Whispers in the Wind
by Anna Parrish
"You want me to do what?!" Bodie demanded in cold disbelief as he turned to face his father.
"It seemed perfectly clear what I was asking," the old man said in total disregard to his son's anger.
"Does he know anything about the sea?"
Bodie took a step closer to the old man. "Does he know anything about ships?"
"Has he ever even been on a ship?"
"Does he know anything about going to sea for three months?"
"No." His father removed a small, square, white piece of fabric and a white enameled box from his vest, took a pinch of snuff from the container, and delicately inhaled it. He viewed his son's reaction with calm assuredness. He sneezed into his white handkerchief, wiped his nose and replaced both the piece of white lawn and lace, and the box, into his pocket.
"Let me get this straight. I'm to take a novice on board the WHITE RAVEN, train him, keep him safe from my men...who will enjoy taunting and teasing him to no end since he is so green...sail my ship to Italy, and keep an eye out for pirates."
"Surely it isn't more than you can handle," the old man said with a faint smile. "You often regale me on your exploits and tell me repeatedly that you're capable of handling anything. Are you now telling me everything you've ever shared with me was fabrication?"
"My ability to handle a crisis has nothing to do with this! I've enough trouble on voyages, Father; you don't know.... I won't do it." He turned back to the window, trying to release the animosity that still bubbled inside him. That emotion had risen to the surface too many times in the last eight months. It was time to let go of it...but it always seemed to linger so close to the top of his reactions to everything...too ready, too willing, too strong. He wasn't sure he could erase it now.
"The ship belongs to me. Have you forgotten that?" He waited until William Bodie pivoted slowly to stare in icy warning at the man who had helped given him birth. That look had chilled many a man, had sent them quaking to their knees, but it didn't faze the man who sat majestically in his brocade chair. "It does not need you to be it's captain. I do not need you to be it's captain. Need I go further?"
"Damn you," Bodie muttered beneath his breath. Aloud, he demanded, "Why?"
"Someone is trying to kill him."
"I fail to see how that affects me."
"His father saved me trice during the war."
"So? So!?" His father fought to calm himself. "There are times I cannot stand you, William Bodie. And to think, your mother named you after three kings! Kings! If she could see you now. If you weren't so much like your mother...." He stopped, changed his words. "When the young man was six, his father went to visit his estates in Wales. When he returned, he found the mother and son had been brutalized, had been kept locked up in the attic. Both of them had been...." The old man found he could not say the words. "Horace was gone two months. That whole time...." Again the old man couldn't finish the sentence. "The mother killed herself, soon after being rescued. The boy stopped talking, and has not spoken since."
"So he is mute as well as off-balance?"
"He is mute but he is not off-balance. His mind is as clear and as sharp as yours." His son nodded once. "William, there have been four attempts on his life, one inside their own home. His father tried hiding him in Wales, but someone got to the servants and...Horace has begged me to help him and his son. I could not turn them away. Surely you can understand this! If it had been you...." His father shook his head to deny that very possibility.
"Does your friend know who is behind these attacks?"
"He has no proof but he thinks it is the younger son."
"Good God!" Bodie pinched the bridge to his nose. "Still...."
"If you will not do it out of Christian Charity, then do it because you love me."
"Do I love you?" Bodie asked, his face straight.
"You do. We're due to visit them this afternoon."
"Rather sure of yourself, weren't you?"
"I was sure of you." Still, indecision altered his expression, the tone of his voice: "Will you do it?"
"There are no free rides on my ship, and it is my ship! I saved her more than once while you sit safe here before your fire with your hot porridge tucked inside you!"
"Granted she is more yours than mine."
"I'll not have him lollygagging around, sitting on his arse, waiting for someone to spit and polish his shoes."
"He is not that kind, William."
"I will do it, but you owe me one."
"That too I will grant you."
"What is the name of this tongueless victim?"
"Doyle, Raymond Doyle."
His name was Cedric and he was Doyle's younger brother. He was shorter, heavier, nastier, with beady, black eyes that had never held any warmth. He wanted to be master of his father's estates. He wanted to control the fortune the elder Doyle had spent a lifetime achieving. One thing stood in his way: Ray Doyle. Yes, he had tried to have his brother killed, but that tall, skinny fool had a guardian angel and each attempt had failed. Oh, he had come close at the estate in Wales, but that snoopy curate had arrived before anything could be done, had become suspicious, and had rescued Ray Doyle.
And now they were going to send him to sea, were they? He knew their plans...the servants talked. they had been afraid not to. It hadn't been hard to locate one of Bodie's men who wanted extra pounds in his pocket. His brother would die at sea and everything his father had would come to him. It wouldn't take much to make it look as though that old man had given in to depression caused by Ray's death, and had done himself in.
He heard a noise at the top of the stairs and looked up. His black eyes met Doyle's green ones. A faint grin came and went on his homely face. "Be careful, Ray. We wouldn't want you...tripping...and falling again, would we?"
Ray Doyle went slowly down the stairs. He was afraid of Cedric and it showed. At the bottom, he tried to edge away from him but the shorter, stronger man slammed him up against the wall, held him there, and asked, "Guess what dear, old father has done?"
Doyle tried to free himself but the other's strength was greater. He shook his head, tried desperately to keep from trembling. Showing his fear only made his brother worse, but sometimes, Cedric would remind him of those other ones. Then, darkness from his past would take over, and he would remember clearly what those two others who had done to him, how they had tormented him, hurt him so badly, and the fear would overwhelm him and became too great to handle. Even now, he could feel it tickling at his mind, taunting, waiting.
"He's sending you to sea." He tugged at the curls that hung down to his brother's shoulders. "You're quite beautiful...for a man. Did you know that?" Once more, Doyle shook his head.
Cedric sighed sadly. "Just think, all those men being on that ship for months and months and months and no women on board. Do you know how men ease themselves when they have to go that long without a female? They use each other, Ray. It's too bad you're so lovely, so tall, so slim. They'll take to you right away. Mark my words. They'll see you day after day and their lust for you will grow until it becomes too much."
He watched the fear increase in the green eyes, watched the white, pinched look increase, and he gloated. "Do you know what they'll do to you?" And he went on to explain in graphic brutality the sexual acts the men would perform with Doyle, acts that reminded Ray Doyle of those performed against him when he was a child by those men who had held him and his mother. "And when one man finishes, he'll move and let another take his place. Each man will have tasted you before they are finished, and then they'll start again." Cedric smiled viciously. "Think of all that pain, that tearing, that blood.... It would be a lot like back then, wouldn't it, Ray? When you were a child and caught by those men and they took you and mother upstairs to the attic. They stripped off your clothing, didn't they? And turned you over onto your stomach?"
Pure white, Doyle shook his head in frightened denial. He shoved his brother away and ran, ran from the mocking laughter. Ray Doyle ran to the library only to freeze in the doorway when he caught sight of two men in there with his father.
"Ray? Are you all right?"
But Ray Doyle's attention was caught by Bodie whose eyes were moving over his slim form in curiosity. The sea captain noticed the fear in he green eyes, in the way the mouth was held, and his own narrowed in thoughtfulness.
"Son?" When Ray only shook his head, the elder Doyle placed his arm around the young man's shoulder, encouraged him to move forward. "This is my old friend, Jasper Bodie; you remember him, don't you?" Doyle strove to return to normalcy and he nodded though he bit his lip. His eyes met the tired, old ones of Jasper Bodie, but immediately went back to Bodie's blue, knowing ones, and he felt his face grow pale once more. "And this is Captain Bodie, of the WHITE RAVEN. He.... Ray!" He watched pure terror take over his son, watched in frozen dismay as his eldest son jerked away, ran from the room. "Ray!"
Bodie reacted first. He shot past the older men, met up with Doyle at the front door and grabbed him. "Wait!" He was unprepared for the fighting, for the sheer terror. Over and over, Ray's mouth formed the word, NO! "I'll not hurt you, Ray. You need not fear me." For it was clear to him that the other man was afraid of him. Ray Doyle's struggle brought them both down.
As Bodie pressed the slimmer body back against the carpet, mocking laughter from the top of the stairs shifted his attention from the man he was holding, and on upward. The stocky, ugly boy-man who stood at the top of the stairs saluted taunting derision and vanished into the upper hallway. Bodie's concentration went back down to the man he held.
"Calm down. I won't hurt you. I'm going to move now so we can stand up. All right?" He could see Doyle was incapable of answering, so great was his fear. Sighing, wishing he hadn't gotten mixed up in this whole, ugly business, he moved, stood up, pulling the other man up with him. And Doyle bolted again, straight for the door. When Bodie tried to halt his retreat once more, Doyle fell, striking his head on the doorknob. He slumped unconscious to the floor.
