Characters: Gillian Foster, Cal Lightman, Emily Lightman.
Genre: Drama, General, Plot
Summary: Cal has a new case that leads the partners into the weird and wonderful world of the Suburbs. Cal&Gillian friendship with a real plot.
Length: 9,593 words.
Spoilers: There are some, all through the current season.
“It started out as a feeling, which then turned into a hope.
Which then turned into a quiet thought, which then turned into a quiet word.
And then that word grew louder and louder until it was a battle cry.”
The call - Regina Spektor
Friday 9th July 2010, 10:40am; The Lightman Group, Washington DC.
Gillian didn’t even pause as she pushed through the main doors. “No.”
With a smile to Anna as she passed, Gillian continued through to her office, Cal right behind her.
“Come on Foster. It’s just a job, and Mrs Peters offered us a pretty good fee. You were the one last week that said we couldn’t afford to be picky about the cases we take.”
Holding the door open, she waved him in. “That was different, Cal. You didn’t want to take it because the Travers’s dog tried to bite you.” Cal huffed, his eyebrows rising as he stared pointedly. “You spent the first ten minutes teasing the thing with a pen, Cal. What did you think was going to happen? It doesn’t matter,” She hurried to add, seeing Cal preparing to interrupt, “we’re still not taking this one.”
“I don’t know what the problem is with this Foster. S’not like we haven’t done domestic cases before.” Falling backwards onto one of her chairs, Cal sprawled against the cushions and peered up at her.
She stood in front of him, arms crossed and a frown on her face. Her right foot tapped a four-beat rhythm against the floor.
“Still a no then, luv?” Tap-tap-tap-tap. Cal sighed and leaned further back in his seat. Then sprang up suddenly as Gillian’s door swung open and Anna’s head appeared around the frame. “Foster-”
“Mrs Peters has arrived, Loker’s showing her to the conference room.” Anna left, Gillian’s hand catching the door before it could shut. She turned back to him and Cal tried his best to force an apologetic look on his face. He could tell by hers that he had failed miserably.
“Look, Foster, there’s no ‘arm in herein’ her out, is there?” He rose and edged past her, heading down the corridor. There was silence and then the tap-tap-tap of her heels behind him.
He pushed open the conference room doors with a smug grin.
“Diane Peters? Cal Lightman, and this here is Doctor Gillian Foster.”
Friday 9th July 2010, 5:17pm; Lightman Household, Washington DC.
“What about this one?” Cal held up the blue shirt, shaking out the creases.
“Yeah, it’s okay, if you don’t mind the curry stain.” The shirt landed on Emily’s head and she laughed from beneath it, pulling it off and bundling it up into a ball before dumping it on top of the pile of similar items in the corner.
Cal glared at her mockingly. “A riot you are.” He checked his watch before reaching behind him and pulling out a drawer. Shuffling through it, he paused and then yanked it out of the cabinet, upturning it over his suitcase.
“Dad!” Emily watched, surprisingly unsurprised as he repeated the process twice more, adding every t-shirt and pair of socks he owned. She reached forward, grabbing a plain white v-neck and folded it neatly. Cal slapped her hands away, snatching the top back and stuffing it back into the case.
“No time Em. Besides, Foster can iron them when we get there.” After a lengthy silence, during which he chose five ties at random (including one that Gillian had bought him last Christmas - black with one line of vibrant pink running from tip to tail), Cal turned to find Emily staring at him from the bed. “What?”
She sighed, shaking her head. “Speaking of Gillian.”
“Which we weren’t.” Cal grumbled, kneeling and hunting in the back of his closet for his running shoes.
“Have you told Mom you’re getting married?” Cal’s head hit the rail above him as he spun around. He glared at his daughter’s innocent expression, not needing any skills to read through it. “‘Cause if not, I was thinking, can I do it? Break the news gently.” She twisted the corner of an abandoned shirt in her hands keeping a tight reign on the smile that threatened.
He wedged the shoes into the bottom of the case. “I’m not marryin’ Foster.” Emily pointed to the small black jewellery box on his side-table. “We’re going undercover as a married couple Em, not getting hitched at City hall.”
“Gillian wouldn’t want a Registry wedding, you’d have to marry in a church. She’d wear a white dress, I could be a bridesmaid.” Cal watched as his shirt was crumpled while Emily pretended to get lost in thought.
“Aren’t you too old to want to be a bridesmaid?” Cal looked around the room and after chucking a picture of he and Emily on top of the pile, he closed the case and leant down on it to zip it shut.
“See, you’re not denying it. You’ve thought about it.” Emily bounced on her knees, dislodging several of Cal’s cushions and dodged the sock that flew towards her.
Cal held out a hold-all to her. “Oi, Elizabeth Bennet, help your old man out and go pack some of my books. Foster’ll be here in a minute and we’ll take you to your mum’s.”
Grabbing the bag from Cal’s hand, Emily slid off the bed and headed for the door. “Yeah, leaving me with Mom while you go off on your Honeymoon.” She was out of the door before Cal could respond, the cushion falling to the landing floor with a thud.
Friday 9th July 2010, 9:45pm; Belleview Close, Delaware.
Gillian looked around as she stepped out of the car. Five houses in a row, with five more at a right angle to the one at the end, and another five on the other side. All identical, right down to the mailboxes and the lead patterns on the windows.
“Must’ve been a bulk discount.” Gillian turned to Cal and he nodded his head towards the windows. “Little bit creepy this, isn’t it luv? Everything the same.” He huffed, lifting the suitcases from the trunk and starting up the front path.
“It’s the suburbs Cal.” She grabbed their hold-alls from the back seat and followed him, tilting her neck back so she could see the roof. She’d had a dollhouse just like it as a child.
“Yeah. The American Dream.” He made a great show of looking around him while Gillian retrieved the keys from her bag and unlocked the door. “You know, I’ll never understand you lot.”
