"We're going the wrong way."
"No, we're not."
Bodie shook his head. When Doyle got an idea into his head, he kept it there. They'd been hiking along the cliff-top path for at least an hour without encountering anyone or anything other than a lot of pebbles. The bleak Scottish countryside and the overcast sky hadn't lightened his mood, either. Doyle had got the directions wrong, and that was all there was to it.
"The bloke said two miles, mate." Bodie stopped and crossed his arms. "We've gone three, maybe even four. Face it, we're lost."
Forced to halt his vigorous stride as well, Doyle put hands on hips and frowned at his partner. He couldn't really be angry with him since he was the one who'd talked Bodie into coming along on this venture in the first place.
The "venture" was to find a cottage to rent for Doyle's cousin, a semi-invalid who had grown tired of London. He rarely did anything for the few relatives he was still on speaking terms with, but he'd always enjoyed hiking about the countryside, so he'd agreed to look around. Doyle suspected Bodie had decided to come along only because he was in between birds and at loose ends.
"Well?" Bodie demanded. "We're lost, aren't we?"
"How can we be lost? There's only one path."
"A path that doesn't go anywhere, mate. Let's turn back. Startin' to get dark out, in case you hadn't noticed. That pub back in the village should be open now."
"Yeah, ok, you could be right. Let me just check around the next bend before we turn back."
"Get a move on, then."
Doyle hurried up a slight rise and around the bend and looked ahead for the cottage he'd been told about back in the village. Not a sign. He scanned the beach below, not expecting to see anything, but a slight movement caught his eye. Someone was moving in the shadows of the cliff face. He called to Bodie.
"Did you find it?" His partner loped up beside him.
"No, but someone's on the beach. Maybe they know where the bloody place is."
"Let's just go back. I'm not hiking down there." Bodie tugged at Doyle's arm, impatient to get the autumn chill out of his bones with the help of a lager.
"I'll just try a yell." Doyle shrugged him off, raised his arms, and shouted at the figure, which had now moved out from the cliffs. Definitely a man, and he'd stopped at the sound of Doyle's voice.
Doyle waved again. He was certain the fellow saw him; good thing he'd worn a light-colored jacket. A few feet ahead, a path led downward. "Come on, it's not that far."
Bodie sighed. Scrambling down a cliff at dusk did not constitute his idea of fun, but Doyle had that determined look about him which brooked no argument. Bodie started down after him, amused by the way his partner always assumed he'd come along on any scheme he cooked up, like some kind of loyal dog. He'd lost count of the times Doyle had interrupted his days off or disrupted holiday plans to drag him around on some personal investigation, never even questioning that Bodie would agree. And, of course, Bodie always did. "Why do I do this?" he muttered, half-walking, half-sliding down the narrow path, knowing the answer well enough. "This is nuts," he said to himself in disgust.
The gunshot took Bodie completely by surprise. He heard the bullet crack against the rock wall in front of him and instantly flung himself flat. "Ray!" A wrenching fear twisted through him. "Ray!"
"I'm okay!" Doyle had dropped to the ground.
Bodie let out a sigh of relief, the tension easing in his gut.
Unarmed, Doyle felt helpless and an easy target. He quickly shrugged his jacket off; underneath was a dark red shirt. Tossing the jacket further down the cliff path, he heard a second shot ring out; it split the jacket's sleeve.
Bodie crawled up closely behind him. "What now?"
"'Course not." It had gone quiet below; too quiet. "He could be coming up."
Doyle could see the bottom of the path straight below him, it wasn't more than thirty feet to the beach. "Can't see him. We could try to get back to the top, fetch the locals."
"Doubt if he'll let us."
"Where the hell is he, then?" Doyle scooted forward a bit; nothing happened. To the left of the path, the beach lay strewn with boulders, to the right the cliff edge jutted out, blocking his view. He edged further down, trying to get far enough to see past the cliff. The sun had nearly set, its dim glow fading behind the outline of an island which lay about a mile off-shore.
Doyle inched along the path until he had a view beyond the cliff edge, and there, about a hundred feet away, lay a rowboat. And not far from the boat he saw a man, certainly the same one who'd shot at them, pushing a large box towards the boat.
"Bodie!" he hissed.
"Yeah? You see him?" Bodie crept up beside him; the path was wider there. He nodded when Doyle pointed out the boat. "Let's take the bastard."
They didn't need to discuss a plan; they worked together as one. Bodie indicated the boulders. Doyle nodded.
Bodie edged past him and worked his way down to the beach, then dashed behind the rocks. Then he carefully made his way through them, getting closer to where the boat lay. At the same time, Doyle got to his hands and knees and crawled along the path, keeping close to the base of the cliff wall. When he reached the end of it, where the cliff met the beach, he went into a crouch and waited, ready. It was up to Bodie now.
Their attacker had his back to Doyle, about twenty feet away. He didn't look terribly formidable--about six feet tall with an average build. There was no sign of the gun. Any second now....
Bodie suddenly leapt up behind the boulders, shouted, and disappeared again. The man turned and started towards the rocks, crossing in front of Doyle's location, and when he was only ten feet away, Doyle made his move. He ran across the sand and made a flying leap at the man, at knee level. To his surprise, the man hopped nimbly to one side at the last second, and Doyle found himself sprawled flat with sand up his nose.
Bodie dashed out from the boulders, and the man swung around to face him. Bodie went for a gut punch, which the man easily deflected, bringing his knee up at the same time. The brunt of the blow hit below Bodie's ribs, knocking the wind out of him. As he fell backward, he saw Doyle scrabble to his feet. "Get him!" Bodie managed to gasp.
Warily, Doyle circled the man, glancing briefly at Bodie, wincing in sympathy. There was nothing he wanted more than to go to his partner, but putting this bastard down took priority. Doyle anxiously waited for the right opening, and it came when his opponent lashed out with a twisting karate move. Doyle ducked, turned, and landed a vicious kidney punch.
It didn't faze the man. He did a perfect twist, turn and high kick, catching Doyle on the side of the head.
