Jack and Siobhan took their suitcases out of the back of the taxi, letting them fall to the floor with a thud. The wind whipped around Jack's neck, wishing he had thought to buy a scarf at the airport, as he reached up and closed the boot of the taxi, waving through the window at the driver as he pulled out onto the road. Jack looked at Siobhan, watching her stare up at the big empty house before them. It had been three years, he thought, and there they were, side by side, their lives in suitcases, looking up at the ghosts of their past.
"Kieran said that he'd make sure the heating was on for when we arrived," Jack said, bringing his coat in tighter at his collar. March was colder than he remembered, surely spring was meant to be coming soon.
"Good," Siobhan shivered, dragging her suitcase up the path towards the front door. The wheels clicked on the stone, jutting over the ridges in the path. Jack followed her, but as Siobhan approached, she stepped to one side. "Do you want to do the honours?" she asked him, gesturing to the door.
Jack smiled, digging in his pocket for the keys. He pulled them out by the keyring and fumbled with them in his hand, pushing the key into the lock and for a split second, wondering if it would turn. It did. There was an ache in his heart when he realised Kathleen wouldn't be rushing to the door to greet them, to help them in with their cases, and put her arms around them. No, now there was just dust and memories, and even as the door swung open, Jack and Siobhan looked around cautiously as if the ghosts were real. The wall of heat invited them in.
"My nephew was good to his word," Jack said, gesturing for Siobhan to enter first. She did, dragging her suitcase over the threshold and into the hallway, followed by Jack who closed the door behind him.
It was as he remembered, but Kieran had obviously got a cleaner in before they'd arrived as Jack knew his nephew was nowhere near this standard of cleanliness. Siobhan hurried up the stairs like she used to do when she was a child, after football practice, covered in mud. This time dragging her suitcase behind her.
"I'll check the water is on," she said, over her shoulder. "I want to have a shower and change my clothes."
"Alright, love," said Jack, watching her go. "I'll put the kettle on."
Jack dropped his suitcase next to the stairs and made his way through to the kitchen. Every step he took hit him like a wave of nostalgia, but at the same time, everything felt new, like this house and this life had belonged to someone else, or perhaps him in a different lifetime.
He heard the familiar whir of the shower overhead and pulled the kettle from its stand. He lifted the tap, put the mouth of the kettle under the water, and filled it up before realising they might not have anything in the cupboards, hoping Kieran had left something behind for them. Jack checked the cupboards and realised the box inside of PG Tips was brand new and unopened and in the fridge was fresh milk, with a few other essentials. Jack smiled, telling himself to ring Kieran later and thank him, or reimburse him, or both.
The sound of the kettle boiling filled the space of the kitchen, overtaking his senses as Jack closed his eyes and gripped the counter. He had made the right decision, he told himself. This was the right thing to do, even though he wanted desperately to hop back on a plane to Saint Marie and beg the Commissioner for his job back. But Jack knew the moment he stepped foot off that plane three years ago that Saint Marie wasn't forever. It was his fantasy. His escape. And now, he had to return to the real world. Jack had to accept how life was going to be after Kathleen's death. He couldn't hide from it anymore.
The kettle finished boiling and Jack set about making two cups of tea. As he finished straining the tea bags and pouring the milk, Siobhan bounced down the stairs in her jogging bottoms and hoodie. Jack held out a cup to her, and the two of them sat down at the breakfast bar like they used to do before Siobhan skipped off to school.
"So, when are you due back at work?" Siobhan asked, blowing on her tea.
"Monday," said Jack. "I've got four days to get sorted. I need to put all the bills back in my name and put on about eight loads of washing," he smirked.
"I told my new job I could come in from next week," Siobhan said, taking a small sip. "But they said to start when I'm ready as I might be jetlagged."
"Little do they know how you've mastered the jet lag between England and the Caribbean," grinned Jack, also taking a sip.
