Mystery Trip


(Especially for Bev)

I was as mad as a hatter with Cowley, but neither he nor Bodie batted an eyelid: Doyle's in a righteous fury again -- who cares? It took me an hour to cool off, and I wore a scowl far an hour after that, but I suppose reality must have come percolating through my brain... Bodie' a big lad, from any angle you look at him, he can take care of himself.

But walking on water is about as far out of his league as mine, and I had the distinct impression that the upcoming job would be the kind of fiasco where the ability to perform miracles would be the only way he would get out of it with his skin intact. Which made me rather miffed. He has very nice skin, and I'm very fond of it just the way it is.

It was three weeks into the spring, and freezing, which seemed doubly cold to us; we'd saved up three weeks' leave and gone to Spain -- it was cold there too, according to the locals, but to a twoesome from the original winter wonderland of Great Britain, it was balmy and warm.

I had my scarf wound ''round my neck as we left the building, and Bodie had on a fisherman's jersey, acres of grey wool up to his jaw line. We hurried to the carpark at the back and I had the keys in my hand -- we were in the gold Capri I like so much. When the motor pool is done with it and pensions it off, I think I'll buy it. Okay -- I own three bikes, my trail bike, my Suzuki and the old Harley Davidson that Bodie hates with a passion, but when it starts to rain you can't beat a car; even a ratty little motorised biscuit box will keep out the rain.

The heater blasted hot air at us as I started the motor and Bodie glanced at me, half smiling, which irritated me. "Still angry?"

"Any reason why I shouldn't be?" I snapped, more brusquely than I'd intended... I shouldn't snap at Bodie so often. He pretends to turn a deaf ear, but it always got under his skin when I'd bite a verbal chunk out of him, and since we've become so close I can draw blood all the easier. "What I mean is, you could get hurt."

"I could get run over by a bus in Charring Cross Road," he said philosophically. "Or fall off a ladder cleaning the windows."

"It'd be a bloody long ladder," I grinned, seeing the funny side of it at last. "We live in a third storey flat! You know what I mean. It's a job for two, not one --"

"And Murphy's going to be there," he reasoned with that quiet and infuriating logic.

"It bloody well ought to be me!"

He shook his head. "Murphy's better qualified. He's ex-army, and I'm ex-army. You were a copper, it just isn't the same, now is it, Ray?"

I sighed, tailgating slow traffic through a green light. "Yeah, yeah, I know. But somewhere along the line you're going to walk into a heap of trouble, and then the balloon'll go up and it'll be every man for himself - and it wouldn't matter if I'd been a juggler in a circus! Would it?"

"True," he agreed affably, "but you don't look like a cold, hard killer, do you? I can do a fair Dr. Crippin act, so can the Smurph . But you? You look like something off a Christmas card, complete with halo and wings."

If the traffic hadn't been so thick I'd have pulled over and thumped him. I know what I look like -- with my cheekbone that's made of plastic and my hair that defies any comb yet devised, and my front teeth that I never got around to having fixed, and the silver that's starting to show up at my temples like all the Doyle males of thirty, and my beard that's so dark and dense I go blue around the gills so fast I have to shave at every verse end to keep up with it.

He calls me beautiful, and the really amazing thing is, he means it. He talks about my 'green, almond eyes,' and my 'creamy complexion,' my 'incredible, kiss-me-breathless mouth,' my 'artist's dream nose' and my 'dancer's legs.' Then he goes on to label the rest of me in these cock-eyed terms and his eyes glitter with laughter, and I'll be sure he's having me on. Then again, it's always me he reaches for these days; he doesn't bother chasing off after birds much now, and it was his idea that we live together.

I'd hoped and dreamed about that, about waking up with him suffocating me every morning instead of two or three times a week -- He can never stay still in his sleep, and if I roll over He'll roll too, till he's nearly on top of me and his own half of the bed is empty, then he'll complain it's cold over there and whine about moving when I dig him in the ribs to get some breathing space. He's got a hearty dislike of electric blankets, you see, but in the middle of winter if you don' t use 'em you'll damn near freeze -- so he makes exceptions. At least, if he wants Raymond to get into the mood, he does. I feel the cold more than he feels it, and I just can't get going if I feel like a bloody great block of ice.

I was still far from happy when we'd shut the front door, but he wasn't about to let me brood my way through the evening. It was late, we'd eaten on the job at six, and the only thing Bodie felt like nibbling on now was me. Sometimes he bites until I yelp and bite back -- it gets a bit embarrassing covering up the telltale little bruises at times. I sighed and decided to let tomorrow take care of itself. Eat, drink and be merry, and all that ... A loaf of bread, a jug of wine, and thou beside me -- well, a box of chocolates, the bottle of blackberry nip left over in the back of the cupboard from Christmas, and Bodie beside me. Hardly to be sneezed at.

Quite in contrast to my dark, drear mood, he was in good spirits, feeding me orange creams and peeling the onion-like layers of clothes off me while the bed warmed up. I was going to protest that it: was only ten past seven, but since he had to be at Central to pick up his orders on the Zardini job at six the next morning, if there was to be much creative tomfoolery between us, he was probably right. Time was of the essence... Bodie has a very practical mind.

And a wonderful body. He has curves in places where I'm flat -- his backside, for example. I'm like a scrawny kid by comparison, and it: was fascination for his curves and hollows, his shape, that made me sit up and take notice almost as soon as I'd met him. I'd never taken a look at another man that way before... Okay, so I gaze at Stewart Granger in a few old films and can't take my eyes off him, but that's on the screen, it's an illusion, it doesn't count. Bodie's tall, like Granger, and gypsy-dark, like Granger, and just as wide- shouldered and curvy, and -- you get my drift. But Bodie isn't something in a film, he's real, and he'd worked with me for years. I thought I was just taking a purely artistic interest, in Granger and Bodie alike, until Bodie and I got three parts smashed together after Marika, his gorgeous East German actress, was shot dead...

That was when we started. Alcohol unjams your emotions. I'd seen him hurting and it didn't surprise me when he wept. Didn't surprise myself when I went over to him and sat down and held him. Didn't even surprise me when he hugged me and buried his face in my chest. But it gave me a hell of a jolt when he kissed my throat, and my neck, and my ear, and murmured my name. I went rigid from head to foot with shock -- he stopped at once, thought I hated it and was planning to wallop him. But it was more like sheer disbelief... There was his tongue in my ear, and suddenly my jeans were too tight.

