"Fourteen-year-old Josie Richards, turned up drowned this morning still wearing her school uniform. Mother's long dead, father's down at the mortuary identifying the body now. No sign of sexual assault, but it's amazing what twenty-four hours in our beautiful canal system will do for forensics."
Gill handed round the photos. Drownings were funny ones -- the same detective who'd look at the most gruesome crime scene without turning a hair might end up missing something in a drowning just because they were too squeamish to give it a proper look. She'd seen it happen while she was still at the Crime Faculty, little details missed by an SIO who should have known better.
She took in her team's faces. Janet was all right, no problems, Kevin too. Rachel had gone pale, but she was still studying the photos carefully. Good girl, that one. Would be better in a few years, but even now, she had an eye for what was important. Andy, though, Andy she'd have to watch -- he'd gone blank and still, looking at the photos but not seeing them.
"Janet, I want you to interview the father. Find out all the usual about Josie -- mates, boyfriends, girlfriends, the rest -- but also about the family. Who's he seeing? Who takes care of the kids when he's not around?"
Janet nodded smartly.
"Kevin, you're on door-to-door -- take a couple of uniforms and find out what you can from the neighbours. What was Josie's homelife like? Who hung round that her dad didn't know about?"
Kevin lit up. Gill thought of her Sammy aged ten, too young to hide wanting her approval.
"Rachel, you're looking for the brother. Gary Richards, sixteen, not answering his phone when his dad tried to call this morning. If we can't find him by this time tomorrow, we're going to have to start talking about dredging the canal, and believe me when I say I do not want to go down that road."
Rachel made a quick note on her file. It was a mark of trust, sending Rachel out to do this without Janet, but one she'd earned. And Gill could admit to herself she was curious what Rachel would do with this one -- right now Gary Richards could be suspect, victim or witness, and that would take a careful touch.
"The rest of you, I want phone records, I want her friends talked to, I want a timeline of her last twenty-four hours, and I want the movements of every registered sex offender in the area." She paused for effect. "Now."
She gave them all a good thirty seconds to scramble for their notes before she tapped Andy on the shoulder. "You. My office."
She let Andy shut the door behind him.
"Drownings, Andy, really?"
He had the good sense to look embarrassed. "Yeah."
"Don't let it cloud your judgement," she said, not unkindly. "Don't pretend it doesn't bother you, but don't let it stop you seeing what's there."
Andy gave her a rueful smile. "Right."
"That's all," she said, making a shooing motion with one hand. "Go, catch the sick bastard who did this."
Once she was alone, she counted to twenty, then she counted to twenty again, and then she walked, slowly, calmly, to the loos to throw up her breakfast.
Drownings. God, she hated them.
"How did you get those bruises, Mr Richards?"
Janet waited until Sam Richards' eyes flicked to hers before smiling at him carefully. The man had lost his daughter, no need to make things worse for him -- unless it turned out she had to.
"On your knuckles," she clarified. "How did you get them?"
Nothing matching that on Josie, thank God. Whoever the man had beaten, it wasn't his daughter.
Interviewing a man like Richards was all about the silences. You couldn't let them grow too long or too hostile, but you couldn't just rush in, either. Let him come to you, if he was going to.
"I didn't--" Richards said to his bruised knuckles. "Our Josie, I never hit her. I wouldn't."
"I know," Janet said. "I believe you, Sam. May I call you Sam?"
Richards nodded, still examining his hands. He had to be younger than Rachel, and raising two children on his own. Poor bastard.
"Sam, it's very important that you tell me exactly what happened yesterday, everything you can remember about Josie's whereabouts, and your son Gary's."
Richards nodded again. "She was-- Josie was at school. She called me, middle of the afternoon, she wanted to stay over at that Cassie Jenkins' house."
"Do you remember when this was?" Janet prompted.
This time Richards frowned at his knuckles. "Middle of the afternoon, like. Three, maybe? Half two?"
