…and I don’t just do what your brother tells me.
Detective Sergeant Greg Lestrade was interviewing the witnesses. The witnesses were not impressed, and judging by the cut of the older one's suit as well as the bored expression on his face, it would have taken a lot more than murder by broad daylight to impress him.
"Really," said the man, who Lestrade had pegged as a banker or a stockbroker or something equally boring and involving a desk, "you ought to ask my brother."
"Your brother wasn't facing the scene," said Lestrade. "He told me he was already walking away when it happened."
The man shrugged.
Lestrade sighed, and turned to the man's younger brother, who was clearly trying to see past the line of policeman to the victim, still lying on the lino. A rubber-necker, fantastic. Probably just wanted to have his say so that he could tell his mates down the pub later how he'd helped with the investigation. He was much younger than his brother, uni or just graduated, most likely.
"Right then," said Lestrade, unable to hide his irritation, "why don’t you tell me what happened when the knives were drawn, despite already being on your way out?"
The young man didn't take his eyes off the body. "Wrong question. And it was only the one knife."
Lestrade thought about just going back and telling the DI that the witnesses were being uncooperative, but the ghost of that morning's conversation was still sitting on his shoulders. Excellent job on the forest case, Lestrade, how is it you’re not DI yet? Lestrade didn’t know either, and suspected it had much to do with lack of application on his part. It was only recently he’d been thinking it about it, and usually in conjunction with the way Rebecca introduced him to her friends. Regardless, whinging about uncooperative witnesses did not win anyone promotions.
"All right then, I'll play," said Lestrade. "What's the right question?"
"It's not what happened when my back was turned but what happened before. Obviously I can't tell you what happened when I wasn't watching, but I can tell you that when your suspect in the red jacket entered the store, he wasn't carrying a knife anywhere on his person, and in particular not the knife that was used on the victim, which is far too long to have fit in his jeans pockets, and too heavy not to have created some kind of pull on the jacket itself, which I would have noticed. Therefore either he retrieved the knife once in the restaurant or else never had the knife at all. When he entered, he went straight to the table with the victim. I didn't hear him order but it must have been a complicated request as he spoke to the waitress at some length, which unfortunately blocked my view of the victim."
Lestrade stared at the young man, and wondered if his DI wasn't taking the mickey on him. But the young man kept talking.
"Now, the victim was already in the restaurant when we arrived, which meant he had been sitting there for at least half an hour already when his companion arrived, and I rather suspect more because he had a half cup of tea that had gone cold already and half a dozen used napkins. He knew his companion, was quite relieved to see him, but did not shake hands or otherwise express concern for his lack of punctuality. And in fact, I don't believe the man was late; the victim never looked at his watch while he waited. It's also worth noting that he had a shopping bag at his feet. But all of this is inconsequential. What you really ought to do is talk to the waitress, because while she was taking the suspect's rather lengthy order, she also cleared away the debris on the table."
Lestrade wasn't sure what to say to any of this.
"The waitress," prompted the young man.
"What does a cup of cold tea have to do with anything?" asked Lestrade.
The young man sighed. "Not the cold tea."
Lestrade gave the young man a cursory glance, and then went to talk to the waitress, who tearfully said she'd taken away the cold tea and a pile of used and crumpled napkins besides. When Lestrade looked in the rubbish bin, he found the napkins and tea bags and half-eaten pastries, but he also found a large manila envelope that clearly showed the imprint of a knife of about the same size and shape as the murder weapon.
By the time all of this was accomplished, the two men had given their names to the DC and disappeared.
The fingerprints on the envelope matched the victim, but not the suspect, and once this was pointed out, the case resolved itself. Suicide by murder, more or less, with a suspect who actually wanted to go back into jail, and a victim who wanted to ensure the insurance money for his wife. Lestrade wasn't sure how to write it up, but decided to include the young man's suggestion about the waitress, which his supervisor thought was brilliantly funny.
