"Get rid of them!"

The words were hissed, a harsh whisper, and the second man perceived the anger and fear in eyes of the first.

"I can't! It's not that easy," he whispered, urgently, "Look, just hide yourself, will you? With any luck they won't bother with a thorough search – don't come out until they've gone."

"I'll bloody kill you if they find me," the first man growled, "just get them out of here as soon as you can. God forbid they should find me here, of all places!"

"There's not much I can do," the second man replied, "oh, great, here comes the ambulance – you'd better make yourself scarce!"

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Detective Chief Inspector Morse stood with his hands on hips, lips pursed and brow furrowed, as a he stared at the scene before him. The cold night was lit by the flashing blue lights of the ambulance surrounded by response cars. He shook his head slowly, ignoring the curious stares of the neighbours, as he stared up at the terraced house. Around him, uniformed officers held the small crowd of onlookers at bay; many sleepy-eyed in nightgowns and pyjamas, with a few members of the local press hovering around in hopes of a story. Morse watched as the body was brought from the house; multiple camera flashes added a lightning effect to the darkness, and Morse winced at the vulgarity at their openly morbid delight in the sad sight of a wrapped corpse of a young student being carried from the house. He continued to watch as Detective Sergeant Lewis followed the paramedics down the steps from the front door. Behind Lewis, two uniformed officers brought out a young man in handcuffs, and bundled him into the back of a waiting car. Lewis nodded to the officers, and crossed the small yard to join Morse on the pavement.

"Anything to add?" Morse asked, choosing not to elaborate on the question.

"No sir," Lewis shook his head, glancing back at house, "seems pretty straightforward to me. Two students, Michael Tawny and Steven Bates, got into an argument over drugs, both high as kites, Tawny grabs the nearest thing to hand – a kitchen knife – and kills Bates. He called the police out of remorse as soon as he comes down from the high. He says he remembers the whole thing."

Morse mulled over the situation for a moment, watching as two of the three response cars pulled away, already called off to other incidents requiring attention. A third car remained with the lights off and the engine silent, as the two remaining officers spoke to the neighbours and other observers.

"Isn't that unusual for a drugs trip?" Morse asked, frowning as the ambulance struggled to pull away through the crowd of neighbours and reporters, "To remember everything, I mean?"

"I wouldn't know, sir," Lewis replied, with a slight smile and a shrug, "You'd have to ask Dr Robson."

"Believe me, Lewis, I will," Morse replied, "Come on, let's go and interview the neighbours…"

Morse turned and began to walk away, and then stopped, realising that Lewis wasn't following him. He turned back, to see the Sergeant staring up at the house, a slightly quizzical look on his face.

"Lewis?" Morse prompted, impatiently.

"Sorry, sir," Lewis replied, "I thought… I thought I saw someone in the house."

"A witness?" Morse asked, quickly, and slightly irritated, "I thought you said there was no-one else in the house?"

"There wasn't, according to Tawny," Lewis replied, "and Derringer – one of the uniforms – he searched the house… perhaps I should check again, sir?"

Morse glanced across at Lewis appraisingly. The Sergeant was still staring up at the house, at one of the top bedroom windows. Though he rarely said it out loud – and even more rarely in front of Lewis – he trusted his Sergeant, even if he was not convinced there had been someone at the window. He took a deep breath, and then nodded.

"Derringer couldn't find the haystack, let alone the proverbial needle," he said, at last, "alright, let's check the place out once more – leave the neighbours to the uniforms. Then we can go for a well deserved pint I think."

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Derringer stared up at the house, frowning slightly as he watched Morse and Lewis head inside.

"What are they doing?" he asked his partner, Bailey.

"Who knows?" the other man shrugged, "maybe Morse has got one of his tricks up his sleeve."

Derringer frowned again, and Bailey laughed.

"Cheer up – you made a thorough search, didn't you? Nothing to worry about."

Bailey turned his back, and therefore did not see the horrified look that crossed his partner's face.

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Lewis followed Morse up the steps and into the house. He waited, patiently, as Morse paused in the hall – beyond the door to his right, the living room. At the end of the corridor was the kitchen – the scene of the crime. To his left were the stairs up to the two small bedrooms and the bathroom.

"I thought I saw someone in the front bedroom, sir," Lewis said, in a low voice.

"Well, let's go and check it out, then," Morse responded, gesturing towards the stairs.

Lewis reached for the banister and began to climb the stairs. Morse followed, quietly glancing into the bathroom and back bedroom as Lewis wandered into the front room.

"Anything?" Morse enquired, stepping into the front room.

"Nah, nothing," Lewis shook his head and straightened his tie, "Sorry, sir – must be seeing things."

"Well, have you checked under the bed?" Morse said, half-jokingly as he crossed to the window and peered outside, "No net curtains – what exactly did you see?"

"Looked like a man, sir," Lewis replied, "standing just about where you are – though maybe a little more to you right…"

Morse glanced to his right, and saw only an old wardrobe with clothes piled up to the side of it. He winced, and recalled the particular neatness of his own student digs. He had long since learned that he was the exception, not the rule, and that fact saddened him as often as it made him glad.

Morse was still deep in thought when, without warning, the wardrobe door flew open. He heard Lewis give a shout of warning, as he fell backwards under the impact. As he hit the floor, Morse saw a figure leap across the bed towards the door.

"Lewis! Stop him!" Morse shouted, struggling to get to his feet.

Cursing himself, Morse managed to get upright, stumbled past the bed and fell against the door frame. For a split second, he saw Lewis in the hall, wrestling with a figure dressed in denim jeans and a black leather jacket. The figure struck out, and Morse heard Lewis cry out as he fell backwards. Morse realised with cold horror that the only thing behind his Sergeant was the stairs. Morse lunged forwards and grabbed the banister as both Lewis and the assailant fell through the air and hit the stairs, hard. Morse watched, open-mouthed, as they both tumbled to the ground floor, before the assailant leapt to his feet and disappeared.

