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For the Love of Gummy Bears

Title: For the Love of Gummy Bears
Author: redvalerian
Rating: G - Hathaway’s a Priest, for goodness sake
Word Count: 2259
Pairing: Hathaway/Lewis
Summary: In which a bag of Gummy Bears feature and Father Lewis Hathaway finds a new chess partner.
Key words: Alternative universe; friendship;
Disclaimer: Not mine. Worse luck.

AU in which Detective Sergeant Hathaway never left the seminary, but became Father James instead. In this story, he helps DI Lewis solve a crime, with the aid of some Gummy Bears and a bit of quick-thinking.

Written for Day Two of the Lewis Week of Love challenge. Originally it said: AU all the time, so I went with a universe in which Hathaway became a priest after all.

For the Love of Gummy Bears

The priest walked purposefully into the police station. He was a very tall and very slender young man with closely cropped hair. He seemed to have been constructed to wear clerical garb. The black folds of his cassock hung in graceful lines from his slender frame; the dark fabric serving to highlight his pale skin and blond hair. He was an altogether striking figure. Lewis clocked him straight away. You don’t get many priests visiting the CID. Not in cassocks, anyway. But apart from that, this man seemed to draw the eye. He looked vaguely familiar to Lewis for some reason. He continued to stare at the man as he leaned against the wall outside his office door, looking as exhausted as he felt.

He was really due to go off duty. Long over-due, actually. He’d been off duty officially for…he looked at his watch through bleary eyes….about four hours. But despite the fact that he was bone-weary, he hated to give in. Not when there was child still missing. They needed some kind of break in this case. He sighed. He didn’t think he even had the energy to walk to his car and drive home. He’d only had about three hours sleep in the last two days.

The priest was now speaking to the Duty Sergeant and Lewis was surprised to hear his own name mentioned and to see the Desk Sergeant pointing the priest in his direction.

The young man walked directly up to him, his lips thinned into a purposeful line. He introduced himself and they shook hands.

“D.I. Lewis? My name is Father James Hathaway. I wonder if I might speak to you about an urgent matter. It involves the missing child – Melissa Black?”

Melissa Black. It was a most frustrating case. The one that had kept him on duty for thirty-six straight hours. There was nothing to go on. The two-year-old had been put to bed as usual the night before last, but when her mother went to get her up the next morning, she was no-where to be seen. The night had been hot and the child’s window had been left ajar. The little girl was apparently endearingly friendly. She’d go off with anyone, given the chance, her mother said. Especially if they offered her sweets. Lewis thought they might as well have left her on the pavement with a sign around her neck reading: “Please Kidnap Me” but he didn’t say that to the distraught parents. It was obvious they were already telling themselves the same thing.

The kidnapper had clearly entered via the open window, that much was obvious. But there were no tyre tracks or footprints outside to help identify the abductor. The ground had been dry. No rain for weeks now. So there were no clues outside and not much more inside. The only real clue, if you could call it that, was a half-eaten bag of Gummy Bears left behind in the toddler’s cot.

It was assumed that the little girl had been given the Gummy Bears to keep her quiet. Apparently they were Melissa’s favourite. She was obsessed with them and would do pretty much anything for a Gummy Bear, so said her mummy. She loved the Gummy Bear song, and sang it all the time. Did they know it? The mother began singing in a broken voice, as she held Melissa’s photograph:

“Oh I’m a gummy bear
Yes, I’m a gummy bear
Oh I’m a yummy, chummy, funny, lucky, gummy bear.”

By the end she was sobbing again. “Please , Inspector Lewis,” she had begged. “Please bring her back to me.” He looked down at the photograph in the mother’s hands. Big blue eyes and blond curls. A sweet, guileless smile. Reminded him of Lynn when she was little.

God knew Lewis hoped he could give her back to her mother, but it was looking less and less likely.

The Gummy Bear thing, though. It suggested someone who knew the little girl or who knew the family. It was so specific, given the little girl’s known liking of these particular sweets. Of course forensics had tested the bag but the kidnapper had been careful. There was no trace whatsoever. Nothing to go on, in fact.

They had their suspicians, however. The family had recently had Melissa’s room decorated, using someone from the local Council Estate to do the work. Brodie, was his name. He was a bit of a dodgy character, but he’d never been involved in anything but petty crime. He was still there best lead, but they had nothing to go on. The man had been questioned, and although Lewis had his suspicions, there was just no concrete evidence to link him to the little girl’s abduction. Not enough to get a warrant, anyway. It was maddening.

But now here was this Priest, possibly with some valuable information. He could only hope.

All this went though Lewis mind quickly as he guided Father Hathaway into his office and offered him a seat.

“What’s this about….Father,” he asked. He stumbled over using the title. Lewis wasn’t a believer, and he normally had little time for God-botherers. But this young Priest seemed different. He met Lewis’s gaze steadily and held it. And at this stage, Lewis was willing to grasp at straws, even ones of divine origin.

“I’m afraid that I’m going to have to be circumspect in what I tell you, Detective,” he began. “As I’m sure you are aware, the confidentiality of all statements made by penitents during the course of confession is absolute.”

Lewis nodded. Even he knew all about that. It had tripped them up in the past. The Priest continued.

“I’m attached to Sacred Heart, the big church on the edge of the Blackbird Leys estate.“

Lewis sucked in his breath. Blackbird Leys. Now there was a coincidence. That’s where the Brodie came from. And Lewis didn’t believe in coincidences.

The Leys was a notorious crime hotspot. It had originally been built in the sixties to re-house people from the dilapidated inner city. In reality it was to remove the unsavoury from the city of Oxford, putting them in high rise slums outside the city walls, separated from the hoi polloi by a ring road as impregnable as the Great Wall. In the past the Leys had been plagued with riots and the police were regularly stoned when they tried to restore order there. Things were better now, but the Leys was still the largest council estate in Europe, and a place where the criminal element could run for cover. The priest now had Lewis’s undivided interest.

