I am aiming to make this quite a big, continuing story with an actual crime and an actual plot. Whether I can keep this up... I'm not 100% sure. However, I'm hoping that if I start posting it I will be forced to continue. So if you like it and you want more, feel free to hit me with a big stick if you see me around.


"without heat there can be no light"

Elaine Showalter

'Well will you look what the cat dragged in.'

The words and the voice were the first things that hit Gill as she walked into the briefing room at the headquarters of Manchester Met.'s MIT. It was her first day, technically, as SIO of her own MIT syndicate but, MMP being the pedantic buggers that they were, most of the day would be spent in a bloody training seminar. Gill had been nervous, not that she would have admitted it to save her life. It was only a week since she had left the National Crime Faculty and she was missing it like hell. Still, they could hardly accuse her of being rusty, or of not being up to the job. She had to be one of the most highly-qualified officers who had ever come knocking on their door. It had to be done, she had reminded herself as she steeled herself to get out of the car and enter the building. Sammy needed her at home. She would be damned if she'd leave him for that twat and his whore to twirl, making him into some pawn to piss her off. So she would face any comments or attitude or gossip she had to and she would accept this step down in the policing world and she would make it work.

With this determination fuelling her steps, Gill strode purposefully towards the briefing room and shook hands with Ian Fielding, head of MIT, who was just coming out the door. It always paid to play politics where you had to and she gave him her most gracious smile. He waved her in and Gill was barely in the door when the words, and that voice, met her. A slow, and much more genuine, smile sneaked across Gill's face as she met the eyes of the speaker.

'Hiya slap.'

Gill pursed her lips to try to hide her pleasure as her old friend Julie Dodson stood and advanced on her from the far side of the large table.

'What the hell are you doing here?' Julie arched an eyebrow. 'Come to teach us little people how it's done?'

'Ha!' Gill barked a laugh and flashed her friend a warning. 'I couldn't teach you much.' She left a pause whilst she dumped her bag beside the nearest chair. 'You never bloody listen.'

When she stood up, Julie had reached her and the two stared at each other for a moment. Gill felt a strong urge to hug her. It had been too long since they had last had time to meet up. She hadn't even had a chance to fill her friend in on everything that had happened lately. But it was too public for hugging, here in front of all these other SIOs. It wasn't what they did. Gill smirked slightly as she imagined what would happen if she tried it. Julie would probably sock her for ruining her tough act.

'Oh 'ere we go.' Julie half turned to wink at the man she had been sitting beside. 'You want to watch out for this one, Colin.'

'Eh, don't you go sullying my reputation before we've even met. It's bad enough being associated with you.'

Julie gave a wry chuckle and, after a moment, Gill joined in. The tension she had carried all morning was easing. It was good to know there was one person in the room she could trust. Gill perched herself in her chair and Julie leaned over her to reach an information pack from the centre of the table.

'Good to see you, y'old cow,' she breathed almost into Gill's hair as she bent forward. Gill carefully suppressed a smile and took the folder. Same old Julie.

.

'Oh good grief!' It was the first thing Julie had ever said to her. 'What the hell do we have here?'

It was the first day of their training, twenty-odd years ago. Gill had walked in feeling very small and very proud and very stubborn, all at the same time. The room was full of young men, most of them twitching with nerves and pretending hard that they were the toughest thing since The Incredible Hulk. Gill had barely exchanged a few 'mornings' with the nearest couple of faces when this voice descended on her from behind. Gill had turned to see another woman, girl, somewhat taller than her, more sturdily built, with a lot of hair. Gill arched an eyebrow.

'I thought I was the token female round here,' the woman said. 'And the token northerner.' Her eyes gleamed and Gill found to her surprise that she was smiling back at this stranger.

'Well tough,' she retaliated. 'You're stuck with me now.'

.

'Colin Shaw,' Julie indicated the man beside her seat again. 'Outgoing SIO of Syndicate 9. I take it you're taking over from him.' Gill nodded. Julie raised her eyebrows but forbore to comment. Instead, she continued the introductions, waving grandly in Gill's direction as she circled the table to her seat again.

'This is Gill Murray. I won't tell you how long I've known her because it'll give my age away too.'

Gill and Colin nodded politely at each other. Gill weighed him up, she was going to have to find out everything she could about the team she would be leading and what they were working on. His personality and attitude could probably tell her a lot about what to expect when she walked in to her own new office. Colin Shaw looked like a good enough bloke. He was wiry which was unusual in a copper of his standing, on the brink of retirement. They usually ran to more corpulent by the time they reached DCI and fifty, Gill thought wryly. Even Dave had been getting heavier the last couple of years. She wondered if the whore liked hefty men or if she would get sick of him as his podge undoubtedly increased. The picture of them made her feel slightly sick as always and she resolutely shut them out. Colin Shaw was neatly dressed and clearly well-prepared for the session with pen and notebook, his information pack already leafed through and even some notes scribbled on the first page. This was good. It boded well for how he would have handled his cases and prepared his team for the transition. He caught her eye and chuckled slightly.

'Reckon I'll do?' Caught in the act of appraising him, Gill was happy to brazen it out.

'And sharp too,' she said, her face almost deadpan but a twinkle in her eye. 'Old habits die hard.'

Colin chuckled again. 'I don't even want to know what the rest of your thoughts were.' Gill smiled then, briefly. She glanced at her watch. It was five to nine; if she wanted to make a head-start on the paperwork she would have to get a move on. Gill dug out her glasses and pen and turned her attention to the information pack before her.

