tellezara (tellezara) wrote in 1973flashfic,
tellezara
tellezara
1973flashfic

Shoe Challenge, by tellezara

Title: Just Do It
Author: tellezara
Rating: PG - Green Cortina (but only because of swearing)
Word Count: 5, 418
Notes: Gen. First Life on Mars fic, and first finished fanfic in about, erm, 4 years. If I'm rusty, I apologise. Also, I couldn't find any info about how much shoes cost in 1973 so I just took a guess, it's probably more expensive than that but it's all relative ;) Also apologies for the cheesy title. No obvious pairings but Sam/Annie is hinted at.

The door was shabby – the paint was peeling off, its metal number seven was tilted at a crazy angle due to missing nails, and the knocker was rusted in place. It reflected the state of the estate in general, really – it was sad that the council didn’t seem to bother maintaining these places after setting them up, but that was the way of the world, and for the people living in these council flats, it was their world.

“This place is in dire need of a runaway wrecking ball,” DCI Hunt’s voice echoed down the corridor.

Sam Tyler paused, his hand raised to knock on the dilapidated door. He turned his head in the direction of the voice – his DCI was stomping towards him, facial expression sour. It was no surprise really. It was lunchtime, and Gene Hunt would normally be propping up the bar in the Railway Arms about now, helping himself to peanuts and chatting with Nelson the bartender. Sam sighed to himself – Gene’s presence here was because he didn’t even trust Sam to go door-knocking on his own.

Again, it was no surprise. After all, Sam had pointed a gun at him a couple of days ago. Working in 2006, pulling something like that would’ve gotten Sam the sack – not that he would’ve in the first place as the circumstances that lead him to it wouldn’t have happened. Here in 1973, however, the lower echelons of CID had opened a book on how long it would take him to do it, and of course whether the DCI would do it first. No sackings here – instead, Gene was keeping his DI on a very tight leash, much to the amusement of the rest of the department.

“Are you gonna knock on that door or stand there gaping at me?” Gene demanded. “Sooner we get this over with the sooner we can have lunch,” he added pointedly.

Sam deliberated the merits of replying with an acid comment about baby reins, but decided it wasn’t worth the trouble. He rapped on the door, paint flakes showering down onto the back of his hand.

“Who is it?” a woman asked from behind the door.

“Police,” Sam answered, shaking his hand to get rid of the green paint dust. “We’re just making door-to-door enquiries.”

“Just a minute,” the woman said. “HARRY!” she screeched. “GET DOWN HERE NOW, YOU LITTLE TOERAG!

“That pair of lungs’d be better fitted on a whale,” Gene grumbled, cleaning out one of his ears with a finger.

Sam banged on the door again.

“I said it was just door-to-door enquiries, Mrs Haines,” he said loudly, competing against the sound of her bollocking Harry to within an inch of the poor lad’s life. “We’re investigating some burglaries, that’s all-“

“DID YOU HEAR THAT?! BURGLARIES, HE SAYS, AND I KNOW YOU’VE BEEN HANGING AROUND WITH THEM NO-GOOD ROBINSONS-“

Gene’s hunger overcame his limited store of patience. He pushed past Sam and tried the handle, which gave. The pair of them entered the house, which put an immediate stop to the tirade. Mrs Haines was standing in the corridor, arms akimbo and bristling with fury, while a sullen Harry was leaning against the wall.

“If you’ll just let us ask you a few questions, Mrs Haines, I’m sure we can establish that Harry has nothing to do with this-“

Out of the corner of his eye, Sam could see Gene had opened his mouth to say something Sam KNEW was going to be completely unconsidered and tactless.

“He always has something to do with something, the bleeder,” Mrs Haines scowled at her son, who said nothing.

Gene shut his mouth, having been pipped to the post. Sam breathed a quiet sigh of relief.

“Well,” he ploughed on, “we were just wondering if you’ve had any door-to-door salesmen on the estate recently, or had any suspicious types hanging around who you’ve not seen before.”

