I don't own the rights to New tricks or Scott & Bailey, but with the final episode I decided to put this up. In terms of timeline, this oneshot is set before Rachel entered Syndicate 9, and is in late season 9 for New Tricks. Enjoy.
Another Sandra Pullman.
The world was rushing by the speeding Eurostar. Ex-Detective Chief Superintendent Jack Halford watched it all; it was very rare for Jack to travel by train, especially in France, but he'd opted for the train because he didn't want the hassle of getting to France on a ferry. He took a sip of the tea from the polystyrene cup and smacked his lips to distract him from the knowledge he would never see the UCOS office or his friends again. He knew his leaving had started an avalanche; sooner or later the others would begin to leave. He didn't know when, but they knew deep down they couldn't stay in UCOS forever, especially not Sandra. He could remember her asking him for advice during that case with the Braves whether he felt she was wasted in UCOS. Personally, Jack didn't much care about the opinions of others when it came to UCOS, that case with the Lord of Lanzagrotty notwithstanding, but that case had resulted in the arrest of Teflon Tethys and the recovery of the Dover street robbery. If that hadn't been a poke in the eye for the officers who'd investigated Dean Scott's death, he didn't know what was.
No. Jack believed UCOS had been good for Sandra, more than she probably knew. He could remember how she had been in UCOS's first year; so sure of the police's practices, so taken in with the ideas of rank, reputation and what they'd done in the past, but after 8 years of seeing for herself how police officers, some of them better detectives than her, either fail to succeed or make simple and honest mistakes, it had changed Sandra. Plus, it had made her more flexible than she had been.
Working with her after all those years since he'd first given her a post in the Murder squad had been rewarding, tough and somewhat surreal since he had been her boss originally. But she had been more than fair, especially with Brian and Gerry.
Thinking of his friends made him close his eyes with grief. Ever since he'd learned of the liver cancer, he had gone to great lengths to hide it from the others, though he knew a detective like Brian would've noticed the calls he'd sent and received from the Elizabeth Green hospice. He hadn't been seeing another woman, especially not after Mary like Gerry seemed to have thought.
Jack wondered how UCOS were coping without him there. He wondered if they'd found someone to fill up the gap he'd left when he'd announced his decision to leave. He knew it had been abrupt just dropping in the news he was going on the very same day, but if he had not gone soon there would be another case and another. They'd thrown a quick party together for him, but only Brian had known the truth of his liver cancer. There wasn't anything anyone could do, the only thing he could do was leave and hope Brian kept his nerve long enough before word got back to them that he was dead.
After 70 years, he could honestly say he was ready to die. At first he'd been upset, but truthfully he didn't have anyone to live in outside of UCOS. Mary was long dead, thanks to Ricky Hanson and if she were still alive, he would probably still be fighting to stay alive, but he couldn't. When Sandra had confronted him during that last case he had told her honestly, he was leaving because he was fed up, and he'd had plenty to back him up at the time; that nonsense with the Abigail Padua case, Strickland breathing down their necks and the scepter of Stephen Fisher. Jack hadn't joined the police to deal with them, he'd joined to become a detective and to earn responsibility. As he'd risen through the ranks - Detective Inspector, Detective Chief Inspector, and lastly Detective Chief Superintendent - he'd become increasingly fed up with the politics, the rising stars of those ambitious officers who'd shaped police procedure meaning the rules changed constantly. To make matters worse, he'd found it harder and harder to keep up though he continued to make breakthroughs nearly all the time.
Then Mary had died and he'd become depressed, something which had cost Mickey Springer his life.
Jack shook his head. Thinking about the past was not going to change the future.
The cottage he was living in had a nurse that visited him daily - something Gerry would've grinned at, Jack thought ruefully. Her name was Emily, and she was very nice. She gave him some space to spend time to himself, go for walks and sit and admire the landscape, but she was very diligent about her job - she visited him daily in the morning and in the evening, and made notes on his health, but she didn't smother him which was just what he'd needed, but they had spent time together. They'd talked, watched movies, played some games. The Ardeche was beautiful, and Jack enjoyed his time.
It was just him and Mary, and their memories. Like he had told Brian.
He had been there for 3 weeks, and he could feel his body starting to die. But there was nothing he could do, and frankly, he was becoming more accepting of death thanks to Emily's talks. They talked about Jack's career in the police. Jack didn't know if Emily was genuinely interested in his career, but there were other things to talk about, but realistically she would never be able to understand some of the things that had gotten him down.
Unfortunately, she'd been needed somewhere else and her visits became sporadic, and she had been worried that Jack would be left on his own, but he'd reassured her. Jack had always put other people above his own needs, and truthfully he valued his privacy at the moment. But deep down what he knew he needed was not a nurse, but another police officer. Someone who could understand him.
The paper bag wasn't heavy as it was awkward. Jack had bought a few things to stock up the fridge at the cottage to last him a few days - Emily might kick herself later on, but truthfully he needed to feel like an independent adult since it was being stripped from him piece by peace. As he left the store, lost in his own thoughts, someone bumped into him, sending some of his shopping flying.
"Oh, I am so sorry," the woman said as she instantly started helping him. Jack was a bit stunned by the impact, but the woman helped him stand up, and when she was sure he was alright she started getting everything back into his bags. "I wasn't looking where I was going, I was just taking photos for my sister Alison."
That was when he noticed she had a Manchester accent.
