|Crime Traveller: The First Experiment
Author: EllisHendricks PM
Crime Traveller, pre-series, time-travel, Holly/Slade friendship: What if the pilot episode wasn't the first time Holly had helped out Slade?Rated: Fiction K - English - Sci-Fi/Friendship - Words: 4,784 - Favs: 2 - Published: 11-16-11 - Status: Complete - id: 7556882
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
The First Experiment
Author's note: Holly is so unhesitant about helping Slade save his job in the pilot episode that it made me wonder whether that was really the first time she had ever used the machine to help him?
It had been unusually quiet in the office that morning, so for once Holly had been able to concentrate fully on the ever-mounting pile of work she had to get through. She had been a Science Officer for nearly five months now, but still hadn't got used to the constant background noise of ringing telephones, slammed filing cabinets and the casual trading of insults among the detectives. She partly had herself to blame, she reasoned – after all, she had worked in solitude for so many years, and it wasn't realistic to be able to replicate that elsewhere. The payoff that police work offered was that she could stay under the radar; on the whole, she was basically left alone to get on with things, only interrupted when one of the detectives needed help with something. And she had come to realise that detectives were very bad at asking for help.
When Holly was getting ready to leave work the previous evening, Grisham was already partway through her briefing, and there was a familiar theme to it. The department, Holly knew, had spent the past six months on the trail of a particular gang of armed robbers, whose target of choice was betting shops. They would strike randomly and indiscriminately; the number of perpetrators – and their choice of disguise - always varied. Holly had lingered long enough to ascertain that the police had somehow received a tip-off about the next target, and Grisham went about deploying her officers in different roles. From the refuge of her office, she had watched Jeff Slade protest his partnering with Graham Morris, before reluctantly accepting his lot and heading back to his desk.
Now it was more than fifteen hours later, and Holly's cherished silence was shattered by the unmistakable angry tones of her boss. As discreetly as she could, she moved over to her office door and opened it just a crack; she could see the action unfolding through the glass.
"Sometimes I think you do this to me deliberately, Slade!" Grisham bellowed. "Either that, or your incompetence has reached new levels. I mean, what on earth were you doing?"
The whole office had become the audience for this ominous showdown; most officers made little effort to disguise their curiosity.
"Chief, if you just let me explain -" Slade replied.
It was then that Holly noticed the dishevelled state that he was in. He looked as though he'd been rolling around in the dirt.
"Oh you're going to explain, alright," Grisham continued, jabbing a finger in his direction. "You're going to explain why you just threw away six months of careful police work; how you failed so spectacularly to take advantage of the one solid lead we've had in all that time. I took a dozen officers away from other cases – including a week-long stakeout - to help bring these men in today, and look where it's got us."
"Oh, so it's all my fault?" Slade retorted.
It felt like the whole office took a sharp intake of breath. Holly winced at Slade's staggering inability to say the wrong thing at the worst juncture.
"That's what I'm going to establish, but from where I'm standing, yes, it looks remarkably like it was your fault!" Grisham said. She threw open the door to her office.
"In!" she barked.
There was nothing for Holly to do but return to her work, as the argument raged on – in a muffled form – behind closed doors. A few minutes passed before the door to Grisham's room opened and Slade was disgorged back into the main office, a wounded look of injustice and disbelief on his face. Everyone was waiting to see what happened next. Holly could clearly see now that not only were his clothes marked with dirt, but there were cuts and bruises to his face. Aware that she was being watched, she stepped out of her room and called him over.
"What is it, Holly?" Slade said, a note of irritation still in his voice that she knew was not really aimed at her.
"Did the paramedics take a look at you?" she asked.
"I'm fine," he replied, not looking at her.
"Come in," she told him, leading him into her office by the arm.
Holly told Slade to sit down on her desk, and she fetched the green First Aid box from the shelf. It wasn't often that she was able to put her medical training to any sort of use; in fact, most of her colleagues probably didn't even know she had two years of a medical degree in her past.
"That jacket's ruined," she said, filling the silence, and indicating to the ragged gash up one sleeve of his brown coat.
"About time I got a new one, anyway," he replied, offering her a wry smile.
