I don't own Ashes to Ashes
This is going to be a quite dark, at times probably upsetting story as far as the policing side of Alex and Gene's work goes, so please, don't read if you don't like that sort of thing. It's going to touch on sensitive topics and you might not like it... but I wanted to try a real A2A fic, as opposed to little oneshots, so I hope that this will explore both the policing and personal relationships in GALex, as well as, hopefully, being a little bit –apologies for the geekiness- educational.
There are going to be controversial topics brought about in later chapters, and I hope I do them justice.
For those of you who continue to read, thank you, and I hope it's going to be worth it.
As far as crimes went, Gene Hunt thought he'd seen it all; he'd wrapped up cases of rape, paedophilia, murder, suicide, robbery, fraud, and all other forms of criminality that he could think of. In fact, sometimes he looked back at old cases, not for extra leads or links to the current case, but just to see which diggings had earthed up good results, and which had lead to dead ends. Murders, in particular, were likely to find him flicking through old case files to see key suspects relationships to the victim, and though he knew every case was different, he was good at identifying which leads might turn up something new and useful.
That morning though, he saw things he'd never even heard of, let alone solved. Having already wrapped up a Post Office job that morning, he found himself arriving at a run-down warehouse seated right along the Thames, screeching round the corner in his own unique manner and pulling the handbrake sharp to send the car skidding to a halt, barely pausing to breathe before pushing open the door and stepping out. While his team spent a minute or two trying to calm themselves and their stomachs, he'd started on his walk towards the crowd of people along the riverside itself, all of whom were speaking in loud and hysteric voices. As he reached them, he flashed his badge, saying nothing and leaving words to his esteemed DI as she ran to keep up with his long-legged lead, though all she managed to say was "Police business, please step aside," in a way that was far too courteous for his liking, and if he hadn't been so shocked by what he saw before him, he'd have told her so.
He felt Alex Drake join him, standing at his side in her usual hoity-toity manner, and he heard the gasp that escaped her lips. He felt for her; in that moment, he could only imagine the motherly, innate need within her, to reach down and gather the poor, fragile mess into her arms and sob helplessly... because it wasn't right, he thought, that someone would feel enough rage to inflict this much pain and grief on someone so young...
There was a mass of blonde hair, shot through with a streak of red that he might have taken for a stylish highlight had the streak not then continued into a puddle that fanned out behind the head, and had it not dripped down the barely visible white of skin. There was a large chunk missing from one cheek, another on the shoulder, the chest, the rib, the arm... Gene could feel the bile rising in his throat, and he saw Alex moving away, heard her heaving as she brought up what was probably a measly breakfast and last night's pasta, doing what he wished he had the freedom to do, but what he knew would inspire no sense of faith in his ability as a policeman. So he held the tide of sickness back, looking at the motionless body before him for several more moments before gruffly saying, "someone tell me who, what and where before I string some undeserving sod up by his bollucks... NOW!"
There was a startled wave of movement as the shocked, white-faced crowd all looked from one to the other, waiting for someone to step forward, to explain the situation to him... it was several moments of great impatience later that a man dressed in anorak and tweed trousers stepped forwards and began to talk, immediately giving Gene the excuse to look away from the ugly scene before him, muttering to Ray and Chris to clear the scene and get forensics before turning his steely gaze on the old man.
"I found it this mornin', off'ser... was out on me boat, see... 'bout an hour ago... and it were just... floating like... so I brought it out... thought they might be alive, like... still warm when I got there but 'snot live..." The man was in his early fifties, Gene guessed, and he looked as if he'd weathered most of those years on the boat he mentioned; his skin was battered and worn, peeling and sore to the eye, red with sun blisters and cracking along the contours of his face.
"What's your name?" He said, seeing Alex returning, her face as white as the jacket she'd thrown around herself on the way out of the station earlier that morning.
"Joe Ellison, off'ser..."
"I'm an Inspector," Gene said gruffly. "What'd you do when you found her?"
