DISCLAIMER: The characters in this story belong to Shed Productions. I am borrowing them for entertainment purposes only and not for financial gain.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the authors.

On Borrowed Time
By Nico


Chapter 19

Karen stood nervously on Yvonne's doorstep, hand poised ready to knock. Her heartbeat was fluctuating wildly; it had been ever since Yvonne had kissed her. She took a deep breath and finally knocked; she stepped back as she waited for the door to open and prayed she was doing the right thing.

Her face was illuminated as Yvonne opened the door and peered out, wondering who would be calling at that time of night. She noticed it was Karen and her breathing sped up slightly. She had figured out by now that she fancied Karen too and knew she'd never felt anything like it and she couldn't help feeling a little scared.

"I know it's late but I had to see you." Karen said quietly.

"Come in." Yvonne stepped aside and ushered Karen in, "I spoke to Nikki before, she said you were doing Laura's post tonight."

"Yes that's right." Karen replied, but offered no further information.

"And?" Yvonne waited for her to elaborate.

"Yvonne." Karen warned.


"You know perfectly well what." Karen raised an eyebrow at her, "You don't need to know any of the details."

"I've seen and heard a lot of stuff in my time, don't go assuming you know what's best for me!" Yvonne was upset. She'd spent the afternoon crying which seemed to be all too frequent these days.

"Don't be like that Yvonne, you know why I'm saying it." Karen said quietly, losing her temper wasn't going to help.

"I know, I'm sorry, I didn't mean to shout," she looked at Karen apologetically, "She wouldn't have suffered would she?"

"No, she wouldn't." Karen shook her head, "Death would have been instantaneous and since she was unconscious, she wouldn't have known it was coming. Not that you can have a peaceful death when you're murdered, but hers would have been."

"Thank god for that, I couldn't stand knowing she'd suffered." Yvonne broke down and Karen immediately took her in her arms.

Yvonne nestled her head against Karen's neck and felt the warm comforting smell of her perfume. She felt strangely at home in her arms, she'd never felt that way with anybody else. Karen was surprised she hadn't been pushed away, but when she felt Yvonne's arms tighten around her, a warm glow spread through her body.

Yvonne pulled back and a smile found its way on to her face, "If you tell anyone about this, I'll kill you because I've got a reputation as a hard woman to maintain."

"Funnily enough, I'm not frightened of you." Karen winked at her.

"Bugger!" Yvonne scowled, "I must be losing my touch," she grinned.

"Depends on what kind of touch you're talking about." Karen flirted but then regretted it in case Yvonne became distant again.

"Oh I'm good at all sorts, believe you me." Yvonne flirted back, and found it wasn't as frightening as she would have had herself believe.

"I do." Karen nodded as her voice became husky.

Yvonne didn't have a clue what was driving her forward but she moved closer to Karen again and looked deep into her eyes. Karen's breath caught in the back of her throat and Yvonne inwardly smiled, now she was certain of the effect she was having on the woman in front of her. But did she want to pursue such a reaction? She decided she did, but her problem wouldn't go away and it still felt like a betrayal of her promises. Karen caught the indecision in her eyes.

"Yvonne, it's ok." Karen laid a hand against Yvonne's face and stroked it gently.

"It's not you." Yvonne looked down at the floor.

"Look, if this is one of those it's not you, it's me speeches then don't say it." Karen said gently, "just don't worry about it."

"No it's not that. Well, it is sort of but not in the way you think." Yvonne sighed, this secret of hers had caused nothing but trouble and she wondered now why she'd even kept it.

"I think I should go." Karen made a move towards the door, she was sure she'd made a mistake in coming.

"No don't go, stay for a bit please?" Yvonne looked at her anxiously and saw Karen nod, "Sit down, I'll make us a coffee." Yvonne took a deep breath and left the room; she had to tell somebody sooner or later but was Karen the right person to tell?

Helen rested her head back on the sofa and continued to watch Nikki, as she sat beside her. She'd been quiet all afternoon, and had hardly said two words since they'd left the hospital. She was certain it was something to do with Laura but there was still the niggling doubt in the back of her mind that maybe she had been wrong in telling her she loved her.

Nikki lit up her sixth cigarette in a row and began puffing away again; she just couldn't get Laura out of her head. Her death seemed to point to the fact she was involved in it all somehow, but Nikki had never wanted to think it and didn't like thinking it now. But on the other hand, there was always the chance Laura was innocent and Tony was in fact the one involved but she didn't want to think that either. She was broken from her thoughts when Helen spoke.

"Nikki, tell me what's wrong sweetheart." Helen could see Nikki's twitchy movements, it didn't take a genius to figure out she was edgy about something.

"Nothing, I'm fine." Nikki turned towards her and smiled but didn't really see her.

Helen noted the dazed look, "Nikki look at me properly," she waited for Nikki to comply and when she did, she spoke again, "Tell me what the matter is."

Nikki sighed, "what if it was him?"

"What if it was who?" Helen's brow furrowed.

"Tony. What if it was Tony that was involved and Laura is dead because of him?"

"I don't know Nikki, but from a professional point of view I could tell you he'd be in deep shit."

"We were all friends Helen, they were like an extension of my family, and now Laura is dead and Tony…..." Nikki couldn't carry on.

"We don't know for certain he is involved Nikki, the same as we don't know Laura was involved. We don't know anything right at this moment, point is though, somebody is not who you think they are."

"Yeah that's true, look at Fenner the slimy bastard." Nikki felt anger rising up inside of her.

"I know this is hard Nikki, but we'll get to the bottom of it all." Helen placed a hand on Nikki's knee.

"Damn right I will, and maybe sooner than we think." Nikki abruptly stood up and went to her put her coat on.

"Nikki, where are you going?" Helen was worried; she had never seen Nikki that agitated before, even back when they were at each other's throats.

"I'm going to see Tony; I need to get this cleared up."

"That's not a good idea." Helen warned, "If he is involved then you're letting him know that you know what he's up to."

"That's a chance I have to take." Nikki marched out of the front door and Helen rolled her eyes.

She quickly went into the living room and gathered her things, before taking off after her.

Phil took Jade from Sarah's arms and then sat down beside her. She was still looking worn out, but looked a little better since she'd had some rest. He handed her a cup of coffee and she leaned against his shoulder and closed her eyes.

"You should get some sleep soon, you still look tired," he said softly.

"I will," she replied with her eyes still closed, "I'll get Jade sorted out and then turn in."

"Don't worry about the baby, I'll look after tonight, you need your sleep."

"Are you sure?" she opened her eyes and looked up at him.

"Of course I'm sure," he smiled, "I still remember how to look after a baby so you've got no worries."

"I'm not worried, I trust you," she smiled back.

"Have you thought anymore about coming away with me?"

"I'll go with you; it will be a great opportunity for Jade. She's lost her father, I'm heartbroken that she won't remember him, and I want to give her all the things he would have if he'd survived."

"Great! I'll call Jenny in the morning, she'll be so pleased. As soon as you're feeling better, we'll get out of the country."

"Where are we going?"

"Florida, Miami to be exact. It's lovely out there."

"How did you manage that? You've got a criminal record," she looked at him questioningly.

"Let's just say I know some people, and it's all sorted," he tapped the side of his nose.

"I can't go before John's funeral though, I can't go till I've said goodbye to him properly."

"That's not a good idea, I know how you feel, really I do. But it wouldn't be safe."

"It's not open to discussion Phil, I want to go to my husband's funeral and that's final."

Phil could see it was pointless arguing and nodded silently; there would be plenty of time to try and convince her she should be keeping out of the way.

Nikki rapped loudly on Tony's front door and waited for an answer. She tapped her foot on the step as she waited, and then turned around as she heard footsteps behind her.

"Wondered when you'd get here." Nikki wasn't surprised she had been followed.

"You didn't think I was going to let you go off on your own did you?" Helen smiled at her, and it was a smile Nikki couldn't resist returning.

"No, I know you well enough to know you'd have shown up sooner or later….." She was interrupted when Shell opened the door.

"Hiya Nikki." She smiled and opened the door for them, "Hi Helen, nice to see you again. Come in."

"You too Shell." Helen nodded and patted her on the arm, "how are you?"

"I'm ok, been feeling a bit queasy though. Why ain't morning sickness confined to the bleedin' mornings?" she chuckled.

"Can I see Tony please?" Nikki cut in.

"Course you can, go on upstairs, he's having a rest." Shell smiled and nodded.

"Ok, I won't be long." Nikki smiled at Helen and then took the stairs two at a time.

She knocked on the bedroom door and went inside, Tony was lying on his side facing away from her and she knelt down beside him. His eyes were glazed over, and they were red and swollen. It was obvious he had been crying, and Nikki didn't know what to think, all she knew was that she didn't want him to be guilty. He turned towards her and looked at her like a little lost boy; her heart broke at the expression on his face.

"Hiya Nik," his voice cracked as he spoke.

"Hi Tony, how are you feeling?"

"My head's splitting, but otherwise I'm fine," he tried to smile.

"How much do you know about Laura's death?" Nikki sat on the bed beside him and decided to get straight to the point.

"Nothing really. I found her so I know she was shot through the head but that's all I do know," a tear trickled from his eye and he didn't bother to wipe it away.

"Be honest with me, have you got anything to do with it?"

"Laura's death? Good god no." Tony shook his head without thinking and then winced.

"What about giving information to people you shouldn't be?" Nikki tried to remain detached, but felt like a bitch because he was her friend.

"No I'm not, jesus Nikki what do you take me for? There is no way I'm telling Parry anything," he sat up straight and glared at her.

"I never said anything about Parry." Nikki felt sick, it was like her worst fear had been confirmed, "what made you think it was him?"

"Oh come on, John gets murdered and his Mrs. gets kidnapped. Doesn't take a genius to figure out what happened there, somebody is flapping their lips, and I know its not me."

"Are you certain about that?"

"Have you ever known me not to be honest with you?" He raised his eyebrows at her.

"No, you've always been straight with me." Nikki couldn't say otherwise, she would trust him with her life but she'd had no choice, she had to question him.

"And I'm being straight now, I'm not involved with Parry, and I didn't kill Laura," he took hold of her arm, "I swear on my unborn baby's life Nikki, I'm not involved in anything."

Nikki could see by the look in his eyes that he was telling the truth, "You're my friend and I trust you. I believe you but I had to ask because it's my job, I'm sorry."

"Its ok, I'd probably have felt the same," he managed a small smile to let her know he understood why she'd had to ask, "Are you going to tell me what's going on?"

"I need to ask some more questions." Nikki saw Tony nod and then carried on, "what can you tell me about that night?"

"Yvonne left with Dr Betts; we had something to eat, watched TV for a bit then Laura showed Sarah upstairs so that she could sleep. She came back down a short while later and she asked me to call Gina, and tell her that she and Mark were to take over from us the next morning, so I did." Tony shrugged, "A couple of hours later Laura went upstairs to check on Sarah again, I heard a noise outside and went out and got my head smashed in, that's it."

Nikki's mind began to work overtime, "why didn't she want to call them?"

"I don't know, she just said she'd make a coffee while I was on the phone. I didn't think anything of it." he shrugged.

"Did she make a big deal out of it?"

"Thinking back now." Tony rubbed his chin, "she did seem a bit reluctant to make the call herself, but like I said, at the time I didn't think anything of it."

"Did she specifically ask you to call Gina?"

"She told me to call Mark, and then said not to bother. She changed her mind and told me to call Gina instead because he never answers his phone."

"Well that seems feasible." Nikki wasn't convinced though, even though it was a reasonable explanation, she still felt it didn't fit somehow.

"I don't know whether you'd noticed but Laura has been acting strangely." Tony wondered if it was all connected, "she's been touchy lately, like she's got something on her mind," he couldn't bring himself to talk about her in the past tense.

"No I hadn't noticed but then I've been a bit preoccupied lately. Did she tell you what was wrong?"

"No she didn't, well not as such. I heard her on the phone one day, she was arguing with somebody and she was a bit embarrassed that I'd heard. She shrugged it off though and said it was boyfriend trouble."

"I wonder who she was seeing." Nikki gazed off into the distance as she tried to piece things together.

"I don't know, it could have been anybody."

"Maybe we'll never know, but we've got to assume she was involved in all this and that's why she ended up dead."

"Involved in all what? There's something you're not telling me isn't there?" He knew the look in her eyes; she knew more than she had let on.

"It's nothing." Nikki was reluctant to say.

"Don't give me that bullshit, I want the full story. I thought you trusted me, I thought we were friends." he looked hurt.

"I do trust you! You're one of my closest friends, you know that."

"I know, but I also want to know what it is that you're not telling me for god sake!" he was getting exasperated.

Nikki knew she'd have to tell him, "It's complicated but……," she began.

Karen knew Yvonne was struggling with something, but quite what it was, remained a mystery. It couldn't be getting close to her that was worrying Yvonne, she had kissed her after all, and if it wasn't that then Karen drew a blank. Yvonne placed her coffee cup on the table and lit a cigarette; she decided that she might as well spill the beans. She'd kept her secret for far too long as it was and it was time to let it go.

"I like you Karen, I must admit I was a bit shocked at first when you kissed me but I think I'm getting used to the idea. But there is something holding me back."

"What's the matter?"

"I'm married." Yvonne felt slightly better, relieved that she had said it after all this time.

"And?" Karen was puzzled, she hadn't known Yvonne was married.

