Fandom: Life on Mars
Word Count: 1590 words.
Notes: Thank you to bakednudel for beta-reading this for me. This is gen and there aren't really any spoilers for the second series.
A breeze whipped up the chill night air. Sam folded his arms across his chest, drawing his heat within himself, until he was a tight ball of frustration.
“I don’t have to be here,” he said quietly, his words tempered by the truth that he was. He looked up at the front of the house, the cracked paint of the door and the crumbling mortar between the bricks.
“I don’t have to wipe my arse, but it’s for the best that I do,” Gene replied.
Sam turned away. There was a knot at the back of his neck, tense and constricting, mocking him with its existence. It was a constant reminder that he was uptight, stress-laden, on edge. For a brief moment his mind wandered to mental imagery of Maya straddling his back and stretching over him as her fingers rubbed circles into his skin, erasing a day’s worth of worries in five minutes of care and attention.
“Sam.” Gene’s voice cut into his reverie. He could tell by the tone that it wasn’t the first time he had said his name.
“Are you --- are you happy? With the job-like?”
Sam snapped his head around and fixed Gene with a stare. Gene was looking away, gazing off into the distance, nothing in his stance indicating that he might be waiting for an answer.
“I guess it could be worse.”
“That’s a no, then,” Gene said, and he nodded. Confirmation.
“What am I supposed to be happy about? You’ve said yourself, it’s a thankless task.”
Silence stretched between them. Sam concentrated on the lights reflected off the damp, glistening asphalt. He breathed in the musk scent of tobbaco and rotting leaves. He tried to return to his memory, but he had been taken out of that world completely.
Sam was aware of Gene starting to pace with a swagger, hands tucked neatly into coat pockets, head resting deep into his shoulders. He examined his own hands, smoothing fingertips over short nails. He took a look at the Cortina and momentarily wondered why they weren’t sitting in the warmth as they waited.
“Sometimes I’m happy,” Sam said, voice contemplative and head tilted to the side. He huffed out a sigh. “Maybe not happy, but – I don’t know – I feel successful.”
Gene made a sound of assent at the back of his throat, a low animalistic growl.
“Are you?” Sam paused, scrambling for another way to phrase his question, but failing. “Happy?”
Gene stopped pacing. The streetlight glinted off his eyes as he looked at Sam from beneath furrowed brows. “Don’t think about it much.”
Sam wanted to ask him why he asked in the first place, but he wouldn’t. He lifted his arm and looked at his watch instead.
“They should be here already, shouldn’t they?”
Gene exhaled deeply in reply, his breath spiralling upwards in arcs of mist. Sam watched it, matching the action, remembering how he had thought he was a dragon as a child. Sam felt a tightness in his chest which indicated he was going to laugh, but he buried the inclination. Gene already thought he was certifiable. Laughing maniacally whilst at a potential crime scene was only going to support the belief.
Sam flicked his head back towards the house and said what he had already said once. “I think it’s probably what it looks like.”
“Do you know what I think?” Gene asked. It was in most ways a rhetorical question.
Sam quirked his eyebrow. “Yes.”
“I think it’s murder. Angry ex-boyfriend, or disgruntled co-worker.”
“We’ll just have to do a thorough investigation to find out,” Sam said quietly.
There was the sound of engines at the end of the street and four cars arrived. Chris and Ray climbed out of the closest car and wandered over. Chris looked bleary-eyed, his hair in disarray. Ray had already brought a cigarette to his lips. Gene moved away from them and began co-ordinating the other officers and forensics. He projected his voice. It punctuated the night.
“How’d you get here so quick?” Chris asked, blowing into his hands and rubbing them together. He looked at Sam expectantly, expecting more than Sam would offer him.
“Gene was driving me home from the pub and it came over on the radio. We assessed the situation and waited for you. You took your time.”
“I’d already gone home and to bed by the time I got the call,” Chris said, with an obvious downturn of his mouth which showed he wished he was still there.
“I was with Wilma,” Ray added.
“How’s the origami?”
Ray shrugged. “She’s taught me how to make a ballerina.”
