Fandom: Life on Mars
Rating: PG-13 for use of expletives, mature themes and violence.
Word Count: 8,700 words out of approximately 17,000 words.
Thank you to my family for putting up with me during the writing process and helping me edit this.
The gun pointed at his head glinted with the flicker of candlelight and Sam knew he had learnt his lesson. Some people just don’t want to be found. He was forced onto his knees, the joints cracking with the weight pushed down upon him. He never thought he’d be put into a situation where he had to kneel with a gun to his head. After arriving in 1973, it had happened twice within six months. And another couple of times still standing. Death seemed to lurk by his door every second Tuesday.
Blood thundered through his veins. He couldn’t think for the rush of it. His breath came out in short, sharp bursts. His body was shaking vehemently, violently. He was incapable of controlling the fear radiating out of every pulse in waves. He attempted to concentrate on the area around him. If he just concentrated, he might be able to feign confidence. Confidence in the face of a bullet to the head was always disconcerting.
Sam steeled the energy coursing through him and focussed on the shadow-adorned wall opposite. He thought about the concrete underneath his legs, firm and cold and smooth. The area around Sam was getting smaller, he was sure of it. The walls appeared to be constricting on him. He kept telling himself it was no big deal, he had lived the other times, he was going to live now. He kept telling himself this, but he didn’t believe it. He was going to die. Here. In this place. Alone, save for his murderer. In the wrong time. In the wrong way. A bullet through his head and that was that. No more Sam Tyler.
He looked down the barrel of the gun. He was not going to plead for his life. Part of him wanted to. A quiet but persistent voice was screaming at the back of his head, telling him to beg. He raised his eyes extremely slowly and stared at Cliffton’s face. He concentrated on the lines of his forehead and the angle of his cheekbones. He had thought Cliffton was odd looking when Gene had first handed him the photograph. His mouth was a little too wide. His eyes were a little too small. His hair was both greasy and frizzy, sticking up like he’d been electrocuted one too many times.
“You gonna kill me?” The part of Sam that had been screaming stopped, swore loudly, and screamed again. “You sure you want to do that?”
“Give me one good reason why I shouldn’t.”
“I’m a cop.” It came out instinctively. Sam didn’t have time to correct himself. It was an excuse and a reason which had served him well for years on end. The fact that it was no longer true was of little consequence.
“You’re lying,” Cliffton spat at him, desperation evident in his tone, his posture.
Cliffton didn’t seem to care about Sam’s professional life one way or the other. He stepped back and cocked the hammer of the gun. Sam made a split decision between staring and closing his eyes. He stared. Defiantly.
“Drop the weapon.”
Cliffton swivelled to where the voice was coming from and Sam launched himself sideways, out of range. Cliffton fired and the bullet missed Sam’s legs by inches. Gene appeared in the doorway, a gun pointed at Cliffton’s middle section. Sam watched as Gene advanced, slow and menacing like a predatory cat.
“I said, drop the weapon, Cliffton.”
Cliffton did as he was told. He even raised his hands in the air.
“I can’t go back. You can’t make me go back,” Cliffton said, his voice loud and panic-stricken.
Gene frowned, his mouth open. He was breathing out of the corner of his left side, air rushing past his teeth.
“Who said you had to?”
“He did!” Cliffton replied, high-pitched and pointing in the direction Sam had been.
“Right. He was probably trying to help you. Y’see, we’ve been told you’re missing and much loved.”
Cliffton’s words came out in a rush. “No. They’re trying to kill me. I know too much. Tosh has set his blokes on me before, but I managed to dodge them. I thought I was safe. I’ve a new identity. A new life. Then this guy comes along, knowing too much, asking too many questions. I know it’s Tosh. I know he’s after me. I’d rather go to prison than get a hole in my head.”
“Then I suggest you run. Now. You should know that I’m bloody tempted to do just as Preston wants considering what you were doing to my DI a minute ago.”
“I didn’t know he was a DI.”
“I said go.” The last word was a shout. Cliffton ran out of the door, his coat flapping around his legs. Sam raised his head to watch him before letting it fall back down to the concrete floor, banging with an ominous thump.
Nausea washed over Sam with full force. Gene helped him up, his hand strong, firm, and covered in sweat. Sam started standing, but lost his balance.
“Oh, God,” Sam choked, collapsing against Gene. Gene held onto him, patting him lightly on the back.
“It’s okay, Sam” Gene said, voice thick with relief. “It’s fine. You’re fine.”
Sam was unable to do anything but state the obvious. “I almost died.”
He pulled away from Gene, coughing and looking down at his shaking hands. He took deep laboured breaths and closed his eyes.
A moment passed. Sam managed to push his fear into a deep dark recess of his mind. He opened his eyes again and stared at the weapon in Gene’s hand.
“Where’d you get the license for a gun? Better yet, where’d you get a gun?”
“I didn’t. It’s a starter pistol.”
Sam felt laughter welling up inside. Hysterical laughter. It came out in waves and bursts. He couldn’t breathe for the strength of it. Gene appeared to be faintly disgusted by his reaction. He guided Sam to the Cortina and went so far as to position Sam’s seatbelt. The car started moving and Sam felt that it was in the direction of the warehouse. But it could have been to Mars and he wouldn’t really have cared either way.
