Man Behind the Scenes


"Christ," laughed Bodie, as he bumped his front door shut. "I thought this afternoon was going to last forever!"

Doyle ambled ahead of him nonchalantly, still grinning like a cream-fed cat. He wandered into the lounge and threw himself onto the settee, heeling off his trainers and folding his arms behind his head.

"Know what you mean," he agreed. "Bloody sod, making us check our reports. Huh!" he snorted. "That's why he's got a secretary, isn't it?"

Bodie had struggled through to the kitchen with his overloaded box of groceries. He dumped it on the counter as the bottom threatened to burst at any second.

"Yeah, but just think," he called as he went to fill the kettle. "A whole week to ourselves. What d'you fancy doing for seven days?"

Doyle smirked up at the ceiling at the leading question. Bodie knew what they would be doing.

"Actually," he announced. "I'd like to spend my annual holiday on a tropical beach, with a bevy of beautiful birds tending to my every whim. And I'd like to see Herald in concert!"

In the kitchen, Bodie groaned loudly enough to be heard over the noise of the warming kettle. Doyle had been on about that bloody group for weeks now, enthusing about their latest single, which was a change from their usual heavy style. His expression one of amusement, Bodie went to lounge in the doorway and watched Doyle fantasise at the ceiling.

"Would you settle for a week on a beach in rainy Brighton with me?" he asked cheekily.

Doyle deigned to look his way, raking his partner from head to toe with the air of one superior.

"No," he said. "Brighton's got pebbles!" He settled back comfortably and heard the kettle boil. "Make us a cup of tea while you're at it."

"What did your last nigger die of?" Bodie wanted to know, as he pushed himself upright.

"Disobedience!" growled Doyle. "Move yourself, Boy!"

Bodie did, but not in the direction Doyle expected. He suddenly found himself under his partner's not inconsiderable weight, squashed into the cushions, and being ravaged by demanding lips. Gasping with delight, he unfolded his arms and locked them round Bodie's neck , tipping his head to present his throat to the hungry mouth. Bodie moved against him and he parted his legs, raising his knees to steady his lover.

"Oh, more!" he moaned.

Bodie's hand swept down his flank, his weight shifted onto Doyle's right side, and then there were fingers busy at his fly.

"Who didn't put his knickers on today?" Bodie sniggered as he groped the hot hard flesh inside the denim.

"Didn't want you wasting time getting to the point," gasped Doyle. "Bodie..."

"Still want that tea, Boy?" teased Bodie.

"What I want," Doyle panted, "is for you to take me to bed and screw me senseless!"

"To hear is to obey," Bodie chuckled filthily, and he scrambled off his tousled partner. "Come on then."

He tugged Doyle to his feet and pulled him towards the bedroom, where they undressed hastily and fell onto the bed in an enthusiastic embrace.

Bodie was well-roused and Doyle bent his knees up, presenting his backside obligingly. Bodie clutched at him, frantic with excitement and intent on penetration. His engorged shaft missed its target first time and slid down the cleft of Doyle's behind.

"Oh, shit!" groaned Bodie.

"Stop fucking about and fuck me!" demanded Doyle impatiently. This wasn't his favorite position and he was starting to feel uncomfortable.

Bodie lined up again, stiffened, and with a cry of frustration, came over Doyle's balls. He collapsed into the valley between the bony knees and strong arms came round him, crushing him to a damp-furred body. What could he say -- there was nothing that could make up for his lack of control...

"Ray -- 'm sorry. I couldn't hold it --" He hid his face against his partner's chest.

Gentle lips were kissing his hair.

"S'alright, mate. Happens to the best of us. It'll come right, don't worry about it." Doyle shifted beneath him, his own cock still hard between them. "Just let me move a bit and I'll be with you."

Bodie slid down his partner's side and touched distended Doyle-flesh.

"Let me..."

Doyle smiled faintly and folded his arms beneath his head once more as Bodie took him in hand. His muscles tightened and suddenly he was engulfed in wet heat as Bodie's mouth covered him...

Afterwards, Bodie licked him dry and dragged himself into his lover's arms. They lay quietly together, each lost in private reverie.

"I wish I didn't keep shooting off so soon," mumbled Bodie. "Never happened with my birds."

Doyle stroked down the naked back and murmured soft assurances.

"It'll be alright," he whispered. "The more we do it -- like anything else, just needs a bit of practice to perfect it." He kissed the pale forehead. "And we've the whole week to ourselves."

Bodie pushed himself up on one arm.

"What do you really want to do with this holiday? Is there anywhere you really want to go?"

Doyle thought hard for a moment, then grinned.

"Would you take me, if I told you?"

Bodie nodded.

"Anywhere you want," he promised rashly. "Tell me where you want to go."

"I want to see Herald."

Bodie raised his eyes to heaven and groaned deeply.

Doyle was in the throes of cooking the supper when the phone rang. As Bodie was still wallowing in the bath, he answered it.


"Billy? Can I speak to Billy please." The man on the other end of the line sounded nervous.

"Sorry, mate. Nobody here by that name. Must have the wrong number."

"Sorry." The connection was cut abruptly and Doyle returned to the stove.

Bodie emerged from the tub, warm and clean, wrapped in his robe.

"Who was that?" he wanted to know as he lolled against the doorframe.

"Just a wrong number."

Bodie sidled up behind his partner and slid his arms round the slender waist, nipping at Doyle's naked shoulders.

"Ten minutes," Doyle told him with mock irritation. "You won't starve in ten minutes."

"Isn't food I'm interested in at the moment." Bodie sniggered into a curl-covered ear and rubbed himself suggestively against Doyle's jean-clad backside. "Could do it to you right now if you want --"

Doyle peered over his shoulder and opened his mouth to speak, when the phone rang again.

With an indignant expression that started his partner laughing, Bodie went to answer it. Doyle cocked an ear to the one-sided conversation.

"Dex, bloody hell -- yeah, what?" A pause. "When -- sure -- come round tonight when you finish. No, the same address --"

Doyle frowned at that. Bodie seldom issued invitations to visitors, squad members included. This Dex had to be a special friend indeed, and Doyle was annoyed at the thought of anyone breaking in on their time together.

A week to themselves, that was what they had agreed. Seven days to get to know each other well, to explore, discover one another's past. Doyle was eager to learn all he could about the man he'd been teamed with. Three years on, there were still sizeable gaps in his mental dossier on his best friend -- Bodie rarely spoke about his childhood or adolescence. Sometimes, Doyle wondered if he had actually had one.

He wasn't aware of Bodie's having hung up until his partner returned to the kitchen and stopped in the middle of the floor.

"So, who was that?"

"Oh -- just a friend." Bodie frowned. "He's -- got a problem he wants to talk about."

"Want me to go?" Not that Doyle would. If Bodie was going to get into trouble over a friend, someone had to stay around to pick up the pieces afterwards.

"No, I don't want you to go. I told you, we're spending this week together, and I meant it. Unless..." Bodie met the level green gaze. "Unless you want to go. I thought you'd --"

"Alright," Doyle grinned. "I'm staying. When's this mate of yours due?"

"He won't knock off until about half-past eleven -- probably be here about midnight."

"What's he do for a living?" Doyle wanted to know.

Bodie's cheek went a delicate shade of pink.

"Oh, er, he -- odd jobs and -- things. Electrics, mostly."

Doyle sensed that his lover wasn't being entirely honest with him, but there would be time to interrogate him later when they were in bed -- if he didn't learn anything from this Dex when he arrived.

Bodie watched him carefully, knowing that he had been caught out. Ray would have found out sooner or later anyway, but he had intended keeping it as a surprise. It couldn't be helped. Dex was a friend from his childhood and some loyalties ran heart-deep for Bodie. Whatever the problem, he would gladly do what he could.

"I'm sorry, Ray..."

"Don't be. A friend in need --" Doyle smiled encouragingly. "Supper's ready, if you're interested."

Bodie brightened at that.

"Oh good! I hate to face a crisis on an empty stomach."

Doyle was brewing another pot of coffee when the buzzer announced Dex's arrival. Bodie went to let him in, and led him into the lounge.

"Bad night?" Bodie enquired. "You look terrible."

