There was no entertainment in the club the next evening. No live entertainment that was. But there was a disco. Flashing coloured lights and two go go dancers in the form of Billy and Archie in skimpy shorts and spangled tops gyrating at opposite ends of the stage to the taped music. Billy seemed to have recovered from his ordeal of the day before but he was still subdued, the bruise on his cheek a vivid reminder of what had happened and what might have been.
Doyle was on the bar again and Bodie patrolled, acting bouncer to the hilt in black trousers and black roll neck jumper, Doyle thought he enjoyed the role perhaps a little too much. He looked good though. Which seemed to be the general consensus amongst the clientèle, judging by the number of admiring looks he got and gropes he seemed to have become expert at dodging.
Murphy showed up at around 11.00. Doyle didn’t notice him at first, busy as he was with a sudden rush of customers while Sid was on a break. It was only after the bar had cleared that he saw the tall figure dressed all in leather standing in the shadows at the far edge and even then he didn’t recognise him.
“What can I get you, pet?” he asked, clearing away empty glasses and giving the bar a wipe with a damp cloth.
“Whatever you’ve got, sweetheart,” was the response and Doyle did a double take.
“Murphy?” he asked, trying to peer under the peak of the biker hat pulled down over the man’s eyes. He looked like one of the Village People.
“As ever was. You play the part very well, Doyle.”
Doyle gave Murphy a slow, provocative wink and dropped his voice to a low husky drawl. “So do you, darlin’.”
Murphy laughed. “Uncle George sent me,” he said. “Told me the ambiance here was not to be missed. I think he was right.”
“Uncle George is always right,” Doyle told him with certainty. “What’ll you have, Sunshine?”
“Give me one of those pretty little drinks, the one with the umbrella in it.”
“Certainly, Sir.” Doyle set about putting the drink together and slid it over the bar to Murphy. “That’ll be 80p”
Murphy looked askance at the drink “80p. Bloody hell. For that little thing, that’s highway robbery!”
Doyle didn’t say anything, just held his hand out for the money and, still grumbling, Murphy dug deep into the pocket of his tight leather trousers and handed it over.
“How is the old codger anyway?” Doyle asked after he’d added Murphy’s change to the cash register.
“Uncle George? Fighting fit, as usual, but missing you two. Asked in particular how things were getting on, made me promise to give him a full report.”
Doyle shrugged. “Nothing new since last time I spoke to him. Well nothing he’d be interested in anyway.”
Murphy nodded. “Thought as much. He’s found out that our friend, Andrew…,” he paused. “You remember Andy don’t you?” then continued on Doyle’s nod. “...and a certain lady who's not a lady went to the same school together.” He paused again for dramatic effect. “What’s more, his name happens to also be on the deeds for a certain vessel, namely the Riverboat Queen.”
“Isn’t it just? And, the stones Andrew was so fond of definitely have their origin in the Dark Continent.”
“We expected that, didn’t we?”
“Yes, but it’s nice to have confirmation.” Murphy tried to take a sip from his glass while dodging the little umbrella; he didn’t seem to succeed so Doyle reached over and removed the offending object, dumping it in a convenient ashtray. “Thanks,” Murphy told him, ignoring his grin. “There’s something else. Ever heard of Jamil Abdulla?”
Doyle shook his head.
“Born in Sierra Leone of an African mother, Lebanese father,” Murphy recited in a low monotone. “Believed to be the financier behind many of the gangs of illicit diamond diggers operating in the country. He has since become a key advisor to President Stevens in the control of the nationalised diamond mines. It is also believed he is responsible for the smuggling of Sierra Leone diamonds through Liberia, although we can’t prove it of course.”
“So?” Doyle questioned.
Murphy dropped the official file quotation tone he’d been using. “So, it seems Mr Abdulla arrived in London from Freetown two days ago. Co-incidence? I think not, neither does Uncle George.”
“He’s our man then?”
“More than likely. Unfortunately we haven’t been able to trace him since his arrival. But we’re on it.”
Doyle hoped so. The more he thought about this Jamil Abdulla though, the less he considered that Teri and the crew would be in any way involved, there just didn’t seem to be any connection between them. He’d wait for his own break and give this latest information to Bodie. At least now they would both have something else other than a wayward teenage girl to keep their eyes open for.
Murphy finished off his drink and stood, ready to leave. “I’ll tell Uncle George that things are status quo then shall I?”
“Yeah, starting to wonder if we’re not on a wild goose chase.” Doyle was thoughtful for a moment. “Murph, can you do me a favour?”
Murphy sat down again and looked at him steadily, suspicion obvious. “So long as it’s nothing to do with nefarious schemes that will cause me any disruption with our favourite uncle,” he said.
