For the Love of a Devil

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For the Love of a Devil Page 1

by Margaret Carr



  Margaret Carr

  British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data available

  This eBook edition published by AudioGo Ltd, Bath, 2012.

  Published by arrangement with the Author.

  Epub ISBN 9781471302466

  U.K. Hardcover ISBN 978 1 408 45702 3

  U.K. Softcover ISBN 978 1 408 45703 0

  Copyright © Margaret Carr, 2009

  All rights reserved.

  Jacket Illustration ©


  The rain soaked through the cotton shower-proof coat making it lie heavy across Selina Adams’ shoulders. I could have stayed in this afternoon, she thought, as she hurried across the road to the tall block of flats standing just inside the hospital gates. She was on split duty and could have been resting instead of doing a million and one little errands for her patients on the ward.

  ‘I must be mad,’ she spoke aloud, shaking the rain from her hair before running swiftly up the stairs to flat five.

  ‘Thank heavens you’re back,’ called her flatmate, emerging from the kitchen in a scarlet kimono and rollers. ‘They want you back on the ward, like yesterday.’

  ‘For goodness’ sake . . . let me . . . get out of . . . this,’ cried Selina, pulling the damp jersey over her head. ‘What’s the panic?’

  ‘Don’t know, half the staff have probably run off I shouldn’t wonder. Honest, Sil, I don’t know how you tolerate that old biddy.’

  Selina smiled, the old biddy being Sister Patten of Women’s Surgical, where Selina had been Staff Nurse for the past six months. ‘Oh she’s not as bad as she’s painted, Caro.’

  Caroline Wareham tossed her head. ‘I swear you’d find a good side to the devil himself.’

  Selina laughed as she struggled into her uniform over her cold damp skin. ‘Go to bed, Caro.’

  ‘I’m up for the night now, thanks to that old she dragon,’ Caroline said. ‘You might ask her to have more consideration for the night staff in future.’

  Selina took down the navy uniform coat from its hook by the door and picking up her bag of shopping called, ‘goodbye,’ to the still grumbling Caroline and dashed from the flat.

  * * *

  ‘Staff nurse Adams at last, where have you been, girl?’

  ‘On split duty, Sister.’

  ‘I know that, Staff, but I have been ringing for you all afternoon.’

  Sister Patten was nearing retirement age and one of the old school. She demanded respect for authority and ceaseless devotion to duty.

  Sister swung into the office and snatched up the duty rota. ‘Two of the juniors haven’t turned in and Staff Nurse Freeman phoned in with a paltry excuse. Apart from which it would seem we are not to get our second year student as I requested, but a first year instead. What good that will do I cannot for the life of me fathom. In the meanwhile, Staff, we are behind with the dressings so finish those off first.’

  ‘Yes, Sister,’ and Selina went on her way.

  * * *

  Caroline poured herself a second cup of tea. ‘By the way, Sil, about the holiday.’

  ‘Forget it, Caro. It was on the cards sooner or later,’ said Selina cheerfully.

  ‘I know but we have always holidayed together, at least since we qualified and could afford holidays,’ protested Caroline.

  ‘What are you suggesting,’ laughed Selina, ‘that I make a threesome with you and Henry?’

  ‘No, silly, but . . .’

  ‘Oh drop it, Caro, I’m a big girl now. I’ll make alternative plans,’ she jumped up from the table and ruffled Caroline’s short blonde hair as she passed.

  She walked across the square that separated the flats from the hospital, following the paved paths and away from the new flooded worn tracks that crisscrossed the lawns, despite a big notice saying, Keep off the Grass. She couldn’t help but think of those past holidays and the fun they had been.

  Now there was Henry and talk of wedding bells, new homes, and giving up work. She was pleased for Caroline, of course she was, and Henry was a real catch, but she was going to miss her friend when the time came, and the first split was the now looming holidays.

  ‘Oh yes,’ trilled the new first year student. ‘It was absolutely super. In fact it was all simply super.’

  ‘Well you’ve certainly got a s-u-p-e-r tan,’ Nurse Smythe agreed.