He came to slowly, noticing the dimness of the room, and then the rocking of his bed, the sound of water slapping wood. He raised his hand to hold his head. Dizzy, disoriented, he simply lay there for a few seconds.
"You'll be all right." This time, Bodie wasn't surprised to see the terror come immediately to the other man, the way he cringed away, trying to become smaller against the wall. "You'll have a nasty bruise on your left temple, but that's all. I know you're Ray Doyle. I'm William Bodie. I'm the captain here on the WHITE RAVEN. We're on our way to the Indies." He watched Doyle look around, seeking a way out of his predicament. "I don't think you're strong enough to swim all the way back to England, and jumping into the ocean is the only way off my ship."
He gripped the cold, trembling hand, felt it grow dead in his. "You've nothing to fear here. No one will harm you. Do you understand?" He waited but the fear remained.
Bodie tugged the younger man toward him. "Come on! I'll show you around the ship, introduce you to the men. Ray!" Doyle's violent reaction both irritated and puzzled him. He held the young man firmly but said sharply, "All right! If you don't wish to leave the cabin.... I'll not ask it of you. Calm down! Calm down!"
Bodie realized he would have to step away from Doyle before the shear terror the young man was experiencing would cease. "I'll have food brought to you." Doyle cowered in the corner. As Bodie left, he wondered, What in the world have I gotten myself into?!
The door slammed open and Doyle, who had been dozing, cried out in silent horror. The old man who lugged the tray inside did not pay any attention to him as he grumbled, "If you think I'll be waiting on you hand and foot, you've got another think coming! I'm a cook, not a cabin boy!" He glanced at the young man. "Well, at least you're cuter than the last one he had in here!" Still grumbling, he left, slamming the door behind him.
When Bodie stepped into his cabin an hour later, he found the food untouched and Doyle still huddled on the bed. "Haven't you eaten?" There was no reply. "You must eat. You cannot go without food." Once more he waited but the other man remained still on the bed. "And you cannot stay there the full three months. The call of nature alone will turn your feet elsewhere." Bodie sighed in exasperation. "I'll not have you using my bed for a chamber pot." He ran his life roughened hands through his hair. "The food is cold, and it is probably tastes as though it were meant for the dungheap, but it won't kill you. Come to the table, Ray."
He gave the other man ten seconds then went to him, gripped his arms. He ignored the emotions that emanated from Doyle and drew him up and off the bed. "I said come to the table." Doyle shivered as though he were freezing and his green eyes were dark with the emotions that surged through him. "I'll not be hurting you. You were brought to my ship for safety. What they'll do to keep you safe after we dock back in England again is no concern of mine."
He tugged the other man to the table, made him sit on the closest chair. "Eat." Pausing brought no results. "Must I feed you?" Gritting his teeth, Bodie forced the spoon into the cold hand. "Eat! Or so help me, I'll force the food down your throat!" He watched in grim satisfaction as Doyle took a bite. He could see it was hard for the man to swallow but the food went down. "Eat it all."
Bodie went to his chest, drew fresh clothing from its recesses. "I can't have you on my ship without doing some kind of work. My men would resent you and make it hard for you." He stripped off his shirt, pulled down his pants. He viewed Doyle's sudden hunching, the rigid body, with disfavor. Shaking his head, he continued to disrobe. "I have no cabin boy right now. You're a little too old for that position but it is the only one you're fit for. I can't see you climbing the mast and I'll not be having you sit around on your arse the whole voyage. I want you to understand that here and now." He walked naked to the pot of water, poured some into the white, porcelain bowl and proceeded to wash. "You can have a bath when you've finished eating. I bought some of your clothing. It's in the valise beneath my bunk."
Gagging sounds made him turn. He ran to Doyle, jerked him toward the chamber pot, held his head down until the upheavals ceased. He used his own wash rag to cleanse the mouth, to wipe the perspiration from Doyle's brow. He helped the quivering, ill man to the bunk, helped him lie down. "The sea often does that to a new stomach. You'll get used to it after awhile." Bodie covered up Doyle then moved to his clean clothing, began dressing.
Finally, tucking his shirt into his breeches, he said, "Your father trusted me to take care of you. Don't you trust your father?" He looked around, noticed the troubled eyes watching him. "Well, don't you?" He stopped, took the few steps toward the bed and stood staring down at the ill man. "I was serious about you working on my ship. No one gets a free ride here. I expect you to keep my cabin clean, keep my clothes repaired and washed. When you're feeling better, you'll be fetching my meals in to me. There's one bed in here. I don't like sharing. You can sleep on a pallet on the floor. I have extra bedding in that huge chest.
"Look, I'm sorry you had to leave your home. I know you'd rather be there than here, but you are on board my ship and you're old enough and smart enough to make the best of things. Are you still ill?" Doyle shook his head. "Then you might as well get started with your new life now. Take the cold food back and bring back hot. The galley is straight down the hall. You'll hear Cook cursing his helper." He stood back, watched Doyle stumble upwards. He looked old and tired, beaten, and Bodie felt a twinge of pity for him.
No one got a free ride on the WHITE RAVEN.
Doyle felt numb as he made his way down the dimly lit passageway to the galley. Nothing felt solid. Everything had a sense of unreality. He paused as he heard laughter from topside. Someone began singing a song. Even that seemed distant, unrelated to the moment he was living.
He entered the large, spice scented area, and the old, grizzled cook glanced sharply up and demanded, "What are you doing in here!? No one's allowed in here." The young man who stood next to him, his carrot red hair a bright beacon in that hot room, threw Doyle a look of compassion. "Well!?" Balancing the tray, Doyle made eating motions with his hands.
"Can't you speak?" the red haired man asked quietly, ignoring the look of animosity the cook gave him. Doyle shook his head.
"I've already fed you! And look at that! You didn't eat what I gave you!" He took the tray, slammed it down on a side board. "No one gets different food on this ship! You eat what I serve! Now get out!" Doyle shook his head and touched his chest, then he made eating motions again.
"I told you...."
"Is it for the captain?" the red haired man asked gently. He dodged the smack the old man tried to give him. Doyle nodded in relief. "Should I make a tray, Cowley?" he asked the old man who only grunted and whirled around to the flour bin. "I'll fix the tray. You're kind of old, aren't you, to be a cabin boy?" Doyle nodded. "I was one on the Crossbear. I served under...."
"Shut up and get working! If we're late for supper...." The old man smacked the counter with a large meat cleaver.
Sighing, the red haired man prepared a tray for Bodie. As he handed it to Doyle, he whispered, "I'm Jim. If you ever need help, just let me know." Doyle nodded and took the tray.
Bodie did not glance up when Doyle entered. He was working on huge charts but he stopped, rolled them back up when the other man placed the tray on the tiny table.
"Did you have any trouble?" Bodie inquired as he sat down. Doyle shook his head. "Would you like to join me?" When the answer was negative, Bodie asked, "Would you like to go on deck?" He wasn't surprised by the quick glint of fear that sparkled briefly in the green eyes. He was, however, surprised that it was so quickly extinguished. Doyle shook his head.
"Well, I have a shirt you can mend. I tore it this morning. I left it and the sewing box on the trunk top." He motioned toward the white shirt with his chin and then bent over his food. "I hope you're better at repairing clothes than I am."
After eating, he investigated the work Doyle was doing and praised him. "I'm going up. Would you like to go with me?" Doyle shook his head as he stared down at his hands. A key was thrust into them. He looked up, startled. "Keep the door locked when I'm not here. Only...don't lock it on me." When the slim man agreed, Bodie left.
Doyle stared at the key, stupefied. Then he smiled, faintly, but in honesty. Help always came, in some form. He rose but the door opened again. "I said lock it. I expect my orders to be carried out instantly. Do you understand?" Doyle nodded and the door was shut once more. Swiftly, Doyle hurried to the door and locked it. Only then did his tight muscles began relaxing. he was safe.
Insistent knocking roused Doyle from a sleep of jumbled dreams, half-there kind of things that made groggy. He heard someone laugh and say, "Trouble in paradise, Captain? Hasn't he tasted your long...."
Silence, then... "Doyle, it's me. Open the door."
Doyle stumbled toward it, turned the key and the heavy piece of wood swung open. Their eyes met for a moment, then Bodie entered, shutting the door firmly once more. "You're asleep on your feet. Go back to your pallet." He watched the young man move sluggishly toward the quilts on the floor in the corner. He looked around then and said, "You did a fine job cleaning in here. Thank you." But Doyle was lost to him as sleep claimed the young man instantly. Sighing, Bodie undressed and climbed into his bunk. He was awakened during the night by sounds of distress from Doyle's pallet. Bodie rose, hurried to him. He knelt down, shook him. Doyle reacted instantly, cowering away.
