Air on the G String
by O Yardley
"Cowley wants to see me?" Doyle raised an eyebrow in his partner's direction, wondering why Bodie had been so emphatically excluded from the summons. "Yes, the minute you get here," Cowley's secretary confirmed. "Go right in now."
Doyle shrugged in Bodie's direction and complied.
Cowley waved him to a seat, for once doing him the courtesy of paying him immediate attention, rather than keeping him waiting while he completed whatever task he was involved with.
The head of CI5 removed his glasses and laid them beside the folder on his desk, rested his forearms on it and clasped his hands loosely.
Doyle raised his eyebrow a second time. To his trained eye Cowley was clearly ill at ease, deliberately setting out to adopt a relaxed pose - and if anything was guaranteed to make his agents nervous it was the idea of a nervous Cowley.
Eventually it was Doyle who spoke first. "You sent for me, sir," he prompted.
"Aye." Another long pause during which Cowley visibly restrained himself from fidgeting with his glasses and Doyle's apprehension level went up another notch. If he hadn't had a brief telephone call from his family only that morning he'd have thought the Cow was trying to nerve himself up to reveal some terrible news concerning them but as of half an hour ago they had both been perfectly OK.
"These missing children..." Cowley tapped the folder on his desk.
Doyle's face hardened. Far too many children had vanished over the last twelve months, an increase of over 22% on normal figures. He straightened in his chair.
"A common factor may have turned up," Cowley went on, "but the evidence is, to put it mildly, flimsy. Nothing the police can act on. They've taken things as far as they can without drawing unwanted attention. Give these bastards any warning and they'll go to ground, lie low and then start up operations somewhere else and if what we think is happening is actually going on then this has got to be stopped in the shortest possible time."
Doyle's face had become blank: the old man was positively woffling.
Cowley was aware of it also and he cleared his throat. "The abuse of children for sexual purposes does go on, Doyle, as you're well aware, and I'm not just talking about the teen age girls who've disappeared but younger ones as well - and boys! The case that sparked off this latest investigation concerns a boy of six, Peter Leslie."
Cowley's voice reverted to its usual calm steadiness as he filled in the details for the younger man.
"You'll recall the case, no doubt, though not the name as that of course was never printed to protect the family. He disappeared from his home in Devonshire about six months ago and turned up on Hampstead Heath a couple of weeks back. He'd been sexually abused over a long period, brutally assaulted sexually and badly beaten up within the previous two days... it was thought to be an isolated incident at first, investigated on that premise. The child was withdrawn - almost totally so - and a very, very sick wee laddie, and almost the only word anyone could get out of him was a girl's name: Silke."
"Silky?" Doyle frowned. "Doesn't sound much like a girl's name to me, sir. Are you sure...?"
"Quite sure. Of course, the penny didn't drop all at once, the boy's mother made no sense of it not unnaturally - it's a very uncommon name after all, unique so far as we know - but the WPC assigned to the case recognized it. Silke Mellors went missing from Edinburgh last November. No trace was ever found. She was seven, a bright little redhead. They're certain young Peter had seen her from the few things he did say before he died..."
"Died?" That piece of news hadn't hit the media yet.
"Early last night... ruptured colon." The rich voice was tightly held down. "He was too badly damaged to be saved, poor lad."
"Bastards," Doyle said softly.
"Aye." There was another, brief pause and then Cowley went on: "There was one other thing he kept saying, over and over again - no plates, please, no plates."
"No plates?" It made no sense to Doyle and he said so.
In reply Cowley opened the folder in front of him, took out a magazine and dropped it in front of Doyle.
The white-lettered heading and obligatory half-dressed provocation on the cover sat oddly on the austere wood of Cowley's desk.
"Page 102," Cowley told him.
Doyle flipped through quickly. Page 102 proved to be a full page advertisement from a club in Berwick St. - 'Plato's'.
"Rather a flimsy connection, isn't it?"
"Can you suggest anything better?" Cowley demanded, tight-lipped.
"What sort of place is it?" Doyle asked quickly, flicking through the ad. which offered 'friendly atmosphere', 'disco', 'bar' and 'strippers' - membership [?] only per annum. "D'you want us to stake it out?"
Even as he asked it he could see from Cowley's face that it was more than that; the look of embarrassment was back again - in spades!
"We need a behind-the-scenes look at the place, Doyle," Cowley said, avoiding his eye. "And that means someone working there - in the kind of job where no one will even think of suspecting someone from CI5..."
Doyle was beginning to get that little prickle up and down his spine that told him he wasn't going to like this. He eyed his boss tolerantly.
"You'd better spit it out, sir. You're giving me goosepimples hedging round it like this. What exactly is it you want us to do... or is it just me you're putting on the spot?" After all, there had to be some good reason for Bodie's exclusion from this interview.
"You, Doyle. Plato's is looking for a... er... a male stripper. I'm not instructing you to do this, you understand. In this case I'm prepared to give you the option."
Doyle's sense of outrage was warring with sheer disbelief, a lick of appalled resignation and an underlying desire to burst into hysterical laughter.
His eyes met Cowley's in rueful anger. Cowley knew he'd do it if he had to, god knew small children were hardly favourites of his but stories like this one always sickened and disgusted him. If there was the slightest chance of being able to put a stop to some revolting child abuse then they must act, even on the merest suspicions only.
He took a deep breath. "OK, sir, I'll do it."
The laconic words did not fool Cowley. He met Doyle's eyes at last, gratitude and respect in his own. "Thank-you, Doyle. You'll need some tuition of course - that's all arranged."
"Of course," Doyle echoed. "If I'm to be good enough to pass the audition that is - I imagine natural talent alone won't get me a job."
Cowley nodded, keeping this on a business level. "I'm afraid it will be a straight audition; there's no way we can rig it for you."
"I think I'd already worked that out," Doyle told him wryly. "OK, so I'd better be good. You say you've arranged tuition..."
"Aye." Cowley got to his feet. "He's waiting for you now."
Doyle controlled his eyebrows which were attempting to bury themselves beneath his rambling hairline. "You were that sure I'd say yes."
Cowley shot him a straight look under slightly bristling brows. "Let's say I had a shrewd suspicion the circumstances would persuade you that an unpleasant duty must be done. Come along, I'll take you downstairs to meet Paul de Vere, your...um... instructor."
Doyle followed him obediently to the door trying to take each moment as it came and not to look ahead, a process he well knew would only make the future appear totally insupportable. At the door he paused, his hand going out to prevent Cowley's as it reached for the handle.
"Just one thing, sir - why me?"
Cowley's eyes lifted to meet his, his somewhat severe mouth relaxing just a fraction. "Look in a mirror, 4.5," he said softly, and stepped out into the corridor.
Bodie paced restlessly, wondering what the hell the old man wanted Doyle for that was taking so damned long. With nothing to do but kick his heels and wait he had gone through the dubious attractions of the typing pool and settled for a coffee in the rest room. He was on his third cup when he was finally summoned and went diving off to Cowley's office with unaccustomed alacrity, eager to discover what was going on.
Cowley waved him to a seat and cleared his throat while collecting his thoughts. He had stayed only to listen to the initial discussion and watch the beginning of the exquisite Mr. De Vere's first exposition of his art, during which a covert glance at Doyle had told his chief that it would be kinder to beat a tactful retreat and leave him to face this alone. On his way back upstairs it occurred to him that his briefing of Master Bodie had better include a few plain words on the subject of his treatment of Doyle. He tried to put himself in Doyle's place, acknowledging inwardly the sheer impossibility of his ever attempting to emulate that innate sexuality, but knowing that if he had had to try at any time he would have needed support rather than the kind of constant put-down humour that usually sustained the pair's working relationship.
He looked up to find Bodie positively frowning at him and realized both that he had been an unconscionable time simply sitting and thinking and also that this interview with Bodie was going to be very nearly as difficult as the previous one with his partner.
He explained the circumstances to the younger man as he had done to Doyle. Bodie heard him out, interpolating a question here and there and then said,
"I gather you want Doyle and me to do some undercover work."
Cowley nodded. "You will become a member of Plato's, Bodie. A regular visitor."
Bodie raised an eyebrow. "Surely it'd be better to infiltrate someone onto the staff..." He broke off. "Doyle?"
"Aye. He will be applying for the only job presently available."
Bodie was busy putting two and two together and coming up about seven and a half.
"What the hell have you got him doing, sir, that warrants all the hush-hush treatment?"
"I spoke to Doyle separately," Cowley said at his most dour, "because under the circumstances I wished to give him the opportunity to say no."
Bodie's look of astonishment spoke volumes. Cowley giving anyone an option? Bodie's seven and a half was up to about twelve by now, his brain in overdrive. Wisely he said nothing and knowing Cowley would tell him in his own good time, contented himself with a sympathetic pose and alert expression.
Cowley shook his head sharply, knowing Bodie all too well. "No, Bodie, that won't do. If you are not prepared to give 4.5 your full backing then I shall take you off the case here and now and assign him another partner temporarily."
Bodie began to look hurt, saw in time that the Cow was utterly serious and straightened in his chair.
"I'll back him."
Their eyes met and held: Cowley's dropped first, satisfied with what he had seen in that intense blue stare.
"Unfortunately for Doyle," he said dryly, "the only vacancy at the club for the moment is for a male stripper. Doyle has agreed to apply."
