First Impressions

Part Ten

Thursday morning found Charlie holed up in Ewart's office whilst the doctor was at yet another meeting to discuss the final arrangements for the opening of the permanent night shift. The department's staff were under strict direction that neither Ewart nor Charlie should be disturbed unless there was a major incident. However, as Charlie stared at the mass of paperwork in front of him he started to wish that that wasn't the case.

He had offered, in what, looking back, must have been a moment of complete madness, to try to cross-reference what little information they had about the drug thefts with the duty rosters. Except for finding out what they had already known, that just about all the staff were suspects, it wasn't helping at all. Out of the entire list of A&E staff he'd only been able to discount himself, Clive because he'd been on holiday, the three nurses with food poisoning, and Duffy for being too new an arrival. It still left plenty of others though.

Charlie stared down at the typed list of names he had in one hand and the scribbled list of missing stock in the other and sighed. It was pointless trying to work anything out like this. As the police had said, there needed to be some hard evidence before anything could be done, the trouble was how would he get any.


After surviving two full, action packed days in the casualty department, Duffy had begun to understand what Susie had told her about enjoying the lulls in patient activity as and when they occurred. Now was such a time she decided, glancing at the remains of her fob watch; and, after finishing a routine bandaging job, she slunk off to the staff room for a sit down, a cup of tea, and a chocolate biscuit.

The small room was empty when she entered and she set about filling the kettle and rinsing out a mug, humming under her breath as she did so. She might have only been an honorary member of A&E since Monday lunchtime but she was starting to feel well and truly at home. In fact, she was starting to think that if she'd coped this long then she could cope with anything. Her colleagues were on the whole a friendly bunch; Charlie had helped her no end, Megan was already acting as a mother figure to her, and she had arranged to go shopping with Susie the next time they were both off duty. The only thing that still put a downer on her time in casualty was the atmosphere between her and Martin.


He was unrelentingly cold towards her, still made an effort to give her the least pleasant jobs and she was pretty sure he was casting aspersions about her nursing abilities to the other staff. And that really got to her. Thankfully, the others appeared to take what he said with a pinch of salt; no one except Martin had said anything to her face.

The kettle boiled, and she poured herself a steaming mug of tea, before settling down in one of the armchairs to thumb through the day's newspaper. She had barely got past the headline when she caught sight of something out of the corner of her eye. Discarding the paper, she edged off the chair and dropped onto her knees, then proceeded to shuffle cross the floor to the lockers. She picked up the offending article, a small white pill, examining it closely.

"What on earth's this doing in here?" she muttered under her breath, recognising the markings on it and realising it was a type of amphetamine used on the ward. She slipped it into the pocket of her uniform and decided that as soon as her break was over she'd find Charlie and bring it to his attention.


Ewart left his meeting unable to hide the smile on his face. His permanent night shift, so far just a pile of spreadsheets and good intentions, was as good as in place. Everything bar the staff had been agreed, and he knew that it wouldn't take Charlie long to come up with a list of nurses. All he had to do was find at least one SHO who could stand night shifts by the opening date of the 3rd March, and they' be up and running.

He was feeling the sort of euphoria about his job that he hadn't felt in a long while, or a least he was until he entered his office and saw the look on Charlie's face. He looked depressed, and was sucking on the end of his biro as a poor substitute for a cigarette.

"How'd the meeting go?" he asked once he'd removed the pen form his mouth.

"Excellent. We have the go ahead to start on the first Monday of March, provided we have a team together by then. I even managed to persuade them to add another three percent to our budget".

Charlie made a feeble effort to look impressed. Accounting wasn't his area of expertise, and he had no intention of it ever becoming so. He dealt with patients not figures, and liked it that way. "Oh good".

"It is Charlie, it is. I have great plans for this little endeavour, and finally things are falling into place".

Charlie grimaced. "I wish the same could be said for this!" he indicated the lists spread out on the desk in front of him. "I've had no luck Ewart, I haven't got enough to go on".

"Well, keep going, something might come up…" Ewart replied, his success with the night shift leaving him over optimistic.

"What, like a signed confession? 'Cause I'm telling you Ewart, unless we catch the culprit red handed, that's what we'll need".

"Right, well, putting that aside for a minute, have you come up with some names to approach about the night shift?"

Charlie made a concerted effort not to groan. It was as though Ewart was completely obsessed by his project; and Charlie wondered how any man, especially one with a wife and kid at home, could still end up so wrapped up in his work.

"I've had a few thoughts as I've been going through this list. I think Megan would be interested, with her Ted working night's in the cab it'd probably benefit her to be doing the same, particularly now her kids are all grown up. King might be worth asking too, he's always one of the first to agree to do night work. I was also thinking we could offer young Duffy a position…"

"Are you sure that's a good idea, don't you think we should be going for someone a bit more qualified?"

"More qualified, means more money. Besides, she's handled herself well over a difficult couple of days, and she seems eager to learn. And there might be something to be said for getting in someone inexperienced. I mean, running this permanent night shift is going to be different from the day shift, yeah? She might prove more adaptable than us old timers".

