There were three of them, huddled together in the attic room. Three little girls, sitting on a bed. Not one of them looked more than thirteen or fourteen years old. They had young-old eyes and wore tarty skirts and tops, and too much make-up.
The room was stuffy and smelled slightly of piss. The stained bed covers were once pink, the curtains once patterned with flowers. There was a bookcase, empty except for a couple of hardcover girl’s annuals and a tired old teddy-bear. The window was open, just a crack.
He paused at the door, knowing they were watching him with dread, that too many others had found it too easy to cross that room or one just like it, take one of these children and make her perform for him. It made him feel sick. They were so young, and so damaged.
The moment passed. He holstered his gun and entered the room.
"It's all right. Don't be frightened. We're here to help you."
If anything they huddled closer still, eyes too large for their narrow pathetic faces, fearfully watching his every step.
He crouched down so he was no longer looking down on them. "I'm Ray Doyle. What's your name?" he asked the first and smallest, a child with a blonde waterfall of hair half hiding her face.
"Kirsty," she said, eventually, in a tiny voice. "And this is Sandra, and May."
Sandra had red hair. She was possibly the tallest, but she was curled up, body curved over arms wrapped across her stomach. She rocked back and forth, moaning to herself. May (Chinese, was that her real name?) comforted her.
"What's wrong, Sandra? Are you all right?" The girl took no notice and continued to rock. “Kirsty, what’s the matter with her?”
Kirsty shrank back and didn’t answer. He resisted the urge to grab Sandra’s arm and uncover the track marks he was sure were there. Hanging out for a fix, no doubt about it. Bastards.
Sandra moaned again. "Eddie... where's Eddie... need it, Ed..."
"Eddie's tied up at the moment." Bodie said, behind Doyle. Then, “Social Services and a WPC are on their way. Need a word in private before they get here.”
Doyle looked around and Bodie gestured with a thumb towards the corridor. He followed him out.
“According to ugly Eddie downstairs, Rodgers was here earlier but he’s gone now. No-one’s reported him at home or at any of the other locations.”
“Maybe some place we missed,” Doyle speculated.
“Maybe the girls know something.”
“They aren’t talkative. Anyway, I’d like to wait for the WPC. They’re scared, Bodie, too scared to say boo to you or me.”
Luckily the WPC wasn’t far away. She talked to the girls, then passed on what she had found out.
“There’s a fourth girl – her name is Lucy. Rodgers took her with him when he left. It happens sometimes – a special place for certain customers who don’t want to come to the house.” She gave them the address.
Doyle called it in and was immediately sent off with Bodie to cover this new location. They decided to travel together in Bodie’s car. It was common sense, but Doyle wasn’t altogether happy about it. Bodie was getting on with the job in a matter-of-fact fashion, but he was speaking to Doyle only when necessary, and this cold-shouldering was fraying on Doyle’s nerves. He couldn’t work out the cause, and Bodie was giving nothing away.
“This is the place,” Bodie announced, as they pulled up outside a run-down office building. “Let’s go.”
“Wait a minute, Bodie,” Doyle objected, grabbing Bodie by the arm. “We can’t go charging straight in there, for God’s sake.”
“Can’t do a reconnaissance either. We’ll have to take it one room at a time. No time otherwise.”
Doyle was exasperated. “Alright, that’s what we’ll do. But this is a partnership, Bodie, and you don’t just cut me out whenever you feel like it. After this, we talk.”
Bodie shrugged. “Whatever you say. But later, okay?”
Doyle grudgingly agreed.
They left the car and were walking around to the building entrance when the building was shaken by an explosion and a massive fireball lit the sky. Dust and debris rained down on them, and they pressed up against the building to avoid as much of it as possible. They heard larger chunks smash into the ground around them. The air stank of petrol and smoke.
It had rained while the building was burning, but they’d barely noticed it. The streets were slick-wet with moisture though, dirty runnels coursing down gutters, bumping along drifts of cigarette packets, tube tickets and discarded paper tissues.
The last police car went on its way, the sound of its engine blending with the general traffic noise. Under the street lights, Bodie walked away as well. A yellow glare illuminated the stretch of leather over shoulders, set and sway of arms in time with the rhythm of feet on cement as he strode towards the night, sturdy in black cords and leather.
Since a chunk of rubble had smashed the front end of Bodie’s car there was he could do but take the Tube. Doyle wondered whether he should follow. Bodie had shut him out. Bodie was hurting and didn’t want anyone to know. He should leave him alone, let him work it out of his system. He should retreat to his own corner, lick his own wounds. They’d get by a lot better if they didn’t crowd each other.
