DARK BLUE REFLECTIONS by Tarlan

 

The noise level was deafening, smoke hung densely around the bar and, barely heard above the sound of so many voices, a jukebox reeled out recent hits for a price. The pub was no different from several others around the area with its fake 16th Century decor and yellow-nicotine ceiling. A large open fire was the centre piece at one end of the room composed of a cast iron grate with a pile of logs stacked up high against the wall beside it, but the fireplace would remain cold and unused until the dark winter nights drew in. The crowd was made up of many groups, some large, some small but most seemed to be young men wearing the blue and white of Millwall. A loud shout drowned out the voices only to be taken up in chorus by others as some unintelligible football ditty was bellowed out. Pint glasses were raised in victorious salute to their heroes, the pale yellow liquid splashing out onto the scuffed and worn carpet. The door opened and a couple of young lads peered inside but quickly disappeared so as to avoid the clash of bodies that would follow the clash of scarf colours.

A few regulars were holed up at the far end of the bar trying to avoid the over exuberant Millwall supporters. One of these was a youngish man, around his mid twenties with straight dark hair combed over to one side and a pale, hawkish face. He drew the pint glass up to his lips and swallowed a mouthful of Wadworth's 6X, nodding his approval. The landlord of The Rose and Crown knew how to keep a good beer. This was his fifth pint and not a duff one amongst the lot. His slate grey eyes flitted around a room that grew ever more hazy with each pint he consumed; he was not positive if that was caused by the increased smoke or the beer. Secretly he was hoping to see a familiar face amongst the crush of strangers but it seemed as if most of the regulars had moved on to safer pubs or to any one of the many discotheques within a five mile radius. Movement out of one corner of his eye caught his attention and he watched as another loner pushed away from the bar and through the crowd towards him. He tensed slightly, wary of finding trouble but the other man, of similar age but with a shock of wavy brown hair and pale blue eyes, sat down in what had to be the only free chair left in the place and introduced himself in a soft Midlands accent.

*

Inspector Monroe grimaced as the sound of a scuffle broke out in the Custody Area just along the corridor from his own office. Raised voices reached him with chants of 'Blue Army, Blue Army' but it was a calling to arms of the Millwall supporters rather than for Monroe's own blue uniformed Police Officers. He toyed with the idea of going to investigate but decided to wait; his people were good at their jobs and would not welcome any intrusion from him no matter how well intended. He would intercede only if the situation did not appear to have been resolved within the next minute. The noise gradually died away as the drunken yobbos were escorted to the cells to sleep off the alcohol they had consumed leaving only the normal sounds of a busy Saturday night at Sun Hill Police Station.

Saturdays were always the worst and most of those taken into custody would be released the following day with either a caution or a court appearance for D&D, Drunk and Disorderly, depending on the circumstances.

Monroe shook his head, his mouth a tight line of disapproval as he thought of the effects of alcohol on some of the people who passed through the Custody Area. He did not pity the cleaners their job of clearing up the vomit and other body fluids that would be left behind in the cells once tonight's prisoners had been removed. It was not that he was a teetotaller but he knew when he had reached his limit. It was a shame not everyone had the same control over their drinking. A knock on the door pulled his thoughts away from the Saturday night drunks and he glanced up just as the door opened to reveal PC Hollis.

"Sir, we've got a problem in the Front Office. There's a man insisting on seeing a senior officer about his brother."

"Can't you deal with it, Hollis?"

"Ordinarily, Sir, yes I could but he says his father is on the local Council and he's threatening to call in the Press for unlawful detention. I thought, seeing how're your senior officer here tonight you might want to have a word with him."

Monroe sighed in frustration as he filled in the missing gaps for himself. This was all he needed, the son of some pushed-up bureaucrat causing a scene that could turn into yet another embarrassing political scandal for the Police.

"Which of the Interview Rooms are free?"

"Number Two."

"Well, take him there. Oh, and Hollis, pick up the Custody Record on his brother and bring it here first."

"Yes, Sir. Would you like me to contact Mr Cato....?"

"I'm sure we can handle this, Hollis, without dragging the Chief Inspector from his warm bed."

While he waited for Reg Hollis to return Andrew Monroe stared back down at the report spread before him then rubbed his tired eyes as the words wiggled on the page. Arrest statistics were never that interesting at the best of times but he had promised to have the report on Chief Superintendent Brownlow's desk before the man arrived back on duty on Monday morning. Monroe smiled sardonically to himself. One of the privileges of rank was being able to choose your own duty times so Brownlow was rarely at Sun Hill during the weekends or on the night shift. To be honest, between meetings, conferences and rounds of golf, the man was rarely there at all. A month ago Monroe would have wished he had a similar choice but these days all he had was The Job. There was nothing outside of Sun Hill except time to think and he had spent the passed three weeks trying not to think of anything. He spared a glance at the overflowing in-tray, the product of too many duties to perform with too little time available but did not allow himself to worry about the situation. He was too methodical and organised to allow anything to slip by through a lack of attention to the paperwork and had already cast a critical eye over each item to weed out the rubbish and keep himself abreast of the important matters - plus filing that lot would provide him with another excuse to avoid going home. That brought another small smile to his face. Most of the officers at Sun Hill, both uniformed and plainclothed, thought of him as an unimaginative, by-the-book martinet; a piece of the furniture like a typewriter or a filing cabinet. It was hard to say whether his cold and detached efficiency had earned him their respect or their derision. Maybe it was a little bit of both. They probably believed he lived and breathed only for Sun Hill and, until recently, they would have been right for over the passed few years Monroe had done everything within his power to shut out any possibility of a life outside of The Job.

He frowned as he wondered what these same officers would say if they ever learnt of the volcanic emotions that lay simmering beneath his often cold exterior. DCI Meadows had released those emotions a few weeks previously and Monroe had found it more difficult with each passing day to keep the stone-faced facade in place. His lips tightened again in anger as he caught his thoughts slipping back to the hotel room where simulated sex with Jack Meadows had turned only too real. The whole purpose of the act was to produce a credible video that could be used to lure in a corrupt senior police officer. The objective had been to force Assistant Chief Constable Singleton to retire and, hence, put an end to his persecution of gay officers. Operation 'Other Half' had succeeded in that respect but had also succeeded in making Monroe question his own sexuality.

Originally, he had told Meadows he had no concerns about simulating a homosexual act as he knew what he was; a heterosexual, married man with teenage daughters and a nice semi- detached house in a good neighbourhood. Now he was not so sure. All the things he had swept under the carpet during his life had returned to haunt him. As a young Derbyshire miner he had found himself attracted to his Shift Supervisor but had convinced himself it was merely a case of hero-worship; nothing more. To prove it he had run into the arms of a local girl and they had been married within a few months. He knew he did not love her, he never had. It was a marriage of convenience for both of them but over the years they had become 'comfortable' with each other. She never demanded anything of him now not even sex which neither had found that desirable even in the early years. He blamed himself for the lack of interest and, as if in penance, never mentioned his knowledge of her adultery.

Her latest man had come onto the scene just over two years ago. Monroe knew all about him; his name, where he lived, where he worked.... No, he had never blamed her for looking outside of their marriage for the physical love she craved even though he could not understand it's attraction - until now. Sex with Jack Meadows had been mind shattering. As Meadows had said later, the earth had moved and it had rocked all of Monroe's preconceptions of himself at the same time. Nothing could ever be the same again.

Monroe shook himself out of the thoughts that crowded in on him, afraid to look too deeply at his life yet knowing the cracks had already appeared and were widening with every unchecked thought. A knock on his door brought welcome relief for, no matter what his subconscious said, this was not the time for reflecting on the consequences of those few hours of unadulterated pleasure with Jack Meadows - but as Sergeant Cryer stuck his head around the door a small, determined part of his mind asked the question: when would there be a right time?

"Sir, I've got those additional figures you asked for... Are you alright, Sir?"

"Yes, Bob, I'm fine. Saturday Nights."

Bob Cryer nodded in sympathy but his eyes betrayed his concern. He had never seen the Inspector looking so tired and could tell the man had lost more than just a few pounds in weight over the passed few weeks which couldn't be put down solely to working the late shift. Monroe had not been himself for some time, not since.... Bob Cryer wished he could do something. Perhaps it was time to have a word with Jack Meadows before Monroe wasted away before his eyes. Any other thoughts were pushed aside as Hollis made his presence known. Cryer frowned deeply.

