Anyway, I don't have the inclination to finish it and I can't even remember where I was going with it but it seems a shame for it to just sit on my hard drive, so I thought I would pop it up here as an abandoned fic amnesty thing....
My name is Sam Tyler.
Actually…OK it may not be, but we’ll stick with Tyler for now.
I had an accident and woke up in 1973. I didn’t know if I was mad, in a coma or back in time.
To be honest, I’m still not sure. Things are a little vague. Possibly I didn’t have an accident at all.
This isn’t getting me anywhere.
Let’s start with the basics.
My name is Sam.
While they were being gunned down in front of him he turned away from them, hadn’t he, and had gone somewhere else; moved into the light.
Wait, did he? He could remember the light looming around him, but did Sam go to the light or did the light come to him?
That was the problem with him. That was the problem with bloody subjective existence. It was all so…he never knew which way was up. Facts told you which way were up. Facts were something to cling onto. For example, fact one: he was in a coma. He was always in a coma.
But then when he’d cut his thumb in that meeting, he was – he was aware of the pain, but only in a dull, distracted kind of way, like a connection was missing in his brain; then he could hear Annie in his head. “It hurts, doesn’t it? That’s because it’s real.”
And that pain, that pain had been real.
So he had jumped off a building.
He’d done it for a lot of reasons, but the thing that crystallised it all was that he couldn’t feel, not like he could back where he was, and that had to mean something, didn’t it?
It had to mean something.
And one second he felt the ground rushing towards him, then (the point where he would have hit the ground) everything shifted back into focus. Like he’d never been away.
He’d been so relieved at first at being back and saving the day (being the hero) that he hadn’t thought long term. He was just enjoying the moment. Everyone else was so distracted by being shot at and so relieved to be alive they didn’t even start in on him.
Sam had run to the nearest house to phone an ambulance, got the team taken care of. He’d gotten a lift back to the station in a squad car to start sorting out the paperwork. He didn’t notice until he was sitting in the back of the car, without the sound of blood pumping in his ears, in the first quiet moment that morning, that there was the sound, the faintest sound almost out of earshot, of 2006-era ambulance sirens, and people screaming.
Sam buried his face in his hands.
The day after the train heist, he’d phoned Frank Morgan. Sam was almost surprised that Morgan had returned to his office in Hyde the morning after as if nothing had happened.
“You have something of mine.”
“That file against Gene Hunt. I’ll be wanting that back.”
“Well, you see Sam,” The voice was relaxed. “…I was rather planning on using it.”
“You’ll not get very far with it without my backing. I’m also pretty sure that you leaving us to die might undermine your case a bit. Career-ending move, that. At least.” Where before there had been self-assured complacency wafting out of the receiver, now there was only silence. Good. “I want that file, Morgan. We all stay silent; we all keep our jobs...”
Sam debated the next point for a second.
“…and I want a transfer. A proper one. I want all my files sent here. All my details.”
There was a loaded pause on the receiver.
“And if I ref…”
“You’re not exactly in a place to start negotiating, Morgan.”
(Neither was Sam, but god knows he wasn’t going to give away the upper-hand).
“Oh, I don’t know, Sam, I’ve got some very interesting information against you as well as Hunt.”
“And we have just as much ammo.” Sam was annoyed to find himself scrabbling already.
“Sam, you’re clearly insane. It completely invalidates your word.”
“…My word is your case against Hunt. Look, if one of us starts pointing fingers, we all go down. Nobody wins. Now as much as it makes my skin crawl doing a deal with a vicious bastard like yourself – and trust me, I actually feel unclean doing this – I’ve got a big bloody mess to clean up here. So ask yourself, how much do you like your career, Morgan? I want those files.”
Morgan’s voice became calm again. “Sam, come down to the station. Pick up your files. We can talk.” He had got under his skin then.
“Post them.” Sam put down the phone.
Well that better had worked.
The Superindendent wanted to see him that afternoon. Sam produced all relevant paperwork, coming up with clever and entirely untrue answers for every question Rathbone threw, covered all exits, minded every angle.
Hilariously, lying and glossing over details was something he’d once balked at, in fact something he despised in other officers. Sam had made a reputation for himself telling the truth, even if it landed himself and everyone else in the shit. Thing is, once upon a time, a Superintendent would have actually cared about the truth, rather than just making a lot of noise about it. He hated him in that moment, almost screaming at Rathbone to push harder, probe the excuses, just fucking question him.
Sam got away with it. They got away with everything.
He hadn’t heard from Annie since the day before. He called her before he headed back to his flat. He told himself that he was just checking up on her, but he knew a large part of his motivation was testing the waters. She’d taken the day off so he rang her number and half-prayed she wasn’t in, his heart suddenly pushing up into his throat as she picked up. They had had a stilted and awkward conversation.
“Can we talk?”
“I’m not sure I…”
“Please, Annie…I need to say that I’m sorry.”
“Well that’s all well and good Sam, but I don’t think sorry really covers it, do you? You’ve been lying to us since the first day you met us.”
“No! No, I haven’t. Listen, Annie, I didn’t know I was from Hyde until a few days ago. I didn’t know any of it. Annie, I thought I was from 2006. I’m not lying.”
“I’ve actually been working things through the last few days, okay? I’m from Hyde. My name is Sam Williams. I don’t remember much but I know enough now. 2006 is over, Annie, okay? No more. Please.”
“You can’t remember anything?”
