After 4 months of inactivity since Christmas, yet again I find myself being drawn like a magnet towards penning another Skins story, having previously stated that I wouldn't do any more after my last effort, Photo Finish. I guess I just like writing about these characters too much to stay away for long!
This time, however, I'm attempting an ambitious project in bringing together many of our favourite characters from Skins AND characters from the popular TV crime drama series Lewis. The daunting challenge of throwing together the much loved DI Robert (Robbie) Lewis, DS James Hathaway & colleagues, shaped by the rarefied intellectual Oxford background in which they work, in a hopefully interesting mix with the more down to earth, grounded, fun-loving Bristol-based characters from Skins appeals to me. The action will centre mainly on the 2nd generation Skins gang (Naomi, Emily, JJ, Effy & Co) but I would like to try and bring in some generation 1 and 3 characters as well! The story will be set some considerable time after the end of Series 4.
I shall, as always, be thrilled to get ANY reviews/ feedback at all and I am always extremely grateful for any comments or suggestions that readers can spare the time to make on any of the chapters I write. I hope you enjoy the story, even if it turns out to be a bit of an uncertain ride at times!
With a well practiced sigh of despair Emily Fitch removed a magazine from one of the kitchen chairs, threw it on to the table and sat down to quietly contemplate with a weary shake of her head the trail of destruction that Naomi had left behind her. It had only been half an hour since her girlfriend had set off for her nine o'clock Monday morning seminar with Professor Greaves so the tell-tale aromas of a hastily prepared breakfast hung still fresh in the air and penetrated Emily's delicately twitching nostrils. The kitchen table was a veritable smorgasbord of dirty plates and crockery, half-filled jugs, glasses and mugs of orange juice and tea and what looked like for all the world every single jar of jam, marmalade and honey that they had in the house.
An innocent observer might have been moved to suggest that burglars had broken in while the two girls lay sleeping upstairs but had been overcome with a sudden ravenous hunger and, instead of ransacking the house for valuables, had proceeded to empty almost the entire contents of the fridge onto the kitchen table. They had then dined like lords before typically scarpering from the scene of their crime without bothering to lift a finger to put things back as they had found them. Seeing as the current penchant amongst young petty thieves nowadays is to piss all over the house they have broken into, as a final 'fuck you' insulting gesture of contempt, Emily supposed she had to be grateful that Naomi had at least had the decency to go to the bathroom to have a wee before leaving for college. She loved Naomi with all her heart and soul, plus a bit more to boot, but her girlfriend's general untidiness and complete inability to clear up after herself had been a bone of contention between the pair of them from the very first moment they had started living together as a proper couple. It seemed only fitting to Emily that one of the 'joke' presents she had recently bought for Naomi's rapidly approaching twenty-third birthday was a miniature dustpan and brush set. She knew Naomi would see the funny side of it when she unwrapped the gift but right at that moment Emily wished that she didn't feel the need to make her point in such a pointed and sarcastic manner.
The redhead switched the kettle on for her much needed first drink of the day and started clearing up the unholy mess that Naomi had left behind. Ten minutes later she had finished making the kitchen look a place fit for human habitation again when her mobile rang and she took the opportunity to sit down with her half finished cup of tea and take Katie's call.
'Hi,' she said, opening up the women's magazine that Naomi had left so thoughtfully and conveniently for her and gazing at the images through disinterested eyes. 'How are things?' She couldn't suppress a wry smile as her twin immediately launched into one of her typical self-pitying and random rants about all the shitty stuff that was happening in her life, how EVERYONE she had to deal with at work were complete dicks of the first order, especially her boss, how her latest boyfriend was an utter waste of space and how Mum was driving her round the bend trying to run her life for her.
'Is that it,' sighed Emily as Katie took her first discernible pause for breath for what seemed like an entire morning but was probably no more than a few minutes, 'or is there more?'
'Sorry, Em' said Katie a touch sheepishly and giggled apologetically down the phone. 'I guess I just get so…..fucking wound up!'
'You don't say. I've told you before about standing up to Mum and not letting her rule your life. If she sees you being weak and feeble about everything she'll just drive a bloody great big bus right through all your plans. Don't take any shit from her, Katie. I don't.'
