It Must Be the Sea Air


"I'm your friend, I'm your friend, I'm your friend to the bitter end."

'Only a friend would stick by Bodie when he's in this mood.' 'God, he's got to be one of the most irritating men I know,' thought Bodie. 'If he sniffs like that again I'll kick him.'

These were the thoughts going through the private minds of the two agents as they stood on a corner off Ship Street, Brighton. Bodie shrugged the collar of his jacket up, while Doyle pulled the damp tartan scarf tighter round his neck in a futile attempt to keep out the draught. They had been on duty for five hours solid without any kind of diversion in the sort of freezing wetness only the true British holiday resort can provide. Only a twit with waterproof skin would actually call April showers sweet...stuck down here watching dial-a-demo and rent-a-mob with some fay friends slop past in the 'Mammoth' March to scrap Clause 28...

"Looking at that lot I'd support the clause."

"Looking at that lot I'd support the Mammoth!"

"Priapismic monsters would - hey, do you know him?"

"It's just the same old set. Who do you mean?"

"Him - the fat fair one in the camel coat behind the Elvis lookalike. He's waving at you. Aren't you going to wave back?"

"Oh hell, it's Cowley's cousin. Must have gone underground... typical!"

Doyle pursed his mouth and gave a half-hearted wave. "Underground? He looks lively enough to me." He gave his Fisherman's Friend a savage suck; he was frozen, even the inside of his mouth was cold.

Their brief was to prevent any attack on Brighton's gem by those driven by the politics of envy. The Popular Front for the Liberation, Fulham, had joined forces with the somewhat fluid pink wedge; politics still made some strange bedfellows, but there's nowt so queer as folk.

Doyle started to shiver, his teeth rattled. "Should have brought me tranny, would've kept my mind off the cold..."

"The phones are incompatible with that new set."

Doyle gave a long deep sigh; suddenly all the memories of Ann switched on hearing 'incompatible'. That summed up the whole affair; two years and it still hurt like hell. He'd've walked out without a backward glance if it had not been for Bodie, or 3.7 as he had called him after what he had taken to be a total betrayal. Bodie by that time could read Doyle like an S.A.S. manual; even so he had a sudden flash of more than usual sensitivity.

"Sorry, sunshine... know just how you feel."

Doyle looked directly into the steady dark blue pools. Here and now, in these unpromising conditions, his partner looked beautiful.

"Please engage brain before activating mouth," his friend continued, giving a sad smile.

Doyle smiled back as bravely as he could, then suddenly the spell was broken. He shivered again. "Nah - it wouldn't be you, mate."

"That's got to be the last of the buggers, Doyle."

"Give them a couple of minutes; 3.6 and comrade will be here to take over."

"They're late. Serve them right to get away from all those overseas postings."

"Call the Isle of Man overseas? It's colder than here. Anyway, what's wrong with you? Look at that, it's beautiful." He indicated the pastel-green Pavilion looking as good as new with a new coat of paint.

It was at the moment lost on Bodie who was tired, hungry, wet and unhappy. "Beautiful, Doyle? Looks like it came out of a cracker."

"Looks like Fairyland - trouble is you've got no soul, Bodie."

"Oh, you've been there, I suppose. Talking as one of the professionals, are we?"

"Shut up!"

A moody silence ensued. Bodie jammed his hands deeper into the pockets of his wind cheater while Doyle stamped his Cuban heels on the pavement to try and restore the circulation to his feet. Icy water from a puddle at his left foot took off and splashed into Bodie's already sodden trainer.

"What did you do that for?" The tone of voice was one Doyle knew well.

"Sorry, I didn't see it."

"Of course not. You were too busy gazing at that pile of junk."

"Said I was sorry. What do you want, Bodie, hearts and flowers?"

"Kiss me better."

The eye contact was magnetic; at last Doyle looked away giving a nervous laugh. Not even in the gay capital of Sussex was he liberated enough to accede to Bodie's request while on duty.

"Just testing the water." Bodie looked as innocent as an angel.

"I'm starving." Doyle was anxious to change the subject.

"I'm pissed off with listening to pretentious clowns sounding off about Bratby's linear approach and Karl 'the musical' Marx's latest C.D." Bodie sounded his toughest.

"You can't fool me, Bodie. Who went all strange and moody when Murphy sat on his 'Teddy Bears' Picnic'?"

"It had 'Penguins on Parade' on the flip side," sniffed Bodie. "Can't get it any more..."

"That's what this is all about, isn't it!" Suddenly Doyle saw the light just as daylight gave up the ghost. "You've been without for three weeks."

"Don't notice." Bodie was immediately on the defensive.

"Not to a stranger, maybe, but I'm your mate." Doyle wriggled around to accommodate his assets in the green velvet he had chosen to wear, confident that in them he would blend in with the non-scene elements of the march should the need arise.

