Disclaimer: I do not own anything to do with the TV series Life on Mars
From the dark reaches at the back of his mind there emerged faint voices. Sam could hear them talking, becoming clearer with each episode, but since waking in 1973 he gradually began to seriously question his own sanity. He recogised cries from his mum, goodbyes from his girlfriend Maya and encouraging words from nurses and doctors, but this Voice was not familiar.
"Hello Sam! are you going to open your eyes for me today?" it asked. It was female, soft tones that slowed his heart. "It took me a while to find you but I am here now. I certainly have missed you"
Sam turned over in his drop-down bed the emerald green blanket wrapped around his legs and waist. The warm glow of the sun dripped through the holes in the net that hung from the window. As he began to settle back into the well of the mattress that his body had made-now damp with sweat-he managed to lift his head to give in to the cold side of the pillow. His body laid motionless and numb as he remembered the disturbing dreams he had whilst trying to sleep last night, his eyes had become too heavy to control and each blink hurt like acid. The hours passed in quick succession until now so he assumed he must have eventually fallen asleep. Once again the Voice oozed into his dreams, pulling him downwards, "Don't worry Sam it can't be long now, we'll get you out of there, all you have to do is fight it".
Who is she Sam wondered, they seemed familiar but he could not match a face to the Voice. The warmth of a hand on his shoulder seeped through his skin and wrapped itself around his naked chest, this was the closest he had felt to 2006 for weeks. "I'm just going for a second but I'll be back soon." It said. He closed his eyes, the tips of his eyelashes resting on his cheeks.
BANG! The door to his flat was swollen on its hinges as Gene Hunt slammed his fist against the wood. Through the gaps around the door frame seeped the yells of his DCI, "Open this bloody door, you tart!. Tyler, before I get pissed off", sarcasm tinged his voice with a contemptuous humour.
In the moments it took Sam to walk across the flat and rest his fingertips on the rusty metal knob he could hear Gene's voice continue incessantly, but not aimed at Sam, "I will lower my voice, madam, as soon as you get your ugly mug out of my face." With the door wide open Sam was greeted by the side of Gene's face which he noticed had turned almost scarlet, he was yelling at Sam's neighbour, a fifty something woman still in her dressing gown with three young boys screaming about her feet. With a smile stretched across his face Gene turned to face a half naked Sam whose eyelids were still hanging heavily, misting his vision slightly. "Morning sleeping beauty!," As Gene took a step forward forcing Sam to retreat in turn, he filled the full frame of the doorway before resting his large upper body onto his elbows over the stained kitchen worktop. In Sam's opinion his flat stretched the word multifunction to the full extent of its meaning, a single room with faded green and brown wallpaper, contrasting pink wall lights with cupboards along one wall to satisfy the definition of kitchen. With one camel coated sleeve Gene gestured towards Sam's underwear "Are you going to get dressed, I don't think my delicate nature can stand you waving that thing around any longer. Not that I should be worried". Gene hooked his fingers through the belt loops on his trousers, with a twitch of his nose he sniffed and readjusted the waistband that had fallen below a stomach that might have qualified as three months of pregnancy had Sam not known how much DCI Hunt drank. Sam rolled his eyes, ignored Gene's arrogance and splashed some water from the rusting bowl of the sink at the opposite side of the room. "What are you doing here, couldn't it wait 'til I got to the station" Sam asked through the fabric of the brown towel as he rubbed the last of the soap and shaving cream from his face.
"I was worried for your safety, thought you might be getting lonely, so came to pick you up. Now I'm no bloody chauffeur so hurry up." Sam lifted the thin bedding on the pine varnished bedframe and laid it flat, picked up the small bottle of whisky that sat on the bedside table before he reached into one of the cupboards behind Gene and poured a shot of painkiller. For the first few weeks that Sam had found himself back in 1973 he had tried to remain disciplined and in control but recently the constant battle of 1973 and 2006 in his head had caused Sam to become a little more lax in some areas of his life. A shot of whisky every morning made it easier to deal with DCI Hunt's eccentricities. "Well, while you adjust your makeup I'm going to wait in the car" and he turned to leave.
