With Unjust Cause 1-3
Sequel to "I Cried"
If the coincidences in life were ever counted, no one would ever believe in chance ever again. Least of all John Lawless. He looked up the path towards the front door that was to be his life for the next year. A year after which he could walk away. Unlike his victim. It was one of his major regrets. Not that he regretted much he had done in his life. Only the prison he had created within those very walls for the man trapped inside, in the useless body fate had dealt him. A fate he had personally presented him with. His crime.
A crime he was being punished for.
A crime his victim was being punished for, even more so.
A crime he could never forgive himself for.
Standing on that pavement, not quite going through the gate, he recalled oh so clearly how this hell had been created. Every step on that slippery highway was now indelibly etched on his mind. They were memories he took out daily and looked at. Instead of becoming more tolerable they became darker, harder, more and more the definitive image he had of himself. And what he saw reflected in his own soul was ugly beyond words.
He had had to finally face the truth, his truth; he was a violent man. He used physical force almost as a first resort - rather than the last. And in this pristine prison was the prisoner that he created.
Hearing about Terry Bower's fate had been difficult. He had been in hospital himself, recovering from Ketamine poisoning, when Dave had found him and told him. He took great pains to tell John that Terry had been admitted to the same hospital himself just days before. Not that John had really known that until Dave finally blurted it all out.
It had been obvious that Dave had needed someone to talk to. To vent his own shock and horror at the sight of Terry's injuries. He sat by John's bed detailing the damage done to a young man John always remembered as vibrant, full of life. Now blind, helpless, balanced exactly on the edge of living and dying. Or maybe at the edge of a living death?
The truth, however, wasn't something that John Lawless had wanted to face. Not then, not now, not ever.
"We're in trouble. You, me and Willy Kaa. To name but a few." Dave's eyes had been sort of defocused, not really on John's current state. "And, you'll be happy to know, Alan Snow and even Susan Ellis, not forgetting the rest of the Avondale Police Force, are right along with us. I don't think it'll be too long before even Andy and Jodie join us in the shit!" He had sighed, almost looking at John Lawless. He had to tell his friend all his news before his nerve failed him.
"Why?" John remembered his voice had croaked. The drugs and their counter agents having left his body weaker than a new-born kitten.
"The whole Terry Bowers shit has come home to haunt us." Dave had said, less than informingly.
"What about Terry Bowers? He's safely locked up in Mount Eden." Then thought caught up with his Ketamine induced memories and Dave's words and voice. "What's happened?" He became nervous, almost frightened by Dave's attitude.
"You remember when you beat Bowers up?" The Detective Sergeant asked, finally looking John in the eye. What shocked John was the almost too casual way he could say such a thing. Even after more than a year later, the feel of Terry's bones breaking under his hands as he punched the younger man was a subject his subconscious mind loved to revisit. Nightly, if it could. Little wonder he relied on drink and drugs to ensure nothing touched him. He was safe from harm. But was Terry?
"Yeah, so?" John finally spoke when he realised that Dave was waiting for some form of response.
"Seems that when he didn't get medical treatment for his injuries, the injuries you inflicted, he suffered somewhat in prison." Dave was dancing around something. Not wanting to accept any of the blame for whatever had actually happened to Terry Bowers. John knew him well enough to read that with extreme ease. "Shortly after sentencing Bowers suffered a mild stroke. A stroke he received very little medical care or treatment for either. A couple of weeks in the prison hospital wing then back to the main wing."
John had failed to take in any more information at that point. All he could think about was having beat a fellow human being to the point that something physically broke in his brain. He had dwelled on the idea that he was possibly no better than Terry Bowers himself for so long that conformation of that fact caused little obvious reaction.
Dave had noticed John's distraction, however. He waited, he had time to tell John his story. Terry Bowers, on the other hand, probably didn't have time left enough for anything.
Finally, John had turned to face Dave, waiting to discover if there was more news about Terry that he really ought to know. Something no doubt even worse.
"Surely he was in solitary, at the very least?" Hoping against hope that Dave would tell him he was simply imaging the worst.
"He wasn't segregated after the stroke. He was left in one of the main wings with the other prisoners. Unable to walk well, to talk almost at all, unable to use his left hand and arm." Dave was interrupted this time. The news had John shooting up in to a sitting position.
"But if he was left there, like that, he'd be a target for every sicko in there. Unable to defend himself? Unable to call for help?" At each question Dave had nodded, silently, eyes downcast. "What happened to him?"
"Gang raped three days ago. Three inmates and two prison wardens." Dave swallowed convulsively. Something that had been unsaid was obviously turning his stomach. More than what he had said already had.
"Is he dead?" John asked. Not sure what answer he was hoping for.
"No. The poor shit's still alive. He's along the corridor." Dave looked in the direction of Terry's room. "I'd been heading up the watch detail - seeing as he was our case, as it were. Everything was going fine until someone tracked down Bowers' mother. She hadn't even been told he had been arrested." His eyes swung back towards John. "Can you imagine it? A strange cop arrives at your door, tells you your youngest son has been arrested for armed robbery, murder. Then without pausing for breath the idiot just poured out the rest of it. Bluntly! He's in hospital after a gang rape he couldn't do a thing about, not since he had his stroke after the beating he got prior to being arrested. Normally they send a mature officer, this time they sent a wet behind the ears greenhorn."
For his part John Lawless could imagine it. He could imagine it all to well. His heart went out to Terry's mother. Just as it skipped beats at Terry's predicament.
"Why hadn't she been informed he was in prison?" John's voice was surprisingly stable.
"Terry didn't tell her, and no one thought to make sure someone in his family knew where he was. The Probation Services have sent or are about to send a letter of apology about that, it seems. Much good it'll do them."
"So, why are we in trouble?" John couldn't fathom why they would be the ones in trouble when it was Terry that was fighting for his life.
"Mrs Bowers has instructed her own lawyer to investigate matters with the view of bringing a private prosecution against us all. When the intent to press charges was received I was pulled faster than the speed of light!" Dave stood up and began to pace the small area around John's bed. "Yesterday we almost lost him, Terry that is, he was poisoned by the hospital. Another reason for his mother to sue someone." He had looked again in the direction of Terry's room. "Some idiot dosed him up with far too much Ketamine" Then he looked at John. "Same as you, aye?"
