aww shit it's (cribbins) wrote,
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cribbins

Abandoned Fic Amnesty: Life on Mars - Part 2

If Sam had been looking for this man this way in 2006, the number of places down Canal Street alone would have been overwhelming and the chances of catching the man slim, a matter of dumb luck.

Luckily, in 1973, there were very few places that the man in the photo could go to. A quick quiz of a couple of his snouts had produced a list of exactly three pubs that would turn a blind eye to a certain brand of behaviour.

Sam was in the second one, around ten at night on a Thursday and it wasn’t exactly buzzing. There was a desperation and anxiety about the place. It wasn’t exactly San Francisco, was it. Sam went to the bar and produced the photo from his inside pocket, asking the barman if he’d seen these two men.

“’Who wants to know?”

Sam produced his badge.

“Ey, I’m not doing anything out of line…”

“Whoa whoa whoa, easy,” Sam cut the man off. “This man?” Sam tapped on McCarthy in the photograph, “been killed. I need to talk to this man.” He pointed at the other.

The barman played with a pint glass. “’He do it?”

“I wouldn’t think so. I just need to ask him some questions.”

“Aye,” the barman conceded. “They both come here. Haven’t seen either for a while, though.”

“Thanks.”

“You going to have a pint?”

“I’m fine, thanks, but,” Sam dug around for a piece of paper and wrote his office and home number down. “…could you give me a call if this bloke shows up?”

The barman took the paper. “No problem, chuck.” He gave Sam a wink and slid the numbers into his back pocket.

Sam remained blank. “Thanks for the help.” He nodded at the barman and slid the photo back into his jacket. He could feel the whole pub watching him as he left.

On Wednesday night he got a call at his flat that his man from the photograph had shown up at his old haunt. Sam was there half an hour later, having taken the Rover, a car he still felt like he had stolen.

The man was sitting at a small table, in one badly lit corner. He was on his own, hunched over a pint.

“Mind if I sit here?”

“Look, mate, I’m not really in the mood…”

“’I’m flattered,” Sam sat down opposite and produced his badge.

“Oh, fuck.”

“I’m here to talk about Kevin McCarthy. You’ve heard about him, right?”

“I read about it, in the papers.”

“Why didn’t you step forward?”

“What good could I do? I weren’t with him the night he was killed.”

Sam took a softer approach; he was making the man nervous. “We are right up the creek here. Anything you could tell us would help.”

The other man grunted into his beer. “What do you want to know?”

“Your name?”

“Stephen Murcell.”

“My name’s Sam.” Stephen looked up at him curiously. Sam stared back, blankly. “Did anyone know that you and McCarthy were seeing each other?”

“Kevin,” the man corrected. “No, nobody knew.”

“Right.”

“But then, they didn’t really need to; to know he were gay, like.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well Kevin weren’t exactly butch.”

“So anyone could have known.” Sam rubbed his face, sensing that his one possible easy line of enquiry was slipping out of his fingers. “How was your and Kevin’s relationship?”

“It was…it was quiet. It served a purpose, you know. We weren’t, like, romantic or anything. Not like a man and a bird.”

“So it was an arrangement, for convenience?”

“We weren’t going to run away together, no.”

“Any bad feeling between the two of you?”

“No. No. I mean, I liked him. He seemed fond. We were alright.”

“Alright.” Sam pulled out his pad. “I’m going to have to take a statement.”

“I’m not going to have to go down the station, am I?”

Sam thought about it. Murcell was obviously trying to keep a low profile, and seeing as they still didn’t have a clue who killed McCarthy, he thought that was probably wise. “No, but I’ll have to take some details, so I can contact you if I need to.“ He pushed across his notepad to the other man.

“If you call the home phone,” Murcell was writing down his number, “then you’ll most likely reach the wife.”

xxx

“…so we’ve got no leads, no family, no birds, nothing?”

Sam stood at the back, listening to the Guv get more and more irate at their lack of progress and waiting for a break to interject. He made a move now that Gene had stopped for breath.

“Unless he was gay?”

“He was a bender?”

“Apparently.” Gene was reacting with genuine interest and hadn’t descended into a fit of gay jokes, which was better that Sam’s worst-case scenario. Sam produced the photo he’d taken off the evidence wall earlier from the pocket of his jacket. “I found this bloke. He was his boyfriend.”

“Found him down by the docks, did you?” Ray asked.

“I did actually, yeah.”

