'Di Chandler. Stop. Now!'
He knew her.
He hadn't known her well, or by anything anyone else might in anyway consider significant.
But they knew each other.
She was present at an innumerable tally of crime scenes, and she had lifted the tape for him to walk in a countless dozen. Then there was the morning everyone else was late and she was there, competent and alert, though not overly friendly - not in that way - and he had appreciated it. A car accident and a flooded roundabout, sergeant and PCs late alike, and since then they traded free nods, and smiles, and the occasional word on supposed drizzle.
It was supposed to be a simple arrest. Simple. Just him and Miles, and a couple of PCs to pick up an accomplice in manslaughter. Where was the harm?
But then they'd been skittish, and looking back he should really have taken possible substance abuse into account - he always does now - and ease of access to cutlery drawers.
They had fled and he'd given chase.
'Miles! Miles! They went round the back! I'll try and flush them out. Just wait round' the -' Joe gestured north-east whilst his sergeant was already turning to action.
Joe waited, Miles began to stumble along the cluttered narrow hallway in the opposite direction, then he did the same.
'Alex! Look Alex we just want to help, really. Please. Alex!
The house was dilapidated, and later Joe would not be able to get the thought of the mold rotten windowsill he climbed over - ran his suit over, his nails against, his hands - out of his mind.
'Look, just stop. We can help!'
He chased the runner round to the front, through the side gate, then Miles got shoved into the pebble-dashing, and he himself had fallen behind checking on him.
He needed Miles. What would he have done if-
And then he was on the street. And then they'd run past her. And then she'd fallen. And he couldn't breathe.
The houses ran along the river, unfortunately, and the area had been a section up for repair for the last three decades or so, unfortunately.
They'd just run past her.
Joe gave chase and felt a flicker of something prideful when the two PCs had placed themselves directly in their path.
No curse today.
Then the knife was back out, they were passed, though they hadn't stabbed, and she had fallen.
He would love to look back and view the situation as Miles had too his ripper escape.
There was no arrest under Di Chandler that evening. However, he wasn't a hero, and he didn't jump to the aid of others without a thought to himself.
He thought about it.
He thought about running after the fleeing foe, ruminated on the task at hand, considered leaving his sergeant to deal with what he left behind as his godfather would no doubt want him to. He mulled over the consequences of job and responsibility, needs and want; debated the morality, and questioned his own ability to make a well thought out decision.
He didn't, however, take into account how cold the water would be, or how heavy his shoes, when he dived after the PC that was knocked through a weak and rusted piece of railing, into the river below.
'No, don't! Boss, don't!'
Miles shouted. Though it didn't do much good.
Joe gasped in a lung full of god knows what and fresh river water, before he could bring himself to the surface again. The icy bite had his chest hitching without his want, and his fingers instantly stinging. It took him long to understand the drag and pull on sodden clothing - that course had been a while ago hadn't it - and longer still to catch with numb grip the one thing in this world he wanted more than anything else in that moment.
With Miles still yelling and stamping his feet about above him he guessed a prolonged amount of time struggling with a wrenching weight brought him in appearance on some degraded-sharp river side steps, to his sergeant pulling him to dry land on an asphalt road.
He had known her.
They had known each other.
No matter how long he pumped, or wrestled with his own saturated God-damn-three-piece-restricting suit! she wouldn't be there again.
'DI Chandler. Stop. Now! '
Oh. Miles had brought out his position. And stamped his foot. He must be serious.
Joe looked at the constable below his hands and then took in her pale green vacant eyes. The lips he had placed his own against - he'd done a course you know - were pale and edged in blue. They looked molding to him.
He fell back.
She had hit her head against the brickwork on her way down, knocked unconscious, breathing in without thought.
"There was nothing you could have done."
He had taken too long. He had been too slow. He hadn't been quick enough. He hadn't tried hard enough. He shouldn't have hesitated. He should have done something.
The other officer had been sent after the villain, Miles had called an ambulance, and then he had gotten to the nearest access stairway and followed Joe into the water in a much saner and professional manner.
'M'best work suit. Ruined. Wife'll be at me for that one. Always is. Stabbed, y'know, in hospital, and she starts on about the shirt she'd just got me for my birthday.'
He hadn't realised until the man had been helping him stickingly remove his jacket and waistcoat and tie - so the paramedics could wrap a shock blanket around his near hypothermic frame - Miles looked like he had been dipped in dye up to the shoulders, blue schemed attire utterly ruined - as he'd said.
Joe hadn't managed to say anything yet.
'-so you'll have to forgive me if I'm not in a tie tomor- Sorry? Sorry for what sir?'
He was doing that thing again where he chattered like a shop owner to keep Joe distracted, and spoke to him directly in kind and complacent tones to keep him calm.
Joe appreciated it.
'I'm sorry . . . about your suit.'
There was a bit of a pause after that and Joe really wished the talking could just start up again already.
'Not to worry sir. Not your fault or anything,' he said with a hand squeezing Joe's shoulder.
Ah. Nothing was ever simple was it.
Joe tried to meet his sergeant's eyes with a steady set of his own.
'Thank you, Miles.'
'Hmm . . .'
The evening dark had fallen into busy questionings and intrusive sirens, the ambulance interior was as bright as a desk lamp in a vacant office, and all Joe could see was his own neatly aligned little work space ready and waiting for his command.
'Oh no no no. I don't think so.'
Joe's head bounced up from where it had drifted.
Miles looked bemused.
'You are going home, and I won't be seeing you again until tomorrow. Lunchtime,' his eyebrow raised as he spoke, voice that of a scolding parent.
'I've got work to do,' Joe tried to keep his own speech even. 'I can't just leave.'
'Yes. You can. You are currently on your way to a nice case of pneumonia and Bronchitis, so I'll have no orders from someone who should be in a hospital bed.' Miles spoke over him every time - and it was often - that he tried to interrupt. 'I will handle this, and don't forget Kent back at the station; we'll fill the reports and call who we need to, and everything will be ready and waiting on your desk for review by tomorrow afternoon. While you get a goodnights rest, and something warmer than business casual on your shoulders.'
Joe could do little more than stare. The outrage he was expecting didn't come.
If left to his own devices there was no doubt within himself that he wouldn't be seeing his bed again for at least another twenty four hours - maybe more if he could swing it. How could he go home and relax when there was so much he needed to do, so much to make up for. Atone. He wouldn't be able to help himself. There were very few times that he could.
Couldn't stop himself.
He had just jumped. Despite all his pondering and dallying about he had just leapt into the water, and looking back, even then, even now, it was terrifying, the thoughts that had been in his head. How could he let another person die like that? Why didn't he stop another person from dying like that? It had been just the same as before.
He had known her.
So it seemed, it was not least the guilty party who lost their lives on the cases he undertook.
McCormack wasn't an outlier. Someone always has to die. Always cursed. What if it's Miles who's next? Or Ed? Or Kent? Or-
'Either that sir, or I'll have to tell these nice healthcare professionals that actually you will be on your own tonight, and that I won't actually be keeping you under observation myself for next twenty four hours. Fancy a night in outpatient's sir? They do do lovely toast in the mornings.'
Joe took a breath and felt Miles' worry and smugness in equal measure two feet away.
He didn't have to do everything. And he definitely couldn't. It wasn't his choice. Even if it was absurd and annoying, he could at the very least appreciate it.
And he probably surprised them both by giving in to his friend's subtle teasing; he smiled. A bit.
'I've got a very good toaster at home.'