Chapter Twenty-Seven: All’s Fair in Love and War
Lydia: I got the day off. Were you able to do the same?
Christine: I called in sick
Lydia: Great stuff! Shall we meet - 11ish? Same place?
Christine: OK! I’ll c u then. Thx again Lyds!
Lydia: Don’t worry sweetie - we’re going 2 get him!
It was Wednesday morning, and today the pair of them were preparing to make a return to the hospital. This time Lydia had a plan, or something resembling one - she hoped.
Her mind briefly wandered back to her short confrontation with Dr. Lawson and the heated discussion she had with Paul Healey, the administrator.
One, was most certainly a smooth operator, while the other, a sly dog, but neither of them had seen the worst of her yet. Lydia smiled. She was just getting started.
Before she left her apartment that morning she made a brief mental note to call her big sister, Stephanie. Amidst the excitement of the last few days she had almost forgotten that her sister’s due date was fast approaching.
She couldn’t believe she was going to be an aunt. It seemed like only yesterday she was seven, and her sister twelve, and they were out in the fields dissecting insects together.
But look at her big sister now, famous and highly revered in her public life. She smiled to herself. Although, to Lydia, her sister would always be a loving clown, rather than this larger-than-life china doll everyone painted her out to be.
Nevertheless despite herself she was beginning to warm to the idea of becoming an aunt. After all there were indeed some benefits to this. As the saying goes: whenever you get tired you can always give them back. Ha! Yes! She was going to spoil the little bubba rotten, however, she would most certainly be exercising that special right! She derived immense comfort in this fact. In her experience, babies were nothing, if not a huge inconvenience. They dribbled, they flopped around, and they puked all over you, with little, to no, provocation. Well, the babies she’d had the misfortune of holding did. Dread the thought her friends knew her true feelings about their little pride and joy. But she couldn’t pretend – Yuck! Babies were much more of a hassle than any demanding job could ever be!
But babies are real - they are not an occupation. They are you. You are them. And they say something about us.
‘Do they?’ Lydia shrugged. She didn’t have time to be philosophical right now. She closed her front door and quickly made her way to the underground car park.
Elsewhere in London Christine was trying her best not to cry but was failing miserably. Baby Tobey had turned a darker shade of grey. Today he looked like someone who was dying. And when she called out to him the weight of his condition bore down on his voice.
“Christine…I’m worried…I’m worried about Blembub” He couldn’t disguise the panic in his voice. “He’s my best friend…He’s going to be arriving any day now. What if he comes here?”
“Please Tobey. Try not to worry about this. We’re going to put a stop to whatever Dr. Lawson doing. I promise you - we will! Just try to concentrate on you...for the moment...”
Tobey fell silent as he continued with his fight to draw breath. It was tortuous. It chilled Christine to the bone. But she could not drown out Tobey’s feeble attempts to breathe, being unfortunately privy to both his thoughts and his struggle.
“Christine. I wish I had met your son Jerry,” he said suddenly.
“I wish he had met you too,” she smiled through her tears. “I think you would have been friends. You do remind me of him you know.”
“Really?” Tobey’s voice scaled up a notch “Why? Did he repeatedly ask you random questions? And bored you silly with his dry wit?” He asked playfully.
“Ha! I’m sure he would have Tobey,” she laughed, “In time, I’m sure he would have.” She looked down at his tiny fingers and began to caress them. “And Tobey my dear. You don’t have to be to be sorry about anything, I love hearing from you. It’s been the biggest revelation of my life so far. Always feel free to ask me anything you want.”
Tobey grew quiet “Am I going to die?”
Christine said nothing.
“It’s okay - you don’t have to answer that.” He quickly retracted but then said. “Did you tell my parents I will always love them?”
“I did,” she gulped.
“I feel really sorry for them you know,” Tobey said freely. “Where I am going to is a lot better than earth - in so many ways. For starters I’ll be free from this wearisome burden of loss which people drag around with them like a bag of cement. I can’t even begin to describe to you just how crushing that feeling is to the human spirit. It really takes its toll on you,” he sighed. “Oh my poor parents!” He suddenly exclaimed recalling his mum and dad’s current predicament. “I really hope - regardless of what happens - that they’re going to be okay, and that they’re going to carry on, and that they are going to DO WELL!” he said in a blazing panic. “Remember, it’s important that they do. I know I am their son,” he breathed in raspingly “but…they are also my people, if you know what I mean…”
Christine found she was trembling. She was unable to take in a steady breath. “Christine I know how you’re feeling,” Tobey said gently. “I can feel it. But you have to understand something: hurt people hurt. It’s understandable but I’m afraid it’s not excusable,” he paused. “Christine you have to let go of your hurt.”
