|Primary Characters:||Barnaby, Scott, Joyce, Cully, Troy|
|Description:||Gavin Troys father is dying. Gavin is devastated. While he’s back in Midsomer, the Barnabys are in a traffic accident leaving Joyce and Cully severely injured. They need blood transfusions, but their blood type is extremely rare. It turns out Gavin is a match. That leads Joyce to wonder who he really is.|
Gavin Troy felt as if his head had barely hit the pillow when the insistent ringing woke him up again. He fumbled for the alarm clock on his bedside table, but when he found it, he could feel that it wasn’t what was ringing.
His mind cleared a little and he recognized the ring signal. It was his mobile phone. Some more fumbling produced the phone, but while his fingers made contact with it, the ringing stopped. He lit up the display and squinted to see the time. It was 1.57. He’d fallen into bed at 11.43, after finishing a case which had been puzzling them for months.
As he held the mobile phone in his hand, it started ringing again. The ear-splitting sound unnerved him. Anxiously, he recalled that his father hadn’t been well lately. If the call concerned him – It was as if he’d sensed it already, though normally, he was far from intuitive.
The cool, impersonal voice speaking to him, told him his father had taken a turn for the worse and he had better hurry. Gavin felt a hard knot form at the pit of his stomach. Even if he’d been too young to remember clearly the time his mother had died, he somehow knew what was being implied.
He threw on some clothes and got into his car. Only now did he wonder how he was going to make it back south in time. He punched in the number to the airport, hoping someone would be taking his call.
To his relief, another cool, impersonal voice replied and he enquired about the next flight south. The first morning flight would be leaving at 5.52 and amazingly, there was a seat available. Almost four hours to wait, but he didn’t feel like returning inside. It would be at least forty-five minutes before he made it to the airport anyway, even at this hour, so he might as well get going.
He sat in his car, waiting, while the sun came up. Not surprisingly, it was half hidden by a cloud and before he had entered the terminal, a slow, misty rain began to fall. It was bitterly cold, or perhaps that was only because he’d come straight out of bed, without having anything to eat. He hadn’t even wanted to waste time making coffee.
By the time he could pick up his ticket, he felt slightly more alert, but that brought a numbing awareness of what he’d be facing when he arrived home.
From the airport he took a taxi, which deposited him outside the main entrance to the hospital. Despite the latest renovations, it still brought back a feeling of familiarity. He’d had his tonsils out here. When he’d fallen from a high fence and broken his clavicle, he’d had it set here.
This was also – he recalled with a grim sense of inevitability – where his mother had died. Much of that time in his life was just a blur, but he did recall sitting at the side of her bed, watching her slip away. His father hadn’t let him be there towards the end, but he’d known, the minute he heard his father’s voice on the telephone.
Now, it would start over again. Telling himself it would be different this time, he clenched his teeth and walked up to the reception desk. He was a grown man and a police officer. Dead bodies were a part of his every day life. Except those bodies never had any personal connection to him and if he was lucky, his father would still be hanging on.
“I’m Gavin Troy. My father is -”
“Ah, yes, mr Troy, come this way, please.”
He didn’t bother correcting the nurse. This morning, his rank didn’t offer him any consolation.
It was just as bad as he’d imagined. His father was hardly able to speak. Gavin was hoping the vacant look in his eyes wasn’t caused by pain. There was a tube going into his father’s arm, presumably pumping some kind of anesthesia into his veins.
Gavin sat down heavily on the chair provided and took his father’s hand. This didn’t produce any reaction. It looked as if his father’s eyes were open, but that apparently didn’t mean anything anymore. The sound of the door opening and closing behind him, made him look up.
A young, Asian doctor stood over him, a look of sympathy on his brown face.
“Mr Troy? I’m Dr Ali Rashid. As you can see – your father’s condition was rather worse than we first assumed. I’m terribly sorry, but – I’m afraid there’s nothing more we can do.”
“Is he in pain?”
“No. At this point, he won’t be feeling much of anything. He might come to at the last moment, or he might not. There’s no telling in advance.”
“Will he be – lucid?”
“I can’t tell you that either. It’s only a matter of time now. I’m sorry I can’t give you any better news. This type of thing can be very quick.”
“If you need anything – a cup of tea – coffee – please let the nurse know. You may stay as long – as it takes.”
“Yes. I see. Thank you.”
Gavin settled down to wait, feeling numb inside. The grief would hit him later. For now, he was still struggling to understand. The last time he and his father had met, the old man had been talking about going fishing. He’d seemed indestructible. So tall, so strong, so fit.
Ever since Gavin had been eleven, when he’d lost his mother, his father had been everything to him. Though his choice of profession hadn’t ceased to amaze his father, it had still made him feel proud. At least that was something. They had never argued much or had any major differences of opinion. Gavin had a feeling that might mean something to him, later.
Time dragged on, and he could see that a trace of sunlight briefly shone through the window, then vanished again. At some point, a pretty West Indian nurse had looked in and had returned some time later with a cup of tea, thick with sugar. There had been a biscuit on a plate, but Gavin hadn’t been able to touch it. The tea had helped revive him, which didn’t necessarily help.
While he was sitting there, the grief had caught up with him and he felt himself choking with it. As he thought of the years ahead, with no one in his life, no one he could be close to, he felt chilled. Would there never be anyone with whom he could let down his guard and talk freely with? His colleagues up north were fine, but after work, he found himself alone, most of the time.
The memory of Cully briefly appeared in his mind, but he couldn’t hold on to the image. Besides, the last time they’d met, things had changed pretty drastically between them. Not only that. He’d experienced something which was still haunting him in his dreams at the worst of times. Resolutely, he pushed that memory of out of his mind. This wasn’t the time or the place.
A sound from his immobile father made him look up, startled. His father’s eyes were now definitely open and what was more, they were focused. The old man’s lips were moving and after a while, Gavin thought he recognized his name. It was hard to decipher his father’s incoherent mumblings, but he thought he caught the words ‘your mother’ ‘tell you’ and ‘sorry’. He’d moved closer, straining his ears to catch the words, so he missed the moment when his father’s eyes glazed over. It was a while until he noticed that the sounds of breathing had stopped. A loud noise filled the little room and he suddenly realized what had happened.
He looked down on his father, and saw the now familiar look of death. His eyes filled with tears and he almost choked on the sense of loss. He didn’t think he’d ever felt that lonely before. From the corridor outside, he could hear the sounds of footsteps coming in his direction. The door opened and two nurses walked in.
One of them bent over his father, taking a closer look, then turning off the machinery he’d been connected to. The other one began to talk calmly to Gavin, but it was a while until he could hear what she was saying.
“Mr Troy. Would you like to sit for a while with your father?”
He stared uncomprehendingly at the round face which was looking down on him.
“Perhaps you should come with me, mr Troy.”
For a while, his memories became a little disjointed. He didn’t remember if he’d stayed with his father’s body or if he’d gone with the nurse. The next thing he knew, he was standing in the entrance hall, facing the main exit. He had a feeling he’d been standing there for a long time. Self-consciously, he walked through the doors and outside. It was getting dark again, and the rain was still falling lightly.
Shaking his head to clear it, he didn’t watch where he was going and bumped into another man who had come from another exit. Automatically, he apologized, not really seeing the other man.
Something about the chance encounter made the other man stop and take another look.
Detective Sergeant Daniel Scott had just come from the morgue, after viewing the remains of a man who had drowned. Even after the postmortem, there seemed to be some doubt about the cause of death. It couldn’t be ruled out that it had been a homicide, but suicide or accidental death still remained strong possibilities.
He was on his way back to the station, when he ran into someone leaving through the main entrance. The man had apologized, in a voice that sounded so dull and flat Daniel took another look, just out of habit. Anything out of the ordinary made him pay attention. It was a useful trait on the job.
The man looked familiar and suddenly, it dawned on Daniel who it was and – worse – where and under what circumstances he’d last seen him. His first impulse was to continue on his way, pretending he hadn’t noticed. On second thought, despite everything, he couldn’t get the sound of his voice out of his mind. Gavin Troy, his predecessor, had sounded so – apathetic – he couldn’t help feeling a trace of pity.
“Detective Inspector Troy?”
Gavin blinked when he heard his name mentioned. At first, the other man didn’t seem familiar. He was about to move on, when a trace of recollection sparked in his mind. It made his urge to move on intensify. DS Daniel Scott was probably the person Gavin least of all wanted to meet. Yet, his upbringing forced him to reply politely.
“What are you doing here? If I may ask?”
It occurred to Daniel that if he wanted to show Troy sympathy, he might start by not sounding like a police officer investigating a case.
“Oh, I -”
To Gavin’s humiliation, he lost control and felt tears trickle down his face. He looked away, hoping that Scott wouldn’t have noticed.
Daniel had been looking intently, if hardly enthusiastically at his predecessor, and he hadn’t missed the change of expression. Something was wrong. Though it was the last thing he wanted, he forced himself to stop and at least try to find out what had caused this alarming transformation in the normally rather stolid Troy. Normally, except when they’d last met – but that was something Daniel definitely didn’t want to dwell on.
“Hey. Come on. You’d better sit down. Over here.”
