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Making the Call

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About a year before Morse died, he and Lewis spent an evening over a bottle of Glenfiddich. Lewis realized it was probably a bad idea as signs of Morse’s failing health had become apparent. But when Morse had asked him to stop by, Lewis said yes. With Lewis hopeful of promotion and Morse having retirement pushed on him, things were changing in both of their lives. It seemed like an appropriate time to commemorate their partnership.

So, they sat on Morse’s sofa, the room in shadows as the sun set. They started out with funny stories, mostly Morse’s tales of an odd period in the 1960s when he and Strange had been roommates. “The man played the trombone every night. It sounded like a moose in heat. I don’t know how I survived.”

As the level of scotch went down in the bottle, their talk had switched to weightier subjects that would never have come up if they hadn’t been pretty drunk and both a bit apprehensive about the future. Looking back, that conversation seemed trapped in amber, or maybe just submerged in scotch.

Robbie remembered something Morse said that night when the talk had gotten a bit maudlin. The subject had turned to things that had really terrified them. Lewis was sure Morse would say his scariest thing was a particularly gruesome murder scene, but he was surprised when Morse said that the most frightening thing he could imagine was having to call Val.

“I was lucky,” he’d said. “The worst thing I ever had to tell her was that you’d been clouted on that anvil-like skull.”

But then, Morse finished his glass of scotch and continued. “That was all I could think off as I drove to Wytham Woods that day. I was so afraid I was too late. How could I stand on your doorstep and tell your wife you’d been killed? How could I survive the look in her eyes? When I told Karen Anderson to kill me, I consoled myself that at least I wouldn’t have to deliver that news.”

It’s not surprising that Lewis’ mind had chosen that moment, when he was looking down at an unconscious Hathaway, to replay that conversation. “Damn it,” he muttered as he walked down the stairs and placed two fingers against his sergeant’s throat. Relief flooded through Lewis as he felt the strong pulse.

They’d gone to the council planning office to arrest Gerald Dawkins for taking kickbacks as part of a development scheme. They’d hoped to put pressure on him to testify against one of the other conspirators for a related murder. He and Hathaway and two PCs had climbed the stairs to the second floor as the elevator was out of service. Unfortunately, Dawkins panicked when they read him the boilerplate language about his rights and he made for the door.

James was the fastest of them, brushing past the PCs and catching up to Dawkins at the top of the staircase. Dawkins stumbled at the top of the stairs and Hathaway had reached out to steady him and pull him from the brink. But like a drowning person dragging his rescuer under water, Dawkins latched onto the sergeant and they pitched down the stairs.

Hathaway had gone down like a rubber ball, smashing into the wall hard and bouncing down the stairs to come to a stop on the landing. Dawkins continued down past the landing to end up at the base of the stairs.

While Dawkins was screaming in pain, Hathaway was silent, sprawled like a child’s toy, his head resting on the step. James’ left hand looked wrong somehow, the wrist and hand starting to swell.

“Call for two ambulances!” Lewis shouted to the PCs. Lewis was tempted to fold his jacket and put it under James’ head, but he knew it was better not to move him. Hathaway could have a spinal injury.

“James! Come on, lad. Come on, you’ve got a lot to wake up for.” And besides, Lewis thought, I don’t want to have to make that call.

As if on cue, Hathaway’s eyes opened, though a bit unevenly and then slipped shut. Dawkins continued shrieking. In the distance, Lewis heard sirens. “Make him shut up,” Hathaway mumbled, cracking his eyes open again.

Hathaway was in and out of consciousness, but Lewis had begun to feel more positive. One set of medics came up the steps to tend to James, while another took care of Dawkins at the base of the stairs. Lewis moved up several steps so he could be out of the way but still keep an eye on his sergeant.

As the medics worked on him, rolling him onto a backboard, starting an IV and immobilizing his damaged hand James woke up enough to answer their questions. He was groaning in pain, but, thank God, awake and speaking clearly.

