Rating: Blue Cortina for violence
Spoilers: No. Wait! A few for 1.6
Warnings: Wasn't able to do a word count, but definetly long.
Summary: As Manchester is besieged by a sniper, Sam must struggle with a guilty concience.
A/N: Originally written for the Clothes challenge and then procrastined on mightily! But better late then never :)
"The wish is father to the thought"-proverb
Sam walked on ahead, trying to ignore Ray and Chris snickering behind him. Yes that's right you two, go ahead an laugh, you daft brain dead children. God, sometimes 1973 was like going back in time....emotionally as well as physically. The way the boys would tease him, calling him a pansy, Mummy's boy, asking him what it was like to come from a broken home. It made him sick to hear them there, just over his shoulder, just like it had been. Just sick.
A burst of laughter came from behind him and he glared over his shoulder, watching Chris guffaw, his mouth full of mulched chips. He turned back in disgust, hunching his shoulders. Somehow it hurt worse when Chris laughed at him. Ray was a bastard, fair enough, he was getting used to it. But Chris...it actually hurt when Chris laughed at Ray's sodding jokes. He thought Chris was interested in learning from him, emulating him. Yeah, it was an ego thing, but he'd thought it was about friendship too. But there he was with Carling, thick as thieves. God...
As much as he liked the younger man, times like this, he wished him dead.
And then there was a sound. Loud, like a firecracker going off, or a tire popping.
Sam turned around to see if the others had heard it. Chris was standing there with a strange look on his face with Ray staring at him. Sam finally processed what the sound had been as Chris started to fall.
Gunshot, it was a gunshot.
'Get him out of the street!' Sam shouted, flinging out his arm to Ray as he raced towards the both of them. Ray obeyed as the newspaper box nearby exploded with a jaw aching crack. Sam looked around, but couldn't see a shooter. He looked around frantically, but he saw nothing, no-one.
They were dealing with a sniper.
He was finally next to them, reaching out to grab Chris's other arm. Pulling him up, he and Ray dashed across the street to the nearest alley, into cool blanketing darkness. He pushed them both down, and crouched there, listening. He flinched as there was the sound of another gunshot. His senses became painfully acute, he could smell metallic tang of sweat and blood, hear Ray's laboured breathing (was Chris breathing?). Looking over, he saw the other man's face paler then a ghost, eyes rolled back in his head. Ray was shouting his name, trying to wake him, but he shushed him. They had to be still and silent, quiet as rocks, quiet as the grave. He listened for another shot, his breath ragged and shallow, breathing in the smell of the alley, piss, brick dust, and the vinegar smell of old garbage.
'How's Chris?' he gasped. Ray said nothing, too busy ripping off his tie to staunch the blood. He crouched there, watching Chris, the both of them listening for another shot.
'Shhh!' He held up a finger, looking to the sky. Silence. He stood, walking to the mouth of the alley. Stepped out into the street, his skin crawling, ready to flinch away from a bullet at any time. Slowly, he turned in a circle
Nothing. The sniper had stopped, for now. He turned on his radio, speaking into it low and fast.
'This is 870 to base, call an ambulance!'
Sam insisted that both he and Ray rode in the ambulance with Chris, Sam talking to the younger man, trying to get a response, with Ray pressing his hand down on the bloody gaping hole. He wasn't about to lose someone just because of a lack of 1970's emergency services. His men, his responsibility.
Sam blinked, a jolt going through him. Why'd he think that?
Chris and Ray, laughing. Sometimes, he wished him dead.
'What'd you say?' Blinking, Sam realised that Ray was staring at him.
'Nothing, nothing, keep pressing down.'
They arrived back at the CID four hours later, the blood drying on their clothes. Sam could smell it, smell it everywhere. They both stunk of it, and Chris's aftershave, Hai Karate or something like it. Gene was standing there waiting for them, hands in his pockets, looking grim.
'Chris is in surgery right now. They don't know what's going to happen.'
