Gene lays the biscuit tin full of dynamite on the interview table in front of Tobias.
"Right, start talking Tobias or it's a one way ticket to Robben Island, my friend. My patience is growing thin."
Alex stood over the man, as still as a statue. Gene paced the floor around them both, a lion caged.
"I don't understand, a hole in my wall..."
"Don't take the piss. Where's the dynamite, who's it meant for?"
"There's clearly some missing, Tobias. Where is it?" Heedless of her white gown, she sits on the interview table, hands resting on her lap.
"I don't know where it is..."
"Liar." Gene cuts him off.
Chris interrupts the Guv, pleading for Tobias's sake. "Don't know if he's lying. He's said himself, there's lots of factions. He could be being set up."
"Shut up!" The Guv's voice brims with disdain at the very thought. The rage is back, in full force now. "Now you listen to me, I want answers and I want 'em now, or I'm going to hand you over to your Africano chums and they'll end up making biltong out of you."
"As I told you, the movement was starting to split. They were hothead elements who wanted to bring the struggle to the streets of London."
"What, a hothead Oliver?"
"I don't believe in violence."
"Bollocks. You stabbed a Special Branch officer to death. Now where's the rest of the bloody dynamite!?"
"I don't know!"
Keats doesn't even knock, simply opens the door to the interrogation room and ushers himself and his guest in.
"D'you mind? I'm working here!" Gene comes up short at the newcomer, a bearded middle-aged man with the look of a hyena ill-concealed behind his glasses. "Who the hell are you?"
"My name is Anders de Villiers. You've got something I want." The accent is pure Afrikaner, and there's something in his expression when he looks at Tobias that makes Alex's blood run cold.
Keats just has to get his grubby mits on the evidence. "Running around London with a box of dynamite? Bloody amateurs. Little bit more than a murder now, Gene?"
de Villiers interrupts Keats' gloating. "I'll take him now. You're coming with us."
"Oh I don't think so," Alex says.
Chris agrees. "He's our suspect. He stays here."
de Villiers laughs, eyeing the lot of them. "Got you wrapped around his little finger, ay? Yeah, he does that." He drops a heavy satchel of papers on the interview table. "How's it Joshua? How you doin' my friend? Been a long time."
His tone makes Alex's skin crawl. Cruel, and cold, hinting at a dark history between the two men.
"Would somebody please explain what the hell is going on here?"
"Ah, he likes police officers, does Joshua." He opens the satchel and lays out the photos on the table. More dead men. "These guards were just coming off duty when the bomb went off. Murdered. In cold blood."
Chris speaks up. "When was this? Joshua?"
"Ten years ago."
"Enough talk," Keats says. "He belongs to Special Branch, now."
"Guv, he won't stand a chance." It sickens her to even think of putting this man in de Villiers's custody.
"We need to find that explosive. Botha's due in two hours."
Ray sticks his head in. "Guv? A bomb's just gone off at the South African embassy."
The Quattro screams through the streets of London, and the cabin is utterly quiet. They can hear the fire brigade in the distance, and before they even park, the air reeks of smoke and chemicals.
She doesn't remember hearing about this, and it feels like she's walked off the map and into someone else's nightmares. The grand staircase of the embassy is covered with smoking plaster and broken glass. The South African flags hang in tatters from the banister, nothing more than rags draped over the antique chairs, and what remains of the chandeliers are being ground into the Oriental rug by the boots of the firemen and uniform working the scene.
It was too cold to go without a coat, and too urgent for her to go home and change. She feels utterly out of place in her white fur coat, but she had no choice.
de Villiers and Keats beat them to the scene somehow. "You people did this," de Villiers spits, his finger pointing right at the Guv. "You!"
"Where's Botha?" Alex knows he wasn't due to arrive for another hour.
"Still at Heathrow," Keats says. "He's flown straight back to South Africa."
The Guv's eyes play over the destruction. "Any fatalities?"
