Bodie neatly dabbed away the streaks of semen across his belly with a warm, wet towel. He paused to bestow a rakish smile on the man admiring him from the center of the huge bed.
"A most enjoyable experience. You never disappoint me, Bodie. Your money is in the top drawer, as usual." The man sat up against a mound of silk pillows as Bodie turned and began to casually swab between his buttocks.
"Fine, same time next week?"
"Yes, my dear. You're infinitely better than amphetamines. Every time I have you, I thank whatever gods may be that I'm so obscenely rich."
"So do I, Simon."
They both began to laugh with the ease of established acquaintance.
"Do you have time for a brandy before you go?"
Bodie began to dress. He picked up a gold Rolex and strapped it to his wrist. "Yes, I think so, but make mine a Scotch."
Simon climbed out of bed and shrugged into a long, brocade robe. As he poured their drinks from the well-stocked cabinet in a corner of the room, he watched Bodie pull on his black trousers and don an immaculately white linen shirt. "Have you thought any more about my offer, darling?"
Accepting his whisky with a quick smile, Bodie sighed. The question was becoming very old. "I haven't changed my mind, and you should give up asking. I like my independence and I like variety." He softened the rejection with a kiss. "Besides, you'd be bored to tears with me soon enough if I was lying about the place day after day."
Simon's deep brown eyes widened as he shook his head. He reached out to brush his fingers through Bodie's thick, dark hair, lingering to caress the silky waves that dipped below the collar of his shirt. "That, dear heart, would be an impossibility." He seemed to sense Bodie's sudden discomfort and relented. "All right, I shan't mention it again, but I want you to remember, if you ever change your mind, my offer stands. It would please me no end to make an honest boy of you. I'd even throw in the traditional plain gold band, gushingly inscribed. I saw just the one in Asprey's the other day."
Bodie raised his glass in salute, relaxing a little. "Thank you, Simon, I'm very flattered."
"But stubbornly unpersuaded."
"I'm afraid so." He finished his drink and crossed the room to put on his suede jacket. "I have another... appointment in an hour. I must be going." He opened the bureau drawer and claimed the envelope within, tucking it into his pocket without checking its contents.
"I have always wanted to ask you a question, if you would indulge my curiosity?"
Bodie knotted his tie and raised an eyebrow at the older man. "What is it?"
Simon took a sip of his brandy and surveyed the well-dressed hustler. "Tell me, when you're not toiling away at the world's oldest profession, what do you do for pleasure? Can sex hold any mysteries for you still? Or is it strictly and forever business?"
"That's more than one question."
"I've always had a penchant for being verbose, darling. It is the unquestioned prerogative of rich, middle-aged queens."
Bodie chuckled and moved towards the bedroom door. Simon DeHavilland was one of the few regular tricks for whom he actually felt some mild affection. It wasn't because he knew the older man was in love with him, but because Simon was a genuinely honest and pleasant fellow who cheerfully acknowledged his own limitations and made no judgments on anyone else's. "Okay. Number one: I don't have much free time, but what there is of it, I prefer to spend alone. I like to read and listen to music. Alone. Number two: after five years in my line of work, there's predictably little I haven't seen or tried when it comes to sex. Number three: it's strictly business." He shrugged his shoulders and added, for the older man's benefit, "With some, it's more pleasant business than with others."
"And what about love, dear boy? Just an illusion, another opiate of the masses?"
"That's not my field of expertise." Bodie smiled into the wistful brown eyes and turned to leave. "From what I've seen and heard of it, though, I'd say it's greatly overrated. See you next week."
The Controller of CI5 sat back in his chair and opened the file folder in front of him. He was very familiar with its contents. Sifting past the neatly typed documents, he picked up one of several photographs. It was the face of a young and very good-looking man. Dark blue eyes veiled by sweeping, almost girlish lashes, stared coolly back at him. The slightly upturned nose and broody mouth were classically proportioned and the skin was flawlessly clear and smooth. Only the oddly shaped eyebrows saved the features from being too pretty by giving the face a certain hint of danger. William Andrew Philip Bodie. At age 25, the young man was firmly established as one of London's most expensive and notorious call boys. His clientele included some of the richest and most powerful men, and women, in the country.
Tossing the photo to one side, he reached for another file, this one marked "CI5 Personnel-Confidential." He drummed his fingers absently across the red lettering, his mind reviewing strategies and plans.
"Mr. Cowley." The woman's voice broke through his thoughts and he glanced up to see his secretary waiting in the doorway. "Come in, Betty."
"I have that report you requested. Computer Section just delivered it."
"Good, leave it here and inform me when 4.5 arrives."
"Yes, sir." She placed a thick manilla envelope on the corner of his desk and left the office.
Cowley grimaced at the envelope and dismissed it for the moment, returning his attention to the closed file. He flipped it open and removed the photo that lay on top. He held it up and studied the face. Young, even younger looking than the man's 26 years. "You shouldn't hire them before they learn to shave." That had been Brian Macklin's wry comment when Cowley had first presented the senior training instructor with this particular recruit less than two years ago: Raymond Doyle, aka Agent 4.5. Large green, slanting eyes dominated a round, boyish face. The nose was straight and the mouth full and uncomfortably sensual. The right cheekbone was slightly deformed, the result of a teenage brawl. The flaw added to, rather than detracted from the man's unusual looks. Shiny, red-brown curls, much too long in Cowley's view, framed the distinctive face. Not a handsome face by conventional terms. Nothing conventional about it at all. But for Cowley's purposes, the perfect choice. Doyle was as physically striking as William Bodie was classically attractive. A gorgeous pairing. Cowley gripped the edge of the manilla envelope and pulled it towards him. The plan could definitely work. Still, Cowley realized that some serious questions remained. Doyle was easily his most promising agent. Even during his relatively short tenure, the young man had already handled several very demanding undercover operations with remarkable success. Cowley held no reservations about 4.5's skills, but Doyle did have one niggling drawback. He was an idealist. Despite the daily evidence to the contrary, Doyle clung to his belief in the innate goodness of humanity. He saw himself as a defender of the victimized, a kind of modern-day Sir Galahad and CI5 as society's answer to the Round Table. The extent of Doyle's naivete sometimes surprised Cowley. Of course, time and the job would take care of the young man's illusions, but this assignment would probably speed the process measurably. Doyle would have to play a role so far removed from his own standards that it would force him to examine his self-image in very different terms. Such ethical conflicts didn't concern the Controller of CI5. His worry was the possibility that Doyle's ideals might get in the way and bungle the case.
Then there was Bodie. It was unfortunate that a significant factor in the successful completion of the job depended on a high-priced whore. Had there been another alternative, Cowley would gladly have taken it. As it was, he would have to rely on an outsider, and Cowley didn't trust outsiders.
The intercom buzzed, announcing Doyle's arrival. Cowley removed his glasses and prepared to put his plan into action.
"Sit down, 4.5."
Ray Doyle took the chair opposite his Controller.
"Have you ever heard of John Coogan?" Cowley asked.
"Name sounds vaguely familiar. Wait, he was a boxing champion, wasn't he?"
Cowley tore open the envelope and handed over the computer report. "Yes, light heavyweight division. He had quite an impressive fight record, in fact. He's settled into the life of country squire now, has numerous legitimate business interests. He's considered a pillar of his community and a model resident." Cowley pursed his lips in disgust. "He's also one of the most powerful drug dealers in Britain. He runs an underworld organisation that includes extortion, prostitution, and murder-for-hire rackets. We've tried to infiltrate his organisation. The last man we sent in was Rob Stuart." Cowley paused, allowing Doyle to digest that bit of information. The details of Stuart's grisly death had not been revealed to the other squad members. "Coogan is extremely careful and ruthlessly efficient, and he's eluded all our attempts to secure hard evidence against him. He must be brought to justice."
4.5 leaned forward in his chair, his eyebrows lifting in question.
"Coogan seems to have only one weakness." Cowley ignored a pulse of Calvinist reluctance and continued. "He has an obsessive fondness for male prostitutes. Not your ordinary street hustler, only the top-dollar variety." He watched Doyle's face pale suddenly. "His sexual tastes are decidedly decadent. He always hires two prostitutes at a time." Cowley refrained from elaborating. "It's all in the report."
Doyle fanned the pages in his hands, not really reading. "What do you want me...." His voice faltered as he met Cowley's gaze.
"I want to set you up with a hustler, one that Coogan knows. It wouldn't work otherwise; Coogan is too cautious. A little over two years ago, we tried to set up a raid on his estate based on a tip that he had received a heroin shipment there. The operation was a disaster. Fortunately, we managed to keep it out of the press. He knows we're after him and he's on his guard. We can't try anything overt again. We've been able to learn that he keeps his private papers, including a special ledger, in a safe in his bedroom. I want you to get into that safe, photograph the documents and return them as you found them. Coogan mustn't suspect they've been touched." Cowley drew off his glasses and tapped them against the blotter. "That way we'll have the information we need to topple his organisation from the inside out."
Doyle sagged a little in his chair and brushed long fingers through his curls. He seemed to be considering everything that Cowley had left unspoken. "I've never done a cover like that, even with the Special Unit at the Yard," he said softly.
"Aye, it's not an easy or pleasant job I'm handing you. Nothing we do is. It'll probably be the most distasteful assignment you'll ever have. I wouldn't have given it to you if I didn't think you could see it through. Certainly, physically, you are the most...suitable." Cowley clasped his hands across the file folders, mentally noting the sudden frown on Doyle's face. "Coogan must be stopped. He's dirtying up the streets and destroying innocent young lives. You've worked with the drugs squad, you've seen the kids, the waste."
Doyle's head lowered, lashes veiling his eyes. A struggle was going on behind them and Cowley knew that the young agent was realizing the full extent of what the job might require of him. It disturbed the Controller to see 4.5's moral conscience rising so quickly at the prospect. "Rob Stuart hung on for three hours after we found him. He was in terrible agony. Coogan had him tortured for days until he was practically unrecognizable. From what we could gather, Stuart never admitted he was working with CI5; he maintained he was a reporter trying for a big story, despite everything Coogan did to him." Cowley paused. "Stuart was a friend of yours, wasn't he?"
The long lashes flickered and Cowley heard the quick intake of breath as Doyle answered. "Yeh, Rob was a mate. I was going to be best man at his wedding." The words trailed off. Doyle threw back his shoulders and looked directly into Cowley's eyes. "How are you going to get the hustler to work with us?"
The Controller smiled to himself. "Don't worry. He'll have no choice." He picked up Bodie's file and handed it to Doyle. "His name is William Bodie. This is all the information we have on him. It's thorough. Familiarize yourself. Tomorrow, you and I will drive over to Chelsea and pay a little call on him."
It was just after 8 a.m. when the doorbell rang in Bodie's flat. And rang, and rang. Throwing on his robe, he stalked to the door, prepared to confront whoever it was with the foulest language he could muster on three hours sleep. When he flung open the door, he froze for a second, making a hazy, mental catalogue. No, the man before him was not an old customer.
"Mr. Bodie. My name is George Cowley." An impressive looking I.D. was thrust under his nose. "May we come in?"
Bodie peered sleepily over Cowley's shoulder and spotted a slim young man who looked badly in need of a haircut and a good tailor. Before he could utter a protest, Cowley brushed past him, heading for the sitting room. "W-what the hell--"
The curly-haired bloke gave him a quick, cold survey and elbowed passed, following Cowley in.
There didn't seem to be any option left but to find out what they wanted. "Bloody coppers," he muttered.
Bodie sank into a leather armchair, his muzzy head rapidly clearing. "I've heard of your mob. CI5, some kind of cloak-and- dagger super cops, aren't you?"
"That's not quite right, but close enough," Cowley replied.
Bodie hid his irritation in nonchalance as the two men made themselves comfortable on his sofa. "If this is a bust, I want to see your warrant, and I'm not saying another word without my solicitor present."
Cowley surveyed the room casually. "You have excellent taste. Is that an original Klee?" His frosty blue eyes fixed on an abstract hanging between the bookcases.
Bodie reached for the phone beside him. "I'm calling my lawyer."
"We're not here to arrest you." Cowley told him smoothly. "Although, I'm sure that could be arranged. We are fully aware of what you do for a living, and with whom. However, we've come here because we need your cooperation in order to obtain some information from one of your...clients, one John Coogan."
"I don't know what you're talking about."
The older man sighed with a hint of impatience. "If you insist on bluntness--Coogan is one of the men who pays you to go to bed with him."
Bodie stood up slowly. "Look, you found your way into my flat easily enough, you can find your way out. Now."
Cowley settled back against the sofa while his companion got up and sauntered over to the large windows and gazed out at the garden.
"We do need your help, Mr. Bodie. And I think you'll realize that it would be to your distinct advantage to cooperate."
There was something unnerving about the man's voice, an iciness that set Bodie's teeth on edge. "What do you want?"
"That's Ray Doyle, one of my agents." Cowley inclined his head towards the figure by the windows.
Momentarily distracted by the seeming detour in the conversation, Bodie glanced at the other man, his annoyance growing. "Does he know how to talk?"
Doyle pulled his hands free from his jacket pockets and took a step forward. "Only when I've got something to say and someone worth saying it to."
Bodie forgot him and turned back to the older man. "I don't have time for games."
"Doyle needs to get into John Coogan's bedroom. You'll see to it that he does."
The notion was so incredibly amusing that Bodie began to laugh. He sobered quickly at Cowley's grim expression. "If you know so much about me and you're so bloody powerful, you can either haul me off to the nick right now or get the hell out of my life because I'm not having anything to do with your lot."
To Bodie's surprise, it was Doyle who answered him, his voice intense and challenging.
"John Coogan is a killer and the worse kind of profiteer. He's the one we're after and you can help us get the proof we need to put him away."
He felt as if Doyle was trying to convert him to a new religion. "What do I care? As far as I know, he made a lot of money from his boxing career and invested in real estate and fuckall. Personally, I don't like him. He's a bad number. It wouldn't rattle me if he's everything you say he is--which is all the more reason to steer clear of him. Besides, I don't like coppers either." Bodie turned back to Cowley, dropping all pretense. "And he's not a regular trick. I've seen him a couple of times, that's all. I'm not into his kind of scene and I don't need the money enough to put up with it."
"But he has made repeated offers?" prompted Cowley.
Bodie rolled his eyes. "Yeh, yeh, but I told you, I'm not interested, and that's probably why he keeps asking. As for you, you can take your damn spy games and play 'em with someone else."
Cowley stood up and walked over to him, the movement exuding cold calculation. "You already know too much, Mr. Bodie, and that makes you a liability." The head of CI5 studied him for a moment. "I'll make myself quite plain. You'll cooperate with us because if you don't, I'll see to it that everyone you deal with learns that you are a police informant. That should effectively terminate your... career in a matter of weeks."
"You wouldn't get away with a thing like that. Nobody'd believe it."
"Oh, I assure you they will. We have compiled dossiers on several of your clients that provide us with enough incriminating evidence to issue arrest warrants. No major felonies, of course, drugs possession for the most part. They'll be told that you helped us establish the cases against them. We'll start with one of your regulars, Simon DeHavilland. The word would soon get out about you."
Bodie grabbed the back of the armchair to keep himself from knocking Cowley down. "You filthy little bastard."
The insult was completely ignored. "I'm not interested in making trouble for you or any of your clientele, but I am interested in stopping a very dangerous man. I will do whatever is necessary in order to accomplish that objective."
The morning sunlight spilled in through the windows and bathed the room, but all Bodie could feel was a choking darkness closing round him. "Blackmail, in the cause of keeping law and order in the realm, is that it?" He confronted Doyle with a look. "How do you tell yourselves apart from the criminals you're after? Must be very confusing."
The young agent seemed to fidget for a second but met his gaze squarely. "We're not dealing with people who play by Queensberry rules. Sometimes it gets dirty because there's a lot at stake. We can't afford to lose when people's lives are on the line."
"How touchingly noble you sound, you should hear yourself." Bodie spat out the words and paced across the room. "But do you know what it'd take to get you that close to Coogan? Do you know what you'd have to do?"
"Yeh, I know."
"Like hell you do." He looked Doyle up and down assessingly. "How many men have you fucked, eh? Better yet, how many men have fucked you?"
The muscles in Doyle's jaw tightened, but otherwise his face betrayed no emotion.
"That's what it'll take, you know. But then, if blackmail is routine procedure for you, I imagine nothing's out of your sphere of experience."
When Doyle still remained silent, Bodie shook his head and focused his attention on Cowley. "If Coogan is as dangerous as you say and he twigs your baby spy here, then my life won't be worth a damn either."
"Doyle is more than capable of taking care of himself, and you. Do as you're told and Coogan will never know what happened until he's well behind bars. The entire operation shouldn't last more than a few weeks and then you can return to your life without any further interference from us." Cowley signalled to Doyle who moved to stand beside him.
"How do I know you won't have me thrown into prison once you've got what you're after?"
An expression of mild astonishment grew over Cowley's face. "Why, because you have my word on it, Mr. Bodie."
"And I'm supposed to believe you, after you march into my flat, threaten and coerce me?!"
It was almost funny. Bodie gave the man a wide-eyed stare, unable to summon a reply. The old bastard left him literally speechless. Yet, there was something in Cowley's voice and in his eyes that actually made Bodie feel he was telling the truth. It also became apparent to him that, without actually saying so, he had agreed to take part in their scheme. Being a realist, he knew he had little choice. If Bodie was going to continue to enjoy his present lifestyle, he'd have to play along with them. One thing was certain, the experience was only confirming his already low opinion of coppers in general, and his even lower opinion of CI5 in particular.
"If you've made any plans to leave London in the next few days for a holiday, or whatever, change them. Doyle will be contacting you soon to brief you on the specifics of the operation."
Before Bodie knew it, the two men had made their exit, leaving him glaring at the closing door.
The party was in early bloom. The guests were stylish and only slightly inebriated. Dom Perignon flowed into fluted glasses and the mix of laughter and conversation made the huge, enclosed terrace of the London penthouse hum with sound. No one paid any attention to the small jazz ensemble that played inside.
"I'm so glad you could make it, Bodie. Marrika has been asking about you. She'll be terribly pleased to see you. She's around here somewhere, now let me see--" Louisa Montreaux grabbed Bodie's hand, bringing her substantial weight to bear in propelling him through the clusters of party-goers.
"I think I can find her," Bodie protested feebly.
"Oh, no you don't, you naughty boy, I'll not have you monopolized by some bejeweled trollop before I deliver you personally into her arms." They weaved through the room, Bodie managing to lift a glass of champagne off a passing tray and gulping down the contents. He should have stayed at home, but he was tired of worrying about CI5. He needed some distraction. In any case, business was business and he couldn't afford to neglect a gathering of this much money and jaded appetites. In his line of work, it was important to mingle and keep his contacts fresh. Not that he'd had much chance, having been bodily appropriated as soon as he walked through the entrance by the undeniable Mrs. Montreaux, a woman who'd gone through five rich husbands, and who was devoting her energies to becoming one of London's most talked about hostesses. Her own youth as a small-time actress and showgirl had given her a particular fondness for entertainers of both the public and private variety and all of her parties were sprinkled with them.
"There you are, Marrika!" Louisa's high-pitched shriek effectively cleared a path for them.
A pretty, dark-haired woman in a strapless, violet satin dress glanced up at them, her face breaking into a smile as she spotted Louisa's captive. She excused herself from several men standing round her and came over to them. "Hello, Bodie."
"Here he is," piped the older woman. "I told you he'd turn up, now didn't I?" Louisa squeezed his arm and patted his cheek. "Simply gorgeous, isn't he? I just knew I had to kidnap him before the carnivores gathered and the hunt began in earnest." She relinquished her hold with a dramatic sigh. "Don't you let him out of your sight, dear, or he'll be eaten up in seconds. Now, where is that dolt with the champagne; I'm absolutely perishing from thirst!" She fluttered a meaty hand skyward and moved off like a mound of living, scarlet taffeta.
Bodie looked into Marrika Schumann's deep, brown eyes and held up his empty, crystal glass. "Shall I get you some champagne? It's quite good."
She shook her head, smiling. "It's as if we just saw each other yesterday, isn't it? I'm glad you came tonight. I thought you might not."
"Why?" He knew the answer but wanted her to know how little it meant to him.
She ran a fingertip over the onyx studs on his shirt. "I wish there was somewhere we could be alone."
"I don't think that would be very smart. Isn't your husband with you?"
"Marc stayed in Paris; he's had some editing problems and he's enjoying them immensely. He's quite the perfectionist."
"I suppose you'll be in his next film?"
"Must we talk about him?"
"I haven't congratulated you on your wedding, have I?"
A burst of laughter rose from the group beside them. Marrika took his arm and led them to a far corner of the terrace. "I needed Marc. I've always needed someone like him. Can you understand, even a little?" She smiled at his silence. "I'm an actress and a defector from my country. That's a combination that breeds a great deal of insecurity."
"You don't owe me any explanations."
"You know what you meant to me, Bodie. That hasn't changed. But the time was all wrong for us, the circumstances. You were too young and I was much too afraid."
Bodie felt the tug of old memories and shrugged them off. "Are you happy?"
She looked away at the lights of the city. "I feel safe, and that is important to me." Music drifted out from the salon and she seemed to pull herself back from another place, turning to him. "For once, Louisa was not overstating herself. You're even more handsome now. How is your life, Bodie? Are you happy?"