Bodie wasn't at all sure his lower jaw wasn't residing on his top jacket button as a permanency. A stripper? A sense of outrage welled in him. And they'd asked Doyle to ... but he'd be good at it, bloody good, once he was over the initial embarrassment. Sure of his body, Ray was, confident of its attraction: Bodie had often envied him that careless certainty.
He closed his mouth.
"Not easy," he said tersely. "Glad you didn't ask me to do it."
Cowley smiled, a slow, contented smile: it wasn't often he got the opportunity to give Bodie back a little of his own. He shook his head.
"Och, I never send a boy to do a man's job, Bodie."
Having completed his own briefing and studied what files there were that might have the remotest connection with the case, Bodie ascertained Doyle's whereabouts and took up a position propped against the wall of the corridor outside the closed room where the lesson was in progress. He didn't blame Doyle for locking the world out: there were some things a man had to do on his own. Even if the place had been wide open he wouldn't have gone in without a specific invitation, close though he and Doyle were there were some liberties you just didn't take. He didn't even raise an eyebrow at the 'bronzed Greek god' who emerged alongside his tousle headed and scowling friend, simply nodded politely and waited for Doyle to make the moves.
Doyle introduced them briefly. "Paul, this is my partner, Bodie. Bodie - Paul de Vere."
de Vere nodded also, businesslike and a little wary. "Sally'll get that costume run up for you by tomorrow afternoon, she's very quick. I'll come by your place again in the morning and we'll just run through those two routines again... and don't worry, you'll be fine." He grinned. "If you don't get the job, I'll give you one!" He waved a hand at both of them and made off down the corridor.
Bodie caught his partner's eye and said placidly, "All right, mate?"
Doyle didn't answer directly. "Sometimes I worry about Cowley, you know," he said, moving off.
Bodie lifted his shoulders from the wall and followed him. "Whatever for?"
"The people he knows." Doyle's head jerked in the direction of the lift. "How many male strippers do you know?"
"A couple." Bodie chuckled. "And they neither of them look like him. He seems a nice enough bloke."
"Yeah." Doyle's tone was revealing nothing and his face was shuttered also. Bodie respected that, finding no way to put his feelings into words; Doyle would just have to see as time went by that Bodie didn't intend to take advantage of his situation. He was bloody grateful to Cowley for making him stop and think about things - if he hadn't he could well have been thoughtless enough to tease Doyle unmercifully and had the positions been reversed, had Bodie been put on a similarly embarrassing spot, he'd have needed - and wanted - all the support he could from Doyle.
As they entered the lift themselves later Doyle said quietly, "The worst thing is you're not the only other one who knows. Cowley's had to tell a couple of the others who'll be coming to Plato's."
"Murph and Ruth Pettifer."
Bodie pulled a commiserating face. "Could be a lot worse. They won't grass. Course," his mouth pursed in a smile, "I don't promise we'll be able to keep Pettifer off you once she's had a really good look!"
His tone was gentle enough to be unthreatening and Doyle accepted the comment in the spirit in which it had been made, a friendly attempt to lighten his somewhat sombre mood. He smiled a little lopsidedly.
"I should be so lucky," he said gloomily. "I remember her once telling me I'm even worse than you are."
"What at?" demanded Bodie, interested.
Bodie duly presented himself briefly at Plato's to apply for membership the next evening, the day before Doyle's audition there. It seemed a run of the mill place, much like a hundred others, dim lighting probably hiding a multitude of sins in the way of inadequate cleaning. The basement disco sent thudding bass notes shuddering up through walls, floor and dust-laden air into the ground floor bar with its curtained-off end and central catwalk through the close-set tables.
Bodie viewed it grimly: god help Ray, having to parade up and down there like some prize bullock up for sale.
He drank quickly and left, not caring for either the place or its youthful clientele: in any case, it was barely half full being early in the week. The doorman was quick to assure him that the place was a good deal livelier later on, once the strippers began their routines, but Bodie felt little inclination to stay. He never had cared for strip clubs and saw little attraction in sex at second hand, but then he'd never had any trouble in pulling the birds from a very early age.
The doorman surveyed him sagely. "Fridays and Saturdays are the best nights, sir," he told him, a knowing smirk in his eyes. "See you then perhaps."
Bodie paused in the entrance studying the photos on display there, for once applying more attention to the males on view than the females. One thing was for sure, Ray had more sex appeal in his little finger than some of these portrayed brainless hunks of muscle did in their whole bodies, for all their macho stances and smouldering looks. He was hard put to it not to laugh over some of the poses. Christ, poor old Ray, the things you did for CI5! Bet he never thought when he left the security of the Met. that he'd end up performing in a strip club for the dubious benefit of parties of daring housewives from the suburbs, lured from their boring routine of babies and bingo by the dazzle of a little spurious excitement. Still, knowing Ray and the whole-hearted way he threw himself into things, they'd go home feeling they'd had their money's worth and then some.
He walked to his car, parked perforce two or three streets away and drove round to Doyle's place, not sure whether he'd be at home or if he had a date for tonight.
His partner was in and alone, slumped listlessly on the end of his sofa not watching a scientific programme chuntering away to itself on the telly in the corner.
Bodie poured himself a drink and refilled Doyle's glass. "It's not that bad there," he said consolingly.
The look Doyle sent him said it all really, but his sour comment of, "You do it then," left Bodie with little to say.
"Would if I could, mate." He sat himself down, close enough to be reassuring. "I'll be there to look after you, see you don't get your bum pinched by some middle-aged old slag. I'll push the young and pretty ones your way."
Doyle snorted. "Not likely to find much class in a place like that, am I?"
"Who needs class?" Bodie grinned. :So long as they're..."
"Under fifty, warm and still come across - I know," Doyle quoted. "Some of us are a bit fussier than you are. Besides," his face clouded again, "I'm beginning to go off the whole idea of sex."
Bodie reached out and laid a comforting hand on his knee, noting almost abstractly its warmth and lean boniness. "Cowley won't make you go through with it if you really want to back out," he said quietly.
Doyle looked up quickly. "No, I know he won't, but I have to do it, Bodie, you do understand, don't you?"
Bodie nodded; he did, of course. There was too much at stake here for personal considerations.
Almost as though his partner had spoken that thought aloud, Doyle said pensively, "When you think what these kids might be going through it seems a little selfish to be moaning about the possible hurt to my pride, doesn't it?"
Bodie gave the knee a little squeeze and let go, raising his glass to Doyle before taking a hefty pull at it. "You go to it, mate," he said cheerfully. "You'll knock their bloody eyeballs out."
Driving himself home much later on, Bodie was glad he'd called in. He could well understand why Ray had not wanted to be with a girl tonight, knowing the way his friend's mind worked and how self-conscious he'd have been feeling under similar circumstances; but he didn't intend that Ray should get himself worked up about it in his own inimitable way. A girl he was going to need and a girl he should have, and Bodie had something up his sleeve that may be just the answer. He didn't think Ray had anyone around at the moment that he was particularly struck on; come to think of it he didn't know who Ray's present girl-friend was anyway: he'd been too busily occupied himself in that way recently and had been half expecting Doyle to make some enquiries concerning the two girls he was currently dating since both of them were definitely Ray's type, elegant, well-dressed, upper-crust girls - always did go for the classy ones, did Ray. Well, look at Ann Holly! No, better not. That was one episode Bodie preferred to forget. Ray hadn't let that drop until he'd eventually done the unforgiveable and thrown Marikka up in his face. Hard to tell which one of them had been the most furious or disconcerted at that point, and cruel to remind Doyle that his bird had only flown to the States after getting mixed up with CI5 through him. What had happened to Marikka hadn't been Ray's fault or CI5's, he'd always known that. He'd just been so bloody angry at the time, angry and disillusioned and ready to kill anyone who crossed his path. Cowley had seen that and had had the sense to leave him alone after initially starting to follow him. Doyle had seemed to understand, but then Doyle usually did. They should have talked things out at the time, both after Marikka and after Ann but they never had, both of them preferring to lick their wounds in decent privacy.
He drew up outside his flat and sat for a minute or two lost in thought before pulling himself together and getting out, mildly surprised at his lapse into old memories. Bodie usually preferred to live in the present, worrying neither about past of future, so what the hell was he doing sitting here maundering on to himself about things over and forgotten, for god's sake?
He went inside and shut the door on the day.
Late next afternoon a phone call informed Cowley of Doyle's success at the audition.
"The opposition was a little suspect, though," Doyle said dryly. "Couldn't have anything to do with that lucrative job Paul de Vere was auditioning around the same time, could it, sir?"
"Oh, I doubt it," Cowley said blandly. "Purely on merit. What job was that? Well done, Doyle, I'm grateful to you."
Doyle put the phone down and smiled over at Bodie. It had been incredibly cheering when he came out from his audition to find his partner leaning nonchalantly on the roof of the brown mini Doyle had taken from the car pool for the duration of this assignment. He'd not said a work either, just smiled and got in, handing over a peach from the bagful he'd bought down in Berwick Market.
Now he threw over one of the last two saying, "Don't get the juice all down yourself this time, sunshine."
Doyle grinned, licking up the load that immediately slipped neatly down his right arm, making unerringly for his rolled-up shirt sleeve. "You shouldn't buy sloppy peaches," he said indistinctly.
