He's all about strutting across the lawn in front of the manor and she's all about the half-eaten fruit bar tucked inside her jacket pocket some time last week. Miller fishes it out, peels the wrapper back and takes a bite. Hardy has watched her do this so many times that he can sense it happening without hazarding a look over his shoulder. It's a sixth sense. A 'Miller Radar'. The thought of the congealed fruit treat makes his skin crawl.
"Well, what do you think?" He asked, to distract himself.
"There's been a lot of rain since then. Might as well set the bloody place on fire for all the good it will do."
"Don't give me attitude, Miller… Was your idea to come up 'ere in the first place."
Miller finished off the last of her snack. "I forgot how green it was. That grass is practically carnivorous. If there was ever any evidence left at the scene it's been grown over by now." She wandered sadly down to the lake and knelt near the water.
Images of a very different pool of water flashed across Hardy's view. He couldn't stop the nightmares of his past eating their way into his daylight hours. There was an invisible weight in his arms… A child he couldn't save. The life was gone before he'd even started to search.
"It's a beautiful spot though, isn't it sir?" Miller added, failing to notice Hardy struggle. "Easy to see why they chose it for the 'do'. One thing though, long walk – don't you reckon – from either the road or the carpark?"
"Fairly decent one, yeah." He agreed.
"And there's absolutely no way any rapist walked in from anywhere else – I don't care how motivated they were. We're bloody miles from anything. So, thinking about that," she left the water and roamed closer to one of the ancient oaks lounging nearby, "they either parked in front of your CCTV or hitched a ride on that road. The only thing coming up or down at that hour were the taxi services."
"What's your point?"
"We go back through every taxi that came up this way and their fares – cross-check the cash transactions to witness statements and see if we come up short. Same with the plates. If anyone's car is there and they weren't invited to the party, we know we're got something.
Hardy scratched his head. "I can see where you're going with this but what happens if it really is one of the guests? There's too many of them."
"We can narrow those down with the other rapes."
"It's circumstantial at best and you know that."
"I'm not suggesting we hold this up in court as our sole defence but it might give us a better idea of where to look."
"You know what else is circumstantial?"
"Walking right beside the cliff where your husband was murdered."
"Thank you. 's not like I haven't thought about that a thousand times already today. I can't help where I was. It's not as if I knew Joe was going to go and get himself murdered right on my usual walk home. If I had known I might 'ave brought my car. How stupid would I have to be to plan a murder like that? Honestly, I could understand if there was a bit of finesse because I assure you, if it were me, I'd have taken my-"
"Miller, I'm going to ask you a question. Answer if you like but you don't have to. Have you been spendin' time plotting Joe's murder in your head?"
"It was part of therapy!" She defended. "Envisioning your desires can help prevent you from acting them out. I imagined drowning him in a bucket of chip-shop oil – bashing his head in with the shovel from our garden – locking him in the car with the engine on and the garage door down – tying him to the back of the boat and leaving him in the bay – shoving the-"
"-I get the picture… At least it wasn't any of those." It wasn't so much that Hardy minded the graphic descriptions of Joe's much deserved death but it was probably better Miller didn't say anything that he might be forced to repeat to DI Rhodes.
"-but the way this all ended? It lacked creativity. Revenge murders are statistically ritualistic. The killers murder out of passion and devote time after death to their victim. This was – like a slap in the face, see you later and over the cliffs."
"Do you think Joe knew his attacker?"
"Impossible to say but it's a good bet considering everyone knows everyone. Either way, I think it was opportunistic. What?"
"Well that looks even worse for you. As you've said, you just happened to be there."
"If he wasn't bloody dead, I'd kill him again for being such a prick."
"Hey..." Hardy nodded at a figure wandering down the gentle hill toward them. It was an elderly man carrying a cricket bat. "Isn't that our mansion owner?"
Miller stared at the evidence bag on the back seat with the cricket bat inside. "Knowing what was used to knock our victim unconscious does not help us very much." She admitted.
"Well it tells us that they didn't bring their own weapon – so perhaps they did not intend for the rape to turn violent."
"Or they knew that they'd be able to get their hands on something when they got here – which is not much of a stretch when you saw all the great big bloody branches left laying around near the lakes. If it hadn't been the cricket bat it could have easily been one of those."
"We know that the man who swung this was almost certainly right handed."
"Any of our suspects left handed?"
"Try not to be so grouchy, Miller. You're interfering with my natural state."