"What's up?"

Monroe accepted the Custody Record from Reg Hollis and turned his attention to the Arresting Officer's report, grateful that Bob Cryer had not pursued his enquiry into his state of health.

"We have the son of a local dignitary kicking up a bit of a stink."

"Do you want me to handle it?"

Monroe shook his head.

"No, Bob, I'm sure you have enough to do already. I'll sort this one out."

Reg Hollis took advantage of the momentary silence.

"I'll show Mr. Cadwell to Interview Room 2 and wait for you there. I'll get him a cuppa on the way. It might calm him down a bit."

"Good idea, Hollis. I'll read through this and join you in, say, five minutes."

Monroe waited until both officers had left the room to carry on with their assigned duties and then flipped open the report.

*

Interview Room 2 was only a short walk away. Of course he could have asked Hollis to bring the man along to the Duty Inspector's Office but Monroe felt strangely reluctant to allow anyone in there who could destroy the air of calm efficiency that pervaded his room. He needed its quiet normality to keep his own swirling whirlpool of emotions in check.

Monroe entered to find the man seated at the far side of the main table, facing the door. His delayed arrival and the partially emptied cup of tea seemed to have had the desired effect of defusing some of the anger for the man sat with one elbow resting on the table top lightly propping up his chin. Monroe made a quick inspection, taking in the bright, intelligent eyes that narrowed with sudden speculative interest and felt the hackles rise on the back of his neck. Something seemed wrong yet Reg Hollis had risen to his feet and stood quite calmly with his back to the man as he waited for his superior to sit down on the chair placed next to his own. This confused the Inspector but then he remembered his current mental state and knew his own judgement may have been impaired. He gave a half-smile, ignoring a nagging feeling of familiarity and firmly pushing aside his earlier fears as he took his seat.

"Sir, this is Mr. Michael Cadwell. Mr. Cadwell, this is Inspector Monroe. He's the highest ranking officer at Sun Hill at this time."

Monroe leant forward on the table, a look of genuine interest apparent on his face in spite of his earlier apprehension. Unlike some others his rapid rise from Police Constable to Inspector had been the result of honest hard work and attention to detail without any of the scheming and political machination that usually accompanied the high-flyers so he had retained his enthusiasm for wanting to help the general public.

"Mr. Cadwell, how may I help you?"

The man smiled enigmatically as he drew a small calibre firearm from his coat pocket. "Just by being here, Inspector Monroe."

Both officers froze.

"Constable Hollis, I thank you for your kindness. Now leave us. I only need one and he'll do far, far better than you."

The matter-of-fact tone brooked no argument yet Hollis still looked to Monroe for confirmation and felt some small amount of relief as he read calm detachment in the dark eyes.

"It's alright, Hollis."

"Yes, Sir."

*

Hollis closed the door softly behind him and then ran at full speed down the corridor to the CAD Room. The sound of laughter met him as he shoved open the door but was quickly muted as the three occupants turned in their seats to face him.

"He's taken him hostage!"

"What!"

It took a few seconds for Cryer to make sense of his subordinate's outburst but once he realised the gravity of the situation the CAD Sergeant wasted no more time. He looked to Cathy Marshall, grateful she was still on duty. He needed someone he could trust to act impersonally during such a crisis and wasted no time on pleasantries.

"Cathy, get hold of Mr. Brownlow. We have a hostage situation in Interview Room 2."

"Where's Monroe?"

"He's the hostage."

"Christ!"

Her fingers quickly accessed the computer and dialed up Brownlow's home number. The call was answered on the third ring just as Cryer grabbed the spare headset. It took only seconds to relay the facts of the latest crisis.

"I'm on my way. Call in DCI Meadows and SO19. And keep everyone else away from the area until I get there."

"Yes, Sir."

Cryer relayed the instructions to Marshall and looked up as the door flew open once more. PC Tony Stamp had been amazed and then concerned when Norika Datta told him she had just seen Reg Hollis running flat out towards CAD. Some instinct told him he should get down there right away.

"Hey, Sarge. What's going on?"

"Tony, I want you and Loxton outside Interview Room 2 now. Nobody goes in there, understand?"

"Yes, Sarge but..."

"No 'Buts', Tony. And tell Datta and Garfield break time's over. I want those corridors clear. All Civilians out of the way. And tell Sgt. Boyden to keep a handle on the Custody Area - we don't need any more surprises tonight. Well, don't just stand there!"

Cryer turned his attention back to the officers manning CAD as Tony Stamp rushed out of the door to find Datta and Garfield.

"Cathy, call in Tosh. That burglary on Essex Road will have to wait, also, find out who's still in the CID Office, get them down here now. Tell June I want a basic Incident Room set up but use the Conference Room by Brownlow's office - it's out of the way. Gary, check the name 'Michael Cadwell' on PNC, see if we have anything on him."

Cryer sat down hard on a nearby desktop and watched his people get on with their given tasks. Gary McCann swore profusely and Cryer knew without asking that PNC, the Police National Computer, was down yet again. The information on Cadwell might not be forthcoming for some time. Cryer cursed the system for choosing such an inopportune moment to crash.

"Cathy, get onto the Yard and find out if the system's crashed just on us. If it has pass the details over to the Duty Sergeant and ask him to fax us anything he finds, otherwise ask them when the computer will be back up. Gary, go back to monitoring normal traffic."

Bob Cryer wished he could be out there dealing with Cadwell but someone had to co-ordinate the effort until Brownlow arrived. He swore under his breath, his mind ablaze with concern for Monroe, silently berating both himself and the Metropolitan Police department as a whole. They should have introduced a policy of checking people over before leaving Officers alone with them a long time ago. In addition, Cryer wondered whether his own infamous sixth sense would have kicked in if he had insisted on dealing with the man himself or whether, just like Hollis, he would have been lulled into believing the man was just another angry person looking out for a family member who'd been nicked. For a moment it puzzled him that Monroe could have been taken in but then he remembered how tired and distracted the Inspector had seemed only a few minutes previously. Well, he had done as much as he could for now and knew he had to wait and let his people do their jobs. Cryer looked up as the door opened and a head peeked around the corner.

"Heard all the commotion. What's going on?"

Detective Sergeant Alistair Greig had already pulled an extra 4 hours overtime that day and had been on his way home when he spotted 'A' Relief running around the corridors. However, the grim expressions on the faces in the CAD room warned him this was no practice session. Something was up; something particularly nasty.

"Bomb alert?"

"No. Monroe's been taken hostage."

"What!"

Reg Hollis quickly joined in the conversation, welcoming the opportunity to look as if he knew what was going on and revelling in the attention he would get.

"A few of the lads were called to a disturbance at the Crown and nicked half a dozen for D&D. About fifteen minutes ago, a man came into the Front Office demanding to see the highest rank about the unlawful arrest of his brother. The man looked as if he meant business so I took it straight to Mr Monroe. The Inspector agreed to see him in Interview Room 2 but when he arrived the man pulled a gun and ordered me out."

"And you had no idea the man could be carrying a weapon?"

"No, Sir. I would never have let him anywhere near the Inspector if I thought he could be dangerous."

"Did you get a name?"

"Michael Cadwell, says he's the son of Councillor Cadwell, the Deputy M..."

"We're running a name check but..."

Cryer glanced towards Cathy Marshall and gained a frustrated head shake.

"...it looks as if PNC's gone down so it might take some time."

"It picks its moments. Let me have the info as soon as it comes through, Bob. I'll go and see if the man will talk to me; find out what he wants."

*

Monroe stared placidly across the table at the younger man, hiding the desperate mental search for another name to fit the familiar yet unfamiliar face opposite him. Neither had spoken for what seemed an eternity although it had probably been only three minutes but he used the time to study Cadwell. The man was in his late twenties with a shock of wavy brown hair and intense pale blue eyes that were hard, like chips of ice; so different from the warm, caring eyes of Jack Meadows. Monroe pushed that thought aside before it overtook him, an action he had been forced to take more and more frequently over the passed few weeks but never before with so much at stake. He needed to keep his wits about him as, from the man's demeanor, Monroe knew this was more than just an act of desperation for freeing some drunk from the Sun Hill cells.

"I know what you're thinking, Inspector Monroe. Does he want me for some reason - or am I just the poor sod who happened to be most senior officer here tonight."