Doyle hovered in the kitchen, suddenly ill-at-ease. This man from Bodie's past, a tangible piece of evidence from the time before he had known his partner...

"Ray's making the drinks," Bodie was saying.

"I -- didn't know you had company tonight," the other man's voice was hesitant, vaguely familiar.

Doyle brought the mugs through on a tray and looked the stranger over curiously.

He was a smallish man, dressed from head to foot in blue denim, and with huge-framed glasses that gave him an owlish appearance. He blinked in the light and was fidgeting -- Doyle had the impression that he was on the verge of hysteria.

"Ray, this is Dex. Dex -- Ray Doyle."

Doyle placed the tray on the coffee table and retired to the armchair opposite the sofa, where he could observe without seeming to intrude.

Dex eyed him warily.

"He's a friend," Bodie assured softly. "I trust him with my life."

That apparently was recommendation enough and the little man sank onto the far end of the settee.

"I wouldn't have bothered you, but I need to tell someone -- Mariane's going out of her mind with worry."

"What's happened, Dex?" Bodie met the questioning glance that Doyle fired his way.

Dex swallowed hard, choking back the tears.

"Somebody's snatched my kids --"

Doyle got up and silently handed a mug of coffee to his partner, then passed one to their visitor.

"Okay," Bodie took a sip. "Suppose you start from the beginning..."

"Want to talk about it?" Doyle propped himself on one elbow and looked down at his companion.

Bodie lay on his back gazing at the bedroom ceiling. It was two o'clock in the morning and he still couldn't sleep.

"If you don't want me around, I'll go in the morning, but I am not spending the night watching you stay awake!" Doyle sat up properly and bashed at the pillow.

Misinterpreting his lover's movements, Bodie grabbed at him.

"Don't go!"

Doyle caught the note of fear in his partner's voice, and lying back against the re-padded headboard, he opened his arms.

Bodie wriggled over, hesitating before resting his head on one muscular shoulder, reluctant to ask for comfort. Doyle's lips were soft against his furrowed brow.

"We grew up together -- I was best man when he married Paul's mother. He's a good friend, Ray. You gotta look after a mate," Bodie's accent thickened as he yawned, "don'cha?"

Doyle cuddled him and kissed him again. The dark head rubbed against his skin.

"Alright," Doyle conceded with a stifled chuckle.

"Ray --" Bodie roused himself momentarily. "I never told him what I do for a living now. As far as he knows, I'm still in the Paras, working in civilian liaison..."

"I won't tell him your deadly secret," Doyle assured him. "Can we get some sleep now, please?"

Bodie snuggled into his side and was out almost instantly.

Dex's apartment was in St. John's Wood, overlooking the cricket-ground. Doyle grinned. That accounted for some of his partner's mysterious absences during the Test series.

Bodie pulled the Capri into the residents-only parking space and got out. He paused a while indulgently as Doyle stopped to admire some of the nearby vehicles -- Porsches, top-of-the-range Rovers -- all bespeaking the wealth of the area.

"More than either of us will ever earn," Bodie gave voice to the wistful expression in the green gaze.

Doyle shrugged.

"If we pooled our savings," he suggested, catching the wry amusement in his partner's tone.

"I'm happy with what I've got," Bodie smirked, patting the silver roof. His eyes said the rest as he ducked into the car for the equipment that they had brought with them.

Serious now, Doyle scanned the street.

"There's two guys in a red Escort watching us..."

"Let it be," Bodie cautioned quietly. "If they're watching Dex's place the last thing we need to do is make them bolt." He heaved the tape-recorder off the rear seat. "Far as anyone knows, Dex and I are old friends, and we're getting some gear together for a solo project he's been working on. You," he slammed and locked the door, "are my dedicated, witty, charming, intelligent, gifted other half. You can pretend for five minutes, can't you?" he teased.

Doyle assumed a haughty expression, and treated the comment with the contempt he felt it deserved.

Grinning, Bodie led him to the outer door of the block and pushed the intercom.

Dex responded immediately and two minutes later they were being hustled inside the apartment. Bodie was instantly alert.

"Have there been any more contacts?" he asked curtly as his partner crossed to the window.

Dex shook his head.

"Mariane keeps phoning me, asking the same thing. They know -- they must know -- I would do anything they want, pay them anything..."

Doyle came back.

"Calm down." He dropped a hand on the little man's shoulder. "We've said that we'll help..."

Dex collapsed onto the sofa and Doyle sat beside him, close but not touching.

Bodie put the tape-recorder on the coffee-table and started to set up the phone-tap.

"Have you ever received threatening phone-calls, or mail, before?" Doyle elected to act as interrogator. "Think hard."

Dex shook his head.

"Nothing -- serious. Couple of crank calls -- letters that the local coppers took away with them, but -- nothing ever happened."

Doyle mentally counted to ten. The man was in shock, understandably so, but to discount any lead at this stage was foolhardy. He changed tack.

"Do you know anyone around here who owns a red Escort?"

Again, the owlish head wagged hopelessly.

"Never mind..."

Bodie had finished loading the tape, and came to join them on the settee.

"We can't do anything until they contact you again." He glanced at his partner. "Might be worth having a word with the local plods -- get them to send a W.P.C. to stay with Mariane."

"No!" Dex's head snapped up. "They said no police!"

The agents' eyes met once more and Bodie patted one denim-clad knee.

"Alright, no police, mate," he assured.

The buzz at the door brought them all to attention.

"You expecting anyone else this morning?" Bodie demanded.

"No," replied Dex, rising from the seat.

Bodie was on his feet, reaching a hand to his partner.

"We'll be in the kitchen."

Dex was already over by the intercom, lifting the receiver.

"Paul Daventry -- Dex, may I come up?"

Bodie hustled his other half through the doorway, mumbling something about making coffee. It would afford the C.I.5 men the chance to eavesdrop.

They heard the apartment door open. Judging from the easy way Dex greeted the newcomer, Paul Daventry must have been a very close friend. Doyle pressed his ear against the connecting door and listened intently. Daventry was asking about the tape-recorder.

"I'm working on some new material with an old mate. He's written some songs, wants to make a few demos..."

"Is he any good?" Daventry showed more than a spark of interest.

"Yes," Dex replied. "If he'd stayed with the band, he would've been ranked up there with McCartney and Micky."

In the kitchen, Doyle turned to see whether Bodie had heard the outrageous lie, and found his partner studiously gazing out of the window at the deserted cricket-ground. There was more than a hint of pink about the pale cheeks. Disbelieving the sight, Doyle stroked a finger along his lover's jaw.

Bodie jumped and turned to look at his companion. There was a distinctly guilty expression on his face.

Doyle slid his arms round the sturdy frame, and kissed the flushed flesh quietly, still cocking an ear to the conversation in the next room.

Daventry was getting ready to go.

"You're -- not in any kind of trouble, are you?" he asked suddenly.

Dex laughed brittlely.

"Trouble -- don't know the meaning of the word!" he scoffed. "I'll see you later."

Bodie heaved a sigh of relief as he heard the door close after the visitor, and he and Doyle returned to the living-room. Dex was standing by the entrance, watching his guest to the end of the corridor.

Doyle looked over the smaller man's shoulder. As soon as Daventry had disappeared from view, he slipped out of the flat to follow.

Dex glanced anxiously at his old friend.

"Where --"

Bodie smiled.

"Don't worry -- we know what we're doing."

Dex stared at the radio in Bodie's hand.

"You never told me what you actually do for a living these days."

Bodie glanced disparagingly at the transceiver and slid it into his pocket.

"Not much. I left the Army. I'm a civil servant now -- seriously!"

Dex couldn't work out whether his friend was joking.

"And Ray?"

"Yeah, he's a civil servant too. We work together."

"And?" Dex prompted.

"And we work together!" Bodie laughed suddenly. "Dex, for God's sake, we work in the same office, and we -- want to help. Do you have to read suspicious motives into everything anyone does?"

"I'm -- sorry, Billy." Dex folded down onto the couch once more. "I just -- I can't think straight at the moment. I'm worried shitless about the kids. Somebody ought to stay with Mariane, but there's no-one I could trust... The band flies out to Germany after the show on Saturday -- you know how it is. I almost told Daventry -- twice -- but I kept thinking -- if I called the police, the kidnappers could do anything to them. I don't even know if they're --" his voice broke, "-- alive." He buried his head in his hands.

