This is Part 2 of Chapter 107 in the "Queer Theories" series.
Go back to "Humpty Dumpty -- Part 1", the previous section.
The narrator is Dorian Folco, and features Brian Kinney, Dr. Reid, Sister McGinn, Sir Kenneth Fielding, Billy Phillips-Smythe, Kenroy Smith.
Rated R and contains no warnings or spoilers.
Summary: Dorian finally sees Brian. London, October 2002.
Disclaimer: This is for fun, not profit. Watch Queer As Folk on Showtime, buy the DVDs, videos, and CDs. Read the stories and enjoy.
Brian is lying in the bed, staring in the direction of the window, but unable to look directly out of it. The sill is too high to see over, but he seems to be gazing up, as if at the sky. The golden autumn light is flooding in the room and sky looks unnaturally blue, but the day seems dark to me. So dark.
My first impression of Brian is one of dismay. He looks so battered, dismal, forlorn. The doctor tells me that he sustained a concussion, as well as two cracked ribs, and an injured wrist. Those are the most serious injuries. At least, the ones that show on the surface. I find myself unprepared for just how much seeing Brian like this pains me. My mouth feels so dry and I almost can't force myself to go forward to his bedside. But then I think that it could have been worse. So much worse and I thank God.
But Sister McGinn bustles right over to him, "Your friend has come, my dear," she says, kindly. "Aren't you glad -- Brian?" She looks up at me, pleased. Her patient now has a name, an identity. She beckons to me. "Come closer. It's all right." And I move to the bed, fearfully, until I stand on his left side. What if he doesn't know me? Or won't speak to me?
"Brian," I say. He turns his head and looks at me. He has a black eye and the whole right side of his face looks scoured raw, as if dragged roughly across a hard surface. And his lips are swollen and redder even than their usual deep red color. He also has a wrapping on his right hand, where it's been badly sprained. And knife cuts. On his arms. His neck. I feel my heart skip. I picture that bag full of clothes, sliced to pieces while Brian was still wearing them.
I try a wan smile. "Don't worry, Brian, I didn't bring the camera so I can put this in your publicity file. You don't look that bad, you know. Really, you don't, Brian." I try to sound sincere, but my voice cracks as I say the words.
"Oh, he'll be breaking hearts again in a week," says the nurse, smoothing his pillow. "Won't you, my dear?" And she reaches over and strokes his face gently, carefully avoiding the painful looking scrapes. "His head will hurt a bit and he'll have some sore ribs for a while. And a few little scars, perhaps. But no permanent harm done at all."
"I fell down," he whispers. And then he shuts his eyes and turns his head away from me.
"We know, dear," says the nurse. She glances at me, gauging my reaction. But I'm just so stunned to see him alive that I don't know what else to think. What else to feel. "He's just had a little medicine to make him relax," she confides to me.
Dr. Reid crosses his arms and snorts. "He fell down! That's all we can get out of him! See if you can get him to tell you more than that, Mr. Folco," he says to me. "Because the police will be coming by to try to interview him again this afternoon."
"Doctor," I say, trying to keep my temper. "I would like Brian's solicitor to be present when the police come here. If a crime has actually occurred...."
"Oh, there was a crime... of some sort," says the doctor, dismissively. "But without any information from the patient, then I don't see how any kind of investigation can proceed." Dr. Reid acts as if he's angry not at the criminals who have done this, but at Brian.
"What are the authorities doing now?"
The doctor shrugs. "Treating it as a robbery. A mugging. But I have my doubts that was the motive."
"What do you mean?" I say, carefully. I don't trust this Dr. Reid. Not at all.
"Well, the police have noted that he had no wallet, no wristwatch, no cellphone -- all things you would expect a man to be carrying. They are positing that the items were stolen."
I don't comment on the simple fact that Brian never wears a watch and wouldn't bring his ID or phone with him to go out tricking. In fact, his wallet and cellphone are sitting on the dresser in my bedroom at this moment. I checked before I left the house with the officers.
"And he had cash in his pocket, which wasn't taken. So I doubt that robbery was the intent," continues the doctor, gazing at Brian. But Brian won't look at us at all. I stare at his hands, lying motionless on the sheet. The tight wrapping on his right wrist. And I think of something that should be there.
"Where are his personal effects? His jewelry?"
Dr. Reid frowns. "What he was wearing was valueless. That's another thing the police wondered about."
"Nevertheless," I say. "Where is it?" The doctor points to the table next to the bed. The nurse opens the drawer and hands me a brown envelope. I open it and slide out the contents. The shell bracelet and a golden chain with a small red heart dangling. They are sticky and stained, just as the clothes were, but they are still intact. The nurse hands me a tissue to wipe them, but much of the blood has already dried. It sickens me, what someone has done to him. To my friend. My lover.
