Coffee Break Read – The Hemmings Case

“What’ll it be? Usual, I presume?”
“No, give me a glass of scotch,” Davis said, watching as the barman pulled his face into a disapproving expression.
“A glass of scotch? At half-past four? Bit much compared to your usual in’it?”
“I thought it was your job to pour drinks— not pester paying customers.”
“Right you are.”
Davis turned his attention to the joyful patrons all around the pub. A young couple were seated at the table he and Williams had occupied on the day they became partners. He could almost see apparitions of them toasting to a long and fruitful working relationship in his mind’s eye. It felt like it could have been yesterday. Where had the time gone? Had five years really passed since that day? He thought about all of Williams’ plans for the future, the hopes and dreams he had for himself and his family and the fact that he would never have a chance to fulfill them. It wasn’t fair.
“Where’s the bloke oo always comes in with ya?” the barkeep asked as he set Davis’ glass of scotch on the counter. “Will you be ordering for ‘im? Is ‘e runnin’ a bit late?”
It took every ounce of willpower Davis possessed not to lash out at the man. He clearly had no idea what had happened to Evan. How could he know? Davis bit his lip and settled for saying, “He won’t be here.”
“Bit odd, that . . . in’it?” he trudged on. “’ E always comes round with you for a pint. Has been for the last five year—” “He’s dead!” Davis burst out. He drained his scotch in one gulp and slammed the glass on the bar. “Why don’t you learn how to keep your bloody gob shut!” Without another glance at the man, he threw a crumpled up five pound note next to the empty glass and left.
The rain had worsened during the short time he was in the pub. It was now lashing the ground as if it had a score to settle. Cursing himself for leaving his umbrella in the car, Davis ran out to the car park and hurried into his car. He started the engine and turned on the defroster.
As he sat, waiting for his windscreen to clear up, his mind spun with painful questions and regretful thoughts. He couldn’t shake an overwhelming feeling of guilt about the circumstances of his sergeant’s death. It had been his job as Williams’ superior, and more importantly as his friend, to be on the same wavelength; to know if there was an issue that needed attention. Why hadn’t he been more intuitive? Why hadn’t he seen the signs? His stirring thoughts fell to a question that had been haunting him since the day Williams died. And, although he had already asked himself numerous times, he asked again. Why didn’t I recognize that Williams would never be able to leave the Hemmings case alone?
It wasn’t in the sergeant’s DNA to leave a case unsolved. For him it was about knowing the truth— getting to the bottom of things. It was part of what made him such a good detective. But when Williams’ mate, Jason Hemmings, was found slain, bearing what appeared to be the kind of wounds a large cat would inflict, Davis should have known his partner would never rest until the case had been solved.
It wasn’t as if Davis hadn’t wanted to continue investigating, but he had his orders from the chief superintendent to close the case after the long and fruitless investigation started running over its designated budget. Williams insisted that they were on the verge of a breakthrough and tried his damnedest to talk Davis into continuing their investigation under the radar of New Scotland Yard. But Davis was already in hot water with the chief super at the time and refused. What he wouldn’t give now to go back and do things differently. If he’d had his sergeant’s back, he might have been able to save him.
“How did I not realize that he was still working the case?” Davis erupted, slamming his palms against the steering wheel.Tormented thoughts of remorse and self-scrutiny continued to plague him as he made the short trip from the pub to Loates Lane and parked in one of the available spaces near his flat. He took a deep breath before getting out of the car, hoping to calm himself— a method he found to be helpful in most cases. Unfortunately, this wasn’t one of them.
He entered the block of flats, climbed a set of stairs to the second floor and walked down the hall until he came to his front door. He unlocked it and entered a spacious two bedroom flat. The front room was well furnished, but he hadn’t cleaned in ages. Piles of paper littered the tea table that stood between a setting of two leather couches with matching armchair, and an array of dirty dishes inhabited most of the other flat surfaces around the room.
Davis threw his keys on the table and went to the gas cooker in the kitchen, which adjoined to the front room in his flat’s open floor plan. He ignited the hob that lived under his resident kettle, not bothering to check how much water remained within the tarnished old pot. After a glance in the fridge, which revealed nothing but leftover Chinese food from the previous week and a few Newcastle Brown Ales, he left the kitchen and sat down in his armchair.
For the umpteenth time, he began musing over the plethora of questions his mind had conjured the day Williams was found mauled to death in a North London alley, his injuries identical to those of his mate’s. It couldn’t be a coincidence that he’d been killed in the same fashion. Whoever, or whatever, killed Williams’ mate also killed Williams, and the reason was obvious: Williams had got too close to discovering the truth.

From Hunting Darkness by Ian Bristow

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