They’d only turned one lamp on. The warehouse was dark in every corner. It looked eerie, hollow. It was not the warm inviting space they had made it.
“We were working for Tosh Preston,” Sam screamed, hands flailing in wild gestures.
Gene looked weary. “I didn’t know that, did I?”
“You could have checked,” Sam said bitterly. He paced from side to side. His hands were jittering, his posture stiff.
“Sam, you saw who came to us – tall leggy blonde with big knockers and demure eyes. Did she look like one of Tosh’s minions? No.”
“Are you a complete and utter prat? Yes.”
“I’m not the one who went running after Cliffton without informing my partner,” Gene yelled. He looked dangerously close to slapping Sam around the face. His body was arching towards Sam, the pupils of his eyes miniature pinpoints. “What was going on through that head of yours, Sam?”
Sam was dismissive, abrupt. “I had a lead and I didn’t have the time to explain it.”
“You always have the time to explain it,” Gene said thunderously, murderously.
“I’m not used to playing Dick Tracy. I’m used to radios and procedure and back-up.”
“If you’re so bloody used to it, why didn’t you do something similar?”
“Fine. I fucked up,” Sam yelled, his voice shaky.
Gene growled and crossed his arms against his chest. “Oi. Language.”
Sam shot him a white hot glare. His teeth were bared and his neck was strangely angled to the left. The tension between him and Gene was palpable.
“I admitted it, okay? I made a mistake.”
“And you better remember that, Sam. Because the next mistake could cost you your life.”
Sam sneered and rolled his head around. “How’d you find me, anyway? How’d you know?”
“I came back because I’d left my driving gloves on my desk. I saw the notes on yours and I don’t know – I got a hunch. It just didn’t sit right.”
“Oh, of course. One of Gene Hunt’s famous hunches.”
Gene stepped towards Sam, his hand twitching by his side. “I saved your life.”
“So you keep reminding me.”
“Look, if I hadn’t followed you, your brain would be strawberry jam round about now. The least you could do is show some bloody gratitude.”
“This is a fucking nightmare,” Sam yelled, his eyes wide open and face turning red.
“What have I said to you about your mouth?”
“I don’t give a flying fuck, Gene. I’m sick of this. I’m sick of all of it. Why me? Why the hell did you bother convincing me that this was a good idea? Why didn’t you just do it on your own – leaving me to my own devices?”
“Because, when you use it, you’ve a good brain in that head of yours. Because you stood up for me when you didn’t have to. You’re loyal and you’re trustworthy and when you’re not whining, you get the tasks you’re set done. And okay, so you’re not always the sharpest tool in the shed, God knows how many times I’ve felt sure you’re from another bleeding planet, and more than once I’ve wondered if you should be locked up somewhere nice and dark. But compared to anyone else out there, I’d rather have you at my back. Okay? Is that enough?”
Sam stopped his pacing and collapsed onto the stairs behind him. He dragged his hands over his eyes, the familiar prickling sensation making its presence known. Sam felt Gene sit next to him and knew he’d lit a cigarette, the smell of tobacco assaulting his senses.
“Tell me, Sam. Why did you decide to join me, instead of going off on your own devices? We all know you love doing that.”
Sam’s voice was hollow. “I had no choice.”
“You’re a young man. You could do whatever you wanted.”
“No. What I want is impossible.”
“Is it? Or are you just being morbid?” Gene probed.
“I just… I can’t take it any more, Gene.”
“Course you can. Just take it one step at a time, Sammy-boy.”
“Every step feels like a giant leap.”
“You’ve had a long day, Sam,” Gene said, his voice warm and consoling. He was calmer now, any anger he had held forgotten. Whether this was due to the cigarette chemicals newly added to his system or the reality of seeing Sam crack, Sam couldn’t say.
“I almost had my fucking head blown to pieces, Gene.”
“And not for the first time, either.”
The next words came out as a hiss. “No. Exactly.”
“But your head wasn’t blown to pieces. You survived. So be happy. You’re alive and well and fighting fit to fight another day.”
“In 1973.” Sam’s words were bitter, exact.
“What’s so wrong about that? This year hasn’t been any worse than last year, or the year before that.”
“No, but it’s not my year.”
“Oh, there you are, talking your cryptic nonsense again. Should’ve known.”
“If I told you the truth, you wouldn’t believe me.”
Gene’s voice was quiet, enigmatic. “I know I wouldn’t.”
Sam took a deep breath, pushing his hands down to rest on his shoes, a childish gesture which emphasised his ‘little lost boy’ look.
“The saddest thing in all of this is that I think you’re the best friend I’ve ever had.”
“Don’t get too romantic on me, Tyler. I wouldn’t want you to bust something.”
Sam knocked his shoulder into Gene’s, pleased to have a warm body next to his, comforted to feel another person’s chest rising and falling as Gene took in one breath after another. Gene knocked back and almost sent Sam flying off the staircase.
“I’m going to go back to the flat,” Sam said after a minute, standing up and stretching his legs.
“Good. You get some rest. We’ll be back to work in the morning.”
Sam walked out of the building into the cool night air. The stars shone above his head in a barely visible array. He tried not to think about how the blood had pounded in every capillary, in every vein. He tried to think vaguely happy thoughts. As Gene had said, he was alive and that was enough. For now.
