Dim lights cast shadows over the darkened rooms of Sun Hill police station. It was a late evening in September and Inspector Smith was on the first floor, finishing off some business in the Integrated Borough Operations suite. The epaulettes and Bath stars on his shoulders were hanging slightly; being a station Inspector was never an easy day's work. He held five sheets of paper in one hand and had his other hand pressed on some documents on the table with his eyes fixed on their texts. Glancing over at the clock, it was almost 10pm, Smithy bobbed his head in acceptance and put the paperwork back in their folders.
Walking out of the IBO suite, the crush of the soft, short carpet pushed against the black service shoes required by every Metropolitan police officer. He took a left to head for the stairs and hardly noticed that the door to the Superintendent's office was still open. It took him by surprise when he heard those familiar Yorkshire tones to which he had become accustomed in his long time at Sun Hill.
Smithy leaned into Superintendent Meadows' office, expecting one last job for the day before heading home.
"Come on in."
Meadows didn't sound like he had work on his mind. There was a warm welcome to his voice, that wanted Smithy to come and take a seat. His room was as dark yet dimly lit as with the rest of upstairs and CID.
"Long day, Inspector?"
"Not too bad, sir. Just the usual clean ups needed. You know how it is sometimes."
Meadows nodded slowly in agreement before Smithy continued.
"Still a lot of cleaning up to do with the Liam Martin, Derek Bailey and Jasmine Harris cases but at least we've got the suspects. They'll be locked up for sure."
"And good to get that press conference over with."
"I'd been meaning to say, sir, you deserve a round of applause from all of us for that. Some of the relief were re-watching it today and they're all buzzing about it. You really defended us at a time when we needed it. I listened back to it today and you did us and the station proud."
Meadows leaned back in his chair. Smithy had by now realised that this wasn't a work-related chat and that the Super wanted his company but knew that something was on the Super's mind.
"Well it's good to know that. I've worked hard at this station but no matter what the pips and stars on my shoulder might say, I'm as much of a copper as you or anyone else. Just doing my job. I've the same duty to the public as you do and you have the same powers of arrest as I do."
"Something troubling you, sir?"
"Maybe, Smithy. Maybe. Come on, take a seat."
Meadows stood up and went over to the desk on the far wall. Smithy unbuttoned the top button of his shirt and unhooked the radio from the left side of his shirt. Two glasses appeared in front of him as Meadows sat down with a bottle of whiskey and began to open it.
"You're a Scotch man aren't you, Smithy?"
"I'd say I'm partial to a drop of the Hebrides, sir", Smithy replied, holding back the smile on his face.
"Ah c'mon, consider yourself off duty and off the record. Call me Jack."
"Aha, if you say so... Jack."
Meadows poured two generous glasses of Talisker 10 year old and placed one in front of Smithy.
"I'll tell you what, I've lost count of the number of times I've finished a day in these offices with a drink. Purely medicinal, of course."
"It's good for the mind. Celebrate a job well done or take solace in knowing you've tried your best. I've had the pleasure to do so with some great colleagues over the years. Great colleagues."
The two chinked glasses before taking a sip of their fine Isle of Skye product. It was something Meadows regularly kept in his drawer, dating all the way back to his days when he was a Detective Superintendent with AMIP.
"So what's on your mind then, if you don't mind me asking?", Smithy began.
"No, I don't mind you asking", Meadows replied, sucking some air to aerate his whiskey, "It's those cases and that press conference. It's really made me think."
"Here, this station. This job."
"You're not thinking of retiring, are you?"
"Perish the thought! Those golden handshakes for senior officers aren't what you think they might be."
Both laughed. Smithy leaned back comfortably in his chair opposite the Superintendent before Meadows asked him a question instead.
"So let me ask you, Inspector", he began quizzically, "you're a top-ranking officer in this borough. Do you ever think about the past?"
"I try not to."
"Well, I can't honestly say that I don't think about the past but I don't make a habit of it."