Before Gillian could step into the house, Cal leant in and dropped the cases to one side of the door, turning back, he grabbed the bags from her and threw those in on top. Gillian cringed at the muffled sound of something breaking.
“Sorry luv.” Turning back to face her, he pulled her close, sliding one hand beneath her thighs and placing his other hand flat against her back. Bending his knees slightly, he swung her up and she threw her arms around his neck, hands gripping together as he stumbled back a step theatrically. “Getting a bit heavy there Foster, must be all those pudding cups.”
She slapped his chest and he laughed, the sound vibrating through her hand. She snatched it back as he started moving, carrying her across the doorframe and into the house.
“You didn’t have to do that.” She waited, but despite his early complaint he made no moves to put her down.
“We’re married now luv, it’s what’s supposed to happen.” He smiled at her and then made a large show of looking down at her chest and leering. “Tell you what, something to be said for that Dream of yours after all.” And then he dropped her legs, moving to hold her elbows as she struggled to get her feet back under her.
She looked up at his smug smile, her head barely reaching his chin. Cal had decided that working-from-home psychiatrists didn’t wear heels. She regretted caving to him on that, but it had made sense for her to work from the house; there would be an excuse in place should Torres and Loker need to speak to her. Still, she hated being short.
Opening her mouth to respond, a soft knock at the door and a quiet cough distracted her and she pulled away from Cal to greet the woman standing on the front step.
“Sorry to interrupt.” The woman smiled, her round cheeks rising with the expression. “Won’t keep you long.” She flicked her eyes from Gillian to Cal and back again and then winked. Gillian felt her own cheeks flush a little as realised that Cal’s hands were still on her arms. She took another step away.
The woman chuckled lightly, causing Gillian’s blush to increase and she could almost sense the grin that Cal was trying to hide behind her.
“I’m Rosie, Rosie Lowe, Stan and I live three doors up with Sammy, our youngest.” She paused and then held out the covered basket in her hands. “Muffins, fresh baked this morning. I’m sort of the unofficial welcome wagon here in Belleview. I saw the movers this afternoon, they said you’d be arriving this evening. Odd time my Stan said, but Sammy said you probably work and couldn’t get the time off. Smart boy, my Sammy. Do you have kids?”
Gillian blinked. If they were all like Rosie, it was going to be hard for her to get a read on their voices without recording every meeting she had with them. She felt Cal move closer, and his hand rested against the small of her back. She opened her mouth to answer.
“Yes. One.” It took everything in her not to look up at Cal in shock. That hadn’t been in the plan. Realising her mouth was still open, she closed it with a snap. “Emily.” Cal turned to her and shifted so his arm wrapped around her waist, pulling her into his side. “Well, she’s my first wife’s, but Em’s taken to Jill like she’s a second mum.” He squeezed her hip and Gillian felt a rush of affection for him seeing the sincerity in his eyes. Emily might not see her as a step-mother, but she really did care about her. And Cal knew it.
“Oh, you’re English.”
“Just me. Jill here’s as American as they come, aren’t you darlin’?” Gillian nodded, reaching her own arm around him and pinching the flesh at his waist. “We haven’t been introduced, I’m Callum Jones, Cal and this is my gorgeous wife, Jill, like the nursery rhyme.” He took the muffin basket from Rosie, and then took hold of her hand, bringing it to his lips with a flourish.
Gillian rolled her eyes, and smacked at his arm. “Ignore him. He’s just tired.” She shot Cal a look and he released Rosie’s hand, shoving his own into his front pockets and rocking back on his heels.
“Isn’t he a charmer. You want to watch him, dear, there’s plenty in the Close that wouldn’t mind stealing your man here away.” Gillian caught a flash of something in Rosie’s eyes, and from the slight stiffening of Cal’s posture she knew he’d seen it too. Then Rosie smiled again and the something was gone. “Anyway, I won’t keep you, I’m sure you want to settle in.” Rosie took a step away from the door and started turning away.
“It was nice meeting you, Mrs Lowe.” Gillian leant against the doorframe, squinting into the dim light.
“It’s Rosie, dear. I think you’ll like it here in the Close, you’ll fit right in.”
“Jill, then. Thank you, for the muffins.” Rosie smiled and waved the words away.
Gillian watched as she walked down the path and proceeded down the street, before shutting the door and turning to face Cal. He had the cover off the basket and was searching through the selection. “She’s angry about somethin’.” Choosing one, Cal bit into it and looked up at her with a mouthful of the cake.
“She might know about the Langdows’ parties.” Gillian picked out a chocolate chip muffin and ignored Cal’s eye roll, tearing off a bit and slipping it into her mouth.
“She might be our blackmailer.” Cal took another large bite, catching some of the paper case in his teeth. Gillian stifled a laugh.
“You really think so?” She eyed the door thoughtfully. Nibbling on a chocolate chip, she turned back to Cal and sighed. “We’ll keep an eye on her. Diane didn’t mention her in her list.” But then, Diane Peters hadn’t mentioned many people in her list. Gillian had realised right away that whatever the issue was she had with her neighbour, Sandra Langdow, it had very little to do with the threats.
“You’re the boss.” Gillian narrowed her eyes at Cal. “Now, bed.” Abandoning the muffin basket on the small table by the door, he picked up their cases and headed up the stairs. Gillian picked up their bags and followed him, waiting for...something.
Reaching the landing, Cal stopped at the master bedroom and leant into it, looking around. She stopped behind him. “Which side d’you sleep on luv? Prefer the left meself.”
Gillian slipped around him, dropping her bag onto the bed and turning back, ignoring Cal’s lecherous smile. She took her suitcase from him and handed him his hold-all.
“The middle.” Giving him a shove to his chest, she pushed him back into the hallway. She pointed to a door across the landing with her free hand. “That one’s yours. You can sleep on which ever side you like.” And then she stepped back and closed the door.
