DISCLAIMER: Murder in Suburbia and its characters are the property of ITV. Nikki & Nora belong to Nancylee Myatt and Warner Bros. Television. No infringement intended.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

Murder in Louisiana
By Geonn


Ash was careful to keep her hands off the railing as she leaned over to look down at the patio. The man on the ground two stories below was splayed like a cartoon character, his arms and legs jutting out from his body like points on a star. His head was half-turned and she could see his eyes were wide open in shock. As the body was lifted into a black bag and zipped up, Ash turned away to examine the balcony. There was an upturned flower pot in the corner of the balcony and the curtain was hanging by one ring. Definitely a struggle.


Ash walked back into the bedroom where a crime-scene technician was taking photos of everything. Scribbs had been kneeling next to the bed, searching the drawers, and stood to face the constable in the doorway. "Man is downstairs. Says he was friends with the deceased."

"Thanks, Constable," Scribbs said. She and Ash followed him downstairs to the living room. A small man with spectacles and a wild fringe of white hair sat with his head in his hands. He was shaking slightly, moving his head back and forth as if denying what he had just been told. "Excuse me, sir," Scribbs said. "I'm DS Scribbins, this is DI Ashurst. We'd like to talk to you about your friend."

"Arthur," the man said.

"Yes, Arthur Follis," Ash said.

"No," the man said. "My name. Arthur Heller. We were the Two Arts."

Ash recognized the name. "The coin shop downtown." At Scribbs' odd look, Ash shrugged and said, "I once dated a numismatist."

Scribbs' eyes widened and she said, "A what?"

"A numismatist," Heller said, "is a coin collector."

"Oh," Scribbs said.

"Anyway, Detective, yes. Follis and I were partners in the Two Arts. He'd only been in the country for a year, but the business was finally starting to take off. I can't... believe he'd do this."

Ash blinked and looked at Scribbs. "I'm sorry, sir. Do what?"

"Suicide! It's so unlike him. I..."

Ash interrupted, "Sir, we don't believe your partner committed suicide." He looked up, eyes magnified by his spectacles. "There were signs of a struggle in his bedroom. It seems as if he was pushed."

Heller jumped to his feet and said, "The Three Farthing!" He started to the stairs, but Scribbs put out her arm and stopped him. He nearly ran her into the wall, but she managed to keep him from dashing up the stairs. "I apologize, young lady, but... the three-farthings coin... I must see if it's still there!"

"What is this coin?" Ash asked.

"He kept it in a black mahogany box on his dresser. It was one of the first machine-struck coins in England's history. It was struck in 1563 and only three are known to exist. It's worth a fortune."

Ash and Scribbs looked at each other. Ash tilted her head towards the stairs and Scribbs headed up to look for the box. Ash guided Heller back to the divan and sat him down. "You said Mr. Follis had only been in the country for a year. Where did he live before he came here?"

"America. Ah, New Orleans, Louisiana. He had a coin shop there, but he left just before Hurricane Katrina. We knew one another from online exchanges of coins... I knew he had the three-farthing coin and invited him to stay with me." He smiled and said, "He knew it wasn't out of friendship. I wanted to try to buy the coin. But if I had sold my business and every coin I'd ever collected, I doubt I could have afforded it. Still... it was amazing to just see it with my own eyes."

Scribbs returned and shook her head to Ash. Heller saw it and his face collapsed. "Oh, dear. Oh, dear. I believe you've found your motive, Detectives."

"Once someone had this coin, what would he do with it? Could he simply sell it?"

Heller scoffed. "Oh, he could definitely sell it. Not for full price, mind you, but... even a fraction of what the coin is worth could make the killer a wealthy man."

"Would you be able to give us a list of dealers who might be willing to purchase the coin?"

"Yes, most likely." He reached for a pad of paper on the table and stopped himself, realizing he was in a crime scene. "Um... may I?"

Ash pulled a notebook from her own pocket and handed it over to him. He pulled a pen from his coat and began to quickly write down names. "You'll also want to put out notice that one has been stolen. The reputable dealers will keep their eyes out for it."