A week later, Sam wasn’t feeling particularly generous with the world. They had worked on a fair few cases now and he felt it was time they start doing something more active than talking about Rathbone. He also wanted to be doing something about Tosh Preston. But it felt like he wasn’t doing anything at all. He answered telephone calls. He did some light surveillance work. He wrote down a curry recipe for Gene’s wife Clara. And that was that. Long stretches of the day consisted of him being left alone with his thoughts and he found no enjoyment engaging in dialogue with the voices in his head.
He still hadn’t heard noises from his other reality. At one point they would horrify him, chill him to his core. But now he longed for them. Where was the beep of life support? Where was his mother’s soothing voice? He hadn’t even seen his little Test Card friend. He never thought he could possibly miss her. There was something about her surreality which grounded him. He tried not to think about it most of the time, but when he had nothing else to occupy his thoughts, it was impossible to escape.
Sam stared at the telephone, willing it to ring. He needed something deep and involved. He needed explosions or riots or - no, he remembered what happened last time he thought something like that - disaster. Sam looked over at Gene. Gene was reading the newspaper, apparently with great interest. He was rocked back on his chair, his feet resting on his desk.
Still no response.
“Oi. Gene Genie.”
Gene snapped out of his reverie. He gazed at Sam, expectantly. Sam didn’t entirely know what he was going to say. He kept eye contact and tried to think of something, anything.
“Out with it, then. I don’t want to be hanging off your every word for the rest of the day.”
Sam said the first thing that came into his head. “Are you hungry?”
“I’m always hungry.”
“I could make you something really lovely for lunch.”
“We’ve already had lunch.”
“For linner, then. Not quite lunch, not quite dinner, but quite nice all the same. What’d’ya say?” Sam actually rather liked this idea. It had been a while since he had bothered to cook anything and there were a few things he felt like eating. “Speak now, do you have any preferences?”
“A great big stick of lard.”
“I was thinking something a little more fancy than that. Maybe saffron lard?”
“You’re not planning on poisoning me are you?” Gene asked, narrowing his eyes in suspicion.
“If that’d been my intention, I’d have slipped it into one of your many flasks. No, I’m just-”
“Yeah, how’d you know?”
“My keen instincts for the human psyche. Alright then, where’re you gonna make this linner of yours? We haven’t any appliances here.”
“If someone had been planning on calling today, I think they already would have. I say we go back to my place. I’ve even some of the ingredients for what I want to make.”
Sam stood, about to stride over to get his coat, when the telephone rang. His hand hovered over the receiver as he contemplated whether to answer it or not. He knew Gene wouldn’t. In the end, he decided he might as well.
“Hunt and Tyler, Private Investigators – this is Sam speaking.” Sam used a smooth and friendly tone.
“Pass me onto the Guv, will you?” Ray’s voice asked on the other end of the line.
“Maybe if you said please first?”
Sam didn’t think he’d ever heard anyone sound more spiteful. “Just do it, Tyler.”
Sam nodded towards Gene, mouthing the word ‘Ray’, even though he wanted to mouth the word ‘wanker’, and Gene picked up his receiver. Sam sat back down, placing his feet on his desk to mirror Gene’s position. He mimicked listening to the conversation, a cheeky little smile playing on his lips as he did so.
Gene’s responses to whatever Ray was saying were a series of grunts, a “yes” and a “no.” Sam wished he hadn’t put his own receiver down. As the discussion wore on, he found himself more intrigued by what they could be talking about. Part of his fascination stemmed from how tight-lipped Gene was being. He seemed particularly reluctant to say anything Sam might hear.
“What was that, then?” Sam asked when Gene finally put the receiver down.
“Personal issues,” Gene replied dismissively.
“Having troubles with Wilma is he?”
“Never you mind.”
Sam cocked his head to the side. As far as he knew, Gene was usually relatively straight with him. He’d told him things in confidence and trusted him in any manner of situations. Why didn’t he trust him with this?
“You ready?” Sam asked, getting to his feet again.
“Yeah. You go down, I’ll meet you in a minute,” Gene replied.
“Alright then, toss me the keys.”
Sam travelled down to the ground floor. He heard the scrape of metal against metal, indicating the opening of the filing cabinet. A moment later, Gene was coming down the stairs, his expression curiously blank. Sam opened the large wooden door and held it open for Gene, watching him carefully.
On the drive, Sam tried to strike up a conversation but Gene had lost his chatting faculty. He drove slightly more recklessly than usual, and that was saying something. Sam’s knuckles were bright white when the car screamed around corners. His eyes were wide open when they narrowly avoided pedestrians.
“Can you stop down the next street?” Sam asked, a little breathless from exhilaration and fear. Gene didn’t indicate whether he had heard the question. “I want to buy some stuff for the meal.”
Gene stopped the car and Sam got out. He waited for Gene to join him, but Gene’s mind was clearly elsewhere. His eyes were set on the people walking on the other side of the road, his lips pursed and his hands still resting on the steering wheel. Sam swallowed, shrugged and walked into the store. People were generally more forthcoming when filled with food and drink, right? And he could always go back to the warehouse later to see what was hidden in that filing cabinet. He knew every piece of paper in that grey metal container – he was the one who’d filed them all. If there was anything new, he’d be able to pick out exactly what it was.
