Total Word Count: 3607/50000 (gah!)
Notes: Despite coming from a police family (three uncles and one cousin) I know very little about police procedure. This is probably glaringly obvious from what's in here. I'm not happy with this part at all, but it needed done. I'm in no way implying that any police force currently existing is in this kind of state - it's all fiction.
Chris Sutherland was caught in a dilemma. Should he let his training take over or should he do what he knew was right? Training dictated that he remain detached, not disturb the evidence, not say anything to anyone present that might indicate where the investigation was likely to go. His training dictated that he go by the book, but in Chris’s opinion the book was written by idiots who’d never seen a real crime scene in their lives. He'd been the first officer on scene and knew that he probably should have waited for a detective to arrive before doing anything, but she had just been sitting there with the victim's body cradled in her arms.
The right thing to do was to get her out of here, get her away from this mess before she... collapsed. Too late. He managed to catch her as she began to fall and half-lifted half-dragged her over to a chair in the corner.
The door of the little corner flat was wide open and Chris was aware of the onlookers outside doing their best not to look as if they were gawking whilst still trying to get the best view possible. Shame none of them had been so observant an hour ago, then maybe none of this would have happened. He frowned at his own train of thought, it was pretty doubtful any of them could have stopped this, after all the man had been gunned down in his own home - this whole thing had the distinctive smell of a contract killing. Of course, Chris knew that kind of thinking would be frowned on in the department. Contract killing? Something out of pulp novels - not something that happened around here. The department were too busy burying their heads in the sand these days to really notice what was going on around them. The streets were rife with this kind of thing but it took someone actually on the streets to see it. Someone like him.
The pencil pushers in the department were too busy massaging statistics and re-naming files to see it. This - the blood stains on the woman's clothes, the smell of burnt powder in the air, the thrill-seeking spectators currently finding a million excuses to loiter in the hall outside - all of this was real. He sighed as he waited for the woman to open her eyes again; all too real.
He almost hoped she wouldn't wake up yet, that he could use the fact that she was unconscious as an excuse to get her out of here - get her into a hospital and away from this whole mess - but his training kicked in. It was horrible to acknowledge it, especially given her reactions so far, but the fact was that the partner of a murder victim was always - and would always be - the prime suspect. Somehow, Chris knew in his heart that this woman wasn't responsible. Something about the picture of her even holding a gun just refused to ring true with him, but then, on the other hand, there was definitely something rotten in the state of Denmark. Something other than the dead body surrounded by forensic experts was really wrong with this picture. He couldn’t quite put his finger on it right now but he knew there was something that wasn’t… right.
He laughed a little to himself, yeah, that was the kind of deductive power that was going to get him promoted to detective any day now… ‘something not quite right’. That would look really impressive on a report.
Chris caught one of the other coppers - not a face he recognised, either this kid was a rookie or more likely he was a department plant - and was about to tell him to get the hallway cleared and the door closed when a voice barked out from the centre of the room, “Someone get this door shut. Who was first on scene?” Chris’s heart sank. Detective John Miller. Not exactly the best person for the job - the man was far too likely to push things aside and jump on the easiest answer no matter what, so long as it would save him doing any actual work.
Chris turned just as one of the other uniforms said “It was Sutherland, sir.”
He forced himself not to laugh – the idea of John Miller being a ‘sir’ would have been too funny for words if it wasn’t for the fact that, hierarchically anyway, it was true. He saw he look Miller gave him and was silently more than a little pleased to see the other man’s face fall when he saw him.
Miller may have had a relatively meteoric rise in the promotion stakes, but Chris being here was evidence that there were still coppers on the beat who knew where he had come from. Coppers who still remembered those Miller had pushed aside or stepped on in his way up the ladder.
Truth was, given the right contacts and an extreme lack of morals, promotion wasn’t hard to come by in the current climate. Chris found the very fact that he was still a constable something to be perversely proud of. He hadn’t sold out his principles; he hadn’t bought his way to the top. Of course, there had been a time he hadn’t been so jaded, a time when he’d believed in the system, sometimes - at times like this for example - he felt as if that was not just another time but in another lifetime.
That other lifetime when he and the other new recruits had trained together, worked together. Bonds were created which should have lasted a lifetime, or at least for the length of a career. Chris could count on one hand the number of his academy classmates he was still on good terms with, and most of those had left the service in disgust at the reality they’d discovered on the job. He’d watched, at first surprised and later resigned, as those who’d stayed in the job had brushed aside those bonds and been promoted at the expense of far more qualified candidates.
John Miller was the final straw though. Through it all, through learning just how deep the rot had spread, through the whole thing, there had always been John. They had been more than friends, more than buddies. They’d been brothers. Or at least that’s how Chris had always seen them. Maybe it just went to show that he didn’t deserve to be a detective after all - hell, if he could miss the way John had been setting him up for a fall the whole time then what else would he miss?
John’s betrayal had done one thing at least - it had cured Chris of any lingering illusions. He was on his own, what was that old phrase? Trust no one. Damn straight.
Miller walked across the flat to where he was standing next to the still comatose woman. Chris steeled himself for the expected accusations that were no doubt on the tip of Miller’s tongue. None came. Instead, the detective knelt next to the chair and checked the woman’s pulse and breathing. Chris frowned; this was the first time the two of them had been on the same case since Miller got the job which meant he didn’t have to wear the uniform every day. He wasn’t sure what the man was playing at here, one thing he was damn sure of was that any concern he was showing for the woman was nothing more than an act.
