Rating: Blue Cortina
Length: 5,900 words.
Notes: Sam/Gene slash. Written for finkpishnets for Life on Mars Ficathon 2007. Thanks to Linda for beta-reading for me.
Summary: It's a weekend away in Blackpool that doesn't exactly go according to plan.
“Pretty is she?” Bernie clicked his teeth together and clapped Sam on the shoulder. He was broad and red faced, wearing a Hawaiian shirt.
“What’re her tits like?”
“God, I love big tits.”
“She sucks like a vacuum,” Sam added, a degree of nervous tension in his voice. There was a reciprocating nod. Bernie left the room, his polyester rustling with the movement.
Gene rolled his eyes and stated the obvious. “You’re bad at this. You’re very bad at this.”
“Well, that’s because I pride myself on being above this kind of stuff,” Sam replied. “Unlike certain jumped up misogynists, I’ve some respect.”
“I expect that’s why you took a go-go dancer home and didn’t complain when she pounced on your ding-a-ling.”
Sam span on his heel, his mouth opening in outrage. “That is so far off the mark, Gene, it’s not even-”
“Pipe down, he’s coming back.”
Bernie returned to the centre of the room. “So that was the same as DCI Hunt - two nights in Blackpool, yeah?”
“I’m sure I will.”
“And if you’re doing anything right, so will she. Not that it matters.” Bernie laughed, a gold tooth glinting amongst the pearl.
They left through the peeling red door and Sam got into the Cortina wordlessly. His face had gone an interesting tint of white.
“I feel… contaminated.”
Gene used his most consoling voice. “I’ve some soap ready and waiting.”
“That’s because you’re a filthy bastard.”
“This day off business was your idea.” Gene started the car and began driving recklessly into the path of a Citroen that swerved to avoid him.
Sam gave Gene a pointed look. “You’re the one always saying we need to do something to wind down.”
“Shagging like wild rabbits in a sleazy Blackpool hotel room is not what I call winding down. Having a go at darts is winding down. Taking all of Chris’s money during poker is winding down. Slam, bam, thank you Sam is winding up.”
“Only the way you do it, three hundred miles an hour.”
Gene raised an eyebrow. “Never heard you complain before.”
“Never said I was complaining now.” Sam’s eyes glinted, but Gene didn’t see, it being one of the rare occasions where he had his eyes on the road. “Sometimes it’s just nice to get it over and done with.”
“Right. That’s the last time you get to play with my night stick.”
“Even if I serenade you?”
“Especially if you serenade me.”
Sam pouted and neither man was sure if it was in jest or for real.
“So I told Steph, I said, if you don’t wanna come dancing tonight, we mightn’t bother for a whole month, and do you know what she did, Ray? Ray? Ray, do you know what she did?”
Ray turned around and stared at Chris with the air of a beset man. “What did she do, Chris?”
“She laughed. Just like that. Cackled. Made me feel like a right fool.”
Ray bit back the response brewing in the back of his mind. He finished filling the stapler and sat down in his chair, his fifth cigarette of the morning nearing the filter.
“I keep telling ya to ditch her, but you don’t listen.”
“I wanna marry her.”
Ray frowned at this, narrowing his eyes with the effort of concentrated thought. “You want to marry her? After how she treats ya? Why the hell would you wanna do that?”
“She reminds me of my mum.” Chris appeared to immediately realise how that sounded, because his face cleared and he raised his hands up. “That’s not what I meant to say, it’s more that…”
“Oh no, I don’t need to hear it.”
“No, but, Ray, I just meant…”
“It’s all right, Chris, really, I don’t care what you meant. I don’t need to know what goes on in that head of yours. I never thought it were much before, but now I’ve had a glimpse, I don’t really want the full show.”
Chris ignored Ray’s barbs and carried on. “She keeps me on the straight and narrow, like. I don’t know if you know this, but I can be a bit daft.”
Ray feigned disbelief. “Yeah?”
