DISCLAIMER: Murder in Suburbia and its characters are the property of ITV. No infringement intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Alternative universe plot reworking of Series 1 Episode 4. Just a bit of a lark! Not all by me as chunks are from the episode. In a similar vein to What If? but the stories are unconnected. Betaed by blob.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
What Silver is to Gold
By Claire G
"I need your advice on something," Detective Inspector Emma Scribbins asked her partner keenly, as they walked through the woods towards a crime scene. "What would you wear to the wedding reception of an ex?"
"Shirt, maybe with a tie," offered Sergeant Gallimore.
"Not you, you wally, me."
"Well, how am I to know that?" He raised his arms. "You can borrow one of my best suits if you like."
"I'll pass on that one." She poked his podgy belly, laughing.
"Who is this ex then?" he asked, making a feeble attempt at conversation.
"She dumped me for my best mate."
"In that case you should go naked; that'd get you noticed," he said cheekily.
"You don't want to go anyway, do you? You'd have to be off your rock--"
"No, right, listen. If I don't go, it looks like I still care, which I do; I just don't want them to know that."
"Weak," he teased.
"But's she's marrying the best mate she dumped me for."
They approached Detective Chief Inspector Sullivan, who greeted them: "Morning."
"Boss," they chorused.
"I hope you've both had your breakfasts," he replied as he led them over to the restricted area tent covering the site of forensic investigation.
"Must be a good one, then," laughed Gallimore, who wasn't the type to be affected by a bit of gore.
"Jogger found him. About an hour ago," Sullivan explained.
"The one we passed on the way in?" asked Gallimore.
"Yeah, Philip Whitmore. We're getting a statement now."
"What happened?" asked Emma, walking around the burned-out car, taking a good look.
"We won't know until the lab boys have had a proper look at the body."
"Time of death?" Gallimore squinted at the paintwork, trying to work out what colour it must have been originally, as it was now a nice shade of charcoal black.
"The fire investigator thinks the car was torched about ten last night."
"Do we have a name?" Emma grimaced as she peered in the window at the charred mess of scorched flesh and bone.
"We're running what's left of the number plates through the records now. Might throw up something."
"Any sign of anyone else at the scene?" asked Gallimore.
"Well, apart from the fresh tracks from the jogger, there is one single other -- but not very distinct -- set of footprints; size eight according to forensics."
"To or from the car?"
"Heading back up, down the road." Sullivan received a note from a flourescent-jacketed officer. "Thanks." He read the message. "Looks like we have a possible ID. Gideon Finch. Forty-eight years old, married, no children. Lived less than three miles from here." He passed the piece of paper over to Emma.
She read the details. "Mm." Her voice took on a haughty mocking tone as she looked over at her partner and said: "Harlingford Avenue."
They drove to the area better known to the residents of Middleford as 'Millionaire's Row.'
"Aren't you going to ask me who invited me, then?" Emma asked impatiently from the passenger seat of the car.
"To what?" Gallimore asked, nonchalantly.
"The wedding reception."
"We're not still talking about that, are we?" he asked, bemused. Emma nodded, so Gallimore thought he'd better ask the question. "Who asked you, then?"
"Her. But there's nothing going on; we just kept in touch, that's all."
"You were still shagging her, weren't you?"
"Alright, there was something going on," Emma conceded. "But it only lasted for five seconds." She scrunched her nose up. "It was before they got engaged."
Gallimore chuckled to himself as he pulled the car over to park.
"Wife's name's Hannah; I'll break the news," announced Emma as they stepped out onto the street. They looked up at the house. "Why can't I meet someone who lives in a place like this?"
"'Cause the women you fancy think 'protecting your assets' means wearing a sports bra."
"S'not fair. Danni had some pretty sound financial investments."
"Yeah, if you count a direct debit to the betting shop as sound," Gallimore retorted.
Emma punched him lightly on the shoulder as they approached the door of the deceased's house. It was unlocked and open, with no occupants inside, and the living room was a scene of destruction with the clear markers of a disgruntled wife.
Their next port of call was Jamie Finch, Gideon's brother. Upon finding his sister-in-law in Jamie's bed, they hauled her in to the station for questioning.
"He was screwing Beth Whitmore!" Hannah, Gideon Finch's wife, shouted across the interview table.
"So you decided to shack up with Jamie?" Gallimore leant back and folded his arms.
"Like I said, I just needed to get away," Hannah uttered defensively, shaking her head.
"Rubbing salt in it a bit, isn't it? Leaving your husband for his brother?" Emma raised her eyebrow.
"I didn't have anywhere else to go."
Gallimore leaned towards Hannah. "You been having it off with Jamie for long?"
"Few months," she confessed, looking down at her folded arms.
"But you stayed with your husband anyway?" He narrowed his eyes at her.
"Maybe part of me still loved Gideon."
Emma shrugged. "Or maybe part of you still loved his money."
They waited patiently at the door to the Whitmores' house.
"That's not a house, that's a street," said Emma, as they looked over at the Finches' house.
"I don't sees how they can call them neighbours when it takes five bloody minutes to walk from door to door. Can't see 'em nipping round to borrow milk," commented Gallimore.
"That would be beneath them." Once again her voice took on the intonation of an upper-class woman. "Tarquin, darling, can you ask one of the staff to have a quart of milk couriered over in the back of a taxi?" The door opened behind them. They quickly turned to greet the residents.
Emma waved her ID badge at Beth Whitmore. "Good morning. Detective Inspector Scribbins. Detective Sergeant Gallimore."
Beth sighed. "Not again. You people have been here all morning. This is a real nuisance. One of them even asked to use the lavatory." Beth crossed her arms impatiently.
Philip, Beth's husband -- and, incidentally, the jogger who had found Gideon's dead body -- appeared behind her. "What is it, darling?"
"They want to ask you more questions," she replied.
