The lights in the pub were now extinguished, a pitch black covering Sam in a suffocating blanket of darkness. The only colour visible in the gloom was the deep hue of red that swished back and forth from the massive curtains that lined the far wall, the darkness now so deep that even this vibrant colour had been subdued and left as a whisper of a backdrop, a mere hint of what its power could truly represent. The chairs and tables of the pub had slowly faded into this black nothingness, even the pattern of the carpet beneath his feet had slipped away, leaving a solid black lacquer beneath the soles of his shoes. Nothing was now left save the seat he was in and one object that had no business being here in Nelson's pub. A few feet away from him was a table that Sam recognised from the interrogation room. Seated in a red plastic chair in front of it was a small man suffering from some form of dwarfism, his body shifting where he sat in time lapsed convulsions.
Cooper was nowhere to be seen.
"Hello?" Sam dared to venture. His voice felt strange on his tongue, as though it had a physical texture that he could taste. What it was, he couldn't quite fathom, though his subconscious gave the solid suggestion that it was disappointment. Whatever the case, the odd little man in front of him was oblivious to Sam's feelings, and was now caressing the surface of the table with his palms in long, loving strokes. It seemed to Sam that he was treating the table as though it were a living thing, some tame, stray animal that he'd brought in to care for.
When he spoke, it was as if his voice were played backwards and then forwards again, a strange congruity with the twisted nature of what he'd had to say. "This is a Formica table," the misshapen dwarf informed him, giving Sam a backwards wink and grin. "It's colour, it is green."
"I'm not that good with puzzles, so the cryptics can end now. If you got something to tell me just say so!"
The man shook his head, impatient with Sam's outburst. "The table is green..." he continued.
"I don't fucking care if it's orange with purple spots, who the hell is Bob!" Sam shouted. He stood up, knocking over the chair he had been sitting in, his fists clenched tight, his knuckles white. "Tell me something I can use!."
The darkness of the room had absorbed his violence. leaving a hopeless impotence in its wake. Sam sighed, and righted the chair, though he was still too upset to actually sit back down. "I don't like this," he said, a form of admission to the darkness cloaking him. "This isn't my place. I don't understand any of this. All I can say is, I just want to know what the hell this Bob is, that's all."
The small man rolled his eyes at Sam, his mouth twisted in strange shapes as he spoke to someone who wasn't there. "He just wants to know who you are. But he already knows."
Sam frowned. Though there was no one there, an odd familiarity began to dawn on him as the pitch darkness began to give way to a room that had a very familiar shape and dimension. Which was odd, because he knew for a fact that he had never been here before, not in any conscious way that he could understand.
In the corner of the room, against a row of swaying, shadowed curtains, stood a wild haired man wearing jeans and a jean jacket, his grin wide, his expression one of an insane predator. Sam recognised him immediately, and though his mouth was dry enough to be desiccated he spoke the man's name.
He frowned. No, it wasn't Bob who had said his name. Bob stood silent in the corner with his psychotic grin, his body shaking in those same time lapsed spasms that had wracked the form of the dwarf who had seemingly brought him here. If anything, Bob was frozen where he stood, unable to leave that corner and rip Sam's soul to shreds as he was clearly longing to do.
Sam searched for the small man who had brought him here, but both he and the table were now missing. In its place was an empty hospital bed, the beeping of a heart monitor next to it so loud that the curtains swayed against its vibrations. Shadowed against the wall where the small man had been seated was now an IV, with digital numbers measuring out the proper dosages of medication.
Behind him, in the chair, her clown doll clutched close to her heart.
Terrified, Sam felt his knees buckle.
"Quietly, Sam," she said to him. "He's a very nasty man. He stands in the corner and thinks he knows everything. I know he wants you, but he can't have you, Sam. You are mine and you know you always will be." She grabbed his hand, sending a jolt of pain cascading through his arm. "Bob has no business here." She turned in her seat to glare at the madly grinning intruder, but he was gone. A nurse stood in his place, filling an invisible needle.
