|One Humid Afternoon
Author: Charmed Lassie PM
Sam investigates a possible case of child abuse and has to involve the Child Protection Unit. FemmeslashRated: Fiction K+ - English - Romance - Chapters: 2 - Words: 10,743 - Reviews: 10 - Favs: 2 - Follows: 2 - Updated: 03-23-07 - Published: 12-17-06 - Status: Complete - id: 3293449
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
A/N: This is going back to my roots a little. This is particularly for Abby who requested it, a sort of birthday/Christmas present. Anyway, if you didn't read the warning, this is femmeslash and is the first of two parts. I'll try to have the next bit up after New Year! Merry Christmas all!
When, out of the corner of her eye, she noticed the doors swinging open she was immediately alert. It was Reg who appeared, with Emma at his side. Sniffing a case, she called them over. 'Whatever you've got, I'll take it.'
Emma grinned at her eagerness. 'It is rather warm in here, isn't it? Well, it's nothing exciting, I'm afraid, we would've looked into it ourselves but Inspector Gold wants us on the Coal Lane.'
'Honestly,' she insisted, fanning herself with the underside of a file. 'What is it?'
Reg handed her an address, somewhere on the Jasmine Allen Estate. 'A neighbour called in, apparently the mother's gone off on holiday leaving the kids in the care of a sister. But she hasn't seen the sister for a few days, she's a bit concerned.'
Seemed like a plain case of an over-anxious busybody. 'Yeah, I'll check it out. Thanks, Reg. Emma.'
She glanced around CID, considering if she needed anybody to accompany her. At this point it probably wasn't necessary and, anyway, her only option was Phil Hunter. As well as they were getting along these days- a far cry from when they were at each other's throats a few years ago- he was as affected by the heat as anyone. Disturbing him was akin to waking a comatose tiger. No, this should be a simple enough enquiry, one that would get her out of the office for just the right period of time.
The flat she knocked on the door of showed similar signs of abuse to the rest of the landing. A couple of boot marks and general scuffle scratches- it was definitely part of the estate that she knew and loathed.
There was no immediate answer. Sidestepping the two metres to the window she sighed when she found the curtains drawn. Then, all of a sudden, a tiny face appeared through the gap in the middle- a little boy, six perhaps. 'Hey, can you let me in? I'm a police officer.' She held up her ID, though it would mean little to a kid that age. Sure enough, the face disappeared and no one came to the door.
She stepped back to look over the banister. The flat was four floors up, it gave a decent enough view of the five or so cars ditched in the dirt beyond the garages. Spotting a woman out with a suitcase getting out of a taxi and glancing up at the balcony, Sam quickly moved down the landing, away from the only stairwell, and concealed herself in another doorway.
As she suspected, the woman, in her mid-thirties or so, came up to this flat. Sam waited until she was safely inside before she approached the door again. This time when she knocked it was answered immediately. 'Hello.' She flashed her warrant card. 'DS Samantha Nixon, Sun Hill. Can I come in?'
The woman nodded wordlessly, letting her past into the hallway. Beside the kitchen door stood the little boy Sam had seen at the window, he ran off into another room the second he saw her. Being led into the kitchen itself Sam quickly noted the mess of nappies and food over the worktop as the woman shooed another child, a teenage girl, out. 'So, what's this about?'
'You've got a baby have you, Mrs…' Sam paused. 'Sorry, I don't know your name.'
'Helen Roberts.' She crossed her arms. 'If you don't know my name why are you here? Someone been murdered or something?'
Sam smiled. 'No, nothing like that. How many children have you got?'
'How old's the youngest?'
'Nearly six months. And, no, the father's not around, before you ask.'
'Well, that answers my next question.' Sam moved a ragged bear off a stool and sat down. 'Have you been away recently?'
'Haven't got the money or the inclination.'
'Really? That's odd, because one of your neighbours reported that you'd gone away leaving the children unattended. Any truth in that?'
The eyes flicked involuntarily out of the door, probably to where she'd dropped the suitcase on the way in. 'No.'
'Right. Well, that'll be all for now.' Sam stood, recognised the confusion in Helen Roberts' face and inwardly smiled- if there was one thing she liked it was to leave people on the back foot. 'I'll be in touch.'