"Brought it out, Inspector... and called for 'elp like... an' some'un called the police once we knew he... she... it... were dead like...." The man looked abashed, ashamed at being unable to give a true summation of the victims gender, but truth be told, Gene wasn't so sure himself. The hair was cropped in that mid-length style that was fashionable for both males and females of the moment, the face was so covered in blood it was difficult to distinguish any notably significant features. The clothes were baggy, a big white jumper, stained impossibly red, that looked three sizes too big, with holes in various places, all above the inflicted wounds, and though it was wet from the river and clinging to the slip of a body that was there, the victim was so skinny, with legs noticeably spindly and thin encased in the fashionable drainpipe jeans, there was no way of making out any differentiation without removing the clothes, and if it weren't for the dress sense, Gene wasn't sure they'd have been able to guess at the age either.
"Nobody has any idea who then?" Alex said quietly from Gene's side, and he nearly turned to look at her and check she wasn't going to throw up, before deciding it was not a good idea. The crowd conceded that nobody was aware of the victim's identity, and Gene ordered statements and names to be collected from those at the scene, and when the body had been collected and taken away, having collected their evidence and passing it on to forensics, he rounded his team together and drove back to the station, opting for the slower choice of speed as he saw his DI's face turn green at the prospect of returning to the car.
Back at the station, they had to wait three hours before forensics were able to tell them anything, and so Gene set Ray and Chris to trawling through the ten or so statements they had collected, setting Alex to making cups of tea, opting for the lesser of two evils; either she had to read each person's gruesome description of the body, or she had to make him and the others tea and he had to endure her bickering for the rest of the evening... At two o'clock though, after he had ordered another coffee and garibaldi, she stormed into his office, slamming the door behind her as her face contorted with anger.
"Give me some real work Guv. I'm not your bloody tea maid and I don't need sheltering. I can handle the case, I can handle the statements, just let me do something instead of just sitting here thinking about it!"
Gene didn't answer immediately, standing up and silently admitting he'd done a dumb thing in leaving her to stir coffee and tea all afternoon. But he wasn't going to apologize for it; he'd seen the state she'd gotten herself into, and he knew she wouldn't have handled immediate contact with that case... and now, she was either going to thank him or hate him, because he reached for his coat, throwing it around himself and buttoning it up before gruffly muttering. "Right. Come on then, Bols. Forensics it is."
Gene had thought that, once the victim had been cleaned up a little, perhaps had their gouging wounds cleaned and their face cleared from blood, it might have been less scarring to look at; unfortunately, he was shocked to discover that it was worse, even uglier than before, and when Alex clutched at his arm and covered her mouth, it was all he could do not to turn around and drive the two of them as far away from this as possible; but they both knew that he wouldn't, because this was their job... it was what they did, every day of the week, and though it was ugly and horrific, it was their job to bring the bastards who did it to justice.
But nothing would have prepared either of them, he thought, for what was waiting for them.
The face, had it not been greatly disfigured by the chunk which had been grotesquely butchered off, would have been pretty, had the lines around the eyes not been so pronounced, and the mouth not been set in such a defeatist manner that it dragged the eye downwards and gave the instant air of sadness and depression. There were dark circles that shadowed the eyes, almost purple in colour, as though a permanent feature, not a result of a single nights deprivation from sleep. The tendons and muscles of the face were laid bare to the eye from where Gene and Alex stood, and without the presence of blood, it brought a whole new level of gruesome to the scene.
It transpired that the victim was female and seventeen years of age; the forensic team informed them that she was anorexic and undernourished; with dry, yellowing skin and a dangerously low body weight, there were only so many possibilities to draw. The gouges made in her skin –which, thankfully, had been mostly covered up by the large sheet of plastic- were made by a serrated edge, and the marks made lead the investigator to believe the attacks were haphazard and frenzied, as opposed to premeditated, with the cuts inflicted at irregular angles.
"There's something else," the man, Bronson, said as Gene and Alex looked at the ruined young woman before them, Alex's hand still clutching at Gene's arm as she stared, tight-lipped and drawn. "We've never seen anything like it... but you might want to take a look for yourself." He pointed to the gouge in the girls face and said, "look closely, Inspector, and tell me what you make of that."
Gene looked at Alex, wondering if she wanted to accompany with him or stand back; when she didn't release his arm, he nodded reassuringly at her, then walked across to where Bronson stood, bending down and following the line of his finger. Alex didn't bend down, but her grip on him was continuous.
"Bloody nora," Gene muttered, "what's that lump?"
