun David. He reels at this onslaught on what he regards as being his whiter than white character. All his life he had tried his damnedest to please, and now this!

"Of course not Mom, what do you take me for? I love her and I love the children with all my heart and soul, I wouldn't hurt a hair of their heads, neither of them."

David's sincerity drifts across the room and finds the niche in his mother's understanding that can only exist between a mother and her child. She harks back to the time, just a few short weeks ago, when she had her first doubts about her son's identity.

"Come here David. Come here and hold my hand."

She beckons David come to her. David crosses the floor to her bedside. Taking her frail hand tenderly in his he kisses it gently. After a moment or two she moves her hand up to his cheek and felt the warmth oozing from within him.

"You've taken to shaving again I see . . ," she says as she caresses his smooth cheek. "And your mole Davie, where is it?"

He sits down on the edge of the bed and while still cupping her hand in his he proceeds to tell his mother the whole story.



**PROLOGUE**

David is one of identical twin brothers. The only physical difference between him and his brother Paul is that he, David, has a brown mole on his left cheek. Secretly, he can't wait to be old enough to grow a beard to cover up what to him - compared to his brother Paul's unblemished features - is an unsightly abnormality. He is a normal, likeable lad, with an easy-going placid nature for which he is admired by almost everyone. He is also sensitive and considerate, especially when it comes to dealing with the affairs of the heart and the opposite sex.

On the other hand, Paul, is a bit of a problem child with an attitude so bad that you can almost taste it. He is everything that David is not.

The family live in Jacksonville USA and, after a childhood - spent mostly at one each other's throats - they manage to reach teenage. David - a bit of a wow with the girls - finds dates easy to come by. A lot of his time is spent having to fight them off. He is teetotal and finds alcohol and the taking of other stimulants abhorrent.

Paul, however, enjoys a drink and believes that he has sussed the drugs scene, but he finds girls much more difficult to fathom or to please, which would appear to feed the envy he feels of his brother's popularity. David's latest girl, June, is a bit special and, as per usual, Paul really fancies her, but she could not be less interested in him if she tried. In fact, she begins to hate Paul's awkward fumbling approaches and she lets him know it.

One afternoon he finds himself alone in the house with her and after she rebuts his advances he - in frustration - tries to force himself upon her. She manages to fight him off and after her ordeal, a tearful and much distressed June is comforted by her parents. When David finds out what his ass hole of a brother has done he tackles him and he and Paul have a fight trying to knock lumps off of each other. David is getting the better of the fight until Paul picks up a baseball bat and cracks his skull, putting him in hospital.

The families' shun Paul for what he has done to both David and June but the incidents are hushed up. Paul's burning hatred is turned towards anyone who - in his eyes - has a down on him.

After this latest family ruck and just about at the end of his tether, the boy's father orders Paul out of the family home whereupon he decides to join the army. The reason, be it known, is that more than anything he has the desire to vent is anger and frustrations on killing people. As it turns out the army, being no fools, are soon to spot this trait and he ends up being shunted into the medical corps.

He gets posted to a military field hospital out in the middle East where he assists in tending battle casualties. Whilst doing his service in this position he gets teamed up with a brilliant young army surgeon, one Vincent O'Connell. A weedy looking runt of a man, Vince is a bit of a fly boy just like Paul. This army trained surgeon, though wonderful at his job, dreams of better things and apart from peddling appropriated drugs he can't wait to be able to set himself up as a cosmetic surgeon in civilian life and make his fortune catering to the whims of the rich and famous.

Some of the operations that these two perform are incredible. Rebuilding whole mangled bodies becomes a matter of routine. In one memorable operation Vince removes the whole shattered face of one unfortunate and after pinning and remodelling the bone structure, sews the face back on. The patient makes a complete recovery and is sent home.

Less than couple of months after the operation, the patient's scar is barely visible. In yet another - after forging permit documentation - the pair attempts to graft a dead man's face to a badly burnt but still very much alive soldier.

Though it appears to have been a success it is so only partially. The foreign tissue, despite all the known methodology of the day and the use of the best anti-rejection drugs, is rejected. The now hopelessly disfigured patient swears that he will sue the surgeon for every cent he has, plus every cent he is ever likely to make.

Vince, worried that this could end his promise of a glittering career before it has even started has an idea and suggests it to Paul. The pair connive to have the patient die "accidentally" under anesthetic. The authorities suspect Vince of foul play and soon discover the forgery and the illegal operation, but Paul, through misguided loyalty to his friend, takes most of the blame for causing the death of the patient. The murder verdict is commuted on appeal to lesser charges and each is jailed accordingly.

Whilst in jail the pair corresponds. Paul learns that Vince intends setting up on his own somewhere in Mexico. He gives Paul the address of the place that he is considering acquiring in Toluca.

After serving his appropriate sentence, Vince is summarily discharged from the army without distinction or qualification. His forced incarceration hasn't done him any favours and it shows in his further weakened and withered frame which showed signs of a wasting disease. Despite this he makes his way to Toluca and with the aid of falsified qualifications and references plus considerable financial backing from his family he sets about making his dream of having his own clinic where he intends to fulfill his life long of practising in a lucrative industry of private cosmetic surgery.

Paul is released with the same ignominy a few years later. Back in society, without a scratch on him and too ashamed to show his face back home, he gets a job as a garbage collector in Atlanta.

One day, whilst out on the rounds with his refuse-truck pick-up gang, they witness a hold up taking place at a store. Back to his customary and naturally violent self, Paul puts his limited army close-combat training to use and tackles the robbers single-handed and in front of the many bystanders. It looks like he is gaining the upper hand but one of the thugs picks up an old car battery from off of the refuse-truck and fells Paul with it. The acid from the shattered battery is poured over prostrate Paul and onto his face, an open can of cellulose paint too is added by another of the robbers and he is set alight. Police sirens herald the arrival of the cops but he is forced to await medical assistance while the gang shoot it out with police.

Although badly injured, Paul's actions had managed to delay the villains sufficiently for the police to gain the upper hand. After an intense exchange of gunfire, two of the robbers lie dead and a third is captured. A quick thinking work mate chucks a bucket of water over Paul to dilute the acid and douse the fire but a lot of damage has already been done. Though Paul's eyes, lips and hands are fine - thanks to his dust mask, goggles and industrial gloves - his face, neck and forearms are a mess of burnt dissolved tissue.

The news of Paul's bravery hits the headlines. The store company generously reward his efforts in foiling the robbery and after a long spell in hospital - where he is visited on a regular basis by David - he returns to his home town of Jacksonville to a hero's welcome. He is somewhat comforted by the fact that with the reward money safely in the bank and a compensation claim pending, he doesn't have the need to go out and work for a living.

David has developed a lucrative career in designing and building conservatories and sun lounges. He is now married to a very pretty girl called Mary who he had met in high school. They have two young children, Jenny, six, and Mike, three. David has also taken to letting his facial hair grow and sports a natty line in beards which he swears make him look a little more intellectual, though if pressed he might admit that it was to try to hide his birthmark. Mary would prefer him to be clean-shaven and doesn't seem to mind the mole, but her gentle objections regarding the beard were forever, it seemed, to fall on deaf ears. A large and affectionate grey and whitish Old English Sheepdog called CeeJay completes the family. The twin's father is now dead but their mother Beryl, though still living in their old house and tended by a live-in nurse, is too old and infirm to cope with her son Paul.

David is sympathetic towards Paul and offers him room and shelter for a while, at least until he can come to terms with his injuries and find a place of his own. Though Mary had never met Paul, she has heard a lot of bad things about him. Despite this, she agrees with David that Paul is a deserving case and that he has probably learned better as he has gotten older and she decides to go along with the suggestion. Paul humbly accepts their offer and moves in with the family. CeeJay, the dog, doesn't like him, though it's just possible that Paul's horribly scarred face unnerves him a little.

As time passes, Paul finds that under his hideous mask he still has to try and cope with what for him are his normal feelings and desires. He finds comfort in the bottle and is for most of the time smashed out of his disfigured skull. Mary realises the torment that he must be going through and is more than a little sorry for him. Her natural good side opens up and she tries to be very understanding and sympathetic towards him, dispensing her comforting cuddles freely. Paul misinterprets this as fondness, if not attraction for him. After a period of months spending most of his waking hours with this goddess, being tended and fussed by her, he cannot resist making a drunken pass at her. She is appalled by his clumsy approaches, and when he tries to take it further she screams the house down. Jenny comes running up the stairs to find trouserless Paul standing over her frightened mother. He turns menacingly on the child and she screams.

Just at that moment David - returning from a visit to his local Medical Centre - pulls into the driveway. Out of the car he hears the commotion coming from upstairs. He runs into the house and bounds up the stairs three at a time. Paul, hurriedly half-trousered, meets him on the landing and hits him with a chair knocking him down to the bottom of the stairs. Paul dashes past David's prostrate body and out of the house with the family dog hard on his heels. Paul stops and, turning to face the dog, lets out a frightening bellow. CeeJay turns tail and runs to hide in the wood shed. Paul roars off in the family's Chevvy station-wagon. He heads southwards in something of a blind panic with one destination on his mind, Toluca. He takes one bend much too fast, mounts the curb and collides broadside into a young mother out walking her baby in a buggy.

Paul sees what he has done through his rear-view mirror but doesn't even slow down. He presses on to Mexico.

**2**

After the initial shock of her experience wears off, Mary realises that she might have misunderstood and overreacted to Paul's actions. She confides her feelings to David who, unaware of Paul's latest crime and being the person that he is, once again forgives his wayward brother and before fully recovering from his own injuries he sets about trying to locate Paul to put things right between them. He hires a car and by using a bit of detective work, which involves newspaper reports of Paul's heroism, the robbed store and police files, he manages to track down Paul's last known address. He finds himself in a run-down area of Atlanta. He locates the seedy apartment and on contacting the owner is quite surprised to find that he has been looking after Paul's effects and shows him the battered cardboard box which contains them, but he refuses to let David have them until he has been paid the rent that is owing on the room.

David gladly parts with the few hundred dollars and a short time later, safe in his hotel room, he goes through Paul's effects.

Among the pathetic and sometimes disgusting items he finds an assortment of letters. He brings himself up-to-date with the relationship between Paul and Vince and decides to try and trace the surgeon's address in Mexico. But first he phones home to report his findings and his intentions to Mary.

**3**

Paul has no difficulty in finding his old ally in Toluca. He arrives at the clinic and is quite surprised to see the physical deterioration of his friend. After many and long pleasantries have been exchanged Paul asks the rogue surgeon if it would be possible to restore his face.

At first Vince refuses to have anything to do with the injuries on the grounds that on the one hand he feels that the original plastic surgeons have done all that is humanly possible, while on the other weighing up in hard cash what the operation would cost him, as he reckons that Paul has little money of his own. Such charitable action might not only be a drain on the clinic's depleted and limited resources but also on his own time and pocket. Paul mentions the fact that Vince owes him one from way back, inferring that it would be in Vince's interest to help him. He also explains that he should be able to meet him about halfway with the costs and asks that he check his bank account if he so wishes.

Vince waives this expedience for the timebeing for he still truly doubts that he could make much of Paul's face. Paul suggests that he would be willing to undergo a total face transplant and all the risks that it would entail if Vince could come up with a suitable donor. The surgeon appears both aghast and at the same time intrigued at the mere suggestion, informing Paul - in no uncertain terms - that he above all others should know the risks involved with such an unethical if not downright medically unproven operation. Going on to explain in his weaselly way - if it ever warranted explanation - the problems of tissue rejection.

