Fandom: Life on Mars
Word Count: 2240 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. There are a couple of turns of phrase borrowed from Canadian sitcom Corner Gas, however.
The next morning, Sam leaned over the desk with a slightly crazed expression. Gene’s eyes flicked quickly to the office door and then back to Sam.
“You want to what?”
“Stage a reconstruction. Get an actor – or, I don’t know – Chris or someone, to pretend to be the dark figure Erica saw looming outside the place. We’d show it to the neighbours, and maybe they’d give us clearer statements about what they saw and what they didn’t see. We’d get a broader picture of what happened.”
Gene folded his arms against his chest. “No. Absolutely not.”
Sam launched himself away from the desk and stood, staring down at Gene, his lips pursed. “I can’t believe you’re not willing to at least try another method, Gene.”
“Really? Seems in line with the Gene I’ve come to know.”
Sam scratched at his eyebrow and shrugged. “Okay, fine. Have it your way.” He started walking toward the door, his cuban heels clattering against the concrete.
There was a slow intake of breath. “We’ll give it a go. But I want it to work, Sam, or I’m never listening to you again, y’hear me? Get it organised.”
Sam stopped and whirled around, far too excited, given the circumstances. “You mean it?”
“No. I’m talking out my arse. I adore the sound of my own voice. I’ve gone gaga and think I’ll get paid £5 every time I speak.”
Sam thought that all of those sounded entirely possible, but he left the room with a face-splitting grin, calling over his shoulder. “You won’t regret it, Gene. This’ll work. I’ve seen it work before.”
“They were far too lenient on you in Hyde,” Gene called back.
“And you love it.”
The day passed without too many troubles. Sam managed to arrange to have as many uniformed officers as possible assisting in the reconstruction. He set up lighting, liased with the local council, had various discussions with the residents of the street. Most of the people he spoke to didn’t understand the point of the proceedings, but Sam did his best to explain.
It became dark relatively early, low cloud cover bringing a veil down over Manchester. The air was cold and the ground was damp. It had been raining again, only a light drizzle, but enough to make the edges go soft. Sam stood next to Annie in the street, answering the occasional question and ensuring that everything was going to plan. Several uniformed officers were wandering around with torches in hand, providing much needed light.
“Do we have to be out here right now?” A woman asked of Annie, “it’s just that Mr Jenkins of number forty’s a bit jittery and I think he really needs to be in the warmth.”
Annie turned to Sam with a questioning raise of her eyebrow.
“It’s best if they stay out.”
“We’ve some rugs over here,” Annie said, taking the woman by the arm and steering her to the collection of supplies they had set up. She came back to Sam, wrapping her arms around herself to fend off the cold.
“Don’t you think it would’ve been easier to do this in the daytime?”
Sam shook his head. “No. We need to match the original conditions as closely as possible.”
Gene sauntered over, fresh from having newly assaulted a teenager for staring strangely at the Cortina.
“Move over, Cartwright. Dearest Samuel here has construction work to be doing.”
“Reconstruction,” Sam corrected, rubbing the back of his hand over his forehead. “And Annie, I’d like it very much if you’d stay right where you are.”
Annie almost looked like she was going to speak, her mouth partially open and her eyes fluttering wide, but she didn’t. She took one look at Gene’s puffed up posturing and nodded gently.
“Ideally we’d be filming this,” Sam said, keeping a close eye on the influx of people emerging from other streets.
“Now he wants to be a director, love. If he’s anything like that other Tyler, you might want to make yourself scarce for fear of your lovely bumps being put on display for all to see.”
Sam’s head flicked up and he glared at Gene. Annie didn’t react. She stood perfectly still, an expression of polite shock on her face.
“Could you please keep an eye on things here?” Sam asked, placing his hand gently on Annie’s. She nodded and pulled away, directing her attention to the residents. Gene rolled his eyes and began moving over to a group of youths which had formed just behind the section they had cordoned off.