  It was during morning coffee break and Selina was sitting disrespectfully on the edge of the desk, swinging one leg slowly back and forth, and watching the other nurses over the brim of her cup.

  ‘Rhodes, I suppose it costs the earth?’

  ‘Not really, not if you compare what you get with what it costs to pop across to Spain, say,’ replied the new nurse in an offhand manner.

  No working girl this, thought Selina with a sigh, as she saw trouble ahead with the new girl and Sister Patten.

  ‘While the cat’s away,’ boomed a voice from the doorway, and Selina nearly dropped her cup as she slid from the desk.

  ‘Sister not at home I take it,’ smiled Doctor David Bailey.

  ‘No Doctor, she is not, lucky for you, she still hasn’t forgiven you for that mix up with the pre-meds.’

  ‘Ah come on, Selina, what’s all this Doctor bit in aid of, doesn’t poor old David get a cup of coffee?’

  ‘I’ll get you one, Doctor,’ the sweet voice of the new girl said, as she smiled up into the handsome face of the rugby playing David Bailey.

  ‘Ha ha, what’s this a new scalp for Patten’s belt, and such a pretty scalp too,’ he said, as his eyes raked her from head to toe.

  His attention diverted from Selina, he turned his full charm on to the newcomer as she demurely handed him his cup of coffee.

  The other nurses filed out and back on to the ward. As Smythe passed Selina she raised her eyes to heaven as if to say, ‘another mouse in the trap’.

  The following day was Saturday and the first of Selina’s two days off. As she walked back along the high street from the launderette her attention was drawn to a large poster in the travel agent’s window. It gave a list of holiday offers and halfway down the list the name Rhodes.

  Quickly she glanced along the line, a week for two hundred and seventy-nine pounds. She did some rapid calculations, chewed at her bottom lip, then went in. By the time she left the shop she was all booked up to go.

  ‘So,’ Caroline said, when Selina told her about the holiday due in ten weeks’ time. ‘Well that does it then. Henry has been pestering me to name a day and as my holiday leave was the same as yours I might as well use it instead of my notice. I’ll get married on the Saturday before you go. How’s that for good organisation?’ Caroline was grinning from ear to ear, well pleased with herself for by nature she was an extremely scatter-brained person.

  ‘Now let’s talk bridesmaids,’ Caroline said, pointedly.

  ‘Caro, no,’ pleaded Selina, ‘I’m too old for a bridesmaid.’

  ‘Rubbish, I absolutely refuse to marry Henry unless you are my bridesmaid.’

  ‘You beast!’ cried Selina, picking up a pillow and thumping her friend, who yelled for mercy but who would not withdraw her demand.

  ‘Will you honeymoon in Spain?’ Selina asked later as they sat at the table eating what was Selina’s evening meal and Caroline’s breakfast.

  ‘Of course, only this time it will be a villa newly bought by Henry’s father.’

  ‘Henry’s father expanding then?’

  ‘I should say, reckons there’s a packet to be made in the holiday property market. Henry’s not so keen though, he’d rather keep the company at home.’ She gobbled up the last piece of toast and swilled it down
with lukewarm coffee. ‘You’ll have to start thinking about someone to share the flat with.’

  Selina gazed across the small living room with its eau-de-Nil walls and coffee coloured curtains, its standard light wood furniture and dark brown carpet. ‘You’ll have to claim your belongings,’ she said softly, indicating with a wave of her hand the large posters that adorned some of the walls, and the small woven cushion that had once been a Spanish shoulder bag.

  ‘Nonsense,’ said Caroline. ‘I’m not trucking all this rubbish home, just chuck out what you don’t want.’ Jumping up she said, ‘Well I’m off, see you in the morning.’

  Selina smiled to herself, forgiving her friend’s sweeping disregard of their shared possessions. Caroline came from a large Northumbrian farming family, warm, friendly and outward looking. Selina had spent the last three Christmases with them as she had no family of her own. Her father had left them when she was small and her mother had died of cancer in the first year of Selina’s training. The grandparents with whom they had been living at the time of her mother’s death were now also both dead.

