I, I Will be King
'DI Drake, I presume?'
Alex smiled, recognizing the soft Northern tone from her tapes. 'DCI Tyler,' she acknowledged.
'DI'll do,' the man said, coming to rest at the bar beside her. 'Never quite made it back up to DCI with the Guv ably occupying the spot. Thought it was about time you and I had a little chat.'
He watched her gaze drop back to her wineglass, her eyes shadowed.
'Did you know?' she asked quietly. 'About… him.'
He shook his head. 'Not everything. Obviously I knew about myself,' he went on. 'Difficult not to, after a leap of faith like that.'
'Is that what that was?' she wondered aloud.
He offered her a slight smile. 'A wise man once told me that when you can feel you know you're alive.' He paused, then continued, 'Started to put together bits and pieces about the Guv in about '79. Visited Farringfield Green. Couldn't tell him, of course.'
'So you left.'
'It was time,' he said, taking a sip from his pint.
'How did you know?'
'You just know, I s'pose. Annie was ready. It was time,' he repeated, nodding. He regarded her seriously for a moment. 'Didn't you?'
She glanced down and away. 'I didn't exactly choose this.' The words were spoken quietly, with no hint of emotion.
Sam watched her a moment, wondering at her meaning. 'I'm sorry about Molly, Alex.'
She looked up, offering him a tight smile. 'She'll be ok. She has Evan, her godfather. He brought me up. She'll be ok.'
He smiled back at her and she took a sip of her wine. When she returned her attention to him he was looking at her thoughtfully. 'What?'
'Nothin',' he said, raising his pint glass and taking a long sip.
'No, what?' she demanded.
'It's just… all of Heaven's out there, but you hardly ever stray from the copper's entrance.'
'Well… we're all in here every night. You've been in most nights,' she said defensively.
'Most nights, yeah. But not every night. And not the rest of the day. Even Ray's got something going on out there,' he waved at the doors. The ones you could pass back and forth between as many times as you liked. 'It's hard to tell here but I reckon it's been a week. Maybe two. But you don't leave, do you, Alex?' he finished softly.
'I can't,' she admitted. 'I'm not ready.'
'He has a job to do, Alex. He'll come when he's done it.'
'And what do I do 'til then, Sam?' she asked, desperation creeping into her voice. 'Sit here staring at the door waiting for Gene bloody Hunt?'
She hadn't raised her voice, not really, yet the pub fell silent at her words. The name thundering around the room as though she'd screamed it.
'Ma'am,' Shaz began, rising from her chair only to have Chris lay a restraining hand on her arm.
But Alex wasn't finished. 'And meanwhile, he's out there,' she flung an arm towards the other door. The one she could no longer walk through. 'Tearing around London in a new bloody car, smacking heads and kicking down doors. The same armed "bastard", ' she made air quotes, imbuing the word with a Northern twang they all recognized, 'he's always been and forgetting.'
She shook her head, quieting down again. 'Sooner or later there will be another Keats. Another Morgan. And he'll be alone. And he won't remember-' She trailed off, suddenly aware that the whole pub was regarding her in open-mouthed shock.
'Blimey, Drake,' Ray muttered into his bitter.
Alex dropped her gaze back to her wineglass. 'Sorry,' she murmured to Sam as behind them the conversation started back up.
Sam, however, was grinning. 'Bloody 'ell.'
'What?' she snapped.
'No wonder he-'
Annie appeared at Sam's side, saving him from having to finish the sentence. 'That's enough,' she said softly to Sam, giving Alex an understanding look. 'I think you should show 'er, Sam.'
Sam looked at his wife and Alex watched as wordless communication passed between them. Then he looked back at Alex. 'Come on.' He looked up and caught the barman's eye. The man nodded and walked towards them. 'Annie, love, watch the bar for Nelson.'
They led her into a back room. It was small and dusty and contained only a sofa, a rickety cane chair and a television set. There was another door set into the wall opposite that looked as rarely used as the room itself.
'Have a seat, Alex,' Sam said, settling himself on the sofa while Nelson stood beside the television. 'Before we go on, you should know there are rules out there,' Sam began.
