It was not the first time Constable Clarke had been shouted at for having done something wrong. Nor was it the first time, sad to say, that he had been blamed for something that had happened before he arrived on the scene. It was not even the first time he had had some young man half his age question whether or not he was fit for the constabulary.
These things were an occupational hazard in the force, and if nothing else, one could take comfort in the fact that such remonstrations were almost always directed at the group. Every constable present was included in the displeasure of whatever higher up, inspector, or superintendent was addressing them. Only rarely was a constable ever singled out, and that usually only in cases of extreme incompetence on the part of said constable or of a particularly foul mood on the part of the involved superior.
It was, however, his first day with Scotland Yard, and as such was not the best day to come running at the sound of a whistle only to arrive too late to actually do anything, but just in time to be included in what looked to be a plains-clothes man's ire. Clarke guessed that the man was likely an inspector, and considering his current temperament and the silent fear the other constables seemed to have for him, transferring to the Yard suddenly seemed like less of a bright idea than he had originally thought.
"Should I even ask who was daft enough to let the cabbie go home after he hit the man without at least getting his name first?" The Inspector demanded. Clarke recognized the signs; this Inspector was one step away from the bellow that it seemed all constables who wanted to one day become inspectors had to learn before they could be promoted.
Clarke realized, as the inspector's gaze fell on him, that he was still panting for breath while the other constables present scarcely dared to breathe. He also belatedly realized he was the only one still looking his superior in the eye rather than staring fixedly at the ground.
Clarke was suddenly aware that this inspector was in a spectacularly foul mood today, and that he was about to be singled out.
The man that came to stand before him was rather shorter than most, and his carriage suggested that he was fully aware of as much and if challenged would still get the better of you. He was young, considerably younger that Clarke himself, though the beard did help make him look a bit older. He was impeccably dressed; there was not a spot of dirt or a wrinkle to be seen on his apparel.
He was also tired, and irritated, and close to losing his temper. Dark circles caused the inspector's eyes to look even darker than they were, and the man's jaw stayed clenched when he was not speaking.
Clarke waited for the inspector to finish his own study of the man he was facing, and wondered what exactly he made of the out-of-breath, older-than-average constable in front of him.
Neither examination had taken very long, perhaps a second or two. "Take a good look around, Constable." The inspector growled. "Does this look acceptable to you?"
Clarke did not bother looking around. He had seen it all upon his arrival. "No, sir." He managed to answer without gasping too obviously.
"It's a bloody mess!" The inspector bellowed. Clarke had somehow inadvertently pushed him over the edge. "Here we have a man dead, run over by a carriage, and we don't even know who he is or who ran him over! Did he run out in front of the cab? Was it the driver's fault? There's no way of knowing now!"
Clarke met the inspector's glare, but kept silent. If he agreed with the man, he would demand to know why, if they were all in agreement with him, the sight was such a disaster. There was no reason to disagree-the inspector was right.
The inspector was apparently waiting for something, though, but Clarke was certainly not about to apologize for something he had not actually been involved in. He briefly considered apologizing for not getting here sooner, but his reputation for being 'cheeky' had already preceded him and he had no desire to help confirm such a charge. That aside, the inspector did not look as if he were in the mood to appreciate such an apology.
The inspector frowned at Clarke. "You're the rookie constable." He realized. The other constables recognized that they had been dismissed, after a fashion, and set about trying to salvage the situation while thanking God under their breath that Clarke had distracted the irate inspector.
"Transfer, sir." Clarke corrected. "I'm not new to the position, just the Yard." It was a distinction that was too easily ignored for him to just let it go, even if the man he was correcting were metaphorically after blood now.
"You're new to us," the inspector agreed, "that makes you the rookie. We do things our way at the Yard." The younger man was still frowning at him. "What's your name, Constable?"
"Clarke, sir." Clarke replied. "My friends call me Clarkie."
An eyebrow went up. "And do you imagine we are going to become friends, Constable Clarke?"
Clarke shrugged. "I'm no fortune teller, sir," he replied, noting that the inspector's mood seemed to have lightened the tiniest bit, "but stranger things have happened."
The inspector did not acknowledge that. "Is there a reason you're so out of breath?" He inquired. "Don't tell me you were chasing after the cab after the others let him leave."
"No, sir." Clarke shook his head. "I got here half a second before you did." The inspector waited for him to continue, so he did. "I heard the whistles blasting over on Fleet Street, but didn't get here in time to do much more than stand around and look useless."
This elicited another frown from the inspector. "You came over here from Fleet Street?" He demanded, skeptical.
Clarke shrugged. "From the way the alarm was sounding I thought they could use the help." He admitted. He had originally expected something more serious than a hit and run. The reality had been bad enough, but he had still been grateful that it had not turned out to be worse.
"There's little you can do now." The inspector said, apparently satisfied by the given explanation. "Get back over to Fleet Street, and try not to get yourself into too much trouble on your first day."
"Yes, sir, inspector…" Clarke trailed off; he probably should have known who this was, but as it was he had absolutely no idea.
"Lestrade." The inspector replied absently, his attention distracted by the pale constable who was now lurching away from the cabbie's victim. "Have you dealt with any dead bodies before, constable?" He asked Clarke, before shouting wearily at the ill constable, "If you're going to be sick, then get away from the body, Simmons!"
"Yes, sir." Clarke replied, when the inspector looked his way again. "I've had dealings with a few."
Inspector Lestrade nodded. "Examine the body before you go. I want a detailed report on your findings before you go home."
"My shift just started, inspector." Clarke warned the man. "I don't get off until seven."
"I'll still be there, Constable." Lestrade assured him. "You'd better get over there before Simmons vomits all over the corpse." The inspector shook his head. "Boy never could stand the sight of blood." He muttered as he turned and left the constable standing there.
Clarke examined the body before heading back to Fleet Street. He returned to the Yard at the end of his shift and filled out a report. He took it to Inspector Lestrade's office and found the inspector still there as he had said he would be, and stood in front of the man's desk while he read the report from beginning to end.
"I talked to the superintendent." Lestrade said when he had finished reading. "You'll be reporting for duty tomorrow morning instead of tomorrow afternoon. You will also be reporting to me. Good evening."
"Good evening, sir." Clarke replied, trying to figure out if this turn of events were a good thing or not. At this point, taking into account what little he knew of the inspector, it could be either.
Disclaimer: Sherlock Holmes and the boys at Scotland Yard do not belong to me.