I have no idea what I'm doing

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Perpetual Motion #2

No one was at all surprised when the report got to the station that the man found in the wood chipper was the property owner. Even Nicholas knew that much as soon as he first laid eyes on the scene.

“Come on, it was just a nasty accident!” Tony insisted from his desk. “Remember when Ben Fletcher fell on his pitchfork?”

Nicholas sighed and let his head fall onto his desk. He still hadn’t quite been able to shake that feeling of sick he’d felt since that morning, and it only seemed to get worse as time went on.

“All I’m saying is—”

“Thing’s aren’t always what they seem,” Andrew finished for him. “We know! But sometimes, they are!”

It was the same script all over again. Finally he stood up, and very deliberately straightened his tie. It was clip-on, and about as straight as it was going to get, but he didn’t care. “As your inspector,” he started slowly, in a voice so calm it was almost scary, “I’m or dering you to go back to the scene and take another look. It doesn’t feel right.”

Andrew threw a file folder he’d been holding onto the nearest desk. “Right,” he said with a stiff nod. “Because when I got a feeling, it’s just rookie shit, but when you got one, it’s law, innit?”

“Get out of this station and out of my sight,” Nicholas said finally as he made his way to his office, slamming the door behind him.

He had nearly a dozen folders spread out across his desk in no particular order. Throwing himself into his chair, Nicholas picked up the nearest folder and skimmed over the report, reading Andrew’s account of the most unpleasant demise of Randal Butcher. Reading the words again, Nicholas realised rather painfully that none of it actually made any sort of linear sense. As though a switch somewhere in his mind had been flipped, suddenly everything seemed to fall into place with the sort of painful realisation he still remembered al l too clearly. He should have rung Chief Inspector Partridge in London, or Chief Inspector Clarke in Gloucester, and he knew it. It was the only clear course of action.

The part of his brain that told him he was being paranoid told him to get a second opinion, and that was the part of his brain that he listened to, instead. Gathering up the folders, Nicholas threw his coat on over his uniform and rushed out of the station, making a line straight for Danny’s flat.

Folders tucked under his arm, Nicholas frantically pressed the buzzer, all but mashing it permanently into the side of the house. When Danny finally answered the call, Nicholas thought his heart might stop completely.

“Impatient fucker, what?”

“Danny, let me in,” Nicholas said quickly. “It’s Nicholas. This is important!”

The buzzer sounded and Nicholas pushed the door open, rushing up the steps to Danny’s flat, finding the door already open for him.

“You all ri ght, Nick?” Danny asked as he pulled his shirt over his head. “Look like you seen a ghost.”

Nicholas shut the door and looked round the flat, as though half-expecting someone to be hiding behind the sofa. “Danny, I don’t think we got everyone. We missed… someone. I don’t know who, but we did.”

Danny stood stiffly, looking across the room at Nicholas. “What are you on about?”

“The NWA!” Nicholas shouted. He rushed around accumulating clutter, nearly tripping over a football as he bounded into the kitchen. Clearing off a space on the table, he threw the folders down and spread them out. “Danny, look at this.”

Danny laughed lightly. “You think that’s what going on?” he asked, his hands on his hips.

“Yes!” Nicholas insisted.

Danny sighed and walked over to the door, locking the deadbolt before making his way into the kitchen. “You really think so?” he asked.

Nicholas hadn’t even looked up from his mess of folders. “Yes, Danny. Look at this. It doesn’t make any sense. Butcher, from the other week, and then that… thing this morning!”

Danny leaned against the table, looking over Nicholas’ shoulder. “You tell your chief about this yet?” he asked.

Nicholas shook his head. “Not yet,” he said, finally looking up to meet Danny’s gaze. “I wanted to get your opinion. Partner.”

Danny nodded, a smile creeping across his face. “Well,” he started, putting his hand over Nicholas’ to keep him from fidgeting with the papers. “I think you ought to just put it all out of your head.”

Nicholas shook his head frantically. “No, I don’t think I’m being paranoid about this,” he insisted. “I looked through all of these. Multiple times! Something’s going on in this village, and it’s the same thing that’s always been going on!”

Danny tried to pull Nicholas away from the table. “Come on. You’re just all woun d up over this morning. Go grab a DVD and we’ll just kip up on the sofa for a bit.”

Nicholas threw Danny’s hand off of his arm and reached for the folders again. “No, we need to go over this!” he insisted. “There’s something we missed. Something we overlooked, and it’s right here. In this room!”

Danny bit his lip and inhaled deeply. “You don’t even know the half of it Nicholas. Just forget it.”

Nicholas looked up sharply, suddenly forgetting all about the folders on the table. “What does that mean?” he asked. His eyes began darting across the room as he tried to work out the possible implications of Danny’s words. “Danny?”

“I didn’t want to get you involved in all this, Nicholas,” Danny said honestly. “You was better off just in your own little world, with your head in your notebook, but you had to go get all involved and fuck everything up. You’re very good at that.”

Nicholas made a dash for the doo r, surprised to find it locked. He scrambled with the mechanism, suddenly having forgotten how to work a simple latch, when Danny’s hands took him by the shoulders and dragged him over to the sofa. Nicholas’ hands scrambled for purchase, eventually grabbing hold of Danny’s forearms as he felt himself being pressed into the cushions.

“I can hurt you!” he warned through his teeth.

“You won’t,” Danny said simply.

Nicholas tightened his grip, but ultimately, realised that Danny was right. He tried to struggle away from the grip, but the thought of hurting Danny – his partner; his friend – kept him from doing anything remotely close to useful, so his struggles just pushed him further into the sofa.

“Get off!” Nicholas growled instead, trying to push against Danny’s bulk.

“Settle down, you fuck,” Danny warned, tightening his grip on Nicholas’ shoulders. “I ain’t gonna hurt you, but you’re fixing to hurt yourself, like this.”

Nicholas tried to push against Danny once more before finally meeting Danny’s eyes, freezing almost immediately.

“Why the fuck you gotta make everything so difficult?” Danny demanded.

“Why the fuck are you doing this?” Nicholas volleyed back. “Danny, this is absurd!”

“Nick, it’s Sandford,” Danny said, as though it were some ultra-logical answer that made everything better. “You keep acting like you can change everything what happens round here, but it’s just how it has to be.”

Nicholas struggled against Danny once more, surprised when Danny shifted and pressed his elbow squarely into Nicholas’ chest.

“It doesn’t have to be any way!” Nicholas protested. “Let me up!”

“No,” Danny said simply. “You’re gonna sit here for a while, and you’re gonna calm down.” He watched Nicholas as the smaller man tried to find a way out of the present situation that wouldn’t end in either o f them getting hurt, and coming up completely empty. “Nick, think about it. It’s just you and who else?”

“You and me!” he cried out. “We’re supposed to be partners! We’re supposed to help one another! But you’re just as brainwashed as the rest of them!”

“Ain’t nobody’s been brainwashed, Nicholas,” Danny said simply. “You think we like doing these things? Okay, well, Mister Skinner was something else completely, but we don’t do it unless we have to. It’s for—”

“How is it for the greater good?” Nicholas demanded. He tried to shove Danny’s weight off of him, instead just pressing his chest into the arm holding him down. Vision blurred in pain and gasping for air, Nicholas sunk back into the sofa. A few moments later, Danny finally rolled off of Nicholas and settled down next to him, his hand gripping Nicholas’ wrist tightly.

“Told ya you was gonna hurt yourself, didn’t I?” he asked as though they were s haring a drink at the pub. “You’re getting yourself all wound up over something that you’re never gonna change, Nicholas. What are they supposed to do? Arrest the whole village?”

“But…” Nicholas panted, rubbing his chest with his free hand. “Innocent people. Why act out if they know…”

“Why does anybody act out?” Danny asked. “Why are you doing what you’re doing now? Because you think no one will notice, and you can get away with it.”

Nicholas looked away from Danny, willing himself to keep his emotions in check. “You knew,” he announced. “The whole fucking time, you knew!”

Danny rolled his eyes. “Nicholas, it were my dad what were in charge. What do you think?”

Nicholas ignored Danny, ignored the tight grip on his wrist, and just continued to stare across the room at nothing in particular amongst the mass of clutter that made up the flat. “Is that what you wanted, then?” Nicholas asked finally, choki ng on his own voice. “You just wanted me to help you get your dad out of the way?”

“Well, I do have to admit, I didn’t expect you to go about the situation the way you did, but it still got the job done.”

It wasn’t what Danny said, or even the implications behind the words that made Nicholas feel like they’d just fallen to an all new low. It was the absolute honesty in Danny’s voice as he said it.

“That’s all I am to you, then?” Nicholas asked, trying to pull away from Danny in a half-hearted attempt. “You were supposed to be my friend!”

“I’d like to be your friend,” Danny said. “I like you Nicholas. You’re just a fucking pain in the arse.”

“I’m your inspector, and I’ve apparently failed you,” Nicholas said flatly. “I should have seen this earlier. I probably did, and just wanted to. I could have stopped all this. I could have saved you.”

Danny laughed, and Nicholas thought that he was goin g to collapse in upon himself. “Save me?” he asked. “From what? The bogeyman?”

“From whatever’s going on that’s making you do this,” Nicholas said quietly. “Danny, you’re better than this.”

“Well, maybe,” Danny agreed. “But this is just how things work. You’ll figure that out soon enough. Then we’ll be mates again, yeah?”

Nicholas started to argue, but stopped himself, settling back into a blank stare across the flat.

“Come on,” Danny said. “We’ll watch something, then I’ll take you home, yeah.”

Nicholas only shrugged, ignoring Danny as he finally let go of his wrist and got up to go fetch a DVD from his collection.

Danny practically dragged Nicholas up the walkway and into the cottage, pulling Nicholas’ keys from his pocket and opening the door into cool darkness.

“It’s your day off tomorrow, innit?” Danny asked as he led Nicholas to the sofa, all but pushing him down in to the cushions.

Nicholas only shrugged.

“I’ll be over in the morning, then,” Danny said. “We’ll do whatever you want. Organise your sock drawer, if you want.”

Nicholas shrugged again. For the first time since he first arrived in Sandford, he wanted nothing more than to be far, far away from Danny. “Whatever,” he managed.

Danny rubbed his hand over Nicholas’ hair quickly before throwing Nicholas’ keys on the sofa next to him and turning toward the door, shutting it quietly behind him.

Sitting in the quiet dark, Nicholas listened to the sound of Danny’s car starting and pulling away. It meant that Danny was going away from him, that he wouldn’t feel a sharp stab of betrayal every time one of them spoke.

How had he not seen it? Everything was obvious; he should have known what was happening a year ago, when they were standing in the dark under the castle, big cartoon knives being thrown around.

Danny was always the first one there. He was there after Nicholas was attacked by Michael in his hotel room. He was there at the castle when the whole lot of those crazy motherfuckers came after him with pitchforks and spades.

He’d put the fucking notebook in Nicholas’ pocket. It may not have specifically been the plan all along, but he’d wanted to get Nicholas out of there; wanted him to make it to London and send back the blue fury of the Metropolitan Police Services in to arrest the entire damn village.

But Nicholas came back on his own. Came back because he was worried for Danny. Came back because of a displaced sense of loyalty that had chosen the most inappropriate of all times to finally develop. Every goddamn person he ever tried to look up to found one way or another to go behind his back and sink their claws in.

Why shouldn’t he do the same? Why was he so willing to sit and wait for Danny to come back round in the morning?

