A Birdwatcher's Guide to Cornish Ghosts
Part 2 in the Birdwatcher's Guide to Cornish Ghosts series. See also Part 1, Part 3, Part 4, and Part 5.
Raymond Doyle screamed. His horrified wail echoed around the sheltered cove, bounced off rocks worn smooth by the winds of time and was carried away at last on the brisk spring breeze to join the calls of the gulls soaring high above.
He stood still, eyes screwed tightly shut, breath held in limbo, and slowly recovered his equilibrium. Raucous laughter rose above the sound of the waves and he turned to regard its source: Bodie. The man was bent double, his face lit up with delight at Doyle's misfortune.
Doyle looked around. The instrument of his revenge was close at hand. He bent and plucked it out of the ocean, cold, slimy and dripping with seawater.
"I told you!" Bodie shouted.
The long strand of seaweed dangled ominously from Doyle's hand and he grinned maliciously. Narrowly escaping another dash of freezing cold water over his bare feet, he hopped onto the next rock, his quarry in his sights.
The quarry stopped laughing. "Now, Doyle, I did warn you. Oi! What are you going to do with that? I told you the sea is still very cold, even in May." Bodie began to slowly back away, not an easy thing in the rock-strewn cove. "You wouldn't believe me, would you? 'No', he says, 'Looks lovely,' he says, 'Think I'll dip my feet', he… oi, you, keep away from me with that 'orrible stuff. Doyle…."
Too late, Bodie turned to make a swift exit; Doyle with feline agility was already upon him. It was Bodie's turn to scream. As the seaweed disappeared down the back of his shirt he fought – and fought quite well – but Doyle was much stronger than his slight, wiry frame indicated. The two men tussled until Bodie lost his footing and, dragging his molester with him, they tumbled together into a rock pool.
Bodie sat up. "Ouch!"
"What's the matter?" Doyle cackled. "Water not to your liking? Bit warm, is it? Here, let me cool you down," and he proceeded to flick water over his, by now, sodden friend.
"Doyle! Ow! Bloody limpets. Stop that, Ray. Ouch!"
"A limpet bite your bum, did it? I didn't know Cornish shellfish were carnivorous. Better put that in my book, hadn't I? 'Man bitten by blood sucking limpet – the shocking truth'!"
Too busy laughing at his own witticisms, Doyle failed to notice the hand that shot out to grab him unceremoniously by the neck. Before he had any idea what was happening, he'd been ducked with ruthless efficiency into water hardly much warmer than the chilly Atlantic from whence it came.
Water streaming off him as though he was a waterfall, Doyle stared wordlessly at the man who still had a very tight hold on him.
Bodie put his face very close to his. "You know I love you dearly, Raymond. But there are limits, even to my patience." He placed a kiss on Doyle's cold, clammy cheek before reaching to remove the offending sea-weed from its hiding place inside his shirt.
Doyle sniffed inelegantly. "Serves you bloody right. If I get a chill, I'll let you decide which is worse – having to look after me or Mrs. Trembath's tongue castigating you for not taking proper care of me." He grinned maliciously. "Might be worth it at that."
Bodie stood, hauling Doyle to his feet as he did so. "Fancy another long stretch in bed so soon after the last lot, do you? Correct me if I'm wrong, Light of My Life, but I got the impression you nearly went potty cooped up like that."
"That is true," Doyle conceded. "Chicken broth and coddled eggs lose their appeal after a while. A very short while as a matter of fact." He pulled a disgusted face. "Only thing that kept me going was your bed baths." He smirked conspiratorially. "Nice warm hands you've got. You know just where to apply appropriate pressure for maximum relief – very er… coaxing in a sticky sort of way."
Bodie's lips stretched into a knowing smile. "I aim to serve. Wouldn't do for Mrs. Trembath to think I wasn't supplying all your needs would it?"
"Well, she won't hear any complaints from me."
"Good. Glad that's settled. And talking of needs, mine is of the masticating variety right now. Sustenance."
"What, here? What if someone sees us?" Doyle said, eyes widening innocently.
Bodie's eyes went heavenward. "Yes. Well, I can see the spell in the depths of that fugou didn't put a dent in your er… sense of humour… for want of a better description. Come on, let's go and see what delights Mrs Trembath put in my saddlebag this morning. Hopefully the walk back to the village will dry us out a bit. Lucky it's May and not January."
They clambered gingerly over limpet clad boulders, thick with seaweed. The warm breeze began to dry their clothes and Doyle felt it blowing soothingly through his damp curls, bringing with it the salt smell of the ever-changing ocean.
The mouth of the tunnel leading back to the village of Porthgwarra loomed. They climbed into it and both men shivered as the temperature dropped several degrees. The gradient was quite steep, the way uneven and slippery underfoot. Intriguing as he found this place, Doyle couldn't wait to reach the end; it gave him the creeps somehow.
They emerged, blinking, into the sunlight and Doyle looked around. Not much to see – a scattering of fisherman's hovels, crab pots a plenty, a couple of Old Salts, having a smoke while mending nets and exchanging yarns. They greeted Bodie with toothless grins and Bodie acknowledged them cheerily. Doyle smiled to himself. So, this man had even managed to endear himself to these most insular of people. Their distrust of strangers was legendary but even they had been unable to resist his easygoing charm.
They reached their cycles, propped against the side of an old barn, and Bodie ferreted in his saddlebag. He emerged triumphant clutching a hefty package; food was all important to Bodie, and Doyle, a life-long pusher of food around his plate, never ceased to be amazed at the amount he put away.
"Come on," Bodie said, "let's walk up to the top of the cliff. Bit quieter up there, we can dry off undisturbed."
Doyle smiled. "Like the sound of that."
He set off up the path behind Bodie. As they climbed higher, leaving the village far below, Doyle reflected on the changes wrought on his life since he'd met this most beguiling of men. Since that day in the library, when he'd first set eyes on Bodie, a bird watcher and writer of books on the subject, everything had changed.
Doyle had known from the very beginning that Bodie was something special. And knew also that Bodie felt it too. But there had been obstacles. Not least of which had been Bodie's reluctance to admit to his lover that, where the supernatural was concerned, he was sensitive. He saw things most people either couldn't, or wouldn't, see. Doyle's main interest in life was investigating paranormal phenomenon and at first it had hurt him to realise that the man he loved didn't trust him enough to tell him about this talent. But, slowly, as the relationship had grown and the truth was revealed, he had come to understand that the man's reticence had everything to do with insecurity and nothing at all to do with not loving Doyle enough.
And the truth was, Bodie had brought stability to Doyle's life, a sense of belonging where previously there had been none and, most surprisingly of all, he had not required him to change. His love was unconditional and therefore a very precious thing.
Slowing to admire the stunning view over the village and cove, Doyle found Bodie had also come to a halt and was waiting for him. Doyle stepped up behind him and slipped an arm around his waist, squeezing lightly. "Thank you," he said simply.
Bodie frowned. "For what?"
"For being you. For this." Doyle looked around him. "For everything. I can't imagine any other life now."
Bodie was looking at him intently. "Good." The man was silent for a moment and Doyle had the feeling that Bodie wanted to say more but somehow couldn't. He found it hard to talk about his feelings. In point of fact he found it hard to talk about a lot of things. His lack of ability to communicate well had been one of the main stumbling blocks to their relationship. Doyle, a natural communicator, had found this aspect of the man's character hard to deal with; blood out of a stone was easier than information out of Bodie if there was something he didn't want you to know. He clammed up – thus exacerbating the problem because Doyle's erratic temper then came to the fore. Doyle had never tried to fool himself about his shortcomings and his temper figured prominently among them. He could explode at the drop of a hat and with very little warning. He was also a persistent seeker of facts and information. His constant niggling at a given subject or peculiarity which intrigued or baffled him had caused his family to suppose that they had among them a future member of the constabulary. It hadn't happened. Instead, he'd chosen to investigate strange and peculiar happenings, making a living by writing freelance articles for newspapers and magazines. It was surprising how many people had a taste for the weird and wonderful and Doyle was quite happy to spend his life fulfilling those needs in others, and himself, into the bargain.
"Oi, wake up."
Doyle shook himself mentally. "What?"
"Miles away, you are. And me here dying of starvation! Honestly, Raymond, I thought you loved me. Got a funny way of showing it, I must say."
Moving a little closer, Doyle put his lips to Bodie's ear. "Got other ways of proving that… haven't I?"
Bodie's lips twitched.
"'Course… if you'd rather I stopped that and concentrated on feeding just your culinary appetites… well… I'd miss it, I'm sure… what we do in bed at night… all that nice touching and tasting and penetrating and such… but… I'd be willing to make the sacrifice for the sake of your stomach."
A snort exploded out of Bodie's mouth. "You wouldn't last five minutes! We don't even make it up the stairs sometimes. It's just as well my sofa has more colours than Jacob's coat or Mrs Trembath would have noticed the stains by now. I'm surprised they haven't heard your hollering in the village – the noise you make when we do it."
Doyle threw back his head and laughed very loudly, a dirty laugh full of suggestion… and promise. "Let's find somewhere quiet," he said suddenly.
Bodie took hold of his arm and led him off – although 'dragged' would better describe it, Doyle wryly observed to himself. Despite his protestations to the contrary Bodie entered into the physical side of their relationship with as much enthusiasm as Doyle. Sometimes more. Mostly their love-making was both loving and passionate, but just occasionally Bodie seemed to need something with less feeling involved – to be taken hard and quick. It didn't bother Doyle one iota; after such couplings Bodie seemed to need the shelter of his arms even more than usual and for longer. It amused and even comforted him in fact. It meant he was supplying all his lover's needs, not just those which suited himself. It also meant that even though Bodie was not the best communicator in the world, he was not afraid to ask for what he needed sexually and to enjoy it without fear of disgust from his partner. Doyle took immense comfort from this.
'Somewhere quiet' turned out to be behind a large rocky outcrop away from prying eyes. Not that there were many prying eyes, the Cornish were mainly of the opinion that walks along the cliff meant you hadn't got enough to occupy you and you should try harder. And in the event they ate first, Bodie being of the opinion that bodily pleasure was best undertaken on a full stomach.
Lunch over and at least one of Bodie's appetites sated, Doyle went to sit between the man's legs and leaned back into his arms. They lay some while like this, half sitting, half lying against the rock, a warm breeze lulling them into a comfortable, lazy togetherness. Bodie had one leg slung casually over Doyle's as they stared out at the endless blue of the ocean and listened to the cries of gulls overhead.
In his drowsy state Doyle was only half-aware of Bodie's hand slipping into his trousers. Gentle fingers stroked flesh that was slowly hardening as Doyle's eyes closed and he slept.
When he woke, the hand was still there, a warm comforting presence; Doyle felt his heat swell into it.
A soft laugh penetrated his somnolence. "'Bout time you woke up."
Doyle stretched lazily. "Have I missed anything?"
In response Bodie pushed his groin into Doyle's backside, a hardness very apparent. "Seems not," Doyle observed dryly. He pressed back in reply and Bodie groaned in his ear, pushing his free hand between their two bodies. Doyle could feel him undoing his fly buttons and then the length of him, solid and hard against his arse.