"You were having a bad dream. Are you all right?"
Doyle managed to pull himself together. He nodded though he still trembled.
Again, the other man nodded. He pushed dark curls out of his face and sat up.
"Would you like a glass of water?"
Doyle agreed silently that he would.
"The water bucket is on the table. If you're feeling better. I'm going back to bed." With that, Bodie went back to the bunk. He could feel troubled, green eyes on his back but he wasn't going to baby the other man. Maybe the father had, but William Bodie wasn't going to.
It took a while for Doyle to accept his new life. When the captain realized Doyle could read and write, communication between them grew easier. He allowed the other man to read his books, and he made him write most of what he tried to say. He resisted Bodie's attempts to get him out on deck for the first ten days but he eventually went. The desire to see sunlight, to feel fresh air grew too much one day. The tiny portal in the captain's cabin was no longer good enough. Bodie hid his pleasure at seeing the slim form appear slowly from the dark depths. Several men made comments but the look their captain threw them hushed them instantly.
"Work all done?" Bodie inquired quietly. Doyle nodded. "Good, then you can help Gunther swab the deck. Gunther...?"
"Aye, Captain. Here, you take this mop." And the blond, deeply tanned man thrust a wet mop into Doyle's hand. "Do what I do."
Doyle tried. He felt awkward but though Gunther grinned in delight, no one said anything until the cook appeared topside to dump slop over the rail. Doyle's mop swished dirty water over the man's feet. Enraged, Cowley dropped the bucket and charged for the younger man. Bodie intervened.
"He didn't do it on purpose and you know it." The old cook murmured beneath his breath. Bodie caught only the word, unnatural. "If you're speaking to me, speak up." He waited but Cowley only scowled. "Well?"
"I've got dinner to prepare." The old man dumped the slop over the railing and vanished down the hatch.
"You'll have to get rid of him one day," Murdock, Bodie's second-in-command remarked as he came to stand beside the captain. There was a concerned, thoughtful expression on his homely face. He was only two years younger than Bodie, and many said the captain had made a mistake putting such a young, inexperienced man in as his second-in-command, but Murdock had proved himself over and over. Everyone accepted him now. "He's mean enough to poison the food."
"Aye, and gets meaner every day." Bodie narrowed his eyes and turned his attention to Doyle. "Have you finished mopping?" White faced, Doyle shook his head and began the clean up process again.
"He's a strange one to be sharing your bed," Murdock said in a low voice. "Doesn't he shake too much?"
"He's not sharing my bed." He ignored the look of disbelief the other man threw at him. "You're right though. He's too scared of life. He's too thin too."
"Aye, that he is. He doesn't talk much, does he?"
"He can't speak."
"Oh." They watched Doyle plod his way through the mopping session. "William, let Jim come up on top. He knows a lot about rigging and it's time he was given a chance. Remember the last storm? He was on deck instantly, helping. And he did help. I didn't have to tell him a thing. He was onto problem the moment my mind formulated a command."
"Do it. Just as long as you take the blame, it's all right with me."
"Cowley won't like it."
"Have you ever known him to like anything?"
"What about help for Cowley? I assume you've thought about a replacement."
"I have." He smiled faintly at Bodie but remained quiet.
"Must I drag it out of you?" the captain asked a bit sharply.
"Let the boy do it." Murdock suggested.
"He's not a boy."
"He's not quite a man yet, either."
"Are you going to remedy that?" Murdock asked dryly, a trifle sarcastically. The look his captain threw him made him chuckle.
"And he's not my Doyle!"
Murdock watched the new arrival trying desperately to keep up with Gunther. "Is that something you're going to remedy as well?" Bodie cursed, forced himself to become calm once more. "I wouldn't mind him being my Doyle...if I wasn't married to Mary, I could become quite...interested...in him. He's got something...special about him."
"He's off limits." The hard, cold look he threw at his second-in-command gave the other man pause.
"Is he?" Murdock finally inquired in interest.
"Shall I pass the word along to the men?"
"You tell them if anyone lays a hand on him, they'll answer to the cat."
Murdock's eyes grew wide with astonishment. "The cat?"
"You tell them."
"He's beautiful, and this is a long voyage. Some of the men are going to.... Well, hell, William, look at them." Bodie searched the faces of several men who were watching Doyle intently. Scowling, he ordered them back to work. "It's a long voyage," Murdock repeated, slightly worried. "You can't keep...."
"They do anything to him, say anything, and I'll use the cat myself. Make sure they all know that he's not to be considered as a bed mate for any of them."
"What's so special about him?"
"He's to be treated like a...guest...."
"You don't treat him like one."
"He's an...unpaid...guest. Besides, I don't have to; I'm the captain.."
"Oh, aye, you keep reminding me of that."
Bodie glared at him. "See that you don't forget it!"
"Have I ever?" Murdock asked softly.
"No." He clasped the other man's shoulder. "You've been a good friend and a good second-in-command. I thank you for it all."
"You know I'd do anything for you; anything."
"Aye, I do." He sighed, a sound straight from his soul. The man next to him patted his back. They watched Gunther stop, glare back at Doyle. "He's off limits, huh? Does that mean to you as well?"
"Just tell them! And keep your bloody lip to yourself."
"Aye, aye, captain." Murdock grinned cheekily at him.
Bodie's jaws tightened. "I found a small rips in the top sail."
"I had it taken down. Angus is working on it now."
"Why wasn't it done back in England?"
"It wasn't torn back in England."
"Then why is it ripped now?"
"I don't know."
"You don't know?"
"William, they looked like knife cuts."
"On my ship!?" Murdock nodded. "I'll not be having destruction like that on board my vessel. If we hadn't discovered them and a storm came up." He shuddered. "Find out who were the last three people to handle it."
"I'm already on it."
"When Doyle's through doing that, let him help Angus repair the rips."
"You don't want him to help Cowley?"
"No. I want him alive after this voyage."
"Your word is my command, oh, captain, my captain." Murdock's hazel eyes teased in an old, familiar way.
Try as he could, Bodie could not dredge up any anger toward his friend. "Just do it!"
"Didn't I say that?" He laughed beneath his breath as Bodie walked away. "Who's going to help Cowley?"
"You choose." He grinned without warning. "Make it a punishment area."
Murdock laughed in pure delight. Eyes turned toward him. "Aye, aye, Captain! A fitting punishment it will be too!" Even Bodie laughed at that one.
Gunther stopped his work. He laid his mop down, went back to a distraught Doyle. He grinned at the other man. "You'll never finish that way! You're sweating already! Here, you do it like this!" He reached for the mop and Doyle took a step backwards. "I wasn't gonna cosh you!" Gunther announced in disgust. "Where the hell did the captain dig you up!?" The blond watched the play of emotions across Doyle's face but they irritated him more than anything. His hand shot forward, grabbed the mop and said, "Watch me!"
Doyle was so exhausted when he finished an hour later, he fell asleep over the sail Angus had spread in his lap. He was cuffed for that. He landed on the deck with thump.
Angus said, "You're not fit for much, are you? Get up and watch what you're doing!" He scowled at the younger man. "If you didn't make such a neat stitch...." The old man shook his head in disgust. He watched the ashen face for a moment. "You don't talk much, do you?" Doyle shook his head. "Cat got your tongue, did he?"
"He can't speak," Bodie said quietly from their left. Their attention turned toward him. "I want my supper now, and a warm bath. See to it," he ordered Doyle, who only nodded tiredly and left. He stumbled a bit as he did.
The cook was on a rampage in the kitchen. He waved his meat cleaver at Doyle who immediately froze in the doorway. "What are you doing here?"
Doyle sighed wearily. He pointed toward the hot water and then back down the hall.
"Take it! And you can tell that stupid captain his dinner will be late! I've no one to help. He's seen to that!" Cowley slammed the meat cleaver into the already scarred table top. "Taking Jim away like that! Making him a deck man! It'll give him airs! You mark my words! Make him think he's better than someone like me!"
Doyle hesitated only a moment. He used a thick rag to pick up the pail of hot water and hurried from the galley. In Bodie's cabin, he poured the hot water into the huge, white bowl and then added a touch of cold water. Bodie entered. Doyle patted his own chest and then motioned toward the door.
"Yes, you can go. But I'll be wanting my dinner when I'm through here." Doyle made eating motions with his hand and then pointed toward the door. "What about the cook?"
Dole clasped both hands together and sighed in mild exhaustion. He grabbed a clean sheet of paper, a pen and wrote, "I would like to help Cowley."
Bodie noticed the dark circles beneath the other man's eyes. Had he been pushing him too far? He had never been coddled and thought nothing of pushing himself and his men to the very ends of their endurance. He expected it of himself and those who worked with him. Doyle was another matter. It would have been obvious from his thinness even if his father hadn't told the other man's history, that he had been pampered. Doyle's father hadn't done him any favors.