"There are problems enough getting a body to accept parts of itself let alone parts of other bodies. Genetically we vary greatly, even among direct blood relatives. Brothers and sisters, even though their blood groups might be compatible, their genes, their DNA can differ enormously. Why, even skin grafts of something like that magnitude between consenting identical offspring has not, as far as I can ascertain, been carried out wholly successfully!" he concludes. In the meantime he offers Paul a guest room at his house for as long as he needs while he ponders on his future. Paul accepts his proffered hospitality.

"I'll phone Willis and let him know that you are staying for a while." says Vince. Paul is given O'Connell's home address and he makes his own way there.

**4**

On the long drive down to Toluca, David's rented car develops overheating problems. He has had to keep stopping and topping up the radiator. He phones the hire company who inform him that he might be liable for damages if the engine were to seize up. They suggest that he have it looked at as soon as he possibly can and to have the garage bill them directly.

David arrives in Toluca but before setting about finding the clinic he decides to check the car in at a nearby garage. He's informed that they are rather busy but he is asked to leave it with them while their chief mechanic gets someone to take a look at it to see if they might fit it into their busy schedule.

​Rather than be laden with suitcase etc, David locks his few belongings away in the trunk of the car. He informs the friendly proprietor of this and he in turn assures David that they will be perfectly safe and that he would not allow the keys out of his possession.

David thanks him and after noting the name and number of the garage tells him that he will ring later on to check if the work has been done. He would in any case call in later on that day. And; as he doesn't know the precise location of the clinic, he takes a taxi.

After a ten-minute drive he arrives at the clinic. He dismisses the taxi telling the driver that as he doesn't know how long it will take to complete his business, and as it's such a nice day, he will walk back into Toluca.

At reception David explains his quest to find Paul but his enquiries are met with seemingly honest ignorance. No one would admit to knowing anything about his brother's whereabouts. He is, however, informed that they would endeavour to get a message to Dr. O'Connell via his mobile phone. After a short conversation through the switchboard, David is informed that the doctor will be in very soon and that it might be best that he should wait in the patient's lounge.

He is ushered from reception and into an adjoining room where he mingles with a few other visitors. A tray of coffee and biscuits is produced. He peruses the pictures and diagrams on the walls. Most of them depict before and after shots of previous patients. He can't help but be impressed by some of these obviously untouched photographic records. Traffic accident victims, scalding and burnings. Casualties of all description. Many depict cosmetic nose and beautifying bust improvements and the like. They are all there as if testament to the clinics' authenticity. To David's eyes this man O'Connell certainly appears to know his stuff. He wanders around as if in some surreal art gallery.

It is while he is engrossed with these images that Vince enters the room from behind him. David suddenly realises that he is no longer alone in looking at the pictures.

"You approve?" enquires the voice.

David nods his appreciation. "They certainly seem to know their job," offers David. "Do they always photograph their operations?" he adds.

"They try to," says Vince. "They even video sometimes . . ," he goes on, ". . . you'll have to see some of them, they make good viewing."

David agrees out of politeness and carries on looking at one in particular. David can almost feel the little doctor's eyes following him around the room.

When next the doctor speaks it is to remark; "Most uncanny, you are the spitting image of your brother Paul as I remember him . . , but without the beard of course."

David suddenly realises that this is the man he is here to see.

"I'm terribly sorry," says David, "you must forgive me, I thought that.. well I...I'm sorry, I'm David!" He takes the others proffered bony hand and shakes it warmly.

"I got your message," says Vince. "and I do so wish that I could help, but I haven't a clue as to where your brother might be."

The conversation revolves around Paul and his problems. David briefs the doctor on his brother's terrible experiences. The unpleasant family row that had ensued through a possible misunderstanding and how he wished to make amends again with his brother.

Vince listens intently with apparent sympathy. After ascertaining that David had not booked in at a hotel for the night he suggests that he stay the night as his guest in the clinic's rest and recuperation wing, which is situated in the grounds, before he sets off back home.

David agrees. Vince tells him that he will join him for a drink later if he doesn't mind as he is a little busy.

David thanks him and after being shown the way to R and R makes his way out of the building. Then he remembers his car and rings the garage to let them know of his slight change of plan and that he might be delayed for some time. The garage owner informs him that they have not got around to looking at his car but will endeavour to do so at the first opportunity.

**5**

Paul arrives at the O'Connell hacienda and tugs on the bell rope. Willis - a white suited fussy flunky of oriental visage – greets him with a courteous bow, takes him by the arm and steers him into and through the grand hallway to the even grander library.

"Rinner rill be served in one 'our Mister Paul..," gushes the white suited one. "..Dr. O'Connell has been derayed at the hospitar." He gesticulates limply in the direction of a pair of huge ornate doors. "Perhaps you would rike to rook around the ribrawary." Paul thanks him but declines.

"Would sir rike a rink efore rinner?" asks the flunky.

"Scotch and just a dash of water would be fine." replies Paul, who now has second thoughts about the library and enters the grand oak panelled bookshelf lined room. After choosing a little light reading he makes himself comfortable in a large red leather wing-back armchair by an elegant inlaid coffee table.

Sipping his whisky and making a pretence of being involved in the book, Paul reflects on what Vince had said previously. It looks as if he is going to be stuck with being mister ugly for the rest of his life, his trip down here a total waste of time. He contemplates the future. It doesn't look any too bright and getting dimmer by the minute. Just then he hears the phone ringing in the hall. A squeaky-shoed Willis steps towards it and answers it. Leaving the phone off the hook, he walks to the door of the library and calls Paul.

"It's Doctor O'Connell, for you." he states, and squeaks off back down the hall.

Vince, talking on the phone, tells Paul that he has given his problem some considerable thought and informs him that he has David there at the clinic. "In regard to your request . . . this solution to your little problem would seem to be the only way!" explains O'Connell.

"B..but my own brother!?" splutters an anguished Paul, "much as I dislike the bastard . . , my own brother!?"

Vince tries to convince him that it is indeed his only chance. He explains that identical twins have as near a perfect match of DNA, tissue compatibility etc. that you could ever wish for.

The phone call at an end, Paul reflects on the possible outcome of such a venture. He has always harboured the notion that he would give almost anything to have what his brother has. He coveted his wife, his family, his comfortable living, health and yes damn it, his personality and charm. He visualised having back his face and not having people recoil in ill concealed horror whenever they caught a glimpse of his disfigurement. Most of all he would no longer have to fantasies about Mary. He could be there, holding her, kissing her..... ! He wrestles with his ethics starved conscience for all of the time it would take to soft boil an egg.

He picks up the phone and calls Vince back. "Do it." he tells the doctor. "Do it!" and further more, he adds, "And you might as well go the whole nine yards while you are at it."

**6**

Mary is on the phone trying to ring David but the call keeps getting his answering service. She hangs up and the phone rings almost immediately. She notes from the caller display screen that it is their family physician Dr. Hammond.

"Hello?"

"Ah! Mrs. Watson. May I have a word with David, please?" he asks of Mary.

"I'm sorry Dr. Hammond but he isn't here. I've been trying to phone him but can't get him to answer. Can I help?" she queries.

"No," says the doctor," it's a little private and personal. Would you get him to call me as soon as it's convenient?"

Mary informs him that David is out of town but that she will pass on his message just as soon as she gets a chance. She jots down the memo on the pad at the side of the telephone to jog her memory and then forgets the conversation and gets on with the myriad home tasks that is the modern housewife's lot.

**7**

Dawn breaks for David. He has had a marvellous night of rest after being entertained at O'Connell's expense. The drink and the conversation with Vince had flowed freely and he can't even remember climbing into bed. He wearily makes an attempt to open his tired eye-lids in order to sleepily take in the first light of morning. He suddenly realises that even though they are open enough, he can only just make out a little light, he can't see anything clearly.

He hears chattering. "He's coming round!"

"He won't be going far, they tend to wake up sometime," says a female voice.

David tries to raise his arm to move the obstruction away from his face. To his utter perplexity he finds that he cannot move a muscle. He attempts to call out, but nothing but a strangled wheeze comes forth.

"More gas please," comes the voice again, "we don't want our patient suing us do we?"

Panic hits David. GAS!!...NURSE!!?.... What's going....!? But David is going under again. His eyelids seem to weigh heavy as he fights to keep awake, but soon he is back under.

The diamond edged scalpel in the confident but delicate grip of the masked surgeon cleaves cleanly through the willing flesh just under David's eye leaving hardly a trace of blood in its wake.

**8**

Mary is in a happier mood. She has just spoken on the phone to "David". He has found their car ditched at a drive-in on the turnpike. He says it has a puncture and that there is no spare so it is going to take a little time to get it fixed. He has assured her that he is about to follow a hot trail into Panama where he has been reliably informed Paul has gone to ground.

"When do you think you will be coming home?" she asks. The line starts to break up a little but she catches the words "..in .. c..ple .. weeks.. .ry.. not.... w..ry."

Mary has no worries. She trusts in David's judgement. His judgement has never let them down yet.

Jenny calls out. "Is that Daddy?" as she sidles up to her mother.

"Yes it is darling." Mary replies. "He says that he will be home soon." She puts down the phone and then spots the reminder on the pad. "Damn!" she curses, audibly.

"Oooh! mummy!? I shall have to tell Daddy, you sweared!" admonishes the affronted Jenny.

Mary immediately dials David's phone but yet again gets the answer mode.

**9**

Paul, in a private ward, places David's now switched off phone on the cupboard at the side of his hospital bed.

"That should keep her happy for a while." he addresses Vince. "You can wheel me in when you are ready doc, I'm all yours."

The trolley carrying Paul is wheeled the short distance to a well equipped operating theatre and drawn up alongside a similar one occupied by David, who's mutilated features are laid bare. The lights flicker and an abrupt rumble of thunder marks the hour. At that very moment, back at David's house, the doorbell rings.

**10**

On opening the door, Mary comes face to face with a state trooper.

"Does a David Watson live at this address?" he enquires.

"Why yes officer, what's the trouble?" she asks.

"We are following up reports that his car was involved in a hit and run accident on the 4th of this month on the outskirts of town." He explains further. "A young woman was knocked down and almost killed by your car. Her baby suffered serious injury and they are both still recovering in hospital. While lying injured in the road she had the presence of mind to note part of the licence number before lapsing into a coma. She's has only just regained consciousness and has been able to give us more information concerning the hit and run vehicle."

He continues on to describe the make and color of the vehicle and a description of the car and its occupant given by another witness.

"It sounds like it was our car," says Mary, "but my husband couldn't have been driving it at that time because his brother has taken it." Mary explained all that she knew to the officers and they went away to radio in to verify the facts that she had given them about David being taken for treatment by ambulance to the casualty department around that time for treatment to injuries that had been inflicted by Paul.

She informs them of Paul going to Toluca and of David following him some day's later. They assured her that they would be in touch.

**11**

Two weeks elapse before Paul's bandages are removed. His features are one big bruise, as if he has been trampled by a herd of bison. It is another four days before he feels he is capable of talking in a near normal voice to Mary on the phone.

With the artificial break up of transmission – achieved by wrapping the phone in a paper bag again and jiggling it - he feels sure that he will get away with it again. He rings David's home.

Mary sees David's name appear on the caller display and, on picking up the phone straight away. . . .

"Hi David, where have you been?" she bemoans, "I've been trying to contact you and I've been going out of my mind with worry!"

Paul has rehearsed his lines well. He explains that he hasn't been able to get a decent phone signal or to find Paul as yet and that he is coming home just as soon as he has got the car repaired.

"Car repairs!?" queries Mary.

