|Primary Characters:||Barbara Havers, Peter Lynley, Thomas Lynley, Simon St James|
|Warning:||adult themes, m/m|
|Description:||Lynley is trying to deal with the aftermath of the accident, and what he feels is a long series of mistakes he’s made in the last year or so. The physical pain leads him to make another bad decision. Someone needs to get through to him, before he ends up in even more trouble.|
The pain was close to intolerable, even with the morphine, that was added to the IV, at regular intervals. Waves of nausea washed over him, and it was only by remaining absolutely immobile that he could keep from throwing up.
With the bandage covering his head, it was hard to see anything, but keeping his eyes shut was better anyway.
Lynley knew his mother, sister and brother were taking turns sitting by the side of his bed, but he mostly ignored them, trying to shut them out. Only once did they let Nkata in to talk to him. His colleague had told him that Heather – the girl who had killed her own parents – both the man she’d grown up knowing as her father, and her real father, who was also her uncle and her lover – her sister and almost her brother too, had been killed in the crash that had injured him.
He had been hoping the girl might have survived, but he realized that perhaps she’d never meant to live to stand trial, to have her secret shame revealed to the world. Even so, he wished there had been something he could have done.
He knew Nkata had tried to alert him to the danger and he also knew that it was his own stubborn fixation with the girl that had placed him at risk in the first place. From the beginning to the end, he’d handled the case badly. All this – his own condition and the girl’s death – was his fault.
Underneath it all, hovered the memory of the incident a few months earlier when the man who had forced Peter into prostitution, had attacked them both and –
To make matters even worse, he knew he’d never been able to accept Helen’s death. He’d treated her badly and after that loss, he’d moved in with St James and there –
It seemed as if in the past year or so, he’d made one set of bad decisions after another. The effort of remembering and worst of all, the orgy of recrimination, were too painful and his mind shied away from it all.
Somehow, he had to find a way of keeping all the memories and the pain at bay.
After it became clear that Tommy wasn’t going to accept their support, Judy decided to take her mother back to Cornwall. She wasn’t surprised, when Peter and Barbara told her they weren’t coming. In the time they’d spent there, Judy had sensed that Peter had come much further on the road of recovery than she’d dared to hope.
It was exactly as she had suspected. Barbara was good for him, just as she’d once been a good friend to Tommy. That made leaving Peter in the city, with all its temptations, easier to bear. Besides, she had her daughter to take care of, as well as her mother.
Despite the circumstances of their brief stay in London, Judy couldn’t help noticing that Tommy’s partner, Winston Nkata – what a handsome young man, and nice too – was definitely involved with Deborah St James or rather – after the divorce – Deborah Cotter.
It seemed odd that Tommy’s ex-girlfriend had married his friend St James and even odder that Deborah should leave St James and end up with Tommy’s partner, but as it was now a fact, Judy couldn’t help thinking that perhaps a man closer to her own age might suit the girl better. In any case, they looked happy together.
She could only wish Tommy would meet someone who could make him as happy.
Peter and Barbara returned to Barbara’s place. After careful consideration, they had decided they would be able to go on living there, despite the traumatic incident a few months back. It was a very nice place and getting one as nice or better, would most likely be impossible. At least without help from the Lynleys and that was where Barbara drew the line.
She still wasn’t entirely comfortable seeing Azhar and his new wife together, but if Peter could stand to live in the house where he’d once again been the victim of an attack by the man who had tormented him in the past, she certainly could rise above her own personal inconvenience.
Barbara returned to work, and since, for the time being, Winston Nkata would be without a partner, during Lynley’s convalescence, she once again found herself working alongside Winston. Though in the past, Barbara had found it hard to get along with others, she had come to a point where she’d learned to interact with others, if not exactly effortlessly, then at least without too much difficulty.
Besides, Winston was easier to get along with than many other officers. Normally, Barbara wasn’t prone to contemplation, but she had a vague idea that Winston, because of his racial background, carried a chip on his shoulder, just like she did, but for another reason.
All in all, she didn’t dread this placement as much as others she’d endured in the past. Her main concern was that Winston would refer to the Burns incident. Her fears weren’t realized, however. To her relief, Winston exhibited a surprising degree of tact.
As soon as she and Peter had settled in again, she couldn’t wait to get back to work. Fortunately, his old job in the bookshop turned out to still be available. Barbara’s initial qualms about leaving Peter alone during the day, vanished.
It was with high expectations, she reported for work, the first Monday after they’d moved back in. As was her habit, she arrived slightly late, with her hair sticking up in places, wearing a mismatched outfit, but those were minor concerns, after all. The main thing was that she was working again. She never felt as comfortable as she did here, where she belonged.
Winston greeted her with a wide grin. He even brought her coffee.
“It must be good to be back.”
“You have no idea. Although Peter’s family is rather nice and their place is – Well, it’s a bit like a holiday. Staying in a hotel. With servants, can you believe it?”
Winston shook his head in disbelief.
“Of course, Deb is used to all that.”
“I know. Well, never mind. What do you have for me?”
“Nothing right now, but you know how it is. Any second now, we’ll get a phone call or the gov will have new orders for us. I’ll just finish up the report from my last case. It will be great to have a first class partner again. I was working with Steve Arkwright while -”
Barbara shook her head in quiet sympathy. Arkwright was a real prat.
As it happened, she had no reason to worry about the lack of work. Within less than an hour, they had plenty to do and no time to stand around dreaming. Whenever she had a chance to breathe, she couldn’t help smiling. She was back.
Lynley’s rehabilitation took rather longer this time. Physical injuries might be less serious than emotional wounds, but this time, he had more than enough of both. The only thing that kept him going was the thought of returning to work. Whatever it took, he would get back and bury himself in his work.
On his insistence, he was allowed back to work much sooner than his doctors advised him. But their words fell on deaf ears.