“To be honest everything I know came from Morgan…”
(There was a pause) “…and you believed him?”
“He didn’t have any reason to lie about that” (he could remember the expression of earnest worry on Morgan’s face in the graveyard).
“You still turned on us Sam. We were your team and you were going to…just…shop us.”
“I know, I know, I’m so sorry. That’s what I phoned up to apologise for. I mean, well, no, I’m apologising for everything. I was thinking about myself, Annie. I was doing it to get what I wanted. The way I wanted.”
“What did you want so badly that you’d…”
“It doesn’t matter.”
“No, it’s important you tell me. Tell me the truth.”
“I just, I wanted to go home.”
Sam hadn’t answered.
“I made a choice though, Annie. To stay. This is where I should be.”
“How did you decide that?”
“It’s a bit too much to be going over on the phone.”
“Thing is Sam, I don’t know whether you’re telling me the truth or not. Everything about you is a lie.”
“I know. It’s confusing the shit out of me, too.”
Back at his flat, he turned on the radio for about half an hour, listening to the evening talk show that was interspersed with static, sounds of shouting, sobbing and the distant noise of sirens, until he turned it off and simply sat in silence, staring out of the window with a bottle of whiskey, drinking until he began to slide off the chair. The television began to flicker. He unplugged it, and it sparked into life again. He turned it to face the wall.
The radio started to crackle; he locked it in the bathroom.
The second day after the train heist, Gene beat Sam into the station, already sat in his office when Sam arrived for work. Possibly he’d been discharged from hospital, possibly physically ejected. Sam knew which one he’d put money on.
Sam had only just walked into A Division and “TYLER!” how did he even know it was him?
He slunk through the swing doors to Gene’s office and saw there was a box sitting on the desk, files spilling out and spread in front of Gene. Apparently Morgan had sent everything that day, and they had arrived this morning.
And Gene had found them first.
“You.” Gene started, and there was a half-empty bottle of whiskey on his desk and an inscrutable expression on his face. “You have got a bloody nerve.” He had transfer papers for ‘Sam Williams’ in his hand.
“You weren’t. You weren’t supposed to see that.”
“I’m the one who has to sign it, sunshine.”
“Not see it yet.”
“This box,” Gene prodded it with a finger, “was addressed to me. Technically, it’s mine.”
Shit shit shitting shit.
Sam looked at the contents of the table. “Is that my birth certificate?”
“Not any more, it’s not.”
“Gene, what would you do with my birth certificate?”
“I haven’t decided yet.” Gene leaned back in his chair. “So why do I have this?” Gene waved the piece of paper.
“Because I’m responsible.”
“What does that-“
“No, wait. That came out wrong.” Sam rubbed his forehead. “I asked for a transfer.”
“…and what makes you think I’d have you back?”
Sam didn’t have an answer, or at least an answer that he though Gene would abide. Because he wanted to, or because he had unfinished business. He just shrugged.
Gene continued looking pointedly at him. “Come to think of it, why is he transferring you here willingly?”
“Wants shot of me, I guess.”
“But he’s still going to go to the top with all that shite you recorded?”
“No, he shouldn’t. I wouldn’t play along. Anyway, we have him over a barrel.”
“You don’t think that radio went off by itself did you?” He saw a flicker of something across Gene’s face. “He planted it on me and set it off. He meant for all that to happen. He left you there to die.”
Gene looked thoughtful for a second, then, “So it was his fault.”
That was too much for Sam. “We shouldn’t have been there, Gene, at all. It was so easy for him to set us up, because you had set us up there first. Anything going wrong, at any time would have caused that. I can’t believe you haven’t learned from this.”
“But nothing did go wrong, did it? Except for you.”
That took the wind out of Sam’s sails a bit. He stepped back. “I’m sorry. I apologise for the things that I did wrong.”
As an admission of guilt, it was hung on what Sam considered to be his fault, but Gene seemed satisfied enough. He slammed down his glass and slapped the form on the table “You’re right. You’re responsible. There’s a debt to pay and I am getting it out of you. That’s why I’m signing this. Are we clear?” Sam nodded and Gene signed it. “Right, you’re back in.”
Gene stood and limped towards the door, putting weight on the crutch. Sam really should have seen the turn at the last second and the punch into Sam’s side, just under the ribs. Sam bent over, wheezing. Gene grabbed him by the front of his shirt and threw him back into the frosted glass window. The wall cracked the back of his head - for a moment, everything stopped.
He remembered where he was and what time of day and who was standing over him wanting blood about a second later, but not before he had a blindingly clear image of running towards the train tunnel, running towards himself, already inside and half in the shadows.
Gene leaned over him; his voice changed from angry, buzzing noise and condensed into words. “…I ever see you step out of line, if I so much as see you scratch your bollocks funny, I will see to it that you will pay, in full.” Gene had him by the collar of his shirt and was twisting it. “You got that?”
Gene seemed happy they’d reached an agreement and stalked off lopsidedly, leaving Sam leaning against the wall. Sam straightened up and rubbed the palm of his hand against the back of his head, against the forming lump. Then he picked up the box from the floor and took it out of the office, dumping it on top of case files spread over the surface of his desk.
He rummaged inside. Near the top was the birth certificate. ‘Sam Williams’. It knocked the wind out of him, still. He sat himself carefully at his desk and looked at the box, a box full of actual physical documentation that he was another person.
