The Walk to the Paradise Garden
(Unfinished) sequel to Somewhere There's Heaven
Like the dew on the mountain,
Like the foam on the river,
Like the bubble on the fountain,
Thou art gone, and forever.
--The Lady of the Lake, Canto III, xvi
Leaving at dawn to beat the traffic, Cade made good time into town, only getting snarled up along the Bethnal Green Road--the usual gridlock by the Museum of Childhood. He pulled into the Yard at 10.05 exactly and spent a chatty few minutes with Willis, the old copper in charge of the car park.
He set off briskly through the icy streets--November in London and the weather was appalling. Turning right, he made his way down past Westminster and along the river, reaching the anonymous water front building that housed the blandly named "Central".
He wondered yet again just why he had been summoned to this meeting.
"It's the Assistant Commissioner on line 7 sir," Diane had stated as Cade was heading for the door, one arm in his raincoat sleeve, the other dealing with his briefcase.
"At this time?" Alan had asked, irked. He had sighed, dumped coat and case on her desk and went back into his own office, switching on the desk lamp. "Line 7?" he asked confirmingly and without waiting for her response, punched the button.
"Cade," he said and spent the usual eternity waiting to actually speak to the right person. At last, it was the man himself on the phone.
"Alan, glad I caught you, sorry to call so late. Could you switch to scramble please?" There was a slight delay, then: "Thing is, there's someone who'd quite like to see you sometime tomorrow, say ten thirty? I'd suggest you clear your diary for the whole day actually."
Cade raised an eyebrow at the tone but replied calmly enough: "Yes of course, if you think it's important."
"Oh it's not the Yard, Alan. It's Central. The Supervisor's office as a matter of fact. Ten thirty then? I'd appreciate it if you'd pop by the Yard afterwards if you can and I'll stand you a sandwich from the Mess. Cheerybye," and the AC rang off.
Cade had replaced the receiver thoughtfully and sat back in his chair, pondering this strange summons to one of the murkier corners of Whitehall. He'd never actually visited Central--or met the Supervisor for that matter. He didn't know of anyone who had. But he knew of the activities that were--reputedly--carried out by the Central operatives. What on earth they would want with the chief constable of an area like Eastlands he couldn't begin to imagine.
Diane had been tidying up for the day as Cade emerged again. "I'm in town all day tomorrow Diane. Cancel the review boards and give my apologies. I'm not interruptible but a message left with the Yard will reach me if it's urgent. I'll drive up first thing and probably stay over--I'll be having a bite to eat with the AC at some stage," and before she could mention it, he added: "yes, I will call you when I can."
The building was large, with regulation meshed windows to protect against bombs. The pleasant faced woman at Reception greeted him cheerfully and demanded his name and business there. He showed his warrant card, driver's licence and Yard pass, all of which were inspected carefully.
"Do take a seat sir," the woman said and he settled himself and looked around, casually but thoroughly. You could never tell with these places; it looked like any other government office, maybe blander than most and yet Cade wouldn't be surprised if they had some 'guests' under hot lights at this very second.
The place had a faded, slightly out of date air but the closed circuit security scanner was state of the art and Cade judged the pleasant faced woman could have something a little more--fatal--than just a nail file secreted in her desk drawer.
A uniformed messenger stood before him, a young girl who looked fresh out of school. Would Mr Cade come with her please and Cade simply nodded, picked up his briefcase and followed obediently.
The corridors were all long, carpeted in plain grey and brown squares and preternaturally silent. Not a phone, not a keyboard, not a voice. An office of mutes, Cade thought fancifully. The lift was small and again, a tv monitor blinked balefully. There were 8 floors Cade noticed and they stopped at the 7th. The top floor in places like this was never given over to offices. It was the electronic gadgets, the satellites and such that got top billing in government agencies like this one.
Though, thinking about it, Cade remembered that Central probably didn't count a government agency at all: strictly speaking, it didn't even exist.
Another endless drab corridor, then a door with the simple legend "Supervisor". The messenger didn't knock but went straight in to a small ante-room with the usual furniture; coat stand, fridge, kettle, battered tin of tea bags, fax machine and a photocopier without a sort function: maybe it was a Government body after all. A wall chart showed holiday and sickness absence in red and green. There were no names on the chart, only numbers, an odd combination of any-office practicality and James Bond Secret Service.
Cade allowed his coat and briefcase to be taken from him and declined the cup of tea he was offered.
"Please knock and enter," the messenger said and disappeared. Cade stifled a smile: he was impatient and bored but not at all intimidated by this rigmarole. He knocked on the door, opened it and strode straight in.
"Mr Cade," the man was stood looking out over the river, the wide window caught all the light of the winter morning. He turned at last and walked forward, holding out his hand. "I'm the Supervisor."
Cade returned the handshake mechanically, mouthing the usual nothings and all the while he was aware of a strange and quite disconcerting feeling of deja-vu. The man opposite was--Alan Cade. Or close enough they could have been brothers. The same height, the same colouring, about the same age--Cade felt as if he were looking at his own reflection in a slightly distorted mirror.
Only as Cade sat down, once more declining any refreshments, did he pull himself together enough to notice the differences. The Supervisor was thinner, finely drawn, with a closed, hard face and flat dead eyes. Altogether he was an impressive and icy individual. Cade refused to be intimidated and instead judged this inhuman specimen would make a good witness, stand up well under pressure from a Silk's cross examination.
