Disclaimer: I own nothing but the girl and her family.
His whole body is cramping, and he feels like there are tiny, fiery torches in his body, just beneath his skin. His head isn't throbbing as badly as it was yesterday, but it still hurts. Ben groans and rolls onto his back, unfolding his limbs from his torso. What time is it? Where is he? He opens his eyes...then shuts them just as quickly. Another groan vibrates in his throat, his hands reaching up to cup his face.
The mattress shifts, though he doesn't really feel it, and something gently pushes his hands down, replacing them with something cold on his forehead. He attempts to open his eyes again when something small and cool brushes his hair back from his face, and he briefly catches a glimpse of who he thinks is Gail before he has to close them again.
"Wa's goin' on?" He can't seem to operate his tongue correctly, and his throat feels just as dry and rough as sandpaper. "How long 'ave I been out?"
"You've been in and out for three days." She says quietly, dabbing his cheeks with the wet cloth.
Say what? Three days? No, that can't be right...he was just throwing up at work yesterday, wasn't he? "In'n'out?"
"Mhm. Liam's been walking you back and forth to the bathroom at your request."
The bath- "For wha'?"
"Well you know..and baths."
She's got to be leading him on. Yes, she's got to be, because he doesn't remember any of this. He reaches to place a hand on his aching belly, only to realize...there's no waistband. He feels around again, feels around lower-
Suddenly his pallid cheeks feel sultry, his body rigid. Though the blankets are up to his neck, he wiggles (not painlessly) until they're to his chin, and his hands can't seem to move from a specific area on his person, despite his whole body being hidden beneath a pile of quilts and wool blankets.
It takes all of Gail's willpower not to laugh, and she doesn't bother telling him that one of those times...she helped Liam lower him into the bathtub. She hides her smile by reaching for the glass of water sitting on the nightstand, offering him the straw. At first he thinks about refusing it, too embarrassed about his current state to want to take anything from her. But...his scratchy throat and dry tongue speak louder to him than his pride, and he drinks until half the glass is empty, then rolls over on his side...away from Gail.
"How do you feel?" She asks good-naturedly.
He just groans, trying to open his eyes without much success.
Attention diverted from her, she smiles, looking about the room as she does so.
The bedroom, much like the living room, is quite small. The bed, average-sized, takes up most of the room, centered on the far wall. The closet is on the opposite side of the room, not quite big enough to walk in, containing all of his suit jackets and shirts, t-shirts, coats, shoes polished and resting on the floor next to several pairs of sneakers. There's a medium dresser, oak, shoved into the upper right corner, next to the only window in the room...streak-free. She's surprised she didn't notice earlier that the carpet is a semi-darker blue, the baseboards lighter blue, and the walls a pale blue, giving the viewer an ocean feel. The bathroom is in the left side of the room, barely big enough to contain the bathtub/shower, toilet, and sink.
"Your room is well kept." She comments. "Nice color combinations."
"Thanfs." He slurs sleepily.
"Did you do them yourself?"
"M' sister picked the colors." He yawns. "I applied th'm."
She looks away from the window, stares at his back. "You have a sister?"
"Li'l sister. Heather. Works in London as a journalist."
She'd had no idea he had any siblings. Then again, she didn't know much about his family to begin with. Didn't know much about him. Period.
"Could you go get Liam? I...I n-...I need to ge' up." He grumbles, uncomfortable about the whole ordeal.
She starts to get up, but Liam is already at the door, brows raised and eyes glittering in mischievous amusement.
On the other side of Midsomer, Barnaby is on his way up the steps to Widow Cox's trailer, left hand steadying his black tie and red scarf from the wind, right poised to knock.
Faith answers the door, eyes instantly lighting up. "Mr. Barnaby!" Her voice is high pitched as she tries to look around him.
He smiles as his brows crease sympathetically. "I'm afraid Gail isn't with me this time." He says lightly.
Her face falls, just slightly. "Mr. Jones?"
"Oh." She says, shoulders slouching. "Is he okay? Is he gonna get better fast?" She looks over her shoulder quickly, then drops her voice to a loud whisper. "He can borrow my cough medicine...no, wait, he can have it! It's naaaaaaaasty."
Even Barnaby can't keep his heart from melting over that. He smiles broadly at her, chuckling softly as he takes the weight of the door off her little hand. "Well that's very kind of you, Faith, but I believe he'll be better in no time."
"Okay." Her eyes light up again. "Hey! You wanna come in? It's nice and warm inside."
"Certainly." He grins.
The trailer is even more disorganized than last time, he notices, with toys strewn all over the main room. On the floor, on the couch, in Late Danny Cox's dark green reclining chair...a few even rest on top of the television, stuffed animals, the lot of them.
Faith smiles up at him as she leads him by the hand, grabbing Mr. Brown from the recliner. "You can sit here, because my daddy doesn't use it anymore. I'll go get mummy."
He makes himself comfortable as the hyper child disappears, staring at the pile of dirty dishes in the sink, then the overflowing ash treys on the end table next to his left elbow, and then Widow Cox as she comes sauntering in the room in her stained pink bathrobe. "Hello, Mrs. Cox." He says cheerfully.
She glares at him through red-rimmed eyes, puffing her cigarette quickly. His jovial attitude is an insult. "Don' call me tha'. It's jus' Ms. Elton now."
He nods. "Ms. Elton. Good afternoon."
She just grumbles inaudible things to his ears as she flops down on the couch, messy bun swinging loosely on the back of her head. She takes an unhealthily large drag from her cigarette, then lights up another one when the used one is still falling from her fingers into the nearest ash trey. "Wha' do you want, then?"
"Well," He starts, shifting so that he isn't sitting on the end of his scarf, "I told you I would have to come back later, Mrs. C-...Ms. Elton. I have important questions to ask you, involving the information you gave me last time, and-
"Coul'nt we just drop it, then?" She says irritably. "It's done."