His boss wouldn’t hear of letting him work outside headquarters, so he reluctantly had to accept desk duties for an indefinite time. At least it wasn’t mere pen-pushing and archiving. He was given the opportunity to analyse real facts in real cases. Whenever one of his colleagues needed a search done, he was the one to do it. He cross-referenced databases and compared cases from other parts of the country.
It wasn’t like being in the field, but much better than being trapped, first in a hospital bed, then later, at home, having to endure seemingly endless sessions of physiotherapy.
Despite a certain relief in his constant self-recrimination, he still slept badly and physical pain made it difficult to walk. Other than a few sports-related injuries in his teens, he’d rarely been incapacitated like this before. It was a new and thoroughly disagreeable feeling.
He could almost understand how St James had felt after the accident. But he wasn’t going to dwell on that. Anything to do with that was not only far too intimately connected with Helen and everything else that had followed on her death.
So he kept pushing himself and eventually, when the pain got too hard to endure, he began to seek some way of controlling it.
The painkillers he was able to get on prescription weren’t nearly as effective as the morphine he’d been given at the hospital, but he grimly forced himself to carry on despite that.
When he’d been back at work for a month, he approached his boss and requested to be put back on active duty. His request was denied.
Knowing better than to argue, he ground his teeth and struggled on in silence. He wasn’t sure, but he thought the pain was getting worse, rather than better. This might in part be due to his reluctance to accept the physiotherapy. After about six weeks he stopped going, despite a series of phone calls from the physiotherapist and in the end, his doctor. He was determined to ignore them.
After another month, he renewed his request, and this time too, he was disappointed. He tried, without success, to sway his boss, but failed.
Another month passed and this time, he finally was allowed back on active duty. Since Havers and Nkata were already working together, Lynley was sent on to another department, where he was given a new female partner.
It was a woman in her early sixties. She was in some ways a bit of a legend at CID. One of the first women to have reached that high in rank. In other ways, she had a slightly tarnished reputation. It was said that she drank rather too much and there was a rumour that she’d had her sergeant beat a suspect to within an inch of his life for something that was vaguely hinted at, but no one knew for sure.
She was married, but it was said that her husband, who was a retired judge, had moved, more or less permanently, to Portugal. Some said to avoid her sharp temper.
Despite her age, she had a good figure and poise that reminded Lynley somewhat of his mother’s. The similarity ended there. Martha Wellesley was tall, slender and so blond her hair almost looked white, but it wasn’t, and if it was dyed, Lynley couldn’t tell.
Lynley couldn’t help feeling a certain awe in the presence of the legendary woman. On the day he reported to work with her, he bowed politely, and despite a certain impatience, Detective Chief Inspector Wellesley, nodded amiably enough.
The corners of her mouth twitched and Lynley wasn’t sure if he’d offended her or amused her.
“Do I remind you of your old schoolteacher?”
“I’m sorry -”
“Call me Martha. And you are Thomas Lynley, Lord Ashterton. What would you like me to call you?”
“Right, then. Tommy – we have a case to investigate. An elderly man has been found beaten to death in his flat. No real surprise there, considering the area he was living in. I’m wondering how he managed to last that long. He was eighty-nine and a widower. A former tobacconist. Retired. One son living in Australia.”
Lynley was slightly surprised they’d been handed such a case. It sounded more like something for a younger officer to cut his proverbial baby teeth on. Perhaps it was his boss’ way of showing him how gruelling their work could be, as a reminder that he should have stuck to his desk job.
But he was determined to carry on and he didn’t expect he’d have much difficulty. Mentally, he felt he was every bit as tuned in to his work as he used to be in the past. Physically, he had to admit that his boss was right. The work was rather hard on his recently healed burns.
DCI Wellesly had him trudging up and down the fifteen floors in the building where the old man had lived, while she stayed put up there, going through the old man’s belongings.
Towards evening, Lynley felt he hadn’t made much progress at all, but the leg and hip with the worst burns were aching, leaving him no peace. If he’d been so inclined, rather like his new partner, he might have used alcohol to drown out the pain. Held back by his wish to keep a clear head for work the next day, he resisted.
He didn’t get much sleep, and when he got out of bed that morning, he couldn’t completely smother a cry of pain, when he put his weight on the leg. It wasn’t broken, but moving caused the skin to pull on the newly healed scars. Besides, even the tissue and bone underneath had suffered some damage in the explosion.
As a compromise, he took three of the strong painkiillers his doctor had told him never to overdose. That was easy for him to say, Lynley grumbled to himself. Two didn’t help at all. After three, he could pull himself together enough to get ready for work, then get himself there in time to receive his new orders.
That day was a blur in his mind. It seemed today was a day for running back and forth on a multitude of errands. On other days, he rarely found reason to leave the building so this was the worst kind of luck.
That evening, he couldn’t face the thought of going to bed without something more substantial to get him through the night.
Despite a twinge of doubt, he sat down gingerly on the couch and rang a number he hadn’t had occasion to ring for at least ten years. It belonged to an old school friend, now a successful doctor.
“Hello, Jim. Thomas Lynley here. I’m sorry to disturb you this late.”
“Tommy? It’s been donkey’s years. How are you?”
“I had a bit of an accident some months ago and well, I’m back at work and so on, but the pain is a little hard to take.”
“What sort of accident?”
Lynley had to force down a momentary urge to hang up, rather than having to go into the circumstances again. It was enough that he sometimes dreamed about it. Dreams that woke him up screaming at times.
“A car crash. I was burned in the explosion.”
“I’m sorry, old boy. That’s really tough luck. Oh, and listen – I was dreadfully sorry to hear about Helen.”
“Er – yes. Thank you. I was wondering – it’s late and my prescription has run out and I was wondering if you could get me something. It’s a bit hard to get to sleep.”
There was a long considering pause on the other end of the line, then his friend coughed. Lynley slumped down, dejected. It wasn’t going to work.
