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The Long Way Down

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Co-ordinating door-to-door statements was necessary but dull work. Sally was almost grateful for the distraction when a short overweight man came puffing over to her and the uniformed PC she was talking to, waving his hands to attract their attention.

"Fight. There's a fight... in the pub," he gasped. He gestured vaguely behind him.

Sally could just make out the sign for a pub on the corner about two hundred yards away.

"Should we go over, ma'am?" the uniform asked.

Sally sighed. She'd thought this kind of thing was well behind her - but she couldn't send the green young constable in on his own.

The 'pub' was more like a wine-bar left over from the Eighties, surprisingly busy for the middle of a Tuesday afternoon - and in a complete uproar. A crowd had formed in one corner and was enthusiastically cheering on what sounded like a fairly small scale fight. Small for now anyway - Sally was all too aware of how quickly these things could escalate.

She pushed her way through the jostling mass until she could get to the front and see what was actually going on - and if any weapons other than fists were involved. She made it just in time to see her former boss taking a nasty right jab to the nose.

He staggered back a few steps and when Sally saw daylight between the two combatants she nodded to the constable and they waded in.

The constable stepped in front of Lestrade while Sally grabbed the other bloke's arm before it could land the next punch and in her official voice yelled. "Alright, break it up! That's enough!"

Thankfully the other bloke had enough sense to recognise authority when he heard it and instantly backed off. The crowd, sensing it was all over, melted back to their tables and bar stools, muttering about the Old Bill ruining all their fun...

Lestrade turned and looked at her as if he'd bumped into her in Tescos and not as a participant in the middle of a bar brawl. "Donovan? What're you doin' here?" he slurred.

"You know him?" asked the uniform.

Sally nodded. "Yeah... What happened?" she asked the general area.

One of the staff, a young barman with a lot of piercings, pointed at Lestrade. "The other bloke said something about that Sherlock Holmes nutter and your mate here decked him."

Sally sighed. "He's not my--"

"Just get him out of here, will you?" the barman pleaded.

Sally put her hand on Lestrade's arm. "Sir?"

"Don' have t' call me that. 'm not your boss any more, Donovan." Lestrade wiped clumsily at his nose with his shirt cuff but only succeeded in smearing blood across his top lip.

You're not wrong there, she thought. "Clark - see if the other bloke is alright. If we can chalk this up as a scuffle without any charges being pressed that would be great."

Sally guided Lestrade outside onto the street. He bounced off the door and then didn't so much lean as fall against the wall, fumbling in his pockets until he found a packet of cigarettes.

"Was that right?" Sally asked. "The other bloke said something about the Freak and you punched him?"

"Pretty much. Didn't get him as good as John Watson got me at the hospital but I think I made my point." He grinned as he jammed a cigarette between his bloodied lips and started patting himself down for his lighter.

"Haven't you got into enough trouble over him already, Sir? Why can't you let it go?"

"Always was a stubborn bastard, Sally, you know that. Ah!" He pulled out his lighter and flicked it open. It took him several attempts to successfully ignite his smoke. He took a long draw on it and loosened his tie - or tried to; the knot had been pulled tight to the size of a grape in the scuffle.

"Bloody thing," he grumbled. "Gimme a regulation clip-on any day."

"Why you wearing it anyway? Thought you hated 'em?"

"Job interview. Got t' look smart, havent' you? They don't let just anybody guard shopping malls and building sites these days y'know..." He laughed bitterly. "As evidenced by them not hiring me as soon as they remembered where they'd heard the name."

Oh, Jesus. He couldn't even get a job as a rent-a-cop?

"Twenty years and they won't even trust me with a fucking tin of beans..." Lestrade slumped a little further down the wall and stared morosely at his shoes.

The uniform re-appeared. "The other bloke and the pub are happy to let it drop, ma'am."

"Thank Christ for that. We better get back to the door to door. I'll catch you up in minute."

The constable took the hint and headed back towards where Sally had left the car.

Lestrade rolled himself upright off the wall, swaying slightly as he looked up and down the street.

"You gonna be alright?" Sally asked.

"Mmm? Oh, yeah. 'm sure you've got far more important things to be doin' than babysitting me, Sergeant."

It was D.I. now but she'd have bitten her own tongue off before telling him that.

"Well, if you're sure... Take it easy, Sir. I mean..."

"Yeah, you too, Sally."

She rejoined the uniform at her car. Another constable had appeared and the two were chatting, presumably about the pub fight.

"So that was 'Loser' Lestrade?" she heard the new constable ask the other.

Sally shoved him back against the side of the car and pinned him there with an index finger to his chest and a steely glare. "I don't care what you hear from others, Clark, but you ever use that nickname around me again and I'll make you wish you'd never been born, much less put on that uniform. Got it?"

"Y-yes, ma'am."

"Good." Sally unlocked the car and got in. "We're done here. You two get back to the nick. I'm going home." For a bloody stiff drink...

She remembered the lone figure, weaving away into the distance.

Maybe just a cup of tea...