His breath was coming out in small bursts of fog, like a stream train emerging from a tunnel, and Kent stamped his feet to try and encourage the blood to flow. London was never a warm city in winter, yet this year the winter seemed to bite that little bit colder.
He rubbed his gloved hands together rapidly; anything to just keep that little bit warmer.
It wasn't quite snowing, but there was something in the air indicating that it could.
His radio buzzed, and his finger, stiff from the cold scrambled over it before he could reply.
“Kent? You there?”
He hoped that his teeth didn't chatter as he replied, still keeping one eye out on the delict warehouse.
“I'm here, Skip.”
There was a tiny flicker of movement in one of the windows and he froze, carefully and slowly moving his head so that he could look deeper.
There was nothing there.
“Nothing sir, just thought I saw something.”
He could hear Miles rolling his eyes through the radio. There was little stutter of static that Kent assumed was Chandler trying to communicate a message. He didn't hear it, and Miles didn't pass the radio over.
There was a wet feeling on his forehead, just above his eye. Reached up to touch Kent felt the first drops of the winter snows.
He shivered again.
“His Nibs says that you better have a coat.”
Kent tugged his jacket around him tighter. He didn't, of course. He had a hastily pulled on jacket over his waistcoat, suit shirt and cufflinks. It was slightly too small and the cufflinks stuck out and shone in the light of the street lamps.
“Someone's coming sir. Three of them. Appear to be unarmed. Trailing on foot.”
While Kent had been watching the window the small side door had creaked open, almost silently and a gang of three men had left, carrying between them a single carry case.
The snow had already begun to settle, and Kent kept up a reasonable pace, torn between following the men's voices and following their footprints.
The problem was soon solved for him when the voices fell silent, feeling like a tracker of some great American clan, Kent stared at the dark footprints on the pure snow. As pure as anything could get in London.
“Suspects entering Knolls Park, Sanders in on the other side, I'll intercept through the park.”
He'd taken steps past the ornamental gates when his radio crackled.
And that was Chandler, who had obviously taken the radio off Miles. He hesitated, if the DI didn't want him to continue.
Then a branch snapped. Kent froze, automatically checking his feet to see that it wasn't him, it wasn't and he ducked behind the nearest tree.
“I know what I'm doing Sir.”
“Kent. That's an-”
Kent assumed that word would have been order, but the fact that his radio was snatched from his hand and thrown backwards into what would, in time become a small snow drift.
As it was the radio made a small clunk against the gravel of the footpath, and Kent looked up into the eyes of his assailant.
They'd obviously suspected that they'd been followed and attempted to double back, or, more worrying for Kent, knew that they'd been followed and had planned to disrupt the path of their aggressor.
Either way, the knife that Kent was now looking at confirmed Chandler's fears that this was not am operation to run by oneself.
The man gave an evil smile, looking at Kent with eyes that weren't so distant from the icy sky. He shivered again, with one of the men's hands clasped over this shoulder and another gripping his wrists.
“Yeah buddy, oh's the word. Now, I'm sure you're a decent bloke, but I'm afraid you're in our way. And we simply must be off.”
He punctuated his sentence with the sharp jab of a blade to Kent's shoulder.
Being wounded on the job was one of the expectations of every new police recruit; that their lives would be filled with danger and the possibility of death at every turn. This was, all in all a romanticism of the police force, and previously the most that Kent had ever been injured was the odd paper cut from the paperwork that had carried on too far, once scalding himself on the kettle, and most embarrassingly nicking him thumb on the blade of a murder weapon that had been left in forensics for tests. Luckily all the tests had already been done, he'd not been about to face Miles for a week afterwards.
This was something different. He could simultaneously feel the blade rip through tendons and muscle, puncturing the skin and staying embedded in it's fleshy sheath as well as the blood gushing out over the open wound, the drips flowing down Kent's skin, making his white shirt strain crimson. It was a curious sensation, and Kent knew that it was only a matter of time because the strange feeling of being separate from his body dissipated, instead returning with the pain of having a major joint stabbed.
The men, who the team had reason to believe where convicted thieves and had at least one charge of attempted murder, watched Kent struggle to bring his right hand to his left shoulder, attempting to brace the injury.
Then they fled. Turning and and backtracking their steps through the park, both sets of prints being covered by the falling snow.
Although Kent had had all the training concerning how to deal with knife wounds (and bullet and miscellaneous), the information fled before his eyes. The pain was starting to creep past the shock and all he could think of was how he wanted rid of it, to take the knife out of his shoulder, the policeman within him disappeared to a wounded animal. A dog caught in a bear trap. He pressed the V of his thumb and fingers around the entry point and pressed down, feeling a further bubble of blood trickle over his fingers.
His cufflinks shone dully.
Sanders was waiting on the other side of the park. He knew this, and Miles and Chandler were waiting at the agreed rendezvous, yet it seemed so far away.
His jacket was becoming saturated with blood; carefully he shrugged his arms out of it, so that it was resting on his shoulders, the knife keeping it attached to his left shoulder like a macabre safety pin.
