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The Poddington Project: Stories


London - The 20th of April  1925

Dodging the early morning traffic of motorcars, various horse-drawn vehicles, and puddles, Thomas Attwater pulled up his collar against the light rain and galloped across Wigmore Street. Pulling out his pocket watch and cursing the time, he wove his way through people, diving under and around umbrellas on the sidewalk of Marylebone Lane and strode up the steps of the police station. Once inside, he gave the desk sergeant a friendly nod. "Good morning. Any messages for me then Booth?"  he asked slightly out of breath, raking a hand through his soaked hair and removing his greatcoat.

Booth looked up from his paper shuffling and mirrored the gesture, running a hand over what was left of the sparse, graying hair on the crown of his head. "Actually Mr. Attwater Sir," he began softly, "Superintendent will be wantin' ye in his office. Don't look too pleased if ye ask me. Good luck to ye." He winced as he saw Attwater's face fall slightly.

Attwater peered over his rain-spattered spectacles down the hallway toward Superintendent John Tennisen's office. He took them off to wipe them dry. "Yes, well...I think I know what he's in an ill temper over." He smiled bleakly at Booth. "Best get it over with I suppose." He buttoned up his suit jacket and made his way down the hall. Stopping outside, he paused to tug at the cuffs of his shirt and knocked briskly on the door.

"Enter," came a brusque reply.

Attwater opened the door and stood within the doorframe. "Booth said you were asking for me Sir?"

Superintendent Tennisen looked up from his polished mahogany desk. "Ah, Detective Inspector, do come in and have a seat. It seems we need to have a little chat...again," His lips curled slightly under his moustache and he got up to stalk about the room, his shoes padding softly on the Persian rug. "You recall the Jackson Case don't you Attwater?"

"Yes Sir." Attwater swallowed as he sat down cautiously in the offered chair.

Tennisen looked down at Attwater. "You seem to be rather obsessed with it Attwater. I told you it was dealt with. Still, you insist on digging into matters that are none of your concern. You have other duties."

"It was my case Sir. I was investigating on my own time so..."

Tennisen held up a lean hand, cutting him off. "I don't need you spinning your wheels on a dead end case. Jackson was a prostitute. His way of life would have killed him in the long run."

"Does that make him disposable? He was a child... Sir," Attwater responded with a less than respectful tone.

"Is that it Attwater? Is this some attempt to make up for you own loss? Good God man, it's been a year. Time to get on with your life," Tennisen sat down on the edge of his desk.

Attwater's face flushed in anger. "He was murdered. We both know that. An' we both know evidence is missing and people are gone who would have been very, very important if this came to trial." He watched Tennisen's jaw tighten up and he tilted his head. "But that isn't going te happen is it?"

Attwater began pushing his limits again. "Ye wouldn't want to have it smeared all over the society pages who the murderer is, and that he had a special place in his heart for young boys do ye...Sir?" Attwater continued softly, "Jackson knew he had a client he could extort... got too greedy..." His rural accent began to creep into his voice as he became more emotional.

"You'll do as you're told Attwater and step down!" Tennisen exploded, spots of colour appearing on his cheeks.

"Rather than what is just?" Attwater looked up innocently, his soft North Country voice not raising in anger, all the more to infuriate his superior.

"You really should be more careful about what you are suggesting." Tennisen hissed from behind his desk. He turned to face the window. After composing himself, he turned to Attwater, a smile returning to his lips as sudden inspiration came to him. " I'm sorry. It must be the stress. Everyone knows you're a wreck. Have you taken a good look in the mirror recently? Why, even the constables have taken to calling you 'the mad Atter'. Did you know that? Time you stopped being such a starry-eyed idealist, tilting at windmills and see how the real world works." He smiled as he saw Attwater's fingers tighten on the arms of the chair.

"You know," He strolled casually around to the back of the chair. " I've been putting up with your insolence for quite some time because you were good once, one of the best, but ever since your wife died, you've started to get sloppy," He looked at Attwater's crooked tie and disheveled brown hair, "in more ways than one. I think you need a bit of a relocation to clear your head and get yourself back in order. Do you a world of good." He went back to his desk and opened up a drawer. "It seems there's a quaint little village in Cornwall that's hip deep in murders and unexplained disappearances.  Need a spot of extra help. Naturally, I offered my best man. You have roots in the country isn't that right Attwater?"

"North Yorkshire." Attwater replied coldly.

"Ah, Yorkshire. How... quaint. I think the change of scenery and a bit of invigorating country air will make you a new man. Like being on holiday." Tennisen slapped a ticket into Attwater's hand. "Your train ticket. Temporary change of assignment or permanent change of jobs. Do we have an understanding?"

Attwater stared down at the ticket in his hand and his fingers tightened around it. "Perfectly Sir. Will there be anything else?" He rose slowly from the chair.

"No, I think that settles everything quite nicely. Dismissed." Tennisen sat back down in his expensive leather chair and made a steeple of his fingers as he caught Attwater's look of burning hatred before the detective swung around and left the office, closing the door with something resembling a suppressed slam.