DISCLAIMER: Murder in Suburbia and its characters are the property of ITV. No infringement intended.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
From the mouths of babes
Sullivan headed down the stairs and turned in the direction of the offices. He noticed that Ash wasn't at her desk, but a head of blonde hair was bent over the other one.
"Ah, Scribbs, can I see you for a minute?"
The blonde head turned and he was slightly taken aback to see that it wasn't Scribbs. The woman smiled widely at him.
"You must be DCI Sullivan?"
She seemed very familiar, he quickly scanned through his memory in case he'd encountered her in the past. Either on a professional or a personal basis. Before he could reply, something attached itself to his legs. He looked down to find two huge brown eyes staring up at him from under a messy blonde fringe.
He opened his mouth to say, well he wasn't really sure what he was going to say, but he felt he should really say something. The blonde woman was walking towards him with her hand held out.
"Debra Scribbins. Nice to meet you."
That explained it. He shook her hand.
"A relative, I'm assuming?"
Unable to move as there was still a ragamuffin hugging his legs (and wiping chocolate on his expensive trousers) he had no choice but to continue the conversation.
"So, how can I help you?"
"Oh, was just looking for Emma, they said she wouldn't be long and I could wait here. Chastity! Come here, leave the poor man alone."
The child detached itself from his legs and moved over beside its mother. It was a girl, it seemed, although it was hard to tell under the hair and the chocolate. She continued to stare at Sullivan. He wasn't actually sure that she was blinking. Her mother drew out a handkerchief, spat onto it and proceeded to clean her face, pushing most of the hair out of her eyes. When she was relatively clean, it was clear to see that she was a miniature version of Scribbs. She beamed up at him and he couldn't help but smile back before responding to her mother.
"Yes, she's out with Ash on an enquiry, they should've actually been back by now."
"Oh good, I'll get both of them at the same time then."
"Oh, you know Ash too?"
"You're kidding, right? There was a time I wondered whether she was surgically attached to Emma's hip!"
He raised his eyebrows. He knew that Ash and Scribbs socialised with each other, but hadn't realised quite the extent of it. Debra continued talking, preventing him from probing further.
"Yeah, so my divorce came through last week and I'm having a bit of a knees up to celebrate. Just girls, you understand, no men allowed. It's a bit funny that way now that I think about it Emma'll be the only one to have her partner there."
He was confused, first she'd said there were no men invited, then she'd mentioned Scribbs' partner, and he hadn't heard of any men in Scribbs' life for a long time. He decided to ask the question he would probably end up regretting.
Debra looked at him like he was a candidate for care in the community.
"Yeah, her partner. Kate."
He was quite unprepared for the revelation and the shock rendered him speechless. He stood staring at Debra, who quickly realised that she had spoken out of turn.
"Oh God, you didn't know."
He still couldn't get his brain and his mouth to connect.
"Oh shit, she's going to kill me."
The munchkin gasped and looked up at her mother in horror.
"Sorry, darling, mummy said a bad word."
Something caught the youngster's attention, however, and rather than respond to her mother's transgression, she chose to bolt out into the corridor screaming.
Sullivan turned just in time to see Ash bend and scoop the child up into her arms.
"Hiya Chas! What are you doing here?"
Chastity had both arms around Ash's neck and was hugging her in a most uncomfortable looking way.
"We was visitoring you and Emma. But the man was here instead."
Ash and Scribbs both realised that Sullivan and Debra were standing in their office. They exchanged a glance and continued in, Ash still carrying Chastity, who was now busy at work removing hairpins from the depths of Ash's up-do.
Both Sullivan and Debra were looking incredibly uncomfortable. Scribbs looked from one to the other, dread pooling in the pit of her stomach.
"Debs what's going on?"
Debra came forward and grabbed Scribbs' arm.
"I'm so sorry, Em, I didn't realise."
"Didn't realise what?"
"That you weren't that people at your work didn't know."
Scribbs was getting annoyed.
"Didn't know what?"
"About the two of you." Debra said, gesturing between Ash and Scribbs.
Ash caught on just a smidgen faster than Scribbs did and had to stop herself from dropping Chastity. She put her down, gently, realising that her hair was now completely down and flowing over her shoulders. Chastity moved to stand next to Sullivan again, grabbing a handful of his trousers and keeping hold. Ash addressed Sullivan.
"Boss I "
He'd recovered enough to be able to speak.