She handed him the bags and then blinked at him, "Sorry, but you remind me of someone."
Sincerely doubting that, Jack took the bags happily. "Thank you," Jack said generously; he hadn't noticed the woman himself, so he couldn't see the need to be angry. He looked closely at the woman, taking her in. She was tall, slim, dark haired with high cheekbones with dark brown eyes. He looked down as he tried to think of something to say, and he caught sight of something in her open handbag.
It was a warrant card. This woman was a police officer.
He looked back up and saw the slightly sheepish expression on the woman's face. She'd clearly noticed him seeing her warrant card.
"Yeah, I'm a copper," her voice became slightly defensive. That was the problem with modern day police, Jack reflected briefly, always so defensive about what they did and how they did it that it never occurred to them that some people might actually be proud of the fact they were out there doing what they couldn't.
Jack pierced the young woman with a look long perfected through years of practice and experience; she reminded him strongly of Sandra, it was all there in the attitude, but he could see the intelligence and the strength in her eyes. "I used to be a Detective Chief Superintendent," he replied quietly. "My name is Jack Halford."
The woman blinked in embarrassment, but that quickly changed to a look of something that might've been awe. Jack didn't need anyone looking at him like that.
"Jack Halford? Of course. Detective Super Jack Halford, you were in UCOS." It wasn't a question.
Nodding in embarrassment, Jack waited for the woman to speak. When she did, she surprised him. "I've heard about your cases," she said quietly, "especially the UCOS cases. I never expected to meet you when I was on holiday. My name's Rachel, DC Rachel Bailey. Manchester Met Police."
The last thing Jack had expected when he'd come to France to spend his last days was to meet a copper, one who was so young and probably at the height of her career. He didn't know what to say or do. He always tried to be helpful and decent with serving police officers, but everytime he'd seen them in their nicks he'd felt out of date and inadequate. But Rachel didn't give him that impression, she seemed to truly be happy to have met him.
"Those bags look heavy," he broke out of his thoughts when Rachel started speaking. Her head nodded towards the bags in his hands. "Do you need help?" she asked, clearly checking to ensure her words didn't sound rude or patronising. When he'd realised she was a copper herself, Jack had almost wanted to walk away so he didn't have to deal with anymore reminders of the past; talking to Emily was like telling a story from a book, meeting someone was something else. If he were honest with himself, he missed the company of other coppers; he hadn't exactly been strapped for company in the time between when Mary had died and Sandra had come to him for advice for possible UCOS members.
He let himself smile at Rachel. "I'd like that, thank you," he said.
Jack took a deep breath to steady himself as he opened the front door of the cottage, and he had to fight the urge to lean against the door frame. He was just too tired, and he cursed the liver cancer. He slipped off his shoes and saw that Rachel was shooting him worried looks. It was clear she knew something was wrong, but didn't know what yet. He sighed as he considered what to tell her. He'd tried to stop everyone at UCOS from learning about the liver cancer because there was simply nothing that they could've done. They would've tried to talk him out of leaving UCOS, London and the UK to come here to France because here was the place he and Mary had decided to emigrate to once he'd retired, a plan that had gone up in smoke after Hanson had murdered her.
But Rachel Bailey... He barely knew her, and yet he could tell her things that he couldn't tell the others. What could she do, march him back to London and force him to work for UCOS again?
Meanwhile, Rachel was looking at the man before her and couldn't help but feel she was in the midst of police royalty. Sure, she idolised and looked up to coppers like Julie Dodson and Gill Murray even if she hadn't met them, but those coppers worked. She had met a few retired police officers and had heard some of her own colleagues sneer and look down on them simply because they weren't in the job anymore. Rachel wasn't like that. She believed every copper had the right to make the decision to leave of their own accord, and besides she had spoken to a few of them; okay, some of them might've been bitter about being retired and wishing they hadn't made the choice now they'd had a chance to sort themselves out, but the majority had been happy to speak to her.
Jack Halford was something unexpected. Ever since UCOS had been formed and Rachel had heard of it, she'd imagined it being like Cold Cases; a mere department that simply went from one unsolved crime to the next, but UCOS wasn't. Their reputation had grown and had even shamed and embarrassed a few coppers; Rachel didn't really care about that. There were many in the police who were too sure of themselves, or stupid to not do their jobs properly. But there were others just too bent to really be called good coppers. Halford, Gerry Standing and Brian Lane had become names in the police force again as they looked into cases deemed unsolved, and Rachel had followed with what came out with an eager eye. But she hadn't heard that Jack Halford had apparently left UCOS, then again he might be here on holiday. But she doubted it. She could see that he wasn't well; his skin was a yellowish tint, and he looked like he was fighting nausea or exhaustion, maybe both.
Slipping off her own clogs, Rachel quietly guided him into the kitchen; it might be patronising and rude, but really she couldn't think of anything better to do.
"I'm sorry," he whispered. "I'm suffering from liver cancer. I left UCOS because I didn't want to suddenly drop dead at their feet whilst we were working on a case."
Well, that was certainly blunt and unexpected.
"I'm...sorry," she whispered; she'd thought he was ill, but liver cancer? "So, not to be nosy or anything, but why are you here?" she had a nagging feeling, but she wasn't sure if she was right.
Jack sighed, "My wife Mary and I visited here once. We loved it, and we agreed it would be the perfect place for us to live when I finally retired, but Ricky Hanson," here his face became angry, "ran her down deliberately, so that plan went up in smoke. I retired, eventually I joined UCOS. But when I found out about the cancer, I decided I wanted to die in a place which was special to myself and my wife."
