ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Carole Roscoe is qualified in general nursing, midwifery, maternal and child welfare and psychiatric nursing. While undertaking psychiatric nursing training at Mount St Margaret Hospital in Ryde, her tutor advised that she was gifted in this area. She worked as the clinical instructor in Psychiatry at Prince Henry Hospital at Little Bay in Sydney while completing BA (Honours) in Psychology. She then completed the Master of Clinical Psychology (M.Psychol) degree also at the UNSW.
She worked as a Clinical Psychologist at Bondi Junction Community Health Centre then took up a research officer position with the Commonwealth Government in Canberra.
Carole returned to Queensland because her sister and her family live in Brisbane. She is now writing full time which is what she has wanted to do for years.
He stood at the top of the marble staircase, a solitary figure. The people in the room below gradually became silent as all eyes turned towards him. Rusty Morgan, the man who had been considered no one from nowhere, had achieved the award of best actor for his latest film Silent as the Grave and was about to descend for his official welcome home to Sydney.
The people waiting below were experiencing a variety of emotions. Some felt genuine pleasure for his achievement. Others who had not done as well were intensely jealous that someone who they thought was lacking in talent should take the top award. Some were there out of duty and were simply bored with the whole proceeding.
Belle Valentine, his ex-wife, flamboyant as always, was resplendent in crimson velvet with her famous breasts spilling out of a bodice designed for maximum exposure. Belle was photographed by the waiting media many times. Rusty’s current wife, Juliet Springfield, enigmatic and composed, stood a little to the side next to his agent, Rafe Barnaby. Rafe had a habitual sneer on his face as though he could see through the polite interchanges of the people around him.
Rusty searched for his son in the crowd of people and was intensely disappointed when he could not see him. Also absent was his first love, Nadia, who had shared many scenes with him in the long-running popular drama, Land of the Southern Cross, which had screened on television on week nights at dinner time for some years. She had died many years ago. He wished that she too could have seen his success. She was one of the very few at that time who had believed that he could succeed.
Finally when the noise had hushed he started to descend the staircase. It was an impressive performance. He assumed an attitude of nonchalance and moved with absolute poise and confidence. His bearing was exactly right, his suit well-cut and a perfect fit. Right down to his patent leather shoes he looked exactly as they had expected.
On the third step from the bottom the toe of his left foot seemed to brush the edge. No one was sure later exactly what had happened. His body seemed to crumple and he fell awkwardly. He landed with his head twisted to one side, his body spread across the stairs. His eyes stared sightlessly at the ceiling. His mouth fell open and a little trickle of saliva dribbled from the corner. As a final indignity his toupee fell off his head revealing a balding patch on his crown. Belle’s left hand flew to her throat. She flung her right arm out in a dramatic gesture pointing at Rusty’s body and screamed with the full force of her lungs.
Aaron Deveril, the hotel manager, was more practical. He phoned for an ambulance and requested urgent assistance by paramedics. He explained that a celebrity had collapsed. He asked if a doctor could accompany the ambulance. He was in luck. It was a slow night in the emergency department of the nearby hospital. An ambulance had delivered a patient and was ready to leave. A doctor could be spared for a short time.
Inspector John Sentinel and Detective Constable Jennifer Arlington had been standing at the back of the room. Because of the intense media attention surrounding the event, the Assistant Commissioner had wanted a discreet police presence. Gerard McAbee, the Detective Chief Inspector on the murder squad, had categorically refused to attend the function. He had delegated the responsibility to John Sentinel.
John Sentinel went quickly to where Rusty Morgan was lying. Jennifer Arlington knelt down and felt for his radial pulse. She couldn’t find it, and tried the carotid.
“He’s got a very faint carotid pulse. His respirations are rapid and shallow.”
The ambulance arrived at the hotel with siren screaming. Two paramedics rushed in carrying bags of equipment. They hurried to where Rusty Morgan was lying.
The doctor checked his airway. It was clear but his breathing had stopped. He still had a very faint carotid pulse. The paramedics lifted him and placed him flat on the floor. One began mouth to mouth resuscitation. He gave him five full breaths and paused while the doctor again checked his pulse. He nodded and the paramedic resumed resuscitation. The other people in the room remained completely motionless and silent transfixed by the drama which was unfolding.
When the doctor could no longer feel a pulse, the paramedics commenced full cardiopulmonary resuscitation. They worked quickly and efficiently. After many minutes a pulse returned. The doctor gave some instructions. The paramedics connected the equipment to record an electrocardiogram. The doctor examined the trace. He saw the broad irregular waves which indicated that Rusty Morgan’s heart was in a state of virtual arrest and then spoke quietly to the paramedics.
“He’s got ventricular fibrillation.”
They passed him the defibrillator. The doctor put gel on the electrodes and called for the paramedics to stay clear. He gave the first electric shock to Randy Morgan’s chest which heaved as he applied it. The doctor checked the electrocardiogram.
The strength of the electric shock was increased and the electrodes reapplied. Again Rusty Morgan’s back arched as his chest heaved. The doctor went through the routine a third time and applied the final shock to Rusty Morgan’s chest. The electrocardiogram recorded only a flat line. The doctor waited, then looked at his watch and said quietly, “Time of death, 10 pm.”
The people who had gathered around mesmerised by the drama stood in a stunned silence. Rusty Morgan had been forty-five. If his performance in Silent as the Grave had been outstanding, his death was riveting.
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