Chief Superintendent Bernard Hogben was suffering with his usual sinus congestion and squeezed the little plastic bottle's contents firstly into his right nostril then the left. He then screwed the cap back on as he inhaled deeply through his nose and placed the bottle on the desk before him. He then removed the blister pack from the box and pushed out a couple of decongestant tablets into the palm of his hand. He threw them into his open mouth then took a couple of gulps of water from the tumbler always at his disposal to wash them down.
The knock at the door he was expecting came as he replaced the blister pack into the box.
"Come in!" he commanded. The door opened and Mallard leaned in.
"You wanted to see me, Sir?"
"Come in Mallard. Take a seat."
Mallard entered the office and closed the door behind him. He then took possession of one of the two chairs before the Chief Super's desk.
Hogben opened a slim file in front of him and scanned it's contents. Without looking up he began his verbal attack on Mallard.
"I am sick to death with receiving a constant barrage of complaints about your dubious methods, Mallard. Do you know, there have been three in as many days? This latest one however cannot go unchecked."
"If you are referring to Constable Lock..."
"Don't interrupt me, Mallard. You know very well that I am referring to Lock. That's why I had to call you in. Assault of prisoners and suspects is one thing, but an assault on your own colleagues?
"In either case I find violence uncalled for. But that seems to be something you treat with total disregard. There are rules Mallard. And those rules are laid down for a reason. Don't you think the Met put up with enough bad publicity in the seventies? Do you know how much the clean-up operation cost in order that the police public profile was escalated above 'Uniformed Bully'?"
"He had it coming." was all Mallard offered.
"Who? Your suspect or Constable lock?"
"I got results. He confessed to a murder. As far as Lock is concerned, he's been goading me for ages now. He's nothing but a kid, fresh out of training college. He lacks discipline, has no respect for authority..."
"Do you know what you sound like Mallard? Like a young boy caught by a teacher, fighting in the play ground. You carry rank DCI Mallard. You should be able to handle subordinates without resorting to violent tactics!"
"With respect, Sir..."
"No Mallard! That's where the problem lies. You have no respect for anyone or anything other than yourself. You play by your own rules and in the police force that is completely unacceptable. Good God man, if we allowed every officer to act as you do, we'd have complete anarchy in no time! We are supposed to be upholding the law, not finding every opportunity to break it!"
"Then I would suggest, Sir, that we start teaching our woodentops a thing or two about rank and team work. The new recruits are where most of the problems lie."
Hogben visibly inflated behind his desk and turned a deeper shade of scarlet.
" Are you presuming to question my methods of running this station, DCI Mallard?"
"No Sir, I am questioning the recruiting process of the Met in general. We never had this problem in the past. We might have new technology these days but we got results damn quickly a few years ago. And as far as lower ranks disrespecting the higher ones, it was unheard of. We worked as a team. These days it seems to be every man for himself."
"A bit like you, DCI Mallard?"
"I get the job done in the minimum of time. Look at my records for the past couple of years. I've solved every case that's been dropped into my lap."
"You haven't quite got there yet on this clubland murder case though, have you?"
"It's a work in progress Sir. I'm fifty percent of the way there."
Hogben felt he was losing the strength of his argument. He browsed through the file in front of him as he mentally prepared the next attack on the man before him.
"I should, at the very least suspend you from duty for what you did to Constable Lock. You realize that?"
"But you won't."
Hogben looked up and into Mallard's eyes.
"I beg your pardon?" he responded.
"If you'll pardon my language Sir, the poo is about to hit the fan on this one and you need me to sort it out. Not only are we dealing with a wide distribution of illegal substances throughout Soho, and one more murder to solve, but we will be dealing with the slitty-eyed Mafia into the bargain. Frankly Sir, nobody else from this station has the bottle!"
"I must say, Mallard, you think very highly of yourself. This isn't the first time we've had to deal with the Triads, and I dare say it won't be the last."
Hogben closed the file and leaned back into the high back rest of his executive chair.
"Very well Mallard." he said. "After much thought and consideration I have decided to let you off with a warning this time. And you can take that look of self-satisfied victory off your face. There are no winners here. You may work towards a conclusion on this present case after which I will suggest that you take a month off to reconsider your position with the Met.
"This is not television Mallard. You are not some indispensable central character in a shoot-em-high police melodrama. This is the real world, and if you step one foot out of line you can expect to be put out on the street with your P45 in hand. Do I make myself clear?"
"Like crystal, Sir."
"Good. You can be sure that I'll be keeping an eye on you from now on Mallard."
"I don't doubt it Sir."
"Good. Good. Well, I'm sure you have far better things to be doing at this moment in time?"
Mallard sat for a few moments longer before rising from the chair which made Hogben feel somewhat uneasy. (Exactly what Mallard had intended). As he reached the door the DCI turned to look back at his superior.
"Sinuses playing up again Sir?"
"This damned damp weather. Plays havoc with them. Can't shift this pain around my eyes and across my forehead."
"I would consider amputation if it were me! Matter of fact, I'm off to see someone now. I could put in a word!"
"Yes, thank you Mallard. Most kind."
Mallard smiled to himself. The Chief Super was renowned for wandering off into a world of his own making. As he quietly shut the door behind him he wasn't at all surprised when he heard a heavy object impact on the other side of it.
"Tut, tut Sir. Respect among the ranks!" he called back as he walked toward the stairs.