“His friends are suspicious enough,” Mrs Haines jerked her head in Harry’s direction. “We have our Avon ladies but nobody else bothers with us, bein’ on the top level an’ all. We ain’t had nobody for months.”

Sam wasn’t paying attention. He was staring at Harry. The teenager shifted uncomfortably under Sam’s steady gaze.

“Gi’s a look at your new shoes, mate,” Sam said casually. “I wouldn’t mind a pair like those – where’re they from?”

“Well, if you ain’t seen anything amiss then we’ll be off,” Gene said to Mrs Haines, thoughts already on fish and chips. “Sam, what the bloody hell’re you doing?”

Sam was crouched down by Harry’s feet, examining the boy’s trainers carefully.

“Got them down the market, didn’t I,” Harry mumbled. “They’re proper ones, took all my pocket money.” He looked up at his mother. “Not that she gives me much.”

“Oi, give me any more lip and you can go without lunch!” Mrs Haines snapped.

“Yes, lunch,” Gene said, enunciating the word clearly. “Move it, Sammy-boy, we’ve better things to do than look at people’s feet.”

Sam stood up, nodding to Harry.

“Thanks for your time, Mrs Haines,” he said, then followed his DCI out the door.

The door shut firmly behind him, more paint flaking off to sail away in the breeze. There was an audible click as the door was locked. Gene was already halfway down the concrete corridor – nothing made him move faster than the prospect of food, a pint, or occasionally a collar. Sam leaned over the balcony, looking at the dreary grey courtyard below. The DCI’s car was double-parked in the road, unscathed as usual – nobody dared to mess with the Gene Genie’s wheels.

“Get a bloody MOVE ON, Sam!” Gene bellowed. “I’m wasting away here and all you can do is stand and stare into space – daydream in the car on the way to the chippy if you like, but shift your arse!”

Sam hurried to catch up, mind on other things. He stayed silent as they trotted down the never-ending stairs to the bottom level of the estate, but as they got into the car he asked,

“Have you ever heard of Nike?”

Gene was used to Sam asking peculiar questions like this – have you heard of this, that or the other. They had some bloody odd things in Hyde that was for sure.

“Could be a river in bleedin’ Africa for all I know,” he replied, delving in his pockets for chippy money. “You want vinegar with yours?”

“They’re a type of shoe, a brand name. They’re not out over here yet?”

“How the hell should I know? The wife does my shopping, why would I want to waste time peering through shop windows when I could be having a pint?”

Sam gave up.

“Yes, I want vinegar,” he said, adding his change to the line of coppers Gene had lined up on the Cortina’s dashboard.

“You’re getting them,” Gene gathered up and deposited the money in Sam’s hand. “Haddock with mine, ta.”

“The market’s on today, isn’t it?” Sam asked as he got out of the car.

“Probably. Don’t forget – on mine, LOTS of vinegar!”

Sam entered the chippy, half aware of the industrial strength fishy aroma. Nikes hadn’t come out till the 80s. He remembered wanting a pair so badly in his teenage years. They sure as hell weren’t available on the street markets of 1973, and would’ve cost a damn sight more than a week’s pocket money if they had been. Harry’s shoes weren’t proper Nikes anyway – the glue was shoddy, the stitching slightly awry. Replicas, made with materials he was pretty certain weren’t around in this day and age.

“Lots of vinegar with the haddock, please.”

What were replicate Nikes doing in 1973? It seemed almost too crazy even for Sam to believe. Why would his comatose brain suddenly start manufacturing dodgy footgear? Unless some street market stall somewhere in 2006 had been run over by a car… no, it was no good standing there trying to explain it, he would have to go and see it for himself – though it was probably nothing. He was trying to become sceptical. He’d been let down so many times in the past, thinking that solving a case or fixing such and such would mean he’d finally wake up. Why should this be any different? There’d just be some perfectly logical explanation and he’d end up looking like a prat in front of everybody for thinking otherwise. Despite his enforced cynicism he still felt the familiar hopeful pangs. If he could just get off Gene’s leash long enough to go to the market and have a look around, just to satisfy his curiosity – that’d be enough, Sam told himself.

