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.

Family Ties
By Nico


Chapter 21

Helen sat staring at the cold clinical walls of the hospital corridor as Sean held her in his arms. She hadn't even noticed her head was resting on his shoulder or that his hands traveled up and down her back at regular intervals. Her only thoughts were of Nikki, nothing else existed at that moment in time.

Sean was in his element, Helen was back in his arms where she belonged and now after the fire it looked as if she would be going back home too. He could hardly keep the smile from his face. He felt a slight twinge of guilt that Nikki was dead but he didn't allow himself to dwell on it. Helen was his again and that's all that mattered.

"Oh god Nikki." Helen said quietly.

Her voice seemed to come from somewhere far away, steeped in pain and despair. It seemed like hours since it had all started but it had only been slightly less than two. Just two hours in which her whole world had been tipped upside down and ripped apart.

Her pain intensified as she realised she would never see Nikki again. Never feel her gentle touch or experience her love. Her heart felt as if it was struggling to beat, without Nikki there was no point.

Her mind drifted back to earlier on that morning, Nikki's laughter, her smile, and their tender lovemaking. It was all gone, all that love and warmth replaced by cold hard reality. She had leaned against the bonnet of her car, desperately willing Nikki to put in an appearance. But she hadn't and Helen had continued to wait until the dawn tinged the horizon a dull blue.

The temperature had been cold, but she hadn't felt it. Nor had she felt it when a light drizzle of rain turned heavy and soaked her through to the skin as she continued to pray that Nikki would come walking out of the house. She could picture her coming through the door with a big grin on her face, cracking a joke about something or other. But all she was left with was pictures, memories…and a broken heart.

Her mind was jolted back to the present when she felt Sean grip her tightly and close his mouth over hers. Her eyes went wide in shock as he held his lips there for a few more seconds before pulling away. She hadn't had time to react when another shock came her way.

"Hello Helen."

She found herself looking up into a pair of familiar brown eyes, "Nicola Wade! You are in so much fucking trouble!" she pushed Sean aside and was on her feet in a flash.

"Save it for someone who gives a shit." Nikki shrugged casually as if what she'd just witnessed didn't hurt and walked away in search of a nurse to find out how Bill and Stella were doing.

"Sean, go home." Helen said severely.

"But Helen," he whined.

"You're lucky I was too shocked to slap you, go home," she snapped and raced off after Nikki, "Don't you dare walk away from me! Where the fuck have you been? I thought you were dead," she said when she caught up with her.

"Oh I know what you thought Helen, seeing you play tonsil hockey with Sean was enough to convince me of that." Nikki had a sick feeling in the pit of her stomach.

"You don't know anything because you didn't stick around long enough to find out the facts." Helen grabbed hold of her and pushed her against a wall, "where in god's name have you been?"

Nikki took a deep breath and angrily folded her arms; "I went out for a run after you left because I knew I wouldn't sleep. I got back to find the house burnt down and fire engines and cop cars everywhere. I didn't know what the hell was going on and by the time I finally got someone to explain to me what had happened, I was frantic. I rushed over here just in time to find your gob clamped around that bastard!" Nikki pointed to Sean who was shuffling off up the corridor.


"Don't Nikki me," she began to walk away, "I've got more important things to deal with right now, so just leave it."

Helen watched her go and she was so angry that she felt like stamping her feet in frustration. So she did the next best thing and went haring after Nikki and grabbed her again.

"You are one stroppy sod Wade," she said as she pushed her against the wall once again and kissed her fiercely. All the hurt and anger jockeying for position with the sheer relief of knowing Nikki was alive and kicking.

"Eurgh get off me, I know where you've been," she said seriously and then began to giggle at the stupidity of it all.

Her mother and grandfather were in hospital after a house fire and here she was having a slanging match in the corridor with Helen.

"I didn't kiss him back, he just grabbed me. I was thinking about you at the time you bitch," her voice was soft and filled with pain.

"I'm sorry." Nikki felt guilty and a lump rose in her throat as tears threatened.

"Oh don't worry about it, after all I only thought you were dead, no harm done." Helen's eyes were on fire as she glared at her, "I was so scared Nikki," angry tears fell as Nikki's arms wrapped around her.

"Don't touch me." Helen snapped and pushed her away as she began beating her fists against Nikki's shoulders, "You swan in here and proceed to shout at me and then think you can make it all ok again by giving me a hug."

"Hey hey stop. I know you're angry with me but now isn't the time." Nikki said gently and grabbed hold of her arms, "where's mum and granddad?"

"Oh now you think to ask, I'm amazed you could find time to be bothered." Helen pulled her arms away.

Nikki felt as if everything was going in slow motion, "Don't say that, you know it bothers me, I'm having a hard time taking it all in," she ran a hand through her hair and breathed deeply.

"Mum is just down the corridor, I think she'll be ok. Granddad is in intensive care, the doctors haven't said much yet but he's in a bad way." Helen wiped away her tears; she was still furious with Nikki though but tried to contain it.

"Why do we always do this?" Nikki let out a breath and closed her eyes.

"Do what?"

"Find a way to push each other away when things get tough. I'm sorry Helen, I should have been there when it happened and I feel guilty about it, more than you'll ever know. I'm also sorry I shouted at you over Sean but I'm having a hard time dealing with this too. I need you as much as you need me you know."

"I'm not pushing you away."

"You are, you always do. Stop it Helen, just for once let me in and let me be there for you," a lone tear trickled down Nikki's cheek.

"I'm sorry, I thought…." Helen said as the tears rolled down her cheeks again, "I thought you were dead and…."

"Baby it's ok, there's no need to be sorry." Nikki drew Helen into her arms and held on tightly, "I'm the one who should be sorry."

"Nobody needs to be sorry, it's just one of those things but if you ever go missing again, I'll kill you myself." Helen half sobbed half smiled.

"Shut up and kiss me." was all Nikki said as her lips brushed against Helen's and her arms hugged her tight.

Campbell sat gazing down at the tumbler full of whisky in his hand. He supposed by now there would be nothing left of the house and his curiosity had almost made him go back to have a look. He knew that would have been stupid though, questions would have been asked and he couldn't afford that.

He was just waiting for the police to contact him so he could play the shocked and grieving husband and father. He'd figured out exactly what he was going to say and he was certain they'd be convinced.

"Please tell me they didn't suffer officer, I couldn't bear knowing my family felt that kind of pain," the words would roll off his tongue no problem.

He downed the rest of the whisky and went to pour himself another. But as his hand touched the bottle, he resisted doing so. When the police turned up, he didn't want them to smell the alcohol on him, or they'd be asking questions he could well do without.