“Oh, well, I suppose I could – what is it you’re taking?”
Lynley told him.
“It’s just that – it wasn’t working very well. I was hoping you could get me some of the real stuff. Morphine.”
This time the pause was even longer.
“Tommy. Are you sure you’ve discussed this with your doctor? If you’re in that much pain, perhaps you shouldn’t be at work yet.”
“Yes. I explained to him that it was important to me to get out of the house. You understand.”
“Of course. Well, in that case – just this once, I suppose I could – Alright, old boy, I’ll – I’m on my way out and I’ll swing by your place first. I’ll administer it for you, but you’ll have to tell your own doctor about your trouble. You should be able to get something that will work better than those pills.”
“Thank you. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your help.”
Jim swiftly and deftly injected the morphine, stayed for one quick drink, then left again, renewing his advice about telling the doctor. Lynley smiled and thanked him again, then leaned back in his seat, closed his eyes and waited for the relief to kick in.
It was absolute bliss. He made himself more comfortable and let the drug do its work. Without being aware of it, he dozed off and didn’t wake until the next morning, to the insistent sound of a phone ringing. Completely disoriented, it took him a while to get his bearings.
The drug had worn off and the pain was back, but he couldn’t dwell on that. DCI Wellesley was furious and with good reason, he soon realized. She had expected him at around eight, eight thirty at the latest. Now it was almost nine thirty and she had been forced to attend the postmortem on her own, then waited another half hour, until she lost what little patience she had and began to look for him.
Briefly, he wondered if it really was worth it. But he recalled that he had little else in his life at the moment so he doggedly pushed on, dividing the day into little portions, forcing himself only to deal with one at a time. If he worked at it, he found that he was able to get through the day without incurring Wellesly’s wrath too many times.
It was in the evenings, that he found himself craving the morphine again. By throwing himself at Jim’s mercy, he was able to get a pitifully inadequate supply of the drug, but he could tell Jim wasn’t happy about it and his assurances that he would indeed take his problems up with his own physician, sounded hollow even in his own ears. It was clear thatJim wasn’t taken in and it was only by relying rather too heavily on their school connection, that he was able to get the stuff at all.
By then, he didn’t really care. All that mattered was to dull the pain. Gradually, he moved on from there to simply craving the drug for its effects alone.
He kept telling himself that he would call his own doctor and sort this out. Soon. He would just get through the case, then –
Barbara had a feeling something was up. It was just a fleeting impression, but she didn’t think she was wrong. Everyone she passed glanced at her, then looked away. She naturally assumed they were staring at her hair or something about her clothes, but after a while, it began to get unnverving.
At lunchtime, she returned from interviewing a suspect. Winston went into the men’s room. She sat down at her desk and waited. They were going to have fish and chips at a place Winston had told her about.
When she looked up again, Winston was standing over her, an odd expression on his face. Aloud, he didn’t comment on whatever it was. He even tried to smile, briefly, but there was something a little off about that too.
“Ready to go, Barb?”
“Yeah. Is Deborah coming too?”
“No, she said she was going to have lunch with Peter today.”
“Oh, that’s right. I forgot. He did say something about that this morning, but I was in a bit of a rush so -”
They walked down the stairs in silence. All the time, Barbara had an eerie feeling something was going on. She didn’t think she’d made any obvious mistakes lately and even she had, Winston wouldn’t keep her in the dark about it. He’d warn her if something was wrong.
Outside, they got into his car, but Winston didn’t turn the key in the ignition. His fingers tapped out a restless tattoo on the steering wheel, then he turned to face Barbara. Suddenly, she felt chilled. Had anything happened to Peter? Winston looked so grave, she knew that whatever he had to say wouldn’t be good.
“Barb – I just heard from Ray that Lynley is in trouble. Big trouble.”
“Apparently, he’s doing drugs.”
Barbara realized she was almost shouting. But what Winston was saying didn’t make any sense. Not Lynley. Peter was the one who – It just couldn’t be true.
The look of sympathy on Winston’s face only served to emphasise the gravity of the news.
“I don’t know any details, but he’s been suspended, pending further investigation. You know how it goes. But Ray was positive it was because of drugs.”
Pensively, Barbara began to chew her lower lip. Her hunger had vanished. Her mind leapt ahead, trying to imagine how this would affect Peter.
“I have to call Peter.”
“In fact, why don’t we join him and Deb now? I know where they were going and I also know Deb will still be chatting incessantly.”
With a last glance at Barbara, Winston started the engine.
Just as Winston had predicted, Peter and Deborah were deep into an animated conversation. They didn’t break off until they saw their grim-looking partner standing above them. The light in Peter’s eyes instantly went out. Deborah got up and kissed Winston on the cheek, gazing inquiringly at him.
Barbara found a chair and sat down, while Winston did the same. He didn’t say anything, apparently leaving that to Barbara.
She didn’t know how to tell Peter, especially since she didn’t know any of the facts. But she couldn’t let him sit there worrying either.
“Peter – I just heard some disturbing news about your brother. Wait. As far as I know he’s not injured or anything like that. It’s just that – he’s in trouble.”
Barbara broke off, trying to think of a way to phrase this, to cause the least amount of pain. It only took her a few seconds to realize that nothing she could say would soften the blow so she went ahead and said it anyway.
“It seems he’s doing drugs.”
The look of disbelief on Peter’s face was an improvement.
“Drugs? Tommy? That’s impossible. He wouldn’t -”
“I’m only telling you what Winston heard.”
Winston opened his mouth to explain. He didn’t like the look on Peter’s face either. As far as he knew, Lynley’s younger brother had gone through a lot in the past. That was something Winston could relate to. Of course, everyone had their own private hells to deal with.
“Today, in the men’s room, I heard a few colleagues discuss your brother. Apparently, no one knows the full story, but there’s no doubt about the drugs, and that he’s been suspended.”
