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(later)

“Love,” mutters Lewis, as they step out on the street, into the sunlight and the city traffic.

“Sir?”

“Nah, just what Luke Matthews said. To die for love, pathetic really.

“I gather you don’t share his views.”

“Greed or lust as a murder motive –” Lewis’ voice trails off. “To die because of love, though, for love?” He sighs. “A waste.”

Not life, but love in death. It’s tragic.”

“But pathetic, man,” Lewis is shaking his head. “Love?”

“Depends on whether the object of our affections is worthy of our affection, sir, which can only be determined through subjective analysis. Regardless, they have our affection, making it rather a pointless effort.”

“Right up there with slugs and black pudding?”

“Precisely.” Hathaway lowers his voice. “In any case, sir – hardly my area of expertise.”

Not entirely untrue, but also a deliberately ambiguous statement.

He is not easily definable to Lewis, a mystery you can solve in ninety minutes.

The exact outcome of an action can be determined – from the more specific (a move on the chessboard and the likely counter-move) to the less specific (the cigarette Hathaway would very much like to smoke also increases his chances of developing lung cancer with a certain per cent) – but people aren’t solvable. Not to others and especially not to themselves.

In fact, it’s the people closest to us we can say the least about.

We can say so little about them, because so much is already conveyed by one word. Val for Lewis – or Lyn or Mark – contains all the fulfillment of a loving marriage and all the grief at the loss of it. And it's still a mystery.

To prod, try to pin-point every connotation of a word like wife would be – insulting.

Some things are just there.

They go for pints.

“Here’s something for you to ponder, Sergeant,” says Lewis seriously, after taking a sip of his drink. “Although I’ll suppose you’ll turn your answer into a question and make me regret I ever asked. The definition of love – Christian love and what not, one would think you would know something.”

Hathaway knows some things, specialising in facts, quotes and trivia.

Love, though. What is love? Love is as strong as death.

What is Sergeant? Hathaway. James. Whoever he is to Lewis at a given moment, at his side.

Love is faith. In something, someone. The confidence to speak if you go, I go.

Familiarity. Were one to go, the other one would not to go on – in the same line of work, anyhow.

Two paths before him; it’s a remarkably easy choice.

There is no turning back. He either follows the road he has taken, choosing to work with Lewis, or he finds something, somewhere, not someone else.

You can change the where of where you are, a second career, perhaps, a third, but you don’t forget where you come from.

He’s the odd policeman, who meets death and prays. He would’ve made a confused, conflicted priest. He could be the scholar again, live in his own mind, in the minds of men and women like him, not murderers.

He should just sit here, patiently, with Lewis, watching over the city, feeling at peace.

It’s a lovely day.

Love is not love, but – “Constancy,” he says.

There is no righter answer in his mind.

++

(earlier)

“We’ve been looking at it the wrong way,” Lewis exclaims suddenly. “It was there, the three photos on the wall.”

Hathaway, scribbling urgent red lines on the whiteboard, steps back.

Alec + July.

Alec + Luke.

Luke + July.

“A triangle,” says Lewis excitedly, “but we had the wrong triangle.” He waves off the analogy. “That’s why it’s off, the dynamics. And that’s why you –” He turns to look at Hathaway. “– need to talk to July Corday again. I’ll deal with Matthews, top of the triangle.”

Hathaway does what he’s told to, and sits down, a little later, in the interview room, with July Corday and two coffees.

The recorder is on, but July speaks slowly, collecting her thoughts. “Alec kept teasing Luke he’d finally found his Juliet.” She smiles sadly. “Only without –”

“The timeless end.”

July loosens a pink hair tie from around her wrist, and pulls back her hair in a ponytail, which makes her look younger than a twenty-something student. “Yeah.”

“Who,” – (whom) – “did Alec love, July?”

It's not like him to falter, James Hathaway, who treads cautiously, but always with a kind of confidence, like faith.

But what does he know about love?