He pulled everything onto his desk and divided it into three separate piles: ‘very important’’, ‘not so important’ and ‘I don’t know what this is’. The very important pile had his birth certificate, a set of car keys, details of an account in a bank in Hyde, a marriage certificate, a divorce certificate, and three expired prescriptions for serazopan.
He had stayed late, partly out of contrition and partly because he hadn’t trusted anyone else with the paperwork. Arresting reports, case reports, injury reports, all of them had to be filled out and filed away in the filing room, in the small oasis of order he’d carved out in the corner, all the cases since he’d arrived.
Sam had looked around the filing room. The clutter, the smell, the dust motes whirling giddily in the air, all of them added a kind of atmospheric charm, but Sam had begun to get a headache between his eyes whenever he came in here, purely by association.
There was a small shock when he reminded himself that he was here permanently now, permanently attached to this filing room. He had spent a good amount of the day chipping away at the tip of the massive iceberg that was thirty years of neglect and confusion.
So it was around six (end of shift had come and gone without him noticing) and he was standing outside the station, beating dust off his shirt and deciding whether to go left or right. Annie’s house was a fair way out of his way when walking home from the station. In fact, if he was being honest, it was in the opposite direction.
She looked less than impressed, standing at the door of her little upstairs flat of a two floor house. Sam scratched the bump at the back of his head distractedly. “I,” he started, weakly. “I wanted to know if you were coming into work tomorrow?”
“You couldn’t have asked down the phone?”
“I wanted to see you.”
“But what if I didn’t want to see you?”
“Look, I think I just need some space, ok?”
“Gene’s re-hired me,” he tried desperately.
Annie paused, one hand still on the door and half-way to closing it. “He did?”
“Yeah. Sam Williams, now working for A Division officially.”
“He forgave you then?”
“Uh. I wouldn’t go that far. Friends close, but your enemies closer.” He finished with a dry smile.
“Even so, if he had wanted to he knows enough people who’d kick in your head for free.”
Sam contemplated this. “Ray.” He was relieved (he felt the tension in his chest ease) to see Annie smile. He leant her head against the doorframe.
“Wouldn’t…wouldn’t it be easier just to leave?”
“I think this is worth fighting for.”
“You’ve changed your tune from a couple of days ago. You hit your head in that tunnel?”
“Before that,” Sam said, and then “I mean it was more of an epiphany than head trauma.”
“Never know with you.” Annie raised her eyebrows. “So…you’re honestly staying?”
“I’m honestly staying Annie, I swear. I’m going to start living, here. Instead of just…existing.”
She chuckled. “I wish I knew what you were on about.” She nodded. “I believe you.” Her smile faded a little. “I want to believe you.”
“Good. Good. Thank you.” He sounded embarrassingly earnest.
“I’m not working this week.”
“I won’t be at work ‘til Sunday.”
“But, I’ll be at the Arms on Friday, if you fancy a drink?”
Sam smiled. “A drink would be good.”
The fourth day after the train heist, when he had supposed to be going for a drink with Annie and instead found himself with her tongue in his mouth, there was a blag at a small post office to the east of the city.
The hostages had been stuck inside the post office for about twenty minutes by the time the Cortina screeched to a halt outside. Three plod scurried out of Gene’s line of trajectory. The hostages were shrieking but that was nothing compared to the noise being made by the two armed robbers on being surrounded by 20 police. The situation wasn’t going to be resolved with calm negotiation, Sam could tell, somehow. The men inside were terrified, waving their shotguns about and someone was liable to end up dead within minutes.
Gene got hold of a megaphone. “You two little spastics put down those guns and get your arses out of here before we all start taking pot-shots at your ‘eads.”
Gene had already started bellowing and threatening before Sam had a chance to intervene. They were sheltering behind different cars. He was someway off to the left with Annie, who had taken Gene at his word and was lining up a shot with quiet deliberation.
A shotgun blast rang out and cut Gene’s speech short. The shot had buried itself into the opened car door that Gene was standing behind, and he stared down at it with growing impatience. There was a moment of absolute quiet from both sides; the blast could be heard echoing down the street, bouncing off the bricks and cement.
Then Chris shot.
The man who’d so cleverly attempted to take out the Gov’s abdomen through a car door flew backwards with the force of a bullet striking his shoulder. His friend then started firing wildly at the police cars. Sam saw one of the PCs fall down with a “huff”. He’d been caught in the arm. He shouted, “Officer down”, but it was lost in the din. The constable on the floor unleashed a stream of curses with such fluency and imagination that even Sam was impressed, and he’d thought himself immune to it.
“Have you got a shot?” he asked Annie.
“It’s too dark, and the doorframe’s in the way.”
The shotgun rang out once more but there was no answering thunk of shot hitting one of the squad cars. The shot had lit up the inside of the post office, every detail picked out for a microsecond, before it returned to darkness and the hostages inside screamed.
“Oh no.” Sam said it under his breath, not realising he was talking out loud.
Annie looked white and panicky. “They’re killing ‘em?”
Someone had jumped over a squad car and was running across the no-man’s land towards the door. It took Sam a second to recognise it as Chris, going in for a clearer shot. A bullet grazed by his head by an impossibility.
“There’s no COVERING FIRE!” Sam began to yell, and it was true, everyone had been taken by surprise and were just watching events unfold. Sam stood took a few shots towards the doorframe, almost at the same time as Gene did. Annie and Ray joined them, driving the hostage-takers inside. Chris reached the post office and pressed himself up against the wall by the door.