Bodie's other hand pulled on Doyle's erection. A tongue and teeth were on the back of his neck, licking and biting. Doyle felt a hand in his hair, fingers entwined in his curls, twisting, pulling. Bodie knew exactly what his man liked and delivered without fail. A thumb massaged the head of his leaking cock, working the stickiness into soft, giving flesh. Doyle shuddered uncontrollably as Bodie whispered a crude obscenity into his ear. He knew what Doyle liked all right…
Behind him Bodie was bucking into his arse, his cock, if anything, even harder. He began to whimper and Doyle realised he was as close to coming as himself. It washed over him then, the sensation of fluid rushing the length of his cock, of it spilling into the warmth of his lover's hand, again and again, and of Bodie's voice in his ear, out of control, ecstatic, as he emptied himself against Doyle's arse.
They slept again then in the warm Spring sunshine, Bodie's hand still inside Doyle's trousers, still wet with his lover's seed.
When they woke it was mid-afternoon. Doyle turned in his lover's arms and the two men kissed deeply, tongues entwining. The kiss ended, Doyle pulled Bodie's hand out of its confines and sat regarding it. "Better find somewhere for you wash this," he said.
Bodie shook his head. "What for? It isn't poisonous or unclean. It's just a little bit of you. A gift. I'll keep it until we get home if it's all the same to you. But er… you'd better put your jacket on."
Doyle frowned. "Why? It's warm."
"I, um… wasn't mean with my own, er… expression of love."
Doyle continued to frown.
"It's all over the back of your trousers," Bodie explained, colouring deeply. "Sorry."
Wondering if the love he felt showed in his eyes, Doyle smiled. "Come hard, did you?"
Bodie's dark eyes turned almost black. Doyle sometimes wondered if they weren't blue at all but some fathomless colour of the night. "I always bloody do with you, Ray," Bodie was saying. "I don't know what you do to me. We do it so much there shouldn't be any left but there always is."
Doyle grinned, knowingly. "Let's go home."
"Why the rush?" Bodie asked, his blank face suddenly bereft of the emotion that had just now been visible.
"Well, the sooner we get home, the sooner we can say 'goodbye' to Mrs Trembath and be alone. That's a nice bed you've got at your place. Warm, inviting, full of possibilities, if you understand me. The sort of possibilities that can't be indulged in out here."
Bodie's grin lit up his face. No words were necessary.
Doyle kept his jacket well and truly on his back as he and Bodie burst into the kitchen of Bodie's home. Except that it now felt like his home as well, even though, strictly speaking it wasn't. He didn't own it, never would, but he still felt as though he belonged here. Beside Bodie. Never mind that the world had no place for a love such as theirs – there was nowhere else for Doyle to be; without his man there was nothing.
Mrs. Trembath looked up as they entered, wiping her hands on her pinafore. Bodie inhaled deeply of the smell in the kitchen and narrowed his eyes consideringly. "Fruit cake?" he suggested.
The housekeeper shook her head. The game was afoot. Doyle folded his arms and adopted the role of spectator.
Bodie sniffed again. "Saffron buns?"
She raised her eyebrows, a little smile of triumph on her face.
The woman let out a bark of laughter. "Get on with 'ee! Losin' your touch!"
"Scones," Doyle interjected. "His favourite sort with loads of sultanas. He'll want 'em hot with loads of butter and strawberry jam. Am I right?"
Mrs. Trembath cackled. "I do believe this one is starting to get the better of 'ee, Mr. Bodie. You better watch out."
Bodie stuck his tongue out at Doyle and pulled a face, then jumped as his housekeeper flicked a tea towel at him. "Wind'll change and you'll stay like that," she chastised.
"Mrs. Trembath, I'm not eight years old," Bodie protested.
"Then don't 'ee be going on like it," she retorted quick as a flash.
Doyle chuckled and Bodie glared indignantly at him. He suspected that Bodie sometimes felt they ganged up on him. The truth, did he but know it, was that both tormentors loved him to distraction in their own unique way. Worshipped him. Doyle saw it in the housekeeper's eyes on a daily basis and frequently wondered if she saw the same thing in his. At first it had worried him but as the weeks turned into months and she said nothing and appeared, to all intents and purposes, to have accepted him into the household, it ceased to concern him too much. If she knew, she wasn't saying – or giving in her notice. And it seemed to Doyle she must know. They were unnecessarily sharing a bed, for goodness sake, a bed that she changed on a weekly basis. How could she not know? They were breaking the law – God's law and the Law of the Land. Always the one to question every single thing, Doyle wanted to know what she told herself to salve her conscience. One day he would ask her, when the time was right.
"I'm going up to change," Doyle told them.
Mrs. Trembath looked questioningly at him.
"Fell in a rock pool," he explained. "Going to go and clean up. Clothes full of salty water. Him too," he said, nodding in Bodie's direction.
"Horsin' round, no doubt." The woman shook her head in disbelief. "You wants your 'eads testin', both of 'ee."
Her voice followed them up the stairs. As they walked along the corridor, Bodie sniggered.
"What?" Doyle asked.
"What revenge? What are you talking about, Bodie?"
They entered the bedroom and Doyle looked longingly at the bed.
"We haven't got time," Bodie told him.
"Tragically, I know. What revenge?"
"Well, you've had a shock, haven't you? Falling into that cold water. She's going to want to fill you up with scones or I'm the Tsar of all Russia and your name's Rasputin. Except his hair's longer than yours, but you're about as skinny and certainly as conniving."
Doyle glared at him. "Have you quite finished?"
Bodie smirked back. "No. I could be persuaded to eat the scones she's going to try to force down your throat. For a price." He glanced sideways at the bed.
"She'll wonder where we are," Doyle said, wistfully, following his gaze.
"I'm nothing if not patient, Raymond."
Doyle nodded sagely. "And when can this dramatic change in your character be expected to begin? Only I like to be around to witness momentous events."
Bodie looked shocked. "You wound me to the core. Yesterday I waited at least three minutes after Mrs. Trembath had gone before I ripped off your clothes!"
"Hmm. And one of these days she's going to come back and catch us, you know that, don't you?"
Bodie's face paled. He stared wordlessly at Doyle for a few seconds. "Then tell me how to stop wanting you," he said eventually, his voice quietly intense.
Placing a gentle kiss on Bodie's lips, Doyle smiled. "I'll make a bargain with you. If I'm ever that stupid, I'll eat your boiled fish for a year..."
In the event it was early evening before the housekeeper left them. Doyle was uselessly refusing a third scone when a knock at the door heralded a visitor. He was surreptitiously foisting it onto Bodie when Mrs. Trembath ushered John Harvey into the kitchen; Rascal, his black Labrador, following closely behind, tail knocking against every surface within its long reach.
The dog went straight for Doyle, greeting him as always with more enthusiasm than accuracy. Doyle stole the scone back from Bodie's plate and fed it to his four-legged friend, who then proceeded to try and climb onto his lap.
"Rascal! Down!" John commanded. "Just because you saved Mr. Doyle's life when he fell down that fugou doesn't give you the right to maul him every time you set eyes on him. Behave!"
Rascal backed off and sat down a few inches from Doyle looking up at him adoringly.
"Tis only cupboard love," Mrs. Trembath observed. "He do know who'll feed him all right – he ain't daft."
Doyle stroked the dog's head lovingly and the dog stood up again and laid his head on Doyle's thigh.
"Not so sure about that," Bodie said, watching the two of them, "seems like a mutual admiration society to me. You know… one dumb animal for another. Though that might be insulting Rascal a bit…"
They all laughed and Doyle took the insult like a man. Mrs. Trembath put tea in front of John and edged the plate of scones towards him.
"I've got a favour to ask of you two gentlemen," John said eventually, washing a mouthful of scone down with hot tea.
"Anything, John, you know that," Bodie told him.
The man nodded. "You two're good friends to me and Rascal. See, I got to go to London for a few days, a week perhaps. An old army pal of mine just died."
Doyle heard their housekeeper say, "God rest his soul," and the two men nodded in agreement.
"The thing is," John continued, "I can't take Rascal. Tisn't appropriate, the widow grieving and me probably having to help her sort out his effects because I know she hasn't got anyone else. I need someone to look after Rascal while I'm away. And I was wondering… you know… 'course… if it isn't convenient, you must say. I wouldn't impose for all the world."
Doyle heard Mrs. Trembath inhale sharply. "John 'Arvey!" she exclaimed. "How can you say such a thing? Impose? How could 'elpin' you in your hour of need be imposin'? I never heard such nonsense in all my life!"
John coloured. "Well…" he began and looked to Bodie for assistance.
Bodie's eyes widened as he indicated to the man that he understood his predicament. Mrs. Trembath was not the householder here, Bodie was. Assuming would be quite wrong, despite the housekeeper's vehement words.
Bodie opened his mouth to speak but this time Doyle beat him to it. Stroking the dog's head and placing a kiss on his face, he said, as much to Rascal as to anyone else, "'Course Rascal can come and stay with us, eh, Rask? You won't be a bother, will you? Hmm?" The dog licked his face and Doyle smiled rapturously.
"Bodie…" John began again, his embarrassment worsening by the moment.
"John. It's fine, it really is," Bodie interjected. "Rascal can stay here with us for as long as you need."
"If you're sure?" The man looked doubtful.
John looked as though a huge weight had been lifted off his shoulders. "See, I couldn't leave him with just anyone," he said. "He'd be miserable. But he likes you and Mr. Doyle and Mrs Trembath is always so good with scraps for him, I know he wouldn't go hungry or want for attention."
"When are you leaving?" Bodie asked.
"Day after tomorrow. Funeral's on Friday. I can bring him over tomorrow if you like?"
Bodie frowned. "Wouldn't it be easier to leave him here now? Then you can prepare for your journey tomorrow, without any interruptions."
"Well, it would save me another trip," John agreed, hesitating. "Are you sure? I was going to bring his blanket over and some food."
"Ain't no problem 'bout food," the housekeeper interjected. "I got bits he can have tonight and Edwin Trevose, up at the butchers, will find meat scraps and bones I can cook up, tomorrow. Mother was good to 'is mother when her 'usband's fishing boat went down, all hands lost. He don't forget nothin' like that."
"Then that's settled," Doyle declared. "We can find something for him to sleep on, eh?"
Bodie nodded and John smiled. "Thank you," he said. "I appreciate it."
Mrs. Trembath refilled the man's cup with steaming tea.
"Here," said Doyle, pushing the plate towards him. "Have another scone…"
When John left, Rascal whined for a few moments until Doyle went to comfort him. He glanced at Bodie and then at Mrs. Trembath, both were wearing similar soppy grins.
"Something funny?" he asked indignantly.
"No," Bodie said quickly, "not at all. Have we got something to feed Rascal on?" he said, turning to his housekeeper.
"Oh, I daresay I can find a few scraps. After all, I gotta be used to producin' food on demand in this 'ousehold, eh?"
"Oi!" Bodie protested. "I resent that. Just because I show proper appreciation of a good cook's efforts… unlike some I could mention."
