lindenharp (lindenharp) wrote,

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Lewis Fic: Mastermind

Title: Mastermind
Author: lindenharp
Characters/Pairing: DI Robbie Lewis, DS James Hathaway, DC Hooper, various OCs
Rating: PG-13 for some coarse language.
Wordcount: 5600
Warnings: none
Summary: James Hathaway would do almost anything for his governor, but... entering a pub quiz is asking a bit much, especially on the same team as DC Hooper.
A/N:  DC Hooper’s only appearance was in “Dead of Winter” and the writers did not provide him with a first name.  I’ve chosen to call him George.  Profound thanks to my betas: the magnificent wendymr; and the ever-helpful canaana, who is not (yet) a Lewis fan but read through my fic anyway.

When they leave the conference centre, all James can think about is a long, cold pint. It’s not that the conference itself was dreadful. On the contrary: some of the speakers were interesting, and most of the workshops useful. Unfortunately, the centre’s air conditioning chose to go on the blink the same day that temperatures in Blackpool decided to soar over 30. James eyes the pub across the street hopefully. Instead, Lewis leads him to the left and two streets over.

James winces. The sign over the door proclaims ‘The Copper Flagon’, and in case any passer-by is too dim to get the pun, the sign also bears the image of a very Gilbert-and-Sullivanesque constable quaffing ale from a reddish metal vessel. He’s trying to remember why the pub’s unfortunate name is familiar to him. Wasn’t there something in the conference Twitter feed? Something about...

‘WELCOME CONFERENCE ATTENDEE’S!’ the computer-printed banner in the front window screams in bolded, all-capitals 100 point Arial Black. ‘JUNIOR OFFICERS PUB QUIZ FRIDAY @ 18:30!’

There’s a tightness in James’s throat that has nothing to do with the heat, his thirst, or even the (almost inevitable) apostrophe abuse. He turns to Lewis. “Sir, if it’s all the same to you, I’d—”

Lewis ignores him, placing his broad hand on James’s back and firmly guiding him through the battered oak door. The air conditioning inside is functioning, perhaps too well, because an icy shiver goes down his back as he enters. The pub is crowded, and he sees many familiar faces from the conference: police officers from all over England and Wales.

His inspector guides him over to a table surrounded by some very familiar faces. DS Tom Bowden, DC Megan Tambour, DC Rakesh Patel, and the man voted least-likely-to-be-president-of-the-DS-Hathaway-fan-club, DC George Hooper. The rest of the Oxfordshire conference delegation shoves over to make room for their Inspector and his bagman.

“Two pints, sir?” Patel asks Lewis.

“One pint and an orange juice,” Lewis replies. “Hathaway needs to keep his head clear.”

“Sir?” James manages to make it something between a query and a protest. “We’re not driving tonight.” It being Friday, they’ve booked a twin room in a cheap hotel within walking distance of the conference centre. They won’t have to face the four-hour drive back to Oxford at the end of a long, hot day.

“You can have your pint and more afterwards, to celebrate.”

“To celebrate what?” James asks, though he’s very afraid that he knows.

“Oxfordshire’s victory in the pub quiz.”

A DI from Blackpool wanders over. “Got your fifth yet?” He frowns at the sight of Lewis and Hathaway. “No senior officers.”

“That’s me out,” Lewis says, not even bothering to feign regret. He claps a hand on James’s shoulder. “But Hathaway here is just a humble sergeant.” He looks at the Oxfordshire team. “He’s your fifth, lads. And lass,” he adds hastily, nodding at Tambour.

“Sir!” James protests, though he’s certain it won’t do any good. “I hate quizzes. You know that.”

“It’s for the good of the force, sergeant,” his governor says cheerfully. “Oxfordshire expects that every copper will do his duty.” Lewis hands a fiver to the Blackpool DI. “Here’s his entry fee.”

A dreadful suspicion strikes James. “This is Innocent’s idea, isn’t it?”