Holly washed her hands and ran some cotton wool under the tap. Slade flinched as she dabbed at the cut above his eye and the graze on his cheek. As she applied antiseptic with one hand, she angled Slade's head with the other, and Holly became aware that he was staring right up at her. She was conscious of the close proximity they were in, standing as she was in the space between his knees, and she suddenly felt her mouth drying up. For weeks now, she had been trying to tell herself that Slade was no different to any of the other men in the station, but her heart-rate was now telling her otherwise. She was close enough to breathe in a combination of aftershave, coffee and what smelt like motor-oil.
"So what happened?" Holly asked, keen to find some means of distraction. She peeled back the protective film and started to apply steri-strips to the cut above Slade's eye. He grimaced.
"Good thing you chose police work and not medicine," he smiled.
Holly returned the smile and finished attaching the strips.
"So...?" she prompted.
"We were set up," Slade told her with a shrug. "The tip-off gave us the time and place – the bookies on Greenwich Avenue, eight o'clock. We had officers down there two hours before, I saw the getaway driver arrive myself. He was right there, the engine running, and he kept checking his watch. But then he just drove away."
"That doesn't make any sense."
"That's what we thought," Slade continued. "But then we got a call on the radio and it started to make perfect sense. The robbers were hitting a betting shop a mile away, on High Tower Road, but of course by the time we got there they were out of the building and making their getaway."
"The driver was a decoy," Holly said.
Slade nodded. Holly realised with a flush of embarrassment that she was still standing only inches from him, even though she had now finished with the First Aid. She backed away as gracefully as she could.
"How did you end up looking like you've fallen from a moving vehicle?" she asked.
Slade s smiled, and got to his feet.
"Because I fell from a moving vehicle. They were getting away, so I grabbed on to the car – only they managed to ditch me pretty quickly."
"Slade, you could've -"
"Been killed, I know. That's what Grisham said, although I think maybe that was wishful thinking in her case."
"What about the car?" Holly asked. "Surely you got a registration?"
"It was stolen," Slade replied. "They ditched it and then set it alight before we could find it and gather any evidence."
"So what happens now?
"I'm off the case, and it sounds like I might be out of here, too."
Holly felt a flash of mild panic pass through her.
"Grisham's firing you?"
Slade shook his head.
"Transferring me - or threatening to, at the moment."
He shrugged. "Probably the Outer Hebrides if she has her way. She thinks I've lost my focus, that I need a fresh start in a new division. I tried to tell her that all she needs to do is stop pairing me with Morris; I'd get more help out of one of the patrol horses."
"But you're one of Grisham's best detectives," Holly said. "What's going to be achieved by transferring you elsewhere?"
"As long as I'm out of her hair, I don't think she cares," Slade said, examining the torn sleeve of his jacket. "I'd better make a start on my report. Thanks for the Florence Nightingale bit."
"You're welcome," Holly told him. She meant it, too, more than he probably realised.
After he'd gone, Holly tried to return to her work, but found it impossible to concentrate, to get the thought out of her mind. Why did the prospect of Slade being transferred mean that much to her? The answer kept bobbing to the surface, and she kept forcing it down again. The truth was, she had felt something the very first time she saw him, and that something had been growing with every conversation, every interaction. As well as his good looks, there was something undeniably attractive about his self-assuredness, the fact that he didn't seem care what anyone thought of him. But he was warm, too, and Holly recognised that he was smart in a way that was completely different to her. She refused to accept that she, as a rational adult woman, had a crush on Jeff Slade, and yet she couldn't find another way to define it.
Holly's mind was made up; if she could do something to help Slade, then morally and ethically she had to at least try. She collected her coat and made her way down to the garage.
When Holly arrived at her apartment building, Danny, the caretaker, was eating a sandwich in his cubby hole. He popped his head around the door to greet her.
"Holly! You're back early today."
"I...er...I forgot my lunch."
"Wouldn't it have been quicker to just buy something else?"
Holly floundered, wishing was better at thinking on her feet.
"Leftover beef stew," she said. "An old family recipe, there's nothing like it."
She started to walk away, but Danny called her back again.
"Just be careful going up the stairs. I've had the lighting fixed, but the whole building's going to need rewiring before too long."
Holly nodded, hoping she didn't look too sheepish.
