Trog had finished work for the day and headed into town for a quick pint in The Black Bull. His heart sank when he saw Mandy talking to Don at the bar. The way they both fell silent, the look on Mandy’s face when she caught Trog’s eye. He had been hoping last night wasn’t just a one-off, a mad fling on Mandy’s part, but there was no smile to welcome him. It looked more like Mandy was going to tell him to fuck off.
“Trog,” Mandy said. “Did you hear about Ian?”
Trog shrugged, relieved it was about something else. “Why, what’s he done now?”
“He got attacked last night,” Don said, “he’s in a really bad way.”
“What?” Trog wheeled on Don, his eyes wide.
“The coppers came for me this morning, wanting to know if I knew anything about it. They said Ian’s mum gave them my address. I’m surprised they didn’t go round to yours too.”
“I’ve been at work,” Trog said, “I haven’t been home yet. So what happened then?”
“Dunno. He missed his bus, that was the last I saw of him. I said he could crash at mine, but he said he fancied some chips anyway so he’d walk home.”
“So where is he now?”
“He’s in the hospital.”
“Well let’s get down there, then, and find out who did it so we can fucking batter them.”
“Hold on,” Mandy said, “I’ll close up here and come with you.”
* * *
Trog stared down, open-mouthed, at the figure lying before him. Bandages covered Ian’s face and upper body like an Egyptian mummy. A clear plastic tube inserted into Ian’s throat pumped oxygen from a machine by his bed. A drip hanging above led to a catheter in his left arm. Another tube in the side of his chest drained brown fluid into a bag hanging from the side of the bed. A machine on a trolley next to the bed beeped regularly, the only sign Ian was still alive, his only movement the faint rise and fall of his chest in time with the oxygen machine’s bellows.
“Fucking … hell,” Trog said.
Don slumped into a nearby chair and held his head in his hands. “Jesus fucking Christ.”
Mandy shook her head slowly.
“Can I help you?” a nurse asked. Nobody had noticed her approach until she spoke.
“How is he?” Trog asked.
“Are you a relative?” the nurse asked.
“Yes, we all are,” Mandy said, before Trog had a chance to reply.
The nurse smiled faintly at Mandy and shook her head. “He’s not good, I’m afraid. He’s got a fractured skull and two broken ribs, one of which punctured a lung. We repaired the damage, but it’s the injuries to his head we are most concerned about. Until he regains consciousness we won’t know if there is any long term damage.”
“What, like brain damage?” Don asked. He stood up and glared at the nurse as if it was all her fault.
The nurse looked at Don and shook her head slowly. “It’s too early to say. I’ll get a doctor to explain it to you properly, but we’ll need to run some tests when he wakes up.”
“How long do you think it will take for him to wake up?” Mandy asked.
“I can’t really tell you at this stage. Like I say, I’ll get a doctor to…”
“How long has he been unconscious?” Trog asked.
The nurse looked at Trog, then looked away. “Since he arrived last night.”
“Why is his face all bandaged up like that?” Mandy asked.
The nurse’s face paled. She shook her head. “It was a very savage attack. Whoever did this cut his face up pretty bad. “He…” Her voice faltered when she caught the cold glare of the two skinheads. She looked away before continuing. “He’ll need reconstructive surgery further down the line. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to check on another patient. I’ll send a doctor to talk to you.”
“Jesus fucking Christ,” Don repeated after the nurse left. “So what now?”
Trog leaned over Ian’s prone figure and shook his head. “I don’t know, Don. But some cunt is going to fucking pay for this.”
“Yeah but until he comes round we won’t know who did it.”
“Someone will know,” Trog said. “I’m going to find out who did this. And when I do I’m going to fucking kill them.”
* * *
Continued next Friday.
Punk Faction by Marcus Blakeston is also available in paperback and ebook if you don’t want to wait that long.