“Please continue, Father,” he said. Boy was he wide awake now. The priest took him at his word.

“This afternoon one of my parishioners came to me in an agitated state and begged me to hear his confession. As I said, I can’t tell you what the nature of his confession was, but after he had finished and left, I found this outside of the confessional. I have reason to believe that it will be of interest to your investigation. I’m afraid I can’t explain further, but I’m hoping you’ll know without my saying.”

He reached into a slit in his cassock and came out with a half-eaten bag of Gummy Bears. They had been placed in a sealed ziplock sandwich bag.

Lewis jumped up, electrified, leant across the desk, and took the bag from the priest’s outstretched hand. The tabloid press had not been told about the wrapper left behind at the kidnap scene, or about the child’s penchant for Gummy Bears. This was something tangible. Something they could use. Hopefully, it was Brodie who had come to confession.

Lewis couldn’t hide his excitement. If only the bag hadn’t been touched by the priest, this could be just what they needed to identify the kidnapper for sure and to find Melissa. He looked up, but before he could even ask, Father Hathaway was answering his unspoken question.

“I haven’t touched the bag, Detective. I used tweezers to pick it up, and I put it straight into the ziplock bag. But remember, I can’t be absolutely certain that this bag of sweets belonged to the man in question. However, I believe it likely. I would have noticed them had they been on the floor earlier. “

As the priest spoke, it came to Lewis why he looked vaguely familiar. It was that poxy Swedish film , “The Seventh Seal” that he’d been dragged to by some girl he was trying his luck with, back in his secondary school days. There was a knight in that film who played Chess with Death. This young priest reminded him of the knight. It wasn’t so much a physical resemblance as it was an issue of stature and gravitas. They both looked like holy men who were used to staring death in the face. They both looked like men who could best death in combat. Lewis had liked the Knight in the film. He found himself liking this young priest, even more.

“Father James,” he began, and he didn’t hesitate over using the title this time. “You might have made Melissa Black’s mother very happy. You’ve certainly made me ecstatic! “ Then grinning, he continued: “In fact, if you weren’t a priest, I’d kiss you! “

Father James smiled for the first time since he’d come into the office.

“Detective Inspector, If I weren’t a Priest, I might let you, Sir.”

With a quick smile at this response, Lewis headed toward the door, but he waved the priest back into his seat when he also rose.

“I need to get this bag to forensics, but please stay if you can. I’ll send someone in. You’ll need to give a formal statement about where and when you found the sweet packet, and anything else that you feel at liberty to share. But I think this is all we’ll be needing.”

The Priest nodded, and Lewis shot out the door and ran full tilt down the hallway. He wasn’t thinking about sleep now. He was thinking about what it would feel like to tell a weeping mother that he had found her little girl, safe and sound.

And eight hours later, that was exactly what he was doing. Forensics had come up trumps. Brodie had left prints all over the Gummy Bear packet that had been dropped outside the confessional. They already know where he lived, and it didn’t take long to smoke him out. He was nothing more than a small time hood, after all. He had hoped to get a generous ransom for the return of Melissa. Clearly way out of his depth.

Of course Melissa wasn’t actually in his flat on the Leys estate. That would have been too easy. He’d hidden the child in a broken down squat, on the other side of town. Didn’t take them long to track down his likely hiding place. He’d been arrested there once before for dealing.

When a child’s safety is at stake, everything suddenly gets expedited that would normally take forever. A warrant was necessary and one was procured. Specialist Firearms Officers were needed, and magically they appeared. Brodie didn’t know what hit him until his front door came crashing down and he suddenly found himself flat on the floor in handcuffs.

All of the officers began calling Melissa’s name as soon as Brodie had been dragged out to the waiting police car, but it was Lewis who found her in a back bedroom. He heard a little voice singing. When he opened the door, there she was, on the floor in this filthy place, sitting in a shaft of sunlight. She was grubby. Her clothes were filthy and her hair a tangled mess, but she looked very happy and occupied. She had been given a bag of Gummy Bears to play with, and she was in the process of arranging them in a long row on the foor, sorted by colour.

When Lewis opened the door, she gave him a big smile, and held out a sweet for him.

“Did you want a dummy bear,” she asked him. He scooped her up and swung her around in a circle, while she laughed happily. “ Then he accepted her gift. She gave him a yellow one. Lewis told her it was his favourite.

Later that night Lewis found himself outside the vestry door of Sacred Heart, knocking firmly . He was still exhausted, but he seemed to have gone beyond the need for sleep. It was the adrenaline high. Melissa’s mother’s face when he handed back her daughter. He’d never forgot it.

But there was one thing he needed to do before he could go to sleep.

He looked around the area as he heard footsteps coming to the door. It had been a long time since he’d been to the Blackbird Leys estate without planning to arrest someone. But this Father James – if it weren’t for him, they might never have found Melissa. Lewis had to let him know the outcome. Someone inside was playing Wagner, and Lewis could see chessmen set out on a board on a table by the window. Nob’s game, he thought to himself, with a smile. Still, it would be nice to play with someone again. Someone who liked Wagner, too. He’d missed Morse.

The door opened and as soon as Father Hathaway saw the expression on his face he smiled.

“I can see you come bearing good news,” he said. “Come in and tell me all about it. Are you a beer-drinker, Inspector Lewis?”

“Is the Pope Catholic?” Lewis replied.

Father James grinned and waved him in. Then he paused for a minute and added: “I don’t suppose you play chess, do you, Detective?”

Lewis just smiled in reply. It was very strange, but for some reason he felt like he’d just come home.