A Double Portion of Spirit


"Can Raymond come out and play?"

"You mean 'may'."

"Who's May?"

"May Pole."

"Eastern European bird?"

"Yeah. Tall, slender."

"Into getting tied. Likes to watch the dancing? I know the type."

"Crikey. Enough's too much already, you two." Murphy rolled his eyes, cut in front of Bodie contemplating his partner, and barged past Doyle to enter the house. "What's your tale then? Last heard, our Mr Doyle was laid full out, pale and wistful 'pon his rescue trolley."

"Off the SI roll now, 'course."

"That didn't last over long. You get special dispensation from horse-spit-all or what?"

"More likely a hard blow upon his spanker canvas for annoyance' sake." Bodie continued to eye Doyle in an analytic light.

"Does tend toward the irritantish, doesn't he?"

"Harrumph. Speaking of which same," Doyle planted his fists upon his hips and glared from one to the other of his visitors. "To what do We owe the honour?"

"Well, dearie. You may be off SI, and you say so. But nowhere do you appear on the active roll. Not 'to home' for visitors at your flat. Couldn't even locate you at first. Only finally to discover you here, solo. Call us puzzled, can't you?"

"Mr and Mrs J. Saw Puzzled. Staying to tea?" In spite of himself, Doyle looked quite eagerly hopeful.

"Only if you twist our arms."

"Consider yourselves twisted."

"Oh, we do that, yes."

"Jay-sue-us, Raymond! Done a spot of baking?" Murphy guffawed as he witnessed the spread of edible goods upon the kitchen table.

"Was bored."

"Can well imagine." Bodie could not stem the tide of his drool when the spice laden aroma hit him. He licked his lips.

"Well, well, seat yourselves, gen'men. No standing upon ceremony here. Your timing's perfect. Pot's already steeped and stayed." With a slightly tremulous hand, Doyle set the tea things upon the table, then sank into one of the odd, mismatched chairs.

"Best Wedgwood," Murphy fluted, turning a saucer over in a show of admiration. "Aren't we grand?" It did lend the occasion an air of civilization, although the porcelain pieces, like the chairs, were from diverse sets.

"Still warm," Bodie sounded more sincere in his appreciation, sinking his teeth into a fresh currant scone. As an afterthought, he added butter.

Murphy supped his tea a moment. "Now then, young Raymond. Explanations are in order."

"Hmm?" Doyle offered innocently. The steam rising from his cup glistened, condensing upon his curls.

"Still convalescing, aren't you?"

"In Ickenham, no less. Not precisely the crime capital of the western world," Bodie growled, then nodded at the plain black book. "Obs log and biro, nestled amongst the nutmeg custards. On a table next to a picture window overlooking a dense garden shrubbery. With nothing more menacing outside than a rusty antique bomb shelter. Yer can't even see the neighbor's trellis from here."

"What the freak are you observing? Come now, son, you can tell Uncle Murph." This, accompanied by a most astonishing battement of seductive eyelashes.

"S'not exactly covert," Doyle vouchsafed reluctantly.

"Well, then," Bodie urged.

"Observing the house, an't I?"


"And why for that?"

"Reckon Cowley thought it'd be useful."

"Come along. Spill it all."

"Useful how? Whose house are you observing?"

"Erm, Cowley's I imagine. Or CI5's if you will."

"This? Not a safehouse, is it?"

"Ahem. Guess that's the problem.

"Er, what which?"

"S'not. Safe."

Bodie enunciated, slowly and distinctly. "Raymond Doyle. In what manner is the manor unsafe?"

Ray blushed and stammered. "S'got ghosts."

Murphy sputtered abruptly, spraying tea with scalded milk upon his trouser leg, congratulating himself for just missing Doyle's plimsoles in the process. "The old man believes that, does he?"

"Must do. Has me marking 'em into his book, hasn't he?"

"La. Can't imagine the Minister'd approve," Bodie stifled a chuckle. "'Regard not them that have familiar spirits.' Leviticus," he added sanctimoniously.

Murphy countered with scarcely a pause. "'I pray thee, let a double portion of thy spirit be upon me.' Kings, methinks."

