- Sergeant Goodfellow
He didn’t mean to find out. And actually, at first, he doesn’t even think much of it. Only the Inspector is needed down at the station and when Goodfellow called the cottage, there wasn’t an answer. So he takes it upon himself to go to the police cottage and tell the Inspector himself.
Music flutters through the open window and into the evening air, but the curtains are closed and he can’t see inside. He knocks on the front door, waits in the dim evening light. It’s some moments before Sullivan answers, so much so that Goodfellow’s in the midst of knocking again when the door flies open.
“Inspector.” Goodfellow greets. The man looks a little nervous, unprepared, caught off guard.
“What is it, Sergeant, it’s my night off.” He says. It strikes Goodfellow, then, that maybe he had some kind of date planned.
“I know, sir,” Goodfellow presses, “But it’s important, down at the station, there’s-”
He trails off when he catches movement over Sullivan’s shoulder, and he forgets what he was going to say because Sidney Carter appears in the doorway off to the right, and he leans against the frame. He’d cut the music off, because the house falls quiet. Sullivan notices the sergeants eye line and turns around.
“I have to go to the station, Carter.” The Inspector explains, suddenly a little tense.
“Oh.” Sid pushed himself from the door frame, “I’ll stay here and um, fix that kitchen tap of yours.”
“My kitch- right, yes, thank you, Mr Carter.” Sullivan says, and takes his hat from the stand. “I’ll see you later, don’t break anything.” He adds, nodding at Sid before hurriedly closing the door.
They hurry down the lane, Sullivan’s chosen pace not the Sergeant’s, “Plumbing troubles, Sir? I’m not sure Sidney will do the best job-”
“I know, well, he offered.” Sullivan brushes off. It’s clear he doesn’t want to talk about it. Goodfellow doesn’t really get why, but he brushes it off.
He doesn’t dwell on it for some days. Even when he watches in bemusement one afternoon when Sid leaves his office following fond laughter and a gentle “I’ll see you later” . Even when he’d never seen Sidney smile so widely.
It’s more of a wonder, however, when Sullivan spends all day swanning in and out of Sid’s holding cell, while Daniel Whittaker takes over the office space. Goodfellow doesn’t understand what has Sullivan so relaxed, can’t quite grasp the gentle mutterings drifting through the walls, is completely miffed at the “I’m making Carter some tea, Sergeant, would you care for a cup?” every few hours.
“I think you and Mr Carter are becoming quite unlikely friends, Sir.” Goodfellow observes when he gratefully takes a cup from Sullivan’s hands.
Sullivan tenses a little, which is only noticeable because of how eased he’s been all day, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” He hurries down the station to the holding cell, jostling, slightly, the tea in his hand.
It’s that lie, embarrassed and short with a blush to his cheeks, that finally tips the Sergeant off.
He decides to test his theory, double check before he asks and makes himself look stupid, or wrongly insinuate something like this so outright. He follows, at a distance, Sullivan, after his shift one lunch time. The man passes by the cottage, passes one pub and then the second (the Red Lion), and continues out the village.
The further they go, the worse Goodfellow feels about it, and the more his chance of being noticed increases. He considers turning back, wherever Sullivan’s going is none of his business, and chances are he is merely going for a walk. However, before he turns, someway up the path someone jumps out from a gap between the line of trees at the edge of the path. He is quite a distance away but it’s Sidney Carter without a doubt. Goodfellow watches as he pulls the Inspector into a quick kiss, and then turns away.
He smiles to himself, though. The Inspector deserves to be happy.
He feels bad however. There’s something strange about keeping a secret about the fact that you know a secret. So he knocks, later that day, on Sullivan’s open office door.
“Come in, Sergeant.” Sullivan says, looking up from his file only briefly. Goodfellow steps into the room and closes the door. This makes Sullivan look up properly, frowning, “Is everything okay?”
“Yes. Well- yes. It’s fine, totally fine. Just that I saw something, sir, and I felt it best to come clean and-”
“What is it, Sergeant?” Sullivan cuts him off, “I don’t have all day.”
“Right.” Goodfellow affirms, “Okay. I know, Sir. About you and Sidney Carter.”
Sullivan stills and looks down at the file on his desk. “I don’t know what you mean.” He forces a slight laugh as he looks back up.
“It’s alright, sir, it don’t matter to me.” Goodfellow promises.