"The superficial resemblance is quite startling isn't it?" The Supervisor's voice was dry and unemphatic, the voice of someone who never raised his voice. He was looking Cade over thoroughly and at leisure, sitting absolutely still and yet relaxed too with the stillness of utter control.
It was not natural to sit so calmly Cade thought, for the first time feeling just a little uneasy. "We could be relations," Cade agreed.
"We're not. But to business," and the Supervisor opened the slender buff folder on his desk. He looked at the contents briefly, scanning a few pages with his forefinger. "So, tell me Mr Cade, are you a close friend of Ted Bradley?"
"No, I know him slightly socially but I wouldn't say we were friends," Cade replied, baffled and making no attempt to hide it.
"He's never tried to--interest--you in his European activities, his political and business ventures? Asked questions, sought your advice?"
"No," Cade answered truthfully, wondering where all this was leading.
"I see. Tell me, do you intend to continue your liaison with--ah--Drew Phillips?" The cold, even voice didn't change at all, the Supervisor's absorption in the papers before him seemed genuine but Cade felt the temperature drop by several degrees at the force behind the last words.
Cade was hardly surprised. "It was naive of me to expect this not to come out at some stage," he said simply, refusing to be cowed into either denials or justifications.
"Yes, it was. But will you answer my question?"
"I'm not planning on seeing this person again. But I don't think you could stop me, if I was."
"No? What would stop you Mr Cade? This involvement could prove very damaging to your career, to the police force as a whole. To government security." The Supervisor was looking at him now, his eyes level, green and cold in the bland mask of his face.
"Government ministers are known to be gay, and no one gives a damn. It wouldn't matter, although I admit my career would be over," and Cade shrugged, man of the world 'what else can I expect' tone, "but one more bent copper wouldn't mean the end of civilisation as we know it." Part of Cade was proud of his demeanour so far: the man had obviously tried to rattle him; the performance about summoning Cade to a hasty meeting, the deliberate questions and answers. Cade had conducted too many investigations to fall for these tricks. "Is there a point to all this?"
"Perhaps there is. However, as you say Mr Cade, one more 'bent copper' is neither here nor there and frankly, who you sleep with is of only minor importance. As long as you're discreet and it's kept out of the tabloids of course. No, it's the other parties we're concerned with here. Bradley," the man got up from his desk and paced a little, much too obviously casual, "Bradley has been seen in unusual places. And unusually large amounts of money have changed hands, as have some unusually large numbers of stolen weapons. In connection," and he sat down again, his eyes very cold now, like lasers, "with his Balkan activities."
Cade waited: he'd known Bradley was crooked, of course, with that provincial corruption that was almost always impossible to prove but this seemed a fair way out of Bradley's league.
"We'd like to know where he's getting the money from, and the weapons too. And we think Mr Bradley might find his local Chief Constable a useful ally, as useful, perhaps, as a former CI5 agent turned mercenary of our acquaintance." The Controller closed the file gently and sat back, steepling his fingers under his chin and regarding Cade with suspicious candour. "I don't have to draw any pictures, do I?" and Cade shook his head.
"No, that won't be necessary, I was always quick on the up-take." He meant it to sting but it didn't appear to have any effect on the Controller at all.
"I'm glad to hear it. Now, I think it would be in your best interest, in all our interests, if you were to accept any invitations to--for instance--join Mr Bradley in his business ventures in that troubled region, to inform me of any details of shipments and suppliers and so on," and the Supervisor's face relaxed briefly into a sort of smile. "Good day Chief Constable." The man got up, picked up the folder from the desk and without a handshake or farewell he walked from the room.
Cade hesitated, feeling that the rug had been very definitely pulled out from under his feet and not at all sure what he was meant to do now. That at least was solved as the messenger appeared again and in glacial silence conducted him back to the front door.
It was colder, the morning as dark as night, heavy clouds rolling up the river, bringing sleet. A taxi trawled the kerb invitingly but, despite the weather, Cade needed to walk and refused it. He set off back towards St James at a slow and deliberate pace.
Have I just been blackmailed, he wondered. Do as I say or you'll wake up to find your name splashed all over the News of the World? Cade hadn't missed that slight reference to the power of the press. Or is it Bradley they want me to blackmail? And why?
The AC was busy when Cade made his appearance on the eleventh floor. Cade nodded understandingly and made his own way to the Mess, relatively deserted at this hour, too late for breakfast, too early for lunch. A few die-hards were there, seeking solace in hot tea and cakes and Cade exchanged the usual pleasantries with the people he recognised.
He was halfway through his second cup of tea when the AC joined him, jovial, overweight and fussily dressed as ever.
"Alan, good to see you. How's life down on the farm?" he laughed. Cade murmured something and waited for the carefully careless questions to begin.
"So, you had your meeting with 'Smiley' then did you? What they wanted with you I've no idea and the Supervisor himself too--frosty faced little blighter, isn't he? Sharp as a tack, so they say. Wouldn't fancy it myself, I'd confess to stealing the crown jewels if he so much as looked at me."
"I found him--brisk, certainly. It was about some businessman who's by way of being a big-pot down our street, that's all. Why he couldn't have just telephoned for the information like any other mortal I don't know. Still, it's a day away from the office isn't it?" and Cade shrugged it off with ease, telling a sort of truth. "You know how these Spooks like to throw their weight around," he added ruefully, inviting the AC to join him in the coppers instinctive distrust of the 'other services'.
"Aw like that? Thought it would be, you'd hardly be involved in anything for Central after all. Rummy lot, aren't they?" and Cade agreed to that heartily.
