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Episode Two: Week Three

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‘I don’t think it’s that serial killer.’

Cara and Ruari looked up from their respective tea mugs as Morvan burst into their office.

‘I’m inclined to agree,’ Cara said with a nod, seemingly unperturbed by Morvan’s sudden appearance. She shrugged. ‘It was worth looking into anyway.’

‘I want to hire you,’ Morvan blurted. ‘If — you’re available, I don’t know how it works. I’ve never hired a private detective before.’

‘It’s much like hiring a gardener.’ Ruari got to his feet. ‘Tea?’


‘How was a gardener your go-to example?’ Cara asked as Ruari flicked the kettle on. Morvan took the same battered armchair as before and watched Ruari bustle around the wee kitchen area.

‘Greer wants us to get a gardener.’

‘They‘ve just bought a wee house in Kirky near her parents’,’ Cara supplied.

Morvan nodded. ‘But she’s still working in London?’ She was getting quite invested in this couple. It was a nice distraction.

‘For the moment.’

‘I see.’

‘I’m no’ really a gardener kind of guy,’ Ruari grumbled as he handed Morvan a mug of tea.

It was okay, she thought, inspecting it. Bit milky. Not as good as Cara made, but it could be worse. ‘Are you doing the gardening?’ she asked.

Ruari’s shrug said it all.

‘That will be why she wants to hire a gardener, pal.’

‘Well anyway, you just book us and pay the invoice.’ He shoogled his laptop pad with a frown, evidently having had enough of the conversation.

‘Okay, then. Consider yourselves booked.’

‘And this would be to look into the attack on Poppy Knights?’

Morvan nodded. ‘Yes, please.’

‘Why do you want us rather than waiting for the police to do their jobs? I gather they are working on it.’

‘Because —‘ Morvan trailed off, took a sip of tea. It was rubbish. She put the mug down and took a deep breath. ‘Because I’m afraid my boss knows something about it. I don’t want to go to the police with my suspicions until I’m sure. I could be wrong, and if she found out —’

‘Gotcha.’ Cara put her mug down, all business. ‘What makes you think she’s involved?’

‘She’s hiding something. I don’t know what. It might not be anything to do with the attack on Poppy, but — something isn’t right.’

Briefly, Morvan filled Cara in on the confusion surrounding exactly how and when Poppy was cast. ‘Now I think about it, I maybe should have smelt a rat at Poppy being in Glasgow almost immediately after the announcement. But there’s no reason I can think of for Ali to have lied about being here earlier.

‘I’ve been wracking my brains, and I’m certain I made a comment that morning about her looking great for having just got off a ten-hour flight, and she didn’t correct me. I also mentioned briefly meeting with Poppy when I got Walter’s email. Ali said nothing about having seen her two nights earlier when that photo you have was taken. I can’t see how any of that relates to the possibility of her having something to do with the attack on Poppy — but it doesn’t add up.‘

Morvan fumbled in her bag and pulled out her phone. She’d returned the phone to exactly where she’d found it, but not before taking photos of its screensaver. ‘I found this hidden in her office.’

‘How hidden?’ Cara asked quickly. ‘I mean, was it under lock and key, for example?‘

‘No, just on a windowsill, stuck behind a plant.’

‘So maybe stuffed there in a hurry rather than carefully hidden.’

‘Yeah, I’d say that.’

Cara looked at the photo on the phone Morvan handed her. ‘This is a professional photograph of Poppy?’

‘I’m pretty sure it’s her headshot, which would be sent out with her CV.’

‘Do actors of Poppy’s stature still get photographs like these done?’

‘That’s a good point,’ Morvan said. ‘I think this shot is from a few years ago. It might even be the one we had when she was cast in a low-budget feature I did.’

‘But it’s not a personal snapshot?’

‘No, that’s true. It’s odd.’ Morvan wrinkled her nose. ‘You’d think either the phone belongs to someone who knows her well enough to use her photo as their screensaver, or to someone with a professional connection who has her headshot.’

‘I’ve never known anyone to have someone as their screensaver who wasn’t their partner or child,’ Cara mused. She pulled out an old reporter’s notebook, smoothed out a fresh page and began to write. ‘Any chance Ali and Poppy could have been a thing?’

‘Ali is seeing a guy now, and I know Poppy has in the past, though I don’t know for certain either is exclusively into men.’

