Gene Hunt's Secret
Author's Note: If you read this story the first time I posted it, under the same title, it essentially hasn't changed. I've edited it to strengthen the story's key image, but all other details are the same.
Summary: Very brief, just a speculation about the nature of one of LoM's most important unseen relationships. Post Series 2 finale.
It was Sunday afternoon in Manchester, a summer Sunday afternoon, and DC Annie Cartwright was in the station, catching up on paperwork, clearing old reports that were past due on the superintendent's desk. Late reports looked bad: another black mark on the reputation of Gene Hunt's band of undisciplined misfits. So the paperwork had to get done, and it had to get done this week-end.
Annie had known it was risky to volunteer for such a job - let a man catch up on reports, and he's being a good sort; let a female do it, and she can get stuck with a reputation as a glorified secretary, no matter how good she is in the field. But Annie had always been of the 'square-up-and-do-it' school, and besides, nobody wanted to hear the whinging and moaning DS Carling would have done, were he assigned to the job.
Besides, there was a consolation: Sam, working across the desk from her. Sam, now her husband-to-be. When he heard she'd volunteered, he'd said casually, 'I'll help' with his refreshing lack of ego. Sam Tyler was a lot of things - often she'd had to consider that mental was one of them - but he wasn't too proud to do desk work.
Things had been really quite nice since he 'came back,' as they both put it. They meant different things by 'came back': Annie simply meant back from the tunnel, during the shootout. He meant something more. She suspected it had to do with his delusion of being from the future. But he never talked about that anymore, and she was glad.
Now, though, Sam was scowling down at a small stack of reports. Annie noticed: "What's wrong, love?"
"The guv was supposed to sign all these before he left on Friday," Sam said, running a hand through his reddish-blond hair. "He missed out this whole set."
They looked at each other glumly. They both knew what that meant: the superintendent wouldn't accept them. Another cock-up by Gene Hunt and his misfits. The superintendent would call and yell at Gene, who in turn would blame Sam and Annie, though it was hardly their fault.
"What do you want to do?" Annie said.
There were two choices: turn them in unsigned and let the super send them back with a few choice words for Gene, or
"We've got to take them to him," Sam said, voicing Option the Second.
Again they shared an unhappy look. There was almost nothing Gene Hunt hated worse than being bothered on his day off, unless a juicy crime had been committed, and that certainly wasn't the case here.
"Maybe he'll be happy to be interrupted," Annie said.
"You remember what he was talking about, when you asked him his plans for the week-end? The missus?"
Understanding dawned in Sam's dark eyes. The guv had said, rather sourly, that the week-end would mostly be spent on 'missus maintenance.' He'd confided that his wife demanded at least three hours a week of his undivided attention, and he'd let the job pull him away so often that he was now '11 hours in arrears', which he intended to make good on 'before I get in any deeper.' He'd looked a bit like a man discussing his upcoming dental surgery.
'Aye,' Sam said, 'I bet he didn't go through with it. Probably he's down the pub right now.'
But he wasn't. When Sam rang, Nelson said he hadn't seen the guv all day.
Annie looked at her husband-to-be. 'His house, then,' she said, resigned. 'I'll go.'
'No, I will. He's used to yelling at me. He considers it an art form. Always wants to improve his personal best.'
That was true enough, but Annie felt compelled to be fair. 'Odds and evens for it?'
She took even and Sam had odd, and he threw a three and she threw a one, so she picked up her purse. Square up and do it.
Gene Hunt didn't have a hell of a lot of house, for a DCI. It was a sad reflection on how civil servants got paid around here, Annie thought. No wonder so many took favors and bribes, or began knocking suspects around, wringing ego boosts out of the job because they couldn't wring out extra pay.
Hunt's house was an unexceptional two-up, two-down, but it was well-cared-for, and there were flower-boxes under both front windows with healthy blooming flowers in them. That would be the missus's job, Annie thought, and she imagined a stout woman the guv's age, in a quilted housecoat, watering them and pinching off the dead blooms every day.
Annie set her chin and went up the front walk, the stack of unsigned reports under her arm. But at the front step, she paused. She could hear music, loud enough to be outside. So she walked around the side of the house to the narrow back yard.
She knew what Manchester yards were like, almost not deserving of the name. They were like the little paddocks just outside the stalls of a horse barn. City yards, a postage-stamp-sized allotment of freedom and sunshine. The Hunts' yard was like that, perhaps ten-by-fifteen. There was a six-foot wooden fence, but at the back end, a dilapidated gate hung at such an angle that Annie could easily see through the gap.
The yard held a small flower patch with a few herbs mixed in. A transistor radio stood on the fence's crossbeam, providing the old-fashioned big-band music. On top of a tall café table stood a teapot, one teacup, and one pint of beer, half-finished. None of that, though, was what caught Annie's eye.
What dominated the scene was the hammock, strung across the yard from fencepost to fencepost. The guv lay in it, a big bear of a man at his ease. He was smiling, even. Smiling!
In the crook of his body was a slender young woman. A girl, almost. She was about ten years younger than Gene, with gold hair nearly to her waist. In contrast to most Manchester housewives, she wore no makeup. Her face was sharp-boned, clean-skinned, and fresh. She wore a sundress in deference to the early-summer warmth, and had a pile of plucked daisies from the garden in her lap.
As Annie watched, she took a daisy and stuck it behind Gene's ear. Not only did he not rip it away in high umbrage, he looked at her with pleased admiration, in the whole history of male-female relations, no woman had ever been clever enough to make such an endearing gesture to a man.
Annie ducked away from the gap, out of view, as though she'd caught her boss changing his underpants.
In that moment, trying to decide what to do next, Annie Cartwright had a new empathy for Sam's delusion that he'd arrived here from the year 2006, because she was feeling as though she'd just fallen through a rip in the universe into another reality. Still 1973, still Manchester, but that man in the hammock, his face alive with tenderness - who the hell was that? It wasn't the guv she knew, nor the 'missus' he talked about like a clunky estate wagon he'd never been able to trade in.
And obviously, that was the way he wanted things. This was clearly part of a private life the guv chose not to share with anyone. Would he be pleased that DC Annie Cartwright knew about it, and that she'd be able to tell her fiancé or her mates in the squad room any time?
Annie didn't want to lie to Sam, so she didn't, exactly. "I couldn't go through with it," she said when she returned, and that much was true. Sam, good man, hadn't pushed to know why. So those reports went to the superintendent unsigned, he sent them back with those choice words for Gene, and the guv, true to form, came out of his office red-faced and yelling. Sam, fortunately, was out in the field at the time, so Annie bore the brunt. As Gene Hunt scowled and asked rhetorically - though very loudly - why the bloody hell he'd ever promoted a empty-headed bird to detective, Annie looked directly into the guv's infuriated, almost radish-colored face, visualized a daisy behind his ear, and tried very hard not to smile.