Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Wisdom #3 - Everybody Knows

Joanna was pale and shaken when the bastards finally got sick of his outbursts.

She had looked up, surprised to see that he had got this far or even remembered who she was and surprised further by the bunch of crumpled flowers in his arms and the cigarette still hanging lopsided from the corner of his mouth.

It had been good many years since Joanna Travis and Pete Wisdom had been a couple.

He had changed, in varying degrees since then.

Gone were the ripped T-shirt and stupid haircuts, though, she noted with wonder, the cigarettes still remained.

The two of them had met at school. Before Wisdom's expulsion, she had been in the year below him, all Bay City Rollers records and braces until he had introduced her to the glory of fucking, not love make mind, no, just pure adolescent fucking, behind the back of the bike-sheds, illicit drug taking and the methadone stutters of Punk rock.

Quietly she removed her headphones, the distant whispers of Everybody Knows by Leonard Cohen filling the air between them.

"Hallo, Pete." She whispered, her voice suddenly and unexpectedly dry.

"I heard you were ill." Pete said, stumbling to find the right words. "I wasn't sure if you wanted company or not so I figured I'd drop these off while you were sleeping. Some sodding plan, eh?"

She smiled sadly.

"What? With all that racket you made outside I suspect you woke half the bleeding ward."

He shrugged in a non-committal fashion.

"It were worth it." He replied.

Calmly, he leant over and placed the flowers on her bedside table then stood uncomfortably looking out across the night streets of his home, his one and only true love, London.

"You shouldn't have come here, Pete." Joanna said, shaking her head slightly. "You can't change anything, can you? I mean, what's done is done."

He was quiet for a moment, as if in a different place, ash from the tip of his cigarette falling onto the sterile white windowsill.

"I can put things right." He answered, that old determination still present in his voice. "And I bloody well will put 'em right, you just wait and see."

"It's too late, Pete." She answered, holding back her tears. "It's already started. No one can stop it now, not even bloody minded Pete Wisdom."

"You just watch me." He reiterated.

Silence came between them.

"How's Romany?" Joanna said, desperately trying to break the silence.

"Romany's good." Wisdom answered, without really saying too much.

"And the latest squeeze, who is it this time, Pete?"

"Someone and no one." He replied. "To be honest, I don't think even she knows where we stand at the moment."

"Oh dear, Pete, I am sorry." Joanna said in her heart felt and honest way. She smiled quietly to herself, her mind desperately trying to change the subject. "Tucker Swinburne visited me last week. He hasn't changed at all."

"Too bloody right." Wisdom snorted. "He always was pissed off with me for getting into your knickers first."

They shared an understanding smile, the kind of smile that only former lovers can ever share.

"Do you ever.?" She began.

"Yes." He replied. "Yes, I do. Sometimes, I lie awake and think about and sometimes when I'm with someone, I roll over in the middle of the night and I'm still surprised to find that they're not you."

"I used to feel the same way about my husband, before the divorce I mean." She smiled and tried to lighten the conversation. "Did you ever think that you'd responsible, without even lifting a finger, for the break up of my marriage?"

"No." Wisdom responded. "No, I thought we'd always be together." He looked at her, eyes clouded with sadness. "I really thought you were the one, Joanna. Together forever and all that."

"Yeah, me too." She replied.

The silence crept back between them.

"Jesus Christ," Wisdom snarled angrily. "Haven't these fucks got any idea what the bloody hell is wrong with you?"

"No." Joanna replied. "They've been fucking impolite actually. One bastard had the audacity to tell me I was making the whole bloody thing up."

"Fucker." Wisdom snarled. "What was his name?"

"You're not going to do anything stupid are you, Pete?" She asked, worriedly, wishing she'd never said anything about.

"Course not. I'm just going to file an 'official complaint' is all."

She chose not to hear his sarcasm and, knowing exactly what he planned to do, she said:

"Feenan. Doctor Steven Feenan, or so his badge said."

"Right." Wisdom said, making his mind up. "Do go anywhere, I'm going to diagnose this bastard's head as being stuck up his own arsehole."

Her former lover disappeared behind the tired yellow of the faded NHS curtain before she could say anything.

Footsteps followed and then she heard the yelp of surprise.

Quietly she smiled to herself and idly picked the petals from the flowers he had left.

It was good to have him back, even if she couldn't stay for long.





Based on concepts and characters created by Warren Ellis

"Physician, heal thyself!" - Luke 4:23.15


The stench of illicit cigarette smoke and chocolate filled the air as Niall 'Tucker' Swinburne stepped out of the lift and onto the hospital's third floor.

As a rule, he hated hospitals, and avoided them like he avoided illness itself, carefully manoeuvring beyond the midis touch of the afflicted whilst politely wishing them a swift recovery.

This particular hospital he had seen one too many times over the past few weeks to allow him to be truly comfortable.

He made his way down the corridor and past the nurse's station, which seemed strangely empty.

Well, it was half three on a Monday morning, perhaps, and given the state of the NHS and that idiot Blair, they were short staffed or the nurse had simply been called away elsewhere.

