azombiewrites: (Lewis)
[personal profile] azombiewrites
Title: A Man Almost Lost
Author: Bernadette
Fandom: Lewis
Genre: Hurt/Comfort, Angst
Main Characters: Hathaway (centric) and Lewis.
Summary: During a police pursuit, a killer in a desperate need to escape, attempts to distract his pursuers by committing a crime that DS James Hathaway finds hard to deal with, emotionally and physically.
Disclaimers: Characters (owned by ITV and Colin Dexter) were created and inspired by the 'Inspector Morse' novels of Colin Dexter.
Beta: My always most wonderful comma wrangling-ninja-meh monkey-whacking-spyentist virtual spouse [livejournal.com profile] winks7985
Spoilers: None.
Word Count: 5,615
Status: Complete



A Man Almost Lost


Detective Sergeant Hathaway held onto the dashboard with a worrying death grip, his knuckles white as Detective Inspector Lewis almost lost control of the car as they turned off Richmond Road onto Walton Street. Ahead of them, a patrol car – its siren loud in the early morning – moved at a speed that was difficult to match but somehow (so far without incident but with a lot of near misses) they managed to keep up with the patrol car and the vehicle it was pursuing.

The vehicle in flight was being driven by Harold Green, a murdering bastard with a taste for young women. Green had been caught in the act by a pair of uniformed officers who had been unable to detain him and now Green was on the run, driving in a manner that was both desperate and unpredictable, without concern for others and Hathaway feared that the woman Green had killed earlier wasn’t going to be his only victim today.

It had suddenly become a catch-22 situation– they couldn’t let him get away, not a second time. It was a certainty that he would kill again if he succeeded in his escape but if they kept up this dangerous pursuit surely someone – a pedestrian, another driver – would become not only Green’s victim but a victim of a police pursuit. Hathaway knew that if it were to happen, Lewis would never forgive himself, his own wife a victim of a hit-and-run accident.

Hathaway grunted in pain, his shoulder slamming against the door, the side of his head smacking the window when Lewis struggled with the car, forcing it to turn a corner onto Botley Road when it didn‘t really want to. As though it were fighting back, the car swerved toward the foot path. To Hathaway, the large foreboding building to his left, loomed larger than life and he was sure he was about to become Green’s next victim but his side of the vehicle didn’t slam into the building as he had thought it would.

Lewis had managed – Hathaway was almost sure that it had been with more skill than luck – to correct the steering, accelerating out of the turn, like a father controlling a rebellious child and guiding them onto the right path. The back end of the car missed the building by what Hathaway feared was a whispered breath, as Lewis successfully turned the corner without harm to the car or its occupants.

Botley Road stretched out before them, giving both Hathaway and Lewis a clear view of Green’s vehicle, the winning distance it had held in front of the patrol car now diminishing rapidly. Side streets extended out from Botley Road, fingers stretching out on either side. The Thames, like a blue vein, broke up the green fields of Port Meadow and Binsey Green on the right. The fingers were dead end streets and if Green, not familiar with the area, turned down one of these streets they would have him. But he kept going, hoping to outrun the police on the long elongated stretch of road, his driving even more erratic in his desperate attempt to keep his freedom.

There was a small amount of traffic on the road, the meager amount of cars gladly giving Green all the space he required, but not every driver was in such a giving mood. A lorry, taking up more than its share of the road, the sun gleaming off its side, refused to move, its speed deliberately slowing.

Lewis swore, whether in gratitude or frustration, Hathaway wasn’t sure. Then Green attempted to do something only a desperate man would do– overtake. Holding his breath, Hathaway was tempted to close his eyes, not wanting to witness what might be the result. There was a car coming the other way toward Green and the killer was now blocked in: the lorry beside him, the patrol car behind him and a car headed straight toward him. Maybe it had been a moment of panic on the part of each driver; a refusal to believe that they were about to die, but neither of them gave way, slowed or backed off. Lewis, the only sane one of the lot, eased off the accelerator, allowing the car to slow, its pace now unhurried.

