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

By textfiend


"Right, then," Sullivan said. "All that's left is to decide who's going to wear the wire."

Ash turned to Scribbs, who sat opposite her, and their eyes locked over their desks.

"I'll leave you to it."

Sullivan made tracks toward the stairs. The women faced each other silently for a moment before Scribbs broke the gaze to look at the whiteboard behind Ash, where the details of the case were laid out.

"It's your turn," the blonde blurted, her tone accusatory.

Ash tensed. "It is not."

"It is."

"No, I resuscitated the dog."

"Woke the dog," Scribbs said. "And then I let you drown me. So it's your turn."

Oh, hell, Ash thought. Scribbs had her there. Involuntarily her eyes dropped to the file folder open in front of her, and she hurried to flip it closed, hiding a particularly alarming surveillance photo beneath comfortingly heavy manila. There was absolutely no way she was going to do this assignment.

"How about you take this one and I'll take the next two?"

Scribbs shook her head vehemently, setting blonde locks swinging. "No way. Fair's fair. The creepy snake guy is all yours."

"But I hate snakes, Scribbs. I don't want to go anywhere near them, let alone pretend to want to buy one."

"Neither do I. And since it's your turn," Scribbs said, enunciating those three words as though she were speaking to someone quite dim-witted, "I don't have to."

Ash scowled. This is all Sullivan's fault. What kind of boss lets his subordinates do as they will? When I'm the DCI I'll have a much firmer hand, believe you me. This is a police force, not a commune.

"I could pull rank," she mused quietly, almost as if talking to herself.

Scribbs fixed her with a very eloquent look: Not if you ever want to see me naked again.

And since, damn it all, Ash did, she scrapped that idea immediately.

"Look, Scribbs." She paused, marshalling her thoughts. "It's not just that I don't want to go undercover this time. I really don't think I'll be able to. If I go into that house with god knows how many of those slithering little bastards..." She shuddered. "He's going to see I'm scared. I won't be able to hide it."

That seemed to give Scribbs pause. Feeling a surge of hope, Ash watched as her partner chewed her bottom lip.

"You're right -- he'll definitely get suspicious if you're wetting yourself at the sight of his little darlings."

Ash opened her mouth to protest -- Who said anything about wetting myself? -- but then her better judgment kicked in. "Right. Right! Remember when we watched Raiders of the Lost Ark? I had to leave the room during that one scene, that awful bit with the--"

"Yeah, I remember."

"And that was just a movie." It's working, it's working, she'll see reason and I won't have to do it! "Imagine what I'll be like when they're, you know, face to scaly, repulsive face. A million times worse!"

Scribbs held up a hand. "Buuuut..."


The blonde's eyes had gone unfocused, her head cocked at an angle that signaled something brewing. Something not good. "That could actually work in our favour."

With a sinking feeling, Ash began to worry the corners of the file folder. "What do you mean?"

"It's perfect." Scribbs's eyes refocused on Ash as she broke into a pleased smile. "It's a brilliant plan. Sullivan'll love it."

"What? What plan?"

"Don't bother pretending you're not scared. Play it up instead. Be the timid, helpless woman, and he'll automatically go into macho man mode. It'll appeal to his protective instincts."

"What if he doesn't have protective instincts?" Ash asked. "He did kill a woman. Well, possibly."

Scribbs made a dismissive gesture. Her enthusiasm for her own plan was growing -- Ash could see it in her flashing eyes and hear it in her voice. The brunette considered the consequences -- both professional and romantic -- of faking a sudden case of food poisoning.

"You'll tell him you want to buy an exotic pet for your boyfriend," Scribbs went on, hopping up and walking to the whiteboard. "You're scared of snakes, but you're trying to overcome your fear because... because you love him so much, you'll do anything to make him happy." She tapped the suspect's mug shot with her index finger. "Our man'll want to reassure you that they're not as dangerous as you might think."