“Yeah. And Steph helps me order my thoughts, keep me so I don’t say or do stupid things. Or at least, not as often.”
“So she’s some kind of miracle worker?”
“I love her, Ray,” Chris said simply, staring at the tea in his hands, his eyes glazing over.
Ray shrugged. “Good for you.”
“Have you ever loved anyone?”
“Me? I’m a love machine. Ready to reload.”
“I said love, Ray, not… you know. I’m not so naïve to think that a man of your age is… inexperienced.”
“Just as well, too.”
“You haven’t answered my question.”
“No.” Ray lit his sixth cigarette and flicked the butt of the other into the waste paper basket by Sam’s desk. It started a small fire with the report Sam had made Ray rewrite. “Love’s for pansies and queers.”
Chris contemplated this and grinned. “Must be why they call ‘em ‘gay’.” He placed his pen before him with a clatter and rocked back in his chair in excitement. “I’m taking her somewhere nice to propose.”
“Oh? Where were you thinking?”
“Can’t afford much, so I’ve ended up with Blackpool.”
“I’m going this weekend with Maude.”
“No, to York, you div. Of course to Blackpool. Why else’d I mention it?”
“I thought you were out with Sandra?”
Ray brushed his index finger and thumb over his moustache. “Nah, one of her legs was shorter than the other.”
“Better than being called ‘Maude’.”
Annie put her pile of folders down. She straightened her jacket, adjusted her hair. She was just about ready to go home and she had three more hours left on shift. She stared at the unending pile of folders in front of her. Phyllis clocked her expression and snapped her to attention.
“You’re coming this weekend, aren’t you?”
Annie’s eyebrows knitted together and then her face cleared to reveal a vacant gaze.
“Conference,” she repeated.
“Plonk conference. Talking about women in the force. What we can do to make a difference, lah di dah di dah.”
“Oh. I wasn’t going to. It’s not mandatory.”
Phyllis shook her head in disdain and said, “free food,” with the exasperated air of a teacher repeating themselves for the fifteenth time. “If it gets really boring, we can always skive and go on the amusements.”
“What, like, the Kamikaze? Twirl upside down for half a minute and meet your lunch again? I don’t think so.”
“Simple solution. Don’t eat lunch. I hear those Flying Machines are fun.”
Annie gave a half-dejected shrug of her shoulders. Phyllis was wearing away every objection she could be bothered to front.
“This is the one chance we get of being in the majority. Plonks unite! Marjorie’s going. So’s Vera. Even Sandra, and she’s been off the wall lately. Come on, you’ll enjoy it. And if you don’t, there’s another weekend again in five days time.
Annie looked from the folders to Phyllis’ expectant face. “I say yes and you don’t say another word about it ‘til Friday evening?”
“You say yes and I’ll not say anything about it ‘til Saturday morning.”
“Okay then. Deal.”
“The citizens of Blackpool better hold on to their hats, or we’ll give ‘em tickets for inappropriate headwear.”
“You’ve been at the Guv’s secret stash of scotch again, haven’t you?”
Gene followed Sam’s instructions much as he followed the letter of the law; they got lost down one street and had to find their way through the labyrinth-like puzzle in order to arrive on the other side, near the hotel. When they finally made it to their room, they were irritable, horny and sniping at each other. Not much changed in the ten minutes that ensued after Gene got the key in the lock.
“My dick is not a lollipop, Tyler. Get on with it.”
“You’re so romantic in your old age. I can’t remember, did you used to speak to me like this in our early heady days of bliss?”
“The two words that I liked in that sentence were head and bliss. Will you kindly practice what you preach.”
Sam set about doing just that, until Gene was making noises of enjoyment that practically rattled the cheap hotel walls. Gene hadn’t quite got his head around the concept of this being a stealth, undercover operation.
The bottle in Ray’s hand was beginning to slip. He caught it, just by the neck, the glass cool and solid against his fingers. Obviously - there was no other explanation - crime followed him wherever he went. As if it wasn’t bad enough that he’d spent the whole day feeling like he was being watched.