'What did happen Sam.' Gene frowned, but his voice wasn't angry. For once, it was Sam about to loose his temper, not his DCI. Taking in a breath, he ran his hand through his hair, grimacing when he felt the blood on it.
He voice cracked and he cleared his throat, coughing before speaking up.
'We've got a sniper Guv.'
Squinting at him, Gene moved closer.
'A wha'?' The disbelief was strong in his voice and Sam snapped at him before he could even think.
'You've got a madman in a clock tower somewhere picking people off like they were, were...ants! Ants at a picnic! Is that simple enough for you?!'
He stood there glaring at him for a second, his hands balled up into fists, shaking with emotion. Without another word, he brushed by him to the Gents, ripping off his jacket as he went, tossing it jacket outside. He pulled his shirt off, ripping seams and pulling buttons off, but he didn't care. He wasn't going to wear this... thing one second longer. He balled it up in his hands threw it in the bin. Turning on the tap, he waited for the water to run from cold to warm. Splashing himself, he scrubbed at the flaking blood on his skin.
Aftershave...he could still smell Chris's aftershave, see the shocked look on his face, the DC's head lolling back-
Forget it! Think of something else for God's sake!
Right then, last night's football. Manchester against City, it had been 3 to 5 against but then-
Chris's face as pale as a ghost, his eyes rolling-
Stop! All right, the first thing, the first thing he was gonna do when he got back to 2006 was go home and have a hot shower in his clean, shiny apartment. Where the water pressure was constant and the water was hot, not lukewarm and-
Chris's face pale as a ghost, his eyes-
'No! Enough! Get out of my head!' He was shouting but he didn't care. Let them hear him, let them wonder.
He turned around at her voice, Annie's voice. Here we go, WDC Cartwright here to pick up the pieces, here to meddle again. He pointedly turned his back, ignoring the concerned look in her eyes.
'I don't need any help, thank you WDC Cartwright.'
He flinched at the coldness of his voice, but there was no taking it back now, even if he wanted to. He stood with his hands resting on the sink, ignoring the water dripping down his arms in pink rivulets.
'Hey, we're all on the same team you know.' She laid a hand on his shoulder and he shrugged it off.
'I'm trying to help-'
'Help? You want to help me Annie? Then get me out of here!' He turned away from the sink grabbing her by the arms.
'Sam..' He realised that he was holding her too tightly, that her eyes were wide with fear. He let go.
'I'm sorry Annie... sorry.'
He left the bathroom abruptly, making the door swing on it's hinges.
After dressing again in the change room, Sam walked into the Guv's office.
Sam blinked. 'What?'
'Well it makes just about as much sense as what you said, although I expect you'll explain yourself, unfortunately.' Gene muttered the last part, but Sam still heard him. Ignoring it, he soldiered onwards.
'We need Kevlar vests.'
'You know, to stop bullets, bullet proof vests.'
Gene snorted, putting down his paper.
'Give over, wear that girly stuff? The crims 'll laugh us outta town. What'll it look like if members of my team start walking around in ruddy armour? They'll think we're scared.'
'We're not scared Gene, we're just protecting ourselves, don't you see that?' he held out his hands, pleading with him. But the Guv just looked at him stubbornly.
'No, I don't!'
'I don't care if it's the word of God, no deal! There's nothing you can say that can change me mind.' Gene put his feet up on the desk and picked up the paper again, opening it with an annoyed *snap*.
Sam could feel his jaw sticking out. Oh don't start this Sam, don't-
Gene glared at him and part of Sam wished he'd stayed quiet. The other part thought of Chris and stared Gene down.
'Since 1972, at least eight men have been killed by a sniper, or snipers in Belfast.'
'Aren't those paddy bastards always killing themselves?'
'What about 1966, Austin Texas? Charles Whitman, ex- Marine, managed to kill 16 people when he climbed to the top of a tower in his university.'
