|Disclaimers: The Bill belongs to Thames
TV/Pearson, and no copyright infringement is intended.
Rating R. m/m slash fiction.
Title: Blue Movie
Fandom: The Bill
Comments are very welcome; email Sue at
Please note due to work
commitments replies may be delayed or not possible. Apologies in advance.
The tape that sat innocently on the top shelf of Bob Cryer's locker
looked about as inoffensive as any videotape has ever looked. For safety's sake he'd
disguised it with the box and label of a BBC Ryder Cup video; grinning golfers beamed at
him from the cover every time he opened the locker, reminding him that he had in his
possession the most explosive video footage ever to find its way into Sun Hill. The blue
movies in the Special Property Store - often taken out by CID who felt duty bound to
review them ahead of some court case under the Obscene Publications Act, a procedure which
usually seemed to require the attendance of a multitude of officers not directly connected
with the case - paled into insignificance considered against the contents of Cryer's
He wished he could forget the things he'd seen and heard when he
watched the tape. Being a witness to somebody else's lovemaking was something he'd never
quite got used to, although the job occasionally required it and there were officers who
were positive connoisseurs of that sort of thing. Cryer hated it, because he knew how he'd
feel if somebody filmed him with his wife.
What was more, he couldn't even destroy the tape until he knew for
certain whether it would be needed again; DCI Meadows was supposed to give him the word.
If DCI Meadows could ever look him in the eye again.
It was probably Cryer's own fault, if he really stopped to think about
it. He ought to have kept quiet about his suspicions and the very elliptical approach he'd
received from ACC Singleton, but he'd been so fired up about the rights of gay officers
after attending the conference that he didn't see why some office-jockey at Force
Headquarters should go around making life hell for people simply because they had a
preference for sleeping with their own sex.
That much of it he'd discussed with June Ackland, because she felt the
same way about things as he did and because he and she were the heart and conscience of
Sun Hill. He'd spared her the details; she didn't need to know, although he wished he
could tell her. He'd told her too much as it was, and much of what he hadn't told her
she'd guessed, but he had to draw the line somewhere and the fewer people who knew about
the consequences of the Assistant Chief Constable's singular vendetta against gay officers
on the Sun Hill staff the better.
He hadn't meant any of it to happen, of course. He'd acted for the
best, anybody could see that. Besides, Meadows had backed him every step of the way and
approved his suggestion that someone - and preferably someone senior - should give
Singleton something to work on. That meant somebody - preferably two people - had to
volunteer to pretend to be gay. If Cryer had expected the scheme to fall at the first
hurdle - and he had - he was to be sorely disappointed.
"I'm glad you came to me, Bob," Meadows said, slowly,
digesting the long monologue thoughtfully.
Cryer had rehearsed his anxieties in some detail - the fact that nobody
had wanted to attend the MetPol Working Party on Gay and Lesbian Police Officers in case
their colleagues suspected their motives, the inevitable taunts about his sexuality that
had followed his own decision to go, the quiet support he'd received from officers like
Ackland and Carver, the feeling that although his colleagues were making his life a misery
he was doing something to help a group of people he'd always had a lot of sympathy for.
Until that time, it had just been concern for the welfare of his fellow officers that had
motivated him. Singleton's approach had changed all that.
"You say he mentioned actual Sun Hill officers by name?"
Meadows walked slowly around the desk and perched himself on the edge
of it, his face composed into an expressionless mask.
"I'm going to have to ask you who they were," he said.
"Before you answer, I want to make it clear that I don't intend to take any action
against them whatsoever on the basis of an unsubstantiated allegation. I also want you to
know that I'm only asking so that I can discover whether there's likely to be any grain of
truth in it; it matters because I need to know whether Singleton actually knows anything
about anybody or whether he's just guessing. I probably don't know about every illicit
relationship going on in this nick, but I do have some information of the
Cryer looked down for a moment, gathering his thoughts. At length he
said; "Sir, with all due respect, I wouldn't feel comfortable giving you the
Meadows nodded. "Does you credit, Bob. All right then, I'll run
some names past you; just tell me whether or not Singleton mentioned them in the course of
the conversation. Burnside. Roach. Dashwood. Gordon Wray. All of whom have moved on from
here in one direction or another."
"All of them, sir, yes."
"And the name of another officer, still serving at this station? A
"One other name was mentioned, sir, yes."
"So if we don't give Singleton something else to think about,
he'll zero in on this chap and put the skids under his career?"
"That was my impression," Cryer agreed, solemnly. Privately
he was wondering whether Meadows had just drawn a bow at a venture or whether he really
did know the name of the person Singleton had identified.
The senior officer had returned around his desk and now sat down in his
chair, one elbow on the desk and one hand supporting his chin.
"He's too good a young copper for me to let that happen," he
said, bluntly. "Don't worry, Bob, I'm not about to drop his name into the
conversation any more than you are, but we both know who we're talking about. I don't know
what the hell Mike Dashwood thought he was playing at, but our friend got hurt when
Dashwood left and he doesn't deserve this kind of thing on top of all that. If you're
wondering where I get my information from ... "
"None of my business, sir," Cryer put in quickly.
"Strictly speaking, you're right - but I'll tell you anyway. Frank
Burnside filled me in on the gory details. All of them. Asked me to keep an eye on
... the young man concerned. In my opinion this country's police forces have more
important things to worry about than whether their officers are gay, straight, bisexual,
necrophilic or anything else - as long as it doesn't get in the way of the job. Like they
say," he added, with an unholy gleam of humour somewhere deep in his blue eyes,
"a good man is hard to find."
Cryer did his best to ignore the twinkle. "Have you got any ideas
about the decoy, sir?" he asked, cautiously, hoping it would not be suggested that he
volunteer. Obviously that particular idea had not occurred to Meadows.
"Well," he said, "we need sufficient bait to distract
Singleton from his intentions - another Gordon Wray or Frank Burnside, for preference. A
gay senior officer would be the kind of target he couldn't afford to miss. It would
probably be best to set me up, assuming I can find someone willing to be my 'other
half'. At least I've got plenty of choice; Singleton'll probably play heavily on the
'coercion' angle, so it needs to be someone on a lower grade. Doesn't matter too much who
it is - although I'd draw the line at Hollis. There are some things I won't stoop to, no
matter how good the cause."
Cryer's mouth twisted in wry appreciation of the deadpan humour, whilst
his mind was already cataloguing the possible pitfalls.
"Is that really wise, sir? It's the sort of thing that could
backfire on you."
"I know. I won't make a move without Mr Brownlow's okay, and I'll
document everything. I'd like to think my record speaks for itself, though. Yes, Bob, I'm
aware of the dangers - entrapment is always a tricky area. Call this a 'definite maybe'
for now; I'll kick the idea around a bit and see the Chief Super with it either this
afternoon or first thing tomorrow. Whether we go ahead or not, though, I'm absolutely in
sympathy with what you're trying to do - and I'll do everything I can to protect the young
officer from any tactic Singleton might dream up."
"Is there any way of warning him, sir?"
Meadows shrugged. "And add to his worries? I'll look into it, but
I'm not promising anything. Just leave it with me, Bob."
The signal that the interview was over couldn't have been clearer.
Cryer took his departure, mulling over what had been said, unsure if anything had been
resolved or if anything would be done, and completely unaware that he had started off the
kind of chain reaction whose aftermath would be haunting the personnel of Sun Hill for
many years to come.
A couple of days after his conversation with Meadows, Cryer found
himself sharing a refreshment break in the Sun Hill canteen with an unusually pensive
Ackland. Two tables away, Stamp and Quinnan were engaged in some kind of argument which
when boiled down amounted to no more than the old nature versus nurture debate, although
robbed of any potential eloquence by Stamp's persistent use of the expressions 'toe-rags'
and 'scum'. June Ackland was regarding her cup of coffee and Danish pastry with
undisguised loathing when Cryer wandered over to join her; she was exuding an aura which
warned others to steer clear if they wanted polite conversation.
"Okay, June?" he asked, lightly.
She looked up at him with a shrug. "Probably."
He took the seat opposite her, sipped his tea, and said in a low tone;
"I got the word this morning; Mr Brownlow's spoken to MS15 - we're proceeding with
the Singleton thing. Jack Meadows has some plan of setting up a decoy situation and
getting Singleton to over-reach himself. I don't know the details yet."
"How much did you tell him?"
"Meadows? Most of it. He seemed to know a lot more than I did,
anyway. Went out of his way not to mention Jim Carver." The remark about Mike
Dashwood's motives had been explicit enough, however; there had been a time when Dashwood
without Carver was like Morecambe without Wise or Laurel without Hardy. Ackland and Cryer
were united in a desire not to let Carver fall into the clutches of the predatory ACC.
Ackland digested the information thoughtfully. "So who's he
persuaded to act as decoy?" she asked.
"I don't know yet. I only know he's going to be one of the pair
himself. As soon as he's found someone to play the other part, Brownlow's going to issue
all three of us with confidential pocketbooks; this is going to be one extremely
"Which you shouldn't even be mentioning to me," Ackland
surmised, against her better judgement taking a cautious bite of the pastry.
"True. But someone has to keep a close eye on Carver, and with
Dashwood out of the way and Tosh Lines in blissful ignorance you're the best person to do
that. Besides, I can't very well talk to Meadows or whoever about any of this, and you're
the best listener in the station."
Ackland grimaced. "People are always telling me that," she
said. "I wish I had a quid for every confidence I've had to promise not to pass on. I
hate having to be bloody sympathetic all the time."
Cryer grinned, acknowledging the sentiment whilst accepting that
Ackland had overstated her case.
"I know," he said, "but I'm going to need somebody to
lean on. I have a feeling this case is going to be a complete bastard."
Despite herself, Ackland returned his smile. "You're probably
right. One day I'm going to call in all these favours, and everybody in this nick's going
to be bankrupt. This Danish pastry tastes like bloody sawdust," she added with some
His eyebrows lifted. "Oh," he said, evenly, "a distinct
Meadows was deeply engrossed in paperwork that morning, having scarcely
given a thought to recruitment of a third team member. He'd been impressed by the alacrity
with which Chief Superintendent Brownlow had accepted the whole scenario, immediately
contacting a social acquaintance with MS15 at Force Headquarters and arranging a private
chat in which he'd set out the bare structure of Cryer's and Meadows' case. On his return
Brownlow had laid down the ground-rules about confidentiality in a conversation which he
made no bones about tape-recording, getting Meadows to sign the tape label before the
cassette was locked in Brownlow's safe.
"Apparently Singleton isn't liked at Headquarters," he had
said confidingly when the whole rigmarole with the tape had been completed.
"Something was mentioned to me about taking an Exocet to crack a nut. His methods are
not approved of. Between you and me, this will never reach a prosecution; get enough on
him and he'll be retired discreetly. Not a word to Philip Cato," Brownlow added, head
inclining towards the door through to his second-in-command's office. "He's never
been happy with cloak-and-dagger enterprises and he'd blow this one out of the water if he
knew about it. Have you found your opposite number yet?"
"No, I haven't. I'm not just looking at CID for this one, sir; it
limits the choice too much. I suppose Alistair Greig would be an obvious candidate, but we
can't really wait until he gets back from leave. I'd suggest we consult Andrew Monroe and
see if he's got any ideas; if we're going to use a uniform we'll have to clear it through
him anyway." The obvious corollary, that clearing something with Monroe that both
were unwilling to mention to Cato would put Monroe in an invidious position, went
Brownlow's eyebrows rose. "You think you'll get his
"Oh yes, sir, I have every faith in Andrew's discretion. He may be
a bit of a by-the-book type on the day-to-day stuff but he's got enough imagination to
understand that sometimes a matter comes along where the rule-books and codes of conduct
are useless and we have to use other methods. He won't approve, but I think he'll go
Brownlow's response had been less than convinced, but he was prepared
to trust Meadows' judgement. Accordingly Meadows had spoken to Monroe privately and
outlined his requirement for an officer who could - and would - as Meadows' own later
report would calmly express it 'simulate intimate behaviour' with another man.
Having temporarily delegated the recruitment question to Monroe,
therefore, Meadows had put it to the back of his mind and was dealing with a set of crime
statistics when the uniformed Inspector presented himself in his office on the same
morning Cryer and Ackland had their conversation over Danish pastries in the canteen, and
for a moment it was difficult to tear himself away from them to concentrate on anything
else, yet he greeted his visitor civilly enough.
"What can I do for you, Andrew?" he asked, guardedly.
"Operation Other Half, sir." Monroe used the whimsical name
for the case that Brownlow had suggested. "I've given your request a good deal of
thought ... and decided to volunteer myself."
Startled, Meadows abandoned all thought of continuing with his
paperwork and got up to close the door. Returning to his seat he took a long, appraising
look at his visitor and then said, encouragingly; "Tell me about it."
