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Lies, Damned Lies, and History

By:Jodi Taylor

Prologue

I’ve never been one for rules. They don’t really seem to apply to me. I can’t begin to count the number of times I’ve had to stand in front of someone’s desk while they talked at me, sometimes for some considerable length of time. The only good thing is that, usually, it’s only me involved.

But not this time. This time I was in serious trouble. This time I’d done something really bad. Never mind that I thought it was for the best of reasons. This time I’d really gone too far.

I couldn’t complain. Not long ago, Dr Bairstow, who always saw further than anyone else at St Mary’s, had tried to warn me, saying, ‘You need to take care, Max. Great care. You are beginning to tread the line between what is acceptable and what is not. From there, it only takes the smallest step to find you have stepped over that line and that you have done the wrong thing for the right reasons. I am warning you, in future, to be very, very careful.’

I should have listened to him and I didn’t. This time, I’d not just crossed the line – I’d practically pole-vaulted over it.

And this time I’d involved Peterson – whose future at St Mary’s was looking very shaky indeed.

And Markham who, thanks to me, would now probably never succeed Major Guthrie as head of the Security Section.

And that wasn’t the worst of it. People had lost their jobs. Roberts, my youngest historian had given in his notice. He’d insisted on trying to take all the blame. There had been a brief shouting session with Dr Bairstow and then Roberts was gone, hurling himself through the front doors and crashing the gears of his car in his haste to get down the drive and out of the gates. With the state he was in, I shouldn’t have let him go, but there was no holding him.

And David Sands – long-time friend and ally. He’d resigned, too.

And possibly the worst of all, the Chancellor of the University of Thirsk, Dr Chalfont, who had fought our corner on so many occasions – she was out as well. She’d stood her ground and argued for us – which was good of her because she’d been more furious with me than anyone else, Dr Bairstow included – and the knives that had been waiting for this opportunity for years came out. She’d been allowed to retire. Ill health, they said, but that was just for public show. I’d got her sacked as well. And Dr Bairstow was only hanging on by the skin of his teeth.

I’ve done some stupid things. I’ve been reckless, but never have I ruined so many lives or left such a trail of destruction behind me.

I suppose the story begins with Bashford’s attempt to emulate William Tell.





Chapter One

‘Right you lot,’ I said, crashing through the door to the men’s ward in Sick Bay, mug of tea in one hand, Accident Book in the other. ‘What’s the story here?’

They regarded me guiltily. Historians Bashford and Roberts were contravening rules and regs by sitting on the bed. Sands hung over the back of a chair. Miss Lingoss was perched in the window seat, giving us all a first-class view of today’s hair extravaganza. A red, gold, and orange sunburst was exploding around her head. She looked like an exuberant cactus.

The villain of the piece – or the idiot responsible for this particular catastrophe, if you wanted to use Dr Bairstow’s exact words – was propped up on his pillows looking interestingly pale, his left ear covered with a dressing, which was, in turn, held in place by a rakishly angled bandage.

Someone found me a chair. One of the few advantages of being pregnant: you’re not allowed to stand up. God knows why. You’re just as pregnant sitting down. Anyway, I made myself comfortable, put my feet up on Markham’s bed, pulled over his fruit bowl, and helped myself to his grapes. He knew better than to argue. He was – they all were – in some deep shit here. Since this was something that happened on a regular basis, no one seemed that bothered.

My name is Maxwell, and I’m in charge of the History Department – or The Usual Suspects, as they’re sometimes known. Everyone present belonged to me, with the exception of Markham – or The Patient, as he’s sometimes known. Or, on one or two occasions – The Accused.

He was fussing about my boots on his bed.

‘If Nurse Hunter comes in I’ll get the blame,’ he said.

That’s another thing about Markham. He’s as brave as a lion, gets himself shot at, blown up, set on fire, dropped or drowned far more often than is probably good for him, and it’s all water off a duck’s back, but one harsh word from blonde, fluffy Nurse Hunter and he looks like a puppy with a brick round its neck.

‘The sooner I get this sorted, the sooner I’m gone,’ I said. ‘Who’s going to start?’

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