Author's note: And here is where it ends. I honestly wasn't expecting it, I meant to go on a bit longer, but I started on this chapter and suddenly everything seemed to just lay itself out in front of me, and I knew it had to happen this way. Thanks for reading. Thanks for reviewing. I hope you enjoyed the trip.
"Worried about Lestrade? Or worried that you won't be able to deliver him to your friend Craddock?" West whispered in Gregson's ear as he put an arm around his shoulder and steered him down toward his office. Gregson could feel his heart racing.
"I don't want Lestrade dead." He growled at the man. He was in trouble, but he suddenly realized that he would rather die than cower in front of this man and beg and plead his case. If West had already made up his mind,
Gregson was not going to be able to dissuade him. "Lestrade insists that he can trust you." West said softly. "Does he know you're hanging out with Craddock?"
"He put me up to it." Gregson willed his voice not to quiver. He somehow turned to meet West face to face. He stared into the older man's eyes. "My conscience is clear. You can kill me or not, but I am not the enemy."
"He's on our side, West." Lestrade's voice cut through the tension. "He's been running with Craddock for a couple weeks now on my orders."
West was silent, studying Gregson. The next few quiet minutes were nearly unbearable, and Gregson found himself resisting the urge to fidget.
Finally the man removed his arm from Gregson's shoulder. "Mess up," he warned Gregson with a hiss, "and I'll slice you into pieces and send you back to Lestrade in a box. Got that?" West shifted his attention to Lestrade. Gregson turned as well, and wondered what Lestrade had said to get his sister to let him out of the house this morning. His arm was in a sling; he certainly could not use it. He was still far to pale and his words lacked their usual conviction.
Smith, Adams, and Johnson were with him.
"We need to talk." Lestrade said.
Gregson scowled. They were raiding a warehouse down by the river that was supposed to be receiving a shipment tonight. Smith, Johnson, and Lestrade were all injured and should not have been back on duty yet, but they needed people they could trust and that list was rather short.
Not that any of the injured would likely agree to stay home anyway. Slave trading left a bad taste in even West's mouth. The man was as angry tonight as Gregson had ever seen him.
Gregson was with Johnson, waiting. The two crouched near each other, silent in the darkness. Waiting. Watching.
All was dark. It was too quiet. The night was too still, too calm.
Gregson had a bad feeling about this.
"Let's go." Johnson said, and they moved forward. They stepped through the back door into the warehouse. Everything exploded into chaos.
"Look out!" Johnson shoved him, hard, and he went down. He was up again in a second, but he and Johnson were vastly outnumbered.
They could not see. All about them shouts rang out in the darkness. Gregson suddenly found himself fight for his life and wondering if it were a fight he could win.
He was not at all confident that it was.
"It was a trap." Adams spat out the words as West bent over to examine the other Inspector's knee.
Smith was dead.
Lestrade's arm was bleeding again. That was one of the lesser concerns at the moment.
"Crane." West snarled. Lestrade actually sighed.
"We have no proof." He ground out.
"He was in the hall." West snapped.
"Coincidence." Lestrade argued. "Just knowing he's guilty isn't enough."
Johnson was fading fast. Gregson made his decion. "I'm going for a doctor." His eyes locked with Lestrade's . "You've already met him."
Lestrade nodded, and Gregson climbed wearily to his feet.
Adams looked over at Johnson. He refused to look at Smith. "Hurry." He said.
Gregson did not have to be told twice.
It took Gregson far longer than he would have liked to track Dr. Sanderson to the restaurant where he and several of his colleagues were having dinner.
It was not the sort of place Gregson would ever visit unless his job required it, and he hoped it never would. He felt out of place as he found a waiter and tried to convince him to grant him access.
A five minute arguement that Gregson did not have time for later, the stuck up waiter finally left to get whoever was in charge.
This man turned out to be even worse than the waiter. Gregson finally lost his temper when the man threatened to send for the police.