"Teenage boy notices a nice piece of arse and thus solves a murder case? I'll just recruit your replacement from the local Boy Scouts, shall I?"
Lestrade took the ribbing with his customary good nature, didn't bother to correct anyone about the young man's age (because after all, he had resembled a gawky teenager), and resolved to pay more attention to the bit players in subsequent murder investigations.
It served him well for a few months, and he firmly believed that it was this attention to detail that resulted in the promotion, well before the close of the year. He wondered sometimes about the young man and his older brother. He doubted he would see them again; neither were quite the type he expected to find while on a murder investigation.
It ought to have been open-and-shut; after all, there had been a witness who supposedly locked the murderer in a convenient broom cupboard immediately afterwards. Except half of London had lost power, the sun was setting, the building was incredibly humid, and the murderer had disappeared from the locked broom cupboard.
"This key," insisted the janitor, holding up the key used to lock the broom cupboard. "I used this key, and there ain't no other key that opens that cupboard, because I'm the only janitor on staff, so I don't see how he could have escaped."
Lestrade rubbed at his eyes, wondering if the janitor realized he was only digging himself deeper. Not that Lestrade thought the janitor was lying, but there was still the problem of a body and someone who had killed it.
"Yes, Mr. Stanislav, I understand that," said Lestrade wearily. He saw Anderson wave at him from the corner of his eye. "And I believe you. Here, I'm going to leave you with Sergeant Harrison, he'll take the rest of your statement."
He left Mr. Stanislav, still howling, and went over to Anderson, shining his torch along the way. The lights were still lowered in the room; full power couldn't be restored until the body was moved, and Lestrade hoped Anderson would tell him he was done.
"Fried," said Anderson.
"Is that so?" Lestrade looked at the body draped over the transformer. It didn't look fried, just a bit redder than normal, but there was an odd scent in the air that Lestrade couldn't quite place. Not quite like death - something more cheerful and anachronistic.
"His death took out half of London's electricity - if he's not dead, there'll be people who want him that way."
"Compassionate, you are, Anderson."
"There was a scuffle, and I don't think he got the worst of it, necessarily. Blood on his knuckles. But he was alive when he hit the transformer, even if he wasn't conscious."
Lestrade shined his torch in the area, frowning. "How much longer until we can move the body?"
"Move him out."
It took five minutes to remove the body, and another twenty to replace the transformer. The lights snapped on, along with the massive fans and generators, and Lestrade heard the faint cheer from the crowd. He glanced at his watch; a full two hours, London had been in blackout. It could have been worse, but Lestrade was almost glad he'd been at a crime scene in Wimbledon, and not in the middle of the city for it.
Harrison was still interviewing Mr. Stanislav. Lestrade caught the end of it.
"...blood on his hands."
"The victim?" asked Lestrade.
"The other one," said Mr. Stanislav. "That's how I knew he'd done wrong, blood on his hands. That's when I locked him in the cupboard. I didn't find...the body until after."
Lestrade looked carefully at Mr. Stanislav's face, but the only red was in his cheeks and his eyes. No bruising, no trauma other than what finding a dead body in a darkened room would do to a man.
"Show me the broom cupboard, now the lights are back," he said, and Mr. Stanislav took him out into the corridor, down a little ways, and showed him the cupboard.
It was tiny, just big enough for a mop and bucket, the sink against the wall, and the small transom window three meters off the floor. Lestrade switched the light on - the door locked from the outside, and a quick test proved that, once locked, was secure from both sides of the door. The window looked painted over, but Lestrade thought he could see paint scrapings along the floor.
The right question.
Lestrade looked at the sink, and thoughtfully ran his finger along it.
"Wet," he said aloud.
"Inspector?" Harrison was at his elbow.
"Harrison," said Lestrade. "Have forensics examine the sink for blood residue."
"He washed his hands?"