“What’s he doing there? Only way he can get a shot is by going insi…” Another-gun blast rang out inside the building, then a mass scream. Chris took a few breaths, then span and plunged himself into the dark doorway.
“CHRIS. NO. STUPID BASTARD.” Gene screamed, red in the face. There were a flurry of shots inside and then silence.
Sam skidded himself over the bonnet of a squad car and pelted towards the building, his legs working faster than his head. He was the first to reach inside and see the spectacle of Chris standing over two dead hostage-takers. He looked shaky and fragile.
“I think I need a sit-down.”
Sam caught him by the armpits as Chris’ legs crumpled.
“What the hell was that, Chris?”
Chris’s eyes had glazed over a bit. “Being a policeman.”
Sam tried to answer but his voice caught and he instead made a mirthless ‘huh’ of laughter. “You’re an idiot.” He told him.
“SKELTON.” Gene approached imposingly. “Good boy.” He picked Chris up by his shoulders and steered him out of the building. Sam looked about at the post office interior, four dead bodies and the walls spattered with blood. Policemen barged in and hostages streamed out.
“Take the hostages outside. EVERYONE OUT.”
Outside, Annie was on the radio to Phyllis and Gene was slapping Chris on the back and steering him ever further away from the post office. Sam guessed that Chris wasn’t getting much in the way of constructive criticism from the lads at the moment. He’d have to have a conversation with him later.
“Anyone got a camera?” Sam was outside, cornering the PCs. “You got a camera?” One of them came forward, clutching a chunky, black behemoth of one triumphantly in his hands. “Good. Good man. We need photos.” He pointed towards the door of the post office and the plod turned pale. Sam looked closer at him, he looked like he was about nineteen. “Never mind.” He relieved the man of the camera and headed inside.
The ambulances were on their way to pick up the bodies so Sam only had some minutes to record the crime scene. It’d only be necessary if it turned out that the two dead men were working for someone else, and all signs pointed to them being a couple of chancers, but Sam wanted a full report. Sam dotted i’s and crossed t’s.
He photographed the blood spatters, the bullet holes in the walls and around the door frame, the tills, the guns. He photographed the bullet wounds. He looked closer at the two hostage takers. Clean holes through the front of their heads. It was faster and more painless that the two hostages had gotten. He still marvelled that it was Chris, of all people, who had done this. He felt ill. At first he put it down to the adrenaline and the sight of the bodies, but…
No, he really felt ill.
Sam got up from the crouching position and felt his stomach lurch. There was a ringing in his ears. He had thought it was just feedback from the gunfire noise, but he recognised it now. He’d heard it, earlier, on the Cortina’s radio. It was the flatline.
He put the camera down on a counter and covered his ears. It got louder. He screwed up his eyes against the noise but the room tilted sideways and the floor felt like it was rushing up to meet his head. His eyes flew open and he grabbed for the counter to steady himself.
He looked round to see two PCs that had been picking their way delicately through the room but were now standing and watching him. One smirked, thinking himself more hardened than the swooning detective in the corner.
He was going to throw up.
There was a door across from him. He made his way, carefully, to the handle and found it amazingly, blessedly open. He pushed his way into a back room with an overloaded table and shut the door behind him. He stumbled and hit the wall with the heavy thud of dead weight.
The flatline was shrieking in his ears now, drowning out all other noise. He wheezed. There was a pressure, on his chest. He couldn’t breathe. He gasped, but all that happened was a rasping, whistling noise. He clawed at his throat and his chest, there was nothing there, but he couldn’t breathe. His legs gave out and he slid down the wall.
Nothing was going in. Nothing coming out. It was locked. Petrified. His chest burned. His vision went grey about the edges. Black spots danced in front of his eyes.
The flatline screamed.
He couldn’t scream for help. His arms were hopelessly heavy and fell like numb meat in his lap. Things went dim. Then they went dark. He felt numb.
Then he heard something; something else over the flatline.
“Time of death: 10.15”.
Dead. Final whistle. No extra time.
No, this was not fair.
This was not going to happen.
The flatline stopped, abruptly. Unplugged.
He was in a graveyard.
It was overcast, but warm. Clammy. A couple of birds were wheeling about, overhead.
“Thank you for meeting me here, Sam.” Morgan made his way up the path, sweating from the weather and the walk up the incline.
“I’m not happy about this.” Sam turned back to look at the joint grave.
“All I’m asking you to do is what you did in Hyde, Sam.”
“Gene Hunt,” Morgan stopped for emphasis, “is a sickness in the body of the police force. He’s a cancer. He must be removed in order to make the body healthy again.” He said it slowly and deliberately, so Sam would absorb it.
But Sam thought of the bobbies that’d been laid off. Retired, dishonourably. Some of them he’d been glad to see the back of. Some of them, though…
“Maybe cancer is wrong. Maybe he’s just broken. Malfunctioning.”
“Like a dodgy knee?”
“Does a dodgy knee take monthly bribes from Manchester’s most powerful and prolific crime boss, dance in his clubs, sleep with his prostitutes?”
Sam didn’t have an answer.
“Gene Hunt is exactly the type of scum we are trying to eradicate.” Morgan shifted his feet, dragged the gravel on the path. “There won’t be the same bother that there was at Hyde. That was unfair to you.”