She held the laughter in until she heard him grumbling as he moved away and then collapsed onto the bed, the mattress shaking beneath her.
Saturday 10h July 2010, 6:32am; Belleview Close, Delaware.
Cal woke as a shaft of sunlight broke across his face. He growled, turning over and burying his head into the pillow. There was a tap beside him, like something being lowered onto the bedside table, and the scent of strong coffee wafted over him.
“Mmm, thanks luv.” His voice was rough with sleep. He heard light footsteps and then the sound of the bedroom door shutting.
With a long stretch, Cal rolled over again onto his back and blinked up at the ceiling. Sitting up, he picked up the mug and brought it to his lips, swallowing down the scolding beverage with a smile. Gillian always made the perfect coffee in the morning. Any later in the day and it always seemed weak and watery, but first thing in the morning it was ambrosia.
He paused in his drinking. Gillian. Putting the mug back on the table, he looked around the room, finding signs of her having been there. The curtains open when he knew he’d shut them before falling asleep the night before, his clothes folded and stacked on the chair by the window, certainly not how he had left them. His laptop closed and moved from the floor onto the dressing table in the corner, and of course he thought, picking it up again and taking several large gulps; the coffee.
Draining the mug, Cal flopped back onto the bed with a groan, the sheet falling further down his bare torso. One day, she was gonna be the death of him.
Half and hour later, showered and dressed, Cal made his way downstairs to where he could hear soft music and the sounds of Foster moving around, cleaning. He had forgotten about that, the cleaning. He hadn't been able to move the first week in the office without finding her behind him, ready to vacuum under his feet.
“Morning luv.” Gillian was balancing on a chair, her body stretched up on her toes as she ran a duster across the top of one of the bookshelves. Her hair was pulled back and the t-shirt she wore had risen up, showing an inch of flesh.
“Morning.” She looked down at him, her eyes running up and down his body. She sighed and rubbed a hand across her forehead.
Cal looked down at his top - a joke gift from Loker two years ago, the words ‘Expert L
Gillian sighed again, raising an eyebrow, before she shook her head and turned back to the bookcase. “Coffee’s in the pot and there’s butter, for the muffins.”
Cal smiled and left for the kitchen. He could see traces of Gillian everywhere in the room. The rich scent of the coffee barely masked the bleach she had used on the sink and on the windowsill stood a picture frame. Filling his mug back up, Cal reached over the sideboard and grabbed the picture.
He remembered the day it had been taken, just a few months previous. Emily had been working on a project for Biology involving the effects of captivity on penguins or pandas or some animal beginning with ‘p’ and had requested a trip to the zoo for research. So, of course he’d recommended Gillian to go with her; it was pretty common knowledge in the office that Foster loved the zoo. He hadn’t banked on the two of them double-teaming him into coming with them.
He smiled, replacing the frame. The day hadn’t been a complete loss. Emily had gotten everything she needed to finish her assignment, and the sight of a horny gorilla flirting with Gillian had been an image that kept him laughing for weeks.
He snickered into his mug, the coffee splashing his top lip.
“What’s the joke?” Gillian walked into the kitchen and poured herself a coffee. She turned, the mug clasped in both hands and blew across the surface, an eyebrow raised in question.
Smiling again, Cal pointed his mug at the picture. Gillian looked back at him, her cheeks tinged pink.
“Thought we weren’t goin’ to have kids?”
“That was the story, until you told Mrs Lowe about Emily.” Gillian took a sip of her coffee.
“Yeah, but you didn’t know that when you packed that.” He pointed at the picture again, where Emily’s face smiled back at him, her arm wrapped around Gillian’s waist.
Gillian smiled at him from behind her mug. “No, I didn’t.” He waited for more, but she just continued to smile. “You should probably unpack when you get back from your run.” She walked past him, back to the living room. “Oh,” She turned her head, speaking over her shoulder. “The iron’s in the laundry room, Cal. You can iron your own shirts.”
She took her coffee and laughter into the other room and Cal stared after her, grumbling under his breath. Emily. He’d known it was a bad idea for the two of them to swap phone numbers.
Saturday 10h July 2010, 3:08pm; Delaware.
“Jill Jones.” The librarian looked up from the computer. Gillian sighed, forcing a smile onto her face. “I didn’t marry him for his name.” The librarian laughed and typed it in. Gillian closed her eyes. This was the third time someone had looked at her like that when she said her name. She was going to kill Cal. She understood keeping their fist names as close to their real ones as possible, but that didn’t explain the last name. Either, Cal hadn’t bothered to come up with anything more original, or he had done it on purpose, knowing how much it would irritate her.
Gillian had her suspicions.
Finally finished with signing her up for a library card, the librarian directed Gillian to the romance section.
Absently running her eyes across the selection, Gillian paid attention to the discussions going on around her. Mrs Peters had told them that the local library was the main meeting ground for the women in the area, a lot of them coming from Belleview Close.
Over in the historical texts, a couple was arguing over their latest water bill, the husband was going to win, Gillian could already hear the resignation in the wife’s voice. In food and cookery, three middle-aged women were discussing the physical attributes of their new window cleaner. They were just dipping below his belt when Gillian felt someone nudge her in the arm and she looked to see Rosie Lowe standing beside her.
“You like these novels too, do you dear?” She waved a hand at the case of books and Gillian nodded. “My Stan says they’re a waste of time, nothing but a lot of fantasy, he says. Bet your Cal is like that, too. Men reach a certain age and all the romance leaves them.”
“Actually, Cal likes them. It’s a bit of a secret passion of his. He’s always reading them when I’m finished.” Gillian fought hard not to laugh at the image she’d created. Rosie’s face showed just the level of surprise and disbelief she expected. She almost hoped Rosie would ask Cal about it some time, just so she could see his face.
