There were few things Officer Hugh Collins of the city’s 34th precinct enjoyed more than early mornings in the bullpen. The cleaning crew had already made their rounds, the tiles floors and formica tabletops gleaming from their efforts. The night shift was finished, leaving only Hugh and a scattered few coworkers to prepare their workstations for the day ahead. And the few arrests that had been made after Hugh’s shift had ended - thankfully only two low-level drunk and disorderlys - had long since fallen asleep, softly snoring as they leaned against each other in the corner of the drunk tank.
The last of his casework finished, Hugh took a moment to appreciate the stillness of the room around him. There were a great many things he enjoyed about his work - the thrill of finding a missing clue; the adrenaline that ran through him while chasing a suspect; the satisfaction of closing a case and knowing his team had made the city a little less dangerous - but that excitement and fuss made him value the quiet moments in between just as much. Moments like this, when the precinct was nearly empty and for a brief while, everything was calm and peaceful, and most importantly, most blessedly, quie-
click click click
It could be nothing, he told himself. A lot of the women who worked on the administrative floors wore heels. Or maybe he was hearing things - there was, after all, no reason for either of them to be there so early. But then the doors to the precinct burst open with an almighty bang and Hugh’s quiet morning routine was shattered by a very damp Detective Phryne Fisher stalking her way into the bullpen, her possibly-too-high-for-police-work-but-not-something-questioned-by-anyone-more-than-once heels clicking loudly on the freshly-cleaned floor.
The sound echoed across the room as its other occupants followed her movements with varied expressions of worry and excitement. Meanwhile, one of the drunks woke with a start, wiped what was very likely drool off his chin, and roughly shoved the other away from him. Hugh had just opened his mouth to offer Det. Fisher a resigned ‘good morning’ when she suddenly spun around to address Detective Jack Robinson as he emerged from the entryway, bringing with him a young man in handcuffs who looked almost as waterlogged and put upon by the whole situation as the detective himself. “Honestly Jack,” Det. Fisher began, chin held high and voice chastising, “I don’t know what you’re pouting about. There was absolutely no reason for you to get involved”.
Det. Robinson muttered something under his breath that sounded a lot like a disbelieving ‘no reason’ before fixing his colleague with the stern look he usually employed to intimidate whoever had broken the coffee maker that week. “My sincere apologies Miss Fisher. I’ll be sure to restrain myself the next time you tackle someone into the harbor!”
“I was apprehending the suspect!”
“Well you ‘apprehended’ him right off the dock and into the water!”
Det. Fisher huffed and ran her fingers through her soggy hair, doing nothing except shaking out droplets of dingy water onto the previously gleaming floor. “And I had the situation well in hand - you didn’t need to follow us in!”.
“Miss Fisher,” Det. Robinson began, taking one hand away from the suspect in question to pinch the bridge of his nose in exasperation, “You plowed into a dock worker and fell into the harbor at three in the morning. It was pitch black and we were completely alone. I jumped in after you because I had to be sure you were alright”.
She blinked at him in surprise and he blinked back, seeming to only just realize what he had said. He cleared his throat and quickly added; “….and to make sure that you hadn’t lost him in all that fuss”.
Det. Fisher’s eyes narrowed to slits. “Lost him? Lost him?" she strode back across the bullpen until the two detectives were nearly nose to nose, both seemingly forgetting the suspect now stuck idling next to them by Det. Robinson’s hold on his arm, I will have you know Jack Robinson -”
Hugh saw the flash of anger in Det. Robinson’s eyes and decided that this was most definitely the moment for someone to interrupt. And a glance around the room at the far too entertained faces of his coworkers - honestly Johnson might as well be munching on popcorn with the excited smirk he had on - told him that once again, it was going to be his job to do it.
“Good morning detectives!” he called, stepping between the two just as Det. Robinson opened his mouth to retort. “And what a lovely morning it is. You two look like you’ve had a busy night, why don’t I take our friend here over to the holding cell,” he gently tugged the suspect from Det. Robinson’s grasp, “and maybe get him a change of clothes” he continued as he felt just how drenched the young man was, “and you can both go to your offices and get ready for the day?”
The detectives started, as if they were surprised to see Hugh or anyone else in the room with them. Det. Fisher recovered first, (as she usually did) her face noticeably brightening as she looked away from Det. Robinson. “Good morning Hugh! You look well. And what a wonderful idea, so long as Jack will trust you enough to walk the suspect across the room without interfering”. She turned on her heel and began clicking her way to her office door without another look in the other man’s direction.
Det. Robinson didn’t say anything, but Hugh could see how tightly his jaw was clenched and took that as his cue to lead the suspect over to the holding cell. The young man looked at Hugh through the bars, eyebrows raised as if to say ‘are they always like this?’ and Hugh couldn’t help but give him a half-smile in return, as if saying ‘you have no idea’.
When he returned to Det. Robinson, he found him standing near the front entrance - dripping wet tie slowly creating a water stain on the carpet underneath him - looking bemusedly at a pale yellow card he appeared to have pulled from the precinct notice board. “Already looking for a new case sir?” Hugh asked brightly.
“Ah, Collins, good morning.” Det. Robinson replied, looking quickly up at Hugh with a small smile before dropping his gaze back to the card, the smile growing wider and more….tender? “Yes,” he continued, his voice suddenly softer than Hugh thought he had ever heard it, “something like that”.
But before Hugh could open his mouth and ask what exactly that ‘something’ could be, the door to Det. Fisher’s office opened with another bang, causing the second of the two drunks to snort loudly and shift his sleeping position so that he was leaning against the new and very unwilling addition to the cell. (The young man, for his part, looked like he’d rather still be floating in the harbor than in his current position).
“Well,” Det. Fisher began while striding across the bullpen, “I look positively horrid. I’m going to stop off at home and freshen up before my shift actually begins.” She slowed to a stop upon reaching the spot where her coworkers stood. “You know, you may want to do the same Jack.” she leaned in closer to Det. Robinson - who, Hugh noticed, had hidden the mysterious card behind his back the moment his colleague appeared - and sniffed theatrically. “You smell like you fell into a sewer drain as opposed to taking a heroic dive into the harbor”.
Whatever good mood the card had put Det. Robinson in had vanished. He hissed his “Goodbye Miss Fisher” through clenched teeth and didn’t spare her another look as she left the precinct.
The two men stood there in silence for a moment before Hugh took a small, almost involuntary sniff. “You know sir….. she’s not entirely wrong”.
Det. Robinson sighed deeply and carefully tucked the yellow card into the inner pocket of his jacket. “See you in an hour Collins.” he called as he followed Det. Fisher’s path out of the precinct.
Hugh let out a relieved breath and leaned back against the notice board. At least he had another hour of peace. He pushed off the wall to make his way back to his desk and nearly slipped in a puddle of water. Looking around, he saw the once-clean floor littered with dingy water and had to hold back a sigh of his own. “Guess I’ll be the one cleaning this up then.” he muttered as he started towards the broom closet for a mop.