Priscilla Masters: Frozen Charlotte

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Priscilla Masters Frozen Charlotte
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Frozen Charlotte: краткое содержание, описание и аннотация

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Set in the medieval town of Shrewsbury, this is the third in the compelling '-Martha Gunn' series – When a woman arrives in A and E clutching a child in a pink blanket, Martha Gunn is not quite ready to make the discovery that the evening has in store for her. The baby is dead, and not only that, it has been mummified. Post mortem reveals the child to be a new born, deceased for over five years and, despite the mysterious woman's protestations that it is called '-poppy', most certainly a boy. As always coroner Martha Gunn reserves judgement until she is able to get to the bottom of the case.

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Priscilla Masters

Frozen Charlotte

The third book in the Martha Gunn series, 2011


Saturday January 9th , 7p.m .

There was nothing to mark her out. She sat quietly in the corner of the Accident and Emergency department, in the seat farthest away from the registration hatch. She merged almost perfectly into the background in a dark fleece and paint-spattered jeans, hunched over a small bundle. She could have been a relative or a friend of a patient – even someone who had wandered in, looking for warmth, shelter and safety on this cold night. There are plenty of waifs and strays in and around a hospital and in general the staff are kind, allowing them to sit, even giving them a cup of tea. They realized later, when they had the debrief, that no one had really noticed her. She had blended into the background so successfully that even the nurses, who, like waiters in a busy restaurant, were trained to notice everyone, had not seen her. They were all too distracted and the woman made no demands so did not draw attention to herself. She had not approached the desk to register her complaint, but sat, head down over a pink woollen bundle, crooning softly, rocking it ever so slightly, to and fro, acknowledging no one.

All around there was the usual noise of a casualty department in a district general hospital on a freezing Saturday night. The snow had brought in the usual slips and tumbles, sledging collisions and car crashes. The air ambulance had been ferrying casualties to the hospital all day long so there was a line of trolleys and people waiting to be seen by the overworked staff. There was heightened tension that night. This was a hospital and a town still traumatized by the explosion on the previous Sunday afternoon which had tested out the hospital’s Major Incident Policy for only the second time in ten years. It had worked well but they were all still twitching from the effect. So tonight the bustle under the bright lights appeared particularly frenzied: the shouts of patients louder and more querulous, the screams of children shriller, the metallic clash of trolleys coming and going more discordant. Bleeps and telephones, shouts of instruction and everywhere people hurrying, a sense of urgency, of quickness, of life and death. There was colour, movement and bright lights everywhere, except in this one dimly lit far corner where a woman sat hunched over a pink blanket, isolated in her own quiet pool.

Staff Nurse Lucy Ramshaw was getting married in eight weeks’ time so she was working long shifts to earn much needed extra cash. All the time she worked that evening, carrying out the hundred and one tasks that were expected of her, she was distracted, her mind floating up the aisle to the strains of Wagner’s ‘Bridal Chorus’ to become Mrs Werrin. She was mentally making lists of Things To Do Before The Special Day: checking flowers, cars, times, lifts, accommodation, final fittings of the dresses and worrying about the iceberg of her credit card bill which seemed to have grown exponentially. On top of that were other worries: seating arrangements, potential hostility between a divorced couple – her brother and ex-sister-in-law meeting up after years. Lucy was looking forward to the Great Day but she wished that somehow she could be transported there right now with the list ticked off completely. There was too much to think and worry about and these long shifts at work were a kill. She was dog tired. She sighed as she searched the computer for a blood result that would make the difference between admission to the Coronary Care unit or a patient being reassured and sent home. It was negative.

She stood up ready to speak to the patient and felt slightly uplifted. After all the stress of the wedding there would be the honeymoon. She smiled to herself. Rob Werrin was quite a catch. A fit, smart guy who worked in a car showroom and knew how to make her very happy. She adored him and he her. So for the early part of that evening Lucy Ramshaw was happy in her work.

7.30 p.m., The White House

Martha was decorating what had been Martin’s study. In overalls and with a shower cap protecting her red hair from the paint spots, she was making very slow progress. It had seemed as though it would be a simple, quick job, splashing emulsion over the walls but, as with many DIY jobs, it was taking a lot longer than she had anticipated, which was frustrating. Sam was home for the weekend and she would have preferred to spend more time with him, particularly as he was more subdued than normal. He was suspended from playing in any of the junior league matches because of a tendon strain and the inactivity had made him grumpy and a little reflective about his future as a football player. Martha looked at her freckle-faced son and wished she could find the right words to console him, maybe even direct him towards more positive thinking. The worst thing was that since he had been signed up for the Liverpool Football Academy his erstwhile local friends had drifted away into their own lives. Now when he came home he was largely alone, his friends now being the Liverpool gang. She wasn’t much good. Mothers rarely are when it comes to sporting chit-chat. The entire clannish football world was foreign to her and after a few attempts at describing matches, goals, runs, passes and so on, Sam had given up. She dipped her roller in the paint tray. She had long grown out of the habit of wishing that Martin was here to help her through this or even believing that he would have dealt better with the situation. He hadn’t been a great football fan either. It was a mystery to her where Sam had got this talent from. Riding on the back of this puzzle was the knowledge that Martin had never known this Sam, this teenager with the complicated life, this emerging man. He had left behind three-year-old twins. A little boy and a little girl.

Sukey, in a white towelling dressing gown, wandered in, frowning. ‘Mum, have you seen my white top?’

‘In the wash?’ Martha ventured.

Sukey looked impatient. ‘It’ll want ironing.’

Martha turned around and gave her daughter a straight look. Agnetha, the au pair, was leaving in a month. From then on she would only have Vera, the daily, for a couple of mornings a week. And Vera, famously, did not like ironing. In the future if Sukey wanted something ironing she was going to have to do it herself. She may as well get used to it. But instead of answering her daughter’s very indirect question Martha countered with one of her own.

‘Where are you going tonight, Suks?’

It is the question every teenage girl resents. Sukey’s scowl deepened. ‘Out.’

‘You know the rules,’ Martha said quietly. ‘Where?’

Sukey flushed and looked evasive. ‘With a bunch of people.’

Martha put the paintbrush down with exaggerated deliberation. ‘You know the rules,’ she repeated. ‘Where are you going, who will be with you and-’

‘What time will you be home,’ Sukey chimed in with a squeaky, mocking voice.

Martha ignored the cheek and smiled. ‘Precisely,’ she said.

Sam decided it was time he contributed to the discussion. ‘As I’m home I’d have thought you’d have wanted to stay in,’ he said grumpily. ‘I’m hardly ever here, Suks, specially at weekends.’

Mercurial as ever, Sukey’s face changed. She gave them both a wide, warm smile, each in turn. ‘I’m going out with Sally, Emma, Feodore and Rumilla,’ she said carefully, spoiling this innocent statement of intention by slipping in, ‘and some of the sixth-form boys are tagging along too.’

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