Escape Route


Party Spirit series #15: After "Involvement"

You handled my little outburst well, Bodie, I'll give you that; all your tact and aplomb well in evidence. Embarrassed the hell out of you though, didn't I, running off at the mouth that way. Probably frightened you silly, wondering what on earth I was going to come out with next. Undying devotion or something equally nauseating. And you didn't even laugh, though I wouldn't blame you if you had. Must've looked a right wally, shaking and gettin' all misty-eyed over almost seein' you blown to smithereens. Cowley's finest, that's me.

No, you didn't laugh, not the tiniest snigger. Just hauled me off to bed and got down to basics, 'ad your evil way with me. Used me, didn't you, Bodie! Knew I wasn't going to say no. Knew you'd found a door mat you could wipe those well-bulled shoes of yours on whenever it takes your fancy. Oh! you made it good for me, too. Always the gentleman. Bet you always make it good for your birds as well. Treat 'em right and they'll beg for more ...

Only I won't, Bodie. Not me. Not your partner. So I'll find someone else. Someone I c'n get serious about. Someone you'll 'ave to take seriously ...

And she was perfect. Absolutely right. Beautiful and bright and ...

She didn't like you, Bodie. Did you know? Didn't like you one bit. Thought you were everything I wasn't - until she found out differently. Until she found I was just as ruthless as you, just as hard. That I'd use anyone I'd 'ave to, same as you do ....

Oh, Ann! I'm sorry. It never would 'ave worked out. But I tried, tried to make my escape, to lead an ordinary life in an ordinary house on an ordinary street ... without Bodie ...

"You're very quite this evening," Bodie said, plonking another pint down in front of me.

"Am I? Sorry. Can't sparkle all the time, even for you."

Gritted my teeth at the look I got, patient understanding not being the expression I'm most used to seeing on Bodie when he looks at me. I was starting to get fed up with it, wishing he'd stop fretting over what he'd had to do to Ann and me. Short memory, that's his problem. Tit for tat, that's all it was, after all.

"Two days off," he said, rubbing the back of his hand over his upper lip to wipe off the froth mustache clinging to it. "Got any plans?"

"Nothing I couldn't put off if something better turned up. Just washing and shopping and cleaning and all that boring stuff," I expanded in answer to his raised eyebrow.

He groaned. "Me too. Christ! the life of the bachelor about Town ain't all it's cracked up to be, is it! Tell you what, why don't we do the cleaning together? I'll come over and help you at your place and you lend a hand with mine."

"How bad's your place?"

"Suspicious bugger, aren't you. No worse than yours when I saw it last."

Guessing that whatever protest I made Bodie would have an answer for I shrugged and gave in; it'd be easier in the end.

He was on my doorstep by late morning, arms full of shopping half of which he crammed into my fridge to keep until he was ready; the rest he dumped on the kitchen divider.

"I brought a French loaf and some duck pate for lunch. I'm starving."

"After the cleaning," I said, foiling his attempt to lay hands on my bread knife.

"Ah, come on, Ray. Can't expect me to work on an empty stomach ... Just an end off the loaf'n a bit of pate to keep me going. Yeah? Besides, if we eat first it won't matter if we drop crumbs everywhere."

"Oh! all right. But no lying around on the settee afterwards, complaining you're too full to move."

"Would I?"

"Would rain fall?"

But I've always been a sucker for that wide-eyed wounded look and the bugger knows it. He was getting plates out before I'd had time to gather my thoughts.

"Supper at my place," he said, masticating a huge chunk of bread and looking like a hamster with eyes bigger than its cheek-pouches. "I've got all the makings." He indicated his purchases.

"Provided you're cooking. I've had enough of bein' chef lately."

He paused in breaking off another portion of bread and sort of peeked at me. Can't describe it any other way -- as though he was trying not to let me see he was looking at me. He'd been doing that far too often in the weeks since Ann walked out and I getting heartily sick of it. I said so - unpleasantly.

He mumbled, "Sorry," and stared down at his plate.

Christ! things were coming to a pretty pass if Bodie'd back down that fast. Get stroppy with him normally and you wind up losing half your front teeth. He'd taken everything I'd thrown at him, including a sock on the jaw, and maintained a sweet reasonableness that was beginning to unnerve me.

"Finish your lunch," I told him, getting on with my own.

I'm glad to say his appetite didn't seem impaired by his guilt complex.

He was right about the cleaning being less of a chore with two of us. We set the record player going full blast but drowned out all the best tracks with the vacuum cleaner, so we put the same records on at Bodie's and missed the same numbers all over again.

By 7.00 I was knackered and filthy and I made for his shower, refusing to help chop onions.

"I 'ate peelin' onions," he said, doing his best to look plaintive. "Make me eyes run something chronic, they do."

"Try peelin' 'em under water," I said, disappearing swiftly.

