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Crossing Lines | Chapter 2

Fictional murder mystery series | Season 1 | Chapter 2 | Written by Jacqueline Dyer


Given the fact that we were sharing the case, I wanted to stay ahead of the curve on the investigation and make use of every available hour. It transpired that Rebecca would have to drop her son at pre-school at 8am, but I needed to be at the station half an hour later. I pushed her- perhaps a bit harder than I intended- to meet me at 7am, with her son, who could be entertained while we talked. She finally agreed, so we fixed the venue at a coffee shop near his school.

In the end she beat me to it. Missy knocked over a whole 2kg bag of cat biscuits in the kitchen, forcing me to scoop them up and place them out of her reach, which held me back. When I arrived, a tad flustered, Rebecca was sitting near the window with a small boy who seemed to be engrossed in a colouring book.

“Hi, good morning”, I greeted them, “I see you got here first.”

“Hi Jo, yeah, this little guy was keen to get moving,” she smiled.

“Did you have breakfast?”

“No. His father had a breakfast meeting with his colleagues, so we thought we’d get it here.”

“So what can I get you?” I offered, since Rebecca didn’t seem about to move.

“No worries, Jo, Kathy behind the counter knows me. We’ve had many a breakfast here, haven’t we, Ryan?” She ruffled the boy’s hair affectionately, but he kept his head down still absorbed in his task.

“Er what do you recommend?” I asked, not having breakfasted myself.

“Well Ryan gets the oatmeal with banana and raisins. Kathy knows how he likes it. And me, well, I’m a bacon butty gal. ‘Course, that might not be to your taste…”

I could see what she was thinking, that posh Jo Redmond might prefer organic muesli or avo on toast. But I was having none of it.

“Well, I’m rather partial to a bacon butty myself”, I declared as she tried to hide her surprise. I pulled my wallet from my coat pocket.

Rebecca raised her hand and called “Kathy, give us another bacon butty, and…?.”

“A regular cappuccino with an extra shot”, I added, removing my overcoat and sitting down.

“And it’s on me….no, really,” she said, smiling. “You can get it next time.”

“Well,” I conceded, “OK. And you must be Ryan,” I said, addressing the little boy opposite me. He put down his pencil and raised his head when I spoke to him.

“Yes. Who are you?” he asked, as Rebecca rolled her eyes and tried to cover her embarrassment.

“Um Jo, Jo Redmond.”

“Is that really your name, Jo?” he asked, meeting my gaze solemnly. I noticed a greenish tint in his hazel eyes that were partially concealed behind wire-framed spectacles. His pale, roundish face was earnest.

“Er…” I began, taken aback, “It’s Joanna, actually. Jo for short”.

“He’s called Joe,” pointing to a young man placing cutlery on the table next to ours.  “So can I call you Redmond?”

“What about Auntie Jo?” asked Rebecca, clearly amused.

“No,” I broke in, “it’s fine, call me Redmond,” I smiled.  He smiled back, a lopsided little smile with warmth in his eyes.

At this point, Kathy brought over our breakfasts. She put the oatmeal before Ryan and hearty- looking bacon butties that smelled divine in front of Rebecca and myself.

“Sauces over there”, she said, with a faint foreign accent.

Rebecca smiled and nodded, and Ryan said something that sounded like pal-dee-es.

Kathy smiled and replied in the same strange language. Rebecca ignored them, going to pick up the brown sauce and ketchup.

I looked at Ryan. “What language is that?” I asked, not knowing whether a four -year- old would be able to answer.

“She’s my auntie”, he replied.

Rebecca poured brown sauce over her butty and poised with it half -way to her mouth. “Latvian. His Dad’s Latvian. Kathy’s his sister, Ryan’s aunt.”

“Wow. I see. And is Ryan bilingual?” I asked, for something to ask, but genuinely curious.

“Getting there,” she replied briefly.

I understood that she didn’t want to talk about her relationship with Ryan’s father in front of him, so I poured brown sauce over my own butty and dug in. It was excellent. A chewy, sourdough roll with what tasted like unsmoked free-range bacon. The fat from the bacon had softened and seasoned the inside of the roll. I finished it far too soon and wiped my lips with a napkin, picking up my coffee to wash it down.

