DISCLAIMER: Murder in Suburbia and its characters are the property of ITV. No infringement intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Extra points for anyone who can find the relationship between all the first names of the main characters. (It's so obscure it's silly). This is episode three of my version of a series three. Betaed by blob, naturally.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
SERIES: Part three of the 'Turning Points' Series.

The Actor's Folly
By Claire G



Helen sipped at the glass again and stared with stricken eyes at the painting. She felt a slight sensation in the soles of her feet, as if she were walking lightly on hot coals. With fluctuating breathing, her heart played out a beat that seemed impossibly fast. She felt her knees give way and sank to the ground, out of the view of the portrait of the Madonna and child. She clutched at her throat, unable to swallow, as her organs slowed their functions to a stop.

David knelt by her side and spoke directly into her ear. "Helen? Helen? Have you forgotten what to do? It's not your death scene yet."

Margaret looked confused at the scene before her; her soundless words of distress gave way to a scream when she realised it wasn't an act. She fainted dead away, falling to the floor, but was soon revived with a splash of water to the face. Slowly turning her head she looked into Helen's stony blue eyes. Through blurred vision, she watched Ian cease compressions to Helen's chest and press two fingers to her pale neck. A few seconds passed, a hush fell and he shook his head. Amongst the audience there came a ripple of realisation, which crescendoed as chatter turned into panic.

"Murder! Someone's killed her!" someone in the audience cried. A few of the onlookers stayed seated, bewildered by the events around them, unsure whether to believe their eyes.

On the stage floor, between the actors, lay two plastic Martini glasses; they spun in circles then slowly came to a halt.





"Let's get this wrapped up, people," announced DCI Sullivan. He clapped his hands together.

"Boss, we're supposed to be undercover," said Emma quietly as she wandered up to the gathering of police officers who were all wearing civilian clothes.

"You're quite right, Scribbs; I shall try to be less commanding," he said, thrusting his hands in the pockets of his jeans.

Kate turned to Emma and sniffed the air. "You smell sweet."

"Cuh, there's no getting anything past you." From behind her back, Emma drew out two sticks of candyfloss and presented one to Kate as if it were a bunch of flowers. Kate nudged her in the side with an elbow and whispered a thank you into her ear as she twirled a piece around her finger.

"We're not here to enjoy the fun of the fair, you two. Candyfloss isn't exactly conducive to rounding up a gang of drug-dealers," Sullivan interrupted.

"Just blending in, Boss," said Kate, winking slyly at Emma.

"Hm. Right then. Let's get mingling, everyone -- eyes open." Sullivan was the first to leave; the rest of the group then dispersed slowly.

"See you in a bit." Emma started off for her destination, but was caught by the arm by Kate.

"I thought you'd been asked to cover the area by the big wheel?"

"Later. I've seen somewhere I want to go first."


Fortuneteller's Cabin

"Now, my dear, what would you like to ask the cards?" asked Melinda.

"Um. How's about: 'Will I find love this year?'" Emma leant forward and placed her forearms on the table, hands clasped together.

"Ahh, yes. Of course."

Emma scrunched up her nose. "You probably get that one a lot."

The fortuneteller dipped her head and gave a small smile as she began to lay out the cards. "Hm. Tell me, are you in a relationship at the moment?"

"Not anything I would call a relationship," she replied, peering over at the cards, trying to read their inverted titles.

"The cards imply a change -- no, a development -- of an existing relationship. But first, a trial will befall you; it will be the turning point."

"I'm afraid to say that a trial will be befalling you," Emma smiled smugly. "You and your little gang are nicked."

Kate made her entrance through a set of spangly curtains and crouched beside an ornate trunk, which she opened to reveal a gamut of drugs and associated paraphernalia. "Naughty, naughty," she said, then bit her lip with mock dismay.

Melinda took up her skirts in her fists and made a dash for the door only to be caught, turned and pushed across the table by Emma, tarot cards scattering. After cuffing her, Emma was about to make a joke about the situation when Kate interrupted.

"Shall I?"

"All right -- as long as it's not the one about the 'small medium at large', or 'striking a happy medium'," said Emma.

"Scribbs, I was just going to read her her rights."



Once Sullivan had relieved them of their duties for the rest of the night, and they'd seen Melinda and her crew carted off, Emma and Kate walked together through the fairground.

"Let's hope she doesn't curse me."

"Scribbs, if she really were a psychic she wouldn't have to make her money by running a drugs racket."

"S'pose. Plus she would have seen us coming."


They walked in silence for a while, watching people on the rides. "Do you believe in fate?" asked Emma.

Kate wrinkled her nose. "No, I don't think so."

"I do. If something is destined to happen I think it will."

"Fate is for people who don't want to take responsibility for their lives." Emma turned and grinned at her. "You're always so cheerful -- it's unnerving." Kate linked her arm through Emma's and smiled back at her.

"Ash, we're young."

"Young-ish," she responded.


"And still single. The more you say those things, the less of a comfort they become."

"You're so full of hope, aren't you?"

Kate's mobile phone rang. "Kate Ashurst. Ah, I see. Right. We'll be right there."

"No rest for the wicked?" stated Emma rhetorically.


The Windmill Theatre - outside

Emma folded the flyer for the Middleford Players' Production of Agatha Christie's 'The Mirror Crack'd from Side to Side' and slipped it into her back pocket.

"It's been a while since I've been to the theatre," mentioned Emma.

"We have enough murder mysteries of our own to solve," replied Kate.

"You must've gone quite a bit when you were younger because of your brother."

"Well, yes. Wait -- how did you know that? I never told you about that."

"Your mum showed me photos of all the productions Tom was in."

"Ahh. She didn't show you anything else, did she?" asked Kate suspiciously.

"No, nothing. Well, just you aged about four in your ballet outfit."

"No. She didn't, did she?"