'Probably didn't want to take his exams.' Gene dismissed.
'And in New Jersey last year-'
Oh now he was just taking the piss.
'...It's in the States, near New York. A man in a car went on a shooting spree. Five were injured, one killed.'
'Any of them coppers?' Gene countered.
Sam licked his lips, mind racing. Shit, he couldn't remember.
'If we are dealing with a sniper, and trust me Gene, we are, we need to wear vests!'
'No. We've done without before, and we'll be fine without now.'
The words were out of his mouth before he could even blink, and for a moment, Sam thought Gene was going to punch his lights out. Then he let out his breath in a sigh.
'Fine, fine. I'll talk to Rathbone, see if we can get some sent down to us.'
'How long will it take?'
'Days?! Gene, we might not have that long!'
'Why? What's going to happen in two days?'
'Who knows! He's stopped, for now, but not for long Gene. He's tried to kill, and he's going to keep trying until he does. Fact. And I'll tell you another thing for free. He's not going to stop at one.'
Gene sat up, sighing heavily.
'Requisition form for bullet proof vests are gonna take at least two days to process, fill, and then for the stuff to be shipped! I can't wave me magic wand an' go 'Bibby Booby Boo!' can I!'
'Bibbity Bobbity Boo.' Sam corrected muttering. Gene snorted.
'Yeah, should've known a ponce like you'd know the words.' He turned back to his paper.
Gene ignored the question.
He was cut off by Gene slamming the palm of his hand down on the table.
'Stable condition! That's all they're telling us.'
'Now sod off Tinkerbell and catch me that coward bastard with his pop gun.'
Sam walked into the CID and began rapping out orders.
'Annie, I need you to canvas the area, by phone, tell everyone what's happening. No, wait! That'll cause a panic. Tell them that....we're doing a, a special police test that'll take couple of hours. That'll buy us some time. Ray, get me the bullet that shot Chris. So far, it's the only piece of evidence we've got, and we can't go back to the scene without risking ourselves.'
The other man paled at the orders, clenching his teeth, but he nodded his agreement. Nodding back, Sam turned to their desk sergeant.
'Phyllis, get on the lines, let me know about any call that involves a shooting, especially if its on Becket street, that's where we were when Chris was shot. We have to triangulate the location of the shooter. The rest of you, find me a list of any past shootings that involved rifles or any gun that could be used for long distance shooting, and set up a blockade around Becket street and the surrounding areas. Go!'
Phyllis's came back a few minutes later to report that there had been another three shootings on Clay St., the street next to Beckett. The plods were cordoning Becket off, but hadn't been able to get permission from the super to do so with the streets nearby. Sam just took the information in grimly, surrounding himself with information and reports.
'We should warn the public, maybe make a announcement on the radio.' he said, looking at one of the maps with Annie, talking to himself as much as her.
'Sir, you can't! If you go on the radio and tell people about this there'll be rioting in the streets! You'll cause a panic!'
He slammed his hand down, tearing the map, glaring at her.
'We have to warn people!' She held his stare, just like he had with Gene.
'At the expense of others...sir?'
After a moment, Sam sighed heavily, turning back to the crumpled paper in front of them.
'Fine. Don't listen to me. Why should this be different then any other day?'
Seven hours later, the total of shootings was up to nine.
Only of the victims, besides Chris, had survived, a woman walking her dog. The shooter had her, and when the dog had nuzzled her where she was lying, shot the dog as well. Annie theorized that the blood from the dog had covered it's owner so completely that the shooter must have thought his victim was dead. A brave but foolhardy milk-man had dragged her to safety. Sam was told that the bullet had snapped her back. Even if she regained consciousness, she would never walk again.
Chris had been moved out of intensive care, but he was still in danger, with infection and fever setting in. The nurses were trying to keep his temperature down, and were apparently "doing all they could, now if you'll excuse us DI Tyler, we have other patients to attended to."
To top off the perfect day, they had been unable to locate where the sniper was shooting from.