"Other than to torment me earlier than usual, what did you really want?" Sam asked.
"If you really must know then get that poker out your arse, hurry up and and I will tell you in the car. God, you are slower than Bill and Ben in a three legged race!" Sam picked up his black jacket from the cracked and faded armchair and followed Gene into the hallway.
The orange Cortina fishtailed as DCI Hunt forced the brake pedal to the floor, causing Sam to slide on the beige vinyl upholstery. Considering how much Hunt mouthed off about how wonderful his car was Sam decided that Gene must fawn over his car more than his wife and that most of his wages were siphoned off on brake pads. The tyres screeched and Sam's fist tightened on the door handle as Gene threw the car straight at a row of six sparkling white new police motorbikes. Paying no attention to where he was heading Hunt turned to Sam, reached into his inside pocket of his coat and simultaneously applied so much pressure to pumping the brake Sam was sure he saw the pedal shaft bend. "I'm not usually one for love notes but have a read of this" and he passed an brown envelope with threadbare corners to his passenger. Sam sat quietly until he had finished reading, when he turned to question Gene, who was already standing by the wing of the car tapping his foot impatiently. Sam got out and rested his elbows on the roof as he read again.
"Can't say I enjoy being threatened much but it can put a dampener on the day" Gene mumbled as he ascended the concrete steps to the police reception. "How seriously are you planning on taking it?, What about your wife?" Sam asked. Gene hardly mentioned any part of his personal life so Sam decided now was the perfect opportunity to test the theory that if his mind had created this world, how far would his imagination go, where did the boundaries in this world end?.
"Nah, she's alright, staying with her sister for the week" Gene stated dismissively. Through the metal and glass door both men were met by the smell of cigarette smoke and the claustrophobic mix of vomit and disinfectant. Sam's eyes stung but Gene did not wince as they approached the reception desk. Behind it stood a uniformed WPC, stout and grim. "How were the weekend lot then Phyllis? Have we got anyone left in the cells this morning?"
"No, Sir, just cleaning them out now." She folded some papers and threw them in the metal bin by her feet "Oh, some bloke was asking for you earlier sir".
"So long as it wasn't Liberace then we're alright. I assume this mystery man has gone?"
"Yes, Sir", she said.
"Right, Thank you Phyllis for that insightful piece of information" Hunt walked through the double doors towards the CID offices on the second floor, Sam walked in Gene's wake as he suspected many officers did but stopped momentarily when he saw DS Ray Carling and DC Chris Skelton hunched over Ray's desk, pointing and leering at a Harrods's lingerie catalogue between them. "Oi, Laurel and Hardy. Ladies present!" and with a nod Gene gestured towards WPC Annie Cartwright, the young female policewoman who had been spending more and more time on the second floor since DI Tyler had joined the team,. She was currently sitting behind Sam's desk. "Cartwright what are you doing here, I don't remember promoting you, when we need you we'll whistle, thank you very much!" Gene commanded. Annie feeling a little dejected got up and walked towards the stairs at the far end of the room and both Ray and Chris stared at her rear as she walked away. Gene decided this was enough of a distraction to be able to snatch the magazine from Ray's desk and after a quick flick through he rested the binding in his left hand and rolled the pages in on themselves. Waving it at DC Skelton Gene instructed "You're too young to look at tarts in their knickers" and swung it at the back of Chris' head. On hearing the noise again Annie turned to see both Chris and ray rubbing the backs of their heads, prompting an involuntary little grin. She lowered her eyes to make sure she didn't slip on the stairs but just as she took the first step gene called after her. "Cartwright, if you want to make detective I suggest you stay seated at Sam's desk" – a polite invitation for DI Hunt, she decided. On returning to her seat she carried on with her unfinished paperwork. Sam walked over and pulled the seat out from the desk in front of his, so far that the back leant against Annie's desk. She didn't lift her head as Sam settled astride onto the chair, resting his arms crossed on its back. "Morning, Sir. How was your weekend?" She continued writing what appeared to be a report from their last case. "Its not like you not to get your homework in on time Annie? Hang on..." he turned his head at an almost impossible angle to try and read her handwriting from upside down. Annie lifted her eyes to come face to face with Sam and lay an arm defensively across the paper. Sam pulled the files from her grasp, looked deep into the electric blue irises of each eye trying to find an explanation and instantly spun on to the balls of his feet. Stalking into Hunt's office, throwing the door shut so hard that the glass rattled in its frame and caused the trophies to shake on the filing cabinet next to him. He dropped Annie's papers onto the table between them; camouflaged easily by the piles of folders strewn about the desk and floor.