Monroe sat perfectly upright in the chair opposite Meadows, looking
solemn and composed. "Nothing much to tell," he said in his soft Midlands
accent. "The potential dangers of a situation like this are so great I think you're
going to need someone reasonably close to you in rank. When I thought about it in detail,
I realised that there wasn't a Constable or a Sergeant in the place I could recommend
without reservation - with the possible exception of Alistair Greig - and that the most
suitable person seemed to be me."
The words held no trace whatever of egotism; Monroe had simply summed
up the requirements of the case and logically decided that he would be the best man for
the job. The dispassionate nature of the decision bewildered Meadows; he could not
understand how any man could volunteer for something so intimate and revealing and still
remain so calm about it.
"You do realise what's likely to be involved?" he asked,
anxiously. "We'll have to be seen in some extremely compromising situations - seen
and photographed. What we do can't be faked; it will have to be real."
"I realise that, sir."
Again that monumental calm. Meadows took advantage of the hiatus in the
conversation to look Monroe over very thoroughly, engaging the man's brown eyes with his
own blue, assessing the potential of the supposed connection. They were both dedicated
family men with careers they cared about and excellent records; from a blackmailer's point
of view, they both had plenty to lose. It was pretty close to being the ideal arrangement,
if the barrier of formality between them could be broken down enough to make the
"Call me 'Jack'," he said, hoarsely.
"Jack." An unexpected fondness in the tone; Monroe the
martinet was in temporary retreat.
"Have dinner with me this evening," Meadows suggested on the
spur of the moment. "If this is going to work, we'll need to be a lot more relaxed
around each other than we are at the moment. We'll go out, eat, unwind a bit - and make a
firm decision tomorrow morning. Agreed?"
"Whatever we decide, Andrew ... thanks for volunteering. You don't
seem to be afraid of ... compromising your masculinity."
Monroe returned his stare with equal frankness. "I know who I
am," he said, bleakly. "Neither you nor anyone else can change that."
"Good. That's what we need."
When his visitor had gone, Meadows put through an internal phone call
to Chief Superintendent Brownlow.
"Operation Other Half, sir," he said, marvelling at the
calmness in his own tone. "I've just made a date to take Inspector Monroe out to
The gasps of astonishment at the other end of the line gave expression
to Meadows' own feelings perfectly.
The basement dining-room of the Cornwallis Hotel was for the most part
brightly lit and seemed a most unlikely setting for a secret tryst of any description. It
was also bustlingly busy and redolent with Mancunian accents; a 'Wallace Arnold' coach
party of senior citizens from that city, most of whom seemed to be called 'Dot', 'Glad' or
'Vi', were making whoopee on a budget excursion to the capital. Meadows and Monroe had
found themselves in an isolated booth separated from the rest of the room by a trough full
of tall artificial plants. In a dark corner, the table was lit by a lamp which looked like
a candle enclosed in a brandy glass and had a natural flame which flickered merrily in the
breeze every time the servery door was opened. Next to it a small bud vase contained
incongruous pink flowers.
"An interesting choice." Monroe was still in uniform shirt,
trousers and shoes but had discarded his uniform tie and sweater with its tell-tale
shoulder tabs and donned instead a round-necked pullover with a vaguely Celtic design in
deep blues and greens.
Meadows, still in the suit he had worn all day and half-mast plain blue
tie, eased himself onto the hard bench at one side of the booth and smiled winningly at
Monroe who was perched on a cane chair opposite.
"This place?" A casual shrug and wave of the hand. "The
owner's Barry Francis; name mean anything to you?"
"There was a Barry Francis who played for Sunderland."
"That's the one. He may have spent his playing career in the North
but he's Sun Hill born and bred, our Barry. His father was Ted Francis who used to be
involved with George Cornell. Barry's a good friend of ours; in particular he owes Frank
Burnside and Gordon Wray a number of favours - which is one reason we're here. The other
is that thirty years ago Ted Francis used to make blue movies upstairs; there's a linen
closet on the third floor where they used to have the cameras, and I'm reliably informed
the two-way mirror's still in place. This'll be where we do the filming - if we get that
"With Bob Cryer setting up the camera, I presume?"
Meadows grinned. "You don't miss much, do you Andrew? Bob's on the
team so he can see this through to the bitter end - and so we can keep it all as
confidential as possible. What I don't understand," he added softly, "is why you
Monroe regarded him levelly, refusing to be disconcerted by the gimlet
stare of the powerful blue eyes.
"I've seen how poisonous and divisive witch-hunts for gay officers
can be," he said, slowly. "When I was a PC there were rumours about a young lad
on the same relief as me. This was over on the other side of London at Gold Lane. He
wasn't a lad I was particularly close to, and as a matter of fact I have no idea whether
he was gay or not. Probably he didn't know himself. Anyway the rumours got to the ear of
his Inspector, who started hounding him mercilessly - all the 'poofter' jokes and the
rubbish about not wearing lipstick on duty, no intimate searches, you know the sort of
thing. The lad felt he'd got something to prove, so he started working out, exercising,
building himself up a bit - and the day inevitably came when he thumped the stuffing out
of a suspect and put him in hospital. He was suspended on medical grounds - stress - and
he just fell apart. The next stage was in-patient treatment in a psychiatric hospital, and
while he was there he decided to go for a walk on the District Line. He ended up as what
our colleagues in the Transport Police call a 'one under'. He was still on suspension; he
would probably have got his job back, but the rumours - the whispers - were enough."
Meadows had listened sympathetically, and at the end of the monologue
he leaned across the table and said softly; "Andrew, you do realise he was probably
unstable anyway to fall apart like that?"
"Of course I do." An unaccustomed hoarseness in Monroe's
normally even tone alerted Meadows to the presence of a deep emotion. "And I'm quite
willing to concede that the Force probably wasn't the right place for him. But he didn't
deserve to end up wrapped around the wheels of a train, Jack! If his Inspector had been up
to his job in the first place he'd have noticed the signs of stress and got the lad out
before things went that far."
"This is painful for you to talk about, isn't it?" With
typical bluntness Meadows cut through to what he saw as the important question.
Perhaps in the uncertain light it was pure imagination but Meadows
thought he detected a sudden brightening in Monroe's eyes, although whether of fanaticism
or grief he could not be sure.
"You know," he said smoothly, "Assistant Chief Constable
Ronnie Singleton used to be an Inspector at Gold Lane." It wasn't really a question.
"Yes, he did." Nor was Monroe's reply an answer.
"We can do this, Andrew," Meadows breathed at him intensely
across the candle-flame and the flowers. "We can put this bastard out of business
forever, you and me - can't we?"
"It's not a vendetta," Monroe insisted. "I don't hate
"I understand that. But we're not going to let him have any more
young coppers. In particular, we're not going to let him have Jim Carver - are we?"
It was the first time that name had been dropped into the conversation
between them. The merest flicker of surprise crossed Monroe's expression, and then he said
firmly; "No, we are not going to let him have Jim Carver - or anybody else.
And yes, we can do it."
Taking a hell of a risk, Meadows dropped one hand onto Monroe's wrist
and stroked gently. "Get used to me touching you," he said, breathlessly.
"I'm going to be doing a lot of that over the next few days."
Monroe covered the hand with his own and squeezed. "I'll do
whatever it takes," he replied, and his brown eyes locked with Meadows' blue in an
affirmation of commitment that Jack Meadows found no less than awesome.
In a deep corner of the Sun Hill local, 'The Grapes', Cryer and Ackland
spent their lunchtime the following day hunched over halves of lager and packets of
"It's on for tomorrow night," Cryer said, grimly, staring at
his packet of Roast Chicken crisps and wondering which part of the chicken actually went
into their manufacture. He had a nasty feeling that if he knew he probably wouldn't go
within a mile of them. Ackland had the right idea - Cheese and Onion was always a safe
"He found a volunteer, then?"
"Oh yeah, he found a volunteer. And surprisingly this time it
wasn't Reg Hollis."
Ackland's face twisted into a wry grimace. "Hollis has his
moments," she reminded the Sergeant.
"Yeah, I know. Pity he's such a prat, though. No, it's not
Hollis," he said, sipping gratefully at his lager which at least tasted like lager.
"No, Andrew Monroe. But I can understand the confusion."
Ackland was looking at him with eyes like saucers, her mouth open in
astonishment. "You're pulling my leg, Bob."
"Not this time, June. Monroe volunteered, don't ask me why, and
they've got it all set up between them."
An evil thought crossed Ackland's mind. "You mean you've got to
sit in a linen closet at the Cornwallis Hotel and watch Meadows and Monroe doing it? Are
you getting danger money for that, Sarge?"
"Fortunately I haven't got to watch," he said, not
looking in her direction. "I've just got to set up the camcorder on a timer and then
go back in the morning to collect the tape. I'm only the Evidence Officer on this
"But they've got to do it, haven't they?" The thought
had obviously seized hold of Ackland's imagination and wouldn't let her go. "I can't
imagine either one of them stripped for action! I didn't even think they liked each
other ... "
"I don't know that they do," Cryer whispered, enjoining her
to keep her voice down. "For God's sake, June, we could both lose our jobs over this.
No, I don't think they do like each other much and yes they have got to do it. At
any rate they've got to come up with a better performance than the average gay porn movie;
enough to convince Singleton he's found a better target than Jim Carver."
The said Carver was even now in the same bar of the 'Grapes', perched
on a stool at the counter and morosely tucking into pie and chips with fellow Detective
Constable Tosh Lines standing beside him and holding forth on some subject Carver did not
seem particularly interested in.
"If he only knew," Ackland murmured softly, "how far
some people are prepared to go to save his career ... "
"It's not just him, though, is it?" Spoken from around the
lip of the lager glass Cryer's words had an ominous hollow resonance. "He's just the
latest; he might not have been the last. Singleton's had his hooks into every male officer
in this nick who ever went over the side with another bloke; he managed to get rid of
Burnside, Roach, Dashwood ... even Gordon Wray."
"Gordon?" Ackland's own brief and unhappy relationship
with their former Detective Chief Inspector surfaced too late in Cryer's memory.
"You're telling me he was gay?"
"Well, not exclusively ... "
Her mouth closed like a trap over the word, and for several seconds
Cryer watched her face anxiously. If there was ever going to be a moment of carelessness
from him that could sabotage Operation Other Half beyond recall, this was it.
"June, I ... I didn't mean to ... "
She shrugged, her eyes bleak deserts of lost emotion. "That's
okay; I always had the feeling he only got involved with me on the rebound from somebody
else. Who was it - Burnside?"
"I think so."
"Yeah, I can see that. Pair of arrogant bastards, both of 'em. 'My
turn on top tonight, Gordon.'" A bitter laugh as she mocked Burnside's abrupt style.
"I don't think it was quite like that, June."
Carver, Meadows and Monroe were temporarily forgotten. Ackland was
looking inside herself, at her memories of a relationship that had briefly been wonderful
and had come crashing down around her ears all too soon.
"Come on, June," the Sergeant encouraged softly, "don't
do this. I need you."
She made a supreme effort and looked him in the eye. "You're
right," she said. "You need me inside the tent pissing out, not outside the tent
pissing in. It's okay, Bob, I won't spoil the party. I never had any rights over Gordon
anyway; I always felt I was only borrowing him. But why are all the best blokes married
It was an unanswerable question, and Cryer didn't try. He just
contented himself with another swig of lager and another mouthful of crisps, well aware
that he had reopened a wound that would never fully heal and had twisted a knife in it
without ever meaning to, and that he had come very close to alienating his closest ally at
Sun Hill. Operation Other Half was getting to him; all of a sudden the known was becoming
unknown, and ground that he had thought safe was beginning to shake beneath his feet. He
wondered how many more cherished preconceptions would be dynamited before they had managed
to throw Ronnie Singleton out on his ear.
The bastard has it coming, he thought savagely. I'm on your
side, Carver. Looking at the way some heterosexuals treat their partners, maybe you guys
have the right idea.
The discreet removal of several piles of towels and sheets from the
third-floor linen closet at the Cornwallis Hotel was accomplished by the co-operative Mr
Francis during the following day on the pretext that an inventory of all the hotel's linen
was required. It meant, unfortunately, that he would actually have to produce such an
inventory in order to satisfy the curiosity of his staff, but as Cryer diplomatically
pointed out it was an exercise that might well pay for itself in the long run anyway.
Cryer moved in to install and test the video equipment during dinner on
the day he'd unwittingly upset Ackland. Unable to do otherwise, he set up the camcorder
and left it running while he let himself out of the linen closet and into the bedroom next
to it - Room 31 - and made ridiculous faces at the camera. He also recited the first verse
of the poem about the green-eyed yellow idol to the north of Katmandu before inspiration
deserted him and he went back next door to check the recording.
