Chapter 1: Impulsive Behaviour
Holly Turner was nervous.
To any other observer, this wouldn't have necessarily been obvious, but since Jeff Slade was one of the very few who knew her and her quirks, her fiddling with one of the interior parts of her time machine was rather telling of the current state of her nerves.
Having just spent a day cleaning up the paperwork that was generated from being framed for a crime he didn't commit and freeing his father from five years in prison for exactly the same situation was rather wearing on one's mood, and Slade was looking forward to enjoying an evening in the company of said father. The fact he'd chosen Holly's flat was what had caused her nerves. Logically it had been a sound choice since his flat was barely furnished and he'd only recently acquired a single cup purely because he knew she preferred to drink from one rather than a bottle. But logic had flown out the window in the face of the fact she was going to have to be social with someone she barely knew, whilst at the same time pretending there wasn't a rather large time machine taking up most of her sitting room.
She bit down lightly on the screwdriver in her mouth whilst she used both hands to twist a component slightly to the right – perhaps that would stop the shaking she had started to notice when the machine was running, she mused.
She turned towards the kitchen, pausing to admire the pure domesticity of it all. Had she travelled back in time a few months and told herself that she'd have a man in her kitchen, cooking dinner, whilst they waited for his father – of all people – to arrive, she'd have laughed. (And then most likely have disappeared, along with the rest of the universe, thanks to the paradox that event would have created.)
"Mm, something smells good," she said, taking the screwdriver out of her mouth and sniffing the air. Slade turned and sent her an appreciative glance, noting how her hands were still restless.
"Got any fenugreek?"
"Any what?" she asked, bewildered, and he had to bite his cheek to prevent the laugh that wanted to escape.
"Fenugreek; it's a spice. Don't you ever make anything?"
Holly looked mildly put out and held up the component in her hands. "I made this."
He sighed lightly and went back to frying what smelled like onions to her, adding another spice he had found in the depths of one of the cupboards and hoping it didn't have an expiry date on it. "You're a genius that can build a time machine and lecture on things that have more than five syllables in each word but give you a piece of toast and you burn it."
"I'm not quite sure whether to take that as a compliment or insult," she shot back and he chuckled.
"Compliment, Holly, always a compliment. Although we will have to teach you how to toast a slice of bread, for starters."
Setting down the piece of machinery and moving into the kitchen, she reached round him to pick up a bottle of wine and pour some into a glass for herself, then topped his up as an afterthought. He moved back slightly, just enough to bring them closer, and he bumped her hip with hers. "Seriously, Holly, how did you manage before I came along?"
"I have a microwave," she retorted, and he rolled his eyes. So much for healthy eating. Before he could reply, though, the doorbell went and he felt her tense next to him.
"Ohh, we should have done this at your place..."
He laid a hand on her arm and gave her a gentle push towards her front door. "Three people, two plates. Don't worry; you'll be fine – just keep that door shut!"
She dashed over to the sitting room and shut the doors firmly, checking her reflection in the hall mirror before opening the door to a rather dapper-looking Jack Slade, brandishing a bottle of expensive looking champagne.
"Hi, come in," she smiled, opening the door further and ushering him in.
"This is for you," he offered the champagne, and she took it, studying the label.
"Oh, you shouldn't have!"
"I didn't," Jack grinned as he headed towards the source of the delicious smell. "Kate Grisham sent me a crate."
Holly wasn't surprised, although a crate of expensive bubbly wasn't quite compensation enough for five years in jail for a crime he hadn't committed. "Just go straight through. I hope you don't mind eating in the kitchen but we're painting the sitting room and it's a terrible mess."
Behind the closed doors the time machine hummed as if in annoyance at being considered a 'mess'.
The clinks of cutlery against plates was the only sound as they ate, enjoying the meal and company. Holly was starting to think that Slade was rather useful to have around if he kept making meals as delicious as the one she was currently sampling. He was almost making up for the amount of times he'd used her time machine.
"This is good," Jack suddenly announced, nodding as he looked over at Holly. "You're a good cook."
She glanced up, baffled, and then smiled sheepishly. "Thank you."
Slade sent her a disbelieving look which she pointedly ignored.
Jack set his cutlery down and reached for his wine glass, swirling the contents around for a moment before speaking. "Jeff, something's been bothering me. About this Oldroyd business. I can't get it out of my head."