  She sighed and got up to clear the table before settling down to wash her hair and have a quiet evening at home. There was another party tonight, but friends had been unable to tempt her to join them.

  Three weeks passed, Caroline had finished her stint of night duty and the two girls were busy with their end of the arrangements for Caroline’s wedding.

  The wedding itself was to be from Caroline’s home in Northumberland, but Henry was local and the couple would be setting up home in Bishoplea. Their final choice for a home was the wing of an old Georgian Hall only a mile or so outside of town.

  Mr Oates, Henry’s father, was insisting on covering all the expenses of the renovations and furnishing of the property as a wedding present, not counting the month’s holiday in the Spanish villa. Very generous one might have thought, but Selina knew that Henry was already having problems keeping the peace between his wife to be and his interfering, well-meaning father.

  ‘Did I include Janice Thomson in that list?’

  ‘You did,’ said Selina.

  ‘Well, how many do you make it now?’ asked Caroline, chewing at the end of her pen. They were sitting on a rug in front of the electric fire. Around them lay piles of scrap paper, lists, invitation cards, and a letter from Caroline’s mother that would make an encyclopaedia look like a shopping list.

  ‘I shall have to go up home on my next days off,’ muttered Caroline between her teeth as she continued to chew at the pen.

  ‘A hundred and eighty-six,’ said Selina.

  ‘Oh gosh, I promised to keep it to a hundred and fifty.’

  ‘Well, perhaps not quite so many friends from the hospital,’ suggested Selina.

  ‘It’s not them that’s the problem. It’s the dratted neighbours at home that have known me since I was a baby, that Mother’s insisting we invite. I wouldn’t care, but I hardly ever see half of them now.’ She pulled her knees up to her chin and gazed thoughtfully at the list in front of her.

  ‘You will just have to cross Janet and her bunch off I suppose, and the Crossleys and Doctor Segal.’

  ‘Why don’t you have a big splash for a going away party, then you could invite all the friends you haven’t room for at the wedding,’ suggested Selina.

  ‘Great, but where are we going to put them all, in here?’

  ‘It doesn’t have to be here, what about your new place. They haven’t started work on it yet, so there’s nothing to get spoilt.’

  ‘Bingo,’ yelled Caroline. ‘You’ve cracked it, and it’s big enough to invite as many as we like, make a real night of it.’

  ‘Watch it, Caro, I’m saving for a holiday remember.’

  The Hall was divided into three apartments. The east wing was to be Caroline and Henry’s. The west wing was already occupied by a foreign businessman and the centre of the house which was as yet unsold.

  The party was fixed for the following Friday when most of the guests would manage by wheeling and dealing to get the night off. Selina and Caroline worked like beavers in their valuable free time to amass food and drink, which Selina would ferry to the Hall on Friday afternoon, Caroline not finishing work until five. Anyone doing the late shift would still be in plenty of time to get there by ten-thirty.

  David Bailey was bringing the new student from Selina’s ward. Chrystabel Tritlington-Smythe had her hooks firmly embedded by now, although David seemed oblivious to the fact. Together using Chrystabel’s car, they were to help Selina move all the gear to the Hall.

  ‘Is there any furniture in the place?’ asked Chrystabel on Thursday morning as she helped Selina with the dressings.

  ‘No, we’re taking lilos, cushions, a couple of camp beds that sort of thing.’ Selina dropped the swab and forceps into the dirty bag, then picking up the clean dressing with fresh forceps laid it carefully in place on the wound. Chrystabel had produced a well laid out trolley which was always a great help. The student nurse was turning out to be quite competent, contrary to expectations. Even Patten smiled on her on occasions.

  ‘Would a couple of bean bags help?’ she asked.

  ‘All contributions gratefully received,’ smiled Selina.

  They were trudging back and forth with packages the following afternoon when David plonked a parcel in Selina’s arms and asked, ‘Do you get the feeling we are being watched?’

  Selina turned and glanced quickly along the windows of the west wing. ‘You’re imagining it,’ she said. ‘You’re probably tuned into the resident spook,’ laughed Selina, ‘anyway Caro assured me that the foreign businessman is away at the moment.’ She glanced up again as she carried a box of glasses towards the house, this time she thought she detected a movement, ever so slight, across one of the first floor windows.