"Mmm," Mrs. Trembath agreed. It seemed to Doyle that the woman changed sides at the drop of a hat. Doubtless indicating that she was equally fond – and equally exasperated perhaps – by them both. "I do think he's put on a bit of weight since I been feeding 'im."
Doyle knew it was true. Regular meals and two people who had his interests at heart were definitely making a difference to his well being. He felt better, had more energy and – because of Bodie – now had a reason to live. Being in love was definitely to be recommended in his opinion: the food was optional.
Bodie sent Mrs. Trembath home after she'd dished up their meal. They were later than usual and Doyle knew he was worried that her housebound husband would be concerned and needed her there. She had daughters, of course, but all were married with families of their own to cater for, though one, he knew, lived just up the lane and had probably popped in by now to check on her father. Family ties were strong in this part of the world and he knew the old man would not be alone for long.
Doyle glanced at Bodie, now his family, and watched him tuck into a plate of what their housekeeper referred to as 'Baked Tayties'. A layer of meat and sundry vegetables covered in a thick layer of sliced potatoes and baked slowly in the oven for hours. A thick slab of pastry was cooked separately to accompany this already hefty meal. Doyle was only too aware of why the extra was needed in local households. The men in this area worked long hours for little pay. Not only did they need the extra fuel; their low wages did not cover extra rations of meat to fill them and their growing families. And, it had to be said, it was both tasty and nourishing. He watched as Bodie helped himself to more, shaking his head as the man offered him a second helping.
Full at last, Bodie went over and put the remaining scraps into Rascal's bowl. It was gone in a matter of seconds.
"That dog'll be fat by the time John gets back."
"Get on with you," Bodie sighed. "Come on, let's get this lot cleared up."
Rascal retired to an old eiderdown they'd found and installed beside the range for him to sleep on. Both of them laughed as he tugged and pulled at it to get it exactly the way he wanted it.
"Nearly as bad as you," Bodie remarked, "No wonder you two get along so well."
"I may be a fidget in bed," Doyle replied haughtily, "but I have other talents that make up for it. In bed, I mean..." He winked lewdly at his lover and smirked.
Bodie's face adopted a prissy expression. "Can't think what you're referring to. Unless it's your talent for filling the bed with your ruddy toast crumbs."
"No," Doyle said, moving to stand behind the other man and rubbing the flat of his hand over one of his arse cheeks. "I'm talking about my talent for filling something else. And how much you like it. The toast crumbs are extra… I'll be charging for them at the end of each month."
Laughing softly Bodie bent to wipe over the kitchen table, his backside nicely presented to Doyle. It was simply too tempting. Doyle pushed him forward and climbed onto the table, straddling his lover's hips. He pulled at the other man's waistband and it gave as if by magic; somehow he'd undone his trousers without Doyle's knowledge. Doyle quickly undid himself and brought out his erection. Parting Bodie's arse cheeks he placed his heat between and closed them over it. He rocked back and forth letting the pleasure of the pressure on his cock wash over him. Fluid dripped from the eye onto the base of Bodie's back. He scooped some of it onto his finger and lifted himself so he was able to insert the digit into the man's anus. Heat enveloped it. And tightness. He wiggled his finger this way and that and beneath him, Bodie started to moan loudly.
Shifting forward slightly, Doyle pushed his other hand into Bodie's hair. The soft waves felt wonderful between his fingers and he gathered them up and pulled roughly. Bodie let out a hoarse groan that sent shivers up Doyle's spine.
Beneath him it was suddenly clear that Bodie was close. Doyle lifted himself slightly so that the man could grasp himself. He watched then as he stroked, once, twice, three times before spurting onto the table, and with each spurt Doyle twisted the finger encased in his arse, causing Bodie to spasm sharply as he did so.
Doyle regarded the milky fluid streaked across the wood as Bodie sank down again onto the table. He reached out and scooped it onto two fingers and, opening the man's cheeks, allowed the fluid to drip off his hand onto his cock and into the crack. He repeated the process until he'd got it all and began again to slide back and forth, this time well lubricated. It took no time at all before the glorious sensation of wet, sticky gliding took him to the edge and beyond and he was liberally pouring his own essence over Bodie's back.
Eventually they both stood on shaky legs. Bodie sat back onto the edge of the table, his limp manhood still on display. Doyle straddled him again and played his spent cock over Bodie's. Bodie put his hand into Doyle's hair and guided his mouth to his own. Warm lips covered and took his and Doyle opened for the man's invasion, their tongues mimicking the playful actions of their cocks.
When they parted, Doyle nipped at Bodie's lip and then at his chin. "Could eat you," Doyle told him.
Bodie snorted. "How long would that take with your appetite?"
"I'd make an exception in your case."
Doyle found himself grabbed and kissed once again, more roughly this time, a hint of possessiveness evident in Bodie's handling of him. It felt good – in fact it felt bloody marvellous – and Doyle felt his cock stirring again in response. "Want this later?" he muttered, running his finger along his semi-erection. Bodie's eyes met his. Within their dark depths Doyle could see raw desire, a universe of need. "Good and hard," Doyle added. "Fuck you till we both pass out, shall I?"
"You know, Ray, there's something I'm glad about," Bodie said quietly.
"What?" Doyle asked, expecting the answer to be about his virility or lack of inhibitions.
"I'm glad that bloody dog can't speak," Bodie replied.
"Oh," Doyle said – and frowned.
A persistent whimpering was invading Doyle's dream. Bodie – ready to come perhaps? He made all kinds of strange little noises when he was at the height of arousal and Doyle had quickly learnt how to elicit such sounds, where he liked to be touched, how he liked to be brought to climax. It thrilled Doyle to know he was capable of exacting such reactions from his lover, that it was his touch and his alone that did this to Bodie, and that Bodie wanted above all others.
He stirred, remembering their love making earlier that night. Not only the erotic and truly satisfying session on the kitchen table but the frantic thrashing of limbs several hours later in bed. He'd made Bodie scream but knew that he too had screamed his release and that they had indeed both passed out from their exertions.
Doyle took a deep satisfying breath and cuddled in to Bodie. The man's arm hugged him closer even though he was plainly asleep. Asleep? How could he be asleep and making that noise? Reluctantly, Doyle forced his eyes open and surfaced.
The darkness was thick enough to be tangible. Too all consuming. Doyle shivered, despite the warmth of the bed and his bedmate, and tried to focus on the noise. It was outside the door. Rascal. He shot bolt upright in bed; Bodie murmured but didn't wake. Casting the bedclothes aside, Doyle swung his legs over the side of the bed and stood up. Still naked after their lovemaking, he groped around for Bodie's dressing gown, which he knew would be somewhere at the bottom of the bed. Shrugging into it he started for the bedroom door.
He could still hear Rascal's unremitting whimpering, but suddenly the dog began to scratch at the door as well. Doyle stopped in his tracks. Something wasn't right here, not right at all. Rascal was not a nervous dog; he would not be up here going frantic just for the sake of it.
Taking a deep breath and grasping the handle of the door, Doyle tentatively opened it. Rascal flew at him. Doyle shushed him, whispering for him to be quiet in case he woke Bodie; the dog continued to whine plaintively. It was no good, he would have to go down and investigate. Taking Rascal to his side of the bed, he told him to lie down and 'stay' with Bodie. The dog did as he was bid and Doyle took a deep breath and braced himself for the ordeal ahead.
Outside on the landing, he listened carefully. Nothing. The house was quiet. And it was dark. Doyle reprimanded himself for his stupidity. It was the middle of the night – what did he expect? Except that this was a different sort of darkness. It seemed to him that if he had a knife, he could cut it; the very air around him seemed to be pressing in on him. Almost suffocating. He briefly thought about waking Bodie but decided against it. This whole thing was ridiculous, he was sure it was nothing and waking Bodie only to have him scoff at Doyle's nighttime imaginings was not a bright idea.
But he would have to make sure, if only for his own peace of mind, that all was undisturbed downstairs. It was all very well for people round here to feel safe enough not to lock their doors at night – things did happen, people were robbed and even, on occasion, murdered in their beds. Possibly not so much in remote regions such as this but nevertheless, Doyle felt he should check.
He crept quietly downstairs and stood in the hallway. Still nothing. Rascal had been asleep in the kitchen, so perhaps something there had frightened him? He opened the door to the left, entered the room and froze. His gaze had gone straight to the window, which looked out on the outhouses, and the first thing he saw was a light. Someone was in one of the sheds.
Rooted to the spot, Doyle stood and watched in fascinated horror, waiting for something to happen. When it didn't, he began to look around for a weapon. Anything. He knew their housekeeper kept a rolling pin big enough to brain a hippopotamus somewhere – and knives. That was it: he should look for a knife. One of the drawers possibly… The first one he tried revealed kitchen linen to his groping hands. The second appeared to be full of table cutlery, which would do at a push but something more damaging was required in his opinion. He yanked at a third and shoved his hands frantically inside; his hand found… a blade. The pain hit him like a bolt of lightening and he gasped. An oath escaped his lips; how could he have been this stupid? He knew there was blood when he made a fist and felt a sticky dampness in the palm of his hand. Damnation.
Sudden noises brought him back to his predicament. The pitter patter of canine paws on the floor in the room above – their bedroom. Rascal. And something else. Footsteps on the stairs. The hollow sound echoed in the hall and seemed to fill the house. The haunting in Bodie's home was happening all over again. Things went from bad to worse. As before, the footsteps were accompanied by another noise: that of something bumping along behind them. To Doyle, it was as though a body was being dragged upstairs and its head was hitting each individual step.
Hardly daring to look, Doyle glanced outside. The outhouse was now in darkness. Whatever was out there was now inside. A cold dread stole over Doyle. He went quickly back to the drawer and, more carefully this time, sought the wooden handle of the knife with his uninjured hand, and removed it.
He felt panic building. What if Bodie woke and found Doyle gone? What if he went to investigate? Upstairs he could hear Rascal moving about still, he would probably be whimpering again. Dear God….
Doyle groped for the kitchen door in the darkness, colliding with the table as he did so. The table they'd made love on only a few short hours ago: it felt like a hundred years. He was cursing again when loud barking rent the air. Then a voice. Bodie. Doyle rushed at the kitchen door in desperation. Two doors opened simultaneously and all hell was let loose. Rascal was on the stairs growling, barking, growling again. Doyle met him halfway, shouting at Bodie to stay in the bedroom, he'd deal with this, he'd got a knife…
Rascal swept past him and Doyle landed on the stairs in a heap. Suddenly there was light and Bodie was leaning over the banisters, candle in hand, staring at him in horror. "What the hell is going on?" he said, glaring down at Doyle.
Doyle looked around. Nothing. Everything was quiet. Rascal had run into the kitchen and was now in the hall again, looking every bit as mystified as Doyle felt.
Bodie was coming quickly down the stairs towards him. "You all right?" he asked. "You're bleeding. How did that happen?"
"Came down to see what was upsetting Rascal," Doyle told him. "Saw a light in the shed, went to get a knife and cut myself groping for it. By the time I'd finished falling over the table, he was in the house."
Doyle blinked. Good question. "I don't know," he said. "Your ghost, I think."
Bodie shook his head in what looked suspiciously like disgust to Doyle.