Andrew Monroe displayed no flicker of emotion even though the man was right. He had been wondering whether his presence here was deliberate or just bad luck. Something about the man was strangely familiar yet he could not place anything about him except perhaps the accent. It was not Brummie; closer to Monroe's home town than that but more of an East Midlands dialect. This caused him some concern as he had started his Police career on the beat in Leeds. Whatever the answer, Monroe had a feeling this man was not going to reveal anything outright. He was trying, so far unsuccessfully, to unnerve his hostage; to force domination over the other that extended beyond the gun held nonchalantly in his hand. He kept his voice calm and reasonable as he questioned the other.

"What do you want from me? I assume you have some demands to make? Your brother, perhaps?"

Cadwell laughed harshly. "I'm an only child."

"Then must I also assume that Michael Cadwell is a false name?"

The man smiled enigmatically.

"But you can call me Michael and I'll call you.....Andrew. That *is* your name, isn't it? Andrew."

"You have the advantage."

"Yes."

"You still haven't answered my question. What do you want?"

"Oh, I've got what I want....Andrew."

Andrew Monroe felt a feeling of dread pass through him. So, maybe it was personal but he knew he would have to wait as his captor fed him one tiny clue after another. Cadwell wanted to play with his captive, to bask in the power he held over the other man. At this point Monroe had no idea what grievance this man had with him but he knew he had played fair throughout his career in the Police force, unlike others he could mention. That brought back memories of ACC Singleton and, never far behind, came remembrance of those few short hours with Jack Meadows. Monroe quickly pushed aside the erotic image of Jack's pleasure-filled face as he came deep inside Monroe's body before it could betray him but the inquisitive smile proved the other had caught something from his expression and misinterpreted the quickly veiled emotion that had crept into his eyes and darkened his cheeks.

"Is that what you think? That I want you? Must admit that it hadn't occurred to me before but no, I've got other plans for us."

Monroe's expression hardened, well aware that he had just lost the first round to Cadwell.

*

DCI Jack Meadows put out a hand to halt Ackland as she strode passed him like a woman on a mission.

"What's going on, June? I noticed the Gun squad taking up position outside. So, where's Mr. Brownlow?"

June Ackland had just left the Conference Room to get coffee but she pointed back along the corridor towards the newly set-up Incident Room and watched as Meadows strode purposefully away in the direction indicated. She closed her eyes and sighed deeply, wishing she had found the courage to warn him, suddenly aware of how he might react when he discovered who the hostage was. Not for the first time did she wish she had never found out about Operation 'Other Half' but what she could not forgive herself for was her betrayal of their trust.

Bob Cryer had entrusted her with the video just in case Singleton should try some underhand method of getting hold of it and Bob had asked her not to watch it. However, she had found the whole concept of Meadows and Monroe in some hotel irresistible and had commandeered the Sun Hill video room for a quick viewing. Bob had been right. They had lost control and simulated sex had turned to real sex and then to making love. There was a difference and she had been awed by the strong emotions and uninhibited behaviour displayed by two men who had always seemed so distant with each other - until then.

It had required a great deal of strength to hide how much she knew even though they were aware of her superficial knowledge; Bob Cryer had told them about her involvement in the operation. To be honest, the worst part was her undeniable wish that she could have taken a copy to keep for herself. She had seen gay porn movies in the past, what Police woman had not, but there had been something much more erotic in the way Meadows and Monroe had made love to each other, the naked desire so obvious as they touched that was never apparent on the faces of the athletic young men as they grunted their way to a fake climax.

"Day dreaming, Constable?"

June Ackland paled in horror when she realised Alistair Greig was standing right in front of her - and had been there for more than a few seconds, enough time for curiosity to rise into his eyes.

"Just concerned about Mr Meadows. I thought you were trying to negotiate with the man?"

Greig smiled grimly but decided not to ask why her concern for Meadows should be greater than her concern for Monroe. After all, it was Monroe who was in danger. Her remark only increased his suspicion that there was something going on between the two men but he also knew he had to put aside his suspicions for another time. Brownlow had ordered him to report to the Incident Room and he did not want to stay away from Interview Room 2 for longer than was necessary even though he had left a more than capable negotiator from SO19 behind in his place.

*

Cadwell grimaced as a muffled voice began its litany over again. The voice was different but the words were the same; an entreaty to let them know everything was alright. They wanted to see, or at least hear from Inspector Monroe. He could barely make out the words through the solid wood but that wasn't important; he had nothing to say to them. The Interview Room had been built to keep the sounds of the outside world at bay allowing nothing to distract either Interviewer or Interviewee. Cadwell glanced around the barren interior, taking note of any entry points. He spotted the cassette player standing on top of a second smaller table, a couple of tapes lying beside it still sealed in their cellophane wrappers. There were four chairs in the room, the three around the table and another in the corner behind him, conveniently placed so the interviewee would forget the presence of its occupant. The window looked as if it needed a new frame; the dents from a previous incident still apparent in the soft wood.

"You don't remember me, do you?"

"No. I'm sorry. I don't remember you."

Monroe didn't bother to lie for it was obvious he had little recollection of the other man besides the nagging feeling that they had met before. His face remained neutral and he had sense enough not to back-talk. He'd seen the result of wise-cracks from hostages; broken bones, split lips and, worse still, a bullet through the skull. So far there was no evidence that this man was anything other than someone he had pulled in during his career; someone who held a grudge against him for doing his job.

"My brother knew you."

Monroe could not prevent the momentary confusion from jumping into his eyes. Hadn't Cadwell already insisted that he was an only child? This cast yet another dark reflection upon the other man. The Inspector shifted uncomfortably in his seat but froze as Cadwell gripped the gun tighter.

"Are you married?"

"Yes."

"Shame to make the little woman a little widow."

Merry Widow. Monroe's eyes widened in shock as the thought crept across his mind. Is that what he truly felt? Would she be pleased to see the back of him?

He had tried to talk to her last week but she had dismissed him as if he were a stranger in his own home. Often they would spend an entire evening without a single word passing between them. Suddenly, Monroe realised that the increased distance between them had started about the same time her latest lover came on the scene. He remembered the despondent stares across the lounge, almost hearing her thoughts as she wished either of them were somewhere else. Had his harsh life and his struggle to secure a better future for both himself and his family made him so insensitive to them all? Perhaps she wanted to be free but was chained by that same illusion of comfort. Would her life be better if he was not there?

His thoughts twisted in a new direction. Until a few weeks ago he had believed he was incapable of taking or receiving pleasure from anyone. Now he began to wonder whether she felt the Earth move every time she stole a few hours of passion with her lover - but if she had then how could she have allowed the sham of their marriage to continue? A bitter thought crossed his mind; she could for the sake of the Girls. But what was more tragic; her self denial and sacrifice or his ignorance? Well, Jack Meadows had opened his eyes to the truth and even if there should never be another shared experience with Jack, suddenly Andrew Monroe realised he could no longer live a lie.

*

Jack Meadows pushed open the Incident Room door half expecting to find Andrew Monroe using that decisive mind of his to organise the others but his intense gaze was met by Brownlow and Chief Inspector Cato. A unpleasant sensation twisted in his stomach as he searched for the one man he knew should be the Incident Room - but was not.

"What's going on, Sir?"

"Sgt. Cryer can fill you in on the details but no-one has heard a peep from inside that room since the whole mess began. Your man Greig has been trying to gain some response for the past fifteen minutes. Ah, Alistair, come in."

Meadows gave his junior officer a nod of recognition and then, licking suddenly dry lips he prepared himself for the worst as he turned towards Cryer. He knew his fears were to be realised just by reading the man's compassionate expression yet still he needed to hear the words.

"Who's the hostage?"

"Inspector Monroe."

The colour bled from his face but Meadows forced himself back under control, not wanting to reveal his true depth of feeling for Monroe to the other officers present in the room. Andrew needed him so he had to remain calm and professional.

"What do we know about this man?"

"He stormed into the Front Office about half an hour ago demanding to see the most Senior Officer. Said he and his brother had been having a quiet drink at their local when a fight broke out among some of the visiting Millwall supporters. He said our lads waded in and pulled out his brother who had only got up to avoid having a glass smashed into his face. Hollis told him he would look into it but the man accused us of unlawful detention. Said his father was on the Council and one call would be all that was needed. I checked the Custody Records and the name Cadwell did appear amongst them."

