Rachel knew, the moment Godzilla started with the words “bad news,” it had something to do with Kevin. He’d been messaging her all day, almost one after the other, asking if she’d come see him, come by the pub, come by his flat. She ignored it, mostly because she assumed he was getting attached to what was nothing more than a drunken shag. But then the messages got more desperate, and she didn’t respond because her instinct told her not to.
Her instinct was never wrong.
The knowledge that Kevin had been the mole should have been shocking, it should have been unfathomable, but Rachel knew her face didn’t change enough for Gill’s benefit. She could feel her eyes on her when she started in about not contacting him, not allowing him to contact her. It was like she knew.
Then again, maybe she always did. Kevin was being followed, being watched. It was common procedure. She would be stupid to go to the pub and meet him there.
And then she found herself outside the pub, looking up at the unfamiliar sign, knowing he’d picked this particular pub so they wouldn’t see anyone they knew, as if he wasn’t being followed. Maybe he really was too thick to notice. She stepped inside, one hand on her phone, ready to fake a phone call the moment she got too skittish. She had just barely salvaged her job after Sean plowed into the syndicate and attacked Kevin like a high school gang banger. She didn’t need one of her bad decisions sealing her coffin lid with a bunch of nails.
He almost stood up when she approached the table; she saw the aborted, awkward movement. “I didn't think you'd come,” he said sheepishly, a glass of red wine already waiting on the table for her. She took in its presence without allowing anything to show on her face.
“No,” she said quietly. “I almost didn’t.”
“How did everyone take it?” He let her take her seat, keeping her coat on. He watched her shift uncomfortably in the chair as he asked.
“We took it badly, Kevin,” she said, trying to keep her voice hushed. “We were sickened.” She took a moment, taking in his chagrined face. To push him now could start a public row, but she wanted to know, so she pushed. “Who did you blab to?”
She clenched her jaw, so hard she felt the beginnings of a headache. “Dave Packham? He's scum. He doorstepped those schoolgirls.” She could feel her volume rising but couldn’t find the self-control to rein it back in.
“I know,” Kevin said, head hung low.
“So why?” she asked, leaning forward against the table. She wanted to understand, truly she did, but she was starting to see that there would be no justification that was enough for her. This was a conversation she never should have started. It would not end in a satisfying way for either of them.
“Cos I was sick to me stomach with the boss.”
Rachel scoffed, and the moment it left her mouth, she knew it was a mistake. Kevin wasn’t wrong in his assessment of Gill; she was harsh with them – she was harsh with all of them, but especially with her and Kevin.
“The way she spoke to me. Same with Dodson. That look they get, like I'm an incapable piece of shit that's just being tolerated.” Rachel leaned away from him and he leaned forward, as if chasing her eyes. “You know what I'm talking about. Don't tell me that you don't. When she told me I'd failed me sergeant's exam, she basically said I didn't deserve to be on MIT.”
That didn’t make it okay. She wanted to say it, but Kevin was still talking, almost more to himself than to her. “Dave Packham approached me. He was friendly. We had some drinks. He was interested in me. He asked me things.”
“About Peverel Street?”
“Did he pay you?” She couldn’t keep the disgust out of her voice this time; Kevin heard it and acknowledged it with a lifted shoulder, as if he’d expected that reaction.
“Not that time.”
“Did you honestly think you would get away with that?”
“It felt like I was getting one over and then I couldn't make it stop.”
She crossed her arms over her chest, frustrated and getting bad at hiding it. “Getting one over on who?”
“Everything,” he waved his hands around like he was referencing the entire system, everything around them, even them, sitting here in this almost abandoned pub, drinks forgotten on the table.
“On Gill?” She couldn’t help but ask. Kevin’s face contorted at the sound of her name. “That isn't what you did. You stuck it to Helen, you stuck it to all of us.”
“I didn’t mean to stick to all of you, I was trying to stick it to her. And Dodson. Stupid dykes, traipsing around like they’re better than all of the blokes in MIT,” his ruddy face darkened, his hand tight around his beer glass.
“They don’t do that,” Rachel replied, shaking her head. “And you have no right – no right, to call them names. They didn’t blab. You did.”
“What, dykes? It’s not even a name – it’s just –” he floundered, the same way Kevin always did when confronted with his own idiotic choices in words. “It’s just – well they are, aren’t they?”
“Are what?” Rachel asked, her face suddenly warm, too warm for the pub, and she wondered if her face was red.
“Dykes.” He said it so loud Rachel flinched, and he noticed the movement, his detective instincts clearly not as useless as everyone thought. “Muff divin’ dykes, the lot of ‘em.”
“Stop,” Rachel snapped. “Stop saying those words.”