Sullivan looks quite like he may cry, “Are you sure?”
“Course! I think I should’ve known sooner, honestly, Sir. But for the record I think you’re great together. I think it’s wonderful that you’ve found love!”
Sullivan swallows but his shoulders relax, “Thank you, Goodfellow, but I er- I trust I can rely on your discretion?”
Goodfellow taps his nose, “Don’t worry about a thing, Sir.”
- Lady Felicia
She’s known for a long time about Sid. Almost, but not quite, as long as he has known about her. Inspector Sullivan, however, she should have perhaps figured out sooner. It shouldn’t have taken her shameless flirting to figure it out, really. In fact, when she thought about it later on, she realised how completely oblivious she had been.
He had always been awkward around women, if they touched him or flirted in any way. Perhaps it wasn’t terribly strange but it should have made the thought at least cross her mind. And what she’d said that day, in his office, about a man like him, without a woman, without a wife. It was a little strange considering the man’s looks and figure.
Still, even once she had this figured, she had never had him down as someone for her Chauffeur. A Detective Inspector and a thief? Surely that could never work. So she doesn’t really bat much of an eye at first. Doesn’t think there’s much in it when the Inspector does show up to her soiree, only to spend much of his time, when he can, in the corner, with Sid, trying to subtly flirt (trying being the operative word, at least in Lady Felicia’s opinion.)
It didn’t really seem to mean anything because she knows, everyone knows, that Sid flirts with anyone, and trying it on with a Detective Inspector is far from surprising to her. And that is so far different to love, which she never put down for the two of them to have together.
Only she notices Sid start to change, only a little, but enough. In that he stops flirting with everyone he meets and he asks Lady Felicia for advice on poetry (which she was always happy to give, however once she’d explained in great detail metre, rhythm and rhyme, and natural imagery, and only just reached romantic imagery, Sid seemed to change his mind. She couldn’t think why). And he hums Sinatra on car journeys; Felicia can’t tell if he’s truly aware of this or not.
And Sullivan changes too. He scowls less and there’s the occasional bounce in his step. He tells jokes and places bets. He becomes lenient on charges, sometimes, and even though he still deters Father Brown from a crime scene, he doesn’t try to arrest him anymore.
She can’t tell when, but over time their greetings- “Carter.” “Sullivan” - slip from formal to mocking. And their looks fall from nothing to lingering, to everything, to trying to be nothing. And they stopped saying hello and goodbye all together because it was, Felicia inferred, never their first or last meeting of the day.
An entire cover of All or Nothing At All during one car journey tips Felicia quite over the edge and she leans forward, poking her head between the two front seats and says,
“Sidney, what is this sudden obsession with Frank Sinatra?”
Sid scratches the back of his head, “His songs are catchy.” he answers. His grip on the steering wheel tightens, though. Lady Felicia sits back in her seat and smiles.
“I think he’s the favourite artist of a certain Inspector.” She looks out the car window, straining a little to see Sid’s reaction in the wing mirror. He’s a little pink.
“How should I know what music Sullivan’s into?” Sid demands, taking a right down a slightly bumpy road. The car rocks side to side for a moment before the concrete evens out.
“Oh come on, Sidney, you think I don’t know you? You are so clearly in love!”
Sid makes a kind of choking sound and coughs fakely into his hand, “That’s quite the accusation.”
“I’m not accusing, Sidney, it’s an observation. You’ve been so happy lately, just so… full of love.”
Sid’s quiet. Lady Felicia watches him in the mirror, where he stares at the road ahead, fields now spreading either side of it.
“It’s just we’ve not… we haven’t said that, yet.” He admits eventually.
Men . Felicia thinks. “Well what on Earth are you waiting for?!”
Sid shrugs, “It feels big. A commitment. Especially when, y’know, he could lose his job if it ever- if everyone knew.”
Lady Felicia sits back in her chair, “I’m sorry.” She says. There’s a beat of solemn silence.
“Got to give it to you though, Lady F, I’m impressed you found out before the Father.”
“Did I really?!” Well that is quite the feat.
- Blind ‘Arry
Blind ‘Arry doesn’t know much, but he does know love. He knows flowers and letters, flushed cheeks and fluttering hearts. He’s been it, and he’s seen it, and he misses it.