"I have been for twenty five years."

"Things make sense now." Karen realised why Yvonne was holding back "so how come he's never here?"

"No they don't, you don't know the whole story." Yvonne wasn't going to tell her just now about why she lived alone.

"So what's the story then?"

"Rather than me telling you, I think I should show you."

"Eh?" Karen looked at her puzzled.

"You can meet my husband tomorrow."

"I don't think that's a good idea Yvonne." Karen didn't find the idea very appealing.

"On the contrary, it's a very good idea. Then you'll know why I'm a bit hesitant about getting involved with you. Believe me, if it was just the idea of having a relationship with another woman then I'd have been ok with it, but it's a bit more complicated than that."

"Ok, if that's what you want but how will he react?"

"He won't mind." Yvonne was certain of it.

"If you're sure." Karen still looked doubtful.

"I am. Come here." Yvonne held her arms out and pulled Karen into them.

Nikki stepped out of the shower and wrapped a towel around herself, before padding into Helen's bedroom. They'd discussed things after leaving Tony's and they were both agreed that they thought he was innocent. They also agreed on the fact that it looked increasingly likely that Laura had been involved, and as a result was murdered. They had talked about finding out who she had been seeing, but they knew that wasn't going to be easy. In any case, they didn't have much time anyway; they were due to travel up to Scotland the next day for Helen's father's funeral and it would all have to wait until Monday.

Helen placed her book back on the bedside table and stretched out, "I didn't think you were getting out of there any time soon," she grinned.

"How long was I in there?"

"Close to an hour."


"Yes, but you're out now." Helen winked at her and patted the space beside her on the bed, "come and sit with me."

"I won't be long, just gonna dry off." Nikki's heart was racing at the look in Helen's eyes.

"Sod getting dry, come here." There was a gentle command in Helen's voice and it made Nikki throb.

She did as she was told and dropped the towel, making her way across the bedroom naked and a little nervous. She sat down on the bed beside Helen and watched her devour her body with a hungry look. Helen's eyes were heavy lidded with arousal and Nikki noticed her breathing become ragged, it was obvious Helen was very turned on.

She remained silent but slid towards Nikki and placed a hand on her shoulder, she looked deep into her eyes and slowly moved their heads together. Their lips met and Nikki felt an electric shock run down her spine like it always did. The throbbing between her legs intensified as she felt Helen's tongue slide across her own. She moaned loudly when Helen caught her bottom lip in-between her teeth and bit down gently on it.

"Do you like that?" Helen murmured huskily as she got busy with kissing Nikki's throat.

"Yes." Nikki whispered breathlessly.

Nikki felt an urgency to touch Helen that she'd never experienced before, and she pulled Helen's head up to meet her own, she kissed her passionately before slipping her nightdress over her head. She'd seen Helen naked before, but this time it was different because they were about to make love.

This was Helen's first time with a woman, and Nikki wanted to make sure it was special. She pushed her down on the bed and came to rest in-between her legs, pressing their breasts together, she was rewarded when Helen groaned and thrust her hips against her. She bent her head and ran her tongue across one of Helen's nipples; she then sucked it into her mouth and grazed her teeth across the top of it.

Helen cried out, she'd never felt anything like it and her whole body was on fire. Feeling Nikki's tongue on her breast rocked her to the core and made her shiver in anticipation of what was to come. She felt Nikki move down and her eyes rolled back in her head when she felt her tongue dip into her bellybutton.

Nikki's teeth softly nipped at Helen's flesh, and it was driving her wild, she writhed on the bed pushing her hips closer to Nikki. She took the hint, and dipped her tongue into her, slowly flicking it over Helen's clit.

Helen moaned in ecstasy, "oh god Nikki."

Nikki smiled, Helen was obviously enjoying it, and her fears evaporated. She was beginning to get carried away when she felt herself being pulled up and pushed down on the bed as Helen straddled her.

"I want to be able to see you." Helen said as she took Nikki's hand and placed it between her legs, "and I want you inside me."

Nikki gasped at the words and slowly slid two fingers inside Helen, feeling the evidence of just how turned on she was. Helen rocked back and forth on her fingers and she smiled down at Nikki before placing her hand between her legs. Nikki couldn't help closing her eyes as she felt Helen's fingers enter her.

"Open your eyes." Helen said in a gentle voice, "look at me."

Nikki complied and looked up at Helen, "I'm looking babe." Nikki replied.

"That's better sweetheart." Helen's hand slid deeper inside Nikki and the other one grabbed hold of Nikki's hand, "I want you to look at me, because I want you to know how much I love you."

"I love you too." Nikki managed to gasp, she was already breathless but Helen's words took away what little of her breath was left.

The outside world had ceased to exist and gasps and moans echoed around the room. They occasionally spoke to each other but words were not needed, and they concentrated on giving as much pleasure as they received.

"Oh god Nikki, please don't stop." Helen cried out when she felt herself getting close to the edge

"I won't," she replied, "come on babe, let it go for me."

"Together." Helen managed to gasp from where she lay beside Nikki.

They both went crashing over the edge at the same time and held on tightly to each other. It was a while before either of them could speak, and they were both overwhelmed by what had just happened. It had been so much more than sex, they had connected in many more ways than just in a physical sense and neither of them could begin to describe how wonderful it felt.

"I love you Helen." Nikki leaned over and kissed her.

"I love you too." Helen turned slightly and rested on her elbow as she looked down at Nikki, "and I always will," she said, as she ran her fingers through her hair.


Chapter 20

Friday 1pm

Nikki quickly glanced up at the clock on Helen's mantelpiece and saw that it was about time they were leaving. They were preparing to fly up to Scotland for Helen's father's funeral, and if they didn't get a move on they wouldn't make their flight.

"Helen!" Nikki shouted up the stairs, "hurry up, we're gonna be late."

"I'm nearly ready." Helen shouted down, "come and have a look if you don't believe me," the tone of her voice was flirty.

"No chance, we'd end up in bed again and we don't have time." Nikki called back with a big smile on her face.

They'd made love for most of the night, and again that morning before they went into work for a few hours. Nikki was feeling elated, as if the one thing that had always been missing from her life had finally fallen into place.

"Ok." Helen called out as she laughed, "I'll be just a few more minutes."

Helen finished off touching up her makeup and gave her a hair a quick brush before she picked up her bag and made her way downstairs. There was a noticeable spring in her step, she hadn't felt that good for a long time. Despite the pressures of the past few months, and the past couple of weeks in particular, she now felt better than ever. But Laura's death and Sarah's unknown whereabouts were still very much at the forefront of both their minds.

She found Nikki sitting on the bottom step of the stairs and quickly leaned down to kiss the top of her head. Nikki smiled up at her, and pulled her head down for a kiss, Helen willingly obliged and they both forgot they were supposed to be elsewhere. Helen pulled away after a few minutes and licked her lips seductively.

"We really should be going," she said mischievously as her eyes twinkled.

"Ohhh Helen." Nikki moaned, "It was just getting good."

"You were the one who said we'd be late if we didn't hurry up. I'm just following orders," she winked at her.

"No you're not, you're taking the piss." Nikki grinned, "But that's ok, cos two can play at that game."

"Sounds like fun." Helen pouted sexily and ran a fingertip across Nikki's lips, "tell me more."

"I'll tell you more tonight. When you're in bed, on your own." Nikki emphasized the last word and smiled smugly.

"You wouldn't dare." Helen was certain she wouldn't.

"Wanna bet?" she raised her eyebrow.

"Ok then, I can sleep on my own. Can you?" Helen patted Nikki's shoulder and moved past her to the door with a smile on her face.

"Bloody woman." Nikki grinned.

Yvonne pulled her car into a parking space and turned the engine off, before checking to make sure that Karen was actually still alive. It was a toss up what was going to kill her first, hyperventilation or cigarettes, because she'd smoked several in a very short space of time. Yvonne would have found it amusing if the situation had been different.

"You ready?"

"Just give me a couple more minutes, I need to finish this." Karen held her cigarette up and then took another puff.

"It's a wonder you can breathe, and you're fogging the bloody car up." Yvonne didn't mind a bit of cigarette smoke what with being a smoker herself but the air in the car was thick enough to cut with a knife.

"I'm sorry, I'm nervous and I smoke a lot when I get nervous." Karen took one last drag and put the cigarette out.

"Nothing to be nervous about."

"You're kidding right? You're taking me to meet your husband, and you expect me not to be nervous?" Karen's eyes bored into Yvonne's.

"That's not how I meant it, you'll see when we get where we're going." Yvonne reached out and took Karen's hand, she laced their fingers together and squeezed her hand, "Cos I think this is something you need to see for yourself."

Karen nodded and smiled when Yvonne let go of her hand, whilst privately wondering what she was going on about. They came to a pleasant looking building that Karen knew well; it was a care home for disabled people. Her steps faltered and Yvonne urged her on, she had an idea of what was coming.

She followed Yvonne in, and down a short corridor through a set of double doors, until they came to a stop in front of a reception desk. The receptionist obviously knew Yvonne well, because she gave her a friendly smile and waved to her.

"Afternoon Mrs. Atkins," she chirped cheerfully, "Charlie is in the garden, just go on through."

"Thanks love." Yvonne smiled back and pulled Karen down the corridor with her.

"So that's his name, Charlie."

Yvonne didn't answer, just nodded in confirmation, and led her into the garden, where several people were sitting enjoying the fresh air. Yvonne spotted Charlie sitting by a bench in his wheelchair, while his carer sat next to him.

"That's him." Yvonne nodded towards him.

Karen was silent; she hadn't really heard a word Yvonne was saying. The situation still hadn't sunk in yet, she was about to meet Yvonne's husband and it was certainly not happening the way she'd imagined. Charlie sat there, blankly staring into space. Karen guessed he would once have been a big man, but now looked small and wasted away from sitting in his chair.

"What happened to him?"

"It's a long story. I'll tell you all about it later." Yvonne gave her a reassuring smile, "come on, I'll introduce you."

Mark Parry shifted uncomfortably in bed, he knew he had at least three broken ribs, and god knows how many bruises. Camaletti hadn't liked what he'd heard, and gave the order for some of his men to mete out a little punishment. Camaletti's definition of a little punishment vastly differed from anyone else's and Parry was in a bad way. He'd had no sleep, and the sound of his kids playing were grating on his nerves.

"Emma!" he screamed for his wife, "OI! Emma!"

"What's the matter?" she asked as she came rushing into the room.

"Shut the kids up will you? I'm trying to rest in here and I can't with all that bloody screeching!" he snarled.

"They're only kids Mark," she put her hands on her hips and glared at him.

"Just shut them up!" normally he doted on his kids, but today was different.

"I'll take them round to my mum's then," she said huffily.

"You do that," he said grouchily as he shifted in bed.

"You should get yourself seen to."

"I've already told you I'm fine," he rested his head back on the pillows and closed his eyes, as another wave of pain rushed through his body.

"You're not, you're in a shit state and you need checking out," she folded her arms as she looked at him.

"What I need is some peace and quiet. I don't need the kids howling, and I don't need you standing there whining at me! So take the kids and piss off to your mother's," he looked at her evilly.

"Right I will, and don't expect me back any time soon. You can make your own bloody dinner," she slammed the bedroom door behind her and left him to it.

He lay back and thought miserably about the situation he was in, the DVD's had caused him nothing but trouble and he wished he'd never allowed John to hang around while they were being destroyed. But it all went back to the same thing again, the very thing that had plagued him all his life. He was too cocky.

He'd be a laughing stock right about now; they'd all know that Camaletti had ordered for him to be taken down a peg or two. His mind turned to violent thoughts, he fantasised about what he would do to Camaletti to pay him back. But he knew they were just that: fantasies and nothing more. He wouldn't get within a hundred feet of him even if he tried; the man was always heavily guarded.

He had a week to get the DVD's back or he would be removed from the equation all together. Camaletti had been included in some of those videos, filmed in various compromising positions with women and so on, and he was livid when he'd found out. He was even angrier when he'd told him that he wasn't sure which DVD's had actually been taken. He'd accused Parry of being a pervert, and he'd known he was right because Parry wouldn't meet his eyes.

Not everybody knew that Parry got his kicks watching pornography, and violent pornography at that. Sex and violence, coupled with money, had always been the ways he could control other people. It gave him power and power was what he craved most but these days he had none and it made him angrier than he could ever remember feeling. He'd decided that if Camaletti wanted to play those types of games then he could too, and once he'd gotten rid of him, then everything would be his. He rolled over in bed painfully and reached for the phone, he wanted to find out for sure if the police had those DVD's and Fenner would come in handy.

Karen sat smiling as Yvonne put her arms around Charlie and kissed his forehead. It was obvious Yvonne loved him deeply but he was incapable of returning that love. He was still staring blankly into space, and had done so ever since they'd arrived.

"We've gotta go now love, but I'll be back to see you in a few days. I'll bring Lauren with me next time I come," she stroked his hair back from his forehead and then said goodbye to his carer before making her way out with Karen.

They decided to go for a drink and when they were at last seated, Yvonne lit a cigarette and got ready to tell the story of what had happened to Charlie.