“I don’t know how to,” she gulped.
“You have to,” he said with force.
She lowered her voice. “When you meet this Creator - this Creator of Love. Please ask it to heal your parents’ wounds. I suppose, if you have to go, then…that’s all I could really ask for I guess.”
“I will do,” he replied. “And I’ll ask the same for you too.”
Lydia had left Christine in the room with baby Tobey. It was time for her to do some searching of her own.
Soon enough she happened upon the section she had set out to find.
Lydia caught him just as he was preparing to leave the area.
“What are you doing here?” Richard asked. There was no sting in his voice. He immediately sensed that she was alone.
“I…don’t actually know…” Lydia said. It was an honest reply. She had been looking for him but she didn’t know why.
They stood there staring at each other. It seemed to go on forever.
Lydia’s heart sank as she slowly took him in. She glanced over his dark, shiny, hair, his bright grey eyes, and well defined features. Wow! It only just dawned on her that she was in fact looking at an incredibly handsome man.
And one - she kicked herself - she had uncharacteristically begun to warm to, in spite of herself.
Nevertheless that didn’t stop the questions from being wrenched out her.
What would make this seemingly, well-put-together, human being, commit the atrocities he was doing now? She asked herself.
What was it all in aid of?
What was he doing?
Just look at the man. What a shame. What a waste!
Much to her annoyance she began to feel heavily conflicted. This baffled her.
So what? The man’s a lunatic - that’s clearly his problem!
But why was she feeling so passionately about it?
I hate waste! That’s all! Especially in people. I hate waste. What a waste!
But something else was going on here. There was a name for this wretched emotion. And it didn’t take Lydia long to figure it out; and the realization knocked her for six. ’Oh my God! I’m lamenting!’ She acknowledged with astonishment. ‘But why am I lamenting? What did it matter to her what he was?’
As she stood facing him she sensed there was something most delicate and intangible growing between them. She could feel it as one feels sunlight spilling into an empty room.
But this light wasn’t without its shadows; for it was being eclipsed by a depressingly looming question. A question that put paid to everything else: how could anything good ever come from this?
She saw a stirring in his eyes.
What was he thinking?
Richard slowly let his eyes roam all over her body. There was nothing that he didn’t like. Her eyes were like stained glass: Hazel. Green. Grey. Amber…He could stare at her exquisite face all day long. Even her height pleased him, which was a strange thing for him to notice. In the past, he’d never really given much thought to a woman’s height. She was anatomically perfect! Fully blossomed, taut, ripe - however one describes beauty these days. He didn’t want her to leave. Not just yet.
“You caught me on my way out to lunch,” he paused. “Lydia…that is your name right? Is it okay if I call you Lydia?”
“That’s okay,” she replied.
“Would you mind taking a walk with me?”
She had to quickly think: Before launching into battle, even generals at war met up to discuss terms, so going for a walk with him shouldn’t be too perilous a task? Lydia thought, or so she reasoned with herself. She responded with a quick nod, she didn’t quite trust herself to speak just yet.
Richard instantly fell by her side and they began to walk as naturally as two streams converging together. He steered her out of the ward and into the lobby and later down flights of stairs. They didn’t use the lifts.
Lydia had planned to ask him - outright- what exactly he was up to? And more importantly - why he was doing it? She had the strangest notion that he would tell her everything if she all but asked.
But Lydia never did seize the moment. Instead she became distracted by the questions he now put to her. And bizarrely, it had absolutely nothing to do with the looming matter at hand.
“You know. I didn’t really know anything about the East End, not until I started working here,” Richard said unexpectedly. “I only remember the little bits they told us in school - about the area getting bombed to smithereens during the Second World War but...other than that, I can’t really say I knew much else. How about yourself?”
They had left the neo-natal wing. It seemed he was leading her out of the building and onto the grounds. She had no objections.
Many times she caught Richard staring at the eclectic crowds of people moving in and around the hospital. He looked at them as though they were laboratory specimens - or at times – vermin, even.
Who does that? She wondered. More’s the point - who the hell does he think he is? Looking at people like that?
Bristling with fury she was primed to act on it. But oddly nothing materialized. Instead she found herself handling his failings as one handles their own shortcomings: with pity and swift forgiveness.
She looked at him. “Me too,” she eventually said giving a reply to his earlier question. “Although I don’t actually work in the area. It’s only recently that I’ve found myself venturing down here a lot more. It’s a really interesting place. It has a certain charm don’t you think?” She gave him a sideward glance. “It might just be me but I find there’s something strangely nostalgic, yet, inherently British about this part of London.”