‘I’ll DM the person who took that pic of Poppy and Ali at the Rooftop Bar,’ Cara murmured as she scribbled. ‘Would be good to get a read on how they seemed together. I know the police were following up on some dollars left for the hotel cleaner,’ she added, looking up. ‘Are there any other Americans involved in the production?’

‘Yeah, quite a few, it’s an American production. Jack McCann is at the same hotel, but he —‘

‘Jack McCann? Wasn’t his dad in Jaws or something?’

Morvan noticed Jack’s name had caught Ruari’s attention too. ‘Not Jaws, but a bunch of big action films in the seventies and eighties.’

‘Didn’t he crash a motorcycle into a club?’ Ruari asked.

‘That was a long time ago,’ Morvan said firmly, feeling defensive of Jack. She thought of that messageboard post about him being led away in handcuffs crying for his mum. ‘And why would he tip Poppy’s cleaner?’

Cara raised an eyebrow. ‘Maybe if he stayed in the room too? Isn’t he supposed to be a bit of a Casanova?’

‘He’s got a girlfriend.’

‘Was the girlfriend in America at the time?’

‘Yes, but you’re barking up the wrong tree,’ Morvan said. ‘He’s nuts about her.’ It felt weirdly name-droppy to specify that Elise Shearer was the girlfriend in question, which was daft. They would find out sooner or later, especially if Elise was in town.

‘Might be nice to have a wee chat with him anyway, seeing as he’s staying in the same place. He must have seen Poppy coming and going.’

‘Maybe,’ Morvan said slowly. ‘He never mentioned it, but —’ Jack warned her about Ali, she remembered now. At the theatre, the night they saw Summer. ‘Yeah,’ she nodded. ‘I think a chat with Jack would be a really good idea.’

‘I need you to do this, Shirley.’

Elise curled in the armchair by the window in Jack’s hotel room. Rain battered against the pane and Elise felt claustrophobic. She’d always hated hotels. As soon as she was in a position to do so, she insisted productions put rent her villas, or at the very least, the biggest penthouse apartment available.

‘Elise, you know it’s not possible.’

‘You could speak to people. Contracts are broken all the time.’

‘What’s going on, kid?’

Unable to sit still, Elise got to her feet, wincing as her muscles protested. She paced the room, hating that she knew Shirley called her kid when she was trying to manage her. A gust of wind sent a splatter of rain against the window and Elise jumped, nerves jangling through her.

‘This isn’t the project for him, that’s all. He’s not a quitter and he knows it’s not a good look at this stage in his career, but he needs out. That’s why we need you to step in.’

‘What’s wrong with the project? The pilot script was hot, I loved it. With Poppy Knights as lead —‘

‘Poppy Knights is in the hospital, not expected to survive.’

‘You’re kidding —‘

Elise felt a flutter of satisfaction at actually getting to tell Shirley something for once. In LA, even despite the press embargo, Shirley would already know Poppy’s vital stats and what her nurse had for lunch. But over here in the ass end of beyond, the whole thing had stayed under the radar.

‘What happened?’ Shirley’s voice was sharp. Elise could hear the cogs in her brain turning as she worked though what this could mean for at least ten other projects.

‘She was attacked. Right here in the same hotel where we’re staying. They didn’t even move us.’

Elise put the kettle on. Maybe some hot tea would help. She and Jack had laughed about how the British were so addicted to tea that every hotel room was equipped with a little tea-making station, but secretly she’d come to love it.

She felt a little better now that Shirley was listening to her, but she wouldn’t relax until she and Jack touched down in LA. His voice when he called to tell her what happened — a shiver ran through her. He’d sounded so desolate, so frightened. She’d thought that her being here would help, but he was so far away. She couldn’t take it any more.

‘Attacked like how?’

‘Strangled. It was attempted murder, but I guess she was still breathing when she was found. She’s unconscious.’

‘What hospital is she in?’

‘I don’t know, Glasgow — whatever. General, I guess. So you’ll help me get Jack home?’

‘Is there a police investigation?’

‘Of course. Shirley, I want us on a plane in 24 hours.’

‘The police have talked to Jack already?’

‘He’s not under suspicion,’ Elise retorted. ‘This is about getting him out of the show.’

Shirley went quiet a moment. Elise could hear the faint whir of her walkpad. People thought that the craze for LA execs to walk constantly through their workday was about fitness, but Elise knew that it was an outlet for the constant stress. She wished she had one now. She might go to the gym after she finished this call. Jack wouldn’t be back for another couple hours, and she would go crazy cooped up in this hotel room.