"Can't complain. I've done all right."
"You're harder, colder. Not like the dreamer I remember. Is that what your...profession has done to you? Louisa tells me that you're very good at what you do."
"Well, if you can spare the time and the money, you can judge for yourself." He hadn't intended it to sound so callous, but he could see from her face that the words stung.
"I already know how good you are. Fortunately, I did not have to pay for the privilege of finding out." The anger drained from her voice. "Why is it that we always end up hurting each other?"
"Force of habit, I suppose." He relented. "I'm sorry, it's a poor start after all these years. You're as beautiful as ever, you know, and I am glad that everything has worked out for you."
They were standing so close, they were almost touching, yet Bodie felt a strange detachment, almost a sense of nostalgia, as though Marrika wasn't even in the room.
Maybe it was just a lack of feeling. CI5 seemed to extract more emotion from him than the woman he once loved.
It was a bitter realization.
"I'll be in London until the end of the week," she told him. "I'd like to see you again before I return to Paris." Her pensive expression told him that she saw a little of what he was thinking. "For old times' sake, Bodie?"
The last thing he needed or wanted was to revisit "old times." It would leave them both feeling empty and, if nothing else, he could spare her that disappointment. "I think the past is best left where it is, Marrika."
An awkward silence followed before she nodded slowly.
To Bodie's relief, two of the men who had been talking to her were making their way through the party-goers towards them, "Marrika! We were wondering where you went off to. You never finished telling us about your new film...." They elbowed past him and flanked the actress possessively. Bodie gave her a small smile and moved off towards the salon, feeling her eyes on his back.
"I'll call you, Bodie."
Her words halted him and he glanced round. There was a determined glint in her eyes that surprised him.
Maybe he wasn't the only one who'd changed over the years.
The telephone only rang once before he heard the answering machine. "This is Bodie. I'm not in at the moment. If you'll leave your name and number at the tone, I'll call--"
Doyle hung up with a muttered curse. He would have to try and reach him in the morning.
The smell of melting cheese brought him hurriedly off the sofa and into the kitchen. His casserole was teetering on the edge of over-cooked and he took it out of the oven. He shouldn't have bothered with it in the first place. Food was the furthest from his mind. He left the dish on the counter and poured himself a Scotch instead. The files on Coogan and Bodie littered his coffee table and he sat cross-legged on the carpet to scan them again.
He still couldn't understand why Cowley had pegged him for this assignment. On one level, Doyle knew he was a good undercover man. He'd passed as a drug dealer, a student, a hired killer, even a music critic, but this? Swallowing the whisky in a few gulps, he got up and fetched himself another, then headed for the bedroom.
He stood in front of the full-length mirror and tried to imagine himself in the role of an expensive prostitute. He pictured Bodie standing beside him. "Oh god, it's ridiculous." How was anyone going to believe he was in the same league as Bodie? It was like comparing a lump of coal to a polished diamond. He doubted the hustler had a conscience, let alone a set of ethics, but then he'd have little use for either in his line of work. All Bodie needed was a body and a face and he possessed the kind that made heads turn the moment he walked into a room. Doyle raised his glass and pressed it against his broken cheekbone. He knew he wasn't handsome or even passably good-looking. On top of it, he was too short and too thin. At best he looked...unusual. He took care of himself, of course, worked out regularly. No one stayed in CI5 unless they were in top physical shape, but that wasn't the same thing. Wasn't what this job required. He glanced at the bed's reflection in the mirror. Several open boxes were scattered over the duvet, "presents" from Cowley. "You'll have to dress the part, Doyle," was what the Old Man had told him, and Cowley had gone to no little expense to provide him with a fitting wardrobe. If he had been able to afford it, Doyle would have bought the same kind of clothes for himself. They suited his style, casual rather than urbane, but the materials were the finest--linen and cashmere, suede and the choicest wools. There was even a thin, gold neckchain. He felt a little like an x-rated Cinderella and chuckled to himself at the comparison. "The clock'll strike midnight and Cowley'll rush in and strip every thread off and change me back into a pumpkin."
Sighing, he went over to the bed, picked up a white cashmere sweater and rubbed it lightly against his neck, enjoying its luxurious softness. He let it fall back into its box and ran his fingers over a pair of pale green cotton trousers. The brushed fabric felt like velvet. Everything had a sensual feel to it, a sensual look. He gazed back at himself in the mirror. The clothes wouldn't change his face and that was the heart of the problem. Again he wondered how Cowley expected him to pull it off or why the Old Man had felt he was so "suitable." Doyle knew he just wasn't attractive enough. A small part of him was relieved at the knowledge. If he couldn't lure Coogan, then he didn't have to worry about any of the rest of it. That made him remember the way Bodie looked at him when they met in the flat. The arrogant blue eyes had made him feel like a presumptuous street beggar.
Doyle massaged a hand across his jaw and finished off his drink. The ring of the telephone startled him. He knew it was Cowley.
"Have you contacted Bodie?" The Scottish lilt was more pronounced than usual.
"No, sir, he's not in his flat. I'll have to ring him in the morning."
"I don't want us to waste any more time. Your cover is set, there's no need to delay matters."
Doyle cleared his throat, hoping to settle his sudden nervousness. "I've been thinking it over and I don't think I'm the right man for this job. You'd have a much better chance of nailing Coogan if you sent in someone like Murphy."
There was a short silence on the other end of the line. "Are you questioning my judgment, 4.5?"
"It's not that exactly, it's just--"
"Doyle, it is too late to restructure the operation now, and it's not like you to be given to last minute insecurities." Cowley's voice mellowed. "I realize there are aspects of the case that disturb you. That's to be expected, but you're a trained agent and a very good one. You'll do what's necessary. Once the operation is underway, your training will take over."
"That won't matter very much if Coogan's not attracted to me in the first place."
"What are you talking about, 4.5?" Cowley sounded genuinely puzzled.
It made Doyle feel faintly embarrassed and more than a little amazed. "I...I mean that if Bodie is his type, it would make more sense to send in someone who fits the same general description. I'm not--"
"Use your wits, man," snapped the Controller. "Didn't you study Coogan's file?"
"He always hires two callboys at a time. They're always different, opposites; one blond, one dark or one muscular and the other slender, et cetera. Always contrasts."
"Yeh, he likes them different all right, but they're always beautiful, each and every one of them."
"Of course," replied Cowley brusquely, as though he felt Doyle was stating the obvious. "Get to the point, 4.5."
Doyle didn't know what to say to that since he thought he'd just made the point.
When he spoke again, Cowley's tone was almost fatherly. "I know I'm asking a lot of you, lad. If there was any other way of getting Coogan with less risk of bloodshed, we would have done it. I'm depending on you."
"Yes, sir." There didn't seem much use in belaboring his doubts. Cowley was not a man to be swayed when his mind was made up. If the Old Man had that much faith in him, he couldn't bring himself to let him down. He would just have to trust that Cowley was right. "I'll do my best."
"Good. Once you establish contact with Bodie, I want you to report your status daily, at whatever time is best for you. Understood?"
"I'll start tomorrow."
Being awakened at 8 in the morning (again) by a member of CI5 was fast becoming a bad habit. At least this time, they'd used the phone, though the outcome was equally unwelcome: Doyle was coming over, holdall in hand, to start the operation.
"You mean, you want to stay in my flat?!" Bodie had asked incredulously.
"That's the plan."
"What exactly is this plan?"
"I'll tell you when I get there."
Bodie paced the length of his sitting room, glancing periodically at his watch. The notion that he would actually be working with a CI5 agent to snare John Coogan was finally settling in his mind as an irrevocable fact.
He'd been suckered good and proper and there was no way round it.
Though he toyed with the idea of calling Cowley's bluff, his instincts told him that the cunning old bastard was not the bluffing kind. Maybe he was self-righteous enough to be taken at his word, but Bodie sensed Cowley would sacrifice him without blinking an eye if he got in the way.
The doorbell rang, sinking Bodie's last unrealistic hope that the whole thing was a preposterous joke, or a nightmare. Steeling himself for the unavoidable, he went to open the door.
Ray Doyle looked different. Gone were the ratty checkered shirt and grubby jeans. Standing before him was a young man dressed in a soft yellow t-shirt, white linen jacket, and new, and very tight, blue jeans. The wild mop of hair was just as long, but trimmed and shaped, auburn curls attractively framing his round face.
Bodie's gaze was drawn to Doyle's mouth. There was something familiar.... Yeh, he'd seen a mouth like that before...on a cabaret singer in Luanda, a mulatto with a face as exquisite as her voice.
Of course, she turned out to be a scheming bitch.
Before Bodie could say anything, the CI5 man was inside, tossing his large holdall into a corner of the room.
"I hope everything else about this assignment seems as funny to you as I do." The edge in Doyle's voice wiped the cynical smile off Bodie's face.
"Were you born with that chip on your shoulder or is it just standard equipment for CI5?"
The pretty mouth stretched into a tremulous line. Doyle looked about as self-confident as an abandoned child. This was an undercover agent?!
"We're going to have to work together whether either of us likes it or not. The quicker I can accomplish what I have to do, the sooner I can leave you alone. That should make us both happy."
It was like watching a chameleon. One moment, Doyle seemed like a big-eyed waif with his feelings on his sleeve, and the next he was a stern, bloodless stranger.
Bodie would have to remember not to judge too quickly. "So, how long is this gonna take, then?"
Doyle went on through to the sitting room. "I'm a friend of yours named Ray Duncan. I've been living in New York for the past couple of years. You're putting me up until I decide where I want to settle." Doyle wandered over to the bookcase, lightly touching the leather bindings with a fingertip as he continued. "You'll take me round to some of the clubs, 'Night Moves' for a start. With luck, we'll set up something with Coogan right there and then."
"It's Coogan's favorite pick-up spot, true enough. Do I take it that Ray Duncan and I are in the same business?"
The curly head tilted upwards as Doyle considered the question. "Duncan's just coming out of a long-term relationship with a wealthy American art dealer. If Coogan wants to dig into it, we've set up the cover to confirm the details. He'll find out that Duncan used to be a hustler before he hooked up with the Yank."
"So, I'm helping you get back into circulation, eh? CI5 has graduated me to pimp?"
"Call it whatever you please," answered Doyle indifferently.
"And if everything clicks and you get the list you're after, what happens to Duncan?"
"He changes his mind and goes back to America. By the time Coogan discovers the truth, he'll be well on his way to a life sentence."
Several questions occurred to Bodie immediately. He glanced at the slim figure leaning against his bookcase. Nice body. Nice face. Very nice crotch. Yeh, Coogan would take the bait.
But he wondered how much Doyle really knew about Coogan's sexual predilections. CI5 might have its snout in a lot of dark corners, but he doubted that even Cowley was aware of the precise nature of Coogan's bedroom activities. They might know who he took to bed, but not what he did with them. Bodie didn't even like to be reminded of his last session with the man.
"Could I have a coffee?"
The question jarred him out of his thoughts. "Wh-what?"
"I didn't have any time for breakfast. I was wondering if I--"
Familiar sod. "My home is obviously your home. The kitchen is through there. Help yourself. Coffee's in the cupboard over the the sink."
"Thanks." Doyle pulled off his jacket and slung it over the sofa.
Bodie watched him drift towards the kitchen. He moved like a dancer, supple and easy. Very nice arse. Bodie sighed; John Coogan was going to be spoiled for choice.
Tightening the belt on his robe, Bodie followed after his uninvited guest. "Mugs are on the right, second shelf, sugar, too."
Doyle nodded an acknowledgement and set about preparing the coffee.
"Well, now that you feel completely comfortable with everything I own, I think I'll go back to bed."
Doyle was opening the fridge for milk. "Back to bed?"
"Yeh. This is the bloody middle of the night for me. I've got appointments later. I need to sleep." Bodie raised his arm in a mock Nazi salute, "See you later, I'm afraid," and headed for the bedroom.
He was just settling under the covers when Doyle walked in, sipping his coffee. "We've got to go over the plan."
Bodie burrowed into the pillows and closed his eyes.
"You'll have to rearrange your... appointments because I want us to check out 'Night Moves' tonight," continued Doyle.
"Not tonight. I've got my best clients tonight. Regulars, high rollers." The mattress dipped and he opened his eyes to see Doyle perched on the bed beside him, a scowl marring his face. Bodie sighed and held up a pleading hand. "Look, I'm not going to tear up my life for this. If I cancel out on my best tricks, I'll soon have none. Then your Cowley won't have anything to blackmail me with, now will he? Anyway, it's Tuesday. Coogan only shows on Thursdays or Fridays. The hustling is better."
Doyle still looked stormy but relented. "Thursday, then."
Bodie was about to protest but saw by the other man's expression that he was already pushing his luck to the limit. Since his need for sleep was rapidly dissipating, Bodie decided to clear his mind of a few other questions that nagged him. "Are you gay?"
Doyle's face became a cautious mask. "No."
"Have you ever had sex with a man before?"
The CI5 agent stared at him in stubborn silence.
Bodie threw his forearm across his eyes. "Your Cowley is a fool. I thought he was supposed to be the brains of your mob, but he's a damn fool if he thinks you can carry this off."
"Show me how."
Bodie let his arm fall as the words registered. On the one hand, it was a sensible, practical approach. On the other, the whole world was going crazy. He peered at Doyle from under his lashes. "I'm supposed to be your pimp and your tutor?"
"It might help us stay alive. Gives the idea merit, don't you think?"
Despite his dry sarcasm, Doyle's grip on the mug was turning his knuckles white.
Bodie absorbed the extraordinary circumstance for a moment. "Curiouser and curiouser, said Alice," he murmured to himself. "If you hold that mug any tighter, it'll soon be pieces on the rug."
Doyle focused on his hand and quickly eased his grip. With his head bent, the red-brown curls still trailed down his neck.
"Big John will like your hair."
"That's Coogan's nickname. Suits him, too. He's burly, very muscular, with a cock to match."
Doyle stared into his cup and swallowed. "Why do you say he'll like my hair?"
"Long and curly. He told me once my hair was my only shortcoming."
Doyle glanced sideways at him. "Looks okay to me."
Bodie raked his fingers through the object in question, pushing it away from his forehead. It cascaded back almost immediately. "Yeh, well, it irritates the hell out of me. One of these days I'm going to cut it so short, I won't have to part it, won't even have to comb it."
"It's very thick, wavy," remarked Doyle after another casual perusal.
"Most of my customers like it enough to make a point of it." He shrugged his shoulders. "Gotta keep the tricks happy." He sat up and folded his hands across the sheet. "Okay, lesson one: stand over there," he nodded to the middle of the bedroom, "and take off your clothes."
The room grew as quiet as an empty museum and Doyle as immobile as a marble statue. He wasn't even blinking.
"Coogan is a pig, but he's not into necrophilia; he likes his boys to exhibit some signs of life," chided Bodie. "I thought you wanted me to show you how."
Doyle's mouth worked, his jaw clenching perceptibly, but then he got to his feet, put down his cup, and moved to the spot Bodie had indicated. He pulled the t-shirt out of his pants and drew it over his head, tossing it on the floor. He started unbuckling his belt, then crouched to pull off his boots and socks.
The years spun backward and Bodie saw himself: a 2O year-old boy playing it cool, stripping for a leering, middle-aged banker dangling a roll of twenties. All the time shaking inside and trying not to let it show. Repetition got rid of the shakes and money took care of the doubts.
Doyle shed the last of his clothes and stood with his arms crossed, one hip jutting out slightly. "So now what?" Matter-of-fact, like someone asking a passing stranger for the time. He looked calm and self-possessed, the aura of tension gone.
Tough little cat, thought Bodie. Ah, but this is the easy part. "Turn round." Doyle obliged and Bodie was impressed. "Okay, come over here and let's get down to business."
Doyle walked over to the bed, not flinching when Bodie took hold of his wrist. "What will Coogan be expecting?" he asked the hustler.
"He'll be paying us five hundred quid each. For that, he'll expect whatever damn well strikes his fancy."
The green eyes widened. "Five hundred apiece?!" His legs sagged and he sat down heavily on the bed.
"Not bad for a few hours work, but with someone like Coogan, it's a bargain price." Bodie pulled Doyle against his chest, their faces inches apart. He didn't sense any resistance, but the lean muscles were ready to spring. "He'll want to watch us fuck. It turns him on. Maybe he'll participate, maybe just give us orders. I'll do you, you'll do me. Later, he'll fuck us both, and none too gently." He let go of Doyle. "Ready for that?"
"When will I have a chance to get into the safe?"
Bodie smiled in grudging admiration. "He sleeps like a lead weight when he's worn out and happy. We'll be there until morning because Coogan likes to get his money's worth; he'll want to play when he wakes up." He reached out and molded his hand over Doyle's penis. In an instant, his hand was empty and Doyle was standing beside the bed, the scowl on his face quickly shifting to embarrassed recognition. Bodie casually fluffed up a pillow behind his back. "You'll have to act a lot friendlier than that, you know. You're supposed to be an experienced hustler, not a vestal virgin; even if that is what you are. Incidentally, you're blushing."
Doyle gave him a withering look and climbed back into bed, shoving Bodie to one side. They were sitting very close, thighs pressed together.
"None of this was my idea," noted Bodie reasonably. "Why don't you give it up while you still can and tell your Cowley to think up some other scheme? He seems devious enough to meet the challenge."
"I can handle it." Determination marked the lift of Doyle's chin and his steady jade-eyed gaze. "Show me." He lay flat on the bed, hands at his sides.
For a moment, Bodie was seized with an irritating and unfamiliar awkwardness. Here he was, lumbered with a superspy who regarded him with as much enthusiasm as a spoonful of castor oil. Doyle seemed straighter than a die, and Bodie wasn't used to not being desired. It bruised his pride and annoyed him as well.
Bodie flung the sheets down to the foot of the bed and was struck with how closely Doyle's pose resembled a cadaver on a slab. His anger disintegrated into amusement. "I can show you plenty, spyboy, but I'm not a magician. At least, not for free. You may be beyond tuition, even for my considerable skills. Why don't you defrost a little and give me a taste of what you think you can do, eh? We can take it from there." He closed his eyes and smiled up at the ceiling.
A minute passed in silence and then another, and Bodie began to drift off to sleep. With luck, Trouble would be gone when he woke up. Even as the hopeful thought formed, he felt Doyle roll against and then on top of him. A blur of auburn curls brushed against the side of his face and the heat of Doyle's genitals slid across his crotch as the smaller man positioned himself along the length of Bodie's nude body.
Bodie caught a glimpse of Doyle's belligerent expression before his mouth was covered by the pretty full lips in a kiss that was text-book perfect and utterly devoid of passion.
Fingers skimmed over his face, along his throat and slowly back up to his temples, combing seductively through his hair. Doyle stopped only to breathe before kissing him again. Bodie felt his tongue sucked into Doyle's mouth, released, sucked again. All the while, the slim body rubbed and rocked against him, long legs scissoring him in muscled warmth. Bodie's cock began to harden appreciatively. There was something more in the second kiss than technique. He began his own survey of Doyle's body, feeling the planes of the slender back and the compact firmness of buttocks, skin sleek and heated. The bloke felt good to caress, felt almost too comfortable in Bodie's arms.
Doyle broke their embrace and stared down at him. He was breathing fast, pink tongue tip licking absently at his upper lip. The big green eyes examined him so intently, Bodie felt like a new species under a microscope. "What's so interesting?"
Doyle blinked and rolled away. "Nothing."
Bodie reached over and put a hand on Doyle's groin. He massaged lightly and felt Doyle's semi-erect penis pulse against his palm. "Nice cock." He waited a moment, removed his hand, and smirked up at the ceiling. "You're cool enough, and you're hot enough, but you'd never convince someone like Coogan that you get laid for a living."
The hustler arched an eyebrow. "You're not a complete idiot then."
"I'm smart enough to concede that you're the expert here. We'll adjust the cover, keep the part about the Yank lover dumping me. You can say I'm fresh to the game; I need money and I want it fast. You owe me a favour and you're paying me back with an intro to Coogan. Will he buy that?"
"I think it's hopeless, but since I have no choice in the matter, I'd say it sounds marginally more believable than your original idea."
"I also want to get into Coogan's safe and photograph those papers without crawling into bed with him."
"Realize you can't handle it after all?"
"Let's say, I realize I'd prefer to avoid it if humanly possible."
Feeling an unexpected and illogical bite of rejection, Bodie did a silent ten count. If he could keep his vanity out of it, maybe he could convince the fellow to give up the plan altogether and get himself off the hook in the bargain. If Doyle found the notion of male sex so distasteful, perhaps Bodie could work that angle to his advantage. "If you trick John Coogan, there's no way to avoid it."
"I'll need fifteen minutes, maybe ten. Is there a chance you can keep him occupied that long?"
Bodie smiled grimly. He sensed that Doyle already knew the answer. He shook his head. "Big John hires two hustlers because he can't get it up without the show. That's the only way he can get a hard-on, by watching a good, long fuck. It gets him excited, and mean. I think he hates himself for needing it. He pays top dollar so he can take out his resentment any way he likes: on me and on you. There are no preliminaries, spyboy. We get there, we strip on the spot, and the show begins."
Doyle ran a thumb across his lips, face somber.
