Title: The Riverboat Queen
Author: FictionWriter - margaret_r
Archive to Pros Lib: Yes
Word count: 30,652 words.
It’s said diamonds are forever but they ended up costing a young flight attendant his life. Now Bodie and Doyle must go undercover in part of London’s gay scene to find a missing girl and the diamonds they believe she is hiding before the international racketeers who want them back get to her first. That’s not easy when you’re faced with murder, mayhem and drag queens. How will the lads cope with putting on a gay front when they have their own secrets to try and keep?
Thank you to moth2ficfor once again acting as my beta and Brit check, and telling me what didn’t work, then giving me the opportunity, time, space and encouragement to get the thing finished.
Thank you to the wonderful mods at ci5_boxoftricks who have given up their time and expertise to make this Big Bang happen.
And a big thank you to my artist milomausfor taking this story and creating such great artwork for it. I never thought I would see my writing unfold so wonderfully in a vid but she made it happen:) and her pics are a delight. By the way, the artwork for my icon's is by milomausand was created by moth2fic.
Vid can be found here
Fic on AO3
Art on LJ
When the first shot rang out through the still night air of Long Ditton it went unnoticed by the local residents, put down no doubt to nothing more than a car backfiring. The shot, or backfire, came from a bungalow sitting snug behind a tall hedge fence in Rectory Lane, a rather innocuous but picturesque little Tudor house with climbing roses and ivy clinging to the front and a sharply angled roof complete with attic window. The loud arguing voices that followed the shot went likewise unremarked in the dormitory town. It was the eventual fusillade of gunfire that drew everyone’s attention, including that of the local constabulary.
PC Jenkins was convinced at first that the incidents reported by the residents of Rectory Lane were nothing more than some drunken revelry, or perhaps caused by local children who had got their hands on some fireworks, although what self-respecting parents allowed their children out at such a late hour he didn’t know, as he told his wife while dragging his bicycle from the shed attached to the quaint cottage that served as Long Ditton’s local police station.
By the time he had pedalled his bicycle furiously from the police station and all the way up Rectory Lane to reach No. 24, there was little left to see other than a black car hastily exiting the driveway and a body lying clearly visible on the grass in front of the picturesque house.
Being a rather brave policeman, or perhaps just a foolishly naive one, PC Jenkins attempted to prevent the escape of the occupants of the car by the simple method of placing his bicycle, and himself, in the way. Needless to say the method failed and Jenkins suffered a particularly painful and indignant landing on the mercifully soft grassy verge when the vehicle ploughed through them both without hesitation. His bicycle, unfortunately, suffered a worse fate under the tyres of the escaping vehicle, left a mangled wreck in the middle of the driveway, the front wheel upright and spinning uselessly.
Undaunted, PC Jenkins managed to note the number plate of the escapee from his prone position as it vanished into the night. Climbing painfully to his feet he made a cursory inspection of his slain bicycle before hurrying over to the body on the grass. Another brief inspection and PC Jenkins realised there was nothing he could do for the poor soul other than close the wide staring eyes. Reaching for the radio strapped to his belt he was grateful to discover it was miraculously still in working order and called for reinforcements in the shape of his commanding officer, Sergeant Beckman.
It took no time at all for the sergeant to arrive on the scene, quickly followed by a plethora of detectives direct from the Met, called in in turn by Sergeant Beckman after a cautious inspection of the scene revealed several spent cartridges, broken windows, smashed furniture, another body – a gun beside it - and a surprising scatter of gleaming stones.
They were still there as dawn rose over the usually sleepy town. The house had been cordoned off by police cars and curious residents gathered outside the perimeter watching proceedings with some interest. It was around that time that the last official visitor arrived in a midnight blue Ford Granada driven by a very smartly dressed young woman. The car was expertly manoeuvred through the cordon of police vehicles and halted next to the ambulance that had arrived for the removal of the deceased. Both the woman and her passenger stepped from the vehicle and were met by the DI in charge of operations at the scene.
“Evening, Sir, or I should say, ‘good morning’?”
“Aye, good morning, Inspector. I hope you’ve brought me all this way and at this hour for something more than a couple of dead bodies and a domestic squabble,” the man said, looking at the two blanket covered forms laid out on stretchers by the open back doors of the ambulance. He was slightly less than average height, with thinning gingery hair, a distinct Scottish tinge to his speech and a commanding manner that made the DI straighten both his tie and his spine.
“Diamonds, Mr Cowley. Rough, uncut diamonds,” the DI told him, holding out a plastic bag containing a collection of small objects. The man the DI had called Cowley took the bag and examined the objects in the rays of the morning sun.
“Genuine?” he queried.
“Can’t be sure until the experts get a look, but it seems likely.”
“And they were found where?”
“In the house. Scattered near the back door.”
