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Fans of Life On Mars
Fic, An Unhappy Man (7b/8), White Cortina, by DorsetGirl 
7th-Feb-2008 07:30 am


SUNDAY EVENING

 

The chill of the empty flat settled into his bones as the evening drew on and the room became dark. Eventually he shivered and looked at the clock. He had done it again: too much time thinking of the past and not enough living in the present.

 

But that day in the canteen was memorable, for two reasons. It was the day he was forced to accept that Pete really would go, mates or not. And it was the day the canteen supervisor fetched DCI Morgan to talk to the man with the vacant gaze, who could not look at her and did not even seem to hear her. It took Morgan physically shaking him and speaking to him very sharply indeed to bring him back to what passed for normality. Shocked at the state his DI was in, Morgan had ordered him back home.

 

When he returned to work for the second time a week later it was to the news of an unexpected promotion and a permanent desk job. He was not going to have to leave the Force, which was good, but he’d eventually become thoroughly disillusioned with the desk job, which was not.

 

And now he was going undercover again, with Pete’s words about what the last operation did to him still playing across his mind.

 

It was only the thought of his “new beginning” and, more directly, what Morgan could do to his career, that stopped him phoning Morgan to call the whole thing off, even at this late stage. He had an unpleasant feeling that if he upset Morgan enough, the man might just send him to ‘A’ Division anyway and leave him there. The thought made him shudder.

 

Putting the thought forcefully away, he tried to interest himself in choosing some clothes for Sam Tyler to wear tomorrow on his first day at ‘A’ Division. For some reason the Sam Tyler clothes were more relaxed in style than his normal wear; someone had taken that too far in his opinion. The leather jacket in particular looked disturbingly casual, but as the alternative was to go and buy himself another, he decided to take it along anyway. Perhaps it would grow on him. He placed the rest of the clothes back in the bags on top of the neatly-packed envelopes of briefing papers, and carefully hung up the shirt and trousers he had selected, trying to make the best of a bad job.

 

He had already rejected the cheap synthetic ties, dumping them in a bin as he walked to the station earlier to collect the car, and now he took the kitbags containing the rest of Tyler’s new clothes out to the boot of the borrowed car. Locking it up but frankly not much caring if it all got stolen overnight, he went back inside. He would get some more ties after he arrived, he thought, taking off his own favourite blue silk one for the last time. He placed it carefully over the rack inside the wardrobe door before taking off the rest of his clothes slowly, folding each item neatly and placing them on separate hangers. Morgan had promised him someone would come in tomorrow and double check everything was packed away safely.

 

Pulling on his pyjamas - something else to buy for Tyler - he got into bed and tried to sleep. He planned to get up early and go through the briefing notes one last time, together with the new-personality notes.

 

 

SUNDAY NIGHT

 

* * *

 

Sam Williams lies in his bed, flat on his back with his face turned sideways. He fidgets, and turns his head abruptly to the other side. His fists clench and unclench ceaselessly.

 

They’re finally here. Six weeks after worming his way into Davis’s confidence, Williams enters the bank second in line, mask in place and nerves wound tight. Horrifyingly, someone calls his name – his real name – as they walk in. “Sam! No!” He knows the voice from the phone call yesterday, but he forces himself not to look round. It’s the first chink; the first suspicion from Davis and the rest of his team.

 

Williams turns over and hides his face in the pillow, muttering frantically.

 

He shouldn’t be here, he knows that. He’s been ordered to make his excuses and get out, go back home before the job starts. Before Davis finds out they’re expected.

 

* * *

 

When Davis tells them all the date for the job, it’s three days before he can get away to phone Morgan with the new information. Confusingly, someone else answers the special line.

 

“Sam? Don’t worry, it’s DCI Sweetman here. DCI Morgan’s been called away for a few hours. I was here so he asked me to babysit the phone in case you rang. We’ve never met but I’ve heard a lot about you from Frank."

"It's tomorrow," Williams says. "He hasn't told us what time, says we don't need to know that yet."

"OK, that doesn't leave us much time. Now, you obviously know the bank they’re hitting is on my patch, not Frank’s, so I’ll be leading operations on the day. So, first things first. Can you get away? Come back home, I mean? I’ve got a large team to put into place on this, and if anyone gets a whiff of what we’re doing, they’ll know they’ve got a leak. It’s not safe, Sam. You have to come home now. Don’t go back to Davis.”