Lifting himself on an elbow, Bodie kept at it. "The last time I took Coogan's offer, Ian and I were naked a minute after we got in the door. Big John's butler took our clothes like he was taking an MP's bowler, didn't bat an eyelash. There were a couple of bodyguards lurking about, too, hulking and ugly. Seems everyone in the place is used to Coogan's little parties. Ian, not being one to stand on ceremony at the best of times, started posing and feeling himself up right there and then, mewling at Big John for all he thought he was worth. I suppose he was hoping for a tip on top of the fee. Ian's more avaricious than most. Anyway, Coogan herded us up the stairs, slapping us on our bare backsides as we went. In the bedroom, he handed me a dog collar and told me to put it on. Well, it looked like a dog collar, you know, black leather job with silver studs round it. He gave another one to Ian, only his had a leash attached." Bodie paused to note how Doyle's back stiffened. "Later, Coogan brought out a riding crop. I remember it had a carved ivory handle, looked like an antique. He found some very imaginative uses for it that night. He had other 'toys,' too." Bodie stopped and smiled a cold, dark smile.
Doyle shot him a startled look, a mixture of curiosity and apprehension.
Bodie let the seconds stretch and rubbed his palm along the cool, blue satin sheets. "You wouldn't want to know."
His brow crinkling into a frown, Doyle didn't press for details. "Was Coogan like that the first time you tricked him?"
Bodie let out a sigh. "No, he's definitely become kinkier with time." In the silence that followed, he watched Doyle's profile, the tight set of his jaw.
Doyle drew a hand through his curls. "Coogan's built a fortune by turning kids into addicts. Then he turns them into pushers or hookers or both. Kids thirteen, fourteen years old." He gazed back at Bodie with eyes like winter. "That's how he gets the money to pay for you and all his other little entertainments."
Meeting the disquieting stare, Bodie answered softly. "Am I supposed to feel guilty?"
"Why should I? I didn't know how Coogan made his money, and I'm not so sure I do now. There's no reason for me to believe you. What makes you any different? You're using me, same as Coogan. At least Big John paid for the privilege."
Doyle wrapped his arms around his knees. "You're wrong and if you can't see the difference, then you're fooling yourself. I'm sorry you had to be involved. There's no other option at this point. We've got to put a stop to Coogan's operation." Doyle looked towards the curtained windows. "The thought of...." His voice faded for a moment. "This job turns my stomach, but I'll do whatever I have to, and so will you."
The words shouldn't have surprised or bothered Bodie. It was a long shot at best to expect a fair shake from a mob like CI5. What bothered him was the sting to his ego. "Turns my stomach," the phrase rankled, even though he knew it shouldn't. Doyle was a self-righteous little bastard. Bodie pushed himself up and reached for the bunched up sheets near the foot of the bed. "Look, I've heard enough. Lesson's over. I want to get some sleep; you've been an excellent soporific. Get lost, why don't you?" He tugged the sheets under his chin and turned away on his side.
"Who are you meeting tonight?" Doyle didn't seem at all offended.
Bodie squeezed his eyes shut and replied through gritted teeth. "Simon DeHavilland and Julia Sutton. Do you want a minute by minute rundown, or can I get to sleep now?" He felt a movement as Doyle left the bed and padded across the room.
"I have to unpack my stuff. Is it all right if I use your wardrobe?"
"Why ask? Take over the whole bloody flat, just be quiet about it." He buried his face in the pillows and seethed.
Doyle dressed in silence, his eyes on the huddled figure in the bed. Maybe he could pull it off. Maybe. What Bodie hinted at about Coogan was even worse than Doyle had imagined. But at least he'd overcome the first hurdle: he'd been able to get into bed with a man. Clumsily, awkwardly perhaps, but he'd done it. After the initial embarrassment, it had been... what?
A little like making love to himself. There was a familiarity to the texture, the feel, of a man's body.
The difference was the power. It was the kind of power that matched and challenged him. That was the thrill, the shock.
Doyle pulled on his boots and went back to the bed to pick up his cold coffee from the bedside table. All he could see of Bodie was the dark cap of silky hair. The satin sheets covered every inch of cream-white skin.
Doyle just stood there, looking.
Having sex with a man was not so extraordinary. Killing a man, that was extraordinary. And the CI5 agent had killed, too often. By comparison, this was easy. He just hadn't expected it to be so very easy.
Bodie shifted slightly, turning onto his stomach. Watching the play of muscles under the dark satin, Doyle remembered the pleasure of being held in Bodie's arms, the intoxicating aura of strength and sensuality. Bodie was good. But then, that was his job, and it was obvious he didn't think much of Doyle, as a CI5 agent or as a bed partner. "Soporific." Doyle thought he'd done better than that. Responded too well, in fact. If he hadn't pushed himself away from Bodie when he did, he would have lost control completely, and he couldn't afford to do that. Ever.
The slide of sheets drew his attention again as Bodie stretched and bent a leg, the outline of his buttocks rounding with the movement. Images rose in Doyle's mind that made the heat flush through his cheeks, his body suddenly very warm.
In a few weeks, maybe even a few days, the job would be over and then he could get back to his own life.
Get back to normal.
Doyle grabbed up the coffee cup and walked out of the bedroom.
The morning passed at a snail's pace. He decided to wait until Bodie woke up before he unpacked his holdall. After his third cup of coffee, he began wandering through the rest of the flat.
The place was spotlessly neat and impeccably decorated, every piece of furniture and artwork reflecting a sense of understated elegance and a definite masculine air. It was a far cry from his own flat which was a sloppy, if comfortable, jumble of styles.
He couldn't envision a pinball machine in Bodie's living room.
Doyle gazed at the stereo components with undisguised envy. It would take him years to save enough to buy a system like it. >From the large stock of albums and tapes, he gathered that Bodie leaned towards modern jazz and blues, with some rock-and-roll thrown in for good measure.
The built-in bookshelves were brimming with an eclectic mix of titles. Books on philosophy, African history, art, mingled with volumes of poetry, Keats and Byron prominent, political biographies and several books on antique and modern guns. Oddly enough, there were very few novels. Bodie's early background explained some of it, but Doyle still found the range of subjects more than a little intriguing.
Resisting the temptation to play with the stereo, Doyle chose a thick volume on modern art and settled himself on the sofa. He flipped through the glossy pages, his mind becoming more and more distracted.
Time slipped by unnoticed until Doyle's rumbling stomach made him check his wristwatch to discover that almost three hours had passed. Setting the book aside, he headed for the kitchen.
Going over and over his assignment and the muddle of his feelings about it was getting him nowhere. The last few hours proved that worrying about it wasn't going to help.
He just had to do it, and that was that.
The kitchen was well-stocked and he set about cooking an omelette and making toast and a pot of tea. The routine tasks gave him a sense of welcome predictability.
He was reaching for a plate when he felt eyes boring into his back.
"Thoroughly at home, I see." Bodie was standing in the doorway, hands in the pockets of a loose, burgundy coloured robe. His dark hair tumbled in a wave over his brow. He looked mussed and very appealing.
Doyle ignored the sudden flutter in his stomach and walked over and kissed him lightly on the mouth. "Did you sleep all right? Would you like an omelette? You can have this one and I'll whip up another. I wouldn't want you to go hungry after all."
Bodie's saucer-eyed reaction was gratifying.
"My, my, aren't we being positively domestic."
Doyle grinned. "Like you said, just feeling at home. How about some breakfast then?"
Bodie's suspicious smirk followed him back to the stove before it faded into neutrality. "Well, I suppose it's the least you can do." He sat down at the butcher block table and crossed his arms, chin held in an aristocratic tilt. "Don't forget the napkin, and I take milk and sugar in my tea."
Doyle carried on as instructed, keeping his one-sided conversation on topics like sports and the weather while Bodie cast a less than interested eye in his direction between mouthfuls.
"At least my cooking seems to agree with you," he remarked finally as the other man finished off his last bit of eggs and toast.
"Wasn't bad." Bodie dabbed his lips with the napkin and took a sip of tea, silent once more.
"You didn't sleep very much. I thought you weren't getting up until later."
Bodie hesitated, as though considering whether or not to contribute something to the conversation. "I've appointments with my accountant and my tailor today before I go to...work." He emphasized the last word with an enigmatic smile and a glint in his blue eyes. Leaning across the table, he touched Doyle's hair, twirling a heavy curl round his fingers, tugging it gently. "And what's on your agenda, Raymond?"
The husky tone made Doyle smile. He felt a little like an athlete facing an important match. "Why, I'll be waiting for you to come home and keep me warm." He arched an eyebrow and lifted just a corner of his mouth in a sultry come-on.
For half a beat, Bodie just stared, then he burst into laughter, a rich, infectious chuckle, and relaxed back in his chair. "Hmm, still waters run dirty. You CI5 lads seem possessed of a multitude of talents."
"Versatility is a prerequisite in my field. Success depends on how much we're willing to put into our work." Doyle paused, smiled even more provocatively. "And I love my work."
"I see." Bodie rose from the table and cinched his robe more firmly around his waist. "I'm going to have a shower and get dressed. We'll find out just how versatile you are--tonight." He winked and sauntered out the door.
Doyle cleared away the dishes and retrieved his holdall from the hall, his heart pounding as though he'd run a mile.
He was almost unpacked when Bodie emerged from the bathroom, wearing nothing but a towel draped over his shoulders. The smell of soap and expensive after-shave clung to the air as the hustler closed the distance between them. The blue eyes took in the wardrobe space Doyle had appropriated.
"You won't need these." Bodie plucked out a pair of underpants from Doyle's holdall. "You can toss them into the top right hand drawer if you like." He nodded towards the chest of drawers then glanced pointedly at Doyle's crotch, adding, "I hope all your trousers are as tight as those." Before the CI5 agent could reply, Bodie picked up the small black jewelry case that Doyle had placed on the bed beside his suitcase. Lifting the fancy gold chain from its container, Bodie wound the strand round his fingers. A few seconds later, Doyle felt the warmed metal against his throat. "Very becoming," murmured Bodie, his breath brushing against Doyle's skin as he clicked the clasp shut. "Spies must earn more than I thought."
"It's on loan."
"Pity, you should always wear one." Bodie stepped away and began to dress.
Doyle fingered the gold at his neck, became aware that he was stroking it, and quickly returned to unpacking the rest of his clothes.
After Bodie left for his appointments, Doyle spent the remainder of the day in the flat. There was nothing left to do but wait. It was always the most tiresome aspect of any op, the waiting.
Doyle reported in to Cowley, who was atypically solicitous, thumbed through more books, and finally picked out several albums and turned the stereo up. He was about to play Steely Dan for the third time when the telephone rang. Bodie had forgotten to turn on the phone machine.
When he answered there was a pause at the other end.
"May I speak with Bodie?" It was a woman's voice, lightly accented.
"Bodie's not here at the moment. Can I give him a message?"
"Will...will he be back soon?"
"I don't believe he'll be home until late tonight. Would you like to leave your name and number?"
There was a longer pause before the woman replied. "Tell him Marrika called. I'm staying at Brown's. I would like for him to call me as soon as possible."
"Marrika, at Brown's Hotel. I'll tell him," Doyle was about to ring off when she continued.
"Are you a...friend of Bodie's?"
Doyle grinned at the delicacy of the question. "Yeh, I'm visiting him for a few days." He left it at that.
"Oh. Well, please give him my message."
"Soon as I see him."
As he replaced the receiver, Doyle remembered her unusual name from Bodie's dossier. Marrika...Schumann. An East German actress, a defector. And the only woman listed in Bodie's file as a "serious personal involvement." She'd exited his life over five years ago.
Doyle phoned Cowley again and reported the new piece of information. The Old Man would run a check on Schumann and her reasons for being in London. Her appearance in the city was more than likely just a coincidence, but CI5 didn't hold much stock in assumptions.
There were two more calls: a nervous male who refused to leave his name, and someone named Solly who said he'd call Bodie when he returned from Rio. At that point, Doyle turned on the phone machine.
By midnight, Doyle was more than a little bored. By one a.m., he was becoming mildly concerned over Bodie's whereabouts. Probably still getting screwed through the floor, he thought unkindly. He imagined Bodie down on his knees, naked, the shadowy figure of a man behind him, grunting as he thrust between the pale, round buttocks. Then the shadow turned into Coogan and he saw himself in Bodie's place. It was a vision his mind had conjured more than a dozen times since Cowley handed him the assignment. Each time, it sent a shudder through him.
He wasn't aware of Bodie's entrance until he heard the sound of the door closing.
"Still up? I thought you'd be tucked cosily into my bed, getting your beauty sleep."
Doyle wasn't sure what he expected Bodie to look like after a night out--bleary-eyed and tired perhaps, clothes askew, dark circles under his eyes, mouth swollen and bruised. But Bodie looked exactly the same as when he left almost eleven hours earlier; not a hair out of place, silk tie perfectly knotted, dark suit without a trace of a wrinkle. His darkening beard shadow marked the only change.
"God, you're a messy bugger." Bodie waved an arm at the albums that littered the coffee table, along with a half-eaten sandwich and a small pile of books. "I expect you to clean that up and put everything away where it belongs, you know."
"I was going to."
Bodie puffed out a disbelieving breath and headed for the drinks cabinet. He poured himself a brandy, ignoring the CI5 man.
"Tough night, was it?" asked Doyle as he gathered up the albums.
Bodie answered without turning. "I avoid tough nights if I can. You and Cowley are the only ones planning a tough night for me." He finished off his drink and faced Doyle. "Simon and Julia are two of my best customers. I almost feel guilty taking their money. Fortunately, I manage to overcome any twinges of conscience. I let them pamper me to their hearts' content." He began removing his tie. "I usually stay out a lot later than this. Were you worrying about me, love?" His lips curled into a haughty smile.
Bodie smiled again, with his eyes this time, and eased out of his jacket. "You know, I'm not a bit sleepy. In fact, I'm eager to give you your next lesson. Test that famed CI5 adaptability. Why don't you get into bed; I'll be right with you after I freshen up."
As he walked off, Doyle called out. "You had some telephone messages." He told Bodie about the two men. "Oh, and there was a woman. Said her name was Marrika. She's staying at Brown's and she'd like you to ring her as soon as you can." He waited for Bodie's reaction.
There wasn't any.
"Were those the only calls?" The hustler began unbuttoning his shirt.
"There might be one or two more on the machine." Doyle slowly followed him into the bedroom. "Are you going to ring her? You haven't seen her in five years after all."
Blue eyes snapped up at him, cold enough to freeze.
"Why is she contacting you now, after all this time? Why is she in London?" persisted Doyle.
"I'm sure your colleagues are scrambling out from under their rocks to dig out the answers to those very questions, so why bother asking me?"
"Might save us a little time."
Bodie pulled off his shirt and boots. "I haven't the foggiest. Holiday perhaps? Publicity for her next film? She's an actress, but then of course you know that; they do that sort of thing."
"Or she could be here just to see you."
"What if she is, which I sincerely doubt. What difference does it make?"
"I don't want anything interfering with the Coogan operation. We can't afford to have you rekindling old love affairs right now."
"You people are really unbelievable!"
"I told you once, the stakes are too high; there are enough risks already."
"Damn right, and I'm the one taking them. Instead of worrying about Marrika, sonny, you better worry about yourself. You're the one that's going to get us both killed." Bodie held a hand out, balling it into a fist, as though stopping himself from saying any more. His voice softened to its normal level. "I have no intention of seeing her, so you can save your threats." Just for an instant, he looked weary, weary down to his soul. It was like glimpsing something in a flickering light, not meant to be seen.
"Get into bed."
Doyle wasn't sure he heard Bodie correctly.
"I'll be back in a minute." The hustler peeled off his trousers and folded them neatly over a chair as he made his way to the bathroom.
It was then Doyle realized that Bodie hadn't been joking about providing him with another "lesson." His throat went dry.
Face it, stop making excuses. Just do it.
Doyle remembered the first time he'd sneaked into the x-rated movies, wearing his dad's coat, trying not to look underage, hiding his face in the turned-up collar.
The lure of forbidden territory.
"Still dressed?" Bodie came back into the room, drying his hands on a towel, another larger one slung over his shoulder. He threw the duvet to one side of the mattress and placed the big towel across the middle of it.
"What's that for?"
"I don't enjoy lying in a sticky mess. This way the sheets stay clean." Bodie sounded like an instructor in an etiquette class for the hopelessly backward. Then he smiled gently, blue eyes shining with private knowledge.
Doyle felt the color rush to his face before he managed to snap a reply. "It might not be required."
"Oh, you needn't concern yourself there. I guarantee I'll make you come so hard, you won't ever want it any other way."
The smug bastard. "Not bloody likely."
"Perhaps, in which case you'll simply have to endure it for England and that Machiavellian boss of yours. Let's find out, shall we?" When Doyle still didn't move, he added, "Better in my bed now than in Coogan's later. Or have you wisely decided to give up?"
Doyle flashed a counterfeit smile and began removing his clothes. When he was naked, he climbed into bed, determined to best the hustler at his own game.
Bodie was looking at him with a complacent smirk that faltered ever so slightly as Doyle traced a finger over the pale, wide forehead and down one side of the handsome face. Leaning forward, he tasted Bodie's mouth, exploring leisurely and allowing Bodie to return the gesture. They were both catching their breath when they broke apart.
"You've got a romantic streak, petal. Kissing is a waste of time with Coogan: he's not the romantic type. He likes the kinky frills. Most of my tricks just want to fuck, impure and simple." Bodie touched his own mouth with a knuckle. "You do have a gift for it though." He placed an arm across Doyle's chest, pushing him down flat on the mattress and began to massage lightly along the soft arrow of chest hair to Doyle's groin. Using thumb and forefinger, he circled Doyle's penis and delicately rubbed back and forth as he bent to lave the smaller man's nipples, drawing tiny patterns with his tongue, blowing warm breath over the puckering nubs, raising goose bumps.
Doyle gasped at the double stimulation, squirming a little as Bodie increased the pumping pressure around his rising sex.
Bodie paused, glancing up. "Was I right after all? You do like it, don't you?" He gave a hard nipple a tantalizing lick. "Most blokes aren't very sensitive here." He pinched it and apologized with a quick kiss. "But you're sensitive everywhere, aren't you, Ray?"
"Coogan wants us...to be...lively, don't he?" countered Doyle as he pressed the hustler's head down against his chest. He ran his hand over the broad back, feeling the play of muscles against his skin as Bodie continued his explorations. He bucked helplessly at the touch of the skilled mouth on his cock. The wet tongue lapped at his balls, teeth tenderly grazing.
"Spread your legs," whispered Bodie as he shifted to the foot of the bed and positioned himself between Doyle's thighs.
Doyle wanted to feel Bodie's mouth on him again. He could almost plead for it.
Bodie's hands were stroking him everywhere: nipples, belly, legs, while his tongue played teasingly with his genitals. Doyle felt the strong arms lift his hips and slip underneath to cup and knead his buttocks. He whimpered at the tactile overload and threw his head back against the pillows.
Bodie chuckled softly "You make a beautiful whore."
Doyle wasn't sure if the hustler was making fun of him, he heard no ridicule in the self-assured voice, but with his senses spinning, he didn't really care. "Thought you said...you'd make me come...I'm cooperating. So...so do it, damn you."
"Not quite the way, love. You're going to have to do more than lie back and enjoy it. Coogan likes to see a two-way preliminary." Bodie levered himself up and straddled Doyle's chest, his penis hard and impressive. He looked arrogant and powerful and incredibly attractive.
Doyle stared at the smooth, sleek shaft, bobbing inches from his face, watched in fascination as Bodie slid forward until the head of his cock barely nudged Doyle's lips.
"It's only polite to return a favor, don't you think?" Bodie's voice was smooth as honey. "Please?"
Very slowly, Doyle opened his mouth and kissed the tip of Bodie's erection, feeling the velvet hard flesh, entranced by it. His own cock strained and arched higher. With an unconscious sigh, he took Bodie deep into his throat and began to suck.
He felt a tremor course through the hustler's body. Bodie rocked against him, the quivering shaft probing deeper into his throat in an increasing rhythm. Fingers tangled in his hair, pulling his curls, wordlessly demanding more.
A sudden wave of panic shot through Doyle as he tried to accommodate and found himself gagging.
As though sensing his distress, Bodie immediately drew back. "It's all right," he murmured breathlessly. "You're...something. Yeh, gifted, you are." His ragged voice trailed off as he moved to one side of the bed. "Take it slow now."
Doyle reached out and caressed Bodie's rigid cock. "S-sorry."
The hustler smiled. "What for?"
"Coogan will expect...."
"A lot more than this," finished Bodie quietly. "He's going to fuck you, and me. You've got to be ready for it. Understand?"
"I..." Swallowing the rest of his words, Doyle slowly turned to lie on his stomach. His heart was beating like a hammer.
"You really want to go through with this?"
Last chance. All or nothing.
Doyle nodded again, face half-hidden in the pillow. He didn't know what to expect next but it wasn't the gentle brush of Bodie's fingers through his hair or the tender kiss on the nape of his neck. He shut his eyes and relaxed by degrees into Bodie's massaging hands. They rubbed along his shoulders, down his spine, all the way to his toes and back up again, comforting and stirring him.
Bodie touched his anus, tracing the ring of muscle and Doyle bit down on his lip. The unfamiliar intimacy frightened...and aroused him.
Get back to normal. The phrase slithered up from his memory like a sly accusation.
Bodie stopped and turned away to open a drawer on the bedside table. He took out a tube and uncapped it.