Sam had tied himself to Morgan, in a way that he was sure he wouldn’t be able to get himself out of. If he ever tried. He hung his head in a way that communicated surrender.
“Have you chosen a name yet?” Morgan asked softly.
“Sam Tyler.” He nodded towards the large grave some ten feet away. “Caught my eye coming in. The parents are Ruth and Vic Tyler.”
“Fair enough,” although Morgan didn’t sound convinced. “I’ll go make up the necessary documentation.” Morgan turned to leave.
“Don’t go by Holland Road. There’s been an accident.” His eyes didn’t stray from in front of him.
“Hm. Pass it on the way?”
Sam didn’t answer and didn’t look up. Morgan grunted, irritated, then left.
Sam Tyler. He was Sam Tyler.
It was funny. He’d never noticed those particular graves before.
Sam sucked in air, raggedly. His eyes snapped open and he groped for something to hold onto. His hand clasped at the edge of the table. His other hand flew to his chest, where his heart was fluttering uneasily. He was in the back room, alone, thankfully. He was exhausted. His muscles were watery and wouldn’t hold himself up like they should. He used the table to haul himself upwards.
The door opened. Ray. “What the hell you doing behind ‘ere?”
Sam shook his head and tried not to vomit. He held his hand up. “A minute.”
Ray grunted disapprovingly. “Think he’d never seen blood before,” he said to no-one in particular as he headed back out.
Sam got his breath again, stood up under his own power and tried not to groan audibly, and then was driven back down across the table top by what felt like power-tools smashing in the centre of his head.
And there was Ray again. “What’s this?” Like Sam was doing this on purpose.
“Fuck off.” He said it through gritted teeth.
Ray pondered this for a second. “Fine.” He left. A few seconds later Sam heard him calling for Annie, outside.
Oh that’s just fucking magnificent. He just needed to be left alone for a seco…“Nya-ARGH.”
His head was splitting open. Oh what now? What the fuck was happening to him now? He had his face pressed against the palm of his hand and his hand pressed against the table. He was holding on with his other hand so he didn’t slide off and the thing in his head was growing and he’d just about passed his ability to cope when
The coach swerved and shrieked. He was hanging onto the seat in front but the lady next to him was thrown against the window.
The coach kept swerving.
“Here we are, Sam? Sam?” Annie was behind him.
Annie turned to someone. “Just a migraine.”
“Take him home,” said Gene, from somewhere.
Annie guided Sam towards the door, propping him up, but there was something that he…”Camera.”
“What?” said Gene, utterly not in the mood for word games.
“Crime scene photographs. There’s a camera on the counter.”
“Your nose is bleeding,” said Gene.
“Hnh?” He touched his top lip. Blood. He must have smashed his nose into the table.
Or, who knows? He could have a brain tumour. He laughed, a little breathlessly.
“Come on, love.” Annie pushed him forwards.
On the tenth day after the train heist, Sam found himself standing outside 75 Colliers Walk. Number 75 was a small council flat on a relatively new estate on the outskirts of Hyde. There was beige brickwork and cladding under the windows. There was no graffiti or peeling paint or mould or leaks although Sam knew that all these things were likely to come. Buildings like this were getting torn down in 2006.
Sam considered the role-reversal. Usually he’d blunder into someone’s life knowing everything about a person, while they knew nothing about him. He knew nothing about this woman, except that her name was Deborah Lloyd and they had been married for 7 years. She knew him more than he knew himself. Now he knew why people avoided him the way that they did - the sensation was terrifying.
Sam was going to go inside. He really was. He made it as far as the join between the pavement and front path, and that was as far as he ever got.
Instead he went to the flat that was leased out in his name. It was a drab, dank little place above a grocers’ in a parade of shops in Hyde town centre.
He noticed the blue Rover parked behind the shops. The fact that the car keys in his pocket slid perfectly into the lock caused a strange gripping in his stomach. He’d left this car in a patch of wasteland in Manchester months ago. Someone must have picked it up and brought it back. He opened the door and found the inside was completely empty. Nothing even in the glove compartment.
Just inside the door of the flat were a pile of letters which turned out to be unpaid bills, taxes and a notice of eviction. Whatever arrangement had been going on here had ended, abruptly. He left the lease and the keys on the table and looked around. The place was a tip. By the grace of god (or possibly Morgan), nothing had been left in the fridge, but he obviously hadn’t tidied up before he left. The more he looked, the more he realised that the majority of the stuff was newspapers and books, pages had been torn out or cut out and stuck on the wall.
Sam grabbed a few empty boxes from the loading bay outside the grocer’s and took them up. He rooted through debris, trying to find actual possessions. He found diaries and notebooks, photographs, records. He grabbed a few of the clothes, not different to the ones he was wearing at the moment. He listened for anybody else around, thought about it, then took the mattress as well and loaded it all into the Rover. The mattress poked him in the back of the head all the way back into town.
The frame of the fold-out bed groaned alarmingly as he dragged the new mattress on top. It hung over the edges slightly but looked stable, so he lowered himself onto it gingerly, listening for warning creaks. A grin crept across his face as he realised that he now owned a bed that was comfortable. He marvelled that this existed inside his flat.
He spent the rest of the day rummaging through the contents of the boxes. He hadn’t spent time in Hyde looking through properly, making a quick smash and grab instead, leaving the keys behind and ticking it off his mental check-list.