He knows Inspector Sullivan is in love. The flowers on his office windowsill; deep red lilies. As he's being given the don’t let this happen again speech, he catches sight of the scrabbly written for tommy x on a folded piece of paper. When Sullivan catches him looking, he covers the piece of paper with his hands, flushing. All the signs, Blind ‘Arry thinks, are there.
It doesn’t take him long, either, to realise the young Carter lad is in love too. He sees him flee from the church clutching a handful of deep red flowers from his place on the bench outside. In the park, he stumbles across the lad too, laying on his back, book in one hand, pencil twirling in the other, like he’s making notes. He gets close enough to see the word poetry on the front. He’s seen him around town, too, leaning against Felicia’s Rolls Royce, smiling off into the distance. He doesn’t call the lad out on this, but he’s tempted; he looks terribly sappy.
It is only when he is leaving the station one morning, after quite a night in the cells, that he discovers that the two men are, in fact, in love with each other. He bids Sullivan goodbye and slips out the door of the station, only to collide with Sidney Carter, who looks to be in a hurry.
“Sorry.” The Chauffeur says as he rushes passed. In his rush, he’d dropped a piece of paper.
“Wait, Car’er.” He bends down (with some difficulty, he’s not so young anymore) and picks up the paper.
It’s messily folded into a small square and, written on one side, in the same scrappy writing as one he’d seen not long ago is for tommy x . For a moment he’s a little confused, but then he smiles and holds it out to Sid between two fingers.
“It’s not- its on behalf of a friend.” Sid tries as he takes the paper back.
“Don’t worry lad. Your love is safe with me.”
Sid nods, still a little nervous. Blind ‘Arry winks at him, tips his hat, and wanders away.
- Mrs McCarthy
Mrs McCarthy doesn’t believe in demons, or spirits or anything of the sort. In part because the Father tells her not to, but that is besides the point. The point is that her eyes must clearly be deceiving her, because this is certainly not the Sidney Carter she knows. Has he been replaced by a demon? Possessed?
She’s frozen some feet from the door in the kitchen, staring at the man bent over the sink, whistling, and scrubbing dishes.
“Sidney.” She manages after a time.
“Morning Mrs M, sleep alright?” Sidney answers, clattering a bowl onto the draining board.
“You- you’re- who are you and what’ve you done with Sidney Carter.” She demands, and strolls across the room to the draining board. She lifts up a plate and analyses it scrupulously. Not only is Sidney washing up, but he’s washing up well . “Not a mark on it,” she clatters it back onto the rack, “Just what is going on with you?”
“What do you mean?” Sid asks with a frown, “I’m only washing up.”
“But you have never washed up. Not once in your life.” She insists.
“Really? I must’ve done.” Sid replies, completely unphased by her confusion, “Would you like a cuppa, Mrs M? I can fill the pot when I’ve done these.” He slides another bowl onto the draining board.
“Washing and tea? What has gotten into you?!” She hurries off down the hall to find the Father. He will not believe this.
“Is that a yes, then?” Sid calls after her, pulling a bemused face when there’s no response.
Washing up is only the start. And Mrs McCarthy soon realises that he has not decided to strike up a helpful streak, but, actually is just inexplicably happy, of late. He sings everywhere, and Mrs M knows that Lady Felicia has noticed this too because they share this look every time he starts up. And what’s more ludicrous is that he starts quoting shakespeare , and he spends time drifting off into space, staring into the distance as though waiting for someone to appear there.
He doesn’t go to the Red Lion so much, to the point where some of his drinking mates show up at the Presbytery asking why he’s always ‘too busy’ lately. And Mrs McCarthy doesn’t know what to say because she’s not seen Sid much either. When he is around, he appears to be wishing he was somewhere else, distracted by something, or, well, it becomes obvious to Mrs M that he’s in fact, distracted by someone .
She catches him, late one morning, reaching up on tiptoes and carefully plucking flowers from the arrangement at the front of the church. She’d spent all morning on it, particularly proud of the lilies, never had she seen them such a dark colour. She dotted between them, white ones, and yellow daffodils, little purple foxgloves. All morning, it took her.
Only for Sidney to come along and nick the lot of her lilies.
“What in god’s name do you think you are doing Sidney Carter?” She demands.