“Well.” Rosie smiled, disbelief turning to something else, something that looked very much like jealousy. “Isn’t your man a surprise.” She reached out and plucked a paperback from a shelf. “You should try this one next. It’s a little unrealistic, but then all the best romances are.”
Gillian took the book with a smile and a nod. Rosie said goodbye and Gillian watched her leave the library. There was definitely something on Mrs Lowe’s mind. Something to do with her husband. She wished they were back in Washington. A few minutes questioning her in the office and Gillian knew they’d have an answer.
Shaking her head, Gillian looked down at the cover of the book. She had in fact already read it, years ago when she was a post-graduate. It involved a generally considered unattractive woman falling for the village’s married poster boy and ended with the love being returned as he ‘saw through’ her shell to the woman inside and divorced his wife.
She took it up to the counter anyway. It was an interesting choice and given the circumstances of their case, she knew it could be related.
Checking her watch as she walked out, blinking into the sunlight, Gillian headed back towards the house. Cal would be back from the store soon - his own little reconnaissance mission - and in her experience of Cal’s organisation, if she wanted to know where the groceries were, her best option would be to put them away herself.
She hoped he remembered the chocolate.
Chocolate. Chocolate. The word echoed round and round in his head. After the fiasco that was the morning it would be more than his life’s worth to forget that particular item. Still, it wasn’t like he had spilt the coffee deliberately.
Cal frowned, looking at the rows of chocolate bars. How was he supposed to pick just one? He closed his eyes and tried to remember what kind Gillian had been eating the last time he had annoyed her at the office. Something in a blue wrapper. With nuts.
He stepped forward as he opened his eyes and walked straight into the side of a shopping trolley.
“Sorry!” Cal looked at the man pushing it. Jerry Langdow looked back at him apologetically.
He looked older than he had in the profile Loker had put together for them before they left, and Cal made a note to threaten him when he returned to the office on Monday. If he couldn’t find a more recent photograph then he should have come up to Belleview with a camera and taken one himself.
“No worries mate.”
“You’re Cal Jones, right? I’m Jerry, Langdow, from next door.” He held his hand out and Cal shook it, his eyebrows raised. “Oh, Rosie Lowe rang the wife last night, she said you and your wife had moved in. That would be news enough, usually, but she said you were English so, that just made it all the more interesting, apparently.”
Langdow had the look on his face of a man more frustrated by his wife’s quirks than endeared to them. It explained the parties. Swing nights might have been all the rage in the sixties, but Cal knew that in the twenty-first century there had to be a deeper issue involved than free-love and sexual liberation for all.
Cal smiled, shifting the basket to his other hand. It drew Jerry’s attention.
“Your wife, Jill was it?” Cal nodded. “She making you do the shop too? Sandra’s the same. Won’t let me near it once it’s unpacked, but you try getting her to come out and buy it.” Jerry laughed, it was deep and rich and again had the edge of frustration to it.
“Nah, do all the cooking. Jill makes a right pigs-ear of a salad, s’best to keep her out of the kitchen. She’s better in other rooms, if you know what I mean.” He nudged his elbow out, winking and caught a definite spark of interest in Langdow’s eyes.
“You know, Sandra will kill me if she finds out I saw you and didn’t ask. We’d love to have you over to dinner tomorrow, it’s an old Belleview tradition.”
“Sure, it’ll save me cooking.” Cal shook the basket for emphasis.
“Great. See you around 4? Don’t worry about bringing anything.” Langdow’s eyes slid past Cal’s shoulder and opened wider, pupils dilating. Lust. Cal turned and caught a flash of green as someone passed into the next aisle. “Well, I won’t keep you.” Langdow walked past Cal, heading in the direction of his eyes.
Cal waited only a moment before following him, he checked the next aisle but could see no evidence of Langdow or the green shirt he’d seen. The more he thought about it, he was sure it hadn’t been a women’s shirt. He’d have to take another look at the note sent to Mrs Peters and have Loker ask her some more questions.
Turning back to the sweet aisle, Cal grabbed a selection of bars in blue wrappers and then added a bag of Hershey Kisses.
He hoped they would make some headway into gaining Gillian’s forgiveness. Apparently the cloth he had snatched up to mop the spill had been one of Gillian’s favourite cardigans.
Cal shrugged, stepping around a young child and carried on shopping.
Saturday 10th July 2010, 8:12pm; Belleview Close, Delaware.
“Langdow’s gay.” Cal handed Gillian her wine and settled onto the sofa beside her.
“What?” She peered across at him as he settled down.
“Jerry Langdow, our ‘neighbour’. He’s gay.” Gillian turned that over and over in her head and still couldn’t see where it fitted into their case.
“So?” She took a sip of the wine before placing it on the coffee table. Snapping off some chocolate, she passed a piece to Cal and then took another for herself. “How does that help us find whoever’s been blackmailing Mrs Peters?”
The DVD wailed loudly, introducing the sound style and Cal hit mute on the remote.
“Well, we assumed the letters were meant for her because they had her initials on and she was feeling guilty about the last party. You saw it, when she was in the office, that last night was more than a little rumpy outside the marriage.” He winked at her and she rolled her eyes at him, tilting her head to the side. “Well, what if it wasn’t aimed for Diane Peters, but David Peters? Someone warning him to stay away from their husband?”
Gillian considered it. “We don’t know David’s gay. And Diane didn’t mention anything about it. She talked about him being with other women but never any men. Wouldn’t we have seen that, if she’d been hiding those?” She stuck her tongue in her cheek to catch the last tastes of chocolate.
“She probably doesn’t know. How many women would notice that in the first place? And if he’s been using the swing nights as a cover...”
“She’d be able to tell us a list of people she and her husband have been with and not show a trace of deception about not emphasising the men.” Gillian finished. She sighed, leaning her head against the back of the sofa. “Remind me again why we can’t just drag them all into the office and ask them?”