Now Rachel had heard the story, she felt sorry for what had happened to Halford's wife and what was killing him at the moment. It felt wrong that after all he had given to the police, all he had lost...he was dying of something like liver cancer. But he was, as Rachel had to remind herself, human. And mortal.
Jack went on, "I sold my house, got my affairs into order and left UCOS and my friends. And I came out here. I've been here for 3 weeks."
That made sense. If Rachel found out she was on death's door, she would do much the same. The only trouble was she wasn't sure if she would go to France to spend her final days; it might keep Alison off her back, but would even she want that?
"So, what are you doing here, DC Bailey?" Jack asked to change the subject.
"Rachel, please," she replied shrugging slightly; she seemed to do that a lot, Jack mused to himself, like she felt her voice and views wouldn't be taken seriously unless it was seen as casual. "I'm here on holiday. Not something I usually want, but its been a hard year. I'm tired and fed up, and I didn't fancy spending my leave in Manchester, so I decided to go to France for a bit."
"What do you do in Manchester?"
Pleased someone like Jack Halford was taking an interest, Rachel smiled. "I work in the Sex Crimes Unit," she replied.
Jack cocked his head, "I've never met anyone who worked in that unit, what's it like?"
"Sometimes it's gruesome," Rachel's bluntly honest answer and the look she gave him told Jack his own answer; he wasn't surprised. He'd encountered many gruesome sex related offences in his time himself. Many of them had resulted in murders. "It's not what I plan to do with my career," Rachel went on and he refocused his attention on her again. The young woman was now more excited than she had been as she warmed to her theme and told him her plans. "I want to join an MIT syndicate 'cause its the bees knees, and become a DS. After that I wanna go into vice before going back to MIT, or even the Murder squad."
By then Jack was convinced Rachel Bailey was another Sandra Pullman; she was so ambitious she'd laid down her plans for her future career, and personally Jack couldn't imagine her not doing well. He could tell she was intelligent and he hoped she did well, he also wished he were 20 years younger and had both her and Sandra working under him. Part of him wondered if Sandra would've coped knowing Rachel Bailey.
"Sounds like a good career path," he commented and Rachel beamed back, then she became a little nervous.
"Do you mind if I ask you something?" she asked hesitantly.
"What was it like, for you in the Murder Squad and in UCOS?" Rachel asked.
Jack chuckled, pleased he was being given a chance to answer questions by another copper who simply wanted advice than staying in this cottage and worrying about how many hours he had left would be filled with pain.
"In the Murder Squad, I saw it all," he said, all humor vanishing from his face as he remembered, "I saw families cut to pieces, people deliberately run down in the street, stabbings and gunshot wounds. One of the mistakes I made was rising too far through the ranks; it might've seemed like a good idea at the time, letting my hard work be rewarded. But one of the things about promotion and moving higher through the ranks is you're soon immersed deeply into the politics.
"I've seen it so many times before; bright and active officers being promoted to Commander or higher and eventually losing all their brain matter and losing sight of what it means to be a copper. You hear stories of people who want their spouses to rise higher, but Mary was not like that. She saw as I was given one promotion after another how stressed I sometimes was. Yes, I enjoyed my work and enjoyed bringing bright stars in and giving them a chance to succeed, but truthfully I didn't want to be a politician.
"Just remember, Rachel, don't accept promotion to anything higher than Detective Superintendent or even lower. Something tells me that you prefer being in the thick of things rather than sitting behind a cosy desk, am I right?"
Rachel was more than a little surprised by the conversations turn, but she nodded. "Yeah," she replied, "I mean, I've heard stories of really good coppers becoming pains in the arses, pardon my French," she added.
Jack waved his hand.
"I'm hoping to become a DCI, though a DSI probably wouldn't hurt," Rachel said, and Jack nodded. "Good thinking. I didn't answer all of your question," he added when he remembered the question Rachel had asked him. "Working in UCOS was sometimes...surreal."
Rachel frowned, "How do you mean?"
Jack sighed, "It was brilliant using what you'd learnt as a policeman to solve crimes that had gone unsolved for years. Sometimes it was better to solve one that had been investigated by a half rate copper, but many times we investigated cases that really good detectives had tried to crack, but couldn't. Sometimes when that happened I felt like I was betraying them."
Rachel could understand that even if she had never investigated or gone behind the backs of those she personally admired and respected, but then again she was a Detective Constable, and she had never lead an investigation as SIO. Rather than try to imagine how she'd feel about reinvestigating a crime someone had tried to solve, Rachel tried to put herself in the opposite position. Instantly she realised how she would feel if she heard about someone else taking a crack out of a case she'd tried to investigate but couldn't.
She would feel more than a little ashamed and a bit pissed off; Rachel took a great deal of pride out of being a copper, and she prided herself on being able to see everything and make breakthroughs. She was methodical even if people saw her as a bit slapdash and haphazard at times, but she always came at the case with her eyes open so she noticed everything.
Hearing this from Jack Halford made her see where he was coming from, and she wondered how the coppers who'd left the force feeling like on top of the world had felt when they'd made contact with the ground again when they learnt about a breakthrough made by UCOS.