"I have been. After that press conference, talking about respect, it made me think about things and times gone by. You know the expression 'if I have seen more, it is because I have stood on the shoulders of giants'?"
"Uh... Isaac Newton said that, I think."
"Yeah, something like that. Well the respect I have for you, this station and its relief comes from the respect I've had for people who worked here before. Cogs in a machine come and go, get replaced, but they all keep the wheel turning."
"It sounds like you don't feel part of the furniture. You're a good Superintendent, Jack. More than suitable for the big chair and you waited long enough to get it, didn't you?"
"Aye that's true, I did. I waited long and worked hard. Do you know much about who else has sat in this chair?"
"I know your predecessors John Heaton and Adam Okaro. I worked alongside them quite closely at times. And I wasn't really working here at the time, I was with SO19 for most of it but there was, uh... Tom Ch-"
"Yeah, I don't want to talk about him.", Meadows interrupted, "Another drink?"
"A small top-up, please."
Meadows poured two more drinks as he began talking again.
"Can you tell me who was in charge of this station when you first started?"
Smithy's eyes rolled slightly as he tried to recall.
"Oh yes, the pinstripe suit and fancy barnet. Brownlow, wasn't it?"
"That's right, Charles Brownlow. You know he was Chief Superintendent of this station for over 15 years?"
"And I've been Super barely 18 months. Sometimes I wonder how he lasted as long as he did."
"Why, he was a good copper wasn't he?"
"Absolutely, I mean the pressure of the job. He was a bit more old school for a top brasser than me, if you know what I mean."
"Haha, yeah. He was more interested in PR meetings with the WI and his friends on the council than what you might call 'real' police work. Some of the strokes he used to pull would embarrass the relief, like sitting in the canteen and dining with the PCs but really, he was a good bloke deep down."
"Do you still keep in touch?"
"Aye, on occasion. He's still knocking around. Congratulated me when I got this promotion."
Meadows took a hearty sip of his drink before continuing.
"I'll tell you, they nearly did a double take back in the CAD room when he radioed in."
"He radioed in?", Smithy laughed.
"Yeah, on rare occasions it did happen. One time he was trying to stop some lunatic in a car and he ended up pursuing in his own Ford Granada!"
"No, straight up! It gets even better, the perp ended up nicking Brownlow's car and driving off in that!"
Meadows chuckled as he recalled the story.
"All worked out in the end though. I think one time he actually took an arrest as well. The DAC listened to some Fed Rep feedback so Brownlow ended up out on foot patrol."
"God, imagine the faces on some of our PCs if you were their partner tomorrow, Jack."
"I know. The Super making a rare appearance from his ivory tower. But Brownlow... if you ever heard Sierra Oscar 5-2 on the airwaves, there was either trouble or hilarity on the horizon!"
Smithy saw the laughter on Meadows' face at talking about someone who was actually one of Meadows' former superiors and felt that he was being slightly introspective. Smithy's curiosity had been piqued.
"And now you're in his chair, sir", Smithy stated with a cheeky demeanour.
"I am, yes. But it's not his office."
"No, we swapped CID and the DCI/Super's offices a while back now."
"True but I worked with Charles Brownlow for eight years and in all that time, I can't say he ever let me down. Uniformed Superintendent work is tough business and since being in this chair, I've a new found appreciation for what he did and for so long."
"Well, as a PC who was here when he was Chief Super I suppose in a way he was a calming presence for the whole station to get behind. In as much as seeing the back of him calmed the rest of the relief down."
Smithy took one last swig of his drink, finishing the glass. As the whiskey made its way around his mouth and down his throat, he pursed his lips before asking his next question. He wasn't sure if Superintendent Meadows wanted to hear what was coming next.
"So why did Brownlow quit all those years ago, Jack? I know the station was under investigation but he didn't have anything to do with it."