"But he couldn't have escaped; the window's three meters off the ground."
Lestrade glanced at the sink, and tried to lift himself onto it. It held.
"Bloody hell," said Harrison. "Prints, forensics, the whole lot."
Lestrade stared at the transom window while Harrison went to find the forensics team before they left the scene. It was small - he didn't think he'd have been able to wriggle through it - and Mr. Stanislav had described the man as thin and relatively scrawny. He would have had to have been nimble to get up and out that way - not to mention intelligent, to stop and wash the blood from his hands.
The blood from his hands.
Lestrade frowned, and ran back down to the transformer room.
"Is Anderson still here?"
"The victim - you said he'd been in a fight. Was he bloodied?"
"A bit, scrapes mostly."
"But enough to leave blood on the other man's hands?"
"Maybe a trace or two," said Anderson, but he sounded doubtful.
Back to Harrison. Lestrade could feel his blood ticking right along now.
"Forensics is taking samples now."
"The dead man's identification - have we learned anything about him yet?"
"Robert Chapman, twenty-three, lived in Chelsea. Haven't found place of work, but he had a badge on him, no identifying organization listed."
"Chelsea? What was he doing in Wimbledon, much less here?"
"The badge doesn't match the ones used by National Grid or any of the electrical companies. It also doesn't match any Ministry badge in our registry."
"Right then. We have his address in Chelsea?"
"We do, guv."
"Traffic to Chelsea is going to be a nightmare," said Lestrade grimly.
It was. Rush hour was normally long since over, but the lack of power had left people stranded, and once stranded, they took to the pubs to chat, drink, eat, and commiserate their lot in life. With full power restored to the city, dinners eaten and pints consumed, rush hour was simply recommenced several hours later. Chelsea was not especially far from Wimbledon, but with every person out on the streets, it still took obnoxiously long to get there.
Lestrade wasn't sure which flat was Chapman's, but every light was on in the building, which put him just enough on edge. Harrison was tensed next to him.
"Family," he muttered under his breath.
"At twenty-three?" said Lestrade. "Flatmate."
Harrison nodded, and clenched his jaw. They got out of the car and went into the building.
Lestrade fingered his badge in his pocket. He hated this part; show up at the door, flash a badge, and with just a few words, kill someone's friend, lover, spouse, parent, child, sibling. There were a thousand reasons why he'd joined CID. This was the one reason he had waited ten years before signing up.
"Fucking hell," he muttered as they passed noisy flats with children and flats that reeked of cooking oil.
Chapman's flat was on the third floor, which was fairly quiet. The light from the flat shone through the open door into the hallway. Lestrade and Harrison glanced at each other, and then carefully approached the door.
Lestrade knocked on the doorframe. "Excuse me, is anyone here?"
A man answered, sounding calm and cultured, if slightly amused. "May I ask who is calling?"
"Detective Inspector Gregory Lestrade and Detective Sergeant Timothy Harrison. May we come in?"
Lestrade pushed the door open. The flat was empty, except for an impeccably dressed man in the center of the well-lit room. He leaned on his umbrella, and glanced at his watch, and did not even seem to blink at the two men standing in the doorway.
"Well," said the man. "I suppose I should allow for traffic. Is it still a nightmare? But really, three and a half hours to arrive? I expected better."
Lestrade frowned. Something about him...
"Do relax, gentlemen, I’m not the least bit dangerous. Oh, and congratulations on your promotion, Inspector."
It clicked. "The knifing at the restaurant," remembered Lestrade. "You were there with your brother."
The man smiled slightly and nodded.
Lestrade's mind whirred with possibility.
"Before you label me as a criminal mastermind," said the man dryly, which of course was exactly what Lestrade had been doing, "I think you should know that I did not murder Robert Chapman."
Which made sense – the man wasn’t skinny enough to fit through a transom window, and Lestrade didn’t think he would have been able to clamber up the sink, either.