"Then why did you stay on at UCOS for such a long time if you felt you were betraying those same coppers?" Rachel didn't have time to check her mouth before the question left her. She realised she was curious about Jack's past and how he viewed it.
Jack sighed, "Many of those same coppers were as a corrupt as they came, but others were good but had made mistakes. Working in UCOS wasn't my idea of spending my retirement, Rachel, but honestly there were times I'd missed sitting in an interview, speaking to a suspect, taking orders, sitting in court."
Rachel tried to smile at him as she attempted to change the subject, "Do you want a cup of tea?"
Emily was a little surprised when she met Rachel, but fortunately there wasn't any trouble even from a woman with a personality like Rachel's. She knew what Emily was here for, and she helped the other woman as best she could. Usually Rachel sometimes acted like a right bitch, but because Emily was making Jack Halford's last remaining days on Earth more bearable, she gave the nurse enough space as she could and gave her enough help.
Truthfully Emily was pleased for the help since she was busy taking care of a few other people, and Rachel provided Jack Halford with more company since she could give him what she needed.
Meanwhile, Rachel absorbed everything Jack told her about being a copper. He was a fountain of knowledge and he gave her hints and tips on how to become a really great copper. One of the reasons she had gone into the Sex Crimes Unit was to give her experience in other departments and to broaden her horizons before moving through the ranks into different departments.
There were a few she genuinely weren't interested in, but units like the Murder, Vice, MIT and maybe even the Fraud Squad attracted her interest; Jack gave her one tip of advice there, never go into a unit where guns were used, and he related the story of Sandra pulling a gun out on a dog. Rachel laughed so hard she had tears in her eyes.
Unfortunately, it wasn't all happy stories. Jack was rapidly fading away and they both knew it, and she was losing his appetite more and more. Rachel and Emily had resorted to making simpler meals for him to eat, but it was getting worse and he always complained of feeling full and bloated even if he'd eaten a single slice of toast. Finally, he began to feel sick, and he had a hand constantly placed around his liver area. The cancer was getting worse.
Both Rachel and Emily noticed him finding it difficult to wake up.
"Any luck?" Rachel whispered as she padded into Jack's bedroom, taking one look at the man lying fast asleep, breathing like a blacksmith's bellows, and dead to the world. She winced mentally at the analogy.
Emily looked up and shook her head. She was sitting on the edge of Jack's bed, gently trying to get him awake by shaking him. "No," she muttered and checked her watch. It was half 9. "I've been trying to wake him for half an hour."
Even when Jack was awake, he was confused and disorientated, and Rachel found herself called "Sandra" more than once. She wasn't sure whether to feel complimented or insulted, but she didn't comment on it as she tried to help him.
One day Jack went into a coma, but before he did he spoke to Rachel and Emily. After a ten minute conversation with the nurse, Rachel sat down and spoke to him.
Jack was clearly fighting against the disorientation he was feeling, but he managed to get out in a barely audible whisper, "Sorry I've been so much trouble."
Unbidden tears came to Rachel's eyes. "You haven't."
Jack spoke again as though he'd never heard her. "Rachel, I've tried to give you advice on how to make it as a police officer, a good detective. I hope you took it onboard, but there are probably dozens of other good detectives in, in." Rachel almost sobbed as she saw him try to focus and remember where she lived.
"Where do you live again?"
It took almost all her control to get out in a clear and even voice, "Manchester."
"Oh, that's right. Now as I was saying, those detectives in Manchester will probably be able to teach you more than I could. But I hope what I've told you will help you," he said, panting with the effort.
Gently Rachel put a hand on his own. "I hope so too, Jack," she whispered.
Jack closed his eyes and for a moment he was still, and Rachel thought that was it. But he surprised her by saying clearly. "There are letters in the dresser downstairs. They're for my friends back in London. I want you to go to London and find Rob Strickland, I told you about him."
Rachel nodded. The stories of Strickland had been given with a bit more affection than those of Don Bevan, the original DAC who'd set up UCOS. Although the two men were both career driven and very much political, Strickland cared more for the case than his predecessor, so Jack felt better about Strickland than he did Bevan.
"Just tell him I'm dead and you need to give the letters to UCOS and Sandra. But there's a letter in there for you as well."
Rachel was instantly intrigued, but Jack had fallen asleep already.
He never woke up.
The return to the UK was a blur to Rachel. By the date she still had a few days before she needed to return to duty in Manchester, but that was more than enough time to deliver Jack Halford's letters. Using her police contacts to find the right nick where DAC Robert Strickland worked with UCOS was easy enough. Jack hadn't given her a clue where they were since it had never come up in any of the stories he'd told her of his time in the police and at UCOS, also by the time he'd told her to take the letters back to the UK he was so disorientated he was lucky to get anything out.
After checking into a hotel for a few days it didn't take her long to find out where DAC Strickland was, and she walked up to reception. When the duty officer, a young kid who looked like he should still be in school, asked her what she wanted, she showed him her warrant card.
"Rachel Bailey, Manchester Met police," she introduced herself, "I'm here to see DAC Robert Strickland. Tell him its about Jack Halford from UCOS."
The kid (she wasn't sure if she could call him the duty officer) picked up the phone. "What's it regarding concerning Mr Halford?"
Rachel sighed. "Tell DAC Strickland I was there when Jack Halford died."
Rachel didn't have time to wait in the reception; there wasn't much to see, it was a typical waiting area for anyone wishing to see the police, before the DAC turned up. Whilst she found Strickland a handsome enough man, Rachel didn't dwell on it too much as he approached. Her decision was aided by the grave and more than a little hurt look on his face.
