A doctor's fate, Clare told herself wryly, as to be indispensable one minute and superfluous the next.
She gathered up her handbag and coat. Her exit took her past the young man, still thoroughly soaked. He was sitting hunched, elbows on knees, looking dispassionately at the river. People had dispersed.
"Are you all right?" Clare asked, smiling.
"Thank you." He didn't look.
She tried again, a little put out. "I did tell the security man it was you and not the others who did the deed."
"The lads were instrumental," he said, "but thank you."
His detachment peeved her. Instrumental? An odd word for a pandemonium. "You kept so calm, Mr. Whitmore. Quite admirable." She'd heard him give his name. "The only one of us."
"I'm not Whitmore." He seemed shy, caught out. "I give the names of Hollywood actors, old ones."
Give, so therefore habitually? Was this sort of rescue usual?
"If you wish," she said, piqued, about to write him off. "It doesn't alter what you did." He didn't speak. "Have you offended the security man?"
She was taken aback. "Yes what?"
"Yes, I offend the security man."
His flat replies reminded her of witnesses giving prepared evidence in court. Yet he didn't seem in any way perturbed, more mildly amused.
"It was the same at the road accident, Mr. Whitmore. That policeman?"
"Yes." Unconcerned. He must have recognized her, as she him.
"Seriously? You offend them both?"
"Both would say yes. I cannot regard it in quite the same terms."
Clare felt she ought to go, yet she persisted, irritated by his detachment. "Quite the regular rescuer. The policeman didn't take to you one bit. Remember?"
Fishing, of course. He didn't care either way. She felt an intruder, ask questions all day and get nowhere. Yet she had a vested interest in hearing an impartial view of yesterday's accident, and wanted to prolong this, even with this wet youth who didn't even have the sense to dry himself.
Slowly he looked up, level blue eyes, brown hair a wet slicked thatch. "I remember, of course."
"Might I ask how you, the archetypical do-gooder, give offence so readily?"
He said evenly, "I'm a goer."
"A ...?" She wondered if she had possibly misheard. What was a goer?
"Goer, street slang. Gigolo, walker, troller, cicisbeo, jessamy. Meaning a male hired by ladies for their own purposes and use."
That was pretty stark, she thought with wonderment. A ... one of those people, here, in this hospital park?
"You," she said stupidly. "You?"
Education, Clare thought in the warm daylight, doesn't really fit you out. Convent nuns should have prepared her. A drowning child's rescuer responds to a polite enquiry by saying blithely that he is a, what, a goer. His manner is condign; such an occupation is bound to anger propriety, it's only natural, thank you and good day.
She had a sudden absurd image, herself in the convent school, Manners and Etiquette with Sister Immaculata. Now girls, introduction to a goer: with a ladylike inclination of the head one extends one's hand, but only when the gentleman's hand is fully offered. Let's try that. Clare ...?
The books in the Burtonall/Bonn series, in order, are:
Different Women Dancing