"He's not smart. He's just lustful. He's not one of us." She turned her horrible attention back on Sam, a cold emanating from her that spoke of the reaper's blade. "Turn him off, Sam."
Light flooded the room, blinding him. It took a few moments for him to regain his breath, along with the realisation that he'd been holding it. He wiped sweat from his brow with the back of a shaky hand, and seeing that the pint of bitter in front of him had been untouched, he remedied that problem in two swift gulps.
Annie was giggling. "Here, Sam, what's with you? You've gotten so quiet of a sudden."
"It's nothing, I'm...I'm not feeling all that well."
"Flu," Phyllis said, nodding sagely. She blew a thick plume of smoke at Sam's face. "Gets right in the lungs it do, most of 'em round here catch it this time of year. You'd do right to go home and get yourself a hot toddy."
Cooper, however, did not look entirely convinced. "If you don't mind my saying so, DI Tyler, you have the appearance of a man with troubles that aren't of this world."
"You look as though you are haunted."
Annoyed by his insight, Sam tossed a few quid onto the table to cover the drinks. "Sorry, Cooper," Sam said. "But I do mind what you say."
Thanks to the kindness of Major Briggs, Gene was brutally wired on caffeine. Sleep wouldn't come even if he begged for it from the sandman himself. There was only one cure for a man of Gene's nature when sleep wouldn't come and that was to putter in his office until the wee hours of morning.
He took a hopeful bottle of scotch out of a hidden compartment in his drawer and read its label with longing before putting it back. This was usually his best sleeping pill, but now...Damn, it would be a hell's walk before he finally made it home to the Missus--There was nothing she hated more than when he couldn't sleep, especially since his pacing about ended up involving a team effort, with her waking up and cooking him up a bit of something at two am or earlier. Which wouldn't be so bad if she didn't have to be so damned furious about it.
So, here he was. Sleepless in 'A' Division.
He took the bottle of scotch back out of its hiding place and grabbed a clear glass from the top of one of his filing cabinets. He unscrewed the top of the bottle and poured the golden liquid into the glass, watching it as it slid into its new confines, the pour of it like liquid poetry. He placed the glass in front of him and then put his bottle back into its hidden spot, slamming the drawer shut good and tight. He simply stared at it, then, figuring if he couldn't drink it he could at least admire the booze in other ways. A man was more than just his gut, after all, wasn't he?
A fat fly buzzed over the drink and then landed in it. The insect struggled drunkenly, its wings and legs flapping in disorganised glee. Hell of a grand way to go, Gene thought. He didn't have the heart to rescue it.
His office was suddenly colder, so cold that he could see his breath when he sighed over the plights of drowning flies and sleepless men. Gene felt a bead of sweat furrow its way down the back of his neck, sending further chills into the very marrow of his bones. Of course, she was here. She was always here, when he was alone with only his thoughts for company.
"Bugger off," he said, but fear kept him from being too convincing.
He could feel her crushed fingers brush against his shoulders in a mockery of intimacy, her splintered bones digging into his pectoral muscles as she kneaded her crushed hands against his flesh. He could feel her head pressed against his cheek, the soft sensuality of her silky hair ruined by the misshapen crushed skull that covered it.
It weren't fair for her to torment him like this, he weren't no high brow dickless intellectual like Sammy Boy and his Flew-The-Cooper best friend.
"Look, I just knows what's right and what's wrong. That's as far as you get with me for philosophising. If you want some mind-bender freak show, Sam Tyler's your man, not me. The only blood and guts I deals with are the kind what gets mopped up, got it?"
A squelching sound could be heard outside of his office, and though he should have known better, Gene peered through the blinds of his office to see its source. Candace, Bob's newest victim, was crawling along the surface of the desks, her arms bent backwards at an appalling angle, her legs spidered out behind her like a crab's. She crawled towards his office like some unholy demonic insect, grey matter oozing out of the hole in the side of her head, where she had been hit by a blunt instrument. It was probably this that had finally killed her, Gene realised with some grim acknowledgment of his own coldness at the situation. He was getting used to the mangled corpses of women visiting him in the wee hours of the night.
