If you come down to the river,
Bet you gonna find some people who live.
You don't have to worry 'cause you have no money,
People on the river are happy to give.
Big wheel keep on turnin',
Proud Mary keep on burnin',
Rollin', rollin', rollin' on the river.
He didn’t want to be at CI5 headquarters, he wanted to be at the hospital, waiting for Doyle to come out of surgery. But Cowley had insisted.
“There’s nothing you can do for him here, man,” Cowley had told him as he paced the waiting room. “And I have one dead suspect, another one in this same hospital with gunshot wounds to the stomach and two others at headquarters, one with a broken arm. As well as a lot of unanswered questions.”
So here Bodie was, in this airless interrogation room with its single bare light bulb hanging from the ceiling, leaning against the damp wall while Whitey, his broken arm in a plaster cast and sling, threw him frightened looks and whined his story out to Murphy. He’d been hired by Abdulla not to intimidate or attack, no that had been his own idea entirely, but to watch the Riverboat Queen and report on that bunch of fuckin’ queers. Which was when Murphy had been forced to back Bodie up against the wall to stop him taking a swipe at the skinhead.
Whitey knew nothing of any importance, that was obvious, and Bodie resented his enforced inactivity when he needed to be somewhere else - even if it was amusing to throw ferocious scowls at the skinhead and watch him quiver. So when the phone on the wall rang he was almost grateful to hear Cowley’s voice and his command to “Come to my office, now.”
Teri and B.J were already there when he arrived, both sitting across from his boss, but their attention immediately riveted on him when he entered.
“Ray?” Teri said, her eyes worried, questioning.
Bodie shook his head. “No word,” he said.
B.J was frowning, biting on her lip. She was still wearing jeans and a t-shirt but seemed to have permanently lost the baseball cap and had made an effort to tame the wild hair into something resembling a short bob. At the moment she was wilting under the sharp gaze of George Cowley. Teri, on the other hand, was giving off her own sharp gaze. Bodie idly wondered who would be the winner in that potential confrontation.
“I’m sorry, Bodie. It’s all my fault.” B.J was sobbing now, the words tumbling out through hiccupping breaths. “They killed my brother. They were coming to the house and they had guns. Andy had one too, didn’t know he had it. He shot one of them and he told me to run, then they were inside and they shot him. So I ran. Ray told me run too and they shot him.” Teri slipped an arm around the girl’s shoulders and hugged her as she looked at Bodie through her tears. “I’m so sorry, Bodie,” she repeated.
Bodie was at a loss, knowing his “It’s okay, B.J” was inadequate. Doyle would know what to do, what to say, he was much better at things like this than he was. But Doyle wasn’t here and he didn’t know what words to use to comfort her in the face of her anguish when he felt no comfort in his own anguish. It was Cowley who came to his rescue
“It’s no one’s fault, Miss Jamieson … B.J,” he said gently. “Ray was doing his job, the job he’d been assigned to do by me. You did the right thing to run, in both cases. And you were able to lead me and my men to where Bodie and Ray were. Now we need to make sure that the people who killed your brother and injured Ray are put where they belong.”
B.J nodded and swiped at her tears.
When he was sure he had their attention again, Cowley continued. “Bodie has given me his report. And I’m satisfied that neither you nor any members of the Riverboat Queen crew had any involvement in the diamond smuggling. However, all this might have been resolved earlier, if Miss Bradley had seen fit to contact the authorities.” Teri bristled at the words and glared at Cowley, but remained silent. B.J looked like she was going to say something but changed her mind.
“What’s happening with Abdulla and Solomon?” Bodie asked.
Cowley frowned. “Solomon is expected to recover fully from his wounds. Abdulla is claiming both self-defence in the death of Andrew Jamieson and diplomatic immunity.”
“He’s not!” Bodie was incredulous.
“Mr Abdulla has informed us he is in the country on a diplomatic mission on behalf of President Stevens,” Cowley told him. “We need to tie him in with the diamonds to disprove that.” He turned to B.J again. “B.J where are the diamonds your brother had?”
