Rick takes another swallow of coffee, feels the first rush of caffeine pushing the cobwebs away. The morning had started spectacularly and had then apparently spiralled downwards out of control and out of his influence. Now they seemed to have pulled out of the dive, skimmed and dodged the rocks and trees in their path and with a bit of luck would be able to ascend … shit, he really needs to concentrate.
Glancing at the two redheads opposite and then turning to the extremely subdued Kate next to him, he loosens one hand from around his cup and takes hold of the hand Kate's trying to unpick the seam of her jeans with. He gives it a comforting squeeze and setting his cup down, turns to look at his family across the table.
"I have to apologise to both of you … all three of you …" turning to glance at Kate, "… for not having talked about what's happened over the last month or so. I think that the fact that I've suddenly found myself writing again overrode other considerations, and I want to put that right".
Taking a deep breath, he marshals his thoughts, hoping that the minor lies will blend into the truer background and that everything will hold together. "After the break-in that night …" and he can feel the involuntary tensing in Kate, so he quickly moves on "… I suddenly had an idea for a new character. At first I was considering a super cool detective chasing an international jewel thief all over the world …" Here he pauses, so far so good, his audience seems to be accepting it, at least those of his audience to whom its addressed.
"When I started going out at night a few weeks back, I was trying to get an idea of the mood of the city … trying to see it from the thief's point of view, shadows and light, buildings and spaces, escape routes; it might be the City That Never Sleeps, but your perspective changes when you're relying on streetlights rather than daylight, there are parts of the city which are hidden by the dark …" suddenly aware that he's rambling a bit, he pulls himself back to the current issue and give's Kate's hand a gentle squeeze in warning.
"One of those nights I drove round a corner and found there'd been an accident …" he can feel her tensing in spite of the warning and rushes on, "… Kate was getting to her feet, but her bike was on its side and she'd put a pretty good dent into some advertising on the corner of Essex and Stanton. I stopped, tried to convince her to go to hospital, I could see she had a number of cuts, but she kept swearing she was ok and seemed more worried about her bike than herself …" allowing a smile to grow on his face though he wasn't finding it amusing.
"I finally got her to agree to my patching her up, but only after calling Lindsey at Crown Cars and arranging for the tow truck to recover the bike. Kate had a pretty bad cut in her back …" and he sees Alexis nodding in agreement "… and she still didn't want to go to hospital, said it was nothing, but there was no way I could leave her to go home alone so I decided it was best she stay overnight in the guest room, I'd call Doc Martin in in the morning if she wasn't any better".
"Bully" is a barely-heard, half-muttered comment from his side and this time his grin is genuine.
"Anyway, over the next couple of days we talked and I managed to draw some of Kate's story from her, as you both know. Her Mom was murdered back in ninety-nine. The murder was put down to random gang violence, but Kate … and I, think there was more to it. At first I just wanted to know about her and the more we talked the more fascinated I became …" and though he's not looking at her he can tell Kate's turned her head towards him. He also sees the two redheads are looking at her rather than him, neither showing much surprise, well done Rick, state the obvious he thinks.
"Kate has a unique perspective of the city, her job means she gets to see all sorts of buildings and the different security measures they have in place, …" and before her fingernails cut through the back of his hand he adds, "… as well as the characters who run them and before I knew it, my super cool detective was morphing into the jewel thief, only instead of being a Derick Storm antithesis, he's become a she and a very, hot, sexy character …" and here he gets interrupted by a thump on the arm. Wincing and rubbing his biceps exaggeratedly, he glances across at the two opposite and is satisfied by the results of their interplay.
"As you two know" he continues, "since killing Storm off last year, I've not been able to get any writing done, at all. Since meeting Kate, that's changed and I'm suddenly feeling the old hunger back, the story's just pouring out and … well, I have her to thank for that!" and he places an arm round her shoulders, pulling her in towards him.
"What you two probably don't know is that Kate wanted nothing to do with any of this, she just wanted to go home and get on with her life … and trying to find out about her mother's death. Basically, I blackmailed her into helping me …"
"How?" asks an intrigued Martha, and Kate's quickly turning head tells him she was just as surprised as his mother. Being the writer, he'd been willing to talk through what they would tell the others, but he still likes to keep a few surprises to himself.
"I convinced her of my extraordinary abilities as a detective …" and the derisive snort from the woman whose hand is still in his makes both redheads laugh, "… I also explained about my contacts in the Twelfth and that they might be able to supply information which she would not otherwise have access to".
"And they agreed to that?" asks an extremely skeptical Alexis.
Here he pauses, takes a sip of the remaining coffee and carefully sets the cup down. Looking at the two women across the table, he becomes serious and drops all bantering tones from his voice. "This goes no further ok, you don't talk about this to anyone …" and waits … it takes Martha a few extra seconds and a glare from him to agree, but eventually both nod in assent.
"When I described the method of Johana's death; that was Kate's Mom, they came across a couple of other unsolved cases with a similar MO. The guys were tied up with a murder at the time, which is why we're looking into all three cases as from tomorrow. Alexis, I know you're worried I'll go and do something stupid, but I promise I won't be leaving the precinct following any leads, I'm leaving the police to find the killer".
Of course, finding the killer is one thing, finding the person who ordered it is another, not that he's going to say that out loud!