"And after that? Do you remember hearing from her again?"
He shook his head, miserable.
"Sam, Mr Richards, Would you like a cup of tea?"
Rachel answered her phone on the second ring. "Yeah?"
"Sam Richards has bruised knuckles. Recent." Janet sounded tired -- she always hated when it was family.
"There's nothing matching that on Josie," Rachel said, trying to think it through. Janet already knew that, which meant she didn't think it was Josie he'd been pummelling. But Josie wasn't the only family, was she? "I'll ask around about the son, see if he was sporting a black eye." Gary Richards, last seen noon yesterday, didn't show up to football practice that afternoon, not answering his phone. It didn't look good.
"Thanks," Janet said. "Any luck tracking him down?"
"No. And I don't want to be the one telling Godzilla she has to drain half of Manchester."
There was a pause at Janet's end, the exact amount of time it took to take a mouthful of tea. "Then you'd better find him, hadn't you?"
Rachel felt herself smile. "Always there with an encouraging word, aren't you?"
"You know me."
Christ, Rachel could use a drink right now. Being given this job, it meant Godzilla trusted her -- and wasn't that something? -- but talk about needle in a haystack. Find one angry, troubled sixteen-year-old boy somewhere in the Greater Manchester area.
She was at the school, going through friends, teachers, classmates of both kids. Josie's boyfriend had cried all through the interview -- after a while he'd not even bothered wiping at his eyes, just letting the tears roll down as he said no, Josie didn't get into fights, no, there was no one who'd been paying her a bit too much attention, no.
Sometimes you had to be a stone cold bitch to do this job. Rachel pushed down the twist in her gut that came with that thought -- now was not the time. Godz-- Gill Murray thought she could do this, and she'd rather cut off her own hand than prove that woman wrong.
Gary Richards had a history of petty offences -- shoplifting, vandalism, nothing too heavy -- that started straight after his mum died. According to the neighbours there were a string of other offences, too, that never got reported. "You wouldn't," a local shopkeeper had told Kevin, "not when you knew about his mam." He played football every Thursday 2pm-5pm, but he hadn't shown up yesterday.
Josie was a popular girl, bit of a temper on her, but nothing much. She'd never acted out like Gary did after their mum died -- there was nothing you wouldn't expect from a fourteen-year-old girl from the estate.
"Paul," Rachel had said to Josie's boyfriend, six foot two in a school uniform a size too small for him, "I have to ask you this: Were you and Josie sexually active? Did you--"
"Yeah," Paul had cut her off, tears streaming down his face. "Yeah."
The best lead so far on Gary was one of the teachers, John Britten, who'd taught Gary and Josie both.
"Gary was a troubled boy." Britten leaned forward in his chair, meeting her gaze square on. "I nearly called Child Services once, not long after I started here. You should have seen the bruises that boy's father left on him -- terrible, terrible."
Rachel had to stop herself leaning backwards. "You nearly called Child Services?"
"It wouldn't have helped. The boy said he'd got in a fight outside school. That family." Britten shook his head. "And now poor Josie."
If Gary's father was beating him, Gary might pass it down -- domestic abuse wasn't exactly known for stopping at the first victim. But a slick theory was exactly that, and Gill Murray wouldn't buy it just because Rachel was selling it.
"Mr Britten, where were you yesterday afternoon?"
"Yesterday afternoon?" Britten looked surprised, like a man who'd never thought that volunteering to speak to the police might get him into trouble. "Here, teaching. Do you need my timetable?"
"The father's lying." Rachel flew into Gill's office with Janet on her heels. Gill carefully put the report down before acknowledging her officers.
"Yeah?" she said. Whatever the two of them had found, it had Janet looking the worse for it. Rachel's eyes were bright, though, and if she had a tail she'd be wagging it.
"He said," Janet took first point, "he had a call from her, two thirty, three, something like that."
"But we've got her phone logs," Rachel continued. She waved the printout at Gill. "Last call out, 10 am."
