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His Most Faithful Companion

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Cormoran cursed loudly. All he wanted was to make a cup of tea, but today it was so bloody difficult. He had been unable to wear his prosthesis for two days now – both his hamstring and his knee were swollen and useless, and the skin on the stump had broken. Back at the military hospital, just after the explosion, he had received a leaflet on support groups for people in chronic pain. He always thought himself as immune to it, even then. Just take some painkillers and get on with it. But the pain that drives someone mad is different. It’s waking up one day and not being able to remember NOT being in pain. It’s being scared of getting old and letting the pain take over. It’s not being able to simply command the body to cooperate.

His throat hurt with the effort not to cry. He wasn’t going to cry for this. There was no one around to see it, but he would know. He sighed and picked his crutches again, giving up on the tea. He laid in bed trying to stretch his sore shoulders and neck, strained after taking on his weight for the whole weekend, when his phone rang. Robin.

‘Hi Cormoran, can you talk?’

‘Sure, what’s up?’ He heard the strain on his own voice. She did, too.

‘Are you ok?’

‘Yes, just a long day.’

‘Ahn...Ok, I wanted to ask you if you want me to do Mad Dad tomorrow, or if you need me in the office.’

‘Oh. Sure.’ He thought a bit. He wouldn’t be able to do any surveillance work this week. ‘Yes, please. If you can follow Mad Dad, I’ll cover the office tomorrow.’

‘Ok, will do. And I saw on the diary you have your appointment at Queen Mary´s on Tuesday morning, right? So I’ll follow him on Tuesday too, or shall I get Barclay to cover me and I can stay at the office, as Denise is off this week?’

‘Oh shit. I’ll have to cancel my appointment, or postpone it’, he thought out loud.

‘Why? You shouldn’t miss your appointments, they take so long to get you one’, she sounded alarmed.

Fuck. ‘Well… I cannot put my prosthesis on at the moment. So they won’t be able to check it on me, or fit me for another one if I need it. So better go some other time.’

‘But it’s best if they see you anyway, no? This way they can suggest something, and check how you’re doing...’

‘No!’, he said a bit too quickly. ‘I mean, it’s best if they don’t see me when… Better if they see me with the prosthesis.’

‘Cormoran, what’s going on? You sound awful, if you don’t mind me saying, and you’re talking about missing an appointment you take ages to get. And before you go all grumpy on me, no, I’m not mothering you. I’m your business partner and I need to know you’re ok to go out on the street. Remember our conversation? Goes both ways.’

His shoulders sagged. He wasn’t going to get off lightly, then. ‘I just don’t want them to think I can’t take it, and progress me...’ He chuckled mirthlessly. ‘...or regress me into a bloody wheelchair. That will work well for me, won’t it? So no, thanks, I’ll go in a few months, whenever they can fit me in again.’

Robin sighed heavily. ‘Cormoran, your appointment is at 9.30 in Roehampton. I will pick you up at 8.20 from our usual place with the Land Rover, and reshuffle client meetings for the afternoon. And if you need it, we have plenty of paracetamol and ibuprofen in the first aid kit in the office kitchen, I topped it up this week. So see you on Tuesday.’ She spoke without pausing, making it clear that she would not be interrupted or persuaded otherwise. She was firm, but not unkind.

He closed his eyes as she spoke. He knew when he lost a battle with this one.

‘Fine.’ He grunted, and immediately regretted the tone. ‘Thank you.’

She softened with this. ‘Good. Hope you get some rest tonight. I’ll try and stop by tomorrow at some point. If not, see you on Tuesday.’

She hung up. He stared at the ceiling, a bit calmer now. The pain would not take over. Not now, not ever. He would keep running, or hopping, away from it.