Doyle grinned. “Nah, would I?” Ignoring Murphy’s continued look of scepticism he carried on. “There’s a gang of local skinheads about. Gang’s leader goes by the name of Whitey. Seeing as he’s got dark hair his last name’s probably White. Shouldn’t be too hard to find.”
“And what do you want me to do once I’ve found him, and them?”
“Nothing too drastic. A forceful word in their ears about changing their wicked ways should do it. Maybe point out the advantages of keeping their distance from certain entertainment venues.
“Giving you trouble, are they?”
Doyle nodded. “Some. They need seeing off before they cause any real problems.”
“Consider it done.” Murphy drained the last of his drink and set the cocktail glass back on the table.
“Thanks, mate. Give my love to Uncle George when you see him.”
“That I will,” Murphy told him then leant over the bar and pursed his lips. “Give us a kiss before I go, Sweetheart.”
“Piss off,” Doyle told him amiably. Murphy grinned and was gone, weaving his way through the crowd of dancers.
Finally the night was done. It was closing time, the disco lights turned off, the music stilled, the lights in the clubroom turned down low, the gangplank drawn up after Sid had followed the last of the customers from the boat. Perhaps that’s why they were caught unawares, lulled by the stillness and quiet of the earliest morning hours. Afterwards Bodie thought they should have anticipated the attack when it happened and judging by Doyle’s expression he thought so too. But as it was they were totally unprepared.
Billy was the first to see him - the ugly, pock-faced man in the doorway of the clubroom, holding an even uglier pistol in his hand, its snub-nosed roundness pointing straight at them. He let out a shriek and dropped the tray of empty glasses he was holding, causing the others to swing around to find out what the commotion was about and what had caused the look of horror on his face. The man stepped further into the room his pistol steady and trained on them. Doyle made a movement towards him but Bodie quickly laid his hand on his arm, stilling him. Terri and Archie had been clearing off around the booths but now stood frozen to the spot, the same horror etched on their faces as on Billy’s
“Good evening.” Giving lie to the prize fighter face and looming bulk, his voice was smooth and cultured, his accent slight but unmistakable. He glanced around the room, noting the position of everyone there. His gaze slipped over Archie and Billy but lingered on Bodie and then Doyle, as if assessing a potential threat, then he focussed on Teri but his words were addressed to the room in general. “I won’t detain you good people very long. I believe you have some … articles that belong to me. If you would kindly hand them over I will be on my way.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about. Get off my boat before I call the police.” Teri had found her voice. It was a little shaky but determined.
“Oh, I don’t think you’ll do that, my dear. You’re hardly in a position to make any demands.” His voice suddenly became hasher, more menacing. “Tell me where the girl and the diamonds are and I’ll forget you and your friends' involvement in all this.”
“What girl?” Doyle took a step forward, deflecting attention away from Teri. Bodie edged a little nearer as well but they both stopped as the gun was turned in their direction.
“Don’t be stupid. Stay where you are,” the man said, sparing them a glance but then fixing his attention back on Teri. “Mr - or should I say Miss? - Bradley knows exactly who I mean, don’t you?”
Teri shook her head but said nothing. “I’ll remind you then, shall I?” he continued. “Roberta Jamieson, sister of the late Andrew Jamieson, your associate, the one who reneged on a deal we had about some diamonds. Roberta seems to have vanished, along with my goods."
“I don’t know where Roberta is. I haven’t seen her for months and I certainly don’t know anything about any diamonds, so get off my boat.”
Bodie was measuring the distance, it wasn’t that far, maybe worth the risk, there was only one of them after all, and one gun. He cursed their own missing weapons, locked in a suitcase buried under rucksacks in a wardrobe that might as well have been on the other side of the moon instead of in the cabin under their feet. He risked a sideways glance. Doyle was staring straight ahead, concentrating on the scene between the man with the gun and Teri, but a slight tightening around his mouth told Bodie he was ready. He tensed, then backed down as their opportunity disappeared when a second man entered via the galley.
He was as menacing as the first and with the same method of persuasion in his hand, only his pistol was pointed at B.J’s. temple and his arm was firmly around his neck as he dragged the boy into the clubroom.
“Found this one back there, Jamil,” the man said, indicating the galley area. “It’s just this bunch of fairies on board, no one else.”
Bodie exchanged a look with Doyle. It seemed Cowley had been right and the crime boss they were seeking was Jamil Abdulla. The knowledge wasn’t much comfort at the moment.
“You’re sure?” Abdulla hadn’t moved but all the attention was now directed at the new arrival.