"Ripe - the word is ripe." Bodie took a neat bite and surveyed him disdainfully. "You're just a sloppy eater, you are. Noisy drinker, too."
"Well I do less of it than you do," Doyle said pointedly. "Don't get in so much practice, do I?"
"So when do you start work then?"
Doyle pulled a face. "Tomorrow."
"Like to go out tonight? Got a couple of birds lined up just in case."
Doyle eyed him sapiently. "The condemned man ate a hearty breakfast, eh? I'm not taking a vow of celibacy in this job, Bodie."
"No - but if I know you, you won't go near a bird except in the line of duty without someone pushes you."
"You're right there," Doyle agreed ruefully. "It's one thing telling them I'm a civil servant..."
Bodie picked up the phone. "Go and have a shower then, sunshine. We'll be picking them up in about forty minutes."
He smiled to himself - ever since he'd met Debbie and her flatmate Emma he'd had a date like this in mind. They had both known Bodie was dating the other right from the start for that young gentleman never believed in letting a girl think she'd got an exclusive on him, and then one evening a short while ago they'd had a most enjoyable and unexpected threesome when Debbie's escort for that evening had let her down. They'd been quite blatant about it from the moment he arrived, teasing him unmercifully and challenging him to take on both of them at once. Well, he'd acquitted himself creditably, but all the time he'd been thinking what a pity it was Ray wasn't here to enjoy a couple of ravers like this. Since then he'd been feeding them with a lot of talk about his partner, purposely intended to whet their already insatiable appetites and waiting for the ideal opportunity to arise to persuade him to join in the fun. Worked on by three determined experts Doyle would go under pretty quickly, Bodie was sure of that, and knew enough of Debbie and Emma to be sure that they would effectively take his mind off the horrors of tomorrow.
The evening went very well, the chosen restaurant out in the suburbs did not let them down and both girls, to Bodie's infinite satisfaction, behaved with impeccable good manners while delicately laying out every lure they could to indicate the possible delights to come. Having decided to take their coffee and brandy at the girls' flat, the two went off for a quick visit to the powder room while Bodie picked up the bill. Money very well spent too, in his opinion.
Doyle's eyes met his, a mildly stunned look in them. "How long have you been planning this, Bodie?"
Bodie's smug look grew. "I knew you'd like 'em. Come on, they're ready for us."
"Question is, am I ready for them?" Doyle muttered under his breath as he pushed his chair back and followed Bodie across the room. He still wasn't sure he'd really picked up on all the leads correctly and was still assuring himself that he must have been mistaken in anticipating more than a little heavy foreplay before they separated into different rooms when they finally arrived at the flat.
From one, quick look it was obvious that both girls were in well-paid jobs, the sitting room was not large but it was stunningly and originally decorated, having a conversation pit rather than conventional sofa and chairs, three sides of which were comfortably upholstered, the fourth containing television and hi-fi unit.
Bodie and Emma both kicked off their shoes before descending the shallow carpeted steps at one corner, while Debbie went off to the kitchen to prepare coffee.
"No need to come," she assured Doyle. "It won't take a minute to set the machine going. Choose some music and put it on."
Doyle kicked his own shoes off and loosened his tie comfortably, selected a tape almost at random and put it on before seating himself down - rather more self-consciously than he'd have liked - on the opposite side of the large, central coffee table.
Emma made a face at him, abandoned Bodie and projected herself expertly across the coffee table into Doyle's not unwilling arms.
"I've hardly had a chance all night with you," she complained. "He's been monopolizing me."
Whatever reply Doyle had thought of making was effectively smothered in blonde hair and pink lipstick.
By the time they were on their third cup of the sort of coffee that regularly made Bodie swear to give up the instant variety, a vow made only to be broken the next time he had to make it himself, and the level of brandy in the bottle had dipped considerably, Bodie knew they were, so to speak, home and dry. Doyle never drank that much when he was going to drive and knew that Bodie would not either. It was a tacit admission from both of them that they were going to see this through.
It wasn't the first time by any means that they had double dated but it was the first occasion on which Bodie had known for a certainty that they were all going to share a bed later on and that knowledge lent a heavy spice to his already heightened senses. He found himself looking over at the other couple more and more frequently, trying to gauge precisely the right moment to abandon the impracticalities of the sofas for the lush depths of the massive bed in the other room, and boy was Ray going to be in the mood to appreciate that king sized mattress when he saw it, judging by the way he was getting on with Emma over there. Bodie chuckled to himself as he nuzzled his way down Debbie's neckline, slipping the narrow shoulder-strap free to give himself more room to manoeuvre. He'd watched Doyle getting thoroughly turned on by a girl before but never with quite this much abandon. Usually he did his best to hide his physical arousal from his partner, keeping his body turned away from him, but tonight he seemed to be almost eager to display it as he half sat, half lay against the green upholstery, contentedly letting Emma tug his already opened shirt free of his waistband.
Something in Bodie's intense stare communicated itself to Debbie because she pulled away from him to turn her own head, eyes widening appreciatively as Doyle's naked torso was revealed more fully.
"Can't think why you always have to wear these ruddy polo necks, Bodie," she pouted, hauling it upwards. "Come on, sit up will you?"
"He's afraid he'll get jumped," Doyle told them a little breathlessly. "One look at that gorgeous body and we'll all go mad with lust."
Debbie's over-long fingernails were desperately ticklish and Bodie squirmed, resisting her efforts.
"Leggo - I'll do it meself," he gasped out, but Debbie wasn't listening.
"Cooperate, damn you," she moaned. "Bodie, hold still a minute.
"Want any help?" Doyle demanded evilly, pushing Emma off him temporarily. "Come on Bodie, don't be coy."
Against the three of them he stood little chance, although he continued to thresh wildly as he was untidily and uncomfortably stripped of his sweater, socks and had his trousers firmly unzipped. Incoherent with laughter he wasn't even sure who was doing what and didn't really care, his only thought was that if he was about to reveal his all, Doyle wasn't going to be left out. Finding the brown brushed-cotton clad hips kneeling near him on the sofa he hooked two fingers in the waistband and pulled, grabbing clumsily at the zip with the other hand as he did so.
Doyle yelped. "For god's sake, Bodie, you'll do me an injury!"
Bodie sniggered. "Cooperate then, sunshine."
"You're the one who's fighting," Doyle informed him somewhat indistinctly as Bodie slid the zip carefully down, aware with every inch of him of the engorged sex contained within the brushed cotton fabric.
Two blonde heads came between them, separating them, a moist, hot tongue slid across his exposed chest searching for and hungering on an eager nipple. He groaned, sliding down further on the sofa, tugging at the obstructing neckline of a green blouse, recognizing from its colour that it was Emma he held this time.
His fingers were shaking as he opened the two blouse buttons Doyle had not gotten round to and he pushed the garment off her shoulder a little clumsily, revealing a perfect breast imperfectly hidden by a brief and lacy black bra. He nudged at the edge of it with his nose, licking delicately at the tanned skin while his free hand sought the hem of her brief skirt.
"The bed's more comfortable, Bodie," she whispered, wriggling impatiently. "I'm going to fall off this bloody sofa any minute now."
He stood up, opened trousers slipping inelegantly, and pulled her upright. "OK, anything you say, love. Coming, you two?"
"No, just breathing heavily," Doyle told him happily, lifting his head just far enough to free his mouth.
"To the bedroom," Bodie retorted loftily. "He can be so coarse sometimes," he added to a giggling Emma, pushing her firmly towards the steps, pausing to shed his cords on the way before he tripped over their trailing legs now that they were at rather less than half mast. Emma was unzipping and unhooking as she went, discarding her skirt untidily; she stopped at the top of the steps to let him remove the totally unnecessary bra. Looking down at the other two still engrossed on the sofa Bodie grinned lustily as Debbie's hand worked its way inside Doyle's always indecently skimpy briefs, nudged Emma, whispered, "Let's give 'em a cheap thrill," and called out loudly, "Hey - lovebirds! Look at us?"
Two pairs of eyes, one green, one brown, looked up.
Relying on Emma to pick up her cue, Bodie began to strip his own underpants down slowly, back half turned, eyes gleaming appreciatively as Emma unhesitatingly followed his lead and doffed her black lace panties with panache. Then they made a concerted dash for the bedroom.
Back on the sofa Doyle swallowed hard, wishing that his prospective audience was going to be equally small but acquitting Bodie of any ulterior motive other than a wish to encourage him to shed his inhibitions. The thought almost made him laugh aloud, did make him chuckle and Debbie eyed him happily.
"Shall we join them or would you rather stay here?" she asked softly.
"Join 'em - long as that's what you want," Doyle agreed.
"Mmmm." She nibbled at his ear and giggled. "We'd want to swap, you know, anyway. Emma and I always like to share when we can."
"Very noble," he agreed solemnly, allowing her to extricate herself from his clasp and stand up.
They undressed unhurriedly, dropping their clothes carelessly, and made for the bedroom slowly, pausing often to kiss deeply until Doyle's head was spinning and he was too glad to reach the sanctuary of the mattress before he fell down to have any lingering scruples about stretching out beside Bodie and his girl, barely even having time to note that Bodie was already moving on top of her before he was pulled into a scented, all-enveloping embrace himself.