Meadows' face trembled as he began thinking about his answer. He knew that this question was going to be asked, and he actually wanted it to be asked, but hearing it out loud didn't make it any less difficult than it had been when trying to answer it in his own head for all these years. He tucked his tongue into his bottom lip and stroked his chin with his left index finger and thumb.
"Good question. I've wondered that myself. I mean, I know why he resigned but I've never been sure that he should have. There was... a corruption scandal for a brief time. I mean, CIB were labelling it a 'scandal' like it was systematic throughout the station but it was only one man."
"And... he was one of my men. Detective Sergeant Beech", he said, with particular venom on that name.
"Ah", Smithy said, immediately detecting the nerve upon which he had touched.
"Beech had racked up a crime sheet as long as your arm. I didn't see it and neither did anyone else at the station. CIB placed a mole in the station, a DS called Stanton, and when she had the evidence she needed, my department was ripped up and... it even left one of my officers dead. John Boulton."
"Oh... I'm sorry that I-"
"No, it's fine, Smithy. A lot of time has passed since then. I can't undo what has been done. I'll never know what really happened between Beech and Boulton. Of all the things I thought Beech could have been, a cop killer wasn't one of them. You'd never suspect that about anyone with a warrant card."
"Yeah, well... even in my time I've found that looks can be deceiving", Smithy said with a cold inhale of breath.
Meadows stood up from his chair as Smithy's eyes followed him to the window. Meadows gazed out.
"Like I said, I didn't see it and I can't undo it now. But the truth is, these things play on your mind. Always. Doesn't matter how many other cases you deal with, how many arrests you make or how many promotions you attain, it's always there. We've just got to deal with it as best we can."
Meadows had taken his glass with him to the window. Smithy allowed a brief pause before carrying on the conversation.
"Well if there's something on your mind you're always welcome to talk to me about it. I might be below you in rank but we've worked together a long time by now. We're interdependent on each other."
Meadows turned back, looking at his Inspector, his most trusted uniformed officer.
"I know that, Smithy. Thanks."
"So if we're still on the subject, I'm getting the impression you feel a little bit guilty about what happened and it causing Mr Brownlow to resign?"
Meadows sat back down in his chair and tried to regain his calmer manner.
"That's right. CIB came in and basically this upstart Super called Mannion was calling the shots. He was a ruddy faced slime ball and fresh from finding out that one of my officers was dead and being told that another had disappeared, Mannion and this bastard Commander from CIB called Ford, I'll never forget his name, basically wanted all of CID and the Chief Super gone."
Meadows stopped talking for a second as Smithy, well purchased in his chair, was keeping cautiously quiet about learning this lore from a previous administration. He wasn't sure whether knowing such grisly details of internal politics was to his advantage or disadvantage.
"And I bet you're wondering 'How did you keep your job if Brownlow and all the others went'?"
"Um... it's a question some might ask."
"I did what I had to do. I called in a favour I had long been owed by someone at the Yard. Went over Mannion and Ford's head and kept myself in place because the station needed at least some form of 'continuity'. But Brownlow had to go. And you know what's funny?"
"When CIB turned up Brownlow challenged them at the first instance, saying that this was down to one man and they wouldn't find anything on anyone else. He was right."
"But he still had to go?"
"Yes. He was the head of the station and that meant the buck stopped with him whether it was one bent copper or twenty bent coppers."
"You said you two are still in touch though. You can't feel so bad about a decision you didn't make."
"But it shouldn't have gotten that far", Meadows replied still in a calm voice but with increasing frustration, "it wasn't just Brownlow who left as a result of this. I lost my DI and DS, and another DC voluntarily transferred."
"I'll never forget the last time I saw Chris Deakin. He was a top DI; hard working, street smart and knew how to get things done. But he and I were both Beech's superior and the axe fell and he was transferred."
"Was it awkward?"
"Quite. I'd managed to secure my position but he hadn't. He didn't have friends as high up as I had. When I told him that I was staying he told me 'Up yours, Jack'."