Oh oh, so you think your arty awareness of broad-shoulders-Bodie extends about as far as your paintbrush and sizing-up thumb, do you, thick-headed-Ray? Bodie pulled away from me and mumbled something about being sorry, about not knowing what on earth had come over him, then he must have noticed me shifting my hips to get the pressure to ease up a bit before I did myself an injury, and he went silent. We didn't say a word or move a muscle for a whole minute, and then he leaned over and kissed my ear, and I wanted his mouth very badly . Ten minutes later we were in bed, and ten minutes after that, young Raymond wasn't a virgin anymore, just a bit sore and inordinately pleased with himself while he drowned helplessly in the bastard' s unbelievable eyes, so blue you just can't tear your own eyes away.

I was thinking back to that first time as I pulled the blankets up to my chin and cuddled up with his hands all over me. Two years had gone by so fast it was ludicrous. At first we went our separate ways and grabbed an hour or two together when we could, but the loving between us was always so good that three out of four birds were a let-down, and more and more often we'd opt for each other. For a while it was twice a week, then three times, and by the time we were waking up with each other five mornings out of seven Bodie was talking about how much money we were wasting by keeping two flats going and having one of 'em empty most of the time. My avaricious, money-clutching nature quite agreed.

We moved into my place, Chelsea being where it is, so close to Central and Whitehall you could jog to work if the car gave up the ghost. One of our better ideas... Don't know about Bodie, but I always had a little problem. I can get steamed up just thinking about making love, and I think about it quite a lot, which means I get steamed up a lot too. You can run yourself ragged chasing girls -- costs a bloody fortune in dinners and flowers and shows, and when you do get a girl into bed you're lucky if she'll make love twice before she's flat out. Well, there was one girl called Cyndi who could flatten me out, but she's another story. Suffice to say, the world is not made of Cyndis, and I was used to spending a fortune on girls and still ending up frustrated and on the do-it-yourself routine nine times out of ten.

Then there's Bodie. Thank heaven for Bodie. We save a fortune on flowers and dinners and shows, and we play -- oh, a lot. It's always good between us; I was always a fast learner and he knew a thing or two -- Africa. Mercs. So what else is new? He was doing all sorts of things to me between quarter past seven and half past eight; at nine I went to make a cup of cocoa, yawning my head off after half an hour's exhausted respite --

And then the phone in the bedroom rang. I heard Bodie pick it up as I sloshed hot milk into the mugs, heard him muttering sleepily, heard Cowley's name mentioned, and I had a sense of foreboding as I took the mugs back to bed. He put the phone down, took a swig of the hot chocolate and looked my over from my admittedly tousled head to my moderately hairy legs and slipper-shod feet.

"Let's have it," I yawned. 'Good news or bad?"

He shrugged. "Depends how you look at it. Murph just called in sick. He reckons he's come down with 'flu, Asian, twenty-four hour, or something. Cowley wants to send you along instead."

I perked up at once. "Terrific. I get my own way."

Bodie didn't look so happy. "That lot'll take one look at you and eat you alive," he said. "I know these buggers , remember... You'd better come as my lover, that'll keep the dogs off you."

"I am your lover," I said, prodding him in the chest. "Don't think I'm going to go as your pal and keep my itchy hands to myself all that time, do you?"

He laughed. "You're a randy little twerp, aren't you?"

"That," I grinned, "makes two of us. Drink your cocoa before it goes cold."

Next morning, I was rummaging through my things wondering what to put on that would make me look like a prospective mercenary, the kind of stone-hearted killing machine Zardini was looking for. I'd settled for my favourite old jeans but Bodie yanked them out of my hand. "No, sunshine, not this time."

"Not spiffy enough," I guessed.

"Oh, they wouldn't care about that," he told me. "But if you pack that little backside of yours into those they'll be panting after you inside of the first ten minutes, and I'll be punching 'em out. Not conducive to working, is it?" He took my loose brown slacks out of the wardrobe. "And don't wear your leather jacket either -- and for God's sake don't wear your jewellery."

I laughed. "I'm not a sex object, Bodie."

His eyes darkened by several shades as he looked at me, heavy- lidded; I caught my breath. "Wanna bet?" I guessed he was thinking about last night, and I felt my face flush a bit. "Anyway, there's no need to wave it like a flag -- don't go bending down when there's anyone standing behind you."

We were at Cowley's rendezvous five minutes early. They had scrounged up the location of Zardini's 'office' overnight; it was an address out by Regent's Park, very upper-crust. Cowley was on the job before we arrived -- he might have spent the night at Central, come to think of it. Dedication, and a raving desire to have Zardini behind bars. As far as that went, I was in complete agreement -- Zardini's whole operation hung on the sale of drugs, heroin and coke, to finance his mercenary army.

Cowley looked pensively at me, clearly wondering if he should send me at all, or make it one of the other blokes... Okay, I'm not very big, but hell, 5' 10" isn't that bad, and if I put my boots on I'm six feet, and even though I'm a lightweight I've got enough muscle to do. I can wrestle Bodie without getting fractures, and even Macklin didn't break me, though I was counting my bruises for a week. Cowley sighed and pushed a file folder at me.

"What's this?"

"Your cover. Learn who you are, you have an hour," he said tersely , and left us to it.

Oh, wonderful. They'd made me a really salubrious character. I'd dropped out of school at fourteen, spent two years inside for GBH, been arrested but not convicted on three drug related charges before I was twenty, then did five years in the army, serving most of my duty in Belfast, before I worked as a heavy for two security services, which brought me up to twenty-eight. That last bit was nice at least -- I'm thirty-two, and I'd love to be twenty-eight again. Oh, how time flies by!

The cover that had been set up for Bodie, two days before, was less of a fabrication -- mercenary, Para, all true; then he was supposed to have worked with me for the same security firms, hence, we come as set. Book-ends, that's us. His name was Casey and mine was Flynn... I suppose the Irish in us shows -- no use saying we're from any other race!

We drove out to that upper crust address by the park while the streets were still almost empty, and Zardini's big, black African heavy met us at the door of the fourth floor condo. He towered over us, even made Bodie look like a kid, but he looked us over and let us in, recognising a couple of hard cases when he saw 'em, I expect. We were hoping that Zardini would be there, but he wasn't. Well, nothing's ever easy. We were ushered into a room where a man we recognised from his file photo sat behind a big oak desk: Marc Pedley, Zardini's left hand man. We fronted up and brashly told our tissues of lies.