“I believe the Chief Super did say something about team-building, morale and inter-force cooperation,” Lewis replies. “It would make her very happy if our team has a good showing.”

The head of the Sheffield team, a dour, balding sergeant in his late 40s, looks dubiously at James. “He’s really a sergeant?”

“What, d’ye want to see his warrant card?” Lewis asks. “Leave off, man.”

“Sir...” James lets his eyes plead for him, because damned if he’s going to beg in front of a room full of police, including DC fucking Hooper. Technically, they’re off duty now, and Lewis can’t order him to do this. In practice, a DI can order his bagman to do nearly anything as long as it’s legal and vaguely work-related. If he were stupid or insane enough to complain to Innocent about this, she’d tell him to bloody well suck it up, sergeant.

He’s not stupid or insane. Besides, this is Lewis, who, unlike other governors James has known, doesn’t abuse his rank beyond what is customary. Lewis, who failed to report several cock-ups by James that by rights should have got him kicked off the force. Lewis, who hasn’t merely saved James’s unworthy arse, but his life, his sanity, and quite possibly his soul. James would crawl across broken glass for the man. Right now, he wishes his governor would ask him to do just that. It might be a less painful experience.

“Right, sir. I’m in,” he says with fake enthusiasm that won’t fool Lewis for a second, then mutters under his breath, “I’ll just close my eyes and think of Oxfordshire.”

One of the Manchester team grumbles, “He looks like one of those posh graduate entry types to me. You an Oxford graduate, Hathaway?”

Lewis shoots him a Look.

“Nope,” James says with complete honesty. He exhales once, then lets the accent of his childhood shape his vowels. “I’ve never studied at Oxford.”

At the Oxford table, DC Hooper sniggers into his pint. “”Sides, the rules don’t say nothing about that. Five to a team, coppers only, no senior officers. So if you tossers are finished whinging, maybe we can get started?” He looks over his shoulder at Lewis. “Pardon my French, sir.”

As Lewis waves the apology away, James bites his tongue. That’s not French, Hooper. I could tell you how to say it in French...

James is halfway through his glass of orange juice when the quizmaster bangs his fist on the bar for attention. Dark-haired, a few inches shorter than James and a a few years older, he’s apparently a Blackpool DI though he’s got a strong Scottish accent. After a quick welcome speech that’s too deliberately charming for James’s taste, he lays down the rules. There will be a mix of questions: written and spoken; for entire teams and individuals. He covers time limits, procedures for disputed answers, and grounds for disqualification. No use of mobiles or other Internet-capable devices. Anyone leaving his or her table during a round won’t be allowed back until the next round. Only team members may sit at a team table. At this last instruction, Lewis rises, salutes the Oxfordshire team with his glass raised high, and seats himself across the room with several other senior officers.

The first round is a printed sheet of ten general knowledge questions for the entire team. James takes a look and suppresses a groan. What is he doing here? If Lewis imagines that he’s given his team a secret weapon, then he’s dead wrong. Most of these questions could be answered by anyone who passed O Levels in English and History, and who reads a newspaper occasionally. The only question that James might have helped with was “Who owned the country estate Pemberley?” Tambour gets that one, though she admits she only knew the answer from watching the film.

Future rounds may be more difficult, but he doubts that there will be many Shakespeare questions, and probably none on Thomas Aquinas, canon law, or madrigals.

The second round is topical: sport. Naturally, none of the questions is about rowing. James doesn’t know any of the football questions. It’s clear from the not-so-subtle glances that all of his teammates have noticed his deficiency. Patel, evidently a cricket fiend, identifies the two types of balls used in Test Match play. Hooper answers the question about Olympic curling; his grandson is a keen ice skater. Tambour provides the country of origin of Hapkido. The only thing that saves James from complete uselessness is being able to identify the rugby player married to a certain pop singer, and that carries its own form of humiliation. (He’d been stranded in a dentist’s waiting room without a book, and was driven by desperation to read an old issue of Hello! )

He’s in Hell. In which part of the Infernal Realms does one stand in a lake of shit? His ruthlessly efficient memory supplies the answer (second bolgia of the Eighth Circle) and a vivid recollection of the sewage pool at Richie Maguire’s estate. Only that is the punishment for flatterers, and he’s sure that’s one of the few sins he’s never committed.

