by Fanny Adams
I believe you heard your master sing
When I was sick in bed
I suppose that he told you everything
That I keep locked away in my head
Your master took you travelling
Well, at least that's what you said
And now do you come back to bring
Eddie's good cheer disappeared like a light that had been switched off. One moment he was laughing and talking and the next he was sullen, withdrawn. Ray raised an eyebrow at Bodie who shrugged. "Something wrong?" Ray asked cautiously.
"He's here again."
"Who is?" "The slimy bastard who's been after Sasha. He's here almost every night." Eddie nodded toward the box directly opposite theirs and Ray and Bodie both turned to look.
For Bodie it was like being ducked in cold water. Gareth. There was no mistaking the tall, fair-haired man in the box to the left of the stage. Bodie stared across the theatre, transfixed by the memories that came flooding back to him at the sight of the silver-gilt hair and angular figure. Gareth Stewart in London. He could hardly believe it. Since Marikka's death Bodie had been looking for him.
"Now what?" Doyle nudged him.
"What?" he snapped, annoyed at being disturbed.
"I asked... never mind." Ray turned and began to talk to Eddie who was hardly more receptive.
Bodie had called in every favour owed him, had contacted everyone he knew all over the world, yet for two years he'd heard nothing. Now Gareth was sitting in the box opposite his own, Jimmy at his side like always. It was like some sort of cosmic joke. Perhaps there was a god.
"The son of a bitch sends flowers; rafts of them..."
"Someone's jealous," Ray remarked.
"I may be, but that's not all there is to it. Sasha's afraid of him."
"He has good reason to be," Bodie murmured. "I know him. He's... unimaginable."
The effect on Eddie was immediate. "Dangerous?" he demanded. Without waiting for an answer, he left the box.
"Excuse me, will you?" Bodie said to the startled Ray. He slipped out of his seat and into the narrow corridor that ran behind the boxes. The weight of the gun against his ribcage was reassuring; he was ready for Gareth; could finish him that evening.
And yet... what was Gareth doing here? And why was he courting Sasha? Bodie never believed in coincidence, particularly when it came to men like Gareth. It never paid to underestimate the opposition. Hara had taught him that.
If Gareth had come to the theatre hoping to find Bodie - and this seemed the most likely reason for Gareth's presence - the prospect of killing him that night was almost nil.
Bodie took a deep breath and walked on down the corridor - and the first steps in a deadly dance. Challenge made and met; only the time and place remained in question. He reached the end of the corridor and parted the curtain..
Jimmy was the first to react, his arm dropping down, a slight movement. Bodie guessed that the hand lost in shadows held a knife.
He had a moment to study Gareth's face, and what he saw could well have been genuine surprise. It was difficult to tell.
"Drew? My God, it's been years!" He stood up and shook Bodie's hand. "Jimmy, you remember Drew?"
"Who could forget a pair of Irish eyes like his? Of course I remember. Hello, lad." Jimmy relaxed slightly, only slightly. His smile was plastic.
"Hello, Jimmy. It's good to see you both. I was sitting across the way and thought I recognised you both."
Gareth settled back into his chair. "I daresay we've only got older, while you've grown up."
He was right. There was something ravaged-looking about the once smooth and handsome face. Gareth had lived hard and it showed. Jimmy, on the other hand, looked much the same as the first time Bodie had seen him; blunt-featured and smug.
"Won't you join us? Such a wonderful company. The principal dancer is very talented." The corners of his mouth quirked slightly. Counter challenge. How smooth he was. Almost, Bodie could envy him.
"No thank you. I'm with some friends."
Gareth turned and glanced across the theatre and Bodie knew that he'd been right - Gareth was there to find him.
He turned back to Bodie. "Another time then. Are you living in London?"
"Just visiting. Why don't we have supper together sometime soon? We can catch up."
"No. You give me yours. I'm going to be moving about. Friends," he explained. "It'll be easier for me to contact you."
Bodie pulled a business card out of his wallet. It read "Aberdeen Security Systems"; Cowley's joke. "This is my work number."
"How nice. You'll have to tell me all about it when next we see each other." It was a dismissal.
"Lovely seeing you both again."
"Indeed. How fortunate we picked this night to see the ballet. We'll have to compare notes."
"About Nagorny. He's one of your favourites, isn't he?"
Bodie acknowledged the threat. "And about Hara," he said with a coolness that took every ounce of his self-control. He nodded to Jimmy and backed out of the box. His pulse was racing as he made his way back to his seat. It was time to settle old accounts at last. He slipped back into his seat just as the lights dimmed.
"What was that in aid of?" Ray hissed over the opening bars of a Bach Partita.
"I'll tell you later. Watch the dance." The curtains parted and Ray stared down at the stage, but Bodie watched the box opposite, wondering how it would happen, how the end would come, how soon and for whom.
At the first interval Eddie returned.
"Where have you been?" Ray asked, clearly mystified by all the comings and goings.
"I told Gordon to keep your friend away from Sasha."
"Not a friend, believe me. I don't think Gordon could stop him," Bodie admitted.
Eddie gaped. "Are you joking?"
Bodie shook his head. "I don't think he'd hurt Sasha. It's me he wants."
"Oh? Do you guarantee it? And what if you're wrong?"
Bodie rubbed his forehead. "I won't let anything happen to Sasha, I promise."
Eddie stared at him for a moment. "Get stuffed," he said, and left the box again.
"That was succinct," Ray remarked. "Want to tell me what this is all about?"
"A face from the past," Bodie murmured. There was a brief silence during which Bodie heard a woman laugh. In the box opposite, Jimmy offered Gareth a box of chocolates. "This is not entirely my fault," he said more to reassure himself than Ray.
Ray sighed. "Eddie can be an implacable enemy," he warned.
"So can I."
