Since that night of Keats saving Chris’s arse, it’s been OK. Really OK. Nothing to worry about at all. There’s been a case they’ve been keeping an eye on for the last three months, and it finally looks like it’s coming to a head. Porn distribution network, and he’s going to take it down in one fell swoop. Count in the normal tossers and scumbags, and he’s got enough going on to push things to the back of his mind.
‘This is official. DCI Litton’s sharing this office until further notice.’
He gets out of bed every morning, and thinks about the job. Nothing else. It’s the only thing he wants to focus on at the moment, because that’s the easiest way to maintain this state of everything being…OK. OK is good. He is fine with OK. It means she isn’t asking awkward questions, and there’s even a glimmer or two of the old banter back, every now and again.
‘Glad someone down ‘ere’s still got the bollocks.’
He shaves every morning, like usual. Brushes his teeth. Looks at himself in the mirror on his bathroom cabinet, and allows himself to wonder, briefly, what’s going on with his hair. It’s like someone’s coming in every night, and putting highlights in or whatever they’re called. He hasn’t been this blonde since he was a teenager. Must be his version of going grey. It’s OK. Better than looking old. And who could blame him for prematurely aging? Keats has become part of the furniture around the office, but it doesn’t stop him being a massive pain in the arse. It’s not like anyone can forget what he’s been saying. It’s not like the threat is any less.
‘Where did you find this one, Genie? We’d fit up three tossers before breakfast back in our day, darlin’.’
‘Still is my day, Litton.’
And then, of course there’s Litton. DCI Twathead Litton, who shows up looking for some past-it old comic called Frank Hardwick, who disappeared from Manchester after nicking the Police Widow’s Collection last week. Two grand, apparently, which automatically makes him Scumbag #1.
It’s bollocks, of course. Litton wouldn’t show up down here looking for a fat old has-been, no matter what he did. Not unless there was something else going on. Not unless…
…he doesn’t know what. It’s OK. He’s got Bevan with him, but that’s OK too. The A-Team’ll solve Twathead’s case for him, and shove him back up north as soon as humanly possible, and that’ll be the end of it.
‘Oh, Geno, the least I expected was a race. First one to find Hardwick gets a barrel of beer? What’s happened to you?’
What’s happened to him?
Good bloody question.
~ ~ ~
‘I want to nail these cavemen just as much as you do. Just not in a way that makes us as bad as them.’
‘Well, I’ll see ya later, then.’
All it ever takes to throw things off is one case they disagree on. When they’re working on something together, it’s fine. Even now. But back in the day - last year – when they’d argue about something, it’d be fun, in an infuriating kind of way. Now it feels like a knife slipping between his ribs. Every time she walks away with her shoulders set in righteous anger, he wonders what she’s going to do. Back to her files, back to her desk drawer full of Sam’s things? They won’t help her, of course. She hasn’t got that yet, but she will.
~ ~ ~
Hardwick’s not that hard to find. He likes the knocking shops, and Gene’s made sure to treat all the prozzie’s right in recent years. No one knows the scum of the earth like the streetwalkers of London, and if you give them a hot cup of tea and a fag, most of them’ll remember something. Bolly was right, back when she first showed up here. They deserve his protection, just like everyone else. They’ve been getting it too, and it’s been standing him in good stead. Gene Hunt, protector of prostitutes. Who would’ve seen that coming?
Of course, there are still ones like Gloria, with gobs bigger than their bra size. She’s all talk though. He knows she’ll help him out – not like she hasn’t before, in a few different ways. And hey presto, one Frankie Hardwick, about to be fitted up nicely for the possession and distribution of premium filth. Pin something big on the bastard, he’s willing to bet the twat’ll squeal nicely on the real reason Litton’s got a lob-on for him. Simple.
She’ll moan about it, of course. But she wasn’t around back in the day. The real day. When he was someone no one would mess with. When he didn’t get shit thrown at him from the press, and the Commissioner, and people like Keats. When his team would listen to him without question, and do as they were told.
Of course, Sam never listened much, but that was different, wasn’t it? Sam wasn’t like the others, just like Alex isn’t. Thorns in his side. The two who can’t just seem to lie down, and accept that he’s the boss and just…let things be.
…he shouldn’t be surprised when she walks in to ruin his arrest of Hardwick. He watches her approach, and yes, he’s pissed off. But there’s nothing surprising about it. Just another example of her not listening. The woman will, Never. Bloody. Listen.
What is surprising is that someone tries to kill Hardwick. It’s obviously the real heart of the matter. The bloke’s done something worth having him silenced for, but there doesn’t seem to be a single lead. No fingerprints, no weapon, no witnesses. The bloke’s unhurt – more than can be said for the poor dickhead who caught the bullet for him – but not willing to co-operate. And Litton’s refusing to piss off. Which means Bevan’s not going anywhere either, and that…no, it’s OK.