He keeps glancing at the table where Lewis is sitting with the other DIs. Lewis is watching the Oxfordshire team, obviously following their progress, but doesn’t meet James’s eyes.

After the third round, the quizmaster announces a 15-minute break. While the rest of his team heads for the bar or the loo, James slips outside for a cigarette. He nods at his fellow outcasts, and offers a light to a hapless DC from Sheffield whose lighter is literally a damp squib—the poor bastard dropped it in the toilet.

The cigarette relaxes the knot of tension in his throat. He resolves to talk to Lewis when he goes inside. He understands why his governor wants him on the team, but not why he seems to be avoiding James. ‘I know not how I have deserved to run into my lord's displeasure.’ His watch says that there’s five minutes left until the end of the break. He heads across the room to Lewis’s table. Lewis is deep in conversation with a DI from Cardiff, and James tries in vain to catch his eye. He’s trying to decide how much of a blunder it would be to interrupt when the quizmaster brays, “Rrrright! Back to your seats, ladies and gents, for Round Four. Leftovers!”

‘Leftovers’ is just that: unused questions from past quizzes in various categories. The first one on the question sheet is ‘Same name: actor, drink, instrument maker’ .

They frown in unison. “Bloody hell,” Hooper mutters.

“Tandy?” Patel suggests. “Jessica is an actress, and there was a firm that made computers...”

“My da used to have one of those,” Tambour says. “I think it’s still up in the attic. 64k—can you imagine?”

“Perhaps you should convince him to donate it to a museum, Meg,” Patel jokes. “Have it put it on display with the other ancient artifacts.”

“I’ll bet Inspector Lewis could operate it,” James hears himself saying.

Bowden stares at him. “The boss? Are you taking the piss, Hathaway?”

“No. Back when he was Morse’s bagman, he was one of the first on the Oxfordshire force to be trained on computers.” Almost instinctively, James’s gaze is pulled to the place where his governor sits, shaking his head at a DI from Birmingham. For the briefest moment, Lewis looks at him and smiles. Then, as if concluding a silent conversation, he nods and turns away.

“If you lot have finished strolling down memory lane, maybe we can get back to the sodding quiz?” Hooper asks.

“There is no need to be biting our heads off, George,” Patel replies. “Have you a suggestion?”

Hooper shakes his head. “I’ve never heard of any sort of drink called Tandy. Shandy, now...”

“There’s Fantandi,” Tambour says. “It’s made with fizzy orange instead of lemonade.”

Bowden pulls a face. “Remind me never to go drinking with you.”

“I don’t recall inviting you, sir,” she retorts. “Besides, I didn’t say I’d ever had it, only that I’d heard of it.”

“How ‘bout Guinness?” Hooper says. “Beer and good old Sir Alec.”

“The old guy in Star Wars ?” Tambour asks. “Sure, but what about the instrument maker?”

“We shouldn’t spend too much time on any one question—” Bowden begins.

It hits James with almost physical force. “Gibson!”

“There is Mel Gibson, yes,” Patel says.

Tambour chimes in, “And some kind of martini.”

“Gibson guitars,” James adds.

Hooper demands, “You sure about that, Sarge?”

James masks his annoyance with a bland smile. “Quite sure, Hooper. I’ve got one at home.”

Bowden cocks his head. “Didn’t know you were a musician, Hathaway.”

James shrugs. “I play a bit. On to the next question?”