Feeling intensely uncomfortable, Daniel tried, without actually touching Troy, to herd him towards his car. It had occurred to him that his fiancee, Cully Barnaby, and her parents – again two people he didn’t feel particularly comfortable with – would want him to look after Troy. They were all very fond of him, which after all, wasn’t so surprising, considering how many years he’d worked with Detective Chief Inspector Barnaby.
Gavin didn’t have any strength left to put up a fight, so he found himself docilely following Scott. Scott opened the door on the left and stepped aside. Gavin sank down in the seat, without a word.
Daniel moved around to the other side, got in and closed the door, shutting out the chilly air outside.
Gavin turned and gazed sadly at Daniel. He couldn’t quite see why his successor was taking an interest, but he didn’t feel up to refusing and walking away just yet. If he did, he’d have to go out to the house and either begin to pack up his father’s things – or – make up his old bed and go to sleep there, in the emptiness and the silence. Anything was better, as long as Daniel didn’t try to touch him.
“It’s my dad. He – just passed away.”
“Oh. I didn’t know -”
“It all happened so quickly. Cancer.”
Daniel realized that he didn’t know anything about Gavin’s personal life.
“Your mother -”
“She died when I was eleven.”
“Oh. I’m sorry.”
That was something Daniel could relate to, except his own mother had died when he was eight. Still – eight or eleven – it was very early to lose one’s mother.
“Any brothers or sisters?”
It seemed to Daniel that the best he could do was to take Gavin back to the station and get him some coffee. That way, they wouldn’t be alone together and Gavin would still be surrounded by people. From his work as a detecctive, Daniel knew that people who had just lost a family member or other loved one, usually didn’t fare so well alone. No matter how uncomfortable Gavin’s presence made him, he didn’t think he could simply abandon him, after what had just happened.
“Listen, Troy – why don’t you come back to the station with me?”
Gavin didn’t reply. It was as if he hadn’t heard the other man.
Daniel turned the key in the ignition and drove off without waiting for a reply. If only Barnaby had been there, he could have passed on his awkward charge to him. Unfortunately, the Barnabys were on a short vacation trip together. They’d gone up to London to visit some art galleries and – he wasn’t sure – go to a concert – or play. Personally, he preferred the cinema or a club – or going to hear a rock band play. In any case, the Barnabys weren’t expected back for another two days, which left him to deal with Troy.
Back at the station, Daniel was relieved to be able to hand Troy over to PC Stanton. She prepared him a large cup of tea and found a comfortable seat for him. That gave Daniel time to go through the case again. The evidence didn’t point to it being a homicide, but just in case, he’d wait for the Medical Examiner’s full report. It also meant he would have time to ask for Barnaby’s opinion.
At that point, he looked up to find most of his colleagues gone. PC Stanton appeared by his side, an apologetic look on her face.
“I really need to go now, Detective Sergeant. You’ll have to look after your friend yourself.”
“Right. Thanks, Liz.”
Daniel took a deep breath. This was exactly what he’d been dreading – finding himself alone with Troy. Resigning himself to his fate, he rose, pushed back his chair and stretched. He went off in search of Troy and found him in Barnaby’s own office. Apparently, Liz Stanton had known who Troy was, even if she was too new on the job to have met Troy while he was working there.
Troy looked so dazed Daniel was beginning to feel alarmed. He fought down an unworthy impulse to just show Troy outside and go home, leaving his predessor to find his own way to wherever he was going. As Daniel recalled that Troy currently was working up north, he began to wonder how Troy was going to get home.
“Excuse me, but where were you going?”
“You work somewhere up north, don’t you? Can I take you to the airport or -”
“Oh. No. I – have to get home. To dad’s place.”
“Far from here, is it?”
“No, it’s just a few miles.”
Just his luck. Daniel couldn’t see any way of avoiding further involvement. Now it looked as if he was commmitted to driving Troy to that house, which would take him at least half an hour, probably more and that didn’t include his own return trip. On the other hand, he couldn’t very well leave Troy with no means of transportation at this time of the evening.
“Come on then. Let’s go.”
The roads leading to Troy’s late father’s house were mere country lanes. They exceeded Daniel’s worst expectations. Not that he had any high opinion of any of the roads in the sticks. After being forced to back up and retrace his way more than once, he became intimately familiar with several of the worst tracks. Troy wasn’t much help. Daniel felt as if he’d been taken forty or fifty years back in time. Any time now, he expected to run into shepherds and horse driven carriages.
In the end, by the time it was completely dark outside, they arrived in the yard of a large wooden house. Daniel had to admit it looked nothing like a farm house. It was a proper house, with a garden which seemed to have run wild in later years. Not one single room inside was lit up. It didn’t look very welcoming and Daniel guessed it would be cold and possibly damp inside as well.
“Is this the place?”
Though he desperately wanted to turn his car around and get back to civilization, Daniel found he couldn’t do that to Troy. Instead, he followed him up the path to the house and waited while the other man stood there, staring, a vague look on his face.
“Well? Don’t you have the key?”
Daniel winced. If he’d driven out here for nothing, he –
Slowly, Gavin began to come back to life. He looked around, as if he was searching for something. After a moment’s reflection, he kneeled beside the front steps and put his hand inside a pot. The pot wasn’t quite empty. Inside it was another pot, containing the remains of some flower.
Daniel didn’t have a clue about plants. On an occasion he’d been trying hard to forget, Joyce Barnaby had given him a plant which she had claimed was extremely easy to look after. Despite its reminding of her visit, he’d tried to water it and keep it alive, but after a few months, he’d had to accept that it was quite dead. He’s thrown it away, feeling a certain amount of relief mixed with guilt.
Troy’s hand appeared again, holding something. He got up and began to fiddle with the lock. With a creaking sound, the door opened. Troy vanished inside and seconds later, the light came on. Daniel followed uneasily. The air smelled slightly stale and he wondered how long ago mr Troy sr had left his home. Closing the door behind him, Daniel walked a few paces inside, following Troy.
Troy was staring helplessly around, as if not sure what he was doing there. Just as Daniel had guessed, it was both chilly and damp. He found the kitchen and turned on the lights in there. It looked bare and smelled vaguely mouldy.
With an inward sigh, Daniel came to the conclusion he couldn’t leave Troy there. Cursing under his breath, he made up his mind to invite the other man to his own flat, which was not very tidy, but at least it was both relatively warm and more or less clean. There was a sofa in the living room and Troy was welcome to it. Daniel firmly ignored the memory of another night when he and Troy had been on a sofa together. That was the last thing he should be focusing on.
Some forty-five minutes later, they were finally outside Daniel’s building. He parked the car and herded Gavin upstairs. To his relief, for once, his landlady didn’t stick her head out, checking who was arriving. It must have been a little too late for her. By now, it was close to nine. Where had the day gone?
He really needed a drink. Usually, he tried to avoid drinking, at least strong alcohol, on a work night, but tonight, he’d make an exception. If the drink made the evening pass more smoothly, he’d gladly take the consequences in the morning, though he didn’t forget that too much drink had caused the mortifying incident at Cully’s flat in the first place.
Pouring a generous amount of cheap imported vodka into his glass, he gulped down a mouthful, before remembering his duties as a host. He poured Troy an equally large drink and handed the glass to him. At least Troy didn’t hesitate for long. Swallowing alarming amounts of the content, he finally regained some of his normal colour.
Relieved, Daniel kept sipping his drink until it was all gone. Rather than risk repeating the earlier disaster, he found a couple of bottles of beer. After opening them both, he shoved one of them across the table to his guest. Again, Troy finished his drink without making any difficulties.
At last, Daniel was beginning to feel a little better, but at the same time, his conscience hit him. He hadn’t seen Troy since they’d met at Cully’s place and though his first impulse had been to bury that memory at the back of his mind, along with several others, he’d been working on repressing, it occurred to him that he did owe Troy an explanation.
By now, Troy’s eyes were more focused and he seemed more himself.
It took a while for Daniel to collect himself enough to make a start, but eventually, he felt as ready as he ever would be.
“Troy – the last time we met -”
Troy tensed up and looked away. Perhaps it was a stupid idea. Daniel sensed that Troy too, must have been anxious to forget at any cost. Hesitating, Daniel at last came to the conclusion that he’d better finish what he’d started.
“I’m sure you remember what happened. I just wanted to – apologize. It was unforgivable of me and – if you ask me why – I couldn’t tell you. I’m not – I don’t normally – It’s not as if I find you -”
There was an awkward silence, dragging on for so long, Daniel began to fidget in his seat. Perhaps it had been a mistake to mention the incident, but it had been weighing on his mind for so long, he’d wanted to get it off his chest. Who knew when, if ever, he was going to meet Troy again?
To his astonishment, Troy seemed to brace himself and now he fixed an unnerving gaze on Daniel. Whatever Troy was about to say, Daniel found that he didn’t want to hear it, after all. Unfortunately, it was too late. Troy cleared his throat and began.
“Alright. I accept your apology. You – I know something far worse has happened to you. Under the circumstances, I suppose I ought to be grateful nothing like that ever happened to me.”
Daniel suddenly felt cold, despite the fact that his radiator was functioning as well as could be expected. He’d known that what had happened to him before being sent away from London, rather hastily, couldn’t be kept quiet. Many of his colleagues were aware that something had occurred, if not exactly what.
