azombiewrites: (Jack the Ripper - TV Movie)
[personal profile] azombiewrites
Title: A Conversational Gambit
Rating: PG
Fandom: Jack the Ripper
Genre: Hurt/Comfort
Summary: When his sergeant is injured during a fight at the Britannia Pub, Chief Inspector Abberline spends the night at the Whitechapel Mortuary; the last place he’d expected to be after the closure of the Jack The Ripper case.
Main Characters: Chief Inspector Frederick Abberline and Sergeant George Godley.
Secondary Characters: P.C Watkins and Doctor Llewellyn.
Disclaimers: This story is based on the characters portrayed by Michael Caine and Lewis Collins in the 1988 tv move, 'Jack the Ripper'.
Total Word Count: 7,471
Status: Complete





A Conversational Gambit



Chief Inspector Fred Abberline walked the paved streets of Whitechapel, the desperate need for a drink burning through his veins, quickening his step. He’d barely touched the bottle of alcohol hidden in his desk during the last two months but now that the case was over, he was ready and willing to make up for lost time. He wanted, needed to drink himself into a stupor but if he was going to get mind numbingly drunk he would have to lose his ever dependable sergeant, who for some reason, made it his mission to try to keep Abberline sober and on the straight and narrow.

Abberline gazed back over his shoulder, stopping at the sight of his sergeant, who had been following him like a lost puppy, never getting too close for fear of being told to ‘get lost’. George’s shoulders were slumped, his head lowered, his face hidden by the brim of his hat and he walked with a heavy step, no doubt burdened by the result of the night’s events.

They had caught the man calling himself Jack The Ripper, the man who had torn the innards from five women but there would be no trial, no embarrassment for the man’s family, no scandal for the Queen; no justice for the five prostitutes who had died a violent death at the hands of a man crazed by madness.

George had spoken to the women, questioning them, warning them to be careful. When they had a better knowledge of the killer, that he used a coach and a regular driver, George had gone to every pub in Whitechapel warning the Publican’s and the prostitutes to stay clear of the streets and the coaches that travelled them. But the warning hadn’t saved Mary Jane Kelly who had been gutted like a pig in her own boarding room. It had been a sickening sight and George hadn’t been the only one brought to tears by the sight of Mary Kelly’s organs carefully scattered around the small room.

Abberline sighed when his sergeant walked straight into him, the collision causing Abberline to take a stumbling step backward. George looked up, the gashes on his pale face ugly under the scrutiny of a street lamp. He looked abashed, apologetic, unable to return Abberline’s steady gaze.

“Sorry, Fred,” said George. “I wasn’t looking where I was going.”

Abberline nodded in understanding and watched as his sergeant stood up straight before taking in a deep breath as though he were readying himself for an angry response. In the four years they had worked together, Abberline had never gotten angry with George, even at the worst of times; the times when Abberline had relinquished his resolve and hit the bottle until he was stumbling drunk through the halls of Scotland Yard. Not even when George would steal a bottle of good whiskey from right under Abberline’s nose just so his Inspector would keep his job, his reputation and the little respect he had garnered from some of his fellow officers. And especially not when George had stopped him from killing Jack The Ripper.

“Come on, George,” said Abberline, his hand gripping his sergeant’s shoulder. “You probably need a drink as much as I do.”

George’s eyes widened in surprise and Abberline knew, without a doubt, that George was going to argue, deny him his need to drink away not only the last few hours but the last two months.

“Fred,” said George. “You can’t. You’ve been sober for two months now.”

“And I’ll get sober again,” said Abberline.

“Fred--”

“Not now, George. After tonight, I need a drink.”

“When you say, a drink, do you mean one drink?”

“As many as it takes.”

George, his shoulders slumping in defeat, nodded, his reluctance clearly showing on his expressive face. He turned and began to walk in a direction that would take them back toward the station.

“Not there, George,” said Abberline. “If I have to deal with Spratling and his sergeant tonight, I’ll probably end up beating their faces in.”

George raised a questioning eyebrow and said, “Then where?”

.
.
.

George Godley didn’t like it. The Britannia pub was not the place for them. The locals of Whitechapel were ready to revolt and the last place two detectives from Scotland Yard should be is right in the middle of the building resentment. The inhabitants had been helpful, willing to assist in any way they could to catch the man responsible for the deaths of the women who had spent more time at the Britannia than they had anywhere else, but after the last death, after Mary Jane Kelly, things were different. Especially where George Lusk was concerned. The man and his vigilante group thought they were above the law and were ready to hang anyone who they considered responsible for the deaths in Whitechapel; including the local constabulary.

