CHAPTER 16 Bernie heard the truck pull into the car park, she looked at the clock it was 3:10 am. She hurried out of her bed and ran to the window, looking out she saw two figures staggering towards the entrance to the building. They looked drunk as they held onto each other swaying as they approached. She quickly put on her bathrobe and headed out of her door. As she moved up the corridor she could see a heap against the entrance, as she came closer she saw arms and legs protruding from the pile. "You boys should have more sense!" She scolded and held back, she was about twenty yards from them, "I thought you went to sort out something, you weren't supposed to be getting drunk." Bernie dare not go any closer. She remembered the evils of a drunken man's fists, she also knew that drink affected everyone differently, but she was not willing to take that chance, not again. Sam called out to her, "We've not been drinking, honest Bernie," his voice was slurred. "You have, I can tell." There was definite fear in her voice. "No," Al said with the same slurred voice, "we've not touched a drop, we're only thawing out. We'll be okay in a few minutes. Honest no booze has passed our lips, though I could do with one right now." "There's no need to be frightened," Sam's speech slightly improved, "we're in no state, even to swat a fly. Come on Bernie, we could do with a little help here, we won't hurt you." Bernie took a couple of steps closer, she saw Sam's arm wave sluggishly in the air, she noticed his knuckles swollen and bleeding. Cautiously she approached them, Sam turned his face towards her, she saw the blood. "Oh Sam," she ran towards them, no longer afraid, "What happened?" She held his hand, it was like holding a block of ice. "We just need to get warm." Al's voice sounded pleadingly pathetic. "I'll go and make some coffee." She raced towards the cafeteria, pausing by the door she looked back for just a second, her face full of anguish, then she continued inside. "My God Al, we must have scared the livin' daylights outta her, she's as white as a sheet." Sam wiggled his fingers. "I've got some feelin' comin' back. How about you?" "Dead as a Dodo pal." "Try and get up, you need to get the circulation going again." Sam sat up, his face wincing with pain. "How's the legs?" "Can't feel em, can't even feel the nose on my face." "Okay stay there awhile," Sam rose agonisingly to his feet, "I'll be back in a minute." Bernie was just bringing the hot drinks out from the kitchen when Sam staggered into the cafeteria. She left the tray on the counter and hurried to help Sam over to the couch and laid him down. He was dirty and wet, his hair was matted with sweat and desert dust. There was an extensive trickle of blood running from a cut in his swollen forehead. A fairly big smudge of blood on his lips and his cheeks were black and swollen. His knuckles on both hands were raw and bleeding, there was a large tear on the outside of his wrist, from the look of it, it had just missed the major arteries. Al ambled in a few seconds later, he didn't look any better, as dirty and wet as Sam, but not quite so bloodied. His limp had gotten worse, his ribs were giving him real gyp and his battered head throbbed. Bernie helped him move over to the table, he held an arm close to his side. His face told it all as he flopped onto the couch. She poured out the hot, steaming coffee and handed a mug to Sam. Al held up his hand, "N-no I can't hold it just yet." Bernie saw the peeling flesh on Al's hands, "What on this earth happened to you two? I'll go and fetch Beth, I could do with some help here." Bernie rushed from the cafeteria, glancing back as she left. Sam looked across at Al, "That's one trip I'm not gonna take again." He stared dazed at Al's hands, "You should've told me about your hands Al, I would've driven back if I'd known." "Agh, these are the least of my worries, I think I've cracked a couple of ribs, Geeze." Beth rushed into the cafeteria, followed by an anxious Bernie. "My goodness, you two look like you've been hit by a grenade. Go get some hot water Bernie and some towels, we'll clean em up then we should be able to see what we're coping with here." Bernie headed for the kitchen and returned with a bowl of hot water and a stack of towels, which she left on the counter and headed back for the kitchen. Beth took the bowl of water to the table near the couch, kneeling she started to take of Al's coat, he moaned and groaned as she gently slipped out his arms. The front of his shirt was stained with a fresh, wet patch of blood, Beth didn't struggle with the buttons, she just ripped it open, buttons pinged everywhere. She saw the jagged edge of a broken rib piecing the skin. Bernie returned with another bowl, taking it to the table, she started unfastening Sam's coat. Head to head they lay, the two friends, they had gone through so much together, but tonight must have felt the worst. Sam slipped into blackness. "Beth it's Sam, is he okay? I mean he's not...." Bernie said alarmed. Beth looked over at Sam and checked his eyes, his pupils reacted to the light, "He's passed out, keep an eye on him though, that head wound looks as if it could be nasty." "You sure Beth? He's not gonna....." Beth cut her short, "I think we're gonna need more than a First Aid Kit here. Ziggy if you can hear me, get Verbena in here, tell her we need medical supplies and some local anaesthetic, we've got compound fractures in here." Beth took authority, her experience as a nurse during World War Two not