"What?" Doyle asked.
"Just a bit surprised that you, being what you are, thought a knife was the best way to deal with a member of the spirit world, Ray. Come on, you're bleeding all over the place. Let's get you cleaned up."
Doyle felt stupid. There was no other word for it. He let Bodie attend to him while he thought about it. Eventually he spoke. "I suppose I didn't realise at first that a light in the outhouse meant your ghost was back."
"I suppose that's fair enough," Bodie admitted. "But why didn't you take Rascal down with you?"
"I think I left him there to look after you. I don't know – I stopped thinking rationally, I suppose."
Bodie shrugged. "Happens."
"It didn't occur to me that a knife would be completely useless. All I could think of was you up there and what would happen if you came out of the bedroom while that thing was on the loose.
Bodie looked up then and ruffled Doyle's hair. "Well, now we know – absolutely nothing. I've often wondered. The whole thing is so menacing when it happens that it's never occurred to me it would all evaporate if I just went out onto the landing and interrupted."
"I should have known."
"Supposed to be an expert, aren't I?"
Bodie smiled. "It is slightly different though."
Doyle frowned. "How?"
"Well, for a start, there's a whole world of difference between sitting in a cosy pub listening to some old codger spinning yarns and actually experiencing something of the sort yourself. Then there's the added complication of being emotionally attached to someone you think might be in danger. Put those two things together and thinking straight becomes unlikely to the point of impossible."
Doyle stared at the top of Bodie's head as the man studiously wrapped a bandage around his damaged hand. He was right of course; his overwhelming concern had been for Bodie. Had anything happened to him, Doyle had no idea how he would have reacted. He considered, for a moment, life without him and the pain was so raw, it outstripped the pain in his hand utterly.
"You're quiet." Bodie's voice cut through his desperate thoughts.
"I'd have to eat all her food."
The bandaging finished, Bodie looked up to meet Doyle's gaze. "What?"
"If you weren't here."
"But I am here." Bodie frowned at him. "Ray, did you bump your head or something?"
Doyle shook his head and smiled. "No."
"Good. So, take that soppy look off your face and come back to bed. I've had enough of ghosts for one night. We'll think about this in the morning."
"You want to?"
"Think about what goes on here, I mean. You've always shied away from the subject in the past."
Bodie held his gaze, his dark eyes intense. "Got to keep you happy, haven't I?"
Doyle shrugged. "I am happy. Deliriously so, as a matter of fact."
"You can never have too much happiness," Bodie declared. "Always room for more."
Mrs Trembath's face was the colour of her freshly laundered sheets on washday. She was seated at the kitchen table while Bodie was making her a cup of sweet tea; Doyle was holding on to her hand. "I'm fine," he was saying. "So's Bodie. There's no need for you to concern yourself. Nothing's going to happen to us."
She gave him a look that most decidedly questioned his sanity. Accustomed to such looks – he'd been on the receiving end of them all his life – Doyle smiled reassuringly. The housekeeper turned to Bodie as he delivered the tea and seated himself beside them.
"I 'ad a cousin like 'im," she said, inclining her head towards Doyle.
Bodie frowned. "Had?"
The housekeeper nodded. "We didn't know if he was proper mazed or just dafter than a brush. Liked doing ridiculous things just so's he could say he'd done 'em."
"Why's that like me?" Doyle asked.
"Cuz he was always tellin' us no 'arm would come to 'im, too. I don't recall 'im ever fallin' into a fugou though…"
Doyle coloured. "I didn't actually mean to do that," he said, recalling the night he and Bodie had spent in a prehistoric man-made cave. "An accident."
Her look told him it was her considered opinion that if he hadn't been there in the first place it wouldn't have happened.
"I take it," Bodie said, "that some harm did in fact come to Cousin er…"
"Albert," she supplied. "Mmm. He never come back, one day, after tellin' Aunt Maudie he was goin' to Plymouth."
The two men exchanged confused glances. "Plymouth?" Doyle said, puzzled. "What's wrong with Plymouth?"
She looked sharply at him. "No good never come of anyone who went to Plymouth. Parson Pengelly from over Zennor was dead a fortnight after he came 'ome from there. Miss Barratt, the doctor's maiden sister – poor soul, tain't 'er fault she took after her father – went there to visit her brother and was never the same again. They say she took fright when the family dog started to get a bit friendly like…" She trailed off and Doyle covered his mouth with his bandaged hand lest she spot his grin. "Course, she was always proper nervy. The family protected her on account of her being a bit 'omely. 'Everyone can't be swans', Mother used to say, 'some of us gotta be geese'."
Doyle glanced at Bodie's face. A flicker of the man's eyes told him Bodie was concentrating very hard on not looking his way.
"And then of course there was Annie Hodge's maid, Kathleen, her only daughter midst seven lolloping great sons. Sent her off to Plymouth they did, to take up service in a big 'ouse owned by someone high up on the railways. Proper proud they was. Only when she come back, she wasn't a 'maid' no more, if you gets my drift? Lucky she was that young. Bobby Trevaskas was never what you might call the brightest star in the firmament and took her anyway. Lot wouldn't have."
"I've been to Plymouth," Doyle observed matter of factly.
The housekeeper's eyes slid sideways at him before looking away. "Well, there you are then," she said as though that explained the mystery of Raymond Doyle rather neatly.
"Quite nice if you don't mind drunken sailors all over the place," he added.
Bodie grinned. "You didn't come across Cousin Albert while you were there?"
"No, he went to America," Mrs Trembath interjected.
"Oh. So, he wasn't dead?" Doyle felt confused; not an unusual state when dealing with the opinionated housekeeper. "I thought you meant he'd died."
"Might as well 'ave." The woman's opinion of any Cornish person who chose to live somewhere other than Cornwall was well documented. "'Merica's worse than Plymouth, they do say."
Doyle felt he needed the whole conversation repeated and then carefully explained to him. As that clearly was not about happen he settled for another stab at reassuring her that he and Bodie had not knocked on Death's door last night, and only escaped by the skin of their teeth. He squeezed her hand. "What happened to me last night was my own silly fault," he told her. "I wasn't thinking. Running round the house like a maniac trying to stab a… a… well…"
"Ghost," the woman supplied.
"Takes all sorts," Bodie observed. "I know one chap who thinks we'll all be flying round in the air one day. Says they're on the verge of powered flight."
"Dear God in heaven." Mrs. Trembath paled.
To Doyle it seemed like not an unexciting prospect but he kept his opinions to himself for once. "The thing is," he said, " what's going on here? We've got what sounds like an individual, a man we'll assume, dragging a body up the stairs. I just discovered that it all starts in the outhouse and the last time it happened, we heard it opening a door that wasn't there on the upstairs landing. I mean, generally speaking, this kind of haunting tends to indicate something traumatic happening in a house at some stage in its history. How old is this house?"
"Couple of hundred years," Bodie replied. "The locals tell me it used to be owned by the Pendarvis family, until about a hundred years ago when the whole family cleared out or died out. No one seems to know. Of course we don't actually know that this has anything to do with them, do we?"
"Oh, them was a rum lot," Mrs. Trembath pointed out. "Involved in all kinds of mischief, they do say. Ten to a dozen they're mixed up in this somehow. I should say 'twas your best bet to find out about them first."
So Bodie had known something. Doyle reflected on his innate ability to annoy some people to the point where they denied any knowledge of the information he was seeking. He let it slide. So, Bodie hadn't wanted to tell him all those months ago when he'd first asked: Doyle knew he had his reasons for keeping it to himself. He was aware that the man suffered from no small amount of insecurity when it came to himself, afraid that what was keeping Doyle here, with him was his interest in the haunting in Bodie's house, not his love of Bodie. Presumably the man now felt more secure in that love, helped perhaps by the fact that Doyle had not, since recovering from his accident, made any attempt at instigating an investigation. Doyle knew he suffered from a surfeit of enthusiasm, but stupid he was not. Bodie was his future, the one person in the world he now lived for. To jeopardise that would be foolhardy in the extreme. He'd decided, instead, to be patient. It was a state of being he was not exactly used to but he'd discovered that it was, as they said, a virtue. And that it paid off. Not only had they established a strong and binding personal relationship, Bodie it seemed, was now prepared to countenance looking into this phenomenon. "How can we find out?" he ventured.
"I don't think we can." Rascal had suddenly appeared and Bodie was caressing the dog's ears. He looked up and met Doyle's gaze. Doyle knew instinctively that this was a test. If he pushed too hard, the man would suspect him of lying in wait for this moment and retreat.
Doyle smiled at him. "Oh, well, never mind. We should take Rascal out for a good walk. Blow the cobwebs away. Why don't we walk over the cliffs to Sennen?"
He saw confusion flicker over the other man's face and looked away quickly in case his own thoughts might be as obvious to anyone looking hard enough.
"Granny Trembath always used to say they moved to Marazion," Mrs Trembath said suddenly. "How she knew that, 'eaven knows, but she seemed quite certain of it."
"You never told me that," Bodie said, frowning.
"No, well, I didn't want you goin' off on some wild goose chase… her memory wasn't too good towards the end and she got things mixed up. Might be worth investigatin' though."
Bodie looked at Doyle. "What do you think?"
Forcing himself not to sound too keen, Doyle nodded. "Fine by me. Why don't we ride over in a couple of days? No rush. Perhaps Mrs. Trembath could keep an eye on Rascal for us?"
The housekeeper nodded her agreement. "I ain't takin' him out for no walk though! You'll have to do that before you go. Decent folk don't go gallivanting all over the cliffs day and night."
Doyle wondered whether that implied Bodie and he were somewhat indecent. Considering what they did up there sometimes, he decided it was definitely so.
"And if you'm going all the way to Marazion," she added, "you can drop in on my 'usband's cousin, Mary. She's all alone these days and a visit from two good lookin' men, as she would call 'ee, would do 'er the power of good. And she do know everyone in Marazion, she might know something that'd interest 'ee. I'll drop 'er a note in the post."
"Good," Doyle said, "that's settled then. Shall we go and gallivant all over the cliffs, Bodie?"
Mrs. Trembath regarded them both disapprovingly and left them to get on with her work.
Doyle sidled up to Bodie. "We could even," he suggested, quietly, "be indecent up there. If you like…."
Rascal was reliving his youth it seemed, dashing here there and everywhere and barking at anything that moved. The breeze was brisk and there was rain in the air. It all made for a bracing day and a choppy sea, the sort of day that Doyle liked the best in this most remote part of the country.
An important landmark was approaching. Sometimes it passed unremarked – most times, in fact – as they were often too engrossed in talking or looking at the scenery to notice. Today, Doyle found himself taken by the arm and guided into the space behind the outcrop of rock where he had had his first experience of Bodie actually inside him. It had not been planned. One thing had led to another, as it often did with them, and the next thing Doyle had known, Bodie's cock was pushing into him. He couldn't pretend it hadn't hurt – at first. But the sheer exhilaration of having the man he was in love with enter his body had overridden the pain until it had ceased and he'd been carried away on a wave of ecstasy so violent he'd passed out.
Doyle smiled as Bodie pulled him into his arms.
