Bodie fanned the roll of bills between his fingers and smiled. The heavies with the loaded dice never even spotted the switch. They were probably still wondering what happened.
He folded the money into a thick wad, stuffed it into the pocket of his threadbare jacket, and headed down the alley towards the cross street and the glow of bright lights. If the night was a washout, he'd treat himself to a juicy steak and a tall lager. He was tired of making do with the pittance Cowley had provided.
"Don't turn round! I want the money. Just hand it over or I'll splatter your guts across the wall." A gun barrel jabbed at the base of his spine.
The raspy voice had a nervous and very desperate edge to it, but Bodie wasn't feeling compliant. Damn it, he shouldn't have been caught off guard.
Before he could make a move, he heard a loud crack and the man screamed. The gun clattered to the ground and slid to a stop next to his feet.
"Pick it up and throw it away." It was a woman's voice.
Bodie turned his head as he stooped for the gun. His attacker was on the concrete, right wrist held at an unnatural angle. The woman stood over him, a slim black cane poised over the cringing figure. A long stiletto blade protruded from the cane's tip and she held the gleaming steel point less than an inch from the mugger's right eyeball. She watched as Bodie picked up the shooter, emptied the bullets into his palm, and hurled it into the back of a collection of overflowing rubbish bins at one end of the alley.
"Get going," she told the attacker as she withdrew the cane slightly. The man crawled to his feet, clutching his hand to his chest, and shuffled into a run.
Bodie watched him disappear into the night and turned back to his rescuer. "That's quite a handy gadget," he said as he eyed the cane and its owner through the moonlit darkness, struggling to conceal his reaction to her.
The stiletto stabbed into the brick wall less than a foot in front of him. The woman pressed the cane forward, sheathing the blade slowly until it disappeared with a soft, locking click.
"It saved your life," she said, matter-of-factly, her husky voice containing an unfeigned earthiness.
Bodie swallowed. Her dossier photos had not done her justice. "The little punk just wanted my money," he said aloud.
"Ah, but you weren't going to give it to him." She tilted her head, sending champagne coloured waves of hair over one shoulder. Her wide, full mouth twitched into a smile. Her eyes, a dark colour he couldn't quite define in the night, crinkled at the corners, sparkling as her smile blossomed, revealing even white teeth.
It was the kind of smile that dazzled in the most unexpected way, and despite himself, Bodie grinned in response. "You're probably right. Thanks for the help." He held out his hand. "My name's Bodie. If there's ever anything I can do to return the favour..." He didn't finish, assuming the woman would obviously think that she could do a lot more for him than he could for her.
Instead, she reached out and shook his hand, the hold warm and strong, her skin smooth as petals. "You might consider avoiding alleys in future." Then with a conspiratorial whisper, she added, "I've heard one can meet the oddest people in them, you know."
Her elegant silk pantsuit, which clung enticingly to her long legs and shapely figure, made Bodie acutely aware of the small tear in his jacket pocket, his mismatched shirt with its frayed collar, and the fact that she had not bothered to return his introduction. "You don't look very odd to me," he countered.
"Well, that's a relief." She smiled again and glanced down at her ebony cane, tapping it lightly on the ground. "I never travel through alleys without my faithful friend here."
He frowned at her skeptically.
"Besides," she added, "I know this area very well. I own The Hideout right over there." The faint scent of gardenias touched the air around her as she raised an arm and pointed.
Finding he had to tear his eyes away from her, Bodie peered at the partially visible neon sign on a building in the street across from the alley, a treble clef and staff in electric blue. "The jazz club. I've heard it's very good."
"It is." She winked impishly and started walking away from him.
Possible approaches rushing through his mind, Bodie took a quick, deep breath and caught up with her, planting himself in her way.
"Yes?" she prompted with a perfectly arched eyebrow.
"Could you use another employee?"
She gave him a bemused expression, her thick, pale hair seeming to gather all the light around them. "And what is it you do, Mister, uh, Mister--"
"Bodie," he told her again, flashing his own, most disarming smile. "I'm very versatile. Bouncer, bartender, manager, you name it. The higher the salary, the better my skills."
She laughed, the huskiness in the sound rich and seductive. Bodie wanted to make her laugh again. "How did you come by the money in your pocket?"
He paused for a beat at the question, then shrugged. "Dice game."
"A man for all seasons. A gambler, too?"
Nodding, he stepped out of her way with another smile. "I'm a very lucky gambler."
"Really? In that case, I think you should definitely have a word with your tailors."
He tugged self-consciously at his frayed lapels. "Well, let's just say, I sense my luck improving."
"The world can always use more optimists." She looked him straight in the eye in a way that made him almost uncomfortable, butterflies fluttering through his belly. "Find yourself a decent suit and come see me. I'll buy you a drink, at the very least. Just ask for Jocelyn Royce. But not before eleven in the morning. If I'm not at The Hideout, try Heartbeats. It's another one of my clubs."
"Everyone's heard of Hearbeats. Very 'in' place," he answered, silently glad that he had opted for the direct approach. "I'll look forward to seeing you soon."
"Let's try and make it more pleasant than the first time," she replied as she turned away and started towards the street again, whistling.
He watched her and grinned as he recognized the tune. "Some Enchanted Evening". On the heels of that thought came a sudden sense of confusion. He knew he was being uncharacteristically naive, but she just didn't seem like a killer.
The op had begun.
Bodie found a place that served a good steak dinner and then returned to the rundown bedsit that he had been occupying since he went undercover. He couldn't fall asleep, which was unusual for him. He couldn't seem to get Jocelyn Royce out of his mind. There was something alluring about the woman that denied his own common sense and all that he factually knew about her. It wasn't every day that he met someone with that kind of sensuality. In fact, he'd only met one other person in his life who had ever had a deeper, immediate effect on him. When that particular memory broke through his lowered guard, it brought with it a familiar mixture of guilt and regret. It kept him awake and tossing well into the night.
The next morning, he woke tired and depressed. He had a bath and a shave and spent all of the money he had left on a reasonably decent, dark blue suit, wishing he could just raid his own well- stocked wardrobe instead.
He knocked on the locked door of The Hideout at three o'clock that afternoon. "I'm here to see Jocelyn Royce," he told the heavyset man that opened it.
"Who are you?" asked the man with a look that fell somewhere between stupidity and suspicion.
"Bodie. I was invited."
The door slammed in his face and he was left waiting for several minutes. When it opened again, the big man looked no friendlier than before. He gestured Bodie inside with a wary, sidewise glance.
"'Fair is foul and foul is fair. Hover through the fog and filthy air.'"
Bodie raised a startled eyebrow as the strongarm rumbled the words at him like a threat and closed the door behind them. The phrase was vaguely familiar. Bodie searched his mind for the reference as he looked around the room.
There were no windows in the club, and it wasn't very large. It seemed even smaller with its maroon walls and the clutter of little tables and chairs that surrounded the half-moon of a stage. A white, baby grand and a set of drums took up most of the stage.
Bodie turned back to meet the big man's narrow- eyed stare. "Macbeth, was it? Fancy the Bard then, do you?" he asked with a bemused grin.
The man just glowered at him stupidly and started walking.
World's full of fucking oddballs, thought Bodie as he followed the fellow to a long, curved bar until the man halted and hooked a generous thumb towards a half-hidden staircase to one side. "The office is upstairs."
Feeling the bruiser's surly glare drilling into his back, Bodie couldn't resist turning and letting his gaze sweep the heavy torso. "'What a piece of work is a man'," he declared, smiling blandly, then made his way up the narrow staircase to a door with a "Private" sign on it. As he raised his hand to knock, the door swung open. He caught sight of Jocelyn Royce walking across from the far end of the room to an imposing desk that faced the door. A very tall man with a bulge under his jacket and a poker- player's expression stepped out from behind the door and gave Bodie the once-over before letting him by.
"My, my, you didn't waste any time," the woman told him as he strolled up in front of the desk. She eyed him carefully, a vague smile forming on her full lips. "I'm pleased to see you took my advice about the suit."
Her pale gold hair tumbled almost to her shoulders as she pushed one side back behind her ear. Her features were nearly girlishly wholesome, the effect oddly offset by a long, thin scar that ran from a point in the middle of her right temple, like an elongated 's' shape, all the way down to her chin. Bodie also noticed that her eyes were a deep, sapphire blue.
"It usually pays to take good advice," he replied quickly.
"Bodie. There must be more to your name than that?" she asked.
When he said nothing further, she chuckled with her rich, throaty voice. "Part of the National Secrets Act, is it?"
He smiled. "William. But I only answer to 'Bodie'."
She nodded casually and he noticed the ebony cane lying on the edge of the wide desk beside a crystal vase of long-stemmed white roses. She raised her chin with a speculative air. "So, what can you do for me...Bodie?"
He glanced back at the tall, taciturn man by the door. "A lot more than 'Mr. Personality' over there or 'Shakespeare' downstairs, I'm sure."
Royce relaxed back in her chair. "Simon has been with me for a long time," she said, a long- fingered hand gesturing towards her tall associate. "He's a very loyal and trusted employee. Isn't that so, Simon?"
"Yes, Miss Royce," came the deep-voiced reply.
"I can say the same of Henry downstairs. He's a bit eccentric, of course, as I'm sure you've noticed. He has rather a peculiarly good memory, I think, though I sometimes wish he had the brains to go with it. Spouts bits of poetry all the time but I doubt he understands any of it. Just likes the sound." She shrugged elegantly. "In any case, they've both worked for me for quite a number of years. I trust them and they trust me. I shouldn't antagonize them, if I were you."
Bodie shrugged. "I just want a job."
"With me? Why?"
"Never worked for a beautiful woman before. Especially one who saved my life." He shrugged again. "I like working at night. Like music. And money. All in all, I think it might be...interesting."
Royce fingered the small diamond pendant around her neck, her garnet-coloured lips pursing in amusement. "You're a smooth one, Bodie, though you should aim for more subtlety." She stood up and walked slowly round to the front of the desk. In her low-heeled pumps, she almost matched him in height. "Are you running from the law, by any chance?"
He raised an eyebrow. "Not really."
"Hmm, and what does that mean?"
"There aren't any warrants on me."
"But there should be?" Royce completed, her blue eyes sparkling.
"Depends on your point of view. I believe a man's entitled to do what he can to survive, preferably as comfortably as possible." He was aware of her amused gaze working slowly down his torso to his crotch, and casually lingering there before returning to meet his eyes. He recalled Cowley's briefing, the Old Man sending him off with the warning that it would be another 'delicate' assignment. Delicate. Cowley and his tidy euphemisms. For Bodie, it just meant that he'd have to pimp himself out for Queen and country.
Royce swung herself lightly onto the desk and crossed her legs artlessly, a length of well- formed thigh showing through the sidesplit in her skirt. "Where did you work last and what did you do?"
He tried not to stare at her legs and gave her a bit of the background Cowley had prepared for him, the one that would paint him as the drifter with the shady past and malleable future.
Hesitating for effect, Bodie considered what Royce would find when she checked up on him: his mercenary history, greatly exaggerated; a dishonorable discharge from the Army; a few arrests with no convictions. "Uh, no." He only hoped Cowley would spend as much effort 'undoctoring' his records as he had in touching them up. Bodie would have preferred a fake identity altogether, but he had given up trying to understand George Cowley's enigmatic logic when it came to setting up these undercover assignments.
"I'm afraid I simply can't have any ex-cons working for me."
"I told you, I'm clean. Really," he said.
Royce reached out and fingered his lapel. "Are you a good gambler? Not 'lucky,' but good."
The scent of flowers lingered in the air as she drew her hand away from him "Yes, very. In fact, it's caused me some, uh, problems. I have a tendency to run into very poor losers. On occasion, it's even been quite hazardous to my health."
Royce smiled, her tonguetip darting out between her pearly teeth. "I own a gambling club on Curzon Street, called Grenville's. The receipts aren't what they should be lately. I think some of my dealers might be going into business for themselves. I need an outsider to check it out for me. Naturally, I want it done as discreetly as possible. I just want you to observe, not win. Do you think you can handle that?"
"Does that mean I'm on salary?"
"Let's just consider it part of the job interview. If you get results, then you're hired."
"Oh, I'll think of something."
"And the salary?"
Bodie stuck his hands in his suit pockets and grinned. "Okay, when do I start?"
"I assume you don't own a tuxedo at the moment?"
"No. I'll also need some money...for the tables."
Royce walked back to her desk chair and sat down again. "Simon will see to it. You can start this evening." She leaned forward, chin propped on her palm. "Shall I wish you good luck?"
"When you're good, you don't need luck," he returned smugly, paraphrasing her words. He was pleased to hear her earthy laughter as he followed Simon out of the office.
After a night at Grenville's, Bodie was certain that all of the dealers were clean. Of course, he'd known that before the operation even began. CI5 had already checked into Royce's holdings and found them, not unexpectedly, quite on the up and up. Grenville's especially so. Just stepping into the foyer with its Venetian crystal chandeliers and polished marble floors required formal wear. Grenville's didn't even have a craps table. It was far too posh for that. With its moneyed, and mostly non-English clientele, and a usual minimum bet of 100 on any play, the Gaming Board inspectors were practically living on the premises. Nevertheless, Bodie went through the motions, making a careful observation of each dealer and croupier as he casually sampled the blackjack and roulette tables. If there was any shorting going on, the creative accounting had to be happening after the receipts left the floor, though Bodie was fairly certain Royce was just dangling him a little to see what he would do while she checked his background.
He stopped after a few hours, and decided to sample the club's overpriced French restaurant. After ordering a whisky and his coq au vin, he paused to ring up Royce at The Hideout. Predictably, he was hassled by "Mr. Personality," but managed to get through to her after a long wait on the phone.
"Your dealers are all on the straight and narrow," he told her. "If you're losing money, it's either because the customers have more than enough to ride out the odds, or your bookkeepers have sticky fingers."
"Are you sure?" she asked, with just enough silk in her voice to raise his suspicions another notch.
"Either that, or the club isn't losing any money at all."
There was a pause on the line. "So, what are you doing now?"
"Having a late dinner."
"With my money?"
"I'm 50 ahead. Besides, I'm spending it at the club's restaurant."
Her chuckle answered him. "Order the lemon soufflé for me. I should be there in a half hour."
The line clicked off in his ear and he listened to the dial tone for a second before returning the handset to its cradle, his pulse speeding up as he contemplated the night ahead.
He was finishing up his entrée, which was better than he expected, when an overly solicitous waiter showed Jocelyn Royce to his table. Dressed in a loose, teal-coloured crepe de chine blouse and matching pants, her blond hair tied back, she exuded an unstudied elegance and sexiness that turned heads as she made her way through the restaurant.
Bodie stood as she took a seat across from him. "You can bring that soufflé now for Miss Royce," he told the waiter, who rushed off immediately. "They certainly know who's the boss around here," he told her with a quick grin.
"No point in being the boss otherwise, is there?"
Since it sounded like a purely rhetorical question, Bodie only inclined his head slightly in agreement. They made small talk about the decor and the menu and then Bodie gave her a concise report on his evening's observations and conclusions as Royce heartily enjoyed her dessert. She listened with few comments or questions.
"You are a fast worker, Bodie," she remarked as he finished.
"It wasn't a tough job." He smiled and sipped at his flavoured coffee. There was a certain fascination in realizing he was having dessert with Barry Martin's murderer. At least, George Cowley was almost certain that Royce was the killer. Of course, almost was never good enough for the Controller of CI5. As for Bodie, regardless of his experience and evidence to the contrary, the chauvinist in him still balked at the thought of a woman being quite so cold- blooded, and particularly this woman. He could accept the notion of a woman killing for love or hate or jealously perhaps, but not for business or politics. To his way of thinking, it just went against the grain, just wasn't a 'feminine' thing to do. Occasionally, a small pragmatic voice in the back of his mind would remind him that most of his attitudes on women, and humanity in general, were pitifully 19th Century. At the moment, he could hear the voice whispering a feverish warning in his ear.
From the way she looked at him, he also had a feeling he would not be sleeping in the bedsit. That raised another series of automatic, not quite so mental, responses. He could hardly believe she was forty-five, just five years shy of his limit, and technically old enough to be his mother. She easily looked ten years younger. Physically, she was a prize. More than that, he couldn't help but admire her self-confidence, and particularly, her sense of...control. She was very different from the women he was used to.
He wished it was only her legs and her tits that he found attractive.
Cowley's words came back to him. "Don't underestimate her because of her sex, Bodie. Don't be so bloody stupid. She's been clever enough to keep herself completely spotless for years. We stumbled upon that lead to her only by fortuitous accident, we didn't earn it. Always remember, she could be as dangerous as any of the worst you've ever dealt with..."
Barry Martin had been murdered five years ago, over a year before Bodie had even joined the squad. It would have been enough that Martin was a CI5 operative, but he had also been Cowley's close friend, a mate from the 'old days'. CI5 took care of its own, and Cowley never forgot.
"Have I passed the interview?" he asked her sweetly.
Royce leaned over and ran a manicured fingernail over the back of his hand, from his wrist to the tip of his middle finger. "You're an eager young man. Are you as enthusiastic in bed?" Her blue eyes watched him carefully.
Bodie turned his hand palm up, clasping her hand gently. "I'm always eager to please a lady."
Her bed was very unusual. Aside from being huge, the frame was shaped something like a sled and the wood was a shiny black lacquer, with heavy ormolu decoration along the curved edges. A canopy attached to the ceiling curtained the bed in gauzy, snow-white veils on all sides.
"It's modelled after a bed given to Queen Louise of Prussia in the early 19th Century," she told him. "The story has it that the bed was given to the Queen by a bold suitor. She liked it very much so she kept it and had the suitor executed for his presumption." Royce laughed as she moved with liquid grace to a small, carved table adorned with a large arrangement of flowers. She touched one of the pale lilac blooms. For a moment, she seemed absorbed in it, her eyes staring unblinkingly at the flower.
Given the circumstances and who he was dealing with, Bodie found little humour in her tale. His forced smile faded as he looked away from her and caught sight of the leather handcuffs dangling from either side of the bed's headboard.
He walked over and touched the one nearest to him. He noted the fine steel chain that linked it to the thick lacquered wood of the bedframe. Keeping his voice light, he turned to her again. "For me or for you?"
Her smile had returned, eyes sparkling. "Neither if it upsets you. If not, then most definitely for you." She moved over to him and leaned into his shoulder, her full, firm breasts pressing against him. "I wish you would, though. I really enjoy testing a man's sexual limits. Hobby of mine." Chuckling, she kissed a spot just below his ear.
A soft breeze billowed the sheer white curtains on the tall windows and moonlight bathed the room in a deep, silver light.
Bodie took a deep, shaky breath and glanced sideways at the sturdy leather cuff that tied his wrist to the bed. He tugged at the cuff on his other wrist. They were both quite secure. His muscles clenched as Royce's tongue began another trip over his straining erection. He tried not to arch up, to give her the satisfaction of watching his body beg for her mouth. Still, he couldn't keep from moaning as she rubbed his testicles against her palm, her tongue following a vein from the base of his cock to its tip.
His arms jerked against the chains and perspiration covered his chest. His nipples were sore from her expert attention. Reddish nail marks trailed over his stomach and thighs. She'd brought him to the edge of climax twice, without bringing him off, sitting back on her heels to watch him tremble in frustration, a wicked smile on her lovely face.
He was crazy. Crazy to have agreed to Royce's little 'bedgame'. He bit down on his lip as she began to suck on his balls, her nails raking over his hips and through his pubic hair. He should have walked out. And taken the chance of quashing the op before it began?
He squirmed, his muscles quivering, as she took him into her throat. She was good. Very, very good. Only one other person ever did him better, could start a fire that burned hotter... Don'tdon'tdon't. Bodie deliberately forced his eyes open to focus on Royce. Just give her what she wants, you bloody fool, before she turns your balls into the Gordian Knot.
"I..n-need to..come," he stammered, his eyes glazing from the exquisite torment. "Please." He whimpered as her teeth gently grazed the head of his penis, her hot breath dancing over the weeping slit. "Oh, god."
But she pulled away and sat back across his thighs, watching his erection bob helplessly.
"I don't think you're enjoying my game, Bodie," she said, her nails skimming over the tender skin around his groin.
"I-I'm not very good at this kind of thing. I'm not the...passive type," he managed through gritted teeth. He desperately wanted to grind his erection against, or into, something. "Dammit, do you want to fuck or not?!" He tugged forcefully against the cuffs, in utter frustration.
"All in good time," she murmured. "You have a lovely mouth, Bodie. I want you to show me that you can put it to better use than just talking." With that, she slid forward, rising to her knees.
Bodie swallowed, realizing what she wanted. He didn't mind pleasuring a woman with his mouth, but he hated... hated...not being in control. And it was all too clear that Jocelyn was completely in charge.
"Use that pretty tongue of yours," she instructed as she positioned herself over him. "Lick me and suck me and make me feel very, very good and then you'll have your reward." She laughed a little as Bodie pulled against his restraints, his cock bobbing needfully against his belly.
The scent of her musk enveloped him, mingling with a hint of expensive cologne. He turned his head away on the pillow. You can beg me to eat your cunt, bitch, he thought with a flare of defiance.
He could almost feel her feral smile as her hands reached back and toyed with his erection, fingertips tracing up and down the aching shaft, making him moan despite himself.
It was damnably obvious that Jocelyn was not going to be the one to beg.
Her fingers left his cock and came to rest on either side of his head, turning him until he felt the wiry blond hairs against his face, her musk filling his senses. Her fingers tightened in his hair as he opened his mouth and began to play over her clit with his tongue.
He pleasured her for a long time it seemed, until his mouth and jaws ached and he knew she had come, again and again, the creamy taste of her on his lips and tongue. All the while, his own cock stayed hard, his balls hurting.
Finally, she drew back and sat across his thighs, gazing down at him with a satisfied grin. "You're a very beautiful young man, but ah, that predictable masculine pride," she told him. "It's a terrible weakness of mine, you know. Beautiful young men, I mean. I do believe it's my only weakness." It was as if she was talking about an interest in modern art or porcelain plates, the musing of a collector. She raised her arms above her head in a languid stretch like a playful tigress, sure of her prey. "Say 'please' Bodie. I like the sound of it from you. I can tell it's not a word you use often. Now, tell me nicely what you want." She rocked against his thighs, the triangle of pale hair at her crotch only just brushing his balls in a maddening tease.