All he has to do is not think about it, and it’ll be OK.
‘If I were talkin’ to the old Gene Hunt, I might have a little quake in me boots right now.
But I come down here, an’ you’re surrounded by halfwits, an’ Girl Guides who don’ take orders...’
See, Bolly? He’d like to point out to her sometime, that that’s what happens when she undermines him in public. But truth is, it doesn’t bother him all that much anymore. He doesn’t like it, but she’s proved herself enough times now. He trusts her, is the thing. He’ll take her word, and instinct, over Twatface Litton any day of the week. So let the bastard gloat, and they’ll carry on and crack it anyway.
…Jesus, what has happened to him? It’s bloody Tyler’s doing, all of it. The man shows him a better way to police; why couldn’t he be too stupid to listen, or get it? He could be like Litton is now, all full of shite and fitting up whomever he wants to get a result. That was him, for Chris’ sakes. But then it all changed, and it can’t change back. And then she showed up, and he’s scared – terrified, really – that maybe he’s been wrong all this year. Maybe, no matter what he does, nothing will ever go back to how it was. Maybe she’ll never come back to him. Maybe they’ll all follow Keats.
(‘I know what you did.’)
He can’t think about it. He can’t do anything but crack the case. And avoid Bevan. He needs to avoid Bevan.
(‘Three years ago.’)
~ ~ ~
‘I know this might sound daft, but…’
‘Well, come on, spit it out, Ray.’
‘…I think Jeff Bevan tried to shoot Frank Hardwick.’
Funny thing about teams. Just when you think Ray’s buggered off to help his old mates, and Bolly’s making it her personal mission to show him up in front of the old crew, they get a common enemy. And just like that, it all clicks back into place.
It seems that back home, things haven’t moved on the way they have here. Hardwick coughs what he knows. A bunch of coppers, extorting protection money from pimps and drug dealers. And last week, he didn’t nick the Police Widow’s Fund at all. He witnessed Jeff Bevan kicking a kid to death round the back of a pub. No wonder the bloke tried to shoot him.
It’s strange though. It feels strange. All this going on on Litton’s patch. He must know about it.
He sits in his living room in the dark, twirling a glass of Scotch between his fingers. Hardwick’s terrified, no doubt about it. And what he knows about Bevan is…well, his gut is telling him that Bevan would do this, no problem. But Litton? OK, he’s never liked the bloke. Served eight years on the same manor, and there was never anything but rivalry between them. He remembers that brawl in CID like it was yesterday, mainly because it was the first time Sam really felt part of the team. They’d scrapped, and broke stuff over Litton’s squad and then, at the end, he and Sam, turning together and double-punching Litton square in the face. Knocked him clean out for about half an hour. A glorious moment.
He closes his eyes. What does it feel like now? Litton was Regional Crime Squad, and now he’s got the Queen’s Medal. Wears it inside his coat, the bloody poofter. Bent as…well, bent as he was. Bent as they all were, apart from Sam. ‘We’d fit up three tossers before breakfast back in our day’ – but that’s the point, isn’t it? They fitted up tossers. Never anyone who didn’t deserve it. So, has Litton crossed the line? Has he gone the way of Harry Woolf, and SuperMac? Is he protecting the scum he should be arresting?
Impossible to know. Nothing’s clear any more. Part of him would love to say yes, and lock the bastard up. He’d enjoy gloating, for about five minutes.
Except that’s a really big lie. Because much as he hates Litton – and he does; the bloke’s a complete wanker – he doesn’t want him to have done this. The man’s a copper, just like him. He just never had someone like Sam to come and put him on the straight and narrow. Not that he’d listen to him if he did. But that’s not the point. There but for the grace of God…he’d thought it after SuperMac, and he thinks it now.
Whether or not Litton’s the problem, can wait. Bevan definitely is. And in more ways than one.
~ ~ ~
‘You must’ve crapped yourself when I walked back into your life.’
So, this is how it’s going to be. Bevan always did like to wear that smirk, and it's as annoying as ever. ‘On the contrary. Always nice to see an old face.’
‘Ohhh. Weren’t so cocky three years ago. Day Sam Tyler disappeared.’
He won’t give him the satisfaction. He leans back in his chair, fingers interlocked. Swings lightly from side to side. All mates here. ‘Y’know, there’s a line. You don’t cross it.’
‘And where was that line with Sam Tyler?’
Bevan leans in, like he’s trying to intimidate him. On one level, it’s laughable.
On another, it’s working.
‘If you lot are up to something naughty…I’d think twice.’