Bodie traced a finger along Doyle's jaw line. "Remember what we did here for the first time?"
"Yeah, I've been partially deaf ever since. All that yelling and screaming."
"Yours or mine?"
Doyle chuckled. "Both." He undid one of Bodie's shirt buttons and slid his hand inside. Locating a vulnerable nipple, he tweaked it hard and the other man gasped.
"Oi," Bodie said indignantly. "I didn't drag you in here to get myself molested!"
"Oh? And what did your pure and innocent head have in mind, a recitation of The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner? A stirring rendition of Jerusalem? We could try a duet but I'll warn you, in class singing lessons, I was told to mime the words and not let a single sound escape my lips. I shouldn't think my voice has improved much with age."
Bodie regarded him steadily and for once Doyle had no idea what was going on behind those dark eyes. "That was a joke," he said.
The man continued to look at him, intently, and Doyle found himself becoming oddly discomfited. Then Bodie's hand cupped his face and he was being kissed. A 'Bodie special'. Not overtly sexual or passionate just… beautiful. The man's lips moved softly over his, Doyle opened for him and Bodie slipped his tongue in – and out again – once. That was all. Nothing more. Their eyes locked and Doyle understood the trite phrase, 'time stood still'.
"You love me." Bodie's words were not a question.
Doyle stared at him. "Have you not understood that before now?"
Bodie seemed to consider. "Yes. But not to what extent."
"What do you mean?"
"I mean that you being you – patient, undemanding, Raymond Doyle," he twisted his lips ironically as he said the words, "must have been dying to start looking into what was going on in my house and yet you've not said a word until now. Why? How have you managed it? Unless -"
"I love you so much I can't stand the thought of losing you by pushing you too hard on it," Doyle finished for him.
"And is that the case?" Bodie asked.
Doyle nodded slowly. "Of course."
A smile was the only answer he got before he was enfolded in Bodie's arms and their kissing went from beautiful, to demanding, to passionate. No clothes were shed but they came anyway, pressing their bodies together in a fury of possessiveness that shook Doyle in its intensity.
As they rested, slumped against the rock, Bodie whispered, "It's the same for me, you know."
Doyle nodded silently. He did know. Had always known it.
In all his days Doyle had never seen anything like St. Michael's Mount. He'd seen it from a distance, of course, every time he and Bodie had occasion to go to Penzance. But up close it was a stunning natural feature, its tree-covered slopes topped by a majestic castle built on the site of an ancient priory. Once upon a time it had been part of the land they said, but sea levels had risen and now it was only connected by a causeway to the village of Marazion, and accessible only at low tide.
"Have you ever been over?" Doyle asked Bodie.
Bodie, staring out to sea at a distant flock of seabirds, lowered his binoculars. "Yes. But you can only go up to the castle by appointment and then it's one hell of a climb to the top. Good view from there, though, can see half of Cornwall on a clear day."
"Strange happenings?" Bodie finished for him.
"How did you know I was going to say that? I might have been going to say fusty old portraits on the walls or cracking good reads in the library or -"
"Yes and Mrs. Trembath might have a sudden fancy to visit her sister in St. Ives on my bicycle. Taking Rascal with her of course…."
Unaccountably nettled, Doyle sniffed haughtily and looked away deciding to treat the man to a little of the silent treatment. He looked around at the activity on the beach. All along the several mile-stretch of sands from here to Penzance, men with horses and carts were filling the carts with seaweed to sell to local farmers. It earned them extra income he'd been told; many had other jobs, which didn't pay enough to keep large families and the extra money was the difference between living and starving.
"There's a strange bed," Bodie said, interrupting his thoughts.
Doyle's sulk remained intact but didn't preclude a little verbal sparring. "Flying through the air?" he said caustically. "I've heard of bed-bugs but I always thought they bit you on the arse, didn't know they indulged in aerial manoeuvres off the Cornish coast on a regular basis. Have you been in touch with the Museum of Natural History?"
"Mmm," Bodie responded vaguely, "but they didn't think you were weird enough warrant a paper. I'm busy collecting more evidence…"
"Sarcasm is the lowest form of wit," Doyle observed loftily. "Should be beneath you."
Bodie lowered his binoculars again but continued staring out to sea. "As a matter of fact, Raymond, given the choice, I prefer you beneath me but this is probably not the place to discuss that, and anyway, I'm hungry. Come on, let's go and find a local hostelry before I expire."
Doyle was manfully attempting to remove the pastry crust of a Cornish pasty that stretched from one end of his plate to the other and actually hung over both ends. At last, the inch thick, crimped edge of the thing was separated from the main and he picked it up and waggled it at Bodie. "How are you supposed to eat this?" he demanded.
Bodie regarded him long-sufferingly. "The miners don't and neither should you, if you don't want to. They use that bit to hold it with, eat the middle and then throw the crust away because of their dirty hands. Mrs. Trembath soaks it in her tea to soften it… then eats it."
Doyle's eyebrows shot skyward. "And what do you do?"
Breaking off a large chunk of the thick pastry, Bodie popped it into his mouth and smirked at him. Doyle watched the man's overfull mouth chomp on the food. "You're disgusting," he said at last. He looked at the pastry in his hand and then pushed it on to Bodie's plate: Bodie's eyes lit up.
A change of subject was definitely in order. "So, tell me about this bed." He took a long drink from his pint and waited while the pastry was disposed of.
"It's in one of the bedrooms in the castle," Bodie told him.
"How did you get to see it, then?"
"Well, the housekeeper was taking me round. And um… well, she got called away. Told the parlour maid to show me the view from the upstairs landing."
Bodie was smirking and Doyle wanted to know why. "And?" he prompted.
"She um… sort of ushered me into this bedroom. With that look on her face. You know…"
"No, what do you mean?"
Bodie rolled his eyes. "Use your imagination."
Doyle did and the shock took his breath away. "Oh," he said, stunned. "Well, what then?"
"Well, there was this bed. And this girl was asking if I wanted to kiss her. So, I said, 'The housekeeper will catch us.' And she said, 'No, she won't, she's down in the kitchen'. Next thing I know she's sucking on my mouth like a limpet and she's pulled us onto the bed."
A strange feeling stole over Doyle. He recognised it immediately: jealousy. The story was ludicrous and none of it had anything to do with him, having happened before they'd even met. But still, the thought of Bodie on a bed with someone other than himself, kissing, or even being kissed against his will, was acutely painful. He didn't really want to know and yet nothing in the world could have stopped him from asking, "So, what happened?"
"It was horrible."
"What? Her or the bed?"
"Both. Talk about a 'strumpet'. Hands everywhere and I mean everywhere. Grabbing my hand and shoving it up her skirt. Me trying to push her off. Then something odd happened."
Bodie frowned. "Hard to describe. It went very cold. And I mean freezing. The hairs stood up on the back of my neck and I couldn't stay on the bed, had to get up. I managed to get free of the maid and got to my feet. She sat there asking me what sort of man I was. I must be unnatural if I didn't want what she'd got. Well, she had that right at any rate. Then I noticed the bedstead. It was decorated with carvings of figureheads of ships. I felt something akin to cold fingers running down my spine. Couldn't breathe. The girl grinned maliciously at me and said the bed was meant to be haunted. Children couldn't sleep in it and people reported a strange atmosphere about the thing. I turned around then and walked straight out of the room. The housekeeper was just coming up the stairs so I was saved any more of the maid's advances. She flounced off back to her work and the tour continued. It was the only time I felt anything anywhere in the castle."
Doyle took a moment to digest what he'd just been told. Truth to tell he was experiencing rather a conflict of interests. The bed story was fascinating, but part of him desperately wanted to be sure that Bodie had not enjoyed the maid's attentions. He was sure it was possible to be the sort of man who liked both men and women. He'd heard stories….
Bodie was watching him, waiting for some kind of reaction, he supposed. The man suddenly leaned forward, locking eyes with Doyle. "I just want you," he said quietly.
"Some men -" Doyle began tentatively.
"Not me," Bodie cut in. "Understand?"
Doyle nodded wordlessly and swallowed hard. Where Bodie was concerned he was incredibly vulnerable. He prayed the man would never choose to take advantage of that fact. "The bed," he said, "um…"
"Yes, I wouldn't mind either," Bodie said under his breath. "One or two bits of me needing some of your very special attention. It'll have to wait until we get home. We've got to visit Mrs. Trembath's cousin first. She reckoned she knew everyone in the village and was well up on its history. Thought we might get some information out of her about the Pendarvises."
Doyle rested his head on his hand and regarded Bodie, wordlessly.
"You're wearing that soppy look again," Bodie pointed out.
"Only when I look at you," Doyle told him.
Bodie smiled. "Trouble is everyone else can see it."
"Do you know what?" said Doyle. "I don't bloody care."
"Is this it?" Doyle asked.
The row of houses ran at right angles from the sea wall, beyond which was the beach on the eastern side of The Mount. The view was stunning but Doyle wondered how often these places ended up with the sea in their front rooms. Only once in a blue moon perhaps but even once was too often.
"I think so," Bodie was saying. "Mrs. Trembath said it was the end house, number ten. Hopefully, she'll be expecting us."
They knocked on the door and waited a few moments until footsteps could be heard from inside. The door opened and a woman stood there smiling. Doyle had been expecting a frail old lady and the woman was indeed of mature years, but frail was not a description that fitted. Not even remotely. Mary Davey was a lady of large proportions, florid complexion and, judging by the delighted grin on her face, a large heart.
Doyle looked at across at Bodie and found his own thoughts echoed in the man's expression. Bodie was staring at her open-mouthed and speechless. Doyle decided it was time someone gathered his wits. He stepped forward. "Hello, Mrs. Davey. I think you're expecting us. I'm Raymond Doyle, this is Bodie."
The woman beamed. "Well, of course you are! I'm sorry for staring, only you're not quite what Janie led me to expect."
Doyle knew the feeling. He smiled. "Well, I hope we're not too much of a disappointment, eh, Bodie?"
Bodie appeared to shake himself mentally. "No, it's nice to meet you," he said and held out his hand.
Mrs. Davey totally ignored it and Doyle watched as his lover was engulfed in huge bear hug. Belatedly, he realised that he too would be receiving the same treatment and the breath was sucked out of him as she swept him into her arms.
Releasing Doyle at last she smiled at them both again. "Well, come inside, come inside. No good ever came of loitering on the doorstep. Milly should have let you in but she's busy in the kitchen."
She led them in through the hall to the front parlour. A fire had been lit despite the time of year and the room was welcoming. Doyle looked around. This was what was described as genteel. The Marazion side of Mr. Trembath's family had obviously done better for itself than the St. Just lot. He didn't imagine there was a lot of money here but there was enough for this widow to be comfortable in her old age.
"Well, this is wonderful," Mrs. Davey smiled, "real men in the parlour! I can't remember when I last had such handsome young men visiting me. Janie said her 'bachelor employer and his friend'. She never said two good-looking men. I was expecting baldheads and tweeds. Such a surprise! Milly will bring some tea in a minute, and cake of course. I'm sure you can eat a slice of Cook's saffron cake."
