The journey back to Toronto was going to be a long one. Constable George Crabtree did not enjoy riding a horse—he felt like his mount could always tell how inexperienced he was, and he had no desire to waste effort on fretting about staying atop this creature when he was so concerned about Detective Murdoch and Doctor Ogden. Inspector Brackenreid seemed more at ease, at least about the riding; his face revealed quite the admixture of relief, fury, fatigue, and concern. Julia Ogden had nearly died, and she and her beloved husband—my best man, Brackenreid often called him—were hardly out of the woods, as it were.
George was silently grateful that the inspector had taken the horse with Eva Pearce’s corpse dangling behind the saddle. As the sun crossed the sky and the miles receded behind them, Crabtree found himself less and less uncomfortable, as he and his mount seemed to come to an understanding. Eventually, the rhythmic movement of his own mount lulled him into idle wordplay. The corpse horse, as it were. Corpse on a horse. Horse with a corpse. Corpus horsus. He smirked for a moment, at least until he remembered where he was.
He began to ruminate on the circumstances that had brought them out of the city in the first place. It had been nearly a week since a red-faced Brackenreid had appeared at his door, barking, “Hospital. Now. Doctor Ogden’s been shot.” Crabtree, stunned, had barely enough time to pull on his boots before the two men were speeding away in the carriage waiting outside.
Crabtree had long been awed by both the free-spirited Doctor Ogden and the reserved, meticulous Detective Murdoch, and by the strength of the bond between them. He was not surprised that Doctor Ogden had survived her initial injuries, or that Detective Murdoch had insisted on using his own blood to keep her alive. After he had disappeared? Leave it to his wife to rise from her sickbed, track him down on horseback dozens of miles away, and rescue him singlehandedly. That is some big love there, thought Crabtree. That is a story I should tell in a novel.
It was thanks to clues left by Doctor Ogden that Brackenreid and Crabtree knew that Eva Pearce was the one who had shot her, and the same who had abducted the detective. Busy little bint, the inspector had muttered. Although they had known the general direction to Miss Pearce’s cabin, it had been the purest fortune that the two men had encountered the wounded couple on their agonizing trip home. The sight of his mentor—his best friend—and the uncharacteristically frail doctor proceeding slowly down the country road, Miss Pearce’s bloody body slung like a sack of potatoes behind the detective, would stay with Crabtree. He wondered whether they would ever get the full story of what had happened out at Miss Pearce’s cabin.
George had lost count of the number of times that the doctor and the detective had nearly died. After everything they had been through, there was something almost feral in their need to protect each other. Doctor Ogden’s desperate journey alone to rescue her husband had seemed foolhardy at best, especially in her weakened state, but had she not, Crabtree mused, Detective Murdoch might have ridden back to the city in a morgue wagon, not a carriage.
So here they all were, on the road back to Toronto after a fortuitous encounter in the forest. Had either party taken a different route… George did not wish to contemplate the thought. He shivered, then startled out of his grim reverie when his horse shook its mane. I will not fall off, he thought. I will not fall off. Doctor Ogden will recover. Detective Murdoch will be well. I will not fall off. Right, there, then, horse, are we quite all right again?
The sun had set at least an hour before they arrived back at Toronto General Hospital, and the wind bit through George’s coat as he dismounted awkwardly and made his way to the carriage. “Doctor Ogden?” he said gently. “You said you would very much like to return to the hospital. We’ve arrived, Doctor. We’re here.” He opened the door. The doctor, nestled on her husband’s shoulder, did not stir. Crabtree shook his head slightly at the sight of her in Detective Murdoch’s clothes, and then winced at the expanse of dried blood on the shirt. “Doctor Ogden?” he asked again, a little more loudly. Nothing.
All right, then, thought Crabtree. He would try the Detective. “Sir? Sir.” Crabtree gently placed a hand on Murdoch’s shoulder and tried to shake him awake. “Sir, we’re at the hospital. We need to get Doctor Ogden inside.” Once again, there was no response.