There it was. A dead body. Of course, a dead body. Lying there, limp. There was a procedure to be followed, he knew that. But for a second, he couldn’t think. His initial instinct was to call the Guv, so he went searching for a telephone box.
Dennis was on the other end of the line. “It’s his weekend off, remember.”
“Right. Well, where’s the ponce?”
“Most of the plonks are at a conference.”
Ray hung the receiver up with a frustrated groan. Great. Stuck in a different city. With a dead body. And the only other copper he could rely upon was Chris. Chris, who was moping, because Maude had taken Stephanie shopping and left them alone together for the better part of four hours, until Ray had decided they needed something to drink and eat – in that order.
Ray figured the only thing he could do was contact the appropriate authorities in this district and hope to clear his hands of it all. But he had a horrible feeling this wouldn’t be the last of things.
Phyllis took one look at the bedraggled and tense looking WPC across from her and set her cup of tea gently down. “Annie, love, how’d you sleep?”
“Not very well. The couple next to me were you-knowing all night.”
“Silly of you to stay in the room, then, if they were next to you, rogering. What were the visuals like? Good?” Phyllis joked, before catching Annie’s expression and pursing her lips.
Annie picked up the tea and took a long gulp. Her cheeks flushed and she reached a hand up to tug at her collar.
“The bloke making all the racket sounded a bit like the Guv.”
“Well, now you know you work too hard, if you hear him day and night.”
“So you don’t think that’s likely, then?”
“Annie, even if he were in Blackpool, which he’s not, he’d hardly be in the same hotel, would he? Big place, this, you know. Thousands of people. You’re just stressed, love. Either that, or you think sex and your mind automatically wanders to the green stallion.”
Annie laughed, the sound warm and tinged with an edge of nervousness. “I expect you’re right.”
“Course I’m right. I’m always right. Hasn’t anyone ever told you that before?”
The thing about Sam and Gene was that they weren’t teenagers. As much as they both had a notion they could outlast each other, they actually didn’t quite have the stamina for hours upon hours of rampant sex. After three and a half sessions, Gene was spent, lying bonelessly on the bed, softly huffing out breath, as Sam stretched catlike beside him, sated smile and cocky smugness.
“Is this where you decide to dissect every move and give your evaluation?” Gene asked in mocking tones and exhaustion.
“Straight As and a special commendation for truncheon-wielding,” Sam replied.
“What happened to ‘Sometimes it’s just nice to get it over and done with’?”
“It got lost somewhere between your lips on my neck and your lips on my cock. Sorry.”
“Don’t apologise, Sammy-boy. I’m just touched that I’ve the ability to move you.”
“Move me? You were manhandling me all over the place. Your arms are gonna be sore tomorrow.”
“Not just my arms, either.”
Sam laughed, face adjusting from his usual lapse of serious severity to boyish charm. He settled deeper into the pillow and contemplated sleep, but Gene knocked his shoulder.
“What’s with your insistence on analysing every last detail anyway? Do you do it just because you can?”
“No, I do it extravagantly, just because I can,” Sam said. He didn’t add, “you arsehole”, because he was nice like that. He bit his tongue, resisting the urge to bite Gene’s, and rolled to the side, but Gene once again punched him hard enough to leave a bruise.
“Feeling relaxed now?”
“I would be if you’d let me sleep.”
“Didn’t peg you as the type to kiss and crash.”
“Yes you did.” Sam paused, saying the next words with gravitas. “You pegged me good.”
Detective Inspector Jones reminded Ray of those cops in American movies who thought they knew everything but actually knew very little. To be honest, he reminded him of most of his colleagues, but he wasn’t going to say that.
“Dead, you say?”
“As a decorated doorknob.”
“But now the body’s missing?”
“Like Telly Savalas’ hair.”
Jones eyed Ray and then his cigarette, gazing at it in deep concentration. “We could do a search.”