Scribbs said, "This coin is pretty special, huh?"

"Priceless, to use exactly the right word," he said. He capped his pen and handed the list back to them. "If anyone is going to purchase the coin, it would be them."

"Thank you, Mr. Heller. We'll get on this immediately."

They walked Mr. Heller to his car and watched him drive off. As they returned to their own car, Scribbs said, "So. This numisticatist..."

"Numismatist," Ash corrected. "It was before I partnered with you."

"Man or woman?"

Ash smirked and didn't answer.

They got into the car and Ash checked the list Heller had written for them. "A couple of these places are right downtown. You want to check them out before we head back?"

"Might as well. What's the first one?"

"Tarry's Coins. Just a few blocks from here," Ash said. "He added a description of the coin as well. Ought to help. 'Left-facing bust of the queen,'" Ash read. "'backed by a rose. The reverse is the royal arms with the date and a mintmark.'"

"Doesn't sound that special," Scribbs said.

"You'd be surprised," Ash said. "But coin collectors have nothing on philatelists."

Scribbs made a face and looked at her.

"Stamp collectors."

"Another ex?"

"You're not my first stop on this highway, you know."

"No, 'course not. But I didn't realize you'd taken the scenic route!"

Ash smirked. "I suppose you don't have any exes you're not telling me about, huh?"

Scribbs pressed her lips together and faced the street.

"Right," Ash murmured. She looked back down at the list and tried to remember where the coin shops were and where they were in relation to Heller's house.

Tarry's and the other three coin shops they visited ended up being a bust, but they got lucky at the fifth. They were half a mile from the police station and the shop was a long, narrow room with bad lighting. The counter was against the back wall and bent to run down the length of the building to their right. The proprietor listened to their description of the coin and said, "Yeah, guy had a coin like that. 'Bout... an hour ago. Didn't wanna sell it. Just wanted an appraisal."

Scribbs eyed the guy's bare arms and the tattoos on the knuckles of his left hand. "Don't suppose you tried to buy it from him, did ya?"

He caught the subtext of her comment and smirked. "Thought about makin' him an offer he couldn't refuse. But this guy was pretty big. Didn't look like the regular sort of coin dealer."

"Takes one to know one," Ash said. "What did you tell him?"

"Just what I found online. There's only three of that sweet little thing in existence, most people think. He could probably name 'is price if he went to the right places. I offered to call around for him, get a finder's fee at least. No go."

"Did you give him the name of anyone who might want to buy it?"

The dealer shook his head. "Didn't seem interested. Just wanted to be sure it was the right coin, I guess. Lot of fakes running around."

Scribbs looked around. "In a reputable business like this?" She spotted a camera in the corner and said, "Does that have a tape in it?"

The dealer looked at her and pushed away from the counter. He went into the back, messed with a VCR and came back with a video tape. He handed it to Ash, ignoring Scribbs entirely. "Izzat all?" he asked, obviously tired of having cops running away his business.

"That's all," Ash said. "Thank you for your help."

Sullivan walked up behind them as they searched the tape. "Any luck?"

"None so far," Ash said. "A couple of people have come and gone, but..." She shook her head.

"Well, keep at it," he said. "Mr. Follis' partner has been calling in every hour to check our progress."

Scribbs said, "Wait, there." She pointed at the screen and Ash paused the tape. "Black mahogany box. Looks like the one Heller described, yeah?"

"Good eye," Ash said.

"See if you can get a description off that," Sullivan said. "Get it out to the press."

Ash nodded and looked up as a constable approached. "Detective Ashurst. Man downstairs is asking to see you. Arthur Heller."

"Send him up," Ash said. To Sullivan, she explained, "Partner of Arthur Follis. They ran a coin-sharing business together."

Arthur Heller came through the doors and immediately saw Ash at her desk. He walked over and said, "Detective Ashurst."

"Mr. Heller. Our boss, DCI Sullivan..."

"Terribly sorry for your loss," Sullivan said, shaking the man's hand.