Bodie sank beside him and put a comforting arm round the hunched shoulders.

"Don't worry, our kid. We'll get them back --" And we'll get the bastards who took 'em, he vowed silently.

When Dex had calmed down sufficiently, Bodie withdrew his arm and went back to the kitchen to fetch the coffee. Dex followed him, hovered in the doorway as Bodie poured the drinks.

"How long've you been working with Ray then?"

Bodie's mouth twitched into a smile.

" 'Bout three years, give or take a month." He stirred the milk into the dark steamy liquid.

"What d'you actually do in your job?"

A number of replies sprang to mind: shoot people who try to shoot us...

"Not a lot -- plenty of paperwork."

Dex snorted with laughter.

"I hope it pays well!"

Bodie shrugged.

"We get by," he answered smugly. "And there are -- other perks." He handed a mug to his mate. "Get that down you."

They returned to the sofa.

Bodie sipped at his coffee in silence for a minute.

"One of us ought to stay with you, to keep tabs on your mail and calls," he said thoughtfully.

"That'd be difficult -- I'm practically living at the theatre at the moment. We've had some problems with the gear, and the kids the management sent us can't tell a co-ax from a condom!"

"Sounds like another roadie would be handy," Bodie suggested.

Dex eyed him shrewdly.

"And you'd just happen to know a man who could do the job standing on his head."

Bodie took another mouthful of coffee.

"Never tried it upside down before," he mused. "What the hell -- I'll give it a go!"

"How'll Ray take that?"

"Ray," Bodie answered with wry amusement, "will kill me." He met Dex's level blue gaze. "I wanted to surprise him with those tickets -- he's been on at me for weeks about seeing Herald. He'll slaughter me when he finds out I've just signed on to the road-crew."

"That's if I can get you past Daventry's gimlet eye." Dex frowned. "For a record producer, he's spending a bit too much time backstage for my money..."

"I heard a whisper that he's thinking of leaving the studio to start an independent label," Bodie stated blandly.

"Rumours still," Dex agreed, "but I know he's just bought a property in Surrey that has what the agents call 'a great deal of potential'. Maybe that's why he's hanging round us so much -- hoping to lure Micky away from EMI..."

"Would Herald go with him?"

Dex shrugged.

"The band's been on the road for three months -- we've been living in each other's pockets. Tempers are beginning to fray all over the shop -- Mick's been talking about taking a year off, working on a solo album -- or with a few of the boys from home. If he does, he might start to dabble on the production side, and I could see that Daventry might give him the opportunity to try it. Mind you," Dex's face cracked into a grin, "give him six months and Mick'll be down the pub busking with the local kids."

Bodie chuckled at the image.

"Like the old days," he raised his tepid coffee in salute to the past.

"He'd have you back, Billy, if you wanted to." Dex regarded him earnestly. "Mick still rates you as one of the best musicians he's ever worked with. You could keep your day-job -- come and play with us in the evenings, earn yourself some pocket-money..."

Bodie shook his head with genuine regret.

"I haven't touched a guitar since --" he thought hard, "since the night before I jumped ship. I've lost a lot."

"You'll get it back," Dex was certain. "With a talent like yours..."

"I'll have to," Bodie agreed, "if I'm crewing on a tour this well-publicised!"

"We've already had one guitar-technician who thinks he's the new Eric Clapton. I reckon he only took the job because he wanted to get close to Mick -- and Micky can't stand him! We fired him two weeks ago and I've been doubling for him."

Bodie knew he wouldn't have that particular problem, but he could anticipate some aggro from his partner.

"I'll leave a message for Ray -- when you do want me to start?"

"Would tonight be too soon?"

Mentally crossing his fingers, Bodie assured his friend that that would be fine.

It was almost two o'clock when Bodie and Dex dragged themselves up the stairs to the C.I.5 flat. The show had gone well, all things considered. Mick Martyn had been mobbed at the stage-door, and because of the lay-out of this particular theatre, it meant the road-crew had had to fight through the crowd to load the pantechnicans. That had caused the major delay in their homeward journey.

Dex had neatly avoided Paul Daventry's company by saying he had been invited back to Bodie's place for the night, and that they would go straight on to the next venue the following day. Both men were glad to escape the press of humanity that hemmed the theatre and returned to London as quickly as they could.

The flat was in darkness when they entered, and Dex threw himself on the sofa, heeling off his shoes as he settled back into the cushions.

"Two more gigs," he sighed, "then, look out Germany, here we come. God," he moaned. "Why did I ever get myself into this business?"

"You love it," Bodie grinned, peeling off his jacket. His shirt was clinging damply to his sweaty body. "If you didn't have Herald, you'd be off with another group -- The Stones, or Maiden. You're a road-rat, Dex! Christ!" he wrinkled his nose, "I reek!"

"So do I!" grumbled Dex, "but I don't give a toss. If it's all the same to you, I'll have a shower in the morning."

"I'll get you a blanket," Bodie offered, and he wandered into the bedroom, tugging off his top as he went.

The bedside lamp was on and Bodie paused inside the door. There was a ragged mound in the middle of the mattress. Soft light caught the brown curls and threw the elfin features into shadow.

Bodie felt a shiver run down his spine and momentarily forgetting his errand, he sat on the edge of the bed, watching his lover sleep.

Doyle murmured softly in protest as the springs dipped under Bodie's weight, but a gentle hand caressed him back to his dream. Bodie smiled and shook his head. Belatedly remembering what he had intended, he located a spare blanket and hastily returned to Dex, to find that his guest had fallen asleep on the sofa and was dead to the world. Bodie tossed the cover over him, tucked him up, and turning out the lounge light, he went back to Doyle.

Burrowing in beside his partner, it took a little coaxing to move the sleeper so there was enough space to lie comfortably. Doyle moaned and mumbled, then rolled over and opened his eyes.

"What time d'you call this?" he grunted, sliding his arm round Bodie's waist.

Bodie pecked at the curl-fringed forehead.

"Ten past two. Go to sleep."

Doyle blinked himself awake and pushed Bodie away.

"Ten past two!" he snapped. "I've been here since bloody eight o'clock, waiting for you to phone!"

Bodie grabbed at him, but Doyle evaded him and sat up.

"I was busy," protested Bodie.

"With Dex?"

Bodie sighed.

"It makes sense for one of us to stay close to him," he argued. "Logically, it should be me --"

"And leave me to do all the paperwork and checking?" demanded Doyle. " 'Cos that's how I spent my day, lover-boy." He glared at his companion. "Did you know that Paul Daventry is a highly-respected businessman, has his own music publishing company and is a well-known record-producer? Your friend Dex --"

"-- is next door on the couch," Bodie interrupted. "He's fallen asleep, and I'm about to do the same, so can we postpone this enquiry, please?" He yawned suddenly. "God, I feel shagged out!" He rolled over and buried his face in the pillow, schooling his breathing to the rhythm of sleep.

Doyle glared at him balefully, realised that his lover had probably passed out, and wriggled down to lie with his back very determinedly to his other half. He was beginning to drift off when he felt a strong arm circle his waist, and the brush of lips at his shoulder. With a reluctant smile, he relaxed and knew no more.

Bodie was awake first. Beside him, snug and sleeping, Doyle was half buried beneath the covers. With an indulgent smile, Bodie brushed the curls off one temple and kissed him lightly. There was no response. He hadn't expected one. All the same, Bodie was careful as he got out of bed, easing his way clear rather than his usual stampede-style exit. Dragging a robe round his shoulders, he went to check on his other visitor.

Dex was still virtually unconscious on the sofa. Without his specs, the resemblance to Mick Martyn of Herald was striking, and Bodie wondered if his partner had guessed where he and Dex had been the previous evening.

He ambled into the kitchen and began to make coffee. Above the noise of the warming kettle, he heard Dex stir and yawn. A minute later, Dex was slouched in the doorway, blinking drowsily.

"D'you have to get up this early?" he moaned. "You always used to be the one we had to drag out of the pit in the mornings!"

Bodie smirked as he spooned out the coffee-powder.

"Revenge is sweet -- which is more than I can say for either of us at the moment. Do you want first crack at the shower?"