Peter got up abruptly and began to look for his mobile phone. Barbara had insisted he have one, even though he had some reservations about it. Mainly because it brought back memories of using his old phone to contact drug dealers.
He punched in a number, and waited. Eventually, he pressed the key to end the attempt.
“He’s not answering his phone. We’ll have to go and see him.”
Barbara nodded in a way she hoped was reassuring. She placed a hand on Peter’s arm, trying to convey her love and support. To her relief, he didn’t try to push her hand off. Instead, he put his arm around her and held her.
Winston got up as well, and Deborah followed his example.
“You go on. I’ll handle the case.”
Barbara thanked him. Deborah remained standing indecisively, then she appeared to come to a decision.
“I’d better get back to work. Will you drive me, Winnie?”
“Of course, love.”
“Peter, Barbara – I’ll call you later and if there’s anything I can do -”
Barbara smiled, but didn’t reply. Her mind was already planning ahead to the meeting with Lynley. It would be the first time in months the two brothers would meet.
Deborah picked up her handbag, then put her arms around Peter and hugged him briefly. She said goodbye to Barbara and left with Winston.
They took the underground, then walked the final few blocks to Lynley’s house. Barbara was wondering why he didn’t simply sell it. The memories of Helen must be overwhelming. She sensed that Peter felt the same way.
Peter rang the doorbell and waited. The house looked empty, but he was sure Tommy was in there. Unless – he’d heard that his brother had been staying with St James for a while. If no one answered the door, that was where he intended to look.
Eventually, he heard footsteps approaching, then the lock clicked and the door opened.
For a terrible second, he thought he was facing a stranger. The gaunt, haggard face didn’t seem to belong to his brother.
The tone wasn’t inviting and Barbara had a distinct impression that Lynley wanted to get rid of them. There was no warmth in either voice or eyes.
“Can we come in, sir?”
“Very well. It’s a bit inconvenient at the moment, but go on.”
They followed him into the drawing room. Slowly, he turned and faced them. Irritably, he glared back at them, his hands moving restlessly across the surface of a sideboard.
“I suppose you’ve heard that that pompous old fool suspended me.”
Peter’s voice was thick with emotion. It tore at Barbara’s heart to see him reaching out to Lynley, when she knew that most likely he would only reject Peter again.
“It’s such nonsense I’m not even going to comment on whatever ridiculous rumours you might have heard.”
“Tommy, please. You know you can tell me. I wouldn’t -”
“You wouldn’t what?”
“You know I would understand.”
“I see. Well, whatever it is you think you understand, I don’t really care. I’m busy. I believe I told you that when you arrived on my doorstep, uninvited. If you’ve seen all you’ve come to see, then I suggest you leave again. Since for once, you have a job, I would suggest you do your utmost to keep it. It was nice to see you again, Havers, but I assume you have duties to attend to as well. I really need to get on with my own business.”
“Tommy, don’t -”
“You know the way out.”
Barbara decided to try one last time, even she didn’t have any hope of reaching Lynley.
“Sir, if there’s anything we can do -”
“You can leave, and let me get on with my business. We’ll have to get together some time, but not today.”
Barbara was getting angry. Lynley was brushing them off as if their care and support meant nothing. But it was no use. He wasn’t going to let them inside his protective barriers. Besides, before she knew the details of the problem, there wasn’t much they would be able to do anyway. Two minutes later they were standing on the front steps of his house.
There was a dull, lifeless note in Peter’s voice that again made her feel wretched. She wanted to reach out and hold him, but at the moment, she didn’t think she could reach him.
Unfortunately, she could only concur with Peter’s assessment. There didn’t seem to be any doubts that the rumour had been true. All the telltale signs were there, for those who knew how to recognize them. Barbara had spent too many years in uniform, trying to keep addicts under control, not to know the symptoms intimately.
Clearly, Peter’s expert opinion was even more reliable. Somehow, her former boss had succumbed to the same temptations as his younger brother. Barbara could only guess that it had something to do with the accident he’d been in.
“I know. I’m really sorry. I swear I’ll find a way of sorting this out, but for now, I’d better get back to work. I might be able to learn something important. You go on back to work or home if you don’t think you can -”
It was as if he hadn’t heard her.
“Tommy – it’s all my fault. That day, when Trevor – you know he injected us both with heroin. That must be why.”
“No, Peter. I’m sure it’s nothing to do with that. He was in an accident, remember? It must have been the pain after the -”
This time, she couldn’t stop herself from pulling him into her arms and after a while, she felt some of the tension leave his body.
“Besides, what about you? If anyone was at risk of – it would have been you.”
“I know. It was – you have no idea, Barbara. That rush you get, it’s – but I couldn’t let you down. Not when you’d risked everything for me. Besides – it might sound stupid, but the cravings aren’t anything as bad as they used to. Living with you, working, having a normal life – I don’t know, somehow things have changed. Whatever I was looking for before, I think I’ve found it.”
Despite the circumstances, Barbara felt a warm tingle build up deep inside her. How many years had she waited to hear someone say something like that to her? All her life. She’d found what she was looking for too. That was why she would do everything in her power to help Peter help his brother.
To Barbara’s amazement, Winston finally managed to dig out the truth. At least Lynley hadn’t caused any major damage. At a critical point in a case, he’d been nowhere to be found. Later, it was discovered that he was at home, sitting on the couch, out cold. The officer who had come to investigate, had not only recognized the telltale signs, but also seen the damning evidence of drug use, strewn all around Lynley.
Winston had even managed to find out what drug it was. Morphine. Barbara seemed to recall that the withdrawal symptoms were terrible, but it had been years since she’d worked for Narcotics. Perhaps she had it confused with some other drug.
In any case, now that she knew a little more what she was dealing with, she would get to work on finding a solution. Somehow, they would help Lynley, whether he liked it or not.