The door swung open and Gene walked in.
“You’ve been lying to me,” Sam said, perched on the edge of the blue sofa, his elbow on the armrest and his head resting on his hand.
Gene sucked in his cheeks, studied Sam’s expression and shook his head.
“Not lying. Omitting stuff, maybe. But not lying.”
Sam launched off the sofa, rapier quick. He set his feet inches from Gene’s and stared him down.
“When did I give you permission to appoint yourself my lord and protector?”
“When you stepped into my station and became my DI.”
“I’m not your anything,” Sam shrieked.
“Sam, calm down. You’re not doing anyone any good.”
“I don’t intend to,” Sam said, his voice petulant, his demeanour tense and uneasy. “When were you going to tell me, hey? When it was all done and dusted?”
“Maybe, yeah. Or maybe not at all. Some things are best left unknown, Sam.”
“No. They’re not. Keeping the truth hidden is one of the worst things a person could do.”
“Above thievery, murder, rape?” Gene mocked Sam, arching over him with a supercilious raise of his eyebrow.
“On the same level, yeah,” Sam spat back at him.
“Are you telling me you’ve never withheld information in someone’s best interests?”
“Not like this, no. I’d never do it to you, Gene.”
“Oh, come on. What about all that crazy talk? I ignore it, but you keep insisting you’ve been a DCI. Not to mention you often make references to future events as if they’re passed and gone. And then you state I wouldn’t believe anything you say on the matter.”
“You never ask, do you, Gene? You don’t want to know. And believe me, I don’t blame you. What I have to deal with would make your brain implode. Me not telling you about my issues is hardly the same as this, that’s just me giving you what you want. You never even gave me the choice.”
“You’re being childish.”
Sam swung away from Gene and then swung back, landing a solid punch in Gene’s gut. Gene doubled over. Sam grabbed hold of his hair and slammed Gene’s head into his raised knee. He let go and walked away. He turned at the last second to see Gene bounding into him. He was forced to the floor and struggled against Gene’s overweight frame, resorting to kicks as the most effective method of attack.
Sam grabbed at Gene’s collar and rolled him over, pinning him down and punching him in the face. He heard a muffled crack as his knuckles came into contact with Gene’s nose. They struggled, fists and feet lashing out and landing on all surfaces – on faces, legs, arms, torsos. Minutes went by where they fought, teeth bared, hearts pounding. At one point, Gene tried to choke Sam but his hands were too slippery and Sam knocked his head into the ground.
Eventually, Sam got to his feet and stared down at Gene, contemplating kicking him some more. There was something about the way Gene curled, his chest heaving and a gush of blood trickling down to his chin, that made Sam offer his hand to help him up.
Gene dragged himself upright, using Sam as an anchor. He was unsteady on his feet. He looked at Sam in a manner which suggested he was considering continuing the fray. His mouth was open and he was breathing harshly, but the glare in his eyes was murderous. He clutched at his stomach, brushing his hand over it once or twice, and hobbled over to the armchair. Gene rested against the back of the chair, bending over and inhaling deeply.
Sam watched him, wiping sweat and something sticky away from his cheek. He had never been so angry in his life. He had trusted Gene. He had thought him a partner and a friend. And he had been betrayed. It stung. One of the few people Sam thought he could rely on, who treated him like an equal, had shielded him as if he was a weak duckling, incapable of rational thought.
When Gene spoke, his voice was hoarse and he had the aura of a defeated man.
“I was trying to save your life. They would have killed you. They already tried. I bet that’s what the Cliffton business was all about – Preston knew where he was and steered us there.”
Sam scowled at Gene, his eyes narrowing. “It was my decision to figure out what to do if and when the situation arose.”
“Let’s be fair, here, Sam – you don’t always make the right decision.”
“Oh, and you do, do you? You’re always right. You never make mistakes?”
Gene was still wheezing when he answered. “Course I’ve made mistakes. But precious few have been in the face of death.”
Sam bounced on the tips of his toes, his fists opening and closing at his sides. He moved in one direction and then the other. He looked like a kinetic ball of energy. He didn’t want to talk to Gene anymore, he wanted to be as far away from him as possible. At the same time, he wanted to know more about Tosh Preston, Frank Rathbone and their grand schemes.
“You knew,” Sam said with an angry little whirl back towards Gene. “You knew they were in league together and you didn’t tell me.”
“We’ve already established that.”
“Even when I lost my job in supporting you. Even when I said I wanted to sort Rathbone out. You didn’t say a thing.”
“You were going to lose your job anyway.”
“What?” Sam planted his feet, hands flying out in a gesture of confusion.
“Did you think Rathbone would keep a little deputy dawg like you on premises whilst he made deals with high-flying crims? He’d already sacked you by the time he told you about it. Paperwork on desk and everything.”
“You said you thought they were going to make me DCI.”
“I knew how you’d react.”
Each word Sam said rang with malice. “You fucking git.”
Gene laughed, loudly. He stood up from his resting spot on the chair and sent a punch flying towards Sam’s face. It glanced off Sam’s cheek onto his nose. The pain was blinding and Sam’s eyes started watering profusely to compensate.
