DISCLAIMER - Life on Mars Belongs to Kudos and the BBC, and this is for fun, not profit.

Rating– R (For violence and language)

A/N - Many, many thanks to Fay for her second opinion :) I owe you a fish!

Challenge – Written for the LJ Ficathon 2007 for Dakfinv.


20 Minutes


Beep.


Beep.


It's going to be touch and go, Sam. It's not going to be pleasant but we're trying to help. This took us all by surprise.


Beep.


We think we know what's wrong, but it's difficult to know exactly. We're doing all we can, but we need you to stay with us, Sam. Stay with us.


Beep.


Stay with us…

Everything is dark.

The first thing I realise is that I can't move. I've been tied down so securely that I can barely even struggle. I don't like that feeling of being out of control. Then the pain hits me, across my temples and down my neck and spine, and it feels like I have the mother of all hangovers.

I'm not sure where I am, but the all-encompassing ache is a bad sign. Not even an evening at the Railway Arms can make me feel this bad. I open my eyes a fraction, looking downwards. The floor is dark, and red, and wet. Blood, my blood I think, is pooled on the concrete in a small puddle. Beside it I see my jacket lying in a crumpled pile.

I don't panic, even though that was the first thing I should have done. I know that panic is counterproductive in this situation. My head hurts, but I try to concentrate and remember what I had been doing. I'd spoken to Gene that morning about the stakeout…


'Get your arse in here, Tyler!' came the shout from the Guv's office. I had barely been in the building for thirty seconds, and I wondered how he knew I was here.


As I walked through the doors, I braced myself against Gene's ire, getting no non-verbal support from the few others in the office. Everyone knew what was coming, and had obviously decided to keep their heads down this morning. Chris and Ray were over in one corner, talking quietly, and only Chris looked up and acknowledged me as came in.


I was just pushing open the door when the Guv shouted again.


'TYLER!'


He was standing behind his desk, his tie loose round his neck, and a great, big case file in his hand. He dumped it on the desk with an unforgiving thump and glared at me. I took a slow breath before speaking.


'You bellowed, Guv?'


'Too bloody right!' He gestured to the file.


'What is it?' I already knew what it was, and I had a cold, sinking feeling inside me. I understand the way Gene reacts and there was no way he was going to let this one go. But I didn't think he'd have organised a hit so quickly.


'It's set,' the Guv said. 'The Post Office at Liverpool Road. That's where they'll be, so we'll be there too.'


I didn't say anything, as he was only doing this to wind me up. He looked at me, the expression of grim anger was one I know well.


'How do you know he's going to do what you want him to do?' I asked.


Gene smirked, and tapped the side of his head.


'It's called instinct. Don't expect you've heard of it in Hyde, but round here it's what keeps us all going.'


'It's against procedure,' I said, trying again. 'This is all wrong and you're going to get someone killed.'


'This is our chance to nail him, once and for all! I'm not going to let it go!'


'You don't have the authority…'


'I've got all the authority I need!' shouted Gene. 'Don't come in here and tell me how to run my city!'


'But what about your men!' I replied, my own anger starting to show, even though I knew I could never win. These conversations all have the same depressingly familiar circularity to them.


Gene paused, and lifted his head, using his extra height to look down on me. He took a long time before saying anything.


'The only question is,' he said at last, 'are you going to join us for the party, Dorothy? Or just stay here and hide behind your principals?'


I couldn't stop the scowl. I hate that name. Besides, he knew the bloody answer. Gene leaned forward, as if to emphasise the point.


'D'you have the balls for it, Tyler?' he asked.


'You're wrong,' I said, as calmly as I could. 'I know you are.'


Gene's eyes glinted.


'Prove it. Put all that Hyde know-how to good use. You've got three hours to convince me…'

A soft noise jolts me back to the present. I had three hours this morning; who knows what the time is now. They could already be there, all of them as sitting ducks. Time was running out.

Carefully, I try to lift my arms again, but I feel the cut of tight, thin rope round my wrists. I try and move my legs and feel the same thing. Judging from the pressure on my back, I seem to be tied to a hard chair. My head is tipped forward, straining the already sore muscles in my neck.

Where have I been? What have I been doing? What the fuck has happened?

I try to concentrate. I must have tried to prove Gene wrong, that much is obvious. I have scattered memories of a warehouse, and asking a few questions. But I don't remember getting myself into this.

Aware that every moment is precious, I know I have to do something.

With a very soft groan, I lift my head, but this seems to be what my captor has been waiting for. The instant I move, I'm struck across the mouth with the back of a hand. My head lurches backwards, sending the room spinning. I can't focus on anything…


Beep.


We've no choice but to operate.


See what we can do to ease it…Beep … difficult decisions that …


Beep.

I'm hit across my mouth a second time, and everything slots back into place. My head is tipped back, and I manage to pull it upright, in spite of the pain in my shoulders and neck.

Then someone speaks.

'Come on, Inspector, time to wake up.'

That voice. I know the voice. I'm sure.

When I open my eyes, I can see a dark room, the only light coming from the skylight above me. There's a man in front of me, I can't make out details, but it's shaped like a man. It moves like a man.