Murdoch himself was deathly pale as well. Crabtree realised he hadn’t seen the man move since he and Doctor Ogden had climbed into the carriage, many hours before. Strange that he didn’t have his arm around his wife—was he injured too? Come to think of it, he had been favouring his right hand. And what had Eva Pearce done to him to get him out of the city?
He shook him a little more firmly, and found himself supporting the man’s dead weight as Murdoch slumped toward him.
“Sir?” A note of alarm in his voice, Crabtree called back to Inspector Brackenreid, who had descended stiffly from his horse, managing to avoid disturbing the grim baggage behind him. “I believe we’re going to need some assistance, sir.”
Both Julia Ogden and William Murdoch were quite unconscious. The surge of adrenaline that had propelled them as far as the carriage had long since ebbed away, and the trauma they had both endured had quite caught up with them. Brackenreid sent Crabtree into the hospital to fetch help while the driver tied up the horses. The inspector’s own heart pounded as he felt the thready pulses, listened to the shallow breathing, gently felt their cold and clammy skin. All the same signs of shock that he’d seen far too many times in Afghanistan. Neither of them can have eaten much for days. Murdoch, me ol’ mucker, you’re down all the blood you gave to your wife—and look at that, it’s gone right through her and ruined your own damn shirt. Bloody romantic fools, the both of you.
All at once, Crabtree rematerialised with a group of orderlies bearing gurneys. Brackenreid was unusually silent as he helped lift Murdoch out of the carriage, carefully supporting his head as he laid his cold, limp form onto the first gurney. Crabtree maneuvered past Murdoch into the carriage and caught Doctor Ogden as she slumped over; then he eased her out toward the orderlies and watched them lay her gently on the second gurney.
One orderly glanced quizzically at the body on the horse. “The lads at Station House 4 will get that to the morgue. I’ll need a telephone to contact them,” said Brackenreid. Gesturing at William and Julia, he barked, “You take care of them.” The orderlies began pushing the two still forms into the blessedly warm building, with Crabtree and Brackenreid close behind.
Inside the hospital, Julia Ogden’s disappearance from Toronto General three days before had caused great consternation amongst the entire staff. Doctor Maharris had been particularly livid, especially after all the fuss with her eccentric, tenacious husband about the use of his bizarre device—whatever had he called it?—to measure the electrical activity in her brain. Maharris had gone from anger at the man’s interference to bafflement, to grudging admiration for his dedication and ingenuity, and he was even quietly excited about the machine’s promise for other patients. He was eager to speak further about the device to its inventor; the sudden absence of the detective and then his desperately ill wife had vexed Maharris no end. She was in no condition to be anywhere but in his hospital, under the careful ministrations of the nurses. It was near miraculous that she had survived the gunshots at all.
Maharris was in his office, staring balefully at Murdoch’s device and wondering whether he could teach himself how to use it, when suddenly a nurse knocked urgently. “She’s back, sir. Doctor Ogden is back, and so is her husband. They are both in great need of care. Doctor Ogden has torn most of her stitches and is being transported to the operating theatre.” Maharris blinked in disbelief, then sprang to his feet and followed her quickly out the door.
The orderlies whisked the gurney carrying Doctor Ogden back toward Ward B. Brackenreid recognised one man running behind it as the surgeon who had worked on her before. Was that less than a week ago? he thought. Blimey. He turned back to see the other gurney, bearing an ashen Murdoch, stopped in the triage area. The detective was surrounded by nurses easing him out of his frigid clothes, cutting them off when necessary, and tucking heated blankets around him.
Brackenreid felt the blood roar in his ears when he heard one of them comment on the bruises around Murdoch’s ankles, and the raw rope burns around his wrists. Pearce, that bloody monster! he hissed, more loudly than he’d intended, and realised that Crabtree was grasping his arm. Holding him back? Steadying himself? Whatever the reason for it, Brackenreid felt both irritation and gratitude for the contact.