“I’m not the one you should be angry at, you stupid bastard,” Gene remarked, bitter and condescending.
Sam heard Gene lumber away. The front door creaked open and there was a rush of cold air. Sam waited for a moment, drawing the back of his hand along the bottom of his face, wiping up the blood that was congealing there.
Shifting onto the sofa, Sam brought his hands to his eyes and felt the warm trickle of tears.
Sam was quite surprised when he felt himself feeling the need to apologise to Gene at 4.30 in the morning. He tried to convince himself it was the beer talking, but the truth was he had only had one. Gene had been trying to protect him, and yes, this still made him angry – but he found he was beginning to understand.
When he had first seen the note and realised the implications, he had been livid. Of course, Ray with his pulse on the wheelings and dealings of the station was feeding his Guv up to the minute reports on Rathbone’s every move. The anger had only grown as Sam had set off for George Street. The tail end of the meeting between Rathbone and Preston had been both fascinating and sickening. He had been too far away to hear any of the discussion, but there had been the passing of a package and shared smiles. Gene had known about this and hadn’t had the decency to tell him. It tipped Sam over the edge.
Gene shouldn’t have withheld information, but he was right on one thing – he also shouldn’t have been the direct target of Sam’s anger. Sam regretted lashing out at him, especially now that he had several large deep purple bruises forming on various parts of his body. He had been behaving childishly, he admitted it.
One thing Sam did not regret was his foresight to have taken a camera to George Street. There had been several clicks of the camera button and plenty of them would result in incriminating evidence. Once he got the photographs developed he would have real incontrovertible proof of an alliance between the Superintendent and an aspiring crime lord. Corruption with a capital C.
Sam wasn’t sure how well an apology to Gene would go down. He didn’t even know what he was going to say. But he knew he had to try. He waited until daylight broke and got ready to travel back to the warehouse. He had spent quite a lot of cash on taxis, more than he could properly afford, but he was too weary to walk the whole way.
He figured he would wait for Gene to turn up. He was bound to, wasn’t he? Like Sam, he didn’t really have anywhere else to go. He’d grudgingly confessed that Clara liked him out of the house whilst she ran various committees and her book group. And Sam wasn’t sure, but he may or may not have still been leading her to believe he was a DCI.
The funnel of smoke reaching up into the sky in the general area of the warehouse should have indicated to Sam that something was wrong, but it didn’t. It was only when the taxi pulled up and Sam saw the flickering of flames that he realised. Initially, Sam ran forward; before deciding that this was probably not a good idea. This was one of many occasions where he missed his mobile phone with the fire of a thousand suns. And the fire of a thousand suns was currently ravaging the warehouse, so it made some kind of cosmic sense. He heard the wail of sirens in the distance - someone had called for firemen, then – and watched in despair as licks of fire appeared in the windows.
Everything he had worked so hard on was destroyed. His career. His friendship. His warehouse. Sam sank towards the wall. A firetruck appeared down the end of the road and within a few minutes several fit-looking men ran up, hauling an large empty hose. One of the men stopped.
“When did the fire start, Sir?”
“Don’t know. It was already going when I arrived ten minutes ago.”
“Do you know who owns this building?”
Sam answered him absent-mindedly. “My friend does.”
An indication was made to the truck to start the water and the hose expanded, held tight by professionals who knew the danger of what would happen were they to let go.
Sam watched as the fire fighters tackled the blaze. He could feel the heat bursting out of the warehouse, but wasn’t sure if the glow was entirely from there or the now shining sun too.
An hour passed, maybe more. He didn’t move. He crossed his arms and silently mourned as months of dedication went up in a puff of smoke.
When the Cortina appeared, Sam peeled off the wall. If Gene was angry with Sam, he didn’t show it. He stared at the warehouse, a look of shock and horror registering on his features. He had a black eye and his nose was swollen, but mostly he just looked devastated.
“I don’t know. It was on fire when I got here at 6.”
Gene slid down the wall until he was sitting on the ground, his camel-hair coat splayed at his sides. Sam sat next to him.
“It was them,” Sam said after a few moments. “Had to have been.”
“Those bastards,” Gene replied, and Sam felt that there was more fury in the phrase than Gene was letting on.
“I’m sorry,” Sam said, not allowing his constricting throat to choke the words.
“Me too, Sammy-boy. We spent weeks on that place.”
“No, I mean-”
Gene cut him off. “I know what you mean.” He eyed Sam and then sighed. “I mean it too.”
Sam knew that this was the closest he would ever get to having Gene apologise for anything, so he savoured the moment and stored it in his memory banks for quick recall at a later date.
“What do we do now?”
“What do you think we do? We nail them, Sam.”
“And how do you propose to do that?”
Gene rolled his head back, contemplative. “We could always go torch the station.”
“Too many innocent people.”
“How about Preston’s base?”
“I don’t know where it is, do you?”
“Not exactly, no.”
“We could always take this roll of film I’ve got to a development place and send the photos to a higher authority.”
Gene’s head snapped downwards and he stared at Sam. “And what would those photos show?”
“Rathbone and Preston exchanging grins and a great big envelope.”
Gene looked positively ecstatic. “See, now, this is why I’ve always had faith in you.”
“That and my dazzling charm.” Sam paused, a frown creasing his brow. “Hang on. I got this information from your note – why weren’t you there?”
