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this is how you get up

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Thomas nearly fell in his haste to get out of the Jag. It was raining heavily now, and the cobbles were slippery. Alexander steadied him, a hand under his elbow, and didn’t say anything. In the strange way thoughts came to you in moments of fear, he thought that it was a good thing Alexander had reconciled himself so much to the Folly. 

“There was a gunshot,” Alexander said, face bleak. “About five minutes ago. Nobody’s come out, so we haven’t gone in. Another five, and I was going to anyway.”

Thomas forced himself to take things one by one, let protocol and habit have the driving seat. It had been…a very long week. “Who was on the scene?” 

“Peter, Lesley, that bastard Chorley. Nobody else that we know of.” Alexander's face grew even grimmer. “She shot Miriam, don’t forget. I know Peter thinks she might...” He trailed off, shaking his head.

“I shall take the appropriate precautions,” Thomas said.  

There was a van parked next to the Actors’ Church. Thomas used it as cover, holding a shield above himself, still painfully aware of his exposed position. The plaza should have been full of the echoes of magic, if there had been some sort of confrontation. Instead it was uncannily empty of them. It reminded him of Tyburn’s house, after Chorley had attacked it. 

It reminded him of vampire nests. 

There was a shout somewhere behind him, but Thomas ignored it as he came around the van to see Peter lying on the cobbles next to Martin Chorley, his eyes closed. Chorley had a spreading pool of blood behind his head and was, unquestionably, dead.

Peter didn’t look dead, or even hurt, just soaked from the steady rain. Bodies often didn’t, until you noticed how still they were. Then Thomas saw his chest rise and fall, and the world started to move again. 

“I’m fine,” Peter croaked as Thomas approached. It was the most blatant lie Thomas had ever hear him speak, and that included the time last month - had it only been last month - when he’d told one of the civilian workers, straight-faced, that he had no idea where the last of those lemon tarts Molly had made had gone. 

“Good,” Thomas said. “What happened?”

“Lesley.” Peter sounded unutterably weary. He lifted his right arm, and Chorley’s came along with it, limply, chained by a handcuff. “She took the key.” 

Thomas knelt down on the cobbles and snipped the cuff off Peter’s hand with an efficient fourth-order spell someone had come up with in the second year of the war. He couldn’t remember the man’s name. He laid Chorley’s arm across his body, away from Peter. He couldn’t do more without risking the wrath of the forensics team. 

“Peter,” he said. “You need to get up.”

“I thought I’d just wait here for the ambulance,” Peter said. 

“Alexander has one on the perimeter. We need to let them know the scene’s clear.” Thomas looked at Chorley’s body. Amazing how people could loom so ominously large in life, and so small in death. “The rain will be playing merry hell with the forensic evidence. You know that better than I do.” 

Peter opened his eyes, finally. “I had him. After this whole bloody mess - I had him, I had him in cuffs, all Lesley had to do was say the word, we’d done all the paperwork, and then she -” He stopped, swallowed. “But I did it, I was about to give him the caution. I was going to make it work.” 

Thomas took in Peter's expression, and thought that he should send a message to Beverley as soon as Peter was with the medics, and that Lesley had a great deal to answer for, and that this wouldn’t do.  

He put all that aside, and stood up. Things were done but they weren’t finished. 

“On your feet, Grant,” he said, and held out his hand. 

Peter stared at it for a long moment, in the rain, before he took it, and rose.