Have the misfortune to find yourself in any accident and emergency unit and you'll probably find them skulking around somewhere nearby; surreptitiously slipping business cards onto waiting room chairs or handing out flyers to the smokers congregated outside, shivering away in hospital gowns and with IV drips at their sides as they desperately seek their nicotine fix. At the sound of the tears of a worried relative their ears prick up like wolves; where the untrained eye may perceive distress and heartache they see only a business opportunity. Most of my rivals have a 'Where there's blame there's a claim' mentality; tripped on a pavement? Sue the local council. Developed a blood clot after a long-haul flight? Let's drag that airline to court and get you the compensation you deserve. Been misdiagnosed by the kindly GP who has been treating you and your loved ones for over twenty years? Who cares about his kids or retirement plans, he owes you big time!
There are a number of familiar faces that I've encountered over the years although none that I would call - or indeed wish to call - a friend. Most of the ambulance chasers would sell their own mother for a quick buck, not the kind of people you'd want on your Christmas card list. Whilst the others are drawn to sobbing parents, partners or offspring like flies around shit, I prefer to steer clear of such drama, lurking in the shadows and going straight to the victim to make my move with little noise or fuss, yet never failing to maintain my 100% success rate. Once I’ve chosen my target then there’s no turning back.
Business on the ward this morning was brisk; a road accident, a possible spinal injury caused by a playground football match, a chef who was meant to be chopping parsley but ended up slicing off the end of his index finger. Dan Henderson pounced on the mother of the 18 year old RTA victim with his usual winning combination of insincere sympathy, slightly inappropriate physical contact (a comforting arm around the shoulder, a soothing stroke of the hand) and the promise of a big fat
payout. Watching from across the room I found the whole performance nothing less than distasteful, though had to begrudgingly admit that the technique clearly works as the woman slipped Henderson's card into her wallet with a promise that she'd call him once her son was out of hospital.
Paul Steel, meanwhile, had been striking up conversation with the concerned parents of the child whose sporting career may have been tragically cut short. He quickly ascertained that the boy had been playing football on a hard tarmac surface unsupervised by any teachers when a rough tackle had floored him, hitting his back against metal railings. Paul spouted legalese at them, muttering about duty of care and health and safety legislation. Cases like this make me feel sorry for teachers; who in their right mind would enter the profession if they knew that they could be dragged through a legal minefield every time a kid experiences a bump or scrape?
Whilst the sharks were busy circling their prey my attention was drawn to a new admission to the ward. This was more my thing; I’ve got no interest in minor injury or disability claims, it's the big cases that interest me. Sophie had been walking to school without a care in the world when the motorcycle swerved to avoid a pothole, lost control and mounted the pavement at a speed of at least forty miles an hour. The ambulance had been there within minutes but the situation was clearly grave; in a fight between a pigtailed ten year old and over 200kg of throbbing metal I'd say that the odds are heavily skewed in the direction of the latter. As she was wheeled into the emergency room I slipped in behind the team of sweating surgeons and stern faced consultants to take stock of the situation. As they concerned themselves with medication and bleeping machines I rested my hand on the young girl's head, warm and sticky with blood. Although she was unconscious I could tell that she was in a lot of pain and knew that this was the case I'd been waiting for all day; whilst those slickly suited charlatans outside concerned themselves with petty financial gain, there I was in the same hooded cloak that I’ve been sporting since day one of my career, ready to make my move with trademark ruthless efficiency. I haven’t carried the scythe for years now; that was all for dramatic effect and frankly a bit of a burden to lug around, although I do sometimes bring it out for special occasions. As the medical staff continued to buzz around oblivious to my presence I bent down and rested my lips on her forehead. The cold sensation speeding through her veins momentarily roused the girl; in the instant that her eyes met mine there was a flash of understanding – although no one has ever seen me and lived to tell the tale, somehow when the time comes for us to meet everyone has a faint sense of recognition, as if I were a long lost friend. Seconds later the moment had passed and her eyes shut again. As the machines started to let out that familiar ear-piercing noise, I pulled away. My job here was done - another day in the office, another soul for the collection.