The man nodded. Keeping his grip on B.J and his gun to his head, he was grinning. “Positive. Should see all the stuff down below, it’s like a whore’s bedroom. The only thing we need to fear from this lot is a powder puff on the loose.”
The boy had lost his baseball cap and blond hair stood up in tufts and peaks, his fringe falling forward over his forehead. He was clearly terrified, his eyes wide and trained on Teri, pleading. Teri looked back at him with the same look of terror in her own eyes.
Bodie felt the palpable connection between the two, saw something in the boy’s face, something he’d somehow missed before and then it all clicked and fell into place in his head. But there was no time for further speculation as the ugly man spoke again.
“All I want is my merchandise,” he repeated. “Tell me where the girl is.”
“I’ve told you already,” Teri was pleading now. “I don’t know anything about any diamonds or where Roberta is.”
“Oh, I think you do,” he sneered. “But I’ve got no time or patience for games.” He switched his attention back to the man holding B.J. “Rafik, take the boy to the van,” he ordered.
“What are you going to do with him?” Teri was desperate now.
“Don’t worry, he won’t be hurt, so long as you co-operate,” the ugly man assured her, his voice suave. “You have two hours to get the girl and the diamonds. Do that, and the boy will be returned. If you don’t, then the poor lad might just come by an accident.”
B.J’s captor began to back towards the clubroom doorway, dragging B.J with him, his gun now held lower, no longer pointing at the boy’s head. Teri made as if to intervene as they passed but was stopped by Archie, who grabbed at her, restraining her. Everyone’s attention was concentrated on B.J and the man called Rafik; even Abdulla followed their progress. And that slight loss of concentration on them was all Bodie needed to make his move, Doyle right with him.
He went for Abdulla, Doyle for Rafik, both moving fast and in concert. Neither of them counted on the presence of the third man, the one who had come from the galley just seconds before on soft-soled shoes that were silent even on the wooden floor. The first Bodie knew of it was when he felt the blow to the back of his head. The last thing he saw before he lost consciousness was Doyle on his knees, Abdulla’s gun held against his temple.
When Bodie came to his senses seconds, minutes, hours later, he had no way of knowing, it was to find himself on the floor, propped on Billy’s lap while Billy stroked his forehead. Teri was leaning over him, her face swimming disconcertingly in and out of focus. There was no sign of Doyle or B.J.
“They took them, Bodie. They took B.J and Ray.” Billy was shaking, Bodie could feel the tremors that ran through the slim body.
He squeezed his eyes shut, then opened them again, trying to regain focus, trying to work out what the hell had happened.
“Who hit me?” he asked.
“The friggin’ big giant who walked in from the galley,” Billy said. “His hands were like meat platters. That’s what he used by the way – his fist.”
Bodie grimaced, a giant was all they needed, but at least Billy was sounding a little less freaked out. “How long?”
This time Teri answered. “A few minutes ago. You weren’t out of it for long. The boss, whoever he is, left with a warning about what would happen to them if I don’t produce the diamonds they want, with or without Roberta. He’s sending one of his men back in two hours. If I give him what they want B.J and Ray will be released. If not ...” She left the rest unsaid. “What are we going to do?”
“Get them back of course. And the boss is Jamil Abdulla, not the sort of person you need for an enemy,” Bodie said, starting to struggle up, ignoring Teri’s look of concern and Billy’s light restraint on his shoulder. Teri shrugged and helped him. His head felt muzzy and his stomach roiled but he made it to his feet without throwing up or passing out again, which was a plus. Now all he had to do was get his gun and find Ray and B.J. Simple really, three armed gunmen weren’t insurmountable odds after all – if he could stay standing that was, and if he could find them. Shit his head was spinning, but the thought of B.J jogged a memory.
“And, yes, about B.J,” he looked Teri in the eye. “He, she is Roberta Jamieson, isn’t she?” Teri’s nod was a mere confirmation of what was now certain knowledge. He noticed that Billy hadn’t batted an eyelid. “And you know about Ray and me, don’t you?” Again the nod, and again no reaction from Billy, except for a slight lifting at the corner of his mouth. It seemed he and Ray had been had, good and proper, but all he could think to say was, “Why?”
“It was the best way I could think of hiding her. Right out in the open.” Teri looked away, biting her lip, guilt on her face. “Now they have her and they don’t even know it.”
It was only a partial answer but it would have to do for now. “Do you have what they want?” Bodie asked.
“No, I don’t. I have no idea where Roberta hid these diamonds those men want, she didn’t even tell me she had them.”
There were a thousand things that could -- should have been said, a thousand questions that needed to be answered but there was no time, not if he was going to get them back. That was when he realised someone else was missing.
