PLACE, ANY TIME
By the late Cathy Lynn Goodwin
Set within Sun Hill, between #228 TROJAN HORSE and #229 RITES (The Sun Hill bombing) Featuring Alec Peters.
[The Bill is (C) Thames-Carlton TV. This is a fan-written story and no infringement of character copyrights is intended.]
The upgrading and refurbishment of the station had caused total disruption at Sun Hill and if Alec Peters was to be brutally honest, he would have said the whole thing was a bloody nuisance. He wasn't privy to all the reconstruction plans; he hadn't spoken to the Chief Super for some time, in fact, Brownlow had only returned from Bramshill that afternoon, and the odd chat or two he'd had with Chief Inspector Conway, who seemed harried and uncommunicative of late anyway, suggested that those higher up the chain were concerned that Sun Hill and its personnel were vulnerable to terrorist attack. Surely they were over reacting? Certainly there had been that fire bomb incident at the front office a couple of years ago, but that was an isolated incident. Alec had read of the need to build police stations like fortresses in the US where street violence and the public animosity against the police were rife, but Sun Hill was just a local nick, after all, wasn't it?
Disruption had been minimal in the CAD room at least and it was still operating at full capacity. Innovation was inevitable he supposed and even though Alec was a copper of the old school, he'd been flexible enough in his thinking to adapt to the new technology. No doubt he would also get used to the idea of working inside a virtual citadel.
The worst of it was, of course, having to work with and out of Barton Street, a station with a bad reputation, and as far as he was concerned, better off in another Division. Alec much preferred to be on CAD room duty back here at Sun Hill than custody sergeant under their roof, especially after recent events. He didn't relish Tom Penny's position over there at the moment. It wasn't safe.
He glanced at the digital clock. The time had just clicked over to 1809 and both Phil Young and Sue Ford were working quietly and steadily. It had been fairly quiet so far this shift and Alec himself had dealt with Ken Melvin's registration check on a blue XJS Jag he suspected of being stolen. This suspicion subsequently proved to be correct; it belonged to an army Colonel and had been nicked from Kensington earlier that day. As a matter of fact, Ken should be arriving with the car any minute because Barton Street had got their sums wrong again and the vehicle holding yard was full.
Alec's attention had turned to other matters when, suddenly, there was a loud bang similar to a cannon boom, that could not only be heard, but felt right from the ground up. The lights flickered and died and the computers went down. The alarm activated and in accordance with fire procedures, the CAD room vacated as one with Sgt Peters in the lead. He told Ford to get some torches and, concerned for the unknown, sent Young and another constable back inside.
When he reached the yard, the sight that met his eyes was, for a moment, incomprehensible. What took place next seemed to occur in slow motion so that later he would remember every single detail.
There was fire, and a bitterly pungent smoke spewing from the distorted shell of a motor vehicle and also from the rubbish skip. The noise was horrendous. Torn and crumpled car parts were everywhere. At first he thought it was raining, but knew that couldn't be right.
"Is there anyone there?" he called, shouting above the din, but he didn't get an answer. He then saw George Garfield moving about the flames and yelled again: "Is there anyone there?"
"I dunno, sarge," George called back, but he and another constable were busy bringing extinguishers to bear on the fire, so Alex turned to find a safe passage through to assist.
Cathy Marshall called to him. She was trying to gain access to the Chief Super's portacabin and Alec leant his shoulder to force the door. As she entered, he continued on round the temporary structure to the yard again, past George, towards the gate. The air was loud with sirens as the emergency services responded to the automatic alarms, and as Alex made for the gate, he saw a pair of legs protruding from a pile of building materials stacked near Brownlow's car. He rushed to the spot to find Ken Melvin lying, deathlike, and pinned beside it. Alex called to George to help him remove the window frames and boxes.
Ambulances and the fire brigade arrived simultaneously, and Alec charged to the nearest ambulance to seek assistance.
"Up here!" He heard Insp. Monroe yelling at the top of his voice for similar assistance. Glancing back, Alec saw him up on the walkway beckoning and wondered who had been hit. His first priority, however, was to lead the ambulance officers back to the badly injured young constable. Meanwhile, firemen attacked the flames, hoses snaking everywhere. The yard was quickly becoming crowded.