Ten minutes later she had established that this might be just what was needed to get the four Roberts children into foster homes. CPU were sending an officer over to discuss the situation. Going to grab a coffee in the canteen she bumped into half of CID taking refuge in the semi-cool room. Taking a seat alongside Terry and Mickey she vaguely listened to their banter but was too busy thinking about other things- namely her scheduled visit to see her daughter in a few weeks. The possible awkwardness of the situation had been on her mind for a while, not to mention the fact her daughter had to pencil in a time for her to see her grandson. Oh, she was being slightly harsh- a few months before he was born she hadn't thought she'd ever see him so this was a mighty improvement. Didn't stop her wishing things were a bit different though.
'Samantha.' It was Smithy who knocked her from her reverie a short time later. 'You're wanted in reception. CPU sent an officer round.'
Noting the smile on his face, she asked, 'What are you grinning at?'
'Me? Face is naturally like this.'
'Yeah, that I can believe.' Brushing past him she proceeded to the front office, glancing around and spotting a familiar face. 'Sheelagh! I didn't expect to see you.'
Her old colleague was looking well, she recognised. Then again, being out of Sun Hill and all the problems it had caused this particular officer would've done her the world of good. 'I volunteered, thought it might be nice. Plus, I went to see Helen Roberts once, she wasn't what you'd call pleasant.'
'Can't say she's changed much.' Sam opened the door to the small office off reception. 'I'd invite you upstairs but the air con's bust. And no oxygen doesn't work wonders for anger management.'
'Are you talking about you or the DI?' Sheelagh asked, following her in and taking a seat.
'Both,' answered Sam, taking a seat herself. 'How've you been?'
'Fine, yeah. CPU work's very rewarding, if it goes right, that is.' Sheelagh's smile faded a little. 'You do get those cases that can't be helped, or if it's been left too late… You just learn to deal with it.'
Sam thought of Sheelagh's dead baby girl and forced her own cheerful smile. 'Well, Sun Hill hasn't been the same without you.'
'I don't believe you, but thanks. Now, what about Helen Roberts? She went away without the kids?'
'Mmm,' Sam said, nodding. 'Claims she hadn't been anywhere but I saw her coming back with a suitcase. I didn't press her on it though. A neighbour says her sister was looking after them but hadn't been seen for a few days. Couldn't get the sister's name though.'
'That'll be Kelly Sykes. She's a known drug dealer, if the kids were left her in care then I doubt she made a fit guardian.'
'Sheelagh, she's obviously an unfit mother. Why haven't the kids been taken off her already?'
'The same reason CID don't arrest every prostitute, resources.'
That issue she well understood. Standing, she said, 'Do you want to pay her a visit?'
'Sounds good.' They were at the door before she added, 'You know, it feels like I've never been away.'
Sam smiled. 'It's easy to settle back in here, isn't it?'
Sam shrugged. 'Cup of tea if you're offering. Can we come in?'
'Do I have a choice?'
Not answering that, Sam let Sheelagh into the house first then followed, closing the door behind them. Helen led them into the kitchen again where they sat down. 'I just wanted to clarify a few things, for the benefit of my colleague,' Sam began, prompting Helen to look at Sheelagh for the first time.
'Don't I know you?'
'I'm with the Child Protection Unit, I came to visit a few months ago,' answered Sheelagh. 'I see things haven't changed around here.'
'What do you mean by that?' Helen challenged.
Seeing Sheelagh was coping fine, Sam sat back and let her get on with it. 'That sister of yours, she's no fit guardian and you were warned about that.'
'It's just as well I haven't left her with the kids then, isn't it?'
'You know, it's easy enough to check with the airlines,' Sheelagh said, fairly conversationally. 'Especially when child safety is concerned. We're very particular about that.'
Helen seemed to lose a little bit of her cockiness. 'What if I did go away?'
'Oh, I'd guess that the kids would be taken into care pending an enquiry about your suitability as a parent. Of course, you're more likely to come off favourably in that enquiry if you're honest now.'
After a long moment Helen shook her head. 'I have been honest. Now, if you don't mind, I've got a baby to feed.'