I did my best hard-boy delivery... Bodie says it's what held him at bay for years, thought I'd flatten him if he touched me, though he'd fancied me, then 'doted on me,' as he puts it, for ages. Still makes me rueful that we wasted all that time. He describes me as 'an arrogant, macho little hellcat,' but hell, I've had to be. I grew up in a neighbourhood where a 'nancy boy' would be beaten black and blue, and I made myself the leader of a rather nasty pack of wolves. These days I look back and shudder -- I'd love to tell Bodie about some of the things I've done, but I haven't got the nerve. Same way he won't open up about the things he's done. We've both got whole cupboards full of rattling skeletons, unlike Murphy, who's straight as a die, hasn't a secret to hide, is honest as the day's long, well educated, well connected, and made of money thanks to his genius with the stock market.

The 'arrogant, macho little hellcat' act was good enough; they bought it, and Bodie just lazed through his story, letting his body do the talking... All he has to do is stand there and let them look, the rest's obvious. We moved on into the priceless condo, recognising faces everywhere. There was Malone, and Kiveris, and Boon, and Young and Blair -- mercs, wanted overseas, but these berks were not our target. Just Zardini, the dope and the arms shipment. Twenty men had been signed on so far, not counting us, but we were the only ones who knew where we were going. It was Nicaragua, but Malone and Kiveris were bickering about West Africa, and even the Cape.

We claimed the couch, and Bodie draped his arm around my shoulders, 'absently' combing his fingers through my hair: it was a silent signal of his 'possession,' a term I hate, but what else can I say? It's just about accurate in any case. And I was very glad he did that. Not only do I love it when he plays with my hair, but I didn't like the way Boon and the big Dutchman, Hoeper, were looking at me. I casually leaned against Bodie and resisted the impulse to purr as he stroked behind my ear -- all done very deliberately.

It worked. No one made a pass at me till three in the afternoon, and even then all I had to do was laugh so hard I gagged on my drink and shout, 'hey, Bodie, Dutch wants to armwrestle with you 'bout something!' Hoeper was a decent enough bloke and backed off gracefully. We were waiting for Zardini and the evidence, gossiping and drinking more than was really wise, and I heard Kiveris and Malone go through their Africa stories between lunch and afternoon tea; then Bodie told a few improbable tales from Angola and the Congo. And then he nudged me with his elbow, deviling me.

"Go on, Flynn, tell about your time in Belfast."

I glared at him but just sifted through my memory for tales told by a dozen others, and the stories came out with a nice bit of kick behind them. Bodie gave me a rueful look, whispering, "I never knew you were such a born liar, sunshine."

"I'm not," I said indignantly, "I'm a born storyteller. Should have been a novelist."

It was plain sailing, if absolutely boring, until seven, when the man we were after arrived at last. He had the final word on the hiring decisions, and we could still blow it. Frederico Zardini was a man of fifty, enormously rich and absolutely bloody notorious. I didn't like him, and I could tell he didn't like me. He singled me out for the special treatment -- which I'd expected anyway. It always seems to happen, because of the way I look. Bodie says I'm 'too beautiful for my own good,' which unsettles other blokes. Maybe -- I don't know, but it always seems to happen, even when I mind my manners and have my reading glasses on!

Zardini pulled up a chair and snapped his fingers, calling the big African heavy we'd met at the door. His name was Mazenze, and my mouth dried as I guessed what Zardini had in mind: a fight. Bodie didn't dare say a word -- in fact, he was looking positively bored to distraction, and Zardini turned his cold grey eyes on my lover with a curious frown.

"Mister Casey, you don't seem perturbed."

"Why should I be?" Bodie shrugged. "Mazenze's going to end up with a mile and a half of elastoplast on him, why should I be bothered about that?"

Oh, thanks a lot, Bodie, I thought as Zardini's people cleared away the furniture to make an impromptu arena for the 'proving out.' I expect they figured that if I survived the rest could, me being the slimmest recruit there... Thank Christ George Cowley teaches us the hard way. After Macklin's 'School of Hard Knocks,' big as Mazenze was, there wasn't much he could do to surprise me, and I had the advantage of speed. My main interest was keeping out of his way long enough to hit him, because if I'd ever let him get hold of me, he'd have chicken-boned me.

Fred Astaire, eat your heart out. I danced around like a cross between Gene Kelly and Muhammed Ali, and used my feet -- it's called Hapkaido and I'm pretty good at it. I got my black belt the same year I joined CI-5. Mazenze was good too, but he had the big person's one real shortcoming -- too great a dependence on his muscles. Big men just grab and grapple, they don't need skill, so they never bother to learn it. Bloody lucky for me, that; heaven help the rest of us when blokes this big do bother to learn how it's really done! I was trying to imagine what Mazenze would have been like if he'd commanded the kind of skills Bodie and I have been taught over the years...

I put him down with a blow to the knee which left him limping all the next day, and aimed a kick at his right t ear as he went down hard, pulling it just before it connected. I could have killed him, it's not hard, if you know just where to land a light blow on a man's head. Even a tap in the right place will sort of lift the skull off the spine and snap the spinal cord -- a woman can do it easily, which tends to make rubbish out of all the lectures you hear about women not being able to fight. They could, if they did it properly.

Then I stood back. Bodie came up, ruffled my hair and hugged me, and Zardini actually laughed. We were in. He knew most of the blokes who had been signed on that day, and didn't bother to 'prove out' the rest of the talent; he brought out an envelope of money, and I blinked as Bodie and I were handed a thousand quid apiece and told to show up at this address at 10:30 the next morning.

We didn't dare go home -- Zardini's men would be watching us -- so we went to the Irving Hotel, which is expensive but not ridiculously so. Bodie spotted our tail in the lobby, and let the man just to say catch sight of us embracing as the lift doors shut.

It was only then that I relaxed. Bodie laughed as I sort of sagged against him. "Don't collapse yet, love. The room's up on the third floor. "

"I'm not going to collapse at all," I said hotly, pulling out of his arms as the lift slowed up. But I did sprawl on the bed as he rang for dinner and wine, letting myself go with gratitude and considerable relief. He stood in the doorway, frowning at me. That bugger didn't hurt you, did he?"

"Nah, didn't lay a glove on me. Just got a belt in the ribs."

"Get your clothes off, then," he said, taking off his jacket.

"But, Bodie, I'm hungry!" I protested.

He gave me an exasperated smile. "So am I -- you randy little twerp -- I just want to look at your ribs!"

"0h." I chuckled. "Sorry."

"So you should be. We're not all sex maniacs... 0h, you've got a lovely bruise there, Raymond. Does it hurt?"

"I'm not sure," I said, twisting to and fro. "A bit."

He stooped and kissed it, tracing the line of my third rib with his tongue, which makes me shiver and gets me going so fast it's indecent -- of which he's well aware. And he has the gall to call me a sex maniac.

"Bodie, I'm hungry," I said plaintively. "It's a beautiful bed, though ... Wonder if we can keep the sheets clean?"

