In the darkness, Morse got to his feet and tried to piece together what had happened. As he stood up, glass crunched beneath his shoes, from the broken light bulb. As his thoughts calmed, he realised what had happened. As Jimmy had pulled Lewis back from the sink, Morse had seen Lewis turn and lunge, forcing the gun high, where it had gone off, and blown apart the light. Morse hit the floor, showered by the glass, while there had been a brief struggle. The gun had gone off a second time, and the fight was over.
Now, Morse quickly went to the hall, and switched on the light, which cast a dim glow into the kitchen. He could see Lewis, slumped on the floor, head in hands. Nearby, he could see Jimmy in profile, a bullet hole blown into his chest, the gun still in his own hand. Morse swallowed his revulsion, and hesitantly, gently laid his hand on Lewis's shoulder. He took a deep breath, able to feel the younger man trembling.
"Lewis?" Morse said, but his voice caught in his throat.
He cleared his throat and knelt down next to his sergeant.
"Robbie, look at me."
Slowly, Lewis raised his head, and in the light cast from the hall, Morse caught sight of the blood and bruises that marred his face.
"Robbie," Morse kept his voice soft, "I need to know – how much of this blood is yours?"
Lewis glanced down at his shirt as if seeing it for the first time. He looked at Morse in confusion, and turned to look at the body on the kitchen floor.
"No," Morse said, firmly, "look at me, Robbie. Is this yours?"
"Derringer's," Lewis whispered, hoarsely, his voice pained, "it's Derringer…he's…he's dead…"
"I know," Morse shushed him, "come on – let's get you somewhere more comfortable…"
Morse eased Lewis's arm over his shoulder and lifted him up, helping him through to the living room, where he got the Sergeant to lie down on the couch. Lewis lay there, barely conscious, and Morse was loathe to go out to the car to use his radio. Instead, he picked up the telephone and dialled 999.
"Chief Inspector Morse," he barked, at the operator, rattling off his badge number, "Get an ambulance out to this address…"
Satisfied that the urgency of the situation had been properly conveyed, Morse stood over the couch for a moment. There was a hand-knitted blanket discarded on a nearby chair, so Morse picked it up and spread it over Lewis in an attempt to stop him shivering. There was so much blood – clearly some of it belonged to Lewis, but Morse could not comprehend what the younger man must have been through to have ended up in this state. Lewis muttered something under his breath, and coughed harshly.
"Robbie?" Morse leaned in closer.
"P…please," Lewis groaned, "water…?"
Morse straightened up quickly. He had no desire to go back into the kitchen, with its grisly, dark scene, but concern won out. He went in, grabbed a glass from the worktop, and filled it quickly from the tap. He carried it through, and helped Lewis take a drink.
"Just sip it for now," Morse warned him, careful not to let him choke, "Robbie – what happened? Where the hell were you?"
"D…don't know," Lewis shook his head, slightly, and hissed in pain, "he… he threat…threatened… Val and the kids…the bastard…"
"Okay, Robbie, it's okay," Morse patted Lewis's shoulder gently, as he perched beside him on the edge of the couch, "he's not going to hurt anyone else. There's an ambulance on the way."
"Val? Where's our Val?"
"She's safe, Robbie, remember? She's in Gateshead, with the kids."
Lewis shuddered under the blanket, and then went limp. Morse leaned forward, worriedly, clasping Lewis's shoulders.
"Robbie?" Morse gave the sergeant a gentle shake, "Lewis, wake up! Come on, you've got to stay with me…"
There was no response. Morse, hesitantly, reached out and checked for a pulse. He had to check again, but he found it, weak and irregular.
"Christ almighty," Morse murmured.
It seemed Lewis had been beaten to within an inch of his life. Morse was relieved to hear the wail of an approaching siren. He quickly got to his feet, straightened his tie, and went to the front door, waving in the two paramedics.
"Through there, on the sofa," he pointed.
Two squad cars pulled up alongside the ambulance and four officers scrambled out.
"Body in the kitchen," Morse snapped, quickly, and stepped back through into the lounge, almost crashing into one of the paramedics, who mumbled an apology and headed back towards the ambulance.
Morse stood behind the other paramedic, who was attempting to bring Lewis back to consciousness. The medic spared Morse a fleeting glance, and turned his attention back to his patient.
"What's his name?" the medic asked.
"Sergeant Lewis. Robbie Lewis," Morse corrected himself, "how is he?"
"He seems in a bad way," the medic shook his head, "there's a lot of blood."
"It's… it's not all his," Morse said, "at least, I don't think it is."
"What happened to him?"
"I don't know," Morse said, folding his arms, "he was held hostage. I was hoping he'd be able to tell us."
"Any next of kin?"
"His wife is away. You'll report to me directly."
The other paramedic returned with a gurney, and the two of them gently lifted the unconscious Lewis onto the stretcher. Morse followed them out to the ambulance. One of the constables tried to ask a question, but Morse brushed him off and climbed in the back of the ambulance. The sirens screamed to life, and it sped off into the night.