His order was ready. Sam returned to the car with two steaming parcels – Gene’s face lit up as if rejuvenated by the powerful smell of vinegar, and his serving was all gone by the time they arrived back at the station.

“Listen, Guv, would you mind me nipping off for an hour?” Sam asked, hoping Gene’s full stomach would be a placating influence.

Gene gave him a penetrating stare.

”You’ve got to be joking,” he said, tipping his chair back and putting his feet up on the desk. “Phyllis just dumped a box of paperwork on me without so much as a by your leave.”

Sam groaned inwardly – that meant HIS afternoon had just been lost to filling it all out. It would be simple, were it not for his 2006 training screaming out in pain at the massive gaps in the forms that meant missing information – he thereby complicated the process by running around the station following it all up. Of course, he didn’t have to do it to himself, but if he wanted the forms filled out properly, there was no choice.

“Just an hour now?” he pleaded. “I’ll stay back late and finish the paperwork-“

“The market packs up in an hour, doesn’t it?” Gene regarded his DI shrewdly. “Present for a bird, I’m betting.”

“No, I’m-“ Sam hesitated a moment, mind in a whirl, then realised it was the best opening he could’ve hoped for. “Well, yes, it might be,” he finished, looking awkward as he suddenly realised what he’d implied, for there was only one girl he really spent any time with.

“That plonk!” Gene cackled triumphantly. “I knew it!”

Sam endured the subsequent ribbing with resignation – he’d have to explain to Annie later, and actually buy her a present. But that wasn’t so bad – she was more than capable of dealing with the catcalls from CID and would probably find the whole situation highly amusing.

“G’wan then, my son – to the market with you,” the DCI said jocularly, shooing Sam out of the office. “I want you back at two for the paperwork, though, mind!”

The market was heaving with people streaming to and fro between the narrow aisles of the stalls. Traders yelling lists of what they had to sell added to the general hubbub as they tried to outstrip each other with the best bargains. Some of the marketers were already starting to remove their wares from the big trestle tables in preparation for packing-up time when Sam arrived. He had underestimated the size of the market and worried that he wouldn’t be able to find the stall before closing time. However, upon enquiring one of the traders told him that there were only three cobblers stalls on the whole market, and he was able to obtain their locations easily.

”Git yore trainers here, git yore latest styles fer the best price in Manchester!”

Sam’s stomach tightened at the sight of row upon row of Adidas, Nike and Slazenger trainers. They did not belong here. They looked wrong – too new, too white. Nobody else seemed to notice this. The market’s busy punters bustled by without paying any attention.

“Where are these from?” he asked the man running the stall.

“Me van, they are,” the trader replied. “Proper quality shoes, these, though people don’t seem to know a good deal when it hits ‘em in the face – what size are yer?”

“How much are they?”

“I can do yer a right good pair of Slazengers fer twenty quid – best deal around!”

Sam blinked. Having gotten used to how cheap everything was in 1973, the idea of paying twenty pounds for a pair of trainers when you could get a good set of men’s lace-ups for a fiver was a shock to the system.

“No wonder nobody’s buying them,” he said dryly. “What year d’you think this is?”

The man gave him an odd look.

“2006, innit? Though seems ter be some kinda seventies festival on or summat, everyone’s really inter it.”

2006.

Sam felt like his body had just unexpectedly been shoved in a freezer – a chill raced down his spine to settle in the pit of his stomach and all the colour drained from his face. The spring breeze changed into a biting, Arctic wind.

“Have you… had an accident, recently?” he croaked, throat suddenly dry.

“Yer askin’ some pretty strange questions, mate,” the trader said, tilting his head as if to look at Sam from a new angle. “D’yer want a pair of shoes or not?”

Sam swallowed and took a breath. It was all so surreal. Maybe he really was about to wake up any moment. What did he have to say or do to this man to make it happen?

