Even forty minutes after shoving the married bloke into his car and giving Dom an earful about his irresponsible choices, Rachel was still seething. Well, she wasn’t angry – she was a cocktail of worried, angry, and generally exhausted, but anger was winning out. She shoved clothes into her holdall, knowing that she was going to regret that decision tomorrow morning when Gill knocked on her hotel room door and Rachel was forced to answer it in wrinkled slacks, but she couldn’t bring herself to fold anything properly. When she tried to stay still long enough to fold, her fingers started shaking and she was back to furious.
She thought about calling Sean, and venting to him about her problems, but she knew he’d just laugh it off, even if she had the guts to tell him about what she caught Dom doing. And would she? Or would she suddenly become even more of a protective sister and refuse to tell?
She had just shoved another pair of shoes into her holdall when Gill’s knock came. She groaned, letting her head fall back, annoyed, before she grabbed her stuff and headed toward the door, leaving a 20 pound note on the counter for Dom.
She didn’t say goodbye to him.
Gill was waiting by her car, looking at her phone, presumably unbothered by Rachel’s delay in getting to the door. “You ready?” she asked, and for a moment, Rachel forgot all about Dom, all about Sean, and let the anticipation wash over her. Even Gill looked excited. She was grinning, her hair rustling around her face with the wind, her eyes bright and inviting.
“Of course,” she answered, and she and Gill shared matching smiles.
“Those are for you,” Gill jutted her chin over to the passenger seat. Rachel walked around, tossing her holdall into the boot and closing the lid as she went. In the front seat was two huge binders, presumably intelligence on the case they were going to consult on, and next to it, a block of chocolate and a steaming cup of coffee.
“That is the kind you like, innit?” Gill asked as she slid into the driver’s seat, but her smug smile told Rachel she already knew it was.
Dark chocolate with orange. It really was her favorite.
“Yeah,” she murmured, looking down at the label. “Thanks.”
“Janet said you like espresso,” Gill said, buckling herself in, looking up into rear view mirror instead of at Rachel. “So I got you one when I got a cuppa. Extra sugar, since you have terrible taste in everything.”
“Are you alright?” Rachel asked, cradling the warm drink between her cold hands.
Gill threw the car into reverse and backed out of her drive. “Godzilla can’t buy you a coffee?” she asked shrewdly, raising an eyebrow. “Are you alright?” she asked. “You look pale.”
“I’m always pale,” Rachel deadpanned, taking the top off of her espresso and taking a sip. “Holy shit that’s hot.”
“It’s coffee, Sherlock,” Gill replied. “I thought you were a detective.”
“I’m on the lookout for murderin’ bastards, not coffee,” Rachel protested, fanning her face.
Gill’s laughter chased Dom from her mind, replacing all of her worries with something akin to giddiness.
Gill was used to watching Rachel interview criminals from behind a wall. She was used to muttering to herself tips that Rachel would never hear, quiet expletives when Rachel went off of the script Gill had written and never shared. But having her sit in the same room as Jeremy Leach made her anxious, though she had no cause. Rachel could take care of herself, and it wasn’t like Leach was going to launch himself over the table and attack her.
“I know that you’ve been advised that you can have a solicitor present, but I believe you’ve indicated that you don’t want one. Is that still correct?” Rachel wasn’t even looking at her notes, she was so prepared. Gill felt momentary pride.
“Could I ask why that is, Mr. Leach? I would have thought that, given your position, it would be advisable.”
Leach leaned forward. “Is that a Manchester accent?”
Gill held her breath. She had forgotten an important detail – one that had been mentioned in the binders, but buried enough that she hadn’t thought it important. Jeremy Leach’s type – the women he raped and murdered – were all brunettes, and five foot eight. The exact description of Rachel.
“What is it you wanted to talk to us about, Mr. Leach?” Rachel deftly sidestepped him, and Gill’s worries evaporated. She was capable. She knew what to do.
“I don’t know how much you know about me –”
“I’m assisting the investigation into the death of Yasmin Heaney,” Rachel said coolly, her gaze stern, professional, and Gill felt herself grin proudly. “You contacted the incident room at Bristol saying you had some information regarding that incident.”