"Oh, I shouldn't think so " he said aridly.

"We'll give the hotel's laundry staff a thrill, then."

"Who cares? So two guys called Casey and Flynn had a wild night between the sheets... Isn't that what expensive hotel beds are for?"

And I could only agree that he had a point. It was a wonderful night, too. There's something about being in a hotel that makes you feel twice as sexy as usual, if you're with the right person. Bodie knows me inside out and indulged me shamelessly; the things he does with me would have shocked me once, but now I just swear revenge and do it all to him when I get my breath back. I thought I'd seen and heard it all when I was with the Vice Squad, but I hadn't seen the half of it. Those days of his in Africa would make a king-sized novel no one would dare publish ! Well, born hedonist is Bodie , and I must be too, or I wouldn't encourage him. I know what turns him on, and I like to pleasure him as much as lie back and be pleasured. He told me once that that was the main reason he's almost stopped running about after women at all these days; all the girls want to do is get the flowers, eat the dinners, see the shows, then get in bed and lie there and ask you to do all the work! I know what he means, I was getting pretty fed up with that myself, but I didn't know what to do about it.

The world has too few like the legendary Cyndi, and Ray was starting to count the cost of each tumble and look at the quality against the cost... Is that the point at which your elders smile knowingly and say something infuriatingly obscure, like, 'ah, you're growing up, my lad,' and pat you on the head like a pet Labrador? Any old tumble won't do, and when a slap-up meal and two dozen red roses and a show can set you back thirty quid, you tend to want your pound of flesh!

And when you don't get it you feel... Well, 'cheated' isn't a good word rd; but "short changed' comes close. Between Bodie and me there's always been equal give-and-take, bags of energy and barrels of laughs. So, twice a week got to be four times, then five, and we came out of it with enough money going spare to get three weeks in sunny Spain. I cringe when I think how much money I've spent on this and that girl and ended up wearing my knees away doing to lot myself into the bargain!

He loves it when I lick his nipples. There isn't a hair on his chest -- unlike mine. So different, is Bodie. I'm like a shaggy dog by comparison. He has a body that fascinates me, curves everywhere, and skin like hot, white velvet. Doesn't tan much, doesn't Bodie -- won't take his clothes off in public, as a rule -- can't understand why, unless, maybe he knows how terrific he looks and it embarrasses him! Me, I'll tan every square inch I can manage, every chance I can get, but I don't go all that brown, just sort of apricot-jam colour. Bodie calls it 'golden' and kisses me everywhere till he's got me aching and short of breath, sadist that he is.

Hate to think what the Irving Hotel staff thought about those sheets, but I'll remember that night as long as I live.

"Bodie? Rise and shine, love. Or we re going to be late."

Dulcet tones in my ear, husky voice, mischief personified. I groaned and buried my face in the pillow. "Buzz off, Ray," I mumbled, but he was kissing my back, scratching me with a chin that needed a shave, and when he tickled my buttocks I surrendered and forced my eyes open. One of the greatest pleasures in life is to wake up with him, but I wouldn't dare tell him -- he's arrogant enough as it is. He doesn't walk, he displays, like some wild animal that has no business being on a city street, inflicting himself on the ordinary mortals, like me.

I rolled over and smiled ruefully up at him; that hair of his was like a halo, and his eyes were laughing, the kind of dark sea-green you can't believe at first, so you look again, then gaze into them, and by that time it's no good, you're beyond saving. I've seen him go angling for barmaids and catch two with the same hook, and not even notice the fellers who were just waiting to be given the eye. Wicked, is Raymond... Good thing he belongs to me, because I know how to keep him out of trouble. It's a simple technique, really; you tell him you dote on him at least three times a week, and love him till he doesn't know what day it is every chance you get, then tuck him up in bed while he's purring in satiated contentment, and cuddle him till he goes to sleep with that beautiful curly head on your shoulder.

Beautiful? That s an understatement. 'Skinny' is how he thinks of himself, and how I tease him, but he's really a ball of muscle -- strong enough to surprise me regularly. He reminds me of the kitten I had when I was a kid, Furry , and soft to the touch, especially in the mornings when he's all warm and his muscles have relaxed, which is one reason I couldn't refuse him anything in the morning. He plays like a kitten too, teasing, teeth everywhere, and those eyes of his ... Sometimes it troubles me a bit, though; that kitten got run over, and I cried buckets -- I was all of eight or nine. Ray's not very big, his heart s the biggest thing about him, and I'm terrified that one day he's going to follow that kitten right into extinction.

Not if I can help it. I nearly died when Zardini set Mazenze on him, and went blue holding my breath; and then I couldn't keep my hands off him, had to grab him, when it was over... Two thousand quid, and a night in a posh hotel -- oh, fantasies come true! It still bewilders me to remember how we started. I was hurting as I wouldn't have believed you could hurt. I felt betrayed -- I'm still not sure about poor, gorgeous, dead Marika -- did she set me up or not? Ray swears she was as innocent as the driven snow but I know Ray, he'd say that to make me happy, and I can only figure that I never did know Marika, no matter how many times we'd made love in the past.

How much did I drink? Oh, a lot. Half a bottle of brandy at the Rose And Crown, three beers at the Prince Albert, where Ray finally caught up with me then three scotches at his place, where he took me for convenience. I wasn't as drunk as he thought, oh no. When Bodie's happy he can get smashed on a bottle of old wine, when Bodie's miserable it takes enough booze to float an aircraft carrier to put him away.

Ray had had a few, too -- couple of pints with me at the Albert, and a couple of scotches with me back at home. He doesn't have my hollow legs. He's anywhere between twenty and thirty pounds under my weight, depending on how many meals he's forgot en to eat and how much physical exercise he's wished on himself lately. I sat on the sofa, and the endings were buffered off my nerves by the alcohol, and Marika was dead, and Ray was as warm and beautiful as ever, and all I could think of was that she'd died and I'd never even managed to make love to her, and that Ray had come after me and taken me home, and...

Funny thing about Raymond Doyle is that' after a while it's his 'faults' that start to attract you as much as his good points -- and that's fatal, because when that starts to happen you're lost. If he'd been a girl, I swear he -- or she -- would have been the first and only person I offered a wedding ring to, because it's his 'faults' I can't resist. He's going silver at the temples already, like his brothers - you can see it when his hair blows back, and all I want to do is twist my fingers into the whirls of platinum among the red- brown. That cheekbone of his is something else; must have hurt like the devil the day it got busted in, and I like it when he'll hold still long enough for me to explore the shape of it with my tongue -- then there's his goddamned front teeth. Anyone else's smile is just a smile, but him? When he smiles at you those teeth say, 'I'm human, I'm vulnerable, don't hurt me, be gentle,' and you find yourself being an idiot and smiling back and wanting to kiss him and explore those teeth too.

