‘Here we are gang!’ announced Fred as he turned off the road and parked the Mystery Mobile in what he was surprised to find was an empty carpark. It was late afternoon and the light was already beginning to fade. Up above dark, imposing clouds were heavy with rain suggesting that the forecasters were correct in their prediction that a storm was on the way. ‘This is the GP practice I attended as a boy’, Fred explained to the other members of Mystery Incorporated. ‘I’ll just pop in and see if I can make an appointment about my haemorrhoids? Why don’t you all get out and stretch your legs?’
‘It looks like we’re the only ones here’, said Daphne stepping out of the vehicle and making her way over to the entrance of the building. To the left of the door there was a solitary metal plate bearing the name and qualifications of a doctor who presumably worked there. From the marks on the wall it was clear that there had once been many more but, assumed Daphne, those to whom they had referred had all now long since gone.
Inside the building all was dark save for the faint glow of a solitary light that partially illuminated a large empty room, the chairs that had one been spread across the carpeted floor now stacked neatly in one of its corners. Velma, who by now had joined Daphne outside the building, tried to open the front door but discovered it was locked. Peering through the glass window she noticed that a whiteboard had been positioned in the foyer on which she could just about make out the words:
PORTSIDE MEDICAL CENTRE IS NOW CLOSED
WE APOLOGISE FOR ANY INCONVENIENCE
FOR MEDICAL ADVICE PLEASE CALL 111
‘I’m sorry Fred’, said Velma, ‘it looks like you’re going to have to put up with your piles a while longer. The place looks like it’s completely deserted’.
But no sooner had she finished speaking a small man appeared around the side of the building. Carrying what seemed to be a medical bag he walked with heavy steps and a head held low which together gave him the appearance of one with the weight of the world on his shoulders. Looking up he was surprised to see four youths and, if he wasn’t mistaken, a large Great Dane standing in front of him.
‘Good evening’, he said. ‘What can I do for you?’
Fred stepped forward and, recognising the man as the doctor his mother had once been in the habit of taking him to see regarding his chronic constipation, went to shake the GPs hand.
‘It’s Dr Mungo isn’t it? I’m Fred, Fred Jones. I used to see you regularly. I was hoping to make an appointment to see you’.
‘It is indeed’, replied the man. ‘Is it the old trouble again?’ Dr Mungo smiled as he surprised himself by how well he could recall the medical histories of former patients despite not having seen then for years. ‘I’m afraid you won’t be able to make that appointment though. The practice has had to shut down. With all the strange things that have been going on here, we haven’t been able to attract the necessary doctors to work here and, as a result, we have been forced to permanently close our doors’.
‘S-s-strange g-g-goings on?’ stammered Shaggy anxiously, ‘W-w-what kind of strange g-g-goings on?’
‘All manner of extraordinary things’, began Dr Mungo. ‘And I don’t just mean the unfathomable actions of the practice nurses who manage the care of diabetic patients in ways that are beyond the comprehension of even the most up to date of GPs. No we’ve witnessed things far more bizarre than that. At first it all seemed innocent enough. The usual reports of vampiric activity from patients following their appointments with our health care assistant. We laughed them off at first but when last year there weren’t enough blood bottles to go round, one couldn’t help wondering if the national shortage might actually be the result of some concerted effort by the undead to accumulate blood products in preparation for one of their unspeakably depraved nocturnal activities. I mean, is that really any less credible than a health service that is supposedly the envy of the world running out of the containers required to run a functional venesection service?’
Fred looked at Daphne and smiled, his eyes suggesting that he thought Dr Mungo might just be one consultation short of a full surgery, his friend indicating her agreement with an almost imperceptible nod of the head and the tapping of her temple with her finger. Dr Mungo, however, oblivious of this exchange, continued undaunted.
‘And then there was all the poltergeist activity,’ he went on. ‘Our digital thermometers started to go missing and then the telephones began to ring constantly throughout the day, frequently for no apparent reason. And then most peculiarly of all, when our senior partner retired and we advertised for a new doctor to take her place, all the many applications we had expected to receive unaccountably never arrived. Not a single one made it to the practice’.
‘How then did you cope without sufficient doctors to do the work?’ asked Fred, doing his best to humour the man who now seemed but a shell of the one who had once so majestically set up a repeat prescription for Movicol paediatric plain.
