Disclaimer:I don't own any of the characters here, they're all borrowed from the BBC. I just take them out to play occassionally and try to bring them back in something close to perfect condition.
Rain From The Clouds Of The Heart
Or Five Times Sandra Pullman Cried Alone And One Time She Didn't
It's been hours, more than hours, days? She doesn't know, has no way to tell. She can't see her watch behind her back and wherever she is there aren't any windows, or not very big ones. Even through the blindfold she's certain she would have noticed a change in light.
No, she knows, she's been there before. It was different, true, and more fun than this could ever be, but she had been able to tell light from dark, until she was distracted.
The bindings around her wrist pull sharply when she moves and she knows she won't be putting bondage on her list of enjoyments ever again.
She needs to move, even though it hurts, because her muscles are cramping and she isn't sure how long she's going to have the energy it takes to shift position.
She tried, at the beginning, to listen to everything around her, to catagorise and analyse everything she felt and smelt. She waited impatiently for her captor to show his face, to prove that she was right this time. That her boys had it wrong. Her boys...she bites her tongue. She won't think about it.
But no one has come in to see her, no one has fed her, given her water, threatened her or pushed her around.
She's got what she thinks is a cut on her forehead that probably means she fought them at some point between the Met car-park and wherever she is now, but she doesn't remember.
She doesn't remember much, less as the time goes on, which proves the head wound and that she won't survive much longer without some water. She sees a flash of a storage crate, of Jack and someone...someone who got away. The connection's hazy but the emotions it provokes scares her and she discovers she doesn't have enough saliva to swallow nervously.
She sends out a prayer to her boys that they'll find her and suddenly sees a car braking sharply, in the distance, going up in smoke and flames that reach for the sky. She shakes her head against the vision, memory. She knows that car, she just can't...it's important, she knows it is. Something she doesn't want to think about, but she has to, she has to...
Gerry's car. It was Gerry's car. And her boys...her boys were in it, that's what happened. Before the hand came round and held the cloth to her mouth; the explosion. She remembers. She really wishes she didn't.
She doesn't realise what's happening at first. There's none of the tell tale signs. No blurring of her vision, she wouldn't be able to see it if there were, and no moisture in her eyes; she's got none to spare. So the first sob takes her by surprise and makes her jerk in her binds. The ones that follow come more easily and she accepts them for what they are.
She's tired and scared. She's hungry and thirsty. She's on her own and her boys are dead. She remembers the explosion but everything else is still misty; she's forgotten she doesn't let anyone see her tears. She's misplaced the part of her that cares if she isn't seen as tough.
She cries out the last piece of hope her heart held for a rescue, for the return to a life that resembles a dream. Dry sobs that shake her frame and make the concrete press harder into her joints.
She doesn't stop, even as the world begins to drift away. She hasn't the energy for this much action, not after this long. She thinks there's a reason she hasn't allowed herself to sleep, but the thought slides away from her almost as soon as it comes. It won't be for long, she promises the voices in her head. It won't be long, Jack, you can take over.
She doesn't hear the doors slamming open, the windows breaking far above her. Doesn't notice the shift in the air as teams of the Metropolitan's finest swarm the condemned tower block.
"Sandra! In here, Gerry, Brian, she's in here! Sandra, Sandra!"
"Brian call for the bloody paramedics, Jack, turn her over, I'll get this damn rope off."
"Get the docs in here! She's going to be fine, right? Of course she's going to be fine."
She hears them distantly, breaking into her exhaustion. She thinks there's something wrong with that, something she's forgotten about them. Something... fire. She can't remember, but she's tired and someone tells her she's safe.
She believes them and lets go, just for a little while. Her boys will keep her safe.
She turns away and nods at the guard that she's ready to leave. She doesn't look back at the table, doesn't react when she hears it again, whispered quiet and sincerely. She signs out at the desk, grabs her bag and coat and shakes hands with the first person who offers.
She says goodbye and tries very hard not to run out of the block. It's a long way to her car, and the corridors seem to close in on her until she's never been happier for the sight of a wet and windy September sky.
She can hear the voice in her head and something starts to shake inside. The words echo and bounce around, taking on different voices until she's not sure she remembers what they originally sounded like. Were they accented? The case file said Manchester didn't it?
Her breath speeds up, her legs moving faster than they should for a walk, the clicks from her heels sounding loud and quick. Her heart starts thumping hard against her chest until she's certain it's close to escaping, which is medically impossible, but she isn't really too young for a heart attack, not in her line of work. That thought should worry her more than it does.