"I'm afraid not, Ms. Elton." He says patiently. "Your husband has been murdered, and-"
"Exa'tly. Murdered. It's done, finished. No need to question me."
Barnaby tilts his head toward her, linking his fingers atop his waist. "Don't you want us to catch his killer, Ms. Elton?"
She just scoffs, reaching for the glass of clear liquid sitting on the floor.
His brows raise slightly, eyes flicking to the small girl talking to her teddy bear and rinsing out a glass on her tip-toes, so she can fill it with the milk sitting out on the counter. He can smell what's in the glass from where he's sitting, and he knows it isn't water. "Well we can't just leave it alone." The cheerfulness is gone, replaced with his professional tone. So much for spreading his joyfully good mood... "So I'm afraid I'll still have to ask you the questions." He shifts his weight again, leaning on his right elbow. "You told us last time, "Sometimes I hate him, that man." I assume you were referring to your husband?"
She scoffs again, rolling her eyes as though the fact is obvious.
"You also mentioned that he kept bringing strangers into your home. Can you tell me anything about these strangers? Perhaps they turned into his enemies over time?"
"If I knew abou' thum, they woul'nt be strangers, now, would they?"
"Well can you tell me anything about them? What they looked like? What they wore?"
"Italian, jus' like my husband. They always dressed fancy like. All gussied up in suits and shiny shoes." She says impatiently.
"Do you think your husband was in any way related to the Mafia, Ms. Elton?"
"'Ow the hell should I know?" She snaps. "'E' told me to never ask him about his business. "Don' ask me about my business, Jess." Never told me anything abou' his past...never asked. Never desired to. Mine wasn't pleasant either."
His brows raise a little at the shouting, again looking over at the child, contently playing with her teddy bear on the kitchen floor. He begins to wonder if she's used to this, when he reels his mind back in and looks at Ms. Elton, who lights up another cigarette. "Who is the woman you briefly mentioned?"
Her brows crease. "Hm?" Puff, puff...long stream of smoke...Barnaby's direction.
He blinks rapidly, fighting off the water being over-produced in his eyes. "You said, "He keeps bringing in all these strangers and that woman." Do you remember?"
"Mm." She nods, blowing out another long stream of smoke. "His sister. Bad influence on the child." She says dismissively.
His brows flatten, coming as close as possible for brows to come to straight lines, eyeballing her cigarette and liquor. "What would she come for?"
"Wha' woul'nt she come for? Money, drinks, drugs, food, you name it, she came for it."
"You also mentioned..." He looks at Faith again, torn for a moment. "You said, "You don't see me running away." and, "I wish they would all just disappear." Who were you talking about then?"
She pauses for a moment, looking him in the eyes as she pulls the cigarette away. "His sister and those men. Who'd you think I was talkin' abou'?"
He stares back levelly.
"You don' think I meant..." The shock in her eyes turns to anger, the cigarette coming to an abrupt end in the ash trey. "Are you accusin' me of-"
"You haven't exactly been very open with us, Ms. Elton." His voice is even, his eyes going back and forth between Ms. Elton and Faith, who, thankfully, goes out the front door with Mr. Brown. "So yes, you are a murder suspect. And until I'm able to sort out that you had nothing to do with your husband's murder, I'm going to have to ask that you not leave town."
The glare in Ms. Elton's eyes intensifies. "Will that be all, then?"
Barnaby stands, adjusts his coat. "For now, yes. Good afternoon, Ms. Elton."
He shows himself to the door, then, not bothering to wait for a reply. Faith is standing in front of his car when he looks up, tiny finger tracing the jaguar on the hood. He smiles and watches her while he digs for his keys.
"It's a panther." She says quietly, not even turning from the hood ornament.
"Well, a jaguar, but it's the same thing."
"Jaguar." She repeats. "Jaguar. Jaguar." She turns, then, dropping her little arm to her side. "Are you leaving, Mr. Barnaby?"
"Afraid so. I'll come back sometime, though."
She just nods quietly, shifting Mr. Brown to reveal the top of a plastic baggy. "Could you give these to Ms. Gail and Mr. Jones? We have a ton of them in the kitchen, and I don't want them all."
He finds his heart melting again. How could such a sweet child come from such a bitter family? He reaches out with a tenderly kind smile, holding the baggy up eye level to get a closer look. Cookies. Chocolate chip cookies. Most of them crumbly and broken from being pressed against her little side, but chocolate chip cookies non-the-less.
"You can have some too, if you like. People brought a whole bunch of them to mummy when daddy died."
"You're very kind, Faith."
She just hugs Mr. Brown to her chest, resting her chin between his ears. "Bye, Mr. Barnaby."
It's one of the few times he's left a suspect's house with a smile.
Free coffee and cookies for anyone that can tell me which line is a reference to a movie, and what the movie it is!
Shorina: Nah, it's fine. It's something I needed to know anyway, and was hoping someone would correct me on to begin with. :) LOL. You know, I was thinking the same thing earlier. Looking after a sick Ben is better than looking after no Ben, after all. ;) Also, thank you! I didn't realize my insight into his home would be so appreciated. I'll do that more, then.
DarknessDeadly: Lol. Knowing me, that would be exactly my luck, too. Thank you!
Rollieo: Too early for Christmas? Never! Well, perhaps in shopping malls...
For some reason, I just wanted to make him miserably sick. I know that makes me sound horrid, Lol, but to me, it makes him even more human. He hardly ever gets hurt or sick, which is good, but...Eh, you know what I'm getting at. :) Thank you! I'm always glad to know that my detail and insight are appreciated, especially when it comes to characters that I made up. And yes, I always appreciate your rambling. :)