Oh yes, I'd been watching Ray since the day we met, and I knew he was watching me. I'd have my eyes on his legs and that incomparable little backside, then, half an hour later I'd turn back to him and be surprised and delighted to find his gaze glued to my own legs. Okay, I'm well built -- in this job, with the tendency to build muscle, you get that way; but these are infantry legs, not dancer's legs -- look at me in my favourite footware, then look at him. His boots have two inch heels, he knows what shows off his legs, but it's an unconscious awareness, I think; he's not vain. Which is something else about him that's endearing, because you'd forgive him for an ego the size of County Kerry.

So Marika was dead, once and for all, and I was alone as usual-- that is, my romance had gone straight up the spout, always happens to me -- and I couldn't even tell Ray how he looked so lovely in the lamp light, and the alcohol made my head thick with cotton wool. I'm making excuses ... I felt the wetness on my cheeks, put my head in to my hands and let go. I thought he'd call me a moron, shout at me No, not him. Nothing so predictable. He came over and sat down, and put his arms around me, and I put my face into his chest; the fur there tickled, and the smell of him, close up, closer than I'd ever been to him, really got to me, made me want to taste the velvety skin against my face.

I kissed his throat, and his neck, and his ear and he smelt fantastic -- then I realised what I was doing, and by that time he'd gone stiff as a board from the neck down, and I thought, Bodie, you lunatic, you've just alienated the only real mate you've ever had in your life! But he was wriggling, sort of squirming, on the couch, and that was a wriggle I knew. Happens when your underwear and your trousers have decided to join forces and strangle you all of a sudden, because some neat little piece with obvious charms just bounced on by.

Well, Ray's charms were very obvious indeed, but I was stunned for a full minute when I suddenly realised that he was aroused, not furious. He looked at me with terrified green eyes and I was muttering some approximation of an apology; and then he opened his mouth, maybe to speak, I don't know... And that was it . Might as well get myself hung for a sheep as a lamb. I kissed him, right on those hot, silky lips. Then he kissed me. Then I took off his shirt, and he took off mine, and then suddenly we were in his bed and I was on top of him, and he was yelling blue murder.

He makes a terrific noise if you work him just right - but then, so do I. Behind that angelic face there lives a demon with an appetite that astounded me at first. I'd been used to courting girls, you understand, who squealed if I went too fast and packed up on me after twenty minutes, which is bloody annoying when you've shelled out a fortune for the privilege of a night's loving. And here was my own partner, my very own bionic golly -- I couldn't go fast enough to suit him, he turns on at a suggestion, and he's as fit as a fiddle, so his staying power was bewildering at the outset. I'd collapse after giving my all to him, then, when I'd get my reason back I'd find him on his knees, and the moist tickling I'd be feeling on my chest would turn out to be his lips, because he reckoned it was his turn to take the initiative now.

I'll be old before my time, but there's no way I can refuse him -- not that I want to, not even when he's in need of a shave and waking me out of a glorious sleep to tell me it' time to go and stick my neck on George Cowley's chopping block.

I rolled over and smiled, and he kissed me, then yanked the covers back and padded off toward the bathroom. I heard the loo, then the shower started running, and I got up with less reluctance. There is nothing like standing under a warm shower with someone you dote on. He's fantastic when he's wet.

Somehow, we made it to Zardini's on time, and Freddie was quite satisfied with the report handed in by the bloke who'd been tailing us. "Angelo tells me that you are what you seem," he said. "You went directly to the hotel and did not reappear until fifteen minutes ago. He looked me over, then looked at Ray. I knew he didn't like Ray, I suspected he didn't like me either. Maybe the thought of two men who love each other the way we do turns him off -- I didn't give a damn, personally. My life is lived to suit Yours Truly -- life's too bloody short to start living to other people's rules.

"Yeah, well, that's who we are," I said rather nastily. "It bothers you?"

Zardini shook his head. "No. In fact, it will keep things much more simple. Once we are in Nicaragua there will be few women, VD everywhere among the ones there are, and brawling amongst the men to find out who is going to play bottom to who."

"Whom," I corrected blandly, "and we're not having any of that. Anybody puts a finger on my mate, I'll break teeth."

"Likewise," Ray said in a tone like candy coated cyanide.

"I approve," Zardini said unexpectedly . "Now, here is your assignment, gentlemen..."

Jackpot . Ray and I shot a glance at one another, and he winked. The dope was coming into the country by private plane, landing in Kent -- ten kilos of coke, enough to rot half the bazoos in London. We were to pick it up and take it to the dealer at an address in Piccadilly, then report back. Great. From here on, it ought to be simple. Get the money from the dealer to finance Zardini's army , and then move in on the whole lot of them.

The plane was due in at 1:30, and I put my foot down hard on the loud pedal, screaming up the motorway; the Capri's a nice little car, bags of power in the three litre motor, and it weighs next to nothing. Ray's fancy is for the gold one, which doesn't surprise me, since he likes goId a lot. I remember the first t ime I bought jewellery for him, on his birthday. He likes his jewellery -- bracelets, neck chains. He'd look cute if he ever had his ear pierced, but he hasn't bothered so far. I bought him an identity bracelet... The jeweller gave me a funny look when I had it engraved with his name -- I could have made up a story about getting it for the wife's brother or something, but I was feeling very wicked and I just smiled secretively . He still wears it; a lot of the time; it shows how very slender his wrists are, makes me remember how light he weighs. He gave me a neck chain the Christmas after that, and I wore it for weeks; the feel of it reminded me of him, and how good it was to have someone of my own at last... It's not all strawberries and cream - Ray can irritate me, I can annoy the life out of him, but the only time we ever really hurt each other was over Ann Holly --

And I'll be the first one to admit that it was all my fault. My skull must be three inches thick. Of solid concrete. That was before we started living together, but we'd been sleeping together off and on for over a year. I knew I loved him, but I had the notion he wouldn't want to hear me say it... I mean, it's touchy. All sex between men is touchy -- somebody's got to be on the bottom, and it's all too easy for it to become a nasty domination game.

