Barb sits in the stark waiting area of the hospital. She checks her watch. Four hours. Two since someone had last slammed through those double doors and said anything about Mel’s condition.
Barb wonders why she’s still there. She doesn’t even know Mel.
The doors swing open again. A doctor strides towards her.
‘Barb? I’m Dr Leah Morton.’ Her hair is blonde, tied back securely in a neat, yet expertly styled pony tail. She is tall and slim. ‘You brought Mel here?’ she asks.
‘Yes,’ Barb replies, standing despite the overwhelming langour in her bones, muscles and her eyes. She blinks away the tiredness. ‘How is she?’
‘You got her here just in time. She’s out of surgery now, in ICU. But her condition is serious. She’ll be here for a while.’
‘Oh.’ Barb whispers.
‘The police are on their way. They’ll want to talk to you. After they’re done, you may as well go home. Mel won’t be lucid for hours.’
‘I don’t even know her.’ Barb hears the weakness in her tone, the pointlessness of the words. She shrugs. ‘Not really. She’s a neighbour.’
‘That’s all information you can give to the police, Barb,’ Leah offers. ‘They’re on their way. Should arrive at any moment.’
As if choreographed, the automatic sliding doors to the emergency department swish open and two police officers walk inside. They walk to the triage desk, and the nurse behind points out Barb. They march over to her.
‘Ms Barb Harrison?’ The female officer asks the question. The male is watching Barb, like a tiger surveys prey.
‘Yes, that’s me.’
‘We’ve got some questions about last night.’
Barb nods. She answers all their questions, without umbrage. And then some more. Over half an hour passes.
‘Thank you, Ms Harrison,’ the female says once they’re done.
Barb nods again.
The male officer smiles. ‘Thanks for your cooperation, Ms Harrison. You’re free to go.’
‘You’re welcome,’ she responds. She stands and stretches. Slings her handbag over her shoulder, and starts to walk away.
‘If you think of anything else, please give us a call.’ He calls from behind her.
Barb is thinking. But nothing that she can share with the police.
She’s imagining a moment not too far in the future, where she knocks on Mel’s door. Her partner answers—she still doesn’t know his name—and Barb pushes her way in. She looks for Mel, who’s sleeping on the couch. The guy follows her, all puffing chest and taut shoulders, trying to intimidate her. Barb smiles. Grabs a frying pan on the bench in the kitchen and thwacks him over the head. Repeatedly. Mel rises from the couch—part of their plan was for her to feign sleep until Barb made her move. Mel stabs her partner with a serrated-edge knife. Over and over the blade goes in to his torso. Mel nicks his carotid artery with one of her furious stabs. Blood seeps from his head and his neck. His mouth gapes wide open. Mel raises her gaze to Barb. ‘His name is John.’
Shaking the image from her brain, Barb leaves the hospital and drives home. She collapses into bed and sleeps until it’s dark outside.