“It’s really important,” he said firmly. “I need to know if you’ve had some kind of accident or not – you might be able to help me.”

“Are yer police or summat?” the man demanded. “I’m telling yer, I’m a safe driver, I ain’t had no accidents. Near misses, had my share of those, but I ain’t never crashed into nothing.”

“I’m not police, I just might have some interesting things to tell you. You’ve never had any cars hit you or anything like that?”

“I’m good at the whatnot – evasive action thingamy. Y’know how it is, loads of idiots on the roads, I had one nutter comin’ at me the wrong way down a one way street this mornin’ but I got up on the kerb an’ he missed me. Cracked me ‘ead on the wheel, thought I’d done the van in too an’ all ‘cause I swore I’d hit the wall but it di’nt have no scratches so me record’s clean!”

“That happened this morning? And you drove straight here after?”

“Well, yeah, business as usual an’ all the rest. Me van’s as old as I am but it still runs like a dream no matter what happens ter it. Look, mate, what’s this about? I’ve got a livin’ to make, y’know, an’ I wanna check out this festival thing once I’ve packed up.”

Sam could see that the fellow was unlikely to believe the truth… if it even was the truth. Sam wasn’t even sure in his own mind whether this planet, 1973, really existed. Was this trader lying in a hospital somewhere in 2006 as well? Or was he a complete fabrication along with the fake footwear? Sam’s mind was running at warp speed – the man’s presence was explained by his ‘near miss’, but the shoes? They were in the van. A van as old as… well, the guy looked to be in his late thirties, early forties. Had the van come back in time because he’d been sitting in it at the time of his accident? Yet nothing of Sam’s had made it back in time with him, not even his clothes. It had all changed into things of the era. Maybe the van just hadn’t needed to alter itself. But then surely the shoes would’ve become 1970s brogues? It didn’t make sense. No, he’d have to dismiss it for the moment, the important thing was to tell the man what had really happened.

“Listen, none of this is a festival,” Sam started to say.

“Some kind of fashion week, then?” the shoe-seller laughed, packing his stock back into boxes.

“No, really. You’re not in 2006 anymore. You’ll think I’m a nutter for saying this, but you’re in 1973 right now. This is all the real thing.”

“And you’re one of the Spice Girls in drag.”

“They don’t exist. They haven’t even been born yet.”

“Listen, mate, stop wasting my time. If you’re just here to take the piss then sod off.”

Sam wasn’t going to let this go. After all, this was 1973 – he could arrest the man for sheep-rustling and nobody would bat an eyelid. If that was what it took to keep the fellow in one place long enough to listen to him, he was prepared to do it.

“I think you did crash your van,” he tried again. “I think your real self is lying in a hospital somewhere and any minute now you’re going to start hearing strange things – beeping, people talking, stuff like that.”

“I think yer off yer rocker. Do I look like I’m lyin’ in a bleedin’ hospital bed? I’m fit as a fiddle! I’ve had enough of this,” the shoe-seller shoved the last pair of Nikes into a box. “Go off an’ tell jokes ter somebody else.” He picked up his stock, ready to leave.

“Look, at least come for a walk with me so I can show you I’m telling the truth!” Sam said exasperatedly – the man was stupid, not believing what was right in front of his eyes.

“On yer own, mate.”

He started to walk away from the stall, but Sam ran to catch up with him – the shoe-seller was a living link to Sam’s own time, somebody in the same boat as him. Sam wasn’t going to give up on that so easily, although there was only one option left now. He seized the man’s wrist.

“I need you to come to the police station to answer some questions – if you won’t come voluntarily, I’ll arrest you,” he threatened.

After all, there was the question of how Harry Haines could afford a £20 set of trainers with 1970s pocket money.

“Hey! Yer said yer weren’t police!” the man said, panicked. “This is a breach of me rights!”

“This is 1973 – there are no rights,” Sam replied smugly. “Now, you gonna come with me or do I have to cuff you?”