B.J looked at him in confusion. “I don’t know,” she said. “I don’t know anything about the diamonds. When those men came I was upstairs. It was late but I had a test the next day so I was studying. I heard glass breaking. At first I thought Andy had dropped something, then there was this loud bang and shouting. I looked out my window and saw a big black car parked in our driveway so I went downstairs to see who it was and Andy was there in the lounge, he had a gun and something else in his hand … a small bag. He just shoved the bag in my hand and shouted for me to run. So I did, I ran down the passage to the kitchen back door.” She stopped for a moment, her face haunted. “I - I looked back and I saw those men come in and - and they shot him. One of them saw me, he started coming down the passage but I ran out the back and climbed over the fence. Then I just kept running.”
“What did you do with the bag Andy gave you?” Bodie asked.
She shrugged. “I threw it away. It’s what they wanted though, isn’t it? These diamonds everyone keeps talking about? They were in it weren’t they? That’s what they killed Andy for?”
Bodie nodded. B.J just looked infinitely sad.
“Do you remember where you threw it, Miss Jamieson? Could you take us there?” Cowley asked her.
She considered for a moment. “Yes, I think so. The bag was sort of thin and lumpy, I think it had a hole in it and whatever was inside. was digging into my hand. So when I got to the end of the street I threw it in some bushes. I’m sure I know which ones because I thought I’d go back and find it again when it was safe.”
Cowley looked satisfied. “Right, Bodie, you can take Miss Jamieson. to the site, see if you can find the bag.”
“No.” The refusal flat and non-negotiable. “Susan or Murphy can do it. I’m going back to the hospital to be with Ray. It’s where I need to be right now.”
Cowley studied him for moment. “Aye, that’s true enough,” he said. “I’ll accompany Miss Jamieson. Contact me the minute you have any news about Doyle’s condition.”
“Yes, Sir,” Bodie agreed, wondering again just how much Cowley knew or suspected about him and Doyle, how much he’d put together in that triple-think mind of his. No doubt they would find out soon enough and if it meant they were out of CI5 for good then so be it, so long as he had Doyle with him.
He was just about to the door when Teri laid a hand on his arm.
“Do you mind if I come with you, keep you company?” she said.
Bodie hesitated for a moment then glanced across at Cowley and B.J Cowley was non-committal but B.J smiled and nodded.
“No, I don’t mind,” he told her.
The waiting room was silent and empty. No anxious relatives waiting for news of loved ones, no bustling nurses or orderlies – just Bodie and Teri sitting on the hard backed chairs sipping coffee from Styrofoam cups, making conversation when they wanted or being quiet when it was too difficult to say anything. Bodie was glad she was there, it made the waiting just that bit easier.
“You knew all the time we were CI5, didn’t you?” he asked after a particularly long but easy silence.
“CI5? No, but I suspected something like that. We had that sign up for months, then suddenly two very butch and very capable guys show up practically begging for the job. Bit too much of a co-incidence.”
“So why did you give us the job? Have us live in?”
“There’s that saying, ‘keep your friends close and your enemies closer’. I thought it appropriate at the time.”
“We weren’t the enemy.”
“No, you weren’t,” she agreed. “But I didn’t know that then. Andy was dead and suddenly everyone was after B.J. I had to keep her safe, for him.”
“Did you love Andy?” Bodie was curious now, about what had prompted such a loyalty in Teri
“Love? What’s love, Bodie? Yes, I loved him. He was my confidante, my protector from the school yard bullies and my refuge when things got too hard to endure. It was very easy to love Andy. We were never lovers though. He was a straight boy.” She grinned at him. “Straighter than you and Ray.”
Bodie laughed a little at that. It was so easy to be natural with Teri, be unconcerned about not-so-well-kept secrets.
“You know about the fire? About Andy and B.J’s parents?” she continued. Bodie nodded. “They lost everything in that fire, not just their parents but their lives as well and Andy was left with a teenage girl to take care of. It was hard for him because of his job – he was away so much. B.J was a bit of a handful as well, getting into trouble at school. I tried to help out, had her stay with us on the Queen when he was away. I suppose he thought the smuggling was a way out, a way of making enough money to set them up properly.” She stopped again, her face sad.
