Disclaimer: I don't own Ashes to Ashes. The BBC, Monastic and Kudos have that honour.
This is the first thing I've posted in over three months. That's because I've been writing it ever since Series 2 ended, and I never start posting anything until I've finished writing it.
This is my way of working out my shock and trauma at the ending of Series 2. Serious angst on the way - but remember, I hate unhappy endings...
As ever, all reviews and feedback are greatly appreciated, and I ALWAYS reply to signed-in reviewers!
"Bolly! BOLLY! BOLLY!"
He'd hoped, begged, all but prayed to whatever powers existed in this world and any other, for the chance to see her again. To tell her that it was an accident. That he hadn't meant to shoot her. He'd been so sure that, as soon as she heard him, she'd come back from whatever dark place she had gone to, sit up, and slap him around the chops again.
Now it was all going horribly, horribly wrong.
She was lying there, so white and still, an oxygen mask over her face, tubes and wires sticking out everywhere. It was like she was on a different planet. This wasn't his Bolly, so full of wit and anger and fiery self-righteousness. This was only her shell. His bullet had sent her bright spirit somewhere so far away that he could not bring her back.
He had never felt so terrified in his life. Partly, of course, it was fear for himself, knowing that, if she did not wake up and explain everything, he was headed for an attempted murder rap, his career finished. Mostly, though, it was fear for her, that he would never see her open her eyes again, never hear her voice, that she would die here without waking up. Without knowing all the things that he wanted, needed, to tell her. And it was that blind terror which made him resort to shouting and violence, just as he always had. Of course he knew that he should be quiet and gentle, that he should hold her hand, beg her, cajole her, say things that she would want to hear. But there just wasn't time for that. The nurses might come back any second. So he bawled and bellowed in her unresponsive face, and then he was quiet, staring at her, sunk in self-disgust. Threaten to slap her? That'll really make her want to wake up. Great career move, Hunt.
"I don't know whether anyone is with her at the moment. I'll go and see."
His head jerked up sharply, like a lion scenting the wind, at the sound of the nurse's voice outside. Time's up. He glanced at her one last time in hopeless longing, reached out to caress her hand in farewell, and pulled back. He didn't deserve to touch her. Start saving your own miserable skin. He drew back behind the curtains screening her bed and glanced cautiously into the corridor. A nurse, with her back to the door, was talking to a visitor whom he couldn't identify.
"I wasn't sure if anyone would be allowed to see her," the visitor said diffidently. The voice was familiar, but Gene couldn't place it yet. Moving cautiously, he stole out of Alex's room and crossed the corridor behind the nurse's back, praying that the visitor would be too deep in conversation with the nurse to notice him. There was a bank of payphones on the far side of the corridor, and he headed for one, picked up a phone, and pretended to dial a number, grateful that the hood of the phone booth would shield his face.
"She's not forbidden to have visitors," said the nurse. "The more she has, the better. She's in a deep coma, and if people she knows keep talking to her, it could help her to wake up. Her colleagues have been very good, but a new voice would be welcome."
"I saw in the paper that she's in a coma," said the visitor. Gene could see him now, in the reflection of the booth hood. A young man with a long face and prominent ears, wearing shabby denims and a woollen hat, clutching a bunch of flowers wrapped in paper. Marcus Johnstone. Simon Neary's ex-boyfriend. What the hell's he doing here?
"She may not remember me," Marcus went on. "She must meet so many people through her job. But she and her DCI turned my life around when I was going through a bad time, and I'll always be grateful to them."
"That's good," the nurse said warmly. "Come in, then. Her room's just here."
"Thank you. Could I - " Marcus glanced at his flowers and then back at the nurse. "Do you have a vase for these, please?" He put on his best appealing puppy-dog expression, and Gene saw the motherly nurse melt.
"Of course. Just wait there a moment, and I'll get you one."
As soon as she had gone, Marcus glanced over to the booth, whipped a piece of paper and pencil from his pocket, scribbled something down, and walked over to the booth next to Gene's. Gene quickly turned away, still with the receiver to his ear, and out of the corner of his eye he saw Marcus's hand sliding a folded piece of paper onto the top of the coin box. He covered it with his hand as the nurse returned, looking surprised at seeing Marcus beside the phones.
"Just been letting my Mum know I might be late," he said shyly, quickly moving towards her.
"Ah, that's kind. Here's your vase, love. She's in here. I hope you can do her some good."
"Thank you. So do I."
Marcus went into Alex's room and the nurse walked away. Gene hung up, pocketed the note, and strode briskly away down the corridor. Once he had got out of the hospital, he walked for a good ten minutes, keeping to side streets as much as he could, before stopping to read what Marcus had written.