Dex lurched into the room proper and picked up the nearest mug.

"Squatter's rights -- after you, mate!"

Bodie raised his own cup and took a sip.

Dex eyed the third drink and cocked a quizzical eyebrow.

"Didn't realise that you lived with someone," he apologised.

"I don't -- well, not usually," Bodie amended.

"Anyone I know?"

Bodie smiled.

"You've already met him."

Dex frowned, concentrating.


Bodie nodded, wondering what his mate would make of the admission.

"How long've you been -- on together?"

"Three weeks."

"It's serious?"

Bodie shrugged, seemingly nonchalant.

"We'll see."

Dex laughed.

"Don't try to kid a con-man. I've known you too long. You're happy with him."

"He has his moments," Bodie conceded, unable to maintain the charade of indifference.

"In that case," Dex decided, "you won't want me around to cramp your style. I've got to call Mariane -- find out if there's any news --"

"Dex, I know it's hard but relax, mate." Bodie pushed the smaller man ahead of him into the lounge. "Paul and Summer will be safe enough for the moment -- the kidnappers need them in good condition to keep you towing the line. You still can't think of anyone who would want to do this to you?"

"Billy, I'm not the kind of man to get mixed up in a vendetta, if that's what you're driving at." Dex flopped onto the sofa. "Hell, I'm so ordinary, I'm boring! I gave up smoking dope in the sixties, I don't drink much..."

"But it's either something you've got, or something you know that they want."

"And time's running out, Billy," Dex reminded him. "The band flies to Germany on Sunday, we're doing interviews on Monday, and our next performance is on Tuesday. Like I said, if I knew what they wanted, I'd let them have it -- gladly!"

"You promise them," Bodie said icily, "but they won't collect. I told you that Ray and I would take care of it, and we will."

Dex shivered at the menace in his friend's voice.

"I'd like to be there when you catch them," he requested softly.

"No." Bodie set down his empty cup. "This is my job -- what I'm good at. You wouldn't like what I might have to do."

"You'd take Doyle though," protested Dex.

"Ray is my partner." Bodie strove for an explanation that could convey the concept of their relationship to his guest. "We work in harmony -- melody and counter-point..."

Dex eyed him levelly.

"Only three weeks." He shook his head. "You've been going to bed with him for three weeks, and you'd trust him more than me..."

Bodie heaved a sigh.

"The kidnappers will be watching you closely to make sure you don't contact the police. One sniff of any monkey business and there's no telling what they'll do --"

"You mean they'd kill -- I thought you said the kids'd be safe!"

Bodie met the terrified gaze, and knew he had to enforce the point.

"There's worse things than just killing someone --" Bodie had seen some of them in Africa, and back here, in London.

Dex was practically in tears.

"We'll get them," Bodie promised, and when they did...

The other man made an attempt to pull himself together, and swallowed the last of his coffee.

"I'd better go and check my mail."

"Bring it back here and we'll open it. If there's another letter, Ray can take it away to be examined. We can drive on to the theatre together from here."

Dex got to his feet.

"Billy --"

Bodie put a comforting hand on one bony shoulder.

"Trust me, I know what I'm doing. We'll get the kids back."

A shower, a shave and a pot of coffee went a long way to restoring a man after a broken night, decided Doyle. Add to that waking to a still-damp Bodie, and it was a recipe for perfection. The phone call that came in five minutes later marred the whole morning: Cowley demanded 3.7's presence immediately, and Doyle was left to wonder if his enquiries about Daventry had attracted attention from on high the previous day. Bodie would fill him in later if that were the case.

The intercom sounded, startling him out of his reverie, and he pushed the button to admit his visitor.

Dex glanced round the place, looking worried.

"Bodie's had to go into the office. The boss is flapping a bit," Doyle stated by way of explanation. "He left a message for you to go on." There was the hint of a query in his tone. "Did you get any mail this morning?"

"Wha'? Oh," Dex shook his head. "Actually, I was wondering if you would come and join us at the theatre."


"Is that where you were last night?"

Hearing the note of annoyance in Doyle's voice, Dex regarded him from behind the huge frames.

"I'm not trying to take him away from you, if that's what you're worried about."

Doyle glared at him.

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"I know about you and him. What he does in bed's his own affair. I'm not trying to muscle in." He stopped, and removed his glasses, rubbing at tired eyes. "I didn't want to cause him any trouble -- I was wrong to ask for his help, I should have dealt with this myself..."

Doyle swallowed, feeling guilty.

"No, I'm sorry." He gave Dex a shove towards the sofa and went to sit in the armchair. "It's just that -- Bodie's always been cagey about his past, and I'm stillgetting used to..." he gestured to the bedroom. "It never crossed my mind that I would wind up sleeping with him." He paused, having the grace to look ashamed at his suspicions. "Can I get you a drink or something?"

"Coffee'd be fine," Dex smiled.

Doyle made a grateful escape into the kitchen, using the time to evaluate what he had just learned. Something didn't ring true. Dex said that he and Bodie had been to the theatre last night. Shows usually chucked out no later than half-past eleven, and Bodie had come in at two o'clock. What had happened in those missing hours? Delay in departure, a meal out somewhere... Bodie had been hot and sweaty when he came in, as if he had been doing a workout -- or had been... Dex said he wasn't trying to muscle in, but an old friend from that past Doyle knew next to nothing about...

The kettle boiling cut through his morbid thoughts, and he made up the drinks and took them through to the living-room.

Dex was by the bookshelf, leafing through an old hardback. He smiled as Doyle came in, and the agent found it impossible not to respond to the guileless expression.

"How did you find out about us?"

"He told me this morning." Replacing the book, Dex accepted the proffered mug. "Don't look so shocked. We're old mates -- we grew up together, all lads from Liverpool -- so why shouldn't he?" Dex appropriated the armchair and Doyle crossed to the settee, his eyes searching the face before him. "There's not much you can tell me about your boyfriend..."

But there was a lot that Dex could tell Doyle.

"You're wondering how it happened between us," Doyle speculated.

"I'm wondering how it took so long to happen," Dex corrected, "given that he's obviously cared about you for a while. If he wants something, he usually goes all-out to get it..." he smiled reminiscently. "He was always a very determined kid."

Doyle relaxed and sat back.

"I suppose I would've given way eventually, but," he glanced at the other man, "I -- almost lost him a month ago, and it scared me. Made me realise --"

"Lost? Went-lost, or --"

"He was involved in a car-crash -- well, he was speeding..." Chasing a courier with a bootful of heroin, "-- and the tyre blew out --" courtesy of a bullet. "He rolled the car --" Cowley wasn't best pleased: Bodie bent the chassis... "Bodie was unconscious for a couple of days, and when they released him from hospital, I came over to keep an eye on him..."

"And the rest, as they say, is history," guessed Dex. "He's obviously recovered very well."

Remembering the first time he and Bodie had made love, Doyle smiled.

"He's fine..."

Dex buried his nose in his coffee cup and drained the contents. He glanced at his watch.

"Gods, I'm late!" He bounded to his feet and Doyle rose quickly.

"I can drive you --" he offered, knowing that Cowley was capable of detaining his partner indefinitely.

"No need -- tube would be just as fast."

They dumped their mugs on the draining-board and hurried out of the flat.

"We might make it before lunch," said Dex hopefully.

Doyle seriously doubted it.

Doyle wondered about his partner's friend: the way he bounced around the place made him suspect that the man had overdosed on speed. A daring dodge between vehicles as they crossed the Broadway, and they were safe in the shadow of the fly-over, heading for the theatre. Dex hustled him down the side of the old building, squeezing between the pantechnican and the wall.

Doyle found himself muttering obscenely about the driver's ability to park properly, but as they rounded the corner into the yard, he saw the reason for the tight fit -- a second truck, still being off-loaded.

The stage-door stood open and from within came the sound of two guitars being put through their paces. Dex's face lit up, and he beamed at the burly security man who emerged from the shadows inside to challenge them. The smaller man darted up the ramp, paused to speak a word, and then waved at Doyle to follow.

Two other men were approaching. Long-haired, and clad in blue-jeans and vest-tops that displayed whipcord bodies, their presence made Doyle instantly alert for trouble. They paused by the entrance and the shaggy heads turned towards the music which changed from a mournful blues number to a more insistent, driving rock rhythm. To Doyle, it seemed as if they were almost transfixed. He shot a look at Dex, and found the man watching the newcomers with a critical eye.