By divine intervention, as though God himself had stepped up to the plate, making the final decision and overriding the stupidity of those below, Green reached the corner of Binsey Lane before the approaching car reached him. Green took the corner quickly, a little too quickly, accelerating instead of slowing, his car spinning out of control, coming to a stop at an awkward angle on the side of the road, the engine stalling.

Hathaway allowed himself a small smile. It was over, they had him. But life wasn’t that easy. God had stepped back, taking his seat once more and allowing the game to play on. The driver of the patrol car, also thinking they had him, slammed on his brakes, allowing the oncoming car to pass before attempting to block Green. It was a mistake. Green grabbed the opportunity, starting the engine, revving it like a shout of joy, the tires spinning, the back end turning, straightening and speeding forward.

Lewis didn’t wait, leaving the patrol car behind where it sat in a cloak of embarrassment, passing it and accelerating down Binsey Lane after Harold Green. Hathaway, knowing that the chase would soon come to an end – Green had nowhere to go once he passed through the village of Binsey – unbuckled his seatbelt, giving himself that extra precious moment of time to go after Green when the chase came to a stop.

The Perch, the pub that had formed part of the inspiration to Lewis Caroll’s Alice in Wonderland, sat on the edge of Binsey, a thatched cottage set back from the river. It was almost deserted, its kitchen not opening until Midday, tourists and locals would be wandering the river banks, creating a whining appetite that some will only suppress with alcohol.

A delivery van blocked the lane to the village, an inconvenience to some but a fortunate piece of luck to others.

God was enjoying himself today.

Green now had two choices: drive onto the meadows of Binsey Green and hope for the best, or abandon the car at the pub and leg it. He chose the latter, running to the right, along the walking track toward the Thames River, his long legs pumping, his arms failing wildly.

DI Lewis wasn’t inclined to run after Green, driving off the road onto the track behind Green but the car wasn’t built for such an environment and Lewis had no other choice but to stop. Hathaway was ready, opening the door before the car had come to a complete stop. He took off after Green, the long legs of his six foot three frame allowing him to gain ground on the killer.

For some unknown reason, Green stayed on the track, following it as though he thought it would lead him to freedom, but it would only lead to water. Hathaway, unsure of which direction Green was going to take once he reached the river, stayed on the track, gaining more ground with every passing second.

With sudden clarity, Hathaway understood that Green was going to go right at the end of the track, the Bossoms Boatyard now in sight in his peripheral vision but he had no understanding of why Green thought he would manage to escape in a boat that was in need of repair. Hathaway went off track, onto grass still damp from the morning’s dew, with the intention of cutting Green off before he could reach the boatyard.

Green did go right, glancing back over his shoulder as he went, spotting Hathaway closing in, the detective‘s thick overcoat billowing behind him. The killer stumbled, somehow managed to keep his balance and kept going but he was already beginning to tire– it showed in those stumbling steps, his struggle to breathe.

Hathaway was getting so close, his feet pounding against the ground, the sound like a drum. If he could just get closer, reach out, stretch his long fingers . . . but Hathaway knew that would be a mistake, he could overbalance, fall as Green had just almost fallen. No, he needed to get much closer and then he could take him down; maybe smack the killer’s head against the ground in a very painful way . . . possibly more than once.

The voice of a small child, a scream of delight, caused Green to pause then change his course, heading down to the water. Hathaway, surprised by the sudden change of direction, took a moment too long to follow and with a dread that made his heart clench with fear, he realised what Green was about to do.