Even Ray was unimpressed by Jones’ apparent lack of commitment to the job. “Oh, I wouldn’t want you to trouble yourself.”
“Yeah, well, sometimes you have to, don’t you?”
The morning conferences weren’t quite as engaging as Phyllis had hoped they’d be. They were all geared towards the, “how you can help the men – those real police officers” mentality. If the food had been up to scratch, she wouldn’t have minded, but this peach cobbler was worse than Gwen’s.
“You’re right,” Annie said, returning after lunch. “I thought I heard DI Tyler when I went back to collect my bag. Auditory hallucinations, they’re called. I’m finally going loopy.”
“Working with this lot, I’m surprised it’s come later rather than sooner.”
Annie softly smiled and picked up her spoon to dip it into the custard set before her. “How’s about we ditch the afternoon meetings and go for a walk around, eh? Find the amusements, just like you suggested?”
Phyllis did something she had done only three times in Annie’s presence before. She grinned, mouth wide, eyes sparkling. “Thank heaven for short attention spans.”
Sam was fully clothed, Gene was almost fully clothed. It was the closest they’d got to covering up bare skin in 24 hours. Sam adjusted the bottom of his jacket, looking at Gene with the mixture of irritability and affection that only he could manage.
“I can’t believe you’ve got through three packets since six last night.”
“Well, when you have one after every shag…” Gene said with a shrug.
“And two dozen in-between,” Sam added with a roll of his eyes.
Gene skillfully manoeuvred and pressed his hands to Sam’s back, fingers digging into the leather. “Just shut your trap and get moving.”
They walked into the darkening twilight; Blackpool beginning to be lit by streetlights and the odd glowing sign. Sam let his arms hang loosely, limbs swinging freely with the steady walking pace he adopted. He turned his head and regarded Gene with a smile.
“You’re entirely too cheerful, Tyler,” Gene said out of the corner of his mouth, but there was a ghost of a smile on his lips too.
Unfortunately, neither man stayed that way for long, when, upon rounding the corner, they crashed right into Chris.
Ray was used to Chris and incoherency. He was even used to having to decipher long strings of glottal sounds. What he wasn’t used to was having to try and decode Chris speaking a hundred miles an hour, constantly being interrupted, whilst standing across from a copper who was sucking lazily on some Blackpool rock.
“Calm down, you div, take some bloody breath. Say that again. Slowly.”
“The Guv and the Boss are here, Ray. And I have no idea what they’re doing, do you think they’re spying on us?”
“No, we’re not spying on you,” the ponce said in the background. Ray could hear the exasperation through the wire. He almost joined him in it.
“I came looking for you, Ray, but couldn’t find you anywhere. I got a bit lost, turning a couple of corners. Where are ya?”
“I’m at a police station. There’s been a murder.”
Ray heard Chris repeating this to the others.
“What’s that got to do with him? Ask him, Chris, ask Ray what that’s got to do with him,” the ponce said, tone going from exasperation to downright bitterness.
“You can tell DI Tyler that I found the body,” Ray said caustically.
Ray listened as this information was relayed.
There was a loud exclamation of, “Shit,” and then the ponce’s voice came directly through the receiver. “When was this?”
“Earlier today, Boss. They’re keeping me as a witness. Problem is, I saw the body, went to find a phone box to confer with my esteemed colleagues, and when I came back, discovered the body’d gone. It’s vanished.”
“Just another reason to long for the mobile phone. Okay, we’ll be right there, Ray. Think you can stay out of trouble for that long?”
“Sure thing,” Ray said, mentally adding, ‘prick.’ “Just one more thing, Boss. What are you and the Guv doing here in Blackpool? Thought it were your day off?”
The ponce hesitated. “Come to visit one of Gene’s old informants. Thinks he knows about some large fencing deal going down in a venue near us. Just when you think you’ve time to yourself, work comes and bites you on the arse.”