'Yeah, but that's easy for you to say, isn't it, now that you've escaped from her clutches and are safely miles away?'
Emily raised her eyes to the heavens and shook her head in mild irritation as Katie fell back on the same old excuses yet again to explain her lack of balls at dealing with the unpredictable and capricious nature of their mother.
'For fuck's sake, Katie, that's bollocks and you know it. I'm hardly on the other side of the world, am I? This is Oxford, England, not Oxford, USA, you know? We're only a couple of hours away. Anyway, the speed you drive at you can probably be here in an hour.'
'I don't drive that fast!' protested Katie, sounding genuinely wounded and outraged at Emily's implied criticism that she was a less than careful and considerate road user.
'How many company cars have you written off this year so far? Remind me, I've forgotten.' Emily smirked and almost let out an ill-considered chortle that she knew would only have served to provoke Katie into going off on one again. Fortunately she just managed to suppress it in time before Katie responded with a commendable degree of righteous indignation.
'Only the two and I told you the last one wasn't my fault! It was that stupid tosser I work with.'
'Yeah, yeah, yeah. Anyway, what I want to know is, are you coming up this weekend or not? I'd really love you to be here, you know?'
'Of course, I'm coming. When have I ever missed a good party? Does Naomi still know nothing about it?'
Emily had been planning a surprise birthday party for Naomi over the last month and had been in touch with as many of the old Roundview gang as she could track down to invite them up to Oxford for the weekend for the mother of all birthday bashes.
'Not a thing. She's going to be completely blown away when everyone turns up on the doorstep on Saturday night. She thinks we're just going to have a quite little meal here, just the two of us.'
'Are you sure that isn't what she would really prefer, Em?' Katie knew Naomi well enough by now to strongly suspect that her sister's girlfriend's idea of the perfect birthday celebration would be to lock all the doors and windows to keep out the rest of the world so that she could fuck her beloved Emily's brains out all night without any unwanted interruptions. 'How is darling Naomi, anyway?'
'She's fine. Working too hard, as usual. She's only got another two months to hand in her thesis so she's absolutely shitting herself more and more each week.'
'Well, that's Oxford for you, I suppose. God knows why she had to go there to do her Masters. Obviously they make you really work for it there. She'd have had it much easier if she'd gone to Bristol, surely? Then at least we could have all seen each other more often.'
'Ah! Are you missing me, sister dear?'
'Fuck off, Em. I meant at least then Mum could have been giving you a hard time as well as me. I get it in the neck for both of us now, remember?'
Emily grinned down the phone at her sister whom she could tell was desperately trying to cover up the fact that she was missing her by playing the burning martyr card as a smokescreen. But Emily missed Katie too and made a point of telling her sister so before hanging up. She leaned back in the chair and closed her eyes for a few blissfully peaceful moments, enjoying the rare delight of total silence in the house before snapping out of her reverie and stirring herself with a few admonishing words. 'Come on, you lazy cow. You can't sit around here all day doing nothing. You've got things to do!'
The tall, slim, pleasantly good-looking, fair haired man in his early thirties dragged furiously on his cigarette as if he hoped an extra large shot of nicotine would somehow miraculously bring forth the answer to the last clue in his crossword. But nothing came out of his head other than a thick puff of smoke which enveloped him in a hazy fog which seemed to more than match the state of his mind that morning. He cursed silently under his breath and looked at his watch. Time to go in, he thought and, folding the newspaper neatly under his arm, he straightened up and was on the point of crossing the road when he was almost run over by a small sports car which seemed to come out of nowhere and was being driven far too fast for Oxford's narrow streets.
He pulled up short just in time and let out another oath, only this time much more audibly and turned his head to glare accusingly at the driver who screeched to a sudden halt about twenty yards ahead on a double yellow line and proceeded to get out of the car and head in a hurry towards the newsagents.
'Hey!' he shouted, walking with almost indecent haste towards the driver, intent on giving the crazy long-haired twat a judicial bollocking for almost mowing him down in broad daylight, not to mention parking illegally. He wasn't at his best first thing in the mornings and this was not a good start to his day. He certainly wasn't in the mood for being particularly charitable. 'You almost run me over just then, you idiot!