Just before the last ballet ended, they went backstage. In the dressing room, Sasha, still in his makeup and costume, was trying to calm Eddie. "Oh it's you two. Bodie what have you been telling him? He's gone off the deep end about this old mate of yours."
"He's not a mate, but he's been using you to find me."
"How flattering. You lot seem to do that all the time. Sit!" he snapped at Eddie who looked unhinged.
"This one's a dangerous lunatic," Eddie said, "Bodie said so."
"I said he was dangerous. The lunatic part is Eddie's contribution," Bodie assured Sasha. "All I want you to do is go about your business. Pretend you know nothing..."
There was a sharp rap on the door and Sasha froze. "I don't like this," he said. Then he took a deep breath, squeezed Eddie's hand and said, "Come in."
Ray began to chatter about the ballet, drawing all the attention to himself, giving the others something to grab. "I was hoping Fred would decide to do the Faune again this season, but he said he had so many new pieces."
Gareth entered the already crowded room, and smiled at Sasha.
"I'm tired of it," Sasha said, his voice steady. The force of his will was tangible, and Bodie couldn't help but admire his poise. "I've done it so often I could do it in my sleep. Hello." He nodded at Gareth in an offhand way.
"Did you like the flowers?" Gareth asked.
Sasha looked around the dressing room until he caught sight of a large bouquet of tulips, irises and daffs - ephemeral flowers - and nodded. "They're beautiful, thank you." Clearly he had no intention of asking Gareth to stay.
"I see we have a friend in common." "Oh?"
"Andrew and I have known each other for years." Gareth stared at Bodie, ice cold and deliberate.
"Andrew? Oh, you mean Bodie. Lucky old you."
Bodie had the feeling that something unpleasant was about to happen, but a moment later a new voice cut into the conversation.
"Ray, I thought I saw you come back here... "
For a moment, Bodie was unable to place the newcomer. The face was familiar, but the name... And then it struck him; this was the infamous Ridley Deans, old Cosgrove's best interrogator and the most notorious sadist in Military Intelligence.
If the appearance of Ridley Deans was a surprise to Bodie, it was an obvious, even a violent shock to Stewart. He went white at the sound of the man's voice and jerked around to face him.
"Gareth!" Dean's smile seemed genuine. He laid a hand on Gareth's arm.
It took Gareth several moments to compose himself. Finally he managed to respond. "What are you doing here?"
"Ray got me a ticket. What a stupid thing to say. I still live in London." He smiled and nodded at the rest of the group as though this meeting was nothing out of the ordinary. "Ray, thanks so much for the ticket. I hope I'm not intruding?" he asked Sasha, who relaxed visibly.
"Not at all. Friends of... " he stopped short, his smile ironic. "You're welcome," he told Deans. "Did you enjoy the programme?"
"Very much. You were wonderful."
Bodie began to breathe again. Gareth, utterly taken aback by the appearance of Deans, had clearly forgotten the rest of the group. He was staring at the small, dark haired Yank with an intensity that made Bodie uneasy.
Once again Ray took charge. "I think we'd better clear out and let Sasha take his shower." He swept Deans and Stewart into the hallway, dragging Bodie after, and shutting the door behind them. "What a coincidence you meeting each other like this," he said to Deans with thinly veiled irony. Bodie wondered at Ray's part in the scene. "And you and Bodie have met," Ray said to Gareth. Jimmy appeared at Gareth's elbow, his round, youthful face full of delighted malice. "How jolly. We can have a party. I'm Ray Doyle." There was the tiniest edge to his voice that told Bodie that Ray's nerves were raw.
"Well, unless you already have something planned," Deans began, "I'd love to kidnap Gareth and talk over old times."
Ray was relieved, Bodie could see it in his eyes, but what he saw when he glanced at Gareth surprised and fascinated him - there was something like gratitude in the mismatched eyes... and love?
"I think we can spare him," Bodie said with a plastic smile.
He and Ray watched the three men leave the theatre, then Ray said, "I'd better make sure Eddie is all right. You go find out what happened to Gordon."
Bodie found Gordon locked in a practise room. "What happened?" he demanded, once he'd freed the guard.
Gordon shook his head. "Damned if I know. Somebody coshed me and I woke up here. Feel this!" He bent his head for Bodie's examination. There was a respectable lump.
"You all right otherwise?"
"Bit of headache is all."
"Ray and I will take you to hospital. You should have that looked at."
Gordon didn't want to go, but Bodie insisted. They stayed with him at the hospital, and drove home afterwards.
"It was overdone, don't you think? Coshing Gordon, I mean," Ray remarked.
Bodie said nothing.
"What's going on, Bodie?"
"Nothing that need concern you." It sounded cold, thoughtless; and Bodie, preoccupied with his own plans didn't bother to soften it.
They drove the rest of the way in silence.
Once home, Bodie locked himself in the bath. He needed a quiet place to think.
Aberdeen Security Systems - advantage Bodie. He had the agency's considerable resources at his disposal. With or without George's approval. Relative anonymity - advantage Stewart. Gareth had lived most of his life outside England. He was unknown to many of the people who could have helped Bodie locate him. Determination... Advantage Bodie. No doubt about it.
He dried himself and wrapped the towel around his waist. Ray was pounding at the door.
"I've never seen you like this," he said, blocking Bodie's exit. "It bothers me."
"Ray... that man was Hara's friend. They were lovers once. I'm going to kill him." It sounded easy.
Ray went white. "What?"
"He was the one who killed Hara." Bodie stepped past Doyle and went into the bedroom. Ray followed him.
"How do you know?"
"Marikka told me."
"How did she know?"
"She used to live with Gareth. He told her." Bodie hung his pants over a hanger and smoothed them carefully before he draped the jacket over it. "That's one of the things she told me just before she died. She'd known for years, even when she and I were together." It was one of the three betrayals that Bodie had never been able to understand or forgive. That, and Hara's death, and one other thing. He hung his suit in the closet.