"Councillor Anthony Cadwell is the Deputy Mayor."

Meadows nodded at Cato; he knew the name. Cadwell and Sun Hill had never seen eye to eye over Community Control but Meadows realised there was more to come. He faced Cato, trying to keep his words matter of fact in case the Chief Inspector took offense at the implication that he was not doing his job properly. He was well aware that there was no love lost between the two of them although Meadows was careful not to make it obvious to anyone. As far as he was concerned Frank Burnside's description of Cato as 'the bald- headed bastard from Barton Street' was spot on. Cato was an ambitious boot-licker of the worst kind. He had already garnered Brownlow's contempt by instituting a search of all the men's lockers on the orders of ACC Singleton, and without Brownlow's consent. Singleton had only one objective through that search; to find the incriminating video of Meadows and Monroe that was being held by Bob Cryer.

"I suppose you called Councillor Cadwell."

"Under the circumstances it seemed to be the obvious course of action."

"And...?"

"Cadwell has only one son and he is in the cells."

*

Monroe had recognised the muffled voice of Alistair Greig at the beginning and, initially, was pleased the younger DS was still around. If anyone could get through to Cadwell then Greig was that man. However, he had noticed increased agitation in his captor as time passed by. Cadwell had seemed quite capable of ignoring the constant litany but gradually he had started to grow annoyed with the continuous requests for information. Only a few moments earlier he had slammed his fist down on the table in irritation as the new voice tried a different tactic to elicit some response from inside the room. Although Monroe knew Greig and the new unknown negotiator were wearing the man down he was suddenly very concerned by the abrupt display of temper. Michael Cadwell wanted something - or wanted to do something - but he was being held back by his own personal demons. The younger man looked up at his hostage, the anguish in his eyes all too revealing of his inner torment. Monroe watched the thin lips clamp hard together as if trying to halt the flow of the man's thoughts and decided it was time to add some advice of his own.

"You will have to speak to them sometime if you want them to stop."

"Are you telling me what to do?"

"I was just pointing out that we can't sit here forever."

"DON'T tell me what to do."

"Perhaps we could talk about your brother? I'm sure..."

The face before him twisted in murderous fury.

"What do you know about my brother? You're just trying to screw around with my mind. Just like them - and him outside...."

Monroe pulled back as Cadwell stormed to his feet, the chair crashing backwards onto the floor behind him. Cadwell waved the gun inches from Monroe's face, his hand shaking in rage as he leant in closer.

"Don't you ever talk about my brother, Filth."

"I'm sorry. I won't say anything....."

Monroe had raised his hands placatingly but barely had time to react as the gun smashed into the side of his face. The blow, delivered with the strength of a madman, toppled him from his chair and he lay still on the floor, in stunned disbelief, his cheek pressed against the cool linoleum as he waited for his vision to clear. The iron taste of blood filled his mouth and he shuddered as the pain came crashing down.

"Now look what you made me do? I want you to be my friend. I *need* you. I have such plans for us."

The gently pleading voice seemed at total odds with his last sight and Monroe realised Cadwell must be bordering on the psychotic. With bleary vision he watched as the younger man moved around the table, righted the chair and nudged the prone figure with his foot.

"Cummon, get up. I said, get up."

Through the haze of pain Monroe recognised the growing instability in the voice and pushed himself onto his knees. Using the table for support, he dragged himself back onto the seat allowing his hands to rest on top of his thighs. He did not dare meet the other's gaze until he had schooled his damaged features back into some semblance of a normal controlled expression, realising he could not afford to antagonise this man again. He fought to contain the slight tremble that ran through him.

Jack, where are you?

*

Meadows looked pointedly at Cato who seemed to have taken control of the Incident Room while Brownlow looked on.

"Have you questioned David Cadwell about this man?"

"I hardly believe that would be appropriate. Anthony Cadwell would never approve of his son being involved in any of this..."

"Have you considered how this man could have known David Cadwell had been arrested - and the circumstances behind his arrest?"

Brownlow narrowed his eyes. In the heat of the moment he had not made the connection between the two and was surprised Cato had missed this clue as well. His opinion of Philip Cato plummeted even further as the Chief Inspector acknowledged that he had considered it yet still he continued to argue the lack of necessity. Brownlow decided to put an end to the debate.

"Bob, bring David Cadwell to the DCI's office. Jack, I want you and DS Lines to handle the interrogation."

"And what about Anthony Cadwell?"

Brownlow glared at Cato in undisguised disgust, suddenly aware of how little he liked and trusted this man. He made a mental note to get Cato transferred out at the earliest opportunity.

"What Councillor Cadwell thinks is irrelevant. His son could hold a vital clue to the identity and motives of this man and that justifies our questioning him."

Meadows glanced over at Cato as the Chief Superintendent huffed his disapproval and turned away to question Greig about progress so far, grateful that, unlike Cato, Brownlow still placed the lives of his men above his own political aspirations.

*

The man's dispassionate eyes narrowed as he surveyed the damage he had inflicted upon the other. The skin around Monroe's right eye had already started to puff up, turning a mixture of red and purple as a massive bruise formed. A small amount of blood had run down the side of his face where the skin had split over the fractured cheek bone. Cadwell moved slowly around the table until he stood behind his injured hostage, smiling as the Inspector's shoulders stiffened in apprehension - or fear. He wanted Monroe to be afraid and stood quietly behind his prisoner for a moment longer, basking in the power he wielded over the other. A glint of metal caught his eye, broadening his smile. Cadwell reached for the handcuffs attached to Monroe's belt and placed them onto the table in front of the Inspector before returning to his own seat.

"Put them on."

Monroe stared at the handcuffs for a moment before taking them up, wondering what new twist Cadwell was going to add to the game. Whatever it was, if he wanted to get out of there alive then he really had no choice but to play along. Monroe snapped one side around his left wrist then moved to attach the other, half expecting the man to reach over and drag him towards the radiator where he could be shackled more securely but Cadwell made no move to prevent him from closing the remaining half around his other wrist. Instead the younger man pulled a dirty white handkerchief from his pocket, spat into it and then reached across to daub at the congealing blood.

The murderous rage seemed to have died away as if it had never happened leaving an almost pleasant and considerate person behind in its wake. Monroe tried not to wince as the strangely gentle gesture only added to his pain and discomfit.

"You shouldn't get me angry....but your type always do. Supposed to be a public servant but always pushing, shoving, ordering people around, telling them what they should do, where they should go. Well, I know where I want to go. I'm going there real soon.....and I'm taking you with me....to show me the way but it's gotta be done just right."

*

"I met the guy at the pub. I was on my own and he came over, I suppose to get away from that rowdy Millwall pack who were propping up the bar. I was a little wary at first, in case he was spoiling for a fight - a bit of queer bashing - but he just sat himself down and we started talking. He seemed okay, pleasant enough sort of chap if a bit nosy but, what the hell, I'd nothing better to do....and I wanted some company. Certainly wasn't interested in going home to watch the Old Man snoozing in front of the Telly."

"Did he give a name?"

David Cadwell reached for the strong black coffee and took another mouthful. He shook his head slowly as if trying to recapture the opening conversation.

"Belcher? Belster?... Geoff... I don't know, it was something like that. He didn't want to talk about himself but he got me talking about 'dear Papa'. Seemed totally entranced with my description of the Old Man, hanging on every word. Said he'd like to meet him. Said he was just the kind of person he needed but he didn't say what for. Not that I had any intention of taking him home with me, although the thought did cross my mind. That would've shocked the Old Man. He doesn't know..."

Meadows nodded to Tosh Lines as the voice trailed off. The other detective quickly left the room to start a computer search for the identity of their hostage-taker. When PNC had finally come back the search for 'Michael Cadwell' had come up negative. Meadows hoped that would not be the case this time.

David Cadwell looked up with remorse written across his pale features and snorted in self-derision as he recognised the sudden empathy in the face across the table from his. Meadows was well aware of the pressure an over-bearing father could exert. He had spent most of his life trying to please his own father by pretending he was a normal heterosexual male while secretly living a separate existence among the homosexually inclined. His first wife had learned of his double-life and had divorced him on grounds of adultery. Fortunately, she had cared enough not to specify the name and gender of his partner. In exchange he had let her take the house and their son without a fight. He wondered whether his second wife would be as generous if she found out. He smiled deprecatingly, perhaps she already knew about Burnside and the others but couldn't care less. She needed him just as much as he needed her. She was a divorcee and she brought with her two children from her previous marriage. He was her meal-ticket. He provided the roof over their heads and the clothes on their backs. She? Well, she gave him the respectability - the camouflage - of a married man. At least there were no children of his own from this second marriage.

