Williams spent his last morning in the office clearing out his desk. The case review files had gone to Morgan after the team meeting yesterday. Only the procedure templates and forensic techniques exploratory papers remained, together with some ideas he’d scribbled down for a competition Pete had dreamed up months ago. Those he decided to keep to himself, but most of it he was happy to leave in the out-tray for Morgan to re-assign.
Looking through the results of six months’ careful work, he took copies of some of the papers he was leaving, in case he needed to prove ownership of the ideas later. It might help to persuade Morgan he’d done his bit here and deserved permanent reassignment to operations. By the time Morgan put his head round the door at 11:30, Williams was nearly finished. He looked up in surprise. “Sir?”
“Ah, Sam, still here. All set then? Good. Three o’clock in my office please, Sam. I won’t keep you long; I dare say you’d like to get off early for once.” Morgan chuckled dryly.
Williams’ heart sank. “Sir, is that necessary? I was hoping... erm, what I mean is, I thought we’d sorted everything out the key points on Wednesday. And I’ve spent quite a lot of time filling in the details.” He’d hoped to get away at lunchtime to pack his stuff and finish cleaning up the flat before the weekend. He still had some idea of phoning Pete, maybe even going to London for the weekend.
“Of course it’s necessary, Sam, I wouldn’t ask otherwise.” Morgan looked surprised at the question. “It won’t take long, we just need to run through a few details, so - three o’clock, if you wouldn’t mind,” he reiterated firmly. “We need to make sure we’re all on the same sheet of paper.”
Returning resignedly to his office after an early lunch, Williams looked around at the empty shelves. What was he supposed to do between now and three o’ clock, he wondered in annoyance. After a few moments reflection he got out his “Tyler Personality – Planning” notebook, now half full. Sitting down with a sigh, he started to read.
As he read, he realised that this really could work, if he just kept his head and remembered who he was supposed to be. After all, the smiling business had worked on Doctor Whittaker’s secretary and on the apprentice harpy in Records, so maybe the rest of it could work as well. Perhaps if he worked hard at talking and acting like a very ordinary, friendly, confident man with no particular hangups, the new people around him might simply accept him at face value. He might even come to believe in it himself one day.
Glancing at his watch just before three o’ clock, he set off for Morgan’s office, and found him returning from the coffee machine.
“Ah, Sam. Thanks for coming. Coffee?”
Williams got himself a cup of tea from the machine and they walked back along the corridor together. He knew Morgan had called this meeting more to check on his level of readiness than to discuss anything specific, so he waited for Morgan to start the conversation.
“Now Sam, as you know, in order to get you into ‘A’ Division as Hunt’s new DI, we had to mitigate the possible negative implications of your being available at such short notice, by making sure we could present you as the best.”
“Yes, Sir, I remember,” Williams said politely, sighing inside. They entered Morgan’s office and sat down on either side of the desk. Williams had never asked who Morgan had influence over to get an office and a desk that were somehow twice as big as those of the other DCIs.
In unconscious imitation of his former superior, Williams laid out his pens neatly on the highly polished surface, exactly perpendicular to the front edge. He caught himself wondering if DCI Hunt did the same thing. It didn’t seem likely.
“...So, in pursuit of that end, I’ve had Records pull together various pieces and file them under the Tyler identity. As you know, one of their jobs is to keep records of what officers were supposedly doing, whilst in reality they were away from the station for several months undercover.”
He did know. He’d had it demonstrated to him by the man whose idea it was. He also knew that saying so would not spare him the detailed explanation, because implementing the system had been Morgan’s new-broom project soon after his arrival, and he liked people to remember that.
“The idea being, as I know you’re aware,” Morgan continued, ”that there are no suspicious gaps in their career records. You’ll need to study these notes of course - I’m having copies run off for you as we speak, so you can look at them over the weekend. Now, we’ve already covered the issue of your being available at short notice - Records have that down as a broken left leg by the way - so that just leaves...”
Williams was tired and jittery, and Morgan always did like making himself sound important by saying the same thing five times over, the last three in increasingly obscure terms. As Morgan droned on, Williams for once let his mind drift. Thinking about what Morgan called the “undercover alibi” records led him inexorably back to Pete.
The key to their unlikely friendship had been their shared love of looking to the future, of trying to improve the world by imagining new, better, faster ways of doing things. They even had a competition.
* * *
They take a week to write out all the things they each want to see in an ideal future world: new gadgets and tools; new things for computers to do; even books, films, music.
Tonight is judging night; loser buys the drinks.