Ray made a disapproving noise and Bodie realised that his lover still wasn't convinced.
"Look, it makes sense. Only three people in the world could have got that close to Joji to do him that night - me, Yoshi and Gareth. It wasn't me or Yoshi."
"Maybe he was careless. Bodie, you don't know for sure."
"I saw the body, Ray! He was shot at close range; half his head was blown away." He shivered slightly. "Maybe I should just ask Gareth," he muttered. "Excuse me, Gareth, but did you kill Hara? Only, I want to kill you if you did, so..."
Ray moved closer, taking a different tack. "Why won't you let it be over?" he asked as he tried to hold Bodie. He held on for a moment, then pulled away and stared at the dark man. "Can't you ever forget?" he whispered.
Bodie shook his head. "Not until Gareth is dead."
"Not even then," Ray said, bitterness palpable in his voice. "And now you two have involved Eddie and Sasha." He picked up his pillow. "I think I'd better stay in the guest room tonight. If I stay we'll fight about this. I don't want that. G'night, Bodie."
He left the room. Bodie reached the doorway in three strides. "What is there to fight about?" he shouted at the retreating figure. Receiving no reply, he added, "your altruism is touching." Then he went on with his preparations for bed in silence. When Ray decided he was right there was no shifting him.
Ray was on the phone when Bodie came down for breakfast the next morning, and by the expression on his face, Bodie could guess that Ray was discussing him with whoever was on the other end of the line. Ray wound up the conversation quickly with a "right, talk to you later," and rang off.
"Sleep well, Sunshine?" Bodie asked without rancour. He'd missed Ray's familiar warmth and was feeling wistful.
"Fine. There's bacon in the oven." He went and sat down at the table and began to study the morning paper.
Bodie fixed himself some toast and took the rest of the bacon. "No eggs?"
"They went off."
"Oh." He sat down beside Doyle. "Who were you talking to?"
Bodie wondered, and not for the first time, why Ray and Eddie hadn't stayed together. They always seemed to have more to talk about than Ray and Bodie had. "He still upset?"
Doyle looked up. "Why don't you ask if I'm still upset?"
"Yes. I've been trying to work out what you must be feeling..."
"I can tell you what I'm feeling if you'll just listen," Bodie protested, and Doyle banged the table with his fist.
"You're the one who won't listen, Bodie. You won't even hear me out."
Bodie stared at him for a few moments. "Fine," he said. "Talk."
"I want to know why you feel you have to do this."
"He killed Hara!"
"That's not what I mean. You told me that you found the man who paid for the hit and killed him. You said that you felt he was the man responsible for Hara's death, not the triggerman. That's what you told me when you finally began to talk about that time." Bodie began to protest, but Doyle held up his hand for silence. " I know you told me that they were friends... lovers, but you also told me that Hara taught you that there was no room for sentiment in a job like that."
"Are you qualified to judge someone else for what you see as a failure in that area?" Ray asked softly.
Bodie was startled. "Is that a loaded question, Ray? Am I supposed to examine my own loyalties?" The question hurt. "Were you implying that I come up short in that area?" he demanded. He did, but how could Ray know that?
"No. That wasn't a 'let he who is without sin' question. I just wonder if you need to judge this man at all. If what you say is true, he may already have judged himself more harshly than you ever could."
"I doubt it."
"Is it your right to kill him for what he's done?"
"Why?" Ray demanded. "Who are you to judge him? Were you any more to Hara than he ever was?"
And in a moment the perceptions of a lifetime shifted like a fault-line in the earth, and Bodie's memories began to tumble and shake.
"Bodie?" Ray reached out, but Bodie pulled away, caught up in a fearful quake of emotion.
"No," he whispered. "Don't. Please." In a moment Ray had given him the answer - Gareth killed Hara because he loved him too much, had always loved him too much. Had Hara felt the same? Had he walked into the trap, accepted his death at Gareth's hands because it was the only act of love left to them?
Bodie felt queasy. He folded his arms on the table and rested his forehead against them. "God," he breathed. "What do I know?" He shut his eyes. Was he bumbling about in matters that didn't concern him? "Joji..."
There was a silence broken only by the ticking of the clock.
"You say that name in your sleep," Doyle told him in a thick voice. Then he sighed and carried his plate to the sink.
Bodie took a deep breath. "What do you know about Deans?" he asked.
Ray looked up. "What makes you ask that?"
"Just curious. Strange that he knows Stewart, init?"
"I imagine he has the same sort of contacts you do. He's had a checkered past."
"He asked you to get him a ticket to the ballet?"
Ray nodded. "Was very specific about the date and location. Seemed strange to me, but Deans is a strange man. You finished?"
Bodie nodded and Ray swept his plate off the table. "I don't believe in coincidence. So Deans knew..."
"Or suspected," Ray interjected.
"That Gareth was going to be there that night. He has a bad reputation, doesn't he?"
Ray frowned. "What d'you mean?"
"I've never had much to do with him. But I've heard things... surely you've heard them too."
Ray leaned against the sink. "I've known him casually for about ten years - George tried to lure him away from old Cosgrove, but Deans likes the job security, I reckon. He's said to one of the best in the business."
"He's said to be a sadist," Bodie said flatly. Ray's response wasn't what he would have expected.
"Not as far as I know."
It took Bodie a moment to realise Doyle wasn't speaking in general terms. "Are you speaking from personal experience?" he asked, just to make sure.
Ray nodded and began to scrub the plates.
Bodie was fascinated and repelled. "When?"
"About nine years ago. Just before I met Sasha." He turned around and stared at Bodie. "Well, I've startled you. I don't get to do that very often."
Bodie was more than startled. The news hurt him in an indefinable way. "How could you?"