Throughout the entire misrable first couple of weeks, Winston was absolutely wonderful. He and Deborah spent most of their spare time at Barbara’s house, unless Barbara and Peter came to his place. In view of the fact that Lynley had friends quite high up in the CID hierarchy, his job wasn’t in danger, but before he would be allowed back, he needed to go into rehab.
For that, they would need Lynley’s own consent. As long as he refused to acknowledge that there was a problem, there was nothing anyone could do.
Dejectedly, they sat around Winston’s kitchen table. Alaska, the cat, lay on Deborah’s lap and Peach, the dachshund, was on Peter’s lap. His hands gently stroked the shiny fur, seemingly only half aware of what he was doing.
“This is only too familiar. When I was still at uni, I would lie to everyone around me. Nothing was wrong. Even when it became obvious that I couldn’t go to lectures anymore and I was hardly eating, I kept insisting I was fine. When I was kicked out of my lodgings and – well, even then, I wouldn’t acknowledge that I had a problem.”
“When did that change?”
Winston was looking at Peter with a great deal of interest. Just like Barbara, he had much experience with addicts, but not until now was he in a position to actually discuss the matter with someone who was a recovered heroinist.
“Well, I don’t suppose I need to – hide anything from the two of you. You saw me in that hospital bed. I realized that you must know everything about my situation. I suppose it was the fact that you were willing to conceal my – situation – from Tommy, Barbara. Even from Tommy, when I knew how much your friendship meant to you. And the fact that you let me stay with you and helped me. Mother had tried her best, but at the time, she was still going through a rough patch, after Dr Trenarrow – you know about all this, don’t you, Deb?”
Deborah nodded sadly. She’d heard all about Peter’s troubles, except for whatever it was he was referring to when he mentioned his ‘situation’. She didn’t think Simon knew either. Sensing that this wasn’t the right moment to ask Peter, she wisely kept her mouth shut.
Suddenly, her face lit up. Why hadn’t she thought of that before?
“Perhaps SImon could talk to him.”
Peter nodded approvingly. Of course. He should have been the one to think of that first.
“Simon’s been around forever. As far back as I can remember. He’s probably closer to Tommy than anyone else.”
Barbara couldn’t think of any reason not to approach St James, except for one thing. During Lynley’s convalescence, his friend had been notably absent. At least while Lynley was still in the hospital. On the other hand, after he left the hospital, she and Peter hadn’t been in touch with him, so perhaps he and St James were still in close contact after all.
It occurred to Barbara that perhaps the car crash would have brought back unpleasant memories for him. She seemed to recall that a car accident had been the cause of his disability.
“That’s a very good idea, Deborah. Will you ring St James or -”
It was as if a veil had been drawn across Deborah’s face. All the animation left her.
“I – perhaps it would be better if Peter -”
Reassuringly, Peter put his hand over Deborah’s.
“Of course. I’ll do it.”
It seemed to Barbara that Deborah’s suggestion had given Peter hope. After they’d made the decision to contact Lynley’s old friend, he looked much more composed. Personally, Barbara felt that Lady Asherton and Judy might be even more suited to dealing with Lynley’s problems. She found it hard to believe that Lynley would be able to deceive his mother and sister.
When the visitor came to the door, St James had been absorbed in his work for almost ten hours. The sound of the doorbell ringing, brought him back to reality, with a start. Where had the daylight gone? It seemed to him that it was only half an hour or so since he’d had breakfast. The entire day must have passed while he was hard at work analysing samples connected with a most intriguing murder case.
Before he had time to ponder his own absorption in his work, Cotter appeared at the door.
“Peter Lynley, sir.”
St James blinked. Surely he had misheard Cotter. Had he really said Peter Lynley? Of course, he assumed Peter was still in London, after his unfortunate –
“Ask him to wait for me in the living room. I’ll be right there.”
Cotter inclined his head and left as silently as he had come.
Hurriedly, St James put everything back in order, but didn’t forget to document the results. After washing his hands at the sink, he went to investigate what was behind the unexpected visit.
Peter was standing at the fireplace, staring into the roaring flames. Cotter insisted on lighting a fire on almost every night that was the slighest bit chilly. Although St James had to admit it did rather improve the atmosphere in his empty home. With his wife and the pets gone, it tended to get a little too quiet. He’d considered getting a new dog, but he didn’t feel as if the city was a good place for one.
When St James walked in, Peter turned and faced him. He looked well. The last time St James had seen him, the boy had been in terrible shape. Whatever he had done, it seemed to be working.
“Peter. Good to see you again.”
“You too, Simon. Excuse me for barging in on you like this, unannounced, but – I’ve come to ask you a favour.”
St James’ eyebrows shot up. Whatever he’d expected, this certainly wasn’t it.
“Oh. I see. Well – why don’t you sit down?”
He used Peter’s momentary inattention to find a seat for himself. Whenever he could, he liked to avoid being seen by others as he sat down or got up. Even after so many years, it still hurt not to be able to move about the way he used to.
For a while, neither man said anything. Peter looked worried somehow.
St James frowned. Could this be something to do with his mother? Judy? Or was it for himself Peter was pleading? St James had heard that Peter had become involved with Lynley’s sergeant. Barbara Havers. He’d met her on many occasions and found her a pleasant enough woman, if rather awkward and ill at ease. Apparently, she’d been a positive influnence on Peter.
Peter turned an agonised gaze on to St James.
“SImon – this is – when I first heard about it, I couldn’t believe it, but I’m afraid there’s no doubt about it.”
Overcome with emotion, Peter had to pause to collect himself.
In the prolonged silence that followed, St James had a horrible suspicion Peter was referring to the incident that had occurred several months ago, when Lynley had been staying at his house. Just after Deborah had left him. If Peter had come to confront him about his – indiscretion, St James had no idea what he was going to say.