That couldn't be good for the soul.
"This place is getting all sorts of bastard stupid since your man Cooper showed up," Gene said to Laura, who gave him an affectionate kiss on his neck, her blood-soaked breath iron against his skin. Her lips brushed against his ear, sending goose-bumps in their wake.
"The man who killed us is laughing," she said.
He tried to physically shove her off, but the effort was moot. Both Laura and Candace were gone. Gene blinked into the daylight that had flooded his office, and he checked his watch with no small amount of surprise. Eight am. He'd managed to doze off after all.
He could have easily discounted it all for a nightmare save for the fact that directly in front of him, politely waiting, was a white mug, the contents of which were, no doubt, some damned fine coffee. Even now he longed to pick it up and drink it, but its unpredictable side effects made him take pause.
Laughter suddenly tore into his office, and he smarted against its revelry. Laura herself had told him what this meant, and Cooper had warned not twelve hours earlier that Bob was an invading spirit, a demon that possessed the living. So, if they were both telling him the truth...There were two or more beautiful women dead, and there, in DCI Gene Hunt's 'A' Division, was a bloody murdering bastard laughing.
The door to his office completely fell off of its hinges from the force he'd used to fling it open. DCI Hunt stood in its frame, a large bull of a man with fury as his one weapon of choice.
Chris was frozen where he stood, a soccer ball held tight in his grip. He stared back at Gene with mute terror, his bottom lip clenched beneath his top teeth, his shoulders already hunched against possible future blows from his DCI's massive, meaty fists. The other DI's in the vicinity were all laying low over their desks, pens and pencils pretending to work despite the fact there were no papers in front of them. Ray dipped into the room chomping on gum and whistling, only to instantly feel the air of impending doom and thus wisely dove out of it, running to freedom down the corridor. Annie was trapped against Sam's desk, her face frozen into an uncertain smile, her blue eyes wide with the knowledge of Armageddon.
So, this was it, Gene thought. This is what we've been hunting for.
Beside Annie was a young man. A PC to be exact. Annie's frozen smile was fixed on him, while her eyes darted from his laughing mouth to Gene's red-faced fury with an increasing expression of alarm. "It's good to see you're doing better," she said to the young man, with a significant amount of uncertainty.
"I just needed some time," the young man replied. "What is that old saying? What doesn't kill you only makes you stronger." He laughed, loudly, at this.
"PC Gary," Gene growled.
PC Gary turned, his hand now on Annie's shoulder, his grin strangely, horribly familiar.
"You know, Annie, I heard the most lovely poem the other day. I should have written it on that greeting card I gave you. Did you like the card?"
"Yes. It was a nice gesture."
"I thought so. I knew you'd love it. It was so..." PC Gary's grin widened further into ingenuous proportions. His hand tightened on Annie's shoulder, causing her to wince. "You."
There was an audible click, and Annie gasped as she found herself staring down the barrel of a handgun. It took her a few moments to realise it wasn't actually aimed at her, but at PC Gary who had finally released his grip on her shoulder. She rubbed at the spot he had held, knowing it would be bruised.
PC Gary remained calm despite this open threat to his life. His grin was unwavering. "Now, now, Gov, what's the trouble?"
"Shut your yob," Gene replied. Sam and Cooper walked in, practically arm in arm Gene thought with distaste. Cooper held a shocked Sam back with the back of his hand, his tall, pale forehead creased into tight lines.
"Bloody hell," Sam breathed.
"Indeed it will be," Cooper said, calmly. "It seems DCI Hunt has found Bob."
The interrogation room felt crowded to Sam, despite the fact that there were only four people present. PC Gary was calm, holding the same strange grin he'd had for Annie just a couple of hours earlier. He fidgeted in his seat, not out of nervousness Sam felt, but out of a squirming sense of mirth that bordered on hysteria. Every now and then old tunes that no one save ancient barbershop quartets and ragtime aficionados would recognise would erupt from his lips in full crescendo. His happiness made Sam uneasy, but Cooper remained as cool as ever, his fingers steepled as he spoke to the creature known only as 'Bob'.
