Party Spirit series #9: After "The Rack"

Poor old Parker: they swore we'd set his recovery back three months wheeling him out of the hospital like that. The whole bloody thing was a cock- up from start to finish -- talk about the shit hitting the fan! Especially since the press were delighted to print up everything that Joe Public might like to hear about. And I was getting a bit sick of being told it wasn't my fault Paul Coogan was dead. His big brother had got up my nose and I was all ready to work off my bad temper on someone so I goaded Paul until I got an excuse to hit him: simple as that. Always had a low flashpoint and a tendency to get physical as a kid but I've been trying to act civilised around people since I grew up. Doesn't always work out that way, mind.

And Bodie didn't help, hovering around me as though he thought I'd fall apart if he wasn't there to hold me together. Come to think of it he could have been right. Trouble was with all that publicity the Cow couldn't give us anything to do outside HQ in case some nosy newshound got to hear I was out and about. By the end of the week I was ready to kill all over again and not liking myself one little bit.

Then Cowley gave us three days off.

Talk about ungrateful but it was the last thing I wanted, having time to brood. Had more than enough already. Even opened my mouth to say I didn't want time off but the look on Bodie's face stopped me. Could tell he'd got something lined up just by seeing the gleam in his eye.

What a lucky girl, I thought, but I didn't want to know and I didn't wait to hear. I could feel him glaring at me all the way down the corridor from where Cowley had him trapped.

I'd've got clean away if some blithering idiot hadn't been parked half across me. Thank you, whoever you were!

"'ang about, I want to talk to you." Bodie's voice, sounding irritated. I gritted my teeth.

"Leave it out, will you. I don't feel like company."

"Since when have I been company?" He put on that hurt look: it oughtn't to get to me but it does, every bloody time. I was still sorting out what to say when he added, "How does a spot of hang-gliding grab you?"

"You what?" It took a moment for it to sink in. "Hang-gliding?"

"Yeah. I met this bloke lives down in Berkshire and he said any time we were free to let him know. How about it?"

Anything, I thought, anything at all to keep me occupied; even throwing myself off the top of a hill. Might end all me troubles if I got lucky.

"OK." I didn't sound enthusiastic; I wasn't, so no point pretending.

He cast a comprehending look at my car and the unknown Volvo blocking it. "Come on, we'll go in mine." He swept me off and before I'd had time to blink I was home, had a bag packed for me (more neatly than I'd ever do it for myself), had my fridge ruthlessly emptied for picnic meals, the gas turned off and was bundled out of my front door wondering what the hell had hit me. We went through his flat at equal speed and were on the M4 within an hour and twenty minutes of Cowley letting us go.

"You glad you came?" Bodie emerged from the minute bathroom sleek as a seal and dripping water all over the hotel carpet.

Flat on my bed and aching in places even Macklin hadn't found I was, for the present at least, reasonably in charity with life: two days of adrenalin high works wonders, the only cloud tomorrow's weather forecast -- winds close to gale force. It was already beginning to whine around the chimney pots.

"Pity about the weather," he added, shaking fat drops out of his hair and finally applying the towel he carried in his right hand, sweeping it leisurely down his chest and between his legs, cradling the fullness of his genitals and rubbing luxuriously. "Bathroom's free now," he reminded me watching me watching him.

I closed my eyes. "Had my shower ages ago while you were chatting up that chambermaid."

Pretty, French, and just Bodie's type: predictable. I'd left them to it.

"She's got a friend."

"Who has?"


"Who's ...?"

"Amelie's the chambermaid I was talking to. You're loosing your grip, mate, you know that?"

"So she's got a friend. Who hasn't?" Me for one if I went on being aggravating.

"Who's just as available."

"Surprise, surprise!" Available I could live without; it summed up too concisely what I felt about myself at the moment, too close to that crack of Geraldine Maher's about Bodie selling his body all over Africa, but anything more worth pursuing would be too much effort.

"'s a good programme on telly tonight," I said, not moving.

"Well if that's your idea of a good night ..."

"It'll do."

He shrugged. "Please yourself."

"I do," I assured him. "Frequently."

"Kinky little devil." He got on with dressing -- black trousers and shirt, heavy cream silk jacket. Putting on the Ritz with a vengeance.

"You'll slay her," I told him, turning on my side to reach the bedside TV control.

He was back earlier than I expected, stumbling around in the dark soon after 3.30 and cursing under his breath. Pulled the bedclothes up higher to shut him out.

