Trouble affects each and every one of us constantly. It manifests itself in every element that life is made up from, in varying degrees of intensity.
I tend to attract more trouble than anyone else I've ever known, although the trouble that was looming was unprecedented.
Many would say that I should never have become involved, and they may be right; however, at the time I had no idea what was brewing.
It all began in the hospital bar on a Wednesday evening in late autumn . . .
Debbie, my girlfriend of seven months, loathed the hospital bar with a passion, whereas I enjoyed evenings with medical colleagues, plus a number of others, who indulge in the banter that's rife. Quite why Debbie was so negative towards the place, I could never work out. In fact, I gave up trying. To be honest, why Debbie and I were still together was a mystery in itself. I'd given up attempting to work that out as well.
I work part-time at the hospital as an anaesthetic and recovery practitioner, spending the remainder of my time at my bespoke framing emporium, but more about that later. Debbie kept on at me to quit one of the occupations, and to concentrate on just one, but as I see it, I get the best of both worlds.
The bar was empty when we arrived, looking scruffier than usual. Running on limited finances, it contains an eclectic mix of sofas, benches and less than sturdy looking wooden chairs, with an array of tables, all of different heights, none of which ever seems to be the correct height for the seating area they service. The committee keep promising that the dowdy red-brown walls will be painted at some stage, but it never seems to happen for one reason or another. It does improve as it fills up with punters,although it's still nothing to write home about.
Debbie and I stood at the bar, Debbie gazing around the room distastefully, muttering, 'Haszard, this place is a bloody dump!' That's my name, by the way. Odd, but unforgettable.
I sighed and was about to retort with a few words of my own when Tony, the barman for the evening, emerged from the store room and sauntered towards us. Tall and slim, Tony has somewhat boyish features, topped with short brown hair. 'Haz, Debbie. How goes?'Tony is what one would loosely describe as a medical student. I say looselybecause he spends seventy per cent of his time plastered and the remaining thirty, hung-over. Bar staff are supposed to pay for their drinks, only I've never seen it happen yet. This is why Tony works as often as he does . . . and why the bar makes very little in the way of profit.
'Good,' I said cheerfully, observing Debbie's sour expression. 'You?'
'Not bad,' Tony said, pouring our drinks. He always knows what people want. 'Any news on that body that was found earlier?'
'Body?' I said. I'd heard several colleagues discussing some kind of scandal, only I'd had an awful day, the result being that I didn't manage to catch up with any gossip. Some days are a doddle, while others are sent directly from hell. That day had been the latter.
'Yeah,' Tony said excitedly, handing Debbie her drink. 'It was found in that alley between Nuclear Medicine and the Pre-assessment Clinics. Someone said that it was a member of staff.'
I stood staring into space, a cold feeling washing over me. The alleyway that Tony had mentioned was a dead end, although that wasn't the only factor that was bothering me; it was the fact that the entrance and the area around it were in a security camera blind spot. If Tony was right in that a member of staff had indeed been the victim, the perpetrator was either incredibly fortuitous, or knew the layout of the grounds and CCTV cameras.
'Any idea who it was?' I said, staring into space.
'No, but Mick should be in soon.'
Inwardly, I breathed a massive sigh of relief. Mick McDonald is a close friend. Knowing what a foul mood Debbie was in, Mick would be the perfect tonic. In addition to Mick's outgoing nature, he's a walking news stall. He doesn't work at the hospital, being some kind of computer genius. We originally met through a former lady-friend of his, who was a junior doctor. Debbie didn't like Mick either.
'Great,' I said, beaming. 'I haven't seen him for a few weeks. Is he still with that girl from Human Resources?'
Tony shook negative. 'No, she heard about him on that weekend away with the Physiotherapy Department – or more to the point – him ending up spending the night with Sharon Parker.'
Typical Mick, I thought. It was Sharon Parker's leaving party. Debbie tutted, curled her lip, and gestured towards a table. She'd only been in the bar for a matter of minutes, yet she was bored with it already. I capitulated, following her over, wondering why on earth we were still together. Debbie is an