With all of the grace and finesse of a small child ripping off a plaster, Kent took hold of the blade of the knife that wasn't embedded in his shoulder and pulled.
The effect was immediate. His jacket fell off his back, slumping down behind him, and he grabbed both hands to his shoulder, to try and stem the blood flow that had came out with further vigour.
There were the beginnings of a snow drift behind him, and Kent had thrown the knife into it. It was sticking out of it, blade deep within the pile, as if someone had taken offence to the winter. The drift was just large enough to lean against, and Kent did, letting the blood soak from his shoulder into the pure snow behind him.
As if in protest as to its treatment, the snow creaked and a crackle of static crept through the silent night.
“-ent! Answer man!”
The Skip had always been like an avenging angel in the night. He could stare down a suspect and break a confession out of the mute.
But Kent just couldn't reach his hand under the drift. Instead, allowing the voice to sooth him through the snow. Like a talking pillow. Or a dream.
“Kent. Report your status.”
Acting as if on a sleepy automatic, Kent plunged his bloody hand into the snow bank and extracted the radio.
It could have been a sigh of relief, or the rushing of the wind through the trees, Kent couldn't tell. It was so good to talk to someone.
“Report your status, Kent.”
The blood was sinking through his waistcoat now, leaving his left shoulder a pattern of bloody silk and crimson cotton. He was sure that wasn't what Chandler wanted to hear.
“Lost the suspects sir, doubled back through the park. W--west entrance. Exit.”
It hurt to hold his radio to his mouth, having to use his left hand in order to continue adding pressure to his shoulder.
“What happened? How did you lose them?”
And then, out of no-where, there came a bubble of laughter. Hilarious, ridiculous laughter, that burst through his lips like a badly made flood gates. Waves of laughter rushing out, interspersed by hushed noises of pain.
“Suspects appeared to be armed sir.”
Suddenly there was noise, the rushing of a car passed the gates, a sudden interruption, enough to make Kent turn from his radio.
“Kent? Are you injured? Repeat. Are you hurt?”
His vision was swimming slightly, not helped by the dancing of the snow flakes as they landed around him. For a moment he could see himself, lying draped across a snow bank, like a Victorian fainting maiden. His suit juxtaposed by the blood and the spaced out look in his eyes.
“Single stab wound to the left shoulder, s-sir.”
His voice was hitching, and the snow was landing around him like a blanket.
There was something comforting about London being covered by a fresh canvas. As if God had had enough of the dirty, ugly city and was allowing her people to start afresh.
Such a shame that it was the stain of crime that touched her first.
It would have to snow again.
“Kent's down. Knollys Park, West entrance, now.”
“On my way guv’nor.”
“We need an ambulance, Kent's down.”
“Oh my god- he's not in a good way.”
“Calm down Sir!”
“Ambulance, West entrance of Knollys park. DC Kent been injured in a confrontation with suspects.”
“Shall I drive Sir?”
“Just get us there.”
“He's loosing consciousness.”
“The ambulance is there.”
“So are we.”
“He alright Skip?”
“No. Come on, gotta get the lad to hospital. Time for niceties once he's in a nice clean ward.”
He didn't think it was Heaven when he woke up, despite the warmth, the lack of pain and the cleanliness, there were tears in his eyes.
He'd always been taught that there was no sadness in Heaven.
Wrenching his eyes open, blinking rapidly against the sterile lights, he saw the NHS turquoise that indicated hospital. Indicated survival.
The curtains pulled against the rest of the ward failed to keep out the noise, and there was laughter, and pacing and quiet talking. Visiting hours. Life went on, as it always did. He was about to drop his eyes closed.
Chandler sat, uncomfortably on the plastic chair, as sterile as the rest of the room, staring at his hands. Which were worrying themselves, it appeared without his knowledge.
He didn't seem inclined to talk. And Kent didn't know what to say to break the silence.
“I- er” “-The others are...”
They spoke at the same time, and Kent looked down at the starched bedding to avoid Chandler's eye.
“No, you first.”
It was easier to talk to the DI if he didn't have to keep eye contact with him.
“The others are outside, in case you'd, like to talk to them. ”
He shook his head, just momentarily.
“I... I messed up didn't I?”
Two of Joe's fingers were touching Kent's chin, tipping his face upwards to look into his eyes.
Kent didn't know when Joe had stood up, when he had stood, leaning over Kent's bed. But he was, and Joe's eyes were full of- something.
“This wasn't your fault, Kent.”
Kent couldn't look away from Joe's eyes, so he turned his face from Chandler's looking towards the sick green curtains.
But Joe's other than bracketed the other side of Kent's face. He had no choice but to look into the eyes of his worried, desperate DI.
“Look at me Kent, Emerson, look at me.”
Chandler's hands were warm on his cheeks, Chandler's breath was warm on his face.
Chandler's lips were warm against his.
Kent couldn't stop himself kissing back.
It wasn't lust. It was longing, desperate need rolled into... something tangible.
Joe was still framing his face, and Kent reached out his good hand and clung to Chandler's waist.
Their foreheads rested against each other, and neither of them spoke.
Their breath was coming out in small bursts, as if they'd been doing more than kissing.