Smithy watched Meadows drink the last of his drink and without saying a word, filled them both up again.
"I've not heard from Chris Deakin since. Last I'd heard he was back on the robbery squad. He'd been there before he was moved to Sun Hill as a DS. He'd been getting his leg over with someone he shouldn't have but I could never fault his police work. He was DI for over 5 years and didn't give me a lick of trouble. It's a shame things ended the way they did."
"You can't beat yourself up about these things forever, y'know."
"I know but sometimes it's good to get them off your chest."
"I don't think you've let these officers down."
"No, it's the name of the game. We are all on the right side of the law and look out for one another but when circumstances are out of our control, there's not much you can do about it. Can I ask a candid question?"
"This Beech, right, you say he was done for corruption but did you know about it beforehand?"
"No but I should h-"
"Well you're alright then aren't you? It's not like you knew about this Beech and protected him or covered it up. There are slippery characters in life and you can't have eyes in the back of your head. I definitely can't with my relief no matter how much respectful discipline I instil in them."
Meadows began to utter something but stopped himself as Smithy continued his cross-examination of the Superintendent.
"Okay, let me ask you something. A hypothetical."
"If Chris Deakin was here now, what would you say to him?"
"I... I'd tell him I'm sorry. Tell him I'd have gotten him off the hook if I could have. And tell him he was the best DI a DCI could have wanted."
"And what do you think his reply would be?"
"No idea. Maybe he's having the same conversation now we are with one of his colleagues."
"And this Boulton, how did he end up with Beech's corruption?"
"He wasn't. As far as I know, John Boulton was a stern copper who didn't suffer fools gladly but he wouldn't have done anything like that. I just can't believe that but I think that was my problem back then; being a bit too blind to the goings on of my officers. It wasn't the first time it had happened."
"And you've learnt from then, haven't you?"
"We've all made mistakes; you have, I have, and it's learning from those mistakes that got you the promotion to Super. You know that and I know that."
"You're right, Smithy."
They both drank heartily from their glasses, so much so that they almost needed refills straight away. After another pause Meadows continued his musings.
"I'm not the only one who's made mistakes. You know it was Manson who let Beech slip away in the end? We had him doing bread and water but Manson had worked with him at a different station long before and Beech coaxed him into using him as an informant. The teflon swine got away."
"Heard anything since?"
"No. Nothing. I tore Manson to shreds when I found out. I can't ever forgive Beech for what he did but Neil... he's made his big mistake. We've all got one in us. I can only hope he's learnt from that too; being too trusting with the wrong people."
Smithy put his hands behind his head and leaned back, feeling at ease now that the whiskey was kicking in. By now the bottle of Talisker was nearly half empty and Meadows was getting into the spirit of discussion.
"Can we talk about some other people who've passed through this station?", Meadows asked.
"Yeah, sure, it's always important to remember who else has been here. I don't think we do that often enough sometimes."
"Aye and some people really do change as they work here. It's not static. I'm sure you'll know that yourself from when you were a Constable."
"Oh, don't remind me", Smithy interjected, flicking his hand away, "to be quite honest, I used to be... a bit of a dickhead. And that's putting it mildly."
"You were, were you? I wouldn't have remembered much at the time."
"Yeah, straight out of the army so I thought I knew it all. I was brash, rude, cocky, even a bit bigoted and I wanted everyone to do and see things my way. If it wasn't for Bob Cryer, there's no way I would have lasted."
"Ah, Bob Cryer. There's a man I have a lot of time for."
"Definitely. He was like a father to me, took me under his wing. You say you feel guilty for some things like with Mr Brownlow but I ended Bob's police career. He's never held me to blame in the first place but I still begged for his forgiveness several, several times over but like you said, there are some things that stick with you no matter what."
"Really? Bob Cryer was shot... was this when you worked for SO19?"
Smithy's relaxed attitude suddenly became more subdued. He wiped his brow before continuing in quick, short sentences.