David Cadwell looked up from where he had been gazing introspectively into his cup of black coffee to find compassionate blue eyes in a pleasant, older face still fixed upon him. He blushed as an erotic thought pushed into his alcohol hazed brain but then remembered where he was and clamped down hard on himself.

"I guess I was pretty drunk but he - Geoff - seemed really pissed off when that fight broke out, especially when the Police arrived and dragged me out too."

The young man's expression turned earnest.

"I wasn't involved in the fight. Suppose I was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Is there anything you can do?"

"Maybe. I'll look into it."

Meadows nodded at Bob Cryer who was waiting quietly by the door. The Sergeant quickly took control of the prisoner to lead him out of the office and back to the cells.

Meadows rubbed his temples, acknowledging for the first time the headache brought on by the additional stress and tension. Greig had informed him of the crash and raised voice sounding from within the room but no amount of pleading had gained any response.

If only I knew you were alright.

He closed his eyes and allowed his memory of Andrew Monroe to re-surface as it had several times each day for the passed three weeks. The sight of the normally austere and granite-faced Inspector reduced to a passionate and wanton state had aroused him beyond anything he had ever felt before. He bit his bottom lip as he remembered the hot, sensuous mouth clamped against his own while gentle yet insistent fingers carded through his hair and across his naked back.....

 

The video camera had ceased to exist, the only reality the hard body arched against him and the lean thighs wrapped around his own as he sank into the heat of Monroe's body. He had come too quickly but with an intensity that dragged a guttural cry from him then he had slumped against the sweaty body, his lips and teeth grazing the vulnerable throat as his lover gasped for breath following his own tumultuous release. Meadows' mouth travelled along the strong jawbone then back.

As the harsh breathing faded, he continued with his investigation of the other's mouth and he had smiled against the soft, pliant lips as he recognised the stickiness between them, amazed that he could have drawn such a response from the man beneath him. One hand stroked along the silky flank while the other followed the outline of his lover's ear across the top and down to the soft, fleshy lobe. His mouth had quickly moved to explore this new territory, sucking in the soft skin and gently licking, his lips widening into another smile when he felt a new hardness forming against his abdomen as his lover reacted to the stimulation.

Looking down into an open expression of trust had brought an incredible feeling of protection erupting to the surface and Meadows found his breath catch in his throat as he recognised what had been offered so freely. He frowned, his eyes turning aside in disgust at his own inability to control his errant emotions. He had never stopped to consider Andrew Monroe. Had he hurt him? Fingers clutching at the short hair at the nape of his neck tugged gently to raise his head until their eyes met and Meadows smiled in contentment as he read satisfaction in the intense dark gaze. He lowered his head, his mouth seeking the softly smiling lips, his tongue thrusting inside the hot interior. Meadows felt his heart melt as lust gave way to a deeper feeling that swept over him.

The remainder of their love making was no less passionate but infinitely slower and more tender as he took Monroe once again during those next three hours. Eventually, they ended sprawled against each other in lazy replete, fully satiated, neither wanting to break the spell.

It was Monroe who first moved away, his movements slow and stiff, which was hardly surprising considering what they had done. Monroe swallowed hard and then brought them back to reality with a bump as he reminded them both of the video tape that would have run out more than an hour previously.

Meadows picked up his wristwatch from the beside table and stared at it. Three hours and twenty minutes had passed since Andrew Monroe had walked through the door; three hours and twenty minutes that had changed everything he had previously thought of the other man. Gone was his impatience with the seemingly intractable officer as he recognised his own error in mistaking inflexibility with commitment to the officers under Monroe's supervision. Monroe was, if nothing else, a man who took his duty seriously and that duty included protecting his people even from his own superiors. The fact that they were sharing this bed was testament to that and Meadows wondered whether Jim Carver would ever realise the lengths Monroe would go to preserve his own sense of justice.

He watched as Monroe climbed out from beneath the tangled sheets with a small grimace of discomfit. Meadows sighed. He had promised he would be home before midnight and he would be cutting it fine if he left immediately but he desperately wished he could pull the other man back down against him and continue with the delicious, slow love-making until dawn - and beyond.

"I have to go, Andrew. Will you be alright?"

"I'll be fine. I'll just have a shower, and then I'll be off myself."

"If you're sure...?"

Monroe turned until his dark eyes captured the blue of his companion, a small gentle smile lighting his features, offering a tantalising glimpse of the lust and tenderness that had flowed through their love-making.

"I'm sure. Off you go, Jack."

Meadows watched as the man walked stiffly to the bathroom and listened to the sound of the shower starting before turning his attention to getting dressed.

He paused for a moment by the door, wondering whether he should wait for Andrew before leaving, not wanting to walk away without some last parting gesture but what was there left to say. He closed the door gently behind him and wandered down the impersonal corridor with his thoughts still hugging the surprisingly lithe body of Andrew Monroe.

The house had been very quiet when the taxi pulled up outside his home although he could see the tell-tale flicker of light from the television filtering into the darkened hallway. Her kids would be in bed by now, their mother all comfortable on the settee wrapped in a thick dressing gown with a cup of hot chocolate, watching some documentary or film while she waited for him to come home.

He drew a deep breath as he pushed open the front door and smiled wistfully. He could still smell Andrew's after shave and the musky scent of their love-making. That thought filled him with consternation; perhaps he should have showered. Well, it was too late now as a soft voice calling his name drifted from the lounge. His heart seemed to sink in disappointment, his mind recalling his name cried over and over in a deeper, gentle Midlands accent as he plunged into the tight centre of hot flesh.

Sleep seemed impossible. His arms ached to reach out and gather in the warm body next to him but he knew they would not encounter the muscular frame that he suddenly craved. He drifted in and out of a sleep laced with the taste of coffee and whisky from a hot, sensuous mouth.

As the sky began to lighten Meadows found himself wide-awake with his mind re-living the previous evening and the events leading up to it. He sighed in exasperation as he wished he could have joined his lover under the invigorating spray of the shower. That was when it hit him for the first time. Was Monroe his lover? It was never supposed to have happened like that; some mutual masturbation and a few passionate kisses were all that were needed to complete the assignment. Instead they had..... What had they done?

//What have I done?//

Meadows turned restlessly onto his back and stared up at the ceiling. It was supposed to be an assignment not an assignation. Monroe was a happily married, family man not a... Christ! His thoughts churned onward and inward sending his stomach twisting in guilt and horror. What a fool he had been; what a fool he still was, dreaming of strong, gentle fingers and compassionate, dark eyes. Compassion? Yes, it would be just like Andrew Monroe to carry on with the pretence out of compassion, not wanting to embarrass his superior for his over-enthusiastic approach to the assignment. Meadows turned again beneath the covers.

"Can't you sleep, Jack?"

"I'm sorry, love. I've got a particularly aggravating case on my mind. Look, there's no point me lying here keeping you awake as well. I'll get up and catch up on some paperwork. Perhaps get into Sun Hill early today."

"Hmm...Okay."

As he stood in the bathroom gazing at his sleep-deprived reflection, Jack Meadows felt a new knife twist in his gut. Monroe could have stopped what they were doing at any time. Most certainly, he could have refused to be taken so why did he allow it to happen not once but twice? Other questions raised themselves, demanding to be answered. Who was the officer at Gold Lane who committed suicide after being accused of being gay by the then Inspector Singleton and why did Monroe take it so personally? Was that officer gay? Was Monroe his lover? Was all of this just some elaborate plan concocted by Monroe to exact revenge on Singleton? Or was Monroe working for Singleton? Was this a set up to expose him to Singleton's blackmail... No, he could never believe Monroe condoned Singleton's actions. But what if Monroe was gay? What if this whole affair was just a charade, a ruse to get him into Monroe's bed? But if that were true then why him - unless Monroe had a thing for senior officers?