"Three minutes and four seconds of an idiot in a striped shirt
talking to himself," he muttered critically, playing back the VHS-C tape through the
VCP/monitor set-up he'd brought in. The wiring in the linen-closet was in remarkably good
condition for a system that supposedly hadn't seen any action in thirty years; mentally
Cryer noted the suspicion that maybe Mr Francis Junior wasn't quite as squeaky-clean as
he'd like his many friends at Sun Hill to believe. Or maybe Frank Burnside had been
turning a blind eye to a lot more than was generally reckoned. Either way, whilst
Operation Other Half was using the Cornwallis Hotel's facilities, Cryer wasn't prepared to
take official notice of anything else whatsoever.
The following day was tense. Knowing that as soon as he got off duty he
had to head for the Cornwallis to recheck the equipment and set the timer, Cryer could
hardly help looking at his watch every few minutes. Meadows was noticeably anti-social, at
one point unleashing a lung-burster of a diatribe against Tosh Lines on the subject of a
backlog of reports that all seemed to be urgent but which never seemed to get further than
Lines' already cluttered desk. The remarks were only partially deserved, but Lines seemed
to accept them with a better grace than most officers and Meadows secretly despised
himself for letting off his tension in what seemed to him a rather mean-spirited manner.
He resolved to buy Tosh a drink at the next available opportunity and blame his
irritability on toothache or migraine or not getting enough or whatever seemed appropriate
at the time. Monroe kept such a low profile throughout the day as to seem almost
invisible. He made periodic swoops through the custody area to review the paperwork on the
prisoners currently being held, and to run through various bail arrangements and to
scatter a few well-chosen words in the direction of the duty solicitor, but otherwise he
was to be found in his office devoting his attention to such riveting matters as the
annual leave roster, essential maintenance, reviews of safety procedures and a great many
more of the kinds of job he had been studiously putting off for some weeks. Even the most
devoted of bureaucrats occasionally comes up against a task he cannot possibly take any
interest in, and Monroe - like the famous historical lady who, on feeling the pangs of
labour, sent for her physician and had her teeth pulled too on the basis that she could
not possibly be in any more pain than she already was - used the one unpleasant chore to
offset the overhanging menace of the other.
Not that simulating sex with Meadows worried him, exactly; neither the
simulating, nor the sex, nor Meadows held any terrors. He had confidence in his ability to
deal adequately with any situation that presented itself, and it was for this reason that
he had stepped forward when Meadows needed a volunteer; Monroe knew exactly how the task
should be handled, and he knew that he was one of very few people at Sun Hill capable of
doing it. He knew also that once his shift was ended he would be able to relax and allow
himself to concentrate on the role he had chosen, but for the time being he was required
to fulfill his normal duties without arousing suspicion and it was this - the very
normalcy of it - that he found so difficult to sustain. It was as if the extraordinary was
a simple matter to deal with, but the ordinary was almost beyond his capacity.
Although the day dragged by on crippled feet the time eventually came
when Meadows, according to plan, installed himself in Room 31 at the Cornwallis Hotel. His
slightly heady sensation of unreality was heightened by a long, steady pull from a whisky
bottle he had carried there with him; he was a great believer in whisky as a remover of
inhibitions, and although he had no intentions of acting out the gay seduction sequence
from 'My Beautiful Launderette' he was firmly convinced it would speed things up
He may have been right, for the surge of delighted anticipation that
ran through him at Monroe's discreet knock on the door some ten minutes later was
certainly not the kind of thing he had experienced in past encounters with the man. Andrew
Monroe was a colleague, part of the fixtures and fittings at Sun Hill, almost on a par
with the fire extinguishers and the recharge rack in that he really only became noticeable
when something went wrong. Meadows had never known this kind of thrill at the prospect of
any meeting with him before, yet he could hardly get the door open quickly enough.
As he operated the latch he spared a brief prayer that Cryer had the
video equipment up and functioning. This was going to be a one-take movie, and it was far
too late to worry now about whether the thing had thrown a temperamental fit. Lights kept
on in the bedroom would at least halt proceedings in the unlikely event of a power-cut -
otherwise, the roller-coaster was already rolling.
Meadows opened the door and Monroe stepped inside quickly. He'd taken
Meadows' remarks about casual dress rather literally and was wearing a white tracksuit and
grey trainers, with a designer sports holdall slung over one shoulder. Meadows noticed too
some delectable cologne wafting into the room with the man, and momentarily the scent
filled his nostrils and bewildered him.
"Andrew," he said, weakly. "Christ, you look
The sportsbag was dropped abruptly onto the floor by the door. "I
said I was going to play badminton." Monroe did not resist as Meadows seized his arm
and pulled him into the centre of the room, holding him at arms' length to get a good long
look at him. "It was the best way to get out of the house." Noting that his
senior officer and supposed lover seemed temporarily at a loss for words, Monroe slid one
lazy arm around Meadows' neck and reeled him in, taking the initiative very firmly by
kissing him on the mouth.
Meadows was shaking uncontrollably as they parted, something akin to
virulent stage-fright palsying his limbs. He managed to fix his distressed gaze firmly on
Monroe's passive expression and said unsteadily; "Coffee."
"You've been ... drinking coffee."
"And you've been drinking whisky, I can taste it on your mouth. Is
there any left?"
Meadows grinned. The slightly arch question had hit just the right
note; Meadows the raffish and unreliable was established in so few words.
"Most of the bottle. Want a glass?"
"In a minute." Monroe's fingertips were stroking the nape of
Meadows' neck, just lightly exploring the darker undergrowth of his brown-blond hair.
Meadows shuddered as sensation zinged through him; one little intimate touch that was
barely noticeable when a woman did it but which coming from a male colleague normally so
austere and correct as Monroe sent liquid dynamite coursing through his veins.
They stood for a moment trading glances, equal now and confident, and
then Meadows' square hands buried themselves impulsively in the snowy fabric of the
tracksuit top and he hauled Monroe closer to repeat the kiss, nibbling hungrily at
Monroe's mouth, amazed by how familiar and yet how outlandish and exotic were the
sensations produced. The mouth beneath his responded avidly and Meadows took full
advantage of it, sinking himself hungrily into Monroe's warmth and enjoying himself
outrageously, letting the reality of making love to Andrew Monroe steal upon him slowly
and beginning to his own surprise to revel in it.
He detected the merest hint of resistance, strong fingers clutching at
his biceps gently easing him away as Monroe broke the kiss.
"Gently, Jack. We've got all night."
Suitably admonished for his forwardness, Meadows replied with a wry
smile. "I wish we had," he said, the wistfulness in his tone not entirely
feigned. The warning had been timely, however; nobody in his right mind would believe that
secret lovers would go to so much trouble merely for a quick fumble and grope and a
hurried climax and then go back to their everyday lives without a backward glance. They'd
savour each other; they'd make the most of every minute they had.
Meadows dragged at his half-mast tie, hauling the knot down until the
length of dark green silk untwisted and he threw it thoughtlessly onto the floor. Then he
shrugged out of his much-abused suit jacket and dropped it onto the back of a small
upright chair in front of the two-way mirror.
"Is it me or is it hot in here?" he asked, making a feeble
joke of it.
"It must be you. I'm not hot."
"You are." Deliberately Meadows twisted the words.
"You're the hottest bloody thing I've seen in years, Andrew. I can't wait to find out
what you're wearing under that tracksuit."
"Why didn't you say so?" Monroe's fingers flickered to the
zip of the tracksuit top and seconds later it was unfastened to reveal a plain dark red
singlet and what looked suspiciously like an SOS medallion.
"A non-regulation item of jewellery, Inspector?" Meadows
caught the little silver locket and held it up to the light. "I ought to put you on
report for this."
"Go ahead," Monroe told him casually. "It should make
interesting reading. I think I'll have that drink now, Jack."
Another timely reminder, Meadows realised. There was a world of
difference between making it last and spinning it out so that they never got to the good
stuff. He had believed this was his movie, but it seemed clear that Monroe had cast
himself not only as romantic lead but also as director. All Meadows needed to do was
follow the cues the junior officer was throwing out - like a TV presenter blundering from
one idiot board to the next - and he'd be steered through the production without fluffing
his lines or bumping into the furniture.
"Make yourself comfortable, Andrew," he said, softly,
reaching into the anonymous carrier bag he'd brought with him for the whisky and two Sun
Hill canteen disposable paper cups. As Meadows poured, Monroe seated himself on the end of
the bed and discarded his trainers and socks and the white tracksuit top, and when Meadows
turned to recross the room he found Monroe spread out languidly across the dark blue
bedspread and waiting for him with a look on his face so enigmatic it made the Mona Lisa
look like a grinning circus clown. "Carry on like that, Andrew my boy," Meadows
told him past a sudden constriction in his throat, "and somebody around here is gonna
"Wasn't that rather the idea?" A hand lifted like that of the
Lady of the Lake and graciously accepted the cup of whisky Meadows thrust into it. Monroe
sipped appreciatively, his dark eyes above the rim of the cup catching Meadows' blue gaze
and returning it with interest.
Meadows lowered himself on to the edge of the bed and polished off the
contents of his paper cup in one long draught, exhaling contentedly and dabbing his mouth
with the back of his hand. Had that been what they decided? He didn't remember them
discussing who was going to do what to whom; all he knew was that they'd concluded by
agreeing just to turn up on time and make it up as they went along. They'd both known from
the word 'go', however, that a few maiden-aunt kisses and a little extremely obvious
groping through clothes wasn't going to do the trick; Singleton was a connoisseur, and if
they wanted to crowbar him out of Force Headquarters they'd have to put on a better show
than the average gay-porn movie with its limp penises and its whisked egg-white
masquerading as cum.
Intellectually he knew all that well enough. Emotionally he'd never
asked himself how far he could go with Andrew Monroe. The answer surprised him.
All the way.
And then some.
He was brought back to reality by Monroe leaning across to place his
empty paper cup on the bedside cabinet. Meadows deposited his on the floor, and as he was
turning back towards the man on the bed he felt fingers fasten onto his shirt front.
Monroe had reached out to undo the buttons, and was making a big production number out of
it with something very like a roguish expression on his face. Not to be outdone, Meadows
leaned forward and temporarily halted operations by placing a soft kiss at the angle of
Monroe's neck and collarbone, just above the neckline of the singlet. The warm skin
beneath his lips tasted wonderful, and for a rash moment he wanted to gorge himself stupid
on Monroe, smother him with greedy, frantic kisses and nibbles. He reined in the desire
with difficulty, realising belatedly that he was becoming very, very aroused by the man's
mere presence. It was a topsy-turvy world all right, when he could get so turned on by
wrestling on a bed with Andrew Monroe. Whatever it was that was happening to him, Meadows
wanted more; he wanted it all; he wanted it now.
He swayed back and Monroe completed the unfastening of the shirt,
opening it wide and baring Meadows' chest to inspection. Meadows wasn't quite sure if he
had seen or imagined that tiny compression of Monroe's lips which seemed to indicate
approval of what he saw; no expression of opinion was forthcoming, since they were
supposed to be perfectly well acquainted with one another's nudity and incapable of
surprise at what they saw. Meadows was desperate to ask, to have all his questions
answered, but he bit down firmly on the words and freed his hands long enough to unfasten
the shirt's cuffs before allowing Monroe to slide the shirt from his body and throw it
somewhere halfway across the room with sublime disregard of its fate.
Not to be outdone, Meadows hauled at the red singlet and lifted it
until it was trapped in Monroe's armpits, leaning in to kiss the dark-furred chest
revealed as fingernails dug randomly and excitingly into his shoulders.
"God, Andrew, I could eat you," he confessed, his lips
grazing across warm flesh.
"You must do whatever you want, Jack."
The serene response rocked Meadows' composure still further, and
momentarily he buried his face in the warm pulse over Monroe's heart and took huge, deep
breaths in an attempt to re-orientate himself.
Monroe affected to take the brief pause in Meadows' attentions as
evidence of weariness. Sympathetically he eased upright and stroked the broad back and
Grateful for the guidance, Meadows turned to face the other man and
offered a tight smile of thanks. "It was an absolute bastard, if you must know. Who
the hell do those prats at CPS think they are? Some of the bloody comments we get on our
paperwork are absolutely out of this world. Did you know ... ?"
Fingertips on his lips silenced him. "Relax. Forget about Sun
Hill. Forget about everything but what we're doing here ... together."
The very edge of passion gilding the words alerted Meadows to the
moment when the masquerade took on a darker and more dangerous character. He had known
that he himself was losing control of the situation but had been quite confident that
Monroe would keep his feet on the ground - or, as in the old Hollywood romantic movies,
one foot on the floor - yet unless he was a consummate actor that sibilance in his tone
had given him away. Andrew Monroe, the one man of all those on the Sun Hill strength who
could be guaranteed to keep his head in a crisis, seemed to have lost his anchor to
reality. It was as if a switch had been thrown; suddenly they weren't in Kansas any more.