"Ray!" Bodie staggered to his feet. He tried to think of a good, unexpected move, well aware, now, that their attacker had been trained by the best. But he hesitated too long; the man pulled a gun from inside his jacket and stepped back from them both. "Don't move."
Doyle knelt on the sand, rubbing his head and spitting the grit from his mouth. "Wasn't planning on it."
The man grinned. "Black belt, karate, Tai Kwon Do, Aikido--you name it, I know it. You're rank amateurs."
Bodie went to help Doyle to his feet, keeping a supporting arm around his friend's shoulders. "You okay?"
"Shut up." The man motioned with the gun. "Thought I'd scared you lot off before. What am I supposed to do with you now?"
Bodie shrugged. Might as well get it over with. "Kill us?" he suggested. Doyle gave him a wide-eyed look.
"Not just yet. Might have a use for you. You're sneaky bastards, you are. What are you doing 'round these parts, anyway?"
"Looking for a cottage."
"Cottage? Only cottage near here is out on the island."
"Is that where you're headed?" Bodie asked.
The man rubbed his chin. "That I am. And I don't fancy rowin' that far, not with a storm coming in. Hard work, that is."
"Eh?" Bodie looked out at the island. The sun had vanished completely, and ominous black clouds were rolling landward. "Nasty."
"Very nasty. But I've got a solution for that. You two look strong and healthy. How're your arms?"
An hour later Bodie's arms were very sore indeed. He and Doyle sat scrunched together in the middle of the boat, each pulling on an oar, supposedly in tandem, but their rhythm was off just a bit, making the work harder. The wind had picked up, and the waves were increasingly wild. When Bodie looked behind him, he could see the dark outline of the island, but it was still a good quarter-mile away.
Their captor refused to tell them his name, so they had taken to calling him Smith. He sat in a relaxed way, the crate in front of him, his gun trained on them. "Pick up the speed!" he shouted.
Bodie and Doyle rowed harder. Fat drops of rain began splashing onto their bare heads, and the wind whipped the water back in their faces.
"Feel damn stupid," Doyle muttered under his breath. "Shouldn't have been caught."
"Maybe. Maybe not," Bodie replied. "'Smith' here is an expert. Seen that style of fighting a lot in the SAS."
"Great." Doyle kept his voice low. "We need a plan. Once we reach that island we're dead--"
"Quiet!" Smith shouted over the roar of the storm. "Row faster!"
"You want my arms to fall off?" Bodie shouted back. He was definitely out of sync with Doyle now. Trying to adjust, he lost his grip on the oar. Doyle stopped rowing until Bodie got the oar back under control, then they started up again, uniting their strokes. The final quarter-mile wore them both down to the point where they could barely move, and they looked behind them at every stroke in search of the landing site. At last they could see it, a small wooden dock jutting out from an uninviting, rocky shore. But by now, the wind and waves were playing havoc with the boat and they didn't know if they could reach it safely.
Smith began sliding around in the tossing boat. Unable to keep his balance, he grabbed at the chest to steady himself. Bodie saw his chance and took it. Thrusting his oar at Doyle, he leapt forward, knocking the gun from Smith's hand in one swift movement.
Doyle cursed. He couldn't keep the boat going straight by himself; the wind was too strong. They were close to shore, but he couldn't manoeuvre towards the dock. They were going to break up on the rocks.
Smith and Bodie struggled, trying to get at each other over the chest, and rocking the boat even more. Doyle gave up on rowing completely and jumped in to help his partner. Bodie had Smith's right arm locked in a tight grip. Doyle tried to grab the other arm, but Smith scrabbled on top of the chest, shoving them both backwards. However, his own position proved too precarious, and as a large wave crashed against the boat, Smith toppled into the water. The boat swung wildly about, and Doyle snatched up an oar just as they came up towards the shore. They were headed straight for the rocky outcrop, and Doyle used the oar to fend off the impact. He succeeded in keeping the boat off the rocks, but the oar splintered in two.
Bodie was busy trying to do something useful with the remaining oar, and not having much luck. The rain had increased, and he couldn't see much of anything through it except dark shapes. He tried to steer between them, aiming for a clear space, but at the last second a wave crashed into the boat, tossing it straight into the rocks.
"Ray! Jump!" Bodie leapt out just as the boat smashed into pieces. The freezing water engulfed him, and he struggled to the surface, spluttering. He couldn't see Doyle, or much of anything, for that matter. Wood from the boat whipped past him on a vicious wave; he grabbed hold of it. "Ray!" Where the hell was he?
The next wave washed him closer to shore, and he felt bottom. He staggered between the rocks to collapse onto a narrow, pebble-covered beach, out of breath. Ray--he had to find Ray. Bodie tried to move, but bent over in pain as his lungs refused to cooperate. Terrified of wasting precious time, Bodie took all of five seconds to catch his breath and struggled to his feet again. He saw what looked like the bow of the boat heading straight at him and scrambled out of the way. The rowboat had been smashed in two, and it was the front half that had washed up beside him. Christ, was Ray still in the water, or.... Another wave pushed the broken boat further up, wedging the bow between two boulders, and Bodie scurried over to the wreck. Doyle lay sprawled face down, one hand still clutching an oar end.
Steeling himself, unable to consider the unthinkable, Bodie pried the hand loose and rolled him carefully onto his back. Doyle coughed and let out a moan. Immensely relieved, Bodie said a soft "thank you" to the higher power he always claimed not to believe in. Then he gently brushed the wet curls from his partner's forehead, and his fingers came away sticky with blood. Anxious, he knelt closer to check Doyle's condition, finding a jagged wound on the left side of his forehead. He immediately tore a strip of cloth from his own shirt and pressed it against the wound. Doyle moaned again and opened his eyes.
"Hey." Bodie smiled. "You alive?"
"Hm. Barely. You?"
"I've had better days."
"Trip," Doyle muttered. "Talking you into it."
"For chrissake's, it's not your fault." Bodie sighed, laying a comforting hand on Doyle's arm. "You know, sometimes I think we just naturally attract nutters."
"Yeah. Part of the job."
"You hurt anywhere else?"
"Don't think so. A little sore."
