DISCLAIMER: Murder in Suburbia and its characters are the property of ITV. No infringement intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: A very special thank you to Debbie for taking on the job of beta for this fic as well as the 22 others and especially for agreeing to write her specialty, Birds of Prey, as part of this 24 fandom series. Thanks, Deb, I truly do appreciate it. A huge round of applause to Rachel as well for the additional 'English-izing' of the fic.
CHALLENGE: Written for the first International Day of Femslash.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

Conspiracy Theory
By Ann


"C'mon, Ash; it's only for a week." Scribbs extended her leg and pushed her sock-covered toes up under the hem of her lover's trousers. Ash jerked her leg away and stood, effectively removing herself from temptation.

"We don't have time to play footsie; we're already late." She reached for her plate and moved toward the sink to place her dinnerware in the soapy water.

"But what about our holiday?" Scribbs pouted and took another sip of her Sugarpuff drink.

"Scribbs, we've talked about this; we have to be careful. We simply can't take the chance of being seen together on a cruise." Rinsing off the now clean plate, Ash placed it in the drainer. She eyed Scribbs' glass.

"It's a gay cruise, Ash. If anyone sees us there, then they'd be gay, too." Scribbs downed the rest of her drink in a single gulp. Ash grimaced, not understanding the allure of the rather disgusting concoction.

"For the last time – no, Scribbs. Anyone could see us getting on or off the ship. Now, hurry along; we have an interview with the murder victim's widow at nine sharp." Wiping her hands on the tea towel, Ash headed for the bedroom to retrieve her jacket, leaving her lover behind to sulk.

Scribbs stared at the clock for another five minutes before she finally rose from the table. She would get Ash on that ship, one way or another.

"Mrs. Foxworthy, approximately what time did your husband leave for his business trip?" Ash took a bite of the rather hard biscuit, hoping she hadn't just loosened a tooth. She reached for her tea and made a face at its lukewarm temperature. Scribbs chuckled under her breath.

"Exactly what kind of business was your husband attending to?" Scribbs pushed her cup to the side and pretended to write in her notebook. Judging from the look on Ash's face, the tea must have been quite horrid.

"Um, he's a dealer in antiquities, um, relics from the past. He was on his way to the Museum of Antiquities in Newcastle. I believe he was to make a sale for a client. He left around six, yesterday morning." The woman's hand shook slightly as she lifted her cup to her lips. Ash was certain the cool tea wouldn't offer her any relief.

"How long was he planning to stay?" Ash followed Scribbs' lead and placed her cup beside her partner's. She'd drunk just enough to wash the biscuit down her throat.

"A few days." Tears filled the widow's eyes. "I can't believe someone would kill him over some stupid shield."

"Shield?" Scribbs sat up straighter. This was the first they'd heard of a possible motive.

"Yes, I can't remember its significance, but Robert planned to sell it to the museum."

Ash pushed to her feet and motioned for her partner to do the same. "Well, thank you for the information, Mrs. Foxworthy. We'll check into this further. And, thank you for your time." Ash gave the widow one final nod, before moving toward the door.

Scribbs offered a half-smile to Mrs. Foxworthy and quickly followed Ash, curious about their sudden departure. Neither woman said a word until they were belted into their seats.

"Something odd is going on here." Ash glanced back at the front door of the Foxworthy residence. "The Museum of Antiquities is closed. Their collections are being moved to The Great North Museum. It won't open until next spring."

"Surely Foxworthy knew," said Scribbs, checking the mirror, before wheeling into the street. She glanced over at her partner. "How did you know about the museum being closed?"

"Remember those phone calls from my mother every Saturday? She truly is a wealth of information. Although, this is the first time my attention to her conversation has actually paid off."

"I didn't realize you paid attention." Scribbs grinned, recalling an instance when she'd decided to distract a bored-looking Ash. "Hey, remember that time your mother called, and I knelt down in front of you and . . ."

Ash flushed a bright, crimson shade and quickly cut off Scribbs. "Yes, I remember." She shifted uncomfortably in her seat. "But we need to focus on the case at the moment."

