Chapter 1, Awakening
Pain! The return of consciousness meant pain. He could not see
anything but colors. The colors of pain. Red. Bright Green. Maroon.
Red again. White. Bright hurtful white. Penetrating white. Red. The
sounds were sounds of pain. Moans. Groans. Sharp intakes of breath.
Shortness of breath. Breathing was painful. Smells of pain. How does
pain smell? Disinfectant. Sterile. Plastic. Were there any other sights?
... and other sounds? ... any other smells?
Beeps. Somewhere something was beeping. What was it? An alarm
clock? No. Too quiet. But it goes on and on and on. Could he turn it
off? An effort to move, even a fraction of a finger, resulted in more
Someone was talking. Was it he? There was so much moaning going on
he could not understand the person who was talking. Can't you keep that
person quiet? No. A flash of awareness. He was the person moaning. He
was the person in pain. Shit! He must be alive. But shit! The pain!
"I think he moved, Doctor."
"If he's coming around, give him a shot of this. He'll be in a lot of
Yes! Pain! Give me a shot of whatever!
Hours later, the pain was still there. It was like background noise.
Like the refrigerator running. Always there, but not at the front of one's
consciousness. Now it was dull pain. Black. Brown. Grey. Throbbing.
But in a minor key.
Another voice. Two voices.
"What happened to this one?"
"Beaten really badly. Looks like a street person."
"What's he doing in a single room, then?"
"Mr. Lyle brought him in. He's paying."
Who the hell was Mr. Lyle? What happened? Where was he? Who was
Third time's the charm, they say. The pain was still there. Will it
never go away? Someone was moving about. Something touched him. A very
long way off, somebody was touching something, and in some fuzzy, blurry
way, that something was him.
Again he moaned. There was closer movement. Voices again. Another
"Doctor, I think he may be coming around."
"Can you hear me?"
"Can you hear me? Can you open your eyes?"
Open eyes. Bright light. Pain. Close eyes.
"Good. Can you open your eyes again?"
Blink. Light. Blink. Pain. Blink.
"Nurse, dim the lights. ... Now can you open your eyes?"
Better. Yes. Man in white coat. Hovering over him. Hand on
forehead. Prying eyelids open. Light in eyes.
"I know you are very uncomfortable. Try to stay awake for a little
while. The nurse is going to take your temperature. We'll try to make you
as comfortable as possible."
Awake. It's dark. Almost. Dim light somewhere. Damn beeping. A
false quiet. Not really. There are noises all around. Beeping. Someone
walking down the corridor. Buzzer somewhere. Background noises. Must be
I must be in a hospital. How did I get here? What happened to me?
Try to move. Ow! Pain! Not the head. Legs feel heavy. Whole body feels
heavy. Maybe moving is not such a good idea. Think. How did I get in the
A car. I got in a car. Why? A trick. More than one. Nice looking
guy. Why the car? He had some friends. Have a party. Yeah. Pick up a
trick at the Cardinal. Best gay bar on the street. College kids. Yuppies.
Never expect anything rough. No rough trade. Been there before. Not
inside. They know I'm not legal. But there are usually good picking
around outside if you wait long enough. Maybe in his mid twenties. What
was his name? Gary? Cary? Jerry? Not sure. Seemed nice. Looks can be
Interested in a party? Maybe put on a show for some of my friends, he
said. Nothing to worry about. Just a few friends. Like to see what you
can do. Come back to the apartment. Sure, no problem. Cell phone out.
"Got one!" Got one? Sounds harsh. Well, he was for sale. Can't expect
anything personal. Vehicle cruises slowly along the street. New model
SUV. Stop. Quick, inside. Two guys in front, one more in back with him
and his trick.
"Hi, guys. I'm Dermot."
"Shut the fuck up! Suck this!"
That was the beginning. Don't want to remember. No! Pain!
Moan. Another moan.
"He's waking up, Doctor."
"Can you hear me?"