‘But he has been interviewed? He’s free to go?’

‘It was barely a fling, years ago,’ Elise snapped. Tension zipped through her like an electric shock. She didn’t get jealous; she wasn’t that kind of a person. But Jack’s voice when he blurted out over the phone that he’d once loved Poppy tore at her heart with ragged nails. It was just the shock. Elise knew that. Anyone would be distressed at news like that.

‘I’m just getting details, hon.’ Shirley sounded like she were soothing a frightened horse.

‘I don’t need that voice.’

‘What’s that?’

‘I’m not one of your looney tune diva clients, Shirley. This is me. You don’t need to speak to me like I’m a child. I’m just — worried.‘

‘What exactly are you worried about?’

‘Excuse me?’

‘I mean, do you think Jack is in danger?’

Ice doused Elise’s veins. ‘What kind of danger?’

‘That’s what I’m asking you.’ There was that damned voice again. ‘You said he wasn’t under suspicion.’

‘It’s the — environment.’ Why didn’t Shirley get it?‘ Poppy could die, Shirley. She’s in a coma. The police are crawling around, everybody is freaked out. It’s not good for his sobriety. I knew this was going to happen. I begged him not to go.’

‘You knew something was going to happen to Poppy?’

‘Forget it, Shirley, if you can’t help me —‘

‘How about I fly in for a couple days? We’ll have lunch, eat some haggis. Maybe I could talk to Jack, see how he’s feeling —‘

‘I told you how he’s feeling.’

‘You think his sobriety is a concern?’

‘I think this call was a waste of time.’

‘Come on, Lis. You know I’m the details guy. You’re the big ideas of the operation, and I bug you with questions so I can make it happen. I just need to understand a little better what’s going on.’

‘I don’t know what’s going on,’ Elise admitted. She sat on the bed, dragged the comforter around her. ‘That’s what frightens me.’

‘I know. I get it. And I’m going to help, okay? It’s going to be fine, I’m going to take care of it.’

‘You know who is producing, right?’

‘I know how you feel —‘

‘I thought I could handle it, but I don’t want that person anywhere near Jack.’

‘Morvan!’ Isla called.

Isla looked well, Morvan thought as she guiltily jumped a mile in the hotel lobby. Isla had always been one for mad, carb-free, taste-free diets, and she'd been on a regime that gave Morvan nightmares in the run-up to her wedding. But over the past few months, she'd filled out in a sort of contented way that suited her. She wore her dark blonde hair in a no-nonsense ballet bun, and enveloped Morvan in a cloud of expensive-smelling perfume as she hugged her.

'What are you doing here? Are you meeting one of your actors? I think a few of them are in the bar —'

'No,' Morvan said, too quickly. She held up the canvas bag where she'd shoved the Queen Christina DVD and player. 'Actually, maybe I could leave this at recept —'


Morvan's heart thudded as Axel, looking edible in a soft grey jumper and beat-up jeans, crossed the lobby in about three steps and grabbed her for a tight hug. She should have messengered the bloody thing to him. She should have given it to him at the studio.

'Oh, hey, the DVD!' Axel's face lit up, and Morvan's heart flipped over. 'Come up to my room. Let's see if we can get it working.'

'Oh, actually I —'

But Axel was already at the lift.

His room was surprisingly ordered, even given that hotel cleaners came in once a day. Morvan typically lived out of a suitcase while travelling, rummaging in the increasingly out-of-control pile for something vaguely clean to wear each day. Axel's clothes were nowhere to be seen, presumably hung and folded away. Glancing towards the bathroom, she spotted his toothbrush, cleanser and shaving things neatly laid out on the counter.

He was half-crouched, bracing his shoulder against the wall as he squinted to see the jacks on the side of the flat-screen TV. His jumper rode up a little, exposing tanned, taut flesh with an inviting treasure trail leading below his belt. Morvan turned quickly away as her treacherous body tingled to life.

If their genders were reversed, any actress would be instantly on guard at the director entering her hotel room. That was half the problem with trying to explain the subtler forms of workplace harassment to white men: anyone blithely unaffected by power imbalances tended to be oblivious to them. Morvan had ended up banging her head on pub tables more than once as male acquaintances insisted they'd simply be flattered if their boss hit on them or they were catcalled in the street.

'Anybody honked and shouted at me, I'd chase her car down an' give her one then and there,' a huge steadicam operator sniggered.