But Hathaway’s assumption was wrong. Green didn’t take the child as a shield– he did something much worse, something no one would have expected, a despicable act committed by a man without conscious. A young child wearing a bright red anorak, his mother watching from a short distance away, played on the edge of the river, his paper boat floating on its surface. All it took was a couple of seconds, Green didn’t even stop, continuing to run as he picked up the child and then throwing him – as though he was a small sack filled with an unwanted litter of newborn kittens – as far as he could into the river. It happened so quickly, so suddenly, an attempt to evade capture, to distract his pursuers. The child was silent, shocked, unaware of what was happening but the mother screamed, her terror cutting through Hathaway’s fear, stabbing him, cutting him deeply.

Hathaway didn’t slow down, didn’t think to remove his coat, his need to save the child so strong, so urgent, overriding all other thoughts of Harold Green. But he could feel the breeze on his face, cool against the heat of his flesh, the feather soft touch of the child’s mother’s fingers when they brushed against his shoulder as he ran past her. He could see the sun glinting off the water just before he broke its surface, taking a few steps through the water before diving in, the paper boat tipping over, sinking.

In that instant, everything felt so vivid, so alive, and yet, in front of him, there was only death.

The Thames River was cold, chilling Hathaway instantly– his face, his fingers quickly going numb. His lungs were already fighting for air, the fact that he was already out of breath from the chase not helping. The water made his eyes sting, his chest ach and his lungs burn as he searched. He dared not go up for air in case he lost direction. He was sure he was swimming straight, and that at any moment he would see the child before him. But he couldn’t see him, couldn’t find him. As the precious seconds passed, Hathaway began to lose hope, opening his mouth and letting out a silent scream of frustration. He swallowed water into his lungs, gagged and he knew he had lost.

Blackness swirled behind Hathaway’s eyes and a thick fog filled his mind, pulling him down, attempting to drag the life from him. Then time seemed to slow, to stop all together when he believed he would not find the drowning child– the water too murky, the boy swallowed by its depths. Hathaway prayed, for the first time in weeks, for the safety of the lost child.

There was a flash of red amongst the swirling blackness and Hathaway felt as though he were about to faint with relief. His body heavy with not only fatigue but his lungs filling with water, his life slowly ebbing away, Hathaway forced himself to go just that little bit further; he could die after he saved the child.

The child’s eyes were a clear sky blue – a vibrant blue that pierced even through the murky water of the Thames – which Hathaway would remember until his dying day. He felt like giving up, dying right there and then with the child but he couldn’t; how could he blame himself, wallow in a drowning stupor of self pity if he were dead?

Numb fingers gripped the anorak, pulling the child to Hathaway’s chest where he held him while the river did its best to take them both. Hathaway closed his eyes and kicked upward, breaking through the water’s surface a few seconds later. He could feel the sun on his face, the wind against his chilled flesh. He could hear the mother’s screams of anguish before they were abruptly cut off when the water pulled them back under, his heavy coat a weight that was now a hindrance to his safety.

When he kicked upward a second time and then a third time, it took longer to reach the surface, breaking through after what seemed to Hathaway as minutes instead of seconds. He wasn’t sure he wanted to take a breath before going back under, too tired to care any longer.

Something grabbed him from behind, a grip on his coat that pulled him up and back. An unfamiliar voice, full of worry and fear whispered, a warm breath against his ear, “You’re okay. I got you.”

With the stranger’s help, Hathaway struggled back onto the bank of the river, his eyes downcast, refusing to look at the mother, to see the anguish in her eyes, on her face, in her body language; to see her blame. He’d failed. Green had claimed his second victim for the day. He fell to his knees, the palm of his hand pressing painfully into the ground as he tried to stop himself from falling forward; the child still against his chest. He struggled to breathe, his coughs painful, the sound loud amidst a mothers screams of grief.

Hathaway hadn’t realised that someone was trying to pull the dead child from his embrace, not until a voice told him to let go. Looking up, Hathaway caught the intense stare of DI Lewis and quickly averted his own gaze.

Lewis, his voice soft, authoritative, said, “James, give him over.”

