In fact, Simon had forgotten all about murders and mysterious creatures until he got home and was greeted by his dad, and reminded of the subject of their last meeting. Deciding it was best not to mention that he was going to the post-mortem of the same body, he resorted to telling his parents he was going to Kirsten’s to catch up on some Physics homework. This was a half-truth, as he did plan on double checking with her the exact ingredients of an atom bomb whilst he was there.
By six o clock his dad had left again for some kind of evening drill, so Simon and his sister Nat ate with only their mother, before she agreed to give Simon a lift up to Kirsten’s, after much convincing.
Simon arrived at Kirsten’s at five to seven, and was at first relived to find Justin wasn’t there, until he remembered that Justin was probably meeting them at the hospital, seeing as he lived five minutes away. Still, he relished in the chance to talk to Kirsten on his own, although Sasha and Matt couldn’t have arrived earlier for him.
They arrived at half seven, “he insisted on finishing all the casserole,” said Sasha, hitting Matt around the head.
Once inside, Matt quickly asked for drink, and Kirsten responded by throwing a bottle of Jack Daniels in front of him. Matt made no hesitation in drinking until he was told to stop, and since Simon, Sasha, and Kirsten engaged in unrelated conversation, he’d finished the entire bottle before anyone realised what was happening.
At ten to eight, Kirsten’s mum loaded them into her rather small car, causing Matt, who was looking rather ill by this point, to end up on Simon’s knee. Simon’s opinion on the fact that Matt kept squirming sickly was never voiced, but he was relieved when they reached the hospital ten minutes later.
“Have you ever met my brother?” Kirsten’s mother asked, as she pulled the car up at the side of the road.
Simon, Matt and Sasha shook their heads, Sasha a little more quickly, as if she was eager to change her answer to that one.
“But of an oddball,” Kirsten laughed “but he’s okay”
“Listen Kirst,” her mother said earnestly “I think you’d better tell them”
“Okay,” Kirsten said slowly, slightly awkwardly “well, thanks for the lift”
Wondering what Kirsten was going to tell them, Simon shoved Matt out of the car and followed along himself. Confirming Simon’s fears, Justin emerged around a bus stop at that point and kissed Kirsten passionately. Simon looked away, revolted, and caught a dark glare from Sasha that seemed to warn him against any rash behaviour.
“So what is it your mum wants you to tell us?” Sasha asked when Justin and Kirsten had parted lips, seemingly eager to avert Simon’s attention.
“We never really talk about his to anyone,” Kirsten said slowly, ignoring a groan from Matt, who was now clutching his stomach “we don’t want to ruin his reputation or anything... it’s all over now but if you’re going to meet him, I think you should know...”
Sasha looked on as if to assure Kirsten nothing could ruin Doctor Neil’s reputation in her eyes.
“He was in a mental hospital,” Kirsten told them “back in his early twenties. Only for a few years”
“What?” Simon exclaimed, he’d never have expected that. Dr Charlie Neil, possibly the most respected man in Hallington, a mental hospital?
“Mum told me,” Kirsten went on “apparently he was always a little... well... different... as a child, and when he became a man he just couldn’t take it, he broke down completely and started screaming, about...” she paused.
“About what?” Simon egged her on, as Matt lurched to the side of the pavement behind him.
“Well, lots of things, she’s told me,” Kirsten said quickly “but apparently it was mostly... well... he saw things!”
Fright caught at Simon’s throat “What sort of things?” he demanded, a little louder and harder than he’d intended.
“He was talking about creatures, or so I’ve been told,” Kirsten said, she was clearly uneasy talking about his “creatures from another world... or something. I don’t know very much about it, mum was never keen to talk much”
“Did he ever describe the creatures?” Simon asked, trying to sound as casual as he could when his mind had unkindly been reminded of what he thought he saw outside Scrumpy Joe’s at lunchtime.
Kirsten, however, was clearly either unable or unwilling to discuss this more, so Simon let it drop as they made their way up to the hospital, Matt continuously tripping over nothing in particular.
