Chapter 4 Tears
Early in his career A. J. Fitzsimmons had learned the importance of maintaining an attentive, caring facial expression, no matter how dull the conversation. It never ceased to surprise him how people would open up their feelings—and their wallets—to him if only he looked as if he were listening. He would lean back in his chair slightly, furrow his brow, and keep his eyes half closed, coming across wise and concerned instead of what he really felt—bored and impatient.
It didn't hurt that he had a naturally approachable manner. One rich, fluttery woman told him he looked like he could be the younger brother of American actor Robert Young of Marcus Welby fame.
"You're so trustworthy," she said.
The secret was nodding thoughtfully every 30 seconds or so and keeping one ear attuned to the conversation in order to add an intelligent comment, correct a mistake that could come back to bite him in the arse, or respond to a direct question. To some people pretending to listen was rude, but it helped A. J. achieve his goals. And if his goals were good—then rudeness didn't matter.
As Carl Slater continued reviewing the minutia of the financial report that those seated at the long mahogany table could easily read for themselves, Fitzsimmons gave the president of St. Bart's another approving nod.
Likes to hear himself talk too much, he thought. A poor leader.
To achieve important goals, a good leader needed to listen more and speak less. Fitzsimmons had learned that in the navy. He had done just that when he explained the details of the Jilbert Foundation grant and answered board members' questions. This grant was a feather in his cap—the biggest grant the hospital had received in the last five years.
A good leader also engaged with his staff. Slater had done the right thing in inviting Dr. Hooper to the meeting so she could receive proper credit for her research, but he should have let her leave after she presented a summary of her original paper. Having her sit through the financials was cruel and unusual torture.
A. J. stole a glance at her across the table. She wore her brown hair pulled attractively to one side in a ponytail, which let her absently pull on a long strand and twist it around her finger. She was a pretty girl, obviously smart and from what he could tell, sweet. She was the type of girl he would have like to have seen his son bring home. He could picture her raising a family, being a concerned and caring wife like his beloved Willa.
He had never met Molly until her research fit the requirements for the grant he was working on. She had been easy to work with, very accommodating. She did insist on accuracy regarding anything to do with her work, but she wasn't after any glory. At the foundation center reception and in this meeting she looked very uncomfortable in receiving attention. In fact, she seemed preoccupied and rather sad during all of their encounters. And then there was that odd business at the reception. He never would have imagined someone of Dr. Hooper's quality to be associated with a drug addict.
A J. nodded again at Slater, who for some reason was still talking.
A good leader did whatever was required to achieve his goals and advance the common good, including getting out of the way of his own ego. A. J. believed this wholeheartedly. He knew he wasn't the most important piece of the puzzle. He knew where his talents lay—in working a room and courting donors. He wouldn't discover a cure for cancer, but his efforts would help fund research at St. Bart's for years. That helped him sleep well at night.
He let his gaze drift. The half dozen men and women stared at the financial report either on paper or on their tablets; a few sycophants watched Slater with rapt attention. His gaze fixed on Molly Hooper. The poor girl was nearly dozing off. A. J. was suddenly jolted to full awareness—Slater had said Molly's name and all eyes were on her. It was obvious from her slight gasp that she hadn't learned the secret of keeping one ear tuned into the conversation.
Molly sat up straight. "I . . . um . . .that is to say—"
A good leader knew how to save the day.
A. J. jumped in quickly. "I'm sure we all would like to hear more about Dr. Hooper's future research, but I'm afraid that will have to wait until another time." He tapped his watch meaningfully. "Several board members have flights to catch, Carl, and we're already running late."
Slater acquiesced. "Let's bring this meeting to a close."
After taking his time to say his good-byes, A. J. spied Molly hanging back, waiting for him. After everyone had left, she approached. "Thank you. I should have been paying attention."
"To tell you the truth, I wasn't listening to him either." He gave her a conspiratorial wink.
As they walked toward the elevator, he noticed the grim set of her mouth. "I hope I'm not being too forward, Dr. Hooper, but would you mind me asking, is anything the matter?"
She hesitated as if she were trying to reduce a complicated situation to a few simple words. "Someone very dear to me is going through a hard time right now."
He paused. "The young man at the reception?"
"Yes." Her large brown eyes filled quickly.
