HE was wearing plus fours this time and a bow tie.
“What can I do for you, Miss Merriel?”
“It’s my thumb again, Doctor. I think it is poisoned.”
He took a pair of spectacles from his desk and peered at the wound.
“It’s infected, I’m afraid. I’ll drain the poison and give you an anti-tetanus jab just to be on the safe side.
“I hear you’ve been getting out and about quite a bit.”
“Yes, I’ve walked along as far as the promontory. There’s a wonderful view from there.”
“And Joseph has given you a tour of the lighthouse.” He must have sensed her surprise for he added, “We were talking in the inn, Joseph and I. It hasn’t got a very happy history, our lighthouse.”
“He told me there’d been a couple of nasty accidents there.”
The doctor picked up a swab of cotton wool and applied iodine liberally to her thumb.
“Most of the village folk won’t go near the place. Nasty atmosphere. A place to keep well away from.”
Then Joan broached the matter that had been troubling her.
“That man you were telling me about, Doctor Hardwick. The one who was stabbed in the back. It’s been on my mind ever since. Do you really think the guilty person is still in the village?”
“That’s a tricky one to answer. Nearly everybody has been a suspect at one time or another.”
“But what do you think?”
“I’m a man of science. I ignore gossip and concentrate on hard facts. The police were unable to find the criminal. I have an open mind.”
He took a bandage and wound it round her thumb.
“Still enjoying the school teaching?”
“I’m finding it a challenge. This war makes the children unsettled.”
“We’ll all be glad when it’s over,” he said heavily. “Now, I’ll give you the injection and that should finish things off nicely.”
He opened a drawer and took out a long metal syringe. Then he reached up to a shelf where a stack of bottles stood and picked out a dark blue glass one.
She watched him, and a dreadful thought ran through her head. Didn’t doctors store poisons in blue bottles?
She was on the brink of rushing out of the surgery when common sense kicked in. The man had been a respected doctor in the village for years.
She tried to keep her voice steady.
“I thought blue bottles contained poison.”
“They do, Miss Merriel.” He took off his spectacles and laughed. “That bottle isn’t for you, my dear. The anti-tetanus is in this one.” He took down a plain glass bottle that had been resting on the shelf behind the blue one. “My job as a doctor is to heal, not to harm.”
All at once she felt foolish.
“I’m sorry, Doctor Hardwick. I’m on edge today.”
He took out a spotted handkerchief and wiped his forehead.
“I think we all are. It’s this blasted war. Your thumb won’t be helping. Infections make you feel low.”
She rolled down her sleeve and he patted her on the back.
“There we are. You shouldn’t have any more problems. Come straight back if you are worried.”
As she left the surgery a sweep of
relief ran through her. Her eye was caught once more by the garish poster, HE’S WATCHING YOU, and she shuddered.
A figure was standing outside the post office. He was looking into the glass window and she realised with a start that he would be able to see her reflection clearly. It was Lieutenant Walker.
She swung round on her heel promptly and set off the longer way back to her lodgings, past the village houses. Somebody had stuck posters all over the village hall noticeboard. MR HITLER WANTS TO KNOW, with a caricature of the German leader bearing gigantic ears. KEEP IT UNDER YOUR HAT.
In another, a sailor lifted his peaked cap as he talked to an attractive blonde, and there was a picture of a ship in trouble at sea. LOOSE LIPS MIGHT SINK SHIPS.