“Wow, Look at the expression in his eyes. Pure evil. It’s just like looking through the gates of hell!”
My boss, consultant Robin Titchbairn, was frowning and shaking his head as his practised fingers slid shut the lids over the staring dead eyes of the man who had abducted, raped and killed five women.
“You did your best for him, Mike,” he said, laying a paternal hand on my arm. “After he crashed his car into the wall during the police chase we all knew he was in a bad way. Honestly, when I see a monster like this in our care it makes me wish I had never taken the Hippocratic oath.”
“I’ll be glad to get home.”
“When you do, have a few strong drinks and get some rest. You deserve it after today.”
It had been a horrible few hours in the operating theatre, and I had been dead on my feet, just grinding to the end of my shift when Patrick Whately was brought in, fading fast as the team raced him through the doors. His blood pressure was through the floor as my assistant surgeon Sophie and I opened up his abdomen to see what catastrophic internal injuries were lying in wait for us to deal with.
Yet we had been lucky. Ten minutes of wordless, fast-track action had meant that I’d closed up a major leaking blood vessel, and was taking care of the injury to the ruptured spleen and damaged kidney.
And then I suddenly remembered hearing about what Patrick Whately had done to one of his victims. He had taken an innocent young girl, raped her and tortured her to death, even phoning her parents so they could hear her final screams of agony.
Something inside me just snapped. And in a career-ending split-second, I let my concentration slip. For some weird reason I felt I had no control over my hand, as if it had a life of its own. I found that the blade of the scalpel in my fingers had ripped through one of the man’s major arteries, gouging deep, and the immediate bloodbath of high pressure spurting red liquid had taken us all by surprise.
And Sophie was looking over her mask at me, accusation in her large blue eyes.
She didn’t say anything at first, but after we’d cleaned up after the death, she came up to me, talking quietly.
“Do you realise what just happened?” she asked, staring at me in concern. “Do you realise what just happened?”
“I’m sorry.” Tears came to my eyes and I left her standing there, rushing off to the changing rooms to rip off my scrubs, put on my ordinary clothes and leave this damned place, probably forever.
And after talking to Robin over the corpse, I took his advice. I went home, switched off my phone, drank lots of whisky and sank into a dreamless sleep, realising that my ridiculous act had negated my future and meant that all the years of study and sacrifice had been in vain.
It had always been dinned into us, that life was sacrosanct. It was immaterial who the patient was, or what he’d done. A doctor always does what is best for the patient in all circumstances, even if the patient happens to be a mass murderer.
I don’t know how long I slept, but I knew that when I woke up I would have to go back to the hospital and face the music. By now, Sophie would have raised the alarm, reported my conduct, and I would most likely be arrested for murder.
Next day I went in early, wanting to get it over with. Surprisingly, I realised just how much I was going to miss this world, which had been mine for nearly ten years now. How could everything seemed pretty much the same as yesterday, when my life was turned upside down? Yet, so far there was no touch on the elbow and raised eyebrows, no reception committee of long-faced colleagues, telling me to step into the office to talk.
When I’d switched on my phone earlier I had seen a lot of missed calls, and several texts. I could see that most of them were from Sophie. I reflected how much I liked her, what respect I had for her. She was a really decent girl and too much of a principled doctor ever to have done what I had done. She was a good friend, and I knew that she would hate having to do it, but she’d have no choice but to tell everyone what had happened.
As I rounded the corner to the theatre, hoping to talk to Robin to explain what I’d done, Sophie appeared, as if from nowhere.
“Mike, for goodness sake, I’ve been trying to reach you all this time!” she hissed urgently, grabbing my arm and pulling me into a quiet enclave off the corridor.
“Sorry.” I hung my head in shame. “I know it’s all over.”
“I wanted to tell you,” she went on, ignoring my confession, “I wanted to tell you that no one else saw what happened. Listen Mike, No one else noticed. So we’re in the clear.”
“We?” I looked up at her.
“Who do you think pushed your hand?”
(image by Angelo Esslinger from Pixabay)