Cautiously getting to his f eet, Nicholas crept over to the window and pushed the curtains away just enough to peer out to the street in front of his cottage. The car was gone, Danny presumably actually gone home for the night.

Nicholas rushed over to the phone and picked up the receiver before realising that he didn’t have any of the direct numbers. They were all in his mobile, which was still at the station. He couldn’t ring Partridge, or Clarke, or anyone outside of Sandford. At least he hadn’t told anyone else. If there was one thing he was habitually doing right, it was keeping his damn mouth shut around the other officers. He’d be able to walk right back into the station, past whichever Turner brother was working the front desk, and grab his mobile. No sense in sticking around long enough to make the call.

He snatched up his keys back from the sofa and quietly left the cottage, locking the door behind him. Just in case. He made a quick trip to the station, running most of the way, before slipping in through the front door.

Kevin, barely looking up from his book, cast him a quick glance, and for a moment, Nicholas was absolutely certain that the sergeant would say something – anything to raise some sort of alarm. Instead, he turned his attention back to his book and let Nicholas stroll right through the station.

He quickly made his way back to his office, opening and closing drawers frantically as he tried to find his mobile.

“Looking for something?”

Nicholas’ attention snapped up at Andy, standing in the doorway with the phone displayed in his hand. “Detective,” Nicholas said cautiously.

“Danny said you’d be back,” Andy said, stepping back out of the office. “Who were you gonna call?”

Andrew stepped up behind Andy, a grin hidden somewhere behind his moustache.

“Cheeky bastard, isn’t And?”

“Detective, that is my personal property,” Nicholas warned. “Give it back, now .”

The detectives smiled at one another. “Or what?” Andrew chided.

“The game’s up,” Nicholas said. “I know what’s going on, and so does home office. I already phoned them this afternoon. If I don’t call them back—”

“Bullshit,” Andrew spat. “You didn’t call anyone, and you know it. You told Danny everything.” He pulled his own mobile out of his pocket and pressed a series of buttons before bringing the device to his ear. “Yeah, he’s here,” he said after a few moments. “Just like you said.” Nicholas stood in horror as Andrew talked with, who he could only assume to be, Danny. “What do you want us to do?”

After a few moments, Andrew hung up the small phone and slid it back into his jacket. “What’s he said?” Andy asked.

“Coming right down,” Andrew responded easily as he stepped closer to Nicholas. “But we ought to help make the point a bit more clear.”

Before Nicholas had a chance to react, Andrew grabbed hold of Nicholas’ shirt collar and pushed the man down toward the floor until he was off balance enough to lose his footing, allowing Andrew to drag him out of the office. Nicholas kicked and dug his nails into Andrew’s hand as he found himself being pulled into a holding cell.

“Get the fuck off!” He shouted, trying to fight the detective off of him.

He was surprised when Andrew threw him to the ground, taking a moment before getting to his feet. He tried to rush Andy, hoping to push through the cell door, but the detective quickly closed it and let it latch heavily behind him.

“Woah, there, cowboy,” Andy said as he shoved Nicholas away from the door. “Where do you think you’re going?”

Nicholas shot his gaze between the two detectives. “You’re not going to get away with this,” he said, trying to keep himself under control. “People are gonna know what’s going on!”

“People already do,” Andy s aid easily, leaning against the heavy cell door.

“This is sick. You’re all sick!” Nicholas slammed Andy into the door as though he were trying to push them both right through the thick steel. For a few moments, he and Andy struggled against one another until Andrew grasped Nicholas by the shoulders and threw him to the ground, slipping his leg behind Nicholas to knock him completely off balance.

“Little fucker just assaulted an officer of the law,” Andrew said, kicking Nicholas in the side. “Teach this little bastard a lesson.”

As Nicholas coughed and gasped for breath on the cold cement floor, Andrew kicked him again, not holding any of himself back. Nicholas tried to get back to his feet, dizzy and disoriented, not seeing Andrew pulling his arm back. Before he had a chance to duck away, Andrew’s fist connected against his face, right over the fracture Simon Skinner had left in his skull.

“Should have sent someone else after you the first time,” Andrew said, hefting Nicholas to his feet. “Michael never knew what the fuck was going on.” Another blow to Nicholas stomach, and he dropped the inspector to the ground as the cell door swung open.

Nicholas coughed at the figure in the doorway, who he slowly realised to be Kevin Turner. For a fleeting moment, he thought he’d been saved; maybe Kevin wasn’t aware of what was going on, after all.

“Oi,” Kevin called out. “I dunno what you lot are up to back here, but keep it down, would you. I can’t read with all this racket!”

“Sorry, Kev,” Andy muttered, throwing a disgusted look at Andrew and Nicholas.

Kevin snorted out a sort of choked laugh as he walked back toward the front desk, letting the cell door swing shut again. Nicholas watched him go; watched as the final shred of proof that not a single sane resident of the village ever exists walked away through the dark station. Choking on the air he was trying to bre athe, Nicholas let his head fall back against the floor, ready to let Andrew finish his power trip and just please go away.

Andrew took off his jacket and pulled a collapsible baton from his belt, extending it with a horrific metal ratchet.

“Andy, no,” the constable warned. “For fuck’s sake, look at him! He’s had enough.” The detectives stood silent for a few moments, staring one another down. “You’re gonna fucking kill him, you go any farther!”

Andrew shrugged as tossed his jacket on the bed. “So what if I do? He’s just in the way all the time! He wasn’t supposed to know anyway, because he won’t keep his fucking mouth shut.” He kicked Nicholas once more as the man lie crumpled on the floor.

“And he wouldn’t know if you hadn’t been such a careless fucking prick!” Andy spat.

“Well, we ain’t gonna teach this old dog any new tricks,” Andrew pointed out. “You really think he ain’t gonna keep trying to fu ck everything up?”

The door opened again, the three men in the cell expecting another tongue lashing from Sergeant Turner. Instead, Danny stepped into the doorway, his arms crossed tightly over his chest.

“I think it would be best if you lad left us alone,” he said darkly. “Andy, leave that here.”

Andrew looked down at the baton in his hand for a few moments before tossing it down onto the bed, exchanging it for his jacket before shuffling out of the cell after Andy. Danny propped the door open before stepping over to Nicholas, who still lie on the ground, his gaze not focused on anything in particular.

“Come here,” Danny said as he sat on the ground. He took Nicholas by the arm and dragged the man over so that the two were sitting awkwardly next to one another. “Oh, for fuck’s sake, don’t nobody listen to me?”

He reached up onto the bed, holding Nicholas tightly to keep him from pushing away, and with his free hand wrestle d the pillow case from the foam pillow. With one final tug to bring Nicholas as close to him as possible, he used the pillow case to gently wipe the inspector’s face clean.

“You might need stitches on that,” he said quietly, trying not to aggravate the cut Andrew had left on his cheek. “I should call the doctor in here.”

Nicholas shook his head as he tried to pull himself away. Not ready to let Nicholas go, Danny wrapped his arm around his shoulders, pulling him even closer. “If people would just listen, these sorts of things wouldn’t have to happen,” he rationalised. “I don’t like telling people to do these sorts of things, but when you go around behind my back like this, I have to find some way to show you that what you’re doing is wrong.”

Nicholas’ entire body shook as he struggled unsuccessfully against Danny’s grip, his body too sore and tired to put up any sort of a proper fight.

“The rolled up news paper ain’t wo rking, but I don’t want to see you hurt.” He found a clean patch on the case and gently rubbed it over Nicholas’ face. “At least put some ice on that, or something.”

“No,” Nicholas managed, still pulling away. “Danny, this is wrong.”

Danny sighed deeply. “The only wrong going on here is you not wanting to settle down and cooperate,” he said. “I don’t see what’s so hard about that, Nicholas.”

He gently put his hand on Nicholas head, pressing the man lightly against his chest. “I like having you around. I really do,” he continued, ignoring Nicholas as he tried to pull away. “You weren’t meant to know this stuff so soon. I were gonna try to ease you into it. Figured you might understand it better that way.”

“There’s nothing to understand,” Nicholas protested quietly.

Danny smiled as he looked down at Nicholas. “You’re absolutely right,” he said. “See, you’re getting it. I knew you would.”

Nicholas wanted to be sick right there on the floor. He was surprised when Danny finally let up on his grip, slowly getting to his feet.

“I want to be able to trust you,” Danny said suddenly. “If I take you back home, can I trust you?”

Nicholas sat still on the floor, feeling better just not being touched by anybody. That feeling was soon demolished as Danny bent and picked him back up, dragging him to his feet. He tried to resist as Danny dragged him out of the cell and to the main door, passing Kevin at the front desk.

“Three needs cleaning up when you get a chance,” he said to the sergeant as they passed.

Kevin nodded lightly. “Right, Danny,” he said, not looking up from his book.

Danny led Nicholas out to the waiting car, easily wrestling him into the passenger seat and shutting the door. “Stay there,” he warned as he made his way around to the driver’s door. Getting in the car, he cast a glance over to Nicholas, an d satisfied that the man wasn’t going to try to just out of the car as they drove down the road, he started the engine and pulled out onto the street.

“I still meant what I said earlier,” Danny said easily. “I’ll be back round in the morning, and we’ll figure out what we’re gonna do from there, all right?”

Nicholas said nothing, doing his best to ignore Danny’s words.

“Oh, come on. S’not like it’s that bad, or nothing,” Danny insisted. “Things’ll settle again, and it’ll be just like before. Nice and quiet again. You like that, right?”

Nicholas turned his attention out the side window, watching as the dark village past by at twenty miles an hour.

“I’d like some sort of dialogue between us,” Danny said bitterly. “I’m going out of my way for you, ya know. I don’t have to do these things for you. I could have left you in there with the Andys. Then where’d you be?”

Still, Nicholas ignored him. M aybe he should have. At least then, he’d be done with this whole insane mess. And after all that, he still didn’t get his mobile. Danny would have known that Nicholas kept all of his numbers in there, so it was no wonder he was so willing to let Nicholas just go back home.

A year of hell and rebuilding and court trials, and they’d still managed to win somehow. He should have gone back to London when they asked him. Let someone else deal with these people.

He didn’t even try to struggle as Danny pulled him out of the car and led him back up the walkway to the cottage. Without even trying the door, he again reached into Nicholas’ pocket and pulled out his keys so he could let them in. Leaving Nicholas by the sofa, Danny made his way over to the telephone and reached around for the cord, yanking it from the wall.

“I would like to be able to trust you,” he said simply, “but you’ve not been making it easy. We’ll get that fixed when you start acting civil.”

Nicholas watched as Danny tossed Nicholas keys down by the telephone and opened the front door. “I’ll be back round tomorrow morning. I promise.”

He shut the door behind him, again leaving Nicholas alone in the dark cottage. Listening to Danny drive away again, he thought for a moment to just leave. Leave and… what? Steal a car? He wouldn’t know how to get it started unless he happened to find one with the keys already in. He couldn’t even hitchhike to Buford Abbey, since anyone going that direction would be from Sandford.

It was clear that he was stuck there, imprisoned in his own home. It wasn’t exactly a comforting thought no matter how he tried to spin it.

He could at least be prepared, though. Cautiously making his way through the house, as though some of Danny’s spies were tucked in behind his peace lily, he opened the door leading out to the back garden. Careful not to wake the neighbours, he crept back to the s mall shed tucked in the back corner of the garden and pulled open the door.