It was never like that between us, but I had the idea that if I said I was in love with him it might fracture the veneer of machismo he uses as a shield on top of a nature that's about as hard as marshmallow... Make him feel less of a man, or as if I've started to think of him as a girl (absolutely out of the question with that little macho mustang, but does he know that? I wondered...), or as if I reckon I've got him thoroughly dominated (the reverse would have been more the case; I used to ache for him like blazes). Stupid, isn't it? I felt safer when our relationship was just a tumble into bed for the pleasure of it, but drag love into it and all your values get in the way... Maybe I was too self-centred, too worried about my own feelings, because I honestly didn't see that Ray was dying for me to say it and getting more and more frustrated and hurt as the months were going by. He had started to think it was just sex to me, which must have made him feel like, oh, a sexual commodity I liked to use. He wasn't happy but he hid it from me; it was only when he started to beg off now and then, turn me down when I asked him back to my place to bed, that I started to open my eyes.

The night before he met Ann, we nearly fought. I wanted to sleep with him, I put my arms around him in the car -- dead of night, pitch dark after the pub shut. He kissed me a couple of times, then said, 'Bodie, I'm tired. I want to go to bed and sleep.' I wondered if he was coming down with something, because he's so peppery he'll pop his cork if he doesn't get his share of it one way or the other every day -- me, or a bird, or do-it-yourself. Why would he choose to turn me down, and go home and bring himself off, when I'd have been ecstatic to do it for him? So I was confused and concerned, and I could tell he was miserable underneath the smile. I wondered if he was getting sick of me, and I panicked, wanted to say it all -- 'Ray, sweetheart, I love you, what ' s wrong, let me help you!'

So, naturally, I kept my mouth shut. And the Ann Holly affair came to pass. He was angry with me -- I mean, really bloody angry, not just annoyed, blaming me for the way it went. For a moment he thought he'd found someone who would love him, not just lay him, and then, woosh, it was all over and no prizes for guessing which mug got the evidence that busted it up for him.

He was hurting and I had to go after him, but when I caught up after getting out of Cowley's sanguine company I thought he was going to wind me up a crack in the teeth for a moment. Then he turned back and we just looked at each other, and both of us knew. I remember what I said: 'Christ I love you, what d' you need her for? Selfish and jealous and resentful, I know, but he understood. He came home with me and I made love to him the way he likes it for hours, until the heartily resented Ann Holly was just a painful memory. And I said it again, several times, making sure he'd heard.

Three weeks later, when we'd both said those ridiculous three words, 'I love you,' till we'd got used to the way they sounded, we decided to live together... And I kicked myself black and blue. That's all he'd needed, all he'd wanted, to know it was love and not just sex, that he was being loved, not just used. Ray's like that. Sex is a game he plays to win, but it's love his heart's always ached for and never had, until now. I'm just glad Ann Holly took the huff and buggered off when she did, or old Bodie would have been up the creek. Ray would have married her, bought a house and made babies, I'd hurt him so much. And I'd have curled up at the edges and blown away.

It was nearly one o'clock when we got out to the deserted private airfield to meet Zardini's shipment, and we went scavenging for food. Ploughman's lunch, bread and cheese and flat ale, off the bonnet of the car, in the fresh air, listening to the larks while we watched the time -- then, there was the plane, a red-and -white Piper Navajo, dropping down out of the clouds, and Ray swept the debris of lunch into a bag and brushed crumbs off his blue shirt. "N-4377K," he said softly, memorising the aircraft's American registration number as it taxied toward up. Murphy (who had discovered that his flu was no more than indigestion!) and company would have it under surveillance until we were safely out of the way, then they would pick up he pilot and book him on trafficking charges.

A Frenchman hailed us, cheerful and informal, and Ray took the sack of cocaine from him... four hundred quid an ounce, and about twenty- two pounds of the garbage, or about enough to pay for two errant CI-5 men's escape to Rio for life. Stop thinking like that, Bodie, it's not healthy! I told myself, then grinned as I remembered Ray s expression as we stood at the window of the Star Hotel, where poor Suzie What's-her-name was pushed to her death the day Everest was conquered. Would he shove a girl out of a window for a king's ransom? "Is that a firm offer?" Said he... I laughed at the memory as we stuffed the ten kilos of coke into the car and slammed the hatch, and watched the Piper take off again.

"What's the joke?" Ray wanted to know.

I shook my head, grabbing him and kissing him instead of elaborating, and he grabbed my backside in both hands, pulling us together. "Monster," I accused. "Now it's going to be bloody uncomfortable driving for a bit." I wished we'd had ten or fifteen minutes to spare, but the plane had got in late and there was no time; Cowley was turning a blind eye to our off-duty activities, and we were sure he'd continue to do so, look the other way, so long as we were deliriously happy at home and damned efficient at work. Which means knowing when you can afford a quickie, and when you can't.

Back to London, full speed ahead. We felt weird carting around the giant sack of 'nose candy,' and it was not exactly safe: we were Casey and Flynn, and had no ID on us. If we were picked up by the Constabulary it'd take a phonecall to Central to spring us ! Ray thought it was hilarious, bloody ex-copper that he is. He laughed like a drain when I shot through a radar trap about ten miles an hour over the limi t -- on the blind side of a Birdseye freezer van that (thank Christ) masked us from the radar. Slow down, Bodie, or you're going to cop it, I told myself.

Ray called Central with the Piper's registration and Cowley took a partial verbal report. Then we were back in town and looking for the address in Piccadilly. Damned place turned out to be a gent's hairdressers. You never can tell these days, can you? A ponce in a mauve shirt collected the coke and gave me a briefcase which I just had to open... Ray and I stood gazing into it, starry eyed, like we'd opened the Lost Ark, and he put his hand on my arm and said, soft as a sigh, "Bodie..."

"Don't say it, pet, " I muttered, "don't say it. " Pandora's box was nearer to the mark! Back in the car, he called Central, and Anson was right behind us. They had the hairdressers staked out before we'd got out of sight, heading back off toward Regent's Park.

All we needed now was the location of Zardini's camp, where the illegal arms cache was, and where his army was in training -- but, as we'd known from the start, this was the dangerous bit. Zardini would be giving nothing away, and we'd be there before we knew where it was. Our only link with safety, sanity and CI-5 would be Murphy and his partner, up in a Jet Ranger with a radio patch to the Army. Well Murphy's a good lad -- Army, like myself, and absolutely trustworthy. He'd see it done right,

Keep telling yourself that, Bodie.

Oh, yeah. Each of the other recruits had done an assignment for Zardini that was as illegal as ours, and he held the sword of Damoclese over our heads: he could put us away till we were grey, Britain's drug laws being what they are. Two hours later, we were on a truck, a big four tonner, with six other blokes and two guards. The e truck headed north-west, as much as that we could tell because of it's twists and turns through the London streets, but once we hit the motorway, since we couldn't see out of the back, in the interests of security, we could have headed anywhere. Ray sat very close to me on the side bench in the semi-darkness. I had the distinct impression that he was nervous, but he's such an impossibly independent bugger he'd have died before admitting it.

