But before he could say anything else, her pager bleeped.

Perfect timing.

She glanced at the display. 'Thanks for breakfast. I'm needed in ED.'

'You're not on duty yet.' He frowned. 'Do you always have your pager switched on?'

'No.' Not always. Just ninety-odd per cent of the time.

His dark eyes held a hint of amusement, almost as if he didn't believe she'd been paged. As if he thought she'd called one of her friends from the changing room at the gym and asked them to bleep her in fifteen minutes' time— to get her out of a potentially difficult situation.

She'd thought about it, admittedly, but she also knew it would have fuelled gossip: why did Vicky Radley want to wriggle out of having breakfast with Jake Lewis? People would speculate. Rumours would start running round the hospital. So having breakfast with him had been the lesser of two evils. And it had been work-related, anyways. 'See you on the ward,' she said, and headed for the emergency department.

'Hello again,' Hugh Francis said with a smile when she reached ED. 'I was hoping it'd be you.'

'What's the problem?'

'Mrs Carter, seventy years old, suspected TIA—but I'm not sure if it's a very early stroke.'

'OK. I'll have a look. If I'm worried, I'll admit her to our ward.'

'Thanks.' Hugh took Vicky through to the cubicle where Violet Carter was sitting on the bed, and introduced her.

'I'm perfectly all right, you know. You don't need to fuss over me—you go and see someone who's really ill,' Mrs Carter said.

Vicky smiled at her. 'That's very public-spirited of you, but I'd like to check you over.'

'It was just a funny turn.'

'Tell me about it,' Vicky invited.

'It was like a curtain coming down over one eye. But it's gone now.'

Mrs Carter was describing a textbook case of amaurosis fugax, a typical symptom of a TIA or transient ischaemic attack, Vicky thought. 'Anything else?'

'I banged my knee when I answered the door, but that's just clumsiness. Old age.'

Or another symptom of a TIA. 'How about talking?'

'Perfectly normal. I think our postman's deaf, you know—he kept asking me to repeat things.' Mrs Carter sighed. 'I don't know why he insisted on bringing me here.'

Vicky glanced down at the notes. 'He was just worried about you. I think you might have had something called a transient ischaemic attack—called a TIA for short. It's where the supply of oxygen is cut off to part of your brain, usually by a blood clot. Your body can restore blood flow and break down any little clots, so that's why you feel perfectly all right now.'

'So I can go home?'

'Soon,' Vicky said. 'The thing is, if you've had a TIA it means you're likely to be at risk of having a stroke in the future, so I want to check you over thoroughly before I let you escape. May I ask you a few questions?'

Mrs Carter nodded.

'Have you had a stroke before, or any recent surgery?'


'Has anyone in your family ever had a seizure or a fit?'

'Not that I know of.'

'Have you had a virus or infection lately?'


'Are you taking any medication?'

'I take water pills—the doctor says my blood pressure's too high—but I never forget to take them, because I've got one of those little boxes you put your week's supply in. My daughter got it for me.'

'And she lives near?'

Mrs Carter sighed. 'Yes. And she's a worrier, so don't you go telling her about this. I just stood up a bit too quickly when the postman rang, that was all.'

'Did you have any pain?'

'Not really.'

'Where was it?' Vicky asked.

'You're as bad as my daughter. She never gives up either,' Mrs Carter grumbled. 'Just a little bit in my chest. It's gone now. And, before you ask, I gave up smoking years ago and I eat proper meals. None of that microwave ready-meal junk.'

Vicky grinned. She could see herself being like Violet Carter in forty years' time. Dressed in purple and outrageously independent. 'Mrs Carter, I respect the fact you can look after yourself perfectly well. But I need to be sure you're not just being brave. If you do have any problems, I can give you medication for it and you'll be fine—but if you're not telling me something, you could end up being very ill.' When the old lady looked recalcitrant, she added her trump card. 'Which means I'd have to talk to your daughter, and she'd probably want you to live with her so she can keep an eye on you.'

'God forbid!' Mrs Carter exclaimed. 'I'd be up in front of the bench within a week.'

'The bench?'

'On a murder charge. I can't bear all that fussing. Not to mention putting up with teenagers slamming doors and listening to that rubbish they call music nowadays.'

'Me neither,' Vicky said feelingly. 'So is there anything you're not telling me?'

'I was a bit breathless. But I told you, I just stood up too quickly.'

'Would you let me examine you and run some tests, then?'

Violet rolled her eyes. 'If it means you won't tell my daughter, yes.'

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