Ages later Bodie opened his eyes as a gasping moan erupted beside him, in time to see Doyle thrusting strongly into a now totally relaxed Debbie, his face turned away and buried in her surrounding arms. He felt mildly cheated, half tempted to reach over and pull the curly head around so he could watch as Doyle came - wonderfully expressive face Doyle had, he'd often thought so - when it was too late and Doyle was stiffening unmistakeably, moaning breathlessly, a shiver of delight shaking his whole body.
Emma stirred beneath Bodie, pushing him off her with a tiny, breathless grunt. He rolled away to the edge of the bed and lay on his back, one arm still around her, waiting for his erratically pumping heart to slow down and his brain to catch up with his over-stimulated senses.
Over his side of the bed, Doyle was engaged on a similar process, falling into a satiated half-doze for a few minutes and waking again as the mattress dipped to a sudden movement. He heard Emma give a breathy little chuckle.
"I think we've worn them out already, Debbie."
Doyle opened an eye, ready to refute the suggestion sternly, but before his rather slowed-up mouth could form the words, Emma said soulfully, "Never mind, darling, we've always got each other," and the two girls went into a passionate clinch, giggling loudly.
Certain at first that they were joking Doyle took no notice but the seconds ticked by and eventually he summoned up the energy to raise his head. He gulped, swallowed down his surprise as his gaze slid on over the eagerly writhing girls to meet a tolerant, dark blue gaze surveying the scene with an indulgent air.
Doyle blinked at his partner.
"Do they often carry on like this?" he hissed, startled both at his own reaction and his unexpected naivety.
"Dunno how often they do it," Bodie grinned. "I usually date 'em separately, but the only time we had a threesome they weren't prepared to wait for me."
Doyle lay back again, covering his astonishment with careful nonchalance.
"Good - I'll grab a few seconds' kip."
He couldn't of course, being too aware of every movement beside him and his eyes kept opening against his will. Bodie it seemed had no inhibitions at all and was watching with unabashed interest, leaning over to offer encouraging pats and caresses on any temporarily available spot.
Doyle swallowed the last of his nervousness, propped himself up on one elbow and joined in the fray, nuzzling his way around a soft waistline and startled to encounter a blue-stubbled cheek he hadn't expected. He drew back as if burnt, met Bodie's eye, grinned sheepishly and went back to his task. Before long he was totally indifferent as to which particular hand, arm or leg was brushing him, trusting Bodie implicitly in this as in everything else.
When they eventually slept, Debbie and Emma face to face in the centre of the huge mattress, Bodie and Doyle spoon-fashion behind them, it was Bodie's hand that Doyle found as he slipped an arm across Emma's lax form and he clasped it lightly, happily, enjoying the gentle pressure of Bodie's fingers in return as he dived over the final precipice into sleep.
He was aware of movement when the girls got up next morning but a gentle hand patted him and a soft whisper told him to go back to sleep. Not at all eager to face today anyway, he obediently did as he was told, waking again much later to find the room full of sunlight and a towel-clad Bodie offering him a glass of ice-cold grapefruit juice.
He hauled himself upright and drank it avidly down.
"God, that's better. Thanks. My mouth felt like a Japanese wrestler's jockstrap!" He looked around, coming fully awake. "Where're the girls?"
"Gone to work. Said not to hurry as we didn't have to." Bodie plumped down beside him, sipping his own drink. "Sleep OK?"
"Short course in death," Doyle retorted succinctly. "My god, those two are something else."
"Aren't they just?" Bodie smirked, proud of his achievement in finding them for Ray. "Knew you'd get on with 'em."
"On and off and on again," Doyle said reminiscently.
"Coarse bugger," Bodie said equably. "It's nearly midday. What time have you got to be at the club?"
"Any plans for the day? Does Cowley want to see you?"
"Good." Bodie drained his glass and stood up. "Go and have a bath while I get lunch. You smell like a dying chrysanthemum, my flower. Then I've got plans for the afternoon."
"What sort of plans?" Doyle demanded warily.
Bodie laughed. "Would you believe the zoo?"
It was years since he'd been to the zoo and Doyle found himself contentedly enjoying every moment, not least his partner's own uncomplicated pleasure in the treat. Doyle bought him an ice-cream, handing it over with a solemn adjuration not to drip it down his nice clean shirt.
Bodie licked the cone lasciviously, leering at him and closing his mouth over the embedded flake in deliberate, wanton imitation.
Doyle shivered, muttered something incoherent about bloody geese trampling his grave in droves and added, "We've just got time to visit your relatives before I've got to go."
"Relatives?" Bodie fed him the line, feeling he deserved every little pleasure he could get today.
"Yeah - the gorillas. Come on!"
Depositing Ray at his flat later, Bodie touched his arm in gentle reassurance.
"You'll be OK," he said softly.
Expressionless green eyes lifted. "Yeah," Doyle agreed untruthfully. "I'll be OK."
Arriving at Plato's around 8.00, an hour before Doyle was due to go 'on stage', Bodie found Murphy and Ruth Pettifer already there, cozily ensconsed at a corner table with a bottle of champagne residing in an impressive, pseudo-silver bucket. Bodie grinned, willing to bet that the closest that bottle had been to France was next to the garlic on the kitchen shelf, bought himself a double scotch and diluted it hugely, wanting to keep a clear head tonight.
He found an empty table not too close to the catwalk but with a clear view of it and sat down, scowling into his glass to discourage anyone thinking of picking him up. There were a group of women at one table, most of them gazing about them with bright, interested eyes, taking in everything they could of this, clearly their first and possible last foray into swinging society. Bodie smothered a rising grin in his whisky glass - they should have been around last night if they really wanted to know where the action was at. This sleazy dump could offer little attraction compared to that. He sighed reminiscently and turned his attention to the stage as a tinny fanfare of trumpets blared from the loudspeakers and the jerky opening of the pink/dust-grey curtains heralded the first of the evening's strippers.
She wasn't even remotely attractive, Bodie decided, viewing her critically. Her bottom wasn't just generous it was vast, wobbling like some badly-set strawberry blancmange and there was a large, squishy pimple on her left buttock. The rest of the audience were equally unimpressed, judging by the restless movement and subdued catcalls, but for the moment they were reasonably quiet, hoping no doubt for better things to come. Well, if they waited for Ray, Bodie thought loyally, they were probably in for a treat.
The blancmange finished her rather tedious performance with a flourish of diamante G string over her head as the lights blacked out. The tinny record ground to a halt, drowned out by the sound of the curtains grating along their wires and the lights went on again.
There was a small flurry of movement as patrons made their way to the bar in order to fuel up for the next exciting exhibition; Bodie took another, slow pull at his scotch, deciding it would last for some time yet, and let his gaze wander to Murphy and Pettifer in their corner. Blonde and dark heads were close together and both pairs of shoulders were shaking. Bodie regarded them a little wistfully, wishing he had someone to share the moment with - if only Doyle had been beside him, silently indicating his reactions in his own inimitable way, it might have been quite bearable. As it was, with Doyle stuck backstage in some draughty dressing-room there was nothing to relieve his tedium. Bodie noted the hollow in the pit of his stomach and put it down to the boredom that stakeouts always aroused in him. Only Doyle's acerbic company ever relieved that boredom satisfactorily. He settled back, agreeing with a resigned nod to the sharing of his table by a young couple who had just made their way upstairs from the disco judging by the amount of sweat trickling down his acne-scarred face and the pink and healthy glow of hers. He wrinkled his nose, not relishing the wafts of BO and Charlie that came his way, and stuck that offended organ into his glass in self-defence.
Before long the lights dimmed again and the audience slowly shuffled its way round, prepared to voice a loud disapproval if the next act was not some slight improvement on the last.
It was, definitely so. The spotty youth next to Bodie sat up straighter in his chair, his mouth opening. His girl sniffed audibly and insinuated herself closer to him, demanding attention which he gave perfunctorily.
Even Bodie eyed the pert 'French maid's' outfit with a tolerant gaze. It suited the girl and she made the most of the small scenario she'd been given, spilling perfume down her mistress' evening gown and helping her into a fresh one and then, when her regarbed employer had gone, stripping out of her own clothes to try on the discarded dress. Most of the attraction for him, Bodie realized, lay in the fact that neither girl had stripped completely but it was clear that after their first, pleased reaction, the audience felt distinctly cheated: however, since the next performance followed straight away and was a standard, 'bump and grind' down to the buff strip but a reasonably attractive female, the incipient complaints died away again.
Another, longer interval brought Bodie to the yawning point. In desperation he signaled to a hostess to bring him another scotch, not wanting to leave his seat in case he lost it for the place was filling now, uncomfortably so, and an unmistakable flutter of anticipation was to be seen on the faces of the group of women he'd noted earlier. Behind them was another crowd clearly all together, all male this time. Bodie eyed them with sudden interest, wondering if they had come here for the illegal and perverted practices CI5 was determined to put an end to in this club at least. His inspection interrupted by the dimming of the lights, Bodie leant back, unsure whether Ray was to be the first or second of the two billed 'male strippers', aware of a flutter of indefinable sensation when the scowling face beneath the wide-brimmed stetson was not his partner's.
The group of women clearly thought the cowboy was well worth the money they'd paid for their evening out and the remarks shouted to him made even the worldly wise Bodie raise an eyebrow as the last especially designed for ease of removal garment fell to the floor leaving the Lone Ranger clad only in boots, spurs and mask.
