"Poor Nick," Maggie said the next morning. She was sitting in the kitchen of the Police House sipping a cup of tea before going on her rounds and watching Eileen feed Katie. "So that's what was bothering him."
Eileen nodded. "He'll probably feel differently about things in a few days," she said, "when he's feeling less poorly."
"Are you sure?" Maggie asked her.
Eileen paused a moment, then, "No." She sighed as there was a knock on the door.
"I'll get it," Maggie said. "it may be Gina although its a bit early for her."
She went to the front door and opened it. Eileen heard her say, "Oh. Er, I don't know. Just a minute."
Curious, Eileen went to the door herself, the baby having finished her breakfast. Jean Riley was standing on the step.
"Mrs Riley." Eileen was shocked. "I don't think you should be here."
"My brother-in-law, George had a delivery in Elsinby and I insisted I came with him, so I could stop off here," Jean said, nodding at the delivery van standing in the lane.
"But I don't think I can talk to you," Eileen said helplessly looking at Maggie.
"Please. Look. I just wanted to say how bad I felt about what John's done. Mr Rowan, he were ever so nice and he tried to help me. I feel dreadful about it. So I came to, well, apologise. Although that sounds so, I don't know. Its not enough is it?"
Despite herself Eileen felt her resolve weakening. "Its not for you to apologise for your husband Mrs Riley," she said after a quick glance at Maggie. "Look, maybe it wouldn't hurt for you just to come in and have a quick cup of tea."
"No. I don't want to be a bother and George is waiting," Jean said. "I just wanted to say I hope Mr Rowan goes on all right and he's soon out of that hospital."
"Thank you," Eileen said simply.
She and Maggie watched the woman go down the path.
"I do feel sorry for her," Maggie admitted as Eileen closed the front door.
"Yes." Eileen sighed. "It can't have been easy for her knocking on the door like that."
Phil was delighted to be able to see Nick for a few minutes that day. Armed with a list of ground rules for the visit which unnerved him somewhat, he left the station at 3pm to call round at the hospital. He'd been told to keep the visit short without too much excitement.
Like his Sergeant he was pleasantly surprised to see Nick's visual injuries weren't as graphic as he had feared. Sitting down by Nick's bed he informed him of this.
"Bit disappointed," he said to Nick. "I thought you'd have a bit more gore than that."
"Believe me," Nick said wryly, "its bad enough. Feel like I've elephants dancing in my head."
Phil grinned. "That's just a standard hangover for me," he said. He paused. "Seriously Nick, its good to see you. You had me a bit worried. All right, quite a lot worried."
"What's going on at the station?" Nick asked.
"Well a bit quiet really. Just getting ready for the station inspection. We were doing that the morning, well, it happened. You came in to the station as me and Alf were sorting out the filing."
Nick shook his head. "I don't remember."
"Not a bad thing, probably," Phil replied. "It were all a bit chaotic and you weren't in long before Blaketon sent you off chasing round pawnbrokers and jewellers." He sighed. "Any road Sarge were banging on this morning as how we had to keep ourselves busy and we had the station inspection coming up and the clear up rate isn't good and, well, any road, given as you will be out of action for a bit, we're getting a relief Constable."
Nick, despite his anxieties, felt a twinge of something. He wasn't sure what. "Is that temporary or permanent?" he asked.
"Oh temporary just 'til you come back I reckon," Phil said. "Don't worry, you daft beggar. Your corner of' the station is waiting for you when you're ready to come back to it."
"I know. Might be a while."
"Well, there's no pressure is there? You just come back when you're up to it, not a minute before."
They looked up as Eileen came in. "Oh, sorry, Phil, didn't realise you were here," she said.
"I'm about to go," he replied. "Don't want to over do it. I'll come back tomorrow though Nick. Keep you up to date with what's going on shall I?"
"Actually Phil, there is something I should mention to you." Eileen looked at Nick. "Now don't get worried, its just something I think I should pass on. Jean Riley knocked on the Police House door this morning."
Nick looked up sharply."She shouldn't be doing that," he said.
"No," Phil said thoughtfully.
"She wasn't in any way threatening. She said she wanted to apologise in person for what her husband had done." Eileen sighed. "You had to feel a bit sorry for her."
"All right," Phil said. "I'll mention it to Sergeant Blaketon though. Its probably best she doesn't do it again but I don't think we need to go all official about it as long as she keeps away in future."