"Yep. He was in a hostage situation at a school. Me being me, as I was back then, a total professional in SO19. But still too eager. Just as the shot was on... they moved. I was already pulling the trigger. Bob was in the way. Just the wrong moment. Arrest was made, Bob went to the hospital but the damage was done."
Meadows had a wily, understanding smile across his face. He put his elbows on the desk with his hands clasped together with the fingers interlocked, as if to turn this into a semi-official session of police counselling.
"That's a pretty awful thing to happen, Smithy."
"It was, yes."
"You know you can't blame yourself for it though. You've just said that to me."
"I know that, Jack, but I was literally the one who shot him."
"You know he was close to retirement age anyway, right?"
"That doesn't make me feel any better about it", Smithy replied, with a knowingly accepting grin, "I'm just glad that he survived."
"Yeah, Bob's one of the good guys. Best custody sergeant you could have asked for. He didn't just know the book like the back of his hand, he wrote it."
"Absolutely, and him taking me under his wing is the best thing that happened to me. I'd have been thrown out of the Met if it wasn't for him."
"We're still in touch, he and I. I saw him and another old sergeant Alec Peters at a funeral a few years back."
"Me too; whenever I've got some leave I always try and see Bob if I can. He's told me a few stories from the old days. He's basically Mr Sun Hill himself."
"Another drink, Smithy?"
Meadows poured what felt like the eight or ninth drink but was actually only their fourth.
"Going down well this, Jack."
"Yeah, it's not bad."
"You said that people change a lot when they work here. Did you have someone in mind?"
"Yeah, I did actually. You should ask Bob about this fella next time you see him; Frank Burnside."
"What, the Frank Burnside?", Smithy retorted.
"Yeah, the Frank Burnside. The mercurial maverick, Countryman's greatest loss."
"I'd have thought he was always a bit of a playboy copper", Smithy queried.
"Yeah, I suppose that's true but he rubbed me up the wrong way for years and years. Turns out he was doing some undercover work for a while. Need-to-know basis. We'd had so many crossed words that by the time he left here permanently I was glad to see the back of him. This was still when I was DCI, remember."
"So when he turned up again a few years later, he'd been promoted to DCI as well in the meantime! Can you believe that? Someone you didn't have much time for being put on equal footing as you. But in time, things explained themselves. Frank was old school and I wouldn't say he intentionally kept me in the dark but he couldn't afford any slip-ups that might compromise him. He worked with some real, real villains in the NCS."
"I heard he's had more chats in cells off the record than anyone else in the Met put together."
"Wouldn't surprise me, Smithy. But if you want pure results, Burnside was just that. I couldn't handle someone like him in my station today, I don't think the Commissioner would either, but I can't take that away from him."
Smithy took another sip of his drink before asking for another trip down memory lane.
"So Jack, if you don't me asking again, whilst we're on this subject, you've been at this station longer than anyone else here now. Do you feel that you actually have let anyone else down in that time?"
"Maybe one or two. It goes with the territory that you're not able to please everyone."
"What're these ones about then?"
"Well, there was a time in the 90s when the Met had this policy that if you were in CID 10 years without being promoted, you'd be transferred back to uniform."
"God, really? Sounds terrible. Jo Masters has been a welcome addition but I don't think I'd like any of CID on my team", Smithy joked.
"Hah, well at that time I had a DS called Alastair Greig and you remember Jim Carver, right?"
"I do, yeah. He's a DS in Manchester now. Heard he might even make Inspector."
"He'd be well worth it too. But those two, they were taken away from CID and I couldn't do anything about it. I thought it was a stupid policy. Alistair had already expressed his concerns about being passed over for DI and I promised him that he was next in line. I never could act on that promise even if it was true. In 1998 I think it was, Greig was told he'd have to transfer back to uniform. I begged Brownlow to pull some favours but like I said, he was straight edge and I wouldn't go so far as to forge any records. It was out of my hands. He ended up transferring to another station instead."