He sat on the stairs, the house completely dark, heavy wool blankets and patchwork quilts tacked up over every window keeping even the faintest of light coming in from outside. His eyes adjusted to the extreme dark, he knew he’d have a few minutes of advantage if and when Danny changed his mind about keeping Nicholas safe and sound. Then again, if cuts to the face and riot batons were someone’s idea of “safe and sound,” they clearly needed to be in an institution.

He jumped slightly at footsteps outside his door, cautious but hurried as they stopped suddenly. Gripping his scavenged cricket bat tightly, Nicholas slowly got up from the steps and made his way to the door, ready for whoever was about to force their way in.

And the, against anything he ever would have predicted, there was a light knock on the door.

“Nick, you crazy fuck, let me in!” Andy hissed from outside, barely loud enough for Nicholas to hear.

“No!” Nicholas spat back. “Get off my property!”

“I’m alone, you stupid prick!” Andy insisted. “Quick! Let me in!”

“Why?” Nicholas demanded.

“Because someone will see me if you don’t!”

Nicholas took a few moments to consider this before switching the bat over to his other hand and slowly unlocking the door. “Try anything, and you’re in a coma,” he threatened as he opened the door slowly, holding the cricket bat above his head.

Andy looked up at the bat and took a slow step backwards away from Nicholas, letting the inspector close the door and lock it behind him.

“I can’t see a fucking thing!”

Nicholas stood in front of the light switch, just in case Andy somehow knew where it was. “What do you want, constable?” Nicholas demanded.

“To give you this,” Andy said, pulling Nicholas’ mobile out of his pocket. He held it up, hoping Nicholas had some sort of super Batman night vision or something. “Andy’s completely off his nut.”

“Oh, really?” Nicholas asked. “I hadn’t noticed!”

Andy tried to step closer to Nicholas, but stopped when Nicholas jabbed him in the chest with the bat.

“Put the mobile on the table,” he said. “Two feet to your left.”

Andy cautiously reached out, his hands fumbling blindly in the dark as looked for the table. Eventually, he found it, and gently put the phone down before backing away a few steps.

“What do you want?” Nicholas demanded, not moving from his original position.

“Told you,” Andy said. “Andy ain’t right. Something’s changed in him, and he’s gone real mean. I think Danny’s making him do things that I ain’t being told about.”

“What things?” Nicholas asked.

“I don’t fucking know!” the detective nearly shouted. “I ain’t being told, remember?”

“Right .” Finally, Nicholas stepped over to the table and picked up the mobile. He pushed a button on its face, relieved when the screen lit up. “What do you expect me to do then?” he asked, finally turning on the light.

“You’re right,” Andy said finally. “This shit ain’t right.”

Nicholas scowled at the younger man as he circled widely around him and went into the kitchen. “And what do you propose we do?” he asked bitterly. “Just arrest the whole village? I’m a bit pressed to come up with an alternative solution.” He carefully picked up a small knife from the counter and hid it best he could in his hand.

Andy sighed and rolled his eyes. “You always gotta be the one in charge, don’t you?” he asked. “Does it ever occur to you that someone else might have a plan?”

Nicholas spun round and looked over Andy. “Oh, really?” he asked. “What’s your big master plan, then?”

“You. Me. Buford Abbey. Right now.”

Nicholas stared at Andy from across the room. “What are we gonna do? Walk there?”

Andy snorted. “You just can’t let it go, can you?” he asked. “How fucking dumb do you think I am? I got a car a few blocks away. I didn’t park out front, because someone would see, you daft old man.”

Nicholas inhaled deeply as he clenched his jaw tight, before finally giving in and stepping closer to Andy. “I hope you’ve thought this through.”

“Yeah, just bring your little toys, and let’s get out of here.”

Nicholas felt a surge of disappointment at knowing Andy had seen him pick up the knife, but didn’t acknowledge it as he watched the detective make his way toward the door. Andy flipped off the light and opened the door, cautiously peering out to the street. The coast apparently clear, he quickly made his way down the stone path, Nicholas close behind. “Just up the way a bit, here,” he said, pointing.

Nicholas followed after hi m, clutching his bat nervously with both hands. If Andy thought that he’d taken back his threat about putting him in a coma, he was thicker than he looked.

As they began to round a corner to the parked car, Andy stopped suddenly, Nicholas barely having enough time to stop without running into the detective’s back.

“Fuck,” Andy hissed, dropping his head as the sound of footsteps approached. “They followed me.”

“Oh, did they?” Nicholas spat, an accusing sting in his voice.

“It’s not like I invited them!” Andy defended as he looked round frantically.

“Well, go on then,” Andrew called from a distance. “Go get in the car. That’s where you were going anyway, wasn’t it?”

Andy and Nicholas exchanged a nervous glance before carefully walking toward the car. “I’ll put in a good word for you,” Nicholas growled as they approached Andrew.

The detective held his hands out, stopping Nicholas in his tracks. � �Woah, there,” he said as he grabbed Nicholas’ wrist and pulled the knife from his hand, tossing it to the ground. Knowing what would come if he tried to struggle, he let Andrew take his cricket bat as well.

“Is it too fucking much to get some respe’k out of you?” Danny demanded as he shoved Andy into the back of the Fiesta parked at the curb. “And you!” he rounded on Nicholas, grabbing him by the shirt collar and dragging him over to the car. “I’m running out of trust with you, Nicholas,” he scolded. “I told you what was gonna happen if you went against me again.”

He shoved Nicholas into the car next to Andy and slammed the door shut, getting into the driver’s side. “Where are your keys, Andy?” he demanded.

Andrew climbed into the passenger seat, sitting silently.

“Andy, I know you don’t run this thing on pixie dust. Where the fuck are your keys?” Danny flipped down the sun visor and checked the little cubby hole i n the door as Andrew bent down and tore a panel from the dash clean off.

“Oi, you cunt!” Andy shouted from the back as Andrew fiddled with a few wires, eventually managing to bring the car to a start.

“He asked you twice,” Andrew said. “Which team are you playing, Andy?”

“I’m trying to figure out what fucking game you lot are playing!” Andy spat back.

“Shut it!” Danny shouted, silencing the small group in the car. “I’ve had it with the lot of you.”

Looking over his shoulder, he pulled out onto the road, quickly driving them out of town and down an unlit lane.

“Where the hell we going?” Andrew asked as the lane became not so much paved any more, and just tightly-packed gravel.

“You shut it, too,” Danny warned. “You’re the cunt what spooked him. He wouldn’t have left again if you didn’t try to break his fucking skull.”

“Danny, you don’t really want—”

“Shut up, Nicholas ,” Danny said stiffly. “You are not talking right now.”

Hoping that going along with Danny would be the best solution, Nicholas did as he was told and cast a nervous glance at Andy, who acted as if he were able to jump right out of his skin, he would have.

“I’m really disappointed in you, too, Andy,” Danny said once everyone had calmed down. “In a few days, everything would have been back to normal, but you went behind my back. Just a little respe’k is all I’m looking for.”

“Is that what this is about?” Nicholas asked, unable to stop himself. “Danny, you don’t—”

Danny slammed on the breaks, sending an unsuspecting Nicholas crashing into the back of his seat.

“I told you that you’re being quiet right now, didn’t I?” he said as he got out of the car. “Now, let’s go.”

He threw open the back door and pulled Nicholas out, dragging him across wet grass to a dark, looming structure, Andrew and Andy do ing a similar dance just behind them. Pulling open a large sliding door, Danny threw Nicholas onto the ground, motion for Andrew to do the same with Andy.

As Nicholas got himself situated again, he looked up at Danny, finding himself staring down the barrel of his own Beretta. “Danny, that isn’t—”

“Shut it!” Danny shouted. “When it were my dad, you all would jump to be the first to do what he told you. Even you, Nicholas!”

“Is that what this is about?” Nicholas asked, backing away slowly. “This is all about your dad?”

“No!” Danny insisted. “I don’t want to talk about him! You’re always trying to compare things to how they was when it were my dad. I tell you pricks to do something, and you go swanning off to do something else!” He shifted slightly, the pistol suddenly aimed at Andy. “Nicholas, I can understand,” he said angrily. “He’s new. He ain’t gotten used to things yet. But you, Andy.”

Nicholas slowly got to his feet, his hands held up in front of him. “Danny, listen to me,” he said calmly. “You don’t really want to do this. We both know that.” He and Danny locked eyes, Nicholas seeing for the first time something that he’d previously mistaken for fear. “There are better ways to go about this. Andy’s your friend. You don’t want to hurt your friend. I don’t want you to hurt him, either. Let’s just think about this for a bit.”

Danny shook his head. “What, you gonna try your supercop routine on me, Nicholas?”

Nicholas inhaled deeply, keeping his hands in front of himself where they were clearly visible. “Danny, your dad’s not around anymore. You don’t have to keep trying to impress him. You’re out doing him just by not doing the kinds of things he did. I know you don’t really want to do these violent things. Nobody does.”

Danny snorted lightly. “Yeah,” he said. “You’re right.” He shoved the Beretta i nto Andrew’s hand and shoved him into place. “He’s your partner, Andrew. Your responsibility.”

Andrew spun to look at Danny. “What?” he demanded. “For fuck’s sake, he’s just a kid!”

“He’s twenty-six,” Danny pointed out. “Old enough to know where his loyalties should lie.”

“Talk about loyalties,” Andrew said, not quite sure where to aim the pistol. “Frank would have never made us do this shit!”

“We ain’t talking about my dad!” Danny shouted. “I told you! He’s gone now! You listen to me!”

Nicholas took a small step closer to the pair in front of him. “Danny, let’s be rational, now. We won’t talk about your dad any more. I promise.”

Danny lunged at Andrew, pulling the Beretta from his hand and swinging it in Nicholas’ direction. “I told you that you ain’t talking right now!” he screamed, his face red as he advanced on Nicholas.

Nicholas took a step backwards, raising his hands slightly higher. “Okay,” he agreed. “But I just want to say first that I know you don’t really want to hurt me. And you know it.”

The pistol being shoved in his face was a clear contradiction of this statement, but Nicholas hoped it would at least buy him a few minutes to figure out some other plan of action.

“Danny, really,” Andrew said from behind him. “Maybe we really ought to slow down. We got open cells. We can figure out what to do with them in the morning, yeah?”

Danny spun on Andrew, Nicholas able to finally breathe. “You’re all fucking useless!” Danny shouted. “Every damn one of you!”

“You just ain’t thinking about the grea—”

“No! This is my village!” the sergeant insisted. “I’ll decide what the greater good is! Not some old twats running hotels!”

“Get that gun out of my face, Danny,” Andrew said flatly.

“I’m giving the orders! Not you!”

Sighing, Andrew reac hed into the back of his trousers and pulled out a revolver held it up at chest level.

“Where the fuck’d you get that?” Danny demanded. “I didn’t give you that gun!”

Andrew rolled his eyes. “Same place you did. We all got the code for the riot room, you twat,” he pointed out.

“I ain’t plaing this game with you, Andy!” The sergeant repositioned the pistol, making sure that Andrew knew that he was the one standing down the sight line. “I’m in charge here, and you’re damn well gonna listen to what I say.”

“Well, as senior officer, I’m saying we ought to figure out a better way to go about this,” Andrew snarled. “I don’t think you’re ready for all this excitement and responsibility just yet.”

Andy and Nicholas watched as the other two officers collapsed in on one another. Convinced that their attention was firmly focused on one another, Nicholas tapped Andy on the back of his hand, motioning to the door wi th his eyes. Andy quickly glanced toward the murky night outside before nodding lightly, giving Nicholas a quick nudge as though to hurry it along already.