They move swiftly through the next few ‘leftovers’. James reads the fifth question aloud. “Who was Mario Menéndez?” He wrinkles his brow. “There’s a Spanish MEP called Menendez, but I don’t think his first name is Mario.”

“Wasn’t there a Eurovision singer a few years back?” Tambour suggests.

“He was a bleeding Argie general.” They all stare at Hooper. “Military governor of the Falklands during the occupation. What are you gawping at me for? I was there, wasn’t I? Nineteen and greener than grass. Lost one o’ me best mates on HMS Coventry.” His glare defies them to express even a hint of sympathy.

Bowden clears his throat. “Right. Thanks, Hooper.” He records the information on the team’s answer sheet.

After the fourth round, team standings are clearer. It’s a lot like a road race, James thinks, with leaders and stragglers separating out from the rest of the crowd. Oxfordshire, Leeds and Coventry are in the front. Portsmouth and Reading are tied for last place. The other five teams are clumped pretty evenly in the middle.

James hates quizzes and always has. They’re pointless—almost as pointless as so-called IQ tests. Quizzes don’t tell you anything meaningful about people and what they know, only what they’ve managed to memorise. He read an article once about an American psychologist who got onto a quiz show because she swotted up on the subject of boxing and made herself an ‘expert’. Yeah, he’s got a head stuffed with trivia, thanks to broad tastes in reading and a freakish memory. It’s useful sometimes, just as being tall is useful, but neither characteristic is inherently praiseworthy.

He’s heading to the bar for another sodding orange juice when he meets Lewis, who’s holding a pint in each hand. “Sir...”

His governor gives him a quick nod. “You’ve been doing a good job, James. Keep it up.” He holds up the pint in his left hand. “Sorry, someone’s waiting for this.” He nods again and walks off as briskly as the crowd permits.

James stares after him. That was bloody peculiar. There’s no doubt now that Lewis is avoiding him—but why? He’s not annoyed or displeased. James would almost be willing to wager money on that. If anything, Lewis seems a bit anxious. For some reason, this ridiculous quiz is much more important to his governor than such things usually are.

He said it would make Innocent happy if we won. Has Innocent been giving Lewis a hard time lately? Lewis doesn’t generally care what she thinks, unless it interferes with a case. Or with me. James stops in the middle of the pub and nearly collides with a barmaid hurrying by with a tray full of empties. Has he got himself (and by extension, his governor) into the Chief Super’s bad books without knowing it? That would explain Lewis’s behaviour. He doesn’t want to worry me or distract me.

Right, then. There’s only one acceptable course of action. It doesn’t matter what happens to him, but he won’t let his failings drag his governor down. For Lewis’s sake, he’s going to win.

The topic for round five is ‘Historic Figures’. Despite a horribly loose definition (Wimbledon winners? David Icke? The sodding Spice Girls?), James answers more than his share, identifying Saxon kings, South American revolutionaries, Victorian suffragettes and 1990s television presenters with brisk efficiency.

The quizmaster’s assistant distributes the question sheets for the sixth round, placing them face down on the tables. There are five identical copies, along with one master answer sheet for the team.

Bowden is the first to flip over a question sheet. “Bugger. I hate these.”

“I used to do some at school,” Patel says, “but I was better at pure maths.”

The sheet is full of logic puzzles. James grins. Yeah, these are tougher than the classic ‘who is lying?’ or ‘which brother is taller?’ conundrums, but they’re not much of a challenge compared to deciphering Aquinas’s view of the nature of the soul in the Summa Theologica.

James grabs the team answer sheet from Bowden and sets it in front of him. He puts himself into a hyperfocused state that served him quite well in university days. He employed a form of it in seminary for meditation. He hasn’t had much opportunity to use it lately, with the exception of the Chloe Brooks case. He hasn’t got the advantage of solitude here, nor the use of his iPod, but he’ll do what he needs to do.