They both looked at Gill expectantly. "He's got an alibi, though, the dad," Gill pointed out.
"Yeah, working all day," Janet said. "But the son doesn't. What he thinks -- Sam Richards, the dad -- he thinks Gary only has an alibi from 2 pm, when he's off playing football in front of two dozen witnesses."
"What he doesn't know," Rachel said, "is that Gary wasn't at football yesterday. No one's seen Gary since he left the house that morning."
Gill nodded. "Right. We need to find Gary. But don't go discounting anyone else just yet."
"But--" Rachel cut herself off.
Gill looked at her sharply. "Tone." Down, girl. Heel.
Janet put a hand on Rachel's arm. Good. Trust Janet to give Rachel an out she could take.
"Come look at this," Gill said, picking up the post-mortem report she'd been looking at before Rachel and Janet had come in. "Tell me what you see."
To her credit, Rachel set everything else aside and looked. "She was hit on the head, fell into the water -- probably unconscious -- and drowned. They think she was sexually active, but there's no sign of bruising or--"
"Now tell me what you don't see," Gill said. This was where it got interesting.
Rachel scanned through the report, Gill watched her, and -- yes -- Janet watched Gill. While Rachel was still reading, Gill met Janet's eyes. She was many things, but she wasn't a coward.
"No other injuries," Rachel said. "Nothing else, not a scraped knee or a stubbed toe."
That's right. Bright girl.
"Good," Gill said, and she ignored the way Rachel's mouth twisted up at one corner. "What does that tell you?"
"It wasn't about violence." Rachel paused. "Could have been whoever did this had meant to do more, but she fell in the water before he could, but most likely, it wasn't personal. He -- or she, this didn't take that much strength -- wanted her dead. He didn't need her to suffer."
"Good," Gill said again. "Could be family -- could be Gary -- but it might not be. Rachel, don't stop looking for Gary, but we need to be looking at the school, too, at neighbours. Someone who wanted her out of the way. Poor kid. And Janet, go back to Mr Richards, work your magic."
Rachel turned to leave. Gill didn't watch her.
"Wait for us, will you?" Janet said to her. "I've just got to--"
Whatever Janet 'just had to', she clearly hadn't told Rachel about. Rachel's face did what it always did when she was pretending not to feel left out, but she didn't say anything.
When the door was firmly closed, Janet bit her lip. "You're not, are you? Promise me you're not."
Gill didn't play dumb. Janet had seen the way she looked at Rachel. "I'm not. I wouldn't."
"You've got that NPIA toyboy, still, haven't you? The one from when I was-- you know." From when she was stabbed.
"No. But I'm still not."
"Because it's her life," Janet pressed on. "You do know that. It's her career, it's her friends, it's her life you could ruin. And she'd still say yes, if you asked. She thinks the sun shines out of you, don't think that she doesn't."
"Like I don't know that?" Gill closed her eyes for a second. God give her strength. "Our Detective Constable Rachel Bailey is one of the most promising young detectives you or I have ever seen. I'm not going to throw that away for a quick shag."
Janet's face was kind. "I know you, boss. It's not a quick shag you're after."
Over-protective, Gill could live with, but kind, that was too much.
"Get out." Gill kept her own voice level. "Please."
Rachel was on the phone when Janet left Gill's office, by the sounds of it talking to someone at Josie's school. Janet pulled a face at her -- Rachel-and-Janet speak for 'Don't ask' -- and Rachel crossed her eyes. Sharp as, Rachel was, when it came to work, but when it came to her love life, the girl was the worst of the lot of them, and that was saying something.
I'm going to go interview Richards, Janet mouthed at Rachel. You all right?
Rachel rolled her eyes. Go, she mouthed back. Then, into her phone, "DC Rachel Bailey, Manchester Police, Major Incident Team. Yes. No. Thank you. If you think that would-- Yes, yeah."
Janet left her to it. If there was something going on at the school, Rachel'd find it faster than you could say, 'Stop making cow eyes at our boss.' God, the two of them.
