Visiting Hours


Party Spirit series #13: After "A Hiding To Nothing"

Dirty, that's what I felt as I looked at Shelley Hunter: 'avin' a bet on with Bodie I could get a pretty air-hostess into my bed first time of asking had been a big, male snigger but it was no longer amusing me. Felt a real pang of sympathy for Frances Cottingham; at least I'd only been pursuing enquiries and taking advantage of a willing bird, but that poor cow'd had to do it knowing the bastard was using her. I was just a one-night stand in between pilots ... and terrorists. My skin crawled, and I guess Bodie must have seen something of what I was feeling because he muttered something soothing about havin' been fooled by her as well.

"I need a bath," I said later as we watched her being bundled into a car.

"Huh?" He seemed preoccupied, a frown creasing his forehead.

Shrugging the regrets aside I took refuge in black humour. "What's the state of play now."

"What? What d' you mean?"

"Didn't we 'ave a bet goin'?"

"Did we?"

I let it go; no point in trying to talk to Bodie when he's got his mind fixed on something else. If he wanted to tell me what was bothering him he'd do so in his own good time.

Debriefing took forever. Found myself not listening half the time and breathed a sigh of relief like a kid at four o'clock when Cowley finally let us go.

Bodie was nowhere to be seen.

I drove home feeling faintly depressed. I was between girl-friends, the last one not having been too thrilled at being taken home in a squad car yet again, and somehow it seemed too much trouble to go looking just yet. Someone'd turn up. Till then ...

But Bodie was oddly elusive the next few days, too busy to come for a drink each evening, sliding out the first minute he could without a word. Didn't take a genius to work it out: Bodie had a new bird he wanted to keep to himself.

I stuck it out for a week; enduring terminal curiosity's not my strong suit but I did at least have the sense to keep my mouth shut and not ask outright, that being the classic way to get Bodie to clam up. In the end I was reduced to tailing him, not the easiest of jobs, Bodie having a nose like a ratting terrier's for anyone watching him since that time with Marikka. Good thing I'm good at my job. He made for Camden Town and up towards Hampsted. Classy, I thought. This'd be another of those upper-crust, well-heeled birds who fall for that mad, bad and dangerous to know act he puts on when he wants to make an impression.

Bit of let-down really when he pulled up outside a hospital. Still, nurses do understand the odd hours we work and the good ones among them even understand that duty comes first, second and third and relationships nowhere. I drove past and parked, settling down to wait, curious to see what was so special about her when they came out together.

It wasn't long before the main door opened and I peered inquisitively into my wing mirror, careful not to move and draw attention my way, but it wasn't Bodie emerging with his new bird, it was a middle- aged bloke I knew all too well. Masterson: Frances Cottingham's employer: most likely just come from seeing Frances -- the accident had happened not far from here.

Was that what Bodie was doing, visiting Frances? Or was it just coincidence? I got out of the car.

Yes, the girl at reception assured me, Frances Cottingham was a patient and yes, I could go and see her now. Down the passage, first right, first left.

Bodie was arranging roses in a vase as I walked in and he gave me his most forbidding glare as I started to grin. Belatedly remembering my manners I concentrated on greeting Frances, shocked to see how much she'd aged since saw her last. Unattractive then, even with the glow her brief illicit affair had given her, she was now only a gaunt shadow lying on hospital-white, grey-skinned and frighteningly listless.

I sat down on the vacant chair and made small talk -- how was she? was she comfortable? was there anything I could bring her? was the food OK? her treatment?

She was fine, they said she was doing well, was quite comfortable and no, she wanted nothing.

Only oblivion, her eyes said, only to forget, to be forgotten ...

I faltered into silence, let Bodie do the talking while I listened and nodded and made sympathetic noises.

Got a very soft spot for women in trouble, has Bodie. I remembered him telling me to go easy on her, that she'd be in a bit of a state, but I hadn't had the chance to do anything for her except call an ambulance. She probably wished I hadn't bothered.

"Your mother," I asked, "she OK, is she?"

Her eyes slid to Bodie.

"She's fine," Bodie nodded. "Mrs. Masterson looks in on her, and there's a nurse goes in each day."

"And Bodie walks the dogs," Frances added. She was smiling, as though that amused her.

"What dogs are those?" I asked as we emerged from the building.