No, they should not be here and they definitely shouldn’t drink here. They would be vulnerable, unable to defend themselves if a fight did break out. But maybe that was what Fred wanted, an outlet, to place his anger in a direction that wouldn’t damage their working relationship or their friendship. But still . . .

“Fred, surely, not here,” said George.

“A better place than any, George.”

“We won’t be welcomed.”

“Of course we will. After all, we are the police.”

“They won’t care, Fred,” said George. “They know who we are. They blame us for what happened to those women, to Mary Kelly.”

“We did our best, George.”

“If we get drunk here . . . they’ll take advantage,” said George. “Two drunk coppers. They’ll try to beat us senseless.”

“George,” said Abberline. “I want to drink with these people.”

George was sure if he tried to drag Fred away from this place and back to a more private location, it would splinter their friendship. Maybe they both needed to let off a little steam. He grimaced and admitted to himself that he was going to have to stay sober.

Taking a deep breath, George nodded, turned and pushed his way through the doors, his face less hostile than Abberline’s, more familiar during the last two months than Abberline. Perhaps, if they saw Sergeant George Godley first, they would be less inclined to look at the man behind him. George smiled at the Publican and indicated with a nod of his head that they would be sitting at the empty table in the furthest corner of the room, an area cloaked in a shade of darkness, hidden from the main area of the pub, from the men and women who were already well on their way to drunken oblivion.

George walked through the crowd, nodding a greeting at the more friendlier occupants and glaring at the trouble makers, his body language advising them to back off. Billy, the pimp who had been unable to backup his offers of protection to the women who were murdered, stood at the end of the bar. If anyone was going to start a brawl, it would be Billy. They had faced off before, and it hadn’t been a fair fight, Billy’s friends standing between the sergeant and the pimp but George had managed fairly well, dealing with Billy’s friends before throwing the arrogant fool out onto the street to fall face first in the horse manure that littered the road. George shook his head at Billy, a clear warning to stay away tonight.

When they reached the table, George removed his hat, dropped it on to the table and sat down facing the room. The shrouded darkness was enough to hide them from any newcomers, but he needed to keep an eye on those already in the room. Fred sat down across from him, his fingers shaking, his need for a drink so strong.

“You sure about this?” asked George. “You haven’t had a real drink since the beginning of the case.”

“As sure as I am that an injustice was committed tonight,” said Abberline.

George bit down on his bottom lip. He had done the right thing; stopping Fred from murdering a killer in cold blood. He knew Fred could be a violent man, willing to go to extremes to bring the guilty to justice, but killing a man . . . it wasn’t right.

“It’s not your fault, George.”

“I couldn’t let you do it, Fred.”

“No,” said Abberline. “You don’t have it in you.”

The Publican arrived with two glasses of local ale and placed them on the table. “You gents are askin’ for trouble comin’ here.”

Abberline smiled. “I would welcome any trouble your establishment has to offer but right now, I just want a drink. Bring me something stronger. In fact, bring me a bottle of your very best.”

Scratching a thick sideburn, the Publican looked at George and said, “If you mess up my place again, I’ll--”

“I’ll give you trouble if you don’t bring me my drink,” snapped Abberline.

The Publican grunted in disgust and walked away.

Abberline leaned over the table and said, “If he pisses in my drink, I’ll have him.”

George rolled his eyes and took a sip from his glass before placing it back on the table. It was going to be a long night.

.
.
.

“I like you, George,” said Abberline, before taking a drink straight from the bottle. He’d given up on using the glass after his second drink. “I always have. You’re a good man and I have a lot of respect for you. So I’m going to tell you this . . . once and only once . . . so listen. I will never hold what you did against you. You only did what you thought was right and I can’t argue that with you.”

“They would have hanged you, Fred.” George raised his voice to be heard over the almost deafening noise of the crowded pub. The alcohol was beginning to bring out the worst in everyone. “I couldn’t have lived with that.”

“Only if you told them what I’d done.”

“They would have found out,” said George. “Not from me, but someone would have worked out what had happened.”

Abberline nodded. “Maybe.”

George leaned forward, resting his forearms on the table. “You would never have been able to live with yourself if you killed him.”

“I think I would have managed,” said Abberline. “But I will tell you this, George, I’m not sure I can live with myself knowing that bastard is going to live out the rest of his short life in luxury. He doesn’t deserve it. Those women don’t deserve it.”

“They were nice girls,” said George. “Friendly and not in the way you’re probably thinking right now.”

Abberline chuckled and looked at George’s half empty glass, then lifted his gaze. His sergeant’s face was even paler than usual, and then, for what Abberline thought was at least the fiftieth time in the last twenty minutes - it may have been an exaggeration on his part - George raised his hand, his fingers probing the numerous cuts on the side of his face. It was obvious the abrasions were bothering George and Abberline had been too consumed with his own need to drink the night and possibly the next day away to notice George’s discomfort. George and his loyalty. The man should have said something.

