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The Shape of Things to Come

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Lucy sat down in the library back office where Jean had convened them all, meaning something was afoot. These days something was afoot pretty often. Lucy liked that. She kept an eye out for anything that crossed her desk and Jean trawled the papers. As well as beginning to gain a bit of a reputation among friends and family.

Currently, and not unusually, Millie was kicking up a fuss, apparently just for the fun of it. “Manchester? Do we have to?”

“There is a country beyond Milton Keynes, you know,” Alice said.

“Well, yes, but that far north seems excessive.” Millie continued digging her hole and Lucy looked on with amusement.

Jean said, “If you think Manchester is that far north I just don’t know what to tell you.”

Millie piped down and let the actual business of the meeting continue.

“Is there anything I’ll be able to get from work?” Lucy asked.

“I shouldn’t think so, thank you, Lucy,” Jean replied. “No, it’s just a hunch but I think it’s worth going up there and having a look.”

Alice flicked through the newspaper clippings arranged on the table. “So what are we dealing with?”


“So what have we got?”

Janet took her seat in the incident room while the rest of the syndicate piled in for the briefing. Rachel and Gill, fresh from the scene, sat at the head of the table and began a practised double act laying out the details.

“Partial remains of a body,” Gill began. “Discovered at a building site. Seems to be male. Probably – and we'll get confirmation on this soon hopefully – probably been there about fifty years.”

That sent a ripple round the table.

“My suspicion,” Gill continued firmly, quelling them all, “is that this is linked to an old case from the Fifties. There were two other young men killed and bodies dumped in similar circumstances and a third reported missing but never found: Frank Marcham.”

Janet stirred. “Any idea what the link was?”

“Original investigation couldn't quite pin it down. Gang violence, probably.”

“Been around longer than you think,” Mitch said.

Gill gave short shrift to the sentiment. “People beating each other up has been around forever. Petty and stupid stuff. But here we are.”

“So,” Rachel took up. “Massive review. All the evidence goes back to the lab, all the case files are checked. We've got the technology on our side this time round and we are not going to let this case go on any longer.”

Rachel doled out assignments and Gill beckoned for Janet to follow her into her office.

“Have a look over these,” Gill said, handing over a box stuffed with files. “There's some stuff in there might interest you.”

“Like?” Janet looked at them with an amount of trepidation.

“Like some of the assistance the police had back then.”

“Well okay then,” Janet thanked Gill for her unhelpfulness with a look of despair and took the box back to her desk.

Old case files were generally an exercise in frustration and “how did they ever get away with that?” when it came to the prejudices expressed within. There was plenty of that but nothing that seemed particularly lacking in the case itself. The notes were good, all the appropriate stones seemed to have been turned.

There was just one anomaly. And Janet didn't know what to make of it.

She took a break and went out the back stairs with Rachel for a bit of fresh air to think it out, while Rachel paced and partook in the opposite.

“There's something funny going on in those old files,” Janet said as Rachel took a long and exhausted drag on her cigarette.

“Yeah?”

“I don't know what, exactly, yet. But there's these women started appearing.”

“Women? Like suspects?”

“No, like... this is going to sound crazy but they start showing up at the crime scenes, interviewing witnesses. Ahead of the police. I think they were helping.”

Rachel exhaled expansively. “Vigilante crime fighting 1950s housewives? Yeah, that does sound kind of crazy.”

“When you put it like that,” Janet chided her.

“Anything we can use in there though?”

“Maybe. I should be finished tomorrow. Quicker than all the physical evidence at least.”

“Good.”


Eventually Janet struck gold in the mystery of her vigilantes. Back home, she sat on the settee with a glass of wine and continued her reading. At least this was better than anything on television.

Two of the women had been taken into custody following a break in at a place called Horace House - a development coming completely out of the blue. It was a goldmine for having all the personal details, the first tangible evidence of these women in the files. Millie and Alice, living together in London, both late 30s. Alice was a secretary, Millie a translator. What were women like that doing snooping around crime scenes and breaking into buildings? Janet was impressed, but still missing motive.