"Oh ay and since when do you masquerade around all teenage-pensive-angst? It's that one you've got living with you. Teenagers. They rub off on the parts of your life you don't expect."
"Your one hasn't done that to you."
"I used to be nice."
All Hardy could do was nod slowly. He could see it now – the timid, polite Miller making everyone tea they don't want. That must have been the Miller before he arrived. Perhaps it was him not Tom that had her mood set.
"Well, aren't you going to say something?"
They were pulled up at the set of lights and Miller used the time to fix her stare on him. "Only that – you're right – the bat doesn't tell us very much. At least we can stop looking for the weapon. Brian will be pleased. Give him something to do for the afternoon."
"Brian isn't even talking to you..."
"Thank you ah..." he lifted his hand, attempting to stop the officer from leaving. "What is this?"
"CCTV – from the fair – as you asked."
"Oh right. Yeah. Thank you." Rhodes settled on, nodding as the officer closed the door to his office. He tore through the plastic packaging and dumped the USB stick on the table. He tapped it in consideration. It was unusual, he had to admit, to be sharing a piece of evidence with a parallel case. Part of him, the deeply suspicious corner of his heart, wondered if there could be a link between the murder of Joe Miller and the serial rapist. No matter how he tried to put the pieces together, it didn't make any sense. They were incongruous. Sometimes the universe tossed a coincidence into the mix to keep the detectives guessing. This, he figured, must be one of those times. Regardless, it made him uneasy.
"Oh, should we be worried?"
Hardy loomed over Miller's shoulder. They were at her desk, unpacking the cricket bat into a box for forensics. Miller had noticed the closed door on Rhodes' office. "I have my door shut all the time."
"That's not much of a bench mark, sir. Well, I'll walk this down to the lab. You be right here – on yer own?"
Hardy slid his glasses up the bridge of his nose. "I'm not a lost puppy."
"Presents? I knew you'd remember my birthday eventually." Brian was delighted with a grin half as wide as the cliffs were high. It was a vision tarnished by his blue gloves and blood up to his elbows. "Don't worry about this one. Fishing accident. Jeff was just showing me around the body, part of my ongoing education."
"Your extracurricular activities are none of my business." Miller replied. "We've got our weapon. Not much of a goer but see what you can find." She was momentarily distracted by the congealed blood oozing along the gloves. "We'll ah – continue this later I think. Upstairs."
"You seeing Shitface, then?"
"What?! No!" Miller stumbled into the table. "What the hell, Brian?"
"Wasn' me saying it, Ellie."
Miller drew back in horror. "Who's been saying it? Brian..."
"Mostly the whole station."
"Oh my god – I'm going to ring his scrawny bloody neck!"
Brian frowned. "How will that help, then?"
"It won't but it'd make me feel better." Suddenly Miller felt like a headache and food poisoning wafted over her all at once. "You're not just 'avin' a go, are you? People really saying that?"
"They said it was mentioned in the trial so it must be true."
"The same trial that saw Joe get off!" This was not her life. This was not her world. She could tell without having to ask that Brian thought it was true. "Well, we didn't. Aren't. Never going to. Gawd, does he know?"
"Doubt it. Doesn't come out of his office often enough to hear anything much."
Brian paused in the middle of dragging his disgusting gloves off. "Who could tell what that man is thinking. Not sure I like him, actually."
"You don't like anyone, Brian."
"I like you well enough."
Miller was biting her lip before she'd even said it. Too late. Couldn't take that one back. "Despite the difficult fact that he's investigating me for the murder of my husband, he seems nice – you know. Kinda ordinary."
"No one thinks you killed him, Ellie." Brian assured her. "That much I can tell you. Mostly they think it was Mark. Wouldn't blame him it was. Sorry – Ellie. Joe was still your husband. I didn't mean-"
"Fuck it. He deserved to go off that cliff. I hope he was bloody petrified, the cowardly shit."
The cliffs were blushing in the afternoon. Their peculiar mix of chalk and sand didn't quite work, much like the town itself. From a distance it presented as a sleepy, seaside paradise but up close there was just a bit too much dirt and eyes watching from ever corner. Funnelling the nation's attention onto Broadchurch had changed it forever. Its innocence was decimated and the money was gone. You only had to peek at the Trader's empty bar to see evidence of that.
Ellie and Beth wandered along the tide line. Fred stumbled along beside, covered in sand with a huge grin on his face.