"It all happened the night Lauren was born," she began, "I'd gone into labour three weeks early and Charlie was working away from home at the time. My parents called him and he made a mad dash to get there, he arrived just in time to see Lauren being born. He stayed for a few hours and then the nurse kicked him out, and it was on his way home that he was involved in a car crash. A drunken van driver ran through a red light and smashed into him, the car was crushed and they had to cut him out, it took them four hours to do it. He was in a coma for three months and when he finally regained consciousness, I could tell just by looking into his eyes that my Charlie had gone. He was brain damaged, and the nerve to his spinal cord had been severed, he would never walk or talk again, and he doesn't even know who I am. But what's worse, is that he doesn't even recognise his own daughter." Yvonne took a deep breath and let it go; everything was nearly out in the open now.

"I don't know what to say." Karen really felt for her, "it must have been terrible."

"It was, but I've had twenty years to get used to the idea. Twenty years of looking at the empty shell of the man my husband used to be." Yvonne stared off into the distance and then shook herself and smiled, "anyway, now you know."

"Why didn't you tell anybody?"

"I didn't want them feeling sorry for me." Yvonne took a sip of her drink and lit another cigarette.

"You know us all better than that Yvonne."

"I know, but it became a habit after a while and it was easier just to carry on and say nothing."

"Well anyway, now I know why you're reluctant to get involved in anything." Karen couldn't help blushing as she said it.

"That's part of the reason." Yvonne nodded her agreement, "but that's not all. I promised Charlie's parents that I would never get involved with anybody while he was alive. At the time nobody knew if he was going to survive or how long for, but I made that promise and twenty years later it still holds," she stubbed her cigarette out, "I couldn't abandon him Karen, it's bad enough having to leave him in that place without starting a relationship with somebody else."

"You made your promise and you're sticking by it. I respect that decision." Karen felt deeply disappointed, but she couldn't disagree with what Yvonne was saying, because she was sure she'd have made the same decision.

"His parents would never forgive me, and I don't know if I could forgive myself." Yvonne explained, "but it doesn't stop me wanting a normal life. I'm tired of being alone, tired of having nobody to hold me when I want comfort. Lauren is a good kid but she's grown up and has a life of her own, and I wish I had one too. I love my Charlie, but he isn't here anymore and he never will be and there's times when I regret keeping my promise to his parents all these years, even though that makes me sound awful."

"It doesn't make you sound awful, you're human, and you've got needs too. Charlie would understand that."

"Yes he would." Yvonne smiled fondly, "my Charlie wouldn't be happy if he knew what I've gone through. Get yourself someone Vonne, he'd say, go and have a bit of fun girl." Yvonne felt a single tear roll down her cheek.

Karen felt it was time to lighten the mood slightly before Yvonne became too emotional, "I wasn't asking you to marry me love, all I wanted was a bit of nookie," she grinned as Yvonne burst out laughing.

"Karen Betts! I never knew you had it in you." Yvonne chuckled.

"Well, you live and learn." Karen winked at her.

"So I'm just some sort of sex object then?" Yvonne playfully scowled at her.

"No course not, sex is the furthest thing from my mind." Karen said honestly.

"I know, I'm just kidding." Yvonne smiled, "Let's see how it goes eh? Anyway, drink up, I'm starving. I'll take you somewhere for a late lunch."

"Wining and dining me? You want to be careful, people will begin to start thinking you're nice." Karen chuckled.

"Did I mention you were paying?" Yvonne laughed.

"Now that sounds more like you." Karen nodded her head and smiled as they both left the pub.

Helen took in the sight of her mother's living room, gone was all the old, dark antique looking furniture, and in its place was comfortable, colourful modern pieces. The carpet had been dragged up and wooden flooring had been laid, whilst the walls had been painted in pastel colours and it made a welcome change from the heavily flowered wallpaper that had once been there.

"When did you do all this?" Helen was surprised it had all been done so quickly.

"Well, I found myself at a loose end when you left and I decided to change this place. So I made a few calls and here we are, the upstairs is still to be done but that's not till next week." Grace waved her arm around the room.

"It looks great." Nikki agreed as she looked around the room approvingly.

It was apparent that Helen and her mother had similar tastes in furniture. Nikki had been wrong when she'd decided that Grace was old fashioned and unbending, because the woman standing in front of her seemed to have lost fifteen years. Helen had noticed it too, and although it had surprised her, she liked the new version of her mother a lot.

"She's right, it looks wonderful mum." Helen smiled warmly.

"Thank you, if you both approve then I must have done something right. It's good to know that an old fart like me still has some taste." Grace giggled and Helen hadn't been expecting it.

"Mum!" she chuckled, "you're not an old fart."

"Not now I've been shopping no." Grace's face lit up, "I went shopping a few days ago and got myself a whole new wardrobe. I'd saved a lot of money and I thought it was about time I spent some, but don't worry, there'll be plenty for you when I kick the bucket," she winked.

"Mum, what are you like!" Helen shook her head in mock disapproval.

"Want to see some of my new clothes?" Grace said excitedly.

"Aye go on." Helen nodded, "be interesting to see what you've bought."

"I'll be two minutes," she said and then bounded off upstairs.

"Somebody somewhere has created a monster." Nikki said in amusement.

"You're not kidding." Helen agreed, "I can't believe how she's changed."

"Freedom does funny things to people sweetheart, and maybe she's now finally able to be herself."

"That's true and even though I hate to say it, a lot of good has come from a bad situation." Helen felt guilty about even thinking it.

"It has, your dad died and that's bad but at least now you and your mother are mending your relationship, and she seems to have gotten her life back. You've both made the best of things." Nikki placed a soft kiss on Helen's forehead, "so stop feeling guilty for thinking it."

Helen looked up at her in surprise, "how did you know I felt guilty?"

"I just did, I feel I know what you're thinking these days." Nikki smiled and shrugged her shoulders.

"Oh aye?" a wicked grin passed over Helen's face, "what am I thinking now then?"

"Probably the same thing I'm thinking." Nikki wiggled her eyebrows.

Helen was just about to reply when Grace came charging down the stairs like an excited teenager. She came bounding into the room and stood there with a grin on her face.

"So what do you think?" she said as she twirled around in a pair of jeans and a snug fitting cotton shirt.

"You look fantastic mum." Helen approved; it was such a change from the dowdy clothes her mother used to wear.

"Thanks, but do you think my arse looks huge in these jeans?" she wrinkled her face and pointed to her rear.

Helen burst out laughing, she'd never heard her mother talk that way, "no mum, your arse looks just fine."

"I'll say it does." Nikki grinned and bent over to get a better view, "that's not a bad bum Mrs. S."

"Don't you bloody well start." Helen giggled, "am I not enough for you?" her heart dropped when she'd realised what she'd said.

Nikki thought quickly, "I don't know how many times I've told you that you're not my type."

Helen was grateful for Nikki's joke, "oooo hark at you! Well that's ok, cos I wouldn't look twice at you." she grinned.

Grace looked at the two women, "that's the biggest load of bollocks I've ever heard Helen. You practically trip over your tongue every time she walks into the room. And as for you Nikki, you're no better. I knew you two fancied each other," she grinned naughtily at them both.

"Er I er." Helen was lost for words.

"I've always known you were gay Helen, I lived with your father long enough to recognise the signs. I don't care who you bonk so long as you're happy. Right, now we've got that out of the way, who wants a coffee?" she pottered out into the kitchen leaving Helen openmouthed.

"I don't believe that just happened. Did she say the word bonk?" Helen shook her head and collapsed onto the sofa.

"I believe she did. Reminds me of when I came out to my parents." Nikki remembered back fondly, "there I was stressing out over telling them, and my mum was more bothered about whether I wanted chips for tea or not. They took it all in their stride and it's never bothered them, in fact, they both tried to set me up with a woman down our street."

"They never did." Helen giggled.

"They did you know. God it was embarrassing, mind you, we had a good giggle about it eventually. But since then, I've resisted any of their attempts to get me to go on dates."

"What do you two fancy for dinner?" Grace called out from the kitchen, "I've got some nice steak in."

"That will be fine mum." Helen replied, "Come on then, we'd better give her a hand with dinner."

"Absolutely." Nikki nodded her agreement; "especially since she's wearing those jeans," she grinned.

"I'm warning you Wade." Helen narrowed her eyes and slapped Nikki on the backside.

"Please miss, can I have another one?" Nikki's face took on an angelic expression.

"Wait till bedtime." Helen winked at her and they both went off into the kitchen.

Jim Fenner lit up a cigarette and shuffled his feet nervously, this was all getting far too big and complicated for his liking and he wished he'd never gotten involved now. He'd seen exactly how Camaletti could be when crossed and he didn't want the same kicking that Parry had received. Then there was the problem of Laura's murder, he'd still not figured out what to do about that, he knew what he should do, but knowing it and doing it were two different things.

He heard the sound of a car engine behind him and stubbed his cigarette out under the toe of his shoe. He turned around and watched Mark Parry slowly climb out of a black Mercedes. He swallowed nervously, he had no idea what he wanted and the thought of it worried him.

"Evening Mark," he said in a friendly tone that hid his nervousness.

"It's Mr. Parry to you," he snarled, "and don't you forget it."

Something snapped inside Fenner "and don't you forget who I am. I could have your arse dragged into the station faster than you can blink so think on. If you want a favour from me then start treating me with some bloody respect." he hissed.

"What I need from you, is to help me get something back that belongs to me." Parry altered his tone; he was reasonably sure Fenner wouldn't do anything but he couldn't be a hundred percent certain and decided it would be a good idea to humour him.

"What is it and who's got it?" Fenner breathed a sight of relief, he'd gotten his point across and Parry had backed off a little.

"There were some DVD's that belong to me, and I need them back."

"You've called me all the way out here, at this time of night so I can help you sort out your fucking movie collection?" Fenner burst out laughing.

"I'm warning you." Parry went to lunge at him and then thought better of it.

"So what's so special about these DVD's?" Fenner said casually, pleased that that Parry knew he meant business.

"They're of a personal nature shall we say, and I hear that your lot have them."

"I've not heard anything about it." Fenner was puzzled, he'd been checking the evidence book regularly, "If any of my officers have them, then it hasn't been logged."

"Then you better find out for sure, because there's a chance that you're on one of them."

"Me? Why would I be on them?" he tried to think back, and then remembered the times in the nightclub when he'd picked up money.

"At the club, one of my lads got excited with his camera and just happened to catch you on tape. But I don't know for sure, since I have no idea which DVD's were taken."

"I'll make some discrete enquiries and if I happen to find them, you'll be the first to know."

"Good, that's what I like to hear. Have a nice night Jim." Parry turned around and started back towards the car.

"What about my money?" he called after him.

"You'll get it on delivery of my discs."

The car pulled away and left Fenner on his own again, he broke out into a cold sweat. If he was on the DVD's and they fell into the wrong hands, everything that he'd done so far would be ruined. He pulled his mobile phone from his pocket and dialed a now familiar number.

"Hi, it's me. I've just spoken to Parry, we need to meet up and talk." He took a deep breath as the voice on the other end of the phone agreed that they did.


Chapter 21

"Helen! Get a bloody move on!" Grace shouted up the stairs, "It's one thing being late for your own funeral but it's rude to be late for someone else's."

Nikki giggled as she heard Grace from the kitchen; she really was a fun person to be around and nothing like she was when they had first met almost a week earlier. She could actually see where Helen got her personality from, even though her looks were purely her father's.

"I'm coming now, be two ticks." Helen shouted back down amidst much banging and rattling.

"Honest to god, she always took ages as a child and she'll never change." Grace remarked as she flopped down at the kitchen table next to Nikki.

"I've noticed she has a habit of being late." Nikki grinned and took a sip of her coffee.

"Late? That's putting it mildly, she was three weeks overdue and I was in labour for thirty six hours to boot. Good job she put in an appearance eventually otherwise I'd have needed a sling to carry her legs around." Grace said dryly.

Nikki tried desperately to hold on to her mouthful of coffee and promptly failed. Grace noticed the look on her face and began giggling, she offered her a napkin to wipe her mouth and Nikki took it gratefully.

"Thanks Mrs. S." Nikki smiled warmly at her, "on the other hand, you'd have had extra help getting up the stairs."

It was Grace's turn to spit her coffee out and she sat giggling uncontrollably, she didn't stop even when Helen came into the kitchen.

"What are you two laughing about?" Helen regarded them suspiciously.

"I'd have been the first ever woman to need maternity shoes." Grace said and then burst out laughing again.

Nikki gave up and put her cup down on the table while she rested her head on her arms and cried with laughter. Helen looked at them as if they were both stupid, and shook her head as she too sat down.

"What's so bloody funny?" she looked from one woman to the other.

"Would have cost you a fortune though, they'd have charged you half fare on the bus for her." Nikki gasped as she giggled.

"Would have been a bugger trying to find matching troosers too." Grace piped up.

"What are you two on?" Helen shook her head.

"Your mother was explaining to me why you're always late." Nikki wiped her eyes and judged it safe to take another mouthful of coffee.

"I'm not always late." Helen scowled.

"Aye you are, just ask my midwife." Grace giggled.

"What's the midwife got to do with me being late?" Helen was puzzled.

"Helen sweetheart, don't ask." Nikki shook her head and smiled, "we'd still be here tomorrow if you did."

"She's right, so grab your girlfriend and let's get going." Grace drained her coffee and stood up.

Helen did a double take, she still wasn't used to her mother knowing she was gay, "Mum," she said embarrassed.

"What else do you want me to call her?" Grace raised an eyebrow, "Partner, mistress, lover, bit of fluff?" she grinned.

"I know what I'd like to call her." Helen said as she picked up her handbag, "only it's not repeatable."

