Visiting times for the high dependency ward (HDU) at St Mary’s hospital were from 2pm to 8pm. Derek planned to arrive at the hospital at 2.10pm, hoping no one else would be visiting Mrs Hanks. If there was anyone there he’d leave straightaway without even saying hello. He had a large box of chocolates tucked under his arm. He had wanted to bring her a bouquet of flowers, bright and forgiving; pink carnations, pale-blue hyacinths, red roses as an apology. But he’d found out while looking for the visiting times on the hospital’s website that in line with most hospitals they no longer allowed flowers on the wards for fear of bringing in infection or triggering allergies. So he’d done the next best thing and bought her a box of chocolates. He hoped she enjoyed them.
He felt bad, really bad. He’d never intended Mrs Hanks should be physically harmed. He hated violence, abhorred it; even watching it on the television or Internet made him cringe and turn away. He didn’t like to see people hurting each other, he wanted everyone to be kind. In his ideal world there would be no violence and every child would have two loving parents. It was OK to teach someone a lesson as long as it didn’t involve violence; that had been his intention with Mrs Hanks. He had wanted to teach her a lesson for all the times she’d cheated on her husband. Never for a moment had he thought Mr Hanks would react as he had, attacking his wife with that large spanner and beating her unconscious. He’d always been so placid and accommodating. It had shaken Derek rigid.
Derek parked his van in the hospital car park and made his way in through the main entrance, hoping Mrs Hanks was making a good recovery. He knew from watching their CCTV that she’d been alive when the ambulance had taken her away. At that point, Mr Hanks had gone with the police, presumably to make a statement. Derek hadn’t slept properly since, and not knowing how she was or what Mr Hanks had told the police was becoming unbearable. There’d been a small piece in the local newspaper, just saying that a woman had been found unconscious at her home in Princess Street and a man was helping police with their enquiries. There’d been nothing about how badly she’d been hurt, although being in HDU wasn’t a good sign, he thought. When he’d telephoned the hospital to find out how she was, the nurse had said they only gave out information to the next of kin and he should contact her husband. Clearly that was impossible, so he’d decided to visit in person.
The sign next to the lift showed that the HDU ward was on the second floor. With a shudder he got in and pressed for Floor 2. He hated hospitals and usually avoided them. His mother had been in hospital for two weeks when he’d been a child and at the time it had seemed she’d gone away forever. He’d visited her with his father but not every evening. His father wasn’t a good man and had resented having to look after his son. Derek remembered how unkind he’d been to him. He now associated hospitals with acute unhappiness and beatings.
The lift stopped and the doors opened. As he got out a woman stepped in. The HDU ward was signposted down a short corridor to his left. He stopped at the security locked double doors to the ward. If they asked who he was he’d have to say a relative. Summoning his courage – he hadn’t come this far to turn back now – he pressed the intercom button and waited, the tic at the corner of his eye began to agitate. Nothing happened so he pressed the button again and without any need to identify himself the doors released.
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