“He followed them,” Billy explained, then hurried on when he saw the expression on Bodie’s face. “He waited until they were off the boat and out of sight.”
“Shit, that’s all I need! The idiot will get himself killed.” Bodie exploded, ready to tear a strip off someone, anyone. But there was no need as Archie, flushed and out of breath, barrelled in through the clubroom doorway.
“They’re at the power station, I watched them going in,” he panted, then added when he noticed the expression on Bodie’s face, “Don’t worry, they didn’t see me.”
Bodie didn’t waste any more time. It took him seconds to hurry down to the lower deck and a few seconds more to retrieve the suitcase from the bottom of the wardrobe. He didn’t realise that Billy had followed him until he heard the gasp from behind him as he opened the hidden compartment of the suitcase.
“You really are police,” he said.
“Not quite,” Bodie told him, checking both his and Doyle’s pistols before slipping on his holster and sliding the Magnum in place. “CI5, subtle difference.”
He pushed Doyle’s Walther into the waistband at the back of his trousers, pocketed spare clips and was out the door again before Billy had time to blink.
“Are we going to go after them?” Billy was hard on his heels.
That made Bodie pause. “I’m going after them, you’re staying here.”
Billy looked like he was going to argue but Bodie didn’t give him time, hurrying back to the clubroom instead. He had one more thing to do before he went to find his partner. Scrabbling around behind the bar he came up with what he wanted. Teri, Billy and Archie were all watching him wide eyed. Grabbing Teri’s arm he used the pen he’d found to write a number on the back of her hand.
“Call this number,” he told her. “Speak to George Cowley. Tell him everything that’s happened. Tell him I’m going after them and need backup. You got that?”
Teri looked down at the writing scrawled across her hand then looked up at Bodie and nodded. Bodie studied her for a moment, trying to assess if her reluctance to have anything to do with lawful authority would get in the say of her obeying his instructions but her gaze was steady. Satisfied, he dropped her hand.
“Don’t worry, we’ll get them back,” he told her. “Stay here, wait for Cowley.”
“Be careful,” Billy muttered as he headed for the door.
Bodie grinned at him. “I always am, Sunshine.”
It didn’t take him long to hurry down the walkway that ran along the river edge and past the warehouses and businesses of the industrial estate to the wall separating the estate from the power station. It was a high wall but he didn’t want to waste time searching for an opening somewhere or an easier access point so he jumped, and managed to grab a hold on the top then use the toes of his shoes to gain a purchase and scrabble up and over. It wasn’t elegant, and he scraped his ribs, but it worked.
When he dropped to the other side the station towered over him, its huge white chimney stacks reaching up into the night sky, the brown brick building beneath dark and brooding, its large square windows glinting with reflected light from the spotlights surrounding the building. A low thrum could be heard coming from Station B, the only part of the complex now still in operation, and a steady plume of steam rose from the roof of the boiler rooms. The scene had its own macabre fascination, the building cathedral-like and the rising steam and darkness giving it an almost Dante-esque appearance.
Shrugging off the sudden shiver of apprehension that slithered down his spine Bodie set off in search of his quarry.
The third gunman was a surprise, an unpleasant surprise who had taken his partner out almost before Doyle realised what was happening. Then he was down too, tripped by the ugly man because he’d been distracted, and the barrel of the man’s gun was at his temple and the man’s face was full of rage. Time stopped and Doyle closed his eyes waiting for the bullet that he was sure the man would release. But nothing happened and when Doyle opened his eyes again the man had dropped the barrel of the pistol slightly and was studying him objectively, his face now controlled and neutral.
“I told you not to be stupid,” he said, then carried on, his tone thoughtful. “I should just shoot the two of you but maybe you’ll be more useful alive, for now.” He turned to the man who had struck Bodie. “Solomon, help Rafik with the boy and take this one too.”
Solomon pulled Doyle to his feet and both he and Rafik began to jostle him and B.J to the clubroom door. Doyle chanced a look back as they were pushed out onto the deck. Bodie was beginning to stir and Doyle felt relief wash over him, then they were forced over the boat railing and onto the pier.
It was dark and gloomy outside with a mist swirling up from the river, giving everything a sad and melancholy look. Even the lights from the distant street lamps only added to the atmosphere, so dim was the light they shed. There was a half-moon shining, adding fitful brightness when it wasn’t obscured by the passing clouds.
“Keep moving,” Rafik told them, indicating they should proceed along the embankment. Doyle sized up his options. The two gunmen were holding their pistols steady, aimed directly at him and B.J Even if they were unarmed he doubted he could take the two of them on, Rafik alone was a possibility but Solomon was another matter. The man was huge, his body a wide, solid bulk that matched his long, broad face, and he was silent. Not a word had escaped the rubbery lips so far and none did now. It made him seem all the more formidable.