“Bloody ‘ell, boss. You go there often?”

“It would terrify you if I actually did, wouldn’t it?” Sam said it with a faint sense of pity, which made Ray shut up either out of confusion or uneasiness.

“Do you think he did it?” Asked Gene.

“So far he’s our most likely…our only lead.”

“What’s your gut feeling?”

“That doesn’t matter.”

Gene’s head lowered. “Humour me.” Sam sighed through his nose.

“No. I don’t think he had anything to do with it. Oswald thinks this was a gang. The injuries don’t match up to a domestic murder. To be honest, this gives us a whole new motive.”

“Game of kick the poofter gone too far?”

“Or they meant to kill him.”

“What, you think?” asked Chris, sat at his desk with notes and biscuits.

Sam shrugged. “People are like that.”

xxx

[MISSING SCENES – ANOTHER MURDER]

xxx

“D’you think this is like, you know, like Brady and Hindley stuff?”

Sam looked over his shoulder at Chris. “Serial killings? Maybe, but probably not. It isn’t ritualised. This one’s been stamped on the throat, when the other was kicked in the head, look. This is…basic. Besides, it looks as if the body still has everything. Nothing’s been taken as a trophy.”

“Like what?”

“A wallet? A lock of hair? Some of them take internal organs or fingers, stuff like that.”

“That’s sick,” spat Gene, and Sam wondered why he always sounded as if he were accusing Sam of coming up with the idea himself.

xxx
Gene threw open the door to his office, marched in a few paces and farted triumphantly.

“Charming.” said Sam, from the corner.

Gene turned, unfazed. “Shouldn’t be lurking in people’s offices then, should you?” He walked round his desk to sit. “Been interviewing posh birds all afternoon and holding that one in. Thought I was going to rupture summat.”

“What case is that for?” Sam asked.

“Flasher. Likes rich totty.”

“Any progress?”

“Oh aye, we know who it is. I sent Ray to go round him up.”

“Another glorious victory, then”

Gene snorted, then poured out a shot of whiskey.

Sam reviewed his notes and then spoke again. “I may have made some progress on the vigilante case?” Gene raised his eyebrows to show interest, so Sam continued. “I went through the complaints for the last year, people who were unsatisfied with what they were seeing. I found three by Mr Vince. I’m going to talk to him, see if he decided to take the law into his own hands”.

“Right. Take Chris.” Gene then turned in his chair to look out the window and continued drinking, signalling the end of the conversation. Sam gathered up his things and left the office.

xxx

[MISSING SCENES]

xxx

When he wasn’t looking, the six o’clock news had been hijacked by live footage from within A Division. Annie was sitting at her desk, in the middle-distance, sorting through statements. Gene came out of the shadows to the left of the shot, cigarette sprouting from the corner of his mouth.

Sam, back in his flat, crouched in front of the screen.

“Cartwright.”

Annie jumped.

“You due home an hour ago, weren’t you?”

“I’m just catching up, sir. Want to make sure I leave on time tomorrow.”

“And why is that?”

Annie looked awkward and fidgeted with the papers on her desk. “Me and Sam are going to the Trade Hall. Seeing the Rolling Stones.”

“Those lot? Let me guess, Tyler’s idea.”

“Mine, sir. Always liked ‘em.”

Gene grunted and took a few steps back, a preamble to leaving. “Just be careful.”

“Sorry Guv?”

“With him. Watch yourself.”

Sam got very, very close to the screen. You bastard, Gene.

“What do you mean?” asked Annie.

“Yeah. Gene. Care to explain?” Sam whacked the top of his television set.

“I just me - - I - - ng…..” The picture dissolved into static, taking the sound with it.

“Wait. Shit. What did you mean?” Sam stood up and kicked the set. The picture began to flicker again. The static began, judderingly, to replace itself with the test card.

Sam stood, rabbit-frozen. The test card did nothing, and after a few seconds Sam lunged for the wall socket. The picture contracted to a spot of white, and then died.

Just to be safe, he grabbed his coat and headed out. She’d never followed him outside his flat; not yet.

Sam spent the walk wondering whether it was that Gene honestly did not trust him, or whether this was some weird sort of revenge, going behind his back, using his position to influence Annie. Walking along the canal he was going though ideas of how to bring the subject up tomorrow without letting on that he had seen anything, when he suddenly found himself on his hands and knees.

He had fallen, pitched forward. Gravel was pushing into his palms. He rose up onto his knees and started to brush his hands together.