Doyle knew it must be a lubricant.
"It'll help if you put one of the pillows under your stomach," the hustler told him.
Doyle tasted salty blood on his lip as he pulled a pillow underneath himself. It elevated his hips a little, the position making him feel even more vulnerable and exposed.
Bodie moved to kneel between his legs. "It'll hurt. No help for it. I'll go as slow as I can. Try and relax. It'll get better." His voice was very calm, soothing.
A moment later, Doyle felt a finger, slick with lubricant, rubbing over his tight opening, probing lightly. At the same time, Bodie caressed his back and buttocks with his other hand in a gentling motion.
Gradually, the slippery finger eased into him. It felt strange, exciting. A second joined the first, the sensation becoming slightly uncomfortable.
Doyle began to twist away from the deepening penetration. Bodie's free hand pressed down firmly on the small of his back, trapping him. "Easy, it'll be all right. Relax, love. Go with the feeling."
Doyle took several deep breaths and forced himself to be still. Again, Bodie's fingers moved inside him, rotating and rubbing knowingly. They kept pushing into him until he gasped with a sudden, shocking pleasure. Bodie was touching him in a place that made him moan and instinctively raise his hips to the probing.
"Yeh, that's it. Feels good, doesn't it? Yeh, like that, that's it." Bodie withdrew his fingers, leaving Doyle whimpering, this time in frustration. He turned his head on the pillow and saw Bodie applying the lubricant to his straining sex. Bodie's penis was long and thick. It seemed almost too large....
Get back to normal.
Doyle felt the sweat beading across his forehead. For the first time, he also noticed the intense concentration on Bodie's face and considered the degree of self-control the other man must be maintaining.
Then the blunt hardness pushed against his opening and he buried his face in the pillow, all thought blown away. Bodie spread his buttocks wide and began to penetrate him very slowly.
A bolt of intense pain shot through him and Doyle cried out. It felt like Bodie was splitting him in half. "No...god...stop!" He squirmed and tried to pull away, the movement only adding to the pain.
"Don't move, you'll just make it worse for yourself." Bodie's voice was halting and breathless. "I don't...want...to hurt....Damn, you're...tight...so tight."
"Please stop... I can't...I can't...." Doyle sobbed, panic choking off the words. He heard Bodie groan as he withdrew, making Doyle cry out again at the abrupt release, his body curling up into a protective ball.
The mattress dipped as Bodie scrambled to the top of the bed, flinging open another drawer. Doyle could hear rummaging sounds as the hustler muttered an obscenity.
Bodie's muscles glistened with sweat and his cock was still rock hard. He was holding some sort of small, metal cylinder. His fingers trembled slightly as he rolled Doyle over onto his back. "Sorry if I hurt you. I should know better." He managed a ghost of a smile. "This'll help, I think. Just breathe it in." He put his hand behind Doyle's head and placed the inhaler under his nose.
Doyle shoved it away. "No, no drugs."
Bodie leaned forward, blue irises like thin rings around his large black pupils. "Look, it'll make it easier, help you relax. Big John will make us both use poppers. He always does. Makes him feel more in control; that's part of his game."
Doyle fended him off again until Bodie finally sat back on his heels in exasperation. "All right, I give up. At least, you know you can't do it." He moved away a little. "Better get dressed then. Tell your boss the party's over."
Doyle gulped air and stared at Bodie's heaving chest. The hustler's face was a mask of control, only the brilliant eyes giving away his frustration. The tension bristled between them.
In the midst of his storming emotions, Doyle was certain of one thing, one simple reality: Bodie was...beautiful. The most beautiful man he'd ever seen.
He reached out and took Bodie's wrist, bringing the inhaler back to his face. "I...I'm sorry. Panicked...okay now." He held fast to Bodie's hand and placed the cylinder against his nostril and inhaled deeply.
Dizziness and a peculiar euphoria crept through him. A minute passed, maybe two. Lightheaded, he sprawled back against the bedding.
"That's it, just breathe it in. That's it." Bodie continued to hold the inhaler to him when Doyle's hand slipped bonelessly to the bed. Fingers played delicately with his curls and traced an ear lobe.
He could feel the heat radiating from the hustler's body. He was mesmerized by the sculpted ripple of solid muscle, the classic beauty of Bodie's face, the lustrous hair, the long, blue-black lashes fanning down to conceal the sapphire color of his eyes, the mobile mouth, lips that invited a lover's kiss.
Doyle inhaled again, then reached up to pull Bodie down into his arms. "Your mouth needs kissing," he murmured. The hustler obliged, lips opening to let Doyle's tongue enter and plunder.
Stroking and fondling each other, Bodie paused now and then to place the cylinder under Doyle's nose, watching him breathe.
Every inch of his skin seemed to come more alive, ultrasensitive to Bodie's every touch. He thought the room was tipping upside down and realized that he was being flipped over on his stomach. The stroking began again, Bodie's lips burning a trail down the middle of his back. His hips were lifted and he was pulled to his knees, a slick cock probing between his buttocks, finding the tender puckering.
The inhaler lay on the pillow beside him and Doyle's apprehension lessened in its rush of excitement. He writhed against the midnight satin sheets, grasping his own hardening shaft, pumping it to full erection.
Bodie's cock pushed into him and he muffled a groan as the head pierced his ring of muscle. Bodie's hands snaked under his belly and massaged his balls.
"Be...with...me. Ray...beautiful Ray...."
Bodie's words drifted by him, only half comprehended. All his attention centered on his groin and on the hard cock that slowly impaled him. The pain was hazy and filtered, changing by degrees into something else.
"There... almost... almost. Feel me. There... all... of me...."
Bodie began to thrust, in and out, a little further each time, the friction driving Doyle wild with sensation. The rhythm intensified, making him moan and whimper, crying out with the new pleasure as Bodie manipulated his body, lifting him to climax.
At last, Bodie stiffened and bucked against him in one, long measured thrust and Doyle felt his balls tighten, orgasm surging through his groin, semen spurting into his hand and Bodie's.
He floated, weightless and dreamy, knowing everything had changed.
Bodie's penis slipped from his body. Arms cradled him, the feel of soft cloth swabbing between his buttocks, turning him, wiping the warm stickiness from his genitals. Bodie licked the milky droplets from his palm and tucked the duvet round him.
He was tired, his eyelids too heavy to keep open. Even so, he wanted one more kiss, lifting his arms to hug Bodie close and to taste himself on the perfect mouth before sleep overtook him.
Bodie tossed the towel to the floor and stared up at the ceiling. Doyle snuffled against his shoulder, a fat wayward curl tickling Bodie's nose. He brushed it aside, his hand straying to ruffle the springy curls. A small bedside lamp bathed the room in a dim, amber glow. It was too far out of reach. He didn't want to move.
Doyle looked like a debauched boy scout. Even in sleep, Ray Doyle unnerved him.
Bodie had really wanted him. Really wanted him. He couldn't remember the last time he'd felt that much genuine desire. He thought it had been burned out of him years ago.
Doyle sighed in his sleep and burrowed his face into Bodie's neck.
It was strange sleeping with someone. He wasn't used to it. He rarely stayed the night with clients, preferring to collect his money and to leave as quickly as possible.
Coogan was one of the exceptions. A five hundred quid trick came with a lot of demands.
Bodie squeezed his eyes shut and tried to ignore the sensation of Doyle's warm breath against his throat. Ray wasn't a trick. He wasn't a lover either. This wasn't a... romance. It was an unpaid command performance. Bodie had every right to be furious.
He couldn't understand why he wasn't.
The quicker Doyle was out of his life, the better.
Bodie woke up alone. The lamp was turned off and daylight slipped through the window curtains. There was still a trace of warmth in the sheets beside him.
Doyle came out of the bathroom, naked, beads of water gleaming in his hair.
He'll pick up his clothes and dress, the hustler told himself. Instead, Doyle padded back to the bed and climbed in. Without saying a word, he leaned over and began to make love to Bodie.
It was slow and quiet and a little shy, Doyle taking the lead. His long, sensitive fingers charted Bodie's flesh like a blind man, exploring with meticulous care. When he seemed uncertain, Bodie guided him with a soft look, a smile, or a moan of pleasure.
Making love. The hustler used the phrase with his tricks sometimes, with the ones that wanted to pretend.
He often wondered if not having to pretend would be better.
"I like the taste of you," Doyle told him much later, the first words spoken between them that morning. "I didn't think I would, but I do."
Bodie just blinked at him, his body light as air.
"I want us to spend the day in bed. I want to feel what it's like to put my cock inside you. I want you to fuck me again. No poppers, no drugs this time. I want to do it every way there is."
Bodie was too stunned to speak. When he found his voice, he said the first thing he could think of. "I--I've appointments today."
"Cancel them." Big green eyes held him, still shining with sexual heat.
Bodie ran a fingertip across Doyle's bruised lips. "Okay." His finger was captured, sucked into the wet mouth, tongue sliding over and around, teeth nibbling. Bodie felt it like an electric current shooting from his hand right to his groin. He pulled his finger away, his whole arm tingling. "I'll make the calls later." Needing distance, he left the bed. "We keep at it like this, we'll burn ourselves out by midafternoon. I've got to pee, clean up." He glanced at the clock. "There's some orange juice in the fridge. Bring me a glass." He didn't wait for Doyle to answer, heading for the bathroom.
When he came back into the room minutes later, Doyle was opening a bottle of champagne. "I found this instead."
"Little early in the day, isn't it? Only ten in the morning."
"We'll compromise. I'll pour some juice into the champagne."
"That sounds disgusting." But Bodie said it with a grin, liking the vision of Ray Doyle kneeling naked in the center of the musky, rumpled bed, a midnight sea of satin, chilled magnum between his thighs. Bodie could not have orchestrated it better himself. "You'd make a fortune in my line of work, you know."
The cork dislodged with a satisfying pop and Doyle beamed impishly at him. He gazed round and shrugged his shoulders. "Forgot the glasses." He raised the bottle in a toast and took a swallow, then held it out to Bodie.
"That cost around 3O pounds and you're treating it like stuff in a brown bag with a twist-off cap."
Doyle shook his head solemnly and drank off some more. "'S good stuff. I have the greatest respect for it. Just too lazy to go back to the kitchen for glasses."
Bodie accepted the bottle and drank a measure. "Well, sunshine, what's it to be then?" He felt reckless and indulgent.
"C'mon over here and I'll show you. Then you can show me."
By late afternoon, they were curled round each other, thoroughly exhausted and fast asleep.
The phone ran several times but Bodie was scarcely aware of it. It was the insistent doorbell that finally roused him. Reluctantly, he disentangled himself from Doyle's octopus grip.
The bed was a shambles, the scent sex-rich. He picked up the tube of lubricant from the duvet and threw it on the lamp table. He'd have to buy a new supply.
Stretching, he made his way to the door, grabbing a black silk kimono from the closet to cover his nudity. He caught sight of himself in the mirror. His mouth was a little swollen; he'd never met anyone who enjoyed kissing as much as Ray Doyle.
Bodie gingerly touched the darkening bite-bruise on his neck. There was another one on the inside of his thigh near his balls. His nipples were tender from more vigorous attention than they usually received, and he felt a pleasant soreness in his arse.
Doyle was a very quick study.
The doorbell continued its irritating tattoo and Bodie watched as his bed partner grumbled in his sleep and drew the duvet completely over his head. Smiling wryly, Bodie reflected on the ironies of fate. And the follies of men.
He didn't even consider who might be at the door when he opened it.
"You didn't answer my calls. So, here I am." She looked elegant and graceful, her hair loose around her shoulders. The dark eyes roamed over him from head to foot, a tiny frown wrinkling her forehead. "May I come in?"
He stepped aside and caught a whiff of Chanel as she passed him. "Straight through there," he told her, directing her to the sitting room.
The sofa was still littered with books and albums and he cleared them away as she took a seat.
"It's a lovely flat, Bodie. It suits you."
"Thanks." He remained standing, several feet away from her. "I'm sorry I didn't call. I...I've been busy." It was unconvincing and he knew it.
"I suppose I didn't really expect you to. I just couldn't leave without seeing you again."
He dropped his gaze to the floor. "Marrika...."
"Did I interrupt something?"
With a start, he realized she was beside him, her smooth fingers tracing the bruise on his neck.
"I have someone here," he said.
She didn't move away, her small hand resting against his throat. "Louisa gave me your address. She told me you never brought your...." She couldn't seem to find the right word.
"Tricks," he finished with a tight smile. "I never bring my tricks to my flat. That's true. He's...a...friend."
Marrika's hand slipped to his waist. "He? I thought you preferred women." Her face was innocently curious.
"So did I. I may have been mistaken."
She leaned forward and kissed him possessively.
The memory of a cold November night in Hamburg rose in his mind.
He returned her kiss and her arms wrapped around him. Her breasts pressed against his body, and he shook himself free. "What do you want from me? What do you expect after all this time?"
"Just to be with you for a little."
He stepped back and turned away from her. "I told you, I have someone here."
"Who is he? You said, a friend. Is he important to you?"
"It doesn't matter."
"Come back with me to the hotel." Her arms found him again, her lips touching the nape of his neck. "Bodie, I love you. I should never have let you go. It would be so different for us now."
"You didn't let me go. You ran away." He saw himself standing alone in the middle of their hotel room that night in Germany, her letter crumpled in his fist. "You were right. I was a fool, expecting you to come with me while I made my fortune. It was idiotic, an adolescent dream. I didn't know what the hell I was doing, found that out quick enough, too. You were right to walk out on me. It was the smartest thing you could've done."
"I couldn't help you then, Bodie. But what we had...it was very good."
"I'm sorry, Marrika. I really am. There's nothing left of it."
"How can you be so sure? I haven't been able to get you out of my mind since Louisa's party. I'm not asking you to change your life. I realize too much has happened to both of us; we can't change who or what we are now. I just want us to be together for a little while." She tightened her hold. "It feels so good to be with you. No man could ever excite me like you, Bodie. It was special between us."
He pulled away from her gently.
She reached out to him again, stopping short as her eyes strayed to a point beyond his shoulder.
Doyle was standing in the doorway, hands stuffed into the pockets of Bodie's burgundy robe. "Hello. I'm Ray Duncan. I think we spoke on the telephone. Marrika, isn't it?" He smiled sweetly at them both. "I did give him your message." The robe fell open as Doyle leaned suggestively against the door frame, honey-coloured skin bared down to his navel.
Marrika surveyed him coolly, finally turning to Bodie, her expression questioning.
"I think you'd better leave, Marrika." Bodie took a step back, giving Doyle a brief, angry glance.
She seemed to take a moment to accept the finality in his voice before she began walking towards the door. She paused in front of Doyle, gave him a calculated smile, friendly as steel. She left without looking back, without saying a word.
As the door closed behind her, Doyle sauntered into the kitchen, one hand absently rubbing his left nipple. "She's prettier than her photographs."
Bodie restrained himself from marching after the agent and throwing him up against a wall. "Congratulations, you look and act like a real tramp."
"You were going to send her away, weren't you?"
"I didn't need your bloody interference making it worse."
"I was just trying to be helpful."
"Cut the bullshit, Doyle--"
"It's Duncan, try and remember that."
"You don't have time for Schumann now. It's better than stringing her along."
"You and your goddam job. You play with people's lives like they were pieces on a game board." Bodie turned and stalked into the bedroom, slamming the door behind him. The rumpled bed brought back a host of unwanted images and he threw off his kimono. He'd had enough of everything for one day. He'd have a bath, shave and dress and get out. Doyle could damn well try and stop him.
Puzzled, Doyle scratched his head. Had he underestimated Marrika's importance? She was obviously hot for Bodie, practically salivating for him. A lovely piranha.
He felt no qualms about eavesdropping on their conversation. The incessant doorbell had awakened him and when he heard her voice, his professional instincts took over. The job was important. That's what he was here for.
He put on a kettle for tea and dismissed the incident with a shrug. Pulling out a kitchen chair, he sat down, the sudden dull ache reminding him how much could change in a single day.
It would have been better, immeasurably better, if the sex with Bodie hadn't been so....
Doyle toyed with a spoon, tapping it against the tabletop. Did he know so little about his own sexuality? Was he gay? Why did even the thought of getting into bed with Bodie make his pulse quicken? It was the op. He had to be convincing. It was part of his job. Wasn't it?
Doyle threw the spoon aside. Before, he was worried about whether or not he could handle male sex. Now, he was worried about handling it too well. He pushed his teacup away and got up and went through to the bedroom. He could hear the water running in the bath and knocked on the closed door.
Doyle hesitated for a moment, then turned the handle and entered. Bodie was lying in the large, steaming tub, water lapping across his chest. With a scowl, he sat up and shut off the flowing taps. "I'll have to have a lock put in. I usually prefer not to have an audience when I bathe. Do you mind?"
"I think we should talk. About Marrika...."
The deep blue eyes rounded warningly, cutting him off. Bodie enunciated every word with exaggerated care. "I-don't-want-to-talk-about-her." The tone was quietly threatening.
Doyle wasn't particularly anxious to discuss her either. It could keep. He sat on his heels by the tub. "Okay. I'll scrub your back."
Bodie threw up his hands and sank into the water. "You're not going to leave me alone, are you?"
"No." Doyle readied himself for an explosive protest. For a split-second, he saw it coming on Bodie's face, then it was gone, replaced with a pained sigh of resignation.
Satisfied with the hustler's acquiescence, and the abrupt lightening of mood, Doyle ventured a hand into the water and lazily walked his fingers up a muscular thigh. The water was almost too warm, Bodie's skin glowing a healthy pink. His cock nestled in its frame of ebony hair, rosy and bobbing as Bodie shifted slightly. Fascinated, Doyle cupped his hand around the flaccid penis, savoring the slippery feel of it, soft and pliant in his palm.
"If you're expecting something, forget it. I do it for a living, but I'm not superman."
Doyle felt himself blushing hotly. "I wasn't expecting--"
Bodie started to laugh and Doyle looked up at him sharply.
"Keep your curls on, I'm not laughing at you." Bodie bent his knees, spreading his legs wider apart. "Feels pleasant, actually. You looked so intense, I thought you were contemplating the formula for the A-bomb." He wiggled his toes in the water. Steam clouded the wall-sized mirror that ran along one side of the bathroom. "How old are you anyway, puppy? You look about 17. Do they recruit agents out of prams nowadays?"
Why did every bloody person think he was too young to wear long pants?! He was so sick of it. "I'm older than you--puppy," he snapped.
"Go on, tell me another."
"I'm 26 fucking years old."
"Christ, you don't look it. And, age notwithstanding, the name suits you far better--puppy." Bodie extended a wet arm and ruffled Doyle's hair vigorously.
Doyle pulled back in mild irritation and shook his head, sending water droplets flying everywhere.
Bodie laughed again. "See, sheep dog, more like."
The silly humour of it finally got to Doyle and he chuckled, too.
Laughter subsiding, Bodie stared at him. "Would you like a kiss? I could just about manage one," he said at last.
It was all dangerously unnecessary. Doyle knew it even as he leaned over the tub and felt Bodie's wet hands cradle his face, the steamy, wet mouth capture his lips, playful tongue snaking inside. He sighed into the kiss, opening his eyes reluctantly as it ended.
"This must be quite a revelation for you."
Doyle sat back on his heels and concentrated on a patch of skin above Bodie's navel. "Something like that," he admitted, unaware of how tightly his hands gripped the tub rim. He yelped in surprise as a hot, soaking flannel hit him in the chest.
"You said you'd scrub my back." Bodie slid forward and held up a bar of soap. "I always seem to miss a spot in the middle."
Doyle chewed thoughtfully on his lip, smiled, and maneuvered to his knees. He noticed a thin scar near Bodie's left shoulder blade, the only thing marring the flawless white skin, and traced it with a fingertip. "How did you get this?"
"Knife fight, years ago."
"When you were in Africa?"
Doyle soaped the washcloth and began rubbing Bodie's neck and shoulders. CI5's dossier on Bodie was crammed with every known fact on the young man's colorful life, but it offered no reasons.
"I can't picture you as a mercenary," he continued.
"Neither could anyone else."
"Why would you get into something like that?"
"Stupidity. Least I had enough brains to get out, more or less in one piece."
"Must have given you quite an education."
"More than I ever wanted,"
Doyle wondered at the cryptic reply, curious at the puzzle Bodie presented.
But Bodie headed off his next question. "You're a nosy copper."
"I'm not a copper anymore."
"Close enough it makes no difference,"
Doyle was feeling persistent. "Why did you leave England, the first time?"
"Lower, to the right."
"Scrub lower, have an itch."
Doyle complied. "You don't want to talk about it, do you?"
"It's not very interesting."
"I'd still like to know."
"Not very fair, is it? I don't know a thing about you."
"I'll answer any questions I can, if you'll answer mine."
Bodie shrugged and hunched over a little to let Doyle reach his lower back. "I didn't get along with my family. They were a singularly strange bunch. I was also bored. Wanted to see the world, do something exciting. Be on my own."
"You were only sixteen."
Before Doyle could open his mouth, Bodie beat him to it. "My turn. Why did you join the police?"
Accepting the evasion for the moment, Doyle considered Bodie's question. "I suppose I could've become a villain just as easily."
"There's a small distinction, I take it."
