“PC Evans! Fancy meeting you here, of all places!”
The American accent jerked the young police constable out of his gloomy reverie and he turned, thrown a bit off balance by the statement. He was a copper, assigned to ‘temporary’ desk duty at this particular station; where else would he be? Out on the beat? Fat chance of that. Admittedly this was the worst area to be assigned to in the whole of Cardiff and its outlying areas, said assignment having been foisted on him months ago by Sergeant Black in retribution for Evans disobeying an implied order, but even so…
He looked at the man who’d spoken, recognising him instantly despite it having been quite a while since the night they’d met. Movie star good looks, dazzling smile filled with perfect, impossibly white teeth, and he was dressed in the ridiculously flashy vintage greatcoat Evans had heard about though never seen until now. Captain Jack Harkness, Torchwood’s leader; the man was unmistakeable, Evans would have known him anywhere even though this was the first time he’d seen him with all his clothes on. It didn’t surprise him to see the other one from that long ago night standing silently beside the Captain, dressed in an elegant three-piece suit that probably cost more than Evans earned in a month.
Nevertheless, Evans raised his eyebrows at the sight. “I could say the same to you. Get yourselves arrested again, did you? Not the best place for it. Worst neighbourhood in Cardiff, this is.”
“We’re aware of that, which begs the question of why a man such as yourself, with a promising career in law enforcement ahead of him, is stuck working the desk here. It seems rather a waste of your training,” the man in the suit said, a graceful raise of one eyebrow the only change to his otherwise professionally bland expression. Evans realised he didn’t know the man’s name; that hadn’t come up at their last meeting.
“Don’t tell me; let me guess.” That was the Captain, speaking in a lazy, sarcastic drawl. “Courtesy of Sergeant Black, by any chance?”
Evans gave a wry smile. “You might say that. He didn’t appreciate me driving you two to the hospital; said I showed too much initiative, like that was a bad thing. Thought I needed to learn the importance of following the chain of command, no questions asked.”
“That’s certainly an important lesson to learn,” Harkness agreed. “However, it’s also important to be flexible. There are times when new information means the best course of action is to set aside previous orders and do what’s right instead, as you did.”
“Yeah, well the Sarge didn’t see it that way.”
“That comes as no surprise. Some people lack the mental flexibility required to automatically reassess a situation as it changes,” the man in the suit said. Evans couldn’t quite escape the feeling that the Sarge had just been evaluated and found wanting in that respect. Of course if he’d heard it, the insult would have most likely gone right over Sergeant Black’s head.
“I wouldn’t have put it quite so politely,” Captain Harkness smirked. “The man’s an ass, an ignorant one at that. How he made sergeant is a mystery to me.”
“How are your hands?” Evans looked at the younger man, who was probably around his own age, maybe even a bit younger.
“Fine now, thank you. Had a bit of a miserable couple of weeks with them all bandaged up, made life a bit awkward, but they healed up nicely.” He held out one hand, and for a moment Evans thought the man was showing him how well he’d healed, then he caught on and accepted the handshake. “Ianto Jones. As I recall, we were never introduced. Appalling lapse of manners on my part, but my mind was elsewhere at the time.”
“Understandable under the circumstances. Alun Evans. Nice to meet you.”
“Likewise. And no, we didn’t.”
Evans frowned, confused. Had he missed something? He quickly replayed their conversation in his head, but drew a blank. “Didn’t what?”
“Get arrested again.”
“Oh. Right. That wasn’t really a serious question. I mean, you’re not handcuffed or anything. Supposed to be sort of a joke,” Evans trailed off somewhat lamely, mentally berating himself for sounding like an idiot.
“We knew that,” Harkness assured him.
“So what are you doing here? Or shouldn’t I ask? I know you people deal in a lot of top secret stuff.”
“Actually, we were looking for you.” The wide white smile somehow contrived to become even wider.
“Yes. I don’t know how much you recall of our last meeting…”
“It’s sort of engraved on my memory.” That was one evening Evans would never forget, not least because it had resulted in his current assignment.
“Really?” The Captain’s smile edged towards becoming an outright leer.
“Down, Jack. I’m sure he doesn’t mean because of you displaying your… ah, attributes for all the world to see.”
The smile vanished briefly to be replaced by a hurt pout, but was back in place almost before Evans could blink. “What a shame. Think of the fun we could’ve had!”
Jones rolled his eyes. “Behave yourself.”
“I thought I was.”
“Wrong sort of behaviour; we’re here on business, not pleasure.”
“It can’t be both?”
“Spoilsport.” At Jones’s stern look, Captain Harkness got back on track, making Evans wonder exactly which of them was really in charge. “Right, speaking of business, if you recall I was all out of business cards the last time we met.” Not surprising since he’d been completely naked at the time. “It’s been a few months so I thought it was about time we tracked you down and repeated our previous offer. PC Evans, would you perhaps be interested in a career change? Torchwood currently has a couple of vacancies and you’re just the sort of person we’re looking for.”