"Sod clause 28," muttered Bodie. He watched, fascinated, as Doyle bumped and ground his way to comfort. "You should go on the halls, Golly."

"Didn't think you noticed."

"Couldn't help myself. I'm still hungry."

"Stop moaning. You had a ploughman's and a spotted dick at lunch time."

"Sounds like a medical condition, Doyle. My ploughman's got a spotted dick!"

"Oh, does he charge extra?" chirruped Doyle. "Here, get yourself round this."

Bodie crunched down on the yogurt covered apple with the 'smartie' face. Not a health freak himself he was hungry enough to eat just about anything. One of the purple eyes fell to the pavement giving it a lecherous expression.

"Looks like Krivas or one of your rough friends. Fancy a game tonight? Cowley says we can come back on Monday - got it in writing, I have." Doyle waved a distressed note with Cowley's distinctive script and signature.

"Honestly?" Bodie's whole face lit up - it was like the sun coming out... for the first time that afternoon. The smile faded as 3.7 assumed an air of complete indifference. "Must be the sea air, Doyle."

"Come off it - it's me. Bodie... know you by heart, mate. What do you fancy, the pain or the comfort?"

"No." Bodie stared blankly in front of his at the Regency edifice.

"What then?"

"The handcuffs. It's the handcuffs." His answer was a broken whisper. "The handcuffs," he hissed. "But they're back at my place."

"No problem, I'll improvise. I'm great at knots."

"Oh yeah?"

"Better than you. Remember my thumb?"

Bodie blushed to the edge of his fringe. He remembered only too well slicing Doyle's thumb in a frantic race to release his partner. Doyle know he had hit the target and felt guilty. "Can't keep a good man down."

"Hope not, sunshine." Bodie gave the apple stick one last long suggestive lick as he brightened up a little, and got a splinter in his lip. Not as bad as a cinder in the eye but still no picnic. He said nothing about this minor mishap; removing it later this evening would give the 'game' an additional frisson. He looked across to the floodlit building. "I suppose it has got something," he admitted generously.

"Of course it has, otherwise we wouldn't be stuck out here like the last bastion against what's it..."

"Property developers?"

"Yeah. Don't want them to get their hands on it - them and the students."

"Students - they wouldn't dare. Too bloody obvious."

"'s been tried before," Doyle assured him. Suddenly his green eyes flashed fire. "Art student it was, Pole, I think, set fire to the music room."

"Maybe he didn't like the backing."

"That's not the point. It's our tourist attraction. Let him go and blow up a Polish one"

"They ain't got one. Got to come and get ours."

"Thought they had that Infant of Prague?"

"Prague's in Poland now, is it?"

"Well, anyway, they've got Gdansk."


"OK, you two can move along and make way for the real stuff."

3.6 and friend had arrived; Bodie laid a restraining hand on Doyle's wrist, while the newly arrived agent gave him an odd look. There had never been anything between them except the usual banter and rough camaraderie of ex-mercs.

"Hurt your lip - how come?"

"You miss nothing. It's all right, mate." Bodie looked at the stick in the gutter then up at Doyle. "Let's go for a swift half pint before wrestling."

"It's been canceled," cut in 2.2.

"What? Rain stopped play, did it?" asked Doyle innocently.

"Been replaced by international bridge. Wales v. Israel," answered 2.2 seriously.

"It had to happen," said Bodie.

They pushed off up the hill in the direction of the pub.

"I had my heart set on some wrestling."

"Never mind... ever heard of improvisation?"


"Fancy five rounds, Bionic Golly v. Priapismic Monster. Three falls, a submission or knockout to decide the winner."

"My pleasure," murmured Bodie. He threw his arm round Doyle's waist and opened the pub door for him.

"Mind, too, Bodie, or I wouldn't have suggested it."


"Why not? Watch out for those bar stools and take the weight on your elbows, they've got dodgy legs."

"We'll stay up here then. Gotta save my strength for later."

Much later Bodie gave a half-hearted pull against his bonds; he would never look a roll of sellotape in the face again. It been one breathless surprise after another since their arrival at "Gordon's Hotel'; the last but five had been the sunken, coffin- shaped jacuzzi. Doyle, pink and disheveled, looked down at his handiwork.

"Had enough, have we? You went off like a little cracker. Fireworks inside and out what with the Festival and all. Have to undo you now or your hands will drop off."

Bodie nodded as the tapes crackled undone, he was amazed at Doyle's reserves of energy. He could not move even when at liberty; he was shattered.

"You're very quiet tonight." Doyle started to straighten out the bed, then snuggled down next to Bodie.

"Bit out of my depth this time, sunshine."

Ray chuckled, gave Bodie a long deep kiss then ran the back of his left hand up and down his stubbled cheek.

"Must be the sea air, luv..."

-- THE END --

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