Sergeant Blaketon gently covered Nick up with the blanket as Phil used the scissors Alf had found to cut away the tie still binding Nick's legs together. In the meantime James Radcliffe set up the small oxygen kit and put the mask over Nick's nose and mouth.
After a few breaths Nick's eyes flickered and Blaketon leaned over him. "If you can hear me Rowan open your bloody eyes!" he said in a tone of voice much more like the one Nick was used to hearing from him. It seemed to do the trick as Nick coughed weakly, lifted a hand to push the oxygen mask away and finally, wearily, opened his eyes.
"Well done!" James took away the oxygen mask and put a hand on Nick's arm . "How are you feeling?"
Nick attempted to put a hand to his aching head but James stopped him. "You've had a bit of a bang on the head I'm afraid," he said, "but I think you'll mend."
"Wh- what day is it?" Nick asked.
"Saturday lad. You got yourself mixed up in a robbery here last night. Do you remember?" his sergeant asked gently.
"Yeah." Then Nick suddenly seemed to become more alert. "George – Gina –"
"They're here, they're fine," James said soothingly. "You can't see but they're sat just over there in the corner. They've had a rather miserable night in the cellar I grant you and I need to make sure they're both in one piece but they do seem in fairly good order."
"How did you find us?" Nick asked.
The police officers exchanged glances and Oscar Blaketon then looked at the doctor for a lead. James nodded.
"After the robbery, they put your bike round the back," Oscar said, "and made off. Driving at speed, icy roads, well… they came off the road near Clouds End Farm. Van were found on the moor this morning. Well, when we found 'em still in the van with sawn offs and boxes from the Aidensfield Arms, we realised summat were up. And when we couldn't find you at the same time we had a feeling you might be here."
"Which you were," Phil said with a grin.
Nick seemed to take a minute to process this information. Then, "The blokes who did the place over – how bad -"
Alf and Phil exchanged a glance. Nick said in a low voice, "All of them?"
"Aye," said Blaketon, "but I wouldn't waste any more thought on it. They didn't waste any thoughts for you when they left you in this state."
Nick closed his eyes a minute, then, "Help me sit up."
"Now I wouldn't recommend that," James said. "You keep still and the ambulance will be here very soon."
But Nick insisted and rather reluctantly James allowed Phil to help Nick move onto his back and finally weakly sit up leaning against his Sergeant.
"How does that feel?" James asked him.
"Yeah, better." Nick looked at his wrists wincing at the deep cuts. He cautiously touched his sore lip. "I don't need an ambulance."
"Oh yes you do," James said. "You're going to hospital and that's the end of it. Kate will make mincemeat of me if I don't insist."
"Don't worry Doctor," Oscar Blaketon said grimly, "he's going to hospital if I have to drag him there myself!"
Phil, feeling more relaxed seeing his mate sitting up albeit rather battered around the edges went to sit with Gina. Putting an arm round her he said, "See? It'll be fine I promise."
She looked at her Uncle George sitting there so still and pale. He seemed very shocked. Sadly Gina thought Phil's prediction all would be fine was rather a flawed one.
Kate had been told about the events of the night before by a short phone call from Oscar Blaketon. Her Aunt was much better and Kate felt able to leave straight away via the mid day train heading North. Despite Oscar's assurances Nick's injuries did not seem as serious as first thought and relatively superficial (albeit he had had a lucky escape) Kate knew she would not rest until she had seen her husband for herself.
Sitting in the carriage on the train Kate let her head rest against the window staring out into the gathering gloom willing the train to get her home as fast as possible.
It was dark by the time her train pulled into Aidensfield's small station. She stepped down from the carriage with her case. Illuminated in the light from the station waiting room was Oscar Blaketon. Stepping forward he spoke sharply, concisely, telling her only what she needed to know. Anyone watching them without hearing the words would have known from Kate's change of expression from tenseness to wide smile and finally flinging her arms around the rather startled police sergeant would have known the news she had been given was good.
She and Oscar Blaketon left the station together where he had left his car in the station yard.
"Dr Radcliffe wanted your husband to stay in hospital Dr Rowan," Blaketon explained as he put her case in the boot of his car. "But I'm afraid young Nick wasn't having none of it. So we brought him home and young Bellamy's been looking after him. Although he'll be wanting to get back to the Aidensfield Arms to young Gina I reckon."
Kate looked soberly at Oscar as they got in the car. "How is George bearing up?" she asked. "He's not been too good recently."
Blaketon paused a moment and then started the car. "Well. He's pretty shaken like. It might be that it won't be too long before George has to give up the pub . At least that's what I reckon Dr Radcliffe was thinking any road."
As they arrived at the Police House Oscar stopped the car at the foot of the path leading from the lane to the House. "I'll not come in Dr Rowan," he said. "You'll want some time alone I reckon. Tell that daft beggar Bellamy to make himself scarce and I'll drop him off at the Arms if he's quick enough."
Kate looked at him really seeing Nick's sergeant in a new light. But she knew to acknowledge this would embarrass him so she said simply, "Thank you Sergeant."
She left the car, collected her case and began to walk up the path. The door to the House opened and Phil came out. He spoke with her, a few words. Then she walked past him into the Police House and shut the door. Without a glance back Phil walked down the path to the waiting police car.
Kate went into the house. The small living room was lit by the light of one lamp only. On the couch Nick was sleeping. She paused assessing the visual damage. A stitched lip. Dressed and bandaged wrists. A dressing on the cut on his head. She quietly stepped forward, leaned down and kissed him.
Nick's eyes snapped open, momentarily startled, then he registered it was her. "Hey." He held out his arms to her and she sat down on the couch holding him close, her eyes wet with tears.
"God Nick," She gulped back tears. "Oscar told me – you could have died.."
"Hey come on," he said gently. "I've been waiting all day for you to get home and when you do…."
"I blub all over you!" she cut across with a half laugh. "God Nick I was so scared when Oscar phoned me at Aunt Eileen's house. I can't tell you what I thought…what I was afraid of.."
He took her hands gently. "I'm all right love. I'm fine. I'm still here."
She pushed his hair back from his face. "Don't think I'm ever, ever leaving you on your own again Nick Rowan!" she said with mock fierceness.
He reached for her gently. "I'm glad to hear it," he said softly.