"Actually, she didn't. I didn't know you did ballet! Were you cute?"

"I was adorable," said Kate, holding the door open for Emma.

"Yet here you are, a police officer and not a world famous ballet dancer."

"What can I say? It wasn't my raison d'etre."


The Windmill Theatre

Kate weaved her way through the throng of distressed theatregoers and climbed up the steps to the stage. Emma followed.

"Excuse me. Excuse me." Kate called out but her voice was lost in the noise. She turned to Emma. "Can you get their attention, please?"

Emma put her thumb and forefinger in the corners of her mouth and whistled loudly.

Kate flinched. The audience turned around slowly. "Okay, okay, everyone, please calm down. I am Detective Inspector Ashurst of Middleford CID. Our officers will be circulating in order to take your statements and contact details". There was a chorus of disapproval from the crowd. "You will then be free to leave. We thank you for your continued patience and understanding." The crowd went back to its squabbling.

"Let's take a look," said Emma, motioning towards the back of the stage.

Kate and Emma made their way through the thick curtain to find the group of cast and crew talking quietly, a few of them crying onto each other's shoulders.

A white-haired, bespectacled, middle-aged man, who was little more than Emma's height, approached them. "Inspector, Sergeant. Ian Parrish. Director."

"I understand you were the one to call for the ambulance, Mr Parrish?" asked Emma.

He nudged his spectacles up the bridge of his nose with his forefinger. "Yes, though death was practically instant. It just rocketed through her body. I was watching from the wings when it happened. I approached but was unable to revive her."

"Do you know who called us?"

"I think it was an audience member; someone in the front row. I would like you to understand something: I didn't request the police because I don't believe this is anything more than an accident. No one in the world would want to harm Helen."

"I completely agree with Ian; Helen was much loved by us all," added a young blonde woman named Geraldine, who appeared from nowhere clutching a well-thumbed script to her chest. She stroked a tear away from her cheek with her shoulder.

Helen's body had been cordoned off by a screen, which had been bought originally for a production of The Mikado. Kate and Emma went behind to take a look. The victim's face was contorted into a ghastly grimace; her dark curly wig slightly askew and mouth partially open in mid-gasp. Ian and Geraldine followed.

"I understand we're missing someone: a Margaret Aitken?" asked Kate.

"She's taken up sanctuary in the dressing room," replied Geraldine.


Dressing room

Margaret sat in the glow of the lights around a mirror which stretched the length of the wall.

"This must have been a big shock for you, Ms Aitken." Kate stood with her hands clasped at her waist.

Tears streaked through her thickly-applied make-up. "One death scene and I'm even cheated out of that. Couldn't she have waited, the silly bint?" she said sorrowfully as she used a cotton wool pad to smear bright red lipstick from her mouth. "I don't hold with time-wasters, Inspector. The role of Marina Gregg should have been mine."

"You do realise that this is potentially a murder case, Ms Aitken?" asked Emma.

"Don't be silly now. No one would want to kill Helen."

"That's what everyone else is saying, funnily enough."

"Then it must be surely be true, Sergeant."

"Everyone has secrets," said Kate.

"Helen didn't. Never was there a more boring open book than Helen Bassett. She simply wasn't worth the bother."

David Murrum, still wearing the suit he wore on stage, caught them on the way out. "She's sorry really." He pulled nervously at his collar and untied his bow-tie.

"Could have fooled us," said Kate, crossing her arms.

"Her pride was hurt when she was given one of the smallest roles. Margaret isn't one for stepping out of the limelight." He spoke quietly so as not to alert Margaret to his presence.

Kate pursed her lips and raised an eyebrow. "A little compassion wouldn't go amiss."

"She hides it well; you must have seen that she's been crying."

"She seemed mostly upset over not getting to finish her performance," added Emma.

"Give her a chance, please."


CID office

Next morning and everyone was back in uniform and suits. The change in style from the previous evening not being quite so distinct in Emma's case, who was wearing black boots, pin-stripe cropped trousers and a double-layered pink and cream t-shirt.

"The drink was laced with thallium sulphate, a high dose," began Emma.

"Something in the order of 400mg," Kate explained to DCI Sullivan. "It attacked Helen's nervous system but it was the cardiac arrest that killed her. Had she not had a weak heart she wouldn't be dead now; death by thallium poisoning is usually a little more drawn out."

"And what do we know about this substance?" Sullivan asked, having not encountered it before.

"Well, it's odourless, tasteless; perfect for a quiet evening's poisoning," explained Emma.

"So, not an accident then?"

"Definitely not," replied Kate. "Too high a dose. It's found in various household chemicals like rat poison and ant killer."

"It's also known as the 'Poisoner's Poison'," added Emma.

"Any suspects yet?"

"Margaret Aitken seemed very unaffected and angry. I'd place my bet on her."

"Previous convictions?" he asked.

"She's certainly not got a blemish-free past. Several charges of drunk in charge of a vehicle. Speeding. She finally lost her licence last year," explained Kate.

"We're going to interview the rest of the cast, today," added Emma.

Sullivan looked at the list on the board, which had everyone's names lined up against the characters they played. "Aha, I see Mrs Goodwill is next. Maybe she can give you a few pointers on your investigative technique," he laughed knowingly.

"Why?" asked Kate, walking over to the board to take a look. "Oh, very funny, boss," said Kate sarcastically.


June Goodwill's house

"Oh come on, Ash, she's even knitting. Maybe she can solve this for us." They peered through the bay window and watched June sitting primly in her armchair, a pair of small spectacles perched on the end of her nose.

Kate and Emma looked at each other.

"Hardly. Just because she played Miss Marple it doesn't mean she's going to embody the exact same characteristics."

"Detectives Ashurst and Scribbins, how nice. I was expecting you."

Suddenly realising that June must have seen them and come outside to greet them, they turned on their heels and Kate gave an overly large embarrassed smile.