She was one of these women for whom silence was a black hole that had to be filled. Doyle could see she was delighted to meet them but was glad they were visiting for an hour and not staying for a number of days.
"This is nice," Bodie observed, looking around. "A lovely outlook."
The view across to The Mount was indeed stunning.
"Oh, yes, I couldn't imagine ever living anywhere else," she agreed. "I was left a widow ten years ago. Mr. Davey worked for a firm of solicitors and did very well for himself. Self taught. He was determined that we wouldn't be poor in our old age but sadly he never lived to see his. He was fifty-five when he died, the influenza you know. Very tragic. I wept for weeks. Still, life must go on, our loved ones wouldn't want us moping forever, would they? And here I am now with two handsome young men in my parlour. My cup runneth over. Ah, Milly…"
The door opened and the maid entered bearing a fully laden tea tray. Bodie stood to take it from her and the girl blushed, blue eyes assessing him and clearly not finding him wanting in any respect, Doyle observed. Bodie sat down again and the maid proceeded to pour the tea.
"Milly and I are quite comfortable here together, aren't we, Milly?" Mary smiled at the girl and the girl nodded and smiled back. "We have our cook, Mrs. Rodda, who only lives across the way, so we want for nothing."
The maid handed Bodie his cup first and Doyle watched intently. Her eyes searched for Bodie's but found no spark of response to her questing. Bodie was not interested and Doyle relaxed. This was silly. There was no need for him to be this fearful. Bodie loved him and him alone, why did he feel the need to be continually checking the man's reactions to anyone remotely attractive?
Bodie was deliberating over a slice of cake and Doyle looked purposely away towards Mary Davey. Their eyes met and Doyle received a shock. She was watching him as closely as he'd been watching Bodie and the maid. But not unkindly. It seemed to him there was no hint of malice or guile evident in her expression, just… curiosity.
She smiled. "To tell the truth," she said to Doyle, "I don't know what I'd do without Milly. I'd be lost. I think you know what that feels like, Mr. Doyle."
Doyle blinked. He glanced across at Bodie again. The decision was a difficult one, it seemed, as there were several varieties of cake on offer and much hilarity ensued as Bodie procrastinated. Doyle turned back to Mrs. Davey. She knew, but there was sympathy there, he could see it. Was Bodie right? Could others see the affection in his eyes? And the fear…?
"My late husband," Mrs. Davey said to Doyle, very quietly, "liked people and people liked him. I worried sometimes, after all there are so many pretty faces around, aren't there? But it was all for nothing – he loved me, you see. People were always telling me so, and deep down I knew it was true."
"What was true?" Bodie interjected. Milly had placed Doyle's tea beside him and was offering him the plate of cake; he shook his head. "He doesn't eat," Bodie said, "one of life's pickers."
Mrs. Davey grinned wickedly. "Well, we'll eat his share then, won't we?" And she helped herself to a slice of saffron and a slice of chocolate cake.
The maid left and they were quiet until Bodie spoke. "So, what was true?"
Doyle saw Mrs. Davey's eyes glance sideways at him before she answered. He felt his insides squirm. What would she say? "About my husband," she said eventually. "How much people liked him. He had an easy boyish charm about him that people were attracted to. Those of us who haven't got it, envy it, don't we? Always trying too hard to please. While those that do have it just have to smile and people come flocking. God's will, I suppose, that some of us have to strive harder. Have some more cake, Mr. Bodie."
Realising he'd been holding his breath, Doyle let it go. He remembered a conversation he'd had with a farmer once. He'd been staying at the man's farm in Dorset for several nights, on one of his book research trips. The farmer and his wife had four sons, strapping lads all of them, between the ages of fifteen and twenty-two. The three eldest were girl mad, and the farmer laughed and joked, regaling antics which had been relayed to him via neighbours and friends. Always the curious one, Doyle had asked about the younger son, having spotted a difference in him, which he hadn't been able to put his finger on. The farmer had gone quiet. His eyes had softened and he smiled. "The wife's favourite," he'd said. "Some of us ain't born to be married, you know, Mr. Doyle. There are those who think some of nature's ways are sinful. God fearin' folk I 'spose they think themselves. But most people, I'm sure you'd be surprised to know, don't worry themselves much over other people's peculiarities. Oh, they might gossip a bit, but in the main it don't concern them overly. That lad of mine will never be a lady's man and that's a fact. But the wife and me do love him dearly all the same."
The speech had brought a hard lump to Doyle's throat, not least because he knew he was being told that, though the farmer might not realise it, his son was like himself. He thought the farmer's acceptance of his son's non-conformity had to be rare but the farmer seemed to be indicating that this was not the case. Could this explain Mrs. Trembath's apparent tolerance? And the woman sitting opposite him? She'd spotted something immediately but was not ordering them from her house in moral outrage. It made no sense. Doyle realised he would have to think about it some more.
Bodie and Mrs. Davey were discussing the various merits of chocolate cake. Should cocoa powder or real chocolate be used? Both were expensive and that meant the cake was a real treat when it was made. It occurred to Doyle that the woman had gone to no small trouble for her guests and that they should make the effort to come again if she was so pleased to have male visitors, whatever their sexual preferences.
Doyle looked up sharply. "What?"
"He daydreams too, Mrs. Davey. Away with the fairies he is, half the time."
Bodie was laughing and Doyle smiled ruefully. "Sorry, miles away."
"In a way, that's why we're here," Bodie added. Mrs. Davey put down her cup and gave him her full attention. "He investigates weird happenings, ghosts, hauntings, that sort of thing."
The woman frowned at him. "Well, I can't say as we have a ghost here that I can tell you about, I'm afraid…"
"No," Doyle interjected, "that's not why we're here. Bodie's got one in his house and it's a strong, malevolent spirit or I wouldn't be able to hear it. I'm not as sensitive as he is, you see. Not by a long chalk. But I've heard this and believe you me the experience was no Sunday afternoon picnic."
"Goodness me!" Mrs. Davey paled. "But I still don't see where I come in?"
"The thing is," Bodie said, "Mrs. Trembath said that the family that owned my house, years ago, was called Pendarvis. They disappeared about a hundred years ago but she had an inkling they might have moved here to Marazion. We wondered if you might know of anyone with that name in the village? We sort of thought we might be able to track them down to see if any stories had been handed down through the years. It's a while ago, I know, but it would only have been your grandmother's generation so you never know…"
Mrs. Davey appeared to be considering things for a minute. "Pendarvis," she said eventually. "Not in Marazion. I know everyone in the village, either to speak to or by sight and I don't know anyone by that name."
Doyle felt a surge of disappointment wash over him. "That's a shame."
"Of, course," she added, "it could be that the original name has died out. Perhaps there were only daughters and of course they take their husbands' names."
"Could even be that there were no children and the name died out that way," Bodie added.
"Well, you've got yourself a mystery and no mistake. You want to speak to Parson," Mrs. Davey advised, "he holds the parish records back to those days. He'd be able to tell you who lived in the village then. I wish I could be more help."
Bodie smiled. "The chocolate cake and your hospitality has more than made up for it, Mrs. Davey."
The woman beamed at the two men. "I hope you'll come again. We live quietly here. A few friends from church visit but it's such a pleasure to see young faces and hear young talk." She stopped suddenly and rubbed at her wrist.
Doyle saw that she favoured a lot of jewellery and amongst sundry necklaces, rings and brooches she was also wearing a silver bracelet. He watched as she removed it from her wrist and put it on the table beside her.
"Can I see?" he said, and reached over to pick it up. The bracelet seemed to be engraved with little hearts and was a particularly delicate piece of jewellery. "It's a pretty thing," he observed.
"It is and I love it," Mrs. Davey agreed, "but you know, I can't wear it for more than an hour or two."
"Why?" Doyle asked.
The woman shook her head as though puzzled. "I don't know. It's as though it's suddenly burning my wrist. It was my grandma's. It's been passed down the female line. Mother never mentioned anything odd about it but it certainly affects me in a strange way."
Doyle examined the bracelet again. To all intents and purposes it seemed a perfectly ordinary thing, but clearly it was not.
"Can I see it?" Bodie asked, holding out his hand.
Doyle handed it over. Bodie's reaction was almost instantaneous. The bracelet landed in his palm, he grasped it, yelped loudly, and threw the thing to the floor. Holding his hand close to his body, his eyes were watering with the pain.
Appalled, Doyle was on his knees in front of Bodie immediately. "Are you all right? Let me see."
Bodie gave his clenched fist to Doyle who slowly, finger by finger, opened it up. There was nothing to be seen.
"I was burnt!" Bodie exclaimed. "I felt it."
"Does it still hurt?" Doyle asked.
"It's fading away. As though…" Bodie's eyes met Doyle's.
"Nothing happened…" Bodie trailed off.
Doyle turned to Mrs. Davey. "You've never actually been burnt by it? Just felt as though you have?"
The woman nodded. "It's a queer thing and no mistake. I should get rid of it, I suppose but it has sentimental value and is such a lovely piece."
Doyle picked it up and clutched it firmly in his hand. Nothing. "It doesn't affect everyone," he said. "I'm fine. Your mother clearly was too or she would have said something, wouldn't she?"
Mrs. Davey nodded. "Nothing went unnoticed with Mother. She commented on every single thing. If it was peculiar she would have told me."
He handed the bracelet to her. "Strange. Are you all right?" he asked Bodie.
Bodie nodded. "It's stopped, just liked that. No accounting for it."
"I think we need some more tea and cake," Mrs. Davey suggested, smiling at them. "Chocolate cake heals all ills…."
They turned into the yard of Bodie's house as afternoon began to turn into evening. Doyle was tired. The long climb from Penzance had taken its toll and he could see that Bodie was also looking weary. For once Doyle was thinking about food, and hot tea in a warm kitchen, and Bodie, on the settee by the fire, when they were at last alone.
The two men parked their cycles in one of the outhouses. Doyle caught Bodie by the arm and pulled him close. He nuzzled his jaw line gently with his nose, pulled on the man's earlobe with his teeth and then pushed his tongue into his ear.
Bodie closed his eyes and his breathing became heavy. "God, Ray, we can't do this until later but you've no bloody idea how much I want to."
"Oh, but I have," Doyle whispered, and taking Bodie's hand, he led it to his crotch.
Bodie laughed suggestively. "Taken to keeping a rolling pin in your pocket, have you?"
Doyle moved in closer, using Bodie's hand to arouse himself further. He lifted his mouth for a kiss and Bodie obliged, raking his mouth possessively over Doyle's in a way that made Doyle's blood sing.
It was the barking outside, which finally drew them apart. Rascal. Doyle closed his eyes and attempted to restore his equilibrium, pulling himself back from the brink of a black hole of need that he'd been on the verge of tumbling into. He rubbed his eyes and shook his head to clear it.
"I don't know what you do to me, you know," Bodie, clearly in the same state as himself, said, "I think sometimes I should just spend all day, every day, in bed with you. That bit of me that's so bloody rampant, permanently inside one of your orifices. Save a lot of bother and a lot of hankering, wouldn't it?"
Doyle smiled. "Well, I'd be the last one to argue with a plan like that. But it'll ease off this, won't it? This constant wanting."
Bodie shrugged. "Not showing any signs of it, is it?"