"What are you doing in his flat, then?" demanded Lestrade.
“You’re never his flatmate,” said Harrison.
“Indeed no,” said the man, scandalized.
“Too detached to be his father,” continued Harrison.
“Clever, Sergeant, though not entirely correct. We worked for the same entity; I am merely here to settle a few affairs left unattended due to Mr. Chapman’s untimely death.”
“What affairs?” asked Harrison, while at the same time Lestrade asked, “Do you know who killed him?”
The man in the suit smiled, but it was strained. “Work-related matters, Sergeant Harrison, which let me assure you have no bearing on your case. And speaking of which—“
The man pulled an envelope out of his pocket, and set it down on the table.
"A suicide note, in Chapman’s own handwriting.”
Lestrade stared at the envelope. “From your pocket?”
“Indeed,” said the man calmly.
“Robert Chapman was murdered,” said Harrison.
“Was he? I was under the impression that no murderer was found at the scene of the crime, and the only witness could not see the action, but only hear it from across a darkened room. Hardly a reliable witness.”
Lestrade clenched and unclenched his fists. “You bloody bastard.”
The man shrugged. “There are higher powers at work here, Detective Inspector, and I'm afraid we cannot allow you to continue this investigation further. I advise you to drop it."
“You’re the higher power?” said Lestrade, and the man smiled as if pleased with Lestrade’s cleverness. “Who are you?"
The man smiled. It was quite an affable, friendly smile.
"Oh," said the man, "I believe you know my name already."
And he left the flat, walking around Lestrade and Harrison, and strode out the door, as if completely unconcerned that either man might stop him. He was right.
The next morning, the commissioner stopped Lestrade as he got off the lift.
"Interesting case for you in Brighton, some kind of smuggling ring. Their department doesn’t have the manpower for it, what with tourists mucking about getting lost and mugged and what have you."
Lestrade frowned. "Sir, the blackout murder—"
The commissioner shook his head. "Not our problem anymore."
Lestrade stared at him and remembered the odd confrontation from the previous night.
"There was a suicide note," continued the commissioner.
“There was a murderer.”
“Who left no fingerprints, murder weapon, or DNA, and was only seen by one confused old man who swears he locked him into a cupboard,” snapped the commissioner. "Robert Chapman threw himself onto the transistor hoping for a quick and painless death, and took out a third of London’s power with him. The only thing left to do is file the paperwork. "
"And it doesn't sound altogether too neat an ending to you?" scoffed Lestrade.
"I'll take the Brighton case, fine, but let me continue to follow up on—"
"No," said the commissioner shortly.
"Greg." The commissioner sounded less annoyed than peeved off now. "Let it go. The case is closed." He ducked back into his office, and had Lestrade not been standing in the corridor in shock, he probably would have missed the next words. "I'm sorry."
"Shit," muttered Lestrade, and stormed off to his own small office, where he slammed the door and fumed, unable to sit or pace in sheer frustration.
We cannot allow...
We! As if the wanker was all-powerful, all-seeing, all-controlling and could simply wave his hand and make an entire assault case disappear. Lestrade half wondered if he hadn't conjured up a case in Brighton, too, just to make doubly sure that Lestrade was out of the picture for a while and unable to follow up on the leads before they melted away into dim memory.
Who was the wanker, anyway? Miles, Molford, something ridiculous, Lestrade couldn't remember.
Still angry but now with purpose, Lestrade logged into his computer and drummed his fingers on the desk while he waited for the proper pages to boot up. It took a few tries to find the files on the knifing incident, and Lestrade had to read it twice before he realized that there wasn't any sort of name listed that was even close to the oddball name he was sure he remembered.
Higher power, the man had said. Lestrade sat back in his chair; high enough that he'd been able to wipe his presence from a crime scene?
Lestrade read the report again, slowly. There was one oddball name there, but it didn't quite fit Lestrade's memory of the man with the umbrella. Curious, he typed it into the search engine.