But before she has even finished, Sid has scarpered towards the door and legged it out the building. She hurries down the church after him, but when he reaches the doors and watches him scamper down the graveyard to the far gate, she knows she’ll never catch him. As she catches her breath, she looks up the path and spies Blind ‘Arry, watching from the bench. He lifts a hand up to her as though in a wave.
She can’t take the not-knowing anymore. Sid is so clearly head over heels for somebody but she cannot for the life of her solve the mystery of who. She’s racked her brains of every young woman in town and none of them strike her as right. He’s not spoken about anyone, and she’s not seen him with any woman around town.
It doesn’t make sense.
So Mrs McCarthy takes matters into her own hands. She picks some strawberries from her garden, nestles them in a basket along with some of her scones, of course, and makes for Sidney’s caravan.
It’s a nice day. The sun is high up in the sky and the breeze is low and rare, welcome, when it brushes passed. Sidney’s caravan is at the far end of the field. Birds twitter, but besides that, silence. Gentle laughter erupts from the grass.
As she gets closer, she can tell that there are two figures lying a metre or so beside the caravan atop a blanket. Ah . Only…
Sid sits up when he hears Mrs McCarthy approach, perhaps she makes a slight noise, or exclaims something to make him start. And beside him, Inspector Sullivan sits up too. She’s frozen, hands still tightly clutching the basket of food (she is not going to drop award winning scones on the floor, no matter the shock).
“Inspector Sullivan.” She manages after a while.
Sid can’t help but smile a little. The Inspector nudges him and Sid rolls his eyes,
“Alright Mrs M, what do you want?” He asks.
“Well I was just... I thought you and your mystery lady might want some er- these- but I see that-”
“Yeah we have enough food thanks.” Sid says, gesturing to the little hamper open between their legs, and standing up. “But the more the merrier.” he says, prizing the basket from Mrs McCarthy’s hands. She still looks shocked, “This is okay with you, right?” he adds quietly.
Mrs M looks at Sid, then at the man on the blanket, and swallows. It’s not that it’s not okay, but it is a shock.
“Of course, of course I-”
“Look, go and give Lady F a call, she knows, and you clearly need to speak to someone. But please do not spread this, Mrs M.” He holds her eyes. She’s never known him to look scared or afraid, or even desperate but she can see it now. She nods hurriedly.
“Of course, Sidney. Enjoy the- the scones, I’ll see you later.” She turns to Inspector Sullivan. His shirt sleeves are rolled up and his shoes have been discarded, lying strewn over the grass, “Inspector Sullivan.” She says with a nod.
“Mrs McCarthy.” He replies.
She was in such a state on the phone that Felicia had Hornby drive her to the Presbytery. She sits at the kitchen table and boredly listens to the woman’s ramble.
“I mean I remember, Sidney, in passing, saying he liked other men but fraternizing with the Inspector -”
“Fraternizing! Oh come, Mrs M, give them a break. Have they said I love you yet?”
“I don’t know but they certainly looked close. I mean- anybody could’ve walked up that field-”
“Yes, for example overzealous busybodies carting around strawberries just to be in on the gossip.”
Mrs McCarthy casts her a look, but it does shut her up.
- Father Brown
“You are beginning to sound like Inspector Sullivan ”
It’s a curious thing for him to say, particularly about Sid. He’s always known the boy wasn’t fond of Flambeau, thus his anger mirroring the Inspector, but this felt different. Like he suddenly cared about the law, rather than the right thing.
It’s not like Sidney to think like that. To think like Inspector Sullivan.
He replays it over and over. It’s not like Sid and the Inspector are that close. Although, admittedly, they seem to know each other quite well as of late. And Sid has been watching him if he’s across the room or even right in front of him, doesn’t take his eyes off him. And it does become rather odd when Sullivan doesn’t return the look, and seems to do everything in his power to avoid acknowledging him. Like he’s trying too hard to ‘act normal’.
Even stranger that Sullivan now often makes the odd joke, not with any malice, but a genuine, Sidney Carter kind of mockery.
Perhaps, the Father thinks, as he leans back in the chair in the study, they’ve been spending more time together than anyone could have imagined or predicted.
He has to speak to Sid about it. It must have been quite some time, since they’d gotten together, when he thinks about it. How Sullivan backed down and gave in at the Barracks when Sid asked for his help. Perhaps, even, it explains Sullivan’s behaviour during the McMurray case, his temper, if he found out about Sid and Audrey.
