Sonja Albright had deliberately set fire to her practice, but she did not admit this to the police officer. They stood behind the cordon watching as fire fighters sifted through smouldering wreckage.
‘What happened? I was only gone for twenty minutes!’ she uttered with prescribed bewilderment instead. It had been a quick dash out, between Maeve Carmichael’s eyes and Mr Walden’s gall bladder, to grab some lunch.
Her hapless receptionist Maria remained huddled by the ambulance, seeking reassurance for her smoke inhalation.
‘I’ve been here four years, where am I going to see my patients now?’ Sonja straightened like the pillar of the community she was.
Since arriving, she had frozen the school principal’s reoccurring verruca, examined the contents of the butcher’s trousers, and been vomited on by the florist.
This officer’s own teenage daughter had sought treatment for gonorrhoea just last week. They wore her down with their endless maladies.
A hatchback pulled up to the curb and a woman stepped out, agape.
She caught sight of Sonja and hesitated before approaching.
‘I would think that’s fairly obvious, don’t you?’ Sonja sniffed.
‘I mean, how?’
‘They don’t know yet.’
‘I’m so sorry to trouble you, but I was here this morning with my mother and she forgot her….’
‘Glasses!’ shouted a firefighter, lifting a couple of cracked lenses aloft. They glinted, or winked in the sunlight.
Sonja recalled the appointment.
‘Let’s have a look Mrs Carmichael,’ she’d requested.
The octogenarian had dutifully removed her bifocals and popped them on the edge of Sonia’s desk.
Sonja finished typing up her notes when they left. With a surge of irritation, she’d noticed the spectacles remained, resting on a script pad. She’d toyed with them for a moment in the filtered sunlight, admired the rainbow prism created.
Stomach grumbling, she’d picked up her handbag and, with clinical detachment, observed a coil of smoke gain traction under the magnified glass.
Shut the door, down the hall, past Maria.
‘Righto,’ Maria had mouthed, as she answered the phone.
Employing her had been a mistake. Too emotional, nosy, intolerable.
The firefighter approached now to share his evidence. ‘Looks like these might be the culprits, the fire definitely started in the same spot.’
The younger Carmichael’s eyes widened with culpable recognition.
Sonja slowly turned. ‘What did you say you’d left?’
‘Nothing, I think I made a mistake.’
The woman stumbled towards her car and quickly departed.
‘I’m so relieved no one was hurt,’ Sonja told the officer.
No harm done at all.