Sam looked dully down at his tomato soup and crackers, not sure what to do next. They'd all been here for twenty four hours now and had yet to make any progress on the identity or whereabouts of the shooter. The killer.
He gazed into his muddy reflection in the soup bowl, staring so hard that he started to see blotches instead of himself. Like he was going blind.
The Kevlar vests still hadn't arrived, although when he'd called to inquire, he'd bee assured that "they were on the way."
He started as Ray sat down in front of him, breathing out heavily.
'Christ, what a dirty business this is! Good thing you knew what was going on Boss, or we all'd had it.'
Sam nodded, not looking away from his reflection, his hand gripping the spoon in front of him. Ray chewed despondently on piece of toast before putting in back on the plate.
'The bastard shot a dog? A dog? Bad enough to kill a person, bad enough. But a dog, who dosen't even know what's going on....can't even run away. That's just cruel.'
Sam's knuckles went white around the handle of the spoon.
'Tell me Ray, what do you think of me?'
He looked up at the DS who looked back in puzzlement.
'Seriously, don't pull your punches. What do you think of me?'
He leaned towards the other man who shifted nervously in his seat, looking around at the others in the canteen.
'Er...dunno what you mean Boss.'
'What were you talking to Chris about, when he got shot?'
Ray stared down at his cold toast, refusing to meet his eyes.
'I don't remember!'
'Really? Think. Think hard.'
He continued to look at the other man who was starting to get angry.
'I don't bloody remember!'
'You and Chris were laughing at me. I was...talking to myself in the filing room and you overheard me. So of course, you had to tell Chris. That's what you were both talking about. And you know what I thought? I thought, "I wish they'd just drop dead". And Chris-'
He bit his lip.
'You know what, I don't need. This. Just, just take me away.'
Ray was staring at him now and some of the others in the canteen were looking up from their meals.
'Didn't you hear me? Just take me away from here! Take me somewhere where kids like Chris don't put in hospital because of a petty thought! Take me somewhere where my TV dosen't talk to me, and I don't get beat up every time I mention "forensics" or "blood patterns"! Somewhere I can be right for a change and just be Sam Tyler, not CID's bloody whipping boy!'
On the last, he grabbed his soup bowl and flung it into Ray's face.
There was shocked silence in the room as Ray sat there, for a second, soup dripping of the ends of his mustache and soaking into his fake velvet jacket.
Blinking, he stood up, swiped his eyes free, and leaped over the table with a yell, grabbing Sam by the throat. Breaking his grip, Sam threw him over onto his back, then got to his feet, slamming a shoe into Ray's gut, making the other man cough. Straightening up, he snarled barreling into Sam, who spun him around, pushing them both through the swinging door. They fell into the hallway, almost knocking Phylis over. 'Oi!' she shouted, but they both ignored her, too busy trying to pulp each others heads in. Ray kicked at Sam's groin, but he twisted and took it on the thigh instead. Grabbing the foot, he gave it a vicious turn, flipping Ray to the floor. As he strode forward to stamp on him again, Ray kicked out, catching him on the chin. Sparks lit up behind his eyes, and he fell on his arse, tasting blood. He'd bit his tongue. Getting up, he started towards his opponent, determined to turn the other man into a greasy smear on the floor.
'What the flamin' heck is going on 'ere?!'
Ray and Sam looked towards Gene's bellow. The DCI stood in the doorway, looking like wrath personified, his eyes so furious that Sam almost expected his eyebrows to catch fire. Ray pointed a finger towards Sam.
'Don't look at me Guv, he started it!'
'Tyler, a word.'
Sam looked at Ray, then looked at Gene, breathing hard. He started towards Ray once more.
'Tyler!! Office, now!'
That was a tone he knew he couldn't argue with. Casting a last look over at the DS, he strode towards his DCI with ill grace, shoving or pushing aside anything in his way. When he got to the door, he slammed it closed so hard that one of the windows split in two.