He took the glass and the bottle through to the kitchen and made sure the place was tidy. He'd need to get rid of his clothes; they would incriminate him. He began taking them off and rolling them up into a ball. As he did so, he remembered the burn on his hand and face and panicked slightly. What if they asked about them? He took a deep breath and smashed the tumbler into the sink, taking the biggest piece and gritting his teeth.

Helen and Nikki had already popped in to see Stella and she was now resting comfortably and would be kept under observation for the time being. They were waiting patiently for news of Bill when Sean showed up again. Nikki rolled her eyes and clenched her fists tightly, he reminded her of a toothache. The more you hoped it would go away, the worse it got.

Sean cleared his throat awkwardly, he wished Helen would forget about Nikki and go home with him, "any news yet? And what are you planning on doing about somewhere to stay?"

"Mum is fine, but no news on granddad yet." Helen was way past losing her patience with him, "I told you Sean, go home."

"I don't mind staying, and then I can take you home later when you've spoken to the doctors."

"I don't have a home Sean, it burnt down this morning." Helen bit down on her tongue, why wasn't it getting through to him?

"I mean our home Helen," he looked pleadingly at her, "it's still our home."

"No Sean, it's your home not mine, not anymore."

"Can I have a word for a moment Sean?" Nikki spoke suddenly and pulled him to one side, "Look I know things are hard for you, I know you can't accept Helen's decision, but right now it's not something she can deal with. At least have enough respect for her to leave things be for a while because this isn't the time or the place for it." Nikki tried to be understanding but the words were killing her, she didn't feel sorry for him in the slightest.

"Mind your own bloody business," he sneered at her, "I'll leave it for now, but only out of respect for MY wife, so don't go thinking I did anything for you," he paused to say a few words to Helen and then marched off up the corridor.

"So what was he doing here?" Nikki said trying to sound casual. She'd really tried hard to forget about seeing Sean kiss Helen after it had been explained but it was still niggling away at her.

"He turned up at the house and he drove me here, I wasn't in any fit state."

"So you didn't call him then?"

"No, I didn't, Mr. McTavish from across the road did. What are you getting at?" Helen folded her arms around Nikki, desperately needing the close contact.

"Nothing, tell you later." Nikki whispered as a doctor came to a halt in front of them.

"You are Mr. Wade's granddaughters I presume?" he paused until they nodded, "Your grandfather is in a very serious condition. I'm sure I don't need to tell you that the next few hours are critical. He's breathing on his own at the moment but if he continues to deteriorate at his present rate, he'll need to intubated and put on a ventilator. With his past medical history I'm surprised he's breathing on his own still. Anyway, he's slipping in and out of consciousness and I'd like to sedate him for the time being but since he's asked for you, I'll allow you to see him for a couple of minutes," he motioned for them to follow him.

Bill was barely conscious and was hooked up to an assortment of machines that bleeped softly. His chest rose and fell in jerky movements, but they were pleased to see that for the moment he was still managing to breathe on his own.

"Hello granddad." Helen said softly as she leaned over the bed and kissed him gently on the forehead.

"Elen," he struggled to say her name, "where Nik?"

"She's here granddad, she's right here." Tears dripped from Helen's eyes as she gripped Nikki's hand tightly.

"Hey you, back in hospital again I see. Good job too cos there's a drop dead gorgeous nurse working on the unit," she joked because she didn't know what else to say.

A ghost of a smile passed briefly over his face but it soon changed, "not lot of time," he wheezed, "Campbell started the fire…saw him on stairs. Not…first time…all in the past," his eyes closed and he was out of it again.

Nikki and Helen stood there looking at each other, an entire conversation passed between them without words. They understood the first part no problem but the second was going to prove to be far trickier.


Chapter 22

DCI Rab Crawford picked his way through the blackened ruins of the Stewart household and cursed as he stepped ankle deep into a puddle of freezing water. He rolled his eyes and shook some of the water from his foot before going off in search of the head fire investigator.

"Morning Jock, what have you got for me?" he flipped open his notepad, pencil poised.

The tall sandy haired man rubbed his beard absentmindedly with the back of a latex gloved hand, "our initial suspicions have been confirmed, it's definitely arson."

"Point of origin?" Crawford asked as he wrote down the details.

"Midway up the stairs, see that patch on the ceiling there?" Jock pointed up, "That tells us the fire originated here, it's darker and more badly burnt than all the rest meaning the fire was hotter in this part of the room due to the accelerant used. The pattern goes right through to the kitchen almost in a straight line. Not that you can see much because some of the ceiling is gone in places. So my best guess is that someone left a trail behind them as they ran out of the back door."

Crawford nodded, he could see it now it had been pointed out to him, "I'll get the SOCO's to make a thorough search of the garden. Any idea what the accelerant was?"

"Just by sniffing the air I can tell you it was lighter fluid, but since experience doesn't stand up in court as cold hard fact, we did the necessary tests and it is indeed lighter fuel."

"Wouldn't it have been easier to use petrol?"

"No and depending on how you look at it, it's just as well they didn't. Petrol really isn't all that flammable on its own, you have to get the oxygen mix just right and most people end up blowing themselves up in the process. We also found this," he held up a plastic evidence bag.

"What's that?" Crawford squinted at the object through the gloomy haze of smoke.

"That pal was once a lighter." Jock said smiling, "ok now it's carbonised and resembles little more than a twisted lump of metal but I'm betting the lads back at the lab could tell us more about it."

"I bloody hope so, cos as of now, we've got diddly shit." Crawford wiped sweat from his brow.

"The forensics lads not find anything yet?"

"Nope, no signs of forced entry. Bugger all to be going on with really."

"Could be an inside job, would explain why there were no signs of a forced entry." Jock grinned when he saw the pissed off look on Crawford's face, "och lighten up laddie, I'm not trying to tell you how to do your job, I just fancied a change."

Crawford eased up a little and smiled, "Anyway, I'll let you get on with it. If you find anything else then let me know and make sure you get that lighter sent to the lab."

Jock raised an eyebrow at this.

"Och lighten up laddie, I just fancied a change." Crawford smirked and patted Jock on the back before he picked his way across the debris and out into the fresh air.

Nikki clenched her fists and bit her tongue as she leaned against the reception desk of one of Edinburgh's biggest hotels. Helen placed her hand on the small of Nikki's back and rubbed it comfortingly. They were both tired; and it had been a horrible day.

"We have some stunning views from our rooms," the receptionist was trained to give her pitch with a chirpy voice and a smile.

"I'm not interested in a view." Nikki tried not to slap her.

"We have lots of facilities that you might like to use during your stay with us. We have a jacuzzi, steam room, swimming pool and the latest exercise equipment in a very well stocked gymnasium," she carried on oblivious to Nikki's increasingly bad mood.