He knew he could thank his superiors for that. They’d done everything in their power to make sure no word got out to the media. As a result, he might be exiled in the countryside, but he was still working as a police officer.
“I’m sorry. You did something fantastic and those sick bastards – what they did to you was – unspeakable. I don’t know what to say.”
Daniel and Troy sat watching each other warily. After a moment’s consideration, Daniel managed to think of a reply.
“I suppose I should have known better than to expect it could be kept a secret. At least I’m still working. My gov – I’m not sure what he did, but he managed to keep it quiet, mostly. And I know ending up here was probably the only safe solution. I should be grateful. It just feels like I’m being punished.”
“You don’t like it here? Right. I suppose it might seem dull after London.”
“On the other hand, what does it matter? Perhaps I’m better off here, after all.”
“For what it’s worth, everyone who knows about you, talks about what a brilliant officer you are.”
Daniel smiled faintly. He had a feeling that hadn’t been easy for Troy to say.
“I keep hearing great things about you too. Sorry about being so – condescending earlier. I suppose you can guess that I was- uh – jealous.”
“I don’t think Cully and I were meant to be anyway, so – ”
Daniel was beginning to relax slightly. He had been unfair to Troy. Despite everything, the DI seemed to be a good fellow.
Troy’s next words froze him in his place.
“That incident last year – wasn’t what I meant though. Cully and I – went to London and did a little research about you. Sorry about that, but – after what happened – we both felt we needed to know who we were dealing with.”
“You were spying on me?”
Daniel didn’t know what to say. This was just too – mortifying. He clenched his fists, hard, trying to keep calm. His eyes felt suspiciously misty and though he did his best to fight down the memories, they came rushing back.
Joanne. His father. How they’d suddenly taken notice of him. The secret he had to keep. Lying with them, feeling excited, yet knowing deep down it was all wrong. How he could feel himself changing, becoming another boy, someone he didn’t even know himself.
Slowly, he became aware of Troy watching him anxiously. Suddenly, he’d had the tables turned on him and Troy was the one in control.
He sighed helplessly. What else could he say?
It looked as if Troy wasn’t finished yet. Once again, he drew himself up, cleared his throat and spoke up.
“From what I hear, after something like that, it might be difficult to – What I’m trying to say that it’s understandable that you were – confused. I’m not blaming you for – what happened. And now, we won’t mention – any of that – again, alright? It. Never. Happened.”
Daniel’s voice broke and he began to sob loudly. It would never be over. No matter how far he came and how old he became, it would be with him.
Hearing the other man’s sobbing, Troy lost the thin veneer of control and he too, began to sob.
Desperately, Daniel scrambled to his feet and returned with the bottle of vodka. He poured himself a finger’s breadth and rather more for his guest. They gulped down the alcohol and somehow, it helped a little.
Eager to change the subject, Daniel blurted out the first thing which entered his mind.
“My mother died when I was eight.”
Troy cast his host a glance filled with sympathy.
“I’m sorry. Did I tell you that – ”
“You lost your mother at eleven? Yes. I’m sorry too.”
The thought of their dead mothers made them both cry again, and soon they were confiding in each other to a degree neither one of them had expected before that night.
“You know, I was so fond of Cully.”
“No, don’t be. She chose you. That’s alright. I – don’t think we were meant for each other anyway. I never have any luck with women.”
Gavin blinked away a few tears and stared at Scott in astonishment. This obviously handsome fellow, dressed like a stock broker, didn’t have any luck with women?
Daniel found himself flushing slightly under Gavin’s gaze. Perhaps he’d better clarify a bit.
“I mean – I go out with them and – so on – but no one ever stays with me. When – I was working in London, I was going out with a colleague – Pam Cooper. After – it happened – she just couldn’t – I think it was just too much for her – besides, I couldn’t – it was so -”
“Have another drink.”
Daniel reached for the bottle and poured another generous drink for his guest. Gavin sipped it slowly, then put it down.
“No, I think I’ll just -”
“Oh. I have some blankets and pillows and – things – over there. Just a minute.”
Daniel got up, grateful to have something to occupy himself with. He was glad Gavin had reminded him that he needed to go to work in the morning and arriving hung over definitely wasn’t a good idea. The extra blanket and the pillows were followed by some sheets and pillowcases.
Gavin received the linens and began to make up the sofa. He thanked his host again, and Daniel withdrew into his bedroom. At least he’d found this two room flat. When he’d first come to Midsomer he’d been in a small bedsitter. If he’d still been living there, he would have had to sleep on the floor.
As he drifted off to sleep, it struck Daniel that he felt a little better, after his conversation with Gavin. In a way, it had cleared the air and – hadn’t Gavin said something about never mentioning that incident again? That was good advice. He’d apologized and been forgiven. At least that was something.
The phone was ringing, and Gavin looked around for it. He’d been dreaming and – the ringing of the phone reminded him of something – but now he noticed that he was in an unfamiliar place and at first he couldn’t even recall how he’d ended up there. Someone was talking not far from where he was and now that he was sitting up, that someone was emerging from a door on the left, facing the front door.
Daniel Scott looked as if he’d had a bad shock. Gavin’s memory was beginning to return and he could think of no apparent reason for his host’s reaction, unless finding an unwelcome guest in his flat could account for it.
“Troy – Gavin – I just had some bad news. Something terrible has happened. Cully – and her parents have been in a car crash. They’re – quite badly injured. At least Cully is and mrs Barnaby. Detective Chief Inspector Barnaby told me. He sounded – I have to get to the hospital at once.”
Gavin shot up and began to look for his jacket. He’d slept in his shirt and pants and with his socks on, but he had to find his shoes and the jacket.
“I’m coming with you.”
Daniel didn’t argue. He knew Gavin had to be fond of the Barnabys.
The two men sat silently in the car, on the way to the hospital. For the moment, last night’s embarrassment was forgotten. In their minds, a series of disturbing images were flashing by, causing a growing dread to build up inside them.
Dr George Bullard, the Medical Examiner, was sitting beside an elderly couple, with drawn, stricken faces. At their approach, Bullard rose and met them.
“DS Scott, DI Troy. Tom’s inside talking to the doctor now.”
“Dr Bullard. Have you heard anything yet?”
“Not really. We’ll just have to wait and hear what Tom has to say. He’s only lightly injured, as far as I can see. I – forgive me, I’m forgetting my manners.”
He introduced the elderly couple as Joyce Barnaby’s parents. Daniel and Gavin promptly forgot their names. The couple themselves, hardly seemed to pay attention either.
Daniel and Gavin found chairs and sat down, waiting. After some fifteen minutes, a door opened. Barnaby limped across the corridor towards them. He shook hands with his father-in-law and Bullard, then embraced his mother-in-law, before turning to face his sergeant and his predecessor.
“Daniel, Gavin. We were on the road, just outside of London when a lorry hit us head on. At the last moment, he swerved slightly and missed my side of the car but – the other side, where Joyce and Cully were sitting -”
His face was ashen and tense and Daniel noted that his hands were shaking.
“I’m sorry, sir.”
Daniel shook his boss’ hand, for the moment oblivious to the unfortunate meeting between them around the same time he and Gavin and for that matter he and Joyce had had their run-ins. The shock of finding that the woman he loved was in danger, possibly at death’s door, made him forget everything else.
Gavin too, took Barnaby’s hand, feeling stunned and dazed. It was just too much, right on top of losing his own father. He became aware that Barnaby was still talking and forced himself to pay closer attention.
“They need to undergo surgery, but – it seems they’ve lost too much blood and anyway, they’re going to need more during the operation -”
“What’s the problem, Tom?”
Bullard was listening intently.
“They have a rare blood group and – it seems the hospital is out of that particular type. So far they haven’t been able to locate any units and – time is running out.”
Gavin and Daniel had never seen Barnaby this distraught. There was no doubt that he loved his wife and daughter enormously.
Bullard rose again, a purposeful look on his face.
“Right. I’m going to get my blood tested to see if it’s a match. Do you know what group it is?”
Barnaby shook his head helplessly.
“Right. We’ll find out and if I’m a match, they can have as much of mine as they need.”
Daniel never hesitated. He too stood up and turned to follow the pathologist to the lab. Gavin blinked and got up as well, leaving Barnaby standing beside his in-laws, a puzzled look on his face.
The nurse at the lab studied Bullard crictically.
“Well, doctor, we usually don’t use donours your age – but we’ll make an exception. Sit down and roll up your sleeve, please.”
The look on Bullard’s face hadn’t encouraged any objections. She hastily took a small amount of blood for analysis, then turned an enquiring gaze on the two younger men.
“Gentlemen – I assume you have a purpose for your visit?”
Daniel resolutely pulled up his sleeve and held out his arm.
“I’m Cully Barnaby’s fiance and I want to be tested as well. If I’m a match, then I’ll donate blood to her and her mother.”
“Right then. Better get on with it. I must warn you that the chances of your being a match are very slim. It’s an extremely rare blood type. Mrs Barnaby’s father shares it, but being of his age and in a state of poor health, he doesn’t qualify as a donour.”
Quickly and skillfully she drew some blood from Daniel’s arm and labelled the test tube, before placing it with the other one. She gazed at the remaining young man, who seemed to be determined not to be outdone by his friend.
“Shall I draw some of your blood as well, young man?”