That was enough for Jack Meadows. Chances like this didn't come along
more than once in any man's lifetime, and if he was going to have the most uptight of his
colleagues handing it to him on a plate he would never forgive himself if he didn't take
full advantage of the offer. He drew a dominant and demanding hand down Monroe's side to
his thigh, drawing the man closer and into another and yet deeper kiss. This time, with
the last barriers of inhibition removed, there was real passion on both sides. Meadows
threw himself into the kiss with enthusiasm, the hungry response of the mouth beneath his
all the encouragement he could have wished for.
"I want you, Andrew," he shuddered, breaking free only with
difficulty. It didn't seem fair to leave Monroe in ignorance of his feelings, when the man
was becoming more desirable by the minute.
"Yes." One slim and well-kept hand moved slowly and
confidently towards Meadows' groin, stroking through the layers of clothing with a touch
that brought sizzling awareness to the heated flesh within. With a growl Meadows asserted
himself, rolling over on top of the smaller-built Monroe and tugging at the elasticated
waist of the tracksuit trousers. It was only with difficulty that he drew them down over
the man's thighs, revealing tight white briefs beneath.
"Whatever you want, Jack. Whatever you want is fine with me."
The unsought permission given, Meadows still could not resist a tiny suspicion which
wormed into his mind.
Did you want this all along, Andrew? Is that why you volunteered,
because you wanted me to screw you? If that's what you wanted, my lad, it looks very much
as if you're going to get your wish.
He bent and buried his face in the warm bulge at Monroe's groin,
lightly biting down through the briefs and eliciting soft whimpers from the other man.
Then, when he had reduced Monroe to a state of quivering anticipation, to a lust-hazed
loose-limbed sprawl of semi-coherence, Jack Meadows drew back, sat up, and under Andrew
Monroe's intense and questioning scrutiny, drew down the zip of his trousers and opened
For the life of him, Cryer couldn't see what Faldo, Langer, Olazabal
and the rest had all found to smile about. Ian Woosnam at least had the decency to be
grimacing in pain, probably because he had Tony Jacklin sitting on his shoulders whilst
simultaneously trying to strangle him.
Cryer supposed it all qualified as some kind of obscure male bonding
ritual; he knew people who had studied group dynamics and they would probably have been
able to tell him all about the relationships of the people in the picture. It didn't
matter; it could just as easily have been 'Driller Killer' or 'Thomas the Tank Engine'.
Cryer had bought the most harmless-looking video he could find on the shelves of the local
Smiths branch, taken the tape out and brought the box, receipt and bag to the Cornwallis
Hotel. Even if some nosey bugger saw the disguised tape in its hiding-place in Cryer's
locker, the explanation that it was faulty and was on its way back to the shop the moment
Cryer got around to it should deter any attempts to borrow it. Anybody warped enough to be
interested in 'Victory in America' could always borrow the real thing when Operation Other
Half was over.
Opening the linen closet door quietly, Cryer stepped into the little
room. The bedroom beyond was now in natural daylight, the curtains having been thrown open
at some stage, but the bed was considerably rumpled as if someone had spent a rather
active night in it and there were two recognisable paper cups from the Sun Hill canteen
placed in a position of honour on the bedside cabinet and an empty whisky bottle on the
floor beside them.
Would Meadows and Monroe show up at the office today? Would they brazen
it out? The pair of them had more front than Selfridges, more brass than the Black Dyke
Mills Band; he'd put money on them to sail through a day's work as if nothing
extraordinary had happened.
Maybe nothing extraordinary had happened. Maybe they'd chickened
out. He'd have expected one or other of them to call him if that was the case, and there
had been no phone call, but it was still possible that when it came to the crunch they
hadn't been able to go through with it. Cryer doubted he'd have managed a convincing
performance in the circumstances. Maybe with somebody he knew and liked they could have
made a joke out of it, put on some kind of display, but with an officer he only knew as a
colleague, just someone who was part of the background ... say Tony Stamp or Barry
Stringer ... He knew it wouldn't have worked.
The tape had obviously run itself through and run back to the
beginning, as it had ejected from the machine and sat waiting to be checked. Cryer snapped
the small cartridge into the converter cassette, shoved both into the VCP, and switched on
the monitor. Maybe if he ran it on fast picture-search and didn't have to listen to the
voices of the two senior officers he wouldn't care too much about what they got up to.
He watched a speeded-up version of Monroe's arrival and the frenzied,
fast-action way Meadows had gone to work on him. He got to the point where Meadows had
joined Monroe stretched out on the bed, then he fast-searched it back again just to make
sure he hadn't imagined what he saw.
He was stunned, taking the rewound tape from the machine in something
like a daze. He'd known all along that whatever they did was going to have to look good,
but he hadn't figured on it looking quite so good. If he didn't know better he'd
have been convinced he'd just watched a slice of Sun Hill's best-kept secret.
They'd convinced him they were lovers. Convinced him to the point where
he was beginning to question everything he thought he knew about them, and about Operation
Other Half. How could two people who didn't care about each other put on a show like that?
Two ordinary average people, not two highly-paid actors; two police officers with a case
to make and a career - each - to lose.
Unless the unthinkable had happened and they'd been carried away,
forgotten entirely that they were filming a faked encounter, and had real plain honest
sex. Could that have happened to two such level-headed and intelligent men? Only, he
supposed, if they both had a predisposition to fancy their own kind. Only if they had a
predisposition to fancy each other.
He should have cleared the room quickly and efficiently, but once he
had stuffed the disguised tape into its Smiths polybag and tucked the whole bundle into
his jacket pocket he perched for a moment on the edge of the strong wooden shelving where
the equipment had been set up.
How did it happen? How had Burnside and Roach happened, or Dashwood and
Carver? Was it just a question of being in the wrong place at the right time, or with the
wrong person on the right night? And what was right and wrong about it, anyway? Burnside,
Roach, Dashwood and Carver were all single, so there was no reason why they shouldn't have
relationships with one another, with the Dagenham Girl Pipers, or with the Kings Troop
complete with horses if they felt so inclined. Meadows and Monroe were both very married
and devoted to their wives and kids - at least, that was the impression he'd always got.
If it could happen to them ...
And where the hell was this line of thought leading him, anyway? He was
only a Sergeant, he wasn't paid to think.
That wasn't going to stop him, though.
Puzzled, and with more ideas floating around in his head than he knew
what to do with, he let himself out of the linen closet and headed off out of the hotel.
Today, he decided, for all sorts of reasons, was going to be rather interesting.
He wasn't wrong. Arriving for duty half an hour later, three people had
told Cryer that DCI Meadows wanted to see him almost before he'd got his civvy jacket off.
The third of these was DC Lines who snagged him in the corridor just as he was leaving the
"My guv'nor's looking for you," he said, chirpily.
"Yeah? What sort of mood's he in?"
Lines shrugged. "Christ knows. I think his bunion's playing up or
summat; if they brought back hanging this morning Jack Meadows'd be first in the queue for
the executioner's job. Whatever you've done, Bob, consider resignation or suicide before
you go anywhere near CID."
"Cheerful as ever, Tosh?" Cryer's eyebrows lifted cynically
as he made light of the detective's words, but inwardly he was in turmoil. What the hell
had gone wrong? Had someone made an almighty fool of himself last night? Had Meadows and
Monroe chickened out? Or had they done it and regretted it afterwards?
"You're a brave man, Bob. Personally I wouldn't go in there
without a riot shield. I'm off to relieve Jim Carver on that stakeout at the bookies' in
Brewer Street; four hours sitting on me Jack Jones in an unheated Metro sounds like
Paradise compared to five minutes with Meadows in his present mood. Good luck, mate."
Cryer shrugged aside these pleasantries casually. "Yeah, see you
later Tosh." He was halfway up the stairs in the direction of CID when he met
Superintendent Brownlow's secretary, Marion, who became the fourth person that morning to
inform him he was wanted in the DCI's office.
Meadows was seated behind his desk looking as if he hadn't slept much
and had been only too grateful to get to the office.
"You wanted to speak to me, sir?"
The senior man glared at him. "Yes, Sergeant. Close the door.
You're late; where have you been?"
"My duty shift starts in exactly three minutes, sir, and I've been
at the Cornwallis Hotel collecting the video tape."
"Is there anything on it?" The way Meadows didn't meet
Cryer's eyes when he asked the question spoke volumes.
"I only checked the first few seconds. It seems to have recorded
"And it's safe?"
"Where no-one would think of looking, sir, believe me."
"Good. Right." Meadows seemed to be collecting his thoughts;
his eyes held a nasty, devious glitter Cryer had rarely seen before, and then only when
Meadows was on the track of some particularly noxious scumbag he was intent on locking up
for several years. "Bob," he said, surprisingly calmly, "I want you to do a
little checking up for me - very, very discreetly. You must have a contact of some sort
over at Gold Lane?"
Cryer thought about it a moment. "If DS Marley's still there, sir,
yes. She was a WPC here about ten years ago."
"Look her up," Meadows ordered, stopping any further
reminiscences before they started. "I want to know everything there is to know about
a young copper who suicided there about fifteen years back when Mr Monroe was a PC at that
nick. Can you do that?"
"Yes, sir, no problem. Can I ask ... ?"
The sergeant grimaced. "Fair enough, sir. I take it this is
"Today would be nice," Meadows told him, drily.
"Yesterday would be even better."
"Understood." Cryer put a hand on the doorhandle. "What
do you want me to do about contacting Mr Singleton?"
"Nothing yet. Hold on till I've had another word with the Chief
Super and I'll let you know. Get on to this other matter immediately. Have you seen Mr
Monroe this morning?"
The question was thrown out so casually Cryer was almost fooled by it.
"No sir." Monroe was one of the few people at Sun Hill who
hadn't been queuing up to tell Cryer Meadows wanted to see him.
"Right, well, if Mahomet won't come to the mountain ... I'd better
get down there and see what's going on. Okay, Bob, do what you can."
Trundling back down the stairs with the intention of phoning Alison
Marley at Gold Lane and suggesting a private chat at her earliest convenience, Cryer ran
into Ackland emerging from the LIO's office.
"Sarge ... "
"If you're going to tell me Mr Meadows wants to see me, you're too
late," he told her, crisply. "I've seen 'im. And I wish I hadn't."
She had grabbed his arm and hauled him out of the traffic stream in the
"What happened?" she asked, in low tones. "Did
they do it?"
He looked up and down the corridor before answering. "I don't
know," he confided, "but if you want my opinion - they did it and one or other
of 'em didn't like it much. The knives are out for Andrew Monroe this morning, June; just
stay out of the way and keep your nose clean, okay?"
Ackland's eyebrows rose, but she didn't need to be told twice.
"I'm history," she said, with a puzzled frown. "See you later. Keep your
ear to the ground!"
"Oh, yeah," he told her retreating back as she took her
departure. "With my shoulder to the wheel and my back up against the wall, that
should be a doddle!"
As it turned out, however, keeping his ear to the ground would not have
been necessary. The next development in the saga would have been difficult to miss, and
indeed became a talking-point throughout Sun Hill for some time afterwards. Meadows,
setting out from his office to track down the elusive Inspector Monroe, had the good - or
bad - fortune to meet him head-on in the ground floor corridor close to the lavatories.
"Ah, Andrew, I want to talk to you!" An expression like the
wrath of God did not make Meadows an inviting prospect for a little light conversation.
Monroe, however, was unable to decline the invitation.
"Sir, I ... "
"In private," Meadows insisted, slamming the door open and
pushing Monroe ahead of him into the toilets. Tony Stamp was just drying his hands and
pitching a paper towel into the bin as they entered, but one look at their intense
expressions was enough for him to make himself scarce. One cubicle was locked, however,
and Meadows thumped on the door. "This is DCI Meadows; I want you out of there now."
A startled expression, a muffled curse, a hasty pulling of the chain, and George Garfield
emerged looking nothing short of terrified. "Out," Meadows said, without
elaboration - and Garfield fled, still gathering his uniform around him. The moment the
door had closed behind Garfield Meadows leaned on it to keep intruders out. He had thought
the initiative was very firmly with him, but had reckoned without Monroe's sense of fair
"What gives you the right to treat people like that?" the
Inspector demanded sharply. He was cornered by the washbasins and the paper towel
dispenser and as a trapped animal will he responded by fighting back.
"Me? I'm not the one who goes around manipulating
other people's emotions. Just what the hell did you think you were playing at last night,
eh, and how long did it take you to talk Bob Cryer into setting me up?"
"Setting you up?" Monroe repeated the words through
what felt to him like a fog of stupidity.