A girl screamed, somewhere. Sam whirled about; trying to find a direction, but it bounced off all the walls and the water and came at him from every direction. Another scream, longer and more painful. Sam tried to stand, tried to run and find her but he got a few feet before his legs collapsed under him again.

The streetlamp at the end of the path flickered, and went out.

Then the one next to it, one closer to Sam. Then the one next to that. The canal was being thrown into darkness. The next one was close enough that Sam could hear the buzzing as it faltered and then the ‘phut’ as it died. The girl howled.

phut

He could feel bile rising in his throat. One last lamp.

phut

Everything was black.

Things twisted.

“Please, please no.”

They kicked. They kicked and kicked. No faces – they were wearing balaclavas.

“Please, my baby…”

Something broke. One of the men leaned over and started punching. She squeezed her eyes shut, turned her face away. She tried to curl up into a ball, but they wouldn’t let her. They kicked her arms away, her legs.

Something snapped.

She could feel the shadow coming over her face, even with her eyes shut. There was a bright, sharp…

There was nothing.

There was nothing.

Water, he could hear water.

The canal.

His eyes fluttered open. There was gravel pushing into the side of his face.

He sat up, slowly, leant himself against the wall that separated the surface of Manchester with the deep-set canal path. He breathed. He looked at the sky.

Very slowly, he started picturing himself writing down the official names of all the breaches of the law that he had just…seen…being committed. Then he listed all the evidence, the smells, the sounds of their voices as they exerted themselves. He didn’t think of it all in one go. Not as one single act.

God, he couldn’t…it was like it was him. It felt like his memory.

How was it…

It was probably something that had happened in the past, he told himself. Or something that hadn’t yet happened. He had this feeling, though, buzzing down low at the back of his brain.

“Body’s been found down Old Hatchford Road.” Chris stuck his head through the door, passing on the message from Phyllis.

“Shit.”

“Oh Shit.”

Gene and Sam had spoken almost simultaneously.

He knew that he’d been strange with Gene all day. He couldn’t confront him about talking to Annie last night, so he simply chose to jump down his throat about everything else. Gene tolerated this for a very short time before slapping Sam round the back of the head and telling him to shut it. He disappeared some time ago and that suited Sam just fine.

He was in the morgue. He couldn’t see it at the moment as he was determinedly screwing the palms of his hands into his eyes for a momentary relief from the itching, but it was easily recognisable by the cold and the sharp acid smell stinging the inside of his nostrils. He needed sleep, he knew that, but he hadn’t much dared to. Every time he relaxed he’d seen…

Focus on the case.

“Chris…” he pulled his palms away from his eyes and laced his fingers round the back of his head, “Look round the body, see if you can spot anything new.”

“Like what?” Chris had been drifting and had jumped with a guilty start at his name being called.

“Anything not on the report. Come on, fresh pair of eyes.”

“Alright,” Chris sounded wary but he started patrolling round the outside of the body. He’d duck in, staring at a particular feature, then retreat again to a safe distance. Part of her skull had collapsed (had been staved in by a blunt object, Oswald had said. ‘A boot?’ Sam had asked. Yes, maybe). Her head was misshapen in a way that was disturbing the most hardened of them, and it looked like Chris was having trouble even looking at her. Still, Sam thought, Chris had good eyesight. She’d been killed around 8 to 12 last night, was the best guess, which was the same time that Sam had been on the canal and had collapsed. Sam looked at the body. It was her. He’d seen her.

“She’s got a grey hair, Boss.”

It was Sam’s turn to jump out of his daydreaming. He looked at Chris a little exasperatedly. “Chris, when I said ‘anything’, I didn’t mean ‘anything’.”

The younger man reached forward and pulled at something near the woman’s scalp. “Yeah, but it’s not attached to her head, like.”

Sam almost tripped over his own feet to get level with Chris. He had an inch-long grey hair pinched between his fingers. “Oh you beauty.” Sam cupped his hands and gestured for Chris to pass the hair over. “Keep looking.” Sam went to put the hair in an evidence bag. “Good work.” He headed out of the room.

“Wait, wait, where you going?” Chris looked alarmed at Sam’s retreat.

“I’m going to show this to the Guv’.” Chris shifted from foot to foot, uneasy. “Chris, she’s not going to do anything, is she?” He tried to be reassuring. The DC didn’t look reassured. Sam shrugged apologetically and made his way out.