I was nervous. I was listening for the chopper... Once, we heard it for a few minutes, and Ray nudged me with his elbow, wondering if I'd gone to sleep. But then the sound was gone and I was wondering if it wasn't just a news chopper, or the air ambulance or the Shell shuttle on its way out to the offshore production platforms. If there is one thing on this entire planet I can't abide, it's mystery trips.

Four hours later by backside was numb, I was hungry as a horse, and the lorry stopped at last. Dazzled by the sunlight, we got out and I peered around and swallowed. So the mystery trip ended in Wales! I did my training for 3 Para and the SAS here, I knew the country, if not the actual location. It was a valley with towering mountain peaks on three sides, and the only road in was the one the truck had used. Bloody hell, but this place would be hard to find unless Murphy had actually seen us on the way. We scanned the sky for the Jet Ranger, but there was no sign of it.

Ray stepped up close to me. "Bodie, I've got an ominous feeling about the future. I don't like the way this looks... What's Nicaragua like this time of year?"

We were escorted to a barracks hut and allocated a bed apiece -- there were at least fifty beds in there. Ray and I were among the first to arrive, and we grabbed the furthest, most secluded corner. Then t hey sent us to the Quartermaster van, and half an hour later we were kitted out in hiking boots, khaki pants, black tee-shirts and cammo jackets. Well, I felt comfortable, but Ray looked blue. Likes his garish clo thes, does Ray, and the Quartermaster sergeant was talking about his hair. I had the horrors, knowing that they'd shear it all off before sending us overseas. You have to, or the lice get to be a bother. (No, it's not nice at all, this line of work). They might even take the sheep shears to him before training, I thought with dread... He just doesn't suit short haircuts, but what could we say?

We were still itching with the stiff new clothes when the medic whistled us over to his car and jabbed the usual broad spectrum innoculations into us. Ray swore viciously; at first I wondered if the quack had stuck the shot into the nerve in his arm which can make you ill as the devil for two or three hours, but he was just annoyed. "What's wrong?" I asked, st anding in the lee of the barracks building, out of the freezing Welsh wind.

He was rubbing at his a rm. "If I don't get vaccine fever out of this, I'll be lucky." I must have gaped at him, because he went on, every time I get shots to go overseas, it happens. Fever and sickness."

Omigod . Trust Ray. He can never be the same as anyone else, which is probably the reason I became so besotted with him in the first place. He was ill all evening; I watched him flush up, and he couldn't eat. The barracks filled up, truck after truck coming in, and by nine when we got a half baked lecture from Marc Pedley about how our training would commence at 06:00 next morning, and how we'd be ripped limb from limb, ditto, all he wanted to do was sleep it off. He was freezing and the barracks was cold as an icebox; I wanted to pull him in bed with me and keep him warm, but how could I? So I did the next best thing. While the blokes were out smoking and washing up, I nicked him two extra blankets... Couple of the guys must have thought it was a damned cold night.

He was heavy eyed and lethargic as a lizard on a cold morning when we were rousted, and I was cursing the whole of CI-5 in general. Where the Christ were they? We should have been out of here yesterday! But Ray managed to eat breakfast and somehow got himself going. Rifle practise was child' play for us more like a game than work, and we scorred better than our competition with very little effort. The calisthenics were more arduous, but once again, after darling Brian Macklin and dear old John Cain , what Pedley thought of as PT was a joke. He wanted army-style fitness; Cowley demanded Olympic athlete standard fitness... There's a hell of a difference.

By lunch time, a thousand years after breckie, we knew we were in trouble: if the cavalry hadn't come bouncing up to save the day by then, it wasn't going to. Ray looked better -- circulation going, less nauseous, less feverish. Time to take matters into our own hands, before we were on a plane, next stop Nicaragua . But what the hell could we do?

Then, at two o' clock, Pedley's half baked PT course played right into our waiting hands... A ten mile run. You don't say. Poor Ray groaned but didn't say a word. The medic would have put him on the sick list for the day -- I mean vaccine fever is just one of the facts of life. I've seen 6' 6" SAS bastards get it, and I told him so.

Why don't you stay put, love, and I'll go and sort things out," I said quietly.

"Rack off, mate," he said irritably. "I'm fine."

It was a lie; I guessed that he didn't want to be on his own in this place, but again, he'd have died before admitting it -- and in any case, when the British Army came busting in with gunships, there would be high casualties here. How would I like it if he kipped out on his bunk and got killed in the fighting? So I covered my concern with a shrug. "Please yourself," I said, trying to sound as if I don' t worry about him half the t ime , which I do.

And ten minutes later we were out and jogging. We dropped back a bit at a time; soon we were at the rear of the pack, then we were a hundred yards behind, then two hundred yards, and then I headed off the trail toward the road and the east, cross-country, Ray on my heels, "Where the 'ell are you going?" He panted.

"See the road? Goes over the hill. There'll be a main road over there somewhere. And an emergency phone."

"Brilliant," he muttered, looking up at the hill. "Mount -- bloody -- Everest."

It knocked the stuffing out of him; my heart bled for him and, just over the top, I pulled up and ducked into a dry watercourse, pulling him in beside me. He was rubbery, as if he had flu. Damned innoculations! I pulled my handkerchief across his face and cuddled him while he got his breath back, and as luck would have it there was a spring nearby, so he could get a drink. I shuddered to think of what the feverishness had taken out of him. Beats me how he kept up with me at all -- sheer, cussed determination, I think. He lay down for twenty minutes, out of the wind, curled up against me for warmth.

It was odd; so quiet and still and peaceful. If we d been on holiday here I'd have love it, and so would he. He has a fondness for the wilderness thing, cliff climbing and hiking, and horse riding. I rousted him gently, kissed him and pulled him to his feet when he gave me his hands. "Okay now, Ray?"

"Okay," he lied, and I kissed him again to let him know that I recosnised bravado when I saw it even though we'd never actually say it in words.

I'd hoped to see a motorway, but there wasn't one. The road was just a B-class road, steep and winding, but it was better than nothing, "Which way?" Ray muttered as I glanced up and down the strip of tarmac; I looked at him, and let his flushed face make the decision for us . Downhill.

We walked for half an hour -- an Irish mile, I expect, three miles forward and two miles back -- and then, there it was, an emergency phone, intended for campers and hikers who've got themselves into strife. My one great terror was that vandals would have had a go at it; Ray didn't look up to much more, and the next phone would be God knew how far on up the road. We breathed a sigh of relief as we got up to i t ... It worked. He sat down, shoulders against a boulder, and closed his eyes as I made the call.