Bodie carefully wrapped the makeshift bandage around Doyle's head, then gently examined the rest of his body, not finding anything seriously wrong. He lifted Doyle out of the boat and carried him further up the beach, heading towards the dock. They needed shelter, but Bodie wasn't sure where they would find it.
A dark shape bobbed in the water near the dock. Bodie laid Doyle down at the beach end of the wooden structure and went to investigate. It was Smith, and he was dead. Bodie dragged the body up onto the beach as far as he could and searched the man's pockets, finding a water-logged wallet and a set of keys.
Doyle groaned softly, and Bodie hurried back to him. He found that more blood had seeped through the bandage, and Doyle was only semi-conscious. Worried that the wound was worse than it looked, Bodie rapidly scouted the area until he found a narrow path leading up from the beach. Then he picked Doyle up again and began hiking.
The cottage Smith had mentioned was their only hope for shelter. The rain pelted fiercely as Bodie slogged his way inland, and the wind bit into his face. He had trouble keeping his footing in the darkness, and twice, nearly dropped his unconscious partner.
They really had landed themselves in it this time, he thought. What if they did find the cottage and someone was there--friends of Smith, and just as unpleasant to deal with? Bodie fervently wished, not for the first time, that he had his gun.
When he finally came upon the small house, practically running into the doorstep in the dark, he felt a glimmer of hope. No lights, no sound. The place seemed empty.
He laid Doyle down gently on the porch and tried the door. Locked. Ah, but he had Smith's keys, didn't he. Bodie tried them all, and on a second attempt, one of them popped the door open. He felt for a light switch and found none. Slowly, he crossed what turned out to be a living room, bumping into a coffee table, then banging his hip into a sofa end. An inner doorway led to a kitchen, where he finally managed to find a light switch that actually worked. So the place wasn't entirely primitive. Must be a generator somewhere.
Bodie explored the rest of the cottage to make certain no one was there. It didn't take long. There was only a tiny bathroom off one side of the kitchen, and a bedroom off the other. Satisfied that it was safe, Bodie went back to bring Doyle inside.
His partner showed no sign of waking. Bodie laid him on the floor and tugged off Doyle's shoes and socks, and then the rest of his soaked clothing. He carried him through to the bedroom and put him to bed under the heavy covers. The only source of heat in the cottage seemed to be a wood stove in the kitchen, and it was empty. A back door led to a covered porch and a huge pile of wood, most of it dry, but Bodie felt too exhausted to deal with it now. All he wanted was to rest for a bit; after that, he'd get around to more practical matters.
Shutting the back door, Bodie went into the bathroom, where he found a first aid kit. He put a new, clean bandage around Doyle's head. After removing his own wet clothes, he turned off the kitchen light and crawled under the covers of the large bed. He snuggled close to Doyle, telling himself it was just for the warmth, and fell fast asleep, not stirring until the next morning.
Bodie awoke to find an arm that didn't belong to him lying across his chest and a curly head nuzzling his shoulder. The first thing he did was touch the back of his hand to Doyle's forehead, pleased to find there was no sign of a fever. He listened to Doyle's light snoring for a while, and decided not to wake him. It felt good just to lie there, to feel the warmth of the man beside him. Bodie lay there, adjusting to the strange surroundings while images from the watery adventure flashed through his mind. What was it all about? What had been in that chest? He wondered if it had washed ashore; his curiosity wanted satisfying.
A dozen more questions ran through his head. Was there anyone else here, was there any communication with the mainland, was there food and water, how the hell were they going to get off the damn island? Bodie closed his eyes and tried to relax, to think straight. Unfortunately, his bladder demanded emptying. He carefully shifted Doyle's arm and tried to extract himself from the bed without waking him, but failed. Doyle opened his eyes and rubbed at his head, nearly dislodging the bandage. He muttered something unintelligible.
"Be right back." Bodie hopped off to the toilet. When he finished, he checked his clothes--still damp--and found a towel to wrap around himself, which did little to reduce the cold. Bodie dashed back to the bedroom and began rummaging through a small wardrobe.
Doyle managed to sit up, propping the pillows behind him. He watched Bodie toss clothes onto the bed. Leaning over to pull a few pairs of jeans out of the pile, he asked, "Where are our clothes?"
"Still damp." Bodie threw yet another pair of blue jeans on the bed. "Smith had your clothing style, mate." He gave up looking and came around the bed to sit beside Doyle. With slow movements, he unwrapped the bandage from Doyle's head and gingerly touched the bruised, swollen area around the cut. At least it wasn't bleeding any more. Bodie got out the first aid kit and put a new, smaller bandage over the area.
"You're covered in goosebumps, mate," Doyle observed. "Isn't there any heat in this place?"
"Wood stove. I'm gettin' to it. Just got up, you know."
"Yeah, well, is there another towel in the bathroom?"
Bodie nodded. "All you have to do is make a run for it. Pretty cold between here and there." He grinned.
Doyle sighed. He threw the covers aside and made his way to the bathroom in a dignified manner.
Half an hour later, Bodie had the wood stove going. He draped their clothes nearby and was about to set about the task of breakfast when he realized Doyle hadn't emerged from the bathroom. Muttering an imprecation, hoping the idiot hadn't gone and passed out on him, he pushed open the bathroom door and was hit by a blast of heat. Doyle sprawled in the tub with hot, steaming water up to his neck. He smiled up at Bodie. "You got the heat going out there yet?"
Bodie thought about the time he'd spent running about in the cold in just his towel, getting the wood, getting the bloody thing going properly, while Doyle had been happily soaking in a warm bath. "Yeah, I got it going. And I'm about to go feed it some more. With your clothes. He spun on his heel and marched into the kitchen, grabbed Doyle's jeans and shirt and stuffed them in a cabinet. Then he leaned against the counter, arms crossed, mentally counting the seconds as he listened to the thrashing and splashing sounds emanating from the bath. He'd got all the way to five before Doyle skidded into the kitchen, starkers. "Where are they?!"
Bodie casually nodded at the wood stove.
"You didn't!" Doyle found the oven mitt and opened the stove door. "You lying bastard." He tossed the warm mitt at Bodie's chest. "Where are they?"