"You want to help Cowley?" Doyle nodded. "Why?" Doyle bent to write once more. "I suppose dinner isn't ready yet?" the captain guessed before reading what had been written. Doyle shook his head and handed him the note anyway. "Well, I won't be getting any food until it is. You might as well help."
Doyle hurried off.
"You're a strange one." Bodie muttered. He stripped and washed.
"What do you want?" Cowley demanded when Doyle reentered the galley. "I told you dinner wasn't ready! Now, get out of here!" He slammed the huge hunk of salt beef down on the table. "Rats! I hate 'em! When I retire...." He glared at Doyle. "And that won't be for a long time! But when I do, my home won't have any rats in my home! I guarantee you that!" He uttered a string of curses. "Well?" he demanded as he glared over at the tall, slim man who stood stiff and quiet in the doorway.
Doyle entered and did his best to tell the cook why he had come back but it wasn't until the young man wrote his reasons on a crumbled sheet of paper that Cowley finally understand. A look of pleased relief swept over the craggy features but that emotion was quickly hidden by gruff irritation.
"You can peel the potatoes."
Doyle searched for the potatoes, a pot and a knife, and then he settled quietly over on the edge of the table and began to work. Cowley watched him for a moment and then he too got busy with slicing the salted beef.
That night when Doyle had his dream and Bodie went to him, the young man didn't awaken, but he didn't cringe from the captain's soothing touch. He moved into it. A peaceful expression settled over the troubled face. Protectiveness flowed over Bodie but he crushed it. He must never forget and become soft again.
Memories of Jamie with his shaggy blond hair and hazel eyes that danced and sparkled with life and love.... Jamie who had died saving Bodie.
Pain ripped at his soul.
Blood on his hands, blood that flowed from the solid, muscular body, blood that allowed Jamie's soul to flee.
Blood that meant the death of one he loved.
Stifling a moan, Bodie hurried back to bed. He pulled the covers up around him, curled into a tight ball as agony tried to slice his soul from his body.
No, he would never love again. That protectiveness he had felt frightened him for it meant a softening, a relaxing of his guard. Bodie tried to force a hard coldness back around his heart, but it was melting and nothing he could do could stop it. Fear tingled in his mind. He must not love again! He mustn't!
Bodie moaned into his pillow. Memories of a naked body swimming next to him in the ocean, of running before him, teasing...laughter...love, overwhelming love...and making love in the sand...not caring who saw, unashamed of what they felt, what they shared.
Jamie, who was dead...and would never lie next to him again.
One lone tear escaped the blue eyes, rolled down a cold cheek.
It became a habit for Doyle to bring Bodie his meals, clean the cabin, and then spend the rest of the day helping the cook who accepted the clumsy willingness with a gruff pretense of resentment. Lifting the heavy pots, shifting heavy barrels created muscles where none had been before. The old man took a strange liking to him and prodded him to eat as they cooked.
"What good is working in a galley if you can't nibble? Huh?" Doyle nodded and wished he were back home. Home, however, seemed a far-away place he'd never see again.
The only other person Doyle encountered was Jim. He'd go down to the galley, sit drinking coffee, talking to Doyle, ignoring the look of animosity the cook would continually throw at him. "You know what I like about you, Doyle?" Doyle shook his head. "You never argue with anything I say." The auburn haired sailor laughed in joy and to his delight, the other man laughed too. Bodie, walking past the galley, stepped in front of the door, scowling.
"If you don't have enough work, Mr. Taylor, I can have Murdock find you more."
"Just stopping in for a cup of coffee, Captain." His eyes were puzzled as he viewed the suspicion, the animosity on the other man's face.
"Finish it up and get back up on deck. And you...." His blue eyes pierced a pale Doyle.... "If Cowley can't keep you busy...."
"You'll not be taking him from me too! Chase that stupid, lazy Jim away but don't you dare take my Doyle!"
"He's not your Doyle. Taylor?"
That fierce anger was nothing to challenged, Jim Taylor decided, and left abruptly with a quick, "Just going." He squeezed past the stiff, hard man.
Bodie stalked from the doorway, but stopped at the hatch. He battled to shove the emotions back down into the pit he had created eight months ago.
"Will?" Murdock asked as he appeared before the captain.
"What is it?" Bodie demanded, winning over the turmoil within him.
"You looked sour for a moment. You constipated?"
"My bowels are just fine. Why have you left the wheel?"
"I'm going for coffee."
"Why is the whole damn ship going to the galley for coffee?!" he questioned in a hard voice.
"I don't know about the whole...damn...ship, Captain Bodie, but I'm going because I want one, I need one, and Doyle makes the best coffee this vessel has ever seen. Should I put myself on report, sir?"
"You can sew up your mouth and get on with your work. And stop bothering Doyle at his!" Bodie commanded. He shoved his friend aside, leaving him in he hatch's opening. He vanished into the sunlight.
A thought occurred to Murdock, a thought he denied. It lingered, grew, and the second-in-command listened. Jealous.... William Bodie was jealous. "No," he decide at last, and went on to the galley. "I hope the coffee's still hot."
Doyle, still unnerved over Bodie's appearance, spilled the coffee as he poured the hot brew into a tin mug.
"His bark is worse than his bite," Murdock said in sympathy. Doyle's green eyes questioned him. "Bodie...his bark is worse than his bite. Don't take his bad temper to heart, Doyle. He's gets over his fizzes as fast as he gets into them."
"That's true enough," Cowley agreed. He glared at the homely man. "Take your coffee up on deck. We have work to do down here and you're in the way."
"Just going. St. Elmo, anyway, between you and the captain...." He shook his head, picked up his cup and left.
"He is right, Doyle; don't let the captain upset you." Cowley threw his cleaver at a dark, scurrying object. "Bloody rats! Get a cat, I tell the captain, but would he? No. Can't stand the smell, he said. So get poison. But would he? No. He's afraid it'll get into the food. I run a clean ship here! As if I'd let that stuff get into anything I cook! I got the poison anyway. See this red can?" He lifted a small curtain and pointed to a large, metal container. Doyle nodded. "That's the rat poison. Don't ever open this can!" The younger man shook his head. "Get into my food! Who does he think he is?! I've got it spread around. I've mixed it with old cheese. Don't pick it up!" Again, Doyle agreed silently. For the rest of the day, the cook grumbled, complained.
Three weeks into the voyage, the old man suddenly asked, "Hasn't tired of you yet, huh?" Doyle showed his bewilderment. "The captain...hasn't kicked you out yet, I see." Doyle shrugged.
"I never thought the captain would ever replace Jamie," the old man continued in thoughtful confusion. He caught the questioning look on Doyle's face once more. "Jamie.... Hasn't the captain told you about him?" Doyle shook his head. "He was his mate." He waited but it was clear the younger man didn't understand. "They slept in the same bunk...they were lovers, like you two." He watched the red creep upward and cover the pale cheeks. "Evil goings on it was. I told the captain he was sin infested but would he listen to me? God took his heathen attachment from him. I knew he would! And now he's got you!" He watched the horror overcome the other man, watched him shake his head in vehement denial. "You're not? I'll not believe it. You sleep in his cabin."
Doyle bent down, patted the floor. Sickness churned in his stomach. The calmness he had begun to feel was evaporating rapidly as his brother's words came back to taunt him.
"You sleep on the floor? You and the captain...."
"Him and the captain, what?" Bodie demanded in mild rage from the doorway. He entered the room in controlled movements. "I've told you more than once, my private life is private, and I won't have you discussing it with anyone."
"You've got an illness!" Cowley exploded, waving his long, sharp knife at the captain.
"I'll not be discussing what goes on in my cabin with anyone. Doyle...." He viewed the pale face, the expression of growing horror and fear with sadness. "You mustn't listen to him. He's a lonely, old man...."
"I'm not old! I can still take you!"
"...who has no life of his own and must get his joy and entertainment by living in other people's."
"Here, you!" the cook snarled.
But Bodie's glance went back to the tall, slim man with the long, chestnut curls. "You know I haven't touched you and I won't. I'm not a beast or an animal, though he'll have you believing that if he can. You can trust him or me, as you choose, but I'll not be releasing you from anything I've assigned you to do. Bring coffee up on deck to Murdock and me, now. Bring dinner up there as well. There's a storm coming up and we have to keep an eye out for it. If it hits, lock yourself into the cabin." He waited and the nod finally came. He was hurt by the sick look in the green eyes. The friendship that had begun to develop between them, the trust, must have been very fragile for such silly, stupid words to damage them. His gaze turned to Cowley, and the expression in it made the old man blanch. Bodie turned and left.