The interview continued in much the way Gill predicted it would; Jeremy Leach had found someone to pin his crimes on, even from his prison cell, and he had obviously found someone inside the prison who had just gotten out to commit a crime with his MO to pin it on this poor, feckless sap.
She would have felt exhilarated that her prediction was correct if Rachel hadn’t gotten out of the car at the hotel and said “Isn’t there like a really screaming flaw in the whole basis of the investigation?”
She wanted to ignore the statement; she wanted Rachel to be smarter than this. “Is there?” she said instead.
“Well their two lines of inquiry and the way that you’re talking are based entirely on the assumption that Leach is guilty of the original crimes,” she said, grabbing her holdall from the boot. Gill almost forgot to grab her own – she was too busy glaring at Rachel’s profile, drilling holes into the side of her face.
She tried to be logical – Rachel had only read the files related to the original Leach case – she hadn’t been involved, she hadn’t seen what Gill had seen. His guilt was not nearly as apparent to her as it was to Gill.
Gill grabbed her own bag and passed her key to the valet. “Thank you,” she said, hoping the process of being checked into the hotel would give her enough time to come up with a response that didn’t make Rachel feel like she was a compromised investigator.
“It’s not an assumption, he is guilty,” her mouth said even as her brain told her not to say it.
“But what if he isn’t?”
“He is,” she insisted.
Rachel huffed, the gesture almost childish, and Gill enjoyed it in spite of her irritation. “I feel like you're not hearing what I'm saying.”
“You've read your ringbinders,” Gill said, signing forms for their hotel rooms. “It was Leach's DNA at the scene. His thumb print on the pendant of Catherine Maloney's necklace, pressed so hard it was embedded into her skin and at the time, he couldn't account for how else his dabs could have got on it, even if he came up with some convoluted rubbish about it afterwards.” The words came to her almost absently, a feat of muscle memory.
“Yeah, but –”
“His delivery schedule put him at or near all the murders. We even had a witness who ID'd him in the area of one of them,” Gill continued as if she hadn’t spoken.
“All right, forget it,” Rachel said, shrugging one shoulder as if Gill’s argument made no impression on her at all.
“Do you think he's a bit too good looking to be a killer?” Gill asked, a tad harshly. “Did you ever seen a photo of Ted Bundy? Think he was a bit too good looking as well to have raped and murdered 34 women?”
Rachel’s face colored, but to her credit, she didn’t back down. “I didn't believe him, but I didn't not believe him either.”
“Rachel,” Gill admonished, finally at the end of her rope. “Are you serious? You'd let that man out?”
“No!” she replied quickly, the response almost instinctual, a natural following orders response. “No,” she said with less conviction, then – “Well, yeah, if he's not guilty.”
Gill opened her mouth to respond, to scold her in front of the hotel employee, decorum be damned. She couldn’t believe she was being so naïve, and then her eyes drifted to the right. “Oh, God,” she said.
“What?” Rachel asked, and Gill could see the relief on her face at the change of subject.
“Bandits at two,” Gill said under her breath, and Rachel leaned in closer to hear her. “Julian McAndrew writes for The Guardian and The New Statesman, one of Leach's staunchest dickhead supporters.”
“That was quick,” Rachel’s voice was hushed, traveling almost directly into Gill’s ear, and she shivered.
“It's volatile, I told you,” she said, shaking it off. Rachel’s hair came sliding toward her and Gill realized she was about to turn and make eye contact with them both, silently inviting them over to harass them. “Don't look,” she said, dropping her hand over Rachel’s. The contact stopped her short, and instead of turning to look at them, she jerked her head back toward Gill, her eyes drifting down for just a moment to take in Gill’s hand on top of her own.
“The second you make eye contact with them, you’ll be in too deep in an interview you were never prepped for,” Gill murmured, and Rachel shifted even closer to her to hear. “You’ll say something that they’ll take out of context and twist, and you’ll be on the front page before you can blink, and that’s the entire investigation compromised.”
Rachel breathed a quiet laugh, so soft Gill couldn’t tell if it was sarcastic or not. “Thanks for the vote of confidence, Boss,” she said.
As soon as she realized Rachel hadn’t moved her hand out of hers, Rachel was sliding away, holding her hotel room key in the hand that Gill had just been holding, and Gill was forced to hurry after her.