"Helen's getting stroppy." Grace straightened her clothes and winked at Nikki.

"I am not getting stroppy." Helen rolled her eyes.

"She never gets stroppy, she gets hormonal." Nikki giggled and shot out of the kitchen as Helen's handbag missed her by inches.

Jim Fenner sat with his morning coffee, nervously chewing on his fingernail. His wife Marilyn had taken the kids out for the day and the hours seemed to stretch before him. He'd been in a state of anxiety ever since he'd arranged the meeting last night. Things were starting to go wrong and he didn't know what to do about it, which was why he hoped the meeting would uncover some answers to his problems.

The phone rang, startling him, and he rushed to pick it up, "Fenner."

"I need to talk to you."

"No bloody way," he said adamantly, "it's not a good idea for us to be talking at the moment, not after what you've done."

"I already explained that."

"Explaining it doesn't make it right. What you did was bloody unforgivable even under these circumstances." he said angrily.

"And you think I don't know that? I lie awake at night, going over and over what I've done but I did what I needed to and I've got to live with that. Life goes on."

"Well it will for you at any rate, Laura didn't have that choice did she?" Fenner exploded.

"Look, I didn't call for an argument, I called because we need to talk and figure out where we go from here."

"When I figure out what happens next, I'll call you." He slammed the phone down and drained the rest of his coffee.

Things just seemed to keep on deteriorating, and he needed solutions sooner rather than later. He picked his jacket up and rifled in the pocket for his car keys, he had to have that meeting right now. First of all though, he'd have to locate those DVD's.

Andy Lockyer sat at home watching TV; he was staring blankly at the screen when the phone rang. He drank down the rest of his beer and picked up the phone wearily, he didn't particularly want to talk to anybody right now, he was feeling depressed.


"It's Jim Fenner; I need you to do something for me."

"What do you need?" Andy immediately sat up straight, it sounded important.

"I want you to find those DVD's for me. You could try in the evidence room on the offchance."

"And if they're not there?"

"I'm not sure, I can't be certain they are there at all. All I do know is that they were supposedly handed over to the police and though I have my suspicions, I can't prove anything."

"Let me guess, Nikki Wade." He nodded his head as if it didn't surprise him.

"She's the one I was thinking about. Nikki is fair, but she doesn't always play by the book. Thing is, Parry knows one of our lot has them, and his information is usually spot on." Fenner hoped it wasn't Nikki, because he knew she'd be determined to uncover everything and that's just what he didn't want.

"And Helen, since those two seem joined at the hip these days." Andy said with venom.

"This is not personal Andy; I don't want your feelings brought into this. Just do as I ask, and leave it at that."

"Yeah ok, I'll nip down the station later when it's a bit quieter."

"The minute you find anything let me know, because we've got no time to lose on this." Fenner knew time was running out pretty quickly.

"I'll be sure to." He said as he put down the phone and picked up another beer.

Helen showed the last guest to the front door, and then leaned back against it and closed her eyes. It had been a difficult day but she'd coped a lot better with it than she'd thought she would. Nikki had been fantastic, she had circulated amongst all the guests treating them as old friends, and it had lightened the mood.

Grace had been grateful for her presence too, she made Helen happy and she was grateful of the fact. Helen hadn't had an easy life, and she knew she herself was partly to blame, but it was good to see her finally getting some of the happiness she deserved.

Helen was about to go and help Nikki and her mother clear up when her mobile phone rang in her jacket pocket. She looked at the display, and realised it was Karen calling.

"Hey Karen, how's things?" she said cheerfully.

"I'm doing ok thanks, what about you? How did the funeral go?"

"The funeral was fine, there was a good turnout."

"Good, I'm glad to hear it. Right, as you know I did Laura's post last night."

Helen suddenly felt sad again at the mention of Laura's name, "Did you find something?"

"Yes I did, I don't know whether any of you were aware, but she was pregnant."

"Oh Jesus." Helen put a hand to her forehead and closed her eyes.

"She was about three months gone, it was a little boy." Karen's voice cracked.

"Whoever the bastard was that murdered her, he got two for the price of one." Helen said angrily.

"I just thought I'd let you know. Oh and by the way, there were a few texts on her phone of a romantic nature, although there was no name just an initial."

"Do you have the number handy?" Helen knew they now had a way of finding out who she was seeing.

Karen rattled the number off, "I hope that helps."

Helen was shocked, she knew the number, "let me guess, the initial was A?"

"Yes, how did you know?"

"Just a lucky guess, thanks for that information Karen. I'll come and see you in a couple of days."

"Ok, I'll let you have the report on Laura when you get back. You take care now, say hello to Nikki for me and I'll see you soon."

"You take care too Karen, bye."

Helen placed the phone back in her pocket and made her way through to the living room in a daze. Andy's behaviour made sense now; looking back, it explained why he had been distant with her. She drifted into the kitchen and sat down heavily, as she leaned her elbows on the table and looked towards Nikki.

"Karen just called."

"It must have been bad news. What's up love?" Nikki said as she sat down beside her, worried about the look on Helen's face.

"Laura was pregnant, three months gone."

"You're kidding?" Nikki was stunned.

"No I'm not." Helen shook her head, "and what's worse, is I know exactly who the father is."

"Who?" Nikki held her breath.

"It's Andy." Helen replied

"You've got to be fucking joking now."

"I'm not, it was his number on her phone, Karen found romantic texts from him."

"I don't know what to say." Nikki couldn't get her head around it, "I knew he was a bit of a git but I didn't think he'd cheat on you."

"I suppose in a way he did, although I wasn't emotionally there so it doesn't really count. Besides, we could argue I cheated on him too, although not physically."

"Yeah suppose you could put it like that." Nikki agreed.

"Thing is, I don't much like what I'm thinking right now. He's involved in all this somehow, and even though he's a lot of things, I wouldn't have thought he was a murderer."

"No I wouldn't have either, but that's life." Nikki shrugged, "But remember, we have no proof it was Andy, even though it's a possibility."

"I intend to get to the bottom of it though, and find out for sure." Helen said with a determined look on her face.

Andy sidled into the station as if he didn't have a care in the world. He greeted a few people he knew and carried on walking in the direction of the evidence room. He pushed the door open and noticed there was a young WPC in there, cataloguing evidence.

"Evening," he said jovially.

"Evening Sir," she replied respectfully.

"WPC Mills isn't it?"

"That's right Sir," she smiled shyly at him.

"Well WPC Mills, you couldn't do me a favour could you?"

"What can I do for you?"

"DCI Stewart wants me to check over the log book for recently booked evidence to check that it's all correct. Only I'm hopeless at that sort of thing and I wondered if you could show me where the records are," he decided it was easier to search for it out in the open than try and get her out of the way.

"Certainly," she said as she flicked through the book, "well, there's been nothing logged recently but this is a new book and the rest has been computerised, would you like me to check?" her fingers poised over the keyboard in front of her.

"That would be great thanks," he gave her one of his best smiles.

"Anything in particular that you're looking for?" she asked as she typed away.

"No, just check the last two weeks say," he said as he peered at the screen over her shoulder, "I want to check it's all there."

She clicked away as his eyes scanned down the list, there was no entry for any DVD's submitted. So they definitely weren't there, and he'd have to try the incident room next.

"That's it Sir, does everything seem to be in order?"

"Yes, all present and accounted for. Thank you very much for your help."

"My pleasure," she smiled and blushed again, she'd fancied him for a while.

"Oh no, the pleasure was all mine." He winked at her before leaving the room.

When he got to the incident room, it was in darkness, all the stragglers had gone home. Cigarette smoke hung in a thick layer and the smell of stale coffee pervaded the room. He checked one last time to make sure nobody was around and he went into Helen's office. He started on the filing cabinets first, he knew Helen always forgot to lock them, but he didn't find anything.

He checked her desk next and after rifling through her makeup and other bits and bobs, he found that it too was empty. He had a quick search around the rest of the office but it was obvious nothing was there and he closed the door behind him before heading off towards Nikki's desk.

He switched her desk lamp on, and bent down to look in the drawers. The first one was full of paperwork and the second was empty but for a few pens. When he tried the one at the bottom, it was locked. Feeling slightly hopeful, he tried to prise it open and failed. He sat back wondering how to get it open and jumped when he thought he heard a noise. He sat listening for a few minutes but nobody came in.

He took his penknife from his pocket and jammed the blade into the lock, he twisted it a few times and something clicked. He'd ruined the lock but he wasn't much bothered about it, he was more interested in what was inside. He slid the drawer open and peered in, he became disappointed when he saw that it contained personal items such as letters and photographs.

He pulled his mobile phone out and dialed Fenner's number, "Hi, I can't find the DVD's anywhere. I checked in the evidence room and I've had a look in Helen's office and now Nikki's desk. There's no sign."

"Ok, so we know for sure they're not at the station….." Fenner hinted.

"If you think I'm breaking into their houses then forget it. I said I'd have a look around the office and I have. If you want to search their houses then bloody well do it yourself."

"Alright, keep your hair on. Never mind for now, we'll sort something out later."

"Just so long as it doesn't involve me breaking and entering," there was no way Andy wanted to get involved in that.

"You'll have to wait and see won't you."

Andy heard a click and then the dial tone, Fenner had put the phone down on him. He scowled before stuffing his phone back into his pocket. He was about to close the drawer when he saw a pair of feet come to a stop in front of him.

"What the hell do you think you're doing?" Tony looked down menacingly at him.

"I was just looking for a pen," the lie tripped easily off his tongue.

"That's funny, because I can see a pen sitting on your desk from here." Tony pointed across the room.

"Really?" Andy made a big show of looking, "how stupid am I? I've been looking for that everywhere and all the time it was right under my nose."

"So, I'll ask you again. What are you doing looking in Nikki's private draw?" Tony knew exactly what he was looking for.

"I didn't know it was her private drawer, I told you, I was just looking for a pen."

"And that necessitated you breaking the lock then did it?" He folded his arms and looked down at him with a disbelieving expression.

"The drawer was open." Andy shrugged, and privately wished Tony would drop it.

"The lock is broken, I might have had a crack over the head but there's nothing wrong with my eyesight."

"There you go then, that's why it wasn't locked when I came to look for a pen," he stood up, "now, if we're finished with the Spanish inquisition then I'd like to go home."

"Thought you had work to do? You did want a pen after all."

"I'm not in the mood now, being accused of breaking into a colleague's desk has put me off." Andy shook his head and left the incident room.

Nikki leaned back and patted her stomach; she was stuffed after the big meal Grace had cooked for them.

"That was lovely Mrs. S." Nikki grinned, "You're a very good cook."

"Thank you Nikki, it was sweet of you to say so." Grace's face lit up, she loved to cook and was pleased Nikki had enjoyed it.

"I can hardly move now." Helen groaned as she collected the plates, "I'd forgotten how good your cooking was," she said as she gave her a mother a kiss on the forehead.

"I'm pleased you liked it." Grace's heart had swelled when Helen kissed her.

"Don't ask Helen to return the favour though, she could burn toast." Nikki giggled.

"You little liar Wade." Helen scowled at her, "there's nothing wrong with my cooking."

"That wasn't……," she was interrupted when her mobile rang, "sorry, please excuse me."

She stood up and went into the living room and sat down on the sofa. She lit a cigarette as she answered the call.

"Hiya mate, how are you?"

Tony got straight to the point, "we've got a problem."

"What's the matter?" Nikki's stomach suddenly dropped. Every time she got a call these days it was bad news.

"Andy is on to you, he knows you've got the DVD's."

"How the hell does he know that?" Nikki stood up and began to pace the room.

"I don't know, but I'm guessing Fenner must have told him because I heard him on the phone talking to him. Right after he'd searched Helen's office and broken into the bottom drawer of your desk."

"I don't bloody believe it," she ran a hand through her hair in agitation.

"Where are they? I need to get to them before he does, because from what I can gather, Fenner wanted him to search your place as well as Helen's."

"Don't you worry about that; I've got them hidden where nobody will ever find them."

"Good, because you can't take the risk of Andy getting hold of them."

"He won't find them, trust me. More importantly though, Fenner knows we've got them and that's not good. Plus the fact, now we know Andy is involved and that makes things worse," she took another nervous drag of her cigarette.

"How so?"

"What I'm about to tell you goes no further."

"Come on Nikki, you know I won't say anything," he said in annoyance.

"I know. Laura was three months pregnant when she died…."

"Jesus." Tony felt tears threatening.

"You said she was seeing somebody, and we now know who it is, it's Andy. Thing is, we weren't sure whether she was involved or not at first but figured if she was then her death might have been linked to it. Now that we know Andy is caught up in it all, it looks increasingly likely that her death was a result of what they were mixed up in."

"I don't like the sound of that Nikki."

"I don't like the sound of it either. I might be putting two and two together and coming up with five but somehow I don't think so."

"So what about all the other suspects?"

"They're still under suspicion, because I don't know who the hell else is involved," she shrugged as she paced. It seemed like the more she knew, the more confused it all became.

"What do we do now then?"

"To be honest Tony, I haven't got a bloody clue." Nikki sighed.

Jim accepted the tumbler of whisky passed over to him and took a sip before placing it by the side of him. The meeting hadn't gone too badly so far, he'd had a bit of an ear bashing but had largely escaped getting too much of a bollocking.

"So, we've discussed the facts and now we've got to work out a plan of action." The dark haired woman sitting in front of him spoke slowly.