If you need somewhere to stay, come to 25 Wilton Court, Barony Road, Finchley. I will be there at 6.00 tonight.
Good lad. If anyone else found it, it couldn't be linked to either of us. He considered for a moment. Could this be a trap? The boy had only just been speaking highly of him. He knew that Alex had occasionally been in touch with Marcus since Neary's arrest, and that the lad was still living with his parents and had found a job as a mechanic. There was not a sniff to indicate that he was still in contact with the gangster fraternity. Gene could not imagine what this was all about, but he badly needed a bolt-hole until this mess was all straightened out. Or at least until he decided what to do next. He did not dare to think that it might never be straightened out. He had not gone home since the shooting, knowing that his flat would be watched. He had been walking the streets of London for three days and nights, not even risking stopping to buy food in case he was recognised. If he did not find somewhere to hide, soon, his strength would give out, but he had nowhere to turn. He scarcely knew a soul in London outside his team, except for gangsters, villains, lags, and nonces who would sell their grannies for 50p. He had contemplated trying to get to Annie or Jackie in Manchester, certain that either would shelter him for old time's sake, but Jackie had a four-month-old baby on her hands, and Annie had already suffered enough. He could not impose himself upon either of them. In any case, he had no means of getting there. He had reluctantly abandoned the Quattro in King Douglas Lane, knowing that it was too distinctive for him to drive while he was on the run. He had to hope that Ray or Chris would make sure that it was well looked after until its master returned. If he returned.
Bolly trusted the kid, and he came good for us. I'll trust him too. No choice. He glanced at his watch. 2.35. He had no idea how long it would take him to walk to Barony Road, but he had better get going.
Finchley? How the hell am I to know how to get to bloody Finchley? He was still a stranger to large areas of London. The only parts he knew were on his patch. He started walking anyway, orienting himself in the general direction of north-east London. Passing a news kiosk, he risked breaking cover long enough to buy an A to Z which used up most of the remaining money in his pocket. The vendor was busy serving half a dozen customers who wanted evening papers, and did not give him a second glance.
Assisted by his new purchase, still keeping to side streets as much as possible, he found his way to Barony Road and 25 Wilton Court, a flat on the second floor of a shabby but decent-looking block. His fingers curled around his gun as he rang the doorbell. If this was a trap, he would go down fighting.
Marcus answered the door, a dishcloth over his shoulder, smiling his welcome. "Hello! I'm glad you could get here. Do come in." Through his now overwhelming fatigue, Gene noticed that the boy was keeping it impersonal, just in case any neighbours might hear. He stumbled through the front door, and Marcus quickly closed it behind him.
"Do hang up your coat and make yourself at home, Mr Hunt. Don't worry, you'll be quite safe here. Supper should be ready in a few minutes. I don't know what you like, so I've done a fry-up - bacon, eggs and sausages. I hope that's all right."
The aroma from the kitchen made him weak at the knees, but he gathered his self-possession and faced Marcus. "First, will you tell me what the bloody 'ell is going on?"
Marcus regarded him quizzically for a moment, his head tilted on one side. "Supper first, I think, Mr Hunt. You look as though you could do with it. Explanations later."
Almost mechanically, Gene suffered Marcus to help him off with his coat, staggered through to the living room, and collapsed gratefully into an armchair. He would never take a roof over his head for granted again. He could gladly have fallen asleep there and then, but almost at once Marcus summoned him to the kitchen, where he fell upon the food like the starving lion he was. Marcus had cooked enough for two, but ate very sparingly, leaving Gene to devour most of it. Marcus apologised that there was not much by way of dessert, but brought a bowl of fruit to the table, most of which disappeared down Gene's gullet before he turned his attention to the coffee.
Perhaps eating first had been a good idea. He felt decidedly more human by the time Marcus led the way back to the living room and they sank into the squashy armchairs.
"Right, son, ta very much for the 'ospitality, but now I 'ave to repeat my question. What is going on 'ere?"
"I'll explain from the beginning," said Marcus quietly. "I own this flat. Simon bought it in case he, or any of his friends, ever needed somewhere to hide. He registered it in my name so that it couldn't be traced back to him, and only he and I know it exists. I expect I should have declared it when Simon was arrested, but - well, I was scared in case any of his friends came after me for revenge, or after my mum and dad, so I kept quiet about it in case we needed it. He had this place fully soundproofed, and he had proper blackout curtains fitted. Unless you open a window or put the lights on before you draw the curtains, nobody will know you're here. I look in here quite regularly to check that the food supplies are OK, so the neighbours are used to seeing me around. You can stay here as long as you like."
