Ellie smashed the heels of her hands into her eyes to blot out the blurriness. She'd been poring over the CCTV recordings for hours now, with no results, no more clues as to what happened the night Danny Latimer had died. She'd come to the end of the batch, and it was time to start over again. As she stretched out her stiff shoulders, she glanced around the darkened police station, the only light coming from her desk lamp and the lights in the DI's office. Much as she hated the arrogant bastard, she had to admit that Alec Hardy worked the longest and hardest of anyone in the department. He would be here, at his desk studying the case files, when she finally left for home after midnight, and it was likely he'd be here when she arrived early the next morning.
Sighing, she began organising the recordings for another viewing when a crash out in the hallway startled her, and she leapt to her feet. "Miller! Stop banging about out there!" came an annoyed Scottish burr from Hardy's office.
"That wasn't me, sir!" she called as she strained to see into the shadows. Hardy's thin, tired frame, draped in his customary plain black suit that always seemed a size too large for him, materialised in his doorway.
"What's going on?" the DI growled. "Get the lights." He strode toward the hallway as Ellie dashed to the light switches.
"No! Wait wait wait!" came a plea from the darkness. "It doesn't like light. I've almost got it!" The tenor voice rang through the station with a familiar quality despite its quick London accent, and it switched to a groan as Ellie flipped the lights on. "No no no no no no!" She glanced over in time to see a blue blur dive under the desk nearest the door, its bum sticking out from under a pinstripe jacket.
"You! Get up!" Hardy ordered as he approached the desk, his jacket swept back by his fist perched on his waist.
"Wait just a mo'! I've almost got it!" the stranger replied, his voice muffled. "Let me just..." The desk shook as he smacked his head on its underside. “Ow!”
As Ellie joined her boss, Hardy spat, "I said, up!"
Grabbing the intruder by his jacket, the detective hauled him bodily out from under the desk as the man murmured, "It's okay, it's okay, I've got you," to something hidden in his cupped hands.
"I am Detective Inspector Alec Hardy and you have broken into my station. I demand to know..." His speech trailing off, the DI's jaw dropped as the man, shielding the item in his hands, got to his feet and looked up.
At first, Ellie had no idea why Hardy had faltered. About the same height as the DI, the man was thin, with a narrow face and tall nose. He was clean-shaven except for long sideburns, and sported fashionably ruffled russet hair. She recognised him, though it took her a moment to figure out why. Her eyes snapped to Hardy's face, and she gasped: this man could be Hardy's twin. No, not twin - exact double. Their hairstyles were different, the stranger stood a bit straighter, and Hardy, with his aggressive stubble and haggard expression, looked a number of years older, but everything else was exactly the same, down to the freckle patterns and the wonky, mismatched ears. Perhaps the only difference was the eyes: both men’s were insightful, but where Hardy’s were piercing and shrewd, the stranger’s held wisdom and a shade of madness.
"Bloody 'ell," she murmured.
Stunned momentarily as he stared at the detective inspector, the man’s face flashed with an awed grin. "Oh, brilliant!" he breathed.
Hardy stumbled back a couple of steps, slapping a hand to his chest. He collided with a desk, which he slumped down on as he stared back at the man.
"Sir? Who is this?" When Hardy didn't answer, she turned to the stranger. "Who are you?"
"I'm the Doctor. You are?"
"I’m DS Ellie Miller."
The Doctor glanced at his still-paralysed double. “Then he’s your boss.”
A friendly smile flashed across the Doctor’s face. "A pleasure. You'll excuse me if I don't shake, because, you know..." He held his cupped hands up. "If you'll give me a moment..."
Hardy finally found his voice. "Who the bloody hell are you?" he barked.
"Shush! Don't scare it." The Doctor murmured into his hands. "It's okay. No one will hurt you. I'll get you into a nice dark place in a moment." He glanced up at the two detectives. "Here, take a look. Just a peek." He lifted his upper hand, revealing a tiny green creature, something like a gerbil but with four legs plus two arms ending in clawed paws. Its fur sparkled with bluish iridescence, and its oversized eyes stared at each of the three people in turn. With a terrified whine, it buried its face in the Doctor’s hand.
"Shush now. It's okay. Just go in here." With a finger, he pulled open one of his jacket pockets and let the creature climb down into it. "Lots of things for you to play with in there. We'll go home soon." Once it was safely inside, he patted the pocket shut. "That's a mikkelikot. Comes from Tinarus, a planet orbiting Gomeisa. Long way from home, and scared out of its wits. Been trying to catch it for two days now." He clasped his hands behind his back. "How can I help you?"
"You're an alien,” Ellie declared. The thought that had stunned her as she stared at the little creature rang thin and harsh in the bright lights of the empty office.
"Yup-ah," replied the Doctor.
"You look like me. You could be my brother," grunted Hardy, his knuckles white as his hands gripped the edge of the desk under him.