Up on deck, Murdock asked in curiosity, "Where have you been?"
"I went down for coffee for us."
"So where is it? Did you spill it?" His grey eyes danced in merriment.
"Doyle's bringing it." He went to the railing, searched the horizon.
"Wait a minute. You went down to tell Doyle to bring coffee up?"
"You?" His gaze met Bodie's but his did not flinch. Suddenly, he nodded knowingly. It had been jealousy he had witnessed a week ago. "You went down to check on him, to make sure he was all right. You went down just to see his face."
"I did not!"
"You did." Admiration and awe took over his homely features. "God, man, I never thought I'd live to see it."
"See what?" Bodie demanded, his eyes narrowing.
"You're finally getting over Jamie's death."
Bodie tried to work up indignation. He tried to get anger to rise but there was nothing, only the truth. He chose not to answer. He gripped the railing and tried to recall Jamie's smiling face...and saw Doyle's hesitant smile. He tried to conjure up that husky voice and heard the silence of Doyle's replies. Desolation struck him. He had loved Jamie...how could he forget him so easily? Jamie's laughing face did come back then, and so did the hurting.
Oh, God, Bodie thought, When does the pain die?
"This Doyle...." Bodie looked around. Murdock hesitated when he saw the agony in his captain's eyes. "This Doyle, is he...will he...I mean, you don't...force yourself on him? Do you?"
Rage mottled Bodie's features. "I didn't bring him on board my ship to ravish him or turn him into another Jamie."
"I'm sorry, William. That was a stupid question on my part."
Bodie nodded, bit his lower lip. "His father begged me to take him, to keep him safe. There have been several attempts on Doyle's life, and the father thinks the younger son is behind them." They heard the sound of glass shattering and whirled around to see the anguish on Doyle's face. "Ray...." Bodie took a step toward the other man but Doyle turned and fled back into the ship's stomach.
"He didn't know?" Murdock guessed.
"He didn't know." Bodie hurried after the other man.
Doyle went instinctively toward Bodie's cabin. His brother? His own brother had.... He shoved the hurting down, hid it as he had hid all the other pain that had been given him. The apathetic cloak was drawn up, around. The deadness of his emotions returned.
Sounds from the cabin two doors down brought dull interest to the surface and he went there instead of his original destination. Two men, naked, were having intercourse in there. One man was bent double, his head touching the floor, his backside up in the air, while the other man's harden penis was....
Sickened, terror waking anew, Doyle backed out, hurried to the captain's cabin just as Bodie reached it.
Doyle shrank away from his touch. He fumbled for the door knob.
"What's wrong? Has someone...."
The keening cry of release told Bodie all he needed to know.
Doyle finally opened the door. He ran inside, stumbled to his pallet, sank down. Bodie followed, shutting the door with a soft click. "You saw them?" Doyle huddled against the wall, shivering visibly. His brother's words screamed in his mind, and memories of what those men had done to him when he was six, overcame the calmness that he had gained. He clutched his knees to his chest and began to rock.
"Surely you know there are men who...." He stopped, licked his lips, realizing that of course he knew what went on between certain men. Hadn't it happened to him as a child? Fool! he called himself. Still, Bodie thought in dismay, it isn't always like that, Ray Doyle. When there's love between two men, when there's agreement and desire between them both.... He sighed. Tell that to him and he'll think you're crazy. How could he believe anything other than what he already believes?
"I've given orders that you're not to be touched like that. My men will obey me. Doyle? Doyle?"
He bent down, touched the trembling shoulder, and Doyle struck out instinctively. There was too much pain, too much horror, simply too much. Though he had never really fought back before, the fighting beaten out of him by those two men, he fought back then. Bodie was twice as strong but that gentle protectiveness overcame him and he simply held on to the other man, cradled him against his chest, until the fight died. He soothed a path up and down the quivering spine, and then that touch changed...it altered, became more than a comforting gesture.
Doyle felt it, felt it also in his own body as well. Bewildered, shaken, he looked up into startled, blue eyes.
Bodie shot upwards, moved backward. The dismay, the disturbed acknowledgement of what had just happened between them, shook him to the very core of his being. He ran from the room, leaving a very troubled Doyle to face the dilemma still swirling around inside him, alone....
His body had responded sexually to Bodie.
His penis throbbed with awakening. His hand went down, cupped the organ and a myriad collection of sensations flooded his body. Unnerved, Doyle shot upwards, hurried from the cabin. He ran to the galley where the warmth and the presence of a grouchy Cowley seemed like havens to him.
"You look like you've seen a ghost," Cowley remarked, glancing up at the pale man. "Here, now! Don't you go fainting in here! I don't do any doctoring!" He helped Doyle sit down. "You really are upset. What happened?" Cowley berated himself. "As if you can answer me. Sometimes, I think I am getting old. Never mind. I'll get you a cup of coffee and I'll put a shot of brandy in it." He ignored Doyle's shake of denial and fixed the coffee and alcohol mixture anyway. "Drink! I said drink!" He held the cup to the white lips and intimidated the younger man until he drank the hot brew. "Just sit there until your blood starts flowing again." Cowley went back to the stove. "We're low on water. I hope we reach the island soon."
The word island slowly sank into the dumb shock that had charge of Doyle. An island? Maybe he could get off the ship, hide. Anywhere but being here sounded wonderful to him. He took a crumbled sheet of paper, a stub of a pencil and wrote, "When do we get to the island?"
"I don't know. About two days. Why?" His suspicious blue eyes searched the still white face. Doyle shrugged. "Oh, no you don't. That might work with the captain, but I know you better. Why did you want to know?"
The beginning of the storm hit. The ship rocked with undulations that threatened their sea legs.
"It'll be hardtack and biscuits tonight, rather they like it or not," Cowley decided grimly. "I'll not be lighting a fire in the stove tonight." He went to the larder, took out a small basket, and inside it, placed a clean cloth. Biscuits went in next, then dark, salty hardtack. He hesitated, then settled four tarts in. "I used all of the of the fruit too in these things. We'd better reach that island soon!" The very last thing he placed within was a bottle of water. "See that you don't drop this and break the jug," he admonished Doyle as he handed him the basket. "You come back here. First storms can be frightening." His blue eyes told the other man he was truly sympathetic. "And stay away from the railings! The last thing we need is you falling over-board."
Doyle nodded and left. He hurried up on deck where the wind blew in cold gusts. The sea was choppy...the boat rocked back and forth. Illness threatened Doyle, but he continued on to the top deck where he delivered the food to a very grateful Bodie and Murdock. Bodie tried searching Doyle's face but the young man refused to meet his eyes.
"I'll keep the wheel, Captain, while you eat."
"No." Bodie took charge of the huge, ornate, polished bit of wood, and Murdock dug into the basket. "See you leave something for me."
"Yes. Hey! Tarts! Cowley must be softening up."
"Just as long as they're not poisoned," Bodie remarked dryly.
Doyle left them then, to the sound of Murdock's laughter slowly being swallowed up by the storm. The...accident...occurred just as he was climbing back down the ladder. A shadow appeared, arm raised. A long, slim object came flying down. It slammed into Doyle's skull.
"No, lie still," Bodie commanded in a hard, demanding tone. Doyle fought the urge to move, to turn over. The pain alone would have halted his progress, but there was something in the other man's voice that froze him. "You've been badly injured. You've been out for days. If you do so slowly, you can turn over. Just tell me if there's pain. Grip my hand if there is." Bodie took the cold hand into his and helped him turn over. When Doyle's fingers tightened for a moment, Bodie paused. "I know. Just take it slowly." Doyle finished the turn. His face had a greenish tint. There was a sheen of perspiration across the forehead. A cool, damp cloth removed that.
"I'm bathing you." He watched Doyle's hand move downward over his own naked flesh. He watched the red stain touch the pale cheeks, watched him turn white, stiffen. There was a frightened look in the green eyes. Yet...there was a wanting as well. Bodie saw them both. He continued washing. He tried being detached, professional, but that touching soon changed. They both felt it.
"Ray?" he asked huskily, and then bent down, touched cool, shocked lips with his own experienced ones. His hand discarded the cloth. It slipped beneath the blanket, moved downward. Doyle's lips parted. Bodie's tongue went in. The man beneath him grew rigid for just a second. The sweetness of that meeting melted his fear. He accepted Bodie's caress, accepted the awakening of his organ. He accepted Bodie's mouth covering that swollen, throbbing shaft when the time came. He accepted them in shock and desire and a fighting of memories. The orgasm that struck him when the moment of ejaculation came, threw him back into unconsciousness.
When Doyle awoke, he was alone in the cabin. Light came through the small portal, early morning light. He lay on his pallet, unsure, insecure. He finally arose, wincing at the soreness, the minor pain that came to him from the wound on his head. He dressed with shaky fingers, walked sluggishly toward the door.