"Must have misplaced 'em somewhere."
"Right." Doyle snatched up Bodie's trousers, which were drying over a chair, and dangled them near the stove.
Sighing, Bodie retrieved the clothes from the cabinet. Doyle dropped the trousers and grabbed his own stuff back. Nothing was quite dry yet, but they were close enough, and rather than risk another Bodie prank, he put them on. Doyle was only too well aware how capable Bodie was of going quite peculiar on him at times.
Doyle decided it was time to examine the house more thoroughly. Bodie waited another half hour for his clothes to dry completely before joining him.
A trap door in the living room led beneath the house, where they found the generator and the hot water tank, and nothing else. The living room contained the sofa, coffee table, two rickety chairs, and a small cupboard crammed with board games. Doyle hauled out a chess set, cribbage board, and a pack of cards.
"Think we're gonna get that bored?" Bodie asked.
"Depends how long we're stuck out here, doesn't it?" Doyle had been trying not to think about it, but their situation didn't look too promising. "The boat's wrecked, there's no way to communicate with the mainland, and nobody knows we're out here. So how long is it going to be before somebody finds us, hm? We're not talking days, Bodie. We're talking weeks. Maybe even months."
"Nonsense. Smith must have had a radio out here. We just haven't found it yet."
"I'll believe it when I see it." Doyle belatedly realized he hadn't seen or heard of their recent captor; he wished his head felt less foggy. "What happened to the bastard, anyway?"
"Drowned. Hang about, he had a wallet." Bodie retrieved it, and opened it to reveal a small wad of bills, a driving license and a photo of two similar-looking men, one of them the dead man. "John Jacobson. Thirty-eight years old, last address is Glasgow."
"Let's see." Doyle studied the ID, frowning. "Name sounds familiar. Read it or heard it recently." He rubbed at his forehead. "Damn. I know it. Jacobson...Jacobson--"
The repetition of the name made something click in Bodie's mind. "Brothers," he said, tapping the photo. "It was on the radio, at the pub in the last village we stopped at."
"Bank robbery. No," Doyle corrected himself, "armored car. And it happened in Glasgow."
"Right. One of 'em was shot, though. The other brother. John out there got away with a big haul."
"The chest," Doyle said.
"We'll check for it later," Bodie quickly replied. He didn't want Doyle out hiking around just yet, not until he'd rested a bit more and gotten some food down him. "Let's do this systematically, okay?"
Doyle agreed, and they finished their exploration of the living room before moving on to the sleeping area. No one had hidden anything under the bed, and the wardrobe contained only clothes. The kitchen proved more useful, being well stocked with dry and tinned goods, and while the refrigerator contained perhaps a week's worth of food, there was a large, separate freezer crammed with packaged meat and frozen dinners. Enough food, in all, to last several months.
"Haven't found any booze yet." Bodie shoved some pots and pans back into a cabinet. There wasn't any place left to search, and he felt discouraged about the radio. "You suppose there's anyone else on this bloody island?"
"We'd better get to the outdoor exploring, I guess. After breakfast." Doyle rummaged through the fridge and found one carton of still-fresh eggs, potatoes, and coffee. He went to work while Bodie continued his search. A few minutes later Bodie let out a yell.
"Radio?" Doyle set down the spatula and peered into the cabinet that Bodie was hauling a large box out of. The box was full of bottles.
"Scotch." Bodie lifted each bottle reverently. "Rum. More scotch. Pure malt Scotch. Cowley'd be pleased. Vodka. Gin. Ah, drambuie. Quite the collection."
"Yeah, well, save some for later."
Bodie did his best to look offended. "I'm not going to drink it now. You done cooking?"
They ate their breakfast at the tiny kitchen table. Doyle insisted on washing up the dishes immediately after.
"Never knew you were so domestic." Bodie left him to it and went to rummage about in the bedroom for a coat. He found a leather jacket which fit him quite well, then waited impatiently by the door.
"Can't get the egg off it you let it sit," Doyle said, scraping at the plates.
"Cookin' and cleanin'--you'll be darning me socks next."
Doyle ignored him and finished up. He had the feeling Bodie wouldn't be much help if they did end up stranded here a while.
Since he'd lost his own jacket, Doyle hunted through the wardrobe for another. The Jacobson brothers apparently dressed alike; he found a second leather jacket and put it on. He smiled over at Bodie. "All you need now is to put on a pair of those jeans, and we'll be a matched set."
"What, so we can both look scruffy together?"
Doyle aimed a punch at his shoulder, but Bodie nimbly avoided it and dashed outside. Shaking his head, Doyle gave up and followed his partner. Why was Bodie, who was practically dancing his way down the path towards the beach, in such a good mood? He trudged slowly after him. His head still hurt a bit, but at least he wasn't groggy anymore.
The ground was still soggy from the rain, but the sky was clear and the air was crisp, cool and invigorating. Doyle picked up speed as he neared the beach, where Bodie had already disappeared down a slight hill. He discovered his partner tugging at the lid of the chest, which had washed ashore near the rocks. Nearby, Jacobson's body lay where Bodie had left it.
Doyle shivered. "Don't you think we should do something about him?"
"Help me with this first."
Doyle obediently knelt beside him, and together they wrenched off the lid.
Bodie let out a whistle. Money bags. They'd been right about the robbery. The chest had four bulging sacks, each stenciled with BARCLAYS. As he opened one and pawed through the piles of bound notes, Bodie said, "Never seen this much cash in one place before."
Doyle hefted one of the bags. "Must be half a million quid here." Something metallic glinted beneath the bags. He hauled them all out. A radio lay on the bottom. It had cracked open and pieces were strewn across the crate.
Bodie poked at it. "Full of water and sand, too. Looks as if you were right. We might be stuck here a while."
Doyle sighed and sat back on his heels. "Yeah, and with our luck, Cowley will dock our holiday time for it." He stared morosely at the money sacks. "Half a million pounds. Can't do much with it here."
"Oh, I don't know." Bodie stood, picking up the two bags. "Could make for a very interesting game of Monopoly."