"Tea, ladies?"




June Goodwill's house

"Nothing, I'm afraid. I was in the dressing room. Miss Marple doesn't attend the party. So it's definitely murder, you say? Well, my... I suppose these things happen."

"Do you know much of Helen's life?" asked Kate.

"I remember when she was born. She was a quiet child who became a reserved adult. She did love the theatre though. She based her world around it. Involved in every project, never far from the stage; she worked the box office too. It was slightly odd, though, for her to take the part of Marina Gregg. Not really like her at all."

"What do you mean?" asked Emma.

"Well, it's a big role. She's never taken one on before but Ian simply insisted."


June Goodwill's house - outside

Kate and Emma walked over the road to find that their car had been blocked in by a delivery lorry, the owner of which was nowhere to be seen.


"C'mon, we'll walk," said Emma tugging on the sleeve of Kate's coat.

They walked purposefully up the hilly slope towards the theatre. Emma let her hand rumble over the railings which flanked the pavement. They heard a car horn its honk a couple of times from behind them.

"Ugh!" said Kate. "Why do they have to do that?" They watched the car drive past, the driver peering at them.

"Maybe they think we're hot. It's flattering," said Emma smiling cheekily.

"Scribbs -- it's a hearse! It's anything but flattering."

They watched the hearse pull over to the side of the road. As they caught up with it the electric passenger window wound its way down. Another of the actors, a black-suited Peter Bamford, looked up at them from his seat. "Hello there. Are you two okay? Would you like a lift anywhere?" A light rain began to spit, Emma and Kate looked at each other and mentally agreed to take the ride. They shuffled onto the double-width passenger seat and strapped themselves in.

"We had intended to visit you today, Mr Bamford. I wasn't aware that you were an undertaker," said Kate.

"Peter, please. Well, we've all got jobs outside the amateur dramatics. There's Joan -- she restores paintings. Ian's a doctor; David's a primary school teacher. Um, who else? Helen was a civil servant, can't remember where, and Maggie's a drama teacher. Then of course there's Auntie June. She's an well known author, you know."

"Auntie June? June Goodwill is your aunt?" inquired Kate, leaning past Emma to look at Peter.

"Mm-hm," he said as he took a turn into the grounds of the theatre.

"So what sort of books does she write?" asked Emma.

"Romantic murder mysteries: sort of Barbara Cartland meets Ruth Rendell." Kate sank back into her seat and looked at Emma. "So. How do you think I did as a Detective Inspector? I assume you've seen the recording?"

"I'm sorry -- recording?" said Kate.

"Al Flanagan always records one of the performances, this time he recorded the opening night. Shame because last night's one would have been of much more use, I'm sure."

"Thank you. We'll be sure to check that out," said Kate. The car stopped and they got out. "If you think of anything else then let us know. Here's our contact card."

"Thanks for the lift, Peter," Emma called from behind Kate and waved with her right hand, her other hand firmly in her back pocket.


Windmill Theatre – ladies' toilets

Kate stood at the sink squeezing pink soap from the dispenser into the palm of her hand.

"Scribbs, you'll never believe who asked me out on a date this morning," she called back to the stalls behind her. "PC Holmes. I mean, honestly, do I look like a lesbian?" The toilet flushed and the only occupied cubicle opened.

"Takes all sorts," said Geraldine, who calmly smiled at Kate as she walked over to join her at the sinks.

Kate turned to her and looked suitably embarrassed and apologetic. She gently bit her lip.

"I think your colleague has gone to the wardrobe department."

"Right, thanks," Kate responded.

"I'm Geraldine, we met last night." She dried her hands with a paper towel and then offered a hand to Kate, who politely shook it.


Windmill Theatre - wardrobe department

"Hey, Ash. Look at this." Emma looped a false ginger beard over her her ears and placed it on her chin.

"Very fetching." Kate looked around the room at the rows of costumes on fixed wall racks, some of which required a fifteen-foot ladder to reach. Cupboards and masses of perfectly labelled drawers contained a variety of accessories and basic props.

"Oooh, they rent out for fancy dress parties."

"Scribbs, when did you last get invited to a fancy dress party?"

"Last week."


"You probably only get invited to masque balls."

"Hm. Or not."

Emma pulled off the beard, pulled on an World War II army officer's hat and placed a large pipe in the corner of her mouth, clenching the mouthpiece with her teeth.

"You don't know where that's been."

"Come on, Ash. Live a little." She took the hat from her own head and placed it on Kate's, tugging it down. She stepped back. "Suits you."

"Yes, I mixed up the food colouring with the lemonade. It's supposed to look like a cocktail, you see. I put the jug on the props table and that was about it," said Geraldine.

"Jug? So you didn't actually pour out into the glasses?" asked Emma.

"No. Actually, it was Helen who was in charge of pouring out before taking on stage."

"How come?"

"We have a bad track record of people rushing past the table to get changed and knocking everything over."

"I see," said Kate, whilst Emma made a note of it.

"Everything is laid out very particularly. We have the table marked out in a grid so that each person's props are in different sections."

"How many drinks were poured?"

"Just the two. There's a bit of the play that centres around it. One for the character Marina Gregg, and one for the character Heather Badcock."

"Bad --?" started Emma.

"Cock. Yes. Don't look at me, I didn't write it." Geraldine shrugged.

"Heather. That role was played by..." Emma checked her notes. "Margaret?"

Geraldine nodded.

"You're pretty much friends with everyone here, is that right?" asked Emma.

"I've always been happy to help people with their lines. It makes you popular if you know how to stroke a few egos."

"Is there anyone you can think of who might have had a reason to kill Helen?"

"Helen was a dear friend to everyone. Even to those of us who are too spiteful to realise it."


Windmill Theatre - outside

Kate suddenly held Emma back by her arm and looked her up and down.

"Is that the coat you went in wearing?"

