That Night at Shakespearoes
Written for the "Discovered in The Anarchist Cookbook" challenge on the discoveredinalj livejournal community.
Tenuous links to the Stranglers...
For Doyle, Saturday night began gloomy and ended in confusion. Tracking a weary way up towards Sloane Square, his eye was caught by the swinging doors of the Chelsea Potter and he couldn't help himself. He was over the road and leaning on the bar by the time Big Ben had finished chiming seven o'clock upriver. After eight hours robotically tramping the King's Road, shopping for things he didn't want and looking for people he never found, he felt the least he deserved was a brimming pint of something sharp and fizzy.
"Long day?" asked the barman.
Long year, thought Doyle. He jiggled his handful of bags and then dumped them on to a bar stool and began to unwind his scarf. "Pint of Harp," he said.
"Where you from then?" the barman asked, detecting some kind of non-southern burr in the man's voice.
"Nuneaton," Doyle said, plucking it out of thin air and almost convincing himself.
"Oh yes," said the barman.
"Yeah, it's nice enough, but you can't get a really good safety pin for love nor money, so thought I'd come down here."
The barman flexed his sense of humour but it was really not functioning properly. Something about the man with the crumpled pound notes made him feel on his guard, not in control of the conversation. Most of the tourists who came in here liked nothing better than to ooh and aah with him over what they had seen on the street outside, to ask if the groups of violent-haired youth were any trouble, and where that shop called Sex was. This geezer seemed altogether not in that mould.
"That'll be seventy pence," he said as he plonked the pint on the bar, and then at the look on the man's face he held up his hands. "Oh don't tell me ... back home you can get a pint of your favourite ale for fifty."
"A pint?" echoed Doyle. "More like a barrel." He leaned his hands on the bar and peered behind it. "Got any crisps?"
"Ready salted, cheese and onion, salt and vinegar, barbecue beef, roast chicken."
"It's all pork scratchings where I come from," Doyle began and then decided that perhaps he was pushing it. "Peanuts," he said.
"Ordinary? Or dry roasted?"
Now if Bodie had arrived, Doyle would probably have felt obliged to get both, as well as several flavours of crisps, all of which his partner would have thought constituted a welcome square meal for a Saturday night on duty.
"Surprise me," he said to the barman, and dipped his top lip into the froth. Two women had arrived on his left, also weighed down by bags. The one nearest him, with feathery red hair and black-lined eyes, was wearing a rose-sprigged dress and stormtrooper boots. She also had amazingly large and untrammelled breasts, apparently held up by nothing more than gravity. Reflexively Doyle stared at her chest as she leaned over the bar to get served. He smacked his lips as his mouth emerged from the glass and she turned her head towards him as he held out one hand for the packet of nuts. Venal lipstick and a pretty face. Doyle kept staring, kept hoping to feel something, but there was decidedly nothing. He sucked hard on the beer, wondering why such an impressive embonpoint failed to interest him. It couldn't just be the boots.
Settling on to the bar stool he launched a handful of nuts into his mouth. The barman was too busy to chat anymore, but the lager had hit the spot. One small edge of Doyle's sharp malaise was rubbed off and he remained on his perch as the ebb and flow of early-evening custom swirled around him.
Nevertheless, despite the pleasant pool of alcohol in his stomach, Doyle could still feel his spirits draped gloomily around his shoulders like a cape, and he wished it wasn't so. The mere fact of working at the weekend was not normally enough to depress him, not really, not anymore. Being personally tipped off by the Drugs Squad had given him a stake in the current operation that should be satisfying all his motivational needs. More to the point, he had decided that he was over Jenny.
It wasn't so very long ago that he had been convinced that Jenny -- raven-haired chartered surveyor, artistic soul-mate and bondage fiend -- was about the best bloody thing that had ever happened to him, a bona fide reason to make it through the hardest of days. What he had seized on as true love, Bodie had seen as crushing weak-mindedness. Probably bloody Bodie's fault she upped sticks a mere two weeks after she moved in, come to think of it. Perverse, impossible, rude, childish .... and always there, buggering things up. He'd been a nightmare for the whole giddy eight months, and in Doyle's book that was more than a slap of disloyalty. More like a knock-out blow. They'd never had words about it, but the words were there, all right, tucked in under Doyle's ribs.