Cal huffed, hitting the sound back on as it reached the menu screen. “Because you assured Mrs Peters that her ‘usband would never find out.” He looked at the TV as he pressed play and frowned. “Really Foster, Miracle on 34th Street?”
“It’s a good movie.” She took hold of her drink again and curled her legs up beside her, settling deeper into the cushions.
“It’s not even Christmas!” Cal leaned back and she felt his shoulder bump hers.
“It’s a good movie.” She repeated as the credits ended.
Turning to him twenty minutes later, she found him fully focused on the ensuing drama and stifled a laugh into her glass.
Cal switched off the credits and looked down at Gillian. Her breathing had evened out about an hour into the film and throughout the remainder she had slipped closer and closer to him until he had simply drawn her into his side, laid her head in the crook of his shoulder and rested his arm over her. He had spent the rest of the film resisting the urge to twitch every time her breath coasted across his neck.
Gillian twitched, rubbing her cheek against him and sighing. Cal smiled softly. She reminded him of nothing so much as a child like that. Not a line on her face. Gillian always appeared open to him, but in sleep her face hid nothing. It made her look as vulnerable as on his worst days he feared she was.
Sliding himself out from under her, Cal slid an arm around her back and one beneath her thighs. He lifted her up and waited a moment while she settled against him.
The stairs proved a challenge, he hadn’t carried anyone up a flight since Emily was little, and as small as she was, Gillian wasn’t a twelve-year-old girl.
Kicking open Gillian’s bedroom door, he paused in the threshold. The room smelt of her already. Vanilla and the detergent Gillian had always used since he’d known her. Her sheets were already turned back, ready for her, and he bent down, slipping her between them fully dressed. She might get away with wandering around in his room when he wasn’t dressed, but he knew better than to think he had the same privilege.
She rolled over as he pulled the sheets over her, curling into the bed. He tucked a lock of hair behind her ear and headed for the door.
Her soft voice caught him as he left. “‘Night Cal.”
He smiled, closing the door. “Goodnight luv.”
Sunday 11th July 2010 6:45pm; Belleview Close, Delaware.
“That was lovely, thank you. I’ve never had duck done like that, outside of a restaurant.” Gillian smiled at Sandra Langdow as they moved into the lounge. Cal followed her, his right hand resting at the small of her back.
“Thank you. I found the recipe in book once, remind me later and I’ll write a copy down for you Jill.” Cal shared a look with Jerry, one he hoped Gillian didn’t catch. As they sat together on the small love-seat, Gillian looked up at him, her eyes telling him he’d been seen.
Jerry handed him a glass of scotch, preventing him from having to answer the unasked question.
“So, Cal. You never told us what you do.” Jerry took a seat at one end of a three-seater, his wife sat down at the other end.
“No.” Gillian elbowed him sharply in the side.
“Cal’s an accountant. He works for a contracting firm in Washington, don’t you honey?” Gillian leant into him, smiling smugly. She just loved the idea of him as an accountant. One of the little ironies that often amused her.
“Hmm.” He watched as the Langdow’s eyes glazed over. They’d been far more interested in Gillian’s ‘work’. Of course, it was close enough to what she really did, that she’d been able to inject a lot of sincere passion into her descriptions.
“Well, I wouldn’t have pegged you as a man of numbers.” Sandra leant forward, refilling her glass. Her husband watched her actions, a frown of displeasure on his face.
“Oh yeah, always loved numbers.” Cal rested his arm across the back of the cushions and Gillian moved into the space he made, placing a hand on his leg.
Cal caught the Langdow’s watching the move. Sandra specifically seemed to be eyeing him carefully.
“So, tell us more about the two of you, how long have you been married?” Jerry actually seemed genuinely interested in the answer.
“Six years. We’d known each other for a year before Cal proposed.” Gillian smiled across at him, her eyes bright.
“Well.” He said, just watching her. “Had to make sure she didn’t start looking elsewhere, didn’t I?” He leant in, his arm curving around her neck, his hand going to her shoulder. She smiled at him and he grinned back. He didn’t know he was going to do it until her lips were inches away and she read the intent in his eyes before he knew it was there. He leaned in the rest of the way, both of them still smiling and captured her lips with his own.
Her lips were soft, her head perfectly angled to meet him and with her mouth still open, he ran his tongue across them before slipping it inside and tasting her. Scotch, and the faintest hint of the orange sauce from dinner. He moved his hand up, cupping the side of her head, just as he felt the first touch of her tongue against his own. She hummed low in her throat and Cal’s smile increased.
The sound of glass tapping together brought him back to where he was and why and he felt Gillian pull away quickly. Cal closed his mouth, licking his lip discretely and turned back to the Langdows.
Jerry was pouring himself another drink, both he and his wife had their attentions on them. Cal grinned cockily and turned, unsurprised to see Gillian smiling as well, a slight blush tinging her cheeks.
The Langdow’s shared a look of decision between them, that Cal indicated with his chin, then Jerry looked at them again.
“We’re having a party on Monday night. It’s very select, just a few of the couples from the Close. And we want you to be there.”
Cal looked at Gillian and nodded. They had their in.
Monday 12th July 2010, 9:05am; The Lightman Group, Washington DC / Delaware.
“Welcome back boss.” Loker greeted Cal as he stepped through the office doors.
“Did you have Mrs Peters brought in?”
Loker nodded, following him closely. Sometimes, he reminded Cal of an over excited puppy. “Yeah, she wasn’t happy though. She said she had a party to prepare for and that David would miss her if she wasn’t there all day preparing.”
“Yeah, well, we won’t be keeping her long. Just gotta iron out some quirks in this case.”
Torres was waiting for him outside the conference room, she pushed off the wall when she saw him, raising an eyebrow. “Where’s Foster?”