"Yes, there has been a bit of an accident, and no, there is nothing to worry about. I'm not dead or anything." Paul informs her.

"I think we'll get rid of that car when you get back." suggests Mary.

"Why!"

"I do believe it has a curse on it," says Mary.

She explains about the accident report and the police visit and that the police are now on the lookout for his brother too. In no uncertain terms she informs him that Paul is a complete waste of time and that he "David" should come home as soon as possible and not squander another minute on his thankless quest to find that witless and worthless brother of his.

"You are absolutely right darling," says Paul. "I'll straighten things up right away down here and I will see you just as soon as I can."

Before hanging up, Mary manages to remind him that a certain Dr. Hammond is a anxious that he get in touch but Paul either doesn't hear or chooses not to. Mary, on putting the phone down, can't help but feel worried. She above all knows what David is like for understatement. He doesn't believe in making a fuss at the best of times. Or the worst of times come to that.

**12**

David awakens to find himself lying on his back on a high bed in a windowless room. A small bulb radiates its weak luminescence from a yellowing spherical shade. This feeble light enables him to take in some of his surroundings. His face is bandaged except for his eyes. There's some sort of transparent bubble enveloping his whole head. He can make out the regular rise and fall in pressure as this bag rhythmically inflates and deflates. Through this covering he can make out both of his arms. They are fixed rigidly to framework that hangs over his bed and they too are also enveloped in transparent coverings. He tries to express himself:

"Waph ve pfuck....!" but the dressings around his mouth won't allow him a voice. He suddenly realizes that the effort to speak also caused him some considerable pain. He looks wildly around him, trying to make some sort of sense of his predicament. A white smock or coat is hanging on the door. He raises one leg off of the bed then lowers it. He does the same with the other. They would seem to be all right. He wonders if he has been involved in some sort of accident. He casts his mind back as far as the latest recollectable memory.

He remembers awakening and hearing voices, talk of nurses, Spanish voices and yes, English speaking voices. He must be in some sort of a hospital. But what sort of hospital would leave a patient in a grubby dimly lit room like this he ponders? Just then he hears sharp footsteps tapping down a bare corridor from somewhere beyond the door. The sound of something heavy being dragged. A key is fed into a padlock and a chain is allowed to fall and swing onto the door.

Then another key is put into a lock and turned. A heavy door slides open and a petite and very pretty, white clad nurse enters carrying a bundle of something.

She speaks a little something in Spanish as she crosses to a small cupboard. She has a warm smiling face as she approaches David.

"Where am I?" he asks. Or at least he tries to put this simple question. David catches a whiff of perfume as the nurse leans over him and eases the bandages away from his mouth. He repeats the question.

"I'm sorry, I am no allow to tell you haat," she says with a thick Spanish inflection. She takes from the cupboard a small white bowl and proceeds to run water into it from a tap. Distant muted bells as of a church softly ring their changes, followed by the striking of the hour. She moves over to the side of the bed.

"If I remove a leetle more of your dressing, hwill you promise not to raith your voice haat me?" the nurse bargains with David.

He tries to show assent as best he can by a slight but painful nod of his head. The nurse takes a small pair of scissors from a tray on the bedside cupboard and after lifting the plastic cover from over his head, very carefully snips away at the dressing. These are soon confined to a plastic bin and then with the tenderest of swabbing she proceeds to bathe the skin around his lips with some mildly stinging lotion.

"Ssphooooo!" winces David. "What's that?"

"Just a weak alcoholic wash."

"Well, do you know it's been a very long time since alcohol has touched my lips."

The pretty nurse saw the irony and smiled at David. "You don't drink!?" she asks of David with what seemed to be surprise.

"Nor smoke," says David. "I packed them both in when I was fourteen."

The nurse giggles politely. "There ith alltho a little of Doctor O'Connell's antitheptic healing acthelerator mixed with it."

David is more than a little puzzled by all of this.

"O'Connell!?" queries David, "Doctor O'Connell did this!?"

"Doctor O'Connell... he know nussing of hiss!" the nurse replies flatly.

The nurse goes about her business with all the natural proficiency of her calling and after finishing the bathing of David's face empties the bowl of dirty water down the sink and refills it with fresh from the tap in the hand basin.

"What has happened to me? Why am I here? Why am I trussed up like this?" His questions come out thick and fast even though it hurts to speak.

"I ham no, how you say.. I ham no at liberty to tell you." replies the nurse, now busying herself with the sheets that are covering David's lower half. She pulls them from the bed and starts removing the drainage tube attached to his penis. David wished in all the world that he could cover himself to hide his modesty but his shackled arms forbade him. She removes the bottom sheet from beneath him and with carefully coordinated movements replaces it with a clean one, all the time keeping an eye out for any discomfort that she might bring to her patient.

"Eef the doctor he iss to find out I ham even talking to you, I should be in beeg trouble." she tells David.

He digests this bit of information. His mind is racing, trying to make head or tails of his dilemma while with small delicate movements his nurse proceeds to cleanse his personal regions. The gentle swabbing touches of his beautiful tormentor stir his loins into involuntarily action. The arousal is almost immediate and quite spectacular. He closes his eyes to shut out some of the embarrassment. It seemed ages since he had an erection like it and it has to happen now.

The flash as of a camera in the dimly lit room startles him.

"What the hell was that?" exclaims David.

"Nossing for you to worry about." she assures him smilingly, adding, as she finally brings the ablutions to an end and covers him once more with clean sheets, "Are you not a leetle hungry Meester Paul?"

"Paul! I'm not Paul. My name is David," he mutters through stiff jaws.

The nurse reaches down and plucks at a plastic card tied to his ankle. "Eet says eer haat your name it ees Paul. Paul Watson. And you av just undergo lastic surgery to your faith and to your arms. It says nossing here about brain damage or amnesia."

The nurse allows the card to flick back into place. After busying herself once more with his intravenous drips and evacuation pipes etc., she smiles at a dumbstruck David and indicates a switch at the bottom of the bed just to the right of his right foot. She instructs him to press it if he should require assistance. As she prepares to leave the room she turns to David.

"I'll bring you a leetle sumsing to help build you strength up." she says. "What would you like Paul, ow's about a few oysters, yes?" She giggles school-girlishly and leaves the room, sliding the heavy door closed behind her and the sounds of rattling chains and the snapping of padlock signal the echoing click-clack of her departing footsteps.

**13**

Mary is both elated and just a little concerned. She has just spoken to "David" on the phone and he didn't sound too happy. It would be another week or so before he would be home. He had told her that she had no need to worry and that he was alright and that it would be a waste of her time and his money if she were to come down to see him as he was already making plans to start the journey back. He would sort out the car insurance when he got home.

Before he hung up, Mary again passed on Dr Hammond's message, adding that it must be something urgent as the doctor had rung a second time. To her, her "David" appears unconcerned about the reason for his doctor's concern, little knowing that Paul himself isn't at all worried about what ills befell David. Already, in his mind, David no longer exists. Mary also tells him that Doctor Hammond has informed her that he is going away on holiday for a couple of weeks but that his locum would be taking charge down at the surgery and that he would be able to deal with her husband.

**14**

Paul is talking to Vince.

"You have done a marvellous job Vinny, I look better now than I ever remember looking before," he's saying, "and the beard, I do believe I could grow to like it." Paul admires himself in the mirror while O'Connell too admires his own handiwork.

"I must agree that the operation has gone better than I could ever have wished." agrees Vince adding, "Mind you, having the near perfect donor did make things a mite easier."

Paul turns to face Vince with a faint frown. "What do you mean by near perfect?" he queries.

"Well, it would have been nice to have gotten rid of that horrid mole like I wanted to," replies Vince.

Paul risks a thin smile. "I couldn't allow you to do that," he says, "that mole is my password to heaven." He preens himself in the mirror once more. "I may call back and have you remove it later when I have been accepted in my new role." suggests Paul.

He is hardly able to believe his luck that his looks are almost back to what they were before the acid attack and the burning.

"You got rid of the body alright then Vinny?"

"Yes, sure, no problem at all." says Vince. "Right now his smoke is drifting somewhere over Cuba. Quite fitting don't you think?"

Paul makes to laugh but checks himself. Better not risk it just yet, he reckons.

**15**

David is being spoon fed by the little nurse as his arms are still encased in the opaque plastic tents. He has had his regular bed-bath and is flushed with a warm glow of satisfaction. He is still unaware of the extent of the plastic surgery that his body has undergone as he can't see through the misted membrane. He knows that something has happened to his face but cannot see or even touch it. His arms and hands just itch chronically.

"When will I be able to have back the use of my arms?" he asks of the nurse.

"The doctor, he say haat maybe tomorrow he might take a look see."

"Who did this, Doctor O'Connell?" he queries.

The pretty nurse surveys her patient's troubled frown. A frown that she would love to have the opportunity to soothe away under any other circumstances.

"Doctor O'Connell!?" she parrots quizzically. "I tell you, Doctor O'Connell he know nossing of heess! Now please get some rest and try not to worry so." With that she couldn't stop herself from leaning over her patient, raising his visor and giving him a light kiss on the still tender but responsive tissue that were David's new lips. She blushed and hurried from the room closing and locking the door behind her.

David listens for her departing footsteps and also picks up on other, heavier footsteps coming from the room above. He considers shouting to attract attention but the thought passes immediately. He isn't sure who is padding around upstairs. The footfalls could belong to either friend or foe.

**16**

"Keep a sharp lookout for Daddy!" Mary shouts up the stairs to the children. "Your daddy will be home any time soon."

The children and the dog are bouncing on the bed. Jenny is singing "Daddy's coming home, Daddy's coming home. Ee-aye-adio Daddy's coming home." Mike is doing his best to join in with,

"Daddy, aye ee Daddy, aye ee Daddy, Daddy, Daddy cummin ome." Mary busies herself in the kitchen whilst darting an expectant glance through the window at every opportunity. She had never realised how much she could miss David. Her unquenched passion was riding high on a level that she had never thought possible. How she longed to be with the man she loved again.

The old saying about hearts and absence never was ever truer than at this moment. Suddenly the old station wagon, complete with front fender sporting newly applied fresh red primer, sweeps into the street on screeching tyres and swoops into the driveway. Jenny shouts from upstairs, "He's here! Daddy's here!" and runs down the stairs three at a time.

Mike slides down the carpeted stairs on his bottom in her wake and is overtaken by a grey and white mass of rushing fur bone and sinew. At the bottom of the stairs it skids on the polished floor with all four legs threshing like cartoon Tom chasing Jerry as it tries to gain purchase on the smooth tiles in the hall. Jenny is first to throw her arms around "Daddy" followed closely by Mary with Mike in her arms. Paul kisses Mary passionately as he spins her off of her feet and around the lawn.

CeeJay, having found his paws and caught up with the action, lopes up to his perceived "master" with all of his body wagging and then - with an uncomfortable twisted sneer on his face - he backs away, turns tail and runs to the safety of the woodshed.

"He's missed you most of all darling," offers Mary, adding, as if to make light of the unexpected actions of the family dog, "....the silly mutt will be alright when he's gotten over the disappointment of not having you around for some time. Come on! I'll run you a nice hot bath, I bet you are ready for one after driving all that way," she goes on, "....after dinner we'll both have an early night and you can tell me all about it."

There is a magical twinkle of mischief in her eyes as she takes his hand and all but drags him into the house.

**17**

A familiar screech of metal on concrete and the chain rattling on the door awakens David from slumber. It is nurse but she is not alone. A tall, swarthy looking male, perhaps a few years older than David, ducks his head under the door frame and follows her.

He is a giant of a man with features carved as if from granite emphasised by eyebrows that looked thick enough to plait.

