Disclaimer: I don't own The New Avengers, nor the characters of Mike Gambit, Purdey, and John Steed. They're the property of The Avengers (Film and TV) Enterprises. I also don't own Life on Mars, nor the characters of Sam Tyler, Gene Hunt, Ray Carling, Chris Skelton, and Annie Cartwright. They belong to Kudos Film and Television, and the BBC. This story is written for entertainment purposes only. No copyright infringement intended.
Timeline: 1976, during the first season of The New Avengers, post-Life on Mars but pre-Ashes to Ashes.
Author's Note: Short piece to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the premiere of Life on Mars January 9, 2016. Given that Life on Mars and The (New) Avengers are my two favourite series of all-time, I thought a crossover was in order. Hope you enjoy!
Mike Gambit yawned expansively and took one hand off the wheel to gently shake the shoulder of the woman in the passenger seat. "Wake up, Purdey-girl. We're almost there."
Purdey, tucked against the car door with the sun turning her blonde hair golden, stirred and opened bleary bright blue eyes. "Already?" she managed thickly.
Gambit chuckled, despite being halfway through another yawn. "Already? Purdey, we've been driving for nearly four hours."
Purdey sat up and rummaged in her purse for a compact, snapped it open, and began to smooth her hair. "We could have taken the train," she pointed out.
"We could have," Gambit agreed. "But Steed said we were going to need a way to get around town. I'd rather have my own car than take a cab everywhere."
"I suppose asking the cabbie to wait at the site of a murder would be problematic, too," Purdey said blithely. "And anyway, you're so mean you'd never pay the fares."
Gambit gave her a look and was about to respond when he noticed one very unwelcome aspect of their destination. "Damn! The police are here."
Purdey frowned. "Still? Shouldn't someone have relieved them by now?"
"Yeah," Gambit agreed distractedly, looking for somewhere to park. "Though come to think of it, Steed did say something about the police here being tough to shake from the scene."
Purdey looked surprised at that. "Steed? You make it sound as though he knows them up here."
"Maybe he does," Gambit offered, eyes alighting on a spot. "Steed spent a lot of time working with the police back in the late fifties and early sixties, after all. Cracking drug rings and that sort of thing. Some of the officers must have lasted as long in the job as he has."
"Hmm," Purdey said thoughtfully, as Gambit pulled in beside a brownish Ford Cortina that had been parked with abandon in the middle of the street, just feet away from the police cordon and the clutch of reporters and spectators gathered just outside the taped-off area. Purdey and Gambit alighted from the car and skirted around the outside of the throng, regarding the masses gloomily. Purdey sighed as she registered the presence of several uniformed officers. "Oh, Gambit, they're never going to let us in without a fight. You know how territorial they are about these things. Remember last time?"
"Yes," Gambit agreed, "although last time you had eaten the fish and chips of the man in charge."
"They were just sitting there," Purdey protested. "Anyway, I was hungry and he'd barely touched them."
Gambit grinned in spite of himself at Purdey's feigned innocence, then caught sight of a new figure amongst the constables. A plainclothes woman had appeared and was now talking animatedly to one of the officers. She was medium height, with shiny brown hair, and a pleasant, open face. "I think I found someone to let us in," he said to Purdey.
Purdey followed his eyeline and pursed her lips. "Oh really, Gambit. Not the old cliché of trying to charm the girl into letting us in?"
"Do you have a better idea?" Gambit wanted to know. "Other than the old cliché of charming one of the PCs?"
Purdey shifted guiltily. "Well, it's still less corny than yours."
"Maybe. But it has a better chance of success." He saw Purdey's puzzled expression and elaborated. "Didn't you see? She's plainclothes. That means she outranks the rest of this lot. Come on."
"You need to push them farther back," the brunette was saying to one of the officers as Purdey and Gambit approached, indicating the crowd of reporters and rubberneckers. "They're crowding the cordon. The coroner will never be able to take the body out at this rate."
"We don't have the manpower," the PC retorted, clearly unhappy at having to take orders from a woman. "There are only three of us. You want to move them back, you do it."
Annie opened her mouth to reply, then noticed the two new arrivals. "I'm sorry, I have to ask you to step back."
Gambit produced his ID. "We're not here to make your job harder. At least, we hope not. Gambit. Mike Gambit," he added, as Annie inspected his ID. "And this is my partner, Purdey. Our boss should have told you we were coming. John Steed."
Annie looked at Purdey's own proffered ID card and breathed a sigh of relief. "Oh, thank goodness. Yes, Mr. Steed did say you were coming. Not a minute too soon, either. We can use all the help we can get." She lifted the tape and Purdey and Gambit ducked underneath to join her. "I'm WDC Annie Cartwright," she added, shaking each of their hands in turn. "Our team was first on the scene this morning. Your Mr. Steed arrived about an hour ago." She looked from Gambit to Purdey with mild scepticism. "Are you two really partners?"