In the privacy of her flat, Holly set down her bag and opened the double doors to the living room. There, winking at her in the dim light from behind the wooden shutters, was the centre of her life. Not a person, but a machine. She moved around it, making adjustments, checking readouts, turning dials until it was ready. Never before had she used the machine for a specific purpose; it had only ever been to test a theory, to familiarise herself with its possibilities and limits. Holly's thoughts turned momentarily to her father, about the life he had dedicated to the machine, about his ideology and plans for it. He had been adamant it be kept their secret, so concerned was he that it could be used for less than honourable purposes. But even he couldn't just sit on his discovery; he had to put it into practice, taking greater and greater risks, and that was what led him to his fate. What would he think about his daughter's reasons for using the machine now?
"Just one friend helping out another, Dad," she murmured, as he checked to make sure the shutters were fully closed and the circuit connectors in place.
Holly sat down at the console of the machine and, double-checking the settings once again, she pressed the initiation control. The machine responded immediately, whirring and bleeping, the monitors repeating their output of scrolling matrices. Wreaths of white light pulsed from ceiling to floor, as Holly watched the timepiece in the centre of the machine count backwards at high speed. After a few moments, the lights disappeared with a sudden, audible burst. It was done.
She stood up and took the watch from its cradle in the heart of the machine. One thing she would do, when she had the time and money, was redesign the watch, which had always been too bulky and cumbersome. Like the rest of the machine, it was a Frankenstein's monster of spare parts bolted together, a potted history of electronic engineering from the nineteen fifties to the present day. Style and beauty had not been high on Frederick Turner's agenda.
The digital readout on the watch told Holly that she had travelled back in time four hours, which meant it was now seven o'clock the same morning. Her other 'self' would be getting out of bed at any moment, so she had to move quickly. On the way out of the building, she encountered Danny again, fixing the buzzer system on the front door. He greeted her cheerfully, and it was only then that Holly recalled what happened earlier – or rather what would happen later, when the other 'her' would leave the flat. She had left, as usual, at about eight o'clock, and Danny's reaction to seeing her had been strange – only now did she understand how confused he must have been.
She found High Tower Road with relative ease, and quickly identified the only book-keepers on the street. The shops weren't open yet, so the street was still fairly quiet. A street-sweeper pushed his cart along the middle, stopping occasionally to spear a fast-food carton with his litter-picker; a florist was starting to arrange his produce in front of his shop; a young woman in a bright red coat was taking photographs of the church on the corner. Holly bought a coffee and sat in the window of the cafe, keeping watch. It was now nearly eight, and she imagined Slade sitting in the car with Morris and the others, waiting with anticipation for a raid that would never take place.
It had been drilled into Holly by her father that changing the past was not possible, and neither should it be attempted – it just invited disaster; the robbery would have to take place as it had previously.
A council van pulled slowly into the pedestrian precinct and Holly watched as the driver executed a three-point turn and then drifted into a loading bay opposite the bookies. She saw the street-sweeper stop his cart and go over to speak to the driver through the lowered window.
A young man with a rucksack came ambling towards the bookmakers. He took some keys from his pocket and flicked through them before using one to open the shutter at the front of the shop. When one of the men from the council started to head towards the bookies, Holly instinctively knew that she had to get closer. Quickly exiting the cafe, she made her way over to the shop and pretended to be looking in the window of the florist.
"Excuse me, mate," the council worker said. "Are you the manager?"
The young man paused at the open front door.
"I'm the assistant manager. My boss won't be in until lunchtime."
"We just need someone to move the bins from the alleyway at the back. They're blocking access. I can come and give you a hand."
Something about this didn't ring true to Holly, but she didn't dare move for fear of drawing attention to herself.
"No problem, mate," the assistant manager replied. "I'll meet you round the back."
When the young man disappeared into the shop, Holly saw the council worker turn and gesture to the van driver. Before she could move, the back doors of the van opened from the inside, and three further men climbed out. They were all dressed in workmen's uniforms, and as they exited they all headed in different directions. It was now all clear to Holly, but how could she communicate this to Slade and the other officers? The information couldn't come from her – it would raise far too many questions to even begin to find an excuse for.
She looked around and saw the florist coming back out to the front of his shop.
"Call the police!" she told him. "There's a robbery in progress next door!"
The florist looked startled for a moment, but did as he was told and disappeared back inside.
The young woman in the red coat, who had been taking photos of the church, came up behind Holly.
"Did you say robbery?" she asked.