The nurses were nearly finished undressing Murdoch and enveloping him in the blankets, save for his right hand. The warmth was beginning to bring him back to consciousness, and he recoiled and cried out when they had tried to remove the glove. A nurse disappeared briefly and returned with a smaller pair of scissors, which she used to gently cut it off, revealing an angry, swollen hand mottled in several dark shades of purple. My God, no wonder he was favouring it, thought Crabtree. “Call Doctor Phillips,” a senior nurse directed a younger one. “We’ll need him to look at this.” The younger one started to bustle away.
It was at this moment that Murdoch suddenly convulsed, and vomited. Two nurses immediately rolled him onto his side to prevent him from choking. Murdoch vomited again and again, less each time. The spasms wracking his body finally subsided, and once again he was limp.
One of the nurses grabbed a cloth, dipped it in a basin of water, and wiped away the dark green fluid that dribbled from Murdoch’s mouth. “Bile,” muttered Brackenreid to a wide-eyed Crabtree. “Bugalugs likely hasn’t eaten in days.” The senior nurse raised her head at the unusual expression and seemed to notice the two men for the first time. Brackenreid spoke again, this time to her. “He was drugged. Likely a high dose of chloral hydrate. He’s also down at least two pints of blood.”
The older nurse nodded, remembering the patient’s unusual donation to his wife. She said, not unkindly, “Both of you, out. We’ll look after him.” Murdoch’s friends reluctantly turned away, and for the second time in a week, found themselves on a bench in the hospital hallway, saturnine. This time, there was nothing to direct their attention anywhere else: the mystery of who had shot Doctor Ogden was solved, Murdoch was found, the crimes had been avenged. There was no more perpetrator to chase. The only thing to do was wait.
William gradually became aware that he was floating on something soft, and felt at first strangely calm at having no idea where he was. He knew he was lying down, and did not want to open his eyes. The calm faded into panic as he vaguely recalled being restrained, and he raised his hands experimentally to make sure they were free. His left arm rose cooperatively, but something pushed it back down—to the bed? Was he back in a bed? His right arm felt suspended in the air, and the hand, throbbing painfully, was encased in something stiff. It hurts, but it’s over there, he thought. He stifled the sudden urge to giggle.
Clouds, he thought. I’m lying on clouds.
He watched himself float by, once, twice, three times. Is this Heaven again? he wondered for a moment, and then it dawned on him.
I know these clouds. Suddenly they were gone, and he was once again propped up in his bed at Mrs. Kitchen’s, wincing at the sight of Julia approaching him with a large syringe. Wait, he thought. This is almost certainly a memory, is it not? He started to float back upward.
Morphine, he thought. I’m on morphine. What’s the matter with me that Julia would give me morphine?
Julia’s face became clearer in his mind, and suddenly he flashed back to the coach, Julia gingerly arranging herself on his shoulder just before she dozed off.
Julia bleeding on the forest floor, wild-eyed after stabbing Eva Pearce dead.
Julia comatose in a hospital bed.
Julia bloodied and motionless on the floor outside their suite at the hotel.
For a time, William’s frantic worry was not misplaced. Nearly the moment that she was wheeled out of the surgical bay once again, Julia began to show signs of infection. The sutured incisions started to swell and ooze, and her entire body was soon wracked with fever. Just as the nurses had swaddled a shivering William in heated blankets, so they wrapped a blazing hot Julia in cold, wet sheets. Brackenreid and Crabtree watched balefully from the hall as a nurse returned every ten minutes to mist the sheets with cool water from an atomiser, and dab at her face with cold cloths, working to bring her temperature down.
Brackenreid was accustomed to being able to make things happen by shouting at people. This situation had him at a loss. He looked at his pocket watch and scowled. “Crabtree, me ol’ mucker, we should go home. I’ll ask the head nurse to let me know if anything changes.”
