Her initial reaction was to wrinkle her nose. There was a musty damp smell and the carpet looked like it had seen better years. One of the walls was covered in messy graffiti and the mirror on the opposite side had a large crack running through it. The ceiling light which was barely even functioning was shadeless and hung naked from a long black cable. Although everything urged her to move quickly through the house, she took her time. There could be hidden threats or enemies lurking around the corner.
The living room wasn’t much better. A faded and sagging sofa sat in one corner, its fluffy innards exposed in the half light. There was odd bits of clothing draped over the armrests or scattered over the floor. The shouting drifted towards Fran once more and she moved out of the living room, emerging into a cramped and cluttered kitchen.
Fran would have been more disgusted and appalled by the mountain of mould growing on the dishes in the sink, had she not spotted the commotion in the garden. It took her eyes a few moments to adjust to the bizarre scene in front of her. It appeared that Gethin was grappling with some sort of skinny creature, who had latched onto his back. There was no sign of Rhion from here, so Fran moved hastily through the kitchen, circumventing the leaning tower of dishes on her way past.
The garden would have been a relief from the cesspit of a kitchen, if it had not been for the smell of coppery blood that suddenly filled Fran’s nostrils. The struggle started to make more sense, as Fran hurried over. Rhion was pinned to the floor by Gethin, his face and clothes covered in dark, red blood. Gethin was hunched over him, trying to deliver more blows to the felled Rhion, whilst fighting off the attacker on his back.
It was only when Fran got closer to the scene that she realized that what she had taken to be a young boy wrapped around Gethin was in actual fact a skeletal woman. Fran had seen enough. She stormed forwards, seized the blonde Gollum from Gethin’s back and hurled her to the ground. The girl tried to get back up but Fran pushed her over with a hefty shove.
Next she grabbed hold of one of Gethin’s arms, twisted it up behind his back and forced him off the blooded Rhion, who was coughing up some of his recently dislodged teeth.
‘Gerroff Fran.’ Gethin roared, trying to squirm his way out of her vice like grip.
‘Only if you promise to stop.’
Gethin said nothing and so Fran applied a bit more pressure.
‘Okay okay.’ He cried out suddenly and swore several times, as Fran let him go.
The skinny blonde girl spat next to Fran’s foot and gave her the finger. Fran ignored it and turned her attention to Gethin.
Gethin nodded but he was still red faced and breathing heavily. His knuckles were stained with Rhion’s blood. Fran looked at the downed Rhion. He had taken a beating but he would live.
‘Why don’t you sit a moment.’ She suggested to Gethin.
‘I’m fine.’ Muttered Gethin.
‘You’re not fine Geth…look at him.’
As if on queue, Rhion let out an eerie and rather unsettling laugh. The sight was extremely garish, made worse by his toothless smile and manic eyed expression.
‘You punch like a girl.’ Rhion croaked and spat out some bloodied phlegm on the grass.
Gethin went in for another go but Fran shoved him back with a hand.
‘Don’t make this any worse then it already is.’ She said in a severe tone.
‘Listen to your mum Geth.’ Rhion chirped up.
‘Shut your face Darren.’
The blonde skinny girl was getting to her feet.
‘Where are you going?’ Fran demanded.
‘Need my fags.’ She retorted moodily.
Fran caught her by her chicken arm.
‘Get off me pig.’
Fran dug around in her pocket and brought out the packet of cigarettes she had picked up for Steven earlier.
‘Here take this but you aren’t going anywhere without my say so.’
The skinny girl took the packet resignedly. It was clearly evident that she had been planning to take something a little more stronger. She moved over and knelt beside Rhion, offering him one of the cigarettes. All the while Rhion maintained his evil smirk at Gethin, who appeared to be growing redder by the second. Noting Gethin’s bloodied hand starting to quiver, Fran led to him to one side and spoke very quietly.
‘Fran…I don’t know what to..’ Gethin mumbled out.
Fran waved her hand dismissively.
‘Don’t focus on that now. We will deal with that later. More importantly, I need you to do something for me.’
‘Yes of course…anything.’
Fran dug out her phone and handed it to Gethin.
‘Give Bridge and your brothers a ring. Tell them to come to us, so we can take these two pillocks in for questioning.’