Ray nodded, even though no one who’d care about his assent could see him, said his goodbyes and gave Jones the receiver back. He wasn’t sure he believed Tyler’s story, but he also didn’t think conspiracy theorist Chris had the answer and he couldn’t come up with one of his own.
Annie grabbed Phyllis’ arm and pointed.
“D’you know, you actually had me believing I was going round the bend?” she accused as she signalled to three men walking ahead.
“That’s creepy, that is,” Phyllis replied. She raised her voice, putting a hand up in the air. “Oi, fellas!”
It was Sam who stopped first, swivelling on his heel and staring in abject terror. His expression changed to a thunderous frown and he stood stock still. Gene stopped next, followed by Chris.
“Hello. Fancy seeing you here,” Annie said with a shy smile. She didn’t understand where they had come from, what they were doing there, or why they looked so shocked and annoyed at what was obviously being cast as an intrusion.
Sam’s face cleared and he placed his hand gently on Annie’s arm and echoed Annie’s unspoken question. “Hey. What are you two doing in Blackpool?”
“Plonk conference,” Phyllis answered brusquely. “And you, DI Tyler?”
“Informant checking,” Sam said, making sure he got in before Gene, whose mouth was opening with what was sure to be a phenomenally rude retort.
Annie stared pointedly at Chris.
“Here on holiday with Ray,” Chris supplied, to raised eyebrows. “And our girlfriends,” he added hurriedly. “Which reminds me, I’ve no idea where she went.”
“My girlfriend, Steph. She left with Maude just before lunch and hasn’t come back. Any ideas?”
“I don’t know and I don’t care,” Gene said. “Come on, chop, chop, we’ve a DS to go bail out.”
Sam sighed, deeply. “He wasn’t under arrest, Gene.”
Gene shrugged and patted Sam on the back, an action that was met with Sam’s typical deadpan. “Still need to shift it.”
Annie looked from one man to the other, she mentally replayed both Chris’ faux pas and the sounds of rampant sex-having from the room next door, and her mind went to places she’d never known existed.
The team was reassembled in a large, smoke-filled Blackpool CID office not unlike the one back in Manchester.
Ray was abrupt. “We found the body.”
Gene feigned surprise. “Really? Carried off by a ravaging horde of seagulls, was it?”
“Pigeons,” Sam interjected. “They’re trained to carry stuff, after all.”
“But seagulls scavenge.”
“It had nothing to do with birds of prey and patience, thanks,” Ray said, tone clipped and eyes burning ice. “Dumped in a bin, wasn’t it?”
Annie stopped staring into the distance and spoke. “Sure it’s the same one?”
“He says it is, but who can be sure?” Detective Inspector Jones replied, waving his hand vaguely.
“I can,” Gene said, refocussing the attention he had been lavishing on Sam and coming to Ray’s defence.
Sam gave a quick, professional smile. “We’ll get out of your hair and let you get on with your investigation, DI Jones.”
“Oh no you don’t. I need your DS here for information.”
“I’ve told you everything I know. I saw a dead body, I went to ring for advice, I went back, the body’d gone, now it’s turned up again, can I please go and have me some inside downstairs with my bit of skirt?”
“I don’t think you realise the severity of the situation. There’s been a murder!”
“You didn’t give a toss an hour ago. You were going on about wanting more frequent, less violent crimes, to bolster up your numbers.”
Phyllis yawned, visibly unaffected by the discussion. Chris echoed the action, signing apologetically to Sam’s quick, remonstrative stare.
“So what, we wait it out?” Gene asked, sounding impatient, his tone razor sharp and his words a decibel louder than necessary.
“’Course not,” Sam said. “We solve the murder.”
“This was supposed to be our day off,” Gene said quietly in Sam’s ear, fingers curling against his shoulder. Sam played with his cuffs and gazed around the room at the chatting coppers.
“We’ve had a day. Well, a night and a morning. And most of the afternoon. Yeah, I think it’s safe to say we’ve had almost an entire day off.”