The talk drifted to the usual shop and it was with reluctance that the AC departed to his office.
Cade made his way back to the car park, undecided whether to remain in London for the weekend or drive down to Eastland immediately. If he set off now (and didn't stop for any lunch), he could be back at his desk for 3.30. Lunching alone appalled him: no one would be free at such short notice. On the other hand, his diary for the day had been relatively clear in any case--he could easily stay--the only thing he had planned for his afternoon was to conduct one of his much dreaded periodic case audits. Lazy bastard, Cade scoured himself, people will have prepared for that review: casual office-nothing-politic for you, some poor grunt worked overtime to get kit ready for inspection. His jaw jutted and his decision was made.
The car heater was welcome and, relaxing for the first time since dawn, Cade listened to the radio contentedly. The news shattered his mood:
"Reports are coming in that overnight the Bosnian Serbs launched a major offensive against enemy strongholds in the hills above Sarajevo. The airport, hospital and Red Cross headquarters are all under heavy fire. UN Military forces are pinned down. Our reporter Kate Aidie is on the line with General Sir Michael Rose..." and the distinctive voice of the journalist came, against a background of shell and mortar fire, then the General himself listing the casual cruelties of this most casually cruel war.
The logical, business like part of Cade's mind catalogued the information carefully, aware that Central with it's overseas resources would have known this news yesterday. Could this explain the late night summons and the meeting this morning before the news became public? Do they suspect that Bradley is involved in it all somehow, the business and political interests just a front for something more sinister? Cade recalled that Bradley was a member of the European Parliament now, seconded to a select committee involved in the Balkan conflict. And what about that ever so casual mention of Drew Phillips (last known address c/o Sarajevo)?
Politics aside, shamefully, Cade's only concern was that somewhere in the flames, Drew was in danger, perhaps fighting for his life.
It had been over six months since Cade had said goodbye to Drew Phillips. May to November--six months and two weeks to be exact--Cade despised himself for that exactness.
The motorway unfurled before him. Driving with well trained concentration, Cade discarded thoughts of old romances and only allowed himself to think about the events of the morning. Central would not be displeased to have a Chief Constable on their payroll as a sort of local 'stringer' to collect information. Cade knew that the Supervisor would hardly stop at just this one 'request'. What else would he be asked to report, to do? And was Cade prepared to live with that? No doubt many others did. Central would have a similar hold over others; minor royalty, MPs, business leaders and such. After all, their speciality was finding the peacock on your wall.
A motorway police patrol cruised by on his right, the officers saluting--they had recognised his licence plate. Cade nodded affably and let them pull ahead in the fast lane, part of him amused at the sudden impeccable manners of the other drivers as they spotted the orange and white range rover. Once the patrol car was out of sight, the carriageway reverted to its usual Ben-Hur chariot race.
But the incident reminded him that he was on his own ground now. He punched the short-dial button on his mobile and had a short, static filled chat with the office. The morning events at Central would have to wait until he could consider them at leisure. Back to work Alan, he admonished himself.
There was only salad left in the canteen but Cade was hungry so he ate it. A busy afternoon followed and it was well after seven when he called it a day and set off home. Judiciously, he had declined the offer of a few drinks with his more senior 'lads'. His briefcase was stuffed with the files he had not managed to review so far and Cade contemplated a desolate Friday evening, checking through cases and in the meantime, trying to figure out what his future actions should be.
He parked the car, feeling the cold seep into his bones. The night was full of dark freezing winds straight from the north sea bringing more rain.
Like a movie, a figure stepped forward from the shadows and Cade stopped, heart in his mouth, waiting for the terrorist bullet:
"Hi, honey, I'm home," Drew said.
Cade was still tight-lipped with anger and surprise as he settled down on the sofa. Drew sat on the edge of an armchair; he looked thinner and old and very tired. Cade refused to feel sorry for him then went to turn up the central heating and pour a more than generous measure of brandy.
"I gather you've seen the Supervisor?" Drew said tonelessly and it would have taken a wiser head than Cade's to know what was going on behind that soldier's face.
"Yes, I've seen him." Cade sipped his own drink, needing the alcohol to steady his nerves. "You scared me to death just now. You should be bloody grateful that I wasn't armed otherwise I'd have shot you."
"I doubt I'd notice."
"How did you know about the Supervisor anyway?" Cade asked, refusing to rise to the bait.
"He told me. I saw him too, just after you, at eleven this morning. In fact, I saw you leave the building. You didn't look too chuffed. Anyway, they called me back from Sarajevo overnight and took me straight to Central from RAF Lynam."
"Why, Drew? What on earth is going on?"
"I worked for the firm--once. Long ago and far away," and there was a glimmer of the old teasing manner that was so entrancing. "They were called CI5 in those days but it's the same bunch."
"So that's how they...?" Cade trailed off, doing sums in his head, adding two and two and making five and a half.
"Yeah, they've not bugged your bedroom if that's what you're thinking. It was me they were watching, me and Fat Boy Bradley. Turns out they've had their beady eyes on him for some time." Drew sat back in the chair, stretching out his legs and trying to get comfortable.
"Is he involved in your--Balkan--activities?"
"He's on the Brussels working party committee seconded to the Peace Process office in Geneva. Sounds vague enough doesn't it? In his spare time, I discovered he was selling arms to every man and his dog out there. Bosnian Serbs. Croats. Local mafia. You name it. Shuttling about the place, waving the white flag and all the time..." Drew shook his head ruefully, not quite disgusted.