"To be honest, I think we should try and get them to come in on it with us." Jim replied, he'd thought about it and it seemed like the best option.

"That's not an option, you know this started off with only a handful of people involved and we can't afford for it to start getting too complicated," she sighed.

"And it's not complicated already?" he raised an eyebrow at her.

"It's nothing that can't be smoothed over."

"Oh come on, they have the DVD's, I'm on there and they know it because they'll have watched them by now. I would never have known if Parry hadn't found out and you should think it's lucky that we do now, because all this could have been blown to kingdom come otherwise."

"Why haven't they done anything about it before now?"

"If I know Nikki as well as I think I do, then she'll be considering her options. She'll be going after Parry eventually, but she'll take her time because she'll be coming after me too."

"So what do we do?"

"Only one thing we can do." Fenner shrugged, "Remove them from the equation."


Chapter 22

Monday 10am

Nikki climbed out of her car at the back of the station and looked up towards the heavens. It looked like rain again, and the temperature had dropped rapidly overnight. She'd tossed and turned for the last two nights, not being able to sleep for worrying about Fenner. At 2am on Sunday morning, she was so restless that she'd gotten up and sat in Grace's living room so as not to disturb Helen.

She'd sat chain smoking, as she wondered about what she was going to do. She wished now that she'd listened to Helen, and handed everything over to SIS. Her mother had told her time and time again she was far too stubborn, and now she had wished she'd listened.

She and Helen had gotten back from Scotland the previous evening, and they'd gone to bed as usual but Nikki hadn't stayed long. She was back at her own place by 1am, with Helen being pissed off that she'd left. Helen had tried to talk to her but Nikki didn't want to discuss it.

She was worried now that Helen wouldn't be speaking to her, as she hadn't called her that morning. She pulled her mobile phone from her pocket and dialed the number, wanting to apologise for her behaviour the previous night.

On the third ring, the call was answered, "Hiya, where are you?"

"Standing about twenty feet to the left of you," came the amused reply.

Nikki turned around to find Helen grinning at her from the other side of the car park. She smiled back and clicked the phone off, before striding over to where Helen stood.

"Good morning." Helen said cheerfully, she couldn't stay pissed off with Nikki for long.

"Morning." Nikki fiddled with her phone nervously, "I'm really sorry about last night, I shouldn't have gone home like that."

"It doesn't matter. I would have preferred it if you'd stayed but it's done now." Helen smiled reassuringly.

"I thought you'd be angry with me." Nikki looked down at her with her big brown puppy dog eyes and Helen's heart melted.

"I was pissed off, but I wasn't angry. All I wanted was for you to talk to me."

"I know but it's not something I'm used to. I usually deal with all my problems on my own."

"This isn't just your problem though, it's our problem. And that goes for any other problems either of us have, we share everything Nik, that's what being a couple is all about." Helen took hold of her arm and rubbed it.

"I'll remember that." Nikki's grin was huge, "I'll get better at it, I've just got to get used to the idea of it first."

"I know." Helen nodded and smiled.

"I love you Helen." Nikki looked deep into her eyes.

"I love you too sweetheart." Helen returned the intensity of her gaze, "Don't know about you, but I'm starving. Come on, I'll treat you to some breakfast."

"I was hungry till I thought about the canteen in this place." Nikki pulled a face, "You could re-tarmac the bloody car park with their custard."

Helen giggled, "Just think about what the fry up will do to your arteries then."

"It will clog them up." Nikki placed a finger on her chin, "sounds really unhealthy. I can't wait," she grinned and then rubbed her hands together.

Just as they were on the end of finishing their breakfast, a woman coughed politely beside them.

"Excuse me DCI Stewart, DI Wade. Superintendent Fenner has requested that you make your way to his office as soon as possible."

"What does he want?" Nikki was already on the defensive as she placed her knife and fork down.

"I don't know DI Wade, that's a matter you will have to discuss with him," she said with a small smile.

"Thank you, could you please tell Superintendent Fenner that we'll there in a few minutes." Helen placed her own cutlery down and smiled back at the woman.

"Of course," she gave a nod of her head and then was gone.

"What the fuck does he want?" Nikki immediately looked worried.

"We won't know that till we get there, stop panicking." Helen admonished her softly.

"Don't panic? Don't bloody panic?" Nikki whispered harshly, "he knows we know and you're telling me not to panic."

"We don't know that at all. There is no point getting wound up till we know what he wants. So calm down and pull yourself together." Helen resisted getting annoyed.

"Of course, how stupid of me." Nikki shrugged her shoulders and leaned back in her chair.

"Don't get sarcastic with me Nikki. We're on the same side in case you had forgotten." Helen tried not to make it look like they were having an argument.

"Yeah and we all know whose side that bastard upstairs is on."

"I'm warning you Nikki, if you go upstairs in that mood then it's going to cause trouble." Helen raised an eyebrow at her.

"So what if it does?" Nikki couldn't have cared less at that point.

"I'm asking you not to."

"So?" Nikki wouldn't meet her eyes.

"Ok then, I'm bloody well telling you not to." Helen answered tetchily, she was getting fed up.

"You are my superior officer after all."

"Don't start with that bullshit Nik; I had enough of that from you in the beginning. I'm not the enemy here, we're a team."

"So stop pulling rank on me."

"I wasn't and you're being difficult on purpose."

"You should know me by now Helen. What was it you said to me a couple of weeks back? I'm just being difficult for difficult sake? Well, you're a great judge of character." Nikki stood up and left the canteen with Helen following closely on her heels.

She strode up the corridor and Helen had to trot to keep up with her. She tried to get Nikki to stop but she wouldn't listen. They were passing the bathroom and Helen grabbed hold of her and pushed her inside. Nikki felt herself being forcefully pushed inside a cubicle as the door banged shut behind them.

"Now do I have your attention?" Helen's eyes were fiery, "I warned you once before, and I'm warning you now. I will not take any shit from you Nikki, no matter how I feel about you."

"I should have listened to you, we should have handed this over." Nikki immediately backed down, she knew she was way out of order, "I'm sorry, I shouldn't have gotten angry with you."

"Being sorry isn't good enough. You promise me time and time again that you'll knock it off and look where we are, back at square one again." Helen gestured with her hands as she spoke.

"Oh come on Helen, things aren't that bad."

"If you keep carrying on like this then they will be. I come here to do a job, and what you and I have is separate from that, I don't want the two to mix. Any decisions I make at work are nothing personal, and you've got to start realising that. I'm not talking as your partner here Nikki; I'm talking as your boss. If you go up there like this, you'll be handing it to him on a plate."

"I see how this is going." Nikki folded her arms with a pissed off look on her face.

"Oh for god sake." Helen rolled her eyes. She leaned over and pushed Nikki against the wall of the cubicle as she hungrily kissed her, "that was talking as your partner, I love you no matter what. But we're at work and you've got to start listening to me."

"When you kiss me like that I'll listen to anything you have to say." Nikki grinned, instantly feeling better.

"Shut up." Helen couldn't help grinning despite herself, "Are we agreed? You knock all this macho crap off and start behaving like a sane human being."

"I'm sorry, really I am. I don't know what got into me."

"I do, it's called fear." Helen saw Nikki pull a face at her, "don't look at me like that, it is fear, and don't think you're the only one. I'm feeling scared myself, but we go up there, and we deal with it together ok?"

"Yes." Nikki nodded.

"Good, then let's go."

Fenner sat in his office nervously tapping his pen on the desk. It was all going to come to a head very soon, and he just hoped things worked out the way he'd planned. He knew Nikki well enough to know that he'd have to be very convincing if he wanted her to believe him. But he realised he shouldn't really be worrying, he would have plenty of help in that department and it should all go smoothly.

If things did happen to go wrong then the blame would be laid at his door, and god knows what would happen then. He was pretty sure there would be quite a few people pissed off with him. A knock came at the office door and broke him from his thoughts.

"Come in," he called out.

The door was pushed open and Helen entered first with Nikki following behind. Helen's words had struck a chord and she'd known she was right; she had to play it cool.

"You wanted to see us Sir?" Helen spoke respectfully although the words stuck in her throat.

"Yes. Please take a seat." He smiled as he pointed to the chairs in front of his desk, "now, I won't insult your intelligence, you know exactly why you're here."

"He's getting right down to it." Nikki thought, but instead replied, "Really Sir? I'm not sure we follow."

"Oh come on Nikki," he smiled again and it was getting on her nerves, "It's about time we put our cards on the table."

"We're listening." Helen broke in.

He nodded, "I know you have something in your possession which concerns me. To be precise, you have DVD's with me on them, accepting money from Mark Parry."

"I'm sorry Sir; I have no idea what you're talking about. But if you have accepted money from Mark Parry then that's a very serious matter indeed." Helen played it dumb.

"She's right Superintendent Fenner." Nikki piped up, "I'm afraid that we will have to inform internal affairs about this, even though it is your word against ours."

Helen smiled inwardly; Nikki was good when she got going. But sometimes she didn't think before she spoke, she opened her mouth before her brain was in gear.

"There'll be no need for that." Fenner had to admit, these two were good.

"On the contrary Sir." Helen shifted in her seat, "If a police officer volunteers information that he has been involved in corrupt activity, then it's the duty of the person he has given that information to, to inform the necessary authorities."

"And what makes you think they don't already know?" Fenner wanted to see exactly how much they knew.

"Chiefly because you're still sitting here Sir." Nikki allowed a small smile.

"And if you're trying to say that there are other officers involved in this, then that's also very serious. You certainly wouldn't be leaving us with much option other than to inform internal affairs of what you've told us." Helen wasn't sure who was playing who, judging by the look on Jim's face.

"There are other officers involved." He nodded, "and I want you and DI Wade to be a part of it."

Neither of them could believe what they were hearing. He was sitting there as bold as brass, confessing to corrupt behaviour and he wanted them to join him. Nikki was undecided what to do, should they stay and hear more to gather evidence? Or refuse outright to have anything to do with it? She didn't know which option would be best, but Helen decided for her.

"Well then Sir, I think you should explain exactly what you're talking about." Helen held his gaze.

"I think it's about time I did too." He placed his pen on the desk and took a deep breath.

Karen was busy supervising a delivery of medical supplies, and fast losing her temper with the delivery man because the order was wrong and he was insisting it was correct. He stood with his arms folded defiantly and refused to take the unwanted items back.

"I've already told you, I don't need these items. And they can't stay here, this is a busy department." Karen waved the clipboard around in agitation.

"Look love, as far as I'm concerned, the order is fine," he made no move to indicate otherwise; "This is what was on the order form and that's what you've got".

"It's not right, I've told you the whole bloody order is wrong. In fact, out of the total twenty items I ordered, only two are correct." Karen was getting wound up further by the seconds.

"Not much I can do love, you've seen the order form, it's all been signed off by my firm."

"Well it's your fault then, you've just said as much. I will not sign the form, so you can either leave it here, or take it back, I don't give a shit," she'd had enough and threw the clipboard back at him.

"Do yourself a favour mate, get the stuff loaded back on the van, and go and sort the order out. Dr Betts here hasn't got the time or the inclination to piss about with all this." Yvonne piped up from behind Karen.

"Yvonne." Karen said surprised, "what are you doing here?"

"Just passing by and it's a good job too by the looks of it," she smiled and Karen couldn't help being lost in it.

"This is just an ordinary day for this madhouse." Karen pointed to the mortuary building in front of her.

The delivery man cleared his throat, "excuse me ladies, I've got a lot of stuff to do today, can you just sign my form and let me go?" he held the clipboard out hopefully.

"No she bloody well can't!" Yvonne marched over to him, "I'm asking you nicely to take all this stuff back, and if you don't then I'll be forced to complain to your superiors."

"No need for that." He backed down rapidly, he knew she meant it, "I'll see what I can do."

"Good, and make sure it's quick. I haven't got time to hang around all bloody day." Yvonne flashed him a look.

The delivery man beat a hasty retreat to his van and got on his mobile phone as Karen turned to Yvonne and smiled.

"Since when have you been a knight in shining armour?" Karen quipped.

"Since I rode up on my trusty steed and found a damsel in distress," she winked at her.

"So, do you propose to rescue said damsel in distress?" Karen's spoke in a flirty tone, she couldn't help it.

"Is the damsel for rescuing?" Yvonne flirted back although she knew she shouldn't.

"She is." Karen nodded.

"Then I'm rescuing." Yvonne held Karen's gaze, and felt her stomach flip at the look in her eyes.

"And are you going to ride off into the sunset with me?" Karen had been joking but then she realised what she'd said.

"I hope so, eventually." Yvonne answered seriously.

"I didn't mean…..." Karen began to say, but Yvonne placed a hand on her arm.

"I know you were kidding, but I wasn't. I might not be good at showing my feelings Karen, but that doesn't mean I don't feel something for you. It's a difficult situation." Yvonne suddenly got shy and dropped her gaze to the floor.

"I know." Karen said softly, "and believe me; I wasn't trying to say anything. I know how difficult it is for you."

"It's complicated, but that doesn't mean I can't let you know how I feel." Yvonne looked up and into Karen's eyes again.

"Trust me, I know how you feel, it's written all over you face." Karen grinned, "like you said, one step at a time and see how things go."

"Ok, can't say fairer than that." Yvonne's grin was as big as Karen's, "fancy going out with me tonight?"

"What did you have in mind?"

