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It was seven o’clock in the evening by the time Edgar finally reached the London hospital where Paul had been taken after the accident. Tired and overwrought, he made his way hurriedly through the corridors to intensive care, where a nurse pointed him in the right direction once he had explained who he was. Paul’s sister Clare was sitting in a chair pushed back against the wall, her head in her hands. She looked up as she heard footsteps approaching down the corridor, and seeing Edgar coming towards her, she jumped to her feet. 

“Oh, Edgar, thank goodness you’re here. Elsie’s been asking for you - I didn’t know what to tell her, didn’t know if you’d make it, if you were coming or....” She was babbling in her relief at seeing him, and Edgar took her by the shoulders and looked her straight in the eyes. 

“What happened?” 

Clare shook her head and looked down at the floor for a moment, tears welling up in her eyes. “’m not entirely sure. There was a car, it…it swerved or something…I…I don’t know. He was walking and it pinned him against a wall and crushed his legs.” Her voice began to choke up and she had to take a deep breath to bring herself back under control. “Edgar, they…they had to amputate part of his leg, it was crushed so badly - said it was that or he would have died. He’s still unconscious and he lost so much blood. They’re still not sure if he’ll even come round.” 

As she finished speaking, she began to shake, trying hard to hold back her sobs, and Edgar held her briefly to him before pulling back and taking her gently by the shoulders again. “Clare, where’s Elsie?” 

Clare pointed to a closed door near to where they were standing. “She’s in there with him. She won’t leave him and the nurse didn’t have the heart to force her to just yet. He’s got a room to himself - the other bed’s empty - so they let her stay.” 

Edgar nodded, squeezing her shoulders again and giving her a weak smile, and then made his way towards the door. He had his hand on the handle and was about to open it when a sharp voice called him back. 

“Excuse me, sir, you can’t go in there.” 

Edgar was about to explain who he was, prepared to argue hard with the nurse if necessary, when Clare stepped forward and intervened. “This is Sir Edgar, who Mrs. Rodwell’s been asking for. He’s like a brother to Paul, they’ve been friends for so long. I know he shouldn’t but won’t you let him in, just for a few minutes? Please?” 

The nurse hesitated for a moment, looking from one to the other, and then gave a nervous glance back to her colleague who was seated behind a desk at the end of the corridor reading a magazine. “I really shouldn’t you know.” Then glancing at Clare’s pleading face again, she relented. “Okay, but only for five minutes, no more,” and turning on her heel, she hurried off again back to her post. 

Edgar turned the handle, opened the door slowly and entered the room. Closing the door behind him again, he took a couple of paces and then stopped, shocked, as he took in the scene. Paul was lying in a bed directly opposite the door. He was very still, his face drained of all its colour, save for a red gash on his forehead that seemed to stand out even more against his pale skin. He looked like he had aged about twenty years. Looking down the bed, Edgar could see the bedclothes raised over his legs where a cage protected his wounds. Elsie was sitting in a chair to the right of the bed, leaning forward, her head resting against her husband’s side. She was holding his hand tightly in her own, his bent arm clasped firmly to her chest. 

Edgar gave a small cough. “Elsie?” 

She raised her head slowly from the bed and turned her face towards him. Her eyes were barely open, the area around them red and swollen from crying, and it took her a few seconds to focus on him, to recognise who was there. 

As she stared at him, he crossed the room to stand beside her, placing a hand on the top of her head. Elsie looked up at him for a moment, her husband’s hand still clasped firmly in her own, and then buried her face in her friend’s side and began to sob. Edgar placed an arm around her shoulders, holding her closely to him, staring down at the inert form of his oldest friend in the bed below him, and then slowly closed his eyes.

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