Twenty-Two Short Films About Wellington Wells: A World That’s So Demanding

Mikey Forrester always knew the day would come when Sally called in the favor he owed her, but he never thought she’d be so absolutely bollocks-for-brains careless about it. Thanks to her, he would have to skip his lunch break to clean up after the mess she’d made for him. He waited in his office until ten minutes past noon, then headed down the Wellington Health Institute’s records room. Hopefully the girls who ran that office had gone out to lunch.

The records room was clear thankfully. He checked that no one else was in the hall and slid through the door. He needed to find and remove their copy of Sally’s request so whatever she was doing couldn’t be traced back to him.

Mikey scanned the file cabinets until he found the F section, then looked at each label until he found the drawer that would contain his own records. Sliding the drawer open slowly so as not to make a racket, he looked over his shoulder before rifling through the folders. Faris, Farrell, Forrester. There it was. Now to find the B for Boyle file under that and… Mikey yanked out the offending missive and reread it just to reassure himself that it was just as egregious as he thought when he read the original in his office.

Yes, it was a bald-faced request for confidential patient information, written in plain black and white for anyone to see. And fucking mustard gas exposure no less! It had to be something specific enough that it might stick in even the most Joy-addled memory too, didn’t it? He folded the single sheet a few times over and stuck it in his pocket to be burnt in his fireplace at home along with the original.

It was standard procedure now almost everywhere to copy and file all messages sent through the blower. So it had been ever since they switched to passing notes through the pneumatic tubes once Joy’s affect on people’s memory made telephone communication unreliable. Everyone kept copies of everything that passed through the tubes now so that there was a non-negotiable record of what had been said. What was Sally thinking, asking something like that in a blower note?

Well, that was obvious wasn’t it? A girl like her, who’d spent her whole life having people falling all over themselves to give her anything she wanted? She never had to think of anyone else, did she? What concern was it of hers if he lost his job so long as she got the name and address she wanted?

Much as he would have liked to tell her to sod off, he owed her too great and continuing a debt not to oblige. Blackberry was no small ask, but it was the only viable solution to the problem of Spud.

Spud had been one of the first victims of the “bad batches”. He’d always hit his Joy harder than he ought to and Mikey supposed when you were using that much more than everyone else, you were likely to hit upon a bad batch sooner than later. And just like that, Joy didn’t work for Spud anymore. But you couldn’t come off a high that high so easily and even if one could, there was no way Spud would have lasted in the Village as a Downer on Sunshine alone the way Mikey did. He didn’t have the will or the sense. Never had, not as long as Mikey had known him.

It just so happened that Sally had set up shop at near the same time with her new flavour of Joy that only the most important people in town even knew about, let alone had access to. He himself had only known about it because he’d overheard some Doctors discussing it in the hall. It had been a long shot and even now, Mikey had no idea why she agreed – aside from the blank check of a favor he’d owe her – but she took pity on poor unlucky Spud and put him on her Blackberry. So Spud got to stay in the Village where Mikey could keep an eye on him and now he was stuck violating one of the most basic tenets of healthcare administration in return.

Mustard gas exposure… that’d have to be a Great War veteran then. The most immediate name to come to mind was Colonel Thomas Lawrence. The man was a goddamn war hero. It was only now Mikey began to wonder just what it was Sally wanted with a mustard gas exposure patient. Who knew what he’d be signing the Hero of Ramsgate up for by giving her his name.

Not like he had much choice though. Not if he wanted her to keep Spud supplied and fit to stay in the Village.

He didn’t have the Colonel’s address handy. A more complicated case like his was beyond the skills of Mikey’s basic medical education. Dr. Defoe assisted in his clinic on cases like that, and so Colonel Lawrence’s records would therefore be in his examination room. Mikey sighed. Hopefully the Doctor was out to lunch too.

Dr. Defoe was indeed out of office. Mikey let himself in and darted over to his file cabinets dug through the L files. Colonel Lawrence’s file was right in the front and his address was on the first page. Perfect. Mikey looked around for a pen and, finding one on the counter, wrote the address on his hand. He put the page back in its folder in the cabinet. No one need ever know he came in here.

He had Sally’s damn mustard gas victim and his address. Now he had to arrange a meeting to give it to her. He certainly wasn’t going to send a thing like that through the bloody blower, now was he? Mikey couldn’t risk his invitation to a meeting drawing attention to her original request either, lest it jog someone’s memory, so he decided he may as well use Dr. Defoe’s blower while he was here.

Mikey checked the drawers until he found where the Doctor kept his stationary and took a sheet of letterhead out. He scribbled out a quick missive.