“She’s still there.” Cal paused, debating. “I might have said something about her cooking, so Sandra Langdow roped her into attending a cookery class at the local community hall this mornin’.” He grimaced, remembering the anger in her eyes at the offer. Not directed at the Langdows, oh no. And then that morning, being woken by the vacuum going up and down outside his bedroom door for almost thirty minutes. It’d reminded him of mornings back home, when his Dad had done something to upset his Mum. Sometimes Gillian scared him with her almost English passive aggressiveness.
Cal caught a look pass between Loker and Torres. “Oi, none of that. We’re fine, good. She understood it was just part of the cover.”
He tried to make it sound like he believed it, but could see Loker opening his mouth to contradict. Torres shook her head at him and he closed it again. Cal frowned. That was worrying. Something was happening between the two of them, something that would require some thinking about, and Gillian's input.
Shaking his head, Cal pushed open the doors to the conference room. “Mrs Peters, is your ‘usband gay?”
“It’s nothing to be ashamed of, Jill.” Sandra Langdow whispered. She reached over and gently squeezed Gillian’s arm while the instructor’s voice continued on in a monotonous stream of words.
Occasionally Gillian would catch one like; ‘marinade’, ‘chop’ or ‘emulsify’. And something that had sounded like ‘castrate’ but had likely just been her own thoughts projected.
“Oh, I’m not.” Gillian gritted her teeth and carefully broke an egg over the bowl.
“Good, I’m sure there are plenty of women who can’t cook.” She was going to kill him. Forget kidnappers, hostage takers and involuntary terrorists, she was going to be the death of Cal Lightman. Just when she thought they were starting to grow closer.
For her own emotional health, she was going to believe he had simply not thought as he had spoken. She couldn’t bare to believe that he truly thought she required a lesson in cooking. He and Emily certainly never complained about her desserts when they got together for Thanksgiving and Christmas.
“Now, ladies, gently stir the mixture until the flour is completely folded in.”
Doing as she was told, Gillian turned to Sandra. “Thank you, for inviting Cal and I to the party tonight.”
“Oh, Jill-honey, no need to thank me. One does not like to boast, but our parties are the best in the Close, as I am sure you will find out for yourself.” Pretending to be absorbed in adding more water to her pastry mix, Gillian analysed the other woman’s words. Her voice had been tight, the lightness forced and the words; the lack of contractions. It was a repeated speech. Something Sandra had obviously said many times, but just to other people, or had she been repeating the words to herself?
Cal slumped back into his chair. Diane Peters said nothing. She hadn’t said anything of value since he had entered the room. Other than defensive denials against his accusations.
“Look luv, I don’t care who your husband’s giving it to on the side, but we know the letters came from a woman. And if you don’t want me to drag him in here and ask him then I need you to look me in the eyes now, and tell me you know for certain your husband isn’t interested in men.”
He waited, ignoring the increase of speed in Mrs Peters’ breathing. Eventually, she looked up and Cal was already standing before she spoke.
“I don’t know.” He left the room, waving Torres in to deal with the inevitable tears and motioned to Loker to follow him.
“See what else you can get from her, any of the men she thinks her husband might be involved with.” Loker nodded. “Send it to me and Foster.” Cal looked at his watch and then picked up the pace. “I have a party to attend.”
Loker stopped by the front desk as Cal continued to the doors. He turned back just before them, still walking. “Oi and Loker? There’s a pile of case files on my desk, Foster and I’ll be back tomorrow, get them filed would ya?” He pushed through the doors, only catching the initial micro expression of disgust on Loker’s face as he did so.
Monday 12th July 2010, 7:56pm; Belleview Close, Delaware.
Cal pulled on a white shirt, buttoning it up quickly.
“Come on Cal.” He closed his eyes, counting to ten in his head as Gillian’s voice drifted through the door again.
“What’s the rush Foster? They’re only next door.” Plucking a tie from the bed, he wrapped it around his neck, watching himself in the mirror as he attempted to knot it.
“That’s not the point Cal. We were supposed to leave thirty-minutes ago.” He heard the scuff of her heels moving closer to the door again and when she spoke, her voice was clearer. “The quicker we get there, the quicker we’ll be able to pick out the Peters’ blackmailer and finally get home.”
Cal frowned, holding the ends of the tie out in front of him, the wide end coming up far shorter than the thin.
“You tired of playing house with me already luv?” There was a long pause, and eventually Cal looked up from undoing his tie to see Gillian leaning in the doorway.
“Maybe I’m just afraid of what I’ll end up doing to you if I have to attend another cookery class.” She pushed off from the frame, walking towards him, her hips swinging with the height of her heels.
She caught his shoulder and turned him, smacking his hands away so she could get to his tie.
“Sorry.” He tried for apologetic, but Gillian didn’t look up from her task, only hummed at him. “Loker said Mrs Peters couldn’t come up with any suspects.”
“Well, he said it was hard to get her to tell them anything, after you left her in tears.” Her words were disapproving, but her tone didn’t reflect the same. “There you go.”
Cal looked down as she stroked her hand across the black material once, her finger running along the pink line. Reaching the end she looked up, a soft smile on her face.
Cal took her by the arms, and gently moved her away, leaning back and tilting his head.
“Very nice Foster.” He twirled his finger. “Give us a spin.”
Gillian laughed, pulling a put-upon face, and spun on the spot slowly. Very nice.
She was the image evoked at the words ‘little black dress’. The silky material cut a straight line across her chest and gathered just under her bust. Cal drew his eyes away before she could call him on lingering too long. From there it fell in soft waves to just below her knee. The cut and the four-inch heels making her legs appear to go on forever.
“Good choice.” She smiled, obviously reading the appreciation he let show. She threw him his suit jacket from the bed and he moved towards her, holding out his arm for her to take.
