He’s aware of his hands tightening on the wheel as he drives. Up until now, he’s had only three things on his mind; Alex, finding Jeanette and fixing this. Since the meeting with the Commissioner he’d known that this was a possibility but it was the kind of possibility that you don’t really believe in, like Man. City suddenly returning to form to win the First Division this year or something like that. Now it’s startlingly real and he tries to get his head around it as he squeals around the streets; I’m running away.
Gene Hunt does not run.
...Gene Hunt has no ruddy choice, unless he wants to be banged up for attempted murder.
First things first. He has to get rid of the car. The Quattro’s hardly inconspicuous and as soon as they find out he’s not at home, they’ll be looking for it. He’s got a radio with him but he knows he can’t rely on accurate information from it, not if they suspect he’s got one.
There’s a long-term garage not far from his house. The booth at the front is manned by a half-asleep lanky git, who could do with washing his hair. Gene refrains from telling him so and ignores the popping of his gum.
‘How long you wan’ her in for?’
Good question. He wants to say a week.
The man doesn’t look phased – this is London, lots of people spend half the year away – but he does look Gene over. He doesn’t look like most of the yuppie scum in this city.
‘Cash or cheque?’
‘Cash. An’ call me a taxi, would you?’
Cash and a false name. He takes his bag out of the boot and stands a moment, looking her over in case he never gets to see her again. But there’s no time to worry about it. He’s on a tight schedule here.
~ ~ ~
He supposes this is a stupid idea but it feels right, so he goes with it. His gut instinct so rarely lets him down. And anyway, even more than he’d like to admit, Alex’s condition isn’t bothering him just because it’s about clearing his name. Far from it. But he can’t think about it. Now is not the time.
Her flat feels dead, like flats do when there’s no one to live in them. His heart has started to race in his chest and he stands in the kitchen, looking around, not sure why he’s here. He feels like there should be something to help him but he doesn’t know what. It’s only been four or five days but dust is starting to settle. Nothing’s been touched. He’ll have to be careful of fingerprints.
The radio in his coat pocket crackles into life, scaring the hell out of him as it breaks the silence.
“...APW: ...CI Hunt, Red Audi Quattro, Juliet Lima Yankee...”
He breaks out into a cold sweat. Shit.
“...blonde hair, blue eyes, Manchester accent...”
What the hell happened to sorting this stuff out themselves? That’s how it’s done. But not this time apparently; an all-points-warning means they’ll be on the lookout for him at every damn exit point off this island. He has to get out of here, but he can’t. He has to...there’s a reason he’s here. He’s just not sure what it is.
The blue scarf he gave her last Christmas hangs by the door. He picks it up and runs it between his fingers. It’s so soft, which is why he chose it. And she wears it all the time so he assumes she liked it, though she never says so. Was it really less than a year ago that he gave her this?
He puts it in his pocket. Just to keep it safe for her. Something to give back to her later. And he moves into the living room, searching for...something. Anything.
There are tapes in a box on the sideboard. Tapes and her voice recorder, presumably the one she used to make that tape about him. So maybe there are answers in there? Or maybe it’d just make things worse. He stares at them, indecisive. He doesn’t have time to wait and he doesn’t need the extra baggage. But if they hold something about this case then they might be useful, right?
...on the other hand, if he’s going to hear more stuff that shows him how wrong he’s been about her for the last year, he could really do without it. But there’s only one way to find out. He rewinds briefly and hits play.
...a beast of a man, but God help me, he's -- he's so -- he drives me insane. He stands too close, and I just -- I don't want to be strong any more. I don't need to be strong. He is my rock. And I don't want to leave him, but I haven't any choice in the matter.
I'm so sorry, you have to know that I'm trying to get back to you. That I won't give up until the bitter end...
He clicks it off, and breathes.
For a long moment, he just stands there. His finger hovers over the ‘play’ button and he almost hits it. But he’s aware that there isn’t time and...and nothing. There’s truth on these tapes. He can hear it in her voice. He can’t ignore that, no matter how difficult it might be, no matter what he might find out. So he picks them up and feels like that’s enough, it’s time to go. He is, after all, standing about a hundred yards from a police station full of coppers who’ve been ordered to arrest him.
My police station. My bloody coppers.
~ ~ ~
One last thing. One last stupid, desperate, roll of the dice. Possibly this is the most ridiculous idea of them all but he can no more avoid it than forget his own name. He feels like he’s running now, desperation in his chest making his breath come hard and fast, the lack of sleep over the last few days weighing down his legs like he has sandbags tied to his ankles. The hospital is busiest around the A&E department so that’s where he goes in, regardless of the amount of plod usually in there, talking to kids who’ve got pissed up and started a fight. Luck’s on his side for once, there’s been some kind of big car accident or something and no one gives him a second look as he slips through the doors that lead to the lifts, and the ward where Alex lies.
He has to wait ten minutes for the nurses to bugger off away from their station. The collar on his shirt seems to be cutting off his airway, never mind that the top button isn’t fastened. It’s suffocatingly hot in his coat but he doesn’t want to have to carry it so he leaves it on. Eventually, the corridor is clear and he slides onto her ward, pulling the curtains around them immediately.
She looks...bad. She looks white and drawn and...not at all like she’s about to wake up and clear his name. Not at all like she’s going to come back to him.
‘Listen, I dunno if you can hear me, the nurses are gonna be back in a minute – I need you to wake up.’
He’s aware of how desperate he sounds and doesn’t care.
‘What abou’ if I..I..I gave you a slap, would that help?’
He doesn’t give her a slap. He does touch her face, just briefly. Leans down to make sure she’s still breathing.