The nurse cheerfully greets David. "Good morning Paul."

"How many more times have I got to tell you? "My name is David, David Watson! "Paul is my brother!" he roars.

"Now, now, no need to get hysterical," growls the swarthy one, in almost perfect English. "I have come to examine my patient."

David is thankful for at last meeting the doctor who, so far as it seems, has contrived - albeit by remote control - to make his life an utter misery. The doctor lapses into the bedside manner typical of all hospital personnel.

"How are we feeling today?" he asks.

How am I feeling? thinks David. He asks how I'm feeling with my arms swathed in itchy bandages and encased in barrage balloons and lashed to scaffolding in the most uncomfortable position possible. Not being able to scratch my ass even, for at least a month, and he asks how am I feeling?

"Not too bad doc, mustn't grumble."

"Good, good," says doctor. "Are you coping alright with your bowel movements Mr Watson?"

"It isn't me you should be directing that question to," David answers, "you should ask Florence Nightingale over there."

Nurse smiles and informs David that this is the big day. He is to come out of traction and the dressings and tents are to be removed from around his arms. David can hardly suppress his feelings at this news. His eyes begin to well with hitherto suppressed tears.

"You are going to be alright Mr Watson, you will be alright." assures the giant doctor, softly and with real concern showing in his voice. The nurse turns the light in the room up a little using the dimmer switch at the side of the door. Though its light is still a little on the low side, relative to what the illumination had been like up to a few moments ago - David finds it blinding. He closes his eyes to shut out this intrusion on his senses. This involuntary action pains him a little and he discovers that there isn't much he can do to avoid it. The nurse releases the pulley strings that hold his right arm aloft and lowers it gently. David feels pain in his muscles as his unused limb accustoms itself to its new position.

His arms are stiff and ache but he can bear to open his eyes a little wider now as he watches the doctor and nurse gently cut and peel the covering from his limb to reveal a pale and completely normal, looking though somewhat hairless and emaciated arm. While this is going on, the doctor explains to David that in order for the grafting to take place and knit properly to his other skin, light and air falling on it had to be kept to a minimum. They repeat this operation with the left arm. After the arms have been swabbed clean with some of that same mildly stinging solution that was used on his face, they are smeared and massaged with an oily unguent.

David observes that - apart from the stiffness and thinness through lack of exercise and there being less hair than he was used to seeing - he could ascertain no visible scarring, no disfigurement, little difference whatsoever? Just what has been going on?

**18**

Mary, in her skimpy cotton nightie, glides across the bedroom floor from the en suite bathroom as Paul watches her every move from his place in the king-sized bed. He is getting very sexually aroused by Mary's innocent and perfectly normal yet sensual actions. It is all new to him. Her pert breasts constantly trying to escape from the feathery wispiness of her skimpy chiffon trimmed top, while at the same time the folds of the material, clinging to every crevice and protuberances of her slim youthful body, torment him almost to sexual gratification before she has even got into bed.

After brushing her hair, for what to Paul seems to be an eternity, she approaches the bed on Paul's side. "Move over darling..." she whispers playfully and seductively, "...you know very well that this is my side of the bed."

Paul, not even listening can wait no longer. He pulls her roughly onto the bed and - while holding her down forcibly with strong arms - thrusts his over eager frame between her smooth, mildly protesting thighs while at the same time smothering her rich lips and erect nipples with kisses and nibbles. Mary lets forth a sort of strangled squeal having not been prepared for "David" acting like this but still enjoying the moment. After a few minutes sweaty humping and more assaults on her tender lips and breasts, Paul rolls off of Mary's by now limp shocked body and lies there beside her on his back, panting hugely.

"Well it was different, I must say that." Murmured Mary.

Her basic instincts, her unfailing womanly sixth sense, call it what you will, the two's and two's were beginning to add up. Her husband is having an affair!

**19**

The pretty nurse has left the room and David is listening intently to the Doctor's explanation of the events that have led to his incarceration. The doctor is running this operation as a human cell regeneration experiment. He has for some considerable time been working on a method of growing human tissue culture for grafting. Combined with a thin fibrous mesh base - manufactured using an almost pure carbon obtained from the white charcoal residue of some obscure South American plant tuber - to form a base, he could shape almost any contour of the human body that he so wished.

Truthfully, the method was not wholly new and had been tried before with varying degrees of success, but existing recognised and accepted methods are regarded as being too slow and unreliable to be of much use. And there was also the need to have patients be constantly dosed with immunosuppressants to stop the inevitable tissue rejection. He had hit upon the idea of bombarding the culture with pulsed low power microwaves to stimulate the cells into sub-dividing at an increased and controlled rate. If cultivated under reduced lighting this led to even more rapid cell division akin to the action of forest fungi and thus a multiplication in the mass of active tissue .

"But how do I fit into all of this?" asks perplexed David. He searches the big man's face for answers. The doctor does his best to explain.

"I have been raiding the incineration plant and the mortuary room for bodies and body parts on which to carry out my experiments." says the doctor. "I found you on a slab in the mortuary with the name "Paul Watson" attached to your foot. You had been declared dead by Doctor O'Connell after having failed to come out from under anaesthetic during routine surgery. Your face and forearms had been stripped of skin. I checked your pulse and discovered a very faint one and I decided to bring you here to help me advance my work." As if as an afterthought he adds, "Juanita, your nurse, is both my daughter and my assistant."

He goes on, "O'Connell knows nothing about my work here, as yet, but one day when I am ready, the whole world will know of my discoveries! As for the brother you talk of, I swear that I know nothing of him."

Something about his manner tells David that he is speaking the truth. This sordid, if gifted individual, is ignorant of Paul's fate. The full extent of what Paul has been up to still doesn't dawn.

"But what about me?" pleads David, "aren't I proof enough of your genius?"

The doctor casts down his eyes. His bushy eyebrows join as one in a worried frown just as his daughter re-enters the room carrying David's meal.

"Alas no," he confesses. "I cannot even think of publishing these results because they have been gained illegally."

Juanita crosses over to the bed and holds David's hand. She can feel for him. To her father he is merely a guinea pig on a test bed. To her..., well to her, he was becoming something else.

"Then what is going to happen to me?" pleads David, still feeling much too weak to make any sort of move even against the little nurse, never mind against this wall of a man. "Where do I go from here?"

"For the time being you are not going anywhere," states the doctor firmly. "I will have to give a lot of thought to this matter. I will consider allowing Doctor O'Connell in on my results thus far but in the meantime I want you to get plenty of rest and mild physiotherapy."

He speaks a few terse words in Spanish to the nurse and with that they both turn and leave the room. The chain rattles, the sound of metal wheels on steel track, the lock snapping shut. Then the sound of metal being dragged along a hard floor permeates through the stout door. Steel heeled court shoes click clack their busy way along the stone floor of the hollow corridor. David lies on his bed alone in his thoughts once more. It begins to dawn on him just what might have happened. And if O'Connell and his brother were to find out that he is still alive, it may mean that he won't be for much longer. As for his brother, he could hardly wait to get his hands on him in more equal circumstances.

His eyes wander around the room. They take in the bedside table with glass vase complete with plastic flowers and come to rest on the toilet and wash basin that take up one corner of the tiny cell. At least now that he is out of traction he might be able to spend a more comfortable and less embarrassing penny without having it examined by the nurse.

**20**

Mary, Paul and the kids, along with the dog, are out in the garden. CeeJay has not as yet come to accept his new master. He acts deaf when he is called by him and is somewhat protective of his charges if Paul goes anywhere near the children. Mary puts it down to some sort of latent jealousy on CeeJay's part.

"Silly dog is still sulking. It will probably take some time to gain his complete forgiveness after leaving him for such a long time." hints Mary.

Paul is barely listening. He is too busy ogling with perverse egotistical vanity every lust filled contour of her sun-touched flouncy body as she plays catch with Mike. His lechery knows no bounds. Again he feels horny but his clumsy approaches towards Mary have been rebuffed since their first night back together. He just doesn't know how.

Mary, for her part, is just as puzzled. To her he just doesn't seem to be the same man somehow. But she just can't quite put her finger on it. I bet he has got another woman, she thinks. It usually is another woman. That will be why he took so long down there supposedly looking for Paul. It could also explain why Doctor Hammond was unwilling to talk to me about whatever it is. He will have found another woman and she has given him something that I could not have and taught him things that I don't know. That hussy has got him all aroused and he is taking his frustrated urges out on me.

"David," she calls, "David, can I ask you something?"

Paul turns from his pretence of watching the children racing around the flower beds.

"Sure Honey, what is it?" asks Paul, begging the question.

Mary thought it strange that her husband should choose to use "Honey" like that but lets it pass. She chooses her words carefully. "Do you still love me David?"

Paul takes her delicate passion bruised body in his arms and being as gentle as he possibly can, kisses her on her forehead, her pert freckled nose and then her fresh lips and says:

"Honey, I love you more than anything in the whole wide world…?"

Mary's smile is one of complete satisfaction. Then Paul adds,"…why don't we go back inside the house, take a shower and I'll prove it to you!"

**21**

David has hit on a possible plan of escape. Though the brick built room that he is in has no windows, is sealed by a stout locked door and has a solid floor, he reasons that the ceiling might just harbour the weak spot. He stands on the bed to test it but finds that he is a couple of feet or so short of it.

Getting back down from the bed and although his arms are still weak and stiff from non-use he manages to lift the small bed-side cupboard from the floor and place it squarely on the bed. Standing atop this he can just about touch the ceiling, but it is still too low to work from.

His eyes search the room for something to elevate him even further but can find nothing.

A flash of inspiration lights up his slightly befuddled brain when he realises that the top drawer in the small cupboard can be pulled out and placed on top of the cabinet to give that little extra height.

After building his precarious structure he climbs atop this makeshift scaffold and balances himself unsteadily. He tests the ceiling with his knuckles. Hollow! He reasons that if it has a plasterboard ceiling then it should be fixed to wooden joists. Wooden joists mean wooden floors. A wooden floor requires that above the ceiling fitting for the light there might be an access panel made up of one or two short lengths of floorboard, usually either loose or lightly nailed in place.

He decides to await nightfall before attempting to make an escape. Nurse would be in with his supper about nine-thirty. She then tended to leave him alone until the morning. He thought it best to get a little sleep.

**22**

Today's the day that Mary and the kids usually go to see Grandma. David's mother looked forward to these visits more than anything. Paul is in the bathroom admiring his new face in the mirror yet again. He pauses to look even closer. Was it his imagination, or was that damn mole getting to be more obvious.

"Are you ready!?" calls Mary from the stairwell, "we don't want your mother to be thinking that we aren't coming!"

Paul finishes preening himself and makes his way downstairs and out into the yard. The car, packed to the gunwales with children and dog, swings out of the drive and makes for the other side of town. A few minutes later the car pulls up at Grandma's door.

"Come on kids, everybody out," calls Paul. Paul is putting on a brave face. Even though he is in the guise of David, he remembers that his mother doesn't care for him, Paul, very much. He lags a little behind Mary and the children as they rush in to say their hellos to grandmother. She is quite deaf now and can hardly see, but she still has most of her faculties. The kids are all over her trying to grab her attention with their crayoned pictures, new doll and such. Mary and her "husband" look on.

"Hi Mom!" offers Paul from the back of the room.

"Paul!?" cries his mother, failing to disguise her mild shock. "A long time no see. Where have you been and what have you been up to, you little scallywag?"

Paul is a little taken aback. Then an inadvertent lifeline is thrown by one of the children.

"Silly Grandma, it isn't Uncle Paul Grandma, it's Daddy!" protests Jenny.