"One. We think she was a cleaner. Bomb went off before the timer was set. Otherwise it would have been a lot worse." Keats sounds disappointed.
"Bit amateurish for international terrorists, isn't it?" Trust Ray to shine the light on the crux of the matter.
"They were never international terrorists," she says.
"Now you bastards know what it is we're fighting! And we're fighting it for you! To stop the communists!"
Alex loses it. "Oh shut your face, you racist git!"
"I suggest we all try to keep calm."
"This never gets out," de Villiers says to Keats. "Never! If people back home thought the ANC had the power, the gall to attack the President!"
"I give you my word. We'll leak the papers a story about a gas explosion."
"I want no publicity for these bastards!" de Villiers rounds on Alex. "I want your prisoner. Now."
"No." Her answer is pure reflex.
"It's out of our league now, Bolly. He took it out of our league when he did this." Gene sounds defeated. "Tell Chris to get him ready."
"Guv." Ray turns and leaves to do just that.
"Wait." They're wheeling out a gurney, with the body of a woman under a red rescue blanket. Her face is covered. Alex picks her way through the broken glass, and pulls the blanket down. She recognises the girl instantly, and looks at Gene. "Tzitzi."
So she was right. But there's no triumph in it. This is pure tragedy, on all sides. And she can't seem to catch a break. It's all unravelling around her, and she can't see a way out.
Events are bloody conspiring against him. He should be railing about it, but there’s a curious detachment. Maybe because a bomb going off on another country’s turf is not enough to quell the promise of you’ve pulled. Maybe because he still can’t believe she said it, and meant it.
But she did. He told her the truth, and she believed him, and it’s going to be OK. The threat from Keats hasn’t gone away, and this case is rapidly spiralling out of control, but he can hang on to her words and still believe things will work out. Because if he has her, Keats can do his worst. Special Branch can have Tobias, or Joshua, or whatever the hell his name is. All that is out of their hands now, bigger than one London DCI by a country mile. But with her next to him, this place will be unbreakable.
They march back into CID, Keats still flapping his gob.
‘I don’t like it any more than you, but this is now an international incident. Not something Fenchurch East really needs at this moment.’
‘D’you know, I don’t care about your report, Keats.’
‘Oh, yes you do. That’s what all this posturing’s been about.’
He’s not wrong, sadly. And no matter what might happen later, she has to weigh in too. ‘Guv, this is bigger than a spat with Special Branch. It’s another state, it’s another country.’
‘Gene Hunt versus another country! You know, I like the sound of that.’
‘Oh, you make my job so easy.’
He’ll make it easy as he likes tonight, if it means handing Tobias off and letting him get back to Bolly’s place. He dumps his overcoat in his office, and comes out looking for Chris. He’ll fetch the bloke, send him off with Jimbo, job done.
‘Go and bring Tobias up from the cell.’
Chris does not hop to. He walks to his desk without making eye contact. And says, ‘I can’t do that.’
A knot forms in his stomach. ‘Why not?’
‘He’s not there.’
Chris is pretending to read a file. Chris has his back to him. Chris has…oh no, he can’t have…
‘What do you mean, he’s not there?’ There’s a note of anger in his tone, and he does nothing to hold it back. Alex asks him where he is, and gets a monotone ‘dunno’ in reply. Gene has a bad, bad feeling about this.
‘I realise it’s been a long night, an’ you’re not the brightest button on the planet…’
Chris turns to face him finally. Looks him in the eye as he says, ‘I let him go.’
He is speechless. Literally speechless, mouth hanging open and everything. Keats is yelling, but all he can do is stare. Ray and Shaz stand up, Alex closes in. But all he can do is stare.
‘Hang on. You let him go, although I expressly gave you orders to the contrary?’
The anger has been simmering for a long time. He’s never forgotten that night in CID, when he asked Chris to tell him he was innocent, and he couldn’t. Never forgotten the man’s tears in the interview room, his choked I’m so sorry, Guv when he’d confessed to being part of corruption that led to people dying. He’d given the kid another chance, and then had to watch for months as Keats lured him away with kindness and crumbs, and Chris let him.