Oh , to hear Pauline's voice, the CI-5 dispatcher! She put the Cow on and I gave him the number of the emergency phone, so they could work out where we were, and then the relative location of the training camp where Zardini's illegal arms stockpile was. Then I popped my cork. "What the bloody hell happened to Murphy and the chopper?"

"Engine failure, they had to put down," Cowley told me tersely; something in his voice said that he had been worried sick about us since the day before.

My temper quelled a bit. "Ray isn't well. Can you send someone out to pick us up

"Aye, just sit tight. He's injured?"

"No, it's the innoculations, made him good and sick,"

"Well, your lift will be along as soon as possible, stay right where you are," he said crustily, and signed off.

I put the phone down and gave Ray my hand to pull him up. "Come on, pet, we'd better get down in the bracken. Might take a couple of hours for Pedley to work out that we re not going to stagger back into camp under our own steam, and come looking for us... But we don't want to get found, do we?"

We headed for a bracken thicket, sheltered and very green and as high as my shoulder, and crawled in. It was beautiful in there, all filtered sunlight and blue sky and the softness of last year's humus, rich and earthy. Ray had got his breath back, and his colour had gone down, but he was absolutely knackered. I took off my jacket and lay him down on it, and he gazed dreamily up at me till I smiled.

"What are you thinking about, mate?"

"About us," he smiled, "in the hotel the other night."

And if he hadn't been half-feverish and worn to tatters, I'd have loved him to death right where he lay. As it was, I kissed him, lay down beside him and we cuddled up in the still, silent, grudging warmth of the afternoon until we heard the approaching V8 growl of a four wheel drive.

Trust Bodie -- he could kip out on a plank. He was asleep when the Land Rover appeared; I bobbed up out of the bracken, trying to tell who it was -- it'd be dumb to show ourselves if it was someone from Zardini s place. I mean, we were all of twenty yards from the phone, and even if they didn't put two and two together, we'd just get a ride back into a camp that was very shortly going to get plastered... How stupid would that be? Doyle and Bodie killed by our own lads in the field! No t as if it doesn't happen from time to time -- it does . They call 'em 'acceptable casulaties.' Acceptable to whom, is what I'd like to know -- not to me, not if it's me or Bodie who's in the box on the way to the marble orchard! I needn't have worried; it was an official vehicle from Parks and Wildlife -- we must have wandered into a preserve on our hike.

I waved, and a bearded man pulled up and got out of the car. "Is your name Doyle or Bodie?" "Doyle," I called, and turned back to see if Bodie was awake. He was yawning up at me with that smile on his face that says he's been dreaming about making love. Sometimes he wakes me up, muttering in his sleep, and I'll feel the nudge of his arousal and -- well, I turn on pretty fast. Costs us a fair bit of sleep, but I can't say that I mind a bit.

"Got a call to pick you up," he shouted. "Hop in, and I'll take you down into the town. You've got transport coming up from London to pick you up in the morning."

"In the morning?" I blinked. ""What are we supposed to do tonight?"

"Search me," he grinned. "But the Saddlers Arms is a nice pub. I'll tell the landlord you're on the level, if you like."

"You'll have to," Bodie said, standing up and brushing fern debris from his clothes . "We haven't got 50p between us."

We got in to the village about seven; I can't remember the name of it, and couldn't pronounce it even if I knew how to spell it -- Welsh is bewildering. By that time I was feeling much better -- bit stiff in the knees and ankles from climbing the hill, but otherwise fine. The pub was as nice as the Parks man had promised, and we stuffed ourselves with shepherd's pie, cider and apple pudding -- all very bad for you, but delicious -- before Bodie shooed me up the stairs and into our room, Nice room, all oak panelling and damasc sheets.

"They'll have taken in the hairdresser and the pilot by now," I yawned as he undressed me, "and the people at the house by Regent's Park. Any time now the Army s going to flatten the camp - they've been on standby for days. Hey -- I wonder if we'll get our clothes back, and they money?"

"Unless the barracks gets clobbered," he said. "I'm surprised we can't hear the shooting from here... Okay, sunshine, into bed with you."

Tired and warm and comfortable, I climbed in between cool sheets and stretched my back, then I noticed that he was just standing there looking down at me, still half dressed. "Come on, Bodie, aren't you coming to bed?" It was early; for one awful moment I thought he was going to tuck the invalid in and go down for a pint or two.

Then the smile widened; that smile of his could melt an iceberg -- he's so beautiful if he'll stop playing GI Joe for half an hour, and there's a whole side to his personality that only his lovers ever see Makes me feel wonderfully privileged, to know it. It's a tenderness, as if I'm a kitten. He plays with the hair on my chest as if he's petting a little cat that means everything to him, and I wanted him badly as he stood there smiling at me. When he got into bed I reached for him and kissed him.

"You're done in," he remonstrated softly. "Why don't you just put your head down?"

So I did -- on him. I love his body, touching it and tasting it, but he wouldn't let me do much for him, as if he knew how worn out I really was, and he went through his repertoir of Thing To Do With Raymond, orchestrated for talented hands and supple lips, until he had to kiss me to stop my noise as I let go and came. That's Bodie for you; when he says something he means, you can always tell by his voice, and when he tells me he loves me I know he means it. He taught me a lot in the early days after we got it together, and I can keep him going till he's threshing around in a glow and growling and cursing me with the kind of gentle love-curses that you never forget. Not repeat able in mixed company, perhaps a little coarse but whispered into my ear and letting me know that there's no one else on the planet who means half as much to him... as me. That still astounds me.

We didn' t do much for the sheets here either, I'm afraid, but we'd left with 6.2 in a Ford four door before the staff would have found the evidence... Back to London, type through a report, get our clothes back from Murphy' boys who had gone through the smouldering remains of the training camp... Bodie grunted in disgust as he went through his pockets.

"The money's gone, Ray."

I laughed. "That surprises you?"

"Nothing surprises me," he muttered, and looked so forlorn that I kissed him while the locker room was empty.

"What's money anyway?" I reasoned, the soul of logic, "Anything you can do in a bedroom in Monte Carlo you can do in a bedroom in Chelsea, with half the bother."

He laughed out loud and called me a randy little monster, but there was love in those blue eyes as he said it, and I wished we were at home, with the door locked and the phone off the hook. I know -0 if wishes were quids we'd all be millionaires, but that's the effect he has on me. Disgraceful, isn't it?

Cowley's voice cut in, busting up the whole lovely moment. "3.7? 4.5? Where in blazes are you?"

Where we were, was off again on one of his paper chases... It's a hell of a way to earn a living.

-- THE END --

January 25th, 1986

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