Scribbs grinned, noting the increase in Ash's respiration. She'd often wondered if Mrs. Ashurst actually believed her daughter's story that Ash had spilled ice cold water on herself. Scribbs had to admit though – such a scream would have been similar to the one Ash had given that day.

"So, why don't I go check out Foxworthy's bank account, while you go see if you can find anything at his office? Sullivan wants some answers today. You can drop me off at the bank."

"You sure? You might have to wait awhile." Scribbs eased into the other lane. The victim's bank was located just a few streets away.

"There are some shops in the area. I can look in the various windows while I wait." Ash sounded less than enthusiastic about window shopping, but she knew time was of the essence if they were going to catch Foxworthy's killer. The key was the shield.

Scribbs grinned, knowing how much Ash despised shopping. She pulled next to the curb in front of the bank. "I'll be as quick as I can, Ash."

"I'll be just fine, Scribbs." Ash climbed from the car and turned back to address her partner. "I *can* window shop, you know." Pasting on a smile, she slammed the car door, muttering under her breath. "If I have to, that is."

Scribbs just shook her head and reached for her mobile as she pulled into traffic. She knew if was against the law to use the mobile while driving, but seeing as how Ash wasn't around to chastise her, she figured it was worth taking the risk that her partner wouldn't somehow find out what she'd done later.

Standing on the pavement, Ash just missed seeing Scribbs' impropriety as she turned and walked toward the bank's entrance. She was counting on Foxworthy's bank statements to show some sign of impropriety.

The next day, Ash was forcefully pulled into a toilet cubicle as she passed by its door. The door quickly closed and locked behind her before she could face her attacker. A mop of blonde hair gave her the first clue as to the identity of her abductor.

"Scribbs! Are you mad?" Ash's whispered shout hadn't been necessary. There wasn't anyone else in the vicinity.

"We've got problems, Ash." Scribbs kept her voice lowered as well, only she added a left to right glance with her tone as if looking for a hidden person, or perhaps a hidden camera.

Ash stiffened. Had someone found out about the two of them? "Someone knows?"

"Huh?" Scribbs was momentarily side-tracked, but quickly gathered her bearings. "No, that's the least of our worries."

"What could be worse?" Ash was really worried now. Were there photographs?

"Rumor has it there's a copper on the take."

That got Ash's attention. "CID or uniformed?"

"A detective, specifically a Detective Inspector."

Ash furrowed her brow and quickly ran through the possibilities. "Well, that certainly narrows it down, doesn't it?"

"A female Detective Inspector."

Scribbs mentally counted: 1, 2, 3 . . .

"What? That's preposterous. I'm not on the take!" Ash's whisper was as loud as it could possibly be to still be considered a hushed tone.

"Keep your voice down, Ash. Do you want the others to know you're here?"

"What do you mean? Of course, I'm here. I work here."

"CIB are in with Sullivan, Ash. They want a word with you."

Ash stared at her partner. Scribbs wouldn't joke about something so serious, would she?

"If you're lying . . ."

"I swear, Ash; it's true. There's physical evidence."

"How can there be physical evidence? I'm not on the take!!!" Ash's face turned bright red and her breathing became erratic. Worried her partner was on the verge of hyperventilating, Scribbs guided Ash backward until her lover was sitting, trousers still in place, on the toilet.

"Now, there's no need to get upset. Sullivan is behind you one hundred percent. He's going over the video as we speak. He'll find some way to prove your innocence."

Ash's head snapped up. "Video? Oh God . . ." She leaned over and placed her head between her knees.

Moving her hand to her partner's back, Scribbs began to rub soothing circles. "Yeah, just a few shots of you at the bank today and then window shopping in front of a jeweler's and then a lingerie shop." Scribbs smiled; she knew why Ash had stopped at the lingerie shop. In fact, she'd planned to wear the little black number Ash had bought for her tonight.

"But . . ." Ash started but quickly had to put her head back down when black spots suddenly appeared before her eyes. She couldn't believe someone had seen her inside the lingerie shop, buying a sexy, black teddy for Scribbs. No one would ever believe she'd bought it for herself.

"It'll be okay, Ash. Sullivan and I have a foolproof plan. Here's what we're going to do . . ."

