I hear youre getting out of here tomorrow, Paul said.
Yes. How about you?
Another day, worst luck. He hovered in the doorway. He seemed to want
to come in, but at the same time something held him back. Ill be glad
to leave, he admitted. I want to go home.
Where is home? Alex asked.
Im not sure. Paul was completely serious. We live in London a lot
of the time. But my fathers always moving. Moscow, New York, the South
of France . . . hes been too busy even to come in and see me. And we
have so many houses, I sometimes wonder which is my home.
Where do you go to school? Alex had picked up on the mention of Moscow and assumed that Paul must be Russian.
I dont go to school; I have tutors. Paul shrugged. Its difficult.
My lifes sort of weird, because of my father. Because of everything.
Anyway, Im jealous of you getting out before me. Good luck.
Paul hesitated a fraction longer, then left. Alex gazed thoughtfully at
the empty doorway. Perhaps his father was some sort of politician or
banker. On the few occasions they had spoken, hed gotten the
impression that the other boy was friendless. He wondered how many kids
were admitted into this hospital who had fathers willing to spend
thousands to make them better, but who had no time to visit them while
they were there.
It was nine oclock. Alex flicked through the television channels, but
there was nothing on. He wished now that he had accepted the sleeping
pill from the nurse. A little sip of water and he would have been out
for the night. And out of the hospital the next day. Alex was looking
forward to that more than anything. He needed to start his life again.
He watched half an hour of a comedy that didnt make him laugh. Then he
switched off the television, turned off the light, and curled up in the
bed one last time. He rather wished Diana Meacher had come back to see
him. Briefly he remembered the scent of her perfume. And then he was
But not for long.
The next thing Alex knew, it was half past twelve. There was a clock
beside the bed, its numerals glowing in the dark. He woke up
reluctantly, trying to climb back down into the pit from which he had
come. The truth was, it was difficult to sleep when he had done nothing
to make him tired. All day hed been lying there, breathing in the
clean, conditioned atmosphere that at St. Dominics passed for air.
He lay in the semidarkness, wondering what to do. Then he got up and
slipped into his dressing gown. This was the worst thing about being in
the hospital. There was no way out, nowhere to go. Alex couldnt get
used to it. Every night for a week, hed woken up at about the same
time, and finally hed decided to break the rules and escape from the
sterile box that was his room. He wanted to be outside. He needed the
smell of London, the noise of the traffic, the feeling that he still
belonged to the real world.
He put on a pair of slippers and went out. The lights had been dimmed,
casting no more than a discreet glow outside his room. There was a
computer screen gleaming behind the nurses station but no sign of
Diana Meacher or anyone else. Alex took a step forward. There are few
places more silent than a hospital in the middle of the night and he
felt almost afraid to move, as though he were breaking some sort of
unwritten law between the healthy and the sick. But he knew he would
just lie awake for hours if he stayed in bed. He had nothing to worry
about. Mrs. Jones was certain that Scorpia was no longer a threat. He
was almost tempted to leave the hospital and catch the night bus home.
A Man Called Intrepid author dies aged 89(Dec 03 2013) William Stevenson, a journalist and author who drew on his close ties with intelligence sources to write two best-selling books in the 1970s, A Man Called...