|Primary Characters:||Mike, Tricia, Jenny|
|Warning:||references to rape, violence, some strong language|
|Description:||Tricia’s past comes back to haunt her. An abusive ex is threatening her, but Mike isn’t as supportive as he might be. Tricia’s situation reminds him of his own past.|
Dr Tricia Summerbee was setting the dinner table. She was expecting her friend, PC Mike Bradley. Though they’d had their ups and downs, she felt they were at last getting closer. Glancing at her watch as she made the last arrangements, Tricia found that she still had nearly 20 minutes before she could expect Mike.Good. That should give her time to finish in the kitchen. What was that? Did the potatoes boil over? She had to make sure everything was as it should be. Cooking wasn’t her forte, and normally, she would have a light supper. This time, however, she felt like impressing the handsome PC.
On her way back to the kitchen, she was interrupted by the telephone ringing. She was completely focused on tonight’s meeting, and worried that this might be her guest, telling her he wouldn’t be able to make it.
As she listened to the voice on the other end of the line, her face lost all colour and her lips took on a bluish tinge. She was oblivious to her condition, however. No. This couldn’t be true. They had promised her Dan would be in prison for at least another two years. Good behaviour? Not Dan, surely. This was a nightmare. Tricia furtively glanced around her pleasant dining room, which doubled as a living room, as if seeking an escape route.
Eventually, she hung up, but remained standing, a stunned look on her face, as if she was a small wild animal, about to make a run for it. That was how Mike found her half an hour later.
He was a little surprised when Tricia didn’t answer the door, but decided to walk in anyway. After all, he was expected. Perhaps an emergency in the kitchen had distracted his lovely hostess. He was hit by sudden concern when he caught sight of her standing by the window, apparently unaware of his presence.
“Tricia? What’s wrong?”
No reply. This was beginning to unnerve him. He had been concerned when he’d learned the grave news about her condition. What if she had now experienced another alarming episode? He didn’t know what to do. Should he call another doctor? He knew her friend Jenny Latimer would be down at the Aidensfield Arms with his friend and colleague PC Phil Bellamy.
After a moment’s consideration, he walked over and put an arm around the young doctor. He was unprepared for her reaction. As if she feared a violent attack, she whirled around, and shrank back into a corner.
“Tricia? What’s the matter? It’s just me. You look as if you’ve seen a ghost.”
Again, he tried to put an arm around her, and this time, she let him.
After a while, she seemed to make a visible effort to pull herself together. She even managed to produce a feeble smile.
“Forgive me, Mike. What must you think of me?”
“Are you alright? Perhaps you’d better sit down?”
“What? Oh, perhaps you’re right. You see, I had some bad news on the telephone just now.”
Gently, he led her over to the sofa. He sat down beside her, still with his arm around her shoulders.
“There. Do you need anything? Medication? A drink?”
“I’ll be fine. It was just the shock. Though perhaps some sherry.”
“Of course. Just a second.”
He knew where she kept the modest collection of bottles, and poured out a generous dose of the expensive sherry.
Silently, he watched her take one slow sip, then another. To his relief, colour returned to her pale cheeks and the blue tinge left her lips.
“Of course. No need to make a fuss. But you must forgive me. Oh. Do you smell that? I’m sorry. I was going to impress you with a three course dinner. Now I guess all of it’s spoiled. Not the pie, but the rest of it.”
“Never mind. We could always go down to the pub.”
“Nonsense. I’ll fix you something. Do you like apple pie and custard?”
“I love it. Why don’t we skip the rest and move on to the dessert?”
“Alright. Excuse me.”
Tricia hurried into the kitchen, to avert the small fire that was within seconds of breaking out. Jenny would laugh and tell her ‘I told you so’. Eventually, after she’d opened both windows, she was able to get most of the burnt smell to air out. Now she had to get the pie into the oven. Fortunately, the custard was already in the fridge. Jenny had made it for her last night.
With the pie safely in the oven, Tricia could at last relax and return to her guest. She knew she owed him an explanation. The question was, how did she tell him? Her past was a mess. If Mike knew, would he think differently of her?
At least Mike was smiling as sweetly as ever when she returned.
“Everything’s in order now. Mike – about that telephone call. There’s something I should tell you.”
“You don’t need to tell me anything, if it makes you uncomfortable.”
“It does make me uncomfortable, but it will have to be done sooner or later. Might as well be now. If you don’t mind? This wasn’t what I had planned when I invited you over.”
“Don’t worry about that. Tell me all about it.”
How did she even begin? Tricia bit her lower lip, wishing it didn’t have to come to this.
“Mike – before I came here I was engaged.”
Mike had been wondering why Tricia had been so quiet about her past. Perhaps now he was to find out why. He knew he hadn’t told her as much about his own past as he might. Of course, she knew about his divorce. But the reason for it, the real reason? No. So far, he hadn’t felt ready to confide in her. It wasn’t something he told anyone, though he knew Oscar Blaketon was aware of the situation.
“We – broke off the engagement.”
Mike was trying to appear calm and not too inquisitive, while at the same time sounding as supportive as he could. He could tell that Tricia was having a great deal of trouble forcing herself to go on. Apparently, there was a painful secret buried in her past.