'We'll be back,' Sam warned as they let themselves out. When they were halfway down to the ground, she glanced sidelong at Sheelagh. 'Any thoughts?'
'Mmm, a few. She's obviously lying so I say we just confirm it with the airline and then start proceedings with Social Services. I don't much like the thought of leaving a baby with that woman.'
'Me neither,' agreed Sam, leading them out towards the car. 'I think…'
She was cut off by a shrill scream from above. Glancing up, she caught sight of Helen leaning frantically over the banister. 'It's the baby, I don't think he's breathing.'
They were back up the stairs in a second. Sam barrelled into the flat, following the shouts of the mother and the teenage girl she'd seen earlier. The bedroom was in disarray, Helen obviously didn't have a clue what to do- it was her daughter attempting to get the tot breathing again. Over in the corner was the little boy Sam recognised from her previous visit and a younger girl, most likely his sister. 'Sheelagh, call an ambulance,' she instructed, taking over from the girl. 'What's your name?'
'A-Alice,' she stuttered.'
'Okay, Alice, I want you to get the kids out of here, and look after your mum for me, alright?' When the girl vanished from her line of sight she concentrated on trying to bring the baby back, more than aware of Sheelagh on the phone behind her. 'Come on, come on…'
'White, no sugar,' Sheelagh answered, before disappearing.
Sam rubbed her eyes then buzzed herself into the main corridor. Not looking where she was going she rounded a corner and walked straight into Gina. 'Oh, sorry.'
'It's fine,' the Inspector replied, shaking the foot she had trodden on. 'Are you okay? Heard you had to go down to St. Hughes.'
'Yeah, cot death,' she answered, allowing Gina to beckon her into her office. 'When she was sat down, she sighed. 'I had Sheelagh Murphy with me.'
Her colleague raised an eyebrow. 'Sheelagh? You had to involve CPU?'
'Yeah, and she volunteered to come. We were there when the baby… I don't know how she's taking it.'
'Well, it's bound to bring back some memories isn't it?' Gina said reasonably. 'But you know Sheelagh, she doesn't like being mollycoddled. Unless she brings it up I'd carry on as normal. Is there still work to be done?'
'Not much. The mother's still at the hospital with Leela, the other kids are with a neighbour- they're safe enough for tonight. Tomorrow I have to take them off her, just have to liaise with Social Services.'
'So you don't really need Sheelagh for any of that.'
'I can't exactly push her out, I don't particularly want to.'
'That's not the point though, is it, Sam? You've got to do the right thing for the case, and Sheelagh, now. If she argues, send her to me.'
'Yes, Ma'am,' Sam said, managing to raise a small smile. 'Is the air con fixed upstairs yet?'
'Not that I'm aware of. Your lot's still monopolising the canteen so I wouldn't bank on it.'
'In that case, I'm going straight home. Had enough of this place for one day.'
'Yeah, fine,' Sheelagh said with very little conviction. 'We still have to take them off her don't we?'
Sam nodded, sipping her own coffee. 'It's horrible but yeah.'
'Do you think it was deliberate, do you think she hurt him?'
'Well, my instincts say she didn't but you never know. The coroner's report'll tell us more. Should have the preliminary tomorrow.'
Picking up her plastic cup Sheelagh made to take a drink then put it straight back down. 'Since when is the coffee hot in this place?'
Sam smiled, but only slightly since she'd seen the shaking of the hand. Determined not to draw attention to it, she asked, 'Are you going back to work or straight home? I'll give you a lift.'
'Um, I hadn't thought.' She checked her watch. 'I didn't realise it was that time. Home, I think.'
She'd watched carefully, the entire time they'd been at the hospital. Sheelagh was faultless, managing to talk with the doctors and calming Helen as best she could. But when the news had come in… It hadn't just been Helen Roberts who had buckled.
'It's a right here,' Sheelagh said suddenly, snapping her from her thoughts.
'Sorry, I'm miles away.' Clicking the indicator, Sam pulled up at the lights. 'The kids at home?'
'They've moved out actually,' replied Sheelagh, looking over at her. 'And you don't have to check on me, you know. I'm fine.'