forgotten. Al drifted in and out of consciousness. "How are you doing Bernie?" "I can't get Sam's coat off, I don't want to hurt his arm anymore." Beth moved over to Sam, "Pull the good arm out first, then ease it round his back, his arm should slide through now." "Thanks Beth, I think I can manage now." Bernie slid Sam's arm out of the coat, cleaned up his wrist and knuckles and bandaged them. She stared at Sam's face, not knowing where to start. She cleaned up the blood. Verbena flew through the doors to the cafeteria. "What's happened here." "We don't know yet, no-one's talking at the moment. Did you bring the anaesthesia?" "Yes it's here." Verbena handed Beth the medical bag, nearly swooning at the sight of the blood. "Sorry Beth, I'm no medical doctor, I hope I got everything you need?" "You can go and get me a razor, I don't think Al will appreciate me if I use this adhesive bandage on his chest without shaving it first." Beth looked lovingly at her husband, "You'll find it in the bathroom." Beth filled a syringe with lignocaine, "Sorry hun this is gonna sting a little." She injected the yellow fluid several times around the wound. "I'll have a look at Sam's cut now Bernie, I can't do Al's ribs until the anaesthetic takes hold." Beth moved Sam's hair out of the way, "You've made a good job of this, he almost looks human again." She shone the little torch into the cut, "No scull fracture this time Sam Beckett, but you'll have another scar to go along with the last one." She unfastened Sam's shirt and removed it, she checked his ribs for breakages. It was then that she noticed the blood stains on the legs of Sam's dark jeans. "Come on Bernie give me a hand, unfasten the belt and undo his....." "N-no I can't do that, I mean, I can't." Bernie held her hands up covering her mouth. "He u-used to make me do t-that before he..." She turned away. Beth moved close to Bernie, "Come on honey, this is not sexual, Sam need you to do this, for him, not for some sexual perversion." She held Bernie by the shoulders and turned her back to Sam, "You can do it, I'll go and see where Verbena's gone with that razor." Bernie knelt watching Sam as Beth left, 'I don't wanna do this,' she thought. She turned and looked at Al as he moaned, she turned back to Sam. With shaking hands she moved them towards the buckle, she hesitated and withdrew them quickly, she tried again, this time she touched the buckle of his belt. Her hands trembled as she unfastened it, the button was next, and then the zip. She eased the waistband down underneath him, she was thankful for the shorts he was wearing. She could smell the sweat on his body. She wanted to kiss him and wake him up, she didn't like him lying there, not knowing that she was with him. "Wake up Sam, I don't like you like this." Her hand gently touched his chest, his muscles didn't tense at her touch, as they had done before. She shook her head, bringing herself round and removed his shoes. She tugged at the bottom of his jeans, eventually they slid down his legs, revealing cuts and grazes to both legs. Beth returned razor in hand, "Verbena's feeling a little squeamish, she's sat with her head down the toilet." Beth laughed. She looked at Sam's legs, "Not too bad, just need cleaning up. Good on yer Bernie." She patted Bernie's back, her attention returned to Al as she switched on the razor and shaved the hair from Al's chest, "It'll grow back honey, in no time at all." Beth cleaned around the wound, "Now here comes the difficult part, I'll need a hand here, hold hid shoulders Bernie." Beth unwrapped a gauze pad from the medical bag and placed it over the protruding bone. She found the jagged edge and gently but firmly pushed it inwards, wiggling and pushing it about until she felt it click into place. "Hold him up a little while I put this strapping on." She peeled off a length of the adhesive bandage and stretched it over the gauze, carefully unwinding and stretching the bandage, she bound Al's ribs. "Now for Sam's head wound." She checked Sam's eyes again, everything was okay, she cleaned up the cut again and had another look. "I don't think it'll need stitches, I don't think we have any anyway," She procured a pack of steri-strips from the bag and placed three across the cut. Sam's eyes twitched, "He moved his eyes Beth. Is that good?" "Sure is," Beth turned to Sam, "There's life in the old dog's yet. Eh Sam?" Sam's eyes twitched again and they opened, the first thing he saw was Bernie standing over him, he smiled at her, a weak, drained smile. "How's Al? How's his legs?" "His legs! No-one said anything about his legs!" Beth hastily unfastened Al's jeans. "He was limping when he came in, I thought it was his ribs though, he was holding his side." Bernie was shocked. As Beth pulled down his jeans there were two large, oval shaped haematoma's, one on the front of each thigh. Beth felt at each femoral bone, luckily there were no breaks. Al started to come round, he moaned. "Is he okay?" Sam asked. "Yeah," Beth sighed, "just two whacking bruises, he's gonna be sore for a few days, and so will you Sam." Bernie looked at Sam and giggled, "I'll go and fetch some blankets from the store room." She kneeled down to Sam and whispered, "don't worry I've seen it all Sam." Sam looked down realising for the first time his nakedness, only a pair of shorts between him and two women. He looked at Bernie then at Beth, alarm in his eyes. "I won't tell, if you won't Sam," Beth laughed and Bernie joined in. "What!" Al coughed, "What you laughin' at?" Al was awake.