“I’m not goin’ anywhere! Yer cuff me an’ I’ll complain ter yer superintendent! Git yore hands off me!” the marketeer protested, trying to move away.

“That’s just too bad,” Sam tightened his grips and dug out his handcuffs, knowing that Superintendent Jenkins wouldn’t give a toss about this particular arrest. “I’m arresting you for obstructing a police enquiry – you do not have to say anything but anything you do say may be given as evidence in court.” Phew, he’d remembered to say it correctly.

“I’ll complain! I’ll complain!” the shoe-seller whined as Sam relieved him of his stock.

“Oh, shut up,” Sam snapped, suddenly remembering that having come here on foot he was now going to have to call for a car, and explain to Gene that he’d nicked somebody for selling trainers that were too expensive.

===

“What a blithering idiot you’ve pulled in,” Phyllis, the custody sergeant, ticked off the remaining boxes on the charge sheet and slid it across the counter for Sam to sign. “Going on about civil rights and other claptrap – you’d think he was one of Mr. Heath’s advisors instead of a bloke selling dodgy shoes. And all that rubbish about ‘period re-enactments’ and festivals – he’s living in dreamland, I don’t think you’ll get a useful thing out of him!”

“Reminds me of someone I know,” a voice said in Sam’s ear.

“Thanks for the compliment, Annie,” Sam said with a wry smile. “It’s not every day I get told I’m a blithering idiot.”

“It’s to fill up the days when you’re not being told you’re barmy,” WPC Cartwright informed him with a cheeky smile. “And you’ve got some explaining to do, Mr. Tyler,” she added, attempting to look stern but the remainders of the smile revealed her amusement. “I heard you’ve been out shopping. I hope that gentleman in Number Three isn’t your idea of a gift for a lady!” she chuckled.

“Ah… yes,” Sam felt a flush of guilt – in his rush to get hold of the shoe-seller he’d forgotten his original excuse for going there in the first place, and he had nothing to give Annie. “Just let me get my bollocking from the Guv first for creating more paperwork, then I’ll attempt to explain myself. See you later!” he handed the charge sheet back to Phyllis and disappeared into the bowels of the station.

The two women exchanged glances.

“He’s as barmy as the one we just locked up,” Phyllis said, shaking her head. “Watch out, Annie m’luv, it might be catching.”

“I think I caught it long ago,” Annie sighed, then picked up the mop and went to clean up the sick in Number Four.

===

“Twenty quid for a pair of shoes?!” Gene spluttered. “That’s criminal!”

“They’re not even good shoes, Guv – these are the Nikes I was talking about, but they’re a shoddy pair compared to the real thing.”

Sam dropped the bright white trainers onto the DCI’s desk. Gene picked one of them up, turning it over in his hands.

“Bloody fancy things by the look of it – feel light but I bet they don’t last two minutes on the football pitch. Now these, these,” he propped one of his feet up on the desk to display his own footwear. “I paid four quid for ‘em and they’ve kicked in more heads than I can count on all of CID’s fingers and toes. Been all over Manchester, they have.”

“Nice,” Sam said absently. “Either way, that bloke’s not the type to drop down on a selling price – Harry must’ve paid the full whack for his trainers and he shouldn’t be able to afford it. His Mum probably thinks he’s been saving the pennies and got the shoes for a knockdown price. That money’s come from somewhere.”

“Like I would’ve said, brats like that are always up to no good,” Gene humphed. “Most of the burglaries have been on that estate which means local knowledge or a thorough reccie beforehand. He might be the link we’re looking for.”

“Bring him in then?” Sam turned to leave.

“Stop RIGHT there,” Gene growled. “You still ain’t given me an explanation for why you’ve brought this shoe-selling bloke in. I can’t even let you go to the market on your own without you causing a bloody ruckus! I’ve had Phyllis on the phone asking me when she can fling the noisy bugger out on his ear, and last I heard ripping people off with pricey shoes wasn’t an arrestable offence.”