“This was when I was still a student. Dan – you have to understand that we were going to get married. I trusted him. Why shouldn’t I? Then my best friend, April, told me he’d – attacked her. I thought she was just envious that I had a fiance and she didn’t, so I didn’t believe her.”
To Mike’s distress, Tricia’s lovely eyes filled with tears, and her voice nearly broke. He squeezed her hands comfortingly. Deep down he felt a strange chill. Attacked? There really could only be one thing Tricia was getting at, surely? And that reminded him of things far better left buried in the depths of his mind.
“Can you understand that? I accused her of lying, and all along, she’d been telling the truth. Dan – I found out that he’d done this before, several times. Assaulted and abused at least four other girls. So in the end, I supported April’s story. I denounced him, and it was in part thanks to my testimony that he was sentenced to five years for – his crimes.”
Mike didn’t know what to say. He was having trouble breathing. It felt as if something was restricting the air flow into his lungs and an iron band squeezed his chest. His tongue stuck to his palate, and he couldn’t think of anything to say. In a moment, Tricia would notice. She’d misconstrue his silence and his inactivity and he would have let her down. Now when she most needed his support.
“I – That’s terrible.”
He could hear how inadequate his words sounded, even in his own ears. But at the moment, Tricia was only half aware of his reaction, caught up as she was in her painful recollections.
“I suppose you’re wondering why I waited until now to tell you?”
“Uh – no. It’s perfectly understandable -”
As if she hadn’t heard him, she went on.
“You see, someone just rang me, informing me that Dan had been let out early – for good behaviour.”
Her face was a pale, chalky white, and Mike was in no doubt about her state of mind. The young woman he loved was terrified. Solely for that reason, she ought be able to count not only on his emotional support, but also the physical protection he could offer.
In addition, he was a police officer. It was his duty to protect any of the women and men within the Aidensfield police station’s jurisdiction.
Yet, here he was, nearly as terrified as she was. Disgusted with himself, he made an effort to rouse himself from his own painful recollections. He had to rise to the occasion. What sort of man was he – to allow a stranger to frighten him so, from a distance?
Tricia appeared not to have finished her narrative, however. So there was more.
“During the trial, Dan – threatened me, April, all of the witnesses. He would make us pay for our betrayal. One of the reasons I moved up here was so I could get away, hoping he might not be able to trace me.”
Again, Mike made an effort to act normal.
“Is there any reason to believe he’s managed to trace you so far?”
“No. But if he really wants to, isn’t it only a matter of time?”
“I’ll – talk to Sergeant Merton about all this. We’ll arrange for surveillance and -”
Tricia smiled weakly.
“I appreciate your kindness, Mike. Forgive me for this outburst.”
“Don’t worry about it. Anyone would be shaken by something like this.”
The problem was, he shouldn’t be. He was a professional, and a grown man. If Tricia couldn’t count on his full support, what good was he, as a police officer or as a human being?
To avoid speaking, since he obviously couldn’t be counted on to produce anything beyond the most general cliches, he pulled Tricia closer and held her, until she began to squirm.
“Sorry, Mike. The pie. I think it’s done.”
“Oh. Of course.”
“I hope we can at least have our dessert, despite this fiasco.”
She was pulling herself together, in a marvellous way. Such a trooper, this petite lady. Mike was filled with admiration. Was there anything she couldn’t use her willpower to rise above?
“Yes, of course. I’m sure it will be delicious. Apple pie is one of my favorites.”
“Good. That’s about the only thing I can be trusted to cook without creating a disaster.”
“Well, don’t look at me. Even that is beyond me. I can barely heat a can of beans, fry an egg and make some toast. Coffee and tea is close to my limit.”
“I suppose we might need to sign up for some cookery classes.”
“Good idea. It might be more fun than running down to the Aidensfield Arms all the time.”
For the rest of the evening, they carefully avoided discussing what Tricia had confided in Mike, but the menace cast a shadow over the entire meal, and their attempt at carefree conversation afterwards.
The following morning, Mike kept his promise to Tricia. He requested a private conversation with his superior, sergeant Denis Merton.
“I had a talk with dr Summerbee last night.”
Merton couldn’t quite understand why the promising young policeman would wish to discuss his personal life with him, but he always made a point of being accessible and understanding towards the men under his command, so he was prepared to listen and offer his advice.
“We might have to provide some protection for her. Apparently, she’s been the victim of threats against her life.”
“This is the first time I’ve heard anything about it. What is the matter?”
“Apparently a former fiance of dr Summerbee was convicted of sexual assault on a number of young women, including a close friend of dr Summerbee’s. It was thanks to the testimony of dr Summerbee that he was eventually convicted and sentenced to five years in prison. However, she just received word that he’s been released early, for good behaviour.”
“That’s outrageous. And you have reason to believe the man is on his way up here to reliate against his former fiancee?”
“Yes. He might not be here yet, but unfortunately, that could change at any time.”
“Ah, yes. Then I shall let PC Bellamy patrol the area around the surgery and watch for any suspicious characters.”
“Thank you, sir.”
“I will make a few telephone calls and find out more about this man. What did you say his name was?”
“Very well. I will let you know what I find out. Carry on, PC Bradley.”