The driver stopped dead just short of the newsagents at the sound of his outraged accusation and turned round to reveal a dazzling smile and big, wide apologetic eyes.
'Oh my God! I'm really sorry. I honestly didn't see you. Please do forgive me.'
Sergeant Hathaway pulled up short and his expression, which hitherto had been set firmly and resolutely in a furious glare which didn't attempt to conceal his rising anger at the driver's obvious wanton recklessness, softened noticeably to be swiftly replaced by a much more controlled and moderate reaction. The contrite and embarrassed face which had turned and greeted him belonged to that of a strikingly beautiful young woman whom he estimated to be probably in her early twenties. She had long flowing dark tresses which shaped her perfectly sculpted face like a picture frame and emphasised the natural beauty of her smile with which she was currently unashamedly seeking to crave his forgiveness. Her piercing blue eyes dazzled him as they held his gaze and seemed to be laughing or, at the very least, smiling at him with a sort of playful cheekiness that suggested a young woman who was very aware of the effect her beauty had on men and wasn't afraid to use it when the occasion demanded.
'Um….it's okay, 'said Hathaway, unable to take his eyes off her sultry, hypnotic gaze and uncomfortably afraid that he might be blushing ever so slightly despite all his attempts to maintain some semblance of authority and self-control. 'Even so, you still can't park there, Miss. It's a double yellow line.'
'Oh,' said the young woman, looking down at the road and confirming Hathaway's statement. 'So it is. But…I'm only going to be a minute. I've run out of cigarettes, you see. I'll be in and out of the newsagents before you know it.'
Hathaway finally forced himself to look away from the beseeching eyes and instead stared off into the distance as he steadfastly maintained the party line. 'I'm sorry but you'll have to find somewhere else to park.'
'You don't look much like a traffic warden,' speculated the young woman dubiously as she pointedly looked the sergeant up and down, quietly noting his smart, perfectly tailored dark business suit complete with shiny black shoes and tastefully selected bright red tie. 'Aren't you supposed to wear some kind of special uniform? Where's your peaked cap, for a start?'
'I'm not a traffic warden.' Hathaway hesitated for a second or two, debating within his own mind whether it was really worth throwing his weight around like this for such a trivial traffic violation that would normally be beneath him to bother with for one second. He brought out his warrant card from his inside jacket pocket and showed it to the amused young woman who by now was grinning at him mischievously as if she was just beginning to enjoy the light-hearted banter and the battle of wills that she had initiated. She leaned forward and studiously read the proffered identification
'Police?' Wow! Illegal parking must be a serious crime in Oxford, then, Detective Sergeant Hathaway, for you to get involved. Or can I call you James?'
Hathaway bit his lip to conceal the germ of a smile that was threatening to break out across his face as he marvelled at the mischievous cheek of the woman. 'Sergeant Hathaway will do just fine, Miss…?' He raised an eyebrow in polite enquiry.
'Effy,' said the young woman, smiling at him and not just with her mouth, he thought he could detect. 'Effy Stonem. But I really do need to get some cigarettes, James. I've totally run out and my driving goes completely to pot unless I have a cigarette to calm me down. I'm sure you understand.'
Hathaway quietly contemplated Effy for a second or two, trying to gauge just how much she was being totally straight with him or how much she was taking the piss out of him. He quickly gave up trying to figure that one out and thrust a hand into his outside jacket pocket, pulled out a packet of cigarettes, took one out of the box and held it out to Effy without a word.
'Why, James, that's very sweet of you! But I'm afraid I'm a twenty a day girl, not one a day. And I've still got a fair way to drive.'
Effy looked at Hathaway, then over at the newsagents, then back at Hathaway again, still giving him the same warm, inviting, alluring smile as before, patiently waiting for him to make the next move in this early morning game of intellectual chess.
