I recognise the priest standing at the church gate.
‘Gerry! How are you?’
‘I’m – fine. How are you?’
‘Fine. Fine. God it’s been years. Thirteen, actually. Almost to the day.’
Gerry is still smiling, but in more of a maintained way.
‘I’m really sorry,’ he says, reaching out and touching me on the shoulder. ‘But ... I – don’t think I know you.’
‘Spence! Spence Kennedy! You married me! Well – me and Jenny. Thirteen years, hey? Who’d have thought...’
‘I married you.’
‘Yes! Well – you took the blessing. We got married at a registry, but had a blessing at the reception in the old school.’
‘The old school?’
‘Out in Applehurst. That old medieval hall. You took the blessing. It was really lovely. We had some readings, some music – you remember. We all had a big old dance.’
He stares at me, still smiling, but sweating a little.
‘I’m – really – sorry...’ he says.
‘I suppose I’ve grown a beard since then. Changed jobs. Maybe that’s it.’
The smile dims a little.
‘Not to worry, Gerry. It was a long time ago. Anyway – that’s for another time. Tell us who we’ve come to see today.’
He’s relieved to move on to more solid ground – to the NFA with the gangrenous leg he found sleeping in the grounds of the church.
‘Poor Gem got shot a year or so ago and his leg hasn’t been the same since. I could smell it from here and when he pulled his jeans up to show me – well, I’m no expert but even I could tell there’s something not right there.’
We chat to Gem, give him a hand up, help him over to the ambulance, settle him on the trolley.
‘This looks pretty bad,’ says Rae.
The smell is noxiously sweet. I open the hatch as wide as I can and put the air con on full.
Gem shifts his bulk on the trolley. Rae puts a thermometer in his ear.
‘I can’t believe you’ve been able to walk on it, to be honest,’ she says.
‘Walk? What else have you got to do when you’re homeless but walk? I’ve walked just about everywhere you can think of. And then walked back. I’m like Forrest Gump. And d’you know what? It’s boring.’
Rae obviously wants to make this as short a journey to hospital as possible, so I jump out ready.
Gerry is waiting for me by the cab.
‘Look – I’m really sorry but I just can’t remember you,’ he says. ‘I’ve racked my brains. It’s all a bit embarrassing.’
‘Ah don’t worry, Gerry. I’m sure you’ve had a hundred other weddings since.’
But then something occurs to me.
‘You used to work with my sister-in-law Alicia before you became a priest,’ I say. ‘That’s how we came to give you a call in the first place.’
‘Alicia!’ he says. ‘Of course! How is she?’