“Morning.” Duffy groaned as she dragged herself into the kitchen and plonked herself down heavily at the table.
Robyn did an exaggerated double take, “Duffy? Up and out of bed? But it’s ten to seven!”
“Yeah, yeah, leave it out” Duffy said as she attempted to drag her hand through her tangled hair.
“So what’s the occasion?”
“I don’t need an occasion to be up early do I?” Robyn nodded and poured her flatmate a cup of tea. Duffy gratefully accepted it and held it in both hands enjoying the warmth of the ceramic.
“Don't tell me, you were so late yesterday that you're afraid that if you're late again today the Old Battleaxe will eat you alive?” Robyn giggled.
“Thanks for your sympathy!”
“I'm right though, aren't I?” Duffy nodded solemnly and Robyn gave her a sympathetic smile, “Was she really awful to you?”
Robyn knew perfectly well what Sister MacIntosh was like. Although she'd never worked under her herself she'd known a few nurses who had. Most hadn't lasted as long as Duffy had though. She was quite surprised by how well Duffy coped with the woman, her friend gave off the impression of being a bit soft but under that was a seriously stubborn streak that Robyn was rather impressed by.
“To start with she was horrible,” Duffy replied making a face, “but then I got rescued!” Robyn watched as her eyes lit up and a smile appeared from nowhere.
“Oh yeah? Come on then, tell all!” Robyn bounced excitedly in her chair. There was nothing like a bit of gossip to start the day off with.
“Well, MacIntosh was having a right go at me in the middle of the room when Charlie Fairhead - he’s the charge nurse in Casualty…”
“Yeah, I know him, everybody knows him!” Interrupted Robyn.
Duffy pouted, “I didn’t. Anyway, he started having a go at MacIntosh, saying how she shouldn’t be attacking her staff when there’s a job needing doing. He shut her up, just like that!” She clicked her fingers in demonstration.
“Wish I’d seen that!”
“He was fantastic…” Duffy chewed absently on her bottom lip and stared deep into her mug.
“Oh my God!”
“What?” Duffy’s head shot up to see what Robyn was exclaiming about.
“You’ve got a crush on him! Haven’t you?” She pointed her finger accusatorily at Duffy and resumed her bouncing.
“You have! How long have I known you Lisa Duffin? I can tell when you have a crush on someone. Like that Mickey the bartender at The Crown, you were stupid over him for ages”.
Duffy cringed as she remembered. It was true that she fancied Mickey, he was very handsome young man of about her age who was always smiling. One night she, Robyn and a couple of the other young nurses had filed down to The Crown for a few drinks. Duffy had ended up having one too many Babycham’s and after some gentle persuasion from her friends she had gone up to the bar to ask him for a date. She was over the moon when he agreed. Unfortunately his wife wasn’t. Duffy had made a point of avoiding The Crown ever since
“I do not have a crush on Charlie Fairhead. End of story Robyn”. She replied in her most decisive tone of voice.
“I believe you, thousands wouldn’t”. Robyn said as she rose from her chair, “I’m off for my shower”.
Robyn left the room with a smug smile across her face. She knew Charlie by sight and by reputation, in fact on her first day on the Cardiac Care ward her Sister had warned her about the ‘pain in the neck from A&E’ who would periodically appear to complain that he had a patient in desperate need of a bed. Except, as Robyn recalled, she didn’t use the word ‘neck’. Still, no one doubted that he was good at his job and she’d noticed a fair number of her fellow nurses rated him pretty highly as an eligible bachelor too. Maybe Duffy had finally set her eye on a guy who wasn’t a complete pillock.
“Charlie, a word…” Ewart greeted Charlie as he arrived for work. As Charlie was the senior nurse and Ewart was the senior doctor it wasn’t unusual for them to start the day in conference over departmental procedures. However the look on the old consultant’s face showed quite clearly that this morning there was something wrong.
Charlie followed Ewart into the staffroom and closed the door behind them.
“Two things. Do you want the bad news, or the really bad news?” His white moustache twitched as he spoke.
“Start with the bad news, ease me into it”. Charlie smiled, but it was a gesture not reciprocated by Ewart.
“Mary Harris, Lizzie Thompson and Ed McCafferty are all off sick. Something about food poisoning, I believe. Apparently they all went to some party last night”.
Charlie groaned. Three off his nurses were off and Clive King was still on holiday too.
“How am I supposed to run this department without any staff!” Charlie protested loudly, feeling an irrational anger build up inside of him. Ewart waited patiently for Charlie to calm down.
“I’m sure we’ll cope somehow”. Charlie was about to protest but Ewart held his hand up to command silence. Charlie closed his mouth and dropped into one of the chairs.
“Well if that’s the not-so-bad news, what else is there?”
“Ahh.” Ewart sat in the chair opposite to Charlie’s, “Last night after we shut up shop I did a quick inventory of the department”.
Charlie raised his eyebrows. In his experience there was no such thing as a quick inventory and when Ewart got stuck into tasks like that he was always very thorough; he must have been there half the night. It didn’t really surprise him though; he’d heard the rumours that flew around the department about the state of Ewart’s marriage. He probably used it as a good excuse to avoid Ros for a few more hours.
“And, even allowing for the fact that things in this department often seem to wander out of the door on their own volition, there is a very noticeable discrepancy in the drugs inventory”. The two men’s face both wore the same solemn expression.
“Are you saying what I think you’re saying? Someone’s been nicking drugs?”
“I believe so,” he reached into his jacket pocket, pulled out a sheet of folded paper and held out for Charlie to take, “Here, read that and tell me what you think”.