They brought the bags back to the cottage, then went out to explore the island further. Directly outside the cottage stood a well, and a little ways down from it was a shed containing a variety of tools and a few pots of paint. The land immediately surrounding the cottage was a flat, empty field, bearing nothing of interest. Beyond it, the land turned hilly and rocky, with a smattering of scrubby bushes. They spent a few hours hiking about the small island, finding it deserted.
As they made their way back to the field by the cottage, they heard the distinct sound of an engine overhead. A small plane was heading towards them. They both ran out into the center of the field, waving their arms and shouting, even though they knew they wouldn't be heard. The plane flew over them and on to the northwest, towards a group of islands in the distance.
"Think he saw us?" Bodie asked.
"Maybe. Probably just thought we were saying hello."
They spent a grim afternoon burying Jacobson's body in a shallow grave on the beach. Then they returned to a chilly cottage, the wood stove having long since gone out. Bodie, decidedly less chipper than he'd been that morning, went straight for the Scotch, letting Doyle deal with getting the stove going. He took a few gulps right from the bottle before finding two glasses and filling them. When Doyle finished with the wood stove, Bodie handed him a glass.
"Bit early in the day, isn't it?" But Doyle took it.
"When did that ever stop us? Besides," Bodie grinned, "as soon as we get through this bottle, we can stick a note inside and set it afloat."
"Don't joke. Might be our only way off this ruddy rock." Doyle leaned against the kitchen counter, sipping his drink.
"Reckon they'll find our motor in that village," Bodie said. "Somebody will remember us. That bloke who told us to go on that bloody hike, for one."
"If he's around for Cowley to talk to. We went quite a ways down that path, too. And there are dozens of these little islands around here."
"Your jacket is lying back on that path," Bodie said. "Got your ID in it, right?"
"True." Doyle felt a moment of optimism. But only a moment. "'Course, it's a tan jacket, lying on a sandy path. And we barely noticed the path from the top of the cliff, and--"
"Knock it off, Ray." Bodie refused to be disheartened. "They'll find it, sooner or later. What's the big worry, anyway? We've got shelter, food, water, heat. It's not like we're in any danger. Relax." He smiled. "You even get the pleasure of my company. How can you complain?"
Doyle finally stopped staring into his glass and smiled back. "Modest as ever, aren't you?"
"Yeah. And smart, too. Gonna beat the socks off you at Monopoly." Bodie raised his glass. "Cheers." He tossed the rest of his drink down.
Five days later Bodie wasn't smiling much.
There was no sign of imminent rescue; half a dozen Scotch bottles had been emptied and set adrift with notes inside; the cold, rainy weather continued unabated; and he was down 150,000 quid to Doyle in Monopoly. But those were the least of his problems.
Their nights had become tense as well as their days. Sharing a bed had proved a bit too revealing of Bodie's feelings. This morning, as he sat on the edge of the bed waiting for Doyle to finish up in the bath, Bodie reflected on the mistakes he had made. On their second night in the cottage, having taken Doyle's previous cuddling up to him as encouragement, he had casually draped an arm around his partner's chest, only to find it rudely rebuffed. Bodie had complicated his error by asking him why.
"Don't wanna get that cozy," Doyle had muttered sleepily.
"You were cozy before."
"Was half-concussed before," and with that, Doyle had shifted as far over on his side of the bed as possible, his back to Bodie.
The next night was colder than usual, the stove went out early, and Bodie tried the pretext of freezing to get close to Doyle. He inched nearer to his partner's rigid back, shivering for effect. "Brrr," he muttered, finally snuggling up against Doyle, arms ready to wrap around the slender form.
"Get off," Doyle said sharply.
"There's another duvet in the cupboard."
End of experiment.
Bodie sighed, remembering the last few nights, which hadn't been any smoother. He'd had lustful thoughts about Ray Doyle from early on in their partnership. Birds were fine in their own way, but.... Bodie closed his eyes and visualized that well-muscled chest and abdomen, those slim hips, that tight bum...and other parts, which he'd got quite a few views of lately what with dressing and undressing in such close quarters. It was agony, having Ray so near, so available. Bodie sometimes wondered if his partner fully realized just how fuckable he looked most of the time. Surely Doyle was aware of what he was doing when draping himself in doorways the way he did. Or the way he casually leaned on any available piece of furniture, hips tilted, as if it had been put there solely for him to pose against. The way he walked-- No, the way he sauntered. The way he strutted his stuff.... Bodie felt hard just thinking about it. Damn. All alone on an island, the perfect place to fulfill years of fantasies--and Doyle wasn't having any. It was downright torment.
He heard Doyle splashing out of the tub. Bodie stood, unsuccessfully willing his erection to subside. He was still in his bathrobe, waiting for his turn at the bath. Clothes, that's what he needed. Bodie opened the wardrobe and grabbed the first things on top--a pair of blue jeans and a checkered shirt--and held them bunched in front of him as he approached the door of the bath. It opened, and Doyle edged past him, a wary look about him. "It's all yours."
"Ta." Bodie scooted inside. Time, he thought, for a slightly colder bath than usual.
After dressing and grabbing a quick bite, Doyle went outside. The rain had finally stopped, though it was still chilly. He zipped up the leather jacket, stuffed his hands in the pockets, and wandered about the barren field near the cottage, just needing a bit of fresh air. Being stuck inside such a small place made him edgy. And being so near Bodie made him nervous.
Doyle had seriously considered giving up the bed and sleeping on the sofa. He knew what Bodie was after, and it was damn well pissing him off. All those years of trust and friendship.... Bodie was his friend, his partner--and he could have been more. Or so Doyle had secretly hoped. But not like this. Not simply because it was suddenly convenient for his priapismic partner, who couldn't handle more than forty-eight hours away from female companionship without zeroing in on him as the only available substitute. Well, as much as he wanted Bodie, he had a little more self-respect than that. Doyle scuffed his shoes in the dirt as he walked, kicking at pebbles. Why couldn't the randy bastard think about something besides sex? Why couldn't he consider something a bit more...like love?