“Oi. You lot. Piss off,” Gene barked, seemingly on the verge of storming at them like a bull toward a matador.
“Chris?” Sam yelled, spinning around to look for the Detective Constable. Chris appeared by his side, halfway through pulling on a black jumper.
“Keep these people away. They’re interfering.”
Chris gazed at the crowd of onlookers, shrugging. “How?”
“Get one of the PCs to hold them back. Make a sign. I don’t know, Chris, use your initiative.”
Chris returned in a minute, holding up a white board covered with the words ‘Keep Back’ sloppily painted in dark green. “Is this alright?”
“You actually used letters from the alphabet,” Sam replied in mock surprise. Chris gazed at him, gormless. Sam brushed his hand over his chin. “It’s fine, Chris.”
Sam walked around talking to the residents, explaining once again what they were doing and what he was expecting from them. He was only as explicit as he felt necessary. He didn’t want to influence their opinions in any way. The general reaction he received was either one of excitement or great disinterest. He was surprised. He had expected their responses to be drastically different from those in his own time, but they weren’t. The level of apathy and enjoyment was about the same.
Gene had stopped terrorising others and was lazily lighting a cigarette. Sam insisted they not interfere or put suggestions into the minds of those waiting for the re-enactment, so they stood away from the onlookers. Christina’s neighbours all stood at the far side of the street, Annie and several PCs close to them. Sam wouldn’t admit that he was also using this distance to observe the reactions of those involved from afar. He didn’t want anyone to feel like they were on trial, even though he was carefully gauging audience response.
“So, we’ll put on this little show and then start rounding them up,” Gene said, gazing at the scene in front of them with half-closed eyes.
“No, you can’t go in guns blazing. You have to probe, question carefully.”
“Tyler, if you ever mention probing around me again, I’ll dump you in a Salford alley and drive well away.”
Sam huffed a deep breath and rubbed at the itch of his eyebrow. “I’m just saying, you need it to be imperceptible.”
Gene made a wheezing sound and the corners of his lips turned up. “I’m fairly sure they’ll be ‘percepting’ this.”
“I’m not surprised,” Sam muttered, tilting his head to the side, “with your approach.”
Sam scuffed at a small rock with the toe of his boot, hands in his pockets. Several minutes passed. Sam waited for Chris expectantly. He surveyed the crowd. There was a thrum of energy in the street.
Gene flicked his cigarette to the ground and crushed it with his left loafer. “Brilliant, this. Fantastic. I should have known we’d end up here. With sod all.”
Sam took a deep breath. “Just give it time. If this doesn’t work, I have other methods we can adopt.”
“You and your methods.”
“Yeah. Me and my methods.”
Gene raised his eyebrows. “What makes them so special?”
“How about the countless cases they’ve already solved?”
Sam pushed his lips forward, adjusting the buttons of his jacket. He rocked back on his heels.
“If you think I’m letting you go off half-cocked again, you’ve another thing coming,” Gene said. “You’ve already set this investigation back with your namby-pamby pandering to ignorance.”
“You don’t know that. Give it time.”
“Your confidence astounds me,” Gene said, every note brimming with sarcasm.
Sam scowled, crossing his arms and setting his feet apart. “New techniques always take a while to settle in.”
“Funnily enough, I don’t much care for settling.”
“It’s always rush, rush, rush with you.”
Gene clicked his tongue against the roof of his mouth. “And I’ve already explained why.”
Sam turned to face him once more, glaring in anger. “Yeah? Well explain it again.”
Gene didn’t speak. He narrowed his eyes and grabbed hold of Sam’s jacket, taking Sam’s shoulder in a vice-like grip and swinging him around to meet him face to face. Sam struggled and lashed out, freeing himself. He stepped back until he was suitably far away from Gene’s grasp.
“This is it, is it?” Sam shouted. “This is our thing. This is what we do.”