Not an overly well-developed young man, Bodie noted in passing, but the audience seemed happy enough and greeted the next interval with a cheerful buzz of conversation. Bodie's eyes went back to the all-male table, noting their animated looks. Christ - a load of gays all with their eyes about to be fixed on poor Ray Doyle: what the hell had the little bugger ever done to deserve that? Mildly sickened, Bodie turned away, willing there to be a fire, a police raid, a power cut - anything to put off the actual moment.
The lights went out far too soon and an unexpected sound filled the air - the well-known tone of a boy soprano soulfully appealing for 'the wings of a dove', and a single spotlight slowly increased, displaying a cherubically innocent face with a halo of auburn curls set off by a large, white, starched ruff about the long neck, a long white lace surplice covering the red cassock beneath. The expression was demure, eyes downbent upon the music gripped tightly - too tightly - in long fingers, the flawed cheek lending an air of vulnerability to that utter stillness.
Bodie swallowed, hard. Odd that he'd never thought to ask Doyle what costume he'd be wearing: probably wouldn't have been told anyway. He was aware of slightly sweating palms, the fluttering sensation in his stomach resolving itself into definite 'butterflies' and the whisky in his glass developing ripples across its surface. He put the glass down too hard on the table and thrust his hands deep into his pockets. Christ, if he was this nervous just watching what the hell must Doyle be feeling like? He shot a surreptitious look around him. The young couple had gone again, back to the disco no doubt, and the group of gays had closed in, their eyes fixed unerringly on Doyle as he began to move in a slow glide down the catwalk.
Bodie closed his eyes, feeling sick, wanting to get up and rush Doyle out of here as fast as he could take him, away from the eyes and the heavy breaths and the loudly-whispering voices.
When he opened them again the music was changing, the boy soprano being faded out and a slow beat developing and Doyle was back on the stage: his hands let the sheet music flutter to the floor as they went slowly to the large neck ruff and delicately opened and removed it, his expression still withdrawn and utterly demure. Then, as the accompanying record slowly swelled in intensity and volume, the lace surplice was drawn open, slipped over the red-clad shoulders and dropped casually aside, the expression slowly changing from innocent cherub to fallen angel, then the cassock, button by button down to the last one by the groin, was slowly undone but kept closed, revealing nothing.
The room was growing noisy now, catcalls and whistles of appreciation more frequent. The Chorister turned away and slid the cassock off one, bared shoulder and then the other.
Bodie gulped, wanting to look away and watch the audience as he should but mesmerised completely by the slow gyration of the body in its all-enveloping garment. Jesus, but Doyle was a sexy little devil when he put his mind to it. Bodie's nervousness was slowly dying, his confidence in Ray's ability to throw himself into an act increasing with every second.
The cassock was slipping now, revealing the whole of a skinny but muscular back, flexing and moving sinuously in time to the background beat: the catcalls were getting louder, the requests more explicit. With the cassock caught firmly around his waist, Doyle finally turned, one hand holding it in place, the other running in open-palmed sensuality across chest and nipples, then down beneath the caught up cloth in little, enticing forays and out again. It was incredibly erotic to watch, the heavy-lidded eyes drooping in self-appreciation, the body writhing unceasingly. Bodie finally traced the disc being played and could not help a tiny quirk of a smile - Ray was taking a risk informing the room at large 'I can't get no satisfaction', he'd have offers from all round if he didn't look out.
Bodie swallowed again as he heard a ribald comment from somewhere on his left, desperately wanting to push the bastard's teeth down his perverted throat. The butterflies were back in battalions now that he could sense the incipient climax of the act, his heart seeming to pound in time to the sensuous beat of heavy rock to which Doyle jerked and writhed in rhythmic response.
The red cloth was slipping now, revealing the only garments Doyle wore beneath it - thigh-high gold boots and the briefest, gold posing pouch covering his sex: then, head thrown back to reveal the vulnerability of throat, the posing pouch was abruptly whipped away...
Bodie heard at least three awed obscenities uttered from the cluster of men around him; his gaze drew away from the revealed genitals, a flush of embarrassment rushing through him - foolishly when he recalled last night's unembarrassed nakedness, though admittedly then Doyle had not been drawing quite such deliberate attention to himself - and he glared impotently at the man next to him, hating the tongue lapping at dry lips, the hands that clutched the back of a chair so tightly that even in the light that spilled from the stage he could see the knuckles were white.
You can't have him, thought Bodie in savage triumph. He's mine!
And he let his eyes return to the stage as the lights blacked out and Doyle's performance was over.
When the bar lighting came back on Bodie was on his feet making his way there for another scotch, needing the comfort of its fiery warmth in his shaking gut.
Of all the damnable moments to discover that you wanted another man so desperately ... he could hardly believe what had hit him, was not even sure it could be true except that now he had seen it at last, he knew it had been true for a long, long time.
It was why he'd wanted to have Ray share Debbie and Emma of course; he could see it now. A rueful smile quirked his mouth. Just as well the real reason hadn't hit him last night, it could have put a proper frost on his ability to find that he was fucking not just the wrong person but the wrong sex!
The question was, what was he going to do about it?
No, this wasn't the time or place to be thinking about this, they had a job of work to do and must get on with it. Doyle would be leaving here soon, most of the strippers worked at least two joints each evening, some more, and so far as the Plato's management knew, Doyle was moving on to his second job at Paul de Vere's club. Murphy and Pettifer would be staying here, moving between bar and disco until the place closed down, and he was to collect Doyle, see if anything had been noted backstage.
By the time he got around to the spot where they had arranged to meet Doyle was already there, staring at the length of sari cloth in a near-by window display, his expression one of undue interest in the circumstances. He was all CI5 at work, banked down aggression and a cold-steel glint to his eyes. Bodie both understood and was grateful for it. He couldn't have coped with even a flicker of that latent animal sensuality in his present state of bewilderment. They walked to his car in silence, not looking at each other. Once inside, Doyle lifted the transmitter and made his call to Cowley. Nothing to report except the expected, all-too-common pushers and pick-pockets. No signs of any locked rooms or ways into adjoining premises that were used as brothels: the few tarts (both male and female) that worked the place had their own rooms close by and took their clients there.
Cowley's tone was crisp, showing no signs of his frustration. "Thank you, 4.5, continue to watch. Alpha out."
"Continue to watch," Doyle said disgustedly, snapping the mike back into place. "Who's doing the watching?"
"You did OK," Bodie offered. Then, catching Doyle's eye on him in acid distaste he added, "You were a knockout actually. Had 'em all on the edge of their seats."
Mildly surprised at and yet oddly grateful for the tone of shy respect in Bodie's voice, Doyle just grunted at first then added ruefully, "So I gathered. Haven't gone deaf, you know."
"Some of the comments were a bit unladylike," Bodie agreed, attempting a prim disdain.
"Some of them weren't ladies, either," Doyle said grimly.
"Oh - you noticed."
"Noticed," Doyle grinned suddenly. "I was fighting 'em off backstage."
"What?" In his startlement, Bodie allowed the car to drift across the lanes, causing another driver to swerve violently and emit a sharp blast on his horn. "Sorry, mate! What d'you mean, Doyle?"
"Just that. A couple of 'em came round and wanted me to go home with 'em."
"What did you do?" Bodie asked stupidly.
"Told 'em I'd see 'em tomorrow 'cos I had a date with you tonight," Doyle camped, then added normally, "What the hell d'you think I did for god's sake? Told 'em I wasn't that way inclined and no thanks."
"Who the hell thought up that costume?" Bodie demanded suddenly, needing to change the subject.
Doyle chuckled evilly. "OK, was it?"
"I nearly had bloody hysterics when those curtains opened," Bodie lied, "You know what though ..."
"You should have a catapult tucked in...um..."
"The top of my boot?" Doyle supplied grinning.
"Be better in the G string." There, he'd managed to talk about it and suddenly he felt a whole lot better. "Then you'd have something to protect your virtue with if anyone jumps you!"
"Not a bad idea," Doyle said thoughtfully. "I'll see if I can buy one tomorrow - and it was my suggestion."
"No it wasn't, I said ..."
"The costume," Doyle interrupted patiently. "de Vere said I needed an unusual gimmick to give me the edge. Next week I add Spaceman to me repertoire."
"Spaceman?" Bodie began to laugh. "What the hell does he do? Shoot off?"
"Hah - that's the Cowboy! In any case, that's illegal. Can't even get a hard-on, management's very strict about that."
"How the hell do they stop you?" Bodie demanded, interested.
Doyle turned astonished eyes on him. "You don't really think that sort of thing's a turn on, do you?"
"Well no, not for you." Bodie was glad of the darkness, he didn't want Doyle to see he was getting hot about the face and neck. "But some blokes...suppose someone does... what do they do?"
"They give you some sort of drug - it's OK," Doyle added swiftly. "I got mine from Paul de Vere, it's quite safe."
"You mean you actually took it?"
He felt rather than saw Doyle shrug. "Well, you never know," his partner said quietly. "You get turned on by the oddest things sometimes."
Bodie took his eyes off the road fleetingly, meeting Doyle's in heart-felt comprehension. "Yeah, you do," he agreed ruefully, "sometimes."
