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Braver than you know

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When the evening news reported that 'missing anthropologist David Hunter had been found early that morning', MacKenzie almost spat out his tea in shock.

He watched as the television continued to play the story, showing a stretcher being lifted and secured into the back of an ambulance. He couldn't see Hunter but there wasn't much doubt that it was his body being taken to the hospital.

He absently scratched at his neck, in memory of the old mole that he'd had in that exact spot years ago, as though the sensation was brought on just by thinking of the Doctor. Christ, what had he gotten himself into now?

He recognised the area the ambulance was parked in and without thinking, he stood to get his coat and phone, to contact the nearest police department to the incident and see if he could help.

As it turned out, he needn't have bothered. Halfway into his coat, he received a call from his SI and froze.

He'd mentioned in his report of course, that Hunter had consulted with them all those years ago, and he'd recommended him recently for a recovery team as well, so it was obvious they'd known each other. He'd even followed the news over the events in the Backwaters once they'd blown up and had seen some brief footage of Hunter huddled in a blanket and shivering over the seat of a police car.

He was a magnet for trouble, it seemed.

He hadn't heard anything about him for a while now, however, and had assumed his workload had dried up once again. To hear that he'd been missing was a bigger shock than knowing he'd been found and was in hospital.

His SI was a stern man that never directly called for individual needs, so he wasn't sure what to expect when he answered, but it certainly hadn't been hearing a woman's voice speak instead.

"DCI Mackenzie?" She asked and he paused, "My name is SI Clarke. I worked with Dr Hunter a few months previous on the Villier's case you recommended him for."

"Oh. Oh, yes of course." He cleared his throat, his mind whirring, "What can I do for you?"

"Your recommendation sounded more friendly than formal when I read it," She said, her voice sombre, "You also seemed to trust Dr Hunter a great deal to recommend him despite the rumours over the Monk case."

"I knew he wouldn't have done what he did just for the sake of causing trouble, ma'am," He said, "He isn't the sort of man to rub people up wrong or to make enemies, but he would if morally obligated to - "

"I'm not asking for a character reference Mackenzie, I'm just asking if you were close." She sighed a little then, adding, "I wanted to say so over the phone but it would be easier if you were to make your way over here now instead. I'm at London Guy's hospital with Dr Hunter now."

She was at the hospital? He frowned, confused, "Ma'am?"

"I offered to take the case and I need to ask you some questions." She said curtly, both answering his own question and giving him an excuse to visit, "How soon can you get here?"

"I can leave now." He said, fixing his coat on properly and picking his keys up from the counter. She cut the line as soon as he stepped outside. He climbed into the car, putting the hospital's address into his SatNav and pulling out the driveway.

It was probably easier to get to the hospital via tube but he hated relying on their timings and he would need to get a train out of the countryside anyway, so the car was better.

It still took him around 3-4 hours to make it there anyway and once he did, he saw that he was not the only one SI Clarke had called.

The hallway was full of people.

He glanced around in bewilderment. An angry looking woman stood beside a private room's door, her attempt to control her unruly red hair admirable, but the untamed strands seemed to show her exhaustion more than her face did. He assumed she was the DCI.

"SI Clarke?" He asked as he approached her and her eyes turned to him fiercely, making him feel as though he shouldn't have disturbed her, "I, uh. I'm DCI Mackenzie."

"Oh, good." She didn't offer to shake his hand, "DI Miller. Mackenzie is here." A younger woman separated from a group and gestured to Mackenzie that he follow her.

"This way." In contrast, Miller's hair was tied back perfectly, her hair behaving itself, though she was no less stressed.

They entered an examination room and before she introduced the reason for it, he knew he was here to see if he had any idea of what could have caused Hunter's disappearance. That would be relatively easy, as he'd had no idea he had even been missing in the first place.

The questions were standard anyhow and when they were done, he could finally ask one himself, "How is he?"

"He's in theatre at the moment." Miller said, sorting through the statement sheets she'd written on.

"How is the investigation being carried out?" He asked, "What do we know so far?"

"SI Clarke is in charge of the investigation, sir," She said, "You would have to ask her if you want someone to disclose information."

Though he felt a slight sting of anger at that, he hadn't expected any less. It was procedure after all.

SI Clarke hadn't moved in all the time he'd been questioned, and whatever she saw in his face led her to unfolding her arms and meeting his gaze, "You didn't know. Did you?"

He shook his head, "The last I'd heard about Hunter had been your own case with Villiers."