James tunes out Hooper’s sniping, Patel’s cheerful prattle, and Tambour’s concerned whispers to Bowden. He tunes out everything except the questions and the need to win. He doesn’t much care what Innocent thinks, but this victory will put Lewis in her good graces, and James is fucking well going to hand it to him. His biro skitters across the answer sheet with barely a pause. When the sheets are collected for marking, he all but holds his breath. The scores will determine which two teams go into the final round.

“It’s been an exciting round,” the quizmaster announces, and adds a load of rubbish that is meant to build up suspense. Preposterous ass. “The two teams that will be competing for the grand prize are... Leeds and Oxfordshire!”

There’s another 15-minute break before the final round. James makes a quick dash to the loo, then goes outside to smoke. His first cigarette is down to a stub and he’s ready to light another when Bowden appears beside him. This is surprising. James doesn’t know the other DS very well, but he’s certain that Bowden isn’t a smoker. “You here for a pep talk?”

“Doesn’t look to me like you need one. You were on fire, that last round. If you were anyone else, I’d be tempted to search your pockets for meth.”

James lets out an amused snort, and holds up the newly-lit cigarette. “My only addiction.”

Bowden nods. “Yeah. And you might be clever enough to put one over me, but you’d never fool the boss. I swear the man’s got eyes in the back of his head.”

“Just about,” James agrees.

“So...guitar... You know Cory McClintock?”

“The blues guitarist? I’ve downloaded some of his singles from iTunes. Why?”

“He’s got a gig at the Bullingdon next Friday. Me and a couple of mates are planning to go. You’re welcome to come with us, if you’d like.”

James studies the other sergeant. He hasn’t dealt much with Bowden, though the man seems likeable enough. Bowden waits, rocking back on his heels, hands in pockets. He doesn’t seem particularly anxious about James’s response.

“I might do. Don’t think I’ve got plans for that night.” Measureless liar. When have you ever got plans?

“Brilliant. If you’re free, just come.” Bowden glances down at his Blackberry. “First set starts at... eight.”

James nods.

“What’d you think of his latest? ‘Devil Child’? There’s something odd about the bass notes—”

James rolls his eyes. “He’s trying to be Clapton and failing spectacularly.”

They chat aimlessly about MClintock and Clapton, Norman Beaker and Matt Schofield. When James tosses the butt of his third cigarette into the gutter, Bowden asks, “Ready to go?”

Without thought, James paraphrases a verse by a deservedly obscure Victorian poet. “And by our warlike miens let be it known, the craven Leodensians shall be o’erthrown.”

The instant it’s out of his mouth he wants to kick himself, but Bowden merely wrinkles his forehead and says, “You want to translate that, Hathaway?”

“Erm... we’re going to put on our game faces and give Leeds a kick in the arse.”

Bowden flashes him a predatory grin. “Now, that sounds like poetry to me.”

The final round is Opponent’s Choice. Each team representative will be asked a randomly-drawn question from a category chosen by the other team. Bowden, visibly sweating, gets Literature, but manages to identify the Dickens novel which contains Uriah Heep. The Leeds player who follows him is given an Art question—and misses.

James is next. This is it, his chance to secure a victory for his team and his governor. Mentally, he reviews the scoring rules. If he misses, the turn goes back to Leeds, and one right answer will bring them back to a tie. The next Leeds player is DS Anne Pollard, a regular on a pub quiz team back home, who’s been a tough competitor all evening. Unless she flubs her question, Oxfordshire’s next chance to win will rest in the unsteady hands of DC George Hooper. Miserere nobis Domine. James breathes in deeply.

“Sport,” the Leeds coppers chorus in unison.

Fuck! He’s doomed, and with him, the hopes of the Oxfordshire team. If he’s very lucky, he’ll be able to concede defeat with a wry smile and a manly handshake. Maybe Innocent will let him mail in his letter of resignation, so he never has to enter the station again. “Ready,” he lies.