So, Miss..?

Millie is fine.

Okay then, Millie, can you –

Can I have a light? Oh, thank you, you are too kind. Sorry, do go on.

I will. Can you tell me how you came to be at Horace House a few hours ago?

Taking a walk, admiring this fine city. I thought I heard a disturbance. So I went to have a little investigate.

You broke into private property.

With the best of intentions, I assure you.

Intentions or not, that's what you did.

Well, if you say I did then I did. Next question?

We'll ask the questions at our own pace, thank you. We would like to know the general purpose of your visit to Manchester.

Just a little sightseeing.

And why it is you have been spotted – along with these friends of yours – at several key spots relating to an ongoing police enquiry?

Have I? How exciting.

Now then, Miss – Millie, I think you know that. Would you care to furnish us with the names of your other accomplices?

I'm sure you can ask her yourself.

Not Miss Merren, she's being very helpful with our enquiries –

I doubt that somehow.

– but rather the older and younger ladies who seem to be attached to your group also.

I'm not sure who you mean.

You have been seen with them on several occasions by Manchester Metropolitan police. I'm not sure you realise, miss, the potential seriousness of this.

Well, I didn't take anything. Charge me if you like - over an honest mistake. But do get on with it.

The transcript ended abruptly. The next featured Millie's co-conspirator, Alice.

You, Miss Merren, have quite an interesting record of your own.

I was acquitted.

Of killing a man? Your ex-lover?

I was acquitted.

I remember, it was in all the papers. Jilted.

It wasn't like that.

Came quite close to the line, didn't it? A last minute reprieve when new evidence was discovered. Wouldn't have anything to do with these friends of yours, would it?

Not a bit of it, officer.

“I knew it!” Janet exclaimed, dropping the papers triumphantly and having a swig of wine. Vigilante crime fighting Fifties housewives. She made a note to look up the Alice Merren case later.

Care to tell us the names of these friends?

No. You know Millie. No-one else is of any use or interest to you.

Speaking of. Would you like to tell us about how you came to be aiding and abetting a break in?

Millie thought she heard something strange.

Care to elaborate.

I don't know. A cat.

So you helped her climb in through a first storey window and then kept watch should the police come?

No, had the police come I would have summoned their help.

Your friend in a habit of climbing through windows into empty buildings?

Not usually. Mostly she uses the door.

And are you in the habit of covering up her misdoings?

Clarify misdoings.

Any potential criminal intentions?

No, not that I know of.

And being friends, you would know?

Being friends do you think there is anything I wouldn't cover up for her?

What is it you are doing in Manchester, Miss Merren?

A little holiday.

With this Millie character, and the others you will not name?

Yes.

Seems like a pretty strange bunch for you to be hanging about with. All your past baggage and someone as reckless as this. The matron and the kid. How do you know each other?

We used to work together. Listen, what did you make of the evidence we gave you at the previous crime scenes?

So you admit to being there.

Of course I admit it. I spoke to officers there.

And declined to come in for questioning then.

You had no grounds. I was simply being a concerned member of the public. Are you going to listen to our evidence or not?

We're taking statements.

Yes but are you actually listening to the evidence?

I think we've got enough to be getting on with.

The transcript ended, tantalising in its details but more so for what it left out. “So,” Janet said to absolutely no-one at all, slumping back on her settee and reaching for her glass, “what were you up to?”


Filling in Rachel the next morning the obvious question was asked. “But what was at Horace House?”

Janet summoned the help of trusty old Google. “Not much. It was a private residence and then council offices in the 1920s. During the war it was a housing office for Blitz victims. Manchester got shredded. Police stations and everything. Hang on. ‘The original police archives had to be moved when the building was damaged and portions of the archive were brought to’... guess where? Horace House.”

“So?”