"Oh, whoops," replied Emma as she ran back in. Before she reached the wardrobe department she noticed two people talking heatedly on stage. She snuck to one side and listened.

David and Margaret stood on stage. They threw verbal abuse at each other. David, clearly trying to keep his temper under control, clenched his fists. "Just a bit of bloody emotion, that's all I ask."

"I'm all emotion, David, that's all I am. Just leave me be." Margaret made an attempt to storm away but found herself wilting and tired.

"All I want is for you to be sorry!" he shouted.

"I am, David, but I just can't bloody say it."


CID office

"You know what they say. 'We always pull the pig tails of the one we love.' Isn't that right, Ash?" asked Sullivan.

"I really wouldn't know," replied Kate.

Emma looked over the top of her book at Kate, with eyebrows raised.

"Any good?" Kate asked, nodding at the book, which was June Goodwill's most recent novel 'Shadow Child'.

She put her feet up on the desk and sat back lazily in her chair. "It's a bit Jackie Collins for me, but it's not bad."

"Shouldn't you two be out there interviewing the masses?" asked Sullivan.


Joan Ebbutt's house

"I'm dead tired, what with the littl'n and Max being away on leave," said Joan.

"Leave?" asked Emma.

"With the Air Force. He's an engineer. We met three years ago, back in Glasgow. Now I barely see him for more than a few weeks at a time."

"Your role in the play was that of Lola Brewster?"

"That's right. My character has some great banter with Marina Gregg. I was on stage when Helen keeled over, you know."

"Did you see anyone tamper with her drink?"

"Her drink? Do you mean it was spiked? I can't recall seeing anything odd, no. Look, can I get yous two a hot drink? Yea?"

"Tea would be fine, thanks," replied Kate as Emma nodded.

"Would you keep an eye on Davie?"

"Sure, no problem," said Emma, smiling at the toddler who was grappling at Kate's knee, attempting to pull himself up. Emma made googly eyes at the youngster and he responded with a burbled giggle. She reached across the table towards a plate of biscuits and Kate slapped her wrist. "Ow, what was that for?"

"Because they're rusks, and correct me if I'm wrong but you no longer have any milk teeth."

Emma leant over and picked up Davie, popping him down on her lap. "You're getting your teeth, aren't you sweetheart?" She turned to Kate. "Isn't he gorgeous, Ash."


"He's got my hair and your eyes. You're going to grow up to be a right lady-killer, aren't you Davie?"

"Are you accusing my son of murder?" joked Joan as she walked in with a tray of drinks.

"What's your impression of David and Margaret's relationship? Are they friends? Lovers?" asked Kate.

"They're in a relationship, but these last few months they've been at each other's throats, y'know? Margaret seems to have been suffering from stress and it's really showing -- hair loss and everything."

"What about Geraldine?"

"She's been with us about a year. Lovely girl; I think David has a soft spot for her. They were both good friends with Helen."

"What did Helen think of Margaret?" asked Emma.

"Same as we all do. She's a bit of a stuck up old cow who thinks she should have been a professional actress."

"Was she not good enough?"

"Maybe, maybe not. All I know is that one night she had a car crash that crushed her pelvis and her confidence. She's alright now but she never fully recovered mentally." Joan reached over, picked up a Farley's rusk and took a bite. "Don't you just love these?"


Dr Parrish's GP practice

Emma left Kate at the surgery and went off to track down the taped recordings of the play.

Ian did not look up as Kate entered the room. "Grumbling ovaries again, Mrs Henderson?"

Kate raised her index finger. "Excuse me. Not Mrs Henderson."

He looked up and his cheeks flushed red. "Inspector, I'm so sorry. What can I help you with?"

"I wanted to know if there was anything different about last night's performance compared to the others."

"What sort of thing do you mean?" he asked.

"People hanging about backstage who shouldn't have been, perhaps? Or arguments."

"I can't think of anything that stands out in particular. If your department is investigating this, does it mean it's murder?"

"I'm afraid it does, and everyone on that stage and behind it is under suspicion."

"I see." He shifted uncomfortably in his seat.

"We've been told that you were the one to influence Helen in taking the part of Marina Gregg."

"I'm not one for pushing people in a direction they don't want to go, Inspector. If you really want to know, we received an anonymous letter requesting our next play to be The Mirror Crack'd. They asked especially for Helen to play the part of Marina."




Kate's flat

Kate opened the door. She was wearing a casual t-shirt and jeans covered by a blue and grey striped apron, which was crossed over at the back and tied in a bow at the front. She rubbed at her eyes. They were red and a little puffy.

"Oh, it's you," she said as she pressed the back of her hand to the corner of her eye.

"Expecting someone better? Ash, are you alright? You been crying?" asked Emma.

"Just onions. Did you want something in particular?"

"I've been round to the Flanagan house to collect the recording of the play." She waved the DVD in the air and peered into the flat. "So are you cooking real food, then?"

"That is what I tend to cook."

"Smells nice."

"Yes, it does."

"Are you cooking just for yourself?" asked Emma.

Kate crossed her arms. "Yes."

"Might I assume you're making enough to freeze for another time?"

"Are you begging for an invite?" asked Kate.

"No." Emma stood silently in the doorway.

Kate sighed. "Come in then."

Emma grinned. "You have to let me help." She pulled off her coat, hung it up and followed Kate into the kitchen.

"I'm not sure. Most of your cooking attempts subsequently require reclassification out of the usual animal, vegetable and mineral groups," Kate said, waving her hands about.

"Hey, I'm getting better."

"Admit it, Scribbs, your cooking is haphazard at best."

"I'm experimental, that's all."

"You almost killed that bloke you cooked for."

"It wasn't my fault. He was allergic."

"No, not him. The other one."

"Oh, yeah. No, you're right -- he wasn't allergic."

"Halve these," Kate said as she plonked down a large handful of washed cherry tomatoes. "You can't get that wrong."