“Why are you so offended, Bailey? It’s not like I’m calling you a –”
“Say that word one more time and I’m launching all of this red wine all over your face,” she warned. “Just because you don’t like them doesn’t mean you get to sit there and talk about them like that.”
“You talk shit about Godzilla all the time!”
“Yeah, I say she’s a hard ass bitch, but I never –” she stopped, aware that she had no way to finish the sentence without Kevin learning something about her she’d like him to never learn. “They weren’t just mean to you this time, Kevin, you broke the law. The law you’re supposed to uphold.”
“What do you care if I call them names?” he asked. “My life is over, Rach –”
“And that’s not Gill’s fault,” she said. “Gill didn’t make you blab to Dave Packam. You did that all on your own.”
“If I had gotten some goddamn respect –”
“You needed to earn it,” Rachel hissed, leaning forward in her chair, fierce enough that Kevin retreated. “You didn’t need to do this.”
“I can’t believe you’re defending her,” Kevin exclaimed. “Her. Not even Dodson. You’re only defending Gill.”
“She’s our SIO –”
“She’s a right pain in the arse, and she’s always knocking you down a peg or two, but suddenly she’s a saint?” Kevin snapped. “God, Rach, be careful, your hero worship is showing.”
“My –” Rachel stopped, pushed her wine even farther away, and started again. “I am not hero worshipping her, I’m just saying that you shouldn’t be calling her those names.”
“Why can’t I call her a lesbo if she is one, Rach?” Kevin asked, and the question was so prominent that she could almost pretend he was asking for an answer, and not to prove a point. “Or are you just worried that I’ll call you one?”
For a moment, Rachel’s mind went blank. Every word she could have possibly said in her own defense was erased, gone, shaken loose by Kevin’s random and unfounded accusation – she could see, in the moments following, that he hadn’t actually thought she was a lesbian – how could he, she thought, he was shagging her only a few days ago. But the longer she was silent, struggling to find the words to tell him to wind his neck in, the more his face paled.
“You – you’re not,” he stammered. “You – we –”
“Yeah,” she finally said, thankful he’d said something she could cling to. “Yeah, we did, so I don’t know why you’re accusing me of swinging for the other team.”
“I always thought you had a thing for Janet,” he continued as if she hadn’t spoken. “The way you two were always together, going to the loo to talk, laughing all the time.”
“You might be less suspicious if you ever had any real friends,” she retorted, but he kept talking over her.
“And then I saw the way you looked at Gill. I thought it was just hero worship, that seeking approval thing you do with everyone, but you wanted her approval so badly, you were gaggin’ for it. It was pathetic,” he was nodding now, looking off in the distance, recalling the instances he was trying to illustrate.
“I was not –”
“I didn’t get onto MIT as a lark, Rachel, I still notice things,” he sneered. “I figured you just had an authority thing, and anyone would do –”
“Anyone would do?” she repeated heatedly. “Anyone? I can see why you’d think that, I shagged you.”
“But not her,” he shot back, half getting out of his seat. “Not for a lack of tryin’, eh?”
“You know what?” she stood completely, gathering her coat and grabbing her purse. “I shouldn’t have come here. I should have just left you to hang yourself by your neck, like you usually do.”
“Takes one to know one, Rach,” Kevin said, collapsing back into his seat and pulling his beer back toward him.
She watched him settle deeper into the seat, his brow deeply furrowed, his face bright red. She wanted to stay, to convince him that he was wrong about her, but suddenly she didn’t have the energy. She didn’t want to hear him call her names, call Gill names. So she gave him one last final glance and shoved her way out the door, leaving him with her glass of untouched wine.
Gill Murray was used to late phone calls; it was part of the job. She was used to hauling herself out of bed that she had just gotten into, picking up the phone in a pitch dark bedroom, trying to decide if she should turn on the lamp or not. But usually it was about a body, a kidnapping, something dramatic and in need of immediate action.
This time, she was in her pajamas and just barely starting to walk up the stairs to her bedroom when the mobile in her hand started ringing.
“Rachel,” she said as she answered. “What’s going on?”
“I did a stupid thing,” her voice wasn’t shaky, wasn’t even sad. It was matter-of-fact.
Gill sighed. It didn’t take long for her to figure out what that stupid thing must be – she predicted it the moment she broke the news about Kevin. Rachel’s face was determinedly impassive, the exact opposite of how Rachel’s face usually reacted. Gill was well-informed on the ins and outs of Rachel’s face – she studied it often.
She was always scowling at her computer, trying desperately to hide her grin when her brilliant mind finally worked out the puzzle it had been stuck on. She was always mildly disgusted when they heard the details of a particularly gruesome case, always melancholic when the case was tragic. Her face always said something. So when it said nothing at all, it was suspect.
“You went to see Kevin,” she replied. “I told you –”
“I’m outside,” she said.
