Chapter Thirty-Three: Bad News Travels Quickly
‘Manor House: Murder Mystery!’
‘Oscar-Winner Sibling Slain in North London Block’
‘Pregnant Star Tears for Baby Sister’
Before lunch-time the story had worked its way into news bulletins across the globe.
From the fervent way in which the news was received one would have thought it was Hollywood darling, Stephanie Downes, who had met her fateful end, and not Lydia Cartwright-Snowden. A young, beautiful woman, whose life was lost long before the paramedics had even pulled out of the depot.
But as Lydia once jokingly riposted: ‘Any publicity was good publicity’
And it would appear she wasn’t too wide from the mark. Like a deer caught in headlights, St Margaret’s Hospital Trust fell under the full glare of the world’s media. Keith McGuiness the Fleet Street reporter who had been tipped off by Lydia had published an in-depth expose of the high number of baby deaths that had occurred at the infamous East London Hospital.
However there was only a brief mentioning of a certain MD, who may, or may not have had some part in the deaths of the newborns. But for legal reasons no further information could be provided about the staff member in question….
It was Friday morning and Dr. Lawson was sat at his desk at home overlooking the lab he had meticulously put together over the last few years.
He wasn’t reading the newspaper; he had already gone through it several times that morning. Instead, he was staring intently at the grey and white pixilated image of the slain victim: Lydia Cartwright-Snowden.
Richard wasn’t at work today. Paul Healey had called up earlier to have a brief chat with him.
“As you know,” Paul Healey’s nervous voice grated on him like a bee in his ear, “Ff-following hospital procedure. While under investigation, y-you are not permitted to enter the ward or venture onto the premises.” He stopped talking or breathing, Dr. Lawson couldn’t care which. Healey continued. “In some cases, and in this case,” he coughed, “we would like to see the latter adhered to.” He coughed again. “Well, at least until after the investigation period and such and such.”
If Richard didn’t think much of Paul Healey before, he deeply detested the man now. For as weakly as Paul could muster, he painfully waded through a list of Richard’s supposed rights as a senior member of staff, and the only serving MD on the board of directors.
So I have rights now? Richard listened in silent fury. I wasn’t aware they were ever in dispute!
On the other hand, although Paul Healey coughed, sputtered, and stammered his way through his uncomfortable conversation with Richard, the hospital administrator thought – considering the circumstances - he had handled everything quite swimmingly.
St Margaret’s was always used to dealing with queries from the press but this ferocious descent on the hospital was beyond what anyone could have ever had imagined.
This, was apparently all because of that Lydia woman. Who - as it turned out - really was Stephanie Down’s little sister. She had talked to a reporter about goings-on in the hospital before being found dead the following evening. Of course this was breaking news. It was no secret that he admired Dr. Lawson, it was hard not to. He was a highly intelligent, and resourceful fellow - an asset to the Trust. However, this was no longer about the board of trustees or its reputation. The NHS was now being dragged into the spotlight. He could sway and appease the department for Dr. Lawson, but he wasn’t about to take on the government for him. Richard would need to play by the rules, well at least until all this blows over. These bizarre revelations against him will soon prove to be nothing more than a misunderstanding of sorts. Of course Richard was not a killer – that’s absurd! The young doctor just needed to practice a little patience that was all that was needed here. Just a little patience. If only he could convey this to Richard somehow.
On the contrary, Richard did not share his colleague’s deepest sentiment. In fact, at that very moment, all Richard was earnestly wishing for, was that Paul Healey would one day grow a pair, keel over, and die.
“Paul. My lawyers will be in touch soon,” he said abruptly before ending the call. Leaving the hapless administer to gawp at the phone he held in his hand.
Of course Richard was lying. He had no intention of seeking legal representation; there was no need.
He again glanced at the photo of Lydia in the newspaper. Other than meeting her there was something strangely familiar about Lydia.
Her death was no doubt an accident Richard understood. Diligence was out to get Christine. They were out for Christine because it was he who had discursively told them where they could find her. He had done it - and he couldn’t lie, he knew what he was doing when he did it. He’d always known just how ruthless Diligence was. Powerful companies always are. He knew, although he didn’t admit it out loud, but he knew.
And just as simple as placing an order he had told them where to find Christine Shore. Knowing, what they were likely to do. Richard looked down at his shaking hands. So, although he couldn’t see a thing, they were now soaked in Lydia’s blood.
Everything you touch…dies...
‘I didn’t touch her!’ He said out loud. ‘I didn’t touch her…’ His words rang out in the air and drowned there...
Richard found there was something more sobering than realising that you are the sole cause of someone’s death…It’s when you know yours is just around the corner. Diligence was not going to go away - as Richard had foolishly hoped. He had messed up in elephantine proportions and this mistaken identity killing would only fall harder on him.
Richard had always been an extremely gifted, straight-A student, all of his life. But underneath it all he was mercilessly dogged with insecurities. Mainly struggling with failure. Only God knows why that was?
He couldn’t blame his father - he was not a bad man. To be fair, he did the best he could with him. So why did he have these persistent anxieties? He ran these questions over and over again in his mind.
Weakness. Poverty. Ignorance. Dependence. He didn’t wish any of these on himself, and he absolutely abhorred it when he saw it in others. But sat alone, in his ridiculously, overly-financed lab, Richard could see he was all the things he despised. He was: weak, poor, and ignorant in spirit, and all of this had made him dependent on the wrong things. The drugs… just another thing to hide behind. He was not clever - he was a coward, who hadn’t been able to slay any one of his demons. It’s no wonder he struggled with life.
Everybody has insecurities – everybody! So why did he let his get the better of him?
He gave a cheerless smile. Maybe the answers he sought were buried deep in his childhood, or lay somewhere within his genes? Whatever the answer was, it didn’t matter now. This character flaw had made his life, and it would later play a part in ending it.
He took another three of his treasured pills, reclined back in his chair and stared at his computer.
Splayed across the screen were excerpts from his favourite novel: The Lord of the Flies.
Richard surprised himself with his laughter. ‘Ha! And there he was trying to find the biggest discovery of all time and it was right there! Right in front of him - the internet!’ Richard began to chuckle like a mad man. ‘If not anything, the information superhighway was truly the most remarkable invention of the 20th century...It will change the world…’
He started to read his favourite paragraph. It was the part where the young protagonist in the story began to weep bitterly for the end of innocence, and for the death of his real friend, ‘Piggy’
Richard closed his eyes…
‘His friend! His friend!’ Richard could see his friend...
There were two babies: they were laughing and racing each other across a shiny white bridge. The bridge was connected to three separate mountains; it was the very same bridge the babies had built together, not too long ago...
‘Oh my God!’ Richard gasped looking at his friend. He had never experienced anything like it! It was electrifying! Delightful! Euphoric! He had never felt so munificent, so alive, so powerful! In his friends’ presence, and the feeling was mutual. He saw that his existence, empowered her too.
He turned to her and they smiled at each other. They were not alone. There was a group of them. All happy. All one. All free. Once upon a time in a faraway place...
‘Aaahhhh he knew it!’ He let out a big sigh, ‘He had met Lydia before…It was a very long time ago… Just before the start…’
The smile remained on Richard’s lips even when a stranger in the shadows arrived on the scene. There was nothing for the intruder to do; the job had already been done for him. He crept out as silently as he had come in.
It was the housekeeper who found Richard slumped across his chair. She had made the sign of the cross four times before calling the authorities. She was beside herself, in all her 54 years, she had never come across a dead body before...