Heller nodded. "Yes. It's still... s-so hard to believe he's gone." To Ash, he said, "I wanted to show you something I found at the office. I was going through some of Follis' papers, trying to find the number for his family, when I found this." He handed over a date book. "Third entry from the bottom."

Ash took the book and read what he'd indicated out loud. "'Press called again re: 3F.'"

"Three-f," Heller said. "It must be talking about the three-farthing coin!"

"Who is this Press?" Scribbs asked.

Heller sneered. "Charlton Press. He's a collector from the States. He pestered Follis for years, trying to buy priceless coins for a fraction of their worth."

Scribbs shrugged. "Well, just because he didn't know how much a coin was worth..."

"Oh, he knew. Charlton Press is an authority on coin prices. He was just hoping Follis was too stupid to know he was being scammed. Follis had hoped the nuisance would give up once he'd relocated here, but it appears it kept right on."

"We'll have to get in touch with this Press fellow, obviously," Ash said. "If he was intent on getting this coin, there's no telling how far he'd go."

Heller said, "The number is in the address part of the notebook. Underneath 'Avoid At All Costs.'"

Scribbs smirked and said, "Thank you, Mr. Heller. You've been a great help."

"Follis would've done it for me," Heller sighed. He rubbed his hands together and gestured at the door. "I should... please, keep me informed of anything you find out."

Ash nodded and said, "Thank you for coming down." She waited until he was gone before she looked at Scribbs. "Poor fellow. Grasping at straws like that."

"What makes you think that?"

"Come on, Scribbs," Ash said. "You saw the fellow on the video. Did he look like a coin collector to you? No. He looked like a thug. A thug who got very lucky when he found that coin."

Scribbs shook her head. "Just that coin? Maybe Press didn't come all the way to England to get the coin. Maybe he hired someone to get the coin for him. That's why the killer took the coin to the shop to have it appraised."

"He wanted to be sure he got the right coin," Sullivan said.

"So now we, what? Wait until someone recognizes his picture?"

Scribbs smiled and said, "No... we don't necessarily have to do that..." She grabbed the phone off Ash's desk and dialed downstairs. "Has Mr. Heller left yet? Bald, glasses... stop him! Send him back up here."

"What are you up to?" Sullivan asked.

"A plan," Scribbs said as she hung up.

"My name is Arthur Heller," the ad read. "I am now the sole proprietor of The Two Arts coin shop. An extremely valuable coin was taken from my partner's house and I wish to purchase it back. Unlike most numismatists, I know the value of the coin and am willing to offer what it is worth to get it back. Please contact the shop at either of the two numbers as soon as possible."

Ash folded the newspaper over and said, "Sounds good. Think he'll go for it?"

"If he's a hired thug, he's more than likely to go where the money is."

"No honor among thieves," Ash said.

They were sitting in the car outside of The Two Arts. Anyone who knew anything about the case knew the ad was implying Arthur Heller had a couple million dollars lying around. Sullivan had decided it would be better safe than sorry and scheduled round-the-clock surveillance of the store.

Heller was about to close up for the night when one last customer walked in. Through the bug they'd planted under the counter, they heard Heller say, "Welcome to the Two Arts. How can I help you?"

"I've got a coin I think you wanna buy."

Ash and Scribbs sat up straighter in their seats. Through the window, they could see the back of the customer's head. He was wearing the same jacket he'd been wearing in the surveillance video. "Jackpot," Ash murmured.

"Do you have the coin here? I must make sure you have it, you understand, before I hand over this kind of money."

The man approached the counter and withdrew something from his coat. Something heavy was placed on the counter and Heller breathed a sigh of relief. "I was starting to think I'd never see it again..."

"Yeah," the man said, uninterested. "Where's my cash? I checked one of them price guides, I know how much this thing is worth."

"I take it your previous employer was nowhere near the actual worth, am I right?"

The man scoffed. "Hardly worth getting out of bed."

"Still. It cost a man his life. Can hardly top that price, can I?"

"Look, the guy is dead. The coin is yours. If you have the cash, I mean. Now."

