DISCLAIMER: Murder in Suburbia and its characters are the property of ITV. No infringement intended.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

Girlfriend in a Coma
By Geonn


The day Eleanor Winchester fell from the sky, weathermen had predicted sunny skies with a forty percent chance of showers. There was little doubt that fifty-year-old nannies were not on the forecast.

The courtyard in front of the building was filled with dozens of tables that were all topped by a different-colored umbrella. The yellow-umbrellaed table was currently on its side, torn umbrella waving in the wind. Ash led the way onto the roof and walked confidently to the edge, peering down at the courtyard. "Ash!" Scribbs said from the doorway. "Don't do that!"

Ash turned. "I thought we came up here to take a look at the crime scene."

"Yeah," Scribbs said, hands still white-knuckled on the door. She looked at the tarred roof as if it was a raging river and she was waiting for a lily pad to float by. "Right. I'll get right on it."

Ash rolled her eyes and walked back to the door. She extended her hand and Scribbs reluctantly released the door. She whimpered, let herself be pulled out onto the roof and immediately wrapped her free arm around Ash's waist. The air rushed from Ash with a quiet "whuf" and she let the access door fall closed.

She walked Scribbs back to the edge of the roof, Scribbs' grip tightening with every step. "Scribbs..."

"I'm looking..."

"I can't breathe."

Scribbs released her hold slightly. "Right. Sorry." She stepped back but kept her arm tight on Ash's waist.

Ash gestured at the scuffed tar and the rubber mark on the retaining wall. "I think someone helped our nanny over the edge."

"Uh-huh," Scribbs said.

Ash leaned forward and Scribbs whimpered. She clawed at Ash's coat and said, "Don't do that! You'll fall!"

"Then you might want to anchor yourself to something else," Ash said testily. She peered over the edge and looked at the table below. "So. Our nanny... what was her name?"


"Right. Nanny Winchester was up on the roof for a breath of fresh air, decided to have a look over the edge and whoopsy-daisy."

Scribbs gulped and closed her eyes at the thought. "Yep. Right on top of Denise Wesson. You've seen the crime scene. Can we go now?"

"Sure," Ash said. "We need to get to the hospital and see our witness."

Scribbs slammed the car door and immediately reached for the heater. The day wasn't unbearably cold, but being eight stories up dropped the temperature a good five degrees. Not to mention the wind. She rubbed her hands together and started the car when Ash was buckled in. "Give me a nice two-story house any day," she muttered.

She pulled out of the parking lot, waved through the police barricade by a constable in an overcoat, and turned right. They were immediately surrounded by tall oak trees, white picket fences and dogs barking at them from every third lawn. "Feel better, Scribbs?" Ash asked. "Back in the land where falling from the roof will only break a limb."

"Ha, ha," Scribbs muttered.

They drove to the nearby hospital where Denise Wesson had been taken. She'd been unresponsive at the scene and the medics hadn't looked hopeful when they loaded her into the back of the van. When they arrived, they flashed their identification to the head nurse and were directed to the intensive care unit.

Denise Wesson was a petite redhead, with pale skin and a wide mouth that probably looked better when it was forming a smile. Unfortunately, at the moment her lips were parted around a tube that was helping her breathe. In the four hours since the fall, she'd apparently been poked and prodded by every doctor in the place and was now alone in the room.

"What do you think?" Scribbs asked quietly.


"Do you think they were... you know, aiming for her?"

"Who? Denise Wesson?" Ash scoffed. "Be a pretty unique murder weapon. Knife, maybe a gun, no, I think I'll use a fifty-year-old nanny."

"Glad you find it so amusing."

They turned to face the new speaker. She was a brunette in a business suit, her chestnut-brown hair done up in a messy ponytail. Her eyes were red and puffy from crying, her hands clenched around a can of soda she'd obviously just gotten from a vending machine.

"I'm terribly sorry," Ash said. "We shouldn't..."

"Save it," the woman said. She brushed past them and went into the room. A chair had been pulled over next to the bed and she lowered herself into it. She put the soda down and gripped Denise Wesson's hand with both of hers. "Den? It's me. I'm here."


"Amanda Smith," the woman said. She was obviously annoyed at being interrupted.

"Miss Smith... I'm DI Ashurst, this is DS Scribbins. We're investigating the death of Eleanor Winchester."