She pursed her lips, "That seems to be the same story I'm hearing all around." She gestured to the crowded hallway, which looked a less crowded now that he looked a little closer.

Many of the people wandering through were doctors, nurses and other faculty members, but there were also officers like himself standing around. SI Clarke must have called anyone who had worked with Hunter since his return.

Belatedly, he realised a lot of those he had worked with were dead, and felt a stab of guilt over the fact that it was his actions that had brought Hunter back into the consultancy field in the first place. He pinched the bridge of his nose, sighing.

"Was it related to a case?" He asked, dreading the answer.

"We're not sure." Clarke said, brushing a strand of hair from her face, "He was found by luck and had apparently been missing for 4 weeks. His neighbour reported it when he didn't pay the bill for their apartment's new lock but it would have been discovered that he'd been gone anyway, when a drug raid came across his body."

The phrase 'his body' left Mackenzie feeling cold.

"I heard he's in theatre."

"He is." Clarke said, not divulging anything else. "He also has no family in his file. I wasn't sure of who to call except officers who had worked with him, but the man must have friends surely."

"Do we know how he is?"

She gave a frustrated look at the floor, "No. I took the case out of respect for what he did in the Backwaters but there isn't much to go on. All we can do is wait for the operation to be over to see if we can ask Hunter himself for his own account of what happened."

"So there's no evidence?" Mackenzie asked, bewildered, "Nothing at all? No struggle in his apartment, no CCTV footage, no witnesses? Nothing?" He swallowed past a tight throat, trying to calm himself, "He was stabbed a few years back by a woman who’s still - "

"I'm aware of Grace Strachan and the fact that she has not been caught," Clarke interrupted, "I am also aware that her fingerprints were found on the apartments lock during a break in. But Strachan has not been seen herself and there is nothing to suggest she abducted him."

"Why not?"

"For one, from reading the case, it isn't in her behaviour to do so." A nurse passed them by, opening the door to the room Clarke was by as though she'd no right to be working around their discussion, "Why abduct him? The last time she was in the UK, she stabbed him and left him for dead. I would have thought if she tried a second time, she would ensure he was dead and leave him there. Not abduct, torture and leave him alive for the police to find."

Mackenzie paused. "Torture." He repeated, dumbly, and something flickered in Clarke's eyes.

Before he could ask any more however, they were forced apart by Miller stepping between them, "I've got a Mr and Mrs Avery here for Dr Hunter, ma'am." She said, "They said that they're friends of his."

"Send them through for interview." Clarke said, looking annoyed that Miller had had to ask in the first place, only to blink when Miller shook her head.

"No ma'am," She said, "They live in Tennessee. They're on a video-link with the office to talk to you."

Clarke glanced at Mackenzie once before following Miller toward whichever room had a connected laptop. He took an aborted step forward to join them but knew that it wouldn't be well received and went to get some air instead.

Six hours later, the crowd of officers had dissipated and three civilians had joined what was left. From what he could remember, their names were Jason, Anja and Rachel, whilst the officers were DI Fraser and DCI Naysmith.

As he sat there deliberating over who he should introduce himself to or whether he should simply stay as silent as he'd been all this time, a blonde woman with a sleeping toddler bustled into the waiting room.

Her eyes honed onto the first person she could see, which just happened to be Jason, "I'm looking for David Hunter's room," She declared and it was like the tension that had filled the air burst.

"Why?" Fraser asked her, his voice hard, but she paid him no notice and stared at Jason. Perhaps they knew each other.

"Sam?" A man followed her in, matching the whirlwind intensity and staring around at the others in the room. They were both American, Mackenzie realised, "The DCI said he's still in theatre. Now sit down before you fall down." He took the toddler from her, shifting the boy in his arms until he could rest over his shoulder.

The woman, Sam, collapsed into a seat and put her head in her hands, "God, why didn't he call us more?" She mumbled into them, sounding both exhausted and wretched, "We'd have noticed something was wrong then, for God’s sake David."

Naysmith stepped forward from the corner he'd stood in when he'd first arrived, looking down at the toddler's face, "Handsome lad," He said, clearly trying to lighten to conversation, "What's his name?"

"Thomas," The man told him, hitching the boy up higher, "Avery."

Avery. That was the name Miller had said before. These must be the American friends that had spoken through a video-link. They must be close to Hunter if they'd travelled all this way so soon.

"I'm Paul." The man continued, "Sorry we barged in like this, we just - well David's a friend of ours and it's been a rough few days."