Ash glanced at Scribbs and nodded. They got out of the car and made it across the street as Heller was handing over the bag of play money. As they came through the door, the thief was saying, "Hey, what the hell are you...?"

"Middleford CID," Ash said. "Hands away from your sides."

The man turned and glared at her, then snapped at Heller, "You set me up!" Heller ducked under the counter.

"Don't make this hard on yourself. Hands out from your side!"

He ignored her, instead choosing to throw the money bag at her head. As she swept it out of her line of vision, he rushed forward and body-checked her into the wall. He ran out onto the sidewalk and met Scribbs' stick head on. He fell, hands going to his now-bloody nose. He howled in anger and confusion as Ash knelt next to him and fastened the cuffs around his wrists. "You're under arrest for the murder of Arthur Follis."

Under interrogation, the thief - Stephen Fenton - gave up the name of his employer. Charlton Press, currently of New Orleans, Louisiana, had hired him to get the coin. Arthur Follis, it had been perfectly clear, was expendable. All that mattered was the coin. He was supposed to get the coin appraised to make sure it was the right one, then mail it to Press in America.

As Fenton was led from interrogation, Sullivan said, "Nice work, ladies."

Ash didn't look very pleased. "Yeah, well... we still don't have Charlton Press."

"Yeah," Sullivan admitted sadly. "The kind of fellow willing to kill over a coin is one I'd like to see behind bars. Unfortunately, we have no jurisdiction to go traipsing over to America. All we can really do is give the local authorities a head's-up."

He turned to go to his office and the detectives followed. Scribbs said, "Boss, this guy was willing to kill to get his way. What's to say he won't do it again?"

"Sorry, Scribbs, but I can't issue warrants for crimes people might commit. It would make my job a lot easier, though, I'll tell you that..."

"The coin is willed to Heller," Ash said. "Press discovers that the plan failed, the coin has been retrieved and has been given to Mr. Heller. Why wouldn't he send another killer to finish the job?"

Sullivan stopped on the main landing and turned to face them. "What are you proposing, ladies?"

Ash and Scribbs looked at each other.

New Orleans, Louisiana, United States,

Two Weeks Later,

Nikki Beaumont brushed the crumbs of her toast off the article. "Hey, hon. Check this out."

"No time," her partner said from the bathroom. She came out, hair still wet, and knelt next to the bed to find her shoes. She hated the tiny, cramped bedroom they now shared. Their house, their majestic and gorgeous house, had been flooded by Hurricane Katrina. It was salvageable, but until the mold situation was taken care of, they were staying in a tiny apartment Nikki's father had found for them. Nora found her shoes and glared at Nikki. "We're running late and you're eating toast in bed."

"How would it look if we both showed up at the exact same time, hmm?" Nikki said. "I plan to come in around lunchtime."

"Oh, you do, do you?" Nora said. She grabbed the blankets and yanked them off the mattress.

Nikki protested feebly, but got out of bed anyway. She gestured at the front page. "Read."

Nora sighed and picked up the paper. She scanned until she saw a name she recognized. "Oh. Arthur Heller, owner of a rare three-farthing coin believed to have been minted in 1563, is arriving in New Orleans today to loan the coin to a local numismatic museum. Due to controversy surrounding the coin's previous owner, Mr. Heller is being escorted by two police detectives on loan from the Middleford police department."

"What's a numismatic anyway?" Nikki called from the shower.

"It's the art of collecting coins," Nora said. She put the paper down and bent down to put her shoes on. "Now let's hope out friend Press gets the morning paper."

Nikki came out of the bathroom with her hair still wet, wrapped in a towel. Nora looked up as she walked by, admiring the line of her lover's legs as she walked past. "Get dressed. We have to meet the British detectives in thirty minutes."

"Yeah, yeah," Nikki said as she began to dig through her closet.

"Good Lord," Ash said, throwing open the balcony doors. "We're in the seventh circle of hell."