"Actually, we wanted to talk to your wife," Gallimore said, butting in.
"Me?" replied Beth, confused.
Beth stuttered over her response. "Well, I've, the... this is really awkward. You see, I have friends over. It's our coffee morning." Emma smiled softly and tipped her head to one side. Seeing that she wasn't going to get rid of them, Beth conceded with: "Right. Well, why don't you come in and join us?" They entered the large tiled hallway and saw a woman in a tight velour tracksuit coming down the stairs holding her stomach. "Oh Lisa, darling. Could you make sure --" But before Beth could finish, Lisa had scurried her way back up the stairs, covering her mouth, looking green with nausea. "My domestic help. Today is supposed to be her ironing day but so far I have not managed to get her out of the bathroom."
"Ironing usually has that effect on me too," said Emma, half joking.
Gallimore leaned over and whispered to Emma, "You want to get yourself a nice woman to do that for you."
"Says the man whose shirt looks like it was drip dried and flattened under a mattress."
He looked down at himself and smirked, uncaring. "The wife's at her sister's."
"We drive jeeps, we eat salads, we live in trophy houses; it's what we do." Beth gave a small, knowing laugh. "Hannah knew that, it's what she wanted -- well, it's what they both wanted." Gallimore and Emma leaned forward for a biscuit, clearly disinterested in the line of conversation. "Only neither she nor Gideon could quite fit the bill."
"They just weren't right for this area," said a prim woman wearing a multi-coloured pastel woollen suit, who was sitting opposite Beth. "People think that Harlingford Avenue is all about money. But they're wrong. It's about identity. What type of person you are."
"And the Finches weren't the right type?" asked Gallimore with a mouth full of cake.
"They were loud. Loud music, loud clothes, loud everything," explained Beth.
"Filthy rich. With the emphasis on filth." The prim woman raised her eyebrows as if she were making a devious joke. Emma smiled back at her plainly, clutching her hands together.
"Mrs Whitmore, can I have a word with you?" Gallimore nodded towards the gathering of friends, wanting to get away. "In the kitchen or something?" Beth tutted but consequently strutted out, followed by the sergeant.
Emma was left alone with the six women, the silver service tea set and row upon row of petits fours. She decided to make the tea her priority and reached out for the delicate china cup. Looking around at the women's expensive skirt suits and cross-legged elegant poses, she considered her own boyish, knees-apart position and casual outfit. "Any ideas who murdered Gideon Finch?" she asked the mini crowd. The response came in the form of polite coughs and shaking heads. "No one with arsonistic tendencies?" Silence. "Right then." She sighed, her lips thrumming together, making a noise like a helicopter. She almost yawned. A hot glare from the person sitting to her left made her turn.
"May I have a word, in private?" the woman asked in a slightly urgent tone, tentatively placing a hand on Emma's knee. They left the house and spoke whilst standing on the driveway.
"I'm sorry, you are? Mrs?" asked Emma, squinting in the bright morning light. She shielded her eyes to look at the woman's features. Glinting brown-green eyes and a thick fringe; the rest of her glossy dark hair gathered up into a french roll. Emma looked her up and down. Simple court shoes, knee-length skirt, pale pink blouse and a grey woollen jacket with a simple silver brooch pinned at the lapel. She was, Emma decided, dressing older than her age, but seemed pleasant enough and fairly pretty.
"Argyle. Look, I don't mean to butt into your investigation but if I can be of any use, please let me know."
"Are you not in league with the Stepford Wives, then?"
"Let's just say I keep up appearances, but little more than that, you understand. I cannot stand their twittering ways; they are an aloof set of royal bitches."
"Right," said Emma, slightly taken aback at the woman's barefaced criticism of her own peers. "Well, Mrs Argyle --"
"Kate." Emma pushed her hand into her pocket and pulled out something attached to a tissue. She cleaned it off and unfurled the creases. "Here's my card. Number is on there, I've crossed out one on the front -- it's wrong -- but my new one is on the back. If you think of anything just gimme a ring. Okay?"
"Thank you. I'll do that."
Gallimore and Emma followed Sullivan up the stairs to his office.
"Gideon Finch. Hard-nosed. Flash. Made his money flogging cheap jewellery," Emma explained as she perched her bottom on the edge of Sullivan's desk.
"Dodgy?" asked Sullivan.
"Naa. Just tat," she replied.
"And his wife?"
"Ex-catalogue model. Found out the hard way that the more money men have, the more women they like to spend it on."
"Sounds like a motive," Sullivan said, rummaging around in his desk drawer before taking his seat.
Emma frowned. "Everything sounds like a motive these days."
"The deceased's brother, Jamie, claims to have been in a road rage incident near The Swan pub at the time of Gideon's death, but we can't find anyone to corroborate his story."
"What about our friend the jogger?"
"Philip Whitmore?" replied Emma. "Heart surgeon. Husband of the supposed mistress. Lives opposite."
"So is that just a coincidence?" Emma and Gallimore both shrugged in reply. "Does he have an alibi?"
"Yeah," nodded Emma. "Medical conference; didn't get home 'til midnight."
"Let's make sure we confirm that. And Mrs Whitmore?"
"Home alone. Baking. Apparently."
"Okay, let's push this. I don't want it going cold."
Emma nodded to Gallimore and slapped down on her thighs as she stood up. The phone in her back pocket begin to buzz. "Scribbins," she answered as she walked out of the office.
"Please, come in," said Kate as she ushered the inspector into the house, taking Emma's coat and woolly pink scarf from her.
"Thanks." Emma followed Kate through to the kitchen and propped herself up against a kitchen unit. "When you called yesterday, you didn't say what it was you wanted to talk about."
"I thought you might like to interview me."
"You think you have information that could be useful to the case?"
"That depends on the questions you ask." Kate smiled knowingly.