It didn’t click to Rachel until she heard the description of the new victim. “Five foot eight, dark brown hair, she’s ticking a lot of boxes.” She let her eyes find Gill of their own accord, and watched Gill studiously avoid her gaze.
She didn’t want to, but she felt betrayed. Had Gill only asked her along because she fit Leach’s victim profile? Had the chocolate and the coffee been a surreptitious reward for placing herself into a mousetrap like a piece of cheese? She kept her eyes on Gill, the same way she’d seen her do to Pete, to Mitch, to other people in their syndicate, until Gill’s eyes met hers.
She didn’t know what she saw there, but it certainly didn’t make her feel any better.
“Dark brown hair, five foot eight,” she hissed at Gill the moment they were alone.
Gill didn’t look up from the ground, where she was meticulously watching where she stepped. “What about it?” she asked.
“I fit the victim profile, that’s why you asked me to interview him,” she pressed, and Gill stopped walking, looking up at her.
“Yeah, but I figured he’d fall for you, not the other way around,” she retorted, and it was Rachel’s turn to look down to the ground. After a moment of not speaking, Gill seemed unable to bear it. “It actually didn’t occur to me,” she said, and the harsh edge was gone to her voice, replaced with something more intimate, honest. “If you recall, I asked you where Janet was first.”
“I wasn’t even the first choice when I fit the victim profile,” Rachel muttered.
“So if I had chosen you because you fit the victim profile, I’m unethical, but I didn’t and you’re still mad?” Gill asked. “Rachel, you’re still the one here, aren’t you? Stop second-guessing why you’re here and start appreciating that you are.”
She had been working all day and was just about dead on her feet when they got the news that Leach’s accomplice had been identified by his patsy. It had been her and Gill’s idea to have him come in and look at a line up to point out the man who had gotten him off his face the day of the murder, and it their plan had worked.
“Jackson’s identified Hibbert. Let’s pick him up. Well done!”
Rachel grinned, turning to see Gill’s reaction, as she always did when she did something right. Gill was already looking at her, a smile spreading across her face.
“You stick with me, kid, I’ll get you into a fight,” she said, dropping her hand on top of Rachel’s for just a moment before taking it back. Rachel watched her turn away, her eyes scanning over the rest of the room, and tried not to smile. Perhaps Gill was right, she needed to appreciate that she was here instead of questioning why she had been chosen. She pursed her lips, trying not to smile, and turned away from Gill as Gill’s eyes finally landed on her.
Rachel was trying to get to sleep when she heard Gill’s knock, identical to the one outside her flat that morning. For a moment, she considered ignoring it; she was bone tired and something about Gill prodding her to question Leach without openly telling her she fit the victim profile still rankled. But still, she knew she couldn’t ignore her, but she took pleasure in making her wait a few extra seconds, her knock growing more insistent the longer she refused to move.
They had been dancing along a line, dotted into the path laid before them, and Rachel wasn’t sure which side they’d end up on. She was used to ending up on one side, but it was usually Gill who scolded her for doing it. But it was Gill who grabbed her hand in the lobby, and Gill who did it again in the syndicate.
She decided she would linger on the safe side of the line, and if Gill wanted to yank her over, she’d have to yank hard.
“Shit,” she finally groaned, pulling herself up and out of bed to answer the door. “I was trying to sleep,” she said.
“Can I come in?” she asked, and then her eyes traveled down Rachel’s body. “You were going to sleep in your work clothes?”
Rachel shrugged, an answer to both questions, and stepped aside to Gill could walk by her, her eyes assessing the messy room, and stopped to wait for her at the edge of the telly. She was looking down, at the floor or her feet, and suddenly, Rachel was worried.
“What is it?” Rachel asked, following her into the room, seeing it through her eyes. Messy, childish, typically herself.
“Sit down,” Gill ordered. “It’s bad news.”
“Is it about our Dom?” Rachel asked, worry trumping her caution.
“What about your Dom?” Gill replied, her brow creasing in worry. Rachel clenched her jaw and shook her head.
Gill surveyed her closely for a moment before moving on. “I just got off the phone with CPS, and they’ve just informed me that they are dropping the attempted murder charges on Nick Savage.”
Rachel felt her throat go dry. She had expected any number of things, any number of scoldings, but she hadn’t expected pity. She hadn’t expected actual news that affected her down to her core, not in Bristol.