Hathaway became acutely conscious that he would soon be running late for work if he continued to hang around and take on the seemingly unflappable Effy Stonem in this pointless, though admittedly harmless and mildly amusing battle of wits. He made his mind up to bring the whole episode to a swift conclusion. He returned the lone cigarette from whence it came and pressed the packet gently but firmly into her left hand before turning away to cross the street as had been his original intention only a few eventful and never to be forgotten minutes ago.
'Take them,' he said kindly over his shoulder as he moved slowly away from a surprised and laughing Effy. 'But move that car now, please, Miss Stonem. I don't want to have to pull you in on your first visit to Oxford.'
'How do you know it's my first visit, Sergeant Hathaway?' asked Effy as she got back into her car and started up the engine.
'Because I would have remembered you if I'd run into you before, believe you me.'
Effy laughed out loud and glanced in her wing mirror, not solely to check to see if there was any oncoming traffic but also to verify that Hathaway was still within earshot. He had stopped on the opposite side of the road and turned round, almost as if to check that she was finally going to move on and not add to his crime statistics for the month.
'I think I might have to park my car illegally somewhere else, James,' Effy cried out, 'if it means running into you again.' With that somewhat cryptic parting shot Effy put her foot down hard on the accelerator and shot up the road like a bat out of hell, leaving a bemused Hathaway to shake his head in wonder and disbelief at the whirlwind flirtatious exchange to which he had just been an unwitting accomplice.
Emily waited until their lunch order had been taken before casually enquiring about Naomi's morning. 'Good day?' she asked, leaning forward and looking her girlfriend encouragingly in the eyes, whilst reaching out both hands to gently clasp Naomi's.
'Hmm, so so,' replied the blonde, pulling a slight face. 'The prof reckons I'm on the right track but I need to clarify my ideas a bit more and delve deeper into the social background.'
'Well, I'm sure you'll do just that,' said Emily with a knowing smile. She knew how much of a perfectionist Naomi was when it came to academic accomplishments and that she wouldn't settle for anything she did being merely okay or acceptable. With her it had to be first class or at the very least outstanding – she couldn't bear the idea that she might actually underachieve or underperform. Living with such a perfectionist had proved to be quite a challenge for Emily but she was gradually getting used to it and had learned what to say and how to say it to get the best reaction out of a still very fiery and emotional Naomi.
'I know you'll get things right in the end, you always do.' Emily's confidence in her girlfriend always gave Naomi a huge psychological lift and the blonde's initial uncertain demeanour quickly gave way to an almost embarrassed, shy grin as she squeezed Emily's hands in gratitude.
'Well, I can't let you down, can I?' said Naomi. 'Not after you've shown such faith in me. What sort of girlfriend would I be then?'
'Probably still the best in the world,' teased Emily who was about to respond to Naomi's open mouthed pretence at outrage when her mobile went off. Reaching in her bag for it, she quickly glanced to see who it was and hesitated a fraction as she realised it was JJ sending a text message.
'Hang on, Naoms,' she said, adding quickly 'Where the hell are our drinks?' as she desperately tried to distract Naomi from the call she had received. Emily knew that JJ must be contacting her about the surprise party which she was terrified Naomi would accidentally find out all about, hence the cloak and dagger stuff to which they were all sworn to secrecy.
She quickly read the message which was mercifully short whilst Naomi, whom she was watching out of the corner of her eye, did her best to attract the attention of their waiter.
'We're ok for the weekend. Will c u as arranged. Cant wait! Awesome news to tell u both! You'll never guess. JJ'
Emily let out an involuntary squeal of excitement at the news that JJ and Lara would actually be making the trip up after some initial doubts due to babysitting issues with Albert. She was also intrigued at what JJ's news could be but she sensed the gaze of Naomi's eyes upon her and she hastily deleted the text before replacing the phone in her bag and turning her attention back to the now quizzical blonde who had heard the squeal.
'Who was that?' she asked with mild curiosity.
'Oh, just JJ,' explained Emily in her most convincing casual manner.
'What did he want? And what the hell was that squeal for? You don't normally make a noise like that except when we're' but the blonde got no further.
'YES! Thank you, Naoms!' as Emily cast anxious red-faced glances either side of them. 'I don't need you shouting out stuff like that in front of everyone!'