"It's fine, Ash, it's not an issue. I've told you before that what you do in your spare time is up to you."
"But I'm not doing her. I mean, it's not an issue, because we're not a couple."
Scribbs rolled her eyes. So did Debra.
"Oh thanks Kate, make me out to be a liar why don't you?"
"What she means is that we're not a couple anymore. So it's not an issue anymore."
All eyes turned to Debra drawn by her very loud enquiry. Scribbs spared Ash half a glance before turning back to her sister.
"We're not exactly on speaking terms right now."
Debra advanced on Scribbs, poking her in the chest.
"What the hell did you do?"
"Me?" Scribbs squeaked, "Why do people always assume that it's me who's done something wrong."
"Because they've met you?" Ash muttered, under her breath.
"Oh here we go again!" Scribbs cried, throwing up her arms in frustration. "I'm always the bad one, I'm always in the wrong, you're just so perfect, everyone loves you my own niece hasn't even looked in my direction once since I've arrived!"
"It's not my fault she likes me better."
"Shut it the pair of you!"
Debra grabbed Scribbs roughly by the elbow and shoved her in the direction of the interrogation room, she grabbed Ash's arm on the way past and dragged her along too.
"Sorry about this, Detective Chief Inspector, can you just keep your eye on the little one while I sort these two out?"
And with that both Ash and Scribbs were unceremoniously pushed into the room and the door slammed closed behind them.
Sullivan looked down at Chastity. She looked back up at him and grinned.
"Uh do you want some fizzy pop?"
She shook her head.
"So what do you want to do?"
She thought for a moment.
"Got any toys?"
He was just about to tell her 'no' when a thought occurred to him. He walked to Scribbs' desk and opened her bottom drawer. He hunkered down beside Chastity.
"Will these do you?"
Chastity's eyes widened at the vast array of action figures and dolls nestling in the drawer. She grabbed a couple of Barbies and attempted to get up onto Scribbs' seat, but it kept wheeling away from her. Sullivan held it steady and she managed to clamber up and started playing happily with the dolls on Scribbs' desk. Sullivan sat down in Ash's seat and watched her.
"Do you play dollies with your Auntie Emma?"
"Uh huh. She does the voices."
"That sounds like fun."
"Uh huh. And sometimes I go swimming with my Auntie Emma and my Auntie Kate."
"Wow! Can you swim?"
"Only with armbands. And we go for chips after. With tomato sauce. That's the best bit."
She looked up abruptly.
"It's classy," she corrected.
"Oh, I see."
He nodded, suitably chastened. She looked at him across the desks, deciding if he could be trusted.
"My Auntie Emma and my Auntie Kate kiss each other."
"Yep, like this."
She smushed the two Barbies' faces together, making an exaggerated kissing noise. Sullivan thought he might faint. Give him a cold-blooded murderer to interrogate and he'd be fine. But faced with a four-year old and a couple of amorous Barbies, he was completely out of his depth. When he heard the door to the interrogation room opening he could've cried with relief.
He turned to see Debra heading his way. Alone.
"Thanks for looking after this one. I hope she wasn't too much trouble."
Sullivan glanced over at Chastity, thankful that the Barbies were no longer groping each other.
"No trouble at all. How about those two?"
"Oh they're fine. We had a bit of a shouting match and a bit of a cry but they've made up now. I'd leave them in there for a while if I were you."
Sullivan had no intention of disturbing them in case he was treated to a live version of what he'd seen the Barbies doing.
"Of course, no problem."
"They're such a lovely couple. So good for each other. I'm surprised you never noticed anything, you being high up in the police and everything."
He was feeling ever so slightly dim.
"Right, come on then, Chas, let's get going."
Chastity hopped down off the chair and went to take her mother's hand. She turned back to Sullivan.
"Bye bye." She looked at him for a long moment. "You should get a hat like a real policeman."
"I'll do that."
She nodded and tugged on her mother's hand, indicating that she was ready to leave.
"Right, we'll be off then. I'm sorry if I've caused you any trouble, Inspector."
"No, no trouble."
Just a minor embolism.
Sullivan waved after them as they walked up the corridor. He turned around and saw the Barbies lying in a compromising position on Scribbs' desk. Then he turned to look at the closed door of the interrogation room. He closed his eyes.
The bottle of whiskey in his desk drawer was looking mighty appealing right at that moment.
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