"Oh, just a couple belonging to Mrs. Cottingham. Frances usually takes them for walks so I promised I'd help out for the moment."

"Thought you didn't like dogs."

"I don't."

"Then why ---?"

"Someone has to," he said, sounding exasperated, "and Frances was fretting about it, didn't know who to ask. Her mother's quarreled with most of the neighbours one time or another."

"What breed are they?" I had a mental picture of Bodie, tweed-capped and green-wellingtoned, striding over the Heath with a coupe of English setters in tow -- or Alsations.

"Pekes." His eyes dared me to laugh.

I was still sniggering when his car swept past me.

Marshmallow Bodie, I grinned as I crossed the road, the agent with the heart of pure mush. But it was easy to sneer and laughter was cheap and Bodie deserved neither. Even so, the vision of him with a couple of Pekinese in tow was sheer joy and I'd no intention of missing the reality.

He was halfway through an Indian takeaway when I got to his place, the table strewn with foil cartons: I went to get myself a fork and liberate a lager from his fridge. He eyed me with disfavour.

"Take a lot for granted, don't you, helping yourself."

I smiled sunnily. "Yeah. C'n see you bought enough for me as well. You must have guessed I'd be dropping by."

"Not guessed -- knew. Your nose's been twitching like a bloodhound's all week."

"That obvious?"

He snorted. "Could hear you bayin' a mile off."

Our forks made for the same carton of vindaloo, clashing in mid-air. "Touche" I acknowledged, withdrawing politely and poising for a rematch. "Engarde!" I watched the huge forkful make its way to his mouth and passed mournful comment on those who failed to behave like gentlemen. His look of contempt was a joy to behold.

"That's the trouble with you flatfoots -- abiding by the rules. Gets you nowhere."

"So what time d' you collect 'em?"

"Collect what?" he stared at the table, mystified.

"The dogs, of course. Should've known you'd need it spelled out -- if it hasn't got anything to do with sex or food ..."

He let the insult pass, probably aware he was on too-thin ice to cry slander. "What d' you want know for?"

"Thought you might need some help."

He opened his mouth to speak, paused, stared at me for a minute in a flat kind of way and then said, "I go in first thing, before breakfast, when I'm out for a run. I warned Frances I might not be able to every day but I would if I could. 's lucky we've not been too busy this week."

And the sod's face didn't even twitch.

"Better wait outside," he said as we jogged to a halt outside the Cottingham residence. "The old girl's only just got used to me popping in. Thought I'd come to nick the silver at first. God knows what she'd make of a scruff like you."

I ignored him and leaned on the wall enjoying the early morning freshness and the heady summer scent of roses and petrol fumes, when the peace was rent by the shrill yapping of two small animated muffs apparently bent on taking on the world at large and offering insult as a matter of course to everything that moved. It was a dedicated bee out on its first trip of the day that caught the initial flow of canine invective and I considered the insect was doing the world no favours by failing to sting one of the little buggers in a tender spot.

"Here you are," Bodie attempted to thrust the double lead into my hand: I backed off hastily.

"No, no. Not used to small dogs," I babbled. "Might step on them by mistake or something."

"You're yellow," he jeered.

"You bet your life I am." I agreed, fervent with sincerity. "I can see that one's taken a dislike to me already."

"Thought you were keen to help."

"Well, I'm keeping you company, aren't I?"

"Oh yeah! Thanks a bunch, mate. Dunno 'ow I've managed up to now on me own."

"Me neither!" I fell in beside him, the dogs straining at the leash ahead of us, plumed tails shaking to the rhythm of their pattering feet.

"Remind me of you, they do," Bodie asserted carelessly.

"Oh yeah?"

"Yeah. Pugnacious little devils, both of 'em, and no inhibitions about taking on something twice their size. Plus there's something about the way they walk ..."


"Yeah. Sort of twitching their bottoms. See what I mean?"

"And I walk like that, do I?" I asked it very politely.

He grinned, not looking at me. "It's not so much the way you all walk, it's the way you know what your best assets are. Know what I mean?"

I glared balefully, meeting limpid blue innocence.

"Where're we goin' then?" I changed the subject while I still had my dignity and paused for the third pee of the journey.

"Round the park. That's far enough for these two. Wear their legs out if you walk 'em too far."

"You mean they were Great Danes before you started looking after 'em!"

"Ha ha!"

"Do they stop at every gatepost?" I demanded peevishly, almost tripping over the stretched-out lead.