Phyllis walked close by, raising her eyebrows at Gene, who reflexively moved away from Sam and clapped his hands together.
“Okay. If we’re doing this, we’re doing it my way. I’m DCI. I’m in charge.”
“DCI Hunt, you seem to be forgetting that we have our own team here.”
“Not forgetting. Just actively not giving a bollocks. Right, you lot, find out what the word on the street is and report it to DI Jones here. ”
Jones started again. “Look, just because DCI Griffith is in the Lake District…”
“Didn’t even know he was.”
“Doesn’t mean you can storm in here and start shaking up the joint. I’ve heard about you, Hunt; they say your name’s unfortunately rhymed for a reason.”
“Bring your Super in, then,” Sam said, glancing from Gene to Jones.
“He would, but Derek and I are old school chums, isn’t that right, Clive?”
Jones nodded his head miserably. Gene loomed at the front of the room and barked his order once again, this time to speedy and almost methodical action.
It was pitch black outside now, with everyone in the office muttering about double bubble. Forensics sent up the report on the method of death; two single stab wounds, confirming that there were no marks of identification and dental records would take several days.
To the annoyance of both them and Sam, Annie and Phyllis were assigned tea and biscuit duty. It was much like regular duty, only with no solving crime and lots of collecting cups.
“It’s not quite a conclusive footprint…”
“Not that they are ever conclusive.”
“But it’s a step in the right direction.”
Annie quirked her eyebrow, so Chris supplied the information. “We have a possible witness.”
DI Jones stepped forward. “Barry was out talking to the locals and says he’s found a young woman who seems to know something.”
Gene tilted his chin up. “Let’s call it solved and get on our horses, then, if she knows something.”
Jones ignored Gene and continued speaking. “We’re bringing her in now. And then, I think we really will call it a night.”
The outcome of the interview was Sam discovering that behind his pompous attitude, DI Jones still adopted many of Gene’s approaches. Despite Mary being a witness and not a suspect, she was still treated with barely veiled violence and contempt. And when she started pointing the finger at Ray, this came from all sides.
Jones was quick to take her word for it.
Ray rolled his eyes. “Don’t be an arsehole. If I’d knifed him, why’d I ring you up and tell you about it?”
“To remove suspicion?”
“Didn’t bloody work, did it? Might as well have put a giant sign, ‘Ray Carling’s Blade Was Here’. Jesus.”
“You’re staying in a cell during the night, just in case.”
“Guv? Tell him he’s being a prick.”
“You’re being a prick, Jones,” Gene said, “but Ray, it’s best you do stay in here over night. Do that thing Tyler’s always banging on about – appear to be whiter than white. Even if you’re not.”
Sam concealed a smirk and motioned sagely, and they left Ray to four grey walls.
Sam flopped onto the bed and started undoing his shirt. “I can’t believe this, I really can’t. Do you think they followed us, or what?”
Gene mirrored his actions. “If they’d any of them had any detective skills, I’d say yes, but I think the answer’s probably no.”
“Do you think he did it?”
“Of course not. This is Raymondo we’re talking about. He’s not the brightest star in the sky, but he’s not a murderer.”
“Then why’s Mary saying he is?”
“That’s what we’ve got to find out.” Gene shoved Sam to the side. “Move over. I need a kip and you’re taking up all the room.”
To Chris’ relief, Steph and Maude were waiting in the hotel lounge. Chris was quick to explain everything that had happened, babbling at high speed. Maude was less concerned than he’d thought a person would be for their lover, and Steph was just glad it wasn’t Chris. She wrapped her arms around his neck and promised she’d think twice before going on a tour of the town without him.
“I was gonna ask you about that, Steph.”
“How do you mean?”
“Well, I was hoping that you’d marry me.”