“He wasn’t a bad person, Bodie. He just wanted to do right by his sister.”
Bodie took her hand and held on. “I know he wasn’t, Teri. He ended up being caught up in something that was too big for him to handle.” He knew he would show her the letter Andy wrote to her, the one he never had a chance to post. She would be happy to know that at the last Andy had entrusted all he had left to her. The thought of B.J brought on another question he had been wondering about.
“Why B.J when her name’s Roberta?”
Teri smiled. “Her name is Roberta Joanne. When she was little Andy called her Bobbie Jo, which ended up being shortened to B.J.”
“Ah,” Bodie sighed. “That now makes perfect sense. She wasn’t even really hidden, we were just too blind to see her.”
“Gender bending is a bitch, isn’t it?” Teri grinned at him and Bodie smiled in return, acknowledging his and Doyle’s lack of acuity with good grace, wishing Doyle was right there now so they could tease each other about it.
Teri had noticed the darkening in his eyes. “Tell me about him, about the two of you.”
So he did. He told her about their first meeting, how they’d rubbed each other up the wrong way on sight and how he’d resented Cowley teaming them up because he was someone who preferred to work alone and certainly didn’t want to work with the ratty-tempered, annoying Ray Doyle. But on their first real assignment they had come together like a well-oiled machine, complemented each other perfectly without even thinking about it and he was forced to reconsider his solitary existence and his attitude to his new partner. That he gave as good as he got, laughed at Bodie’s sometimes macabre sense of humour, bouncing back with his own quirky comebacks, and that he had come to trust Bodie implicitly and in turn Bodie learned to trust Doyle with his life sealed their friendship, their partnership and finally their commitment.
“Ray is my conscience, he’s what keeps me from the jungle,” he finished.
“You’re a good man, Bodie. So is Ray. You were very lucky to find each other. He’s going to be all right, you know that don’t you?” she told him, squeezing his hand. He remembered her telling him that before as he was holding onto his partner on a cold marble floor. He wondered if she had some special psychic knowledge, it wouldn’t surprise him. Whatever the cause, he trusted her and nodded, not able to speak because of the sudden lump in his throat.
They waited in silence then, until finally there was a white coated figures with a stethoscope around his neck calling Bodie’s name from the doorway.
Ray Doyle opened his eyes three times. The first time everything was blurry and he couldn’t see any details of where he was, just hear a loud jangling that hurt his ears and he wished whatever it was making the noise, someone would turn it off. Bodie was there, looking anxious, talking to him but he couldn’t hear him over the jangling. Just as he was closing his eyes again he remembered a deal they had made. He wasn’t too sure of the details any more but a deal was a deal so he supposed he’d better keep it, no matter how enticing the thought of just letting go and drifting away felt.
The second time there was whiteness everywhere, so glaring it almost made him blind. There were still noises too but these were of a gentler kind; a quite hiss and slow steady beeps that somehow seemed important they continue. And of course there was Bodie, clear in the white haze and looking a little less anxious but red eyed and tired. He tried to say his name, tell him he looked awful and why wasn’t he resting, but nothing came out. Bodie smiled though, and that was all that mattered.
The third time everything was still white but the glare didn’t hurt his eyes as much, although he opened them cautiously at first. It was quiet too, only muted sounds of activity creeping through in whispers. He stayed still for a moment, trying to work out where he was. Memories came rushing in when the whiteness of his surroundings hit the right chord and he realised the high bed he was lying in was standard hospital issue. That determined, he began his own physical stock take. He could move his toes and his legs a fraction, good. The fingers on his left hand responded to his commands, good. However his right hand was encased and unmoveable, damn. He moved his head slightly to look down. There was a dark head resting on the mattress next to his arm and the reason he couldn’t move his fingers was because they were gripped tightly in a large hand. Slowly, carefully he lifted his left hand and brought it down on the short dark hair, running his fingers carefully through the strands.
His Bodie was sleeping.
Bodie had brought grapes this time, and another book for him to read.
