Welcome to the world of Inspector Carl West.
This post kicks off the serialisation of the Inspector West Short Story: Deadly Sands.
Detective Inspector Carl West stood under a tree, in the entrance courtyard of University Hospital, filling his lungs with smoke. He could have been inside, sitting in the air-conditioned lobby, with Detective Constable Peter James and Wally Baker’s distraught wife, but he needed a cigarette.
Detective Sergeant Wally Baker had collapsed outside Carl’s office, after a coughing fit that had left his shirt covered in blood.
With fifteen years in the force, Carl had seen his fair share of dead bodies and initially thought he was looking at another when Wally hit the floor. Instinctively, he’d checked for vital signs, and been relieved to detect a pulse and discover that Wally was still breathing, even though he was unconscious. Peter had called an ambulance and they had followed it to the hospital, calling Debra, Wally’s wife, on the way.
They had been waiting at the hospital with Debra for over an hour, while the emergency staff worked to stabilise Wally’s condition.
Carl finished his cigarette and headed in to rejoin the others in the lobby, where it was definitely a lot cooler.
‘Is this summer ever going to end?’
‘You’ll be complaining about the cold soon enough, Inspector,’ said Debra, ‘and you should be giving those bloody cigarettes away. Look what smoking has done to Wally. Silly bugger won’t listen to me. I’ve been begging him to stop smoking for years.’
Nearly everyone in the force had been a smoker when Carl had joined but that was no longer the case. Only the die-hards, like Carl and Wally, were still refusing to heed the health warnings. They’d been smoking partners for the last five years.
Carl heard a voice inside his head that sounded a lot like his grandfather, who had died of lung cancer after a lifetime of smoking, telling him Debra was right.
The smirk on Peter James’ face told him that his constable agreed with Debra. There’s nothing worse than a converted non-smoker, thought Carl, remembering the day Peter had announced his engagement to Janice, and that he had quit smoking.
Carl’s reverie was interrupted by the nurse, dressed in a light pink uniform, addressing Debra.
‘Yes,’ said Debra.
‘Your husband is awake. If you’d like to come with me, I’ll take you to see him now.’
‘Is he going to be alright?’
‘You’ll need to ask Dr Wentworth about that. He’s waiting to speak with you.’ The nurse turned to Carl and Peter. ‘I’m sorry, gentlemen, but the doctor said no visitors.’
Noticing the apprehension in Debra’s eyes, Carl said, ‘It’s okay, Debra, we’ll wait.’
They watched as Debra walked away with the nurse.
‘Let’s get a coffee,’ said Carl. ‘I doubt they’ll let her stay too long.’
‘What do you think are his chances?’
‘I don’t think we’ll be seeing him back at work. Last time I saw somebody look like that was when my grandfather was dying, and he didn’t last long after they’d diagnosed it.’
‘You reckon he’s got lung cancer?’
‘You don’t cough up that much blood and pass out with bronchitis, Pete.’
to be continued…