"He will, will he?" Ash put as much skepticism in her voice as she could.

Scribbs pivoted on her heel to face Ash. "Yep. He will. And what better evidence to offer..." With a dramatic flourish, she tapped a photo of the victim. "Than the fact that they were smuggled into the country in a middle-aged schoolteacher's handbag."

"Okay, assuming he does volunteer that -- and I'm not the least bit convinced that the timid little girl act will automatically bring that up -- it's hardly a confession that he murdered his supplier when she jacked up her rates."

"Of course he's not going to admit to that! But you keep him talking and he's bound to say something incriminating. Or at least give us some leads to follow."

Ash crossed her arms over her chest. "Since you've got it all figured out, you really should wear the wire yourself."

Scribbs's smile vanished. "No."

She went back to her chair. Ash swiveled to follow her progress. "But you've imagined this whole scenario -- I couldn't do it justice."

"You can. Just think of every stereotype about women that you hate, and go for it." With an air of finality, Scribbs sat down with her chair at an angle, facing her computer rather than Ash. She began looking extremely involved in something on the screen.

Ash fought to keep from glaring. You catch more flies with honey, she reminded herself. "You've always been a better actress than I am. I've always been very impressed by your skills in that department."

Scribbs didn't reply. She didn't even appear to be listening.

"I know sometimes I give you a hard time, Scribbs, but really, I have a great deal of respect for you as a detective."


"All right, what do you want?" Ash's tone turned sharp. She leaned forward. "Name it. I'll do it."

It might have been her imagination, but Scribbs's ears seemed to prick up a little.

"I'll let you leave those ridiculous bunny pajamas at my place. And I won't laugh when you wear them."

Still avoiding eye contact, Scribbs sighed, but said nothing.

"I'll... I'll do your laundry for a month. Two months." That only earned more silence. The brunette groped for something better to offer. "I'll have dinner with Mike and Chris. No, we'll have them over, at my place. And I won't talk about politics."

"You mean argue about politics," Scribbs muttered.

"I'll be on my best behaviour."

Scribbs went on clicking her mouse -- playing Solitaire, Ash guessed, since she rarely used the computer for actual work -- and didn't say anything else. Ash racked her brain, becoming more frantic with each passing second, because Sullivan was bound to return any moment. Think, Ashurst, think. Garden-variety favours are obviously not enough for this. You've got to come up with something big, something special. There has to be something she wants, something she truly desires...


Inspiration struck.

"Scribbs..." Ash lowered her voice. "You know that discussion we had on the phone last weekend? When I was in London?"

Scribbs's finger paused, hovering over the mouse button.

"I was thinking... I know I said you'd have to get me royally pissed to even consider... you know... the thing you said you'd... like."

With her eyes peeled for any reaction, Ash saw right away that Scribbs's ears were turning pink. She leaned closer.

"But really... I could be convinced to do it, say, tomorrow night? No drinks required."

Scribbs still didn't turn her head, but she appeared to be swallowing hard. When she spoke, her voice was faint. "Would you wear the...?"

Ash felt herself flush as well as a set of images flooded her mind that had absolutely nothing to do with snakes. She had to lick her lips to moisten them before she responded. "If you'll trade turns with me, I'll wear any bloody thing you want."

Scribbs's breathing seemed to have picked up, and her hand had fallen away from the mouse, the computer forgotten even though her eyes remained trained on the screen. "Anything?"


Suddenly Scribbs pushed her chair out from her desk and was on her feet. "Call Sullivan. Tell him I've gone to get the equipment. Call the motor pool and get a surveillance van sorted. Then call your mum and tell her we can't come for dinner tomorrow night."

Then she was off, striding through the office with purpose. Ash's eyebrows skyrocketed as the last instruction registered. "My mum!" she called after Scribbs. "I forgot! Scribbs! I can't cancel -- she'll kill me. Scribbs! Wait!"

But Scribbs was gone.

Oh, hell.

The End

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