Alex is exhausted, hungry and at least ten minutes late for work.
Single motherhood has its share of challenges. One of those challenges is making yourself presentable and getting your son to school and yourself to work on time when twenty minutes of your morning are lost to a frantic search for a maths book and homework. Facing that particular trial this morning, Alex located Ben's book and homework beneath a pile of dirty laundry he'd pushed under his bed when she asked him to tidy up his room. That led to several minutes spent on a lecture about how cleaning your room doesn't mean shoving everything under the bed.
After all of that, she just barely managed to get Ben fed and to school on time. She had no time to eat breakfast herself and she's certain she failed at making herself presentable but she's at work and not horrendously late which is something of a miracle. Just as she's starting to entertain the thought that her day might begin to look up, she enters the office only to find A.C.C. Morrison blocking her door and looking eager to chat.
"D.I. Fielding, just who I was looking for," he says the moment he spots her.
Fantastic. Before she can open her mouth to respond, he's going on about new arrest reporting regulations and how she and her team will need to keep up with the necessary paperwork. He's elaborating on just how beneficial these new rules are to the force and it's taking a great deal of effort not to roll her eyes. She questions the wisdom of regulations which do more to cover the higher ups asses than to actually help anyone do their jobs. She and her team are currently trying to solve a series of murders after all and bizarre ones at that.
Alex can't help wishing she had Tony's input on this one especially since it now seems Paula and Kevin will be spirited away for a half day to learn new regulations which will probably get changed again next month anyway. But, since the A.C.C. has already caught her coming into work late, now probably isn't the time to raise a fuss about it.
Instead she tunes him out and mentally runs through the details of her case. Three victims so far. All women in their thirties but that's where the similarities seem to end. No physical resemblance to one another, different social circles, different backgrounds, two single and the latest, Sarah Travers, was married. But do they have something else in common? She can't shake the feeling she's missing some connection. That thought kept her up most of last night, her mind constantly turning over the possibilities but never settling on an answer.
She's paying just enough attention to notice when Morrison finally pauses. She manages a clipped, "Yes, sir. We'll stay on top of it."
"Very good," he says. Then he turns and walks toward the exit. Thank goodness for that. As soon as he's gone Alex hastily unlocks the door to her office.
Kevin speaks up behind her just as she's managed to get the door opened. "Guv," he begins.
Apparently two bloody seconds to set her things down and take off her coat is a bit much to ask. Before she can stop herself, she barks out, "Not now, Kevin."
Kevin freezes in his tracks. The vaguely stunned look on his face would be amusing if she weren't already so irritated. Alex sees Paula, who is sitting at her desk typing and doing her best to pretend she's ignoring this whole conversation, stifling a giggle.
Managing what she hopes is an apologetic tone, Alex says, "Sorry, Kev. Just give me five minutes, alright? Rough morning." Kevin visibly relaxes, making her feel even worse for snapping in the first place.
"No problem, boss. Didn't mean to get you right after the A.C.C. I have an update on the Travers case when you get a chance." Seeing her hesitate, he adds, "Nothing urgent. It can wait a few." At that he makes a hasty retreat back to his desk.
The first thing she notices upon entering her office is the red message light blinking on her phone. Her first instinct is to ignore it but she figures it's best to find out now which of her other colleagues has too much time on his or her hands and has decided that time is best used making more work for her. Dropping her bag to the floor with a heavy thud, she pushes play.
"It's me." Tony's voice on her machine is a relief and not just because the message isn't from one of the colleagues she was dreading. Any doubts she has about just how much she misses him evaporate now that she's hearing his voice. It's ridiculous, really. He's been gone a few days. She'd go this long with out seeing him even if he were in the country.
She shrugs off her coat and sits down, her movements less rushed now, as Tony's message continues. "In Texas. It's very hot, Texas. And it's very flat. It's like Norfolk. Lots of politics. So, what should be an ordinary, horrible, terrible domestic murder is now... Well, now it's a freak show with me playing the bearded lady."
His tone is joking but his voice gives away his exhaustion and frustration. Still, she can't help but smile listening to him. As Tony launches into his musings on the case, Alex can feel the tension in her shoulders easing in response to the warm familiarity of his voice. With her eyes closed, she can imagine he's right across the desk from her and not thousands of miles away. She can picture the look on his face when he's trying to puzzle something out and the way he'll glance at her after making a point just to see if she's in agreement before continuing. They have such an ease with each other now that she wonders how it's possible they had such difficulty working together when they first began.
It occurs to Alex that she told Kevin she'd be out in five minutes but she figures he'll wait. He might even be relieved that she's taking a bit longer. Tony's still talking. "Alex, there's someone at the door. Don't go away." Alex doesn't bother trying to explain away the surge of jealousy she feels when she hears a woman's voice in Tony's room. She's past denial about her feelings for him now. She shoots a glare at the phone when she hears him say to his visitor, "Ah, so you do fancy me."
Moments later Tony's explanation eases her irritation slightly, "Alex, I've got to go. Something has... Oh, and that bit about her fancying me? That was a joke. And she didn't find it funny either. Bye." It's not surprising he'd anticipate her annoyance and try to soothe it. He tends to recognize what she's feeling before she does. She tries to recall when she started finding that charming instead of exasperating.
A beep sounds to note the end of the message and she's about to get up and head out to talk to Kevin when the next message begins, "Me again," Tony's voice says from her machine. "Sorry about that."
Alex leans forward in her chair as Tony shares the details of the case. She jots down "30 stab wounds" and "shallow cuts" in her notebook before reminding herself that it's not her case. It's not actually Tony's case either but of course he's gotten involved. She wouldn't expect anything less.
"..and now he's tried to top himself again but it's not an attention seeking scratch on the wrist," Tony continues. "It's gouging out his throat. With my pen. Which he must have nicked when he tried to plant the table in my head. Oh actually, it's not my pen. It's your pen. I stole it off you two months ago. Welcome to Bradfield. Sorry. If he dies, you're an accomplice. Bye, Alex." He punctuates his final statement with a yawn and then she hears a soft click as he hangs up the phone.
Oh, Tony. What have you gotten yourself into? She'd prefer he not get into trouble at all but, given that there's little chance of that, she wishes he'd at least get into trouble in Bradfield where she can keep an eye on him. His ability to get himself entangled in the most bizarre of situations should stop surprising her at some point but she can't even begin to imagine how his trip to Texas to testify in a murder trial has resulted in the defendant in said trial trying to kill himself with one of her pens.
She's noticed Tony's habit stealing her pens. Since they started working together, she's learned to keep extra on hand. Sometimes he'll sheepishly return them days or weeks later but most often she never sees them again. She feels a rush of fondness for him at the thought despite the fact that this quirk of his has, however tangentially, involved her in a crime.
She checks her clock. 8:45 a.m. here means it's 2:45 in the morning in Texas. It's too early to call him now. But she has another idea and she's dialing his home number before she has a chance to second guess herself.
"Tony, it's Alex. Just returning your calls. I'm going to need an explanation as to how you managed to drag my pen and I into a murder investigation all the way across the ocean. Maybe you can come by for dinner when you get back and tell me the whole story. Just save any bits about stabbing for after Ben's gone to bed, okay? And, Tony, I hope you're taking care of yourself. Call me when you get back. I'm serious about dinner."
Alex smiles to herself as she hangs up. This day might start to look up yet. She grabs the most recent coroner's report off her desk and heads out to talk with Kevin and Paula. If they don't make a breakthrough today, maybe tonight she'll call and talk the case through with Tony's machine. Who knows, it could help.