"Was his face damaged?" John asked an apparently unconnected question. He remembered every hideous detail of that 'trip' he had taken with Terry.
"Damn right it was. They think he might be blind. His face was ripped open, fingernails and such." Dave looked back at his friend.
"And what else happened to him?" John could see there was more he didn't know, more Dave was holding back for some reason.
"The surgeons had to divert his .." He waved a hand vaguely around in front of his own lower abdomen. "Poor shit'll be shittin' inta a bag for months.. if not always. Ripped apart inside and out! Last I heard was they were putting him on a respirator, he wasn't breathing right either, not after the Ketamine. They had to slit his throat so they did..."
John had finally stopped listening. He couldn't take any more in. Not then. All the rest of the details had drifted in over the days that followed.
John pushed open the gate that fronted the well kept garden and headed up the scrubbed clean path towards the front door. He was pretty far from Avondale, as these things went. The other side of the city from the dump Terry Bowers had grown up in. Terry's mum had bought them a nice house on Ayr Street, backing on to Newmarket Park, with the first lot of Terry's Criminal Injuries Compensation money. Ironically, they weren't all that far from Mount Eden Prison. John looked up at the row of equally as neat gardens and houses that flanked this very private prison. No matter how comfortable Mrs Bowers made it, it would always remain a prison to Terry. Unable to do anything for himself.
That had been a shock, the first time he had managed to see Terry. It was also the first time he had met Terry's mother. She redefined the words strong and willed. Despite their first encounter he had learned to respect her, and finally to like her. Though he suspected that that feeling wasn't mutual. How could it be? Everytime she looked at her son she would have to remember it was him who put him there.
He had walked along the corridor towards the 'side' wards. The rooms that accorded patients much needed privacy. He knew which one Terry was in. The one with the guard outside it. A uniformed policeman stood before the door. As John approached the man bristled and watched him. He didn't speak, he didn't have to. He was bored, he was angered, he didn't want to be guarding the door of a convicted criminal. After all, it wasn't as if he could run anywhere.
"I want to see Terry Bowers." John had said, loudly enough to attract the attention of those inside the room. The policeman before the door looked at him, a bored expression still on his face. A look that called John all kinds of scum and fool for wanting to see Bowers. Then a tiny spark of sympathy had flashed across his face as he thought about the young man's injuries. Injuries that some ex-cop had precipitated.
"Name?" He asked as he brought up a notebook with a list of approved visitors.
"John Lawless." He looked from the policeman's face to his hands as the officer read the list. Almost willing his name to be on the list. Almost willing the officer to not recognise his name.
"Not on this list, sorry you can't go in." He pocketed his list and turned to face the front, yet keeping a steady glance on John as he did so.
"I'm not moving until I get to see Terry Bowers." He hadn't shouted. At least he thought it hadn't been all that loud. It obviously had attracted the attention of the occupants of the room.
The door had swung open, revealing a mature woman with shoulder length dark blonde hair and eyes as blue as Terry's own. The cheekbones were so close, so exact, there was no missing their relationship. This woman had to be Terry's estranged mother.
"Mrs Bowers, I'm John Lawless, I'd like to see Terry, if I may?" He held out a hand in greeting. Mrs Bowers looked from his face to his hand and back again with an expression of profound disgust on her face. There was no doubting that she recognised John's name. None what so ever.
"Why? Why should I let you in here? To let you beat him up again? He's suffered enough at your hands. Let alone because of you. Go away. Leave us alone. Terry doesn't need you gawping at your handiwork. He's not a side-show freak for your entertainment." She moved back from the door, ready to close it, but John stepped forward and tried to wedge it open.
He had forgotten all about the duty officer guarding the door. As John lurched forward the policeman put two and two together to get a very healthy four. This bloke was the ex-copper that caused the poor bastard's stroke in the first place. This was the man that was bringing an entire division of police down with him. He knew that no police force, the world over, were angels but his actions against Terry Bowers were in and of themselves criminal.
"Get out of here before I arrest you, Lawless. Maybe I'll use your own arrest technique on you. Then you can visit as an in patient." The policeman pulled John's body away from the door. John lurched as he resisted the slighter built officer's best efforts. His action made Mrs Bowers take one more step backwards revealing a brief glimpse of Terry inside the room.
He had tubes disappearing up his nose, in his hands. Little clips adorned his fingers, measuring all that was measurable. Even his throat had a big green plastic tube coming out of it. The room echoed to the slightly amplified sound of every breath Terry took.
"Oh God, Terry." John whispered, he couldn't look away from the young man lying so still in the bed. His inner eye couldn't turn away from the remembered sight of Terry Bowers so alive, so energetic. Sitting in his living room, playing his guitar, telling him he could call him Sonia if he really wished to.
"I hope you're satisfied Mister Lawless. I hope you can live with yourself. You caused this to happen. You left my son helpless, defenceless and skipped merrily away getting on with the rest of your life. Well, take a good look! And I'll see you in court." Then she opened the door fully, briefly, and slammed it shut in his face.
"I'm sorry." John whispered to the door. His only witness the policeman that still had a hold of his arm.
"Well that's a shit load of use to anyone." He pulled John further away from the door and pushed him along the corridor. "Now get out of here! And take my advice, mate, get yourself a good lawyer, aye. You're gonna need one."
John Lawless had stumbled away from that door, almost blind to his whereabouts, all he could think about was the sight of Terry Bowers looking small and lost amongst all the equipment that was currently keeping him alive.
John always thought about that first view of Terry. It was never far from his mind. He lifted the key to the front door of Terry's very private prison and slid it into the lock. At least Terry no longer needed all that equipment just to keep him alive. But, was being blind, crippled, unable to shit or piss for himself, hardly able to speak much, was any of that really being alive?
The former under cover cop alternately cursed and blessed the judge that had sentenced him to 260 days community service for his part in the Terry Bowers fiasco. It was a very specific community he had to supply service to. Terry and his mum. A years worth of care while Mrs Bowers went to work and earned the money they needed to keep Terry healthy. The best of medical care didn't come cheep. Was a year all that much to give up from his life? Monday to Friday he cared for Terry while his mum was out. At least he had been there to see for himself the myriad of slight improvements Terry had made over the last thirty working days.