'You wouldn't if you were a woman,' Morvan had muttered, knowing fine she was wasting her breath. 'That's the point.'

'Fuckin' dream come true, man. Lassies don't know they're born.'

Morvan would never dream of taking advantage of what little power she had over the cast. And it wasn't as though Ali, much less Walter, would listen to her even if she randomly insisted Axel be fired. But it would feel strange giving him notes on his performance. It might be awkward to direct him kissing Summer in the coming weeks. It wasn't fair.

'Yes!' Axel called, interrupting her thoughts. 'I think I've got it —'

He hopped on the bed and switched the TV on with the remote. The opening screen of Queen Christina appeared, and Axel whooped. 'You'll watch it with me, yes? I love how knowledgeable you are. I want to hear your commentary all the way through.'

Morvan glanced at her watch, as though that was the problem. 'I might need to —'

'You want a beer?' He rummaged in the fridge and handed her a can of Tennent's lager. 'Trudy was telling us these cans used to have images of beautiful women on them,' he

laughed. 'That is wild.'

Morvan smiled. She took the can but didn't open it. 'I'll tell you what's really wild. My mum was one of them.'

'No way!'

'Yup. She was a model in the seventies and eighties, and being a Lager Lovely was her big break.'

'That's pretty cool. You must be proud.'

Morvan shrugged. Her family wasn't her favourite topic. 'There's nothing like starting primary school and one of the older boys sneaks in a can of your mum to spray all over the playground.'

'Yeah. I guess that would be weird.' Axel glanced away, a shadow crossing his expression.

Morvan raised an eyebrow. 'Ahh, I take it I'm not the only one with an embarrassing family?'

'Something like that. Anyway, let's watch.' He scrabbled back to sit against the headboard, and gestured to the empty pillow beside him. Morvan hesitated by the door. She was hardly going to jump his bones just because they watched a movie on a bed together, but —

'Is everything okay?' Concern jumped into his blue eyes. He paused the movie. 'Have I done something to upset you?'

'Oh, no — Axel, of course not.' Morvan perched at the foot of the bed. 'I'm sorry, it's just — I've seen this movie a thousand times, and, I've got loads of work to do for tomorrow —'

'Oh — of course. I totally understand.'

Morvan sighed. 'No — I'm sorry. I'm being a wanker. I just need to be clear —'

He sat up straight, his eyes wide and guileless and Morvan wondered if she was being daft. It was more than apparent he wasn't feeling pressure from her. Maybe she was overthinking it.

'You are one of the most amazing guys I've known in a long, long time and if we'd met in literally any other way —'

'What do you mean?'

'It's just — it's a line I won't cross while we're working together.'

'I see. Because you are the boss.'

'I mean, I'm not much of a boss. But it doesn't feel right to me, I'm really sorry. I should never have kissed you the other night. It was really shitty of me.'

'Hey,' he grinned softly. 'It's not your fault I am irresistible.'

'Well, exactly. Really, you should be apologising to me.' Morvan smiled, relief flooding through her. 'Thank you. I don't know if I deserve you being this nice, but I appreciate it anyway.'

'It's not that I'm not disappointed, but I get it. Pretty cool of you to care, actually.'

'I'm the best,' she said sadly. 'Sometimes that sucks.'

One thing Cara loved about private detective work was the time. When they sat down and decided to officially start their business, Cara and Ruari decided not to charge by the hour. They’d worked out a pricing plan that meant they were fairly compensated but didn’t have to worry about hours ticking by.

Ferreting, Cara thought as she took another sip of coffee and frowned at her phone. Hanging about. Seeing what there was to see. Ninety per cent of investigation was figuring out the right place, then setting up camp until the right time. She’d been hovering by the corridor that led to ICU for over an hour, pretending she’d just stopped for a second to check her phone.

If she’d still had a police badge, she could have walked straight up to reception and requested interviews with any staff members taking care of Poppy. But then, she would have to rely on who the hospital deemed appropriate to discuss her condition, and sometimes Cara didn’t want to talk to the appropriate person. She would have struggled to justify the cost of one of her officers mucking about a corridor for a good hour on either side of the nurses’ shift change, just hoping to —


Morvan had described Chloe as looking a bit like a china doll, and Cara could see exactly what she meant. With her huge eyes, porcelain skin and neatly combed fringe, she looked as though she should be wearing a frilled Victorian smock instead of a nurse’s uniform. She trudged up the hallway as though walking through treacle.