Doyle was forced to agree: it wasn't. "Come on," he said, "let's see what's for dinner, I'm hungry."
"What?" Bodie's jaw dropped. "Did you say hungry? I think I feel a swoon coming on…"
"Have you been a good boy today, Rascal? Eh?" Doyle was sitting on the floor, leaning against a cupboard, being given a thoroughly good wash by the dog. His tongue covered every inch of his face and arms and Doyle merely sat and let him do what he had to do.
"I dunno 'ow you can let 'im do that to you," Mrs. Trembath declared as she cleaned fish at the sink. "Tis 'orrible."
Bodie wrapped the cleanings from the fish in newspaper and disposed of them. "I told you," he said to her, "dumb animals understand each other. It's telepathy with those two."
"As a matter of fact, dogs understand a lot more than we give them credit for," Doyle cut in. "He knew something was going to happen the other night, before we did."
Mrs. Trembath turned to look from one to the other. "And this mornin' he wouldn't go in the shed. Not the one where you keeps they infernal machines but the one where I does the washing. Had a few things I wanted to put through the mangle and do you think he would come inside? We had a heavy shower or two and he stood out there in the rain growlin' rather than come in outa the wet!"
"Is that where you saw the light that night?" Bodie asked Doyle.
Doyle nodded his head. "Yes. Strikes me something awful must have happened in there. If there was a murder, I wonder if that's where the deed was done?"
The housekeeper shuddered. "I'm thinking that p'rhaps you shouldn't meddle in things we don't understand. I reckon Parson would come and say a word or two if you asked 'im. They say that do sometimes 'elp."
Both men were quiet for moment. Then Bodie spoke. "Later perhaps, Mrs. Trembath. But… I don't know… seems to me that if someone was killed, we should at least try to find out what happened. For the sake of their memory. We may not be able to discover anything at all, but we should try."
From his vantage-point on the floor, with Rascal now stretched across his lap, Doyle regarded the man he adored. He'd loved him since he'd first set eyes on him in the library those few shorts months ago. But, compared to how he felt about him today, what he'd felt then was as nothing. The seed that had been planted back then had blossomed into a love that filled his every waking moment. Practically all he ever thought about was Bodie. Sometimes he wondered how he'd cope without him should something happen and they were parted; he found himself staring into an abyss so hellish, it made him feel physically sick.
"Well, just you be careful," Mrs. Trembath told them. "You'm dealing with forces none of us do understand."
She went back to preparing their meal then. Bodie looked down at Doyle and winked. Doyle mouthed three words - 'I love you' - and watched as Bodie coloured, smiling gently. Still gazing up at him, Doyle mouthed one more word. 'Forever'.
Rascal was fast asleep in front of the fire. It hadn't taken him long to find the best place to lie in the evenings – not that Doyle was complaining, he had a pretty comfortable position himself. He and Bodie were stretched out on the settee with only the fire and a dimmed oil lamp lighting the room. Romantic he supposed it was, though their love making earlier had been more than a little frantic. Desperate after waiting all day, they had not even stripped. Doyle's shirt and trousers were open to his groin and he lay partly on top of Bodie, his limp member nestling against his lover's. Bodie's clothes were in similar state of disarray and one hand was ensconced in the back of Doyle's trousers cupping one buttock. Every now and then the hand stroked and squeezed and frisson of excitement scuttled round Doyle's nerve endings causing him to squirm.
They'd slept for nearly an hour after their coupling and now lay quietly content, staring into the fire.
There was something Doyle wanted to say. He breathed deeply and tried to snuggle even closer in to Bodie.
"I don't think you can get much closer." Bodie laughed quietly.
"No? Let's see, shall we?" Doyle covered his finger in saliva and rubbed it lazily over Bodie's nipple. Bodie breathed in sharply as Doyle spread the moisture around, pinching the taut flesh as he did so. He looked up at Bodie under drooping eyelids and watched as the man moistened a finger thoroughly, slipped his hand inside Doyle's trousers and slid it into his crack. Doyle, already semi- erect, immediately became very hard.
"This is like heaven, being here with you," Doyle said, his voice husky now, with arousal. "If I'm jealous sometimes, it's because I'm so scared of losing you."
"And I was afraid you only wanted me for my ghostly apparitions," Bodie admitted. "Bloody fools. Lift your head."
Doyle did as he was bid and gasped as his lover's tongue swept over his neck; a nip on soft flesh made him groan "Why, 'Bloody fools?'" he muttered, thickly. A finger was sliding into his arsehole, which meant the time for lucid discussion was rapidly passing.
"Well, Christ, just look at the way it with us, Ray -"
Doyle cut him off by covering his mouth with his own. He then climbed onto all fours and devoured Bodie's mouth, tongue probing, teeth biting. Words would now have to wait. He slung his shirt off and away as he kissed; his trousers went the same way. To divest Bodie of his clothing he had to break the contact but Bodie kept pulling him back for wet, breathless kissing that swept them both away on a tide of need.
Knowing he should get some oil but also knowing neither of them could wait even that long, Doyle quickly lifted one of Bodie's legs and thrust himself into his arse. Thank God he was used to it. The thought registered somewhere in Doyle's brain, the tiny bit that wasn't utterly consumed with wanting this man. He pushed hard and Bodie cried out. "Sorry," Doyle croaked.
Bodie's was shaking his head from side to side. "No… need…want… it," he rasped. "Can feel you… inside, Ray. So bloody… hard. Christ…" He pushed his body to meet Doyle's then and squeezed his arse muscles tight. Doyle gasped and began to move, taking his lover with long, swift strokes. Beneath him Bodie writhed, mutterings of desperate need spilling out of his mouth, exciting Doyle and bringing him swiftly to the edge. Bodie lifted his head, suddenly, and emitted a guttural groan. His arse contracted around Doyle's cock as the first ribbon of seed erupted onto his chest. Doyle lost count of the spurts, one after another after another, spilling onto creamy white flesh, slick with sweat. He waited for the last few drops to run out of the small hole, and then Doyle was coming, pouring that same fluid into his man, filling him up, until the darkness came.
"You all right?" A voice was penetrating Doyle's dream. He tried to hoist his eyes open but managed only narrow slits. "Oi, Sleeping Beauty!" the voice reiterated.
Lips were kissing his and he smiled dreamily against them. "Mmm," he murmured. "I'm fine. You?" This time, as he dropped back into sleep, he actually heard himself snore.
Soft laughter. Doyle tried in vain to wake up. The joke was apparently on him. "Wha's funny?" he mumbled.
"You… out for the count."
This time Doyle knew whose voice it was. Progress. The trouble was he didn't want to leave this sweet, lethargic place. It was warm and he was at peace with the whole world: sated. Life was wonderful. And if he lay here long enough, Bodie might kiss him again.
"You obviously are all right," Bodie said softly into his ear.
Doyle's eyes remained closed but he managed a few words. "I'm very all right. And yourself?"
The man stretched contentedly. "Oh, I'm amazingly all right. Couldn't you tell?"
"Think I might have noticed something," Doyle smiled mischievously.
"Was that before you passed out or after?"
"Definitely before. Lots of naughty words you come up with when you're being fucked."
Bodie sniggered. "But then you like that, don't you?"
"Mmm. Like being kissed too if you happen to be thinking about doing it again."
Bodie obliged. Doyle lost himself for several moments in the pleasure of warm lips and a questing tongue.
They parted at last and lay watching the fire.
"That dog's as bad as you for his home comforts," Bodie said at last.
"What do you mean?"
"Look at him, stretched out. Talk about a 'dog's life'. You and him know exactly how to make yourself at home."
Doyle laughed. "Both got the knack. Though my knack's different to his, of course."
"Mmm. You certainly have the knack with a certain part of your anatomy, Raymond. Think I'm actually addicted to that bit of you. Can't go for any length of time at all without seeing it, touching it, having it inside. And I can't decide whether that's good thing or a bad thing."
Propping himself up on one elbow, Doyle peered at his lover. "You're agonising over that? I'm the one who worries things to death, Bodie, not you! And I'm not losing any sleep at all over our physical need for each other."
Bodie laughed. "I think you ought to rephrase that. We both lose a fair bit of sleep as a matter of fact."
Doyle slid down to lie beside Bodie once again. He ran his hand from the man's waist, up over his smooth chest to his neck and thence to his mouth. He traced the outline of his lips with the tip of one finger and then pushed it inside. "And anyway," Doyle said, "I like having my bits inside you. And I like having your bits inside me." His finger played with Bodie's tongue inside his mouth. "Nothing wrong with that. It's what your bits are for."
"And there's me thinking they're for the making of babies," Bodie said, trying to talk with Doyle's finger still in his mouth.
Doyle took a deep breath and let it out. "Can't do that for you, I'm afraid. Does it bother you not being a father?"
"Not at all?"
"No," Bodie reiterated. "Never been the paternal type. You?"
Doyle shook his head. "So, let's see… what are we worrying about here? I need to know before I can give it my undivided worrying attention. I need to know precisely what to concentrate on, otherwise I get distracted and start worrying about the price of fish or something."
Bodie laughed. "Let's go to bed," he said, "I can worry about my various appetites in the morning."
"Yes," Doyle reflected out loud. "It does seem to me you have a predilection for putting things in your mouth. All kinds of things. Think about it in the morning… then come to the right decision."
"Which is?" asked Bodie who was on his feet and doing up his trousers.
"That you can give up the food but not my cock." Doyle delivered a devastating smile.
A cushion flew across the room and hit him squarely on the chin.
"We ought to look in that outhouse." Doyle had his head over a basin of water and Bodie was pouring clean water over his hair, rinsing the last of the soap bubbles away. He stood upright and Bodie draped a towel over his head and proceeded to rub Doyle's curls vigorously. To say Doyle loved having Bodie help wash his hair was an understatement of universal proportions. The feel of the man's fingers massaging the soap into his scalp, the warm water over his head, questing fingers checking for soap… and then the drying, a long, lingering kiss if he was lucky, then more drying. The ritual never failed to arouse feelings he had no hope of ever understanding.
He stood compliantly as Bodie rubbed. Then the man stopped and Doyle held his breath as Bodie's lips came in for a very thorough kiss. Breaking off, Bodie rubbed some more as Doyle stood perfectly still, his arms encircling Bodie's waist. Their eyes met and Doyle wondered if his lover liked this as much as he did or whether he found it a chore. "Be less bother if I cut it short," he ventured.
The drying ceased. Dark eyes widened in disbelief. Doyle suddenly wished he hadn't said it. It wasn't even as if he really meant it. "Sorry. Just making conversation," he said quickly.
Bodie was still staring at him, unblinking.
"I wouldn't really cut it," Doyle reiterated, a small seed of panic beginning to germinate inside. "Honestly."
Wordlessly, Bodie recommenced the drying, reproach so evident in his eyes that Doyle felt like a complete rat. Taking a chance he leaned forward and stole a lazy kiss. "Anyway," he said, "this wouldn't be half as nice if it was short, would it?"
Bodie's eyes softened, but the man was still silent.
"Like it when you wash my hair," Doyle said quietly. "Does things to me."