Emma pushed her sleeves up to her elbows, ready to start work.

"Here you go." Kate was holding something in an outstretched hand.

Emma took the item, which at first she assumed was a folded tea towel. She unravelled it. "You have an apron especially for guests?"

"The door's over there if you decide not to let me cook for you."

"No, no. I'll stay," Emma said with a wide smile, putting on the apron.

Kate pulled the cork on a bottle of red wine; she sloshed a bit into one of the pans and then filled two wine glasses. The liquid sizzled as it warmed and Kate's cheeks became rosy with the heat from the steam.

They stood for a while in silence. "What I don't understand is why?" Kate turned and waved a knife in Emma's direction as she spoke. Emma watched the blade bounce up and down.

"Why what?" asked Emma, not realising that Kate had turned her thoughts back to the case.

"Why someone chose to kill her in that way -- on stage. It's a bit... risky, let alone over the top."

"Could've been suicide."

"What do you mean? Here. Taste this." Kate held the wooden spoon over her flattened palm and offered it for Emma to taste.

Emma tried the sauce and gave two thumbs up. "Mm. Lovely. Poisoned herself -- for one final dramatic exit."

"Very dramatic." Kate paused to think as she stirred a bubbling pot. "But why? They all said she was a generally happy person." She turned to Emma again and suddenly squinted. "Oh, you haven't cut yourself already have you?"

"Mm?" Emma looked down at her hand. "No, that's red biro."

Emma knelt by the television and ejected the disk that was in the DVD player. She looked at its face. "Oh Ash," she exclaimed, disappointed. "You haven't been watching Brief Encounter again, have you?"

"So what if I have?"

"You really need to watch some films where the lovers actually end up together."

"Just put the DVD in, will you?" Kate demanded impatiently as she settled down on the sofa.

They watched the recording together, drinking more and more wine and settling back for the night, side by side on the sofa. They threw ideas about for hours without realising the passage of time.

"So the woman who said that the poison was intended for her was in fact the murderer," said Emma.

"Wait a minute." Kate put her hand on top of Emma's. "Are you talking about the plot or real life?"

"Oh, I don't even know anymore." She leant back into the sofa. "Your DVD player's reset itself," said Emma, pointing at the machine.

"Oh?" Kate looked over. "No it hasn't; it's midnight. You'd better be going."

"Can't I stay over?"

"We're not thirteen."

"Oh please. I've drunk too much to drive back and I don't fancy getting a taxi. Please."

"No Scribbs. No chance."

Next morning, Emma sat down on the wooden chair and yawned. She pulled her shoulders back as she stretched, wincing as an ache ran though her spine. "If your bed is as hard as your sofa I'm not surprised you get up early every day." She covered a yawn with her hand and rubbed at her eye.

Kate sipped at her cup of coffee and sat down beside Emma. "Now that's gratitude for you. I should have made you sleep on the floor."

"Ash... how come you have spares of everything?"

"I don't know what you mean. I don't."

"You had a spare toothbrush for me though, didn't you?"

"Well that's. Well. It's just in case."

"Oh, I see." Emma slunk back in her chair and made a cheeky face. "I got the lover's toothbrush."

"No harm in being prepared, is there?"

"Not highly romantic, is it though?" She mimicked Kate inviting a boyfriend round to the flat. "Come in, take a seat, have a glass of wine. Now before we engage in anything -- yours is the blue toothbrush and I sleep on the left. We may now kiss."

"Do you want me to kick you out whilst you're still wearing those pyjamas?" Kate waved a finger in Emma's direction.

"I wouldn't mind. They're very nice pyjamas."

"Keep them. They look better on you anyway."

Emma smiled to herself, crossed her arms and leant forward on the table.

"I don't believe it," said Kate.

"What?" asked Emma, concerned.

"You didn't leave any toast crumbs in the butter," said Kate, showing Emma the tub. "Amazing."

"I told you I'd be the perfect flat guest." As a slight knee-jerk reaction she added. "Thank you for having me."


CID office

"Katie?" began Emma, standing with her hands behind her back, rocking on her heels.

"On the very, very rare occasions that you use my name in the diminutive, you always want something," said Kate suspiciously.

"Sullivan wants to see us in his office."

Kate crossed her arms and waited patiently.

Emma bit her lip. "And can you lend me money for lunch? I'm skint."

"Erg. Are you going to need me to provide you with food for the whole week?"


Sullivan's office

"So, what do we think? Was Helen having an affair with someone? Did she cause hurt to someone?" asked Sullivan.

"'Fraid not, boss. Not that we can find, anyway," said Emma.

"Well perhaps you do need a little help, then."

"No, honestly, boss. We'll be fine. It's just a slow process," said Kate.

"I insist. Besides, we have no choice. You're to collect June Goodwill from her house and take her on interviews with you."

"That's not --" started Kate, standing with hands on her hips.

"Those on high have decided. June's publishers are making a large donation to the department for the privilege. She'll be taking notes on what you two get up to. In the investigation, that is."


Emma's car

Kate sighed. "I have to go to a family thing tonight and I don't particularly want to go boyfriendless"

"What about that rugby player from a few months ago?" asked Emma.

"Rugby player?"

"Yea, the one who looked like Buzz Lightyear."

"Oh him. That's an accurate description -- right down to the oversized jaw and tiny toy brain."

"He was nice, though. Sweet."

"Hmm, yes, but I would have appreciated it if he hadn't spent the entire date counting his teeth with his tongue."

"So what was the verdict?"

"Thirty-two," replied Kate, misunderstanding the question. "To which I said, 'Just two more than you have brain cells.' He thought I was paying him a ruddy compliment."

Emma smiled and pulled the steering wheel to the right as they travelled around the roundabout. "I suppose you're the kind of girl who wants one of those movie dates and kisses in the rain."

"And since when has there been anything wrong with being a romantic, Scribbs?"