This only made Mike feel marginally better. As he well knew, there could be any number of places a newly released ex-prisoner might hide and plot against innocent people. Phil was a good man, but merely having one PC on patrol wouldn’t be enough.
Whenever he could, he would have to keep a close eye on Tricia himself. Fortunately, that wouldn’t be such hardship. He only wished he would be able to confront a convicted rapist, without losing his nerve.
The incident where he himself had been the victim of an attack that had left him incapable of performing his duties for months, was still fresh in his memory. There were times when he was nearly able to suppress the memory completely. At other times, he could barely force himself to present an indifferent demeanour to the outside world.
He feared Phil suspected what had happened. Craddock had known but had refused to ever refer to the matter in any way. Oscar Blaketon was the only person, with the exception of Jackie, his former wife, who could be said to be aware of his situation. Since Jackie had left him, only Blaketon remained. He was a good man.
If Mike had been able to discuss the matter with him, he would have, but he had never been able to ackowledge what Jackie, nurse and dr Bolton had found out about him. They had saved his life. He knew that, but the knowledge didn’t change the fact that he could never refer to what had happened to him.
But he was a policeman. His duty was clear. If he failed to protect Tricia, who was not only a member of the public, but also a dear friend, he owed it to everyone concerned, including himself, to resign. That he’d been allowed to continue working meant that Craddock and Blaketon had had faith in his ability to perform his duties.
He didn’t know if Merton had been informed about the incident or not. Judging by his behaviour, Mike guessed that he probably hadn’t. That was a relief. At least his current superior would see him as he had been before the man from his past had resurfaced and the nightmare had begun.
It was time he got on with his work. He had a district to patrol, reports to fill out. Crimes to prevent.
In the late afternoon, before leaving work, he rang up Tricia at the surgery, to ask how she was. She sounded subdued, and Mike felt distressed that the self assured young woman had been reduced to this trembling, terrified creature. It wasn’t fair. She didn’t deserve this. He had to rise to the occasion and protect her from harm.
“Would you like me to come over tonight?”
“Yes, I’d love that. If you’re not busy?”
“Of course I’m not too busy to visit you.”
“Then I will try again to cook dinner for us.”
“That sounds nice.”
“How about 8?”
“That would be fine. Tricia – try not to worry. Merton is taking the threats against you seriously and he’s detailed Phil to watch over you. He’s also contacted London to find out more about where Griffiths can be.”
“Thank you, Mike. You don’t know how much I appreciate your support.”
“Just doing my job.”
He couldn’t understand why he suddenly took refuge in an impersonal statement like that. It was almost as if he felt the need to distance himself from Tricia and her troubles. But Tricia didn’t seem to have caught anything odd about his tone.
“Then I’ll see you at 8.”
“I’m looking forward to it. And Tricia – whatever you make will be fine.”
“That remains to be seen.”
Mike found himself dreading the encounter ahead, but he firmly told himself not to be so selfish and weak. Tricia needed him. Now more than ever. It was his duty to support and protect her.
Around 8 that evening, he knocked on her door. This time, she opened promptly, and looked very charming in her apron, but there was a frown on her face that he imagined was caused by the emotional strain.
It turned out, however, to be a case of domestic trouble. Even so, this dinner was more appetizing than the last one would have been. Nothing burnt or overcooked. Mike wasn’t particularly interested in fine cuisine anyway. A good solid meal was all he needed. And perhaps a beer or two.
After dinner, he decided to inform her about what little Merton had been able to find out about Griffiths.
“Tricia – Merton had some information about Griffiths.”
Her face paled slightly, but he could see that she was making an effort to listen with a detached air.
“I’m afraid they haven’t been able to locate him. He didn’t stay with his mother as he had claimed he would be. When we find him, this is enough to revoke his early release.”
“But you would have to find him first.”
“Yes. Merton also contacted all the nearby police districts and so far, there is no information suggesting he’s in Yorkshire. No one’s seen anyone matching his description.”
“At least that’s something to be grateful for.”
“I’m sorry I can’t give you better news.”
“Is Phil still patrolling outside?”
“No. Merton is trying to get reinforcements, but it will be another day or two before we can get a man transferred here.”
He didn’t want to see her face so tense. There had to be something he could do for her.
“In the meantime, I could spend the night here, on the sofa.”
She appeared to look relieved, but not very enthusiastic.
“That would be very kind of you. Perhaps it would be a good idea. Jenny -”
“Yes, but even with Jenny here, it might not be safe.”
“You’re right. Then it’s settled. Do you need to bring anything from home?”
“No. I packed a few things just in case.”
“Good. Then I’ll make up the sofa for you.”
“There’s no rush.”
She smiled faintly and sat down again.
“Can I get you anything else? A glass of sherry?”
“That would be nice. But don’t get up. I’ll get it myself. What about you?”
“No, thanks. I’m fine.”
Under any other circumstances, he’d enjoy spending the evening with her. What was the matter with him? Had he turned into a coward, after the incident? That was the only way he could think of it. ‘The incident’. Even that was a strain. But he couldn’t think about himself at a time like this.
They spent the next hour making small talk. It was plain that the current situation was making it hard for them to enjoy themselves. In the end, Mike was relieved to retire to the sofa. Tricia disappeared upstairs after a few words of goodnight.
