Lawrence had been awake all night. He could not sleep. His mind was racing. After a while he had given up staring into space. He placed Beth on the bed next to him. Her face was paler than usual, and a tear was frozen on her face. Her dark eyelashes glistened  with diamond-like droplets. He finally got up and explored the small room. Most of the cupboards were empty, although the contents of one comprised of some hard cheese, mouldy bread and a bottle of whisky and glass. He laid aside the cheese and bread, and placed the whisky on the nearby table. Lawrence knew it was late (or should that be early?) but the fact was he needed something to help him cope with the night's events. He was just about to pour himself a tot when he heard a soft tapping at the door. Cursing as he spilt quite a large amount of scotch over himself, he answered. He could only blink in a goldfish-like fashion when he saw who was looking back at him. It was Timothy, face agog, obviously as surprised as he was.

'Sir, I didn't...I wasn't...Inspector, what are you doing here?' the sergeant stammered uselessly.

Lawrence looked at him quizzically, "I might ask you the same question.'

O'Connor looked stumped at this last remark. 'Urm, well, I don't think I can discuss it here...Donnelly just told me to go round and wake everybody up. I think he wants to brief you himself.'

'By "everybody" I assume you mean PC Doherty as well?'

'Of course, Sir. Wake her up, but we'll have to be quick. Donnelly wants you down in the dining room in fifteen minutes.' And with that, Timothy disappeared out into the dark narrow corridor.

The plan to enjoy a glass of whisky went right out of the window with this sudden development. O'Connor's news and attitude pointed towards the last thing anyone wanted - another murder. At least this one would provide more clues, and hopefully lead them to the killer. He wouldn't get his hopes up though. Cases like this were often hard to crack. The culprits were typically disturbed and vulnerable, and beyond help of any kind. He just hoped they caught the whack-job in time to save a third person's life. But he couldn't spend all this time thinking unproductive thoughts. He had to wake Beth.

'Beth, you have to get up. Come on now.' he said gently as he shook her awake.

'Urgh, what time is it?' she groaned as she rolled over in the bed. Lawrence glanced at his watch. Just past midnight. They didn't have much time.

'Never mind that, Beth. There's been another murder. I don't know much more than that, but Donnelly's sent for us. We have to be down in the dining room in ten minutes. Quickly now, get dressed.'

Beth suddenly realised the seriousness of the matter. She got changed out of her clothes from the night before, and into her uniform. This was one of the better things about being a plain clothes officer - no uniform. You still had to have your warrant card on you, but other than that, you could pretty much do as you pleased. Lawrence started to get into his own shirt and trousers. He never bothered with a tie. Horrible, constricting thing. The amount of times he had seen suicide victims hanging from ceilings with ties acting as nooses were enough to put him off them for life. Police work had definitely changed his view of the world. It had warped it; made him see the potential danger in ordinary objects. It was probably a very unhealthy way to live, but for him it was normal. That was what scared him.

When they were both ready, Beth and Lawrence headed down the stairs to the ground floor. He didn't want to risk the elevator again. The narrow winding stairs seemed to be endless in the dark.

The End

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