Fandom: Life on Mars
Word Count: 2300 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.
Sam stared at the piles of folders in front of him. They were ordered, precise, standing like miniature monoliths. With the facts resting neatly on the table, Sam felt he had the appropriate tools for the job. He had methodically organised statements, going through all the notes and looking for correlations. The majority of those they spoke to denied hearing or seeing anything, but they managed to get some useful information all the same.
"Odd, this. Never had a case where so little was known about the victim," Gene said, taking one of his many flasks out of his pocket. Sam watched as he swished it about, mesmerised by the glint of light on metal.
"Had more than a few like this in Hyde," Sam replied in a hollow tone, putting no small amount of emphasis on the last word.
"Oh yeah? Any ideas?"
"Not yet. You're right, we need more to go on." Sam looked at the picture on the desk, dragging his thumb along the bottom. He spoke mostly to himself. "Christina Marsden. Life wasn't kind to you."
"Life was plenty kind, it was death that were the problem."
Sam shook his head. "You can be a complete bastard sometimes."
"Oh, and you can't?" Gene retorted, snooty head wobble in imitation of Sam. "She must have had a lot of cash, being able to afford a house on her own."
"Maybe she inherited it? It's an old house, right?"
Sam brushed his hands through his hair, thinking about sleep and how he missed it as a concept. They should have gone home, for a couple of hours at the very least. Gene had let Ray and Chris toddle off for some recuperation and they hadn't been seen since. In the early hours of the morning, Gene had gone for a nap on the small brown settee in his office. Sam had stayed up and arranged all that lay before him on the table. Now they both looked crumpled and worse for wear.
"I really think we need to bring in the closest neighbours for more intensive questioning. It was late, an informal setting, not exactly the ideal time and place for solid answers - maybe we need to drive home the severity of the situation?"
"I thought you were the one who always said we shouldn't treat witnesses like suspects?" Gene asked, bringing his flask up to his lips.
"I don't want you to punch them all in the kidneys and slap'em round the face, I just want to get some definitive answers."
"Punching and slapping does get definitive answers."
"Where I come from, it also gets a great big law suit."
Gene snorted derisively. "Where you come from little pixies sing lah-di-dah and rainbows spew humbugs."
Sam ignored Gene and started writing down the names of the people who lived closest to and directly opposite Christina.
"Why don't you go find out whatever they know about Christina at her place of work and I'll go bring in her neighbours."
Gene grabbed Sam's lapel and drew him close enough that Sam could smell the spearmint and tobacco on his breath. "Since when did you get the right to boss me around?"
Sam extricated himself from Gene's grip and smirked. "Since I arrived."
As he made his way to George Street in a borrowed police car, Sam tried to recall details of similar cases. There was always something, some clue that they retrieved or realised they should concentrate on. He remembered a case one of his DCs had solved due to a conflict in minor statements from one interview to the next. It had all revolved around a small matter of word order. Once that had been investigated, it had fallen into place. Sam just needed to find that crucial little piece of evidence and he'd be laughing. But finding the lead, that was the difficult thing.
Getting the various witnesses to the station wasn't as simple as he would have liked. Getting them to talk was even harder. Even though he set up the area to have what he thought was the appropriate atmosphere, almost everyone he spoke to was disinclined to speak back. If anything, they were less willing to talk than they had been in the middle of the night. He tried being logical, he tried being hard, he tried flirting. To no avail. It hadn't been incompetence that had won them the silent treatment during the darkness. The old man who had made the call tried to give Sam more, but he couldn't think of anything remotely helpful.
Only one person had information to contribute.
"Can you tell me what you saw, Erica?" Sam asked; small smile and drooping eyelids.
"A dark shadowy blob-thing," Erica answered vaguely, scrunching up her nose. She shrugged with the impatience of youth. "It might have been a person. It were right outside the house twenty minutes before the gunshot."
"Is that all you can give me?"
Sam allowed all of the supposed witnesses to go home and slumped into CID. He sat at his desk and let his head fall down onto the wood, a low groan escaping his throat.
After a minute of wallowing, he felt someone ruffle the hair on the back of his head.
"Ey up, Samantha," Gene's voice said forcefully. Sam pushed back and stared at Gene, his expression blank.
Sam cracked his neck to the side, rubbing a hand over his jaw. He wanted to complain that he'd spent the past several hours in interviews, but he didn't.
"Who've you got?"
"Her boss," Gene answered. He fisted Sam's collar. "Come on, then, can't wait around all day."
Sam followed Gene to the Lost and Found and sat next to him at the table. He examined Christina's boss, trying to successfully deploy mind reading skills. He didn't succeed. All he saw was a particularly worried man, staring at Gene in apprehension. Gene leaned back in his chair and said nothing. The longer he stared, the more nervous the man across the table got. For a very brief moment, Sam wished Gene had been with him when he'd been re-interviewing Christina's neighbours.
"Could you please state your full name for the record, Sir?" Sam asked, blinking to get his head in working order.
Sam huffed out a small sigh. "Mr Eastbrook, you're here so that we can ask you some questions about Christina Marsden. She was found dead, in her home, late last night."
Eastbrook licked his lower lip and nodded quickly. "I know. I've been told." He glanced at Gene and then glanced away.
"Is there anything you can tell us?"
"Not really. Christina was a good employee. She was patient, hard-working, quiet. She didn't do much with others."
"Did you get along?"
Eastbrook evaded Sam's eyes. "Yeah, I guess so."
"What exactly does your company do?"
"We sell stuff." Eastbrook said, fidgeting in his chair. "To other companies."
Sam squeezed his eyes shut for a moment, temporarily imagining himself wringing Eastbrook's neck.
"What sort of stuff?"