So what does the silly sod do? Appears in the bathroom and gets in the shower with me and starts peeling onions. It was a fairly hectic ten minutes.

Did you know you can dye things a lovely yellow with onion skins?

I was laughing so much I could hardly stand up and Bodie was in no better case. Inevitable in a space barely large enough for two consenting adults we ending by propping one another up in a sexless but very comforting huddle.

I'd never have shared laughter like that with Ann; she'd have though it all very childish and undignified. Not that she didn't have a sense of humour, she did, but it was for words and things of the mind: people were supposed to be serious, adult and sophisticated.

I did say it never would have worked, didn't I!

Bodie handed me a vodka and orange juice when I wandered into the sitting room after toweling my hair dry and I sank into an armchair feeling exhausted from laughing so much.

"Poor little flower," he said, grinning at me from the kitchen doorway.

"Just get the supper," I told him, waving a languid glass. I licked the spillage from my forearm and looked up to find his eyes on me and a look in them I couldn't read. I lay back, dozy and contented, glad to get back on an even keel and stop fretting over what I couldn't have.

So Ann was just an escape route that had turned out to be dead end; well, I could live with that, there'd be someone else, some day, and when she turned up I'd walk off with her into a pretty sunset and forget there was ever a blue-eyed, devil-browed sensualist called William Andrew Philip Bodie.

"Candles?" I said, eyeing the table when summoned to 'come and get it'.

"Brother, forgot the finger bowls. Shall we slum it tonight and use paper napkins, me lud?"

"Suits me, Jeeves. Crikey, is that smoked salmon I see?"

It was, served with lemon, freshly-milled black pepper and wafer thin brown bread and butter.

"Bloody 'ell." I viewed my portion with awe. "There's enough for three 'ere."

"Any you can't manage ..."

"Yeah, yeah!"

I ate in reverent silence and drank my share of the well-iced Chablis along with it. A bottle of Medoc accompanied the steak and ratatouille that followed.

"Had enough?" Bodie asked as I laid down my knife and fork.

"Have you got any more?"

"Not steak, no."

I stared at him and caught a shifty look in his eyes. "You've been and got some gateau," I accused him. Bodie's weakness is cake.

I surrendered half way through my slice, rich coffee cake smothered in mocha chocolate not being my idea of heaven and watched, unsurprised, while Bodie demolished it for me.


I was about to say no but he produced a piece of dolcelatte, knowing my weaknesses as well as I know his. I raised my eyebrows though, when a bottle of vintage port appeared at my elbow, ruby in the candlelight.

What the hell was Bodie up to?

And he said 'no' when I offered to wash up.

"Not that much to do--I'll do it while the coffee's perking."

Proper coffee an' all--definitely seduction time.

I pondered the idea, carrying my third glass of port to the sofa. I'd certainly drunk too much to please the policemen with their pretty balloons so I was either going to have to stop over or go home by cab, and usually when we stayed over these days we ended up having it off; I'd never made any protest up to now so it was a bit late to begin. Wasn't it? Might only end up ruining the good rapport we have when we're working and I didn't want to do that. A permanent girlfriend or wife Bodie would've understood; me suddenly going coy on him he wouldn't.

Anyway, the sex had always been good between us so it didn't take much of a struggle to decide I'd give in gracefully and enjoy watching an expert hand out the treatment. Might even pick up a few tips for varying my own routine, Bodie having an enviable reputation when it comes to pulling the birds.

His technique was perfect, couldn't fault it. Know your subject's what it boiled down to, and Bodie knows me inside out. Didn't put a bloody foot wrong or ruffle any of my feathers. Suave devil. Daresay he guessed it wouldn't take a lot to put me off and he trod very, very carefully. In fact he was so damn subtle that half the time I forgot I was being softened up for the kill.

Soon after half past ten he asked coolly, "How'd you feel about an early night?"

"Suits me."

"And a good long lie-in tomorrow as well, so don't go waking me up to come out running because I shan't be impressed."

"You feeling tired?"

"Not yet," he told me, and for the first time the gleam in his eye was unashamedly open.

We undressed without a lot of fuss, neither of us being over-fond of scenes, but in spite of our outward appearance we were both avoiding the other's eye for all we were worth. If only, I thought savagely, chucking my shirt on a chair, we'd ever got round to talking about what we're getting into we might find it easier to deal with! Being the strong, silent type may come easy to Bodie but it was doing nothing for my self-confidence as I climbed into bed beside him.

His gentleness almost finished me, having an underlying arrogance that was all his own and to which I had no defence. I could feel a suspicious prickling in my eyelids as he worked me over, but his hands and mouth soon had me flying too high to care if I burst into tears or not. I waited, quivering, prepared to let him do whatever he wanted.

