Chapter 02

Copyright 2008 by Ernest Bywater


At 7:00 a.m. the stranger is woken by a nurse entering and saying, “Time to get up and get dressed, Mister Walker. Matron will be making rounds soon so this needs to be empty and ready by then.” Smiling, he gets up and laughs when she shows him the note left for her: ’Get Mr Walker up and out of the ward before matron’s rounds.’ They both share the joke about naming him after the civilisation nom de plume used by The Phantom in the comic book series of the same name.

He gets dressed and wraps a scarf around his lower face. He goes to check on Mandy, where he finds both Eve and Kate talking to Mandy while she has her breakfast and complaining about it. Grinning, he leaves the hospital and goes to the flat he rents. He has a shower and gets dressed in clean clothes. He goes into the kitchen to cook a big breakfast. He eats a third then packs the rest of the food in a container and puts the container into a thermal carry bag to keep it hot.

He gets back to the hospital at 9.40 a.m. and finds the whole family there. Eve is having a heated discussion with her mother, Alice, about what took her so long to reach the hospital. Alice’s lover, Sue, says, “That’s none of your business. Come on, Alice, we have to go now.” Alice stands and leaves the room at Sue’s heels.

Eve says, “That’s it, be a good little bitch and keep to heel.” Both women go stiff, but they don’t turn around. The man goes to check out the linen cupboards.

A few minutes later an orderly walks in with a meal tray for Mandy. He swings the stand over the bed and places the tray on it while he says, “Your morning tea, Miss.” Kate and Eve have been in a close discussion since the encounter with Alice, but Kate looks up at this because she didn’t think the hospital served morning tea.

She says, “Since when has the hospital provided morning tea?”

The orderly replies, “They don’t, Ma’am. This was delivered, special for this young lady by a gentleman. So here it is.”

Mandy lifts the cover on the plate of food to find some very warm French Toast done in her favourite way. She smiles as she starts to eat it. There’s so much she offers some to Eve and Kate, who have a bit each.

When she reaches for a second piece Eve says, “This is just like the special toast Dad used to make for us.” She turns and has a close look at the orderly. He stands there in his gown with a mask across his face, the same type as the kitchen staff wear to ensure they don’t contaminate the food. He’s calm while he waits for them to finish so he can take the plates back for washing. Eve turns to Kate and says, “While they’re away shopping again can we move our gear into your house? I’m not staying with them any more and I’m not letting them contaminate Mandy any more, either.” Kate nods yes, “Good. Can you get our solicitor to start the required legal actions to have you made our guardian instead of her. I want nothing more to do with her?” Again Kate nods her agreement. They sit and talk with Mandy about what this means for her. When they finish eating the orderly removes the tray and plates.

Ten minutes after they finished eating the orderly is back and asking if there’s anything she wants. Mandy asks for a cold drink. A moment later he’s back with a can of her favourite soft drink from the drink machine. He hands it to her and sits down beside the bed while saying, “I’ll just stay here to make sure you don’t accidentally choke while drinking that, Miss.” Mandy smiles then the others leave.

When they start to drive off Eve suddenly sits up and asks, “How did the orderly know what drink to get Mandy as she never said?” Kate stares at her for a moment before driving off. It takes them just over an hour to pack and move all of the personal possessions of Mandy and Eve. They place them in the two spare bedrooms of Kate’s house.

Back in the hospital Mandy and the orderly are talking. She’s talking about her friends at school, her sister, her aunt, her sports, her school work, but nothing about her mother or her lesbian lover. Just after 11:00 a.m. they’re interrupted by the arrival of Mandy’s class. The teacher has brought them all to visit with her for a period and lunch. The orderly leaves to give them all room to be in the small ward.

At 12:15 p.m. the hospital starts serving up lunches to the patients and Mandy’s school mates are allowed to get theirs out to eat lunch with Mandy. She’s a very happy girl because her lunch is two of her favourite sandwiches with a chocolate mousse for desert and a large glass of her favourite juice.

Kate and Eve arrive back while they’re all eating, and Kate gives Mandy’s lunch a suspicious look. She leaves the room to check with the staff about the lunch after finding the people in the next ward don’t have anything so nice, and Mandy is the only one to get a mousse. When Kate asks the nurse tells her Mandy’s lunch was a special delivery for her and the hospital has been informed of a special arrangement made with one of the local eateries. A set of menus was provided to the nutritionist and approved, so now the eatery is providing her meals instead of the hospital kitchen. The hospital normally doesn’t allow this sort of thing, but special arrangements for Mandy have been approved by the senior administrative staff.