 

Williams argues. This is his operation. His information. He’s the one taking all the risks.

 

Sweetman is understanding but firm. Sweetman himself will oversee matters, and his DI will be inside with a team ensuring the safety of the public. “It was never in the plan for you to go in yourself, Sam. If it makes things clearer, I’m giving you an order here. You bail out now and report to Frank by close of play.”

 

Williams slams the phone down. He’s furious. Sweetman doesn’t have the balls to go undercover himself, and now he’s trying to give orders to the man taking all the risks.

 

But Williams has done all the work, spent all that time. He wants to be in at the end, even though he knows he can’t make the arrest himself because that would blow his cover.

 

* * *

 

Now as they spread out around the hall of the largest branch in the city, their heels click on the marble floor, fast and threatening. Everything is working out perfectly; he’s right to have come. This is his last operation ever – they’ve promised him – and he wants to see it through properly. The last one. He can do this, he’s not scared. He’s not. They don’t know what they’re talking about.


A sudden shriek makes him look round; he sees with horror that Davis has grabbed a girl by the hair. She’s only young, innocent. Pretty in her fresh white blouse, she shouldn’t be here. Davis said no hostages, waste of time, quick in and out. She screams. Davis shouts to his men “There’s something off here! I need a hostage.” 

Williams writhes in his bed, twisting the sheets. The room is cool, but he’s sweating.

 

“Everybody down! Do as you’re told and no-one gets hurt!”

 

 As Davis yells at the crowd, a sudden movement at the door draws Williams’ attention. The breath solidifies in his chest as he stares, transfixed, at the man in the black leather jacket who’s holding the door open for a woman with a pushchair. The man glances swiftly around the banking hall as the woman scrabbles frantically at her handbag, caught on the door handle. She’s out at last, and Williams relaxes momentarily.

 

Unheard behind him, Davis roars at him to move. He’s supposed to be getting the money from the third cashier; Backer and Moss are doing one and two and the four men he hasn’t met before are doing the others.

 

Then the breath leaves him entirely as the man in the jacket looks straight at him, then looks back at the door, checking his watch frequently. Slightly-built with a thin face, he looks to be in his late twenties or early thirties; his black hair falls to his collar.

 

Williams’ heart starts again with a double thump; his mind reels, along with his legs, as he staggers and put his hands up to his head. Unthinking, he lifts off his mask. “Dad!” he whispers.

 

Williams moans in his sleep, turning restlessly.

 

Daddy. A woman in a red dress is running, screaming. Sunlight on leaves; someone is gasping for breath. Where are you? The world goes dark. Williams shouts in fear. “No. No no NO NO NO.”

 

Williams cries out in his neat, lonely bedroom, tossing and turning desperately as if trying to escape from something.

 

The world swirls back into focus, but now it’s a different world.

 

Still in the bank, but lost in his new world, Williams sees people, children, watching him as he screams in terror. “I want to go home! Get me out of here!” He starts to run, but the real world is different to the one in his head. He hits a wall he’s not seeing and bangs on it, screaming, both fists hammering. “Get me out of here! Let me go! Mum! They’re looking at me! Let me come home! Don’t make me stay here!” He stares desperately around, seeing nothing. “Please! I want to go home!”


His mind is breaking apart, he’s completely lost, but he’s got one thing right: he is definitely being looked at. By the team of blaggers he’s pretending to be part of, by the general public caught up in this terrible fiasco, and by the hostage, tears on her face and a knife at her neck. 
 

Williams whimpers in his sleep, grasping his pillow and burying his face in it again.

 

Everyone is frozen in place, staring, when the main door bursts open. Williams’ shouting has alerted Sweetman’s men outside and they storm in earlier than planned. “Stay back or I’ll do her!” Davis screams as they come straight for him. They keep running; as Sweetman himself tries to grab Davis the knife moves: a flash, a moment, and the girl is bleeding, stark red against her blouse.

 

In Williams’ broken mind the carers and social workers are running towards him, gaining inexorably. He drops to his knees and cries again, begging to go home.

 
Sweetman has Davis in cuffs, but there is no-one with the girl yet. As the room settles to a horrified hush, all watching Williams, the thin-faced man steps forward. “Sam?” Williams looks up, incredulous, and starts to smile, wider and wider. It’s going to be all right. Daddy has come home after all. Sammy! Big boy now! Tears of pure joy form in the unseeing eyes.
 

