VICTORY FOR ALL
Tommy and Barbara attend the VE Day 70 Celebration: A Party To Remember as there has been a rumour one of the people performing will be shot.
A first time story.
Written: May 2015. Word count: 2,715.
Author's note: This event was real; all the people mentioned did indeed perform. I mean no offence to anyone or any serviceman or woman by using the event in this story.
Tommy held the door to the commissioner's office open for Barbara and allowed her to precede him inside.
"Thank you, sir," she murmured, as she somewhat hesitantly went into Commissioner Johnson's lair. Normally when he sent for Tommy, it was just Tommy he wanted to see. However, this time he had told Tommy to bring Barbara with him.
Tommy knew most of his fellow inspectors would have stridden into the office in front of their sergeant, but it was difficult to break a life-time's conditioning and change the way you were brought up. Tommy had been brought up to open doors and stand aside for ladies, and even after his years at the Met, he couldn't break the habit. He didn't actually want to break the habit.
In the early days of his partnership with Barbara, she had made it clear she didn't like the fact he held doors open for her as well as doing other such chivalrous things. However, over the years they had worked together her attitude to that, and many other things, especially where Tommy himself was concerned, had changed. Now she accepted it as she accepted the fact it often rained in London.
"Ah, Tommy, Sergeant Havers, come in and sit down." Commissioner Johnson waved them to seats in front of his desk. Tommy waited until Barbara had sat down before sitting down next to her.
"You wanted to see us, sir?" He asked polite, after a fairly lengthy silence.
"Yes, Tommy. I did. Have either of you heard about the VE Day 70 Celebration entitled A Party To Remember?"
Tommy glanced at Barbara who nodded, before looking back at Johnson. "Yes, sir. It's the one being held on Saturday at The Horse Guards Parade, I believe."
Johnson nodded. "Yes, that's the one. It's being called the 'centrepiece of the national celebrations for the 70th anniversary of VE Day'. There are going to be songs and live readings as well as a few short films showing archives of the time and contributions from some people who lived through the events."
Tommy nodded. "Yes, sir. I believe thousands are meant to be in attendance."
"Yes." Johnson looked somewhat grim.
Johnson sighed and for a moment fiddled with some papers on his desk. "Some information has come my way," he said, staring directly at Tommy. "Information pertaining to the event. Apparently there is a small, unknown organisation which is planning an attack on the event."
"As a protest against war."
"But that doesn't make sense, sir. This event has nothing to do with supporting war." Tommy was stunned.
Johnson sighed again. "I know, Tommy. But you are aware of how these fanatics think from time to time. My information is there will be a single gunman or gunwoman," he added, glancing swiftly at Barbara, before looking back at Tommy, "whose sole purpose is to kill one of the people performing."
Johnson looked even grimmer. "That's the main problem, Tommy, we don't know. It could be any of them and the list is long and contains some very well known names: Alexander Armstrong, Katherine Jenkins, Alfie Boe, Elaine Page, Martin Shaw, Laurence Fox, Richard E. Grant, Bernard Cribbins and Ian Lavender to name but a few. Household names, and we don't know which of them is under threat, if indeed it's any of the ones I've named - there are plenty more performing. Here," he held out two sheets of paper, one to Tommy and one to Barbara. "If we knew who it was we could maybe persuade them not to perform, but we don't. Security is as far as I am aware not going to be particularly tight; it's an open-air event. I'm worried, Tommy; I'm very worried. The thing is also being televised."
Tommy glanced down the list of people who were going to perform and saw, in addition to the ones, the commissioner had mentioned, that Status Quo, Chas & Dave, Jane Horrocks and Julia Sawalha were also due to appear, as well as several others. He could understand why Johnson was so concerned.
"How reliable is this information, sir?"
He was rather surprised when Johnson looked away from him and once more began to fiddle with some papers on his desk. His surprise increased when he looked sharply at Barbara; Tommy saw clearly that he was considering telling her to leave.
After a moment Johnson stopped fiddling with his papers and sighed very deeply. "I have received tips from this person in the past; they have always been accurate. However," again he glanced swiftly at Barbara before looking back at Tommy. "I cannot exactly call my informant 'reliable' given he is under the influence of hard drugs more often than he is not." Once again he looked at Barbara.
"But you still trust him, sir?" Barbara asked, her tone polite and low.