"Look love, I used to work in a hotel." Nikki took a deep breath and Helen tried not to smile as she knew she was about to embark on a rant, "and I know for a fact that you're still gonna get paid this month whether I go and sweat my arse off in any of your fine facilities or not. While we're at it, bugger the view as well; I'm not a tourist I live here. I'm so hungry I could eat a nun's arse through the convent railing and I'm in dire need of a shower since I smell like a tramps knickers. I'm also in such desperate need of a coffee that every time I open my mouth to speak it must be in a different language cos all I asked for was a room with a double bed and a do not disturb sign, which I might add should have big flashing letters on it since nobody in this bloody place seems to understand English!"

Helen choked back on a giggle, "I'm sure your hotel is very nice but all we'd like to do at the moment is relax and have something to eat."

"Of course madam," the receptionist smiled at Helen and glared at Nikki, "we do have a special on in the restaurant tonight if you're at all interested?"

"Bugger me." Nikki was exasperated, "right tell you what, whatever you're serving tonight I'll make sure I'm first in the queue. And when the chef hands over my portion of curried bat nipples with fried slices of iguana arse, I'll be sure to make certain they know it was your recommendation that actually…."

"Thank you but we'd just like to get to our room thanks." Helen smiled as she clamped her hand over Nikki's mouth, "ignore her, she hasn't taken her tablets today."

The receptionist didn't look nearly so friendly now and Helen gratefully accepted the room key and dragged a protesting Nikki into the lift.

"What did you do that for?" she said grumpily.

"Cos much more of that and you'd have been kicked out on your arse."

"Well she was getting right on my tits."

"Forget her." Helen nuzzled into her neck, "it's my turn to get on your tits."

As soon as the lift opened Nikki found herself being propelled up the hallway and pushed into the room almost before she had time to blink. Helen took hold of her shoulders and pressed her against the wall.

"I've missed you so much," she whispered breathlessly against her mouth as her arms wound around her neck.

"I missed you too," a lump formed in Nikki's throat, the look on Helen's face was breaking her heart.

Helen needed to feel her touch as much as Nikki needed to touch her. She needed to know that Nikki was still with her, that it wasn't a dream. She wanted to forget that the rest of the world existed. All that mattered right now was that they were together.

"Make love to me," she whispered before her lips hungrily devoured Nikki's and they slid down the wall onto the floor.

Campbell's stomach turned over uncomfortably when he opened the door to two plainclothes police officers looking grimly up at him. He made sure his eyebrows rose up in surprise when they flashed their ID cards at him. He had the urge to hide the cuts on his face and hand but he knew they'd notice and sometimes the best way to hide something was to leave it out in the open.

"Mr. Campbell Stewart?" the policeman said gruffly and was answered with a nod, "I'm DCI Crawford, this is DC Sinclair," he pointed to his female colleague.

"What can I do for you officers?"

"We'd like to have a word with you and inviting us in would be a good start." Sinclair spoke softly with a faint smile.

"Of course, how rude of me. Do come in," he stepped aside so they could pass.

He closed the door and took a deep breath before following them into the living room. He asked if they would like something to drink but they declined, they seemed to be eager to get down to business.

"The reason we're here today Mr. Stewart is that we have some very upsetting news." Crawford couldn't put his finger on it but there was something about the man sat in front of him that he didn't like, "I'm afraid there was a fire at the your wife's home. Thankfully both she and your daughters are unharmed. Mrs. Stewart's father in law however is critically ill."

"Oh dear god!" the shock that planted itself firmly in place on Campbell's face was real.

His mind was in a whirl; it had all gone horribly wrong. The only thing he could take comfort in at the moment was the fact that Bill may not survive and he sincerely hoped he didn't because he knew exactly who and what was responsible for that fire.

Sinclair was talking but Campbell hadn't heard her, "I'm sorry?" he blinked his eyes and tried to focus.

"The cause of the fire has been determined and it was found to be arson. Not that there's much left of the house but the bit that is left tells us a very interesting story," she paused.

"I'm sorry I'm still in shock." Campbell was finding it hard to focus.

"Understandable Mr. Stewart, no need to apologise. As we were saying, the report from forensics tells us that the fire started on the stairs and also that whoever started the fire must have had a key to the house because there was no sign of forced entry." Crawford waited to see what the response would be.

Campbell nodded, trying to look suitably distraught even though he was anything but, "I can see where you're heading with this and although I'll admit we don't have the best of relationships at the moment, I do thank god that my family are safe. I can assure you, nobody is more shocked and appalled at what's happened than I am." Campbell went on the attack; it was sometimes the best form of defence.

"Oh really? Can you tell me why that is Mr. Stewart?" DI Crawford's curiosity went up a notch.

"My wife and I split up a while back, the marriage had been on the rocks for many years. We had an argument one night and we both realised we couldn't keep pretending things were ok. As for my daughters, I've always had a good relationship with Helen but Nikki and I have never seen eye to eye. Of course it doesn't mean I love her any less but she's never understood that. Hopefully in time though we can all learn to be friends again, there's too much to lose if we're not," he smiled sadly, hoping it was having the desired effect.

"Tell me, how did you get those cuts on your face and hand." Crawford wasn't sure whether this man was to be trusted; there was something about him that set alarm bells ringing.

"Oh that." Campbell shrugged as if he was embarrassed, "It happened earlier on this morning as I was cleaning up. I'm not that steady on my feet these days and I fell over as I was carrying a glass. One of the hazards of getting old."

"I'm sure it is." Crawford nodded, "would you mind if we took a look around? It's nothing to worry about, it's just a formality."

"Of course officer, please take as long as you like." Campbell gave them an accommodating smile; he knew they wouldn't find anything; he'd been too clever for that.

Twenty minutes later, DCI Crawford climbed into his car and tapped his fingers on the steering wheel in contemplation. He was miles away and DC Sinclair regarded him with a curious look.

"What are you thinking about Sir?"

"I'm thinking I don't trust him one little bit."

"I thought he seemed genuine." Sinclair shrugged.

"That's just the problem," he sighed and switched the engine on, "maybe I'm jaded by too many years on the job, but he seemed too genuine."

The car drove away as Campbell watched from behind the net curtains. They hadn't found anything during the search and he was confident he was in the clear. The only thing that would ruin it now, was if Bill actually survived…


Chapter 23

Nikki was so tired but she couldn't sleep and had given up trying quite a while ago. Helen dozed fitfully next to her and appeared to be having a restless time of it wherever she was. She moved across the bed and lay against Helen's back wrapping her arms around her and she seemed to settle down almost instantly.

