“You want me to what?” Detective Robbie Lewis barked out.
He turned to look out of the office window at the tall, slender, blond that was slouched against one of the desks in the squad room. The younger man was dressed in a pair of torn jeans and a black t-shirt, with a large faded logo in its centre. The too casual outfit was topped off by a pair of purple sneakers. If it wasn’t for the badge and gun clipped to the man’s belt, Lewis would have pegged him for a student. As if sensing the scrutiny the man lifted his head and they stared at each other for a moment, before the younger man dropped his gaze, bowing his head once again.
Lewis turned back to glare at Captain Jean Innocent.
“No.” He stated emphatically.
“It wasn’t a suggestion, Lewis,” Innocent said, returning his glare unflinchingly “it’s an order.“
“Morse is my partner,” Lewis said quietly, as he slumped down into the chair opposite Innocent’s desk.
“Morse was your partner, “Innocent corrected gently. “It’s been nearly a year, Robbie. I know you and Morse were partners since you made detective, but he’s gone now and I need you back.” Innocent leaned back in her chair. “It’s him or a training position at the academy. No one wants to partner with you, Lewis. I won’t have any lone wolves in my precinct,” she finished in a harder tone.
Lewis sighed. He and Morse had been one of the longest serving partnerships in the entire department. Lewis had been with Morse almost as long as he’d been with his wife Val. Morse's brutal end had plunged Lewis into a spiral of grief so deep, that only the bottom of a bottle of brandy brought him any solace. After returning from an enforced six-month administration leave and mandatory counselling Lewis had returned to find himself labelled with a reputation of being unpredictable and quick to anger. It was something that still clung to him three months later. He looked over his shoulder at his soon to be new partner.
“God, how old is he? He doesn’t look old enough to shave,” he grumbled.
“He’s twenty-nine.” Innocent replied, sensing victory. She picked up a file and passed it to Lewis. “James Hathaway.”
“Hathaway? But I thought….” Lewis glanced again at the younger man, who was now staring intently at his phone. “He passed his Psych Eval?” Lewis asked Innocent in astonishment.
“He passed the department evaluation, yes,” Innocent hedged.
“I asked a friend of mine who's a Professor of psychology at NYU to evaluate Hathaway as a favour.” Innocent admitted. "I wanted to make sure he had truly recovered, mind and body. He's an excellent police officer."
Lewis scowled at Innocent.
“There was nothing untoward in the assessment,” she quickly reassured. “Hathaway is just a lonely man, Lewis. Highly intelligent, but shy and socially awkward…..”
“Morse,” Lewis muttered.
Innocent nodded. “To some extent. What confidence Hathaway did have was stripped from him after his encounter with McAllister and he’s now second guessing every decision he makes. Hathaway needs a guiding hand, Lewis and you need a partner.”
“Hathaway caught a serial killer singled handed, why transfer him to another precinct to partner him with me? Hasn’t he had an offer from the FBI?” Lewis asked.
“No one wants to partner with him and he turned the FBI down. He may be a hero, Lewis, but everyone seems to be buying into the rumours and don’t want to take the risk. He’s a good cop, he just needs…..”
“A guiding hand, yeah, you’ve said that,” Lewis finished, much to Innocent's annoyance.
Lewis stood up. “And of course, Val will want to mother him and feed him up.”
Val had become legendary in the precinct as the only person, male or female, Captain or fellow detective, who Morse had openly shown any respect for. Val, who could go toe to toe with Morse in a searing argument one second and then hand him a healthy packed lunch and a gentle admonishment of his unruly bachelor ways the next. If there was anyone that could make you feel loved and cherished, it was Val Lewis.
“Well, that is an added bonus, of course,” Innocent smiled. “Hathaway is analytical, perceptive and highly observant. He’s also exceptionally brilliant under cross examination. He may be able to decipher some of Morse’s more cryptic notes,” she added casually.
Lewis gave Innocent an appraising look.
“I want his murderer brought to justice too,” she declared
Lewis nodded and then handed Innocent Hathaway’s file back.
“You don’t want to read his file?” Innocent asked curiously.
“No. I’ll make my own mind up about him. He’s had too many people judge him out of hand as it is." Lewis walked to the office door. “If we’re done here, ma’am?”
“We are, Detective Lewis.”
Lewis left the office and stood for a moment looking at his new partner. There was a resigned air about the man and the thinness of his frame was all the more evident. Val was going to have a field day feeding him up, Lewis thought with a fond smile. “Hathaway.” Lewis called as he moved towards the other man, hand outstretched. “I’m Robbie Lewis.”
Hathaway stood up and shook hands. “Sir, it’s a pleasure to meet you.”
“Robbie or Lewis, none of this sir crap. Come on, let’s grab some lunch, and then I’ll show you around.”
“You’re taking me on?” the shock in Hathaway’s voice pulled Lewis up short. When he turned to look at the younger man, Lewis was confronted with a bland expression of indifference but he knew what he heard.
“Of course I am son, need someone to bring me my coffee, don’t I?”
Hathaway gave him a rueful smile and a short nod and Lewis knew that Hathaway understood. They were both starting with clean slates. Whatever the rumours or gossip either of them may have heard about the other, today was a fresh start for them both.