He first looked at his watch around seven fifteen. Bodie was not a great timekeeper, but since this wasn't exactly a social meeting Doyle had confidently expected him to turn up on time. Cowley was waiting for a brief and he wouldn't be too chuffed if Doyle rang to say they hadn't liaised. The chief of CI5 ran a tight ship, as he was always telling them, in which necessities like punctuality were expected to be upheld by both members of a team, with blame for missed rendezvous being portioned out equally, no excuses.
I could be tired of this job
, Doyle was thinking by the time he had looked at his watch for a third time. The last person I want to be waiting for on a Saturday night is bloody B....
"May I join you?" said a deep voice in his ear. Doyle tensed in irritation at being sneaked up on. He was supposed to be alert to such things, even when knackered and gloomy.
"I was just about to leave," he said over his shoulder.
Bodie, who had come in the other door of the pub and stood for a minute or two observing Doyle's lacklustre posture and tight-jawed profile with a sore feeling in his midriff, nudged him and arched an eyebrow down at the pint glass on the bar. It was about a third full.
"No you weren't," he said.
"Well I'm here now, what're you having?"
"I've been waiting forty minutes."
Bodie sorted the coins in his palm. "That Harp? Nasty, fizzy stuff, Doyle. Have something else."
"I like it. I'll have a half in here," said Doyle and pushed the glass towards him.
"I'll get you a pint."
"I want a half."
Bodie sighed. "Gassy," he said. "You'll never be able to pogo all night."
"I don't want to pogo all night," Doyle said crossly, "I'd far rather do something else all night."
"Oh yes? Anyone in mind?"
"No. Nobody. This bloody job sees to that." As he said the words he turned his head towards him and met his eyes, so he would have no doubt what he meant by them.
Bodie, who had a knack for getting instant attention in a bar, busied himself for a moment before pushing a newly-brimming pint glass back towards Doyle. Next to his Guinness he made a small pyramid out of several packets of crisps.
"I haven't had any dinner," he said slightly defensively when he saw the way Doyle was still looking at him.
"Digest this," Doyle said, a bit precious, fishing a wad of dark red paper out of his back pocket. One hand round his glass, Bodie uncrumpled the paper and straightened the top sheet out on the bar.
"Live at Shakespearoes," he read. "Pack Instinct .... Demon Zoo ..... The Hatchets. Charming. Where'd you find these, they're not kosher." He broke open a packet of barbecue beef and crammed a fistful into his mouth.
"In a hairdresser's."
The slightest kink of a grin twinkled for a second in Bodie's expression as he chewed. Doyle didn't really know why, except of course that other people's discomfiture was a mystifying source of amusement to Bodie at all times.
"And in two other places," Doyle said. "Didn't see any of our faces, but looks like an invitation to your gaff tonight. Sex, drugs, rock'n'roll and a good deal on secondhand kalashnikovs. Maybe someone interesting will turn up tonight."
"You going to be there?" It was casually asked.
"Why, can't handle all that anarchy on your own?"
"I thought Cowley had arranged your back-up. I've done my stint today."
"Let me get this straight," Bodie said, bristling suddenly like an outraged tomcat. "Because I was late, you've decided not to watch my back anymore. That it?"
Doyle drank the remains of his pint far too quickly and it burned his nose. "At ease, sargeant," he said. "I'll be there." Having achieved the desired effect, he slid off the bar stool and reached for the bags. "I'm going to call the old man."
Bodie arrested him with a hand, the grip hard. "When are you going to give it up, Doyle? I just didn't like her, OK? She was all wrong for you."
The words got ready to spill out from under Doyle's ribs, but he stopped them. "Not now, Bodie, you stupid git," he said.
Bodie let go abruptly, as if embarrassed.