“That was really good”, I exclaimed, as Rebecca finished hers, chewing carefully before speaking.

“Glad you liked it. Kathy’s the owner of the café so we only get the best”, she winked.

Once we had eaten and Kathy’s employee had cleared, we got down to work. We were so engrossed in our case that eight o’ clock rolled around unnoticed.

“Rebecca”, Kathy called. “Nearly eight o’clock. Joe is here so I take Ryan to school while you have meeting?”

“Cheers, Kathy”, said Rebecca, obviously distracted, as the café owner, a woman who looked to be in her mid-thirties, fair- haired and curvy in skinny black jeans and matching sweatshirt bearing the shop’s logo, helped Ryan into his coat, grabbed his bag and led him by the hand out of the shop.

“Be a good boy, Ryan”, Rebecca called.

“Bye Mummy, bye Redmond”, the little boy replied.

“Bye Ryan”, I answered, touched, despite myself.

“Sweet boy”, I commented, as Rebecca put her pen down, frowning as she saw her coffee cup was empty.

“Two refills, Joe”, she called, pointing at her cup. I didn’t argue. The coffee was as good as the butty. This café was firmly on my map.

“Yeah, he’s a good kid on the whole,” she said. “Not easy with me and his dad not being together. But I think he gets it now.”

“How did that come about” I asked, casually.

She turned her deep brown eyes towards me, and for a second, beneath the cocky exterior, I got a glimpse of vulnerability. She seemed to feel it too because she looked down at the table before speaking.

“Five years ago, I was here for a year as a DS with the Met on Vice”, she began, tracing patterns on the tablecloth. “And I met this bloke, an ordinary bloke, a CSI*, one of the best we worked with, actually. One night we’d all had a few drinks with the team and well, that’s how it kicked off. He thought it was the start of a beautiful relationship. I thought it was a one- night stand. End of. But then it happened three or four more times, and we were sort of becoming an item. So, in the end I told him straight, I wasn’t looking for anything long term. I’d had enough of men and relationships, got myself in a right mess so many times. He was upset, I could see, but he didn’t push me. We stayed sort of friends. Then when my time with Vice ended, I went back to Manchester, to the MIT, and got Acting DI, then DI. I stayed three more years. When I moved back I already knew I was pregnant, but I didn’t tell Steve. Selfish maybe, but I decided to keep the baby and stay in Manchester.”

Joe brought the new coffees and I let her pause and sip.

“So, what changed?”

“It was Dobson. She got poached by the Met and promoted to Detective Chief Superintendent. Someone pulled strings I’m told. She’d divorced her husband and got in a relationship with this lawyer down in London. Anyway, one day she ran into Steve on a case, they got talking, he asked her if she knew me and paf! Dobson told him I’ve got a kid and how old he is and that’s it, he was hot-footing it up to Manchester.”

“Gosh, that must have been difficult,” I said, trying to imagine the shock of finding you were the parent of a child already more than two years old.

“It was and it wasn’t”, she raised her head to look at me. “I mean, there I was on my own, almost thirty-nine, in a very demanding job and a single mother. I was exhausted. I’ve hardly any family left in Manchester. My parents are dead, my sister helped a bit, but she’s got kids and problems of her own. My colleagues pitched in when they could, but they’re working. When Steve showed up, I was nearly on my knees.”

I waited, I was a good listener, and I could see she wanted to talk. It was late, and I needed to get to work, but somehow this seemed important.

“He asked for a DNA test, mind you,” she said mock indignantly, “but I don’t blame him. Anyway, it came back that Ryan was his.”

“So?” I urged gently.

“So, we talked back and forth for about a month, him coming up every weekend, getting to know Ryan and all that and I let him. It was a relief to have someone to share with. And, you know, I might not want to marry him but he’s a nice bloke, a decent bloke, family values and all that. He was brought up properly, not like a lot of the scumbags I’m used to dealing with. I asked for a transfer to the Met, Ealing, on the grounds that my child’s father lived there and would be co-parenting. And he’s good with Ryan, and Ryan loves him now, so there we are, happy families”, she ended, a little bitterly. “

“Please tell me if this seems intrusive, but what happens when Steve gets married?”