Eventually, Peter was able to continue.
“Tommy is using morphine. He’s – I’m afraid he’s become addicted to the stuff. I can only assume it’s because of the accident, but – I was hoping you might be able to talk to him. Just like when I was – in the same situation – he’s denying everything. He absolutely refuses to acknowledge he has a problem. If you could just talk to him, I’m sure he will listen.”
St James pondered this in silence. At last, he managed to find the words to reply. He took great pains to keep his tone light.
“I’m terribly sorry to hear that. It’s just about the last thing I would have expected, but – Well, there it is. You don’t think that your mother – or Judy -”
“Oh, we’ve already told mother. She and Judy will be here soon. It’s just that – I thought he might listen to you.”
That had been St James’ first thought as well. Then he’d remembered. Tommy wouldn’t want to see him or listen to him anymore. He’d been an absolute fool. And because of a moment’s folly, all their years of friendship had been lost. Of course, telling Peter about that, was absolutely out of the question. He had to put him off somehow.
“I – I’ll see what I can do. I can’t make any guarantees, but I’ll – if there’s something I can do, I will.”
Peter got up, fixing his gaze on St James, reminding him in a way, of Peach. That sort of complete trust was touching in a dog, but rather unexpected in a man, though St James reminded himself that Peter hadn’t had a normal childhood. He felt bad about deceiving the boy, but he didn’t see how he could ever approach Tommy again. After what had happened, he didn’t think he’d ever be able to see or talk to his friend again.
He shook Peter’s hand, then watched him walk away. The boy’s faith in him felt like silent reproach. Peter had always loved his brother and though St James wasn’t in the habit of analysing other chaps’ emotional life, he’d always known that Tommy’s feelings for Peter were far less warm.
He knew he was being unfair and the idea of letting the poor boy down made him feel miserable. Besides, the moment he’d heard about Tommy’s problem, St James’ first impulse had been to run to his friend’s aid.
He clenched his fists, thoroughly disgusted with himself. What sort of man had he turned into? A coward, a fool, a traitor. For years he’d shied away from the knowledge that Tommy meant everything to him. Secretly, at some level, he must even have liked the fact that Tommy preferred his companionship to that of his own brother.
Another less than welcome thought kept intruding. The reason he’d wanted Deborah was because Tommy had had her first. By marrying her, he’d felt somehow closer to Tommy. How pathetic. How cruel and unfair to her.
This soul-searching wasn’t pleasant but once he’d opened that securely locked compartment in his mind, St James also felt impelled to admit the fact that he’d envied Tommy his health. He’d envied him and loved him and – no use denying that now – desired him. Wanted him to such a degree that Deborah had never been able to compare.
It was time he faced Tommy again, instead of sitting here in his comfortable house, safe from emotional distress, but lonely and set apart from other people.
He would talk to Tommy and see if he might be able to reach him where clearly poor Peter couldn’t. It was the least he could do. After what they’d been through, he owed him. Besides, he wanted to do it, if only to please that poor kid, Peter.
When the doorbell rang, Lynley was sorely tempted to ignore it. Whoever it was – his mother, sister or brother – could just go away again and find someone else to bother. But the uninvited guest just kept on leaning on the doorbell, until the sound of it unnerved Lynley enough to go and answer the door, if only to shut that infernal noise off.
Expecting it to be Peter or his mother, Lynley wasn’t prepared to find himself staring into an all too familiar face. At a loss for words, he could only continue to gaze dumbly at the last person in the world he’d expected to see.
In the end, it was St James who spoke up first.
“May I come in?”
The sound of his voice snapped Lynley out of his daze. He stepped aside to let his visitor in.
St James was appalled. He realized that he hadn’t fully believed Peter’s claim about Tommy’s condition. Now that he was standing face to face with him, it was only too clear that Peter had been right. Which of course he would. If anyone knew what he was talking about in this case, it would be Peter Lynley.
St James was grateful when Tommy turned and walked ahead of him into his study. It had always been one of St James’ favorite rooms in Tommy’s house. In many ways, it was similar to his own. It was a room to feel at home in.
Tommy had even remembered to find an excuse to look away, while St James slid down into one of the comfortable armchairs.
It wasn’t until afterwards that St James thought of an alternative explanation for Lynley’s momentary inattention.
Despite his original intention and his promise to Peter, the first words that left St James’ mouth were nothing to do with Lynley’s drug addiction.
“Tommy – can you forgive me? I was – an absolute ass.”
The silence that followed grated on St James’ nerves. Suddenly, all that mattered to him, was learning the answer to that burning question.
When Lynley at last turned to face him, the look on his ravaged face made St James sharply draw in breath, then hold it, while he awaited his friend’s reply.
“Why? Do you regret what we did?”
The question stunned St James. It was a while until he’d composed his thoughts enough to think of a reply.
“If what we did destroyed our friendship, then yes, I do.”
“And if it didn’t?”
“Then no. I was a fool, but – I’d been wanting that for – forever. Since the last time.”
Lynley nodded, suddenly looking far less haggard.
“That’s what I thought. Did it never occur to you that I might have missed – all that too?”
Simon studied his friend’s face, searching for a clue as to what he might be referring to. He thought – no, he was hoping that what Tommy had just said meant –
But Tommy didn’t say anything for quite a while. Instead, he leaned over Simon and kissed him. For a while, the real reason for his visit slipped Simon’s mind. It was a long time until either of them were capable of coherent thought.
Simon couldn’t seem to stop smiling. The jubilant mood he was in, couldn’t even be significantly dented by the returning realisation that while this was all marvellous, Tommy was still addicted to drugs. If their – St James shied away from the word relationship – if what they had were to have a future, that problem needed to be dealt with.
He was reluctant to dispel the euphoria their – reunion – had induced, but he couldn’t ignore Tommy’s condition.
“Tommy – I – there’s something I need to discuss with you.”
