Duffy opened her front door and Patrick stepped straight in, uninvited, and made his way into her living room.
"Hello Patrick" She said sarcastically, following him through and indicating a chair for him to sit on.
"Nothing. Did you really expect there would be?"
"I don't know. None of this makes sense to me. I thought she might have called..." he slumped back into the arm chair, the eager and determined expression he'd been wearing as he'd arrived fast fading.
They sat in silence for a while, Patrick pondering his next move in his search for Holly, Duffy frightened to speak in case she told him what she really thought, that Holly's letter had been more than just a departure note. It was clear from what the police had said when they came to investigate that they thought it had been a suicide note and that it was just a matter of time until they found the body, but Patrick refused point blank to believe that Holly could do that. Duffy had to admire his determination, even though she could see all too clearly that it was making him sick with worry.
She knew better than most the heartache that came with losing the person you love. That was probably why Patrick felt more able to identify with her than with most other people, she mused. But at least she knew what had happened to Andrew, a bit too well as she'd seen the security camera footage at the inquest. Patrick didn't know what had happened to Holly, and she expected that might even be worse than what she was feeling.
And so the ritual of Patrick and Duffy sitting together in quite contemplation continued for another day, both wishing they had the capacity to travel back and change the events of the last several months.
Eventually Duffy broke their silence. "Would you like to stay for some dinner?"
"I should get back home, she might call..." There was a glimmer of hope in his eyes that was almost too painful for Duffy to watch. She had a sudden urge to go over to him and give him a hug; he certainly looked like he needed it. She made it as far as standing up before she realised that he might not appreciate it and veered off to examine some old holiday souvenir on the mantelpiece.
"She knows your mobile number doesn't she, if she wants to get in touch...?" It was the most reassuring thing she could think of to say to him, anything else would have sounded too hollow, she didn't believe that even if Holly were alive she'd have any intention of calling. Every motherly instinct she had told her that Patrick needed to get a good meal inside him, followed preferably by a good nights sleep.
"I suppose so." He admitted as he too started to realise that he could do with both the food and the company.
"That's settled then!" She turned back to face him and delivered her warmest smile. Tentatively he smiled back, and she couldn't stop her self from making her way over to his armchair, perching on the arm, and pulling him in for a hug.
Patrick strolled into his large empty house and flung his coat over a chair in the hallway. No sooner had he taken it off he wished he hadn't. The house was freezing. It was an old house; Victorian at least and always just that little bit too cold. He cursed the chill in the air, then cursed himself for having gone soft in his old age.
The house was far too big for him. He knew that and every so often he promised himself that he would sell up and move somewhere smaller. It was a family house, not meant for one and every day he rattled about in was a bitter reminder of everything he didn't have: a wife, children. He lived in a house not a home, but seeing as he had spent most of his time at the hospital working, and now spent the rest of his time travelling around the country to deliver talks to other hospitals it didn't make much difference where he lived. He didn't even mind paying the upkeep for a house with four rooms he never even went into, after all there are no pockets in a shroud and he had no heir to leave his wealth to.
He flicked on the light switch and drew the heavy velvet curtains. On his way back to the large leather sofa he poured himself a double from the ubiquitous whiskey bottle on the sideboard. He took a sip and sank down onto the cool leather, reflecting on the evening.
With some mortification he realised that he'd just had the best night out he'd had in months, possibly even longer. And with Duffy of all people! He took another gulp of his drink. It had indeed been too long since he'd just talked to someone, enjoyed the moment without worrying about work, or attempting to get his dinner date into bed. Actually, it had been a long time since the latter had happened either.
The only thing that marred the evening was that it made him think of Holly again. He could sense that Duffy was trying very hard to avoid the subject but her presence was enough to jog those painful memories out of hibernation.
He thought back to those days after Holly's ordeal with Tom. He had basically been the only one there for her. Everyone else felt obliged to comfort Duffy or too awkward to do anything but mutter in disbelief about how such things can happen in this day and age. Holly didn't seem to mind the lack of attention though, she was perfectly happy to stay quietly in the background, holding the arm of the only person she still trusted implicitly: Patrick Spiller.
He finished the glass, got up and refilled it, hovering by the bottle and contemplating how, now that it was half-empty, he would have to buy some more. Alcohol didn't seem to last long in his house. He couldn't help but think that it was his fault she'd gone. He spent all his free time with her and yet never noticed how down she was. No, that wasn't true, he noticed, he could see that little spark in her eye that made Holly who she was had gone out. He just didn't want to believe that, he wanted to think that in time she'd get better.
He'd gone with her to visit her GP three days after that terrible night. She hadn't been sleeping; she was too frightened of closing her eyes in case she never woke up again. For three nights Patrick had stayed awake with her, holding her, comforting her until the exhaustion got to be too much and she dropped into a fitful sleep. For three nights her screaming had awoken him. It wasn't easy to get Holly to see her doctor, but he'd managed it and listened passively as he'd talked her through her nightmare, prescribed some sleeping tablets and arranged for her to see a counsellor. He'd driven her to each of her appointments and even slipped the drugs into her food when she refused to take them and he thought that was enough. Now he knew that obviously it wasn't enough, and it was a guilt that had haunted him ever since.