All he had to do was break Terry of the habit of calling him 'Lucy' and he'd be a lot happier.
He grinned at Terry's silly joke as he pushed open the door, calling out as he always did, reassuring Terry that he was safe. Although he would never admit to Terry the whispery sound of him calling him Lucy, or any damn name he wished, was like a prayer answered. Terry was at least able to communicate, somewhat.
"Only me, Terry. You need anything?" He hung up his jacket on the hooks by the door, and listened for a reply. There wasn't one. That was unusual. Usually Terry told him to fuck off and leave him alone. Even after all these weeks Terry couldn't accept that John had to be there with him. He still wouldn't trust him.
John pushed open the door to the front room, the one that had Terry's bed in it. Only the bed was empty. John panicked, his eyes covered the entire room and finally saw Terry, on the floor, almost covered by the fallen blankets, blood everywhere. He was so very still, like he was dead.
"Terry!" John screamed, he dived forward, hitting the emergency link button as he fell to his knees.
A disembodied voice asked what was wrong.
"What can we do for you Mr Bowers?"
"It's me, John Lawless, Terry's carer. Terry's unconscious, there's blood everywhere. Send an ambulance." John didn't touch Terry, he groped for the ever present box of latex gloves. It had been drummed into him by both Mrs Bowers, and Terry's doctors, that they couldn't be certain, yet, if Terry carried the HIV virus or not. Courtesy of any one or more of his rapists.
"An ambulance is on its way. What appears to have happened, Mr Lawless." The voice was calm, which was more than John was. It was as he examined him that John realised the Terry wasn't as still has he had first thought, he was twitching, slowly.
"I'm not sure, he's twitching, like he's having a bit of a fit. He appears to have fallen out of bed." John finally touched Terry, not moving him, just feeling around, as best he could with the gloves on. "He's bleeding from his mouth, his forehead, his abdomen. I think he's wrenched the colostomy bag's mounting loose or something."
A new voice joined them over the link box.
"This is the paramedic, Mr Lawless is it?"
"Yeah, that's me." John agreed, his voice shaking a little as he responded.
"Is he breathing ok?" The paramedic asked.
"Shallow and fast, but he's breathing." John told him.
"We're five minutes away, Mr Lawless we'll be there as soon as humanly possible. Now, about the bleeding, is it fast, slow? Describe it to us..."
And the rest of that interminable wait went much the same way. John describing things to the paramedics, then they told him what to do for best. The emergency link operator broke in briefly to tell John that Terry's mother had been informed and was on her way to the hospital, she would meet them there.
All John could do was wait and think and remember. And hope Terry would call him Lucy again.
The court case had eventually been heard. It hadn't really taken a great deal of time. Not once Mrs Bowers' lawyer discovered the missing information that had somehow not been presented for Terry's defence council's examination. It had been several pages of Pathologists report and part of John's own statement. The Crown Prosecution Service was thoroughly implicated in a brazen attempt at railroading Terry. Counting on his very real sense of guilt over actually killing a man.
Even when he hadn't.
It had all ended up in a case that was in part Judicial Review, a retrial and a private prosecution. No mention had been made anywhere to the fact that it had been one of the Australians that had set fire to the petrol tank of the second car. That the guard hadn't actually died from the shotgun wounds but from the crushing injuries as the burning car rolled over him with both axles. That he had been alive and conscious when John had knelt by his side. All because they wanted a conviction for the guard's death and had allowed the Aussies to be deported back to stand trial for their crimes back home. The New Zealand job to be taken into account.
They let the real killer get off that charge and bent the evidence to fit Terry Bowers.
John still hadn't known why no medical care was given to Terry when he had been co-operating with the police. Even the trial judge had asked for clarification on that point. Not that any excuse was forthcoming, other than no one thought his injuries were so serious. Everyone had hung their heads in shame when the judge asked which of them was medically qualified. Needless to say none of them were.
That had lead to a question going to the Prime Minister. What did her Government propose to do to protect the rights of prisoners to prompt, competent medical care, and to safe guard their rights to physical protection from the police themselves.
After things had gone all the way to the top Government circles, John felt lucky to have gotten off as lightly as he had. Willy had gotten a one year sentence, suspended for two. Two whole years of being monitored, of reporting to police stations and probation officers damn near every day. Of being fully accountable for all his actions. Dave Bruford had been suspended, pending an internal enquiry. He had eventually been reprimanded for so thoroughly disregarding police standard operating procedures. That and a hefty sum awarded to Terry Bowers from him and the entire Avondale Police Force as an organisation. It didn't make Terry rich. It allowed his mother to care for him however. It helped towards the house they now shared.
No matter what the dead guard's wife had said. Until she rushed towards Terry, brandishing a knife, only to realise he didn't fear what he couldn't see. Up close his injuries were a living torment. The tubes that disappeared into the young man's flesh made it all so real to her. It was then that she had dropped the knife. The voices around her had indeed repeated the truth. She finally had to believe them. That it really wasn't Terry's shotgun blast that had killed her husband, but the crushing injuries from the car as it rolled over him.
John recalled her voice as she had been lead away. Asking if Terry would ever see again, would he ever walk, would he ever have control over any of his body's functions. She had come face to face with Terry's mother.
"You'll no doubt be overjoyed to know that no - he probably won't get any better. I don't suppose five men ever raped your husband? Or your children? Your husband died in a drug induced cocoon of no pain, no anxiety. My son lives each minute in a dark and terrifying agony. Yeah, no doubt that cheers you right up?" She had walked away from her then, letting her be taken away by the police.
She was charged with attempted murder. Much to the public's outcry. But Terry wouldn't press charges. He claimed he hadn't noticed and couldn't say what she had wanted to do. Oddly enough, the press hadn't featured that fact too prominently, but these things have a way of getting out. Of that John had made certain.
And in the end, he had been sent to care for his victim. The judge had concluded that he didn't regard John Lawless as a danger to Terry Bowers. That he trusted the older man's guilt to hold him in check. He wasn't wrong.
The sound of the waiting room door opening and closing behind whomever had come in pierced the seclusion John had wrapped himself in. He looked up, not noticing the gaudy paintings on the walls, just the drawn, terrified look on Terry's mum's face.