The five entered the hospital through the main entrance, where Kirsten announced to the main desk who she was here to see. The receptionist told her to wait her moment, and a few minutes later a man who Simon recognised instantly as Dr Neil emerged from a lift.
Had Simon not known that Neil once had ‘problems’ he would never have guessed, but now that he knew, he could see traces on the man’s face. Simon had seen the doctor in pictures in the papers and such many times, but in person he could now see that the man’s short black hair, which always looked slightly wild in an attractive sort of way in a picture, was actually badly kept and incredibly greasy. His beard was only half shaven, and his eyes had a very far away, puppy dog look to them, as if he was someone who had undergone many traumas in his time.
His voice was unexpectedly quiet. Simon had always thought Dr Charlie Neil would have a load, booming voice that commanded authority whenever he was around, but instead it was very frail, he spluttered a lot between words, and seemed to be constantly reminding himself what he was saying.
“Hello Kirst,” he said, and embraced his niece, before smiling and saying at the other four “these must be your friends”
Simon, Sasha and Justin introduced themselves; Simon could tell Sasha was surprised at the personality of her hero, but no less flattered at meeting him. She also had to introduce Matt, as when Neil asked his name, he let out a deep throated belch.
After shaking each by the hand, and being told by Sasha how pleased she was to meet him, Dr Neil invited all five into the lift, where they travelled down to the basement, which was revealed to be the post-mortem office.
Another man was there to greet them, the direct contrast to Neil. His hair was long and bright ginger, his face clean shaven, with a very enthusiastic, child-like air to it.
“Hello, hello,” he said, shaking each guest by the hand “Thomas Filligan, Upper Hallington vet,” he explained “Dr Neil asked me very kindly to help out with the investigation. Nice to meet you all”
Simon scanned the room, it was everything post-mortem offices usually looked like on TV, completely white, with as many draws and cupboards as could be fitted, each loaded with more medical equipment than the next. To the side, he could see several forensic jackets hanging on a rail. In the centre, lay a table, on which was a body bag, and Simon didn’t need to ask to know what was contained within.
“So doctor,” Filligan said eagerly “is everything ready? Can we get started?”
“No,” said Neil slowly “no I still need to collect some equipment from upstairs”
“Justin and I could do that,” said Kirsten, then she quickly added “and Simon, maybe?”
“Just you two will be fine,” stated Dr Neil “follow me”
Kirsten shot a smile at Simon, Sasha, and Matt (who looked very close to fainting) and left for the lift with Justin and her uncle. Filligan, Sasha, Matt and Simon sat down on a bench and had a few minutes of conversation, before Matt leapt to his feet, announced “I’m gonna barf” and began running blindly into things, hands over his mouth.
Sasha swore and ran to calm him, looking desperately at Filligan.
“Up the lift and second on the right!” Filligan said hurriedly, before Sasha gave a quick smile of thanks and flung Matt into the lift, telling him some very unflattering things.
The lift left, and Simon and Filligan remained the only two people in the office from the original seven.
Simon grinned after Matt “You learn to love him”
“I see,” said Filligan “here, you don’t fancy helping me move a few things from the other room do you? Just so we’re ready for when the good doctor gets back”
“Sure,” Simon said, standing up to help.
“Just a moment then,” Filligan said, walking to a small door opposite the lift and entering.
Simon began to follow, but stopped, rigid, half way across the room, when there was a sudden, blood-curdling scream from behind the door Filligan had just used.
For a second, Simon wasn’t sure what to do, then he let instinct take over, and rushed to the door, throwing it open... and what he saw next caused him to freeze to the spot.
Filligan lay on the floor, blood poured from tears in his clothes and flesh, he was clearly dead. Above him, stood a creature like only one Simon had ever seen before. It was an eerie purple colour, and although it had four, dagger like legs, it was now rearing up on just two, as if it had just made a kill and was prepared to make another one. Huge squid-like tentacles protruded from its mouth, and it stared, with non-existent eyes, straight at Simon...