"Who the fuck is that with Mick?" demanded one.

His companion listened closely for a minute before shaking his head.

"Nobody I can place. Clapton's in the States as far as I know --" The second man met Dex's eye squarely. "Isn't he?"

The little man nodded and gestured to the corridor behind him.

"Why don't you go in and find out."

The men needed no further prompting and leapt up the loading ramp to scurry past the doorman.

"Ray?" Dex beckoned to the agent.

Doyle approached suspiciously.

Dex reached out and clipped a badge to the lapel of his jacket. Doyle squinted at it.

"Visitor -- backstage pass -- access all areas."

He looked up to meet a cheeky grin, and blue eyes that were twinkling with mischief. With a jolt he belatedly made the connection.

"Bloody Bodie!" he cursed. "I'll bloody kill him!"

Dex began to laugh.

"Come and meet Micky," he invited. "I think you and he've got something in common."

Dex led the way through the passage past the dressing-rooms. The music was getting progressively louder, and ahead the two roadies had paused to speak with other members of the crew about Mick Martyn's partner.

As they reached the rear of the stage, Doyle became aware that a crowd of people had gathered to listen to the players. Dex barged through cheerfully, taking Doyle with him to where he could watch the two men battling for musical supremacy.

There was Mick Martyn, Herald's singer, with a guitar in hand and an expression of unholy glee on his handsome face, as he traded phrases with his adversary. He caught sight of the new arrivals and winked at his brother, clearly enjoying himself immensely.

The other man had his back to them, but Doyle admitted he had already subconsciously guessed the identity of the second musician. All the same, it was still a culture shock to see Bodie hammering out the gutsy riffs that had drawn the impromptu audience to the stage and wings. Doyle was torn between admiration for his lover's dexterity, and annoyance that he hadn't seen fit to display it before...

Mick and Bodie stormed to a finish, amid a barrage of wolf-whistles, raucous cheers and applause. Even Dex joined in.

Doyle did not. He glared at his partner's back, willing him to turn around and face him.

Mick swung his instrument high, and ducked out of the strap, raising it like a weapon in salute of a worthy opponent. The rest of the road-crew surged forward and with much laughter and back-slapping complimented the new technician on his performance.

Bodie unfastened his guitar strap and smiled, basking briefly in the well-deserved adulation. He was reaching to take the other Fender when he noticed his partner. Bodie's face flushed and he swallowed: he had no idea how long Doyle had been standing there -- and he knew that he was guilty of showing off. He couldn't read the other man's expression, but he could feel the disapproval radiating from his colleague. Mentally girding his loins, Bodie pushed through the melee, enduring the patting and slapping stoically. He reached the corridor and headed down towards the dressing-rooms. He knew that Doyle would follow...

Bodie laid the guitars to rest in their respective cases and waited. Doyle shut the door softly behind him as he entered.

Bodie held his breath. Doyle regarded him steadily. The silence stretched.

Bodie cleared his throat and Doyle took a measured, menacing step towards him.


"You," Doyle stated slowly as he advanced, "you are a bastard."

"Ray, I'm --"

Doyle glared at him and grabbed him by the shoulders.

"You are a sneaking, scheming, conniving --" he spun Bodie round and shoved him against the door, "bastard!" He homed in on Bodie's mouth."And I love you!"

Bodie found himself crushed between his partner and the door-handle which jabbed him in the back. He squirmed away, which brought his groin into intimate contact with Doyle's.

Doyle responded by rubbing himself sensuously against his lover as they kissed again.

"You had those tickets all along, didn't you?"

Bodie nodded with difficulty.

"Dex usually... sends me a couple -- promoter's tickets, y'know... I wanted to surprise you..."

Doyle released him at last.

"Consider me well and truly surprised." He couldn't suppress the grin any longer. "Why didn't you tell me you knew Mick Martyn?"

"Name-dropping's never been my thing..."

The door-handle rattled and there was a solid thump on the woodwork.

"Oi, Butch, you in there? Bry wants you to help with the lighting rig again!"

"I'll be right out!" Bodie promised.

Doyle's smile had become a full-blown smirk.


"Shut up, Doyle!"

Naturally enough, Doyle did no such thing.

Doyle stayed with Dex all afternoon, ostensibly as a friend being shown life backstage at first hand. It gave him an excellent opportunity to observe the members of the road-crew, and the in-house staff. Dex took a break at two-thirty, and they retired to the dressing-rooms. The letter was waiting for them.

The stage-manager blanched and reached for it with a trembling hand, but Doyle beat him to it, picking it up by the very edge with his finger-nails. He regarded the other man gravely as he placed it in his wallet.

"Tell Bodie. I'll get this back to you as soon as I can."

"But -- my kids --" Dex said hoarsely.

"They'll be alright for the moment. They have to be safe for now, so there's something to trade," he explained. "Their welfare for your co-operation. We'll get them back." He left the other man slumped in the chair before the dressing-table, and stepped into the corridor.

Bodie was coming from the stage, speaking with a tall, dark, casually-dressed man. As they drew nearer, Doyle recognised the stranger. Daventry seemed to be trying to convince Bodie of something, but his partner looked wary.

Doyle put his head round the dressing-room door.

"Dex," he hissed, "Daventry's here!"

Dex made a visible effort to pull himself together.

Bodie looked up and caught the flicker in his lover's eyes. Contact -- the message passed between them, and he nodded imperceptibly. Daventry noticed Doyle for the first time.

"I don't believe we've met." He extended his hand in greeting and Bodie made the formal introductions, adding, somewhat tongue-in-cheek, that Doyle was a fan. The implication that there was more between them than mere friendship was heavy in the air: Doyle felt Daventry recoil, though the smile remained intact. The producer sidled into the dressing-room, leaving the agents alone in the corridor.

"Can you fetch me a change of clothes?" asked Bodie, tuning in on the conversation between the others.

Doyle nodded.

"Be about an hour --"

Bodie passed over the car-keys, and their hands touched for an instant too long. Doyle's sidelong glance at Daventry told him that it had registered with the older man, despite his seeming preoccupation with Dex.

They moved off down the passage to a spot where they wouldn't offend Daventry's sensibilities and Bodie pulled him close.

"Should have some more information for you on Daventry's connections when you get back," he breathed. "And run this list through the computers." He produced a page from his jeans' pocket. "See what you come up with. It's the members of the road-crew and the support staff on this tour. May find a link there..."

Doyle slid his arms round his partner's waist.

"What did Daventry want with you?"

Bodie averted his eyes.

"He asked me about making some demos -- demonstration discs -- for him. Seems the lads can't stop talking about this morning's jam. He says he's eager to sign new talent."

For a minute, Doyle's heart stilled.

"Don't worry, love," Bodie smiled suddenly. "My days as a professional musician are long gone. I like the job I have now." He kissed the furrowed brow softly."Butch!"Daventry was standing in the doorway of the dres sing room. The C.I.5 men looked up and Doyle stifled his snort. A squeeze from his other half warned of dire consequences if he said anything. Doyle freed him, and stepped away quickly.

"I'll see you later, sunshine," he smirked.

Bodie glowered at his other half before turning back towards the dressing-room. The producer was watching, his distaste not quite veiled by the professional facade. Bodie brazened it out.

"Mr. Daventry?"

"Dex told me that you won't be flying out to Germany with the band on Sunday."

"No, sir. I'm only filling in until he can find someone to do the European leg of the tour."

"We could make it worth your while, yours and your -- er --"

"Boyfriend," supplied Bodie. "I don't think Ray'd like that idea somehow, but I'll think about it."

"Don't take too long," warned Daventry. "You only have tonight and tomorrow..."

With a meaningful look at Dex, Bodie nodded.

"I'll know for certain before then."

The show over, Mick confided that London audiences were second best in the world: only Liverpool could have rivalled Hammersmith that night.