"And what about Jim Carver?"
"Same problem but he actually did end up back in uniform in this nick. I remember him struggling with the change; he'd been a DC a lot longer than he'd been a PC and at the start he kept coming into CID to offer his help. It must've really affected him."
"It worked out for him in the end though."
"Yeah but a lot longer than it should have. His drink problem started a few years later and I've no doubt that that played a part in it. Never complained to me about it but yeah, one of those things I'd have changed if I could have."
"Ah you see Jack, that's your problem. People are gonna fight their own battles and make their own mistakes. You're not too trusting, you're too caring."
"Haha, maybe you're right", Meadows chuckled.
Meadows looked at the clock then glanced at his watch. Obviously there was no difference in time but he wanted to be sure that there was still time left for one more chat. This one had been on his mind for some time and only now that the ice had been broken reminiscing about Burnside, Brownlow and Cryer did he feel confident to bring up the last chat.
"I know you know what it's like to lose an officer close to you."
"I do", Smithy nodded slowly.
"It shouldn't ever happen. But it does."
"Is this what this little chat has been about, Jack? Is there... someone in particular?"
"Yeah, there is. Job pressure and reflection is one thing but having someone to bounce off is vital. And you know who I wish was still here?"
"Derek. Derek Conway."
Smithy understood the silence. Several officers had been killed in the line of duty at Sun Hill such as Ken Melvin, Viv Martella and Jo Morgan. Each one a tragedy of their own. But of all the fallen officers, one group in particular stands out. Smithy turned his left hand so that his palm was facing him and stared at it for a few seconds that felt like an eternity before he spoke again.
"You know their names are on the plaque? I still gaze at it every time I go past it."
"Me too, Smithy. Me too. I couldn't stand it when that happened. And it all escalated after Derek was killed in a firebomb attack. He should never have been there. When Mickey told me that Tom Chandler was supposed to be at that meeting and sent Derek in his place, I knew then that I didn't care what happened to Chandler, arrested or not. It's the only time I've ever lost control and objectivity like that but he flaming well deserved it."
Smithy kept quiet.
"A disgusting attack like what happened to this station is unspeakable. Those officers... those families. Recall their names for me, Smithy."
Smithy broke his silence after a few moments in a hushed tone as he glanced downwards towards his feet.
"'PC Di Worrell, PC Ben Hayward, PC Sam Harker, DC Paul Riley, DC Kate Spears, Inspector Andrew Monroe'.."
"Andrew...", Meadows interrupted, "Andrew Monroe. He was the straightest copper I ever knew. Not a thing went by in this nick without Andrew being somewhere down the line, keeping things in check. Procedure was second to none and discipline was excellent. You know, sometimes I don't think Andrew knew how much the relief cared for him and liked him. He had to be firm but fair but I think everyone who dealt with him got on well with him. Privately, every sergeant and PC in this nick held him in the highest esteem. He was a really fun bloke underneath it all. I feel sorry for Di, Ben, Sam, Paul and Kate but I worked with Andrew from day one I arrived at this station."
"And he was one of my predecessors", Smithy added.
"Yeah... I just couldn't believe it. Of all the people. Thanks to Taviner. And Derek was gone too."
Meadows' head slumped as he became visibly upset. Smithy noticed this and reached over, placing his hand on Meadows' shoulder. Smithy smiled in that awkward manner that seems impossible to avoid when something distressing happens.
He didn't reply.
"Jack, why don't you tell me about Derek? I never knew that much about him and I'd like to know more. It obviously means something to you."
Meadows looked up.
"Yeah, it does. Derek was... well, Derek. Chief Inspector of Operations and bloody good at it. Second to none. He was a better Chief Inspector than I was and I've no problem admitting that", he started before a slow smile started to creep from the corner of his mouth, "hen-pecked at home by his wife and hen-pecked at work by Mr Brownlow. Any time he heard 'Ah, Derek', he knew he'd be in for a fun shift. We worked closely together as the senior heads of uniform and CID. Plenty of times we'd argue the toss all day long over me pinching his staff or him telling me that he can't ignore an obbo I've set up but in the end it always worked out over a pint."
