It was seven days before Sam was strong enough get out of bed unaided; his body slowly recovering from its seriously weakened state.
What is more, his blonde hair had not been cut in over three months and was now so long that it hung to his shoulders. His beard had also grown into a thick bush which covered the lower portion of his gaunt face.
Miriam was not an experienced hairdresser by any means but on occasion, growing up, she had cut her father’s hair so had offered to do the same for Sam, thinking a tidy up might make him feel better.
He had agreed. So, on his first foray out of bed, he sat in the padded plastic armchair that was supplied for visitors and let Miriam have a go at his messy straggle of locks.
Firstly, she lay a towel around his bare shoulders, noticing, not for the first time, just how skinny he had become; the vertebrae of his backbone sticking out like knuckles and his collar-bones and shoulder blades sharply defined.
As he set his thin arms down on the armrests of the chair, the livid scars left by the stab wounds looked pink and shiny and again Miriam considered just how lucky he had been not to die from his appalling injuries.
“Now, Monsieur,” she said playfully, her soft French accent sweetly appealing as she snipped her scissors with intent, mimicking the actions of a professional hairdresser. “What is it that I can do for you today – a perm maybe, perhaps a shampoo and set?”
Sam smiled at her through the long strands of his fringe which was dangling down over his blue eyes as he regarded her.
She was slim and pretty with long dark hair and big green eyes. Her figure was similar to that of a fashion model’s – small breasts, narrow waist and long legs that seemed to go on forever. Like many Parisians, she was also effortlessly chic, even standing there in torn Levis, Rolling Stones T-shirt and battered Chuck Taylors she somehow managed to look incredibly stylish, although there was little vanity involved as it all just seemed to come naturally.
“Reckon I’ll just stick with a short back and sides – maybe go for the perm next time if that’s okay,” he joked.
Miriam giggled. It felt good to see Sam smile again, better still to hear him make a joke but as she stared into his slender face, she could see no joy in his eyes and they remained tragically void of the mischievous glint that had once shone so brightly within them.
But a joke was progress and she was ever hopeful that one day she would see the sparkle return, too.
“Very well, if you insist. Short back and sides it is then,” she replied before setting to work with her scissors and comb. “Think I’ll tidy that beard up, too, whilst I’m at it.”
“Fine. Whatever you like,” replied Sam. “I’ll leave it up to you – just keep away from the perming solution and hair dye and I’ll be happy.”
Miriam slapped him lightly on the head with her comb to admonish him. “Spoil sport,” she said.
There was silence between them for a few minutes as she began snipping away, trying her best not to make any obvious mistakes as an ever-growing pile of hair appeared on the floor around the chair.
Sam thought how cute she looked as she leaned her face close to his, her tongue sticking out between her lips as she focussed her concentration on his long fringe.
Painstakingly, she sliced her way slowly across it, the long blonde strands gradually falling away as each one was cropped, to reveal Sam smiling at her once more.
“What are you grinning at?” She asked.
“Nothing. Just all the concentration, that’s all,” he replied.
“You’d rather I make a mess of it?” She asked, “So you leave the hospital looking like the dinner of a dog?”
“You mean, like a dog’s dinner,” he replied, his smile now even wider. “And no, I wouldn’t. It’s just that you looked so serious for a moment, Miri, I’m not used to it.”
“Dogs dinner, dinner of a dog – mon dieu, what’s the difference?”
“Nothing,” Sam replied with defeat. “You’re doing a great job – really.”
“Good,” said Miriam with a twinkle in her eye, “I’m glad you appreciate it.”
Again there was silence between them as she finished off his haircut.
“So the doctor says you’ll need to be here for another week of tests before you can be discharged?” She enquired as she set about trimming his beard.
“So he says,” replied Sam, trying hard not to move his lips for fear of Miriam trimming them off.
“And after that – back to university to continue with your degree?” She asked.
Sam knew that either she or Vasily would ask that question soon enough and he had been dreading it for fear of them not liking his answer.
But the fact remained that he would not be returning to university.
Indeed, to continue with his studies now seemed utterly futile as his time would be better spent in pursuit of Claudette’s killers.
However, with such little information to go on, Sam was painfully aware that this could conceivably take months or even years and staying on at Cambridge to finish his degree would only delay things further, which was not something he was prepared to consider.
As it was, he was still going to have to wait an excruciatingly long time before he could make a start due to the necessary period of convalescence required to properly recover from his injuries.
Initially, after emerging from coma, he had been eager to get out of hospital as soon as possible to set about finding the bastards who had killed Claudette – beginning with the harelipped skinhead whose photograph Coyle had shown him.
Sam soon realised, however, that this was not a realistic objective. It became clear that he would need several months of recuperation to get back to anything close to his former state of fitness and longer still if he intended to surpass it – which he felt would be necessary if he was to effectively carry out his planned retribution.
Presently, he was almost skeletal in appearance and as weak as a kitten, but if he was going to pick a fight with a skinhead then he would need to be in peak physical condition.
There were other issues, too, which needed to be addressed before he began his quest for vengeance, namely those concerning his father’s business affairs.
Vasily had relieved much of the burden with regards to his parents’ estate; dealing with their lawyers on his behalf so that matters related to their combined fortune were settled as efficiently as possible.
However, as the sole heir, Sam was now the rather reluctant head of a huge conglomerate and the members of the board required placating. Indeed, since his parents’ untimely death, shares had plummeted and Sam needed to steady the ship fast or see everything that his father had worked for slowly decay into nothing.
Continues tomorrow or download the complete novel here.