Home Sweet Home

Bridge hung up the phone and placed it gingerly down on the coffee table beside him. A makeshift bandage had been wrapped around his head, to nurse his blow to the base of his skull. He shifted uneasily in the worn, dog eared armchair, the palms of his hands sweaty and ever so slightly trembling. 

‘Fran is on her way.’ He said, forcing a smile that was supposed to come across mild mannered but in fact gave the impression that he had stubbed his toe on the corner of something heavy. 

Gareth was in another frayed armchair opposite him, a double barrelled shotgun pointed directly at Bridge’s chest. Upon discovering an intruder on his land, Gareth had knocked Bridge out and carried him back to the farmhouse. There, he had tended to his head wound but making sure Bridge’s hands were tied, so as to prevent him trying anything whilst his’ back was turned. 

Bridge now massaged his wrists, where the tight rope had rubbed and scratched at his skin. He was relieved that Gareth had removed them for Bridge to make the call but was still dubious about the hostile looking weapon aimed in his direction. 

‘You know…there really is no need for the gun….now that Fran is on her way.’ 

Gareth glared at Bridge and gripped the gun even tighter in his hands. 

‘Let’s get one thing straight Bridge. I don’t like or trust you. You sneak onto my land without permission or so much as a warrant and you expect me to comply with you. After you all but invaded my privacy and broke the law yourself.’ 

Bridge opened his mouth but couldn’t quite generate a strong line of defence. Instead, he eyed both the gun and the man holding it, trying to devise if there was anyway out of this situation. Gareth’s eyes glinted rather dangerously. 

‘Don’t try it. It won’t end well. You are on my property illegally and I can claim self defence but sure go ahead, try and take it from me.’ 

Bridge studied the stubborn farmer deeply. He wasn’t bluffing. Besides, Bridge’s head throbbed severely and his senses and reflexes were all out of whack from the blow to his head.  

‘So?’ Gareth said eventually. ‘Are you going to tell me why the hell you were on my land in the first place?’ 

Bridge hesitated. He needed to play this right. He doubted very much that Gareth would shoot him intentionally but at the same time it was prudent to not say anything that might anger Gareth. It felt odd to be monitoring and considering his words so carefully. Usually, he just said the first thing that came to mind, no matter the consequences. Maybe being held at gunpoint was a good way of Bridge learning the correct ways of polite and appropriate conversation.  

‘Well?’ Gareth grumbled, readjusting his grip on the gun. 

‘….I..wanted to revisit the crime scene…see if there was anything we missed.’

Gareth studied him intensely. Bridge swallowed, trying to keep an even, calm and composed manner. 

‘If that were the case, then why wasn’t Fran with you?’ 

‘We had a disagreement. She is pursuing another lead.’ 

Gareth nodded, but still remained unconvinced. 

‘That doesn’t explain the secrecy. If you just wanted to visit the crime scene, you could have approached me first.’ 

‘Would you have said yes?’ 

Gareth shrugged. 

‘Maybe, maybe not but I don’t believe that was why you were really sneaking about my farm.’ 

Bridge sighed. There was no point in this. Gareth was never going to believe his story. Being totally honest, Bridge couldn’t deny he had partly snuck onto the farm, in the hope of finding Gareth up to something. 

‘Okay….so it is possible…that I had my suspicions about you?’ 

A flash of fierce anger burned in his eyes and Bridge tensed. This was it. He was going to die at the hands of an irate farmer. Not the way he had envisioned going out. 

‘Thank you.’ 

Bridge frowned. What was going on?

‘For what?’ 

‘For being straight with me. I think that is the first time you have not fabricated the truth Detective Bridge.’ 

Then Gareth did something even more surprising. He lowered the gun. 

‘Wait…aren’t you pissed off with me? I just told you that I thought you were the killer.’

Gareth shrugged, reaching for the shotgun again. 

‘I can point it at you again if that’s what you want?’ 

‘No…no….down is good.’ 

Gareth smiled. It was the first time Bridge had seen the man’s face change from that of a permanent frown. However, it wasn’t a particularly comforting smile. More of an evil sneer. Gareth was obviously taking pleasure from tormenting Bridge. 