Amanda turned to look at them. "You think it was on purpose? You honestly think someone aimed at Den?"

"No, Miss Smith," Ash said. "But possibly you saw something or heard something that may help us find whoever killed her and tried to kill your..." She looked at how Amanda's hand laid on Denise's, "your friend."

The woman leaned back in the chair, but kept her hand on Denise's. "I didn't hear anything. Den begged me to come to lunch with her. She worked in the building, I worked down the street. I couldn't be bothered most days." She wiped at her cheeks with her free hand. "But I picked today. It may be the last time I ever see her."

Ash hesitated. "If there's anything you could tell us..."

"No!" Amanda snapped. "I didn't hear anything, I didn't see anything, I was watching Denise, okay?! I was focused on her because I'm in love with her. I didn't see anyone carting an old lady to the roof."

Ash glanced nervously at Scribbs and said, "I'm very sorry. We'll get out of your way now."

They started from the room and a moment later heard someone calling for them to wait. They paused next to the lifts and waited for Amanda Smith to catch up. "I'm sorry," she said. "I'm a damn mess right now." She wiped her hand under her nose and said, "It means a lot to me that your department was compassionate enough to assign the two of you to our case."

Scribbs started to say something, but Ash silenced her by wrapping her arm around Scribbs' elbow. "Yes. Our boss knew how sensitive this time would be to you and asked us to take the case."

Amanda nodded. "I'm sure that Denise would have appreciated having you working on... on her..."

"We'll do our best to bring it to a quick conclusion," Scribbs said.

"Yes. I... just wanted to apologize for my behavior."

"Completely understandable," Ash said.

"Keep me informed, will you?"

"We'll do our best."

Amanda nodded and, as if unsure of how to end the conversation, turned and walked back to her girlfriend's room. Ash let her arm fall away from Scribbs and pressed the button for the lift. "What was that about?" Scribbs asked.

"She thinks we're a couple."

"A what? You and me?"

Ash shrugged and stepped into the lift. "It's not outside the realm of possibility."

"Sure, sure," Scribbs said.



Ash frowned and hit the button for the ground floor.

Eleanor Winchester was nanny for Gregory and Michelle Colt, keeping watch over their three children while the parents went to work. Scribbs parked in the circular driveway and Ash led the way up onto the porch. They rang the doorbell and waited patiently for the echoing sound of footsteps to reach the front door.

The face that greeted them was fifteen at best, full of young angst and freckles. Ash momentarily wondered why she wasn't in school before she remembered that it was nearly July. Where did the time go? The girl glared at the two women on her front stoop, silently asking what the hell they were doing there and how the hell she could get them to leave. Ash tried on her best smile. "Hello. I'm DI Ashurst, this is..."

"Ellie send you?"

Ash blinked. "Eleanor Winchester, your nanny?"

The girl looked between the two detectives and her face tightened. "Yeah. She didn't come into work today and I've been stuck with The Brats all morning." She turned her glare to Scribbs.

"I take it your parents aren't home, then?" Scribbs asked.

"It's a work day and it's not yet five. So no. Not home." She switched back to Ash, as if expecting them to sneak up on her. "Well? Anything else?"

Ash and Scribbs glanced at each other and decided not to saddle this girl with the knowledge. "Just have them give us a call. Middleford CID, have them ask for either Ashurst or Scribbins."

The girl rolled her eyes and nodded as she shut the door on them.

Scribbs quirked her lips and stared at the door. "I love children. Don't you?"

Ash glanced at the clock to see it was almost six in the evening. She checked her watch to make sure the time was accurate and sighed. Scribbs looked up and interpreted the sigh. "Still no word from the Colts."

"You'd think they would notice their babysitter was missing," Ash said.

"Nanny," Sullivan corrected as he approached. "It's different. Call for you, Ashurst. It's the Colts. Line 2."

Scribbs smirked. "Didn't know you were doubling as the messenger service, boss."

He smiled back. "Yes, well, I happened by the front desk when the call came in. Said I'd mention it to you on my way up."

"Thanks, boss," Ash said. She picked up the phone and pressed the flashing number. "DI Kate Ashurst speaking. Yes, Mr. Colt. I'm sorry to have to inform you..."

Scribbs stood and hurried after Sullivan. "Boss. Have a second?"