"Alright then." Emma licked her lips and thought for a moment. She noticed that today, Kate was wearing a figure-hugging, high-waisted, black pencil skirt with heels, and a soft-collared, dark grey blouse. Not the traditional lady of leisure she had met the previous day; today she cut an altogether more sultry figure.
"Perhaps you could give me your opinion of Beth Whitmore?"
"Beth is nothing more than a low class hooker, turned high class prostitute. Metaphorically speaking, of course. Though it wouldn't surprise me if she had a mucky past."
"Based on what?"
Kate's mouth shrugged. "The shade of her lipstick? Her inability to talk about her life before Philip?" She moved about the room, thinking. "And you know what. There was one time, at one of her organised balls, where she answered to a completely different name. Surely that's not normal?"
"What was it?" Emma took her notepad out of her pocket and pulled the pen lid off with her teeth.
"The name?" Emma nodded encouragingly. Kate pressed two fingertips to her temple. "Anna. Amblyn. No, no. I've got it." She looked up. "Amber."
"What about her husband?"
"Philip? Simpering devotee. I doubt he was looking higher than cleavage level when he asked her to marry him."
"Moving on." Emma pouted. "The deceased's brother: Jamie Finch."
"Oh, is that his name? I did wonder. The one who looks like he's been thrown out of a boy band for being too scruffy?"
"Could say that."
"You realise he's been having an affair with Hannah?"
"Yeah, we'd found that one out." Emma tapped on her notepad.
Kate opened the door to the fridge and drew out a bottle. "Yes, I suppose you would; they have been pretty bloody obvious about it. Can't say Gideon looked too fussed." She sloshed the white wine into a large glass. "Either he was oblivious, or he was having a little side action himself."
"Bit early for that, isn't it?" asked Emma, raising an eyebrow at the early consumption of alcohol.
"Well there's not much bloody else to do." She took a swig. "Do you want one?"
"On duty. Plus, I don't." Emma was not sure why she needed to make her point in double.
"Not at all?"
"Not since I got blind drunk and made an ars-- fool, of myself in front of someone I fancied."
"Oh yes? Do go on. And please feel free to use swear words."
Wishing she'd never mentioned it at all, Emma brought around the topic of the case. "Murder investigation." She waved her notepad.
"I'm just being friendly," Kate responded unapologetically, scrunching up her nose.
Emma watched Kate take a drink. "Does it get boring, then?"
"Does what get boring?"
"Y'know, being married to a rich man."
"Who said I was married?" Kate raised an eyebrow.
"Sorry, I didn't mean --" Emma put her hand up.
Kate stared up at the ceiling. "No. You're right, of course, I am. And it does get bloody boring."
"I've convinced him he must be infertile, but in fact I'm on the pill." Kate looked down and twisted her wedding rings around her finger.
"Bit harsh." Emma saw Kate narrow her eyes and added: "I just mean..." She sought the right words. "Aren't relationships supposed to be based on truth and trust?"
"The richer areas of suburbia aren't based on love, Inspector. They're built on business transactions," explained Kate.
"No wonder they're all shagging about," Emma said absent-mindedly. Suddenly, wide-eyed, she added, "Not that you're..."
"I'm impressed you think me so innocent." Kate lazily blinked her lashes and approached Emma.
"Innocent until proven guilty." Emma forced out a nervous chuckle.
Kate stood close, and to prevent Emma from stepping away, she placed her left hand on Emma's right. "Thumb ring." She ran her finger over the silver finish. "They're supposed to signify strength and independence; isn't that right?"
"Dunno." Emma shrugged.
"And wearing it on the right hand" -- Kate slid her finger down Emma's forefinger -- "Apparently means you prefer women." Speaking brazenly, she added: "Sexually, that is."
"That's a bit personal," Emma said, nervously pulling her hand away.
"Not that I believe any of that toss." Kate turned away to take a sip of her drink.
"Yeah, too right." Emma coughed away her embarrassment.
"But I presume that you are a lesbian?" Kate looked directly into Emma's eyes, staring at her probingly.
"What gave you that idea?" Emma crossed her arms, defensively.
"Your appearance doesn't exactly scream straight, does it?" Kate waved her fingers in the air on the word 'scream.'
"Being a bit stereotype-y, aren't you?"
"Flat sensible shoes." Kate pointed downwards.
Emma lifted her toes. "They're boots, and there's a bit of a heel."
"Chunky leather watch."
Turning it to look at the face, Emma said, "I got it because it's waterproof."
"It's not short; it's chin length."
"And just look at those hands."
Emma did so and pouted. "What about them?"
"They're clearly gay," stated Kate.
"I'm not sure I like being so obvious." Emma's lip curled and she seemed to forget that she was interviewing a complete stranger about a death.
"So you are?"
"Doesn't mean I accept your assessment." Emma pointed, her finger brushing lightly against the fabric of Kate's blouse. "I date who I fancy." She shrugged, her heart beginning to race.
"Admirable policy." Kate's warm breath touched Emma's ear.
"I..." She was very much aware of the proximity of their bodies. Kate reached up and dragged her knuckle along the length of Emma's neck, the diamond of her engagement ring grazing her throat. Gulping down a breath, Emma pressed backwards, the work surface painfully hard against her back. She forced out a few words. "Police business. Out. Go."
Kate let out a small laugh. "Sorry about that." She stepped back. "Sometimes I get a little too used to being able to have anything I want."
Emma reached back and rubbed at her neck. "Um, right." She frowned, not used to such obvious moves of seduction in places other than bars and bedrooms. "Call me." She quickly corrected herself. "I mean, call me if you think of anything else useful to the case." Emma scurried out of the house. As she reached the end of the driveway, she suddenly noticed the cold winter air. Swivelling on her heel, she returned to the front door and almost bounced into Kate, who was holding open Emma's coat. Having little option but to turn and slip her arms into the sleeves, she did so. Kate's hands ruffled her hair as she pushed the coat over Emma's shoulders and tugged her round so that they were facing each other. "Tha--" Throwing the scarf around her neck, Kate pulled on both sides and captured Emma's lips in a soft kiss. Emma's eyes flickered shut momentarily, before pulling away.