“Course,” He continued when they got outside. “It’s a bit of a waste if all the men here are playing for the other side.” He ducked the hand that came at him and moved quickly down the front path. Her heels clicked quickly after him and as he felt her fingers clip his ear, he marveled at the speed at which she could move in those heels.
Linking arms again, Cal led her up the Langdow’s path. As they approached he could hear the music, a deep base that vibrated through the ground.
“Keep your eyes open, Foster. See if we can’t close this one before I get an ‘eadache.” He rang the doorbell and then followed it up with a few loud knocks to the wood. Gillian squeezed his arm hard, but was prevented from responding as the door opened revealing a broadly smiling Jerry Langdow.
“Cal! Jill! So glad you could make it! Come in, come in!” He stepped aside, holding the door open. “Well, don’t you two look a picture.” Cal couldn’t help but notice that while Jerry did run his eyes up and down Gillian’s form, he spent a longer time on Cal’s legs than hers. “Well, the party’s through here, come, I’ll introduce you to the rest of the Close.”
When Jerry turned around, Cal looked at Gillian. “Told ya.” Gillian sighed, obviously conceding defeat.
The living room was filled with people when Cal walked in. The seats all moved to the edge of the room to create more space.
“Everybody, this is Cal and Jill Jones. They just moved into number 4, the Spencer’s old place. Cal, Jill, this is...everybody.” Jerry introduced them, everyone’s eyes turning to them with interest. Sandra walked in from the kitchen carrying two glasses of wine and passed them over.
“Sorry about Jerry, he gets a bit excited at these parties.” Her smile was tinged with her own intoxication. He saw Gillian reach out and pat her arm. Cal looked around the room at the other couples; their faces held a mix of anticipation and nervousness, but all of them showed signs of excitement and occasionally, as their gazes moved away from their partners, lust.
He spotted Mrs Peters by the window; as though feeling his eyes on her she looked up and scowled, her eyes narrowing, before she turned to look out of the window, her shoulders hunched defensively. David Peters was nowhere to be seen.
“Rosie!” Gillian’s voice, shouting above the pulsing music, pulled his attention back and he turned in time to see his partner engulfed by the larger woman. The sight put him in mind of a girl being greeted by her eccentric aunt. The green top she wore clashed with her red hair and Cal wondered how her husband could stand to see the combination, let alone allow her to walk out of the house. Zoe would have killed him, if she had ever thought to ask his opinion in the first place, that was.
“Hello, dear. It’s so good to see you here. How have you and Cal been settling in? Oh, here, here’s my Stan. Stan, Stanley! Come and say hello to the new neighbours.” Rosie dragged a small statured man over by the arm, despite his protests. “Cal, Jill, this is my Stanley.” Stan waved but didn’t attempt to say anything. A man long used to his wife, Cal supposed.
“I wish our Sammy could be here, but he’s out with some college friends, still some other time.” Rosie looked to him and Cal smiled tightly. The music was starting to get to him and he just wanted to get on with finding the blackmailer so they could leave.
“Excuse me.” Stan nodded to him as he pushed past, heading for the door to the hallway. “It was nice meeting the two of you.” Cal watched him leave, seeing him increase his speed as he got closer to the door. He turned back and realised that Rosie had also been watching her husband’s progress through the room. Her eyes narrowed and jaw clenched. A quick glance down revealed similarly clenched fists.
With a sudden flash of insight, Cal looked at Gillian and saw that her eyes were on Rosie’s fists. She looked up at him, her face blank, obviously coming to the same conclusion.
Staring into her eyes, he let her read his intention and then moved off in pursuit of Stan Lowe, knowing that Gillian would follow after she had gathered Rosie and Diane Peters.
Reaching the hallway, Cal took a guess and headed through the house to the back door. That was the thing with the Suburbs, all the houses were exactly the same, inside and out. Probably made it easy for any opportunistic burglar.
Stepping outside, Cal could hear voices around the side of the house. Stepping lightly on the decking, he moved closer until the rumble of their voices convalesced into words.
“...can’t keep doing this.” Another step.
“I’m not giving this up.” And another.
“But, I think Diane’s starting to suspect something, she- oh god! -she was acting weird today when she came back from the shops.” Cal paused, one step away from the corner. “She didn’t even get anything, she always gets something.”
“So- oh, right there - so tell her then, get it all out in the open. I’ll tell- tell Rosie. Tomorrow.” There was a pause during which even the music from inside the house seemed to stop and then; “David, isn’t it time we stopped hiding this?”
Before David could reply, Cal turned the corner and coughed loudly. Two heads shot around to face him and froze, hands still at each other’s waists.
“‘Sorry, am I interruptin’?” Cal shoved his hands into his pockets and grinned, not at all apologetic. Behind him, he heard the rise and fall in music as the back door was opened and closed.
The two men stepped apart, their faces white and eyes wide with fear.
“Cal?” Gillian’s voice called.
Cal’s smile dropped as he turned serious, watching as David shared a look of horror with his lover. “Round ‘ere luv!” He called back.
He listened to the heavy treads of more than one person approaching, but didn’t turn away from the men in front of him, even when he heard a choked gasp and Gillian’s “Cal!”.
“Mrs Peters, we know who your blackmailer is.” Cal did turn then, while behind him David and Stan hurried to re-button their shirts.
Gillian stepped up to him and stood at his side. “You knew what Stan was up to, didn’t you Rosie?” Rosie Lowe stood with her head bowed to the ground, her entire body shaking, but until she looked up, Cal was unable to tell if it was with anger or true distress.
“That bastard.” She looked up, speaking though gritted teeth. Anger then. She looked at her husband as she spoke. “I gave you everything. I left school for you. I left my friends to move to this Stepford Hell for you, and for what? The parties were bad enough Stan! Switching partners and matching up with other couples, but I thought, well, it’s just a phase, a mid-life crisis. Then I found out about that.” She pointed a finger at David, jabbing the air as though she could somehow reach him through it. She stopped talking, breathing in sharp shallow puffs.