"Mrs Bowers?" John stood and lead her to a seat. "Any news? Is he ali.." He couldn't finish that question. Not around the knot of fear that held his tongue so still. No, Terry couldn't be dead. It wouldn't be right.
"He's still unconscious. He convulsed, had fits, they brought on a second stroke and the twitching rolled him out of bed." She turned to John Lawless, the man her Terry had called Lucy. Mostly because he had stuttered so badly over the letter J. And he could no doubt picture the look Lawless had on his face every time he called him Lucy.
"What did they say? How long do they think before he wakes up?" John sat beside her, still holding her, still permitted to offer that most basic of comforts.
"A minute, a day, a year. They don't know." Then the wall finally cracked and she cried. Big, noisy, inelegant tears of fear and shame and guilt.
"We gotta be strong Mrs Bowers." John had pulled her closer, only to have her finally struggle free of him as she looked at him, not one emotion in her face but all of them.
"You don't understand do you? You never asked why I didn't know where my boy was, what he was doing in his life? Didn't you ever want to know?" She looked at John, a wild look of primal need in her eyes.
A need John could not ignore.
"Know what?" He was at a loss to know where she needed to start, but he tried anyway.
"See, I left Terry with his father. Terry must have been about fourteen. I felt trapped, I couldn't take it anymore. So I walked out on them. Terry and his dad. Left my youngest child behind me so I could be free. Don't you see? If I had stayed, Terry wouldn't be the way he is now!" She was adamant, that much was obvious.
"You don't know that." John was just as adamant.
"He never got in any trouble when I was there. His trouble started shortly after I left. See? It was me who really put him in here. I failed him, completely and utterly. Like only a mother could." She sniffed noisily and automatically took the handful of tissues John reached out of the box on the table before them.
"But you didn't fail him when he really needed someone in his corner fighting for him. You got his conviction for murder overturned, you got his sentence for armed robbery reduced to time served. He couldn't have a better ally than you!" John firmly believed what he was saying was true.
"If I hadn't left him, if I had stayed in touch, he maybe wouldn't have found a life in crime." She shook her head, thinking of all her wasted years.
"So, why didn't you stay in touch? Didn't you like him? A mother who walks away does less damage surely than one who stays and pours out resentment, and hatred on their child. If you had stayed and hated him so damn much he might be guilty of a lot worse than being stupid!" John had tried to shock her. He only partially succeeded.
"I do not hate my children. Any of them. Only their father!" She glared at John, then realised what she was doing and tried her very best to relax. "Have you ever noticed, he never calls me mum, only mother?" She looked about to cry again, so John tightened his hold on her.
"Actually, he sometimes calls you mum when we're together. At least he did the other day while we were in the park." It was true, she had to believe him. "It's true, the psychiatric nurse was with us and heard him. Ask her Mrs Bowers, she'll tell you. We'd been talking about how impractical the formal flower beds were for anyone with sight loss to negotiate. The nurse had asked us if anyone ever bothered about them anyway, and he said 'my mum always liked them'. And that's a quote."
"Elizabeth." She said, trying to smile at the younger man's reassurances.
"Pardon?" John asked for clarification.
"My name, it's Elizabeth. Most folks call me Liz. I guess you can too. Seems we won't be getting rid of you ... unless he dies." She went from smiling to weeping again. "I should have stayed in touch, but no, I buggered off to Britain for a year to 'find' myself. Leaving my kids to fend for themselves back home. I never once got in touch with Terry. His dad said he didn't want anything to do with me." Her determination to heap guilt upon her own head had John stumped.
"But, even if you had gone, his dad was still there. Surely he failed Terry even more?"
"That miserable bastard?" Liz Bowers made the move from self doubt to outraged in a nanosecond. John was well impressed at her ability to logically about face like that.
"You really don't like him then?"
"I hate the bastard. He surfaced last week, looking for Terry and a hand out from his money. Claimed it was his due for looking after him after I had ran off? I sent him packing with a flea in his ear!" Somehow John could see her doing just that. He had met Terry's dad a few times, not once had he been sober.
"Was he drunk then?" John asked.
"Oh, you've met him then?" The sarcasm dripped from Liz's lips.
"A couple of times. While undercover. Terry introduced us, reluctantly. Terry always inferred that you'd died." He mentioned Terry's previous rejection as gently as he could. Not that he was telling anything she didn't already suspect.
Then they had sat there, thinking things over, shrouded in self doubt and might have beens, waiting for news. Good, bad or indifferent. However long it took, they at least knew they wouldn't be waiting alone. Even lost in their own memories, they were together.
Terry very reluctantly introduced Johnny Wilson to the drunken heap of humanity that clung to his shoulders. Embarrassment pouring off the younger man in very palpable waves.
"Johnny, my dad. Dad, Johnny, a friend." And Terry had actually meant that. He had regarded Johnny Wilson as much a friend as he regarded John Lawless an enemy.
"How'z it goin' then?" Mr Bowers strung his words together in a drunken slur.
"Great dad, here, get yourself a drink or something to eat." Terry had thrust a twenty dollar note into his dad's hand and released his other arm from his neck.
"See him?" Mr Bowers asked Johnny Wilson, pointing to his son. "He'z a good lad so he is." And he had staggered off, twenty dollar note clutched firmly in his hand.
"He'll drink that money, in his state." Johnny had made his impression known.
"What the fuck." Terry replied, not looking at his father's retreating back. "At least he'll be happy, quiet and where I can find him. If I ever needed him. " He looked into Johnny's eyes and grinned. "But I don't ever envision being that desperate, ya know?" He had laughed.
Johnny Wilson had laughed, it was expected of him. A callous act. A hard man's act. Just as much an act as he now knew Terry's was.
John Lawless could only cringe at the idea of any youngster being left with such a man as Terry's dad.
John repeated his actions from earlier. He slipped his key into the door lock and opened the door to Terry and Liz's home. Unlike before he didn't call out, instead he helped Liz off with her coat. Removed his own and headed for the kitchen.
"I'll put the kettle on." John spoke, just to hear a voice in that echoing mausoleum.
"That'd be nice. I'll sort us something to eat." Liz headed for the fridge and a quick meal for them both. Each of them doing things much for the sake of doing things. Keeping busy.
"While you do that I'll tidy the front room a little." John set the tea pot beside the kettle and headed out the room towards the front room.
