Murder at the hospital

With my new book release, ‘Alderslay,’ YouTube for ‘Val’s Tales,’ guest interviews, hospital appointments and live broadcasts, it’s all been a bit hectic lately.
Which should I talk about first? I know, let’s have a short story instead. 😀

‘Jane Simpson.’

Even though the hospital waiting room was quiet, the voice barely reached to where Julie sat in a wheelchair on the far side of the extensive room.

‘Excuse me,’ she called. ‘Did you say Jane or Julie?’ but she was talking to thin air. The doctor, nurse or whoever he was, had disappeared behind the door without waiting to see if anyone was following him.

‘Excuse me,’ Julie said to the young woman in a green uniform who knocked her arm as she barged past. ‘I’ve been waiting over two hours and I think someone just called my name but I can’t get over there without assistance.’

‘Either it was your name or it wasn’t,’ came the curt reply. ‘See that desk over there? That’s called reception. That’s what they’re there for – ask them. It’s nothing to do with me.’

‘But I can’t get to the desk without help,’ Julie said but the green uniform had already disappeared. Perhaps she was a cleaner rather than a nurse but there was no need for her to be so rude. Why was it assumed everyone would know who did what? Julie had already counted at least six different coloured uniforms. It might be an idea to have a poster explaining, or would that be too simple?

‘Mehmet Osman.’ The same guy had reappeared and called out for another patient. Although Julie was normally placid, everything had combined to put her in a temper, and past caring if she showed herself up.

‘EXCUSE ME’ she yelled at the top of her voice. ‘Yes, you, in the blue uniform. Before you run off again, I’d liked to know if you just called me. As you can see, I’m in a wheelchair so unless someone can help push me, I can’t scurry off to wherever you disappear to.’

Another patient, presumably Mr Osman, had stood up and started making his way precariously towards the guy in the blue uniform who made no effort to help, but at least hadn’t disappeared again. The man looked rather wobbly on his crutches and Julie felt ashamed of herself as he dithered, as if he was not sure whether to carry on or sit down again. ‘Sorry,’ she mouthed to him, as several heads turned in her direction to see what the fuss was about.

‘Are you Mehmet Osman?’ blue uniform asked Julie. Rather than make a sarcastic remark, she lowered her voice slightly and replied, ‘No. I believe you called for Jane Simpson. My name is Julie, and as no one else moved I assume you made a mistake in the name. Also, I need a push as this wheelchair is not motorised.’

‘You’ve missed your turn. I’ll see you after this one,’ he said, pointing at Mr Osman before moving out of sight.

‘At least someone knows I’m here,’ Julie thought as she mentally started counting to a hundred before she exploded. ‘I wonder how long they’ll be?’

She wasn’t sure if it was adrenaline before combat or just sitting around for hours, but her bladder decided now would be a good time to make itself known. Should she risk a trip to the disabled toilet? Luckily it was right next to her and she could probably manage either to scoot the wheelchair through the door, or go in under her own steam by hanging onto grab rails. More important was would Mr Blue Uniform come out, call her name and decide she hadn’t waited? How long had it been? 10 minutes? Decisions.

A young girl came in pushing an older lady in a wheelchair, and with a smiling ‘Hiya’ parked her next to Julie. ‘I’ll go and book you in, Mum, and see how far behind they’re running this time. What’s the betting we end up getting old misery guts? I’ll see what they say and then go and get some coffees.’

The lady sent a rather embarrassed look in Julie’s direction. ‘I apologise for my daughter, but the last person we saw here was rather obnoxious. If my daughter hadn’t been here with me, I would never have been seen. Have you been waiting long?’

‘Don’t apologise. I’ve just had the same thing happen, and I’m afraid I reacted even more badly than your daughter.’

‘Good for you,’ said the young girl as she came back to sit on the end chair. ‘They’ve no idea of the meaning of customer service. Usual excuses about being busy, Mum so I’ll go and got those coffees. Can I fetch you something?’ she asked Julie.

‘That’s very good of you but I’m hoping they’ll call me any minute. I’ve already missed my turn once, so you can bet as soon as I try to use the toilet he’ll appear again.’

‘What’s your name?’ the young girl asked. ‘You pop in there and if they call you, I’ll rugby tackle him and hold him down until you get back. Leave it to me.’

I couldn’t help laughing as she flexed her muscles then took up a boxing stance.

‘It’s Julie Simpson, and thanks so much. I won’t be a minute.’

‘I’m Tiff,’ she smiled. ‘It’s meant to be short for Tiffany but I think Mum named me that because I’m always ready for a fight.’

True to her word, just as I emerged from the lady’s toilet I heard my name called, but Tiff had everything under control. Across the waiting room I saw she had taken hold of Mr Blue Uniform and was guiding him gently but firmly in the direction of my wheelchair.

‘There we go Mr.. Sorry, I didn’t catch your name. Ah, I see from the badge hidden under your shirt it’s Alex Yolkin. Take good care of my friend here, Alex and I’ll be sure to put in a good word for you.’ The beaming smile Tiff gave him was at odds with the ice in her tone, and I thought she would be a good person to have on your side in times of trouble, despite her diminutive size.

It was touch and go how my appointment with Dr Yolkin would turn out, but after his run-in with Tiff it seemed he wanted to get rid of me as soon as possible. After barely glancing up from his computer, he asked some questions without really listening to my answers, muttered a few words about coming on nicely, then palmed me off with a nurse to change the dressing. It seems I’d got away with it again. As I was wheeled back to the main foyer, I caught sight of Tiff and her mother just leaving, and gave them a wave. They must have been seen by Dr Yolkin while I was with the nurse.

‘Who’s next for the sleigh-ride? Have we got a Julie Simpson here?’

The jovial voice belonged to the ambulance driver who was to be my transport home.

‘Yes, here,’ I called.

‘Right my love,’ he beamed as he started pushing the wheelchair. ‘We’re sneaking you out through the back doors but don’t snitch to Matron or she’ll have our guts for garters. It saves walking miles along the corridors. Off we go then. Hold tight.’

As we emerged into a parking bay and the hospital doors swung closed behind us, I thought I saw in the distance Mr Osman, the patient who had seen the doctor just before me. Perhaps I was mistaken as this man leapt over a small barrier before getting into a sports car and driving off. Even if he’d had his plaster cast removed, I didn’t think he would be that athletic when only an hour before he had been so unsteady on his crutches.

The next day, both the local and major news programmes carried the story. ‘Murder at the hospital,’ the headlines screamed. Before I’d had a chance to read it properly my private encrypted phone signalled the boss was on the line.

‘Good mission accomplished, Julie,’ he said. ‘We didn’t expect such a speedy result but the usual payment has been processed. We’ll be in touch when we have more work for you.’

I had no chance to tell him someone had beaten me to it. It seemed our friend Dr Yolkin was on more than one extermination list and I wondered if Mr Osman, who I was now convinced had actually carried out the deed, had received his own blood money.

For now it was time for ‘Julie Simpson’ to fade back into obscurity, and for my new persona to find somewhere else to live. ‘Jane Wellman’ had quite a nice ring to it and appealed to my twisted sense of humour after all my recent surreptitious hospital trips. Within a few hours the documents for my new identity were complete, my suitcase packed and I was headed towards the coast to begin my next life until my skills as an assassin were needed again.

© Val Portelli April 2021

See you next week to catch up with all the other news. Thanks for stopping by.

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