“So that's why they were there. They were looking for police records.”

“But active investigations won't have been in archives,” Rachel pointed out.

“There must have been something older. This might have roots way beyond what we thought.”

Rachel’s growing scepticism was very apparent but she was obviously trying to keep an open mind. “So what do the files say?”

“Nothing. They had these two – Millie and Alice – in custody but they gave the police the run around pretty nicely. Some fascinating stories there. What?”

Rachel was smiling at her. “Nothing. Just... Millie and Alice? Are we on first name terms now?”

“Leave off, you.”

“I'll get you a cuppa and you can keep digging. You're more into this than that Dan Brown shit.”

“Yeah but this is real!” Janet called after her and got a dismissive wave. She had a quick look on the database but the Merren case hadn't been digitised. That would mean a file sent up from London and a whole lot of fuss for someone but she put the request in anyway.

She turned back to the documents with a highlighter. This had gone from intriguing to serious pretty quickly.

The women disappeared from the reports for a while, there was one sighting of them being chased off but the next few days worth of files related to the case itself. How much of the legwork involved was actually being done by the police as opposed to being fed to them by the women from London wasn’t clear but Janet had her suspicions now based on the transcripts. More likely it was entirely missing, a whole thread of potential investigation ignored. This question of the old police files kept nagging away at Janet's brain. She accepted Rachel's cup of tea and sat back in her chair trying to process it. She couldn't even be sure Millie and Alice's little fishing trip had turned up anything. Maybe it was time for her own trip to the archives.


First though there was a case review to get through. No-one seemed to be having an easy time of it.

“Forensics is a nightmare,” Lee said. “By which I mean I literally had a nightmare last night about drowning in this stuff.”

Mitch laughed. “I wonder what it could mean.”

“You’ll be helping them out if you’re not careful,” Rachel warned. “So where are we up to?”

“We’ve got a tonne of stuff out being tested. Busting the budget, as you well know.”

Rachel muttered darkly.

“There should be something useful there, once we get it back. But we’ve not got anyone to link it to.”

“Keep on it,” Rachel said. “That’s exactly where Janet comes in. Janet?”

“The old case files aren't much fun but there's not much wrong with them either. There is this strange – ”

A few groans struck up around the table. Apparently she had mentioned her mysterious friends a few times.

All right,” Rachel admonished them all. “We need everything looking into. Any angle that could give us something. So you keep going, Lee and Pete you keep drowning. I want everyone in this up to their eyeballs.” Something had Rach’s knickers in a twist, but when weren't they.

So Janet lingered in the incident room as everyone left. “How’s it going?”

Rachel’s scowl said it all.

“Come down to archives with me.”

“I’ve got stuff to do.”

“You’ve got stuff to wait on. It’s only in town, if you get a call you can be anywhere. It’ll be fun.”

“It won’t be fun,” Rachel corrected, but Janet could already tell she would be coming. “But all right then.”


It was well into the evening when Lucy and the others arrived at their final abandoned bomb site and peered down into it.

“Must’ve had a basement,” Alice surmised. “It’s rather deep.”

“Can’t see a thing from here,” Millie complained and immediately took off into the darkness.

“Oh for pity's sake,” said Jean, exasperated rather than urgent. “Someone go after that girl.”

Alice headed down the slope. “Millie!” she called. “Wait up.”

“There's nothing here,” Millie called back.

All Lucy could see was the torch flashing about. So she headed after them both.

She grabbed onto Millie from the other side, making her jump. They haphazardly slid the rest of the way to the bottom of the pit.

“That's good, isn't it?” Lucy said.

“We’re still missing a body,” Alice pointed out.

“And here I’d thought we were doing something heartwarming, you know, for the sake of the women and children.” Millie kicked about in the dirt. “Not scrabbling around in bomb sites looking for dead bodies.”

“We didn’t have to come down here,” Alice chastised her. “That was very much your decision just now.”

“Yes, all right. I just wanted to have a look.”