Croak. "Throat hurts, Dry."
"Here. Sip this."
Some kind of juice. Yes. Lubricate the vocal cords.
"Is that better?"
"Yes." Still a croak, but one that someone could understand.
The doctor lifted his left hand, and brought it up to the container of
juice. His arm felt heavy, as though it were an alien piece of equipment,
not part of him. But he could hold the container. Okay. Some of him
"You've had a rough time. The good news is, nothing is permanently
damaged. The bad news is it will take a while for you to mend. We'll do
the best we can to keep you comfortable. When you're a little further
along, we'll have to ask some questions. Right now, can you tell us your
"Croak ... Der ... mot ... croak."
"Did you say Darryl?"
"No. Der ... mot."
No answer. Eyes turn away. Better not give anything away. Who knows
what might happen if they actually identified him?
"Okay. We'll work on that later, Dermot. You're at University
Hospital. You were brought in badly beaten. The police have been around.
When you're feeling up to it, they'll have some questions."
"No. No police."
"Sorry, Dermot. In a case like yours, we have no choice. But, it's
up to you whether you answer their questions. Now, the nurse is going to
give you another shot, so you can get some rest. You need lots of rest to
allow your body to heal."
Rest. Haven't had much lately. Not real rest. Maybe now .... But
the police .... Don't say anything, just ... rest.
Groggy. Fuzzy. Like coming up from a deep dive. Long way to the
surface. Blink. No one around. Good. Got to think. What to do? Shit!
What can I do? I can't move. Or can I? Try. Right fingers flex. Okay.
Right arm moves, but stiffly. Heavy. Can't see. Move head slowly. Okay.
Right arm has a cast below the elbow, and all kinds of tubes stuck in it.
Looks like something out of a horror movie. Left arm moves okay. Left
fingers flex. Good. One is better than none. Head moves from side to
side, without too much trouble. Ow! No quick moves. Something on my
face. Left arm up. Feel. Bandages, I guess. Left cheek. Right eye
covered. God, I hope I don't lose my eye! Lips hurt. Mouth hurts. Ow!
Tongue caught on something. Sharp. Sharp tooth. Do I have all my teeth?
Ugh! Seems to be a gap on the left, next to the sharp one. Have to do
something about that. Can't take a chance on nicking a trick.
Don't want to think about tricks. Fucking bastards! Literally
sometimes. Okay, I can still appreciate word play, so I can't be too far
gone. Wish I never knew what a trick was. When I was a kid, it was trick
or treat. Now, it's just tricks. Growing up is hell. When I was a kid
.... Oh, Dad! Why did you have to go and get killed? Why? Why? Why?
More nurses. More doctors. One doctor kept coming back. Others came
and went. After a while, it became clear that his doctor was named
Dr. Shipley. Nice enough. Young fellow, maybe mid thirties. Seemed to
care. Just professional courtesy, of course. He knew all about that. The
sale went better if you seemed to take a personal interest in the trick.
What's he saying?
"Dermot, I've held them off as long as I can. The police insist on
seeing you. I won't let them stay too long. Don't get too excited, okay?"
Excited about seeing cops? As if.
Big fellow. Uniform. Don't say anything.
"Hello, Dermot. I'm Sgt. Flaherty. You had a rough time a little
while back, there. We need to know about that. Can't have people getting
beat up on my turf, you know. Looks bad."
Geesh, a cop with a sense of humor. What'll they think of next? What
was that, though? A while back? How long have I been in this hospital?
"A while back?"
"What? What did you say?"
"You said I had a rough time a while back?"
"Yeah. Three days ago. Well, middle of the night, I guess. Can you
tell me about it?"
"Three days? I've been in the hospital three days?"
"Afraid so. Didn't they tell you? We've been as patient as we can,
Dermot. But we've got to get on this soon, or else just forget about it.
It's already cold, but Dr. Shipley is very protective of his patients.
Now, what happened?"
"Got beat up."
