"I panicked," Jamie said. "You know I don't speak French, I didn't know what they wanted...."
But at the sight of the gendarmes coming up the gangplank, Jamie had had a horrible feeling it was something to do with him. And something to do with that rich bitch...
"Jamie," Kell said, "surely a fine lad like yourself, in a place like the Riviera, doesn't need to be forcing himself on a girl."
"Didn't force her."
"I saw the police report. Her lip required stitches—bruises all over her body—"
Jamie yanked down the neck of his T-shirt. "See that?"
He pointed to a festering sore on his collarbone. "Bit me clear to the bone."
Kell could see his neck was bruised black-and-blue with bites.
"And my back's clawed raw—if she'd been trying to get away it'd been my face, right?"
Kell thought about it, studying Jamie's face. Jamie was not a good liar, which did not mean he would not lie.
Jamie went on: "Remember Cahill—how he said he liked to hurt them—couldn't get off, he said, unless they were trying to get away—said nothing turned him on like real screams?"
Kell nodded. "Go on."
"Remember what you said about it—it must be like being addicted or something? They even threw him out of that whorehouse in Bangkok. Well, Kellen, you ever know me to hurt a woman? I never have, don't want to, ain't my style. Hell, if I never screw again it's fine with me ... that sick rich cunt..."
"Jamie," Kell said, "they took photographs. Somebody roughed the girl up. Are you saying it wasn't you?"
Jamie slumped in his seat.
"It was me all right," he said, defeated. "But it's not what you think."
Jamie and Kell had had one of their occasional fights in Monte Carlo.
They could get along most of the time. Their flare-ups were usually caused by Kell's natural desire to be the boss—he was older and much wiser, after all—and Jamie's natural desire not to be bossed, because he didn't give a fuck who was older and wiser, after all.
In the very foreign ports, the dangerous ones, they never let a quarrel last.
They were far too dependent on each other, if for no other reason than for the comfort of knowing someone else would care if you died.
Tough, streetwise, good at self-survival in their very different ways, Jamie and Kell together added up to much more than the sum of their parts. They were too aware of this to easily surrender that advantage. What would surprise most people about their relationship was their total lack of trust in each other, which in no way interfered with their sincere affection—Jamie liked to listen while Kell liked to talk; it was perhaps the strongest of their bonds.
Still, in circumstances that gave each confidence in his power to survive on his own, tempers weren't so pliant.
And the French Riviera held no terror for either of them. They could afford the luxury of smoldering resentment.
In Sri Lanka, Kell had collected a small debt owed him and sold the pitiful boat. They had joined a crew on one of the last of the tramp steamers to Bombay, where there was again something owed to Kell Quinn.
Still insisting on working their way, much to Jamie's irritation, since in his opinion Kell could easily afford at least two third-class tickets, they gradually floated west.
"It'll do us good to work, Jamie," Kell said. "Keeps you from getting flabby and soft. And I'll need a large stake on this next caper."
"Easy for you to say," Jamie muttered. "You ain't working half skinned."
Jamie's disposition, which coped easily with sudden violence, wore ugly under constant pain.
And at Monte Carlo, every previous irritation swirled together into a vortex of anger.
Kell went to the casino every night and his moderate stake grew larger.
Jamie promptly lost everything he had.
Kell, ready to move on, told Jamie the only way he would accept him as a partner in his next scam—fleecing rich older ladies—was if Jamie pretended to be his valet.
Kell knew how to act in the playground of the rich; Jamie would be tossed out the first day.
Jamie didn't know how to dress for what occasion, what fork to use at dinner; his ignorance of even everyday manners, not to mention common grammar, would brand him as an impostor within minutes.
Kell might as well bring an orangutan and try to pass him off as a duke, and said so.
Jamie knew most of this made sense—it didn't hurt any less for that fact.
And he wasn't going to be anybody's manservant.
They had ended up swinging on each other—each claimed victory publicly, and privately conceded it.
And even just a few hours later, each missed the other, but not enough to reconcile.
Kell promptly moved into the upper circles, where his easy Irish charm, his quick wit, his careful wardrobe with scrupulous attention to details made everything so natural for him.