“Right. Yeah. Well, she’s alright, is Michelle. She’s an IT specialist at Ealing Central, I know her. She’s OK with Ryan and that’s what matters. Steve would never take him off me. I know.”

I decided to leave it there, but I was surprised that she felt she could tell me these things on such a slight acquaintance, and I said so.

“Well, DI Joanna Redmond, if we have to work together, and if this is a long case, you’ll know my whole life story very quickly, so it’s best you get an idea before other people tell you, know what I mean?”  she grinned impishly.

As I drove away from the meeting, I reflected that, despite the competitive element in our working relationship, Rebecca was right. The Met was a goldfish bowl, so if we were to work together, mutual understanding was key. And though I had never been a fan of children, Ryan’s earnest little face with those wobbly wire glasses stayed in my mind for the rest of the day.


I needed to get back into Northolt, alone. I was far from satisfied that Andrea Crawford’s line manager had been straight with me when I had gone in with DC Childs. There were many aspects of this case that perplexed me, and because it was being run in two different districts, I felt frustrated that I didn’t have a complete overview all the time. We had gone in with our police ID, all above the line, and so whatever people had told us was what they wanted us to hear. I needed an inside contact, but I hesitated before using the one I had. It came with certain other risks, but I felt I needed to disregard them in the interests of getting further inside.

My father, retired Air Commodore Arthur Redmond, was delighted to hear from me, “Darling, you must come for lunch, it’s been so long since we caught up.”

I gritted my teeth. “Dad, I’m sorry, and I promise to catch up with you soon enough, but I’m calling because I need your help. Professionally, that is.”

I outlined the problem with getting a contact inside Northolt; still as sharp as ever, he understood immediately what I was asking. Dobson was waiting when I got off the phone.

“Any luck?” 

“There’s a Military Policeman who was close to my father and still visits him. He was my brother’s godfather. I was hoping my father might persuade him to talk to me. “

“You say he was your brother’s godfather. What happened?”

“My brother, Patrick – Paddy, was a pilot in the RAF. He was killed in the first Gulf War. Shot down.”

“Oh, I’m so sorry, Jo, I had no idea.” Dobson was all solicitous suddenly.

“It was a long time ago. Anyway, Wing Commander Hewson is still close to my father and sometimes shares things with him. My father thinks he might be willing to talk to me at the very least.”

“Well let’s keep that in mind. Meanwhile, get everything together and be prepared to contribute to the briefing tonight on behalf of our team.”

“Yes, Ma’am”.

“Oh, and Jo?”

I turned to look back at her.

“Keep the Northolt stuff under wraps for now.” 

I nodded and made my way back to my desk.

By 5.30, I’d had enough of sitting around in the office. I’d gone as far as I could go with Northolt for now and both Lane and I felt frustrated with our lack of progress. We were silent in the car driving over to Ealing, each lost in our own thoughts.

The squad room at Ealing Central was packed. Lane and I squeezed in and made our way to a corner from where I could get out to address the group when required. There was no sign of Rebecca, DC Childs was at the front, pinning pictures to boards and writing things on whiteboards placed strategically round the front of the room. Suddenly there was a commotion at the back, and someone came in hurriedly, apologising and pushing through the crowd. Rebecca. She saw us as she passed and gave me a thumbs up sign as she moved swiftly to the front and took the floor.

This was a very different Rebecca to the one I had seen before. Instead of the usual suit, she was wearing a black leather jacket with a black scoop neck top underneath and skinny dark jeans with a wide leather belt. Her hair was tied back, emphasising the length of her neck and she looked closer to thirty than forty.

The briefing was impressive- she and her team had conducted a thorough investigation into Philip Crawford and Andrea’s family. It appeared that the parents had never liked Philip, who was too flashy for their taste. The cracks had appeared in the marriage about three years previously when Andrea first became suspicious about Philip’s irregular hours. His work as a record company owner took him all over the place and gave him the perfect excuse to be away from the marital home, and there was little Andrea could do to keep track of him. The parents were also disappointed that the couple did not appear to want children, and Andrea’s mother had been pushing her to divorce Philip and make a new life for herself.

A hunt for the model Philip was rumoured to be dating had yielded the most promising lead so far.

