The man across the table looked confused. His glasses were in his hand and his left eyelid quivered, but he was aware of it and gave it a quick rub. He was about seventy. His face and scalp bore the scars of skin cancer. Pock marks punctuated the stubble and the flecks of white in the corner of his mouth showed that he had been running or talking; talking, I suspected. He couldn’t run too far with the weight he was carrying.
A bead of sweat suddenly appeared and dripped from his brow, hung tightly to the tip of his nose for a moment before releasing its grip and dropping to the table. He sat back, but continued to stare; ice-blue eyes.
“I need to test my blood sugar,” he said matter-of-factly, and he proceeded to fossick around in his briefcase. The lancet produced a small drop of blood on his fingertip and he was touching the test strip to it when I started to feel dizzy. A wave of nausea came fromdeep in my gut and the room was moving like a silent earthquake.
“Man! It’s 3.8. I thought something was wrong. You weren’t making any sense. I need to get something to eat,” the man said, but the whole situation wasn’t making sense to me!
Half turning, he motioned to a window. Within seconds a uniformed man opened the door. That was when I saw my wrists; I pulled back, heart thumping, but I could not move more than a few inches. The steel of the handcuffs was already cutting. The man turned back and winked. “I’ll be back soon Chris.”
The nausea became a scream. But there was no sound.
“You alright mate?” It was him again.
The man was back. Instead of flecks of foam in the corner of his mouth were crumbs, perhaps the remains of a sandwich. Without pausing for an answer he launched into his purpose.
“You are without doubt the luckiest man alive. You have me representing you!” he laughed, a jolly laugh from deep down.
More beads of sweat formed, mesmerizing, forming regularly on the tip of his nose before being wiped away with a sodden handkerchief. It helped my brain to focus.
“We have a lot of work to do man. If you promise no more outbursts we’ll see if we can get these cuffs off, eh?”
I nodded. I didn’t remember losing my cool; in fact I didn’t even remember why I was here. I figured that I must have blacked out again. I was skilled at coming out of lost time without letting on.
“So,” he went on, “we appear upstairs in the Magistrate’s Court at 2:30, so we have an hour and a half before they escort you from the cells. So we’ll go over the notes we were working on before once more. But mate, you really have to get yourself together. I’ve been a criminal lawyer for forty years. You have committed an offence you know. You could end up in Thomas Embling! I can get you off, but you must work with me, right?”
“Who or what is Thomas Embling?” My curiosity forced my brain to ask the question.
“The forensic hospital mate,” Joe replied, just raising his left eyebrow a little to show that he thought I should know that. I remember now, Joe, I heard his name before but it just came back to me.
“Right,” I muttered, but my thoughts were still in overload. I didn’t know what I had done. All I knew is that I woke up in this cell, with this old man checking his blood sugar and telling me what I had to do, so I listened as he read out his notes, and it all started to make sense. I just needed to hold it together for a bit longer.