Author's Note: This case begins in the Autumn following Sherlock Series One, and is not connected with either of my two previous stories.
Moira hesitated, peering up at the man on her doorstep through the gap permitted by the safety chain. Hmm. Not exactly her definition of tall, dark and handsome - but he was a hell of a lot closer than the Avon lady.
"Miss Moira Pickering?"
"That's me." She nodded, blonde curls bouncing with the movement.
The man held up his identification with the silver police badge clearly visible. "Detective Inspector Lestrade, New Scotland Yard. Might I have a word?"
Moira drew in a sharp breath and her hand flew to cover her mouth. Had something happened to...? No - they would hardly come to her. It couldn't be... "What's this about?" she demanded, heart racing. "Has something happened to -?"
"No, no, it's nothing to worry about, please don't be alarmed." He smiled reassuringly. "Just a routine enquiry. May I come in? I won't take more than a few minutes of your time."
Moira exhaled in relief, dropping her hand to her chest. "You frightened me," she told him, still feeling a little shaky as she unlatched the chain and opened the door fully. "Come in." She stepped back against the wall to allow him to pass her in the narrow hallway. "Please, go through."
She followed him into the living room, where he sat down on the squishy end of the sofa, looking slightly alarmed as his hips sank below the level of his knees.
"Sorry," Moira apologised, hiding a smile at his expression; he was clearly not a man who liked to appear undignified. "Springs are going - a replacement is on my 'things to buy when I earn some money I haven't spent already' list."
"Not to worry," he said, dredging up a smile and scooting forward until he was perched on the edge of the seat. He produced a notebook from his inside pocket and cleared his throat, then coughed. "Excuse me," he apologised. "I don't suppose there's any chance of a cup of tea, is there?" His smile turned hopeful. "It's just that you're my sixteenth interview of the afternoon and I'm absolutely parched."
Moira hesitated. It was already 4.30, which left only an hour and a half until Strictly Come Dancing and she had been planning on a nice bubble bath before settling in front of the telly with a bottle of wine and her fluffy slippers.
There was another, rather pathetic sounding, cough and she rolled her eyes, mentally consigning the bubbles to a post-show time slot. "I'll put the kettle on."
She headed for the kitchen, feeling rather relieved. If she was the sixteenth interview, then it couldn't be anything particularly personal. Nothing to do with Robert at least; he must be fine.
"Do you take milk?" she called back over her shoulder.
"Yes please," she heard as she clicked on the kettle and reached for the tea bags. Opening the cupboard, her hand hovered next to the mugs, but then she paused. A mug full of hot tea would take a while to drink. With the hope of salvaging her precious bubble bath time, she stretched up onto her tiptoes to reach the top shelf, getting down the cups and saucers which her Mum always insisted on and setting them on the tea tray, together with spoons and the sugar bowl.
Once the drinks were ready, she carried the tray through to the living room, putting it down on the coffee table.
She did get a "Thank you so much, that's very kind," but, before she could sit down, it was followed by another of those hopeful smiles.
"Don't suppose there are any biscuits?" The smile was accompanied this time by an expression which would be universally categorised as 'puppy dog eyes'. "Sorry," he added immediately. "I'm sorry, I don't mean to impose." The smile turned brave as he reached for the sugar. "Didn't have time for lunch, that's all."
Moira sighed. "It's no problem," she said, moving back to the kitchen in resignation. Well, he'd have to make do with custard creams, she decided, tipping the contents of the biscuit barrel onto a plate. She brushed off the worst of the crumbs, wondering if they were still in date, then shrugged her shoulders; they would have to do. He wasn't getting her double chocolate chip Saturday night TV treat cookies, she didn't care how cute he was.
"So, what's this about?" she asked as she resumed her seat at right angles to the sofa and picked up her cup.
He was still stirring his tea, the spoon tapping rhythmically against the fine bone china. "Are you familiar with the case of... well, most of the press are using the term 'The Week-Ender'?" he asked, setting down the spoon at last and reaching for a biscuit. "Thanks for this," he added, taking a bite.
