So, this is it - the final chapter of my story. I'll do some acknowledgements at the end as I don't want to give the ending away for those who haven't guessed it yet, but just want to say many many thanks again to those who have read, reviewed, favourited or simply enjoyed this story. I've enjoyed writing something slightly different for Gene and Alex. But as they say, all good things come to and end...
Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow…
Fifty. She was fifty years old.
Alex shook her head in amazement. Where had the time gone? She stood in the conservatory looking out onto the garden and beyond that to the still bare landscape where the familiar solitary scarecrow stood. Alex supposed she should have got rid of it years ago but for some reason she couldn't bring herself to do it. Besides, Molly had loved dressing up the scarecrow in various bizarre outfits and now Molly's children loved to do the same. The scarecrow had barely changed with the passing years and Alex found comfort in its familiarity. She raised her mug of tea to salute it. "Here's to us – still here after all these years."
And Alex wasgrateful to still be here. She had had a couple of close calls but in the end she had pulled through and seen her daughter grow up into the bright, intelligent and lovely young woman Alex had always hoped she would. And now Molly had a husband and a daughter of her own and more recently had given birth to a baby boy who Alex simply doted on. They had all been there at her recent birthday party to celebrate reaching the momentous milestone. Alex would have been happy with something more low-key but Molly had insisted and Alex had submitted to the celebrations. There was cake, but there was also champagne and music and laughter with the friends she had made here over the years. No Evan of course. He died over five years ago now and Alex found that she still missed him terribly. They had not always seen eye to eye on everything that was for sure, but he had been a devoted godfather and friend, both to her and to Molly.
Other things had changed too. Monty, that faithful if slightly annoying companion was also gone. Alex remembered how devastated Molly had been when she had found out that Monty had died. That had been about four years ago. He had disappeared one day and Alex and Molly had hunted high and low for him without result. But the next day they had found him in the one place they had never thought to look. They had found him curled up at the base of the scarecrow, for all the world looking like he was just asleep. But Alex had only to gently put one hand on his snowy white fur to know that he was no longer breathing. They had buried him there, saying a few heart-felt words of gratitude for his companionship.
She sighed and turned, almost tripping as she did so. She carefully lowered herself into the nearest chair until she regained her balance. This was not one of her good days. Probably a result of all the excitement of her birthday, but she felt every one of those years today – and a bit more. The old weakness down her right side was making itself known again – hence her lack of balance. She had taken to using her walking stick again plus she had had to resort to wearing her old-fashioned reading glasses as her vision was blurred. But Alex was not in a mind to moan about her lot – the birthday party had been worth any physical after-effects that she might now be suffering.
"Hi Mum – it's me!"
"I'm in the conservatory," Alex replied, as Molly made her usual noisy and chaotic entrance in the house.
When she entered she was carrying a small bundle in her arms.
"I'm not sure how that baby sleeps through your shouting," Alex said affectionately.
"Oh, Sam sleeps through everything, don't you Sammy? Will you take him?"
"As if you need to ask." Alex held out her arms and took firm hold of the sleeping baby, while Molly wandered off to the kitchen to make herself a drink. She was still gently rocking baby Sam and whispering baby-talk to him when Molly returned and plonked herself down on the sofa.
"So, how are you feeling today?" Molly asked. "Better?"
Alex shrugged. "Still a bit tired." She wasn't going to mention the nagging headache that she had been struggling with all day. "Remind me not to party quite so hard next time."
"Your party was almost a week ago now mum – are you sure it's not something else? We could always…"
"Don't fuss Mols! I'm just feeling my age today that's all."
"Age? You're only fifty mum – hardly knocking on heavens door! "
"Well I think I've had a bit more wear and tear than most people." She saw the flash of anxiety on her daughters face and deliberately lifted the mood. "Like I said, I'm just tired."
"If you say so. Anyway, let me take Sammy and put him down to sleep."
Alex didn't resist and immediately felt the relief when Molly lifted him from her arms. She rubbed at her right arm where he had been laying, trying to restore the feeling. She got up slowly and followed Molly back into the kitchen where she was settling the baby into his pram.
"He always sleeps better in here," Molly said, looking around the room.
"Must be the warmth."
Alex topped up her mug of tea and then they both sat down on the comfy sofa. Alex shook her head. "You never sit in the other chair." She indicated the vacant armchair opposite. "Why is that?"