"You killed her," Cooper said.
PC Gary contemplated the green Formica table in front of him, his smile never faltering. He was tied up in a chair that had steel backing in an effort to prevent their prisoner from injuring himself. The last person Cooper had met who had known Bob had offed himself by smashing his own head against a steel door. Thus, two rolls of duct tape now mummified PC Gary into his steel chair, and the only way he was going to injure himself would be if he could cause himself an aneurysm by the sheer force of will.
The hockey helmet was Sam's idea.
"We don't have evidence," Sam interjected, and Cooper held up his hand, as though to prevent the passage of Sam's lack of faith.
"Bob," Cooper said to PC Gary. "You won't escape this prison."
PC Gary started to giggle, his grin twisting into a grotesque parody of mirth. "You, yoo-hoo, youuu killed her...Oh, when I'm calling youuu-hoo-ooo-oo..." Tears of laughter streamed down PC Gary's cheeks, his hysteria so intense Sam half wondered if the man would asphyxiate himself this way. His face was certainly purple enough.
The giggling tirade was stopped abruptly by Gene's fist smashing against the Constable's face.
"I'm sick to death of your chortles you little twat-rag. Go on, tell us since you're so bloody proud and happy about it--How many have you done in? I want names and I want them now!"
PC Gary cracked his neck and gave Gene a wide, manic grin which erupted into another fit of uncontrollable laughter. When he finally calmed down enough to catch his breath, to everyone's shock he began to sing:
"OHHHH...Theresareesa-bopesa--bananafana-bobesa-fefiforesa--Theresa. Then there's Laura! Lauralaurabopaura--bananafana-bobaura-fefifoaura--Laura." He choked halfway through the middle of the song, his lips leaking blood. Red spittle stained the green surface of the table. "Let's try Candace! Candaceandace-popandace..."
"He's biting off his tongue!" Cooper warned. "Quick, get me something to prevent it!"
Gene's fist arrived out of nowhere and slammed neatly against the side of PC Gary's head. The singing abruptly stopped as PC Gary slipped into unconsciousness. "I hate that bloody song. Annette Funicello can kiss my beautiful ass."
"DCI Hunt," Cooper said, carefully. "Violence is not the best policy when dealing with a creature such as Bob..."
"Seems to be working enough," Gene sniffed. "He ain't dead and he hasn't scooted off--I'd say violence is working a right charm on him." He relaxed into his chair and took out a cigarette. One had to reward oneself with little things when the occasion presented itself.
"There's no way he's guilty of any of these crimes," Sam said, spoiling Gene's good mood. "Spirit or not, there's no way we can get any of the charges to stick. PC Gary has never had a passport, in fact he's never travelled further than London to visit his mother and gran."
"But this isn't PC Gary," Cooper reminded him. "This man is possessed by Bob."
"You still need evidence to convict the devil. There's no proof that he killed Candace other than his mad ramblings, which will be easily enough thrown out of court. Even your eyewitnesses didn't see PC Gary, they saw the monster 'Bob'. There's no way we can convict him."
Gene gave PC Gary's slumped figure a good once over, taking in his neatly trimmed red crew cut, his freckles and the small round shape of his eyes. He was on the side of short and pudgy, his physique heading in Ray's direction should he ever be so lucky as to get a desk job. Gene took the composite sketch of Bob out of Cooper's folder and held it in front of him, comparing it to PC Gary's unconscious form.
"Give me a cataract or two and I'll see a resemblance," he said.
"We can't do this," Sam insisted.
"Finally," Cooper said, not listening. "I can take you back to the that place from whence you escaped." Cooper's voice became uncharacteristically sinister. "The Black Lodge is waiting."
Sam frowned. "But...That's where he escaped from in the first place. You can't put him back there, he knows how to get out."