He shut his eyes tight for an instant as he discarded his pride to common sense. "Please. Please, I want to fuck you. Fuck you through the fuckin' floor! I can't stand it anymore!"
"My, how crude," she laughed, but she positioned herself above him and in one fluid movement, took him completely inside herself.
Bodie cried out at the exquisite pleasure, surging up as fast and as hard as his restraints would allow. Her slick muscles squeezed him with an expert's knowledge, setting a rhythm for them both. But Bodie's control was in tatters and he felt his climax ripping through him almost immediately, his release near to painful. She rode him until his tremors eased and he slipped limply from her body. He could feel her moistness as she glided back to straddle his thighs once more. Aside from a flush to her face, she seemed serene and unaffected, while Bodie's heart pounded and his lungs worked for breath.
"Sorry," he muttered. "After all that, I couldn't last very long."
"No apologies necessary. I thoroughly enjoyed myself." She ran a finger over her wet lips, and sucked in the tip for a moment like a candy, her head tipping thoughtfully. Bending over, she kissed his mouth very hard and then reached over, toying with one of the cuffs. A moment later, his right hand was free and she moved to loosen the other restraint.
Bodie rubbed his wrists, not looking at her.
"By the way, you've got the job."
He looked up. "What job is that, exactly?" He was surprised his voice was steady.
"Ah, well." She paused, giving him a brief smile. "I need a manager for The Hideout. Someone to be there most of the time." Her voice became businesslike as she rose from the bed and reached for a long white satin robe and slipped it on. "It's quite busy now and I really don't have time to handle everything myself. It needs someone to take a closer hand with the receipts and the bar inventory, paying staff, keeping an eye on the musicians, handling promotion, that sort of thing."
"What about Simon?"
Royce's eyebrows rose in amusement. "Simon just takes orders. He's, um, my personal assistant, shall we say. I travel occasionally on business and Simon usually goes with me and takes care of the details. And while Henry is an excellent bouncer, he hasn't the brains for anything else. I was actually planning on placing an advert for the position before our, um, fateful encounter."
"What's the salary?"
"Aren't you going to ask why I find you so suitable?" she inquired with dancing blue eyes.
Bodie gingerly traced a line of fingernail marks across his abdomen. "I assume a woman like you has already checked me out, and there must be something in my background that fits the bill. Either that or you fancy having me in your bed," he added with deliberate arrogance.
When she stopped laughing, Royce moved to the head of the bed and looked down at him. "You're partially correct." She turned away towards the bathroom. "I think I'll take a shower. Come and join me."
Sighing inwardly, Bodie climbed out of bed to follow. "About the salary..." He heard her laughter echoing through the bathroom, just as he had expected.
Bodie took up residence in a small suite of rooms adjacent to the office at The Hideout, to Henry's intense disapproval, and settled into the job. The days rolled into weeks.
"Can't afford a regular flat, for fucksakes," the fat man muttered under his breath as he stacked some chairs. "Reckon Miss Royce pays you plenty, Mr. Smooth Man. Weren't worth a penny of it neither." He gave a snort and scraped a stack of chairs roughly to one side. "'By the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes.'" He gave a slit-eyed stare before turning his back.
Bodie rolled his eyes and gathered the night's receipts from the bar's register and went upstairs. Making quick work of the bookkeeping, he locked the money in the safe and glanced through the mirror at the stage below. He touched a button on the speaker. There was no sound except for the tinkling of the piano as Charlie worked on another arrangement for the trio, and the scrape and bang of chairs as Henry set the small tables aside and hulked his way pointlessly around the lip of the stage. Bodie grinned as he watched the big man's fidgety movements. The poor fool had an obvious set of the hots for Royce.
Bodie tugged off his tie and poured himself a small brandy from the drinks cabinet. He didn't like undercover assignments, especially the ones that dragged. After almost six weeks of playing nightclub manager and sometime sextoy, he was even beginning to miss Cowley's growl. Though he enjoyed going to bed with Jocelyn, despite her occasional kinky games, he knew he meant nothing to her. When it came to lovers, she was as callous as she was charming. That bothered him only in the needle it gave to his own guilty conscience. The more he saw her, the more similarities he saw between them, at least when it came to sex.
If the bug he'd planted in Royce's private phone hadn't turned up the tie between her and Paul Culbertson, the industrialist labelled the "Red Millionaire," they might've been able to wrap up the operation sooner. Now that Cowley saw the possibility of landing Culbertson, whose multi- million dollar smuggling activities and rumoured ties with the Eastern bloc made him a prize catch, the Old Man wasn't about to stop until CI5 could gather enough evidence to put him away once and for all.
Which left Bodie with nothing to do but wait as Cowley set up the net for both Royce and Culbertson, and their contacts.
He stretched out on the sofa in the office and sipped his drink. He found himself dozing off, only to blink awake to a sound that almost made his heart stop.
The familiar, sultry voice came from the speaker. Bodie sat bolt upright, his glass crashing to the floor.
When you just give love, and never get love,
You better let love depart.
I know it's so, and yet, I know,
I can't get you out of my heart...
Bodie got up and went over to the one-way mirror and looked down at the stage.
The young man was leaning against Charlie's baby grand, hip jutting out, singing to the almost empty room. Dressed in faded jeans, red t-shirt, and leather bomber jacket, his dark auburn curls spilling well below his collar, he looked as sexy and wild as the last time Bodie had seen him.
Bodie put his hand up against the glass, palm flat on the cold surface, his eyes devouring the sight. He couldn't help it. He could feel his pulse racing. He was only peripherally aware of Jocelyn Royce moving away from the front of the tiny stage.
Well I guess I'll never see the light
I get the blues most every night
Since I fell for you
Since I fell for you...
It was only when he heard the light tap on the door and the handle turning, that Bodie felt an unreasoning moment of panic. He took a deep breath and blanked his expression as Royce walked into the office.
"So, Bodie, what do you think of him?" she asked as she joined him by the view mirror. "Isn't he wonderful? I think he'll bring in more business. It's not really his voice; his range is rather limited. It's his interpretation of the lyrics. You can hear his emotions in it, he can sound like he wears them on his sleeve. Wonderfully sexy. If he does as well as I think he will, I'd like him to headline at Heartbeats. It'll be a bigger showcase for him, but I think he'll feel more comfortable starting out here for a few weeks where Charlie can polish up his arrangements."
Royce was staring down at the singer with a consuming intensity that Bodie understood only too well.
Unnoticed, he swallowed to calm his breathing and avoided looking at the stage. "I didn't expect you back until tomorrow."
"I spotted him in a club in Manchester four days ago. I didn't have to look any further. We would've returned even sooner, but I had some legal details to, um, facilitate." She smiled broadly, her pale eyes locked on the figure below.
Puzzled, Bodie risked a quick glance at the stage. Finished with his song, Doyle was half- draped over the piano, flicking through sheets of music and chatting with Charlie, their voices only a murmur. "You mean you signed him to a contract already?"
Royce laughed, finally turning her head towards him. "In a manner of speaking. His name is Ray Doyle, and I married him."
"What?!" The word burst from his mouth before he could stop it. "You--you married him?"
Giving him a lift of her eyebrows, Royce returned her gaze to the stage below. "That's what I said." Her voice had the barest, steely edge.
"But, I thought you said you only met him four days ago?"
"When I'm sure about something, I don't waste time. When I want something, I get it." She started towards the door. "Come and meet him." Her voice was soft as spring rain again and she smiled. "You can congratulate us both. We'll open a bottle of Dom Perignon. Come on," she repeated, holding out her hand to him.
He could feel the adrenaline rushing through his body as he forced his feet to move. He hadn't the vaguest idea what Doyle would do. It wasn't just their meeting again, which would be bad enough, or the bizarre news about the marriage, but there was the op to consider. There was a great deal to lose any way he looked at it.
He followed Royce down the stairs, suddenly thankful that Cowley had insisted he keep his own name in the cover. His stomach twisted as they neared the stage.
"Ray, darling, I want you to meet Bodie. He manages the club for me."
Bodie watched closely, noting the immediate tension in Doyle's body at the mention of his name. The slim figure turned slowly towards them and focused on him. He was still leaning against the baby grand, but Bodie could see the way his hands tightened their grip on the edge of the piano. Doyle's green eyes widened for a moment, then narrowed. He said nothing.
Bodie walked forward and held out his hand. "Welcome to The Hideout. I understand congratulations are in order."
It was up to Doyle.
The young man pushed himself away from the piano and hopped down from the stage. With a quick glance at Royce, he reached out and clasped Bodie's hand. "Sorry, what did you say your name was?"
So that's how it was going to be.
"Bodie," he replied, feeling the other man's hand release his at once.
Doyle shrugged, the leather crinkling around his shoulders. "I have the hardest time remembering names sometimes, especially the simple ones."
Royce sauntered up beside Doyle and put her arm through his. She was eyeing them both curiously.
"Well, I'll get that bottle of champagne, shall I?" Bodie quickly headed for the bar. He noticed Henry standing in the shadows, his mouth hanging open as he stared at his boss and Doyle together. When Bodie approached him, the big bouncer hurried away towards the back exit as fast as his bulk allowed without so much as a line of unfathomable poetry. Clearly, Bodie wasn't the only one having a shock.
"Care to join us, Charlie?" he heard Royce ask.
"You have my best wishes, boss, but I think I'll pass on the champers. I better be off or Helen will string me up by the balls." The pianist slapped the music sheets into a pile and picked his jacket off a chair. "When did you want to start rehearsals, Ray?"
"Sooner the better. Tomorrow morning okay?"
"Tony's still out sick. Can't do much without a sax. Make it the day after. I expect him back by then. Two o'clock. If you have any arrangements, bring them. Night, all."
Doyle nodded and waved a goodbye as Royce settled herself on a barstool.
Bodie poured the champagne into three fluted glasses, and wondered if Royce could sense the animosity that Doyle radiated towards him. For his own part, the sensation he was feeling was quite different as the singer drifted to stand beside Royce at the bar. Bodie handed them their glasses and lifted his own, looking deliberately into Jocelyn's eyes.
"Well, here's to your happy union," he said, trying to keep the sarcasm out of his voice.
Their glasses clinked and he drained half of his champagne in a gulp. He could feel Doyle's stare boring into him.
"Let's have another toast," announced Royce. "Ray, why don't you do the honours?"
Unable to avoid it, Bodie looked at Doyle and met very cold green eyes.
"Why don't we drink to fateful encounters," Ray began, pointedly turning away to smile at Royce. "And what they can bring." He tapped his glass lightly against hers and took a sip. "Why did you name this place The Hideout?"
"I didn't, actually," she answered. "It seems the original owner was quite a fan of American western films. I rather liked it, so I kept it."
"Never know what you might find in a hideout, I suppose," returned Doyle quietly. "Do you mind if I look around the place?"
Royce shrugged in mild surprise. "No, of course not, darling, but there's not much more to see."
But Doyle was already wandering off towards the far side of the club and the back of the stage.
Royce gazed after him as Bodie topped their glasses. "He doesn't like you," she said. "Why do you think that is?"
Taking another gulp of champagne, Bodie considered his answer. "I don't know. I think I'm extremely loveable and charming."
As he had hoped, Royce began to chuckle. She took a few more sips of her drink and set it aside. "Well, maybe he just needs to get to know you better." She stepped away from the bar. "I think Ray and I should be going now." She paused for a moment before smiling at him. "Um, I won't be seeing you quite so often from now on."
"I understand. Perfectly." Bodie fished into his pocket and handed her a key. "You'll want this back."
She accepted it with a little nod of her head. "You think it's outrageous, don't you? Ray and I."
He glanced at Doyle's shadowy silhouette across the room. "You've known him for a few days and you marry him? Yeh, I think it's crazy," he answered honestly. "You say you're attracted to him. Okay. But why marriage? Why bother?"
Royce lifted her chin. "I couldn't get him any other way. And I always get what I want. One way or the other, no matter how long it takes." Catching his puzzled look, she added. "The quicker the better, of course."
The flat tone of her voice and the faraway gleam in her eyes sent an inexplicable chill up his spine.
Later that night, as he stared sleeplessly at the ceiling of his small bedroom, Bodie struggled with the aftershock of seeing Ray Doyle again. Nearly two years of deliberate forgetting had vanished in an instant. He considered contacting Cowley and pulling himself off the op. To run while he could, before the situation became dangerously complicated. Again?
Cold analysis was not his strong suit and by dawn, he was no clearer about what he should do. He finally decided he would go by his instincts and, at the moment, they told him to concentrate on seeing the assignment through.
He didn't see Doyle that day. He assumed that the 'newlyweds' were tucked away in Royce's house. Was Jocelyn playing her special little games with Ray, too? The thought turned his stomach. Like a sudden storm, an intense anger rose within him, filling him up until he felt like breaking something, or someone. It stayed with him as he made an effort to carry on with his day's normal routine. He kept to himself and the rest of the staff, sensing his mood, left him alone.
Doyle appeared at the club early the following afternoon, a folder of music sheets under his arm. Bodie spotted him from the one-way mirror in the office. He watched Doyle talking with the trio of musicians, sharing a joke. Bodie's anger had ebbed during the long, sleepless night. He was running on empty, wishing the op would give him something to do besides wait. He felt, irrationally, that his job had betrayed him and left him open to the worst kind of torment. Knowing he couldn't resist, he allowed himself the pleasure of looking at his one-time lover.
The trio set up and began going over the arrangements. At one point, Doyle leaned over to Charlie and said something. Charlie nodded in answer and gestured up towards the office with a tilt of his head. Doyle turned and looked up, directly into the mirror. Though he knew better, Bodie couldn't help feeling as if the other man was staring right at him. The expression on Doyle's ever-boyish face seemed very hard, a strange contrast to the casual gracefulness of his body as he slowly pulled off his leather jacket and tossed it on one of the small tables. He propped himself against the piano, hip jutting out and looked up over his shoulder at the mirror again. He smiled, tongue darting out to lick his upper lip provocatively. Even from his distance, Bodie knew the smile went no further than the full lips.
The musicians warmed up for a while and they all talked briefly about which songs Doyle would try out. Once or twice, Doyle would glance up towards the mirror.
Finally, Doyle adjusted the microphone as Charlie began a slow, bluesy intro.
I don't care much, go or stay
I don't care very much, either way
Hearts grow hard on a windy street
Lips grow cold with the rent to meet
So, if you kiss me, if we touch
I don't care,
Bodie's hand balled into a fist as he pressed it against the mirror's rim. He pushed himself away and snapped off the audio speaker.
He walked back to his desk and began to check over the bar inventory lists. He kept at it for nearly an hour until he was done. He had the payroll and timesheets to do, but his concentration wavered. Even with the office's soundproofing, he could still sense the music coming from the club, like a persistent vibration in the air.
Puffing out a breath and rubbing at the back of his neck, Bodie decided to get it over with.
Charlie was calling for a break as Bodie came down the stairs and made his way to a table at the side of the stage.
"Hoi, Bodie. So, what do you think?" Charlie asked him. "Not bad, eh?" The usually cranky pianist seemed very pleased.
"What I heard sounded just fine."
"Well, I think you better squeeze in a few more tables because we'll be packing them in like sardines."
Bodie raised an eyebrow at Charlie's enthusiasm. The piano player normally hated working with vocalists. "I'll see what I can do."
As the musicians ambled off, Bodie called after them. "Tony, just tea, understand?"
The sax player turned to him and grimaced. "Yeh, yeh, okay."
Throughout the brief exchange, Doyle stood silently by the white baby grand.
"You coming, Doyle?" asked Charlie.
"No. I think I'll just get acquainted with Mr. Bodie here."
When they were alone, Doyle came over to the little table and took the chair across from him. He looked him over sharply, a flicker of emotion slipping through in the clear green eyes.
"Seems this country gets smaller every day," he said at last. "It's been what, over two years?"
Bodie dropped his gaze to the tabletop. And spotted Doyle's thick gold wedding band.
"Why did you marry her?"
Doyle slumped back in his chair, pausing at the turn in conversation. He rubbed his finger pointedly over the ring, snapping Bodie's attention back to his face. "You haven't gone blind or crotchless, so I won't bother answering that."
"You don't love her."
Doyle gave him a freezing, wide-eyed stare. "What was that word again?"
It hurt more than he expected. Bodie had to look away for a moment. "You married her for her money."
"It came with the package." Doyle crossed his arms across his chest, the cynical twist fading from his lips, the barest tremor coming through in his lowered voice. "Jocelyn has class. Lots of class. She came along just at the right time for me. I guess if I'm good enough for her, I'm good enough for anybody. I'm finally beginning to think I might be too good for some people."
Having expected a different kind of reaction, perhaps even a display of the wild anger he remembered so vividly, Bodie was unprepared for the vulnerability he saw instead. It touched a nerve, making him want to protect Doyle from everyone, even himself. "Jocelyn thinks you're special, that's true enough, but you don't know her, Ray. You don't know her at all. You're in over your head this time."
Bodie wanted to say so much more, but old fears uncurled inside him. What, after all, could he tell him? Certainly not the truth. To Doyle, he was another man entirely. And he knew, at that moment, if he put his hands on Ray, he would not be able to let go.
Taking his silence for something else, Doyle leaned forward, arms now folded on the table, ring out of sight. "By the way, thanks for the goodbye note. It was very touching, all eight words of it." The sarcasm didn't quite cover the persistent quiver in his soft voice. He gazed off towards a far wall, as if remembering, making Bodie's insides clench with the look of him. "Let's see, how did it go again? 'Ray, I can't stay any longer. I'm sorry.' You didn't even bother signing your name." Doyle pushed his chair back and stood. "I could have confused you with someone else, you know. Good thing I recognized your handwriting."
Bodie jumped up, reaching across the table to grab Doyle's upper arm firmly before he could stop himself. I never meant to hurt you. Never.I just didn't know what to do. He wanted to yell the words out, but again the old fears stopped him." "Staying would have just made it worse. It just...wouldn't have worked."
Doyle pulled out of Bodie's grip with an angry jerk. "I don't know what you're talking about," he sneered, teeth bared. "After all, we only met two days ago."
"Just stay out of my way. Better yet, why don't you quit and get the fuck out of here. You can always go back to the Army, now can't you? Or was that all a sham, too? You're nothing but a con man, through and through, aren't you? I figured that much out finally." Doyle shook his head slowly. "Yeh, I can just imagine how you talked Jocelyn into giving you this cushy little job. You can be so persuasive, can't you. You've a lot of nerve talking about Jocelyn. At least I know where I stand with her."
Bodie swallowed, wishing for a hundred impossible things. Wishing he could give Doyle the truth. But there were so many lies between them already, would Doyle only hate him more? "I-I need this job," he said instead. "I'm not leaving until I'm ready."
Doyle shrugged and brushed his hand casually over his chest. The slender fingers played over a nipple, the tiny nub hardening ever so slightly beneath his thin green t-shirt. "Well, that should make things very interesting. Just try and remember your place. You work for my wife." He gave Bodie a cold smile and sauntered away, humming.
It wasn't easy to avoid Doyle, but Bodie tried. At first, he made excuses to be away when Doyle rehearsed, or else he holed up in the office, across the room from the one-way mirror, the speaker off. It worked for the first week, but there was no way he could avoid Ray's opening night.
"I haven't seen you for a while, Bodie," Jocelyn had told him on the phone the day before Ray's first night. "Why don't you join me at a front table tomorrow? We can watch Ray's show together. Consider it boss's orders. In fact, why don't you come by the house early and give us both a lift to The Hideout?"
He arrived at her place, at their place, with a mixture of reluctance and gnawing curiosity. The housekeeper let him in. As she started to show him to the parlour, Ray appeared at the top of the stairs. "That's all right, Lorraine," he said smoothly, dismissing the servant. "C'mon on up, Bodie. Jocelyn's not quite ready." He tilted his head and smiled, the effect more arrogant than friendly. He was wearing a cream coloured raw silk shirt. It was unbuttoned, exposing his chest. His dark trousers were very tight.
"I can wait down here until you're both ready," Bodie told him.
Doyle shook his head. "Jocelyn's worried that you're keeping too much to yourself these days. She said you were much more...social before I came along." He paused, his voice growing hard. "And I just bet you were, too. Come up here. She wants to talk to you."
Bodie climbed the stairs slowly, feeling a little like a condemned man.
He stopped at the top of the stairs and looked into Doyle's cool green eyes. Defiantly, he let his stare drift over Doyle's body. "Planning on doing the show dressed like that, are you?"
Doyle gave him another cheerless smile and rubbed his hand lazily over his chest, pausing to lightly finger a nipple. "Jocelyn and I were in bed late today. Lost track of time. You know how it is." He removed his hand and began buttoning his shirt. "There. Decent enough for you now?"
Bodie swallowed back his reply and followed Doyle into the master bedroom.
Jocelyn was sitting at the dressing table, putting on her lipstick. She was wearing a midnight blue satin evening dress, cut low and clinging. She looked very good in it.
She stood up and came over to him, holding out her hands. Her nails were polished a deep red to match her lips. They gleamed in the soft light of the room's crystal lamps.
Bodie couldn't keep himself from glancing towards the bed. The sheets were jumbled on the wide mattress, duvet tossed to the foot of the bed, pillows askew. He looked at the headboard as Jocelyn's throaty laugh sounded close by his ear. She put her arms around him in a brief hug. "I put the cuffs away," she murmured as she released him, her eyes bright with amusement.
He felt his face heat as he took a step back. "You, uh, you look lovely this evening, Jocelyn," he told her truthfully, even as he wondered why she would ask him up to their bedroom.
"Why, thank you, Bodie." She gazed over his shoulder. "Darling, don't forget your jacket."
Doyle walked past him towards the large walk-in closet.
"I thought Ray might wear a tuxedo just for the opening night," she continued as her eyes followed him across the room. "But he absolutely refused. Prefers a more casual style, don't you, my love?" she called to him.
Doyle turned and smiled at her, a warm, gentle smile. "No monkey suits for me, Jocey," he said. "You're elegant enough for the both of us. Now, all I have to do is try and find the damn jacket in this jungle of clothes."
Bodie watched Royce laugh in response. There was a lightness in the sound that he couldn't recall hearing before. It was almost girlish. He realized her whole face seemed to glow as she looked at Doyle. For a moment, she seemed a good deal younger, or perhaps like another person altogether.
"You look very happy," he said.