Beryl tries to catch another glimpse of her son through the bobbing heads of the children and the dog.

"Not Paul?" queries Beryl, not quite sure where she has got the idea from. "Daddy you say!?" she goes on, "I'm sorry Davie, you must forgive me. Come over here and let me look at you."

Paul nervously edges closer to his mother.

"Closer dear, come closer I won't bite. I can't see anything without my glasses." If truth be known, she couldn't see a great deal with her glasses.

Paul takes her hand, kisses it gently and then pecks her on the cheek. "It's me Ma, Davie."

"Davie?" echoes his mother.

"Yes it's me, Davie." His mother still looks a little puzzled but feels too muddled to take the matter any further. Although the incident doesn't entirely escape her attention.

**23**

After supper, David lay on his back listening for every sound. The nurse and her father have been in taking more snapshots of him. The thin sounding chimes of the distant clock counts down the hours to midnight. He decides that this is the time to try and make his escape. Taking care not to touch the bell button at the bottom of the bed, he pulls the bed to a position beneath the light.

He removes the drawer from the cupboard and proceeds to build his working platform. After climbing on top of the wobbling scaffold he steadies himself by grabbing a hold of the light fitting. Using the spoon that he had had to feed himself some time earlier, he discovers that it isn't plaster- board at all, it's lath and plaster. Thin strips of wood that have been nailed to the wooden joists and coated with lime mortar. He soon has the hole big enough to get his hand in and he tugs chunks of the ceiling away creating clouds of plaster dust as he does so. When the hole is big enough to take his body, he sets about the floorboards nine inches or so higher.

Pushing on the piece just above the light fitting he finds that it moves upwards a little. A sharp bang on it with the flat of his hand pains him but the board moves upwards a little more.

Another bang on the board and it shoots up suddenly and David hears a thump and a crash from the room above. At the same time the rickety pile on which he is standing shifts from under him and he and as it crumples down onto the bed the cupboard bounces crazily and crashes into the door. He freezes. He listens intently for the sounds that will herald the discovery of his escape bid.

Nothing stirs.

All is quiet.

He patiently rebuilds his makeshift scaffold and gingerly climbs back atop. A heavy carpet covers the floor above his room. He slides the short piece of floorboard under the carpet as best he can. The next bit of board proves to be a little more stubborn but he bears in mind that no one came when he made all that noise, so, though his arms are hurting and he's tiring fast, he sets about the task with renewed vigour. After about half an hour working at it he has the other piece of wood stowed under the carpet. The hole is now just big enough for his slim body to get through but is still blocked by the heavy carpet.

David climbs down off of the makeshift scaffold and has a drink at the sink to get rid of some of the dust in his throat and to think. If only he had a knife. But apart from the spoon he has no tools. He finishes the cup of water and then regards the glass flower vase now on the floor.

Wrapping it in the face flannel he cracks it at the side of the wash basin where it shatters. Still using the flannel to protect his hand, he selects the handiest piece of razor sharp glass and then climbs back up onto the top of the cupboard. With this primitive but functional knife he cuts through the carpet around three edges of the hole and throws the carpet back. David climbs down once more just to pick up the white smock from its hook at the back of the door. He would have liked some outdoor clothes and shoes but if he was going to make his escape now he would have to forgo such luxuries.

It's then that the hackles of his neck bristled as he caught the dread sound of a bolt being lifted and then the tortured screech of metal on concrete make him freeze once more. From the direction of the cell door he hears the click of a key being turned.

Thinking quickly he jams the handle of the spoon under the door and wedges it firmly with a length of broken lath. In blind panic he scrambles to the top of his swaying makeshift scaffolding. He reaches up through the hole and with legs flailing fresh air he makes to haul himself through and into the room above... the heavy chain rattling against the door hastens his efforts causing panic!

His pyjama pants snagging on a sticking out nail halt his mad scramble. He hears the sound of the door being flung violently open and a huge gust of wind brings a cloud of plaster dust gushing past him and through the hole in the ceiling. A strong vice like hand grips his ankle. He kicks out wildly and with all his available panic fuelled strength! He kicks again and feels his free leg come into hard contact with something equally hard and the grip is mercifully relaxed for a split second.

His pyjamas tear, as with one last-ditch effort he scrambles up and through the hole and lies there panting after his adrenaline fuelled ordeal. But before he has time to fully recover, the huge menacing head of the doctor looming up from the hole in the floor spurs him into action yet again. He picks up a large potted aspidistra and brings it smashing down on the doctor's head sending him crashing back through the hole in a cloud of dust and splinters to the floor below.

He pushes a heavy settee across the hole and crossing over to the window to view the garden to the wall that surrounds the clinic, he can just make out the lights of a busy highway and beyond that what appears to be the town. Having weighed up where he is going he decides to break a window to make his escape as the window catches are all locked and bolted. He picks up a chair and hurls it at the window. Sirens and bells immediately start ringing throughout the building as the huge head of his pursuer threatens once more to rear up through the jagged hole, thwarted only by the heavy settee that is lifted almost a foot off the floor.

Taking great care to avoid the broken glass as much as possible in his bare feet, David is out of the window and running for the cover of the garden shrubs.

Gasping for breath, he reaches the boundary wall and with resurgent adrenaline coursing through his veins he makes easy work of scaling it. Out on the road he makes for the town a mile or so distant. Desperate to put as much distance between the clinic and himself as he possibly can.

**24**

Back at the clinic, staff and security are running hither and thither in the building, trying to discover an intruder. Starting from the room with the broken window, the whole clinic is searched systematically, apart that is from the locked and barred room that had, up until a few moments ago been David's condemned cell. The door to which lies hidden behind a tall metal cabinet used for obscure and seldom used medical equipment that the doctor, after recovering from his blow to the head, had rolled back into place. The heavy bolt on the inside of the cabinet has been slid into its keeper in the floor stopping anyone who is unaware of its presence from moving the seemingly too heavy object.

In the room above the cellar amid the confusion, he had done his best to cover the tracks of his wayward patient by replacing the floorboards and carpet and covering it with hastily rearranged furniture.

Security calls Doctor O'Connell to inform him of; "...an intruder," but he decides that it isn't very important and harangues them for disturbing him at home. He decides that after breakfast will be soon enough.

**25**

"Doctor Hammond called again today. He said that he is just back off holiday and finds that you still haven't called in to the surgery. Are you going to try and get in to see him today?"

Mary's question, shouted from the kitchen, is directed at Paul, reclining on the couch. Paul decides that he will go down and see him, if only to get some respite from Mary's dogmatic insistence.

"Yes, I'll call in on my way back from the builders merchants." calls Paul, just a little angry at being nagged. Paul has been making a show of carrying on David's business. Secretly he has been transferring money from his own account pooling it with David's and using David's credit cards to pay the bills. What with David's money, the reward money and what was left of his compensation, it made for quite a healthy account. He was content to potter about with small jobs whilst deliberately overpricing for the work that he knew he couldn't handle. As Mary never meddled in David's business it was quite easy to pull the wool over her eyes.

"Well see that you do go see him," admonished Mary as she went about her dusting, "I don't want you dropping dead on us!"

**26**

Paul makes his way to Doc Hammond's surgery. Seated in the consulting room opposite the doctor he can't help but marvel how well his guise is working. Doctor Hammond just shook hands with Paul greeting him with a - "Ah! David, please sit down."

He pulls a slim blue document file from an overstocked cabinet beneath the desk and opens it out on the table.

"That tissue sample that we decided to have a look at. The results came back from the lab some weeks ago. I tried to get hold of you but your wife said that you were out of town." The Doctor stares at Paul as if waiting for some sort of reply.

"Sample, what sample?" queries a puzzled Paul, as if feigning some sort of memory loss.

"Why the mole of course!" replies the doctor. "You were a little worried that it had started to grow a little more and get itchy and you wanted me to check it for malignancy."

Paul's mind races. "Err yes...., I remember now." His words stumble out.

"Well your fears weren't exactly groundless." ventures Doctor Hammond. "It is a type of skin cancer. Melanomas are quite common and most are benign though this little devil is malignant but if we don't delay any further we might just be able to catch it in time and it shouldn't give us too much of a problem."

Paul absorbs this information with both puzzlement and dread. He starts to curse the luck that seemed to have deserted him yet again. His imagination hasn't been playing tricks on him after all. That damned mole is getting bigger by the day.

"I'll book you in to the local city hospital just as soon as they can find you a bed," says Doctor Hammond, adding, "meanwhile I am sending you down to X-ray for snaps. "They have your case notes down there but, just to be sure, I'll remind them that you have that steel plate in your head so that they can take the necessary precautions."

A piece of paper is handed to a dumbstruck Paul by Doctor Hammond and he is shown the way to X-ray. Clutching the paper, Paul's dazed and worried mind starts racing again. Steel plate! If they X-ray they are sure to find out that, with no plate, I cannot be David! It will all be over. Checks will be made all down the line. My fingerprints are on record! They'll have me for that hit and run. They'll suspect and connect me with David's disappearance. But if I don't allow them to treat the cancer......! His mind in a turmoil, he comes up with what to him is the only solution. Toluca!

**27**

At his clinic Doctor O'Connell surveys the damaged window. He has decided to come in early after all. Security has informed him that nothing has been stolen and no one has been discovered on or about the premises. Vince thanks and dismisses them so that they can set about the business of repairing the broken window. Still puzzled he heads off to have a look for himself. In the room where David had smashed the window he finds faint white footprints that appear to emanate from a large settee and terminate at the window. He struggles to push the settee to one side and discovers the ripped carpet. In a matter of minutes the hole is discovered and he peers through it and into the dimly lighted cell below.

By making a mental picture of the location of the room below and by pacing out the few distances involved, he eventually arrives at the "immovable" cabinet that conceals the chained and locked door. Intrigued and puzzled, he returns to the room above. Through the hole he can see the chest of drawers that still stands there on the bed. He decides to investigate.

After removing his jacket he lowers himself carefully through the hole until his feet make contact with the top of the rickety chest. As he wriggles through the hole his shirt-sleeve becomes hooked on the same nail in the joist that had troubled David. He wriggles and squirms trying to unhook himself. The cupboard shoots away from beneath him and he crashes down through the hole landing awkwardly in a crumpled heap as he does so.

He lies there unconscious and motionless. The emergency buzzer, pinned to the floor by his crippled, prostrate body, hums its urgent summoning along the wire to Juanita's living quarters.

**28**

Paul decides that he had better make himself scarce. Apart from anything else he doesn't fancy being arrested for the hit and run let alone the murder of his brother. To hell with Mary and the family he was beginning to tire of her anyway. He knows that Vince, because he is implemented in David's death, will help him. He calls back to David's home and proceeds to pack a suitcase.

Mary wanders in from the bathroom and challenges him.

"What are you doing…..where are you going David?" she asks quizzically.

"I have got to get away from here!" rants Paul hysterically. "I can't abide living here with you one more second!"

Mary is wide eyed with astonishment. So she is right. He has found someone else!

"Why David? Why has it come to this!?" she cries. "What have I done?"

Paul ignores her pleas and carries on throwing things, including some items of Mary's jewellery, into the case.

"You can't take those, she's not having those they belong to me, they're mine!" screams Mary, making a grab for them only to have them snatched back.

The children are in their bedroom listening to the row.

She tries to remove her things from the suitcase. Paul takes her by the arms and throws her roughly onto the floor.