"Just marking their territory -- bit like people really, marking their own."

"Well, you may go around piddling all over London but ... Hey! watch it."

A milk-float clattered to a stop just ahead, exciting the dogs to fever-pitch, and as the driver stepped out they darted forward in unison, Bodie let the lead slip and the little buggers were off like a flash, yapping exultantly as they went. The milkman moved so fast I'll swear the air temperature around him went up a couple of degrees, and took refuge on the nearest wall where he balanced like a precarious tight-rope walker.

"Language," I admonished, shaking a finger at him and tutting sorrowfully, and Bodie went off full tilt after them, slapping a size 8 Adidas on the trailing leather. Baulked, the dogs backed and filed, voicing their displeasure loudly.

"They're only nosy," Bodie assured the visibly unbelieving victim, "like to know what's going on on their patch, that's all. Come on, get a move on or we'll be late for work."

Sensibly the milkman waited until we were well across the road before climbing down and getting on with his round.

Inside the park Bodie bent to unclip the leash from their collars, an act that seemed to me to come somewhere between rash and fuckin' stupid.

"Oh! they'll be OK. Never 'ad any trouble catchin 'em yet. Know it's grub-time when they get back, don't they."

Seeing that one of them was busy with a corpse of a three-day-dead pigeon it had unearthed from beneath a hedge and the other was chewing on something gratifyingly unidentifiable I was inclined to think this was an optimistic view, but since it wasn't my responsibility to make sure the dogs returned safely I let it go.

"Come on then," Bodie said, "didn't come here just to admire the scenery, did we," and he broke into a loping run, covering the ground without obvious effort and apparently oblivious of the two bodies that flashed in and out around his feet. I followed a discreet distance behind.

We'd been going about five minutes when Bodie, clearly reduced to second childhood by his ecstatic escorts, yelled, "Race you to the fountain," and set off hell-for-leather for a concrete fake antique set in the centre of a small pond some two hundred yards away. I passed him easily which should have warned me, Bodie being better built for sprinting than I am, but all I thought at the time, fool that I am, was that I was going to beat him for once, and it never occurred to me he was going to stop dead as soon as I passed so that the dogs would transfer their attention from him to me. The first one went between my legs in midstride, startling me, and before I could gather my wits his mate was there as well, yapping hysterically and jumping up to snap at my rising feet. I stumbled a few steps trying desperately to regain my balance but with those two involved it was hopeless from the start and I went crashing down. A loud squeal told me I'd caught one of the little buggers but before I could enjoy any degree of satisfaction I felt a sudden searing pain in my left ankle. Yelping in competition with Pottie-poo or whatever the foul brute was called I gave its brother physical discouragement from chewing my tracksuit through to the bone and looked up to find Bodie bent double with distinctly unsympathetic mirth.

I offered my opinion.

When I finally ran out of momentum he was still grinning.

"Just like us," he said. "Someone goes after his partner so he goes for them. Touching, I call it."

I found a few new things to say after all; his lordship began to laugh all over again.

By evening he was beginning to believe I wasn't limping on purpose.

It would have to be one of those days spent wearing out shoe leather on hot, stinking pavements trying to track down a witness who, when we eventually caught up with him, swore blind he hadn't been purposefully evasive. Pigs might fly.

It was 8.30 before we left HQ, too late for Bodie to go and see Frances.

"Fancy a meal?" I asked him. Lunchtime had been suspect porkpies eaten on the move. I'd had about two bits of mine before chucking it; even Bodie'd only managed half of his. "I've got a chicken and ham pie in the freezer and some rather nice Stilton in the fridge."

"You're on!"

"You'd better drive though," I said, chucking over the key, "my ankle's giving me a gyp!"

"Thought you were suffering," he said, not even attempting to hide the huge grin on his face as he opened the passenger door for me to get in.

I let him do a fair bit towards getting the meal. After all, I was still looking for some of my stuff he'd 'put away' for me when he helped me unpack for a month and more back. Probably wouldn't find most of 'em until I moved again, which knowing CI5 wouldn't be ages. Bodie once said he could see no rhyme or reason to the moves we have to make for security, but I sussed it out long ago. If you like a place and it's convenient and quiet, the walls are nice, muted shades and it quickly feels like home they move you on as soon as possible; if you hate it, if it takes forever to park or the decor makes you liverish and the railway's at the bottom of the garden they leave you there for months. This place I'd loathed right from the start and it hadn't improved on acquaintance. The plumbing was antique, the windows didn't fit and the spiral staircase wobbled if you tried to run up or down it. They'd moved Bodie, of course, a few days after the Wakeman female had filled his phone with plastic: he'd really taken to that flat, too. Even had his little figure in a bearskin out which he usually doesn't as he says he can't find the right spot to set it off properly.