‘So…Detective…how exactly have you deduced that I am the killer?’ 

Bridge fingered a loose thread of the arm of the chair agitatedly. 

‘Maybe we should wait until Detective Thomas arrives.’ 

Gareth shook his head. 

‘I’m asking you.’ 

Bridge sighed. 

‘You had a grudge with Darren Rhion did you not?’ 

Gareth looked non nonplussed. 

‘If your trying to say we didn’t see eye to eye with each other, then I hold up my hands but I wouldn’t say it was a grudge.’ 

‘You threatened Darren on a number of occasions that if he ever set alight to your fields again, you would kill him. Is that not correct?’ 

Gareth scratched his stubble irritably . 

‘One, that was only to scare him off and two, I would only have done that in self defence. If he tried to bring harm to Maggie or myself.’

Bridge folded his arms.

‘Mr Owens, we know about the love letters.’

‘What…letters?’ Gareth said gruffly but there was a subtle twitch in his cheek and some of the colour had drained from his face.

‘The letters between your wife and Arthur Babcock. The first victim we found on your property. You held grudges against both these men. You can’t tell me this is a coincidence.’

‘The letters aren’t what you think.’ Gareth said defensively.

Bridge leaned forwards, his hands clasped together in front of him.

‘Then what are they? Because to me it looks like you found out about your wife’s affair and went after Arthur. ‘

‘I didn’t kill Arthur or Darren. The letters have nothing to do with it.’

Bridge looked at Gareth, who had grown increasingly shifty all of a sudden. His eyes were trying to communicate something. Some deep secret that he couldn’t force himself to utter.  There was the sound of a car engine from outside and both men looked round at the window with interest. Bridge went to stand but Gareth levelled the gun at him steadily. 

‘You stay there.’ He ordered and rising himself, he moved to the window. Pulling back the curtains, he cursed under his breath.

Fran’s Volvo was not alone. It was accompanied by another patrol car. The roof lights were not flashing nor the siren activated but it was evident that Fran had taken precautionary methods just in case. Gareth thrust an accusatory finger at Bridge. 

‘You told her to bring backup didn’t you?’ 

Bridge looked completely out of the loop, which threw Gareth for the moment. Perhaps he didn’t know. 

‘I…swear that was not my idea…you have to believe me…’ 

Gareth said nothing but continued to stare out the window at the approaching vehicles. 

‘I’m sure it is just a precautionary measure. You know…protocol and all that.’ 

‘Shut up Bridge.’ Gareth said bluntly. 

Fran pulled up just inside the farmhouse courtyard and motioned for the patrol car tailing her to do the same. She did not want to get too close, as to provoke Gareth in anyway. She killed the engine and turned to face Maggie, who was sitting in anxious silence. 

‘You sure you want to go through with this?’ 

Maggie nodded with a brave smile. 

‘He’s my husband and he may not love me in that way but he is still the only one who will listen to me.’ 

Fran nodded and gave her shoulder a squeeze. Maggie took a deep breath and climbed out of the car. It wasn’t a long walk from the courtyard gate to the farmhouse door but it seemed to stretch on for ever. All she could hear was the loud crunch of gravel and small stones under her shoes, as she neared the house. Maggie knew her trepidation was irrational. It was her house and Gareth her husband but the whole situation put her on edge. It wouldn’t have been such an issue if it had not been for the patrol car and the two officers on duty sat inside. Fran was different. She was not only a friend but wore informal clothing, which made everything that tiny bit less official and intimidating. 

As she entered the front garden and began her way up the footpath, she saw the curtains twitch and glimpsed Gareth’s face peering out the window. For some reason, she felt it best to knock, even though she had keys but before she had raised her hand, the door swung open. 

‘Maggie, what are you doing here? Where’s Fran?’ 

‘Calm down Gareth. Everything is going to be fine. Fran is waiting back there. She thought it best to give you some space.’ 

Gareth chewed his lip pensively. He looked like an unsure schoolboy, who had got himself into trouble and didn’t know what to do next. 