Bill's words echoed through Nikki's mind as she tried to figure out what he'd meant. She started piecing things together and was now reasonably certain why Campbell had done it. He'd stolen Bill's will from Helen's house, he'd threatened to have him sectioned and now he'd tried to murder them all in their beds. Only one thing was on Campbell's mind…money.

Nikki struggled hard to remember back to when her father had been alive. He'd had his own business and she supposed it had been profitable since her parents had always seemed well off. After he'd died, she surmised that his money had gone to both Stella and Bill but she couldn't be sure as it wasn't something they'd ever talked about.

Obviously Campbell had known about Bill's money wherever it had come from and had been desperately trying to get his hands on it. Whether he'd gotten any from Stella, she didn't know but she intended on finding out.

She sighed softly in the dark and disentangled herself from Helen. It was no use lying there; she was never going to drift off. She carefully slid to the edge of the mattress and decided to head into the bathroom and have a shower, maybe that would help take her mind off things.

She had just climbed in and turned the water on when she felt a hand running down her leg. She smiled; it brought back memories from the first time she and Helen had made love. She turned around and saw her grinning at her through a gap in the shower curtain.

"Why is it you always choose to abuse me in the shower?" Nikki chuckled.

"Come back to bed and I'll abuse you there instead." Helen's voice was heavy with desire.

"Just get in here and hold me," she held out her arms and Helen leaned into her.

"What's wrong baby?" Helen was concerned by the look on Nikki's face; it was as if she had the weight of the world on her shoulders.

"It's just what granddad said, I've been trying to figure out what he means. Not to mention being so bloody angry that I could throttle your father," her face darkened slightly.

"And what would that achieve? Sure you'd have the satisfaction of knowing you'd kicked his arse for what he's done, but I don't fancy having to lock you up at night."

"I know and don't worry I won't do anything stupid. I just feel so helpless and beating seven shades of shit out of him would make me feel better."

"Violence never solved anything and you know that more than most people sweetheart." Helen kissed her softly on the lips, "When granddad wakes up again he'll be able to tell the police who was responsible for the fire."

"If, Helen." Nikki's eyes dropped to the floor, "we don't know if he's ever going to wake up."

"Hey you can't start thinking like that. He'll wake up and when he does, my father is heading straight for jail. It's the best place for the bastard."

"Well if we've got any chance of that happening then we need to figure out what granddad was talking about."

"How are we going to do that? It's not as if we can ask him at the moment."

"Simple." Nikki replied, "We ask my mother, I'm sure she can fill in a few blanks."

DCI Crawford grumpily threw his pen down on his desk and leaned back in his chair. He'd been a police officer long enough to develop a sixth sense about things and his intuition was telling him that something was very wrong. He had yet to gain a full picture, he hadn't interviewed all of the family members yet but he was pretty sure his theory was shaping up nicely. Campbell wasn't as innocent as he seemed.

A knock on his office door made him perk up a little, "come in."

"Morning sir." DC Sinclair gave him a respectful smile as she sat down.

"Morning. Right, what have you got for me?"

"The SOCO's found some shoe prints in the garden at the Stewart house. They ran it through the computer and they've narrowed it down to being a size 11 shoe."

"So we're looking for a male then."

"Not necessarily." Sinclair disagreed, "I bet there's some women out there with size 11 feet."

"Well if there is, I feel sorry for them with having trotters that big," he smiled but got no response.

"Back in Police College." Sinclair began to quote and Crawford rolled his eyes, "we were taught that assumption…."

"Is the mother of all fuck ups." Crawford finished off, "yes I know but when you've been on the force as many years as I have, you'll learn that sometimes assumption is the only thing you've got to go on."

Sinclair's feathers were well and truly ruffled, "yes sir."

"Can they narrow the shoe down to a specific make?" he said getting back on track.

"Yes sir, it's all in the report."

"Oh cheer up, you've got a face like a smacked arse," he grinned at her but was met with a frosty glare and decided to give it up, "anything else?"

"They think they may be able to identify the owner of the lighter that was found at the house. There are very faint marks on it indicating that it had been engraved. But it's going to take time before they can be sure. I'll head back over there and see if there's anything new."

"Right carry on then but don't forget to be back at the station this afternoon, we've got the daughters coming in for an interview. Meanwhile, I'm off to the hospital to see if I can get a statement from Mrs. Stewart," he sighed as she left the office, if his theory was correct, it would take a lot to pin Campbell down.

Nikki and Helen waved cheerfully as they entered the ward and saw Stella sitting up in bed looking much better than she had the previous day. They kissed and hugged her in turn and then sat down either side of the bed. Stella could tell there was something amiss, she knew them both better than they knew themselves and she could tell something was going on.

"What's up then?" Stella raised an eyebrow and looked back and forth between the two women.

"Why would you think there was something up?" Nikki asked casually, she was hoping to slide into it rather than do it bluntly.

"You gave yourself away as soon as you walked in Nik, I'm your mother, I can tell." Stella said wisely.

"I think it's the way she holds her gob." Helen piped up trying to lighten the mood slightly.

"Are you two SAS trained or what? Can get away with sod all when you two are about." Nikki pretended to get huffy.

"Spit it out cos if you don't, I'll get out of this bed and slap your arse." Stella giggled.

"Helen can go first, my arse is still recovering from where she bit me in a fit of passion last night."

Helen choked and went bright red, "Nikki!"

Stella smiled as she saw Helen's face coming close to a lovely shade of beetroot and the evil grin on Nikki's face. She could see what they were trying to do and she was grateful for it but she knew something was wrong and she wanted to know what it was.

"Why are you really here?" she held up her hand to silence Nikki as she was about to protest, "I know you came to see how I was but there's something you're not telling me, so stop beating around the bush and get it over with."

"I need to know a few things, but before I ask, I've got something to tell you." Nikki clenched her fists in her pockets.

"Oh like what?" Stella didn't much like the sound of it.

"Campbell started that fire." Nikki knew it was a blunt way of putting it but she knew she couldn't hold off any longer.

Stella was shocked, "I know he's a bastard but that's going a bit far isn't it?"

"It might have been if I wasn't a thousand percent sure it was the truth. Helen and I went to see granddad yesterday, he was conscious for a while. He told us Campbell started the fire, he saw him."

"Shit." Stella's face went pale, and Nikki knew she was shocked, as she didn't normally make a habit of swearing.

"The thing is mum, there's a few other things you should know and it's not going to be easy for you to hear." Helen took hold of her hand and squeezed it gently.

"Fact is, I have quite a few revelations of my own." Stella sighed; she had known all those years ago it would eventually come to light.

"How do you mean?" Nikki couldn't explain why but she instantly felt a funny feeling in the pit of her stomach.

"You first." Stella wanted to put it off for as long as she could.