“George? What’s wrong?”

His sergeant grimaced and returned Abberline’s scrutinizing gaze. “I would have thought it was obvious.”

“I’m a little drunk, George,” said Abberline. “So why don’t you enlighten me.”

“Enlighten you about the fact we shouldn’t be here,” said George. “Or about the fact that you shouldn’t be drinking. Two months sober and you’re going to chuck it all in and for what. And I’m sure I don’t need to remind you that it’s not your job to judge and execute the guilty, Fred. That’s the job of the legal system and what a bloody farce that has been. Too bloody concerned about embarrassment, scandal and political upheaval to allow justice for five prostitutes. You’re right though. I do need a drink. Why don’t we go back to the Yard, take a bottle with us?”

Abberline smiled. “That isn’t what I was talking about.”

George frowned. “Then what are you talking about?”

“That,” said Abberline, pointing at his sergeant’s face. “You haven’t had those abrasions seen to yet, have you?”

“I haven’t had the time,” said George, shifting uncomfortably under Abberline’s gaze.

“You’re a terrible liar, George Godley,” said Abberline. “Go on. Go and see someone about them. A doctor. Your wife. I’m sure she’ll enjoy taking care of your ails.”

“I’m not leaving you here to get drunk on your own. Not here.”

“But you’re not drinking, George, so therefore, I am getting drunk on my own.”

“One of us has to stay sober,” said George, his features turning serious, his body now tense.

“And why is that, my old friend?” asked Abberline, failing to notice the change in his sergeant’s body language.

“That,” George nodded toward something behind Abberline.

Abberline turned and looked at the small group of men standing behind him. He smiled, not in joy but in anticipation. A fight, an opportunity to release some of his pent-up anger, was just what he needed. Glancing back at his friend, Abberline understood that George, although not as inclined to violence as much as he was, also needed an outlet for his emotions.

The leader of the group, a man with more weight than hair, stepped forward and said, “You’re not welcome here.”

.
.
.

This is what George had expected, the reason he knew they shouldn’t be here. But the longer he had sat here thinking about what had happened . . . George was angry, too angry; angry enough for a fight. Angry enough to beat any man who threw a punch in his direction. He was off duty and he had every intention of not upholding the law. He needed an outlet and he was sure as hell going to get one. But his first priority was Fred. The alcohol his boss had consumed would hinder Fred’s reflexes; his reactions would be slow, too slow. He had to protect his boss, his friend and to do that George would have to put each assailant down as quickly as possible and if that meant fighting dirty . . . it wouldn’t be the first time he’d been put in this position.

“You’re not welcome. Not you and not him.” The man pressed a thick finger against Abberline’s back, pushing him forward, toward the table.

George reacted, his need to protect his boss controlling his actions. He stood up quickly and stepped around the table. Reaching out, he grabbed the man’s finger, forcing the appendage backward and the man had no choice but to step back. But George wasn’t done. He gripped the man’s wrist with his other hand to stop his movement, keeping the pressure against the finger until he heard the bone snap. The man screamed, his voice cracking, before falling to his knees. One down . . .

Someone grabbed him from behind, pulling him back and he turned and swung his fist. Watching as Fred ducked away from him, George smiled, maybe Fred’s reflexes weren’t as slow as he’d thought they would be.

Abberline smiled. “Leave some for me, George.”

Something slammed into George’s back, knocking him forward, away from Abberline and onto the floor. He grunted in pain when his already injured face struck the floorboards. He had to get up and get up quickly, otherwise the fight would be over before it had really begun. Air was violently forced from his lungs when a booted foot collided with his side, throwing him onto his back, his thick overcoat protecting his ribs from a more crushing blow. The boot, its heel covered with manure, filled his vision. Before it could strike his face, causing even more damage, he managed to grip the toe of the boot and pushed upward, throwing the man off balance. Another kick to his side, from a different assailant, had George rolling away, an attempt to give himself enough room to get up.

Mid roll, George shifted his weight and pushed himself back up onto his feet and found himself facing a second group of angry men intent on throwing him and Abberline out of the Britannia. He had expected a small fight, a few men angry enough to attempt an assault on two police officers but the small group was quickly turning into a mob. In his peripheral vision, George observed his friend for a few seconds. Fred was holding his own. George took up a fighting stance, turning his body to the side, his knees slightly bent, the right leg to the back and brought his fists just up to his eye level. He was ready and very able to take on each one of them.

“Oh no you don’t.”