“Please. I used to work with DCI Barnaby for many years and I -”
Gavin followed Daniel’s example.
The nurse dismissed them and they returned to their agonized wait in the corridor. After only ten minutes or so, another nurse came walking hurriedly in their direction. She stopped to catch her breath.
“You. I mean, sir – You were a match. Come with me, please.”
At first there was some confusion as to who she was referring to, but eventually, it dawned on everyone present, that she was pointing at Gavin Troy. He got up and after casting a puzzled look around, he followed her back to the lab.
This time, they made him lie down. He rolled up his sleeve and held out his arm. After a while, he began to feel dizzy, but since he was lying down, it didn’t bother him. When they were finished, he tried to sit up, but they held him down.
“Stay here, mr Troy. I’m afraid, we’ll need more later. If you wait a while, we’ll bring you a cup of tea and something to eat. You’ll need all your strength for later.”
After a while, they moved him onto a hospital bed and he watched them roll him into another room. He was wondering if they were going to admit him and decided to ask, the next time a nurse walked in. For the time being, he was left alone. The blood loss was making him feel dazed and sleepy, and he almost dozed off, before the promised refreshments arrived.
“Excuse me, what am I doing here? I wasn’t told I’d be admitted.”
“You’re not. It’s just that we’re going to have to take unusually large amounts of blood and we can’t risk you fainting on us. Don’t worry. We found some units of the right type at a hospital in London and it’s being sent here, but we don’t know how soon it can get here or how much blood Mrs and Miss Barnaby will be needing.”
“Oh. I see. That’s alright.”
“Now try to eat it all and drink your tea, there’s a good boy. Would you like me to send your friend in?”
She didn’t wait for a reply so Gavin didn’t have time to ask her what friend she was referring to or reply. He glanced unenthusiastically at the sandwiches lying on a plate, wrapped in plastic, though he knew he ought to be hungry. He hadn’t had anything to eat all day yesterday except something at the station and so far, nothing today. Sipping his tea, he began to unwrap the first sandwich.
The door opened and Daniel Scott looked in, rather doubtfully. It dawned on Gavin that he was the ‘friend’ the nurse had been referring to.
“Hello. How are you doing?”
“Oh, there’s nothing wrong with me. Have you heard anything about Cully or mrs Barnaby?”
“No, nothing yet. It’s marvellous that you turned out to be a match.”
“Yes, that was rather lucky, wasn’t it? Oh, don’t let me keep you. I know you must be anxious to be there if there’s any news about them.”
“Oh, right. I’ll let Barnaby know that you’re alright then.”
Gavin nodded absently. Things were happening a little too quickly for him. First his father, then – this. Suddenly, he felt faint and he fell back onto the pillow, dropping the sandwich.
Daniel felt alarmed. He wasn’t sure if he ought to ring for the nurse. Then Gavin’s eyes opened and he regained some of his colour.
“Hey, you faded out for a while.”
“I did, didn’t I? They told me to eat. I suppose I’d better do that.”
He picked up the sandwich and began to unwrap it again. Taking one small bite out of it, he lay back, trying to stop the spinning in his head.
“Are you sure you’re alright? I could ring for the nurse.”
“No, I’ll be fine. Go on. Would you let me know if there’s any change?”
Daniel returned to his boss and the others. As he sat down, he happened to overhear part of a conversation between Barnaby’s in-laws.
“I’m just saying it’s odd, that’s all. That boy – what are the odds of him -”
“Don’t go on about it. We don’t even know if Joyce is going to -”
“How can you say so? Of course she’ll make it and -”
“Would you keep quiet? Joyce and little Cully are still in surgery. You’ll have time for your wild flights of fancy later on.”
The elderly lady retreated into a sullen silence.
It seemed to Daniel that Bullard was staring thoughtfully at Barnaby’s mother-in-law, as if he too was contemplating the odd coincidence that Gavin turned out to be a match. Barnaby, on the other hand, seemed far too devastated to pay any attention to the talk of his in-laws.
After a while, it occurred to Daniel that he ought to call the station to let them know he wouldn’t be in that day. He left in search of a pay phone. Not finding one, he went outside, only to find that it was already past noon. By now, someone would have noticed his absence.
He rang the station and was able to get hold of Detective Inspector Armstrong. Though it shouldn’t have come as such a surprise, he did find it a little odd that Armstrong knew all about the accident and had taken the liberty of assigning the drowned man to Detective Sergeant Ford.
Daniel terminated the call feeling slightly superfluous. At least he wouldn’t be required to return to work this afternoon. He put away his phone and hurried back inside.
It was immediately clear that some new information had come while he was outside. Even from a distance, he could see Barnaby standing up, talking with a man in surgical gown. Daniel couldn’t help glancing uneasily at the dark stains on that gown.
He hurried closer and could somehow sense the relief in the air. The doctor’s face had a look of encouragement on it and Barnaby seemed subtly changed too, as if he had relaxed slightly. Daniel gazed enquiringly at Bullard, who smiled and nodded. The doctor walked away, and an animated murmur broke out between the in-laws.
Barnaby turned to face Bullard and Daniel and he too seemed to be smiling, looking as if years had fallen from his face.
“They’re out of surgery now. Doctor Ridley says he’s optimistic. I’m going in to see them now.”
Daniel sat down rather abruptly. He was experiencing a relief so strong, he felt lightheaded. Not until now, had he fully realized how much Cully really meant to him. The love he felt for her had made such a difference in his life and more than that, her acceptance of him, despite his past, had allowed him to open up to a degree he’d never hoped to experience. It almost made him feel like an ordinary man. Suddenly, he became aware that someone was talking to him. He looked up and found that it was Bullard.
“I was saying I’ll go and let DI Troy know. You wait here, until they let you in to see Cully.”
Gavin looked up, expecting to see the nurse returning, to check that he’d finished the sandwiches. He glanced guiltily at the remaining package. His appetite still hadn’t returned, but he had almost finished the large cup of tea. To his surprise, it was Bullard.
“Hello, DI Troy. I came to let you know that mrs Barnaby and Cully are out of surgery. It seems they’ll be just fine. At least the surgeon was optimistic.”
“I’m curious. What brings you back to Midsomer, Troy?”
Gavin sighed. In the confusion he’d almost managed to push aside the memories of his father. Now it all came back to him.
“My father just passed away.”
“I’m sorry to hear that, my boy. Was it very sudden?”
“Yes. Extremely unexpected. They rang me yesterday morning and told me he’d been admitted to the hospital and – that I’d have to hurry if I wanted to see him before -”
“I see. It must have been a shock to you.”
“Yes. He was all I had.”
“Then all this happening all of a sudden.”
Bullard sounded sympathetic.
“I think – though don’t tell the nurse I said so – that you can get up now. They won’t be needing any more blood. I heard that the units from London had arrived.”
“Oh. That’s good. I’d better get out before that nurse returns. She told me to eat the sandwiches and I -”
“I’m afraid she’s right. You look as if you haven’t had anything for a long time. When was the last time you ate?”
“I’m not sure. It might have been sometime in the afternoon yesterday.”
“Twenty-four hours ago? Come on, my boy. A young man like you needs his nourishment. I know. The hospital food isn’t very appetizing, but make an effort.”
Gavin sighed again and did as the pathologist told him. It was no use refusing, when they all ganged up on him. Next thing he knew, he’d have his old boss standing over him, ordering him to eat. When he’d finished the last morsel, Bullard opened the door and waited for him. He snatched up his jacket and followed him into the corridor.
Gavin could see Barnaby standing in the corridor, talking to his in-laws, with Daniel standing a little apart from the others. When he caught sight of his former sergeant, Barnaby excused himself and met Gavin halfway, extending his hand to him.
“Thank you, Gavin. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate what you’ve done for us.”
“Oh, I was just glad to be able to help.”
“I’m sure Joyce and Cully will want to thank you in person, as soon as they’ve recovered sufficiently.”
“How are they doing now?”
“I’ve been told they’re coming out of the anesthesia and I’ll be able to see them quite soon.”
“Oh, that’s great. I’m glad.”
“Now, tell me, what were you doing down here? Are you following up on a lead related to a current case?”
“No, it was personal. My – father just passed away.”
“I’m so sorry, Gavin.”
“Yes, it was very sudden. He – was alright only a few days ago.”
“What was it? An accident?”
Barnaby’s face was grave, as he recalled the accident which had caused his wife and daughter such horrific injuries.
“No, it was cancer. I didn’t know it could happen so quickly.”
“That’s terrible news. If you like, you could stay with me.”
“Thank you, sir – Tom – but I wouldn’t want to put you out. With everything that’s happened -”
“Nonsense, Gavin. It won’t be any trouble at all. Of course, you can’t expect any cooking but if you’re just looking for a place to sleep, you’re more than welcome.”
“In that case, I’d really appreciate it.”
“Excellent. Oh, there’s the nurse. I think they’ll let me in now.”
Bullard put his hand on Gavin’s shoulder and squeezed it.
“I’ll leave you in Tom’s hands now, my boy. Better get back to work. I have postmortems and reports and – well, you know how it is.”
“Bye then, sir. Don’t work too hard.”
“George. My name is George. We’ve known each other long enough to be on a first name basis, son. I can’t believe I didn’t think of it sooner.”