Wisdom won out and Doyle did as he was told, keeping as close to B.J as he could, offering himself as a bulwark between the boy and the gunmen as they were prodded down the walkway and then through a lane to the car park where Billy had been attacked the night before.
The car parked there was a Rover. Solomon opened the rear door for them then climbed in after, the pistol in his ham-like fist looking oddly like a child’s toy. Rafik took the driver’s seat. The fit was tight, with B.J in the middle and Doyle wedged into the back corner but they didn’t have long to wait before Abdulla had caught up with them and taken the front passenger seat. Rafik took off with an unnecessary squeal of tires and scattering of gravel. The journey was a short one. After a few twists and turns down the back streets of Tideway industrial estate they were driving through the open gateway of the Battersea Power Station.
Rafik negotiated his way through the deserted grounds, past the disused coal towers and empty, derelict outbuildings, dodging abandoned equipment that littered the grounds, heading for the south side of the station. He pulled to a stop beside a watchman’s hut set between the railway tracks of the Brighton main line and the power station. Light from the station’s spotlights and from those of the nearby gasworks tower cast an unearthly glow across the grounds, throwing ghostly shadows
Doyle didn’t see who it was that yanked open the door and hauled him out of the car before planting a fist in his face, not until he was flat on the ground and Whitey was kicking him and screaming out his rage.
“Told you I’d get you, you fucking bastard! You and your mate.”
A kick landed in his belly and Doyle tried to roll away raising his arms instinctively as another kick was aimed at his head.
“Stop!” The barked command from Abdulla was sharp and clear in the night air, but Whitey’s rage would not be contained and he lashed out again, catching Doyle a glancing blow on the arm as he rolled, ending up by the corner of the hut. Then Solomon stepped in, grabbing Whitey by the scruff of the neck and dangling him in mid-air for a moment before tossing him at Abdulla’s feet. For the moment Doyle was forgotten as all attention was focussed on Whitey and Abdulla. He lay still, assessing the damage. His ribs hurt where Whitey had landed a solid kick and his jaw was a little sore but that was all, he’d managed to dodge most of the blows. B.J was still in the Rover, staring at him wide-eyed. Doyle motioned to him and he nodded, getting out of the vehicle and hurrying over. Rafik saw the movement but ignored it, concentrating on the far more interesting confrontation between his boss and the skinhead instead.
“We are not here for your personal vendetta, Mr White,” Abdulla was telling the skinhead as he struggled to his feet.
“That’s one of the bastards what did this!” Whitey roared, pointing to the black eye and bruised cheek that added bright colour to his pale features.
“Vengeance can wait for later. Right now I need these two so you will do exactly as I tell you.”
“I could get into a lot of trouble if anyone found out I’d let you in here, you know.” Whitey’s defiance had abated a little but his voice had a distinct whine.
“You are being well paid for your assistance and your information. Do not push me, Mr White.”
Whitey glared for a moment throwing a venomous glance at Doyle, who was halfway to his feet, being helped by B.J, but backed down in the face of Abdulla’s ire and the man’s pistol pointed at him. That was when the gunshot shattered the back window of the Rover.
The effect was instantaneous, the racketeers scattered for cover beside the Rover, bobbing up to attempt a return of fire but the darkness outside their circle of light made them uncertain as to where the shot had come from.
Doyle seized the moment and ducked to the side of the hut, pulling B.J with him before risking a look around the corner. He was in time to see Bodie rise up from behind the lowest of a row of shipping containers no more than twenty yards away and with a fierce yell begin firing. Then he was running, dragging B.J by the arm, relying on his partner’s cover fire to see them to relative safety.
Whitey had seen them run and screamed a warning, but it was too late and they were behind the cover of Bodie’s shipping containers.
Bodie kept up the steady rapid firing until Doyle and B.J had tumbled down beside him. Then he ran out of ammunition. He ducked back down as the opposition took the opportunity to return fire, the bullets kicking up dirt and sending splinters of wood flying from the top of the container. But the shooting was sporadic, as if the gunmen were still uncertain of the line of fire and Abdulla’s voice could be heard shouting questions at his cronies. Pulling Doyle’s Walther from his belt Bodie tossed it to him before starting to reload his Magnum. There was a moment of eerie silence as the shooting abruptly ceased. They sat with their backs against the crate, checking their weapons.
“Took your time getting here, didn’t you?” Doyle said with a grin.
