"There. Knew you'd wake up for me today." The nurse is a fat black woman in scrubs printed with fluffy, yarn-entangled kittens.
"Who's John, hon?" she goes on. "You kept asking for John. Somebody we can call?"
Soon Sherlock will get beyond the alarming image of all those kittens cavorting across that massive bosom and see: little gold cross, crownlike circlet of braids, cheap pink crystal earrings, scar on her elbow.
He will observe: diabetic; one child from before her marriage; assumes John is his boyfriend (is reminding herself to hate the sin and love the sinner).
He will remember: Carolina? Georgia? Charleston. Knife in his side in a Charleston alley. After that, waking here, demanding John, begging for John, half-delirious and garbled, and this nurse had stroked his hair and called him hon until he faded out again.
But for the first moment all he can think to say is, "No. John -- John isn't here."
She's glad not to have to call a boyfriend, but very kind. "I'm sorry, hon. How's your pain?"
His pain is drug-distant but very bad. But John is having a pint with Stamford, watching Top Gear, blogging with that glacial two-fingered typing.
This pain is the way John Being Safe feels.
"All right," he tells her. "It's all right." And soon, it will be better.