The following evening, Mike again intended spend at Tricia’s place, but just before he was about to leave the station, they received a call about suspected arson. He, Phil and Alf Ventress were all needed to cover the case.
When Phil and Alf were at last allowed to go off duty, Mike was forced to remain on the scene, and later, at the station, he was caught up in the formalities. He was concerned about Tricia’s welfare. There had been word about the new man, but he wouldn’t arrive until the following morning. This meant that Tricia was on her own. Mike excused himself and picked up the phone. He had to warn her he would arrive late this evening.
Tricia’s show of courage was admirable, but he wasn’t taken in. The situation had shaken the young doctor badly and how could he blame her for that?
“I’ll be fine, Mike. Don’t worry about me.”
“Could you ask Jenny to stay with you until I get there?”
“I’ll be fine, Mike. See you when you get here.”
Tricia weighed the receiver in her hand before replacing it. She wouldn’t admit it to Mike, but she was worried. Dan would never rest until he’d had his revenge. There was no way of knowing whether he would target April first or her.
Though she hadn’t wanted to tell Mike so, she couldn’t ask Jenny to stay behind. Not tonight of all nights. She was going out with Phil and Tricia knew that her friend was looking forward to her evening with Mike’s colleague. Besides, no matter how good friends they were, she still hadn’t confided in Jenny about her predicament. Phil might know, but she was certain he hadn’t told Jenny about it.
It was getting dark outside, which she could easily tell, when she anxiously stared out through the windows, every minute or so. She was watching for a movement, the sight of a dark silhouette sneaking up to the door.
Finally, she told herself not to be silly. She would make herself something to eat. When Mike returned, she would make something for him as well. There was no point in waiting, when she couldn’t even guess when he’d arrive.
So she fried an egg, and made some toast, before sitting down to a light supper on her own. She couldn’t quite force herself to ignore the windows. Even though she knew she’d bolted the door, she couldn’t help staring in that direction as well. Would the door hold if Dan tried to break it down?
As she was putting away the dirty dishes, she heard a noise from upstairs. Had she left a window open in her room? She felt strangely unwilling to move, but eventually, she tiptoed up the stairs, her ears straining for any sound.
At the top of the stairs, she stopped and again, listened anxiously. All was silent and she was beginning to think it had only been a stray breeze that had knocked something over.
At that moment, a man’s figure jumped out of her room and before she had time to do anything to defend herself, he’d grabbed her and clamped down a strong hand over her mouth. She kicked about frantically, but her strength was nothing compared to his. The man carried her, whimpering and thrashing about, into her room. He put her down on the bed.
Now she could see that it was Dan and her eyes widened in terror. Even if he hadn’t still been holding a hand over her mouth, she would have been unable to make any louder sound than a moan or a whimper.
Now Dan let go and instead, his hand began to fondle her cheek.
“Hello, Tricia. Did you miss me at all?”
Her shallow breathing was all the reply he had.
“What? Surely you haven’t forgotten? We were supposed to get married. Oh, that’s right. You changed your mind, didn’t you? And you decided to send me to prison. That wasn’t a nice thing to do, Tricia, dear.”
“Are you trying to tell me you’re sorry? Are you asking my forgiveness? I don’t think so. And even if you were, it’s a little late for that, my dear. Even if you haven’t missed me at all, I have missed you. It gets lonely in prison. I had all the time in the world, to recall just how lovely you were. And now I see that you’re still just as lovely as before. The years haven’t touched you, my sweet. Look at me. I’m afraid I can’t say the same about myself.”
Dan had aged considerably. Of course, he was seven years older, but even so, he shouldn’t have had those grey hairs or the wrinkled face. But the eyes hadn’t changed as much as the rest of him. Though now they were cold and hard, when once they’d been, or so she thought, gentle and loving. Could she have been so mistaken? Or had he really loved her in his own way?
“I can see you’ve noticed how I’ve changed. Prison life is rough. Rougher than you can imagine. A girl like you wouldn’t last a week in a prison cell, even in a women’s prison.”
Now his hands began to move across her face, smoothing her hair, even touching her neck. Tricia instinctively recoiled. The look in Dan’s eyes frightened her.
“This has changed though. You didn’t always react this way to my touch. Have you found another lover, my dear? Answer me.”
“You didn’t answer my question, but that’s alright. I know who it is. It’s that policeman. The handsome one, not the stupid one who was keeping an eye on the place earlier today and yesterday. Did you think that would keep me from my fiancee?”
Dan now began to touch her legs, letting his fingers trail across her knees and further up. Tricia again recoiled and this time, Dan slapped her across the face, so hard her ears were ringing. Though she didn’t want to consider the fact, she knew that the fear might bring on another attack. Her heart couldn’t take this kind of strain.
But worse still, was the knowledge of what Dan had done to April and those other girls. She’d heard the medical reports being read at the trial. As a doctor, she knew exactly what injuries to expect. It was very different imagining herself being treated for injuries of that kind.
Tears began to fill her eyes, but if Dan noticed, it didn’t matter to him.
“You’re just like the others. As soon as you see a chance, you betray the man you’ve promised yourself to. You make yourself appear attractive, but when you get the reaction you were after, you turn away. How dare you treat me that way? Whore.”