‘At first we managed by employing locums. For a while we were fortunate to have a Dr Benn working regular for us. But it wasn’t long before he left saying that he wanted to try his hand at other jobs. I believe he spent time as a submariner and then a chef before finally settling down as a zookeeper. Unable to get any other locums the workload of the remaining doctors increased and it was then that the doctors started disappearing.’
‘Jinkies!’, exclaimed Velma. ‘How could doctors just start disappearing?’
‘One was signed off with stress and soon after that another took early retirement. But it wasn’t just doctors that went missing. Drugs were often absent from the pharmacy such that patients frequently had to go without their usual medication. Then came a lack of ambulances and finally there was a dearth of professional carers such that the needs of vulnerable individuals in the community could no longer be met. Slowly but surely public services were vanishing, eroded by what we could only presume was some malevolent force intent on pursuing its wicked plan to undermine all that underpins a civilised society.’
‘That sounds absolutely horrifying’, whispered Fred, feeling some sympathy now for what Dr Mungo had had to endure. But Dr Mungo still wasn’t finished.
‘And then things started to get genuinely scary’. Dr Mungo looked down at the ground and went silent, temporarily unable to say what he knew he must. After a few seconds he lifted his head again and, fixing Fred with fear-filled eyes, told him what he’d vowed he’d never tell anyone outside the circle of those with whom he worked. ‘That’s when they came,’ he said. ‘That’s when the visitations began.’
‘V-v-visitations?’, stammered Shaggy, his teeth chattering in nervous unison with his knocking knees. ‘Who w-w-was it that c-c-came?’
‘Decerebrated CQC inspectors!’
‘Decerebrated? You mean…’ Fred stopped mid sentence unwilling to speak the word he feared would somehow make a reality of what surely was nothing more than the fevered imagination of a physician who had undertaken one too many sessions of extended hours.
‘That’s right Fred they were absolutely brainless’ continued Dr Mungo, completing Fred’s sentence for him. ‘They would appear out of nowhere with clipboards in hand and terrify us by asking us to account for every paper clip that the practice ever used and how we might cope in the event of a alien invasion. They never smiled Fred, they never smiled, contenting themselves instead by making detailed notes of everything we said as slowly and surely they drew their plans against us. And when they did eventually leave, seemingly disappointed by the satisfactory answers we had given, they promised that one day they would return with even more stringent conditions with which we would have to comply’.
With this final terrifying revelation Dr Mungo had clearly had enough. Falling to his knees he took his head in his hands and began to gently sob.
‘Follow me everyone’ said Fred taking the keys that Dr Mungo had been holding and unlocking the front door of the medical centre. ‘Let’s go inside and see if we can catch ourselves a ghost!’
Scooby Doo repeated the word ‘Ghost’ in that questioning tone of his that he often employed to indicate reluctance but when Velma offered him a Scooby snack he gave up his hesitation and gladly followed on behind the rest of the gang.
‘Let’s split up and look for clues’, suggested Fred. ‘Daphne and I will head upstairs whilst the rest of you see what you can find down here.’ And with that Fred and Daphne headed off in the direction of the stairwell.
Velma, Shaggy and Scooby made their way cautiously across the waiting room and towards the corridors off which doors opened onto a number of consulting rooms. They stopped at the first of these and Velma slowly eased open the door which creaked on its hinges in a way that only served to heighten their anxiety further. Inside they were struck by how cold the room was. It seemed to contain an unnatural chill, one that managed somehow to permeate their bones in a way they none of them had ever previously experienced.
‘Loike that’s some weird phenomenon of temperature regulation’ said Shaggy, voicing what he knew he Scooby was thinking too.
‘Don’t be ridiculous Shaggy’, replied Velma. ‘It’s just that the heating’s off. What with energy prices being what they are I imagine the practice would struggle to heat a building the size of this. But look, what’s that?’
Velma was pointing towards a dark corner of the room where there was a pile of putrid smelling material the exact nature of which was as yet unclear. Velma leaned forward to get a closer look and then recoiled in horror as she realised exactly what it was she was staring at.
‘What is it?’ asked Shaggy. ‘Ectoplasm?’.