"I'll take what I like. This stuff is as much mine as it is yours, now get out of my way!" With that he shuts the suitcase and makes for the door only to turn and take David's gun from the top drawer of the bed-side table. He levels the weapon at her and she cringes and cowers as he squeezes the trigger. He alone knows only too well that the hammer will fall on an empty chamber. There's a harmless and yet terrifying click and Paul laughs mockingly at cringing Mary. As he makes for the door he throws the empty gun down onto the bed.

"I hate you!" screeches a distraught Mary, "I hate you, you bastard! I hope you rot in hell!" Picking up the gun she flings it at Paul, but the door closes and it smashes harmlessly against the panels. Mary throws herself onto the bed sobbing. Paul takes his things, puts them in the car and roars off in a cloud of smoking tires.

The children - realising that it is now safe to come out - go to their sobbing mother to comfort her. CeeJay creeps nervously out from behind the shed where he had hid and whines up at the bedroom window pitifully.

**29**

David, in bare feet, pyjama bottoms and white smock, cuts a pathetically comic figure as he pads softly along the road in the twilight. As he rounds a bend he catches sight of the small town of Toluca. He reckons there's just a hopeful chance that his car will still be at the garage where he had left it. Not sure of exactly where the garage is he stops a bemused cyclist and asks. Another ten minutes walk brings him to the still locked garage.

It's six thirty in the morning. He has at least an hour to wait before they open. He spots a phone box and as he has no money he decides to make a collect call to home.

The phone at the side of Mary is ringing. She has spent a fitful night and awakes with tear stained eyes. She picks it up.

"I have a caller for you from Toluca, will you accept the charges?" burbles the operator.

Mary is still half asleep. "Yes, I'll take the call."

"You're through, go ahead caller." the operator warbles to the voice on the other end of the line.

"Thank you," says David. "Hello Mary, it's me, David!"

Mary is now wide-awake. "You bastard!" she yells at this supposed cretin of a man. "You utter bastard!!" she regales him. With that she slams down the phone. Shaking with rage she takes the phone off the hook and slams it down on the bedside table.

A dumbstruck David surveys the purring phone in his hand. "I suppose it is nothing more than I deserve." he says to himself. He makes another attempt at contacting Mary but the phone is off the hook. He makes up his mind to try again later.

He arrives back at the garage just as the owner is opening up.

"Good morning," says pyjama clad David, "I'm Mr. Watson, I've come to see if my car's ready."

The garage owner scratches his head thoughtfully.

"I theenk it may be so?" He informs him with just a shadow of doubt in his voice. "We haad to send off for a leetle part but I theenk it is all now feexed."

David follows the man into his tiny office where the keys are kept. After signing a couple of papers the keys are handed over to a thankful David. Still in bare feet and pyjamas he slips behind the wheel. He pulls away from the garage with a cheery wave to the head-scratching garage proprietor, happy to be on the road home.

An hour down the road the car overheats and he pulls in at a lay-by. While the engine cools he changes into his spare pair of trousers and a shirt that he has in his overnight bag. With the hood up he discovers that the fan-belt has broken. Making a temporary belt with strips of cloth from his hospital gown he is soon under way again. He has no money but the camera and binoculars he has with him might fetch enough to get him back home. In the next town he'll seek out a hock shop.

**30**

Paul bangs down angrily on the steering wheel. His impatience is beginning to wear a little thin. Driving this old car is starting to get to him. He can almost feel the cancer spreading as he sits in traffic awaiting the green light. It changes eventually and his tires spew their usual smoke as he floors the gas pedal and accelerates the old Chevrolet away from the lights. He just has to get to Vince before it is too late. Foot down to the floor the old Chevvy chews up the miles between him and his promise of salvation.

The road rolls under the hood of the car like a never ending grey ribbon. Grim determination etches his features into a cruel caricature of the devil that is within him. Weaving in and out of traffic like a man who didn't care whether or not he lived or died, just as long as it was a sudden death and not a lingering one. Toluca and Vince's expertise and confidentiality drew him on. He could be there by nightfall if he kept this pace up.

**31**

It's raining as David limps into the first town on his route. His gas gauge reads an ominous low and his makeshift fan belt had broken a few times but now, if he can find a garage, he could get a new one fitted and bill it to the hire company. After sorting out a garage, he leaves the car and sets off into the busy centre to see about raising enough cash on his few possessions for a meal and a tank of gas. As he crosses the main road he is very nearly knocked down by a Chevvy station wagon which, apart from having a red front wing and a bent fender, is exactly like the one that he has, or had. Through the rain he didn't catch the licence number but in any case there must be thousands of similar cars kicking around.

**32**

Paul pulls into the gravel driveway of Vince's house. It is far too late to be calling in at the clinic. At the huge portal he leans heavily on the door bell. From deep inside the house he hears the sound of the tinkling bell closely followed by familiar squeaky footsteps approaching on polished oak floor. The heavy door opens just a few inches. Willis's slant eyes peer at Paul through the gap.

"Wa you want?" challenges the butler.

"I would like to see Doctor O'Connell," states Paul in answer.

"I am afraid tha the doctor is not avaiwable at the moment," says Willis.

"When, where can I see him? It's urgent!" asks a flummoxed Paul.

The butler looks Paul up and down inscrutably before saying. "Doctor O'Connell is in the clinic. He has had ar accident, now prease go!" And with that he closes the door.

Paul makes his way back towards town to find a room for the night. At this unearthly hour he would not be a welcome visitor at any hospital.

**33**

David has managed to find a would-be buyer for his camera. $65 he is being offered for it, plus $25 for his binoculars.

"Well,....I tell you what," says the grizzled expert behind the counter, "you keep the case and I'll give you forty dollars for the camera."

This kind of bargaining was way above David's head.

"Look," says a tired David, "I'll take seventy dollars for the camera, and thirty-five for the binoculars, and I'll throw in the case for free."

The poker face of the shopkeeper is broken only by a thin wisp of a smile as he goes for the jugular.

"We'll call it a round one-hundred, how's that grab yah?" He spits on the floor behind the counter with a nonchalance that can only come from years of practice and after examining the orange sputum with a beady eye deliberately rubs it into the boards with the leather sole of his high machine-tooled leather cowboy boots.

"Done!" says David.

So you have been, thinks the dealer as he hands over the much soiled notes while making a grab for the goods.

Outside the shop David decides to get some change and ring Mary again. He buys a couple of cans of Coke and a bar of chocolate in order to split a note. While dialling his home number he hopes that she is be in a better mood after this morning, but his call home is greeted once again with profanity of the lowest order and the phone being hung up. On re-dialing, the phone just keeps on ringing so he too hangs up. Back at the garage he collects the car and fills it with gas. Soon he is on his way home once more.

**34**

At the cheap back street hotel, Paul examines his face in the bathroom mirror. The mole is decidedly bigger but is hardly visible under the beard. He decides that if he is to have it looked at, he might as well take this opportunity and shave his beard off now. It would have to be shaved off in the hospital, and anyway, he has no use for it now so he might as well do it now and save that bother later. Having done so he sticks a plaster over the unsightly mole. Once he has breakfasted he sets out for the clinic.

At reception he learns that O'Connell has indeed had an unfortunate accident. He has been involved in a fall and spinal damage has left him partially paralysed. At this moment he is still in a coma and is ensconced in a suite on one of the private wings. Paul asks if he may see Vince, informing the staff that although he may not be related, he is a very close family friend. He is informed that Doctor O'Connell doesn't have many visitors and that he would be most welcome to sit with him during visiting hours. Paul is shown up to Vince's suite.

Vince lies there motionless with drips and tubes seemingly entering and leaving every orifice of his inert emaciated body. Wires trail to various monitoring machines and an audible blip....ping...blip....from a heart monitor seems to penetrate the very soul. Paul, for once, decides to put his own troubles on hold and to concentrate on the welfare of his one and only friend.

**35**

David swings the car into his home street. It is two thirty in the morning and he decides to leave the car out in the road so as not to disturb the household unduly. All the house is in darkness. He lets himself in at the back door and tip-toes up the stairs. He soon discovers that he has the house to himself. He reckons, correctly, that Mary has probably taken the kids and the dog to visit his mother. He takes a long awaited bath and on drying himself can't avoid noticing that his arms and his face are flawlessly healed. He doesn't even have that horrible mole anymore nor even the slightest trace of five o'clock shadow. After having a light snack and a drink he decides that he had best go to bed and sort out the family misunderstanding in the morning. Safe in his own home he collapses into a deep and welcome sleep in their double bed, thinking of Mary and the kids and what a surprise they would have in the morning.

**36**

The state that Vince is in causes Paul to almost forget entirely his own problems. He sits there just looking at his friend who's barely clinging to life. The monitors surrounding the bed bleep and ping their remorseless messages to anyone willing or able to make sense of their readings. Paul's hospital training enables him to at least take in the seriousness of Vince's present vegetative state. He is on a ventilator and artificial heart machine. Saline drips and blood-plasma infusions constantly top up his almost lifeless system intravenously whilst yet another machine keeps watch on brain activity. The pair had done a lot of evil between them but they were still very good buddies at black heart. They had seen and done quite a lot together, and if they had been given their head, who knows what they could have achieved?

Just then the door opens and in walks a small pretty nurse. Paul looks up from his reverie to greet this interruption. The nurse looks at Paul with wide eyes.

"Paul! What....what are you doing here?" the words stumble out. Paul is almost as taken aback as she is. His mind races. She obviously knows him but for the moment she has the advantage because he doesn't recognise her.

"Oh hello," says Paul limply, "I'm just here visiting an old friend." He still struggles to place this beautiful angel of mercy.

"Friend? But Paul, I thought that I would never see you again! Why haav you come back, and what haath happened to your faith?" pleads Juanita, concern showing in her voice as she makes to touch the dressed wound on Paul's cheek.

"Oh! that," ventures Paul, his fingers caressing the plaster, "I cut myself shaving this morning." he explains glibly.

Their stilted conversation is brought to a sudden halt as an elderly cleaning orderly enters with her floor mops and brushes and starts moving things around noisily. Paul's mind clicks into gear.

"We can't discuss anything here," whispers Paul, "we'd better meet somewhere else to talk."

Juanita still overwhelmed, looks a little puzzled but can somehow see wisdom in his suggestion.

"I come off duty at seven thirty. Come to my quarters and you caan tell me all about eet. It will be perfectly safe." She scribbles an address on her notepad and tears the page off for Paul.

"I'll see you later then...er?" Paul starts to say, grasping purposely, allowing the nurse to interject.

"...Juanita!" she coos, "don say you haav forgetted me already!" laughs the nurse with a look of love in her sparkling eyes.

"No, of course I haven't, Juanita. I'll see you there at your place later then." says Paul. "About eight-ish?" He isn't entirely sure whether or not he should keep the date but it does allow him escape and a little thinking time.

Juanita leaves the ward and gives the situation a little thought. Torn between her loyalty to her father and the affection she holds for her "Paul", Juanita - after much deliberation - decides that family loyalties must come first. After all, Doctor O'Connell is in no condition at the moment to do anything about their sideline operations in the basement room. Although if Doctor O'Connell were to die it would mean she and her father possibly losing their jobs. It would hit her hard but it would have an even greater effect on her father and his research. Also, Doctor O'Connell had taught Juan a lot, but now he could pay him back a many times over.

She and her father are discussing - in their native Spanish - the change in events.

"Mr Watson could maybe make a lot of trouble for us Juanita." Doctor Balles says to his love torn daughter. "If he should decide to take the matter of his recent stay here up with the authorities, we could be in very big trouble."

Juanita listens to her father. What he is saying makes some sense to her but she herself is in no mood for sensibilities. She starts to cry.

"There is no other way. He will have to go," he shrugs.