"No need to apologise," Naysmith said, "It's not as though this room belongs to us." He held out a hand to shake, "I'm DCI Naysmith. I worked with David on the Monk case, during the graves’ recovery and then again 8 years later."

"Did you also not defend him against the rumours?" Sam asked from her seat and Paul made a sharp noise behind his teeth.

Naysmith's smile froze, "David asked me not to."

Sam made a face, not apologising but ridding the tension by simply smiling, "Sounds like David."

Another hour went by as they all sat or stood in the waiting room. Thomas began to fuss in his father's arms and when his mother took him, Paul went to take a call outside of the room. Mackenzie just managed to catch the name 'Mary' before the doors shut, and he wondered if another visitor would be joining them. No one else did however and soon, a Doctor stepped into their midst.

He stood automatically, noticing that anyone else that had been sitting did the same, standing to attention and waiting to hear the results.

"For David Hunter?" He asked, holding a tablet to his chest. At their nods, he frowned, "I have a Mr Tom Lieberman listed as the next of kin."

"That's outdated," Sam said, placing her now-fully-awake toddler to the ground to stand on his own feet, "Tom Lieberman is dead." She continued over the man before he could say anything else, "We understand confidentiality, but you can tell us if he's alive or not can't you?"

The Doctor stammered a little, staring at each of them for a moment, and recovering, "I understand that Superintendent Clarke is in charge of this investigation." He said and the doors opening made a prophet out of him. SI Clarke stepped inside, followed by Miller and Avery.

"These people are here as Dr Hunter's friends." She said, folding her arms across her chest and looking the Doctor set in the face, "We'd like to know how he is."

"Well he's alive," The Doctor told her, and a ripple of relief spread throughout the room, "His injuries were extensive and I will give you a full report on them for the sake of the investigation but - "

"Is he awake?" Clarke cut him off but he barely stopped to stare.

"No. He's heavily sedated and will be so for the next 12 hours." He looked around the room, "I suggest you all either go home or get a hotel, and get some sleep before tomorrow."

No one moved for another hour but when Thomas lolled back to sleep, his parents seemed to decide that they should put him in a proper bed. Avery booked a hotel and they left to return in the morning.

Fraser followed them out, having had a lift here and wanting one back. From the brief conversation Mackenzie had had with him, he knew the man had been visiting London by chance from Scotland and had worked on the Strachan case. When Mackenzie had shown interest in Grace Strachan, he had closed up however, and gone to get a coffee.

Sore memories there, clearly.

After that, the rest left in drabs until only Clarke and Mackenzie were still there. She was frowning down at a tablet, spreading her fingers over the screen to zoom in on whatever she was looking at.

"SI Clarke." She didn't look up but he knew she was listening, "I'd like to join the investigation."

"That would be a conflict of interest, wouldn't it." She said and he raised an eyebrow.

"I could say the same about you." At that, she looked up, giving him a dry look. The tablet swivelled around in her hands and he looked down at it as well.

"What do you think?"

It was Hunter's medical history, his most recent attack at the front. According to the information, since his stabbing, he'd had his spleen removed. Whoever his kidnapper had been had added to that, and he now only had one kidney.

There were second degree burns over his thighs and ankles. He zoomed in on them, "Taser." He said and Clarke nodded.

"That's what I thought."

His ribs had been broken, four of them, and there had been blood in his stomach. The operation had been an apparent success but he was also going to be watched to see if any of his sutures would tear and cause another internal bleed. He wouldn't survive another.

"Broken ribs, blood in his stomach. Dislocated arm - "

"That's an old injury," Clarke interrupted, "Healed but still tender, and obviously forced out by the beating he'd gotten." She touched the screen herself then, scrolling down, "Malnourished. Chained. Beaten and tortured." She met his gaze. "Does that sound like Grace Strachan to you?"

"I've read her MO." He said, "So no. It does not." He then turned the tablet back toward her, "But MOs can change and the death of her brother may have warped her even more. We know she blames Hunter. She could have discovered a different way to force that anger out onto him."

"Maybe." Clarke conceded, obviously not happy about being disagreed with, but arguing for argument's sake anyway, "But why return after years just to torture but not kill him?"

 

"Sometimes death is a release."

"I'd agree if she had taken something from him that he'd rather die than lose," Clarke said, "But his hands are his livelihood and they were left intact. He can still walk. He's able, he's not been blinded or permanently hurt in any way. Everything can heal." She shook her head, "Strachan would never leave him alive."

"Unless something non-physical was taken." Mackenzie said, forcing himself to forget that this was Hunter and thinking of it as a normal case, "Something that could affect him for the rest of his life."

