Ooooh, my fifth chapter! How exciting!
The idea for this instalment came from a comment left by Demosthenes23 for Lessons Learned. It made me realize that, so far, I haven't really featured Brackenreid in this series. That's a shame, because he's just as wonderful a character as William and George.
It also made me wonder how the relationship we normally see between them might be reversed, where it's Murdoch who learns a valuable lesson from his Inspector. So with the end of Convalescence as its setting, here are my thoughts on how Murdoch learns that his hopes for George's future might need a bit of a re-think.
I hope you enjoy it. And thanks again to Demosthenes for the inspiration!
Partners In Crime – Chapter Five
An Advancement Of Learning
Politely declining Brackenreid's offer of a 'medicinal tonic', William eased himself carefully onto the couch in the Inspector's office. He'd assured Julia that he was fit to return to light duties, but – well, right now he wasn't so sure. Well meaning hands had patted his back a little too enthusiastically, and as for George - well, if not for his Inspector's intervention, he'd have probably re-cracked his still healing ribs. So this chance to find a more restful sanctuary in Brackenreid's office was one that he'd gladly taken.
Resting his injured leg on a courteously provided chair, he then settled into the couch's comfort with a grateful sigh, smiling his thanks for the cup of tea that Brackenreid had found for him, instead of that ever present Scotch. After such an eventful week, and six inescapable days of Mrs Kitchen's cooking, it felt good to be back.
Sipping his tea, he glanced fondly around him, at the familiar sight of station four at work, and play. Much of that frivolity came from George, of course, who'd acquired a new, strikingly exotic pet. As he'd explained with that irrepressible enthusiasm, Mr Struthers and 'Sherlock' just hadn't got on. Every time the eccentric explorer spoke, he'd received a tirade of squawking French insults. And since he'd helped his protégé to solve his first case, the solution had been elementarily simple.
Perched on the back of George's chair, Sherlock had taken his place as their latest, if rather unlikely, crimefighting asset – on their Inspector's gruff provision that he 'teach that bloody bird the Queen's bloody English.'
Maybe that was what George and Henry were laughing about, William thought through another indulgent smile. After all, the thought of a French speaking parrot taking on a Newfoundland accent was rather amusing. Even Brackenreid was smiling at their light-hearted antics, clearly delighted that George had repaid his faith in him, and solved the case. But, of course, he couldn't pay his bug-a-lugs a compliment without taking a teasing shot at him first.
"That bird's going to be the most pampered bloody parrot in history," he muttered, rolling his eyes as they watched George feed his new pet with another piece of his sandwich.
Even as he nodded, though, he knew Murdoch wasn't buying it for a moment. He knew this gruff bluntness came from a deep affection for the young constable, who was such an irrepressible handful. So, as always, this apparent disapproval was completely betrayed by the pride that now filled his next words. A true compliment, in every sense.
"I had to nudge him a bit, keep his focus and confidence on track, but… yes, he did a grand job for you, me old mucker. Kept at it, until he had it cracked."
"Where George is concerned, sir, I'd expect nothing less," William replied just as proudly, the achievement of his young protégé solving his first case raising another point, that had always privately niggled him. "I know I'll never change the constabulary's stance, sir, but… well, is there any possible way…?"
"…for him to make detective without its formal requirements?" Brackenreid finished for him, shaking his head, in his own frustration for the bureaucratic idiocy that he was forced to uphold. "All the time we have tossers like Stockton in charge, I think we both know the answer to that."
Wincing slightly at this less than flattering description of their senior officer, William nodded. Such narrow mindedness infuriated him too, and he was moved by more than a friend's natural loyalty to protest against it.
"If he just had the chance, sir, with the right encouragement, he'd make an excellent detective."
Just a few years ago, Brackenreid would have treated that thought with the same scornful derision as his peers. Crackernut Crabtree, making detective? Aside from his lack of education, and clownish humour, he'd have found it ludicrous. Unthinkable. But working under what he dryly called the Murdoch Effect had slowly, but surely, changed his mind.
Under his mentor's patient, steadying guidance, young Crabtree wasn't just living his personal dream. He was channelling that once clumsy curiosity into a real, and genuine, talent for solving crimes. Not just that, he worked bloody hard, he could be dead serious when he had to be, and could ferret out vital clues like a human bloodhound. So yes, he could understand Murdoch's point, and share his hopes for a more deserving future.
The more he thought about it, though, the more it occurred to him that, maybe, they'd got it wrong. Young bug-a-lugs was doing just fine where he was, yet Murdoch didn't seem to understand that. Watching him, watching George, a wry smile then tugged at his mouth. Well, wasn't this a turn up for the books? He'd get to be the voice of logic for a change, and put the great Murdoch on the right track. That alone merited another hit of finest Scotch, before he made his point.
"If you really want what's best for him, me old mucker, you'll keep things exactly as they are."
Oh, this was a turn up for the books alright. For once, the city's greatest detective was staring at him, totally stumped. Still cherishing this priceless moment, Brackenreid grinned while giving him another, helpful nudge towards the light.
"Suppose he did make the grade, and made detective… where do you think he'd go from there?"
With a clearer point to focus on, William considered it for a few moments, then shrugged at its most obvious solution.
"Well, as he gained experience, I'd imagine he'd be assigned to another station," he said at last, frowning at the thought of losing his irreplaceable protégé, and frowning even more when Brackenreid rolled his eyes.
"You know, for such a genius, Murdoch, you can be bloody dense sometimes."
Taking this insult with the tolerance of much experience, William returned it, in equally dry humoured kind.
"So I've been told, sir."
Rolling his eyes again, Brackenreid then grinned as he watched George settle down to his latest paperwork. The lad drove him spare sometimes, but every day, every night, he earned his salary. And when he decided playtime was over, he got his head down, and kept it there. He had to admire him for that.
"He'd be stuck in the same, blinkered dark ages that you're trying to bring him out of," he went on, switching his attention back to William, to complete the point that his detective still hadn't quite grasped. "Look, I don't need to tell you, Murdoch… most of what you tell me goes way over my head."
For 'most', of course, he really meant 'all'. Luckily, Murdoch was too much the gentleman to say so. Instead, he listened in startled gratitude to the encouragement that followed, with such genuine pride.
"But you and Crabtree, Murdoch… you understand it. You both see that times are changing, and this constabulary needs to change with them. So stick at it, me old mucker. You teach young bug-a-lugs everything you can. Because when it comes to policing, you're its future."
Smiling back at him, William now nodded with the fresh hope and purpose of the newly enlightened. If his Inspector was right, if he really could lead the way in forensic science, then he'd gladly do so – happy in the knowledge that, wherever those advances led him, his faithful protégé would surely follow.