“Came as fast as I could, Sunshine. Had to arrange a call to Father first didn’t I? 'Sides, didn’t want to get in too early and spoil your fun,” Bodie responded, relieved at seeing his partner in one piece.
“I hope Father doesn’t waste any time getting here!” Doyle half stood, fired a couple of quick shots in the direction of the hut and the car before sitting down again. “Keep ‘em honest,” he said with a wink.
B.J sat between them, breathing in quick gasps. Bodie looked at her for a moment. She looked small and scared, her hair spiked and sticking up all over and he wondered how upset she’d been at having to cut it like that.
Then he spoke to her, trying to keep his voice gentle. “Roberta, listen to me.” The girl looked at him in surprise, a surprise that was momentarily echoed in Doyle’s widened eyes.
“You know?” the girl whispered.
“Yes, but that doesn’t matter now. I’m going to tell you what you have to do and I want you to promise me you’ll do it, without question.”
Bodie’s look silenced her and he carried on. “In a couple of seconds Ray and I are going to start shooting.” He spared a glance at his partner and Doyle nodded. “When we do I want you to run like hell, use the cover of the coal tower. Get back to the Queen. You got that?”
She nodded but looked like she was going to say something. Bodie didn’t give her a chance, standing and firing in one fluid motion; Doyle joined him then looked down at B.J, still firing.
“Run, B.J. Run,” he shouted.
With a last despairing look at Bodie and Doyle B.J obeyed, making for the coal tower, a flash of colour disappearing into the darkness.
“The kid’s getting away.”
Bodie thought it was Rafik who shouted but he wasn’t sure.
“Leave him for now, get the other two.” Abdulla’s voice was unmistakable.
The exchange of gunfire continued and Bodie wondered how it was that no one seemed to be hearing it but then he realised that the industrial area surrounding them might as well be a wasteland and whoever was in the still working station B of the power station stood very little chance of hearing gunshots through the thick walls and over the noise of the turbo generators and boilers.
They were on their own.
The girl ran, the echo of her previous flight not so very long ago a terrible reminder of the violence and loss that had started this horrible nightmare. But she ran as hard and as fast as she could. She ran to one corner of the coal tower and dodged behind then kept on running, past old and rusting equipment, jumping over discarded boxes, slipping on the oil and water soaked ground. The fear was pouring out of her in waves but this time it wasn’t just fear for herself that haunted her, this time it was for the two men who had been kind, had saved them before and were now fighting for their lives, and hers and it was all her fault. And all the time she could hear the gunfire, the rapid exchanges that echoed in the otherwise still night air.
She was sobbing as she reached the wall. She knew where there was an easy exit point, a box set handily up against the concrete wall that she could use as a stepping stone to the top and then it was a simple matter of dropping down on the other side. She’d done it before when she and the boys had explored the station, in the days when Andy was alive and staying on the Queen was like a holiday. The box was still there and she was over the wall in seconds. Reaching the muddy edges of the river she made her way along the walkway to Nine Elms pier. Finally it was there, the lights of the Riverboat Queen. Teri was there too, with the boys and Sid waiting on the pier beside the boat, their faces anxious. She fell into Teri’s arms gasping out what had happened.
They kept firing, sending a fusillade of bullets into and around the Rover, smashing another window and pockmarking the bodywork of the vehicle but they couldn’t keep it up for long before they would run out of ammo. And Abdulla had marshalled his forces now, they were returning fire with more certainty, the huge bulk of Solomon presenting itself from the other side of the watchman’s hut. Bodie took a shot at him but he moved just in time and the bullet whizzed harmlessly over his head. Abdulla himself, along with Whitey, had taken refuge behind the Rover, bobbing up to fire before ducking down again. Worryingly, there was no sign of Rafik.
“We’ll have to move, we’re too exposed out here.” Bodie was reloading again.
Doyle nodded in agreement, continuing to shoot. “Any suggestions?”
Bodie glanced towards the empty ground between them and the power station, and the bronze doors that led inside. “Always wanted a look inside that monster.”
“Thought you might say that,” Doyle muttered. “You going to play tour guide?”
“If you insist.” He clicked the ammunition clip into place and stood. “Don’t hang around here too long, Sunshine. Place isn’t good for the health.”
“You just make sure you get that door open, mate.” Doyle told him with a sardonic, chip-toothed grin.
Bodie, the grin imprinted like an indelible seal on his mind, hurried to the end of the row of containers. Doyle was still firing, albeit more judiciously now, but enough to keep the gunmen occupied. He waited a second, until the sound of the return gunfire was at its height, then he ran, sprinting for the door, praying that it wasn’t locked or too stiff to move or so old and rusted like everything else in this deserted industrial graveyard that it screeched its protest at being disturbed to the world. But it didn’t do any of those, instead it opened easily to his touch, swinging inwards with barely a whisper of sound.