He flipped open the lid of an ornately carved wooden box the lay perpetually next the whiskey bottle. It didn't match it's surroundings at all, it had been a present from his boss, James Farmer, and there was something about it, not it's shape so much as its aura that suited its only purpose. A casket containing Holly's last words.
He removed the faded sheet of paper from its resting-place and gently unfolded it, careful not to tear it along the well-worn creases. He knew it off by heart, even used to carry it around with him until his fiancée spied it and he'd hidden it away from her. It said:
My dear friend Duffy, I am so sorry to have to do this but tonight as I sit here with your beautiful children around me I realise that I can't do this anymore. It's my fault that they're without their father, and that you are without a husband. Andrew's blood will always be on my hands and I can't forgive myself for that. They deserve so much more. You have been so kind to me, and I really appreciate everything you've said and done to help but it's no good. By the time you read this I'll be long gone. The world will be better off when it's rid of Holly Miles. I hope that one day you can find it in your heart to forgive me for everything I've done or caused.
He took another slug of his drink. He used to cry when he read that but now there were no more tears left. He replaced the letter and closed the lid. Concealing, for the time being, his most treasured souvenir of his life with her; a letter to someone else.
Duffy slipped into the house and kicked off her heels, whilst deftly hanging her coat up. She could hear Andie's favourite CD playing loudly upstairs. Duffy would cheerfully admit to not having a clue about which band it was, it just seemed to have an awful lot of bass and some shrieking going on. Normally her daughters noise bothered her but she was a rather a good mood after her dinner with Patrick, and so made her way up the stairs to tell Andie politely to turn it down a bit whilst she had a nice relaxing bubble bath and went to bed.
She poked her head around Andie's bedroom door. "Sweetheart can you turn that down a bit, it's getting late." Andie flinched visibly at the sound of her voice and turned away from her computer screen to stare wide eyed at the door.
"Mum, you could give a girl a heart attack sneaking up on me like that!"
"Nonsense. I'm off for a bath, goodnight"
"Hey, hang on! I want all the juicy details about your date...Come on, out with it! Did you have a nice time?" Knowing she'd get no peace until she answered, Duffy came in to the room properly and cleared a space to sit in amongst the scattered clothes on her daughter's bed.
"It was very nice, thank you."
"Ooohhh! Does this mean you've got a boyfriend?"
"No it does not! Patrick is...well Patrick is...Patrick. Definitely not boyfriend material!" She countered, feeling the blood unaccountably rush to her cheeks.
"If you say so Mum..." She turned back to her screen grinning like the Cheshire cat.
"Now listen here little missy, there is absolutely nothing between me and Patrick!"
"Methinks the lady doth protest too much!" Andie giggled, as she opened a previously saved file, and as the words flicked up on the screen she began to read. "Patrick Spiller, has been voted as number forty seven in a list of the countries most eligible bachelors. The fifty year old surgeon, originally from Wakefield, Yorks, and now living in Gloucester, has remained single and has devoted his life to the advancement of medical procedures such as blah de blah de blah...if he's not your boyfriend you should snap him up quick!"
"Where on earth did you get that from?" Duffy practically squealed, ignoring the tone of her daughter's voice and moving closer to the screen.
"Off the Internet. It's amazing what you can find when you spend an evening surfing." Duffy squinted at the fuzzy words and wished she had brought her glasses with her.
"Did you find anything else?"
"Oh yes, mostly boring stuff about some operation he perfected recently but then I remembered you said you knew him from when I was born and checked back issues of the Holby Gazette from the turn of the millennium. That's when I found this..."
She pressed a few buttons and whizzed the mouse back and forth across the screen. After a second of gentle whirring a picture appeared. Even without her specs Duffy recognised it, from the screen stared out the smiling faces of a number of five-year-olds, clutching teddy bears, and surrounded by all her old friends. For a second she didn't know whether to smile or cry at the sight of it, but seeing the grin on Tom Harvey's face decided it for her.
"Oh my goodness..."
"Cool huh. I couldn't believe it when I found it. There's you! Oh well I suppose you know that," she laughed, "and Dad, and Charlie down in the corner, God he does look loads like Louis doesn't he? And there's a young and rather tasty looking Patrick Spiller. If he was thirty years younger I'd want him for myself!...Mum?" Duffy swiped a tear from her eye as the memories flooded back.
"Yes sweetheart?" she sniffed, keeping her eyes focused on Andie so she didn't have to look at that picture.
"Fine." Andie's brow furrowed as she tried to work out if her mother was telling the truth or not, even though she wasn't wholly satisfied her curiosity about the picture got the better of her.
"I read the article that was with this. A 'well teddy clinic' huh? Never heard of one of those before, anyway that explains the kids, but who are the rest of these people?" Duffy dragged her eyes back to the picture. It hurt to look at it, along with the people she loved most were the people she hated the most too. No, she told herself that isn't fair, she only hated one of them, Tom Harvey; Holly was a different matter. A friend, who had run out, endangered her children by leaving them on their own. If Patrick hadn't stopped by to visit Holly that night they would have been all alone for hours and anything might have happened. If Holly hadn't been a very troubled young woman, Duffy probably would have grown to hate her but as it was she simply tried not to let Holly cross her mind.
