Time heals no wounds
Derek’s bearded chin bounced against the sticky bar as he slid from the stool to the floor. Nigel, the rotund landlord, lumbered around the bar to attempt to help him up for what was probably the fifth time this week. This time, however, Derek looked beyond assistance; deep snores resonated from his slumbering form. Nigel thanked god it was a quiet night. They’d all been quiet nights lately, to be fair, ever since Angels, that bloody trendy wine-bar, had opened up two doors down.
Sliding the bolts across the heavy oak door, Nigel admitted to himself maybe retirement wouldn’t be that bad. He could join poor old Derek on the better side of the bar, any bar, even Angels, and reminisce. Policemen and landlords crossed paths frequently, but few had such entangled pasts as Derek and Nigel.
They’d met on the Golden Oak’s opening night, 36 years ago. It was 1985. Derek had been a sergeant then, dispatched to deal with a noise complaint from the neighbours. He’d been sympathetic, it’s not every night you open a new pub after all. He had helped pacify the old buggers with his truly unique blend of charm and efficiency; sending the most inebriated revellers home and extracting promises for quieter celebrations from those who remained. Two hours later he’d been back with his partner, their shift over and in need of a drink themselves. And it seemed like he’d been there every night since.
As it turned out, there was nothing as effective as a regular copper propping up the bar to keep the place quiet and orderly. And that’s how it had remained for the next 12 years, as Derek had made his way, efficiently as ever, through the ranks; from sergeant, to inspector, chief inspector, up to superintendent, and all the while stopping for a quiet pint at the ‘Oak at shifts’ end. They had been best men at one another’s’ weddings (Derek and Denise had even held their reception at the ‘Oak), and godfathers for one another’s boys.
Then, in 1997, Ralph, a regular at the ‘Oak and a regular pain in the ass, had been smacked around the head with an empty Jack Daniel’s bottle and died from his wounds in the alley behind the pub. The attending officer (Derek of course) surmised the victim had been taking a piss, based on the fact that his trousers were undone and his shoes soaked in urine.
Derek had taken it personally. He’d interviewed everyone who had been in the pub that night, and all the usual suspects besides. Forensics found nothing. No DNA, no fingerprints, nothing. They’d never found the culprit. And Derek had never got over it, nor had he ever progressed beyond superintendent, eventually leaving the force on early retirement, divorced and reclusive following years of obsession.
Nigel covered Derek with a blanket, placed a few folded bar towels under his head as a pillow and a pint of water just within reach for when he awoke, and headed towards to the stairs, shaking his tired head. Fucking Ralph. Derek had been a much better drinking buddy before that twat had thought he could piss on Nigel’s pub. Lucky Nigel had learnt so much about concealing crime from his endless discussions with Derek over the years.