Meadows' voice lowered to a deadly thread of menace. "If you wanted
me to screw the living shit out of you, Andrew, you only had to ask. I don't go in for all
this cloak-and-dagger crap, and involving Brownlow was a pretty bloody sick tactic even
"What in god's name are you talking about?" Even furious,
Monroe was still gentleman enough not to resort to the kind of language he heard around
the station every day, but the mild blasphemy was the more extreme coming from him.
"I didn't set anything up. You were the one who asked me to find you a
volunteer; it could have been anybody ... "
"Yeah? Could it? And how many of the supposedly heterosexual males
at Sun Hill would have got turned on the way you did, eh? How bloody stupid do you think I
am? Or are you telling me it's doing your duty that gets you so worked up?"
"Just a minute, what are you saying here? That there's something
wrong with me because I enjoyed it? Only I'd call that a double standard, wouldn't
you?" Monroe stepped nearer, his face menacingly close to Meadows', his brown eyes
darkened with passionate anger.
Meadows caught him by the uniform sweater, a hideous parody of the
gesture he had used the previous evening in hauling Monroe in to kiss him. This time he
merely snarled at the shorter man as he reeled him closer.
"Are you going to stand there and tell me you were only doing your
duty?" he spat, consciously ignoring Monroe's barbed remark.
"I was doing what was necessary," was the bitter
response. "I may remind you, sir, that I wasn't the one doing the
Thunderstruck, Meadows released Monroe's sweater from nerveless fingers
and merely stared at the man as he brushed himself down and straightened his clothing. He
might very possibly have spoken, have added to his earlier tirade, but a thumping on the
door choked off the words unspoken.
"It's Cryer," a voice outside informed them. "Let me in now."
So authoritarian were the tones Meadows almost fell out of the way and
allowed the door to swing open.
Cryer stepped into the little room with a grim expression on his face.
He looked from one of them to the other, and then took a deep breath.
"Sirs," he said, "with all due respect, I don't want to
hear about it. You're causing total bloody chaos out there and if you don't stop this
minute there's going to be questions asked upstairs that you won't be able to talk
your way out of. May I suggest that if you really want to have this row you get out
of the station and off in the middle of a field somewhere where you can't be overheard?
There's fifty pairs of ears here flapping like mad waiting to catch any word you might
drop. If this is about last night - well, I reckon you both ought to know better." He
stopped himself, just in time, from adding the words which leapt to the forefront of his
Now kiss and make up like good children.
Monroe was regarding him, flabbergasted, livid spots of embarrassment
touching his usually pale cheeks. Meadows had decided to retreat into a huff and was not
meeting anyone's eyes.
"I've said all I'm going to say on the subject," the DCI told
them both, firmly. "I get the feeling I've been used, and I don't like it."
"You've been used ... ?"
"That's enough," Cryer said, firmly. "From both of you.
Grow up and start acting like senior police officers."
It was the last straw for Meadows. With a muttered oath he broke away
from the bizarre confrontation and slammed out into the corridor. Cryer was left with a
disconcerted-looking Inspector Monroe and no very clear idea of what he should say or do.
"Andrew ... ?" he began, rather uncertainly; he had known DI
Frank Burnside long enough to address him by his first name occasionally but had never
ventured to try a similar informality with Monroe.
Monroe filled a basin with cold water, splashed it on his face and
wrists, and then dried himself off on a paper towel.
"I don't want to discuss it, Bob," he said, with a remarkable
effort at calm. "If Mr Meadows has a problem, he'll have to sort it out by himself.
There's nothing you or I can do to help. Is the tape safe?"
"Yes, sir," Cryer assured him bleakly. "The tape's
Safe as houses. Which was just as well, as it looked as if those few
feet of video footage right now were about the hottest ticket in town.
"Good," Monroe said, straightening his uniform and running a
hand over his already immaculate hair. "Now let's get on with some work, shall
Cryer was glad enough to get out of the building for his discreet
meeting with Alison Marley at Gold Lane. He returned to find a perilous calm descended
over proceedings at Sun Hill, with Meadows and Monroe making such rare appearances among
their fellow-beings that the already busy rumour-mill was working on overtime. As he
passed through the front office he caught wind of Hollis's latest speculations on the
subject, delivered to a singularly unreceptive Loxton, and dropping into the CAD room he
discovered Sergeant Boyden and Garfield and Datta similarly preoccupied although with less
leisure to discuss it. It was time something was done to end the station's obsession with
the morning's argument - the details of which, mercifully, did not seem to have filtered
out past the closed cloakroom door - and turn everyone's attention to less sensitive
matters. By the time he bumped into the bulky figure of PC Tony Stamp, Cryer had his
"Sarge." Stamp looked as if he was going to exchange
greetings and pass along the corridor about his business, but stopped as if on a whim and
said casually; "By the way, Sarge, what was it all about?"
"What?" Cryer affected to be trying to concentrate on more
"World War III this morning - pistols at fifty paces."
Getting no ready response, Stamp elaborated; "Mr Meadows and Inspector Monroe."
"Oh, that. You mean you didn't notice? Bloody hell, Tony,
you must walk around with your eyes shut or something!"
"Notice? Notice what?"
Cryer gave him his heavily tolerant expression reserved for PCs who
were being preternaturally thick. "Mr Monroe," he said, in his best
Janet-and-John explicatory style, "parked in the DCI's space this morning. Mr Meadows
wasn't in a very good mood anyway, and that was enough to set him off again. If you've got
any sense you'll stay well clear of both of them."
It was a subterfuge Cryer was rather proud of, and as he had expected
it was all round the canteen within half an hour. It would probably have held water, too,
except that when it reached the more observant PC Kathy Marshall she assumed a puzzled
expression and said slowly;
"Yes, but the DCI was here long before Mr Monroe - and Monroe
arrived on foot."
Stamp, Quinnan and Datta, sharing her table in the canteen, gazed at
each other with a wild surmise.
"Cryer's telling porkies," Stamp concluded, with a grimace.
Marshall grinned at him. "Well, you know what they say about us
plods, Tony; we should be treated like mushrooms."
"Eh? How's that, Kath?"
"Keep us in the dark and feed us shit," Marshall observed
brightly, before changing the subject.
"That information you wanted, sir." Almost nervously Cryer
tapped at the door of DCI Meadows' small office and leaned in.
Meadows looked absolutely shattered, about as tired as Cryer had ever
seen anyone look. He had heavy shadows under his vivid blue eyes, his clothing was
crumpled, and his expression betrayed a level of preoccupation with an insuperable problem
Cryer had rarely seen in any officer outside a murder enquiry.
"From Gold Lane? Come in."
Cautiously Cryer edged into the lion's den, and as he was not torn to
shreds within the first few seconds he gained confidence gradually.
"Shut the door. Tell me about it."
Meadows' simple commands were rapidly obeyed.
"Alison Marley, sir. She'd heard vague rumours about a suicide,
but she checked up on the details for me. It was seventeen years ago, and the lad involved
was one Richard Martin Innes - a constable with about eighteen months' service. Quite a
promising lad by all accounts."
"Except for one little flaw," Meadows told him, acidly.
Cryer shrugged. "Nobody seems to know for sure whether he was gay
or not. What seems to have happened is that Inspector Singleton - as he was at the time -
decided that he was, and the boy was too vulnerable to resist. Innes was put on
suspension for using unnecessary force while making an arrest, but while the case was
still being investigated he killed himself. The enquiry was a bit of a whitewash; it
didn't get in the way of Mr Singleton's promotion."
Meadows pushed back from the desk, looking up into Cryer's anxious face
with haunted and desolate eyes.
"Thank god they're not all as fragile as the boy Innes," he
said, softly. "Or maybe Singleton learned his lesson. Maybe he got a bit subtler -
just manoeuvred them out of his way after that. I wonder why he picked on Sun Hill?"
"I think it was something to do with DCI Wray, sir. He made some
reference to 'one rotten apple'."
"He saw Wray as a spreader of contagion, you mean? Yes, I'll buy
that. This is all a lot more complicated than it looked at first, Bob," he added,
wearily. "I don't know whether we can go through with it as per the original plan. To
be specific, I don't know if we can use the tape."
Cryer moved closer. "Sir, in seventeen years this is the closest
anybody's got to curtailing Singleton's activities. One man's dead and four good officers
have either resigned or been transferred because he didn't approve of their
personal lives. What'll it be next? Choosing officers by the colour of their eyes or the
football team they support? Only if we're going to be limited to blue-eyed Millwall fans
it's not going to do our operational strength a lot of good, is it?"
"Hanging isn't bad enough and flaying would be fair For the
nameless and abominable colour of his hair," Meadows muttered, almost under his
breath. "All right, Bob, before I change my mind - show him the tape. Don't let it
out of your possession, but let him see it - all of it, if you have to. I ought to warn
you ... the situation got out of control."
"Oh." With all his years of experience in the Force Cryer had
firmly believed he was well past the age of blushing, but he felt himself colour at the
implication of the words. As Ackland had suggested but he himself had only half believed,
it appeared that they had indeed, as she so elegantly expressed it, 'done it'.
"Bob." Meadows' voice was quieter, more intense than ever.
"I'll be perfectly frank with you; if that tape can prevent another young officer
from walking head-on into a District Line train it'll be worth all the embarrassment and
all the hassle with Mr Monroe. I'd do it again - with Reg Hollis on prime-time television,
if I had to - to get that bastard Singleton removed. You ought to know that before you
watch the tape; I don't regret one second of it."
"No, sir," Cryer said, because a reply seemed to be in order
- but he doubted very much whether Meadows actually heard him.
The following morning Cryer was sitting alone in a corner of the
canteen morosely stirring his coffee when Ackland wandered over.
"So what's happening?" she asked, sitting down opposite him.
"Still doing your contortionist routine?"
"Ear to the ground, back up against the wall," she explained.
Her tone was chirpy enough, but as soon as she caught on to the sombreness of Cryer's mood
it altered and became more serious. "Something gone wrong?"
It would be a relief to tell her, he realised. Ackland could be trusted
to keep what she knew to herself.
"Last night," he said, very softly, leaning towards her,
"I had to show ACC Singleton the videotape from the Cornwallis Hotel."
"Yeah?" Her sculptured eyebrows rose in enquiry.
"Yeah. Which meant I had to sit and watch it with him, 'cos my
orders are not to let it out of my sight unless it's locked away somewhere."
"So did they? Do it?"
Cryer shook his head slowly, not in denial but - as Ackland realised
when he spoke - in plain bewilderment. "They did it all right. I'm amazed Monroe
could walk after what they got up to. Singleton was positively salivating; he couldn't
wait to start putting the bite on DCI Meadows."
"So everything's working out the way it's supposed to, yeah?"
"Not exactly." A more recognisable shake of the head this
time. "June, people can't fake that kind of thing. You don't let somebody do that to
you unless you really want him to."
"They didn't have sex," Cryer said, spelling it out in words
of one syllable.
"But I thought you said ... "
"They made love. There's a difference."
Ackland was silent a long time, digesting the information. She was
silent so long that Cryer became anxious, wondering if he hadn't made himself clear.
"June? Are you with me?"
"Just about keeping up, Sarge," she said, pensively. "It
doesn't change anything, does it?"
"Not for the rest of us, no." Cryer paused, considered, and
then said deliberately. "June, I need a favour. Put the tape in your locker.
It would be just like Singleton to order my locker opened if the mood took him; he
couldn't check them all without alerting Mr Brownlow, but he could always decide to throw
a snap inspection and choose mine at random. The worst that can happen to you is Mr Monroe
doing one of his routine sweeps, and although that could be embarrassing for you both it
wouldn't be anything like as bad as it would be if Singleton got hold of the tape."
"What, just keep the tape? Not watch it?"
"Just keep it until Meadows says we can ditch it, and then you and
I can take a walk down to the Embankment and chuck it in the water. I promise."
She nodded, accepting the suggestion. "Okay, Bob, I'll do it. Any
idea how I'm going to explain the sudden appearance of a videotape in my locker?"
"It's disguised as the Highlights of the Ryder Cup," he
informed her. "You can always say you've developed a grand passion for Seve
Ackland's mouth twisted wryly. "Now that," she said, "I
could almost believe myself."
Had Cryer and Ackland but known it, significant steps were being taken
in Operation Other Half at more or less the same time. Meadows, aware that he could not
put off the evil day any longer, had conquered his reluctance and made the pilgrimage
downstairs to the Duty Inspector's Office to speak to Andrew Monroe.
"Sir." Monroe was civil but distant, very far from the
utterly abandoned and almost wanton being who had so entranced Meadows' bedazzled
sensibilities only two nights before. There was no trace whatsoever of any emotion in his
dealings now with Meadows, and the senior man was well aware that the glass barrier that
had separated them before their dinner at the Cornwallis Hotel had returned stronger and
thicker than before.