She turned to him and some of the flint returned to her eyes. "You've been working too hard lately. You need to relax, maybe find yourself a girlfriend."
Bodie raised a eyebrow and wrapped himself firmly in his cover persona. "What, just one?"
Her red lips turned up at the corners. "That's more like it." She brushed a wave of pale hair behind her ear, exposing the long thin scar that her makeup couldn't cover. "I know you haven't been too happy yourself since I married Ray, but I'd really like you two to get along."
If you only knew, thought Bodie. "Just takes a little getting used to," he replied aloud.
"Well, get used to it and quickly, Bodie, or I'll have to let you go. I really don't have time to worry about finding another manager for the club. Don't make it necessary."
He stiffened and nodded. "Whatever you say."
Doyle walked back in the room, resplendent in a very expensive dark jacket that perfectly set off his cream silk shirt. He winked at Jocelyn and made a slow turn that ended in a bow. "Meet with your approval, milady?" he asked with mock formality, a frown flashing over his face as he spied their expressions.
Her face softening immediately, Jocelyn walked over to him and brushed back a wayward curl from his brow. "You do indeed, my darling." She leaned forward and touched her lips to his. The brief kiss left a smudge of lipstick on his mouth and she rubbed it away very tenderly with a fingertip. Doyle put his arms around her waist and pressed closer, his eyes smiling into hers.
Bodie watched the exchange like a voyeur peeping through a curtain. He felt completely and wholly excluded. At the same time, he was amazed at the sensual chemistry between them, at the depth of shared intimacy captured in their eyes. They're married, you fool, he told himself. They're in love. He took a step back. No. They're fucking. However intense her feelings, Bodie couldn't believe Jocelyn Royce loved Ray. Or anyone. Not in the normal sense of the word. As for Ray...there was a need there, yes. And maybe warmth and...gratitude. But love? No. Bodie clutched at that certainty with an unexpectedly deep sense of satisfaction.
"Shall we go?" Jocelyn asked, snaking her arm possessively around Doyle.
Bodie smiled, glancing from Jocelyn to Ray, holding the green eyes for moment longer than necessary until Doyle looked away. "Yes, by all means. On with the show."
Doyle's opening night went well, settling them all into a new routine. Meanwhile, CI5 continued to build its case against Jocelyn Royce and Paul Culbertson. They were piecing together information that pointed to a smuggling ring with political ramifications implicating individuals in very high places, and a very unexpected person as well--Barry Martin. This last revelation had left the head of CI5 in a very bitter mood indeed, and more determined than ever to unearth the entire operation, however long it took.
"I like the photo of Ray out front," announced Royce late one afternoon as she cornered Bodie in his office. "He looks very sultry with the light and shadows playing over his face that way, don't you think? I'm glad you decided to stick with the black and white."
Bodie took a sip of his whisky and watched Royce walk to the one-way mirror, her mauve silk dress draping around her long legs in small, even folds. "Doyle chose it," he informed her.
She turned to him with a swirl of material and a twinkle in her deep blue eyes. "He has very good taste, wouldn't you say?"
Bodie took another sip from his glass, relieved by the sharp knock on the door. "Come."
Charlie popped his head in the door and frowned at them. "We're still waiting for Ray. He should've been here a half hour ago."
"I thought he was here," returned Royce with a surprised lift of her pale brows. "He left the house an hour before I did." She turned to Bodie.
He shrugged and placed his glass on the desk blotter. "I haven't been downstairs. I assumed he was here, too."
"Well, we can't wait the whole bleeding day," snapped the pianist. "He's the one who wanted to put in the new numbers, for chrissakes." He shut the door with more force than necessary, and stomped back downstairs.
Royce was staring thoughtfully at the floor before moving to sit on the edge of the desk, her cane beside her. "I've been rather preoccupied with business these last few days," she began. "I'm afraid I haven't been able to spend as much time with Ray as I'd like. Unavoidable, and it looks like I'll have to go out of town soon."
Bodie wondered where Royce was leading.
"Terrible way to start a marriage, isn't it?" she asked him with a gamin grin. "We've been married less than a month." The smile faded instantly. "I want you to keep an eye on him for me, Bodie."
Baffled by the request, he sank into his chair behind the desk as she turned to gaze at him over her shoulder. "Why? And why me?"
She stood and walked to the one-way mirror and flicked on the audio button, her back to him as she spoke. The sound of Tony's sax drifted through the speakers. "I'm worried about Ray." Then she laughed. "I'm not an easy person to live with." She touched the side of her face, the side with the scar. "He's a very...emotional man, really. It's one of the things that fascinated me about him, his...passion. So very like--" She stopped abruptly, smiling to herself as if at some private joke. When she raised her head, the smile was gone. "I don't mean just physical passion, you understand. It's much grander than that with Ray." Her voice deepened. "He expects as much as he gives, I think. Not that he knows himself well enough to recognize the fact." She turned towards him, her mouth forming a smile. "I'm very different. More detached, shall we say? It's difficult not to be drawn to someone that has what one essentially lacks." She moved quietly to stand by the desk, her long, slender fingertips with their perfectly manicured nails poised lightly on the dark mahogany desktop. "I'll confess something to you, Bodie."
He raised his eyes and watched her face.
"He might leave me." Her expression seemed totally contained except for the almost angry brightness of her eyes.
Bodie could only frown in bewilderment.
"He told me before we married that he couldn't promise that he'd stay. Even for a day. He was quite honest about it." Royce pursed her mouth and looked away for a moment. "He can't understand that I don't care if he loves me or not." She tossed her head back and let out a sigh. "I just don't want him to leave me. I won't let him go."
Bodie didn't bother asking why she was confiding in him, of all people. He didn't want to hear about it. He didn't want to know. "Assuming you're right, I don't see how I can help you, Jocelyn."
"We have a lot in common, you and I."
He flinched inwardly at the comment, lips drawing tight.
"We both know what we want, we know how to get it, and we don't let anything stand in our way. You're a practical man, Bodie. You know when to set your feelings aside. I can appreciate that."
He couldn't stop himself from asking. "Why are you worried about Ray? Has he said something?"
She shrugged and pinched a fold of her silk skirt, lifting it and watching it slip through her fingers. "He's restless. I can sense it building inside him a bit more each day. Once I've finished my business trip and seen to some new investments, then Ray and I can have some real time to ourselves, a long holiday on the Continent perhaps." Her voice grew strangely distant. "It'll be a new start. It won't go wrong this time." As if sensing Bodie's frown, she suddenly shook herself and smiled. "Just keep an eye on him for me while I'm gone."
Bodie wondered about her 'business trip' and what Cowley would make of it, even while another part of his mind burned at the prospect of being alone with Ray without Jocelyn's presence looming between them. "Why don't you postpone your trip, if you're that worried."
"That's not possible." Her familiar blue eyes gazed at him steadily. "It's bad timing, but I must see about some very important contracts that could mean a great deal of money for me. I could buy the Palladium out of petty cash, if it works out. I could have...everything. At long last. But I can't put it off. There are other investors involved." Her voice was crisp, not encouraging any questions.
"I don't think he'd appreciate my babysitting him. He's too old for it, for one, and he's not exactly fond of me, for another," Bodie told her.
Royce chuckled, her smile this time appealingly warm. "Do it subtly, my dear, subtly. Aside from the club, he really has nothing to do. I've seen quite a few little tarts trying to pick him up here. He might get bored enough to be tempted. See that he doesn't get into, oh, you know, any trouble."
Bodie didn't know quite what to make of her words. Was she really expecting him to play watchdog? Guard her precious husband from poachers? He bit his lip at the irony of it. For all her easy candour, he sensed the extent of her possessiveness. It was a trait they seemed to share. But in Jocelyn, the feeling seemed to have a shadowy, ominous twist.
Charlie's voice snapped through the speakers. "Hoi, so you finally turn up. You know how long we've been sitting on our bleedin' arses? Think you're too good to show up on time, do you?!"
Doyle's muffled reply grew clearer as he approached the stage, his apology tinged with disinterest.
Royce turned at the sound of his voice and walked towards the window-mirror. Charlie's irritation seemed undiminished as he stalked back to the piano and began to play an intro from a music sheet on his stand.
After a few minutes' warmup, Ray adjusted the mike and began to sing, his voice husky.
Blue, oh your eyes were blue
like I've never seen before
My eyes were all they knew
then they turned, then they turned
Green, like a secret sea
where the demons play
Oh they played with me
then they turned, then they turned
Grey, as a silent rain
strange and cold as clay
Grey without joy or pain
then they turned,
then they turned...away
Bodie felt a tightness in his chest as a memory surfaced with the whispery, bitter edge of the sultry voice, the feeling heightened by Charlie's melancholy, minor key accompaniment.
"That's an odd song," remarked Jocelyn softly as she gazed down at Ray. "I don't think I've ever heard it before. Have you?"
"No," he lied, as Ray's voice wafted through the speakers again.
Blue, oh your eyes were blue
like the kiss of dawn
My eyes were all they knew
blue, green, grey, and...
Bodie fidgeted with the papers on his desk as he tried futilely to shut the song from his mind.
When it ended, Charlie's voice caught over the microphone as he walked across the tiny stage and began arguing about the song's tempo and Doyle's delivery.
Royce switched the speaker off and turned back to Bodie. "I'll have to ask him where he picked up that tune. It's rather strange, but I think he sang it beautifully. Charlie's just being peevish." She let out a relieved sigh and patted the folds of her skirt. "Well, at least Ray showed up."
Bodie turned a pen over and over in his hands, then threw it aside. "Do you know where he was?"
"Riding, probably. On that awful, old motorcycle of his. I told him about my going away on business and, well, he didn't like the idea. Riding clears his head, 'gives him space', or some such nonsense. I'm afraid with the way he flaunts the speed laws on that thing, he'll just crash into a brick wall or a stand of oaks or something." She scooped up her cane and headed for the door, throwing him an quick grin. "I sound like his mother, don't I?" She tapped the cane quickly against the floor. "Don't answer that!" Her hand on the doorknob she paused and met his eyes for a moment. "You will take good care of him for me while I'm gone, won't you, Bodie?"
Swallowing quickly and keeping his face schooled, he shrugged his shoulders. "I'm sure he can take care of himself." But as she continued to stare at him with cool determination, he yielded. "I'll...I'll make sure he's all right."
Business was good. As Jocelyn had predicted, Ray quickly built a small following, adding new regulars to the club as word of mouth spread. On occasion, the club even had to turn people away at the door for lack of room.
Bodie stood at the back of the room. The tables were packed and the air warm. Yet even the customers at the crowded bar remained attentively quiet as Doyle finished up his final set of the night. The applause was enthusiastic, punctuated with several appreciative whistles as the singer took his bows and acknowledged the other musicians.
Ray looked slim and sexy in a white, open-necked linen shirt and tight, black leather pants that moulded against his long legs, emphasizing the bulge of his crotch and his round, firm buttocks. He was sexy and he knew it. For the past half hour, Bodie watched him flirting with two men at one of the front tables with such teasing sensuality that he thought the fellows would jump out of their chairs and hump Doyle across the baby grand.
The applause was finally dying down and Bodie watched as Doyle smiled seductively at the two men, adding a wink. Then he looked up towards the back of the room and unerringly met Bodie's eyes. The smile turned into a challenge. With a wave to the rest of the club's patrons, Doyle left the stage.
Bodie waited a few minutes before he made his way backstage, hoping his anger would cool before he had to face Doyle. Jocelyn had been gone two days. Just two days and Doyle was behaving as if he wanted to be screwed through the floor by every man in the room. Except Bodie. Bodie could certainly understand why Ray would avoid him like the plague, but he couldn't understand the rest of the man's behaviour.
As he approached the tiny dressing room, he took one last, calming breath. He tapped on the door and opened it, without waiting for an invitation.
Doyle was sitting on the narrow cot that stood along one side of the cupboard-sized room, his back slumped against the wall. One leather-clad leg was propped up on the little bed, an arm resting casually across his knee. He gazed up slowly at Bodie as if he had been expecting him.
A tiny dressing table with a large, lighted mirror and a straight-backed chair piled with music took up the rest of the available space. Bodie preferred to stand, suddenly feeling the need of any small advantage. He shut the door behind him and leaned against it.
"What's gotten into you?"
Doyle gave him a cold smile. "Nothing yet, but I'm hopeful."
"What the bloody hell's wrong with you," snapped Bodie. "What do you think Jocelyn's going to do when she hears about how you've been acting?"
"That's your problem."
Bodie stared at him open-mouthed. "My problem?"
Doyle shifted a little on the cot, his legs splaying further apart, the lights from the mirror gliding off the curves of black leather. "She asked you to 'watch out' for me."
A muscle twitched in Bodie's jaw. "What makes you say that?"
Doyle sighed patiently. "She told me. Maybe she thought it would make me feel better." He smiled in the same, cold way. "What a joke, that. For a woman as smart as she is, Jocelyn can be way off the mark on some things." He shrugged, fingering his wedding band. "She doesn't want me sleeping around with other women." A frown crossed his face. "I can at least do that much for her." Doyle tilted his head, his dark auburn curls dipping low across his forehead. "You were always spouting poetry, how does that bit go--'I was faithful to her, in my fashion'?" Doyle rose from the cot in a slow, graceful movement. "Nothing ever works out the way we think, does it? Maybe it doesn't matter anyway."
Not about to be drawn into some murky debate on the meaning of life, Bodie stepped forward and grabbed Doyle be the arm. "The whole damn staff has watched you acting like some overeager rentboy. It'll get back to Jocelyn. She's not the kind of woman to be played for a fool "
"If it's so important to you, then you better make sure she doesn't hear about it." He pulled his arm away roughly. "Now, if you'll excuse me, I've a date to keep."
Bodie remained in front of the door. "Are you trying to push Jocelyn into throwing you out, is that it?"
A shadowy looked touched Doyle's eyes. "I don't think she'd ever do that. She won't let go of anything that belongs to her."
Bodie felt the hairs rise on the back of his neck. "What's wrong, Ray? What's happened? If I can help--"
The green eyes seemed lost in another place and time. Doyle shook his head and looked at Bodie. "Help? " He snorted a laugh. "Thanks ever so but it's a bit late for that. Nah, everything's just fine. Couldn't be more delighted with my life." He lifted his chin, pride and temper firmly stamped across his features, closing Bodie out. Again. "'Course, it'll be even better in an hour or two. Now, step aside and let me get at it."
When Bodie wouldn't move, Doyle's shoulders slumped and he made as if to turn. The next thing Bodie knew, he was picking himself up off the floor and staring through the wide open door as Doyle walked away.
He started to follow. All he could see was the image of those two simpering drunks having Doyle, using him, when Bodie couldn't even touch him. The rest of the band members were milling in the corridor. Someone bumped into him as he watched Doyle disappear through the exit. It was like being jarred awake and he stopped. Doyle's personal life was none of his business. Bodie rubbed his bruised jaw and faced the simple truth of it. His only concern was the op. If Doyle's behaviour could jeopardize their case against Royce, then he would have to do something about it. Royce would undoubtedly be upset to learn that Doyle was coming on to the male customers. How upset was something else again, but it was no use speculating. Bodie would just have to keep Doyle's 'activities' as quiet as possible. If Ray wanted to fool around, that was his choice. Much as he would like, Bodie didn't have the right to tell Doyle how to live his life. But he'd do his best not to let Royce find out about it. That was all he could do.
An hour later, he was pouring himself a whisky at the bar as his mind continued to taunt him with images of where Doyle could be and what he was doing. Henry was stacking chairs and shoving tables near the walls before sweeping the floor. The club was quiet, the rest of the help having left for the night. The little stage was dark. Bodie could feel the big bouncer's eyes glancing over at him. Oddly enough, Henry seemed almost friendly towards him now. Ever since Ray's arrival and Bodie's apparent 'exile' from Jocelyn's bed, the bouncer even seemed willing to make an effort to converse with him from time to time.
Bodie stared into his glass of liquor, swirling it around, knowing there would be no chance for sleep and wishing he could afford to get reeling drunk.
"He left with 'em two queers."
Henry's hulking frame filled the space beside him and Bodie turned to look into the man's thick- lidded eyes. They gleamed like small black marbles in the dim lighting. "What did you say?"
"Doyle. He went off with them poofters. I watched him." Henry was holding a broom in his hands, his large, beefy fingers unconsciously twisting the wooden handle.
Bodie slowly lifted his glass to his lips and sipped at his whisky. He knew Henry was waiting for him to say something. He didn't say anything.
"He looked queer to me," Henry said at last. "First time he come in here, I thought he was a fairy. What with his pretty curls, thin as a bird, looked like one of 'em queer Soho rentboys. Why'd Miss Royce marry him, huh? He's not fit to touch her."
It was the longest string of sentences Bodie had ever heard from the big man.
Bodie swallowed a little more of his whisky. "It's not your place or mine to question anything Miss Royce chooses to do. And you're wrong about Doyle. He left with those two men because I asked him to. They're business associates of Miss Royce and he's just having a drink with them since she's out of town. That's all there is to it." It was outlandish at best, but Bodie couldn't think of anything else and he hoped the big man's simple mind would accept it.
"I never saw those two queers with Miss Royce." Henry's expression was stupidly puzzled.
"Why should you? She's a smart businesswoman and she does business with a lot of people. It's none of your concern."
"But Doyle was acting like a queer, looking at 'em like he was, and smiling and all," insisted the big man with a frown.
"He was just giving the crowd a little entertainment. You heard the way they clapped; they loved it. No big deal, just part of the act."
Henry shook his head, frown lines grooving his forehead. "Don't like it. Don't like him neither."
"Well, it doesn't matter what either of us thinks of Doyle, does it? Miss Royce married him and that means she cares a lot about him, doesn't it?"
Henry's mouth worked in a silent grumble.
"I think you better finish up sweeping," Bodie told him quietly.
Henry gave him a long look, then started to walk away, the broom dragging along the floorboards. "'Golden lads and girls all must, as chimney- sweepers, come to dust.' He better never hurt her," mumbled the big man, more to himself than to Bodie. "He'll be sorry if he does."
Bodie gazed after the bouncer with a shake of his head before finishing off his drink. Throwing poor, dumb Henry off the track was easy enough, but he didn't know what he could say to Charlie and the other musicians. He doubted that any of them would mention it to Jocelyn, no matter how outrageous Ray's behaviour, at least not deliberately. Nevertheless, if Doyle was determined to run wild, Bodie would see to it that he did it discreetly. He had to do it for the sake of the op. Or so he told himself.
It was close to dawn. Bodie sat in the car, his head against the rest, face turned towards Jocelyn Royce's front door. It was cold but he didn't notice. He'd been waiting for over three hours. For much of that time, he wondered why he couldn't stop himself from being there. After locking up the club, he should have simply gone to bed, whether he could sleep or not. Instead, he seemed compelled to drive over to Royce's Chelsea house...Ray's house, ostensibly to make another attempt at talking some sense into Doyle about his recent behaviour. No one was home.
So, Bodie decided to wait.
The first hint of dawn was bleaching the sky when a white Mercedes drove up in front of the house. As the car doors opened, Bodie was already walking towards them. He could hear the driver's words as the man crossed to the passenger's side and slipped his arm around Doyle's waist as he got out.
"Never thought I'd get you alone."
"I liked the party, was fun. Alan certainly enjoyed it from the way he latched on to that blond."
"Leaves you all to me," replied the man with a throaty chuckle.
They both turned with twin expressions of surprise as Bodie planted himself in front of them.
"You're very late," said Bodie.
"Who the hell are you?"
Bodie looked the man up and down and nodded towards Doyle. "I work for his wife."
The man's eyes narrowed, unfazed. "So?"
"Go away, Bodie," Doyle told him.
"No. You don't know what you're playing at, Ray."
Doyle laughed. "That's where you're wrong. I know exactly what I'm playing at. In fact, let me give you a little preview." He turned and grabbed the other man's jacket by the lapels, pausing to bestow a smile that made the man's mouth drop open. Tugging gently, he brought their bodies together.
There was a light wind in the early morning air. The long, auburn curls framing Doyle's face lifted in the breeze. The full mouth opened, tongue moving slowing over his lower lip before Doyle kissed the other man deeply, his whole body moving, arms flowing over the man's shoulders, back, stopping to grip his buttocks, grinding their crotches together.
Bodie's hands balled into fists. He stuffed them into the pockets of his anorak as they started to shake.
The other man held Doyle tight around the waist, big hands splayed across the top of Doyle's black leather trousers, rubbing up and down in quickening movements.
Bodie could hear him moaning as the kiss seemed to deepen. He bit down on his lip.
Doyle pushed the man away at last, not without effort. His mouth was wet and glistening from the kiss. "Let's go in," he said, reaching into his short leather jacket to pull out a small ring of keys.
Bodie felt blood on his lip. It took more control than he could remember just to stand still. "Jocelyn came back last night. She's inside."
Doyle's head jerked towards him. "What?"
"Tell your lover boy to go home before I put him in hospital."
The other man glared at Bodie and threw an arm around Doyle's shoulders. "That your wife? Doesn't matter. We can go to my place. C'mon." He started pushing Doyle towards the car.
Bodie took a step, but Doyle had already shoved the man away. "Some other time, Kevin. Take off."
"What? No, c'mon, Ray, come with me." Kevin gave Bodie an angry glare then reached for Doyle's arm again.
Shaking it off roughly, Doyle's expression turned very cold. "I said some other time. Be a good boy now and get lost."
Bodie could see that Kevin wasn't as drunk or as stupid as he first seemed. The bulge in his crotch spoke of his frustration as he swore under his breath and turned his back. He walked around to the driver's side of the Merc and flung open the door. "Well, you can fuck yourself, Ray Doyle. I don't waste my time on little cockteasers." He got into the car and slammed the door shut. A moment later, the Merc was screeching out of the parking space, narrowly missing sideswiping the car in front of it.
Bodie watched the Mercedes speed down the road and turned his attention to Doyle. The wind still ruffled the wild curls and the predawn light made his green eyes look a stormy grey colour. Doyle was gazing up at the bedroom windows of the house. He seemed reluctant to move, his long fingers fidgeting with the ring of keys in his hand.
"She's not here."
Doyle turned round slowly and stared into Bodie's eyes.
"I didn't want you to go in there with him."
Doyle threw his arm back and punched Bodie in the face. The blow sent him staggering back and he fell to his knees. His jaw ached and his head was spinning. Doyle stood over him, legs braced apart, fists balled. "You lying bastard. Get up and I'll knock you down again."