He heard Chris’ voice faintly as he went up the stairs. “Between you and me, love, you give me the heebie-jeebies…”

xxx

Annie had borrowed the car from her mother for the night. It was a five-door monster in powder blue, the kind that didn’t get sold in Britain in 2006 anymore. Judging by the way the car made a throaty grumble whenever Annie whispered her foot across the gas pedal, it wasn’t particularly economical with fuel.

He may have been misjudging the noise level though. He was almost positive that the Rolling Stones had given him permanent hearing damage.

Annie had driven him home in this car when he had first turned up at A Division. He remembered how he’d asked her for help and she’d given him a lift. The truth was that he had been looking for something a bit more existential.

Annie was talking to him, a little hoarsely after shouting over amplifiers all night.

“….I haven’t taken a bloke to a gig since I saw The Who a couple of years ago. I went with boy…he was my boyfriend, I suppose, but it was one of those blips. It never really took off.” Her forehead creased. “Completely forgotten what his name was.”

“Oliver,” Sam supplied, although Annie had been talking to herself.

Annie, having heard this, attempted to watch the road and stare at him in equal measures. “How did you know that?”

Sam’s gaze was locked forward. “Annie, the road. Watch the road.”

“Sam, how did you know that?” She relented though, and started focusing on where they were going.

“I don’t know, you must have told me.”

“I haven’t thought about him in…never mind talking…”

“How else would I know?”

It was the simplest answer, and Sam was counting on Annie’s death-grip on Occam’s Razor winning through. The truth is that, like with so much these days, he didn’t know where this information had come from. It had sprung unbidden into his brain with absolutely nothing to back it up, except for the fact that Sam knew it was right; as did Annie

Annie was watching him out of the corner of her eye, satisfied in theory but not entirely comfortable. He knew she must have been turning it over in her mind furiously as she drove straight past the road where Sam’s flat resided.

“The turning, that was the…”

“Oh!” She wrenched herself out of her thoughts. “Oh, I’ll turn around here…”

“No, it’s alright, just pull over here and I’ll walk.”

“No! Don’t be silly, I’ll…”

“Annie, it’s fine. Just let me out here.”

She reluctantly stopped the car in the beginnings of a three-point turn.

“I’ll see you tomorrow, ey?” He gave her a kiss and then bolted from the car before she began to ask questions again. He hoped that a night’s sleep would make her put it out of her mind as one of those things.

xxx

[MISSING SCENES]

xxx

It was one of those old, Victorian asylums; a grey brick lump, squatting in the countryside and radiating threat. Sam had, not for the first time, been hit with the complete stupidity of what he was about to do as it pulled into his sightline. But talking on the phone only got you so much. Actually being there in person and flashing a badge in someone’s face made them much more talkative. Besides, he didn’t think they’d have transferred his call through to any of the inmates if he’d asked.

He parked up and stood at the entrance for a while. Even out here in the cold afternoon he could smell that particular hospital smell. It was setting off alarm bells in his head.

The place was wrong. The entrance was a huge maw filled with the dark and the smell.

If he went in, he’d never come out.

Sam twitched his head to the side, though it was meant to be a shake. He was acting like a child; he needed to pull it together. He took a couple of deep breaths and rubbed a hand across his eyes. Then he walked through the door and into the dark.

Inside, Sam had to let his eyes adjust for a few seconds. The wall lighting gave off a dingy, yellow glow and it reflected off the glazed bricks and after coming in from the daylight it was dim and shadowy. People with phobias and paranoia could not be happy here.

The woman on reception was surprisingly perky and polite. Sam had almost expected the staff to match the décor, all severe and sinister. She was probably a little starved for company as well, seeing the way she was fussing around, pulling him into conversation. Sam leant on the counter and gave her a grin that was reflected back at him twice as bright, which confirmed his suspicions. It wouldn’t hurt to get on the right side of people, while he was here.

The receptionist, after about ten minutes, produced a doctor from a side door with what was almost a flourish. The doctor ignored her as he walked past, striding over to shake Sam’s hand, gesturing for him to follow him down the corridor, deeper into the dark.

Sam thanked the receptionist before he left. He knew manners, even acted on them sometimes. She gave him a small wave as he walked away.

It was bizarre that they left the place so badly-lit. The hairs on the back of Sam’s neck were standing on end.