Lucy took the torch off Millie and paced around the perimeter of the site. Nothing seemed to stand out. “There are too many variables,” she said, arriving back to Millie and Alice. “We don’t have enough to work with and you’ve already been caught burgling once.”

“It’s not like we can send you in. You lose your job and we’re stuffed.”

“I wouldn’t get caught,” Lucy said under her breath.

“No,” Millie said thoughtfully. “We can’t hang about waiting for this to come to us. We need to force this chap’s hand.”

Lucy was not at all sure she liked the sound of that.


“So what are we looking for?”

“I don't know, really. It's more one of those ‘I'll know it when I see it’ jobs.”

“Right,” Rachel said, clearly regretting her decision already.

Janet signed them in and asked at the desk for records on the investigating officers then arranged herself in front of a microfiche to begin looking at press clippings. The archives were soothing, pleasant in their own way and she was feeling a touch nostalgic in general.

There wasn’t much help to be had from Rachel who just sat on a table flicking through her phone while Janet wandered around fetching and checking various records.

“I don’t know if I want all my files being looked through in sixty years time,” Janet pondered. “Mind, they could make a film out of yours.”

“Yeah, thanks,” Rachel said. She picked up one of the folders. “They’re all dead now surely? I hope I won’t be around in sixty years anyway. What about this guy?”

“Which one?”

Rachel held up the file. “He was the DCI but he’s got his sticky mitts everywhere. Look at these disciplinaries. They don’t make coppers like they used to. Thank God.”

“Really?” Janet came over to have a look too.

“And look at that, your housewives.”

“Actually they weren’t - never mind. They’re not there?” Janet assumed Rachel was pulling her leg.

“They are, look: assault. Assaulting a DCI, good for them.”

“Where did that come from all of a sudden?”

“He sounds like a right knob, to be fair.”

“Give me that.” Janet took it off her. “This is listed as a separate case. Get me that file, will you?”

“Sorry, am I not the sergeant here?”

“Get it,” Janet emphasised. Rachel did.

“I’m beginning to see why you like them so much,” Rachel said as she came back with the file. “A confrontation, this DCI Kerr spat on one of them and another broke his nose. Then he retired. I suppose that is pretty humiliating.”

Janet flicked quickly through the file. “I just don’t get where this is coming from. There’s a connection here but it’s sixty years old. How am I going to find it?”

Rachel shrugged. “You will.”

“Thanks for the vote of confidence, though I notice it includes no real help.” Janet thrummed her pen on the table. “Breaking into the archives, assaulting a DCI… the one led them to the other?”

“You think he was mixed up in all this? In the gangland murders of three young men?”

“Well, not when you put it like that.” Janet had a sudden thought. “Is there any chance at all that coat is still in evidence?”

“Probably not. We’re talking about sixty years for some minor assault that never even made it to trial.” Rachel scanned through the record. “Anyway, there was no coat admitted.”

“There must have been, it says so on the paperwork.” Janet stabbed at the notes she was holding.

“Not on this paperwork.” Rachel held up her own portion.

“God, paperwork,” Janet said in frustration. “Never ending and what good does it do you?”

“RSI? I dunno. Are we done?”

“You sound like the girls. Yes, we’re done. Let me get some copies of all this.”

Rachel sat on the table and swung her legs. “Come for a drink tonight?”

“Best not.”

Rachel gave her a look.

“Oh, all right. Cloud my head rather than clear it.”

“Might help,” Rachel said optimistically.


Having checked in at the station and been sent home by Gill the natural course of action was to head to the pub where they had settled with a pair of pints that quickly became multiple pairs and the evening became sloping and indistinct so that when Rachel asked to hear more about their mysterious friends from the past Janet didn’t worry that she was being humoured and launched into her explanation enthusiastically.