"Back-door," he said. As Doyle moved away, he caught back hold of his arm, not so hard this time. "And try not to look like a glam-rock reject."
Doyle pulled his arm smoothly free. As he passed through the doors, he cast a quick look behind. Bodie was leaning, back against the bar, watching him. Doyle knew from his expression that he was nursing some words of his own.
"That the best you can do?" Bodie asked when he unbolted the back door of Shakespearoes at coming up to 11pm. He consciously suppressed a smirk at the sight of Ray Doyle standing at the bottom of the steps in tight jeans and a Stiff Little Fingers t-shirt, but he wasn't sure of the origin of his good feeling. Doyle didn't look quite as steely as he had when he left the Chelsea Potter, but his demeanour suggested he was still taking a stand, putting himself out of reach. Bodie came out and down the steps, casting a look up the alley at the street. "They played here a couple of weeks ago."
"I know," Doyle said, glancing up the alley too. He was being watched, as he had been from the moment he had casually turned in from Berwick Street and sauntered past a big, bald bear of a man in an ill-fitting suit.
Bodie raised a hand at the bald bear, now smoking at the end of the alley. He dug in a pocket and brought out a packet of Benson and Hedges. "Compulsory smoke break for all bouncers," he said, presenting the open end. "Come on, Ray, a couple of drags won't kill you. You look like a right nancy standing there watching me."
"The things I do for this outfit," Doyle grumbled, "The risks I take with my life." He took one and bent his head to the small flame of Bodie's lighter, held between his cupped hands. When he drew on the lit cigarette the acrid taste made his eyes water.
Bodie couldn't stop a grin this time and hastily took a deep pull on own. His eyes went to slits and his chin tipped up slightly as the smoke coiled down his throat. Staring straight at Doyle as he blew it out through barely-opened lips he said "lovely," in a gravelly voice.
"Bet you've puffed your fair share of those."
"Well when it's the only thing between you and a big bloke holding a machete .."
"You shouldn't keep such bad company."
"You should live a little."
Bodie took another drag, this time blowing the smoke up into the sky. "I cleared you as my mate who likes having his eardrums perforated in the name of revolution and the downfall of the establishment."
"You going to let me in then, or what?"
Bodie whistled, raised his free hand and gestured towards Doyle. The figure at the street end of the alley gave him a thumbs up.
"There, you see, your night's looking up. That's saved you three quid. Don't tell me I can't sort my near and dear ones out on a Saturday night. In you come, sunshine, you're just in time for the Hatchets."
Doyle looked distastefully at his cigarette, dropped it and put a booted foot on the ember. Then he grabbed the rail of the steps and leapt up them and after Bodie. The back door of the club clanged shut behind him.
Inside, after only a minute or two, Doyle realised that Bodie had probably drawn the short straw in all this. He himself had done weeks of leg-work, but Bodie had been assigned here from day one, courtesy of his time as "security" in a Dakar dance-bar and, as Doyle acknowledged to himself grudgingly, he had been uncharacteristically stoical and uncomplaining. The noise thumping out from all sides was uncompromising, the crowd dense and the atmosphere a heady mix of exuberant and mindless.
"Bar," said Bodie, his mouth abruptly pressed against Doyle's ear, his arm waving to the left. "Stage," and his arm windmilled to the right. Doyle felt the arm drop down across his shoulders and the palm of Bodie's hand press into his back.
"Stairs down to the bogs and Manager's office," finished Bodie and jerked his head backwards.
Doyle had read all the reports, first from the Drugs Squad when they honed in on the club while on the trail of a smuggling ring. Then the accounts of the buy-up by the same Anglo-Russian family who had recently sunk considerable funds into outlets on the King's Road. Murphy and Anson's impressive records of the comings and goings during the day-time at the flat overhead had expanded the picture even more. And finally came Bodie's sighting of the son of a moneyed Moscow emigre, whose family and assets had long been on a KGB hit-list, out of his head on the dancefloor.