"I'm sorry, Inspector, just... couldn't help myself," said Kate, smiling through the lie.
Being thrown into such a state of twitterpation made Emma's ribcage hurt and her throat tighten. Placing her elbows on her desk, she pushed the bases of her palms against her eyes and shook her head, attempting to drive the picture of Kate from her mind so that she might concentrate on the case. The intoxicating kiss, the lingering memory of wine and lipstick on her lips. Absent-mindedly, she began to tap her fingertips against the desk's surface.
"You're as fidgety as a flaming flea. Did that neighbour put the wind up you?" asked Gallimore from across the office.
Emma ignored his question. "Is Sullivan in?"
"Naa, s'gone off somewhere. What did you want to..." But she had run off in the direction of the stairwell and the rest of the sentence went unheard.
Taking two steps at a time, Emma made her way to Sullivan's office and bounded towards his desk. Slumping down in his chair, she reached deep into a drawer and pulled out a bottle of single malt whisky. She spun the cap with ease and plonked a glass tumbler down. Tipping the bottle, she watched as the liquid sloshed back and forth, and observed its deep burnt orange colour. Before the level reached the neck of the bottle she changed her mind. Biting her lip, she suddenly seemed distracted by a thought and muttered to herself, "Amber."
Gallimore and Emma entered the elegantly adorned rooms where Beth Whitmore's charity evening was to be held. They found her busy, participating in an interview with a local journalist; she rose to greet them.
"We've had a little look through your record at the station, Mrs Whitmore, and it certainly makes for interesting reading," said Emma.
"I'm sorry?" Beth asked as she waved away the photographer for whom she had been posing.
"Well, I say yours, but maybe I should say Amber's."
Without a word, Beth understood, and took them to one side for a more secluded discussion.
"Amber was always partial to a dry martini," commented Beth as she put down her cup of strong coffee.
Emma raised a hand to catch the attention of a strict-looking waitress, who was wearing a waistcoat with tie, and hair pulled neatly into a bun. "Excuse me; can we get a dry martini, please?" The waitress left the room and Emma diverted her gaze back to Beth. "So Gideon was one of your clients?"
"We used to meet at the same hotel every fortnight. Um, usually on a Wednesday."
"Three hundred pounds a time? S'a lot of cash."
"Oh, well, he got his money's worth." Beth smiled coquettishly and Emma nodded in response.
"But you're not on the game anymore?" asked Gallimore.
"I met Philip. It was raining and I ran for shelter and he was standing there. We looked at each other." She waved away her own sentimentality, smiling. "It was like a film. Anyway, six weeks later we were married."
The waitress placed the drink on the table between them. Emma sat forward in her seat, trying to make eye contact with the pretty, young woman, but to no avail. Folding her arms over her crossed knees, she leaned forward and asked, surprised, "And Philip never knew?"
Beth picked up her drink and spun the cocktail stick between her fingers. "At a conservative guess, I must have slept with, um... five hundred men. Not exactly the thing you tell the love of your life. So no, he never knew. We moved out here. He made consultant. I learnt to bake. And we've been happy, really happy, for ten wonderful years."
"And you met Gideon again, when he came here?" asked Gallimore.
"Yes," Beth said with a sigh. "Of all the places, in all the world, he had to move in here."
"Did he recognise you?" Emma questioned.
"Oh, straight away. I wanted to keep things sewn up, for the sake of our partners if nothing else, but, no, he wanted... well, he wanted Amber. I gave in because I... I thought I could control it." Before taking a long sip on her drink, Beth added, "I was wrong."
"Were you going to meet Gideon the night he died?" asked Gallimore, pulling at the button of his tight collar.
"Yes, because I wanted it to stop and he said that if I met him one more time, then he would leave me alone."
"And you believed him?" asked Emma, surprise in her voice.
"Well... I was at my wits' end. He was threatening to tell Philip."
"So you agreed to go?" Gallimore's lip curled.
"Yes, we arranged to meet at, er, it's an Italian restaurant, about ten minutes from here."
"So what happened?" questioned Emma.
"Well. He never showed up. I must've waited for over two hours, but nothing," Beth explained.
"And that was the last you ever heard of him?"
"Yes. I didn't know anything 'til yesterday."
"All their alibis are a bit flakey," said Emma, pointing at the list of suspects on the whiteboard. "They're all over the place and probably lying. The only one who has anything decent is Beth Whitmore . The restaurant staff confirm she was there, waiting for Gideon to turn up." She tipped back her chair and clasped her hands on top of her head.
"Does her husband have size eight feet, then?" asked Gallimore, thinking back to the footprints at the crime scene.
"I'll get uniform to go ransack his wardrobe."
Emma rose quickly, grabbing her coat. "S'alright, I'll go."
"But --" He was too late; Emma was already out of sight. "I'll just sit here and wade through the car park records of the medical conference, then," he muttered to himself.
Emma pressed the bell and began rocking back and forth on her heels. Impatiently, she leant forward and tried to peer through the letter box. Before she could step back, the door opened, catching her fingers in the brass mechanism. Lifting her hand to her mouth, she sucked on a sore knuckle and looked up at the tall, austere man who had appeared in the doorway.
"Can I help you?" he asked.
"You must be Mr Argyle."
"Who is it, Stephen?" called Kate from the hallway.
"I'm not quite sure yet," he said, raising his eyebrows, looking expectantly at Emma.
She held out her ID badge. "Inspector Scribbins. Middleford CID."
"And how can we help you, Inspector?" he asked politely, Kate appearing at his side.
"I... er... prints." The sight of Kate made her nervous.
"Prints?" repeated Stephen.