Williams watches, glowing with happiness, as the man approaches and crouches in front of him. Unnoticed all around him, people are watching the tableau in sickened fascination. Sweetman forgets who Davis is for a moment, and they share a glance, shocked and embarrassed for the man with the wrecked mind. The girl closes her eyes and bleeds on the marble floor.

 

“Sam? DI Williams? Sam!” DI Mackenzie looks round at Sweetman, who nods at his DI. He speaks more quietly now and holds out a hand. “It’s OK, Sam, you’re quite safe. You need to come with me, Sam. Come on now.”

 

Williams wakes with a gasp so sudden and deep that it robs him of the strength for the next three breaths. Finally drawing in air desperately he struggles for full wakefulness but falls back into the nightmare again and again.

 

A sudden shriek makes him look round. She’s only young. “Everybody down!“  “Daddy.” Sunlight on leaves. “Get me out of here!” His smile widens and the girl bleeds.

 

A struggle with the sheets; a shudder.

 

A sudden shriek. “Get me out of here!” His smile widens and the girl bleeds.

 

“Daddy.” The girl bleeds.

 

The sheets are clammy with sweat when Williams finally wakes, shivering in the grey dawn.

 

They’d told him later he was still smiling when they helped him gently into the second ambulance.

 

* * *

 

 

 

 

...concluded in Part 8

 
 
John_neck
Comments 
7th-Feb-2008 08:43 am (UTC)
Phew!

Much as I'm enjoying this, I'm glad that there's only one part to go. I'm not sure whether I can take any more of this tension!
8th-Feb-2008 09:53 pm (UTC)
I think I'll take that as a compliment, so thank you very much!
10th-Feb-2008 01:14 am (UTC)
Oh, it's very definitely a compliment!
7th-Feb-2008 09:05 am (UTC)
Holy Jebus - this is excellent!
I must echo neuralclone above - the tension is excellent!
8th-Feb-2008 09:55 pm (UTC)
Thank you; funnily enough I wasn't especially going for tension. I just wanted to tell this man's story, and it seems to have turned out pretty angsty.
7th-Feb-2008 11:20 am (UTC)
Ack! I'm on the edge of my seat waiting for the next part. I'm still absolutely in love with Williams and the way you've portrayed his fractured mind. I think it's brilliant. Plus all the little clues, like the blue silk tie and Bowie, you've sprinkled them wonderfully throughout. I can't wait to read the next part!
8th-Feb-2008 09:57 pm (UTC)
Wow, I've got the Queen of the Cliffhanger on the edge of her seat - WIN! Thank you very much for your lovely comment.
7th-Feb-2008 02:16 pm (UTC)
Wow, awesome, that scene came together so clearly and perfectly! Yeaaaa!

I think you are whipping people raw with the angsty angst here. LOL! This truly is a magnificent series.

8th-Feb-2008 10:02 pm (UTC)
Thanks for your help on this one; your list of things which weren't clear was a very useful prompt.

And I've been a bit surprised to learn that people are finding it angsty. It seems to me that angst is often about hurting a character purely to do a bit of h/c (nothing necessarily wrong with that!), but the stuff going on here is just an essential part of who he's turned out to be. And based on canon, too, as far as I could.

I'm obviously just not seeing this one objectively yet.
7th-Feb-2008 07:43 pm (UTC)
And again wow. Just off the read the last chapter.

p.s. love the line about the jacket Perhaps it would grow on him
8th-Feb-2008 10:08 pm (UTC)
Thank you again; I did have quite a long shopping list of things I wanted to fit in, to make Williams convincing as a pre-cursor to Tyler, but I didn't want to have them sticking out all over the place. I did feel The Jacket™ had to get a mention though!
7th-Feb-2008 08:50 pm (UTC)
OK, so *now* I'm feeling sorry for Sam. And acutely embarassed by/for him. You've managed to capture that 'cringe-worthy' element the show had whenever Sam flipped out - really well done.
8th-Feb-2008 10:10 pm (UTC)
Oh yes, I remember that awful feeling, and I'm honoured that you felt it here.I was going for an echo of the Reg Cole gun-at-head moment, so I hope that came over.
8th-Feb-2008 12:31 am (UTC)
Wow. When Sam goes nuts on the show, I have to look away and plug my ears and just have people tell me what happened. I never thought I would have to do that with a fic, but I just made my sister read it and tell me exactly what happened when Sam freaked out. In case you can't tell, that's a tremendous compliment, because no one has ever made me cringe like that in any kind of story. Way to go.
8th-Feb-2008 10:17 pm (UTC)
Oh my goodness, is all I can say to that. I guess it wouldn't normally be taken as a compliment to be told you'd made someone cringe, but as that was precisely the element of the show I was trying to evoke, it is here!