Sam Richards was waiting in an interview room. His hands were twisted together, mottled red and pale.
"Mr Richards, Sam, I'm going to need to ask you about Josie's last day again."
Richards' eyes were bloodshot.
"This is a very difficult time for you, please believe me when I say I have no wish to cause you any more pain, but we need to know what Josie was doing yesterday."
He'd lied to protect his son. They'd seen it so many times before, parents lying for children who'd done terrible things. But this man thought his son had killed his daughter -- what kind of man lies to protect a son who's done that?
"When people are in shock, sometimes they say things that aren't quite right, sometimes time gets funny and they confuse the order of events, Sam."
She knew what Gill would say to that, though. She could remember it, even, from near on five years ago. She, Janet, had said just that -- what kind of mother lies to protect one son who's killed another? -- and Gill, whose husband had just left her for a 23-year-old uniform, had said, "The kind who's lost everything else."
"So I'm going to ask you again: Do you remember when you last heard from Josie? Because we've seen her phone records, Sam, and she didn't call anyone yesterday afternoon."
Not the family, not personal. Rachel let that sink in a while. What would Godzilla do next? Aside from frown, look down her glasses at Rachel and say something cutting, that was, while Rachel's knickers melted in a pool round her ankles. Christ, talk about inappropriate.
Gary hadn't been at school that day. What would a skiving teenaged boy do of a Thursday? Sex, drinking or Playstation, and Gary didn't own a Playstation.
Three off-licences later, and Rachel had a match. Gary might not have been at football, but at 11:35 on Thursday morning, he and a mate had failed to buy cider from an Oddbins half a mile from where Josie's body had shown up.
The mate, Robbie Dyer, started out about as helpful as you'd expect.
"Not seen him."
Rachel tried to channel her inner Janet. "Since when, Robbie?"
"Since I dunno."
"What would you say if I told you we had CCTV footage of you and Gary being kicked out of the Oddbins on Ship Street at 11:35 yesterday morning?"
"Do you understand how serious this is, Robbie? Gary's sister is dead, and he's not answering his phone. Whatever happened to her could be happening to him right now."
Robbie shrugged again.
Be quiet. Be quiet, and let him come to you. Rachel had run enough interviews to have this part written in her bones.
Didn't make it any easier, though. She didn't think Gary had done it, not since seeing the post-mortem. Gill was right -- domestic abuse bred many things, but all of them were personal.
"His dad hit him," Robbie said. "He never said anything, but. And she'd laugh at him, Josie would, call him names. Just 'cause she had a lad and a life and the rest, and he--"
Robbie stopped speaking abruptly, gripping his hands into fists. So Josie had a lad and Gary didn't? That was something.
Robbie looked straight at her. "He never said anything. He doesn't think I know."
Rachel met his eyes. "Whatever you tell me as part of this investigation goes no further. But I need to know where Gary is."
"After spending all morning with his mate Robbie, Gary Richards got on a bus at 11:45am Thursday morning," Rachel said instead of hello. Gill bit down on a smile -- from the way Rachel and Janet were holding themselves, this was good news. "Straight to his boyfriend's flat on the other side of Manchester, where he stayed until half an hour ago, when uniform picked him up."
"And, right," Janet said, "boyfriend isn't necessarily an alibi --"
"Not necessarily," Rachel agreed. She was practically bouncing. Gill firmly didn't smile.
"-- but boyfriend, boyfriend's parents, boyfriend's grandmother, that's an alibi."
"Liberal family," Gill said.
"He's on his way over here now -- Gary Richards is -- and he's more than willing to talk to us," Rachel said. "Uniform says they can't shut him up."
Janet's phone rang. "He's here," she said. "Rachel, you can take this one." Janet glanced at Gill. "Boss?"
Gill nodded. "Good idea. Janet, in with her. I'll watch."