The light in Lynley’s eyes went out, but he didn’t avert his gaze. St James still had his attention.
“You must know what I’m talking about.”
After another long, drawn out pause, Tommy nodded, sadly.
“It was the pain. Those burns never seemed to heal. My doctor gave me pills but they were completely inadequate. I had to have something. And then – The worst part is, I never understood what Peter was going through. How he must have suffered. I told myself he was just being selfish. Causing mother so much pain. Now I know how he must have felt.”
“You should have come to me. I would have -”
“I know. I was a coward. After what we’d – I wasn’t sure what you’d think of me. For a while, it seemed to me as if you might have felt I was – taking advantage of -”
“The way I recall it, we both wanted it, equally.”
Despite everything, Tommy couldn’t help smiling. That had been his impression too. It had seemed as if – but even so, when it was over, Simon might have regretted it.
Clearly, that wasn’t the case.
“I could have said something.”
Tommy’s smile didn’t hold any reproach.
“I suppose we were both fools. You’d think that in this day and age, this sort of thing wouldn’t be so terrifying.”
“I know, but – leaving that aside for a moment – Tommy, you really need to do something about this – habit.”
“What – about constantly sleeping with my best friend?”
This time, Simon found he was able to laugh at the image this conjured up. They weren’t just friends anymore. So what? Perhaps this time they would get it right.
“I hope not. As far as I’m concerned, you can do that all the time, at least if I’m the friend you’re referring to.”
“I know what you mean. It’s just so – intimidating. My work has always been the most important thing in my life. And I failed. I -”
“Never mind that. Let’s just get you well again, and I’m sure CID will be clamouring to have you back.”
“Hm. I wish I could be as sure as you seem to be, but – I know. I’ll – try.”
“You’ll do it. I’ll be there with you, every step of the way. And if I’m not mistaken, so will Lady Asherton and probably your sister and brother and Barbara Havers.”
The mention of his brother brought Tommy back to reality. He’d pushed Peter away. Again. Just like he always did. Mostly because Peter would see too much, but also – with sickening clarity, Tommy knew this was true – because of what that unspeakable brute Burns had done to them. What he’d forced them to do.
He hadn’t wanted to see Peter. But then he never had. He’d been jealous when the poor kid had been born and he’d rejected him along with his mother when he’d found out about her and Dr Trenarrow. Peter, who had always adored him. Admired him. Worshipped the ground he walked upon. And he’d taken that love and trust and thrown them right back into Peter’s face.
“Peter and Barbara – I behaved badly to them. They came here, offering me their help and support and I – just shut them out.”
“It’s alright. They’ll understand. We’ll get through this, Tommy. Whatever it takes, I’ll be here for you.”
This time, Tommy didn’t say anything, he merely pulled Simon closer again. For the first time since Helen’s death and since the accident, he felt a little more hopeful about the future. Perhaps Simon was right. They would get through this, impossible as it seemed at the moment. All he had to do was trust and stop being afraid.
But first he’d need to see Peter again. To tell him how sorry he was for everything he’d done to him. All the troubles Peter had had in his life, were his brother’s fault. The drug addiction, the prostitution, the ordeal at Burns’ hands – all, had been caused by his older brother thoughtlessly abandoning him.
He would have to make it up to him, and to Deborah. When it came to Helen, it was too late. He would never have a chance to tell her how sorry he was he never quite dared to commit himself. Just like with Peter, he’d betrayed and let her down, even though he’d loved her or at least thought he did.
But he couldn’t stay in here forever, wallowing in self-pity. Simon was right. He had to do something to sort out the mess he’d made of his life. He was more lucky than he deserved, to have Simon by his side.
Peter stood for a long time, still holding on to the receiver, a dreamy look in his eyes. It wasn’t until Barbara called his name that he finally broke out his stupor.
“I – don’t think so. I think – it might be good news. Tommy just called. He wanted to see me.”
“Why not? He’s allowed to have visitors.”
“Right. I’m coming with you. Hold on a sec.”
“You don’t have to.”
“But I want to.”
Deep down, Peter didn’t mind at all. He always wanted her to be right by his side. If nothing else, her presence reminded him of how lucky he’d been that she’d been the police officer to come to the hospital to take his statement. If it had been someone else – He didn’t even want to think about that. It had been Barbara and it was no use wondering about what had never come to pass.
They had some difficulty finding the way out to the pleasant-looking manor house. From a distance, it was difficult to guess that it was actually a rehabilitation clinic. All the patients were wealthy and dependent on total discretion. Some were politicians, others business magnates, a few people like Tommy, with more or less ordinary professions, but with a private income that made it possible for them to enjoy the privacy of this country estate.
Peter had been in one just the same. In fact, more than one. Those treatments hadn’t worked, but since he was now free from his own addiction, it was no use dwelling on the past.
He left Barbara in a spacious sitting room, having tea, and followed a plainly dressed woman who though not wearing a uniform, was in fact a nurse. Tommy’s room was upstairs, facing a pond. On a clear day, the view must be sensational, but today it was raining. In any case, Peter had a feeling that the weather didn’t really matter to Tommy.
He knocked, then waited until he heard his brother’s voice telling him to come in.
Tommy looked different somehow. Healthier, but also more relaxed. It occurred to Peter that he’d hardly ever seen his brother without a tense look on his face. In his memories, Tommy was always doing something or on his way to somewhere.
“Peter. Thank you for coming.”
“Of course. So, how are you doing?”
Tommy made a face.
“You tell me.”
“That bad, eh? Never mind. Once it’s over, it will be worth it.”
“I hope you’re right. Please. Sit.”
Peter sat down in a chair facing the one Tommy was sitting in. After a while, Tommy’s intense scrutiny began to unnerve Peter. He was wondering what it was his brother had called him all this way to tell him.
it looked as if Tommy was struggling with something, but eventually, he managed to get himself under control.