“Gabrielle du Toit is 29 years old, mixed race, and has contracts with modelling agencies both here and in the Netherlands”, Rebecca explained. “She carries a South African passport and speaks Afrikaans and Dutch as well as English. The problem is that she seems to have come from nowhere. We have a record of her entering the UK on this passport for the first time about ten months ago, but the South Africans have so far failed to identify her. Du Toit is a common Afrikaans surname and will take some time to trace. The other significant factor is that her Facebook page in this name is only six months old. Therefore, we suspect this is a false identity. We’ve sent her picture and all the information to ECRIS and ECRIS-TCN in the hope that she’ll surface somewhere if she has any convictions, but otherwise all we can do is keep an eye on her. “

ECRIS was The European Criminal Records Information System and TCN referred to Third Country Nationals, a separate database within ECRIS.

“What if she’s just a model and nothing suspicious?” asked a gruff sounding man I couldn’t see.

“If that’s the case we’ll back off, but you know as well as I do, Dave, that the first 72 hours are vital in a murder enquiry. We’ve got to pursue all the angles.”

“Is that why you’re dressed for a motorbike chase then, boss?” piped up a cheeky female voice.

“For surveillance, yes. I’ve just come from following Gabrielle from Philip’s office in Central London to a West Indian café in Notting Hill where she met with an individual I suspect of being in the drugs trade. I’ve just handed the photographic evidence to the Drugs Squad, and we’ll see if they can link the contact to a recognised drugs gang.”

“What about the vic herself? Did she have any enemies?” asked another person.

“Right, we’re coming to that. Given that Andrea was a civil servant working in HR at the RAF base, Northolt, we’re getting only very limited cooperation from them, but Hillingdon is working on that. In terms of her friends and family this side, we haven’t uncovered anything suspicious so far. She seems to have been well liked, but we’re still digging”.

Eventually, I was called to give my summary. I removed my blazer as it was hot in the room, and used the back of a chair to support my hands. After Rebecca’s whirlwind performance I felt self-conscious and slow. I gave an account of the steps we had taken so far to pin down time of death and the vic’s actions just prior to this. I mentioned the difficulty of getting cooperation from the military police, but that I had a couple of leads I was following up. At the end of the day it sounded pretty weak, but I had nothing else to offer. As we broke for the evening Rebecca pushed her way to my side.

“I don’t suppose you fancy a drink, do you? There are a few things I’d like to run by you.”

“I was about to ask you the same thing”, I said. “What about Ryan? Don’t you have to get back to him?”

She smiled. “No problem. His Dad and future step-mum are on duty this evening. She’ll sleep over. Quite honestly, I’d rather be out for as long as possible.”

“I have to drop Lane back at the station, so if you don’t mind coming over my way …?”

“Yep, that’s fine. Do you want to give me a place to meet you?”

I thought for a minute of all the pubs in my area and of the people I knew and the opportunity for having a quiet chat.

“Well, if you’re OK with this, maybe we could just go to my place? I have to feed my cat anyway, and it’s not far from the station. Otherwise..” I hesitated, thinking that she might prefer a more public venue, but she nodded, “Yeah, why not? Shall we order food, I’m hungry after all that chasing around this afternoon.”

“Sure, what do you like? Um, there’s Chinese, Indian, Thai, Nando’s…”

She laughed “Anything but Nando’s, we have that far too much at home. Hey, you choose, I eat everything.”

“Would Thai be OK? I can order now, and we can pick up on the way.”

“Go for it. I can do spicy and I’m really not fussy otherwise.”

There was no more hesitation. I quickly phoned in an order, and we headed out in our separate cars. On arrival at my place, with a bag full of piping hot cartons, I felt suddenly self-conscious. It was almost 8pm, and apart from the fact that Missy would be frantic with hunger, I was only too conscious of not having left the place too tidy that morning when I had rushed out early to meet Rebecca in the café.

“You’ have to excuse my cat. She’ll be a bit loud till I feed her- she’s a greedy little madam”.

I unlocked the door and, as expected, Missy came hurtling out miaowing loudly. She didn’t even hiss at Rebecca, something she had been known to do to strangers, so intent was she on getting her food. While I dealt with her, Rebecca went to the bathroom. I tried not think of how messy it was. But what did it matter? She was a work colleague, not a journalist doing a feature for Home and Garden.