Three more evenings passed in the same way with nothing to report. By now, Bodie was no longer nervous for his partner, nor did he get so hyped up at the idea of watching him as he had the first time around, although it still amazed him that he had not recognized the symptoms for what they were right away. By now he was hardly giving Doyle a glance but was moving slowly and unobtrusively around the place, seeking for anything the least odd or out of place, but apart from laying information on a couple of pushers with the local constabulary and watching the doorman evict a pickpocket, there was nothing untoward to be seen. Plato's still seemed a very ordinary place by its own standards, a den of very mild vice indeed.
As for backstage as Doyle sourly remarked, if failing to bath adequately was a crime they could run them all in straight away, otherwise there was nothing, nothing and then for a change, nothing.
Sundays and Mondays the club was closed, to Doyle's unspoken relief. Bodie eyed him knowledgeably though, guessing the whole sordid business was more depressing than he'd admit.
"I had a call from Debbie the other day," he said as casually as he could late Sunday evening as he was leaving to go home after a quiet evening in front of the telly. "They'd like us to go round for a meal tomorrow evening. I said I'd let them know. What d'you think?"
Bodie shot him an unfathomable look. "I'm certainly not letting you go alone when I'm invited as well," he said pointedly. No reason to let Doyle know how much he longed for the excuse to watch him in action again, not knowing how often he would get the chance in the future and wanting to grab the opportunity now, while it was there. Whether it was wise to do so was something he resolutely refused to consider.
Doyle's own expression was giving nothing away and for a moment their eyes met in silent question.
Doyle was first to crumble, his eyes crinkling in a mixture of amusement and anticipation. "Might give me a chance to prove meself a man," he declared impishly.
"If that's all you want to do," Bodie informed him loftily, "you can report to Dr. Laing at HQ. He'll be able to reassure you."
They were both strangely quiet as they arrived at the girls' elegant ground floor flat the next evening and the pit of Bodie's stomach was feeling nearly as empty as it had on that first evening at Plato's, with the result that in his determination to cover it he was at his suave best during the meal, indulging in a continual round of the best Bodie and Doyle double-act, and feeling more attuned to his partner than ever before. The repartee was slick, sophisticated, perfected over the years together until each was ready to swear they knew exactly what the other was thinking at any given moment. But Bodie was careful not to overlook the girls: it would be fatally easy in his present state of euphoria to concentrate on Doyle to the exclusion of all else, easy and disastrous. Doyle must never know how the ever-present sensitivity had grown to include this new dimension, the skin-pricking awareness of Doyle as a sexual being.
After the meal there was a brief period of constraint and for a few depressing moments Bodie wondered whether the evening was going to turn into a failure when suddenly it seemed that they had reached the top of the hill securely and were beginning the long, slow glide down into a free, sexual romp without his being conscious of how the final steps were achieved.
If anything they were all more relaxed than they had been last time around, less serious and much less tentative, with the result that the preliminary foreplay lasted considerably longer than it had done before, helped this time by a frequent change of partners. Indeed, as Bodie finally lay sprawled on his back with someone's leg flung across his thigh and the unmistakable tangle of Doyle's hair against his upper arm it was a moment before he could recall which girl it was he had actually made love to in the end. He also knew that he didn't really care: it was that heavy mop of curls and the equally heavy breaths against his arm that were the key to his present satisfaction for this time he'd seen Ray's face, squeezed up in exquisite anguish, feral, beautiful...He lay and clung to the memory, sealing it for the future.
Must move soon though, or those two would get all wrapped in each other and if that happened he didn't like to think what he might start wanting to do to Doyle.
It was already too late. He felt Doyle's hand tap his arm, attracting his attention and turned his head to find Debbie and Emma inextricably wound around each other.
"Dunno why they want us, do you?" Doyle said loudly, propped on one elbow.
Heart pounding apparently in each ear Bodie said, "No. Get on quite well without us, couldn't they?"
Emma's head twisted around just enough for her to be able to peer over at them. She winked. "We do," she said cheerfully. "And you've got each other if you're feeling impatient."
Bodie looked at Doyle.
Doyle looked at Bodie.
Doyle said, "Well, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em," and moved closer.
This wasn't happening. Couldn't be. Bodie knew that the mouth touching his was Doyle's but he could not believe it - could not move, not even to save his life. If he did, he would be all over him, unable to stop himself.
So he lay like a dummy, utterly still, permitting the kiss but nothing more and deliberately wiping all emotion from his mind so that his face would not betray him.
After a minute Doyle drew away, but Bodie could feel the imprint of those green eyes on him as surely as if sight were tangible. He opened his own eyes.
Doyle's face was slightly stern, his mouth set in a straight line. As Bodie stared at him he said coolly, "Never knew I was that unattractive, sunshine!"
Bodie just shook his head, unable to speak, having nothing to say that could be said, but he put up a hand in reassurance. Doyle looked at it and moved closer, laying his head on Bodie's chest, his face well hidden. Bodie felt rather than heard him mutter something.
A longish pause and then Doyle looked up, a lurking smile in his eyes. "I said, you're right, it isn't really us."
Bodie shook his head in silent agreement, cursing his cowardice and his certain lack of control. If only this had happened last time he would have responded in all innocence, enjoying the situation for what it was - a jokey, sexy bit of fun with Doyle. Now that could never happen for he would always be too serious, wanting too much.
He could not lie here brooding, must move at once.
He turned his attention to Debbie and Emma.
For some reason they were all awake in good time in the morning and Bodie and Doyle were ready to leave not long after the girls had departed for work.
"I must do some shopping - get supplies in," Doyle said ruefully. "And I want to get to Plato's really early tonight, do some proper ferreting about. There must be something we've missed. Did you hear another kid's gone missing?"
"I heard," Bodie nodded. "Cowley's not saying much but he's taking his bad temper out on everybody."
Doyle looked surprised. "He's been all sweetness and light to me."
Bodie smiled, a genuine, affectionate smile. "Well just at the moment you're rather special to him. He wouldn't have asked you to take this on if he hadn't felt he must, you know. I think he's actually got a conscience for the first time ever."
Doyle was surprised and showed it. "Always thought you were his blue-eyed boy, not me."
"Me?" Bodie was genuinely surprised. "He thinks I'm a conscienceless thug."
Doyle shook his head but made no further comment.
Around 7.00 p.m. while Bodie was in his shower preparatory to dressing for yet another evening of delight at Plato's the phone rang.
Cursing loudly he dripped his way to it.
"Cowley here, Bodie, I've been trying to get hold of 4.5. D'you know where he is?"
"He's probably gone to the club, sir. He said he was going to get there early tonight."
"Damn. I was hoping to stop him in time."
"Stop him?" Bodie came alert. "Some new development?"
"Aye," Cowley said heavily. "We've found the bastards - down in Plaistow they were. A nasty little haven for perverts of all kinds...we uncovered a regular chamber of horrors."
"Plaistow?" Bodie was suddenly, helplessly furious. "And you sent Doyle to... I thought you had a genuine lead to Plato's!"
"The child had mistaken the word - he was very young, Bodie, and very sick."
The old bastard sounded almost apologetic but it didn't placate his agent.
"I'll go down there and get him, sir," he said, his jaw almost too stiff to get the words out adequately.
"Thank you. Oh and Bodie, I've already informed 6.2 and 2.4."
"I'll see you both on Thursday. Take the day off tomorrow - tell Doyle he's deserved it."
Give him time to get over his first fury, Bodie thought cynically. Even so as he put the phone down he stared at it somewhat blankly. No question, Cowley was getting soft in his old age, not wanting to face Doyle. But how the hell was Ray going to take the news that he'd gone through all this for nothing?
Of course, that night the traffic in central London was the densest he'd ever seen it. An accident in Piccadilly had snarled up everything for miles around and Bodie sat and fumed for over three quarters of an hour on virtually the same spot, moving only inches at a time until he could turn into a side road. Things were nearly as bad there of course, every taxi in London seemed to be trying to go in his direction and one thing driving constantly in London taught you was not to tangle recklessly with taxis. Bodie did so, five times, swearing volubly and taking his life in his hands each time and leaving the air behind him rent with the sounds of aggrieved drivers and terrified pedestrians.
Plato's was long open when he finally made it to Berwick Street, the programme into its fourth item already. Bodie hurtled his way backstage, thrusting his ID under the doorman's nose, and encountered Doyle in the passageway, his Chorister costume already on. He was talking earnestly to a tall, beautifully dressed young man.
Bodie thrust his way between them. "OK sunshine, the party's over."
"What?" Doyle looked up, annoyance and relief battling on his face. "What did you say?"
"Excuse me -" A hand tapped Bodie's shoulder. "I was talking to this gentleman - do you mind?"
Bodie looked him up and down, recognizing him (now that he took the time to notice) as one of the group of gays who took far too great an interest in Doyle's performance each night.
"As a matter of fact I do," he said sweetly. "So get your eager little paws off him here and now. He's not for you."
"Bodie!" Doyle made a movement of laughing protest.
Bodie flicked him a quick glance. "Go and get changed, Ray. We're leaving."
"But he's got to go on stage in a minute," the exquisite young man interrupted, pushing forward.
"Not now or any other time," Bodie sat, turning away from him.
"Leaving?" Doyle looked as though he could hardly believe it. "But, Bodie, we can't go - not now, I've ..."
"No, he can't go," the young man agreed forcibly. "Ray, you promised..."
"I didn't promise anything, Julian," Doyle said with surprising gentleness. "You only thought I had."