"No Father," pleads a tearful Juanita, "let me talk with him first. I am seeing him tonight back at my place, I think that he will be prepared to listen to me."

Doctor Balles regards Juanita with a look that falls somewhere between pity and incredulity.

"You like this gringo don't you?" he ventures to his somewhat troubled daughter. Juanita fixes him with tearful eyes.

"I do. I love him!" she answers, "Why should I feel so for him. I love him and want him more than anything I have ever wished for in my whole life, and tonight I intend to let him know of how my feelings for him lie, and how much he means to me."

Her father weighs up the situation. His future depends on this whole sorry episode not being brought to the notice of the establishment. He can see that Juanita really loves her patient. His affection and fatherly love for his daughter was clouding his judgement somewhat. She had been the first to find Vince's unconscious body in that secret room. On first discovering it she had hurriedly summoned her father. The two of them had then carried Vince's unconscious body to the bottom of the cellar steps and arranged it to look as if he had fallen there. It was then a simple task to get someone to find him. On more careful examination by staff it was soon discovered that Dr O'Connell was still clinging to life, though barely, and he was admitted to intensive care. Security soon reached the right conclusion, and, because of all the first class medical amenities and assistance that were at hand, the accident to O'Connell didn't have to be reported outside the clinic.

"OK Juanita, you have it your way for tonight. If you can get him to forget all about it, I will be happy to go along with you, for a while at least." Balles was nothing if not a diplomat. He could see no real harm in letting his daughter have her last little fling with his patient. It wouldn't be the first time but would probably be the last.

"Thank you Father. I promise that you won't regret this, it means so much to me." Juanita rises on tiptoe, kisses her father on the cheek and floats out of the room to her tryst with "her Paul."

**37**

It is dark when Paul arrives at the apartments. After climbing the many flights of dimly lit concrete stairs he finds himself standing in the hallway outside the pretty nurse's seventh floor rooms. He had thought long and hard about meeting this girl again. However, he felt sure that no harm would come of it and in any case it appealed to his baser instincts. The thought of bedding such an attractive bit of skirt, whether he knew her or not, had definitely got the better of him. A final comb of his hair and a licking and sucking around his teeth and Paul knocks on the door.

The door is opened by a vision in a green silk wrap.

"Come in Paul, come in. I haav taken the opportunity to prepare us a little sumsing for to eat."

Juanita takes Paul by the hand and leads him through the small but tastefully furnished apartment.

"Nice place you got here." states Paul in his typically unimaginative way.

"Yes, I like it so mythelf." agrees Juanita. "Pleathe, let me take your coat and you make yourthelf comfortable Paul while I feex you sumsing to drink. What can I get you?"

Paul removes his jacket.

"Just Scotch with a splash of mother nature please, if you have it."

The vision in green looks quizzically at him. "Er, water, a little water with it please." explains Paul.

Juanita smiles her flashing smile and goes into the kitchen to do her man's bidding. She talks to Paul from the kitchen.

"You have thtarted to drink again then?" she ventures without getting a reply. Paul is busy nosing around the apartment. Left on his own Paul's eyes wander around the small room.

Pictures and photo's adorn the walls. Some are obviously family snapshots, some just scenes of the beautiful countryside surrounding the area. He is suddenly brought to a halt by one in pride of place on top of the television. It depicts a well bandaged patient sat up in a hospital bed looking a lot worse for wear and with a small hinged pink paper heart stuck on the photo over his privates. Paul cannot resist the temptation to lift the adornment to have a look underneath.

He jumps like a frightened schoolboy caught with his hands in the cookie jar as Juanita re-enters the room.

"You like it Paul, yes?" asks Juanita with a smile as she returns with the drinks.

"Ye-es, it is very good. Very good." He let the flap fall back into place. "Whatever turns you on eh!" Live and let live, thought Paul.

His answer conveys his obvious discomfort to his host. "I'm sorry about taking eet without permission but I haav to have sumsing to remind me." She looks pleadingly and adoring into Paul's eyes. Paul just looks puzzlingly at her. Has she flipped? Is he going mad or what? Her big brown eyes glow with mischief and scant disguised adoration for this man for whom she feels undying love.

"You don't mind, do you?" she asks.

Paul doesn't really feel the question is of importance but answers it anyway.

"Why should I mind. If you like such things then it's alright by me." He looks deep into her eyes and the looks of yearning are returned. He is transported by her avid attention onto a plain of sexual longing that he has not felt since taking Mary that first time. His hormonal balance tips the scales in favour of animal lust.Their lips brush lightly as he cups Juanita's small round willing face in his strong hands. Her big brown eyes close in total acceptance as Paul caresses her lips with his. His hands slide down the slim back of the eager young nurse and he feels the sensuality oozing from her and, with the feel of his rising manhood touching her petite rounded form, passion overwhelms Paul.

He starts to lose control and while still forcing his mouth on the willing lips of Juanita, half carries, half drags her towards the bedroom.

The unexpected actions surprise Juanita but for just a few seconds she gladly goes along with the idea of being swept off her feet by the man that she adores. But then, she suddenly realises her true predicament and her possible fate at the hands of this man that she hardly knows - other than as a patient - and she begins to protest wildly. Her red painted fingernails grip and tear at Paul's arms! Her frantic hands grab onto a shirt sleeve ripping it away from the shoulder to reveal a hirsute arm. Then she remembers, all too late, his excuse for the dressing on his face.

Her Paul would not have had to shave! Nor would he have hair on his arms! Her Paul doesn't drink and he wouldn't have forgotten her name so quickly!! Realisation dawns on her that this is not and cannot be her Paul.

A scream that almost shatters Paul's eardrums launches from Juanita's terrified larynx. Another starts from her lungs but is stifled by Paul's desperate hand before it can exit. Snatching a pair of tights from the back of a chair he rams them into her mouth.

With his free and open hand he smashes it into her jaw and she falls backwards onto the bed and lies there, still. Paul strips the tiny nurse of what is left of her tattered green dress. He is just about to strip her of her final dignity when he is seized from behind in a hug that would have put any grizzly bear to shame. Taken unawares he is pulled off balance and thrown heavily against the door jamb. Dazed, he staggers through the open door and out onto the landing. He just has time to catch a glimpse of his attacker bearing down on him, a hugely built swarthy man with fists like feet. Paul is viciously kicked in the balls where he lies, he's then hauled effortlessly into the air, slung backwards and thrown crashing through a window.

All his lights go out.

**38**

David awakens to the sound of a key being inserted into a lock. For a brief moment he is back in his cell and the hairs on the back of his neck again stand on end. Then voices, familiar voices, filter up the stairwell...

"Wipe your feet children, I don't want messy footprints paddling into the house." The unmistakable familiar sounds of home flood through the house and into David's consciousness.

"And don't let that damn mutt in the front door! I'll open the back."

David could never have dreamt the emotion that he felt just to hear that gentle nagging voice of Mary's again. He decides to hang fire in bed and surprise Mary when she comes up to the bedroom to change.

He doesn't have to wait long. Mary bounds upstairs and enters the bedroom. Kicking off her shoes towards the dressing table she crosses to the wardrobe whipping off her top as she does so.

Opening the wardrobe she catches sight of David's reflected grinning face in the mirrored doors. She gasps in surprise and genuine horror and turns to face him.

"What the fuck are you doing here!?" she shivered as she spat the question. "I thought I told you to get out and stay out!"

David's grin disappeared faster than a toper's whisky. His brow furls and puzzlement etches his face.

"What are you talking about?" David's honest and earnest question didn't get the answer he thought it deserved.

"You know damn well what I'm talking about, bastard!" snarls Mary. "Now get dressed and piss off before I send for the police!"

David is puzzled and amazed. He knows that his absence for so long without explanation might warrant some sort of reaction but this? This was bordering on the insane.

"Mary! What are you saying? If you will allow me to explain. It isn't my fault......" but Mary cuts him short.

"No, it never is your bloody fault is it! You're always coming up with some lame excuse for your actions! Well I have had it up to here with you and your antics of late, now get out of this house and stay out!"

Having made herself clear she makes it even clearer by taking the revolver from the dressing table drawer and standing her ground defiantly, she indicates the door.

"And this time this thing's fucking loaded!" she snarls.

David, though far from happy with the situation, decides that prudence may be the accepted action to adopt at this moment in time. He holds up his hands and shrugs his shoulders.

"OK, have it your way for the time being. I'll go across to Mom's until you have calmed down." he says resignedly.

"Huh!" scoffs Mary, "Your mother won't want any more to do with you than I do!" she jeers.

David pulls on his slacks, dresses hurriedly and makes his way downstairs. The children have been listening to the raised voices coming from the bedroom and have stayed in the kitchen out of harms way. A strangely clean shaven David finds them, and with arms outstretched offers to have them come and greet him for a hug. But the children hold tight to each other and back away from him.

"Leave the kids alone, you creep, and get out!" snarls Mary from upstairs, the gun now discreetly hidden in a towel, "Haven't you caused them enough heartache already?"

David is almost in tears. CeeJay pokes his head out through the door of the cupboard under the sink and regards him wistfully. The astute dog's tail starts to wag and it bangs rhythmically on the inside of the cupboard.

"Come on CeeJay," whispers a forlorn David, "let's us take a walk." CeeJay shoots from the cupboard with his whole excited body one complete wagging, licking and urinating machine. David unhooks the dog's leash from its place behind the pantry door, picks up his dad's old walking stick and with CeeJay skipping for joy in hot pursuit, he leaves the house.

Through a gap in the bedroom curtains, Mary watches them depart, with the dog on the lead milling eagerly around at his master's heels and David leaning heavily on the cane.

Funny, she thinks to herself. There seems to be something not quite right with David. She watches him as far as the gate. David stops and turns sadly to look back at the house once more before continuing on his forlorn way to his mother's house. She can hardly control a sudden and almost irresistible urge to knock on the window and call him back just as the phone starts ringing as she is making her way downstairs..

Somehow he was different, a certain something that she could not quite explain drew her to her husband once more. For a brief moment she wrestles to put her finger on just what it is that is different about him. She shudders and manages to push the charitable thoughts aside as the something that had been eluding her mental digit for that brief moment suddenly dawns on her.

He has shaved off his beard! That's what it is, and that pissing dog is nothing more than a bloody turncoat.


**39**

Not sure where he is for the moment or how he got there Paul lay as still as death... Voices drift up to him from far below. Spanish voices. Wild Spanish voices. It sounds to Paul like a lynch mob. Risking a turn of his throbbing head his heart jumps as far below he can just make out figures chasing madly around in the undergrowth and beating bushes with sticks. He decides it would be prudent to stay where he is and wait for things to calm down.

Down below, the large figure of Dr Juan Balles is holding a mobile phone that he has found on the ground. Turning it over in his huge hands there is one of David's business cards stuck on the back.

He inadvertently pressed the speed dial.....


**40**

Back to David's mother's bedroom.

"....and so you see Mom, I only got back last night after almost two months. I had tried to talk to Mary over the phone but she just wouldn't listen to me."

His telling at an end, Beryl smiles and nods and a little of the Irish in her pops to the surface.

"I thought it wasn't you when last I saw you here. It couldn't be you for sure for sure 'cos I just had the strangest feeling that it wasn't you."

David's mother indicates to her carer that she wishes to use the phone. The phone is brought to her, she dials and after waiting a few moments speaks.

"Mary it's me, Beryl. Would you pop over here and see me? I think that a little explanation is due."

As Mary leaves the house, the phone again rings. The phone keeps on ringing, and ringing. Mary hears it, sees David's number come up and decides to leave the answer machine to take it. On the other end of the connection is Dr Balles's huge hairy hand, clutching David's mobile, listening to David's outgoing answer-phone message.