“That far?” Sam was unable to keep the smirk out of his voice. “You must practice a lot.”
Ray gestured. Sam wasn’t sure what it was, but he thought it wasn’t likely to be friendly and could even extend so far as to be obscene.
“We’ve had a quick word with the man at number forty, the one who made the call. He’s elderly, and couldn’t tell us much, just that he heard a shot at around eleven. I want you both to see what you can get out of him,” Sam said. “Softly, softly, though. No slapping him about or kneeing him in the nuts.”
“You make it sound like that’s all we ever do,” Chris yawned indignantly.
Sam pointed and angled his head toward the house. “Show me it’s not, then.”
“Sam. Come in here.”
Sam followed Gene’s voice, walking into the house. The boys from forensics were examining the body and surrounding area. Sam had insisted on bringing in forensics and having them dust for prints immediately, before potential evidence could be destroyed. Luckily, overtime was an alluring prospect for some.
“Tell him what you told me,” Gene barked at the man bent over an item on the floor.
“There are no fingerprints on the gun.”
“But that means…” Sam stopped.
“Murder.” Gene’s voice had a sing-song quality at odds with the word he was speaking.
“You shouldn’t sound so triumphant,” Sam said, but there was a smile playing on his lips.
Gene thrust his head forward, his hands on his hips. “I was right.”
“You won’t admit it.”
Sam raised his hands in exasperation. “I just did. I never said you were wrong in the first place.” He paused. “So how did you know?”
“Women don’t use guns, typically. If they’re gonna do it, they pop pills.”
“I know that, but for every twenty women who wouldn’t use a gun, there’s at least one who would. Women aren’t this homogenous group of automatons who do everything the exact same way.”
“Maybe not, but it was unlikely. And in these circumstances, you go with the simplest explanation.”
Sam sniffed at the suggestion that the simplest explanation to what looked very much like suicide was murder, but he couldn’t disagree with Gene’s reasoning. Gene could have taken one look at the scene and proclaimed it suicide, not bothering with investigation. His sexist and narrow-minded views were actually of some benefit in the situation.
“You sort this lot out and I’ll start banging on doors,” Gene said, already moving toward the entrance of the room.
Sam had a few words with those collecting evidence, telling them the procedure they should follow and gleaning any information that might come in useful. When he was satisfied they knew what they were doing, he had another look at the body of the victim. He would say she was in her thirties. She was average looking. He chastised himself for thinking it, but she was. There was nothing remarkable about her or the clothes she was wearing. The only remarkable thing was the hole in her head.
Outside, he checked that all involved were managing effectively, and went to find Gene to assist with enquiries. He saw him down at the other end of the road, hunching his shoulders as he knocked on the green-painted door of number twelve. He strode over and tapped Gene on the arm.
Gene glanced at Sam and shook his head. “Course not. Most were apparently sleeping and said they didn’t hear or see anything.”
“Any obvious liars?”
“All of them, I expect.”
Gene knocked again, but the door didn’t open. He raised his fist and started hitting into the wood, hard blows which made the entire surface reverberate with creaks and moans.
Sam grasped hold of Gene’s shoulder and pulled him back. “Easy, Gene. If there was someone in there, they’d have answered by now.”
Gene pierced him with a look of fury. “Oh, you think so, do you?”
“Brilliant deduction, Sherlock.”
“So you’re not thinking straight.”
“You’d say I never do.”
Sam grinned. “With good reason.”
Gene smoothed a hand over the lower half of his face and up to rub at his temple. He brought his lighter and a cigarette out, lighting with a small flourish.
“There are times when I hate this,” he said, his voice low and his eyes fixed on the ground. Sam gazed at him for a moment, unable to think of anything to say. He never knew how to handle Gene’s honesty.
Eventually, he countered with what he would want to hear had he said the same thing. “You’d be a sick man if you didn’t.”
This appeared to comfort Gene, because he gave a short, sharp nod and began walking to the next house, blowing smoke out through his nose like the dragon Sam had once imagined himself to be.
Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4