“I can’t, sir,” said George. “Certainly the detective would be right here if he were able, but he is not, so I am here in his place. You know I owe him my life several times over, and I feel a duty to keep vigil for him and for his wounded wife. Especially considering what they’ve both just been through. It seems right that they should wake up to a friendly face.”
Thomas’s expression softened. “Of course.” He paused, and thought for a moment. “Of course you’re right, Crabtree. Neither of them should be alone right now. I’ll call Margaret, and then I’ll go to Murdoch.”
At about four o’clock in the morning, Julia’s fever broke. Crabtree, asleep on a bench outside her room, was awakened by the squeak of a wheel on the laundry cart. He found himself very grateful to whatever kind soul had tucked a blanket over him, and slid a pillow under his head. He watched as an orderly delivered a fresh, dry set of sheets and a hospital gown.
When the nurse finally emerged from Doctor Ogden’s room, George approached her, intent on securing a seat as close to the patient as possible. He had considered a number of methods of persuasion, and settled on a combination of authority, flattery, extravagant politeness, pathos, and a pleading facial expression that Edna had once compared to that of a sad puppy.
He cleared his throat. “Nurse, I’m Constable George Crabtree. I’m a close friend of Detective Murdoch and Doctor Ogden. I’d like to thank you and your colleagues for taking such fine care of them. I am quite certain we would all be obliged if you would be so kind as to permit me to sit at the doctor’s bedside. I realise I am not a member of her family, but given that the detective, who as you know is currently incapacitated, is her only family on this continent, I hope you will consider my request. Doctor Ogden has been very kind to me and I should not wish for her to wake alone.”
George was not sure which of his tactics had worked, but he was too tired to care. The nurse had brought him a chair and left him with her blessing, especially after he had promised to raise the alarm if Doctor Ogden’s condition changed. His nap had recharged him for a time, and he sat by her bed as the sun rose, rambling on with anecdotes about his numerous aunts, and eventually digressing into a spirited account of the plot of his latest novel until the bleary-eyed Inspector appeared in the doorway.
“Oy, Crabtree, the detective will be wanting an update about his wife. I can stay here while you go report.” His voice dropped. “How is she?” he asked cautiously.
“Well, sir, her fever broke several hours ago, and she seems to have been sleeping comfortably since then. The nurses seem to think she will recover.”
Brackenreid broke into a wide grin. “Now Bugalugs, that is the best news I’ve had in weeks. Go and tell her husband.”
George walked timidly into the detective’s hospital room, and for a time he stood behind the chair where the inspector had spent the night. Not wanting to disturb the sleeping Murdoch, George held onto the chair’s back as he did some stretching to try to recover from the uncomfortable night. A low moan from the detective startled him into knocking the chair over, and there was no time to right it before William opened his eyes, gasped in alarm, and began to thrash. “Julia? Julia!” he cried, reaching out desperately to find her.
George reached out and grabbed the detective’s flailing arm. “Sir. Sir! You’re all right, sir. You’re all right. It’s all right.” George spoke to reassure himself as much as the detective. “Doctor Ogden is recovering down the hall. You’re at Toronto General Hospital. You’re safe, sir. You’re both safe.”
William took several breaths, trying to steady himself and get the room to stop spinning. The bright light pained him, and he squinted as he watched George Crabtree’s face assemble itself. A wave of nausea washed over him, and his hand throbbed. He closed his eyes and contemplated what he had just seen: white room, grey blanket, sunlight pouring in, his friend in civilian clothes. Hospital. He glanced at his arm, and it dawned on him that George was the one pinning him down. There was an overturned chair on the floor. Julia is down the hall. I have to see her.
Did I knock over that chair? Just how bad has this been?
“George,” William rasped. His throat was so dry. “George, what’s wrong with me? How long have I been here?” He strained for a painful moment to push himself up.