"He did seem rather . . . troubled."
"He's a very good man who has lost his way right now." A lone tear streaked down her cheek. She blushed to her roots. "And now I'm crying. I'm afraid I've cemented your opinion of me as the most unprofessional doctor in this hospital."
"Nonsense." He pressed the button for the first floor. "I don't think you're unprofessional. I find your candor refreshing."
She looked as if she wanted to smile. "You're too kind."
"I mean it," A. J. said. "I would very much like to have tea with you today, if you aren't busy."
A strange look flitted across Molly's face. "I don't . . . that is, I'm flattered but . . . you see, I'm attached . . . or at least I was and . . ."
A. J. felt a little sad. Many women found him very attractive. Still, he hadn't thought through how his invitation might come across to a young woman like Molly.
"Dr. Hooper, I would hope we could be friends. Would that be all right? Think of me as an uncle, nothing more."
She sheepishly nodded. "Please call me Molly."
"I take it the young man at the reception is your boyfriend? He seemed very concerned in defending your honor."
"Yes," she said quietly.
"Well, you can tell him I'm glad he punched Evan Kincaid. I've wanted to do so many times!" He stopped laughing abruptly. "What's the matter, Molly?"
She had gone ghastly pale. "You haven't heard?"
"Evan Kincaid was murdered. He is in the morgue right now. Dr. Pritchard did his autopsy."
A. J. sucked in a sharp breath. The elevator felt as if it were in free fall. "Evan is dead? I just saw him at your reception!"
"He was murdered that night. Are you all right?"
"I'm fine, I'm just shocked." A. J. steadied himself as the doors quietly slid open. "Do the police know who did it?"
"I—I'm sorry, Mr. Fitzsimmons. I have to go." Molly fled the elevator as if she were being pursued.
A. J. leaned heavily on his cane and walked out slowly. Evan Kincaid is dead?
The third stall from the left was Molly's favorite; she often referred to it as her second office. Located in the corner, it felt roomier than the others and was easier to hide in and not be seen or heard. She knew every mark and scratch on the door and the way the latch stuck and you had to jiggle it just so to make it release. Over the last six months, she had spent a lot of time crying in that stall. Luckily her lab assistant, Lori Koetsier, understood the situation and never questioned it when Molly would run to the loo unexpectedly.
Molly's eyes felt hot and unexpectedly dry, considering she was sobbing. Molly was surprised she hadn't run dry of tears ages ago. She didn't think she had anything left in her to cry about Sherlock.
A. J. is going to think that I am mad, she thought and began hiccoughing. She had noticed him furtively sneaking glances at her during the board meeting. And then his invitation to have tea—it was all too much. She reminded herself that he had said to think of him as an uncle. I can do that.
Pulling a long portion of toilet paper, she blew her nose hard. There had been no getting out of the board meeting, even though it had fallen on her day off. She had been in shock for most of it, having heard from John right before she came in to work. She had just enjoyed a long lie-in and was heading to the shower when John called. He didn't beat around the bush—they had long past that point concerning Sherlock. He simply told her about the murder, Sherlock's arrest, and Lestrade's plan to prove him innocent.
"How can this be happening?" she had asked, bewildered. With no time to process the fact that Sherlock was under arrest—for murder—she barely heard what John explained next, only that he ended with, "I won't ask you to help."
"Of course I'll help," she had said automatically.
"Good, good. We'll need to see the autopsy report. You didn't do it, did you?"
"No, this is my day off."
"Greg can get it, of course. I called Kincaid's secretary and she agreed to talk to me. I told her I am helping Scotland Yard, which is true I suppose."
"I'm off to see her now. I'm meeting up with Greg and Anderson after. Will you join us?"
"I'll text you where and when. Molly, are you sure you're all right?"
She wasn't, of course. She didn't think she would ever be all right again.
"Of course I'll help," she repeated in the washroom. "I'll help the man who has abandoned me, scoffs at my love for him, and hurts me. I'll help the man who took our relationship and threw it away when it didn't fit in with his drug use. I'll help the man who embarrassed me at John and Mary's wedding and at my reception—my reception—simply because he is a selfish prick. And why? Why?
"Because," she concluded bitterly, "I still believe in Sherlock Holmes."
And she burst into tears once again; out of despair or anger she couldn't tell.