Gill paused, still halfway up the stairs, and looked down at herself. Blue pajama pants, dark green jumper. There was no time for her to change. Not that it mattered.
“I’ll be right there,” she said, hanging up the phone without saying goodbye.
Rachel was standing on her doorstep, the same maroon blazer she’d been wearing at work that day over her arm, the shirt underneath white and almost sheer. She looked tight around the jaw, like she was working on keeping her mouth shut, as if she was worried what would come out.
“Come in,” Gill prompted, and it was only then that her jaw relaxed and she stepped inside. She saw Rachel’s eyes drop to her patterned pajama pants, a small smile playing on her lips. Gill tried to resist the urge to feel insecure.
“I’m sorry I just…showed up –”
“What did he say that upset you?” Gill asked, perceptive as ever.
“I didn’t say he upset me,” Rachel protested weakly, her hands working nervously, fingers between each other, squeezing and releasing, like she was itching for a fag.
“You didn’t,” Gill agreed. “Your face did.”
Rachel pursed her lips, as if she could wipe her face clean. “He’d been messaging me all day –”
“Are you going to give me all of the romantic details?” Gill asked before she could stop herself. It rankled, that of all the people in the syndicate, Rachel had chosen to shag Kevin, because it surely wasn’t the other way around. There had been a brief whisper that Rachel’s marriage was imploding, though the details were murky, but Gill had seen Rachel asleep on the floor of the syndicate herself. Had it ended because of Kevin? The notion was nauseating.
“That’s – that’s not – it wasn’t like that –” Rachel said, her eyes darting around the room to avoid her. “He just…wouldn’t stop texting me, I wanted to know why he did it –”
“He’s a grubby little wanker, that’s why he did it,” Gill snapped, crossing her arms over her chest. “I could have saved you a trip.”
“I –” she trailed off, trying to figure out where to take the conversation, and Gill realized she was commandeering it so effectively there was nowhere for the poor woman to go.
“Come on through, I’ll make you a cuppa,” she said, leading the way into the kitchen. She distracted herself by filling the kettle and putting it on while Rachel fidgeted behind her. It was easier, when she was like this, not to look at her. She looked so lost, so unlike herself, that it worried her, worried her enough that she wanted to ask more questions, prod more firmly, until she could figure out what was bothering her so she could get rid of it.
That was exactly the kind of protective reaction she didn’t need to have.
“I asked him why he did it,” she finally said, apparently finding the strength to explain herself when she wasn’t looking Gill in the face. “He said he was sick to his stomach…with you.”
“You. Dodson,” Rachel shrugged. “Said you both had it out for blokes in MIT.”
“That’s not the first time people have said that about me, Rachel,” Gill shrugged, shoving tea bags into a pot. “Because I don’t let less competent men have more slack than their competent female counterparts, clearly I have it out for all men. Those comments don’t bother me, Rachel, and if you want to move up the ladder soon, you’ll have to get used to them too.”
“That’s not all he said,” Rachel said, and Gill turned to face her.
“Okay, go on, then,” she nodded at her, and Rachel paused, her eyes searching her face. “Do you want me to turn around again?”
“He called you dykes,” she blurted out. “You and Dodson. ‘Muff divin’ dykes, the pair of ‘em,’ he said.”
Gill smirked. “Okay,” she said simply. “And that upset you?”
“Well,” Rachel hesitated, “doesn’t it upset you?”
“Of course it doesn’t, Rachel,” she said. “People have been saying things like that about me and Julie for decades.”
“I don’t understand.”
“Rachel, it doesn’t bother me because the idea of people thinking that I do those things is not offensive to me,” she said with a shrug. “Besides, part of it is true.”
Rachel looked like she’d been hit with a brick. “Why – why didn’t I know this?”
“Because I’m a professional,” she said with a grin. “And it’s not your business.” The kettle, behind her, started whistling, and she turned away to pour it into the teapot. She let Rachel stew in her statement while she did it, puttering around the kitchen in silence. She watched the tea steep for a few minutes, with the top off of the teapot, and took out two cups.
“Far too much sugar for you, right?” she asked Rachel, who nodded dumbly. “You know, Rachel, for someone as intelligent as you, you sure do miss some huge details.”
“I – well, I never –”
“Thought about it?” Gill tried, stirring Rachel’s tea and passing it over to her.
“No, of course I thought about it, but I –”
“You make a habit out of wondering about your SIO’s sexuality?” she asked shrewdly, pouring a splash of milk into her own tea.
“That’s not – that’s not what I meant –”
Gill laughed, a quiet chuckle, and turned back to her. “Rachel, relax before you pass out,” she said. “What Kevin thinks about me doesn’t bother me. What he thinks about me or Julie doesn’t bother me. Why does it bother you so much?”