Grasping a handful of Doyle's t-shirt, Bodie dragged him through the assembling crowd and up some stairs towards the front door. The bald bear was on duty, a gaggle of youths hanging around just inside. Picking out an uptight specimen, jigging about on the spot nervously, a neat miniature mountain range in powder blue across the top of his head, Bodie's hand again found the centre of Doyle's back.
"This is my mate Spike," Bodie said. "Say hello to the nice man, Spike."
The youth gave Bodie a bad-tempered glower and stopped jigging although his hands remained agitated. He had a pale face and what looked like two tin tacks stapled just above his right temple. It was clear that he only put up with being called Spike because he was slightly scared of the bouncer who had taken him under his wing.
"Hello, Kostya," Doyle said. "How's your father?"
Kostya Petenko, nineteen, former Rugby Captain at Charterhouse School, took a long look at Doyle's t-shirt. When he spoke it was with an accent that could cut glass.
"My father is happy counting his money," he said. "And we have our own bodyguards, thank you."
"You've got me all wrong, son. Those drawing pins have addled your brain."
"He'll be fine when the amphetamines kick in," said Bodie.
"You're secret service," Petenko Junior said accusingly.
"No, I keep telling you, matey, you just think that because of all that stuff you keep taking. I'm a bouncer," Bodie replied.
"And I'm here to have my eardrums perforated in the name of revolution and the downfall of the establishment," Doyle added.
Kostya Petenko said something undoubtedly filthy in Russian and elbowed past them back down the stairs. There was a steady pounding coming from below, a wave of vibration as several hundred pairs of feet began bouncing on the floor.
"Thought you said he was onside," muttered Doyle.
"Kid's all right," Bodie said. "He just thought this was his bolt-hole until he started seeing some familiar faces."
"Why'd the hell they pick here?" Doyle wondered.
"Cos it's noisy and you can't tell what's going on," Bodie answered.
"I said bec .... oh piss off and get yourself a drink, Doyle. I've got work to do."
"Don't make me go back down there."
"Listen, after a few more minutes you won't feel the pain anymore, trust me."
Bodie's confidence was slightly misplaced. Doyle soon discovered that he had to keep moving. If you stood still for too long everything soon became obscured by leaping bodies and jerking heads. The Hatchets had got the joint jumping, but Pack Instinct reduced the crowd to a frenzy and their relentless, and to Doyle's ears, discordant bassline, made his head feel like it was full of heavy, rattling screws. The air was thick with sweat and Doyle's ears, nose and throat all buzzed. It became all the more remarkable that Bodie had not spent the last month whingeing. He was wondering if Demon Zoo were going to be an improvement when he noticed two men who he had thought were Pack Instinct's technical support staff moving through the crowd towards the stairs going down.
Doyle shimmied a way through the bodies and nipped up the stairs to the door. Bodie's bear-like colleague was standing across the doorway from the lobby, but of Bodie there was no sign.
"We had a bit of bother," the bear bouncer said. "He's just seeing them off the premises," and he jerked his thumb towards the corner that became the back-alley.
Doyle ducked back down the stairs. He went past the toilets and on down the corridor marked "Staff Only". The noise from the stage was only vaguely muffled down here, but it felt like a clear space had opened in his head. The voices he could hear through the panels of the office door, when he pressed his ear against it, were not speaking English. He would have bet on money changing hands. He was standing just inside the door to the Ladies, which didn't seem to be doing much business, when footsteps walked back up the stairs. By the time he got back up into the cavernous stage area, the two men were heading for the way Bodie had brought him in from the back door.
In following them Doyle tried not to be sucked in by the crowd who were all facing towards the stage now and thundering up and down. There were wildly flailing elbows and knees all over the place. As the bolts were drawn back there was enough light from the lamp clamped on the brick by the door for just a glimpse of two identifiable faces. Enough time to think how the old man wasn't going to believe who they had just netted, and wonder now then, is Bodie useful enough to actually be out there?
Bodie wasn't out there. Doyle was pretty sure of that, but before he had a chance to draw back into the throng, he was tumbled, from behind. Down the steps he pitched, and the side of his head bounced off the wall opposite with a vicious crack that he never heard.