"You mean go to bed with a sadist? I told you, I never saw any evidence of it. You shouldn't pay attention to idle gossip. And it's a long time ago. Let's drop it, shall we?"
"Gareth is a sadist. Hara told me someone here started him. He never mentioned the name, that I recall, but..."
"Ridley Deans is not a name you'd forget," Ray observed with a brusqueness that always signalled annoyance. He rinsed the last of the breakfast dishes and wiped his hands. "If you're determined to go through with this, you'd better be aware of what Ridley is up to." Then he left the kitchen.
"I'm all right. Not great," he admitted. "What would you do?" he asked after he had explained the situation to Eddie.
Eddie, who was still annoyed with Bodie, was not inclined to be generous. "You can have him locked up. Stop this insanity."
"Tell Cowley. You don't approve?"
"Telling Cowley might make trouble for Bodie."
Eddie made a disgusted noise. "Is that any worse than watching him die?" he asked in his most assiduous manner. He had a point which Doyle chose to ignore.
"For what it's worth, I'm sorry about all this. I'll do what I can to make sure it doesn't affect either of you."
"If anything happens to Sasha because of Bodie..." The threat hung unspoken between them, and Ray damned the spirit of Hara for being the cause. Then Eddie sighed heavily. "Ray, I'm sorry. This isn't your fault, and I've been behaving abominably. Look, why don't you come for dinner tomorrow night?"
"I'd make terrible company. I'll keep you up on what's happening." It was depressing to realise that Bodie's revenge might cost both of them the friendship of Eddie and Sasha. With a shudder Ray realised that it might well cost him Bodie.
Bodie was home when Ray arrived from the laundrette. He was sprawled on the sofa in front of the television watching football; hardly the picture of a man bent on revenge. He grunted by way of acknowledging Ray's presence.
Ray didn't join him, but went upstairs and began to sort laundry. It was the sort of mindless chore he liked to do when he had something to work out. Not that he expected to reach a conclusion; in fact he suspected that there was no clear-cut answer to this particular tangle.
Briefly he considered going down and telling Bodie that he had made a mistake, that this should never have become an issue between them; but he couldn't help but feel that Bodie was as responsible as he was. Hara was always between them, always had been. At first Doyle thought he could live with it; that time would lay the ghost, time and a new love.
"The son-of-a-bitch won't ever die," Ray grumbled as he searched for the mate to one of his socks. They'd been lovers for seven years; surely that must count for something. And yet, he couldn't rid himself of the nagging suspicion that if Hara could come back into Bodie's life today, Ray would find himself quite alone.
"Ray!" The sound jerked him out of his bad-humoured reverie. He went to the head of the stairs and shouted down.
"What is it?"
"Thought I'd start supper. Chops all right with you? And a salad?"
"Sounds fine. I'll be down in a few minutes." He started back to the bedroom, then turned around and hung over the bannister. "Bodie, fix that left over veg instead of a salad."
Silence. Then Bodie appeared at the foot of the stairs. "I hate left over brussel sprouts," he reminded Ray. "I hate them fresh. That's why they're left over." He had a little smile on his face and Ray was startled at the rush of affection he felt.
"Will you fix it for me, then? There's a tin of asparagus in the pantry if you want it."
"All right. But I wouldn't do it for anyone else," Bodie told him with a wink.
Ray watched him walk away, then he sank down on the top step and leaned against the wall. Perhaps he had no right to complain. Perhaps living with the ghost of Hara was just part of the price he had to pay for the best relationship of his life. It was always so good between them in every other way.
He sat there for a long time, lost in thought. When Bodie came to call him down to supper, he found him still leaning against the wall, eyes focussed on something far away.
"Have you been sitting there all this time? You daft thing." He climbed up and sat just below Ray. "Still bothering you?"
"I am trying to understand," he admitted. "But it's hard."
Bodie nodded. "It's not easy for me either. Since Marikka died, I've been trying to find Gareth. What you said the other day... I never thought that Gareth had been more than a school friend. You know; boys together. Joji never mentioned him. I thought that meant Gareth wasn't important. Now I'm older I realise that it could have meant just the opposite."
"Is that why you want Gareth dead?"
Bodie thought about Ray's question for a few moments. "Maybe," he admitted with characteristic honesty. "And maybe I think that by killing him, I can put a few ghosts to rest." He had a few that only he and Gareth knew about. In some ways, they were the worst.
Ray shook his head. "Your ghosts are always with you They're part of you." He stood up and stretched. "You do what you have to do." Silently he added, "and I'll do the same."
"Fair," Bodie agreed. "Supper?"
"Sheila, who took the call from Stewart?"
She consulted her log. "Came through Bentley about eight this morning. Something wrong?"
He shook his head. "Just curious, is all." He went down to the switchboard and waited until Bentley had a free moment.
"This call from Gareth Stewart; have you a number on it?"
Bentley checked the log. "Yeah, but it's a box. Chelsea. That mean anything to you?"
"Probably not. Thanks anyway." At least Gareth hadn't dropped out of sight completely. And at the moment, Bodie was far more interested in what Deans might have to say to him.
He worried at the possibilities all morning, and finally, while Doyle was escorting Cowley to a meeting, Bodie drove over to Whitehall to talk with Deans. He found the man in a tiny office, reading a magazine and eating his lunch.
Bodie cleared his throat and Deans looked up. "Oh... Bodie. Come on in."
"I had an errand, thought I'd stop instead of ringing you."
"Nice thought." Deans' sharp features arranged themselves into a smile. His grey-blue eyes missed nothing.
"Mmmm. I didn't realise you were a ballet aficionado."
"It's something of a new enthusiasm. In the past I've been much more interested in music."
Bodie sat down in a battered chair and Deans offered a bunch of grapes. Bodie thought about what the hand that held them might be capable of doing, and refused. "How did you become interested in the Barnes company?" he asked.