“George. And you know my name is Gavin.”
“Take care of yourself now, Gavin.”
Gavin nodded absently. Somehow, sleeping at Barnaby’s house made him feel more comfortable, though he had to admit that meeting Daniel Scott hadn’t turned out to be quite as mortifying as he might have expected. In a way, he felt better about the whole incident now and if he was being honest with himself, why should he blame Daniel? When he allowed himself to remember any of it, his memories told him he hadn’t fought back. He was just as much to blame as Daniel.
Daniel was still waiting, presumably to see Cully and Gavin didn’t feel like intruding, so he stayed in the background. He caught Joyce Barnaby’s mother gazing oddly at him. It made him feel uncomfortable. What could he have done to attract the old lady’s attention?
To his surprise, Daniel got up and approached him again.
“I just wanted to thank you, for what you did for Cully and – mrs Barnaby. You saved their lives.”
“No. That was the surgeons. I was just glad I could help.”
“What a piece of luck though. I had the impression the odds were against it. Oh, well, I’m not going to question it.”
“I suppose you heard that DCI – I mean, Tom, invited me to stay at his house.”
“Yes, that was decent of him.”
Gavin was feeling rather self-conscious, but he knew he ought to thank Daniel for his kindness last night.
“Uh – and it was very kind of you to let me stay last night.”
“Oh. No problem. I – I’m glad we had a chance to talk.”
“Me too, actually.”
Again, Gavin caught that disconcerting stare from the old lady. Something about him obviously attracted her attention.
“Listen – mrs Barnaby’s mother – the old lady over there -”
“Yes? What about her?”
“She’s staring at me. Do you have any idea what that’s all about?”
“Staring? I don’t see why she should. Oh, she’s probably just grateful you helped save her daughter’s life.”
“I – suppose that might it. Never mind. I’m just overreacting.”
In the meantime, Barnaby walked through into the private room where his wife and daughter were lying. The bandages around their heads made him wince. Both had tubes connected to their arms and Cully’s eyes were closed. It seemed she hadn’t quite come to yet.
He kissed Joyce lightly on the cheek, then sat down beside her bed. Her eyes were fully focused and he had no doubt she was back, and fully herself. He’d been dreading finding out that she was in a coma, or brain damaged.
“How is Cully?”
“She’s going to be just fine. So are you.”
“What happened? Were we in an accident?”
“Yes, we collided with a lorry. You and Cully have just come out of surgery. Dr Ridley says you’ll recover fully.”
“That’s good. I feel so – odd.”
“Are you in pain?”
Barnaby glanced worriedly at his wife.
“No. That’s just it. I feel nothing. Just a little dazed.”
“That’s only natural.”
“I suppose so.”
“You have no idea how worried I’ve been about you.”
“They didn’t have any units of blood matching your blood type, so they had to send out an alert.”
“Oh. I remember Dr Singh saying I ought save up blood for an emergency. Cully too. We should have done that. How fortunate they were able to find some.”
“You won’t belive this. It’s quite amazing, actually. When they told us – all of us – that there wasn’t enough blood, George offered to have his blood tested, and Daniel did too. So did Gavin.”
“Gavin? What’s he doing here?”
“That’s the most bizarre coincidence. His father just passed away, so he was here.”
“Oh, poor, poor Gavin. He must be upset. Tom, you must look after him.”
“Yes, yes. I said he could stay at the house. Don’t worry about that. Oh, as I was saying – he’s the one who was a match.”
“Gavin’s blood type matched yours. The poor lad had to donate more blood than they usually take from each donour, but it worked. It helped save your lives.”
“Did Gavin have the same blood type as we do? That’s – impossible. Dr Singh told me that – and my old GP, when I was a child, said the same thing – it’s extremely rare. Only my father and I and Cully have it on our side of the family.”
“I know. Isn’t it fantastic? I knew there was a reason I liked that boy, even if he was quite slow and far too partial to any woman between twenty and fifty.”
“Tom, I think – it must be – I have to tell you something -”
“Joyce, don’t overexert yourself. You look – try to calm down, darling. In your condition -”
Joyce really wasn’t paying attention to what her husband was telling her. It had just occurred to her that there might be an explanation why Gavin had been able to donate the blood she and Cully needed. In fact, she could only think of one reason for it. It seemed like fate.
“You’re not listening to me. Tom – when you and I first met, do you remember that you – we – had an argument? You – we – parted on – not very good terms.”
Barnaby did recall that time, vaguely. It wasn’t something he’d thought about for many years, but naturally he hadn’t forgotten now that his wife reminded him. He had been put off by her father. The old man was intolerable. He still was, really, but he’d learned to ignore him more and besides, they didn’t have to meet more than a few times a year.
“Yes. What does that have to do with – this?”
“When you left, I was pregnant.”
“No, dear. That’s not possible. Cully didn’t come along until almost two years later. You must be misremembering. Darling, it’s not unusual to be confused right after such a serious accident and coming out of surgery -”
“No, Tom. I’m not mistaken. I was pregnant. At the time, I didn’t think you’d be back, so – You remember how difficult it was back then, to get an abortion, and – well, I didn’t want to, despite everything. I gave birth to a little boy, who was born prematurely, but he did well, and I put him up for adoption. My parents agreed with me about that. We’d discussed all options thoroughly. Don’t you see, Gavin has to be that boy.”
“Now, slow down a bit, darling. You had a baby? Before Cully? Why didn’t you tell me?”
“When you came back, I could hardly tell you that I’d just given up your baby, now could I?”
“I suppose not, but – didn’t you ever think that I might want to know?”
“Yes, but it was difficult enough as it was. I – tried very hard to forget. You can’t imagine how much it hurt, first to lose you, then to have that little boy and have to give him away, never to see him again.”
“Oh, Joyce. It was all my fault. I shouldn’t have gone off like that. It was just that your father was such a difficult person and I -”
“I know, but it was me you were marrying, not my dad.”
“I’m sorry. Alright. So you had a baby. Darling, it doesn’t necessarily mean Gavin’s our son.”
“Then why did he have the same blood group as I do?”
That was indeed a good question, Barnaby had to admit that, but he still couldn’t believe that Gavin was their son. It would have been too much of a coincidence.
“I – why don’t we try to find out? We could contact the solicitor who handled the adoption and check where the boy ended up. If he was sent to Scotland or Ireland -”
“He wasn’t. They told me he was placed in England and I think it was in the south.”
“Alright. I suppose we ought to ask Gavin too. He never mentioned being adopted. That’s one reason I think this is a little too far-fetched.”
“Fine. You never put any stock in what I tell you. Really, Tom, if you have such a low opinion of me -”
“Of course I don’t. Darling, you’re being unreasonable.”
“I think you’re the one being unreasonable.”
“Mum, dad, why are you arguing? What’s happened? I feel -”
“Cully, darling. You’re awake.”
“Yes, who could sleep while you’re quarrelling all the time?”
“Sorry about that. Darling, we were in an accident. Don’t you remember?”
“Oh. Yes. Was I badly injured? Mum? How are you doing?”
“We were both quite badly injured, apparently, but your dad tells me we’re going to be alright.”
“Oh, good. Was that why you were arguing?”
“No, of course not. Cully, darling, guess who donated the blood you and your mother needed?”
“Why? How could I guess? What is this?”
“Never mind. Your dad just wants to act mysterious. Darling, it was Gavin. Gavin has a blood type that matches ours. Isn’t that splendid news?”
Joyce shot her husband a meaningful gaze, which was all but lost on him. He got up and sat down beside Cully, after planting a kiss on her cheek.
“Yes. Our Gavin.”
Cully noted that her mother was placing an awful lot of emphasis on the word ‘our’, so she could only assume there had been some other Gavin involved at some point. Perhaps it was a member of staff. She wasn’t really interested. Something else was on her mind.
“Dad, is Daniel out there? He must be worried. Can’t he come in and see me for a while?”
Guiltily, Barnaby shot up. Of course. It hadn’t occurred to him until Cully reminded him. Young Daniel Scott was first and foremost his sergeant, especially if he managed to subdue the memories of one night not so very long ago, when he and Daniel had had too much to drink and almost – but that was something he definitely didn’t want to dwell on. It was easy to also forget that Daniel was Cully’s fiance.
“Of course. I’ll go and fetch him now.”
Joyce had another idea.
“Tom, wait. Speak to Gavin. Thank him from both of us and ask him about -”
“Yes, alright. I will. Calm down.”
It was with relief, Barnaby fled outside.
Both young men who had been under discussion were standing there waiting, looking as if they’d just been in conversation moments earlier.
Barnaby couldn’t help wondering why those two had arrived together, as they obviously had. Had Gavin been staying with Daniel? If so, why? Not that it was any of his business. He could only assume Gavin had accepted Daniel’s engagement to Cully, despite the fact that Gavin had so clearly been hoping for Cully’s attention.
If Joyce’s dubious idea about Gavin was correct, then Cully had obviously made the right choice. Barnaby’s head began to ache as he tried to think of the potential implications. Daniel. Gavin. Cully. Joyce. Himself. It was a nightmare. Better to just follow his daughter’s instructions and send Daniel inside.
“Daniel, Cully was asking about you. I think it will be alright for you to speak to her for a while.”
“Thank you, sir.”