Cowley drew his attention away from the diamonds and looked quizzically at the DI. “Now who would leave a pile of diamonds by the back door, Inspector? Unless, of course, they were dropped?”
The DI nodded. “We’re going on that assumption at the moment, Sir. Whoever was carrying them probably didn’t even notice they were gone.”
Cowley moved over to the blanket covered stretchers and crouching down pulled the cover away from the first, revealing the face of a young man, his obvious good looks marred by the bullet hole in his head and the blood covering his face. “Any identities on these two yet?”
The DI flipped open his notebook “According to a neighbour this was one Andrew Jamieson, a flight attendant. He moved into the house about three month ago, along with a young girl, his sister, Roberta. A quiet couple, kept to themselves. Roberta is sixteen and attends the local grammar school.”
Cowley nodded and turned to the next stretcher. This man was older, tougher, the unmarked features heavy, although in death the rougher edges seemed to have smoothed somewhat, relaxed into an acceptance of permanent sleep. The idyll of repose was at odds with the garish red bloodstain that had spread out across the shirt-covered chest.
“Tony Reynolds,” the DI told him. “A petty crim with delusions of grandeur.”
“He doesn’t have those any more, Inspector. What about the young girl, Roberta? Any sign of her?”
“We have a witness who saw her running from the back of the house after the shots were fired. It seems likely she may have been the one who dropped the stones. We’ve alerted the local police to start a search for her.”
“Aye, though she’ll be long gone by now. But we need to find her. She’s probably the only person who can tell us exactly what went on here. And whoever was after her brother will be after her now, especially if they believe she has what they want.”
“The rest of the diamonds.”
“Exactly!” Cowley rose from his crouch by the body and looked at the plastic bag he was still holding. He seemed to come to a decision, walking briskly back to the car. The DI stayed where he was while Cowley spoke quietly on the car radio. When he was finished Cowley beckoned him over.
“Right. I want your men out of here, Inspector. My agents will take over as of now. But let me know immediately if they have any success with the missing girl.” Cowley turned to the young woman, who up until then had remained silent as she followed her boss.
“Susan, start a search of the premises. 3.7 and 4.5 will be joining you; when they get here fill them in. I’ll drive myself back to H.Q.”
“Yes, Sir,” she said, as Cowley closed the car door and started the engine. They watched as he drove away, manoeuvring out through the attendant vehicles with the same efficiency Susan had used bringing them in, then taking to the road with a squeal of tires.
“Quite the commander, your boss. Don’t think I’ve ever had a case removed from my care quite so effectively before.”
“You don’t know the half of it, Inspector,” Susan told him as she turned towards the house.
The girl ran through the dark streets and residential areas, slowing only to get her bearings, keeping away from lights and main roads, looking behind her with swift nervous movements. She could smell her own fear. It was rife, pouring out of her in waves, making the t-shirt she wore stick to her skin in damp patches despite the chill of the morning air. Her chest was tight too and she gasped for breath, feeling choked from exhaustion and grief. But she kept on. To stop could bring disaster.
When she reached Portsmith Road she stopped, checking both ways. The dim rays of dawn were just penetrating the sky but the headlights of the approaching car were brighter. She pulled back into the shadows offered by trees and bushes. The car swept past, black or maybe it was a deep blue, she wasn’t sure. A fancy car, but not the one she’d seen before in her driveway. She watched the retreating tail lights until they disappeared then hurried across the road and over a football field, finally getting close to her destination, but always looking over her shoulder and starting at shadows that seemed to jump out in front of her.
Finally she was there, could see the longed for sign for Thames Ditton station through the tears that welled and streaked her face. She hesitated in the forest-like foliage that hid the station from the road but all was quiet so she hurried up the walkway leading to the station proper. The station was almost foreboding in the dim light of the street lamps and hazy morning sunshine, apparently deserted but with edges and corners that could hide shapes … and guns. There was cover in the bushes by the station entrance so she stayed there until the station staff arrived to open up.
People began to drift in, early morning commuters and students wanting the first train into London. She trailed in behind them, just another student amongst the many. When the train arrived she jumped on first and found a seat by a window, watching as the other passengers boarded. When the train moved off she leaned back against the headrest and closed her eyes, trying to stop the tears that trickled under her lashes.
Waterloo was crowded when the train pulled in but she found an empty phone box and hastily searched her jeans pockets for change. She had just enough for one phone call and onward travel. The voice that answered was husky and sweet to her ears, full of promise of safety and hope.
“I’m at Waterloo. I’m in trouble, they’re after me. Andy’s dead. I don’t know what to do,” she choked on the last words.
“Come now. Catch the tube, I’ll be waiting.”
The phone went dead but she held onto the receiver for a moment, calming her breathing and holding onto the lifeline it had offered her. Then she replaced it in the cradle and turned towards the tube entrance.