There was something about Gregson. Something that rubbed a little wrong at the corners of her. Lots of people were shifted around after epic shootouts, she could understand that, but usually it was to more peaceable areas. London was hardly safer than whatever the little town he had been working in. She had been predisposed to like him, a cop shot in the line of duty? Everyone was predisposed to like him. But there was just this edge to him, he was edgy. And he tended to lurk, like he was too cool. It rubbed her wrong. Still, PTSD, the Yard had some guy in a sharp suit come in and preach to them about feelings once or twice a year, she could understand PTSD. Big guy like him getting shot? Must be hard on his masculine pride too. She could sympathize. And he was trying to be nice. Talking to everyone doing the rounds. Kinda chatty but then he worked a small town, they probably all knew each other’s kids. She watched him chat with Donovan; a constable Georgie loved working with, if only because she was so delightfully down to business. Poor Donovan with her horrible taste in men.
“Lestrade, you took the pickle half,” Dimmock said, interrupting her train of thought. He had been natural in the few weeks since that night they had kissed. He had played the perfect uncle at the twins’ birthday where he had given them two duck decoys that had caused such elation as had never before been seen in the Lestrade household.
“I didn’t take the pickle half,” Georgie said back automatically, having flashbacks to being shoved between Vicky and Phil at the age of nine arguing over who has the best piece of pudding.
“You did, I have no pickles,” he shoved his half of the sandwich in her face. The sandwiches were his idea, ever since he found out that dinners out weren’t part of the Lestrade family budget, and now it was his solemn brotherly duty to bring her a sandwich once a week and complain about his roommate, also a bachelor constable, who liked to bring women home. One had given him a pinch one morning and he had been discombobulated all day.
She flicked his ear. Little brothers needed to know their place. But she did have the pickle half so she traded with him.
“What do you think of Gregson?” she asked him.
“Good,” she gave him a look, “you’ll make DS yet.”
She rolled her eyes at him, “Of course, you’ll make DI before I’m fifty I don’t doubt. You’re smart, you’ve got a mind for procedure. You’ll be a great DI.”
Donovan swaggered past flashing a slip of paper with a scrawled number on it. Georgie grinned at her and gave her a thumbs up.
Gregson wandered over and leaned in the doorway of her office. Georgie’s grin faltered a little at that, Dimmock caught her flinch and his huge grin tightened around the edges. “DI Lestrade,” he had a big smile on his face but there was something off about it. It was too… administrative. “Tobias Gregson. Nice to meet you.”
He marched right in her office and stuck out his hand, getting tight into Dimmock’s personal space. Dimmock, of course, being as polite as pie, leaned over with that disgruntled pug look on his face. Dimmock was on occasion too cute to actually function as a living creature. He was possibly a secret teddy bear person with an unusual interest in fighting crime.
“Hello,” she said and shook his hand because anything else would be too rude.
He smiled a big movie star smile, half joking with her in a way that was actually a little charming. “I heard you’re almost as new of a DI here as I am. I’m just making my rounds, getting to know everyone,” he looked over Georgie’s office in a vague sort of way that was a little pushy.
“Bit of a change I’ll imagine,” she said, the automatic British conversationalist coming out. Even half-conscious she could chat about the weather. “From the country.”
“Bit more buildings,” he smiled a flirty little smile at her, Georgie’s eyes narrowed slightly. Pulling a little quick, wasn’t he, after getting Donovan’s number? Dimmock slid his chair over with little jerks across the carpeting so he wouldn’t have Gregson’s hip stuck in his ear. “Bigger cases too I imagine. It’s been years since I’ve lived in London, but I have family living here.”
“Oh really,” Georgie wasn’t really interested in that as much as the fact Gregson was actually being kind of rude to Dimmock who was Georgie’s little brother practically. And who, as she had promised the small delightful Dimmock mum, she minded. She minded him like any big sister should, which was why she minded when Gregson marched into her office and started pushing said little brother around.
“Yeah, my sister’s moving here with her kids, and it’s just I hope you don’t mind, but I heard you’ve got kids too,” he said as he smiled charmingly his hand curling over the edge of her desk. He was pulling like a draft horse and she was not amused. “I was wondering, since my sister doesn’t know anyone in town except me if you could recommend a pediatrician.”