Bodie turned the corner. A minute later, Doyle followed.
Bodie was still waiting when Doyle reached the platform, and when a train did arrive they got on together.
The train stopped at the next station. A woman entering the carriage took one look at them, then hurried away, along the carriage and through the door at the far end.
He looked down. His jacket and jeans were smeared with oil and dirt, dark streaks on pale fabric. Bodie was the same, and there were streaks of filth on his face and hands as well. No wonder they’d been given a wide berth. He should go home, clean up and go to bed.
Three stops later he was still thinking ‘should’ instead of ‘would’. Bodie would be getting off soon. Best decide what he wanted to do.
He felt exhausted, brittle, all edges and shards like broken glass. They should never have done it – it was turning into the nightmare he’d always thought it would be. And yet he could not give up.
The train pulled into the next station, and Bodie got out. Doyle delayed until he went through the platform exit then followed, just before the doors closed. He hung back, knowing Bodie would spot him following, although it took a while for Bodie to stop and wait for him to catch up, even though he was pretty sure he’d seen him shortly after leaving the station.
“Tenacious bugger, aren’t you.” There was no anger in Bodie’s voice, barely any emotion at all.
“Have to be. Got something worth holding onto and I intend to keep it.”
“Do you now?” Sarcasm, but there was curiousity as well.
“Yeah. Your place. Now.” He made it sound like an order. Bodie looked at him appraisingly before nodding and continuing the rest of the way home.
Of course Bodie couldn’t just let him into his flat and have it out then and there. There was the offer of a drink, which was accepted, the glass, poured, drained and returned before Bodie had taken a sip from his own. Doyle refused the offer of a second, decided it was time he put his cards on the table. Bodie was anticipating it too, holding his drink like a shield.
“What happened, Bodie? Why did you walk away?”
“No? Feels like it to me. I don’t understand. You left and couldn’t give a reason – and now you’re back... only you’re not. I’m tempted to ask what you’ve done with the real Bodie. I don’t recognise the one in front of me.”
Bodie sighed heavily. “Look at this.” There was a file on the coffee table which Bodie picked up and gave it to Doyle. “Everything there is to know about Frank Coney, deceased.”
Doyle was puzzled, but he read the file anyway. Coney had been born in North London. He joined the REME as a vehicle mechanic. Discharged at eight years, went back to work for his father for a bit, then took off again. Suspected involvement in extortion, international theft and smuggling unclear. Last known job – assassin.
“Well it’s a colourful story, but why... Wait – you’re never comparing yourself to him, are you?”
“No, not directly. But “I’d say we had a lot in common.”
Doyle bit back a retort. It wasn’t something he could see, but it must be something that had powerful meaning for Bodie. More than the superficial resemblances the file suggested. He looked at the papers, sorted through them, put them down. It wasn’t in here, he was convinced.
“What makes you think you’re anything like him?”
Bodie rubbed his forehead with his fingertips, concentrating. “Coney was an adrenaline junkie. He lived for excitement. He’d do a high risk job, take his pay and it would be gone in six months. Then he’d be on to the next job, and the one after that. Eventually it killed him.”
“He preferred to work alone. Only one other man he worked with, the one who died with him.”
No, that wasn’t it. It couldn’t be... “Are you saying you’d rather work solo?” He waited, fearful of Bodie’s response.
“No – not really. I used to. And then Cowley gave you to me, and once I’d knocked enough sense into you it was - different.” Bodie smirked, deliberately provoking Doyle, who saw the ploy and avoided it.
“That works both ways, don’t forget. I’ve never had a partner like you, either.”
And there it was, that flicker of wariness across Bodie’s face. Doyle took a chance.
“What scares you the most, Bodie? What makes you avoid me when we both know that’s not what you want?”
Bodie stared at the floor. Angrily, Doyle grabbed his arms and shook him. “Answer me, you bastard!”
Bodie was looking at him again, truculently. “I don’t want to get any closer to you because if I did, it would hurt too much!”
It would hurt too much. His own reasons such a short time ago. Except that Bodie didn’t realise he had no choice in the matter.
“It’s too late. Should have thought of that before you developed notions about taking me to bed. Before I decided that the risk was worth it. Ah, Bodie,” and Doyle embraced him, held the stiff body tightly, “It hurts too much not to try.”
He heard Bodie cry out, felt his shoulders shake and arms reach out to wrap around Doyle in turn, and knew he’d won. They both had.
One week later
It was seven thirty in the morning on the day they were officially due back from leave when the night duty officer rang Doyle’s flat with a message from Rachel Pedder. She had urgent information about the missing Luger and wanted to speak with him.