“So there's this group of them, right, and they find out about this Alice Merren case, it was in the papers or whatever. Pretty nasty stuff, that she killed her lover and so on. They don't believe it, start doing their own investigations. Somewhere along the line they really upset some powers that be and almost kick off this big scandal. But they get her acquitted. It was still the death penalty back then. She would have hung. And then, after that, it's bloody hard to tell because they were never official but there's glimpses of them all over the place. One of them worked for Scotland Yard. Clerical support but they were always feeding the police stuff. And goodness knows what else besides.”

“Makes you think, doesn't it?” Rachel mused. “Why you'd bother. No-one gave a shit.”

“They did.”

“Yeah but no-one wanted them to. I don't know if I would.”

“Maybe after they'd been through the war?” She ran out of options pretty quickly.

“Don't know if I could be bothered with that either. Swapping bedpans and bandaging up soldiers in tents.”

“You would if you'd had to."

Rachel was looking at her over the pint glass. “Why's this got you so caught up?”

“I don't know. It's weird, really. I suppose I've always thought about it – you're that bit younger, it's different for you. There was a sense, maybe people a few years older than me, that we were coming up on something.”

“What, like a feminist utopia?”

“Maybe. And look where we are now. Or where we aren't. But, still, how much better it is now than it was then. I reckon any one of these women,” she stabbed a finger at her bag, intending to indicate the files, “is smarter than everyone in the syndicate put together –”

“Speak for yourself,” Rachel muttered.

“– but for what? They were wasted. And you have this vision - don't you - of women then. You feel sorry for them, all pretty dresses and retro vacuums like in the adverts. And maybe some of them were. But it's patronising too.”

“Yeah, no, you're right. But old people, they're a fucking nightmare.”

“Not all of them. Besides, imagine what they'd say about you.”

“That I'm a fucking nightmare.”

“And they'd be right. Is it time to get you home?”

“Sounds good.”

“All right then. Let's go get a cab.”

After launching Rachel through her front door and getting her approximately on the settee Janet wasn't entirely sure she wanted to go home. Some part of her was hung up with this idea of vintage adventure, those frocks and vacuums and sexist adverts. Alice and Millie and Lucy and Jean, always those two steps ahead.


Racing into the station the next morning Janet wanted to catch Lee or Pete before the meeting first thing. Lee was the first she laid eyes on so he bore the full brunt of her attack.

“Lee! Is there a coat downstairs in evidence?”

Poor Lee looked beleaguered. “Janet, there’s a tonne of stuff downstairs. Two tonnes. Three!”

That wasn’t the question. “Okay, but is there a coat? Maybe unaccounted for?”

He frowned. “I don’t know about that but there is something a bit odd.”

“I need to have a look. Now.”

Janet was dutifully escorted down to the room Lee and Pete had been ensconced in for the past few days. “This one.” Lee pulled the package from a shelf. “The tags match the rest but it’s not listed on the evidence docket.”

Janet turned it over a few times. This was her coat all right. “Has it been processed?”

“No, we were working through the list first.”

The label itself caught Janet’s attention. She turned it over. “This isn’t…” she started, before immediately thinking better of it.

“What?”

“Just… can you get it off to forensics as soon as?”

“Sure,” he said. “If you clear it with Rachel.”

“No worries.” So, Rachel was next on her list.

Janet checked any potential Rachel-in-hiding spots but there was no luck. On her way back upstairs she saw Rachel coming through the car park on her phone. She loitered hopefully.

“Yeah, all right. No, that’s great. Thanks.” Rachel turned to her. “We’ve got some DNA off Marsham’s clothing.”

“His attacker?”

“Looks like.”

It was good news but Janet had some of her own so barrelled on. “Great. So, I think I found the coat.”

“What coat?”

“The coat from yesterday.”

“Oh, right, the coat. Yeah.”

“It’s in all the Marcham evidence.”

Rachel frowned. “Shouldn't be. It was under a different case. The assault.”

“I know. But the evidence ended up in with Marcham’s. Exactly where they wanted it.”