Meadows leaned back in his chair as the memories and looked up began to flood back.
"We were sort of rivals in a way because we each wanted Brownlow's job. It was a race between us to be Super or Chief Super and invariably neither of us would get it. I remember one time we were going for the same job and on this particular day we had a station inspection; I was getting in his way and he was getting in mine. We both tried to get on each other's nerves as much as we could and in the end, the inspection made everyone else look great except us two and neither of us got the job so we rounded the day off down the pub."
"Haha, sounds like a great double act you were."
"God, you should have been there, Smithy. One time we went with Brownlow on some horrid management exercise retreat in the country. It was bloody dreadful and I know he wanted to throttle me by the end of it but he couldn't help but laugh. Some of the time he'd be down in custody bailing Boyden or Ray Steele out of the muck or having words with Andrew because of whatever had gone on and he did it with his characteristic flair. No messing and things were sorted before refs. But I'm telling you, he was a bloody good copper. He'd much prefer being out on the streets than behind a desk and for my money there wasn't a better hostage negotiator in the Met."
Smithy nodded. Both finished their drinks.
"And when it happened... I just crashed. The whole thing just seemed bizarre. A white supremacist killing a copper in his own police car. Just totally grotesque and unbelievable. And it happened again! You remember that incident with Colin Fairfax?"
"Fairfax, yeah...", Smithy replied grimly, "I tried everything I could to straighten him out. He knew he was on thin ice but didn't care. And it cost Ken, Marylin and Andrea Dunbar their lives. You were there when they nicked him, weren't you?"
"I was, yeah. It was me that collared him. I had to talk him out of setting fire to himself, gain his trust, before we could arrest him. I'd be lying if I said that I wasn't channelling a little bit of Derek's negotiating skills. After the station had gone up the previous time... I couldn't let him get away with it. It was one of the proudest arrests I've ever done, the little scroat."
There was another silence as they thought about the incident that had taken the lives of DC Drummond, SRO Chambers and PC Dunbar.
"You know something, Smithy?"
"I'd trade it all in, y'know."
"Trade what in?"
"This, the crown on my shoulders, the office, everything. I'd trade it all in for one last night with Derek Conway. Or even one more shift working together. I really would. Some people think I've been indifferent to it since his death, not showing it but the truth is, I couldn't. Couldn't let people see me like that on duty. I've spent the last part of an hour talking about colleagues who've left, retired, transferred and even... and even died. But when something like that happens to someone you were so close to, and never got the chance to say goodbye to, it hurts. Every day. Even if I can't or won't show it, I know he's up there, looking down on this station. I feel that I might be in a chair he was one day destined for. If I waited long enough for it, he would have gotten it one day too. I'm sure of that."
"I understand that, Jack. I'm sure he would have too. It's important to think about those who aren't with us anymore", Smithy said with a smile back on his face. He poured two more drinks, these ones smaller than the previous ones, handed Meadows his drink and announced the toast.
"Let's drink, Jack. To Derek."
This brought Meadows' distanceless, unconcentrated gaze from the ground to directly into Smithy's eyes, before up at the ceiling.
"To Derek", Meadows agreed.
Both finished their drinks in one and put the glasses on the desk. Smithy glanced over at the clock on the wall.
"Nearly eleven now."
"Yeah, I'm sorry for keeping you so late", Meadows apologised, "might be best to head off now. Could be tricky getting a taxi home the later it gets. Don't worry about anything tomorrow, I'll sort things out."
"Not at all. Don't worry about it, just have a pleasant night", Smithy reassured.
Smithy got up from his chair and reattached his radio so that it wouldn't hang idly as he walked through the station. He brushed his epaulettes before heading to the door and to tend to his office.
"Good night, Inspector."
"Good night, sir."