“I just wanted him to come in and answer some questions about Harry but he told me he wasn’t going anywhere unless I arrested him – he was being obstructive,” Sam tried to explain, but he knew he’d been rumbled.

“He’s going right back out the door again once you’ve gotten a description of Harry Pest off him,” Gene said flatly.

“Alright, alright,” Sam held his hands up to concede defeat, inwardly kicking himself for taking the whole thing too far. “I’ll interview him now-“

“WE will interview him now,” Gene corrected blandly, getting up from his chair.

“Are you claiming babysitting fees on your time sheet?”

Sam ducked the well-aimed pair of Nike trainers.

“Get your arse down to Custody, Smart Alec,” Gene retorted, “before I kick it down there myself.”

Chris Skelton appeared at the door, rubbing his head and looking put out.

“What’d I do to deserve having my head smacked in by flying shoes?” he asked dolefully, holding up the offending Nikes.

“You were in my firing line, you dolt!” Gene snatched the trainers back off Chris and bulldozed his way down the corridor.

“Happens to the best of us, eh, Chris?” Sam patted the DC’s shoulder on his way out. “Duck faster next time.”

===



“Is this some kind of joke?” Gene demanded. “Disappearing prisoners?! April Fool’s is long gone-“

“I swear on my life, one minute he was yelling the place down and then he went all quiet, and when I opened the hatch he was nowhere to be seen! I went inside, and it was like he was never there. Gone, vanished!” Phyllis was flustered – she’d never had a prisoner disappear on her before.

“What was he saying, Phyllis?” Sam questioned. “What was he shouting about?”

“I dunno, he was an odd fellow to begin with, so I didn’t pay much heed until he went quiet. At first he made sense, he kept threatening to call the papers and wanted to use the telephone but I told him he couldn’t – he made a right fuss about that. When Annie did the rounds she said he was talking to himself, and right when she was telling me this he started yelling and fussing, going on about beeping noises and arrests and how somebody was right. Me and Annie hurried over to see what was up, and he just cut off, mid-sentence like.”

“And then he’d disappeared,” Sam finished for her.

Phyllis nodded emphatically.

“Annie unlocked the door to bring in his tea, but she locked it after, and when we went into his cell just now, the door was as locked as it was after teatime. He can’t walk through a ten inch metal plate, yet he disappeared!”

Annie was standing nearer to Sam and could just about make out the swearwords he was saying under his breath. She knew there was more to this than he was letting on.

“Prisoners can’t just vanish,” Gene despaired at the stupidity of the uniformed section at times. “He must’ve escaped somehow-“

“Just write him off,” Sam said abruptly.

“Whaddaya mean, write him off?!” Gene exploded. “This is rich coming from you, Mister Protocol-“

“You won’t ever find him,” Sam was matter-of-fact but received incredulous stares. “It doesn’t matter how he got out of his cell, the point is that he’s not here. We were going to release him anyway, so it doesn’t really matter. If he turns up later on to make a fuss, then we’ll worry about it, but I can tell you now that you’ll never hear from him again. If he was as dotty as Phyllis said then we wouldn’t’ve gotten any useful info out of him anyway.”

“You’ve gone barmy,” Gene shook his head. “I thought you had already, but that was just the tip of the iceberg.”

“Am I allowed to be called barmy and a blithering idiot on the same day?” Sam asked Annie, who shrugged in reply.

Gene broke all the rules anyway.

===

“So are you going to tell me what was going on with the Vanishing Man today?” Annie asked – she’d come up to CID at the end of her shift with the excuse of delivering a present from Phyllis (more paperwork), but in reality she wanted to stop and chat.

“I think he died,” Sam said quietly. “That happened to me once, the cardiac arrest thing, but they brought me out of it. That’s what’ll happen to me, Annie. If I give up fighting, I’ll just disappear.”

“And we’ll go too?” Annie asked. “I mean, if we are all in your head, then when you die, so do we. I don’t want to be a Vanishing Annie, it sounds like one of those gypsy tricks.”