Bodie blinked away the dizziness. He wiped at the blood on his mouth and stood up carefully. "That's the second punch you've landed tonight. That's as charitable as I get." He swayed on his feet but he kept his eyes on Doyle's face, finally letting out a sigh and the truth. "I just didn't want him to touch you," he said.
Doyle raised a clenched fist and Bodie tensed to block the swing.
"Damn you!" Doyle's shoulders seemed to sag. "Damn you." His voice sounded weary as he turned and began walking towards the door.
Bodie followed after him. Every particle of common sense screamed at him to stop, to leave, to run while he still could. But he couldn't listen, couldn't hear. Doyle was opening the door and he hurried to catch up.
"What do you think you're doing?" demanded Doyle as Bodie came up behind him.
"I have to talk to you, Ray. Please. It's important."
"Well, I don't want to talk to you." Doyle went inside and started to close the door, but Bodie pushed his way in after him.
Dawn light filtered through pale curtains in the entryway. Tall plants in fancy, painted vases cast strange shadows across the shiny, dark wood floor. The room was chilly. Bodie shut the door and leaned back against it. He felt as if his heart was beating too fast. A faint taste of blood remained in his mouth. Doyle stood silent, a few feet away from him. The round face was shuttered, green/grey eyes glittering in the hazy light. Unable to stop himself, Bodie stepped closer and reached out.
Doyle still didn't move as Bodie wrapped his arms around him and lowered his head to kiss Doyle's mouth. As their lips touched, Bodie took Doyle's face between his hands, thumbs tracing over the mismatched cheekbones. Memories, sweet and bitter, flowed through him. A frightening sense of need tore at his careful mental walls. It grew with the brush of their lips, with the first tremor that he felt running through Doyle's body, through his own. It was like falling through air into fire.
The heat flowed between them, intense and consuming. They pulled away finally, abruptly, at the same moment. Doyle put his hand to his mouth, fingertips to his lips, as if he couldn't quite believe what he had done.
And Bodie realized how truly lost he was. "I wish I could change everything, Ray."
Doyle turned away from him and slowly walked towards the stairs. On the third step he looked down over his shoulder at Bodie. "If you stay, I'm going to fuck you," he said quietly. And then he continued up the stairs.
Bodie watched the long slim legs climbing each step, the morning half-light rippling over the black leather pants, playing over the round tight arse. The short black leather jacket emphasized the wide shoulders and the narrow hips. It was the body he had dreamed of and craved for two long years.
Bodie remembered the times they'd fucked each other, the arguments that often preceded the sex, the shouting matches and the stalemates. They had kept too much of themselves from each other, from beginning to end. Bodie knew his own reasons, but could only guess at Doyle's. Sex was their neutral ground, a mutual haven. The place where they could give fully to each other. The only place where they held nothing back. Yet it was a mistake to start it all over again with so much else wrong between them.
His hands were sweating as he faced the fact that he couldn't let Doyle go. He rubbed them against his cords and started up the stairs after him.
Doyle was waiting in the middle of the hallway, beyond the master bedroom. "In here," he said, his arm raised towards one of the guest rooms.
Bodie could see the tension radiating from him. Perhaps Doyle knew it was a mistake, too. Like moths drawn to a flame.
Bodie followed him into the room. The walls were a deep rose colour, the furniture dark and heavy like the pieces in the master bedroom, though the king sized bed did not come with handcuffs, a fact Bodie was relieved to note. A full-sized mirror in an ornate, carved wood frame stood in one corner of the room.
"Where's Jocelyn's housekeeper?" Bodie asked, moving to one side of the wide bed.
"On holiday. I didn't need her." Doyle stood on the other side of the bed watching him. "Well?"
Bodie shrugged off his anorak and tossed it to the floor. He began unbuttoning his shirt. Doyle kept watching him as he slowly took off his clothes. Bodie was never particularly comfortable about putting himself on display for anyone. Unlike Doyle, who seemed as relaxed and unconcerned with his clothes off as on, Bodie was too aware of his physical vulnerability and, in this instance, too aware of the edge of tension and anger surrounding the other man.
Doyle reached down and pulled off the brocade bedspread. "Get in." Bodie lifted the duvet to comply but stopped as Doyle turned and started walking out of the room.
"Where are you going?"
Doyle's hands clenched at his sides. "It's cold. I'll be back in a minute."
Bodie watched him leave and suddenly felt the chill in the room. He glanced down at himself, noticing the goosebumps across his arms. He shivered and climbed into the bed.
It was several minutes before Doyle returned. "I've turned on the heat," he said as he quickly tore off his clothes.
"It's warm enough under the duvet. You needn't have bothered," answered Bodie. He had wanted to say that they were never cold in bed. That Doyle had rarely felt the chill no matter how low the temperature.
"I hate a cold house. Besides, we'll need this." He threw a tube of lubricant on the pillow.
Bodie picked it up with a frown and put it to one side as Doyle got under the covers. He touched Doyle's shoulder and felt the shiver running through the smooth skin, through the hard muscle beneath. From the chill...or the fire? They stared at each other for a moment. Doyle's mouth opened. Bodie could see the edge of the chipped front tooth and remembered their last fight with a pang of remorse, despite the memory of the night that followed it. "Why didn't you fix your tooth?"
"Kept it as a reminder of you, not that I needed any." Doyle closed the distance between them and rolled on top of Bodie. With a sound like a growl, he pressed his mouth against Bodie's, tongue probing and licking. The feel of Doyle's naked body sliding and rubbing sensuously against him made his cock hard almost at once. Doyle made little noises deep in his throat, urgent gasping sounds as they grappled and clung to each other. Their hands played possessively over muscles and bone, angles and planes, bringing them rapidly to the edge. The covers were thrown, unnoticed, to the floor.
"The...tube," Doyle breathed into his ear.
Bodie slid his arms over Doyle's waist and down across his buttocks, palming the firm round globes, one in each hand. He wanted to press his finger into the moist crack, into the small opening. He wanted desperately to fuck Ray long and hard, to feel his cock push into that hot, tight channel again. Ray would buck underneath him, pushing back against his cock, pleasuring them both to climax.
Bodie didn't like to be fucked. He never really enjoyed it, not like Ray. Ray loved it, used to moan and even beg for it.
"Tube, c'mon!" growled Doyle, a catch starting in his voice. "Y-you never wanted to belong to me." Long, trembling fingers reached across the pillows, frantically searching the bedding.
Bodie bite-kissed Doyle's shoulder, drawing the hand back to his chest, locking his arms around the smaller body. He looked into his lover's eyes and glimpsed the pain within the fire. "All right, Ray, all right," he soothed. He found the lubricant, tucked underneath a corner of the pillow and gave it to Doyle who rolled away and rose to his knees.
"Turn over, Bodie."
Bodie swallowed back his reluctance, wanting to give Doyle what he could. He shifted slowly to his stomach. Warms hands stroked his thighs and buttocks. A pillow was shoved underneath his stomach. He felt Ray's hard cockhead brushing against his hip. He hissed against gritted teeth as cream-laden fingers probed his anus, one finger, then two. His own erection faded. Doyle pushed his legs apart.
"Dreamed...about this. You...like this." Doyle's breath was ragged.
Bodie buried his face against the mattress as Doyle entered him. His eyes squeezed shut as the penetration deepened. Instinctively, he tried to pull away only to have Doyle grab his hips in an iron hold, pushing him backward, impaling him completely.
Bodie stifled a cry. He could feel the desire in every quivering muscle of Doyle's body, in the cock that seemed to fill him to bursting. His fingers knotted in the wine-red sheets and he tried desperately to relax his body, to steady his breathing as Doyle began to move inside him. Ray needs this, he told himself. I owe him this.
The discomfort eased, turned almost to pleasure. Almost. The real pleasure was in the sound of Doyle's voice, in the ecstatic moans, in knowing he was giving Ray something back at long last. He wondered at the feeling. He wasn't used to giving; he never wanted anyone to get that close but Doyle had breached more than his body two years ago and there was no way he could change it.
"M-ine!" The word seemed torn from Doyle as, finally, his body stiffened, then shuddered in climax, hips grinding against Bodie's arse.
Moments later, Doyle sprawled across his back, boneless weight pressing them both into the mattress. Bodie wriggled to one side, feeling Doyle's cock slip from his body, turning onto his back with a wince. His arse was sore and he could feel the slickness of Ray's cum between his legs. Doyle nuzzled against his neck, one arm flung across his chest. Bodie watched as the head of curls lifted and the green eyes stared into his own.
"Just like old times," whispered Doyle.
"Not quite." Bodie reached up and brushed back a handful of sweat-damp curls from the round face. He pulled Doyle's head down and kissed him.
Doyle's hand caressed his chest and moved to his groin, cupping his lengthening cock. Doyle kissed him back. "You still don't come when I'm inside you," he said at last.
Bodie tried to shrug, but gasped instead as Doyle's fingers began to stroke his sex. "I like it the other way round, if you remember," he managed to say with a voice that wavered slightly.
"Yeh, I remember. I suppose it's a good thing I don't have a big dick." Doyle slithered lower on the bed until his face lay across Bodie's thigh. "I remember everything. Do you remember, Bodie?"
"Yes, Ray. Everything. Usually I-I wish I didn't."
"Me, too." Doyle gazed at Bodie's cock, hard now. "I always liked the feel of you inside me though. Filling me up, taking me so high I thought sometimes I'd break into pieces from the way you made me feel." He laughed a little then as if at some private joke. Then he circled the tip of the bobbing erection with his finger, stroking the wet slit. He sighed and leaned over and slowly licked Bodie's cock from top to base and back.
Bodie drew in a sharp breath as Doyle's mouth covered the head of his penis and began to suck.
Doyle was the best cocksucker Bodie'd ever known. It didn't take him long to prove that he was still the best.
His heart finally slowing to normal and a sense of satisfaction melting his bones, Bodie turned his head on the pillow. His cock slipped from Doyle's glistening lips as Doyle lifted his head with a soft smile and moved to nestle against Bodie's stomach.
If only they were able to understand each other as well outside of a bed.
Not wanting reality to intrude too quickly, Bodie set the wistful thought aside and reached down to fondle the head of auburn curls, his gaze flickering over the room, stopping suddenly at the full length mirror. The air left his lungs.
Jocelyn Royce's reflection stared at him in the mirror. She was standing in the doorway, looking at them.
"Oh damn." It was Ray's hushed voice. He saw her, too.
In the next instant, she was gone. Bodie saw her image for just a moment, but he would never forget the deadly rage in her eyes. He scrambled out of the bed and out of the room. He could hear the sound of her footsteps rushing down the stairs as he reached the banister. The front door flew open. A few moments later, he heard the squeal of tyres.
He raced down the stairs to the door and caught sight of her silver grey Mercedes speeding away. He could hardly chase after her in the nude. He slammed the door shut and slumped against it, beads of sweat cooling on his skin. He brushed a hand over his face, trying to gather his thoughts. A dozen questions flew through his mind. His eyes searched the top of the stairs. With a hard swallow, he walked back up to the guest bedroom.
Ray was standing perfectly still by the tall windows. Morning light filtered through the delicate French voile curtains, outlining his naked body. The pale light made him look like a half-formed ghost, his skin a thin gold colour, his hair a haloed bronze.
Doyle didn't turn round. "You said she wasn't back yet."
"I thought she'd be gone for another day at least," replied Bodie truthfully. He would have to contact HQ and find out what was going on. He hadn't thought of the op since he'd set out to wait for Doyle the night before. He didn't want to think about it now, but he had to. He started to dress.
"Did you see the look on her face?" Doyle turned towards him slowly.
"I wonder how long she was standing there, watching us?"
Bodie shook his head. "I don't know." He pulled on his pants, socks and shoes and reached for his shirt.
Doyle sat on the edge of the bed. "Did she have that cane of hers? I didn't notice, it was all so quick."
Bodie stopped, puzzled by the cold, flat tone of Ray's voice. "I didn't notice either."
"She probably did. She calls it her faithful friend, did you know that?" He didn't wait for Bodie's answer. "At least she has something that's faithful." The slim shoulders drew back as Doyle took a deep breath. "What I don't understand is why she ran away. That's not like Jocelyn at all. Somehow, I would've thought she would've confronted us." He paused, wrapping his arms around himself. "Or maybe use that 'friend' of hers on us. Jocelyn doesn't run from anything."
Feeling a sudden chill despite the warmth of the room, Bodie moved to stand near the foot of the bed, needing to see the other man's face. "Ray, I didn't mean for this to happen."
Doyle looked up. "Any of it?"
Bodie shook his head and knelt in front of his lover. He reached out and slid his hands over Doyle's shoulders. "I meant I didn't think Jocelyn would walk in on us. She's trouble, Ray. Big trouble. You sense that, don't you?"
"Trouble?" Doyle seemed to consider the word before shaking his head. "I told her that marrying me was a mistake. I really said that to her, even though I told her that was the only way I was going to stay with her." He gave Bodie a bitter smile. "You were right, you know. I married her because she was my ticket out of Manchester, a chance at a real singing career. My life was going nowhere. I hadn't cared about anything since--" He didn't finish, shrugging the rest away. "She's rich, a class act, the kind of woman I reckoned was always well out of my league. I had nothing to lose. She wanted me, god knows why, and I gave her my terms. Funny thing is, I never dreamed she'd take me up on it. I mean, I never believed she'd really marry me."
"Jocelyn told me that she wanted you and that she always gets what she wants. But, Ray, you're the one who made the bad bargain, not her."
Doyle frowned and looked away. "Her eyes are the same colour as yours, you know. It was the first thing I noticed about her."
Bodie felt a lump in his throat and bit down on his lip. He had to get in touch with HQ and find out what was happening. It occurred to him that Cowley might have already tried to contact him at the Club. He rubbed his hands over Doyle's shoulders, wondering what he should tell him. Or if he should tell him anything at all, yet. There was so much to clear up between them. He didn't know where to start or if it was too late already.
"I-I have to make a phone call, Ray. You should get dressed."
Doyle expression was puzzled. "Who are you going to ring up?"
Bodie stood and headed for the door. "I'll be back in a few minutes," he evaded. He went into the master bedroom and called HQ, keeping his eyes on the half-open door.
He was immediately put through to Cowley's office. "We have been trying to contact you for hours, 3/7." The Controller of CI5 sounded decidedly irritated. "Where have you been?"
"I'm at Jocelyn's house. She was just here."
"What?! Is she still there?"
"No, she, uh, left right away."
"Damn it, man, and you let her go?!"
"I-I wasn't able to follow her. She drove off in her car."
"Och, for pity's sake. We've been trying to locate her since yesterday. We haven't all the details yet, but it seems that she's had a falling out with Culbertson. Something serious. Seems one of her bodyguards was killed."
"Simon? The tall creep that travels with her?"
"No I.D. yet," replied Cowley. "The killing happened on Culbertson's estate north of London. There was some sort of meeting there, with Royce and a few others. Those others included one of Culbertson's communist cronies, a Yugoslavian, ostensibly an attaché from their embassy. Unfortunately, we don't know what they were meeting about, but we do know that Culbertson's a wily bastard. He doesn't like drawing attention to himself. He would've had the body disposed of or, at least, removed from his premises if he'd had the chance. Fortunately, we had a unit posted as close to the place as we dared. There were shots fired and Royce and the others left in a very big hurry."
"Royce said something about a meeting and some important contracts. She said she'd be making a lot of money from the deal, that she'd been planning it for a long time. Said she'd be able to buy the Palladium out of petty cash."
Cowley snorted over the line. "Indeed? Well, it looks like she may've bitten off a bit more than she can chew, at long last." The Old Man's voice had a purr of satisfaction to it. Cowley's next question and it's crisp tone caught him off guard. "What were you doing in Royce's house all night, 3/7?"
He glanced at the phone receiver as his mind scrambled for words. "I-I was outside in my car most of the night, waiting for...her husband to show. Royce wanted me to keep an eye on him. If you had let me carry an RT on this assignment, I would've--"
Unfortunately, Cowley was not to be sidetracked. "Ray Doyle. Why didn't you tell me that this is the same man you encountered during one of our operations two years ago?"
Bodie stared at the phone in his hand again as if he was afraid that Cowley could somehow see his face, then glanced at the door. "It didn't seem relevant to the op or I would have mentioned it. Doyle doesn't know I'm with CI5. He just assumes I've been drifting from job to job and just wound up on Royce's payroll."
The silence that followed had Bodie chewing his lip.
"I assume Doyle is in the house with you now?"
"He's in another room."
"Did he talk to Royce?"
"No. She...didn't talk to either of us. Just came and went."
"She must've gone to the house for a reason."
"I-I don't know."
"All right, Bodie, there's obviously more to this than you're telling me and I have other business to attend to at the moment. I want to see you in my office within the hour and you better be ready to give me a thorough explanation. Understood, 3/7?"
Cowley hung up and Bodie drew in a deep breath. Jocelyn...Ray...now Cowley. He wasn't sure which one worried him more. He just had the strange sensation that the earth was starting to crumble beneath his feet.
He went back into the guest bedroom and found Doyle, dressed and standing by the window. The curtains were drawn, letting in the hazy morning sun. Doyle seemed to be staring at some secret vision beyond the London landscape.
"Ray, I have to leave for a few hours. I'll meet you at the Club later, all right?"
Doyle glanced up at him. "I'm staying here. I have to talk to Jocelyn. She'll probably be coming back soon." He ran a hand through his hair "I never should have let any of this happen. I'm no good for her. Or for you."
Bodie held back a sigh. While Doyle had a penchant for doing just as he pleased regardless of the consequences, he also usually regretted a good deal of it afterwards. It was definitely a trait Bodie found more wearing than endearing. He certainly had no time to indulge. "For god's sakes, Ray, don't start on one of your guilt trips now. "
"You just want us to go on as if nothing happened, I suppose? Or maybe I should just follow your example and run off somewhere."
The comment stung deep but Bodie wasn't about to fall into their old pattern and be drawn into argument. "If Jocelyn wants to...talk to either of us, she'll let us know, now won't she? There's no use just sitting here waiting. Charlie and the boys will be at the Club early today. He wanted to work on those new arrangements, for tonight, remember? Now we have a business to run and we may as well both do our jobs until Jocelyn tells us otherwise."
Doyle absently fingered his wedding ring. "I wonder what she's going to do? I just don't understand why she went off like that. Could it have upset her so much that she couldn't even stand..." His voice trailed off as he stared at the wide gold band on his finger.
Bodie hardly believed that to be a possibility. He knew Jocelyn Royce was capable of cold-blooded murder. She was a woman who insisted on maintaining control of herself and everything around her, yet in that brief moment when Bodie saw her face in the mirror, the emotion in her eyes was as close to a loss of control as he'd ever seen in her. He only hoped they would have enough hard evidence on her to put her behind bars as soon as possible.
"So where are you going off to then? Did you ring up the train schedule for the next one out of town? Off to check out new employment opportunities? Not bothering with a note on the pillow this time round?"
Bodie's head snapped up, wondering what Doyle might have read into his silence. There was a guarded look in Doyle's eyes now.
Bodie crossed the room to Doyle's side. "I'm not leaving you, Ray," he said, although the words seemed to stick in his throat. He realized he wanted them to be true, perhaps too much.
Doyle turned away without a reply, gazing stiffly out the window again.
"I know you don't believe me, Ray." Bodie reached out to touch Doyle's shoulder, but drew his hand back at the last second. "There's no reason why you should after the last time."
There were dark places between them, littered with lies and unhealed wounds. Bodie wasn't sure how or even if they could work things out, but being with Ray again showed him how much he wanted to try. He reached out once more and placed his hand on the nape of Ray's neck, rubbing gently. To his relief, Doyle allowed the contact. "I'll meet you at the Club in a little while. We'll...talk then, all right? I don't want to run away from you, or myself, anymore, Ray, but there are...things I have to explain to you. You might not want to hear them. But now I have to leave for a little while."
Bodie leaned forward slowly and kissed the warm smooth joint of neck and shoulder, feeling the rapid pulse beneath his lips and the brush of thick curls against his cheek.
"Please go to the Club," Bodie told him again, softly, pleadingly. "I don't want you to stay here alone. Ray?"
After a moment, Doyle let out a sigh. He turned and Bodie was disappointed, though not particularly surprised, to see the carefully guarded expression still in place. "I'll see you later then," he said.
Bodie glanced over at the wide bed with its burgundy sheets in disarray and. then he met Doyle's steady look and nodded. He left his lover standing by the tall windows, a dark silhouette against the morning light.
"You're late," Cowley informed him tersely as Bodie walked into the Controller's office.
"Sorry, sir, I was caught in traffic and--"
"Never mind the excuses." Cowley threw his pen down on the blotter and sat back in his chair.
"Uh, yes, sir." Bodie always felt as if he was back in the Paras when he stood before the Old Man. Sometimes, he even had to stop himself from saluting. "Any word on Royce?"
"Unfortunately, no, and it's not at all comforting. Culbertson's lawyers are already in the act. You were right about the man who was killed. Name was Simon Maplefield. Culbertson's people are saying the shooting was an unfortunate accident. Gun went off by accidentally. Looks like Culbertson intends to keep this problem with Royce strictly in the family." Cowley paused, pursing his lips in distaste. His gaze swept Bodie who stood at soldierly attention. "Och, sit down, man," he said finally, waiting as Bodie complied. "Where is Doyle now?"
"He should be on his way to the Hideout to rehearse some new arrangements."
"What does he know about Royce's situation?"
"I didn't tell him anything yet."
"Seems you haven't seen fit to inform me of all the salient facts as well, 3/7."
"Sir?" Bodie kept his face blank.
"Never mind the village idiot expression, Bodie. I've been checking through a great many reports of late, including those on the old Sanderson op. Raymond Doyle was a suspect in that one initially."
"Initially, but he wasn't involved in the setup in any way. He just happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time." Bodie wondered why his chief was letting him tell him something he already knew.
"As I recall from your report, Doyle helped you out of a tight spot with Sanderson's mob."
"Yes. At no small risk to himself."
"But you never told him you were with CI5."
"No, I didn't." Bodie wasn't going to volunteer anything further. If Cowley was leading him down a particular garden path, Bodie would just as soon not make the stroll any easier.
