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The Company He Keeps

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“A man is known by the company he keeps.”

-Aesop

 


 

 

Greg jumped and looked around when someone knocked on his cubicle wall.  Over his shoulder, the brown eyes of Detective Gregson looked at him curiously.  A quick glance out the window told Greg the sun had already set.  This time of year, that meant it had to be well past nine.  He hadn’t even noticed the office empty out, he was so absorbed in the latest information on a suspected Cocaine dealer.  His face crumpled into a grimace.  Gregson always hated it when she felt like anyone on her staff was overworking himself.

“You’re not on nightshift tonight.  Wouldn’t you rather be home, Lestrade?”  She asked.

“Ah, yeah.”  Greg rubbed the back of his neck.  “Time got away from me a bit.”

She sighed.  “Just as well.  I need to speak with you anyway.”  The DI leaned her hip on his desk.

Damn.  What had he done this time?

“Listen,” Gregson started.  “Lewis is being promoted to DI.  With his experience, they’re moving him over to the organized crime branch, so we’re short a team lead now.  What do you say?”

“Me?  Don’t you have to be a Sergeant to be a team lead?”  Greg asked.

“Yes.”

“Are you serious?  I wasn’t expecting a promotion for at least another year!”

“You’re the best Constable I’ve got.  You take your job seriously, – frankly, maybe a little too seriously – and the other officers respect you.  I don’t doubt that you can handle it.”  She said.

“Wow.  Yeah, thanks.”

“Great.  I’ll put the paperwork in tomorrow.  If I push we can make everything official by the beginning of next week.  Maybe by then you’ll be ready to take the team out on a bust.”  Gregson stood and made her way out of the office.

Greg laughed nervously, but couldn’t manage to wipe the grin from his face.  Sergeant was only one step below Detective.  If all went well, he could make DI in the next five years.  This was a dream come true.  Leading a team though…  That was management.  A whole new skill set was required to deal with people problems.  Greg just hoped he was up to the challenge.

 


 

Rain pounded the windshield of the police cruiser, obscuring Greg’s view of the dilapidated tenements outside.  He’d been officially promoted today.  This bust was his first test as a Sergeant, and he needed it to go well.  Constable Donovan sat beside him in the passenger seat looking grim as usual while she surveyed the scene.  The tenements were half falling apart.  A fairly typical place to find drug dens, but something about the atmosphere just seemed more ominous than usual.  Perhaps it was the occasional flash of lightning, showering the buildings in fractured light.  Perhaps it was what Greg was expecting to find inside.

The evidence all pointed in the same direction in this case.  Cocaine.  And if reports could be believed, the user wasn’t older than 19.  Just a kid.  God, Greg hated it when it was a kid.  Still, this should be straightforward.  The users were always easier to deal with than the dealers, and with luck, this particular kid would be frightened.  A good scare with the law might get him into rehab or make him turn in his dealer.  Or both.  Wouldn’t that be a bloody good day?

“Ready, sir?”  Donovan asked.

“Let’s go.”  Greg pushed the car door open and started slowly for the entrance.  He saw four other officers climb out of cars and follow him, careful to watch all sides.

The door was locked when Greg rattled the handle, but the lock gave easily when he shouldered it, years of neglect, rust, and rot failing to hold the door in place.  Greg gestured the team to begin searching the first floor, and they fanned out silently around him.  A rickety set of stairs led to a darkened second floor.  With the team occupied on the first floor search, Greg started up the stairs cautiously.  At the top, he opened the first door he came across.

On a mattress in the middle of the floor, with his fingers steepled under his chin, lay the young man in question.  Greg couldn’t help but think that this man did not look like a typical drug user.  He was thin, to be sure, but he was shy of emaciated.  Dark curls created a messy halo around his head, but they weren’t matted.  He was clean, even if the apartment wasn’t.  His clothes were obviously tailored, and his dark eyes stared unblinking at the ceiling.  But most disconcertingly, he was perfectly still.  He didn’t twitch as Greg approached slowly.  He might have been dead if it weren’t for the regular whisper of breath emanating from him.

“Hello?  Are you okay?”  Greg asked.  When no answer was forthcoming, Greg continued.  “We have a warrant to search this place for cocaine.  You wouldn’t know anything about that, would you?”

The lack of response made Greg suddenly frightened.  The entire situation seemed unnatural.  Greg couldn’t even tell if the kid was high.  He knelt beside the mattress and reached to take a pulse.

Before his hand made contact however, the young man sat up and seized Greg’s wrist.  Sitting on the mattress, he loomed over Greg, pressing his face far too close.  Greg realized that those eyes, which he had taken to be dark from a distance, were really a pale grey obscured by dilated pupils.  Through the young man’s palm, Greg could feel a racing pulse.  This kid was high.  No doubt.

“Listen, I’m-“  Greg was interrupted by a shockingly deep voice.  It took a moment for Greg to comprehend that that baritone voice was coming from the same, thin man in front of him.

“Here to help?  I doubt it.  You’re here to arrest me for drug possession and use.  You haven’t even realized the extent of the crime yet.  You aren’t here to help me.  Nor could you, even if you wanted to.”

Greg’s eyes left the kid’s face and scanned the room for the first time.  It looked less like a makeshift drug factory, and more like a university chemistry lab.  The equipment was high-end and clearly meant for more noble purposes than refining cocaine.  Still, it would do the job.  This child wasn’t just using cocaine, he was making it.  Though how he could be cognizant enough to work while he was high, Greg had no idea.  High people made mistakes, and when it came to drugs, mistakes could cost lives.