"What's wrong with you now" Gene asked with a slightly bored tone to his voice. "It's Ray!" Sam exclaimed. "I was wondering why Annie was writing up Ray's report from last week's wages heist?"
""How the bloody hell should I know?!" Hunt replied as he lay back on the heels of his chair, he stopped reading his newspaper which not so subtly disguised the lingerie catalogue he had taken from Ray and Chris. "Thought of asking her?" Gene moved his legs from on top of the edge of the desk and walked to the door of his office, mimicking the Gary Cooper and Paul Newman posters that plastered the walls. Forcing his chin upward slightly so that his voice would be projected across the full length of the adjacent room Hunt shouted across the pool of detectives. "Oi, legs wants to see you in my office now!". To the score of sniggers and jeering by Ray, Annie walked over to her superior's office, head low she eventually came upon a wall of Hunt's chest for a few moments before he moved aside. Once inside, the door shut and with his back to an eager audience Hunt looked from Tyler to WPC Cartwright "Boy Wonder here wants to know why you are doing Ray's work for him. Can you tell him and shut him up so that I can go back to the times crossword". Beano was more likely Sam thought.
Annie looked puzzled from Gene to Sam. Almost whispering from the corner of her mouth she tried to make sure that DCI Hunt could not accuse her of not answering, but at the same time not hear her explanation "I don't mind honestly, its for my own benefit anyway, if I ever I need to look over these files I don't have to contend with Ray's awful handwriting". Sam had not yet realised, but he too had begun to whisper "You're a good police officer Annie, you deserve to be treated the same as any other detective". Feeling slightly blushed from the complement Annie lowered her face trying to hide any differences that made her look weak compared to her male colleagues. "Its fine sir, please, leave it." Gene coughed and the privacy of the conversation broke immediately, "Don't mind me" he said. "Now, as we are one step away from chaining ourselves to the nearest railings and burning our bras, I think we have decided that Cartwright doesn't care. I however would hate to see one of my officers taken advantage of". Although his words contained a certain level of decency his tone was as aggressive as usual. He picked up the report Annie had begun, tore it in two and opened the door of his office. "Ray!" he shouted "do your own bloody work in future, he turned back to Sam and Annie. "Happy?".
Annie walked from the room, her eyes transfixed to the floor, watching the dull and scuffed tiles as they changed from grey to black and then blue, which Annie recognised as the colours of the canteen. With a cup of tea she sat silently in the corner with her back to the double doors that had been left swinging in her wake. From over her shoulder Sam stood so close she could feel the warmth from his body and could smell Aramis mixed with the leather from his jacket, interspersed with the drifting odour of overcooked cabbage. He placed a hand on Annie's right shoulder and sat down next to her "Sorry I didn't want to make things worse for you".
"That's alright, they'll find something new to entertain themselves soon, Ive got two brothers , I can handle those two upstairs. The problem is just that I've been having some trouble at home." Sam didn't think of Annie as having a personal life, like Gene she only seemed to exist when he; Sam was around. He smiled trying to entice some information from her, without pressing the issue. "Anything I can help with?" he asked. Annie reached into her breast pocket, pulled out a small brown envelope and in turn a folded piece of paper, which she pushed across the grain of the table so it sat in front of Sam.
As you lie awake, blood running through your veins,
I watch in silence, waiting for you to be alone.
Your mother's sad, your father's grieving.
Francis, enjoy your time, for soon it might be ending".