On the paper, in Ewart’s familiar scrawl were details on exactly what was missing. “Quite a cocktail!”
“No joking matter Charlie, this is systematic theft of hospital property and judging by the amounts that have been taken, not for personal use.”
“This is all we need. Hardly any staff to start with and out of the staff we have, one of them’s a thief!”
“Any suspects spring to mind?” Ewart asked, making Charlie feel somewhat uncomfortable. He considered the members of the department to be friends, and until two minutes ago would have dismissed the idea of any of the stealing from the hospital out of hand.
“No. None. Look Ewart, I know this is a serious business, but in the meantime we still have to keep the department running. I’ll have to get some agency nurses in for cover…”
“I’d rather you didn’t. We can’t keep track of our own staff, I don’t want to confuse matters by bringing in outsiders Charlie, not until this is sorted out.” He took the list of missing drugs back from Charlie and scanned down it, shaking his head in dismay.
“So what do you expect me to do? I can’t run this place single-handed! You know as well as I do that this department is not supposed to run with less than six nurses...”
“I know that,” Ewart replied in his best diplomatic voice, “which is why I was on the phone to our Mr Parker first thing. He’s given the department carte blanche to recruit some more nurses, on the proviso that they come from within the hospital. That way we can keep track of them better apparently”.
“So I’m supposed to wander around the hospital pinching nurses off the other wards. It’s hardly very practical Ewart…”
“It’s the best we’ve got Charlie, and at the moment I’m rather keen to keep Parker on side”.
Charlie raised an eyebrow at Ewart’s cryptic remark but it was clear that the doctor had no intention of elaborating.
“Fine. If that’s all we’re going to get I’ll take it, but I’m not happy about this”. Charlie conceded reluctantly.
“Duly noted. But about this other matter; the Police have been informed but they say that there’s little they can do without concrete evidence, so for now we’ll have to deal with this internally. So keep it under your hat, and we’ll start doing daily stock takes, maybe that’ll help narrow things down a bit. Apart from that, we must be vigilant Charlie. Nobody is above suspicion; understand?”
“‘Cept you and me!”
Ewart didn’t answer as such, merely grunted distractedly and rose from his seat.
Duffy made herself comfortable on the staff room’s sofa, enjoying the luxury of having a few minutes to relax during her mid-morning coffee break. She picked up a discarded newspaper and scanned through the pages until she reached the horoscopes.
“Here we are… A situation that has hitherto left you feeling unfulfilled will be resolved today as a new opportunity arises. Now is the time to re-evaluate your priorities as Saturn, the planet of staying power, moves out of your sign, giving you reason to feel the need for a change. However the road ahead may not be a smooth one, beware rash decisions… Hmm, interesting”.
Duffy scanned over the paragraph again; hoping to soak up any hidden meanings that would help her to plan the day ahead. She knew that not many people put much faith in astrology but it was something that she believed in wholeheartedly, even if she hadn’t quite got it figured out completely.
A brief rapping on the door interrupted her daydreams about possible new opportunities and where they would take her. A second later the door opened to reveal Charlie Fairhead.
“Hello again. Not interrupting am I?” He said, stepping inside the room but holding the door open, ready to leave if need be.
“No, I’m just, erm, catching up on world events." She said indicating the paper, "Was there something you wanted Charlie?”
He took another couple of steps into the room and let the door fall shut behind him. He paused for a second, with both hands plunged deep into the pockets of his white coat and frowned slightly not really knowing where to start.
“I just wanted to apologise about yesterday,” he said slowly, “I shouldn’t have interfered”.
“Oh?” Duffy replied not really understanding.
“What I mean is, I hope that MacIntosh didn’t take it out on you once I’d left. Sometimes I don’t think before I speak and I hope I didn’t get you into more trouble” Charlie said sincerely.
“She spent most of the rest of the day in her office, and I was early this morning so she didn't have any reason to complain. I think yesterday she was too shocked to take anything out on anyone,” Duffy grinned, and Charlie relaxed, “I don’t know what she’d do if she caught you here though!”
“I just wanted to make sure that everything was all right…”
“Oh it is. Honest.” She interrupted, “But it’s nice of you to come and check”. Duffy could feel her cheeks start to burn and Robyn’s voice taunted her about having a crush. She just hoped that Charlie didn’t notice.
“Well actually it isn’t. I have an ulterior motive you see…” he admitted, bringing one hand up and rubbing the back of his head as he spoke.
“What kind of ulterior motive?” She asked wondering, or perhaps even hoping that he was about to ask her out.
“Well, downstairs, we’re a bit short of staff, I thought that perhaps you might be willing to do a few shifts in A&E this week?”
“Me?” Duffy practically squeaked in surprise, she hadn’t ever dreamed she’d be head hunted for a job.
“It was just a thought. Most nurses don’t like swapping between departments, but I thought if things were still bad between you and MacIntosh that you might be persuadable”. He gave her a look that hovered somewhere between an impish smile and a hopeful pout.
“Are we allowed to move to different departments like that?”
“Does that mean you’re interested then?”
“I’ve thought about working in Casualty… sounds exciting, like”.
“That’s one word for it. Look, don’t worry about MacIntosh, I’ve got a signed decree from the powers that be that she can’t ignore. So do you want the job? It’s only going to be for a week or so…”
Duffy thought back to her horoscope for the day, this would certainly count as a new opportunity, and working in A&E did sound appealing to her sense of adventure. Not to mention she’d be working with Charlie…
“OK. I’d love to”. She affirmed, nodding her head decisively.
“Good. I’ll just go and sort this out with your boss then!”
Go to Part Five