Nikki glanced across to Helen and saw that she was looking as equally apprehensive. Her heart thudded loudly, what on earth was her mother going to tell them?


Chapter 24

Stella listened patiently as she was filled in on the story so far. They talked about Bill's missing will and the exact words he'd used before he lost consciousness. She could feel herself growing angrier as they told her how Campbell had threatened to section Bill because he said she couldn't cope with looking after him. She had always known Campbell was a nasty piece of work; she found that out soon after marrying him but had never in her wildest dreams contemplated him resorting to murder.

"That's about the long and short of it mum." Helen sighed.

"That crafty bastard." Stella was fuming, "has the thought also crossed your minds that getting us three back also fitted in nicely with his plan? Cos it sure as hell crossed mine."

"It hadn't actually, not till just now." Nikki hadn't even been thinking along those lines, she had been too preoccupied in trying to figure out what Bill had meant.

"I will say the thought crossed my mind about Sean being involved." Helen thought out loud, "the thought must have crossed your mind too Nikki, is that what you were going on about yesterday when you asked what he was doing here?"

"Well I did wonder, it seemed too much of a coincidence at the time but this was before I knew about Campbell. Point is, getting us back is one thing but I don't think he'd ever try to murder you."

Helen nodded in agreement, "That's true, Sean may be many things but I don't think he would turn to murder."

"Whether he is or isn't involved doesn't matter at the moment." Stella broke in, "there are more important things to talk about."

Nikki's heart sank, "you mean the thing that you had to tell us?"

"Yes." Stella nodded, "I could be wrong, but I think Bill was right, your father has murdered someone before."

Helen's breath caught in her throat, "how can you be sure?"

"I can't but something that seemed explainable at the time doesn't seem that way now, in fact a lot of things are starting to make sense."

"Well whatever it is just tell us, I can't stand the suspense any longer." Nikki said anxiously.

"Bear in mind it's not going to be easy for either of you to hear, in fact it will be quite painful." Stella paused to take a deep breath.

DCI Crawford power walked through the corridors of the lab like a man on a mission. He'd had a phone call twenty minutes earlier telling him that the tests on the lighter had been completed and they'd come up with parts of an engraved initial. He'd diverted from the hospital hoping they had a break.

But deep down he knew it wasn't conclusive, because it still didn't place Campbell at the scene. That lighter could have found its way onto the stairs innocently. He knew it hadn't but any defence barrister worth his salt could rip that theory apart within a matter of minutes and he knew it. No matter how hard he tried to pin Campbell down, every time he thought he was closing in on him, he'd slip another step further out of his grasp.

He was the only one on his team who thought Campbell was guilty. Even after reading his statement they all seemed to think he was genuine and couldn't see what Crawford was getting at. He sometimes wondered if they either went around with their eyes shut or he was paranoid to the point of making connections that weren't there. But deep down he had a gut feeling he was right, it was just finding a way to prove it.

He still had to interview the family and he hoped that would bring something to light, but he knew in his heart of hearts, the only way to catch Campbell would be with evidence, something physical that couldn't be disproved. He flipped open his phone and requested that a couple of the SOCO team go back to the house and go over it with a fine toothcomb, there had to be something there, something they were missing.

"Hello again," he greeted the lab staff with an enthusiasm he didn't feel. Sinclair was standing there looking as miserable as she always did.

A female lab technician called Mags whom he'd known for years grinned up at him over her microscope, "Did you see the game last night?"

"Oh aye what a cracker that was, Hearts beat the Hibbies right into the ground," he punched the air enthusiastically.

Sinclair cleared her throat in annoyance and Crawford rolled his eyes. Mags smiled at him and beckoned him over.

"She not a Hearts fan?" she giggled quietly.

"Don't think she's a Hibs fan either, because as hard as it is to believe, she's not miserable enough," he grinned at his own joke, "right what we got then?"

She moved aside and picked up a stack of big glossy prints, "we took some digitals, blew them up and enhanced them. The second initial isn't clear at all so we might never know what it is but the first initial is clear enough for me to say that I'm almost a hundred percent certain that it's a C."

Crawford nodded, he'd expected as much and even though it was good they were a little further ahead, they still had a long way to go.

"How do you know that? Is it not possible it could be an O?" Sinclair piped up.

"It's definitely a C, twenty years of experience with this sort of thing tells me so." Mags was annoyed, she couldn't stand it when a wet behind the ears copper questioned her in that tone of voice.

"It was a perfectly valid question." Sinclair sniffed.

"Thanks for that Mags." Crawford gave her a smile before he beckoned for Sinclair to follow him outside, "what in god's name is up with you? I will not tolerate behaviour like this from my officers do you hear me?"

"Sir, in Police College…."

"If you quote that line at me one more time, I'll make damn sure you end up back there. Do you understand?"

"Yes sir," her eyes bored into him like lasers.

"Good, now get your arse back in there and collect the necessary evidence. Then I want you over at the Stewart house to liase with the SOCO's. I'll meet you back at the station in a couple of hours."

"Bastard," she muttered as he walked away.

"I heard that," he chuckled and disappeared around the corner.

Nikki's palms were sweaty and her heart was racing, it seemed to take forever as Stella took a deep breath and gathered her thoughts. Nikki needed to be closer to Helen and so moved her chair and sat beside her. Helen gripped onto her hand, she was feeling much the same way and wasn't sure what to expect.

"All of this happened many years ago, I was never going to tell either of you, there was no reason to but it seems I have no choice."

"Mum, please just tell us." Nikki was getting anxious and Helen gripped her hand tighter.

"As you know before your father died we used to live down in London where he had a very successful haulage business. Bill helped him to set it up cash wise and then let him run the business as he pleased. It was a task your father took to with enthusiasm and before long he was doing really well. The time came when he wanted to expand the business but it would take much more money than he had at that time. He spoke to a few of his contacts and they recommended a man who was known for making money out of nothing. You can guess who I'm talking about."

"My father." Helen said straightaway.

"Yes but I don't suppose you remember all that much about London, you were little more than a baby at the time. Anyway, they worked hard at it and it began to pay off. But one night things changed, John came home and sat me down, saying he really needed to talk to me. He had fallen in love with another woman, he was so confused and he didn't know what to do about it."

"Who was it?" Nikki asked puzzled.

"All in good time." Stella patted her hand, "he sat and he cried as he told me and I held him and cried with him. Your father was a good man, he was my best friend but I wasn't in love with him. We were young at the time and the marriage didn't quite work out as we'd planned. He didn't want to abandon me and he would never have left you Nikki but at the same time his heart belonged to someone else and it was tearing him in two. I wanted him to be happy and I felt he should be with her if he loved her so much. But it wasn't quite as easy as that, in fact, it was very complicated."

