Discovered in a Furball


"Seven days' conjugals we're owed," Bodie recalled. After two hours of welcoming Doyle back he was almost shagged out--but only almost.

"We're about up to Tuesday." Doyle stretched and yawned. "Got things to do," he added with drowsy regret.

"Do me instead?"

"Cowley said report at six. Need a shower."

"And a shave. Feel sandpapered."

"Well, would've before, only you were in such a bleedin' hurry to get Sunday and Monday out of the way."

Doyle planted a last lingering kiss on Bodie's mouth, heaved himself off the sofa, stepped fastidiously over the tangle of discarded clothing on the floor, and padded off to the bathroom.

Bodie watched his entrancing rear view out of sight and succumbed to a brief doze until the sound of the French windows opening roused him. He took his own turn in the bathroom, retrieved his clothes from the floor and reluctantly put them on. He considered leaving Doyle's where they were and only grudgingly dumped them on the couch, drawing the line at adding them to the laundry bag. He knew Doyle would be lavishing affection on his rivals: let them wait on him hand and bloody foot.

He put the kettle on and prowled off into Doyle's small garden. Moggy-Next-Door was sunning herself on one of the folding chairs, burping occasionally when her digestion was challenged by whatever eccentric snack her eclectic appetite had last happened upon. Bodie had seen her voraciously consume insects, grass, slugs, scraps of paper, leaves, most of a raw carrot, bits of melon, milk chocolate, left-over spaghetti, and--the memory still rankled--a whole rasher of bacon, teleported from Bodie's breakfast plate in a millisecond. Presumably she absorbed a fair amount of regular cat-food at home--her solid white body verged on positive plumpness--but somehow she always seemed to be in hopeful attendance at mealtimes here.

Bodie sympathised. Doyle was adept in the preparation of Bodie-food, although he tried to sneak in rather more vegetable components than even the most devoted lover could easily tolerate.

Doyle. In the bloody greenhouse, sure enough, ruthlessly putting one of Bodie's rivals into strict bondage by way of consolation for a week's involuntary neglect. Bodie looked on balefully, feeling entitled to a monopoly of his attention.

Bodie was pretty much impervious to the charms of nature. His instinct was to avoid it, especially the green bits. Unfenced green stuff on the ground was fair game to be walked on. Green stuff on his plate was to be circumvented, except for the occasional stalk of asparagus. Fate had gleefully thumbed her nose at him when she had entangled him in the relentless spell of a pair of widely-spaced green eyes that came complete with colour-matching fingers: green eyes that smiled fondly (if sceptically) when he went through the ritual of Taking An Interest.

In Bodie's world flowers came in tasteful bunches, preferably wrapped safely in cellophane: they were for hospital visits to female friends, and if they showed up in restaurants they needed to be treated with caution since they could conceal explosives. He knew flowers had names but that wasn't his concern. He could say "flowers" or "roses" on the phone and the florist would deliver the appropriate selection.

Of course he could recognise roses: he'd bought a bunch of red ones once and encountered another behind Doyle's sofa cushions. And recently he'd learned what tomato plants looked like on the principle of Know Thine Enemy; they currently seemed to be cutthroat competitors for Doyle's affections.

Bodie liked tomatoes thoroughly fried, snuggled up to fried sausages and fried eggs and fried bread, and supposed the six vines Doyle was tending with such maniacal devotion might eventually provide ingredients for a meal or two. It seemed a suitable revenge, though one he would happily have foregone in favour of more immediate gratification of other appetites.

There had been a dearth of garden flats in recent years; this was Doyle's first since their long partnership had blossomed into eroticism and ripened into love. The symbolism was nice, Bodie thought, but he could have done without the competition.

"Sean Ogden." Cowley had laid out the assignment. "Harmless for all practical purposes. He shares the gift of green fingers with you, Doyle, but his interest seems confined to one particular species, which is why he is a guest of Her Majesty at this moment. Not the brightest." He pushed a photograph across the desk. "Very good-looking, though, as you can see, which may be why he seems to be the love of Bridey Shannon's life as well as the father of her child. It seems probable she will be looking for him when he's released and will risk coming out of hiding, or will at least let him know where to find her."

And CI5 wanted to find her. Bridey the Bomber.

Cowley had arranged, by fair means or foul, for Doyle to move into the garden flat below that occupied by Sean Ogden's grandmother, of whom Sean was reputed to be very fond. "Just to keep an eye and an ear open, Doyle. Don't get your hopes up. It's not a full time stakeout, by any means, certainly not until Sean is released. Meanwhile you'll win the confidence of the good Mrs Ogden and see what gossip you can pick up."

It had been three months in the course of which Doyle had established neighbourly relations with Mrs Ogden and flung himself into a passionate love affair with the little garden.