Deans shrugged. "Don't know, really. Convenience? I knew that Ray could get me a ticket."
Part of Bodie hated hearing this man use Ray's name so casually, so familiarly. "Pretty remarkable coincidence then, isn't it? You attending that night and running into Gareth. You haven't seen each other in... years, isn't it?"
Deans cocked his head and smiled ironically. "What makes you think that?"
"Oh... I don't know. I just had that feeling. Gareth seemed startled. You knew him years ago, didn't you? I think I recall Hara mentioning you," Bodie lied.
The effect on Deans was subtle but unmistakable. He was surprised to hear Hara's name. "Well..." He peeled an orange with a wicked-looking flick knife. "So that's how you know Gareth, is it ? Through Hara Joji? I confess I was wondering." His eyes narrowed. "I wonder what Hara told you about me," he said, his husky voice low, almost a purr.
"He had some interesting things to say."
"I'm sure he did."
"He seemed to hold you responsible for Gareth's mental state..."
There was anger in Deans' eyes when he looked up. "He always was inclined to give Gareth the benefit of the doubt. It was easy to make me into the villain. He detested me from the moment we met."
A flash of anger echoed in Bodie, and for a moment, the two men stared at each other across the desk, each tensed for an outburst. Then Deans relaxed. "Hara wasn't perfect, Bodie. He was frequently mistaken about the people he loved. A sign of a generous nature, I expect, though I never had the benefit of it. I accept whatever responsibility I have for what Gareth has become. But not all."
"And are you responsible for making him the sort of man who would kill a friend?"
Deans frowned. "What d'you mean?"
"Hasn't Gareth confessed to you yet? He will. He tells everyone eventually," Bodie spat. "He killed Hara."
Clearly Deans was stunned by this news. "Gareth?" He was motionless for a moment, then, without warning, he drove the point of his knife deep into the desk. "I had no idea. I'm sorry. You loved Hara a great deal, didn't you? I'm sorry," he said again.
Bodie studied him. "I believe you are," he admitted. "But that still leaves me in the dark."
"In what way?" Deans asked, watching the knife wobble.
"Why did you plan that meeting with Gareth at the ballet?"
Ridley Deans sat back in his chair and put his feet up on the desk. "I was asked to."
"Who..." A warning bell went off in Bodie's head. "Christ! What does he know?"
"He knows you've been looking for Gareth, and that Gareth has come to London to find you. He doesn't know why. Don't you think you should tell him?"
The thought of confessing it all to Cowley made Bodie's skin crawl. "He sent you along to make sure we didn't kill each other in public, then?"
Deans smiled but did not answer.
"Do you love Gareth?"
The man hesitated for nearly a minute, then he shook his head. "Not any longer. Perhaps I never did."
"It explains a lot," Bodie muttered darkly. "So... why did you want to talk to me?"
There was a moment's hesitation on Deans part, then he said, "I wanted to ask you if you'd consider backing off on Gareth."
Bodie stood. "I'd rather not hear any more, thank you. I'm going to do what I've planned to do. And you can tell Ray that. He might listen to you." What an ugly thought. Where, Bodie wondered, had it come from?
Deans stared at him for a moment. "I don't know what you think you know about us..."
"Enough. Ray is nothing if not honest."
Deans rubbed his forehead. "All I want from you is some time to deal with Gareth on my own."
"I said no and I meant it." Bodie leaned forward. "Stay out of my way." And without another word, he turned and strode out of the office.
It was with a strong sense of impending doom that Bodie returned to headquarters. Cowley was still out, but his secretary assured Bodie she expected him any minute.
"Call me when he has a free moment," he asked her. Then he went off to make tea. When the summons came, he was finishing his third cup.
"You wanted to see me, Bodie?"
"About Gareth Stewart, yessir."
Cowley's face registered no surprise. "I was wondering how long it would take you. Sit."
"Prefer to stand," Bodie told him, relaxing into parade rest.
"And I'd prefer you sat." He folded his hands. "I had a most interesting conversation with Ridley Deans when I returned this afternoon."
"I can imagine," Bodie muttered as he took a seat.
"Yes, I believe you can. Why didn't you tell me about this?"
"Private matter, sir."
"Is it? Perhaps." He seemed lost in thought.
"If I might ask, sir, what is your interest in Stewart?"
Cowley looked up. "Are you afraid that I meant to recruit him?" It was said without a change of expression, but Bodie had the sense of amusement lurking just below the surface. It should have rankled, but it didn't. "No fear of that. I prefer dependable employees. But I'm interested in him, it's true, and in a context that doesn't concern you. I'd like to be sure you're not going to go blundering in where you don't belong. What are your plans?"
"I'm going to kill him."
"Indeed." Cowley studied him. He leaned back in his chair and steepled his fingers. He was silent for several minutes. "Very well," he said at last. "That doesn't alter my plans appreciably. You'll do it discreetly, of course."
"You're a tough old bird, aren't you?" Bodie asked with real admiration.
"Do you think I'd have survived this long if I wasn't? You have a week. Then it reverts to me. That's all, Bodie."
Bodie went looking for Ray and found him in his "thinking place"; the tiny, disused office to which Doyle often retreated when something was bothering him. He was sitting behind the desk cleaning his gun. Bodie sat down opposite and began to do the same. "The old man's given me a week," he said.
Ray was disapproving but obviously curious. "How do you plan to get to him, kill him and get out alive if he knows that's what you hope to do?" he asked reasonably.
Bodie, hunched over the gun he was cleaning, did not look up. He didn't want to answer.
"You don't trust anyone, do you? How if I try to stop you?"
Bodie frowned in concentration. "Thought you might have done already." He went on cleaning as though nothing extraordinary had happened.
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"Why did Deans call me?"
Rat scowled at him. "You think it was my doing? I'm not even going to dignify that with a response."