She waits for the elevator to the basement with growing impatience, her toe taping forcefully against the floor, her nails rapping over and over on the call button. It's worse when it finally arrives because the orchestra music doesn't fit her mood. She isn't sure what would, maybe rock or a little of the Who. The walls are made of metal, wood grained to resemble a hotel and she hates that, but it's better than mirrors.
The ding as the doors open causes something to dislodge and she can feel it bubbling up inside her. "I'm sorry."
She turns quickly and looks around, there's no one there, her pulse races. She's hearing voices and they're all sorry. She gives up on the pretense and runs to her car, grateful she parked so close.
It takes too long to find her keys in her bag and she drops it on the floor before she does. It's too late, she couldn't drive now if she wanted, not with the bubbling turning to churning and her blood pumping quicker than a runner's.
She braces her hands on the car's roof and tries to force it down, tries to gain back just a portion of the control she's lost. She loses the battle with herself and drops her chin to her chest.
The first laugh erupts with enough force to scratch her throat, the next coming softer but just as real. She giggles, which she hasn't done since she was a child, and chuckles like she's a teenager and keeps going until her sides are burning and tears run in streams down her face.
Her arms give out and she sinks to the ground, turning to lean back against the driver's door, the laughter never ceasing.
A murderer, a victim, a man betrayed by his wife and children, his parents. A man in jail facing nothing short of life and he feels sorry. For her.
Her face is screwed up in something resembling a laugh or a cry and her eyes are lined with red and black; she hadn't known she'd need waterproof mascara today. She's glad no one's here to see her, which is part of the problem and makes her laugh a little harder until she thinks she might burst.
She laughs, a hand to her mouth to stop the sound from spreading outside of her own personal space. She laughs because anything else might just kill her.
She's too old to scream and stomp. Too young to drink away the pain.
If anyone could see her they'd want to grab her in their arms and hold her tight, promise to shut out the horrors that haunt her, vow to protect her from the monsters. It would all be lies, a memory they'd keep with them that made them feel better about themselves when their lives got a little dark.
It would have been enough, though, if anyone could see her. But she's too high up for the casual observer and anyone that should be looking for her gave up days ago, before she even left.
Her fair hair shines in the fading light, sunset cradling her in a rainbow of blue eyes that seem to glow with something inside. Something more than pain; determination, perhaps, maybe survival. Pale skin completes the china doll look and she appears just as fragile.
A leaf detaches from the branch above her, starting its slow descent to the forest floor. Too slow; the dusk breeze catches it, changes its direction, makes the goal just a little harder to reach. She blinks as it touches her cheek, the action pushing a single tear out beneath her lashes. It falls faster than the leaf, lands on the grass with a splash heard only to the woodland creatures.
She bites her lip, adjusting their colour, pink to white to red. Her teeth leave an impression, everything leaves an impression somewhere.
Her world just got a little more complicated and little bit smaller. It doesn't seem fair to anyone, but it's life. And death. She should be too young to understand, but the world doesn't work well with 'should'.
The sun shines its last light against her skin and she closes her eyes and wishes, like she learnt.
Night touches her and no one calls up from below to take her home. No one settles in beside her and teaches her the constellations in the sky she doesn't know yet. No one holds her close, wipes away her tears and tells her it'll all be okay tomorrow.
She opens her eyes to the emptier world she lives in and closes a door on the wishes. She rubs her own hand across her eyes and decides to go home. She'll visit the library tomorrow, borrow a book on astronomy. She'll teach herself.
It takes a while to find her. Jack sent them all after her, each taking a different corridor, a different stairwell. Brian said it shouldn't be too hard to follow her, with only a short head-start and a limited number of possibilities.
Gerry had almost believed him.
The moment he sees her through the glass window, he phones Jack. He tells them it'll be okay, that they can go back to the case files, the recent dead-ends. Jack wants to come to her, but Gerry knows the last thing she'll need is them all crowding around her. And Brian won't want to be left out.
He doesn't know what happened. Why she left in the middle of her rant. Why she thinks the October chill is better than the heated office. But he will find out. He's a detective, or was, after all.
He shakes his head at the door and pulls his coat tighter around him; he's only just gotten warm again and it really is a cold morning. He expects to see the puffs of air, but they're faster than he thought they would be. He expects to see the shivers, but they seem closer to shudders.
She hasn't been acting right since Strickland passed them the case. They all assumed it was something unrelated. That she would sort it out, or let them know if it proved important. But she hasn't and it's gotten worse.
He tries to keep his footsteps light, tries not to make too much noise as he walks up behind her.
His shoe catches with a scrape against a rock and she jumps and spins so fast he's suddenly certain that the silent approach was wrong.
He tries a sheepish smile and worries even more when she doesn't even glare. She turns back to face the tree line, but not so fast that he doesn't see that her eyes are redder than they should be. The blues a little brighter.