Sgt. Flaherty gave a sigh and looked at him. "I can figure that much
out by myself. Come on, now, give."
Dermot tried to smile, but his lips hurt too much. Despite himself,
he liked this cop. "Four guys."
"That's more like it. Did you meet them behind St. George?"
"Huh? St. George?"
"That's where you were found. In the alley behind St. George Church.
Is that where you met the four guys?"
"No. Over on Third Street. SUV."
"Where on Third?"
"Um. Ah. Don't know."
"Look, when they brought you in, you had semen in your mouth, in your
ass, and everywhere else. They had also pissed on you. I have a pretty
good idea what you were up to. Of course, it's up to you. But right now,
I'm concerned about finding four guys who go around beating up people to
within an inch of their lives, not about victimless offenses. So, you can
help or not. Up to you, Dermot."
"That's better. Do you know whether they're regulars?"
"Don't know. They won't let me inside. Think I saw the first guy
there before, though."
"First one I met. Said he had some buddies. Wanted a party. SUV
came by. Three more inside."
"Can you describe the SUV?"
"Cherokee. Dark color. New model. Wasn't paying close attention."
"Now, about the four guys. Anything?"
"Yuppies. Late twenties, early thirties. Talked rough, but had
educated voices. No twang or anything."
"The first was Cary, or Gary, or Terry, or something like that.
Another, in the front, was Chuck. Nothing else."
"Dark jackets. Two had caps, one backwards. Jeans. Boots. One,
maybe two, had boots. Hard boots."
"Yeah. Doc told me you had your ribs kicked in."
"More'n he told me."
"They hate gays."
Sgt. Flaherty left, as Dermot had nothing more to relate. When asked
about himself, he suddenly became deaf and mute. But the Sergeant would be
Almost immediately after the policeman left, a nurse came in with a
"No!" Dermot put up his hand. "No more, until somebody tells me
what's going on. I learned more about my condition from Sgt. Flaherty than
from all your doctors and nurses."
"All right. I guess you do have a right to know something. I'll get
Ten minutes later, the young doctor was there.
"What's this Nurse Bailey tells me? No more pain killer?"
"Not until you tell me what's going on. Sgt. Flaherty says I've been
here for three days, and I have broken ribs. More than you ever told me."
Dr. Shipley chuckled. "Getting demanding. I guess that's a good
sign. Okay, Dermot. You were badly beaten. Yes, three ribs. Two broken,
one cracked. More important, one penetrated your left lung, and it
collapsed. We've managed to reinflate it, but it needs careful watching
and a good long rest before we can be sure it won't collapse again. That's
the worst. Second worst, your right eye. Must have hit you there more
than once. Really inflamed, bruised. We were worried at first, but again
it seems to be responding okay. But we're going to keep the bandages on
for a while longer. Gash in your head. Had to shave your hair away on the
right side. You look really weird, if I do say so myself, with long red
hair on most of your head, but a bald spot about six inches long on the
right side. Left leg broken about half way between the knee and ankle, but
the joints are okay. Right wrist broken. You won't be writing much for a
while. Unless you're left handed, that is. One tooth broken off, another
chipped. Oh, yeah. We did a couple of tests. You have chlamydia and
gonorrhea as well. Both treatable. Scrapes and bruises, various."
"How long what?"
"How long before I can be out of here?"
"Depends. On a couple of things. You're young, so you will probably
heal faster than an old person. Maybe six weeks."
"Six weeks! No way! I can't stay in here for six weeks!"
"Well, if you had someplace safe to go, where you'd be taken care of
and allowed to rest, we might be able to shorten that." Dr. Shipley looked
at Dermot questioningly.
Dermot drew in his breath. Despite his efforts, a tear formed in his
good eye, and made its way down his left cheek, to be lost in his bandages.
He shook his head.
"I didn't think so. No way will I let you out to go back on the
streets. Social Services ...."
"No! No Social Services!"
"Like the police, with a minor we have no choice. But we can hold
them off a while longer. Mind if I ask why not?"