Now Rachel was visibly struggling to keep up. “How do you…”

“The tag on the evidence. It’s not one of ours. It’s from Scotland Yard.”

“Right, wait a minute.” They paused in front of the doors to the office. “You’re telling me they forged official police labels to get something submitted into evidence?”

“In a manner of speaking,” Janet attempted to obfuscate. “The evidence is still sound, it’s just technically in the wrong case file. Or been saved, depending on your point of view.”

“So you think that must mean it’s important.”

“I do.”

“Get it off for testing then, what’re you hanging around talking to me for?”


Waiting for tests Janet ran over the files again and offering her help to everyone else, even though her mind was only half in attendance.

Finally, “You’ll never guess!” Rachel swung by Janet’s desk in triumph.

“What? What? Don’t keep me in suspense.”

“Your coat? No big deal, only came back with a familial match for the other DNA on Marsham’s clothing.”

"My bet's on the nephew," Mitch said, leaning over the desk. "He's got a ruddy great big police file but nothing that serious ever stuck. Almost as if he had someone watching out for him."

The reaction from Rachel and Mitch was nothing short of jubilant. Janet in fact felt a little let down. “I guess.”

“What are you on about? Janet, this is huge. Gill wants you out right now tracking the family down.”

Immediately and instinctively Janet’s hand crept toward the files she had spent the past few days immersed in.

“But I said you had bigger mysteries to uncover. I’ll send some of the boys.”

“Thanks, Rach. I really do think there’s something else here,” Janet reassured her.

“I know you do. And if you do, then I do.” Rachel smacked Janet on the shoulder in her ebullience and sprang off again.

Janet allowed herself a moment to have a little smile. One way or another DCI Kerr was important and if not the murderer - perhaps improbable - he was at least highly involved. So now she got to thinking. “Time to do a bit more digging, then,” she announced to herself.


The digging proved immensely fruitful and it was barely an hour later before Janet followed Rachel into the toilet for the chance of a moment’s peace and quiet in order to lay this out.

“Jesus, you scared me,” Rachel said, hand to her chest as she came out of a cubicle to find Janet waiting intently.

“Sorry. But I think you’ll want to hear this.”

“Go for it.” Rachel washed her hands.

“After DCI Kerr I knew I’d seen that name somewhere else around this. So a bit of frantic googling later and his brother owned a construction firm.”

“And?”

“Well, the places the bodies were discovered. Marcham’s wasn’t just a building site now, it was a bomb site then. Remember I said how so much of Manchester had been levelled? Building it back up again in the Fifties was big business.”

“Big enough to kill three young men over?”

“Big enough to dispose of loose ends over. We’re not just talking about dodgy contracts being handed out by the council. They evicted people and bulldozed their homes to build those monstrous tower blocks and estates. It’s corruption, everywhere. People on the council resigned, it blew up in all the papers, all over the country they started scrutinising rebuilding projects in a whole new way. And we thought we had three gang killings.”

“We’ve got to get this to Gill.”

A few moments later Janet was in Gill’s office, the lady in question behind her desk and Rachel propped up against a bookcase.

“It was a big scandal back then,” Janet explained. “The council uncovered ‘financial irregularities’ - so bribes, basically - and people resigned, were even sacked. But get this: the tip-off as to it all came from a bundle of anonymous data. Just handed to the council, everything laid out for them. And I will buy all the rounds for a year if I don’t know exactly who was behind that.”

Gill was impressed. “Why stop at solving a few murders when you can bring down the whole political establishment? I like it.”

Despite it all Janet felt an emptiness. “But still, Kerr’s family could never be directly implicated and these murders were never linked.”

“It worked enough. Once DCI Kerr was gone there was no practical immunity. It might not have been justice for all the ones that died but it stopped any more. They were thirty years away from DNA testing in the Fifties. Women didn’t become detectives until the Seventies. With our resources now it would have been wrapped up easy enough but they had to leave it to someone else. To you.”