A voice behind him caused George to turn, just in time to see the wooden mallet before it struck a damaging blow to the side of his skull.

.
.
.

Abberline watched as his sergeant was sent to the floor for a second time but he noticed, with a grip of fear, that this time, George wasn’t getting back up. It had been a mistake coming here. He should have listened to George, heeded his friend’s advice but no, he had to be the selfish bastard, thinking only of himself and now George was paying for his selfishness, his mistake. A simple brawl, a way of releasing the anger, had turned into something more.

“Back off! Now!” said Abberline as another assailant approached him. “Or I’ll do all of you for attempted murder.”

A voice spoke from somewhere in the crowd. “We haven’t even tried to kill you . . . yet!”

“I’m telling you now! You have my word. If any of you throw another punch, another kick, I’ll bloody well kill you myself and I’ll call it self defence!”

The crowd started to shift as words of protests were muttered. The agitators began to disperse, moving away from Abberline, giving him a clear view of his sergeant who lay on his stomach, his arms trapped beneath his body. Oh God, what had he done? Facing the now silent crowd, Abberline moved toward George, bending down on one knee when he reached his sergeant’s side. Above George’s right ear, blood flowed from a nasty laceration and as much as Abberline wanted to take care of his friend, to stop the bleeding, he wasn’t able; not now.

Some of the crowd had begun to throw food scraps, a way to try to distract Abberline from his charge while others were regaining their lost courage, moving closer to the two men. Abberline stood up and with his sergeant unconscious on the floor behind him, he prepared himself for a fight he wouldn’t win, not without George by his side. But Abberline wasn’t given the chance to defend himself. A blow from behind left him sprawled on the floor beside his sergeant and as the darkness took over, he prayed that he hadn’t made the worst mistake of his life.

.
.
.

Abberline woke with a start, his body prepared for the visiting hangover that had become almost a stranger; so long since it had made its last visit. The memory of the night before was slow to return, to correct his assumption, but when it did he sat up, the movement too quick. His head screamed in response, threatening to fall from his shoulders. Abberline carefully placed a trembling hand against the side of his head, trying to still its protests, before moving to the back of his skull. The hair was dry; no blood. His vision blurred making it difficult to see what was in front of him and his stomach lurched, like a boat in an ocean’s storm.

After a few panicked moments his vision cleared and his surroundings revealed themselves to him. It was a shock to his system to find himself on the floor of the Whitechapel Mortuary instead of the drunk cell at Scotland Yard, a room that was so familiar.

He wasn’t dead, of that he was sure.

But he was less assured about his sergeant.

There, before him, on the one and only table centered in the middle of the large mortuary, George Godley lay on his left side, facing Abberline, the blood dark on his pale face.

Abberline’s chest became too tight with emotion, a heart clenching fear that he’d lost his one true friend. If George was dead . . . the only man Abberline truly respected, the only real friend he’d had in years . . .

A subtle movement, the slight rise and fall of George’s chest, released the fear that had gripped his heart. For that brief moment when he had feared George was dead . . . it had been the most horrible feeling . . .

Testing his balance, Abberline stood up and when he didn’t fall back to the floor, he walked to the table, his legs slightly unsteady, his body trembling with the fading fear. He stood close to his friend’s side, bending over to get a closer look at the injury. In the light from the gas lamps high above the table, the open wound on the side of George’s skull looked ugly, swollen, his hair and the side of his face soaked with drying blood but Abberline knew from experience the wound looked worse than it probably was. Slapping George’s cheek, with a little more force than necessary, Abberline tried to rouse him but his sergeant wasn’t having any of it; it seemed George Godley had no intention of waking. At least not yet.

“Sir?”

Abberline spun on his heels, stumbled and held onto the table with a firm grip. P.C Derrick Watkins stood in the doorway of the mortuary. The young constable was like a lost penny, always turning up when you least expected it, but he was always a welcomed sight.

“Derrick, son,” said Abberline. “Fetch me a doctor.”

“Sir--”

“A doctor! Get one. Now!”

“Sir.” Derrick stepped further into the mortuary. “That’s what I came to tell you. Doctor Llewellyn is on his way”

“Llewellyn? He’s a . . .” said Abberline, before clenching his jaw shut against a vulgar insult. He nodded. At the moment, he just wanted to make sure the injury wasn’t serious. When George was awake and back on his feet, he would take his friend to a doctor who knew a gutted corpse when he saw one. In the meantime . . .

“Derrick? Why are we here instead of somewhere more comfortable?”

“Inspector Spratling, Sir. He--”

“I’ll kill him,” snapped Abberline. “I’ll bloody kill him!”