He shrugged, thinking nothing of it and poked his head around the curtain behind which Joanna rested.

She didn't look up.

"I'm surprised they let you back in." She said, still her back to him.

"No one seemed to be on duty." Niall replied, a little puzzled.

She turned, surprised slightly to see him standing there, box of chocolates in one hand and his suit smelling of cigarette smoke.

"Niall!" She said.

She tried to stand up but didn't have the strength.

He rushed over to her, placing his arms around her slim waist and steadying her.

"Don't push yourself, love." He said, charmingly. "You're never going to get better if you keep doing that."

"I'm never going to get better, full stop, Niall." She said quietly.

He decided to let the comment slid, choosing not to let her dwell on the subject of her own melancholy.

"So who were you expecting? A knight in shining armour?" He asked with a smile.

"Pete's here." She proclaimed excitedly, indicating the flowers. "He came here after all."

Niall frowned slightly.

Pete bloody Wisdom. Christ, there was a name that took him back.

"Erm, where is he then?" Niall asked, his frown increasingly.

"He's just gone to see a doctor." Her voice trailed off for a moment.

"Oh shit." Joanna whispered, as the fact of the missing nurse fell into place.

"Back in a minute." Niall smiled politely and vanished behind the curtain just as Wisdom had done moments before.

She sat there for a moment, partly in shock that her former boyfriend had gone not only to employ harsh language against the public healthcare system but his fists as well and then a smile brook out across her face.

"Pete Wisdom, you daft old sod, you." She smiled to herself.


Feenan's nose was broken and bloodied, his clean white shirt and his Scrooge McDuck tie stained with the splattering of blood and spit.

"I wouldn't worry about it, mate." Wisdom smiled sarcastically as he towered over the doctor, who had fallen to his knees, sobbing like a baby after Wisdom's first punch had been thrown. "You see the pain, right, the pain is all in your bloody head, isn't it? Nothing really to worry about."

He administered another swift kick to the doctor's gut and he fell like lead to the tiled floor, crawling into a foetal position and sobbed remorsefully.

The nurse stood dumbstruck to his left, watching Wisdom as he flicked open his packet of cigarettes and lit another with the previous dog-end before kicking the poor bastard again, this time in his bollocks.

A man roughly the same age as him came skidding around the corner, the heels of his shoes screeching upon the polished floor, in time to witness Wisdom kick the doctor under the chin and send him sliding across the floor, leaving twin trails of blood from his nostrils behind him.

"Jesus Christ." The other man whispered.

Wisdom turned, startled, the worrying glint of cold anger in his eye.

He looked at the man for a moment, sizing him up as a possible threat.

"Pete, it's me. It's Tucker." The other man said holding his hands up.

"Tucker never had a receding hairline." Wisdom snarled in a voice that didn't quite sound like his own.

"Never did you, you daft bugger." Swinburne protested. "We grew up, remember, Pete? Jesus fuck, you could have just smashed his car up and shat on it, you didn't beat the living shit out of him as well!"

Recognition dawned on Wisdom's face as he remembered Coupland's car, windscreen smashed to pieces and a huge, steaming pile of shit on its driver's seat.

"Tucker Swinburne." He smiled, calmly. "Jesus. What the bloody hell are you doing here?"

"Same thing you are, Pete, same thing you are." Niall answered. "Look, security's going to be up here any minute, you better get going."

"I've got a better idea." Wisdom smiled sadistically.

Purposefully he strode over to the cowering doctor and opened the supply cupboard.

"Go on, shitface, get in." He snarled.

The doctor, still whimpering, began crawling towards the cupboard and received a kick up the arse for his effort.

He yelped once more as Wisdom bent down and tore the badge from his bloodied shirt and the keys from his pocket.

"And you an' all, princess." He motioned to the middle age nurse on duty.

She opened her mouth in protest and Wisdom raised his fist.

Meekly, she followed the doctor into the darkness of the utility cupboard.

Wisdom slammed the door shut on them, locked it and attached the badge to his jacket.

"Got to go the khazi." Wisdom smiled, dangling the keys in front of Tucker's face. "Back in five minutes."


Joanna looked at the box of chocolates Niall had abandoned on her bedside table.

They were for her, she guessed, well, he was hardly going to be buying Milk Tray for himself, now was he?

"All because the lady loves Milk Tray." She muttered beneath her breath, turning the box over in her hands before placing it down again.

Niall had been one of the few people she had retained contact with from her old school days.

After the messy divorce, she had called a few friends, who in turned had called a few of their friends, all in a last ditch effort to find out whatever had happened to Pete Wisdom.

In those days she couldn't imagine what he would have looked like, all she could remember was the gangly, out of place boy in the Richard Hell and the Voidoids T-shirt and the torn, tartan trousers yet when Wisdom had walked back into her life, mere moments ago, despite the difference in his appearance, he somehow felt authentic.

This was the real Pete Wisdom all right.

She smiled wondering whether the doctor would take to heal whatever wounds her ex-boyfriend had inflicted upon him.

Despite the conflicting feelings, it was good to see him again.