"That's terrible." Cade considered the implications of this scandal in the making; more than one person could end up behind bars over this when it all came out. "But when you say 'you discovered' what do you mean?"
"I was simply doing my job Alan, stocking up on supplies for my lads. Imagine my surprise," and Drew waggled an eyebrow, irrepressible, "when it's my old mate Fat Boy who turns up with the catalogue."
"I'll bet you weren't the only one who was surprised?"
"No, I took a few years off his life I think. He looked like he'd seen a ghost."
Cade realised something, suddenly, horribly. "You told the security services about him. About us." It wasn't quite a question.
"No honey, they already knew. They keep a pretty constant eye on me for--various--reasons. I know where the bodies are buried in that particular back-yard you see, me and the Supervisor, as he likes to call himself these days, we go back a long way." An expression at once pained and angry crossed Drew's face as he explained.
"So you're back in Eastland--for good?" Cade didn't examine his own motives for asking the question.
"For a while at least. Until I can get a bit more proof that is. With what they know about me, and you, Central are calling the tune now--I've pretty much got to do as they say. I've got to make Bradley believe we're bosom buddies--we're about to start a joint venture--how cosy. There's nothing like a little mutual blackmail to cement a friendship is there?"
Cade, remembering this morning, nodded, his expression sour. "Does Bradley know about us?" he asked, more than a little dismayed at the prospect.
"Gods, no. I haven't mentioned your name in Bradley's presence. Nor would I. No matter what," and Drew prowled about the warm, cosy living room like a discontented cat. "Someone else--naming no names--may tell him, though."
Cade nodded, understanding the reference at once. "As you say, a little mutual blackmail all round," and he tried to smile about it.
"Don't think Bradley is the end of the chain he's building either," Drew stated, fretful. Cade didn't need to ask who 'he' was. "He'll hawl in the Foreign Secretary and half the cabinet before he's done. Bradley is just a stupid greedy man but he dines at some pretty top-tables you know."
"I'm sure. What a useful idea; ultimately, Bradley can be dealt with in any number of ways, but if he involves me and you--well, that can serve several purposes."
"What?" Drew seemed really baffled.
"Oh, Drew, think about it! For one, it ensures that a high profile, politically minded policeman can be kept suitably in line. Caught in some sordid affair with a mercenary? I'm lucky Central found out and not "The Sun"."
"Sordid?" Drew was studying his nails.
"Oh, stop being so Camille, that's what the papers would say, the editorials, my commanding officer. And well you know it. Sordid. Yes, bloody sordid. Don't be naive." And with ruthless implacable force, Alan went over and grabbed the other man and kissed him, hard and fast, then let go. "And there's nothing we can do," Cade mused, more to himself than to Drew, and sat down again.
With a smothered movement of extreme irritation, Drew sprawled onto the sofa beside Cade. "He is good, isn't he," Drew said conversationally, then simply gathered Cade into his arms, easy and powerful. "He always was," and then Drew kissed him back, sweet and firm but somehow sad.
"We're too tired," Cade said it for him, "and we're in enough trouble as it is," and they both kissed each other a little, just to take the sting out of the words.
"True alas," and the sparkle gleamed again in those impossibly blue, beautiful eyes. "It would be nice though--and I always prefer to be hung for a sheep not a lamb."
Cade was surprised at his own reaction to this almost off hand approach. "It's been a while," he started, carefully hiding his fury, but Drew finished it for him: "And who do I think I am anyway?"
Drew's arms tightened around the other man. "I've a nerve eh? Turning up after all this time, getting you embroiled in all this in the first place and then expecting the red carpet treatment." Cade was released neatly and Drew resumed his own chair. "I'm not fond of asking for anything from anybody but I'd appreciate it if I could stay the night. I don't much fancy trying to check into an hotel with the Sarajevo mud fresh on my boots." He was remote, friendly and relaxed now and nothing in his manner indicated that he and Alan were anything more than slightly acquainted: a casual favour asked of a casual friend.
Contrary, Alan cursed his own touchiness of moments past. Such game playing belonged to a much younger man; and this distance between them was suddenly unbearable. "There's a spare room you can have with pleasure. There's a spare space on my pillow too that you can have with even greater pleasure." There, that was blatant enough.
Drew gave him a shrewd assessing look. "Lonely? Randy? Sorry for me? Sorry for yourself?"
"The last, maybe. A little. I'm not going to turn down what I can have simply because it's not quite what I wanted." Cade was rather pleased that for once he seemed to have puzzled the usually razor witted Drew. "It would be like turning down the second prize because you hadn't won first prize."
"Don't," Drew was stone faced and serious, "say things like that about yourself--you should get first prize every time."
"Well, have the spare bed then," Cade was determined to remain good humoured about it; after all, it was in his own best interest. "Isn't it a little late in the day for all this Drew? I've seen the Supervisor remember. I'm not simple you know."
"The resemblance was what attracted me to you, yes. I'm not such a fool as to deny the obvious." Drew had withdrawn his gaze, looking as near uncomfortable as Cade could ever remember.
"So, if you have sex with me thinking about him and I don't mind, what's the problem?" Cade pushed the point, surer of his ground as Drew started to get visibly more and more uncomfortable.
"That's rather a rotten thing to say."
"Is it? More rotten than some of the other things that have been said? Or maybe just more honest? And here I was, thinking you rather prided yourself on your honesty."
"Honesty? A rare and precious commodity these days," and Drew was trying, hard, to regain his urbane manner.