Rachel stood up immediately. "Yes, sir."
Strickland held out his hand and she took it at once before he led her up to his office. When they were comfortable she told him about her holiday in France and her surprise meeting with Jack Halford, her discovery of his liver cancer (Stricklands' surprise at that wasn't surprising since Jack had made it clear he'd gone to great lengths to hide his illness from those close to him), and the time she'd spent with him.
By the end of it, she reached into her handbag and pulled out a small stack of letters, and she passed one to the DAC. He took it and frowned as he read it before he closed his eyes and let out a sigh before falling silent in thought. After sitting still and waiting for the DAC to make a sound, Rachel asked hesitantly, "Shall I leave the letters with you, sir?"
"Hmm?" Strickland seemed to jump when he remembered she was there. "Er, no, DC Bailey," he coughed to hide his embarrassment, but Rachel didn't say anything about it. "I'll take you to give them to the UCOS team themselves, please follow me."
Rachel felt as though someone had just made her fall asleep and make her dream something she had long since wanted to do. The UCOS team? She would meet Sandra Pullman herself, Gerry Standing and Brian "memory" Lane themselves. She'd never expected this to happen, hell she'd fought against the leave with everything she had, but she hadn't expected this.
She followed the DAC as they walked through the corridors. Strickland glanced back at the young DC as she followed him down to the office where UCOS did it's work.
"Thank you for coming back with these letters, DC Bailey," he said quietly, "and thank you for being there for Jack during his last days."
Rachel looked into his eyes. "I'm just sorry he died that way, sir," she replied.
Strickland nodded, but didn't say anything until they walked into a lift. For a moment there was an awkward silence as the two of them - two police officers, both unsure of what to say - stood there and waited for the lift to reach the right floor.
Finally, Rachel spoke again. "Sir," she began shyly, making him look at her questioningly. "I've heard of the UCOS team and what they've done, but how do you think they'll react when they find out I was with Jack when he died?"
Strickland sighed wearily. "I honestly don't know," he said, "Jack was a very beloved member of the team. His leaving shattered the dynamic of how it all worked, it took some time for them to get used to ex DI Steve McAndrew. Hopefully they'll read the letters written for them, and see that you were in the right place at the right time."
Rachel wasn't sure how to take that last part, but there was no time to think anymore of it when the lift doors opened and Strickland ushered her out. As they walked, Strickland mused on what Jack had said about Rachel, how she was like Sandra in so many ways.
"UCOS here we are," he said, opening a glass door for her, but she felt it was a bit redundant with UCOS stenciled on the walls.
There were four people sitting next to a whiteboard in comfortable chairs; Rachel's professional eyes scanned it for a moment before deeming it none of her business, it was probably a rundown of their present case. She shook herself out of her musings as she focused on the people in the room, everyone was looking between her and Strickland in surprise and confusion. Two of the men were wearing smartish but casual clothes, whilst the third was dressed in a worn out suit. But it was the women that attracted Rachel's attention, she'd seen her more than once in pictures.
Strickland gestured to Rachel. "This is DC Rachel Bailey, Manchester Met police," he introduced; Rachel looked at the four people sitting down, noting that the men, particularly the one in the suit and the one with the balding head with glasses looked a bit put off. Rachel got the impression that in UCOS there were times when newcomers came down here because they'd stumbled across another active case run by another department.
The man in the suit gave her a look that was half interest and half annoyance; the interest part told Rachel this was Gerry Standing, former DS and married 3 times and veteran ladies man, but the annoyance made her feel as though her belief was true enough.
"Oh, great, what've we got ourselves into this time?" he grumbled in a cockney accent.
The man with the glasses was frowning at her, clearly believing that she wasn't there because of the case. "Why don't you ask why she's here and get to the point?"
Rachel glanced at Strickland, who was looking down at his feet. He was clearly unsure of how to break this to them without causing a riot. "Maybe I should tell them myself, sir?" she suggested. "I mean I was there with him."
Strickland nodded after a moment's hesitation.
Rachel looked at the others, biting her lip; this was more difficult than she thought.
"A few days ago, I was in the south of France. I met Jack Halford," she said, and like she'd expected the very sound of Jack's name instantly made everyone interested. She had everyone attention, and so her eyes flicked from one person to the other. Standing was looking interested, Pullman was surprised and seemed to be begging her for information, Strickland looked resigned, and the old and thin man looked curious (Rachel got the impression this guy didn't know anything about Jack, but was curious despite himself), but it was Brian Lane that interested her.
She knew that he'd found out about the cancer, and had confronted Jack personally to get the finer details of his plans to leave, and she could see the look in his eyes. He knew why she was here and was prepared for the pain.
"I was with him when he died of liver cancer," she got out.
Sandra was sitting opposite Rachel in her office; the DSI had smiled as the DC scanned the photos on the walls, seeing for herself the interest the younger woman had in her own career. Sandra had asked the DC to come with her into the office so they could have a brief talk, and Rachel was more than happy to do that. It was just a pity that the circumstances of the meeting was something Sandra would never have wanted.
As she put more thought into it, she could sort of understand Jack's sudden decision to just leave with only a day's notice when he'd outright admitted he'd not only been thinking about it for a long time, but he'd sold the house, everything he'd owned. It was gone. Now she knew why. It was just so sad. It hurt even more that he hadn't taken her into his confidence. She would've understood.