Thank you.
9th-Feb-2008 03:36 am (UTC)
I find myself turning your story over in mind after I've finished reading each installment just looking at it from different angles and pulling on different plot threads. It always holds true and real somehow and that's pretty bloody amazing.

Thank you!
9th-Feb-2008 01:45 pm (UTC)
...pulling on different plot threads. It always holds true and real somehow

Thank you very much for that; I was hoping I'd tied everything up convincingly, but it's difficult when you're so close to something for so long.

I'm really pleased that you were interested enough to think about it after you'd finished reading!
27th-Feb-2008 05:44 pm (UTC)
Please pardon my language, because the only reaction that I can put down here is "holy shit!" This was not at all what I had expected to happen, and yet, having read it, it's the only thing that I can picture happening at all.

Sam's breakdown on the robbery, and the fact that it came following after his refusal to back down and come away from the undercover operation, was just amazingly realistic, and so very, very painful to read. The descriptions of his hallucinations and the bank were exquisitely detailed, and they came together so well, it was as if I could see everything, not just as a narrative picture in my mind, but splashed out and cut together like a wonderfully edited film. Very few stories do that to me - amazing job.

The build up to this didn't detract from it at all, which is something that a lot of suspense and tension can do to the eventual outcome, and the lack of come-down, the fact that the conclusion to the bank job that everyone kept mentioning was still so strong, and such an adrenaline rush, is another testament to your powerful capability of seeding emotion throughout a scene, and of your ability to tie everything so tightly together that even the unexpected fits perfectly into the story.

This was just so well done - and I'm still a bit on edge from it. If I get called up for my turn and told to put my laptop away before I finish the last part, I'm going to scream... *hurries to part 8*
4th-Mar-2008 12:45 am (UTC)
I’d be fascinated to know what you were expecting to happen? No probs at all with the language; it’s frankly a good feeling to have provoked such a forceful response.

Writing this nightmare did drive me mad; the whole fic is essentially Sam Williams’ pov, but there were parts of this section where I had to use third-person impersonal viewpoint (if that’s the correct terminology) to show the reader what was happening outside his head which he couldn’t see for himself. That felt very strange at first, because the reader has to adjust from one to the other,and there is inevitably a bit of a jolt at those points. Add in the fact that it’s a nightmare anyway and that fact has to be conveyed , and this chapter used to have about six different fonts and colours to show the different povs.

If I get called up for my turn and told to put my laptop away before I finish the last part, I'm going to scream..

That is such a compliment! I’m so pleased you have the patience to comment on every chapter, and I’m very impressed you had the willpower to calmly comment on this part before moving on to Part 8. I can never manage that; I always end up rushing onto the next post, and forgetting to go back and comment, which is very rude.

Thank you so much for commenting!
9th-Mar-2008 03:31 pm (UTC)
I love the change in viewpoints for the nightmare - it just made it seem that much more detached from the action of the story, and made the environment seem so at odds with Sam - it was really, really well done! Hee; I always try to comment before I go on to the next part, just to see if I could guess something correctly, etc.
12th-Apr-2008 02:14 pm (UTC)
Ouch. His smile widens and the girl bleeds. That is really creepy. I said I wanted to know, and in a way I'm glad now that I do, but in others it makes me think twice about how much I trust Sam Tyler's character in the series. Which is stupid, but it makes him seem much more dangerous, much closer to the edge than I think is revealed in the show and that's terrifying. The idea that we still don't know him, just as he doesn't quite know himself...really well done.
15th-Apr-2008 04:41 pm (UTC)
YAY, RESULT!

That is the best compliment a fanfic writer can ever get, imo; that a piece of fic might change someone's perception of the canon character is just mind-blowing! Thank you very much indeed for that.
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