It took longer than usual to get the Warden away from Dr. Phillips down at the hospital. No matter how much the Lieutenant disagreed or how he argued his case Phillips figured all those broken ribs, that collapsed lung and the injury to his back needed to stay in the hospital and, being a doctor, he had the last word. All of them continued to go down and keep him company. Casino did his best to be there when the physical therapists started to work him over up in his room, and then, later, when Garrison went down to take his sessions in the therapy department. He even learned how to do some of the stuff. Make the transfer from the bed to the chair, then from the chair up to stand with the help of the braces and canes. And he was the one who was there when the Warden took his first steps.
Garrison still managed to get out a couple of weeks early, on good behavior,… and because the cons promised to keep an eye on him. With four experienced 'parole officers' Phillips decided he couldn't get into too much trouble. He was making remarkable progress so, with a warning not over do it, the doctor finally let him go.
They ignored his protests and brought the car around the back, right up on the lawn near the terrace outside the Warden's office so he wouldn't have to tackle the steep set of stairs that led up to the front entrance. Even the few steps up the back way and the short distance he had to travel across the stone terrace winded him and he pulled the chair away from his desk and took a seat to rest. Goniff went off to organize a drink in celebration, Actor headed for the kitchen to bring up the soup Winnie'd left for him, Chief stood just off the Warden's left shoulder in case he needed anything and Casino picked up his kit bag and headed for the door that adjoined his office.
"We set you up in here again." Opening the door just enough to set the bag inside he turned on their leader, fists planted on his hips, his voice as scornful as ever. "As often as we gotta do this I don't know why you don't just pack everything up and move it down here permanent."
"And make it even easier for you guys to get out that window?" Laughing hurt, and Garrison just managed to avoid it. "Not a chance, Casino."
Casino dismissed that with a wave of his hand. "You being up there's never stopped us…. Man, knockin' that bed apart and hauling it down those stairs was a pain in the butt."
"The bed?" Garrison sat forward in the chair and started to get up, thought better of it and leaned gingerly back again. "Why didn't you just set up the cot like before?"
An irritated thumb was jerked in the direction of the door that had just opened to admit Actor and Goniff bearing their trays. "Orders from his Highness, here. I tried to talk him out of it but he insisted you'd be more comfortable."
"Casino," Actor said as he moved the steaming bowl of soup off the tray and onto the desk in front of the Warden. "As I recall, it was you who first brought up rearranging the furniture. The fact that I agreed with you and organized the move does not make me entirely responsible for it." Out of the corner of his eye he caught sight of Garrison shoving the bowl aside just as Goniff arrived at his elbow with the tray of drinks. Taking a brandy for himself he lifted the hi-ball glass full of milk off the tray and sat it down next to the soup bowl. "Lieutenant, the only reason you were released before lunch was served at the hospital was the promise we all made Doctor Phillips that you would eat as soon as you arrived, and then go straight to bed." Turning a pointed gaze on the younger man he continued. "I heard you make that promise as well. What kind of an example will you be setting for us if you go back on your word?"
Garrison just rolled his eyes and picked up the spoon. The others laughed and sipped at their drinks as he ate.
It wasn't a large portion, he still couldn't manage much, but it took some doing to get rid of it all. By the time he reached the bottom of the bowl, he'd almost reached the end of his energy too. Craig lifted the glass in a silent toast to his men and downed the milk in one go. Setting the empty glass back down with a clunk he turned a glare, that was tempered by a half smile, on his second and asked. "May I go now?"
Actor directed a benign smile in his direction and gave a little nod. "Yes, you may," then his voice took on a note of concern. The paperwork and discharge instructions from the doctor, and then the drive itself, had taken time. When they'd arrived to pick him up the Warden appeared well rested and almost fit, now, pain and fatigue etched lines on his face and darkened the area below his eyes. "Do you require any assistance?"