"When I see evidence of rape, I'll look into it but - "

"If it was Grace Strachan, you won't find evidence - "

"I'm not talking anal tearing or penetrative sex either, DCI Mackenzie. Women orgasm too." She ignored the nurse that passed them by warily, "And that leaves evidence." He pressed his lips together, not wanting to be kicked off of the investigation so soon after joining it only because they immediately butted heads, "This is all speculation anyway. Hunter can tell us the truth himself."

"He may not want to. Barring rape, he's been kidnapped and tortured. He'll be dealing with trauma."

"He's also dealt with victims of that crime himself before. He knows the drill."

"He's dealt with them when they're dead, ma'am, not - "

"I think you'd better get some rest, DI." His words died in his throat, and he stepped back as though struck, "It'll be a long day tomorrow."

It was a clear dismissal and he knew he’d be citing a reprimand if he ignored it. With a stiff back, he turned and walked out of the waiting room. He was still fuming as he searched for motels nearby and forced himself to calm down.

The nearest motel had spare rooms for the night according to his mobile, and he wished he’d brought a notebook to work on inside it because he knew he wouldn’t be sleeping much tonight.

The reception staff only had post-sticks however so he made do by speaking aloud and hoping he’d remember it all.

Grace Strachan was apparently the primary suspect but she hadn’t been caught since her attempt at murder and his instinct told him that this didn’t fit her MO. He’d acted as a devil’s advocate but in all honesty, he agreed with Clarke.

The Villier’s case had sparked a lot of publicity and it was possible that someone within that case had some sort of grudge against Hunter. Clarke had worked that case however and it was likely that she’d already questioned anyone she thought would be worth questioning.

The problem here then was that Hunter had gotten involved in too many cases and there wasn’t even anything to suggest that this attack was personal anyway.

He just hoped that when he was awake, he’d shed some light on the events.

.

The Avery’s were the first in the hospital when he arrived the next day and Clarke followed him in around a half hour later.

They waited around to see if any others came in but it was early morning still and the road’s were busy, so it was no surprise when they crowded in almost two hours later.

With no listed next-of-kin, there wasn’t an order they could visit but according to a nurse who passed by, around four could go in at a time. Clarke announced that herself and Mackenzie would go in first to ask some questions and the Averys could join.

No one protested the arrangement but it would have been pointless even if they had because a moment later, the same Doctor from yesterday came in to say that Hunter was awake.

He was in a private room with no chance of disturbing anyone else and the curtain had clearly just been opened and was squashed and bunched up to one side. Hunter was sitting propped up against pillows, looking small in a hospital gown, and pale from exhaustion and pain.

The bruises on his face and arms were the first things Mackenzie noticed, mainly because the room’s lighting was cold enough to contrast against them.

“Hello Dr Hunter,” Clarke greeted, sliding a chair from the corner of the room over toward the bed, “You look well.”

Hunter smiled at the sarcasm, his head down, before clearly startling when he felt Sam put a hand on his arm, “Hey David,” She said and he met her gaze, looking past her at Paul and then at Thomas, “Only four are allowed in here at a time so we’re hoping he stays quiet,” She said, following his gaze, “Tom, come here and give David a hug.”

“I don’t think he remembers me,” Hunter said when Thomas didn’t seem to want to let go of his father’s arms.

Sam smiled and bent to pick her son up, “Tommy, this is David Hunter,” She said, jiggling him in her arms, “He saved your mummy’s life and made sure you were born healthy.”

Mackenzie watched as Thomas questioned his mother about how Hunter had saved her and why, and then as he asked Hunter himself to clarify. A moment later, he overcame his shyness and climbed onto the bed to pat at Hunter’s robe.

“What’s this?” He asked and Hunter smiled down at him.

“That’s my hospital robe,” He said, “It keeps me safe from germs.” That wasn’t the entire truth obviously but it was enough to satisfy the toddler and stop him from asking.

“Sorry to interrupt, Doctor,” Clarke spoke up quietly, giving the Averys a pointed look which wasn’t well received judging by the look on Paul Avery’s face, “But we do need to ask some questions about what happened. After we’re done, we’ll let your other visitors in as well.”

Hunter looked at her, “Other visitors?”

“DIs Fraser and Naysmith,” Mackenzie said from where he stood in the corner of the room, “And three civilians; Jason and Anja ... and a Rachel Derby.”

“Seems you made quite an impression on her,” Clarke said dryly, and Mackenzie belatedly remembered where he’d heard the name before now. She’d been a part of the Villier’s case.