"You would think that a grown man wouldn't be wearing something like that," says the doctor with unguarded contempt. "My daughter has one of those silly heart necklaces. She's been wearing the thing continuously for weeks. That's a fad for a fourteen year old girl!"
I glare at Dr. Reid. I want to tell him that he's an utter fool, that he doesn't even know who his patient is! That his patient started this 'fad for fourteen year old girls'! But I'm afraid to irritate him too much, especially when Brian is still under his care.
I slip the bracelet and necklace into my coat pocket, next to my cigarette lighter. They will all need to be washed off thoroughly when I get home. Cleansed of this whole incident. Everything made just the way it had been. If that's even possible. But I'll do everything I can to make it possible.
I lean over Brian, trying to get him to look at me. But he won't. Or he can't. Perhaps the medicine that he was given has made him drowsy. Or else he's just not responding. He doesn't want to see me, or anyone. I touch his hair, smoothing it down a bit. It always sticks up in odd places after he's been sleeping.
"Sister, do you mind bringing me some of those charts from my office? They are on my desk," says Dr. Reid.
"Certainly, doctor," she says, and bustles out of the room.
Then Dr. Reid turns to me. "I didn't want to speak to you about this with Sister McGinn in the room. It's a bit... dicey."
"Oh?" I answer, looking down at Brian. His eyes are closed, but I wonder again if he's really sleeping. Or in another place entirely. "I imagine the good sister has seen just about everything there is to see dealing with human suffering and grief. Are you worried about embarrassing HER -- or yourself, Dr. Reid?" Perhaps it sounds bitter, but I feel bitter. Bitter and angry.
He ignores me. "As I said, the police are investigating this as a robbery. But I think that you ought to know that it's rather more than just that. If you understand me, Mr. Folco?"
This man is severely trying my patience. "Please just say what you mean, doctor. I'm not an idiot and I'm not a child." I find my hand reaching down and taking hold of Brian's hand. Is he listening to all of this? Or is he blocking it all out? As I wish I could block it all out?
"I think everyone concerned needs to face the reality of what has happened here. And that includes the patient. And you, Mr. Folco, since it may well impact your sexual relationship with him...."
I blink a few times, my mouth hanging open. I would truly like to tell this supposed doctor what I think of him, but... but.... "Is this really the best possible time and place to discuss this, doctor? I mean, I don't think that...."
"He doesn't seem to know -- or care -- what is going on around him. If he won't respond to you, then he probably won't respond to anyone, so I don't see what difference it makes what we say, Mr. Folco."
"The difference is that YOU don't seem to have even the sensitivity that God has given a rat, doctor!" I explode. I know that there is a time and a place to keep one's head, but I AM half Italian, after all! Some things just can't be kept in! "I think that this discussion should be left until I can retain a private physician -- and move Brian out of here to some place where they will deal with him in a professional manner!"
But Dr. Reid doesn't seem at all concerned. He narrows his eyes at me, as if he enjoys telling silly people hard truths. "Do what you will, Mr. Folco, but face the facts. We are dealing with a sexual assault here. But perhaps you have already discerned that."
I feel the color rushing into my face. "Dr. Reid, I didn't imagine that they... cut Brian's... clothing to ribbons with a knife just to get at his bloody wallet!"
"Rather," says the doctor. "We are doing tests right now. For HIV and the like. If they come up positive, then...."
"Yes, yes! I understand... but what are you thinking of, Doctor? Are you thinking that the police are going to pursue this as a sexual assault? Because, if I may say so, you'll destroy my friend if you push that line of inquiry, Dr. Reid! Destroy him as surely as his attackers tried to!"
"It's merely the truth, Mr. Folco," he says, shrugging. "Don't you want the facts to come out? Don't you want the perpetrators to be apprehended and punished?"
I just gape at the man. "Frankly," I say, lowering my voice and trying to move the doctor away from Brian's bed, away from his hearing. I walk over to the door and he follows me, reluctantly. "I don't give a toss about the perpetrators. I only care about my friend and what pursuing such a line of questioning would do to him... to his career... his life. Can't you understand that, doctor?"
"As I said, I'm only interested in the truth, Mr. Folco."
"So you say," I reply. "But Brian is the victim here, not the culprit, doctor. I can see that you believe he brought this all upon himself, and perhaps there is some credibility to that position. Brian isn't the easiest of men at the best of times. He doesn't always make the wisest choices. He's a creature of instincts and drives. That's part of his strength -- and much of his appeal."
"I have little interest in his 'appeal,' Mr. Folco. I'll leave that to YOU -- and his other 'friends.'"