Finally, the medics bundled James and Dawkins into separate ambulances and left for the John Radcliff. Lewis followed in his car, grateful for a few minutes to pull himself together. They got to A&E and he stayed in the examination room with James.

When the nurse tried to cut his suit jacket off, Hathaway insisted he would get it off over his damaged hand. He managed it, but not without a good deal of swearing. By the time he’d been wrestled out of his shirt, most of the color had gone from his face. Before the nurse helped James into a hospital gown, Lewis noted a number of blossoming bruises on his shoulders and back.

Lewis tried to keep James’ mind off his misery.

“Did I ever tell you about the time I had two concussions in as many weeks? Ironically, those were the only two times I got hurt on duty when I worked for Morse. It was back in the late ‘80s, when they gave you a bottle of painkillers and turned you loose. After the first concussion, Morse had me playing cricket the next day.”

“I can’t tell if it’s the effects of my own concussion, sir, but I thought you said Morse made you play cricket.”

“You heard right. It was for an undercover case. Remind me to tell you about it someday.”

A teenager in a white coat entered the room and introduced himself as Dr. Karam. He examined Hathaway, diagnosing concussion as well as a bad sprain of the wrist and likely broken bones in his hand.

“I’m going to send you for x-rays before we finalize treatment. And I want an orthopedist to see your hand,” the doctor said as he typed orders into a laptop. “We’ll get you something for the pain when we have a better idea what’s going on with your head.” The bloke didn’t look old enough to shave.

An aide wheeled James down to the radiology department for x-rays and Lewis thought about the phone call he needed to make. Hathaway had managed to keep just this side of serious injury up to now. Oh he’d had his bumps and bruises, not to mention getting winged by a bullet. And of course, smoke inhalation and being drugged. But nothing that required digging out the lad’s next of kin. Even this was turning out to be relatively minor.

But now, Hathaway had someone that needed to be notified. Giulia Ferrante, his...well, Lewis had no idea how to categorize her. Girlfriend? That wasn’t right. Mother-to-be of his child? Accurate enough. Baby mama? Also accurate, though that made Hathaway sound like a hip hop artist.

Lewis decided he would put off the call until he had more information to tell Lia. She was greatly pregnant, weeks away from delivery really, and Hathaway had moved into her house for the time being. Lewis found the hospital cafe and had a cup of coffee while he called Laura and filled her in. He returned to the exam room just as Hathaway’s gurney was pushed back. James was practically shaking with pain.

“I have ligament damage,” he said. “We stopped off in the ortho department, where I saw the ‘wrist guy’ who isn’t sure if I’ll need surgery down the line.” His hand was now wrapped in a wrist brace, canvas straps holding it in place. Several of his fingers were plastered together.

“I’m going to call Lia,” Robbie said. Hathaway shook his head and then moaned as the pain of the movement hit him. “I have to let her know what happened, you dolt.”

“I don’t want to worry her. The doctor said she could go into labor any time now.”

“That doesn’t mean she will if she gets a phone call, you know. Just means her body is ready.”

“I know what it means,” Hathaway’s voice was loud enough to attract a glance from a passing nurse. “Sorry. I’m feeling a bit ragged. Please, just wait a little longer.”

They waited a little longer, with James obviously in enough pain to hitch his breath every few minutes. Finally, the teenager returned along with a nurse who looked old enough to be his mum.

“Well Mr. Hathaway, you definitely are concussed and we will be admitting you at least for tonight. Unconsciousness for any length of time is extremely concerning, and you were out for over five minutes.”

“More like ten, all together,” Robbie offered. Hathaway huffed and shot him a look.

“Thank you,” the doctor said. “We’re going to give you something now for the pain.” The nurse stepped forward to prepare the dose and inject it into the IV catheter. “We’ll give that a few minutes to work and then get you into a ward.”

When James had been installed in a bed, Robbie took his phone out. “Wait, sir. Lia’s doctor said no more driving. I have a feeling she won’t agree to stay home, so you’ll need to send someone to pick her up.”

“Good to know,” Robbie said, dialing the number as James recited it.

“Hi Lia, it’s Robbie Lewis.”