“Roger, Control. We’ll be there in fifteen minutes. I’ll contact Bodie. 4.5. out.”
He ended the call, then swatted his sleeping companion on a well padded part of his anatomy. “C’mon sunshine – duty calls.”
They drove to the Findlay’s flat. Rachel and Tom Findlay’s wife met them at the door. They were shocked and crying, and it took precious time to work out what had happened. Rachel told them she had only just found out that Joe had had the Luger all along, and that Daniel had given it to him for safekeeping. “He’s gone after Harry Parker,” she said, in between sobs. “They said on the radio this morning that he was out on bail. That’s when Joe got the gun out.”
Last thing that Doyle had heard was that Cowley hoped the evidence they had collected would be enough to keep Parker in gaol until the trial. Out of gaol, he was still a danger, even without his erstwhile right-hand man. Rodgers had died in the office fire – or rather, before, from a gunshot wound to the head. The bullet hadn’t survived the inferno and the killer was unknown.
“Tom’s gone too,” added Mrs Findlay. “They had a row this morning when they heard the news, then when Joe left, Tom decided he had to follow him.”
“How long ago?” Doyle asked.
“About an hour. Can you stop Joe? Parker’s not to be messed with.”
“We’ll do our best,” Bodie promised.
They raced out to Doyle’s car. Bodie grabbed the RT with one hand and held on for dear life as Doyle revved the engine and hurtled them out onto the road in a squeal and burn of rubber.
“3.7 to Control! Control, patch me through to Alpha – now!”
“Alpha. What’s the matter, Bodie?”
“It’s young Findlay. He’s gone after Parker, and Tom’s headed after him. We need back-up at Parker’s house, now!”
“You’ll have it. Get over there as fast as you can. Alpha out.”
“Control! Dammit, don’t hang up on me. Control!”
“Control here, 3.7. Keep your hair on.” Julia, unflappable as ever.
“Find someone to access the surveillance files on Parker’s place. House layout, staff, everything.”
“Will do. Control out.”
Hurtling down the road, preoccupied by the urgent need in front of them, Doyle barely noticed as Bodie placed the hand piece back in its cradle.
“Where are we going?” Bodie shouted, above the roar of the engine.
“Romford,” Doyle replied. “Somewhere just north of there anyway. Haven’t got an address.” He chuckled, amused, and just a little high on adrenaline. “We could always stop someone and ask. Reckon most people around there would know Parker’s place.”
“What are we up against? That’s what I’d like to know.”
“Parker doesn’t like the business and the family mixing too much, but he’d have security. I’d say two, three at most, counting him. Damn…,” he swore vehemently, “this could get bloody. What the fuck was Joe thinking?”
Bodie touched him then, lightly, on his thigh. Despite the fact that he was driving, as fast as the road would allow and then some, that did more to ease him than anything.
They were out of the City now, through the old and the new of the East End, its mix of vibrant regeneration and barren decay a blur at the edges of vision. Green space, glimpsed through gaps between houses, placid waterways and solid brick dwellings, a calmer, sturdier England unfolded around them.
Fifteen minutes on the road and they were close to Romford when Julia finally hailed them again. She patched them through to the files room, where Susan was waiting.
“I’ve got his address and I’m checking the files now,” she said, and rattled off the details. “It’s the last house in a cul-de-sac off Noak Hill Road. The property’s walled off completely, except for the main gate and another at the rear. Aerial photographs show the house, a separate double garage, a small building near the front – could be a gatehouse – a swimming pool and what looks like a pergola in the garden.”
“Inside?” Bodie asked.
“Single storey, except for the rear where there’s a couple of loft bedrooms over the kitchen and laundry. Two main living areas, an office, and five bedrooms total. Very posh-looking. Crime obviously pays.”
“I’ll suggest that to my bank manager when I see him next,” Doyle said. “Who’s likely to be there?”
“Living in the house, Parker, his wife and seven year old son. Usually one or two of Parker’s boys for security, they rotate in and out, change all the time, he prefers that they don’t get to close to the family.”
Doyle slowed down as they approached the turn-off. Not far from the village itself, this part of Noak Hill was practically rural. The houses, old and new, were spaced well apart, a few of them abutting fields of churned soil and plants, or an acre or two of greenhouses. He could already smell the faint but pungent aroma of fertiliser in the air. Turning into the cul-de sac he stopped before the end, a couple of houses back from Parker’s and across the street. From there, through the wrought iron gate set in a white stuccoed wall, they could see part of the house, a brightly modern ranch-style building more in tune with California than a sedate English village.
“No accounting for taste.” Bodie leaned across Doyle to have a look.