“I was,” Gene replied. “I was over by post box. Where were you?”
“Down the other side. But if you were there, Gene, where’s your roll of film?”
Gene pursed his lips and glared at Sam. “Couldn’t figure out how to get film in the camera, could I? Spent twenty minutes just trying to get the bloody thing to work.”
Sam relaxed. He wasn’t happy, but he wasn’t miserable either. A firefighter walked up. Gene had a long and involved discussion with him, talking about how the fire had started – it looked like arson – and what could be done insurance-wise. Sam’s eyes went wide when he heard the estimated cost of damage. They were going to need a whole lot of luck on their side.
The office was spacious and light. There were bluish grey walls and a deep cornflower blue carpet. It looked like it had been recently refurbished. Sam had expected the same earth tones which crept into all interior decorations, but apart from the wooden grain of the desk and chairs, brown was mercifully absent in this room.
Chief Superintendent Stephens had bushy black eyebrows above sherry coloured eyes. It would be safe to say that he was not pleased to see Sam and Gene. He had prevented their entry for as long as he was able, until before his secretary had told him the damning news. Gene leaned over Stephens’ desk with a confident leer. He was using his best intimidation methods and they were working. Sam stood back, allowing Gene his moment of glory.
“You’ve all the proof you ever needed about dodgy deals and bent coppers,” Gene said, letting the words roll off his tongue with smooth abandon.
“They’re photographs.” Stephens exclaimed. He was flustered, tense.
“Yeah, they are. And there are matching negatives too.”
Stephens glared at Gene, his lips curling into a distasteful sneer.
“Just what are you implying?”
“I’ve a friend at the Gazette. Jackie Queen. Loves a good story, her. Me and my wife sometimes take to showing her our holiday snaps. I wonder what would happen if some other pictures got mixed in with them, by accident-like.”
Gene pushed himself off the desk and turned around, placing his back towards Stephens. He examined several newspaper clippings which adorned the office wall, all of them praising the fine work which police officers contribute to the community.
“What do you want?” Stephens asked after a minute of staring at the top of his desk. Sam rolled his eyes. He had thought the answer fairly obvious.
“We want justice,” Sam said, tilting his head down and fixing his gaze on Stephens’. A quiet voice in the back of his mind expressed hope that he would be as successful as Gene at making the Chief Superintendent uneasy.
Stephens shook his head, jowls wobbling. He bent forward and placed the tips of his fingers together. “And what does that entail?”
Gene’s eyebrow was raised when he turned back from reading the articles. He was condescending and authoritative.
“You know what it entails. You do something about Rathbone. You reinstate the two coppers who’ve been unfairly dismissed. And you do it quickly.”
Stephens opened his mouth, as if about to say something, and then closed it again.
Finally, he spoke. “And if I don’t do this?”
Gene looked at Sam, Sam looked at Gene, and they began walking towards the office door. Sam’s heart floated up to lodge near his esophagus. His throat constricted from the pressure and he pondered alternative techniques of getting oxygen into his system.
Sam span on his heel and smiled at Stephens. Gene followed suit, even going so far as to retrieve a cigarette from his pocket and light it then and there. Stephens glowered at them. He looked torn. His head tilted one way and then the other.
“You do understand why this is difficult, don’t you?” Stephens said, a note of desperation entering his voice. “Photographic evidence is compelling, but we really need something more substantial.”
“Short of getting the bastard to confess, it’s the best you’ve got,” Gene replied. “And I’ve arrested men for less.”
“This would be seen as ample evidence by the Nation at large,” Sam added. “If it were to appear before them, I mean.”
Sam was quite heartened to know that bad press was still a concern in the 1970s police force, even if it didn’t hold as much weight as his own 2006 publicity driven existence. The Chief Superintendent really had no choice but to seek dismissal of Rathbone and the bringing up of criminal charges, and he knew it. The good thing about Sam and Gene’s taking the evidence to him first was that he could conduct the operation in a manner which allowed control of the release of information to the press. Much like Sam and Gene’s dismissal, it could be kept as quiet as possible, with a small mention on page 7 of the Gazette as opposed to several days of sensationalist headlines.
“Fine,” Stephens said quickly, simply. “Your demands shall be met. I’ll expect you’ll want a pay rise too.”
Sam started shaking his head, but Gene’s face lit up.
Within the next day, Sam heard about Rathbone’s arrest through Annie and Chris. As predicted, very little turned up in print and there was no mention on the televised news. Excitement bubbled in her voice as Annie explained what it had been like to see Rathbone be hauled away. He hadn’t been placed into cuffs. He hadn’t struggled. According to Chris, it had looked like they were all going out to lunch. But he was taken away, and that was enough to please Annie.
Rathbone hadn’t wanted to go down by himself and he had rolled over on Preston and many others – stating everything he knew in triplicate, much of which he could substantiate. Every drug deal, every dodgy disappearance, every link to other corrupt coppers. He had lightened his sentence by several years with the reams of information he had provided.
It was not entirely due justice for being a pillock and meeting a criminal contact in person, especially knowing that there were those who wished to expose the truth about you, but it was better than continuing on in a position of power and respect unchallenged. Sam was relatively sure no investigation would be launched into just how deep the corruption ran, and maybe that was for the best. Because, when it came down to it, Rathbone probably had stored evidence which proved Gene’s previous dealings with Warren, and it was likely Sam didn’t look whiter than white himself.