When she came back I had shed my blazer and rolled up my sleeves, putting plates and cutlery on the kitchen table. The restaurant always included wooden chopsticks, but I tended to prefer my own spoon and fork.

“Do you prefer chopsticks or spoon and fork?” I asked her.

“Well, Thais don’t use chopsticks for Thai food,” she replied, surprising me, “so I’ll go for spoon and fork.”

“And don’t look so surprised”, she added. “I have been to Thailand. Only it wasn’t on holiday. It was when I was working Vice for the Met. I had to go and collect a paedophile from Bangkok and bring him back for trial. The Thai police were very helpful, and I got all sorts of lessons in Thai culture and food. It took a week in the end what with all the bureaucratic procedures.”

“Wow! Nothing so exciting ever happened to me”, I laughed, pulling the lids off the cartons.

“What would you like to drink? I ‘m afraid I can only offer beer or whisky unless you prefer sparkling water or tea….”

“Beer’s great,” she said, looking appreciatively into the cartons.

I opened two bottles of my favourite craft ale not bothering with glasses.

“Mm, this is delish”, she said, sampling the red curry with duck and taking a swig of the beer.

“You’ve been doing this job for longer than me, I think,” she said. “So, tell me, what was the most exciting thing that ever happened to you?”

“Gosh….I don’t know…but two days ago I arrested a suspected murderer on a moving train,”  and told her the story of my last case, after which she told me some funny stories from her own cases, and before I knew it we had finished the food and I had opened two more bottles. Rebecca leapt to her feet and began collecting cartons and stacking plates.

“Hey..” I protested, “you don’t have to …”

She shrugged. “Done now” and proceeded to clear away the debris while I stacked the dishwasher. We worked in tandem, and I was conscious of her ease in fitting in wherever she happened to be. She had an energy to her that seemed to communicate itself to me, for, despite my tiredness and the long day, I was keen to discuss the case with her and to generate some new ideas to follow up.

We repaired to the lounge and I turned on the side lamp. Missy came and installed herself on my lap, purring as I idly stroked her soft fur.

“This is so comfortable,” she said, stretching out. “I’ve always wanted a leather sofa but they’re very expensive.”

“Second hand”, I admitted. “Auction”. For some reason I was anxious not to make her think I was rich and took such things for granted. I stretched out a little at my end of the sofa, pulling a battered leather pouffe over to rest my feet on sideways. Missy huffed at losing her seat and shifted to the middle. I looked at Rebecca, into whose space the cat had now migrated. Rebecca reached out a hand and fondled her ears affectionately. Missy moved in closer, purring with contentment, which made me smile.

“She likes you. That’s highly unusual,” I commented.

She smiled. “Did I hear you call her “Missy”? How did she get that name?”

Oh, damn, right, well that was inevitable. I paused, uncertain of where to start.

“She’s named after a singer, Missy Higgins, do you know her?”  Rebecca shook her head.

“She …um…..she had a song called “Your Warm Whispers”. We….er, I, …my partner actually, called her Missy because she used to get on our bed at night and purr close to our faces.”

“Right,” Rebecca nodded slowly. I could see her wondering how to be diplomatic about the next question. I decided to pre-empt her.

“He’s..he’s not here anymore. Enzo, my partner, I mean. He died. Two years ago.”

“Oh, hey, I’m sorry, that’s terrible, I’m really tactless, I shouldn’t have asked such a personal question.”

“No, really, it’s fine. Better to be clear. You’d find out soon enough anyway,” I smiled, echoing her words from earlier that morning.

“Right, so we’re quits,” she said, draining the last drops from the beer bottle.  Then, as if in disbelief she brought the bottle close up and exclaimed “Oh, this stuff is 6% proof. No wonder I feel a bit light- headed. Maybe I’ll have to leave my car here tonight and cab home.”

“Well in that case, can I offer you a whisky? The beer’s finished.”

“Oh, go on then, since I can’t even pretend I’m driving,” she said, her eyes crinkling with warmth.

As I poured I tried to bring the topic back to our case.

“So tell me about your exciting afternoon”.

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