Bodie had been poised in the wings with the spare instruments, waiting for any disasters such as broken strings or detuning guitars, but he was not needed. Consequently, he spent his time reviewing what he knew of the stage-hands' individual histories. Several had been arrested and charged with possession of cocaine, and there was the usual string of motoring offences - mainly speeding. Kidnapping, however, wasn't their style: Dex was too well liked by everyone... But, Bodie argued, it had to be someone at the theatre who had planted that letter in the dressing-room, because the security at the venue was almost as tight as that at C.I.5. Nobody got in without a pass and a very good reason.

The crowd shuffled out of the auditorium, and Bodie set about disconnecting the leads and mikes, checking that the amplifiers had been turned off, tidying the stage sketchily: the guitars would be kept in the dressing-rooms overnight, leaving the drums and keyboards to stand as silent reminders of the three hours of rock that had gone before.

Bodie stifled a yawn and grinned, recognising that he was coming down from the natural high the music engendered. For a moment, he was tempted to consider Daventry's offer of joining the band in Germany, but Cowley was expecting him back, and he was reasonably certain that Ray wouldn't...

Bodie frowned: where was Doyle? It would have taken a couple of hours to get the list to HQ, for one of the operators to run the names through the system. Cowley had said that morning that he would like to be kept informed of any developments...

A hand dropped on his shoulder and Bodie spun round, ready to defend himself. Dex stepped back smartly.

"And I thought I had a problem with my nerves." He swallowed. "Have you seen Ray?"

Bodie shook his head.

"He took that letter -- I don't even know what they want me to do, Billy."

"Sit tight, old son. Look," Bodie took Dex by the elbow and steered him towards the dressing-rooms, "I'll see if he's left a message for me. He may've been hung up at the office -- it happens sometimes. Go home, Dex and I'll call you in the morning."

They ambled through the corridor, nodded briefly at the security guard just inside the stage door, and then they were outside in the sudden chill. Dex huddled inside his jacket and walked slowly across the yard. He looked very small and alone in the harsh glare of the sodium lighting.

Poor bastard, thought Bodie: those kids...

He followed Dex to the vehicles, and got into his Capri. He trailed his friend out of the car park, pausing at the entrance before turning towards Chelsea. A cursory glance in the mirror showed Dex heading in the opposite direction -- probably going to stay with Mariane, he guessed. Another look told Bodie that he was being followed. He reached casually for the radio.

"4.5 -- go ahead."

"I've picked up a tail. Our friends in the red Escort."

"How many?"

Bodie grinned.

"One each."

He could picture the expression on his partner's face, as Doyle said, "I'll see you in ten minutes..."

Bodie led his tail towards the complex of abandoned warehouses, careful not to lose them in the thinning traffic. Doyle would have no trouble keeping to his ETA...

Bodie swung into the yard and drove slowly over the concourse. The Escort hung back, seemingly reluctant to pursue any further. A veil of drizzle misted the windshield. Bodie pushed the accelerator down and the Capri bolted into the shelter of the building.

The other car came to a squealing stop outside and the occupants got out cautiously. They eyed one another and moved forward out of the rain into the darkness. They halted just inside the door. The silver car had been left, sidelights on. Their quarry had disappeared. The driver of the Escort took one tentative step.

They didn't see who hit them: one fell to a vicious karate chop from Bodie, the other met Doyle's fist, and collapsed at his mate's side.

The agents frisked them thoroughly, and discovered only a wallet and a small packet of white powder. The driver moaned softly as he returned to consciousness. Bodie hauled him to his feet.

"Alright, sunshine, who sent you to follow me?"

"Piss off, poofter!" slurred the man.

Bodie shook him hard.

"If you won't talk here, we'll just have to take you home and loosen your tongue there..."

The driver rallied enough to attempt a roundhouse, which Bodie blocked with ease, and punished with a painful wristlock.

"Naughty," Bodie admonished. He shoved his captive into the back seat of the Capri.

Doyle's victim was showing signs of consciousness too, so he was forced to join his partner.

"Where're you taking us?" demanded the driver.

"Somewhere nice and private," Bodie smiled coldly with menace. "So that we can talk about why you were watching Dex's flat, and why you were following me."

"You won't get anything from us!"

The agents looked at one another and grinned. Doyle sighed.

"That's what they all say, but everyone talks -- in the end."

It was close to three o'clock when they tumbled into bed. Too exhausted to do anything, Bodie slid his arms round his partner and cuddled up. Doyle, however, was running on some internal reserve. He squirmed free, propped himself on one elbow and gazed down at his lover.

"What'll you tell Dex?"

Bodie pried open one sleepy eye.

"Nothing -- until we know for certain where the kids are." He rolled over and raised his head. "Get some sleep, Ray. We've got a dozen premises to search tomorrow, and a crooked record producer to pull for questioning -- and I've got a show tomorrow night."

He held out an arm, but didn't object when Doyle settled back, and tugged him into an embrace. He kissed one nipple, and felt an answering brush of lips on his hair.

" 'M sorry about this, Ray," he mumbled. " 'S ruined your holiday."

Doyle nuzzled him again.

"Busman's holiday -- at least I got to meet Mick Martyn."

"I'll make it up to you, I swear..." Bodie was dozing off.

Doyle hugged him tighter.

"Doesn't matter, lover -- there'll be other times..."

Fuming, Doyle checked his watch: five thirty, Saturday afternoon. They had been on the go since seven that morning -- systematically searching all Daventry's properties in the hope of finding some clue to where the children were being held. There was nothing -- and the producer himself had gone to ground.

"The only thing we can do," Doyle growled, "is to tell Dex to pick up the stuff and take it. The kidnappers won't hurt the kids until he makes the delivery..." It might buy them some time...

"Damn this traffic!" Beside him, behind the wheel of the Capri, Bodie cursed. "I've got to get to the theatre. Dex is probably going out of his mind!"

Doyle put a comforting hand on his lover's arm.

"We'll get them. Cowley promised us another team to help. They can finish searching the houses -- we can stay with Dex."

Bodie grunted noncommittally, saw a gap in the queue and stamped on the accelerator. The car leapt into the space and Doyle glanced at his watch again. At this rate it would take them all evening to get to Hammersmith...

One of the riggers met them at the stage-door, a look of relief on his thin face.

"Dex's missus has turned up," he informed them. "She's doing her nut. They've got her in one of the dressing rooms -- Dex wants to see you right away."

The stage manager was pacing the corridor when they got inside. He glanced up and almost sprinted towards them.

"Where've you been? What's happened?" he yelped. "Mariane's in there," he jerked his thumb at the closed door behind him. "She's hysterical!"

Bodie grabbed Dex and shook him hard.

"We've been out searching for the kids."

"Have you seen Daventry anywhere?" asked Doyle.

"He's at home," replied Dex, bewildered.

"No he's not," Bodie contradicted. "We've just come from his flat."

"Not Soho." Dex struggled free of the agonising hold. "His new place -- at Richmond."

The C.I.5 men looked at one another.

"Address," Doyle demanded tersely.

Dex told them.

"But Paul can't be --"

Bodie gave him a gentle shove and tugged Doyle behind him.

"Come on, sunshine!"

Bodie slid along the wall, ducking beneath the window as he heard voices inside. Two men -- neither was Daventry. On the other side, he knew his partner would be ready and waiting to break through the front while he secured the rear of the house. He glanced at his watch: in position, twenty seconds... twelve... ten...

The wood split under the influence of the striking agent, startling the two men. Bodie landed, rolled, was up on one knee, gun levelled at them, as they started to repack the briefcase on the table before them. He could hear Doyle begin the sweep of the ground floor...

Seconds later, Doyle appeared in the doorway, handcuffs at the ready.

The older of the men had recovered sufficiently from his shock, and began bellowing with outrage.

"What the hell's going on?" he demanded. "Who the hell are you? What d'you want?"

"Give 'em the stuff!" hissed his companion. "Let them take it!"

Doyle glanced at the contents of the case. His lip curled in disgust as he snapped the metal bracelet round one up-raised wrist. He nodded at his partner and ducked back into the hall, making for the foot of the stairs...

The first two rooms were guest rooms, large and unfurnished. Doyle turned aside, and reached for the third door. The bathroom -- nothing untoward here... He raised his gun as he approached the final room, hand poised over the knob, instincts on red alert...

The door swung open easily, revealing a bundle of bedding in the corner that whimpered as he stepped into the room proper. Doyle half-turned to call his partner.