"I know how that feels," Helen said softly as Nikki pulled her into a hug.

"Carry on." Nikki said as she rested her chin on Helen's head.

"Like I said, your father wasn't sure what to do and he felt like he was letting all of us down. I explained to him that I didn't see it that way and I was more than happy for him to continue to see this woman if he wanted to. He was a good husband, an excellent father and he always made sure we never went short. He couldn't help the fact that he fell in love with somebody else."

"So who was she?" Nikki asked again, she knew her mother was stalling.

Stella braced herself and spoke, "Helen's mother."

Helen tried to speak but found that words wouldn't form, no matter how hard she tried.

"Bloody hell." Nikki let out a breath, "I didn't see that one coming."

"You're not the only one." Helen replied with a faint trace of a smile that had Nikki puzzled.

"At that time, your father knew something I didn't. Campbell was no less abusive with your mother Helen than he was with me. I only found out how he used to treat her after we were married, he told me as much one night after he beat me black and blue."

"So how does all this lead to murder?" Helen's mind was already leaning in a direction she never wanted it to go.

"About six months later, John had a call late one night from your mother, she was upset because Campbell had found out somehow and had gone up like a rocket. I told him he should go to her that she needed him more than I did at that moment in time. At 3am I got a phone call." Stella took a deep breath; she didn't want to say it but had to, "The office was destroyed by fire."

"And both our parents died." Nikki finished off.

"But I was told my mum was ill and that's why she died." Helen's voice was barely above a whisper.

"We told you that to protect you, we told Nikki more or the less the same thing. Looking back on it now we should have told you when you got older but as a parent you never want to put your children through any unnecessary pain."

"So you're thinking that because Campbell had found out about them, he deliberately started the fire that killed them both?" Nikki was trying to make sure she had it right; it was a bit of a weak link even though it seemed feasible.

"Yes, and although I had no reason to be suspicious at the time, I am now because I know what Campbell just did and it's got me thinking." Stella knew there was no proof though, after all the police hadn't found any evidence of it all those years back, it had been recorded as an act of random arson.

Nikki and Helen sat quietly, not wanting to believe it but not really having any other choice. They gripped each other tightly; both in shock at having what they had previously thought was reality turned upside down and inside out.

"He was angry for a long time after they died but I didn't think it strange as such, I thought it was more his way of coping. He had just found out his wife was having an affair with his business partner and then he had to deal with the grief of losing her in a fire."

"What about the money?" Helen piped up; she was trying to get it all straight in her mind like Nikki was.

"The insurance didn't pay out, due to what I first thought was some sort of technicality. I later found out it had been cancelled but I don't know who actually cancelled it. I'm not sure if your mother had life insurance Helen because your father never spoke of it, but I know your dad did Nikki. The money went to me and your grandfather had what was left of John's half of the business bequeathed to him. Campbell told me he couldn't afford to buy Bill out and nor could he afford to build up the business again, so he had to settle for selling what was left. So I suppose it's been on his mind all these years and he was just looking for a way to get his hands on Bill's money."

"Got to be more to it than just that." Nikki didn't buy it.

"I've told you all I can tell you. I'm sure there are things Bill knows that I don't. He and John were very close, they told each other everything. I know there was something funny going on, John and Bill were having lots of hushed conversations during the last few weeks before he died. But I never found out what it was all about and I never asked, it was none of my business."

"Well that makes things a little clearer I suppose." Helen felt worn out already and it wasn't even midday yet.

"I'm sorry." Stella wiped a tear from her eye, "It's a bloody mess and it's all my fault. I know that marrying Campbell was difficult for all of us, but I thought I was doing the right thing at the time, he promised to look after us, and I just wanted to do the right thing for everybody even though I know it was very hard for you both, not to mention Bill. I owe him such a lot, he always stood by me even if he didn't like my choices."

"Come on mum, it's not your fault, Helen and I don't blame you for anything do we?" she looked to Helen.

"Nikki's right, none of this is your fault and at least we know now, there's no secrets any more."

"Thing is though, if the police didn't find any evidence that Campbell had started that fire then I'm not sure how we will. And seeing as how he got away with it once before, he's not going to be stupid enough to get caught is he?" Nikki was back to being practical again.

"I don't know, we're gonna have to wait and see because there's not much we can do till Bill wakes up." Stella was looking tired now, it had taken a lot out of her.

"That's what we'll do then, when granddad is able to talk, we'll find out." Helen said thoughtfully, "we've only got part of the story even though I'm convinced we're on the right track."

"Anything I can do to help by any chance?" DCI Crawford said as all three women turned to look at him.


Chapter 25

Rab Crawford's head was buzzing, it wasn't yet three o'clock in the afternoon but he was ready for his bed. He pushed back from his desk and stretched trying to loosen himself up. A million and one things swirled around in his brain and despite his tiredness he just couldn't switch off.

He sighed when his phone rang, "Crawford."

"It's me Sir." Sinclair's crisp voice echoed down the line, "got something you might be interested in over at the Stewart house."

"I'm on my way," he replied, all thoughts of tiredness gone as adrenaline flowed through his veins.

He put the phone down for a second and then quickly made a decision. He picked the phone back up, punched in a number, and tapped his foot whilst waiting for an answer. He was putting his neck on the line here but he thought it was worth it.

"Hello, can you put me through to the archives please?" he waited as tinny music played down the phone and then there was a click, "Hello, can I please speak to Laura?"

His thoughts drifted as he waited, he was going over the investigation in his head once again. Less than half an hour ago, Nikki and Helen had left his office after telling him just about everything short of their life story. It meant he now had a clearer picture of the sort of person that Campbell was and it had confirmed his gut instinct that there was something not quite right about the man.

He happened to share their suspicions that he had murdered his wife and his business partner but it would never be more than just a theory if he couldn't find any evidence to back it up. As it was, nobody thought Campbell was guilty of torching his own house. The rest of the team couldn't see him as a suspect, not even Sinclair who'd spoken to him personally.

It irked him that unless something turned up soon he would be forced to stop looking at Campbell as a suspect. His superiors were none too happy that he was still thinking along those lines. In fact his inspector had reiterated that morning, that he was to clear it up quickly and not to dwell on the matter longer than necessary.

He was broken from his thoughts, "Ah hello Laura, long time no see," he smiled as he spoke; "I'm calling cos I need you to do me a big favour. Can you look up a case for me? It was an arson case, two people died at the Wade Haulage firm warehouse in the east end back in the early eighties. I'm afraid I don't have a reference number or anything, but I think it could be linked to a case I'm investigating at the moment."

He waited while she clicked away on her computer and got his pen ready when she was back, "is there any evidence left in the archives? Right, can you do me another favour? Can you get the evidence and the files for that case sent to me ASAP please, but I want this done on the quiet…cheers Laura, you're an angel."