Meanwhile, Ray grizzled profusely at his ill-treatment, especially at the hands of those he had to work with, day in, day out. He had at least expected the Guv to stick up for him. It was ridiculous. If he were going to kill someone, he’d do it in a much more creative and less obvious way. He’d had a discussion, once, with an ex-girlfriend. She’d said she’d keep it simple. He’d gone into the whole convoluted plan. But it had just been joking. The only person he’d ever contemplated killing was Tyler, and even he didn’t drive him batty enough to actually do it.
Annie avoided going to her room. She stayed up for several hours, drinking with Phyllis and the other WPCs, who were all fascinated by the turn of events. Marjorie said that she wished she had been around, although Annie doubted she knew what she was talking about. Vera came up with possible scenarios for what might have happened, many of which were ostensibly gleaned from Mills and Boon. And Sandra seemed maliciously pleased that it was Ray who was caught up in the mess.
After several hours, Annie returned to her room and was gratified to be cloaked in silence. No auditory anything, least of all possible non-hallucinations.
“The knife was uncovered three streets away from where we found the body,” one of Jones’ officers said, glancing at Gene in a mixture of contempt and anxiety.
“Sure it’s the right one?”
“Pathologist says so. Same serration. Traces of blood. It fits.”
Gene set his shoulders. “And fingerprints?”
“Being done now.”
The morning had revealed two more witnesses to confirm Ray’s involvement. It appeared Ray had been spotted hauling a rolled up rug from the end of one alleyway to another by an old man who had conveniently been looking out of his window.
“There’s something not right here,” Annie said, passing Jones his third coffee of the morning.
“You don’t say, sweetheart.”
“I mean, I’ve looked at the body and the entry wound is all… it’s not how you’d expect someone like Ray to do it.”
Sam eased his head up. “How do you mean, Annie?”
“Ray’s strong, yeah? He’s not that short. If he were gonna stab someone, you’d think he’d go for the upper abdomen, drive it in sharp. But these wounds are lower abdomen, the knife didn’t go all the way in. It doesn’t fit Ray’s profile – physical or psychological.”
An officer came into the office, everyone’s heads turning to discover what was in the folder he was holding.
“It’s Carling’s prints on the weapon,” he said perfunctorily, and fled amongst gasps and intakes of breath.
“I’ve told you, I’ve never seen him before in my life. Simple, but true. Why would I kill someone I don’t know?”
“Perhaps he saw something he shouldn’t have?”
“Not by my hand.”
Ray took a long drag on his cigarette and narrowed his eyes at Jones.
Jones stood up. “If you’re not going to cooperate, DS Carling…”
“Why would I cooperate when you’re trying to lock me away for a crime I didn’t commit?”
“You didn’t see anyone, Ray?” Sam interjected, a frown across his forehead.
“No. Not really. I’ve already told you I spent the whole day looking over my shoulder. I felt like there was someone else there, but I never saw anyone.”
Jones walked to the canteen door. “Maybe you’ll be able to plead for insanity?”
“The evidence is mounting. We’ve witnesses, fingerprints; it’s going to be tricky to prove that Ray had nothing to do with it.”
“Just what are you saying, Sam?”
“That maybe you need to open your mind up to the possibility that this time Ray stepped across the boundary,” Sam said, quietly.
“I know Ray better than I know the hairs on my arse. He didn’t do it,” Gene barked back.
They were scowling at each other, but it was more than that. Sam’s chest was rising and falling as he stared into Gene’s eyes and he licked his bottom lip in what looked like invitation.
Annie gazed from Sam to the Guv. If she hadn’t suspected it before, she certainly did now.
It was a testament to how much of a fixture Ray was in Gene’s team that Sam, Gene, Chris, Annie and Phyllis spent hours on a Sunday morning re-interviewing people Jones’ team had previously spoken to the night before. Much of it yielded little else, but some of it was enlightening.
It was Chris who caught up on a verbal slip by the second witness, the one that everyone had agreed was too convenient in the first place. After extensive questioning he said ‘they’ instead of ‘he’, then ‘she’, and finally admitted that he hadn’t seen anything, but that he’d been given a wad of cash to say he had.