"Was it here?" Beth asked, pausing with her gaze on the cliffs. There was nothing different about this stretch of beach except a feeling in her soul. Peace.
"Yeah – over there, closer to the face of the cliffs." Ellie pointed. There was still a fragment of police line stuck in the sand. "That's where I saw him. Face up. Lyin' there. They wouldn't let me get a good look in case I kicked the living shit out of him again."
Beth was transfixed by the empty stretch of sand. "I know that cost us the trial but I don't blame you for it any more. We can't always control our rage and yours must have been horrific."
"I'd have killed him then and there if they hadn't pulled me off. It was a feeling – here..." Ellie clutched her fist against her chest. "Like an instinct that he needed to die so that we'd all be safe." Her hand eventually relaxed and she exhaled the breath that had been circling her lungs. "I didn't believe it when DI Hardy told me the truth but now I look back and I think I didn't want to believe, instead. I kept going over and over the last few months of our life in my head, looking for gaps and when I started picking at the seams it-" Miller swallowed a rising sob. "There were gaps. I keep wondering, if I had paid more attention maybe..."
"Don't do it to yourself, Ellie. I've been there," Beth insisted. "It's not an easy place to come back from."
Ellie turned and said softly, "You're not really back, are you?"
"I have to be, with Mark off God knows where and the little one running around. I've got two girls to raise and I don't want their childhood ruined by this. We've suffered enough." Beth tilted her head backwards, looking up to the edge of the ridge. It was a sharp line, dividing the cliffs from the blue sky. "God I wish I'd done it."
"Yeah..." Ellie sighed. "Me too."
Evening had begun to settle when Ellie returned home, child in one arm, dinner in the other.
"Takeaway – again." Her father muttered from the lounge.
She was growing tired of his judgement. There was too much of it going around town at the moment but she didn't have the energy to fight with him and honestly couldn't afford the childcare if he left in a huff. "It'll be out in a moment. Where's the large, sulky child?"
"In his room. Same as always. When I was a boy we-"
"Please. Dad. Let's at least eat first. Tom's not even here to appreciate that you grew up in the 1400's."
"It ages you. When you talk like that."
Dinner was quiet – awkwardly so with her eldest staring at his fork and her youngest pushing vegetables from one side of the plate to the other. Even her father was making an effort to irritate her by detailing the history of takeaway food in Britain.
"When are you going to do it, then?" Her father asked, catching Miller off guard. For the first time that night, even Tom paused and lifted his attention to his mother.
""Do what?" She replied, shaken from her oblivion.
"Change yer name. It can't go on, sweetie. You should have done it a years ago – when this thing first happened. It doesn't look right, you carrying on with that name. Think of Fred and Tom."
"Oh not you too." She let her fork drop to the plate. "Look, I already told you, I couldn't change my name when we were still married. He's only been dead a week – what did you expect me to do? Race down to the registry office? Well, if you haven't noticed, we've been on a case-"
"-oh, a case. Always a case."
"Yes, Dad. A case. It's my job!"
"Your job is these two sitting at the table."
"Not this again… I can't do this with you again…" Miller held her head in her hands.
"In my day, a mother-"
"Right!" She pushed herself out from the table with a vicious screech on the floorboards. "If you think I'm such a bad mother!"
Miller didn't really have a continuation to that threat so she grabbed her handbag and stormed out the front door. She didn't get far, laying back against it for a moment while hot tears ran down her face. It was impossible to explain but her father had a knack of tearing the duct tape holding her soul together. This was a special form of torture where he got to sit around all day thinking up the best ways to dredge guilt up from her past. Well the truth was that he only did it because he was never there for them when they were kids.
Rationally, she knew this came from his own self loathing but she couldn't stop herself from being upset.
"Damn it. Whatever."
Miller decided it was time for a drink.
Miller ambled past the Trader's Hotel and stopped to peer in the partially frosted window. Same crowd as usual. Leering old geezers glued to their chairs, making life miserable for Becca. There was a moment when Miller considered going in to give her some company but she was all out of generosity this evening.
There were other bars and pubs. In Broadchurch they were strictly divided into three categories; teenage hovels, desperate mid-life crisis and institutionalised alcoholics… Miller settled on the second option and slipped into The Stunned Mullet where the lights were mercifully low and the air pulsing with an unidentifiable dance track.
Bourbon – like her father. Even her choice of drink vexed Miller as she settled back in the leather couch. She'd been there for nearly twenty minutes before she recognised the man sitting next to her.