The first time he sees a dead body at the age of seven (his grandmother, died peacefully in her armchair after cooking Greg’s favourite rice pudding), his first day as a police officer (full of strong, over-sweetened tea and dry toast because he can’t stomach anything else), his wedding (a fine summer day that’s neither too hot nor too cold, a bit too much champagne and delicious marzipan and buttercream cake), the birth of his daughter (no food for 23 hours and too much caffeine because the contractions start at two in the morning and Greg doesn’t dare leave his wife’s side longer than it takes him to get Red Bull at the vending machine) and the day Sherlock Holmes throws himself off a building (It’s been a mad house at work. The situation with Sherlock worries him sick, he’s run on junk food, coffee and doughnuts for what feels like forever -- and doesn’t sleep for two days after he hears what happened. He hasn’t even noticed how much he cared about the git before he is gone).
If Greg thought that the day Sherlock died is memorable, the day he comes back steamrollers him.
In hindsight, the day was too perfect from the start. Things went too smooth. Hindsight is 20/20 though, isn’t it?
Greg calls his ex-wife before work to speak about their daughter’s visit next weekend and the two of them have a civilised, almost pleasant conversation. No sniping or underhand insults. They even attempt to have a bit of small talk. Thus, Lestrade is in a good mood when he goes on his way to work, traffic unusually light: he spends only ten minutes in a traffic jam and no one tried to steal his parking spot during the night.
Somebody just brewed a fresh pot of coffee at the station -- the kitchen smells rich and delicious of roasted coffee beans. He doesn’t need to start a pot himself for once or drink the bitter, reheated-for-hours leftovers from the night shift. No one has stolen his mug or put an empty milk carton back in the fridge instead of getting a new one. He even gets to chat to the chief inspector’s secretary: she’s clever and has a sharp tongue that makes Greg laugh.
He attends a meeting in which he manages to fill his buzzword bingo card before two other detective inspectors, although he foregoes yelling ‘Bingo!’ and gets on top of his paperwork before lunch. The pizzeria three streets away offers a special of Lestrade’s favourites and even when he returns, no one has been murdered in a grim fashion.
He pours over the file of an unsolved murder -- husband of the victim is their prime suspect, but the man must have caught wind and disappeared. The problem is they don’t have many leads as to his current location and the search is painstaking. It’s one of those things Lestrade would thrust under Sherlock’s nose to ask him about clues -- if he could. Sherlock is gone, he reminds himself. Despite all the news reports, Lestrade doesn’t believe Sherlock is a fake.
He doesn’t shout it from the rooftops though. Greg hasn’t uttered the name around the Yard for the last two years. His colleagues still think he’s a fool for trusting the word of Sherlock Holmes. Many think he should have been fired. Lestrade has stopped wondering why he hadn’t lost his job.
The failure to uncover any more leads is his biggest disappointment that day. After that, the day even gears up another notch. At four, his daughter calls to tell him that she is top of the class in the latest maths test. He praises her and promises ice cream for next weekend.
When two murders (one murder-suicide) happen, they are referred to other teams. Greg is secretly relieved he doesn’t have to deal with the suicide. They make him uneasy these days.
He does some more paperwork and actually gets to go home at six. Greg decides to leave his car at the Yard because he toys with the idea of going to a pub. A few days back, one of his old mates from football who runs a local waterhole has invited him to stop by. A pint of cider and catching up sounds good to him, and on his way, he would pass that little sandwich shop he likes. His last good sandwich was several weeks ago.
Greg takes the Tube for a few stops to Borough and walks along busy streets in Southwark. He pops into the sandwich shop which is located on a quieter, narrower street. This one he discovered during a case in the neighbourhood when he and his team spent hours on a crime scene without having had breakfast or lunch. This cafe was the first thing he happened upon and Greg is still glad about it. Their sandwiches are divine. Today’s pick is a Caesar’s Chicken Sandwich made with toasted spelt bread, parmesan, crème fraîche dressing and a few slices of grilled bacon. Greg gets two for good measure and carries them outside in a horribly bright green paperbag.
Weaving through a couple of quiet back alleys, he reaches an underpass famous for its use as a veritable marketplace for drugs. Luckily, it seems to be deserted for the moment. He doesn’t fancy arresting someone or call in a team from the drugs squad.
“Two sandwiches, Lestrade? After that generous lunch -- pizza, was it? At your age, you might want to watch your intake if you don’t want to go soft around the middle soon.”
Lestrade freezes. That voice, that razor-sharp, deep tenor. That patronising tone. He would recognise it anywhere. And yet, he has to be wrong.
The one this voice belonged to is six feet under in a London cemetery Lestrade visited three weeks ago.
He turns around slowly. The underpass is only illuminated by a few neon tubes, but there is no mistaking it. Long coat, confident --almost arrogant-- posture, blue scarf, unruly dark curls.
And the bastard is actually smirking.
No, still no mistake.
He drops the sandwich bag. “Jesus Christ…” he whispers.
“Almost right. May I suggest that you close your mouth, forego the three pints of cider and an inane conversation about football, and help me catch a terrorist?”