"We're running a check on the residents' shoe sizes for a footprint match. Standard procedure. I've just been to the Whitmores' and this is my next port of call."
"Very well. Do come in. Kate, would you mind showing the inspector up to our room?"
Emma knelt amongst the moderate collection of expensive, impeccably well-kept men's footwear. She could feel Kate's hot stare, which made the hairs on the back of her neck stand up.
"Why are you really here?" asked Kate, one hand resting on her hip.
"Like I said. Procedure, Madam," Emma replied, her eyes fixed on the pile of shoes as she toyed with a lace which was tangled around her fingers.
"I don't believe you."
"Our intention, Mrs Argyle, is to find a match for the footprints found at the crime scene."
"Yes, I understand that. What I mean is, why is a top level detective shuffling around on her knees in people's dressing rooms?" Kate nudged aside one of the shoes with her toe. "Getting your hands dirty, ast'were."
"Well," said Emma, standing up and brushing her jeans down. "These are all size nine so your husband seems to be in the clear."
"I wasn't aware he was under suspicion."
"He wasn't. I mean, well, he isn't now. So I won't need to come back here anymore."
"Did you come back to see me?" Kate tipped her head down and looked up at Emma through her lashes.
"For the investigation," lied Emma.
"Ah. For the..." She stepped forward, once again invading Emma's personal space.
"Investigation," Emma reiterated, as Kate traced a fingertip down her blushing cheek. "Mrs Argyle."
"I said you should call me Kate."
"Your husband is just downstairs."
"I know." She used a crooked finger to prop Emma's chin up, drawing her in for a kiss.
"I don't do sordid affairs," Emma blurted out, causing Kate to stop before their lips touched. She clutched her eyes closed. "I'm a professional."
"Professional killjoy." Kate stood back, crossed her arms and sighed.
"I should leave now." Emma moved towards the doorway but Kate caught her by the sleeve of her red and pink striped jumper.
Placing her hand on top of Kate's, Emma looked directly into her eyes and said, "Thank you for the tip-off about Beth."
She walked away and was about to leave, when Kate said, "What tip-off?" She looked a little bemused.
As Emma was about to walk out of the bedroom, she turned. "You were right; she was a prostitute and she went by the name of Amber." And with that, she left.
Entering her flat, Emma threw her keys onto the cluttered table without a thought towards the difficulty of finding them in the morning. Sitting heavily on the sofa, she felt something under her bottom. Wrenching it free, she looked and found it was the RSVP invitation for her ex's wedding. She sighed, pouting. Not only did she have nothing to wear, but she had no one to take to the occasion. She tossed the card to one side, picked up a magazine, and began flicking through it. After skipping past the third celebrity wedding, she closed the magazine with frustration.
"Bloody nora." She shook her head and yawned. "I need to get my mind back on the case."
Emma waltzed into Gideon Finch's house, which was now owned solely by his widow Hannah, whom she found kissing Jamie.
"Hope you don't mind; front door was open."
"What do you want?" asked Hannah, clearly disgruntled by the disturbance.
"I've just been round your flat, Jamie. Neighbours seem to think you're moving out."
"Yeah, well, I'm, uh, staying here with Hannah for a while," he responded.
"Jamie's helping me getting through this."
"Just say what it is you've come to say and clear off," he added.
"Yeah, I've got a problem with your alibi; specifically the part about the road rage incident." Emma pulled a piece of paper from her pocket.
Jamie looked a little nervous. "What do you mean?"
"Well, witness has come forward. He claims he saw a fight between you and another man."
"Why is that a problem? It just confirms my story."
"Confirms it, yes, but trouble is, he places it two miles from where your brother was murdered, and not at Whirlpool Road where you said it took place."
Hannah looked up at Jamie with concern in her eyes. He looked over at Emma. "I can explain."
"I do hope so."
He licked his lips. "I was following Gideon. I wanted to prove that there was something going on with him and Beth."
Hannah placed a hand comfortingly on Jamie's chest. "He didn't know I didn't need proof to know Gideon was a cheating bastard."
"Pot calling the kettle black there a bit, Mrs Finch."
"Gideon cheated first, you remember that."
"So what then, Jamie?"
"Gideon drives fast. I had to keep up. Then this guy in a sports car cut me up and we almost ran each other off the road."
"And I assume he didn't take too kindly to you," Emma said, indicating the various cuts and bruises on Jamie's face.
"Will you leave us alone now?" asked Hannah, impatiently.
"One more question, Jamie. There's a bit of confusion over what the witness saw. Can you confirm that you were driving south along that main road when it happened?"
"South? No. Gideon was heading away from town. Not in."
Emma knocked on the door to the Argyles' house.
"Is your husband in?" she asked as the door opened.
"No," said Kate, surprised to find Emma on her doorstep, let alone marching past her and directly into the house.
"I need your help on the case."
"Good morning to you, too." Kate closed the door.
"Can you think of anyone else who might have wanted to kill Gideon Finch?"
"I think you have all the obvious suspects."
Emma rubbed at her chin, thinking deeply. "Who would you place your bet on?"
"Don't you have a partner to discuss these things with?"
"We've come to a dead end." Emma turned away.
"You're not the most traditional of inspectors, are you?" Kate crossed her arms over her chest.
"Yeah, well, I know what I wear isn't exactly standard --"
"No, I don't mean the jeans and top with fairy silhouette."
Emma turned back to face her, opening her tan-coloured coat to look down at her top. "You're really observant." Having dressed in the half light with half-closed eyes, Emma had not even noticed what she herself was wearing.
"I just notice things. Will you stay for a drink?"
"Alright." Emma slid off her coat off and hung it up.
"Have you run one of those police checks on me yet?" asked Kate as she blew lightly on the surface of her drink.
"Why would I do that?" asked Emma as she sat down beside her.
"Well, I would have performed one if I were you."