Morgan had all these things in his custody before he’d sent them to A Division. These were the things that made up who Sam Willia…who he was. He’d had access to his flat, his bank account, all those little private corners of his life. It said quite a lot about the control Morgan had had over him. It was disturbing.
At about five thirty, Sam found a photo of his dad.
David Williams had been photographed from the shoulders up in full RAF uniform; in 1943, said the back of the photograph. There were a few more, him usually at the back of his battalion. Sam studied the face carefully, waiting for a flicker of recognition. There wasn’t any. There was nothing. Sam jumped; looked around. He had…he had heard glass smashing, hadn’t he? His windows were intact, and there was nothing in the street when he looked out, no telltale glint of glass shards on the road. He shook it off and went back to the growing mess of material over the bed and the floor.
There was a diary for 1973. Most of it wasn’t filled in; the few early months that were, were just banal entries: ‘dentists’, ‘meeting’. All through the diary in red ink though, January to December with no apparent pattern there were cryptic entries. November 30th had ‘downstairs – hip’.
One of them made his stomach drop. June 21st. ‘Ray – bomb’.
He flicked through the rest of the diary quickly. He caught ‘Vic Tyler’ and ‘Morgan – tunnel’. No details. Nothing that would be any use if you hadn’t lived through it already. The back of the book had a list, in chronological order, of important world events right up to the London bombings in 2005.
He put the diary with the rest of the notes he had made when he first arrived here, in a kitchen drawer, under the cutlery tray.
He felt dizzy, or sick. He felt off. He hadn’t gotten any answers, The whole thing was more weird than before.
[MISSING SCENES: MURDER CALLED IN – KEVIN MCCARTHY]
“I want control of the McCarthy case.”
“Oh? And why is that?
“I’ve got…” he thought of the right words “…an edge with these cases. It makes sense.”
“And I’m supposed to entrust you with this? A man who’d turn on his own arsehole?”
“Ooo-hoo-hoo-hoo.” Ray chuckled with a cigarette pinched between his fingers. Gene turned his attention to Ray, giving him a look that had made children, on occasion, spontaneously soil themselves.
Under the blistering gaze, Ray’s chewing began to slow, and slow. It came to a complete stop, and Gene turned his attention back to Sam.
Ray was quiet after that.
“You can rely on me with this.” Sam said.
“My office.” Gene thrust through the dividing doors; Sam slammed his arm into one on the backswing, so to make an equally impressive exit.
“You had my trust once, but you shat all over it. You are not running this case.” Gene sat in the chair behind his desk, leaning back.
“Oh my god,” Sam muttered under his breath, then louder, “Can you honestly not tell the difference between loyalty to the law and loyalty to you?”
“I would have thought they were the same thing.”
“And people think I have a god complex?” Sam smiled, but it wasn’t the nice kind. “The fact is that I am the most competent man you have.”
“Competent means exactly as much as a whippet’s fart as far as I’m concerned if I don’t know what you’re spending your time doing. I think you’re working the case and meanwhile you are delivering photos to some uptight wanker in Hyde of me scratching meself in non-regulation manner.”
“That. Is. IT.” Sam slammed down the file onto the desk. It made a dramatic and satisfying thump. “Can you at least try and understand what I did what I did? You haven’t even asked me.”
“It’s because you’re a worm.”
“You broke my trust first. The sting operation? The entrapment? The complete disregard for your team’s safety?”
“Taking risks is a part of the job.”
“There’s a line, Gene, between acceptable and unacceptable risks. You went waltzing over that as soon as you smelt a big blag. When you said you hadn’t killed Terry Haslam, I believed you but I saw you doing this. Sometimes I think that we should get caught.”
“So you go to Morgan.” Gene stood up and removed a packet of fags from the bookshelf behind him. “Because he’s such a better man than me.” His voice was thick with sarcasm.
“Morgan is a psychopath. I was wrong about him.”
“Too bloody right.”
“I fucked up. I’m sorry. I don’t know how many times I’m going to have to keep saying it.” He couldn’t stop himself from saying it: “You haven’t apologised for anything.”
Gene leaned over the desk between them, his chin jutting towards Sam. “I have nothing to apologise for.”
Sam was going to lose it. Right in this room. “D’you know what?” he said. “Just, just hit me. Go on, right in the face.” It was almost cathartic, speaking it out loud.
“You what?” Gene came round the side of the desk, stalking towards him. Sam took the opportunity to push Gene in the chest, setting him off balance. It was antagonism. He knew Gene didn’t like to be off balance. Welcome to the world, Gene, Sam thought humourlessly. Gene continued to stare but had started to puff up like an angry cat.
“Don’t act like you haven’t wanted to al…”
However that sentence was going to end was cut off by Gene’s fist swinging, straight into Sam’s eye. At first there wasn’t any real pain, just unbelievable pressure across his face. Then the pain bloomed and pushed through his whole head.
Sam reared his arm back, but didn’t swing. He didn’t punch back. His arm dropped to his side. He’d actually asked for this, like an idiot. He was also pretty sure that he deserved it. At least something had happened. At least this was a sick kind of progress.
“Don’t have to ask me twice,” said Gene a little darkly, before stalking away.
Sam squatted down with his hands held over his face. It felt like someone had put a brick over his eye and was standing on top of it.
Sam was still here because Gene, much as it irked Sam to admit it, was thinking practically. He’d use Sam for everything that Sam was good for, but he didn’t trust him. Sam considered the possibility that Gene would never trust him, that he’d ruined things to an irreparable state.