The doctor, who had introduced himself as Dowsing, was a little taller than Sam, and just as wiry, but he walked with a slight stoop. He looked as if he’d been preserved in chemicals. His skin was tan and wrinkled but weirdly tight across his face; not jowly. He looked like he’d have rather been somewhere else.

“And you were here to see?”

“Asky Trevis?”

The doctor faltered a little in his steps. “Ah.” He stopped and turned to face Sam. “I’m afraid that Asky took his own life around four days ago.”

“He…”

“He’s dead.”

“I knew what you meant, how did he manage…”

“He smashed a window, used the glass. Not a lot we can do to prevent that one, I’m afraid.”

The words ‘shatter-proof glass’ did not leave Sam’s mouth. A lot of things didn’t leave Sam’s mouth at that moment.

“Is there anything I can help with? Asky was my patient. Here, my office is just up these stairs.” The Doctor peered at him through thick lenses. He seemed a little frustrated, but was going through the motions with as much helpfulness as he could manage.

Sam shrugged, deflated, and gestured for the Doctor to lead on.

The office was the diametric opposite of the corridors. The windows took up most of one wall and the cold, bland afternoon light was flooding in. Sam squeezed his eyes shut and took a second to readjust to the brightness. When he re-opened them he could look at the room properly. The walls were white and duck egg blue and the carpet dingy brown. Seventies furniture shoved into an antique space.

One of the windows had the shutters drawn and there was no light seeping through the slats where there should have been. He remembered Dowsing’s brief description. He smashed a window, used the glass.

This is the office where he conducted his sessions with patients. Dowsing had been here with him while it happened. Of course he had. Asky was angry. The doctor didn’t understand. He couldn’t understand. He couldn’t see the truth.

“You’re ill.” Said Dowsing.

Sam turned. “What?”

Asky was standing by the window. “I know I’m ill but I’m right. Why can’t you see that?”

“What you’ve been experiencing are delusions,” said Dowsing.

“I’m not lying. I’m not a liar. I can see the truth and no-one else can and it’s made me ill but I can’t stop it, you can’t stop it and No-one. Will. Help.”

Asky smashed the window.

No. Wait. The window was already broken. Dowsing was repeating his name. “DI Williams? DI Williams, are you feeling alright?”

Sam turned to look at him. “Yeah, I’m fine. I’m fine.”

“You look rather pale.” The doctor walked over to where Sam was standing and followed his eyeline. “Yes, I’m afraid that’s the window.” He looked askance at Sam. “Would you like to have a seat?”

The seat was the one the patients sat on when they had their sessions. He should have made his excuses and gone. He should not be here. But, he went against pretty much any natural instinct that he had and sat his arse onto the chair; not without hesitation.

He tried to make himself look calm, comfortable. It wasn’t easy. He shifted.

“What would you like to know about Asky?” Dowsing had taken his place at his desk. He noticed that the desk faced away from the window, so that Dowsing would be silhouetted by the light, nothing more than a black shape.

“Did you diagnose him?” Sam was squinting at the dark lump that was the doctor, haloed by the bright white sky. He looked alien. Unreal. Dowsing had to be doing this on purpose.

“Obviously I was still fine tuning the full extent of Asky Trevis’s psychosis, being cut off as I was, but, Asky was a schizophrenic. He formed complex and elaborate delusions to support the existence of his hallucinations. The visual and auditory hallucinations that Asky experienced he believed were his ability to tell the future.’”

“And what did you do to treat him?”

“We’d started him on a cocktail of drugs designed to tamp down the hallucinations, but to my observation they were only making them more vivid. I’d changed his medication a few days before the…incident. I was also attempting to break the delusion, by confronting him with the illogicality of it. I instructed him to write down all the ‘visions’ he experienced, and during our sessions I was to prove they were unfounded.” The doctor stopped here, possibly hesitating. He adjusted some files to the side of him.

“And how did that go?”

Dowsing seemed reluctant. “Trevis was remarkably intuitive. A very good guesser. Astute, even. I believe he’s developed this as a skill, to read people and allow them to lead him to the right conclusion, which he cultivated to support his claims, to himself and others.”

“You’re saying that he was right?”

“There were a few correct guesses, yes, amongst the gibberish.” Dowsing’s voice was sour.

“And he wrote them down?”