"He's right," Gene said. "Sounds to me like they gives evil free weekend passes in that place. I say lock him up proper, send him somewhere he absolutely can't get out of."
"Like where?" Sam asked.
Gene shrugged. "I dunno. Hell, I guess."
"The Black Lodge is hell," Cooper said.
"Can't be, can it?" Gene replied. "Hell's a place you don't come back from, and you did, didn't you? It can't be all that bad there, not with Bob hanging with his other evil cronies, cooking up ways to crawl through a window here and there. No, I don't think it is a place for him...And I have to wonder why you insist it's where he needs to be."
Cooper's mouth was a thin, angry line. "DCI Hunt, I have spent years in that horrible place, and I can assure you, it is..."
"...So terrible my imagination can't conjure up now't of it. I got you, you had a nasty time of it when you was trapped there. But I'll tell you something else, my friend--Just how sure are you Bob isn't manipulating you in this? You spent time there in his house, after all." Gene glared at the now groaning and giggling figure coming to in the chair in front of him. "Something tells me he just might have corrupted you in ways you don't even figure on."
"I assure you, DCI Hunt, that is not the case. Laura..."
"Laura Palmer warned me," Gene said, his voice grim. "I'm just a simple copper, I'm not into philosophising or riddling over the universe. I know what's right and I know what's wrong, and that's the sum of it. So, she sought me out for a reason, right? And maybe that reason is that she just don't trust you."
Cooper did his best to remain impassive at this suggestion, but an involuntary tick above his left eye hinted to Sam that the agent was infuriated. "If you are suggesting that I am subconsciously sabotaging this investigation..."
"I'm not suggesting, I'm saying so."
Sam sighed and sank into his seat, only half listening to the argument that festered and twined its way around the room. He rubbed his eyes with the heel of his hand, and then opened them to see the Test Card Girl standing beside PC Gary.
She grinned at him. Triumphant.
"Good work, Sam," she said.
She placed her small hand on PC Gary's shoulder, and to Sam's horror the man began to convulse in his seat, far more violently than the stop-motion actions he'd displayed in the red room. The lights in the interrogation room flickered and sputtered into sparks, and through the shadows of light and darkness Sam could see the facade of PC Gary's body literally melting away from his face and and torso like liquified wax. The burning wax cut through the duct tape that held him in the chair and within minutes Sam was sitting directly across from the madman-thing known only to his universe as 'Bob'.
"He's not one of us, Sam."
The sudden realisation hit him, and all terror ceased.
Sam stared at Bob, at his shaky, uncontrollable movements that seemed shifted out of time, and with shocking clarity he knew what had happened. He knew how to solve this puzzle.
He crossed his arms over his chest, his gaze unemotional save for vague annoyance. This was so cliché, Sam thought. So bloody obvious.
In the distance, against a vast black horizon, the blip of a heart monitor echoed across the cosmos.
"Through the darkness of future past/The magician longs to see," Sam said to Bob. "So, what is it, then? I come from the darkness of the future into the dark ages of my career's past. One illusion into a delusion. I suspect this makes me the magician. Am I getting warmer?"
Bob's insane grin turned into a grimace, his body contorting as though he were in terrible pain. Through the transparent ceiling of the interrogation room, through the layers of plaster and beyond the upper floorboards and support beams a vast darkness floated above them. It was a quiet, shadowed place lined to infinity with the aurora borealis of red velvet curtains that swayed gently in an incomprehensible breeze. Major Briggs had been wise to warn him of Cooper's plan. Bob had stumbled into Sam's mind, and found a prison far more constrictive than the one he'd originally been placed in.
The Test Card Girl still had a firm grip on Bob's shoulder, her hideous clown doll hugged close to her body with her free hand. She playfully nudged Bob, and gave him her childish, demonic smile.
"I know you," she said to him, and winked. She giggled and took her hand from his shoulder, and then tapped him with her index finger in the centre of his chest. "Tee-hee, Bob, you're IT."