He moves the last few steps that allow him to take his place beside her, against the railing. He wants to turn his back to it, to face her and see everything she's trying to hide. He doesn't. It wouldn't be right. Not yet.
"Let me guess, you drew the short straw." Her tone is cynical, but it shakes a little. He can't help but wonder if the shrink she used to see did her any good; surely she should have a better self image by now?
"No, that was Brian, he's had to check out upstairs." She snorts a little and that's something he can work with.
"And did you call him off when you saw me? We'll never get this case closed if he ends up hospitalized for excessive exercise." She pauses. "Again."
"And it's important we close this case, right?" She turns to him again, confusion clear on her face.
"Of course it is! This is what we do Gerry, remember? We investigate unsolved cases and bring the victims' families some closure."
"This is one of our older ones though, ain't it? You couldn't have been more than eighteen when Hollis died." That makes him feel old to say. He was already making a name for himself in the force when the girl was found.
"Sixteen." She turns away again.
Sixteen, the same age as Hollis. The same age as the other girls they've linked her murder to. Something niggles at him, his Policeman's intuition telling him that this is important.
"I guess we're lucky he didn't come after you then." It's supposed to be a joke. Not the best, he'll admit, but it should have been enough to make her frown at him, for her to tell him none of this is a joke. Instead she goes still, very still, even her breathing stops. And then it clicks. "He did, didn't he?"
It doesn't really make sense; that she wouldn't have told them when they started. But then he knows he must be on the right track, because she shudders again and finally turns fully around to face him.
"You and Jack wrote the profile, we know that he preyed on girls between the ages of fifteen and seventeen. All blonde or very fair brunettes."
"Except for Louise Hollis, she had black hair." He wonders where this is going, they've already been over this. They know that Louise was an anomaly, something that is proving near impossible to explain.
There are tears pooling in her eyes and Gerry almost reaches out to her. None of this makes any sense to him and he wonders if he should have let Jack and Brian come out here after all.
"Gerry, it should have been me. She was my best friend and she shouldn't have been there. I should have." This is about more than misplaced guilt. He tries hard not to notice when she hides her face in her hand. He looks at her, looks closely and he can imagine what she looked like as a child. She would have fit the profile almost perfectly. He wonders what it must be like, carrying around that sort of knowledge. He suddenly wishes he didn't have this insight into her character.
"Sandra." He reaches out, barely brushes his fingers against her shoulder before she takes a step away from him, hands still covering her face.
He should leave her alone. He's solved the mystery and she obviously hates to be seen like this. But it actually hurts him, this side of her. So he takes two steps towards her for her one away, and places both hands on her shoulders, drawing her close, holding her still when she fights.
"You haven't slept at all since we got this case, have you." It's not a question, she goes still against him. He smiles bitterly, he's winning this battle in measures. "I know you've not been eating much either. Sandra, you need to let this go. It's not your fault." He wants to say more but her breath catches on a sob and he can feel it rack through them both.
He wonders how long it's been since she's let herself cry like this and he holds her tighter when he realises it's probably been longer than some of his marriages have lasted.
He hugs her close and promises them both he won't tell the others. He promises her silently that he won't let her cry alone again. He promises himself he'll never give her cause to.
She watches the grass shake in the wind. Brown grass. She wonders if that means Autumn is coming, or if it's just mud. Maybe it's been painted. Brian would know.
There are people around her, lots of people. She saw the guest book; it was easier to read than sign her own name to it. She'll go back and do it later. There's no rush, not really. And no one is likely to notice.
The grass looks familiar. Brown, wet. Blurry. She's been here before; once, twice, no; more, it feels like more. It must have been. Not right here, here's different, but they're all the same. Gerry wouldn't agree, he chose somewhere special, unique. It looks the same. She hates that it feels like a betrayal not to notice.
Someone whispers behind her, or shouts, she ignores them, they're not here for her anyway. They don't need her. They'll survive her silence.
She wore heels first, and a skirt. But the boots would have sunk and the weather's too cold for anything less than trousers. The change is part of the ritual. The tradition she learnt to hate too many years ago.
The necklace was from Jack, the bracelet; Brian and Esther. The suit is new, never worn. She didn't buy it for this, didn't see it on the racks and know it would be perfect. She didn't find herself waiting for today for years, didn't watch it slowly move towards her, ticking off days on the calendar like minutes.
She used to be able to lie to anyone. She can't even lie to herself anymore. She had the summer boots and skirt just incase. They've never been worn either. She'll throw them out tonight. Take them to GoodWill. They seemed appreciative before.