Doyle let the sardonic comment slide by, "My dad was a policeman. He was killed when I was four. Motor crash during a robbery chase. He was a hero, so I was told. I don't really remember him very well. Mum had to go to work full time after that, and I guess I didn't make it any easier for her. Was a terror growing up. By the time I was 13, I spent more time in the streets than at home. Getting into scrapes and fights, trouble generally, but I never got caught. Smug and cocky, I was."
"When I was 15, I was hanging out with a pretty tough gang. One day, two of `em got into a punch-up over a stick of gum or something dumb like that. There was this one kid, Benny, he was only 12 and not too bright. Sweet kid, though, kept taggin' after me all the time. His parents didn't give a damn about him. He just hung out on the streets; the gang barely tolerated him, but I didn't really mind it. The others knew I could take care of myself so they left it alone. Anyway, the fight got ugly and Benny got scared and started crying and yelling. One of the guys pulled a flickknife and killed him. Only meant to cut him probably, but Benny fell and the knife went right through his lung." Doyle drew in a long breath. "Really hit me. It was like waking up. All so...pointless. Sometimes, at night, I still see Benny's face, blood coming out of his mouth, tears running down his cheeks." He stopped, swallowed past the lump in his throat. He handed the soapy flannel to Bodie. "Your back's done."
Bodie had a funny look in his eyes that Doyle couldn't figure. He felt a little odd himself, surprised at how he'd run on. He never talked about his dad or Benny.
Bodie took the cloth, handling it awkwardly, and started scrubbing his arms and chest like he was angry with his own skin. "Look, how about getting out of here and letting me finish before the water turns stone cold."
Steam still rose from the tub, but Doyle didn't feel like arguing. In fact, he was feeling claustrophobic. "Okay."
When Bodie walked into the bedroom sometime later, dry and clean-shaven, Doyle was sitting on the bed.
"Sheets need changing."
"Plenty in the airing cupboard," answered Bodie, inclining his head towards the hall.
"I thought a man of your means'd have a maid."
"I do. She comes in once a week." Bodie glanced round. "She'll be delighted to have so much to do, for a change." He smiled briefly and started to dress.
"Where are you going?"
"A drive. No where in particular. I need some air."
"Are you going to see Schumann?"
Marrika was gone from his mind and the question startled him. "No."
"Leave me a spare key. I might be going out, too, and if you've got appointments, you better call and cancel."
"Be back early."
Bodie put his hands on his hips, waited a moment. "Can't live without me, petal?"
"You're pushing your luck."
"Oh, I try never to do that." He looped a leather belt through his chocolate brown cords and smoothed his Irish knit sweater. As he pulled on his boots, he cast an eye at Doyle. The agent looked as ravaged as the bed, his robe thrown open, kiss marks dotting his neck and chest, hair wild and tumbling. He was a picture out of a turn-of-the-century bordello.
Bodie made his calls, returned for his leather jacket, wallet and car keys, leaving a front door key out for the other man.
Doyle hadn't moved, except to lean back a little farther on his outstretched arms. As he walked to the door, Bodie paused by the bed and, on impulse, kissed Doyle lightly on the mouth. "The world's a funny place," he said. "The hard part is recognizing the jokes."
The big green eyes held him without giving anything away and as he left the flat, it was with the image of Doyle's bittersweet smile sharp in his mind.
"They're not too bad a bunch. Most won't stumble over their own feet."
Cowley adjusted his glasses and glanced at the list clipped neatly to a file folder. "Is that the best you can say for them, Brian?"
Macklin crossed his arms and sniffed thoughtfully. "One or two are near standouts, rest are fair, by our standards."
"I expect them to get better."
Cowley pulled off his glasses and directed a somber look at his senior training instructor. "The past year's been a hard one. Five men dead, two permanently disabled. I want their replacements to be around to curse us both for long years to come."
The Controller felt as comfortable with Brian Macklin as he could with anyone. Apart from himself, no one was more dedicated to CI5 than the tall blond. He put the recruits through a regimen worthy of Dante's Inferno, but he also taught them how to live through it, and to live through the worst any villain could throw at them. When an operative died, Macklin felt it deeply.
"We're short on teams. What are your recommendations?"
"Matheson and King should do very well. They can already read each other."
"The solos are obvious. I've listed them in the file. The rest can pair up pretty much any way. Let time do the rest."
The telephone interrupted. "Cowley here. Yes, put him through. 4.5, let's have your report." The Old Man was silent for several minutes. "So far it seems unrelated. She's here for some scheduled interviews for her latest film." He paused. "I see. How did he react?" Another pause. "He's no fool. Still, better stay close to him for the duration." Cowley stopped, pursed his lips. "Aye, with luck, the job will be over in a few days. You'll have a week's leave at the end of it." He smiled grimly. "Aye, lad, you can have it in writing. Alpha out." He replaced the receiver and looked up at Macklin. "There are times I wonder how much we can ask of them." It was an unusually introspective remark for Cowley to make and he stopped Macklin's reply with a wave, answering himself aloud. "Everything. We can ask everything of them."
"And usually do."
"We could use more men like Doyle."
"Bit of a hothead, that one. Too righteous for his own good. But, yes, he's a bright and talented little bugger."
Not knowing the particulars of Doyle's assignment and conditioned enough not to ask, Macklin may have wondered why his casual remark elicited a flinch of distaste from the Old Man. "Now you could team Doyle with Jax. They'd make a good unit," he continued innocently. "In fact, you could team 4.5 with just about anybody and he'd do fine."
Cowley rubbed his bad leg and thought of the unlikely young man he had "teamed" with Doyle. "I think I'll have a Scotch. Care to join me, Brian?"
He noted Macklin's raised eyebrow and bemused expression as he went to fetch bottle and glasses.
Bodie took a long, fast drive, the windows of his Porsche open to the crisp, autumn air. The sound of the engine, the wind, the speed, cleared his head but a vague sort of anger emerged, nagging him. He spent the remainder of the evening at his health club, working out and soundly winning an impromptu judo match with one of the instructors.
It was late when he returned to the flat.
Doyle was stretched out on his stomach on the sofa, wearing Bodie's headphones, a pillow propped under his chin. He was dressed in a red t-shirt and faded jeans that displayed a ragged patch on one well-formed buttock.
A couple of empty take-away containers stood on the coffee table beside an empty bottle of lager.
His gaze drawn to the ragged patch, Bodie almost tripped over a discarded white trainer as he neared the sofa. He spotted its mate near the album racks across the room.
The head of curls shifted, revealing one green eye that gave him a five-second inspection before closing. "What did you do, drive to Wales?"
Bodie stepped closer, removed the headphones without protest, hearing something classical, Mozart he guessed. He placed them on the table and turned off the stereo. "I went to the gym, had a workout."
Doyle turned over and tucked one leg under the other. "Dressed like that?"
"I keep a set of clothes at the club."
"Member, of course."
"Feel better now?"
"No." Bodie ended the conversation by leaving the room.
Doyle stayed out of his way until long after Bodie had turned in for the night. The bedroom was dark and he could hear the agent moving about, padding to and from the bathroom, the rustle of clothes as he undressed.
The mattress dipped as Doyle settled on the king-sized bed. Bodie was lying on his side, facing the windows. He assumed Doyle thought him asleep. The sheets barely moved; his bedmate was obviously going to stay as far away from him as he was able.
The wind picked up, whooshing against the windows and through the fading leaves and flowers in the garden. Bodie listened to the sounds as he had for the past hour. The soft cotton sheets smelled fresh and clean against his face, Doyle having changed them while he was gone.
He didn't know if he sighed aloud or if Doyle heard him, but a minute or so later, Bodie felt a hand touch his shoulder tentatively.
"Want more practise, do you?" he asked, not meaning it to sound as uncharitable as it did.
The hand withdrew. "No. Wasn't sure you were asleep." There was a short silence before Doyle went on. "You didn't check your calls."
"Might have missed a high roller."
"They'll call back. If not, there are always plenty of others."
"Do you ever think about quitting?"
"Do you ever shut up?"
The duvet tugged upwards and the room grew quiet, except for the moody wind outside.
Bodie stared into the dark for a long time.
When he woke in the morning, his eyes felt gritty and tired. Dreams chased him through the night, but he couldn't seem to remember them. His disposition matched the drizzly, overcast day.
He glanced across the bed and met Doyle's sleepy gaze. They were still lying far apart and he mused on the symbolic significance of that. Sliding over slowly, he put his arms round Doyle and pressed him close. It didn't make him feel worse and Doyle seemed to have no objection, so Bodie kissed him.
They rolled back and forth on the big bed, clinging to one another. They didn't talk, but their bodies spoke in age-old rhythms.
Sated and relaxed, Bodie felt himself falling comfortably to sleep in the circle of Doyle's arms.
He was still cradled there when he woke again. "What time is it?" he asked, not wanting to turn to see the clock.
Doyle peered over his head. It didn't seem as though the agent had been asleep at all. "One fifteen."
"What?!" Bodie broke away from the cocooning warmth and sat up straight. He brushed the hair from his eyes and glanced at the clock. His sleep had been marvelous. "I've an appointment at two."
"Can't you cancel?"
"Not this one. Sheiks don't like to be put off." He slid out of bed and noticed Doyle's sullen profile. For one silly moment, Bodie thought he looked like a deserted lover. "I've lost a small fortune already these past two days." He didn't know why he was bothering to explain himself. Worse still, the words sounded lame.
"We have to check out the clubs tonight."
"I know. I'll be back in a few hours."
Bodie almost blurted out, "I promise," but just managed to stop himself.
Doyle played with the gold strand at his throat and examined his reflection with a skeptical frown.
It was time to meet Coogan. The damn waiting was over.
"You look gorgeous." Bodie came up behind him and smiled into the mirror.
Whatever was going on between them, and there was... something, beyond the sex and the novelty, it was all tied up with... Bodie himself. Doyle's mind retreated from puzzling it out. There was too much else to deal with. The only image that stuck in his brain was of a ride he remembered from a fun fair--all ups and downs and twists and turns that had left him breathless, scared and excited all at once. He kept going back to that ride over and over until his mother finally put her foot down and dragged him home.
He eyed Bodie in the floor length mirror, stepping to one side to get the full effect.
Bodie had on a dusky plum coloured shirt, raw silk by its grainy texture, light wool jacket and trousers that were just a shade above charcoal, and a silk designer tie that almost blended into the material of the shirt. Charcoal gray polished boots finished the outfit.
"Fits my mood." At Doyle's pained expression, Bodie added, "Don't worry, Coogan won't give a toss what I'm wearing. He's already well acquainted with the merchandise. Anyway, I think I look rather attractive."
That, Doyle decided, was a major understatement. Bodie looked startling and beautiful and mysterious as smoke. The dark colours suited him, emphasizing his fair skin and sapphire eyes. But then, Bodie probably looked good in sackcloth and ashes. It made Doyle acutely aware of his own shortcomings.
"You're a knockout," he heard himself say.
Bodie grinned. "Mutual admiration society, are we?"
Doyle forced his gaze back to his own reflection. "I still think this is a bit much."
Of all the clothes the agent had brought with him, Bodie had insisted he wear the one outfit he wouldn't have chosen: tight brown leather trousers and a matching short jacket over a thin, pure white linen shirt. The ends of a cream silk scarf hung loose round his leather jacket collar, reaching down to his waist.
"We're supposed to be a 'bit much.' This is downright subtle for the trade you're aspiring to. Hold on a sec." Bodie went over to a wooden case on his bureau and took something out. "Here you go, the finishing touch." He took Doyle's wrist and added a narrow circle of pale gold. "I don't wear jewelry myself, but I've been given enough watches, bracelets and cuff links to open a shop on Bond street." He chuckled and gave Doyle a final appreciative appraisal. Reaching over, he undid another button on the agent's shirt, exposing more of his chest. "There, perfect. Coogan won't know what hit him."
Earlier in the day, after Bodie had come back from his insistent sheik, they had talked a little, Doyle asking him about what Coogan did in bed, asking for the specifics. The hustler obliged him with a detailed and unemotional account of his nights with Coogan. Had Doyle been able to listen objectively, he might have even found some lurid fascination in the description of the acts Bodie had performed, but mostly he just felt angry and repulsed. He knew it had shown in his face and in his silence.
It would be easier to put a bullet through Coogan's skull than to feel the sadist's hands on him. Or on Bodie.
"I wish you'd get us both off the hook."
Doyle blinked back to the present in surprise at Bodie's softly spoken words. It was like having his mind read. "I...can't. There's no alternative. I've got a job to do." He turned away from the mirror and heard Bodie sigh.
"Is everything in your life a part of your job?"
Doyle threw his shoulders back and moved towards the door. "Seems like."
The chilly night air sent a shiver through him as they walked to Bodie's Porsche. The stars were hidden behind the misty sky.
"We'll have a drink at the Rosewood Pub first," said Bodie, his voice as cold as the weather.
"What about Night Moves?"
Bodie fished out his keys and sat behind the wheel, pushing the other door open for Doyle. "It's too early. Coogan won't be there for hours yet. This'll give you a chance to practise your new persona." He gunned the ignition, turned up the radio, and roared off with a squeal of tyres.
The pub had a warm, woody look to it, with just the right touch of etched glass. Several of the small tables and cosy booths were already occupied and the sounds of conversation and laughter added to the welcoming atmosphere.
Bodie led them to the carved rosewood bar and addressed a woman behind the register. "Hello, Lu, how've you been?"
The woman turned, her face brightening. "Bodie, you rascal, I've been wondering where you'd gone off to! Haven't seen you in ages!"
"It's only been a couple of weeks."
"Let's have a hug, rascal."
She came out to them and gave Bodie an affectionate, enveloping squeeze. She appeared to be in her early fifties, a handsome woman with streaks of gray in her dark hair and a large, expressive mouth.
Bodie grinned, hugging her back, then nodded towards Doyle. "Lu, I'd like you to meet an old mate of mine, Ray Duncan. Ray, this forward creature is Lucille Denby, landlady of this esteemed drinking establishment."
The woman smiled and surveyed Doyle in motherly fashion. "Call me Lu." Before he knew it, Doyle was given a brief hug and a peck on the cheek. "Now, what'll you have? First drink's on the house."
Doyle mumbled his thanks and ordered a half pint of Guinness, ignoring Bodie's "what a waste of a freebie."
Lu joked with Bodie, both of them obviously old friends. "By the way, love, Angela was here yesterday and she's none too fond of you."
The hustler grimaced and Lu wagged a finger at him as she returned to the bar. "Said you broke a...date with her and none too politely. She's got tons of money, love. You sure you're not losing your business sense?" The question had a hopeful tone.
Bodie gave Doyle a dark look. "I've been preoccupied lately."
Lu glanced at both of them thoughtfully. "Ah, well, you better let her cool off for a few days before you throw your charms her way again. Let me get your drinks. Usual for you, Bodie?"
He nodded and she went off, tipping her head to acknowledge a new customer at the other end of the bar.
Doyle was a little sorry they came. The Rosewood was a pleasant, friendly pub. The kind where he would ordinarily enjoy spending an evening.
It was too normal.
"Don't tell me you pick up tricks in here?"
Bodie hooked a boot on the brass foot railing. "I've met a couple, but no, I don't come here for business. I just like it here. I've known Lu for years. She's a good-hearted person."
Doyle was about to ask him how they met when he noticed Bodie stiffening slightly. The hustler rolled his eyes as he caught sight of someone in the bar mirror. He whispered to Doyle under his breath. "He's a pest, but he's harmless."
The agent looked around to see the object of Bodie's sudden irritation. A tall man was making a beeline for them. He was ruddy-faced and a little drunk.
"Well, well, well, if it isn't his lordship."
Bodie groaned and turned to face him. "How are you, Freddy?"
"Aiming to be sociable, same as always." The man smiled and pulled at one end of his ginger moustache. "You look good enough to eat, Bodie."
"Ta, but you still can't afford me."
The man's face fell like a hound dog's. He took a sip from the near empty glass in his hand, his expression taking on a comical cast. "Installment plan?"
"Sorry. I don't take credit cards either."
Doyle had the distinct impression that the conversation had been played many times before.
Freddy's bushy eyebrows rose slowly as he focused on Doyle for the first time. "Hoi, and what have we here? Who's your angel in leather?"
"Forget it, Freddy, you can't afford him either."
Again the hound dog expression returned. Doyle wondered if anyone ever reached out and scratched the man behind his ears.
"Oh, another working boy, I should've known. Nobody does it for free anymore."
Lu came over with their drinks in time to hear Freddy's plaintive "he's breaking me heart again, Lu."
"Still at it, are you? You never learn," she admonished.
Freddy seemed oblivious. "Look what he's brought with him this time--another choice bit for sale--just to taunt me. Too cruel, that's what it is." He weaved a little where he stood and grabbed hold of the bar. "I'll have another, Lu," plunking down his empty glass, "to ease my sorrows."
The landlady eyed him sternly, shaking her head. "One more is all you'll get. It's a good thing you live within a walk because you're in no fit shape to drive."
But Freddy wasn't paying any attention to the lecture, his eyes glued to the two young men. "Ah, the flower of youth," he sighed theatrically, "how sweet the sight, how bitter the sting."
Bodie tapped Doyle on the arm. "There's a booth over there. C'mon. See you sometime, Freddy."
"If it were only so. You have but to name the day and place," came the wistful reply as they walked away.
They sat in the small, cheery booth and Doyle watched Freddy weave his way to another table with more genial company.
"Poor old Freddy," explained Bodie. "He used to be an actor, so I've heard. Never got beyond a few bit parts in some West End bombs."
"Is he queer?"
Bodie drank some of his gin and tonic. "You know, I'm not sure. Sometimes I think it's all an act, a role he likes to play, making the pub his stage. Then there are times when I think he means it. He lives off a small inheritance, I think, so he could come up with the money if he was really serious. It never gets to that point; he never pushes it that far, so it doesn't really matter."
"Resident eccentric, is he?"
"Yeh, something like." Bodie looked across the room where Freddy was chatting animatedly with several middle-aged types. "Fortunately, he's got enough of an audience to occupy himself. He won't bother us again."
"So, we're just going to sit here for hours?"
"You're the one who wanted to leave the flat in such a rush."
"We could stop by a couple of the other clubs. Maybe Coogan--"
"Won't be there. I told you, it's too damn early. I'm going to have something to eat. Lu serves a great shepherd's pie."
Doyle fidgeted in his seat. "I'm not hungry."
"Well, I am. Haven't eaten all day."
"Didn't your sheik feed you?"
Bodie shrugged. "I don't like figs."
Finding the hustler's reply inexplicably funny, Doyle began to laugh. It was nerves, he knew, but he couldn't stop laughing.
Until Bodie reached across the table and cupped his cheek. The discerning blue eyes saw right through him. "You still have time to get out of this. Tell Cowley--"
Doyle sat back, breaking the contact. He didn't want to argue or explain, so he ignored it. "Tell me about Lu. How did the two of you meet?"
Bodie dropped his gaze and stared into his drink, shoulders slumping. "Nothing to tell." He said it flat, as if he was answering a question of his own instead of Doyle's. His eyes flickered up, suddenly cool, his face very controlled, reminding Doyle of their first meeting.
They finished their drinks in a frosty silence.
"I'm sorry," Doyle offered at last.
"You must say that a lot in your job."
Doyle rubbed his eyes. "No, I don't. This assignment is a first for me in more ways than one." He traced a crease in the sleeve of his leather jacket. "It doesn't mean I can change anything, and I don't expect you to understand."
"You really think you're helping to save the world."
"I think it's important to try to make it a little better. Yeh, I believe I can make a difference."
"You make it sound like a dirty-word."
Bodie gave him a world-weary smile. "Not dirty, just foolish. Dreaming can be extremely hazardous to your health."
"Are you speaking from experience?"
"I am a healthy realist."
"Is that why you spent three years in Africa fighting for one lost cause after another?"
Bodie looked off towards the bar. "I'm hungry, think I'll order something."
They idled away another hour, Bodie picking at his plate of shepherd's pie, giving the lie to his claim of hunger, and Doyle half-heartedly nibbling at a cheese sandwich.
Doyle noticed the landlady watching them off and on from her place behind the bar. A few minutes later, Lu came over to their booth.
"Mind if I join you?" she asked as Bodie scooted over to make room for her beside him. "Thought I'd give myself a break and let Charlie cover the bar for a bit."
She regarded them pensively, biting down on her lower lip for a moment as though debating whether or not to say something. Then she gave Bodie a stern look. "Before you tell me, I know this is none of my business." That said she turned her attention to Doyle. "Ray, Freddy's got a big mouth and he usually puts both feet in it, but what he said about you...it's true, isn't it? You and Bodie, you're in the same line of... work, aren't you?"
Doyle damned the sudden blush that heated his face. "I...yeh."
She clasped her hands tightly on the table. "I don't know you, Ray, but I've always trusted my instincts about people." She took a deep breath. "Get out of it, Ray. What you're doing is no kind of life." She glanced pointedly at Bodie, adding, "for anyone."
"The money's very good." Doyle cocked his head to one side, his voice smooth. "I like money."
"It won't buy you anything that lasts, son." She nodded towards Bodie. "I've told this one often enough, but he's stubborn as a wall of bricks."
"You be quiet, Bodie. I'll get this off my chest and then I won't say another word about it." She kept her gaze on Doyle. "You're young and you've got the world in front of you. Go and find someone to share it with, someone you can build a life, a home, with. For god's sake, don't throw away your best years on strangers who'll only use you. And convince this one to get out of it, too."