“In the annual University Boat Race,” the quizmaster says, while songs of exultation ring in James’s head (‘Gloria in excelsis! ), “what is the first bridge that the rowers pass under?”

He doesn’t pause because he has to think about it. He pauses because the memory overwhelms him. (Blades biting into the water, the smells of sweat and sunscreen and river-muck, sun-glitter on the wake, bridge-shadow flashing over the boat only for a second...) “Hammersmith Bridge.”

“Sorry,” the quizmaster says, and he sounds genuinely regretful. “The correct answer is Putney Bridge.”

The room erupts into sound: cheers and groans equally mixed. Behind him, he can hear one of his teammates suck in a raspy breath. “Excuse me!” he says loudly, but there’s no way the quizmaster can hear him over the din. James darts forward. “Excuse me! I want to appeal. Putney is not the correct answer. It’s Hammersmith.”

The sympathy on the DI’s face shifts to polite annoyance. “Appeals are for questions that involve interpretation, not simple facts.”

“But it’s the wrong—” James begins.

“You listen to him!” a deep voice behind him booms. “He knows what he’s about when it comes to that Boat Race—he rowed in it himself, didn’t he?”

James is too gobsmacked to say anything more, because that’s DC Hooper announcing to the whole bloody pub what he thought only his governor knew.

Lewis emerges out of the crowd. He gestures at the quizmaster’s laptop. “You can get the Internet on that, can’t you? Just look it up, man. It’ll only take a moment. There must be some kind of official... thing,” he concludes, waving his hand in vague circles.

“The website you want is,” James supplies. He braces himself against the edge of the bar.

The quizmaster scowls, typing furiously on his computer. He pauses, clicks twice, then pauses again. The room has gone very still. “I’m so sorry. There were two questions about the Boat Race in the Sport file. The other was ‘What bridge does the Boat Race start from?’ Somehow, the answers for the two got swapped around.” He takes a deep breath. “Hammersmith Bridge is correct, and Oxfordshire wins.”

If the noise earlier was an eruption, this is a pyroclastic explosion. Shouts, good-natured cat-calls and laughter fill the room. Dazed though he is, the detective side of James observes money quietly changing hands, and wonders what odds were given.

“Oi! He lied to us!” It’s the constable from Manchester who was grumbling about ‘posh graduate entry types’ at the beginning of the evening. “Said he wasn’t a university graduate, but if he was in the sodding Boat Race, then he lied.”

“Shut your gob, you bloody stupid Manc,” Hooper calls out. “I hope they don’t let you interview suspects. You never asked if he went to university. You made an assumption, and asked if he went to Oxford. Which he didn’t.”

Cam-bridge,” Tambour sing-songs (Middle E down to C, the age-old melody of schoolyard taunts).

Before the Manc can reply, James looks him in the eyes. “Tais toi, espèce de salaud.” He turns to his governor and bobs his head in apology. “Pardon my French, sir.”

The next half hour is a blur. The quizmaster announces that the grand prize—a large chunk of the entry fees—will be donated to the Oxfordshire Police Benevolent Fund. James is suddenly glad that he hadn’t known anything was at stake other than bragging rights.

Inspector Lewis comes over, his face alight with pleasure. “Well done! Well done, all of you!” He looks at each of them in turn, and James can feel the benediction of his governor’s smile warming him.

The flood of congratulations begins. There is much shaking of hands and thumping of backs, and finally someone brings James a glass that does not contain orange juice. He takes a careful sip. Scotch—and unexpectedly good stuff for a police pub. He’d best treat it with respect. He could get quickly plastered on something so velvety and potent.

James stares down into his glass, as if scrying in the amber depths. Why not get plastered? He doesn’t remember the last time he drank to float his joys rather than drown his sorrows. He’s not on duty, doesn’t have to drive. He’s in a safe place. And if he starts reciting poetry by the guys in the band... this is the one time and place that a bunch of coppers will smile benignly at him for it. For once, just this once, he doesn’t have to be so fucking careful and in control.