He looked down for a moment, Siobhan bending her neck to catch his eye. "It's going to take a while for us to adjust, Dad," she said softly. "And it's okay for you to miss it."
"I know, love," Jack nodded, taking another sip of his tea.
"Maybe you could text Anna and let her know we're home safe?" Siobhan asked.
Jack looked at her, her eyes wide and full of wonder. He hadn't thought about Anna the moment he left her rental. All he had focused on was leaving Saint Marie and getting back to England. That was quite telling, he thought. Although it had been nice to get to know Anna and spend time with her, Jack realised she had just been a placeholder in his life. Just another distraction. That was the reason he wanted to leave Saint Marie in the first place, to get back to real life and stop finding distractions to ease his pain.
"Yeah, I might," he said airily, knowing full well he wouldn't.
Siobhan sat back and regarded him. She looked like she was about to tease him for a moment, a gentle cock of her eyebrow that she'd inherited from her mother, before studying him further. Then, Jack realised, she looked sad.
"What is it, love?" he asked gently.
"Don't be alone, Dad," Siobhan told him. "Don't close yourself off or hide yourself away," she said, biting her lip. She reached across the breakfast bar to take his hand in hers. "Don't harden your heart. Mum told you she wanted you to be happy again. And I want that for you too. Do you do know that don't you?"
Jack looked down and gave Siobhan's hand a squeeze. "I know and I won't," he replied. "I promise."
Siobhan withdrew her hand and looked at him skeptically, not sure if she'd said enough to convince him, but didn't push the matter further.
As Monday rolled around, Jack's alarm clock went off at 6 am. He got up and quickly showered before pulling on his dark jeans and a smart shirt. He put his wallet, phone, and keys into his pockets and headed downstairs for his usual tea and toast. It didn't take long for Jack to be back in his pre-Caribbean routine. Just the sight of the dark morning compared to the light of the Saint Marie sun was enough to bring him back down to earth with a bump. He ate, drank, and cleaned his teeth before shrugging on his coat and heading out the door towards the Wood Green tube station.
The sun began peeking over the grand stature of Alexandra Palace as Jack turned into the station, hurrying down the steps to get on the tube that was arriving. Thirty-five minutes on the Piccadilly Line later and Jack was exiting the train at Leicester Square.
He smiled to himself, remembering how he used to vow he would walk from there to New Scotland Yard on the Embankment 'to get his steps in', but he never did. Jack checked his watch. Today he had time as he had left in a nervous hurry. He hovered in the crowded station for just a second, not long enough for the grumpy London commuters to start banging into him but long enough for a decision to be made. He turned and walked towards the escalator, surfacing opposite The Hippodrome Casino. If Caribbean life had taught him anything, it was that you had to make time.
Jack walked down the main road, past the restaurants and the theatres, past Trafalgar Square and McDonald's at the Strand. He walked the dusty side road past Victoria Gardens and onto the Embankment where the sun rose over the Thames. How he had missed the view of Whitehall Gardens glowing in the morning light, as he approached New Scotland Yard, home of the Met.
He knew exactly where it was he needed to go. Up six floors and into the wide-open wide-windowed office space filled with people sitting at their desks, already tapping away on their computers. Jack walked straight to Gerry's office, the one that overlooked the Thames and Westminster Pier.
Gerry put down the phone as Jack pushed open the clear office door and stepped inside.
"Jack Mooney!" he cried, throwing his hands up. He got up out of his chair and walked forward to embrace Jack. "It's good to see you."
"And you, Gerry," said Jack, smothered by the man's arms. "Thanks for having me back."
"I was sad to lose you in the first place. I have lost many a good Inspector to the Caribbean, I can tell you that much," he said, shaking Jack's hand enthusiastically. "Jet lagged? Culture shocked?" he asked.
"Something like that," Jack smirked.
"Well, we're going to put you to work," Gerry told him, wagging a finger in his direction. "We've got a case we need you for, Jack."