‘Not ectoplasm Shaggy, but some equally vile substance exuded from an inhuman source. It’s a pile of Daily Mail newspapers, each denigrating those working in primary care and blaming them for the pressures the NHS is now experiencing.’
‘Zoinks!’ shouted Shaggy. A petrified Scooby jumped into Shaggy’s arms and the two of them trembled together for a minute like animated characters in a Hanna-Barbera cartoon of the late 1960s and early1970s. Eventually Shaggy lowered the quivering Scooby back down to the ground and expressed his desire to leave.
‘Let’s get out of here’ he yelled.
Scooby indicated his approval of the plan and, with that, both his and Shaggy’s legs began to move at great speed even though it was several seconds before they themselves started to actually move towards the door through which they had entered. Soon they were safe again, back in the corridor outside where they were shortly joined by Velma who had wasted no time in following on behind them.
Meanwhile Fred and Daphne had arrived upstairs. As their made their way across what they took to be the general office they were stopped in their tracks by the sound of someone or something moaning hideously. The unearthly noise was interspersed by a thumping sound which grew louder with each successive thud.
‘Jeepers Fred. What’s that?’ whispered Daphne,
‘I don’t know’, replied Fred, breaking out into a cold sweat as he did so. ‘But whatever it is, it sounds like it’s coming from behind that door’
Fred was indicating a door off to the side of the office space. They made their way over to it and slowly pushed it open to see what might be on the other side of its wooden panels. Sat at a desk was a young woman who was banging her head repeatedly on her computer keyboard, groaning in anguish as she did so. Looking up she saw the two intruders and, composing herself, stood up and tried to convey an air of professionalism.
‘Hello there, I’m Rebecca and I’m the practice manager here. ‘How can I help you?’
‘We were rather wondering if we could help you!’ Daphne replied. ‘What’s the matter?’
‘Oh it’s just that the goalposts keep moving’, the practice manager replied.
‘What do you mean?’, said Fred. ‘Are you experiencing more poltergeist phenomenon?’
‘No, no. Nothing like that. It’s just that I’ve just had another call about this years flu vaccinations. It seems that the procedures that we are being asked to follow in delivering them have been changed yet again. It’s the devil’s own job to keep up with it all.’
‘Well then, we’re sorry to have disturbed you Rebecca.’ said Daphne motioning to Fred that they should leave. Exiting the room they looked back and saw the young woman trying to replace the hair she had recently pulled from her scalp.
Back downstairs Velma, Shaggy and Scooby were exploring the area behind the reception area where patients had for many years been welcomed to the practice. To one side there was a rest area which Shaggy noticed doubled as a kitchenette.
‘Hey Scoob’, he said, ‘Fancy looking for something to eat?’
Scooby, by way of endorsing the suggestion, laughed in that way that he does, a way far too difficult to convey in words. Closely followed by Velma, they entered the area known as ‘The Chill Zone’ whereupon Shaggy and Scooby proceeded to look for anything that might be edible. All they found though was an all but empty jar of coffee granules and a tin that had once contained biscuits, evidenced by the broken remains of a single custard cream that they found within it.
Turning to the fridge Shaggy stopped as he noticed on its metal door a message that had been spelt out in magnetic letters and left as a warning to any who might later come across it.
Though incomplete, the meaning appeared plain. Someone had clearly fallen foul of the caffeinated refreshment that had been offered them, contaminated as it had been, perhaps, by some inhuman fiend.
As they stared at the words Shaggy became aware that Velma was on her hands and knees and was crawling around on the floor beneath him. As she had entered the room she had slipped on a laminated sheet of paper that detailed the protocol to be adhered to when using the chairs. Ironically it had been dropped by a health and safety inspector who had visited the practice the previous week and had now become a trip hazard. As she’d stumbled, Velma’s glasses had fallen from her face and now, temporarily blind, she was trying to relocate her optical aids. Eventually she stumbled upon them but not before she had also come across five more magnetic letters made up of two E’s, an R, an S and a Y. Standing back up up she stuck them back on the fridge door and so revealed the intended, far more chilling counsel that the unknown advisor had meant to convey.
‘Beware Therese Coffey’, Velma said, nodding as she did so. ‘I think that is guidance we would all do well to take firmly on board’.