"Try this then. You can't have him, so you'll make do with me. You can't get him in your bed, but you can get me. He won't love you, but I might. How's that for honesty, honey?"
Drew sat back, looking at him with a mixture of surprise and respect. For almost the first time, Cade sensed he had gained the initiative between them. Triumph was unworthy, but he felt it just the same, and perversely, a warmer, kinder reaction to Drew himself. This should worry you Alan, lust and growing attraction are easy to deal with. Starting to feel kind towards this man is something else again. "You look pretty well done in." Cade said it warmly, unable to deny his pleasure in simply looking at Drew, here, large as life.
Drew grimaced, his face full of pain for one instant, then just as quickly it was gone. "That's how I feel to tell you the truth. It's hard work all this cloak and dagger--I'd forgotten. Maybe I'm getting too old for this," and his smile was a heartcatching disguise.
"You should retire and grow vegetable marrows," Cade said soberly, "you'd be so bored you'd be back in Serbia within a week."
"When you're right, you're right," Drew agreed. "I must say, I was glad to leave the double dealing two faced part of all this behind me. Going back to it only reinforces my loathing," and for once, Drew looked genuinely angry, his usual blandness banished.
This is how he must look when he's at 'work', ferocious and determined. "It leaves a nasty taste," Cade agreed gently. "And Bradley hardly seems worth it."
"Maybe you're right, maybe Bradley's not the point," Drew said cryptically. "There can be wheels within wheels with him," and again, Cade knew who 'him' was, "even in something like this, we'll never really know what he's up to."
"Will you do me a favour?" Cade asked seemingly out of the blue. Drew just looked at him, his face saying louder than words 'just name it'. "Will you come and sit beside me again?"
Drew's smile was a thing of wonder; it sometimes came as a shock to realise again, fully and as if for the first time, how lovely this man was. Near and warm, Cade could see the tiredness beneath the beauty and it was far too late to tell himself not to feel kind.
"Welcome home," Cade said, almost as an afterthought.
Drew smiled his appreciation of the remark, his bright eyes getting even brighter at the implication. "Yeah, we've come a long way, but we return to where we started and...."
"Know the place for the first time," Cade finished it for him. "I missed you," he added, feeling he owed Drew something, feeling pleased at the truth of it.
"That's nice," Drew replied and Cade wanted, quite badly, to kiss his brandy lips. "There hasn't been anyone to miss me for a long time. In my line of work, what do you expect?"
"When you left the Service before, it was the Supervisor you were leaving really, wasn't it?" Cade felt sure of his ground now, sensitive to this man in a way that was strange to him.
"Yes it was, though I denied it at the time. Loudly, as I recall," Drew smiled at the memory and quite casually leaned his head into Cade shoulder, a touching and unexpected gesture. It seemed natural for Cade to put his arm around Drew's shoulders, cradling him. Drew continued: "I was an operative with a bunch of louts called CI5, you might remember them? In the days when Special Branch didn't talk to MI6 and MI5 didn't even exist?" Cade nodded, yes he'd heard of them, even thought of applying at one time. "Well, the 'Supervisor' as he likes to call himself was just another agent then. We were partners, like that--" Drew held up his hand, first two fingers crossed.
"So what happened?" Cade asked, his tone carefully noncommittal.
"Selfishness and ego, that's what happened. On both sides, to be fair. I thought he was pretty special, you know?" Drew looked up, making the point. "My real thing, my 'Mister Him', yes?" Cade nodded his understanding. "I thought so then, anyway."
"Well, I'm not one to wait upon fortune now am I?" Cade shook his head, stifling his smile in a gentle kiss against the top of Drew's head. "So I went for it, as my American chums would say. S'funny in a way, I think they heard the explosion in the Outer Hebrides. I was picking shrapnel out of the walls for weeks." Drew sounded amused, his voice warm with the nostalgia of it. "But, of course, I'd only considered myself really and what I wanted. Thought all I had to do was ask and it was all over bar calling the banns. I expected we'd be picking out furniture together and choosing wallpaper." It was said with light humour, then: "No--seriously, I thought he," Drew paused, searching for the right words, "cared about me."
"And he didn't?"
"Oh yes, I think so. That's the tragedy really. I think he did care, certainly more than he cared about anyone else, more than he knew himself. Or maybe I'm just flattering myself. Anyway, he was shocked, shocked at the whole idea. Shocked at me wanting that sort of thing. That made me feel wonderful, as you can imagine," Drew pushed into Cade's side, getting comfortable, tucking up his legs onto the sofa. Cade, feeling a treacherous, inevitable warmth, coaxed Drew's head lower, to rest in his lap.
Drew went with it easily. "I was quite a bit more extravagant in those days, ready to race in where angels would fear to tread. Told him he was a cock teasing bastard and I was off. So I just--left."
The blank masked despair of that final statement told Cade more than he wanted to know. "Can I ask you something?" he ventured, after a short but profound silence.
"Anything," Drew mumbled through a yawn.
"Why do you call me those names, why do you call me honey?"
Drew stilled, plainly embarrassed. "This will sound insulting, but the truth is it's just easier. An American habit I picked up a little too quickly. Disgusting, right?" and he looked up, his face gentle from this angle, his eyes wide and deeply blue.
"Yes," Cade replied with a smile, even though he had guessed this would be the reason. "Although I can see the logic--it must save some red faces over the breakfast table."
Drew subsided back down and had the good manners to wince. "Yeah, it is pretty shabby--it helps to keep people at a distance, even while being affectionate, intimate."