"I'm sorry you had to find out this way," Rachel wished she could say something more meaningful to say to Sandra, but she couldn't.
Sandra had already decided to make a note of learning more about Rachel Bailey. She'd seen the interest the younger woman had briefly displayed in the office at the whiteboard about their present case, showing she was keen about the Job. Sandra liked that; many officers were ambitious like Rachel clearly was, but few actually bothered to concern themselves with the cases being investigated, even old ones which were UCOS's raisin d'être. Even Gerry's pseudo daughter Emily wasn't that interested, and now she was leading an MIT of her own.
Sandra wondered if she herself would've been interested if UCOS had been around when she'd first joined the police, or when she'd been rising through the ranks. Probably not, she conceded to herself, she hadn't been enthusiastic about the prospect of setting up a team where she'd have to command a group of old detectives banging on about arthritis and their problems. But now she couldn't think of a UCOS team without them; Brian with his exceptional mind, occasional obsessiveness, and Gerry with his facade of being a ladies man when in truth she knew him as a diligent and hard worker. Rachel was clearly overwhelmed by being here, Sandra could tell. She just wondered to herself if it was because she was in UCOS. She was clearly taken in by their work.
The older woman shook her head to get her thoughts back on track. "No, its okay," Sandra whispered when they both knew it was anything but okay, it took a lot to talk to Rachel without breaking down crying. "I just wish he'd told me, I could've..," she trailed off.
"He said he didn't want anyone to worry about him when I asked him why he'd hidden it from you," Rachel whispered, looking down at her shoes.
"I'm glad you were there," Sandra said and Rachel looked up. She could see just a smidgen of jealousy in DSI Pullman's eyes, which belied what she'd just said, but Rachel didn't care or say anything. Pullman had known Jack for years, much longer than Rachel had. She had every reason to be jealous.
"Can I see this letter?" Sandra said.
More than happy to hand it over, Rachel's fingers shook as she passed the letter to Sandra who opened it and read it.
I'm sorry I didn't tell you I was dying, but I had to leave without anyone worrying about me. I was also afraid you and the others would try to talk me out of leaving, and you might've succeeded. I hadn't expected to be in UCOS for the rest of my life, short as it was, but I enjoyed it. Well, some of it. I certainly didn't enjoy Hanson getting off after he'd tried to kill me, and that corrupt bastard helping him.
I did enjoy it when he was finally put away. I will take that memory to my grave, as I probably have if you're reading this letter. I didn't mean that in a blunt way. You were one of the best coppers I ever had under my command; oh, there were a few; Stuart Barlow for one, and we both know what happened there, and yes I did find it awkward from time to time taking orders from you, Sandra. I'm not going to hide that, but you did a good job of leading UCOS. But you won't be there forever, we both know that. I remember how Bevan and Strickland tried to coax you into taking jobs away from UCOS, but you stayed. It won't last. It never does, and that definitely comes from long and hard experience. One day you and the others will leave UCOS for new prospects; you will be promoted and given a new responsibility, otherwise you'll end up on the other side of the office, maybe behind my old desk. You deserve better than that, and you've worked long and too hard for something like that.
Brian will probably go on to be a private investigator; he was bored out of his mind during his retirement. You only had to hear him in the interview to know that. Gerry will probably stay on longer, but he will eventually leave. There were times I dearly wanted to tell you about the liver cancer. But you couldn't have done anything other than crying - and we both know you were crying - when we said goodbye. I didn't want that. I wanted you, Gerry and Brian to remember me as I was. On that note, Brian knows or rather knew about the cancer. Before you charge out of your office like a bull, I told him not to say anything.
Elizabeth Green was not a person. I had promised myself never to fall in love with anyone after Mary, and I stood by that promise for waning years. Gerry checked my phone like you know, but you and he translated it into something you understood. Elizabeth Green is a hospice. They gave me enough medicine and a lovely nurse called Emily, who did her best to take care of me. Brian realized what was going on when he saw me switch documents on Fisher; I didn't have anything left to live for. He did his research and realized what was happening. He confronted me outside the pub, and I admitted it was the truth. I made him promise not to tell anyone about the cancer. I knew it hurt him, but I didn't want anyone to think any less of me.
You, Gerry, Brian, and Strickland are my friends. Isn't it better for you to remember me as I used to be when we worked together rather than a man stricken by a disease?
The last few days were terrible.
I was sometimes bored out of my mind, but I had books to read and games to play. I went on walks and then I met Rachel Bailey.
She reminds me a great deal of you; she's tough, ambitious and she's already gotten her ideas of where she wants to be in a decade or so in her mind. She's a fan of UCOS. I know you'll probably be jealous of her for being with me when you weren't, Sandra, but please don't. Rachel was in the right place at an unexpected time.
I didn't have any children with Mary, one of the biggest mistakes of my life, but one I had to live with. But you were the closest thing to a true daughter in my life, I know I shouldn't say that because of that mess I was involved in with your father. Yes, I did lie to you, but I didn't know how to explain what had happened to you, and I didn't want you to imagine or suspect I took you on out of pity. No, I took you in because I genuinely believed you could be better. Remember that, Sandra.
If you have the time, I want you to help DC Bailey. Yes, I know she's in the Manchester Met police, but I think she could do with some help and guidance. I want you to pass on advice to her, give her someone to talk to. Be what I was with you. I taught you as much as I could, but you learnt your lessons and I want you to give as much to Rachel as I did for you.