"No need." Bodie said, voice unmistakably chilly.
They worked in uneasy silence for a quarter of an hour. Finally Ray set his gun down on the desk. The wood beneath it had that satiny look that comes from years of contact with human skin. "If you need any help," he said quietly.
"I'll certainly let you know."
There had been no further word from Gareth that day, but Bodie was certain the man would contact him before long. And if he didn't, there was one sure place for Bodie to start - with Sasha.
On his way home, he stopped by the theatre, hoping to have a minute alone with Sasha. Bodie was good with the friendly lie, the casual questions. Sasha wouldn't even know he was helping to trace Gareth.
The orchestra was rehearsing a piece utterly unfamiliar to Bodie; trombones and bells, and a breathy flute solo. It sounded like the end of the world, and he wondered how anyone could dance to it.
Sasha's dressing room was empty. Gareth's flowers, now sadly diminished by time and neglect, stood in the corner of the room, and Bodie took the opportunity to appropriate their card. On one side, in the familiar spidery hand was an invitation to supper. On the other, a phone number. Bodie tucked the card into his pocket and wandered out to look for Sasha.
He ran into Fred outside the practice room. "Sasha in there?"
Fred shook his head. "Home. Another bone spur... he said."
For a moment, the sarcasm didn't penetrate, then Bodie asked, "You think he was lying?"
"I think he was just fine this morning is what I think."
Ray. It had to have been Ray's meddling. How had he known that Sasha was the chosen bait?
"This isn't like him," Fred was saying, "which is what puzzles me. And your friend being here at just the right time to take him home..."
Bodie was all attention. He grabbed Fred's arm. "What friend?"
"The rich one. Blond, scragged-looking, has a chauffeur looks like a boxer. Don't know the name but he's been hanging about all week."
"Christ," Bodie breathed.
Fred shook him off and entered the practice room, shutting the door rather emphatically in the other man's face.
"Stop, think," Bodie told himself. "Have you missed anything?" He ran back to the dressing room and gave it a more thorough inspection, but discovered nothing that might help him find Gareth. Then he remembered the card in his pocket. He pulled it out and read it over.
"Join me for supper tonight," it said. Could the invitation have been meant for him? He went out to the public phone in the office and phoned the office.
"Find the address on this number," he told the woman at the switchboard. It took her a few seconds, but she came up with an address, and with the news that Gareth Stewart had called again, and left the same number.
"He left a message as well," she told Bodie. "Shall I read it?"
"Join us for supper tonight. That's all."
He rang off without thanking her.
Bodie found the building easily, but he parked down the street from it and sat in his car for a time, contemplating the situation. One mistake was all you could make with a man like Gareth. The beginning of a headache throbbed behind his left ear.
With Sasha's life at stake, he might be forced to abandon his plans altogether. It was a blow to him, he couldn't deny it, and for a moment he allowed himself to weigh one life against another. The act itself shamed him. He got out of the car and began to walk down the street.
As he approached the house, a light went on in the hallway. The door swung open and Gareth stepped out into the dusk, haloed by the light behind him.
"I expect Joji told you that a frontal assault is usually the least expected?" he inquired. His tone was cheerful. "But I have been expecting you. Don't just stand there." He stepped aside and Bodie saw Jimmy in the hallway, holding a gun to Sasha's head.
"You wouldn't want anything to happen to him, would you?" Gareth asked brightly.
Bodie entered the house and surrendered his gun.
"This is between us, Gareth. Why drag Sasha in?" Jimmy tied Bodie to a chair - hands and feet and upper body. Then he pushed Sasha into another chair and secured him.
Gareth smiled rather wistfully. "He's so beautiful. How could I not want him? And a dancer too; half my work is already done. He's used to discipline." Gareth stroked Sasha's cheek absently, and Bodie shuddered. But Sasha's expression never changed; as if he had disconnected himself from this. "I took him because I wanted him. You're a bonus." He sat down and crossed his legs. "What a pleasure it was to see you at the theatre. You were looking for me, weren't you?"
"Does that surprise you?"
"Marikka told you something she oughtn't, didn't she? Well, I suppose you had to know sometime."
"How could you do it? I thought you loved him."
Gareth frowned. "What could you ever know about my relationship with Hara? You were just some little tramp he picked up in a whorehouse... at least, that's what he told me," Gareth added with poisonous sweetness.
Bodie almost believed for a moment, and it hurt terribly. "I don't believe that," he murmured.
Gareth shrugged. "Have it your own way, then. He loved you? Perhaps he did. And you loved him. I seem to recall you had a peculiar way of mourning him..."
The third and worst betrayal. Bodie was sick to his stomach.
"No denials, no rationalizations? You surprise me. Does that mean you cherish the memory of our little affair? That you liked what I did to you? You have unexpected depths, Drew."
"Perhaps I'll keep you alive a while longer," he glanced at Sasha. "If you please me I might send that little beauty back to that repellent lover of his." He turned to Sasha. "My god, I hope your boyfriend has money. What a waste it would be otherwise. Wouldn't you rather stay with me?"
The expression on Sasha's face was pure loathing.
Bodie watched Gareth, looking for any indication of what he was thinking. If he was really serious, it would be worth anything to Bodie to make sure Sasha was safe. "Send him back now, and I'll do anything you want," he promised.
Gareth beamed. "I'm flattered, really. But I'm not sure you're worth it. I've had you, after all. But Sasha... mmm, too tempting." He lit a cigarette and contemplated his two captives. "But on the the other hand, you already know what to expect, don't you? Experience is such an advantage in these matters." He stood up and bent over Sasha. "Have you been wondering what we're talking about?" he asked. When Sasha didn't respond, he took the cigarette and held the lit end close to the dancer's face. Sasha gasped and pulled away. "Does that give you some idea?"