He can't say anything. But it’s OK. He wouldn’t, even if he could. Bevan seems to have said his piece, except for one final shot as he leaves.
‘Cop solidarity. We’d be nothin’ without that. Would we, Geno?’
He looks up to meet his eyes. Swings lightly from side to side. Inside his chest, a cold hand grips his heart, but he’ll be buggered if he’s going to show that to this man.
Drake’s on the other side of the door when it opens.
‘Is everything alright?’ she says, with words loaded so full they could bury a man. And how to answer? It’s not like he can tell her anything.
‘Everything’s fine, Bols.’
He picks up a pen, and pretends to get back to work. It’s the only thing he can do, because she’s walking away, and not back to her desk. He knows she’s going after Bevan, and he can’t deny the fear. Persistent cow that she is, who knows what she might turn up?
He heads for her desk. She’s bloody locked it. But it’s not a problem. He just waits until everyone’s cleared out for the day, and breaks the thing open with his crowbar. Needs must. He needs that thing out of here. Get rid of it, maybe she’ll get the message. And he can’t have it near any more. He’s sick of dreaming about the damn thing, if he’s honest.
Parts of Sam’s file are blacked out. He doesn’t need to look through all of it to see it’s there. He rather not have that face looking at him from the photo, either. That face he wore at the beginning, all sour and puckered, like he’d do anything not to be there. Same as she had, when she first turfed up in his kingdom. He prefers to think of Sam as he was later, when he grinned fit to burst after an arrest, or got all stupid when he was pissed. And he doesn’t want to read what’s in there about his best mate’s death. The whole thing makes him sick, and…it wasn’t the way it should be. None of this is the way it should be, and it’s only getting worse. Better to be rid of it altogether.
He tells himself he feels nothing as he tosses it into the flames. He doesn’t need a file to remember his mate, and she doesn’t need a file to tell her
(‘I know what you did.’)
anything at all.
She catches him tossing the jacket. It’s not like he was being discreet.
‘What the hell are you doing!?’
‘Just leave it, Bolly.’
‘It’s evidence, Guv, you can’t do that.’
‘Forget it. It’s a dead man’s jacket.’
‘What are you hiding?’
She’s not hiding that note of fear in her voice. Like she doesn’t understand anything. She would, if she’d just stop and think.
‘Please tell me. Sam Tyler…what was he? Was he like me? Was he trying to get back somewhere?’
She steps in a bit, but he just watches the flames.
‘Guv, what is going on in there that you can’t tell me?’
That’s the point, isn’t it? He can’t tell her.
‘Whatever it is you think you’re lookin’ for…forget it. Doesn’t exist.’
He needs her to listen so badly, and he already knows she won’t. Because she doesn’t trust him enough. Because she listens to Bevan, and Keats, and won’t leave well enough alone. Because somewhere along the line they lost what they had, and he doesn’t know how to get it back.
‘Sometimes you just have to take a leap of faith.’
Sam took a leap of faith. But Alex isn’t Sam, and for the first time, he isn’t sure they’ve got enough time left to change that.
~ ~ ~
Litton isn’t bent. Any more bent than usual, that is. It’s all Bevan. Now they have to work with the slimy little bastard, and his Next For Men loafers. It’s all set up. They’ll nab Bevan trying to get at Hardwick at the Police Gala tonight. No way he won’t show up to get him, and when he does, they’ll be waiting. Cop solidarity. They’d be nothing without it, would they?
All night, he carries a ball of tension around, like a cannonball in his gut. He tells himself it’s nothing new. Every copper gets nervous before an operation, it’s how you know you’re alive. The place is full of coppers, dark, full of smoke. It doesn’t feel real.
‘No sign of Bevan?’
Maybe it’s just working with Litton for once, instead of against him.
‘You’d never admit it, but you have changed, Geno. First Tyler, now DI Drake, eh? They’ve rubbed off on you.’
Yeah well, what if they have? He’s not the one running a division full of bent officers. If they’ve changed him, it’s only for the better, and he’s alright with that.
~ ~ ~
‘I’ve decided to trust you.’
‘Good! Then we can get on with the task in hand.’
He sounds like he always does, he knows. Brusque, and matter-of-fact. But he knows she won’t leave it at that, because she never does. And when he thinks about all this, he can see the shape of how this is going. Just a shape. A dark cloud, somewhere on a horizon he doesn’t want to look at.
‘But there is one thing I want.’
‘Thought that was too easy.’
The ball in his gut tightens. Show time.
‘Look me in the eye, and say it. Say you had nothing to do with Sam Tyler’s death.’
He looks her in the eye. This is trusting him, is it?
‘I haven’t got time for this, Bolly.’
‘Just tell me.’
And that’s what scares him. He can look her in the eye, but he can’t lie to her. He cares too much for that.