"Gods," Ray huffed a sigh. "No place for a proper pagan to take cover."

"See there," Bodie nodded wisely and pointed. "S' exactly why the old man chose him for this op. Green eyed follower of Holda's Wylde Hunt, that one is."

"More likelier, 'twas cuz I was sitting about on me bum, doing jack-doll for ought," Doyle retorted. "And the Cow thought I should resume earning me keep."

"Naw. Got the gift for hants. Sees ghosties, I'll wager." Winking at Bodie, Murphy snapped up the obs log before Doyle could grab it. "Oh my, my. And I quote therefrom. '29 October. 06:33. Pantry. Sounds of crockery clanking. 10:47. Nursery. Voice of young child, humming a tune. 13:53. Vibrations felt along the floorboards, sensation of someone raking leaves outside cellar entry. 17:02. Dining room, aroma of chrysanthemums. Observed chandelier crystals trembling.' Very domesticated, your specters."

"Yes," Doyle agreed. "All through with the pillaging?" He nodded benignly toward the remains of their repast.

"Wouldn't mind sampling the custard," Bodie suggested.

Ray handed him a spoon, before starting the sink full of suds. "Strictly societal, this visit?"

"Thought you might be pining for us," Murphy explained.

Whimsically pursing his lips, Doyle commenced the washing up.

"Need to welcome one wandered woolly, returned unto the fold." Bodie's eyebrows rose, rendering a most rapscallion appearance.

Wearing an utterly disreputable leer, Murphy declared, "traditional. Greeting one of our own, upon resumption of duty."

"What, the both of you, simultaneous like?"

"Well, the old man did team us in your absence. No arguing with command, eh?"

"And me still an invalid?"

"Show us the damage, do."

Doyle turned toward them, ducking his head to accommodate the viewing process.

Bodie ran both hands into the curls, parting them to search, displaying to Murphy's morbid curiosity the nasty red scar that delineated newly removed sutures. Then he whistled through his teeth. "Scalped yourself, very nearly."

"People who assault glass houses shouldn't use their heads instead of stones," Murphy instructed.

"Broke the window on me way out, not in."

"Thrown right through the architecture, landed upon his flying buttress," Bodie agreed.

"Fortunate it didn't spoil his beauty then."

"Mm hmm."

Ray felt himself pinioned between two whole-body stares.

Long legs spread, Murphy lolled back in his chair. "Well, lads, its that time of the day."

"'When twilight dews are falling soft upon the rosy sea, love, I watch the star whose beam so oft has lighted me to thee, love.'" Bodie luxuriated in the poetry a moment, bobbing upon an azure ocean of his imagination's invocation.

Murphy's chuckle jarred him back to solid land. "Has it got a bed, Father Cowley's haunted house?"

"Beds, but no bedding," Doyle declared, still cautiously eying the two.

"Could start with the shilling tour. Chill us to the bone with ghoulish asides."

"If we must."

"Oh, yes," Bodie grabbed Ray's right elbow.

"Indeed," as Murphy seized upon the left one.

They walked methodically over the premises, Doyle pointing out whatever features he thought might be of interest.

It was a large house, typical of the West London outskirts of prior decades. Pre electrical in its build, modernizations showed the seams of additions gradually made, like wrinkles developed on an aged face. Its remaining furniture, too, demonstrated the coming and going of styles, referring to the long progression of comfortable life here, utterly unapologetic of its whims.

The chandelier in the dining room, an elegant, flapper era fixture, Bodie found especially evocative. He could picture it illuminating the men in their dinner jackets, the ladies in low waisted, beaded gowns with hemlines risen scandalously high to reveal sleek silk stockings. There came across the room a whiff of cigar smoke and brandy.

Bodie really could smell smoke. "What's burning?" he demanded, suddenly alarmed.

"You smell it, too, huh?" Doyle smiled gently, checking the time, then writing a line into the little black book.

"Course we do. Where's it coming from?" Murphy demanded.

"You tell me. I know what I think. Former inhabitants, allowing their presence to be sensed."

Bodie and Murphy exchanged silent glances.

Doyle merely shrugged his shoulders before escorting them up the stairs.