He slipped into the shadowed depths then turned at the threshold to give his partner cover and Doyle was there, running, not more than a foot away. Rafik was there too, materialising out of the dark at Doyle’s back, his gun raised. He must have circled around the watchman’s hut and come in behind them. Bodie shouted a warning, his own gun raised and ready but he had to sidestep to fire past Doyle and the delay was fatal. Rafik’s shot rang out first, Bodie’s a close second, and he could see the shot was off, hitting the target but Rafik only staggered, the bullet crazing his arm. Doyle didn’t stagger, but he jerked in a way Bodie didn’t like then stumbled across the threshold as Bodie slammed the door shut, causing Rafik’s hastily fired bullets to thud uselessly into its solid bulk. There was a key in the door and he turned it. A locked door wouldn’t hold them off forever but it gave them breathing space.
They were in an entrance hall, a single dull light high on the ceiling showing up the extravagant marble floor and elaborate wood features on walls and doors and the rubbish and rubble that lay strewn everywhere. But Bodie wasn’t looking at the former luxury of the surroundings or evidence of previous glory, he was beside his partner, grabbing hold of him as Doyle leant with one arm against the wall of the entrance hall trying to keep his feet, his face ashen, his gun held loosely by his side. There was blood on his shirt.
“Ray, you okay, mate?” Bodie asked, seeking reassurance but knowing there was none.
“Been better,” Doyle managed to gasp, leaning into Bodie in a horribly boneless way. Bodie gathered him in, holding onto him for a moment before taking the gun from the slack fingers and guiding him gently to the cold floor, propping him against the wall, then kneeling beside him. Doyle sighed and closed his eyes and Bodie’s heart skipped a beat. But he opened them again.
“’m tired, Bodie. Cold.”
“Yeah, I know, Sunshine. Just hang on for a bit. Okay?” Bodie’s hands were busy; checking the pulse beat – too slow, sliding around Doyle’s back, coming away blood-stained, the bullet having gone right through, leaving him with an entry wound low at his back and an exit wound just under his ribs and to the side at the front. Then he was looking around for a towel to staunch the flow, but finding nothing in this rubbish strewn room – and the déjà vu hitting, making him reel. He’d done this before, watched as Doyle’s blood spread across the floor and his eyelids flickered … closing, so close to never opening again. No, no not again, it couldn’t be happening again.
“Ray, hold on. You hear me!” Bodie shouted, suddenly desperate
“Not deaf,” Doyle’s voice was weak but his eyes fluttered open again and remained so and he looked at his partner. “Don’t worry, not leaving you either … daft sod.”
“Better not.” Bodie’s voice was breaking in relief at both the jibe and reassurance. He tore at his own shirt, ripping off a couple of strips. He folded them into pads, pressing one against the wound on Doyle’s side. He tore another strip off his shirt and applied that to Doyle’s back, then undid his belt and pulled it off, using it to wrap around Doyle’s torso and hold the two makeshift dressings in place. Doyle was sweating and shivering and choked back a scream by biting hard at his lip as Bodie tightened the belt. Bodie blanched and loosened it off a bit, then took his jacket off and wrapped that around him too, hoping to ward off the chill, make his lover warm again.
“Love ya, Bodie.” It was almost a whisper, a breath of air against Bodie’s check as he tucked the jacket in around Doyle’s shoulders.
“I know, Sunshine. So do I.”
“Conceited prick.” Doyle’s soft laugh turned into a gasp and a cough.
“Meant I love you too.” Bodie’s voice was affronted, but his eyes were tender as he brushed the damp curls from Doyle’s forehead.
“’ad to say it, just in case … you know.”
“Not listening, Doyle. You’ll just have to tell me all over again when we’re out of here, deal?”
Doyle didn’t answer, just smiled a little as his eyes closed again.
It was silent now in the room; the noises at the bronze door that Bodie had heard before, the thumping and voices, were gone but he knew Abdulla and his men were still out there. Bodie looked around, assessing the wrought iron spiral staircase opposite the main door, the lift next to it. There was another door at the far end that he assumed led out onto the turbine and boiler houses.
He considered the situation. There were two possibilities. They could wait it out here, hope that Teri had, indeed, called Cowley and maybe backup would arrive in time to save their skins and in time to stop Doyle bleeding to death. Or he could take matters into his own hands to get them the hell out of here and Doyle the help he needed now, not in the maybe.
He reached up to cup Doyle’s cheek. “Ray, listen. I’ll have to leave you for a bit, okay?”