Bingo. A small handful of hits, mostly for possession, and better yet, one indicating he'd even been taken into custody that morning and was currently sitting on his duff in a custody station near the Uxbridge Road. Ridiculous to think the well-heeled man was a druggie, but Lestrade had to see. Lestrade hit the print button and pushed himself from the desk with enough enthusiasm that his rolling chair skidded into the wall behind him.
"Guv," said Harrison as Lestrade walked to the printer. "The car's waiting for Brighton—"
"Not yet, Harrison," said Lestrade as he ripped the printout from the printer. "Couple of loose ends to tie up first."
Lestrade liked Harrison. He liked him more when he heard Harrison say into the phone, “Yes, sorry, there will be a slight delay for our departure to Brighton….”
Lestrade’s journey to CID hadn’t been exactly smooth, but that was because it took him a while to decide he wanted to go there. Even as a tyke he’d wanted to be a police officer, but the original draw had been the hat and the uniform. Later, as he grew older and less enamored by the costume, he’d wanted to drive in the cars with the lights and the sirens blazing, and had fantastic daydreams about chasing the bad guys, saving the girl, and handing small children lollipops. Being in a suit and tie had somehow never really fit in with the fantasies, and it wasn’t until he’d been in uniform that he realized his interpretation of law enforcement had been somewhat skewed.
Anyway, no one wore the hats much anymore, and without the hat, he figured he didn’t owe it to his five-year-old self to remain in uniform. He applied for the transfer to CID, was accepted, and started the slow rise to Detective Inspector. He decided the five-year-old would have been mollified to know that even without the uniform, he was still chasing the bad guys, saving the girl, and had once given a small child a sweet in his pocket. It was a cherry-flavored cough drop, but Lestrade figured it still counted for something.
He didn’t think much about the years he had spent in uniform, except as something he had to do to get to where he was. But he’d spent more time in the uniform than most of the tossers in CID, and while CID officers did not technically have any superiority over their uniformed counterparts, he knew that this wasn’t always the case in actual practice. So if the other detectives tended to dismiss the uniformed officers or treat them as their lackeys, Lestrade piled on the courtesy.
And sometimes, it paid off.
The custody officers at the Uxbridge Road station were not very busy; when Lestrade came in, they were howling with laughter about something, and not a dry eye in the house. One officer rose to his feet when Lestrade came in, wiping tears of laughter from his eyes.
"Morning, guv, what can I do you for?"
Lestrade flashed his badge. "Good morning, officer; Detective Inspector Gregory Lestrade, I'm looking for someone taken into custody this morning, records show he's here. Sherlock Holmes?"
"Oh, him." The joy went straight out the man; he almost deflated on the spot. "Yeah, we got him, Inspector. You can have the wanker if you want."
Lestrade raised an eyebrow. "Is he causing trouble?"
"In a manner of speaking."
There was a buzz behind the counter, and every officer there let out a groan.
"The devil," muttered the custody officer, leaning over to shut off the noise. "Here, Rogers, I thought you turned that off?"
"Must have slipped," said Rogers.
The officer jutted his thumb at the monitors on the counter behind him. "There's your man on the screen, Inspector. Bloody sod."
About half the cells were empty. The men and women in those filled appeared to be occupied, either with sleeping off their nights or reading. Except one, less a young man than a teenager wearing his father’s clothing, who paced back and forth, a short journey that likely did nothing to ease his tension. Every time the young man reached the wall, he touched it briefly with his fingers, as if tagging it, before turning sharply around and heading in the opposite direction. The cell was of a comfortable size, but not quite large enough for anyone to stretch their legs in such a fashion. It was probably why the man reached up to hit the call buzzer after every second or third lap, clearly agitated.
"How long has he been up to that?"
"About an hour after he got here. Never asks for anything except his brother, who is not his solicitor we imagine, given the eyeroll he gave us when we asked. An' his brother ain't here, and we rang the number given for him and he didn't answer. Been tryin' all morning."