‘Can I come in?’

Gareth gave her an odd look. 

‘Yeah….I mean you don’t need to ask…it’s your house too.’ 

Maggie stepped inside, allowing Gareth to close it behind her. Up close, she could see how frightened the man was. He obviously hadn’t expected the cavalry to turn up on his doorstep. 

‘Where’s Detective Bridge?’ She said gently, resting a hand on his shoulder. 

Gareth gestured for Maggie to follow him and the pair made their way into the living room. 

Bridge was still sat in the same armchair, fiddling with the bandage on his head. It itched at his skin terribly and gave him a headache from how tightly it had been wrapped. Maggie didn’t cover her mouth in shock at the sight of Bridge’s bandaged head or do a double take, as is common in most thriller films. Instead, her eyes simply widened somewhat before she gave Gareth a scolding look. Gareth, like a child caught in the act, bowed his head shamefully. 

‘Hi Maggie.’ Bridge said cheerfully. 

Maggie didn’t return the greeting but regarded her husband disapprovingly. 

‘What were you thinking Gareth? Assaulting a police officer like that? Do you know how much trouble you could be in?’ 

Gareth opened his mouth to protest but Bridge interjected quickly. 

‘It is quite alright Mrs. Owen. Your husband was under the impression I was an intruder. I won’t be pressing charges.’ 

Gareth looked relived at Bridge’s words but Maggie appeared even more disappointed by his interjection. 

‘Don’t you start Detective Bridge. A man of your reputation, sneaking around like a criminal. You ought to be ashamed, the pair of you.’ She said harshly, glancing back at her husband, as she did so. 

The two men fell silent, both wavering under Maggie’s stern words and bearing. 

‘Now can you two put an end to this madness, so I can call Fran over to settle this?’ 

Gareth nodded but Bridge perked up. 

‘I appreciate your peacekeeping tactics, Mrs. Owen but your husband is still under suspicion on this case. The love letters…’ 

‘Oh for god’s sake.’ Maggie burst out suddenly, throwing her arms up in the air dramatically. ‘They were between Gareth and Arthur, not me.’ 

‘Maggie don’t…’ Gareth began but Maggie shot him the daggers and he soon fell silent again. 

Bridge looked confused. He looked from Gareth to Maggie to Gareth again. They were waiting awkwardly for the penny to drop. 

‘So ….you mean….that your husband and Mr Babcock…were…were.’ 

‘Were lovers. Yes that it was I mean.’ 

Bridge pursed his lips together thoughtfully. 

‘Well there you have it. I feel like a bit of prat now.’ 

‘You’re not the only one.’ Gareth said. 

The two of them shared a grin. The first time either of them had seen eye to eye on anything. 

‘Well I’m glad you two find it so amusing. Can I call off the cavalry now?’ Maggie said, arms crossed. 

The two men nodded and Maggie huffed out the room. 

It was a quiet drive back to the police station. Bridge had soon dozed off to sleep and Fran was focused on the road and her thoughts.  It had been a morning of surprises. First finding Maggie at the crime scene. Then learning the revelation of Arthur and Gareth’s secret relationship and finally, Gareth’s assault on Bridge. She felt frazzled. It wasn’t even afternoon yet and she was already desperately in need of a third coffee. Fran knew it would most likely send her over the edge and she would spend the rest of the afternoon and evening suffering palpations but at this current moment in time, she really couldn’t give a monkeys. She heard Bridge stir beside her and glanced at him for a moment.

His eyes flickered slowly open and he let out a loud yawn. He sat up and cradled his damaged head.

‘How you feeling?’ Fran asked, returning her attention to the road.

‘Like I have just been beaten over the head with a mallet but apart from that…peachy.’

They both grinned.

‘Well…when I say you only have yourself to blame…’

‘I know…I know. Got enough of that preaching from Mr and Mrs. Owen.’

Fran let the matter drop. Bridge was an idiot. In more ways then one. But even Fran knew when to call it a day.

‘So.’ Bridge said, dry washing his face. ‘Who knew?’