'I'm not disputing that. I wouldn't dare.' She tapped her fingers on the steering wheel. 'Do you want to go for a drink or something? I don't much fancy going straight home.'
'Isn't Abi around?'
'No, she's in Manchester now with Ben, going up to see her soon. But I have to admit, it gets a little bit lonely going home to the same four walls every night.'
'That's one feeling I know,' said Sheelagh, glancing back of the window. 'There's a quiet pub along this road.'
Sam smiled, as she quickly switched lanes, much to the annoyance of the driver behind. 'Great.'
'Oh, yes. Hang on.' She took a long gulp of her drink before continuing. 'Well, he came in, not knowing I'd seen the whole thing, and asked me if I'd heard anything the night before. I told him I hadn't then said I was doing a black wash and I needed his jacket, the one that Andy had put in the tree. You should've seen the look on his face.'
'Did he confess to it then?'
'Only after a neighbour came round to point out the boxer shorts in the hedge.' Sheelagh smiled at the memory. 'It's funny, he and Andy are actually living together now.'
Sam raised an eyebrow. 'Really? I don't think I could ever get over a first date that bad.'
'It was just high-jinx. Well, so they'd have me believe anyway. But he's happy so I am.'
'Mmm, that's how I console myself about Abi.'
'You miss her don't you?' Sheelagh observed.
Realising this type of conversation might lead back to exactly the place she was trying to steer them away from, Sam just shrugged. 'We never got on when we lived together, don't know why I'm complaining. At least I get a civil phone call every week, it's more than I'm used to.'
A tinge of sadness appeared in Sheelagh's eyes, one she quickly hid again. 'Is there any Sun Hill gossip I need to catch up on? How's everyone in CID?'
'Well, Phil's the same as ever,' she said with a renewed grin. 'Erm, Mickey's fine, Terry's getting back with his wife, that one was a bit of a shock…'
'And the DI?'
'Still kicking. Unfortunately.'
'Ah. I haven't talked to anyone since I left. You should've seen Smithy's face when I walked through the door this morning.'
'Think I've got a pretty good idea actually,' Sam smiled, having a quick sip of her drink. 'What are your new colleagues like?'
'Compared to you lot, a little bit subdued.' Sheelagh shook her head. 'I don't know what it is, I think they take a while to warm to you. I suppose at the moment I'm still a potential suspect in their eyes. I mean, there was a case involving another of their officers a few months before I joined, can't blame them for being suspicious. Especially with Niamh.'
Despite herself, Sam asked, 'How did that get out?'
'Those things always do, one way or another. You should know that.'
'Mmm,' she conceded. 'Must make working with them fairly difficult.'
'Why do you think I volunteered to get out for the day? It wasn't just to see your dazzling smile, you know. As nice as it is.'
'I think I'll be flattered by that.'
'Well, it was meant as a compliment,' replied Sheelagh. Certainly one of the better faces at Sun Hill, not that it really takes a lot.'
'I think you're drunk, Sheelagh. Bit of a lightweight, aren't you?'
'You think so?' The Irish eyes sparkled with the thought of a challenge. 'I'm sure I could beat you in a fair contest, DS Nixon.'
'Well, as much as I'd love one, I'm driving.' She rattled the ice in her glass. 'That's why I'm on coke.'
'If you think you can't cope with it, I understand.'
Sam laughed at the triumphant expression on her ex-colleague's face. 'You know, you're a little bit too cocky for my liking.'
'It wouldn't take much to prove me wrong,' answered Sheelagh.
'Look, I'm…' Any resolve she had began to falter as she thought of going home to a quiet and empty home then collapsing in a heap on the sofa. It would be so much easier to do when drunk. 'I suppose I could get a taxi.'
'Now you're talking. My round, I think.'
'Excuses won't cut it, Sheelagh. I'm fine.'
'We'll see about that.'
When she disappeared into the kitchen, Sam considered following but, in truth, she was feeling a little more worse for wear than she was letting on. Instead, she fell onto the sofa in the living room and closed her eyes.
A few moments later Sheelagh came in. 'I knew I had it somewhere.'
She was almost afraid to open her eyes. When she did she came face to face with a very powerful looking and extremely dusty bottle of whisky. 'Shouldn't you be saving that for a special occasion?'