This was serious.  It was no longer a simple matter of scaring someone straight.  Drug sources had to be removed.  Quickly.

Greg wrenched his wrist free and twisted the kid’s arm behind his back.  He was handcuffed before any of the team made it up the stairs.

“I’m arresting you for the manufacture and use of an illegal substance.  You do not have to say anything, but it may harm your defence if you do not mention when questioned something which you later rely on in court. Anything you do say may be given in evidence.”  Greg started walking his prisoner down the stairs.  “Get this place locked down, and get forensics out here.  Donovan’s in charge till I get back.”

Outside, Greg walked the handcuffed young man through the still pouring rain.  He placed his hand on the kid’s curls before pressing him into the back seat of a squad car and climbing in the driver’s seat himself.  He flicked the lights on and checked the mirrors before pulling into traffic.

A sigh from the back seat caught Greg’s ear.  “Something wrong?”

“Getting arrested.  How dull.”

Greg looked in the rearview to see Grey eyes rolling.  “What’s your name anyway, kid?”  Silence greeted Greg’s question.  Another quick glance in the mirror told Greg that his passenger had taken to gazing out the window pensively.  “You might as well tell me.  It’s really not difficult to get an ID on a living person, especially when they’re already in police custody.”

“Yes, but why make your job any easier?”  The response was peevish.

“Because your life is in my hands right now.  I can decide how much I want to question you, whether I want to charge you or let you off on a promise of rehab.”

A quirked eyebrow appeared in the mirror.

“I’m not going to be questioned at all, much less charged with anything.”

“I’d love to know why you think that.”  Greg said.

“CCTV.”  The kid said it as though it was the answer to every conceivable question, the only possible solution to Greg’s query.

Greg waited for a better explanation, but the young man seemed to think that one was not necessary.

“Right.”  Greg said after a minute.  “I hope you’re prepared to face charges.  Dealing cocaine is a serious crime.  You could face years in prison.”

“You aren’t going to charge me.”  Again the certainty in the young man’s voice was irrefutable.

“Of course, I-“

“No, you aren’t.”  He interrupted Greg again.

“Yes! I-“

“Please.  You have kids, small ones.”

How could he possibly know that?  Greg opened his mouth to protest, but didn’t even get a single word out.

“You’re overly soppy about them because your wife doesn’t let you see them, and you think I’m younger than I really am, which is making you feel paternal toward me.  Sentiment is clouding your already mediocre judgement.  You wouldn’t press charges even if you were going to have the opportunity, which you aren’t.”

“How- No, seriously, how could you possibly know any of that?”  Greg asked.

“Your fingers are stained.  Not ink from an office, certainly not from the Yard.  No, the colors are too bright.  Children’s markers, but the stains are faded, several days old.  A father dedicated enough to color with his kids doesn’t limit that activity to the weekends, especially during the summer holidays.  Either you’re too busy at work to spend time with them, or your wife has custody.  More likely it’s both.  Look at the bags under your eyes.  Too many late nights at the office.  Hard to say if that drove your wife to the affair or just provided a convenient excuse.  I’m guessing the latter.  You work hard, you’re a dedicated father, therefore you’re likely to be dedicated in other matters as well, which means the divorce falls squarely on her shoulders, but you still feel guilty.  You think you work too much, that’s why you let her keep the flat and the kids.  In order to justify your work habits to yourself however, you need to feel that you are ‘helping people.’  Particularly young people.  You think I can’t be more than 19, based on my appearance, which means you want to help me out.  Getting charges on my record will follow me forever.  Much better to frighten me into rehab.  I’m 25 in reality, so you can stop indulging in these ridiculous fatherly feelings.  Go back to your own children, Sergeant.”

Greg sat dumfounded in the front seat.  What kind of person was he dealing with here?  The kid knew his whole life story, and he didn’t even know his name!

“God, what an idiot.  It appears the Yard is even less competent than I thought.  How you manage to solve any cases is beyond me.  You’re not likely to make Detective any time soon, Sergeant.”

Anger boiled in Lestrade’s stomach, and his hands clenched on the steering wheel.  Who did this kid think he was?  He thought Lestrade wouldn’t charge him?  Well, he was about to find out exactly how wrong he was.  If he was smart enough to understand Lestrade from a glance, he should know better than to manufacture street drugs.  The Yard had more than enough evidence to convict him.  Supply and manufacture of a Class A substance could land him a life sentence.  He’d be lucky if it was just a few years.

Lestrade’s knuckles were white and the rain had stopped by the time the car rolled up in front of New Scotland Yard.  He slammed the door behind him after getting out and reached to open the back door.  As he pulled the kid from the backseat, the Superintendent rushed out of the headquarters building.

“Lestrade.  Bail’s been posted already.  You have to let him go.”  The superintendent said.

Greg looked between the smug face of the still-handcuffed youth and the scowl of the Superintendent, and his mouth dropped open.

“What?  How is that even possible?”  Greg asked.

“CCTV,” came the answer from that self-righteous, egotistical child.

Greg moved stiffly to unhandcuff him.  The kid ruffled his hair artfully and threw a smirk over his shoulder as he walked away.

“What was that all about?”  Greg growled, barely restraining himself from poking the Superintendent in the chest.  “He was manufacturing cocaine!  How can we just let him go?!”

“He’s got friends in high places, Lestrade.”

“Like who?”  Greg asked.

“Even I don’t know.  The order for his release came from on high.  Whoever he knows has a lot of power, though.  All we can do is keep an eye out, in case the kid gets in to trouble again.”  The Superintendent said.

Greg sighed.  “Who is the kid, anyway?”

“Sherlock Holmes.”