Sunday, 25 March 2007

Chapter 58

Alan McFry sat alone at a table outside a café in the Plaza Dos de Mayo, sipping a ‘café solo’ and idly leafing through a copy of El Mundo, enjoying the fresh January air and pausing now and again to watch the Madrillenos, dressed for winter in thick overcoats, passing by. It was Friday morning, and he was still wondering about the late-night call he’d received from his brother, Harry, the day before. He’d enjoyed Harry’s discomfort as he’d raised the issue of Ana’s sister and his new relationship with her.

“Of course I was going to tell you, Harry,” he’d said. But he’d never have mentioned it if Harry hadn’t. What business was it of Harry’s who he was living with? In any case, it may not work out. Adam must have told Carrie, his ex-wife; and Carrie, he surmised, must have told Harry. He wondered what Carrie had made of the ‘news’?

He’d spent a happy time re-acquainting himself with his son during his visit, showing him the sights of Madrid and taking the odd day trip out of the city with him. It had all seemed to go pretty well, all things considered.

Now, Harry was coming to Madrid and, of course, he couldn’t really refuse to put him up. Who, he wondered, was this Danny he’d be bringing along? It would be difficult enough dealing with Harry’s presence, with all the history of what had gone on between him and Ana, without a stranger being around. He’d been able to get away with hardly mentioning Ana during their infrequent telephone calls over the last few years.

Alan took a slug of coffee, followed quickly by a mouthful of anis, which coated his mouth with its sticky sweetness. In seconds, it had hit the spot that only anis can find – so that it felt like a warm cushion between his brain and his skull. Life was good, he was thinking. Better keep it that way, and not tell Harry anything at all about Ana.


Over breakfast in their hotel in Northallerton, North Yorkshire, Dave Morris and Jane Tobias were discussing their schedule for the rest of the day.

Yesterday, their unannounced visit to Dr Lawrence’s surgery had revealed more than they imagined it would. It was inconvenient to their investigations, of course, that the good doctor had chosen the day before their visit to hospitalize himself. But in some ways, his absence was helpful, as it had allowed them to examine his computer without any undue interference. And Lawrence had had no opportunity to erase the incriminating details they knew would be there.

Mabel Harris had, in the end, turned out to be helpfulness personified. Dave suspected there was no love lost between the two – that, in fact, Lawrence wasn’t popular with many of his colleagues at all.

“I’ll say you’re from our IT support company,” Mabel had said, “just in case anyone asks.” It didn’t matter to Dave and Jane how Mrs Harris chose to explain their presence to the rest of the staff at the health centre, but in some ways it was helpful to be able to get on with their business undisturbed.

They already knew that Lawrence had been accessing confidential medical records from patients all across the country that he had no authority to look at. ‘Gilbert’ had told them as much.

It wasn’t that practitioners couldn’t, or weren’t allowed, to do this. The whole point of the new NHS strategy for IT was that records should be available centrally, not squirreled away on paper in thousands of GP practices all over the country. And, if a patient was transferring to a new practice (whether because they didn’t like their existing one or were simply moving house) it was quite natural that the new GP would access their records. This had all been factored into the equation when the Gilbert programme had been written. What Gilbert was designed to find was obvious anomalies: and Dr Dacre Lawrence’s activities had stepped way beyond the norm.

Analysing the hard drive on his PC, Jane Tobias had quickly found the history files that backed up Gilbert’s findings.

“Looks like he’s downloaded the records of every single patient called McFry in the country, Dave,” she’d said.

Dave had been sat at a second desk in the corner of Dr Lawrence’s room, examining a foolscap pad and the doctor’s diary, which lay, still open at the page for that week.

“McFry? How many are we talking about, Jane?” he had asked.

“At a quick glance, about 200. Way out of order. Just doing that is bound to mean a disciplinary for him, isn’t it?”

Dave Morris wasn’t sure about that, and to Jane’s eye had seemed pre-occupied with another thought. He had been more interested in the appointments Lawrence had in his diary, just for that moment. In particular, one for a Lillian McFry, in Telford, just two days previous.

“Just pull up the record for Lillian McFry, 28 Vale View, Telford, will you, Jane?” he’d asked. “I may be wrong, but I think we’ll find she may be the one he was really after.”


Kerryb said...

Like the new colours a lot, definitely more restful on the eyes than the black!

Thomas Hamburger Jnr said...

Thank you, kerryb. It does seem a bit easier to read, doesn't it? I did read an article somewhere, though, that a PC uses much less power when it's generating black on a screen than it does for white, so maybe in years to come we'll all have to use 'white on black' to save the planet, if not our eyes!

Thanks for reading!