“And it was finally too much.” Gillian supplied. “You could take the swinging, if it was with another woman, because you knew he was always going to return home to you. But when you found out about David, you knew it was something more, didn’t you?”
Rosie nodded, the first wave of tears visible in her eyes.
“Did you see them? Or did you hear them talking.” Rosie flinched, and looked at Cal.
“He was on his cell. And he said...” She faced her husband again, tears sliding down her cheeks. “You said you loved him. That it was only a matter of time before things ‘got easier’.”
“And you got angry, didn’t you Rosie?” Cal leaned forward, closer to her. “So you wrote some letters, warning David to stay away from your man. Only, you didn’t use his name, and Diane found them instead and thinking they were meant for her, she brought us in.”
Diane had tears in her own eyes as she looked at her husband and his lover, and then back to the woman who had caused her so much fear. “And the pictures?” She spoke up, her voice rough.
Rosie sniffed loudly and scrubbed a hand across her face. “There aren’t any. I thought, the threat should have been enough. I didn’t want to hurt anyone, I just wanted them to stop. I wanted my Stan back, the way it was before we moved here.” She broke down, the tears falling faster and sobs shaking her frame. To Cal’s surprise, Diane pulled her close and the two women stood together, crying for the men they had lost and the pain they had caused.
Cal looked back at them, and was pleased to see real looks of shame on their faces. He nodded and rubbed his hands together. “What’d’ya say we go home, Foster?” Gillian looked at him, then to the two sets of miserable people and then back to him again, before sighing and rolling her eyes.
“You’re impossible Cal.”
He said nothing, instead, he clasped her hand in his and carefully moved past Rosie and Diane.
As they passed back through the house, Jerry leaned out of the living room. “You two off so soon?” Cal turned but Gillian pulled him away. Gripping his arm tightly with her free hand.
“Yeah, we have an early start tomorrow morning. Say goodbye to Sandra for us, it was good meeting you. And thank you, for everything.” She smiled at Jerry and Cal almost laughed at the confusion on his face.
Gillian continued to pull him along until she had unlocked their door and dragged him inside. She dropped his hand and headed for the stairs. Cal followed and watched her as she hurried around, moving from the bedroom to the bathroom and back again. Eventually, he just had to ask.
“Foster, what’re you doing?” She paused, a handful of toiletries cupped in her hands and looked at him as though he was being particularly dim. “Packing. We might have gotten away from the party okay, but when someone goes out to find the Peters and the Lowes, and they find out who we are...Cal, I want a long hot bath and a good nights sleep. Two things neither of us will get if we stay here, when our ‘neighbours’ start knocking on the door.”
She didn’t wait for a response, but carried on towards her bedroom. “Besides,” Her voice was muffled and he assumed she was removing her clothes from the wardrobe. “Emily rang while you were at the office. She said Zoe was going out for the evening and that she was going to stay with Rick.”
Cal stared, immobilized, at her door for a moment before spinning on his heel and entering his own room. Drawing his suitcase out from under the bed, he began throwing everything into it. If they hurried, they could be back in Washington in time for him to drag his daughter back home.
Tuesday 13th July 2010, 8am; The Lightman Group, Washington DC.
“And why couldn’t I go straight to school again?” Emily stood next to Cal’s desk and ran her fingers up and down over the few loose papers still littering his desk.
He leant back, tipping his chair and smirked. “‘Cause I want you were I can see ya.”
Emily sighed. Slumping into one of the chairs in front of his desk. “I told you, nothing happened. Rick was sleeping on the couch and his parents were there too, when you came knocking like a lunatic.” She paused, leaning forward. “And you know I’m not lying. That’s why you let Gillian drag you away after you’d shoved Rick into the wall.”
She sat back again and played with the pen she’d lifted from his desk.
“What was I s’posed to do, Em? He opened the door in his pants.”
“It was midnight Dad!”
They were interrupted by a cough from the doorway. Gillian entered, carrying something in her hand. “Good morning Cal, Emily.” She studied their tense poses and the frustration on both their faces before turning to Cal. “I’m not getting involved.” She warned, raising a hand in defence. “But I will tell you that Zoe called to tell you to let Emily go to school and stop overreacting.” She held both hands up when he scowled. “Her words.”
Emily jumped up from her seat and swung her bag over her shoulder. “Bye Gillian!” She pulled Gillian into a quick hug, surprising Cal as much as it seemed to surprise Gillian and then leant over and kissed Cal’s cheek. “Bye Dad.”
Cal watched her go, leaning back in his chair until he couldn’t see her anymore, and then turned back to Gillian. “Foster! What can I do you for?” She held out the small box in her hand before stepping back and heading for the door.
“Team meeting in an hour Cal. And watching it on those hidden cameras of yours doesn’t count as attendance.” She left and Cal flicked open the box.
Inside, snug between two folds of velvet, was the wedding ring Gillian had worn throughout their little charade. Cal looked at the matching one still sitting on his finger and pulled it off with a sigh. He slipped it in beside Gillian’s and closed the lid shut with a snap.
He looked at it for a few moments, rolling the box between his hands. He should give them to Anna to take back to the store. Instead, he looked down at his open laptop, currently showing him several areas of the building, and in the bottom left corner he found Gillian seated at her desk, already hard at work typing up the report for the Peters case.
He tossed the box up into the air and then opened the bottom drawer of his desk. He threw the box in at the back and slammed it closed. Jumping from his seat, he tapped his desk once with the flat of his hand and then walked to the door. Might as well give Gillian a hand with the report. Any luck and he might manage to distract her enough to postpone the meeting.
Heading for her office, Cal put his hands in his pockets and whistled.