Night across town. A light rain sweeping in, but the air is warm, and the effect is of a feverish, humidifying spray in a hot house. The serious hours now, that gruelling stretch between midnight and dawn when the crowds re-form in the streets and migrate along well-worn routes to the hardcore party territories of the clubs and late licence bars along the front. We run from job to job; we need a different kind of ambulance, a Saturday night special, a cow-catcher at the front, a side-grabber for easy loading, nothing on board that can’t be jet-washed or thrown away.
Jake is led out of the club by an honour guard of arm-banded bouncers and police in fluorescent jackets. He is bloodied, ragged, his arms passively down at his sides, his shirt unbuttoned to the waist, a strangely passive demeanour, that in this thumping element has the effect of a saint being led through a mob to the scaffold. We help him onto the ambulance; he bows his head when he sits on the chair.
‘So what happened?’
He looks up without expression.
‘Julie accidentally spilled her drink on another girl. She apologised, it all seemed okay. I’d gone to the loo, but when I came back the girl was there with a couple of her friends and they were screaming at her. So I just touched this girl on the arm and said something like just calm down or something. Next thing I know there were all these guys. One of them threw a glass in my face. I was punched and fell over. When I was on the floor someone was jabbing a glass in my face, and there were kicks and punches coming in from everywhere. I tried to curl up and protect myself as best I could.’
He has several cuts over his face and hands – a deep one behind his ear that somehow misses his major blood vessels.
‘Let’s see what you’ve got.’
I pull up his shirt. Amongst everything else his back is patterned with a dreadful series of deep, strawberry coloured wheals, finger-width apart, as if someone has clawed at him with a garden rake.
‘Yeah. The girls joined in,’ he says. Even the police woman lowers her notepad.
‘Why would they do that?’ she says.
There’s a knock on the back door.
Frank opens it to see: a pale young girl who’s been crying so much her mascara is spread around her eyes in two watery patches. Jake slowly turns his head.
‘Come on in,’ says Frank.
But the girl doesn’t move. She stands outside in the rain, seems to ripple in and out of focus, slowly puts her hand to her mouth and stares.
Frank opens the dressings bag.
‘O-kay’ he says.