Scribbs was lying on her back on top of the covers. She was wearing pink-and-white striped boxer shorts and a thin tank top that clung to her chest. Ash had dressed, but her blouse was unbuttoned at the collar and she frequently grabbed the collar to fan herself. She walked to the bed and grabbed Scribbs' foot. "Wake up. Scribbs! We have to meet the Yank detectives in half an hour. Come on. Up and at 'em."

Scribbs moaned and put a hand to her forehead. "England's fallen into the sun..."

"It's the humidity," Ash told her. "All the more reason to get the hell back to Middleford as soon as possible. Which means catching Press, which means meeting Detectives Beaumont and Delaney, which means getting out of bed and getting dressed."

"I can't meet them like this?"

"I'd prefer not," Ash said smartly. She slapped the bottom of Scribbs' foot and stood up. "Come on. The shower is free and there's ice cold water."

Scribbs rolled onto her side and nearly ran to the bathroom. Ash watched her and said, "Well. Probably should've opened with that..."

They met outside, where the breeze did help temper the humidity. The four women exchanged introductions and took a seat in an outdoor café. "We have officers outside Mr. Heller's hotel room," Nora said. "If Press tries anything, we'll know about it."

"What kind of name is Charlton, anyway?" Nikki asked. "Their parents liked Charles and Carlton and decided to just... mash them together?"

"Like Brangelina," Scribbs suggested.

"Bennifer," Nikki said.

Nora quietly said, "Nik..."

Ash kicked Scribbs' foot under the table.

"Back to business," Nora said. She cleared her throat and said, "There'll be a big press conference when Heller hands the coin over to the museum. That's probably where Press will try something. We'll have a police presence, naturally, at all entrances and exits. We won't stop Press from attending, but we'll be sure to keep a damn solid eye on him while he's there."

"Sounds like a plan," Scribbs said. The waiter brought their iced tea and Scribbs downed half the glass without pausing for breath. When she put the glass down, she opened her mouth to apologize and instead let out a loud belch.

Ash winced. "Pardon my partner. She was, in fact, born in a barn."

"It's all right," Nikki said with a grin.

Scribbs bent down and picked up a satchel she'd brought with her from the hotel. "Okay. The positions for the press conference." She withdrew a handful of action figures and piled them on the table.

"Oh, God," Ash murmured.

"What are those?" Nora asked.

"I usually do crime scene recreation with them," Scribbs said. "But it'll help us position ourselves during the press conference."

Nikki shrugged. "I'm game."

Scribbs held up a Buffy the Vampire Slayer figure and said, "Right. First things first... Who wants to be Buffy?"

They parted company with plans to reunite outside the museum. Nikki waited until they were safely a block away before she said, "So?"

"So?" Nora said, not looking away from the street.

"What do you think about them? Ashurst and Scribbins."

"Scribbins is a little out there," Nora said. "Ashurst... I think I could get to like Ashurst. Seemed like she had a solid head on her shoulders."

"I liked Scribbins," Nikki said with a smile. "Those action figures were awesome."

"If you even think about starting that..."

"Relax," Nikki said. "I play with different toys."

Nora smirked in spite of herself.

"Do you think, uh... you know. They're...?"

"What, gay? Nikki, honey, just because you and I couldn't resist each other doesn't mean every other woman-woman partnership ends up in bed."

Nikki nodded. "You're right. Look at Cagney and Lacey."

Nora glared at her until Nikki's stone-serious face finally cracked and she laughed.

In their cab on the way back to the hotel, Scribbs said, "Did you notice anything about those two?"

"No," Ash said. "Like what?"

"They seemed pretty... close."

"I didn't notice." She turned to look at Scribbs. "I'm surprised you noticed anything outside of that iced tea."

Scribbs whined, "It's so hot!"

Ash patted her partner's knee and looked out the window again.

Arthur Heller met them at the museum with the mahogany box held protectively against his chest. "Detectives," he said when he saw them. "I have to admit, I'm a bit apprehensive about being a target in this whole thing."

"Don't you worry a bit, Mr. Heller," Ash assured him. "We'll be watching you every second. There's no way Press or anyone working for him will cause you harm today. Understand?"