When Williams loses the first round, Pete suggests a bottle of red, to go with the pizza. “Come on, Sam, let your hair down a bit.” He sniggers. “What there is of it.”
They have played this game before so the riposte comes automatically as he beckons the waiter: “Well, at least I don’t have ... curls.”
When the wine arrives, Pete pours them each a glass, and they move onto the second round. Williams has thought hard about the gadgets and invented a couple he is quite pleased with, but he hasn’t written down anything about the miniature phone-in-a-pocket. That’s too personal.
In between rounds, they order more wine and talk about all aspects of the future. Given Pete’s job, it’s a natural pre-occupation; Williams sets out his visions for the future of policing, and Pete counters with his predictions of developments in data processing.
Pete talks intensely, blue eyes flashing as he leans over the table, pouring the wine. “Information, Sam. Information, not just data, that’s the future, mate. All the information in the world, all on computers, ready to go.”
Williams laughs so hard he splutters his wine. When he calms down enough to breathe properly he says, “Ready to go where? Once it’s on the computer it’s gone for good, as far as I can see. It’s getting it out again that’s the hard part, Pete, what are you going to do about that?”
“Ah, well, that is the slight drawback at the moment, “ Pete replies, grinning back. ”But people are working on it. In fact, I’d like to have a go at designing a data retrieval engine myself one day, I reckon that would be really good. Here, you need a top-up, the last lot went all over the table.” He raises his glass. “To information not data!”
Williams smiles at Pete’s enthusiasm, and raises his own glass in agreement. “To the future!” Sometimes he can’t believe this is him, laughing, smiling, drinking, joking.
* * *
Williams shuddered. Trying not to remember just how much wine Pete had managed to get him to drink that night, and the state he’d been in next morning, he dragged his attention firmly back to Morgan.
Eerily, he was talking about the dangers of drinking too much.
“...and I’m so proud of you, Sam, that you haven’t succumbed to alcohol the way I’ve seen so many undercover officers do.”
Williams decided not to explain that he’d been so scared of getting drunk again, he’d invented an alcohol allergy to get round the problem. Two weeks of puking all over people’s boots (to order - it was amazing what you could learn in a Children’s Home) and they eventually stop trying to persuade you to have a drink. Even Davis had been reluctantly impressed.
“So, are you ready to go, Sam? All packed up? Got your tape recorder? Although they’ve probably got their own; even over there in the last century they must have tape recorders in all the interview rooms.”
Williams smiled briefly. From everything Morgan had told him about Hunt, he wasn’t so sure. He’d packed his own just in case, together with a supply of the new tiny cassettes.
“Look, don’t worry, Sam, I know you can do this. I know I’ve said it before, but lying in a coma you could out-perform that fool Hunt at his best. I have total confidence in you. And remember, Sam: you need to keep your eye on the prize and sort this out for us as quickly as you can, because I don’t want you over there a week longer than is strictly necessary. As soon as you get the evidence we need, we can bring you home.”
Morgan finally ran out of things to say, and Williams cautiously got up to go.
“Oh, one last thing, Sam. I know you understand this, but it does bear saying again. You don’t phone here unless it’s an emergency. I’ll keep this line free for you; it’s new, no-one else has the number. But remember the rules: I call you. There’s an extension in Hunt’s outer office which doesn’t seem to be used, on the desk that will probably be yours. I’ll ring you on that occasionally, after you’ve let me know your rota. There’s also a phone in the pub these people use, on the corner of the bar. You can’t miss that one - it’s red, rather appropriate. You just need to make sure you get to it first.”
Williams had to wonder, if Morgan had the organisation and the people to get all this information, why he didn’t just use that organisation to get the evidence he needed against Hunt. Someone had even managed to get a phone put into the flat they’d rented for him, in six days rather than the usual six weeks, and how they had achieved that he hadn’t dared ask. He tried once again to edge towards the door, but Morgan still had more to say.
“Bear in mind, Sam, there will be times when you get fed up with it all, and you will be tempted to ring us. And of course, unlike the usual type of operation, the phone will be right there on your desk. But that just makes it all the more important to remember the rules, Sam.”
At last, Morgan stood up. He shook Williams’ hand briskly, patted him briefly on the shoulder and said, “I’ll send someone round on Monday morning with your badge. It should have been ready by now but those fools in Records got it wrong. Take care, Sam. Remember, we’re all very proud of you, and I know you can do this.”
Free at last, Williams walked back to his own office. Taking a last look round at the empty shelves, he wondered how long it would be before he came back. Deciding that was the least of his worries at this particular moment, he picked up his boxes of papers and took them down to the car. Even this was being left behind, as it was registered in his real name. That was annoying, but it was standard procedure and could not be helped.