‘Oh — ‘scuse me —‘

Cara never knew what random cover story she’d come up with until it came out her mouth. Years earlier, she’d learned that if she overplanned an opening line, it would sound awkward and rehearsed, so now she just trusted her gut. Would she ask for directions or the time? Who knew?

And she never got to find out, because Chloe looked up, startled at Cara’s voice, and burst into tears.

‘Oh no, I’m so sorry, are you okay?’ Cara reached out to rub the younger woman’s arm, guided her out the way as a couple of porters pushed an empty stretcher by. Chloe was overcome with full body, wracking sobs. ‘Did something happen?’

‘I can’t — do this —‘ Chloe gasped. ‘I thought I could, but —‘ She cut herself off, panic coming over her stricken expression. ‘I really need the toilet. I’ve been able to go since this morning.’

‘Do that first, then I’m going to buy you a cup of tea.’

Cara glanced at her watch as Chloe scuttled off. It was ten past eight at night.

‘This is really nice of you,’ Chloe said a few minutes later. Her voice was still wobbly, her eyes raw, but she gave a shaky smile as Cara pushed a millionaires shortbread towards her.

‘I can’t begin to imagine how difficult your day has been.’

‘I didn’t know so many folk would die,’ Chloe muttered, picking the chocolate off. ‘I mean, I knew. I’m not stupid. I just thought — you imagine it’s about making people better, but it’s more about trying to stop them dying. I know it sounds the same but it’s not. Then they just go and die anyway and there’s nothing you can do.’

Cara took a sip of her tea as Chloe took a shaky breath.

‘Somebody woke up today and it was amazing. The family came running in as soon as the breathing tube was out. They were all crying and the patient could hardly talk but they were making funny comments. It was so brilliant but then Cath, the charge nurse who’s been there a hundred years, kind of clapped her hands and said ‘this is a good day in ICU.’ And I knew she meant it didn’t happen every day, and I just —‘ Chloe’s eyes filled up again and she wiped her eyes with a paper napkin. ‘You don’t ever have any time to think about what’s happening and then you suddenly do, and —‘

‘Are there other specialities, a bit, less —‘ Cara broke off, not entirely sure how to word with a bit less death. ‘Maybe taking care of patients who are awake and you can chat to?’

‘But then you feel guilty because you don’t have any time to chat to them.’ Chloe smiled sadly. ‘And if everyone thought that way, who would work in ICU? Somebody’s got to do it, why shouldn’t it be me?’ She gave a shaky sigh, finished the millionaires shortbread. ‘I’ll be fine. Dougie says you get used to it, and I will.’

‘I think you are incredibly brave.’

‘Who are you?’ Chloe asked suddenly. ‘Are you supposed to be visiting someone?’

‘Actually I was hoping to talk to you.’

‘Me?’ Chloe frowned, suspicion jumping into her eyes. ‘Are you a reporter? I won’t tell you anything about Poppy.’

‘No,’ Cara said quickly. ‘And you don’t have to tell me anything at all, that wasn’t why I sat down with you. I’m more than happy just to listen.’

‘The press aren’t supposed to know anything about her being here.’

‘They don’t. I’m not a reporter.’ It was a good thing she wasn’t, given how quickly Chloe had confirmed Poppy was there, Cara thought with a rueful smile. ‘I’m an investigator.’

‘What, like a detective?’


‘Are you the police? Have you got a badge?’

‘I’m not police. I’m a private investigator.’

Chloe’s eyes narrowed. ‘Who hired you?’

‘A friend of Poppy’s,’ Cara answered honestly. ‘She knows the police are doing their best but thought it wouldn’t hurt for someone else to lend a hand.’

‘I don’t know if I’m allowed —‘

‘I don’t need any information on Poppy’s condition. I hope she’s doing better, but I’m more interested in who has been visiting her. Have her family arrived yet?’

Chloe shook her head. ‘She’s not had many visitors. Mostly the director who works with her. Morvan, I think. She’s nice.’

‘Anyone else?’

‘There was a guy who had an accent. German, maybe? Or Polish? Really good looking. Blondy-ginger hair. I think he’s an actor.

Axel. Cara made a note. ‘Anyone American?’ she asked casually.

‘Don’t think so. Why?’

‘Just the producers of the show are American, I thought someone might have visited. Ali, maybe, or —‘ Cara cut herself off as Chloe looked up with a relieved smile.

‘Ali,’ she repeated slowly. ‘That’s what she’s been trying to say. It’s been driving me nuts.’

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