After supper, I sat with my feet up on the sofa and watched Bodie's profile as he watched TV. Got a very mobile face, Bodie, when he's not trying to hide what he's feeling, and it was quite a revelation seeing it mirror all the emotions unfolding in some crappy Channel 4 drama. Did quite a bit of thinking too, sitting here, about things that generally I'd been trying not to dwell on in case I panicked or did something silly like coming out and telling Bodie I'm fond of him. Don't want to scare him off, make him feel ... trapped. 's a big responsibility, having someone to care for you, and I wasn't sure either of us could cope with getting serious. The sex had been fun and it hadn't made any difference to our working relationship, or if it had it was purely on the plus side and I wasn't going to quarrel with that, so I reckoned the best thing to do was carry on as we were, taking our fun when we wanted it and leaving it strictly where it belonged -- in the bedroom. No need for more, for fussing and wondering and making it into something too big to handle.

As the play ended in a burst of musical pompousness I said casually, "You staying over?"

Maybe what I'd been thinking about'd made me selfconscious or something because he turned and looked at me with a little smile playing around his mouth. A nice smile, tempting me to kiss it. Wished he'd let me kiss him but he's never made any move that way and I wasn't going to tempt rejection. Getting your rocks off's one thing, being sloppy about it's not on.

"Is that an invitation," he asked, very softly.

"Sounded like one," I muttered, looking away.

"In that case ..." He stood up, stretching like a big cat. "I'm tired. All this getting up early's no good for a growing lad."

"The only way you're growing is sideways," I told him, unkindly because untruthfully. I followed him up the stairs, brain carefully in neutral.

As I straightened from removing my trousers I heard a soft exclamation and looked up to find a narked partner goggling at my left ankle; the bruise was well out now, the tooth marks clearly defined.

"The little bugger really caught you. Didn't realise it was that bad."

He was laughing but rueful with it. Disarming.

"'s OK." I dismissed it; the soreness would be gone by tomorrow.

"Here!" He grabbed my hand.

"What? What for?"

"Come here, you suspicious devil. Lie on the bed. Gonna kiss it better for you."

I shivered. Don't remember lying down.

His mouth was warm, soft, practised and gentle; it soothed around my ankle with delicate, moist touches with a whisper of tongue about them. It was ticklish and arousing. I willed him to go on.

Must 've 'eard me, I thought, well-nigh incoherent as the touch travelled up my leg, pausing to nibble around my kneecap, and I cursed silently that I hadn't had time to strip completely, that I still wore my underpants brief though they were. If I stopped him now, distracted him, he might not start again and I wouldn't know how to ask ...

His tongue marking out the definition of my quads he moved up my thigh, then began to lay dry, pecking kisses along the edge of the cotton covering my hips, round to my flank and back, lifting to avoid the urgent surge of my prick and beginning again over the other side, fingertips sliding beneath the hem he'd abandoned.

Oh god! Oh Bodie! I was having trouble separating the two just then, all my being centred on what he was doing to me, what he was making of me. Unmoulding me, making me over in his image ...

I clenched my fists, biting my lips to keep silent and still.

At last, when I was ready to weep, to plead for what I wanted, he slid his fingers under my waistband and lifted, nibbling the head of my cock as he freed it, playing with the tip and tugging at my foreskin with his lips.

Ah don't! Don't tease! Can't take any ...

I arched, letting him pull the garment off me, lifting my feet until I was bared to him at last. I whimpered. Tried to turn on my front but his hands pulled me back and shook his head looking scared.

Don't be scared, Bodie. Please don't be scared. Gotta let this be easy, so easy between us. You have what you want, what you need.

I held him to me, belly to belly until it was over and his breathing was harsh in my ear.

I stroked his bottom, soothing him, loving the feel of the generous curve under my palm. Then I slept.

And in the morning it was all as though nothing had happened.

I could have murdered him.

-- THE END --

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