"I'm not delivering any messages for you."

"No, but I'll keep that in mind." She hesitated and looked over her shoulder to make sure Ash was still on the phone. "Why did you assign the Eleanor Winchester case to me and Ash?"

He frowned. "You were next on the schedule. There's no dark ulterior motive here, Scribbs."

"Right. Well, I was just making sure."

"Everything all right with the case?"

"Yep." She gave him a double thumb's-up. He nodded and she said, "The woman, Denise Wesson, is still in a coma. The woman that was with her..."

"Amanda Smith."

"Right. Did she see anything?"

Scribbs shook her head. "Nothing pertinent."

Sullivan sighed. "Right, well, keep on it."

He headed up the stairs as Ash came over. "Nanny Winchester lived two blocks away from the Colt's. She was supposed to be at work by eight. Never showed up."

"So how did she end up seven blocks in the wrong direction to fall off a building at 11:30?"

Ash arched an eyebrow. "That, my dear Scribbs, is the 64 million dollar question. Come on. Let's see if her house gives us any ideas."

On the way to Eleanor Winchester's house, Scribbs called the hospital. There'd been no change in Denise Wesson's condition. She was still comatose with little hope of awakening. They arrived at the house just before seven and found the key underneath a potted plant, just where Mr. Colt had told them to look. They let themselves in and split up, Ash to the living room and Scribbs towards the kitchen.

Scribbs turned on the overhead light and looked around for anything that might constitute evidence. "You know she's still at the hospital."

"Denise Wesson?" Ash said from the other room.

"No, Amanda. Her... her lover, I suppose."

Ash hesitated in thumbing through a notebook. "That's sweet."

"Yeah," Scribbs said.

They searched in silence for a bit and then Scribbs appeared at the kitchen door. "Would you sit with me?"

Ash picked up a checkbook and checked the balance. Pretty much what you'd expect from a nanny. She put it back and said, "Would I sit where?"

"You know," Scribbs said. "If something happened. If I ended up in the hospital, would you sit with me? It's just that I don't know if anyone else would."

Ash faced Scribbs and turned the question around. "Would you sit with me?"

"Yeah," Scribbs said. She shrugged and said, "Where else am I going to be?"

Ash turned back to the desk to keep Scribbs from seeing her smile.

"So?" Scribbs insisted. "Would you sit with me?"

"Sure. Until Sullivan assigns me a new partner."

"Gee, thanks," Scribbs muttered. She headed back into the kitchen.

Ash looked up and said, "Emma," just before she went through the kitchen door. When Scribbs turned, Ash said, "I'd be there."

Scribbs smiled and said, "Thanks, Kate."

Scribbs went back into the kitchen and Ash went back to searching the desk. She found a stack of receipts and went through them. She casually scanned them, finding nothing of interest. She put them back and spotted one more receipt that had apparently fallen to the floor. She bent down, picked it up and raised her eyebrows at the date. "Scribbs." When her partner appeared in the kitchen door, Ash held up the receipt. "Eleanor mailed something yesterday. Two envelopes, both with overnight mail charges."

"Mailed where?"

"Well, one of them was addressed here," Ash said. "Eleanor mailed something to herself."

The next morning, they shanghaied the delivery man and confiscated the envelope Eleanor had mailed. They waited until they were in the car before tearing it open. "Photographs," Scribbs said. She raised her eyebrows and said, "Nice ones."

Ash leaned across the console to look. "Well, someone's been naughty..."

"Ash," Scribbs said. She squinted at the first photograph and said, "Isn't that the girl?"

"What girl?"

"From the Colt house."

"She couldn't have been more than fourteen." Ash took the photo and held it at an angle.

Scribbs looked at the next photo and said, "Oh, well, there's no doubt here. She's looking right at the camera."

"Who is the man?"

They sorted through the photos until they found one with the man's face. "Don't recognize him," Scribbs said.

Ash set her lips in a firm line and said, "I do. Let's go."


"Back to the building Eleanor Winchester fell from."

The man from the grainy black-and-white photograph looked far better the next time Ash and Scribbs saw him. His suit was impeccable, his slate-gray hair smoothed down. He smiled as he stepped from his office, standing in front of a large portrait of himself. It was the same portrait Ash had seen on the way to the roof the day before. He extended a hand and said, "Detectives. Thomas Magnum, no relation." When neither woman reacted, he turned his laugh into a cough and stepped to the side. "Please, come in. I'm in a bit of a hurry, but I always make time for law enforcement."

