A Handful of Ashes (Extract)

The woman who’d tried to kill her husband stank of aniseed and alcohol.

Posted on February 21, 2018 in Extract

The woman who’d tried to kill her husband stank of aniseed and alcohol. The stench hung off the walls, the mattress, every strand of hair. She was lying on the fl at mattress against one wall of the cell, dressed in the standard white zip-up jumpsuit, her clothes long since taken into evidence. But the sterile clothing didn’t cover the scratches on her arms, hands and face, which were starting to heal, though no scabs had yet formed.

These observations told Harry Kent three things about his patient. It was likely that her wounds weren’t healing because her liver wasn’t making the clotting factors that process required. And liver dysfunction in an otherwise healthy thirty-four-year-old woman was more than likely related to the stench of Sambuca that had struck him as he’d opened the door to the cell.

‘Who the fuckin’ hell are you?’

Her accent straight off the television, not unlike what his own had been before medical school had blunted it. Harry noted the Millwall FC tattoo on her wrist as she stood up. All eighteen stone of Keziah Barnes, the custody sergeant, followed him in. The patient sat down again.

‘Morning, Mrs Wright,’ Harry said. ‘I’m a doctor.’

At about five o’clock the previous evening, Pauline Wright had smashed a bottle of extra-value Morrison’s Sambuca into the face of her husband of twelve years. The husband was now at the John Ruskin University Hospital, where Harry usually worked, being monitored for the seizure he’d suffered after the impact. Thirty-eight-year-old men didn’t often have seizures, but thirty-eight-year-old alcoholics who’d killed off a decent proportion of their brain cells did. He’d pull through. At the time, Harry had been told, the seventy-centilitre bottle was almost empty, having been drunk by Mrs Wright’s husband. That had been the cause of the argument, it appeared. One drunk stealing the other one’s liquor.

By all accounts, Pauline Wright had not had a drink in what was fast approaching twelve hours. It showed.

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