'Looks like me windows not the only thing cracked around here.' Gene said, arms folded.
'Although I would have thought you'd have better things to be doing with your time then trying to have an Irish Stand down with my DS.'
Without warning, Sam pulled one of Gene's cabinets down. And kicked it. Again. and again. Screaming and cursing. It wasn't until Gene finally grabbed one of his flailing arms that he even knew that he'd been punching it. He glared up at the other man.
'You think I don't care? That this is just another chance for me to get out all the gay boy science and forensics and all? Chris is in the hospital! He could be dying and it's my fault!'
Sam stopped. Because I wished it, he thought, but bit his tongue.
'You can't control everything you daft fool! There was a bank robbery this week, and a GBH, and vandalism on a Paki shop. You do that too? Cause if you did, you'd have to be either God or the Devil.'
Sam paced back and forth, rubbing his sore hand. He finally stopped.
'Everyone needs to be wearing a vest.'
'Not likely to happen is it Doris? We'll just do our best, stay inside the cars-'
'He'll shoot out the windows Gene!' Sam tapped the side of his head with vicious fury. 'You have to think about this, not just react!'
'What we should all just go live underground? If we do that, if we play it this way, he wins.'
'This is not a game Gene! It's not like darts at the pub! This is life or death!'
The DCI reached over and grabbed him by the shirt, pulling him up close enough that Sam could smell the whisky and nicotine on his breath.
'Do you think, I don't know that? Do you think, I don't bloody well care! Three of my men almost died! One of them, my bloody stubborn stupid DI, well as my oldest friend. And Skelton...'
Gene let go of him, moving away to the windows, staring out of them.
'....why I ever took that lad on, I'll never know. Bloody useless he is. And now, he goes and gets himself shot.'
Sam rolled his eyes, snorting.
'God you're so selfish! Chris is in the hospital fighting for his life and all you can think about is you, how this is to do with </i>you</i>! Well you can just sod off Guv! The world dosen't revolve around you!'
'Oh and it does with you Lucy? With all your talk about "none of this is real, none of it matters?" bollocks. Only suddenly it does matter, an why? Because you made a wish on a star and crash bang, wish comes true? If that always worked, then why am I still here eh? Come on now, great and powerful Sam. Wish me away if I'm such a pain in your arse!'
The two of them stood there, breathing harsh and loud in the office, neither willing to give an inch.
'I can't.' Sam finally spat out.
'Well Sammy boy, I guess you're not such a wizard after all. Come on.'
Before he even knew what was happening, he was grabbed by the scruff of the neck and hauled out the door past the astonished members of the CID. Sam started to struggle.
'Hang on, hang on! What're you doing!'
'What I should have done about eight hours ago you twat.'
He was steered into the change room and slammed against the wall.
Sam tried to pull away, his eyes burning with the effort of holding back tears, but Gene pushed him back again.
'Let me ask you a question, and you'd better answer honestly: When was the last time you slept?'
He finally pulled out of Gene's grasp.
'I'm going back to look at the ballistic reports again-'
He was grabbed and pushed down onto the chesterfield.
'Sleep. That's a bloody order.'
'Guv, I don't have time for this!'
'And I don't have time to babysit an officer who throws a wobbly because he hasn't had his nap time! Lie down and shut your eyes or I'll find the biggest bloody.'
Reluctantly, Sam sank onto the uncomfortable looking thing.
'Shut your eyes Gladys, don't make me say it again.'
Obediently, he did so, letting out a big sigh.
'I'm really not tired Gene.'
'No talking! Sleep, that's a bloody order!'
He sighed again. There was no way he was going to get any sleep.
He opened his eyes to tell Gene so, and found he was back in Beckett St. He turned to look around. Chris was there, looking accusingly at him. He took a step towards him and realised that he was holding a white Kevlar vest in his hands. His heart beating hard, he held it out towards the younger man.