Kate leaves Eve to go to the eatery concerned, and finds the deal was organised this morning and paid for by a Mr Zebediah Ombee. He’s already paid for two weeks of meals to be prepared and delivered, paid very well. Further checks shows the hospital administrator approved the special deal because Mandy is a special case and because a Mr Ombee organised it as well as paying a substantial donation toward the new special wing the administrator wants. It’s clear he was bought off. Kate is wondering about this Mr Ombee and his agenda since this is costing him a great deal of money, a great deal. The hospital donation was $120,000 dollars in an immediate cash transfer to the special building fund.

Kate returns to Mandy’s room just as the class is leaving and a nurse is removing the lunch tray. She and Eve sit and talk with Mandy. During the talk the subject of her rescue comes up and Mandy is adamant it was her father who rescued her then he was with her again when they readied her for surgery. She held his hand all through the operation as she has a clear memory of holding it until he let it go for Eve to take it later. Both Eve and Kate remember the orderly who had to be helped out of the room, and they wonder what’s going on.

That afternoon, after school lets out, Mandy is visited by her main teacher and given copies of all the work done in the last week. The teacher then spends ninety minutes tutoring her. She tells Mandy about three other teachers who’ll be tutoring her while she’s in the hospital. Another teacher from the school will pop around for ninety minutes after dinner and two casual teachers will be by each day, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. Each will spend ninety minutes tutoring her. All paid for by a Mr Ombee.

An off-duty Constable Walters pops in that evening, and Kate speaks to him about her concerns with the mysterious Mr Ombee. After they compare notes both are a bit unsettled with Mr Ombee. They’re sure he means only well for Mandy, but they’re very concerned about why. Kate is a lot concerned because Mandy is so sure this Mr Ombee is her father, and she’s worried how he’ll exploit it. Walters is beginning to think this mystery man is her father because that anguished scream of ’No’ was like what only a father would do in that situation. He wanted to come visit earlier in the hopes of meeting his mystery man, but he was tied up most of the day doing paperwork from yesterday, plus a few short patrols. Now he’s more determined than ever to catch up with the mystery man and to find out more about him.

When he nears his car Constable Walters is surprised by a shadow leaving the tree near his car. It makes no sound as it approaches, until an almost familiar voice asks, “Got time for drink with a stranger?” He nods yes and unlocks his car. Kate is in the hospital entrance watching Walters leave and she sees the encounter. Just before the shadowy person climbs into the passenger seat he looks up and waves at Kate. There’s something familiar about the action, and before she can think about it she waves back. When they drive off she returns to the room Mandy is in.


Walters and his passenger go to the nearest pub and the man buys the first round of drinks: Bitter Lemon for him with a light beer for Walters. They sit in a corner and the man unwraps the scarf around his lower face. Walters tries not to stare at the terrible damage that’s displayed. The man sips his drink and says, “It’s all right. I’ve been in here before and they’ve all had a good stare. They now accept me for what I am, badly damaged.” Walters slowly nods while he has a large drink to steady himself. The man says, “In a number of transactions around town today I’ve been using the name Zebediah Ombee, it’s not the name I was born with nor is it the name on my current passport nor the name I lived under for the last few years, but it’ll do, for now. No point in checking it as it’s false. I mean only well for Mandy. If need be, I’ll come forward and confess to the house breaking if that helps you to nail that bastard in the car.”

Walters replies, “I don’t think that’s needed because we’ve enough evidence to nail him without that. I think we can afford to not solve one break and enter, especially this one. If you go to judge and jury I doubt any jury would convict you, and the local prosecutor agrees.” Both smile at his statement.

The man asks, “If you came across a person who you found out had an Apprehended Violence Order forbidding him from being within a hundred metres of his ex-wife, her current girlfriend, or his two kids you’d have to enforce it and move him on, wouldn’t you?”

Now having an inkling of what’s going on Walters replies, “Of course I would. But that requires me to know it’s the person in the order and to know of the order. I can’t enforce such an order unless I have proof of the order existing and some evidence the person before me is the one named in the order. Now, if someone has an AVO against a dead person, I can’t possibly enforce that, can I? Usually orders are rescinded when either party dies. So an AVO against a dead person is unlikely to still be in existence. I think I’ll run a check in the computer tomorrow to see what it has to say on the name Peters.” He smiles while he has another drink of his light beer.

Smiling at him the man responds, “I didn’t know they rescinded AVOs unless the applicant asked for it to be rescinded.”

Walters says, “There’s so many that we do anything to reduce the number in the lists. Why keep AVOs to protect dead people or to protect from dead people. Missing are kept listed, but once a person is proved dead we rescind them and take them out. Give me a call near lunchtime tomorrow and I’ll tell you what I find.” The man smiles as he nods yes before he finishes his drink and leaves.

When Walters stands to leave the publican waves him over to ask, “Should I be concerned about the man with the half face?”

