“Actually,” Andrew told them, “I’m pretty confident I can. You see, there’s a scheme I’ve been looking into over the past few weeks. The way it works is, a newly qualified doctor agrees to join a practice in a remote area for at least two, and hopefully three, years.
“A company – or an individual . . .” he nodded at the Latimers, “. . . guarantees that doctor’s salary for that period. The scheme is not hugely expensive, but it’s by no means cheap.”
“I can assure you, Doctor,” Philip Latimer said, “the Americans are paying big bucks. Oh, dear, I must stop these Americanisms! Rest assured, Stephanie and I will guarantee the salary, and will rent and equip a surgery. On one condition.”
“Which is?” Andrew asked.
“That we remain anonymous. You see, Stephanie and I fit in very quietly here on Skerrabost and we don’t want to be known as Lord and Lady Bountiful.”
“Heaven forbid,” his wife agreed. “So, do you think you can arrange this, Doctor Shelley?”
“I do, I really do!”
Andrew was feeling elated. Here, miraculously, was the chance to double medical provision for the island!
“The senior partner in my previous practice in London has a daughter, Vanessa, who has just qualified. She’s working with her dad at present but is anxious to spread her wings. I think she could be Skerrabost’s new doctor,” he said eagerly.
The four of them looked at each other. Philip Latimer raised his glass.
“I’ll drink to that. Here’s to medicine – and to crime. Which reminds me, Andrew, I must talk to you about poisons.”
“Oh, really, Philip!” his wife objected.
* * * *
Gideon Reed stood outside the post office in the high street at one minute to one, cradling a shallow box in his hands.
As he saw Maura Campbell approach the post office door to change the Open sign to Closed, he stepped inside.
“Gideon!” Maura said. “I’m just about to close for lunch, but if there’s something you want I can . . .”
He lifted the newspaper covering the box.
“I brought you these. Fresh this morning.” In the box were four bright-eyed, gleaming mackerel.
“I thought they might be quite tasty for your lunch.”
He smiled shyly at her.
“How lovely. My, they are fresh. I can smell the sea on them. But I can’t eat four, Gideon! You’ll have to join me. I’ll fry them in a dab of butter and I have some lovely fresh bread, still warm.”
“Och, I never thought . . .” he began to protest.
“Yes, you did, you crafty man.”
His face crinkled into a smile.
“You’re too quick for me, Maura Campbell. Your perspicacity sees through my clumsy wiles. Dear me, dear me.”
Maura locked the shop door.
“We’ll eat in the kitchen where it’s cosy.”