Fandom: Life on Mars
Rating: PG-13 for this section.
Word Count: 1,387 words this section.
Notes: Sam/Gene slash.
Warnings: There is extreme violence and darkness in this story.
Summary: It starts out like any ordinary day - as ordinary as it gets in 1973. And then they have a case. A young girl has been murdered. Tensions are high, and there's more than one kind of tension.
Sam hadn't actually seen the body until now. It looked so small, so innocent. The girl's blonde tresses cascaded around her face, almost like an extended halo. She was deathly white. She hadn't been a pretty child, her mother wasn't a pretty woman, and Sam felt sure he was callous for thinking that in the first place, but he couldn't control his thoughts. His head pounded insistently and he wished he hadn't woken up today - had skipped it and awoken the next instead. He didn't know how this would have prevented child-murder, only knew that he wished it could.
They referred Patricia to counselling. Even Gene had been loathe to interrogate her as she cried, tears falling thick and fast, smearing her mascara. The doctor was called again.
"What do you think we should do?" Gene asked wearily, propping his legs up on his desk as Sam collapsed onto his settee.
What should they do? Sam didn't know. He didn't think there was anything they could do.
"Interview Janet Wickham personally," Sam responded. "Get a list of friends." He pushed the heel of his palm into his left eye-socket, trying to alleviate the pressure. "Cases like this are usually connected to the family - friends, relatives."
"Cases like this? You've seen a case like this before?"
He had, a few years back. Or several years forward. He hadn't yet made DI, let alone DCI. He was fresh-faced and idealistic, and partnered with Maya Roy. It had been that case - dark, cold, haunting - that had brought them together. They had sought solace in each other's arms.
It had been a little boy that time. Mutilated and left for dead by his uncle. Sam hadn't thought he could have a worse opinion of humanity after seeing that poor, broken body, but Maya had reminded him that what had occurred was inhumane. That his reaction was the right one, the one a real human would feel.
Sam returned his attention back to Gene. He spoke softly. "Yeah, I have."
Gene tossed a flask through the air and it landed on Sam's lap. Sam contemplated it and then unscrewed the cap, bringing it to his lips. The scotch burned in the best way, warm and biting, and if he had had the ability to think that everything that was happening was fiction, this would have shown him otherwise.
"You'll have to tell me about it," Gene said. He said it with the kind of quiet sympathy Sam always felt was out of place in him, but which reared up occasionally when Sam needed it most. Gene kept talking. "Sad truth is, it might provide insight on this one. Was it in Hyde?"
"No. Not Hyde," Sam answered. "I really ought to..." He gestured towards the outer office. "I'm gonna go talk to Janet personally. Unless you wanted to as well?"
"Do you need doors kicked in?"
"Shouldn't think so."
"I better stay here, then. I'll want a full report."
"You always get one. Sometimes with footnotes."
"I want it on the back of a postcard."
Sam pressed his hand on the glass of Gene's door and looked over his shoulder. "I've got small writing." He gave a half-hearted smile. "Would you like Brighton or Blackpool?"
Sam walked out, muttering under his breath. "You won't be saying that in a couple of decades and episodes of Eastenders."
Sam once took a week off work to de-stress. It had been during his early years, when he'd thought his mental health was more important than his job. He had played his guitar, read Neil Gaiman - concluded he could no longer play and Gaiman was too complex for him, watched 'a metric fuckload' of The Sweeney. He had come away from the week realising that his life meant very little without work. It hadn't been a consoling thought. Most people would use that kind of revelation as a launching pad for joining a few clubs, maybe becoming a Freemason. Not Sam. He dove further into the profession that consumed him; body, mind and soul, and had no regrets.
Except, of course, there was every chance this was his manifestation of regret. The type of regret that was all-pervading and inescapable. A trap of his own making. He didn't want to think of it this way, tried not to. He wasn't thinking of it this way at this time, because it felt too cruel - to say to himself that Carolyn's death didn't really matter because it didn't really happen. It did matter. It had happened. And just because the radio crackled to life beside him, didn't mean he could pick and choose his accepted existence. The radio wasn't proof. The radio was conjecture.
"There's increased brain-activity," the radio said. Sam pinched his nose and glared at it. "Accelerated responsiveness."
"I wonder," Sam said at it, "if I were to have sex, you'd talk about the stirring in my loins."
He meant if he were to have sex whilst not hopped up on LSD and cuffed to his cot. It was much the same to him.
"Can you hear us, Sam?"
"Now there's a good question. If the imaginary voice speaks, but the person imagining can't hear it, is there ever really a sound?" Sam asked, dragging his hands over his ears. The voice, predictably, stopped. When he took his hands away, it had gone completely.
He finally left the borrowed unmarked car. He had waited long enough. He hadn't known why he had waited, only that he had needed to.
Sam knew that Janet couldn't possibly have known what was going to happen to Carolyn, that it wasn't like she'd left her in the middle of nowhere, but he couldn't help the small spark of bitterness that the oversight wrought in him.
Her eyes were red-rimmed. Sam wasn't the only one ascribing culpability. She didn't say anything as Sam flashed his badge and entered her house, nor when he went through to the kitchen and put the kettle on. She crumpled into a dining chair and muttered something about her daughter being at a friend's. Sam made a mental note to request being able to talk to Beth, who might know something they didn't - which was hoping for a lot from an eight year old, but wasn't impossible.
"I keep going over it, in my mind," Janet said, clutching at the drink Sam offered her, her soft breath pushing the steam in such a way it failed to rise in a straight line and instead curled forward. Sam watched her for signs of artifice, but her body language and inflection suggested her sorrow and guilt weren't put on. Either that or she deserved every acting award that could be thrown at her.
"Tell me what happened in your own time," Sam said quietly, pausing to allow her to gather herself and answer in what he hoped was a comprehensive fashion.
"Pat's place is half an hour from here," Janet began. "We used to live next door to each other, but my husband Brian got a new job six months back. We'd just gone to pick Carolyn up, to stay for the weekend, like. Carolyn wasn't looking all that well - a bit pale, but she wanted to come, so I didn't think about it. You know what girls are like, they can make mountains out of molehills on a schoolday, but put up with missing limbs if they wanna go to the zoo." Janet stopped at this and gave a choked sob.
"I dunno, it must've been the drive," Janet said after a few sips of tea. "Carolyn started complaining about feeling sick and we'd only been gone ten minutes when I turned the car around and drove back." She suddenly became very earnest. "I would've driven right up to the gate, but Beth, well, she kept going on at me, and Carolyn, she just opened the door and said she'd be fine. It was seven houses away, they used to walk to and from school every day and that's right 'round by the church and..." Janet closed her eyes. "I would've made sure she'd gone in."
Sam felt like an arsehole, but opened his notepad and steadied his pen. "Can you tell me more about Carolyn and Beth's friends, school, activities? Do they belong to any social groups?"
Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, Part 10, Part 11, Part 12, Part 13, Part 14, Part 15, Part 16