He exhaled sharply and nodded. "Yes. Thank you, Detective Ashurst."

They turned as Nikki and Nora pulled up in front of the building in a classic black El Camino. Ash and Scribbs went down the steps to meet them as they got out of the car. "Nice wheels," Scribbs said.

"Thanks," Nora said. She slammed the car door and looked up at Heller. "That the bait?"

"Arthur Heller, yes," Ash said. "The press conference is set to begin at eleven, so Detective Delaney and I will be with Heller at the podium. Detective Beaumont..."

"Nikki, please."

Ash hesitated. "Nikki. You and Scribbs will be at the front of the building keeping an eye out for suspicious behavior. Keep in contact and let us know the second you notice anything."

"Got it," Nikki said.

Scribbs nodded and took the radio Ash held out to her. They split up and Ash guided Heller into the building.

Scribbs and Nikki took up their positions in the lobby and sat next to the empty security guard's station. Nikki said, "So, how are you enjoying our neck of the woods?"

"Ugh," Scribbs groaned. "Does it ever get cool?"

"It's not too bad today," Nikki said.

"In that case, I hate your neck of the woods."

Nikki laughed. "Aw, come on, you don't mean that. You just haven't had a chance to see it in all it's glory yet. Go downtown at night, catch a street carnival, you'll be singing a different tune. I guarantee you."

Scribbs sighed. "If I can peel myself off my sheets, I'll try and get out."

"You should take your partner, too. She looks like she could use some loosening up."

"What, Ash?" Scribbs laughed. "You should talk. That Nora of yours..."

Nikki chuckled. "You have to get to know her. Get her to lower her defenses. She may be stern and all business at work, but at home is a different matter. I suppose it's the same with Ashur-- Ash. Right?"

"Yeah, pretty much," Scribbs nodded. "I don't get to see her as much outside of work as I'd like."

"Oh," Nikki said. "So... you're not..."

Scribbs looked at her.

"I mean, I kind of assumed the two of you were partners."

"We are." Her eyes widened and she said, "Oh! Um. No. Just... on-the-force partners, unfortunately. I mean..."

Nikki raised an eyebrow.

Scribbs sank back against the chair and said, "Never mind. Forget I said anything..."

Nikki dropped the line of questioning, but she reminded herself to bring it up to Nora later.

Heller took a seat behind the podium, eyeing everyone in the room and running his hands nervously over the top of the coin box. Nora and Ash were sitting at the edge of the stage, far enough away to have a private conversation. Nora adjusted the lay of her jeans and looked up at Ash. "Are you and Scribbins lovers?"

Ash blinked at the blunt question and looked at her. "What? What gave you that idea?"

"Nikki," Nora said. "Ever since we started sleeping together, she sees lesbian couples everywhere."

"Oh. You and Nikki..."

"For three years," Nora said. "Nikki was positive you and Scribbs were a couple."

"No," Ash said. "Just partners on the force."

Nora thought she heard a bit of regret in that statement, but she didn't push it. The museum curator approached and introduced himself to the detectives and to Mr. Heller. Ash straightened her jacket and said, "Well, it's show time. Let's hope nothing comes of this..."

"Rather put a lot of work into protection detail and then have it useless than the alternative?"


Nora smiled. "My kind of cop."

Ash smiled back.

The curator opened the press conference with a few words about the history of numismatics, the three-farthing coin in particular, before turning to the matter at hand. "Now, before we introduce Mr. Heller, I'd like to introduce another guest to authenticate the coin for us. Mr. Press?"

Ash and Nora both tensed. Ash brought the radio to her lips and said, "Scribbs... get in the main room now. Press is here."

Press was a tall man with a barrel chest hidden behind his suit. His white hair was combed over a bald spot and he smiled as he shook the curator's hand. "Thank you for inviting me to be here today, Mr. Yale. I am thrilled to be able to see the three-farthing coin in person. I've spent... many years trying to get this little piece."