Once there he stripped the bed, bundling up the blooded sheets, latex gloves once more donned for the occasion. He wiped the bed frame with the cleaning wipes. Then he tried his best with the few areas of blood splattered on the flooring. Luckily the bedding had contained most of it. As he stuffed the dirty bedding in the laundry basket standing in the corner of that room, just for Terry's things, the door opened behind him.
"I'll give you a hand remaking the bed." Liz Bowers headed for the plain kitchen style cupboards that housed Terry's spare bedding. "Do we need a clean fleece too?" She asked.
"Yeah, everything." John wiped down the plastic coated mattress with a dry wipe and stood up to catch the first of the bed sheets thrown towards him. He was getting good at making beds up like the nurses in hospitals.
A full length fleece was next. The comfortable inch think fleece protected Terry from sores, him spending so long in bed as he did. Then a top sheet, bottom a foot or so folded back on itself, just like the nurses did. Then the light weight blankets. Even the pillow cases had to be replaced. John wiped the last traces of Terry's blood off the plastic coated pillows and hoped to all Gods that ever were that Terry's mum hadn't seen it. Wipes and gloves discarded into the safe waste bin, he plumped up the pillows ready for Terry's return.
If she had noticed she didn't let on. She stroked the now made up bed and imagined her Terry in there. Lying back, silent. Speaking only when spoken to. She shrugged almost as if she were trying to free herself from the images in her own minds eyes and turned back to face John.
"Dinner'll be ready. Shall we go eat?" Her voice sounded forced, as if she were trying to keep up a shield even around him. "I'm actually quite hungry myself." She said.
Remarkably, John Lawless was hungry.
"Yeah, let's eat." He held the door open and let her out before him.
"They said they'd phone if there was any change." She flicked a quick glance at John's face. He could sense her gearing up to something.
"Yeah, they're good people them nurses." He was unsure what it was she wanted of him, but knew a soul in pain when he saw one.
"Would you ... could you stay here tonight. Just in case it's not good? I couldn't face it alone, if he were to.." She whispered to a halt.
"Of course I'll stay. I'll call a couple of folks and let them know where I'll be." John took her nearest hand in his and squeezed it gently. "But you gotta have faith that he'll pull through. If they thought he was not gonna make it they'd have let us stay, not sent us home like this." He smiled, slightly. Hope lending him conviction.
"Just the same, I don't want to be alone here, not tonight." Liz smiled back, a little strained, but a smile none the less. "Dinner, before it's too ruined to eat." She pulled free and entered the kitchen. "Wash up, those gloves leave a horrible smell on your skin." She pointed to the sink and John complied, anyway she was right about the smell.
Together they sat down to their dinner. No conversation between them, their new friendship just too new and tenuous to risk it with careless, ill chosen words. It was after they had finished eating and had returned to the front room. The television played quietly in the corner, not that either of them really paid it much heed. John half expected Terry to wander in the door, much as the younger man had done to his place often enough in the past.
It had never occurred to John Lawless just how attractive Terry Bowers was until the morning he saw that usual tension lines smoothed out of his face as the younger man sat playing his guitar. That unwilling flush of something had caused lawless much annoyance. He took out his embarrassment on Terry. Destroying that moment of whatever it was.
He stood before Terry, naked bar his bath towel, snarling at the man. Terry had sat there, playing the instrument and telling him he could call him Sonia. The open smiled turned into a snarl soon enough. Back to business, John's moment of self doubt was over.
Although he thought he had possibly missed something better, at the very least something different from what had been. John couldn't really get that moment in the morning sunshine out of his mind. The echoing memory of Terry's nimble fingers. Fingers that didn't really move anymore. Eyes that didn't dance any more. A voice that didn't joke with him anymore. Someone who didn't love him, like a brother, anymore.
The phone rang, it's shrill burble startling them both in its sudden intrusion. Their tranquillity broken they both looked at the offending article as it continued to demand attention.
"Answer it, please!" Liz Bowers pleaded.
"Hello." John asked tentatively.
"So there you are!" An irate feminine voice demanded agreement.
"Give it a rest Jodie, I told Andy where I was, why I was here, so can it!" John was annoyed. Not so much at Jodie's tone of voice, but that it was her rather than definite news, one way or another, about Terry.
"So it's true? Terry Bowers will soon be a weight off our backs. Maybe you can stop playing cosy cosy with his old lady and get your mind back on the case in hand. We need your help here, not you sitting there baby sitting the timorous mothers of dying psychopaths." She snarled, rather harshly. It struck John that she hardly ever said anything pleasant to him. All she ever did was berate his short comings, and he was tired of it.
"Jodie, get over yourself. I don't jump through hoops to your tune. I'll be there to help your investigation when I get there. If I get there! You never heard of the word please? I believe it works wonders." At that he hung up and immediately dialled the Bowers own phone number. Leaving the hand set to beep at them for a few minutes.
"What are you doing?" Liz asked, watching him, fascinated.
"Annoying the life out of Jodie Keane, she doesn't have the greatest attention span. She'll try a few times, get the engaged tone and then leave us in peace." He hung the receiver back on its cradle, and the phone didn't wring. He grinned up at her. "See!" He pointed out.
"I take it your friend was annoyed with you, you being here rather than with her? If you had a date with her you should have said." Liz's face flushed in her embarrassment.
"Nah, no date, just paper work. Going through case work, trying to help her get her precious investigators licence. Only she doesn't really have much of an idea how to do the basic ground work." John stood suddenly. "I'll make us a fresh cuppa, shall I?" And he headed for the kitchen and sanctuary.
Eventually he rejoined her, cups in his hands and handed her one. They returned their attention, such as it was, back to the whatever it was on television. It was shortly after their resumed vigil that the phone wrang yet again. This time John snatched it up, angered with Jodie's attitude.
"What?" He demanded into the mouth piece.
"It's Sister Mellor in Ward 6. Can I speak to either Mrs Elizabeth Bowers or a Mister John Lawless, please." She had had every reaction known when calling relatives and friends of her charges, John Lawless' rude demand didn't shock he in the slightest.
"I'm John Lawless. What is it, Sister?" His response had Liz Bowers sitting on the very edge of her chair.