He put the phone down with a smile and slipped his coat on. He'd get Mags to help him check over the evidence and see if there was anything there. He'd also go through the files with a fine toothcomb and see what else he could find out. Hopefully Sinclair would have something good for him and he could combine that with double murder and put Campbell behind bars where he belonged.

Helen sighed as Nikki placed gentle kisses on her throat and threaded her fingers through her silky soft hair. She craved close physical contact with Nikki at the best of times but she needed her now more than ever. The last two days had been surreal and it was all threatening to knock her off balance.

She kept going over it all in her mind, the trouble with Sean, thinking she had lost Nikki, uncertainty of whether they'd lose Bill and the revelation that her mother and Nikki's father had possibly been murdered. Then a thought popped into her head.

"I'm gonna bloody kill Sean," she said suddenly as she sat bolt upright knocking Nikki over onto the bed.

"Where did that come from?" Nikki was puzzled and tried not to laugh as she realised she had just been kissing fresh air.

"I was just thinking, isn't it a bit of a coincidence that you and mum came to take me back home and that night the house just happens to go up in a puff of smoke?"

"You're not suggesting he knows about this? I mean you could have been killed." Nikki's eyes widened.

"I'm not saying he knew what was going to happen; I'm sure even Sean isn't that much of a bastard. But he must have called my father, because it's too much of a coincidence and we know he's called him before."

"So Mr. McTavish must have called him then." Nikki said referring to their elderly neighbour across the road.

"I vaguely remember Mr. McTavish asking if there was anyone he should call, but I don't think I answered him. I certainly wouldn't have asked him to call Sean. I don't even know how he had the number."

"Well he and granddad are mates aren't they so that's probably how. I think we can safely say Sean didn't know what was going on, but you could be right about him calling your father."

"I know I'm right." Helen sighed, "that…that bloody…." Helen couldn't find a suitable word for him, "well, he almost got us all killed. If he hadn't have gone whining to my father then none of this would have happened."

"It would have happened one day; your father just needed a push over the edge. But in the end we're all still here, even if granddad is a bit poorly at the moment." Nikki wrapped her arms around and placed a gentle kiss on her lips.

"I know that but I'm still angry with him, angry with him and my father." Helen's lips quivered slightly.

"I know baby, the last week hasn't been easy at all. It's going to take time to sink in," she softly stroked Helen's hair.

"I'm going to confront Sean about it, I want him to know exactly what he's done." Helen was determined.

"Is that wise at the moment?"

"Probably not, need to find out whether they can charge my father first. I'm sorry Nikki, he's done nothing but fuck up your life." Helen gripped her tighter.

"If he did murder our parents then he took something away from us that can never be replaced, but it's not your fault sweetheart and you never have to be sorry. Look at it like this, he took them away from us but in a roundabout way he gave us something special that he'll never be able to take away."

"What's that?" Helen looked up at her with glistening eyes as tears threatened, she knew what Nikki was about to say but wanted to hear her say it.

"Each other." Nikki said simply, "I have always loved you Helen, and I always will. He can't take that away from us."

Helen smiled as tear a trickled down her face, "Nicola Wade, I love you with all my heart."

"I love you too, always," she kissed Helen softly and pulled her into her arms.

Crawford pulled up at the house and Sinclair gave him a half hearted wave as he switched the engine off. It had begun to sleet a few minutes before and it was now driving down relentlessly from milky coloured clouds. A cold wind whistled around the houses chilling him right to the bone even though he was wearing a thick coat. Sinclair didn't seem to be faring much better; her face had a cold pinched look that was worse than normal.

"What have you got for me?" he asked as he pulled his collar up around his ears.

"The forensics team found a couple of fingerprints." Sinclair led him towards the back garden, "I've already had a go at them for not picking up this evidence sooner."

"You did what?" he glared at her, "if anyone is going to have a go at anyone then it will be me. Do I have to keep reminding you who is in charge here?"

"No sir," she glared back at him, "anyway, after finding these fingerprints, I asked a couple of the uniform lads to swing by Mr. Stewarts house so that we could get his prints for exclusionary purposes."

"Oh for fuck sake!" Crawford wasn't usually a person to lose his temper so easily, "do you realise what you've just done? I didn't take his fingerprints yesterday for a very good reason. I didn't want him to think we were there for anything more than a few routine questions. Now he's going to realise he's being looked at as a suspect and I'll be very surprised if he's still bloody there!"

"But sir, it's procedure and I really don't think he should be considered a suspect, he's got no motive."

"Fuck procedure, the rule book isn't always right. And as for a motive, I'm damn sure he has several. I want you to take DC Roper and get over there as quickly as possible. I want him dragged into that station and kept stewing until I'm ready to question him."

"But what about the evidence sir?"

"Never mind the evidence; I'm quite capable of asking one of the SOCO's what it's all about."

He rolled his eyes at her disappearing back, hadn't she learnt anything in all the time she'd been on the force? In his opinion women made some of the best detectives, but he didn't have a clue what had happened with Sinclair. She was far too cocky for her own good and if she didn't buck her ideas up, she'd never make it past her current rank.

He made his way into the garden and looked for the head SOCO, who was presently hunched over trying to keep the worst of the sleet from his eyes as he dug around the garden. Crawford approached him and squatted down next to him.

"Can you fill me in on what's been found then Terry?"

"Course I can boss." Terry turned and squinted at him with a smile, "Come this way."

He led him back up the garden towards the comparative shelter of the house. He picked up a couple of plastic bags and pointed to each one in turn.

"This is a piece of glass from the back door. The fire burned its way right through the kitchen and the heat caused the glass to explode outwards, covering the garden in it. That's the reason we hadn't found it till now, we had to pick up god knows how many shards," he looked sheepish.

"No need to worry pal, this investigation isn't even 48 hours old yet and these things take time. I'd rather we went slowly and built a solid case than go running about blindly and cock it all up."

"Your young female officer didn't seem to think so," he smiled and rolled his eyes.

"Don't worry about her, I'm running the investigation. Right, sorry carry on."

"This piece of glass here has a fingerprint on it," he held it up and pointed to it, "It's smeared so it might be difficult to compare it to any other fingerprints but we can run it through the computer and see what happens. Now in bag number two, is what looks to be sealing wax, like the stuff they use on official documents."

Crawford took hold of the bag and squinted at it as the sleet stung his face, "looks to be a fingerprint on this too."

"There is." Terry nodded, "pretty good one too actually. We found it while we were having a rake around in the flowerbeds. Looks like it's been melted and handled when warm. Had some ash like substance with it as well but it didn't burn very easily, like it's coated in some sort of a film. There are a few word fragments visible."

