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The Heinz Ketchup American. An Ophelia Perhaps Mystery. Part 3.

DSC05247Mr. Briggs

Before I meet Mrs. Briggs and Dennis in the waiting room, I stop for a bracing tea and scone, then find my way to the hospital vending machines. I don’t want to rush into this depressing situation. Nothing looks good in the machines, but I get three coffees and three Kit Kat bars anyway. Who knows how long we’ll be here. Is there a person on this earth who can refuse coffee and candy bars?

Juggling the cups and bars, I walk into the waiting room, empty except for Dennis and Mrs. Briggs huddled in quiet conversation. They look up as I approach.

“Is one of those for me?” Dennis says rather too loudly.

“Of course, my love.”

I hand over coffees and Kit Kats.

“I can’t have this, dear,” says Mrs. Briggs. “I’m diabetic, but I’ll save it for Oscar.”

There are industrious sounds of crinkling, tearing, and chewing. Chocolate has a way of putting things in perspective.

“What’s the news? There was a turn for the worse?” I say as Dennis crumples the Kit Kat wrapper.

“Well, now they say Oscar’s a little better,” says Dennis. “But we want to talk to the head cardiologist. They said he’d be here in an hour.”

A young man with dreadlocks in a Mad for Flowers shirt suddenly appears with a spray of carnations. He wobbles a bit as he shoves aside a bunch of magazines on the waiting room table and sets down the glass vase.

“This is for . . .  a Mrs. . . . Perhaps,” he says slowly, reading his order slip. “You aren’t the one that’s sick, are you?”

“That’s me, and, no, I’m here to see about someone else.” I take the flowers—I love carnations—and look back at the delivery boy.

“Is there a card?”

“Yes, ma’am,” he says. He reaches to pull a small card from a plastic holder, handing it to me.

I read it quietly out loud. “Good luck and good health to your friend. An admirer.”

Dennis lets out a low whistle.

“Did you take this order?” I ask the delivery boy.

“My name’s Nigel, and, yes, I did take the order.”

“So, Nigel, what did this guy look like?”

“Tall, older American bloke, white hair . . . an American hat . . . “

“Like the kind some rappers wear?”

“Rappers?” whispers Dennis with a frown.

“Rappers? Yeah, sure,” says Nigel. “Could be. With the bill in the front. And his hands were speckled. Like with paint.”

I gasp at this unexpected detail. “Like a plasterer or someone like that?”

“No, like a painter. Someone like that.”

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