After Daniel had left, Barnaby eyed Gavin uneasily. Perhaps he’d better ask him, if only so they could put a stop to these mad speculations.
“Gavin, could I have a word with you? I’ll take you back to my place soon. We’d better just drop my in-laws off first.”
“Alright. Anything wrong?”
“I hope not. Could we -”
Barnaby glanced around, uncomfortably. No, this was far too private to discuss in a hospital corridor, within possible earshot of his in-laws.
“No, it can wait. Why don’t we get going? I’d prefer to see my in-laws home as soon as possible.”
He was about to go and suggest they leave, when Daniel returned, smiling, looking so rapt, Gavin could only sadly assume he and Cully had had time to hold hands or –
“Sir, mrs Barnaby asked to see her parents.”
A pained expression crossed Barnaby’s face and resignedly he informed the in-laws of their daughter’s request. He’d better wait until they were back before leaving.
Daniel straightened out and faced his boss, a tense look on his face, just like always, ever since that night he’d invited his boss over for some beers.
“Sir, I’d better be going home.”
“You do that, sergeant Scott. See you tomorrow, at work.”
Daniel raised his eyebrows enquiringly. Was Barnaby really going to be at work, after all that had happened? Of course, he knew his boss was extremely dedicated to his work.
All the way to the in-laws’ house, Gavin had the unpleasant feeling of being watched. Whenever he turned, the old lady looked away, but he had felt her gaze boring a hole in his back almost all the time. Once, he saw the old man staring too. In between studying him they exchanged meaningful glances with each other, making him wonder what they were thinking about him.
At last, Barnaby dropped them off. He turned the car around, feeling a great deal of relief. In comparison, having Gavin over, whether or not the boy was his son, would be a breeze.
He allowed himself to wait until they were inside his house, before he got round to the awkard questions.
“Would you like a cup of tea or – a sandwich or something?”
“I don’t want to be any trouble.”
“Nonsense. I’ll have to have something myself. Making a sandwich is about the extent of my cooking skills.”
They stood in the kitchen, making a mess, but ended up having some quite tasty sandwiches. There was cheese and ham and mustard and horse radish. Guiltily remembering Joyce’s admonitions about vegetables, Barnaby dug up some tomatoes which had somehow been left over when they went to London.
It would be a shame to waste such a nice meal, so Barnaby put off discussing Joyce’s suggestion, until afterwards. He even served beer with the sandwiches. After all, Joyce’s and Cully’s recovery was something to celebrate.
When all that was left of the sandwiches were some breadcrumbs, Barnaby fetched two more beers and they moved into the sitting room.
Finally, he knew he couldn’t put off the awkward moment any longer.
“Gavin, I have to ask you something. Joyce – you have to understand she was upset and perhaps a little confused -”
Gavin was wondering uneasily what mrs Barnaby might have said about him. Could that have something to do with her parents’ odd reaction? He was hoping he hadn’t caused any offense, without even being aware of it.
He returned Barnaby’s gaze, enquiringly.
“This is rather personal, but – we’ve been friends for a long time and anyway, after what you did for us today -”
Gavin still didn’t have a clue what Barnaby was about to ask him. He couldn’t think of anything he might have said or done to upset mrs Barnaby and certainly not her parents either.
Barnaby felt distinctly at a disadvantage and after having been in a severe car accident, faced the possibility of losing his wife and been told he had an unknown son, his mind wasn’t working as efficiently as usually. In the end, he merely blurted out the question.
“Gavin, were you adopted?”
He couldn’t believe he’d heard that question correctly. Why on earth would Barnaby wish to know that?
“Yes, you know, an adopted child. Were you?”
“Not that I know of.”
“Oh. Sorry to be so inquisitive. I – suppose I owe you an explanation all the same. Actually, I only just found out myself, today. Joyce told me. Apparently, we had another child, before Cully.”
Gavin stared uncomprehendingly at his former boss. How could they have had a child Barnaby wasn’t even aware of? He could only assume his boss had been rather more shaken up by the accident than he appeared to be.
Seeing that he’d failed to explain himself and in fact ended up making the whole matter even less comprehensible, Barnaby forced himself to go on.
“You see, we broke up and I – Joyce – it seemed to be the end of our relationship. Joyce – apparently she was pregnant and since she didn’t think I’d be back, she had the baby put up for adoption. I did change my mind and – we were married right away and well, after about a year, we had Cully. I suppose Joyce thinks that since you had the same blood group, which is extremely rare, you might have been that child. It was a boy, you see. When were you born?”
Gavin told him. Barnaby had to admit that the date of birth seemed to indicate the whole thing was possible, if not exactly likely. He had returned to Joyce within weeks of that date. Now it seemed to him that Joyce had been looking rather – off, at the time. Pale, quiet. He’d assumed she’d been grieving over him, but knowing what he knew now, it might also indicate the aftermath of giving birth and giving up the baby.
“Well, since you were not adopted, that must rule out you as – our son. I apologize for making such a fuss. I had to ask. Joyce was adamant.”
Suddenly, Gavin had a strange feeling he didn’t know who he was. He recalled his father’s dying words. The old man had been trying to tell him something. Your mother. Tell you. Sorry. Tell him what? Merely that his mother had loved him very much? He knew that already. His father had told him that repeatedly after his mother’s death all those years ago.
Shouldn’t he have said that he loved him very much, as he himself was dying? Of course, he already had, many times. Gavin had never doubted that for a moment. Growing up, he’d always felt loved and cherished.
“It’s just that – it’s probably nothing, but – my father was trying to tell me something as he was dying. He wasn’t very coherent and it was hard to hear him, but he said something about my mother and about telling me – something – and that he was sorry. I think.”
Barnaby thought about it for a while. Just like Gavin had just said, it probably meant nothing, but then again, it might mean – what exactly? That Gavin was adopted? That his mother had wanted to tell him but his father hadn’t? Barnaby’s mind, attuned to solving crimes, leapt at the opportunity of deciphering this puzzle too.
What if – he had to admit, that if Gavin was their son, he – didn’t mind. In fact, he could easily get used to the idea. Of course, he mustn’t get his hopes up. His own son might be dead. Even young men died. Children too. Or – his son might be retarded, a criminal – or simply an unsympathetic man. On the other hand, Cully was such a lovely child, why shouldn’t their son be?
“That’s odd. I suppose this means I’m going to have to find out where our son went to. Joyce’s solicitor will know something. As you know, it should be possible to find the birth parents of an adopted child. You just have to go about it the right way.”
“I’ll go home and search my father’s house – my house now, I suppose, and perhaps there’s something there, which might tell me more.”
“We could look for your birth certificate. Although we’re not investigating a case, I think we could request to see the records.”
“Wouldn’t we have to know where I was born?”
“Yes. We could start by assuming you were born somewhere here in Midsomer.”
“I would be, if I’m not adopted.”
“And you would be if you’re our son.”
“I’ll get back to the house tomorrow and start searching.”
“Yes, do that. I’ll start my own investigation. Joyce won’t rest until she knows the truth – and I’d like to know too. Naturally.”
The following day, Gavin decided he’d rent a car for the duration of his stay. His father had sold his car a few years ago, and his own was still parked at the airport up north. He should ring his partner, DS Lloyd, and have him move the car. There was a spare in his desk drawer, for emergencies, which this was. DS Lloyd would have to fill in for him too, unless the gov preferred to let someone else take over.
He never had time to ring the car rental service. While he was giving Lloyd instructions, Daniel Scott showed up outside Barnaby’s house. He rang the doorbell and walked in. Barnaby glanced curiously at him.
“DS Scott. Anything wrong?”
“No, sir. It just occurred to me that Gavin – DI Troy, might need a lift out to his father’s place.”
“I see. That was very kind of you, DS Scott. Alright. Why don’t you help Gavin today? We’re not exactly overworked right now. With Cully in hospital, I suppose you’ll find it difficult to focus on the work.”
“Sir, I can do the work.”
“I know you can, but it’s alright. If Gavin wants your help, it’s fine with me.”
Again, Barnaby couldn’t help wondering why the two young men suddenly acted as if they were best friends. He didn’t think that had been the case earlier. Their rivalry concerning Cully must have made it hard for them to get along. Furthermore, they were so different, it was hard to imagine them as friends, but stranger things had happened.
Gavin hesitated. He wasn’t really looking forward to spending another day with Daniel Scott, but he knew it would seem ungrateful not to accept the offer.
“Oh, if Daniel – DS Scott – can take the time off, I’d be grateful for his help.”
“There. Well, off you go then.”
So Gavin found himself sitting in Daniel’s car, following the same winding country lanes as the day before yesterday. He might as well confide in Daniel, now that he was stuck with him all day.
“Did – mrs Barnaby say anything about her – idea?”
“Oh. I suppose she didn’t. Barnaby – Tom – told me that apparently, she had a baby before Cully and had to give him up for adoption.”
“Really? That’s the first I hear about it.”
“Yes, Barnaby told me she hadn’t told him either, until yesterday.”
“Oh. That’s – unexpected.”
“Yes. Barnaby was the father, but they broke up temporarily, and that’s why she had to give the child up.”
Daniel didn’t seem to see why they were having that discussion, but he was assuming Gavin would get to the point some time.
“Now she’s got it into her head that I might be that child.”