‘They think that I shot ya. I mean, I did shoot ya but they think that I shot ya. They’re after me, Bollykecks. I am on the ruddy lam ‘ere.’
Christ. He really is. He’s on the run.
He swallows and tries again.
‘I need you to wake up. C’mon, snap outta that coma.’
And help me. You always do. C’mon, Alex...
...nothing, and he’s aware that he’s starting to shout. But he can’t stop, she has to wake up and tell them it was an accident. Has to. She’s his only hope and she’s just bloody lying there. He shouts until he hears something and pulls the curtain back to look straight into the face of a nurse. They stare at each other a moment and it’s not until she opens her mouth that he takes off, not giving her the chance to ask questions. He has to break into a run at the nurse’s station, as they’re calling Security and he almost breaks his hand on some bloke’s face as he tries to stop him on the stairs. But he makes it out and into a cab. Kings Cross never looked more welcome.
~ ~ ~
He figures they would have expected him to either head to one of the airports, or Manchester. He does neither. He takes a train south west, weighing up the sense of this as he goes. Maybe it’d be a good idea to stay in the country for a while until they relax the attention, and try to slip out then. On the other hand, he’s a bloody public figure. The media are going to be all over this. One of the Met’s DCI’s, the one who uncovered SuperMac no less, wanted on suspicion of attempted murder? There’s no way they won’t keep pushing until they get him. No, it’s safer to get out of England sharpish and regroup elsewhere.
Portsmouth is freezing and not promising at dawn on a November morning. So it’s perfect. He gets to the port at the end of the night shift when people don’t seem to be paying too much attention, pays cash for a ticket to the Isle of Wight and keeps his head down. He loses the suit and changes into jeans and a polo shirt, tries his best to look inconspicuous though it’s unnatural to him. He’s spent his whole life trying to be the biggest, loudest bastard in the room.
He watches the water as the boat sails and thinks about Alex. She’s not awake. He can feel her absence. Maybe this is what it’s like when people say they miss someone but he doesn’t think so. He used to miss his wife when she went away, back when they were young. It didn’t feel like this. This feels like how he felt after Sam...well. After Sam. Another thing he doesn’t want to think about too closely.
It only takes forty minutes to get there. A total of four hours since he left his house and here he is, a fugitive. Gene Hunt, wanted by the police. It doesn’t make sense in his head. Now that the flight is over, he finds that he doesn’t know what to do with himself. For so many years now, he’s been defined by his job, it’s what he gets up for every morning, what he works until midnight for almost every night. And now it’s just past seven on a freezing cold November morning and he has nothing to do. Clearing himself from here will be impossible. He doesn’t know anyone, has nowhere to go. There are no snouts, no lads around him to do his bidding. No cases, no work. He can’t do anything but wait.
He’s hungry. He gets breakfast. He gets on the first bus that comes along and gets off at a random town, the first one that looks big enough to have a hotel in it. There aren’t any tourists around and he pulls his collar up against the wind coming off the sea, his bag thrown over his shoulder. He could sleep, now. He could sleep and dream that she’s awake, or that she never got hit in the first place.
The room is...fine. It’s a room. It’s warm and has a bed, though rather more chintz around than he’d like. It doesn’t matter. He sits heavily and thinks about Alex. He feels...dislocated. He feels like he has a bone out of place, aching through him, only it’s in his mind and he doesn’t know what to do to fix it. He just knows he wants to hear her voice again. He wants his home back. He wants...her to wake up and call him names for shooting her, or something. Anything. Anything that would stop this being the reality of his life.
On a search for toothpaste, his hand falls upon the tape recorder he took from her flat. It’s cold in his grasp and he almost lets it go. Her words are still so clear in his head, less than a week old (‘I have to fight him...I hate this place...’); the pain of them hasn’t gone away. What would listening to it achieve? Even if she says nice things too, it doesn’t mean she can unsay the things he heard first. But it might also have something to explain about that man he shot, or how she knew about King Douglas Lane. It might give him a clue about how to get out of this mess.
It might just let him hear that accent and let him pretend, for a moment, that she’s here in the room with him.
So he rewinds to the beginning, and hits play.
~ ~ ~
He’d planned to be asleep by now. Instead he sits with his elbows on his knees, looking down at the floor with his fingers interlocked at the back of his neck. The tape fell silent twenty minutes ago and now it’s spooling out nothing, as blank as her presence in his head.
She told him she was from the future and he didn’t believe her. Of course he didn’t. It’s bollocks. But she believes it. She believes some other bloke is from the future too. She believes that the man shot himself. She covered up a murder.
If he didn’t already have a blinding headache, this would give him one. Of course, she’d told him about this ‘other’ Summers before and it doesn’t make any more sense now than it did then.
She covered up the murder of that young PC.
And she’s trying to get home to her daughter, who she thinks is in the future?
He’s so tired he can’t see straight. He can’t think. He can hardly even move. His mind feels like it’s fragmenting, the truth that he knows getting mixed with the truth she thinks she knows, leaving them nowhere. Her in a coma and him on the run, accused of trying to kill her.
He forces himself upright and runs a hand over his face, trying to make sense of it. But his brain isn’t having it, it’s just making it worse. So he eyes the rest of the tapes and then clicks ‘stop’ on the machine. They can wait. He can’t. Not now. And it’s not like he doesn’t have time to go through them, he’s got all the time in the damn world at the moment.
When he finally gets to bed, he tries to think about that murder. But when his eyes close, he finds himself hearing only three words, over and over, supplanting all others.
I’m yours, Gene.
And as it happens, it’s not such a bad thing to fall asleep to.