Molly shrugged. "I always feel it's his chair."
"Whose? Monty? But Monty's long gone now."
"No. Not Monty. Gene."
"Gene?" Alex felt her heart hammering inside her chest. Of course she remembered Gene from her coma but how could Molly…..
"Gene the ghost. At least I think that's what he was."
"Molly you couldn't possibly have seen him. He was the DCI in my book remember?"
"I know. But he was here too…when I was a little girl. I saw him."
"I'm not sure that's even possible sweetheart. Maybe you were just dreaming."
Molly shook her head vehemently. "I'm not. He made me promise not to tell you. Said you'd go apeshit."
Alex smiled. That certainly sounded like something Gene would say. "Well, I suppose we'll never know what you saw."
Suddenly a light bulb went off in Molly's head and she leapt out of her seat. "Actually, there is something." And to Alex's amusement she went rushing out of the room.
Alex was still waiting patiently when Molly rushed back into the kitchen carrying a large sketch pad.
"Do you remember when I was into art at school?"
Alex nodded. "You used to spend all day drawing. You never let me see much of it though."
Molly handed over the sketch pad. "I just found this in my old room. Look. Look through it."
Hesitantly Alex began to flip through the page, smiling as she recognised some of the images. There was Evan of course, and several really good sketches of Monty. "These are really good…."
"Keep looking," Molly prompted.
She did as she was commanded. And there he was. She turned to look at Molly. "But it can't…."
"Is it him mum? Is it your Gene?"
Alex looked at the drawing in her hand. He was sat in an armchair in this kitchen – the same armchair that Monty used to favour, the same armchair that Molly would never sit in. She had captured his features very well; the floppy fringe, the sideburns, the determined set of his jaw and the hint of a pout on his lips. This was the first time that Alex had set eyes on his face for years – in her dreams his face was always blurred, only the eyes distinct and bright. But she would have recognised that face anywhere.
Molly beamed with pride. "I knew it! Although I still don't understand how."
Alex shook her head. "Neither do I Mols, neither do I. Can I keep it?"
Alex continued to stare at the picture in her hand, a finger carefully tracing the outline of his face. "When was the last time you saw him?"
Molly screwed her face in concentration. "Think it was just before your accident – when you were run over. He told me that he might have to go away and that I was to be a good girl and look after you. And then afterwards, when we came back here to live….I always thought he might come back but he never did."
"No," Alex said quietly, "he never did." She was lost in thought, half of her wondering why Gene never came back, and the other half hoping that he had finally called it a day and gone into The Railway Arms. She was suddenly overcome with an overwhelming tiredness. "Actually Mols, if you don't mind, I think I'm going to have a nap this afternoon. I think I'll feel better for it."
"Of course I don't mind. I have to get back home and pick Caroline up from school anyway. Are you sure you're okay? You don't want me to get the doctor to come out?"
Alex shook her head. "I'll be fine. A good sleep is all I need."
"Okay. But I'll pop back later after the kids are in bed." Molly kissed Alex on the cheek and headed for the kitchen door but was surprised when a flash of white fur streaked past her and into the kitchen. "Monty?"
Alex looked up at the commotion and then grinned. "I was going to tell you. He turned up a couple of days ago –a stray I think. He does look a bit like Monty though doesn't he?"
"A bit? He could be Monty's double." She bent down to stroke the cat who was busy wrapping itself around her ankles. "He even acts like Monty too – always after food. Are you going to keep him?"
"We'll see. It is nice to have company around the house when you're not here. Actually, you could pick up some cat food on the way back – he's eating me out of house and home."
"Okay. See you later. Love you."
"Love you Mols."
Monty leapt up onto her lap and purred loudly. "Oh I know what you want mister. Come on then." With an effort of will she heaved herself out of the chair and walked towards the fridge in the kitchen. After pouring a saucer of milk for Monty mark 2, she made herself a warm milky drink and took a couple of painkillers. That plus a nice nap would hopefully see off the malaise she was currently feeling. She left Monty lapping milk in the kitchen and turned the radio on to one of her favourite digital stations – a bit old fashioned now but she didn't care. She settled herself in one on the comfortable armchairs, the picture of Gene in her lap and a glass of milk in her hand. She smiled as she recognised the tune on the radio. A flash of remembrance or possibly a dream. Dancing with Gene. "At last my love has come along, my lonely days are over…." She closed her eyes as if to sleep.