Johnson nodded. "Yes, Sergeant Havers, I'm afraid to say I do trust him - well, let us say I trust that his information is correct; I would not, however, trust him with my wallet." Johnson actually laughed for a moment and smiled briefly at Barbara.
"What do you want us to do, sir?" Tommy asked.
"Attend the event, I have tickets for you, and stop the person from shooting one of the guest stars." Johnson spoke as though he was simply asking them to pick up his dry-cleaning. "You have my authorisation to be armed, should you wish to, Inspector Lynley." His tone was very formal as he said the final words. Tommy wasn't surprised he had used his rank rather than his name as he normally did; arming someone wasn't something the commissioner ever did lightly.
"Yes, sir. Thank you, sir." Tommy stood up; a second later Barbara was on her feet as well.
"Do what you can, Tommy. I have faith in both you and Sergeant Havers," he nodded at both of them.
"Yes, sir. Thank you, sir." Tommy turned to go.
Tommy turned back around. "Sir?"
"Stop the bastard at any costs. Do you understand?"
Tommy nodded. "Yes, sir." He held Johnson's gaze for a moment before once more turning around; he went to the door, opened it and let Barbara once more go through before he followed her.
"Stop him!" she said, when they reached his office. "Just like that?"
Tommy smiled at her and sipped the coffee she had made for them. "Yes, Barbara 'just like that'."
"This informant of the commissioner's, is he really trustworthy?"
Tommy held her gaze. "It's thanks to him that William Johnson is not only our commissioner, but that he's still alive." Barbara's eyes widened. "Yes, he's a drug addict, a serious one; most of the time he's out of his head. But he has never been wrong. Never," he repeated. "An unknown gunman is going to be at the event and he is going to try to shoot and kill one of the people on this list. All we have to do is to stop him."
"Can't we, can't the commissioner, suggest the event is cancelled?"
Tommy shook his head. "I don't think so, Barbara. It's too important for the nation."
"Surely not as important as someone's life?"
She had a very simplistic way of putting things at times; simplistic but higher accurate. He sighed. "In some ways you could say this whole event, what it's celebrating - victory, the end of the war, a celebration of all those men and women who gave their lives to help keep us safe, to give us life, shows us that . . ." He put his head in his hands for a moment. "I don't know," he said. "We have a job to do; let's do it."
She frowned for a moment and then nodded. "Yes, sir. Where do we start? If only we knew who the bloke was going after, it'd be a start. We could concentrate on keeping him or her safe, but we don't. Do you think the commissioner's informant might know more?"
Tommy shook his head. "No. At least not at the moment. He doesn't play games, Barbara. He tells the commissioner everything he knows when he knows it. If he knew anything else, he would have told him."
Barbara frowned again. "If you don't mind me saying so, sir, you and Commissioner Johnson are putting a hell of a lot of faith in the word of a junkie."
Tommy gave her a half-smile. "Yes, Barbara, we are."
She shrugged. "Oh, well, in that case, I guess I'd better do that same. So what's our plan?"
"To keep the person alive."
"Oh, that's really helpful, sir! You know, it's not going to be easy, shooting someone I mean. It going to be so public and there are going to be a lot of people there. He's going to have be pretty near the front to use a handgun, and it's going to have to be a handgun, I'd have thought; a high-powered rifle isn't something that can be easily hidden. Maybe . . . Maybe it's all an act."
Barbara nodded. "Yes. Maybe it's just this group's way of making their voice heard. Maybe no one is going to get shot. Maybe he's just going to wave the gun around or something. I honestly don't see how he's going to get close enough to kill someone who's on stage."
Tommy nodded. "You make some jolly good points, Barbara, and I agree with many of them. However, what if the potential killer is actually a member of the BBC production team, or the backstage staff, or someone closely involved with the event, or even one of the people performing? What then? He'll be able to quite easily get close enough to kill and maybe even do so without anyone seeing him."
Barbara frowned. "I can't believe that anyone on this list if that fanatical," she said.
"Can't you? Do you know them? Really know any of them?"
"Well, no. Only from the telly. But they all seem nice."
"Hitler was apparently kind to dogs and children," Tommy said quietly.
She shot him a look which made him hide a smile. "Are you going to be armed?" She spoke quietly.
Tommy hesitated for a second before nodding. "Yes. Yes, Barbara, I am."
"I still think we should cancel the event."
"And I think the commissioner has already considered that, has probably even talked to some people about doing just that."
"What about warning these people at least?"
Tommy sighed. "I think he's thought about that too."