Stopping in front of the shed, he pulled open the door and looked in, seeing the same junk that had been there before. Hammers, screwdrivers, saw, tin of nails, can of paint thinner, cans of whitewash, a few ragged brushes. Doyle shut the door and turned to gaze out across the bleak field to the rock-strewn hills beyond. A thought suddenly occurred to him.
He dashed back to the cottage, nearly bowling Bodie over as he came outside. Doyle took in Bodie's blue jeans and grinned. "Decided to be scruffy, then?"
Bodie frowned. "My own trousers are getting dirty." He zipped up the leather jacket. "It's freezing. What're you doing out here?"
"I got an idea. Come on." He dragged Bodie to the shed and pointed out the whitewash, then gestured at the field and the hills. "We take a bunch of the larger rocks from the hillside and lay 'em out on the field in the shape of a giant SOS. Then we paint them." He smiled, glad that he'd thought of something constructive to do about their situation. "Should be pretty visible."
Bodie sighed and shook his head. "Great. And who's going to respond, the seagulls?"
"No, you dumb crud." Doyle refused to be deflated. "Remember the plane that went over us the first day?"
"But nothing. It'll probably come back over sometime. Or maybe another will fly past. Maybe that's how they transport mail between all the islands. You never know."
"It's a slim chance."
"Yeah, well, it's better than hanging about doing nothing. And it's just as good as sticking notes in bottles that nobody's ever gonna find." He stomped off towards the hill, determined to go ahead with his plan whether Bodie helped him or not. Picking up a rock, he carried it over to the field and dropped it with a resounding thump before going back for another, and another, lining them up in a curve for the top of the "S". When he turned around to head back to the hillside, he saw Bodie hauling a rock towards him.
As Bodie carefully placed it next to the last one, he said, "These rocks are all wet, Doyle. Have a fun time painting them." Then he headed off to the hill for more.
Doyle took a deep breath, letting it out slowly, and went back to work with a fervor. Every time he got another rock into place, he took a moment to check the sky. The dark gray clouds that had brought the endless rain were moving off, and the sky looked lighter in the distance. With any luck the good weather would hold, and the rocks would dry enough to be whitewashed.
It was hard work. He unzipped his jacket, though it was still too cold to take it off, and noticed that Bodie had done the same. Good. That's just what his partner needed--lots of hard, physical labor. If Bodie was exhausted by the day's work, he might not have the energy for any randy endeavors at night. Doyle happily continued his efforts.
Bodie plopped a rock onto the bottom curve of the "S". He paused a moment, hands on hips, to survey the field. The "S" was a bit wobbly in the middle, but readable. He looked over at Doyle, hard at work on the "O", his shirt clinging to his chest, jeans looking tighter than ever. His partner should've have known better than to work up a sweat around him. As Doyle turned his back to him to straighten out a rock, bending over, Bodie swallowed hard. That tight rear end was calling to him, those slim hips were whispering his name...come and get me.... Bodie frowned as his erection recurred. Damn. He wished he could figure out what Doyle's problem was, why he kept rebuffing his attentions. Surely the little sod needed a good wanking off as much as he did. And it wasn't just that, anyway. He was genuinely fond of Ray. He didn't just want to jack off together; he wanted to hold Ray, kiss him, love him. Maybe the bed wasn't the right place to get the message across after all. Maybe he needed to simply tell him, in broad daylight, here and now, exactly how he felt. Either he'd be told exactly where to go once and for all, or.... Bodie hesitated. The possibilities scared him as well as excited him.
He watched Doyle hike across the field to the hill and pick up another rock, watched him haul it back and set it down. Then Doyle glared over at him. "Oi, get a move on, mate!" He huffed back to the hill.
Bodie walked over to the top of the "O" and waited for him. Doyle dropped the newest rock near Bodie's feet. "Well? What's the matter?"
"Ray, I gotta tell you something."
Doyle took one glance at Bodie's bulging crotch and groaned. "For chrissake's, can't you even wait 'til bed now?"
"Just listen to me--"
"No!" Doyle jabbed a finger at his chest. "You listen to me. I'm tired of you wanting to get off every night at my expense. Or did you think I hadn't noticed that big cock of yours nudging my backside in the middle of the night?"
"It's not like that!"
"Oh, yeah? You ought to see somebody about that, mate." Doyle cast another glance at the object in question. "Got a mind of its own, it has. Just goes off looking for the nearest opening like some kind of Hole-Seeking Device on automatic pilot--"
Bodie grabbed his shoulders to shake him, just wanting him to shut up and listen. Doyle lashed out with his fist, connecting with the left side of Bodie's face. Bodie staggered back, stunned. He touched his left eye and winced. "What'd you do that for?" He was breathing heavily, angry, upset that Ray might have seriously thought he was going to attack him. Did he really think so little of him? He looked up and saw confusion in Doyle's eyes.
"Don't know," Doyle muttered. He ran his hands through his hair. "Shouldn't be like this. I"m sorry." He kicked at a pile of pebbles. "Oh, fuck it." He turned and strode off towards the hillside.
Bodie watched him walk away. So much for truth-telling time. He needed a long stroll around the island and a good think, alone. But first.... Bodie knelt by the strewn pebbles and carefully arranged them into two short words. Then he headed off towards the beach.
Doyle picked up a rock, turned, and saw Bodie striding away. Fine. Maybe he'd stay away for a few hours. Should do them both a lot of good.
His hitting of Bodie had stemmed more from frustration than anything else. He knew Bodie would never hurt him, but something had to be done to let Bodie know his lewd approaches were too much to take. If only the idiot could figure out what he really wanted. If only he could figure out what he really wanted. Doyle trudged back to the field, set the rock down, and did his usual check of the weather. It didn't look as promising as it had earlier. The sky was now clear above the island, but a new set of dark clouds threatened the horizon, and a breeze was picking up. Maybe Bodie was right. Maybe painting the rocks was a stupid idea.