Found someone. Meet usual place.

Folding the paper in half, he took the canister from Dr. Defoe’s blower, stuffed his message inside, and sent it off to Sally’s.

Fucking Sally. You’d think an “experimental chemist” – a drug dealer, if one were to call a spade a spade – would have a bit more discretion. That the two of them always met in an alleyway behind an abandoned building should have been enough of a clue as to how he wanted to conduct his relationship with her. This could have waited until then.

“Can I help you?” Mikey heard Dr. Defoe ask behind him. Mikey’s heart jumped up in his chest at being caught, but he got a hold of himself before he turned around. He knew how to get out of binds like this by now.

He smiled bigger than his mask made him already, raised his eyebrows up to make his face open and bright, and turned around to face Dr. Defoe.

“I think I made a wrong turn back to my office,” he said simply.

“Took an extra dose of Joy, perhaps?” Dr. Defoe teased.

“Maybe?” Mikey said, shrugging. “I would hardly remember if I did!”

“It’s a floor down, three doors down the hall on the left,” Dr Defoe reminded him.

“Thanks, Doc,” Mikey said, letting himself by so he could leave.

“If I might suggest,” Dr. Defoe said as Mikey reached the doorway, filling him with tension again, “you may wish to go easier on the cologne.”

Mikey let out a faltering breath that he hoped could pass as a chuckle. “I guess I took an extra dose of that too today.” As he did every day, to keep the Doctors from smelling anything more suspicious about him.

“Less is often more, Michael,” Dr. Defoe said, his tone paternal yet conspiratorial, “particularly where the birds are concerned.”

“I’ll try to remember that, but I can’t make any promises,” Mikey said.

He got the hell out of there before Dr. Defoe had any more dating advice to give him.

Mikey got in the elevator and breathed a sigh of relief that he’d managed to cover his tracks and get the information he needed without getting caught. Everything would be fine and he could tell Sally whatfor when he went to give her Colonel Lawrence’s address.

The doors opened and he saw someone at the doorway of his office. As he got closer, he recognized it to be Spud, looking very bedraggled and weary.

“Spud! What happened?” Mikey asked, rushing down the last of the hall to help his friend. Spud was leaning precariously on the door and Mikey helped him into a chair in front of his desk.

“I don’t know. I was… I was out of Blackberry and then I… I don’t know.”

“Do you remember anything?” Mikey asked as he gave Spud a cursory inspection. He was sweaty and shivering. Withdrawal, obviously. He looked and smelled like he had been outside for days.

Spud groaned at the question, trying to force any sort of memory of his apparent misadventure.

“I woke up in a rubbish bin,” he said. Then, he added with less certainty, “I think there was a rat? Or… no, that’s not… I think there was a rat. Maybe it bit me? My neck hurts. I think it bit me, Mikey.”

“Let’s see then,” Mikey said, helping Spud out of his jacket and turtleneck sweater. There was a mark on his neck. A small circular bruise about an inch in diameter. Mikey tossed the shirt and the jacket over the arm of the sofa along the wall behind them and tilted Spud’s head for clearer look. In the middle of the bruise he saw a tiny, dark brownish-red dot. Possibly an insect bite. Or a syringe puncture. Lord help him if Spud had taken up intravenous drugs.

“Do you think the rat gave me plague?” Spud asked.

“No, you get that from mushrooms,” Mikey said absently as he examined the bruise. Leaning in close, he squinted at the tiny dot in the middle and tried to make sense of it. An insect bite would have inflammation around the puncture, not bruising. But it would have been awkward for Spud to inject himself this way…

“You gotta lay off the cologne, mate,” Spud said in weak complaint, distracting Mikey from his deductions. “You smell like a gigolo.”

Mikey stood back and grumped. “That’s quite a bit of shit talk for a guy who woke up in a rubbish bin.”

Spud gave him a dopey, sheepish smile to show his contrite appreciation. And like always, Mikey accepted it. He huffed and went to the locked cabinet with glass doors behind his desk, selecting the ibuprofen and Neximide bottles from the menagerie of medicines inside. Fishing the correct dosage of each out for Spud, he handed the tablets over and Spud took them no questions asked.

“Why don’t you take a nap on my sofa there,” Mikey suggested, “and when I’m done for the day, you can take a shower at my place.”

Spud didn’t need to be told twice. He got out of the chair and moved to the sofa. Bunching up his sweater into a pillow, he draped his jacket over himself like a blanket and lay quiet. Mikey sat at his desk and finished his admissions paperwork for the next day. He wondered if he ought to risk sending Spud out to Chipping Market to get them something to eat later.

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