“Don’t be a fool, Alex.”
She looked up from the flickering flames and gave Keats a cold smile.
It was ironic, in a way, she realized. Not too long ago she’d come out to this alley and found Gene destroying everything related to her investigation into Sam Tyler, her one lead for answers. Or so she’d thought at the time.
But there were always other avenues…if you were looking for them.
“Alex, I’m giving you one last chance.” The familiar click of a gun’s hammer being drawn back wasn’t unexpected.
“You don’t give anything, Jimbo.” Gene emerged from the shadows, gun trained unerringly on Keats.
Alex would have been disappointed with herself for not coming up with something more original, if she still believed this were all a concoction of her own mind. She’d stopped believing that long before she cared to admit. This place was as real as anywhere else. Perhaps more real.
“Go ahead, Bolls.”
“One more step, Hunt, and she dies.”
“It’s going to be all right, Guv,” she said at last, ignoring Keats and fixing her gaze on Gene. “I promise.”
Letting going of the files was the easiest thing she had ever done, flames doing the work they should have done long ago.
The stars spun slowly above her as she landed on the damp pavement, the gunshots already a distant memory.
“Easiest choice,” she murmured and waited. It wouldn’t be long.
Suddenly Gene appeared in her field of vision. “Laying down on the job again, Drake?” He shook his head, then reached down and hauled her to her feet.
Unsteady, she braced herself against his chest.
“Save the thank yous for later, we’ve still got a mess to clean up.” He nodded over to the lifeless heap that had, until a moment ago, been Jim Keats.
“Of course. Your well-timed fainting fit didn’t hurt matters any.”
She pushed off him and stood on her own two feet. “I did not faint.”
“Fine, then, you ducked.”
Alex grinned. “If I didn’t know better, I would think you were trying to get on my good side.”
“Been trying that for three year n—”
He slammed into her, nearly taking them both to the ground before his knees buckled and took him down and away from her.
Chris stood opposite her, gun still raised, steady, his face impassive. “Had to be done,” was all he said before turning the gun on himself and pulling the trigger.
She dimly registered the shock that froze her to the spot, but she couldn’t quite break free. Too much…
Alex screamed as something caught her ankle.
“He was right,” Gene’s voice cut through the fog enveloping her. “Had to be done.”
He struggled to get up, but Alex dropped to his side, urging him to be still as she sought out the wound. Too much blood. Too fast. “Take it easy, we’ll get you patched up.”
His hand settled over hers that was so ineffective at staunching the bleeding. “I outstayed my welcome a long time ago, Alex.”
She pressed harder, shaking her head. “That’s not true. We need you…I need you.”
Gene started to laugh, but the laughter broke up into a deep, watery cough. “We’re not lying to each other anymore, remember?”
“Gene…this place. I can’t—”
“You can and you will.” Even in the dim light, his eyes were as intense as ever. “Ray’s not ready yet and Shaz…still has a lot to learn.” Gene’s grip tightened. “You’re good for them, Bolly. Good…for me.”
In a heartbeat, Gene Hunt was gone and had left the mess to her to clean up.
“Bastard,” she breathed, then gently closed his eyes. But she’d had a choice, go or stay. And stay she would, until she wasn’t needed anymore.