He stoops, and picks up a bucket that's been beside my chair. I have a moment to brace myself before cold water is dumped over my head, and the bucket crashes to the ground with a clang.

The change in temperature takes my breath away, and I gasp, breathing in some of the droplets of water as well as air. As I cough, I sense movement. The man takes a swift step forward and hits me again, a proper punch to my face. I taste blood.

'Stop fucking around with him,' says another voice. 'Get on with it.'

Urgency laces his tone, and I'm suddenly convinced it's not too late. I have to get myself out of this. I have to stop Gene.

The first man steps forward, forcing his hand over my mouth then pinching my nose. I can't breathe.

'See,' he says in my ear, 'you're one of Hunt's boys. And you know something that we want to know too.'

I try to shake my head, but the man is very strong. And the more I struggle, the harder he pushes, forcing my head back against the strut of the chair. The man tightens his hold and the room goes dark round the edges.

'We want to know where the hit is,' he says softly. 'That's all. Nothing complicated. Where's the hit?'

The Liverpool Road Post Office; I can hear the words in my head as the sound of my blood thuds through my ears. Gene told me. That's where they'll be waiting for Martin Graham.

I hadn't stopped them, I remember trying…


'But, Boss, what are you gonna do?' Chris was worried. I was worried too, but it seemed such a small risk, if I somehow got what I needed before Gene left. I knew Chris was the only one in a position to help me, but he had doubts. He was right to have doubts, but this was the only way.


'Look, Chris, all you have to do is keep your eyes open,' I smiled reassuringly, but that made Chris even more nervous.


'But what am I supposed to be looking for?' he asked. 'I don't even understand what…'


'Look,' I said, a little too shortly, 'just keep your eyes open. I won't be long.'

Without warning, the hands are pulled away and air rushes into my lungs. Before I can inflate them fully, the man punches me in the stomach. I cry out involuntarily, but hardly any noise escapes.

There is a short silence, and I expect them to hurt me some more, but the man steps into the shadows muttering something obscene. Taking the opportunity, I try to regain my breath, but my sodden shirt is clinging to my skin, and I start to shiver. Even though it's summer, the warehouse is still cool. I know I'm going to get very cold very quickly.

I'm remembering more now. I was here earlier, Chris waited in the car. But I went back to the office with more information. I can't quite remember what. I spoke to the Guv.

The second man moves forward.

'Where is it?'

I recognise his voice now. Graham Martin; the man Gene's waiting for. I frantically try to piece together what happened after I arrived here, but I can't. I start to panic.

'Where is it?'

I swallow hard against the pain and fear. There's no way I can tell him. I can't. If Graham finds out, they're all dead. I hadn't been able to convince the Guv…


'There is a connection, Guv,' I said, trying not to plead with him. He wasn't listening to what I had to say. I'd been to the warehouse. I'd seen enough to know that Graham was expecting something. Graham hated Gene Hunt. True there weren't many crooks in Manchester who liked him, but this was different. I could smell a feud.


'Says you.'


'The evidence is all there, you just have to…'


'I don't see it.'


Gene looked away, towards Ray and Chris outside. But it was his cold demeanour and his arrogance that made me suddenly furious. I slammed the file down on his desk.


'That's because you refuse to look! Stop being so narrow-minded and admit you might have done something wrong!'


Gene stood.


'You sanctimonious, smug git!' he hissed. 'You have no idea what that man's capable of!'


'Graham Martin's not…'


'He should be inside! That's where he belongs. And I'm going to make sure he gets there!'


'No matter what?'


Gene lifted his head, his expression one of total obstinacy.


'No. Matter. What.'


I turn slightly, knowing Ray and Chris are watching from outside. I don't see the punch coming until it's far too late.


The next second, I was on the floor, my lip bleeding, and Gene was swearing like he's never done before, holding his right hand.


'…and that was fucking sore, Tyler!'


I couldn't answer back, as my mouth has gone numb. But I glared at him and suddenly he went still.


'I should have expected something like this from you, Tyler. So you just what the fuck you like. But you'll do it alone!'


I was furious and humiliated, and almost overwhelmed with the urge to slam him up against his own filing cabinet and shake some sense into him.


'Get the hell out of here, Tyler, some of us have proper police work to do!'


I pushed myself up off the floor…

'If you could get free, maybe you could stop me.'

I lift my head up so I can look at him properly. Graham Martin doesn't look like a bank robber. He looks more like lawyer or a doctor, his accent is clean and clear, not a working man's accent at all. And he's smart; very, very smart, but cold all the way through to the core. And I have the horrible feeling that he knows more about this situation than I do. I shiver, feeling colder, I can't remember feeling this cold before, cold water is still dripping down from my soaking hair onto my shirt.

'Hunt's boys,' he says, 'you're all the same. Always stick together. Well, mostly.'

He glances around the room, with an unpleasant, ironic air. I know what he's getting at. He will have done his homework, he'll know that I'm here on my own. He might even have set me up earlier; I wouldn't have been surprised as he's certainly clever enough. I curse my own stupidity, knowing that I should have been better prepared. But that argument with the Guv unsettled me, I felt I had something to prove, and I underestimated Graham.