She frowned. "He's playing with lives."
Tommy held her gaze. "Well if you're correct, and the more I think about it the more likely it seems that you are correct, then it's actually going to come to nothing. The man is not going to get near enough."
"If I'm right. That's a big if, sir."
They sat next to one another on the front row. The atmosphere was amazing; people were waving flags and laughing and talking and smiling; everyone seemed happy, friendly, delighted to be there. Tommy had seen some footage from the actual VE day celebrations and the atmosphere seemed very similar. The people around him, for the most part, were too young to have been alive during the war or the end of it, but they seemed caught up in the whole thing. This kind of event was something Britain did extremely well.
So far he and Barbara hadn't seen or heard anything even remotely suspicious. No one they had seen seemed to be behaving strangely or acting in a suspicious manner. No one was looking around them (well about from Barbara and he) no one kept checking their pocket; no one looked furtive; no one seemed to be putting on an act; everyone just looked like people about to enjoy a very special concert.
Commissioner Johnson's informant had come up with four additional pieces of information. One: the shooter was a man; two: he had never done anything like it before; three: he was dreadfully young and four: the victim was posh. Due to his age and inexperience, Tommy would have expected the shooter to be nervous and to be showing his nerves, to look out of place. But no one was; at least no one they could see.
Chris Evans appeared and the celebrations began. As each act went by smoothly, Tommy relaxed just a little bit more; he knew which of the participants was doing just one song or reading and which were doing more than one. So far two people were perfectly safe. Two; it wasn't many.
Suddenly Barbara leant closer to him and said in a low voice, "If he sings like that why is he presenting a day time quiz show? Why isn't he doing what people like Katherine Jenkins do?"
As the audience, including Tommy and Barbara, wildly applauded Alexander Armstrong, he said, "I don't know, Barbara." Unfortunately he couldn't wipe Armstrong from his list of 'safe people'; he was singing again later. Plus, he fitted probably the best of all, with the 'posh' tag. A newspaper had once dubbed him 'the poshest man in comedy' and it was a term which had been used many times, even by his co-host on Pointless. As he bowed and walked off the stage, Tommy breathed a sigh of relief; if it was him he appeared to be safe for now.
They were getting nearish to the end of the event and so far there hadn't been any hint of trouble; Tommy was beginning to wonder if for once the commissioner's informant had been incorrect. However, even as he had the thought, he dismissed it; he had never been wrong before, why would he be this time.
As Alexander Armstrong appeared again, Barbara nudged him. "Sir. To your left."
Unhurriedly Tommy turned and saw a young man, a very young man; he couldn't be more than sixteen if that, moving slowly. He looked pale, was shaking slightly and had his hand in the pocket of his jacket. Even though he was the only person on his feet, no one was paying him any attention; their attention was fully focussed on Armstrong who began to sing.
He could be wrong; he could be so wrong, but he put his trust in his copper's instinct. If he could just go over to the boy, take his arm and lead him away without any fuss, no one need know anything. "Stay here," he said softly. Barbara gave him a look to indicate she wasn't happy, but nonetheless nodded.
Slowly so not as to spook the boy who was now doing far more than merely shaking slightly, Tommy stood up. He moved towards the boy whose sole focus seemed to be on Armstrong and reached for his arm and closed his hand around it.
He wasn't prepared for how swiftly the boy moved. The bullet hit him at point blank range and he fell to the ground. People began to scream; the boy hesitated for no more than a second before throwing down the gun and racing off.
As he slipped away, Tommy heard Barbara cry, "Tommy!" He smiled as his eyes fell shut.
"Don't die, don't die, don't die, Tommy. Please don't die." From the haze of consciousness being slowly regained, Tommy heard Barbara repeat the words over and over again. He didn't have the strength to open his eyes or give her any indication that he wasn't still unconscious. "You can't die now. You can't. You can't die until I've told you what I feel about you. You can't die; I haven't had a chance tell you that I love you. That I'm in love with you. That I - Damn you, Tommy! You cannot die!"
Using every ounce of his strength, Tommy forced his eyes open, slowly turned his head on the pillow and looked at Barbara. She looked awful; pale, her eyes were dark and hooded, her hair was a mess, she was unkempt, her cheeks streaked with tears. Never had she looked more beautiful.
"I'm not planning on dying just yet, Barbara," he managed.
"Tommy!" she cried, as she jumped and stared at him. "Oh, Tommy!" And she kissed him.
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