Crawford smiled knowingly; "I think you'll find this is the remains of a will Terry." Now he knew exactly what Campbell had done with Bill's will after stealing it.

"What leads you to that conclusion?"

"Let's just say I had a gut feeling." Crawford smiled triumphantly, maybe at long last he had what he was looking for.


Chapter 26

Nikki flipped through dozens of satellite TV channels as Helen dozed against her shoulder. She smiled softly at her and placed a gentle kiss on her forehead before resuming her channel surfing. A feeling of peace surrounded her, no matter how bad things got, she would always have Helen.

Her mind drifted back to their childhood and she grinned again. Granted, she felt bad for being a bitch to Helen but it proved to her how much she'd always loved her. Nikki Wade was only obnoxious to people she disliked, and to people she adored but wanted to hide from. She had always been the same; her first three girlfriends had been certain she hated their guts.

Helen stirred next to her and snuggled closer, brushing her lips across Nikki's collar bone as she did so. Nikki automatically ran her fingertips across her shoulder and stroked the back of her neck gently. Helen's neck was sensitive and a familiar feeling stirred in the pit of her stomach.

"Hold your horses Stewart, you've had it three times tonight already." Nikki chuckled.

"Well, I want it again," she murmured huskily as she rubbed her pelvis against Nikki's leg.

"You know what? I'm gonna get one of those chastity belts but mine will be with a slight difference."

"Oh do tell." Helen said as she nibbled on Nikki's earlobe.

"It's gonna have a coin slot on it, so every time you want sex, it will cost you and by the end of the week I'll have enough money for a Caribbean cruise."

Helen laughed a deep throaty laugh, "are you trying to say I'm sex mad?"

Nikki appeared to think it over, "In a nutshell…yes."

"I've only just discovered the art of making love so cut me some slack here." Helen sat up slightly and draped herself over Nikki's chest with a smile.

"For an amateur you've been doing pretty well so far." Nikki kissed the tip of Helen's nose.

"You know what I meant, I've had sex before but this is the first time I've ever made love with anyone."

"Same here sweetheart. The first time we were together it was as if something clicked and I finally found out for myself what making love was like as opposed to just sex."

Helen answered her with a kiss, their lips wrestling with each other as tongues softly darted in and out. Nikki could kiss Helen for hours; she was extremely good at it. And one brush of her lips was all it took for Nikki to be lost. Her hands began to slide down Helen's body, brushing softly over her back and down towards her buttocks.

Helen pulled away, "so what were you thinking about that made you smile so much?" she grinned wickedly.

"Ah eh Helen." Nikki protested, "I was just getting going there."

"Spill and then you can resume your wanderings," she stuck her tongue out at her and smiled again.

Nikki knew the quicker she spoke the quicker she could get back to where she wanted to be, "I was just thinking about when we were kids and how horrible I was to you. It's obvious to me now how much I cared about you back then. You were so small and fragile and you always looked lonely, yet you never let that smile leave your face."

"You know me, I'm always smiling," she grinned again to prove her point but mostly to stop herself from crying, she knew Nikki was about to be sweet again.

"Sometimes I wanted to just pick you up and protect you from the world. I was never very far away you know, I saw all the fights you got into at school and I was waiting to jump in and protect you but you never needed me to. You looked like an angel and fought like a twenty stone bloke." Nikki giggled.

"Shut up." Helen gave her a gentle shove and chuckled. Her heart swelled with love as she realised Nikki had been there for her all along.

"Looking back on it now, I can remember the day I fell in love with you. You'd just turned fifteen and we were getting ready to go out for a meal and you came downstairs in that black dress and you looked so beautiful. I was hooked and I couldn't take my eyes off you."

"And that's right about when you started being more of a bitch to me than usual." Helen nodded as it clicked, "so you fancied the pants off me and went all stroppy about it," she giggled loudly.

"You're just as bad, you followed me around like a KGB agent," she pushed Helen flat on the bed and lay over her, "I wish I'd had the courage to stop denying it and told you all those years ago how I felt."

"Me too, but I could be a brat when I wanted to be, it wasn't all your fault. It doesn't seem even half as bad now that we know we always cared about each other. In fact, most of the time I think we enjoyed fighting because it was an excuse to spend time together." Helen reached up and laced her fingers around the back of Nikki's neck.

"I think you could be right there. Fancy a fight then?" Nikki's eyes twinkled.

"Fighting is for kids, we're adults now, let's get on with the fun stuff," she wiggled her eyebrows as her hand found its way in-between Nikki's legs.

"Ah bollocks!" Nikki exclaimed.

"No, that's not what it's called." Helen bit down on her lip with a smile.

"Ha ha smart arse." Nikki quickly kissed and reached for the phone, "phone call," she said as she waved her mobile.

Helen rolled her eyes and let go of Nikki as she answered it, there always seemed to be one kind of interruption or another when things were getting good. She sat up and fluffed the pillows up before leaning against them. Nikki's face suddenly went white and a dart of fear pierced Helen's heart.

"What is it?" she asked when Nikki had ended the call.

"That was mum; we need to get over the hospital, it's granddad."

Sinclair's palms were sweaty as she knocked on Crawford's office door. Her heart was thumping out of her chest and she was preparing herself for the worst telling off of her life. This wasn't going to go down well at all, and she knew it would go down on her record as one of the biggest cock ups of the century. She heard him call out for her to enter and straightening her jacket, she pushed the door open.

"I'm afraid it's not good news Sir," she launched straight in; there was no point in doing it slowly.

"Oh?" his face darkened slightly, he was sure he knew what was coming.

"By the time I got to Mr. Stewart's house with DC Roper, he'd gone," her heart skipped a beat when she saw him go red with anger.

"Pray tell how you came to that bloody conclusion."

"There was no answer and one of the neighbours told us that Mr. Stewart had left an hour earlier with a suitcase. DC Roper broke a window pane in the front door to gain access and the neighbour was right, all of his clothes had gone."

Crawford bit down on his tongue and tried to calm himself.

"But we did find something while we were there. He'd left a few pairs of shoes behind and one of them matched the size and description of the footprint left behind at the Stewart house. I've had them sent off to forensics for an examination," she hoped that would make up for things.

"Oh well that's ok then! The suspect has gone for a burton with his fucking suitcase but you just cracked the investigation wide open by finding his shoes," she went to speak but the look on his face warned her not to, "You better hope for your sake that we find him soon, because if his fingerprints match the ones found at the scene, and I'm sure they will, then the brass will be wondering who's fuck up led to this outcome. And I'm damn sure I won't be taking the fall for it. I know you've got work to do, so piss off and do it."

She nodded meekly and left his office, closing the door quietly behind her.

Part 27

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