A corridor, a hard plastic chair and a vending machine… This was what Morse's world had become. Nurses, doctors, patients and visitors swept passed him, ignoring the tired, white-haired, rumpled man who was sitting in a hard plastic chair drinking stale hot something from the vending machine. Eventually, he was joined by another man.
"Evening, sir," Morse said, at length.
"So you found him, then," Strange responded.
"No," Morse replied, "we'd never have found him if McMaster hadn't broken cover. It was McMaster, wasn't it?"
"Yes," Strange nodded, "do you want to tell me how he ended up with a kitchen knife in his ribs?"
There was no accusation in the tone, no anger or malice, only a calm, unspoken reassurance that things would be sorted out. Morse sighed, and rubbed a hand over his face.
"McMaster didn't want to negotiate," Morse said, staring up at the ceiling, "he wanted me as a hostage instead of Lewis. He was going to shoot Lewis and take me. He'd threatened Lewis as well – said he was going to find Val and the kids."
"So what happened?"
"I don't rightly know how he did it," he replied, distantly, "Lewis – I thought he was all done in, but… he forced the gun up – it went off – it was self defence, sir."
"I know," Strange nodded, slowly, "you'll need to make a statement."
"Not now," Morse said, quietly.
He sipped at his hot drink, still uncertain as to whether it was tea, coffee, hot chocolate or some kind of soup. It was possibly a combination of all four. Strange made a few attempts at small talk, tried to make Morse go home, and promised to try to contact Lewis's wife. Strange left, and Morse went back to his hot-something-drinking trance.
A voice penetrated his sleep-deprived brain. Morse blinked, yawned, stretched, and gazed blearily up at a man in a white coat who looked as tired as Morse felt.
"Morse," he replied, "it's just Morse. And you are…?"
"I'm Dr Milton," the man said, "you were waiting for some news on Mr Lewis?"
"Yes," Morse stood up expectantly.
"This way, please."
Dr Milton led Morse down some identical corridors until he was thoroughly lost, and ushered him into a side room. The lights were dimmed, but Morse could clearly make out the room. Lewis lay on the only bed, surrounded by machines and monitors. Morse could see the bruises on his face, as well as stark white bandages around his head and right wrist.
"Is he awake?" Morse asked, softly.
"No," Milton shook his head, "he hasn't regained consciousness since he came in."
"How bad is it?" Morse queried, not taking his eyes off the still form on the bed.
"Where do I start?" Milton sighed, "He's got several broken ribs, two broken fingers and a badly sprained wrist. He's had one hell of a beating – multiple contusions, a deep laceration to the temple and concussion to boot. There are abrasions around his wrists that suggest he was tied up, and he's malnourished, dehydrated and hypothermic. He's developed a secondary infection in his lungs as well, and he's feverish. What happened to him?"
"I don't know," Morse said, truthfully, "I almost don't want to know…"
"Sit with him awhile," Milton suggested, indicating a nearby armchair, "I'll be back to check on him every hour, but if anything happens, hit the panic button."
Morse murmured his thanks as the doctor slipped quietly out of the room. Morse stood in silence for a long moment, listening to the soft beeping of machinery. An IV tube snaked from a tall pole into the back of Lewis's left hand, and, careful not to disturb it, Morse pulled the armchair up to the right-hand side of the bed. He sat down and gazed at his sergeant. Lewis had been there for him every time he needed help or support, even if he hadn't asked for it or admitted it at the time. Why, then, had he not been able to help his sergeant in his hour of need?
Leaning back in the armchair, Morse felt hollow. He should have been glad to find that Lewis was alive, and he was, but it was a bitter pill to swallow to see him in this state. Even unconscious, Morse could see the pain on Lewis's face, and the bruises stood out darkly on his pale skin. Morse sighed, and rubbed a hand across his eyes. On the bedside table, someone had left a newspaper. Morse picked it up, took a pen from his pocket, and set to work on the crosswords.
Morse groaned, shifted uncomfortably, and blinked slowly, trying to remember where he was. He groaned again to realise that he'd fallen asleep in the armchair, and he stretched, feeling his spine click in protest in several places. He reflected that he really could do with a shower and a decent cup of tea. Then, his eyes fell on the bed, and he had to suppress the urge to grin. Lewis was looking up at him with an expression of vague confusion.
"Hey," Morse said, "how are you feeling?"
Lewis blinked a couple of times, glancing down at the IV tube and the bandages around his wrist and his strapped fingers. Then he looked back at Morse.
"You look terrible," he commented, his voice little more than a croak.
Morse let out a bark of a laugh, and picked up a cup of water from the bedside table, holding it out. Lewis took it in his left hand, and, shakily, managed to take a drink. Morse rescued the cup before it had a chance to spill, as Lewis fell back on the pillow, energy spent.
"What happened?" he asked, quietly, at last.
