Looking at her feet, Magrat listened to Doctor Troy outlining her fate for the next month. Nurse Maisie was to be her teacher. Nurse Maisie was to be her judge.
Nurse Maisie's word was to be the law. She risked an upward glance.
From the hard eyes and set frown on Nurse Maisie's face, Magrat sensed her likelihood of adoption by the Devil's Own begin to evaporate into years more of drudgery and all that came with it.
She was snapped out of her misery by Doctor Troy clapping her hands and rubbing her palms together in that 'eager to get started' way she had displayed in the camp.
"Right. Patients will be arriving soon. I'm off to the west camp, so I'll be there for the next couple of hours or so if I'm needed..." Magrat's heart sank, she knew what was coming next. "...
So," Doctor Troy continued. "You two hold the fort here. Show Magrat around, Maise, and let's see what she can do."
The doctor disappeared into the treatment room, leaving Magrat and Maisie looking at each other. The head nurse folded her arms, and a slow smile spread across her face.
Doctor Troy appeared again, with a pair of huge holdalls slung over her shoulders.
"Right, Maise, if I'm not back by Ohhhh elevenish, give me a call. I, er... have a meeting with the mayor at noon.
" From the look on the doctor's face, Magrat guessed that Tukiko wasn't looking forward to it. But Magrat heard her force the smile back into her voice. "Try not to kill anyone, you two.
Have fun." And then she was gone, leaving Magrat alone with Nurse Maisie. Magrat made a silent prediction.
Nurse Maisie crooked a finger.
"Come with me."
Magrat followed the broad back of the nurse to the rear of the clinic where Maisie opened a cupboard. When the nurse turned around, she was holding a much-used mop, which she extended to Magrat.
Magrat took the mop.
Magrat held the mop awkwardly. Back in the camp, there wasn't much call for mops. Lots of mud and grass but not many floors.
Maisie sighed. Another of the doc's ideas that was just going to mean more damn work for her.
Turning back to the cleaning cupboard, she took another mop and, after filling a bucket with disinfectant and hot water,
proceeded to give the young 'Devil' an object lesson in how to wield a mop.
To Magrat's surprise, the head nurse, after showing her how to twist and sweep the mop from side to side, didn't then just leave her to get on with mopping the floors of the clinic on her own.
Both of them finished the job together. It was Magrat, however, who was left to wash out the mops and put everything away but fair's fair Magrat reasoned. The older woman was her boss, after all.
When she had finished, there were a couple of town's people already sitting in the small waiting room. Maisie was back at her desk, reading from a thin folder.
The head nurse motioned Magrat to pull up a chair. She slid the folder across so Magrat could see.
"These here folders are the patient's notes.
Before seeing a patient, you need to read these carefully to get a hang on their medical history and see if they have any ongoing condition and what treatments they might be having.
" Maisie sniffed.
"Of course, in a small town like this you soon get to learn the ins and outs of what's ailing folks anyway,
but you always have to check in case the doc has prescribed any drugs you might not know about."
Magrat listened and scanned the notes of Winona Barrow age sixty-three.
Doctor Troy had introduced this system back at the camp.
The only difference being that all the notes on everyone in the camp were kept in a single large file that could be snatched up should the camp be raided.
The records were a lot simpler, too, but contained pretty much the same information.
Nurse Maisie waited while the teenager read the slim file. When Magrat finished, Maisie took it back and stood up.
"Okay, girlie-girl. You fetch Winnie through to the treatment room, and we'll find out how much you know... or don't know."
Magrat took a deep breath and got up. On the short walk to the waiting room, she recapped what she had just read from the patient's notes. The woman had shingles.
She was eight days into her treatment. She wasn't taking any drugs but was treating the blisters with a lotion to ease the itching.
There were now three people in the waiting room. A man. A boy with a bandage on his head and an old woman sitting in the corner.
The old woman looked up. In fact, everyone did. The man, the boy and Mrs Barrow all stared at Magrat for long seconds until Mrs Barrow broke the silence.
"It's Miss and who the hell are you?"
Calm and with authority. Calm and authority. The mantra Doctor Troy had drilled into all three apprentices echoed around Magrat's brain.
She employed the smile that went with the mantra and which she, Lonely and Esme had repeatedly practised on each other.
"I'm sorry, Miss Barrow. I'm Magrat. I'm working here for a while."
Winnie Barrow's eyes flicked up and down Magrat's apparel.
"You look like a savage. You a refugee? What are you, the cleaner?"
The smile faltered. They were all looking at her. Oh well, they'd all know soon enough.
"No. I..." She had to be careful about how she put this. "I live in the Devil's Own camp just north of Hope." The boy, he looked maybe twelve or so, stared with widening eyes.
The man's eyes, however, narrowed to worryingly unpleasant slits. Miss Barrow noticed both reactions. Magrat swallowed. "And I'm training to be a medic."
The old woman stood up.
"You don't say. Well, now, ain't that interesting." She stepped forward with a smile cracking her wrinkled face. "Never done had my pulse taken by a Devil's Own.
Back in the day, one did try to stop it though. Lead on, Missy Magrat. Gonna have something to trump the old biddies over gin rummy tonight, that's fer sure."