"Hi! This is David Watson Erections.

There's no one in the office to take

your call. Please leave your message

after the tone.".........brrrrrrrrrr.

**41**

It is about a couple of weeks or so later. Mary has just about come to terms with what has happened to David. She is in no doubt whatsoever that this is her David and that he is speaking the truth when he says that all of what happened was quite beyond his control. The police are satisfied that David had nothing whatever to do with the hit and run and that it is Paul Watson they are seeking.

David, having decided that the only way is forward, is philosophical about Paul's violation of Mary. As she half jokingly explained to David:

"...he was just like you, but only on your worst day."

The kids are coming to accept their new clean shaven Dad with his flawless complexion. In fact it isn't so flawless now. The weather is making its mark for the better, and memory of his former looks are fading into obscurity.

CeeJay had accepted him from day one. He knew his faithful master alright and couldn't get enough of him and hardly left his side. It was only people who had known him before his trip to Mexico who found his appearance "different" and most of that was put down to him having no beard.

David had been down to the surgery to do his utmost in explaining what he could to Doctor Hammond but the old doc just couldn't or wouldn't grasp it. It was just too unbelievable for him to take on board. After all, he had seen the state of Paul's injuries prior to David's story. Further more - from what he could - see he had examined the skin and apart from being hairless could find absolutely nothing wrong with it at all. He had noted that the cancer had gone but such growths sometimes go of their own accord anyway!

To assuage David, he promised that he would try to find out a little more about the hospital that David had talked about, discretely of course. David had thanked him, gone home and set about rebuilding his marriage, his career and his life. What he had been through made life seem a lot more precious. Everything was getting back to normal, except for his bank balance. Thanks to Paul's contribution, that had never looked healthier. They were one big happy family once again... until....that night.........

**42**

David is woken from his sleep by a sharp dig in the small of his back.

"David!" Mary rasped. "David! I think someone's in the house downstairs!"

The urgency in her, clicked David abruptly out of his slumbers and they both lay still with breath bated.

"Shhhh!" shushed David. The night is eerily silent as their ears strain to pick up the slightest sounds of an intruder. Not a squeak.

"There can't be anyone out there or CeeJay would have been barking by now," assured David.

"That daft dog would more than likely be helping the burglars break in so that he could come up here and join you," retorted Mary, and started to giggle. More "shushing" followed and then she really broke out in a giggling fit.

David giggled too and soon their giggling was uncontrollable.

"Sssh! you'll wake the kids," admonished Mary. But this only resulted in more uncontrollable giggles. Mary pinched David's backside hard to make him stop and he retaliated by squeezing her and soon they are making like two completely in love teenagers without a care in the world.

Then the bedside light clicked on.

As David strove to make his eyes become accustomed to the sudden brightness of the light, he saw a hooded figure and the flashing something that may have been a knife. But before he had time to say or do anything there came a startled rasping gasp of amazement from the hooded form.

"Aaargh!" cried the hooded figure. "David, is that ....?"

For an instant the figure's attention was diverted as Mike, clutching his beloved teddy bear, called from the doorway. "Daddy, can I.........?"

But before he could finish, David grabbed for the intruder's "knife" hand and banged it hard against the bedroom wall, knocking a heavy object from his grip. A solid punch into his would-be assailant's hood covered face sent him sprawling to the floor.

Mary ran to protect Mike as David took up his gun from the drawer and pointed it at the now cowering figure.

"Don't shoot, David! Don't shoot! It's me - Paul," pleaded the muffled figure.

He pulled off the hood covering his head to reveal what was left of his ravaged face. Much of the left side of his face appeared eaten away and looked totally grotesque surrounded by a light uncultivated beard growth.

"Paul, is it really you!?" ventured David incredulously.

But before he could reply Paul collapsed in an untidy heap on the bedroom floor. Mary had carried Mike back to his room and on returning reached for the phone as if – David assumed - to call for the police. David took a hold of her shoulder.

"Wait Mary, not yet! Let's see what he has to say before we send for the cops," suggested David.

But Mary shook him off gently as she stooped to pick up the torch that Paul had dropped.

"We're not calling the cops David, I'm phoning for Doctor Hammond."

**43**

Dr Hammond has Paul admitted to intensive care at the local hospital. Things do not look good for Paul. In fact things look altogether impossible. Paul lies there hooked up to life support systems. Although his body is functioning normally the cancer is already beginning to get uncomfortably close to his brain. If it did it could cause havoc with his motor neuron system.

Nothing much be done for him and it would be only a matter of time before brain-death would have to be certified. That will take as long as it takes. In the meantime David is advised to go home and get some rest and come back in the morning.

**44**

It was the following day all too soon. David made his way down to the hospital. As he drove into the grounds at the rear of the hospital he thought he saw a figure closing the tailgate of a low-line ambulance. Dressed in a white coat, the man looked familiar.

Tall, well built, bushy eyebrows. The man got into the vehicle and as it moved off it passed David within a few yards, but the windows were blacked out and he couldn't get a better look. In any case, how could it possibly be! All men in white coats look alike anyway, reasoned David.

He found the main entrance and, after walking a few corridors, onto the ward where Paul had been ensconced the day previous. He found his bed is empty. Enquiries to a white uniformed nurse with "Ward Sister" emblazoned on her badge lead him to be informed that Paul had finally succumbed about half an hour ago and after being certified dead had been taken down to the mortuary to await family funeral arrangements.

"Would it be possible to see him just one more time before he is laid to rest?" begged David.

"Yes, I think that that can be arranged," answered the nurse edgily. "See that orderly there. Ask him to take you down to mortuary."

With that she hurried along the corridor obviously going about her business.

In the bowels of the hospital, free from the effects of central heating and air conditioning, the cold dank atmosphere permeated through David's thin summer clothes. The orderly minced his way along just a yard or two in front of him as they negotiated the white painted galleries. Soon he came to a halt at a pair of steel clad swing doors.

"Your man ith in there," he lisped, indicating the door. "Jerry will sort you out, he's your man." With that he turned on his heels and minced off back the way they had come.

David gingerly pushed open one of the double doors. He half expected it to creak but it didn't. Inside was well lit but cold.

"Hello. . . o. . . .o. . . . o!" David's call echoed into the far reaches of the mortuary. He called again, and again the walls echoed mockingly.

There was no reply so David, thinking better of seeing Paul, turned and made a move towards the door. But before he had taken a step he was almost knocked off his feet by the door as it was roughly pushed open by someone who could only be Jerry.

"Hi!" exclaimed David, happy to have company down there. "Jerry? Ward Sister says that I can be allowed to say my goodbyes to my brother. She says you have him here."

"Your brother you say?" queried Jerry, "What's his name?"

"No, Watson," replied David. "Paul Watson."

Jerry ambled over to a small plastic covered table and rummaged through some paperwork. After what seemed an age he looked up.

"There doesn't appear to be a Paul Watson here," he informed David. "Are you sure he has been sent down?"

At this news David asked the attendant, somewhat foolishly, if he was sure and then he backed out of the mortuary and ran blindly along the many white walled corridors. Eventually he made his way back to Paul's ward, panting.

He gasped to a nurse, "Where's the Ward Sister!?" The nurse took his arm and shushed him.

"Sshhh! You're disturbing the patients."

"Damn the patients, where is my brother!? Where's the Ward Sister?" screamed David.

"What's going on here nurse?" enquired a matronly white smocked figure. "What is this man doing here and what does he want?"

"He's looking for you, Sister, something about his brother?"

"You're the Ward Sister?" asked David.

"Yes, of course, can I assist you?"

David related to her his events of the past twenty minutes or so, including his being directed to go down to the mortuary by a ward sister.

"Well I've been on all morning and I don't remember having spoken to you. Mr Watson was due for surgery this morning and has been taken down less than half an hour ago," the Ward Sister informed him.

"Wait a minute," queried David. "If you have been on duty all morning, who was the nurse I spoke to half an hour ago and who sent me down to the mortuary?"

Sister shrugged her shoulders. "It wouldn't have been any of mine, that would have been way out of order. But I will check for you."

At that moment an orderly appeared at the door pushing a trolley-bed. A whispered conversation with the ward sister revealed that there had been a bit of a delay but he'd been sent to pick up a Mr Paul Watson for surgery.

A look of panic creased Ward Sister's flushed face. "I'll contact security," she announced. She indicated a side room to David. "Would you like to wait in there a moment Mr........." but David had already gone.

**45**

Paul awoke from deep sleep to find himself lying on his back on a high bed in a windowless room.

A small bulb radiated its weak luminescence from a yellowing spherical shade. As his eyes became accustomed to the dim lighting he could see himself and the room reflected in the shiny surface of the unevenly undulating stainless steel-sheeted ceiling. His head appeared to be swathed in bandages and covered by a transparent bubble. On trying to move his limbs he discovered that he couldn't.

Through the reflections he could see another bed positioned alongside his. He couldn't turn his head to see directly but from the distorted reflection above he could make out the contours of a sheet covered skinny body with its hideous head under a transparent bubble. He could just make out a pair of blood-shot protruding eyes staring unblinking down at him from a mass of exposed raw flesh. Paul shuddered.

A screech of metal scraping on concrete focused Paul's attention. The sound of a bolt being drawn, chains rattled and keys turned in locks. Paul could see the heavy door slide open and the big white-coated man enter accompanied by a pretty nurse as they walked towards his bed. He recognised her immediately as the girl in the green dress.

The girl he had tried to force himself upon.

She still bore the tell-tale signs of a fading scar on her tender pale cheek. Terror gripped him as he immediately realised that he was now at the mercy of this pair. His wild eyes followed them across the room towards his bed side, but when he took his eyes from them and looked once more at the reflections in the ceiling they appeared to be tending to the bandaged patient at his side?! He was gazing out of another's body!

"Now then Doctor O'Connell, how are you feeling this morning." The tall man spoke gently to the bandaged figure. A muffled reply emanated from the bandages in response.

"We are going to change your drethings today and make checth on your progreth Doctor," chattered the nurse. "I hwill try to be ath gentle as I pothibly can." She moved over to the sink and ran some water into a bowl.

"And then we might be able to start on your physiotherapy," suggested the big man. "We'll soon have this brand new body of yours licked into shape."

The pretty nurse came and stood at the side of Paul's bed. She looked down at him through her beautiful wide eyes.

"What are we going to be doing with this one Father?" she asked.

The huge man came over and also stared closely at Paul's adopted, prone, inert and almost totally pillaged body.

"I don't know yet Juanita, but I will think of something fitting for him. There's no real hurry and in any case, maybe Doctor O'Connell might like to make a suggestion, when he is well enough.

"He will at least want to thank him for the donation. What do you say?"


END (or is it?)

*First drafted by the author Anthony Winston Allsop as "Double Take" on an ATARI ST in 1994/5 it has since been transferred by author to PC in 2006 and to make it even more viable a certain amount of debugging and minor editing and updating has taken place since the original was recorded on to floppy disc and original MS produced on a Citizen 120-D dot matrix printer.

Do NOT adapt or alter the script without author's permission. Should you spot any mistakes, typos, continuity etc. feel free to let the author know so that the errors can be rectified.

About Me

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Mansfield, United Kingdom
I am over 69. Up to a couple of years ago I'd have described myself as fit and decisive. Now I'm not so sure. I am into DIY. If my wife asks me to do something I say; "Do It Yourself".....Click on my Older Posts for more reading. Or try: http://www.chrisbeach.co.uk/viewQuotes.php