“--said Sergeant Godley was . . . I mean, when we found you we thought . . .” Derrick stepped up to the table and took off his police helmet. He scratched his head in sympathy when his gaze quickly shifted to Sergeant Godley, blanching at the sight of the blood that covered the side of the sergeant’s head and face. “All that blood, Sir.”

“It looks worse than it is, son,” said Abberline.

“It’s a lot of blood, Sir.”

“Head wounds bleed a lot.”

“But he’s not waking up, Sir,” said Derrick.

“Give him time, son. I only woke up a few minutes ago.”

Derrick smiled. “Do you need anything, Sir? A cup of tea?”

“Not just yet, Derrick,” said Abberline, his gaze drifting over his sergeant’s face. “Where did you find us?”

“Sir?”

Abberline pressed the palm of his hand against the side of his head, a way to control his anger and frustration. He liked Derrick. The young constable was smart, eager to help in any way and he would go a long way in his chosen career but sometimes . . . sometimes Abberline could smack him.

“Where-did-you-find-us?”

Derrick shifted his stance, his body language now showing his uncertainty. He stepped around the table keeping sergeant Godley between himself and Abberline.

“Not far from the Britannia, Sir . . .”

Abberline knew there was more so he waited, his fingers finding the sleeve of George’s coat, holding it within a white-knuckled grip.

“On the side of the street, Sir,” said Derrick.

“In the gutter?”

“Yes, Sir.”

“And Spratling told you to bring us here?”

Derrick lowered his gaze, his head.

Abberline couldn’t help but feel sorry for the lad. “What aren’t you telling me, son?”

“He’s my gov’na, Sir . . . I can’t . . .”

“He won’t hear it from me,” said Abberline.

“He left you there, Sir,” said Derrick, turning his helmet in his hands. “Went inside for a drink and sent sergeant Kirby to get some of us to bring you here.”

“Where is he now? Spratling?”

“The Britannia, Sir,” said Derrick. “Unless he went home.”

“Did he think Geo . . . Sergeant Godley was dead?”

“Sir?”

He was so close to smacking him. “Your gov’na! Did he actually think George was dead?”

“That’s what he told us, Sir.”

“So this is his idea of a joke!”

Derrick nodded, the movement so slight that Abberline almost missed it.

“Who sent for Llewellyn?” asked Abberline. “And so help me, Derrick, if your answer is ‘Sir’ I’m going to hit you!”

Derrick stepped back away from the table, distancing himself even further from Abberline. “I did . . . Sir.”

“Good lad.”

“He lives close by, Sir,” said Derrick. “When I sent for him . . . well . . .”

“What?” asked Abberline, leaning against the table when it suddenly felt like all his strength had left him.

“It was to confirm sergeant Godley’s . . .”

“Death?”

Derrick refused to return Abberline’s stare.

Abberline nodded. “So he isn’t in any real hurry to get here?”

“No, Sir.”

“Then don’t you think you should go and let him know?”

“Yes, Sir.”

But Derrick hesitated. Why, Abberline didn’t know and at the moment he didn’t really care. All he knew . . . all he felt was the need to hit someone and if Derrick didn’t leave to fetch Llewellyn . . . if he didn’t leave now, Abberline would . . .

“Sir.”

Abberline took a deep, not-so-calming breath and said, “Yes, Derrick?”

“I think he’s waking up.”

.
.
.

The strong smell of blood brought George Godley back to his senses; senses that were uncoordinated and extremely confused. His body felt uncomfortably warm, nauseated, his head dizzy. He felt strange, like his insides were trying to float above his body. He reached out with his right hand, in search of something solid, something that would ground him, keep his insides where they were. When someone’s hand gripped his, he held it within a death grip and then he realised, with abject wretchedness, that this was going to be the worst hangover he’d ever suffered.

“George?”

He gagged on the odour of blood, choked on the bile rising into his throat; if he threw up now, George was sure he wouldn’t survive. A single cough quickly turned into a bout and George was writing his own eulogy.

“George.”

Fred, the cause of George’s discomfort. Never again would he allow his boss to drink him under the table. Next time, he would refuse to sit at the table, deny the invitation to a drink. Next time, he would cuff Fred to a chair and leave him to drown in his own sobriety. He jerked in surprise when he felt the cool flesh of someone’s palm on his forehead.

“George.”

“Leave me be, Fred,” said George, his voice soft, barely audible. “I feel like I drank the entire pub.”

Abberline laughed but there was a hint of relief in his voice, a release of fear that George was unable to grasp.

“It’s not funny, Fred. My head feels like a blacksmith’s anvil.”

“George,” said Abberline. “At the moment, your head looks like a blacksmith’s anvil.”