“This could be part of his elaborate plan?” Jones questioned, grasping at straws.
“This is Ray Carling we’re talking about. His idea of elaborate is a bottle of Blue Nun and a velvet pantsuit.”
“On him, or the woman?”
Annie half raised her hand. “It seems to me that someone’s deliberately fitting Ray up, and, from the position and depth of the wounds, that that person’s a woman. So it’s someone who knows Ray, someone who’s been hurt by him, someone who could’ve had his fingerprints on one of their knives – and I think I know who the killer is.”
All four men in the room turned around to stare at Annie, but Phyllis rocked her head back and clapped her on the shoulder.
“He’s a pig! A bloody pig!” Sandra screamed as they dragged her from the hotel lounge.
“I am not!” Ray replied. Sandra spat in his direction and it landed at his feet.
They drank together, loudly. The bartender wasn’t as mellow as Nelson and didn’t appreciate the noise. At one point he said he’d call the cops, until several shining badges were pushed under his nose. Annie was toasted a total of nine times. Chris and Stephanie were toasted twelve times. DI Jones was toasted too, but in an entirely different manner.
It was raucous and it was enjoyable and it meant that they’d all be completely knackered the next day. They said their goodbyes and retired to the places they were staying to pack up for the short but stressful trip home.
Sam unbuttoned his shirt. “I’m sorry, for thinking that he might have done it.”
“Don’t be, I’d probably have thought the same if I hadn’t worked with him for so bloody long. You get to know people’s strengths and weaknesses. Ray’s too weak for murder.”
“Don’t s’pose you’ll let me take charge next time? When your hangover’s more hung than usual and you’re just not up to punch number eight?”
“You have a pinocchio complex.”
“My nose is not that big.”
Gene jabbed Sam’s side and corrected his assumption. “You wanna be a real boy.”
“You’re calling me boy, now? And there I was, thinking you couldn’t seem any older.”
“My distaste for you is emphatic.”
“You’re sending me nasty messages through my mind?”
Gene curled his lip up, Elvis style, then his expression returned to normal and he gave Sam the finger. “I said emphatic, not empathic, you twonk.”
Sam’s grin was wide. “I know. So. Are we gonna try this again next weekend?”
Gene leaned back, crossing his arms. “The success of our sex lives seems to be directly proportional to the rate of first degree murder England-wide.”
“If we abstain, we save lives?”
Gene nodded. “Doesn’t seem like it’s gonna happen, does it?”
“I guess we’ll have to work double hard to solve the cases that arise.”
“There’s a double entendre in there that I can’t be bothered to sort out. C’mere for a ‘leaving Blackpool’ shag.”
Chris was all smiles. Ray’s moustache twitched.
“You still wanna marry her? After seeing what women can do?”
“More than ever.”
“I had it early on. You’re not right in the head, Chris.”
“At least I don’t have people fitting me up for murder.”
Ray paled and rubbed a hand against his forehead. “I don’t know. Where’s a bloke gone wrong to bring that upon himself?”
“Maybe next time you’ll think twice about breaking some poor girl’s heart.”
“There won’t be a next time. I’m staying away from the female species from now on.”
Chris fixed Ray with a mischievous glint and what came across as half an eyebrow waggle. “Oh, so you’re gonna be grinning all the time from now on?”
Annie packed her bag up, tempted to press her ear against the wall and confirm her suspicions. Instead, she walked to the door and patted herself on the back for a job well done.
“There’s another conference in a month’s time,” Phyllis said when she arrived at the café.
“Count me out.”
“You don’t even know what it’s on.”
“I don’t need to.”
“It’s on successful undercover operations. I don’t know about you, but I reckon that’d be right up DI Tyler and DCI Hunt’s alley, so that they can stop being so bloody obvious they’re up each other’s.”
Annie opened her mouth and closed it. Least said, soonest mended.