Then he walked over to Bodie's chair and pressed the tip of the cigarette against his arm, and Bodie, who had been expecting it, choked on a cry of pain. "Unsubtle, Gareth," he gasped, when he was able to breathe again. "Very unsubtle."
"Makeshift, really." He turned back to Sasha. "Did you ever see his little collection of scars? He asked for every one of them. I conjure that memory occasionally," he assured Bodie.
Sasha still said nothing, but he began to avoid Bodie's eyes.
"Is there some point to this exercise?" Bodie demanded. "If you're going to kill me, you should do it. Hara would have."
"Don't you tell me what he would have done," Gareth snarled. "You know nothing about him."
He seemed about to say more, but there was a noise at the back door. It sounded like a dog scratching and whining to get in.
"Jimmy, if it's that bloody dog from next door again, shoot the bastard and and dump it in their yard. I warned them."
Jimmy left the room and a few seconds later there was the sound of a gunshot. Sasha gave a lurch. "I don't believe it," he whispered.
"It's just a dog," Gareth told him. "And now, I think I have a choice to make." He picked up Bodie's gun. "I would have expected a more elegant weapon. Well, there you are. Jimmy will be back in a moment. When he returns, I'm going to kill him."
This was not what Bodie had expected to hear.
"And when I do, one of you is going to take his place. Bodie, I think you're a more likely candidate. You'll live longer." He stood up. "If you agree, I'll send Nagorny back. If you disagree, I'll keep him and kill you too. Your choice. Make it quickly."
Bodie heard footsteps down the hall. "I'll stay," he said, his voice remarkably steady.
Gareth smiled. Then he stiffened.
Bodie realized, as had Gareth, that the man who made the footsteps couldn't have been Jimmy. Gareth spun round and came face-to-face, once again, with Ridley Deans.
And again, Gareth was momentarily dumb with surprise.
"I'm sorry about Jimmy, but he was about to kill that beautiful collie. I couldn't let him do that, could I? I never liked Jimmy much," he added in a confidential tone.
"You killed him?" Despite the gun in his hand, Gareth seemed reduced to a naughty child by the presence of this man.
Deans nodded. "Now why don't you untie Bodie and Sasha and let them go? You and I can sort this out between us, can't we?" He reached out and gently disarmed Stewart.
His voice, his manner, everything about him was so casual that for a moment or two Bodie's sense of danger ebbed. But the look in Deans' eyes was anything but casual. If Gareth was dangerous, this man was lethal.
"What is it you want?" Gareth asked him.
"A finish to this nonsense, Gareth. It has to end." He moved to Sasha's chair, produced his flick knife and began to cut the cords that held the dancer's ankles.
"Don't do that!" Gareth shouted.
Deans' answer was so quiet that Bodie barely heard it. "You know I'm serious about this..."
Gareth started towards them, but before he could stop Deans' releasing Sasha, the job was done, and Sasha's foot shot out, catching Gareth squarely in the groin. "You son-of-a-bitch!" Sasha growled. "I hope I de-balled you."
Gareth went down without a sound and curled into a little ball on the floor. Deans stared at Sasha.
"I'm not easily surprised," he admitted as he freed Sasha's arms. "But you've surprised me tonight. Don't touch him again," he warned, and Sasha nodded reluctantly. Then he handed the knife to Sasha. "Go cut Bodie loose."
"You cut me loose and I'll kill him," Bodie promised.
"No you won't," Deans said mildly.
"How are you going to stop me?"
"I've known Gareth a lot longer than you have. You said I made him what he is, though it's no credit to me. Leave him to me."
Bodie stared at him as Sasha cut him loose. "You're serious, aren't you? You think you can walk in here and tell me you're going to make everything all right, and send me home like a stray lamb? Incredible." He shook off the ropes and rubbed feeling back into his hands. "There's something I need to know," he admitted, staring at Gareth who lay on the floor, gagging and coughing. "I want to know why he did it."
"What do you expect? Some tragic outpouring of long hidden passion? He loved Hara. He killed him. The why was important before Hara died when it might have saved his life. Now it's just the same as angels on pinheads. Bodie, go home. Gareth's dying; not in the way you think when you hear that phrase, but he's a terminal case. He might do it to himself. He's tried before, but Jimmy was always there to stop him."
There were a thousand questions that Bodie wanted to ask, but somehow he knew that Deans would answer none of them. "If I stay?"
"All you want is to stack one corpse on top of another. You will regret crossing me," Deans promised.
Sasha tugged at his arm. "Let's go. I want to go home."
"Ray's outside," Deans told them. "Tell him I don't need him now." He knelt beside Gareth and took the larger man into his arms. "Any better?" he whispered.
Bodie followed Sasha out, and when he caught sight of the familiar figure slumped against the side of the capri, he felt a rush of relief that surprised him. When he was nearer Ray, and could see the expression in his lover's eyes, he felt vaguely ashamed.
"Said he didn't need you now. Everything is under control."
"You killed him." Ray's voice was flat, expressionless. He meant Stewart, of course.
Bodie shook his head. "Didn't have to," he said, more lightly than he felt. "Sasha put the boot in."
It broke the tension. Ray's mouth dropped open and he turned to stare at Sasha. "You never!"
"Did, actually. Can we go home now?"
Ray shook his head. "I want to wait for Ridley."
"He could be in there for hours, Ray..."
"I don't think so. Take the car if you want. I'll wait here."
"What about Eddie?"
"Bodie, show him how to use the radio, will you?" Ray asked.
Bodie did so reluctantly, and while Sasha was talking to Eddie, there was a single shot from inside the flat. Before Bodie could stop him, Ray was heading into the building.
Bodie hesitated for a moment, then he told Sasha, "Stay put," and followed Ray in.
Ray was covering Gareth's body with a blanket when Bodie entered. Deans was kneeling in the centre of the room. His shirt was soaked with blood.