Hunter didn’t react to what Clarke had said however and seemed to be staring at Mackenzie instead, shock colouring his cheeks.

“Surprise.” Mackenzie said when the room dipped into an awkward silence and Hunter visibly blinked out of his thoughts.

“Sorry,” He said, rubbing his forehead with his right forefinger, “What were you saying? DI Fraser and Naysmith are here as well?”

“God knows why,” Paul says, “If I’d ever worked with you, I’d be glad to get rid.”

Hunter rolled his eyes, giving Thomas a soft smile when he giggled at his father’s words, “He’s joking. Your dad and I are friends.”

“Dad doesn’t have any friends.” Thomas said and Sam and Hunter laughed.

“He means friends that are english,” Paul protested but Thomas had gathered that he’d made the adults laugh now and so added:

“No I don’t.”

“Right, I think that’s us gone,” Sam said, faux-sternly, “Dr Hunter needs to be spoken to in private and then we’ll come back in later when he’s a little more awake.”

Hunter gave her a faux-stern look of his own, probably aware of how tired he looked in the hospital bed and not impressed by her comment.

Once the Averys were gone, Mackenzie took another seat and brought it around to Hunter’s other side.

“Good to see you again Doctor,” He said, despite the time for greetings having passed already.

“Sorry it’s not under better circumstances,” Hunter said, “I’ve wanted to thank you for the recommendation for a while.”

“Even when it almost got you drowned?”

Hunter smiled again, “Even then.” He then tilted his head toward Clarke, “You wanted to ask some questions.” He sighed and continued before she could open her mouth to ask any, “I didn’t want to say anything with a toddler in the room.”

“So you know who attacked you?” Clarke asked and he nodded, taking a deep breath in to steel himself.

“You're looking for a Graham Burns,” He said. Mackenzie paused. The name didn’t ring a bell. “I’d worked a case three years ago about his brother and it ended with him being tried in the European Court for crimes against humanity.”

Jesus. Neither of them asked what he’d done but it was clear his brother wasn’t an angel compared.

“I don’t know why it took so long for Graham to come after me. I testified against his brother and he threatened everyone on the case in broad daylight,”

He sighed, wincing his neck in a little closer to his shoulders. It was the only evidence that he was uncomfortable discussing his attack, as his voice was low and monotone,

“He spent three weeks in prison and 9 months on probation for the threat and for assault of an officer on his escort out of court.” He continued and Clarke nodded.

Mackenzie noticed that she’d placed her phone in her lap and was recording the conversation. Hunter glanced at it a few times which meant he knew it was there and wasn’t disputing it.

“How did he abduct you?” She asked and Hunter chewed on his bottom lip.

“There was a call to my phone about how my car had blocked someone in. I went down to move it and he hit me as soon as I was down the stairs.” He shook his head, “I remembered how I’d parked and I hadn’t blocked anyone. Stupid to go out.”

“Well hindsight is gold,” Mackenzie offered but Hunter only shrugged, still biting down on his now red bottom lip.

“I woke up later. I don’t know how long. I didn’t have a concussion though, so there was that, but I suppose you know what else happened.”

“We need you to say it for the record, Dr Hunter,” Clarke said and Hunter sighed again but nodded.

“Right. Of course.” He shut his eyes for a moment, steeling himself, “I woke up in his car, in the boot. He dragged me out after about an hour inside it and when I tried to talk him down or fight back, he tased me.”

“Do you know what kind of taser he used?”

“It was a cattle rod.” Hunter told her, “He pressed it over my hip until I let go of him and then kicked me to the ground. We were in an abandoned block. It was obviously being redone but no one had bothered to hire contractors yet so it’d just been used as a squatters spot.”

“Were there any squatters that may have seen what happened?” Mackenzie asked but Hunter shook his head.

“There was evidence that there were people living there but no one came around whilst I was.”

“So you were alone with Burns the entire time?”

“He wasn’t always there,” Hunter said, “But yes. When he was, it was just the two of us.”

“Do you know where he went when he left you alone?”

“No. I asked once and he threatened to cut my tongue out.” His voice sounded so detached but the tremor within it gave Hunter’s fear away.

Mackenzie met Clarke’s eyes briefly and she nodded as subtly as she could. Hunter still noticed however.

“I’m fine,” He said, glaring at her, “I’d rather say it all now and get it over with than have you come back because you feel as though I’m not up to it.”