I have to step back from this man before I strike him. "I think that you, Dr. Reid, just want to make Brian pay for what you see as his 'crime.' Perhaps YOU think that he was doing something he shouldn't have been doing, in a place he should never have been. But no one deserves what happened to him! No one seeks THAT, doctor, even if they are trying to punish themselves. Brian is going to pay enough -- emotionally, psychologically...."
I don't even know why I bother trying to justify Brian or his actions to this cretin. I MUST get him out of here and transferred into a private facility. Then I need never have to see or speak to Dr. Arsehole again -- unless it's to see him reprimanded by the authorities.
"Then your lover should have considered THAT before he got himself into such a situation, Mr. Folco," the doctor answers, coldly.
"I imagine that you are the kind of man who NEVER gets himself into any 'situations,' doctor. Or you believe yourself to be. But one day, you may find yourself in over your head. And then who will be merciful to you, Dr. Reid? Who?"
"I don't deal in such moral questions, Mr. Folco. I'm a physician. I'm interested in the truth of the matter. That's the only way to cure my patient."
"You think THAT will 'cure' him?" I find my voice rising, and I try to bring it down. Down to a mere whisper. "You're wrong, doctor. Instead you will make it a thousand times worse by forcing the police to pursue this matter! What would that solve? Brian will never admit to anything like... like that -- and you know it! You'll break him apart!" I glance over at the bed, but he hasn't stirred. Perhaps he really IS asleep. One can only pray.
"He might be made to see reason. With the correct motivation."
"Motivation?" I repeat, incredulously. "I think this discussion is one that must wait until his solicitor, Sir Miles Hadleigh, arrives, Dr. Reid. And the actual police." I turn away from the doctor. I can see that he is almost as disgusted with me as I am with him. Almost. I begin to compose in my head just what I will say in the complaint I plan to register with the hospital board when this entire incident is over.
Just then Sister McGinn returns with the charts, and Dr. Reid takes them and stalks out of the room, not looking back. The nurse goes over to Brian to see how he is doing. To see if he is sleeping. If he needs anything. At least someone in this place gives a damn!
I walk out into the corridor and am surprised to see Sir Kenneth and his new passion, Billy Phillips-Smythe, standing at the nurses' station. Kenneth is very distressed, while Billy looks distinctly uncomfortable. And Brian's driver, Kenroy Smith, is standing quietly against the wall behind them.
"My dear boy!" He comes to me and we embrace. "Mr. Smith called and told me what had happened as soon as he found out. I asked him to bring me here at once! Please tell me what I can do. I am completely at your service, Dorian."
"I've already called Sir Miles. He'll be coming later to speak with the police."
"Do the authorities have to be involved in this, Dorian?" asks Kenneth, nervously. I know that he is thinking not only of Brian, but of the publicity. Of what it could do to Brian. And to the film.
"I'm afraid so," I answer, truthfully. "I don't see how it can be avoided. Brian has been... badly injured and it can't be passed off as a misadventure."
"Dear God! How bad is it?" Kenneth's eyes widen.
"He was beaten up by more than one person, certainly. And...." I hesitate. "I would rather not go into detail right now," I say, glancing at Billy. After the episode with Hughie, I don't trust anyone. "A concussion, a sprained wrist, some cracked ribs, as well as some very nasty cuts and bruises." I hesitate again. "And his... beautiful face is a mess, surely. But... I think the damage may be more in his head."
"That's no surprise," Kenneth sighs. "This used to occur quite a bit in the old days. It even happened to me once, a very long time ago. But I had hoped these incidents were all in the unpleasant past."
"I don't think it was quite a hate crime, Kenneth. At least...." I pause. "I'm waiting to speak with Sir Miles. Brian isn't answering any questions and until he is willing to tell someone the circumstances of the attack, we are only guessing."
"That's only too true, Dorian." Kenneth looks me up and down. "You look like you've had a hell of a night."
"You don't know the half of it, Kenneth."
Just then the nurse comes out of Brian's room and sees us standing in the hallway. She looks at Sir Kenneth and I can tell that she recognizes him -- few people in London wouldn't recognize Sir Kenneth Fielding! -- but it is Billy to whom she goes. She walks straight up to him and takes his hand. "Thank Heavens you've come, my dear," says Sister McGinn.
"What?" Billy pulls his hand away and steps back, away from her.
"Please come right in. He was asking for you, dear."
"There must be some mistake...." Billy looks at me and then Kenneth for help. As if he wants to run away immediately.
"Sister, who has Brian been asking for?" I say. But I already know the answer.
Now the woman seems totally confused. "Oh... I thought... so, you're not Justin?"
"No, I'm Billy," the boy says, with relief. I peer at Billy and he looks away from me. Billy and Brian must have had an encounter somewhere along the line. Not that it matters now. Not at all. But Billy obviously doesn't want Kenneth to know. I want to tell Billy that it wouldn't matter a jot to Kenneth. After all, he's had an encounter or two with Brian, as well, so I understand.