“Are you starting to believe me now?” Sam made eye contact with her, and though she looked away, Sam could tell that she was, even if only a little.

“He was talking to himself when I did the rounds,” she said slowly. “He said – he talked about mobile phones. Those walkie-talkie things you were going on about before.”

“You’ve seen the shoes, haven’t you?” Sam dug out the Nikes from under his desk. “He had these to sell, they don’t belong here – they aren’t coming out for another ten years or so. A boy we met on the door-to-door this morning had a pair on, that was what started all this off.”

Annie felt the soft plasticized uppers before replacing them on the desk.

“If Vanishing Man went, why didn’t these go too?”

“I don’t know,” Sam leaned his chin on his arms, which he rested on top of the mountainous paperwork spread across his desk.

The Nikes were now at his eyelevel, the crooked stitching on the swoosh logo at the heel clearly visible.

“I think this really is 1973,” he said. “If this was all in my head then that bloke shouldn’t have appeared in the first place, and definitely not with dodgy shoes. Why would my head insert something that doesn’t belong here at all when it’s so obsessed with realism the rest of the time?”

“They say that anywhere’s home if you live in it long enough.” Annie hopped down from Chris Skelton’s desk – he’d gone home hours ago.

“You off?” Sam was resigned to at least another hour sat at his own desk wading through statements.

“Had enough excitement for one day, I think!” Annie grinned. “The expression on the Guv’s face when you tore up that fella’s charge sheet was priceless.”

“He’s too used to me treating paperwork as sacred,” Sam said dourly. “Wasting my afternoons annotating these damn things,” he shook one of the forms at her, “is encouraging me to adopt a more liberal view. Besides, it wasn’t that bad – he bought me a pint later so he must’ve approved.”

Annie laughed at this.

“The Guv’s pint-buying habits are a good means of psychological analysis!” she proclaimed, grabbing her handbag and making ready to leave. “What are you going to do with those shoes, anyway?”

“I think I’ll shred the lot of them. Like I said, they don’t belong here and I don’t want to upset the balance of anything if there really is going to be a 2006 some time in the future. I think that’s what I’m meant to do.”

“Destiny and all that?”

“You could say that, yes,” Sam smiled.

“I’ll let you get on with saving the world in peace, then – tata!”

“Annie – before you go, catch.”

Annie turned just in time to grab the package out of the air. Once she got a proper look at it a happy smile spread across her face and she beamed at Sam.

“You’re a real love, you know that? Turkish Delight’s my favourite!”

“Glad to hear it – thanks for being my alibi for today, even if you didn’t know till the rumourmongers got their claws into it.”

“You’re turning into a real dark horse, Sam.”

“I’m a shining white stallion compared to the Guv.”

“You’ll be a shining white stallion still here at midnight if you don’t get a shift on with that paperwork, Casanova,” Phyllis chivvied at him from the corridor. “I need it all signed for tomorrow!”

Annie bid him goodbye, triumphantly bearing her Turkish Delight home for consumption.

Sam sighed into his paperwork pile. Regardless of what year he was in, he still seemed to spend all too much time at some battered desk that was obscured by paper. He’d missed out on yet another chance of finding out how to get home. Dying wasn’t how he wanted to do it, though, he knew that much. He was still none the wiser as to what he was doing here in the first place, either. All the same, things weren’t so bad – Harry turned out to have rather a lot more cash in his money box than he could account for, to his Mum’s chagrin. It hadn’t taken him and Gene long to get a confession out of the lad, who’d been co-opted into keeping watch for the Robinson boys as they popped the locks of houses on the estate and took what they wanted. It was nice when cases shut themselves so simply. In fact, life in 1973 was pretty straightforward when he ignored the glaring fact that he didn’t belong there.

Anywhere is home if you live there long enough. He’d made it home, as best he could, and as long as he carried on fighting in 1973, his comatose body would carry on fighting death in 2006. He could live like that, he reckoned. Another chance to wake up would come along one day. In the meantime, there was always paperwork.
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