Georgie smiled her not very nice smile, the one she mostly used when a suspect tried to get stroppy with her or when she got in a row with one of her siblings, or when she was rather cross, “Can’t recommend one, sorry.”
“Who do you use for you own kids I mean,” he leaned in, his hand rolled back to rest on his hip, pushing back his coat showing off the solid line of his body.
Georgie’s smile got a little sharper; he was just this side of too pushy. It was remarkably obvious that he didn’t care a fat fig about pediatricians; he was about a step away from starting to wink at her and blow her kisses. He shifted his body again so his broad chest stood out in his nice shirt. Dimmock who had taken refuge at the end of her desk, clinging to the pickle half of his sandwich valiantly, raised his eyes to his hairline.
“I just take them wherever insurance covers, luckily they haven’t been sick so I haven’t had the need which is rather helpful considering I’m a single mother,” Georgie said sternly. “Which I’m going to be polite and assume you found when you asked around; because of course you’d never try and pull a married woman. Bonus points for zeroing in on that by the way, as well as the fact that I’m very recently into my position although what you’re trying to prove by bringing that up I’m not quite sure.
“And certainly you figured out that most single mothers generally don’t have a great deal of spare money in their accounts, which is to say any, especially when they live in London and have twins. Which might actually be why you keep accidently flashing your ridiculously expensive watch and your shiny expensive shirt at me while you’ve been showing off your figure. Which I’m also going to assume was accidental because you’ve been flirting rather heavily with me and if you’ve been shoving a piece of expensive jewelry in the face of someone who is a little tight financially as a way to gain their romantic attentions, that would make you rather demeaning, don’t you think? Not to mention the promotion thing. I’m just going to be kind and forget the promotion thing.
“Which romantic attentions, baring all that, actually might be flattering if first, I hadn’t seen you exchange numbers with Sally just before heading in here, and second,” she held up her left hand, “if I wasn’t wearing a wedding ring. Most women sporting a wedding ring do so not to attract romantic attention but because their heart is reserved, at least traditionally. I’m not really up on what the kids are doing these days. Also might I mention you seem to be standing on Constable Dimmock. Wouldn’t you like to say hello to him?”
Georgie found she was sitting as tall as she could, (and possibly boosting herself up on her toes a little which made her feel like one of those birds that fluff up to make themselves fearsome and therefore incredibly ridiculous) but then Gregson was massive and so she was only trying to level the field a bit) and making what she was pretty sure was her scolding face the one that made the bunnies sit nice and quietly after they’ve got into trouble.
Gregson blinked at her, his big bleached white smile fading, before something shifted slightly in his face, he turned to Dimmock who was sitting awkwardly with the pickle half of the sandwich in his hands, “Hello Constable Dimmock,” Gregson said politely.
“Nice to meet you sir,” Dimmock said, face all set in stubborn little puppy lines. “I’ve heard good things.”
“Thank you,” he smiled back, very professional, he was practically governmental. “Nice to meet you too.” They shook hands at each other very manfully before he turned back to Georgie with a serious sort of nod, “No offense meant Lestrade.”
She nodded back at him, “It’ll be a pleasure working with you.”
Unwilling to start a row, for which she was very grateful, he nodded a polite goodbye and headed out of her office. Fighting with the brand new DI just back after being shot? Not the thing that. His face had that polite, tight pinch to it that people got when they were being polite she watched him leave and had to lean her head back and sigh. “That was stupid.”
“That was brilliant,” Dimmock said in his I just got that vintage album from the US voice. “Did you see his face? I think he might have pissed himself a little.”
“Be nice Dimmock.”
“I think I might have pissed myself a little.”
She threw a piece of lettuce at him, “Thank you for that.”
There sat in bed a man halfway across the world, fully dressed except for his expensive leather shoes. He crossed his sock feet gently at the ankles and listened to Her voice as She argued with Sergeant Donovan (high romantic turnover, excellent singing voice, tough exterior, believed in a sort of self-congratulating justice). He hadn’t heard Her voice for years.