It was locked...from the outside.
Doyle yanked at the knob. He hit the wood with his fist. Panic battered at his soul as memory returned in full force.
He was once again locked in the attic...waiting for those men to return...to return and hurt him again. He was a boy and naked, bleeding, in agony.
Doyle fought with the door.
"Mama!" his soundless cry echoed in his brain over and over.
The door opened. "Hey, what is this?" Cowley asked. Doyle shrank back in pure white terror. "What is it? Has someone hurt you?" Doyle pushed past him, ran out, up. Bodie was coming down and met him.
"Ray?" He hurried toward a now retreating Doyle. "Ray? What is it?"
"I just opened the door to let him out," Cowley said from behind Doyle. The frightened man turned and Bodie reached him. Doyle battled with the captain but Bodie was still stronger. He held him, soothed a path up and down the trembling back. "It's just me, Ray, just me. Calm down...calm down. I only locked the door to keep you safe. Calm down...calm down...." His voice reached into the darkness, pulled Doyle from it's depths. Doyle's arms went up and around the other man's neck. He collapsed against the captain's hard, firm body. Bodie led him back to his cabin.
"Shall I fetch a cup of your whiskey?" Cowley asked in concern.
"Yes." Bodie closed the door. He took Doyle to his bunk, sat him down. And then he bent down in front of him, raised the troubled face until the confused eyes could meet his own calm, blue ones. "Are you all right now?" Doyle nodded, but he still quivered. "Let's get you warm then." He settled Doyle into the bunk, covered him. He sat down next to him. The large, green eyes never left Bodie's face. "Are you well enough to hear the truth?" Doyle nodded. "The injury you received wasn't an accident. Do you understand?" he asked when he noticed the confusion. "Someone tried to kill you."
Doyle mouthed, "Why?"
"Obviously your brother was able to reach someone on board my ship. And it was your brother. Even your father was sure of that. That's why I locked the door. I needed to know you were safe while I was topside."
Cowley returned with the whiskey.
Doyle clearly didn't want it when Bodie held it to his lips so the captain returned the cup to Cowley.
"I need to return to the wheel. Murdock can't stay on duty twenty-four hours. I'll give you the key."
"He can stay in the galley with me," Cowley suggested. He scowled, "Unless you don't trust me."
"I gave you the key to my cabin, didn't I?" Bodie inquired roughly.
"Aye." Cowley lowered his head, ashamed.
Bodie asked Doyle. "Would you rather be with him?" Doyle nodded. "Then you can spend the day with him, like usual." At the door, moments later, Bodie asked softly, "Doyle?" The smile he received was hesitant, gentle, shy. Bodie's heart sang.
That evening, when Bodie was in his bunk, Doyle sat up on his pallet. Their gazes locked. Hesitant, slowly, Doyle removed his clothing. Shivering, He stood up, went to Bodie. The captain adjusted his blankets and Doyle settled in beside him.
"Are you sure?"
Doyle nodded and touched his lips to the more than willing ones of the man beneath him.
He was sure. He was terrified of the unknown, of feeling things he had never experienced before, but he was sure.
Doyle was sewing a button back onto one of Bodie's shirt. He was sitting in the cabin. the portal was opened but the air within the tiny room seemed airless. It wasn't real, he knew, for there was a breeze coming into the tiny area. Fingering the tiny, gold cross Bodie had given him just that morning, he stared at the blue and white sky. He was feeling trapped. He thought about opening the door, decided against it. He thought about going up on deck and made an instant decision. He would go up, sit in the sunlight and feel the salty air on his face. Surely Bodie wouldn't mind that. After all, he'd be in the open view of the whole ship. He rose swiftly, hurried to the door, opened it.
Jim stood there. Doyle caught his breath in shock. "I didn't mean to scare you. The captain said you weren't feeling well enough to come up. I figured you'd be lonely stuck in here all alone, so I decided to come down. I thought you'd like to share coffee with me." He lifted two cups. "What do you think?" Smiling hugely, Doyle agreed. "Cowley's coffee doesn't taste like yours. His is more like a witch's brew. I added sugar. I hope you don't mind?" Doyle shook his head. "Good." They sat. Doyle tasted the coffee, made a face. Jim laughed. "I told you, it's not like yours!" The other man shook his head in agreement.
Jim told stories of his shore leaves and Doyle laughed with them. "Drink up! I suppose we could chunk this into the slop jar, but it's seems like a waste of good sugar." Doyle nodded and drained his cup, grimacing as he did so. Moments later, Jim held his stomach and complained, "I don't feel so well."
Doyle's stomach began to cramp. Pain hit him hard and he doubled over. He could hear Jim groan, felt the table shudder. He heard a body fall and then he was retching. Agony exploded in his stomach and he too fell, hitting the floor hard.
"What in God's name...?" someone exclaimed.
Lights danced behind his eye lids. Torture filled his abdomen.
Doyle could hear someone calling for Bodie.
Within moments hands were on him, lifting him, carrying him. "Get Cowley," he heard Bodie command. Doyle tried opening his eyes but found he couldn't. The bed touched his backside. He could feel saliva running down his cheeks. Blankets covered him. Hands soothed a path up and down his chest. "What about Jim?" Bodie inquired.
"He's alive. He doesn't look as bad as Doyle."
"What is it?" Cowley inquired.
"See to them." Bodie's tone was cold, hard as a rock.
Doyle felt hands on him. They opened his eyes, his mouth, examined his fingernails. He cried out soundlessly when those fingers probed his stomach.
"Charcoal and water. Go get it!" Cowley shouted, "Now!" He turned Doyle over onto his side.
"What is it?" Bodie asked, troubled, scared. Cowley hesitated and Bodie repeated his question in a more demanding manner.
"They've been poisoned," came the reluctant reply.
"Poisoned? But how?" Bodie saw the guilt on the old man's face. "What have you done, you silly, old fool?"
"It was the rats! I hated the rats! Those traps wasn't killing them fast enough."
"So you brought poison on board on my ship! After I told you not to, you did it anyway." He clutched the edge of the table to avoid clutching at that man's neck. "I want you off my ship. The moment another comes close, I'm getting you off my vessel."
"I had it hidden!" Cowley protested.
"Not well enough, it seems. I swear, if he dies...." Bodie couldn't finish.
Doyle felt a cup touching his lips. He tried moving his head away to avoid it, but Bodie's hand were too unrelenting. Disgusting liquid poured down his stomach. Doyle gagged, began retching in earnest. Stomach contents spewed forth.
"Keep it going down," Cowley ordered. "Get it all out of his system." He did the same for Jim.
"What am I going to do?" Bodie asked softly. "I can't be with you every moment, and you're not safe on board my ship." He caressed the mussed curls, the white, perspiring face. He watched Doyle try to turn his head closer to the hand and something swelled within him. I'm beginning to love you. And that scares me, he thought in anguish. You could die on me like Jamie did. You could die!
He forced another mouthful of the darkened water down Doyle's throat.
You could die....
The idea came then. Let Doyle go with Cowley.
What if Cowley is the killer?
Bodie shook his head mentally.
He wasn't sure why he trusted the old man but he did. Even after this, he trusted him. If he told no one, not even Murdock....
Why do I trust Cowley and not Murdock?
He did. He wasn't sure why, but he did.
If I tell no one, not even Doyle until the last minute...I can keep him up by the wheel with me. When I walk the decks, he'll walk beside me. What else can I do? He looked down at the waxen face. And until he's well enough to leave this bed?
Shock sent coldness through Cowley. Bodie never used his first name. "Sir?" he asked in a subdued voice.
"Is Jim well enough to put in his own bunk?"
Bodie had another man take Jim to the crew's quarters..
"Shall I go too?" Cowley asked.
"No." Bodie picked up Doyle's cold hand, caressed it. When the room was empty, he told Cowley, "Let's go to the galley. Ray, I'm going to lock the door. I don't want you to be frightened." Doyle tried to open his eyes but couldn't. "Is it safe for him to sleep?"
"Then let's go. Ray, I'll be right back."
In the galley, moments later, Bodie asked, "Jim could have known about the poison, couldn't he?"
"Then it wasn't an accident?"
"Jim wouldn't...." Cowley stopped, unsure.
"But it's possible?"
"Yes, it's possible." He shook his head. "He wouldn't, Captain. I just know he wouldn't. He liked Doyle too much."
"All right." Bodie's features grew hard, cold.
"I swear I kept the poison away from the food. I kept it down below there so it wouldn't be seen and taken for sugar. Honestly, Captain, I...." Bodie's hand on his shoulder stopped his words.
"I need your help."
