Gene was never sure if he could ever really believe Sam or not, but he was curious, and, bored, he would ask Sam things from time to time, and marvel at how much Sam had been pulling down as a salary, riches almost beyond Gene’s imagination, or shake his head at the price of a pint. He’d even, once, asked Sam about his own future. The question had taken Sam aback, but he knew Gene must be curious, a terrible double edged blade of wanting to know and not wanting to know.
In truth, Sam didn’t remember Gene. He’d never heard of him. There had been no legend or legacy to be passed on to a young copper, no old photos hanging on the wall. There had been nothing. Surely, even if Gene had retired early, his memory would have still been fresh, there would have been people there who had known him and would have spoken of him, those old remember when stories shared over a beer after work. But there had been none of that. The complete absence of Gene in the CID gave Sam shivers at times. Either something bad, really bad, had happened, or Gene was just the stuff of shadows. Neither of which Sam wanted to believe. He refused to believe it. So he’d softened the blow by simply telling Gene that he didn’t remember.
It wasn’t entirely a lie. His life was here now. He’d made friends, made a career, he’d fallen in love. He’d put down roots. His old life, it slipped away and became more and more the dream, and those times he remembered, when it suddenly picked him up and shook him and screamed at him that he didn’t belong here, he tried to push those moments away. He didn’t want to listen any more. If he was in a coma, he didn’t want to wake up. He was happy, here, or as happy as he’d ever been, and he had no idea how much time had passed out there, in the real world. He didn’t want to go back, not now. He knew what he might expect: a lonely life of grey walls and pissing and dribbling on himself until he died, old before his time. Here was better. Here, at least, he was alive.