Last time, Gerry held her hand. The time before, Brian collapsed on Mark. Now, she stands at the side and watches the ex-widows hug their daughters. Catches sight of little Gerry and hitches her breath at the familiar eyes. It shouldn't still be so hard.
She turns away before the Holy mouth falls still. She can't hear the words. She knows them by heart. She looks at her watch; he said he'd be late, he was early.
The hands tick, she can hear that. Time moving on to the sound of her footsteps. Head bowed, it stutters and stops with the first tear drop on the pavement. The next splashes beside it, and the next, and more until she's far enough away that no one can hear the cries that tear her throat.
Time falters. Her heartbeat is louder than the clock in her mind. She looks up; because she has to, because the concrete doesn't have features enough to distract her, because grey looks the same no matter how much your soul is breaking. And she can almost believe they're there.
Jack, with his hand around Mary's waist. Brian, boring Esther with something trivial she knows only he could ever find interesting.
Gerry making bets on the Greyhounds he owns again; beer and a cigar in each hand. That smile.
Lips rising, she can taste the salt of her tears. Time realigns. Reality pulls her back. The service isn't over.
He's the last. All her boys gone. There could be more. Should be. She won't lead them. She can't.
The wind whispers lies in their voices. The rain projects their ghosts against her cheek.
She's tired and alone. So alone. Watching the mourners silhouette against the fading light. Silver trails dry against her skin. She wonders why she thought crying was best done alone. Brian would have known. Jack would have told her. Gerry would have held her hand.
She closes her eyes and lets them.
It's dark out, cold. The bathroom window hasn't been warmed enough from the inside to stop the condensation forming, it reminds her of rain.
The room's filled with steam and if she wanted to she wouldn't be able to see herself in the mirror right beside her. She didn't plan it, it's a bonus. A lucky coincidence. She snorts. She doesn't believe in luck. Good fortune; she doubts that exists either.
The world has lost its sparkle. Its magic. She looks at the misty mirror with analytic eyes. She can't see herself because the water's too hot, the mirror's too cold. There's nothing more, nothing less to it than that. It feels like a loss. She wonders how Brian copes; always seeing the logic, never the fanciful. It looks like she'll find out.
Her skin's red, flushed, glowing in the low light. She'll step back under the shower, in a minute. She needs a moment, not too long, to let her skin breathe. She isn't stupid, she knows she can't stay under the scalding water indefinitely without a more permanent effect. But a warm shower just wouldn't have done it tonight, she needed something that would burn her on the outside enough to hide the twisted memories.
No, not memories; stories, fantasies. Fairytales that have no place in the real world, that have no foothold in the cynicism she's adopted as a way of life.
The glass is getting warmer every time she raises it to her lips, the wine surpassing room temperature but no less effective. She knows it's probably a mistake to be drinking the way she feels, to be drinking while standing in a shower. She really doesn't care.
A few words, some looks and her world crashed down like a pack of cards. Not cards, dominos. One little push and everything unfolded around her. A lifetime's worth of work destroyed for a moment's pleasure. Someone else's, certainly not her own.
And they knew. They knew and they hid it. She takes another sip of wine, considers switching to something stronger and turns the dial a little further towards hot.
The fan in the ceiling whirs loudly catching an insignificant speck in the blades. So much noise for something so small. So pointless.
They knew. She still doesn't know what's worse. That the truth isn't what she always believed before, or that they knew and lied. They're supposed to be a team. She thought they were friends.
Her lips twists up bitterly; she doesn't have friends. Not for long. She should have realised sooner that they wouldn't be any different than everyone else before them. She's still stuck on the outside looking in.
Tears blur her vision and she bites down hard on her tongue to keep the sobs inside. She won't cry for them, she won't. Not for any of them. Not for the past that's been rewritten or the future she can't quite make out anymore. Not for the woman she was that they changed, softened, made breakable.
She won't cry for any of that.
Instead, she takes a deep breath, swallows the last of the wine and steps beneath the spray.
The tears fall and slide with the water down her cheeks, her neck, her chest.
She chooses to cry for the burn, for the new pain that doesn't quite mask the other. She hugs her arms around her waist and lets the water drown everything she is for just a moment, until she's nothing more than the sum of her parts. The equation that creates her but doesn't define.
She's the science behind her existence, the logic of her life, with only the rationality of water on glass and the wind that fells a card. She's the mirror image of herself that she can't see, that exists only when she can. No past, no memories. Just a face, a hand, a body. Just a woman.
She cries for the pain that exists on the outside because that's easier to fix. And when she hears Jack's voice echoing tinily around her apartment in absent apology, she slips down to the floor and wishes she could live outside of herself too. Just for a little while. Just until it stops hurting quite so much inside.
~ finis ~