Richard gave her an enthusiastic nod; he wanted her to keep on talking, so she kept on talking. And, so, they walked and talked, it seemed, with no particular destination in mind. They were just two people strolling around the hospital’s quiet, green spaces, walking and talking.
It was forecasted to rain, but - there they were - enjoying a sunny afternoon. Streams of vehicles pulled in and out of the industrial-sized car park; buses roared up and down the high street, chart music filtered through the airwaves, and workers shouted orders to one another. All this was going on around them yet Lydia remained transfixed and slightly bemused, realising, up until that very second, she had already committed to memory every word he had just said.
And then, from out of nowhere, a blue-bottle fly buzzed towards them and softly landed on the doctor’s cheek. Without a second thought Lydia gently brushed it away from his face. Richard immediately lowered his eyes, for him the gesture was more intimate than a kiss.
She titled her head back and smiled up at him. “You were saying,”
He carried on talking.
For reasons unknown to them they had comfortably gone from talking about, the best places to eat in East London, Moroccan Art – to childhood hobbies. Both of them privately bemused as to why they were talking about these things, and not rushing to discuss the more pressing matter at hand.
“So what do you like to do?” Richard said with a shuffle. He looked like a teenage boy receiving a trophy for his team.
“What do I like to do?” She laughed a self-conscious laugh. “I like to buy things,” she answered truthfully. “I buy clothes, accessories, art-work, furnishings…” she paused.
Now comes the judgement part. It always came
He was quiet. “Your place must be filled with interesting things.”
She double-took. “My place? Didn’t you just mention your father bought you back some iron carvings from Zambia, where he runs a health clinic for the blind? I’m sure your home must be filled with interesting things.”
“My home? No. Only my mind,” he quickly answered looking directly at her again. “...Only my mind…” They smiled at each other.
Meanwhile Dr. Metcalfe was quickly making her way towards the building. She was soon to begin her shift at the hospital. Her bright mind was being pulled in every direction. She was thinking about her busy work schedule, the lack of visits to her local gym, her overbearing mother, her hang ups, her future, and of course...her twisted relationship with Dr. Richard Lawson. Her life was beginning to feel like a mishmash of colossal failings. Broadmoor Halls, the ridiculously competitive girls’ only grammar school, she had attended, was a trip to the circus compared to the ups and downs of her working life.
Why did she move to London? Why did she fall in love?
She broke from her thoughts to look up and she was glad that she had. She froze. Although, it felt like her heart had momentarily stopped before she did.
Did her eyes deceive her? Or was that Richard in the distance? Oh my God…It is him!
From where she was standing, it looked like Richard was having a rather intimate discussion with a very attractive-looking woman. It was - it was her! Henrietta realized. It was that Lydia ‘Something-Something’ woman, who had stormed into baby Tobey’s room the other day.
He was talking to her…Why?
Henrietta was too far away to hear what they were saying. It didn’t matter. She didn’t want to be seen. She darted towards the hospital’s main entrance. As soon as she stepped into the air conditioned building she hovered by the window, hoping to catch a better glimpse of the two them.
There they were again.
Just look at them! Chattering away like lovebirds!
She and Richard were both down for the late shift today. She already planned to catch up with him later. She wanted to have a gentle discussion with him about his project with Diligence.
Gentle discussion! Her insides began to curdle
As if Richard warranted anything gentle from her, she seethed. He barely looks at me in public but just look how easy it is for him to swan around with a woman he barely knows. He’s gone too far this time - he’s gone too far!
Henrietta fumed. There was only so much she could take.
When she caught up with him later she wasn’t going to have a gentle discussion with him. She was going to confront him! Confront him with everything she knew about his shady dealings with Diligence.
As soon as the bitter thought flew into her mind she began to feel a little better.
She managed to tear her eyes away from the two of them; they appeared to be making their way back to the hospital.
Oh yes! She was going to confront him alright.
Henrietta briefly squeezed her eyes shut, as if to sear the offending images from her mind. She took a moment to compose herself and then headed towards the lifts. She had to move quickly, she didn’t have much time before her shift began.
I guess the question here is; where’s the rationality in all of this? What was Henrietta to gain by confronting Richard about Diligence? Or anything else for that matter. If God works in mysterious ways, then jealousy’s methods can only be akin to madness!