The pause lengthened, urgency inevitably fading, and I raised my head. Bodie was frowning.

"Gone off the idea?" I enquired with some acidity and received one of those looks of ineffable contempt at which Bodie is a master.

"One of your dumber suggestions, Doyle."

"Then what are you hanging about for?"

"Waiting for you."

"For me?"


"Well, I'm here, aren't I!" I have it a touch of belligerence, only to be disarmed by one of Bodie's surprisingly sweet smiles.

"I 'ad noticed. Be hard to miss, the noise you make. 's very gratifying gettin' a response like that."

"So why did you stop if it was that good?"

His eyes slid away and he picked at the edge of the pillowcase. At a loss? Surely not!

"Thought per'aps it was getting a bit one-sided if you know what I mean. Wanted some of what you'd been 'avin'," he said eventually.

Maybe I had been being a little selfish although I hadn't thought of it that way until then: plus--and that it hadn't occurred to me before's a sure sign I was mentally way under par--it wouldn't do either of us any good to let Bodie think he had control of matters even if it was only in bed. So I roused myself and got on with the job of showing off my own considerable expertise and very satisfying it was too, watching him thrashing about, gasping and ordering me around and swearing at me when I didn't do what he wanted and breaking off to gasp a lot more when what I did do turned out as good or even better. I was beginning to feel positively smug until he squirmed over onto his stomach and peremptorily told me to get on and do it. I only just stopped myself asking 'do what?'

He craned his head round. "Go on, what's keeping you?"

"Are you sure?"

"Oh, for god's sake, Doyle..."

He felt good under me, firm, warm and moist; a trickle of sweat lay along his spine. But he was tight and tense, so tense I wanted to stop, forget all about it if he'd rather, but when I suggested it he growled at me so fiercely I carried right on, burying myself deep in his body.

We lay like that for a while until he demanded rather tersely whether I was intending to take all night.

Tried to snake a hand underneath him but he knocked it away, muttering something I didn't catch, and then he wriggled just enough to send me over the edge...

Felt him trying to throw me off but it was several seconds before I could rouse myself to clamber off him; as I did so he turned his head away and sort of curled in on himself.

"Bodie! Bodie, you all right? Bodie?"

"Course I'm all right," he said at last. "Takes more than a little thing like that--like you--to do any damage. And will you stop groping me," he added plaintively, fending me off for a fourth time. It was too late though, I'd found out what I wanted to know. He was limp and quite dry...

"You didn't come."

"Observant, aren't you," he said, dripping sarcasm.

"Then why don't you let me..."

"There's no need. It was OK. I'm OK. The earth doesn't have to move every time, you know."

"I don't mind..."

"Have you gone deaf since this morning? I said it's OK."


"Oh, for fuck sake, Doyle, give it a rest. Give me a rest. Just shut up and go to sleep."

I don't argue when Bodie talks in that tone but I was panicking like a pro at the expression lingering on his face: I'd never had a bed-partner react with revulsion before. I lay back, guilt consuming me.

After a minute or two he said in a goaded voice. "If you don't take that look off your face you can go and sleep on the sofa."

"What look?"

"You know bloody well what I'm talking about. It wasn't your fault. I asked you to do it. It wasn't rape. It didn't hurt that much and for the fourth time, I'M OK! So either stop looking like a spaniel that's been kicked in the goolies or else go and do it somewhere else."

Relaxing infinitesimally--if he could tick me off like that then I hadn't upset him irretrievably--I reached out a hand and held his shoulder. "Just so long as you're happy..."

"I'm happy. Not ecstatic, just happy."

I couldn't believe he was happy, he was too sober for that, but I wanted to let myself believe he was all right so I turned off the bedside light and lay back.

"This probably isn't the time," I said after a bit, eliciting a groan and a forceful 'no, it's not!', "but sooner or later, Bodie, we are going to have to talk."

"What about?"

"Us. All this."

"What for?"

"What for! Are you..."

"Look, Ray, do us a favour and pack in nattering. I'm knackered. 'f you wanna talk then we'll talk--but not tonight. OK?"

He didn't wait for an answer, just hauled the covers up round his ears and tucked his nose in like a large cat settling down. Smiling, I let it be...for the moment.

Should have know better than to let him talk me out of it. I did as I'd been asked in the morning and went out for a run on my own, sorely tempted though I was to wake him. Jogging's much more fun with a companion. He was up when I got back; dressed in blazer and neat blue worsted.

"Got to be back in the window?" I chuckled.

"Got to be at Cath's," he retorted.

"Cath's?" I sounded numb. I felt numb.

"Yeah. She rang a few minutes ago." But his eyes told me he lied. "I'm taking her out for the day. Make yourself at home. There's plenty in the fridge for breakfast."

He let himself out. I watched the Capri drive away.

I didn't eat any breakfast.

-- THE END --

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