Stunned, Ringo and George took Paul's feet as John lifted Paul's arms. The sleet-rain pelted their backs and soaked their clothes as they carried him to the car. George took the wheel again and this time, Ringo sat in front because John wanted to be with Paul in the backseat.
George started the car they drove off slowly, as the street was now a bit slippery. He didn't want to take any chances.
Ringo turned and faced the backseat; Paul, white and cold with his eyes closed, had his head in John's lap and John was staring worriedly at him.
"What do you think we should do?" Ringo said softly to John.
"I don't know," John replied. "Should we take him to the hospital?"
"Should we?" Ringo addressed George.
"I don't know," George answered, giving a troubled glance at the motionless form. "Feel his forehead, John."
John obeyed. He gently put his hand on Paul's forehead, not knowing whether absolute coldness or burning fever would be better than the other would.
"He's hot," he muttered.
"Let's take him back to the hotel and see what we can do from there." John didn't argue with George's logic.
They pulled into the front of the lobby and the car was immediately surged by fans.
"Fuck, how do we get through?" John's eyes flickered up to meet Ringo's.
"Don't worry." Ringo pointed towards the lobby's double-doors and at the people coming out.
The band was ushered out of the car. Paul, who was still unconscious, was slung like a sack over John's shoulder. Energy rushed into John's thin frame, enabling him to carry Paul all the way to the elevator.
"Don't worry, Paul, we're almost there," John said through gritted teeth. He mentally tried to block the sound of the fans' screaming and focus on Paul's shallow breathing. He managed to do it, but as soon as he heard the weak breaths, he wished he hadn't, but did not tune out. They got up to their rooms and the other two helped John carry Paul and set him on his bed.
Brian Epstein was back in John and Paul's room, pacing it angrily, thinking that the boys had run out for some mischief when they should have been in their rooms. The door slammed open and Brian looked up, visibly startled. He saw John, George and Ringo's faces and was about to scold them, but saw that they had someone in their hands--Paul.
"John--is Paul okay?" Brian gasped out, fear hitting him right in his heart, which made it lurch in guilt. Why hadn't he noticed Paul's bed was empty? Paul had been very ill--how could he have gone anywhere? Why hadn't he found another doctor even if the one they had had actually helped Paul come to?
"I don't know." John's reply was very sharp and closed Brian out of the Beatles' circle (at least for the time being).
Brian was silent.
"Eppy, could you please get us a doctor?" John said, not as amiably as the words would have you believe.
Brian bobbed his head in the affirmative and left.
"We'd better get him out of his wet clothes," Ringo said, remembering his childhood days in the hospital.
John unbuttoned Paul's sodden coat and George unwound the damp scarf. Ringo pulled off the muddy shoes. Now Paul lay in sopping pajamas.
"Ummm..." John was unsure what to do now.
"This is no time to get squeamish, John," George admonished. "Help get him out of those wet clothes."
John found himself complying. Paul was redressed in warm clothes and wrapped up well in blankets.
"We should keep him warm," John said, glad that he could still think. "Me auntie always kept me warm when I had a fever. I'd sweat and then it'd be gone."
The others did not argue.
They talked quietly for a while, staying by Paul's bed. They had a feeling that he needed to know that his friends were with him.
"Hello, lads," he said with a rather subdued air.
George, Ringo and John exchanged glances. Brian must've really done a job on him.
"Mr. Epstein wanted me to check your friend."
They moved from Paul's bed to three chairs set in row. John sat, crossed his arms, and watched the doctor under knit brows. George leaned his head on his hand and his arm on his knee and watched. Ringo simply looked on with a troubled expression. But they all emanated a trace of something...
They didn't trust him.The doctor knew this, but said nothing and maybe felt that he deserved it. He took Paul's temperature and made clucking noises. Ringo's expression grew even more troubled and John's grew angrier.
The doctor listened to Paul's heartbeat and his face changed. He listened again. He immediately popped some pills into Paul's mouth and washed them down with water.
"Mr. Epstein," the doctor said with a pale face and controlled voice, "please call an ambulance."
Brian went a little white and rushed out of the room. The three Beatles and the doctor could hear him barking out orders.
"What's wrong with Paul, Doctor?" George voiced the question the others didn't ask.
The doctor only shook his head.
"Will he---will he be---all right?" George managed to choke out, trying to swallow a nauseating fear that rose within him.
"I don't know," the doctor answered frankly. "His heart is beating a little faster than I have recorded in the past few days. His temperature is quite high, but it--isn't that that's..."
"That's what?" John asked with an acid touch to his voice.
"...that's worrying me," the doctor finished. "There's---just something that's not quite right about his condition."
"And can you tell us what that is, sir?" John asked with pursed lips.
"I can't," the doctor said, meeting John's eyes squarely. "I don't even know exactly what it is myself."
John sighed and subsided into silence.
Ringo leaned over and pressed John's hand, his own concerns about Paul becoming a worry that encompassed both John and Paul.
John and Paul. Ringo thought about that. John and Paul's names fit so well together, like the music they made. They were the best of friends, musical soul-mates and something else Ringo couldn't exactly put his finger on. All he knew was that he couldn't really think of one without the other. He meant: he could hang out with Paul and not think, "Where's John?" and vice versa and he knew what they were like on their own. But even though his imagination could see them without each other, it was almost unthinkable.
He was right.
Ringo closed his eyes and saw themselves talking and laughing and in his mind's eye, saw John, Paul, and George laughing over a picture of a fat woman.
He smiled, but his inner eye closed and he was reminded of the scene before him: John looking tired, worried and pained as he kept his watch on Paul, George leaning his head on both hands, the weight of his brotherly love and worry for Paul stooping his young shoulders.
John could only look on as his friend-brother was strapped onto a stretcher and taken away.
"Can we come with him?" George was asking Brian.
Brian's expression was a bit dubious, but after contemplating them all, replied in the affirmative.
Someone plucked at John's arm. "We're going, John," said a voice.
John forced himself to stand and he started walking out of the room.
Shouts and flashes of light began to fill the corridor.
"Shit!" George said. "Come 'ead, John!"
He grabbed John's arm and pulled him through the door that adjoined to Ringo and George's room, as the reporters and a few shrieking fans had already made their way into the other room. They managed to all get lost in the crowd and everyone was so keen on getting into John and Paul's room that they didn't see the three Beatles running right past them.
They got into the lobby just as the ambulance was getting Paul in place and getting ready to leave. Mal Evans and Neil Aspinall, part of the Beatles' entourage, were keeping stray reporters and fans away from the ambulance while the policemen kept the majority back.
"Come on, you lot!" Neil shouted to them. "They're just about ready to leave!"
John got in the lead as they ran to the ambulance and quickly got in. The doors were pulled closed and John took a seat by Paul's head. The ambulance workers themselves looked like they wanted to ask for an autograph, but saw their tensed faces and said nothing.
They didn't have to. The fans shrieked and wailed behind them, but, the three Beatles noted, exchanging glances, it was not a Beatlemania sort of noise.
It was sad and they could hear some of them yelling, "Take care of him, John, George, and Ringo" "We love you, Paul" "God bless you and keep you safe!"
"I was having the same feelings myself," George said.
Copyright 2000 and beyond: Lissa Michelle Supler/Strawberry Sunshine
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