“Where the fuck are you two going!?” Danny shouted. He swung his arm out at Nicholas and Andy, the Beretta firing unexpectedly.

For a moment, everyone stopped breathing as the air surrounding the entire area seemed to freeze instantly. Suddenly, Nicholas felt a heavy weight against his shoulder as Andy gasped roughly.

“Andy?” Nicholas barked, startled. He grabbed Andy by the shoulders and gently led him down to the ground, making sure the detective didn’t hurt himself any more than he already was. “Andy, where is it?”

Nicholas whipped his attention back to where Danny and Andrew had been standing, not entirely surprised to see both of them gone. A few moments later, he heard the Fiesta coughing to life outside in the grass.

“Andy, hold on, okay?”

Andy’s hand reached out, grabbing Nicholas’ arm tightly as the inspector pulled his mobile out of his pocket and shoved it into his mouth, using the screen display to cast some light onto the scene. Even with the faint blue glow, Nicholas could see the mass of damage the bullet had caused to Andy’s shoulder, his blood black on his shirt.

“Andy, stay with me,” Nicholas said frantically around his mobile as he pressed his hand against the detective’s shoulder. “Don’t let go of me, okay? You’re gonna be fine!”

Andy nodded as he coughed lightly. “Fucking prick,” he managed to spit out.

“Don’t talk,” Nicholas said as he pulled his mobile out of his mouth. “Just hold on to me, okay?”

He frantically dialled 999, taking a few moments to remember to press the “send” key afterwards.

“State your emergency, please,” an older woman answered.

“I, uh,” Nicholas started, panting slightly. “My friend’s been shot. I need an ambul ance!”

“Okay, sir, stay calm,” the woman said. Nicholas nodded as he readjusted himself to be able to better put pressure on Andy’s shoulder. “Where are you located?”

Nicholas looked around. ‘Barn,’ his brain supplied. “Andy, where are we?” he asked.

“Brannigan Farm,” Andy managed. “Norris Lane.”

Nicholas relayed this information to the dispatcher.

“Sir, I’m not familiar with where that is. Where are you calling from?”

“I just told you,” Nicholas said. “It’s on Norris Lane.”

“Is that in Somerford, sir?”

Suddenly, it clicked with Nicholas. His call should have been relayed to the station, but he most certainly was not talking with Kyle Turner. “No! Sandford!” He corrected. “Fucking tower’s down out here somewhere.”

“Sir, just keep calm, okay?” the dispatcher said, but Nicholas wasn’t listening. Andy’s hand slipped off of his wrist, so he positioned his mobil e on his shoulder and took the detective’s hand in his own.

“Andy, hold on for me!” he choked. “You’re gonna be fine. Everything’s gonna be fine.”

“Sir, are you calling from a mobile phone?” the dispatcher asked.

“What? Yeah,” Nicholas said, squeezing Andy’s hand tightly. “Andy, don’t let go of me, okay.”

“I’m sending someone out to your location, sir,” the dispatcher said. “I need you to stay on the line with me until they arrive, all right?”

Nicholas nodded, his teeth clenched tightly. “Yeah,” he managed. “Hurry. Please.”

Nicholas sat quietly as the doctor cleaned and stitched up his face, keeping impatient city cops waiting outside with cold cups of coffee in their hands.

“You’ve got some bad bruising on your chest, too,” the doctor said as he finished up his stitch work. “I want to get some X-rays on your chest, just to be safe.

“Yeah,” Nicholas muttered a greeably.

The door was pushed open and an officer with a London badge on his hat stepped into the room, flashing his badge at the doctor. “He in any mortal danger right now?”

The doctor shook his head. “No,” he said. “But I’d really like to—”

“I’ll give him back in a few minutes.” The sergeant motioned for the doctor to leave the room, shutting the door behind the man in the white coat. “Gave us another scare, Nicholas,” he said.

Nicholas only shrugged. “I just want to go home, Travis,” he answered.

“They’re not letting anyone in or out of the –”

“No,” Nicholas said stiffly. “Home. At least the insanity in London is a logical sort.”

Travis sighed and leaned against the door. “Have you got any place to go?” he asked.

“I’ll stay with my mum until I get it figured out.” Nicholas kept his eyes on the tile floor.

“They found that friend of yours. I just got news over th e radio.”

Nicholas nodded. “Right,” he said.

“The other guy’s still out there, somewhere, but they got the roads blocked. All six of them.” Travis tried to pull Nicholas into laughing with him, but it was clear the only thing the inspector wanted was just to be left alone. “Right, then.” He pulled the door open, flashing a quick smile at the doctor as he passed.

He changed quietly in the crowded locker room, ignoring the jokes the constables told one another. Focusing on the buttons on his shirt, Nicholas made sure everything was straightened and tidy before shutting the locker door and making his way out to the front doors. Ducking past the sea of bodies that filled the building, he managed to slip outside without anyone stopping him for something, and crossed the street to the bus stop.

The building wasn’t how he’d imagined it would be, but it somehow made everything seem a little better; like it was safer, somehow.

He flashed his badge at the guard by the gate, smiling lightly.

“Back again, sir?” the guard asked as he opened the gate for Nicholas. “You haven’t gotten bored yet?”

Nicholas pocketed his badge and shook his head. “Gives me something to do before my weekend,” he said lightly.

The guard laughed lightly as Nicholas passed through the gate, knowing his way through the various paths and corridors. He stopped several times to sign various forms and hand off a large envelope to someone else get a special little badge to wear from yet another someone else, before he was led to a small room where Danny was already waiting, picking at the desk with his fingernails.

“I’m fine,” Nicholas said, nodding to the man by the door. “I’ll knock if I need anything.”

The man nodded, and left the two men alone.

“How’s your dad?” Nicholas asked as he sat in the only empty chair in the room.

Danny shrugged. “They had to move him,” he said.

“I’m sorry,” Nicholas replied honestly. “I did get those comics you asked for, though,” he said, smiling cautiously. “They were a bit hard to find, but I managed to track all seven of them down.”

Danny finally smiled. “Yeah?” he asked. “Shame, they’ll just black out all the dirty words and ruin the value.”

“Don’t worry,” Nicholas said. “I got you two copies.”


Perpetual Motion #1

It was 1989 when Danny Butterman purchased his first VHS film. It was at the shop, cellophane wrapping glossy and brand new under the lights, with Bruce Willis on the cover, looking utterly bad ass.

He hadn’t even left the car park before tearing into the plastic film that protected the cassette tape. As he walked home, he took in every detail of the box, and as he recklessly crossed Quentin Lane, he realised that he’d been totally and completely ripped off. According to the copyright date, the film was nearly a year old, but the shop owner had assured him that it was brand new; just hit the shelves earlier that afternoon.

He’d forgotten all about the false advertisement by the time Alan Rickman did a ridiculous job at pretending to be German, and rewound and rewatched the movie three times (well, he started watching a fourth time, but fell asleep half-way into it), and slept right through breakfast the next morning.

Despite his protests, Danny did have to admit that he enjoyed the extra attention. He still ostensibly lived alone, Nicholas spending all but his sleeping hours and some of his working hours rushing back and forth through the cramped flat, fetching tea and pills and DVDs, which he silently suffered through. It was clear that he hadn’t enjoyed Rumble in the Bronx, and would have probably gnawed his own hand off to avoid Enter the Dragon under any other circumstance, but there he was, sitting quietly on the other end of the sofa, doing a gamely job at trying to pay attention to the contrived plots and choreographed martial arts.

Nicholas had begun spending so much time around Danny’s flat that he’d begun to know when Danny was in pain, or when he needed to get up before a word was ever exchanged between the two of them. He’d jump to his feet and rush right to wherever it was he was needed at that exact moment, ignoring Danny’s complaints that Nicholas was just goin g to mother hen him to death.

“Do you really want me to stop?” Nicholas asked one evening, prying the lid off of Danny’s prescription bottle.

It was not what Danny expected to hear.

“Well,” Danny started awkwardly. With some effort, he pushed himself upright far enough to grab the bottle from Nicholas. “I like having you around, yeah? But I am an adult, Nicholas.”

Nicholas stood silently, looking at Danny with concern. “I’m sorry,” he said. But it wasn’t the words; it was the way he’d said it that Danny knew he honestly was. That small tinge of guilt underlying Nicholas’ voice that gave him away as not just saying the words because it was the polite thing to do. He slowly sat back down on the sofa, holding his weight up with his arms against his knees. “I just can’t help but feel responsible, somehow.”

Suddenly, Danny forgot all about the bottle of pills in his hand as he silently studied Nicholas with his eyes. R esponsible? Well, yes; the crazy fucker came back when he should have been in London.

“Yeah, but my dad would have found out soon enough,” he pointed out as he tilted the fished out one of the Vicodin from the bottle. “I think he already knew something was up when I walked to work. D’you know when the last time I walked to work was?”

Nicholas shook his head lightly. “I’m sure you—”

“When Andrew wrecked my Fiat, six years ago.” He quickly swallowed down the pill, blindly reaching for the glass of water he knew Nicholas would have ready.

“Was it bad?” Nicholas asked as he took the glass back and set it on the coffee table.

Danny shrugged. “Why you think he grows out that stupid moustache?” he asked with a light chuckle. “Teeth went straight through. S’what happens when you rear-end a tractor, I suppose.”

Now Nicholas was laughing, still not entire acclimated to “quiet” country living. “That’s why I came back, you know,” he said, stone sober again. “I knew the NWA would find out. You don’t leave your partner behind in a dangerous situation.”

Danny glanced sideways at him. “You sure you ain’t been watching too many films behind my back?”

Nicholas finally settled back into the sofa, his posture more relaxed. “I’d prefer to nap through them, if it’s all the same,” he admitted. “It’s not like Partridge is letting me get any sleep as it is.”

Everyone knew it, but no one ever put it to words. It was obvious. He used his usual excuse of doing more out on the street than in the station, but even when he was at the station, he never spent more than a few minutes at a time in his office. He’d rush in, stay long enough to make sure the stapler was straight and find whatever file he needed, and join everyone else in the bull pit. Once, he even made the mistake of saying that if the other officers saw him as being on their o wn level, they’d feel he was more easily approachable. And then Andrew threw a bin at him, and Doris made a very blatant attempt at getting him up to her flat. After that, Nicholas ran any announcement he needed to make by Danny before actually telling the rest of the officers.

The entire station had been completely rebuilt from the ground up, exactly as it was, except for that office. Every detail had been built just that little tiny bit differently. The door was a few centimetres to the left, or the window just that much higher. He even arranged his desk to face in a different direction, but the fact remained that that office had still been the Chief’s office, and that “Chief” had previously been Frank Butterman.

By all standard definitions, neither Nicholas nor Frank actually held that title. For a few weeks after London grew bored with the village and promoted him so the whole fiasco could be forgotten, Nicholas was at arms with the other officers aga inst their liberal use of the title. Eventually, he gave in and gave up, realising that his reactions only fed their fires.

Two days out of each week, Nicholas would actually settle into his role of inspector. He’d quickly gather whatever he needed from his office, commandeer an empty desk from one of the other officers, and go through his paperwork that really, he should have been doing every day. Gloucestershire Head Office had phoned once, confused about the dates being slightly misaligned between his reports and his officers’ reports. The proper Chief Inspector seemed eager to reprimand Nicholas, until he very calmly pointed out that the paperwork was at least being done, and a few misaligned dates was completely innocent next to twenty years of no paperwork at all.