"A quick word, if I may." Meadows stepped inside swiftly and
closed the door, not waiting for an invitation. "Cryer's seen Singleton," he
said, almost breathlessly. "We're waiting for an approach to me. I've drawn the
listening gear we need from stores; I'll be wearing a radio-mike and you and Cryer will be
monitoring every word."
"I'm glad it's all proceeding to plan, sir," Monroe told him,
bleakly. Meadows, somewhat more relaxed than during their last confrontation, leaned
against the wall and folded his arms. "It's not, though, is it? Andrew, I owe you an
apology for yesterday. I hadn't slept and I was in a filthy mood. Some of the things I
said were quite unjustifiable."
"Yes. They were."
"It's not going to be put right in a hurry, is it?"
The frankness of the question was almost disarming. A lesser man than
Andrew Monroe might well have weakened at that point, but the Inspector was not disposed
to let the previous day's scene pass into history without a protest.
"As a matter of fact, sir, it isn't. As far as I know it isn't yet
a crime to enjoy certain aspects of one's duty, and whether or not I took any pleasure in
what happened is my business and not something I feel inclined to apologise for. In the
circumstances criticising me for it makes you very little better than ACC Singleton.
Meadows winced. The belated term of respect had hurt just as much as
the words that preceded it, especially as he had a very clear recollection of the
particular way that same voice had handled his given name. He preferred the way Monroe
"As it happens I agree with you," he conceded, his tone
rueful. "I wasn't being very intelligent there, was I? I don't especially want to
discuss this with you while the Singleton matter's still outstanding, but I'd like to
think that when it's all over we'll have a chance to ... get things in perspective
Monroe had been about to answer that he had not been the one
getting things out of perspective, but he could recognise an olive-branch when he
was offered one. It occurred to him also that he had hardly done himself justice during
his encounter with Meadows the previous morning.
"It does no-one any good if we lose sight of our objectives and
get enmeshed in a conflict of personalities," he observed, some of the harshness
fading from his voice.
"No," Meadows agreed. "It doesn't. Right, Andrew, I'll
keep you informed. Judging by what Bob Cryer said about Singleton's response to the tape,
we shouldn't have too long to wait before he makes an approach."
"Cryer's seen the tape, then?" All things considered,
Monroe's question was remarkable for its apparent disinterest.
Meadows was turning to leave, but he paused with one hand on the
doorhandle. "Yes. And I'm not ashamed of one second of it, Andrew."
Dark eyes like flint blades turned sharply in his direction. "No,
sir. Neither am I."
The quick defiant response confused Meadows still further. Just as it
had shocked him to discover that Inspector Andrew Monroe was not simply a part of the
furniture but was a living breathing human being with thoughts and opinions that did not
always accord with those of his superior officers, now it jolted him still further to find
the man for whom he had felt such enmity only the day before voicing feelings that matched
Framed in the doorway, Meadows found himself grinning hugely.
"Okay. Let's just try not to kill one another over the next few
Monroe's eyebrows lifted, but he was unable to summon a smile. "I
should think we could manage that, sir," he conceded.
Meadows paused, a hundred more things that he would like to say running
through his mind; he had sense enough to realise, however, that he was incapable of
thinking in a straight line and he would do well to quit while he was ahead.
"I'll see you later," he said, and found he was looking
forward to doing so.
"Sir," said Monroe gravely, as Meadows took his departure.
"Go right in, sergeant." Chief Superintendent Brownlow's
secretary barely glanced up as Cryer passed through her domain, knocked on the inner door
and entered Brownlow's office. The Chief Superintendent was sitting behind his desk
looking more than usually grave, and Meadows and Monroe were disposed in chairs opposite
him with an empty chair between them. Their partial reconciliation of the previous day,
about which Cryer had been informed by a less discreet than usual Monroe, obviously did
not extend as far as being seen to sit side by side even in the most respectable of
company. Cryer could well understand that the issue of their being together anywhere was a
particularly sensitive one at the moment, and he wondered briefly how much Brownlow knew
or guessed about what had happened between them. Not much, if he knew his Chief Super as
well as he thought he did.
"Sit down, Bob." Brownlow's manner was uneasy, but he had
never been particularly comfortable talking to the lower ranks on equal terms - which was
odd, since he had worked his way up from the beat like the rest of them.
"Thank you sir." Obediently Cryer sat, fully aware that some
unpleasant bombshell was about to burst over the four of them; aware, too, that his
positioning in the room made him a physical barrier between Meadows and Monroe.
"Right, now that we're all together ... " Brownlow glanced
around them all briefly, "we have a problem on Other Half. Andrew, perhaps you'd like
to fill in the details?"
"Yes, sir. It's quite simple; up to now we've all been assuming
that when ACC Singleton wanted to make his demands - whatever they may turn out to be - he
would get in touch with DCI Meadows."
"It seemed logical," Meadows put in. "I've got the rank;
he'd expect me to be more vulnerable. Are you saying he's approached you?"
"I had a phone call at home last night," Monroe responded,
coolly. "He suggested it would be - in his words - a good career move if I met him
somewhere private to discuss certain information he'd received. I had to make it up as I
went along," he added, apologetically. "We settled on 1.30 this afternoon; the
car park on the canal towpath near the Thomas Street allotments."
Meadows ignored this last, cutting through to what he considered the
vital question. "Why's he picked on you, Andrew?"
Across Cryer, Monroe met the other man's gaze levelly. "Presumably
because when I was a PC on his relief we didn't always see eye-to-eye," he said.
"It would amuse him to think he'd got something on me."
"I wish you'd mentioned this at the outset," Brownlow put in,
testily. "It could have made quite a difference."
"It didn't seem important, sir. Besides, I don't think you were in
any danger of being swamped with volunteers."
"He did mention it to me, sir," Meadows was quick to
point out, instinctively leaping to Monroe's defence. "Frankly I didn't consider it
Brownlow was thoughtful a moment, considering Meadows' words.
"You're probably right," he conceded. "So, how does this affect our
"As far as I can see, sir," Monroe rejoined smoothly,
"not at all. It simply means that instead of Mr Meadows being wired up and meeting
with the ACC I'll be doing it. Operationally it makes no odds which of us goes."
Meadows was pensive, but nodded his head in agreement when Brownlow
turned to him. "I agree, sir. I'll take Andrew's place with Bob in the bug van, and
it should all be relatively straightforward from there on."
"Good. Well, just so long as you all agree on what you're doing.
Andrew, you'd better not go in uniform. Have you any civvies with you?"
"Yes, sir. I'll need to borrow a coat from someone, but that's
"I'll lend you one," Cryer said, feeling it was about time he
made a contribution.
"Thanks, Bob. No problems, then, sir."
Brownlow looked sceptical. "I wish I was as sure of that as you
seem to be," he said. "Very well, you'd better get the gear set up. Be careful,
Dismissed, the three of them took their departure and left Brownlow
sorting out the chairs. They passed through Marion's room in silence, but in the corridor
outside Meadows spoke.
"He's right. Be careful."
"I'll be keeping an eye on you, Andrew; if anything goes wrong,
I'll be right there."
"I appreciate that, sir," Monroe said, both eyebrows lifted
in bemusement, "but nothing is going to go wrong."
"Hold that thought," Meadows instructed him, before striding
away down the corridor.
Perhaps predictably in view of the state of mind of the various parties
involved, it was raining by the time the bug van - subtly disguised as a council Direct
Works van - pulled into the area of rough ground between the allotments and the canal
towpath that was used as a car park by all those having business in this area of Sun Hill.
One of the less troublesome council estates ran close to the canal at this point, and the
railway line ran diagonally across it leaving odd triangles of space at either side which
were utilised for various kinds of marginal or temporary purposes; it was a depressingly
impermanent environment. Apart from a couple of optimists forking through the heavy clay
soil of the allotments, there was nobody about.
Cryer looked at his watch. "Half an hour. Bit more."
They were in borrowed Direct Works overalls, but the pair Meadows was
wearing had been obtained with Monroe in mind and were slightly too small. He wriggled
uncomfortably in his seat.
"Best get in the back right away," he said. "If
Singleton spots either of us, we've had it."
"Sir." Cryer had been all prepared to do his best
impersonation of a council workman sitting in his van eating sandwiches and reading The
Sun, but he moved into the rear compartment of the van with Meadows close behind, well
aware that the DCI had no intention of risking this operation on any little oversight.
There were several hundred questions Cryer would have liked to ask
Meadows in that half-hour. They ran through his mind as he checked and re-checked the
sound equipment. As Monroe was supposedly off duty he would not be making any radio call
to announce that he was on his way; the most they could expect was that if something went
wrong they would get a call from MP cancelling the operation. They had no reason to
suppose that Singleton would be thorough enough to monitor Sun Hill's radio frequencies,
but as Meadows had painstakingly pointed out they also had no reason to suppose that he
wouldn't. They had to assume the worst and hope for the best.
Almost exactly half an hour later the radio-mike Monroe was wearing
arrived within range and crackled into life.
"I'm just pulling into the car park," he said. "Wind
down the window of the van if you can hear me."
Cryer's eyes flickered in Meadows' direction, and Meadows reached over
and wound down the passenger-side window a few inches.
"Understood," Monroe said, briefly. He had brought his own
car, a small red hatchback, and carefully reversed it into the opposite corner of the plot
from the one in which the two officers were sitting. Several other vehicles were also
present; one, with a trailer full of garden rubbish behind it, obviously belonged to one
of the allotment holders, and there was also a pathetic-looking Cortina resting on three
wheels and a brieze block.
ACC Singleton, when he wasn't being driven around in an official car in
an official capacity, drove a Volvo of the shiny crimson variety. It trundled down the
rutted drive from the road a few minutes later, and with supreme disregard for other car
park users he stopped it right in the middle of the available turning space and got out.
Singleton was a man in his late fifties, tall and cadaverous-looking,
with a fringe of iron-grey hair around a balding pate. He was wearing a lounge suit with a
sheepskin jacket over it which made him look like a racecourse tipster or an unsuccessful
double-glazing salesman. All business, he slammed his car door behind him and glanced
around brazenly looking for Monroe. Obviously his idea of a secret rendezvous did not
accord with those of his observers.
Monroe got out of his car, locked it carefully, and drew the
tan-coloured raincoat he had borrowed from Cryer more closely around him. He strode across
the uneven ground to where Singleton waited, maintaining the customary aura of quiet
competence which had become legendary at Sun Hill. Quinnan and Hollis were both fond of
telling the story about Monroe discovering a body in the boot of a car some months before.
'Whose foot is that?' he had coolly asked the suspect, lifting the cloth that covered the
remains. Nothing ruffled the Monroe equilibrium, was the popular belief - now amended to
'nothing but Jack Meadows'.
"Good afternoon, sir," Monroe said, civilly. In the bug van,
Meadows could not suppress a grin as the calm greeting spooled onto the tape. Singleton
looked him up and down appraisingly. "Andrew bloody holier-than-thou Monroe," he
said, with lip-smacking relish. "I'm going to enjoy this."
"Yes. Ever since your pansy friend Innes topped himself I've been
looking out for some dirt on you. Took a bloody long time, but I've got it at last."
"What have you got?"
"Careful, Andrew," Meadows whispered, although only Cryer
could hear him.
"Film. Video tape, to be precise. You and your boyfriend having
the time of your life in a hotel bedroom."
Monroe shook his head decisively. "No. I don't believe you."
"No? You were wearing a white tracksuit with a red vest underneath
- at least, you were at the start. By the time Meadows had finished with you, you were
wearing nothing but a smile. I'd never have thought you were the type that like it up the
arse, Andrew - and from Jack Meadows, too." Singleton finished off his accusatory
statement with a scandalised 'tut-tutting'.
"You leave Jack out of this," Monroe told him coldly.
"Why? You didn't leave him out, did you? 'Anything you
want, Jack; take me, I'm yours.'" He misquoted Monroe's words maliciously, a twist of
evil humour crossing his face.
"What do you want?"
The abrupt question caused Meadows, a dozen yards away, to recoil in
shock. "Gently, Andrew, gently."
Singleton leaned back against the roof of the Volvo. He smiled.
"I'm enjoying just watching you squirm," he said, delightedly. "Sun Hill's
Mr Clean turns out to be a dirty little queer just like all the rest. I must admit you
covered up better than Burnside or Wray or Meadows ever did; took me longer to suss you
out. When you transferred out of Gold Lane I thought I'd missed my chance with you, but I
had my suspicions about you even back then. You didn't like what happened to Innes, did
"No-one deserves that kind of death," Monroe told him,
acidly. "No matter what they may have done. And you drove him to it
with your taunting," he added, glaring.