He nodded, numbly, awkwardly and released his tight grip; if the child weren’t already dead, he probably would have suffocated him. Hathaway watched as his boss took the child from him, carrying the body a short distance away and laying it on the ground but Hathaway couldn’t watch the desperate attempt Lewis made to revive the child; he refused to watch, instead standing on legs that weren’t ready to hold him up. He fell back, and with no one to catch him, he fell hard onto his back.

“Go help him!”

It was the voice of Lewis, the tone scared, urgent, drifting away from Hathaway, and fading into a vacuum. He felt like he was choking, the fluid in his lungs pressing down, constricting his uncontrolled breathing. His body felt heavy, soaked through to the skin and even further, his insides chilled, so very cold. He coughed, feeling a spray of water on his face. Staring up at the sky, a clear blue, much like the child’s eyes, Hathaway swore at the God he had once believed in so strongly. Closing his eyes, he allowed himself to drift, the sounds around him now muffled, as though they were trying to reach him through a thick haze. He felt lightheaded, ready to fade away into darkness and he was willing and ready to accept the embrace.

“Come on, mate, let’s get you taken care of.”

Hathaway opened his eyes, the movement slow and sluggish. A man, heavyset, his grey hair thick, his features soft, his eyes worried, his clothes dripping wet, reached down toward Hathaway, ready to pull the detective to his feet. But Hathaway wasn’t ready to get up, not yet, not when the darkness felt so close.

“You can’t stay here, not like that. You’ll catch your death,” said the man.

Hathaway laughed at the reference to death, the emotional outlet turning into a bout of painful coughing. The man quickly turned Hathaway onto his side, placing his open palm against the back of the Detective’s head and said, “You’ll be okay.”

But Hathaway worried that he wasn’t okay. He began to think the coughing would never stop, a runaway train tearing through his chest, his throat, destroying everything in its path. His eyes were clenched so tight, his fists closed, knuckles white, the fingernails digging into his flesh so painfully he thought they would draw blood. After what felt like a tortured eternity, the coughing finally began to ease and without interruption Hathaway drew in a breath– short, wet, painful.

The man gripped Hathaway’s shoulders, pulling him up into a sitting position, and Hathaway, not yet ready to move, was sure he was going to faint, the sudden dizziness so overwhelming. Everything had tilted, and the world before him turned to a position that was both nauseating and unwelcomingly familiar. He wanted to greet the darkness with open arms but the stranger, a man who seemed to be stubborn beyond his years, attempted to haul Hathaway to his feet. Hathaway’s knees buckled, his clothing waterlogged, his body heavy with fatigue, and he collapsed under the weight. The older man struggled and unable to keep Hathaway upright, he allowed the detective to fall back to the ground- this time less painfully.

Hathaway prayed the darkness would take him, cradle him in its embrace but it refused, staying just out of reach, watching him, tormenting him, teasing him with its kindness. It left him to suffer, his chest aching and his lungs feeling as though they were on fire, burning through him. His eyes stung and watered and he wasn’t sure if they were his own tears or the river’s. His shoulders shook, the tremble quickly moving through his thin frame. Hathaway wanted nothing more than to close his eyes, lie back and let the world take him. He coughed again, tasting the river’s water at the back of his mouth, mixed with the bile from his nauseated stomach. His body, so tired, swayed, falling backward, his mind dizzy with each struggled intake of breath. A hand pressed against his back, stilling him, guiding him back until he sat straight, staying there and supporting him, stopping him from falling again.

Hathaway dragged his legs inward, crossing them and leaned forward, resting his elbows on his knees, his face in the palms of his hands. The position constricted his breathing even more, making it feel as though he were breathing through a gag.

When his stomach rolled, a tidal wave of nausea, Hathaway leaned to the left – the stranger’s hand gripping the collar of Hathaway’s coat to stop him falling forward – and threw up. River water and bile blended, the sight of it making him feel worse.

