Fragile Bones by Fiona Johnson

Strong gusts of wind blew dried leaves around Gemma’s freezing ankles. Suddenly, the night was beginning to get frosty with fading light making progress through the woods more difficult. Kicking up the loose twigs and branches half-heartedly, Gemma was just going

Moaning behind her, D.C. McGuire plodded along disinterestedly, much as he had been doing all day.

“Will you just shut up complaining for just five minutes. I’ve not had anything to eat either. I’ve not had a coffee and I’ve not had a fag so stop it or I’ll bloody well leave you here to decompose.

“You’re all talk Gemma but if you ever came face to face with a situation that required sorting out you’d run off screaming like a wee girl.”

“Aye, right! Just come over here and try me out. I’d kick your sorry backside any day of the week.”

D.C. McGuire laughed and threw a broken branch just ahead of Gemma, making her gasp.

“See, you’re just a scared wee lassie! What you need is a man like me to take you in hand …..”

Gemma turned to look at McGuire, astonished by the amount of puerile twaddle that the man could come out with but suddenly screamed as her foot disappeared down a burrow and she fell head first into a jagged patch of brambles.

“See, my point exactly. You couldn’t hurt a flea never mind a violent assailant! Have you chipped your nail varnish?” He extended his hand to help Gemma up but she brushed it away, sitting up to rub her ankle.

“I tripped. My foot went down into a burrow or something. The ground just gave way under me.”

McGuire bent over to have a closer look.

“I think you’ll live. You need to watch where you’re putting your dainty size nines.”

“Look, it’s a hole. I didn’t see it.”

Gemma crawled towards the spot where she’d stumbled and moved aside the autumn debris. Pulling away the leaves and dead grass, Gemma hesitated just for a second as her hand brushed against skin. Now grabbing furiously at the undergrowth, her breath caught and her heart pounded.

She was touching a small nose and then hair; long fair hair. They’d found the missing girl.

***

D.C. Gemma Dixon, D.C. McGuire and W.P.C. Wendy Brown climbed the steps that led to 18, Park Gardens; a detached sandstone villa in the classier end of Govan but still within spitting distance of the imposing Ibrox Stadium, home to Glasgow Rangers F.C. and the now cleared tenements and high-rise flats that had once dominated this part of the city.

Little Mairi McClure’s mother opened the door to them, her red-rimmed eyes sunken deep into her face.

“Come in, I suppose there’s news if you lot are here?” she stated more than asked.

Following her into the spacious entrance hall, Gemma looked up at the sweeping staircase and the small chandelier that hung from the ornate ceiling and wondered how this family had got mixed up in a murder investigation.

Joan McClure had now known for three days that her daughter was dead, murdered by some beast that had dragged her out of the garden by the back fence, leaving the swing and the trampoline abandoned on a sunny autumn morning. She’d only been six years old, small for her age and as bonny as any bairn could be with her long blond hair and a smile that was brighter than the Christmas lights in George Square.

“I know you all did your best hunting for her like, but I just  wish you could have found her, rescued her before….before….,’ and at that Mrs. McClure started to sob tears that she didn’t think would ever end.

***

Sitting in the darkness of her daughter’s bedroom, Joan McClure quietly sang to herself as she folded her daughter’s clothes, lifting them to her face to smell the last traces of her child. Folding down the pink covers of her little girl’s bed, she smoothed the sheets before turning to close the curtains and turn on the night light. Before leaving the room she switched on the CD player to begin Mairi’s favourite ‘Katie Morag’ story. Quietly she closed the bedroom door behind her and crept silently down the stairs.

***

Late into the night in Govan at 18, Park Gardens, Joan McClure sat and stared out of the bay window at the night sky, the light from the moon glinting off the blade.­

Hard As Nails by Fiona Johnson

Gemma sat on her high horse, as she destroyed the beer mat in front of her.

“You know, I do really love my work. I could never do a desk job; discussing with the girls whether I would rather have a French permanent manicure with glitter tips or just have my cuticles tidied or maybe a mini hand massage and polish before we head out for lunch to discuss whether semi permanent lash extensions actually do give you longer, thicker and natural looking lashes. What do you think?”

The day so far had dragged, the frustration building in Gemma’s chest. Waiting for the word to come through that the raid was on nearly drove her crazy, pumped her with adrenaline and made her mouth work faster than ever.

“Do you know that Fake Bake is the most popular spray tan and you can go get it done in your lunch break? Go in peelie wallie and come out half an hour later bronzed and sun-kissed?”

The D.S. downed the rest of his pint and picked up Gemma’s glass.

“Right you. We’re out of here. I cannae take much more of this beauty therapy talk. I’m no’ having my eyebrows waxed and I’m delighted to learn what a vajazzle is so that I’ll recognise it if the wife ever gets one but there’s only so much a man can take.”

Gemma threw down the remnants of the shredded mat and headed out after D.S. Lazy Bastard. Her work here was done, having nearly driven him off his head with girlie talk for the last hour. She’d spared no details and had particularly enjoyed watching his discomfort at her description of vaginoplasty and when she’d asked him what he thought about his wife getting a ‘designer vagina’ she’d nearly ruptured her stomach muscles trying to keep the innocent, wide-eyed act going. Oh yes! Several points had been scored tonight against that misogynistic, chauvinist bawheid.

***

The icicle filled air caught Gemma’s breath as she headed for the cop car, and she chittered out loud as she took the keys from her jacket pocket while wondering whether or not the heating would decide to work in the old wreck she been given to drive today. Bawheid had headed off to Greggs for a sausage roll and she’d been told to wait at the corner of the high street for his quick get-away.

The sudden pressure of a sharp point of cold steel under her chin almost shocked Gemma as much as the slobbering face that was viscously pressed up against hers. The disgusting smell of sour milk and rotten fish coming from his breath hit Gemma as the man pushed closer, whispering crudely into her ear.

“I know who you are ya wee hure. Yer gadgie’s no’ here to protect you noo,” the creature spat out at her.

“Get your repugnant paws off me or I’ll see that you end up a piece of meat lying on a abattoir’s sluice,” Gemma hissed back.

Gemma grabbed the attacker’s wrist and twisted and at the same time brought the heel of her boot down sharply onto his toes. Twisting his wrist more, Gemma forced him down onto his knees and grabbed the cheap little penknife from his grip.

“Is that the best you could do mate? You had more chance of assaulting me with your halitosis then this wee toy. And have you got amnesia or something? I told you to stay away from me or I’d nick you the next time you tried to sexually harass me. So you’ve had your chips this time you auld jakie, you’re coming with me down to the station, you pile of shite.”

Gemma cuffed the man and threw him into the back of the car, the smell almost making her dry bowk.

Maybe a lunchtime pampering session wouldn’t be a bad idea after all.