"Yes," Holly replied, distractedly. She was terrified that she had left it too late, that Slade wouldn't have sufficient time to cover the mile between the two locations.
"Should we do something?" the girl asked.
"What?" Holly said. "I...I've got to go."
She hurried away from the scene, frequently checking behind her to try and gauge what was going on. Should she try and disable the van? Distract the driver? The laws of time travel told her that whatever had happened would happen again, so logically she knew this would make no difference to the outcome. Before she could consider this further, she was surprised to see the van driver calmly pull away.
Holly found what she considered to be a relatively safe spot, in an alleyway beside the coffee shop. Each passing minute felt agonising slow, but eventually the sound of a police siren could be heard, and it was getting closer. It had always puzzled Holly as to why the police announced themselves like that, disregarding any advantage they might gain from the element of surprise.
The police cars screamed into the pedestrian precinct, but before the officers' feet could hit the ground, the door to the bookies was thrown open and the four robbers tore out of there. With their van gone, Holly was sure they would be caught – but wouldn't that mean changing the past? Slade was in the lead car, and he sprinted up the road in pursuit of the robbers, who were only a few metres ahead of him, yelling for them to stop. Holly watched as, out of nowhere, a car sped across the intersection and stopped dead, gunning its engine. The robbers headed straight for its open doors, but as the last one – the man who had posed as a street-sweeper – went to get in, Slade caught up with him. He seized the robber around the chest, but the robber struggled; he wriggled free of Slade's grasp and Holly gave an intake of breath as the robber landed a punch to the side of Slade's face. It was something he hadn't mentioned earlier, when the two of them were in her office.
Incredibly, Slade managed to recover, and before the robber could close the car door, Slade had grabbed onto it. Holly could hear someone within the car yell for the driver to go, and she watched in horror as the car sped off with Slade still attached to it. In a second, it had disappeared from view. Her instinct was to run down the road, to try and see what was happening, but she knew that she couldn't, it wasn't safe. A crowd had gathered now, along with the police, and she couldn't afford to be noticed or recognised. With a feeling of anguish, she turned around and headed back up the alley and in the direction of home.
When she returned to the station, it was clear to Holly that she had beaten Slade and the officers to it. She quietly returned to her office and tried to concentrate on her work again, her heart still beating double time. In two hours time, she had to be back at the machine, but she couldn't go back to her flat yet – she had to know what had happened, to know that Slade was okay. What seemed clear, though, was that her little experiment had failed to make any impact whatsoever.
Holly felt a huge measure of relief pass through her when she heard the sound of voices and she saw that Slade was among the gaggle of detectives that rounded the corner into the open-plan office. Something had changed; the atmosphere seemed different this time. She saw Grisham go over to him, and the two of them went into her office. Holly braced herself for the verbal onslaught that would be coming Slade's way, but as the minutes passed, it never came.
Her curiosity getting the better of her, Holly ventured out of her office and managed to get the attention of Nicky Robson, a young graduate trainee detective who had been part of the stakeout.
"Nicky, what happened?" she asked.
"It was a bit of a mess," Nicky replied. "The tip-off on the address on Greenwich Avenue was a red herring - the real robbery was taking place a mile away. But we got lucky – someone got suspicious and rang the police."
"Did you catch them?"
"What? Oh. No. They had a second getaway vehicle. Slade got pretty close, but they managed to shake him off. Literally shake him off, actually."
"Is he hurt?" Holly asked.
"He took a punch in the face," Nicky replied, and then lowered his voice. "But he won't admit to being hurt."
"So it's going to be back to the drawing board again?"
"Maybe not. You see, there was someone there taking photos – a young woman. The technicians in the photo lab are having a look at them now."
Holly immediately remembered the woman in the red coat, and her mind started to race – had she somehow drawn this woman into the action?
At that moment, the door to Grisham's office opened and Slade emerged with a sense of purpose. Holly watched as he started to delegate responsibilities among the detectives. But to Holly's eye, the state he was in now was actually worse than before she time-travelled; as well as the cuts and bruises, the blow he had received to the head was now blossoming into a black eye. As she went over to his desk, Slade looked up. He could obviously see the concern on her face.
"It looks worse than it is," he said with a smile.
"You should put something on that eye," she told him.
"Got any sirloin steak on you?"
