Books written by Ray Sullivan

Friday, 30 November 2012

Parallel Lives Chapter 26

Karen sat outside of doctor Samuel Jackson’s office, facing the nurse who was scribbling frantically onto a piece of scrap paper, desperately attempting to make her biro work. Eventually Karen leaned forward, half crouching, and offered her own pen. The nurse smiled faintly and took the proffered instrument, carefully replacing her own useless instrument in the top pocket of her tunic top. She wrote a couple of words on a multiple page form, flicked the top and second pages up to check that she had pressed hard enough, then, satisfied that she had succeeded, handed the pen back.
‘I don’t expect the doctor will be long, he’s got a visitor,’ she explained vaguely. Karen briefly considered the illogical nature of the statement, but decided to ignore it; she would wait as long as she cared, but no longer. She hadn’t asked to speak to the doctor, but had been passed from main reception to psychiatric department to nurse cum receptionist without a clue as to John Staples’ whereabouts. The nurse had stonewalled her effectively, and had busied herself with various administrative tasks for the last half hour. Karen had read some of the articles in the assembled magazines but had tired of the predominantly car orientated subject matter. She had considered phoning her mother to ask if the kids were behaving themselves, deciding against it in case she lost her slot. Suddenly the office door opened. Doctor Sam Jackson stood, shaking hands with another man who looked to be more interested in Karen than in his host. Sam beckoned to Karen while finishing his conversation off with the departing visitor.
‘Do come in, Mrs Howells, I’ll be with you in a moment.’ He looked at the departing visitor. ‘It has been a pleasure to see you again Martin, I’ll phone with that information as soon as possible,’ said Sam, shaking hands with the quiet, curious man leaving his office. Martin viewed Karen carefully, unblinkingly, running his eyes down and up her body without any outward appearance of discretion, more like an antique collector evaluating a piece of furniture than a man checking out a woman. Surprisingly, realised Karen, she did not feel embarrassed or threatened by this overt show of interest. Perhaps the blatant ogling by Alan at the weekend had hardened her to this kind of attention. Whatever the reason, the man called Martin carried out the one up and down survey, appearing to log all the salient details carefully as he went and, nodding with a cold, thin smile left her with the doctor. Sam waved expansively to Karen with his left hand while shaking her hand with his right.
‘Please come in,’ he insisted, smiling in a practised manner. Karen smoothed her skirt down with her free hand, and then followed the direction indicated. The room was reasonably modern; an older leather chair behind the ubiquitous grey office desk brought a degree of personality into the room. The walls were adorned with framed posters depicting pioneers of clinical psychology, along with quotations from these persons. Karen didn’t know this, but was soon appraised enthusiastically by Sam.
‘That one,’ he said pointing at an old monochrome image, ‘is Sigmund Freud. I expect you’ve heard of him, most people have. I don’t personally agree with much of his findings, but he was a pioneer and most of what we do today is based in some way on his approach.’ Karen nodded, caught in the man’s enthusiasm, noting the quotation in script below the image “Anatomy is destiny”. Sam didn’t refer to that text, but hurried across the room to another monochromatic representation . ‘This one is of Alfred Adler, who famously said “we cannot think, feel, or act without the perception of some goal”, which I think is a simple, basic statement that took most of mankind to realise.’ Sam raised his hands in an impromptu demonstration that implied that a great truth had been divulged. He waved to Karen to sit down in the chair obliquely positioned in relation to his leather swivelling device. She gratefully obliged, feeling that she had learned enough about his profession’s history for one session. Sam eased himself down into his seat, supporting his lean body carefully as he lowered himself. Karen couldn’t have realised it but he had been badly bruised during the altercation on Friday evening, and only pig-headed stubbornness had prevented him from seeing a medic.
‘Of course, I’m a slightly different breed to those two,’ he continued on his pet subject, ‘I’m what is called a clinical psychiatrist whereas those two,’ he waved his hand once more, this time towards the two posters, ‘would be called psychologists in today’s parlance. If Freud had been in this seat then we would be discussing sex by now, the man was obsessed with it.’
‘Aren’t most men,’ interjected Karen, feeling slightly uncomfortable with the sudden change of subject. Sam laughed.
‘Sigmund would have liked you, you’re not a devotee hoping to catch me bad mouthing him, are you?’ Karen found herself shaking her head, not realising the irony of what she had said but pleased the subject had drifted away from the brief intensity she had detected. She decided it was time to raise the subject of John Staples.
‘Doctor Jackson, I know you’re busy and I have to pick my children up from my mother’s house. I’ve been trying to find out about a man I understand you treated last week; John Staples.’ She placed her hands firmly, palms down on her thighs, momentarily straightening a crease in her skirt. Sam’s eyes followed her hands, lingering on her lap before he spoke.
‘Mrs Howells, are you a relative of Mr Staples?’ he asked, clasping both hands together as if in prayer. Karen shook her head slowly.
‘No, but he works with my husband, we’re taking care of his house and pets and we feel we ought to know how he’s doing and when he will be out of hospital. To tell you the truth, Doctor, I don’t think he has any living relatives, not close ones anyway.’ Sam looked back up, passing Karen’s face and fixing on a point just below the ceiling at the far end of the room.
‘Ok, I’ll tell you what I can, but you must appreciate that I’m bound by protocols, including ones that force me to respect patient privacy,’ Sam said carefully, not looking Karen in the eyes until the last word. Karen felt her face flush as she realised she was going to be stonewalled again.
‘You told my husband that John was being taken to a hospital in Warrington. We’ve phoned every hospital within ten miles of there, private and public, with nobody admitting knowledge of him.’ She had leant forward during this exchange, forcing Sam to look directly into her eyes throughout. Sam paused before responding.
‘I don’t think I said anything about Warrington, in fact I don’t recall speaking with your husband, Mrs Howells. Mr Staples spoke with somebody from his works using my phone, to arrange the sick leave and care of a cat. I presume that was your husband he spoke to, but if he mentioned Warrington then I can only assume he had misunderstood what I had just told him. Either that or he didn’t want your husband to know where he would be this week.
‘He is very stressed, and it isn’t uncommon for patients in that condition to want to put some distance between their work and their private life. But I can assure you that Mr Staples is receiving top class care and my understanding is that he had a very comfortable weekend. Other than that I’m afraid I cannot divulge, not because I enjoy being secretive but because I have my patient’s interests at heart and partly because I realise that you are not entitled to any further information. You’re not related, and I think you should be aware that Mr Staples has nominated relatives to be informed of any developments, but I appreciate and understand your concern.’ Sam fished inside his wallet and pulled out his business card. On the back he hastily wrote down a number. Take this, it’s my card and on the back I’ve written my mobile number down. I should warn you that it is frequently off, that’s normal procedure in a hospital and I often forget to turn it back on.’ Sam leaned back into the leather chair, failing to suppress the smugness he felt inside. Karen felt her anger rise and had to check herself before speaking.
‘I don’t believe you, Doctor Jackson, but I can see that I won’t get any further with you now.’ She picked up the card that had been slid towards her and held it up defiantly. ‘When I know what you’ve done to John Staples I’ll be calling back, and by God you’d better be ready.’ Grasping the card tight Karen stood up and stormed out of the room, leaving the door swung wide upon its hinges.


Copyright Ray Sullivan 2011

The characters, places and events described in this novel are fictitious and any resemblance to persons, places or events, past or present, is coincidence.  All rights reserved

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