Here's one of my favourite scenes, Frank vs Switch, from Chapter Twelve.
The others stood around while Frank examined Switch. With his bloody t-shirt off and the wound wiped down, Marta was relieved the blood had made it look worse than it was. A thin cut about two inches long clung to the side of his hip, a little wider at the top than the bottom.
‘I fucking twisted on it and pushed it in deeper,’ Switch said, as way of explanation.
‘You were lucky,’ Frank said, prodding it with a surgical instrument. It went in through the fat on your lower back and got stuck in the muscle here,’ he said, prodding Switch’s side and making him wince. ‘It was a small knife, I take it?’
‘You pulled it out yourself?’
‘You still got it?’
‘In my one remaining shoe.’ He kicked it off and held it up.
Marta smiled in spite of herself. Typical Switch.
Frank plucked it out and held it up to the light. ‘Nice,’ he said. ‘Thrower. Proper one, too.’
‘You wanna buy it?’
Frank smiled. He looked around at the others. ‘Well, I’m guessing Paul said you had money just to get you in the door. ‘I’ll trade it for stitching you up.’
Frank got to work cleaning the wound. Switch yelped in pain as he dabbed at the exposed flesh with TCP antiseptic liquid, but the only thing he could offer to numb the pain was a shot of some cheap homebrewed whiskey.
‘I don’t know what’s worse, the pain or this piss,’ Switch growled, gulping it down. Simon, who took an experimental swig after him, couldn’t testify to the pain but had to agree the taste was pretty bad.
‘I could put you under, but I don’t think you’ve got enough of those knives to pay me for it,’ Frank said. ‘And plus, by the look of you kids, I’d say you want this chump on his feet pretty soon.’
Their silence was affirmation.
Frank sewed Switch up, dressed the injury and gave him some antibiotics to keep it free of infection. ‘Do not lose these,’ he said. ‘Take one a day, and do not forget. If it starts to itch, or pus starts to come out of the wound, double up for a day. It should seal itself over in a week, and then you’re safe. Until then, take care. If it gets infected and you can’t get to a doctor, well, you’re fucked.’ Frank cackled. Marta couldn’t tell how serious he was.
Switch climbed down from the table. ‘Thanks old man, I owe you one.’
Frank raised an eyebrow. ‘Many people say that, few deliver.’
‘Well, one day I might.’
‘I hope so. Take it easy, kid.’
Switch followed Simon and Jess out into the hall. Frank turned to Paul. ‘How’s your brother?’
Paul shrugged. ‘Still there. Starting to raise hell.’
Frank nodded. ‘Good, good. Keep him alive, he’ll be leading the revolution one day.’ He patted Paul’s shoulder and started to laugh again.
‘Thank you for your help,’ Marta said to Frank in the doorway.
‘No problem, young lady,’ he said. ‘I just suggest that whatever you were doing for that to happen you try to avoid it in the future.’
‘We’ll try,’ Marta said. ‘If only it was that easy.’
Frank gazed off into the distance. His eyes grew suddenly wistful. ‘Don’t give up on this country just yet,’ he said. ‘Keep your heads down, one day them dark clouds are gonna clear.’
‘We hope so,’ Marta said.
Frank nodded. He looked at Switch. ‘You. Come here.’
Switch sauntered closer. ‘Yeah, what?’
Before Marta could blink Frank’s hand had gone to Switch’s throat, the throwing knife held there, hard against the skin. Switch’s good eye went wide. There was a collective intake of breath, and then Frank gave a gap-toothed smile and cackled a laugh. He dropped his hand. ‘You’ll need this metal more than I will, I think,’ he said, holding out the knife, handle first. ‘A present from an old man.’
Switch took the offered knife and tucked it under his shirt, his composure once more unruffled. ‘Thanks. I don’t suppose you have any spare shoes around?’
Frank pouted. ‘I doubt we’re the same size, kid.’ He looked around at the others. ‘Now, if I can give you kids some advice, stay on your guard. Don’t trust anyone.’ He cocked his head and flashed a smile. ‘Except me.’With that he nodded goodbye and went back inside. The door slammed behind them without sentiment and several latches thudded back across.
Although he only appears in two early scenes, Frank is one of my favourite characters. While I can't say exactly where or when, it's pretty likely he'll pop up in later books.
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4th Oct 2012