"You see?" Bodie was tired of this. "Get out of the way, Julie!"
To his surprise, Julian turned on him, unworried by Bodie's greater weight and looking as though he was quite prepared to take him on.
"What gives you the right to come in here pushing Ray around?" he demanded resentfully. "You heard him, he says he can't go now, so clear out and leave him alone. Ray and I have a date for later."
"What?" thundered Bodie, surprise, anger and fear of losing Doyle all assailing him at once. "You've got a bloody cheek, kid, making dates with Ray!"
"You don't own him," Julian said quietly. "Does he, Ray?"
"No." Doyle was impatient with both of them by this time.
Before he could speak again though, Julian said triumphantly, "There, you see," and laid a proprietorial arm across Doyle's shoulders.
It was the last straw for Bodie. "Get your hands off him," he snarled explosively. "He's mine!" And made a determined grab.
Cassock and surplice fell away leaving Doyle revealed in the full glory of pouch, boots and dangling catapult.
Startled but beginning to see the funny side of this - the two of them squaring off at each other like two dogs over a bone, Doyle said, "Bodie, you're really serious."
"Of course I'm bloody serious," Bodie yelled. "You're coming home. Now! With me!"
They had collected quite an audience by this time and Doyle simply could not resist. He sagged against Bodie, putting up his face as though to be kissed and sliding his arms tightly around him.
"Anything you say, lover," he agreed melting. "Take me home, away from all this."
Goaded, aware himself now of what the interested spectators must be thinking and not at all sure of what he had betrayed during the foolish little scene anyway, Bodie pulled him savagely close and kissed him.
Doyle kissed him back.
God knew how long they were lost in each other but Bodie was trembling all over when he finally drew away.
"Unc. Uncle George wants us at home," he said unsteadily, watching the green eyes watching him, reading nothing from them.
"Uncle George does? Well why didn't you say so?"
Doyle turned and was gone, diving down the passage and into his tiny dressing room. Bodie followed and closed the door, waiting while Doyle dressed, afraid to face him but even more afraid of the knowing leers and winks he'd left outside the door.
"Will there be any problem about your leaving?" he demanded, for something to say that would distract Doyle's attention from what his partner had just done. "I mean, are they going to make trouble?"
"Probably." Doyle didn't look bothered. "What's happened? Where are we going?"
"Home. It's all over."
"Over?" Doyle looked as though he didn't believe him, opened his mouth to speak, thought better of it and closed it again.
"Yeah. Any problem and I'll tell 'em I'm takin' you in." Bodie grinned. "No point in blowing your cover unnecessarily, is there?"
"You seem to have blown our cover pretty comprehensively," Doyle said demurely, picking up his jacket and sliding into it. "Come on, let's face the mob."
Out in the car Doyle leaned back in his seat. "Right, what's going on? What did you mean about it being over."
"Just what I said." Bodie set the car in motion then spared an apologetic glance towards his partner. "They've found the mob they thought were working here down in Plaistow of all places. I don't know the full story - just that Cowley said to get you out of there. Oh, and we're to have the day off tomorrow." He grinned. "If I were you I'd make sure you get him to sign your expenses and ask for a pay rise next time you see him. He's ready to hand you the moon on a plate at the moment."
"Hang the bloody moon," Doyle said forcibly. "You mean I went all through that for bloody nothing."
"That's right - bloody nothing." Bodie cast another quick look his way. "Except you had to do it."
Doyle said, "One day I might just be able to laugh about it. Not yet, Bodie."
"I'm not laughing, sunshine."
"No." Doyle was still tautly upright in his seat. "You aren't and you haven't and I haven't thanked you."
"No need." Bodie cornered with meticulous care, not daring to look Doyle's way. "If Cowley hadn't put the hard word on me before we started I just might have been stupid enough to try it though."
"What the hell did he say?" Doyle was still teetering on the edge of anger.
"That if I wasn't prepared to back you he'd assign you another partner for the job."
"Another part...?" Doyle glared round at him. "The stupid old fool! I wouldn't have been able to do it at all working with someone else. What the hell does he think I am?"
Bodie tried to be fair. "I have been know to be a bit tactless. Ray, you must admit it."
"Why the hell should he object if I don't?" Doyle demanded explosively. "Tactless!" he snorted. "I don't want some dumb crud who watches his mouth all the time working with me and he damn well knows it. And so do you, you great dumbhead. I need someone who'll tell me when I'm acting like a prat!"
Bodie drew up at a red light.
Doyle put out a hand and tapped his leg lightly. "I wouldn't have let him assign me someone else you know," he said seriously. "You could have laughed your fat head off but you'd have been there when I needed you - just like you always are. Where are you taking me?"
Bodie put the car in gear feeling mildly surprised that he didn't know: he'd been driving on instinct alone and hadn't yet thought about their destination. "Your flat, I suppose," he said. "Why? D'you want me to take you somewhere else?"
"You said home," Doyle reminded him, his face turned towards Bodie but probably unreadable in the poor light even if Bodie had been able to spare longer than a few seconds at a time to stare at him. "Your place or mine - it doesn't matter."
Bodie cast a startled look his way. What the hell had he said back there? He did his damnedest to remember but only succeeded in convincing himself he'd behaved like a right prat.
"Well I may have said home," he said numbly, "but I was just...it was only... well I wanted to get you out of there before you had to go on stage again."
Doyle's voice was very soft. Bodie could not read him.
"What do you mean, why?"
"Why was it so important to you to get me out before I went on stage?"
Bodie had no answer to give him - none that Doyle would find acceptable.
"You were acting very possessive," Doyle said, even more softly. "Particularly when you thought I was interested in Julian."
Bodie still said nothing and after a while felt Doyle turn his steady gaze away and look out of the side window instead.
"I thought perhaps it mattered to you," Doyle said abruptly. "Damn it all, I wanted it to matter, Bodie. I thought you cared about me."
Bodie gulped, stunned but recovering. Doyle didn't mean...
"Well of course I care about you," he said belligerently. "You're my partner, aren't you?"
"Yes, but I thought perhaps it was more than that. I thought...I hoped... perhaps you wanted me yourself."
Bodie's hands were unsteady now: they were out of the West End traffic by this time and without another word he signaled for a left turn, drove down until he found a place to park and stopped the car. Then he switched on the overhead light and turned to look at Doyle properly.
"What did you just say?"
Doyle smiled, rather uncertainly, and decided to brazen it out. He couldn't have been mistaken back there, surely?
"I love you, Bodie. I thought I gave that away last night - when you wouldn't kiss me."
Bodie said stupidly, "If I'd kissed you, I'd've ended up bloody raping you."
Doyle's uncertain smile grew steadier, the green eyes beginning to gleam. "Nah, you couldn't rape me. I love it when you're forceful."
Bodie swallowed, a huge smile spreading slowly over his own features. "Will you be serious for once?"
"Oh, I am," Doyle assured him. "Perfectly serious."
Bodie took a long, hard breath, sure that an angelic choir must be swelling to a crescendo in the background. "How long...?"
"Have I loved you?" Doyle completed the question for him. "I'm not sure - it sort of crept up on me. I knew I wanted you last night though, but I thought you didn't fancy the idea."
"I was scared of giving myself away," Bodie said numbly.
"Pair of bleedin' idiots, aren't we?" Doyle looked down at his hands and gripped them together tightly. "When did you...?"
"When I wanted to murder the guy who was getting the hots for you at Plato's."
"No - the first night. I was like a flea on heat that evening, but it wasn't until he started in on the heavy breathing that I realized why."
"I want to kiss you," Doyle said shakily, but as Bodie moved towards him he fended him off swiftly. "No, you dumbhead, not here. You can get arrested for doing it in a public place and I don't want to spend tonight in a police cell and tomorrow explaining why to Cowley. Get us home, for god's sake."
Bodie made no move though and eventually Doyle said, "Don't you want to?"
"Course I bloody want to," Bodie said rather too loudly. "I'm just trying to calm down enough to drive the fuckin' car straight, that's all."
"Get to you that badly, do I?" Doyle demanded, interested.
Bodie met his eyes. "That badly."
Doyle's expression glazed a little. "Turn that light out, sunshine," he said huskily and as Bodie did so, moved in on him, ignoring the middle-aged lady escorting a poodle which had just paused to pee against the nearside front wheel.
"There, that better?"
"It'll keep me going," Bodie conceded, wanting to shout his luck aloud to the uncaring world. Doyle's mouth had felt fantastic, tasted gorgeous, his tongue perfection...
"Good, so take us home," Doyle said patiently. "That dog's finished its leak so there's nothing to hang about here for."
As Bodie drew away from the kerb he said, "D'you think she saw you?"
"Don't care if she did. Give her a cheap thrill." Doyle chuckled and pointed to a patrolling copper. "Glad he didn't though."
"You'd've thought of something," Bodie said with monumental confidence.
Doyle leant against the door the better to watch his partner. "Crickey, you have got it bad," he said, awed.
Bodie just turned to look at him, his face one huge, Bodie, eat-'em-alive smile and said simply, "Yes."