'Chris! Chris, you have to put it on! You have to put it on or he'll get you!'
Chris looked down, kicking some street rubbish with his toe.
'Who'll get me Boss?'
God why did Chris have to be so thick!
'The sniper, the one who hurt you!'
Chris tilted his head, looking at him.
'Sure of that?'
Chris looked down at his shirt, watching the spreading red stain on it.
'Flamin' heck, that's another shirt ruined.' he said, sighing. ' Mum just washed this.'
He broke into a coughing fit, mouth over his hand, hacking and spiting, something heavy falling onto his palm. He held his hand out to Sam.
'You'll need this.'
Sam looked down into the hand to see-
He woke to darkness. He must have been sleeping for some time now. Rubbing his eyes, he got up and walked through the sparsely manned/peopled CID to stagger on back to his apartment. Maybe he could get some work done there, where he wouldn't be forced to sleep at gunpoint.
Sam took a sip of his water, then let the glass dangle from one hand as he looked through the reports, sitting cross-legged on the manky rug of his flat. He was dying for a beer. But if he had one beer, he'd have two beers, and then three beers, and then he'd be waking up with a funny taste in his mouth and a headache and no closer to an answer. Sighing, he picked up the report.
'Ballistics report: bullet fragments show that the gun was probably a .303 British,' he murmured to himself, talking the problem through. 'Probably used for hunting. The bullet hit the newspaper box from the top upper left corner, indicating that the sniper fired from an extreme angle. No surprise there.'
He sighed, putting down the paper and running a hand through his hair. He thought idly about the dream he'd had. It was like Chris was trying to tell him something. There'd been something in his hand. Something shiny and heavy...the bullet?
Running a hand through his hair, he reached out to pick up the report on the bullet that had wounded Chris, the only one they'd been able to recover so far.
Just then, there was a heavy knock at the door. Sighing, he got up to answer it, wincing as his back popped, hobbling on feet that were half asleep from sitting on the floor.
He blinked as he opened it. 'Well, that's interesting.'
'What's interesting?' said Gene gruffly as he wandered into the room.
The DCI turned around, glaring at him.
Sam grinned. 'You. Knocking.'
'Look, you gonna pour me a drink, or stand there all day doing your best drippy hippie impression?'
Sam nodded, sitting down on the edge of his bed.
'So why are you here?'
'Walking by, saw your light on. These the reports?'
Sam nodded again, picking up a few folders and putting them on the bed beside him. 'Yeh.'
Gene walked over to the chair and sat down, scooping up a folder from the floor.
'Guv...why are you here?'
Gene looked up, then looked back down at the report in his hand, leafing through it.
'Pub's closed. Had to go somewhere, didn't I?' He looked at his DI, daring him to say something. Looking away, Sam picked up another folder, looking through it. They sat there in silence, leafing through the papers quietly.
It was 6:45 when Sam remembered Chris's bullet. Looking under the snowfall of papers on the floor, he finally found it.
Leafing through it, he could feel his eyebrows drawing together.
'Hmm?' Gene looked up from where he'd been half dozing over the mess of papers and files in his lap.
Sam made his way over to him, stepping gingerly over the precious forms.
'Does this mean anything to you?' he said, pointing to the paper.
Frowning slightly, Gene grabbed at the sheet, looking at the spot Sam had been pointing at.
'Traces of grease...' He rubbed his jaw thoughtfully.
'Sounds like someone's been reading Kipper.'
'Kipling Guv. Yeah, something about grease, drippings or bacon grease being used by the English army at one point.'
Gene nodded. 'Well bully for you sunshine, but let me point out to you, that that was just a rumour spreading around the Kings army in the 1800's. No real soldier'd do a fry up with his ammo.'
Sam stood up, pointing at the Guv excitedly.
'Exactly! Which means, whoever has this gun-'
'They're a civilian!'
'Yeh, with access to guns.'
'Well now, this is something we can get on top of Sammy boy! Come on, lets get into the office, tell the others about it.'