Sam was going to have to get through to him, it was deeply necessary that he got through to him, but he didn’t know how. He was so clueless how to solve this that he was on the floor, on his own, with a nothing gained but a massive black eye decorating his face.
Sam placed the beer on the table in front of Gene, who regarded it coolly. Sam stood by the table with his own beer in hand.
“Can I sit down?”
“Free country,” Gene said, indifferently, staring across the room. Sam took a sip of his beer and flinched. Even drinking made his face hurt. All the skin round the eye socket was purple and swollen; his eye had sealed itself closed.
Gene finished the drink he’d been holding, then considered the one in front of him. He picked it up. “You work the case, but I run it.” One finger unfurled itself from around the pint glass and pointed at him.
“You report to me. You answer to me.”
“How’s the face?”
“Aye, and I’d believe you and all if you weren’t wincing daintily every time you took a sip.”
“Well it’s a bit sore.”
Sam grinned. “Fuck you.”
Gene put down an empty pint glass, having magically finished it within 30 seconds without showing any effort. “No no, Gladys. Fuck you. Now buy me another.”
McCarthy’s house belonged on a housing estate that had been there since the ‘thirties, when this had been the edge of the city. It had been long-since swallowed up by other buildings and roads and people and was now just another bit of the patchwork in Manchester’s fungus-like outward spread. It’d been around long enough to develop the imperfections and uglinesses that make a place feel homely. McCarthy had lived in a cul-de-sac that gave itself the slightly presumptuous name of Fieldview Gardens, though at the end of the road there was a bit of land that must have once led onto rolling fields. Now it gave the view of a brown, looming gas tower.
The victim’s house, at the end of the cul-de-sac, had an exactingly kept garden, with none of the stuff strewn about like the other houses had, things like gardening equipment and bikes and toys. Outside wasn’t telling them anything about the bloke, except for the fact that he was keen on pruning the borders, so Sam led the way round to the back door and broke open the lock.
The inside matched the outside, clean and tidy and completely lacking any personality of the man who once must have filled it. He read the Daily Mail; there was a stack of them by the door. He ate a lot of biscuits. These weren’t the things that Sam could build a robust psychological profile out of. So far all he had was ‘anal retentive’.
There wasn’t any of the detritus and unfinished projects – things not yet cleaned away, that told of someone who hadn’t expected to never be coming home. Sam wondered, climbing the stairs, whether this was a version of him putting his affairs in order, whether he had known he was going to die.
But in McCarthy’s bedroom he found a pretty large collection of gay pornography, in a box at the back of the cupboard. He listened out for Ray, who was clattering around downstairs. He’d been wrong, then. This wasn’t the sort of thing (‘Zipper’, he saw on the top of the pile) that was left in the house if the owner expected someone to be cleaning up after him. He debated going downstairs and telling Ray; the man’s sexuality gave them the first clue of a motive for murder. Then he remembered who he was dealing with. Sam didn’t want to run the risk of the case being affected by this, at least not yet. He decided to keep this revelation quiet for the moment and returned the box to the cupboard.
He also tried the top-drawer of the bedside table, the other safe-house of the dirty little secret. He scored with a recent photo, him and another man, and an address book, both of which he took.
The rest of the room had nothing. The bathroom was bathroomish. Downstairs, he found Ray half in and half out of the cupboard under the stairs. This move was possible due to half of the contents of the cupboard being scattered up the hall. “Any luck?”
“Nowt,” said Ray’s head from somewhere under the stairs. “Place is spotless. Bleeding poofter.” Sam raised his eyebrows and wondered what he’d label the victim if he’d found as much gay porn as Sam had done. Ray grunted at Sam’s expression and extricated his foot from the cupboard. “Better interview the neighbours then.”
“Yeah, fine,” conceded Sam. “Put this back and I’ll meet you outside.”
Ray gave Sam a look that wished him nothing positive, but started picking things off the floor.
The wind outside had a bite to it, and Sam realised with a bit of a shock that summer was running out. Soon it would be autumn, and winter, and then…then it would be 1974.
A new year that was an old year.
The neighbours were nice, but unhelpful. The women called McCarthy a nice boy, but quiet. Lived in the house his parents left him. Didn’t socialise with any other neighbours. They seemed to know a lot about his comings and goings, though.
“Sometimes stays out ‘til three in morning,” said a woman from across the road. “Stayed,” she added quickly. “His car always did wake me up.”
“Think he had a girl then?” asked Ray.
She pulled a pained smile. “Oh,” she said. “No.” She left it at that.
Three out of four residents of the cul-de-sac told them to speak to Mr Vince, in Hawthorne Crescent, apparently a big name round these parts. He was a retired police officer, they said. He’d know more about all this than they would. Sam and Ray reluctantly decided to stop by Hawthorn Crescent as the residents of Fieldview Gardens were giving them nothing.
You towing the line with the Guv’ now, then?” Ray piped this up from nowhere on the short walk down the road.
“Well, he hasn’t done anything that I need to argue with him about, if that’s what you mean?” Sam watched his face carefully to see if that was what he meant.
“What you getting at?”
“Well I don’t butt heads with him for the hell of it, do I?” He saw Ray’s blank expression. “Ray, I don’t butt heads with him just for the hell of it.”
“Then why do it at all?”
“Because I’m right…sometimes.” Sam thought about it. “Because someone has to.”