“Don’t forget the tea,” said Rogers, and the officer moaned.
“Right, the tea. He asks for tea, so we gave it to him, thinking he'd drink it and maybe quiet down, but it only made him worse. Wasn't the right kind."
"Bloody wanker has standards," said Rogers, rolling his eyes.
Lestrade glanced back at the monitor. "Why's he still here?"
"You'd have to ask his arresting officer - who was it, Rogers?"
"Quartermain," said Rogers with as little enthusiasm as possible.
"Oh, right. Well, that figures; Quartermain's the sort to take things personal-like. Apparently Mr. Holmes wasn't none too pleased with being taken into custody, any more than he is with the tea. 'A course, Quartermain's not the one listening to the buzzer all morning, is he?"
“Tosser,” said Lestrade sympathetically, and the officers nodded, muttering, “Too right” under their breaths.
"Is there an interview room open?"
"We can scrounge one up for you, yeah," said Rogers.
"Don't suppose you know where I could find Quartermain?"
Fifteen minutes later, Lestrade had found Quartermain, retrieved the pertinent file, and returned to the custody suite, where Rogers was able to inform him, in a voice full up with irony, that the young man had fallen asleep five minutes earlier. Lestrade grinned.
"What a shame to wake him up," he said, and left the file and two cups of coffee on the table in the interview room before going to retrieve the sleeping man.
Sherlock Holmes was slumped over and asleep. Lestrade almost didn't recognize him; his face was peaceful in sleep, and didn't have any sort of indication that the kid was strung out on dope or cocaine or whatever it was he'd been carrying. But the hair was mostly the same, dark and curly and just a bit too long over the ears, and he was dressed much better than most of the druggies picked up in the wee hours of the morning. There were dark circles under his eyes, a scratch along one cheek, and mud caked on his shoes. Lestrade contemplated him for a moment, and then Rogers opened the door with a screech and a clack. Sherlock Holmes’s eyes opened instantly at the sound, as if he’d never really been asleep at all.
"Come on," said Lestrade.
The boy scanned Lestrade with surprisingly alert eyes. "An interview room?" he asked. "That's a bit irregular, isn't it?"
"How did you know—?" Lestrade shook his head. "You know? Save it." Sherlock followed them soundlessly down the corridor and up the stairs to the interview room. The cups of coffee he'd left there were no longer steaming.
"One's for you," said Lestrade, and the kid shrugged. “I promise it’s better than the tea – not that that’s saying much.”
"No, thank you," he said, but it wasn't automatic, much more like being polite to strangers had been a lesson not quite learned when young and he hadn't entirely dispensed with it just yet. "But one of your cigarettes would be appreciated."
"And what makes you think I smoke?"
His grey eyes were steely and solid. "You do."
Lestrade pulled out the pack and the lighter from the inside pocket of his jacket. He tossed them on top of the file and drank some of his coffee while he watched the boy fumble with both before finally lighting the cigarette and sitting back with a relieved sigh.
“You saw me smoking a year ago, is that it?” Lestrade asked, straddling the other chair. Something about the kid made Lestrade want to keep him anonymous. Even knowing his name – and really, who named their kid Sherlock, poor bugger must have been beaten up in school every day for years – Lestrade couldn’t manage to make the label stick. Or maybe he just didn’t want to. Easier to think of him as kid.
“Do you remember me at all?”
The kid frowned, staring at Lestrade for a moment. “From the knifing in the restaurant. Congratulations on your promotion, Inspector.”
“How’d you know I was promoted?”
“You were a sergeant then. If you were still a detective sergeant, you’d never have been allowed access to me, since I’m not exactly under the jurisdiction of CID, but of the narcotics division, nor was I involved in anything your department believes to be of note. Therefore, you must be of a particular rank to talk to me without someone from narcotics present.” He took a drag on his cigarette. Lestrade made a pointed look at the mirror along one wall, and the young man snorted his disbelief that anyone was behind it. “Doubtful, though I’ll admit I’m not overly familiar with one-way mirrors.”