This time, Tricia knew better than to plead with Dan, but she couldn’t stop the tears from flowing down her face.
“Oh, you’ll learn to obey me. Did you think I would let you get away? To give yourself to another man? Never. I’ll see you dead first. But now, I’m going to teach you another lesson.”
Mike had excused himself as soon as he could. He had to get to Tricia. Even if Griffiths wasn’t there, she’d be alone and frightened.
When he got to her place, the lights were on. Nothing appeared to be out of the ordinary, but he still had a bad feeling about the whole thing. When he knocked on the door, there was no reply. He tried the door, but it seemed to be securely locked and bolted from inside.
Calling her name didn’t produce any result. Beside himself with worry, Mike now looked over the windows. None of the downstairs ones seemed to have been broken, but the one in her bedroom looked odd somehow. When he came closer, he saw that it was broken. Now he couldn’t wait any longer. He rolled his coat around his arm and broke the kitchen window. It was an easy matter to pick out the broken pieces of glass and climb inside.
Now he didn’t call her name any longer. Instead, he tried to move as silently as possible. There was no one in any of the downstairs rooms. Trying the stairs, Mike wished he’d brought some substantial weapon. But he had to find Tricia before it was too late.
He hadn’t thought to radio back to the station. All thoughts of his work had been erased. In his mind’s eye, he could see Tricia being subjected to Griffith’s cruelties. It mustn’t happen. As long as he was alive, he had to protect her from that.
He looked through all the rooms on his way to Tricia’s own room. All were empty. Outside her room, he stopped and listened. Not a sound could be heard. That wasn’t quite right. He now thought he could hear a very slight sound, as if someone was whimpering faintly. Tricia.
Without thinking, he pushed open the door and found Tricia lying on the bed. She was still fully dressed, and apart from a red spot on her cheek, she appeared to be uninjured. But the look on her face was one of such terror, that Mike tried to turn around. It was too late. He felt a horrific blow descend on his head and everything went dark.
When he came to, he had a splintering headache. He was lying on the bed, beside Tricia. A man, who had could only be Griffiths, was standing over him, brandishing a large knife. Mike froze. He should be trying to fight back, but the memory of the day when his past had caught up with him, made him unable to move.
“So this is the copper who took my Tricia from me? To think that she would be taken in by a pretty face. I will have to do something about that.”
He now approached closer and raised the knife over Mike’s face. Mike still couldn’t make a move. He was so terrified his mind wasn’t working.
Dan let the knife blade idly trail across Mike’s face. The sharp point hovered above his left eye, but didn’t make contact.
“Leave him alone, Dan. Let him go and I’ll do anything you want. Just let him go. He hasn’t done anything to you.”
“But he has. He’s stolen my girl. Do you think I’ll let him get away with that? You will do everything I tell you to. In a minute. But first, I need to do something about this pretty face.”
Dan was too intent on terrifying his victims to listen or pay attention to anything other than the two people lying on the bed.
Not even when Jenny smashed down a hideous vase on his head, did he react, before he folded up and hit the floor. He didn’t even make a sound.
Before running to her friend’s aid, Jenny grabbed a candle stick and again brought it down on the attacker’s head. There. That should keep him under for a while. Neat and tidy. No open wound.
“Tricia, Mike? Are you alright?”
But Tricia’s chalky white face belied that statement. Her lips had a bluish cast and Jenny knew that look. She’d need to call an ambulance for her friend. But first, she spared a second to study Mike’s face, which was, for some reason, every bit as pale as Tricia’s and the look in his eyes, told her he was in a state of shock. There was no help to be expected from him. How odd. A policeman with bad nerves. But thinking about his profession reminded her of Phil. If she ran over to the window, maybe Phil wouldn’t have gone too far to hear her.
“I’ll be right back.”
She opened the window and hollered as loud as her lungs would let her, which made quite an impressive noise.
Phil had been daydreaming about his lovely new friend and he was still outside.
“I caught an intruder. Come on up.”
Phil didn’t need any more encouragement. To think that he’d get a chance so soon, to impress Jenny with his policework.
He ran up the stairs so fast he nearly tripped and fell on the landing upstairs.
“In here, Phil.”
“There. Could you remove him please? He had attacked Tricia and Mike.”
Phil stared anxiously, first at the young doctor, then at his friend. Something was wrong with Mike. He was conscious, or at least his eyes were open, but he seemed to be completely out of it. Could it be the shock? But in all their years working together, he’d never seen Mike react that way, except –
Phil wasn’t exactly sure what had happened that day, but he had a very bad feeling about it. But surely this time, nothing that strange could have happened?
“Right. I’ll get this character out of here. I’ll take him over to Ashfordly. But first, I’d better radio the news.”
“You do that. I’ll ring for a doctor.”
By now, Jenny had taken a good look at Mike. Yes, he was definitely in a state of shock. Her practiced eye recognized the signs even if she didn’t have any formal training. Perhaps, if she put a blanket over him, he’d recover sufficiently to pull himself together before the ambulance arrived. If he still couldn’t function normally, another policeman would have to handle the crime scene. But perhaps another one would be dispatched. In this case, Mike was a victim rather than a policeman on a job. Well, Phil would know the drill. It was time she saw to Tricia.
She only took time to place one blanket over Mike’s unmoving form, then another over Tricia.