DC Hooper emerges from the crowd, pint in hand. Instead of returning to his old seat, he settles onto the chair next to James. Hooper eyes him shrewdly. “You’re wondering how I knew about the rowing.”

James nods. He doesn’t trust his voice just now.

“The boss didn’t tell me, if that’s what you were thinking. One of my son’s mates works over at the Punter. Last week, Charlie was there having a pint, waiting for Matt to go off duty, and he hears this bloke talking about the Danny Griffin case. And he goes on for a bit about what a terrible shock it had been, and a sad loss, and then—” Hooper pauses dramatically. “He says how two coppers came to talk to him about Danny, and he recognised one of ‘em as some hotshot rower from Cambridge.”

James nods again. He’s wondering if a few sips of Scotch could have hit him so quickly, because everything is dreamlike and surreal at the moment.

“Course I knew who was working that case,” Hooper continues, as if there were a multitude of Cambridge graduates on the force, and he needed something to distinguish James from the rest of the herd. “Charlie’s eldest, Ben, is a clever lad with that computer stuff, so I asked him to goggle you on the Internet.”

“To goggle me,” James repeats faintly. “Of course.”

“And he tells me you won the bloody Boat Race, Sarge. Q.E.sodding D,” Hooper says, punctuating each letter with a jab of a stubby finger.

James shrugs. “It was a joint effort. There are eight rowers in a boat crew.”

“You... erm, never said nothing about it.” There’s a question in Hooper’s eyes, if not in his words.

“If I’d known you were a rowing aficionado, Constable, I’d have told you all about it,” James says, but doesn’t put much sting into his words. “It was a long time ago.”

“Not meaning any disrespect, Sarge, but there’s some that would crow like a rooster over something like that.”

“Who knows himself a braggart, let him fear this, for it will come to pass that every braggart shall be found an ass,” James quotes.

Hooper blinks. “If you say so, Sarge.”

After he congratulates the members of his team, Robbie returns to socialising with some of the other senior officers. He keeps half an eye on his lads and lass. They’re making merry—as well they should!—chatting, drinking, laughing. There’s no shortage of well-wishers coming over to congratulate the Oxfordshire team and bring them fresh drinks. Patel, the lone non-drinker, has fans bringing him glasses of Irn-Bru.

James is conversing with Patel. Actually, James is doing most of the talking. Patel smiles and nods, sipping at his soft drink. Bowden wanders off for a bit to talk to a copper from Sheffield who seems to be an old schoolmate. James disappears twice for a cigarette break. Hooper gets another pint. Tambour goes into the ladies loo with a couple of other female DCs. All’s right with the world.

Robbie takes another moment to enjoy watching his bagman. This is James as he ought to be: smiling and relaxed with his workmates. He feels less guilty now about lying to James. Really, it was more of a half-truth. Innocent did talk to him about morale and inter-force cooperation, and he’s certain she would have issued instructions about the quiz if she’d been aware of it. Robbie knows she’ll be pleased about the win, though that wasn't his main motive.

He comes back to the table later in the evening. Hooper’s off somewhere; Bowden is on his feet, and the other three are seated. Tambour and Patel start to rise; Robbie waves them back into their seats.

James, who normally notices everything, doesn’t seem to have noticed Robbie’s arrival. “Hinc lucem et pocula sacra,” James says, enunciating carefully. He holds up his Scotch. There are three empty glasses in front of James—an unusually heavy night’s drinking for him.

“Pocula sacra,” James repeats, smiling down into the golden liquid. “Light... and sacred draughts.”

“It is the motto of Cambridge University in the Latin language, sir,” Patel explains to Lewis. “Sergeant Hathaway has been speaking a great deal of Latin tonight. He has been kind enough to translate most of it.”

Most of it?” Robbie asks.

“There was a poem by someone named Catullus,” Patel replies.