“Hope this is better than the last one,” Doyle griped, checking the cover of the Jack Higgins novel Bodie tossed at him. After a quick appraisal he discarded the novel and leaned back against the pillows. “I’ve seen the movie.”
“Book’s better,” Bodie told him, helping himself to a chair by the bedside and the grapes. “What’s the latest word from the docs, when can I spring you out of here - get you home, fill you up with chicken soup?”
“Chicken soup! Haven’t got a cold, Bodie, I was shot, remember?”
“Not likely to forget, am I? You just about gave me a heart attack. Cures everything, chicken soup does, me old nan used to say, even bullet holes.”
“I’m sure your old nan didn’t say anything about bullet holes. And anyway it’d just leak out of the holes. And, don’t blame me for your heart attacks. Told you often enough it’s bad eating habits 'll do it for you, nothing to do with me.” He picked up the grapes and moved them to the bedside cabinet on the opposite side of the bed, out of Bodie’s reach.
“Oi,” Bodie was indignant. “What’s wrong with eating grapes?”
“Nothing. They’re mine, you can get your own. And why aren’t you at work?”
“Cowley’s given me time off while you’re incapacitated.”
Doyle looked at him with dawning suspicion. “What? The whole time I’ve been here?”
“Just about,” Bodie confirmed. “Been doing some paperwork and research but the Cow’s let me spend most of my time here and getting things ready for when you’re to be discharged. When’s that likely to be? You haven’t said yet.”
Doyle ignored the question and supplied one of his own, though he suspected he already knew the answer. “He knows, doesn’t he?”
Bodie had the grace to look discomforted. “Um, yes, well. I may have given the game away a little there.”
Doyle stared at him. “And how, exactly, did you manage to let Cowley in on that part of our personal lives?”
“You were bleeding all over me, Ray,” Bodie sighed. “I probably got a little more emotional than I should have.”
“Oh,” Doyle’s sense of guilt and responsibility clouted him harder than usual at the look on Bodie’s face. “What’s he said?”
“Nothing, that’s the worrying bit. Just told me to make sure everything is taken care of and to take as much time as I needed to do it.”
They shared a look of concern. A considerate Cowley was something to be wary of. But there wasn’t anything they could do about it at the moment, other than wait out their boss and see what he said.
Two days later Doyle was discharged from hospital.
Any hopes for a respite, a chance to gather themselves before the inevitable Cowley storm, were short-lived, they were to report in the minute Doyle left the hospital.
He was waiting for them in his office, cold and official behind his desk, stacks of files and papers spread out in front of him. He wasted no time getting to the point as Doyle settled himself into a chair and Bodie took up a protective stance behind him.
“Doyle, from tomorrow you will be assigned light duties until such time as you’ve been assessed as medically fit to be back in the field again. At which point you will both spend time with Macklin for some retraining.”
“What about me, Sir?” Bodie asked.
“I’ll need you for clearing up any last details on this diamond smuggling case, Bodie. Especially as you have been involved from the start.” Cowley told him pushing a thick file towards the edge of his desk. “The very quiet Solomon has decided it is time to speak, which might have something to do with our threat to extradite him back to Liberia, where he’s wanted by the authorities in relation to some rather nasty anti-government activities. He’s singing like the proverbial canary. His evidence and the retrieved diamonds should be enough to convict Abdulla. Murphy has been in on all the interrogations, you can work with him gathering the last pieces of evidence.”
Bodie picked up the file and tucked it under his arm. “I gather Abdulla’s attempt at diplomatic immunity didn’t pay off?”
“It did not!” Cowley’s delight was evident. “Being caught more or less red handed by British authorities with diamonds smuggled out of his own country was cause enough to have his diplomatic status waived. No, he’ll be charged with both the murder of Andrew Jamieson and the diamond smuggling. And we will have broken up at least one diamond smuggling route out of the sub-continent.”
Cowley seemed to have finished with official business so Bodie made a bid for a quick exit.
“Will that be all, Sir?” he said. “If so I’ll get on it as soon as I’ve taken Doyle home,”
“No, Bodie. That will not be all.” Cowley studied them both for a long time without speaking, so long in fact that Bodie was forced to relieve his parade attention stance lest his feet go numb. He could feel the tension radiating off Doyle and he longed to rest his hand on the hunched shoulder but daren’t, not with Cowley’s attention focused so heavily on them.