"It sounds like you thought this through Charlie".

"I suppose I have. Or course, she might not want to do it".

"Well, you can but ask…"


"Susie?" Duffy asked, to get the receptionist's attention.


"Do you know where Charlie is? Only I need to speak to him".

Susie frowned. "I think he's in Ewart's office but he's asked not to be disturbed. There's something going on round here, you see. Charlie and Ewart are being all cloak and dagger about it. I've been talking to some of the secretaries upstairs and although they won't say nothing, they admit that the big-wigs have been organising something recently. Something about this department".

"Oh". Duffy responded, feeling like she'd just had a bit of an information overload, "Ewart's office you said?"

"Yeah, but he don't want to be disturbed!"

"It'll only take a second!" She called behind her as she strode towards the back of the department and Ewart's office.

She'd just reached the cubicle area when Martin got in her way. "If you've finished your break, you can see to Mr Baxter in two. He needs stitches in a head wound".

"OK" Duffy replied obediently, "but I have to talk to Charlie first. It won't take long, I promise".

"What do you want to go disturbing him for. I'm in charge in his absence, you can talk to me". Martin tried to keep a poker face as he spoke, but it was difficult to do. He couldn't help wondering just why Duffy was so eager to talk to Charlie. Any regular nursing business could be discussed with any of the staff, and Charlie was bound to surface eventually if it were personal. In a sudden moment of panic, he wondered if he'd left his locker open when he was in the staff room earlier, but no, he distinctly remembered locking it. He was meticulously careful on that account.

For a second she was nearly intimidated by him enough to do as he'd told her, but there was something in both his tone and his expression that made her have second thoughts. Something that suggested he was nervous of what she was going to say to Charlie. She stood her ground.

"It really won't take long, and I don't think you'd be able to help. Thanks for the offer Martin". There were too many people around for him to press the matter, and his own patient was still waiting for him. Grudgingly he let her go on her way.

She reached Ewart's office door and knocked sharply on the wood.

"Come in" He called back and she opened the door, holding on to it and peering into the office rather than walking straight in.

"I'm sorry to interrupt".

"That's all right Duffy, we were just about finished in here anyway" Charlie replied, glancing at Ewart to confirm his statement. "Which one of us do you want?"

"Erm, I'm not sure…"

"Come in and tell us what's bothering you" Ewart said, and Duffy did as she'd been requested, standing nervously in front of her senior colleagues.

"I, er, I found this in the staff room, and I know that we aren't supposed to take any medical equipment into the staff room, let alone medication, so I thought you should know." She fished the small round pill from her pocket and handed it to Ewart. "I know it's only the one, so it's probably not that important, but just in case you found that the records didn't tally or something I thought you should know about it".

Ewart turned the pill over in his hands, noting the manufacturer's markings and shaking his head to himself. "Where exactly was this?"

She watched him hand the pill to Charlie, and exchange meaningful looks over it. "Just lying on the floor by the lockers" she shrugged.

"Whose locker?" Charlie asked.

"I dunno. Near where mine is, I think Martin's is the next along…" her brow furrowed as a thought suddenly occurred to her. "he has been acting a bit odd recently, and he didn't look like he wanted me to come and talk to you…"

Ewart raised his eyebrow, silently asking Charlie if he thought they'd found their illusive culprit. Charlie shook his head, but found that even as he did so, he wasn't as sure as he thought he ought to be. Martin did seem to have a lot more spending money than his wages could account for, he certainly would be the sort of person with the nerve to steal.

"What? What is it?" Duffy asked, wondering what she'd started.

"I think maybe we should tell her, she's not on our suspect list after all…" Charlie suggested.

Ewart pondered it for a second before nodding his agreement. "You see Duffy, we have been noticing discrepancies between what drugs we should have and what we actually do have. Big discrepancies. And all in the stocks of the most saleable drugs. We think that whoever has been taking them has then been selling them on outside of the hospital, and making themselves a handsome profit in the process. This is the first real bit of evidence we have".

"Hang on Ewart, it's circumstantial at best".

"Excuse me" Duffy tried to start, but Ewart and Charlie were in full debating mode.

"Circumstantial is better than nothing though, and at least we can be certain that it's a staff member and not someone off the street"

"We were certain of that anyway".

"Excuse me!" She tried again,

"Well, now we have proof".

"If someone was selling them on illegally…" she said quickly, before Charlie could respond, "they might do it in, like, a night club like the one we went to on Tuesday night, mightn't they?"

"Go on…" Ewart prompted, his attention caught.

"It's just that I saw Martin talking with some people in the club, and when I went over to say hello, they scarpered and he bit my head off. He's been in a foul mood with me ever since. Maybe if I was interrupting his deal that would explain it?"

Charlie hung his head. Even though he knew that he was right and everything was indeed circumstantial, it was adding up to be a compelling picture nevertheless. He didn't want to believe it; he didn't want to admit that he'd been so blind to what Martin was up too. He'd always considered Martin to be a friend, a friend with slightly odd morals, but still a friend. He felt personally betrayed, and it hurt.