“Me work for Torchwood?” He’d thought the Captain had been joking that night, standing outside the casualty department of Cardiff General Hospital, wrapped in a blanket.
“Why not? If you’re looking for excitement and endless variety in your working life there’s no better place to find it. You’ll never know what you might be doing from one day to the next; tracking down dangerous technology, rescuing stranded travellers, hunting savage creatures, capturing drug dealers, breaking up slave rings, saving the world…”
“Or doing paperwork, online searches, talking to witnesses, tramping through the sewers, getting called out at all times of the day and night, constant risk to life and limb…” Jones cut in.
“Hey!” the Captain complained. “Are you trying to put him off?”
“Unlike some people I could name, I believe before PC Evans makes a decision he might otherwise come to regret, he deserves to be made aware that the job isn’t all fun and games. It has its downsides as well.”
“So do all jobs, but you don’t have to make it sound so… icky.”
“Icky?” Evans asked, hardly able to believe the Captain had said that, and with such an expression of disgust on his face too, like he’d trodden in something nasty.
“He means the paperwork of course,” Jones said, deadpan. “Not the sewers. Here’s my number.” He handed Evans a card with nothing on it but what looked like a regular ten digit cell phone number. “Think things over for a couple of days, and when you’ve decided one way or the other, or if you have any further questions, give me a call. I’ll look forward to hearing from you. Good seeing you again, PC Evans.”
“Uh, you too. Thanks.”
Turning briskly on his heel, Jones followed Harkness out through the station’s main doors, leaving Evans standing there, a bit shell-shocked, staring at the card in his hand. That lasted all of thirty seconds. He cast his gaze around his current workplace; despite all his hard work, this was the best he could hope for as long as Sergeant Black had any say in the matter, and since the Sarge seemed to have the ear of his superiors that could be a hell of a long time. Manning a desk wasn’t what he’d signed up for; he’d wanted to be out on the streets, helping to keep them safe, really making a difference in his home city. He knew he could move somewhere else, get a transfer to a police force in another city and get out from under Black’s thumb that way, but his family were all here, his brother and sister-in-law, his nephew and nieces, his parents, his friends…
What was he waiting for? Coming out from behind the desk, he raced out the door, hoping he wouldn’t be too late to catch up with them. Captain Harkness and Mr Jones were just getting into Torchwood’s big, black SUV. “Hey! Wait up!”
They paused, the Captain leaning his elbows on the roof of the vehicle, waiting for Evans to reach them. Jones was already in the driver’s seat, fastening his seatbelt.
“Endless variety, huh?” Evans came to a stop a few feet away.
“Oh believe me, you have no idea. You’ll see things you never imagined existed and do things you’d never get the chance to do anywhere else. Better wages than you’re getting as a police constable, and more autonomy too.”
“Then there’s the long working days, and sometimes nights, no set hours, occasional days off, and vacation time when circumstances allow, which frankly isn’t very often,” Jones cut in. “You’d also have to sign the official secrets act and agree not to talk about the job with anyone outside Torchwood, and that includes close family.”
To Evans it sounded like they were playing good cop, bad cop with him, one extolling the virtues of his prospective new job, the other pointing out all the less appealing aspects. Variety, excitement, more money, and the chance to really make a difference, weighed against danger, long hours, paperwork, and probably less time off than his job with the Heddlu entitled him to. Maybe it should have been a difficult decision, requiring days of weighing up the pros and cons, but it wasn’t. He was worried if he said no now, or hesitated too long, the chance might never come again; Harkness had said they had a couple of vacancies, but Evans was certain he couldn’t be the only person they were considering, and what if two of the other candidates said yes before he did?
“I’ll have to work out my notice, unless you have some influence with the top brass, but I’ve got some vacation time accumulated so I could start in two weeks if that would be okay with you.”
“That sounds fair.” Captain Harkness smiled that smile again, coming around the SUV and holding out his hand for Evans to shake. “I had a feeling you’d say yes. Welcome aboard, ex-PC Alun Evans. You’re going to fit in perfectly. See you in two weeks.” Walking back to the passenger side of the vehicle, he climbed in and slammed the door as Jones fired up the engine. They were almost out of sight before a thought occurred to Evans.
“See me where, exactly?” he asked the air around him. Torchwood’s base, presumably. Only problem was, he had no idea where that was located! Maybe he should call Jones and ask for directions. He looked down at the small business card still clutched in his hand and almost dropped it; the phone number had vanished and in its place were four words: Tourist Office, Mermaid Quay. He turned the card over, thinking the phone number must be on the other side, but it was blank.
Going back inside the station, he tucked the little piece of paper carefully inside his wallet so he wouldn’t lose it. First he needed to hand in his notice, and then… In two weeks’ time he’d present himself at the Mermaid Quay tourist office. What would happen after that was anybody’s guess, but he was looking forward to finding out.