His eyelids were heavy, too heavy and it took all his strength to open them. Fred, blurred almost beyond recognition, stood over him, looking too healthy, too sober; usually after a night of drinking the man was a wreck, resembling a homeless drunk more than a Chief Inspector. George frowned in confusion, the simple movement sending a stab of pain through the right side of his face. He tried to raise his hand, his fingers intent on comforting the grazes on his face with a soft touch.

“Don’t,” said Abberline, still gripping George’s hand, forcing it with relative ease back to his side.

George shifted his gaze, surprised that such a thing could be so painful. Behind Fred was a familiar figure; P.C Watkins.

“Not now, Derrick,” said George, closing his eyes. “I couldn’t stomach a cup of tea right now.”

“Derrick,” said Abberline. “Go and let Llewellyn know that George is no longer a corpse.”

“Yes, Sir,” said Derrick and with one last look at George’s bloody face, he turned and hurried from the mortuary.

“Llewellyn?” said George.

“Don’t worry, George, I won’t let him perform an autopsy.”

George frowned then grimaced. “What?”

“You don’t want to know.”

“I don’t?”

“No, George, you don’t.”

“Fred,” said George. “If I live through this hangover, I may, with all due respect of course, consider belting you one.”

“We’ll discuss it over a drink,” said Abberline, smiling.

George groaned, opened his eyes and did his best to glare at Fred who was standing too close. It was a weak effort but he was sure he managed to get his point across.

“Breakfast then?”

Okay, maybe he didn’t get his point across, didn’t even get it close enough for Fred to feel sorry for him, to understand that the last thing George wanted was a drink or food. Just the thought of it made his stomach turn.

“I’m never drinking again,” said George.

“What do you mean again,” said Abberline. “You didn’t even finish your first lager.”

George pulled his hand from Abberline’s fingers and used it to push himself upward. The attempt was an unmitigated disaster. His head spun, like an out of control merry-go-round with no way to get off. His stomach churned and he was sure his world was about to fall apart.

“George!” Abberline grabbed the lapels of George’s coat and slowly lowered his friend back down to the table. “Stay down.”

He could feel the hard wood beneath his shoulders, feel the rough surface against the palms of his hands as he tried to grip the edges of the table. Above him the gas lamps blurred, darkened. Something tugged at his mind, pulling him toward what would be a comforting warm embrace. He fought it at first, his confusion wanting answers but the harder he fought the more it hurt. George gave in, the darkness washing over him, shutting him down.

.
.
.

Abberline held on, long after his friend had lost consciousness, wanting to feel the strong heartbeat beneath his hands, wanting to know that George was still okay. The head wound looked nasty, ugly, but George had been coherent, although a little confused about what had actually happened. It had been a stupid thing to do, trying to get up and Abberline hadn’t really been surprised when George passed out. When his clenched fists finally relaxed, letting go of George’s coat, he turned friend’s head to the side, keeping the open wound away from the table’s blood stained surface. Many a body had been cut open on this table and the thought of George, laying where only the dead had laid before him, turned Abberline’s stomach. He should have insisted on moving George while he had someone available to help him.

He leaned back against the table’s edge, keeping himself upright. He needed to sit down, his head still dizzy, the headache still malicious, his stomach shifting back and forth but Abberline had no intention of leaving his sergeant’s side to search for a chair so he settled for gritting his teeth and sucking it up. If George can manage without too much complaint then so could he. But then again, George was sleeping through the worst of it.

If he thought he could manage it without falling flat on his face, Abberline would hitch himself up onto the table to sit beside his friend, take the weight off his feet and the pressure of pain away from his skull. Once George was taken care of, Abberline would sleep, in a comfortable bed, or chair, depending on where George would end up. He wasn’t sure if Llewellyn would insist on his sergeant going to a hospital, or if he would take care of him himself, stitching up the wound and sending his patient home.

Abberline wasn’t confident with Llewellyn’s abilities but right now, he would allow the police surgeon to administer to George’s needs, if only to refer him to a doctor who was better equipped; with experience and knowledge. Abberline sighed and ran his hand through his hair, feeling the painful lump on the back of his head. He was unsure as to why he felt such negatively toward Llewellyn. The man had to be competent, otherwise he wouldn’t be a police surgeon. But competent or not, the man was taking too long, taking his time getting here.

He was falling asleep on his feet when Llewellyn finally arrived with P.C Watkins on his heels. Abberline’s first thought was to abuse him, physically and verbally but he no longer had the strength, or at this moment the will. After a good night’s sleep, and the knowledge that his sergeant would make a full recovery, Abberline would take care of Llewellyn’s inability to hurry and Spratling’s idea of a joke.