"This one's only part of the job, Ray," Bodie had reminded him. "No good getting too involved. Back to the window box as soon as we've nabbed Sean."

"With bits of you fertilizing it if you don't belt up," Doyle had threatened.

Now Bodie was investigating the various containers, trying to simulate intelligent appreciation. "Those are nice. What are they, then?" He pointed at a cascade of dark blue flowers tumbling over the side of a hanging basket.

"Lobelia," Doyle said, glancing through the open greenhouse door.

"Ah. What are the light blue ones?"

"Lobelia." Doyle nipped off a few wilting leaves with his secateurs. Bodie decided they were certainly welcome to his share of that little token of affection.

"What's all those leaves climbing up the wall? Big lobelia?"

"Ipomoea. Morning glory to you."

"Get flowers on, will it?"

"Blue. See the buds? They'll open in the morning, just for a few hours."

Bodie wandered on, his tour of the little patio nearing completion. "Got more blue ones here." He hazarded a guess. "Dahlias?"

"Petunias, you philistine. 'Ave a sniff. They smell nice. Blue Daddy."

"You never!"

Doyle's raucous laugh startled Moggy-Next-Door awake.

Bodie advanced his nose cautiously--you never knew what might be lurking in those trumpet-shaped ones--and inhaled a faint spicy smell. "Don't go sniffing anyone's Daddy as a rule."

"Have to meet me bastards one of these days, won't you?"

"These dark ones Blue Mummy, then?"

"Midnight Dreams."

"Quite a few of them this last week," Bodie said pointedly.

"Forgotten your five-finger exercises?"

"Used to making beautiful music, aren't I? Concerto for Raymond Doyle and Strangled Cats." He glared at Moggy-Next-Door with whose amorous nocturnal voice he was all too familiar. "Key of F," he added.

Doyle grinned over his shoulder. "Have to go and get debriefed in a minute. Cow should be back from his meeting."

"Can I debrief you again after?"

"Not wearin' any." Doyle stowed the secateurs on a shelf.

"Randy little bugger, you are."

"Not so much of the little, ta very much." He emerged from the greenhouse. "'Ullo--see you're growing a little somethin' on your own account."

"Your account, mate. Get much bigger with a touch of your green fingers, wouldn't it?"

"Mr Doyle!" a feminine voice called, disconcertingly close. "Welcome back! Is everything all right?"

"Christ, don't look that rapacious, do I?" Bodie muttered, wilting as Doyle delivered a wave of greeting to the elderly lady leaning out of an upstairs window.

"Lovely, thanks, Mrs Ogden," Doyle called back.

"Tomatoes doing well?"

"Coming along smashing."

"Would you and Mr-- I'm so sorry, I've forgotten--?"

"Bodie." Bodie offered his best old-lady-charming smirk.

"Mr Bodie. So nice to see you again. Would you and Mr Doyle fancy a couple of my tarts?"

"Love 'em, Mrs O," Doyle responded eagerly. "Come and fetch 'em, shall I? Back in a tick, sunshine."

Bodie wondered vaguely if he had missed some indication that Mrs Ogden was involved in the Oldest Profession. He strolled into the greenhouse to challenge his adversaries, aiming an imaginary rapier at the nearest. "Make the most of this fleeting triumph, you leafy layabouts," he growled. He wondered how long it would take to grow a twirlable moustache and whether Doyle would like it. "He's mine, I tell you, mine!"

The plants seemed to be sprouting little green knobs. He contemplated this curious phenomenon blankly for a few moments; then, in a blinding flash of revelation, he realised it was all true! Tomatoes! Growing!

Bemused, he strolled the few paces to the far end where more things were growing in little pots. There was something he thought he recognised. Lobelias? Dahlias? No. Petunias? No, definitely something else.

When his partner emerged through the French windows Bodie was almost too distracted to notice the plate piled high.

"Strawberry jam. Don't scoff the lot," Doyle admonished him. "Kettle's boiled: quick coffee before I'm off to see the wizard."

"Ray, listen--"

"Back in a--"

Bodie sat down on one of the folding chairs and absentmindedly devoured one of the tarts; the second received more respectful attention.

"These are fantastic!" he proclaimed. "Sod off," he told Moggy-Next-Door who had sat up and was purring hopefully.

"Smashing baker, Mrs Ogden." Doyle set down two mugs of coffee and usurped Moggy-Next-Door's chair, paying her off, to Bodie's eye-rolling disgust, with one of the tarts. "Comes down and waters the tomatoes and things if she sees I'm away."

"Just like that? What about security?"

"Only round the side, not in the house. Besides, we're supposed to be all neighbourly so she'll tell me when Sean puts in an appearance, remember? Seems he was round day before last. Mrs O sent him down to water the plants. Been a fortnight since they sprung him. Half hope he'll drop out of sight again," he added wistfully. "Really like this place. Think the Cow would have wanted me to stay at home this last week, wouldn't you."