"Alright. I did. Your maiden name is Ashurst. At the age of twenty-two, you married Stephen Argyle, a journalist --"
"Restaurant critic," corrected Kate.
"That's about all we've got. Speeding ticket too, I think."
"Parking ticket, and it was my husband, in my car."
"No bad behaviour at all, then." Emma raised her eyebrows and took a sip of her tea. "Did you marry Stephen for his money?"
"I can't say it put me off."
"You married pretty early."
"It's dog eat dog out there. I could hardly have been expected to wait around for the perfect partner to turn up."
"Most people are alright with it."
"Endure all those half-arsed dates and sexual misadventures? Somehow I don't think so," said Kate, sneering.
"So instead you married the first person who asked you?"
"No, I married the first, most suitable, person who asked me."
Emma screwed her face up. "Don't you feel like you've missed out?"
"On what exactly?"
"On, y'know... living?"
"Life is what you make it, and I am... content with mine." Kate seemed a little unsure.
"Just because you have money, it doesn't mean your life is any less rubbish than mine."
"Well that's reassuring to know."
"What did you mean when you said I wasn't traditional?" asked Emma.
"Well, correct me if I'm wrong, but police officers don't tend to ask the people they're interviewing for help with their case."
"You'd be helping me with my enquiries."
"Yes, but that isn't what you meant, is it?"
"S'pose not. Look, I just fancy having someone else to talk to about the investigation. Even though I'm --"
"Attracted to me?"
"Nervous around you. I think it would help."
"Very well. Try me." Kate sat back.
"Okay." Emma sat up in her seat and began counting out suspects on her fingers. "Wife Hannah was at their house so no real alibi; doubt she takes a size eight shoe, though. Brother Jamie was out following Gideon, so no alibi there either. Beth Whitmore was in a restaurant waiting for Gideon; credit card bill confirms it was paid after the time of death, so she's out. Philip Whitmore said he was at a medical conference 'til late but turns out he left early."
"The butler did it," suggested Kate.
"You mean the domestic help, Lisa?" Emma pointed at Kate with a look of realisation.
Kate laughed. "No. I was being facetious."
"Did you really come here to talk about the case?"
"So what led you here?"
"Gut instinct?" offered Emma half-heartedly as she shook her head. "You're right, I should be back at the station."
"Okay." Kate inched closer to Emma, placing a hand firmly on her thigh. "Two reasons to stay."
"Which are?" asked Emma, nervousness catching at her throat as Kate's shoulder brushed against her own.
Kate leant over. "I want you." The words tickled Emma's ear. "And you want me."
"Bit sure of yourself, aren't you?"
"Come to bed with me."
"Flattered as I am, I can't let you do this. The truth always gets out and --"
"You're frightened of my husband."
"I'm a copper; there's not much that scares me... except you, maybe."
"Leave then." Kate sat back in the chair, impatiently indicating the hallway.
"Maybe I will." Emma dipped her head but made no move to leave; her heart was tugging her towards Kate. "I can't go through with this."
"Crikey, we haven't even done anything yet."
"If we do do this, you could lose your marriage. You could lose everything."
"You are..." Kate tapped Emma on the chest in time with the first three words. "Very, very, very weird."
Kate slid her hand up Emma's arm, across her shoulder and then smoothed her thumb across her cheek. Emma, tipping her head into the touch, closed her eyes for a moment, to see if there was enough doubt in her to overcome everything else. There was not. She sprang forward, clasping Kate by the neck to pull her in for a fervent kiss.
"Do you love your husband?" asked Emma as Kate placed tender kisses along her bare shoulder.
"I don't want to talk about him."
"But do you?"
"I'm content," Kate said, wishing to end the line of conversation.
"So you don't?"
"Will you stop asking questions?" she replied, as if Emma were being impertinent. "Right now, these lips weren't made for talking."
Kate was about to reach forward when Emma caught her strong arm and held it there. "Well the bra stays on until you answer me."
"No. I don't, all right? Now will you please allow me the use of my arm?"
"Have you ever been in love?" Emma persisted. "With anyone?"
"I really wouldn't know. How does anyone know?"
"If you'd been in love, you'd know."
Kate looked into Emma's eyes. "I feel like I could fall for someone like you," she said in an uncharacteristically sentimental tone.
"You're only saying that to get me into bed."
"You're already in my bed," said Kate, as she unclasped Emma's bra and pulled it swiftly from her arms.
"Kate? Are you home?" Stephen called out.
"Oh shit, you didn't say he'd be coming back." Emma kicked away the tangled sheets and picked up the bundle of her discarded clothing from the floor, then ran into the adjoining dressing room.
The brass doorknob turned slowly and Stephen entered the bedroom. As he loosened his tie, he sat down on the bed beside Kate. She seemed unperturbed by his presence. "So who is it now?" he asked, shaking his head with only a subtle tone of dismay in his voice. The dressing room door creaked slowly open. Emma stood there, one eye shut, attempting to cover her nakedness with her clothes. "Oh, a woman," he said with barely a glimmer of surprise on his face. "Well that, at least, makes a change." He closed the door again.
'Oh great, I'm just last in a long list of illicit lovers.' Emma attempted to listen to the muffled discussion as she pulled on her tight jeans and flung her blue and green top over her head. She looked around the floor for her boots but only came across a pair of Stephen's shoes. She kicked at one angrily but hurt her toe. Her foot looked small compared to his shoes. "Anyone could have put Gideon's shoes on before setting the car on fire," she said aloud with realisation as she mentally kicked herself. 'Course that only widens our suspect list again.' She suddenly realised that the voices had gone, so she took the chance to peep through the door. The bedroom was empty so she crept through and put her boots on. After making her way downstairs, she tugged on her coat and heard Kate and Stephen having a more heated argument in the kitchen.
"Where have you been all morning, Scribbs?" asked Sullivan.