"I might not have made the connection on Doyle except that the name rang a bell and I decided to run a cross-reference check. You should have mentioned it, 3/7, whether or not you thought it was relevant to the current operation. You're not paid to make those kind of judgments. I am." Cowley's slate blue eyes swept the room as he swivelled slightly in his chair. "Jocelyn Royce does not strike me as a sentimental woman. Wouldn't you agree?"
Bodie's brows lifted at the abrupt change in topic. He found he had to clear his throat. "Sentimental? Hardly."
"Yes, not the romantic type at all." Cowley fixed him with a calm stare. "Then why would she marry someone like Raymond Doyle?"
Bodie blinked. "She obviously wanted to." He shrugged. "Whim?"
"Rather a serious step for a...whim." Cowley's patient stare never wavered.
"She told me he wouldn't stay with her otherwise. Royce is not your average woman. I doubt the institution of marriage means very much to her anyway."
The Old Man's mouth thinned into a cagey smile. "Still, a bit of a twist on the usual situation, wouldn't you say? She must have found him considerably attractive."
"That's what I gathered."
"But she found you...attractive as well, 3/7. As she finds most handsome, young men attractive. That's why I chose you for this job in the first place. Always hunt with the proper bait." Cowley gave Bodie a quick head to toe survey. "But she wasn't interested in marrying you."
"For which I am all too grateful," returned Bodie briskly.
Cowley stood up and leaned across his desk, palms flat on the paper-strewn blotter. "She came back to the house to see Doyle, didn't she? Considering she could be in a dangerous situation with Culbertson, it would seem that she took precious time to return--for him."
Bodie felt the tension creeping through his shoulders and neck. Remembering the expression on Jocelyn's face, it seemed the most likely possibility to him as well. Still, he hoped he was wrong. "She might've come back to get money or papers, her passport maybe." It was a feasible assumption, he insisted to himself.
"I've taken a good bit of time over these past months looking into the life of our Jocelyn Royce," continued Cowley, as if Bodie hadn't spoken, settling back into his chair once more. "Did you know how she came to have that scar down the side of her face?"
Bodie shook his head. "Didn't think it best to ask and she's never said. I've wondered about it."
"Aye, it's an interesting...comment on her character that she's chosen to bear it all these years. Royce is a beautiful woman with more than enough money for the best of plastic surgery." Cowley gave him another brief, humourless smile. "Took a good many stitches to sew that lovely face back up. She was nineteen when it happened, according to the hospital report. She filed charges and named the man that did it, only it turned out the man was an undercover agent in the Yard's Drugs Squad. Royce was the one charged, in connection with a heroin ring operation. She must've struck a deal and turned over evidence because she was never brought to trial. There were quite a few arrests, as it turned out. It was a very large and very successful drugs bust." The Old Man paused, fingers tapping against the arm of his chair. "The Yard sent me their old files on that op. Royce was the girlfriend of one of the up and coming dealers. The first we know of her association with the underworld. She was described in the report as quite sophisticated and refined, a cut above the usual sort, even at that tender age. A real climber." Cowley's lips tightened into a hard line. "The agent they sent in became...involved with her. A little more deeply than the assignment warranted from I could gather between the lines. The agent's name was Evan Doyle."
Bodie's throat tightened. "Doyle?"
"Common enough name." Cowley gestured towards a small pile of file folders. "Nevertheless, after your report about her marriage, I did some further checking into Ray Doyle's background, which eventually led me to the cross-reference on the Sanderson op," he added pointedly. "Raymond Doyle's father was a Yard copper named Evan Colm Doyle. A very good copper. A string of commendations to his credit." Cowley's voice took on an pensive tone. "From what I could see from his work record, even with his involvement with Royce, he would've been just the sort I'd consider for CI5." The Old Man paused, his tone becoming sharp again. "He was killed a few months after Jocelyn Royce's face was slashed. Hit and run accident as he was leaving a pub late one night. Seems after he was hit, the car backed up and ran over him again, just for good measure."
Bodie's fingers gripped the arms of his chair. "Did they find out who did it?"
"No, no witnesses. Car was found a few days later in the same area. It had been reported stolen the day before the hit and run. Police never turned up any further evidence."
"You think Jocelyn Royce killed him? That's... unreal. He was a copper. He might've made a lot of enemies. It could've been anybody. Doesn't mean Royce did it. "
"True enough. Could have been coincidental." Cowley reached for one of the folders and flipped it open. He took out a photo and pushed it towards Bodie. "But, as you know, 3/7, I have never cared for coincidences."
Bodie felt the air rushing out of his lungs as he stared at a photo of a young man in a policeman's uniform, head bare. It was the same round face, the same full and sensuous mouth, the same familiar nose. Even the eyebrows had a slight peak to them in the middle. Just the hair, darker and only slightly wavy, and the eyes, still as large and expressive, but without the odd slant to them, and the unmarred cheekbone that differed from Ray Doyle's features.
"Striking likeness, isn't it? Like father, like son."
Bodie bit down on his lip and looked up into Cowley's steely eyes. "If Royce was nineteen, then Ray was barely three." Bodie drew in a breath. "You mean to tell me that you think she had an affair with Ray's father twenty-six years ago, then murdered him, and now she's gone after...hell, married...his son? That's sick!"
Cowley waved away the strident remarks. "Jocelyn Royce likes pretty young men. At first, I thought it was the only weakness in her character. Certainly not one we could use beyond getting you into her circle. However, it would seem that Evan Doyle, and now Raymond Doyle, are more than just the beginning and end of a long line of attractive weaknesses. They, or rather, Raymond Doyle, may be her Achilles' heel. The integral piece in a life-long vendetta perhaps."
Bodie shook his head, his mind still reeling. "But, she just happened to spot Ray at that club in Manchester. She was checking out different singers for the Hideout."
It was Cowley's turn to shake his head. "I doubt she came upon him by accident. I doubt that very much."
"You mean, she's been keeping tabs on him?"
"Yes, I would guess perhaps off and on for a very long time. All the while, she was working to establish herself within the underworld's hierarchy, developing a useful cover, very careful to stay clear of the law, gaining power and influence. Making connections like Culbertson. Using, and killing, men like Barry Martin. And while she was climbing this personal ladder of success, she kept an eye on the son of the man who had left her scarred. A scar that runs, obviously, much deeper than the skin." Cowley's brow furrowed, his expression pensive. "It would be interesting to discover exactly what led up to that fateful incident between Royce and Doyle on that day 26 years ago."
Feeling the sudden need to move, Bodie stood up and paced across the room. He stopped in front of the wide desk, jaw working. He fought down a jumble of emotions. He met Cowley's cool, steady gaze. "You could be wrong," he said. "You could be wrong about all of it."
Cowley's mouth twitched slightly. "Aye, it could be just a series of extraordinary coincidences. I could be wrong. But I don't think so. You don't think so either." He extended a hand, and retrieved the photo of Evan Doyle, placing it neatly in its folder. Settling back in his chair, his pale blue eyes narrowed. "Jocelyn Royce came back to the house for Ray Doyle. Why did she leave so suddenly, then, without speaking to him?"
Bodie remained silent.
The chair creaked as Cowley leaned forward and pulled off his glasses, tossing them on the desk. "You needn't tell me, 3/7. In fact, I'd prefer it if you didn't." He stood up and moved to the window, his back half turned away. "I believe you've heard me say this before, Bodie." Cowley looked over his shoulder at the younger man. "There are good rules, bad rules, and stupid rules. The good rules are the only ones I don't break." He returned his gaze to the London skyline beyond the window.
"I caution you not to behave in a manner that would jeopardize your place within this organisation. There are certain regulations regarding behaviour that are part of the charter of CI5. I, personally, find most of them largely irrelevant and not a few of them inconvenient. Bad rules, stupid rules. However, it was not possible to insure this organisation's continuing autonomy without including them. There are quite a few bureaucrats in and around Downing Street who would like nothing better than to severely curtail CI5's authority and funding or to eliminate us altogether. I intend to see to it that they find no reason that would make a cheap headline in the likes of The Sun. If we get Culbertson and Royce, and I fully intend that we do, it will be a big enough, loud enough story to make headlines. I'll not be able to throw a D notice over all of it: the red millionaire and the glamorous underworld murderess, unpleasant enough. But, if details emerge about CI5's involvement in some unconventional liaison during the operation, well, that would be most... unfortunate. In other words, 3/7, you know the rules, good, bad or stupid. From now, until this case is finally closed, I expect you to play by all of them."
Bodie suddenly felt as transparent at glass. His mouth felt dry, but he couldn't hold back the question. "And after the case is closed?"
"Every CI5 agent undergoes intensive vetting before they are accepted into this organisation, as you well know. Some of it is, again, for the edification, and placation, of outside authorities upon whom we must barter for our financial backing.
"Nevertheless, the psychological testing is quite thorough and, in many cases, illuminating. Whether a man or woman is accepted into the Squad is dependent on a wide range of factors, but finally, I make the decision. And I make that decision as much on my instincts about that person as on all the facts and mumbo jumbo from any armload of tests." He paused, turning to face Bodie. "You're a very good agent, 3/7. Very useful, very talented. You like working for CI5, despite all your grumbling. I would like you to continue to work for this organisation, but in the end, it will be up to you."
It was a careful warning, not an answer.
Cowley walked back to his chair and picked up the phone as Bodie stood frozen before the desk, his hands clutched into fists at his sides. The revelations about Royce and Ray's father had been enough of a blow, but to think that the Old Man suspected the involvement between him and Ray, made him feel unpleasantly vulnerable.
"This is Alpha One. Any unusual activity?" Cowley paused, listening. "How long ago did Doyle arrive?"
The name brought Bodie's head up.
"All right. Keep surveillance shifts round the clock until further notice. Alpha One out." Cowley replaced the receiver. "I think you better bring him in, Bodie. Discreetly. Keep your cover going for everyone else at the club for the time being."
"You've got a watch on the club?"
"Aye, and another unit should already be stationed outside Royce's house. I don't expect her to show up at either place, frankly, but we can't afford to take the chance. We have to get to her before Culbertson does."
"Are you sure he's after her?"
"It certainly looks like their 'honeymoon' is over to me, 3/7. We can but hope because if it is, we have a chance to topple them both, use one against the other."
"Why do you want me to bring Doyle here?" Bodie didn't know how he managed to keep his voice steady.
"At this point, he's entitled to know what's happening. He may be our best means of drawing Royce out. If he's to be our pawn, then he should know what kind of a game he's in, don't you think, 3/7?"
"I'll have to tell him the truth." Bodie realized he'd spoken his thought aloud.
"Yes. Under the circumstances, I think it would be wise if you explained the situation and CI5's involvement as soon as you see him." Cowley tapped the folders on his desk with a tip of his finger. "All we have on Royce and Culbertson at this point is circumstantial. They're both heavily involved in drug smuggling, contract murder, blackmail, the whole rotten business, but we can't prove a thing. They've had more than a few well-placed coppers in their wallets to sweep the way clear for them for years. Even CI5, like Barry Martin." Cowley face hardened. "We have an opportunity now to take advantage of any wedge that might've developed between them. Culbertson might have decided he didn't need a partner any longer and tried to cut her out. Or, it could be the other way around though that bodyguard's death on Culbertson's territory tends to point to the former possibility as most likely. Whatever happened at Culbertson's estate, Royce is not the sort of person to be without resources. I'm sure she'll use every one of them."
Cowley levelled a pointed gaze at Bodie. "If Jocelyn Royce feels she's been betrayed, that makes her a very dangerous woman indeed, if past history is anything to go by."
"Royce and Culbertson might take each other out and save us the trouble," replied Bodie defiantly.
"Aye. And if I was sure it would be that clean and simple, a case of thieves falling out, I'd be all for it. Unfortunately, they both have extensive connections. And in Culbertson's case, his foreign associations could prove very problematic. A lot of people could wind up dead besides Royce and Culbertson."
"What about Doyle? Don't you think he'll feel betrayed, too?"
"You can answer that question better than I can," returned the Controller icily.
Whatever Bodie's expression revealed, it seemed to soften the Old Man's features for a moment, the pale eyes showing a flicker of sympathy. "Just do your job, Bodie. It's what you do best and it's a more important part of you than you even realize." Cowley drew on his glasses and cleared his throat. "And, for your own sake, boy, remember to play by the rules this time. Go on, I want Doyle here as soon as possible. And don't forget to bring along your I.D. Make sure he knows this is official business." Cowley reached for the phone again, dismissing Bodie with a wave.
The traffic was just as congested leaving CI5 as going in. Bodie gritted his teeth as he tried to manoeuvre through another snarled intersection. The traffic slowed to a halt all around him and he sighed in frustration, his thoughts in turmoil.
If Jocelyn Royce feels she's been betrayed. Cowley's deliberate tone had imbued each word with layers of meaning. He hadn't been referring only to Culbertson.
Feelings of betrayal, rational or not, seemed to encircle them all. If he was honest about it, Bodie had felt a sense of betrayal the first time he saw the wedding ring on Ray's finger. And that was how Ray must have felt, with far better reason, on that winter morning two years ago when he found Bodie's note beside him on the pillow. Or perhaps how Jocelyn felt about Evan Doyle, as she lay in hospital, her face in bandages, over twenty years ago.
And how she felt finding Ray in bed with Bodie?
Jocelyn Royce. He had tried not to underestimate her. He'd done a poor job of it. For Bodie, it was difficult enough to regard a woman, any woman, in anything other than simple terms. He'd never particularly thought of it as a failing, until now. Learning more about Royce's past helped him realize the complexity of the need she seemed to have for Ray, however bizarre.
And Ray. What was it going to do to him to find out about Jocelyn and his own father? Or to discover that everything he knew about Bodie was a lie? How could Bodie convince him that what he felt for Doyle was true when he wasn't really sure himself?
Being with Doyle was heaven and hell. Bodie had never, never wanted to care for another human being as much as he cared for Ray Doyle. If it had been perfect between them, at least Bodie could tell himself it all made sense. But it had never been perfect. Just irresistible.
Play by the rules. That would be the reasonable course, what Cowley expected of him. Unfortunately, Bodie just didn't know how reasonable he could be anymore. All he knew was that he had to protect Ray, if Ray would let him. Beyond that, when the op was over, well, at the moment, he just couldn't see beyond that.
And then there was Cowley. Cowley's mind was like a Chinese puzzle box, intricate and demanding, unyielding in its secrets, fascinating and frustrating all at once. He lived by his own code, a peculiar and often surprising blend of zealot's morality and pragmatist's compromise that had created CI5 and kept it thriving.
Remember, you are all expendable. That was always part of Cowley's indoctrination speech to recruits, a warning that while they were part of CI5, they would always have to give their best to remain in it. Even if it meant giving up part of their own identities.
Yet, Cowley was right about Bodie needing CI5. It gave him purpose, direction, and a place where he did not feel like a misfit.
By the time he finally arrived at the club, his thoughts were no less turbulent. He spotted Doyle's old Norton bike near the entrance. He also picked out the small van that CI5 used for obbos parked across the street.
Inside the club, Henry was sweeping around the tables by the entryway, frowning in disappointment as Bodie walked through the door. The big man seemed only to smile in Jocelyn's presence. Bodie wondered again, fleetingly, if Royce had any real notion of how thoroughly besotted Henry was with her. The bruiser would happily break a few bones, or more, for her without a moment's pause.
Ray's voice floated out to him from the stage.
All is fair in love, love's a crazy game
Two people vow to stay in love as one they say
but all is changed with time
the future none can see
the road you leave behind
ahead lies mystery
And all in love is fair...
It was a new song, Tony's sax playing a sad counterpoint to the melody. It sounded wistful and lonely.
Bodie bit his lip as he looked at Doyle leaning against the baby grand, wearing faded jeans and a dark green, roll-neck sweater. For once, the sleeves weren't pushed up to his elbows. It made him seem somehow smaller.
Doyle stopped singing and threw the music sheets he was holding onto the piano. "I don't like it, Charlie."
The pianist threw up his hands. "What are you talking about?! For one thing, it's perfect for your range and for another, it'll be a nice finish for the first set."
"I don't want to do this one. We don't need it."
"Sounded fine to me," Bodie called out as he walked toward the front of the stage. He pasted on a diplomatic smile and nodded to Charlie. "Maybe you can use it later on? Anyway, looks like you've been hard at it. Why don't you all take a break?"
The pianist pulled a face. "And it's been as much fun as a migraine, too." With a glance at Doyle and the other two musicians, he threw up a hand. "May as well break for lunch." As he tidied the pile of sheet music on the piano, he frowned in Doyle's direction. "We can talk about the song later, eh?"
Doyle threw him a 'don't-hold-your-breath' look and jumped lightly off the stage.
"Actually, Charlie," cut in Bodie, "I've set up a photo shoot for Ray this afternoon. Jocelyn wanted some new photos for some ads and for the club posters." He ignored Doyle's curious stare and kept talking. "Why don't you and the boys work on your own for the rest of the day?" He gave the pianist an apologetic shrug. "I don't know how long the photo session will take. It's the only time I could line it up. Sorry for the last minute notice."
Charlie grumbled something very unkind under his breath and then shook his head in resignation. "Why not. Rehearsal's gone to hell anyway." He gave Doyle a pointed glance as he left the stage. "Let's hope we're all in a better mood for the show tonight."
The musicians headed for the rear exit with a few mumbled comments about food and temperament. Doyle pushed up the sleeves of his sweater and crossed his arms over his chest as Bodie came up beside him.
Up close, he noticed how tired Doyle looked. They both had had little sleep, but Ray usually looked better the morning after a long night of sex. Not today. He was worried, naturally, and it crept up through his eyes. They looked more grey than green, as if the colour had been bled out of them.
"Come on," Bodie told him, taking a hold of his elbow.
Doyle flinched away. "What was all that about?"
"We have to talk and we can't do it here." Bodie watched Doyle's face and felt his palms turn sweaty. He had to tell Ray the truth and he hated it.
Henry was staring at them suspiciously, the thick broom handle held like a cudgel in his big hands. Bodie took a firm hold of Doyle's upper arm and steered him towards the entrance. He felt the tension in the slim body but, fortunately, Doyle let himself be led out of the club without argument.
Outside, Doyle jerked away. "Jocelyn hasn't come back yet."
"Yes, I know. My car's down the street." With a glance at the CI5 obbo van, he turned and walked quickly towards his motor.
"What about my bike?"
"Leave it." He unlocked the passenger door of the Capri and waited as Doyle caught up with him.
Doyle stared in puzzlement at the silver Capri. "This isn't your car."
"Yes it is. At least, it's what I usually use when I'm working." Bodie sucked in a breath at the sudden, probing glint in the green eyes, and gestured for Doyle to get in. "There's a lot I have to tell you and I'd rather not do it in the middle of the road."
Bodie found himself gripping the wheel too tightly as they drove away from the Hideout. He saw the club's neon sign in the rear view mirror, looking stark and unattractive in the sunlight, growing smaller as they sped away. "No more hiding places," he whispered.
Bodie kept his eyes on the road. "I wish I could change the way things started with us." He signalled for a turn, not really knowing where he was going. He wanted to be alone with Ray. Someplace where they could have a little privacy, before he had to bring him down to HQ.
"For godsakes, Bodie, what the hell is going on? Tell me."
Traffic was lighter. Bodie realized he was heading for his own flat. Not a good idea, 3/7, keep it on neutral territory, a little voice told him. Play by the rules. He ignored it and pushed his foot down on the accelerator. He began manoeuvring in and out of lanes as if he was driving a grand prix race.
"If you're not going to answer me, then let me off right now." Doyle reached for the door handle. The Capri was going well over the speed limit. Doyle didn't seem to care. The car door flew open.
Bodie pulled out his I.D. and tossed it towards the passenger seat, but he didn't slow down. A few seconds later, Doyle pulled the door shut.
"CI5? You work for CI5?"
Bodie nodded, his eyes glued to the road.
"For how long?"
After the silence stretched on for minutes, Bodie finally had to glance over at the passenger seat. The curly head was bowed, face intent on the I.D., just staring.
"Were you after Sanderson when we met?" Doyle asked him finally. They were almost at Bodie's flat. "You went away right after the coppers picked him up."
Bodie couldn't sense anything from Doyle's tone of voice. It seemed flat, mildly curious. Sanderson's rep was well known and his arrest and the dispersion of his gang of heavies had received more than a little local publicity, although CI5's involvement was scarcely mentioned, thanks to Cowley. "Yes."
"So you never really needed my help. That story about owing him money."
"I did need your help. I was undercover and I was in trouble. You saved my life, Ray."
"But you couldn't tell me the truth. You just ran out."
Bodie thought back to that final night two years ago, remembering how he had just watched Doyle sleep, his face outlined by the moonlight that slipped in through old, worn curtains. It had been the longest night of his life as he tried to decide what he should do. In the end, feeling already lonely, he simply couldn't see how he could stay. There was too much going against them. The odds were very bad. The timing was wrong, the circumstances were wrong. Hell, even Doyle's sex was wrong. The only thing they had between them was a feeling that Bodie had never experienced with anyone else before. But it was so fragile, so unexpected, he couldn't make himself believe it was real, let alone that it could last. He had honestly thought that leaving Doyle was the best thing for the both of them.
"You scared the hell out of me, Ray. I-I just wasn't ready."
"Ready for what? To tell the truth?"
"To stay. And, yes, to tell you the truth."
"So why are you telling me now?"
It was as if Doyle was deliberately keeping his emotions in check, as though he wanted all the facts, needed all the truth, before he would let himself react. He was more controlled than Bodie remembered. Doyle had built some walls of his own over the last two years.
"Because I'm on a case now and you're involved."
Bodie found a parking space across the street from his flat. "Let's talk inside."
Doyle looked around at the buildings. "Where are we?"
"My flat." Bodie got out of the Capri and headed across the road. He checked his watch. They didn't have much time. Cowley would be waiting.
Bodie held the door open as Doyle walked slowly into the flat. He was still holding Bodie's I.D. "Do you really live here?"
"For the moment. I change flats regularly. Security." Bodie walked through to the kitchen and pulled a bottle of whisky down from one of the shelves. He reached for a couple of glasses and put the lot on the counter. He turned and Doyle was gone. He rushed down the short hallway, glancing at the front door. He hadn't heard it open.
Ray was walking out of the bedroom, towards the living-room. Bodie's heart was hammering wildly. He held his hands at his sides with an effort. "Would you like a drink?"
Bodie looked at him dumbly. "Wh-what?"