By the time he reached Sun Hill, Meadows believed he had found the true reason for Monroe's erotic behaviour; a motive he did not like one tiny bit. Tiredness, fear and confusion ruled as he confronted Monroe with what seemed a far more plausible explanation than the plain truth. It was easier to believe he had been used, that Monroe had set up the whole operation to fulfill his own carnal desires rather than accept the truth that within three hours and twenty minutes he had fallen in love with the innocent Andrew Monroe.

How he regretted those words once a decent night's sleep and a modicum of common sense had seeped into him. How he wished the Earth would swallow him up as surely as it had moved on that evening. How was he supposed to make amends?

 

The sound of the door opening dragged Meadows back to the present. Lines flapped several pieces of paper but the triumphant gesture was ruined by the grim expression.

"Geoff Belstert. He's on the run from the Midlands after escaping from Psychiatric Evaluation late Friday afternoon. Some ESSO had pegged him as not considered dangerous despite attacking a priest and then threatening to top himself. Bob Cryer has confirmed the identity from the mugshot."

"Why didn't we get this sooner!"

"There was a mix-up at Division. ESSOs."

Meadows sighed in exasperation, his contempt mirroring that of his subordinate. 'Every Saturday and Sunday Off' was a term used to describe the non-shift workers, mainly clerical, whose responsibility it would be to ensure that information was classified correctly and circulated as quickly as possible. Obviously, someone at Division had screwed up - unless holding a Police Officer hostage at gunpoint had also been demoted to a minor misdemeanor.

Meadows took the papers and read through them as quickly as possible, a frown furrowing his brow as his fear for Andrew Monroe increased ten-fold. If this man was as unstable as the report indicated then it would be difficult to negotiate with him, perhaps impossible.

According to the Psychiatrist, Belstert had a death wish coupled with a fear of stepping into that void alone. Belstert had told the Psychiatrist he had been searching for someone older and wiser to cross over with him, to guide him to a better world where his brother would be waiting for him. The Psychiatrist had labelled Belstert as either delusional, schizophrenic or possibly psychotic, the exact nature of his mental condition to be determined after further examination. However, he had noted in the psychiatric evaluation that Belstert was capable of uncontrollable rages and should be considered a danger to society.

Meadows took a deep breath as everything fell into place with horrifying clarity. Perhaps Belstert's original intention was to follow David Cadwell home to his overbearing father with the intention of letting the elder Cadwell be his 'guide'. His profile implied that he would have quickly become enraged when David Cadwell was taken away from him. He could have followed the wagon to Sun Hill in order to get him back. Unfortunately, once at Sun Hill he had found another surrogate guardian to lead him to the afterlife: Inspector Andrew Monroe.

"Dear God."

Jack Meadows breathed a silent prayer and began to wrack his brain over how he was going to free Monroe from that room when every known tactic demanded some small amount of reasonable behaviour from the hostage taker.

He shoved himself out of the chair and headed out towards the closed door of Interview Room 2 closely followed by Tosh Lines.

*

"You've got a nice voice. Soft, like my brother's."

Monroe froze as he wondered how he should react. It was obvious Belstert was unstable and there was no safe way to deal with someone suffering from the kind of violent mood swing that had already been displayed to Monroe's cost.

"Talk to me, Andrew."

"What do you want me to say?"

Monroe winced as the talking increased the dull ache that stretched across one side of his face from ear to nose.

"Do you know why you can't remember me?"

"No, I don't know why."

"It's because we only ever met once before, a long time ago but I remember you. When your constable gave me your name outside I hoped it would be you... but don't worry, we'll have eternity to get to know each other better."

Monroe swallowed hard. He tried to drag this long forgotten face to the surface but there was nothing to latch onto, instead a darker picture formed in his mind. Was this man planning some bizarre death pact? Grimacing at the pain that flared and at the nauseous feeling that accompanied his still slowly spinning senses, Monroe closed his eyes for a moment but opened them again as a new word crept in; concussion. He had to stay awake and aware, that's what it said in the book, but he could not prevent his thoughts from drifting back to a time when he had felt so wonderfully safe and secure, held within the strong arms of Jack Meadows....

 

Andrew Monroe stretched languorously against the strong frame that lay alongside him, his lips curling into a lazy and fulfilled smile as his mind relived the pleasure of their coupling. He wished they could stay that way forever but time was against them. Eventually he submitted to reality and pulled away from Jack, grimacing as a deep, dull ache spread through his thighs and buttocks. He had never been taken before, had never slept with another man, yet the experience had felt like 'coming home' after a lifetime in exile. He had taken a long shower, luxuriating in the flow of hot water over still achingly sensitive flesh, his mind supplying ghost sensations of his lover's caresses as Monroe massaged quivering muscles with lathered soap.

When he stepped out of the shower part of him was hoping to find Jack Meadows exactly where he left him; sprawled across the double bed with the covers caught around one leg, his now flaccid organ lying against one soft, pale inner thigh but the room was empty, only the crumpled bed, two plastic cups and an almost empty bottle of Whisky left to remind him of Jack.

He seated himself of the edge of the bed, rubbed his hair vigorously and then let the towel drop from his fingers, oddly reluctant to pull on the clothes until he remembered how many of the items had been peeled off him. He handled each garment gently as he dressed, recalling strong fingers tugging at the snow white tracksuit bottoms and tight white briefs. Monroe found the deep red singlet at the foot of the bed where it had been discarded and, as he pulled it on his fingers re-discovered the SOS medallion, remembering the way Jack had teased him about non- regulation jewellery. Eventually he was fully dressed but still reluctant to leave the hotel room.

Monroe sighed and poured out the last of the Whisky, grimacing as the fiery liquid burnt its way down his throat and into his stomach. He groaned. There was nothing outside of that hotel room for him except a dead marriage and the Job but Jack had shown him that there could be more to life - if he had the courage to do something about it. With that thought to sustain him, Monroe swallowed the last of the Whisky, replaced the cup and left the hotel.

 

Monroe grimaced in self-deprecation. Three weeks had passed since then and he had done nothing, preferring to avoid Jack Meadows and wishing he could deny what had passed between them. However, he could not prevent his inner self from wanting more than just that one night. When he dared to sleep his dreams were filled with soft lips nuzzling his throat while strong hands held him tightly as silk-covered steel pressed deep inside him only to pull out before plunging back into his eagerly waiting body. He would whimper as muscles quivered and tightened against the invading flesh, heightening the pleasure that seemed to extend towards eternity. He would awaken with a gasp, his own flesh rigid with desire for the supple fingers or sensuous mouth that would have brought him to an explosive climax.

As the days turned to weeks thoughts of Jack Meadows pervaded his waking hours, taking away his appetite until he berated himself for acting like a love-lorn adolescent. Several times recently he had tried to dredge up the courage to approach Meadows but a sideways glance along a crowded corridor and a few hesitant words across a table in the Canteen were hardly progress especially as he had looked away in dread on each occasion, afraid to find no spark of interest in those blues eyes yet terrified of revealing the depth of longing in his own. The one glimmer of hope had been Meadows' sharp intake of breath when their fingers had touched whilst handing over a report. Monroe wanted to believe it had been caused by lust rather than abhorrence for he knew Jack was no stranger to men.

*

Alistair Greig had reclaimed his position outside, talking every once in a while in his soft Scots accent then placing his ear up against the door to try and overhear any noises from within that might indicate whether Andrew Monroe was still with them. He glanced at his watch. Less than an hour had passed since the man first entered Sun Hill yet he felt as if he had been standing outside that room for most of the night.

He looked up at his superior, noting the additional lines of stress around the pleasant face. It was no secret that Meadows and Monroe had been involved in some undercover operation that had left both feeling vulnerable. The ensuing row in the Gents cloakroom was still a topic of conversation around the station. Greig had been filled in on most of the details when he arrived back from his holiday by George Garfield who often related how he was ordered out of a cubicle by Meadows in a voice that demanded instant obedience. Whatever Monroe had done to incur Meadows' wrath was a matter of heated debate and the betting had quickly started over who would walk away from that showdown in one piece. As it was, Bob Cryer had stepped in and ended it. The changing room gossip about the incident had all but disappeared since then but Alistair Greig wanted to know what had caused such a rift between the two men, not that they had ever seemed that close in the past. He had watched them both over the last two weeks, the sideways glances, the strained conversations over lunch in the canteen, and had reached the only possible conclusion, improbable as it seemed, that something had happened that they were too embarrassed or too afraid to discuss even with each other. Greig hoped he was wrong about Meadows and Monroe, that his overactive imagination had got the better of him but, deep down, he knew he was right. Jack Meadows and Andrew Monroe had recent history of a personal nature. That conclusion brought him extra concern as he read through the psychiatric report that was thrust into his hands. The SO19 negotiator had heard the muffled sound of an angry voice followed by the crash of a chair over ten minutes ago and nothing else since. What if Andrew Monroe was hurt - or already dead? How would Jack Meadows react? Greig was not sure whether Meadows would be able to forgive himself for not straightening things out between them should something have happened to Monroe.