The two of them burst through the doors of CID, eyes alight with triumph. The team was gathered around a large cardboard box.
'What is it, what's that?'
Annie turned to them, looking like she'd rather be anywhere else at the moment.
'It's the bulletproof vests sirs...' she trailed off, not saying anymore. The DI and DCI drew closer. Slowly, they all looked down into the box. Further and further. There was one Kevlar vest, sitting clean and bright right in the middle.
'Oh brilliant!' Gene muttered sourly. 'Let's all rip off a piece, maybe we can all wear it over our tallywacker.'
Sam covered his eyes with his hands, then straightened up.
'Never mind that, never mind! Let's concentrate on our lead. Seems our sniper is a civilian: What kind of person has can get ahold of guns?'
'Er, someone who works in a museum?'
'Someone who goes hunting?'
'Oh right, because we've got so many ruddy deer in Manchester, don't we Raymondo?'
'What about from the war?'
Gene and Sam turned to look at Phyllis.
'Lot's of memento's and the like, leftover from the war. Let's just look in the arrest records, see if any of 'em got Dads from National service an the like.'
They continued to stare at her, making her quite flustered.
'Well it's a place to start anyway.'
Almost quicker then the eye could see, the DI rushed towards the desk sergeant, and gathered her crushing bear hug.
'That's brilliant!' he said, unable to stop grinning.
'Gerrof you! I don't know where you've been!' Phyllis exclaimed, pushing Sam away.
'That's brilliant that is desk sergeant!' Gene exclaimed, giving Phyllis a peck on the cheek, making her blush bright red. 'I ought to give you a raise! Come on you lot, chop chop, you heard the lady!'
With a lead to finally follow, the CID was busier then the Railway Arms on football night. It only took the work of an hour (half an hour of searching, another half of cross-referencing) to find several likely candidates, but the most likely of them all was Tommy Hastings, charged with threatening an elderly woman with a gun as well as verbal assault. His words had been: "Shut up you silly old cow, or my Dad'll put your eyes out with his bayonet!" Cross referencing revealed that his dad, Nicolas Hastings, had been in the National Service. And had received sniper training. Sam snatched up the number for the house before anyone else could get it.
'Yes, hello? Who is this?'
'Dora Hastings love, who'm I talkin' too?'
'This is DI Sam Tyler, I was just wondering if your son was home?'
'Oh no dearie, he's out.'
The breath went out of him, as if he'd just been sucker punched by his DCI.
'Out? For how long?'
'About a day an a half now, but that's just his way. Probably gone to the same place he always goes.'
'Where would that be Mrs. Hastings?'
'You do ask a lot of questions, don't you Inspector?'
He tried to hold his impatience in check.
'Sorry about that. One of the hazards of the job, I'm always asking questions.'
He gave a dry little chuckle that sounded very thin to his ears.
'Where does your son go?'
'I don't see why it's so important...' she said, doubtfully.
'Your son has crucial evidence in a murder investigation Mrs. Hastings. It is beyond important that we get ahold of him as soon as humanly possible.'
'Well, I expect you can find him down at the Town Hall. He's always loved it there, said it reminded him of his father, God rest him.'
The Cortina speed through the streets at high velocity, going so fast that Sam was sure they'd broken the landspeed record. Now that they had the whereabouts and identity of the sniper, they weren't wasting any more time. Pulling up to the building, Sam held out a hand in caution.
'Hold up Guv.'
Checking the number of bullets in his pistol, Gene nodded. 'You've got 30 seconds Tyler, then I'm going in.'
'Right. Uh, look. Let me talk to him-'
'Talk to him! Bloody talk to him! That's not going to get us nowt is it? We should bloody kill 'em before he shoots any other poor bastards, and let me just remind you, he put one of our own in the hospital!'
'Guv, I've studied situations like this. I know how he thinks, what can make him go off. I can reason with him.'
