Old Beginnings


There was the barest tracing of dust on the frames stacked in a neat pile beside the sofa. Only the white-glove test or an eagle-eye like Cowley's would notice -- and Cowley wouldn't care unless the dust were a clue. Bodie stared at it for a moment long er before turning away disdainfully. Once upon a time he'd have cared enough to dust the things. But it wasn't like Miss Dulcey would be round with her glove, to sneer disapprovingly at the young boy who'd failed to houseclean.

Looking at the dust gave him something to concentrate on. Something to think about, leading him on to thoughts of a teacher at school, thoughts of Cowley demanding to know how the dust level offered any useful leads, thoughts of why he was standing in the middle of the living room looking at dust on picture frames when the frames were still empty.

No point in putting them up, yet. The boxes with the rolled canvases were still somewhere between storage and the flat, possibly on a truck in the storage lot -- or possibly halfway to Malta. His partner always thought he'd learned to travel light because his entire professional life had been lived as a man on the move -- never much room for a lot of junk on a merchant ship or in the desert camps. Truth was, it wouldn't have taken that. He'd learned to live without simply by losing his belongings when the movers got their hands on them.

But the frames were here, stacked and awaiting something to put in them. Hang them on the walls and make the barren flat look livelier. Break up the expanse of whiteness with things more substantial than memories.

Bodie turned away from the frames and went back to the last box he had had delivered; by some itinerant luck it was pots and pans and enough utensils that he could have cooked if he wanted. He began digging through the box, and realized halfway into it t hat every last one of them was Ray's. He laughed once, and carried an armful in to the kitchen to stow them away. Small as the kitchen was, there was plenty of room for a determined cook to make something with the sorry lot of mismatched cookware. He stopped at a cabinet already crammed full of things bought the week before, ready made and pre-packaged foods, for before he'd found this lot.

Two plastic-wrapped snack cakes later, he returned to stowing Ray's things in the drawers nearest the stove. He could almost hear his partner's voice behind him, nagging him to put them over *here* where any idiot could see they'd be of better use, leave the pots where he could get to them and where on earth did he dig up that monstrosity? Bodie grinned as if in defiance of Ray's directions, then left the kitchen, satisfied that Doyle couldn't have found a thing without a good half hour of poking his nose into every cabinet.

That left nothing left to unpack, Bodie saw. He'd been going through everything as slowly as he could -- not out of deliberate laziness, but why rush a job when there was no reason to be done with it before the end of the week? But with the movers having gotten lost despite clear instructions and a paid bill, there had been little to do, and now, nothing left. He made his way back into the tiny alcove that served as a dining room, and surveyed the arrangement. Two minutes later he figured he couldn't be bothered with re-arranging the furniture, so anyone wanting to actually sit in the other chair would have to deal with shoving the table forward.

A glance at the clock showed him that he had time to make another phone call to the movers, ask them yet again if they wanted to bring the rest of the boxes by. It would probably leave him more annoyed and less likely to ever see his stuff again, so he opted to head back to the kitchen for a beer, and he'd settle himself down near the back window of the living room, and enjoy being Lord of the Manor.

The chair he'd set by the window was a comfortable one, nicked from a move three years ago when Doyle had been shuffled into a furnished flat, then shuffled back out to an unfurnished. There had been much of the famous Doyle-charm let on to the ladies in housing assignments after that one. Bodie grinned, remembering how Marcy had smiled and laughed and flirted back -- then one month later Ray had got the papers telling him he was up to move again.

Bodie had laughed at him, despite being tapped to help carry the heaviest boxes. Now, though, he hoped the frequent and unpredictable moves would subside. Not that he expected this would be the last move, but finally the choice was taken out of the hands of CI5 and their ruthless housing department.

He propped his feet up on the window sill, grinning out at the property behind the building. Wide and un-cultivated, it offered a clear view of anything coming, and a relaxing vista for anyone not trained to view everything as a potential attack. Bodie decided he liked it, and not entirely because Doyle would spend every free moment alternating between finding every possible fault with it, and silently agreeing that the scene was lovely.

It would be a perfect spot to spend a few years, Bodie told himself. Even the neighbors had already proven themselves willing to leave him alone with a distant sort of friendly politeness. It gave everyone a respectful sort of anonymity, just exactly the sort of thing Bodie was after. After so many years in all the various business he'd been in, anonymity was just exactly the sort of thing he wanted.

If it started to drive him nuts, he could always move.

Bodie sat there and watched the absolutely nothing to see out his window, and drank his beer. When the beer was gone, he got up and headed for the kitchen. On the way, he saw the folder he'd been trying to ignore when he'd started concentrating on the frames. Knowing it would just continue sitting there if he didn't do something, Bodie sighed and walked over to pick it up. He didn't flip it open, as he knew exactly what was inside. Hadn't been able to choose between filing it away somewhere, mailing it back, or burning the thing. Foisted off on him by Cowley as he'd made his way past the man, he'd shoved it in his bag and resolutely refused to think about it until he'd arrived here, found a flat, and moved everything else into place.

Now, though, he realized he'd decided. Wasn't sure when he'd thought things through, but he knew what he wanted to do with it. He headed into the kitchen and tossed the beer bottle into the dustbin.

The folder followed it.

Bodie went to the fridge for a second beer, and grabbed the makings for a sandwich while he was there. The folder was already fading from awareness, as if the trash had been taken out and dumped days before.

Even if he did ever go back to England, he wouldn't be needing any of the papers in that folder. Wouldn't need to prove he'd ever been in Her Majesty's Service, wouldn't need the list of references and contacts. Wouldn't need Ray Doyle's phone number at CI5 headquarters, for even by now he'd have been moved again and Bodie would have little luck in locating him otherwise.

There was a license in Bodie's wallet that identified him as Bodie Martins, and all the accompanying paperwork was stashed where such things ought to be. It was enough, all he needed, and if it proved otherwise, there were other places he could go. If there wasn't, and he did find himself on English soil again, William Andrew Philip Bodie would still be dead.

-- THE END --

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