"I am the police, you sodding git!" Gregson roared, and everything went absolutely still. He glared down at the dark haired, arrogant man before him. "I am Inspector Gregson of Scotland Yard, and you can let me pass or I'll haul both you and your little friend down for a visit."
Where politeness had failed the threat worked, and Gregson was soon making his way across the still silent room, his eyes searching desperately for his quarry.
Surprise registered on Dr. Sanderson's face as he recognized Gregson, and the young man was up in an instant. "What happened? Are you all right?" He asked.
Gregson shook his head. "I'm sorry to interrupt your dinner, doctor, but it's an emergency. We've already lost one man and we may lose more if they don't get help soon."
"Show me." Gregson was pleasantly surprised when Sanderson followed him without a backward glance at the men he had left behind.
Gregson felt the hair on the back of his neck prickle as he entered Scotland Yard the following morning. There was something downright terrifying about knowing that the only person present today that he could trust was West.
Smith was dead. Johnson might be. They would have to wait and see. Adams would never walk again without assistance. Lestrade was lucky not to be dead. West should not have been here either.
Gregson had gotten off easy.
He had not escaped unscathed. He was therefore not really in any condition to defend himself when he walked into his office and was promptly slammed up against the wall beside his door by Craddock.
"You're a liability." Craddock sneered. "You've been pretty useless so far. Now you will be good for something. Lestrade's lost almost everyone around him. He's vulnerable. Weak. You're the last ally he thinks he has. Imagine what it will do to him when he finds you dead and learns that you were caught running errands for me."
Gregson punched the man in the face. It was not as satisfying as he had thought it would be, possibly because Craddock responded by first throwing him at his desk and then slamming his head into it.
He shouted for help and remembered that Lestrade's sister had promised he would not get out of bed today. "Go ahead." Craddock taunted, delivering a solid blow to his side. "No one's here to save you." He laughed. "You were running an errand for me. Lacey's been suspicious; he followed you. He found out what you were carrying and when he confronted you in your office, you tried to kill him. He had no choice but to defend himself."
Craddock shoved Gregson against the wall and stepped back. Gregson's mouth went dry as the man drew a revolver and took aim.
He was going to die.
The shot fired; Gregson's eyes involuntary closed and he flinched. A second later they flew open. Craddock stared at him, his eyes wide and his mouth slightly open.
Then he fell.
West was leaning in the doorway, a gun that Gregson had not even known he owned in his right hand. He looked Gregson up and down before speaking. "Can't have Lestrade losing what little faith in people he has left." The man grumbled. "Don't make me regret this."
And he was gone, leaving Gregson to deal with the dead man in his office.
"Johnson is going to make it." Gregson said, picking up his glass but not taking a drink. "He won't be able to rejoin the force."
"Neither will Adams." Lestrade said flatly.
Neither of them mentioned Smith.
"You were lucky." Lestrade said a minute later. "West could have simply waited for Craddock to finish with you. Actual murder is more convincing than attempted murder."
Gregson knew that. He hated knowing it. He hated not being able to trust the men he worked with. He hated not knowing who was an enemy and who was an ally.
"Crane put in for a transfer." Lestrade continued. "He's out of our hair."
Gregson sighed. "Is it ever going to get any better?" He asked, not at all amused by the realization that out of all the people he worked with, the only one he could really trust was a man he did not like.
Lestrade was quiet for a long while. "Doesn't matter." He finally said. "Just because we can't fix the world doesn't mean we don't have to try."
They fell silent again, each lost in their own thoughts. "We're getting a new man next week." Lestrade said. "Inspector. Freshly promoted. He's inexperienced, but he's clean."
"What's his name?" Gregson asked. "Athelney Jones." Lestrade said.
"Athelney?" Gregson repeated. "Odd name."
Lestrade rolled his eyes. "I just hope he's up to it."
Gregson could agree with that sentiment, at least.