"I want to try and talk to him."

Greig nodded and moved aside to allow his superior to get closer to the door.

"Geoff Belstert. Geoff, we know who you are..."

*

Monroe sank deeper into his own thoughts as he imagined a reunion with Jack Meadows. He felt a strange warmth swelling deep inside him from the pit of his stomach, creeping slowly over his groin and inner thighs until it filled his entire being. Monroe visualised his mouth seeking out Jack's, their tongues battling idly against each other, his legs wrapping tightly around the other as their engorged flesh lay trapped and sensitive between their closed-pressed abdomens. He bit into his bottom lip, his head falling back as desire swept through him, feeling strong fingers dig into his ass, forcing their bodies together, increasing the friction as their souls soared towards that final moment of annihilation only to be re-born as they fell back into waiting arms.

Monroe opened his eyes wide in shock as he caught the barely audible sound of Jack's voice drifting through the door from the hallway beyond. He stared at Belstert as the room blurred around him and an image of another young man formed; the pale blue eyes shining up at him in gratitude through a dirty face. The image faded as his sight came back into focus to find the other had drifted off into his own quiet world, mumbling words of reassurance to some unknown person and with sudden realisation, Monroe knew the time to move had come, the one chance he had of ending this before he said or did something that would cost him his life. Not allowing himself to think of the consequences, he leapt forward and grabbed the gun with both hands, managing to force the weapon away from his face just as Belstert's finger twitched on the trigger sending a round searing across his upper arm before thudding into the far wall. Belstert gained his feet, easily overpowering the injured Police Officer, his face a mask of insane anger as he pushed Monroe back and levelled the gun.

"Jack!!"

*

The sound of a gun shot penetrated the solid wooden door and stopped Meadows' heart. In his mind's eye he could visualise only one scenario, his lover lying dead or dying in a pool of blood and, in that moment, he knew he could not face a future without Andrew Monroe. His heart took another beat as he clearly heard his name but the terror in the voice sent a message to his limbs that bypassed the common sense chip in his brain. Andrew needed him now. Alistair Greig barely had time to take a step back from the door as the smaller yet more solidly built frame of his superior officer crashed against the panel with a strength borne out of desperation, splintering the frame and slamming the door inwards. Within seconds Meadows had crossed the room with the others close behind, oblivious to the gun that had swung towards him. He knocked the weapon flying from Belstert's hand but wasted no more time, his mind already frantic with the need to hold Monroe. Tosh Lines and Tony Stamp grabbed hold of Belstert and dragged him away from his intended victim while Alistair Greig and Steve Loxton could only stand in the doorway and watch in stunned silence. Neither had anticipated Meadows desperate reaction to that frantic call especially Loxton as he had never noticed any familiarity let alone any of the tension that had hung between the two men over the passed few weeks.

It had taken only a split second for Meadows to find the huddled figure. Heedless of the men around him, he dropped to his knees at Monroe's side and reached for the exposed throat, his body sagging in relief as he located a strong pulse.

"Jack?"

"It's alright, Andy. I'm here."

Meadows inspected the darkening bruise across his lover's face and only then noticed the blood seeping through the ripped sleeve of Monroe's standard issue jumper where the bullet had sliced across the biceps.

"You bloody fool. You could have got yourself killed."

But the angry words were softened by a gentle caress and the frightening knowledge that Monroe's own actions had probably saved his life.

*

Alistair Greig stared around the empty Interview Room, his eyes finding the small bullet hole in the plaster then moving to linger on the dark blood stain on the floor before he slumped into a seat at the main table. Although more than an hour had passed, inside he was still shaking, his thoughts crowding in on him with 'what ifs': What if Belstert had fired at Monroe? What if he had then fired at Meadows - and Tosh and...? Greig knew Jack Meadows had lost control and had placed more than his own life at risk when he smashed down that door. This placed Greig in a difficult situation. Should he report this to Cato or should he pretend it never happened?

Greig frowned. He had spent plenty of time assessing Jack Meadows since the man became chief of Sun Hill CID yet still he did not know for certain whether it was only the thought of Monroe in danger that had sent him crashing into that room. Had the hostage been anyone else would Jack Meadows have endangered himself? Or would he have been more cautious and waited to determine the outcome of that gunshot?

"Christ!"

The Detective Sergeant exhaled sharply. If that was the case then if it had been anyone other than Monroe, the hostage would have died. Greig had just spent the passed 25 minutes talking to the Psychiatrist about Belstert and what he learnt was more frightening than the initial pages of fax they had received. Belstert had become unhinged following the suicide of his brother. He had blamed himself and was terrified of going to hell for his supposed crime. In his derangement he had twisted the words of the Priest and believed that, if he took someone older and wiser with him, then that person would be able to explain everything to his brother. He wanted absolution. What had made him more dangerous was his belief that the Authorities were in league with the Devil, trying to lock him away where he would not be able to find a guide. If that happened then he believed he would die alone and then spend the rest of eternity alone. Geoff Belstert had decided that his one and only chance for salvation would be to find someone before the Authorities locked him away.

Greig shook his head in a mixture of awe and horror as he read the additional case notes that had been faxed shortly after the original report. Strange how people's lives could be so interconnected. Twelve years ago, as a Coal miner, Andrew Monroe had hauled a new recruit out of a collapsed tunnel following a gas explosion. Monroe had been presented with an award for bravery in front of the young man's family which included an impressionable sixteen year old brother, Geoff Belstert. Two months ago, following redundancy and finding his wife in bed with his own brother, Michael Belstert committed suicide. Geoff Belstert had come to Sun Hill Police station desperate to find a way of getting to Anthony Cadwell through his son, David. Instead he had found Andrew Monroe.

So why didn't he kill Monroe? He had plenty of time and opportunity. The Psychiatrist had said there may have been some spark of sanity left, some survival instinct or some lingering respect for the man who had saved his brother's life all those years ago that had kept his finger from pulling the trigger until that last moment. He seemed to feel it was a good sign, believing it might be his gateway into the deranged mind but Greig did not care too much about Belstert's mental health at this moment; he had other problems.

The one thing Alistair Greig did not question was Belstert's choice of guide. Andrew Monroe, although by no means perfect, was willing to defend his own people - and anyone else - to the highest level if he felt they had been treated unjustly. Frank Burnside had been made of the same stuff but their methods had differed. Where Burnside would blunder in, all bluff and outrage, Andrew Monroe would try to reason with those in charge. There were numerous occasions where he had proved this the right approach by deflating situations before they exploded without making enemies of those around him. Although Greig commended Burnside's loyalty, he knew, given a choice, he would rather have Monroe fighting his corner. But none of this explained what had happened to make Monroe so important to Jack Meadows.

Until a month ago there had been nothing noticeable between the two men; they barely acknowledged each other's existence yet Greig had returned from his holiday to find Sun Hill rife with rumours but his inquisitive nature had quickly reached a dead end. Only a handful of people seemed to be involved - Brownlow, Meadows, Monroe, Bob Cryer and ACC Singleton - and none of those were likely to talk. However, earlier today June Ackland had let slip her concern for Jack Meadows and, from the expression on her face, Greig knew she was desperate to confide in someone.

A knock at the door brought his head back up and he smiled reassuringly as Ackland peered around the smashed door frame.

"June. Come in and sit down."

He tried his most pleasant smile on her, hoping she would be receptive. Alistair Greig watched as she took a seat opposite, his sharp mind having already determined the best method of extracting information. He would appeal to her 'mothering instincts' especially as he had a genuine reason for needing some guidance.

"June. I'm in a little bit of a dilemma and need your advice."

June Ackland raised her eyebrows in both surprise and interest. Alistair Greig was not renowned for taking advice from anyone below the rank of Inspector. She listened while Greig recounted the passed few hours, making her aware of his fear of working for Meadows, playing on her own sense of fairness.