Slade tried to feign nonchalance, but he knew that tone. The tone that meant his father was onto something. "Oh? What's that then?"
"You came to see me at nine o'clock in the morning, in jail, right?"
Slade shrugged. "Yeah."
"Well, as I understand it, at nine o'clock you were lying unconscious in some park after Oldroyd had knocked you out."
Slade lifted his wine glass, mouth open slightly. "Oh."
"He wasn't really knocked out," Holly interjected. "We just pretended – "
" – in order to trap Oldroyd," Slade finished for her. "We always suspected him after what happened to you."
"We followed him to his hotel and saw he had the diamonds, so..."
"And the only reason we came to you was because we wanted to check that that was the way he worked, that it really was him."
Jack raised his eyebrow. "Fine. That's what I thought."
Holly flicked a desperate glance over at Slade and he gave her a reassuring smile. Just when they thought the conversation was over, Jack carefully appraised her over the top of his glass. "Holly Turner," he said, rolling her name over his tongue like a particularly tasteful wine. "You're not related to Frederick Turner, by any chance are you?"
Holly sat back in her chair, cautious of the way he was regarding her. "He's my father."
"Really! So...this is his flat, where he lived and worked?"
"Well that's interesting, 'cos you see I found this book in the prison library, by him. It's all about time travel."
Holly's breath caught in her chest. "Time travel?" The question almost came out as a squeak and Slade sent her a warning glance before jumping in to her rescue.
"That must have been the fiction section, right Dad?"
"My father used to throw out theories on time travel amongst the scientific community but he never actually got the chance to work on them," Holly lied, hoping Jack would get bored of his line of questioning and move onto safer topics. "Some of his theories were quite good and I use them for my lecturing, but that's all they are. We're probably decades away from even being able to test small scale, let alone think about time travel full scale."
"So maybe not the fiction section," Slade muttered under his breath, gaining a small grin from Jack as the elder Slade shrugged, watching the pair of them carefully.
"I dunno. I never read it."
The tension almost disappeared from Holly's frame and Slade's mouth turned up into a small smile. "Oh, right."
Jack waited a moment for them all to start eating again, stabbing a pea with his fork and scrutinising it. He slid his gaze over to Holly and casually said, "I might, though."
Holly dropped her fork.
After Jack had said his goodbyes and expressed his disappointment at not being able to stay longer, he took himself off to his next stop; a chat with Kate Grisham. She had invited him over for a quick drink and since it wasn't too late he thought he'd take her up on the offer. He'd always had time for her when they'd worked together and he was pleased to see how far her career had come.
He greeted her husband who briefly paused to swap pleasantries before bowing out, feigning tiredness to allow the old colleagues to catch up.
They'd covered most of the good old days and his time in prison – not something he wanted to experience again anytime soon – before the topic turned to his son.
"I'm glad he's finally found someone. After his divorce he just pulled back from everyone," he mused, and Kate nodded, remembering the time when he had just started working for her. He'd been a lot more difficult then than he was now, and she'd known it was a reaction to having his life turned upside down.
"He's still his usual troublesome self, but a little more social than he used to be. Although I wasn't aware he was seeing anyone," she frowned. "He doesn't seem to be the domestic type."
"Really? I've just had dinner with him and that lovely science officer of yours, Holly Turner."
"Are you sure they're not just friends? I know they spend a lot of time together but they're always so professional."
Jack tilted his head and regarded her, wondering whether her disbelief was genuine or if she was protecting her two subordinates from any possibility of rumours and gossip. Why she needed to was beyond him, since he was Slade's father. "Could be my mistake, Kate. They just looked so cosy."
"Cosy?" Kate laughed. "Slade? Now that I'd like to see." She contemplated the wine bottle for a moment, before shrugging. "Mind you, if they are together I'd say they're a good match. He's helped her break out of her shell and become more a part of the team. And if anyone can curb Jeff Slade's impulsive behaviour, it's Holly Turner."
Jack grinned, lifting his glass. "I'll drink to that."
The time machine hummed quietly as it sat in the corner of the sitting room, Holly and Slade curled up on the sofa, both wrapped up in their own thoughts. The soft glow cast over them was enough that they didn't need to turn the overhead light on, and neither could be bothered to move to turn on the television in the corner.
"Penny for them," Slade broke into Holly's musing, and she turned her head to regard him thoughtfully.