“You have just woken from an extended operation,” Clarke said, “We should have waited but I assumed you’d want your attacker caught as soon as so - ”

“I do want him caught.” Hunter told her, “And I’m fine.”

A moment passed before Clarke finally leant back in her seat and met Hunter’s fierce gaze, “Very well.” She murmured and Hunter leant back himself as well, settling over the pillows, “Were you conscious when you were alone?”

“The first day I was taken Graham beat me while I was tied to the ground. There was an old latch that was probably used to keep a chair in place once and he used that to bind me.”

He directed his words to his hands and despite feeling sorry for how uncomfortable he so clearly was, Mackenzie kept silent and let him continue,

“I must have fainted from the pain because when I woke up he wasn’t there anymore and it was night. I tried to get out of the binds but I honestly didn’t have the energy.”

His voice had melted into something self-deprecating, “And I was scared he’d come back while I was trying.”

Neither of them commented on what he said. A blase few words or some form of encouragement would have been both as bad as each other, so silence was the better option to choose. After a moment of his own silence, Hunter reached for his blanket and pulled it aside to reveal his bare legs.

There were burn marks over each of them, circular and covered with salve, though the treatment hadn’t hidden the red lines of raw skin that had surrounded them like spiders legs. There were also white lines of scarring over his thigh, just where the hospital gown stopped.

If he squinted, Mackenzie could read the word ‘whore’.

“It’s what Graham called us all when he was escorted out of court. ‘Whores of Law’.” Hunter said softly.

“Bastard.” Mackenzie said without thinking and though Clarke gave him a sharp look, Hunter laughed softly.

“When did he carve that?” Clarke asked then and Hunter paused for a moment.

“I’m honestly not sure. I don’t even know how long I was missing.”

“Do you know what day you were taken?” Mackenzie asked and Hunter nodded.

“It was a friday,” He said slowly, “I think - the 5th?”

“It’s the 4th of September now,” Clarke said, “You were found on the 2nd. So it’s been around 4 weeks.”

Hunter stared at his hands, “It felt like longer,” He said, before making a face, “Though I suppose everyone says that don’t they.”

“Do you remember anything else Burns did?”

“He mostly ranted about his brother really. But what he had in muscle, he lacked in imagination. If I said something he didn’t like, he’d hit me or tase me, but that was it.”

He fiddled with his fingers absent-mindedly, realised what he was doing, and bundled the blankets over his legs again instead,

“He carved into my leg because I’d kicked him. He was taking my clothes of, said he wanted me to freeze as well, and I caught him in the face.”

“You weren’t undressed when you were found,” Clarke commented, her voice neutral and unaccusing.

“I started to get ill and had to tell him I didn’t have a spleen. He said he had more he wanted to ask and I couldn’t die on him yet.” He bit his lip, “I almost fell unconscious a few times anyway though, from pain and the cold, and he kicked me in the chest to make me stay awake.”

The broken ribs and removed kidney.

“The next thing I remember is being fully dressed again and a drug raid storming the building. But - ” A knock at the door cut him off and Rachel Derby stepped inside.

“Sorry to interrupt,” She sad, looking at Hunter, “I just wanted to see if David was alright.”

Clarke stood, making Mackenzie automatically follow her lead, “That’s absolutely fine, we’re done here,” She looked at Hunter as he stared up at her, “We’ll get a search out and keep you informed of any changes in the investigation.” She said and he nodded.

“Thank you.”

They walked out then as Rachel walked in, and when Mackenzie turned to shut the door a few minutes later he saw the two of them hugging tight.

“I’m sorry,” Rachel was saying, “I’m so sorry. I never should have left you.” Hunter had his arms wrapped around her neck, his face buried in her shoulder, and it was clear that he was crying.

Throughout their interview, he’d kept himself together remarkably well, despite the pain and fear he was obviously in. Mackenzie lowered his gaze and walked away from the door, passing the Averys by as he did and gesturing that they wait a bit before going back inside.

Clarke was on the phone when he caught up with her and she held a finger to indicate he wait but wait silently, and a second later she was off and staring him down.

“I’ve coordinated a search for Graham Burns. His picture from his previous offence is the only one we have at the moment but it’s enough to use as an aide in finding him.” He nodded, listening, “You stay here and get as much physical evidence from the Doctor and the location as you can. When we catch this asshole, nothing is going to get this case thrown out of court.”

Good, he thought viciously, saying aloud: “Yes ma’am.” Before leaving her to head to the station and going to find the doctor himself.