Next morning the wind had increased as promised and I stood at the bedroom window waiting for Bodie to vacate the bathroom and watching the scudding clouds, gloomily planning an early return to Town. No point in staying on; nothing to do in the sleepy Berkshire town. Wasn't even Race day in nearby Newbury.

His morning hygiene finally complete Bodie was ready to face the day. Up with the lark -- provided there was one rising at 11.13 am.

"You ready to leave at last then?"

"What? Leave? Why?"

I gestured out at the troubled sky. "Not a lot of point in staying, is there?"

"There are other things in life besides hang- gliding ..."

I could guess, Bodie's capacity for making the most of every opportunity to get his end away something I had long learned to live with.

"Well if you've got a date with Am lie you won't want me around."

"There's other things besides birds too," he said. "Might be able to hire a boat down on the canal. Well, what do you think?"

I pulled a face: after riding the wind, soaring like the very birds themselves, ploughing through still water at a humdrum four m.p.h. held little appeal.

"Ah come on, Ray. You can bet your life if we get within spittin' distance of London Cowley'll find out and think up some pressin' reason why he wants us back in a hurry."

Well, that was true. And, if Bodie meant to stay I'd have to go back by train and that didn't exactly appeal either. Nothing did, the high of the last two days having dissipated without trace during the night.

The canal idea was a washout, not enough of the Kennet and Avon being navigable to warrant any boats for hire, those we had seen being privately owned.

"Oh well," Bodie said philosophically, "we can go on up the road to the pub ... or back to the Bear if you'd rather."

I shrugged indifferently.

"Your decision," he said, watching me.

"OK, the pub."

He eyed me, disconcertingly sharp-eyed, but made no comment, and we wandered on up the High Street, Bodie stopping from time to time to gaze interminably into shop windows while I waited for him, trying to appear interested. He went into a couple of places and I stood outside, leaning on wall or window-sill and twiddling my thumbs. We paused longest outside a toy shop confirming, as I loudly announced, what I had long suspected -- that my partner had some way to go before he'd be quite grown up.

In reply he stuck his thumb in his mouth and began to whine: "Buy us a lolly, Uncle Raymond, go on, buy us a lolly!"

I ought to be used to these outbursts of idiocy and in London people rarely take much notice, too used to oddities to stop for one more, but here in a sleepy Hungerford he was quickly a centre of attention, small kids tugging at Mum's skirt and requesting her to look at the funny man and being hurried angrily by. Raising my eyes to heaven I set off, not realising at first he was not following. Finding a book shop I went in and browsed among the paperbacks, looking for one to keep me occupied while Bodie was off with his bird later on. He had his nose flattened on the window when I left, to the visible distress of the middle-aged gentleman behind the counter.

"Pub lunch?" he said brightly, "or buy some grub and 'ave it al fresco along the cut?"


"Picnic by the canal," he translated.

I looked at the sky; the rain seemed to be going to hold off and if it didn't we'd get wet. We didn't say a lot while we were walking; give Bodie his due he isn't a great one for gabbin' if you're not in the mood, but once he got the best part of a large pork pie and a couple of tomatoes under his belt he stared at the last mouthful of pie and said: "May you rot in hell, Aunt Gwyneth," thereafter chewing it with vicious, snapping teeth.

My mood lifted again, intrigued in spite of myself; Bodie hardly ever talks about his family, cagey bugger, and I wanted to hear more.

"Why, what did she do to get up your nose?"

"Always had 'em for Sunday lunch. Too busy at chapel for cooking."

"Spend many Sundays with her, did you?" I asked, picturing a glowering Bodie forced into well- scrubbed Sunday respectability and made to sit up and mind his manners at Auntie's.

"Far too many," he said, delving into the plastic carrier -- for further supplies, I thought, but the look of pure mischief he sent me warned me he had some devilment planned, but I wasn't prepared to see the gun in his hand as it emerged from the bag, and the stream of water hit me full in the face before I had time to duck.

He was cackling like a maniac when I dived for him but it didn't spoil his aim and I got another full- face as I was scrambling to my knees, but he was off- balance and my tackle sent him rolling down a bank in the lee of the hedge. I plonked my arse firmly on his squirming thighs, pinning him.

"Your face," he giggled, "oh god! You should have seen your face. Ow! you bastard, stop it! Gerroff!"

"No one," I said, applying my fingers even more diligently upon his ribs, "gets away with shooting Ray Doyle unscathed."

He rolled about, trying to throw me off and gasping out between snorts and yelps and high- pitched squeaks: "The ... the .. Gung-ho Kid ..."

