Author's note: This is set shortly after two of my other stories, A Sense of Purpose and Police Surgeon? Also, I have, in case anyone is interested, a sort of timeline for the Sherlock Holmes stories I have written posted on my profile, since they haven't been written or published in chronological order.
I pondered the message the constable had brought.
"Inspector Lestrade sent me to ask you to come to St. Bart's and to bring your medical bag." The constable rattled off. He nodded briskly and started back into the rain.
"Will you stay and have a cup of tea before you go back out?" I asked. "Mrs. Hudson just brought up a fresh pot, and someone should enjoy it."
The constable shook his head. "Thank you, but I have to go. I was to go for you and then the Inspector's wife, sir."
Lestrade had sent him for me first, and then his wife. The Inspector himself was injured, then, and if he felt his wife needed to be informed, it must have been serious.
Another constable was waiting for me at the entrance to the hospital. "This way, sir." He said promptly. "Down the hall and to your left, listen for the sound of an argument." He hesitated. "I'd hurry, Doctor, if I was you."
I nodded, and increased my pace.
I quickly found the right room, directed more by of the sounds of turmoil emanating from it than anything else.
Lestrade was in one of the beds, sitting against the headboard, his right arm clutched close to his side and bleeding all over the place. His shirt was missing, so I gathered he had been unconscious, and they had at least gotten a chance to look at his arm before he had awakened and reacted this way. There were quite a number of nurses, several large men, and a Dr. Mills circled around him, though none of them seemed to want to get within the reach of the man's good arm.
"Now, Inspector," Mills was trying to calm the man down and distract him at the same time, while one of the nurses to Lestrade's right waited discretely for a chance to drug him in an effort to calm him down. I felt myself frowning in disapproval.
Lestrade glared at the man. "If I'd been conscious, they'd never have brought me here." He threw the insult at the doctor. "I wouldn't come here if my life depended on it."
"Your life does depend on it, Inspector, from what I've seen of your injury." Mills informed the man coolly.
Lestrade jerked around and slapped the needle out of the nurses' hand with his left. "I'm injured, Miss, not stupid." He all but snarled.
I wondered what on earth was going on. I knew from experience that Lestrade made a terrible patient, but this was ridiculous even for him. I raised my voice to carry through the small crowd that had assembled. "Lestrade!"
His head shot up, and I was not the only person who watched in surprise as he shot off the bed and headed straight for me. He quickly ducked behind me, putting me between him and the crowd.
His face lost what little color it had and he swayed. His left hand darted out. He steadied very little as he gripped my jacket, but managed to stay upright, and I wondered at his strange behavior.
"Glad you're here." He mumbled, still trying to at least sound polite. "Sorry to call you out on a day like this."
"Not at all." I assured him. Dr. Mills was waiting, seeing that his patient had calmed in my presence. He would wait, and hoped I could convince the Inspector to let the doctor treat him.
"You look about done in, Inspector, why don't you have a seat and tell me why I'm here."
He let me escort him to a chair, and he fell more than sat into it. He did not relinquish his hold on my jacket, but rather adjusted it until he was gripping my sleeve near my wrist rather than near my shoulder, as he had been.
He managed to look a bit uncomfortable. "I was wondering if you'd have a look at my arm." He said in that same tone he used when he asked Holmes to look at a case that knew the man would consider trivial and beneath him, but he would ask because he needed help anyway.
"Did Dr. Mills look at it?" I asked gently. "He is your attending physician." A flash of alarm barely crossed his features, and he looked embarrassed.
"Would you take a look anyway?" He tried to make it sound unimportant, but he was worried. That in turn worried me.
"Certainly." I said, setting my medical bag on the bed nearby. He breathed a sigh of relief as I agreed. I looked over at Dr. Mills, who merely nodded. He would not begrudge a second opinion if it made the Inspector easier to treat later. He was also confident of his diagnosis.
I wiped away the blood that was covering his arm, and it was all I could do not to reac to what I saw.
Someone had nearly taken his arm off. A deep gash crossed his upper arm, and nearly sank to the bone. I wondered how the man had still managed to get back onto his feet upon my arrival, or even regain consciousness, for that matter, with the amount of blood he must have lost.
"I need my other arm, Lestrade." I said gently, and the man colored and released my sleeve. Out of the corner of my eye I saw Lestrade's wife arrive. Dr. Mills went to her, and I pushed her out of my mind. He could deal with her for now.
Lestrade was trying not to ask. He was also trying not to pass out. "This is bad, Lestrade. What on earth were you doing?"