Naomi burst out laughing and looked round surprised but none of the other lunchtime diners appeared to be taking much interest in their private conversation. 'Ems! Chill out, babe. I was only teasing you. Don't be so paranoid. No-one's listening. What did JJ want?'
'Nothing much. Just touching base, that's all. Says he's missing us loads and can't wait to see us when we're back in Bristol.' Emily hated lying to Naomi, partly because she didn't think she was a very convincing liar anyway and partly because, well, she just hated not being truthful and straight with Naomi. Lies had almost destroyed their relationship some years ago and they had sworn they would always be honest with each other from that moment onwards. It's only a white lie and it's for a really good reason, Emily told herself but nonetheless she felt herself blushing inside so she swiftly changed the subject.
Naomi looked closely at Emily and pondered briefly whether to dig deeper or let it go. She felt sure she had seen Emily delete JJ's text which seemed highly suspicious and odd in itself. However she chose the latter option largely because she was too tired and it was too hot to have a row or to make an issue out of something that was probably nothing. She knew she had cocked up before overreacting to harmless remarks which meant bugger all and so she allowed Emily to take her off onto another topic of intimate conversation, despite the slight misgivings and pangs of doubt that flickered dimly in the corners of her mind.
Even before Hathaway had arrived at his desk he had sensed that something was up. There seemed to be an 'atmosphere' around the place, nothing he could put his finger on precisely, nothing any of his colleagues had said or hinted at when they had exchanged the customary morning pleasantries. But he felt that something significant had happened and he suspected it wouldn't be long before all was revealed. Sure enough he had barely sat down at his desk and switched on his PC when his guvnor DI Lewis came into the room, holding a plastic wallet containing a single piece of paper, his face serious and drawn, although to be fair DI Lewis often looked like that first thing in the morning, being a bit of an insomniac in recent times.
Hathaway looked up as Lewis came over to him and held out the plastic wallet for him to inspect. 'We've had another one this morning,' said Lewis, 'only this time it's a bit more specific.'
Hathaway took the wallet and studied the single sheet of paper very carefully for a few moments, noting that the message was in exactly the same style as the first one they had received a few days ago. Clearly it had to have been sent by the same person. It was on a sheet of bog standard A4 copier paper, the sort you would find used in any office in Oxford or anywhere up and down the country for that matter so that particular aspect of the anonymous message was hardly going to reveal many clues. The words themselves had been produced in exactly the same way as before – obviously cut out of a newspaper and pasted onto the sheet with glue. They were already looking into the type of glue used but so far nothing terribly helpful had come back from forensics.
Even the style of the message was in the same vein but this time the tone was distinctly more threatening, frightening and, above all, bore the air of authenticity. This message read
I SPY WITH MY LITTLE EYE
SOMETHING BEGINNING WITH D
D _ C A _ _ T A _ _ O N
CAN YOU GUESS WHAT IT IS IN TIME?
This time, however, the writer had gone one chilling step further than in his previous communication for underneath those three lines a gallows pole had been drawn in what looked like black felt pen to which the victim's head had already been added, just like in the children's game of hangman. The inference was not lost on Hathaway who had sussed the author's message almost immediately. Five letters were missing from the word and there were five parts of the victim's body left to be drawn: the torso, two arms and two legs.
'It's pretty obvious what the word is,' said Hathaway, looking up at a worried looking Lewis.
'Well I'm not as good as you are at word games, Hathaway. It's a hell of a long time since I played hangman but even I worked out what this was - DECAPITATION.'
Hathaway nodded. 'Whoever sent this even made it easy for us by drawing in just the head? I suppose we've got to take this seriously now.'
'Damn right we do,' said DI Lewis as he pulled up a chair and sat down next to his sergeant who had remained typically calm and composed despite the terrifying nature of the message the anonymous writer had sent them.
'Have any headless bodies turned up since last night?' Hathaway asked with due gravitas and without a hint of a joke in his voice, although it would have been easy for him to have made one.
'Nothing reported so far,' replied Lewis, puffing out his cheeks and shaking his head slowly. 'But if this isn't a hoax, and I don't think it is any more, it can only be a matter of time before one does.'