The sound of the siren cut deep into my sleep and I bled into reality. I vacated the bed like it had suddenly turned to ice. I hurriedly wore my trousers and made for the door. I stole a glance at the wall clock as I opened the door. It was 3 a.m. The siren was growing louder. The police was coming.
I ran through the hospital corridor. The female ward’s door popped open. I wasn’t the only one awake. The Nurse got outside as I ran past. The book of sleep was opened on her face, I read it easily. Without a word shared, she joined me in the race towards the entrance, towards the blaring sirens and horns.
It was one of those rare nights, our security man was at work, a rarer night that he was awake, the rarest that he was sober. He unlocked the gates and the police cars poured in, six of them. They approached the nurse and I standing under the glare of the full moon, illuminating the hospital compound. The chilly night wind dancing salsa with our clothes.
The Divisional Police Officer was the first to alight from his vehicle. He walked towards me briskly. He wasn’t wearing his usual smile. He looked like he needed sleep. All the times we had met, there was always a corpse involved. Tonight was no different.
“I brought back one of your patients”, there was no greeting, no apologies for charging into my hospital in the dead of the night. That was his way, I took no offence.
“Which one of them?” I asked, stiffling a yawn.
“Come and see for yourself”, he started walking towards his pick up truck and I followed closely behind.
I saw his face before I saw the hole in his chest, before that he was lying in a pool of his own blood. Life drained from his eyes.
Mr. Sunday Udeme.
Twelve hours ago, he was in the same position he was in but alive. He was groaning in pain, impatient I was asking him if he was diabetic as he was bleeding from the head. A minor scalp laceration that I repaired some minutes later.
“How were you injured?” He groaned and refused to answer.
I turned my glance to one of the police officers who had brought him in. I was perplexed to why so many policemen had accompanied him to the hospital inclluding the DPO.
“He got in a fight! The other guy broke a bottle of Star over his head…”
“Why is the DPO here?”
“His wife owns the beer parlour”.
Mr. Sunday did not say a word till he was all stitched up.
“Doctor….thank you”. He said avoiding my gaze.
“Mr. Sunday! you can talk!” I exclaimed with mock excitement.”I thought your head injury had affected your speech”.
I got a wry smile for my troubles.
“I promise to pay my bills, as soon as I collect my salary”, his voice was hard, more like a promise than a show of gratitude.
“I would like that you do that, our emergency pool fund is for real emergencies not for drunken people who get in bar fights”.
“I wasn’t drunk! I was just there to collect the money Chije owed me. He was the drunk one. I asked him for my money and he insulted my mother so I punched him. The coward waited till my back was turned before he attacked me with a bottle….he even tried to cut me”! He paused. “Did they bring him to this hospital, is he alive?”
I sighed. “I am not even going to ask what you did to him”.
Sunday rolled his hand into a fist, I now knew how he had gotten his knuckles bruised.
“How much does Chije owe you?” I asked.
“Ten thousand. The money is for my school fees. I gave it to him to treat his dad”.
“The emergency fund will increase your debt to cover the ten thousand. You will not go looking for Chije again, do you hear me?”
He was shedding tears. “I won’t….why are you helping me?”
“All your neighbours standing outside have had nothing but good things to say about you. How you support the family and put yourself through school. Why do you think I dipped into my emergency funds.
I saw Sunday’s smile for the first time.
“They also say Chije is very dangerous. Please stay away from him”.
“I will”, he said meeting my gaze. “I promise”.
I discharged him an hour later.
I was sure I would see him again.
I was seeing him now with a hole in his chest, I could see his still heart. Chije must have done a number on him.
Sadly, I never got to tell him there was no Emergency fund. I had given him my own money.
“Where is Chije?” I asked the D.P.O. who was standing quietly beside me.
“He skipped town. He left no trace. He left his belongings at the scene, like he wanted us to know he did this. This was personal”
“There is nothing I can do for this man”. I walked away with bitterness in my heart.
“You need a mortician”.