Gethin nodded rather sheepishly and turned to head back to the house.
Gethin paused and twisted round.
‘Clean yourself up.’ She said with a kind smile. All the kindness in her smile couldn’t hide the concern that was clearly apparent in her eyes.
The three police officers waited in silence back at the station. The occasional rev of an engine or bark of a dog was the only thing to break the prolonged silence. Gethin was asleep on the office sofa, his bandaged hand hanging limply over the edge. Bridge was sifting his way through the love letters found at the victim’s house. Fran was nursing a cup of tea, staring at a scuff mark on the floor with a vacant expression. She felt like she should be doing something useful but her brain was frazzled. Glancing over at Bridge, she wondered how he did it. The ability to close off the world around him and focus entirely on the case in hand.
‘What are we going to do about Geth?’
Bridge didn’t look up at first, he was clearly too enraptured in the letter he was holding. Fran glanced sideways at the dozing Gethin. Not long after the incident at Gethin’s hideout, Bridge and the twins had turned up. Darren Rhion and his femme fatale had been taken in for questioning. Unfortunately, due to Gethin’s hasty behaviour, they weren’t able to keep him for long. Rhion had pretty much threatened a lawsuit for physical abuse and soon after he was released. They were able to hold onto the girl a little longer but it only backfired, when she cooberated his whereabouts and provided him an alibi.
Bridge wasn’t convinced and suggested they bring in the other lad for questioning. Personally, Fran didn’t see the point. Even if they did track down the lad before Rhion got there first, it would be a lot of time and effort over a very thin lead. Plus, after what Gethin did, it probably wouldn’t be the wisest move. At least not straight away anyway. So using her best negotiation techniques, she had convinced him to focus on following the evidence trail.This was just as well really because Bridge’s people skills were about a good as a faulty tumble dryer.
‘I think we are going to have to stick him on temporary leave.’
Bridge did actually look up at this. Apparently his blackened and cold heart was melting somewhat.
‘I’ve been thinking the same thing.’ He admitted. ‘We don’t want to add fuel to the fire.’
Fran gave him a scornful look.
‘Sorry, that was in poor taste.’ Bridge said with a guilty expression.
They both looked over at the sleeping Gethin. After the two suspects had been released, Fran had dropped the twins off at home. Considering Gethin’s bloodied and dishevelled state, it had been decided that it would be best to keep him at the station overnight. After a quick shower and clean up, the brothers had been given the task of concocting an alibi for theirs and Gethin’s whereabouts. It wasn’t a particularly arduous task. They had become accustomed to lying on a regular basis. Whilst it was common knowledge that their mum would soon cotton on to it, she would more then likely not want to hear the truth.
So the boys had regaled an elaborate story about Gethin catching them drag racing around town. Hence why he would be late home tonight or not at all. According to them it had set him back on what was a busy day of investigating. Angharad was suspicious but after discussing it with Fran and Gethin on the phone, she eventually accepted it. It was just as well because Gethin needed both time to cool off and sleep. Add a concerned mother into the equation and they wouldn’t hear the end of it. Fran opened her mouth to discuss the young lad’s fate, when Bridge sprung to his feet and moved over to the evidence board with an intense conviction.
‘I wonder.’ He muttered to himself.
‘What?’ Fran said, stifling a yawn.
She had experienced quite enough excitement for one day and really wasn’t interested in what Bridge had to say. He swivelled round to face her, his long coat tails swishing dramatically in his wake.
‘Darren Rhion isn’t the killer.’
Fran sighed and ran her hand through her hair agitatedly. She fixed him with a tired expression.
‘We’ve been over this. Rhion is responsible. We just need a piece of incriminating evidence to pin him down.’
‘If you are so convinced it is Rhion, why did you let him go?’ Bridge coughed pettily.
Fran pulled a face and sighed. They were going in circles.
‘You know why. Because of Rocky Balboa over there.’
But Bridge didn’t seem to be listening, he was too caught up in his out of the box theory.
‘What if Maggie is the culprit?’
Fran couldn’t help but laugh. She looked at the pile of takeaway coffee cups strewn across Bridge’s desk.
‘Just run with it for a minute.’
Fran nodded resignedly. It was easier to agree and let him wear himself out then argue.