"Sister McGinn," I ask. "Was he asking for Justin? When? Just now?"
"No, Mr. Folco," she says. "When he first came in. And then a bit later on. From what he said... I thought this young man was the one. I'm so sorry for the mistake. I hope I haven't said anything amiss."
"No need to apologize, Sister," I assure her. "Justin isn't in this country. He's in the States. He... can't be here right now."
"Oh," she responds. "Oh, dear. That's unfortunate."
Sir Kenneth interrupts. "May we see Brian now, Sister?"
"Of course, Sir Kenneth. Certainly! Come with me," says the nurse.
"You two go in," I tell them. "I'd like to speak with Mr. Smith for a moment."
"Of course, Dorian." And Kenneth and Billy follow Sister McGinn into Brian's room.
I turn to the driver. He seems devastated by the turn of events. "Kenroy, can you tell me at all what happened?"
He shakes his head. I can see that he's very upset. That he's blaming himself. That feeling I understand very well. "I don't know, Mr. Folco. I took him to that dance club under the arches, the one near Charing Cross."
"I know the place. But that isn't where he was found."
"I know. He must have given me the slip," says Kenroy, shaken. "After two hours I went into the club myself and realized that he wasn't there. Even in a large group of men, Brian is hard to miss. And I checked ALL the possible spots where he might be in there. So, then I visited a few other places I'd taken him and Justin when they were here last summer. But I couldn't find him in any of those, either. I even stopped at the police station to see if, by any chance, he'd been picked up and taken there. I... I should have continued to search further, sir. But... I assumed that he'd gone off with someone."
"Not an unnatural assumption," I say, grimly.
"I returned home and checked my service. There was no message from Brian, so I went to sleep. When I woke up I checked and retrieved your message about Brian being in hospital. That's when I went to Sir Kenneth's. Of course, he wanted to come here as soon as possible."
"I appreciate it. You did the best you could under the circumstances."
"Which was no damn good at all! Not at all!" he returns, vehemently.
"Kenroy, you aren't responsible for Brian's actions!" I tell him. "No one is! He's an adult. He... it was something that might have happened to any of us...."
"No, Mr. Folco. He was lookin' for trouble last night. He admitted it to me. He went there in a 'mood' and I KNEW he would get into difficulty. I knew it! But... I didn't do enough to stop him."
"It wasn't your responsibility, Kenroy. It was no one's."
"Then why do I feel at fault, Mr. Folco?"
"No more than I do myself," I say. And that's the truth.
Kenroy swallows. "And... I let down the boy, too. I promised Justin that I would look out for Brian. And this is the second time I've failed to do so. After I promised...." The man looks desolate. Like he's about to weep.
I put my hand on Kenroy's shoulder. "Try not to think about it. It truly isn't your fault. And... it isn't Brian's fault, either. He's... a troubled man. I don't think he can really deal with things emotionally and so he acts in ways he can't control. That no one can control. I do believe that sometimes he wants to give himself over to circumstance. To Fate. And then he doesn't have to think about the consequences. Then he can tell himself that it was MEANT to happen. Only this time he went a bit too far...."
"Is he... really badly hurt, Mr. Folco?"
I nod my head, sadly. "They don't know the extent of it. Not yet. But I...." I stop and look down at the floor. The lino looks so worn. A million tragedies have moved across these floors. This one hardly registers in the larger scheme of things, and yet we are all so affected. Sir Kenneth. Mr. Smith. Myself. Others whose names I don't even know. And another one who will be affected -- even more so than all the rest put together. I reach into my pocket and pull out the little necklace with the heart, cradling it in my palm.
"Would you like to go in and see him?" I can't think of anything of comfort to say to the man.
"No," he answers. "I'd rather... just stay out here. If you don't mind." And he leans back against the wall and shuts his eyes as if they hurt. Mine hurt, too, in the stark hospital light.
"Of course not, Kenroy, I don't mind. But why don't you go out and have a smoke or something?" I suggest. "Sir Kenneth will probably be in there for a while. And I need to stay until Sir Miles gets here. And the police."
He opens is eyes and regards me. "They may want to speak with me, then, sir."
"Perhaps. I don't know."
"What are you going to do now, Mr. Folco?"
I sigh. Then I straighten myself. Steeling myself. I slip the little necklace back into my pocket. "The worst job of all, Kenroy. So far."
He frowns. "What's that?"
"I have to call Justin," I reply.
Continue on to "Humpty Dumpty -- Part 3", the next section.
©Gaedhal, January 2003.
Send Gaedhal any comments, critiques, suggestions. I welcome all of your feedback on this chapter.
Updated January 31, 2003.