'Oh, and when am I going to get one of those?' questioned Sheelagh, her drunkenness covering up the pain that would've usually been present in such a statement. One glass and we're even.'
Eager for Sheelagh not to experience the inevitable come-down just yet, Sam agreed. The whisky was good stuff, it burned the back of her throat so she took another gulp to ease the pain. When the haze in front of her eyes cleared she looked at Sheelagh, finding her friend laughing softly. 'What?'
'I'm impressed, I thought you'd give up.'
'Do you know me at all, Sheelagh?' she asked, finishing her glass. 'I don't respond well to being beaten.'
'No, neither do I.' Sheelagh poured herself a glass and downed it in one. 'I still think Gina could drink us under the table though.'
Sam grinned. 'Yeah, you're probably right.'
They laughed together for a minute then Sheelagh suddenly trailed off. 'Sam, I want to kiss you.'
Not entirely sure what to say, and not completely convinced she had heard right, she just said, 'Oh.'
The next moment there was a hand on her cheek. Glancing up, she momentarily thought about putting a stop to the charade but the tipple she'd just had was impairing her judgment. She wasn't used to whisky on top of everything else she'd drunk. Throwing caution to the wind, she lifted her chin and allowed Sheelagh's lips to meet hers in a surprisingly tender kiss.
When she pulled away she was about to say something but her bladder interrupted. 'Sorry, I'll be back in a minute. Um…'
'Top of the stairs,' replied Sheelagh with a yawn.
Sam returned a few seconds later to find her ex-colleague asleep. Removing the bottle of whisky from her lap, she located a blanket and threw it over her. Then heading up the stairs again she fell asleep on a partially made bed she thought to be Sheelagh's.
Oh, damn, Sheelagh…
All the events of the previous day suddenly came back to her- Helen Roberts, the baby, the pub, the kiss. The idea of the kiss lingered a little longer than she liked. She couldn't help feeling they'd overstepped the mark with that one, that wasn't what old colleagues did after nights out, was it?
Still, Sheelagh hadn't had the best day really. If she'd felt that kissing her had been the only way she could express emotion then who was she to argue? It wasn't as though she'd been repulsed by what went on, far from it. Now it was the morning after though, and it would come back to haunt them. She wouldn't be surprised if Sheelagh was close to hating her.
A noise downstairs forced Sam to ready herself. Quickly putting on what she had managed to take off, she went down to the kitchen. Sheelagh was by the kettle, glaring at it for making such a noise. 'Morning.'
Sheelagh turned briefly. 'Oh, you are here. That's good, I thought I'd lost you.'
'No chance,' answered Sam, sitting down and yawning.
'I don't actually remember much of last night, couldn't even think how I'd got home,' Sheelagh said. 'Let alone where you were. Coffee?'
'Yeah, cheers.' Intrigued, Sam observed her friend's composure as she fiddled with the cups. It was certainly odd if she didn't recall what had gone on, especially considering Sam had thought about it practically the second she had woke, but it could happen. She had drunk a fair bit and slight amnesia was common. Still, it niggled a little to think she was so forgettable.
'I'm not looking forward to today,' said Sheelagh, sitting down opposite her with the coffees and sliding one over. 'How do you tell a woman who's just lost her baby that her other kids are being taken into care?'
'Well, you don't have to deal with that,' Sam answered. 'I can handle the case from now, it's pretty standard stuff.'
'I'd like to see it through,' objected Sheelagh. 'I mean, I was there when…'
'Yeah, exactly. I don't want anything kicking off, Helen's likely to explode.'
'Sam, with all respect, I can cope.'
'I wasn't suggesting…'
'Yes, you were,' Sheelagh interrupted. 'I handle cases like this everyday, the only difference with this one is that you're leading it.'
That comment made Sam briefly question how much Sheelagh really did remember of the previous night but she dismissed it. 'Look, I'm sorry but I've got to do what's best for the case now. Your help yesterday meant a lot.' She felt a fraud even saying it.
Sheelagh shook her head. 'Where did this come from?'
A few seconds later and the combined result of her banging head and Sheelagh's obvious irritation had ground her into submission. 'Oh, alright. Fine.'