Gene stared at him. "But - why?"
"I saw you coming out of DI Drake's room in the hospital, and I know you're in trouble. You heard me say to the nurse, you and DI Drake turned my life around. You and she know that I shot Simon. You could have charged me with attempted murder, but you didn't. You saved me from jail, and you got me away from Simon. You gave me the chance to start again. God knows what would have happened to me by now, if it hadn't been for the two of you. If I'd stayed with him, he'd have finished me off because I knew too much, or else I'd have ended up becoming like him. I can never repay the debt I owe to the two of you. Especially to her, and I know she'd want me to help you now."
I'm not so sure about that. "You do realise that this could get you into more shit than you ever got into wi' Neary? I'm on the lam from a charge of attempted murder."
"Yes. But I know you didn't do it. You can't have done it."
The boy's bright-eyed confidence disconcerted him. "What makes you think that?" he said guardedly.
"Because if you had, you wouldn't have risked everything to try to see her in hospital," said Marcus firmly. "And just because I don't like women that way, doesn't mean that I don't notice the way other men look at them. I saw how you looked at her, when you and she were working on Simon's case, and I know you'd never harm a hair on her head."
"But I did," said Gene miserably. "I did shoot 'er. I just didn't - shoot 'er."
Marcus looked shocked for a moment, then recovered. "You mean it was an accident?"
"Yeah. Yeah, it was. An' it looks bad. We'd 'ad an argument beforehand, see, an' there weren't any witnesses to the shooting, 'cept one who's legged it and would be glad to see me swing."
Marcus settled back in his chair. "Do you want to talk about it?" he said gently.
Talking about it was the last thing Gene wanted to do at the moment, but he resisted the temptation to tell the nosy kid to button his lip and piss off. He already owed Marcus, and if he wasn't to be turfed out on his ear, he owed his host some explanation.
"We'd 'ad word that there was a blag about to come off, a biggy. There'd been - trouble - in my team, someone I'd thought I could rely on 'ad been caught taking bungs. Didn't know who I could trust any longer, but I did think I could still rely on Drake."
"Of course you could," said Marcus warmly.
"Yeah, well, so did I, but then I found a tape on my desk. I played it. It was 'er, talking about bringin' me down. About 'avin' to fight me. I asked 'er what it was all about. She didn't even give me a proper answer, just a load of bollocks about coming from the future."
"You 'eard me!" Gene snapped. "After that I didn't dare trust 'er either. She seemed to have inside information about the blag, I thought she might be working with 'em. The night before the blag was due to blow, we' ad a big row an' I ended up suspending 'er. She was marching out of the office, an' I shouted after 'er, "I'm doing this without you, and you dare to get in my way, I swear to God I will kill you!" The whole team heard me. Plenty of reliable witnesses."
Marcus pursed his lips in a soundless whistle. "I see. But you didn't mean it, did you? You wouldn't really have killed her?"
"Of course not," Gene muttered. "I was bloody mad, and I thought she'd betrayed me, but, no, I wouldn't 'ave - couldn't - "
"So, how did the accident happen?"
Gene stared into nothingness. "Blag went off the next day, just like she'd said it would. Still don't know 'ow she knew. One of the leaders made a bunk for it and I gave chase. Caught 'im in St Joseph's, the ruined church off King Douglas Lane. 'E was holding Drake at gunpoint, an' I 'eard 'im say to 'er, "I saw you couldn't be corrupted." "
"So you'd been wrong about her?"
"Don't know. I challenged 'im to drop 'is gun, an' 'e twisted 'is gun hand, like 'e was about to shoot 'er, so I fired first."
"But that's your job. You couldn't be blamed for that."
Gene passed his hand over his forehead. "Strange thing was, when 'e refused to drop the gun, 'e was smiling. As if he'd wanted me to fire. Suicide by cop, she'd called it once."
"Maybe he did," said Marcus solemnly. "If he wanted to die, he might have found it easier to get someone else to shoot him, than to do it himself."
"Don't know. He died in my arms. Said 'e was scared an' that 'e'd messed up an' was sorry. Then someone else connected wi' the blag - sister of one of the gang - jumped out of nowhere, grabbed Drake, an' put a gun to 'er 'ead. I challenged 'er. Drake pulled free, an' Jenette's gun went off. Bloody nearly took my 'ead away. I ducked to avoid 'er bullet, an' I pulled the trigger without meaning to. I hit Drake. No witnesses. Jenette legged it, an' when the rest of my team arrived, they found me standin' over Drake, smoking gun in my 'and."
"A pure accident," said Marcus gravely.