It was the quickest telephone call of Nicholas’ career to date.

Nicholas was tucked away at Danny’s desk, a cup of store-bought soup beside his arm as he hunched over an incident rep ort, carefully going over the forms and making sure to triple check every last box and field. He hadn’t even noticed anyone else in the area until he heard someone try to open his office door.

“Excuse me?” he called out cautiously, slowly getting to his feet. He slowly circled round Danny’s desk as younger man wandered back into the bull pit. “Can I help you?” Nicholas said sternly.

“Oh, Inspector!” the man said, sounding almost startled. He quickly rushed over to Nicholas, lightly grabbing hold of his arms like a frightened child. “I thought you’d be…”

“I prefer to keep myself more visible,” Nicholas answered slowly. He guided the man to a nearby chair, motioning for him to sit. “Is there something going on, sir?”

“It’s my wife,” the man said. “Kathy. She never came home last night after her knittin’ thing at the church.”

“All right,” Nicholas said, reaching for his notebook and flipping it open. “Is it possible she went somewhere else?”

He pressed his biro to the page as he watched the man frantically shake his head? “What? No,” he said, seeming almost terrified at the implication. “She’s seven months on with our first. She’s no reason to go somewhere else.”

Nicholas nodded slowly and closed his notebook. “Okay,” he said slowly. “I’m going to go ahead and refer you to our CID. One moment.” He turned round in his seat to look at the white board on the wall, and the duty roster written on. Both of the detectives were on today; that much everyone in the station knew. Keeping track of who was running the Enquiries Desk was a task Nicholas feared he may never conquer. “Kevin,” he called out lightly. “Could you put a call out for the detectives? Make sure they know it’s urgent.”

Kevin Turner poked his head out from behind a door, looking wide-eyed across the bull pit. “Sure thing, Chief!” he said before disappearin g again.

A few moments later, he could hear Kevin rattling on over the radio, not really putting out any sort of call at all. Hoping he’d eventually get round to it, Nicholas picked back up his notebook and pen. “Okay, sir, what’s your name?” he asked lightly.

“Randal,” the man said. “Randal Butcher.”

Nicholas quickly wrote the man’s name down and nodded. “Randal, you said she didn’t come home last night?”

The man nodded. “I work nights in Buford Abbey,” he explained. “Don’t get home until morning. She weren’t there when I got in this morning, so I rung up Miss Baker, who hosts the knitting thing, and she said Kathy was there, and left with everyone else. I know she weren’t home after because the cat weren’t let out.”

Nicholas nodded slowly as he wrote everything down, correcting for bad grammar. “Randal, our detectives should be here shortly, and they’ll be able to help you further, all right?”

Randal shook his head nervously as he wrung his fingers together. “You’re the inspector. Why can’t you handle it?”

Nicholas tried very hard not to sigh. “I’m not actually authorised to do any sort of real questioning. Regulations.”

The man only shrugged. “But you’re the inspector,” he pointed out.

Nicholas leaned in slightly. “Sir, I can assure you that these men are trained professionals. I don’t have the right qualifications for this area.”

Finally, Randal nodded awkwardly. “Yeah, sure,” he said quietly.

“Would you like something to drink while we wait?” Nicholas asked. “Tea? Coffee?”

The man beside Danny’s desk only shrugged awkwardly. “I don’t think that’s necessary.”

Nodding lightly, Nicholas shut his notebook and got to his feet. “I’m going to go have a word with the desk sergeant,” he said, still able to hear Kevin rambling on over the radio. “I’ll be right over there if you need me.”

He wanted for Randal to give some sort of affirmative signal before making his way over to the Enquires Desk, pushing through the door that probably should have been kept lock, but no one knew where the key went off to.

“Kevin,” he said stiffly, holding his hand out for the radio.

Kevin jumped slightly at Nicholas’ voice. “Right,” he said into the radio. “Chief wants you at the station. Says it’s important.”

“If it’s that bloody important, why didn’t he tell us, himself, then?” The voice was unmistakably Andy.

Nicholas snatched the radio out of Kevin’s hand, clicking it to life. “Station. Now,” he said through his teeth before putting it back down on the table. He pushed the door shut a little bit more before leaning in close enough to whisper. “This gentleman outside says that his wife’s been gone since last night,” he said. “I’m going to have the detectives question him properly, but I want you to get Tony and Doris to go round to his house and take a quick look around.”

Kevin nodded slowly. “Right, Chief,” he said, picking up the radio. As he put the call out for the officers, the Andes pushed their way through the main doors, cigarettes pressed between their lips.

“Not in the station,” Nicholas reminded them firmly as he tore the page from his notebook. “Randal Butcher’s out there at Danny’s desk,” he said as he pushed the page underneath the lexan shield. “His wife never came home last night.”

Andrew took the slip of paper from the desk and looked over the writing. “There’s a darts tournament going on tonight,” he groaned as he opened the main door to throw his cigarette out onto the pavement.

“Well, get this done, and it won’t be a problem,” Nicholas said sternly, feeling more like a parent than a police officer. “The man’s distraught. Get out there.”

Andrew waited for Andy to toss his cigarette outside before the two shuffled out to the bull pit, doing their best at not groaning very loudly.

Nicholas watched from the Enquires Desk with Kevin as the detectives approached the distraught man, Andrew reading over the page from Nicholas’ notebook.

“Mister… Butcher?” he asked, pretending to struggle with Nicholas’ handwriting.

Randal got to his feet quickly, looking back and forth between the detectives. “Where’s my wife gone?” he asked frantically.

“Well, that’s what we’re here to find out, isn’t it?” Andrew asked.
Randal nodded slightly, his fingers still squeezed round one another. “Yeah,” he agreed. “Find out.”

Andrew glanced at him over the notebook page. “Chief says you work nights,” he said, directing the words nowhere in particular. “If you were gone last night, how do you know she didn’t just step out this morning?”

Randal stammered slightly. “I…the cat weren’t out. I let it in when I get home.”

The detectives exchanged glances as Andrew slid the notebook paper into his shirt pocket. “Tell ya what, Mister Butcher,” he started, lightly placing his hand on Randal’s shoulder. “Why don’t we go round your place and talk there? You might notice something you didn’t see when you got in this morning.”

Randal looked back and forth between the detectives again, faltering slightly. “Yeah,” he agreed finally. “Sure.”

“We can take my car,” Andrew continued. “It’s just out front.”

Randal hesitated slightly before finally following the detectives back through the station. As Andrew led him out to the Renault parked out front, Andy stopped by the Enquires Desk, where Nicholas had begun straightening up a bit.

“Chief, we’re taking him back round his place,” he said by way of en explanation. “See if maybe he might have overlooked something.”

Nicholas nodded without l ooking up. “Good,” he said simply.

Andy leaned against the small ledge of the desk. “Between you and me, his story’s a bit flimsy.”

Nicholas looked up to make eye contact with the detective. “Good,” he repeated. “But you’re not making any progress standing here talking to me, are you?”

Andy shifted nervously before slipping out of the station, letting the door swing shut behind him. The station back to a comfortable two bodies, Nicholas let out a heavy sigh as he pushed the door to the bull pit open. “Hold my calls,” he muttered. “I need to get this stuff done.”

“Right, Chief.”

Randal and Kathy butcher lived in a small farmhouse that used to be on Brannigan Farm, but the Reapers had sold off parts of their land in the forties when three of their boys went off to fight. Most locals knew even the most outlying regions of the village well, and Andrew was able to find the property easily enough without direct ions from Randal.

He parked in the grass out front, next to the cruiser that was already at the scene, and before they were all even out of the car, he and Andy had lit cigarettes in their mouths.

“All right, Mister Butcher,” Andy said, motioning for him to lead the way. “Take us through your morning.”

Randal nervously nodded as he walked up to the front door. “Well, I got home, like I always do, yeah. Donnie dropped me off like always, and I came up here, and noticed that the cat weren’t waiting for me like he usually is. It’s Kathy what lets him out at night. But I didn’t really think much of it.” He pulled his keys from his trousers and unlocked the door, pushing it open against heavy hinges. “And I come inside, and all the lights is still out, cept for the kitchen. I went upstairs, like I always do, only Kathy weren’t there. That’s when I came back down and noticed that her coat weren’t hung up, neither.”

Andrew and And y both began slowly walking through the small house, careful not to touch anything. “Seeing anything unusual, Andy?” Andy asked lightly.

Andrew shook his head. “Not here,” he responded. “Mister Butcher, what’s out back?”

Randal shrugged. “Ain’t much,” he said. “I can show you, though.”

Andrew nodded. “Why don’t you?”

Randal led the detectives through the house, jumping slightly at the sight of two people moving about in the back garden. “Looks like a few of your own are already taking a look.”

“Won’t hurt if we take a look as well, will it?” Andy said, unlocking the door and making his way outside to Tony and Doris. “Oi, you two,” he said. “We got it covered. If we need anything, we’ll call for backup.”

Tony and Doris both shrugged as they made their way back round to the gate where they’d gotten in from. “Just about lunch, anyway,” Tony pointed out.

They let the gate swing shut with a clatter as they made their way back to the cruiser, the detectives silently listening for the engine to start. “And she’s never just run off before, has she?” Andy asked as he started kicking about near the wood fence.

Randal shook his head sharply. “Why would she?” he asked. “She’s seven months on with our first. I ain’t given her any reason to go nowhere else.”

Andrew shrugged. “You don’t always have to be the one giving the reason,” he pointed out.”Sometimes, they just go on their own.”

“What are you saying?” Randal. “That’s my wife’s been playing around on me?”

Andy shook his head. “What my partner’s trying to say,” he started, shooting Andrew a hard look, “is that sometimes things aren’t always what they seem.”

Randal took a step backwards. “Well, what if they are?” he asked. “It’s your department what says to report anything suspicious going on, and my wife up and disappea ring ain’t exactly normal!”

Andy sighed, rejoining the small group. “Mister Butcher,” he said calmly. “Why don’t you take us through your morning routine once more? What my partner’s trying to say is maybe you just overlooked something.”

Andrew sneered at his younger partner as the two followed Randal back inside. “Well,” the young man said. “Like I told you lot. I came in, and the kitchen light were still on. That happens sometimes, because we don’t have a loo upstairs, and Kathy don’t want to trip if she has to get up in the night, yeah? Might hurt the baby, and all.” He mimed putting his jacket up on the hook near the door and made his way up the stairs, both detectives close behind him. As they reached the top landing, Randal pointed at a small window “I come up here, and first thing I noticed were the cat, up there on the ledge. He ain’t supposed to be in during the night, on account of he’s a bastard and wakes us up all the time.”

Both detectives tried very gamely, albeit not very successfully, not to laugh as they continued after Randal to the bedroom. “Then I come in here, and she just ain’t there. The bed’s made. I ain’t touched it, because when I saw she weren’t there, I went back downstairs to the phone and tried to ring her mobile.”

“She’s got a mobile?” Andrew asked quickly.

Randal only shrugged. “It went right to her voice mail, which means that it’s off, or the battery’s flat.”

Andy nodded lightly. “Who else’d you call?” he asked. “Friends? She got any family in the area?”

“I called that knitting lady,” Randal responded. “But she said Kathy left last night with everyone else. Becky Reaper saw her out to her car, but I can’t tell if she ever even made it home last night.”