Sam shivered inside. The content of the letter was similar to Hunt's, a sick threat that gave no specifics. With a graphologist and forensic analyst this wouldn't even become a problem but... he paused. Sam looked questioningly at Annie "Francis?, Who's Francis?" he asked.
"I am" Annie said with a coy but slightly embarrassed smile flickering at the corners of her mouth, she continued "I never liked 'Francis' so I have used my middle name since I was eighteen." She shifted uncomfortably seeing the curiosity in his eyes and looked back at the tea on the table." "Annie this is serious" Sam insisted shaking the paper in front of his face. "I know it is" she said "Do you have any idea who might have sent it"
"No" Sam's back hunched a little, feeling deflated.
"You don't recognise the handwriting" Sam lifted the paper and sniffed it. "Avon's Unforgettable, if you must know sir". Annie said, assuming he was trying to identify her perfume. Non-respondent Sam turned it over and rubbed at a small greasy stain an inch in from the corner. "Do you mind if I borrow this" he asked.
"Knock yourself out" Annie appeared to be as naive or as brave as she had done since they met a couple of months ago. It had taken one almost date and a number of undercover operations for Sam to understand WPC Annie Cartwright. She was honest and loyal, so apart from describing her like a retriever he was not much closer to opening up to her. Sam was concerned for Annie's safety but until six o'clock when she finished her shift at the station he was pretty sure he could vouch for her whereabouts, giving him some time to investigate these letters. Instead of risking the wrath of Hunt's misplaced and volatile anger Sam decided that he would leave Gene's letter in his back pocket even though knowing that she was not the only recipient might have made Annie feel better but it seemed that keeping Hunt's private life away from anyone in the station might be his wish. Sam pushed back his chair from the table, its metal legs vibrated against the rubber flooring, leaving black streak marks and an echo through the half empty room. As he walked towards the canteen doors Annie caught hold of his wrist, "Please. Don't let anyone else know about this letter. The last thing I need to do in front of them is look weak" and she gestured behind her, a vague reference to DS Carling, Skelton and Hunt who must have arrived for their mid-morning break, Sam assumed. Sam twisted his spine and looked back down at her. She said, "It doesn't bother me that whoever sent this letter knows where I live because they could have just followed me home one day" Sam thought that it was surprising how she was not frightened at this prospect and as if she could read his mind Annie replied "I can take care of myself Sam. What worries me is that there are probably only four people in the world who knew enough about my name change, my parents, brothers and now you." She was brave, Sam decided with a smile on his lips.
Sam walked into the office, past Chris as he balanced on the back two legs of his chair and Ray who sat with a cocktail stick, picking at his teeth, catching his gums occasionally with a painful yelp. In the corner of the office was a small room filled with army surplus filing cabinets and the smell of musky wood with moth pupae at the edge of the drawer runners. Sam had the idea that there was one place personal information would be at easy access; police personnel files. The folders inside were in no alphabetical order that Sam could see, so unless he worked quickly, he could be there a while. In the fifth drawer of the third unit Sam found a number of files he recognised, Ray's, Chris', Hunt's, Annie's and his. In his quest to help Annie Sam had almost forgotten about his own search for truth in getting back to 2006. If I never existed in this world before a few months ago what kind of past has my imagination created for DI Sam Tyler. Sam pulled the paper folder from its place and rested the crease into the palm of his left hand and flicked open the front. Inside it was empty. Alone in the room Sam saw no point in hiding his disappointment and his shoulders slumped. He reached for Gene's and Annie's files, again both were empty, Ray's and Chris' were left untouched. With a squint Sam heard a faint beep in his ears and a dull point push against his temples. In a circular motion Sam rubbed at the pain, rested his elbows onto the top drawer of the filing cabinet still grasping the papers in the remaining three fingers and thumb of each hand. His heart pumped at an explosive volume down his spine. Through the fuzz in his hearing came the dull tones of a female voice he had heard this morning, "Sam?.. Sam, Sam! I am back." The pain shot through his chest and again in his temple piercing behind his eyes. The screaming filled the room until in the last moments of consciousness it was his mouth the screams came from. His face smashed against the linoleum, cold but cooling, hard but stable.