"Yeah, but who'll believe that after what they'd all heard me say to 'er?" Gene snarled. "If she doesn't come round, I'll go down, an' she - she - "
"While there's life, there's hope," said Marcus gently. "DI Drake's still alive, and the hospital people are taking the best possible care of her. You can stay here as long as you need to. Please God, DI Drake will wake up and be able to tell the police that you're innocent."
"Maybe she won't want to, after what I said. I doubted 'er," said Gene bitterly.
"She isn't vindictive." Marcus radiated a certainty that Gene wished he could share. "And it does sound as though she'd given you good reason to doubt her. But do you think that she might actually have believed what she was saying? People can get all sorts of funny ideas."
Gene gaped. He hadn't thought of it like that.
Marcus looked at his watch. "I'm sorry, Mr Hunt, but I'll have to go. I told Mum and Dad that I'd gone out for a drink with a workmate, and they'll be expecting me home soon. There's plenty of food in the larder and the fridge, and I'll be back in a few days with supplies. I'll tell them that I'm helping a friend do up his flat. Better think by the time I come back, whether there's anything you'd like me to bring you."
"Fags," Gene said instantly. "An' a bottle of whisky."
"Fags are in the cigarette box on the sideboard, and there's a bottle of single malt in the drinks cabinet," said Marcus, beaming. "Simon liked both. As I said, the place is soundproofed, so you can play the TV, the video, the radio or the music centre as loud as you like, so long as you don't make the floor shake. Just remember to draw the curtains before you put the lights on. There's a phone, but it can't make outgoing calls in case it's tapped. If I know you need to get out, I'll call you, say "Percy Mayfield, Ray Charles," and hang up."
"Hit the Road, Jack. Mayfield wrote it, Charles recorded it."
Marcus rose. "Good night, Mr Hunt. I'll go to the hospital every few days to see how she's getting on. I'll see you soon. Don't come to the door."
Gene nodded and buried his face in his hands. A few seconds later he heard the front door closing, and he was alone again. Alone, but for the thoughts which he had managed to repress during the last three exhausting days. He knew that he would have far too much time to think now.
He wondered whether he would ever be able to close his eyes without seeing her fall, her blood staining her pretty blouse and the lining of her jacket. He doubted it. That image would haunt him, waking and sleeping, for the rest of his life. God knew how willingly he'd have taken a bullet for her, even when they had been so deeply divided. But it had been his bullet that had pierced her tender flesh, had marred her perfect skin, had spilled her precious blood onto the indifferent flagstones. He had been able to cradle the dying man in his arms and offer words of comfort in his last moments, but for Bolly, the woman who meant so much to him, he could do nothing. He'd dared to accuse her of being cold, when he could not reach out a finger to help her. No wonder the others had thought him a callous murderer, when they'd found him standing over her, gun in hand. He should have knelt beside her, held her in his arms, begged her to stay with him, told her again and again that it would be all right, that she'd be wittering around CID again in no time. But he'd known that he had no right to touch her. Not now. Maybe never again.
Shaz had dropped to her knees and tried to stem the bleeding while Chris grabbed his radio and summoned an ambulance.
"Guv?" Ray had said, breaking through his numbness. Maybe he had spoken before, and Gene had not heard him.
"My bullet." Gene's voice had sounded flat and distant to his own ears. "Accident - "
"Guv, none of us saw what 'appened. There aren't any witnesses. You know what you said to 'er last night."
"Yes. I know."
"You'll be arrested if you stay 'ere. There's enough people who'll 'ate you for uncovering the rot at Fenchurch West. We should be arresting you."
"Go now." Ray's voice had been soft and urgent. "We're all busy seeing to the Boss. We didn't see you leave or where you went. Don't tell me where you're going." His voice had dropped lower. "Good luck, Guv."
At that moment the scream of the ambulance siren had rent the air and Ray had rushed out to guide the crew in. Gene had turned and walked away like an automaton without sense or feeling, away from everything that held any meaning in his life, away from his duty, from his command, from the woman whom he loved and who might be the worst traitor of all.
"Bolly..." he groaned softly. Now, at last, he had time to think it through. Had she betrayed him? He had been so sure that she was the one person whom he could trust. She had talked so much about connections, and he could have sworn that they had a connection, as deep and strong as anything he had ever known. Sure, when she had first walked into Luigi's he had wanted to shag her, but he knew perfectly well that his feelings for her had become infinitely more than that. He had come to value her as a colleague, even, sometimes, to respect her opinions. This whole miserable corruption business had brought them so close. They had been companions in arms, standing together against Mac. Not a word had been spoken between them - he had known that, after her last rejection, she would have to be the one to make the first move - but there had been so many deep glances, unspoken promises, moments when one would reach out to the other.