“I think it might have been a bit... racy, sir,” Tambour adds in a whisper, “because he went rather red afterwards.” Her own face is flushed. Robbie isn’t sure if it’s the warmth of the room, the drink in her hand, or the discomfort of informing her governor that his bagman may have been spouting naughty verse.

At least he had the discretion to say it in a language no one understands. The Chief Super will not be pleased if Hathaway provokes a sexual harassment complaint. Innocent has no tolerance for that sort of thing, and she’s right, of course, but it would be unfortunate for a promising career to be cut short because of one act of foolishness.

“Was he reciting this poem to anyone in particular?” he asks. Patel is married, and Bowden has been sharing a flat with his girlfriend for two years. On the other hand, Tambour is young, attractive and single. He’s fairly certain that she wouldn’t tell him, much less make an official complaint, but he’ll know from her reaction if he needs to have A Serious Talk with James tomorrow.

Tambour looks sincerely, reassuringly puzzled. “Sorry, sir, I don’t know. He was looking off in that direction—” She waves at the other side of the pub. There are ten crowded tables in that section, not including the one where Lewis was sitting with his fellow DIs.

“That’s all right, Meg. No worries.” If James was staring at anyone, it must have been some pretty—or handsome—officer from another force, and likely one he’ll never see again.

The subject of their conversation stirs from his trance. “Sir!” He starts to rise, then thinks better of the idea. “Sir, I regret to say that I am not fit for duty.”

And you won’t be much use tomorrow. You’ll have a monster of a headache. Robbie lays a firm hand on James’s shoulder. “Stay put, Sergeant. You’re off-duty, remember?”

“Yessir. Off-duty. We’re celebrating.” James carefully examines his glass of Scotch as if it’s a crucial piece of evidence.

“Yeah, we are, soft lad.”

Bowden moves to James’s side. “Hathaway, about next Friday... a couple of us are going for pizza before the music. You want to join us?”

James frowns. “Dunno.” He looks slightly queasy at the mention of food.

Bowden laughs. “I’ll ask you again on Monday, mate.” He nods politely at Lewis before heading off to the bar. “Sir.”

Hooper strides over to the table and sets a glass of clear liquid in front of Hathaway. “There you go, Sarge. Drink up.”

“Already got a drink,” James announces, and takes another sip of Scotch.

“Hooper?” Robbie points at the glass.

“Water, sir.”

“He asked for water?”

“No, sir. I figured he might be a little less like a bear with a sore head tomorrow if we got some water into him tonight.”

Robbie nods. It’s not as though this is James’s first time being sozzled, but he suspect the lad didn’t sow many wild oats when he was at university. Likely he hasn’t learned all the little tricks that help ease the torments of the morning after. “That’s very thoughtful of you, Hooper.”

The constable reddens. “Just helping a colleague out, sir.” He mutters something about the loo and vanishes into the crowd.

“Sir. Sir!” It’s James. “Sit down an’ have a drink. We’re celebrating a victory.”

Two drinks, Robbie thinks, to celebrate two victories. There’s Scotland’s ‘water of life’ to toast the quiz win. And there’s Hooper’s gift of cold tap water, evidence of a more subtle and significant victory. He smiles, clinking his glass of beer against each. “Cheers.”


Read the sequel: Bonus Round


Leodensian.  Pseudo-classical nickname for a person from Leeds, England.

“Miserere nobis Domine”.  Latin.  “Lord, have mercy on us.”

“Gloria in excelsis”.  Latin.  “Glory [to God] in the highest.”

“Tais toi, espèce de salaud.”  French.  Roughly translated, “Shut up, you bastard.”

“Hinc lucem et pocula sacra”  Latin.  “Here [we receive] light and sacred draughts.”  The motto of Cambridge University.

‘water of life’  Literal translation of the Scottish Gaelic phrase uisge beatha, from which the modern word whisky is derived.

Tags: fic, james hathaway, lewis, robert lewis
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