Andrew shook his head lightly, stepping closer to Randal as he put his hand on the man’s shoulder. “Sir, it looks to me just like she might have gone off somewhere. No one’s reported any abandoned cars today, and I’m not seeing any signs of a struggle—”

“My wife doesn’t just go swanning off, Detective!” Randal shouted, shoving Andrew off of him. “This is how things were back when all them crazy old fuckers were crawling all over this place. No one ever did nothing, and just let things happen!”

Again, Andy sighed and stepped in between the two of them. “Mister Butcher, please,” he said calmly. “We’re trying to do everything we can, but we just don’t have much to go off of. Do you know what her registration is? Maybe we can track down where her car is right now?”

After a few moments and a few deep breaths, Randal seemed to calm down a bit. “No, I don’t. I’m sorry.”

The detectives exchanged quick glances before Andy started making his way back downstairs to the back door. “I would like to take another look round back, though,” he said ligh tly.

Randal shrugged. “There’s nothing back there,” he said indignantly. “Just weeds.”

“I’m just trying to make sure that we have a thorough investigation, here.”

“Right,” Randal said, nodding lightly has he followed after. “Of course. Sorry, Detective.”

The trio carefully made their way back out to the garden, Andy leading the path back to the edge of the property. “I’m a little curious about what’s going on over here,” he said, pointing down at a rather dull patch of grass.

Randal looked down at the ground surrounding their feet. “What going on where?” he asked. “I don’t see nothing.”

“Right here,” Andy insisted.

Randal looked around, certain he was just looking in the wrong area. “What are you talking about? I don’t see nothing.” He turned round slightly, stumbling backwards as he caught sight of Andrew. “What the hell!” The detective swung an exhaust pipe through the air, th e heavy metal colliding with a crunch against Randal’s skull. The man fell gracelessly to the ground as Andy reeled backwards, slamming into the fence behind him.

“Jesus Christ, Andy!” he hissed, looking down at the crumpled heap that was once Randal Butcher at his feet. “Fuck, be a bit more careful next time, would you? Trying to give forensics something to find, back here?”

Andrew shrugged, tossing the exhaust pipe down next to Randal. “Got the job done, didn’t I?”

Sighing, Andy stepped up onto the fence and peered across the surrounding area. “You’re lucky nobody saw that.”

Andrew shrugged. “Who’s gonna see?” he asked as Andy dropped back down to the ground.

“Neighbours,” he said simply. “There’s a tarpaulin over by the gate. Cover this mess up.”

Rolling his eyes, Andrew wandered over to the gate, finding the tarpaulin right where Andy said it would be. He gathered it up from the tall grass and drag ged it over to where Andy stood, the two of them spreading it over Randal’s body as inconspicuously as possible. Satisfied with the job at hand, the detectives began making their way back to the car. As they got situated, each pulling out a cigarette from inside their coats and lighting it, Andy’s mobile rang.

“Expecting a call?” Andrew asked.

Andy shook his head. “No,” he said as he pulled the offending device from his pocket. “Shit, it’s Nick.”

“Don’t answer it,” Andrew warned.

“Yeah, because that’ll go over well,” Andy muttered as he returned his phone to his pocket. “We’d better get back, though. He’ll send someone out after us before much longer.”

Sighing, Andrew started the engine. “Who’s he gonna send?” He asked. “The spaz and Dory?”

“He might come after us, the twat.” He took a long drag from his cigarette, blowing the smoke from his nose. “We’ll need to do something about tha t tonight,” he pointed out. “Even Doctor Hatcher would have a hard time explaining away the job you did on his cranium.”

Andrew jerked sharply, nearly driving them right off the road. “Well what the fuck was I to do?” he demanded, righting the car. “Tickle the bastard to death? Tell him to wait there while I fetched some cyanide?”

Andy crossed his arms over his chest. “Word gets back to—”

“It won’t,” Andrew insisted. “We’ll come back tonight and figure out something to do, then?”

“What about the bird? She could come back and find him in the garden,” Andy pointed out.

“No, she ain’t.” Andrew pulled up next to the station and cut the engine. “The missus does that same knitting thing. Woman’s got a boyfriend in Buford Abbey.”

“Isn’t that convenient,” Andy snorted.

Andrew shrugged as he got out of the car. “I tried to tell him,” he said.

“You’re a prick.” Andy climbed out of the car and followed his partner into the station, quietly walking past Kevin as he took a call.

“Wot? Where you calling from, love?… No, this is Sandfor—yeah, Sandford. I’ll get you through to Somerford, then.” He hung up the telephone and stepped out into the main bull pen, ignoring as the detectives quietly made their way back to their office. “There a tower down, or something?” Kevin called across the room at Nicholas. “S’the third one this week I got from Somerford.”

“How should I know?” Nicholas said, not looking up from his pathetic pile of paperwork.

“Phone the…phone company.” He looked up in time to see Andrew disappearing down the hall.

“Oi! You two!” he shouted, slamming his pen down as he jumped to his feet. “Dou you mind telling me why, in complete disregard for regulations, you didn’t take a radio with you?” he demanded as he stomped across the floor after the detectives.

“Radio’s uniform stuff,” Andrew reasoned.

“And why, when I phoned, I failed to get anything other than voice mail?”

“I left it in the car,” Andy said simply.

Nicholas seethed at the detectives. “Do it again,” he said almost too calmly, “and you’ll both be back in uniform. Permanently. I’ll bring some real detectives in who have been praying for a country transfer.”

“Ain’t we supposed to get a final notice before something like that?” Andrew pointed out.

“It’ll be on your desks by the end of the day,” Nicholas said, keeping his unnerving calm. “You have a call out on Riggs Lane. You can get the details from Kevin.”

He started to turn to go back to Danny’s desk, when Andrew spoke up again. “Fuck, Nick. We were just out there. You want us to go all the way back, now?”

“If you’d answered your phone, you wouldn’t have to!” Nicholas shouted. Inhaling deeply, he pinched the bridge of his nose and pointed towar d the door.

Andy made the first move toward the Enquires Desk, waiting for Kevin to find the note he’d scribbled down. “Right, here it is,” the sergeant said happily as he read it over once more. “Mister Baker’s missing a few cows, it seems. Thinks someone took ‘em in the night.”

Andy snatched the note up from the desk and shoved it in his pocket. “Thanks,” he said bitterly as he and Andrew turned to leave the station.

“And take a fucking radio!” Nicholas shouted across the room, the sound of a coin dropping into the swear box following shortly after.

Nicholas sighed as he left the detectives’ office, not surprised when they failed to return from their cattle rustling call. More infuriating, they hadn’t been back to sign their final written warning, so he couldn’t take their badges for this offense, instead being forced to roll the whole day into one incident.

Stumbling into the bull pit, he was surprised to find Danny waiting by his desk, his brow furrowed at the mess Nicholas had made with all his paperwork.

“Oh, let me get that real quick,” he said, gathering up the various forms and folders and stacking them in his arms. “Sorry, I just—”

“Don’t like bein’ alone?” Danny finished with a smile.

“No,” Nicholas said, trying to defend his position.

“It’s nothing, man,” Danny assured. “I wouldn’t want to leave these pricks alone, either.”

“Right…” Hesitating slightly, Nicholas turned back toward his office, quickly leaving the stack of papers on his desk. As he left the office, he drew the shades and locked the door. “I’m gonna go change real quick,” he said, pointing vaguely toward the locker room.

He didn’t particularly have much to change out of, having picked up a few bad habits of his own since his transfer. Only his shirt was actually part of the “required” uniform, his trousers and shoes from his own wardrobe, since it was one of his station-bound days anyway. And what with summer starting in, the polyester trousers only added to the discomfort caused by the heat. He shoved his shirt into his locker, exchanging it for the simple blue one he’d worn in. Too tired to care that his shirt wasn’t tucked properly and too hot to bother with doing his top two buttons, he shut off the lights and stepped out to the corridor, surprised to find Danny in his way.

“Hey, where’s Andy?” Danny asked, following the inspector out to the main entrance. “I wanted to ask him something.”

Nicholas only shook his head. Your guess is as good as mine,” he said tiredly. “The rate they’re going, they won’t be around much longer, though.”

“Oh yeah?” Danny asked, holding the door open for Nicholas as they walked out to the street. “Promotion? Dad always said the reason Andy never went for DI was because we can’t support one, and he’d have to transfer out.”

Nicholas sighed. “He very well may be transferring, but it won’t be because of a promotion.”

Danny hummed negatively, turning a sharp corner that led to the pub. “Hey, maybe they’re in here,” he said hopefully.

“They’d better not be.” Nicholas followed after anyway, letting the sergeant lead the way down the sidewalk.

The pub was filled with the usual assortment of farmers, shop owners, and predictably, detectives. Danny’s happy grin faded instantly as Nicholas stomped over to the men, his hands balled into tight fists.

“I didn’t see any reports on my desk today,” he hissed. “Nor did I see you in the station to clock out, so as far as I’m concerned, you’re both still on the clock.”

The detectives glanced back and forth between Nicholas and Danny for a moment before putting their drinks down on the bar. “We were just leaving, actually,” Andy said slowly. “We were just talking to a witness and—”

“Spare me the bullshit, detective,” Nicholas said.

He watched with his arms crossed over his chest as the men made their way to the door, slipping out into the sticky setting sun. He barely noticed when the barman sat two glasses down on the bar, a wineglass for Nicholas and a pint for Danny.

“I’m getting too old for this,” Nicholas muttered, his hand automatically reaching out for the glass.

Danny snorted. “What are you talking about?” he asked. “You ain’t even forty.”

Nicholas couldn’t help but laugh back slightly. “If I wanted a bunch of children running around, I’d have become a school teacher.”

“You’re right,” Danny said around his drink. “They’re getting too old for this.”

Nicholas smiled back at him, that wonky, crooked smile that let Danny know that everything was all right, despite the yelling and shouting being done.

“You know what you need?” Danny said su ddenly. He downed half his pint in one go.


“No, come on. Finish that up.”

“If you make me watch Keanu one more time,” Nicholas warned.

“Fine, we won’t watch Keanu,” Danny agreed. “Finish that up. I got that new Indiana Jones movie this weekend. You like them, don’tchya?”

Nicholas blinked slightly. “New one? Danny that came out…” he looked up and bit his lip, as though trying to do the maths in his head.

“Not the one with Sean Connery, you twat,” Danny said. “They made a new one with that Transformers kid.”

Again, Nicholas blinked. “What, like the cartoon?”

Growling slightly, Danny snatched Nicholas’ glass away from him and put it on the counter, along with a tenner. “You can’t possibly be this thick,” he said, leading Nicholas away by the arm.

“I can try,” Nicholas responded. “I’m quite good at anything once I’ve put my mind to it.” Danny laughed as they stepped out into the street, making their way to his flat. “I can’t stay too late, though,” Nicholas warned. “There’s a lot been getting neglected round my place lately.”

“Oh, come on,” Danny pleaded. “That’s what the weekend’s for, innit?”

“If you people would let me take weekends, maybe,” Nicholas conceded. “But when was the last time I wasn’t needed on my day off to go swat at spiders?”

“That were only once!” Danny defended. “And in Tony’s defence, it were a mighty big spider.”

Nicholas sighed defeat and followed Danny to his door, waiting patiently as he found the right key and let them in. They made their way up the stairs and to his door, Danny making a line straight for the kitchen while Nicholas lingered by the front door long enough to take off his shoes and set them neatly against the wall. “If you’re planning on making me eat something frozen, or from a can, I’m leaving right now,” he called after Danny.

“Fuck, you’re a picky bastard,” Danny shouted back. “Find a menu, then.”