"Chasing the head of a counterfeiting gang around a meat shop." He replied with a shudder. "He managed to escape when I passed out the first time." He fell silent, struggling with the question he so badly needed and feared the answer to.
"Well?" The Inspector finally asked. He was terribly afraid of what I might say, as much as he tried to hide it.
I sighed. "I don't doubt there's going to be a nasty infection, and it could very well kill you if you aren't careful." I told him. Lestrade had never been one to flinch from the truth just because it was unpleasant. "And this certainly isn't 'just another addition to your collection of battle scars,' as Bradstreet would say. You probably won't be able to use your arm for some time; in fact, by the time it's finally healed, you'll probably have to relearn how to use it. And then it's still going to cause some pain." I frowned as the Inspector actually looked relieved at my pronouncement.
A second later, I understood why.
"You want to do what?" His wife sounded stricken, terrified, and enraged all at once. "Take it off?"
I turned back to eye Lestrade, who now looked even paler. "Did Dr. Mills look at your arm?" I asked in a low tone. The Inspector simply nodded.
"He said that the risk of infection was too great." He said wearily. "He wanted to amputate it."
No wonder he had been so hostile back on the bed. I frowned. "He may very well be right." I said. "His training is to focus on saving the life, not just trying to save the arm. This is not going to be fun."
He was fading on me. I looked over towards his wife; she was having it out with Dr. Mills, and had the full attention of the nurses and everyone else present.
"You have a right to specify who treats you." I said firmly, coming to a decision. Dr. Mills, while he meant well, was also the jealous type when it came to disagreements over how a patient should be treated. "I assume you'd like to stay conscious as long as possible." I was digging in my bag, quietly, looking for the things I would need.
He nodded, but looked about ready to fall over. "This is going to sting." I said as I began cleaning his arm.
He winced. "Always does." Came the pained reply. He did not cry out then, nor through the whole process. I was taking extra precautions; infection was a given here, but I could at least try to minimize it.
His left hand clenched as I began stitching up his arm; I wondered that no one had noticed what I was doing yet. I wasn't paying attention to Dr. Mills or any of them, though, so they could have been building a sailing ship in the middle of the room and I probably would not have been aware of it. I had other concerns right now.
The Inspector was quiet as I sewed up the massive injury, and I wondered how much longer he could keep himself conscious. By all rights, he should have been out long before now.
I finished bandaging the wound, then bound his arm to his side as an afterthought. It was not in Lestrade's nature to keep still when injured. At least this way he would not be able to get his arm free without help, and I knew for a fact his wife would not render him assistance in that area.
He passed out, then, and I had to catch him to keep him from falling out of the chair.
I realized then that Lestrade's wife was now arguing with Inspector Gregson. Bradstreet and Hopkins were there with him, but stood somewhat apart with cowed expressions as Gregson 'tried' to calm her down. Someone had summoned the Inspectors, and it seemed they had caught on pretty quickly to what was happening and were helping Lestrade's wife keep Dr. Mills and his people occupied.
"Mrs. Lestrade!" I called, and the woman shot one last venemous look at Dr. Mills and darted over to join us. As everyone else pulled themselves back together, I began to explain to her the nature of her husband's injury.
"I'll take him home." She said decisively, when I had finished. "He'll do better there than here."
I nodded. "You'll keep me informed, of course."
She smiled. "Stop by around suppertime and you can have his food if he's not up to it." She said mischievously, but her eyes were still worried. Lestrade still had a long way to go.
Mills caught up with us then, eyes flashing in his anger as he took in my handiwork. "You're taking a terrible risk." Was all he said. "And I won't be held responsible for what happens, Dr. Watson."
"I am aware of that." I replied. "But the man has a wife and three children at home. He can't afford to be disabled."
"Can he afford to die when that infection sets in?" Mills snapped, and beside me Lestrade's wife paled. Gregson swallowed nervously and shifted his weight as the doctor stormed off.
"Is it that bad, Doctor?" He asked me. I sighed.
"He's certainly not going to be of any use to Scotland Yard for a while." I admitted. "He needs time to recover."
Gregson shrugged. "If it's a problem for him to be off, we'll just point out that the man hasn't taken a holiday since he joined the force." He said easily. "They can't really begrudge him time off."
"Good." I said. "It'll still be touch and go, but I think he'll pull through."
"This is Giles Lestrade, after all." His wife finally said. Her tone was firm, and I wondered if the man would dare to die without his wife's permission. From what I knew of the woman, it would have been bad idea.
Disclaimer: Sherlock Holmes does not belong to me.