"Don't panic, please, It's good news. We would like Mrs Bowers to come in. Her son wants to see her. He's awake, Mister Lawless, and he can see. The second stroke put something to rights after the damage caused by the first stroke. He can see. Can I tell him you'll bring his mother in?" John's hands shook as he tried to focus on the news the Sister was giving him.
"John..?" Liz asked, frightened of his answer.
"Please, tell him we're on our way." He replaced the hand set yet again. John looked up at John and grinned. "Liz, Terry's awake and he can see!"
John had never seen such a joyous smile as he saw on Liz Bowers face at his news.
he images of Dave by his own hospital bed all those months ago came unbidden to John's mind. Detailing Terry's injuries.
"Some idiot dosed him up with far too much Ketamine" Dave had said. "Same as you, aye?"
"Was his face damaged?" John remembered asking that apparently unrelated question..
"Damn right it was. They think he might be blind. His face was ripped open, fingernails and such." Dave had looked back at him, steadily, unflinching, telling the absolute truth.
"Fuck!" John swore and punched his clenched fist down on the roof of his own car. His action and exclamation had startled Liz Bowers, her smile faltered a little.
"What is it John? What's wrong?" She looked at him, trusting him not to lie to her.
"Whoever she was, that so called nurse, she was lying to us." John wouldn't lie to Liz, not now that they were friends. "She said Terry could see, that the second stroke fixed something. He wasn't blinded by the stroke, but by his rapists." He looked directly into Liz's face and saw the dawning of realisation there. "Someone has access to Terry, possibly to his files. Someone in the hospital is playing with us."
"They could do anything. Hurt Terry. Kill him." Liz was clawing at the car door. "Open this fucking car. I need to be with Terry!" She screamed her rage and frustration.
"Why would they do this?" John Lawless had seen so many of his personal illusions shattered over the last few years, he didn't like facing the sudden loss of his last vestige of hope in humanity. Surely the urge to heal not hurt drove the Doctors and Nurses at the hospital?
"Because he's a criminal. Because he was convicted of a violent crime. He confessed to a murder he didn't actually do. Because he's Terry Bowers is why!" What terrified John most was that Liz was probably right.
Unlocking the car he almost threw himself in it, desperate for some form of action. As he struggled with suddenly numb fingers and the ignition key, John cursed. Every rude word he had ever heard. Even some Jimmy, the big Scottish drunk from the wrestling club had used. And they weren't even in English, or Maori.
Finally the key engaged and the engine started. With the reassuring throb of the car engine thought once more dominated John's mind. He was acting not reacting. They were about to face who knew what or whom. They needed allies, eyes and ears and minds distanced from the crippling emotions swamping him and Liz.
John fished out his mobile phone and tossed it to Liz. She automatically caught it.
"What do I do with this?" She held the phone as if it might bite her. So much resent experience had left her wary of the little device. All her horrors seemed to form on the end of a phone line.
"Dial the first three pre-sets. Jodie Keane, Dave Bruford and Andy Deakin. Tell them you're calling on my behalf and I need them to meet me at ward 6 at the Auckland as soon as possible." John fixed his eyes on the road, glaring the other road users into submission. He spared only a very brief glance for Liz. Just to reassure himself she was complying with his wishes.
Jodie Keane wasn't too pleased at the interruption. She had little desire to ever meet Terry Bowers' mother. She had her own idea what the woman would be like. Any half dozen women her family had known while she was growing up in south Auckland. She complied only because John shouted at her from where ever he was sitting that he needed her. That was the clincher. Her soul deep need to be needed by someone.
Dave Bruford was sitting at his desk on a rather boring night duty. Any distraction was better than the paperwork before him. He agreed to meet John readily enough.
Andy Deakin was simply enthralled by Liz's voice. A woman was phoning him, he'd agree to meet her any damn place she chose.
By the time she switched off John's phone he was pulling into the car park at the hospital. The counter point to living so near the monolithic building that was Mount Eden prison was that they also lived close to all the expert medical care Terry could need. It took only a few more minutes to reach the high dependency ward Terry was currently resident on.
As John lead Liz in, rage boiling from him, a small red haired woman stepped forward. A definite English accent asked him in such precise clipped tones as to just what it was he thought he was doing on her ward like that? The voice of utter command stopped him in his tracks.
"What's it to you?" He might respond to a commanding voice, it didn't mean he had to respect it. John Lawless' respect was a hard earned thing.
"I am Sister Mellor and this is my ward. Who on Earth are you?" She stood before him, dwarfed by his shear physical bulk, not giving an inch.
"You're Sister Mellor?" John's voice went up an octave or so in surprise. "Someone phoned us pretending to be you. Told us Terry Bowers had regained consciousness and that he could see. Only I figured it out. There's no way he could see. The blindness wasn't caused by the stroke after all." John stopped talking, aware that he was merely confusing the woman. Aware that she at least realised they had had some sort of hoax call.
"This person pretended to be me did she? I assume it was a she?" She waited as John nodded, he glanced at the rows of doors that staggered off the corridor at regular intervals. "Why would she give you false hope?"
"To see it dashed." The simple truth of the matter was voiced by Liz Bowers. She was trembling, the calming of her immediate rage leaving a deeper despair behind it. "To have me rush here only to find Terry not recovered, to find him... dead." The shocking reality in that one word galvanised John once more.
"Can we see Terry? Please!" He started to walk around the diminutive Sister, heading for the door that lead to Terry's bedside.
"Could she have been the one that poisoned Terry before? The one that gave him the Ketamine?" Liz asked John's retreating back.
"Who you on about?" Andy Deakin asked as he sauntered up the corridor. He recognised the voice of the woman that had phoned him earlier.
"And you are?" Sister Mellor asked.
"He's with us." John informed her. "Andy, thanks for comin' mate." John shook Andy's hand. Glad to have a familiar face he knew he could count on implicitly.
"No worries." Andy replied. "So who's this fine filly?" He eyed up Liz Bowers and grinned inanely at her, unnerving her.
"Terry Bowers' mum. Mrs Bowers this is Andy Deakin, slightly deranged surveillance expert. Andy, Mrs Bowers." John consciously separated them with the formal title of Mrs Bowers, he knew Andy and women all too well.
"Absolutely bloody charmed... Mrs Bowers. Bowers!? You're that little psychopath's mum? A cutey like you?" John's gratitude was rapidly being replaced with acute embarrassment.