Ash huffed. She saw Scribbs and Nikki coming in through the main doors and motioned with her head. They skirted the edge of the reporters and headed for the side of the stage. Press continued to talk into the mic, oblivious to the fact he was being flanked. Scribbs came up onto the stage with Nikki a step behind. "Mr. Press?" Scribbs said, interrupting his speech.

He half-turned and froze when he saw Nikki's badge on her belt. Scribbs said, "We'd like to talk to you about Arthur Follis."

Press didn't need to hear any more. He released the podium and ran for the opposite end of the stage. He spotted Ash and Nora, both of whom were blocking the stairs. He looked at Scribbs over his shoulder and darted towards Heller. The numismatist shrieked as Press descended on him and snatched the mahogany case from his hands. He shoved his way through the curtain covering the back of the stage and ran for the exits.

"Stop him!" Nora cried. She had her radio out, alerting the perimeter guards to keep their eyes open for Press. Scribbs and Nikki gave chase, Nikki pulling out her gun and Scribbs extending a long, white stick. Nikki glanced at it, but didn't have time to comment before they burst through one of the side doors of the main gallery.

Press was running down the narrow corridor, his hands clutching the box to his chest. Nikki shouted, "Stop! Freeze or I'll fire!"

He didn't slow, but Scribbs put her hand on Nikki's wrist. "Watch and learn." She swung her arm back, gauged the distance and hurled her stick. It cut through the air like a helicopter propeller and insinuated itself between his legs. He stumbled over the sudden hurdle and stumbled forward, hitting his knees and skidding a few yards. He rolled onto his back and saw the two detectives descending on him. Nora and Ash burst through an emergency exit a few feet away from him.

Finally accepting he was cornered, Press ripped open the box lid and grabbed the coin. "I'll swallow it! I'll... I'll destroy it so that it's worthless to anyone!"

"Feel free to swallow it, Mr. Press," Ash said.

He suddenly realized he wasn't holding onto a coin, but a warm, wet mess. He turned his hand and spread the fingers to look at the black smears on his palm. "What the..."

"Chocolate coins," Scribbs said. "About three pence apiece. Right?" she asked Nikki.

"Give or take," Nikki said. She holstered her weapon and helped Ash pull Press to his feet. She grimaced as she pulled his hand back to cuff him. "So we can't arrest you for theft or even attempted murder. Not yet, anyway."

He frowned. "Then wh-why are you arresting me?"

"You destroyed property, Mr. Press," Ash said. "Tearing through the museum's curtain like that. Not to mention you broke the hinge on Mr. Heller's nice box. That'll do to hold you until we can make the murder-for-hire charges stick."

As they walked him to the exit, Heller appeared at the door. "Don't worry, Mr. Heller," Nora said. "Your coin is safe at the police department."

Heller shook his head and stepped forward. "Thank you very much, Detective Delaney. But at the moment, I could care less," Heller said. "I just... I wanted to see the kind of person who would put a man's life before a coin. A coin, Mr. Press." There were tears in his eyes when he turned to Ash. "Can you help me understand that?"

"No," Ash admitted. "I can't."

He stepped aside and let the women lead Press out of the building.

Scribbs was sitting behind Nikki's desk, feet up, basking in the air conditioning. Nikki walked up and said, "Comfy?"

"Sorry..." Scribbs said, starting to rise.

"No, stay," Nikki said. She took a seat on the other side of the desk and said, "If I sat there, people might get used to it. Expect it from me." She shuddered and added a Southern lilt to her voice, "So are y'all willing to admit that Nawlins ain't all bad?"

Scribbs grinned. "It has its perks," she admitted. "Granted, their best observed from a nice, cool, climate-controlled building."


"And proud of it!" Scribbs said. "So. Ash and Nora?"

"Booking," Nikki said. "When the hired killer in England..."

"Stephen Fenton."

"Right... when he found out that we'd caught Press, he decided to testify against him. It'll be a lighter sentence for Follis' death, but your fellow officers have connected him to at least a half dozen other murders-for-hire. He's not going anywhere fast."


Nikki rested her chin in her hand. "So, when is your flight out?"

"Tomorrow morning. Hopefully before the temperature rises too much..."