"The serial killer?" Moira asked, sitting forward a little and feeling a slight thrill. Now this was interesting. A bit of inside information would certainly brighten up the water-cooler talk on Monday morning.
Her question was met with a grimace. "We prefer not to use that term, but yes, that's the case I am referring to. What do you know about it?" he asked. "Just to avoid repetition."
"Only what's been in the papers," Moira told him. "Three people killed in their homes, the last three weekends. On the Sundays, according to the tabloids - The Mirror called him 'The Sunday Slasher'. Is that right, is it the Sundays?"
"Well, we haven't officially announced that information yet, as it was difficult to establish the time of death in two of the cases - the victims all lived alone, so the bodies were not discovered straight away." He paused, raising his eyebrows hopefully in the direction of the biscuits.
"Oh, help yourself," offered Moira, wishing he'd get on with it. She drank some more tea while she waited through the munching. Didn't they feed them at Scotland Yard?
Her eyes fell to his chest as he brushed the crumbs off his jacket. Really, she thought, he wasn't half bad. A bit skinny for her taste, perhaps, but there was definitely something about him. She started to wonder about dinner, mentally inventorying the contents of her fridge. After all, it wasn't as if Robert was faithful to her, whatever he promised, and she could always watch Strictly on iPlayer in the morning.
He picked up his notepad again and she watched as his long fingers gripped the pen. Those hands certainly looked as if they knew their way around.
"But yes, we're now sure that the deaths all took place on Sundays."
It took a moment for Moira to tune back in to the conversation. "Right." She mentally shook herself. "So, how can I help?"
"Well, we have reason to believe that the killer's next target may be in this area," he told her. "We're just checking up on people who meet the victim profile."
"And I meet the profile?" That certainly wasn't news anybody wanted to hear.
"Oh, very much so, I'm afraid."
Moira shivered. This talk was making her feel a little peculiar. She picked up her cup again, sipping at the last of her tea.
"Well, I'm just planning a quiet weekend," she said. "I'll certainly keep my doors and windows locked tomorrow, you can be sure of that." She wondered if it actually might be best to go to her Mum's for the day. Better safe than sorry.
"I'm afraid that might not help," he warned her. "So far there have been no signs of forced entry." He glanced down at his notebook. "At first we thought that the killer might be known to his victims, but we have found no connection between them, so are now suspecting that he is gaining access to the properties under false pretences."
Moira thought about that for a moment. "Like pretending to read the gas meter, do you mean?"
"Something like that," he replied, smiling at her. Really, his smile wasn't nearly as attractive as she had first thought, Moira decided, a little vaguely. He could get his own dinner.
He leaned forward, his face showing concern now. "Are you alright, Miss Pickering?" he asked. "You look a little pale."
Moira blinked a few times and forced herself to concentrate. "I'm fine," she said. "Just tired, it's been a long week."
"I think we're almost done," he advised, his tone reassuring. "Just to wrap up, do you have a friend or neighbour who checks on you?" He smiled again. "It's more of a concern with women who live on their own."
Moira shook her head. "No, I'm not particularly close with my neighbours and, as I said, I was planning a quiet weekend, just catching up on some chores, watching telly, that sort of thing." She frowned. "I might go to my Mum's tomorrow, actually, now that you've told me this. How sure are you that he's going to attack in this area?"
"Oh, I'd have to say pretty confident," he replied, closing his notebook and tucking his pen away.
A sudden yawn took her by surprise and Moira covered her mouth hurriedly. "Oh, excuse me," she apologised. "Early night tonight, I think. At least I don't have to worry yet, do I? After all, it's only Saturday." She gave a nervous laugh, then wondered if it was inappropriate.
"Of course," he agreed, looking at her a little oddly.
Moira flushed, then reached her cup back towards the table, surprised to hear it rattling on the saucer. Really, this conversation was very unsettling, it was no wonder that she was feeling upset. He took it from her and set it down gently.
"Just one last question, if you don't mind."
Moira looked at him enquiringly, half wondering why his voice sounded further away, when he seemed to be getting closer.
"How long will it be before anyone misses you?"
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