It was as though he’d lost control, the now dry heaves sending a spike of pain through his chest, his skull– it felt worse that any hangover he‘d ever had. He felt weak, the last ounce of strength draining, his muscles shaking like jelly on an unbalanced plate, the position he was in no longer viable. A hand stroked his back, painting it with kindness, keeping him where he was as he continued to go through the motions, his now empty stomach unwilling to stop.

Darkness, still sitting on the sidelines, finally took pity on Hathaway, believing he’d suffered enough. It moved in quickly, surrounding Hathaway and dragging him into a world so black, so painless, so forgiving; into an embrace that Hathaway accepted with much welcomed relief.

.
.
.

The morgue was still, quiet, embraced with death. White walls and sterile metal tables where the dead lay waiting to be cut open, for their insides to be laid bare, questioned for a cause of death in a very undignified violent manner. A bloated fly hovered close to the body of an eighty three year old male- dead seven days before he had been found by an inquisitive neighbour. The thin green sheet covering the body couldn’t hide the maggots moving beneath it, eating the flesh beneath the peeling skin, the odour wafting around the corpse bad enough to turn even the strongest of stomachs.

Beyond the rotting cadaver, on a second table, lay the woman Harold Green had murdered– her face once pretty, now bloodied and bruised, her neck sliced open, the cut so deep you could see bone. Her death had not been easy, she had fought hard to survive but fate hadn’t been on her side.

On a third table, a small child lay, hair still damp, skin pale and unblemished, dead only a matter of hours; death so fresh it looked as though he were only sleeping, an afternoon nap before he returned to energetic play.

With his fists clenched, his body so tense his muscles ached, Hathaway stood beside the dormant child; the body. He wanted to reach out, prod the small arm beneath the sheet, to test death and force the child to wake from an endless sleep. Hathaway could almost imagine the small chest moving, the diaphragm expanding, contracting as the child breathed. The small frail limbs twitching as life returned, as blood flowed . . .

Hathaway knew that if he allowed himself to see more, he would notice the obvious signs of death: skin turning a waxy grey, blood pooling in the lowest part of the body, the eyes covered with a milk coloured film. But he wouldn’t look further, blinded by his own selfish needs, denying himself the acceptance of death because it was so much easier if he believed the child was only sleeping.

So much easier . . .

He lifted his gaze and stared at the rotting corpse, at a man who had lived a lifetime, achieving all he had wanted only to die a lonely death. It was so much easier to believe the child who had been robbed of life was sleeping than to imagine what would become of the corpse. Embalming fluid would help protect the body, slow the decay but eventually . . .

It was so much easier to believe . . .

Hathaway closed his eyes, lowered his head, allowing it to sag between his shoulders and slammed his fist against the metal table, once, twice, the pain a welcomed distraction, if only for a few seconds. The edge of his palm throbbed, the pain thumping like a beating heart, the rhythm slowing, stilling as though death had claimed it. He needed to feel, to feel something other than guilt. Again, he pounded his fist against the table, this time hard enough to break something, bone cracking, breaking beneath the assault. The pain was bright, sharp, nauseating him, turning his stomach. He was going to faint, he was sure of it. He gripped the edge of the table with his good hand, holding on for dear life, waiting for the nausea to ease, worrying because he enjoyed the pain a little too much. Forgetting the rotting corpse, Hathaway took a deep breath and gagged, thankful that his stomach was empty. He swallowed the bile, not wanting to spit it out in front of the child.

He was only sleeping, so much easier to believe he was sleeping. So much easier . . .

Not wanting to leave, but aware that he was no longer capable of standing up without assistance, Hathaway reluctantly searched for a chair. In a corner, placed against the wall were two small plastic chairs– white, ugly, uncomfortable. He moved toward them, dizziness and pain threatening to bring him down, reaching them in a few steps. Pulling one away from the wall and toward the table, its legs scraping against the polished floor, Hathaway paused, afraid the noise would disturb the dead, before lifting the chair, bringing it close to the table and then sitting down.