Just then Daphne and Fred arrived and together the gang concluded that there was no more for them to do. They made there way back to the front entrance and went outside where it had now begun to rain. Dr Mungo was still there. He was seated on the floor, rocking back and forth, and dribbling into his newly acquired beard, the result of his not having been home for three days on account of how tied up he’d been at work. His lips were moving silently, repeatedly mouthing the words ‘Please come and work for us’ to non existent passers by, offering them as he did so, one of the sheaf of job adverts he had pulled from his bag earlier.*
Fred sat down on the cold and increasingly damp floor and was immediately reminded of why he had originally wanted to visit the medical centre of his youth. He put his arm around Dr Mungo who, clearly having lost the plot, was now insisting that the practice had once had a visit from Paddington Bear.
‘I’m afraid, Dr Mungo, that we’ve meddled as much as we can but not even we can stop whatever is behind the current demise in general practice from getting away with it. But rather than anything supernatural going on, I think what we are seeing is the inevitable effect of a system that is being asked too much of and not being valued the way that it should. I’m sorry Dr Mungo but please understand this – your inability to keep a sinking ship afloat is no reflection on you’.
Fred tried to stand up but was prevented from doing so by Dr Mungo who, grabbing hold of his arm, proceeded to reach into his medical bag and pull out a tube of Anusol HC. He pressed it into the palm of Fred’s hand. ‘Take this’ he said, staring intently into Fred’s eyes. ‘For old times sake
Holding back a tear, Fred finally managed to get to his feet and indicated to the gang that it was now time to make their way back into the Mystery Mobile. Scooby held back a moment before approaching the once competent GP and affectionately licking him squarely on the face. ‘Scooby Dooby Doo’ he said in an uncharacteristically forlorn tone but one, nonetheless, that seemed befitting the occasion. Scooby then rejoined the others and Fred started the engine of the motorhome which slowly pulled away leaving the bereft Dr Mungo alone with his fears.
Overhead the storm that had been expected had finally arrived and claps of thunder rumbled repeatedly across the sky. Only it wasn’t just the sound of clouds colliding that could be heard that night for, beneath that most dreadful of noises, there was another, yet more ominous, sound – that of an evil laugh, more sinister than any other, a muahahaha to end all muahahaha’s before it.
Overhead the storm that had been expected was now raging and claps of thunder rumbled repeatedly across the sky. Only it wasn’t just the sound of clouds colliding that could be heard for, beneath that most dreadful of noises, there was another yet more ominous sound – that of an evil laugh, more sinister than any other, a muahahaha to end all muahahaha’s before it.
Getting to his feet, Dr Mungo looked across the car park hoping to see that the members of Mystery Incorporated hadn’t really left. He’d meant to ask Fred if he was still in need of some Desmotabs. But it was too late, they were all long gone, far away and out of sight.
‘Scooby Dolby Doo’, he murmured despondently to himself, ‘Where are you? We need some help from you now!’
* For anyone interested in joining Dr Mungo’s practice, a copy of the job advert is reproduced after the links to other stories that you will find below.
Below are two previous stories featuring Dr Mungo:
To read ‘Mr Benn – the GP’, click here
To read ‘A GP called Paddington’, click here
And one about an earlier adventure involving Scooby Doo:
To read ‘Scooby Doo and the Mystery of the Deseted Cricket Ground’, click here
And finally here are a number of other GP related tales:
To read ‘Bagpuss and the NHS’, click here
To read ‘A Dream of an Antiques Roadshow’, click here
To read ‘The NHS Emporium’, click here
To read ‘Mr McGregor’s Revenge – A Tale of Peter Rabbit’, click here
To read ‘Jeepy Leepy and the NHS’, click here
To read ‘The Three Little GPs and the Big Bad Secretary of State for Health’, click here
To read ‘Dr Wordle and the Mystery Diagnosis’, click here
To read ‘The Happy Practice – A Cautionary Tale’, click here
To read ‘The Scrooge Chronicles’, click here
To read ‘Jeeves and the Hormone Deficiency’, click here
To read ‘General Practices are Go!’, click here
To read ‘A Mission Impossible’, click here
To read ‘A Grimm Tale’, click here
To read ‘The General Practitioner – Endangered’, click here
To read ‘The State of Disrepair Shop’, click here