"Fucking hypocrites! Part of the problem."
"Had a bad experience, did you?"
"Well, it'll be a while yet, but we can't put it off forever. May I
ask a personal question?"
Dermot laughed, even though it made his side hurt. "You've been
asking personal questions for days, and doing all kinds of personal things
to me as well."
"Yeah," Dr. Shipley chuckled, "but that's all on the outside. You
don't seem to be a typical street person. You speak like an educated guy."
"I read. Better than the boob tube. Some of it, anyway. Can I have
something to read?"
"We don't want to strain your eye ...."
"Duh. The damaged one is bandaged up. Come on!"
"Okay. What would you like?"
"History, literature, mysteries, science fiction," Dermot paused, got
a crooked smile on his face, "porn."
Dr. Shipley grinned. "You are definitely getting better," he said,
getting up to leave.
"Hey, before you go. The cop said I'd been here three days. Right?"
"Yes. You were brought in about one o'clock on Saturday morning.
Today is Tuesday, and it's" he paused to check his wristwatch "about eight
thirty in the morning. A little more than three days, anyway."
Later that afternoon, after a most uninspiring lunch, a nurse appeared
with two paperback novels. "Dr. Shipley found these in our lounge. He
thought you might like them," she said.
Dermot looked. Elizabeth Peters, THE CURSE OF THE PHARAOHS. Sounds
kind of lame, but better than nothing. Dorothy L. Sayers, THE
UNPLEASANTNESS AT THE BELLONA CLUB. Never heard of either of them, but
anything is better than the mush they serve up on the tube. That stuff is
worse than the mush they serve in place of real meals here in the hospital.
With his supper mush, Dermot got some more news. He kept hearing
about a mysterious Mr. Lyle. Nurse Chandravari, who brought him his meal,
also told him that Mr. Lyle would be stopping by later. She had it
directly from the head nurse at the station on this floor.
"Who the hell is Mr. Lyle? And why would he be stopping by here?"
"Oh, he's very important. You don't know? A very important lawyer.
Always in the news about some important case. Only last month, he won a
very important case. A big company fired an older man for no good reason.
He made them pay. Very important." Nurse Chandravari seemed to like the
phrase 'very important' a lot.
"But why me? Why is he coming to see me? He can't sue me. I don't
"Oh, no! Mr. Lyle comes to see you because he found you."
"Yes. He found you, and called 9-1-1. Got you here."
"Oh. I see."
Don't know what to make of that. Never really thought about how he
got from some alley to the hospital. Well, we'll just have to see what
Dermot was reading the Peters mystery, which was kind of strange, but
kept his interest, when a man of about forty-five or so walked into the
room. He looked prosperous and self-confident. Must be the 'very
important' lawyer. Dermot ignored him and kept reading until he cleared
his throat and, in a quiet but firm voice, said, "Excuse me."
Dermot put down his book. "Yes?"
"I'm Walt Lyle. I happened to come across you last Friday night. You
were in pretty bad shape, so I thought I'd check in to see how you were
"Not very curious, are you?"
"You found me Friday night. It's Tuesday night now."
"Oh. Dr. Shipley is very protective of his patients. I did check
from time to time. I understand you're named Dermot?"
"Are you getting along okay here?"
"What the fuck do you think? I hurt all over. I have no idea when I
can get out of here, or what shape I'll be in when I do, or what will
happen to me when I leave. Naturally, I'm in great shape!"
"Kind of touchy, aren't you?"
Dermot just looked at him. Who the fuck was this guy and what did he
want. "Are you with the Social Services? I told Dr. Shipley I didn't want
the Social Services."
"No. I have no connection with the Social Services. I'm a lawyer."
"That's what the nurse said. Are you going to sue me for something?
I don't have s fucking dime, so forget it."
"No, I have no intention of suing you for anything. Rudeness is not
an indictable offense," Mr. Lyle said, as he got up to leave.