Procedure for open cases like this was that anything that could be used as evidence was to be kept aside, so each of Hunter’s belongs and anything the doctors had found on him was sealed and given to him. His trousers could be dusted for fingerprints and as he sent them off to have that done, he got in his car to drive to the area that Hunter had been discovered in.

There were still a few officers scouring the building and placing markings over any area that they believed Hunter or Burns had been in. It was likely that they’d been informed over who they were looking for now but just in case, he kept the information to himself and went to check that the area was being dusted.

Before he could even step into the building however, he was accosted by a frazzled looking woman.

“Wait wait! Are you a policeman?” She shouted over the sound of cars passing by, her voice reedy from either emotional distress or the cold; though judging from her expression now, it was likely the former, “For that Doctor?”

“I’m sorry ma’am, I can’t - “

“No I don’t care about what happened, you’re looking for Graham Burns aren’t you.” He froze, wondering if she was a journalist playing a ploy at getting confirmation or a hot scoop, but she continued before that thought could fully process, “He’s my ex. I know him.”

Well what were the chances.

“Right, come this way please,” He said quickly, “It’s not ideal but we can do a quick interview in the - “

“No we don’t have time for that, he’s gonna suss out that I’ve left any minute now!” She cried, grabbing his arm and pulling, “He’s at my house! He came in covered in all sorts of shit and raving, you’ve got to get him!”

“Okay, alright, calm down ma’am,” Gently moving his arm out of her grip, he took his phone out and quickly dialed Clarke’s number. She’d given it to him at the hospital and she answered right away.

“Superintendent Clarke speaking.”

“I’ve got Graham Burn’s ex-girlfriend here saying he’s at her house now.” Clarke paused so long he thought she’d cut off, but then she snapped, “Get the address.”

“What’s your address?” He asked the woman then and she rocked on the balls of her feet, panicked.

“159 Haywards Street. N17 9QR.”

“Did you get that?” He asked Clarke and he heard clacking on a keyboard through the phone.

“Get her to the station to interview her and I’ll meet you there. I’ll send officers to his house to arrest him first.”

“I should be there for- “

“No Mackenzie, you take his girlfriend and get as much information as you can.”

Gritting his teeth, he refrained from arguing as he knew that would just waste time, and hung the call up instead, “Right, if you’ll come with me, we’re going to take a ride to the station for a chat.” He said to the woman.

“What about Graham?” She asked, her eyes wide, “You can’t just leave him at my house!”

“We’re not ma’am,” He assured her, “But we need to get to a private location before I can tell you more.”

 

.

 

In the end, despite worrying the entire journey to the station, she was completely calm during the interview. She introduced herself as ‘Margot Greeves’ and said that she’d been in a relationship with Graham on-and-off for years. He’d apparently started to talk about killing the judge who had convicted his brother but was bitter that he couldn’t get access to him.

That talk had scared her and she’d broken it off with him a third time, saying she’d said to him that he was obsessed with his brother and that he should talk to someone about it.

“But I didn’t think he’d actually try to kill someone!” She sobbed, “I thought it was all talk! He’s always going off about his brother.”

“How did you know Graham was involved in this?” Mackenzie asked her and she sniffed loudly.

“He wouldn’t shut up about it. Came barging it with mud and stuff all over his jacket and saying he’d done what I’d wanted.” She rubbed at her face, “I said talk to a doctor! Not fucking kidnap and torture one!”

“This wasn’t your fault Margot,” Mackenzie assured her but she snapped her head up angrily.

“Well whose is it then? I fucking kicked him out and sent him over the edge!”

“It’s Graham’s fault, and I think you know that.” He said, before glancing at his phone when it flashed with a notification, “Excuse me a moment.”

She nodded, sniffing again and reaching for a tissue over the table. He left the interview room, reading a text from Clarke.

Burns arrested. Lawyered up. Ask if GF will Testify and then inform Hunter.

He slipped his phone into his pocket and then stepped back into the room to ask Margot just that. They talked for a little longer, mostly just him trying to calm her down, but she agreed to testify and went home with her head down.

An officer escorted her there and once they’d left, he went to the hospital to tell Hunter that his attacker had been caught.

Hunter was asleep when he arrived however. He had the blanket up to his chin and his face turned to one side to relieve the bruising that was on the other. He recognised the signs of a repeated punch to the same area, and clenched his fists in a brief spurt of anger before simply taking a seat and a deep breath.

He realised he was beginning to zone out a little when some movement under the blanket startled him. It was a little too big to be Hunter’s hands and too far up to be a knee, but a second later he noticed what it actually was. Thomas peeked his head out, turning to look at him for a moment, before settling back down. Hunter shifted, holding him closer in his sleep.