Walters replies, “No, in fact, you should be happy he’s here. He helped us find Mandy Peters. But don’t shout that about or I’ll have to charge him with Break and Enter. He’s a trained paramedic and he gave her the initial first aid, without that she would’ve been dead on arrival at the hospital.” The publican slowly nods his head as they smile at each other in understanding of the situation.


Back in the hospital Kate and Eve are sitting there watching Mandy do her school work with her tutor. She’s not happy about having to do her school work, but she understands it’ll help the day go faster and save her from having to cram a lot later. Just as they near the end of the lesson a nurse walks in with a tray of drinks for them. It has everyone’s favourite drink on it. When Kate asks about the drinks the nurse says, “An orderly dropped them by a moment ago and said they’d been sent for you here to be brought in at this time as Mandy’s lesson would be over.” Another obvious personal touch by the mysterious Mr Ombee.

When visiting hours end Kate and Eve say good bye to Mandy while the nurse straightens up the room. When they’re about to leave the building Kate looks back down the corridor to see the nurse smile and wave to an orderly who’s entering Mandy’s room. Doctor’s orders are she’s to be under constant surveillance for the next several days since he’s worried about the psychological effects of her ordeal of the last week. A top psychologist is due to arrive on Monday, again paid for by the mysterious Mr Ombee.

After taking Eve home and settling her into bed Kate returns to the hospital just before midnight. Although it’s against the rules one of the night staff she knows lets her in. They’re walking up the corridor when they hear a girl’s scream and Mandy yelling, “Please, no, don’t.” They race to her room and stop in the doorway. There’s a dark shadow of a figure standing beside the bed with a hand stroking Mandy’s head as a familiar voice says, “It’s all right, Munchie, I’m here. You’re safe now. Go to sleep.” Kate stops the nurse from entering the room. They stand and watch the shadowy figure while Mandy visibly relaxes from her fright in the night. That voice again, “Sleep now, rest and recover. You need the R and R, Munchie.” Mandy settles down into the bed while her hand reaches out to grasp one of the shadow’s hands. The shadow drops back into the chair beside the bed and a deep baritone voice starts to sing, “Silent Night, Holy Night,...”

With tears in her eyes Kate backs out of the doorway and takes the nurse with her. She goes over to a seat along the wall and sits down. Looking up at the nurse she says, “Later I’ll want to know who that person is, but at the moment I don’t want to know. If I didn’t know her father was dead I’d swear that was him. The right shape, the right voice, and the right words. If it’s his spirit has come to be with her I don’t want to disturb it.” The nurse gives her a strange look then gives a slow nod before walking back to her desk.

All shift the nurse keeps an eye on the door, and often looks in to see the shadow still in the chair holding Mandy’s hand. About 2:30 a.m. she’s checking on them again when a quiet voice says, “You best make sure Kate’s comfortable and warm or send her home to bed. I’ll be here until breakfast or Eve arrives in the morning.” The nurse goes and wakes Kate up then they both check on Mandy and her guardian. In the dim light of the room they can see the smile on Mandy’s face while she sleeps. Kate leaves the hospital to go home to get some sleep.


Eve wakes up to her alarm and gets ready. Knowing Kate was at the hospital until early this morning she leaves her to sleep and gets her own breakfast before taking a taxi to the hospital. She arrives just as Mandy’s breakfast is being brought in. She gulps when she gets a good look at the damaged face of the orderly who’s holding Mandy’s hand when he wakes her for her breakfast. The man stands and helps Mandy to sit up then he nods at Eve while he leaves. He’s quiet when he glides across the room, just like how her sensei moves. She wonders how much martial arts training he’s had.

The girls chat while Mandy has her breakfast. It’s a lovely meal and even the nurses are envious of it. Kate arrives with her laptop and a briefcase of papers soon after Mandy finishes her breakfast. Eve leaves to go to school and Kate takes over looking after Mandy until her first tutor arrives. While Mandy does lessons Kate does some work. Being a senior executive in an investment and trust firm means she doesn’t have to keep normal office hours as long as she looks after her accounts well with the main one being the trust account for her two nieces which they inherited from their father.

During the morning Walters runs a check on the AVO database for the Peters family. There used to be one against the girls’ father, taken out just after he left for overseas and couldn’t fight it. However, it was cancelled when the mother started legal action to have him declared dead so his will could be enacted. When Mr Ombee calls him at 11:30 a.m. he passes on the results: no active AVOs relating to this Peters family.

Just after school ends Eve turns up at the hospital. Eve, Mandy, and Kate talk until Mandy’s third tutor for the day turns up. Soon after this Alice and Sue turn up as well.

While charging into the room Sue demands, “Where were you all night, Bitch?” Eve ignores her and continues to talk to Kate. Sue grabs Eve while she starts to repeat her question, only to give a loud scream when Eve pushes her away. Sue grabs her again, and screams in pain when Eve breaks her arm.