Bob's shimmering grimace opened wide. As the Test Card Girl laughed, Bob let out a blood curdling scream.
Sam stumbled out of his chair, suddenly awake, his body shivering from the clammy clutches of sweat that had overtaken him. The quizzical looks of his colleagues in 'A' Division brought him back to what at least on the surface seemed reality. For this, he was grateful.
"You all right, boss?" Chris asked him.
"Yeah. Yeah, I'm fine." Sam wiped the sweat from his brow with the back of his sleeve. How had he ended up here, at his desk? "Where's Agent Cooper?"
Chris gave Sam a lopsided, disbelieving smile. "He's gone, boss."
"Back to America."
Sam frowned, his breath not quite catching up with him. "When did he leave?"
"You know that better than any of us, boss," Chris said, confusion evident in his voice. "You was the one what drove him to the airport."
Behind Chris, Ray was making circles with his index finger against his temple and mouthing 'koo-koo, koo-koo'. Sam took a deep, cleansing breath, and nodded towards Gene's office. "Is the Gov in?"
"Awaitin' confirmation that the Yank has gone and the Loyalists has won," Ray said around a chomp of gum. He pointed to a small bouquet of flowers on Sam's desk. "Seems you got the admiration of someone for cracking up that case, but it sure as hell ain't from Eisner. He's right pissed you didn't send that Agent off with his quarry and preferred to keep him here at home. There's been some quarrel about it this morning, and Eisner has to put off his retirement for one more week."
"The sun and sand of Hawaii thanks us," Chris said around a grin.
"I still can't believe it," Ray said around an aura of spearmint. "One of our bloody own. Who'd have thought PC Gary had it in him? He looks too Howdy Doody for bloody murder."
"Howdy Who?" Chris asked.
"An American kiddie show," Sam said.
"Howdy Doody ain't no American."
"Are you serious? He's a paper mache cowboy puppet, you can't get any more American than that!"
"He's no Camberwick Green," Chris offered.
Sam picked up the white card that had been nestled within the bouquet. Written on it in neat, black script was this message:
To the continued success of a fellow traveller. Sincerely, Major Briggs.
Sam tapped the card in the palm of his hand as he walked to Gene's office. The door had been newly repaired by someone who wasn't exactly expert, and the hinges held the door in place with crooked hope. Sam gently knocked on the door, sending a screw clattering to the floor.
"Get in here Tyler," Gene bellowed.
Sam eased the creaking door open and walked into Gene's office. He nodded at Gene's frowning face.
"He's gone," Sam assured him.
"About bloody time," Gene said, opening a side drawer in his desk. He rummaged about in it before taking out a large bottle of scotch. "It's about time things got back to normal around here."
Normal. Now there was a word with a whole variety of meanings for Sam.
"It did get a little crazy," Sam said, willing Gene to open up.
"I guess so," Gene said.
"You don't want to talk about it?"
"About what? Spooks and exorcisms? Not my cuppa, Sam. And you'd best not make it yours, either."
Sam stood uncertain in front of Gene, wondering just how much was he meant to reveal to the man. He'd lost an entire evening by the look of things, he had no memory of driving Cooper to the airport and nothing remained of PC Gary save a few inaccurate pop culture references by a moustached boob. He'd blinked his eyes and everything had shifted focus and his dreamscape had broken down.
Then again, that was the whole point. Right?
Sam knew a few basics of Zen thinking, mostly because of an ex-girlfriend who'd forced him to go to a Dalai Llama conference in London when he was in college. The main crux of it all was that everything is illusion. The world is a delusional trap meant to hold us prisoner within it.
In the distance, the ventilator sighed.
"I guess there's no way out of it, then," Sam said to himself.
"Don't worry about it," Gene said. He unscrewed the cap of his whiskey bottle and filled the clean white mug in front of him to the brim with the golden liquid. He took a long, satisfying gulp, and then another.
"Ahh," he said, sitting comfortably back in his chair, his face the picture of bliss. "That's bloody gorgeous, that is."