Standing back a few paces to survey his handiwork, his gaze fell on the pebbles near the top of the "O", pebbles which neatly spelled out LOVE YOU. Doyle stared at them, a lump in his throat. "Dammit," he whispered, bending down to touch them. His eyes weren't playing tricks on him, they were real, all right. "Damn you, Bodie--" He quickly looked around, but Bodie had vanished. The beach--he'd been heading in that direction. Doyle took off, following the path from the cottage. Christ, he'd messed things up royally. Why couldn't Bodie just have told him--no, why couldn't he have let Bodie tell him? Why had he got it all so wrong?
He sped up, jogging down the narrow, winding path. There was no sign of Bodie on the beach. The sand stretched around the curve of the island, broken up here and there by stacks of boulders. After a few minutes of searching, Doyle found footprints leading east.
The wind kicked up, no longer a simple breeze but downright gusty, and the waves splashed wildly against the shore.
As he clambered over and through a set of boulders, Doyle called Bodie's name. Nothing. The beachfront narrowed, making further progress impossible. Bodie must have found a way up the cliff. Doyle searched for a suitable path and scrambled up the sloping rocks to the cliff top. There the wind hit him full force, nearly knocking him off balance. The dark storm clouds advanced relentlessly towards the island. A crackle of lightning flashed through them, followed by the boom of thunder.
He scanned the rolling, brush-covered land. "Bodie!" Where the hell had he gone? Surely Bodie had enough sense to return to the cottage. Doyle strode purposefully in that direction, feeling a mix of emotions; worry about Bodie's safety, anger at both Bodie and himself for being so dense, and hope that something good would come of all this.
Approaching the cottage from the beach side, he ran the last few feet to the front door. It didn't take long to search. No Bodie. Frustrated, he started out to retrace his route, then realized he hadn't checked the back porch. He pulled open the back door, stepped onto the empty porch, and saw his partner sitting out in the middle of the field.
Doyle grinned and walked outside. The grin changed to a slight frown as he wondered what the fool was doing out here in this weather. He came up beside Bodie, who sat with his legs spread straight out in front of him; he was arranging a new set of pebbles. The only word he'd finished was "sorry".
Bodie looked up at Doyle, his face wary, expectant. Doyle smiled. "You ever heard of pen and paper? Besides, I got your message the first time." He knelt, sitting astride Bodie's thighs, grabbed the open leather jacket for support, and leaned over to kiss him. Bodie gasped as Doyle forced his lips open to eagerly explore the warmth within. Bodie's response was fervent, questing, seeking to lose himself in the merging of mouths, lips, tongues. When Doyle broke away he left Bodie panting for breath. Sitting back on his heels, Doyle reached out to touch Bodie's face. "Looks like you're getting a black eye. I'm sorry about that."
Bodie took Doyle's hand in his. "We're gonna get rained on out here."
Even as he said it the first big drops spattered down. Doyle rose, pulling Bodie to his feet, and they walked back to the cottage. As they reached the porch, the thunderstorm broke in full force over the island, sending sheets of water onto the roof.
At the back door, Bodie hesitated. Doyle turned to face him, and they stood on the threshold. Bodie took Doyle's hand in his. "Ray," he said, his eyes uncertain, "are you sure?"
Doyle squeezed his fingers. "I know what I want. Been wantin' it for years."
Bodie drew in his breath sharply. "Years? Why didn't you say anything?"
"What was I supposed to say?" Doyle smiled. "That I love you? That I wanted to be loved by you?"
"Yeah, that's a good start. Might've saved me a black eye."
"Well, I know I said I was sorry, but that was your fault, too, mate. For makin' me think your brains were all in your balls."
"Can't help it." Bodie grinned and glanced down. "Like you said, got a mind of its own."
Doyle pulled him inside, into an embrace. "Told you before--priapismic, you are." He ran his hands under Bodie's jacket, over his back, enjoying the feel of taut muscles beneath the shirt.
"Yeah, well, that's not all I am." Bodie nuzzled Doyle's neck. "And it's not all I'm offering."
"Figured that out," Doyle murmured as Bodie's lips caressed his skin. "I want everything, Bodie."
"You got it." Bodie's lips met his, and they kissed again, lingering, savoring, fiercely loving....
Then Doyle pulled away, leading him closer to the bedroom. He tugged at Bodie's jacket, pushing it off his shoulders. "Wanna feel you." As Bodie shrugged out of the jacket, Doyle undid the buttons of his shirt and ran his hands over the smooth chest.
Bodie felt a tingling through his entire body at Doyle's touch. He tugged and pulled at Doyle's clothing, working the jacket and shirt free, then wrapped his arms around the slim waist to draw him closer. "Bed," he whispered, grinding his hips against Doyle's and feeling a hardness there that matched his own.
"Good idea," Doyle murmured. He followed Bodie into the bedroom.
Bodie paused at the edge of the bed, turned, and started to undo the belt on Doyle's jeans. Doyle returned the favor, and together they worked the last of each other's clothes and shoes off. Their erect cocks brushed against one another. Doyle closed his eyes and moaned with pleasure.
A flash of lightning illuminated the room, and as they tumbled onto the bed, the answering thunder boomed.
Bodie ended up on top of Doyle. He rolled off onto his side, leaving one leg draped over Doyle's. He threaded his fingers through the light hair on Doyle's chest, twisting strands here and there. Doyle ran one hand across Bodie's shoulder and bicep, down to his waist, hip, along his thigh, then around to his firm buttocks. They gently explored each other's bodies as the heat of arousal surged through them, taking their time, both wanting this first encounter to be long and memorable.
Doyle trailed kisses down Bodie's neck and throat, down to his chest, pausing to tug gently at each nipple before continuing to his abdomen. He kissed the tip of Bodie's rigid cock, then looked up at Bodie's face in the dim light. "What do you want?"
"Want you...want your mouth on me." Bodie's voice was low and husky. "Want mine on you, too...shift around, Ray."
Doyle liked the idea very much. He turned and shifted until both were on their sides but lying in opposite directions, curved next to each other in a classic sixty-nine position. Doyle sought out Bodie's cock with his mouth, his hand slipping between the well-muscled thighs to caress the heavy balls, and at the same time Bodie's mouth found Doyle's hard shaft, and his hands grabbed at Doyle's buttocks. Doyle moaned as Bodie's tongue swept up the underside of his cock and lapped at the head; he did the same to Bodie, following his lead, wanting them to be united in movement, merged in pleasure.