For the rest of the journey they behaved with perfect decorum: by tacit agreement neither referred to their changed relationship again and they traveled for most of the way in contented silence. Bodie chose to go to Doyle's flat, simply because it was marginally nearer than his own - in any case, as Doyle had not quite said but had meant earlier on, 'home' was where the other was, the actual place was quite irrelevant. He followed Doyle inside, watching him with new eyes, no longer the secret gaze of the last few days but an open appreciation of the neat backside as it walked along the short passage to the sitting room at the end. Inside, Doyle stopped and turned, waiting for him, rubbing his cheek lovingly against Bodie's as they came together, pressing close as their arms closed.
Much later Doyle raised his head, a rueful, worried expression in his eyes.
"I've had a most depressing thought."
"I took me ruddy pills at Plato's. What if I can't get it up for you later?"
Bodie drew back just a little and looked down at him, a smile crinkling his eyes. "Then we'll wait until you can, sunshine. After all, sex isn't everything."
"Isn't it?" Doyle sounded surprised.
Bodie gave him a little shake. "Not between us it won't be. Not that I don't think it will be good, making it with you will be bloody fantastic, but I love you, Ray."
Doyle hugged him even closer, his eyes suspiciously wet.
"You're just a great big softie." He cleared his throat noisily.
Bodie quirked an eyebrow. "I'm such a big softie? Here, let's sit down, I wanna cuddle you in comfort."
"You have such good ideas," purred Doyle. "Hang on while I get us some beer."
"OK." Bodie kicked off his shoes and shed his jacket and was waiting on the sofa when Doyle returned bearing beer, glasses and a plate of sausage rolls.
"Thought you might be hungry."
"Yeah, well if I can't eat you..."
Doyle chuckled, shedding his own shoes. "Later, sunshine, later. You can have me for breakfast instead of your coco-pops!"
Bodie took a huge bite, scattering crumbs everywhere and said thickly, "Your housekeeping and my looks - we make a lovely couple."
"Your housekeeping," Doyle retorted, eyeing the crumbs pointedly. "I cleaned this place up this morning." He bit into his own roll.
"Clean it again for you tomorrow," Bodie offered, being a thorough gentleman and not pointing out the huge veil of pastry that Doyle had just created down his chest.
Doyle sighed happily, activating a minor avalanche. "Yes, it must be love. I bet you never offered to do that for anyone before."
"Nope," Bodie said cheerfully. "But I'd do anything for you, lover."
Doyle eyed him solemnly. "I'll remember that."
Sausage rolls finished, Bodie put out an arm and pulled Doyle to him. Doyle settled himself cozily, reaching for Bodie's waistband to pull his poloneck free of its moorings. "Wanna feel you," he said softly, sliding his hand up the warm ribcage. "Hey - you ticklish?"
"No - a bit," Bodie gasped. "God, Ray, that feels incredible."
"What, me touching you? Touch you all over in a minute."
Bodie shivered and pounced on Doyle's shirt buttons, undoing them with careful but shaking fingers. "Wanna feel your skin," he said breathlessly. "Wanna feel you against me."
"Mmmm." Doyle was cooperating vigorously. "Get this damned sweater off, will you?"
They both tugged with impatient hands, thoroughly getting in each other's way and slowing the process down but eventually they were both barechested and they came together gently, savouring the first whisper-touch, both moving sinuously to slide, satin on satin, against each other.
Doyle's breathing was uneven, catching in his throat: it was impossible for anything to feel so wonderful, so utterly, perfectly right.
Bodie's hand slid between them, searching over him hungrily, tugging at the light sprinkling of body hair, testing it with his fingertips.
"Baby soft," he whispered. "Ray, I've never touched a hairy chest before. It's gorgeous."
Doyle gave a tiny snort of laughter. "Glad you like it, be awful prickly if you wanted me to shave!"
A finger snuggled into the hollow of his throat, caressed it, drew a long, long line down to centre in his navel. He squirmed, trying not to laugh, then leaned forward and set his lips to Bodie's ear, nibbling at it first - breathily - and then began to lick it in earnest. Bodie shivered and clung to him, submitting to the aural exploration, incredibly turned on by it.
Doyle drew back and inspected him. "Thought I was getting to you. Christ, Bodie, you look beautiful when you're getting randy. Sort of pink and soft and..." he paused. "I could really hurt you now couldn't I? Well, I won't, I promise you that, but I might other times. I won't be easy to live with, you know that."
"Yeah." Bodie managed to gasp the word out, pulling himself back under control just a little. "But you're very easy to love - either way you want to take that."
"Both, thank you," Doyle grinned and dived for the still-damp ear while Bodie's fingers searched out and found his nipples, rubbing over them until they were erect and tingling.
"Bodie," Doyle's voice was damp and breathy in his partner's ear. "Bodie, am I turning you on?"
A fervent nod.
"Getting you really hard for me?"
A pause, then: "Bodie."
"I don't think those ruddy pills are much good, do you?"
And Bodie's hand was taken, drawn down to hard urgency straining at denim, pressed there and held while Doyle wriggled his hips against it. Then he said suggestively, "It'd feel even better if you had your hand inside my pants."
"Possibly." Bodie pulled away, ignoring the groan of protest, and flapped his wrist vigorously. "Christ, my hand doesn't bend that way - at least, it didn't!" He turned, pressing Doyle against the sofa back with his forearm and leaned in close, staring into the wide, unblinking green gaze. "Why don't we go to bed and do this properly, sunshine? There may be times - stakeouts or drives with Cowley - when we'll have to make do with a quick grope, but tonight is all ours. Tonight and tomorrow."
"A honeymoon. Fancy the Cow giving us a honeymoon," Doyle gurgled, getting up with difficulty and nearly succeeding in strangling himself in his underpants. He emitted a yelp, opened his jeans and attempted to straighten things out with one hand while fending off an interested Bodie with the other. "I can manage perfectly well on my own, thank you," he said with considerable dignity for the circumstances.
"Never said you couldn't," Bodie said, hurt. "Point is, you don't have to any more. I'm here to share."
"Bodie, if you start that here we'll never get into the bed...ow!...room, oh, christ, Bodie, don't...don't stop..."
"Make up your mind," said Bodie, but his tone was abstracted, his eyes half focused as his hand met and stroked a warm, fervent bulk within the clinging cloth.
"You feel so good," he whispered. "So bloody good."
Doyle clung on to him. "You really want to make m.me come in my jeans? 'cause if you do, then that's OK with me." A quick, sharp breath. "Any minute now it'll be too late - to change - your - Bodie, Bodie!"
It was too late.
Bodie held his sagging partner close, kissing softly at his cheek which was the only spot presently available that didn't also provide an overgenerous mouthful of hair as well.
As soon as Doyle could he lifted his head. "You bastard, you did that on purpose."
"Yeah. Wanted to see if I could. D'you mind?" Bodie checked anxiously.
"Hated every minute of it," Doyle assured him. "Will you come to bed!"
"Yes, dear," Bodie said meekly, and went.
"I'll get you for that," Doyle threatened, grinning hugely and hopping about while he stripped off his jeans.
"What - calling you dear?"
"Twice? Promises, promises."
Bodie was half out of his trousers when Doyle caught him in a low tackle that sent him crashing onto the bed, half on, half off, protesting but not very vigorously. He made no difficulty over the removal of the rest of his garments and was positively cooperative when it came to climbing properly onto the bed where he lay, watching Doyle with an expectant eye that his lover unkindly told him made him look like a hopeful spaniel.
"You don't love me," Bodie accused him, shivering a little as Doyle cast his skimpy pants aside and knelt up beside him.
"Nope," Doyle agreed, then, his expression impossibly softening still further, "adore you!"
"Nice," Bodie nodded. "Very nice... So's that," he added as Doyle bent his head and rubbed his cheek against the swollen cock, loving it with gentle little nips and nibbles, letting it drift across his face with a look of pleasured hunger. "Very nice."
He wondered if Doyle would really take him in his mouth, know he wanted to do it for him, but when Doyle's mouth did open for him, Bodie stroked his cheek, checking him.
Doyle looked up, eyes alight.
"You don't have to," Bodie said softly.
"I know. I want to. I want to keep a bit of you for my own."
It was the last coherent word Bodie could manage for some time after that. When his world had resettled about him he found a pair of green eyes very close to him and a mouth that tasted of spilled semen and Ray Doyle. Beautiful.
"Did anyone ever tell you how good you taste?" Doyle demanded, kissing him.
"Mouth or..." Bodie enquired delicately.
"I've never seen anyone actually lick their chops over me before," Bodie confessed. "I rather like it."
"That's good - because you're going to see a lot more of it over the next few years."
"Only a few years?" Bodie knew the conversation was only light-hearted but he couldn't hide his foolish dismay.
"You want longer," Doyle said sapiently, "don't you? Hold your head still. I can't kiss your nose while it's bobbing about like Miss Piggy's. You want longer, you can have it. Forever if you want."
"Oh, I want," Bodie said fervently.
"Good." Doyle snuggled close, shutting his eyes.
After a minute Bodie prodded him.
"Hey, you said twice..."
Doyle nodded sleepily.
"Yeah. Later. When I've got me strength back."
"Poor little worn out flower," Bodie said lovingly, gathering him in closer.
Doyle opened one eye, then both so he could wink. "Don't worry sunshine," he soothed. "It'll be worth waiting for."
And it was.
-- THE END --
Blue Jay Press, 1983
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This is a work of original fiction and no attempt is made to supersede copyright held in 'The Professionals' by LWT, Mark One Productions or any other organization or individual. All characters herein are purely fictitious and bear no resemblance to any person living or dead.