"No snaps of the wife and kids." Doyle glanced at the I.D. in his hand and threw it towards Bodie.
A knot started to form in Bodie's stomach as he tucked the I.D. back into his jacket pocket. "I'm not married Ray. No steady bird either, before you ask. No one...else," he said softly.
Doyle walked up to him, very close. Bodie tried to read his expression, but beyond sensing a banked anger, there was little Doyle would give away. Only his eyes looked pained.
Bodie didn't expect the kiss. Doyle never reached out, didn't touch him with anything but his lips. The contact was brutally tender, his flesh warm with the tiniest tremor in it. It was too much like a farewell. Bodie tried at once to hold him, but Ray backed away from him.
"My dad was a copper."
The knot doubled in the pit of his stomach. Bodie couldn't seem to say anything. He watched as Doyle began prowling through the room, staring at the stack of albums beside the stereo, glancing at the books on the shelves and the awful print of dancing chorus girls that Murphy had given him for his last birthday.
"You know, I thought about joining the police when I was a kid," Doyle continued, a new edge to his voice. "I don't remember my dad at all, but I still wanted to be like him. I thought I'd be really good at it, too, like he was. In fact, there were times when I wanted to be a cop more than anything else in the world. Funny, isn't it? I never told my mum because she hated the idea. Hated it more than anything. She told me once that she'd rather see me on the dole than working as a copper." He gave Bodie a cold smile. "She left him, you see. Because of the job. She said it always came first with him, even after I was born. Wound up killing him, she said." He stopped moving. "She kept a picture of him by her bed though. I'd catch her looking at it sometimes, picking it up and holding it in her hands. She always looked like she was trying not to cry. I think she loved him very much, despite it all."
Bodie swallowed hard. "Ray--"
"It took me a long time to let go of that, of wanting to be a cop like my dad." At the expression on Bodie's face, Doyle seemed to brush away the past with a deliberate shrug of his shoulders. "Whatever you're working on now, does it have to do with Jocelyn?"
It took a moment for Bodie to find his voice. "Yes."
"Is it the gambling? Grenville's?"
Bodie wished he had had that drink. "No. I'm sorry, Ray. It's worse than that. She...we believe she's responsible for the murder of a CI5 agent named Barry Martin, and probably...others as well." In that instant, as he saw the stunned expression on Doyle's face, he knew he wouldn't be able to tell him about Jocelyn and his father. If he possibly could, he wasn't going to let Cowley tell Ray either. He drew in a breath. "She's at the top of an underworld network that's heavily involved in drug smuggling and contract killings. She's been a part of it for years. The clubs are just a screen."
Doyle was shaking his head. "No, that's not possible. That's crazy."
"We've had her and her associates under surveillance for months. She's been very, very good at keeping up a front, but it's finally catching up with her." Bodie threw out a few hard facts that CI5 had gathered, told him about Paul Culbertson and Simon's death. "If we can find her, persuade her to cooperate, we've a good chance of breaking both their organizations."
Doyle began pacing back and forth in front of Bodie. "Then you can't prove any of this. If you could, you would've arrested her long ago."
"We'll get the evidence because it's true, Ray. She's pushed her luck too far and it's running out. Looks like Culbertson's turned against her, wanting full control of the operations."
Doyle stopped pacing and ran a hand through his hair, green eyes gazing off into the distance. "Jocelyn," he whispered. "She told me one time that hate was a much better emotion than love. People gave up things, gave up people, for love. Hate never gave up anything." Doyle looked up at Bodie. "She said if she hated someone, she never lost."
"She's a little insane, you know."
"Maybe she's just perceptive."
"She's capable of anything."
"So? Aren't we all?"
Bodie lowered his eyes. "My boss, George Cowley, wants to talk to you. I should be taking you over there right now."
"And if I don't want to talk to your boss?"
"He's not a very reasonable man sometimes, Ray. Not very patient either, I'm afraid." He heard Doyle sigh.
"Did you go to bed with her, Bodie?"
Bodie didn't pretend to misunderstand. "Yes, before she came back with you. It was her idea."
"Part of your job description then, is it? Sleeping around when required?"
"Sometimes. I've killed people, too, sometimes. You weren't part of the job, Ray. Never. It was totally different with you. I...I never expected it, or how much it would mean to me to be with you."
Doyle turned his head away, shoulders stiff. "I'd like that drink before we see your boss if you don't mind."
Bodie got him a large tumbler of whisky, and poured another for himself.
He would have felt marginally better if Doyle had reacted as he had expected. With an outburst of anger, with a punch or a shouting match. With self-pity or maybe complete disbelief. Instead, he was quiet and pensive. Almost detached. Bodie thought perhaps it was a kind of mild shock reaction. He could, after all, sense the strong emotions hovering just there, beneath Doyle's skin. He only hoped they wouldn't burst through in George Cowley's presence.
He didn't have to worry because Cowley wasn't there.
"Urgent call. He left an hour ago. Said you and, um, Mr. Doyle should wait," Betty told him crisply with a sharp glance at Doyle.
"Any idea when he'll be back?" he asked.
The phone receiver was in her hand and she pressed one of the flashing buttons on the set. "Yes, Minister, so sorry to keep you waiting. Mr. Cowley was called away on an emergency appointment. Let me check his schedule for you--" She waved Bodie away with her other hand.
Having run into her efficient manner and cold shoulder on enough occasions, both business and social, Bodie knew when he wasn't going to get anything more out of Betty.
"Does it have to do with Jocelyn?" Doyle asked him.
Bodie looked towards the closed door of Cowley's office. "I don't know. Could be anything. C'mon, there's a Rest Room down the corridor where you can wait while I see what I can find out."
"I could use another whisky."
"There's a very fine bottle of malt in the Old Man's office. However, contrary to the opinions of some of my colleagues here, I'm not suicidal. You'll have to settle for a cuppa. C'mon." Bodie started leading them towards the Rest Room.
"'Lo, Liz," greeted Bodie offhandedly, as the other agent left the Rest Room. "Thought you were on night duty this week."
She stuffed a well-worn paperback into her large purse and smiled. "I am. It was a very long night. Had to have a coffee before I head for home or I'd nod off at the wheel."
Doyle watched her walk away and raised an eyebrow at Bodie. "'3/7'? Your hat size?"
"Agent designation. Liz is 9.1."
"Gosh. Do you have decoder rings, too?"
Bodie caught the glimmer of amusement in Doyle's expression and relaxed. The tension seemed to lift between them, at least for the moment. "Nah, we just use pens with invisible ink."
"Ah." Doyle looked around the room, pausing to examine the Page 3 cutouts over the fake mantelpiece as Bodie found some teabags and mugs. "Very cultured lot, your CI5."
Bodie grinned. "Nothing but the best and the brightest, my son."
Doyle's eyes narrowed. "You really think so, don't you?"
Bodie thought about it for a moment. "Yeh. It's a good outfit."
"Being in CI5 is important to you, isn't it?"
Bodie felt a little of the tension creeping back into the air. "Pays the bills."
Doyle was shaking his head. He walked up to Bodie, staring at a spot near his upper arm. "I'm used to seeing the bulge a lot lower." He reached out and slowly pulled open Bodie's jacket to reveal his holster. "Big gun."
Bodie glanced down at the Browning Hi-Power. "Not really. Sometimes I use a .44 magnum. Prefer that, actually."
Doyle threw back his head and laughed, a free and easy sound that Bodie hadn't heard in a long time. "The most powerful handgun in the world. Perfect."
Bodie recognized the reference and allowed himself a wry grimace. He gently extracted the edge of his jacket from Doyle's fingertips and turned away as the kettle began to whistle.
They both seemed to be caught in a strange mood, like a pocket of calm air in a storm. The knot in Bodie's stomach suddenly seemed more like a flutter.
"Hoi, Bodie, thought you were still undercover." Kevin Charlton walked into the room, followed by his partner, Eddie Taggart. They were both older than Bodie, but fairly new to the Squad.
"Just popped in to make sure you two hadn't blown the place up by mistake," returned Bodie lightly.
"Very droll, 3/7." Charlton was searching the shelves. "Left some Mars bars in here. Where the hell are they?"
"You should've learned by now that you never leave anything edible in this room," Bodie told him.
Taggart, who rarely said more than three sentences in as many days, inclined his head in Doyle's direction. "Who's he?"
Bodie poured hot water into a mug and handed it to Doyle. "Guest. We've got a meeting with the Cow."
"Thought this room was only for agents."
Bodie rolled his eyes. "What? Afraid he'll learn too many CI5 secrets from the wallpaper?"
Taggart shrugged his lanky shoulders and fell silent.
"Some bleedin' sod stole my Mars bars," declared Charlton, his normally florid complexion a shade pinker. "Bet it was Murphy or McCabe. C'mon, I think I saw 'em in the Computer Room." He turned on his heel and marched out of the room, Taggart loping along behind him.
"Best and brightest, eh?" asked Doyle between sips of tea.
"Hard as it may be to believe from looking at them, those two are pretty good at their jobs."
"Nowhere near as good as you, though, are they?"
Bodie couldn't quite restrain his complacent grin. The other man read his expression easily enough.
"Smug bastard." But Doyle's smile faded. "So, is that why you left two years ago. For this?" He gestured vaguely at the room around them.
"I know what to expect from CI5," admitted Bodie. "And what it expects from me."
"I guess everyone should feel like they belong someplace."
They just looked at each other, Bodie struggling with a surge of emotion. The seconds dragged on and Doyle broke the contact, turning to put down his mug.
Finally, Bodie could only nod as the moment slipped out of his grasp. "Why aren't you angry, Ray?" It wasn't what he wanted to say, but it was something he wanted to know. "I thought that finding out I was with CI5 would send you through the roof."
"It's early yet," replied Doyle calmly. "Maybe I'll throw you out a window later." He crossed his arms and leaned back against the sink. "It's hurting me, Bodie, if you must know, but the funny thing is, at least now you've given me a reason I can deal with. Before, well, I figured you just walked out on me because you just," he paused and shrugged, "didn't care or you were bored or, maybe, because you found somebody else. At least now I know I had tough competition." He smiled faintly at Bodie's expression of surprise. "Can't imagine that an outfit like this would take kindly to your having a steady...boyfriend."
Hearing it said out loud, in terms he would never have consciously applied to himself, made Bodie glance a little nervously at the door of the Rest Room.
"Don't worry, nobody heard me." Doyle touched his wedding ring abstractedly, one long finger rubbing lightly over the thick gold band. "We all make choices, Bodie. We just have to learn to live with them, good or bad." He lifted his chin. He looked tired and achingly appealing to Bodie. "Actually, I'm a bit proud of myself at the moment. I'm taking it all pretty well, don't you think?"
Bodie met the green eyes with difficulty, feeling a rush of heat to his face. "I'm sorry."
"Me, too." Doyle pushed himself away from the counter. There was a quiet note of regret in his voice when he spoke again. "Thought you said you were going to find out if there was any news about Jocelyn."
"Yes, I suppose I better do that. Stay here. I'll be right back." He left the room without really knowing where he was going, but with the strange sense of wanting to run away, not really from Ray, but from himself.
What shook Bodie was the degree to which Doyle seemed to understand him and their situation and, on some basic level, to be able to accept them. It made Bodie realize that, throughout their stormy relationship, he had never really acknowledged how strong Doyle could be. Or how much stronger he had become. For a man in his profession, underrating people was a very dangerous flaw, and Bodie had done too much of that already with Jocelyn. It was worse than cold comfort to know he did the same thing with Ray.
It made him feel ashamed. He pushed the thoughts aside with a will, needing to focus on the practical task at hand.
He tried to talk to Betty again, but she was still in the middle of juggling calls. She just shook her head at him and told him to try Communications. He was walking up to Turner at the communications console as the call from Cowley was coming through.
"Don't have to, sir. He's just come in here," Turner was saying into his headset as he waved Bodie over and pointed to a nearby phone.
It wasn't good news.
"I'm at Culbertson's estate," Cowley told him. "He's dead. Stabbed in the back."
Bodie immediately visualized the gleaming, razor- sharp blade protruding from the tip of an ebony cane.
"He called me just after you left my office. Said he wanted to see me immediately. He had some information concerning Barry Martin that he thought CI5 would find very useful."
"Wanting to make sure we pinned Royce to the wall, no doubt, and leave him clean and clear, the bastard," replied Bodie.
"Aye, that well may be, 3/7, but it's quite academic now. The local police were already here when I arrived," continued Cowley. "Apparently, the housekeeper found the body, shortly after he rang me up. She was working in the kitchen most of the morning and said she hadn't heard or seen anything unusual before she went to check with him about the luncheon menu and found him dead. The police say that all the security systems in and around the house were turned off from the inside. And Culbertson's bodyguard has gone missing."
"Do you think Royce is responsible?" asked Bodie.
"She would seem the logical choice, given cause and time, don't you think," snapped Cowley. "Bold as brass and hard as iron, I'll give her that."
"And Culbertson's bodyguard?"
"Probably now in her employ. I would imagine that loyalties belong to the highest bidder in their circles. He's probably the one who turned off the security screens."
"She told me before she left that she'd been planning the meeting for a long time," recalled Bodie.
"And she probably expected the outcome to be quite different. Culbertson had obviously been making some plans of his own. In any case, it looks as if neither of them will get what they wanted."
"Not Culbertson, that's for sure."
Cowley ignored the comment. "Jocelyn Royce is now officially wanted for suspicion of murder. There's an APB out on her and I should think her first priority would be to try and leave the country." There was a murmur of voices in the background. "Yes, yes, I'll want to speak with him," responded Cowley, his voice slightly muffled. "Now, Bodie, did you bring Raymond Doyle in?"
"Well, you better tell him about the new developments. I'll be tied up here for longer than I expected."
With all her plans crumbling around her, would Jocelyn be crazy enough to come back to see Ray...to kill him? To try and kill them both? Bodie remembered the look on her face as she stood in the bedroom doorway, staring at him and Ray in bed together. But he couldn't tell Cowley about that.
"I'll take him to one of our safehouses."
"No, I don't see that that's necessary," replied Cowley. "I had thought we might persuade Doyle to help us draw Royce out, but now with Culbertson dead and a warrant for her issued, I doubt that she'd risk trying to contact him at this point. Still, I think it best if you kept an eye on him until we have her in custody. We'll double the units stationed around Royce's house and the clubs. No need to break your cover just yet. Try to maintain the normal routine as best you can. It's probably what Doyle would prefer to do in any case, rather than be cooped up out of the way for the duration. It shouldn't be long before we wrap this all up." Cowley paused as if he expected Bodie to say something. "Och, how did Doyle react when you told him you were with CI5?"
"Like I expected."
"And that was?"
"Not too well."
"No one enjoys being lied to, Bodie," returned the Old Man impatiently. "What else did you tell him?"
Bodie's fingers tightened around the receiver. "I told him about Barry Martin and Jocelyn's connection to Culbertson."
"Did you tell him about his father and Royce?"
"He'd had enough of a shock already. There was no reason to tell him about that." He waited tensely for Cowley to speak. He could hear more voices in the background, vying for the Controller's attention.
"Given present circumstances, I agree. Perhaps he'll never need to find out."
Even though he was relieved that Cowley would not press the point, Bodie knew that the Old Man would have given Doyle the whole, ugly story if Royce hadn't conveniently killed Culbertson.
"Give me back to Turner," Cowley told him dismissively.
"Yes, sir." Bodie replaced the receiver and nodded to Turner as he left the room.
Doyle was sitting alone in a chair near the door and looked up at him expectantly as he entered the Rest Room. "Well?"
Bodie told him, watching the expressive face turn pale. Doyle bent over and cradled his head in his hands. Bodie stood by silently until the other man finally raised his head, his mouth pressed into a taut, grim line.
"Let's go back to my flat," offered Bodie wondering at himself even as he said the words.
But Doyle shook his head. "I have to get back to the club. Have a show to do. Friday's our best night. Charlie...Charlie will blow his top if I don't..." He pressed his fist against his lips.
Bodie reached out and gripped Ray's shoulder, squeezing it once. "I'll take you back to the club in time for the show if that's what you want."
Doyle lowered his head. "It's not that I didn't think she was capable of doing just about anything. I guess I never imagined she could... kill somebody. Not something like that. She always seemed to know exactly what she wanted. She was so sure of herself. I liked that. But sometimes she'd look at me and I'd swear it was as if she was looking at someone else. I wasn't sure what she would say or do. She seemed so strange, far away. Then in the next minute, she'd be all right."
Bodie felt a quick chill up his spine. "She made her choices a long time ago, Ray. I don't think she wanted anyone to really know her."
Doyle stood up and took a step towards the door. "I want to get out of here." he glanced at his wristwatch. "Let's go somewhere. Anywhere."
"My place?" Bodie asked again.
Doyle almost managed a smile. "What for?"
"Want to be alone with you."
"Not very smart. What would your boss say?"
"He told me to keep an eye on you."
"Just doing your duty then?"
Doyle looked into his eyes as if he was searching for something. Bodie didn't look away. After a moment, Doyle nodded. "Let's go."
Bodie closed the door and set the locks, turning to watch Ray walk down the short corridor towards the bedroom. His mind flashed back to that very first time he saw Doyle. Bodie had been in his car, staking out the third-rate jazz club that doubled as a meeting place for Sanderson's enforcers. He had been taking pictures with a telephoto lens of anyone coming into the small nightspot when a slender figure came round the corner and strolled towards the club. The first thing Bodie noticed was the way he walked. It was an unaffectedly sleek and graceful motion. Bodie remembered being shocked by his fascination with the way a man moved.
Doyle stopped outside the bedroom door, waiting.
"I just figured it out. You walk like one of those sleek jungle cats after a good meal."
Doyle's eyebrows arched in amusement. "Oh, yeh? How would you know?"
"Seen 'em when I was in Africa."
"What were you doing in Africa?"
"Nothing pleasant. I'll tell you about sometime if you want me to. Yeh, I knew you reminded me of something that first time I saw you walking into that dive in Manchester. Couldn't figure it out then. Couldn't stop staring at you either."
"When I first laid eyes on you I remember thinking to myself, 'now there's a man who's been told he's gorgeous once too often'," returned Doyle with a hint of challenge.
Bodie closed the distance between them and slowly slid his arms around Doyle's waist. He felt a long-fingered hand cup the side of his face.
"This is about as smart as jumping off a cliff, you know," Ray told him. "It won't solve a bleedin' thing, probably make everything worse. I should hate you for being a lying bastard and if you cared so much about that damn job of yours, you wouldn't come anywhere near me. Still, I was never too smart when it came to you and, as for the rest, I could do with a little temporary amnesia just now."
Everything Ray was saying was true. Bodie tightened his hold. "You talk too much."
Doyle smiled and closed his eyes as their lips touched.
They kissed for a long time, Bodie feeling the arousal spreading through him. He manoeuvred them towards the bed, mouths still locked, his hands pulling at Ray's clothes with every step, needing to feel his skin.
Neither of them was very patient or particularly gentle. There was too much urgency in them both to go slow. They marked each other with bite kisses and bruises from fingers that clutched too tightly. It was like the days when they first had sex and there was that desperate edge to their coupling, a shared sense that they were stealing the moment like thieves.
They both came quickly, thrusting against each other between rough, wet kisses, yet the tension, the need, remained.
They lay side by side, their breathing loud in the quiet room. Doyle lifted himself on one elbow and looked down at Bodie's face. With his other hand, he traced the line of one slightly crooked eyebrow and the faint white line beneath the short dark hairs. "So, it left a scar," he said.
"You can hardly see it," replied Bodie.
Doyle grunted. "Those fights, all for nothing, you crud. I thought you were trying to run your own scam on Sanderson and there I was, trying to save your neck, even if I had to beat you unconscious to do it. All that time, you were a fuckin' undercover cop."
"I liked it better when you seduced me instead."
"You looked pretty shocked that first time, at least for the first two minutes."
"I was. Couldn't believe how much I liked it." Bodie turned his head and placed his fingertip against Ray's lips, pushing inside to feel the edge of the broken tooth. "I won't say I'm sorry for the hundredth time. I just don't want us to fight anymore, Ray, about anything."
Doyle bit down on his finger lightly, his tongue swirling wetly around the tip for a moment before he drew back. "Yeh, sex is always better."
The need was building again. Bodie could feel Doyle's erection nudging against him. His own cock was lengthening and he reached down and stroked himself hard. "I want to be inside you, Ray. Please?"
Doyle watched Bodie's self-pleasuring hand, and nodded. "We'll need something." He slid off the bed and found the bathroom. A minute later he climbed back in beside Bodie. He was grinning as he held up a bottle of lotion and undid the cap. "Don't you keep any KY here?"
"Don't need it." Bodie's smile grew slowly as Ray prepared them both. "Didn't need it," he amended, a little breathlessly.
Doyle straddled him, reaching back to take hold of Bodie's cock, guiding it into his body. Inch by inch, with teasing deliberateness, Ray pressed himself down onto Bodie's erection. It was the most exquisite feeling. With an ecstatic cry, Bodie thrust up, needing to go deep and deeper still into that hot, tight channel of flesh. His hands reached out, splaying over Doyle's spread thighs and hips.
Doyle's threw his head back as Bodie thrust again, joining them completely. His eyes closed as his mouth opened in a lush moan that turned into Bodie's name.
Bodie tried to hold back, futilely trying to prolong the feeling. Doyle was painfully beautiful in that moment. Bodie found he had to shut his eyes because he thought he might come, just from the look of him.
For an instant, the memory of being in Jocelyn's bed, her body straddling his in much the same way as Ray's, flashed through Bodie's mind. And Bodie realized, with sudden clarity, the difference between having sex and making love. He opened his eyes and stroked Ray's thighs with his hands, feeling the taut muscles beneath the skin. He moved up to encircle the hard, jutting cock. He felt Ray's reaction immediately as the slick, tight flesh clenched reflexively, sending ripples of sensation through his own cock.
There was a fine sheen of sweat over Ray's skin as he began to rock slowly back and forth. "Can't last much longer," gasped Doyle. "God, you feel so good inside me. Missed...you."
Bodie pushed up to meet Doyle's movements, one hand reaching up to rub over Ray's chest, over the rosy, hard nipples. Doyle's fingers covered his, moving their locked hands back down to pump the arching cock, its moist tip glistening with pearly fluid.