Resting his broken hand in his lap, Hathaway looked up, his gaze now level with the body. His shoulders sagged beneath the guilt, the weight of the emotion almost breaking him. Hathaway shivered, the tremor brushing against the broken bones in his hand, the pain strong, almost comforting, distracting him from what was real. He wanted to pull his gaze away, look at something else, anything else but he couldn’t, the body in front of him a constant reminder that he was only fooling himself, and succeeding badly.

So much easier to just think he was sleeping . . .

But he wasn’t just sleeping. Death continued to nag at Hathaway, trying to push through the denial, acceptance of the truth ready to break him completely. He realised he no longer wanted to be alone, to dwell on his own thoughts, drown in his own guilt and fear. Hathaway wanted someone to assure him that it wasn’t his fault, that he had done all he could. He wanted a drink, a cigarette, to sleep undisturbed for a week. Hathaway prayed, silently, to a God he was no longer sure existed and asked for forgiveness, for someone, anyone, to guide him through his emotions, to help him find a compromise to the guilt that was threatening to tear him apart.

He didn’t want his emotions to break him.

As though his prayer had been answered, the double doors to the morgue opened, closed. Muted voices talking behind his back and then a whispered voice, “I’m sorry,” before the doors opened and closed again. God had teased him, allowing Hathaway to think he had been listening, sending someone, only to pull them away, leaving Hathaway alone once again, only cadavers and guilt to keep him company.

He was tired, so very, very tired. Of everything his job entailed: the death, the violence and the victims. Hathaway leaned forward, resting his forehead on the edge of the table and closed his eyes. The world around him was so silent, still, as though partaking in a moment of silence for the dead. His mind drifted to a different level, images so vivid, so real assaulted him, bringing forth a fresh wave of guilt. It overwhelmed him, pushing him down–

“Hathaway.”

Hathaway curled the fingers of his broken hand, the clenched grip soft, unnatural, clawed. He lifted his head and glanced over his shoulder, his gaze resting for less than a second on his boss before returning to the child laid out before him.

“Sir?”

“Been looking everywhere for you,” said Lewis.

“I wasn’t hiding.”

“Yeah, I can see that now.”

Hathaway grimaced at the sound of a chair scraping against the floor, a shiver running through his spine, grating at his back teeth. He wanted to say so much, reveal so much but he didn’t know where to start, how to put into words what he was feeling. He waited, hoping that Lewis would start the conversation for him, lead him through it. In his peripheral, Hathaway watched as Lewis placed a white plastic chair next to him and sat down.

Seconds passed and the silence seemed to grow even thicker, Hathaway’s guilt floating above it, like oil on water.

“Got a little worried when you left the hospital,” said Lewis. “They wanted to keep you under observation for at least eight hours. Something about secondary drowning. Hobson‘s turning over just about every stone looking you. And Innocent is gathering together the troops as we speak.”

“I keep trying to convince myself he’s just sleeping,” said Hathaway. “Makes it . . .”

Easier . . .

Lewis nodded, reached forward, past Hathaway, and pulled the green sheet up and over the boy’s head, hiding the young features.

Hathaway turned to stare at his boss, ready to . . . “What happened to you?”

Lewis rubbed at the small piece of gauze on the right side of his forehead, a stain of fresh blood appearing under the touch and said, “Harold Green. We finally caught up to him at Bossoms Boatyard.”

Hathaway felt his anger grow, “If those two constables had--”

“It’s no one’s fault, not yours, not theirs,” said Lewis. “Unfortunately, things like this happen. When you’ve been on the job as long as I have . . .”

“Had a lot of children die in your arms, have you, Sir?”

“One or two.”

Hathaway hung his head in shame. Lewis had been a police officer a long time. He’d investigated more deaths than any one man should.