As he drove the familiar route for the last time he decided he was definitely going to ring Pete this evening. It was not too late to visit Pete in London for the weekend. He had never done it before, but there seemed to be no reason why he shouldn’t, and one of the unexpected results of thinking about the “new personality” had been to make him think about how he could change his everyday existence and personality, even between operations.
At 9-30 he had to concede defeat. Pete’s landlady had taken to answering the phone with a curt “He’s not here,” before Williams had a chance to speak. The foreign student had said much the same, twice, but with what were presumably Slovak swear words tacked on fore and aft. He decided to go to bed early, in faint hopes of Pete actually getting the message and phoning tomorrow morning. He could still go, and he wanted to go: he knew now that he owed Pete an apology, probably several apologies, for taking him for granted and not showing appreciation for his constant support and friendship.
* * *
As the clock strikes eleven Williams lies flat on his back, eyes flickering rapidly under the lids.
“Come on, it won’t hurt to have another glass just for once.”
In this crazy competition of theirs, Pete has judged himself the winner of every round so far, on absolutely no grounds at all. Williams needs to work hard to catch up, and Pete has decided he has to take a drink for every round lost.
He stares fuzzily across the table at Pete and tries to focus. His pizza lies half-eaten on the plate and his wine glass is empty again. He picks vaguely at his garlic bread as he watches the wine swirling into the glass.
“See, that’s it, Sam – you’ve got no imagination,” said Pete. He seems to be replying to something Williams doesn’t remember saying. “Too rooted in all your procedures and processes. You don’t think about other people, what they want.”
Williams is having to lean on to the table now to keep himself something approaching upright, but this gets through the wine fog and he splutters indignantly, almost dropping his drink.
“I have got ’magin, nnnation. I have. C’n p... p... prove it. I can immm..., ‘gine, all stuff, sorts of stuff. Stuff don’t you know about, ’cos I’ve, ’cos you...Phone. There. Phone. ’N... pocket.” He tries to slap the table for emphasis but his elbow slips and he nearly falls off the chair. Ignoring this, he grabs the table again and grins foolishly. “See? ’Gination, got gim...in...ation.”
Pete pours the wine into the water tumbler this time; it looks less fragile.
“You silly sod,” He smiles broadly at the state Williams is in. “A phone in your pocket? What about the wire, you daft dick?”
“Wire? No wire. Not co...connec... joined. Pocket.“
“What do you mean, no wires? I thought I was the one with the futuristic ideas, but for God’s sake, Sam, that takes the biscuit!”
“Radios not wires, not... don’t have wires!” His attempts to draw radio masts in the air are vague but large and determined.
Pete laughs kindly. “You’re drunk, my Sam. Completely fallen over the edge of reality.” He carefully moves Williams’ glass away from the edge. “And why would you want a phone in your pocket anyway?”
“So can hide, hide it and I ... safe. Keep ... safe.”
A look that could almost be pain crosses Pete’s face. “Sam, you’re not in the Home now – you’re a DI, a grown man, no-one’s going to nick your stuff, you daft bugger!” He looks closely at Williams, and finally understands how very drunk he is. “Come on my Sam, time to go now. Stand up. D’you need a hand?”
“Want phone. Little teeny...” Williams stops, his eyes are glazing over rapidly. He tries once more, very carefully. “Weeny, teeny phone, ’n pock, pocket. Jus’ mine, not no-one’s else. Oh God, I can’t...” Just before his head hits the table he pulls himself together and falls back in his chair. “Pete ... don’t feel well, want to ... .” He tries to stand, but as he grabs the table for support he pulls the tablecloth. Pete moves round the table and gets to him before he has the whole lot on the floor.
“OK, soldier, let’s get you home.“ The other patrons turn to stare as Williams stumbles across the room clinging to Pete. Pete has an arm round his waist, and Williams has his head on Pete’s shoulder, one arm slung round his neck, the other dangling loose at his side. Before they reach the door he gives up all efforts at co-ordinating his feet and Pete is simply pulling him along.
When he finally surfaces, he’s lying face-down and fully-clothed on his bed. There’s a note on the table.
Morning Sam, hope you’re not feeling too bad, sorry about that. I’ll get someone to tell Morgan you’ve phoned in sick. Ring me later.
Williams groans and stands up very slowly and carefully, moving in the general direction of the kitchen, but ready to stagger to the bathroom if necessary. Never again, he vows. Never.
Williams groans and grabs the pillow, holding it tight against his chest.
* * *
... continued in Part 6