It all slots together in his mind and he cannot believe he missed it.
He hurries to his feet and flies out of the study.
“Mrs McCarthy!” He calls down the hall.
“Have you seen Sid around?”
“As it happens I think he went into St Mary’s.” Before Mrs McCarthy can ask why, the front door slams shut. She’s about to turn back to her sewing when she has a sudden thought, “My flowers!”
Father Brown finds Sid pacing the aisle. He stands by the confessional booths and watches him, unnoticed. The lad’s muttering to himself, like he’s rehearsing a speech but, despite the building’s echo, the priest can’t quite catch a word.
He looks up, suddenly, to see Father Brown, and stops half way down the aisle. “How long ‘ave you been standin’ there?” Sid asks.
“Not long.” The Father promises, walking around the back of the pews to reach Sid, “But I wondered, if I may have a word.”
There’s a hurried scraping of shoes across the stone floor,and the two turn to see Mrs McCarthy panting in the doorway,
“Sidney Carter if you’ve dared touch my displays again-”
Sid throws his hands up, “I ain’t done nothing!”
“Mrs M, I was hoping for a word with Sid… alone.”
Mrs McCarthy looks at him, looks at Sid. Then her mouth forms an ohhh and she hurries out the door. The two wait for her to slip out of sight, and then Father Brown sits down on a nearby pew, shuffles along, and pats the space beside him.
Sid sits down, “What am I supposed to have done now?” He asks.
“You and Inspector Sullivan.” Father Brown responds, slowly, emphasising every word. Not harshly, but with a point that says more than the words.
“ Ah .” Mindlessly, Sid plays with the watch on his wrist- Sullivan’s gold strapped one. How could he have been so blind, the Father wonders.
“Is it serious?”
Sid glances at him briefly, then looks down at his lap.
“I see.” Father Brown says. Then, “You love him?”
Sid stares forward, gazing across to the pulpit, and nods slowly, “Is that bad?”
“You know it’s not.” The Father responds at once.
“Yeah, but, I mean. We’re complete opposites, aren’t we?”
“On the contrary, I think you have a lot in common.” Father Brown responds, leaning forward on the bench and turning to him. Sid laughs slightly. “I’m serious, both grew up in london, you both like cars-”
“Everyone likes cars.”
Father Brown gives him a look, “But you love him? That’s what’s important isn’t it?”
Sid pouts and nods slowly. “I’m glad you’ve figured it out, by the way. Another name to add to the list.” And Father Brown must make a face because Sid laughs, “Yeah we’ve got Goodfellow, Her Ladyship, Blind ‘Arry, i know, and Mrs M.” He says, listing them on his fingers.
“Mrs McCarthy knew and she didn’t tell me?!” Father Brown asks, and remembers all the ways she’s tried to avoid him lately, not eating with him, not staying after mass. Oh .
“It probably half killed her but yeah.” Sid says, “She’ll be so glad you know.”
It’s a calm evening. Sid looks down at the way their fingers weave on the duvet. He’s still rehearsing in his head, as if three words are difficult to say.
“Father Brown figured it out, by the way, us.” He says instead, looks up at Thomas’ face with a lazy smile.
“Did he? The man can solve a murder in a matter of minutes but it takes months to work us out?” The Inspector murmurs, running his free hand through Sid’s hair.
“He works in mysterious ways.” Sid replies, moving his head back slightly so he can take Thomas in. He smiles gently, just tries not to think about it, “I love you.”
Sullivan’s eyes flicker across his face, and then his lips twitch up slightly, almost in light amusement.
“Don’t look like that, I’m trying to be serious.”
“No, I know, I know it just...” Sullivan laughs slightly, “Do you know how many times you use the word love in those poems and letters? As much as I like them.”
Sid frowns, “That’s different.” It’s laced with exaggerated imagery, drama, poetry. And it’s all warped to fit a rhythm or a rhyme, “This is real. I mean it.”
Sullivan softens. It makes Sid melt a little, even more so when he feels fingers tighten around his own. “I love you too.”
Sid shuffles closer to him, buries his head half into the pillow, half into the Inspector’s neck. Sullivan kisses his forehead and wraps his arm around him.
The sun sets but neither notice. Fingers slide and weave around each other. Two men smile, and slowly fall asleep.