Jamie walked the other way and promptly got a job on a private yacht.
He was overqualified for a deckhand.
Though there were many young men looking for yachting jobs on the Riviera, Jamie definitely had an advantage. He could chart, navigate, steer, keep a log, as well as do the usual deckhand duties of bartending and lifeguarding.
The fact that he could also fix almost anything short of major engine problems cinched him the first job he applied for.
He was one of two deckhands—one of seven crew members.
The other deckhand was a Frenchman who spoke little English but knew enough to understood the captain, a tough, bald Brit. He and Jamie shared a crew cabin but little else.
The crew cabin on this boat was the most luxurious quarters Jamie had ever had.
Besides the captain and Jamie's bunkmate, there was a French chef who considered his importance on a par with the captain's and the Italian engineer who had been with the boat since its maiden voyage and referred to the ship as a person.
There were two stewardesses, to housekeep, help wait tables, and do laundry. One was old enough to be Jamie's mother and— typically—mothered him. He was constantly being plied with pastries and cheeses.
And since the food on the last freighter had been nearly inedible, Jamie had gone from slim to gaunt—he was grateful for the pastries and cheeses.
The other stewardess was cute and clean-cut and sleeping with the captain—Jamie steered clear.
Jamie respected the captain, who was tough but fair, always a important factor in what kind of job he did—given a task, he would do a good job. Given an order, he would rebel.
He couldn't take orders from someone he considered a fool; he'd had enough of mindless regimentation in the orphanage, the navy.
Captain Hughes was no fool.
But Captain Hughes had a word of caution for him. "You ever deal with the rich before?"
"No." Jamie thought bitter thoughts of Kell.
"I'll tell you this, young Sommers—there's law, and there's rich man's law. There's manners, and there's rich man's manners. The sun shines differently for them, the sea rocks special. If you can't live with that, you can't work here.
"Stay away from them, Jamie. They can crumple you like a paper cup and give you as much thought when tossing you overboard. Especially the girls."
It only took a few days to see what the captain meant.
La Petit Trope was a million-dollar motor sailer; she housed twelve guests in six staterooms; there was a bar saloon, an awning to unroll on the upper forward deck for outdoor dining, and a swimming platform in the bottom of aft deck, where the ski boat could dock.
There were teak decks, Lalique wineglasses; the silverware was silver. The sunshine did seem different,
more expensive, somehow.
Jamie had learned a lot about sails in the South Pacific; it was his favorite form of boating now, and he loved it when they cut the motors to be wind-borne.
This was a dream job. But there were days when he thought he wasn't being paid enough.
Jamie had always connected riches with old people. Like the benefactors at the orphanage, who seemed to visit only to make sure their names were slapped on a piece of bronze somewhere.
Even at the age of nine, Jamie thought they might be more concerned with the quality of the food served at the orphanage, with the fact that the nuns thought the cure for everything from stammering to cursing to poor reading skills was a good lashing.
Even at nine Jamie thought there might be different approaches to education.
This was his first experience with rich young people.
And Jamie, not at all easily intimated, was intimidated.
They were so sleek, so confident, so sure of who they were. Even the ones who weren't physically beautiful (and there were only a few) had an air of knowing they owned the world.
The girls, especially.
Jamie knew he was attractive to women. He was only five-foot-seven, but he had the muscled shoulders, the slim waist and hips of a swimmer. His hair was a gleaming mane of six different shades of gold, his eyes clear and direct. The women who could resist his slow hot smile fell for his boyish grin. Experienced at sixteen, now twenty-two, with five years at sea behind him, he thought he was expert.
So it was a new sensation—to feel awkward, clumsy, even tongue-tied in the presence of girls. Not that he should be speaking to them anyway, except to ask politely if they would like another drink, another soda.
He had never seen girls like these, all of them tanned, slim, dressed, or rather undressed, in the height of fashion—it was the heyday of the bikini.
And here on the Riviera, some of them didn't bother with the tops. It was the first time Jamie had seen "nice" girls, or at least girls who weren't known whores, parade around in public nearly naked.