Gill was still talking, her gaze insistently intense on Rachel. “They’re saying they have insufficient evidence, no, they’re saying they have no evidence.”
“Not reliable, according to them,” Gill scoffed.
“He knows where I live,” Rachel said, feeling a weight settle onto her chest.
Gill looked concerned for a moment before letting her brain explain it away. “I don’t think he’d be stupid enough to try something like that again.”
“He has the keys to my flat.”
“Change the locks.”
Rachel stared up at her for a long moment, trying to decide if she felt better or worse when Gill was being like this, so business-like and matter-of-fact, and had decided that she felt worse when Gill cleared her throat, and with the subtle shake of her head, Rachel realized she was just as angry.
“Are you alright?” Gill finally asked, and after searching Rachel’s visage for a moment, she tutted to herself. “Stupid question.”
Rachel stared down at the carpet, her hair falling from behind her ears to guard her expression. She wanted to feel angry, wanted to get pissed, wanted to be as much of a liability as Gill probably expected her to be, but she couldn’t muster the strength. Instead, she just felt…beaten down. These people, the police force, they were supposed to protect the public, but more than that, they were supposed to protect their own. And Rachel thought she finally was that, finally was one of them, and then the CPS had to go out and make a point to exclude her from the protection that so many other cops got on a daily basis.
She felt outside every day – she was constantly messing something up, saying the wrong thing, being too aggressive, voicing her hunches when she shouldn’t be, she was always doing something wrong. This time, she thought, in making sure Nick was prosecuted, she was finally doing something right.
“I’m sorry,” Gill finally said in the silence.
“It’s not your fault,” Rachel muttered, sniffing even though she wasn’t even crying.
Gill shifted in her spot against the telly stand. “I’m not apologizing for their decision. I’m apologizing for giving you constant grief about that Savage bloke. I should have realized you felt like shit and backed off, and I didn’t.”
“That was months ago, Boss,” Rachel pointed out, glancing up from the carpet.
Gill waved her off and stepped toward her, just a short distance. “I know that, but…still. Better a late apology than none.”
“I suppose,” Rachel shrugged.
“I really didn’t bring you here because you fit the victim profile,” she continued. “I brought you here because you’re a damn good interviewer.”
“You wanted Janet first.”
Gill shrugged. “Janet has better taste in music than you.”
Rachel laughed, looking up at Gill, who was smiling down at her. “Thank you for telling me,” she said, when she found that she had been gazing at Gill for far too long without an explanation. “CPS wouldn’t have done.”
Gill glanced away from her, around the room. “Yeah, well, I care about your well-being,” she said like it was the most obvious fact in the world. “And just because I follow the rules doesn’t mean I always agree with what they dictate.”
“Sometimes the rules are shit,” Rachel muttered, and Gill exhaled a gentle laugh.
“They are,” she agreed. They fell silent, both of them marinating in the comfortable quiet, and then Gill sighed to herself and stepped away from the telly stand to sit on the edge of the messy bed, beside Rachel. Rachel almost moved away, just so she could see Gill better, but something instinctually stopped her, and she found herself relying entirely on her detective hunches to navigate.
“You know,” Gill finally said. “Dave was very similar to your Nicholas Savage. Not as bad,” she said when Rachel turned sharply toward her, “but he was very good at negotiating his way out of messes, of justifying his bad behavior. So he got away with a lot of tawdry things when I should have stopped him. And I didn’t,” she leaned back on the bed, onto her hands, so she could see Rachel’s profile. “I let him cheat on me for ten years, I let him leave me for some…” she paused, as if she just realized that Rachel had probably recently been called exactly the same word she was about to spit out.
“Whore,” Rachel finished for her. “It’s alright, I’ve been called worse.”
“I’m not –” Gill stopped. “My point is, I like to think I am a very smart woman, and I still got had by an idiot of a man for a decade. So I don’t want you thinking this indiscretion, this blip on your record is an indicator of who you are, or how intelligent you are.”
Rachel rolled her eyes up to the ceiling. “Yeah, but it is, though.”
“It isn’t,” Gill insisted. “I’m not saying you’re perfect, but you can’t hold yourself accountable for infidelity you didn’t know about. And you certainly can’t hold yourself accountable for the CPS being easily manipulated by money and power.”
