The next morning, Anna and Sam visited the register office, filled in the necessary forms, and confirmed their wedding date. Sam headed to work and Anna and Bonnie did some shopping, then went home. It was just about lunchtime when Anna’s phone rang. It was Sam.
“Hello love. What gives?”
“I had a very short list today, so I was going to be home nice and early. However. The bloody car has died on me. The garage will come and tow it in, but I’m stuck. You wouldn’t be an angel and come fetch me would you?”
“Yes, of course I will. Be about half an hour.”
“Thanks love. I’ll be by the main entrance.”
“See you then.”
Anna loaded Bonnie into the car and they set out for Cheltenham. They drew into the hospital car park and joined a line of slow-moving traffic heading for the drop-off and pick -up point beside the main entrance. Bonnie was the first to spot Sam, she woofed gently and pointed with her nose, to where Sam was in conversation with a very thin woman in a sharply tailored suit. He spotted them, raised a hand, made his farewells quickly, and sprinted over to the car. He threw his bag in the boot then jumped into the passenger seat.
“That woman gives me the creeps,” he said.
“Who is she?”
“She represents a consortium which uses the private wing of the hospital. She’s always after me to do work for them. Maybe I’m not rude enough when I refuse. Anyway the latest thing is a weight loss clinic. And I don’t do bariatric surgery, so at least today was just social.”
Just at that point they drew level with the women who coyly flapped a hand at the vehicle.
“Well fuck me” Anna said. “What’s she up to?”
“I just told you.”
“Maybe. But she’s what Jim would call a face, so it’s unlikely to be so simple.”
“What? You’re not making any sense…”
“No. Probably not. I’ll explain better when we get home.”
They drove home in silence, and it seemed to Sam that Anna was troubled. Once they were indoors, he put his arms around her.
“Oh Sam. It’s that woman. She’s trouble.”
“Let’s have a glass of wine and you can tell me all about it.”
“That would be good, but I think I have to phone Jim first.”
“You do what you think is right. I’ll go change my clothes, then open a bottle.”
Anna pulled out her phone and looked at it for a long moment before making her call. Jim answered almost at once.
“What’s up toots?”
“I just saw an old friend.”
“Sid the Snake’s lovely wife.”
“Cheltenham hospital. Sam says she represents the consortium that uses the private wing.”
“Oh. Right. I’ll look into it. Keep your man on tap in case I need somebody to translate doctor.”
Anna ended the call and sat at the table looking at her own hands with a somewhat bitter twist to her mouth. Sam came into the room with a glass in either hand. He gave her one and she took a sip.
“That’s delicious, but it’s not the wine I expected.”
“True. But you looked to me like you needed a restorative. In my experience there’s very little as restorative as a whisky mac.”
“What’s in it?”
“Laphroag and Crabbies ginger wine. And some folks would call it a waste of single malt. But…”
“But indeed. It is exceedingly restorative. And you are right, l did need restoring. That woman who gives you the creeps is a very bad lot. She is married to a hacker known as Sid the Snake and is normally to be found right at the leading edge of whatever he is perpetrating. She’s vicious, unprincipled, and just basically a wrong ‘un. I found myself not liking her talking to you. I’m not a jealous person, so it wasn’t that. No. It’s simple. She’s bad and I don’t want bad near you.”
“Oh Anna. You are soft on me aren’t you?”
“Never mind. I’m soft on you too,” he smiled and leaned in for a kiss. “So. What happens now?”
“With reference to what?”
“You know perfectly well what.’
“Well. Jim is looking into it. Illegally no doubt, but he’s almost as talented a hacker as me so nobody will see him ferreting around. If he finds anything we’ll hear, especially as he doesn’t speak doctor.”
“It’s just as well I speak it fluently then.”
Anna laughed. “Ain’t that the truth. On so many levels.”
As Sam opened his mouth to riposte, her phone rang. She put it on speaker, but motioned Sam to keep silent.
“What gives Jim?”
“Buggered if I know. But whatever it is they have gone to some considerable trouble to hide it. We need your man. I’ll send stuff to your laptop now. Can you call me if he manages to make any sense of any of it?”
Jim rung off, and Anna finished her drink before looking at Sam.
“Yes. Of course. By my reckoning I have to be, as whatever it is is likely to be to the detriment of sick people. I didn’t become a doctor in order to turn my back on that sort of stuff. So let’s look at whatever Jim has unearthed together.”
“If you are sure. I’ll bring my laptop out here shall I?”
“Yes. I’ll get us some coffee.”