George’s relief at Murdoch’s awakening was palpable. He gathered himself for a moment before he answered. “Sir. I’m glad you’re awake.” He paused and searched the detective’s eyes to gauge how much he was able to understand. The light was on, so he continued. “As for you, you’re alive too.” The ghost of a smirk passed across his face. “There is an intravenous needle in your arm, connected to a bottle of—what did they call it?—Ringer’s solution. You were dehydrated, and your body temperature was dangerously low. That plus the drugging plus the blood loss from your donation to Doctor Ogden—well, sir, you were in a bad way. You were thrashing about as well just now, as you were coming to, and I didn’t want you to hurt yourself or pull out the needle.” George let go of William’s arm. “I believe it can come out soon, as soon as you’re able to take fluids by mouth. You’ve been out for nineteen hours since we arrived at the hospital, sir.”
William sank back into the pillow, closed his eyes again, and summoned his voice from a great depth. “Thank you, George.” They were both silent for a time. Finally William asked feebly, eyes still closed, “My hand?”
“It’s elevated because it’s broken, sir. Apparently Doctor Phillips is quite concerned. He’s an orthopaedic surgeon who studied fracture management with a Doctor Jones in England. He insisted on setting it himself when he heard about the fine work required by our profession, as well as your avocation as an inventor. He also insisted on immobilizing and elevating your hand to ensure that it heals properly. You were quite vocal about your discomfort while he was setting the bones, at least until the anaesthetist nurse sedated you.”
William nodded, trusting George’s account; he was disturbed that he himself remembered nothing past the beginning of the carriage ride. The nausea that ensued from the small movement of the nod nearly overwhelmed him. He took a few deep breaths, and felt himself drifting again. An image of Julia wafted by, and the sight of her snapped William back into the room.
“Julia. She’s here? She’s alive?”
“Very much so, sir. Doctor Maharris was extremely cross with her for leaving the hospital and his care, especially since she tore most of her stitches and contracted an infection. He has cleaned the wounds and replaced the stitches, and he is keeping her sedated to promote the healing and discourage her from moving. The infection appears to be subsiding. She had a fever, but it has broken, and she’s not comatose. She’s responsive to stimuli. She’s a strong woman, sir. She’s going to be fine. The inspector is with her. He keeps telling her ribald stories of his exploits in Paris when he was a young man. When she is awake, she keeps asking for you. We’re taking turns visiting you both. The inspector thought it best that neither of you be alone.” George took a breath. “We’re… we’re glad you’re both alive, sir.”
George concluded his monologue and looked solemnly at his best friend. William closed his eyes and silently uttered a brief prayer of gratitude: for his wife, for her survival, for their devoted friends. Then he collected all his meagre energy and whispered:
“Thank you, George.” He paused. “I need to see her, George. I need to see her for myself.”
The ever-dutiful Crabtree nodded. “I understand completely, sir. I’ll see what I can do.”
Crabtree had gone on a mission, and he would not be deterred. He had secured permission for the detective to visit his wife, as long as his right arm was wrapped to his chest, the hand on his left shoulder to keep it elevated above his heart. Murdoch gratefully accepted the attentions of the nurse who came to apply the modified sling, mostly because she had also relieved him of the intravenous needle and the apparatus to which it connected. Feeling much more like himself since drinking a bowl of bone broth and eating a few pieces of bread, he tried to use his left hand to push himself up to standing, intent on arriving at Julia’s side as quickly as possible.
His attempt did not go well. His head swam and he saw a few stars as he fell back onto the edge of the bed. “I… I got up too fast.”
“Sir. Sir, there is no need for you to walk to Doctor Ogden’s room. I have a wheeled chair available right here.” William shook his head and tried to push himself up again. George persisted: “Sir. Please let me assist y—”
Brackenreid cut him off. “Bloody hell, Murdoch, don’t be so damned stubborn. You’ve been through Hell and back, you’re anemic as all get-out, and you’re doing your wife no favours if you’re all shagged out before you even get there. Get in the damn chair.”