“Can’t see anything happening inside, Susan. Where’s our back-up?
“On their way. Might be twenty minutes or more.”
There was a pause, then a different, familiar voice, “Cowley here. You’ve been on leave so you won’t have all the facts. We opened the safe from Rodger’s office and there was enough evidence in it to hang Parker and half his gang out to dry, including the missing documents from Marshall’s flat. By letting Parker out on bail we were hoping to catch the few remaining fish. Do whatever you have to but I want Parker alive.”
“And the Findlays, sir?” Bodie asked.
“Aye, the Findlays as well. No casualties, d’you hear me? Cowley out.”
“Well sunshine, what do we do now?” They sat quietly for a minute, staring at the gate and the house beyond.
The house had been built at a slight angle to the gate in an effort to catch the best of the winter sun, leaving the front entrance hidden behind the well-manicured bushes that lined the drive, while a large picture window granted an excellent view of the drive to anyone inside.
Time was ticking away, Doyle knew, but if both Findlays had been incapacitated, or killed, Parker would almost certainly treat anyone attempting to get into the house as hostile. On the other hand, ifJoe was in charge inside, he probably wouldn’t shoot straight away. Probably.
“Ah, come on. Only thing worse than doing it is thinking about it.” He looked at Bodie, who grinned back, then threw open the car door and got out. They walked briskly over to the gate. It was locked. There was a postern gate off to the side a little, beside the gatehouse, also shut. He decided on a direct approach, got one foot up onto a horizontal bar about halfway up the gate and was about to haul himself over the top when he saw Bodie swing the postern gate open. He jumped down and followed him through, rather sheepishly.
“Latched but not locked,” Bodie said, by way of explanation.
No-one challenged them, and when they walked into the gatehouse they saw the reason why. There was a man inside, tied up with telephone cable and gagged with a strip of tape.
“Nice handiwork. Lad knows his ropes,” Bodie commented.
“”It’s in the blood.” Doyle considered the next step. “Could go straight to the front door.”
“One of us could – toss you for it?” Bodie wiggled his eyebrows suggestively.
Doyle swallowed a laugh. “You have an incredibly filthy mind.”
“It’s the company I keep. Alright, you go up to the front door, since it was your idea. I’ll go around the back.”
Plan agreed, Bodie used the cover of the trees to move around the grounds, while Doyle walked directly up to the main entrance. There was a doorbell, but he decided to try the door handle first and was surprised when it opened, easily and quietly. The flooring was plush carpet that deadened his steps as he walked through the house, searching. At the end of the hall a doorway opened into one of the living area. He drew his gun and looked around the corner.
Joe Findlay was lying in an armchair, alive but bleeding from a shoulder wound. To the left of him stood Tom Findlay. His hands were formed into fists, and he was standing over the battered, but definitely breathing form of Harry Parker. Doyle checked, but no-one held a gun. The Luger was lying at Joe’s feet.
Doyle stepped into the room.
“Hello, Tom. Been doing our job for us?”
“Wouldn’t dream of it. Might get in trouble with your union. I’m just looking after my own.” Findlay stayed where he was, glaring down at Parker.
Then Bodie entered from the other side of the house, freeing Doyle to check on Joe.
“How is he?” Findlay asked.
“Needs a doctor.” The wound was not immediately life-threatening, but he was still bleeding.
“When I got here Joe was trying to wrestle with Parker. Got shot by his own gun before I could help.”
“Marshall’s gun, you mean. Your lad’s in a bit of trouble.” Bodie said.
“We’ll see about that,” Tom growled, a fighter to the end.
They heard the sound of sirens approaching.
Doyle looked at Bodie and grinned. “Looks like a good first day back.”
Bodie winked at him. “Any day's a good day, mate. Any day.”
It later turned out that, on the night of the fire, Joe Findlay had followed Gerry Rodgers from King Street to the business office, intending to shoot him with the Luger as revenge for Daniel Pedder’s death. At the last minute Joe had balked at shooting a man in cold blood and had simply escaped, taking Lucy with him. This was corroborated by Lucy herself, once she had been located. Joe had taken her to a refuge, but she had run away from there and was found living in a squat. Neither had seen the man who shot Rodgers, but the smart money was on Parker, a man known for keeping a tidy house.
Parker was convicted and sentenced to fifteen years gaol for many and varied crimes.
Tom Findlay lost the union election to Magnus Thompson. The dockers strike of February 1980 sealed the fate of the remaining India docks and they closed completely over the next few months.
The men and women whose names had been included on Marshall’s list were left in peace to get on with their lives. As perhaps they should have been from the beginning.