Of Moggies and Tigers
by PR Zed
Written for the Jubilee June challenge for "Discovered in 1977" on the discoveredinalj livejournal community, to the prompt "Streamers and Balloons"
The problem with your dad being a member of the local borough council is that you end up getting dragged to every naff function going. Church fêtes and charity dinners, I've been to them all. Learned how to avoid them whenever possible. But the dinner for the Queen's Jubilee was one event I couldn't wriggle out of. There was no way Dad wasn't going to have his smiling wife and daughter at his side for that one.
I wasn't happy about it though. Gave Dad maximum aggro beforehand. Played the Sex Pistols all morning long. Hates punk music, does my dad. Thinks The Clash are a bunch of yobbos and that God Save the Queen is sacrilege. Doesn't see the irony in that, complaining about Johnny Rotten screaming about Good Queen Liz's fascist regime while he sets his own fascist rules at home. I played that song more often than the others, just to get up his nose.
Soon enough I had to put on my party frock and get ready to go. I only hoped none of my friends saw me. I looked a right prat, done up in flowery chintz and lace, but Dad had bought the bloody dress himself and insisted I wear it. The style he chose you'd think I was ten, instead of nearly seventeen.
We got to the hall in plenty of time for me to develop a dire case of boredom. The place looked a fright, with red, white and blue streamers and balloons hanging from the ceiling and so many pictures of dear old Liz the Second hanging all over that you couldn't make a move without her giving you the eye. The people weren't much better. I swear there was an entire family done up in Union Jacks.
I faded into a corner, counting down the hours, minutes and seconds until I could clear out. Couldn't even drown my sorrows with a pint or a cider since Dad must've tipped off the bartender that I was underage. The only thing the bastard'd serve me was lemon squash. Vile stuff.
So there I was, bored and wishing I was dead, or at least home in my room with my records and magazines, when they walked in.
Didn't fit in at all, those two. For a start, they were bloody gorgeous. Not to mention dangerous looking. Even in suits, they looked as out of place in that church hall as two tigers at a gathering of neighbourhood moggies.
Not my usual type, either of them. Bit old for a start. They must have been at least thirty. And I usually go more for the scruffy musician type. Joe Strummer's just my cuppa. And there's a boy at school, Simon, who's not so bad either. All ripped jeans and leather jackets, Simon is. Mind you, the curly-haired bloke looked like he'd be more comfortable in jeans and a leather jacket than the suit he was wearing. And I could think of a few places I'd like to rip his jeans. I'll even bet the dark-haired, butch one'd look a treat if he let himself get a bit scruffy.
The two of them came in, took one look around and rolled their eyes. Made me like them all the more. They didn't head for the buffet table, like most of the punters, nor try to schmooze what passed for the borough's toffs. Instead they stationed themselves on either side of the hall and kept a constant watch on the crowd. Very much tigers on the prowl, the way they moved. And something told me I wouldn't want to be the nice fat goat they were looking for.
Well, if Dad was going to drag me to these things, the least he could do was satisfy my curiousity. I found him and Mum having their ear bent by some old geezer on the council. Dad actually looked grateful when I interrupted them. Not that he helped me out with the identity of my two mystery men. "Something to do with the police," was the best he could offer. Anyone could see those two were anything but common bobbies, or even DCs. They were Special Branch, at the least. Maybe even MI5. I felt a thrill down the back of my neck at the thought that for once there might be something really exciting going on in Clapham. And I desperately wanted to find out what.
I decided to tackle Curly first. He looked like he might be marginally more approachable than Butch. Besides, I fancied him more than his mate.
I picked up two glasses of lemon squash at the bar to break the ice and made my move.
"Lemon squash?" I asked when I reached Curly's elbow.
He blinked once, almost as if I'd pulled him back from a different world than the one us mere mortals walked in, and then gave me a smile. Took my breath away, that smile, in spite of the chipped front tooth. Or maybe because of it; I'm not sure. Either way, I could feel my heart begin to race from just being near him.
"No thanks, love. I'm on duty." His voice was as lovely as the rest of him, smooth and rough at once, with just a hint of some place not London lurking about the edges.
"It's only lemon squash," I protested, trying not to sound like some daft kid and failing miserably.
"I've been laying off the hard stuff for Lent." His eyes positively twinkled and he put one finger to his nose.
"But it's not..." I stopped before I made a complete prat of myself. I don't usually fall so easily for such an obvious piss take. I blamed the smile.
"Besides, I can't accept anything from a nice girl like you," he said, cutting off any other objections I might have made. "It'll make my partner jealous." He nodded in Butch's direction, his mouth set in a grin my gran would've called "devilish." "He's the only one allowed to give me lemon squash."
More piss taking. As if anyone could believe that these two... No, not bloody likely. And calling me a nice girl. That was definitely not on.
"I'm not a girl," I said indignantly. I'm a woman."
"Eighteen, are you?"
He looked down his nose at me.
"In a year."
He raised an eyebrow.