William took a moment to compose himself. “Very well,” he said grudgingly. He loathed feeling infirm, and he was quite irritated that his normally very cooperative body refused to accommodate his wishes. He was at heart a practical man, though, and reassured his wounded pride that however he made the journey, his beloved awaited him at the other end. He allowed George to help move him into the chair that the inspector held steady. George laid a blanket across the detective’s lap, and they were on their way.
Crabtree spoke quietly as the trio made their way to the post-surgical ward. “Sir, I believe I should provide some salient information about the current condition of Doctor Ogden. When I left her to come fetch you, she was nearing consciousness, and she was clearly in great pain. The nurse shooed me so she could administer a pain-killing medication—I believe it was morphine—so it is likely that the doctor will not be entirely lucid. She appears quite pale and drawn. The doctors assure us that the worst is past and that she is indeed on the mend, so please do not lose heart at the state of her complexion.” Crabtree mentally kicked himself. The worst. He wasn’t supposed to know about that until after she’s well awake. He was relieved when he saw the detective give the look he always had when he was committing something to memory to discuss later. Yes, let’s not talk about it now.
Despite George’s warnings, William was still unprepared for just how pale his wife was. Brackenreid pushed his chair to her bedside. William took in her pallor and her glassy, unfocused eyes as he picked up her limp hand. She turned her head slightly toward him when he whispered her name, and he burst into tears.
William Henry Murdoch was a man whose livelihood depended on maintaining firm control of his emotions, and he was proud of his ability to do so. But the sight of his dear Julia once again in a hospital bed broke the dam. His entire body suddenly began to heave with sobs. All the terror, the searing grief at thinking Julia dead, the visceral disgust at the carnal attentions of Miss Pearce and the horror at watching her bleed to death in front of him, the elation at his reunion with his beloved, the worry during the enervating and bumpy ride back to the city—the overwhelming mass of emotions that had been building in him for nearly a week, since he had heard the three gunshots and then the dreadful silence, flooded out of him.
Crabtree and Brackenreid exchanged looks. Neither had ever seen their friend in such a state before, and Crabtree, sensitive soul that he was, found that he was blinking back his own tears. Each placed a hand on the detective’s shoulder as he cried. “William,” said the inspector softly. “Will. Let it out, my friend. She’s here. She’s alive. You’re alive. You’re both going to be fine.”
William leaned over toward Julia, buried his face in her golden hair, and wept.
The two men remained over their friend for some time. When the weakened man’s sobs finally died down, they realised that he was asleep, half in his chair and half on Julia’s bed. “That can’t be comfortable, me ol’ mucker,” said Brackenreid fondly.
George nodded. “Sir, the nurses will probably want Detective Murdoch to go back to his room soon, but I can’t imagine separating them again. It seems far too cruel after what they’ve been through.”
Brackenreid leapt quietly to his feet. “You stay here, Bugalugs. I’ll handle this.”
George could hear snippets of an angry conversation involving the inspector, drifting in from the hall. A woman whispered furiously, “…most irregular! …assigned to rooms appropriate to their needs!” Brackenreid’s voice was pitched too low for George to make out what he was saying, but he was more than familiar with the commanding, fearsome tone that let the entire bullpen at Station House No. 4 know that it was even more unwise than usual to cross him.
George wavered for a few moments, but finally made a decision. He drew himself up and walked into the hallway to see the inspector arguing with the matron who supervised the ward. George considered strategy for a moment, and then, adopting his most bashful and timid expression, took up a position on the edge of their conversation and watched.
Both the inspector and the matron glowered at each other. From the look of her, the matron was about to hand the inspector a piece of his own arse, as his Aunt Dahlia might say. George cleared his throat and gave Brackenreid a meaningful look. Please stand down for a moment, sir—I have an idea.