"If you think my Terry's that bad then turn around and get out of here. I don't need you or any more of John Lawless' rude friends." Liz walked around everyone and headed for her son's door.
"So, what's he doing here then?" Sister Mellor looked at Andy as if he were some example of a lower life form.
"Christ if I know!" Andy told her quite truthfully.
"We need to find a rotten apple in this otherwise pristine barrel of sweet fruit." John's voice dripped with sarcasm as he dragged Andy towards Terry's room and Liz. "Someone phoned us, claimed to be Sister Mellor here. Only she wasn't, she was a Kiwi, she told us out and out lies, got our hopes up. But I realised she was lying before we even got into the car." John pushed open Terry's door, letting Andy see the state of that 'little psychopath' he so rudely denounced Terry as being.
"What a fuckin' mess!" Andy exclaimed at the sight of the man in the bed before him. His skin was mottled purple and green almost all over. Tubes and clips adorned him. He was stripped to the waist and a massive wound dressing covered a yellow painted corner of his belly.
"What happened to the bag?" Liz pointed to the new surgical wound and cast a desperate glance at Sister Mellor.
"Doctor Wilson decided to remove it. The mounting was severely damaged, but he thought Terry might be ready to try things normally now. He was making such good progress before this latest set back." She dashed over to her patient's side and gave him a quick visual examination.
Without the bag Terry looked almost normal again. Except for the high tech equipment he seemed permanently attached to.
Once more John's body remembered what it was like. To hit Terry, and keep on hitting him.
Fists and elbows, even the security van side panel. Blood poured from Terry's many wounds. The one man John Lawless had laid all blame for the botched robbery at, lay motionless on the ground, eyes tight shut in unconsciousness. Where Lawless thought he should be, at that moment.
That never stopped the oh so familiar frisson of self loathing at the physical memory of that day. The very real guilt at his delight in the damage he caused. Terry's face and head damaged beyond his attacker's knowledge. Injuries he seemed destined never to be free of.
One day's activities that John Lawless would gladly remove from the world's history if he could.
A warm hand in his drew him back to the here and now.
"Look, John, Terry's hands are straight." Liz drew the shocked looking man forward. She abandoned John's hand for her son's, gently stroking those long, elegant fingers. John couldn't believe his eyes, Terry's hands had been semi clawed since his first stroke. Now they lay there, looking normal. It wasn't even the various sensors that held them straight this time. All his fingers were straight.
With a hand that suddenly decided to tremble, John Lawless reached out for Terry's nearest hand. The one Liz was also reaching for. A large masculine hand and a much smaller feminine hand enclosed the hand laying on the bed. It was warm to the touch, so supple after the feel of the semi rigid claws they were used to.
That hand contracted in response to being touched. As if Terry was trying to respond. Or so they hoped.
"Let me take a look at Terry." Sister Mellor's clipped tones softened, still undeniably English, definitely not the voice that had phoned Liz Bowers' place with its false hopes. She seemed to care for her patients. John thought she didn't care for their indication that someone had access to her patients or their records, and was using it to hurt others.
Andy pulled John and Mrs Bowers back from the bed, but he angled them so they had a clear view of what was happening.
"Give the Angel of Mercy some room here guys." He grinned at the sister as she flashed him a grateful smile.
As they watched Sister Mellor check all of Terry's monitors and physical responses the door opened again. This time it let Dave Bruford into the room.
"John? Andy, what's up?" Dave then looked at the woman he vaguely recognised as Terry Bowers' mother having almost successfully put the woman and her lawyers out of his conscious thoughts. He hadn't recognised her voice when she had asked him to meet John at the Hospital. Her fear had sounded honest enough. "Mrs Bowers, how's Terry doing?"
"Detective Sergeant Bruford, isn't it?" She queried?
"Yeah, we met over the trial.." Dave was cut off by John's breaking in on their pointless conversation. Each of them knew who the other was, how and why they met. As far as John could see they didn't have time to waste on the social niceties.
"That's all well and good, but see we got a hoax call summoning us here. The caller claimed to be Sister Mellor here, but wasn't. She said Terry was awake and could see. But we figured it out, the second stroke wouldn't affect his sight seeing as how it wasn't the first one that did for his sight. Whoever she was has access to Terry and his records." John paused for breath and saw the startled look that crossed Dave's face. "What?" He snapped a bit more aggressively than he intended.
"What second stroke?" Dave glanced at Terry's much bruised face and body. "Bloody hell John, you didn't, did you?" He gestured to the inert form on the bed, hand making a vague punching motion. Every eye tracked to John to see his reaction.
"No, I did not. I arrived at Liz and Terry's place this morning and found him on the floor. Convulsing, bleeding, hurt." The way he said that last word kept almost every eye drawn to him. Liz thought she heard regret, finally. Andy thought he heard someone going into shock, and Dave thought he heard his friend caring for someone they both knew was a psychopath.
"Yeah, well, granted he doesn't look too good at the moment, but why did you ask me to meet you here?" Dave turned away from the sick man in the bed, and his mother, to face only John Lawless.
What John saw was less sympathy than even Alan Snow would show, given the circumstances. He was left wondering why he had ever called this man his friend. All he ever seemed to get from him was an ever lasting string of excuses and complaints and now innuendoes. How could he even think that he'd hurt Terry, again?
"I told you, the hoax caller. Look, if you can't, or won't, handle it I'll handle it myself. I'm sorry I dragged you out here. Go back to your quiet Police Station and stay there where you won't have to deal with either Liz or me! Good bye Dave." John about turned and rounded the bed to the otherside from Sister Mellor. The real Sister Mellor. He reached for the hand not currently being fussed over by the nurse. Again Terry's hand twitched. John's eyes shot up to meet Sister Mellor's and they both looked back at Terry's hand.
"Speak to him Mister Lawless, see if he'll respond to your voice. Remember, be calm, be positive, be patient." She smiled at the hope that sprung into life in the dark haired man's face. This was why she had become a nurse in the first place.
"Terry?" John's soft voice was all that could be heard above the eternal hissing and bleeping of the equipment in there with them. ""It's me, Jo... it's Lucy. You gonna wake up now?" John tried his very best to ignore the two men giggling into their hands as they stood by the door.
