"I heard you were being incompetent again." Gregson greeted me cheerfully. I didn't bother answering as I settled in and signaled for a drink. Today had not been a fun day.
"Superintendent Marshall is really worried this case." Bradstreet explained for Hopkins' benefit.
"I saw the place. Holmes would have complained that you've thoroughly trampled the crime scene." Gregson pointed smugly.
"Mr. Holmes wouldn't come." I retorted.
"Did you question the maid about her fiancé?" Bradstreet offered helpfully. "Seems kind of suspicious to me, him disappearing so soon after the man's death."
"I doubt she would have had anything useful to say on the matter." I grumbled, trying to sound dismissive as I did so.
"But you had a description of one of the murderers involved." Hopkins persisted.
"A vague description, as Mr. Holmes was quick to point out." I countered.
"You've botched this one up royally, Lestrade." Gregson informed me a little too pleasantly. "Every last footprint obliterated, the maid's gone, already found a new man, and they've taken off, and all you have left to work with is a 'vague' description of one of the men involved. One might almost think you were trying to mess this up."
I glared at the man. "We are talking about Mileverton here, in case you've forgotten." I reminded them. "Don't act as if we all weren't secretly relieved to know the man was no longer in business." I added irritably.
"Well, but still, the law is the law-"
I cut Hopkins off. "I really don't want to talk about the bloody Milverton case." I snapped. I saw the exchanged glances; yes, I was touchy tonight.
I wasn't doing my job. A man had been murdered, and I knew exactly who had been there that night.
I knew those two sets of footprints.
I knew who the maid's fiancé had been.
I knew who the gardener had nearly apprehended as he made his escape over that wall.
As an Inspector of Scotland Yard, my duty required me to arrest the men responsible.
As a man, all I could do was commend them.
Very rarely were my conscience and my sense of duty at war with each other. The conflict always left a bitter taste in my mouth.
My conscience had won this match; I wasn't about to display any sort of competency where this case was concerned. It could just stay unsolved, and everyone could think whatever they wanted to about me and my abilities.
Milverton had been a monster, and I knew full well I hadn't been the only person at the Yard less than displeased by the news that he had been murdered. Try as we might, we had never been able to touch him; his murderers had managed to stop him from harming anyone else, something we at the Yard would never have been capable of doing.
I doubted very much that anyone would ever believe me, anyway.
Disclaimer: Sherlock Holmes and the boys do not belong to me.