Rating: White Cortina
Word Count: Approximately 1200 words
Notes: This is my first time writing Sam first person.
Warnings: Character death.
I watched Gene die in 1973. In a manner of speaking, at the very least. The raid had been a bust. We’d thought the informant had said five-thirty. He’d had actually said nine-thirty. We’d figured he meant in the morning. Of course, he meant in the night. We were several hours too late. And boy were we pissed off.
There was eight of us in all, all ready to arrest anything that moved. There had been nothing to arrest. The other coppers left, sick to the teeth that they’d given up their cosy beds for this. Gene and I stayed on, having a look around the place. Gene hadn’t wanted to, but I’d insisted. We’d have to give the canal area a thorough combing over. I think Gene must have grumbled for more than half an hour.
We’d been making ourselves ready to leave when someone lunged out from behind some boxes and attacked Gene. To be honest, I’ve no real idea who it was. It might have been one of our suspects. It might have been a homeless vagrant. Either way, they pulled Gene to the ground, and before I could intervene, managed to roll him into the canal. The mystery man legged it down the road and Gene sunk down into the water. I was terrified. A thousand unpleasant thoughts jostled in my mind. I couldn’t see him in the water. I couldn’t see in a thing.
I dived in after Gene. The water was dark and impenetrable, I remember it vividly because I hadn’t really thought it would be. I’d only ever opened my eyes under water in a swimming pool or bath, where the water’s clear, maybe just tinged with blue. This was almost pitch black. I swam about, feeling for Gene, for a body, for anything. My hand struck against a solid object and I moved towards it, gathering my arms around and dragging it up to the surface. Luckily, it had been Gene, and not a three-day old corpse.
His heart had stopped beating. He wasn’t breathing. I tried not to panic. I began clearing his airway and performing CPR - doing everything I knew. It went on for minutes. Push, push. Breathe. Come on, Gene, you could do it, you had air, you had pressure on your heart, you could do it. Push, push. Breathe.
You might not know this, but there’s actually a very small number of successful resuscitations performed by those administering first aid. You certainly don’t have such people starting hearts pumping again. Not normally. This was not a normal occasion. Suddenly, Gene’s heart started beating – a quiet thump that made my own double in pace. After another minute he spluttered and coughed half the canal onto the pavement.
I laughed in ecstatic joy. It would take more than a mere drowning to keep Gene Hunt down and out for the count. The man was invincible. He didn’t even want to go to the hospital, but I forced him. I sat next to him and kept his spirits up, but I don’t think he was all that perturbed that he’d technically been dead.
He didn’t thank me for saving his life in so many words, but he did buy me beer for a month, and I figure it was much the same thing.
I watched Gene die in 2006. By the time I’d found him, he was in a coma. Irony of ironies. I stayed by his side as much as I could for two days. I had to be careful to be there when his brother’s children weren’t. They came to see him regularly, actually, which heartened me, because I’d had this vision of Gene as an old man closed off from the world. No such luck. He’d had friends and family who loved him, and appeared to be just as broken as I was that he’d decided to slip off this mortal coil.
He passed away never regaining consciousness, and had the decency to do so as I sat by the side of his bed. I couldn’t explain to the nurse why I was fighting so hard to blink back tears. We couldn’t have been best mates, an irascible old codger like him and a modern young thing like me. We had to be the two most unlikely friends in the world. But then, that was true without the disparity of our respective ages too.
He had lived a full life, Gene Hunt. He’d worked a lengthy while and done a good job. He’d been commended for bravery. Given a nice retirement fund. He’d had a loving wife, and after she passed on, apparently a couple of ‘close friends’ too. He was lucky he lived so long, the way he’d lived his life – frenetic and full of fire. It was his time to go.
But it wasn’t my time to let him. I’d only seen him at his most vital. To me, Gene was still that mid-forties cop, smoking out the world, one cigarette at a time. He was driving recklessly down Princess Street and telling me I shouldn’t be such a wuss. He was eating curries and burgers and relishing every second of it. Gene was the cheese to my chalk. Him slightly tangy, and likely to give you nightmares if you scarfed down too much; me whiter than white, with the ability to rub off on you.
God knows how often he gave me grief, but he accepted me into his work, into his life. I wasn’t ready to give that up. I’d only just been pulled away from it. I watched them take him away and I sat down in the waiting room. I must have been there for ages. I don’t know what I was waiting for. Maybe for someone to tell me it’d all been a mistake, a miscommunication. Gene wasn’t dead, he was just sleeping. Like I’d just been sleeping, and look, here I was today.
Unlike that time in 1973, this death was permanent. No amount of CPR could bring Gene back. And no amount of waiting either. Eventually I realised, I had to go. So I did. I left the hospital and never went back.
I couldn’t go to Gene’s funeral. The others would be there. Superintendent Skelton and his wife. Annie and her husband. On my searches upon arriving in 2006 again, I’d discovered that Ray had died a few years before from lung cancer. I couldn’t find anything about Phyllis.
I didn’t go. I kind of hovered, outside. And ducked, when I heard them coming out, talking about what a beautiful service it’d been. I wondered how my wreath had looked on the coffin. I tried to say goodbye, in my own way. I don’t know if he ever heard it. I know he’d never have accepted my words of outspoken gratitude for the months we’d spent as friends. But I hope he knew them, all the same.