Sam was overwhelmingly satisfied with the turn of events. He had almost given up on the chance of retribution, but it appeared in front of him like an old friend. He shook its hand.
“We’re going to catch this shark in our butterfly net, Sam,” Gene said, ducking behind the Cortina. His hair was ruffled and he squinted against the force of the breeze.
“How about catching the butterfly in a shark cage instead?”
“You always speak stuff and nonsense, you do.”
Sam crouched down beside Gene, feeling his heart beat strongly against his ribs. He rocked back on his heels, his hands resting on his thighs. They were outside a club Tosh Preston liked to frequent. It wasn’t exactly his natural habitat, but it would have to do. The club was painted black, with neon signs flashing. A line of girls in mini-skirts and boys in flares waited outside. Loud music pumped out and echoed across the road.
After a few moments, Tosh came out of the club, flanked by two fellow thugs.
“Good timing,” Sam remarked.
Sam and Gene watched as Tosh walked down the pavement, medallions glinting in the glow of the streetlights. He was chatting about something, casual, relaxed, happy. He obviously hadn’t been tipped off.
Within thirty seconds several marked and unmarked police cars turned up down the road. Sam didn’t think he could ever be pleased to hear the wail of sirens again, but as it turned out, he was. These sirens were comforting, not ominous, and they promised something which Sam had longed to see for months. Several men climbed out of the cars and headed towards Preston and his thugs.
Preston swore loudly and there was a flash. A bullet? No, it was the flash of a camera bulb. Preston must have felt like he was too outnumbered to use weaponry. He started running, but he didn’t get very far. Sam watched in glee as Preston was pushed down to the ground by three uniformed police officers, their helmets bobbing up and down as he struggled against their hands and the cuffs being placed on his wrists.
The line of people waiting to get into the club stared in shock and horror. A couple of the girls screamed. It was pandemonium. Or perhaps, controlled chaos. Sam and Gene technically shouldn’t have been there, but they couldn’t exactly resist. In hearing about the arrest, the first thing they had done was make their way over. Sam felt that it was worth it. Not much harm could be done by their presence, and he wouldn’t have missed this for the world.
Sam continued to stare as Tosh Preston was shoved into the back of a marked police car, shouting wildly about rights. Now that he thought about it, Sam had to admit, Preston did look like a shark. His teeth were white and jagged and he had a large pointed nose. Preston’s former bodyguards were still fighting with the police officers. They were big and burly, built of muscle and not much else. Actually, one of them looked strikingly familiar.
“My uncle’s Superintendent,” the thug screamed, just as Sam realised who he was. “He’s gonna have you.”
McAuliffe broke away from the two men attempting to wrangle control of him. As he did so, the other thug began yelling and kicking, pulling two police officers along with him, as he made his way down the road.
McAuliffe ran crossways down the road, straight for Sam and Gene. It was unclear how he expected to benefit his position in taking such an action, unless he was planning on breaking down the door of the place opposite. Given the expression on his face, this was highly likely. He stormed forward like a bull against a bull fighter.
Sam waited for one of the other police officers to grab hold of McAuliffe, but they were all too busy trying to constrain the nameless thug. Sam jumped up from his position behind the Cortina and launched himself at McAuliffe. He was easily half his size, and his initial attempt to drag him to the ground failed miserably. His next tactic was to try and jump on McAuliffe’s back, placing his hands around the thug’s neck, pushing all of his weight down. He was unbalanced, his left foot high off the ground.
McAuliffe yelled, bucking up and trying to fling Sam off. Sam did not relent. He looked like an ant riding a cockroach. McAuliffe started running again and Sam had a horrible prescient vision of being thrown through a window as neatly as a brick so that McAuliffe could wing his escape upon climbing through.
Sam had not counted on Gene, who surged forward and punched McAuliffe square in the jaw. McAuliffe’s neck gave a gratifying snap. He screamed, a guttural sound emanating from the depths of his body. Gene punched again, straight into McAuliffe’s stomach and he lunged forward, taking Sam with him.
Two police officers ran over and cuffed McAuliffe, who was now wheezing and muttering nonsense words. One of the officers gave Sam and Gene an appreciative nod. The other looked at them with great suspicion, but left them alone anyway.
Sam walked to the other side of the Cortina and leaned over it, stretching his legs and taking a deep breath. Gene joined him shortly after.
“Preston’s going to get what he deserves,” Sam said happily.
Gene sounded less pleased. “Probably not as much as he should. You know how it goes. We’ve no evidence he was behind the arson, for one. Who knows how many lives he’s ruined?”
“Yeah, okay, but he’s going to be put behind bars. That’s a good thing, right?”
Gene nodded. “Course it is. But there’s always another who will spring up in his place.”
There was triumph in Sam’s demeanour. “And we’ll be there to stop them.”
The cars pulled away slowly. Preston, McAuliffe and the other thug glared out of the car windows. Sam grinned.
“It would have been a lot easier for them if they’d just killed us.”
“Yeah, it also would’ve been bloody obvious.”
“And for that, I am glad.”