"No, but I've got a First Aid kit in my office."
"Are you offering to be my personal nurse, Holly?"
She felt herself blush slightly, but gestured for him to follow her. He sat down on her desk, exactly as he had before, and she handed him an ice-pack from the fridge where she usually kept samples for the lab. Slade winced as he obediently applied it to his head.
"That jacket's ruined," she said.
"About time I got a new one anyway," he replied, causing Holly to smile to herself.
"Nicky told me what happened."
"Yeah. The case isn't completely dead in the water – although I might be if nothing comes of those photographs."
"It was lucky someone was there taking photos," Holly ventured.
Slade nodded his agreement before his face broke into a grimace as she applied the disinfectant.
"Good thing you chose police work and not medicine."
Holly took Slade's hand that held the ice-pack, and removed it from his face. As she leaned closer to examine the bruising, she could feel their breaths mingling – and there was that combination of smells again that Holly found so intoxicating.
"Any permanent damage?" Slade asked.
"You'll live," Holly told him, and he smiled up at her. She saw him wince again as he stood up.
"What is it?"
"From when the car dumped me on the road," he explained. "I think I might have cracked a rib."
She waited as Slade pulled his shirt up as far as his ribs. Holly was horrified to find that her pulse started to quicken, and hoped to God that this wasn't apparent to Slade. A large blackening bruise covered his side, and he flinched as Holly gently touched his skin. She saw him looking down at her.
"You should get yourself to a hospital," she said.
Slade assured her he would, though she didn't believe it for a second. As he started to leave the room, he turned back to her.
"Thank you," he said.
Holly whirled around to face him. There was something about his tone and she had a sickening sense of having been caught out, that Slade knew something.
"What for?" she asked instinctively.
Slade furrowed his brow and gave an amused smile.
"For the Florence Nightingale bit," he replied, in a tone that questioned what else it could be.
"Oh. Yes. You're welcome."
When he was out of the room, Holly sank into her chair. If the day had taught her anything, it was that she was not cut out for police work , and she would never, ever use the machine in that way again.
Slade tossed the painkillers into his mouth and chugged down a mouthful of water. He was sceptical about the effectiveness of two little aspirin on his current state; the whole side of his face throbbed, and every time he moved it felt as though someone had kicked him in the side. But, he reflected, at least there was a possible lead.
As he was considering this, Nicky Robson came bounding over to him carrying a large envelope.
"Is that the photos back from the lab?" he asked, beckoning for Nicky to give him the envelope.
"Yes," Nicky replied. "I think they're going to be really interesting."
"I'm more bothered about incriminating than interesting," Slade told him, as he started to leaf through them.
Immediately, he started to feel hopeful. Faces could clearly be made out, and with a little more time, the car registration would be, too.
"Has Grisham seen these?"
"Just about to take them to her," Nicky replied. "But I thought I'd show you first. Have a look at this one."
Slade looked at the particular photo again, but wasn't sure what Nicky was alluding to. It was just a photograph of the street, of a church and a couple of people. He offered Nicky a blank look.
"These were taken before the photos of the robbery, they were on the same film," he said. "Doesn't that woman at the side of the picture remind you of someone?"
Nicky looked slightly uncomfortable.
"Don't you think it looks like Holly?" he replied.
Slade frowned, and re-examined the photo. The image was far too small and indistinct to make any reasonable judgement, and anyway, it was ludicrous.
"Nicky, why on earth would Holly Turner have been at the crime scene before it happened?" he laughed. "Unless, of course, you're suggesting that she was in on it?"
"Of course not!" Nicky replied, hurriedly. "I just thought it was -"
"Interesting, I know." Slade patted him on the shoulder. "I think you need a holiday, Nicky."
He watched as Nicky went to take the envelope of photos to Grisham, and he sat back in his chair. His mind and gaze drifted over to the office at the end of the room, with the title 'Science Officer' on the door. Through the glass he could see Holly hard at work on something, and it struck Slade just how little he knew about her, how little anyone truly knew about her. She was obviously clever – frighteningly so – and was by far the best Science Officer they had ever had, but Holly clocked in every morning and clocked out at the end of the day, and her life outside of work was clearly her own. But little things, small snatches of conversation, were beginning to make him think that with Holly Turner, there was probably a lot more than met the eye...