‘Indeed. Was a bit of a turn up for the books.’

‘You mean because they are gay?’

‘No, not at all. I was thinking, more because I have known the Owen’s for years and never realized.’

‘I guess you never really know someone as well as you think you do.’ Bridge said thoughtfully.

Fran took a deep breath and thought how best to phrase her next words. When she had arrived at the farmhouse with Maggie, Fran had been a boiling kettle about to explode. Her so called partner had broken laws both legal and of a personal nature. Not only that but his actions had nearly put himself and Gareth in particularity dangerous positions. This was her town, her people and Bridge had the audacity to traipse in here like some misguided rhino and wreak havoc in the Welsh hills.

She gave him a sideways glance. He was fiddling with the wrapping of his bandage, a section had come loose and he was unsuccessfully trying to pin back into place. Her anger was still there, seething away at the back of her being, like a lurking beast but her prey was weak and she wasn’t cruel enough to kick Bridge, whilst he was down.

‘So…I’ve been thinking.’

Bridge glanced round at Fran’s words and grimaced instantly as a flash of pain struck his head.

‘I know we both have different methods….and approaches to solving this case.’

She stole a glance at Bridge who was watching her blankly. Christ he didn’t make this easy.

‘But considering what just happened in there it might be better for us to work together from now on.’

Bridge nodded, again regretting the decision, as his vision swung about violently.

‘To be fair.’ He responded, as soon as the nausea had dissipated. ‘I did try and contact you, on numerous occasions. ‘ Plus you were the one who left me alone at the county morgue car park.’

Fran opened her mouth to retort but was at a fail at what to say. Whilst it was true that Bridge’s actions had been inexcusable, Fran was also guilty of exhibiting reckless and unprofessional behaviour.

‘I know.’

‘And another thing….you….’

Bridge paused.

‘Wait…what?’

Fran held up her hands, which made Bridge nervous for a moment, as they weren’t on the wheel where they should be.

‘My actions were just as unprofessional. I was just lucky enough not to get hit over the head with a shotgun.’

Bridge looked taken aback.

‘Wow.’

‘What?’ Fran said defensively.

‘Nothing.’ Bridge said quickly.

He may have suffered an injury to the head but he had enough brain cells left to know it was best to leave the matter be. Maintain this moment of peace. For who knows how long it would last?

Despite Fran trying on a number of occasions to convince Bridge he should see a doctor, the stubborn detective would have none of it. She had given up. Fran too, wanted to maintain this moment of peace between her and Bridge. As per usual Desk Sergeant Paul was sat at the waiting room desk. There was something different about the man. Usually, he would be engrossed in the latest newspaper crossword or beating his high score on his tablet Scrabble. Today though, Desk Sergeant Paul was doing neither of these tasks but instead staring forlornly at the desk graffiti scrawled on the table surface.

‘Hey Paul.’ Fran said cheerily.

‘Fran, Detective Bridge….boy am I glad to see you.’

Bridge and Fran exchanged looks.

‘Everything alright Sergeant?’ Bridge said.

Desk Sergeant Paul sighed deeply and leant his chin on his palm.

‘Yeah….I suppose.’

‘If you don’t mind me saying Paul, you seem a tad out of sorts.’

‘Well to be honest with you Fran…I’m bored out of my mind. I have finished all my crosswords, beaten every game and read the whole station library…twice.’

Bridge leant on the side of the desk.

‘Well you know we are a man short…if you would rather get out in the field and do something more dramatic?’

Desk Sergeant Paul suddenly looked alive with interest. He sat up and glanced with pleading eyes from Fran to Bridge and back again. Fran sighed.

‘I think we should probably discuss this first….eh Bridge?’

Bridge shrugged.

‘I don’t really see the problem, with Gethin away we are a man down and it won’t take long to familiarize Desk Sergeant Paul with the details.’

Fran frowned at Bridge and folded his arms.

‘And how’d you figure that?’

‘Desk Sergeant Paul has an ear for these things, don’t you Paul?’