"Spencer, Colette, Chloe, Dan... just people I used to work with, they wouldn't mean anything to you." Duffy said dismissively, trying not to look at the image of the man who'd caused the death of her husband that smirked evilly out at her.
"Colette, isn't she the one you said you'd like to see again? Married to some paramedic bloke? Is he in the picture?" Duffy could feel herself becoming more and more tense as Tom's presence seemed to invade the room.
"Josh. No he isn't, I'm going to have my bath now..."
"Wait a sec, who's that, in the T-shirt with a bear on the front?"
"I can't remember."
"And the guy next to her in scrubs?"
"Andie just put the damn thing away, will you!" She left the room, attempting to hold on to her emotions. She knew that Andie would expect an explanation for her behaviour but how could she explain that she had just unwittingly unearthed a photograph of her father's murderer?
Locking the bathroom door behind her, Duffy turned both taps on full and used the sound of the running water to mask the sound of her sobs.
Andie continued to stare at the door her mum had practically fallen through; such was her haste to exit the room. It didn't make sense. Andie knew better than most that Duffy was prone to some over-sensitivity where the subject of Andrew's death was concerned and the picture no doubt stirred up a lot of memories, but was there really any cause for such a response?
She had seemed most troubled by the last two people she had pointed at, the woman with the strange taste in clothes and the man in green scrubs. Andie shifted forward in her chair to get a better look. They seemed harmless enough, cheerful, and friendly looking people.
"Oh well. Back on the Internet." She muttered as she tapped away at the keyboard; there was obviously more going on than she had been let in on.
Trish turned the key in the lock and crept quietly into the house. There was still a light on in the kitchen but as she tried to close the front door she made a wish that her mother had gone to bed. She hadn't.
"Where have you been?" Holly's disembodied voice echoed through the house. Trish gave up trying to ease the door back into place and slammed it shut.
"Out" She strolled, in what she hoped would appear to be a nonchalant fashion, to the kitchen, and found her mother sat just as she had left her.
"It's gone midnight, young lady..." She said automatically. Part of her just wanted to grab her girl and hug her, glad she was back home safely, but the angry tone slipped out first.
"Sorry." She said unapologetically, "I'm going to bed."
"No you're not. We're going to have a little chat Trish. Sit down." Trish groaned but obediently sat.
"If this is about sex..."
"What? No. It's about us. You and me."
"You're my only family and I try to do what's best for you. I know that it might not seem that way to you, but when you're a bit older I hope you'll understand."
"Understand? I'm seventeen, Mum; I'm not a kid. I can understand things now, if you'd ever explain them." Holly looked at her questioningly.
"Like why you keep making us move, like why you never tell me what's going on, like whenever I ask about my Dad, or your childhood you always change the subject..." Trish said somewhat triumphantly. Holly squirmed in her chair; she didn't realise that Trish had picked up on her reticence to divulge information.
"It's complicated, darling..." Trish stared at her stony faced, her cropped dark hair framing her pale features.
"Then don't ask me to understand!" and with that parting shot she got up and stormed up the stairs. Holly could hear her daughter's bedroom door slam with a force that shook the house.
She slumped down so that her forehead touched the tabletop, relishing the feeling of the cool plastic on her skin. Trish was right, she knew that, and she'd also always known that the day would come when she'd want answers, she'd probably been lucky to get away with it for so long anyway.
Holly rolled her head to one side and spied the medical journal lying innocently next to her. It had been that journal that had made her move again, and contributed heavily to the current situation with Trish, she told herself. If Patrick Spiller hadn't have reared his... not particularly ugly head, she would never have been caught by her boss reading the article, he would never have told her that Patrick was going to spend three months teaching at the hospital and she would never have panicked and uprooted herself and Trish yet again.
It was the first time she'd thought about what happened since she'd found herself caught up in the whirlwind desire to run away. In her present slightly more rational condition, she suddenly realised just how stupid it sounded: to move job, house and city for the sake of avoiding one man, who'd probably long since forgotten her. But then, she couldn't risk seeing him, she couldn't risk seeing anyone who knew her when she was still Holly Miles in case her carefully constructed façade started to crumble. And that, she realised, was why she couldn't explain her actions to Trish, it would ruin everything.
She grabbed at the journal and tossed it into the wastepaper bin. Now all that remained on the table were a coffee cup and a thick brown folder. She had meant to spend the evening reading that folder. It contained the information on her new staff at St. Mary's, a hospital about fifty or so miles from central Holby, substantially less from her house in the suburbs. Well, she thought as she eyed it's cover wearily, at least there'll be no unpleasant surprises there.
She slide the folder towards her and as she did so caught sight of her watch. It silently informed her that it was nearly one in the morning. She sighed, and the sigh turned into a yawn halfway. She'd be working with them all tomorrow anyway and she'd learn more about them then than from staying up all night reading report cards, so she stood up and went off to bed.
Go to Part Three