'Well, you wouldn't be wrong there,' answered Sheelagh as they made to start climbing the stairs.
'Sheelagh!' Gina's voice behind them made both of them turn. 'What are you doing here, I thought you were off the case now it's routine.'
Sam recognised the accusatory tone but chose to ignore it. 'We decided we'll work better together. Anyway, got to run.'
'I'll bet,' Gina muttered.
'What was that about?' Sheelagh questioned when they reached the top of the stairs. 'Was it Gina who wanted me off the case?'
'No, of course not. It's just neither of us saw the point of you wasting your time.'
'And you both thought I'd crack?'
Unable to answer that truthfully, Sam led them into CID, refreshed by the shooting of a burst of air. 'They fixed it! Great. I'll get onto Social Services straight away.'
'Why would you think that?' Sheelagh asked, not entirely meeting her eye.
'Oh, I don't know. We had a nice night last night. Some of it's a bit hazy admittedly,' she said, just to see what Sheelagh's reaction to that statement would be. Sure enough, she winced a little. 'But it was pleasant enough. It seems like you don't feel the same.'
The blonde officer took her time in answering. 'It was good. But yesterday was a mess, I want to get this over with and put it in the past.'
Just the case? 'You don't have to be here, Sheelagh,' Sam reminded her.
'I won't get closure if I'm not.'
Fair enough point, Sam conceded with a prolonged glance at her friend in the car seat next to her. The lips that had been so eager for hers the previous night were inclined away from her. It didn't stop the attraction she felt towards them though.
Sheelagh nodded her agreement as she slammed the car door and sat back in the seat. 'I know.'
'The woman's just lost her baby and we do that.' Sam was having a tough job comprehending it this time, despite having taken children away from their parents dozens of times. It had been the look of utter horror on Helen Roberts' face that had done it, she thought. 'What are we?'
Surprisingly, Sheelagh's tone was calmer. 'We've done the right thing, I know the report said she hadn't touched him but she did leave them for two weeks, Sam. Anything could've happened to any of them, and how would you be feeling if you'd sat back and let that happen?'
'It's just doesn't feel right,' Sam admitted.
'Sometimes it doesn't. Sometimes you just have to deal with it.'
Sam looked over. 'You have to face things head on, right?'
Her friend recoiled slightly. 'Yes.'
Pulling up into the car park, Sam glanced at Sheelagh as she turned off the engine. 'Your stop.'
'Yep.' Sheelagh made no attempt to move, the closest she got was unbuckling her seat belt. 'I'd say it's been nice but…'
'Yeah,' Sam said quickly. 'I understand.'
'Right. Well, I'd better go,' said Sheelagh with a quick determination. She opened the car door then closed it again. 'I think I need to apologise for last night.'
'The amnesia's not total then,' Sam said, trying to make a joke out of it.
'It's more selective than anything. I'm sorry, I woke up this morning and I couldn't believe it. I thought if I ignored everything it would go away.'
'The easiest way for that to happen would've been to accept being taken off the case,' Sam pointed out.
'I wasn't quite ready for that either,' Sheelagh admitted. 'I hope I didn't embarrass you.'
'No, the opposite. I was flattered. Then again, you were drunk so it wasn't as though you were in your right mind.'
'Don't say that,' Sheelagh said, a small smile playing over her lips. 'I am sorry, I shouldn't have put you in that situation.'
'Well, if I'm honest, it wasn't all that bad a situation to be put in,' replied Sam, realising too late what she had said and trying to backtrack with, 'What I mean was…'
'It's okay,' said Sheelagh quickly. 'Honestly. As long as we're still friends.'
After a second of deliberation, she questioned, 'How about dinner next week or something? A catch-up.'
'Not a lot can happen in a week,' Sheelagh pointed out.
'Come on, you worked in Sun Hill!'
Her ex-colleague started laughing. 'Okay. That sounds great. I'll call you later in the week.'
As she watched Sheelagh out of the car Sam felt a pleasant sense of contentedness pass over her. Turning the key in the ignition, she tried to focus her mind back on the job at hand- that was dealing with the paperwork for the Helen Roberts case. Always a perk of the job.