Clearly, despite his own daughter having died years ago, he still had some sort of parental instinct for young children. He had been quite good with the boys at Manham during their case together too.

“Is David going to be alright?” Thomas asked sleepily, and Mackenzie smiled.

“Yes, lad. He’ll be fine.” He stretched as he sat there, “Where are your parents?”

“They went to get dinner.” Thomas said, “But I wanted to stay and Miss Derby’s outside to babysit.”

So they hadn’t left him fully alone with just Hunter then. Good.

“How long has David been asleep?” He asked softly but Thomas only yawned and shrugged, closing his eyes again and falling right back to sleep himself. Mackenzie smiled again, shaking his head and looking at the clock.

He knew he had other things to do and should wake Hunter to inform him and then go, but he looked more peaceful than he’d ever seen him; either in Manham or in hospital here. So he was loathe to wake him and just waited instead. Clarke didn’t ring him anyway, probably interviewing Burns, and somehow he knew that this would go through court and have him arrested.

He’d had quicker cases than this before but it was always a surprise when luck was on their side. Maybe Burns had had a bit of remorse in him to confess to his ex, or maybe he’d just been cracked after his brother’s imprisonment. Whichever it was, he had a feeling he’d admit outright about what he’d done and be tried for attempted murder and assault/battery.

Half an hour later, he received a text that told him his prediction had been entirely accurate and that the case was over. Burns’ lawyer had nothing to defend with when fingerprints were found on Hunter’s clothes and when his girlfriend was going to testify.

Burns had admitted guilt to try and gain a deal but as one hadn’t been discussed beforehand he’d had nothing to bargain with and had essentially given himself up for naught.

So in two days the man who had abducted and tortured Hunter had been arrested and put for trial for what he'd done. It was good news but still with a bitter taste in that it had happened anyway. 

Once Hunter's room began to fill with other visitors, from his old neighbour to a Mrs Mary Leiberman, Mackenzie decided that it was time for him to leave and head back to the countryside. 

It was only a month later when he saw Hunter again however and he was watching a recovery team pull free a drowning victim when he saw him. Hunter stepped out of a car and walked toward him with the steps of a man on a mission but Mackenzie blocked him immediately.

“Oi,” He said, “You’re on leave. Get out of here.” Hunter gave him a dry look.

“I’m not here to work.” He said, “What would a drowning need me for?” Mackenzie just fixed him with a set glare, “I’m here to give you this.” He opened a bag that Mackenzie hadn’t even noticed at first and pulled free a box, “To thank you. You didn’t have to come all the way you did to solve a case for me.”

It was a box of belgium shells.

“It’s not much I know, but I thought - “

“Thanks but I’m on a diet,” Mackenzie told him, “I’ll give it to Clarke though, I’m sure she’ll like it.”

“She’s got one too.” Hunter told him, raising an eyebrow, “She didn’t have to help either.”

“Who should have then?” Mackenzie asked and Hunter startled.

“Sorry?”

“Who should have helped if me and Clarke shouldn’t have.”

“I’m not - “

“Naysmith? Fraser? Or did they get chocolates too?" Twin patches of colour flared on Hunter's cheeks but his anger vanished when Mackenzie continued, "You’re a hell of an anthropologist Hunter, and a good person to boot. We helped because we wanted to, because we respect you. It doesn’t need thanking.”

Hunter stared at him for a moment, colour in his cheeks. He pressed his lips together, smiling softly, and saying, “Love you too,” Just to watch Mackenzie give him a look.

“Come on then, you’re here now. Let’s get a coffee.”

Hunter looked at the officers behind him, “What about the drowning?”

“Recovery will take an hour yet,” He said, “Let’s go. I’m buying.”

“Buying what? Cheap countryside coffee?” Hunter snarked and Mackenzie barked out a laugh.

“I’ll tell Ginny you said that.”

“How is she?” Hunter asked as they walked together up the road. His bruises had faded a little now but if you knew where to look, you could see the faint scarring. Other than that, he looked normal again, though the fear would always be there.

“She’s good,” He answered, “Though she won’t be when I tell her what you just said.”

“Oh don’t.” Hunter faux-whined. He really did seem okay, but from all the attacks he’d been through in his life, it was a wonder he hadn’t gone insane from paranoia.

He was a braver man than Mackenzie had first thought he’d been, during their first meeting. And he was glad to have met him.

He just needed to ensure Hunter was told people cared for him now and again too.

.