"As long as you don't mind being romantic on your own," she replied pragmatically. "What about Ben from IT?"

"He has a large collection of games consoles."


"He keeps them in his bedroom."


"His bedroom in the house he shares with his mother."

"Oh. Alright then. Um, Craig from the canteen."

"Have you seen Craig from the canteen?"

Kate caught sight of movement in the rear-view mirror. She pulled at her seatbelt and turned around. "Excuse me. We didn't agree that you could make notes on our personal conversations."

June Goodwill stopped writing and looked up. "It seems to me that you find fault with far too many men."

"I don't mean to be blunt --"

"Yes you do," interrupted Emma.

"But I don't think it's really any of your business," continued Kate.

"Perhaps what you're looking for is right under your nose." June pointed at her with a pen.

"DCI Sullivan?"

"Well --" June attempted to respond.

"No, no. I don't think so."

"Sometimes, you walk by the good ones because you're trying too hard; too hard to see them," said June poetically.

"Is that from one of your books?"

"No, dear, Will Young," she said matter-of-factly. "Kate, why don't you take Emma?"

Kate's nose scrunched up. "It's not really the kind of evening out Scribbs would be invited to."

"Do you want some hay for that high horse?" said Emma, mildly disgruntled.

"It's not your thing." Kate turned back and looked out of the passenger window.

"So what if your parents have evening soirées and mine have barbeques in the back garden. We're not such different people."

"All right then." She pointed at Emma. "But you're driving because I'll definitely be drinking."

"I'm not sure I want to go now. I haven't exactly been asked."

Kate sighed. "Come to the party with me."

"Say please."

"Please," Kate muttered noncommittally.

"Like you mean it, Ash."

"Oh, for goodness' sake. Please."

"Alright then, but if I'm spending the evening with your mum then we're getting a taxi, because we'll both need to get pissed. What time do I need to be there?"

"No, no. I'll come to yours to get ready or you'll choose something inappropriate to wear."

"Are we going to listen to Duran Duran and crimp each other's hair too? Oh please, please." Emma laughed.

"Just keep your eyes on the road, Scribbs."


St. Mark's Primary School

"Knees up Theo, that's it. Now everyone -- we're going to pretend to be bees. Make the noise too, that's it. No, not that noise, Bridget. It should be buzzzz."

"Mr Murrum, can we have a quick word?" asked Emma.

David motioned for his assistant to continue to the class. "Jo, can you keep an eye on Bridget? She keeps trying to sting Phillip."

"Inspector, Sergeant. June?"

"Hello David," replied June, beaming at him. "I'm helping out."

Kate jumped into the conversation. "Mrs Goodwill is... shadowing us, for research."

"Mr Murrum, you were on stage at the time of Helen's death. Did you see anyone drop anything into her drink?" asked Emma.

"I think it'd be pretty hard to do something like that on stage."

"What about the props table -- who has access to that?"

"Everyone. Everyone has to walk by it before going on."

"He's right. Anyone could have dropped it in the glass; no mess, no prints. A nice distance killing," added June.

"How is your relationship with Margaret, David?" asked Kate.

"I don't see how that's relevant."

"Oh, just answer them, David," said June, holding onto his elbow.

"Not great, if you must know. A few years ago she lost out on a professional part, took to drinking again and ended up in an accident. She was pregnant at the time and we lost the baby. I think the play has brought back some bad memories. She's getting worse and worse, health-wise. Thank god she hasn't started drinking again… yet."

"Tell them who she lost the part to, David. They'll find out anyway."

"It was Helen. Helen got the part."


Hayder's Secondary School

Margaret split her class into groups and had them warm up while she talked to her visitors.

"So he told you about that, did he?" She sighed deeply and eased herself into a chair. "Yes, Helen got the part over me and I took it badly. In the end, she failed to turn up to the actual job and they called me as back up but I was in hospital by then. She never could do anything right. If there's something I can't bear it's people who don't have confidence in themselves."

"Did it bring back too many memories, Margaret? You blamed her didn't you?" asked Kate. "So you slipped the poison into her drink."

"Don't talk rot, woman. I'd never kill someone on stage. If I did, it would be my bloody self."


CID office

"There's something about this that doesn't quite sit right." June paced back and forth. Kate and Emma, who were sitting at their desks, looked up at her.

"It was suicide?"

"No, Emma dear. Helen wasn't the type. Plus one can't rely on the weakness of one's heart. It just doesn't work. Something doesn't match up."

"What about the anonymous letter. Do you think Ian was lying?" asked Emma.

"Oh no, who wrote the letter is obvious."

"It is?" asked Kate.

"Of course, it was Helen herself. Poor woman really suffered with low self-esteem but longed for a chance. She couldn't just ask for the part because Margaret would have made a stand against it."

"Right," said Emma.

"This is lovely. I write about murders in suburbia but I don't normally get to solve them."


Ashurst house

"Oh, Emma, so good to see you." Kate's mother, Lydia, smiled genially and took the bottle of wine which Kate had given to Emma beforehand. She leaned over to whisper in her daughter's ear. "You're not thirteen, Kate. You're not supposed to bring your friends over for dinner after school anymore." She changed her tone as she announced to them both, "Do come through."

Kate felt her lip curl. "I'm not sure I'm going to be able to stand this," she said through gritted teeth.

Emma took her by the hand and led her off out into the garden, grabbing a bottle of whiskey on the way. "C'mon, Dutch courage."

"I can't," Kate protested.

"I bet you've never had fun at one of these things."

"You're not supposed to have fun."

Hiding behind a group of tall pot plants near the conservatory, Emma held the open bottle out to Kate. "Drink."


Kate's flat - outside

"You were completely right. Why would I ever have wanted to integrate myself with those musty old gits?" said Kate, waving her arms animatedly.

"No fuddy-duddy." Emma's ability to put sentences together was somewhat marred by alcohol.