Doyle’s eyes opened in understanding and he nodded. “Careful,” he whispered. “’member the deal.”
“I will, Sunshine.” He leant forward and kissed Doyle on the forehead. “Guaranteed.”
Doyle nodded again. “Gun?”
Bodie picked Doyle’s Walther from the floor where he’d left it and curled Doyle’s fingers around the butt. When he felt Doyle’s grip tighten he gently lowered the hand into his lap, kissed him again, then rose and headed for the bronze door, his own gun held ready. He didn’t look back.
The key turned noiselessly in the lock. He stood with his back against the wall and taking a deep breath eased the door open a crack, peering cautiously out. It was lighter outside now, the rising sun chasing away the darkness. He could see Solomon standing about 100 feet away with his back to the door, his attention seemingly distracted by the figure advancing steadily towards him. It took Bodie a moment to realise the figure was Sid and he was advancing on the giant with military precision, holding a British Army issue Lee-Enfield rifle in his hands.
Things happened very quickly after that. The shotgun blast was loud in the quiet morning air as Sid didn’t give Solomon time to raise his own weapon but fired at him from the hip. Solomon screamed and went down, clutching at his stomach. At the same time Bodie tore the door open, searching frantically for the location of the other gunmen before they found Sid. But he was too late, Teri, Archie and Billy had beaten him to it. Abdulla was cornered up against one of the shipping containers he and Doyle had taken refuge behind, looking desperately from left to right, seeking escape from Teri and Archie, who had surrounded him both brandishing a plank of wood. He was clutching his wrist; his gun lay on the ground in front of him.
In the meantime Billy seemed to have purloined Sid’s baseball bat and was heading at Whitey. Someone had given the skinhead a gun, but he didn’t seem to know how to use it, or maybe the safety catch was on because he was pulling uselessly at the trigger but nothing was happening. Billy’s grin was stretched across his face, feral and slightly manic.
“Bunch of fairies are we? Just a load of queers!” he screamed, bringing the wood down on Whitey’s arm with a crack that made Bodie wince. “We’ll see about that, won’t we?”
“Billy,” Bodie shouted. “Don’t kill him!”
“Why not?” Billy seemed to think it was a reasonable question as he raised the baseball bat again.
“Because I said so!”
The bat dropped to Billy’s side as he gave Bodie a disappointed look. Whitey didn’t notice, he was too busy writhing on the ground, again. Abdulla had decided discretion was the better part of valour and had raised his arms in surrender, still clutching his broken wrist.
Shit, where was Rafik? Bodie swung around, looking for the missing gunman, but he was nowhere in sight. Shit, shit, shit, Ray!
Then he was hurrying back to where he’d left the man who mattered most to him in the world. Rafik was standing at the open door leading to the turbine house, his gun raised and levelled at Doyle, who was to slowly trying to lift his arm, point the gun he was holding.
Rafik spun as Bodie’s bullet took him and Bodie knew he wouldn’t be getting up again. Doyle was always telling him he needed to use lower calibre bullets. Right now he was glad he never listened.
Time stood still for a moment, before Bodie realised that Doyle’s eyes had closed again and that he was slumped, fallen sideways now so he was mostly on the floor. It took Bodie a second to reach him, to kneel beside him and ease him up and into his arms, to cradle him gently. His face was wet, he could feel it, feel the tears that streaked his cheeks and dripped from his chin onto Ray’s face, only to become red-tinged as they hit the blood on his partner’s mouth and slid away.
Teri was kneeling too, touching Ray’s face and feeling at his neck. Bodie wanted to scream at her, tell her to go away and leave them alone… in peace. But the only sound coming from his throat was a low, inarticulate moan.
She spoke then, low insistent, reaching out to touch his face as she had touched Ray’s. “Bodie, Bodie, listen to me. He’s alive. He’ll be okay, you have to believe that. All right?” Her eyes held his, compelling him to acceptance. He squeezed his eyes shut and nodded, holding his lover a little tighter, a little closer.
She patted his cheek, “Good boy,” she said and rose, shouting something to Billy and Archie who were hovering anxiously in the doorway. Their voices faded and there was a blessed silence for a few minutes until the siren wail of the ambulance.
Then there were hands pulling him away. He resisted, until he head the calming voice of his boss. “Och now lad, let them do their work.” He let go, but not before he whispered into Ray’s ear about deals and holding on because he loved him. Then he watched the sure, efficient hands that assessed and administered and after that there was the long ride to the hospital, willing his partner to keep breathing. It wasn’t until much later that he wondered how much Cowley had seen and heard in those brief seconds, but by then he didn’t really care anyway.
On to Part Five