Her concern and sincerity made Doyle resent the masquerade he had to play. "I know what I want, Lu. I appreciate your worrying, but I'm doing just fine. Really."
"He won't change his mind, believe me," muttered Bodie.
She looked from one man to the other. "You're a matched pair, not a lick of sense between the two of you." She slid out of the booth, shaking her head. "And if you think I'll stop reminding you of the fact, you're sorely mistaken." She sniffed indignantly and returned to the bar.
"Nice lady." Doyle voiced his thought.
"Yeh, she gives me the same lecture every few months. Feels she'll wear me down eventually." Bodie took a last swallow of his drink. "Well, since you won't listen to her advice, or mine, we may as well get this thing over with. C'mon, time for you to joust with the windmills."
Night Moves' entrance was marked by a small, discreet brass plaque bearing the name of the club, but inside, discretion was swiftly abandoned. In contrast to the warm atmosphere of the Rosewood, Night Moves gave off a predatory air, a human electricity that crackled from body to body. The decor was stylishly expensive, the lighting suggestively dim.
The club was already crowding up, the clientele mostly male and well-dressed. Eager eyes latched onto every man who walked through the door.
Doyle could feel the assessing looks stripping him down as he followed Bodie to a table. On the tiny stage that occupied a corner of the dance floor, a buxom redhead in gold lame was singing "You Made Me Love You" to the accompaniment of a bluesy combo.
The table was taken before they were halfway to it, so they detoured toward the bar. A hand fanned out from amongst the milling bodies and groped Doyle's crotch. He disregarded it and kept walking. Then he felt another hand flick over the seam between his buttocks and gritted his teeth.
Just as they reached the bar, someone grabbed Bodie by the arm. The stranger was pouting theatrically and leaned over to whisper into Bodie's ear. The hustler smiled. "I've had some problems with my phone machine. Call me next week, all right?" The man seemed satisfied with that, winked, and snaked back into the crowd.
Bodie caught the bartender's attention and asked Doyle what he wanted. "Don't worry, the drinks are so watered down, you'd need a microscope to find the liquor. People don't come here to get drunk."
"Gin and tonic."
As they waited for their drinks, Doyle scanned the natives. No Coogan. He did notice a slim, young blond waving a mute "hello" at Bodie. The boy, he appeared no more than 20, was gorgeous. Sleek, flaxen hair, down to his shoulders, shining even in the subdued light. A face that belonged on the cover of a movie magazine.
Standing beside the boy was a Middle Eastern type wearing heavy gold rings and a decidedly possessive expression.
Bodie acknowledged the boy's greeting with an indifferent nod.
"Who's that?" asked Doyle
"Ian Desmond. Looks like he's cornered the big money tonight. He can smell a millionaire a mile away." Bodie faced the bar and picked up his drink, handing the other to the agent.
"Ian? The same one you and Coogan--"
"The very same."
Doyle looked at Bodie's flawless profile out of the corner of his eye, and then at Ian. The blond was dimpling coyly at his rich middle Eastern. The mental image of Bodie and Ian together...dazzling.
Suddenly, Doyle felt very inadequate.
"May I buy you a drink?"
The deep voice intruded into his thoughts. A suavely attractive man in his mid-forties was smiling at him. Doyle almost turned to check that the fellow was really talking to him before he raised his glass. "I have one."
"May I buy you another?" The man took a step closer. "I've never seen you here before. I would definitely remember. You're very beautiful."
The man's gaze swept his body, lusty and admiring. His open desire was unmistakable.
Doyle darted a look at Bodie and relaxed against the bar, one hip provocatively angled, displaying his tight leather pants and their contents to advantage. "Thanks for the compliment."
He talked to the man for a few minutes, finally turning him down, gently, but firmly.
"You're a shameless flirt," Bodie told him, after his dejected admirer had gone.
"Don't look so innocent, you loved every second of it. Shattered the poor bloke's heart, you did, not to mention tying his balls up in a knot."
Doyle tried to look affronted but couldn't quite manage to smother a satisfied grin. "Just practising. Not naturally gifted like you and Ian, after all."
"Oh, cut the humble pie crap, will you?"
"Ian's fantastic looking."
"Lucky for him because he's got the personality of a shrew, a greedy shrew."
"He's just a kid."
"He's older than you are. Guards his looks like the crown jewels and well he should because when they go he'll be null and void."
The approach of more eager cruisers cut their conversation short. If Doyle needed the practise, or the ego boost, he was given plenty of both during the next hour.
Night Moves was its own world, with its own rules and its own games. Everyone competed. Everyone wanted something.
With each passing moment, Doyle felt more confident.
He was beginning to think that Coogan would never show up when Bodie leaned over to him. "Frank Williams is heading our way. This is it."
Williams was Coogan's right hand goon. Doyle recognized the tall, wiry man from the photos in his files.
"Mr. Coogan would like you to join him for a drink. Still not interested?"
"As it happens, I do feel rather thirsty tonight. Where is he?"
Williams faltered for a moment, obviously having expected Bodie to decline the offer, as usual. "He's in his booth upstairs. I'll take you over there."
Bodie placed an arm on Doyle's shoulder. "I'd like Big John to meet a friend of mine."
Williams gave Doyle a quick, cold once-over. "Fine."
The club was split into two levels, the bar, a few tables and the dance floor on the lower, and the more private booths and tables on the upper.
They followed Williams through the crowd, Doyle exchanging glances with Bodie as they neared the secluded booth. The hustler looked cool and composed, but Doyle sensed his tension. He had felt it when Bodie's arm touched his shoulder. Yet, he wasn't uneasy about Bodie. Wasn't worried that the hustler might betray him or even inadvertently give him away. Bodie was sharp, a real survivor. It was almost like working with another CI5 agent.
The fact that Bodie was being forced to cooperate under threat of Cowley's blackmail was hardly a basis for trust. Yet, Doyle did trust him, even though he couldn't explain why.
Their quarry was a hard looking man, tough and muscular, ruggedly handsome, with eyes like blue ice. He sat alone against the plush leather upholstery of the booth as if it was a throne. A pale eyebrow rose as Bodie came up and stood beside the table, Doyle behind him.
John Coogan snapped his fingers. "Go have a drink at the bar, Frank."
Williams nodded and disappeared.
"You're looking good, Bodie." Coogan gestured for him to sit. "Who's the boy?" Blue ice flickered over Doyle.
"This is Ray Duncan, old friend of mine. He's been wanting to meet you."
"Really?" Coogan eyed the agent speculatively. "Join me then."
As Doyle moved to sit next to Bodie, Coogan held up a hand, "no, over here," indicating they should sit on either side of him.
The heavy platinum links of Coogan's ID bracelet shimmered in the soft light as he picked up his drink and sipped. "So, where's your friend come from?" he asked Bodie.
The hustler told him the sketchy details of Doyle's cover story. "I'm just showing him round, helping him get started, if you know what I mean," finished Bodie casually, his half-smile a sexy invitation.
"I didn't think you were interested." There was a hint of suspicion in Coogan's comment.
"It takes me a while to recover from a session with you, Big John." Bodie was still smiling. "Now, I'm in the mood, I like the money, and Ray could make it very interesting."
Doyle suddenly found himself the center of attention as Coogan turned to face him.
"Why did you want to meet me?"
"I hear you're a very generous man, Mr. Coogan."
"If the service is good." He looked back at Bodie. "You two fucking each other, eh?"
Bodie answered smoothly, without skipping a beat. "A little. We enjoy the exercise."
Coogan laughed and turned to Doyle. "Did Bodie tell you the kind of service I require?"
On the edge of his vision, Doyle could discern the pinpoints of light striking off Coogan's heavy bracelet as his hand moved from the table to Doyle's groin. Strong fingers squeezed his cock through the soft leather.
Doyle sucked in a breath as the fingers tightened. "Yes, sir, I know what you like."
The hand left his crotch, but a second later, he felt the fingers gripping the curls at the nape of his neck, pulling his head back painfully. Coogan stared at him, eyes moving over his face. Doyle didn't flinch when Coogan yanked his head back even farther. Slowly, enticingly, he licked his lips. "I'll do whatever you want, Mr. Coogan, with pleasure."
Coogan kept watching his face. "Bodie, did you treat him rough?"
Doyle couldn't see Bodie, but he heard his voice and his almost offhanded reply. "No, not really my scene, you know. I think that's why he's so hot for it. Well, are you interested? All you have to do is name the night."
Coogan's mouth stretched into a calculating smile. "Let's have a look at the merchandise first." He let go of Doyle's hair and began shoving him out of the booth. "Into the Gents, I wanna see what I'm buying."
Doyle let himself be manhandled as Coogan got up and pulled him towards an alcove and the Men's Room. Catching the growing frown on Bodie's face, Doyle surreptitiously shook his head, hoping the hustler would understand and play along. Clearly, Big John was taking more liberties than was his habit.
In the Men's Room, Coogan again grabbed Doyle by his hair and pushed him up against the shiny, black marble tiles. Bodie sauntered up beside them, hands in his pockets, looking bored.
A few interested faces turned towards them. Coogan smiled and stepped back, leaving Doyle standing in plain view. "Drop your pants."
A lewd snicker could be heard as everyone's attention was drawn to the three-man tableau.
Doyle didn't let himself think about the eyes focusing in on him as he unzipped his pants and pushed them down over his hips to mid-thigh.
"Nice, very nice," a licentious voice murmured from somewhere.
"You gonna fuck him?" another voice called out.
"Let's see his cheeks," said yet another.
"Turn round," commanded Coogan.
Doyle obeyed, actually grateful to turn away from the blur of hungry faces. He'd never felt more humiliated, Coogan fingered his buttocks, nails digging into his flesh until he whimpered.
"How about giving us all a turn at the boy, eh?" Crude laughter followed the question.
Doyle heard movement, then Coogan's irritated voice, "What do you think you're doing, Bodie? You're blocking their view."
Doyle could only listen, his face pressed against the fancy, ebony tiles, cold against his skin.
"We don't give out free samples, Big John."
"At your prices, you should. Step aside, Bodie." Coogan paused, adding in a low, now amused tone. "Are you his protector or something? I didn't think upmarket whores formed...attachments."
"C'mon, Ray, we're leaving."
Doyle froze. What the hell was Bodie doing?! His own embarrassment evaporating, the agent was only aware of the job he had to do. He couldn't lose Coogan now, after all he'd been through.
The thought flashed through his mind as he slowly turned round and rearranged his clothing.
Doyle hoped he was projecting the proper balance of submissiveness and desire. He knew instinctively that he shouldn't speak up and take the lead away from Bodie, much as he wanted to. He looked up at Coogan timidly from under his lashes and started to move towards Bodie.
The hustler's face was stony, but his sapphire eyes glimmered with suppressed anger.
The sound of Coogan's laughter cut the tension like a bolt of light. "Still not very disciplined, are you Bodie? I think that's what I like about you. Always a challenge. But then, if there's one thing I've learned in this life, it's that money can buy everything. Even a challenge." The wintry eyes and cruel smile held Doyle immobile. "Tomorrow night, eight o'clock, at my country house," he announced sharply. "You're a choice bit, Duncan. You have potential. I'm sure I'll get my money's worth, and more." With that, Coogan turned and walked out of the room.
When he was gone, Doyle sagged against the cold tiles in relief.
"How much for a piece of your sweet arse, boy?" a sniggering voice asked him.
Before Doyle had a chance to tell him off, Bodie grabbed the man and threw him against the opposite wall. "Get lost. And the rest of you can go fuck yourselves, the show's over."
The area around them seemed to clear in seconds.
Bodie walked back to the agent and pressed one outstretched hand flat against the black marble, like a barricade. "Well, you got what you wanted," he whispered harshly.
"Almost blew it," returned Doyle. "What the hell got into you?"
For just an instant, Bodie seemed flustered. "I don't enjoy being treated like dirt."
"You don't enjoy--I was the one with my pants round my knees! You almost botched the deal, coming on like a ten-ton lorry."
"Coogan likes to put the needle in, just to see how far he can push it. What are you complaining about? He took the bait, didn't he?" Bodie let his arm fall, fingers clenching. "Or are you upset because I spoiled your fun? You looked as if you were really beginning to relish your part."
Doyle stood up straight, swallowing back his temper. "I'll take that as a compliment to my acting abilities--for your sake. Now let's get out of here." He headed for the door, not trusting himself to continue the conversation.
Coogan's booth was empty.
"Once he sets up what he wants, he leaves," Bodie's voice was close by his ear and Doyle could smell the faint, crisp scent of his expensive cologne.
"I think it's time to call it a night. I've had about as much of this place as I can stand." He didn't bother to check if Bodie was following him as he made his way through the crowd towards the entrance. The shapely singer was beginning a throaty rendition of "Stormy Weather." Couples, mostly male, clung to each other on the dance floor.
Doyle quickened his pace.
The air outside was like a balm, a cool breeze drawing off the heat from his skin. He walked away from the entrance and stood on the pavements savoring the darkness and quiet.
Half the battle. One more night and it would be all over. Everything was going smoothly, the rendezvous with Coogan had been arranged with relative ease. And Doyle had only to be propositioned, groped, and degraded in public. With the worst still to come.
Cowley would be proud.
Doyle stared grimly at nothing, shoved his fists into the pockets of his leather jacket, and started walking again.
"Where are you going? My car's parked over there."
Bodie was beside him, gesturing with a thumb in the opposite direction. The night wind was picking up, ruffling his dark hair. It fell low across his forehead, making him look very boyish and a little wild.
Life seemed particularly unreal this night.
Bodie took hold of his elbow and steered him back the other way. They ambled along slowly, side by side.
Doyle spotted the silver blue Porsche Carrera in the distance. "I'm supposed to take care of you," he said ruefully.
He could hear the smile in Bodie's answer. "Yeh, I know. You're doing a great job."
As they passed the club again, the agent gazed at its innocuous entrance. "Doesn't look much, does it? Innocent enough. Nothing to give you a clue about what's really going on inside."
"You could say that about most people," replied Bodie softly.
"True enough for the ones in my world." Doyle kicked at a bottlecap, sending it skidding into the street. "Yours, too."
Bodie fished out his keys. They jangled from his fingers. "No argument."
As the hustler unlocked the car, Doyle asked the same question he had before. "Do you think about quitting?"
This time, Bodie gave him an answer. "I'm not getting any younger. It's a tough business, even in my league. Yeh, of course I think about it. It's a burnout." His long eyelashes swept downward, shadowing his eyes. "Still, there are worst things."
They sat in the car, in the dark. Bodie didn't start the engine. It was beginning to drizzle outside and the streetlamps looked blurry through the windscreen. Inside the sports car, it felt cocoon-like, with only the sound of the cars whooshing passed. Doyle leaned back against the headrest and closed his eyes. He heard Bodie shifting towards him.
The kiss was brief and sweet, a touch of warm comfort.
"Why did you do that?"
"Because you wanted me to."
Doyle bit his lip and wondered if Bodie had any better understanding of the strange rapport between them.
The motor revved to life and Bodie eased the Porsche into traffic, the radio on loud to disguise the silence.
They were halfway to Bodie's flat when the hustler tapped Doyle on the arm. "I think someone's following us."
Doyle was instantly alert, glancing into his side mirror, "Dark coloured Merc?"
"Yeh, it's been a car or two behind us since we left the club."
"Take a couple of turns, see if it follows."
A short time later, Bodie's suspicion was confirmed as the Merc stuck with them.
"Can you see the driver?"
Bodie squinted into the rearview mirror. "No, just a shadow."
"I can only make out a driver. Yeh, only one person."
"Could be one of Coogan's men, checking us out."
Bodie maneuvered the car through a tight turn. "Big John never checked up on me."
"Maybe he did and you never knew it. In his business, it pays to be a little paranoid."
"I don't think it's Coogan."
"One of your CI5 playmates?"
Doyle waved the question away. "No. It's Coogan's boy, making sure I'm on the up and up."
"All right, you're the expert." There was a sudden sparkle in Bodie's eyes as his hand poised over the gear lever. "Do you want me to lose him?"
"No! Let him be. At least he can report to Coogan that I'm really shacking up with you."
The hustler sniffed, disappointed.
Doyle grinned and shook his head. "Enjoy high speed chases, do you?"
"Breaks the monotony, you know."
Doyle clucked unsympathetically. "As if your life didn't have enough excitement."
Bodie muttered something he couldn't quite make out.
They drove the rest of the way at an almost sedate pace and parked in Bodie's driveway.
The Merc eased by them and into an alley, dousing its lights.
"Bloody obvious that it's following us," grumbled Bodie. "Lousy amateur job. A blind man would notice that fool."
Doyle eyed his companion warily, sensing there was something building. Sure enough, Bodie slapped the steering wheel with his palm and gunned the engine to life again. "And I wouldn't just ignore it. I'd find out who that clown was and why he's following me, that's what I'd do."
"Bodie!" Doyle lurched forward as the Porsche tore back into the street and headed for the alley.
As they screeched up to the Merc, Bodie rolled down his window and shouted, "Hoi, you in the car--"
The Merc's headlights switched on and it roared passed them into the night, scraping against a building as it made its escape.
"What are you doing?!" Doyle gripped the dashboard as the Porsche took off after it. "Have you lost your mind? This isn't the Monte Carlo Grand Prix--"
Bodie was laughing and Doyle felt like wringing his neck. The maniac was enjoying himself!
They sped down several quiet streets as Bodie gained on the other car. The Merc ran a red light at a junction, a horn blaring as it just missed a crossing lorry. Bodie slammed on the brakes to avoid colliding with a Volvo. "Damn!" He moved to shift gears when Doyle grabbed his arm. "That's it, fun's over. You won't catch him now anyway. I remember his number plate and that's all we need."
The lorry driver, his face waxy, began shouting a string of obscenities at the long-gone Merc. The sound of a police siren wailed in the distance.
Bodie turned the Porsche around and ducked into a narrow side street. Doyle sat in silent amazement as the hustler took them through an intricate driving pattern that eluded the police and returned them to the flat about an hour later.
"Home safe and sound," announced Bodie as he bounced out of the car. He looked like a boy scout with a new badge.
Doyle trudged into the flat and sank into the nearest chair. "Next time, I drive."
"What? I lost that copper, didn't I? And I didn't break the sound barrier doing it. Love leaving 'em scratching their pointy, little heads, wondering what to do next." Bodie chuckled gleefully and flopped down on the sofa.
"What the hell were you doing anyway?"
"I was being myself, CI5 or no CI5."
"You could've ruined everything with that stunt."
"I didn't," replied Bodie smugly.
Doyle was more bemused than angry and he wasn't in the mood to lecture anyone, least of all Bodie. "You really got a kick out of all that chasing about, didn't you?"
"Yeh, was fun." Bodie linked his hands behind his head and smiled. "Aren't you going to find out about the car?"
Doyle's lips twitched into a smile in spite of himself and he went to ring HQ.
"So, when will you know?" Bodie asked him, several minutes later.
Doyle replaced the receiver and returned to the sofa, grateful that it was the middle of the night and he hadn't had to talk with Cowley. "They should be able to trace it and call me back within the hour."
Bodie already had his boots off, along with tie and jacket. "Want a drink?" he asked.
"How about a little sex then?"
Doyle was standing near Bodie's shoulder and felt the hustler's hand circling his thigh, rubbing over the leather. He covered Bodie's hand with his own. "If we were rabbits of the proper sex, there'd be hundreds of us by now."
Bodie grabbed his belt buckle and pulled him down to the sofa. He landed on top of the other man in a sprawl.
Their laughter faded away as Doyle stared into smoky, blue eyes.
There were no jolts, no sparks, no flashing lights, but something happened. A moment of complete empathy, soft as a lightbridge, thick with feeling, linking one man to the other.
So complex, it was elusive.
Unnerved, Doyle swallowed hard and sat up awkwardly, When he could look at Bodie again, the blue eyes avoided him.
Whatever was happening between them, Bodie was no better able to acknowledge it than Doyle.
"I think I better change out of this leather gear; it's cutting off my circulation," joked Doyle lamely. Any excuse to leave the room and the man on the sofa.
Bodie nodded, still absorbed in the weave of the cushions. His whole body seemed to relax a little as Doyle stood and walked away.
Bodie exhaled heavily and sat up. He had only meant to be playful, to have a bit of fun to top off the strange, reckless day. Maybe it was just a reaction to the exhilaration of the chase, the foray into cloak and dagger. People could feel close to each other at times like that.
He had to remember that Doyle was just like any other trick. The circumstances were unusual, of course, but the outcome would be the same. Once Doyle had what he wanted from Coogan's safe, Bodie's usefulness would come to an end and they would go their separate ways.
And that would be the best thing for both of them.
Just another damn trick.
Bodie stood and wandered over to the windows. He stared off into the night, but all he could see were Doyle's clear, green eyes.
He realized the phone was ringing, had been ringing, and turned round.
Doyle was coming back into the room, barefoot and firmly wrapped in Bodie's burgundy robe. He answered the phone with a quick glance in the hustler's direction.
"Hello." He listened for a moment. "Yeh, that was quick." Balancing the receiver on his shoulder, he leaned against the wall. "What? Why not?" He waited, frowning. "Okay. Yeh, I'll be here." He hung up and rubbed the back of his neck. "It was a hired car. It'll take longer to trace the records. They'll call me in the morning."