While the ambulance officers worked, Alec and George exchanged despondent looks. Ken wasn't responding at all. Put on oxygen and loaded onto a stretcher, he appeared to be merely clinging to life, and Alec helped to get the stretcher moving, then stood aside. As he did so, Insp. Monroe, Cathy Marshall and another man eased past him and it took a moment to register that the man was the Chief Super. He had been injured, too; looked to be in shock and was bleeding. Alec concluded that if Brownlow had been involved, chances were that Conway must have been too, and made his way to the portacabin to do whatever he could. It was there he saw the second team of ambulance officers helping Reg Hollis down the stairs. Bob Cryer was coming down with them. Reg looked none too good, but at least he could walk. Bob seemed more shocked than physically injured, and of that Alec was glad.
Inside the portacabin, Alec pushed through the debris and gave George Garfield, who had been watching over Conway, a hand to get him more comfortable. Conway kept complaining about his shoulder and he was bleeding from the face and head.
"Just keep still, Sir. We'll get you some help," Alec told him, then looked to George. "Go and get one of those ambulance blokes. Quickly now." He didn't want to move the Chief Inspector before being examined by someone more qualified. George picked his way through the debris and disappeared.
"What happened?" Conway asked through a haze of pain.
"Not sure, sir. Car bomb most likely, There's been several casualties, I'm afraid."
"A car bomb?"
"By the looks," the sergeant told him.
Before he could elaborate, George returned with an ambulance officer who checked Conway over and then strapped his shoulder to immobilise it. Once done, they combined to get him on his feet and walk him to the only remaining ambulance in the yard where Reg and Bob were waiting to be transported to the hospital. Already a curious crowd of onlookers were beginning to gather, and Alec ordered George and June Ackland out to get them to move on.
"Get that lot of rubbernecks to shift," he told them. "They're blocking the exit."
Once he saw to that, Alec searched for Monroe. The Inspector looked disheveled, but in charge. They exchanged a few quick words.
"I've been onto the Yard." Monroe explained. "They'll have someone here inside the hour."
"Right, Sir, I'll get our people back to work."
"Good. Keep them busy, Alec. Help to keep their minds off things."
Ours, too, Alex hoped as he returned to the CAD room to oversee the restoration of services. Everyone was in a state of shock and couldn't bring themselves to talk about the incident. Alec himself felt very tired, physically tired and just wanted to sit down. At one point, a DS from S013 came in to ask for details of the driver of the stolen XJS. If the anti-terrorist squad was involved it was a serious security situation indeed.
A call came in from the hospital, which Alex took himself.
"Alec, it's me, Bob," said the solemn voice. "Young Ken didn't, make it, mate. Died without regaining consciousness."
Alec was silent a moment. "It's a hell of a situation,. Bob," he replied with sadness in his voice.
"Yeah." Cryer said then rang off. There didn't seem much else to say.
Alec steeled himself, and broke the news to his people in the CAD room. It was a terribly hard thing to do.
He recalled his own thoughts only an hour or so ago in this very room. The intention to fortify Sun Hill against terrorist attack, had, it seemed, been justified, even if the incident had occurred while the upgrading had yet to be completed. The higher ups would be nodding their heads in agreement, comfortable in the knowledge that their decision had been the correct one. They may even have a passing thought for the poor unfortunate constable killed in the blast.
Physical injury was an occupational hazard in the Metropolitan Police, but you didn't dwell on that aspect of the job too much. There were no guarantees, after all. Ken had known that better than anyone. What troubled Alec most was the fact that he himself no longer felt immune, and that the worst could happen any place, any time. More so now than ever before in Alec's nearly thirty years of service.
He wouldn't have been able to explain how he felt; couldn't understand it himself. He kept remembering unconnected and partial instances of conversations with the young man and of the events in which, together, they had been involved. He kept seeing his face and it was hard to concentrate on the task at hand. It was simply impossible to accept that Ken was no longer with them. He worried for all the relief then, and couldn't help but wonder who would be next. Alec was thankful he only had a few years to put in before he could hand in his warrant card. The job was getting far too dangerous.
Looking up and around the CAD room, he tried to shake off the dark thoughts and chided himself for his unnecessary worry. With less and less time actually spent on the streets, the odds were definitely in his favour. It was hardly likely that anything would happen to him.
"Any problems, Alec?" Insp Monroe asked.
The sergeant hadn't even noticed him come in. The Inspector obviously meant with the operation of the CAD room, getting it back on line.
"No problems, Sir. Business as usual."
Why was it so hard to convince himself of that?
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