Abberline pushed away from the table but stayed close, ready to grip its edge if his body decided that it had finally had enough. He watched, his gaze steady as Llewellyn walked into the room, his eye glasses reflecting the light and his medical bag held up in front of him.

“Doctor,” said Abberline, gritting his teeth in both anger and pain.

“Inspector,” said Llewellyn.

Abberline waited, expecting Llewellyn to take the initiative but the man stood where he was, Derrick behind him. The doctor’s body language was stiff, hesitant and Abberline had had enough. His mood snapping in two.

“You do recognise a patient when you see one,” said Abberline. “Don’t you, doctor?”

“Of course I do.”

“Then what are you waiting for?”

“I don’t give out free medical advice, Inspector,” said Llewellyn.

“You’re a police surgeon?”

“Well, yes, but--”

“You’ve met George, haven’t you,” said Abberline, pointing to his sergeant. “He’s a police officer. So fix him. Now!”

“I do autopsies for the police department, Inspector! I do not tend to the injuries of its police officers.”

“So help me, Llewellyn, if you don’t do something, I’ll . . .” Abberline thought he’d gone too far when Llewellyn turned his back and he was ready and willing to apologise, anything to keep the man here. Abberline sighed in relief when Llewellyn removed his stove pipe hat and handed it to Derrick who took it with only a slight hesitation.

Llewellyn turned back to the table and the man on it and without thought he placed his bag on George’s chest. “What happened to him?”

“A mallet to the side of the head,” said Abberline, his jaw now clenched so tightly it was adding to his headache.

“Has he regained consciousness at all?” asked Llewellyn, his fingers probing the abrasions on the side of George’s face before moving on to the head wound.

“Yes.”

“Was he coherent?”

“Yes, but . . .” Abberline hesitated.

Llewellyn looked up from his ministrations. “But what?”

“He was a bit confused as to what had happened. Thought he had a hangover.”

“Really? And why would he think that, Inspector?”

Abberline nodded toward his sergeant. “This happened at the Britannia.”

“I see.”

“Do you?”

“Was he drunk when this happened?”

“No, he’d barely had a drink,” snapped Abberline.

Llewellyn glared at Abberline for a long second before turning toward Derrick. “Find me some hot water would you. I’m going to need it to clean these wounds.”

Derrick looked toward Abberline, his young face asking if it was okay for him to leave. Abberline nodded and waited until Derrick left the mortuary before speaking.

“Well?”

“Well what, Inspector?”

“Is he going to be alright?”

“I would assume so,” said Llewellyn.

“You assume?” Abberline stepped forward, watching as Llewellyn stuck a finger beneath the small flap of skin, moving it back and forth.

“No fracture of the skull and the cut should only require, at most, four stitches,” said Llewellyn. “Other than that, I’ll have a better idea of his condition when he wakes up again.”

Abberline nodded, accepting the statement for what it was. Llewellyn didn’t know with certainty that George would be okay, not at least until George woke up. He looked down at his friend, the face paler than it had been only moments before, silently urging his sergeant to wake up.

.
.
.

It was a sudden and painful return to consciousness. George groaned, gritting his teeth against a pain so sharp he thought he’d been stabbed. He shifted his upper body, attempting to roll away from the pain but a firm hand against his shoulder kept him where he was, his own strength not enough to resist the person holding him down. Clenching his fists, George raised his knees, the heels of his boots scraping against the table, an unconscious effort to run from the hurt. He wanted to fight back when someone pushed his knees down, a heavy weight against his legs.

Opening his eyes, George lifted his head, his mood agitated and confused. The world in front of him stumbled, its images blurred, and as a result his stomach stirred itself into an uproar. A hand against his forehead pushed him back down and he felt a jolt of pain through his skull. George had no idea of what was happening to him. He began to panic, fighting against the hands that kept him down, his efforts weak and useless, until he finally gave up, slumping back onto the table. He gasped for breath, struggling to breathe through a chest now tight with anxiety.

“Keep him still!”

“George!”

Hands against each side of his face turned his head toward familiar features. He blinked, widening his eyes in the hope of sharpening the image before him. Abberline, still a little blurry, was leaning over him, close enough for George to feel his warm breath on his face. George relaxed, as much as the pain would allow him too.

“You’re okay,” said Abberline.

George nodded, not entirely convinced he was okay. Something pulled at the side of his skull, the pain reaching an almost breaking point. Beneath Abberline’s hands, George’s face scrunched up in pain, a slow groan escaping through a clenched jaw, his body instinctively trying to move away from the source.

Abberline glared at Llewellyn. “How much longer?”