"Well, I was thinking I could take you to dinner and see what happens after that," an evil grin passed over Yvonne's face.

"I don't like the look of that smile." Karen chuckled.

"You're a wise woman, you have every right to be wary of me." Yvonne giggled.

"Mmmmmm." Karen wiggled her eyebrows, "in that case, I readily accept."

The delivery man strolled back towards them, "Right, I've had a word with my boss and he's willing to make an exception in this case. If you give me your copy of the order form then I'll have the delivery back here in a couple of hours," he now tried to sound helpful.

"It's about bloody time, feel free to get on with it." Karen smiled a sickly sweet smile.

The man sidled off and she turned back to Yvonne. They watched each other for a short while wearing identical grins.

"I better let you get back to work, but I'll see you later."

"Yes you will." Karen said seductively.

"Be good." Yvonne said before leaning over to kiss Karen on the cheek, "and if you have to misbehave, at least wait until tonight," she winked.

Both Helen and Nikki sat staring at Jim Fenner in shock; they couldn't believe what they'd just heard. Either it was all a very elaborate lie or he really was telling them the truth. Nikki couldn't quite decide which.

"So this has all been part of a covert operation run by SIS to catch Gino Camaletti?" Helen had never heard of him before.

"Yes, I know it seems a little farfetched but believe me, it is the truth. Two years ago, the drugs trade went through the roof and they started looking closely at Dougan and Parry. As usual, they knew what they were up to but there was no proof. SIS had to be content with watching and waiting, but a short while ago, Camaletti's name cropped up." Fenner offered them a cigarette and they accepted with a nod of their head.

"Has he got any previous?" Nikki tried to remain guarded, no matter how much she wanted to believe him, she wasn't sure if she should.

"No. He's been known to dabble in buying and selling drugs but it's not really his thing and nothing ever came of it. He has a fetish for weapons, he collects antique guns and his house is full to bursting with them. But that passion extends to all kinds of guns and the money that they bring. He has never even so much as received a speeding ticket."

"It all sounds very plausible, but I just don't believe you." Nikki looked him squarely in the eye.

"Not believing me is not an option Nikki. How long have you known me? Have I ever lied to you before?" He lit his cigarette and blew smoke out.

"That's not the point," she shifted in her chair, "I've known you for a while, and I trusted you but look what happened."

Helen stayed silent; she was watching Jim for a reaction. She didn't know what to believe, she didn't know Jim as well as Nikki did.

"I'm telling you the truth. I had to tell you now because those DVD's showing up could ruin this entire investigation and all the work we've done so far could be all for nothing."

"How so? We were going to inform SIS anyway, as well as internal affairs." Nikki tapped an ash, her gaze not wavering from Fenner's face.

"Yeah but that's the bloody problem. If internal affairs get involved, word will get round and that's just what we don't want. And you'd have been fobbed off by SIS and that would have made you more determined to get to the bottom of things."

"What's the problem if you've got nothing to hide?" Helen piped up.

"Generally speaking, we would have nothing to hide." Fenner decided they should know the whole truth, "if, Sir Gossard the metropolitan police commissioner wasn't involved."

"You mean he's in on this?" Nikki wasn't surprised, she'd heard of his reputation.

"Yes, he's getting a cut of the profits from Camaletti's gun smuggling operation, in return for keeping us off Camaletti's back. SIS approached me and asked me to get involved, they were certain a very high ranking member of the force was involved in all this but until I went undercover they didn't know who. Gossard turned up at a meeting one evening and then it all made sense. We found he'd been involved with Dougan too, but when Parry bumped him off, Camaletti turned up and he switched sides."

"You've known everything that was going on all along?" Helen wasn't shocked; Fenner had access to a lot of information and could find out anything he wanted.

"Yes I have. I know all about John's wife being kidnapped, the whole story. I couldn't say anything though, I was forbidden to. You'll be happy to know by the way, that she managed to escape, I'm not sure where she is now but I know Parry doesn't have her any longer."

"Was it you that told him where she was?" Helen had had her suspicions it was Fenner but now it was unclear.

"No, that wasn't me," he shook his head and looked sincere.

"Well if it wasn't you, who was it? Somebody else is involved in this. Andy Lockyer by any chance?" Nikki couldn't resist, she still didn't know whether Fenner was on the level but she couldn't hold her tongue.

Helen focused her eyes on the floor and wished Nikki had kept her mouth shut. Mentioning they knew more than they'd let on was a bad move on her part, it could get them into trouble if Fenner was spinning them a yarn.

"Yes he's working for us, but don't worry he's on our side." Fenner nodded, "let me guess, Tony told you he was going through your desk," he smiled.

"Doesn't matter how I know, but my privacy was disrespected in any case." Nikki was non-committal. She could have kicked herself for mentioning it now, she didn't want Tony involved.

"He's a good man Nikki and a great friend to you. And as for the intrusion into your privacy, you have my heartfelt apologies, it was wrong of me. Trust me, you're safe, I'm not about to start getting you all bumped off.."

"I'm sure we'll rest easy in our beds." Helen said sarcastically.

"Can you prove you're on the level?" Nikki asked.

"Yes, and I will." Jim Fenner lifted the phone, "can you send my next appointment in please Valerie….thank you," he spoke kindly to his secretary.

Shortly there was a knock at the door and a dark haired woman entered with a smile upon her face. Nikki groaned when she saw who it was, and Helen looked at her questioningly.

"Hello DI Wade, long time no see."

"Hi." Nikki replied, "another skeleton popping out of the closet," she thought.

"Ladies, may I introduce you to Francis Myers, Head of SIS." Jim stood up, "Francis, this is DCI Helen Stewart and DI Wade whom you already know."

"Nice to meet you DCI Stewart," she shook Helen's hand warmly, "Good to see you again Nikki."

"Likewise." Nikki replied as she shook her hand, but she didn't sound sincere.

"Right, let's get down to business shall we?" Francis clicked her briefcase open and pulled out some papers.

"Lets." Jim replied, "but first, tea or coffee anyone?" they all replied in the negative.

"I trust that by now, Jim has filled you in on the basics," she looked questioningly at them.

"Yes." Helen replied, wondering why Nikki was so silent all of a sudden.

"Good. Now I'll be honest and say I didn't want either of you involved in this but what's done is done and welcome aboard," she smiled but it didn't quite reach her eyes.

"What do you want us to do?" Helen thought it was easier to get straight to the point.

"Since Jim is on the inside with Gino Camaletti, he can take care of that end of things. But what I need from you two is to do some digging at the station."

"That's bullshit." Nikki piped up, "you already know all you need to about this place, and the people in it, Jim has the inside information on everything."

Francis sighed, she'd forgotten how well Nikki knew her, "alright, point taken."

"If you want us to help then tell us what we want to know." Nikki folded her arms and looked defiant, she wasn't going to back down.

"You already know all there is to know." Francis put her paperwork down on the desk, knowing they wouldn't get any further until Nikki had said what she wanted to.

"I want to know why Andy Lockyer hasn't been questioned in connection with Laura's murder. We know they were seeing each other, he was the father of her unborn child, and now she's dead.." The pain came flooding back when Nikki thought of her friend.

Jim looked toward Francis, she was just as stubborn as Nikki, "Just tell them, it makes no odds now," he wanted it all out in the open.

"Andy Lockyer was not the father, somebody else was." Francis stated.

"And?" Helen wanted to know more.

"The texts that were found on Laura's phone were planted; they were designed to make you think it was Andy. Texts of a similar nature were deleted and replaced."

"Why?" Helen fumbled for her cigarettes, she had a feeling things were about to get more complicated. She accepted Nikki's when she couldn't find her own.

"To hide the identity of the man she was seeing."

"That's obvious but what difference does it make though? Replacing the man she was seeing with Andy was bound to arouse our suspicions." Helen countered.

"We could have controlled the situation that way. We'd have made a show of looking into it and then declared him innocent. Believe me, we had our reasons for doing it."

"Sod the reasons; just tell us who it is!" Nikki said in exasperation.

"It's the same man responsible for her murder." Francis leaned back in her chair, not entirely happy to be discussing it, "DC Mark Waddle."


Chapter 23

Nikki looked at both Francis and Jim in disbelief; she couldn't believe what she'd just heard. Helen was looking shocked too. The silence in the room was so heavy that it pressed down on the occupants and it created an uneasy atmosphere. Francis was about to speak but thought better of it when she caught a glimpse of Nikki's eyes. It was a look she had seen once before and she had hoped she would never see it again.

"You knew? You both bloody well knew?" Nikki exploded.

"Nikki please, it's not like you think." Jim tried to calm her down, but he could understand how she was feeling.

"It's exactly like I think! You both knew but you couldn't be arsed doing anything about it," she said angrily.

"It was on my orders Nikki." Francis finally spoke up, "When Jim informed me of Waddle's confession, I ordered him to keep it quiet."

"For what reason?" Nikki carried on before Francis was able to utter another word, "Cos if police officers can now go around committing murder and get away with it then something is very definitely bloody wrong!"

"Just shut up for a minute and let me explain." Francis glared at her, "I had every intention of arresting him for Laura's murder, but when the time was right…."

"Oh I see, makes it all so much more clear now." Nikki said sarcastically, "perhaps you should have told Waddle to wait and then had a word with Laura before she was murdered, ask her if she didn't mind being shot in the fucking forehead a little while later so it wouldn't mess up your case!" Nikki shot out of her chair and began pacing.

"Please don't be like this Nikki." Jim pleaded, "We're all on the same side here."

"Are we indeed?" Nikki shot a venomous look at him, "Cos I don't see anyone else in this room taking payments from Parry. I don't see anyone else in this room consorting with the other side."

"I was undercover, I've just explained all that to you." He said quietly, whilst he gave her a look that begged her to calm down.

"Funny that because somehow I don't believe you." Nikki's anger was getting the better of her.

Helen knew it would escalate if she didn't intervene, Nikki couldn't afford to get into trouble at this stage.

"Look, I could take DI Wade for a coffee and when we've all had ten minutes to calm down, we can pick it up from there." Helen said reasonably.

"No way, I don't want any coffee." Nikki replied stubbornly, "what I want is to get to the bottom of this mess, and see some justice done."

"I'm not going to arrest Mark Waddle at this time." Francis piped up.

"Am I hearing you correctly?" Nikki's head whipped around to face Francis.

"You heard me correctly. I will arrest him when I see fit and not before."

"Fine. Fuck you and fuck this case, I want nothing more to do with it." Nikki shot back before slamming the door behind her.

The three of them winced as the door banged shut loudly, and Francis sighed. Nikki was still difficult after all this time, but then again, she had known Nikki Wade would never change. Jim looked upset about what had happened, he looked down at his desk, unable to speak. Helen couldn't stand the silence any longer.

"May I ask why Waddle isn't going to be arrested?"

"I'm sorry, those are details I cannot divulge." Francis was adamant.

"So you want us to help in this investigation and yet we aren't to be allowed full knowledge of the details?" Helen was annoyed, she knew Francis wasn't playing ball.

"That's correct, the less you know the better. These details are known only to several people and that's how I want it to stay."

"I really think we should tell them." Jim interjected.

"You know my feelings on this Jim, I won't allow this case to be ruined, and I have said all I'm going to say."

"So you're not even going to tell us how Laura came to be involved in all this in the first place?" Helen kept her anger under check, losing her temper as Nikki had done, would get her nowhere.

"No, but I will say she had no real involvement." Francis responded.

"You know Nikki will never help now." Helen stood up.

"She'll come around eventually." Francis knew Nikki well, she knew she'd come back sooner or later.

"I'm under the impression that you and Nikki know each other quite well." Helen folded her arms, "and although I've not known her long, from what I do know, I think you're totally wrong."

"I beg to differ, once she's calmed down, she'll come back with her tail between her legs." Francis looked slightly smug, she could guess the type of relationship Helen was having with Nikki.

"Somehow I don't think so." Helen shook her head and turned to Jim, "If that's all Sir, then I've got work to do."

"Well we really do need to get things resolved, there are things that need to be discussed." He was fed up; things were in a total mess.

"As regards our involvement, then I can give no definitive answer right now. I must discuss it with DI Wade, but I have a feeling she no longer wants to be involved in all this and I can't say I disagree with her." Helen made a move towards the door.

"In any case, whatever you decide, we will need those DVD's DCI Stewart." Francis looked up but Helen had chosen to ignore her and had already closed the door behind her.

Helen found Nikki sitting in the car park, puffing away on a cigarette, seemingly oblivious to the cold biting wind that rushed past. She looked deep in thought, and Helen knew it wasn't only about the case, Francis was in there somewhere. Far from feeling jealous, she was intrigued and wondered what had happened. Although she knew better than to ask her about it, and decided to leave it until she mentioned it. She took a seat beside Nikki and leaned against her.

"You look like nobody owns you." Helen remarked as she winked at her.

"Don't you believe it, I'm bought and paid for." Nikki smiled and offered a cigarette to Helen, "I've got a label attached to my underwear that says if I get lost to return me to DCI Helen Stewart."

"Awww and here's me thinking you'd want to go home to your mum." Helen lit her cigarette and stretched her legs out in front of her.

"Nope, I'm sticking with you. You're definitely the lesser of two evils." Nikki chuckled.

"I'd have been here sooner, but I had to finish talking to Fenner. And I swung by the incident room first." Her face went a slight pinkish colour with embarrassment.