Monty jumped in alarm at the sound of the glass hitting the wooden floor. He padded towards the seat where Alex was sitting, her hand outstretched, and the glass of milk spilled onto the floor. With a plaintive meow, and after a cursory sniff at the spilled milk, he jumped up onto her lap but no reaction was forthcoming. He settled himself protectively on her lap. And waited.
It wasn't long before a dark figure emerged from the shadows, pausing only as he caught sight of Alex lying quite still in the chair. She was as beautiful as the first day he had clapped eyes on her. Possibly more so. He felt a twinge of nervousness as he approached her chair. Would she remember him? Would she understand? While he couldn't exactly rejoice that it was finally time, he had to admit that he was glad she hadn't lived until she was ninety years old. But then he always had been a selfish bastard – most of the time.
He spied the cat, still sitting on her lap. "Might have known you'd be here. You've done yer job now so mush!" Without waiting for a second warning Monty leapt down onto the floor as Gene hunched in front of the still silent Alex.
He thought he saw her eyes flicker but she didn't move.
Again the eye flicker.
With a sigh of exasperation he tried again. "Bols!"
Alex's eyes shot open and then became even wider as she saw Gene. She closed her eyes and then slowly opened them again. He was still there. "Guv?" She reached out and touched his arm. It was solid and warm. "Gene?"
"Come on love. Time to go." He reached out his hands to help her up.
"Go?" She laughed. "I don't know if you've noticed but I'm far too old and decrepit to run off gallivanting with you."
"Disobeying a direct order Inspector?"
Alex shrugged her shoulders. "Well if you insist – but don't say I didn't warn you." She took Gene's hand and he pulled her easily to her feet. Funny, but she didn't feel the normal aches and pains that she had gotten used to over the years, the legacy of her run-ins with mortality. She felt pain-free and almost light-headed with happiness. She held onto Gene's hand as he steadied her on her feet. "I don't understand…"
He gently turned her around to face the chair where she had been sitting. In it was the middle-aged Alex, the fifty-year old Alex who had lost her final battle but whose face was now serene and free from pain.
"I'm….dead?" She turned to face Gene. "Really? Definitely? No way back?"
He nodded. "No way back. I'm sorry Alex." Christ, now he hated this job sometimes. He thought it might be different with her but…
Alex was beaming at him.
She shook her head, although she was still smiling fit to burst. She took his face in her hands and before either of them knew what was happening she was kissing him so hard he rocked on his heels. He had to wrap his arms around her to stop them both from toppling over. Gene felt the life and warmth that had been missing for so many years slowly seep through his body until every nerve ending was on fire.
"Think we'd better get out of here don't you?"
Alex nodded but took one final glance back at the figure in the chair.
"No regrets?" Gene asked quietly.
She shook her head. "I got to see Molly grow up – she's settled and happy. That's all I need to know." She squeezed Gene's hand. "So where now? Railway Arms?"
Gene snorted. "Not unless you're desperate for a sweet sherry. Got a couple of tasty cases on the go if you're interested?"
"I can't think of anything better."
Gene led the way through the house, with Monty tagging behind. Alex paused in the hall as she caught sight of her reflection in the mirror. Her grin got even wider as she saw herself dressed in a white leather jacket, tight jeans and her hair a mess of permed curls. She patted her curls and smiled, "Always was my best look."
"Come on then Inspector, time and villains wait for no man – or woman."
There was a loud meow and they both looked down to see Monty plaintively looking up at them. Gene frowned and then sighed. "What? You waiting for a written invite? Come on then."
Then Alex, Gene….and Monty left Farringfield Farm for the last time.
"Drink in Luigi's first?"
"First round on you Guv?"
"Oh here we go…."
And here we are in Heaven, for you are mine at last….
A/N. As some of you might have already guessed this story is heavily indebted to The Ghost and Mrs Muir, which if you haven't seen I'd heartily recommend. Best watched curled up in front on the TV on a wet Sunday afternoon. And if they ever remake it again, they couldn't do better than employ Philip Glenister and Keeley Hawes in the main roles. I also acknowledge a touch of Truly, Madly Deeply in here too.
The lyrics of At Last were written by Mack Gorden and Harry Warren and sung (at least in my head) by Etta James. The title of this chapter is taken from Shakespeare's play Macbeth.
Thanks once again for reading and I hope you enjoyed.