DISCLAIMER: Murder in Suburbia and its characters are the property of ITV. No infringement intended.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
Pleasure in the Pathless Woods
The door swung open and the face from the police artist's sketch stared back at them. Ash smiled. "Hello, Benjamin Martin. I'm DI Kate Ashurst, this is DS Scribbins. Might we have a word with you?"
He slammed the door in their face.
Scribbs said, "Take that as a no, then..."
"Go 'round back," Ash said. She pounded her fist on the door. "Mr. Martin! It's no use! You don't have anywhere to go!"
"Ash..." Scribbs said from the corner of the house. "I wouldn't be too sure of that."
Ash frowned and joined her partner on the lawn. The backyard was unfenced and sloped suddenly down towards a sea of fallen brown leaves. The leaves quickly gave way to a large copse of trees. "Bollocks," Ash hissed. "He lives on the outskirts of bloody Sherwood Forest..."
She was about to tell Scribbs to go make sure he didn't run when they heard the back door slam open. Benjamin Martin, prime suspect in the murder of Nancy Waters, ran across the back porch. "Benjamin Martin!" Ash called. "Freeze!" He leapt the low brick wall that ringed his property, landed in the fallen leaves and disappeared into the trees.
"Bloody hell," Ash sighed. She and Scribbs both ran down the slope. As they entered the treeline, Ash nodded to the west. "You go that way. Benjamin Martin! This is the police! You're only making things worse on yourself!"
They traipsed off in opposite directions, calling the suspect's name as they went. Fifteen minutes later, the sun down, cold air gripping them through their coats, they met up next to a huge oak tree. "See anything?" Ash asked. She put her hands on her knees and bent down, trying to catch her breath.
"No," Scribbs panted. She unfastened her jacket and tucked her hands inside. She put both hands under her arms and bounced slightly. "He probably had an escape route planned out for ages. God, it's freezing out here! Let's get back to the car."
"Right," Ash said. She straightened her back, turned at the waist and nodded towards the tree. "This way."
Scribbs frowned. "Wait, I thought we were going back to the car. Ash, I'm cold."
"We are going back to the car," Ash said. "It's this way."
"No... that's the way you came from. The car is that way." She pointed to her left.
"Oh, you have got to be joking," Ash muttered. She pulled her cell phone from her coat pocket and flipped it open. "No signal," she reported in a falsely-cheery voice. "It just keeps getting better and better."
Scribbs turned in a slow circle. "It can't be that bad," she said. "How deep could we be, really?"
"Deep enough," Ash said. "If we start walking in the wrong direction, we'll be even deeper. Bad enough we loose the suspect, we have to get ourselves lost in the process."
"Stop complaining," Scribbs said. She sighed and said, "Okay. I know I came from that way. Right? So we just have to keep walking that way until we reach civilization. Come on. I'm freezing to death."
Ash tightened the belt of her coat and stomped after Scribbs. "What's your rush? You got a hot date or something?"
"No," Scribbs said. "I just don't fancy spending my evening running around in the woods freezing my ears off."
"Your ears?" Ash said.
"Well, yeah," Scribbs said. She gestured at herself and said, "Everything else is covered up."
Ash rolled her eyes.
"Just keep walking this way," Ash said. "We'll reach civilization eventually."
"Oh, shut it," Scribbs said.
"Temper, temper," Ash said. They had been walking, presumably in circles, for almost half an hour when Scribbs had gotten a cramp in her leg. Ash was sitting on the ground against a fallen tree, her hands clasped between her thighs in an effort to keep them warm. Scribbs, whose leg was feeling better, was walking back and forth in front of her. "There are houses all around this 'forest.' Someone's bound to come by eventually!"
"You'd think. You'd also think, surrounded by civilization, we would actually see one of these houses."
"Maybe this is some kind of... preserve, yeah? Maybe the part inside the housing complex, like... branches out. Maybe we're in deep woods!"
Ash said, "Are you actually saying these words?"
"I don't know," Scribbs grumbled. "I'm cold. I'm not thinking straight."
"It's not that bad out here."