“I thought he loved me,” Rachel said. “And that’s cliché, but you know, no one else did. I didn’t think anyone else was capable.”
Gill tilted her head to see her better. “You are not an easy woman to love, Rachel Bailey, that’s for sure,” she said. “But no one worth loving really is.”
Rachel snorted. “Not like you’d know anything about it.”
Gill surveyed her with an unfathomable expression. “No, I guess I wouldn’t, would I?”
“I don’t need your…” Rachel hesitated, trying to find the right word. “Pity, judgment, whatever.”
Gill blinked, her face still impassive enough that it was driving Rachel mad. “Good, cause I’m not giving it to you.”
Rachel mimicked Gill’s posture, leaning back on the bed on her elbows instead of her arms, keeping them at eye level. Gill watched her do it carefully, with a measured, secretive smile. “Then what –”
And then Gill’s hand was on her cheek, pulling her into her orbit, close enough that their noses were touching. Gill’s hand was cold, cold enough that Rachel felt wide awake, far more alert than she had been a few minutes before. Gill’s finger’s reached the base of her jaw, loosening her hair from behind her ear, her eyes leaving Rachel’s to watch her hair tumble down, over her hand.
“Oh,” Rachel said quietly, closing the distance. Their kiss was chaste, probing and exploratory, and Gill didn’t push it, didn’t deepen the kiss, didn’t do anything but let it happen, falling back on her elbows when Rachel shifted closer to her. She pulled away, her hair falling over Gill now that she was leaning back on the bed, and Rachel was treated to a rare, open expression on Gill’s face, surprised and flushed.
“I didn’t think you’d do it,” Gill said, and Rachel smiled but didn’t speak. Gill tilted her head, looking up at Rachel, who was almost hovering over her, a curtain of her long, dark hair obscuring the outside world to them both. For a moment, Rachel was glad they could just exist here, in their own world, but then a car horn honked outside and Rachel jumped, turning away from Gill and seeing the outside world again, the lights through the hotel window, the rain pattering down.
“You’re thinking too much,” Gill murmured.
Rachel didn’t turn back to her. “You’re distracting me, is that it?” she asked. “CPS give me bad news and you’re here to give me some kisses so I’ll forget?”
Gill sighed. “Strictly speaking, lady, you went for that, not me.”
Rachel groaned, falling back onto the bed, beside Gill. “Could you stop being Godzilla for five minutes?”
“Could you stop being Sherlock for five minutes?” Gill retorted. “I’m not trying to distract you, I’m not trying to placate you. For a good detective, you really are thick.”
“Thanks,” Rachel snapped sarcastically. “Sweet nothings, whispered in my ear.”
“I could have given you that instead, if you hadn’t spoiled the mood,” Gill protested, turning over so her head was propped up on her arm, surveying Rachel’s profile. She watched her for a few moments; Rachel could feel her eyes on her, but what she was looking for, Rachel couldn’t be sure. She tightened her jaw and tried to keep her face impassive, lest Gill, the detective extraordinaire, see something there she could exploit.
“I’m going to go,” Gill said finally. She sat up, and Rachel followed her. “Get some rest, we have a big day tomorrow.”
She stood, straightening her slacks self-consciously. Rachel watched her do it, a sudden ache in her chest at the idea of her leaving. Without speaking, she reached for Gill’s waist, pulling her toward the bed, so that Gill’s smaller frame was bracketed by her legs. Gill slipped her arms around Rachel’s shoulders and ran her fingers through her long hair.
Rachel sighed, pulling Gill closer, so that her head was resting on Gill’s stomach, and Gill chuckled, dropping a kiss to the top of her head.
“I’m sorry I’m me,” Rachel mumbled against the material of her shirt.
Gill ducked her head, the better to give Rachel a proper kiss on the temple, and said, “Don’t be sorry,” she said. “I’m not.”
Rachel woke the next morning with a pounding headache. The day passed in a blur – Jeremy Leach was guilty, they had the proof, everyone celebrated. She wanted to care, she wanted to feel like she’d accomplished something monumental. But she couldn’t. Every time she looked around the room, all she saw were people who claimed to care about justice, people she thought were like her, but which ones there would have been happy to hear the Nick Savage wasn’t going to be prosecuted? How many of them would have blamed her for going back to a married man and a corrupt barrister? How many of them didn’t give a monkey’s about her?