"OK, so maybe it could be Martin, what are we going to do about it?"

"Confront him". Ewart replied decisively.

"I don't think that'd work. He'd just deny it. I know I would. I mean, if it was me, which it isn't, I just…"

"All right Duffy, calm down, we know what you mean. And I think you have a point" Charlie stated.

"What about if you did a locker search. You see if I found this pill by his locker it meant he was trying to put it in his locker, and he wouldn't be pinching them one at a time would he? So maybe if you searched his locker you'd find others like it. That'd be proper proof, wouldn't it?"

"I don't think that the Union would agree to it…" Charlie pointed out, "Invasion of privacy and all that".

"We don't even have to worry about a full scale locker search. The police are already aware of the problem, if we tell them what we know they could probably get a warrant. It would be a criminal matter then, the hospital wouldn't be involved. I'll get on to the station, you two had better get back out there and try not to let Martin become suspicious.

They nodded and did as Ewart had suggested, leaving him to make the phone call in private.


It was more than an hour before the local constabulary could spare a couple of officers to come to the hospital. However, when they arrived they meant business, and after a quick discussion with Ewart they called Martin into the staff room. Charlie and Duffy hovered around the outside of the room, wishing that they were flies on the wall to hear Martin's excuses.

Inside the room, Ewart watched on with a sort of morbid fascination as the police went about their job. Martin, after trying valiantly to protest his innocence at first, had quietened down and was trying to look nonchalant just in case the police weren't thorough enough and found nothing. He had no such luck.

"Well, what's this Mr Fisher?" the Sergeant asked mockingly as he pulled a small plastic bag from a hole in the lining of Martin's jacket. Inside the bag were a handful of pills, identical to the one Duffy had found earlier.

"They're not mine!" he declared.

"I think that's rather the point, sir" the Sergeant replied.

"No, you don't understand. That jacket, it's not mine. I borrowed it off a friend. I don't know how they got there!" the police officer was clearly unimpressed by Martin's pathetic excuse, so instead Martin turned his attention to Ewart. "Ewart, come on, you know I'd never steal from the hospital. I love my job! It's a set up! I've been set up".

Ewart had no way to respond to that. He knew that Martin was to blame and felt an overwhelming sense of disappointment that a member of his staff should lower themselves to such a crime.

"Right, Mr Fisher, I am arresting you on suspicion of theft, you have the right to remain silent, but anything you say may be taken down and used in evidence against you… "

"I didn't do it! I've been set up!" he shouted again over the sound of the arresting officer reading him his rights, as the Constable pulled his arms into the waiting handcuffs. "It was that Duffy, she did it. She doesn't like me, she planted those things, and I saw her trying to deal them the other night. It's her I'm telling you, it's her!"

"We know it wasn't Duffy, we have proof that the thefts started before she even came to work here Martin. You can't foist this onto her." Ewart replied, his voice full of sadness at the picture before him.

"Mr Fisher, do you understand your rights?"

"Yes". He answered bitterly.

"Then we'll take you to the station for further questioning. Thank you Mr Plimmer for your help in this matter."

Ewart nodded, and followed the two policemen and Martin out of the staff room. Martin couldn't even bring himself to look up at the faces of Charlie, Duffy, Susie or any of the other staff who'd amassed in the reception area, and he was led out of the hospital in utter disgrace.

Stopping by Charlie and Duffy, Ewart sighed and shook his head. "Such a waste. I suppose I should make an announcement; explain to everyone what's happened. I should probably also prepare a press statement, this is bound to get leaked somehow. Publicity like this we could do without".

"If you need any help…" Charlie offered, knowing that Ewart was perfectly capable of handling it without him, and being rather grateful of the fact because he himself had no idea what to say on the matter.

"Thanks, but it's not necessary. I'd better go and tell CEO what's happened". Ewart said, as he solemnly walked off.

Duffy stood listening to the conversation, feeling rather bemused. They had been trying to catch a criminal, and had succeeded, surely they should be happy about it? But it was perfectly clear that neither man was. Duffy had trouble feeling anything but relief that he was gone though, after the way he'd treated her, and it suddenly occurred to her that now they were officially a nurse down. There was a chance for her to apply for a permanent job in A&E, rather than returning upstairs to Orthopaedics and Sister MacIntosh.

"Um, Charlie…?" He didn't seem to notice her, and was instead staring transfixed at the door Martin and the policemen had exited through. "Charlie?" she tried again.

"Hmm?" he replied distractedly, not turning to look at her.

"I was just wondering…" She tried to think of a good way to phrase asking for a job, but left it a little too long. Charlie turned to face her.

"Look Duffy, can it wait? Only I've just seen a mate arrested and I'm not really up to much discussion."

She nodded, trying to hide her feelings. "Yeah" she said quietly, "it can wait".

Go to Part Eleven

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