‘All the letters have the same initial as a signature. The letter M. From looking at the evidence board, it is clear that the only person with M as an initial is Maggie.’
Fran looked at him closely. There were deep bags, underlying heavily bloodshot eyes. His face was stubbly and unshaven and she was pretty sure he was wearing the same shirt a third time in a row.
‘Bridge, when did you last sleep?’
Bridge shrugged and scratched the back of his head.
‘It’s not important.’
Fran got to her feet and clasped her hands together.
‘It really is.’
‘Maggie has motive.’ Bridge insisted.
‘How? What motive?’
Bridge looked determined to get his point across.
‘Okay, so when you talked to Maggie you said she was acting oddly, evasive even?’
‘Yes but she was probably just nervous.’
‘Or hiding something.’
‘A secret romance with our deceased victim for instance.’
Fran snorted in disbelief.
‘Listen to me Bridge, you need to sleep.’
For a split second Fran thought she was dreaming. Who on earth in this day and age said poppycock?
‘Seeing as we can’t take any further action with Rhion, can we at least look into it?’
Fran puffed out her cheeks.
‘If it will shut you up…I guess we can look into it.’
Bridge fist pumped the air and made ready to depart.
‘What are you doing?’ Fran said, outraged.
‘I thought you just said…’
Fran brandished a meaty fist at Bridge.
‘I swear to Odin, Bridge, if you say another word.’
Although keen to press on with the investigation, Bridge could see he was on thin nice. He recognized the importance of staying on Fran’s good side. She had the car and the means of reaching the Owens’ farm to question Maggie regarding the letters. Fran had slumped back in her chair and was looking extremely tetchy. Bridge took the opportunity to nip out for a rollup and leave a wide enough berth.
Gethin woke early with a considerable amount of pain and discomfort. Cradling his bandaged fist, he sat up on the sofa and attempted to stretch out his crumpled spine. Looking around the dim office, which was gradually growing lighter in the early morning light, he caught sight of Bridge.
He was hunched over a desk, typing away rapidly on a small notebook laptop. At some point in the night, he had cleared a section of the office floor and placed an array of papers in a circle pattern. He paused, mid type, got to his feet and sat down in the middle of the paper circle. He was clearly engrossed in his work because he hadn’t notice Gethin stir.
Massaging his throbbing hand, Gethin rose to his feet and groaned. He hadn’t felt this bad since his younger years of drinking and pub scraps.
‘Morning Gethin,’ Bridge said cheerfully, without looking round.
Gethin shuffled over to where Bridge sat and ran a cursory eye over the piece of paper.
‘Why are you so chipper?’ He croaked.
Everything hurt Gethin both physically and mentally. Although Gethin had done much of the beating, he had discovered that Rhion’s face was actually rather hard. In addition to this, the teeth that he had managed to knock out had chipped and cut his knuckles. Bridge jumped sprightly to his feet and was about to outlay his fantastic theory, when he realized his folly.
‘It’s not important.’ He mumbled into his collar and darted quickly back to his laptop.
Gethin crouched down and inspected one of the unfolded pieces of paper.
‘You’ve been studying the love letters.’ He said curiously.
‘Mmhm.’ Bridge muttered, typing loudly to drown out further questioning.
Gethin scanned the neat handwriting. Here and there, Bridge had highlighted and underlined key words and phrases.
‘Found anything relevant?’
‘Not really.’ Bridge shrugged.
Gethin gave him a sardonic look. Bridge continued to pretend he wasn’t there.
‘Whose M?’ Gethin enquired, noticing the emphasis of red circles around the letter at the bottom of the page.
Again Bridge ignored him, his typing taking on a frantic and hurried nature. Gethin winced as he got to his feet and moved over to where Bridge was sat. His shoulders were tightly bunched and his attitude uncomfortable.
‘Is this because you think I will be angry if you tell me you’re not pursuing Darren Rhion?’
‘No.’ Laughed Bridge nervously. Gethin gave him a look of pure scepticism. Bridge crumbled all too easily.
‘Maybe…I just thought…that…well seeing as…’
Gethin smiled at the blabbering Bridge. A devious part of him wanted to draw out his suffering. Eventually though, it just became too painful and so he held up a hand to silence him.