"This is a disaster really, isn't it?" Cade said, conversationally, running his hand through Drew's short, silky hair. Despite feeling closer to Drew than ever before, now he felt he was saying goodbye to something, perhaps something special.
"Well, it's not the way I would have chosen to meet you again. Or him for that matter. You see," a simple dignity, "he meant everything to me."
Cade knew this man's courage, physical and emotional. Integrity too should not be so surprising. "I'm sorry," Cade managed; it was true. "There's so little genuine love in the world, it must be hard to find it and then lose it."
"Lose it? I never really had it. Daydreams, the odd sweaty fantasy maybe. Nothing more. Not much to waste twelve years of your life for, is it?"
"A waste? All of it?" Cade asked distantly, determined not to show how he felt at this.
"Most of it." Drew sighed and reached for Cade's hand, wrapping himself in the embrace. "With one honourable exception. Don't ask me what that is--you already know."
"Because I'm like him?"
"Because you're not. Oh yes," as Cade protested, "in looks, maybe. Maybe you share a ruthless streak--after all, you don't get to be a Chief Constable by being a 'nice' guy." Cade subsided "But you're human. You can give--something. He never gave me anything. His eyes are dead eyes now." It was suddenly quite horrible to hear Drew, usually urbane and disinterested, sound so bitter, so angry.
"Twelve years isn't long enough is it?"
"My whole life won't be long enough."
"When we parted last time, you said 'this is all there will ever be' and, forgive me, I didn't believe you." There was no response and Cade realised that Drew was asleep, defenceless and almost childlike, with his head in Cade's lap and Cade's hand on his hair. "Well," and Cade breathed the words gently, "now I do."
They settled close, Drew's weight warm and drugging. Cade realised he felt relaxed, an actual positive state of peace, every nerve end unravelling. To see Drew like this, his restlessness stilled by fatigue, crystalised his feelings--events had led them here, to this, together or apart. Knowing it was love and it was over, that was at least an answer.
For sometimes, what you want is simply not available. There was no shame in admitting it and moving on, Cade knew--he had done the same in the past. Feelings didn't matter, ultimately; they would not change no matter what you did. Hadn't Drew admitted it--'all my life won't be long enough'? It hurt, but, again, that was not the point was it? It had to be done.
And, even though it seemed cruel, he had to wake Drew. He shook him gently. "Hey, c'mon sleepy-head, up the wooden hill to bed-ford-shire." Cade grimaced at the nursery rhyme tone but there was no other way he could think of to handle it. Under the resigned and pensive mood, his need and desire of earlier still burned; maybe even brighter for the knowledge it could be the last time.
Drew stretched and sighed and was wide awake.
"Sorry," he said and Cade just shook his head. "I'm fine company," Drew got up, stretching his arms up over his head, an unconscious and devastatingly arousing gesture. Cade breathed out sharply down his nose; he wanted to touch this man, wanted it now.
"Will you stay?" he asked, outright, quite calmly.
Drew looked at him, head tilted to one side, considering. His face showed nothing at all beyond a certain pale tiredness. "I'm not--er, exactly up to much," he said, slyly.
Cade almost felt like laughing--trust Drew to get right to it; blunt without being crude, funny without being vulgar. Oh, he was good. Very good.
"It's a cold night, and I want to hold something. Someone. Maybe you feel the same."
There was a long gentle silence. "Yes, maybe I do."
They got undressed and then dressed for bed; no flaunting of nakedness or needs now, simply sharing pyjamas and t-shirts and bedding down like an old married couple, or friends. They didn't talk for a while and then Drew gave a smothered groan and reached for Alan, and Alan just held on to him until they both fell asleep.
Alan woke up slowly, savouring the warmth of someone close to him, a rare experience in his life now. "It's early," Drew whispered reproachfully, "go back to sleep, I was enjoying myself here," but Alan smiled and opened his eyes. Drew was half lying half sitting, propped up on pillows and watching the other man with simple appreciation.
"Imagining someone?" Alan asked, with honest curiosity. But Drew simply blinked at that and Alan knew he'd misjudged the man--again. "No," he answered his own question, "you weren't thinking about it being him here, were you? I'm sorry." He was, too.
Drew's eyes narrowed fractionally. "That's okay, you've had grounds to think that, and worse, about me. But no, I was just watching--you. And thinking about you."
"Oh," that sounded promising, "thinking what?"
"Thinking about waking you up by putting my cock in your arse, if you must know. Or sucking you off, you've got a lovely piece of flesh there," and Drew's hand was sudden and very clever, right where Alan needed it to be. Alan's face showed he was waiting for more, so Drew clarified; "Your cock, it's lovely. Very virile but not--clubby, you know. Elegant even, like you. Nice shaft, smooth round ripe head. You're a stunning package all together, really. You're maturing well, like a fine wine," and Drew smiled at his own outrageous cliche.
"Thank you," Alan replied, dryly. "I'm flattered."
"You should be," and Drew gave a wicked exciting squeeze to Alan's waking, appreciative flesh.
"Hmmmm, I'm asleep then," Alan said, his body making the decision for him, "I'm fast fast asleep and you can wake me up by putting your own piece of elegant ripe flesh in my arse, then, can't you?" and he rolled over, daring the moment, judging it was more than time for this between them, wanting it to be the time. Wanting it badly.