The sun shone brightly across the upper deck of the ship, offering a source of vitamin D as well as harmful UVA and UVB rays to the rows and rows of sunbathers. A lone figure stood along the side of the ship, well away from the sunbathers; however, no one in their right mind would have mistaken the woman for someone who was seeking a tan.

She wore a white, gauzy, long-sleeved shirt and matching long trousers over her bathing suit, the likes of which would never see the light of the day – inside the cabin perhaps, but not outdoors. A straw floppy hat completed her ensemble, its brim wide enough to shield her pale features from the sun. Dark glasses sat perched on her nose as she stared out at the expanse of blue water. So deep in thought, she didn't realize there was someone behind her until a pair of arms snaked around her waist. She panicked for just a moment before she remembered where she was and whose arms were wrapped around her.

"Hey pretty lady – what are you doing out here all alone?" Scribbs placed her chin on Ash's shoulder and looked out over the waters.

"My partner's a lazy cow who decided to sleep in. What else was I to do?" Ash leaned back against her lover and sighed. At first, she'd balked at the plan Scribbs and Sullivan had come up with, but she had to admit, the cruise was just what she'd needed, especially when they'd received word after the first day that Ash was in the clear. She and Scribbs had celebrated the night in style with a sexy, black teddy in the starring role.

Ash smiled. The absolutely best part had been the realization that no one could question why they'd come on the cruise. If anyone asked, she'd just explain she was hiding out from the CIB until Sullivan gave them the all clear.

Scribbs squeezed Ash's middle, pulling her closer. "You could have stayed in bed, too." She kissed her lover's neck. "Or, you could have coaxed me from sleep with an offer I couldn't refuse."

Ash snorted. "You were snoring." She didn't wait for Scribbs to deny her claims, as she always did. "A stick of dynamite couldn't have coaxed you from sleep."

"I don't snore." Scribbs' denial fell on deaf ears as she'd moved her lips to Ash's weak spot where her shoulder met her neck. Ash shivered in response.

"How about if I made that offer now?" Ash turned in her lover's arms, placing her hands firmly on Scribbs' hips. "What do you say we go back to our cabin?"

"What's in it for me?" Scribbs tilted her head and smiled widely. She knew exactly what she was in for. She couldn't wait.

"Let me think," teased Ash, looking toward the sky as if the answer was written on one of the white, fluffy clouds that slowly drifted by. "I could model my swimsuit for you."

Scribbs hesitated for only a second, before grabbing Ash's hand and tugging her toward their cabin. This cruise was the best idea she'd ever had. It'd brought out a side of Ash that she'd never seen before.

"Hey, Ash, why don't you go on ahead? I'll stop by the bar and get us a drink."

Ash gave a toothy smile and nodded. "Okay, see you in a few." Turning, she strolled easily toward their cabin. Scribbs grinned as she watched her partner walk away, feeling less and less guilty about tricking Ash into the holiday.

When she'd accidentally come across Sullivan dancing cheek to cheek with a rather dapper DI from a sister station, she'd had no idea the dividends the information would earn for her. In fact, she truly never intended to call in her marker, but desperate times called for desperate measures. And no one was really hurt by her little deception.

There was no investigation, so Ash was really never in danger of losing her job. Sullivan had played along beautifully, ordering Ash to follow along until he could take care of the matter. They'd even caught a break in the Foxworthy case before they'd left on the cruise.

The victim's partner had tried to sell the shield to another antiquities dealer in the next town. So, all in all, everything had turned out perfectly - everything except Scribbs' guilt over putting Ash through the wringer.

Giving her order to the bartender, Scribbs sighed. It had only been for a day, and Ash had calmed down considerably after Scribbs had explained 'the plan.' When measured against the benefits of the week they were having, had it all been worth it?

An image of Ash, lying on their bed, wearing the form-fitting black bathing suit, pushed its way past her many questions, and Scribbs grinned smugly as she paid the bartender. Maybe one day she'd come clean and tell Ash what she'd done, but for right now, there was a gorgeous brunette, wearing skimpy water apparel, waiting for her.

Scribbs grabbed up the drinks and hurried to their cabin, her focus solely on Ash. It had definitely been worth it.

The End

Return to Murder in Suburbia Fiction

Return to Main Page