He shouldn't have been surprised that Bronson looked at him in distaste at his outburst; he was displeased with himself for being so disrespectful towards the dead, but he couldn't help it.
Because he knew it wasn't normal, wasn't right, for there to be an extra, protruding lump of yellowish-white coming from someone's chin. "And why's it snapped?" He added after a moment, taking in the slightly splinted appearance, the slight sharp edge...
"It's bone." Bronson said softly. "And it's snapped," he reached for a Petri-dish on the side and picked it up, holding it out for Gene to look at, "because this should have been attached to it."
Looking at it, Gene felt sick. It was a bone, Bronson said, but it was lumpy, non-functioning and uglier than any bone he'd ever seen. Looking from the dish to the victims chin, he could see where the two edges would fit together, and was dumbfounded by the surrealism of the whole thing; because people didn't just sprout bones from their faces, did they?
"It's brittle, so we can confirm the chances of anorexia... but I've never seen the likes of this before... it's unheard of; but there's several of them..." Bronson moved round the table and pulled the blanket back slightly to reveal the shoulder wound; looking closely, without the distraction of blood and the large jumper, the bone was obvious, and, as with the other, the bone was splintered.
"Are they all...?"
"Yes, every wound, there's extra bone... but I can't explain it, Inspector... I've never heard of anything like it and..."
"It's F.O.P," Alex said quietly. Both Gene and Bronson looked at her in surprise, as though they had forgotten she was there, or as though she shouldn't have been speaking... and then also in confusion, as they wordlessly enquired as to what on earth F.O.P was. "Fibrodysplasia ossificans progressive..." at the looks on their blank faces, she added softly, "it's latin."
"Never 'ave guessed that Bollykecks," he muttered, standing up and looking away from the girl on the table before them. "What is it?"
"It's a rare, very unheard of, bone disorder..." Alex murmured, eyes fixed on the face of their still unidentified victim, "only about two hundred people in the world have it... the muscle gradually ossificates into bone, and often the patient develops extra growths of bone... lumps, on the face, ribs, back..." She gulped and, after hesitating briefly, took her hand from Gene's arm and lifted the sheet from the girl's feet. Apparently, what she saw confirmed everything, though both Bronson and Gene remained blatantly naive to anything.
"Look," she said, motioning for Gene to stand beside her and pointing at the girls toes, "her big toes smaller than all the others..." She gently laid the blanket back over the feet and swiped at her eyes. "It's fatal," Alex managed, "the bone-growth leads to the crushing of organs, and there isn't a cure... it's... it's horrific." Looking at Bronson, she said, "how hard was it to move her? Was she rigid at all? More so than usual at least?"
Bronson frowned. "I... I don't know... she wasn't floppy... but that's hardly surprising. The body goes into a reflexive state of tension if under attack, and it's likely that if someone was chopping at her face she'd feel more than a little..."
"Yes but I mean... her limbs... were they stiff? Some people... some sufferers I mean, have it badly enough that their upper body freezes into position... it works its way down the body, from the face down... so the legs would be less affected..." She was getting into her element again, and Gene was hopelessly relieved to see she'd managed to overcome the emotional side to show her usual, brain-box self.
"Not noticeably more than anyone else..." Bronson was clearly having difficulty comprehending the situation, but Gene was looking at Alex, seeing the dawning look of a hunch in her eyes.
"What you thinking, Bols?" He asked, looking deep into her eyes as he asked her and seeing sadness and empathy beneath the gleam of tears on her brown orbs... and he knew she'd thought of something, and he wasn't sure he wanted to know what.
"I don't think it was murder, Guv," she whispered, voice cracking. Gene stared at her, not sure he'd heard right.
"What?" And he knew his reply was gruff and coarse, but he thought he knew what she meant, and he wouldn't believe it.
"I don't think it was murder..." Alex repeated, eyes falling to the haphazard gouges in her chin and shoulder. "I think it was suicide."
I don't know if the forensics man actually has a name, so I gave him one of my own... but this is the start – As I warned at the beginning, it is going to be dark, a little morbid, and it may upset some people.
As far as your opinions on this first chapter goes, I'd like them, so I can make a decision as to whether to continue or not.
And as far as the information for FOP goes, I've gone by what I can summarise from a couple of articles and definitions I've read.
Let me know your thoughts.
Mage of the Heart