Finally Cowley spoke. “How long have you two had this… arrangement, you seem to have developed?”
Bodie tried to start speaking but Doyle broke in before he had a chance.
“We’ve been lovers for two years,” he said, all bristling aggression, almost spitting out the belated, “Sir.”
Cowley was unimpressed. “You are aware of course that homosexuality is banned in the Police Force at this time?”
“This isn’t the police force,” Doyle responded
“No, indeed it isn’t,” Cowley agreed. “And I suppose if I told you to cease this association I would be wasting my breath?”
“Yes, Sir. You would,” Bodie responded for both of them and Doyle nodded.
“I thought so,” Cowley said, “Very well. I see no reason to change anything at this stage.” He held up his hand to forestall interruption. “However, I will expect discretion from the two of you. And, there seems to be no reason why the CI5 budget should be wasted on two separate sets of accommodation for you both, given the current circumstances. You can decide between yourselves which CI5 flat should be vacated.”
“You mean, you’re telling us we have to share a flat?” Doyle demanded.
Cowley looked at them both over his glasses, eyebrows raised. “I was under the impression that’s what lovers did.”
They sat there for a moment, stunned, not quite knowing what to say. Cowley solved their dilemma for them.
“Well, what are you waiting for? Dismissed.”
“Yes, Sir,” they chorused and fled out of the door so fast they completely missed the amused look on their boss’ face.
Once safely in the passage Bodie leaned back against the closed door and stared at Doyle, who looked as disconcerted as Bodie felt.
“Well, that was…” Bodie started
“...weird,” Doyle finished.
“Think he’s okay?”
“I mean, you don’t think he’s lost it, do you. Going soft?”
“Soft? Cowley? Nah! He’s managed to do us out of a flat and make a considerable cut to CI5 expenses, that’s not soft, mate. More like he’s trying to put us off the scent till he thinks up some other way to make us suffer.”
“Yeah, you’re right. Still, maybe we’d better leg it before he changes his mind.”
Doyle nodded and Bodie lifted himself off the wall. They were down the passage and standing beside the Capri in record time.
“So, which flat should we give up?” Bodie asked as he started the car.
“Not mine! Took me ages to get that one. Nice location, good views.”
“Yeah, great views – of the sewage works.”
“That’s only out of one window!”
“Mine’s got two bedrooms.”
“Don’t need two bedrooms.”
“Have to be discreet, don’t we? Cowley said. Two bedrooms’re more discreet than one.”
The argument lasted all the way to their newly designated shared flat.
The Queen bobbed restlessly on the water as if anxious to be set loose from her moorings and take to the waves again, not caring that her engines were long silenced and her boilers dry and unworking. She was Queen of the river and even her dilapidated state couldn’t change that. Bodie admired her defiance, a defiance that was echoed by her owner and crew, they fit well together, this proud paddle steamer and the equally proud people who had made her their home.
The sign was there again, the one that advertised for the services of a barman/bouncer. Bodie grinned when they passed it, raising a questioning eyebrow at Doyle, but he just grinned back and shook his head as they started up the gangway.
“It’s about time you two showed your faces around here again.” The voice came from the doorway of the pilot house. Teri was smiling as she moved to meet them.
It was Monday so the clubroom was deserted, the chairs packed away, the bar closed for business. But the crew were there, Archie and Billy, B.J and Sid, crowded around a table that had been drawn up into the middle of the room and decorated with balloons and food, a “welcome home” banner hanging from the front. And strangely enough Bodie did feel at home as they hugged and kissed him and Ray, Billy handing them glasses of fine malt scotch from Terri’s special stock with the comment “Here, this will put some lead in your pencils.” Then adding with a sideways, saucy look at Bodie and a suggestive wink, “Not that you would need it, I’m sure.”
Bodie sighed, it seemed some things hadn’t changed.
“Billy!” Archie’s voice had a commanding edge to it as he sauntered up to them and put an arm around Billy’s waist. “Leave Bodie alone.”