'Give it to me,' he says to his associate.

The other man steps out from behind me and passes a clawhead hammer to Graham, who looks down. I follow his gaze. He's staring at my right hand.

Though I'm still shivering violently, my hand is fixed securing down at the wrist. I can't move it.

Graham hefts the hammer, swinging it carefully from side to side as if to judge the weight of it. I watch, transfixed. The moment after he stops, I try to ready myself, then he swings it down as hard as he can, smashing into my hand.

I cry out, unable to do anything but react.

I can't think for the blinding pain. I don't dare look at the damage, but I know that something's broken as I'd heard the unmistakeable sound of crunching bones.

Minutes pass before I look up at him. I'm still shaking, now not just from the chill in the air, but the agonising pain in my hand and up my arm.

For a terrible moment I think he's going to do it again. There is silence but for the quick tick of dripping blood. But, instead, he speaks.

'Liverpool Road.'

My blood runs cold at the name. Annie and Gene, Chris and Ray. They're waiting there. After all the fear and pain, I try not to react. But it's not enough, he's watching me. Graham is watching my face waiting to catch me off-guard.

He sees my reaction to the street name. And now he knows exact where they are.

I've told him without saying a word. And I can see this is exactly what he planned. He smiles, watching my face all the time.

'You see, I know Gene Hunt. That's where I'd wait, if I were him. Liverpool Road. Thank you, Inspector.'

The throbbing pain in my hand helps me to keep silent. At that moment, there is no pain anywhere that could match the bitter guilt that I feel inside me.

That's all they wanted.

They seem to loose interest in me and Martin goes to the table and picks up his gun: a sawn-off shotgun. If he gets close enough, he could easily cut someone in half with it.

When he comes back, he's smiling again.

'This one has Hunt's name on it,' he says. 'And I'll be sure to tell him who my informer was.'

He pulls a small handgun out of his back pocket. I barely have time to draw breath before he casually presses it to my temple.

There is a fleeting moment of terror before I realise there's nothing I can do to stop him. And part of me doesn't care; the tiny part of me that craves escape from this nightmare at any cost.

'Hey, Graham!'

It's the other man.

'What?'

'You said I could do one.'

'Yes, but…' There is a tone of disgust in Graham's voice. '…this one?'

'Yeah, he's so close already just a little bit more… Come on, I've always wanted to off a copper.'

'Just do it quickly,' hisses Graham yanking the gun away. 'We don't have time for anything fancy.'

'Sure!'

The momentary relief I felt when the gun didn't go off is replaced by fear once more. This is no reprieve.

The other man comes back holding something that looks like a plastic tie, and a tattered rag. He forces it into my mouth, then ties a rope round the front to ensure I don't try and spit it out. Something is looped over my head and pulled tight.

'Can't be too quick, no that's just too easy for one of you lot,' he says in a strained voice. 'Need something a little slower. Something a little nastier.'

The plastic tie is pulled tighter, and the blood begins to thump in my head. I've seen so many people strangled, and so may people die by violence. I never thought it would happen to me.

The pressure on my neck and the cold, combined with the loss of blood will finish me off in a few minutes. My blood still drips onto the floor, and water still trickles over my face masking my tears of frustration and guilt.

I watch the two men walk out of the door. Neither looks back.

As it starts to fade, I think of home…


Beep.

Sam, come home Sam, come back to us.


Beep.


I told you, you have no idea what that bastard's capable of.


Beep.


I don't know what I'm looking for.


Beep.


Sam, come back to us.


Sam…

'Sam!'

I don't even hear him approach. I don't remember him untying the ligature or the gag, or releasing me from the chair.

'Boss, come on, Boss, say something. Jesus! Boss!'

Sam, come back to us Sam. Don't be afraid...

'Sam!'

Air rushes into my lungs, and the sudden release make me cough. My head is spinning and I can hardly seem to focus. I feel terrible.

'Come on, Boss. You've gotta give me a hand somehow.'

I realise my arms and legs are free, but I can't stand up. Everything is swimming in an out of focus. But I recognise my saviour: Chris.

Memory hits me, and I know that I have to help Annie and Gene, and the others, so I try to stand up. But instead of moving, the room lurches violently enough to make me sick.

'Annie… and Gene,' I manage to gasp between retches. 'Stop them... He knows.'

'It's ok, Boss, it's all sorted.'

I didn't believe him. How has he managed that? I look up at Chris, and see the slight, embarrassed expression.

'I, sort of, well, panicked like.'

He pauses, and even though I'm desperate for news, I wait.

'I thought you'd come back here,' he says. 'It's what the Guv would have done, if he'd been you. You know, try and stop 'em before they left.' He takes a quick breath. 'When I saw your car all smashed up like that, I panicked, and radioed for backup, told 'em you'd found Graham on your own.' He smiled. 'They'll be here in a minute.'

I look at him, his earnest expression and concerned frown and realise it's ok.

I give him a weak smile. It's going to be ok.

So I can pass out in peace.


Sam. It's over Sam, the emergency operation was a success and you're stable. But you've got to keep one going, keep on trying to get home.


Keep trying, Sam. Keep trying.


Beep.