And then the funeral. Chris laughed at the funeral. He’s wandered around like a thick puppy for over ten years, and now, when he needs him most, he does this.
‘Guv. He was never going to get a fair trial in South Africa. Probably no trial at all. So…’
He shrugs, and it looks a bit desperate, but he can’t think for the rage pumping through him. And Keats is on him in a second.
‘This is the ship you run, Hunt. No discipline, no loyalty, no clue!’
Even Ray can’t believe it. Alex tries to be reasonable, but no, it’s too late for that. Too late for any of it.
‘You dare to disobey me.’
‘I didn’t join the police force, Guv, to be a party to state murder.’
‘No, you joined the police force to wipe my arse, Skelton. You joined the police force because no one else would bloody have you!’
‘You released Tzitzi, Guv, because you wanted a big score. She killed the Special Branch guy. She set the bomb.’
‘Don’t you talk back to me, you useless piece of shit!’ Drake’s trying to cut in, but he can’t hear the words. ‘You don’t have an opinion, you don’t make decisions. D’you understand me!?’
‘I understand you, Guv. But I don’t happen to agree with you.’
‘What d’you mean, you don’t agree with it?’
‘I. Don’t. Agree with you. Sir.’
Keats, on his shoulder. ‘You can phone the Commissioner. You can explain to him why you’ve let a terrorist loose on the streets of London.’
He pauses, listens, but the fury burns through him again. The power’s back with Keats. No success story to quash the report. Chris has put the final nail in the coffin, and lifted the hammer high above their heads.
He turns, and punches him in the gut. And again. Then he can’t stop and they’re on the desk, over it onto the floor, Chris trying to get the upper hand as they grapple. He flips him and pins him down, fist raised, the other at his throat. But he can’t hit him again. If he does, he won’t stop. He’ll keep hitting and hitting and hitting because she was right, that’s what Gene Hunt does when he’s scared. And what’s the point? The damage has well and truly been done. He and Chris stare at each other, breathing hard until he grinds the words through his teeth.
He gets up. Chris lies for a moment, flat on his back. Then rolls up to his feet, grabs his jacket and is gone.
Gene walks to his office. Keats is leaning on the door frame, and murmurs as he walks by.
And then louder, for the benefit of the others. ‘Very impressive. Think I’ll go and finish my report.’
Then he’s gone too, and the rest of them are left reeling. He says nothing, does nothing. He just puts his hands on his desk, leans down and breathes.
Chris has always been the weak link. The impressionable one. The one with no ability to stand up for himself, to question orders, to think a single independent thought. Why now? Of all the times he could have chosen, why pick the moment the world’s teetering on the brink?
No big collar. Worse – an escaped prisoner. Every time he thinks he’s got a grip on things, someone comes and rips it away. It’s almost as if there’s a force even beyond Keats, setting them up to fail. And he’s out of answers. Unless they catch Tobias, they’ve lost this one. And there aren’t going to many more opportunities to make things right. The report’s almost finished, and so is he.
She can hear him battering the typewriter through his door. She taps twice and walks in without waiting to be invited. He's in full fury.
"This place is a disgrace! A mockery!"
"We're better than this. Sir, it's just that --"
"What do you want? I'm busy." He keeps his head down over the keys, pounding away at his precious report.
"I don't believe that Gene Hunt killed Sam Tyler."
Oh that got his attention. He looks up at her, gone still for the moment. "And how did you come to that conclusion?"
"I asked him."
His laugh makes her want to pop him one right in the gob. And he keeps laughing, taking off his glasses and pinching the bridge of his nose. But she stands and takes it, because he needs to know the truth.
"You asked him."
"Yes. And I believe him."
"And what about the evidence? The falsified murder scene? The falsified police reports? The destroyed evidence? The photographs? The grave?"
"We don't have a grave."