'Oh right Dorothy, because reasoning with gunmen's a strength of yours, isn't it?'
'Come on, just give me ten minutes, that's all I'm asking. Let me try to resolve this peaceably.'
Leather creaked as the gloved hands tightened over the revolver. Looking sideways, Sam could see Gene's face hardening.
'Give you eight. More then he deserves anyway.'
Nodding, Sam got out the door, walking cautiously up the back steps to the Manchester Town Hall.
'A maniac holed up in a bell tower, how clichéd can you get?' Sam muttered to himself as he quietly and quickly made his way through the deserted Town Hall.
Mostly deserted, he corrected himself, as he came upon the body of a young woman. He nearly stopped to check her pulse, but forced himself to keep going.
'Further in and further up.' he quoted morosely to himself as he held his gun in front of him. Wouldn't be the first time he'd wondered if he'd fallen through the wardrobe. Licking his lips, he climbed up the stairs as quietly as he could, rounding a corner only to be confronted with young man with a rifle.
Slowly, he raised his hands.
'Tommy Hastings? Or do you prefer Thomas?'
The lad looked at him with a sneer.
' How about "sir". That's what they called my Dad when he was in the service.'
Sam nodded at the gun.
'Is that his?'
'Yeah. S'what he used in Belfast, on those Northern paddy bastards. Not that he got any thanks for it.'
'How do you know?'
The boys face tightened and he held the rifle more firmly.
'Found 'is journal. Those bastards made him join, then treated him like garbage when he came home. But they're the ones who trained him! Made him a sharpshooter!'
The DI took a cautious step forward.
'And that's why you're here? For revenge?
'For justice! You should know that, be'in a copper. Yeh, I know who you are DI Tyler. Saw you an' your boss in the paper. You two did well there, savin' all them reporters. But you should never try to sneak up on a man in tower, especially when you're such a bad driver. Heard them tires screetchin' miles away.'
'I guess you're right sir, I'm not as clever as I thought I was.'
Tommy smiled rather smugly.
'Too right. Can't outsmart me copper. I've read every trick in the book.'
'I'm sure you have.'
Sam eyes widened at the sound of the Guv's voice behind him, and he swung around, just as Gene fired three shots into the sniper.
'No!' he shouted, but it was too late. Tommy Hastings was dead even before he hit the ground. Shocked, he could only stand there as his DCI walked calmly over to the corpse.
'That was for calling me a bad driver, you little shite.'
'You didn't have to do that!'
The Guv turned to look at him coldly.
'You don't shoot a copper and walk away from it.'
'I was getting through to him, he was listening! You shot him in cold blood! What kind of justice is that?!'
Gene just stared at him as he holstered his gun.
'The best kind.'
Turning, he left the tower, leaving Sam staring in disbelief at the blood and meat that used to be a person.
Sam smiled wanly as he sat down in the plastic hospital chair. He patted the hand above the blanket.
'Just wanted to let you know, you were a great help to the case.'
The DC muttered in his sleep, moving slightly. Sam pulled back, but he didn't wake up. He sighed, running his hands through his hair.
'Thing is....I don't know sometimes why I'm here. If it's for a reason, does that mean I'm supposed to see these things? Because I don't know if I'm going to come out all there, you know. I feel like...like got fingerprints all over my soul Chris. And, and they're never coming off.'
Taking in a breath, he wiped his eyes. 'Sorry. Didn't mean to get so weepy eyed on you. Um, I brought you something.'
Carefully, he pulled out the vest and placed it gently over Chris's legs.
'I'm not sure what happened, why you got shot. Maybe it was my fault, maybe it wasn't. But I don't want it ever to happen again.'
Gently he patted his DC's hand, and felt it move slightly.
But the younger man didn't answer him, still stuck in a restless doze. Sitting, back in his chair, Sam stared out the window, looking at the play of the sunlight on the leaves, letting his mind drift away, however briefly, from the events of the past two days, and how he might have made it better.