"No need to blush babe." Nikki smiled at her, "you know me well. However, I didn't think throttling Waddle would be all that wise right about now."

"No you're right, it wouldn't be wise. I know how you feel Nikki, I'm angry he's still free myself but there's nothing we can do."

"And it's all thanks to Francis Myers." Nikki said bitterly, "But then again, it should come as no surprise."

Helen stayed silent on the matter, it would be best to let Nikki say what she wanted without butting in.

"You're exercising remarkable self-restraint sweetheart." Nikki looked amused.

"Well, it's none of my business really, unless you want to tell me."

"Francis and I used to be an item." Nikki lit another cigarette, and she could tell by the look on Helen's face that she'd already guessed as much, "But things didn't exactly work out like I planned and we split up."

"When did you break up?"

"About…." Nikki looked up towards the sky as she tried to figure it out, "about six years ago. We met at police training college, and we became good friends, which eventually developed into a relationship. But she thought more of her career than she did of me, and she wasn't willing to be labeled as gay and it all collapsed."

"That explains the look on your face when she showed up."

"Yep, we didn't part on good terms and I hadn't seen or spoken to her since the day we called it quits. I think it was shock more than anything else."

"Is she the reason you were unsure of us getting involved?" Helen leaned closer to Nikki as her teeth chattered.

Nikki casually slipped her arm around Helen's shoulders and pulled her closer, neither of them cared who was watching, "No, I got over Francis a long time ago, it was never meant to last anyway. The reason I was unsure of us, is thanks to a woman named Caroline."

"It's ok if you don't want to tell me, but what did she do?"

"Betrayed my trust, lied to me, used me, just a few little things like that." Nikki chuckled; she found it no longer bothered her, because being with Helen had healed all that.

"You mean she cheated on you?"

"Yes she did, amongst other things. Caroline is a freelance reporter, she sells her stories to whoever has the biggest cheque. I was working on a very sensitive case at the time, and it was a difficult one. I was feeling very down about it when I met her and it all just went from there. Little did I know that when she was encouraging me to share my feelings, she was really trying to get me to talk about the case. Anyway, I eventually found out who she was, and that she was also seeing several other people at the same time, so that all came screeching to a halt."

Helen sensed it ran a lot deeper than but she wouldn't pry, "well, it's her loss and my gain," she smiled, "and anybody mad enough to lose Nikki Wade deserves everything they get."

"Steady on DCI Stewart, anyone would think you were madly in love with me." Nikki joked.

"Oh well, didn't manage to hide that very well did I?" Helen joked back.

"Nope, but I'm glad you didn't. I love you Helen and I don't know what I'd do without you." Nikki suddenly got serious.

"Hey I know that." Helen put her arms around her, "why so serious all of a sudden?"

"I just wanted you to know that's all."

"I know sweetheart, I feel exactly the same, and I love you too." Helen leaned forward and pressed her lips against Nikki's.

When they broke apart, Helen looked over at Nikki and knew she wasn't going to change her mind about being a part of the operation. She couldn't blame her, but she felt they both had a lot to offer, and would try and persuade her anyway.

"You're not going to reconsider are you?" Helen said quietly.

"Nope, I don't see why I should," she said stubbornly.

"How about because your friend was murdered and you don't yet know the full details."

"Nice try Helen." Nikki smiled, "They'll eventually get justice for Laura's death, they don't need me to do that."

"That's not the point though, she was your friend Nikki, surely she deserves better than this." Helen pointed in the general direction of Fenner's office.

"I'm not going to change my mind now. Fenner went about this all the wrong way, and to be honest, I still don't trust him."

"Oh come on Nikki, the head of SIS was sitting in front of you; it's got to be true."

"I know I know," she sighed in frustration, "but I still have my doubts."

"You can't judge the situation on past experience sweetheart." Helen was referring to Francis.

"True, but she lied to me once, what's to stop her doing it again?"

"Nothing at all." Helen nodded, "but this isn't a personal matter, this is work."

"Yeah I know, just ignore me, I get paranoid." Nikki pulled a funny face and Helen giggled.

"Paranoia can be healthy, so long as you don't turn it into an obsession."

"Oh I don't know so much, depends on what you're obsessed with." Nikki wiggled her eyebrows and leered at Helen.

"Trust you." Helen chuckled, "but if it's me you're obsessed with then you'll never hear me complain."

"I didn't think so." Nikki rubbed her hands together, "It's bloody freezing out here, why don't we go where it's warm?"

"Aye, we should be making a move, there's work to be done."

"Bollocks to that." Nikki said as she stood up, "We are pursuing a lead, lets go."

"What lead?" Helen was puzzled.

"We're trying to hunt down a cup of coffee, and the trail leads to Yvonne's gaff." A wicked smile passed over her face.

"Oh I see, we're skiving." Helen flashed her a dazzling smile and nodded her head, "I like it."

Jim Fenner tapped his fingers silently on his desk as Francis paced up and down and vented her spleen. It wasn't just the situation she was angry about, seeing Nikki again had turned everything upside down. She was upset to discover that her feelings for her lingered, even after all this time. Plus the fact, she knew that Nikki and Helen were involved and it had made her jealous, it felt like Helen was stealing something that belonged to her even though she had given it up a long time ago.

"There's nothing we can do about it, it's already too late." Jim cut in as Francis waffled on.

"Tell me about it," she was seething, the more she thought about Helen, the angrier she got.

"Why don't you just leave it with me? I can have a word with Nikki and sort this mess out." Fenner hoped she would let it drop.

"What makes you think she'll listen? She's too bloody stubborn."

"Nikki isn't totally unreasonable, she will come around eventually. And your absence might help."

"What's that supposed to mean?" Francis fired back.

"You hurt her Francis, that's not something she forgot in a hurry. It took her a while to get over you. I can understand why she finds it hard to trust you."

"So this all my fault?" she said unreasonably.

"Oh for god sake." Jim finally lost his temper, "we're trying to solve a problem here; your personal life shouldn't come into it."

"Nikki's has."

"No it hasn't, it was just the shock of seeing you, and because we lied to her. I can see why she was pissed off, she thought I had something to do with all of this, and I'm supposed to be her friend. I never wanted to lie to her in the first place, but I was forced to by you. The least you can do is let me to talk to her, and sort this out. But on the condition that I tell them both everything, no more secrets and no more lies, it has to stop."

"I won't allow that." Francis wasn't going to budge an inch.

"Fine, then you carry this bloody operation out on your own, because I'm done."

"You can't quit on me now! We need you."

"You know what I want, so make your mind up."

"Oh do what you want, you will anyway." Francis picked her belongings up and marched out of the office, slamming the door behind her.

"About bloody time." Jim smiled, at least now they could start doing things properly.

Nikki tapped on Yvonne's door and waited for an answer; she heard her shouting something from inside but couldn't quite make out what it was. She leaned down to the letterbox and called out to her.

"Come on Atkins!"

"I'm coming!" Yvonne shouted back.

"Yeah and so is Christmas, shift your arse woman!" Nikki heard Helen giggling behind her.

"One of these days Nik, you're going to knock and I won't answer." Yvonne growled through the door.

"No change there then! Come on, it's freezing out here! I want a coffee." Nikki whined.

Yvonne opened the door with a mudpack on her face and glowered at her.

"Jesus Christ, the creature from the black lagoon revisited. That's the second time in recent history you've opened the door like that." Nikki started laughing again.

"Hi Yvonne." Helen piped up from behind her.

"Hello love." Yvonne smiled warmly, "come on in, I'll get you a coffee, you look frozen," she ushered Helen inside.

"What about me?" Nikki pouted.

"You can stay out here, making remarks about my mudpack." Yvonne gave her the finger and closed the door.

"Not funny Yvonne! Open the door!" Nikki banged on the door again.

"I'll let her in soon." Yvonne giggled, "I'm just going to teach her a lesson. Meanwhile, I'll put the kettle on. And I need to ask you a few questions."

"Sounds serious." Helen remarked.

"Depends on how you look at it." Yvonne said cryptically.

Karen sighed as she looked at the huge stack of paperwork on her desk. She needed to get at least half of it done before she could even think of going out with Yvonne that night. There was a knock on her door, she rolled her eyes and threw her pen down on the desk, she would never get any work done at this rate.

"Come in," she called out.

"Are you Dr Karen Betts?" A slim blonde woman poked her head in.

"Yes I am." Karen's eyebrows knitted together in puzzlement, she didn't recognise her.

"And who might you be?"

"I'm sorry, allow me to introduce myself. I'm Rebecca Jordan, Laura Jordan's sister," she held out her hand and Karen shook it.

"I didn't know Laura had a sister." Karen said puzzled, she'd met with the family and had assumed Laura only had a brother.

"I've been abroad," she said by way of an explanation, "I came back home as soon as I could."

"Your family made no mention of you." Karen had a feeling something wasn't right.

"Well they wouldn't," she looked slightly embarrassed, "I'm the black sheep of the family."

"Oh?" Karen wanted more of an explanation.

"You know how families are," she shrugged, "I was wondering if I could talk to you about Laura, I know next to nothing of how my poor sister died."

"I suggest you talk to your family, they know the details." Karen wasn't about to start discussing it with somebody she couldn't verify.

"It's awkward, I don't see them often, and it would be unwise turning up on the doorstep," she looked uncomfortable with the idea.

"But they must have known you were coming when they informed you of Laura's death." Karen definitely smelt a rat now.

"Yes of course they did but they don't really want me around…," the woman wasn't fazed in the slightest, "I will be attending the funeral on the provisory that I keep my distance. It's a long story Dr Betts."

"Look, I'm sorry, I'd like to help but I can't go giving out information. You'll have to talk to your family I'm afraid."

"Please Dr Betts; I've come a long way."

"I'm sorry Miss Jordan, I really can't." Karen was certain something was amiss now.

"Oh well, can't say I didn't try." The young woman gave a resigned smile and slipped out of the office.

She got to her car and dialed a number on her mobile, "Sue, put me through to Alan please...Alan, it's Caroline, no go I'm afraid. She wouldn't tell me anything……well don't worry, all is not lost, I still have something up my sleeve," she grinned as she ended the call and climbed into her car.

Nikki was fed up of waiting, Yvonne was taking the piss now and she was frozen stiff. She banged on the door and shouted a string of obscenities through the letter box.

"I can understand now why this is difficult for you….." Helen was interrupted as Nikki's dulcet tones floated through to the kitchen, "I think she wants in," she giggled.

"Oh shit! I've left her out there for ages." Yvonne rolled her eyes, "she won't be a happy bunny."

"She'll get over it." Helen knew she'd have something to say about it though.

Yvonne opened the door to an extremely grumpy Nikki, who came charging past without a word.

"Where are you charging off to?"

"Bathroom, I was damned if I was going to pee on myself on your doorstep." Nikki shot up the stairs.

Yvonne shook her head and smiled as she headed back through to the kitchen, "she's gone on a pee break; she'll be down in a minute."

"Prepare for an ear bashing then, we left her out there for twenty minutes." Helen replied.

"She won't get stroppy with me." Yvonne seemed certain.

"Oh no? There's a first time for everything Atkins." Nikki's voice sounded from behind her, "leaving me stood out there for ages in the freezing cold, what kind of people are you?"

"Och you poor wee baby." Helen put on a childish voice, "did Nikki almost freeze to death?"

"Damn near." Nikki huffed and sat down, "and don't talk to me Helen, I want a divorce."

"We're not married yet you muppet." Helen giggled.

Nikki did a double take, "yet? What do you mean yet? I haven't asked you for starters, and after this little stunt, I wouldn't hold your breath waiting."

Helen pretended to be upset, "You mean you wouldn't marry me? Sweet little me."

"Do I look mental deficient Stewart?" Nikki raised an eyebrow at her.

"I'll just have a word with your mum; that will sort it." Helen grinned wickedly.

"Not a chance, she'd have us down the aisle before I could blink. When I want a ball and chain, I'll buy one." Nikki tried to keep a straight face, but it wasn't easy.

"Ball and chain eh? How kinky of you." Helen giggled, "and when were you going to reveal that particular side of yourself?"

"On the honeymoon, but you'll never know now." Nikki gave up and started laughing.

"You two are nutters." Yvonne laughed, they'd really cheered her up and gotten rid of her nerves about the coming night.

"Right, now that we know Nik's not dead, and we've gotten her rant out of the way…you best tell her Yvonne." Helen thought it was time to get it out of the way.

"Tell me what?" Nikki looked back and forth between the two women.

"Well…..." Yvonne launched into it.

Nikki sat and listened patiently and hid her shock when Yvonne told her about Charlie. Her heart went out to her friend, she thought of all the years she'd struggled on silently with the pain and wished she had known. She felt guilty for not having known sooner, but she knew Yvonne hadn't wanted her to know, she hadn't wanted anyone to know. Then when she came to the subject of Karen, Nikki nodded knowingly, it was a story she knew all to well.

"Thing is Yvonne, questioning your sexuality is never easy, and particularly for you. But having said that, you seem to be pretty clear on how you feel about her." Nikki took a sip of her coffee and offered a cigarette to both women.

"I am, I admit I was scared at first and there was also the problem of me being married."

"I can see how you feel from both sides, on one hand your married to Charlie and you made a promise to him and his family. But on the other hand, you and Charlie won't ever be together again as a married couple, which is sad but it's a fact of life. I know it would feel like you were cheating on him, but I bet he wouldn't want you to be alone."