Desk Sergeant Paul blushed suddenly. Fran raised an eyebrow at him and went to open her mouth but a noise behind her made her turn.

Gethin, dressed in civilian clothes stood in the doorway, a small backpack slung casually over one shoulder.

‘Hi.’ He said gingerly.

‘What are you doing here? I thought you were on holiday.’ Fran said, moving forwards and giving him a warm hug.

‘ I was…I mean I am but I’ve got something important to tell you guys. Shall we?’ He gestured at the office doors.

Gethin led the way, accompanied by Fran. Bridge followed behind. Apparently this day was full of surprises. As he passed Desk Sergeant Paul, the man called out.

‘Hey…what about my field assignment?’

‘Yeah…that might need to go on hold for a moment.’ Bridge said and darted out the lobby before Desk Sergeant Paul had a chance to say anything else.

Desk Sergeant Paul’s excitement dissipated and once again he returned to his forlorn state, his chin resting on his palm and an expression of disappointment plastered to his face.

Gethin breathed in deeply, as he entered the dingy police offices. The musty, slightly damp smell was not nauseating but instead comforting to Gethin. He felt like he was home again. This was where he belonged. In a dilapidated government building with sludge like coffee and temperamental central heating. He located his desk and traced a finger over it’s surface, letting it locate the grooves and imperfections he’d come so well to know and love. He perched on the desk and smiled at the two police officers in front of him.

‘It’s good to be back. I tell you something, London. Not all it’s cracked up to be.’

Fran looked to Bridge for confirmation.

‘He actually has a point. ‘ Bridge admitted.

Fran looked genuinely surprised by this but she soon returned to frowning.

‘Why are you here Gethin? I mean…it’s lovely to see you and all but you are supposed to be on leave. In fact I don’t recall it being an option.’

Gethin squirmed uncomfortably under the suspicious stares of his superiors.

‘So when I told you I was going away to London for a few days, to see the sights, that was true but…it also wasn’t the only reason.’

Bridge gave him a sly look.

‘Gethin Jones, what have you been up to?’

Gethin privately felt rather pleased with himself but made a conscious effort to not let that show in front of Fran and Bridge.

‘It just so happened on this trip that I ran into Arthur Babcock’s daughter.’

Fran’s eyebrows raised so high, Gethin was afraid that they were going to climb right of the top of her head.

‘You just happened to bump into her?’

‘So….she put me on to some of Arthur’s old army pals.’

Fran put a hand to her forehead and sighed.

‘You have got to be kidding.’ She muttered moodily.

Bridge who had settled down in a chair by Fran’s desk was not as concerned. In fact, he looked almost on the verge of joyful tears.

‘Unsurprisingly, I didn’t turn up anything major but it did lead me back across the border.’

‘Does this story have an ending anytime soon…or better yet a point?’ Fran said brashly.

‘Bear with me…I’m getting to the good bit.’ Gethin paused, allowing a suitable amount of time for an adequate build up. ‘In Clandowey, there is a food delivery company.’

‘Wait that isn’t the same one that delivers to Vera and our recently deceased Mr. Babcock.’ Bridge queried.

Fran shot him a look, which translated as something along the lines of ‘Don’t encourage him.’

‘The very same.’ Gethin continued, waving his bandaged hand around energetically. ‘So I talked to the driver there, who was their designated delivery man.’

‘And?’ Fran said curiously. She was angry with Gethin but she couldn’t help but be intrigued by his findings.

‘He claimed that a woman rung up on the day of the murder to cancel the delivery.’

‘Right, the note you found when exploring the house.’ Bridge said eagerly.

Gethin pointed at Bridge with a decisive finger.

‘That’s the one. And according to the driver, the woman who phoned sounded old and somewhat posh.’

Bridge and Fran frowned at one another. Gethin leaned back on the desk and smiled, as he watched the two officers work it out. After a moment’s silence, they too began to smile. Then Bridge and Fran opened their mouths and said at the same time. ‘Vera.’

© [Daniel Ashby] and [Ashby Tales], [2017]. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to [Daniel Ashby] and [Ashby Tales] with appropriate and specific direction to the original content

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