Gene shrugged and glanced to the side, lips pressed tight. Sam nodded, brushing one of his hands through his hair. Sam’s usual stillness was replaced by movement. He stepped from side to side, getting quicker the faster he spoke.
“Of course. Silly me for thinking we could ever actually have a proper – oh, I don’t know – discussion, like adults. No. We lock horns. We fight. Don’t see eye to eye? Well, we’ll fix it with a quick punch and that’s okay, that’s fine, because if we’re doing that, there’s no chance we’ll say something profound, is there?”
“I don’t know what your problem is, Sam, but I’m getting bloody sick of it,” Gene replied, sounding vaguely disgusted. “You’re the one who started this. Not me.”
Sam nodded vigorously. “It’s always me, isn’t it?”
Gene widened his eyes and rocked back. “Yeah. It is.”
“Guv?” Ray called, walking toward Sam and Gene, “we’re ready to go.” He muttered the next phrase to himself. “Not that it’s worth it.”
“Can hardly wait to see another bollocks-up.”
Sam set his jaw and stared resolutely away from Gene, concentrating instead on those watching Chris creep outside Christina’s house, clothed from head to foot in black. There was an air of confusion.
“He wasn’t wearing black,” a woman called, her voice coarse and caustic. “He was wearing green.”
“Yeah,” one of the men said, “and he had bells on the ends of his toes.”
A young boy chimed in. “And a great big pointy hat.”
Sam pulled his hands out of his pockets. “Shit.”
He began walking back to the group of people, but Gene started walking too and made it before him. He stood in front of the insolent nay-sayers, using his most commanding posture.
“Alright, listen up. This is not a laughing matter. You either have something useful to say or you say nowt, got it? We’re doing all we can here to catch a killer. Use your eyes and your heads, and maybe we can do some good.”
Sam stared at Gene’s back, his mouth forming a tight, thin line. He was surprised, but not ungrateful. Gene assimilated himself into the crowd, his arms crossed and his eyes glinting with the light of the torches being waved around by Constables being paid overtime.
They tried again. On Sam’s direction, Chris was less melodramatic and more naturalistic. He ceased crawling up the fence like a Nosferatu wannabe and gave a fairly accurate representation of someone sneaking outside a house. Sam watched the onlookers once more. There was a murmur, but apart from that, not much more to go on. He bit the inside of his cheek.
Questioning was as spectacularly successful as Sam had predicted it would be once he saw how much Christina’s neighbours had embraced his new-wave policing. Erica nodded her head, confirming that Chris had been exactly like the dark shadowy blob-thing she had seen before. It was a shame that no-one else had witnessed the same figure.
“Well, we tried, Sam,” Gene said, coming up to Sam’s side with a squelch. Rain started falling, dripping down to soak the world. Sam gazed at the shadows splayed across Gene’s face.
“You set me up to take the fall,” Sam said, bitter and broken.
Gene frowned. “I’m not the sort of man who goes around concocting grand schemes just to make a point.”
“The enquiry into Billy Kemble’s death?” Sam bit back huskily, his body tensing up.
“That was different and you know it. This just wasn’t happening, Sam. You’ve these plans in your head, you think they’re the be-all and end-all, but I know how Manchester works and you’re going about it all wrong. We did it your way. Now we do it mine.”
“It’s always your way. Even when it’s my way, it’s your way.”
“Yeah, well, being in charge, it goes like that. When you’ve got a shiny nameplate displaying the rank of DCI, come back and have a chat about the power that comes with it. And then come back and chat about the responsibility – especially that which involves botched operations costing the department ridiculous sums of money. And when we’re done chatting, I’ll knit you a pretty purple scarf and headwarmer. Sound good?”
Sam pulled his arm back, teetering on the brink of taking a swing.
“I’ll make you regret it,” Gene said, voice cutting through the night.
Sam brought his arm down with a crash and walked off into the clamouring dark.
Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4