Rachel pulled the cup up to her mouth and took a sip, holding the cup high enough that it hid her mouth. She shrugged.
“It bothered you enough to come to my house late at night,” Gill said.
“He shouldn’t be saying things like that about you,” Rachel said, leaving the cup abandoned on the counter behind her. “He’s the one who blabbed, he’s the fuck up –”
“He is,” Gill agreed, “Which is why he’s the one saying things like that –”
“It’s just not on,” Rachel interrupted. “It just isn’t.”
Gill surveyed her, her eyes intent on Rachel’s, then on her fidgeting hands, now free of the tea cup. “Why do those words bother you so much, Rachel?”
“You really need to work on your face, kid,” Gill said softly. “All of those little wrinkles in your brow, the set of your jaw, even your hands.” She moved forward, pressing the pad of her thumb between Rachel’s brows. “You’re angry, you’re agitated, all on my behalf, even after I’ve told you that the words don’t bother me.”
“They bother me,” Rachel insisted, just as quietly. “They – they really bother me.”
“Who called you those words?”
“Ex-boyfriends,” Rachel muttered, her eyes on the tile floor between their feet. “Shit men in shit bars, men on the street. Kevin.”
Gill stepped back, just halfway, to see Rachel better. “Kevin called you those names?”
“Not – not so much like he did you, but –”
“And you’re upset because the words are true?”
Rachel stilled, so completely that Gill was momentarily worried she would make a break for the door. “I didn’t say the words were true.”
“You didn’t have to, Sherlock,” Gill said gently. “It’s all over your face.” She paused, trying to feel out the best way to continue without Rachel panicking. “Must have given Kevin quite a shock after you shagged him,” she said with a quiet laugh. “He doesn’t understand the concept of someone liking both.”
Rachel laughed, the sound full of relief, covering her face with her hands. “He’s such a –”
“Slimy arsehole?” Gill supplied helpfully. “Well, you knew that when you shagged him, didn’t you?”
“Stop,” Rachel whined from behind her hands. “Worst decision of my life.”
“That’s saying quite a lot, Rachel, you sure you want to hang that around poor Kevin?” Gill asked, holding back her laughter until she was sure Rachel was also laughing. “Poor bugger. He’s been after you since his first day on the syndicate, he had no idea what he was getting into.”
“No one ever does,” Rachel sighed, reaching for her tea, almost too cooled.
“That’s not true,” Gill said amiably. “It doesn’t take a lot of work to understand you well enough.”
“Gee, thanks,” Rachel said, her cheeks flushing pink. She let her eyes find Gill, who was watching her curiously. Was it just her, or was she being kinder to her now than she had ever been while they were on the job? She couldn’t be sure, but there was something soft, delicate about whatever was happening, standing in this kitchen, the light dim and the tea perfectly brewed.
“I mean, it just takes a little observation,” Gill said with a shrug, and Rachel followed the careful movement, intended to look nonchalant, but still, meticulously chosen. “You’re a complicated person, but you’re not a never-ending mystery. These men that you choose, they just have no interest in getting past the mystery.”
“Oh but you do?” Rachel asked challengingly. Gill raised an eyebrow, looking down at her own mug of tea.
“Kid, I’ve been past the mystery for years,” she said. “The difference is, I think you’re interesting even after the mystery has been solved.”
Rachel laughed, a soft, quiet thing, and pressed her lips to Gill’s cheek, her breath ghosting over her neck. “Thank you,” she whispered.
“In for a penny, in for a pound, Sherlock,” Gill murmured, and set the tea cup on the counter behind Rachel. Rachel wondered, for just a moment, what she meant by that, and then her hand was on her face, her fingers cool on the warm skin of her cheek.
She ducked her head to catch Gill’s lips, realizing as she did how small she was, in her jumper and no heeled shoes. Gill let her lead, smiling against her lips, her hand coming to rest at the back of Rachel’s neck. Rachel pulled away, her eyes searching Gill’s face, looking for disappointment, for disapproval, anything she normally saw when she crossed a line at work.
“Is that how you kiss all those other men?” Gill teased, her fingers finding Rachel’s ponytail and giving it a light tug to sell her point.
“Didn’t want to push it,” she reasoned with a shrug.
“Push it,” Gill said playfully. “If you can muster the courage.”
“Mmm, Godzilla, so bossy,” Rachel murmured, and swooped in for another kiss, this one open-mouthed and far deeper than the first. Gill pulled away long enough to laugh, and Rachel used the moment to gently push her across the kitchen to pin her to the other counter, dropping kisses to her jaw and down to her neck, relishing the way Gill’s other hand clutched at her waist, the fabric of her shirt.
“You like it,” Gill said, and Rachel tilted her chin up to meet her mouth.
“Oh hush, you.”