"Says you, in your nice wool coat."
"What's wrong with your coat?"
"It's not meant for the Arctic Circle!"
Ash rolled her eyes and unbuttoned her jacket. "Fine... if you're going to whine about it all night." She held her coat open and said, "Come on."
"What, you want to cuddle? Now?" Scribbs said with a smile.
Ash pulled the coat shut again. "Fine. Freeze to death."
Scribbs whined, looked around and moved closer to Ash. "Oh, fine, fine... open up!"
Ash opened her coat again and Scribbs sat down next to her. Ash's arm went around Scribbs' shoulders, while Scribbs wrapped both of her arms around Ash's waist. Ash closed the coat and used her free hand to hold it shut around the two of them. Scribbs put her head on Ash's shoulder and sighed. "See? Nice and toasty."
"Right, now... you've got two coats. I don't want to hear any more complaining. Understand?"
Ash leaned her head against the tree and closed her eyes.
"We're going to find our way out of here. Right, Ash?"
"Of course we are," Ash said. "It's a bunch of trees, not the... Hundred Acre Wood."
Scribbs smiled at the mention of Winnie-the-Pooh and snuggled closer to Ash's warmth. She laced her fingers together on the opposite side of Ash's waist and rested her head against Ash's chest.
Ash opened her eyes and looked at the few stars visible through the bare branches of the tree above them. She was sure they would get out; come morning, with the sun on their side, it would be obvious how to get out. Or, at the very least, someone would be bound to come by on their way to school or work. That was the joy of suburbia; someone was always wandering by sooner or later.
She was about to explain this theory to Scribbs when she heard movement through the leaves behind them. "Scribbs," she whispered. "Someone's coming..."
They separated and Ash pushed herself to her feet. Before she could identify herself, the shadowy form whispered, "Hello?"
"Who's there?" Ash called.
"Benjy," he said. "From the neighborhood? I seem to've gotten myself a bit lost back here. You probably know how easy it is. Could you aim me toward the street, maybe...?"
"Benjy?" Ash said. "I'm supposed to just believe you're from the neighborhood? What if you're some kind of axe murderer?"
The man laughed. "Aw, come on, now, don't be that way! I'd be a pretty stupid attacker, announcing myself this way. Besides, I saw you snuggling with your fella while I walked up. I know you ain't alone. Come on. Help a neighbor out."
"What's your full name and address?"
He sighed. "Benjamin Martin. I live at Number 24, have for eight years!"
"Oh, right!" Ash said. "I recognize your voice now. Do you recognize mine?"
"You do sound a bit familiar. Kelly? From Number 30?"
"Close, but no," Ash said. "DI Ashurst. And the woman behind you is DS Scribbins."
Scribbs grabbed the back of his collar and said, "We met a couple hours back, Benjy."
"Bloody hell," he growled, moving his hands behind his back. "I thought you two'd be long gone by now!"
"You don't know us, Mr. Martin," Ash said. "We are very dedicated to our job."
Scribbs snapped the cuffs in place and quietly said, "Ash?"
"We still don't know the way out."
Ash shrugged. "Details. It'll be far easier to show our faces now that we have Mr. Martin in custody."
"If you say so," Scribbs said dubiously.
Sullivan sent out a patrol car an hour later. The constables entered the woods with flashlights and Ash was able to flag them down. With their help, the two detectives finally made their way out of the woods. They handed Martin over to the constables, brushed the leaves from their clothes and returned to their own car.
Scribbs started the engine and sighed as the heater came to life. "Ahh! Heat!"
Ash held her hands up to the vents and said, "That is much, much better than cuddling with you."
"You know what I mean," Ash sighed.
"I do." She watched the patrol car pull away and said, "So. What do you say we head to the office, finish off the paperwork and then head home for a nice bath?"
"My flat doesn't have any hot water," Ash groaned.
"You can use my tub. We could argue over who gets first... or we could just save time and water and warm up together."
Ash asked, "Do you have a big bathtub?"
Ash leaned against the headrest and closed her eyes. Her lips curled up in a slight smile and she muttered, "Splendid."
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