A/N: I thought I would try this and see where it goes. Please do tell me if it's worth continuing.
"Sandra," came the voice of Robert Strickland. "I've got an urgent case for UCOS. Jocelyn Sharpe."
"The woman who went missing last year?" Sandra asked, confused that Strickland would ask her to involve her team in the case. "I thought they would have found her by now, sir."
"It's proving more difficult than could have been anticipated. It's almost like she just ceased to exist on May 14th last year."
Sandra set her mug down on her desk, frustrated that he was giving her a case when she was already up to her neck in cases, not to mention the team she had to deal with. "And why aren't the Americans looking for her?"
Strickland sighed, and Sandra knew she was being more difficult than was strictly necessary; she just didn't think it was her responsibility to track down Jocelyn Sharpe. The woman was American. The USA had some force behind its police departments, so why was the case being bundled on a team of three retired, ageing detectives and their long-suffering commanding officer? "She has multiple sclerosis, Sandra, and therefore is vulnerable. She's been missing eight months. I think it's high time someone set their mind to finding her, and so does the Commissioner," he added, to which Sandra narrowed her bright blue eyes.
"Hold on," she interrupted his spiel, "this came from the Commissioner?"
"Yes. He thinks it would be unwise to leave a case of this sensitivity unsolved."
"Alright," Sandra huffed. "We haven't found our next case yet, anyway. Where's the file?" He lifted his hand from behind the desk and handed her a thin file. She flicked through it, and immediately understood why it was so difficult to track down Jocelyn – the file was sparse at best, and useless at worst. There was little to nothing to go on. "This is going to be easy," Sandra muttered, her words swimming in sarcasm. She wanted to tell him exactly where to go with the case, but then she deemed it unfair to Jocelyn and anyone who cared about her not to take it on.
"I never said it would be a simple case, Sandra. If it were that easy, she would have been found a long time ago."
"Alright, sir. Leave it with us."
"I have no doubt you will get to the bottom of it," assured Strickland. Sandra just nodded, looking at the missing persons photograph as he walked away. Jocelyn was a pretty woman, aged forty-five, with sparkling green eyes. Her hair was her most striking feature, along with her bright smile.
She wandered through to the main squad room and put the photograph up on the whiteboard with a magnet. This was not a case she expected to be able to solve without a great deal of effort and frustration; she was not as confident as she normally was taking on a case, because this was damn near impossible. The original investigating officers had found it impossible, after all, and they had launched a full scale operation to try and find Jocelyn.
She was acutely aware that Brian – the only other person in the office right now – was watching her. His eyes were burning her back, and so she had to turn around and look at him. "Don't say a word, Brian," she warned him. "This comes straight from the top."
"Jocelyn Sharpe," he began, his obsessive memory kicking into gear. "Aged forty-five. American. Became a British citizen in 2003. Disappeared on the fourteenth of May, 2008. No family to speak of, and only two close friends. She's got MS, hasn't she?"
"Yep. Where are Gerry and Jack?" she demanded. They had been gone for a good while now, though, admittedly, she had not been paying them enough attention to know exactly when they had left.
"Oh," was her only response. She hadn't realised it was that time already, having just finished the paperwork for their previous case of a triple homicide. Well, it could never be said that this job was boring. Quite the contrary, really. It could become so exciting it became stressful. It was how she managed to forget lunch and lose track of the lovable rogues she called her team. Only a week into the year 2009, she had done both on the same day. Good going, Sandra, she thought to herself.
She returned to her task of finding Jocelyn, trying to work out where to start. There was absolutely nothing to work with. Her bank accounts just stopped being used, as did all her utility companies. Her house was rented, the lease paid off the day before she vanished. She had withdrawn the entirety of her savings account on that day, too. She had not left the country, because her passport had not been used, and she would have found it difficult to travel any distance with the effects of her illness, anyway. She had no enemies. She lived a life so quiet that she was barely noticed. Her only friends had been two colleagues in the small shop in which she had worked. Not a trace of any kind of family, here or in America. It was bizarre. Unnerving.
In trampled Jack and Gerry, Gerry complaining loudly about traffic while Jack reminded him the he could expect nothing different in London. "All that for a few bleedin' baguettes," he moaned. Sandra turned and found him handing out filled baguettes, just as he caught sight of the whiteboard, which was now covered in various photographs and documents relating to the case. "We ain't been lumbered with that, have we?" he grumbled.
"Who pissed in your cornflakes this morning?" snapped Sandra, fed up with Gerry's sour mood today.
Gerry was taken aback by her remark, his face adorning an obviously surprised expression. Whatever he had expected, it had not been to hear his boss say that. And, in his defence, it had been a good few years since she had come away with anything nearly as coarse as that to him. But he was a man of the world and there were not a lot of things he hadn't heard or said himself, so he could take what she gave him and shut up.
He said nothing and threw a baguette to her with a slight glare. It was something Sandra was accustomed to, having worked with him for a long time, but it made it no less infuriating when he took to being an aggravating old sod. Oh, how she would have loved to have slapped him sometimes. When she had first recruited him, she had made a not-so-idle threat to Jack that she would deck Gerry. It was a miracle she had not succumbed to that temptation in six years of working with him, especially having watched his womanising ways.
Sandra ignored his demeanour and returned to her work, with more important things to think about than Gerry Standing's crap attitude. She had learnt to tolerate it. Embrace it, even.
For now, she was focussed on Jocelyn's case, and so she examined the bank statements again, only to find nothing of interest. A bill paid to Sky, another to BT, another one paid to British Gas, one to the council, another to Vodafone, weekly wage payments, and Disability Living Allowance...all the normal, mundane stuff a current account was used for. There was nothing sinister or even remotely abnormal.
"Come to think of it," began Brian, "she looks familiar to me."
"Of course she does, Brian," sighed Jack, groaning as he sat down at his desk. "Her face was plastered all over the place for weeks after she vanished."
"No, I mean I know the face from somewhere else," retorted Brian, his frustration becoming visible in his eccentricities. Sandra stared at him; she had known Brian Lane long enough to know that, nine times out of ten, his memory was spot on, even if it took him a while to fully recollect what was there. So, she did trust that there was something Brian would no doubt recall in his own time, useful or not.
Sandra looked at Jack for some assistance, but his face was blank; she had known Jack Halford for more than half her life, and he was somewhat like a second father to her, but even he was as befuddled by Brian as the rest of them. "Right," she eventually huffed. "We'll go and see Georgina Toley and Katherine Black. They were her only friends, after all."
"After lunch, Sandra," Gerry grouched. "Even Superwoman needs to eat." Had he not wrapped that comment in a blanket of sarcasm, she would have taken it as a compliment. However, Gerry seemed to remain in a bit of a foul mood, and so was not going to be dishing out compliments – particularly when she had just introduced him into the closest to an impossible case to which they had come in their years of working the Unsolved Crime and Open Case Squad.
In response, Sandra just made a face at him and bit into her baguette.
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