Gene clapped his hand on Sam’s shoulder and spoke with sincerity. “Me too.”
They walked through into the canteen, side by side. There was a banner up.
Hunt and Tyler – Back Again!
Sam surmised it was Chris’s work, the text was the same style as the Private Investigators sign, only this time it was paint, not metal.
There was also a crowd of around 150 people, most of whom Sam knew on sight. Only a few did he know by name. They all looked pleased to see him. He thought that they were probably more pleased to see their DCI, who, despite being covered in a crisp bastard coating, was infinitely better than Marlowe, who ended up being made entirely of a spongy bastard filling.
Sam and Gene were split up by hordes of people grappling at them. Everyone kept asking how it felt to be back, how it felt being away, how it felt at quarter to ten in the morning on August 5th, or something similar. To be honest, Sam started drifting out of consciousness after the twenty-third question.
Sam was pleased to be in the station. There had been moments when he had enjoyed the adventure. He missed the warehouse more than he ever thought he would and hoped that they could salvage some of the wreckage. But in his heart of hearts, he would rather be at the station than anywhere else. He thrived on police work. He thrived on knowing he made a difference, and this was the best method he had found yet.
Marlowe stood in the corner, looked bedraggled and depressed. Sam felt a wave of sympathy for him, but it washed over quickly. To be fair, the guy had been lumped with a difficult job at the last second, having to follow on from a man who was a legend. To be even more fair, he had been completely crap.
A hand clasped Sam’s shoulder and he turned to see Annie smiling at him cheerfully.
“I knew you could do it, Sam,” she said, radiating warmth.
“I’m glad someone had faith in me,” Sam returned. He smiled back at Annie.
“Any plans for the evening?”
“Thought I might get up to speed with the latest cases.”
“How’s about having some fun for a change?”
“Annie, for me, that is fun.” Sam grinned as Annie poked her tongue out. “Okay, I’ll clear away my hectic schedule for a bit of relaxation time, after all, I’ll probably need to build up a reservoir of enjoyment I can dip into when things really do go spiralling into dangerous territory.”
“Good, and make sure you wear your dancing shoes.”
Phyllis called Annie to her and Annie walked away with a wave and a promise to be back later. Sam said something to the effect he was looking forward to it and struck up a conversation with Oswald, who was apparently enjoying the company of living flesh for the afternoon.
After forty-five minutes, Gene wandered over, safe from having just been lifted into the air by Ray, Chris and Dwight, all singing a rousing rendition of “For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow”.
“Let’s go have another look at our domain, Sam,” Gene said, his eyes fixed on the groups milling around. There was laughter and chatter and general good will.
Sam frowned. “Won’t they miss us?”
“They just opened up a bottle of whiskey, d’you think they’ll miss us? Even if they do, we haven’t been in station for two months, they can miss us for a few minutes.”
They walked through the station. Sam realised how much he had missed this walk, how much he had longed for the clatter of his Cuban heels against the floor. The corridors were no different. It felt like hardly any time had passed.
“We should thank our lucky stars they didn’t transfer Litton over,” Gene commented, a look of mock horror on his face.
Sam joined him, but his horror was a tad more real. “They wouldn’t do that, though, would they?”
“You transferred over from Hyde. Why not?”
“But Litton. Could you imagine?”
“I’d really prefer not to.”
Sam snorted. “Don’t blame you.”
They walked into CID and the familiar scent of tobacco and Old Spice, a concentrated Eau de Gene, filled Sam’s nostrils.
“This is it, Sammy-boy, back where we belong,” Gene said, casting his hands and his gaze around CID.
Sam nodded. “We were making a success of it, though. I mean, when you think about it. We weren’t that bad.”
“We could have been worse.”
“We could have been a whole lot worse. I think my favourite case was the one with the dog.”
“I favoured the one where we had to retrieve that bag full of cash, on the quiet-like” Gene said, looking up to the ceiling in a feigned daydream.
“I’m disappointed we never got to help a real damsel in distress. No, not a damsel, a dame.”
“Who knows, after I retire for good, I might set up my own business. You could be my police contact,” Gene said, dipping his head to one side.
“That’d be years from now,” Sam replied, sounding wistful for a moment. Another thought kicked in. Years. Was he still going to be around in years to come?
“Don’t sound too eager, Tyler.”
Gene walked through into his office. The first thing he did was draw his arms along the desk and push all of Marlowe’s possessions to the floor. They crashed with a clatter and a bang. Gene propped himself up at the desk and flicked on his lighter. He stood for a while, his eyes narrowed, one hand on the desk and the other holding a cigarette to his lips. Sam locked eyes with him.
“I guess things will be going back to the way they were.”
“Not exactly, I don’t think. There’s the new Super, and no doubt more watchdogs roaming the place. Every little counts.”
For some reason, this answer satisfied something in the back of Sam’s mind and he stepped towards the door.
“I’m going to go find out what the latest cases are.”
Gene nodded and Sam turned away. Things could never be the way they had been. Perhaps this was a good thing. Sam was learning that he had to rely on more than work to occupy his thoughts. He hadn’t yet reached contentment, and he didn’t think he ever would, but life could be a whole lot easier if he found a way to exist in 1973. He was halfway there. And he knew that he had people he could rely on to exist with, which made everything just a little bit better.