All this time and now here he was, large as life and as if he'd never gone away.

Well, one of them would have to go away now, God forbid that she might actually be happy!

She cursed the illness that laboured inside of her, tears forming in her eyes.

The doctors had told her she didn't even have a month at best to live.

Joanna Travis knew better.

She knew that she would die tonight.


Wisdom flushed the chain, watching the keys circle round in the toilet pan and disappear down the bend.

"Enough fucking good deeds for the day." He smirked before waving the keys goodbye and leaving the toilets.

Outside Tucker seemed to be engaged in a difficult situation with two security gorillas.

They turned and looked at him, eyes first glancing at the blood stained shirt then finally up at the badge.

"Ah, Doctor Feenan, is it?" The shorter gorilla said in a Scottish brogue.

"Hallo," Wisdom smiled. "What can I do for you?"

The Scottish gorilla looked at him, confused slightly.

"I thought you were Irish, Doctor Feenan." He said finally."

"Oh aye." Wisdom replied in what was possibly the world's worst Irish accent. "Where's me pot o' gold?"

"Yes. Indeed." The gorilla agreed for no reason in particular. "This gentleman says he knows you, is that so."

"Aye." Wisdom nodded.

"You don't sound Irish." The gorilla said.

"What because I don't speak like Gerry Adams, I'm suddenly a fucking liar, is that it?"

"No sir, I meant no offence, its just that." The gorilla stuttered.

"Piss off, you flaming monkey and do your bloody job." Wisdom snarled.

The two gorillas looked uncertainly at each other and then backed off.

"Right you are, sir." The Scottish one muttered as they retreated.

Swinburne waited for a moment before turning to Wisdom, glowering and remarking:

"You're mad as a bloody hatter, you are."

Wisdom shrugged and took a drag on his still lit cigarette.


The two of them sat on the edge of Joanna's bed, Swinburne in particular watching the rise and fall of her breasts with every breath she took.

"And so that's how it happened." She said slightly sadly. "One minute I'm standing up straight, the next fuck knows. They thought it was electricity in the brain, like my head was tuned to the wrong signal or something but I don't know anymore and I'm not sure I care."

"Christ, Joanna, love, I'm sorry." Swinburne said, taking her hand in his. "I wish there were more we could do."

"There is." Joanna said after a moment's hesitation, her voice quiet and dark. "You can get me out of here." She turned and looked at them with pleading eyes. "I don't want to die in this god awful place."

"But." Niall protested.

"No buts." She shook her head, smiling weakly. "I don't want this, Niall."

Wisdom remained quiet, rising and looking out at his city beyond the edge of the window.

"When did it all start, Joanna?" He asked, his voice emotionless and unreadable.

"February, I think." She said hesitantly.

"What's your job, love?" He asked.

"I-I'm a.was." She corrected herself. "A secretary.Look, Pete, I don't know."

"And you work in central London, yeah, go past Nelson's column everyday, do you?" He continued on regardless.

"Well.yes." She answered.

He tightened his fists to the knuckles turned white.

February.Nelson's column.Wraith.

"Fuck's sake." He cursed.

"What is it?" Swinburne asked anxiously.

"Mind your own fucking business." Wisdom snapped.

"Pete, if this has something to do with me, then I think I should know." Joanna said carefully.

"Get your car, Tucker," Wisdom said, turning to look at him. "You do have a car yeah?"

He nodded mutely.

"I'll tell you on the way." He promised.


The night air stung her face and brought tears to her eyes.

Pete had smashed the window of an offie in order to purloin several bottles of whiskey (along with a few bags of salted peanuts) and now they all sat around, beneath Nelson's column, passing the bottle between them and becoming increasingly more inebriated.

Dawn rolled around, the first fingers of grey light reached down from the heavens and touching the city with their divine presence and still the traffic rolled on about them.

As he held Joanna's head in his hands, Wisdom began to feel ill, bile rising in his throat and tears running down his cheeks.

She smiled at him and they kissed and all along he knew that this was his fault.

The cube from the Kennedy simulacra's chest had caused this, too much exposure to the occult periodic table - this was his fault.

As Joanna Travis closed her eyes on life and slipped away and Niall Swinburne sobbed quietly into his bottle of whiskey, Peter Wisdom felt the bitter hatred rise up within him.

All this pain, all this hurt - all because he had been so fucking quick to jump on the bandwagon and bury every single sodding daemon that so much as looked his way.

How many others like Joanna? How long till he himself, or God forbid, even Romany, contracted the disease? How many people had he killed?

London was dying, it had been dying for centuries, and now he had just rammed the last stake through its heart.

How long would it take?

He turned away from Joanna's cold, lifeless body and lit a cigarette, eyes closed against the rain as nightmares played themselves out across the surface of his mind.

All across London, people were beginning to die because he had made a fucking mistake.

All across London, they were dropping like flies.

He cursed himself and for the first time in his life, prayed to a God he never believed in.

Single handily he had killed his own true love, single handily he had consigned his own beloved city to its death.

And all across London, they were dropping like flies.



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