Lewis had always recalled that the route from the St. Aldate’s Street offices into the town-centre was a meaninglessly short journey. They didn’t really need the car at all, but it was amusing to drive through the pedestrian way and see the faces in reaction to an imperious vehicle and its occupants. Lewis let himself admit that as he parked in one of The Randolph Hotel spaces, striding to the crowd who were gathered just behind the Martyr's Monument. The number of people there was small, most of them university students, but the chanting that came from it was a din – and had even stopped a couple of drivers in their tracks. One waved as the policemen drew near, evidently the man who had phoned up.
Whilst Hathaway quickly took his witness, Lewis walked onwards.
“Oy!” he yelled, throwing his hands up into the air to clear a path.
Most of the students looked around. Some of them even eyed the gleaming Porsche with shocked expressions. They knew it was a police car. They had to.
There were a group of about three boys that didn’t turn. These were the at the centre of the fight, Lewis observed; these were the people who possessed faces contorted with rage and, as always, fists high enough for two to knock each other out at the next opportunity.
Lewis didn’t want that, let alone need it. He gestured to Hathaway.
“All right, all right, break it up. Who started this?”
Lewis managed to slot himself in between the two boys with their hands up. The third boy backed away as soon as Lewis grabbed the fists of the first. Good. They did know of the trouble they were causing. Probably revelling in it. Certainly, the two didn’t look older than nineteen.
Lewis’ boy wiped his mouth, panting. “He did. Stupid git making uncalled for comments about my college. And bets he can’t keep. He owes me money, he does. Are you police officers?”
“Yes, we are,” interjected Hathaway, clutching the arms of the second aggressive boy. “Which college are you from?”
“Worchester. I was just heading back there when this St. John’s fool attacked me –”
“I did not!” cried the other lad.
“Now, quiet,” Lewis boomed. “It sounds like you’ve both been making some stupid remarks. I’m sure you would all like to get out of this matter without much of a charge, am I right?” The three of them nodded their heads obediently. “Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as that. This fight was obstructing public property. I’ll have to take a statement from all of you.”
The boys shifted in their positions. Although loosed from the policemen’s holds, they still tensed, jumpy from all the trouble.
“Look…I really meant no trouble,” said the other boy.
Lewis eyed him; he was preyed scrawny, with soft eyes, not really the type of person to start a fight. And, whilst he didn’t disbelieve the tougher boy’s statement, things didn’t quite add up.
“What’s your name?” asked Lewis.
Fancy. “And you’re from St. John’s?”
“Do you know the soprano who is performing this evening? Cassandra Porter?” added Hathaway, quickly catching on.
Charles looked between them and the other boy. Luckily the crowd was now starting to disperse. Charles’ friend hovered by his side.
“Oh, yes,” Charles finally replied. “She’s on my corridor. Don’t talk to her, though. Weird girl. Some people say she’s absolutely batty, but not me.”
“In what way?” Hathaway’s hand curled around Charles’ arm again.
“Just that she talks to herself and stuff, and that she’s…you know, not quite right in the head.”
“In other words: batty,” finished Hathaway.
Charles ducked his head down.
“Come on, Charles, with Hathaway into the college. I’ll deal with you,” he turned to the other boy, “later. You better not have a record. Oh, and bets. I hope that’s nothing suspicious.”
“Not at all,” muttered the other boy. A local constable was shepherding away any stray onlookers, and so Lewis delivered the boy that way.