"What's the story?" Jack asked, happy to have something to busy himself with.
"Your partner will be along shortly, and I'll brief you both," said Gerry. "I've assigned you a DI for your first case back at the Met."
Jack's head jerked a little. "A DI?" he questioned. "But… I'm a DI. Usually, I work with a Detective Sargeant. I worked with Brianna on my last case."
"I know," nodded Gerry. "But I want you to be comfortable on your first job back. I don't want you to feel too overwhelmed."
Jack couldn't help but scoff to himself, as Gerry looked sympathetically towards him. "Jack," he said, tentatively. "You were on long-term sick leave when your wife died. Then after your first case back to work you jetted off to the other side of the world on some exchange transfer. Three years you were gone." Jack cocked his head, unsure as to whether Gerry was chastising him or encouraging him. "I'm doing this for you," he said, simply. "I want your return to go as smoothly as possible."
Jack nodded. "You're right," he said, putting his hands on his hips.
Gerry picked up the phone on his desk and dialled a short, internal number. "Goodman – my office, please? Thank you."
Jack thought nothing of it, waiting where he stood for his partner to arrive. A few seconds later, the door to the office opened and Jack turned to see the familiar frame of Humphrey Goodman walk inside.
"Humphrey!" said Gerry, throwing his hands up again, getting up to shake the man's hand.
"Gerry," Humphrey nodded, shaking it firmly.
"I know you and Jack already know each other," said Gerry, gesturing to Jack. "Commissioner Patterson spoke highly of both of you about your time in Saint Marie."
Jack stuck his hand out for Humphrey to shake. "It's good to see you, Humphrey," he said with a smile. It truly was, Jack thought, he wasn't just being polite. Humphrey's hair was darker, no longer bleached by the sun and the slight sunburn, that only a fair-haired man would suffer from, had faded. Long gone were the linen suits, replaced with a shirt and tie and dark trousers similar to Jack's.
"It's great to have you, Jack," replied Humphrey, shaking his hand enthusiastically. "I'm glad we're going to be working together again."
"Me too," said Jack, honestly. Working with someone he already knew took the pressure off trying to prove himself to another DI, especially since he figured that telling some of his co-workers how he'd solved murders under the hot Caribbean sun wouldn't wash as "work" with the more hardened cops.
"I'd like you two to begin working on a case in Muswell Hill," Gerry explained, sitting on the edge of his desk, and crossing his ankles. "It was referred to us by the local constabulary they believe there might be a pattern forming for this type of crime."
"What is it, Gerry?" asked Jack, eager to get going.
Gerry reached behind him and picked up a collection of files that Jack hadn't noticed on entering. "May West called the emergency services a few days ago saying her baby has been kidnapped. She woke up to find her child's cot empty and the window to the bedroom open. The disappearance of her child is unexplained and needs to be investigated," Gerry said, handing Humphrey the files. Jack looked over his shoulder as he flipped through them. "It mirrors another apparent kidnapping that happened over a year ago in the area. We need a team to investigate it to make sure the incident is isolated."
"Do we have files on the first kidnap?" asked Jack.
Gerry reached behind him on the desk and handed Jack another set of files. "There, that should wet your whistle," he said, with a grin.
"We'll get on this right away, Gerry," said Humphrey, tucking the files under his arm. "Jack, your new computer is next to mine."
"Speaking of," Gerry said, turning once more behind him and gave Jack a bright yellow post-it note.
"What's this?" Jack asked, taking it from him.
"The phone number for IT," explained Gerry, a slight grimace on his face. "You'll need to phone them to get your computer account set back up, and your email, and you'll need to ask them really nicely for a work mobile. If you're extra nice to them, they might even give you a phone from this decade."
Jack laughed breathily, thinking about how he had spent the last four days phoning British Gas and Thames Water, speaking to them as nicely as he could. He rolled his eyes as he followed Humphrey out of the office. Today was going to be a long day.