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Chapter 5 - Can’t Trace Time by A.J. Hall

No-one had bothered to mention the blizzard. The icy puddles underfoot burned his bare soles like acid; the driving snow found its way through every gap in his bathrobe. The very air was so cold it tore at his lungs with every breath he took.

He lost the careful, prepared words he’d been planning and hurled his outrage into the swirling darkness ahead of him.

“Oh, this is so fucking typical! If you have to go in for these drama queen stunts at all, couldn’t you dig up a bit more originality and frigging well do it somewhere other than on top of the tallest building you could find, you poncy git?”

There was a pause. And then, from not very far ahead of him at all, came that voice again; calmer now, something of irony detectable in it.

“Well. Whatever I might have expected, I’d not have bet on that.”

Absent the muffling effects of the door - absent the distorting effects of panic or anger - the voice sounded different. Lighter in pitch. Less familiar. Almost - alien. A thread of doubt stirred in Owen’s mind -

And in that second Kirov must have found the switch, because the whole of the rooftop was suddenly bathed in brilliant light.

Owen found himself looking straight across Dr Comienski’s head into the startlingly blue eyes of a tall woman he’d never seen before in his life.

He lost it, completely.

“And just who the fuck are you?”

She raised her eyebrows.

“I thought I’d just explained that - thanks to your goons and their chemicals - I don’t have the faintest idea?”

“Oh, really!” Petrova Comienski burst out. “Why won’t you accept that’s just a delusion?”

“What is?” Owen could feel his teeth beginning to chatter. Still, the patient must be feeling the cold worse than he was; she was only wearing a thin hospital gown, and her nipples stood out like Armalite piercing shells. Fetching as the effect was, highlighting a pair of tits for which the only applicable phrase was small but perfectly formed (and she was fully aware of his appreciating them; there was a mocking curve on her lips as she tracked the line of his glance) it had to be hurting like hell.

“When I was brought in here - when was it now?”

Comieski gritted her teeth. “Four days ago. You’d been attacked - beaten up - there was concussion. You have to realise that your amnesia is simply a result of your injuries, not deliberately induced by the hospital as part of some great sinister plot -“

At this moment a gust of wind swept across the roof-top. The tunic of the patient’s hospital pyjamas billowed up - Comienski tried to wriggle free while she was distracted, failed, and fetched up pinned against the parapet.

“Try that again and you’re going over,” the patient said coldly. There was, however, something about her voice which, to Owen’s experienced ear, lacked conviction. And she probably had worked out the flaw in the suggestion, even if Comienski, who looked terrified, plainly hadn’t. Better enlighten her, then.

Owen made his voice sound bored. “Not such a bright idea, that, darlin’.”

“And why not?”

“Because -” he paused meaningfully. “You do that, I’m out one junior doctor. But you’re out one hostage. Difference between us being, I’ll get applicants for my vacancy.”

He made his voice sharp. “Dr Comienski! Get this patient indoors and down to the best-equipped consulting room we’ve got. I want a full medical examination, and I want it now.”

Comienski goggled at him. “Wha-?”

“You tell me this patient was admitted four days ago, yes?”

Comienski nodded.

“Well,” Owen said, “it seems we have a little problem, then. Because - as I’d have expected you’d have spotted if you hadn’t been distracted at the time - she seems to have a most remarkable collection of bruises on her rib-cage - and, no doubt, elsewhere. Bruises, I’m prepared to bet, that are somewhere between six and twelve hours old. At the absolute maximum.”

There was absolute stillness on the roof. Even the blizzard seemed to have stopped.

“And if there’s one thing I have a particular objection to - you might almost call it an article of faith - it’s patients coming into a hospital and leaving sicker than they came. Especially since that looks to be deliberate. So come on. Move it!”