"Lucy?" Sister Mellor's confused voice drew John's face up again. "Why on Earth would you want to be called Lucy, Mister Lawless... oh, I get it." She too giggled, a soft, gentle sound. "I must say you really wouldn't look as good in that leather bustier she wears."
Terry's hands twitched yet again, almost as if he too was listening to Sister Mellor's gentle laughter, turning to a comforting sound. Waking up. John glanced quickly at Terry as he lay on the hospital bed, he recalled the usual derisory laughter in Terry's voice as he called him Lucy. Trying to push him away. Refusing his apologies. Waiting for John Lawless to revert to type, and attack him again. John decided it was time to show Terry he really didn't mind the 'Lucy' jibes. And turn the joke back on Terry. Make him want to wake up.
He looked at Sister Mellor again and grinned, quite wickedly.
"I don't know." John replied, getting into her gentle humour. "A sex change operation, breast implants if the drugs don't make me big enough. Grow my hair out, a spot of make up. I think I'd make an excellent woman." He squeezed Terry's hand gently again. "I could be Terry's very own Lucy Lawless. He could love me, and kiss me, and hold me. And if I had a womb transplant I could even have his babies. Wouldn't that be wonderful Terry? You, me and our babies?" The fact that he could hardly contain his own laughter didn't help him make his idea sound plausible. It did reach Terry however. His eye movements increased as his mind pushed his body to waken fully, to respond, to refute Lawless' words.
"A bit far fetched, I mean, uterus transplants? I think you've been watching either too many science fiction shows or have taken Xena's Gods far too seriously." Sister Mellor didn't hide her giggles. She too saw Terry's response up close. Then came Terry's first words.
"Babies? With you?" And right after his first words Terry started to shudder. "I'm cold." He almost managed a breathy laugh.
"Terry, do you know where you are?" Sister Mellor asked.
"J..j..j.. " His failure to get the word out frustrated him as it always did. His vacant eyes stared at nothing. Reflecting no life within. His mouth, however, was pinched tight in his own anger at his short comings. "Guessing by the smells and noises, I'm back in the hospital." He finally managed. "But I think Lucy needs it more than me."
John squeezed his hand one more time and gestured for Liz to take his place.
"Hey, you're the one that gave me the idea, always calling me Lucy." He released his grasp on Terry's hand gesturing Liz to take his place.
"That's a distinct possibility Terry, Mister Lawless does seem like a somewhat eccentric individual, and may indeed need our help. However, it's you that we're all worried about. You had a mild epileptic fit this morning, it brought on a second, very minor, stroke. Can you move your hands and limbs for me?" She watched as her patient dutifully went through a routine he was obviously familiar with. He moved each arm and leg, each hand and foot, each finger and toe. Then he stopped dead.
"I moved my fingers." He spoke in a whisper still.
"Your hands are straight, Terry. They've relaxed and uncurled." His mother stroked the hand John had held earlier. "You're going to be a lot more independent with your hands working." She enthused until the sister glared her into silence.
"Well, your hand do appear to have straightened, but we have to wait and see what happens here after before we can make any promises at all." She reached over to the telephone by Terry's bed and dialled an internal number. "Doctor Wilson, Terry Bowers has woken. Yes he does seem aware of his surroundings. No I haven't. He has demonstrated a slight improvement with his hands however. Certainly, Doctor. Oh, and the police are here, it seems that there may have been an incident on the ward. Certainly. I'll inform them right away." She put down the phone and turned to the man that had been introduced to as a police officer.
"Doctor Wilson, who is in charge of Terry's case, asked if you might need to discuss this incident with him. He's coming right over to see Terry and give him a fuller examination." She smiled at Dave.
"It does seem that hospital security has been breached. I'll have to refer this up and see what my instructions are. If you'll excuse me?" He reached for his mobile phone and left the room and the main hospital building.
As Dave left, Jodie Keane arrived. She was still as angry with John as she had been earlier. She calmed down when she saw the state Terry Bowers was in. When she saw the sheer relief in Mrs Bowers' face, and Johnny's no less, she realised John did have a legitimate excuse for not helping her that evening.
"Christ, Johnny, you didn't beat him up again did you?" She asked outright.
Terry Bowers laughed, a whisper of sound.
"Seems your friends know you so well, Lucy."
"Lucy?" Jodie screamed with laughter. "He calls you Lucy? I thought I was the only one who had thought of that one." She crossed to the bed and looked into Terry's sightless eyes, sobering instantly. "Hi, I'm Jodie Keane, Lucy here asked me to help with something. How are you?" She very briefly touched one of Terry's fingers.
Terry liked her right away. Even though he knew who she was and what her part in his downfall had been. He couldn't help but smile. His delight in an ally to tease Lawless was so evident for all to see.
"As well as can be expected is the right phrase I think." Terry smiled, almost shyly. "Pleased to meet you, J..j..j.. Miss Keane." His smile faded and he closed his eyes. "I want to sleep now." And he pulled his hands in over his body, as if retreating from them all. A hand brushed over the big wound dressing. "What happened?" Panic filled his voice.
"Right, everyone out. Terry needs time and he needs it now!" Sister Mellor pointed to the door and waited for them all to file out of the room, only they didn't all go. John Lawless stayed behind. "I asked you to leave Mister Lawless."
"Ah, but you can't make me. I have been ordered by the Court to spend a certain amount of time with Terry every day. Without another Court order to remove me, you're stuck with me." What he didn't say was he was unwilling to leave Terry unprotected. Even though he was so sure that Sister Mellor wasn't the person they were looking for, he still didn't want Terry out of his sight.
"Very well, stay, but quietly." She turned back to Terry and touched him to get his attention before she talked to him. "The mounting for the bag was damaged, Doctor Wilson removed it and returned your bowel to its correct output." She patted his hand. "On examination he decided your internal injuries have sufficiently healed as to allow proper waste management."
"Welcome back to the land of the living, and by the way you can shit again. That's some wake up line." Terry laughed, but both Lawless anns Sister Mellor could see it as the cover for hysteria that it was.
John took a firmer hold on Terry's hand.
"It's all improvements, Terry. Little steps back towards normalacy." He felt Terry's hand finally squeeze him back.
"I suppose." Terry let John's hand go and settled back to await the arrival of the Doctor.