Drew almost laughed and almost groaned, pushing back the bedclothes and rubbing hard at Alan's shoulders and back, not quite a caress. "Oh, Alan, Alan, this isn't the way to end it between us, not if you want it over with, fool, you know if I fuck you now, you know what that means between us?"
"I know--god, how patronising can you get," Alan was annoyed, "I know so get the fuck on with it you moron, we've wasted enough time, don't you think? How many more games do we have to play, for godsakes?"
Drew's hands cupped Alan's buttocks as Alan curled back into the touch, an odd slightly out of synch thing but more real than anything they had shared. "Got the fixings mate, or what?" and if Alan had ever doubted Drew was originally English, that was abandoned now.
"What do you think," he managed, pushing his nipples and cock into the sheets, his buttocks into Drew's hands, then: "Top drawer, there's jelly too..." and he buried his fist in his mouth as Drew's finger probed inside his body. It hurt, felt wrong, his body protesting the invasion in such a private place. "Oh yes," he lied and almost believed it. "Yes."
"Alan, Alan," and no one could disguise the genuine feeling there, Drew's words heavy with it. "Alan, you bloody fool, now see what we've done, now see," and Drew pushed, a hot hard blunt thing, towards Alan's body. Alan took a deep breath, pushing back as hard as Drew pushed, steeling himself for it, thanking God Drew had more sense than to offer to withdraw: he knew, none better, that once a man got his cock in anything, he would stay there.
It hurt, as much as the first time had hurt all those young years ago. That was surprising. And Drew was good at this, quick, the hard bulk of smooth heated skin beating into him at a pace just below heartbeat, brisk easy strokes to achieve climax quickly, to spare his lover, Drew's words as soft above him as Drew's cock was hard inside him, "Thank you, gods, lovely, so lovely...he would never...I can't..." then no words, just one last push and a hurt, gentle inward sound, then stillness.
Drew pulled away at once and with startling grace, touched Alan's shoulders, his hands resting there, unmoving. "That's torn it," he said, breathless, an odd mixture of humour and truth, the quintessence of the man.
"Not literally, I trust?" Alan's own courage leapt to meet the other's, it was surprisingly easy to be brave about it.
Drew gave a snort of something like laughter and then grabbed Alan, hard, an equal uncomfortable hug. "Thanks," he muttered, when they were quiet and the hard uncomfortable hug turned into something quite different.
Alan shrugged to get closer, feeling entitled to take the larger part of the bed and the blankets. He tried to think about what had just happened, but it didn't require thought. It just--was. "When will you leave?" he asked, tracing a carefully unpossessive hand over Drew's bare smooth chest.
"Soon or never," Drew muttered and yawned and looked at Alan with rueful honesty. "You've shagged me out," his eyes closed and he snagged Alan even closer, their arms and legs tangling.
Alan nodded and went with it, stretching himself to ease some of the stress from his muscles. Drew was a big man.
Alan fell asleep feeling nothing but sorry for them all.
The Supervisor was at his desk by seven, as always, seven days a week. The place was quiet today, only a few staff worked over the weekend.
He sipped his decaf with stoic indifference and read the report: as expected, Drew Phillips had spent the night at the house of Chief Constable Alan Cade.
He picked up the phone and issued a few terse instructions to continue the surveillance until further notice, then got up from the desk in disgust, annoyed with himself for some reason. Not that there could be a reason, he corrected himself. No reason at all to be annoyed. Drew Phillips. What a ridiculous pseudonym, but then, the man had always been rather transparent. Before.
The phone buzzed.
"Yes," he snapped, turning his truant attention back to his work.
"It's the PM Supervisor," and there was no time for maudlin nostalgia; the work of the day would not wait for him. Triple think: he remembered his mentor's more useful teachings and steered a skilful course with the PM, letting him know just enough about the Bradley situation, keeping just enough back. Over twenty years in the Whitehall jungle he had learned his lessons well. The PM agreed with his recommendations then rang off with some vague pleasantries. He jotted down the salient points of the conversation, making a careful note of the PM's agreement, then sat back, holding his cup of cold coffee and staring into space for a full five minutes.
He pulled himself together as he heard Big Ben strike the hour. Really, this was intolerable, twice in one morning wasting time wool gathering. Time to end this Bradley farrago. But it took a few moments, still, to fix his attention on the files before him and recall, dangerously, how Bodie had looked as they met for the first time in twelve years. Just yesterday. A lifetime.
He looked up from the files and out on the November dawn, the London skyline smoky and indistinct and quite lovely. Anger evaporated and a strange melancholy caught him--somehow, it always seemed to be November.
Drew walked around in the garden, stopping every now and again to ponder a weed, or pick at a shrivelled flower head. Alan watched him from the kitchen window, then turned away, determined not to be domestic or feminine about it--what was it about being fucked that did that to normally sane well balanced men? I'll be cooking him his favourite supper next, or holding up my white wash to the window to make sure it's spotless. He grinned at himself and made coffee and carried some out into the damp cold garden. "Looking perky," he announced, sly.
"Hmmm, any wonder? Good night's sleep, good--company," with an outrageous wink, "fresh English air," Drew took a big uncouth gulp of the coffee, "yack, two sugars next time mate," Alan shrugged his apologies, "you know, I envy you," the tone sudden and serious and true.
Alan tipped his head to one side, wondering if he should pursue this. But even that was too late now: "What?"
"A garden, a real job, a life. Something, oh, I don't know," and he seemed ill at ease now, a stranger at last, after all they had done and said together, at last Alan was meeting the real man behind the soldier's face and the dashing blue eyes. "I used to want--to think about all this sort of thing. A future. You know?" And he looked at Alan hopefully, trying to convey all his meanings with a few words.