"No he wouldn't." Yvonne smiled; she could hear Charlie telling her as much in her mind.

"Charlie's your husband, and he always will be in some ways. But right now, you can't be together. Fact is, there's something between you and Karen and I think you should go for it and see where it leads. It's not like you're going to abandon Charlie, he'll always be a part of your life, and you'll always be there for him but it's time for you to move on."

"You're a wise woman Nik." Yvonne looked at her friend fondly.

"Who me? No never, I'm just talking common sense mate. Lauren would agree with me too."

"How would you know?" Yvonne looked at her questioningly.

"I had a talk with her one night; she said she wished you'd find somebody to settle down with, she hates seeing you lonely."

"And when was this?"

"It was a while back. I asked her about her father, but she just said the two of you couldn't stay together. I assumed it was because you're a stroppy cow." Nikki giggled.

"Cheeky sod." Yvonne flashed her the finger again, "Just you wait Wade. Anyway, enough of me, why are you two here so early in the day, and what have you been up to?"

"Now that's a bit of a long story." Helen sighed, "we had a meeting with Fenner."

"What happened?" Yvonne was immediately intrigued.

"Christ, what didn't happen." Nikki rolled her eyes.

"That sounds ominous." Yvonne got up to pour them some more coffee.

"It depends on which way you look at it." Helen chipped in.

"According to Fenner, he's on the level. And that's also according to Francis Myers, head of SIS." Nikki didn't even want to say her name.

"Francis Myers?" Yvonne whipped around and looked straight at Nikki.

"You know, the evil ex." Nikki shuddered.

That wasn't the reason Yvonne had been surprised though, "Yeah I know, but I didn't know she was head of SIS. She confirms Fenner is on the level?"

"Yes she does." Helen nodded and wondered why Yvonne was looking at them the way she was.

"Well he might be, but I'm pretty sure she's not. She is related to Mark Parry after all." Yvonne said, as both Helen and Nikki looked at her with identical expressions of shock.


Chapter 24

"How the hell do you know Francis is related to Mark Parry?" Nikki said straight off.

"It's not important how I know, the fact is, I know." Yvonne shrugged and placed coffee in front of them.

"No, come on, you can't make a statement like that and not follow it through." Nikki took a sip of her coffee, "How do you know she's related to Parry?"

"When you've been around as long as I have Nik, you find stuff out, I know a lot of things." Yvonne smiled.

"You didn't know she was head of SIS." Nikki said sarcastically.

"No I didn't, but there was no need for me to know."

"Meaning what exactly?" Nikki fixed her gaze upon Yvonne.

"Meaning that by the time you two had split up, there was no need for me to know anything else about her ok? I was keeping an eye out for you; I checked her out just to be on the safe side."

"So how come you never said?"

"Oh yeah right, sorry love but your girlfriend just so happens to be related to one of the worst criminals in the country. And what's more, she didn't declare it on her application form. I think you'd have been overjoyed to hear that." Yvonne raised an eyebrow.

"Point taken." Nikki nodded, "So how did you find out?"

"I got a mate of mine to check up on her, find a few things out that weren't on her record. Turns out she is Parry's cousin, on his father's side. She didn't declare it when she joined the force, and I don't think a lot of people know. She's quite close to Parry, but I didn't think we'd have to worry about her."

Helen felt a serious headache coming on, "This just keeps getting better," she said as she rubbed her forehead.

"Don't get stressed out about it, it doesn't really matter." Nikki placed her hand over Helen's.

"How can I not get stressed out about it?" Helen said tetchily, "no matter where I turn I get more information chucked at me and every bit of news is worse than the bloody last. You get rid of one problem only to find another one taking its fucking place, as if things weren't bad enough."

"Yeah I know that but you've got to calm down, no point getting worked up over it." Nikki said gently.

"There's every point in getting worked up about it." Helen snapped, "I've had nothing but shit since I took this job on and I'm getting tired of it."

"Helen that's normal darlin'." Yvonne piped up, "You've got to learn to deal with it. I had to learn and so will you, but believe me, it gets easier."

"Well it better bloody had do otherwise I'm quitting." Helen was getting stroppy.

"That's not like you." Nikki got concerned and kneeled beside her, "you've never quit at anything."

"Well maybe this is the time I'm going to do it." Helen said stubbornly.

"You can't quit now love." Yvonne sat down beside her, "this is a mess I agree, but there's people relying on you to see justice done. Laura's family for one, and me, I want to see you nail the bastards that did it."

"We er, we already know who murdered Laura." Nikki said quietly.

"What? Who?" Yvonne was all ears.

"Mark Waddle, only we can't arrest him because Francis high and mighty Myers won't allow it." Helen blurted out before Nikki had a chance to answer.

"Jesus." Yvonne didn't think she could take any more shocks, but sure enough her heart was still beating, albeit a little fast.

"It's true." Nikki nodded, "she won't let us arrest him for whatever stupid reason. She claims it would harm the case, which I thought was a load of bollocks. However, if she's not on the level then I can see her reasons for not doing it."

"Well she did have Andy swap places." Helen thought out loud, "now why would she do that unless she had something to hide? There is no other reason."

"Very true." Nikki saw the sense in what Helen was saying, "I think you've got a point there."

"Who swapped places with Andy?" Yvonne was confused.

"Francis made it look like Andy was the one having the affair with Laura. The texts from Waddle were replaced with ones from Lockyer. But as Helen says, why do that unless you're trying to cover something up? Why would the two of them having an affair have any bearing on the case I wonder?"

"That's obvious." Helen said, "Laura has to have known what Waddle was up to, and that's why he murdered her."

"Right, go on." Nikki sat back down.

"But maybe he didn't do it off his own bat, maybe Myers had something to do with it."

"You mean in case she busted the operation right open?"

"Yes, but clearly she felt some loyalty towards him because she kept her mouth shut. But she also felt a loyalty towards her job, because when it came time to call Waddle from the safe house, she had Tony do it instead because she couldn't." It made sense to Helen, but at the same time, nothing made sense at all.

"I think you're on to something there." Yvonne agreed, "but why kill her?"

"Maybe Waddle and Francis thought she was going to open her mouth. She was attacked after all, and Sarah was kidnapped, maybe she thought things had gone far enough and would have said something." Nikki thought aloud.

"Why didn't Fenner do anything?" Yvonne was angry with him, he could have prevented it.

"I don't know." Nikki couldn't understand why herself, "we're going to have to find out why."

"You're not planning on telling him?" Yvonne wasn't sure it would be a good move.

"It's the only thing we can do, and we just have to pray to god he's telling us the truth. Put it this way, even if he is involved, we're in deep shit no matter which way you look at it. We might as well take a chance, because if he's telling us the truth then we can start doing something about solving this mess with his help."

"I wish I had your confidence Nikki love." Yvonne still wasn't convinced.

"I'm not that confident." Nikki shook her head, "you know what it's like, normally you can bluff your way around things, but this time, that's not going to work. We have to tell him straight out what we know and see what happens. Cos I don't fancy the route of pretending to go along with the investigation, that way lays disaster, god knows where we'd end up."

"So what do we do now then?" Helen asked, "Do we go and talk to him?"

"Not now, I've had as much as I can stand for one day. You and I are going home sweetheart, we've got a date tonight remember?" Nikki smiled.

"Ooooo where are you going then?" Yvonne smiled at the look on Nikki's face.

"Don't remind me, I'm nervous enough as it is." Helen then turned to Yvonne, "Nikki is taking me home to meet her family."

"Oh don't be nervous about that love, they're all really nice people. I've known them for years, and Nik here is the worst of the lot so the bad part is over with." Yvonne giggled.

"You cheeky git!" Nikki wagged a finger at her.

"Go on clear off, I need to look my best for tonight." Yvonne said laughing as she pushed Nikki towards the door.

"Tell Karen to put it back for six months, a few hours won't be long enough to improve your mush." Nikki was howling with laughter but then promptly shut up when Yvonne slapped her on the back of the head.

"Watch it, you could give me brain damage doing that." Nikki pouted.

"Too late love, you were brain damaged years ago." Yvonne chuckled.

"I agree with that." Helen said laughing.

"Just watch it you, I can still divorce you." Nikki pointed a finger at her.

"How can you divorce me if we're not married?" Helen folded her arms and waited for an answer.

"Er well I can't." Nikki pulled a face as if she was deep in thought, "But I can cut your conjugal rights off, see how you like that."

"Finally, at least now I can get some sleep." Helen said it with a straight face.

"You're joking aren't you?" Nikki looked horrified.

"Nope, I hardly get any sleep with your constant sexual demands."

"My constant sexual demands? Who was it that woke me up at 3am this morning with…." Nikki cleared her throat and mimicked Helen's accent, "Nikki, I can't sleep, I'm too horny."

Helen's face went bright red, "That's right, tell the whole of southern England what goes on in the privacy of our bedroom."

Yvonne was quietly giggling at the antics of her friends, "she's always had a big gob, she can't help it."

"Sod the pair of you, I'll be in the car." Nikki pretended to sulk and opened the front door, she got halfway down the path and then shouted, "Oh and Yvonne, no wild sex orgies tonight or you'll disturb the neighbours."

"I'll swing for her one of these days." Yvonne couldn't help grinning.

"You and me both." Helen nodded her agreement, "right, I'll get going and let you have some peace. Good luck for tonight, and I hope you and Karen both have a great time."

"Thanks love, and listen, don't worry about meeting Nikki's lot. They're really easy to get on with and they'll love you."

"Cheers Yvonne, I appreciate that." Helen gave her a warm smile and then kissed her on the cheek, "see you soon."

"See you soon love, ta-ra." Yvonne waved and then closed the door behind her, before going off to get ready.

Francis paced up and down the room, nervously chewing on her fingernail. She hadn't heard from Parry for a while, and everything was going down the tubes. She had known she should never have started this. Parry had asked her to start working with him almost as soon as she joined the force and it had escalated from there. Now they were involved in a huge gun smuggling ring, and too many people knew about it.

First that idiot Fenner, who had been invited into the operation so Francis could begin to try and smooth things over where the force was concerned. Then there had been Waddle, they'd had a short affair months back, and she had stupidly offered him a cut of the profits. But they'd broken up and he'd started seeing Laura, and it was then she discovered that he'd opened his mouth and told her about it. The only person who didn't seem to know anything about anything was his fiancée Gina Rossi.

She told him to sort the problem one way or the other, and he took her at her word, by putting a bullet in Laura's head. It didn't bother her, it was one problem out of the way, but they still had several more. She knew how Nikki's mind worked, and she knew she wouldn't rest until she'd brought them all down, even if she didn't know she was one of the key players yet.

She knew Nikki would make it her business to find out, and judging by the looks of Helen, she wouldn't be much different. The only one who didn't present a problem was Andy, all she had to do was flutter her eyelashes at him and, show a bit of cleavage and he was only too eager to do as she asked.

He had believed her story about keeping the heat off Waddle so that it didn't compromise the operation. It seemed like a weak excuse even to herself, but it was the only thing she could think of. It took her a little time to get him to swallow the story, but after she'd seduced him, he was definitely hers to command as she wished.

Waddle had gone and messed everything up by telling Fenner he'd murdered Laura, she cursed him for being stupid enough to confess. But Waddle was under the assumption that Fenner's involvement was real, after all she hadn't told him any different and maybe that had been one of her worst mistakes.

There was only one way out of this, Waddle had killed before, and he would kill again if she told him too. It was time to invite him over, and seduce him once more, before she told him of her plans. She picked up the phone and smiled, maybe things weren't so bad after all.

Helen nervously checked her appearance in the mirror one last time and then sprayed some perfume on. She went downstairs to find Nikki glued to the TV, already dressed and waiting.

"I'm ready." Helen said as she stood in front of the TV.

"Oh Helen." Nikki's eyes misted over, "you look beautiful."

Helen did indeed look beautiful, her glossy dark blonde hair was perfectly blow dried under, and her makeup was immaculate. She was wearing a short strapless black dress, which was casual enough not to look too dressy.

"Thank you." Helen blushed, "you don't scrub up too badly yourself."

"Oh this old thing." Nikki shrugged her shoulders trying to look cool, "I've had this for ages."

Helen took in the black Armani suit, perfectly tailored to fit the contours of Nikki's lean but shapely body. Underneath her jacket was a dark teal silk shirt, which suited the colour of her skin perfectly. It was open, showing her slender throat and just a hint of cleavage. Helen was mesmerised.

"Don't worry babe, I'll be with you the whole time, and I know they'll love you as much as I do."

"I really hope so." Helen smiled nervously.

"Trust me, it will be fine. I love you sweetheart." Nikki placed her arms around Helen and kissed her.

"I love you too babe." Helen kissed her back.

"Right then, are we ready to go?" Nikki picked up her car keys.

"Ready as I'll ever be," she took a deep breath and followed Nikki out of the door.

Jim Fenner got up to answer the door with a huff. He was tired, he'd had a long day and all he wanted to do was relax with his family. He couldn't imagine who would be calling at this time of night. Due to his position in the force, not a lot of people knew where he lived anyway.

"Good evening Superintendent Fenner."

"What do you want?" Fear shone in Fenner's eyes.

"Just thought we could have a little chat."

"We've got nothing to say to each other Waddle," a slight sheen of sweat broke out on Fenner's forehead.

"Oh I think we have." Waddle said grinning, as he moved his jacket aside to give Jim full view of a gun, complete with silencer.

Chapter 25

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