"Why would Coogan hire a car? He must have half a dozen."
Doyle frowned again and sank his fists into his pockets. "I don't know."
"And if he wanted to keep it anonymous, he would've sent a goon that was better at it than that amateur in the Merc." Bodie really didn't care who it was anymore, but it was easier to keep talking.
"Well, we'll know soon enough, won't we? I'm going to get some sleep."
He watched Doyle drift back into the bedroom. He remained by the windows a while longer, debating whether or not to have a drink. In the end, he decided it wouldn't help.
The small lamp was lit in the bedroom. He didn't look towards the bed, but began undressing and putting away his clothes. His skin prickling, he became acutely aware that Doyle was following his every movement and, for the first time in years, Bodie felt self-conscious.
It made no sense at all.
Turning, he felt a flutter rise in his stomach.
Doyle was sitting up against the headboard, his chest bare and the duvet tucked loosely around his waist. He looked nervous. Too.
Slowly, very slowly, Doyle held out his arms to him.
Bodie had the urge to run out of the room, out of the flat, out of the country, but his legs carried him towards Doyle instead.
He sighed as Doyle's warmth enveloped him, drawing him into the bed and against the length of the slender, welcoming body. The scent of Ray's skin, his hair, was seductively, compellingly familiar.
New habits were hard to break.
The attraction irresistible, the soft touches turned into foreplay, the foreplay into passion. They made love over and over until they were exhausted and, even then, they clung to one another.
And they laughed. Half asleep and sex-drained, they told each other jokes. Silly, dark, bizarre jokes that left them giggling and teary-eyed.
It felt good to laugh in bed.
A rare contentment stole over Bodie as he lay against Doyle in almost-sleep.
"You scare me to death, Bodie."
He wasn't sure if the gentle whisper belonged to his encroaching dreams. He couldn't quite open his eyes. Fingers brushed delicately across his face and traced his eyelashes and kiss-swollen lips.
George Cowley pressed a button on his intercom. "Send Murphy in immediately." He swirled round in his chair, mouth in a faint, hard smile.
It was a very good piece of luck indeed for CI5. Had the timing been different, just a few days sooner, it would have been perfect.
Still, 4.5 would be greatly relieved. Cowley glanced at his watch. He would call Doyle as soon as he settled the details with Murphy.
"Sir, you wanted to see me?"
The tall, lanky Murphy was standing in front of his desk, a piece of paper in his hand.
Cowley adjusted his glasses. "You know of the Coogan business this morning?"
"Yes, sir, I heard."
"I want you to see to it that the matter is officially turned over to CI5. Usual authority. If the Yard balks, have them call me. I want that man in our custody this afternoon. Understood?"
"I'll get right on it." Murphy offered the piece of paper to his chief. "Um, Doyle called in a request for an ID on a car that was shadowing him yesterday. I presume you'll be calling him?"
Cowley took the sheet and read it quickly. "Hmm. Yes, I'll take care of it. Go on, get going."
Murphy nodded and left the office.
For a change, the Controller of CI5 reached for the phone with anticipation. He dialed Bodie's number and waited through half a dozen rings.
"Yeh? Who is it?" It was Doyle's voice, rough and groggy.
"Oh, sorry, sir. I, um, just got up. Something happened?"
"Good news for you, Doyle. Your assignment is now terminated."
There was a long silence. "Wh-what did you say?"
"Coogan's been shot. He's in hospital with a bullet in his stomach. His brother Paul has been arrested for attempted murder."
"From the preliminary report, it seems that the two quarreled over a business deal. Paul wanted a bigger share of the pie, more control. Perhaps he finally became fed up with being his big brother's lap dog. The argument got out of hand and, much to John Coogan's surprise I'm sure, Paul pulled out a .38 and shot him."
Cowley waited for a response, his sixth sense warning him that something was definitely amiss. "Are you there, 4.5?"
"I'm having Paul Coogan transferred into our custody. I'm sure we can persuade him as to the wisdom of supplying us with the particulars of their operations. The Coogan empire is about to topple." Cowley savoured the thought. "As for you, you can pack up and leave at once. I want you here to assist in the interrogation."
"Is something the matter with your hearing, Doyle?"
"N-no, sir. I...what about Bodie?"
"You can assure Mr. Bodie that there will be no further interference from CI5. I gave him my word and I will keep it. Extend my thanks for his cooperation. I believe that should be sufficient."
There was another long pause. The tone of the conversation was definitely not what Cowley had expected. "Incidentally, we traced the car that was following you. It was hired by a man named Andre Delain. Was Bodie with you in the car?"
"That would explain it then. Delain is Marrika Schumann's press aide. It would seem that he was following Bodie and not you. Whether it was done under her instructions or his own initiative, for whatever reason, is of no concern to CI5. Doyle?"
"I'm still here."
"I'll expect to see you at headquarters in two hours."
Cowley listened to the soft click as Doyle rang off before he replaced his receiver. He had the disturbing feeling that, for one of the few times in his professional career, he had not considered all of the possibilities.
Stretching luxuriously under the covers, Bodie patted the space on the pillow beside him. Empty. Then he remembered the phone and wriggled over on his side to face the door. The CI5 people must have ferreted out the identity of the Merc driver. Bodie felt too wonderfully relaxed to be interested, particularly when it only reminded him of Coogan. He brushed the hair back out of his eyes and considered the night to come.
Maybe, after all, there was some way he could distract Coogan long enough to let Doyle get into the safe. That way, maybe Ray wouldn't have to....
His thought fled as Doyle came back into the room, face pale and cold.
"What is it? What's wrong?"
Doyle gazed around the room, a blank, unreadable stare. When the green eyes focused on Bodie there was a flash of something akin to panic, and then it was gone. "Coogan's in hospital, gunshot. His brother Paul tried to kill him during an argument this morning."
Coogan was out of the way. It was the first thing that leapt to Bodie's mind. "That's great! That means we won't have to go through with it We're off the hook!" His smile died at Doyle's rigid expression.
"The job's over. We're interrogating Paul Coogan this afternoon. I have to leave now."
For a moment, Bodie had the peculiar sensation that he was sinking.
Doyle was dressing, throwing on the first articles of clothing he could find.
"Your shirt doesn't match." Bodie didn't know if he spoke aloud or not. It was such a trivial thing to say when there were a thousand other things he wanted to say.
Doyle pulled on his white trainers as though he hadn't heard and dragged out his holdall. He began stuffing his clothes in it, cramming them in carelessly. It seemed as though he finished packing in seconds.
Bodie couldn't utter a word. Not a sound. He couldn't even move.
"We traced the Merc. It's a man named Alain Delain. No connection to Coogan." Doyle's face was hooded, tense. "Delain works for Marrika Schumann. Seems she's more persistent than you thought."
Bodie didn't even blink.
"Mr. Cowley wants you to know that he'll keep his part of the bargain. There won't be any interference from CI5. No trouble." Doyle was at the bedroom door, holdall in his hand. He was looking everywhere except at Bodie. "I... I want to thank... thank you for your help and cooperation." The agent glanced at his hands, paused, and lowered the holdall. He began to remove the thin gold bracelet he still wore. "I almost forgot," he whispered.
Bodie found his voice and it came out harsh and icy. "Keep it. I don't want it back."
Perhaps it was his tone that made Doyle meet his eyes at last. "I couldn't...."
Just like any other trick. How could Bodie have forgotten such a fundamental truth? "I said, keep it. Doesn't mean a damn thing to me. I've got dozens." He turned over on his side, away from Doyle. "Flip on the phone machine on your way out, would you? I wouldn't want to miss out on real business." He drew the duvet up over his shoulders.
"Bodie, I ...."
Bodie waited, a pain growing in his chest, but Doyle never finished. He listened to the unnatural quiet. Then he listened to Doyle walking away. He heard the faint click of the lock as the door opened and closed, leaving nothing but the quiet.
Snow was falling lightly, his shoes crunching on the frozen, off-white ground as he limped to his car. Cold weather always wreaked havoc with his bad leg and it looked to be one of the coldest winters in years.
"Shall I drive, sir?"
Cowley glanced sideways at Brian Macklin and handed him the keys to the Rover. "There's something on your mind, Brian, and I expect you to come out with it on the drive back to town. Understood?"
"You're right, as usual, George. There is a matter I'd like to discuss with you."
"About the squad?"
Cowley nodded grimly, not particularly surprised, and waited for Macklin to unlock the door.
The car heater wasn't working and the ride was bumpy. Their conversation afforded even less comfort.
"Doyle's got a problem. I don't know what it is but it's beginning to affect his concentration. I don't think anyone else would notice his...distraction, but then, that's what you're paying me for...."
Cowley listened as Macklin continued to outline his concern over Ray Doyle's state of mind.
It was part of Macklin's job to spot the early warning signs, the subtle changes in performance and attitude that could affect an agent's work in the field. That could make him ultimately useless to CI5.
"Have you spoken to 4.5?" Cowley asked.
"I danced around it. I've talked to him about his test scores during the refresher, the decrease in his response time. It's minimal really, but enough of a drop that it should bother a man like Doyle. He didn't seem to care. He said he was tired and that was it. That's not like Ray."
"I think you should consider removing him from active duty, at least until he's able to resolve whatever it is that's gnawing at him. Maybe Kate Ross...."
Cowley knew the nature of Ray Doyle's "problem," or rather, he had narrowed down all the possibilities.
And that had left him with William Bodie.
Macklin's observations only confirmed Cowley's nagging suspicions since the Coogan operation broke apart. And the Controller of CI5 was not about to lose his most promising young agent because of some high-priced call boy and an unforeseen, and unfortunate, involvement.
"Yes, yes, I can see where you would feel Dr. Ross' skills might be in order. However, I have something else in mind." Cowley rubbed his chilly hands together. "I offered 4.5 a week-long holiday some months ago which he declined to take. I will insist that he accept a two-week leave now. He'll not argue the point."
"But I don't see how that would really help."
Cowley waved off the rest of Macklin's comment. "I want you to follow him, Brian. Follow every move he makes. I want to know what he does, where he goes, who he meets. Carry it through as if it were a level one surveillance. Use whatever equipment you deem necessary."
"What?" The Rover came to a halt at Cowley's door and the blond stared at his boss in astonishment.
"There are certain facts you're not aware of, Brian. I have been concerned about Doyle for some time. If you do as I say, I think he'll be all right. That's a goal we both share, I'm sure."
"Yes, of course. Look, George, I've been in this business long enough to know we have to play dirty more often than not, but spying on our own sticks in my gut. I can understand it if you suspect an agent's turned rogue--" Macklin stopped and ran one large hand over his jaw. "That's not it, is it? You don't suspect Doyle--"
"No, it's nothing like that."
"Then, why? And why me? I'm an instructor, I haven't been field active in years. And I never want to be again."
"I need your help, Brian, it's as simple as that." Cowley leaned towards the blond, his eyes narrowed and intense. "I don't want to bring any more squad members into this matter. It could be very...delicate. The fewer people involved, the better. 4.5 is a valuable agent, his caliber doesn't come along every day. CI5 needs him. I believe his problem is of a personal nature and one that we can help to alleviate." Cowley relaxed back into his seat, softening his face to a fatherly pose. "Besides, I think you're probably the only person Doyle wouldn't spot. Will you do it?"
"You're giving me a choice?"
"I'd prefer it."
Macklin gazed beyond the windscreen at the darkening sky. "I won't go into this blind. Not something like this."
Cowley nodded assuringly. "Of course. I'll give you all the information I have and I'll tell you what I think you may find out."
"When would I have to start?"
"As soon as possible. You may consider yourself relieved of all other duties until we've found a solution to Doyle's...problem."
Doyle rested his forehead on the frost-edged window pane. The city was dreary with winter, melancholy mist veiling the streets, the building, the people, and leaving the sun a chalky blob in the sky.
Three days. Three days of leave and he'd spent most of it staring out the window at nothing. Eleven more days to go and then what? Probably a suspension.
Doyle had known something was up when he saw the Old Man drive away with Macklin. Macklin. Senses like radar, the man was uncanny. He knew when an agent was losing it.
Yeh, Doyle knew he was losing it, that edge that kept him ahead of the others, the single-minded dedication that never let him waver from the job. It was slipping away. Not too bad yet. Only Cowley or Macklin could pick it up. Of course, they were the only two that mattered.
He shuffled back to the sofa and sagged into the cushions, face buried in his hands. The room was as still as the winter silence outside. No music. Before, he'd have the stereo blaring, filling the flat with every sound from rock 'n' roll to Mozart.
But music made his feelings flow.
Doyle touched the narrow gold band around his wrist. He shouldn't have kept it, should've left it behind. It didn't belong to him, no more than its owner.
Doyle could close his eyes and still feel, exactly, the heat and texture of Bodie's skin, the solid weight of muscle pressing him down, down into the dark, satin sheets. He could hear the sound of his voice, smell the scent of his cologne. He could see the smoky blue of his eyes and the pouty curve of his smile.
He didn't want to remember Bodie, but his body wouldn't let him forget.
Doyle was beyond worrying about sexual identity or common sense. He had already tested both.
Going back to Night Moves had been a mistake, but an educational one. Picking up a man was easy. Three guys hit on him before he'd even finished his first drink. He'd gone as far as walking out the door with one of them. Gone as far as the man's car before he turned around and went home.
It wasn't male sex he wanted. It was Bodie he wanted. Sex with William Bodie had been an experience that made everyone else second class.
There was no way to exorcise the memory except to confront it. If he saw Bodie again, now, it would be different. Surely reality would blunt the fantasy, show him the absurdity of this... obsession.
If sex was all it was.
He would see Bodie again. The decision made, Doyle felt a surge of energy run through him. The air became light and the world exciting. It was all part of the crazy fixation. It would pass. He'd shake it once and for all.
He didn't want to go back to Night Moves. He didn't know when or if Bodie would show up there. Maybe the hustler had more than enough business without having to look for it. Maybe his telephone machine was backed up with messages. The tricks lining up.
How many men had Bodie fucked in the almost four months since Doyle had walked out? Fucked and been fucked by.
Doyle's fingers squeezed into fists, knuckles whitening with the pressure.
He left the sofa and went to fetch his jacket. He'd go to Bodie's flat. If the man wasn't there, he'd pick the lock, go in, and wait.
The silver blue Carrera was parked in front of Bodie's flat. He was home. Doyle pulled up his collar, not caring about the biting wind. His mind so preoccupied with the man in the flat, it didn't even occur to him to check if anyone was following him.
He rang the bell several times before he heard the lock click open. His palms began to sweat and he felt his heart race.
In a moment that felt like a thunderclap, Bodie stood before him in the open doorway. At first, Doyle could only see the astonished blue eyes and the long, dark lashes that framed them.
"May I come in, Bodie?"
Bodie seemed too surprised to object, so Doyle edged past him and into the hallway.
He still seemed dazed as he closed the door and turned. It was then that Doyle noticed the changes. Bodie's hair was different, cut very short and layered in front, a sleek fringe over his forehead, and long at the nape of his neck. But it was the condition of his face that made Doyle gasp. Purplish, yellowish bruises mottled his jawline from ear lobe to chin. One cheek was scraped and slightly swollen, and there was a cut on his lip that was dotted with antiseptic. Another, half- healed cut marred his temple.
"My god, what happened to you?"
Bodie responded with a question of his own. "What are you doing here?"
"Who beat you up?" Anger welled up in Doyle. "One of your johns? Someone who gets his kicks out of pain? I thought you didn't go in for the rough trade."
"What are you doing here?" repeated Bodie, his voice deadly calm.
"Dammit, how could you let some bastard do that to you?!" Doyle shook his head in frustration, then hesitantly raised his hand to touch the bruised cheek.
Bodie stepped away, avoiding the contact. "What is this? You come back after four months and act as if it's been four minutes. Who the hell do you think you are? Is this another one of your CI5 games?"
Doyle let his arm drop, suddenly self-conscious and embarrassed and shocked by the depth of his own reaction, Bodie's righteous indignation hitting him like ice water. "I...I just wanted to return your bracelet," he blurted, fumbling to remove the gold band from his wrist and holding it out.
Bodie stared at him, not moving a muscle, distant as the moon. He was dressed in black cords and a heavy, black polo neck sweater that was woven through with silver-gray threads. With the severe haircut, he looked tough and hard. Powerful. Beautiful. Even with the bruised face.
The cool metal glistened in the palm of Doyle's outstretched band. He bit his lip, damning himself for his pride. What was he doing?! Why was it so overwhelming to see Bodie again? It wasn't like his fantasies. It was terrifyingly better. And he was making a colossal mess of it.
The sound of Bodie's voice startled him. "What? Afraid you might be accused of bribery, copper? We wouldn't want to sully your record, not a fine, upstanding spy like yourself. 'He gave his all for CI5.' I'm sure it's destined to be your epitaph." He waved away Doyle's offering. "Well, I don't want the thing, but if it'll make you feel better, why don't you toss it into the Thames on your way home. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm busy." He turned and walked away, towards the sitting room.
Some compelling need drove Doyle to follow him into the other room, where he froze as he took in the neatly piled boxes, empty bookcases, and the stereo components that lay swathed in padding, ready to be packed.
"You're leaving." The obvious fact filled him with a strange sense of urgency. Last chances and time (was) running out.
"It's no concern of yours, is it? For god's sake, what more do you want?" Bodie kept his back to him, the words spoken to the wall.
Doyle was all out of evasions, his emotions rising like a flood. "I wanted to see you." He combed a shaky hand through his curls, wanting desperately to be honest with himself as well as with Bodie. "I thought... I don't know what I thought. I've been so mixed up. I kept the bracelet because... I think I needed to keep a little of you with me... I don't know. I haven't been able to get you out of my mind." He wished he could see Bodie's face. "Right now, I'm trying not to run over to you and put my arms round you and touch your hair and kiss your mouth. I'm trying not to, but if you want me to go, you're going to have to help me. Tell me to get out, Bodie."
The hustler waited for a moment, and then turned slowly, his lips pressed tight. When he spoke, his voice was very controlled. "You have no right to do this to me. Get out of my life, damn you. Get out."
Doyle felt numb, and then he was crumbling inside. His eyes were hot. He started for the door, moving stiffly. Maybe he could get through this. Make sense of it one day. Except there was no sense to it, never was. There was nothing to reason out. Not that it really mattered. He was crumbling, into bits and pieces, and he wasn't even sure why it was happening.
He was reaching for the door handle when he heard the quick footsteps behind him. Bodie's hand grabbed his wrist and spun him round.
In a heartbeat, he was in Bodie's arms, Bodie's tender, beautiful mouth open and moving against his own.
The kiss was deep and achingly sweet. Perfect.
Doyle was floating and he pressed tight against Bodie, wrapped him in a firm embrace, his sex already hard and throbbing. Warm, soft lips caressed his face and neck. Fingers burrowed through his curls.
They kissed until Doyle thought they would fall down in a heap from the sheer pleasure and exhaustion of it.
Bodie must have thought so, too, because he broke them apart at last, still holding onto Doyle's hands, and began guiding them towards the bedroom. He looked a little afraid, but his grip was firm.
They slipped naked into the big bed, into the cool, blue satin sheets that had haunted Doyle's dreams.
It felt wonderful, the sensation of Bodie's heat against him. Doyle sighed and closed his eyes, arching up to increase the friction between their erections.
Then the movement stopped and he opened his eyes. Arm on either side of him, Bodie had pushed himself up and was looking down at him intently, indigo eyes mapping every inch of his face.
"Please, Bodie, don't change your mind," pleaded Doyle, all pride abandoned.
A slow, gentle smile spread over the hustler's face and he shook his head. "Foolish boy, if you only knew."
There was no time to question the comment before Bodie lowered himself and covered Doyle's mouth with a kiss, and then another, and another....
Much later, in that time between sleep and wakefulness, Doyle touched his lips to Bodie's sleek, dark hair. The sex between them had been more passionate, more intense than ever before. And in that quiet aftermath of sated contentment, Doyle was struck by a flash of the blindingly obvious.
He was in love with Bodie.
It was such a staggeringly simple truth, he actually laughed out loud.
All the feelings, the confusion, the misery of being alone, and the joy of being with Bodie. It was never just the sex. Even from the beginning, there was something more, something beyond the physical.
Now he knew.
"Would you like to share the joke?" mumbled Bodie sleepily, into the hollow of his throat.
Doyle smiled. "I've discovered the meaning of life."
Heavy-lidded blue eyes blinked up at him in amusement. "Oh, that old thing. I thought it was something interesting. I'm going back to sleep."
Chuckling, Doyle considered how he should announce his earth- shaking revelation when a spot of red caught his eye: Bodie's lip was bleeding a little. He brushed the droplet away gently with a fingertip. "How did you get hurt, Bodie?"
The hustler rolled over on his back, slight tension appearing on his features. "I thought you had it all figured out."
Doyle glanced at the tiny red smear on his finger. "I was angry and stupid. I'm sorry."
Bodie looked away. "You were half right, in any case. It was one of my tricks. The sheik with the bad temper. I stood him up a couple of times. The second time, he sent some of his goons round to teach me a lesson in manners." Bodie smirked, touching the scrape on his cheek. "If you think I look bad, you should see his bodyguards. One has a broken arm and the other a broken nose, among assorted other dents."