"I think," Alan was careful, "perhaps I do."
Drew looked up at the sky, then around. "We're being watched, you know that?"
"Thanks, Sherlock," and Alan hid a smile in his own coffee cup.
"Yeah, sorry. Well, seems to me, if we're already being blackmailed, there's nothing to lose."
"Or win," Alan pointed out. "I don't think screwing me will make your Mr Him jealous, if that's what you're thinking."
"Give me some credit," and Drew sounded mortally offended. "As if."
"It's just," and Alan finally knew what he wanted to say, "this is about me, you see? This time? So, you and your broken heart--and anyone else's broken heart to be honest, they aren't really the issue. Sorry, but there it is." And he took the empty coffee mugs back inside and went upstairs, got undressed and into bed and waited.
Ted 'Fat Boy' Bradley beamed for the photographers, all publicity is good publicity, and 'Hello' magazine had paid a substantial sum for the "Euro Tycoon Teddy Bradley at home with his new baby boy" exclusives and gushing reports of the romantic Christening Party, held on Valentine's Day.
Now, his wife stood beside him, dutifully holding the 'little bundle of joy' as Bradley insisted on calling the newly named Edward Bradley Jnr for their own share of the photographs.
Godparents and well-wishers stood around, holding champagne flutes and wearing self-conscious expressions of bonhomie.
Cade had proffered his gift (a sterling silver mug suitably engraved) and made mechanical small talk. He had--reluctant and prompted by Drew--informed Central of this most innocuous invitation and had been told to attend the event at all costs. Who are they going to embroil next, Cade asked himself, the baby?
Bradley was holding court, booming on about family values. The 'bundle of joy' was bawling the roof off--he's just hungry, everyone coo-ed. Cade headed for the buffet table, he was hungry too. Being cast as Judas always gave him an appetite.
Being fair, Cade knew that Judas was too strong a word. Bradley, he reminded himself, was scum. Selling guns, prolonging a costly and wasteful war and all under the flag of peace. He must be stopped. But drinking the man's champagne, congratulating the man's wife upon her safe delivery and bonny baby boy, it was hard to reconcile. Drew appeared from nowhere and handed him another glass of champagne. "You look as if you need it honey," Drew said, so low it was almost a whisper, the touch and the words startlingly and oddly comforting in this nasty little situation.
"Drew Philips and Alan Cade." Fat Boy barrelled over and beamed at them, toasting both his old dear friends. "Quite a feature on the local scene these days."
"We have things in common," Drew replied, simply. "And we're both new boys in Eastland, huh, Cade?"
"How is the flat hunting going," Alan asked, as if he didn't know.
"Slow, I'm so tired of this hotel lifestyle. Michelle," waving at the diamond-plated Mrs Bradley, "has been a lifesaver, but I really can't impose on her any longer. I'm just fussy, every place I see isn't quite--right, you know. And," to Bradley, confiding and secret and oh so casual, "my plans really are to settle down here."
Bradley's smile got wider, if that were possible. "I don't blame you, it's a wonderful life out here, fresh air, away from the city, the restrictions of London."
"And good friends," Drew said, sounding very American all at once, and pledged the toast. They all murmured 'good friends' in return and sipped.
"That's too true," Bradley said meaningfully, red-faced, genial and jolly, his rather piggy little eyes glittering like currants in his dough ball of a face. "But you know you're welcome to stay as long as you like, Andrew, Michelle loves having you around."
"Aw, that's kind of you both but really, I..."
"I've a good agent I could recommend," Alan said, as if this were all a sudden idea, "she found my place for me, why not let me put you in touch with her? She's been telling me about a farmhouse conversion, actually, wondering if I was interested myself, it's not far from my place as it goes, why not come out and see it later?"
"Well, if you're sure it would be no trouble, I'd love to. Say, six o'clock? And I insist, let me get dinner, it's the least I can do?" and Drew was pleased and courteous and Bradley smiled on their blossoming friendship and no one spared a second thought about any of it.
And the baby started crying again.
Dinner was quiet, well cooked and generously portioned, the service faultless, the wine a 68 Medoc and 'roomed' to perfection. "The last of the case, sir," the sommelier announced caressingly as he poured the ruby nectar into their glasses.
"Shame," Cade was rueful, "this place gets hold of some magical bin ends at times, gorgeous," and he sipped at the wine, feeling it slip across his lips like velvet, or a lover's tongue.
"You're a hedonist," Drew said it, very low and keeping his eyes on the pattern of the damask table linen. "It's what I like about you the most. That and your big smoky eyes and tight butt of course."
Cade sipped at the wine again, and set down his glass. "Don't talk like an American soap opera, Andrew, I know what that means by now, what's the matter?"
"I don't think I can go on," and Drew's eyes were brilliant and blue and defeated. "This, all this, watching you having to put up with it as well, weaving the ropes that'll hang that fat bastard, all of it. This."
"I know," and Cade did not mean to sound so compassionate. As often these days, he was surprised by his own reactions to this man.
"You know?" Drew sounded faintly insulted. "I feel as if my thunder has very definitely been stolen. You know?"
"Andrew," with a smile of nothing but affection, "we've barely touched since that morning, you're restless, you've lost weight, I suspect you can't sleep, you're running on adrenaline and temper."
Drew looked at the wall above Cade's head, then the table again, then: "Pay the bill, take me home. I need to talk to you."