"Doyle isn't safe on board my ship." He went on to explain why Ray Doyle was on board his vessel in the first place, why he believed he was no longer safe. "There's only one person I trust with him and that's you."
"Even after...." He couldn't continue. He was too choked up.
"Even after that." Once more, he settled his hand on the other man's shoulder. "I need you to watch over him while I'm up on top. He can lie on a pallet over there in a corner until he's well enough and then he can help you again. Don't leave him alone. If you need anything from storage or me, yell. I'll tell the crew to listen for you."
"They'll wonder why Doyle means so much to you."
Bodie turned his back, clutched the top of a stool. "He's a human being and deserves a chance to live."
Cowley sighed silently. "Aye, that he does. I'll watch over him."
"Captain? About leaving the ship?"
"Don't worry about it." No, he thought, hurting at the coming separation, Don't worry about it until it happens.
"Yes, sir. Sir?" Bodie turned back to gaze without emotion at him. "Thank you."
"I'm still angry at your breaking the rules. You'll have to be punished, you know that, don't you?" Cowley blanched. "I can't let you get away with defying me. Discipline...I'm sorry. The whipping will be at two this afternoon." Cowley, still pure white, only stared at the man beside him in horror. "I'll keep it as light as I can." Cowley began to tremble. Bodie reached out then dropped his hand as the cook shied backwards. "George, I'm sorry. If you had listened to me...." Cowley whirled away. Bodie left quietly.
"Doyle, Cowley, this is Captain Whitechapel. Simon, this is my cook and the young man I was telling you about." He watched them view each other. Doyle's eyes showed reserve. There was curiosity in the gray ones of the overweight, red-cheeked owner and captain of the SEA SONG. Cowley's blue eyes were still withdrawn, distant. He had never forgiven his captain for the flogging he had undergone.
"You'll both like my ship," the jolly captain of the SEA SONG exclaimed and then took a deep swallow from his mug of ale.
Doyle's eyes grew wide, alarmed. He searched the face of his lover, saw only a cool aloofness before Bodie looked away. Sad acceptance came quickly, acceptance tinted with a sense of rejection. There was even a hint of depression in their depths. That was why Bodie had remained away from him for the last week, not touching, not loving, barely speaking. That was why the captain of the WHITE RAVEN had rejected him physically, mentally, emotionally. He had grown tired of him. He had gotten what he wanted, a body to keep the nights warm for him, but he had grown tired of his inexperience and wanted someone who really knew what they were doing. It was time for William Bodie to move on to someone new.
Desolation swam around Doyle's soul. His eyes sought Bodie's again as he tried to beg the other man to deny the rejection. He wanted to plead with him to change his mind and allow him to stay but Bodie continued to avoid looking at him for that very reason. The captain of the WHITE RAVEN was afraid he would change his mind and keep Doyle with him.
And risk Ray Doyle's existence again.
No, Bodie knew, he mustn't give into his own pain, his acknowledgement that loneliness would hit him and hit him hard. He mustn't become so selfish he'd risk Doyle's life.
The transfer was a blur in Doyle's mind. The handing over of envelopes to him and Cowley seemed unimportant. He looked at his and then allowed it to drop overboard. No one saw it fall except he himself. He felt his soul tearing apart as it sank beneath the cold, dark water. Agony sliced into his soul. It was hard to breathe.
Why? his heart cried out silently. Oh, God, why? I thought...I thought you loved me!
On board his ship, the wind tickled Bodie's cheek and it was almost as though he could hear Doyle weeping, begging softly, Come back for me! Don't make me go!
And Bodie wept...alone in his cabin, he wept.
Cowley opened his letter. The resentment he had experienced slowly changed to understanding.
"Aye," he murmured to himself. "I'll take good care of him." He caught Doyle's eyes on him and said, "We have much to discuss once we're in our room." Doyle shrugged, tired in mind and soul. He wanted to go home, lie in his own bed again. Even if it meant facing his brother and the animosity, the cruel taunting from the very one who should love him, Doyle wanted to go home.
"Don't be feeling like that, Ray. It's not what you think." But he only shook his head when Doyle's eyes questioned him. Now was not the time to discuss private things.
In their tiny cabin later, Cowley explained things to the other, younger man. Again, Doyle only shrugged. He went to the bed and sank down. The sigh that escaped from his lips came from deep within his soul.
"He loves you."
Doyle shook his head. No...I thought...I had hoped.... But, no. I was a fool, a lonely, stupid fool. He cringed inside. How he must have laughed at me. Did he joke about me with the others? Misery hurt him. His heart felt as though it had a band around it, crushing the very soul from his body.
"He loved you enough to send you to safety." Doyle looked up at him. The sadness on his features tore at Cowley's heart. "You were in danger on board his ship. That poisoning was no accident." The startled look on the young man's face told the old cook that he had finally reached him. "The captain didn't know who it was. Didn't you wonder why you were never left alone? Either I or him were with you. Didn't you wonder?" Doyle shook his head. "You didn't?" Cowley opened his mouth, closed it, and then opened it again. "You're to come with me up to Scotland. I have a wee bit of land there. You're to stay with me until he comes for you. He said he explains it more in his letter to you."
Doyle laughed silently and a trifle cheerlessly, and shook his head. He held up his empty hands.
"I saw the captain hand you...did you chunk it, then?" When Doyle nodded, Cowley scowled. "Ah, well, it's too late now. Still, he thought to give me one too, and you will like my tiny place." Doyle shook his head. "I don't understand."
Doyle searched and located paper and pen. He wrote: No. I'm going home. He went back to the bunks and climbed up on top, sat there, staring defiantly at the old man.
"You can't. He's expecting...." Doyle held up his hands. There was anger on his youthful face, pain, bitterness, tension. "Ah, Ray, don't do that. He was only doing what he thought was the best for you." He waited but the mutinous look did not alter. "You know him better than that." Doyle's gaze did not change and Cowley gave up.
The SEA SONG landed off the coast of Scotland. Frustrated, mildly vexed, at the captain's insistence that he get into the dingy, Doyle tried to get him to understand that he wasn't getting off, that he wanted to go on to the Liverpool dock. The captain, however, refused to listen. He was short on time. He had come this far because he had owed Bodie a favor, but enough was enough.
"You can always rent a horse in town and ride to your destination," the overweight man suggested. He patted the slumped shoulder and then pushed him into the tiny rowboat.
Cowley's eyes were constantly on him though he said nothing in front of the sailors. Once they were standing on solid ground, however, and the sailors had returned to his ship, he spoke up.
"Come to my place. We'll wait for the captain together," Cowley suggested. Doyle shook his head. "He'll think you don't trust him. Don't you?" The other's man look was his answer. It disconcerted the cook. "So be it, then.... Still, you can't wait here." He watched the aggravation settle over the youthful features. "You have no money, now do you? You can't be renting a room without a bit of gold, now can you? No.... You come with me. Bodie will see you safely home. All right?" The other man nodded reluctantly. "Let's get going. It's a far ride and it grows dark early at this time of year, and the temperature falls."
Giving up, feeling the depression returning, Doyle went with him.
"From the ship, now are you?" the man in the stables inquired as he led forth two sturdy horses.
"Aye, How much?" Cowley didn't hide his shock when given the sum. "That much to rent horses?"
"Now, how would I be knowing if you'll return them?" the man demanded in scorn.
Cowley didn't have enough. The stable man turned around, prepared to restore the horses back into their stalls. Doyle removed the gold cross he wore, the one Bodie had given him. He handed it to Cowley. Anguish seared his heart but he kept his features as clear as he could. Not knowing the origin of the piece of jewelry, the old cook only smiled in relief. "Will this help?"
The stable man was more than glad to dicker then. Cowley and Doyle came away with two horse and enough money to provide food for the three day trip.
"We'll have to sleep out in the open if we don't leave now. Are you ready?" Doyle simply shrugged. They mounted the horses and rode out of town. Cowley rode in silence for the first couple of miles and then asked, "Why didn't you use that cross to pay your way back home?" He watched the bewilderment flood the other man's features. "You love him, don't you, even now?" Doyle shook his head. "You want to wait with me until he comes. Yes, you do," the old cook argued when his friend shook his head once more. "He was only thinking of you, you know." The closed look on Doyle's face froze any more conversation in Cowley's mind.
And the ride went on with only the sounds of nature, the clop of hooves, to break the silence between them.
Winter flowed into Spring and then into the very early days of summer. Bodie's ship returned to England. He went immediately to Doyle's father.
The old man looked eagerly past Bodie's broad shoulders. "Where is he? Didn't he come with you? Is he outside?"
"I have him in a safe place." He went on to explain about the accident, about the poisoning incident. "He was not safe on board my vessel."
"Cedric...." His face began to crumple but he caught himself. he was never the type of person to reveal his emotions to other people.