He left and Eileen sat down by Nick. "How are things at home?" he asked her.
"Fine. Katie's had a lovely day with Gina." Eileen took a breath. "Nick I hope you're not angry with Oscar about this but he did tell me what your anxieties were. That he'd picked up that you were worried about returning to work."
"A bit, yeah."
"Its such a long way way off Nick. You don't need to make any hard or fast decisions now you know."
"Its just, next time, well I might not be so lucky Eileen. And there's Katie to think about."
"Well you mustn't worry about it now," Eileen said firmly. "We're a long way off having to make any decisions. All you have to do for now is worry about getting well."
But Oscar Blaketon has his own ideas about this and approached the problem with his own unique formula of counselling. When he called in to see Nick the following evening at about six Nick eyed him with some trepidation. He could see his Sergeant was on something of a mission.
"You look much better again lad!" Blaketon exclaimed as he sat by Nick's bed
"I feel better," Nick admitted. "Not as tired."
"Well, that's good." Blaketon cleared his throat. "And how do you feel about the job and what were bothering you?"
"Phil mentioned you were getting a relief Constable."
"Temporary relief constable."
"Bother you that did it?"
Blaketon leaned forward "Nick, if you're worried about coming back, and putting yourself at risk when you've a young bairn at home let me tell you this You can have a nice safe office job, leave of an evening a bit distracted like and walk straight under a bus. You know it happens, you've been to those sorts of incidents hundreds of times. What I'm saying is there's no guarantees. Its fate lad. I mean you could stay at home and wrap yourself in cotton wool and even then there's no guarantee is there?"
Nick managed a smile. "You've a way of putting it into words Sarge."
"Aye. I'm right though aren't I?"
"I sort of realised," he admitted, "I wouldn't find it easy to walk away when Phil said you were getting a relief in. It bothered me"
"It shouldn't. The minute you're back in harness he's off."
"Sarge." Nick looked at him. "Thanks."
"Oh, there's no need to thank me lad. " Blaketon got up. "At the end of the day I'm just looking after number one. Getting you back in harness is a much easier option than trying to train up some wet behind the ears probationer which its likely we'll get." He looked round as the door to Nick's room opened and Eileen came in.
"Hallo Oscar," she said pleasantly, "I didn't expect to see you tonight. I just called in to deliver a message to Nick from his mum."
Nick sighed. "She's still not feeling well?"
"Well, she says so," Eileen admitted. "But she said she'll be here definitely by Thursday." She did not add she felt inclined to tell Ruby they'd manage, thank you very much, she was Nick's mother and Katie's grandmother after all."
The door opened and a stern looking nurse came in. "Ah, Sergeant Blaketon," she said. "A call for you."
Blaketon looked surprised but went off to take it. Eileen sat down by Nick's bed.
"You look so much better again," she said. "You seem less worried too."
"I spoke to Blaketon. Or Blaketon spoke to me. About the job."
"Nick, its too early to make decisions."
"I'm not. I mean, I thought I wanted to kick it in all into touch with all that's happened. But I think I'd find it too hard to walk away."
"I hope you go back Nick," Eileen said."You're good at your job and the village think so much of you. The cards we've had and the numbers of people all wanting to help bear witness to that."
They looked up as Blaketon came back in. His face was very grave.
"Sarge?" Nick spoke shakily.
"All right lad." Blaketon sat down nervously by the bed. "Just had a bit of news. John Riley who as you know was remanded into custody- Nick, I'm sorry. He hung himself in his cell this afternoon."
"Oh Nick." Eileen reached for Nick's hand instinctively.
Nick was quiet then, "Its fine, Eileen, honestly. Its just his wife and children I feel sorry for that's all."
"His family had lost him any road Nick," Blaketon said. "He wouldn't have been coming home for a very long time As it is, there really is no way back now is there?"
Eileen took a breath. "Harsh as this sounds," she said, "and I do feel for Jean Riley and those young children of hers really I do - but Nick, my priority is you and Katie and making sure you're home as soon as possible."
"Yeah." Nick looked up at Blaketon. "Bit of a mess Sarge."
"Aye lad, that's one way of putting it. But Eileen's right. Our priority is getting you back and on your feet and looking after that daughter of yours. And I want you back in my duty room an' all as soon as. Now, I've not told the lads this yet as I like to keep 'em on their toes but I had word this afternoon that the station inspection has been put off for a couple of months. So Rowan, I want you back on duty by the time it does come round. No excuses!"