Thomas Brackenreid had worked with Crabtree long enough to read him well, and had developed a deep respect for the man and his gentle charisma. He knew he was getting nowhere with the matron, and so he nodded almost imperceptibly at the constable.
“Nurse. My good lady,” Crabtree began. “Might I intercede for a moment?”
The matron regarded him skeptically, with some animosity. “And who might you be?” she demanded.
“My name is Constable George Crabtree. I report to Detective Murdoch. He and Doctor Ogden are dear friends of mine, and I believe you may have seen me at their bedsides, along with the inspector here.”
“Constable Crabtree,” replied the matron archly. “Your inspector here is advocating in a most belligerent manner for a highly irregular practice. We do not place patients in rooms according to their personal preference; we place them where they can receive the most appropriate care to speed their recovery.”
Crabtree nodded. “Ma’am, I assure you that while the inspector here may seem a gruff sort, his combative demeanour comes from a place of genuine concern for the well-being of the doctor and the detective, which is certainly a concern we all share.”
Brackenreid, understanding Crabtree’s gambit, played along, adopting a contrite air. “We just want them to be all right, ma’am.”
The matron, eyes flashing, had opened her mouth to speak when George continued. “Matron, I don’t know if you’re aware that neither the detective nor the doctor has any other family within thousands of miles. The two are inseparable. One might indeed argue that much of Doctor Ogden’s current poor condition is due to her rash actions after being forcibly parted from her husband. Given the trauma they have both just suffered, the inspector and I believe that the well-being of both your patients is best served by ensuring they are as close to each other as possible.” He paused to watch the matron’s face carefully as she considered his words.
She hesitated for some time. The fight was gone from her, and she gave a tight-lipped smile. “Constable Crabtree. You are a persuasive man. Inspector, might I suggest that in any future negotiations that require delicacy, you allow your constable here to act on your behalf?”
“Does this mean Detective Murdoch can stay?” George asked immediately.
“I’ll discuss it with Doctor Maharris and Doctor Phillips. I believe I can convince them to be amenable. Since the detective has already recovered enough that he does not require the same level of care as the doctor, he need merely stay out of the way while she is being attended to.”
Brackenreid and Crabtree broke into wide grins. “Thank you, ma’am,” said both. “Nicely done, Bugalugs,” muttered Brackenreid as the matron turned away, and the two headed back into Doctor Ogden’s room.
Half of William was still draped awkwardly onto Julia’s bed; he had not moved. Julia, still glassy-eyed, was stroking his hair. George gently awakened the detective and helped shift him back to upright before he moved the wheelchair away from the bed. William, startled by the movement, cried “No! I mustn’t leave her!” just as an orderly wheeled in another bed.
“It’s all right, sir. It’s all right. Don’t worry. It’s all right. You’re not going anywhere. There’s a bed for you right here, sir. The inspector and this kind orderly here are going to help you into it. It’s all right.” George kept up a quiet patter to reassure William while Thomas and the orderly lifted him into the new bed.
The moment the orderly left, George and Thomas pushed William’s bed toward Julia’s, and George, acting on impulse, picked up her hand and placed it back in William’s hair. William, spent from his outburst and still half asleep, visibly relaxed at her touch.
“Thank you, George. Thank you, Tom,” whispered Julia, her voice raspy and soft.
“Think nothing of it,” said Thomas kindly. “Least we could do. We should know better by now than to let the two of you out of each other’s sight. Now you rest and get well.” Julia gave a wan smile, and her eyes drifted closed.
Crabtree turned to the inspector. “Sir, you should go home. They’re together now and there’s no need for the both of us to be here anymore. Mrs. Brackenreid and your sons will be missing you.”
Brackenreid began to protest, but Crabtree held up a hand and Brackenreid hesitated. Well, I suppose I do miss my own bed. “All right, then. You’re a good sort, George Crabtree. I’ll be along home now, and I’ll be back to spell you off tomorrow if they still need us.”
Crabtree smiled wryly. “Good night, sir.”