Mr Vince turned out to be a tall man, but old, with a slight gut. He was a self-important prick, just as Sam had expected him to be; his eye had squinted reflexively when they showed him their badges. He was a man who obviously disliked their presence on his turf. But still, he let them in.
“To be honest, Mr Vince, we’ve just been trying to build up a profile of the deceased. None of his family have come forward and he doesn’t have any next of kin.”
Vince shrugged, suggesting that this was beyond him.
“We’ve been redirected here by three people, sir. They thought you may be more help, with your background and all.” He inwardly cringed at the toadying (Ray expressed himself more freely) but turning the conversation towards Vince himself worked.
“Oh aye, I keep an eye on this area. This is a safe neighbourhood. Good, Christian community. We intend to keep it that way.”
“One of your neighbours was murdered,” Sam countered.
“Not here, he wasn’t.” The man’s voice took on vehemence. “We don’t have things like that round here.”
“So you haven’t had any trouble, then? No-one visiting him, causing a disturbance?”
“If there was one, then we would have reported it.” Vince sat on his settee and sighed, sagging a little. “But there wasn’t. None of us knew anything, and now the little bugger’s dead.” Vince brushed the arm of the settee, removing invisible dust. “’Orrible business.”
“Right.” Sam put away his notepad and pencil. “Thanks for your time.”
“Rather looks bad on me, doesn’t it? Something like that happening here?” Vince looked up at them, genuinely unsettled.
“Like you said, it didn’t happen here. What could you do?”
“Yes. Yes, you’re right. I’ll show you to the door.”
Ray and Sam stood outside, the orangey pink light of the sunset making them squint.
“That seem weird to you?”
“The ‘good Christian community’ line.”
“Not weird really,” said Ray. “’He’s a knob, inne?” as if that explained everything.
Before they made it back to the car, they crossed an old lady turning off the pavement up her garden path. It wouldn’t hurt getting one last statement.
“S’cuse me, love.” He flashed his badge. “CID. Can I talk to you for a sec?”
The woman froze, her mouth puckered. Sam noted that she was wearing the brown woolly coat that seemed to be standard issue for all women in Manchester once they passed fifty, and her hair was dyed an impossible shade of tar black. “What about?”
“A murder. McCarthy at Number 2 Fieldview Gardens was murdered the other day. Did you know the victim at all?”
“Faggot, weren’t he?”
“Dead then? Good. Only thing fit to do with those perverts. Oh aye, I’ve seen him mincing up an’ down here. Weren’t natural.”
“Know anyone else who feels the same way? You see, we’re trying to track down the murderer and all this, well, it’s eye opening.” Sam heard his voice turning harsh.
“Anyone,” said the woman, equally tense. “Everyone, if they’re being honest.”
“Right,” said Sam, and walked off.
“Not going to take her number?” Ray fell in step with him.
“So close to losing my temper. That, that is the exact reason why this man is dead.”
“She’s a bit small to have done it, don’t you think? Bit frail?” Ray looked at the woman retreating into her house over his shoulder.
“The attitude, Ray. The homophobia.”
“What’s that when it’s at home?”
“Fear of homosexuals.”
“She didn’t sound very frightened.”
“When people are afraid of something they lash out. They attack the thing that disturbs them.”
“An’ you’d know all about that, wouldn’t you?”
They were lying there in the warm, sweaty sprawl of the afterglow, and Sam was valiantly trying to stay awake when Annie turned to him and said, “You don’t think it were all just studying that went on at University, do you?” There was this wicked little grin on her face, but the guilt not entirely gone from her voice, as if anyone who went to University in the ‘sixties had done anything else.
All he could manage back in his sex-baffled state was “Yeah. ‘eard about you lot,” which he really hoped came across as a joke, seeing as he had only one eye open and was mumbling and how do women stay so alert, afterwards?
Annie grinned at Sam, who was losing his battle with consciousness, and then settled down, back facing towards Sam. Oh thank God. He threw an arm over her waist and allowed the pillow to swallow his head.
The coach swerved and shrieked. He was hanging onto the seat in front but the lady (his mother) was thrown against the window.
The coach kept swerving.
It tipped. The ground rushed up towards the window, behind the lady’s (his mother’s) head.
The world exploded.
Annie was rubbing circles in his back and calling his name over and over. Sam blinked and took a few seconds to remember where he was.
“You were screaming, love.”
He was sitting bolt upright in bed and shaking from the unused adrenaline.
“Nightmare?” she asked, gently.
“It was…uh. It was-it was a memory. I think. Uh.”
“What was it?”
“I can’t…not now, ey?”
“Sam, you might…”
“Not now. Later.” He hadn’t meant to snap. Annie retreated from him a couple of inches. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean…”
“It’s ok.” She touched his shoulder. “You alright?”
“Yeah, fine. Yeah.” He settled back down into the pillow. Annie lay down on her side and reached over to play with Sam’s hair. Sam enjoyed this, this contact with the real world. It made him…actually there.
“You going to be able to go back t’sleep?” She said eventually, looking groggy. Sam was still vibrating.
“Mm.” He made an affirmative sounding noise and hoped that she’d take it as a yes, her eyes were already drooping. She shifted and rested her arm on his belly before she was asleep again.
Sam stared sore-eyed at the ceiling until morning. He was up and dressed before she woke up, and he managed to distract her with breakfast before they went in to work.