They viewed the empty bedrooms, coming last upon the one Ray had been occupying. There was a transistor radio, a stack of books, a shaving kit upon the night stand. A sleeping bag was spread upon the bare mattress of the brass bedstead. Some outerwear, coat and comforter were set tidily upon a nearby loveseat.

"Forlornlish," Murphy muttered mostly to himself.

"Hey, hey, hey. How do you enter a sleeping bag?" Bodie chuckled, purposefully breaking the mood.

"Dun know. How?" Murphy went along with it.

"Ever so slowly, so as not to awaken her."

Doyle shook his head at them.

"Now then, Raymond."

He stepped hastily back, but the two pounced swiftly and nabbed him.

"As duly appointed representative of the Spooks Brethren, also known as A-squad, I hereby denounce the careless dereliction of guarding personal safety by one Raymond Doyle. Traditional punishment as usual, thirteen strokes applied to the bare backside. Stop, drop, and bend, boy."

"Let's not, and say we did," Ray suggested, squirming futilely in Murphy's grip.

"There, there, not to worry," Bodie offered in soothing tones, meanwhile unfastening Doyle's trousers. "Doubtless, upon reflection, you feel due remorse, and are therefore Bent upon repentance. We've all been on the receiving End of the squad's just retribution, you know."

They placed him firmly over the edge of the mattress, Murphy holding him steady and counting aloud, while Bodie issued the punishment, open handed slaps upon flesh, resounding like the percussion of a child's cap pistol off the walls of the empty house.

"And next, the presentation," Murphy announced, meanwhile dragging Doyle up onto his lap, comfortably sprawled upon the bed.

Bodie reached into his jacket pockets, withdrawing a packet of tissues and a small rubber ducky. He placed the package on the candle stand, available for later cleanup operations. Then with a flourish, he presented the gift to Doyle.

The toy bore upon its bright yellow surface the signatures of most of the A-squad agents. Around its neck was a satin ribbon with suspended calling card, inscribed in precise black ink, the legend, "next time, duck."

"Even a noggin of solid stone such as yours can only take so many blows," Bodie stated sternly, brushing his thumb tip across Ray's scarred maxillary process.

"Didn't go getting clocked on purpose," Doyle protested. Staring down at the cheerful plastic figurine in his hand, he abruptly burst out laughing.

Murphy rummaged in the shaving kit, pulled forth a tin and tossed it to Bodie.

"Taylor's of Bond Street," Bodie nodded his approval, scooped out a generous dollop of shaving cream and applied it to Doyle's cock.

"Criminy, that's cold," Ray writhed.

"Friction'll soon mend that," Bodie countered, palming the wilted prick insistently up and down until it rose and swelled with the attention.

"We've spoiled him for munching now. Can't abide the flavour of soap."

"Had yer mouth washed out frequently in your formative years, I'll warrant."

Whilst Murphy played with responsive nipples, Bodie rousted Ray's cock to a rowdy climax. The two collaborators then stripped themselves to the skin, and the engagement became general.

Evening surrendered to night. A luxurious full moon peered voyeuristically through the partially shuttered windows.

The three had clambered back into their clothes, then scrunched together tightly, the unzipped sleeping bag proving inadequate cover for that many muscular torsos.

They dozed comfortably in company until suddenly jarred awake.

To Bodie, it sounded like bamboo trees, clashing as a storm wind stirred them.

The noise reminded Murphy of the anatomy lab, skeleton legs clicking together, dead limbs disturbed where they hung lifeless.

Doyle rose silently, and stood still.

Against the door, in nightmare gray and silver, appeared a woman. Upright, proper in long skirts, starched bib and tucker.

Scarcely present, she flickered and disappeared. Like the suggestion of visceral light viewed on the inside of eyelids, maybe there, then surely gone.

"Fuck! What was that?" Murphy demanded.

"Did you see her?" Bodie glared at the bare wood of the door.

As they shivered and stared at a searing afterimage, the sound returned.

Click, click, click.

The noise of a disembodied tongue, clucking disapprobation at them.

Murphy grappled Bodie's forearm and clung to it violently, feeling the soft hairs there, all risen over the skin in alarm.