“So what happened here?” Miller didn’t look up as he asked and Chris found his frown deepening. It was almost as if the other man didn’t want to - or perhaps couldn’t bring himself to - look at him.
Chris somehow managed to keep the sarcasm out of his voice as he said. “Sir. I arrived at the scene and after assessing the situation and confirming the chances of the perpetrator still being present were negligible I entered the domicile and discovered the victim and witness in the kitchen. I made sure the perpetrator was not present and secured the scene for back up to arrive.” Chris tried to keep his gaze locked on the arrangement of photographs on the wall opposite as he spoke. From here he couldn’t make out a lot of detail but they looked at first glance like holiday snaps - azure seas, golden sands, smiling faces. A dead man smiled at him across the span of time. Chris glanced away, unable to look into the eyes of a photograph, knowing that there would likely be no justice for that smiling man, knowing that this would be treated as nothing more than a domestic disturbance and either left to rot in the cold case files or pinned onto whoever had pissed off John Miller and his cohorts this week.
His line of sight fell once again on the detective and his seemingly genuine ministrations of the woman and he wondered just who the man was trying to fool. That’s when he saw it. Right in front of him, in plain sight of every one who might happen to look over this way, Miller unfastened the catch on the woman’s silver bracelet and slipped it from her wrist. Chris forced down the automatic accusation that tried to spill forth. There was no point, it would accomplish nothing - in fact making a stand over something like this might mean the next time a finger needed to be pointed he’d find it pointing squarely at him. No, by keeping quiet about the little things then at least it meant that he might have a chance to make a difference to the big things.
Chris knew that he was partly kidding himself, that old saying about good men and evil kept on playing through his head on a loop. His inaction - no, his *repeated* inaction no doubt excluded him from the ‘good man’ claim. By letting the little things slide he was more likely to miss the big things - or maybe even just as likely to be embroiled in the corruption himself. He suppressed an involuntary shudder at the thought, why was he doing this? To make a difference had always been his answer up to now, but to make a difference he had to actually *do* something. Didn’t he?
“Made sure the perpetrator was not present.” Miller repeated, still not looking up to meet Chris’s eyes.
“Yes sir.” He said.
Miller stood slowly and leaned in conspiratorially. “Correct me if I’m wrong, Constable. But isn’t the definition of ‘perpetrator’ something along the lines of the person who committed - or ‘perpetrated’ if you will - the crime?”
Chris frowned a little, not quite sure exactly what Miller was getting at but horribly afraid he knew.
The detective continued. “When she wakes up - assuming she’s not faking it - I want you to arrest Ms… Mitchell I believe it is? for the murder of Michael Nichols.” Miller turned away, a triumphant smile on his face, and Chris gaped in shock. He’d seen some pretty reprehensible things done in the name of getting the job done, but this was beyond the joke - Miller wasn’t even going to pretend to investigate this.
His own previous doubts about the woman vanished as he called after the detective. “No.”
Miller turned and finally met Chris’s eyes. There was nothing left of the man he’d known, in his place was a power-hungry parody.
“What did you say, Constable?” Miller spat out his rank as if it was poison but Chris refused to rise to the bait.
“In my professional opinion, Ms Mitchell is not guilty of any crime here.” Save for calling the police and expecting to find help here, he kept the last part to himself. He was going out on a limb here, there was no point taking a noose with him.
Miller laughed derisively, “Your *professional* opinion? Forgive me, I must have not gotten the memo about your promotion. I wonder why not?” Chris’s hands itched to knock the sarcastic grin off of Miller’s face but he bit his tongue and the detective continued. “Oh yes - probably because there was no memo. Don’t forget your place - Constable. And if you ever countermand one of my orders in future you will be off the force quicker than you can say ‘suspended without pay’. Now. It seems Ms Mitchell is back with us - do your duty.”
Chris glanced down and saw the woman had indeed regained consciousness; she was staring at the scene around her - obviously dazed and in shock. She seemed to register him looking and turned to meet his eyes, as soon as he met her shocked stare his resolve hardened.
“No.” He repeated. “You can try to suspend me if you want, I won’t do it.”
Miller’s face turned an interesting range of colours from red through to purple and his mouth dropped open, reminding Chris of a fish drowning in air. He seemed to be struggling for words and Chris felt a tiny wave of victory at that.
Finally Miller found his voice again and instead of the loud explosion Chris had been expecting, it emerged as a quiet cold fury. “Get her down to the station for questioning.” He turned away and Chris breathed a small sigh of relief - looked like there was actually going to be an investigation. Of course he wasn’t an idiot, he knew that the station was no safe ground - that Miller could just as easily have her arrested as soon as she got there, but he’d have to find someone else to do it - or, and Chris was a little puzzled why he hadn’t just done this in the first place, do it himself. “Make no mistake, Sutherland, I’ll have your badge for this.” Miller made a final parting shot.
Chris should have been dismayed, he was risking everything on a gut feeling and an old rivalry, but he was a little surprised to find he wasn’t. The prospect of a future outside the police force no longer seemed such an unlikely one.