I leave Lisa in the office and go to gather my supplies. The cabinets and supply cupboards are full of medical materials, most of which I wouldn't have the faintest clue how to use. I ignore the shelves full of syringes and the massive pill bottles full of unidentifiable tablets. I collect a box of sterile latex gloves, sealed sterile wipes, bandages, a tourniquet, antiseptic spray, cotton swabs. I load myself down with things that I recognise, things that might be useful. It's in the desk drawer of one of the ground floor offices that I make one of my best discoveries. Sitting there on top of all the paperwork is a half-full bottle of amber-coloured whisky.
Half an hour later I return to the office where Lisa is waiting for me. She watches me set out what I've found on the desk with a wary, sceptical eye. Wordlessly, I hand her the bottle of whisky. She takes it, and without a single question unscrews the cap and drinks. Her face screws up at the taste of the spirits.
"It's going to hurt, isn't it?" she asks, her voice small.
"I'm sorry," I say. "It's got to be done."
Lisa nods in acceptance. I roll up my sleeves and use some alcoholic gel to wash my hands, before pulling on a pair of gloves. Then I settle myself on the floor beside Lisa.
"I'm just going to clean around it, okay?"
She nods and gulps down more of the whisky. I use some cotton swabs and antiseptic spray to clean the wound, trying all the while to be as gentle as possible. Even so, whenever I so much as touch the metal rod that sticks out of her leg, I hear Lisa gasp in pain. Already I'm feeling a little queasy. I turn Lisa's leg to the side, but to my relief the bit of metal doesn't go all the way through. All that can be seen on the back of her leg is a dark, angry bruise.
She takes another swallow from the bottle, draining it completely. And in that moment, it suddenly strikes me how personal it is, what I'm doing to her. I'm close enough to her to hear her every breath, my hand on her thigh, close enough to smell her tired sweat. For a brief second, embarrassment sweeps through me, and I turn back to the desk and sort through the equipment there until it passes.
I wipe a nervous sweat from my face and change my gloves. I gather a handful of swabs and bandages and antiseptic wipes, and then I return to Lisa's side. I lay out the kit on the floor beside her. And then there's no more delaying. Then it's time to do what must be done.
"You ready?" I say.
"No." She looks away. "Do it quickly, okay?" she says. Very gently I place one gloved hand on her leg and with the other I take a firm grip on the metal rod. Lisa's breath catches in her throat.
"Don't look," I say. I'm very aware of my heart, my lungs, all the tiny movements of my body. I can feel Lisa trembling. "I'm going to count to three," I say.
Lisa's face is set, turned away, her teeth clenched and her eyes squeezed shut. I grip the metal rod as tight as I can.
"One," I say. And then without warning, without allowing her a chance to tense up, I pull as hard and as quick as I can.