Yes. She will probably find herself a good boss who'll give her that knowledge, but every little helps.
I hope you live a full and happy life, but remember Sandra, don't make the same mistake I made by not finding someone, settling down and having children. I know you're a workaholic, but you deserve that happiness.
Your friend and mentor always,
Sandra looked up, blinking to clear her eyes of the tears. She looked in Rachel's own eyes, and saw tears in the brunette copper's brown eyes and Sandra guessed correctly the DC had been given a letter all to herself, she was curious about what it said but she didn't want to pry.
Rachel, however, seemed to have different ideas. "He wrote he felt I was like you," she whispered, "that I was ambitious and wanted to make a great name for myself. He wrote some hints and tidbits of advice for me, but he said you could help me as well."
"We all can," Sandra replied, looking at Rachel kindly. "Brian can teach you a few things about being a detective, and Gerry can as well. On second thought Gerry might bang on about old collars."
Rachel and Sandra shared a quick chuckle at that before they sobered up. "Jack told me to give you advice, and I'll be more than happy to give it to you if you'd like?"
Always eager for advice, Rachel said, "Definitely. I figure the more I learn-"
"The more you'll know," Sandra grinned before they stood up and left the office. Brian and Gerry had just read their own letters, ashen faced and Steve and Strickland were both doing their best, but there was little they could do for themselves. Brian and Gerry's letters were similar in some areas to Sandra's, but they were different. Brian basically told him that he hoped he had a long and happy life with Esther, Gerry's said he hoped he didn't go through more divorces, but wished he was happy and he hoped that Gerry Jnr did well. Sandra walked up to Brian's desk, making the former DI look her in the eye. There was an apology on the tip of Brian's tongue, but Sandra shook her head. "He told me everything," she whispered, "I can't condone you knowing about the cancer and not saying a word, but he was right; he wanted us to remember him as he was, not what he was when he died."
Sandra hugged Brian gently before looking around the office at the array of faces. Strickland and Steve were both in the background, Gerry was looking like someone had told him he was being divorced from another wife, he didn't know, and Brian looked like he was the verge of tears. Rachel and she seemed to be trying to hold it together.
"How long do you have before you're due back at work, Rachel?"
Surprised by the question, Rachel replied, "Only a few days, ma'am."
Sandra offered her a priceless gift. "Please, call me Sandra. I can't focus, not after all that."
Gerry shot out of his chair and reached his worn out coat. "Where are we going?"
Sandra shook her head, "I think we should just go to the pub."
4 hours. That was how long they were all at the pub. There was no thought at all about anyone leaving the pub just yet, they were all too stunned by what had happened to Jack, and the things they'd read in their letters. Rachel was sitting near Sandra, downing some wine. Sandra had to shake her head at the amount of wine passing through herself and Rachel, when a thought occurred to her.
"Rachel, what would you say if you helped us with this case we're working on at the moment?" Sandra suddenly asked.
The young DC was looking at Sandra like she couldn't believe what she'd heard. "You want me to help you? I'd love to, but I've only got a few days."
Strickland intervened. "I think I might be able to stretch something," he said.
Rachel still didn't know what to say.
Gerry piped up with a lazy smile on his face. "Yeah, come on luv," he said in his grumbling but friendly manner. Rachel felt herself strangely comforted by the man, somehow.
"Alright, so long you can promise I can stay down here for a bit?" she looked at Strickland.
"I'm sure we can manage something."
It took 3 days for them to solve the case, and at that time Rachel learnt a good deal about old school policework; Sandra felt that she was channeling all three in that time. Sandra had been more by the book at first, believing that modern day work was best, but after nearly 10 years leading and working with retired detectives, she had changed her stance to a more neutral one. She occasionally took the maverick route, but whilst Rachel and Sandra were so similar to each other; both tough, both unwilling to give in or give up, both incredibly stubborn, and both preferring to spend more time at work than at home and both keeping family separate like the Mexican standoff, there were differences.
Rachel was not like Sandra in the regard she believed that the modern police route was the only way, she enjoyed the viewpoints Steve, Gerry and Brian provided. As she walked around London with them, she learned a great deal from them, and she quickly become a smoking buddy for Gerry, much to the older man's delight. Gerry found it easier to pass on corrupting hints to Rachel than it had been for Emily, his pseudo daughter, but she knew better than to take all of them. Like Sandra and Emily, she knew what was acceptable and what could potentially get her sacked.
Overall, Rachel enjoyed her time in UCOS, and she spent a great deal of time with Sandra. It was one of the best times of Rachel's life, and she learnt a great deal.
They'd even taken her for a lovely dinner at Brian's place where she met Esther Lane. Rachel was on her best behavior and it turned out to be an even more lovelier evening (if Brian remembered his manners). When the case was close to being solved, Rachel herself interviewed one of the suspects with Steve next to her. After that it was the traditional round at the pub.
When it was time for Rachel to leave, it was hugs all round.
"You take care of yourself," Esther said to her.
"I will, thanks Esther," Rachel smiled back; it felt nice to have someone gentle being motherly to her, Alison was okay but sometimes she took it too far.
"And remember, don't become like Brian or Gerry," Esther teased, nudging her husband, making Rachel and Sandra snicker.
"Oi!" Gerry grumbled.