"Yeah. Anyway." Bodie cleared his throat. "Speaking of plants, Ray..."

"You feeling neglected, love? Needed to get a look while it's still light. Don't know how long the Cow's likely to hold me up." Doyle's malachite gaze caressed him. "Fuck your brains out later, but there's not time just now to--"

"No, it's what's in the greenhouse."

Doyle gazed at him blankly. "Whitefly?"

"White--? Ray, there's pots of pot in there."

Doyle spluttered strawberry jam and pastry crumbs. "You're off your--"

"Have a look. If you can take your eyes off the perishing tomatoes long enough. Don't know how you missed them."

Doyle banged down his coffee mug and headed for the greenhouse, emerging a moment later scowling thunderously over the container in his hands. "This one of your soddin' jokes, you dumb crud?"

"Cross my--"

"Oi! Know what?" Doyle was suddenly alight with comprehension.


Moggy-Next-Door hiccupped.

"Sean's back to his old hobby. Thought he'd give them the benefit of the greenhouse while I was away."

Moggy-Next-Door made a choking sound.

"Could be right," Bodie agreed. "Well, what do we--? What's the matter with her?"

Moggy-Next-Door launched into the familiar retching overture to her virtuoso rendition of Cat Being Well and Truly Sick.

"That's revolting." Bodie averted his eyes. "Jam tarts aren't meant to be cat-food, Ray."

Moggy-Next-Door acked and hyicked her way through the final crescendo, glared accusingly at Bodie, retreated to a safe distance, purred herself a round of applause and started to wash her face.

"She had a furball, poor Mog," Doyle said compassionately. "Look, you can see where she's been eating grass."

"I'll take your word for it." Bodie shifted his chair several feet further away.

"Looks as if she's been scoffing a rolling paper, too." Doyle poked at the repulsive mess with a twig. "Sean again."

"For god's sake, Ray. Spare us the forensics."

"Writing on it." Doyle's curiosity was thoroughly engaged. "Looks like a phone number." He eased it out of its soggy entanglement. "Aha."

Professionalism overcame Bodie's disgust. "Couldn't be Bridey's, could it?"

"Sean jots it down on a rolling paper, drops it when he comes down to see to his potted pot. Moggy-Next-Door takes a fancy to it. Eat anything, she will. Why not? I'll take it along to the Cow; let him decide if it's worth following up. If it's no good I reckon Sean will be back to rescue his crops before long anyway and we can put a tail on him. I'll get something to put Cowley's little present in."

"Tell him it's a souvenir from your undercover," Bodie suggested, happily envisioning Cowley's reaction. "Bet he'll be even more gobsmacked than the time we brought him back those wind-up false teeth that play flamenco music."

Moggy-Next-Door indicated an interest in the last jam tart. Bodie grudgingly gave her a fragment of the wonderfully light pastry. She ignored it, eyes fastened on the rich jammy section for the last fleeting moments before Bodie disappeared it forever.

She stared at him reproachfully and hiccupped again.

"Not if you value your nine horrible lives," Bodie warned with deep menace, and she turned to lick her shoulder, beginning to store ammunition for her next foray into being naturally offensive. No wonder Doyle liked her.

Doyle returned with a plastic sandwich bag into which he manoeuvred the soggy paper, ignoring Bodie's exhortation to take the whole repulsive mess in case it contained something else of vital interest. Then he stowed one of Sean's horticultural achievements in a carrier bar.

"Sneak it onto Cowley's windowsill," Doyle explained, "then threaten to call the Drugs Squad if he doesn't let me stay here with my garden. Fed up with losing them. Put my name down for an allotment once, but he shifted me out of the district. Got to run: don't mind clearing that lot up, do you?"

Bodie evaded the subject. "If he does let you stay here, are you going to get some other colour flowers? Why's everything blue?"

Doyle grinned at him. "Like flowers that remind me of your eyes. I'll need to get some red ones tomorrow after the heavy night I've got lined up for you. Got to catch up to Thursday at least."

"Red roses?"

Doyle mimed a kiss and was gone.

"Get that cleared away, then," Bodie ordered Moggy-Next-Door.

She regarded him with half-closed eyes, swaying slightly.

"I'm not soft-hearted like him, you know. The tarts are all gone, anyway."

Feather-light, claws retracted, she sprang onto his knee and gazed adoringly into his face, refuting his base implication of cupboard love.

Bodie surrendered. "Why am I such a sucker for green eyes?"

It had been a long time since he'd melted a cat, but many females of his own species had contributed to maintaining the sensual skills of his capable hands, and it was, after all, good rehearsal for his ultimate objective.

He wondered just how much more practice was required before he could get Doyle actually purring.

-- THE END --

Originally published in More Priority A-3, IDP Press, 2000.
This version has been re-edited.

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