"You never look bad. Is he going to make more trouble for you?"
The hustler seemed disconcerted for a moment, coughing to clear his throat. "No, he's thoroughly gone off me, I'm happy to say."
"I wish I could've been there to help you." Doyle leaned over and flicked his tongue across Bodie's uninjured lip. "Do you have any more antiseptic for that cut? I'll get--"
"Don't fuss, Ray. It's fine. Feels terrific."
"Okay. What's been happening to you these last few months then? Why are you moving?"
"What happened to the meaning of life?"
"Thought you weren't interested."
"I changed my mind."
"I'll tell you after you answer my questions."
Bodie sighed and ruffled Doyle's curls. "Interrogation must be a specialty of yours."
"Tell me." Doyle propped himself up on an elbow and fixed the other man with a determined stare.
"Business as usual. My popularity has not waned. As for the flat, I just decided to take a long holiday and I'm renting it out."
"Why the holiday?"
"Look, Ray, I just wanted a change of scene. I'm self-employed, you know. No point having money if you can't enjoy it."
"What did you mean by 'if you only knew'? You said that when I was afraid you'd change your mind--"
"Yeh, I remember," interrupted the hustler quickly, without answering.
Doyle didn't know if it was only his wishful thinking or if he really did sense that Bodie cared for him more than he would admit. It was now or never. He looked down into Bodie's wary blue eyes. "I love you."
The seconds ticked by. "Did you hear what I said, I--"
"I heard you!"
"I've never felt like this about anyone."
Bodie covered his eyes with his hand. "Don't, Ray. For god's sake, don't say anymore." He shifted away on his side, renewed tension in every line of his body.
"Talk to me. I've been half crazy these last few months, trying to figure out what happened between us, giving it every name but the right one. I realize what you mean to me now. I think, I hope, it's not one-sided." He caressed Bodie's shoulder. "Don't hide from me. I need to know how you feel." He pulled at the rigid shoulder until Bodie finally turned back to him.
"You found out you like to suck cock and be fucked. I'm a pro, remember. We're good in bed. It's hot, exciting. That's all there is to it."
"No, that's not near the half of it." Doyle resisted the urge to grab Bodie and shake him into belief. "Come live with me, Bodie."
Doyle took a long breath. At least Bodie hadn't laughed in his face. "My flat's not as fancy as this, of course, but it's comfortable and roomy enough for the two of us. You can rearrange the place anyway you like. The bed's as big as this--"
"Don't be ridiculous." Bodie was sitting up, arms folded across his bent knees.
Doyle deliberately misunderstood. "'Course it is, you can measure it." Taking the plunge into deep water, he continued. "You'll have to quit though. No more hustling. Don't want you with anyone else. Once we're living together, it's no one else for me, no one else for you."
Bodie gave him a sidelong long. "Why not make it a double ring ceremony while you're at it."
Doyle smiled. "If you like."
"You're as mad as a hatter."
"I mean every word I say." Doyle rose to his knees and hugged Bodie from behind.
"I can't believe you're this naive. What kind of a set-up is this? Why don't you just give me the punch line and save the love and roses bit?"
It took a beat for Doyle to react and fully absorb the quiet, bitter words, and to recognize the fear that underlay them. "No set-up, no act. I love you. I want us to be together. That's the truth. And don't say I don't know you because I do. It's me I didn't understand; I was afraid, just like you are now."
Bodie swung around, jaws clenched. He swallowed hard and turned away again. "What about your job? That bastard, Cowley?"
"I'll explain it to him."
Bodie burst out laughing.
The laughter didn't disturb Doyle because one fact was clear: Bodie hadn't turned him down. Hadn't said he wasn't interested, or that he didn't care or that he never wanted to see him again. Bodie didn't believe it could work, but he never said he didn't want it to work.
"I'm sure Cowley will be delighted," quipped Bodie. "Gay couples are probably all the rage in CI5."
Doyle felt a warmth run through him: Bodie wanted to be convinced. "If he won't accept it then I'll quit."
"What?" Bodie wasn't even smiling anymore.
"I haven't been able to do my job properly since I left you. Cowley knows that. My job is very important to me, but it's not enough anymore. I need you. If Cowley can't accept that then I'd be no good to him anyway."
"All or nothing?"
Bodie stared blankly at the wall, not giving anything more away.
Doyle hopped out of the bed and grabbed for his clothes, throwing Bodie's things onto the bedcovers. "C'mon, get dressed. I wanna show you my place." He couldn't find his underpants and pulled his jeans on without them. In a flash he was dressed and tugging Bodie out of bed. "C'mon, let's go!"
Bodie was almost falling out onto the floor. "You are fucking serious." His voice had the quality of someone making a major discovery.
"Are you always as dense as this?"
"I probably have almost as many irritating traits as you do," countered Bodie, finally stumbling to his feet.
Better. Doyle took a moment to admire Bodie's naked charms before he handed him the one pair of underpants he was able to locate.
"Those are yours," noted the hustler wryly. "I don't usually wear any."
Doyle examined the flimsy piece of blue cloth. "So they are. He tossed them aside. "Too late now, all dressed." He picked up the stylish black cords and thrust them at Bodie. "First thing we're gonna do after we're settled is buy you some underpants. I'm not having you parading around for everyone to ogle."
"You don't exactly look like a monk in those jeans, you know." Bodie pulled on the pants and reached for his poloneck.
Doyle walked over and kissed his lover slowly. "Everything'll work out, you'll see."
Bodie just shook his head, a cynical twist to his lips.
"Humour me then, all right?"
Bodie shrugged and went in search of his boots.
As he watched Bodie dress, Doyle finally acknowledged to himself that he was playing the longest odds of his life. If he had had a choice, he would've opted to fall in love with some pleasant, ordinary female. No hassles, no complications. But then, he never expected to fall in love in the first place. Ever. Someone Up There was probably laughing down a gossamer sleeve. Well, unlikely and far-fetched as it was, Bodie was the one person he wanted. Wholly and passionately. And he was going to do everything in his power to make it work. At the very least, to give them both the chance to try. He wasn't going to let CI5, George Cowley, the world, or even Bodie, stop him from trying.
"Beautiful day, innit?" announced Doyle as he herded Bodie out the door and down the steps to the pavement.
"It's cold, damp and lousy." Bodie shoved his hands into his fur-lined leather jacket adding, "If you say it's the first day of the rest of our lives, which I'd expect from you, then I'm going to throw you into oncoming traffic."
Doyle beamed serenely, mentally noting the word "our." Bodie would go kicking, screaming, doubting and denying, but there was a part of him deep inside that wanted the crazy dream as much as Doyle. He ushered his newfound love into the passenger side of the white Escort with a sweeping bow that had Bodie rolling his eyes heaven-ward.
Big green eyes, shining with affection, unguarded and luring, melted into him before Doyle gunned the ignition and steered the Escort into the flow of traffic.
Don't fall for it, Bodie told himself.
He should have put a stop to it back at the flat. It was the damn shock of it. Seeing the little sod again. Bodie's cool, ever-present control shot to hell.
He gazed blankly through the windscreen, wondering why he was letting it go this far. He should have slammed the door in Doyle's face.
If only the past few months hadn't been so miserable. If only he hadn't become so acutely aware of an emptiness that seemed to imbue his life. There was nothing except for that strange, razor-sharp feeling that cut him inside every time he thought about Doyle. He had almost convinced himself the feeling was hatred, grown out of a hurt more intense than he'd felt in years. Odd how a pain like that could begin in a moment, from the quiet sound of a door closing.
But god, it felt good to hold Doyle again, to see him and touch him. To make love.
Don't fall for it.
Remember Jimmy Keller. Secrets. Long African nights and promises made in the dark. Bodie's first taste of male sex...and male love. He'd taken his second chance then, giving his already battered heart away one more time. And what did he get for it? Lies and betrayal and weeks lying in a makeshift jungle hospital, more dead than alive. His body lived but his heart died.
Marrika and Keller both taught him all he ever wanted to know about love. Bodie learned to use it, like any other weapon. There were those moments in the middle of the night, when he was alone, when he would give in to the fantasy, the illusion. But the moments passed. He made sure of that.
And then Ray Doyle pushed his way into Bodie's life.
"We're almost there. I've got some food in. I could make us something to eat if you're hungry." Doyle reached over and caressed his thigh.
"Stop the car and let me off."
"If you want to act like a damn fool, you can do it on your own. Just let me off."
"No." Doyle pressed his foot down on the accelerator.
"CI5 indulges in kidnapping, too?"
"This has nothing to do with CI5. This is just me and you."
"That's where you're wrong. It's just you." Bodie clenched his jaw, willing himself not to react to the expression on Doyle's face.
The Escort raced through several streets before finally pulling up before a row of well-maintained flats. Doyle pointed to a white building across the street. "That's it."
"I don't want to see it."
"No. This is lunacy." Bodie reached for the door handle.
"Just come up and give us a chance to talk about it."
Bodie pushed open the door. "I'll find a taxi."
"What happened? What are you so afraid of?"
"I've come to my senses." He got out of the car and scanned the street in both directions, getting his bearings.
"I'm not letting you walk out of my life like this, you know. I want you to spend the night with me, for a start, to give us time to be with each other, learn more about one another. If you run off, I'll follow you. I'm very good at following people." Doyle let out a long breath, the chill air misting as he spoke. "There's something special between us and you just won't admit you're feeling it, too. Running won't solve anything. I found that out well enough."
Bodie began walking away and Doyle rushed up beside him. The hustler wanted to tell him to go away, that he never wanted to see him again, that he didn't care. The words lumped in his throat.
Doyle grabbed him by the arms and pulled him close.
"For god's sake, you'll get us both arrested," snapped Bodie.
Doyle didn't let go. "Give me one night, just tonight then. Bodie--"
The gray weather closed in around them, the wind blowing cold. Life and energy radiated through Doyle, lit him like fire against the bland gray world. "All right, one night." No sense making a scene in the middle of the street, Bodie told himself. He'd go along with it, just for one night. He'd leave in the morning.
The technology was becoming more sophisticated every day. Brian Macklin adjusted his headset and checked the sound levels. The range and clarity were amazing, certainly a far cry from what he had worked with during his own field days.
Doyle and Bodie had been in 4.5's flat for over two hours, talking. All the bugs were operating perfectly. Had he had more time, Macklin could've probably set up a videocam, too. The audio tapes would be more than sufficient.
George would not be happy to hear them.
The blond poured himself a coffee from the thermos and listened. From the noises, he knew they were still in the kitchen. Doyle was talking....
"But I don't think you realize how extraordinary this is for me." Pacing back and forth. He was still wearing his boots. "No, not the sex. That's different, sure, but too damn good to agonize over. It's me--caring about someone. Male, female, doesn't matter." Silence, then more pacing. "I've learned something about myself. I'm a crusader, Bodie. I care about Justice and Good over Evil. I believe in a lot of things, but I don't believe in people. I've never felt really...close...to anyone. Not like this. Ideals, yes. I could give up my life for a principle. But I've never wanted anyone to be a part of my life."
A chair scraped across the floor, followed by Bodie's voice. "I'm no crusader."
"No, you're not," Doyle answered. "For you it's strictly one on one."
A drawn-out sigh. "You're not being realistic."
"What do you think your boss is going to do when he finds out you've lost your mind?"
"I told you--"
"Okay, what do you think he'll do to me?"
Bodie's laughter had a sardonic edge. "Son, your Cowley's going to kill me."
Some distance away, Macklin leaned forward in his chair.
"No, he wouldn't do anything like that," countered Doyle firmly.
"Try seeing it from his point of view for a second. You're a valuable agent in a very classified line of work, and you want to shack up with a male prostitute. Somehow, I can't see him giving us a toaster to celebrate the happy union. If he sees, thanks to your bullheadedness, that you're not going to change your mind about me, he could probably arrange, very easily, to have me disappear off the face of the earth with no questions asked."
"George Cowley is not that kind of man."
Bodie's smooth laughter rose again. "I thought you said you didn't believe in people."
"Cowley's not people. He's CI5."
"All the more reason to worry."
At his surveillance post, Brian Macklin smiled grimly.
"I'm not saying CI5 is pure as the driven snow."
"I can attest to that for a fact. Present company excluded, of course."
Doyle went on as though he hadn't been interrupted. "I'm saying the Old Man, uh, Cowley wouldn't do something like that to one of his own. He's fought a long time to build CI5. He's tough as iron but he's got the loyalty of his men because we know we have his."
"And if you're wrong?"
"I'm not wrong."
There was the brief sound of movement, followed by other, clearly identifiable sounds. Soft moans, murmurs, deep kisses.
Macklin pulled his earphones down around his neck and picked up his cup of coffee. He reached for Bodie's dossier and opened it. It was time to take a closer look at the young man's background. As he began reading carefully, another part of his brain was already working on how he wanted to present his report to Cowley.
"It looks like we'll have some sun today." Doyle stretched under the thin cotton sheet like a well-fed cat.
Daylight streamed into the room through the tall, narrow windows, faded, then returned again as the clouds rolled away.
Bodie gazed meditatively at the sun flickering across the ceiling. The room was warm and cozy, the bed comfortable. Doyle snuggled against him, lazily rubbing one hand over his belly, his nipples, his throat.
"You've the sexiest pout," Ray whispered into his ear.
A slender finger traced an imaginary line over his chin, stopping at his lower lip. "Open your mouth."
The finger slid through his lips, teased back and forth around the tip of his tongue, until Bodie began sucking on it gently.
It was morning. It was time to go.
Bodie raised his arm and gripped Doyle's wrist, slowly forcing it away. Doyle's finger was wet with his saliva. Their eyes met, his lover's deep as a forest stream, waiting.
In their clear, green depths, Bodie remembered the irretrievable words he'd let escape, sometime in the middle of the night, after the long talking and lovemaking, during one soft moment when everything seemed possible.
He knew that leaving, now, would be as painful as staying.
To feel that someone has become an essential part of you was an exquisite kind of addiction. Bodie was hooked.
"Could you live without me?" he asked Doyle, no flippancy in the question.
The answer came immediately, hushed and sincere. "I could exist."
Yes, Bodie understood that very well. So it was the same for Ray. He did believe that much. Paradoxically, he felt he knew Ray with an intimacy that seemed... soul deep. Yet, with Doyle, life itself would be uncertain. Unlike his lover, Bodie had no faith in CI5/Cowley. It might fall apart in a week, a month, a day, with Cowley's "help" or all on their own. Was it worth the agony? Marrika, Keller...Ray. Bodie's survivor instincts told him this had to be different. The hustler smiled. When you fell off a cliff, there was no choice left to make. He pulled Doyle on top of him, the slender legs straddling his thighs as Bodie palmed the tight, round buttocks. "I haven't gambled for high stakes in a long time."
Doyle's gaze was a caress, with just the slightest glimmer of arrogance. "You'll stay, then?"
"For as long as it lasts or until I get bored, whichever comes first." It was a feeble shield.
"I'll tell Cowley today."
"No!" Bodie drew in a breath and pressed Doyle closer. "You told me you were on holiday."
Ray looked at him, bemused. "Yeh, I have ten days left, but--"
"Then give us the ten days. Just you and me. Don't bring that old bastard into it yet."
"But I want him to know, clear the air right off. If he objects to any of it, then I'll have a good, long holiday ahead of me. We can make plans and--"
"Ray, don't tell him, okay? Wait until you have to report back. Do it for me."
Doyle seemed about to argue, but then he grinned and brushed the tip of Bodie's nose with a kiss. "All right. Anything else?"
Bodie relaxed and toyed with a fat, auburn curl that dipped over Ray's forehead, nodding towards the other end of the bedroom. "Yeh, you can figure out how we're supposed to fit all my clothes and yours into that cupboard."
They were too busy laughing to notice or care that the sun had disappeared behind a bank of clouds.
George Cowley finished his call to the Minister and informed his secretary he was not to be disturbed. Regrettably, business was picking up. Most of his agents were out on heavy assignments. The gambling cartel was a particularly messy case, with international complications, blackmail, and political hot potatoes to be juggled. Cowley could have used an undercover team on that one but he simply lacked the manpower. Which brought his attention back to Brian Macklin's report.
The blond was sitting patiently before him, waiting for further questions. Several audio tapes were stacked neatly on the desk alongside a file marked "Confidential."
As usual, Macklin had been thorough, concise, and neutral in his presentation.
The facts did not sit well with the head of CI5, even though he had anticipated most of them. He removed his glasses and pursed his lips in distaste. "I want your opinion of how serious you think this...liaison might be."
Macklin pushed himself up in his chair and looked straight into Cowley's eyes. "Very serious, no question. Doyle is a bulldog when he commits himself to anything and I'd say I've never seen him more committed."
"And if Bodie was... eliminated?"
There was no change of expression on Macklin's face. "We can kiss 4.5 goodbye. He'll be worthless."
Not amused by the instructor's choice of phrase and even less with its meaning, Cowley turned his scrutiny to the light rain drumming against his window. "There was no indication of latent homosexuality in Doyle's psychological profile."
"He's in love, not in sex. His profile also indicates extreme adaptability." Macklin sniffed back the beginnings of a smile. "I'd say he's adapted."
"You seem to think there's some humour to all of this," returned the Controller tersely.
"You told me before I even began the surveillance that the two of them might be sexually involved. I didn't like the idea any more than you, but I've watched them, I've listened to them, and it's not just a kinky fling, for either of them."
"William Bodie, of all people. It's incomprehensible."
"Yes, well, you're the one who brought them together, George."
Cowley swung round in his chair, his voice frosty. "Someone like Bodie could hardly be capable of a sustained emotional relationship. He cannot be trusted and the security problems alone that could arise from this kind of...association are unacceptable."
"You could hire him on."
Cowley leaned back very slowly and laced his fingers together. "Whyever would I want to do that?"
"I've reviewed Bodie's file and it's not that farfetched. I think we could make him into a very good agent. He's handled some hairy jobs in Africa and he was only a kid. He's a Class A marksman, holds a black belt in aikido. He's smart, smooth; he'd make a topnotch undercover man."
"CI5 is not funded to employ professional whores."
Macklin shook his head. "You've recruited in stranger quarters. Turner's a convicted thief."
"He served his sentence and paid his debt to society. A catman can be very useful in certain operations," replied the Controller without emotion.
"What about Tommy MacKay? The man was a mental patient. I still think he's as stable as a bouncing ball. Putting him in a terrorist situation is like setting off a bomb."
"Tommy is manageable and usually very effective."
"Bodie's background could be an asset for us. He's played in some very influential circles. He was your entree to Coogan, remember?"
Cowley rubbed the bridge of his nose, intrigued by the blond's persistence. "I don't believe I've seen you this intent about anything in quite some time, Brian."
Macklin dropped his gaze to the carpet and sagged back against his chair. "4.5's leave is up tomorrow. He'll be marching into this office first thing in the morning. What are you going to tell him?"
"I have every intention of keeping Doyle in this organisation."
"And what about Bodie?"
Cowley picked up one of the audio tapes and tapped it lightly against the desktop. "There are a number of options." He returned the blond's curious look with a brief, enigmatic smile. "You've raised an interesting possibility. However you neglected to mention that Bodie would never voluntarily join CI5."
Macklin nodded. "True. He's had his fill of law enforcement agencies. He's had some run-ins with CID and he's seen MI6 in action in Africa. As far as he's concerned, we're all either on the take or idiots. But he doesn't know you. If you want William Bodie in CI5, he'll be in CI5. You'd find a way, or invent one."
The fleeting smile reappeared on the older man's face. "Leverage and control, and always staying one step ahead--the keys to success in any endeavor, Brian." Cowley rose from his chair and walked across the room and back. "Remove all the bugs from Doyle's flat, discreetly. I want to be certain that neither of them ever suspects they've been watched."
Cowley gazed out the window. "Doyle has a fine future ahead of him; he's a gifted operative. Perhaps Bodie could be useful, perhaps not. If your assessment of their relationship is correct, and that remains to be...tested, it could be the means of insuring Doyle's allegiance." Cowley paused. "And Bodie's. Turning a liability into an advantage."
"Playing one against the other?" questioned Macklin with a raised eyebrow.
"Not against, for. Not that either of them would be aware of it, of course. It's only a matter of time before their affair dissipates, however intense it may seem at the moment. I do not wish to lose Doyle in the interim, or jeopardize CI5's security. I will take whatever measures are necessary." The blond's pensive frown made him pause again. "What is it, Brian?"
"I think Doyle and Bodie are going to surprise you. You may have a lot more on your hands than you bargained for this time, George."
"Trouble, you mean?"
It was Macklin's turn to smile. "I don't think even those two realize how strongly they feel about each other, or how well it could work for them. If you re willing to give it half a chance, you could wind up with the best team CI5 ever had."
"If that was the end result, it would be worth the trouble. I hope you're right. My first goal, the only goal, is to keep this organisation viable and free from outside interference. There's too much of it as it is. CI5's brief guarantees a generous amount of autonomy and I won't endanger that for the sake of any one man. As long as we control the circumstances, 4.5 and Bodie can have their chance."
"Care to make a wager on the outcome?"
Cowley's pale eyes widened. "You seem confident."
"Just a feeling I have about those two."
The head of CI5 allowed himself a rare bubble of laughter. He was beginning to look forward to Doyle's return. "I'll pass on the wager, Brian. A Scot only gambles on a sure thing."
-- THE END --