'Mr Hunt didn't invent that world, sister,' Nelson said quietly, speaking with his own accent now they were out of the bar.
'I… know that. I think, ' Alex said slowly. 'There was too much detail from me, too much from you,' she said, looking at Sam.
He nodded. 'He was just like us at one point. A soul shocked from his body. Living his life in purgatory, making his way up to DCI. I reckon the… uh… other job just came naturally.'
'But it is real,' Alex said, looking from Sam to Nelson for confirmation. 'And Keats certainly seemed to have a specific role…'
'No doubt,' Nelson said. 'And like Sam said, there are rules, Alex. But nothing about forgetting.' He reached down and flicked the television on.
'What –' Alex began, but Sam laid a hand on her arm, quieting her.
The picture cleared slowly, showing the street outside the Railway Arms. Gene Hunt stood alone, watching her enter the pub. Then he was facing Keats, shoving the other man away from himself and listening to the taunting hiss issuing from his mouth.
Then he was back in CID, mercifully restored to order. In the main room someone was shouting the odds, demanding to know where his desk was; who had his iPhone. Gene opened the door to his office.
'Word in yer shell like, pal.'
'Same thing he said to me,' Sam snorted, 'just before he viciously assaulted me.'
CID was empty, dark. The only light streaming through the window in Gene's office. He was sitting at his desk, looking down at something in his hands.
The man who had been shouting in the last clip poked his head around the door. 'What've you got there, Guv?'
'None of your bloody business, DI Clark,' Gene said, the words strangely devoid of rancour. 'Did you want somethin'?'
'Beer o'clock,' Clark said. 'I… uh… owe you a drink, remember?'
'Another night. Got paperwork to catch up on.'
'Paperwork, Guv?' Clark said, raising an eyebrow.
Gene glared. 'Yes, Clark. Paperwork. 'ad to 'appen sometime. Now bugger off before I decide it's time to discover the joys of delegation.'
The man looked as though he was going to say something but thought better of it and left.
Gene sighed, looking down at the object in his hands again. Then he rose and moved to the filing cabinet to pour himself a drink, tossing the object onto the desk. It glinted in the streetlight.
The images faded.
'You put CID back together after Keats ripped the roof off,' Sam said quietly.
Alex continued to stare at the screen, as though she could will it back into life. 'Gene-'
'Wasn't him, sister,' Nelson said. 'I'd know. It was you. Mistakes were made that night.'
'What do you mean?' Alex asked, finally looking up at him.
'He means it might be that your presence is required at Fenchurch East,' Sam said.
She looked at him sharply, hardly daring to draw breath. 'For how long?'
'Some little while,' Nelson said, smiling. 'Don't go looking for absolutes, sister. They don't exist. Not even here.'
'I suppose there's no point askin' if you want-' Sam began.
'No. No there isn't,' she said. 'How do I-'
'That's where the rules come into it,' Nelson said softly.
'Rules?' Alex demanded, getting to her feet. 'You're doing to dangle this in front of me then tell me I can't because there are rules against it? This is just another kind of purgatory, this waiting, and I can't…' she broke off, feeling her throat constrict.
Nelson's gaze didn't waver. He stood unflinching in the face of her anger.
'The rules state that once someone walks through those doors they can't go back the other way,' Sam said quietly.
'Well that's-' Alex began, keeping her gaze leveled at Nelson.
'Rules don't say anythin' about the door in the saloon bar, though, do they Nelson?' Sam continued.
'Not a thing, mon bruv,' Nelson said, holding Alex's gaze steadily.
'In the saloon bar?' Alex repeated weakly.
Nelson smiled then. 'I'll give you the same advice I once gave a skinny young PC,' he said. 'Slip out quietly. Keep your head down.'
Alex looked from one to the other, her eyes shining. 'Thank you. Thank you both. So much.' She turned and headed towards the other door.
'Don't be too hard on him, Alex,' Sam called. She paused and looked back at him. 'Even guardian angels get it wrong sometimes.' He winked.
She snorted. 'Gene Hunt's no angel.'
Sam returned her smile, a knowing glint in his eye. 'He's the Guv.'