Doyle cat footed to the cupboard door.

"What the hell are you doing?" Bodie hissed.


Ray carefully opened the closet door and studied the empty, sepulcher recesses. "There now, missus. Just a bit of harmless fun, it was. Meant no disrespect. None at all, marm."

He tilted his head, hearkening. The moonlight slicing through the shutter slats imposed a stark ribcage image across his face and throat.

As he aimed a gentle smile at the night, the angry sound faded into silence.

He shrugged his shoulders.

"Kyrie-iced, Doyle. How often does that happen?" Murphy whispered.

"Heard her rustling about the warming closet shelves from time to time. Never actually saw her before this, though." Ray fumbled with the lamp switch. The resultant light beam cast the rest of the room into grim shadows.

They stared at him, as the diligent agent glanced at his watch, then jotted a notation in the obs log.

"What are we to tell the old man, then? A tale that won't buy us extensive psych evaluation, I mean?" Murphy wondered.

"You're forgetting it was Cowley's assignment in the first instance," Doyle countered. "He's expecting morbid details."

"Hmm, yes. Don't suppose we'll feel like sleeping again anytime soon."

"Could polish off the odd custards leftover in the icebox," Bodie suggested. "Midnight nosheretum visit, do us a world of good."

Doyle offered a tolerant chuckle. "And later, we can sample the air of the other bed chambers. Determine which one maybe features a wicked debutante clad in skimpy negligee. Rather less Victorian in her attributes."

It was all very well to laugh with the lamp lit. Still, they crept cautiously as they retreated, leaving the doors wide, hiding nothing.

In the warmth of the kitchen again, they felt somewhat abashed.

"You've documented the inhabitants. Why linger for more?" Bodie challenged.

"Imagine Father wants a thorough roll call. In case any of the rarer denizens should prove, hmm, bellicose."

"Do you mean dangerous?" Murphy retorted. "And if they are, then what?"

"Call for back up."

"Can just hear that coming over the radio." Murphy offered in falsetto, "4.5 to Alpha. Requesting at this location, assault team armed with holy water pistols and tubular bells."

"I've a different thought entirely," Bodie interrupted. "Cowley doesn't really care about ghostly documentation. Oh, no. His Royal Parsimoniousness just wants a certain history. Wants the use of a perfectly good safehouse, doesn't want to waste it. In future, any of us agents complain about having to stay in a haunted house, Cowley has merely to reply. 'Well, Doyle stayed there several, nights. All alone at that. If Doyle wasn't affrighted...' Shame the rest of us into staying on as well. See?"

And with that, he stood and swept out of the room.

"Oy. Where you going?"

"To take a piss."

"Be more practical to leave one, wouldn't it?" Ray called after him.

Bodie was just returning to the kitchen, smoothing the front of his fly as he came, when Doyle's RT sounded.

"4.5, remote ops completed. Report to headquarters tomorrow at 0730," the bodiless voice informed him.

After confirming the copy, Ray eyed his mates suspiciously. "How fortuitous. I'll just gather me goods then," and he left them to each other's company.

"What'd you say to the old man that was so very efficacious?" Murphy muttered.

"Only that Raymond of ours was quite sufficiently pale, without adding ghostly guests to his nightly pursuits."

"And that did the trick?"

"A treat, yes."

"You guessed the Cow's motivations rightly, I suppose. And it was mission accomplished, already."


They bracketed Doyle all the way down the flagstone path to their waiting motor.

"'Stalked off reluctant, like an ill-used ghost, not to return; or if it did, in visits short and far between'," Bodie offered.

"Neither short nor far enough between for my liking," Murphy grinned and shuddered dramatically in response.

At the last, Ray turned to stare again at the moonlit building, seeking perhaps a final glimpse of its unlikely familiars.

Bodie and Murphy grabbed an elbow apiece, firmly deposited Doyle on the rear car seat, slammed their respective doors, gunned the engine and sped off into the mundane night.

-- THE END --

[Quotation notation. Poetic lines, in order as they appear in the text, from: King James, King James, Thomas Moore, and Robert Blair.]

November 2006

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