Lestrade couldn’t fault him for the reasoning. “I suppose you’re going to tell me why I’ve pulled rank, then?”
The boy was thoughtful. “Let’s see. Clearly you want something from me. I suspect it’s a recent issue, otherwise you would have been able to find me in the last year simply by tracing my name – it’s not that common a name, after all, and you’re the police, meaning that you don’t need to rely on a phone book. You’re CID, which shows that someone believes you have some amount of intelligence, so I’m going to surmise that this desire to question me is extremely recent – perhaps as recent as the last twenty-four hours. So what could have occurred in the last twenty-four hours to make you want to talk to me? And it appears you actually slept last night, not well, however, but still giving you enough time for a shower and shave, and a change of clothes, so it must be something you were given when you arrived at work this morning. It’s – oh, nine-thirty now, so within the last few hours. So something in the last twenty-four hours, but coming to a head only this morning. How convenient for you that I’ve been arrested.”
“I had nothing to do with that,” said Lestrade quickly.
The boy snorted and looked around for an ashtray. “You’re in CID, stop acting like a moron. You only found out about this in the last few hours; I was arrested four hours ago.”
Lestrade leaned over his chair. “Wouldn’t you like to know why I’m talking to you?”
“What makes you think I don’t?” challenged the boy.
“Because if you did, you would have told me, instead of going on for five minutes about why we’re in this room.”
There was a gleam of appreciation in the boy’s eyes. “All right, then. What do you want to know?”
Lestrade passed him an ashtray. “I’d like to know your brother’s name.”
The boy didn’t even blink while he stubbed out his cigarette. “I’d like another fag.”
Lestrade handed him one.
“Possession, resisting arrest, assaulting an officer, obstructing an officer in the performance of his duties,” mused the boy, lighting it.
“Clever,” said Lestrade.
The boy snorted. “Stating the obvious; back down to the level of minions, Inspector.”
It should have hurt, but Lestrade tried not to laugh. “Can’t stick you with possession, you don’t actually have anything on you,” said Lestrade, glancing at the file between them. “Can’t stick you with assault, either; you didn’t hit or try to hit anyone.”
“Not with fists, anyway.”
“Lucky for you, insults don’t count. What I can’t figure is why you resisted arrest when you knew you were in the clear – and if you’re clever enough to know that I smoke and was promoted in the last year, you know that the other two wouldn’t hold up.”
“Principle of the thing,” said the boy. “And my arrest would annoy Mycroft.”
Mycroft. “Your brother.”
“Yes,” said the boy, pleased. “Filled with brotherly affection, you know, it does bother him when I make a nuisance of myself. What better way to show him how much I care than by giving him reason to be exasperated with me?”
“Prepare for disappointment; you’re free to go.”
“Is that it?” asked the boy, somewhat disappointed. “No slap on the wrist? No time in a cell contemplating my mistakes? You aren’t even going to let me have a phone call?”
“No,” said Lestrade. “Get out of here and go home.”
“Can I have another cigarette?”
“Buy them yourself,” said Lestrade, and held the door open.
The boy sighed for opportunities lost, and went to inspect the one-way mirror first. “Hmm,” he said. “Interesting.”
It was while the boy passed Lestrade on his way into the corridor that Lestrade caught the odd, vinegary whiff. He caught the boy by the arm.
“What were you doing on the Uxbridge Road, anyway?”
The boy looked surprised. “Buying cocaine, of course. What else do you do on the Uxbridge Road?”
They continued down the corridor. Lestrade thought about hauling him back, shoving him back in the chair, and yelling until he was hoarse – and instead began to laugh.
He was still laughing in the car on the way to Brighton.