"Bodie, get some water." Ray knelt beside Deans. "You all right?" he asked.
Bodie found the cooking pot in the kitchen and filled it with water. While he searched for towels, he came across Jimmy's body propped up in the pantry.
"You did the best thing," Ray was saying when Bodie returned. "You did the only thing you could have done."
Moving like an old man, Deans stripped off his shirt and reached for the wet towel Bodie held. He wiped the blood off his face and neck. "I left Jimmy in the pantry," he said, and laughed without mirth. The sound was like a road accident; it chilled Bodie.
"I'll take care of it. Bodie..."
Bodie nodded and Ray left the room. Deans said nothing as he washed. Finally he looked up at Bodie. "You got part of your wish."
"And what did you get?"
"Sorry if I'm not on the ball just now. What the hell is that supposed to mean?" He dried himself with a second towel.
"Is this the ultimate sadistic rush? Is that why you wanted to deal with Gareth yourself?"
For a moment, Deans looked angry; then an ironic smile tugged the corners of his mouth. "Everything considered, it would be far easier for me to admit to it. Most people understand pain. I would venture to guess that you understand it quite well."
"What're you saying?" Bodie demanded, nerves scraped raw.
"Simply that sadism is an easy concept to understand. It's so direct. I don't cause pain to the people I love Bodie. Can you say the same?" Despite the emotion, his voice was surprisingly firm.
The memory of Ray's eyes drove the point home.
"There are all sorts of pain. Whenever you indulge in any of them you have a sort of sadism," Deans insisted.
"I'm not here to argue semantics with you," Bodie insisted, retreating into bad temper.
"I don't suppose I could borrow your jacket? I'd rather not put that shirt back on. It has bits of Gareth on it."
Despite himself, despite the horror and the anger, Bodie began to laugh. "Sorry," he gasped.
Deans shook his head, but a smile touched his mouth, and by the time Ray returned, they were both laughing.
"What's so funny?" he demanded.
"Totally inappropriate laughter," Deans told him. Then, abruptly, his laughter changed to tears.
Ray took off his own jacket and gave it to Deans. Then he walked him out to the car. Bodie followed, numb and tired.
Sasha was in the back seat. Ray bundled Ridley in next to him. "I'll drive," he said, and Bodie made no protest. He looked like hell. "We'll take Sasha home first. He's closer."
There was silence in the car for much of the trip, but finally Ridley said, "I think I'd rather walk." His voice sounded shaky and Ray glanced in the rear-view mirror. Ridley was chalk coloured. Sasha had his arm around Deans' shoulders.
"Ray, we should take him inside."
Bodie grunted softly and Ray wasn't sure if it meant he agreed or not. "Ridley?"
"Anything to get out of this car."
"Eddie won't mind," Sasha assured them.
"Right. Two more minutes, Ridley."
A heavy sigh. "Okay."
Eddie was startled by the rag-tag group that confronted him at the door. He gave Sasha a bear-hug and surveyed the others with a critical eye. "What's all this?"
"I invited them in."
Eddie seemed about to protest, but he caught sight of Deans, white and shivering under Ray's leather jacket, and he nodded. "Fred and Kathe are here. They were worried about you."
Ridley curled up in a corner of the sofa and closed his eyes, and Ray was about to sit down beside him when he noticed that Bodie was hanging back in the doorway, looking like he'd rather be anywhere but here. And Ray felt sorry for him. He went over and slipped his arm around Bodie's waist. The man was rigid with tension. Sasha slipped out of the room.
"After Bodie left, I began to think there might be something wrong," Fred admitted. "So I called Eddie."
"And I promptly went off the deep end and called Ray," Eddie added.
"And I called Ridley. What a night." Ray felt Bodie relax slightly.
Sasha returned with three glasses of something the colour of pale caramel. "Drink this," he insisted, handing one each to Ray and Bodie, and holding out the last one to Ridley. "It's good for you. Just herbs."
"One of his mother's recipes," Eddie informed them.
Ridley shook his head. "Can't."
Kathe took the glass from Sasha. "Let me try." She sat down beside Deans and wrapped his fingers around the glass. "I've tried this. Best thing in the world when you're sick to your stomach."
"Would this face lie to you?"
He glanced up and managed a smile. "Probably. But I believe you." And he began to sip the drink. "Not as foul as it looks," he observed.
Bodie drained his glass and handed it back to Sasha. "I feel better already," he joked. "I should get him home. Ridley?"
But before he could answer, Kathe said, "Fred and me will see he gets to where he's going, won't we Fred?"
For a moment Fred seemed about to say something rude. Then he shrugged. "It won't be that much out of our way, I expect."
So Ray and Bodie took their leave of the others.
Once home, Bodie went upstairs without a word and took a shower. Ray fixed soup and crackers and carried it upstairs.
"Come on, Sunshine. Supper."
"Not hungry," came the response from the bath.
"You will be about three. I don't want you bashing about the kitchen looking for left over bangers." He set the tray down on the bed and got into his robe.
"I don't think I've ever been as tired," Bodie admitted as he entered the bedroom. "Smells good."
Ray smiled. "Just eat a bit to make me feel good. You'll sleep better too."
So Bodie sat down and began to eat without much enthusiasm. But he kept on eating until his bowl was empty. Ray was gratified.
"'s good. May I sleep now, mum?"
"I'll tuck you in, shall I?"
"Aren't you coming?"
"I want to wash up first. Hate leftover dishes as much as you hate leftover sprouts." He pulled the duvet up over Bodie and kissed the damp hair. "I'll be up soon."
"Ray? I'm sorry."
"It's over. Let it go."
"Mostly over. I know there are going to be some shock waves for a while yet. I'm apologizing in advance."
"You daft bugger," Ray said with real affection.
-- THE END --