Greig watched her face closely as he let her know how easily it could have turned into a massacre with his own life in the balance. How could he trust Meadows if the man just leapt into action without regard for the safety of those around him? What would happen next time there was a hostage situation?

Ackland shook her head over and over.

"No. You've got it wrong. You know him as well as I do, perhaps better. He wouldn't react like that normally. This was a one-off."

"Why? Because Monroe was the hostage?"

"Yes."

"I don't understand, June. They’re hardly the best of mates. From what I've seen and been told they've barely said more than a dozen words to each other since that big argument they had a month back. Why would Meadows risk everything - and everyone - for Monroe."

"I can't explain. You just have to trust me on this, Sir."

"I can't do that, June. I need more than your reassurance. If this was just a one-off then I need to know what hold Monroe has over the DCI."

"I... can't tell you."

"Then there is something."

Greig watched Ackland closely, seeing the indecision so plainly written across her face. He wanted to dive in and demand an answer from her but knew this would raise her defense shields and then he would gain nothing from her. He decided on another tact.

"I need to know, June, or I'm going to have to have a word with Cato.

Ackland looked up in shock. As far as she was concerned Cato was the last person on Earth who should be told anything about Meadows, Monroe and Operation 'Other Half'. The man was another ACC Singleton in the making; an ambitious bigot with little concern or respect for his fellow officers. She knew he had backed her into a corner where the only way to protect Meadows and Monroe was to let Greig know the truth.

"Alright. I'll tell you everything I know but I need your word that it will go no further."

"You have it."

From her expression of relief and resignation, Greig knew had been right. She had needed to confide in someone and her words, starting as a trickle, soon poured out. Ackland told him the whole story just as it had been told to her by Bob Cryer; Singleton's insinuations about gays and his plans to ruin Jim Carver's career, Meadows approach to Brownlow for permission to set up Operation 'Other Half' and Monroe volunteering to play the 'other half'. She glanced up to watch Alistair's shocked expression as the tale unfolded; the room at the hotel, the video, Cato's unauthorised search of the men's locker room and the blackmail attempt on Monroe which had led to ACC Singleton taking instant early retirement.

"There's has to be more to it than that, June. I could have played Meadow's partner just as well as Monroe."

June swallowed and then looked away. Bob Cryer had told her what had happened, how they had lost control, forgetting the camera that whirled away behind the two-way mirror. Her cheeks reddened in shame as, haltingly, she let him know what she had done; how she had betrayed their trust by viewing the video.

"And was it true? What Bob said."

She nodded her head too ashamed to meet his eyes. They sat in silence for a moment longer until Ackland found the courage to look up, half expecting to find disappointment and loathing on the Detective Sergeant's face. Instead, she was surprised to find compassion and a small smile of satisfaction.

"There's nothing more I can tell you."

"I know. Thank you."

"I have your word, though? This goes no further."

Greig nodded reassuringly and Ackland gave a small smile as she recognised the truth. It was the reason she had been able to tell him in the first place. Greig may not have been her first choice of confidant but she knew he could be trusted to keep her secret and this knowledge in combination with her revelation had lightened the dark guilt that had seemed to consume her.

He waited for her to leave the room before he allowed his own smile to widen. Meadows and Monroe had fallen in love with each other - even if they did not realise it themselves. It was so painfully obvious now he had the full story and Meadows, well, he had reacted the way he had purely because it had been Andrew Monroe, his lover, in danger. Greig took a deep breath and felt himself start to relax. He had no hang-ups about gays and knew he could work within these new guidelines. Meadows and Monroe would not be the first homosexual couple at Sun Hill.

As far as he was concerned it was safe to say nothing to Cato for there was nothing to say - but what pleased him most was final solid confirmation that Jim Carver was gay. He had suspected as much following DS Dashwood's transfer to the Fine Art Squad when a drunk Carver had crumpled into tears on Tosh Lines broad shoulders. Lines had pulled him together pretty fast telling him how worthless Dashwood was anyway. Over the passed few years Dashwood had reappeared on the scene for a few short days and each time Lines had cursed the man. Greig now had a good idea why he should and could not help agreeing with Tosh Lines. Obviously, Dashwood came back when it suited him and Jim Carver allowed himself to be used by his ex-colleague and lover.

That thought angered Alistair Greig more than he cared to admit.

*

He had been transported to the Casualty Centre at St. Hugh's very quickly and although he had drifted in and out of consciousness during the short ride from Sun Hill Andrew Monroe knew someone Jack trusted was with him. He could remember hearing Jack's voice asking Bob Cryer to accompany him in the ambulance and, even in his concussed state, he could appreciate how difficult but necessary it would be for Meadows to stay behind. Yet Monroe could still remember the longing and relief in that familiar voice and feel the gentle reassuring grip of strong fingers wrapped around his own before he was handed over to the Paramedics.

He had slept most of the day only managing to fight his way back to consciousness later that evening to find his wife watching over him. She smiled and kissed him gently on the forehead and, in that moment, he knew they still cared about each other enough for him to want her to be free. Now was not the time to let her know but he had made the decision for both of them and would follow it through.

He fell back to sleep more at ease with himself than he had felt in years but whenever he did open his eyes through the remainder of the night it was to find someone watching over him: Bob Cryer, Jim Carver, June Ackland, Tosh Lines but never the person he wanted.

A hushed yet familiar voice brought him swimming slowly back to awareness just before dawn as Jack Meadows sent Tosh Lines off to get a cup of coffee. The DCI gazed over at the restless yet still sleeping man for a moment before slumping into the vacated chair and his own thoughts. Alistair Greig had briefed him on the full facts surrounding Geoff Belstert and he shuddered as he realised how close he had come to losing the one person he was willing to give up everything for. Monroe opened sleep filled eyes, turned his head towards the tired figure and knew he had found the person he wanted in his life.

"Jack."

Meadows straightened as his name fell from Monroe's lips as a soft caress. There was no mistaking the emotion that lay behind that one word.

Without realising he had crossed the room, Meadows found himself seated on the edge of the bed, his mouth pressing gentle kisses across the forehead and then trailing down the undamaged side of Monroe's face until he felt unbelievably soft lips beneath his own. He licked once along the delicate inner surface before strong fingers gripped his shoulder, pulling him down into a one-handed embrace where he breathed a ragged sigh against his lover's neck.

"Andrew."

"Back at Sun Hill you called me Andy."

Meadows pulled away slightly until he could meet the dark eyes.

"I'm sorry. I know you prefer Andrew but, whenever I think of you, of what we shared, I can't help wanting to call you Andy."

The corners of Monroe's mouth lifted as a new warmth spread through him. Over-familiarity was the reason why he preferred the more staid 'Andrew'. It was to remind him that these people were colleagues and superiors, not friends but it was different with Jack. He wanted to be overly familiar with Jack.

"I like it when you call me 'Andy'."

Meadows smiled and pulled the other into a strong embrace, his fingers splayed across the broad back, rubbing against the thin cotton hospital gown until they found a path to warm flesh through the lightly tied opening.

They remained that way for longer than was wise, seeming to forget where and who they were just as they had forgotten the video camera rolling away behind the mirror at the hotel. Eventually sanity prevailed and they moved far enough apart to read the obvious desire written in each other's eyes.

Meadows smiled. He wanted Andrew Monroe so very much and now he knew this feeling was mutual the frustration at not being able to consummate the love he felt was almost overwhelming. Meadows raised a hand to cup Monroe's chin so he could take a closer look at the injured man, his eyes sparkling with affection as the other turned away in embarrassment. Who would ever believe the seemingly no-nonsense Inspector could in reality be quite shy, hiding a soft-centre behind the hard, efficient image he portrayed to the rest of the world. Meadows turned the face back towards him, leant forward and placed an infinitely tender kiss on the slightly parted lips as he remembered how often over the passed four weeks he had seen Monroe look away from him. All this time he had believed Andrew Monroe wanted to forget the entire affair, being hardly able to meet his eyes once the operation had been concluded successfully. Now he knew the truth and he was not going to allow this moment to pass.

"I said I would wait for you, however long it took."

Monroe nodded, remembering their conversation in the pub many weeks ago and he raised his eyes to meet Meadows' in a timid yet proud gesture.

"I won't let you wait any longer."

* * *