"Following leads, Boss." Emma raised her hand and pouted. "Found out that Jamie was following Gideon that night, hoping to catch him at it with Beth so he could convince Hannah to leave him."
"You're looking a bit flushed; have you caught a chill?" Gallimore interrupted.
"I'm fine." Emma held the back of her hand to her warm cheek. "Anyway. Turns out that Gideon wasn't even on his way to the restaurant, he was driving in the other direction... to the woods."
"And we're sure that Beth was at the restaurant that night?"
"Yep, it's been confirmed. She was there from eight until ten, which makes it impossible for her to have killed Gideon."
"Have we managed to narrow down the suspects?" Sullivan asked, plunging his hands into his pockets.
"Well we thought we had, but --" Gallimore said, looking to Emma.
"But the prints leaving the scene were size eight and Gideon was size eight. Which means..." She held her foot up.
"Anyone could have been wearing his shoes to cover their tracks." Sullivan nodded with realisation. "So we are back to square one." He walked over to his desk and picked up two invitation cards. "Got a decent frock in your wardrobe,Scribbs?"
"What?" She looked up, confused.
"Beth Whitmore has just sent over these tickets for her annual winter ball," he explained. "I think you should go. Might jumpstart the investigation."
Emma decided she could do with a night out to cheer her up. "I'm up for it, Boss." She jumped up from her seat and took an invitation. "Any excuse to dress up."
A rhythm and blues band played Let the Good Times Roll. Gallimore had been invited onto the dance floor by an older woman in a tight satin dress; he had not known how to say no and was making pleading faces at Emma each time she came into view. Emma, however, was busy tailing a waitress with a drinks tray; she managed to weave through the gaggle of people and nabbed a glass. The champagne barely touched her lips before it was swept out of her hand.
"You don't drink. Remember?" Kate moved round to face her, holding up the glass which she had just swiped from Emma. She wore a simple but elegant knee-length silk-chiffon halter dress, with her hair partially caught up at the back with jewelled pins, letting a few curls fall softly.
"You look... amazing."
"You're looking... sparkly. I rather like your hair like that. Very pretty." Kate smiled, raising an eyebrow, a glint in her eye. "I wouldn't mind getting my hands on those thighs later," she whispered.
"I think you've made it quite clear that you only want me as a bit of fluff on the side. I'm not up for that." They stood side by side, watching the suspects of the investigation dance and drink merrily.
Kate took a sip of champagne. "Solved your case yet?"
"Nope," Emma mumbled under her breath.
"You know, we never got to have a goodbye kiss this morning."
"I'm not talking to you if you're going to use that seductive voice."
"Emma..." Kate said breathily.
"Right." She strode off in the direction of the ladies' toilets. Kate followed, letting the door clunk shut behind her. Emma leant back against the bank of sinks and frowned. "You don't like making this easy for me, do you?"
"Cuh. Says the woman who keeps running away. I'd like to think that I'm making things very easy. You said I needed to live my life, so I --"
"I meant get out there and see what it's all about."
"I'd rather be in here with you." Kate stepped forward and ran her fingers over Emma's forehead, attempting to smooth away the crinkle. Emma rolled her eyes at her own weakness. She took Kate by the hand, led her into one of the cubicles and pushed her roughly up against the wall. "This is designer, you know," said Kate, indicating the dress.
"You can afford to replace it," replied Emma, pressing her lips to Kate's neck, provoking a low moan. Kate's eyelashes fluttered closed and she bit her lip as Emma pushed her legs apart with her knee. Trailing her hand up Kate's thigh she pushed her black dress up to her hip, their thighs gently brushing against each other. Their mouths found each other and Kate pushed her fingers through Emma's hair, ruffling, tousling and tugging.
Emma was genuinely bemused at Kate's relentless attempts to get close to her. She had assumed that after the excitement of the first time, her interest would have waned. But right now she would take what she was offered, regardless of how short-lived it would be and despite what she had said earlier. "Anyone would think you really want me," Emma whispered into Kate's ear.
"No shit, Sherlock," Kate uttered, making Emma titter. She firmly grasped hold of Emma's bottom with both hands and pulled her close. They heard a familiar voice as someone entered the ladies' toilets. Emma and Kate looked into each other's eyes as they listened.
"I thought I'd come and do my bit for charity," Hannah announced.
"Hm. From what I've heard, you've been doing an awful lot of that since Gideon died," commented Beth, who had been washing her hands. Kate smirked. When they heard the sound of an almighty slap, their eyes widened.
"You're nothing better than a whore, Beth. I just wanted you to know that," shouted Hannah.
They heard Beth say "Hannah" followed by the sound of a fist hitting someone's jaw with a resounding crack. Emma and Kate both winced and listened as Hannah and Beth left.
"I don't think they'll have caused each other any lasting damage," remarked Kate, shrugging.
"Thank God. I definitely don't need any GBH to add to this case," she said, half sincere. "Who do you think lashed out first?" Emma leant back against the cubicle wall, now clearly distracted by what she had heard.
"Oh, I don't know. One woman's gasp is much very like another." Kate held her by the waist, after adjusting the hem of her own dress. "Shame neither of them admitted who murdered Gideon."
"Too bloody right." Emma chewed on her bottom lip and frowned. "I wonder..." she tailed off, deep in thought.
"I'll be back later. I have to make a call." Emma pulled open the narrow door and ran out of the toilets, leaving Kate alone.
Having seen Lisa, her domestic help, escorted out of the hall by Gallimore and Emma, Beth followed them into the quiet lobby area.
"What's going on? Lisa?" Beth asked.
"Lisa's having trouble remembering what happened the night of Gideon's murder. I think maybe we confused her," said Emma.
"She told you, she was at home." Beth stepped forward. "That's right, isn't it, Lisa?"
Lisa nodded nervously. Dry mouthed, she said, "Yea."
"Actually, we think that Lisa took your place at the restaurant that night," said Gallimore, as he folded his arms.