"Well, I try to let him think he has a part to play in the proceedings," Purdey quipped, patting Gambit's shoulder condescendingly. "I thought detectives worked with partners, too?"
Annie smiled wanly. "We do, but there aren't many women working alongside male partners. Not ones that are taken seriously, anyway."
"Not yet, anyway," Purdey added with a wink, and Annie's smile turned more genuine. As if to illustrate her point, a man—complete with moustache, burgundy jacket, and omnipresent cigarette-suddenly barged his way out of the building behind the cordon and into their conversation.
"Cartwright, you're supposed to keep the gawkers on the other side of the bloody tape," he berated her, and waved his cigarette dismissively at Purdey and Gambit. "You two. Piss off. We're doing police work here."
"Ray!" Annie hissed, obviously embarrassed by Ray's display. "These are Mr. Steed's people. We're supposed to be working with them."
"Yeah?" Ray looked Gambit up and down. "Look, mate, we don't need any nancyboy up from London to help us solve a murder, so take your secretary and piss off back where you came from."
Gambit stood impassively, hands behind his back, which Purdey recognised as the calm before the storm. Ray was not in tune with her partner's body language, however, and took it as a sign of weakness. He stepped in close and got in Gambit's face, cigarette smoke curling between them. "Did you hear me?"
"I heard you," Gambit said flatly. "But more importantly, so did Purdey."
Ray looked at Purdey and smirked. "Yeah, and what's she going to do about it?"
Purdey, for her part, touched Gambit's arm, waited for him to step back, and took his place. "What I am going to do—" She looked to Annie.
"DS Ray Carling," Annie supplied, hand on her forehead in embarrassment.
"-DS Carling," Purdey confirmed, plucking Ray's cigarette from between his fingers and dropping it to the ground, where it was crushed underfoot, "is ask you, very politely, to please take us to Steed. And if you don't—" Her hands dropped to his loosened teal-coloured tie. "—I feel it's only fair to warn you that I can break your back in three places."
Ray was still smirking. "Yeah?" He nodded at Gambit. "Likes it rough, does he?"
Purdey smiled sweetly. "The important question," she said lightly, as she tightened the tie just a little too much, "is 'do you'?"
Ray started to cough, and Purdey released him. Annie was looking on in awe, Gambit smiling knowingly. "WDC Cartwright, would you mind taking us to Steed? Your colleague seems to be…preoccupied."
"Of course." Annie looked more cheerful than she had before. She led the way, with Purdey and Gambit close behind, and Ray bringing up the rear, still red-faced. Just as they reached the door of the cordoned-off building, a brown-haired man ran to join them, huffing and puffing spectacularly.
"Chris!" Ray snapped, taking the opportunity to take some of his humiliation out on the younger man. "Where have you been? We left the station two hours ago."
"Sorry I'm late," Chris wheezed. "Was out last night, forgot where I put me car." He wiped some sweat off his forehead. "Didn't have cab fare. Had to take the bus."
"The bus?" Ray said incredulously. "What kind of copper are you?"
"The kind on death's door by the look of it," Gambit observed, taking in Chris' almost-puce features. "Are you all right?"
"Yeah, useless as ever," Ray snapped.
Chris seemed to notice Gambit and Purdey for the first time. "Who are they?"
Ray snorted derisively. "Couple of so-called 'agents' from some stupid department we've never heard of."
Chris perked up considerably. "Really? Are you like James Bond or something? Can you kung fu me to death?"
Gambit exchanged smiles with Purdey. "Want me to try?"
All of the blood drained out of Chris' red face. "Uh, no, that's okay. You probably shouldn't reveal your secrets moves and that."
Gambit's expression was mock-serious. "You're sure?"
"Oh, yeah, yeah. Really sure." Chris had ducked behind Ray for safety, while the latter grouchily lit himself a new cigarette to replace the one destroyed by Purdey.
Annie led them up some stairs into a down-at-heel flat, also cordoned off. Behind the tape they found Steed, immaculate bowler-hatted silhouette immediately recognisable. He was deep in conversartion with another man clad in a leather jacket. Steed waved his umbrella in welcome as they approached. "Ah, there you are. You made extremely good time." He indicated the other man. "Gambit and Purdey, I'd like you to meet DI Sam Tyler."
"Pleased to meet you," Sam greeted, shaking Gambit and Purdey's hands in turn.
"DI Tyler has been giving me a particularly shrewd assessment of the circumstances of our latest loss," Steed informed, nodding at an oddly-shaped lump draped in a sheet.
"Traitor," Ray muttered, and Sam shot him a look.
"We're supposed to be working with Steed's department, not making things harder for them," Sam shot back.
