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.
* * *
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