Breathe, he made himself breathe, he stretched his neck back to rest the curve of his skull on the headboard.
The bug Gregson hid on Her desk sent a signal along discretely to the earpiece he had been wearing for the past two days. Which he was going to have to stop doing really. But later. His hand curled around the handle of his umbrella stroking it, he had to stop. He had been caught up in that sometimes. Sitting alone in strange beds across Europe pretending he wasn’t. But for now he wanted to listen.
Georgie was not amused by the appearance of a half drugged mad man in a great flopping coat at her crime scene. He descended in a flurry of limbs, carrying on about how it was obvious because the sheep was stolen. It was not obvious to Georgie, because unless there was some sort of new agricultural fade sweeping across posh London, sheep were a little thin on the ground. Anderson chased him in circle around the corpse before the man rushed Georgie and seized her by the shoulders, his pale face desperate, “It’s so obvious! She stole the sheep.”
“Hey!” Anderson called out, strolling over. Well, she said strolling, more like running while still trying to look cool.
“What is it?” the mad man snapped, releasing Georgie to spin, manic.
Anderson made a quick grab that the junkie dodged like a boxer, head bobbing, dancing out of reach, “Back off you insufferable git!”
“You’re mucking up my crime scene!” Anderson snarled back. They made a brief orbit of the parlor before Georgie could make a grab for him, running around the expensive furniture and the rich old lady with the bashed in head.
“Oi! Stop that!” Georgie gestured quick to a couple of constables who smoothly intercepted the chase and hefted the man up off his feet to escort him up.
“But I can help! That’s what I do now,” he was desperate and underfed, struggling like a trapped thing, hair too long, his big floppy coat stained suspiciously and looking as if he had been electrified. Her mother heart went out to him, what she would do if her bunnies were wild and mad, high and on the street? Want her bunnies back and safe. But her DI heart was not amused.
“Sorry sir,” Georgie said, “only sober people get to help.”
The man pointed accusingly at the victim’s niece, who had been first on the scene and had been herded into the hallway to stop a drunken panic attack, “She’s not sober! She’s helping!” The witness blinked and her mouth pulled down at the horror of being pointed at by a man in a dirty coat.
“She’s a witness, that different, and her sobriety, I assure you is increasing by the second leading soon, I am sure, to a full possession of her faculties. Now off you go.”
The constables dragged him away despite his protests of, “You idiots! The sheep, the sheep!”
Anderson was left to mutter concerning the great and holy sanctity of the blessed crime scene while Georgie assured the horrified witness that there would be no more pointing by drugged up men in this investigation. To be honest, Georgie didn’t like her. She was all golden, blonde, slightly shimmery in a very expensive looking pink party dress and a necklace that looked rich enough to go to public school. Even with the vestiges of intoxication she remembered the easy beauty of grace, discoursing like she had script writers and generous contempt for the lower class. (Read: Georgie)
Someone like the woman Mycroft would marry if he hadn’t married some aristocrat from the continent already. He wouldn’t be able to abide this particular woman’s drunkenness, he believed in self-control. He was a man who lived deliberately. But everything else was perfect.
Oddly enough the thought that he was with someone else didn’t cut at her like it once did. She just wanted him to be happy settled. Hoped whatever she couldn’t give him, he could find somewhere.
That didn’t mean she was completely sans bitterness. Especially not in the face of the witness and the way she looked at Georgie’s shoes.
Her humours didn’t improve until she picked up the twins, headed home, put on Bailey’s Greek documentary and started the green beans to steam. She stilled when she heard the front door swing open and a sound like a thump, something falling, but her heart stuttered when she heard a confused, “Mycroft?”
Georgie abandoned the rice to run to the door. There was Bailey cheering on the Athenians with her duck decoy under one arm, where was Bennet? The druggie from the crime scene was lying in her doorway; she realized she had been reaching for a phantom gun and stopped wagging her hand about after it.
“Mummy, there’s a man,” Bunny One said and stuck his fingers back in his mouth.
“Yes there is, come behind me.”