“One more stitch and I’m done,” said Llewellyn. “I’d manage a lot quicker if you kept him still.”

“Fred . . . what . . .” George whispered, his voice full of pain.

“Stay still, George,” said Abberline, his hands still flush against his friend’s face. “Keep your head still. Llewellyn’s almost done.”

George closed his eyes, reached out with his left hand and took hold of Fred’s coat, his grip so tight his hand ached. He still didn’t understand what was happening, why there was so much pain, why he had to stay so still when all he wanted to do was move. His body shook and he feared he was going into shock and just when he thought he couldn’t take anymore the sharp pain reduced itself to a painful throb, beating in time with his heart.

“Hold him,” said Llewellyn.

Knowing it was about to get even worse, George tensed up and gritted his teeth, his hold on Fred’s coat pulling Abberline even closer. A pain, even worse than he could imagine, bit into the side of his skull, sharp, like an uncontrollable fire burning through him, from the top of his head to the end of his toes. He cried out as his back arched off the table and the weight on his legs shifted, dropping down against his stomach, keeping George on the table.

“Enough!” Abberline snatched the bottle of antiseptic from Llewellyn’s hand and threw it across the room, breaking it against the far wall.

“The wound needs to be cleaned thoroughly,” said Llewellyn. “And the--”

“You cleaned the wound before you stitched it,” said Abberline, his hands now against George’s chest. “And I’m beginning to think that you’re taking immense pleasure in causing my sergeant more pain than is absolutely necessary.”

“If you would rather he get an infection--”

“No I bloody wouldn’t!”

“Then allow me to do my job!”

George shook his head, he’d had enough pain to last him a life time. “No more.”

“I would have thought they’d breed them tougher at Scotland Yard,” said Llewellyn.

“Are you done?”

“With the wound? Yes.”

“Then leave,” said Abberline. “Now.”

“But I--”

“But nothing. Leave!”

“A thank you would be payment enough,” said Llewellyn as he picked up his hat and medical bag from the floor.

“Consider the fact that I haven’t physically assaulted you as payment enough!”

Without a backward glance, Llewellyn walked stiffly from the room, muttering under his breath, the words unintelligible.

“You can get off him now, son,” said Abberline, glancing toward Derrick who was strewn across George’s lower body, keeping him on the table.

Derrick, his face almost as pale as George, nodded and stood up. “I’ve never . . .”

“No, son, I don’t expect you have.”

George, his hand still embroiled within the lapel of Fred’s coat, pulled Abberline down toward him, until their faces were only inches apart. “What happened?”

“A wooden mallet at the Britannia,” said Abberline.

“Is that all,” said George, letting go of Fred’s coat, his hand falling back to the table.

“It’s enough, George,” said Abberline. “More than enough.”

George contemplated nodding his agreement but thought better of it.

“Now that you’re awake, why don’t we move you somewhere more comfortable?”

Somewhere more comfortable involved movement and George Godley decided that the only thing he was capable of right now was . . . absolutely nothing. He didn’t dare move, to sit up, to walk to the nearest . . . he sighed in defeat; he wasn’t going anywhere. He’d never had a headache so vicious, a stomach in such turmoil, his world so off balance. Never had he felt so bad and all he wanted to do was rest, to close his eyes . . .

“Just leave me, Fred. It’ll save you the trouble of bringing me back.”

Abberline smiled. “You’re not dying, George.”

“It certainly feels like it.”

“You can’t stay here,” said Abberline.

“I can and I will,” said George.

“What if someone mistakes you for a corpse? You’ll wake up tomorrow to find yourself . . .”

George opened his eyes, his gaze searching before resting on his friend’s worried face. “I’m okay, Fred. I just need a few minutes. If I get up now . . .”

Abberline nodded and said, “If you’re sure, George.”

“I’m sure,” said George, closing his eyes, his mind drifting toward a place that held no pain. “Just a few minutes.”

.
.
.

The few minutes George had claimed he needed had, so far, stretched into an elongated four hours and Abberline had quickly taken advantage of the opportunity, moving George to a more comfortable resting place while he slept; a mattress in one of the cells of Whitechapel police station. It was a start, more comfortable than the harsh wooden table in the mortuary.

It had been a long night, an even longer day and an exhausting two months but as tired as he was, Abberline couldn’t sleep, instead sitting on the second bed in the cell watching his friend sleep a deep, restful, healing slumber. If anyone deserved to sleep so well, it was George. Later, when George was awake and more able, Abberline would make sure his sergeant made it safely home to his wife.

And once he was on his own, without his sergeant there to admonish him for his weakness, Abberline would drink himself into a stupor, a drunken ecstasy; the best sort of rest that he could hope for.


The End



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