"I do not know your younger son, so I cannot say, one way or another, if the episodes were caused by him. All I know is that the accidents did not appear to be very accidental. I could not allow Ray to stay on board my ship."
"Where is he?"
"Somewhere safe." Bodie's eyes shot toward the doorway.
"He has gone to Liverpool. The servants, except for Hazard, have the day off and have left my home."
"And your butler?"
"Hazard was my valet back when...he helped me save my wife and my son. He tended to my boy afterwards when I...I could not face my child, knowing my leaving him had given those men...." He shook his head, too unemotional to continue. He collected himself. "How do you know he is safe where he is?" the old man demanded, cheeks pale.
"I do." And he prayed, I hope he is. Terror chewed at the pit of his stomach. What if Cedric found out somehow? What if someone on board my vessel told him...what he finds out where Cowley lives? What if he sends someone to Scotland and.... "What shall I do? Shall I return him here?"
Sadness overwhelmed the old man. He slumped into a chair. "I love him. He is so much like his mother." He sighed wearily. His eyes were old, forlorn, as he lifted his head to gaze at the stronger, younger man. "I cannot risk his life, no longer. I have fooled myself too long. Can you guarantee his protection where he is?"
No...I cannot. "If I thought he was in a dangerous situation where he is, I would move him." But where?
"I am glad your father talked to you last year. I am glad you agreed to help us." He tried to stand, grew weak without warning. Bodie caught him. He helped him back down into the chair.
"Shall I call Hazard?"
"Yes." Discomfort close to being pain appeared on his face. His flesh was even whiter.
Bodie went for Hazard.
"It is his heart," the butler confided later after the old man was in bed, resting, full of medication. "The doctor has told him it could give out at any moment. If only this situation between his sons...." The elderly man shook his head in dismay. "Things like this did not happen when I was young. What is the world coming to?"
Bodie had no answer to that though he was cynical enough to believe the world had always contained wicked people, and always would.
Cedric returned that evening, a very irate man. He met Bodie's cold glance with one of hatred. "Did your men like my brother's ass?" he inquired in icy contempt. "Did you?" He waited in cold derision. When the seaman did not take the bait, Cedric continued, "Did he fight? Did he beg you...no, of course he didn't. He can't speak. Did you like that? Or, did you miss the sounds when you fucked him?"
Bodie swallowed his own wrath. His eyes revealed the depth of his emotions. None of what those blue orbs revealed had any effect on Cedric whose eyes remained contemptuous, hard. "I am here at your father's request. I am leaving in the morning. Until I leave, I shall attempt to remain civil to you."
"Oh, by all means, remain civil." Cedric sneered. "We mustn't disappoint father, now must we? His eyes shot insolently over Bodie's body. "I'm not silent."
"And I am not interested." Though the words tumbled around within him, pushing desperately to get out, to be said, to be shouted, Bodie resisted the urge to say more. Cedric laughed before he turned and went up stairs, leaving Bodie to his own devices for the evening.
At ten that night, Bodie stepped out into the garden to catch a breath of fresh air. He had been troubled by bad dreams and needed a change of scenery. He heard the sound of a horse, riding swiftly from the stable. Curiosity made him to hurry to the side of the garden. He thought the rider was Cedric but couldn't be sure. He shrugged and returned to his room.
When Bodie rode out the next morning, he did not notice the two men following him.
"Don't be gone long," Cowley suggested. "It looks like a storm."
Doyle shook his head and went outside the small dwelling. The wind held traces of moisture. On the horizon, clouds waited. They were dark and ominous. Doyle looked at them for a second and then walked slowly toward the jumble of rocks and shaggy brush. From the top of the largest outcropping, he could see the faint tracing of the ocean. It took him less than half an hour to reach that special place of him. He settled down, pulled his knees up and clasped them tightly. Though no sound came out, he mouthed, "Please come, Bodie...please come for me." The wind took the unspoken words and sent them flying from his lips. Loneliness was like a knife cutting into his soul. Desolation threatened him with it's cruel, iron fist.
How long he sat there, he didn't know. When he first heard his name called, he thought he was hearing things. Then he thought, "Cowley?" as he turned. He stared in disbelief at the firm, solid man standing at the bottom of the rocks.
A silent, "Bodie!" broke from Doyle's lips. He rose swiftly, hurried halfway down and stood still as remembered pain returned.
Bodie watched the transformation on his lover's face. It went swiftly from shock to joy to distress and suffering. Doyle took a step backward. Bodie understood.
"I had to do it," he explained gently. "You weren't safe on board my ship. Those 'accidents' you had were not mere occasions for bad luck." He waited but all he received from the other man was those sad, hurting eyes condemning him. Bodie tried again. "I couldn't continue to lie next to you night after night, holding you, loving you, knowing I'd have to say goodby before long. I had to hold myself back to keep from changing my mind and allowing you to remain on board with me. I couldn't continue risking your life. Do you understand?" Doyle's face worked with the sensations that surged within him. "I love you, Ray." To his immense joy, the other man started down the mass of rocks. Within a few short minutes, they were in each other's arms. "Oh, Ray...." They kissed. Lips touched lips in greeting, a touching that altered immediately to passion and long denied hunger. "Ray...."
They sank down onto the sand.
They were famished for each other. Lips...hands...tongues...explored, tasted, devoured. Clothes vanished...bodies touched...organs distended, enlarged, throbbed...waited.
There was a sound of thunder, unheeded by either man for the storm around them was nothing compared to the storm within them. Then, without warning, without visible cause, Bodie slumped over the man beneath him. Doyle, confused, suffused with the passion that had overtaken them, became immobile. A motion from the corner of his eyes caught his attention. Horror froze in his heart as he saw his brother there, another man standing beside. Sticky wetness overflowed his hand. Sluggishly, he looked at his fingers. Blood...Bodie's blood. His mouth worked but of course, no sound came out. He was numb inside and out.
The stranger beside Cedric stepped forward. It was then Doyle saw he was naked from the waist down, that the man's penis was huge, ugly. Panic crippled him even further as memory came back in full force to haunt him. He whimpered without sound. The man flung Bodie to the side. He grabbed Doyle, flung him over.
"Fuck him until he bleeds," Cedric ordered in hatred. "Fuck him hard! Hurt him! I want him hurt before you kill him!" The other man only grunted. He flung his gun aside and pushed Doyle legs apart, settled himself between them. His fingers rammed up into the anus. Doyle struggled but the stranger was stronger. He was larger, heavier, meaner, and he didn't have images in his head of being small and helpless and abused to weaken him. As the stranger's hard fingers separated the cold, white buttocks, Bodie roused. It took the sea captain agonizing moments to come to full consciousness, to realize that his lover was being raped. He struggled upward, propped himself on his elbows. He saw the gun and reached for it. Cedric noticed him. He raced toward him, tried to get the gun but Bodie's hand already clasped it. Cedric fought to get it away. The conflict set the gun off. The bullet struck Cedric and he fell, confused, bleeding. Bodie fired twice at the man raping Doyle, and the stranger too fell, coming to rest in death on Doyle's back.
"Ray...." Despite the pain, despite the loss of blood, Bodie crawled over to his lover. He shoved the dead man away from Doyle's body. "Ray?" Doyle was trembling violently. He cringed from Bodie's touch. "It's me. Ray...." He held the shivering man, soothing a loving path up and down the cold flesh. "I'm here, Ray." He held him tighter. "He's dead. I killed him." Doyle buried his face against Bodie's chest and battled to regain control. "I'm here." When Doyle was finally calm, Bodie asked hesitantly, "Did he...." He couldn't finish. He didn't have to. Doyle shook his head and then began to tremble once more. "Let's get you home." Bodie stood up, pulled the other man up with him. He searched for clothing and they dressed.
As they passed Cedric, Bodie paused, checked the body. He too was dead. Despite the harshness Cedric had given him his whole life, sorrow overwhelmed Doyle. He knelt down, touched the cold face. Bodie gave him a moment then made him walk away.
Two Years Later....
Naked, they frolicked in the warm waters off the tiny island, laughing, splashing each other. The ship was anchored on the other side and Bodie and Doyle did not fear being discovered. All on board that vessel knew the two men were lovers and no one would even think of interfering in the joy and the love the two men shared.
"God, Ray, I love you." Bodie pulled him closer, held him tightly. He felt warm, moist lips against his throat and closed his eyes in ecstasy. It took a moment for him to realize, Doyle was mouthing, "I love you," against his flesh. The captain shuddered deliciously. "All those months we were apart, I could almost hear you whispering, love me, come back for me. Every time the wind blew, I could feel your breath against my cheek...I could hear your whispers...whispers of love, in the wind."
-- THE END --