The phone rang. It didn't have time to ring again. Matron Clinton nodded solemnly as doctor Troy confirmed what the nurse she had talked to on the side of the road had feared. Worms had typhoid.
A small pit of panic started to open in the young matron's stomach, but she quickly filled it with all the things that needed to be done. First on the list was another phone call.
The Union Medical Centre needed to be told immediately.
Joe was not in a good mood when he flung open the door to his office.
Saturday working meant overtime, so he didn't have chips to spare for whatever it was that was causing the commotion on the factory floor.
When he leaned over the railing to see what was going on below, Joe's first thought was that this was a police raid.
His overseer, Taiyoko, was desperately trying to hold back the crowd of half a dozen Union guards from getting any further into the factory than they already had.
The kids, meanwhile, were ducking under or climbing over the benches in an attempt to get behind Taiyoko. Some were even running to the changing room, probably to hide.
Just then, one of the Union men happened to glance up and see Joe.
"Mister Spivey! Mister Spivey, you need to let us in. This building is now under quarantine! You and everyone here need to come with us to the orphanage!"
Joe's first instinct was to run. He had a prepared escape path which would see him roaring away on a motorbike in under a minute. However, the mention of quarantine made him hesitate.
He signalled to Taiyoko to stop and his overseer, and the men he had been holding back, stopped struggling with each other and stood waiting for instructions.
The Union man continued.
"Mister Spivey. My name is Ducas; I'm from the Union Medical Centre. A case of typhoid has been confirmed in one of the children who work here.
We need your cooperation to help prevent any possible spread of the disease."
Half an hour later, having secured the factory, Joe, Taiyoko and all of the ammunition workers were safely behind the now locked doors of the orphanage.
The confused and anxious inmates were led away to their respective dormitories to join their friends being tested for the disease.
Joe and Taiyoko were taken to a small office where a pathology tech was waiting for them.
"Okay gentlemen," the grinning young tech said, removing a little stick from one of the two glass tubes from the desk. "This won't hurt.
Just drop your pants and bend over and it'll all be over in two shakes of a..."
Which was as far as he got before Joe punched him.
It took two members of the orphanage staff and Taiyoko combined to prevent Joe from doing more severe injury to the young pathology technician...
and then a hell of a lot of persuasion after that to let the man do his job.
Yes, it was explained to him, the Salmonella typhi bacterium can be tested for in blood and even in urine,
but by far the easiest way to get quick results was from a sample of stool from the intestinal wall where the bacteria thrived and multiplied.
Joe eventually relented, but there was no way he was going to 'let another bloke shove anything up my arse'. In a huff, he shooed everyone from the room while he 'self-administered'.
Back in the quarantine house in Hope Springs, and now full of bacon sandwiches, a discussion had broken out as to who was to sleep where. At the moment.
Finny was winning by two dead arms and a Chinese burn, but Onetooth was coming back strongly with a devastating series of painful nips.
Casper had already given up and sullenly accepted that he would be sleeping in the bed next to nurse Maisie.
He watched the continuing discussion from his cross-legged position atop his bed, wondering why Onetooth was even bothering. Finny was going to win; it was part of being a leader.
Onetooth knew this too, but the eight-year-old seemed to have some kind of inbuilt switch which, once flicked, would not let him back away from a fight.
Hopefully, this disability of his would resolve itself before his adult teeth came in.
Meanwhile, in the clinic, a steady stream of townsfolk was lining up to be tested for 'The Typhoid'.
So many in fact that, with the mayor's permission, Tuki had sent to Haven for a couple of pathology technicians to help run the tests.
The thing was, there had been no official declaration for the residents to do so. Dr Troy had informed the mayor that typhoid, although potentially lethal, was not airborne, or even a virus.
Hence, the surgical masks many people were asking for were really only a placebo to make the wearer feel safer.
Typhoid usually came from either contaminated water or from someone who was already infected who had not washed their hands properly when handling food.
Yes, it could be passed on from close contact with an infected person, but as long as you had good personal hygiene,
then you would pretty much have to lick the sick person for the bacteria to be picked up.
Dr Troy reassured the mayor that the town had more than enough antibiotics to deal with the current situation.
Even so, Mayor Troy maintained the presence of a constable outside the quarantine house and had posters put up telling the populace what symptoms to look out for and how to avoid catching it.
In the Union headquarters in New Flagstaff, the council had been convened. Decisions were being taken, and arrangements were being made.
Dr Ducas was still waiting for the results from the testing at the orphanage, which would decide if more extensive testing would be needed among the general population.
In the meantime, the town's doctors had been warned to look out for anyone showing any of the known symptoms.
The details of such people would then be passed back to the headquarters and measures would then be taken to transfer the suspected patient to the Medical Centre.
Currently, the primary concern of the council was with the boy, one Oliver Rundle - aged eight - an orphan of the state - presently located in Hope Springs.
Somebody needed to interview the boy to find out his recent movements and to ascertain how he had picked up the disease.
When this need was brought up with the council, there were several winces,
and sharp hissing sounds similar to the ones made by garage mechanics as they wiped their hands after briefly looking under the hood of your car.
The mayor of Hope Springs was not popular with the Union hierarchy.
Which was fair enough considering that the Union itself ranked high on the list of things the Mayor of Hope Springs hated stepping in.
The best approach, it was decided, would be through the town's doctor, Dr Tukiko Troy, by happy coincidence, the mayor's daughter.
Dr Unwin was assigned the task - leaving the fifty-five-year-old doctor wondering just what it was she had done wrong.
Joe was enjoying a cigar in the back yard when one of the staff poked his head around the door.
"Mister Spivey? They've got your test results back."
Joe carefully nipped the half-smoked cigar, and it disappeared into the duster.
He followed the man back through the building, his nostrils taking in the growing smell of overcooked cabbage coming from the floors above.
Tai was waiting for him in the office along with the same technician from before,
this time holding a clipboard rather than the glass tube that had earned him the rather splendid black eye he was sporting.
"Mister Spivey," the tech began. "We've got your results back from the lab and, like mister, er..." He scanned the sheet looking for a surname. Not finding one, he made do. "...
Taiyoko? You'll both be pleased to know that you are free of the typhoid bacteria."
Joe rubbed his hands.
"Great news, eh Tai?" He playfully punched his overseer on the arm before going back to hand rubbing. "Great, so. We'll be on our way, eh?"
Joe was half turned towards the door before the voice of the tech stopped him.
"Oh, I'm sorry, mister Spivey. Perhaps you didn't know." Joe turned slowly. The tech didn't know Joe, or his moods so carried on regardless.
"Although the test results are negative, you will still need to remain in quarantine here for the next few days." Then he made the mistake of grinning.
"I believe they are serving dinner upstairs. Bon appetite."
Joe punched him again, the other eye this time, to even things up.