It all started in Venice – Episode 11

Verbal sparring with Juliet

I had expected Juliet would try and maneuver the conversation in the direction Larry wanted, and I thought about whether I would be obtuse in simply ignoring her and talking about anything else, or just have fun with Larry who, no doubt, would be listening in.

Her first question was hardly surprising, an effort to see if I would tell her what my work was.  I couldn’t even if I wanted to, but I could intimate certain things.  But not straight away, Juliet was going to give to ask the right questions.

“Since retirement, I spent most of my time looking after Violetta.”

“Was she unwell?”

A natural assumption that everyone made, but nothing could be further from the truth.   She had given me purpose after so long in a trade that traded in endless lies and deception.

And it had been on one of those missions she had been caught in the crossfire, as I pretended to be, and got her out.  We found each other again, by accident, literally, and it developed from there.

I was done with that job and wandering aimlessly around Europe at the time.  She knew something was wrong with me, but never pushed, just accepted that everything would be better in time.

And it was.

It was a while before I answered, several vivid memories of her rising to the surface as they did, unexpectedly at times.

“No.  I often think she was exactly what she thought I needed to be for her.  She had come from a family that had servants all their lives, and there were certain expectations.”

I could see it in her expression, that Violetta treated me like a servant.   Good, let her.

“I had always wondered what it was you did, that you could end up I’m my hospital in such bad shape.  I never bought that car accident excuse we were given, because the injuries were inconsistent.”

“You were an expert on car injuries?”

“As a matter of fact, yes, I had made it a hobby if you like, to treat as many as possible, cataloging the injuries so that other doctors might treat patients with such injuries more efficiently.”

“So, having said that, what in your humble opinion was the cause of my injuries?”

“Being tossed out of a moving car, but more likely the result of a bar fight, the sort they had in the old wild west.”

And she’d be right.  It was six against two, and at a disadvantage, and, yes, I had been thrown a short distance, but not by the enemy.  It was a gesture to save me from a worse beating.  I had been lucky that night, my partner had not.

“Well, always an interesting topic for doctors sitting around a campfire talking shop.  But I will say this, I was a policeman once, with a blue uniform too.  I did spend time on the streets, but mostly doing paperwork, as I keep telling everyone.”

“And what caused your injuries?”

She was persistent, I’ll give her that.

“Getting involved in a domestic argument.  It’s not the sort of work anyone wants to get in the middle of, and my partner at the time was killed.  You saw what happened to me.  We were just in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

She gave me a measured look, one that seemed to say she didn’t believe a word of it, and I was fine with that.  In any other circumstance, we would not be talking about it, and I had tried to put the real events of that day behind me.

It wasn’t easy.  Not when you lose someone.  It becomes that situation where at first you blame yourself for the death, and then after enough people tell you it wasn’t your fault, you begin to wonder what you could have done better to prevent it.

A lot, perhaps, but I’d been younger then, and not as wise.  That came layer with experience.

“Tell me about you,” I said, changing the focus.

“Nothing to tell.”

“I read newspapers Juliet, and I know what happened.  It might have been on page 16, but it leaped off the page.  I wanted to believe it wasn’t true.”

If she thought she was going to escape the inquisition, she was wrong.

I had been surprised to see her name, more surprised at the circumstances, a dalliance with drugs, a bad call, an avoidable death, and the downward spiral from there.

The photo of her in the paper after her arrest was not pretty.  She went to jail for a short period, lost her license to practice medicine, and lost a whole lot more.

“If you read the news, then there’s nothing left to tell.  I’m clean now, have been for a few years.”

The admission came almost reluctantly, for someone in her situation, it was like an evening ender when the truth was out.

“You were a good doctor.  What happened?”

“Too many hours, not enough sleep.  A husband who was too consumed in his own career, I took the easy way out.  Life is a series of choices, and I made a few bad ones.  Shit happens.”

“So, what do you do now?”

“Forensic medicine, assisting coroners.  I work with the dead.  I figure I can’t hurt them anymore.  I try to see the people who don’t survive car crashes, and continue my work in the hope some of the death and mayhem can be prevented.”

As well as doing Larry’s dirty work.  Had she done this before?

Sparring suspended, the main courses arrived.

© Charles Heath 2022

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