"The same. Six gung Gung-ho!"

Eventually, finding him mud-covered enough to satisfy even my sadistic nature I left off trying to dig my way between his third and fourth rib and sat back, ignoring his urgent plea for me to get off the Crown Jewels and stop denting 'em.

"You won't be needing them," I told him.

"Try telling Amelie tonight."

"She'll never notice the difference." I wriggled my hips around a bit ... and noted something interesting.

"Get off on masochism, do you?" I enquired casually, probing further with one hand.

"Well it begins with m.a.s. ..." he began doubtfully, breaking off to screw his face and gulp. I groped some more but had to pause to make a major readjustment within my own clothing.

"Ray!" It was a breathless sound, amazingly arousing. "Not here -- someone might come any minute."

I refrained from the obvious retort and stared about us. "We can see them long before they see us." Certainly unless they came crashing through a solid hawthorne hedge we weren't going to be taken unawares. We had a clear view both up and down the towpath and we were far enough down the ditch not to be visible until someone was actually on us -- provided we were lying down. I planned to be.

"But will we be looking?" he demanded weakly.

Bodie sounding weak was something so new I was in over my head before I'd had time to think. Desperate for him, for something, anything, I twisted around tearing at his belt and zip with hands that would not obey me, cursing softly at my ineptitude, at the hands that fumbled with my clothes, hindering me. And when I had him in the palm of my hand, so warm and hard and needing, I stopped thinking at all and kept right on until my hand was wet and warm and very, very sticky indeed.

Think I hurt him, though all he said was: "Blimey, think I must get off on masochism after all." As he said it with his lips against my neck and his own very, very sticky hand nestled in my crotch my reply wasn't over-coherent.

"You got a handkerchief," he asked after an interval.

"Somewhere." I didn't want to move, I felt relaxed and amazingly content.

"Come on, you lazy slob! I can see some old buffer walking his dog and he'll be along here in a minute."

"Oh christ!"

The next few seconds were a frantic scramble but by the time Colonel Blimp came by we were sitting up respectably, sober and decent citizens to outward appearances, and we echoed his cheery, "Good afternoon." His Jack Russell paused, nose quivering. I could swear there was a knowing gleam in its eyes but it obeyed its master's whistle and pattered off in his wake.

"Phew!" I reached for a can of beer and took a long pull at it. "Here, you'd better have this. You can use it instead of your fists to liquidate your nemesis." And he threw the water-pistol my way, grinning all over his face.

Amelie's friend was small and blonde and giggly and very good company and when we said goodnight and parted to follow our respective partners Bodie's smile was one of uncomplicated pleasure. I reckon mine probably echoed it. Some tonic, my mate Bodie.

We went back to Town next day and back to active work. Joe Public had found something else to hold his attention so Bodie and I were off the hook. In our spare time Bodie went back to this summer's regular occupation, a leggy blonde with a passion for fitness, tennis and Bodie -- strictly in that order. I found myself one called Deborah with a passion for rock and very little patience. Catching a glimpse of her in my rearview mirror as she waved down a passing taxi I promised myself for the thousandth time that I'd pay Cowley out for all the birds he lost me calling me in at a moment's notice like this. It was a promise I'd made pretty often over the years. Was going to send Deb flowers until I remembered she suffered agonies with hay fever and thought it would be less than tactful: decided on a greeting telegram instead. The boxes of chocolates could come later, if I could be bothered.

I caught up with Bodie outside the Festival Hall where the ground was littered with the offerings of violence left behind by the kidnappers of Asher Bievermann.

"Nine mille.," I said, picking over the ones in my palm. "They're using different makes, Czech and East German."

"Yeah. Must be using M10's. Uzis or Ingrams."

I was mildly surprised. "Thought they went bust." Bodie'd know, always keeps up with that sort of thing.

"No, there's a new firm in Atlanta making 'em."

I thought of the silver plastic toy nestling at home among my socks and chuckled throatily. "That's not where you got mine from."

He grinned too, repressively. "All right!"

One thought led to another: it was just a sure bet that Bodie'd had his evening cut into same as I had and was just as popular with his bird. "Are you still chasing that gymnast?" I asked, super- nonchalant.

"Eh?" He blinked at the abrupt change of subject. "Oh, I only go for the strawberries and cream," he claimed airily, confirming my suspicion.

And then Cowley cornered our attention.

-- THE END --

Excerpt from "Bodie's Book of Words To Live By" - "You must always tell the truth, even if you have to make it up." Anonymous.

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