'What's this?' She tried to keep her voice neutral but an edge of sharpness crept in. The folder was emblazoned with a photograph of a middle-aged man with the name 'Martin Doherty' printed in large letters under it. Gill recognised immediately that this not a training pack but information about a murder investigation.

Julie lifted her head, the only one in the room to realise the meaning behind Gill's words and tone. Gill's eyes widened warningly at her friend. She hated surprises like this, being wrong-footed before she had even got started. Julie took the cue and jumped in smoothly.

'Yeah, there's been another one.' She pulled out the next sheet, which was almost identical to the first one. 'Michael Doherty, our fist victim's brother. Syndicate 9, your new lot, just picked him up last night. Striking similarities.' She inclined her head to the paperwork.

Gill began to rifle through it at top speed, her eyes flicking back and forth, her brain racing. She was fuming inside but damned if she'd show it. Anyway, her priority was to get caught up on what the hell was going on, as much as was humanly possible in the last two minutes available to her. Finding out how this epic breakdown of communication had occurred and eviscerating the person responsible, or even fantasising about doing so, would have to wait.

In the space of two minutes she had picked up the bare bones of the cases but she hadn't had any time to absorb the details when several more officers walked in. She was still furious. It was the details that made all the difference. Realising that the new arrivals included Ian Fielding and the Assistant Chief Con., Gill jerked to her feet, doing her best not to keep her eyes glued on the papers in front of her. It wasn't just about looking like she didn't know her arse from her elbow in front of her new employers; it was about solving the case as quickly and as efficiently as possible, for the sake of the victims and their families. It was also fascinating.

However, she would get nowhere if she didn't play by the rules and, in the Police Service, one of those rules was respect for your senior officers. At least this lot didn't make a meal of it, she noted thankfully as, after nods all round, the ACC took his seat and got straight to the point.

'Talk me through it,' he said to Fielding. Fielding was a big man, rather serious with just an touch of smarminess about him. He cleared his throat before he spoke.

'Martin Doherty. Forty-eight. 47 Windermere Road, Langley. Found dead in a wooded area not far from his home, two weeks ago. According to the pathologist he was strangled, most likely with good old fashioned rope. He was also beaten pre and post mortem.' Which is unusual, thought Gill. A lot of rage perhaps, or some sick bugger who got off on hurting dead bodies, or somebody too stupid to realise when he was dead. Could be. Useless to speculate too much at this stage, but an interesting detail to file away for later.

Ian Fielding drew out the second photograph.

'Michael Doherty, forty-six. Brother of our first victim. Living over the other side of Middleton, on Mount Road. He was found dead last night, in a different wooded area. He was also badly beaten and the pathologist's preliminary report suggests strangulation.'

The ACC nodded, thoughtfully. Gill made a mental note to look up his name later. She had hardly expected to be meeting him this soon.

'And where are we at with the enquiries?' He looked to Ian Fielding again.

'Syndicate 3 picked up the first vic.' Fielding turned his head and passed the buck to Julie Dodson.

'Well the main problem, up until last night, has been trying to get our hands on his immediate family. He was a widower, wife died sixteen years ago. Apparently there were two children, boy and a girl, both adults by now, both moved away. They obviously didn't have much contact with their dad as we haven't found any contact details in the house and neighbours say they haven't seen either of them in years.' Julie's eyes slid briefly towards Gill and Gill gave her the tiniest fraction of a nod. Something odd there. Hard to put your finger on, not the sort of thing you brought up in a meeting like this, but yes, definitely something off.

'We've TIEd all Martin Doherty's known associates. Nothing standing out. We did have our eye on the brother, Michael. No alibi for the estimated time of death, the two of them had a history of fights and the manner of killing does suggest a personal connection. But the brother's death changes things.' Julie shrugged and turned to Colin, passing the baton around the table.

'Unless,' he chewed his lower lip. 'Either we're looking at one person who killed both men, for whatever reason. Or, possibly, Michael killed Martin and someone else killed Michael.'

'We are assuming a link then?' Gill couldn't help chipping in. She would have preferred to know all the facts before she gave any opinion but she wanted to gain as much clarity as possible from this meeting. If she was being thrown in the deep end, she would need it. And it did no harm to remind people occasionally of an opposite point-of-view, even if it did turn out to be wrong.

Colin weighed up the question, nodding his head slightly from side to side. 'Obviously we're not ruling anything out, but... it looks likely,' he said judiciously.

'Moving forward?' the Assistant Chief Con. called everyone's attention back. Fielding took up the tale again.

'DCI Murray,' he indicated, Gill nodded, the ACC smiled, 'is taking over Syndicate 9 from DCI Shaw this week.' More indicating, nodding and smiling. 'The plan is to run a linked investigation with Syndicate 3 with DCI Dodson taking the lead. Her investigation began first and this should help ensure continuity. What we don't want, of course, is things getting lost in the handover from one SIO to another.' Gill very determinedly did not look at Colin but she could see him bristle out of the corner of her eye. She had a hard time not reacting to the implied criticism herself. What did he think they were – petty children, incompetents?

'Good.' The ACC beamed thinly at all of them. 'Good. I'm sure there won't be any such issues arising.' Well at least he's heard of tact and diplomacy, Gill thought.

'Well I had better get on then.' He rose and the whole table rose with him. Fielding accompanied him out, his smarmy side well in evidence. For several seconds after the door closed, nobody spoke. Then Gill lifted her head and fixed Julie with a glare.

'What the hell is going on?'