They giggled, feeling still slightly tipsy even in the cold night air.

"This is you," said Emma, pointing at over Kate's shoulder.

"Me what?" Kate looked behind her. "Oh... flat."


"My mum thinks you're a bad influence on me."

Emma launched into an overly posh impression of Kate's mother. "'Oh Kate, darling, why on earth do you have to be a police officer? Couldn't you have become a nice PA or something?'"

Kate laughed loudly and then covered her mouth in case the neighbours heard. "Thank you for being my emergency date."

"That's all right, I had fun."

"Me too."

"Well... good night, Scribbs."

"Night, Ash."

They both leant forward to kiss each other on the cheek but inadvertently moved in the same direction, resulting in a soft kiss on the lips. They bounced away from each other in surprise.

"Whoops," said Kate, eyes wide.

Emma chuckled nervously, her hand clamped across her mouth.




CID office

June held onto DCI Sullivan's arm as he escorted her over to Kate and Emma's desks.

"Someone to see you, ladies."

"Thank you."

"Mrs Goodwill." Sullivan pulled a chair over for her, nodded and left. "I'll leave you in safe hands."

"Isn't he just lovely?" commented June.

Kate and Emma smiled at her.

"Any further along?" she asked as she sat down with them.

Emma leapt into conversation. "We've interviewed everyone at the Theatre company and still can't find anyone who had a real reason to kill Helen."

"And what does that tell you?"

"Someone is lying?"

"Perhaps, perhaps. But after a good sleep I think I've got the answer. Firstly, what do we know about the dosage of poison?"

"It was large?" offered Emma.

"But not big enough to kill someone instantly. It was due to Helen's condition that she actually died," added Kate.

"Yes. So in order for the murderer to complete their job on that night, they would've had to rely on a weak heart – either that or they had already built up the poison in her system before that point."

"But she didn't have any signs of poisoning prior to that date," said Kate.


"Ian was her doctor -- he would have known about any medical problems," Emma said.

"Yes, but there's no motive there. So what do you have left?"

Kate and Emma looked at each other blankly.

"I think there's going to be another murder tonight unless you can intervene."

"How do you know it's going to be tonight?" asked Emma.

"Because if I'm right, it's the one night they can be guaranteed an alibi. But first I suggest that you go and have another word with Joan. She's a bright young woman and notices more than she thinks. I think she'll have something to prove our theory."


Joan Ebbutt's house

"So you're sure about what you saw?" asked Emma.

"Yes, I remember it clearly now. I didn't think about it until June mentioned it."

"Good old June," muttered Kate under her breath.

"Well that's that then. However, I suggest a bit of surveillance on the house to check who turns up with a little present for our Margaret," added June, standing up.


June Goodwill's house

Emma escorted June to her front door. They spoke for a moment and laughed. Kate watched from the car. When Emma returned, Kate looked distinctly disgruntled.

"What's up with you?" asked Emma.

"Did you tell her about last night?"

"I may have mentioned it."

"I can't believe you sometimes."

"Where's the harm? She's lovely."

"She'll take it all and wind it into one of her sordid stories."

"Don't be daft. It's not us she's interested in; it's the whole police-y bit." She paused. "Besides, I just wanted to thank her for suggesting it."


Margaret Aitken's house

Margaret stood holding the bottle, stunned. Emma emerged from the lounge and held a transparent plastic bag open so that Margaret could drop the wine into it.

"Thank you for your assistance."

"Why? Why me?"

"Well, that's what we're going to find out."


St. Mark's Primary School

Kate and Emma looked around at the various signs guiding them towards the parents' evening, which was to take place in an hour's time.

"You're a bit early; we're not quite set up yet. Now, you're the parents of...?" asked the young unkempt woman on reception.

Kate stepped forward. "We don't have a child. We're here to see Mr Murrum."

They entered the large gym and approached David, who was placing leaflets on tables around the hall.

"Mr Murrum," said Kate.


"We have reason to believe that you were involved in the death of Helen Bassett and in the attempted murder of Margaret Aitken."

"I don't understand. Attempted murder of Margaret? What's going on? Is she alright?"

"On the night of Helen's death you were seen, by Joan, re-arranging the glasses on the props table," said Emma. "You intended to kill Margaret, didn't you?"

"What? No. I'm a clumsy fool. I was running off to get changed and I went slap bang into the side of it. Got a bloody great bruise on my leg if you need proof. The glasses rolled off so I just put them back, that's all."

"So why the bottle?" asked Kate, holding it aloft in its plastic bag.

"I'll drink it if you want; it's just non-alcoholic wine. It was to show her that I care. I'd never kill anyone, let alone Margaret. Here, let me show you."

He grabbed the bottle from Kate's grasp and quickly unscrewed the cap, downing a few gulps of the wine.

"Oi, that's evidence," said Emma. "Maybe," she added as she watched him drink it.

"I promise you. Now if you think Margaret was the intended victim, shouldn't we go and check on her?" he remarked, picking up his coat.

"So much for Miss Marple," said Kate.

"She was half right though, wasn't she? The glass was never intended for Helen."

"Just get him in the back of the car and keep an eye on him."

"So, what's going on?" asked David.

"It would seem that Margaret was the intended victim. We think someone is looking for a way to finish her off."

"But if it's not you..." said Emma.

"Which it isn't," he said. "What do you mean finish her off? Please explain."

"We've advised Margaret to go to the hospital as soon as she can, as it looks as though someone has been slowly poisoning her, with the intention of giving her the last dose on stage."

"That's horrible. Is that why she's been so ill? I can't believe it. If she hadn't been such a pain, people might have paid more attention to her."

Emma looked at him in the rear view mirror.

"I do love her, you know, regardless of her faults. Oh my god. Do you mean that when I knocked the glasses, I put them back the wrong way round and as a result Helen got the poison?" He swallowed and looked nauseated.