"Ray...Ray..." Every cell on fire, Bodie's climax shot through his cock, streaming deep into his lover's body. He was vaguely aware of Doyle's answering cry as he came, too, spilling himself over their joined hands.
It seemed as if the world blinked out of existence then because the next thing Bodie was aware of was Doyle's head nestled against his shoulder, one arm thrown protectively across his chest. The green eyes were half-closed, the full lips pressed into a Cheshire cat smile.
"Thought you fell asleep," muttered Ray against his neck.
Bodie nuzzled his cheek against the head of warm curls, a calm languor replacing his waking start of surprise. "Just your profound effect on me, is all." He gazed out at the room, spotting the trail of their clothes on the floor, his eyes widening to see his holstered gun tossed carelessly amid the tangle of shirts and pants. He couldn't even remember throwing it down. It was a first for him. He treated his gun better than most people he knew. He couldn't recall ever being so thoughtless with it.
"I'll have to get back to the club soon," Ray told him, starting to pull away.
But Bodie wouldn't let go. He hugged Doyle tighter. "In a minute or so. Just want to stay like this for a bit, okay?"
Doyle seemed poised to break away, but then he settled against Bodie's chest with a small shrug.
His eyes still on the Browning, Bodie asked quietly, "What did you do during those two years, Ray?"
Doyle shifted in his arms to look at him for a moment before answering. "Survived. Spent a lot of time hating you for walking out." He smiled gently. "I actually think I became a better singer for it though, funny as it seems. After you left, I picked up some better gigs. My voice isn't much, I know, but I guess I just...felt the music better. Torch songs, a specialty." He drew in a breath and let it out in a sigh. "Maybe I grew up a little." Pulling away, he lay back against the pillows. "And you, enjoyed playing supercop those two years?"
Doyle seemed to hesitate before he spoke again. "Did you miss me?"
Bodie's answer was a whisper, but clear and immediate. "Yes."
They were both silent for a minute and then it was Doyle who asked the question that was also on Bodie's mind. "So, is this to be the last time then?"
"I don't want it to be," replied Bodie truthfully.
"Then you better start thinking about what you really want, hadn't you?" Ray softened the brusque reply with a kiss and left the bed.
Yes, I think perhaps I should, thought Bodie, his gaze returning to his gun on the floor. "And what do you want, Ray?"
Doyle was gathering up his clothes. He paused, head bent. He seemed to be thinking it over, his intent expression fading into a grin that lifted one corner of his mouth as he looked back at Bodie. "I want a plate of pasta, a green salad, and maybe a bowl of chocolate ice cream for afters. I haven't eaten all day, you remember."
A smile crept over Bodie's face as well. "Okay, if I feed your stomach, then will you answer the question seriously?"
Doyle was already walking towards the bathroom, clothes in hand. "Maybe. I'd have to think about it."
Sinking back against the pillows, Bodie listened to the bathroom door click shut, his grin vanishing. He had hoped Ray would say something to make it easier. Something like, 'all I want is you Bodie'. Except Bodie wasn't sure if that would really make it any easier for either of them. It would make him feel better, maybe take away a little of the fear, the insecurity, he had about the relationship. But it also meant he'd have to make a choice, and he wasn't sure if it would be the right one.
He was 28 years old. He'd worked hard to become a part of CI5. It was an outfit he was proud of, mostly because of George Cowley, and sometimes, in spite of him. Bodie knew he was good at his job, very, very good, and he was proud of that, too. He couldn't see himself doing anything else. Then into his life came Raymond Doyle, hitting him like a bolt of lightning, changing him in ways he never expected. Making him feel things he never thought he had the capacity to feel...for anyone.
He drew his hand over the sheets, still warm from Doyle's heat. He looked at his gun on the floor.
He wanted it all. He wanted Ray. He wanted CI5. He didn't want to give up any of it.
That's what Bodie wanted. His lips twitched in a fleeting smile. The impossible dream.
They stopped off at a little Italian restaurant nearby. In a quiet table in the back, Bodie watched Doyle devouring his linguine .
"They have chocolate ice cream here, too."
"Mmm, I think I'll pass on it, thanks." Doyle patted his stomach and shoved his empty plate away. "We better get going."
"Fine. First, now that I've fed you, answer my question: what do you want?"
Wine glass half way to his lips, Doyle paused, giving Bodie an unblinking stare before finishing his Chianti. Bodie waited until Doyle finally put his glass aside. "I need to settle things with Jocelyn," Doyle began. He glanced down at his wedding ring and then slowly pulled it off his finger, handing it to Bodie. "Read the inscription," he said.
Bodie took the ring, the gold warm from Ray's skin. He held it up, tilting it to catch the room's light. He read the single word engraved inside. "'Forever'."
"I told her I couldn't even promise her a day. I couldn't even afford to buy her a ring, but she didn't care. She said she didn't want anything but me, that everything would work out properly this time." Doyle shook his head. "It's been crazy from the start, I suppose. It's as if she's been telling me something that I don't understand and I've been giving her answers she can't hear." He craned his head, green eyes gazing off into the distance. "By the time I met Jocelyn, I thought I had nothing to lose. I'd lost it all already." He looked back at Bodie. "I never imagined I could lose it all twice."
"I don't want to lose you, Ray. Never again."
Doyle held out his hand for the ring and Bodie placed it in his palm. "Nothing lasts forever, Bodie. Bad...or good." He curled his fingers over the ring, and then he slipped it into his jeans pocket. "For what it's worth, I always wanted you to stay."
Bodie leaned forward in his chair. "Then we'll work it out."
"Never thought of you as an optimist."
"I'm not. If I see a chance, I take it, that's all. You are willing to give it a chance, aren't you, Ray?"
"I've had more than my fair quota of shocks for one day. Everything's turned upside down and now you're asking me to...what? Agree with you that everything's going to turn out just fine? That we'll sail into the sunset and live happily ever after? I don't know, Bodie. I just don't know." Doyle lowered his eyes.
Bodie watched the troubled face, the feeling welling up inside him. A tendril of fear still curled around it, warning him, as ever, not to say the words that would make him utterly vulnerable. But he also sensed that not saying them, especially now, would be even worse. "I...I love you."
Doyle's head snapped up. His lips parted silently, then shut as he swallowed. He cleared his throat, his expression a mixture of surprise and pleasure. "Your timing is vicious, as usual. Why did you have to go and say that now, you bastard?"
"It's been true for a long time, maybe from the very start. Mixed up with all that lust." Bodie smiled. "I just didn't have the courage to say it."
"And in a public place, no less."
Bodie blinked and quickly stole a look behind him. There weren't any other customers near their table. The waiter was across the room. He turned back to Doyle with a sheepish shrug.
"You're an irritating sod," Doyle told him, but the words held only affection. His shoulders slumped and he raked his teeth across his lip. "This is turning into one of the worst, and best, days of my life and it's confusing the hell out of me. I...I never thought I'd ever hear you say that to me. You don't know how much I--" He stopped, shook his head. "I know what you want me to say, but I just don't have the right, not with everything that's happened with Jocelyn. We shouldn't have let it go this far to begin with. I shouldn't have. Maybe then, Jocelyn wouldn't have run off and...killed that man--"
"No, Ray. Don't start that again. It wouldn't have made any difference if she'd found us in bed or not. That had nothing to do with her business with Culbertson. And, believe me, it was business, illegal and very dirty. She took her first step on that road years ago."
Doyle pushed his chair back from the table. "We have to get back to the club, Bodie."
Bodie clenched his teeth. He wanted to shake Doyle, and yell, 'she killed your father! She's not worth a split second of guilt', but the impulse died away. He didn't want to hurt Ray.
He pulled out his wallet and threw some bills on the table. "Let's go."
They arrived at the club with just enough time to allow Doyle to change his clothes before his first set.
The club was already fairly crowded. Bodie blended into the back of the darkened room and watched. Blue lights highlighted the small stage with only a single golden spotlight spilling over the microphone in the centre. Candles flickered in amber holders on the tiny tables. Glasses clinked and conversation mingled with laughter that ebbed and flowed across the room. Many of the customers were regulars. It was a comfortable, relaxed crowd that applauded warmly as Doyle took his place in the spotlight.
The first few songs were a little rough, as if Doyle's mind was somewhere else, but then he settled down, his feelings blending with the melodies, and taking hold of the audience. Bodie noticed a few customers near the front of the stage who seemed appreciative of more than just the music. They clapped and whistled between numbers, shouting out compliments. One of them was a young man who was trying very hard to flirt with Doyle. To Bodie's undisguised pleasure, Ray only gave him a polite but uninterested smile in response as he finished up his last song.
As the audience applauded and Doyle took his bows, Bodie slipped through the crowd and made his way up to the office. He called HQ.
He couldn't get Cowley, but was told to wait. Finally, Murphy came on the line.
"A report's just come in about Royce," Murphy told him. "Cowley's following up on it himself with a couple of our units since he's not too far from where it happened."
"What are you talking about, Murph?"
"Royce tried to fly out of the country. Took off in a private plane heading towards Calais. Didn't get very far. Engine started sputtering not long after takeoff. Eyewitnesses reported that the plane blew up and crashed right into the sea. No one could have survived it."
"What?! When did this happen?"
"Yeh, best laid plans, eh? The report came in over an hour ago. Anyway, the Cow's overseeing the op to check out what's left of the wreckage. He left word that all units should still remain on alert until further notice, the Old Man's way of ruining any dirty weekend plans," added the Irishman sourly.
Bodie listened with half an ear as Murphy complained about too much overtime and too little play time. He mumbled an acknowledgement to Murphy and hung up the receiver. He felt numb. Could it be over, just like that? Jocelyn Royce...dead. And Ray...free?
It seemed strangely ironic that, after all her careful planning and scheming, Jocelyn should die as a result of some mechanical foulup. It also struck him as being incredibly convenient. It made him reach for the phone to call Murphy back and see if he could patch him through to Cowley, but just at that moment, Doyle walked into the room.
"Any word?" he asked.
Bodie hesitated. Until they received some confirmation of Royce's death, he didn't want to tell Doyle what he'd learned. Ray felt guilty enough as it was. Cowley was bound to have had the same cynical reaction to the circumstances of the crash as Bodie. The Old Man would check it out to make sure it wasn't a setup, some kind of subterfuge to cover Jocelyn's escape by another venue.
"Cowley is following up a new lead. I wasn't able to talk to him directly. Seems that Jocelyn was spotted trying to leave the country by private plane."
"She's left the country?" Doyle was frowning as he walked up to Bodie.
"Nothing's been confirmed. I--I was going to try and reach Cowley, but I think it's best to wait." He stepped away from the phone and took hold of Ray's shoulders, rubbing the tensed muscles under the ivory silk shirt. "Anyway, you still have another show to do. We might have some word from Cowley by closing time."
The sound of Charlie's piano drifted through the office speakers. The combo was doing a couple of improvisational numbers. "Charlie still upset?" asked Bodie, hoping to distract Doyle a little.
"Uh, no, I think he's cooled off. He really thought I was going to miss the show tonight."
"Well, we did cut it close." Bodie smiled into the green eyes. "But I'm glad we had the afternoon together."
Doyle didn't return his smile, but he leaned forward and brushed his lips against Bodie's. Then, almost hesitantly, he wrapped his arms around Bodie's waist and pulled them together. Bodie shut his eyes and slowly, slowly, nestled his face against Doyle's hair, pulling them closer still, feeling Ray's warmth, his strength, his doubts. They held on to each other without saying a word.
They finally drew apart as the combo finished off their number with a flourish and the audience began clapping.
"Do you think she'll get away?" asked Doyle softly.
"No. Maybe." Bodie looked down at his hands. "Do you want her to, Ray?"
"You told me she was a killer. No one should get away with that. But, a part of me feels sorry for her. I can't help it."
Bodie raised his head. "It'll be over soon, one way or the other."
Doyle let out a sigh. "I'm going back downstairs. Charlie wanted to talk to me about a couple of changes for the next show. Will you let me know as soon as you hear something?"
"Of course." Bodie watched Doyle leave before sagging against the desk.
For the last show, it was clear that Ray was trying to lose himself in the music, in the songs about love gone wrong and love unrequited. He seemed hardly aware of the customers, yet it only seemed to draw them closer. There were moments when there wasn't another sound in the crowded room except for Ray's voice.
Bodie left the club near the end of the show. He stood outside the entrance, breathing in deep lungfuls of the cold night air, the Hideout's neon sign bathing the pavement in a sharp bluish glow. A hazy sliver of a moon shimmered through a bank of passing clouds. He gazed up and down the street, and at the CI5 obbo van parked across the road. He felt a twinge of sympathy for the agents that drew that deadend assignment, sitting around bored out of their minds. It was good to have a partner on assignments like that, someone to share a joke with and help pass the hours.
Ray was taking his last bow when Bodie went back inside and headed for the office. He called HQ again and spoke with Murphy. There wasn't any news. Trying to fish out pieces of a crashed plane in the dead of night was not an easy project. There was no telling how long it could take.
He poured himself a swallow of whisky and looked down at the clubroom through the one-way mirror. The stage was empty and the customers were starting to leave. It was then Bodie realized that he hadn't seen Henry all night. The big man usually managed to keep out of sight during the shows, appearing only when a customer became too drunk and unruly, and then tossing them out with a minimum of fuss. Henry might lack for brains and personality but he was a very good bouncer. Bodie wondered how the besotted bruiser would react if they dragged what was left of Jocelyn's body out of the sea.
There seemed to be a lot at stake for everyone this night.
When all the customers had gone, Bodie went downstairs to talk with the bartender about the night's business and check the receipts. He was still technically the manager of The Hideout and he had to act the part. It was more of an effort than he expected as his mind kept returning to Ray.
"Have you heard anything?"
Bodie turned at the sound of Doyle's quiet voice. Ray, now in worn bluejeans and white sweatshirt, was leaning against the bar.
Bodie shook his head. "Nothing yet." He told the bartender that he'd close up and waited until the man waved a goodnight and left before coming round from behind the bar. "We may not hear any news until morning."
Doyle just looked at him, studying his face. "You're not telling me everything."
Bodie dropped his gaze and bit down on his lip.
"CI5 would've been able to check if she'd taken a plane out by now. There's something more, isn't there?"
"Where's Charlie and the boys?" asked Bodie, playing for time.
"Gone to a party at Tony's. Don't try and change the subject. C'mon, Bodie, what is it?"
Bodie reached behind the bar and pulled out a bottle of brandy and two glasses. "I'm sorry, Ray. I didn't want to tell you until we were sure." He poured the brandy into one of the glasses, the liquor spilling as Doyle grabbed him by the shoulder.
"What the hell is it, Bodie?"
Bodie drew in a breath. "The plane crashed just as it headed out over the sea. Might've been some sort of explosion. They have boats and a chopper checking the area but in the dark like this, it's slow going..." His voice trailed off as he watched Doyle's face.
"My god." Doyle grew silent for a moment, then he straightened, reaching for the glass of brandy. He took a drink and put it back on the bar. "She wanted us to travel round the world. She told me she had all these plans. I couldn't bring myself to tell her that I wasn't going to stay with her. I just left the house and rode around on my bike. Running away without going anywhere." He stopped and walked over to one of the little tables and sank into a chair.
Bodie followed and sat down across from him. "You're not going to blame yourself for what's happened, Ray. That's just crazy."
Doyle shook his head and gave Bodie a wan smile. "No, I'm not blaming myself. I just wish I could've done something to prevent it all. Somehow."
Bodie leaned over and covered Doyle's hand with his. "Yeh, I know."
"I should've been honest with her."
"It wouldn't have changed anything," said Bodie.
"He's probably right, you know."
Bodie's head snapped towards the new voice, his arm automatically reaching for his gun.
"Don't, Bodie, or I'll kill you." Jocelyn Royce stepped out of the shadows near the other end of the bar. She was holding an automatic with a silencer on it, her ebony cane in her other hand. "Keep your eyes on them for me, Henry," she said.
The burly bouncer appeared from behind the darkened staircase. "Yes, Miss Royce." He also held an automatic, pointed at Doyle's chest.
Jocelyn stepped a little closer. Her pale hair was pulled back from her face, the long scar visible even in the dim light. She wore slacks and a sweater that were smudged with dirt. It looked as if she had blood on her shoes. "Carrying a gun now, Bodie? How interesting. I learned to spot them a very long time ago. Take it out with your left hand and drop it to the floor. Slowly. Please don't try anything. We wouldn't want to upset Henry, now would we, especially since it appears that he's not aiming at you." She smiled quickly at the big man. "Wouldn't want Ray to die before his time, now would we?"
Bodie did as he was told. The gun dropped to the floor with a thud.
"Kick it towards me ever so gently."
He pushed the gun lightly towards her with his foot. It stopped halfway between them. Farther from him then he would have liked. He glanced across the table. Doyle looked very calm. He was staring intently at his wife. Bodie couldn't read the expression on his face and that worried him a great deal.
"Well, Raylove, how are you?" asked Jocelyn.
"I've been much better. And you?"
"Oh, I've had such a busy day," she returned with a weary sigh. "I could do with a bath and a change of clothes, but I'm afraid that will have to wait, under the circumstances. I simply had to see you again, one last time."
"I was told you'd had a fatal accident recently," cut in Bodie. "You're looking remarkably well." He didn't want her to focus on Ray. Henry's scowl was growing by the second and the gun in his hand looked like it was itching to go off. If only Bodie could get close enough to Royce... He pushed his chair back a little, ostensibly stretching his legs.
"Please don't move again, Bodie, or I'll blow off your kneecap," she said. "I'm already quite disappointed with you as it is, and I'd like us to chat for a bit before I leave. I think I have a fair amount of time before they pull what's left of Culbertson's bodyguard and his lovely girlfriend out of the Channel. Unfortunately, it meant throwing 20,000 to the fishes, but then, it was so terribly opportune, what with him being a pilot as well."
He nodded with a grudging smile. "You'll never get away. There are CI5 units watching this building."
"Oh, my, I'm flattered. However, it appears that they didn't see me come in. They won't see me go out."
"You know, I was wondering about that." If they hadn't spotted her, there was little chance of the cavalry coming to the rescue which meant that he and Ray were on their own.
She grinned at him. "It's not only the scouts that believe in being prepared. There is a practical reason why this place is called The Hideout. When I bought it, the deal included the adjacent property. It was all one large building a long time ago, you see. With adjoining basements. I had a discreet door put in when I rebuilt the liquor cellar here. Very handy."
"Yes, that does sound convenient."
"I've found uses for it, over the years." Jocelyn's smile vanished. She glanced at Henry again. "Did you know I found these two in bed together, Henry? Imagine that. Like two lovebirds, all snuggled and cosy. In my own house."
Henry's small dark eyes widened, then narrowed dangerously, his gun shifting slightly towards Bodie. "Fucking queers," he snarled.
"An accurate description, from what I saw," continued Jocelyn. "My, my, Bodie, when I told you to take care of him, I didn't think you'd take it to heart quite so seriously." She made a sound that might've resembled a laugh. "Shall I assume you've known each before, or did you just learn to appreciate each other after my back was turned?"
"I'm sorry, Jocey." Doyle rose from his chair, causing Henry to take a step closer as he shifted his aim back towards Ray's chest.
"Ray, sit down," Bodie told him through gritted teeth, but Doyle didn't, or wouldn't hear him.
"I didn't mean to hurt you," continued Doyle. "I never expected to see Bodie again." He took a deep breath. "But it wouldn't have mattered anyway, because it just couldn't work between us. I--I don't love you, Jocey. I tried to make that clear from the beginning. I also tried to convince myself that it didn't matter." He darted a look at Bodie. "But it does."
"You're just like him, you know," she said, her eyes seeming to look through and beyond Ray, into the past, her expression momentarily defenceless.
Bodie felt his stomach knot, and spoke quickly. "Jocelyn, give it up now. Give me the gun. I'm with CI5. We've been monitoring your operations for months. Even if you hadn't killed Culbertson, it would've been over for you. Don't make it worse. No need to jeopardize your life, and Henry's in the bargain."
Henry reacted with an angry grunt at Bodie. The big man took another step towards them, looking more threatening than before.
Jocelyn didn't take her eyes off Doyle as she answered. "My, my, fancy that, a CI5 man. You're good, Bodie, rather an amazing set of skills, actually." Her voice hardened. "But even the best coppers can die. Like Barry Martin or like..." She paused and smiled again at Ray. "I suppose I should be grateful that you're not an undercover copper, too. Or are you?"
Doyle shook his head.
"Your father was very good. Even better than Bodie here."
"What are you talking about?" asked Doyle.
In those few seconds, Bodie considered jumping Royce, even though he knew it would be suicidal. Henry was closer, but the odds were little better. In the end, it was the certainty that he would be throwing Ray's life away as well as his own that stopped him. He had to wait for an opening that would give them both a chance.
"Don't, Jocelyn, please," was all he could say.
Her pale eyebrows lifted in a kind of bored acknowledgement. "Don't what, Bodie? You know, don't you? CI5 research must be quite thorough. Well, I think Ray deserves to know, too."
Doyle was looking at the both of them, a puzzled frown on his face.
"Evan said he was going back to his wife, if she would have him. He had a little boy, he told me. He loved them both, he said. He told me he was sorry." Jocelyn paused, her fingers tightening around her gun. "I discovered I don't react very well to being made a fool of. Being quite young and impulsive at the time, I made the mistake of trying to stab him." She tilted her face slightly, and touched the handle of her cane to the edge of her long white scar. "It taught me a lesson I never forgot. It also taught me patience."
Ray's face was growing paler as Jocelyn continued.
"He didn't bother telling me he was an undercover policeman. I wound up in hospital and I found I had to do some rather unfortunate things to stay our of jail. All thanks to Evan Doyle. He was the first man I loved and the first man I hated. He was also the first man I killed."
Bodie watched helplessly as Ray's mouth opened in shock, but Royce just kept on talking.
"You look so much like him. I was curious, you see, about you and your mother. I kept a rather close eye on you both over the years."
Doyle was shaking his head, his eyes wide and staring. "Y-you killed my father?"
"In a different way, he killed me first," she replied in a voice that was flat and hard. "It seems that my biggest mistake was believing I could create a second chance. With you, my young, darling Ray. The very image of him. You even fuck very like him. I thought I could make it perfect this time. I simply couldn't resist. Sadly, it appears that history can indeed repeat itself. Like father, like son." Her gaze darted to Bodie. "Well, not exactly like him perhaps, but the result seems to be about the same, doesn't it?"