"Okay, two years. But I'm not just a kid." There was a whine in my voice I was embarrassed to hear, but I didn't back down.
"Didn't think you were." He smiled again and my indignation melted away. "But I'm on a job, love, so if you could..."
"Doyle," Butch yelled from across the room, and even without knowing the man I could hear the urgency in his voice. Must be Curly's name, I thought as we both turned to the voice. Butch was pointing to a man across the hall who looked as out of place here as Doyle and Butch. But where they were gorgeous, this bloke had an ugly sneering face. And a gun. And he had the gun held to my mum's head.
"Mum!" I screamed, only to be pushed against the wall by Doyle.
"Stay here," he said. "Keep down. Don't move." There was no resisting the steel in his voice so I stayed frozen where I was, even as the rest of the crowd ran from the hall in panic.
Before I knew it, Doyle had a gun out. I hadn't even noticed he was carrying one.
"MacInnes!" Butch shouted. "Let the lady go and put down the gun."
"Not bloody likely," MacInnes said. His accent was Northern Irish and his voice wasn't an improvement on his face.
I'm not quite sure what happened in the next few seconds. All I could think about was how scared Mum looked and how big the bloke's gun was and where Dad had got to and was he okay. But I did see Doyle look over at Butch and I might have seen Butch nod and then all of a sudden they were moving.
Doyle went right and Butch went left and before I knew it Butch was firing and MacInnes went down, a splash of red on his arm, and Doyle had my mum held tight, making sure she didn't fall as she swiftly went to pieces.
Was sheer chaos after that. Dad was yelling at Doyle, but I knew it was more out of fear for what might have happened to Mum than anything Doyle'd done. Doyle seemed to know it too. He treated Dad with kid gloves when he might've just as easily ignored him.
Meanwhile, Butch handcuffed MacInnes and handed him off to several other dangerous looking men who showed up just minutes after the shot had been fired. I'd recovered enough by then to note that none of the new arrivals were a patch on Doyle and his mate.
Once I could move again--my feet wouldn't listen to my brain's orders to move for the longest time--I went and made sure Mum was okay. And Dad, too. He might make me wear stupid dresses and attend boring soirées, but he's all right, really.
In all the commotion I nearly missed seeing Doyle and Butch leave. They were just slipping out the side door when I saw them.
I don't know why I ran after them. I mean, what did I have to say to the likes of them? But I felt like I had to say something. Thank them.
"Mr. Doyle," I yelled, and he held up at the door and looked back at me.
"Yeah," he said, friendly and yet somehow detached.
"I just wanted to say thanks. For saving her. My mum, that is. I trailed off, feeling a right fool.
"You watch out for your mum." Doyle only nodded over to where my parents stood holding each other. "She's had a nasty shock. Might fall apart even more than she has done. You get that bartender to part with a sherry for her. Do her a world of good."
"C'mon, Ray, " Butch said, impatiently shifting from foot to foot. "Cowley'll have our hides if we're not back soon. Wants us in on the interrogation, doesn't he?"
I didn't know who Cowley was, but he must be fearsome to make Butch hop it like that.
"I'll be there in a minute, Bodie," Doyle said. Then he was looking back at me. "What's your name?"
"Sally. Sally Upchurch."
"Well, Sally Upchurch, you should take care of yourself as well. Get your dad to order you a sherry too. Tell 'im you've had a shock." And then he winked. If I hadn't been smitten with him before, that wink would've done it.
Doyle turned to leave, but I caught at his sleeve. Fortune favours the bold, my fourth form history teacher always used to say. It was time to find out if I was bold enough.
"I don't suppose you have time for a drink some time?" I started to falter, but bucked myself up. "Later? When you're off duty?"
"Don't take this personally, love, but you're a bit young. My boss looks down on that sort of thing, and I daresay your dad would too."
"And if I wasn't young?" I don't know why I asked that. Maybe to find out if I'd ever have had a chance with him.
"Sorry love," Doyle said, though he didn't look sorry at all. "I'm taken."
"What about Bodie?" If I couldn't have Doyle, his partner wasn't so bad.
"He's taken too."
Doyle just laughed. "If you say so."
"Ray," Bodie said, impatience incarnate. "We've got to leave now."
"All right, Bodie," Doyle said, then turned back to me. "Got to go." He gave me another wink. "Have a lemon squash on me." Then he was out the door.
I couldn't quite leave it at that. I poked my head out the door and watched them as they headed down the street, tigers now more playful than predatory. Watched as Doyle slung an arm around Bodie's shoulder. Watched as Bodie gave him a quick pat on the bum that might have been because they were mates, but made me wonder if what Doyle had said before about Bodie being jealous wasn't so much a piss take as the God's only truth. Because the way they acted around each other suddenly made me think that it wasn't girls who were lucky when it came to these two.
I decided right then that I was going to stick to musicians instead of mysterious strangers. They really are more my type.
And the bent ones are dead easy to spot.
-- THE END --