“I don’t want take away, either,” Nicholas muttered as he found Danny’s box full of printed menus from various restaurants and shops in the area. Most of them were old, stained, and scribbled over with biro, but there were a few which seemed new since the last time he’d been dragged over for a night of torture by action films.

“What’s this place?” he called out, holding up a yellow-folded paper.

“I dunno,” Danny shouted back. “Read it.”

Shrugging, Nicholas carried the box and menu over to the sofa, dropping down into the abused cushions. “Looks Italian. Are they any good?”

“How should I know?” Danny asked, appearing back in the living room with a can of beer in each hand. “I haven’t ordered from them yet, have I?” He shoved one of the cans into Nicholas’ hand as he snatched the menu away. “We can try it, I guess. Looks a bit too fancy for my tastes.”

“Your idea of a fancy meal is a frozen pizza from Somerfield’s,” Nicholas pointed out. “Order something. I’ll pay.”

Danny snorted as he hunted down his phone. “DVD’s in the kitchen,” he said. “Start it up.”

Putting his beer down on the table, Nicholas got back to his feet and wandered out to the kitchen, finding the DVD on the table next to a collection of unwashed dishes and a pair of shoes. He tried to tell himself that Danny was still healing, and excessive physical stress could hurt him, but that excuse only had so many miles to it.

“What’s this about, then?” he asked, looking over the back.

“I don’t know! Indiana Jones shit,” Danny called back. “I’m on the phone.”

“Right.” He brought the DVD back to the front room and tore off the plastic wrap, tossing it into an empty take-way bag from earlier that week. Listening to Danny ask questi ons about the menu, he queued up the DVD and returned to his place on the sofa, giving in and drinking the beer that he’d told himself every time he visited that he wouldn’t touch.

The opening title looped three times before Danny finished placing their order, tossing the phone down on the sofa between them. “Be about a half hour,” he said.

“Good.” Nicholas picked up the remote and started their movie.

So much for leaving early, but at least he’d managed to leave at all, this time. Stumbling down the road, he managed to make it to his cottage after about a half hour. There was supposed to be a minicab company opening shop in town, and it could not possibly happen soon enough.

As he opened his front door, a familiar yowl cut through the air.

“I know, I’m sorry,” Nicholas insisted, holding the door open. “What, do you want out first?” In the dim light, he could see the old Siamese perched atop his desk on the other side of the room. “Fine. Dinner it is, then.” He let the door swing shut and stumbled into the kitchen, turning on the light. “You’ve still got some, you…”

Nicholas made his way into his office, quickly rifling through the papers in his inbox near his door. It didn’t take him very long at all to find that what it was that he needed simply wasn’t there, so he unlocked his office and picked up a folder from the stack on his desk and stomped out of his office, making a line straight for the detectives’ office.

“You two are working on my very last nerve,” he said, letting himself into the office.

Both detectives scrambled to hide their cigarettes as they sat up straight. “What the fuck we done now?” Andrew demanded.

“Isn’t it your day off?” Andy added.

Bored with arguing, Nicholas slapped identical sheets down on the desk. “Final written warning. Sign it,” he ordered.

The detectives looked nervousl y at one another before each reaching for a biro, scrawling their names on the bottoms of the papers. Exhaling loudly, Nicholas snatched the forms back up again and looked them over. Convinced they were up to par, he slid them back into the folder.

“If I don’t see those reports in my inbox tomorrow morning, you’re done,” he said evenly. “I’m done fighting you two. Someone else can do it.”

“But you’re off tomorrow,” Andy pointed out. “Why we gotta have it done by then?”

“Because it’s your job!” Nicholas shouted as he turned back to face them. “I don’t know how you two managed to get into CID, but your level if incompetence and unprofessionalism would never work in London!”

“This ain’t the city,” Andrew reminded him.

“Yes, I’ve noticed,” Nicholas shot back. “If it were, you’d both still be on the beat.”

“If you want to show us how it’s done so badly, why don’t you apply, then?” An dy prodded. “Apparently they let anybody in.”

“Maybe I will!” Nicholas snapped. He turned back to leave the office again. “Reports. Tomorrow!” he shouted as he slammed their door.

“Everything all right, Chief?”

Nicholas looked up, startled to see Doris standing before him, holding a cup of tea in her hands. “Yeah,” he said tiredly. “Just…”

“We haven’t heard you shouting like that since… well, you know,” she said quietly. “Things ain’t bad again, are they?”

Nicholas shook his head. “No, Doris,” he said. “I’m sorry.”

Doris nodded awkwardly. “Right, then,” she said. “Brought you your tea. Know you like it in the mornings.”

Nicholas took the proffered cup, nodding lightly. “Thank you,” he said.

“Just be sure to shut the door next time,” Doris said with a little wink before turning off to go do whatever it was she did in the mornings.

Nicholas took his tea and h is folder to his office, dropping the second into his outgoing box, and putting the first down on his desk near the telephone. All the time he’d spent chasing after the detectives the day before, he hadn’t actually finished his actual work. A quick survey of the bull pit revealed that all available desks were already taken, leaving him no alternative than to use his own for a change.

For the first time in a couple of months, Nicholas was surprised to find that he’d managed to catch up on his paperwork. Everything had been signed, dated, filed in triplicate, and ready to be sent out to home office. Even the backlog of missing CID reports had been taken care of, which even Nicholas was ready to deem a miracle.

He made quick work of tidying up his office, ready to take his mug to the kitchen to rinse it out when Danny appeared in his door, wide-eyed as the day they’d first met.

“Oi, Nick,” he said, letting himself in. “We got a call out to Mister Baker’s on Riggs Lane.”

Nicholas sighed. “He just phoned yesterday. Tell him we haven’t got any leads since then.”

“No, weren’t that,” Danny said. “Well, sorta. Says he found one of them guys been doing it on his property this afternoon.”

Nicholas perked slightly at the implication and forgot all about rinsing out his mug. “I’ll go get changed,” he said simply.

Danny followed him to the locker room, waiting as Nicholas changed into his uniform shirt. For a few moments, he debated the practicality of messing about with all the buttons and his tie, but the idea of standing in a cow field in the heat with his collar done up wasn’t very appealing at all, so the professional-appearance option was thrown right back into his locker.

“Ready?” Danny asked him after a few moments.

Nicholas looked up as he shut his locker. “I’m still not sure where Riggs Lane actually is,” he admitted. “Drive?”

Danny grinned widely as he made a path for the door. “Only time you let me, any more,” he pointed out. “Let’s go!”

They arrived at the farm to find half the station already standing about in the grass, looking more confused and disoriented than the cows that inhabited the area.

“I thought you said he caught one of the men trying to steal his cattle,” Nicholas said, trying not to sound condescending.

“Well, not caught, as so much,” Tony piped in. “He’d have to still be moving, then.”

Nicholas stepped closer to the group, immediately wishing he hadn’t. The lot of them all stood round a man – or, that is to say, what was left of a man – that had been quite severely tread over by what appeared to be every cow in the field.

“Looks like he wasn’t alone in this,” Tony continued, gesturing further east. “Tyre tracks over that direction, probably from a truck of some sort.”

Nicholas sighed. “Do w e know the identity of the victim?”

“Won’t know that until we can get a medical crew in here,” Andrew quipped. “You ought to know that, Sherlock.”

Nicholas bit his lip and tried very hard not to sigh, or growl, or make any other indication that the detective was wearing on his very last nerve. “Detective,” he said, controlling his temper best he could. “Why don’t you go have a word with the property owner?”

“We just talked to him yesterday,” Andy pointed out.

“Let me rephrase that, then,” Nicholas said stiffly. “Go question the property owner again.” He watched as the detectives sulked off and pulled Mr. Baker aside before return his attention back to the victim in the grass. “Has medical been called in yet?” he asked tiredly.

“On their way,” Tony said simply.

Nicholas nodded. “Good.” He surveyed the area once more before turning back toward the car. “I’ll let you finish up, then, since you have everything under control.”

“I do?” Tony asked. Nicholas chose to ignore his remark.

“Any officers near the church?”

Making a personal note to tell off whichever Turner was at the station that day for pushing his work onto the constables, Nicholas picked up the crackling radio. “Go ahead, Doris.”

“Chief, we got a report of some hippie types messing around with the recycling bins at the supermarket.”

“Leave it with us.”

The J-turn might have been a bit much, and they didn’t really need the sirens, but Nicholas couldn’t help but indulge in the urge to make recycling bins feel important. He could almost feel Danny grinning like mad beside him as they sped along the High Street.

The hippies at the recycling bins who looked more like students to Nicholas were oblivious to the Impreza pulling into the car park, frantically digging through the bins and throwing items into large black bin bags. Nichola s parked the cruiser just a few feet from the boys, stepping easily out of the car.

“Scuse me!” he barked as he shut the door. “Mind telling me what you’re up to?”

The hippie students quickly dropped their bin bags behind one of the recycling bins and turned quickly to face Nicholas.

“Nothing,” one of them said quickly. “Sir.”

“Don’t look like nothin,” Danny pointed out, reaching behind the bin and hefting up the pillaged loot. “Whatch’yer got in here?” He opened the bin bag and peeked in, only to close it back up immediately after.

“What is it?” Nicholas asked simply.

“Buncha shirts,” Danny said, handing the bag over to Nicholas.

The inspector peered into the bin bag before glancing over at the bin the boys had actually been digging through. “Planning on selling this at the student union, then?” Nicholas asked flatly. The boys only shrugged weakly. “Danny, put it back.”

Nodding, Da nny tried to put the bag into the bin, finding it already stuffed pretty tightly. “They ought to pick this stuff up more often,” he said. “No wonder people just walk up and take things.”

Nicholas pulled his notebook from his pocket and readied himself to take down notes. “Now,” he said stiffly. “I should arrest out outright. This bin is property of Oxfam, and taking items out of it is considered theft of private property.”

“Yessir,” the bigger of the two boys said.

“I’m going to let you off with a formal caution, though,” Nicholas continued. “If you’re caught doing this again, you will be arrested, and probably kicked out of school. Understood.”

The boys nodded.

“Get out of here.”

He watched as they awkwardly walked backwards a few steps before turning and picking up speed. Convinced that they were gone, Nicholas turned and got back into the cruiser.

“What would they want with Oxfam clothes?” D anny asked, getting settled as well.”

“Sell them,” Nicholas said. “Books are expensive, and students will do nearly anything to pay for them.”

Danny chuckled lightly. “You tried it, didn’t you?”

Nicholas started the engine. “No,” he said, a light tinge of embarrassment in his voice. “I tried aluminium. Cost me more to get it all down to the dealer’s yard than I actually got back from it.”

Danny laughed as the radio crackled to life.

“Chief, you still at the supermarket?” Doris asked cautiously.

Sighing again, Nicholas picked up the radio. “Tell Kyle he needs to start doing his own job, but go ahead.”

There was a bit of a pause, leaving Nicholas to only imagine what might have been going on at the station just then. “We got a noise complaint up on Quentin Lane,” Doris finally said. “Number seventeen.”

“Leave it with us.” He and Danny exchanged pained glances before Nicholas pulled ou t of the spot, trying to figure out how to get to the address from the supermarket.

“Randal Butcher.”

“I’m sorry?” Nicholas looked up from his computer screen suddenly as Danny slapped a folder down on his desk.

“That bloke that were stealing them cows,” Danny clarified. “Just got the information back on him. Someone called Randal Butcher.”

Nicholas took a few moments to fully process this information. “I just spoke with him a few days ago,” he said.