  ‘So what,’ she shrugged. She set the glasses and an array of bottles and cans out on the trestle tables. The stereo and a pile of CDs went into a strategically placed alcove. When that was done she covered several upturned crates with paper tablecloths and dishes of nuts, crisps and a variety of things on sticks.

  Chrystabel at the same time was placing cushions, bean bags and camp beds around the room while David sat in the middle of the floor, blue in the face with his efforts at blowing up the lilos.

  ‘Why don’t you use the car pump?’ asked Selina.

  ‘Ask Chrys,’ he growled, while feeling for his own pulse and watching the second hand pointer on his watch.

  ‘I took it out to make more space,’ replied an unrepentant Chrystabel.

  ‘I’m sure I’m going to have a heart attack,’ moaned David.

  ‘It wouldn’t have made any difference, we haven’t an adaptor.’

  ‘Now she tells me,’ roared David.

  ‘All right, you two,’ laughed Selina. ‘Right now we have to get back for the last bits and pieces.’

  Back at the flat Selina succeeded in borrowing an adaptor, made last minute sandwiches, took a bath and washed her hair. Caroline burst in just as Selina left the bathroom. She was panicking as usual and firing one question after another at Selina.

  ‘Calm down, Caro, everything’s under control.’

  She collapsed into a chair. ‘I’m bushed, absolutely bushed. It’s been positive hell in Outpatients. I’m glad I’m leaving Sil, honest, I couldn’t stand another day like today.’

  ‘Poor Caro, I’ll make a cup of tea while you get your bath.’

  When Chrystabel called at eight-thirty both girls were ready and waiting. ‘David has been called back,’ Chrystabel giggled. ‘He’s hopping mad but he should be down later.’

  ‘Fine,’ said Caroline, helping to stack food in the back of the car.

  The party was going with a swing. Everyone was enjoying themselves. Only Selina was tired and out of sorts.

  ‘Come on Selina, give me a kiss,’ she smelt the sourness of his breath and felt the rub of his beard. Selina had never liked beards but the one sported by Don Fletcher looke
d particularly grotesque in the glow from the flame warmed windows.

  ‘Let me go, Don. It’s cold out here and we are looking for more boxes for the rubbish, remember.’

  It was after four in the morning. The loud music had dwindled to a soft murmur, bodies lay strewn around the floor, some propped up against the walls, others draped over steps, or in window casements.

  She dodged Don’s outflung arms and headed back inside. Angry and upset at the uncalled for attention she twisted away from her intended direction and followed the path around to the front of the house.

  The moon and her minions shone brazenly from a cloudless sky, lighting up the spread of parkland that ran down to a thick border of shadowed trees hiding the road. Her feet ground into gravel scattering tiny stones as she crossed the drive. The house cast long shadows in the moonlight and her eyes raised instinctively to the tall windows of the west wing. A shiver ran through her and she hurried back the way she had come.

  There were two bags and a box spilling over with used paper plates, plastic cups, crumpled cans and serviettes, standing just inside the kitchen door. Selina sighed and bent to haul them over the threshold, but as she swung the bags a pair of tall dark legs got in the way and she snagged one of the bags on a nail, ripping it and scattering the contents.

  ‘Oh no! Now look what you’ve done,’ Selina yelled. ‘What are you doing out here anyway?’ she snapped, ‘You have no business prowling around outside, frightening the wits out of people.’ A tear plopped on to the cardboard box and she sniffed noisily. She was on her knees picking up the plates and trying unsuccessfully to stuff them back into the torn bag.

  ‘I am concerned that those hyped up friends of yours will start a fire with those candles.’ A cold voice condemned them all in one sharp sentence. Selina looked up from her task but all she could see was a dark outline against a pale sky and for some reason as she looked at him even that began to blur.

  ‘Do you have permission to be here?’

  ‘We have no electricity,’ was all she could find to say.

  ‘Does the owner know you are here?’


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