"Office equipment. Desks, chairs, dividing walls, that kind of thing."
"What a novel idea," Gene stated, finally joining the conversation. Sam flicked his gaze toward him before turning back to Eastbrook.
"And Miss Marsden's role?"
"She wasn't a saleswoman, obviously. She was the firm accountant. And a good one 'n'all."
Gene sniffed. "A female accountant? Bloody risky, if you ask me."
Sam rolled his eyes. He paused. He flexed his fingers and scrutinized Simon Eastbrook.
"Why did you say 'obviously'?"
"Why'd you say Christina Marsden 'obviously' wasn't a saleswoman?"
Eastbrook stammered. "Well, because she… ah… well, she just - wasn't very good at it."
"She was very bad at it," Eastbrook continued lamely.
Sam tapped his fingers on the table thoughtfully. "Okay."
"Tell you what, Mr Eastbrook, we're going to keep you in overnight," Gene said suddenly, standing up. "Hopefully you'll feel like divulging something that will actually make sense tomorrow."
Sam turned in his seat to look at Gene. Gene walked over to Eastbrook and dragged him up. Eastbrook squeaked as Gene used his body weight to propel him along. Sam could do little but follow as they made the journey to the cells. He watched as Eastbrook was put into cell three and caught Gene's arm as he went marching back toward CID.
"What was that for?"
"He did it," Gene said with confidence and conviction.
"Sorry? When did we come to that conclusion?"
Gene shrugged. "He's suspicious."
Sam spread his hands out. "He's nervous."
"Come tomorrow, we're arresting him, beating the confession out of him, and going on our merry way."
"There is absolutely no evidence that he did it. None." Sam narrowed his eyes.
"Never stopped us before, Sammy-boy."
Sam shook his head. "You can't do that. You can't just take the easy route out."
"I can do what I damn well like. I'm the sheriff, not you," Gene replied. He pointed at Sam's chest, his teeth bared. Sam felt heat creeping up his spine, his heart beating faster and echoing in his ears.
"Well then, prove it," Sam sneered. "Show me that you can actually do your job. Because it might just make all those beers you make me buy you worth it."
"Is that all you think I do? The smallest amount for a laugh, so I can toddle off down pub?"
"You're trying to tell me you don't? I've been here with you for months, Gene. I know you. I know how you work."
"I do things quickly," Gene yelled, a murderous glint in his eye, "because you have to. You can't spend forever and a day tying up loose ends into pretty pink bows. You need to do it well and you need to do it fast."
"It's the 'doing it well' part that I'm not so sure you've mastered, Gene. You and the rest of your team."
"That team you speak of, Tyler? Includes you. And I know for a fact that there've been moments when you've gone for the quick conviction. Sometimes the easy route is the best route."
Sam arched forward. "And at that time, you were the one advocating time and patience. Do the lessons you learn not stick in your head or something?"
The look on Gene's face was worse than a punch to the gut, scornful and full of disgust. "You think you're better than this. Better than us. Better than me."
"Sometimes I do," Sam replied, clenching his hands into tight fists. His voice rose in pitch with every word. "Yeah. Sometimes I don't just think I'm better, I know I'm better. Better than all of this, this virtual insanity."
Gene was visibly angered by Sam's words. His jaw tightened and his knuckles turned white.
Sam continued, advancing forward, his voice becoming quiet and measured. "And then I discover another little piece of the puzzle and see that my definition of 'better' is hopelessly flawed." He stood inches away from Gene, letting him see everything he usually kept enclosed in the part of him that was protected; his vulnerability, his respect. "I don't always agree with your methods, Gene, but that doesn't mean I don't understand why you use them."
Gene gazed at Sam, clearly confused. "What are you saying?"
"It's my round-about way of apologising," Sam replied, raising an eyebrow.
Gene grunted. "Good." He pulled away, absent-mindedly picking up a file on his desk and flipping through it. "Good," he repeated more quietly. Sam watched him, calculating how long it would take Gene to surge forward and take a swing.
"But I'm not going to let you get away with everything you want, whenever you want it."
Gene returned his attention to Sam and studied him. There was no other movement. "You're here to act as my conscience, are you?"
"If I have to," Sam said; frank, exact.
Gene tilted his head a fraction. "Might be just as well."
Violent outburst averted, Sam took a deep breath and adjusted his stance from one of anticipation to one of relaxation.
"What do you want to do?"
"You know what I want to do."
"What do you want to do now that you've listened to my words of wisdom?"
"Funny, I don't remember that conversation," Gene said, hastily dragging his coat on. "Must be talking to yourself again."
"Where are you going?" Sam sighed.
"To dinner. And you're coming with me."
Gene grabbed Sam's sleeve and began dragging him to the entrance of his office. Sam allowed himself to move freely, not bothering with resistance.
He sat in the Cortina in silence, watching the light drizzle create a simulated patina across the windscreen. He was thankful for the leather keeping him contained, enjoying the sensation of comfort, wrapped up as the sky fell around him in droplets and rivulets.
"Like a dog's piss," Gene said conversationally.
"Mmm," Sam replied, focussing on the streetlights ahead.
"Still, it's supposed to be good, innit? For the plants."
"Actually, I think dogs' piss is too acidic for plants. Kills them dead."
Gene glanced at Sam with an unimpressed raise of his eyebrows and continued driving. Sam let silence stretch between them again, listening to the steady crash of rain against the car.
Part of him was glad that he'd said it, part of him was furious that he'd backed down. He didn't know how to tell Gene that he knew he could be more without reinforcing Gene's opinion of him as a condescending arsehole. And maybe he was being a condescending arseshole, but he didn't know how to be any other way. That was the problem. Gene didn't know how to be anyone but Gene, and Sam didn't know how to be anyone but Sam.
Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4