Eve stares at Sue and says, “Touch me again and I’ll kill you, Bitch. Mandy and I have moved house to live with Aunt Kate. I’ve had enough of you leering at me and trying to get me into your bed. I don’t have a mother, haven’t had one for several years. Not since you trained her to be your lying bitch. Well, we’re out of your lives now, and you damn well better stay out of our lives.” Both Sue and Alice start to argue, only to be overridden by Eve when she says, “I’ve started legal action to have Kate made our legal guardian. You better sign it, Alice, or you’ll have a lot of time in court when I accuse Sue of sexually harassing and abusing Mandy and me. It matters not if you two or we are the better actors in court as Sue’s job will vanish in smoke and she won’t get any more job offers. So you two either let us go or we’ll do to you what you did to Dad.” Both women back out of the room with great care as both are in fear of Eve; she’s only thirteen nearly fourteen, but she scares them both. They nod yes and move off to the Emergency Room to get the broken arm attended to.

Several hospital staff witnessed the whole event, and all are staring at Eve in shock. They all know her for an even tempered and quiet girl. One orderly says, “OK, people, the show’s over and there’s no need to repeat any private conversations unless asked to in court. OK?” They all turn to look at the disfigured orderly, and something in his deep blue eyes makes them nod yes while they all agree this juicy gossip need not be passed on, ever.

Eve turns to him saying, “I don’t need protection by you or anyone else.” She’s about to say something else when she looks up into his eyes and stops with her mouth wide open while her eyes go very wide.

He steps up and gives her face a gentle caress while he says, “Now calm down, behave yourself, and go settle Mandy down.” A numb Eve nods yes to the disfigured man with her father’s eyes. Turning to Kate he says, “You best go tell Alice and Sue you’re prepared to spend the entire trust on court action to see this happens. They’ll capitulate because they won’t be able to match the court fees. But make it easy by offering to buy them off with a nice two bedroom apartment near Sue’s work. It’ll be worth it to the girls just to get rid of the two of them.” Kate looks into those well remembered eyes, a pair of eyes she was sure she’d never see again, as she nods her agreement before she goes off to make a deal to free her nieces from their mother. While she goes she thinks about a man she fell in love with years ago but always thought was well beyond her reach.

The two women are quick to jump at the deal and Kate promises to have everything ready for signature on Monday morning.

When she returns to the room Mandy is in Kate can hardly see while she holds back the tears she’s held for several years; ever since she found out her sister was two timing her wonderful husband with a dyke. She enters the room to find Mandy studying the damaged face of the orderly. It’s clear she finds the sight not pleasant.

After gulping Kate asks, “Who are you? How much will it take to fix your face?”

The orderly replies, “Who am I? That’s an interesting question. But I think you know who I was, Kate. As to the face, it’ll cost about one and a quarter million for the re-constructive surgery and the clean-up cosmetic surgery. I’m booked in to do that. The surgeon is very busy and the earliest booking I could get is still three months away. I have to leave for Switzerland about two weeks before that because that’s where he lives and works. It’s all prepaid as per his standard practice and the money is with a solicitor in Switzerland.”

A Life History

Sitting down in the chair in the corner he waves for the others to sit down while saying, “Let me tell you a story about a man who’s a living zombie, a man who’s already died twice.” They stare at him. “The man I wish to tell you about lived a happy life with a wife and two lovely daughters. He was very rich from a large family trust that was well managed. He served in the Australian Army because he felt it was the right thing to do. One day his wife objected to his re-enlistment, something she agreed never to do before they got married. The same day he signed up for another five years she went to a lawyer for a divorce. She delayed the divorce and everything in the courts until he was posted overseas then she rushed everything through the courts in his absence. The judge handling the case was very biased and had no problem with doing things her way. However, it all came unstuck when the matter of the property settlement came up. The solicitor acting on his behalf was able to successfully point out the wife was only entitled to one quarter of the increase in the value of his superannuation and the increase in the value of his savings account since the day of their engagement. Much legal argument ensued before this was accepted by the judge. Even then this was only because his daughters got one quarter each as well, to be held in trust for them. The same was done for the funds in the joint account. The next part of the property was the settling of debts, his solicitor argued that since they both had credit cards in their own names they should be individually responsible for them as they had them from before they first met. This was accepted as well. Evidence was given about the value of the share of the superannuation and the bank accounts; amounts were calculated and the court orders for the money for the daughters to be transferred into an account to be managed by a public trustee were issued. A person was on hand with a power of attorney for him to sign cheques to do this, and it was done. Next the man’s solicitor suggested cheques be drawn on the man’s bank to pay out the wife’s share of the property settlement. This was done, and it left the bank accounts empty. It looked surprisingly like this was all very well calculated beforehand.”

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