Ricky sweeps the door aside, strides into the crew room and drops down into a nearby computer chair in a melodramatic swoon.
‘What a day! Too tired to fuck, so you’re bang out of luck. You, boy – rub my shoulders or something and be quick about it. In fact, just rub my something.’
Ricky is so flamboyantly debauched he could have stepped straight out of a cartoon by Gillray. He’d look utterly convincing, dressed as an eighteenth century gentleman, the buttons of his frock coat straining over his gym-pumped arms, the seams of his breeches straining to hold back the playful, uninhibited exuberance of his sexuality.
‘Honestly, I don’t know how I do it,’ he says, laughing at the effect he always has on the room.
Ricky is one of an elite band of paramedics that specialise in trauma and critical care. As a result of their extra skills and experience, Control keep them in reserve until significant trauma or resus jobs come up; consequently, their trauma quotient is higher than normal. If this were a Gillray cartoon, it would feature Ricky dressed as a dragoon guard in knee length riding boots and scarlet coat covered in braid and medals, banging his knife and fork on the table as an endless line of servants hurried in from a hellish kitchen with plate after plate of crashed cars, buildings on fire, piles of corpses and other miniaturised horrors. His speech bubble might say something like: Let me assure you gentlemen, I’m sodding well good for twice whatever you can bring me! And the caption: Anatomy of a Public Servant for Health on the Front Line – or – The best place to get a decent chop nowadays.
And like Gillray, Ricky would be rampant with innuendo.
‘I just can’t seem to get it up like I used to– the website, darling, the website. I’m not talking about my cock. Did you think I was talking about my cock? Did you want me to?’
Ambulance vocabulary is often tough, its common terms of reference every bodily function, variation, degradation and perversion possible to imagine. Once you’ve worked in the field for a while, you become inured to the effect, though, and it takes more awfulness - more dreadful specifics, more refinement of awfulness - to provoke a response. But of the people guaranteed to push the limits of what you thought you could bear, Ricky is in the extreme, experimental tip of the cutting edge of the vanguard. He has an exuberant way of describing the awful jobs he’s been to, segued neatly in with the details of his own sexual adventures, that would have The Marquis de Sade shrieking for the exit.
Yesterday even Ricky seemed more subdued than normal, like a trapeze artist that for once almost failed to make the catch.
‘Are you okay, mate?’ I asked him when he walked quietly into the room and sat down in a chair.
‘Yeah – well. Jesus,’ he sighed. ‘I don’t know why they send us to these jobs. I mean – what are we supposed to do? The guy jumped off a bridge under a train. Pretty much obliterated. Nothing left to speak of. I was never very good at puzzles, anyway.’
He links his hands together behind his head and frowns at the air in front of him.
‘Still,’ he says after a long pause. ‘They won’t have any trouble identifying him.’
‘Why’s that, Ricky? Did he leave a note?’
He closes his eyes.
‘No – for some reason his face was still intact. We found it sticking to the front electric shoe.’