“Ye-es. In a notebook”

“I’d like to have a look.” He didn’t phrase it as a question. Dowsing opened a drawer and ferreted around inside, drawing out a thin paper workbook with a cardboard cover, the sort that kids would use in school. Sam was standing up at this point, looking down at the desk and able to see Dowsing more clearly. He looked human from this angle. He could see the pores and wrinkles in his forehead. Dowsing pushed the workbook across the desktop, fingers pressing it downwards, not quite letting it go.

“I don’t see quite how this is going to help?”

“I was hoping to talk to Asky. Seeing how he’s dead, looks like this is the next best thing.”

It’s a connection, Sam thinks.

“It’s all nonsense.” Dowsing persisted.

Sam yanked the corner of the book and it came free of Dowsing’s hand. “Might be some truth in it. He was mad, not a liar.” Dowsing squinted at him. “Worth checking out.” Sam continued weakly. “Uh, anyway. I’ll, uh, see myself out.”

Sam left the office, leaving Dowsing, a black smudge against the harsh white day and walked down the stairs. Then he walked down the corridor.

Then he began to run.

xxx

“So what did you get from that daft witness?”

Sam stared at his drink.

“What case was that for, by the way?”

Sam focused all his attention on the glass of whiskey in front of him, debating whether he had had enough to say what he was going to say.

“I didn’t get anything out of him. He topped himself a couple of days ago. And it, er, it wasn’t for a case.”

Gene had that same look on his face, and the closest Sam could come to working it out was someone covering their fear with angry cynicism. It was almost a shock to see that expression on somebody else. The Guv’ took a deep breath, like he was steeling himself for what was going to come out of Sam’s mouth next. That part was familiar at least.

“Chris’s arresting report said that this bloke, Asky, was talking about explosions when he came up to the station. There wasn’t much detail, but, obviously…”

Gene waved his hand to get Sam to continue, he understood: why bother?

“So I went to his hospital to ask him what he was talking about. He wasn’t exactly in a position to answer so I talked to his psychiatrist.”

“Jesus.” Gene had leaned back and was rubbing a hand across his face.

“What?”

“You. You haven’t half got a bloody death-wish.”

“Look, it was fine. I was fine. Didn’t get much out of him.”

“Get to the point. Why?”

Sam stalled. He wasn’t sure whether he wanted to get to the point. He weighed up whether it was too far to drop out and just go home. Write it off.

“Point is….” God he was bloody stupid. Shut up. “Point is that this bloke says he could see the future, right? Had visions, had come to warn us. Explosions, right?”

“Yeah…” Gene was looking at him sideways, warily, the glass of whiskey held halfway to his mouth. Sam had his arms crossed and was staring at his own glass on the table once again.

“Two weeks later. Bombs all over Manchester.” He stared up at Gene intently, hoping he’d get it, that Sam wouldn’t have to keep saying this out loud.

“You think he knew something?” Gene sounded wary.

“I had dreams about that train heist weeks before it happened.” Sam plunged on.

“…Ugh. Sam.”

“And now I’m getting these... I see people getting murdered, and then people get murdered. I’m just trying to make sense of what’s happening.”

“It’s a bloody coincidence is all.”

“It’s happened before, things like this. Look, something’s going on. All I know, all that stuff, all my hunches and I’ve turned out to be right. How d’you explain that?” His voice was rising.

“You’re a smart lad…”

“Nobody’s that smart, Gene!” He was shouting now and the noise level in the pub dropped as people turned and stared.

“Outside.” Gene grabbed Sam’s shirt collar and pulled him towards the door. In the street outside he threw Sam off who whirled round to face him.

“What is this Sam? You’re trying to tell me you can see the future or summat?”

Well it sounded stupid when he said it like that.

“I don’t know!” Sam ran his hands back and forth through his hair, roughly. “Maybe.” He conceded.

“Go home. Get some sleep.” There was definitely disgust in the Guv’s voice now as he looked at him askance, then after a few seconds turned round and strode back into the pub.

xxx

Sam couldn’t shut it off. He knew that the old lady down the hall was going to fall down the steps and break her neck in 1979. He knew that the couple upstairs were having sex and that the man was thinking about the girl at work with the tits. He’d been humming Stop Me If You’ve Heard This One Before earlier on in the day and now was pretty sure that he could play the whole Smiths back-catalogue on the guitar, because somebody else could, twenty years from now. Somebody had had a stroke and died in the flat downstairs seven years ago.