"You were thinking so loud I could hear the cogs turning. What's on your mind?" He slid a hand down her arm and patted it reassuringly. She smiled, tilting her head to one side and studying the mess of wires and electronic parts that was an important part of her life.
"Just remembering what your father said. You don't think he'll actually read that book, do you?"
"Wouldn't put it past him," Slade commented, taking a swig from the bottle of beer he'd switched to after dinner. "Mind you, he probably wouldn't understand half of it, so you may be safe."
She sighed and dropped her head back to lean against his shoulder. "We are getting way too careless. And at this rate, something very expensive is going to go on that machine and I won't be able to fix it."
"You will. You're a genius."
She let out a small snort. "I'm flattered, but the fact remains, once that machine goes, it's gone. And you'll just have to go back to policing the old-fashioned way."
"Oh well. At least I'll still have you." He slid a calculating glance at her, and was pleased to see the flicker of emotions that played over her face.
"You won't be able to use me for my time machine," she raised an eyebrow at him, "and since you do very little forensic work..."
"I do like you for more than your time machine, you know." He set the beer down and got to his feet, turning to her and grasping her hands in his. "Face it; you're stuck with me now, machine or no machine." He tugged her to her feet and she let out a short laugh, allowing him to slide one hand around her waist before walking backwards with her in his embrace, heading towards her bedroom.
"Jeff Slade, if you've got an ulterior motive..." she jokingly warned, pushing her hand against his chest in a feeble play of resistance – one that was forgotten when he lowered his mouth to within an inch of her own.
"When do I not have an ulterior motive?" he asked, and slanted his lips over hers before she could think of a cutting reply.
As the door closed behind them, Holly reflected that this was one bit of impulsive behaviour she was certainly not in a hurry to curb.
Chapter 2: Conspiracy Theories
Kate Grisham had a headache.
Not a mild discomfort in the temple area kind of headache, but a full-blown brass band playing next to her eardrums whilst a small industrial drill pounded a tattoo on her skull kind of headache.
The headache's name was Jeff Slade.
Granted, he was usually the cause of her headaches, but that was work related; if he'd done something wrong or his methods were a little too disruptive and he'd left a minor political/diplomatic/insert-type-here disaster in his wake.
No, this time she had a headache because she'd seen him coming into work. Twice.
The first was when she'd pulled into the secure parking – Holly Turner's Peugeot close behind – and he'd been in the passenger seat. As she'd locked her car and pushed through the doors leading into the building, she'd caught sight of the two of them leaning against the car, talking in low tones. She'd stepped into the lift and greeted her graduate, Nicky Robson, and when the doors had re-opened there was Jeff Slade. Again.
"Morning, Chief!" he'd greeted, and then disappeared round a corner. Kate had stopped, baffled. Surely he couldn't have got up two flights of stairs before her when she'd left him in the car park? Besides, she could have sworn he was wearing a bright yellow shirt – she remembered it clashing horribly with that damned mustard jacket of his. But his shirt had been a dark blue when he'd said hello.
"Are you all right, Chief?" Nicky had asked, concerned, and she'd waved it off, heading for the nearest cup of coffee.
Unfortunately for her, the day hadn't got any better. Slade had never been in one place long enough for her to corner him and when she'd asked if any of the officers had seen him they'd give conflicting stories. One had seen him in the lift and the other had seen him on the stairwell at the same moment, or he'd just been seen taking a taxi from the car park whilst simultaneously talking to Frank, the desk sergeant, in the building.
Kate was beginning to think it was one big prank, designed to celebrate the fact he'd still got his job after nearly screwing up a recent case. At least she hoped so, because otherwise Morris's wild conspiracy theories about Slade having a doppelganger were looking more and more plausible. She eyed the bottle of painkillers sat on her desk, then sighed and stuck her head out of the office door. "Robson, I want a meeting in ten to catch up with progress. I want everyone here or they'll be reporting to the Commissioner as to why they weren't present."
"Yes Chief," the curly-haired graduate replied. As she returned to her desk, she overheard Morris and Nicky discussing Slade's whereabouts and she tried to tune them out, feeling the headache returning full force.
Two minutes later, Holly stuck her head round the door, looking slightly ruffled. "Chief..." she started. "Have you seen Slade?"
Kate let out a strangled, inarticulate cry and reached for the painkillers.