"Balls. You'd have a job proving it. Innes was just a bloody
weakling; no good in the Force, weaklings. Anyway, that's ancient history. What matters
now is what we're going to do with you and your boyfriend. The way I see it, you've got a
choice - you get out of Sun Hill, one way or the other, or you stay there and work for me.
You get me information. You tell me who is doing what to whom. You name the other queers
for me, Andrew, and maybe I'll leave your precious Jack Meadows alone."
"Bastard," Meadows whispered. "So that's how he's
doing it!" It made sense at last; Singleton was pressuring the gay officers by
threatening dire consequences to the careers of their partners. Each man had been quite
willing to fight on his own account, but had not dared risk the career of his lover. He'd
got rid of Wray and Roach by threatening Burnside, Dashwood by threatening Carver,
But that meant that he'd known about Carver all along ...
A chill ran through him.
"You stay away from Jack," Monroe was saying, softly but
"Stay away from him? I wouldn't touch him with a bargepole,"
Singleton smirked. "Unlike you, of course. I'll stay as far away from him as you
like, Andrew, as long as you come across. As long as you help me out. I can rely on you,
"And if I don't? What then?"
Singleton grinned. "Two careers down the drain," he said,
happily contemplating the havoc he could wreak. "Two marriages, two families; I
wonder how your kiddies would take to the knowledge that you'd been getting screwed by
Jack Meadows on a regular basis? They'd wonder what sort of creature Daddy was, wouldn't
they? And when the stills from that video hit the 'News of the World' ... There's enough
right-thinking people left in this country to make your life a misery, Andrew. You'll go
right to the bottom of the pile, and you'll take your bloody boyfriend with you. The
District Line'll seem a positive relief after all that."
Monroe stepped away, hands in pockets, contemplating the grimy grey
water of the canal only feet away. He had always wondered how Richard Innes had psyched
himself up to step out in front of that train, but he was beginning to get some idea of
the pressures that drove a man to take such a drastic way out. The canal was shallow,
muddy and hideously polluted, but compared to the taint of Singleton's presence it seemed
like a clear mountain stream and he felt a twinge of desire to throw himself into it and
"I'll consider it," he said, briefly. "I'm not prepared
to give you an answer immediately; I need time to think."
"Don't take too long." The false bonhomie disappeared
instantly from Singleton's manner. "I'll ring you this evening; you'd better have an
answer for me by then." He was opening his car door, getting in, starting the engine.
In stunned silence Monroe stepped back and watched the Volvo execute a
fierce, crunching three-point turn, scattering loose stones from beneath its fat tyres,
and jolt off in the direction of the road through a steadily-falling shroud of rain. It
was only then that he realised he was cold and wet and sick at heart, weary of the
mindless prejudice he had been encountering for the past twenty-odd years, turned to stone
by the thought of the corrupt power wielded by one man which had destroyed lives and
careers and families and hopes for the future. It was only then, too, that the full
magnitude of what he and Meadows were trying to do - and what they had already done -
struck him, and he shuddered under the weight of it. He was still shivering bleakly when
Jack Meadows, in his borrowed overalls, bounded across the makeshift car park to his side.
"Andrew? Are you all right?"
But one glance at the troubled dark eyes had shown that it was a
fatuous question, and Monroe clearly was not.
"You did well - in fact you were bloody brilliant," Meadows
enthused. "Cryer's got it all on tape; every word. We've got enough to hang the
bastard higher than Haman! We've done it, Andrew. We've bloody done it!"
Monroe turned to him, meeting his genuine delight and relief with a
look of subtle and refined misery.
"Jack," he said, wearily, "exactly what have we
Alarmed by the tone, Meadows spun away immediately. "Bob?"
Cryer left the bug van and advanced towards the pair.
"Get back to the factory," Meadows instructed crisply.
"I'll look after Mr Monroe."
"Sir." Whatever was going on, Cryer knew he'd rather not be
around. He'd done more than enough eavesdropping on the private transactions of these two
for one lifetime.
"Car keys, Andrew."
The altered timbre of Meadows' voice when he turned back to address
Monroe was a graphic illustration of the confusion between duty and personal feelings that
had characterised every moment of this case. Nevertheless he was somewhat surprised when
the keys were placed in his hand and he caught Monroe's arm and led him across the rough
ground, unlocking the passenger door and all but helping him in. Then he opened the
driver's door and sat himself down behind the wheel.
"We've got some fences to mend, haven't we?" Meadows said,
carefully. The rain was heavier now, and through the wet windscreen they stared out
unseeingly as Cryer manoeuvred the grubby yellow bug van out of the car park and started
on a bouncing progress up the access road. Inside the car the air was chill and damp,
Monroe staring straight ahead and not turning in Meadows' direction.
"I was so sure we were doing the right thing," he said,
slumped in his seat and ignoring Meadows' opening gambit. "All the reasons were the right
reasons. Yet it's been poisoned."
"It was always going to be," Meadows told him, sadly.
"That was the reason we needed volunteers who weren't lovers - weren't even
gay. You don't risk something that's important to you on a scrote like Singleton."
"I know. It made perfect sense to me at the time," Monroe
admitted, confusedly. "It doesn't now, though. He knew about Jim Carver all
Meadows nodded gravely. "We couldn't have guessed that, Andrew; we
didn't know how he'd set it all up."
"Have we gone through all this for nothing then?"
"Nothing? We've got Singleton on the ropes; one more
punch'll finish him. All we need to do now is wind up Mr Brownlow and send him into
action; he'll do the rest for us. It's all over. You can stop worrying about it."
Resolutely he slotted the ignition key into the lock and turned on the engine. "We
need to get in out of the rain," he said, distractedly. "You did brilliantly - I
don't think I could have kept my dignity in the circumstances. I'm proud of you, Andrew. I
don't know what else to say."
Arriving back at Sun Hill shortly afterwards, they were met by an out
of breath Cryer in the car park.
"Chief Inspector Cato threw a snap inspection of the male
officers' lockers while we were out of the building," he said without ceremony as
soon as they stepped out of the car.
Monroe blanched. "And?"
A reptilian smile. "He didn't find anything. Interesting, though,
"Where was Mr Brownlow?" asked Meadows, handing the car keys
back to Monroe as they headed into the building.
"At lunch," Cryer supplied.
"Well, I'm not prepared to consider any of it a coincidence,"
Meadows responded, sharply. "Where's the tape?"
"Safe. June Ackland's got it."
"Ackland?" echoed Monroe, stunned. "How the hell
did she get involved?"
"Guesswork, sir," Cryer told him, with a shrug. "It
occurred to me something like this might happen - although I didn't reckon on Mr Cato
being involved - and I wanted it well out of the way. June won't touch the tape, sir, if
that's what you're worried about," he added hurriedly in the face of Monroe's obvious
"You're right there," Meadows said, encouragingly. "I'd
rely on Ackland to keep her word. Good move, Bob, even if you should have checked it with
"I know, sir. I'm sorry."
"No harm done. Any sign of Mr Brownlow?"
"He's apparently still at lunch, but Marion's expecting him back
in a few minutes. What are you going to do about Mr Cato, sir?"
Meadows shrugged. "Nothing ... at the moment. I think I'll leave
that to the Chief Super. Meanwhile, I suggest we all change our clothes. Andrew - you've
had a rough time, haven't you? Are you going to be okay?"
Steadfastly Monroe blocked out all knowledge of Cryer's presence and
any suggestion that he himself might be considered in any way unfit for duty.
"Perfectly, sir, thank you," he said, as if the intimacy between himself and
Meadows had never occurred, and departed - leaving Meadows once again cursing himself for
"I never seem to say the right thing to that man," he
"He's just worried, sir," Cryer told him, hastening to
Monroe's defence. "It makes him a bit brusque sometimes."
"Yeah? Well, he's right to be worried. I'm worried too. If
Brownlow blows it this afternoon, this thing could explode in all our faces; you, me - and
Monroe and June Ackland too. We've done our bit, but now we have to wait around while
someone else takes over. That's never easy."
"No. Well, whatever happens, Bob - what we were trying to do was
worth it, wasn't it?"
"Yes, sir. Yes, it was."
Tension thick as toffee coagulated in the offices and corridors of the
Sun Hill nick that afternoon, although few of its inhabitants could have named the cause.
Rumours spread like wildfire; Meadows, Monroe and Cryer had gone to a lot of trouble to
spend an hour on the towpath in the rain waiting for a flasher who never showed up;
Brownlow had roasted Cato over the locker searches. This last had some substance to it as,
goaded by Cryer, Barry Stringer in his capacity as Police Federation rep. had put forward
a formal complaint about the incident and Brownlow had done little during that interview
to conceal his own displeasure with Cato.
Then Brownlow disappeared again, and the canteen gossips had a field
day. Meetings the Chief Superintendent was supposed to attend went ahead without him; his
telephone went unanswered; his secretary fobbed off callers with increasingly feeble
excuses. Only three people knew, and they kept it to themselves, that Brownlow had gone to
Force Headquarters to confront ACC Singleton with the audiotape of his meeting with Monroe
and the other evidence of his blackmailing activities - and in these three people the
tension was almost unbearable.
Jack Meadows in particular was restless. He paced his office, wandered
in and out of CID, looked over people's shoulders and got in their way and generally made
an almighty nuisance of himself. His own office, the small territory where he was absolute
ruler, became for him an intolerably small cage within walls that closed on him by the
minute. The view from his window of rooftops, streetlights and the tower blocks of the
Jasmine Allen estate seemed in fancy to be hemmed in by barbed wire and searchlight
towers; he was a prisoner under sentence until Brownlow got back and told him of his fate.
He thought about Monroe a lot during the afternoon, endlessly touring
his territory and wearing holes in the carpet. Until this case he'd never much cared for
the man, although he had recognised Monroe as an effective and valuable officer - a little
hidebound by the rules, perhaps, but a colleague to be relied upon if not precisely a
friend. Never, in his wildest imagination, could he have dreamed that he could be so
turned on just by Monroe's presence - by the memory of his unexpectedly enthusiastic
It had gone way, way too far. Meadows had been carried away by the
enthusiasm of the moment and had gone further than he had ever intended. His ideas for the
scenario had never included actual penetration; he'd thought they might play around with
one another for a while, jerk one another off - he knew a lot of men didn't consider that
sort of thing counted as homosexual activity, a piece of na�ve double-thinking that
always amused him.
"Make it with another man and you're gay," Frank
Burnside had said to him once. "I don't want to hear about bi-sexual and tri-sexual
and any other fancy definitions. You break the law and you're a criminal - right? You fuck
a man and you're gay. End of story."
Frank's forthright assessment of the situation had stayed with him. He
quirked an eyebrow philosophically as he considered Burnside's likely reaction to being
told that Meadows had remembered his teachings in connection with the unlikely personage
of Andrew Monroe. More to the point, perhaps, what would Monroe make of Burnside's maxim?
You're gay, Andrew, he thought, wryly. Did you realise that?
There was no gainsaying that Monroe had enjoyed their time together.
They had enjoyed each other, revelling in their situation, relishing every moment
and missing nothing in their quest for mutual satisfaction. Meadows doubted whether that
abandoned enthusiasm for one another could possibly have been generated between two people
chosen at random, two people who had no previous emotional context for their sexual
He had never been aware beforehand of an attraction to Andrew Monroe
and the thought surprised him slightly - but then, when he thought about the way Monroe
had conducted himself throughout Other Half he realised that his surprise did the man a
dis-service. Why should he not be attracted to someone who was willing to go to such
lengths, make such sacrifices, for something he truly believed in? Monroe's dedication was
attractive in and of itself; the man wasn't the office-bound martinet he had seemed on
first acquaintance. Under that placid, formal exterior smouldered a man of strong ideals;
Meadows had been privileged to witness an occasion when those banked-down passions had
broken through to the surface, and he had been all but scorched by the contact. More than
that, he had himself been the object of that passion. The very notion still confused the
hell out of him.
The knowledge made him unwilling to consign this relationship with
Monroe to some musty file archive. If there was something salvageable from it, something
that could even for a moment rekindle that electrifying energy between them, Meadows
wanted it - even if it meant a long, long wait. He wanted another chance with Monroe: one
that wasn't burdened down with the weight of someone else's expectations: one that lacked
the contrivance and artificiality of their first encounter.
He wanted it to be real.
He wanted Monroe to be there out of choice, and not just because it
seemed like a good idea.
When it was all boiled down, what he wanted was for Monroe to want him.
If there was the least, the most tenuous chance of that being the case, he would hang on
and wait for as long as it took - because in the turbulent and traumatic days since the
Cornwallis Hotel he had decided that Andrew Monroe would be worth waiting for.
Back in uniform, hair tidy once more, Monroe still managed to look pale
and perturbed when he, Meadows and Cryer found themselves summoned to Brownlow's office at
the end of the afternoon. Meadows cast a worried glance in his direction, then mentally
corrected himself for the instinctive desire to offer comfort. Monroe could take care of
himself - he'd proved that often enough. He didn't need Jack Meadows guiding his footsteps
and picking up after him. Not that it stopped Meadows wanting to.