"Ohhh!" the other man breathed low in his throat, his eyes shining with what could only be described as greed. "Love the accent!" Without a pause, he smoothly switched his own to match Hardy's. "Now this I could do. Used to once, three lifetimes ago. Suits me, don't you think? I like it. This is posh." His style and choice of words aside, he now sounded exactly like the detective inspector, and Ellie’s stomach flipped.
"No, don't do that. Please don't." She turned to Hardy. "He's not like your brother. He looks exactly like you. Even that jumpy eyebrow of yours." Hardy's left eyebrow involuntarily shot up as he frowned at her, and she couldn't suppress a snort of laughter as a quick glance at the Doctor saw the same eyebrow arched in interest.
"Miller!" As the DS composed herself, the DI jumped up and approached the alien. "What is going on here? Why do you look exactly like me?"
"Oh, not exactly like you.” The Doctor's accent was back to London normal. “I mean, I’ve never done the beard thing, but there’s always a first time, isn’t there? And the hairstyle.” Popping on tiptoes, he peered down his nose at the top of Hardy’s head. “It really brings out the colour.” Raising a hand to the top of his head, he fingered his own hair as he studied the other man’s. “I bet in the sunlight, you’re positively ginger.” For some reason, the thought seemed to enchant him.
Hardy looked darkly dangerous, and the Doctor drew back.
“Oh. Oh yes. That. Could be any number of things." The Doctor thrust a hand inside his jacket and pulled out a metallic rod with a blue lens on one end. "Spatial genetic multiplicity. Transpecies cloning. Though I'd have to wonder when they'll get the sample. They'd need stem cells, not just skin or hair, and I’m not too keen on that. You don't mind, do you?" He held up the rod, then, without waiting for a reply, pointed it at DI Hardy, who jumped back, shielding himself with his hands. The device whirred merrily as its lens glowed, and the alien waved it up and down the detective's body, from head to toe. "It's okay. Just scanning. Could be random luck. Universe is a big place. Easy enough for two people to look alike. You don't happen to have a pocket watch, do you?"
"What?" barked Hardy. "What are you on about?"
The Doctor brought the device up to his ear, his gaze unfocused as he listened to it. "No, you're human, through and through. Though..." He paused, frowning, then pointed the thing at Hardy's chest and buzzed him again. "You're -"
"I'm not." Hardy's low snarl, cutting across the Doctor's words, startled both the alien and the detective sergeant, and their eyes snapped to him. Ellie had never seen Hardy so serious, and that was saying something.
"But I can h-" began the Doctor.
"No. You can't."
Ellie’s eyes flicked to her superior officer. "Sir? What's going on?"
"Leave it, Miller."
The two men’s eyes locked, adamant will on one side, apprehension and concern on the other. The Doctor blinked, and his face fell, closing off. He nodded and stashed the device back in his breast pocket.
Hardy drew himself up. “This is a police station and you are interfering in a murder investigation.” He shot a glance at the door, but the Doctor ignored his intent.
“A murder investigation! Splendid! I could help! I helped Agatha Christie solve a murder once. Well, three murders, but it was the same killer.” The alien bounced with hopeful excitement.
“Clear off! Now!”
The Doctor bowed low. “A pleasure to meet you both. DS Miller.” Stepping forward, he caught Ellie’s hand and kissed it, and she returned his gaze with a flummoxed smile. He then nodded at his twin. “DI Hardy.” Spinning on his heel, he disappeared into the dark hallway.
The two detectives stared after the man for a good long time, until Hardy cleared his throat, startling Ellie out of her reverie. “The case won’t solve itself, Miller,” he growled, stalking off toward his office.
“This means... could be aliens, you know, sir.”
In the doorway of his office, Hardy whirled on her, and she drew back from his stern glare. “Until we have evidence otherwise, we will assume the killer is of earthly origin.” Acknowledging her nod, he turned back to his office, skirting the desk and plopping in his chair. He grabbed his glasses from the desk as he scrubbed a hand down his weary face.
Ellie followed him to the doorway. “What was he talking about, sir? When he pointed that thing at you.”
Avoiding her gaze, he affected nonchalance, but it was unconvincing, and her eyes narrowed. “Is something wrong?”
“I said shut it.”
She knew he’d blow up if she didn’t drop it, so she leaned casually against the doorjamb. “You clean up pretty well, sir.”
Dropping the glasses, he glared at her. “Don’t you start!”
“Just saying. A shave, and a tailored suit…”
“Miller. I’m warning you -”
“Don’t do the London accent, though. He was right. You sound better as a Scot.”
“You!” Hardy barked, springing from his chair. “You are not to speak of this ever again. And if I hear that you’ve told anyone else…”
She was quite proud of keeping a straight face. “Yes, sir. Not a word, sir.”
Hardy stomped around his desk and, grabbing his coat from the rack, pushed past her. “It’s late, Miller. Go home.”
Ellie smirked as she turned toward her desk. “Yes, sir. Good night!” Hardy’s sharp, angry footsteps echoed through the hall as she gathered her things. Not that anyone would believe her if she told them what had happened, but it entertained her to see the great Detective Inspector Alec Hardy so flustered. By the time she exited the station, her eyes were overflowing with mirthful tears.