“How are you holding up?”
“I’ll be fine.”
“No, you won’t. Not if I can’t get an ambulance here. You know that.”
“I will be fine. But call the ambulance. Then bring me my medication.”
Jenny ran down the stairs, made the call, then ran back up again, carrying Tricia’s pills in her hand. At least Tricia appeared to be finding strength somewhere, because now she was trying to reach Mike.
“That’s enough. Don’t move. Here. I forgot the glass of water.”
“Never mind. There. That should do it.”
Not sure what to do about Mike, Jenny contented herself with sitting on Tricia’s side of the bed, holding her friend’s hand, and patting it comfortingly.
Tricia looked irritated for a moment, but didn’t withdraw her hand. She was puzzling over Mike’s reaction.
“Jenny. Do you think you could take a look at Mike’s head for me?”
“Right. What am I looking for?”
“A swelling. He was knocked out by Dan.”
“Dan? Did you know the man?”
“Please just do as I ask you.”
Jenny shrugged. Yes, there was a huge lump on Mike’s head, that much she could tell, before Mike recoiled violently from her touch, nearly falling off the bed to get away from her. Jenny had never seen anything like it.
Or wait a minute. Perhaps she had, but only in children and once in a teenage girl who had been – No. That couldn’t be it. The little boy who had seen his father get shot by bank robbers. Yes. That was similar. Shock. How odd that Mike would be so sensitive. And he’d even passed the test and qualified to apply for a job as a sergeant.
“Yes. There’s a big lump.”
She didn’t comment on Mike’s strange reaction. Tricia had seen it well enough for herself, and maybe she could diagnose it better.
The ambulance arrived and removed both Tricia and Mike. By that time, some policemen had arrived, including Sergeant Merton. He smiled so warmly at Jenny, she felt herself blush for only a moment. How silly of her. She wasn’t one of those ridiculous sentimental girls.
Merton had time to witness Mike’s condition, but he made no comment. He merely inquired about Tricia’s health and made sure she wasn’t injured.
Jenny wanted to go with Tricia, but she realized that she would only get in the way and probably there wouldn’t even be room for her in the ambulance. So she stayed behind, and did her best to answer the policemen’s questions. It was late before she could finally go to bed.
At least she’d had a telephone call from the hospital, reassuring her about Tricia’s health. Her condition had stabilized and she was in no danger. It was merely a precaution, to keep her overnight. Mike wasn’t mentioned and Jenny knew she’d have to wait to satisfy her curiosity about him.
The following morning, Jenny was relieved to be allowed to go and pick up Tricia and bring her home. Dr Randall from Hull would be filling in for her for the next couple of days, just to be on the safe side.
“Are you really alright now, Trish?”
“Don’t call me that. You know how I hate it. I’m fine. Don’t make a fuss.”
“You certainly sound fine. Well, come on. I’ll look after you.”
“I wish you wouldn’t. I’m perfectly capable of looking after myself.”
“I know. Sorry. Sergeant Merton told me about your ex-fiance and -”
“Yes. I should have told you before, but I just didn’t know how to explain something like that.”
“I’m really sorry, Tricia. It must have been awfully hard on you.”
“It was. I let April down. She was my best friend and I didn’t believe her.”
“How could you believe something like that about the man you were going to marry?”
“April would never have lied to me. It was cruel and unfair of me not to believe in her story. I knew how upset she was, but I simply couldn’t believe something like that.”
“No. How could you? I’m sure April -”
“Dan raped her. How could she forgive me for something like that?”
“Dan raped her. Exactly. It wasn’t your fault.”
“I know. But I didn’t believe her.”
“Tricia, please. We mustn’t talk about this. It’s making you upset.”
“Of course it is. But there’s something else. Mike -”
“Yes, what was that?”
“I have no idea. When I told him, he seemed to be a bit – I don’t know – uncomfortable. I was afraid he’d turn away from me. It was such a dreadful business, all of it. Perhaps he thought I betrayed April. Which I did.”
“No, you didn’t. You were the one who got him sent to prison, weren’t you?”
“In the end, yes.”
“Exactly. So you didn’t betray her at all.”
“Let’s leave it for the time being. I just don’t understand what was wrong with Mike. I talked to his doctor and apparently, he will be fine. The lump on his head isn’t serious. There’s no concussion or any hemorrhaging. He’s been sent home.”
“Don’t you see, he shouldn’t have been that catatonic. That blow knocked him out, but once he came to he should have been able to react to his surroundings just fine.”
“He did. When I touched him. He -”
“I know. That’s what’s bothering me. I can’t understand what’s causing his distress. Even the concern over me shouldn’t have made him react that way. I’ll have to go and see him. Take me there now.”
“Now? But you’ll need to rest and I’m making you lunch and then -”
“Now. Lunch can wait. I’m not hungry anyway. Please, Jenny. Just take me to him.”
“Alright. I’ll wait outside. I do hope he’s alright. He’s such a good fellow.”
Tricia’s mind was already going over Mike’s symptoms over and over again. It was almost as if – but surely, he couldn’t –
When Jenny stopped outside Aidensfield’s police station, Tricia got out, and walked the few steps over to the front door. She had been told that Mike was off duty for a few days, just like she was.