‘Bridge, shut up.’
Bridge was taken aback by Gethin’s words.
He knew they were more familiar in the countryside but Bridge was still his superior. He was about to say as much but Gethin got there first.
‘I don’t mind Bridge.’
‘Yeah but the reason I…wait what?’
‘I said I don’t mind.’
Gethin although in mass amounts of pain produced a calm smile. The truth was he felt calm. I mean sure Gethin was in considerable discomfort. Who wouldn’t be after nearly breaking their hand. Yet at the same time he had expended a great deal of anger and frustration. Whilst not entirely happy about Rhion walking out the door scot free, it was a consolation that he had got to pummel Rhion’s stupid face in.
‘But I thought.’
‘Look I know Rhion isn’t the murderer. The bloke can hardly string two sentences together let alone commit a planned and precise murder.’
Bridge slapped the table in triumph.
‘That’s what I said but did Fran believe me, did she f…’
He faltered, as Fran entered the room with a tray of coffee and biscuits.
‘Morning Fran.’ He said, kicking Gethin in the shin, who was chuckling to himself.
Fran brought over the tray and frowned at the two men in front of her.
‘You two seem in good spirits.’ She said, handing Gethin a mug of coffee.
‘Bridge has a theory on the eye gouger.’
‘Yes, I am quite aware of Bridge’s crackpot theory. Please tell him to stop wasting his time.
‘Actually, I think I will hear him out first.’
Fran nearly dropped her tray in surprise.
‘Thank you Gethin.’ Bridge said smugly and retrieved his coffee.
Fran glared at the enthusiastic Bridge, who proceeded to explain his Maggie Owen theory. It wasn’t that she was infuriated by the theory itself but rather that he was discussing case material with Gethin. Especially, since the two of them had sat up most of the night, discussing how best to approach Gethin. Well she had talked. Bridge on the other hand had merely nodded and grunted. It was obvious now Fran reflected on it. Bridge hadn’t been listening at all. The only reason she had let it slide was because she had been so shattered from the previous day’s events.
Still, she had thought that the man surely couldn’t be as ignorant to disregard her concerns entirely. Yet here he was, blabbering away, as if nothing had occurred the previous night.
‘So that’s when I came to the conclusion that this could be a revenge killing.’
Bridge paused, noticing that Fran was acting rather bizarrely. She was clearing her throat unnaturally loudly and making weird spasms with her head.
‘You alright there Sergeant Thomas. Had a bit too much coffee have you?’
Fran sighed heavily and shot Bridge the daggers.
‘Detective Bridge, may I have a word with you outside?’
It wasn’t a question as much as a demand.
‘What’s going on?’ Gethin interjected, noticing the menacing growl of Fran’s voice.
Fran and Bridge glanced at one another helplessly, at a loss for words. Then Bridge did something quite unexpected.’
‘I’m afraid I have some bad news.’
His tone was serious all of a sudden.
‘What? Has someone died or something?’
Bridge and Fran both looked uncomfortable. Gethin pulled a face of having put his foot in it.
‘Oh god they did, didn’t they?’
Bridge shook his head and took a deep breath.
‘Me and Fran have come to a decision that because of certain events, it would be best if you took a little bit of time off.’
Bridge winced and even Fran took a step back, mentally preparing themselves for a shitstorm. However, the storm of shit never arrived.
‘No worries. I was thinking of taking a few days off. Might go away somewhere nice.’
Gethin wasn’t sure what he found more amusing, the expressions on Bridge and Fran’s faces, or the fact that he had one up on them.
‘And…your not…upset about this?’
Gethin shrugged and massaged his hand.
‘Look I know I overstepped the mark last night.’
He held up his damaged hand.
‘And besides, it’s not like I can do much with this.’
Bridge nodded understandably and took a sip of coffee. There was a moment’s silence. No one knew what to do, as they had all been expecting a lengthy and serious conversation.
‘Must nip to the loo.’ Gethin announced and made tracks quickly.
Fran and Bridge glanced at each other awkwardly.
‘Well that was a turn up for the books.’ Bridge commented.
‘Yes…it was.’ Fran replied, her eyes narrowing.
Gethin was never this logical and sensible. Fran suspected foul play afoot.
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