A large, very solid something crashed down, catching him across the back of the head and shoulder. He pitched forward, landing on his knees, and the gun hit the bare boards in front of him. Through the pain, he thought he could hear his partner's voice, then he followed his weapon down to impact solidly with the floor. He felt indignant that Bodie should have forgotten his name...


The boy jumped at the sound of the voice, and stared at the man who appeared in the doorway. The chair dropped with a resounding clatter.

"Uncle Billy!"

Bodie was aghast at the scene before him: Doyle lay face-down on the floor, and the child was looking from the broken furniture to his victim.

"I thought it was one of them!"

"Are you okay?" snapped Bodie. "Where's your sister?"

Paul pointed to the heap in the corner. A pair of terrified blue eyes was peeking out from beneath the covers.

Bodie dropped to his knees beside his inert partner and began to examine Doyle's skull. The bump was already forming and the other man winced as gentle fingers probed his injury.

"Sod off!" he grumbled. " 'M not dead yet!"

"Is he alright, Uncle Billy?" Paul crouched down on the opposite side.

"He'll live," Bodie assured the boy. "Help him up. I'll get Summer and we'll go."

Bodie stood and approached the mound of bedding in the corner. Paul got a hand under Doyle's arm, as the agent struggled to all fours.Doyle raised a palli d face, and managed a sick sort of smile for the wide-eyed youngster.

"Say one thing for you, son, you can bloody well hit hard!"

Paul bit his lip, nervous, and helped Doyle to his feet. He bent to retrieve the fallen gun, handing it over solemnly.

Bodie had the little girl safely in his arms.

"Ray-mate, you okay?"

Doyle snorted, and leaned heavily on Paul's bony shoulder.

"Oh, yeah, never better..."

"I'll drop you at the hospital with the kids, then I'll go and let Dex know."

"I'm coming with you," Doyle decided.

"And me," said Paul.

"Me, too, Uncle Billy," echoed Summer.

"We haven't got time to argue," Doyle pointed out, as he saw Bodie open his mouth to speak. "Come on."

He gave the boy a weakish grin and shoved him towards the door. Bodie sighed and set the other child down. He unwound his partner's arm from Paul's shoulder, and draped it over his, tucking his own arm round Doyle's waist. The curly head lolled against his.

"I'm okay -- just a bit dizzy and sore," whispered Doyle.

Bodie called the children to heel, and together they struggled down the stairs, alert for any other potential threats. The two dealers were still immobilised, chained together in the living-room, conversing in angry undertones.

Doyle eased himself free of his colleague's embrace.

"We can't take them all back with us," he observed.

"Radio in," said Bodie.

"Er -- hand-set's in the car..."

Bodie raised his eyes to the ceiling.

"The phone's connected, Uncle Billy," Paul told him helpfully. "I heard them using it this morning."

Bodie glanced at his partner.

"Keep an eye on this lot. You can manage that, I suppose?"

"Oh yeah," Doyle replied shortly, "Uncle Billy." The glare he received threatened dire reprisals for his affrontary.

Bodie vanished into the hallway to make the call to Headquarters, and Doyle settled by the doorway to watch the prisoners.

Two minutes later Bodie reappeared with the news that their back-up was on its way.

"I'll have to leave you here with the goons while I take the kids to the theatre."

Doyle sighed and closed his eyes for a moment. His head was aching more than he was willing to admit, and he was aware that he was suffering from concussion. Bodie's voice was soft beside his ear.

"Ray -- I'm sorry --"

Doyle produced a fairly credible smile.

"Dex is waiting -- and the show must go on..."

A gentle squeeze for his shoulder in lieu of a kiss, and Bodie was gone, shepherding the children before him. Doyle slid down the wall, gun trained on his two charges, as he settled to wait.

All hell was breaking loose at the theatre when Bodie arrived. The management had put a new man on the door who steadfastly refused to let him in, and Bodie spent ten minutes arguing with him, trying to gain access. In the end, he yelled down the corridor for one of the road-crew.

Bry the rigger came to his rescue.

"The stage-manager'll vouch for Butch," he grinned. "Mick won't go on stage until he's tuned up."

Somewhat red-faced, the security man let Bodie and the children pass.

The dressing-room was seething with people. Musicians, technical staff -- Mariane crying not-so-quietly in the corner -- and Dex, who looked as pale as a wraith. In the middle of it all, Mick Martyn was fuming, still only half dressed, and bawling at his luckless companions.

Dex raised his head and spotted Bodie.

"Billy's here!" he shouted above the noise.

Mick spun round and began a verbal assault on the C.I.5 man.

"We've got a show to do -- you should have been here hours ago!"

Paul took his sister's hand and they pushed their way through to their father. The ashen face lit up and Dex threw his arms round them, hugging them close. Bodie heard him shout to Mariane as he turned away.

"You've still got a job to do --" Mick reminded him tartly.

Tuning up, checking out, turning on...

Bodie stepped into the comparative peace of the next room, and picked up the first guitar...

"Well, er --"

Doyle flashed his I.D. card under the doorman's nose and shoved past. He was in no mood to be diplomatic: Cowley had sent Murphy and MacDonald to collect the prisoners, and then ordered him to fetch his partner. The fact that Bodie had taken the silver Capri, and that his own vehicle was still at the warehouse after the previous night's activities had obviously escaped the controller's notice.

Doyle was left with the options of either scavenging a lift from a fellow agent and trusting his colleague's ability to get through the rush-hour traffic, or using public transport. He chose the latter, and spent the entire journey from Whitehall to the theatre forcing himself to stay conscious and not to throw up. His head was hurting badly and his temper was consequently short.

He plunged down the passageway and collided with the shadowy figure that emerged from the dressing-room.

"Dex! Have you seen Bodie anywhere?"

"He's on-stage. The curtain's about to go up. Come on, I'll take you."

The little man seemed preoccupied, but Doyle had too many problems of his own at the moment. He followed the stage-manager to the wings where Bodie was sitting behind a screened-off area.

The lights were up behind the safety curtain, and all the musicians were ready as Doyle slipped in quietly beside his partner.

"Cowley wants you back at H.Q." he informed Bodie softly.

Bodie looked blankly at him, torn between the lure of the music and his loyalty to his employer.

"It's about the two we picked up at Daventry's house. He wants you in on the interrogation..."

"I -- can't, Ray. The show --"

The velvet curtain rose and the rest of his comment was lost in the crashing chords of the first number, and the screaming of the audience. Bodie pulled Doyle in closer, and set his mouth by his partner's ear.

"Micky needs me here -- and Daventry may still show up. I'm going to nail that bastard." He frowned. "Are you okay?"

Doyle put a hand on his lover's arm.

"My head's killing me --"

Bodie made him sit, and handed him the water bottle that he had nearby. Doyle leaned against the back of the chair, closing his eyes for a minute to ease the throbbing in his skull...

He nearly missed the first notes of the song, they were so quiet after the raw power of the preceding numbers. Bodie had been stroking him softly; delicate fingers moving in time to the music had lulled him into a doze. He felt the slight hesitation, and reluctantly, he opened his eyes. The headache was at a manageable level now, and he began to take an interest in his surroundings. He smiled at his lover, catching hold of Bodie's hand, and twining their fingers.

In the wings opposite, he could see Mariane and the kids, intent on the show, equally lost in the song with its haunting theme of an undying love.

Bodie's fingers closed even tighter round his, and Doyle closed his eyes once more to drift away on the melody...

The chanting woke him.

Bodie was no longer at his side, but bending over the guitar which was balanced on his knee as he retuned it.

In the auditorium, the crowd was demanding an encore. Doyle glanced round. He saw Dex and Mick Martyn, the golden heads together as they tried to converse. The singer was nodding, and turned towards Bodie, who handed the instrument across. Mick winked at his old friend before gathering himself and leaping back into the spotlight. The cheer that greeted him was deafening.

Doyle struggled to his feet, and was seized firmly round the waist as his legs wobbled.

Mick was winding the audience up, egging them on, teasing...

Doyle watched, caught up in the energy, the intensity of the performance, his injuries temporarily forgotten. The music was raw, powerful, touching him subconsciously...

He sagged against his partner, enjoying himself as Herald ran through some older standard rock numbers. The audience was on its feet and dancing, despite the best efforts of the security staff to quell them.