Or maybe they had.
Billy rolled his eyes. “S-o-r-r-y,” he said, adding with a mutter. “Some people are just so possessive.” But he didn’t seem to mind it all that much.
B.J hovered, pressing cakes on Ray and filling Bodie’s glass with even more scotch.
“Thought you were off at boarding school,” Bodie said, managing to move his glass away before she made his drink a double triple.
“Am,” she told him. “Got a special pass to come home for the weekend, don’t go back ‘till tomorrow.”
“I’m surprised they let you in at all, it’s supposed to be a school for young ladies after all.”
B.J poked her tongue out at him. “Can be a young lady when I want to,” she told him. Bodie looked sceptical.
“We have your Mr Cowley to thank for getting her into the school,” Teri told them. “I’d never have been able to find the money to send her there if he hadn’t found out about the special scholarship they had.”
Bodie smiled, wondering what strings Cowley had pulled to bring about the newly established scholarship for the prestigious girls' school B.J was attending.
“Trouble is, we’re stuck with her during the holidays,” Billy’s affectionate look was in slight contrast to the teasing words. “Teri’s gone and adopted her, hasn’t she!”
B.J glared at him. “Not adopted, you nit, she’s just my guardian until I’m eighteen,” she said exasperation tingeing her voice. Billy just grinned at her and reached out a hand to ruffle her hair, now grown to almost shoulder length.
“Here, I have something that belongs to you,” Ray said, holding out the photograph he’d picked up from the Jamieson house that day not so long ago when the world had changed for B.J again, changed for everyone.
B.J took the singed photo, studying it for a moment, her eyes tinged with sadness. “Thanks,” she said. “I’d wondered what had happened to it. It was the only thing Andy and I had left of our parents. ”
“You have us now,” Teri reminded her. “And the Queen. She’s part yours, Andy’s share goes to you.”
“It’s going to be a good investment too, when we turn her into a floating restaurant,” Sid gloated.
“You got the engine leaks fixed didn’t you,” Bodie accused, grinning.
“Sure did,” Sid told him.
“Now, Sid,” Teri interrupted, seeming determined to deflate some of Sid’s enthusiasm. “One fixed engine leak and boilers does not a working vessel make, at least not one that can take on the role of ferrying diners up and down the Thames. And we’d need a lot of capital to set it up, capital we haven’t got.”
“Pity you threw away those diamonds, B.J” Archie laughed. “They’d have come in handy right now.”
B.J pulled a face at him. “Didn’t want the bloody diamonds then and wouldn’t have them now for all the trouble they caused.”
Bodie couldn’t have agreed more, diamonds hadn’t been Andy’s best friend and had nearly cost Doyle his life. He’d sooner do without them too.
Drink and good food, as well as the discussion on plans, hopes and dreams for the Queen and her crew followed, but finally they had to leave, there was work in the morning – crims to catch, leads to follow, Cowley to placate and obey.
The crew saw them off as they walked down the gangway, invitations to come back any time issued and accepted. They paused at the bottom, for a final wave and Bodie looked out across the slowly flowing Thames, at the rubbish strewn muddy banks. Then he looked at the man beside him, the man he had come so close to losing. They had the chance of a life together, thanks to Cowley’s turning a blind eye. Maybe not a completely open life yet but at least one that wasn’t built on deception – a new beginning, new opportunities. Maybe it wasn’t too soon to think of a future that went beyond just survival as Cowley’s bisto kids.
“What’d you think of Sid’s plans for the Queen,” he asked suddenly.
Doyle considered for a moment. “If anyone could make a go of it, Teri could.”
“Fancy an investment?”
“What? In a floating drag club? Thought you wanted to keep that part of our lives secret.”
He partner was smiling at him, waiting for his answer. Billy had leaned over the railing of the Queen and was shouting down at them, a typical Billy smirk on his face, “Your cabin’s free for whenever you want it.”
And Bodie gave Doyle his answer by wrapping his arm around the slim waist to draw him close. Then, leaning in and before god and country, but mainly the cheering, clapping crew of the Riverboat Queen, he kissed his lover soundly on the lips.