Bodie took the cue and moved his hand to caress Doyle's balls the same way Doyle touched his. Then his mouth took in the tip of Doyle's cock; he felt Doyle's warm mouth surround his own shaft, and together they licked and sucked, abandoning all restraint, surrendering to a duality of giving and receiving, wanting and having, loving and being loved. They thrust into each other's mouths, rhythmically sucked and pulled at each other's cocks, felt the pressure building. As their bodies united in orgasm, they came within seconds of each other, hips bucking, cocks thrusting, spurting together, mouths swallowing the precious fluid, surging again and again, releasing into ecstasy.
Doyle groaned softly as Bodie's cock gave a last twitch and relaxed, and he heard his partner let out a long-held breath. Then Bodie's hands found his face and brushed fingers over his lips. "Fantastic," Doyle whispered. A distant, rolling boom of thunder seemed to echo the sentiment.
Twisting around until they were lying face to face again, Doyle cupped Bodie's face in his hands and kissed him, wishing the moment could last forever. "Love you," he murmured, then closed his eyes as he rested his head on Bodie's shoulder.
Bodie held him, still amazed at what had just occurred between them, infinitely content, and filled as never before with an overwhelming sense of completion. Everything he wanted was here beside him. He lightly kissed Doyle's forehead, then shut his eyes and, listening to the rhythm of his lover's breathing and the steady falling of the rain, he drifted into sleep and the land of dreams.
Bright morning sunlight streamed through the tiny bedroom window. Bodie slowly rose to consciousness to find his nose buried in a mass of auburn curls. He smiled and stretched, then brushed the curls aside to plant a kiss on his lover's cheek.
"Umm," Doyle replied. He sleepily rolled over, eyes still shut, yawning. He snuggled up against the larger man, wrapping arms and legs around him in a drowsy tangle. Finally, he opened his eyes, and found very content blue eyes gazing back. "Morning," Doyle said softly, reaching up to tousle Bodie's short hair. Then he drew a line down his forehead and nose to his lips. Bodie took his finger into his mouth and sucked it briefly before Doyle pulled it free to replace it with his lips. Their mouths met in a deep, slow kiss, rousing them, waking them, urging them to love again, which they did more quickly than the night before, but with no less wonder. Rubbing against each other with a fierce and rugged passion, their orgasms came a little further apart this time, but with the same fervent sense of union.
After completion, Doyle raised up on one elbow to look down at Bodie's smiling face. "Want to wake up like that every morning," he said. "And go to sleep like that every night."
Bodie yawned. "Bit exhausting." He grinned at the frown that creased Doyle's brow. "I'm teasing you, Ray." He reached up to ruffle Doyle's hair. "'Course I want to wake up with you. Want to make love to you all the time. Can't think how I ever managed so long without it."
Doyle's smile returned. "You've been reading my mind." He leaned over to kiss Bodie again, and was startled half out of his wits by a sudden pounding on the front door.
Bodie sat bolt upright. "Bloody hell."
"Christ," Doyle muttered. "I think we're being rescued."
Bodie sighed as the knock was repeated. "Why couldn't they have waited another week?"
Doyle grinned. "Just getting comfortable here, were you?" He hopped out of bed, quickly pulling on jeans and shirt, and padded out to the front room. When he opened the door, he was greeted by a man in uniform.
"I'm Constable Watkins." The officer held a crumpled piece of paper. "Understand you're stranded here."
"Found one of our bottles, did you?"
"That's right, sir. Is anyone in need of medical aid?"
"No, we're fine. Just need a way off this place. It's a long story."
Watkins stepped past him into the living room. "Would you be Mr. Doyle or Mr. Bodie? We've got a certain Mr. Cowley worried about you two blokes. Never met a CI5 man before."
"Doyle." He stuck out his hand and received a firm shake. "We've, um, left a body buried on the beach."
"Aye. My partner's down there now, taking a look. You didn't do a terrible good job of it, mind. The sand's been washed and blown off most of him. Jacobson, is it?"
"That's right. Armored car robbery."
Constable Watkins grinned. "Aye. Very pleased to hear it. We've been looking for Mr. Jacobson right diligently. I see the money's not gone far."
Doyle cast a bleary look around the room, noting the scattered piles of cash. "Oh, sorry. We were just, um, counting it."
"I see, sir." Watkins took a radio from his coat pocket and flicked it on. "You read me, Davy?" The RT crackled.
"Loud and clear."
"We're going to need a full team here. I'll be taking these lads to the mainland. I want you to come up and stand guard at the house."
"Be right down, Davy." Watkins clicked off the RT.
Doyle rubbed his eyes. "Can you give me and my partner a few minutes to gather our things?"
"Certainly, sir. Take your time. I'll be waiting at the boat." The constable turned and trotted off down the path.
When Doyle returned to the bedroom he found Bodie slowly and solemnly putting on his own clothes, the ones he'd worn that first fateful day of hiking. He caught something in Bodie's eyes, a momentary flicker of doubt. He crossed to where Bodie stood and put his hands on his partner's shoulders, holding his gaze steady. "Going back to Town isn't going to change anything, Bodie. Believe me." Then he let go and looked around the room, finding what he wanted on the floor near the doorway. Picking up the two leather jackets, he held one out to Bodie. "Want to take these with us. A memento of our first time."
Bodie took it, holding it close to his chest, inhaling the rich aroma. "You always were on the sentimental side, Ray."
Doyle smiled. "Yeah, well, if you have that on when we get back to my flat, mate, you won't be able to pull me off with pliers."
Bodie cast him a smoldering, sensual look as he slowly pulled the jacket on. "It's mutual," he said.
"Is that right?"
Doyle quickly donned his own leather jacket. He rubbed his hands together. "Ready to meet civilization again?"
Bodie grinned and clapped him on the shoulder, then pulled him into a fierce hug. "I'm ready, Ray," he said as they pulled apart. "Any time you are."
Together, they went out to face the new day.
-- THE END --
Originally published in Leather and Blue Jeans, PAL Press, 1993