“Barnaby asked me if I was adopted and – I thought I wasn’t. Except, when my father was dying, he was trying to tell me something. Your mother. Tell you. Sorry. That was all he managed to say, at least all I could understand. It occurred to me that – it’s far-fetched of course – but I ought to find out for sure, if I’m adopted. Apparently, I was born on the right day, according to mrs Barnaby, so my age and so on fits.”
“Strange. So, now you’re looking for a birth certificate or adoption papers or something like that?”
“Well, that shouldn’t be so difficult. Mickey Mouse police work, right? There should be nothing to it for two such master sleuths as you and I.”
Incredibly, Daniel was laughing. He didn’t sound exactly ecstatic, but still, it was a change from his usual edginess.
“Let’s hope so.”
They spent the rest of the morning and part of the afternoon going through Gavin’s father’s desk and other drawers around the house. Gavin also managed to get some packing done. He wasn’t going to get rid of the house right away. Perhaps he might be able to keep it, so it wasn’t really urgent to get rid of the furniture.
At the moment, he just wanted to tidy the place up and move the potted plants and catch the cat and find it a new home, unless one of the neighbours might take it. That cat had been his father’s only companion in the past five years or so, so Gavin didn’t want to have it put down. He eyed Daniel uncertaintly. No. Daniel didn’t look like a cat fancier.
He didn’t find any of the important papers, so he assumed his father had left them with his solicitor for safekeeping. That would be his next move.
“It’s getting late. You must be fed up with this old place by now. I’ll contact dad’s solicitor and find out if he’s got some of the paperwork. If we can just put out a saucer of milk or something, I’ll try to find the cat and bring it with me.”
“I hope you’re not going to leave it at Barnaby’s place. The DCI is allergic to cats. Cully told me.”
“Oh. No, I’ll have to find a new home for it, so I was going to ask some of the neighbours and – if I have to, I’ll leave it at a shelter. It’s a shame though. Dad was fond the old girl, so I can’t have her put down. I wouldn’t want to anyway, even if I’m not exactly a cat person.”
“Cully loves cats. I suppose I could – you know – keep it for the time being. It would be a nice surprise for her.”
“Well, my flat isn’t exactly a good place for a pet, but once Cully gets back, she’ll be able to move her to her own flat. I know she’s been talking about getting a cat for some time now. Mrs Barnaby likes them too and I don’t really mind them either. Of course, I’d rather have a dog, but – if Cully’s happy, then so am I.”
“I’d like a dog too, some day.”
“Listen, since you know far too much about my personal life, I could have a go at finding out about your background. If you don’t mind? You seem to have your hands full here, sorting everything out.”
“That would be – very decent of you, but I think I’ll have time to do this research myself. If I’m really adopted, I think I deserve to know.”
“At least you grew up in a nice family, didn’t you?”
“Yes. They were fantastic. Mum -”
Gavin shook his head sadly. Losing his dad had reminded him painfully of the day his mother had died. It occurred to him that Daniel had sounded rather wistful as he mentioned his family.
“I’m sorry -”
“Yes, well, never mind, eh? I had a lovely mum too. At least we have that in common.”
“Do you remember much about her?”
Daniel’s tense features relaxed as he thought about his mother.
“Well, not much, but she was so beautiful and kind and – I know she loved me very much. Dad – was always working so I didn’t see much of him, but that was alright. She was at home with me. Helped me with my homework and so on.”
“Mum helped me with my homework too. A good thing too. I was a bit slow.”
“I almost didn’t graduate, but that was much later.”
While they were talking, Gavin had managed to coax the beautiful grey cat out of her hiding place. To his relief, she recognized him and rubbed herself against his legs, in friendly greeting. She wolfed down the sardines and meowed appreciatively. Gavin picked her up and looked around for a box or something to put her in for the drive back to town. Daniel remembered seeing an empty paper box in the spare room and he went to get it.
They put the cat inside the box, despite her mild objections and taped it shut. Gavin punched some holes in it, though there were already some openings which let in enough air. He went to find the litter box and even found a bag of litter in the bathroom.
“You’ll have to keep her inside. She’ll want to find her way back here otherwise.”
“Right. I don’t know anything about cats. What do you feed them?”
“Cat food. Dad used tinned food, but there’s dry food too. And she’ll need water and that litter box.”
Daniel made a face.
“Great. Cully will know how to handle that.”
“I hope so. She can have the plants too. No use dragging them all the way up north when I go back.”
“Alright. Let’s take a chance and leave them at my place. The last plant I had died after only few weeks and I really did my best with that, but who knows? Perhaps these will make it.”
“They’ll die anyway if we leave them here.”
Bringing the few objects Gavin had decided to take, they made their way back to the car and packed everything into the trunk of the car.
Daniel glanced pensively at the box, containing the cat.
“What’s its name?”
“Sally? No. We can’t have that. How about Lucy?”
“I don’t know. Do you have a better suggestion?”
“Rosie? Alright. I’m sure Cully will like that better.”
In the meantime, Barnaby had been up to extensive research. The solicitor who had handled the child’s adoption, was retired, but he was still in good health and he recalled the matter clearly. He warned Barnaby that it might be difficult to get the adopted child, now grown up, naturally, to agree to give up his anonymity, but he would try to find the adopted parents and the boy and let the Barnabys know what he found out.
That was as far as he got with the legal aspects. By requesting Gavin’s records, Barnaby knew he was breaking a few rules. After all, he wasn’t in the process of evaluating an applicant for a position in the police force. On the other hand, Gavin had worked for them for several years and – if you knew the right people, it was always possible to bend the rules. With all his years on the force, Barnaby had many friends, most of which owed him favours.
After that, it was only a matter of waiting. While doing that, Barnaby went to the hospital to check in on his wife and daughter and update Joyce about his investigations. It was inevitable that Cully be told and embarrassing as it was, it seemed to Barnaby that she took it well.
“So you mean Gavin might be my brother?”
At that point, her face seemed to freeze into a tense mask. Was she jealous? Did the thought of sharing her parents’ affection displease her so much? Barnaby didn’t think of Cully as a spoiled child, but it was always possible that as an only child, she had been a little too pampered.
Joyce, who knew that Cully had been rather fond of Gavin, was hoping her daughter didn’t still have feelings for the boy. Although, considering her obvious affection for Daniel Scott, that was hardly likely. No, Cully must merely be contemplating her earlier feelings for Gavin.
All in all, it was for the best, that she’d settled for Daniel. Even if that in itself, was a cause of embarrassment for Joyce. She had tried her best to forget about the night she’d spent with her husband’s young sergeant, now her daughter’s fiance, but now and again, the mortifying memory reared its head and caused her much trouble.
“We don’t know that yet, darling. Your mother seems to think so, but it’s too soon to tell. We’re looking into the facts now, so we should know the truth before long.”
“Yes. I suppose Gavin wouldn’t make a bad brother. He’s a sweetheart. I knew he reminded me of someone.”
“Really? Personally, I can’t see it.”
“Yes, Tom, now that Cully mentions it, you are rather alike. How wonderful.”
“Hm. Yes, I suppose so. Well, I just wanted to look in on you and see that you were alright. I need to get back to work and there might be some news by now, about Gavin’s birth records and the adoption papers.”
“Do let us know right away, dad. I feel terrible about him losing his father like that. He’s all alone now. Even if he isn’t my brother, I do feel we need to look after him. I mean, you did work together for all those years and -”
“Yes, of course, darling.”
Barnaby returned to the office to find that one of his old friends had left a message for him. He lifted the receiver and returned the call at once.
“Tom? It’s been ages since I heard your voice. How’s tricks?”
“Uh – fine. Well, we were in a car crash recently, my wife, my daughter and I, but -”
“That’s terrible. Since you’re still on the job, you can’t be that badly injured, but what about your family?”
“They’re getting better. Listen, did you manage to find those records?”
“Yes, your former sergeant’s birth records? I have them here. You were right. He was adopted as a baby. In fact, he was placed in a family when he was only a day old. They must have taken him straight from the maternity ward. There’s nothing about his birth mother though.”
“Right. Thanks a lot, Steve.”
“What’s this about? Is your sergeant in trouble? I mean your former sergeant. He’s a DI now, right?”
“Yes. And no, he’s not in trouble. This is – just – his father died recently and he wanted to find out about his past. I said I’d give him a hand.”
“Oh, I see. Well, I couldn’t find anything about the parents, but there was a note about his being born at the hospital in Causton. Does that help?”
“It might. Thanks again.”
“You’ll have to come and see me and Josephine soon. As soon as Joyce is feeling better, naturally.”
“Yes, that would be nice. I’ll let you know when Joyce is out of the hospital.”
“You do that. Give her my best. And little Cully too.”
After hanging up, Barnaby remained deep in thought. The hospital in Causton. That certainly fit. And at least they now knew that Gavin had been adopted. Now if only the adoption records could be found, they might know for certain if he was their child.
It occurred to him that there might be another, more direct way to get at the truth. A DNA test would let them know right away. He considered asking George about it, but decided against it. It was better if they found the paperwork first.
That would give them time to digest the new information and the change in their relationship, if Gavin really was their child. Barnaby still had a difficult time accepting that. It had all happened too suddenly. He didn’t mind. Quite the contrary in fact, but it still took some getting used to.