He came to, he assumed only minutes later, to the sound of babbling in his ears, a background of heavy thumping that he could feel down the length of his spine and Kostya Petenko clutching at his arm. As he struggled to move a crashing sound announced two Bodies jumping down the steps and landing right by his side. Both Bodies leaned right over him so he could see that they seemed to have been hit rather hard on the jaws. To avoid being sick, which he really didn't want to do, seeing as how he was flat on his back, Doyle stopped struggling. The clutching fingers of Petenko loosened and then disappeared and he felt himself falling at speed through a black mist.
"Gently, gently, gently," said a voice, leading him back to the alley.
In his current frame of mind, Doyle would not have expected to feel so drawn to the voice, a velvet murmur in the dark. He was still determined not to be sick. That was two Bodies prattling at him, after all. They were the last people likely to be sympathetic to being chucked up on. He tried to lift a hand to his head and when it went nowhere further than the fingers that were pressed around it, he opened his eyes wide.
A single Bodie jumped into immediate focus. Doyle was struck by his short, short hair, the pale sharp lines of his face which seemed thinner than he remembered. He had a strange look in his eyes. Anxiety? Bodie? What the hell did Bodie have to be anxious about?
"Very hard wall, Doyle," said the single Bodie. "I think they hoped you wouldn't wake up."
Doyle's thick tongue wouldn't quite form the word "they" but Bodie seemed to hear the question anyway.
"Vassiliyev's heavies ...." Bodie said, panting slightly. "Forty thousand in crisp new banknotes down in the office, a done deal. I got one of them ... " He rubbed his jaw, which Doyle could see was already bruising up, knuckle-shaped. "Tell you what, Cowley's going to wet his .... no you don't. Keep your head still, you're bleeding. I don't know what you're laughing for, you haven't seen what you did to the wall. That's right, you just keep looking at me with that bloody daft expression on your face."
Doyle felt the tenderest of touches on the back of his neck where he realised Bodie was holding him, a touch that had a significance he couldn't explain away. And he thought some of his words had escaped from their cage and were stuttering out unchecked, a bit like the blood leaking down the side of his face and on to his chin.
"You weren't big enough to accept it, were you? You treated her like shit, you bastard, and what kind of a mate does that make you? A bloody half-baked mate, that's what. Just because you're twisted and fucked-up, you can't stand for other people to be ... yes, that's right, pretend you don't know what I mean. Just stay out of my private life from now on, you're not bloody welcome."
The whole time he imagined he was talking, Bodie was frowning down at him. Doyle shut his eyes and when he opened them again, Bodie was there. Every time he opened them, Bodie was there.
Always there, buggering things up.
When Doyle finally expelled a pint and a half of Harp and a packet of peanuts all over Bodie's shirt front, Bodie still didn't go away. In fact, he didn't seem to mind a bit.
It made Doyle feel better, too.
"There you go," Bodie said. "Don't tell me I didn't warn you about that stuff."
"Sit up," Doyle managed to say, or perhaps it was "Shut up."
Bodie looked down at himself and tutted mildly. "Just as well I love you," he said.
"Shut up," Doyle definitely managed this time.
Bodie got him to his feet, holding on fast. "No," he said.
"Not bloody likely. Mind yourself, I'm just going to lean you up on here." Doyle found himself wedged upright between the wall and a lamp-post. Bodie shook his own head. He squinted at the wound, held Doyle's temples while he looked him in the eyes. "Give it another couple of years, Ray, and you'll get it. You'll look back and say ... yes, that night at Shakespearoes when I banged my head. Now stay here for a minute, I need to make sure Spike's all right."
Doyle stood uncertainly where he was. Bodie had disappeared back up the steps into a wall of sound.
That night at Shakeapeareoes, when I banged my head, Doyle would remember, much later. I wanted to fucking punch him. Perverse, impossible, rude, childish.
But, of course, he was right in the end.
-- THE END --