Bennet toddled toward her, face serious in contemplation. The man on the floor was staring at her with a sort of focus she had only previously associated with Mycroft and the bunnies. Stepping forward slowly, she slid herself between the man and her bunny.
“I’m going to call the police and while they get here you’re going to tell me what you’re doing breaking into my apartment.”
“Don’t,” he said quickly scrambling up. “’I’m sober now, well mostly sober, the cocaine’s worn off, I get to help now.”
“You broke into my apartment to tell me you’re not high?”
“Yes, of course,” you idiot went unspoken at the end of his sentence.
“You broke into my flat to prove you’re in your right mind?”
“If the rest of the Yard is this dense no wonder you’re so hopeless. I despise repetition,” he started to stand but Georgie narrowed her eyes at him.
“Stay right where you are please. As a general rule breaking into people’s flats is not on the list of proper sorts of things to do.”
The man blinked at her in wide eyed surprise, “But-”
“It’s just not,” she pinched the bridge of her nose before fetching her mobile out of her pocket. “We can talk about it in the morning when I come to see you in the cells.”
“I didn’t know. I’ll ask you first next time,” he said it very quickly, a little desperate as if he really didn’t. (Who didn’t really know about basic breaking and entering? Well, it didn’t appear as though he broke anything, but the entering was enough.)
“I have kids. You could be an axe murderer.”
“I’m not,” his face lit up and he scrambled in the pockets of his filthy coat. “I’m a Holmes. I’m Sherlock Holmes. I’m a consulting detective I just made it up. The only one in the world and you need me because you’re an idiot!” He said it without malice, like he was mentioning her rapidly greying hair or her black eyes or any other obvious, observable thing. Like it was written across her forehead and she caught the passport he threw at her. It did say Sherlock Holmes and it was covered in stamps, France, Russia, Italy, the kid had been running around Europe. Probably half mad if she had any guess.
Then she was sitting on the ground breathing heavily, because that right there was a brother that Mycroft worried about constantly. And if she looked at the mad kid, at Sherlock, she could see it in the way he took her apart with his eyes and his long elegant fingers. But where Mycroft was sturdy and solid, delicious and inevitable, gingerbread and chocolate, Sherlock was rampant, trembling, a child with a terrific brain; all flashes of black and white. She can see in those huge oddly slanted eyes the child in him trembling and anxious and sharp toothed as a razor on the other side. No wonder Mycroft worried.
“Oh, oh,” Sherlock said, his head going back.
“Mummy?” Bailey whimpered from the sofa.
“Everything’s fine Bunny Two. Mummy’s just fine.”
“He-” Sherlock started.
“Is not something I’m willing to discuss.”
“But you-” he tried again.
“Were a bit of rough.”
“You never really married, did you?” his quick eyes flashed to her ring.
She pressed her eyes tightly closed, “I’m married to my work.” It took her a second to test her legs before she stood up, with the edges of Sherlock’s passport pressed into her palm.
“Shut your mouth,” she snapped at him and his eyes narrowed, shielded themselves. “Take off that filthy coat. You’re not having dinner at my table wearing that thing.”
Sherlock blinked up at her stunned.
“It’s nothing fancy. But you’ll eat it and you’ll like it.”
“While the Bo Peep figurines are easy to acquire,” Sherlock was explaining in the same jumbled way the twins got when they were trying to explain and words were failing them. “But the sheep aren’t, they’re small and break easily. So its Mrs. Robinson, it has to be.”
Lestrade sighed, “You’re skipping over about fifty vital steps there.” Trying to get Sherlock to explain his deductions was beyond difficult; it was all obvious to him. And his brain tracked so fast she was having a hard time getting him to get the words out.
He groaned in savage frustration, flinging his arms up. He had followed her into her office in the morning prepared to his credit with his license to be a detective which meant she actually let him help legally.
There was that trick she had found online, to help the twins’ express themselves without bashing their heads in in frustration, “Sherlock, look at me. When there are too many thoughts you need to hold them like this,” she pinched her thumb and forefinger together. “Just hold your thought to slow it down.”
“And I can hardly understand what you’re trying to say. I know your genius is beyond comprehension but you need to work with me here. You need to slow your thoughts down because if I write in my report that the nice rich old lady killed the other nice rich old lady because the china figure sheep are missing and a mad man said so, the case will get thrown out, do you understand?”