I thought I'd lost you. That was what she'd said when she'd found out that he wasn't siding with Mac. He remembered, with a sweetness which pierced him like pain, how she had reached out and touched his tie, a gesture so gentle, so intimate, that his heart had turned over. So many memories of them together claimed him suddenly. Carrying her into CID, that first day. Her laying her hand upon his astonished heart. Her punching him in the jaw. Her asking him what he would do with his last few seconds of life. Holding her as they awaited death in the dark vault. Carrying her out of the cold store. Her eyes flying open as he strove to revive her. Gazing at him during their date, just before the Price bomb. Drinking together in his office after Sally's murder. Delivering Alva's baby. Bugging Mac's office and working all night on the flipchart until they fell asleep. Teasing her about Jackie's insinuations until that bloody phone call had interrupted them. That unbearably glorious moment in Mitchell's kitchen when she'd come into his arms, clinging to him as though he were the only thing in the world. He hadn't known how to deal with it, of course, and he'd missed his chance. Talking in the cell after Riley's minions had attacked them both. Waiting in the darkened office for a traitor. Above all, drinking in her flat the night after they had unmasked Chris. There had been such sadness for him in her eyes, such understanding of his bitterness, rage and grief. "You an' me, Bolly. You an' me." That had been his toast. He could have sworn then, that they were unbreakable. So what had gone wrong? Why had she turned against him?
It had all started with that bloody tape. Until he had played it, he had had no cause to doubt her. What he had heard her say then, had chilled him to the core. He had all but begged her to explain, had even risked letting her know just what she meant to him, and she had spun him a story so ludicrous that it would have been laughable if so much hadn't been at stake. That was what had hurt. He had opened his heart to her, and she had stamped on it. But when she had stalked out of the office, tape in hand, he had never felt so alone in his life.
Was Marcus right? Had she really believed all that crap about coming from the future? He couldn't forget how hurt and broken she had looked when he rejected her story. As though she had entrusted her dearest secret to him like a precious jewel, and he had thrown it away like trash. If she had believed it, then she'd needed help. He should have been the one to help her. He should have seen that something was wrong, made her talk to some other shrink who could have analysed her, or whatever it was they did with headcases. But he had felt too lost and too bitter, too preoccupied with this goddam blag, to see that she'd needed him. He was needed, and he wasn't there. Then he'd been stupid enough to let that hell bitch Jenette turn him further against her. The thought of having laid so much as a finger on that slut made him feel sick now. Then that hideous quarrel, the night before the blag. He'd known that he was out of line, when he'd accused her of neglecting her daughter. He'd wanted to say something that would hurt her as deeply as she'd hurt him. She seemed so lost in fantasy that he'd wondered if her daughter even existed. But now the memory disgusted him. He had done many things in his time of which no man should be proud, but never before had he sunk so low as to use a woman's child against her. The look on her face had shown him the depth of her pain. When she'd slapped his face, he'd known that if she'd struck him twenty times as hard, he would have deserved it.
But she'd been proved right. The blag had happened in King Douglas Lane. It should have been the hour of his greatest triumph. He had saved her from Johnson. He knew that they would have patched things up somehow, and blamed it all on the stress of solving the case. He'd have had to go to her on his hands and knees and admit she was right, of course, but he'd have done that for her. They'd have found a way to talk to each other again. They should have been allowed the time for that. Now there might be no more time. Oh, God...
If she did believe that she came from the future, why had she thought it so necessary to destroy him, to get back there? Why had she been so fixated with the murdered PC Summers? She hadn't trusted the kid an inch when they'd been interviewing him, but after he disappeared, and especially after the body was found, she'd kept blathering on about him as though he were still alive. What he found strangest was, that she hadn't appeared at all surprised when Carnegie told them that Summers's body had been found. As though she had already known that the boy was dead. His every sense recoiled from the thought that she might have killed the lad, or known that he was dead and not reported it, but what else could he think?
But who in hell was the other Summers she'd kept talking about? God knew, the woman hardly ever made much sense, but her conduct in this case had taken the whole barrel of biscuits. How had she known so much about the blag? He'd heard Johnson say that she couldn't be corrupted, and, strangely, he was convinced that the man was telling the truth. But if she wasn't involved in the blag, what had she been doing, gun in hand, hiding out in St Joseph's?
She hadn't betrayed him. So why had she wanted to bring him down? Why, on a tape that she had never expected him to hear, had she talked about fighting him?
His thoughts circled wearily in his head, around and around, like prisoners in an exercise yard.