"Lewis!"

Morse managed to pull himself together and get over his shock, as he bounded down the stairs, bellowing for Derringer and Bailey, the uniformed officers outside. Bailey appeared first and Morse swung his hand in a motion of barely controlled fury towards the kitchen.

"There was someone in the house!" he snapped, "Get after the bastard! Well, go on – move!"

Bailey nodded and took off as Derringer appeared.

"You! I want a word with you later!" Morse snarled, "Get out there, call an ambulance and then search the house and grounds – properly this time!"

"Sir," Derringer dived back through the door, sprinting off towards the car.

Morse reached the bottom of the stairs and dropped to he knees. Lewis lay on his back, eyes closed, not moving. There was a deep cut on his forehead, and blood marred the collar of his white shirt.

"Lewis? Come on, man, wake up!"

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Derringer ran around to the back of the house. Bailey was standing out in the back yard, glancing around desperately.

"Which way did he go?" Bailey yelled, frustrated.

"I… I don't know – maybe he cut through that passage down to the front!" Derringer pointed.

Bailey sprinted off, and Derringer took a deep breath, running his hands through his hair. He walked deeper into the small garden, surrounded as it was by fences and shrubs. He glanced over his shoulder, convinced that Bailey was gone.

"Where are you, you stupid bastard?" he hissed.

"Right here," growled a voice by his ear, "and show some bloody respect. You owe me."

"Right now you're in a hell of a lot of trouble," Derringer shot back, "you get caught here and linked up with this mess you could go away for a long time – add to that assaulting a police officer – you're in for it, mate, and no mistake."

"Is he dead?" there was no concern or remorse in the voice, merely curiosity.

"No, thank God, he's not," Derringer replied, glancing around the garden, warily.

"Who is he?"

"What does that matter to you?" Derringer snapped.

"He saw my face! I'm damn sure of it. Now tell me his name – and his address."

"What…? No, you can't be serious!"

"Tell me his name and his address," growled the menacing voice, "he's seen my face. He can identify me, and there's no way in hell I'm going back to prison."

"You can't," Derringer's voice took on a pleading tone, "not Sergeant Lewis – he's one of the good guys!"

"No such thing as a good cop," the voice replied, "not even you, you slimy little bastard. Now give me a name, and address – or it's your pretty little wife who'll pay."

Derringer closed his eyes, knowing this man and knowing what he was capable of.

"I don't know the address," he admitted, "but his name's Sergeant Lewis. Robbie Lewis. I don't know where he lives."

Derringer froze in fear as he felt warm breath on his ear, the voice filled with cold malice.

"Find out…now."

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Worried and angry at the same time, Morse was at a loss as to what to do. He checked for a pulse and was glad to find one, at least. He loosened Lewis's tie, and then reached the end of his first aid skills. He rubbed his jaw thoughtfully, and then fetched a cushion from the living room. He lifted Lewis's head carefully and slid the cushion underneath, and was rewarded with a slight groan. Morse lifted his hand away and stared at the blood on his fingertips with sick revulsion. Lewis groaned again, and his hand twitched feebly.

"Come on, Robbie, wake up," Morse muttered, and then glanced up as Derringer reappeared.

"Ambulance is on the way, sir," he reported, quickly, "no sign of an intruder in the grounds."

Morse simply glowered at Derringer for a moment, as the young copper fretted nervously, unable to meet his gaze.

"I'll be having a word with you later," Morse growled, eventually, "and I have no doubt the Chief Super will want a word as well. And I doubt it will be a quiet one."

"Yes sir," Derringer mumbled, glancing over his shoulder, "Sir, the Sarge's car – do you want me to have it driven back to his house?"

Morse paused, then checked Lewis's jacket pocket and found his keys. He separated the car keys from the house keys, and tossed them over, as he told Derringer the address.

"And be careful with it!" Morse snapped.

"Yes sir," Derringer said, quickly, and vanished through the door.

---------------------------------------------------------------

Morse took a deep breath, and sat down on the stairs. He tried, desperately, to recall some useful description about the assailant, but he could not remember having seen the man's face…man? Yes, he was convinced it was a man – the build, and the way he had moved… definitely a man. Morse sighed in disappointment in himself – all he could recollect was a blue jeans, black jacket and dark hair description, which would be of little use. Outside, he heard the plaintive wail of a siren and his head snapped up. He stood up, slowly, as the paramedics entered, along with a flustered PC Derringer.

"What happened?" one of the medics asked, crouching down as he pulled on some gloves.

"He was attacked and pushed down the stairs," Morse replied, dismissing all of the sarcastic reactions that occurred to him in favour of a simple statement of fact.

Derringer winced, mumbled something under his breath and slipped out of the front door again. One of the medics applied a gauze pad to the gash on Lewis's head, as the Sergeant winced and groaned, stirring slightly.

"Let's get him in the ambulance."

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"Come on," Derringer hissed, "I've got the keys to his car and the address to drive it to. Meet me in the next street and I'll give you a lift."

"That could make you an accessory, you know," sneered the voice.

"To what? What are you planning to do?" Derringer asked, fearfully, "You… you were just going to threaten him a bit, right?"

"You soft-hearted faggot," the other man spat, "he's seen my face! If he identifies me I'm done for. I've got to make sure he stays quiet – and doesn't get found."

Derringer, if possible, went even whiter.

"Just… do me a favour," he asked, "Lewis… he's got a wife and kids. Don't hurt them."

"No promises," snarled the voice, "now get us out of here. I'm off before one of those other bastards catches us out here. See you in the next street – and don't chicken, or it'll be you I come after next!"