The towel was hanging casually around Doyle's neck now – but Bodie's hands were still in his curls. The man turned him round then and he was being pushed forwards onto the bed. It was lucky, he thought, that Bodie couldn't see his grin. Punishment was, after all, supposed to be unwelcome…
Doyle lazily stirred his tea, watching Bodie as he polished off the last of his bacon and eggs.
"You've got an appetite on 'ee this mornin'," Mrs. Trembath observed as she briskly dried her hands on her apron.
"He's a growing boy," Doyle smiled.
Blue eyes flicked over him but didn't linger. Doyle knew why, of course: appetites came in all shapes and sizes and Bodie's had been huge in more ways than one this morning. Doyle shifted on his seat. He was sore. The hair fiasco had resulted in swift retribution. Not that he was complaining – but his lover was quite well endowed in the nether regions, not longer than Doyle but certainly thicker; he would need to be careful how he sat down today after such a heavy pounding. Such were the repercussions of stupidity he reflected wryly. Perhaps he should try it more often…
"So, what're 'ee doin' today?" their housekeeper was asking. "I 'ope you 're not goin' to be under my feet?" She looked around at Rascal who was sitting hopefully by the back door. "Take McNabs out for a nice long walk, why don't 'ee?"
Bodie was eating the last slice of toast, liberally smothered in marmalade. "Later," he told her, "we're going to look in the outhouse first."
Surprise registered on her face. "What 'ee want to go pokin' round in there for?"
"Something important happened in there," Doyle supplied. "Not only did I see that light but Rascal wouldn't go in there. It must mean something."
"I been washing clothes in there for years and never seen nothin'," she said, "but you'm know best I suppose. 'Cept I got washin' to do this mornin'. Per'aps you can poke around in there this afternoon? Parson was sayin', on Sunday, that old Jack Thomas might remember some history 'bout this house. Him knockin' ninety and all. He do go to the pub most days for 'is meal, why don't 'ee go and talk to 'im?"
Doyle regarded Bodie questioningly. "Is that all right with you?"
Bodie nodded and rose to get ready to go. "We'll walk," he said. "It'll give Rascal some exercise and should get us there for about midday."
The decision was made to take the cliff path rather than the main road. Doyle was pleased, preferring the views out across the ocean to the dusty lanes of the countryside, any day of the week.
Rascal ran ahead as usual, stopping every now and then to find the source of unusual smells or simply to make sure they were still following.
They stopped at Carngloose so that Bodie could watch a Sparrow Hawk soaring around the cliff face on the strong breeze, through his binoculars. Even Doyle had to admit it was a beautiful thing to see, though the cliffs here were high and with his dislike of heights, he kept well back. Deciding to rest his feet he sat heavily onto a nearby rock and let out a loud gasp.
A silky voice cut into his discomfort. "Well, if you will threaten to cut your hair, Doyle…"
Doyle lifted his backside off the hard rock. "Hmph," he muttered. "It is my hair!"
"Is that what you think?" Bodie replied, still watching the bird of prey.
"I presume that's not the case?"
"Certain parts of you became mine the day we started to share a bed."
"Oh, I see."
"And do certain parts of you belong to me then?" Doyle asked, smirking.
"Really, Raymond, I would have thought that was quite apparent this morning. I'm generous to a fault with my parts. They're yours whenever you want them. Wherever you want them too, come to that."
Doyle went to stand alongside Bodie and slipped an arm around his waist. "Body and soul," he whispered.
"Well, it's not just parts, is it? Let's face facts. We're two halves of a whole, joined at the hip, or might as well be. Scares me to death, Bodie."
Bodie lowered the binoculars and regarded him seriously. "Does it?"
Doyle nodded, wordlessly.
"Why?" Bodie asked.
"Fear, I suppose. When someone becomes more important to you than yourself, you're suddenly overwhelmed by worry for their well-being and safety."
Bodie smiled at him. "I know. But that's what love is, Ray. And better that than never having anyone; take it from me. Of course," he added, "you might give me reason to reassess that opinion if you start talking about cutting your hair again…."
They sat in companionable silence in The Star, each lost in his own thoughts, Rascal stretched out asleep at Doyle's feet. Doyle was trying to remember what he'd said to Bodie when they'd first spoken in this pub a few short months ago.
"What did we talk about that first time in here?" he asked Bodie eventually.
Bodie emitted a short laugh. "You told me some mad story about a Chinese princess being wrecked off Land's End. Her dog haunts the cove or something."
Doyle laughed. "I didn't, did I?"
"Oh, yes. From that I presumed I was supposed to deduce that you were a sane and rational member of society."
"Thank God that wasn't the case, eh?" Doyle cackled. "Lucky for you."
"Oi, I resent that tone!" Doyle turned to confront him and found himself silenced instead by a sideways glance of such affection that the words of censure died on his lips.
Just then the door opened and a poke in the ribs informed him that this was Jack Thomas, the man Mrs Trembath had said they should speak to.
As the old man approached the bar, Bodie went to stand beside him. Doyle watched as Bodie offered to buy him a drink, and then invited him to share their table by the fire. Jack accepted with what appeared to Doyle, to be great pleasure. Mary Davey had been right, he reflected: people liked Bodie. He had about him, an air of uncomplicated friendliness, which drew people in; he was genuine and people could sense it. And he belonged to Doyle. Doyle knew he should try to suppress the thrill of ownership that threatened to engulf him; after all, no human being should really be owned by another, not in this day and age. It proved impossible. He was possessive of Bodie in a way he had never been possessive of anything in his life. If anyone ever tried to take him away, Doyle knew he could not be held responsible for his actions.
Bodie set their drinks on the table and helped Jack into the high-backed bench opposite them. The man's stick knocked Doyle's leg and the table shook precariously as he tried to get comfortable. Doyle smiled as he apologised, wondering if he and Bodie would still be together into their nineties. Doing swift calculations, he came up with the year 1960 and wondered what kind of world they would inhabit if both of them lived that long. Would it be acceptable by then to be like him and Bodie? Personally, he thought not. Perhaps it never would be. The idea depressed him no end.
Introductions and pleasantries behind them, Bodie then asked Jack if he had any recollections of stories of the house where he lived.
The old man thought for a moment. "You'm down in the old Pendarvis house at Nanquidno."
Bodie nodded. "That's right. You're one of the oldest residents in St. Just and we wondered if you'd ever been told anything about it, heard any stories, that kind of thing."
The old man grinned, toothlessly, making Doyle hope that should Bodie and he make it to ninety, they would be able to afford false teeth. "Well, let me see. Proper gloomy down there it used to be, till the folk afore thee spruced the 'ouse up a bit. Grandfer used to take me fishin' down the cove. But 'twas funny. Anywhere else and he didn't mind startin' back after dark. But down there, he would say, 'c'mon boy, time we wuz getting' back. Don't want to be passin' the Pendarvis place after dark'."
"Do you know why?" Doyle asked.
"Well, they up and did a moonlight flit. Lotta rumours goin' round at the time but they kept theirselves to theirselves, that lot. No one knew anythin' for sure, like."
Doyle felt there was more blood to be squeezed out of this stone. "What sort of rumours," he prompted.
Jack took a few mouthfuls of his drink. "Well," he said, placing the glass down on the table again, "of course they was a smuggling family. You name it and they was up to it. If there was trouble, it could usually be traced back to they, one way or 'nother. But Mother used to say that wasn't why they up and went. I dunno 'ow she knowed but she said 'twas trouble with their girl. They only 'ad the one girl left. The two boys had died; one drowned off the Cape, the other of consumption. I don't know what the maid was called but she was a flighty piece, Mother used to say. Pretty as picture. She said she took up with the Magistrate's son, though it must've been on the quiet… no son of a magistrate woulda been thinking to wed a girl from such humble beginnings, whether she were a pretty little thing or no. Must've been for what he could get, if you gets my drift." The old man winked knowingly. "Of course, this all 'appened afore I was born. And folk's memories… you know…." He trailed off.
"Why did people not like going past the house at night?" Bodie asked.
"Oh, talk of lights and screamin' bein' heard," Jack said. "The place do have a strange atmosphere. 'Course, 'tis all a long time ago, and I daresay 'tis all different now. Jane Trembath do work there as your 'ousekeeper and I've never heard her say 'twas strange down there."
"And was there any talk about where they went?" Bodie asked.
"Well, now, no one 'ad any idea until the black-smith 'ad occasion to go to Marazion one day to a funeral. Bear in mind that was a long way in they days, people never went much further than their own village if they could 'elp it."
"That's true," Doyle observed.
"Well, he were gone for three days and when he come back, he said he'd seen old man Pendarvis over there, clear as day, walkin' out with a female. 'Course, folk said he must've been mistaken, 'im bein' a widower with a girl still on 'is hands but no, the smithy said he'd seen 'im and that was that. The funny thing was, when he passed 'im by and said 'hello', the fella made out he'd never seen 'im afore in 'is life!"
"Perhaps he was mistaken," Doyle suggested.
Jack shrugged. "You could be right. 'Tis a mystery. But there you are… life is full of 'em and only God knows the truth. Sometimes 'tis better that way."
After Jack had left them to join his chums, not one of them under eighty, Doyle hazarded a guess, and probably only three teeth between them, the two men ordered some food and sat deliberating.
"So what have we got?" Doyle sniffed consideringly. "A widower living with his flighty daughter. They disappear suddenly… the father then shows up in a village twenty miles away. Or does he? And where's the daughter?"
"At home. In service. Lending a hand at the Seaman's Mission," Bodie snorted, suggestively. "Who knows, Doyle? I'm not even sure there's any mystery here. We could well be wasting our time."
Doyle shook his head slowly. "No. Something's wrong. I feel it in my bones. And even if it's not, we should try to find out, if only to eliminate the Pendarvises from our enquiries. Something's happened in your house. The kind of haunting you're experiencing doesn't come from nothing. Don't you want to stop it?"
Bodie stared at him. "Of course I do. But it could take years to find out the reason."
Bodie frowned. "Well…"
"We've got years, haven't we?" Doyle sought his eyes. "If we're lucky. And you still want me," he added, lowering his voice.
Bodie twisted his mouth sideways, appearing to give the matter due consideration. A sudden "woof" made them both jump. Rascal was sitting up beside Doyle, staring across at Bodie.
"See," Doyle pointed out, ruffling the dog's coat. "Even Rascal agrees with me." The dog woofed again as though daring Bodie to disagree.
"That just means, Doyle, that we're all barking mad. But at least he's got an excuse," Bodie added.
Doyle leaned across the table towards Bodie. "Though this be madness, yet there is method in it," he quoted, earnestly.
Bodie stared wide-eyed at him for a long moment. At last his lips twitched and a broad smile split his face. He began to laugh quietly. "Nutty as a fruit cake," he said, shaking his head. "Totally, utterly, bonkers."
"Yes, um…" Doyle was not at all clear what the problem was.
"Nothing to worry about then?"
"Not a thing." Bodie's smirk was still in place.
Doyle looked down at Rascal. The dog looked up at him adoringly and licked his face.
-- THE END --
Originally published in Secret Agent Men 3, Devious Developments Press, 2004