He opened the door, but didn’t display any of his usual enthusiasm on seeing her. Tricia found this odd as well. Was he upset with her for her troubles affecting him? She found that hard to believe.
“Tricia. Are you alright?”
He looked concerned, but absent-minded, as if he was he was thinking about something else.
“Yes, I’m fine. What about you?”
“Yes. Me too. Just fine.”
After a long pause, he eventually stepped aside and let her come inside.
“Mike – I was worried about you. Last night -”
“I’m fine. Doctor Sutton said that nothing was wrong. I should be able to go back to work very soon. In fact, I think I could work today, but dr Sutton and Merton insisted.”
“I see. Could I have a look at your head?”
“Is that necessary?”
“Perhaps not, but it would make me feel better if you let me.”
He shrugged, but she could tell he didn’t like her touching him. How odd.
“Yes, dr Sutton is absolutely right. You’re going to be just fine.”
“Good. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some things I need to do.”
Tricia felt hurt at his lack of enthusiasm over her visit. Perhaps, she’d overestimated his feelings for her.
Mike knew he was being intolerably rude to Tricia. He also knew he should ask her to stay, make sure she was alright as well, but he just couldn’t bring himself to do it. It wasn’t her fault, any of what had happened last night. What had happened to him earlier, was even less her fault. But right now, all he wanted was to be left alone.
“Of course. I’ll ring you tonight, if I may.”
“Oh. Please. Or I could ring you. It’s just that right now, I have a bit of a headache and -”
“I’m sorry. Well, I won’t keep you any longer. I’ll talk to you later. Bye.”
When Tricia emerged into the bright sunlight outside, there was a worried frown on her face. She needed to do some research. If she could find dr Bolton’s records, maybe she could learn more about Mike and why he was suddenly this stranger.
“How was he?”
Jenny jolted her out of her brooding and Tricia looked up.
“He was fine. But he was acting almost as strangely as last night. I have to find out what’s wrong. If I could only find dr Bolton’s records -”
“But Mike isn’t even your patient. Wouldn’t that be unethical?”
“When I want your opinion, I’ll ask for it.”
She knew Jenny was right. That was really why she’d snapped at her friend. No. Perhaps going through another doctor’s records was not appropriate after all. But she had to know.
In the meantime, Denis Merton was paying Oscar Blaketon a visit. He’d left the station in Ventress’ hands, not without a twinge of conscience. Would the man really be up to the challenge? But to have Ventress patrolling, would be even less suitable.
“Might I have a word with you?”
Blaketon glanced shrewdly at Merton, who in a way was his successor, even though another man had filled the position after he left the force. It was plain that something was bothering the man, and having heard the gossip and the ordeal young dr Summerbee had been subjected to, Oscar Blaketon had a suspicion that Merton was concerned over Mike Bradley. In that case, perhaps the time had come to inform Merton about the attack the young man had been subjected to.
“Very well. Gina -”
“Alright, Oscar. But don’t be too long, mind.”
“Don’t worry, I’ll try not to.”
The lunch hour was a busy time for them, but Gina could cope, Blaketon assured himself.
When Merton left, about twenty minutes later, there was a worried frown on his face. This changed matters somewhat. Until now, he’d found it hard to believe that his best man would break down at the first sign of danger.
So that was the explanation. What an unspeakable horrible thing to happen. Especially to a policeman. He’d have to keep his ears open for any hint of a rumour concerning Mike Bradley. Not a word about this must be allowed to get out.
Back home, Tricia still couldn’t stop worrying over Mike. Something had to be wrong.
Jenny could tell that her friend had something on her mind and it wasn’t hard to guess who she was thinking about. She found Mike’s behaviour disturbing enough, herself.
But she forced herself to do the dishes, tidy up the kitchen and cook lunch for Tricia.
As soon as Tricia had finished lunch, she got up again to move restlessly around the kitchen.
“Would you relax? I’m going to do your laundry and you should go and lie down or at least sit down and rest.”
“You have to take me back to Mike. I have to find out what’s wrong. I won’t get any peace until I do. He was so -”
“Tricia, are you sure -”
“Yes, positive. Just drive me there, please.”
“Oh, alright. But if he doesn’t want to tell you, he won’t.”
“I know. But I have to try.”
Jenny sighed and put away the apron. It was so like Tricia to be this stubborn once something had got into her mind.
This time, Tricia didn’t even wait for Mike to ask her inside. She just brushed past him in way totally uncharacteristic for her.
He appeared more surprised than annoyed at her intrusion. But his face still looked tense and only his mouth smiled.
“Mike, I just have to know. What was causing your panic attack last night? Please. I have to know.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Oh, Mike, please. I know what I saw.”
Mike closed his eyes. This was a nightmare all over again. Of course Tricia was bound to suspect. Those eyes didn’t miss anything. And he could read in her eyes an affection so strong he suddenly didn’t want to lie anymore. But how could he tell her something like that? He’d never been able to even think about it, let alone say it out loud.
“Tricia, please. If you care about me, don’t ask.”
“But don’t you see I have to know. I love you, Mike. How could I let you suffer like that, when I do?”
“Telling you won’t make it go away. It won’t make me feel any better.”
“You never know.”
“Tricia, I love you too, but I can’t tell you about this.”