Sherlock sighed a sigh with so much irritated subtext she almost punched him, he very deliberately pinched his thumb and forefinger together. “They were obviously in a bidding war, both collectors of the same style, china figurines. Mrs. Robinson was invited to the party so that Mrs. Leeds, the victim could- This isn’t working, it’s still too much.”
“Then hold it with something bigger Sherlock I don’t care what you do.”
He took a big breath and clapped his hands together as if he could catch the buzz of his deductions like a fly between his palms, “the victim wanted to show off her purchase privately, she invited Mrs. Robinson to the parlour. It was too much; Mrs. Robinson seized the silver tea pot-”
“The tea pot was china,” Lestrade interrupted.
“Put there as a replacement, Mrs. Leeds collected china she would never put a Wedgwood teapot with Lowestoft cups, and the sugar and creamer were both silver. Obvious,” he stopped pressing his palms together to gesture at the crime scene photos on her desk. “Seized the silver pot and bashed Mrs. Leeds in the head, might have been an accident, definitely a crime of passion. She took the figurine, whether or not Mrs. Leeds was actually dead at the point or only almost she would have looked it, and no point in wasting the murder. But she couldn’t leave the pot. Took it as well, maybe hid it? Yes, back of the parlor back cupboard, where the lesser pieces of the collection rest. She rejoined the party, no one was any the wiser. Case closed.”
“I’ll send a couple constables,” Georgie said, her face filling with a crooked smile. “But I think you may have just solved your first case for the Yard.”
And that’s how it worked Georgie argued for Sherlock with the DCI and with the hard cases (or the weird ones) she’d call Sherlock because actually, and here was a secret she wasn’t willing to share. Gregson was a poacher.
Any case that might be high profile, if it had to do with gangs or drugs, if it was a particularly vicious killing, the kind that the press loved to fluff up Gregson would pluck it right out of her hands. If Georgie didn’t know any better she would think it was just a grown up version of pulling her pigtails. But it became pretty clear pretty quickly that Gregson just had his eyes on promotion. He was smart and sly, a dangerous combination, and he had somehow zeroed in on her case load doing some sort of complicated trade system to feed her a lot of lesser cases.
Now Georgie had no desire to go chasing after danger, but it was a lot harder for a female detective than people seemed to think. The Yard believed in public equality, but were anxious about putting her in any sort of position of power, any place of effect. There was a tendency to push women in corners and have them sit quietly and provide a tally in a list of statistics to prove modernity. Sherlock was her secret weapon; if she played it right by the time Gregson strolled to the door of her office welding his big smile and a thin manila folder it would all be signed and sealed.
“Just a moment,” she said gleefully. “Just finishing the Greek case.”
Gregson blinked at her in shock and she tried very hard not to bare her teeth smugly at him, “That just came in this morning, you couldn’t have solved it by now.”
“Next door neighbor, he confessed as soon as we knocked at the door.”
“And that was it?”
“He feed his dog the victim’s pearls. And hid the murder weapon under his bed.”
“That was certainly quick.”
She blithely flipped the folder shut. She was feeling very blithe today. “New consultant helping me out.”
His eyes narrowed.
Ha, she thought.
“Is that allowed?”
“Of course it is,” she grinned at him and jauntily prepared for an exit victorious. “Once we knew where to find everything the forensic tests could be finished by… fifteen minutes ago.”
“I’ve got to turn this in,” she definitely had a bit of swagger in her step. “Have a lovely day.”
Score for team Lestrade.
She dragged Sherlock home at night, pulling him away from rowing like a little girl with Anderson and planting him, bony and sharp as a paper cut between the bunnies. Someone needed to take care of the kid.
The bunnies examined him with their big dark eyes and he peered at them in mild curiosity on the occasional edge of alarm. With a still stinted contact with her family proper Georgie had to make connections where she could.
And she thought, maybe, these were good ones.
“Sherlock,” Georgie said, nursing her second cup of coffee for the morning. “Stop trying to sneak the bunnies your toast.”