“And we will, though,” Rachel urged. “We will get justice, thanks to them. ”


Lucy peered round the corner and down the street. Lights shone from the windows of houses but there was no other activity.

“Well?” Alice asked her.

“Nothing.”

“The plans said tonight.”

Jean looked round too. “Clearly someone thought better of it.”

They huddled together and kept their voices low despite the street being deserted.

“You shouldn’t have punched him,” Millie said, which Lucy found pretty funny.

“That wasn’t a punch.” Jean brushed it off. “It was a light slap at best. I barely even touched the man.”

“He went off like a geyser though.”

“That’ll be something to do with his constitution,” Jean said, unruffled.

“What now, then?” Alice asked.

They all looked at one another. It had been a busy few days since Jean had shown them the newspaper clippings about the evictions, people thrown out into the street against the backdrop of huge sums of money being made and exchanged. In which time they had traipsed around all the finest bomb sites the city had to offer and eaten a lot black peas.

Millie shrugged. “I don’t see what else we can do. At least this Kerr chap has resigned, he won’t be getting in the way any more.”

Jean continued, “And the council have everything they need to start putting this right.”

“Meanwhile,” Millie said, “We had no injuries and only two brushes with the law resulting in a mere caution. We might be getting good at this.”

“It's not finished though.” Lucy felt the haphazardness of it. “There's still piles of money going around and people without homes.”

“They'll have to patch that one up themselves,” Jean said, sympathetically but not unreasonably.

“And what about Frank Marcham?”

“We won the battle.” There was a resignation to Jean’s voice as well as a reassurance. Even if it wasn’t the war, maybe it was enough.

Frank was going to have to go unfound but Lucy knew enough seeds had been planted - in their variously compromising ways - that at some point someone would be able to connect everything together.

“Home, then?”


The case wrapped up swiftly after Janet’s reveal. Loose ends didn’t take long to resolve and everything was packed away, handed off back to the archives and the CPS and the solicitors. MIT’s slate was wiped clean and they began the wait for the next body, the next case.

Their break was well earned but Janet was still snagged on something. She poked her head round Gill’s door where she and Rachel were talking. “Are you two doing anything this afternoon?”

“This afternoon? Just the usual: shopping, pub, bed. Possibly not in that order.”

“Gill?”

“No. Why?”

That settled it. “We're going to Skipton.”

“And why are we going to Skipton?”

“There's someone I've been really wanting to meet.”

Neither Rachel nor Gill offered any resistance. Janet would have been very ready to lay it on thick that they owed her an indulgence after the case they had cracked. In the event it was a nice enough drive across the Pennines on the M62 even if it was drizzling. Janet put the sat nav on as they got closer and they ended up in a little village nearby, pulling up in front of a tidy bungalow.

They approached the door and Janet knocked. “You won't need your badge,” Janet said, seeing Rachel reach to her pocket. There was a shuffling movement through the patterned window in the door.

An old woman opened it slowly. “Hello.”

“Mrs Gladstone?”

“Yes?”

“I'm Janet Scott and this is Rachel Bailey and Gill Murray.” The normal introduction was not going to suffice; Janet didn't want to cause alarm. “I wonder if you've seen that the Frank Marcham case has been re-opened? We're from Manchester Metropolitan Police. ”

“Oh, yes,” Mrs Gladstone said. “That was you, wasn't it? DS Bailey, Manchester MIT. I saw you on the news.”

“Er, yeah.” Rachel shuffled uncomfortably and Janet rolled her eyes. “Well, it was all of us.”

Janet continued. “I worked on the case. And I wanted you to know that we had a great help in some documents and evidence about a previous police investigation. That I think you were involved in?”

The softly wrinkled hand shook on the door handle.

“Mrs Gladstone, can we come in? I'd really like to talk to you.”

“That would be lovely.” She held the door open. “It’s been ever such a long time. And please, call me Lucy.”