Through the monitor two doors down, Gill watched Rachel introduce herself to the boy. "Do you understand you haven't been arrested for anything, Gary? You're free to leave at any time, and--"
"Did that cunt kill her?" Gary snapped. He was a broad lad, shaven head and the start of a tattoo poking out from the neck of his t-shirt.
Rachel spoke clearly and firmly. "Gary, before you tell us this, I have to make sure you know that we're recording this, and you can have a lawyer here if you like. Do you understand?"
"Yeah." Gary almost spat the word. Sixteen and he'd lost his sister. Gill fought the urge to phone Sammy. "Did that cunt kill her?"
"What c-- Uh, who?" Rachel could handle herself interviewing anyone, almost -- but teenagers were different.
"Her fucking boyfriend."
Gill watched as Rachel and Janet didn't exchange a look -- you couldn't, not in the middle of an interview like this -- but she could tell they wanted to. It was Rachel who'd interviewed the boyfriend -- she and Kevin had done most of the school ones. Bad call, Rachel, then: she'd said it wasn't the boyfriend. That was why they'd given her this interview -- she needed the practice.
"Gary, let me check I understand you," Rachel said calmly. "Because we've got Paul Sullivan at school all day on Thursday."
Gary looked at her blankly. "No, not that thick bastard." He turned and gobbed on the floor. "Her boyfriend. Mr Britten."
"Of course he had a fucking alibi," Rachel said into her glass. It was just her and Gill out that evening -- Janet was home with the girls, and neither Rachel nor Godzilla herself could face anyone else. "Because I asked him about the wrong fucking time."
Gill caught Rachel's chin in her hand, tilted her face up to meet Gill's gaze. "Oi. None of that. You found the kid."
Rachel froze. She didn't need a pat on the head and a 'good girl', and she wasn't going to get anything else. "Here's to that, then," she said as soon as she could form words again. "To finding the kid and nailing that sick bastard Britten to a wall. Sleeping with a fourteen-year-old girl and then killing her to shut her up, Christ."
She could still feel Gill's fingers against her jaw.
And she'd missed it when she'd been interviewing Britten, that flicker of something that told you he thought he'd got away with it -- she'd thought it was surprise at being accused in the first place, not of being accused of the wrong thing. But with Gill, right there, she caught it, and for just a moment she held it as still in her mind as Gill had held her face.
"Boss," Rachel said slowly, thinking it through. "You're not still seeing your fella, are you?" Of course she wasn't. No texts at work that made her go carefully blank with not smiling, not for weeks. "And Janet, she's been looking at you like you've pissed in her cornflakes."
Gill had years of experience on Rachel at staying calm when the accusations went flying. She was heading her own Syndicate, and that was her back up career, for Christ's sake. Rachel's dream job was Gill's easy way out.
"Drink your wine, Rachel," Gill said flatly.
Rachel thought hard. "If you want to," she said, making her face as open as she knew how, "we can." Because DCI Gill Murray played within the rules. Most of the time.
Gill gave her a long, hard, scrutinising look. "Drink your wine."
Rachel looked back just as hard, then raised her glass to her lips. "You want to." The trick was not to think about what a tit she was making of herself. "I want to."
"I'm wanting to less and less right now, believe you me," Gill said. "What the bloody hell do you think you're doing?"
"Not at work," Rachel said. "And not a stupid one off, I'm not risking my career for that. But you and me, we could kill everyone at this bar and not get caught. I'm tired of getting dicked around by men who don't think I could tie my own shoelaces without a map."
"So you think you'll try out a woman, see what that's like?" Gill said. It was hostile, it was disbelieving, but it wasn't a no.
"No," Rachel said. "I want you, and I think you want me to want you, and I think --" She put down her glass. "-- I think you and me, together, we'd fight and fuck and drive each other mad for sixty years before we got found out."
Gill drained her glass and picked up her coat. Rachel couldn't read what was on her face. "Yeah?"
"Let's try a week first, kid, and see how it goes."