A film why love is never wrong, and he says he loves the bells of Oxford. The city, which is true, for the most part.

Except on the days when he feels too tall (he towers over people when he stands straight, wearing a black suit and black coat and black shoes that make him look even taller and thinner, but when he stands sort of hunched people still look up and think lanky, awkward).

Too educated (he speaks the language of the city fluently, but when his colleagues at the station hear him speak, they decide posh, arrogant, and he knows he is cleverer than them, but is that clever enough?).

Too private even for Oxford, where everyone seems to carry around secrets (Lewis looks at him, sometimes, as if to ask Why are you always so bloody evasive? and Hathaway wants to say that maybe nobody really knows him, least of all he knows himself, but there is somebody who has seen most of the little pieces that make up James Hathaway, and it isn’t his bandmates).

The lie of omission. On Lying – a treatise by James Hathaway. The question is, to what extent can one successfully lie to oneself and for how long?

July is shaking her head. “Alec loved Luke.”

And they were both, what, in love with him? Because Lewis knows, knows people.

“Luke was everything to him, but I didn’t – I didn’t hate him for it. How could I? I liked him.”

Hathaway listens, knows you don’t interrupt a confession. The wrong assumption, the wrong step, and things fall apart.

Assumptions are dangerous. Yet, so much of what they do is based on intuitive leaps, educated guesses at the best. You can only reason yourself so far.

What does he know about love? How can you ever know for certain?

Some things you know without knowing; it’s called faith. He has faith.

“We couldn’t bear it, but none us could bear to leave either.” July is inspecting her nails, the cracked nail polish, a vicious shade of green. Poison green.

“We played this – game. We all knew it. Four drinks, three of the glasses were untampered with. Two of us, Luke and me, we had already chosen ours. Alec picked one.”

“Of the remaining two glasses?”

She looks him straight in the eye, but her voice is steady. “The remaining one.”

Police work is, at times, not so far removed from a priest’s work, hearing confessions. Perhaps more so in the case of July Corday’s contrite confession than that of Luke Matthews, who is, just as one would expect from a student of law, extraordinary careful of what he says.

“Whatever he drank, he drank willingly,” he insists, when Hathaway enters the room where Matthews and Lewis sit.

Lewis gives Hathaway, who remains standing by the doorway, a nod of acknowledgement. Matthews is staring at the wall, stubbornly, possibly contemplating his own actions and the relationship between legal and ethical responsibility.

Perhaps, he just wants to go out for a smoke.

Hathaway is not a judge or a priest, only a policeman, who deals with just the facts, ma’am. He does not judge.

Does not forgive, either.

Any act can be forgiven. Forgiveness requires making amends. Yet there are things, even in his own past, that are – unforgivable.

Matthews is tugging at his shirt sleeve. Hathaway exchanges a look with Lewis. Nerves?

Whether you’re used to seeing death everywhere or death stops you in its unfamiliarity; whether an accident, an impulsive act or pre-meditated murder; whether you are or feel responsible – most people will crack at some point, facing death.

He remembers an attic, with walls too near each other, no space, no air. Lifting the lid – oh, God – as if he were participating in a twisted game of hide and seek.

“Okay,” Matthews speaks at last. “I’ll play anything.”

Lewis gives him a sharp look. “But you made sure the not-so metaphorical mark of death wasn’t on what you drank?”

“I’m not stupid, you know.” Matthews shrugs like only someone who genuinely is absolutely convinced of their own cleverness can shrug. “There were three glasses.”

“And was Alec stupid?” Presumably, Lewis already knows the answer to that question.

Or didn’t he think things through around you? That is a mistake Hathaway may still make.

He remains silent. There isn’t anything to say.

Matthews looks like he’s close to tears. Or possibly laughter. “Alec was stupid. Alec was lovely. Alec lived reading about star-crossed lovers.” Then his face hardens. “To die for love, pathetic really. It’s just sad.”