"It certainly looks that way, David," said Emma.

"Can you drive any faster?" he asked.

"With any luck she'll have already gone to the hospital," said Kate.

"Of everyone in the company, can you think of who would be most likely to want to kill Margaret?"

He was lost for words, not sure whether anyone would be capable, regardless of resentment.

"Anything? Grudges, past misdeeds?"

He suddenly looked up. "Geraldine."


Margaret Aitken's house

Emma called through the letterbox. "Hello? Margaret?" David appeared behind them.

"I thought I told you to stay in the car," said Kate.

He held a key up in front of them. A crash came from the kitchen. They hurriedly entered and found Margaret on the floor, a smashed glass at her side, a bottle of spirits on the worktop.

Kate leant over and listened to Margaret's chest and breath sounds. "She's still alive. David -- call an ambulance now and tell them she's taken a high dosage of thallium. They'll need to give her the antidote. We have to go and pick up Geraldine."

"Wait," he called after them. "She'll be at the parents' evening; she's the school's secretary."


St. Mark's Primary School

"Child's name? Oh, it's you again," remarked the receptionist.

"Second time lucky," said Emma.

"Er, okay," she replied.

"Can you tell us where to find Geraldine Kettle?"

"She's over there by the display stands, pinning --"

"Thank you for your assistance."

Kate and Emma strode off in search of Geraldine, leaving the confused receptionist at her desk.

"Geraldine, can we have a word?" Kate called over.

"Oh, yes, no problem."

"We'd like to take you down the station for questioning about the attempted murder of Margaret Aitken."

"Margaret? Well, goodness, what happened?"

"We're hoping that you'll be able to fill in the gaps for us."

Geraldine chewed on her bottom lip and noticed Kate reach to her side to hold onto her handcuffs. Panicking, she grabbed the edge of a nearby table and swivelled, temporarily blocking Kate and Emma's path. She ran for the door.

Kate looked around and spotted a basket full of sports equipment. She picked up a netball and threw it with as much force as she could muster. They watched it swoop through the air.

Geraldine neared the exit just as the ball hit the wall and rebounded onto her forehead, knocking her to the ground.

"I knew all those years on the netball team would come in useful one day," said Kate as they ran towards the now dazed heap.

"Netball? I imagined you as more of a lacrosse girl," Emma commented as Geraldine sat up and Kate cuffed her.


Interview Room 1

"It seemed so appropriate, y'know. Death by poisoning. Margaret playing the role of Heather Badcock, the woman who is justly killed by Marina for exposing her unborn child to German measles," said Geraldine.

"What did Margaret do to you that justified attempting to kill her?" asked Kate.

"A few years ago she hit me with her car. I was just walking home. She was drunk and upset over some audition. It took me a long while in hospital to recover and it wasn't until last year that I was told by the doctors that I'd never be able to have children. It broke my marriage apart. I joined the company to see her again, to see if there was any remorse in her. There wasn't and she was the same old self-obsessed woman that ever she was."

"Did you know that she herself lost a child in the crash?"

Geraldine blinked, looking confused. "No, I didn't."

"How did you go about putting the poison in the drink?" asked Emma.

"I coated the inside of the glass that was meant for Margaret. You have to understand, I never meant for Helen to die. It was a last dose meant for Margaret."

"And how did you get into her house to plant the poison?"

"She let me in. I went round to help her practise her lines. I dropped a sleeping pill in her tea and while she was asleep I coated all the glasses in her cupboard. Over the weeks she became progressively more ill and yet still she showed no remorse, no feelings for how she's hurt me. So I suggested to David that he drop off some wine before parents' evening, hoping that she would use yet another glass from the cupboard and it would send her on her way."


CID office

A couple of weeks after the case a familiar face appeared in the department.

"Kate, dear. May I have a word?" asked June.

"Of course, Mrs Goodwill. It's nice to see you again." They went to one side.

"I wanted to drop this off. I won't stay." She handed Kate a bundle of paper which was bound at the side. "It's just a first draft but I think you get the idea." She leant in close, patting the top of Kate's hand. "I also wanted to impart a last piece of advice to you. I think perhaps you should try wearing your heart on your sleeve a little more," she said plucking at the arm of Kate's cardigan.

"Right," said Kate, not really understanding her meaning. "Um. Thanks for... this." She smiled and held the papers up.

"I'm not unemotional am I, Scribbs?"

"Oh, no." Emma thought about it for a second. "Well, not you're not exactly emotional either. More like passionate. Yes, passionate, with quite a lot of aggression and good grammar thrown in. What was that all about anyway?" she asked, taking the item from Kate's hands as Sullivan walked over to join them. Emma began to read out a small introduction which sounded like a summary on the back of a book. "Kim Dashforth and Ella Tribbings, together with their dashing superior Jim Solloman --"

Sullivan pursed his lips and straightened his tie.

"Oh, no. She didn't!" Kate exclaimed.

"-- work for Upperton Police Department. Dash and Tribbs --" continued Emma.

"Oh I ask you," responded Kate.

"-- investigate the mysterious death of an amateur actress which occurs on stage mid-performance."

"Well, I'll tell you this for nothing: I shan't be buying a copy when it comes out."

"Er, Ash." Emma flicked through the pages. "This is a screenplay for a telly programme."

"For goodness' sake. Do they honestly think we need any more murder mysteries on television?" said Kate incredulously.

Emma started laughing. "Actually, this is quite funny stuff. I wonder what happens to Dash and Tribbs in the end." She flipped to the last page. "Oh, right. Well I wasn't expecting that."

"What? What's she written?"

Emma held the screenplay behind her back and out of Kate's reach. "You'll just have to wait and see, Ash."


Next episode: It's a clear-cut case of cold-blooded murder but Ash refuses to investigate. Will Sullivan have to take over the case and set the record straight?

The End

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