Author's Note: He may not be as intelligent as Holmes, or even Gregson, but never let it be said that Lestrade is stupid. And before anyone thinks I'm not being realistic, yes, some people can do several things at once, like listen and read or listen and write or read a book and watch a movie or listen to music and do their homework...
Hopkins regarded the man before him seriously. "I'm not allowed to make trouble." He finally announced. "I was strictly forbidden to say a word on the matter." He thought for a moment longer. "But if I hadn't been, I might have a few things to say about the misconceptions you seem to have concerning the man you speak of. Good day, sir." He turned to leave, but the new Superintendent called out to him.
Superintendent Marshall had been just newly promoted to the position in Scotland Yard, and while it had previously been felt that anyone would be an improvement over the last Superintendent, the news that he was an outsider, a transfer, had not gone over well.
Marshall was a man used to men obeying him, and fearing him. I worried about this; the Yarders were difficult enough to deal with when they didn't have a bully for a commanding officer. I could only hope that the man's initial displays were due more to an insecurity over settling into a new position in a new place than to the man's character flaws.
"Inspector!" The sharp command rang through the air, and Hopkins turned and snapped to attention smartly.
"Sir?" He asked innocently. He was still young enough that nobody had a hard time believing that someone would have specifically told him to keep his mouth shut on occasion; I myself did not find it that surprising.
Superintendent Marshall was evidently not so familiar with this concept. "Would you mind explaining yourself, Hopkins?" He snapped, and the Inspector paled.
"My mouth gets me in trouble sometimes, sir." He nearly stammered, but somehow managed to keep his composure. "Early on, they figured the best way to deal with it was to tell me to keep it shut concerning certain areas."
Marshall was playing an intimidation game now, showing the poor lad who was really in charge here. "And on what subject were you ordered to keep quiet on, Inspector?"
Hopkins' eyes widened. He was caught, and he knew it. He tried, though. "About anything that might get me into trouble with you, sir." He answered both nervously and vaguely.
Marshall's eyes narrowed; Hopkins wasn't going to make it out of this one unscathed. "And what, specifically, are you keeping quiet about right now?"
Hopkins gulped. Then he reddened. His expression was one of absolute misery as he replied. "About Inspector Lestrade, sir. You said he was slow, stupid, and a liability to the Yard. With all due respect, sir, you don't know the man very well if you think that."
He paused for a breath, but now that he had started, he wasn't going to stop until he had had his say. "Just because Mr. Holmes verbally ripped him apart, or Inspector Gregson was quicker to catch on to what the killer was actually trying to do, or because he's the last person to get a report in, or because he didn't realize at once who you were, or because he's running a bit slow today, doesn't mean he's stupid."
Hopkins cringed then; whether from fear of the Superintendent or the knowledge that he had just gone against strict orders to keep his mouth shut, I didn't know.
Beside me, Gregson groaned. Then he stepped forward. "Hopkins!" He called. The younger Inspector jumped and jerked around, his face scarlet.
Gregson pretended not to notice. "Could you deliver a message to the Inspector's wife that he is alive and for the most part whole, so she doesn't decide to come looking for him? You know how she gets when he doesn't make it home more than three days in a row."
Hopkins nodded gratefully, and darted off, and the Superintendent turned to study Gregson. I wondered if the man were seeking a new target to intimidate.
But Gregson smiled. "Honestly, sometimes I wonder why a man would bother getting married at all." He said easily. "Especially with some of the men's wives. They can be enough trouble in themselves."
Marshall allowed a smile in reply. Apparently Gregson had made it on to the Superintendent's good list with his quick thinking on the case the day before. I wondered how this would affect the already troubled relationship between him and Lestrade.
"Are you married, Inspector?" Gregson shook his head. "A few of the men are, but I find it's a rare case where the woman can handle the stress of being married to this job. It causes a lot of strife. Sometimes he quits, if he can't manage a promotion, on occasion she'll leave him." He shrugged. "Besides, I have no desire to invite someone to share the dangers of my life."
The Superintendent nodded in approval. "And Inspector Lestrade, is he married?" He asked with thinly disguised disdain.
Something flashed across Gregsons face; it was gone before I could read it. "He's married, yes, with three children." Marshall frowned, and Gregson hesitated. "Sir, I know what things look like with the man, but perhaps you might give him a chance." He said uncertainly.
My jaw nearly dropped. Gregson was actually taking up for Lestrade!
Marshall regarded the Inspector severely, and Gregson dropped his eyes. "Just a thought, sir." He mumbled.
I stepped forward, then. I had waited long enough. "Gregson!" I called, demanding the attention of both men. Gregson checked his watch, and stifled an oath.
"He said he would be out in a few minutes, Holmes." Gregson replied, shifting from cowed underling to affronted Inspector in seconds. "If you don't want to wait you can always resort to your old standby of bursting right in on him."
"Mr. Holmes, I believe?" Marshall inquired with polite disinterest. I nodded.
"Superintendent." I acknowledged. "I need you as well, Gregson." The Inspector nodded.
"Certainly." He agreed, giving away that he was as eager to be free from the Superintendent as Hopkins had been. He was not enjoying the man's attention, then.