“If you’re going to blame someone,” said Lewis, “blame Harold Green.”

“I should have saved him.”

“You did your best, man. No one could have asked more of you.”

“I could have given more,” said Hathaway, the disgust he felt for himself clear in his tone. “If I had tried harder.”

“If you’d give more than you were capable, you’d be dead on one of these tables right now and it’ll be me sitting here wallowing in self pity, guilt and blame.”

“I just don’t understand. I can’t understand how he could just throw away the life of a child,” said Hathaway. He clenched his broken fist so tight, the pain brought tears to his eyes but he kept squeezing the broken bones together, grating them against each other. Distracting himself from acceptance. It’s just easier to think of an alternative, a reality that didn’t actually exist. “I can’t do this.”

“James, you can’t make a decision like that now,” said Lewis, his own emotions catching in his voice. “You’re vulnerable and you’re blaming yourself for something you couldn’t control.”

“I can’t help but think . . . if I‘d just tried harder.”

Lewis leaned forward, watching Hathaway’s profile, seeing the unshed tears and said, “I should have done more. I should have brought him back. I should have tried harder.”

“Reverse Psychology? All due respect, Sir, you’re a lot smarter than you sometimes look.”

“I’m going to let that one pass,” said Lewis. “And it’s not reverse Psychology. You think I’m not feeling guilty, blaming myself for not being able to bring him back.”

“I’m sorry, Sir,” said Hathaway, “I didn’t think.”

“Too busy feeling sorry for yourself,” said Lewis. “James, look at me.”

Hathaway blinked, the tears of pain, emotion, drying, and sat back, staring forward. It was as much as he could afford to give Lewis right now, if he looked his boss in the eye . . . he didn’t know what would happen; he was willing to talk openly about his emotions but he was not yet willing to show them.

“This is not your fault.”

Hathaway shook his head. “I can’t forgive myself, not yet.”

Lewis nodded. “I don’t expect you to deal with this quickly, to wake up in the morning and be okay with it.”

Hathaway snorted, choking on the laughter, coughing. Lewis slapped him on the back, comforting his tense muscles through the bout of coughing, squeezing Hathaway’s shoulder when the coughs abated.

“It’s going to take time. I don’t want this to break you. You’re a good cop, Hathaway. But you have to deal with things in a way that’s better for your emotional health. I’ve seen men, emotionally stronger than you, crack over the death of a child. Not you. I don’t want to see you go through that. That would break me.”

Choked with emotion, Hathaway refused to respond, verbally or physically.

“Now, I don’t know about you,” said Lewis, “but that short speech has given me a thirst. So, why don‘t we get Hobson to be our designated driver, go down to the pub and drink until we can’t stand up straight.”

“I would think doctor Hobson would be too busy,” Hathaway gazed across the row of cadavers.

Lewis nodded and said, “A taxi then.”

Lewis was a distraction, his words, his easy going manner, he made it easier . . .

“Maybe later,” whispered Hathaway.

“James,” Lewis sighed.

“I broke my hand,” said Hathaway, lifting his right hand up, the edge of the hand already bruised, bloating. “Hurts like hell.”

Lewis gripped Hathaway’s wrist, taking a closer look at the damage before laying it back down against Hathaway‘s thigh, frowned and said, “Right then, the Emergency room first I think and then, if you’re still up to it, a drink at the pub.”

Lewis had a way of making it easier.

“If you don’t mind, Sir,” said Hathaway, “I’d like to stay a little longer.”

Lewis hesitated before answering, “One of those constables gave Green a bit of a bollocking while I wasn’t looking. Accidentally of course.”

Hathaway couldn’t help but smile, the corner of his mouth turning up slightly. It was a beginning, acceptance of death creeping through the barrier of denial. He could do it now, accept; he could do it because he had help, he wasn’t alone in the feeling of guilt, of blame.

It was easier to accept . . .

Lewis made it easier . . .





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