Doyle took a step towards her, swallowing back emotion. "And now you're going to kill me, too."
She raised her gun another inch, halting him. "Maybe if you weren't so very much like him, I could let you live."
"Let Bodie go then, Jocelyn. He's not to blame for any of this. Please let him go." Doyle held out his hands pleadingly.
"You won't walk out of here alive if you hurt Ray," cut in Bodie.
Royce glanced from one man to the other. "How very moving. It must be true love, don't you think, Henry?"
" 'And now about the cauldron sing, Like elves and fairies in a ring,'" said the bruiser, his gun fixed on Doyle's chest.
Jocelyn's lips curled into a bemused smile. "Hmm, an interesting observation if a bit enigmatic, Henry dear." She looked at Ray's hands. "Where's the ring I gave you?"
Doyle's eyes narrowed. "In my pocket."
"Put it on."
Royce shifted slightly, her gun firing, the sound muffled through the silencer.
Bodie felt the pain burn through the top of his left arm, the bullet tearing through his jacket as it ripped into his flesh. Blood spread through the torn cloth as he grimaced and clutched at the wound.
"Bodie!" Ray started forward, turning towards him. Another bullet splintered the floorboard near Doyle's foot, freezing him in place.
"Put on the ring or I'll shoot Bodie right between the eyes."
Bodie's arm felt like someone was holding a flame to it as he fought to concentrate, to ignore the pain. Henry was shifting from foot to foot, his mouth opening in dumb confusion.
Doyle reached into his pocket, fumbling for the ring. He fished it out and then it seemed to slip through his fingers, rolling across the floor. He stooped to pick it up, the movement turning into a sudden lunge as he grabbed for Royce, her gun firing as he reached her, their bodies twisting and crumbling.
Two more shots pierced the air as Henry fired, his small eyes widening in horror as a bullet hit Jocelyn in the back.
After Doyle began his lunge, Bodie threw himself sideways, swooping up his gun as he rolled, getting off a shot that hit Henry in the neck, blood spraying over the big man's chest as an artery severed and he fell backwards, crashing heavily into a table and chairs.
It all happened in seconds but for Bodie it seemed like they were all moving at half speed, every movement sickeningly drawn out. Fear gripped him as he stumbled towards Ray. Royce's gun and cane lay on the floor. Ray was on his knees, half crouched, blood matting his hair and streaming down his temple and cheek. More blood was soaking through his white sweatshirt from a wound in his side. His face was contorted with pain. He was staring at Jocelyn's sprawled body.
Her eyes were open, her chest heaving as she struggled for breath. She was looking desperately at Ray, as if at a fading light. She was trying to raise her hand, trying to caress his face. Her last word was barely a whisper, but Bodie heard it as clearly as Ray must have.
"Evan," she said, and then her eyes closed and she was still.
Bodie heard Ray cry out, a terrible, anguished sound. He took hold of Ray by the shoulders and pulled him away from Jocelyn's body, positioning him on his back. Ray was shaking, moaning with pain.
"I'll call an ambulance. Lie back, Ray, let me see your side." The red stain was spreading alarmingly over the white sweatshirt.
"Oh, god, Bodie. Oh, god," Ray kept saying. The agony on his face was more than just physical pain.
Bodie swallowed hard as he grabbed a linen tablecloth off of a table and used it to apply pressure against the bleeding. "I'm getting that ambulance now, Ray. I'll be right back." He clutched at his arm as he stood, swaying dizzily for a moment. He made his way to the club's entrance and raced outside as fast as he could manage, heading for the CI5 van...
Bodie didn't lose consciousness until he saw Ray lifted carefully onto a gurney and into an ambulance.
He awoke sometime later in a hospital bed with a heavily bandaged arm and several tubes and wires uncomfortably attached to various parts of his body. It took him longer than he liked to learn about Doyle's condition, his anxiety rising when the doctor finally admitted that Ray was in the intensive care unit.
Bodie was not a good patient under the best of circumstances. Knowing that Ray was fighting for his life and that there was nothing Bodie could do but lie in his bed and wait brought him an entirely new kind of pain. It was so deep and so sharp that everything else seemed inconsequential by comparison.
Even George Cowley's arrival seemed trivial.
"Do you know Ray Doyle's condition, sir? The nurse can't tell me anything and I haven't seen the doctor for hours." Those were Bodie's first words to his Controller.
Cowley's eyebrows lifted a fraction as he approached the bed. "I'm pleased to see you're so alert, 3/7. As for Mr. Doyle, I did speak with his surgeon."
"Tell me, is he going to be all right?" demanded Bodie immediately, unaware of the naked expression on his face or the emotion in his voice.
Cowley's pale blue eyes sharpened for a moment and then he nodded. "Yes, Bodie, it looks like he'll make it. The doctor said it was touch and go in surgery but apparently, Mr. Doyle is a very strong young man. He should make a full recovery."
Bodie closed his eyes and swallowed the lump in his throat. When he looked up at the Old Man again, Cowley's face was turned towards the window, giving Bodie a chance, intentional or not, to draw a steadying breath. "Thank you, sir, that's good news. I...I was concerned about him."
Lips pursed a little too tightly, Cowley turned back to him. "Yes, I can see that."
"He risked his life. Jumped Royce. Gave me a chance to get to my gun," continued Bodie, hoping to explain at least a part of his reaction in terms that Cowley could accept. He went on to give the head of CI5 a bare bones account of what had taken place.
"Indeed? Well, I'll want your full report as soon as you're released. According to your doctor, that should be in a few days at most. Unfortunately, until that arm is fully healed and functional, which looks to be several weeks yet, you won't be of much use to CI5. Nevertheless, you still have one good arm for writing that report. I'll want to tie up the loose ends."
"Yes, sir," replied Bodie docilely.
"It will be a relief to finally close the file on this operation." Cowley paused, reflecting. "Jocelyn Royce was a remarkable woman in many ways. Perhaps if she had never met Evan Doyle, her life might have been different. There would certainly be a bitter irony in that, wouldn't there?"
"I think she'd chosen her path before she met him, sir."
Cowley's chin rose slightly as he met Bodie's stare, his thin lips lifting at the corners. "Aye, perhaps you're right about that, lad."
Bodie shifted on the bed and winced at a sudden stabbing pain in his shoulder.
"You better get some rest now," the Old Man told him as he turned to leave. "But I'll expect you to have that report on my desk within the week."
Bodie watched the door slowly swing shut, his thoughts turning back to Ray and how soon he could manage to get up and see him.
As it turned out, it wasn't until the night before he was scheduled to be discharged that he found a chance to visit Doyle. Ray had already been moved out of Intensive Care and into a private room, but Bodie still had to dredge up every ounce of charm and several outrageous lies about his CI5 status and authority in order to persuade the evening nurse to allow him to visit for a few minutes.
The bed seemed to be surrounded by monitors and Doyle had more wires and tubes attached to his body than Frankenstein's monster. Nevertheless, Bodie had been assured that Ray's condition was now listed as "good" and that he was recovering well from his surgery.
Stepping carefully around the whirring monitors and wires, he neared the bed. Ray looked like he was asleep, the thin sheet over his chest rising and falling in a strong, steady rhythm. His face was too pale and there was a dressing over his right temple. That wound had been a graze, more blood than damage. Bodie glanced down at Doyle's torso. Even under a sheet, he could make out the thick bandages wrapped over the wound in his side. The wound that very nearly took Ray from him. But Ray was alive, and being able to actually see him, see the living, breathing proof of him, was like having an enormous weight lifted from his heart.
The word was weak and a little hoarse. Bodie looked up instantly and met tired green eyes. He winked, smiling. "Hello, sunshine, just thought I'd check in on you and make sure you were behaving yourself."
"You...okay?" asked Doyle, his gaze moving slowly over the heavy sling and bandages that covered Bodie's arm.
"Yeh, course I am. Nothing to worry about. Strong as an ox with a brain to match, so I've been told. I'll be fine, and so will you be."
"Glad you're okay. Couldn't bear it if..." Doyle didn't finish, a shudder running through his body.
"You just concentrate on getting well and out of here as soon as possible."
The long brown lashes lowered. "She killed my father, Bodie. I can't stop thinking. How could she have done..."
Bodie drew in a breath. "It's over, Ray. She did a lot of terrible things to a lot of people, herself included, but it's over now. Jocelyn's dead. Don't let it eat at you. Let it go." Bodie reached out with his good arm and gently stroked Ray's cheek with the back of his fingers. Moisture touched his skin, a trickle of tears. "I love you very much," he said softly, hoping with all his will that the truth in those words might give Ray some small comfort.
Doyle's glistening eyes flickered open, his face turning slightly to press against Bodie's fingers. He was trying to smile, but the full lips quivered and tightened into a tight white line as a spasm of pain gripped his body.
The evening nurse walked up to the bed, checking the monitors. "That's enough now, Mr. Bodie. You must return to your own room. Mr. Doyle needs to rest."
Bodie nodded and stepped back. "Yes, Sister." He didn't know if she had been standing at the half- open door all this time and if she'd heard what he'd said, but he realized he didn't care. "Take good care of him for me, please."
"Yes, of course. And I'm sure Mr. Doyle would want you to take care of yourself as well." She gave him a brief, soft smile and turned back to her patient.
Several weeks later, Bodie stood before Cowley's door, rubbing at his healed shoulder. He was able to move it easily now and, for all intents and purposes, he knew he was ready for field assignments. He tapped on the door and was told to come in.
"You wanted to see me, sir?"
"Yes, sit down, Bodie." The head of CI5 waved him into a chair without looking up as he continued to make notes on a report. A stack of folders lay to one side of the blotter, and an untouched cup of tea and some biscuits on the other. A minute passed, and then another before Cowley threw down his pen and turned his attention to his agent. "All right, 3/7, I've been informed by the medical department that you are fully recovered and certified for active assignments."
"It'll be good to get back in action again, sir."
"Yes, well, from what I've heard, the Records Department will be more than happy to part with your dubious assistance. I'm sure they'll never complain about being short-handed again."
Bodie smothered a grin. "I'm not cut out for desk duties, sir."
"So they have informed me," replied Cowley tersely. He settled back in his chair. "Between being a general nuisance to the clerical staff and undergoing your daily physical therapy sessions, you've also spent a good deal of time visiting Mr. Doyle in hospital."
Bodie wasn't particularly surprised that Cowley was aware of his activities. Cowley seemed aware of all his agents' activities. "I've tried to visit him whenever I could," he admitted.
"How is Doyle faring these days?"
Bodie tried not to raise an eyebrow at the Old Man's interest. "Um, he's doing very well. He's out of hospital now. He's up and about, working with a physical therapist." He thought about something that was making Doyle's recovery a little easier. "I wanted to thank you for keeping the shootings out of the papers, sir. The tabloids could've had a field day with the whole ugly story. It would've made it much rougher for Doyle."
Cowley nodded benignly. "You can thank the fact that there were several more exploitable scandals in the spotlight, Bodie. If it had been a slow news day, as they term it, I doubt that I could've kept the affair under wraps even with a D notice." Cowley darted a glance at the stack of files on his desk. "As for Jocelyn Royce, it seems that she had no other heirs, aside from her husband. The clubs and other legitimate properties belong to Doyle now."
Bodie didn't blink. "He mentioned that a lawyer had come to see him about it."
"Do you know what he intends to do?"
Feeling a little like a mouse facing a cat, Bodie hesitated for a moment. "Well, initially, he wanted no part of any of it. He reckoned he'd sell everything off, but I suggested he think if over."
"Good. And did he?"
It was difficult for Bodie to try and explain Doyle's state of mind, especially since he wasn't sure of it himself. Though he'd seen Doyle often over the last few weeks, there seemed to be a wall of reserve growing between them with each passing day. They talked easily enough about almost everything...except their own relationship or their feelings for one another. It was as if Doyle was deliberately placing some distance between them. For his part, Bodie was afraid to push it, not while Ray was still recovering from the physical, and emotional, scars that Jocelyn had left him. "I think he's decided to hang on to the clubs. Make a go of them himself," he replied. While Ray hadn't come right out and said it, Bodie felt that Doyle was going to keep Jocelyn's clubs because the alternative seemed too much like running away.
"That would be a prudent decision on his part. Those properties are quite lucrative, particularly Grenville's. He would be assuring himself of a very comfortable income."
Bodie was never good at Cowley's cat and mouse games; they required too much patience. "Why are you interested? Sir."
The Old Man regarded him for a moment, then smiled blandly. On Cowley, that was never a particularly comforting expression. "It could prove useful to CI5 to have a cooperative owner. Grenville's draws a very influential crowd, on an international as well as domestic scale. In fact, only a year or so ago, it would have been very...helpful to us if we had been able to set up some operatives in the club before that gambling scandal broke in the Home Office." Cowley waved a hand over the stack of folders on his desk. "Having an entrée into popular establishments such as Grenville's or Heartbeats could prove valuable in certain circumstances."
Bodie silently counted to ten. He had expected another one of Cowley's subtle admonitions to 'play by the rules,' or a not-so-subtle directive to avoid any further involvement with Ray. But, as usual, Cowley was not to be second-guessed. "And what makes you think that Doyle would be any more cooperative than Royce?"
Cowley's smile widened a fraction before fading away. "Obviously, we know why Royce didn't want to have anything to do with the authorities. But Doyle, well. While I don't know the young man personally, what I know of him makes me inclined to believe that he may have the same sort of idealistic, civic-minded nature as his father. And, of course, the two of you are friends. I would assume you intend to maintain that friendship, are you not? If the occasion arose wherein he could be of some assistance to CI5, I would hope you would be able to present him with a persuasive argument."
Bodie stood up, almost tipping over his chair. "God damn it, you're a cunning old bastard. You'd drag your own gran into an op if you thought she'd be useful."
Cowley gave him a sharp look. "Kindly refrain from blaspheming, 3/7. Furthermore, my grandmother passed away some years ago. Now sit down."
Bodie shook his head in reluctant admiration, but took his seat. "You haven't considered one possibility. Sir."
"Ray might not want to be...friends with me anymore."
Cowley leaned forward slightly. "Is that a fact?"
Bodie looked away. "No, but it could be. After what he's been through, I wouldn't blame him. He's starting his life over again. He may decide he doesn't want me to be a part of it. Let alone CI5," he added pointedly.
"One step at a time, Bodie," replied the Old Man. "I suggest you give him a little time to adjust to this new life of his."
"I should think he will inform you of his feelings on the matter. If not, I would hope you'd have brains enough to ask."
Bodie looked back at the head of CI5, not sure whether he felt more angry, manipulated or amazed.
"In the meantime, 3/7, we have work to do," continued Cowley smoothly as he picked up a folder and opened it. "Now, I'm assigning you immediately to backup Stuart on the extortion syndicate op. It seems that the case is about to break and he'll need all the help he can get..."
Bodie missed The Hideout's reopening and Ray's first night shows. It was late as he walked up to the entrance. The blue neon letters had flickered off, leaving nothing but the glow from the streetlamps and the mist-shrouded moon. Bodie had hoped to make it to Ray's last show of the evening, but it had taken longer than he had expected to bring in the suspects. His knuckles were bruised, but that was the worst of it. Stuart would handle the interrogations and the paperwork. At least Bodie wouldn't have to be the one to explain why yet another CI5 vehicle was riddled with bullet holes.
He hadn't seen Ray in over a fortnight. The op had kept him busy almost constantly. Though he managed to call Doyle several times, he wasn't able to reach him. Or else, Ray just hadn't wanted to talk to him.
He'd left another message tonight that he would stop by the club after closing. He drew in a deep breath, ignoring the tense fluttering in his stomach, and knocked loudly on the door. He didn't even know if there was anyone there to let him in. It was odd that he felt more nervous now than he had when he was dodging gunfire from a carload of villains.
It seemed an interminable time before the door opened, and suddenly Bodie felt the air melt in his lungs at the sight of Ray Doyle standing before him.
They just stood there, looking at each other in silence until Doyle finally inclined his head and led Bodie inside.
The white baby grand and the drum set still took up most of the small stage, but the club's walls had been repainted to a lighter shade and there was dark blue carpeting covering the floor. Bodie took in the changes absently, his focus on Ray.
Doyle walked up to the bar and leaned back against it. If he was remembering the last time they were in this room, he didn't show it. He looked healthy, seemingly relaxed and, to Bodie, immensely desirable. Bodie realized that a tiny part of him had hoped he had finally developed some small immunity to Doyle's effect on him, but no. He stuffed his hands into his jacket pockets because he didn't trust himself not to reach out and pull Ray into his arms.
He wanted Ray, yearned for him. He loved him, more than he ever thought possible. In very different ways, both Doyle and CI5 fulfilled a need in Bodie that no one and nothing could ever match. He craved them both intensely, for his soul and for his identity, but in that instant, he knew that not having Ray would be the greater loss.
"You look well," Doyle told him.
"So do you. I'm sorry I missed your show. I couldn't get away--"
Doyle shook his head and rubbed the back of his neck. "It's all right. I was lousy. I need more practice. I want to change some numbers, too. Charlie and the lads carried most of the show."
"I can catch it tomorrow night then. I have a day off, finally." Bodie tried to smile but couldn't quite manage it. Doyle was avoiding his eyes and Bodie could feel that invisible wall rising between them again.
"Would you like a drink?" Doyle asked him, turning round and reaching behind the bar.
"No, no thanks."
Doyle put the bottle of malt down again, but he didn't turn back to Bodie.
Bodie just looked at the head of curls. "I'm glad you've decided to keep the clubs," he said.
"I'm tired of drifting. I need to make a place for myself. I've a lot to learn, but I think I can do it."
"Of course you can," said Bodie with genuine conviction.
Doyle gripped the edge of the bar. "At first, I wasn't even sure I could walk back in here. Tonight when I was singing, I looked out at the customers and there was this young couple kissing at one of the tables. Exactly the spot where Jocelyn died."
"Ray, if there's anything I can--"
Doyle turned back to him, an edge to his voice when he spoke. "I have to deal with it myself, a day at a time, and I will. I don't want you to feel as if you owe me anything, Bodie. You're not obliged to me in any way."
"Obligation is the last thing I feel for you." He hesitated, his heart pumping faster at the thought that Doyle might've been trying to shut him out because of some misplaced sense of guilt. Ray still wouldn't look at him, so he had to pour his feelings into his voice. "I'd like to be your friend, Ray. I want us to be able to trust and rely on each other. I want us to talk and joke and laugh together. Just...be together. And, yes, I'd like to be your lover as well as your friend, if you'd let me." Bodie wasn't used to expressing his emotions in words. They seemed awkward and inadequate, yet the stakes were so very high. He freed his hands from his pockets, unconsciously reaching out to Doyle.
Then he saw that Ray was staring at them.
"What happened to your hands?"
Distracted, he looked down at his knuckles. The bruising was much worse in the light, the skin badly scraped, and a little swollen. "Uh, I met some unexpected resistance on the job tonight." He started to shrug it off when Doyle took hold of his right hand. It was their first physical contact since the night that Bodie had stood next to Ray's hospital bed, feeling his tear-stained cheek press against his hand.
"I'll get some ice for the swelling," Doyle told him.
But Bodie just held on, tightening his grip, savouring the warmth and strength in the touch. "No, this is all I need. Feels...wonderful." He watched Ray staring at their clasped hands and waited until the green eyes finally, finally looked up into his.
There was the faintest tremor in Doyle's voice when he spoke. "I'm not sure it could ever work out, Bodie. There's so much going against us. Not just the past, but who we are. I can be as stubborn and crazy as you, you know. We're bound to wind up hurting each other, even when we don't mean to." He stopped, shoulders sagging, a sigh escaping him like a man acknowledging defeat. Slowly, he brought Bodie's hand to his lips. The kiss was tender and soft. "Damn it, I should've known that once I touched you again, I couldn't pretend not to love you."
"W-what did you say?"
Doyle swallowed. "You heard me." Chin lifting, he tried to step away again, but Bodie held on, pulling him back.
A sense of joy was spreading through Bodie like a balm. He raised his free hand and gently cupped the side of Ray's face. Then he let him go.
Doyle moved away from him and started pacing back and forth. At last, he stopped in front of Bodie. "We've never been friends, have we?" he asked.
"I think we could be good friends. Best friends. I think we could be everything together."
Doyle was watching him intently now, a smile growing over his face, green eyes bright. He opened his arms, and Bodie closed the distance between them.
The following evening, there was a fair-sized crowd at The Hideout. Bodie scanned the room from the rear of the club, picking out many of the old regulars, before taking a seat himself at one of the small, empty tables. He'd received a few nods of recognition from some of the customers who probably still assumed he was The Hideout's manager.
A candle flickered on the table, casting a deep amber circle through its holder. He looked into the golden flame and smiled, brushing his fingertips across his lips.
They had talked and made love through the night, watching the dawn break as they lay in each other's arms. They spoke of their fears and their hopes, realizing that most were shared. They laughed and even cried a little. Bodie warned Ray about a certain conniving old Scot and his plans. Doyle grinned and promised, at the very least, to extract a long paid holiday for Bodie in exchange for every favour.
In a night filled with passion and reunion, they also became friends.
Bodie touched his lips again, remembering the feel of Ray's mouth, and then he looked up at the stage as Doyle came back for his second set, to a round of warm applause.
Doyle walked up to the microphone, his eyes searching through the spotlight to the tables beyond. "Thank you," he began with a wave of his hands and a nod towards the musicians. "I'm glad you're enjoying the show. I'd like to do a new song for you tonight. It's a rather special song. I've never performed it before because, frankly, I could never really believe in it, until now." Ray paused, gazing out over the audience and then he began to sing...
Life is a torch song, a ballad
of shattered hearts and dreams
But sometimes if you're lucky
life isn't what it seems
Love can survive the darkest night
what may not be perfect can still be right
A new dream rising, a torn heart mending
A sweet beginning from a bitter ending
We can make ours a different song
with a fire that doesn't burn
Let me give you all my love
And give me all your love in return
Ray's voice was clear and vibrant, the spotlight framing him in a deep, golden glow that made Bodie catch his breath. He didn't think that Ray could see him through the light, and yet Doyle turned in his direction. As the musicians played the song's refrain, Ray seemed to look right at him, their eyes meeting in promise.
Their life together had begun.
-- THE END --
Author's Note: My thanks to "Gilda" for inspiring this alternate universe story.