It was getting late and he was about to call it a day, when the phone rang again. This time, it was Joyce’s solicitor.
“Talbot here. I found out a little more about the adoption. Turns out the couple who adopted your son was called Troy.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yes. I wouldn’t make a mistake about such a distinctive name. The face that launched a thousand ships and so on. I wonder if she was that beautiful? Mrs Troy, I mean.”
“I have no idea. Thank you, mr Talbot. You’ve been very helpful.”
“You don’t want me to find out their current address?”
“No, that won’t be necessary. I already know. Thanks again.”
Barnaby didn’t for a moment entertain the idea that there were two different Troy families, both of which had adopted a boy at the exact same date. That would have been even more of a coincidence. No. There was no question about it. Gavin was their son. Barnaby found that he was quite pleased about it. He’d always wanted a son, though he had nothing to complain about Cully. One of each. That was – perfect.
He rushed outside to get to the hospital. Joyce and Cully would want to know. Outside the station, he ran into Daniel Scott and Gavin.
“Gavin. Come on. Let’s get to the hospital. You too, Daniel. I have some news, but – they can wait.”
“Nothing to worry about. Cully and Joyce are just fine. Come on.”
“I’ll take this car, if you don’t mind, sir. We picked up a few odds and ends at the house.”
“Yes, you do that.”
A wide grin split Barnaby’s face and to Gavin’s astonishment, his former boss put his arms around him and hugged him.
“Sir – I mean – Tom – what was that all about?”
“I’ll tell you at the hospital. It’s good news. Don’t worry.”
Daniel glanced curiously at his gov, wondering if he’d lost his mind. Then it occurred to him that naturally Barnaby had found out that Gavin was his son. Leaving the new family members to themselves, Daniel got into his car and drove off in the direction of the hospital. For a moment, he thought about the news his gov was about to announce. If it was what he thought it was, it was probably lucky for Gavin, and for the Barnabys.
They all burst into Joyce’s and Cully’s room. Barnaby sat down on the chair beside his wife’s bed, smiling joyfully.
“Darling, you were right. Gavin is our son.”
“Oh, I knew it. Gavin, come here. Did Tom explain to you?”
“Yes, mrs – Joyce -”
“I suppose you won’t want to call me mum, like Cully does, but please, call me Joyce. You must remember that I’ve asked you to, before?”
“Uh – yes, Joyce. Thanks. I mean – I didn’t even know I was adopted.”
“They never told you? I see.”
“I think – my father didn’t want me to know.”
“Gavin, come here.”
Gavin went to stand beside Cully’s bed. Daniel was already sitting there.
Cully held out a hand, the one which wasn’t connected to the tube.
“So you’re my brother. You know, you always reminded me of dad.”
“You think so?”
“Yes, and I always wanted a brother or sister.”
She was smiling so warmly, Gavin had no reason to believe she was merely being polite.
“Can’t you find a job down here instead? Now that we know you’re my brother, it would be nice if you weren’t so far away.”
“I suppose – there’s still the house to sort out. Oh, that reminds me. Daniel -”
“Oh, yes. Cully, remember how you always said you wanted a cat?”
“I got one for you. Rosie.”
“Rosie? How did you -? I mean, where is she?”
“At Gavin’s place. His father’s – I mean – his adoptive father’s place.”
“Oh. Lovely. What does she look like?”
“She’s – grey.”
“That sounds beautiful. Are you sure you want to give her up, though, Gavin?”
“I can’t look after a cat. Not now. If you want her, I’d be really glad.”
A resounding sneeze interrupted them. Everyone turned to face Barnaby, who was holding a handkerchief against his nose and mouth.
“Bless you, Tom.”
“A cat? You know I’m allergic to cats.”
“Yes, dad, but you won’t be getting this cat. I will. Don’t spoil it for me.”
Another sneeze followed the first one.
“Tom, you can’t possibly be that allergic. The cat isn’t in the room. Where is it?”
Daniel felt slightly alarmed at what the cat might get up to in the car. His face reflected that alarm.
“In the car, outside. The car I’m using. I’ll keep Rosie until you get home, Cully.”
A look, which Gavin thought was definitely silly, settled on Cully’s face and she squeezed her fiance’s hand.
“You’re so sweet, Daniel.”
Gavin fidgeted uneasily.
“There were some potted plants too. Daniel said he’d try to -”
Joyce’s eyes still hadn’t left her son, but now she turned and faced her husband.
“We’ll take those, won’t we, Tom?”
“Oh, well, I suppose we could – unless Daniel would like -”
Knowing his duty, Daniel did the only thing possible under the circumstances.
“I’ll take them, sir. It’s no trouble.”
Joyce thought she detected some doubts in Daniel’s voice and besides, she really wanted to take Gavin’s plants, so she insisted.
“No, I’m sure we can find the space for them. Can’t we, Tom?”
Knowing when he was beaten, Barnaby didn’t try to avoid his fate. At least they weren’t taking the cat. A few more potted plants wouldn’t make much difference.
“Yes. Of course.”
Daniel definitely didn’t want to be reminded of the potted plant mrs Barnaby had given him so he decided it was time for him to leave. There was the cat to consider too. He really didn’t like to imagine what it might get up to in the police vehicle he was merely using for his work.
“I think I’d better get going. The cat – ”
Gavin felt it was time to go as well.
“Yes. Poor Sal – Rosie, will want to get out of that box. I’d better go too. I’ll find my own way to your house, sir – I mean Tom – ”
“Oh, please call me Tom. I realize it would be difficult to get used to calling me dad, so -”
“Ah, yes. Bye then, Joyce, Cully, Tom.”
“Bye, Gavin. See you soon.”
They returned to the car, only to find that Rosie had enlarged some of the holes and was now waving her paws about. Fortunately, they’d arrived just in time.
“We should probably get a real carrier for her. Now that Cully’s heard about her and all -”
“Yes. A pet shop then?”
“If you don’t mind. This might be awkward.”
They were able to get the carrier and some more litter as well as a number of tins of cat food. The girl behind the counter stared at them with an amused look on her face, making Gavin blush. Daniel was too nervous to notice, intent as he was on finding all the supplies necessary for a cat, and at the same time dwelling miserably on the consequences of having to explain to the man in charge of the cars at the station, how cat’s urine had ended up on the seats.
Back in the car, he happened to cast an eye on Gavin, who had seemed unusually quiet since they’d entered the pet shop.
“What’s the matter? Don’t you want to give her up, after all? I’m sure Cully will understand.”
“No, it’s not that. Didn’t you notice that rude girl in there?”
“No. What about her?”
“What do you mean nothing? You call her rude but I didn’t hear anything.”
“She obviously thought – oh, never mind.”
“She was looking at us and the cat and smiling – meaningfully – When she said ‘your’ cat, she looked at you and at me and almost giggled. Like she thought it was our cat.”
“You mean -”
“What do you think?”
Gavin felt rather offended at the thought.
When his meaning dawned on Daniel, he tensed up, a look of dismay spreading across his face.
“Oh. You should have told her you’re my brother-in-law. That’s right, isn’t it? You’re Cully’s brother and I’m her fiance. Which would make you my future brother-in-law.”
Suddenly, something else occurred to Gavin and as a consequence the thought of being mistakenly paired up with Daniel seemed of less import. The night when Daniel had arrived at Cully’s doorstep, Gavin knew he’d been about to – make a pass at Cully. He’d been reasonably sure of being successful at last. If Daniel hadn’t arrived when he had – Gavin winced at the thought of almost having had sex with his sister.
“What’s the matter now? You don’t like the idea of me as a brother-in-law?”
“What? Oh, that’s not it.”
“Are you feeling sick? If you are, I’d better stop. I can’t return this car with sick all over it. The cat hair is bad enough.”
“No. I’m not sick. Don’t you realize – no, I suppose you can’t have any idea – Bloody hell. If you hadn’t shown up when you did, that night – that night, that didn’t happen, remember? – I would probably have -”
Daniel frowned. What was Gavin hinting at? The suddenly, he knew. Of course. Gavin had been in love with Cully. That night they might well have –
“You know, I suppose I should be grateful to you. Under the circumstances – given only those two choices, I dare say – this was the lesser evil.”
Daniel thought about it. Despite everything, he was inclined to agree. For Cully’s sake, if for no one else’s. Between a rock and a hard place. Wonderful. What an odd twist of fate. He smiled wryly.
“I’m glad I could be of some help.”
Gavin gazed seriously at Daniel and nodded. This changed things a bit. Somehow, it made it easier to put the incident behind him.
He went on to consider his new family – or rather – his old family. Cully was his sister. Knowing that nothing had happened between them, he felt good about the news. Perhaps this was why he and Cully had never been more than friends. They might have sensed instinctively that they were brother and sister. He was hoping that was true.
At the thought of his adoptive family, there was still an aching sense of loss, but at least he now had his birth family, a family he already knew and liked. It would be alright. In time, he was sure they’d learn to see each other as family and not merely friends.
“You know, I’m glad Cully has you. You’re alright.”
Daniel considered Gavin’s words. That was more generous than he had a right to expect.
“So are you.”
An insistent meow reminded them to move Rosie to the carrier and to hurry up and let her out into Daniel’s flat. They’d been sitting there talking for long enough. Time to get back to work.