"I. I. I don't know what you're talking about."
"No one at the restaurant can confirm that it was definitely you."
"And your point is?"
"With Lisa standing in for you, you were able to meet with Gideon and kill him," Gallimore said in an accusatory manner.
"Somehow I think you're going to have a hard time proving that in a court of law."
"The fish was off," said Emma, looking up momentarily.
"Okay, now you've really lost me." Beth shook her head.
"Nine people had the fish that night, and nine people were violently sick the next day. Public health was called in. But you weren't sick the next day, were you, Mrs Whitmore. That was Lisa." Emma pointed. "We saw her, remember?"
"I didn't say anything," said Lisa, her voice choked with tears.
"Sweetheart." Beth attempted to calm her, holding her by the cheeks. "It's alright. Shh." She turned to Emma. "Listen, all I told her was that I was going to talk to Gideon. That's all she knew. Do you understand?"
"How did you administer the librium, Mrs Whitmore?" asked Gallimore.
"Please," she said in such a way as to imply that they should already know. "Always liked to drink, our Gideon."
"And then you put on Gideon's shoes to disguise your footprints. Doused the car in petrol. After you'd set it alight, you walked back to your car and drove home in time to meet Philip from the conference."
Beth held Lisa by the shoulders. "I was Amber for seven years. You can't imagine what that was like. He wanted to drag me back to that place. To take away everything that I have, everything that I have become. I couldn't let that happen. I am Bethany Whitmore." She smiled at Lisa reassuringly. "No one is going to take that away from me." She breathed in deeply through her nose, drew herself up, and said assuredly, "No one." Philip entered the room. "Philip."
"Oh Philip. Darling, I." She approached him. "Darling, I. I'm so so sorry." She cried onto his shoulder.
"Right, Scribbs, I'm off. This penguin suit is doing my nut in," said Gallimore as he wandered off, hoping one of the officers who had been called in to take Beth to the station would drive him home.
"I heard that you made your arrest. Congratulations," said Kate as she came up from behind. "Scribbs," she added with a smirk.
"Turns out Lisa was at the restaurant pretending to be Beth, which was booked in Gideon's name, leaving Beth free to torch Gideon's car with him in it. Nasty stuff."
"So Lisa was an accessory?"
"Apparently not. Unaware of the plot." Emma shrugged.
"So you're saying Beth told Lisa to stand in for her at the restaurant, but she apparently didn't think that was suspicious? Why book the restaurant in Gideon's name? For what other possible purpose would Beth require an alibi where she's stood up by her secret lover, sorry, client? Other than murder, that is." Emma was about to respond when Kate continued her point. "Are you really saying that, one day, Beth just said to her domestic help, 'Lisa, sweetheart, would you mind pretending to be me at a restaurant booked in the name of someone I'd really rather wasn't alive, so that I can go and meet him somewhere else'?"
"Beth said --"
"So you're taking the word of the ex-prostitute who, one day, cold-bloodedly planned and implemented a grisly murder, then held a charity ball a few days later?"
"Um. So I should be arresting Lisa?" asked Emma, screwing her face up.
"Don't look at me. I'm just another ex-Stepford wife. You're the detective."
"Wait a minute. Ex? You left him?" Emma was agog. "You left Stephen?"
"I took your advice."
"You hardly know me. I think you should know that I'm not the kind of person people generally take advice from."
"Doesn't stop you being right, does it?"
"You do realise that leaving someone means that you have to start over?"
"I'm not naive, Emma. Besides, he won't want a messy divorce. I'd say thirteen years of ironing and general supplication deserves a good share of his fortune. Plus, I've always known how to protect my assets." Kate crossed her arms.
Emma covered a smirk. "I can't believe you actually left him."
"I could hardly pertain to being a strong woman if I couldn't do the one thing that was holding me back, now, could I?"
"So what now?"
"I'm staying at a hotel."
"No, I mean, for us."
"Look, let me clarify something for you. I'm not after you for casual sex."
Emma looked dejected. "You're not?"
"I want to spend time with you, get to know you."
"What's brought this on?"
"Two things. One, of all the affairs I have had, of all the lovers, not one has ever shown an interest in me as a person. Two, not one ever tried to break it off based on the fact that I might be the one who would get hurt."
"So that makes me one of the good ones."
"Yes, you're one of the good ones," said Kate.
Emma looked proud. She mused on something. "I've got a wedding to go to at the weekend..." A niggle of doubt formed in her stomach, stopping her from completing the sentence.
"I was wondering --"
"If you could borrow something to wear?" Kate frowned with confusion.
"No, no. It's just I have a plus one invitation and I thought maybe you might like to come."
"You're asking me on a day out?"
"On a date. D'you wanna?" Emma drew up her cheeks and squinted, expecting rejection.
"But I haven't been on a date since before I got married."
"Well I can't guarantee perfection, but I can promise you it won't be half-arsed and there won't be any... what was it you said?"
"Yeah, none of those." Emma shook her head, smiling sweetly.
"How could I possibly say no?" replied Kate as she leant in and placed a soft, sweet kiss on Emma's lips.
"Scribbs?" Gallimore re-entered the lobby area, bow-tie hanging undone around his neck. "Can I have a lift after all? I didn't bring my car." He spotted the two women kissing. "Oh bloody hell, never mind." He turned to go.
Emma ran after him, pulled out her car keys and pressed them into his hand. "Here, you take my car. I have the feeling I'll be staying in a hotel tonight." She smiled widely, then turned around and called over to Kate. "That's right isn't it?"
"I should bloody say so," came the reply.
Gallimore spoke softly. "You should watch the posh birds; they're only after one thing." He nodded towards the woman he had danced with earlier. She waved coyly at him and he managed a smile, but it looked more like a grimace.
"Well, with this posh bird," Emma said, glancing over to Kate, "I think I might just chance it."
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