He can’t tell her he didn’t.
Chris gives him his reprieve. Bevan’s here. They catch him with a gun to Hardwick’s head, but nothing can be a simple arrest these days.
‘You murderin’ bastard!’ is what he says, and Bevan just smirks.
‘An’ when did you grow wings and a halo? Shall we tell her, Gene? Tell her why you got me to falsify evidence at a crime scene? What were you coverin’ up about your mate, Sam Tyler?’
He cuts his eyes left, but he can’t see her. He can feel her looking, though.
‘Go on! Tell her what you did to him. And you call me a murderin’ bastard. Nah. The only difference between us is that you got away with it.’
He raises his gun. He has to shut him up. He has to shut up. But Bevan shoots Hardwick, and runs. There’s nothing he can do, but chase. If the bloke’s talking, he has to stop him.
It’s raining in the alley out the back. The neon on the wall flickers, lighting up Bevan standing with his hands in the air. Ray and Chris have their guns trained on him. He hears Ray telling him to kick his weapon over. It’s on the ground in front of him.
He doesn’t think. Later, he might try and tell himself he would never have shot if the bloke hadn’t gone for another gun in his pocket. But it’s not true. He has to shut him up. He’s not trying to kill him, just to get him to keep his mouth closed for a minute.
Bevan takes the bullet in the shoulder, and goes down hard. It’s enough. He ignores the stares of Ray and Chris as he sweeps past. Because he knows what he has to say, now. He can tell him, and that’ll keep him quiet for good.
‘You want the truth, Bevan?’
The bloke looks stunned as he kneels over him. But only until he starts speaking. Only until the words hit home. Then he starts to jerk, stifling the scream, and he knows he’s done enough.
He walks back up the alley, ignoring Ray, ignoring Chris, ignoring Alex as she runs past. In the background, he hears, what is it? What did he say to you? and now Bevan does cry out, get away! Get away from me! but it’s all very far away, behind the wall of truth that’s already fading. He knew it. It was all clear. And now it melts with every step he takes, and he should be afraid, or worried, or something but he feels nothing but calm.
‘What did you say to him? What did you say!?’
She’s looking up at him from the street like he has the answer to it all. In this light, her face is open, but her tone is demanding. She still thinks she needs to know. Still no leap of faith.
‘I told him the truth.’
He wouldn’t tell her if he could. But he can’t, anyway. He reaches for it and it’s gone, mist through his fingers.
‘City are gonna cane United next season.’
~ ~ ~
‘Right, well. I will say goodbye.’
‘Oh no you don’t. Not yet.’ He hands the bloke a drink. ‘Not many of us left, Litton. The good ol’ days.’
He clinks his glass to his, they drink and it’s OK. The bloke’s a copper, no matter how much a twat. ‘Right, now bugger off back to Manchester.’
He catches Bolly’s little smile. It’s the last one for a bit. Because that’s when Keats swoops in, and arrests Litton. For ‘failing to prevent criminal acts perpetrated by your own officer’.
‘He’s got twenty-five years’ service. He’s innocent! I mean, he’s a prat, but he’s an innocent prat.’
Nothing he can say will make a difference. It’s ‘procedure’, and wouldn’t Keats just be the sort to put it into play? Because it isn’t like the good old days, when they sorted everything out themselves. That’s the real truth, isn’t it? This is a whole new world, and it doesn’t belong to them anymore.
‘I’ll be alright, kid.’
But he won’t. Not if Keats has got him. He knows it like he knows his own name. And it’s not even the worst part.
Some small, selfish part of his brain thinks good. Not because of what’s happening to Litton. But because Keats has shown what he’s like, now. Even Sam, prissy, by-the-book Sam, would have something to say about an officer with Litton’s service being dragged away like this. Even he wouldn’t approve. In front of everyone, Keats has shown part of his hand, and now they can all get a clue.
He looks the bastard up and down with all the contempt he can muster. He’s not worth trying to talk to. He just walks into his office, and slams the door. Kicks the chair.
And then looks up, to see Alex standing by the door of CID. With him. She’s looking down the room; they lock eyes, and that’s not trust in her face. That’s not someone who’ll stand by him, just because he asked her to. That’s someone who looks resolute, and is leaving with the bastard who’s trying to destroy his world.
He holds her eyes for as long as she’ll let him. But then she looks away, and she’s gone. With him.
For the briefest second, he acknowledges the way his insides shrivel up, and drop into his boots. And then he picks up his bottle, and that’s that.
The black cloud on the horizon is starting to take shape. All this time, he was worried about losing Ray, and Chris, and Shaz. But it’s not them he should have worried about, is it? He should have worried about the one person he thought he’d never lose. And now it’s just about too late.