Morse recounted what little he knew, and then listened as Lewis haltingly talked through everything that he could remember. Eventually, Morse held up his hand.
"Enough," he said, "You get some sleep. Don't worry about Val and the kids – as soon as they get back we're going to put them up in a safe house. They'll be fine."
"Thanks," Lewis whispered, as he drifted back off to sleep, "as long as they're okay…"
Morse waited until the sergeant was asleep again, before he went out to make his report, promising himself he would be back as soon as he could.
A week later, Morse collected Lewis from the hospital, with Val in tow. The bruises had faded a little and he looked slightly less gaunt, but the young man moved slowly and his face was still pale. Still, he seemed pleased to be out of the hospital. Morse gallantly held the back door of his Jaguar open to allow Val to get in, before he climbed into the driving seat.
"I guess we're in temporary housing for a while," Lewis sighed, as they drove, "you were saying you wanted a bigger place for the kids, love – looks like we'll be moving after all."
"I'm sure we'll find something," Val replied, optimistically.
Morse nodded slowly, letting them make small talk. He had kept details of all that had happened that night to himself. Lewis could not clearly remember everything, and Morse did not seen fit to enlighten him. Still, it was hard to gloss over what had happened in full, and Lewis was understandably reluctant to take his family back to the home where he had been abducted, assaulted and where a man had died.
"Morse has been very kind," Val was saying to her husband, "we've been staying in a very nice three-bed semi."
Lewis merely spared his boss a small smile, and Morse caught the expression from the corner of his eye. He cleared his throat, briskly.
"I don't know what you're grinning at, sergeant," he said, lightly, "the paperwork is piling up at the office for you, and you owe me a drink."
"Aye, sir," Lewis was still smiling as he leaned back in the seat, and closed his eyes.
They drove in silence for a while. Eventually, Lewis stirred slightly, looking a bit sheepish at having dozed off.
"Where are we going?" he asked, sleepily.
"Not far now, love," Val replied, reassuringly.
A few minutes later, Morse's Jaguar pulled into the driveway of a neat, semi-detached house. Lewis was surprised, and pleased, to find his car was also parked on the drive, though he had to suppress a shudder as he recalled travelling in its boot. A little unsteadily, he climbed out of the car, and stood for a moment to regain his balance. There was a steadying hand on his elbow, and he glanced down into the eyes of Val. He tried to give her what he hoped was a reassuring smile, despite the weakness he felt.
"Well, this is nice, isn't it?" he commented, trying to keep tiredness out of his voice.
As if on cue, the front door opened, and his son and daughter came flying out, followed by one of the WPC's from the station.
"Daddy!" screamed his son.
"Kids, no! Be careful!" Val called, but it was too late.
They collided excitedly with their father, who was so pleased to see them that he swept them both up in an embrace. Val managed to prise them away and usher them back inside as Lewis leaned against his car, gasping slightly.
"Will you join us for a drink, sir?" the sergeant said, quickly pulling himself upright when he saw Morse watching him, "I'm sure Val's got beer in the cupboard."
Morse hesitated slightly. He was fairly sure that Lewis just wanted to rest and that he and Val would want some peace and quiet. Lewis, however, was having none of it, and was already calling to Val to get out some beer. She was shouting at him that he wasn't allowed any, and one of the kids had started crying and was being comforted by the WPC. There was a tug on his sleeve, and Morse glanced down to find the little girl, Lynn, was looking up at him.
"Mummy says to come inside and close the door 'cos it's getting cold," she said, authoritatively.
With a wordless shrug, Morse followed her inside. After all they had been through, a beer would be just what he needed.
"Will you join us for dinner, Morse?" Val smiled at him as she pulled her son off Lewis as she ushered her husband onto the couch in the living room.
"Great!" Val said, brightly, without really waiting for the response, "I hope you like roast beef. Kids! Give your father some space, will you? Would you like a beer? Robbie, sit down before you fall down! A beer?"
"Err, yes, please," Morse replied.
At a loss, he allowed Val to shepherd him into the living room, where he was nudged into a very comfortable armchair, and a beer appeared in his hand. Confused, he sat there for a moment, and then took a mouthful of the beer. Lewis was sitting on the couch, clearly exhausted.
"You've been signed off for two weeks medical leave," Morse informed him, "Strange has given you and your family the use of this house for as long as you need it."
Lewis gaped at him for a moment, and then nodded.
"Thank you, sir," he said, at last, "and… thanks. For coming after me."
"You were the one who saved both our lives," Morse pointed out, bluntly.
"But if you hadn't come to the house…" Lewis shook his head, unable to continue.
Morse waved his hand dismissively. For a long moment, they sat quietly.
"Thanks, though," the Geordie sergeant said, sleepily.
Morse smiled as Lewis began to nod off on the couch.
"And you," he murmured.
Sitting in the armchair in a borrowed house and sipping at a beer which his sergeant slept on the couch, Morse reflected that, all in all, things had turned out well in the end.