"Ha-ha, very funny," Brian grimaced before his expression became friendlier. "Just remember what we told you, Rachel," he said, "I'm going to keep an eye out for you, see how you're doing."
Rachel had come to know Brian Lane well enough during their brief time to know he was interested in her career, and that made her more pleased.
"Thanks, Brian," she said before she hugged him. "Esther's lucky to have you."
"I'm the lucky one," he whispered back before they let go of each other.
"Goodbye luv," Gerry said, a crooked smile on his face. Rachel smiled back and hugged him again.
"Take care of yerself, Gerry," she said.
Steve was next and they exchanged a few words before she walked over to Strickland. "We, and I mean myself and Sandra, have added a note in your record, and hope it helps in the future."
Rachel smiled as they exchanged a very formal handshake. "Thank you, sir," she said.
Strickland nodded with a generous smile.
Finally, Sandra was left. "It was great working with you," Rachel began.
"It was brilliant working with you, I definitely enjoyed it. It reminded me of what it felt like to be a DC."
"I just wish we'd met under better circumstances," Rachel said, glancing down at her feet awkwardly.
"Me too, but at least we had a chance to no each other without you heading back home to Manchester on the same day after you delivered the death notice," Sandra replied before she shrugged, "how long do you think you'll be in the Sex Crimes Unit then?"
Rachel bit her lip. She sensed there was more to the question than an outsider might pick up on, but there had to be more to it than that. There had to be a good reason for the deliberate naming of the unit she worked in.
"I don't know," she replied honestly, "there's plenty of work for the MIT in Manchester, so hopefully one day the Sex Crimes will be involved in a case with one of those."
The hope in Rachel's voice made Sandra crack a smile. Sometimes hope was a good thing when it came to getting noticed. It had worked time and time again. "Good luck," she said simply.
"Thanks. What about you?"
Sandra frowned. "What do you mean, what about me?"
Rachel moved closer. "Are you going to move on from UCOS?"
Sandra blinked. There had been a time, a long time ago, and more than a few instances over the years where she'd considered moving on from UCOS, and now Jack had died, that thought was coming back to haunt her.
"I don't know," she admitted, "but I'll stick around for a bit."
Rachel looked at her, clearly knowing there was more to the explanation to the question. She changed the subject. "Thanks for the one to ones, I really needed them."
"You already have most of it. I saw and heard you during the interviews. You're brilliant, sure you need a bit more experience, but you've definitely got a gift. Are you sure you haven't got any police officers in your family?"
Rachel laughed. "My mum left me, my sister, my brother and our dad to Christ knows where, our dad was an alcoholic who could barely hold down a job for a fortnight. Our Alison had to drop out of school and gave up some of her dreams to take care of me and our brother. Family history was hardly vital. Answering your question I've no idea. It's possible, but since my dad sold anything his grubby hands could lay his hands on, god knows what we lost."
Sandra didn't know what to say; family history was not something she herself found any joy in either, especially after everything she'd found out about her father, a man she'd thought she had known and idolised for years.
"It's possible, though," Rachel said, unaware of the bombshell going off in Sandra's mind. "I might have had a relative who had served as a copper, but I don't know for sure, and I doubt my sister will know. Still something to keep in mind."
When the announcement came that the next train to Manchester would be departing in a few minutes, Rachel gathered up her suitcase. "I've got your email address and your phone number," she said.
Sandra nodded. They'd agreed to keep in regular contact with each other, primarily to allow Sandra to help Rachel.
"Good luck," was all Sandra could say as with one last smile, Rachel walked off.
When she was on the train speeding towards home, Rachel had her eyes fixed on the landscape, she couldn't really focus on anything outside, the train was moving so fast everything was only there for a second before it was gone, mentally going through everything she had to do and what might need doing. She had to get some food into the flat, get some new clothes, say hello to Alison - she grimaced at the last one.
All that time she thought about Sandra Pullman, and wondered if she was envious of her, not just for being someone looking to get up, but for being the last person (the nurse didn't count) to see Jack Halford.
No. She wouldn't think about that.
Meeting her had not been what Jack had expected, but it was just by chance rather than by design.
Epilogue - two years later.
"You worked in UCOS," Gill Murray said when they were sitting down late at night in Rachel's hotel suite.
"I thought you already knew that," Rachel replied. She knew that Gill had done a lot of research on her before extending the invitation to join the syndicate. She hoped Gill was making conversation; after learning Nick Savage had been let off by the CPS, she needed something to get her mind off the thought of Nick trying to get his own back.
"I do, but I just wanted to talk about it," Gill knocked back her wine glass.
Rachel shrugged. "I met Jack Halford, ex Detective Chief Superintendent. He was dying of liver cancer. I was with him before he died, and he told me to take some letters back to UCOS. I had one too. It's framed in my flat. I gave them their letters, and then I was invited to work with them on a case. It was great."
Gill looked at her searchingly. "I've heard of Halford. He had a good reputation."
"So do dozens of other ex coppers, but eventually it gets out they're as bent and twisted as pretzel," Rachel said, knocking back her own wine. "Jack said I was another Sandra Pullman. I took that as a compliment. Pullman is one officer I keep track off."
"Do you want to work in UCOS?"
"If one is set up in Manchester, maybe. Why?"
"Just curious. I think you'd be good in UCOS."
"Do you think so?"
"Well, you were good in the Sex Crimes Unit and in my syndicate, hell yeah."