As the song came to an end, Mick stepped to centre-stage, and the lights dimmed round him, leaving the singer in the solitary spotlight.

"You've heard our music, and watched our show -- and hopefully, you've bought our records. But there's something else we'd like you to do now. There's a special group of people, without whose help we wouldn't be up here now. Let's hear it for the men behind the scenes -- they've worked their arses off this tour. Bry on the lights, Paul and Stu on the console, and Gary, Pete and Billy, the technicians. And, of course, the stage manager, Dex..." He swept his arms upward and the place erupted with cheers and more applause as the lights turned briefly onto the road-crew. Mick watched for a couple of seconds, before glancing at the wings, where Dex was standing apart from the C.I.5 men.

Doyle saw the look that passed between the brothers, and was instantly suspicious. Mick Martyn touched the strings of his guitar and began to pick out an old Beatles' tune.

"What would you do if I sang out of tune, would you stand up and walk out on me?"

Bodie's arm tightened around him, and Doyle felt the delicate warmth of his lover's breath by his ear.

"This one's for us, love."

Doyle squeezed back gently in response.

"I get by with a little help from my friends..."

Doyle opened his eyes reluctantly and looked across at the digital display by the bed. Too bloody early to get up yet, he decided. He closed his eyes again and snuggled against Bodie. They had the whole day to themselves.

The intercom was buzzing insistently. With a groan, Doyle woke fully and struggled from beneath the covers. He donned Bodie's robe as he stomped through the lounge to answer the door.

It was Dex.

Frowning, Doyle pushed the release, and went to make some coffee.

Doyle eyed the other man warily as he entered.

"I thought you were flying to Germany," he remarked as he herded the stage-manager into the living-room.

"I cancelled my flight -- I'll go tomorrow instead. Can I talk to Billy?"

"No." Doyle had no compunction about turning Bodie's mate away after what had happened at the theatre the previous night...

The set had been cleared by the crew, and Mick took both the agents down to the last-night party that was being laid on in the dressing-rooms. Bodie had grabbed a quick drink before going off in search of Dex. Wanting to be away as soon as possible, Doyle had followed discreetly.

Dex was standing in the centre of the stage, staring out at the auditorium. He turned at the sound of the footfall behind him.

"Paul said that you and Ray had guns."

Bodie stopped.


"Don't you realise how dangerous that could've been? One of the kids might've been hurt --" Dex rounded on him. "What kind of civil servant are you? You play with innocent lives..."

And Bodie had stood there, taken every bit of abuse Dex could lay his tongue to.

"I never want to see you again, Billy! Not ever!"

"Fine! I'll get Ray and we'll go." Bodie had been tight-lipped, angry and deeply hurt. He spun on his heel and vanished into the shadows towards the dressing-rooms.

Incensed, Doyle stepped forward and put in his tuppenceworth.

"It's men like us who keep the streets safe for people like you. Just remember what would've happened to your family if we hadn't been there..."

"I came to apologise." Dex sat on the sofa, fidgeting. "What I said last night -- I was being unfair. If -- you and Billy hadn't gone after the kids, I would've had to do as they said, and taken their package -- they'd've killed Paul and Summer, wouldn't they?"

"Yes." Doyle handed a steaming mug to his visitor. "They can identify the kidnappers..."

Dex toyed with his drink, turning the cup between his palms.

"Paul Daventry was a good friend -- a bloody good friend. He wasn't like the others; he was always straight with us, always there to talk to, and advise us in the early days. He used to be a professional musician himself, you know -- trad. jazz and skiffle." Dex laughed sadly. "He was my hero, the reason Mick and I started playing... He could see where the industry was going, and when the Beatles came to the Cavern -- he began to do a bit of managing, a bit of producing -- even some writing. He got us our contract with our first manager. He had everything going for him... Why would he do this to me..."

Doyle sighed heavily.

"I don't have any answers for you. When we catch up with him, I'll ask..."

"Billy said that you were on holiday -- I'd like to make it up to you both. Come to Germany with us. I'll pay for your flight and accommodation -- you'll have the best of everything."

Doyle shook his head.

"That's very generous, but we can't. Bodie and I have to report back to work tomorrow."

"Can't you put in for extra leave -- go sick?"

"Our department doesn't work that way," Doyle explained. "We're only allowed time off at our boss' say-so. Right now, because we're still trying to find Daventry, we've been called back early."

"How's your head? Paul said that he hit you with a chair..."

"Bit sore; nothing serious, I'll live," he assured the other man.

Dex nodded and took a sip of coffee.

The phone rang, and Doyle reached for the receiver.

"4.5" Cowley's voice sounded loud and clear. "Report to the office in ten minutes with 3.7."

"Yes, sir." Doyle hung up and shrugged at Dex.

"Our Master's Voice -- duty calls," he apologised. "I'll tell Bodie you called round."

Dex set down his unfinished drink and got to his feet.

"I'm on the late flight out." He extended his hand. "Ask Billy to phone me."

Doyle shook it.

"I'll ask, but there are no guarantees."

Dex inclined his head.

"It's no more than I deserve." Doyle ushered him to the door. "I hope you catch up with Daventry soon."

"We will," Doyle promised. "Like the Mounties, we usually get our man."


"Did you see the expression on Daventry's face when I walked through the door?" Bodie laughed as he stopped the car at the lights.

"Yeah, I thought he was going to have heart-failure!" his partner grinned.

Bodie shifted the Capri into first gear, ready for the change.

"Go right," Doyle instructed.

"Huh?" But Bodie tipped the indicator anyway.

"I sort of promised Dex we'd drop round and see him."

The smirk on Bodie's face disappeared to be replaced by an impassive mask. He cancelled the blinker.

Doyle put a hand on his thigh, stroking gently.

"He said he was sorry, Bodie. He came round yesterday to apologise. He even --" Doyle watched the handsome profile intently, "-- invited us out to Germany, all expenses paid. Come on, mate, you know he was strung up. Shock affects some people that way -- and then finding out that we were armed..."

The green light lit the interior of the car as they passed it. The Capri slowed, poised mid-junction. For a moment, Doyle thought that Bodie would drive straight on, but then he turned the wheel and they pirouetted neatly, heading for St. John's Wood. Doyle gave his lover's leg a companionable squeeze, and he relaxed.

Dex was on the point of leaving as they drew up. Outside, the cab was waiting to take him to the airport.

"Billy --"

"Ray told me what you said yesterday," Bodie began awkwardly. "I -- accept -- your apology."

Dex extended a tentative hand.

Bodie frowned at it before taking it, and hauling the little man into a bear-hug. Dex slapped him on the back, positively beaming.

"Billy-mate --"

"D'you still need a technician for tomorrow night?" asked Bodie flippantly.

Dex struggled free of the punishing hold.

"You'd come over?"

"If I can bring Ray," Bodie bargained, sliding his arm round Doyle's shoulders.

Dex regarded them both steadily.

"But -- Ray said that you couldn't just take off like that."

Doyle smiled.

"Our boss reckoned that we'd done such a decent job stopping the traffickers, and finding your children while we were on holiday, that he's let us have next week off in lieu."

"And Daventry?"

"Under lock and key," Doyle informed him. "He's going to be having a long chat with our Old Man."

The doorbell rang and Dex glanced at his watch.

"Christ -- I've got to fly!" He met his old friend's steady blue gaze. "If you hurry, you could probably make the check-in..."

Bodie gave his mate a shove towards the door.

"Don't worry about us, just get yourself sorted out. They can't start the show without you!"

Dex grabbed his holdall and scurried down the corridor, leaving the agents standing in his doorway.

Doyle took his partner gently by the elbow.

"Come on, Butch. We've got some packing to do!"

-- THE END --

'Next time you hear a song that fits your dreams,
Spare a thought for the man behind the scenes.
When music takes him over, it steals all his time,
He's obsessed with every melody, tries to bend the words to rhyme.
It's like a jealous lover, it never lets him out of sight.
Even when he's sick of it all, still he has to write.
And it makes him a lot of enemies, can break up his family.
Next time you hear a song that fits your dreams,
Spare a thought
Spare a thought for the man behind the scenes.'

-Paul Rafferty

Circuit Archive Logo Archive Home