Nikki said, "Well, there's a street carnival down on Beasley tonight. Midnight until dawn, most likely. It's a vacation must! The tourism board would never forgive me if I didn't at least try to get you down there. Like nothing you've ever seen. You'd hate yourself if you missed out."

Scribbs groaned and scratched the back of her neck. "At night, right? So... cooler than the day?"

Nikki grinned and pulled a notepad over to her side of the desk. "I'm going to write down an address. You meet me there and we can discuss getting you laid before you go home."

"Detective Beaumont!" Scribbs said.

Nikki winked. "Another vacation must."

Scribbs blushed, but let Nikki write down the address.

After they finished printing Press and handed him over to a pair of uniforms, Nora led Ash back to the bullpen. "So, you have any plans tonight?" she asked.

"Rest," Ash said. "It's been a long couple of days and it'll be a long flight home."

"Well, you could go back to the hotel and try to sleep. But a word of advice? You'd be better off at a street carnival."

Ash raised an eyebrow, dubious. "One of those loud, all-night parties in the middle of the street?"

Nora smirked. "You'll have a whole plane ride home to sleep. You need to unwind. Let off some steam. The street carnival is the best way to do that. Trust me, I've used them after a lot of cases and they always leave me feeling better afterward."

Ash sighed. "All right. I'll give it a shot."

"Great. I'll give you a street address where you can meet me tonight."

Music from a zydeco band filled the air up and down the street, the sea of dancing people in a myriad of costumes enclosing Ash in a wall of motion and sound as soon as she left the hotel. She pushed her way through the crowd, having consulted a map of the area to find the address Nora had written down for her. She wore a white blouse - untucked; that was as far casual as she was willing to go - and black slacks. Her hair was down, but it kept getting in her eyes as she tried to fight her way through the crowd.

A blonde in a tie-dye t-shirt backed into Ash, nearly knocking her down. "Oy, watch it!" Ash shouted as she untangled her feet from the blonde's.

Scribbs turned, eyes wide as she realized who she'd run into. "Kate!"

Ash blinked and looked Emma up and down. She was wearing a rainbow sarong over her jeans and the shirt, of course. On the front, a black silhouette of a man holding two drumsticks in the air was surrounded by the words NAWLINS ROCKS!! Ash couldn't help but laugh. "What are you wearing?!" they said together, Scribbs looking horrified at Ash's business casual attire.

The music continued and finally, laughing at one another, Scribbs took her partner's hand and began dancing with her to the beat. Ash looked around, but reluctantly began to move along with Scribbs.

Half a block away, on a platform overlooking the street, Nikki and Nora were dancing close to one another. Nikki gestured with her chin and Nora looked, smiling when she spotted their English counterparts dancing together next to the bandstand. "Think they'll do anything about their feelings tonight?" Nikki asked.

Nora rolled her eyes. "Geez, Nikki. Give the ladies some time, would you? Not everyone falls in love as fast as we did."

"Yeah," Nikki admitted. "But think of how much time it saves to just go straight to bed."

"You have a point. But I think Ashurst and Scribbins need to set their own pace." At the moment, Ash had her hand in the small of Scribbs' back and they were rocking back and forth in time with the beat. "Besides. It looks like they have things pretty well under control."

Nikki nodded.

Nora reached up and hooked her finger under Nikki's chin. Nikki smiled when she met Nora's eyes and Nora said, "How about you worry about this couple for an hour or two?"

"Mm," Nikki said, tightening her arms around Nora's waist. "An hour or two?"

"For starters," Nora said. She kissed Nikki's lips, both of them still moving with the beat of the music. Far below and down the street, Ash trailed her hand down Scribbs' cheek and their eyes met in the middle of a dance step. Their hips were pressed against each other, Ash's breasts tight against Scribbs. Both of them saw the other in a different light and they knew that this was more than a dance.

After a moment, their bodies took over again and they danced through the rest of the song.

Revelations could wait, at least until the music stopped.

The End

Return to Murder in Suburbia Fiction Return to Nikki & Nora Fiction

Return to Main Page