"This is our turf," Ray challenged. "Why should we have to okay everything with their lot?"
"Because the victim is one of 'their lot'!" Sam bellowed in frustration, then seemed to remember they had company. "Sorry, that must have sounded insensitive."
"Not at all," Steed assured. "We understand interdepartmental frustrations as well as anyone, but issues such as these really do necessitate our involvement."
"Of course," Sam agreed, shooting a look at Ray, who remained unrepentant.
"This is him?" Purdey inquired, moving to lift the sheet.
Ray shook his head. "I wouldn't, love. It's not a pretty sight. We can't be calling an ambulance for you if you faint or something."
"I think I'll manage in spite of my delicate constitution," Purdey said wryly, pulling back the cloth. Gambit, at her elbow, regarded the victim sadly.
"Collins," he identified.
"Yes." Purdey looked equally sombre. The corpse was arranged facedown, but with an obviously-shattered spine allowing the legs to be folded back over the head, the legs bent at the knees to create a neatly folded "pile" of dead body.
Steed joined them, pointed at the corpse's unusual position. "He was killed in the same way as the others—back broken, then arranged like so."
Chris, who had yet to view the corpse in light of his evening revels, took one look at the unfortunate agent and fled to the corner of the room to be loudly sick. Ray looked on in disgust, while Sam chastised the DC for contaminating the crime scene.
It was at that moment that a tall, blond man strode in, scowling at the room at large. He took in the scene, settled on the unfortunate Chris. "Christopher, whatever you deposit on this floor you will be scraping up with a spoon, comprendez?"
"Yes, guv," Chris managed weakly.
Sam stepped into the breached. "Guv, these are—"
"Tweedle-dee and Tweedle-dum," Gene cut in, dismissing Gambit and Purdey with a glance. He fixed his gaze on Steed. "You again."
Steed was unperturbed. "Hello, Hunt. It's been a long time."
"Not long enough."
"I hear you made DCI."
"You can buy me a congratulatory pint on the way out of my city," Hunt said gruffly.
Ray was watching the exchange open-mouthed. "Guv, do you know this lot?"
"Just the chief ponce," Hunt confirmed, turning to Ray. "But this is his bloody case, so you and Tyler and Cartwright and whatever is left of Christopher are going to help transfer it over to them so they can get out of my kingdom soon as possible."
Ray opened his mouth to protest. "But—"
"Understood!" Gene bellowed.
Ray took a step back. "Yes, guv."
"Good. I'll be at the Arms if you need me. Tyler, you're in charge. You." He pointed at Steed. "You're buying me that pint or I'm burning up the evidence bags with a lit fag in the rubbish bin."
Steed smiled broadly. "I'd be delighted."
Gene nodded in confirmation, then wheeled on Gambit. "You. Is that your flash motor parked beside my beloved Cortina?"
Gambit raised his eyebrows. "My XJS?"
"That's it. Nice car, but if you want it to stay that way, you'll move it pronto." With that, Gene swept out.
Gambit looked to Purdey, then to Steed. "Anything you'd like to tell us, Steed?"
Steed beamed. "Not at the moment, no."
"We can ask him later," Purdey whispered.
"Yes," Gambit agreed. "But should I wait until later to ask WDC Cartwright to show me the best place to get a drink around here? That's the more pressing question."
Purdey tsked. "Mike Gambit, we're trying to minimise any liaising between our organisations."
"I'm just trying to do my part to help things go more smoothly," Gambit said unconvincingly.
"I think the best way to do that," Purdey advised, affectionately tugging on his tie, "is to move your car before you have more than scratched paint to worry about."
"I love you, too," Gambit said with a wink, before disappearing out the door.
Annie, who had watched events unfold with a mixture of amusement and intrigue, crept up behind Sam and whispered in his ear, "Do you think the Guv would mind if I helped Mr. Gambit get up to speed with the case?"
Sam regarded her over his shoulder. "You're very keen to volunteer."
Annie shrugged innocently. "I just want to help."
"You could help Purdey."
"I don't think she needs help," Annie teased.
"But Mr. Gambit does?"
Annie nodded solemnly.
"He looks lost, does he?"
"In a tall, dark, handsome way, yes," Annie confirmed.
"I'm lost, too," Sam reminded.
"Yeah, but I'll bet Mr. Gambit never talks about being from 2006."
"That's what makes me so mysterious and intriguing," Sam pointed out with a smile.
Annie sighed in mock defeat. "All right, I'll go for a drink with you instead, since you've apparently been lost for decades."
"That's very generous of you," Sam replied, and they exchanged smiles.
"Tyler!" Ray snapped. "Quit feeling up Cartwright and help me get this squared away. I want to join the Guv at the Arms before lunch."
In the corner, Chris, barely recovered, asked, "Um, does anyone have a spoon?"