Garrison carefully got to his feet. "I can manage thanks. You guys take off for a while. Go on into the village, hit the pub or the movie house and give me a break. It'll be nice not to have someone hovering around for a change." That was one of the things that made a hospital so uncomfortable, every time you moved there was someone at your elbow… Besides, he knew the men had been in the city most of the time he was there because one or two of them would wander in for a 'quick visit' pretty much round the clock. They needed a rest just as much as he did.
There was a chorus of 'As you wish', 'sure thing', and 'why not' to his suggestion as the men finished their drinks and headed for the French doors that led out to the terrace. Craig didn't watch them out to the car, he was beat and was more than willing to go in and get some rest, so he didn't notice that they'd stopped just outside the door and edged down to stand under the window that was cut high in the wall of the room they'd set his bed up in.
Garrison turned to the left as soon as he stepped into the room. There was a chair in the corner, and hooks on the wall that would serve as a temporary wardrobe. He worked the buttons down the front of his shirt and eased out of it, hanging it on one of the hooks. Toeing out of his shoes he shoved them under the chair, then unbuckled the belt, loosed the button and unzipped his pants. Letting them drop off his hips he caught them with his left hand and stepped free of them. Mindful of the crease he folded the trousers over the back of the chair, letting his wallet and the other content of the pockets spill out onto the seat. Glancing down at his feet he sighed in mild frustration. He'd keep the socks on, they'd be too much trouble to get off, let alone back on again when he got up.
Intent on the bed when he turned around he didn't see it at first, when he did he let out an unguarded laugh, groaned over it and pressed his right hand down over the thick layer of tape and padding that still encircled his chest and ribs while he waited for the pain to subside. Moving past the bed to the far side of the room he bent stiffly at the hips and studied the layout. A length of miniature track ran along in front of the table that usually had a map spread over the top of it. He followed along it with his eyes, there was a gentle curve as the track turned the corner of the room, ran in front of the oak two-drawer file cabinet that had been drafted as his bedside table, and disappeared under his bed. Backing up a couple of steps he could see the sharper turn it took on the far side as it looped back to run along the wall at the head of the bed. A quick survey turned up the transformer and controls sitting conveniently atop the oak file cabinet.
Craig lowered himself gingerly down on the edge of the mattress and reached out to flip the switch. Nothing happened. He gave the dial on the control an experimental twist and was rewarded by the chuffing sound of a small engine as it moved along the track. A moment later it came into view as it slowly chugged out from under the bed and he couldn't help laughing again, even though it hurt. The small locomotive pulled a line of flat-bed and open cars… Every one of them held rank after rank of tin soldiers. Trying out some of the other switches on the control unit he was rewarded by a fairly realistic train whistle and a warning bell that clanged discordantly as a small barrier dropped down over in the corner of the room near the table leg. He tried different combinations out and dialed up the speed.., until he nearly lost a company of men when the little train rounded the corner a bit too fast.
Turning the control knob back to a slow steady 'chug' he used one of the canes to help lever his legs up onto the bed, slipped under the blankets and stretched out to try and get comfortable. The ache in his chest and back was almost constant, the relentless tingling in his legs maddening and the brace they had him strapped into was driving him crazy. To take his mind off all of it he concentrated on listening to the train as it traveled around and around the room.
It was almost hypnotic, the soft 'chug' of the small engine, the ticking of the wheels on the track as the train made it's way around the room. ... Around, and around, and around as he finally drifted off to sleep.
Late that night Goniff propped himself up on his elbow and directed a mildly irritated glare through the darkness at his friend and teammate. "Y' know, mate…. That might not a been one a the best ideas you ever had."
Casino just groaned and turned on his side as laughter filtered through the darkness from the other cots. The sound of that train clicking along the track seemed to be coming from everywhere. Who knew the ductwork between their room and that room off the Warden's office down on the first floor would act like a damned amplifier? Squirming to the edge of the pillow he reached back and pulled the other end of it up and over and jammed it down on his ear. Jeeze! He still heard it! The sound vibrated up the cot's wooden legs and drove right into the middle of his brain… The sound of that stupid train was gonna drive him nuts!