As he said the words, he knew it was true. He loved her. Until now, he hadn’t been sure and he certainly hadn’t felt it was fair to her to lead her on. But now, he knew that he loved her, just as certainly as he knew that he’d never be able to tell her.
“Did dr Bolton know? Did nurse Bolton?”
“Tricia, don’t ask.”
“They did, didn’t they? If I were to ring up nurse Bolton and ask her -”
“You wouldn’t. Please say you wouldn’t.”
“Oh, Mike, of course I wouldn’t go behind your back. But if you were in my position, wouldn’t you want to know?”
She was right. He most definitely would. In fact, he’d probably want to go after the man who had done it to her. But surely Tricia wouldn’t do anything that rash? He knew that the man who had attacked him was now serving another ten year sentence for his crimes, in addition to the rest of the sentence he’d escaped from to come up here.
“Yes, but – Tricia, I can’t tell you. I can’t.”
“What are you so afraid of, Mike? That I wouldn’t love you if I knew?”
She was beginning to have a horrible suspicion. When she thought about it, there could really be only one explanation for Mike’s reaction. What else would he be so terrified of telling her?
“That’s not -”
“I would. I do. Mike, did someone – attack you?”
Attack? The same way her friend had been attacked by her fiance? He didn’t know how to face her.
Tricia read the reply in his demeanour.
“I see. Mike, I’m terribly sorry. I had no idea. You always seemed so -”
It was beginning already. She would look at him differently and he couldn’t bear to see himself that way. Her eyes would reflect another image of him. Not the strong, capable policeman. A victim. A pathetic, disgraced creature, not fit to serve on the force. And how could she say that she would love him the same, after learning something like that?
“Now do you see why I couldn’t tell you?”
“I certainly see why you had such a hard time trusting me.”
“It’s got nothing to do with trust. You’re one of the people I trust without reservation. But this – it’s just impossible to even -”
“I’m so sorry. I won’t ask -”
“How it happened? That I can tell you. I was involved in a major under cover operation years ago. My testimony helped put away a crime lord for a very long time. Unfortunately, I had posed as a close friend to hm. He took the betrayal badly. One day, he managed to escape. He came up here, bringing his henchmen.”
“I see. So it was revenge? Just like now. Oh, Mike, I wish it had been different. Even if Dan had -”
“No. Don’t say that. You have no idea -”
He broke off, feeling like a fool. Of course she’d know. Exactly what sort of injuries it would involve, exactly how it would affect the victim. Just like dr Bolton, she’d know all about it. In theory. But knowing that, she’d told him that she’d rather it had happened to her, than him. His eyes filled with tears. She really loved him. Much more than he’d ever suspected and suddenly that made a difference. He found that he could move normally again and his mind was working again.
“Tricia – I’m sorry.”
“You have nothing to be sorry for.”
“I love you. You’re – After Jackie, I found it hard to trust anyone. But now -”
“I don’t understand. How could she ever leave you? If you’d been my husband -”
He almost smiled at that, before recalling just what had killed his marriage. Not that other man. He had. The change he’d gone through after the attack. Now he seemed to find no difficulty in thinking the word. He’d been attacked. Maybe one day, he’d also be able to think the other word. What had really happened.
“That was my fault. I – I shut her out. For a while, we were really happy, but this – what had happened – always cast a shadow over us, and I felt – She’d seen me. She was the one who made me accept being treated by dr Bolton. If it hadn’t been for her, perhaps I wouldn’t have been here today. I owed her my life. But I couldn’t forget how she’d seen me. After it happened. She knew what they’d done to me.”
‘They’? Tricia paled as she realized that the individual attacker had been two or three, maybe more. Her eyes began to fill with tears, but she forced down her reaction. She wouldn’t cause Mike any more pain.
“Even more reason for her to hold on to you.”
“I couldn’t let her close. Our marriage had ended before she left me. It was my fault.”
“No, Mike. It wasn’t your fault.”
“You’re very kind, but -”
“Let’s not talk about that anymore. Her loss is my gain.”
Despite everything, he couldn’t help smiling again. Why was he behaving like this? Last night had been a success. While it was humiliating to have been saved by a girl, Jenny’s timely appearance had saved Tricia and himself. No one had been hurt. His face might have been cut badly and after that, the attacker would have killed him. Mike had seen his own death in his eyes. And Tricia –
No. He wouldn’t dwell on what didn’t happen. She was alright. He would be – but his imagination couldn’t stretch that far. If one day he would be what he’d once been, he didn’t believe in it, yet. But Tricia loved him and he loved her. She now knew about his past and it didn’t make her turn away in disgust. The love he saw in her eyes hadn’t faded, if anything, it was stronger now that he’d dared to tell her how he felt.
This was more than he’d ever hoped for, after Jackie had left him. Perhaps, there was a future for him, after all. And a future not alone. One with Tricia by his side. Suddenly, he could almost believe it. And he wouldn’t let Graham win. All this time, he’d managed to do his job. He hadn’t fallen apart the way Graham had intended. That bastard wouldn’t have the satisfaction.
It was over. Even if Tricia’s ordeal had temporarily revived his traumatic memories, he was still standing. And with Tricia in his life, he would be alright one day. It was only a matter of time.