She went back to the hotel, packed her bag, and sat on the freshly made bed, too tired to move. She was ready to be home, but she was far from ready to spend the next few hours in the car with Gill.
Just thinking about her made her want to pay for a cab home. She was so embarrassed – how many women had the opportunity to kiss a willing Gill Murray in their hotel room and still managed to muck it up? She was sure she had to be the only one to be that stupid.
She growled and fell back onto the bed. It was maddening, being herself sometimes. She couldn’t shake the notion that Gill being in her room, being…so not-Godzilla was only because she was telling her bad news. And once that idea had entered her head, she couldn’t get it out. Call it paranoia, call it self-sabotage, but no matter what it was, it was annoying.
But hadn’t Gill given her chocolate days ago, along with an espresso? Hadn’t she gone out of her way to get her something she enjoyed? Hadn’t she gone out of her way to impress upon her that Rachel was in Bristol because Gill thought she was a good detective?
Was she just being paranoid?
“You know,” Gill said, and Rachel glanced up from her phone. They had managed to muddle through most of the drive home fairly easily, their conversation light and vague, but she could tell from Rachel’s raised eyebrows that she heard the difference in her tone this time. “I really am sorry about Nick Savage.”
Rachel shrugged, and in the lazy movement, Gill could see that she still saw the apology as something a DCI had to do – not something Gill the person was doing.
“You’re not the first bright woman to be had by an idiot,” she said, even though she’d said almost exactly this to Rachel before. “You’ve met Dave.”
The mention of her ex-husband caught Rachel’s attention, probably because Gill never willingly spoke of him beyond muttered expletives. She set her phone down completely and fixed her gaze on Gill, her dark eyes silently encouraging her to continue.
“You’ve, by now, heard that I had no idea he was…sleeping with all and sundry for years while everyone else knew,” Gill continued, looking down at her hands before finding the stubborn courage to look back up at Rachel. “But that’s not true. I did know. I knew right away. But I didn’t say anything.”
“For Sammy,” Rachel confirmed, and Gill nodded.
“Sammy was young, I didn’t want his family being torn apart so suddenly. I worried what it would do to him. But if I had,” she paused, reaching for her cup of tea to have something to fidget with (Rachel watched her do it with careful eyes), “if I had the courage to get him out of our lives sooner, if I had gotten my life together, I would have been able to keep my job with the NPIA.”
Rachel’s eyes went from curious to sympathetic, and Gill had to look away.
“I was good at that job, Rachel, I was born for it,” her voice broke and she felt rather than saw Rachel shift closer to her. “And I had to give it up because of that –”
“Knob,” Rachel supplied helpfully.
Gill laughed and wiped her eyes. “That job made me feel alive,” she said breathlessly, and Rachel nodded, knowing exactly how she felt. That was what drew Gill to her so tremendously; Rachel understood her. “It made me feel alive, but you make me feel alive too.”
Rachel smiled, so different from any smile she’d ever seen before, gentle and shy, and reached over the table to gently extricate Gill’s hand from her tea. “How angry would you be if I kissed you in this shitty diner?” she asked conspiratorially, leaning close so Gill could hear her whisper.
“You wouldn’t,” Gill said with a laugh, her eyes searching the rest of the empty room.
Rachel threw a glance over her shoulder. “I think you already know that I have an issue obeying authority,” she said, leaning down to steal a momentary kiss that Gill allowed. She pulled back, far enough to watch for Gill’s reaction, and grinned when Gill pulled her back in for a longer kiss, forceful and demanding and too short because Rachel started laughing. Gill let her pull away, overcome with quiet, rebellious laughter that she hadn’t felt for years.
“You are a terrible influence,” she exclaimed. “We need to get back on the road.”
“Does that mean we can’t make out in your car?” Rachel asked as Gill stood, her to-go cup of tea in her hand that wasn’t still attached to Rachel’s.
“Rachel Bailey, you can walk home,” Gill said with a laugh.
Rachel released her hand to throw her arm over Gill’s shoulder instead. “You can’t make me do that, I make you feel alive.”
“Oh, I regret telling you that already.”