But in the end, however, after the heat has dissipated thinking of crossing an: imperceptible, over-wrought, highly-strung, pill-popping, paediatrician, might not altogether be a wise move by Henrietta. But that’s Henrietta’s choice. And I guess we all know how the saying goes: ‘Hell has no fury....And the rest of it...’
“So…” Paul Healey said looking at the Matron with apparent apprehension. “What do we have here?” His hands were clasped together as if in prayer. And from the look that Susan was giving him, he would - more than likely - be making one very soon.
“I’ve called you into the surveillance room because there’s something I think you have to see.”
Paul looked over at Roger, who was head of security at the hospital.
“You said this was about Dr. Lawson,” he whispered, “a senior medic on the ward. Are you sure we can’t discuss this…in private?” he added, looking uncomfortably over at Roger.
“No. I don’t think we can, Paul” Susan said gently shaking her head. “From the looks of it, this might be a lot more serious than we initially thought. And possibly, a matter for security.” She turned to Roger. “Please, if you don’t mind, could you run the tape again?”
Black and white video footage of the hospital grounds blinked onto the screen.
A large white estate car pulled into the premises. On the side it read: T-Code: Blood Urgent.
The driver was the only person in the vehicle. The car remained stationary for a few minutes, then someone exited the hospital and approached the car. It was Dr. Lawson.
No words were exchanged, or none, that was caught on camera. Then the doctor handed something over to the driver and returned back to the hospital.
“This footage was taken four weeks ago” Roger said looking at Paul.
“Errrm Matron Graham then gave me some more dates, and asked me to search through the back log - which I did, as you can see here…”
He clicked the mouse and another window opened up.
Again, it was the footage of the same view, taken from the same surveillance camera, and by the looks of it, from the same angle. A similar thing happened again, with Dr. Lawson quickly making his way towards the vehicle, handing something over, and heading straight back to the hospital.
“And this footage was filmed a year and a half ago,” Roger added.
Paul frowned. “What in heavens is he doing!” he exclaimed. “How many…”
“Thirteen times so far,” Susan answered. “There are still six more dates I would like to verify.”
“What does all this mean?”
“I don’t know Paul.” Susan replied. Her face gave nothing away. “After my initial chat with Dr. Lawson, I felt compelled to do some checking around of my own.
Now, I’m not one to defame any one of our staff members. But as you know, Paul, over the years, there’s been a significant rise in the number of natural mortalities. Particularly, on the neonatal ward. We can’t pretend that these deaths are anything but natural.”
She sighed and looked over at the frozen images on the monitor. “This is very odd, Paul. And in my experience odd is never very good.”
“What do we do now? We can’t just suspend him for odd behaviour can we Susan? We really don’t know what he’s doing. He could be handing over imported cigarettes for all we know!”
“Yes. And what a mighty coincidence that would be,” she drawled. “His strange jaunts to this vehicle seem to fall on the same days that these natural deaths have occurred. Like I said, I don’t want to cast aspersions here,” she lowered her voice, “But bear in mind, Dr. Lawson is down for deliveries; today, tomorrow and Friday...”
There was a long moment of silence. The implications of her words swirled in their minds like a toxic marinade.
“But Susan,” Paul said through pursed lips. “We don’t have anything concrete. In fact, we don’t have anything at all! I don’t think we can suspend him on the weight of this.”
The sweat from Susan’s eyebrow had steamed up her lenses. She took off her glasses, brought out her handkerchief and gave them a slow wipe. She then steadily said. “Paul. This might be a little out of our....remit. It might be something for the authorities to look into.”
It didn’t need to be articulated. Getting the police involved would be an extreme move for the hospital. Susan knew this very well, but that didn’t stop her from putting it out there. She knew the decision was only Paul’s to make.
Paul swallowed. He no longer had his hands clasped together but was briskly rubbing the back of his neck.
He had to think!
He turned to Roger. “Okay.” He said with a nod. “You can make the call. We’ll let the authorities figure it out. But in the meantime, everything remains as normal - okay? Which means Dr. Lawson can continue with his duties. After all, we’re still in the dark about what is actually going on here.”
He looked to the Matron. “We’ll leave the police to do their investigations. I just hope, to God, that there’s a reasonable explanation for all of this, that’s all!”
Paul seriously hoped he had made the right decision.
First; for getting the police involved. And secondly; allowing Dr. Lawson to continue working.
Of course, the safety of all the lives residing at the hospital was indeed paramount. Nevertheless, the hospital’s reputation was also a strong concern of his. At this point, he couldn’t honestly say which one of the two was more important to him right now.
Was he wrong to feel so conflicted about this?
He shrugged who cares! He was just relieved nobody could hear his deepest thoughts.