“What? About the cows?” Danny sat down in the chair in front of Nicholas’ desk.

“No,” Nicholas said as he turned around to reach into one of the tall filing cabinets behind him. “His wife had gone missing. I put the Andys on it, since it is technically their department.”

Danny hummed lightly, watching as Nicholas frantically flipped through the pages of one of the reports. It was sparse in detail, but given his horrendous backlog he’d rushed to catch up with, he wasn’t surprised that it had been overlooked. “Wife left; case closed,” he read aloud. “Oh, for fuck’s sake.”

Getting to his feet, Nicholas stomped out of his office and down the hall, throwing open the detectives’ office door.

“Consider your case reopened,” Nicholas said, throwing the file at Andy.

“What’s got your knickers in a bunch this time?” Andrew demanded, taking the folder from Andy. “Fuck, Nick. Are you intentionally being impossible to please, or is this just your default setting?”

“The day after Butcher’s wife left, he gets trampled by cows?” Nicholas asked. “And where’s she gone off to, anyway? You don’t mention that in your notes.”

Andrew shrugged. “She’s got a beau. Out in Buford.”

“Oh, really, now?” Nicholas demanded. “And you didn’t think this was important enough to include in your report? How’d you come by that information?”

The detec tives exchanged nervous glances. “Wot?” Andy asked.

“Who did you interview? There are no names or contacts listed.” He watched the detectives sit and do nothing for a few moments longer. “I want everyone the couple knew interviewed, starting with friends of the wife’s,” he ordered.

“Oh, not this shit again,” Andy muttered.

“It was an accident!” Andrew insisted.

Nicholas bit his lip and inhaled deeply. “I will not allow that explanation to be used in this station,” he said simply. “Something about this doesn’t feel right.”

“We’re going off of feelings now, are we?” Andrew asked.

“Get it done!” Nicholas demanded as he left the office, throwing the door shut behind him.

Several minutes later, Danny wandered through the back halls, finding Nicholas repeatedly thumping his forehead against the wall.

“Hey, what the fuck you doing that for!?” he demanded, grabbing Nicholas and pulling him away from the wall. “You could at least do that somewhere where you won’t cause any property damage.”

He spun Nicholas round so they faced one another, trying not to laugh at the red mark spread across the inspector’s forehead.

“I don’t want this,” Nicholas said quietly.

“Don’t want what?”

“I never did.” He reached up and rubbed his face with his hands, inhaling deeply. “I never even wanted to be a sergeant.”

“Yeah, but you’re good at it, though,” Danny reasoned.

“I can’t lead a team,” Nicholas said simply, allowing Danny to pull him closer. “I just get fought against every step of the way, and I don’t know how to handle it.”

“Yeah, well… Someone’s got to, right?” Danny asked. “You could always promote Tony, if you really wanted. Not sure that would be any better, though.”

“They might feel sorry for him and behave out of pity,” Nicholas said, his tone suggesting that he thought Danny’s idea was actually a good one.

“I know what you need,” Danny said, firmly pushing Nicholas in the direction of the locker room.

“If you utter the words ‘DVD’ or ‘take away,’ I’m never going to your place again,” Nicholas threatened.

Tempted to test Nicholas’ threat, Danny bit his tongue until he was certain he could trust himself. “I was thinking more dinner on your terms tonight,” he offered. “So long as you don’t make me eat none of that ruddy tofu shit again. That were awful.”

Nicholas finally laughed slightly. “I think I’ve got some chicken that needs to be done up, anyway,” he conceded. “You’re helping me clean the oven, though.”

Danny stopped in the middle of the hall. “What we need the oven for?” he asked honestly.

Nicholas let his jaw drop, not sure if this was Danny’s idea of taking the mick. “To bake the chicken,” he said simply.

“You can bake chicke n?”

Nicholas grabbed his head as he stumbled into the locker room. “Shut up and go sign out before I change my mind.”

Nicholas rushed back and forth through the long kitchen, stopping every two minutes to wash his hands or fiddle with the oven. Perched at the small dining table, Danny watched from a suitably safe distance, his attention divided between a book of number puzzles on the table and Nicholas.

“You call this relaxing?” he asked, doodling in the margins of the puzzle book. “You act like you don’t know what you’re doing.”

Nicholas paused long enough to glance at Danny. “This is relaxing,” he insisted. “Everything has to be done in just the right order. It makes you slow down and think about what you’re doing.”

Danny blinked. “You’re as bad as James May, you know that?”

Nicholas shook his head, once again fiddling with the knobs on the oven. “He that cousin of yours?”

“No, he’ s a twat.” Danny tried to turn his attention back to figuring out how to work the puzzle book, but it did a rather poor job at explaining the rules. “You ain’t making none of that health food shit, are you?”

“Not as such, no.” Nicholas tried not to look offended as he sprinkled something green and flaky over the chicken before finally sliding it into the oven. “If by that, you mean that there’s no soy in the mix, then no. It is, however, not take-away, and not full of preservatives, so by nature it is—”

“I’ve got twenty quid on me as back-up, just in case,” Danny announced.

Nicholas slammed the oven shut and returned to the sink to wash his hands again. “I’m going to go change,” he said. “I’ll be right back.”

He left Danny alone in the kitchen and made his way up the steps to his bedroom, very obviously closing doors behind himself. Sighing, Danny got to his feet and pulled open the refrigerator, forgetting that a ll he was going to find was the equivalent of rabbit food.

“Ain’t you got any beer?” he called up the steps, hoping Nicholas would hear.

A few moments later, Nicholas came trotting down the steps in a clean shirt. “There’s some w—yeah, go to the shop if you want.” He opened a few cupboards before finding a very specific black plastic bowl and placed it on the counter before washing his hands again. Ignoring Danny as he left the cottage, Nicholas began pulling various salad fixings from the refrigerator, laying them out in a neat little row on the counter.

Danny slid up next to Nicholas at their might-as-well-be shared desk, a little scrap of paper gripped tightly in his fingers.

“Office day?” he asked innocently.

Nicholas didn’t look up from his puzzle book, finally caught up on all of his reports and forms and everything else that had been previously past-due. “Yep,” he said simply.

“Respond to a call wi th me?”

Nicholas slapped his book shut almost instantly. “Okay.” He quickly made his way to the locker room to fetch the rest of his uniform pieces and put himself together. He was out quickly, finding Danny waiting eagerly by the door. “Where are we going?” Nicholas asked, pulling his cap on.

Danny handed the slip of paper over to the inspector. “Some noise complaint.”

Nicholas read the scrawl and scowled as they got situated in the car. “I’m arresting him,” he said simply, cramming the slip into his pocket. “If for nothing else, then for wasting my time.”

The sergeant laughed, watching as Nicholas dropped the Impreza into gear. “What else was you doing, besides counting to nine over and over again?”

“That’s not the point,” Nicholas insisted. “We’ve been out here three times in the last two weeks.

The arrived at the small house, finding a rather annoyed-looking neighbour standing on her front garden, and hearing the unmistakable sound of a wood chipper running at full torque.

“I feel like we ought to have ear plugs for this!” Nicholas shouted over the noise.

“I can’t hear you!” Danny shouted back. “Some cunt’s got his yard tools on again!”

Nicholas started to repeat himself, but realised that it was pointless and began making his way round to the back garden, where the noise was unmistakably coming from. With his hand reaching back for his badge, he rounded the last corner, and immediately felt a familiar sick feeling in his stomach. It was, as he remembered, the exact same feeling of impending sick he felt when he last saw Tim Messenger.

The first thing he noticed was the spray of blood surrounding the wood chipper, immediately followed by the bottom part of a person, presumably the property owner, in the feeding end of the chipper.

His hand over his mouth, Nicholas stumbled backwards, falling into Danny’s chest. “Call f or backup,” he shouted, not seeing Danny with his hands already on his radio.

“You all right?” Danny asked quietly as the two stood at the front edge of the property in front of the line of tape set up to cordon off the scene.

Nicholas nodded lightly. “Think so,” he managed after a few moments.

“You ain’t gonna start having Vietnam acid trip flash backs on me, are you?”

It took Nicholas a few moments to register the tone in Danny’s voice. “No,” he said, forcing a light laugh. “None of that.”

“Good. I had an uncle what had them.” There was a brief pause. “Not from Vietnam; he’d just freak out sometimes.”

Nicholas considered this for a moment. “Oh, yeah?” he asked. “What happened to him, then?”

Danny shrugged. “Fell down some steps.”

Nicholas cringed. “Do you mean…”

“No, he really fell down some steps,” Danny clarified. “Was at some veteran’s building in Gloucester and wasn’t watching what he was doing.”

“I’m sorry,” Nicholas said, feeling guilty for feeling better about the situation.

Danny shrugged again. “Weren’t really close with him. Family didn’t talk about him much.”

“That’s how it was with my uncle Derek,” Nicholas explained. “My mum isn’t terribly close with most of her family, though. Something about Dad being Church of England, or something. I’m not sure.”

There was another pause in their exchange as Danny surveyed the area. Finding nothing of any sort of interest at all, he turned back to Nicholas. “How come you never talk about your family, then?” he asked. “I wasn’t even sure you had a mum until now.”

Nicholas only shrugged. “I don’t know,” he said. “It’s not like we don’t get on or anything. I still call my mum every Sunday.”

Danny smiled rather sinisterly. “You’re a bit of a mummy’s boy, ain’t you?”

Ni cholas looked away, pretending rather intently not to hear Danny’s question.


Perpetual Motion

Perpetual Motion (17,901 words) by LokiOfSassgaard

Chapters: 2/2
Fandom: Hot Fuzz
Rating: Not Rated
Warnings: CNTW
Pairings: x
Characters: x

Summary: Nicholas learns things about Sandford he never wanted to know.

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Not Like Before

Bah Humbug (435 words) by LokiOfSassgaard

Chapters: 1/1
Fandom: Hot Fuzz (2007)
Rating: Not Rated
Warnings: Creator Chose Not To Use Archive Warnings

Summary: Written for the Porn Battle on LJ

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Bah Humbug

Bah Humbug (1,119 words) by LokiOfSassgaard

Chapters: 1/1
Fandom: Hot Fuzz (2007)
Rating: Not Rated
Warnings: Creator Chose Not To Use Archive Warnings

Summary: Nicholas spends (another) first Christmas in Sandford. Completely separate from my other Christmas fic.

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Lamp Light

Lamp Light (47,193 words) by LokiOfSassgaard

Chapters: 10/10
Fandom: Hot Fuzz (2007)
Rating: Not Rated
Warnings: Creator Chose Not To Use Archive Warnings

Summary: Nicholas tries to reconcile with Janine while helping to put Sandford back on its feet.

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Five Times Nicholas Held Back

Five Times Nicholas Held Back (1,380 words) by LokiOfSassgaard

Chapters: 1/1
Fandom: Hot Fuzz (2007)
Rating: Not Rated
Warnings: Creator Chose Not To Use Archive Warnings

Summary: Sandford is slowly corrupting Nicholas, but at the same time, he hasn’t changed at all.

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Rusty’s Boys

Rusty’s Boys (4,392 words) by LokiOfSassgaard

Chapters: 1/1
Fandom: The Venture Bros
Rating: Teen And Up Audiences
Warnings: No Archive Warnings Apply
Characters: Myra Brandish, Rusty Venture, Brock Samson, general treister, Hank Venture, Dean Venture, The Monarch (Venture Bros.), Dr. Girlfriend

Summary: Rusty realises what it really means to be a father.

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