Nick Rowan thudded downstairs knotting his tie conscious he was running late. He had to be at Ashfordly Station by 9am although in fairness he had been called out in the night which accounted for his unusually sleeping through the alarm. He knew his Sergeant would not be impressed by any excuses however.
He heard Kate speaking to someone on the phone as he came into the kitchen. As he grabbed a cup of tea she put down the phone and turned to face him, smiling and happy.
"Had some good news love?" he asked her.
"Yes. You'll never guess who that was. Peter Hughes, Nick!"
Nick glanced sharply at her. He took a moment to get himself together before saying as lightly as possible, "Not heard from Peter for a while have you?"
"No, not for ages, and I've not seen him since we moved up here." Kate shrugged. "Oh well. Look, he wants to come here for a few days. Says he wants to talk to me about something and whilst he's here have a bit of a holiday as well. I can't think what he needs to speak to me about so urgently but anyway it doesn't matter." Suddenly she stopped. "Nick – you, you're all right with this aren't you? I know you and Peter haven't always got on but, well, its water under the bridge isn't it."
"Yeah. Of course I'm fine with it love. Look I have to go I'm late…"
"He's coming up Saturday. You'll be around won't you?"
"No, no, I won't Kate. I'm on an overtime shift – volunteered for extra duties for the football match in Scarborough. Sorry…"
"Don't be, its fine." She gave him a kiss. "See you later – we can talk then."
Phil Bellamy was quietly disturbed that morning. He wasn't disturbed by Blaketon's sour mood – that was an occupational hazard – but he was disturbed by the fact that Nick Rowan was highly unusually in an equally sour mood. They were out in the car together driving over the moor. Nick was driving and the atmosphere was heavy. Phil shifted uneasily in the passenger seat. He rooted in the glove box and found a bit of chocolate – probably left by Alf Ventress – and ate it. Finally he said, "What's up any road? You and Kate had a bit of a dust up?"
"Don't know what you mean."
"Or you're taking lessons off Blaketon."
Nick pulled the car over. "Leave it Phil."
"Eh, look, you've not had bad news have you? You and Kate? Look all right its none of me business but there's summat up – I am your mate Nick. I'll help if I can."
Nick chewed his lip. "I don't want to be the subject of the latest gossip Phil."
"Knock it off Nick, owt you tell me I'll not pass it on. Just trying to help out a bit. I can see you're not yourself."
Nick let out a deep sigh. "Kate's got a friend coming to stay."
Phil brightened a bit. "Pretty, is she?"
Nick responded snappily, "It's a he."
"Ah." Phil nodded wisely. "Green eyed monster eh Nick? You daft beggar like Kate'd even look at anyone else! Solid you two are.. " Nick glared at him and Phil shut up. "Sorry. Well what's the problem with this friend."
"Peter Hughes is a doctor. A GP, like Kate. They were at medical school together. He was good with her – she got a lot of grief as you can imagine, there weren't many other women on the course – and Peter looked out for Kate. Kate sees him as a friend, a good friend, but Peter never wanted that. He wanted more."
"Did Kate turn him down?"
"Yeah. This was before she met me. Peter was all right about it when he got over it and they got on as friends. Then I turned up and when it became serious Peter got a bit upset."
"How do you mean?"
Nick sighed. "He warned me off. Told me I wasn't good enough for Kate. I took no notice and then we planned to get married and Peter was furious. Gave me the full works – how someone with my background and low ambitions would never be enough for Kate."
Phil shook his head. "Surprised Kate wants any more to do with him."
"She doesn't know. I never told her what Peter said."
"But - why?"
"I dunno. It seemed – wrong somehow. They were good friends and I suppose I thought Peter was just getting it out of his system and I didn't want Kate upset. Anyway we married and that was that until we planned then to move up here and it seemed to set it all off again. Peter came round to our flat whilst Kate was at work looking for bother and that time he gave me a split lip as well."
"And you didn't tell Kate this either?"
"No. Told her I got thumped at work. I can't explain it Phil, why I didn't tell Kate. I think part of me thought she wouldn't believe it. Peter is very, well, a bit of a hooray henry type I guess, charming, affable – and this other side of him he keeps well hidden. I'd find it hard to believe if I hadn't seen it at first hand."
"And since you moved up here?"
"They've spoken a few times on the phone, Kate and Peter. He works in his father's GP practice. Somewhere near Oxford. And today, out of the blue, he phones and wants to visit. Have a bit of a holiday and speak to Kate about something. What, I don't know."
Phil shook his head. "He's staying in the house with you? Look, mate, I think you need to speak to Kate. Seriously."
"I can't can I? Not now. If I was going to say anything I'd have done it then. Anyway Peter may have changed…"
Phil sighed. "Leopards don't change their spots mate. I think you need to watch yourself. I'm serious Nick. And what's he coming up here for any road? He's got a reason, I'm telling you."
Nick didn't reply. He'd worked that one out already.
But he didn't' have the heart to say anything to Kate. She seemed happy and excited about having Peter to stay. She fixed up to have a couple of days off from work so she could spend some time with Peter and spent ages getting the house ready and fussing generally. She was even more excited when Peter rang again asking if he could bring someone with him – Toby Bent who had been on their medical course and was another good friend.
Nick held his silence.
The forthcoming Saturday was sunny but chilly. Peter Hughes had opted to drive up to Yorkshire with Toby. He was driving his powerful Austin and they made good time. As they neared Aidensfield Peter pulled the car into the side of the road.
"Taking in the view are we?" Toby spoke with a lazy drawl. He was tall with blonde hair and startlingly green eyes. "Come on old boy. We're nearly there. We can admire the scenery in a bit."
Peter leaned forward resting his elbows on the steering wheel. He was smaller than Toby but powerfully built with an athletic frame. He was very dark almost swarthy looking and he never gave anything away. Toby thought this now as he looked at Peter. Clearly his mind was chewing over something. Toby sighed and waited.
"What is she doing up here?" Peter said finally. "Kate. She's wasted. She's bright Toby, she's good and she's buried herself out in the sticks. And buried her career with it. Well we're here to save her from herself."
"Well yes but don't go in too hard Peter. Or she'll dig her heels in. She must have wanted to come here I suppose."
"No." Peter swung the car back out into the road again beeping the car horn crossly at a sheep. "This was never Kate's plan. It was that idiot husband of hers. Wanted to play out some idyllic vision he had of being a country plod. Which is just about the limit of his capabilities mind. He's taken Kate down with him. I just have to wake her up to that fact."