They sat looking at Brownlow like children awaiting exam results; like
talent contestants waiting to know which of them had won. His manner told them precisely
nothing; he was as grim and unsmiling as they had ever seen him, and he didn't exactly
look at anyone as he began speaking.
"What we undertook with Operation Other Half had a very serious
purpose," he said, slowly. "Prejudice - whether racial or sexual or with any
other basis - between officers is completely counter-productive. 'A house divided cannot
stand', you know. Junior officers can be corrected; officers with the rank and seniority
of ACC Singleton are usually considered above criticism." He paused, taking a long
and appraising look at each one of them in turn. "I have to inform you that ACC
Singleton has tendered his resignation on health grounds, with immediate effect. In fact
he's already cleared his desk and gone. I'm not prepared to say more than that about it,
but I hope you'll all consider it was worth your very considerable efforts."
The atmosphere in the room suddenly lightened. There was no outbreak of
rejoicing - Brownlow's expression would have forbidden it even if they had felt like
indulging themselves in a celebration, and they were all too well-disciplined to give vent
to their feelings in front of him. Meadows' heart leaped, a triumphant chorus running
through his mind.
We did it, fellers. We did it.
"I've turned the audio-tape over to MS15," Brownlow was
saying. "You'll see to it that all paper records are destroyed and no copies made.
And for god's sake somebody get rid of that bloody videotape, will you? Just the thought
of a thing like that even existing does my blood-pressure no good whatsoever."
"Sir," Cryer said, smiling, "I'll volunteer for that. It
would be a pleasure."
Meadows nodded his agreement. "Fine with me." A heavy weight
had lifted from his shoulders; without the burden of Other Half pressing on him he felt
ten years younger and able to cope with anything.
He glanced sidelong in Monroe's direction and briefly took in the grave
profile etched against the evening light.
"Good. Now, after today there is to be no mention of this case at
all. None of it ever happened. Is that clear?"
Their assent reached him as a ragged chorus.
"I will, naturally, deny knowing anything about it. You must
understand, all of you, that shaking the foundations of Force Headquarters the way we've
just done is only to be attempted in the most extreme of cases; I won't, for instance,
tolerate a series of campaigns against senior staff officers. This is a once in a lifetime
opportunity," he added, more whimsically, looking to them for agreement.
"Very well. Now that's out of the way I also want to add that as
far as I'm concerned you have all acted with the best interests of the Force in general at
heart and I hope that at some future date you'll be able to see the rewards of your
efforts in a more intelligent attitude towards gay and lesbian officers. This has been a
rather grubby business all round, but hopefully some good will come of it in the
long-term. Thank you all."
That was it. They were dismissed. The three of them stood, feeling
incredibly light-headed, and found that Brownlow was ushering them towards the door.
"Well, Jack ... Andrew ... " The senior man's false bonhomie
grated on their stretched nerves; he had been with them all along, yet he could have had
no conception of how delicate a matter this was for them. How it had affected all of them
emotionally. "I suppose you'll both be jolly grateful this is all over and you can
get back to your wives? That kind of play-acting can't be very pleasant - wouldn't suit
me, that's for certain. Try to put it out of your minds quickly, if you can."
To Brownlow, it was obviously as simple as that.
"Yes, sir," Monroe said, a little too quickly for Meadows'
comfort. "We'll try."
Meadows heard himself mumbling something non-committal about getting
back to normal before he hurried through the outer room in pursuit of Monroe.
"Andrew? Bob? Just a moment."
They both turned, and although he made a point of looking into Monroe's
eyes he saw nothing there other than a perfectly ordinary expression of mild enquiry - yet
their relationship had changed irrevocably, and they both knew it.
"Look, I need a drink," Meadows said, putting into words the
first thought that popped into his head. "What say we round up a few bodies and all
go round to The Grapes? Let our hair down a bit? We could all do with a bit of a break.
The silence before Monroe answered was interminable, and Meadows had
the distinct impression that in Monroe's mind both the question and the answer were
something other than they had at first appeared.
"Yes," he said distantly, after what seemed a century or
more. "That's a good idea. Bob, see if you can persuade June Ackland - and what about
Carver and Lines?"
"I'll issue an engraved invitation," Meadows grinned.
"Bob, you get to work on uniform and see how many takers you get."
Cryer laughed. "You try keeping Garfield, Quinnan and Hollis away
from a boozer if someone else is paying. And that goes double for Tony Stamp! I'll get
started right away."
"Good. Andrew, what about your sergeants? Can you talk Matt Boyden
into coming along?"
"I shouldn't think I'd have too much difficulty," Monroe told
him, quietly. "If you'll excuse me, I should just catch John Maitland too."
"The more the merrier," Meadows told him expansively, and
watched the dark-haired man hurry off down the corridor with an expression on his face
which came very close to being unmitigated delight.
"Is this seat taken?"
Sitting in what passed for a quiet corner in the bar of The Grapes
Andrew Monroe was shaken out of his reverie instantly by the warm tone in which the
question was asked.
"No." Despite his best intentions, he smiled.
Meadows lowered himself onto the bar stool opposite and grimaced across
a few feet of smoke-laden air. A good half of the relief was packed into the bar; Kathy
Marshall and Norika Datta had taken possession of the jukebox and were fending off advice
from Hollis and Stamp; Quinnan and Garfield were playing pool; Lines and Cryer were at the
bar, and Ackland and Carver were deep in conversation with Loxton. The atmosphere was
already relaxed and friendly although it was still only early evening; this had the
makings of being one of the all-time great Sun Hill binges, although most of those present
had very little idea of that at the moment.
"Half these people don't know what they're celebrating," he
said, "and the other half wouldn't consider it a victory."
"And we do?"
A huge grin broke across Meadows' face. "Yes. We do."
He sipped at his pint in silence, uncertain when he had last been as happy as he was at
this precise moment. "Andrew, I think I owe you another apology. There's something
you don't know that I should have told you right at the beginning."
Monroe's eyebrows rose. "It wouldn't be anything to do with your
relationship with Frank Burnside, by any chance?" he asked, archly.
Meadows stopped with the glass halfway to his lips. "How the hell
did you know that?"
"Singleton hinted as much in the first phone call - and then he
mentioned your name when we met. However discreet you thought you were being, Jack, he
knew all about it."
"Maybe it was just guesswork." He was troubled by it,
nevertheless. "Frank wouldn't have talked - and I know I didn't."
Monroe shrugged. "Then perhaps you were seen together somewhere,
and somebody started adding two and two. It doesn't really matter whether he guessed it or
knew for sure; it only matters that it happened. Tell me, is there any man in this nick
who hasn't slept with Frank Burnside?"
Meadows winced. "One or two," he acknowledged, knowing he
deserved the rebuke. "Carver, for sure. Mr Brownlow, presumably."
"And you, of course. It was your first time, wasn't
A slight flush passed across Monroe's features. "You know it
"Then you and Richard Innes weren't lovers. When you told
me that story, it crossed my mind that you might have been. There was more to it than just
friendship, though, wasn't there?"
The dark-haired man shook his head. "It wasn't sexual - far from
it. It's a lot simpler than that. In actual fact we were distantly related - our mothers
were cousins. I was a few years older and when we ended up on the same relief I was
supposed to keep an eye on him. No-one in the family actually blamed me for not being able
to save his life, but ... "
"They didn't need to," Meadows surmised. "You blamed
"Yes. Even now - every Christmas, every birthday, every big family
occasion - there's a gap where Richard should have been. We weren't close, I don't
know if he was gay, but I still feel ... responsible for what happened to him."
"You weren't. You said yourself that mentally he was too fragile
for the job. A good Inspector would have spotted that and weeded him out, but he didn't
have a good Inspector - he had Ronnie Singleton. He needed an Inspector like Andrew
Monroe. I don't think there was anything more you could have done at the time, Andrew.
Give yourself a break, eh?"
A long pause; to Meadows, an eternity. "I don't know if I
can," Monroe told him, with a grimace. "But thank you. I appreciate what you've
said, Jack. And the reason you said it."
Meadows leaned forward, minimising the distance between them and
somehow managing not to drag Monroe across the table and debauch him in public although it
involved a supreme effort of self-restraint.
"Andrew, we're busy skating around a very important subject here.
You know that, don't you?"
He waited until Monroe's eyes had fastened on his, reading the answer
before the other man spoke.
"Yes. I suppose we are."
"I'm only going to ask you once. If the answer's 'no', then we'll
forget all about it." Meadows gathered his courage together, visibly steeling himself
for rejection. "I won't lie to you, Andrew; it was great with you. The Earth moved
... all that sort of stuff. I could get very fond of you and I'd really like another
chance to ... to be with you. Would you ever consider ... I mean, not immediately,
obviously, but maybe at some future date ... Could you bring yourself to ... ?" He
trailed off, desperately entangled in a maze of half-formed questions, unable to bring
himself to put into words the single desire that had coalesced out of the confusion of his
feelings. "Christ, this is pathetic!"
A long way back, deep behind Andrew Monroe's eyes, there was a sparkle
which suddenly reduced the room and the people around them to the same significance as the
threads of smoke curling through the air. He didn't speak, but then he didn't need to; the
look said it all, and Meadows read it as though it was written in letters of flame twelve
"Tell me there's a chance," Meadows whispered softly,
urgently. "Just a chance!"
"Jack ... " Monroe said, on a note of wistful regret, and
answered all Meadows' questions in that one word.
Meadows leaned back in his chair, pink-faced, grinning, unable to take
his eyes off the flushed face of Andrew Monroe.
"You think we could start at the beginning again, Andrew?"
Monroe's rueful expression spoke volumes. "Right at the
The fair-haired man grinned and held out his right hand as though
introducing himself to a stranger.
"I'm Jack Meadows," he said, cheerfully. "How do you
"Seems to be going well, doesn't it?" Ackland looked tired,
most of the colour stolen from her face by a bright yellow sweater which was a wonderfully
cheerful colour but made her look much older than she was.
Cryer pushed a dry Martini in front of her. He followed her glance to
the table where the two senior officers were sitting.
"What's the betting they leave together?" Ackland asked,
He shook his head. "No way. In fact, if they don't it's a
"You'd like them to get together for real, wouldn't you?"
"What, and have them tearing the station apart every time they had
a domestic tiff?" He grimaced, then creased his face into an apologetic smile.
"Okay, maybe I would."
"Aaaaaahhhh," she teased. "You're just a big softie,
Bob. You really care about them; I know that. You know what occurred to me just now? That
there were three Sun Hill officers at the Cornwallis Hotel the other night - only one
of them stayed in the closet."
Cryer almost choked on his drink. "God, June, don't broadcast that
kind of thing! Some people might believe you!"
"Do you honestly think after this anyone's going to care
what kind of reputation you've got - or me, or Jim Carver, or anybody else? Wasn't that
what it was all about?"
"What what was all about?" Carver leaned over,
slightly the worse for wear, Tosh Lines supporting him by the elbow. They both looked
rather out of it, but Lines was obviously more compos mentis than his younger
colleague. "Taking my name in vain, June?"
"Some other time, Jim," the woman said, dismissing his
enquiry as though completely indifferent to it. "I'll explain it all one of these
days. For now, just take it from me you owe those two a drink."
"Which two? Meadows and Monroe? What the hell for?"
"It's thanks to them you've still got a job, mate," Cryer
said, mildly. "Take our word for it; you owe them."
"It's a wind-up," Carver said. "It's got to be a
"Put your hand in your pocket, Jimbo, and pay up like a man,"
Lines put in, cheerfully. "There are wheels within wheels. Right, June?"
"Something like that, Tosh."
Carver looked around at the three friendly but suddenly serious faces,
and knew that they meant business.
"Okay, I give in. I'm buying them drinks, but I don't know what
for. What are they on?"
"Pints," Lines said. "Come on, I'll help you fight your
way through to the bar. Promised Mike I'd keep an eye on you."
"Bloody Dashwood," Carver muttered, turning away. "Never
could leave well alone. Alright, Tosh, I'm here, okay?"
Cryer was taking a long draught from his pint. He swallowed, returned
the glass to the table, and glanced across at Ackland.
"That's it, then," he said. "Finished."
She quirked an eyebrow in the direction of Meadows and Monroe, lodged
in their corner and talking quietly about some subject of mutual interest. "Oh
Cryer held up both hands in a gesture of surrender. "Okay,"
he laughed, letting her optimism affect him. "Maybe it isn't. Maybe it's not quite
the end. Not yet, anyway."
"Not for them it isn't. I'll bet you, Bob."
The sergeant shook his head, smiling back at her. "No takers,
June," he said with a shrug.
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