I set off down the hall, Gregson in my wake, and – of all things! - the Superintendent not far behind. I heard the Inspector stifle yet another curse as he realized it as well.
I threw open Lestrade's door and was greeted by the sight of the man leaning his head on one hand, papers slipped from the other, asleep.
"Inspector!" The Superintendent's shout caused the man to jump and automatically go for his revolver. He stopped himself, however, and leaned back into his seat with a groan.
"Sorry, Mr. Holmes." He said then, waving me to a seat. "I was just trying to get this report finished, and it's taken a little longer than I had anticipated."
"You fell asleep on the job!" Marshall barked, and Lestrade winced.
He picked up the disregarded papers, but did not reply to the Superintendent. "Would you be averse to discussing the case here?" He inquired, and I shook my head. The man was utterly exhausted if he could fall asleep while writing a report.
Gregson disappeared in search of a second chair. Lestrade looked up at the still present Marshall.
"Did you require something, Superintendent?" He asked politely. Marshall spluttered.
"What would make you think something like that?" He practically roared, and Lestrade decided to take his question literally.
"You are still here, sir."
Gregson returned then with a second chair and a mug of tea, effectively distracting the Superintendent from replyinh. He offered the mug to Lestrade, who accepted it gratefully.
"So how long has it been since you slept?" Gregson inquired conversationally, and the smaller Inspector gave him a look.
"I know you haven't been home in four days." He continued, not at all discouraged. "Which means you've been getting less sleep than you usually do. I also know that in addition to your own work, you're assisting with at least three other cases officially, and two more off the record. This does not include the case Holmes is helping us with, or the help you've been giving Hopkins in adjusting to his recent promotion. Did you sleep at all last night?"
"I was going to." The other Inspector retorted. "Some fool decided he wanted to go climbing on the roof of some hotel last night to test some theory or other."
That was me, and I found it disconcerting that the man hadn't bothered to glare at me for it, then or now.
Gregson nodded, as if expecting this. "And the last time you got more than a couple hours or so was-?"
Lestrade was doggedly continuing to fill out the papers before him as he answered. "I don't remember, Tobias." He replied wearily. "I think it was over a week ago."
"Your wife is going to have a fit."
"She already has." Lestrade glanced up, irritated. "Can we get to the business at hand? I'm a bit busy, you know."
"Why is it you're so deucedly polite to everyone but me?" Gregson complained.
"Because everyone else just gets me a cup of tea and leaves me alone."
I started to interrupt, Gregson shot me a warning glance. This was interesting enough; I would wait. "How's your arm, by the way?"
Lestrade grimaced. "I'm writing left handed, or hadn't you noticed?"
"I'd noticed. When did you learn that?"
Lestrade finished another paper and went to the next, digging one of his notebooks from his desk. "You know perfectly well I had to learn after that Crites fellow broke my arm in May of '78." He snapped.
"Crites?" Gregson asked. "Wasn't he the one-"
"That was going around 'borrowing' people's children for a few hours then dropping them off at the Yard with information as to whom they belonged, yes." Lestrade interrupted.
"Was that before or after the break-ins with that odd butter thief, Johnson? Heavens, that was an odd month!"
"That was before the break-ins, but it was Matthews, not Johnson. Johnson was the one that kept drowning his victims in milk. Lestrade corrected as he finished another paper. "If you are quite finished checking to see if I'm unfit for duty, can we get on with it?"
"Nothing wrong with your memory." Gregson replied cheerfully. "But when you start falling asleep over paperwork, even when it's something as dull as those fines, you're pushing yourself too hard, Giles."
"He nearly fell off the roof last night, too." I offered. The man did look absolutely exhausted. "And then he swore at me when I had to catch him by his right wrist to keep him from dropping to the street below. Not very professional, you know, Lestrade."
Hopkins peeked in. "I met your wife halfway, Inspector." He said meekly. "She says you'd better be home tonight, or she's going to have a talk with the new-" He broke off as he caught sight of the Superintendent and flushed, but turned back to Lestrade. "She also sent some lunch and said you'd better eat it this time." He offered the package and started to dart off.
"Just a minute." Gregson called, and Hopkins froze. "You can read Lestrade's writing, right? His shorthand, I mean." Hopkins nodded. "Well, if you aren't too busy, would you mind helping him with some of his reports? It always takes him forever when he's writing left handed."
Lestrade colored, and Hopkins nodded. "Certainly. Why didn't you tell me you were behind, Inspector?" Then he frowned. "Of course, it only makes sense, now that I think about it. What was that you were saying about not letting oneself get overworked yesterday?" When Lestrade didn't bother to retort, Hopkins added, "I'll be free around lunch." Then he ducked out the door quickly to avoid being called back.
Lestrade did look up, then, as he shuffled another paper. The look he gave Gregson was downright evil.
"All right, enough chatter." The Inspector grumbled, and Lestrade sighed. "Let's get to work. Are you going to be doing two things at once through the whole thing?" He asked.
"If you don't mind." Lestrade replied promptly. "If you will excuse us, Superintendent."
The forgotten Superintendent stared at Lestrade for a few seconds. Then he blinked, shook his head, and departed, a thoughtful look on his face.
Disclaimer: Sherlock Holmes does not belong to me.