He couldn’t shut it off. He couldn’t filter it. It had been quiet for days and then they came like a wave about half an hour before he finished his shift. He’d gotten distracted and twitchy and everyone had rolled their eyes and looked the other way. He had memories that weren’t his own, of things that had happened or were happening or hadn’t happened yet. It was like a buzzing noise that he’d been blissfully ignorant of until one day he noticed and now he couldn’t stop and it was drilling a hole into his head. It was like that but it was in his head.

The woman downstairs was pregnant. She didn’t know it yet.

The man upstairs sleeping with his wife was having an affair with the girl at work with the tits.

Shut up. Shut up.

The old lady would die at three in the morning at the base of the steps, because nobody heard her fall.

No. No more.

The light in the room changed.

“You should have said sooner.”

The little test card girl was sitting on one of the boxes near the bathroom door. Of course it was her. Of course she was still here.

“What?”

Sam realised his hands were clamped over his ears. He hadn’t remembered doing that.

“You should have asked me to stop it sooner.”

“Wait. No. This is you?”

She giggled, a little flatly. “No, silly, I only make them stop. That’s my trick. You make them come, that’s yours.”

Sam tried to stare her down. She beamed beatifically back at him.

“No, you can’t do th…”

“That’s why we’re friends, Sam. That’s why we’re the best of friends.”

Sam backed up until he stumbled onto the back of the wooden chair.

“This isn’t. Right.”

“Why don’t we ever talk any more?”

“NO.” Sam grabbed a hold of the back of the chair and flung it at her. She’d gone as soon as he’d looked away, of course. Never sees her come. Never sees her leave. The chair hit the wall with a sick crack and two of the legs snapped off; splinters ricocheted back into the room.

Sam looked at the hobbled chair and the dent in the wall and contemplated the strange, echoing silence in his head.

“The ceiling thumped.

“Ey! Shut it!”

The man upstairs. Having an affair with the girl at work with the tits.

Sam crawled into bed.

xxx

“We’ve got nothing but circumstantial evidence linking these crimes.”

Sam knew one of them was thinking about leaving his desk.

“Forensics has nowt. Oswald has nowt. Witnesses have nowt.”

They were thinking of all the footwork they’d put into this that had produced exactly nothing. Resentment.

“You lot – have nowt.”

Resentment towards Gene.

“We’re going back to the beginning. All of you, starting tomorrow, are hitting pavement near where the bodies were found.”

One of their wives was cooking pork tonight.

“Interview everyone.”

Rathbone, one of them thought, Rathbone giving Gene a shitty time to get this case closed.

“Find me something. Prove me you’re detectives and not a collective waste of air.”

The explosion of passive-aggressive anger was almost deafening.

“Can you all stop thinking at once?” Sam was resting his forehead on his hand and squinting at the room.

They all looked at him.

“I’ll…uh…” Sam left.

Buzzing thoughts followed him out of the room, just snatches, flashes, nothing coherent, jumbles. They made him distracted. He crashed into the wall of the hallway, used his hand to guide him to the next door, the men’s room.

The front desk, the case, the boyfriend, the exhaust that’s needs replacing, the confusion, boredom, happiness, bitterness, stupid dumb anger, fear. Sam clamped his hands to his head (please stop, please just fucking stop). He looked at the polystyrene ceiling tiles. Random words. Random voices. People he hadn’t seen and places he hadn’t been to and it didn’t make any sense it was coming in too fast (please stop).

He saw the flash of red in the corner of his vision, just a touch of brightness in the white-grey toilets. He looked at the mirror, at his reflection. At where his reflection should have been.

The girl from the test card smiled at him, sweetly.

Sam stepped back, away from the mirror. The girl stepped away as well. Sam began to stagger backwards, mirrored by the girl. He hit his back into one of the cubicle doors, which swung open loosely. Sam dropped, breaking his fall on the toilet seat. The door crashed against the cubicle partition wall and drifted back shut.

He stood and put one hand on the edge of the door; hesitated. He took a couple of breaths and got the roiling in his stomach under control. He tensed, then opened the door, looking into the mirror.

Only him, staring back, wild eyed.

He walked over to one of the sinks and tried to hold his head under one of the taps. The water tickled the top of his head. He wasn’t sure how long he stayed there.

The door to the men’s room slammed open. “You done?” Gene asked.

Sam righted himself and rubbed his wet hair. He paused, and heard nothing. “Yeah, I’m done.”

“Let’s be off, then.” The Guv’ gestured for him to follow. “Making a good speech back there, did you have to spoil it, being a tit?”

Tags: abandoned fic, fic, life on mars
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