He just looks at her like she's thick.
"Close your door on the way out."
"I work with him. I have to believe him."
"He's polluted you. Just like the others."
"No." She shakes her head and gives him a tight-lipped grin. "No he hasn't."
"You disappoint me Alex. Now get on." He puts his glasses back on and gets back to typing.
It may be petty, but she lets her displeasure be known by how hard she closes the door behind her.
He had stayed leaning on his desk for a long time. Eventually, he had to move. Luigi’s is the only place to go, but the remains of the team make a sorry group. Ray and Shaz sit on their own. Bolly’s upstairs, changing. He stands at the bar with a brandy, staring at nothing, until she comes over.
‘Every police officer in London has got Tobias’s description. Every port, airport, has been alerted.’
Fine. It wouldn’t be accurate to say he doesn’t care, exactly. But the damage has been done with the case, and won’t be fixed. His mind is more on them, his team.
‘Pam Ayers was right. Things fall apart.’
He looks over at Ray and Shaz. She follows his gaze, and when she speaks it almost sounds like she’s smiling. ‘They’ll be OK.’
He’d like her confidence. ‘If I can’t look after me own, then I’m nothin’. Viv, now Chris.’
He just looks at her. Yeah, Sam too.
‘Y’know, Keats….Keats thinks you murdered him. He’s never going to give up.’
He knows he does. And it’s ridiculous. He could never murder one of his lads, and anyone who thinks he could…well, that’s what’s been hurting, isn’t it? That she actually wondered if he did.
He’s been honest with her once tonight, and it did OK. So, once more. And if it exposes more than it has in the past, so what? This is the final chapter.
‘I don’t care what Jim Keats thinks. I care what you think. And if you don’t believe me, what’s the point?’
What is the point? Them, is the point. All of them, his team. They were supposed to be unbreakable.
He gets another brandy and wanders over to Shaz and Ray, because he can’t let them stew and make it worse. Chris’s ex-fiancée, and Chris’s best mate.
‘What’s in the glass, Shaz?’
‘Good God, an’ you want to be in CID?’
‘I’m not sure that I do, anymore.’
It makes him bristle a little bit, but he does have to explain. If they could understand, then maybe he can save this. ‘He went against orders.’
‘You’ve been riding him for months, humiliating him.’
Even Ray. ‘You have been tough on him, Guv.’
And then…Chris. ‘It won’t happen again.’
He turns. They all turn. Chris looks different, standing tall and resolute, with quiet steel in his voice.
‘You’re the best DCI I’ve ever met, and I’ve been proud to work under you. But I’m not gonna be your doormat any more, Guv. Those days have gone.’
He puts his drink down. The place has fallen silent – and there’s a warm feeling in his chest. Something that feels like…pride. He can’t help the tiniest of smiles when he faces the lad again.
‘Are they now?’
‘Buy me a drink, and we’ll say no more about it.’
Chris offers his hand, and Gene doesn’t hesitate.
‘Luigi, get Mr Skelton a drink.’
They’re all watching. The hand is still there. And he takes it, but it’s not enough. Chris has finally stood up to be counted, and by doing that he’s made the team whole again. A handshake isn’t nearly enough.
They pull each other into a hug. Gene Hunt does not hug blokes, unless he’s at the footy, but this one feels right. This is putting everything behind them; tonight, last year, the last ten years of disrespect and cowering. And they can all see. Just like that, they’re all together again.
Ray hands him his drink, then he and Shaz go to Chris at the bar. Gene stands aside, and a moment later…yeah, there it is. A moment where something clicks in his head, just like with Shaz, just like with Ray. He’s been proud of all of them this year, but with that pride comes the certain knowledge that they’ll move on. There comes a point when you’ve taught people all they need to know, and there’s no point hanging about after that. It doesn’t matter how much he wants them to.
He looks around. Alex has gone.
He knows where, and he knows what’s supposed to happen next.
‘Bottle of red, Luigi. An’ two glasses.’