You pour yourself a large single malt. It's a habit you should try and break but you've been doing it for so long you're not sure you know how to stop.
And making excuses seems to be another habit you're developing.
The whisky's good and you enjoy the familiar warmth as it slides down your throat. You know it's a delaying tactic, a way of avoiding what you should do. Another sip or two won't hurt. You drain the glass and make a decision. No more; not until after you've done this.
The plastic bag doesn't contain much: two mobile phones, a wristwatch with a black leather strap, and a worn, dark brown leather wallet. The sum total of a man's life. Two men's lives.
You think back to that moment when you'd been so sure you were going to be the one to die. And you'd almost welcomed it, not that you're given to suicidal tendencies, but just to end it the agony of it all. The betrayals, the conflicts, the sheer pointlessness of your working day.
The voice in your head isn't yours; it isn't Ruth's either. It's Ros'. And it makes you smile.
You wonder whether things would have been different if she'd still been here. Would she have realised that something wasn't right with Lucas?
To you, he'll always be Lucas. You'll try to remember the man you knew; the man who did good things, the right things. The man who saved lives.
Maybe that's more self-indulgent bollocks.
Or maybe you haven't lost all of your humanity.
And you know the person who is responsible for that.
The woman you love. The only woman you have ever truly loved. And you still can't work out whether she resents you, despises you, even, for loving her.
At that moment, when you decided to make that deal, it was unfair of you to love me.
The words twist around your brain, taunting you with hope that there may be something salvageable from the almighty mess of your life.
You look at the plastic bag and then spread a newspaper out on the coffee table. Despite the best efforts of the morgue attendant, the contents of the bag are still spotted with dried blood.
For a moment, you're transported back to the mortuary. The distinctive smell is right there in the room with you. You can see Lucas lying on the slab, covered with green sheets. The attendant had asked if you wanted to wait outside; assured you he would bring out the deceased's belongings.
One of your best officers.
Your resolve weakens. You pour another glass of single malt. You open the plastic bag.
City of London Hospital.
Description: Personal Effects
Name: North, L Gender: Male
List of Contents: Mobile phone x 2 – both damaged.
Wristwatch with black leather strap – glass face cracked.
Dark brown leather wallet – contents as below:
Credit card in the name of Lucas North
Small colour photograph – annotated on reverse with 'M – Dec '94'.
The City of London Hospital confirms these items were removed from the deceased: L North
Signed: A Hassan
The sum total of a man's life. Two men's lives.