Ash took the lead. "Mr. Magnum, did you by chance know a Gregory or Michelle Colt."

"Gregory is a business partner of mine," Magnum said as he took a seat. He leaned back in his chair and crossed his legs. "We've been in talks for a merger that could be very beneficial to both of us. He's dragging his feet about it, too, but... you know what they say. Nothing worth having..."

Ash and Scribbs remained standing behind the seats he had offered. Ash remained casual. "You're aware of his family, then?"

"Yes, uh, vaguely. What about them?"

Scribbs said, "The woman who fell from the building yesterday was Mr. Colt's nanny."

"Good lord," Magnum said. The secretary walked in then and handed him a stack of mail. He leaned forward and took it, laying it to one side without looking at it. Ash, however, took note of a manila envelope with familiar writing. The Royal Mail receipt had had two charges, after all. "How is Gregory doing?" Magnum asked.

"Taking it in his stride. If you'd like to open your mail, don't wait for us," Ash said casually. "We know how big businesses sometimes rely upon... split-second decisions."

Magnum smiled and picked up the mail. "Yes, sorry." He sorted through it quickly and frowned at the manila envelope. He tore it open and said, "You say the woman worked for Gregory? His children, they're all right?"

"Fine," Ash said.

"Good, good. I do hate when... children are involved..." He slid the photographs out and Ash watched the blood drain from his face.

"So do we, Mr. Magnum," Ash said firmly.

Scribbs said, "I take it this isn't the first time you've seen those photographs. I think Eleanor knew about what you were doing with her boss' daughter and threatened to expose you. Couldn't have that, not with a big merger at stake. Gotta protect those investments, right?"

"Please stand up, Mr. Magnum."

He pushed his chair back and began to rise. Ash saw his hand move to the side and gasped when it came up with a gun. "Scribbs," she said. She threw herself to the side and knocked Scribbs into the wall. Magnum fired and hit Ash in the shoulder. She cried out and went down.

Scribbs, her right arm sore from slamming into the wall, whipped out her night stick. Magnum turned to aim at her and she brought the stick down on his wrist. He dropped the gun and cried out when she pulled back and swung the stick like a bat. It connected with his temple and he crumpled.

"You're under arrest," Scribbs spit. She checked to make sure he was unconscious, cuffed his hands behind his back and went to Ash's side. "Ash? Ash, where are you hit?"

She reached under Ash's jacket and her fingers came back red with blood.

Ash blinked at the IV drip and rolled her head across the pillow. It was late afternoon, judging from how the sun was glaring right in her eyes. She squinted and tried to raise her hand, but it was immobilized in a sling. "Hey," someone beside her said. She turned and saw Scribbs sitting in a chair next to the bed. She had a magazine folded open on her chest and sat up straighter. Apparently, she'd fallen asleep as well.

"Hey," Ash said.

"Magnum's in custody. The girl claims it was all consensual, but..."

"She's too young."


Ash grimaced.

"Eleanor had seen them together and hired a private eye to get evidence. She wasn't blackmailing him. She was giving him a chance to come clean himself before she went to the police."

"Damn," Ash said.

"There is some good news."

"I'll take whatever I can get."

"Denise Wesson woke up about an hour ago."

Ash smiled. "That is fantastic."

Scribbs nodded. "Yeah, Magnum was hit with one charge of murder and two charges of attempted murder." She shifted in the seat and said, "Thank you, by the way."

"Didn't give it any thought," Ash said, looking down at her arm. The bullet had hit her shoulder, but it didn't feel like it was permanently damaged. Just uncomfortable. She shifted her elbow in the sling and said, "Split second reaction."

"Still. Thanks."

Ash smiled at her. "And thanks for sitting here with me."

"What, you kidding? I made a promise." She reached out and squeezed Ash's wrist. "Now get some rest. As long as you're in here, Sullivan's not going to assign us any more cases. You can milk it a little if you want."

Ash settled against the pillows and closed her eyes. "That, Scribbs, is a very good idea..."

In a few moments, Ash was sleeping soundly. Scribbs repositioned herself in the chair, folded the magazine and started reading. After all, she had promised.

The End

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