“Peter – I want to apologize to you for all the times I’ve let you down. No, wait. Please let me say this. It was hard enough to nerve myself do it. I know that whatever I say, will be completely inadequate, but for what it’s worth – I’m terribly sorry. I abandoned you at such a critical age. With father gone, I should have been there for you. I wasn’t. There’s nothing to be done about that now. I never showed enough understanding of what you were going through with your drug addiction. And it was all my fault. If I hadn’t let you down – All I can say is that from now on -”
“It’s alright. I won’t pretend I wasn’t devastated that you left, but for years afterwards, I had Dr Trenarrow. I had mother and Judy.”
“Don’t defend me. It was me you needed.”
“Yes, but I understand why you had to go. I was too young to understand at the time, but – I can see why you were hurt by what mother – but think about it from her point of view. She was all alone and Dr Trenarrow -”
“I know. I – made my peace with mother a long time ago. But this time, it’s you I want to -”
“You don’t have to do this, Tommy. I understand. It’s alright.”
“No, it’s not. I let you down, badly. And again – after Burns – I – hope we never have to have this conversation again, but – I – after that happened – I couldn’t stand to be near you. I didn’t want to be reminded of – but I have to say this – I – you – even under those circumstances, you tried to shield me -”
Peter felt his throat constrict. That day – mercifully most of it was a blur in his memory, but he remembered enough to cause him to wake up screaming some nights, alarming Barbara. Trevor had really found the one thing that would cause him the most pain.
“It was my fault that he attacked you. I’m the one who got involved with him. It wasn’t fair that you should be dragged into my mess. Of course I would have – I would have done anything to protect you. After all, whatever he wanted me to do for him, it’s not as if I hadn’t done it hundreds of times before.”
This was something Tommy really didn’t want to be reminded of. The very idea made him sick, just like the memories of that day. And this was the brother he had constantly betrayed and rejected. Suddenly, it didn’t feel at all awkward to be close to Peter. He was his brother. That was something that psychopathic pervert couldn’t take away from him.
Tommy reached for Peter and pulled him into his arms. He felt Peter slump down on his shoulder and held on to him for what felt like forever. What Peter had just said was somehow all wrong. He was the one who was supposed to protect him, not the other way around.
Peter was the one to break out of the embrace first. Tommy couldn’t help noticing how suspiciously moist Peter’s eyes looked and he knew he wasn’t any better. He swallowed to clear his throat.
“Well, I hope you’ll let me try to make it all up to you. Letting you down all those times -”
“Don’t you think I know how badly I let everyone down by using drugs? How I hurt mother and Judy and you and -”
“There wasn’t anything you could have done. Believe me, I know that now. And don’t worry about mother. She’s as tough as nails.”
Peter couldn’t help smiling, though only moments ago he’d been about to burst into tears.
“Maybe not as tough as you think, but there’s nothing I can do now to make it up to her, other than staying clean. And so can you.”
“I’m certainly going to give it my best shot. Peter – there was something else I wanted to tell you. I want you to be the first person to know that – I’ve – there’s someone in my life now and I -”
“You met a girl? I mean, a woman. That’s fantastic. Anyone I know?”
Tommy smiled wryly. The answers to those questions were no and yes. Why should it be so hard to tell his little brother, when they knew everything else about each other and had been through hell together? In comparison, this should be a piece of cake.
“Peter, it’s not a woman, but yes, it is someone you know.”
A puzzled look spread across Peter’s face. It was as if he suspected his brother of playing a joke on him, but he couldn’t quite see the punch line.
“Simon? But – have you been keeping such a big secret to yourself all these years? Or is it something more recent?”
Tommy briefly considered telling Peter about his and Simon’s school boy affair. He had a right to some privacy, didn’t he? On the other hand, poor Peter hadn’t been allowed that luxury. Grimly forcing himself on, he told Peter everything.
“Well, you know, we were – close – in school, but we probably thought that was just a phase. I know I never imagined this would happen.”
“Oh. Well, congratulations. I hope you’ll be as happy as Barbara and I.”
“So do I. But don’t tell mother or Judy just yet, please. I’ll have to build up to it slowly.”
“If you don’t want me to, I won’t, but I don’t think there’s anything you could tell mother or Judy that would surprise them.”
“What? It’s that obvious?”
“No, stupid. It’s just that women know things. They’re bloody unnatural at times. Barbara’s amazing at sensing when I’m feeling low or if I’m dreading something. It must be instinct.”
“I was afraid of that. Tell Barbara, if you like, but I’d rather you didn’t tell Deborah or Winston Nkata until – this is a little less new and bewildering. I’ll tell you one thing, though. I’m not sure if I would have survived this without Simon.”
“You don’t have to tell me that. Barbara is the only reason I was able to stay clean. That must be what was missing before. I mean, I loved my other girlfriends, but not like this.”
“Thank Barbara from me. For saving your life and – mine too. That day, I mean. I’ve behaved dreadfully towards you.”
“Don’t mention it. I know what you were going through. But I’d better go now. It’s getting late. Best of luck to you and Simon and tell him he’s a sly old devil. When I asked him to reason with you, I never suspected for a moment that you were that close.”
“Thank you. Alright. I will. Drive safely. Remember, I love you.”
“I love you too, Tommy.”
On his way down the stairs, Peter mulled over all the things Tommy had told him. He and Simon. That would take some getting used to, but in a way, it made sense. Somehow, Peter thought it would help make him less jealous towards him. If Simon was Tommy’s lover, it wouldn’t be quite as wounding to his own pride that Tommy had chosen Simon as his best friend, over his own brother.
He couldn’t wait to tell Barbara. She would be as astonished as he had been, he would bet.
It was such a relief that Tommy seemed to be on his way to recovery. And with Simon in his life, he would be sure to make it. Simon would be the perfect antidote to the morphine.