Partridge in a Pear Tree


Chapter One

Ray stood at the window staring out at the wide expanse of untouched white snow bordered by dark green yew trees and capped by an almost impossibly blue sky. He shivered in the imagined cold even though the central heating was working perfectly. His artist's eye appreciated the beauty of the scene, but it really wasn't the type of thing he enjoyed. He'd take the bright lights of the city over the beauty of the country any day. He'd always thought Bodie felt the same. Which made it all the more incomprehensible why Bodie had brought them all the way out here to spend Christmas in the first place. Bodie'd told him he was just helping out an old pal but it still seemed odd that he didn't want to stay in town where there were lots of things to do.

Bodie's bundled up figure came into sight carrying a snow shovel. He started clearing a path from the door down the lone curved drive to the gate. He supposed Bodie'd appreciate it if he went out and gave him a hand, but he had no intention of doing so. He was promised a relaxing two weeks at a luxurious country house and, as far as he was concerned, relaxing didn't include shovelling snow, not that Bodie had asked him to help.

He couldn't figure out why Bodie felt the drive needed clearing anyway. They had more food than any two people would be able to eat in six months, even if one did have an appetite like Bodie's: and, if the milk wasn't be delivered, they could always mix up some powdered milk to put in their tea. True, it was Boxing Day, but he didn't see why that was any reason to start shovelling snow. It wasn't as if they had to give boxes of money to faithful retainers, or anything like that.

He went back to the sofa by the fire and picked up the book he'd been reading, but his mind kept reliving the past two days. He had to admit it had been nice to arrive on Christmas Eve and find the house all warm and welcoming. There was a decorated Christmas tree in the drawing room. The freezer was even stocked with fully cooked, labelled meals and all they had to do was to pop them into the microwave.

It had also been nice to rest and relax on Christmas day with the tree lights on and carols on the stereo, but now he wanted something more exciting to do. Maybe, when Bodie finished shovelling snow, they could play billiards--if they didn't get lost trying to find the billiard room, that is.

He tried to read his book. It was a thriller he'd wanted to read for some time, by one of his favourite authors. He didn't know why it didn't hold his attention.

Bodie threw another shovelful of snow off the drive and sighed. This had seemed like a great idea at the time. He'd run across a former SAS pal of his and, over a pint, had found out that he had just bought a stately home which needed minding over the same period he and Doyle [had] off. He thought nothing could be more ideal; it would give them some time together away from the hustle and bustle of London. And, since the house was situated in the middle of the Downs, Ray wouldn't be able to be off and doing things all the time. Bodie hoped this would lead to the development of a new phase of their relationship. In short. Bodie had tumbled head over heels in love with his partner.

Once he'd convinced Ray to come here with him, he'd arranged an elaborate practical joke that he was sure Ray would take in good part. If nothing else, it would be good for a laugh; but, if he were lucky, he just might get his heart's desire.

Bodie laughed at himself for thinking in cliches and threw aside another shovelful of snow. However, for things to work out, the drive had to be clear so that delivery trucks and other vehicles could get in with no difficulty. There had not been any snow forecast when he'd made his plans; but, since it had come, he now had to remove it. He worked as fast as he could, promising himself a cup of hot chocolate laced with brandy when he was finished.

Doyle went back to the window and looked out. Bodie was about one-third of the way down the drive. He didn't appear to be slowing down at all, but it was obviously going to take him a while longer at the rate he was going. Ray sighed resignedly. 'Suppose if I want Bodie's company at all today I'll have to go out and help him,' he thought.

Somewhere along the way, he'd fallen in love with the silly twit. Not that he could ever tell Bodie, of course, he'd either die laughing or run for the hills. 'Guess it's not the done thing to let your loved one come down with double pneumonia from spending the day shovelling snow.' He went upstairs to put on his outdoor clothes. He was sure he'd seen two snow shovels on the service porch.

"What're you doin' out here, then?" Bodie asked, not stopping his shovelling.

'I'm flyin' an aeroplane. What does it look like I'm doin'?" Doyle answered. "Don't ask stupid questions." He kept up with Bodie shovelful for shovelful.

"All right," Bodie rephrased the question. "Why are you out here in the cold instead of inside by the fire?"

"Got bored, didn't I?" Doyle said. "Anyway, I didn't see why you should be out here havin' all the fun."

Bodie gave up. He obviously wasn't going to get a straight answer from Doyle, so he might as well save his energy for shovelling. They worked in companionable silence until the drive was cleared.

"I've been promising myself a hot chocolate with brandy when I finished," Bodie said. "I could make two."

"Sounds good to me," said Doyle, who felt frozen through.

The two men walked back up the drive to the house. When they got there, Doyle went straight in to try to get warm again. Bodie was just as cold, but he took a moment to look back and admire the cleared drive. Things could now proceed as planned. He just hoped it didn't snow again--at least, not for nine more days; or seven, if women's lib applied to shovelling snow. He certainly didn't want to have to clear it again himself with only Doyle's help--even if Doyle wanted to help him again. He still didn't know why he'd volunteered this time.

He went on around the house and put away the shovel, then made the hot chocolate, and took it into the drawing room to add the brandy. When it was ready, he went over to sit beside Ray in front of the fire, handing one of the mugs to him as he did so.

Doyle took the cup and sipped carefully to avoid burning his tongue. "That hits the spot," he said. "Ta, mate."

"Forget it," Bodie said. "Getting warm and dry now, are you?"

"Yeah," Ray said, "slowly." Now that he taken off his snowy clothes and warmed up, he had to admit it hadn't been all that bad shovelling snow--rather invigorating, in fact, though he wouldn't admit as much to Bodie--secretive sod. He must be up to something: but Doyle, for the life of him, couldn't imagine what.

It was nice being here, just the two of them. Comfortable. They never felt any need to talk for talk's sake, and he liked the companionable silence. He closed his eyes, the better to savour the warmth inside and out.

Ray must have dozed off for a bit because, when the doorbell rang, he awoke with a start. Bodie was nowhere to be seen. The bell jangled again. He shook his head to rid himself of the muzziness of sleep and stood up as it rang a third time. He got to the door and opened it just as a deliveryman on the doorstep was reaching for the bell again. The man had on a shirt that said 'Green's Fancy Plants and Exotic Birds.'

"Mr. Raymond Doyle?" the man asked.

"Yes," Doyle replied, mystified as to why he'd be receiving a parcel here.

"Sign here, please." The man held out a clipboard with an 'x' on one line of the paper on it.

Doyle signed and handed it back.

"Thank you, sir," the man said. He took the clipboard back to the cab of the delivery van then opened the side door and removed a small tree in a pot. "You'll have to keep this indoors, sir. It's been raised in a hot-house so it'll think it's late summer." He went back for a large sack and set it beside the tree. "Here's the feed," he said. Then he grinned. "You'll probably want a larger cage." He shut the door of the van, got in and drove off. Laughter floated back to Doyle.

Cage? Why would he want to put a tree in a cage? Doyle stared at the tree perplexedly. It was a nice little tree as trees go, with lots of leaves and...he looked closer to check... yes, small almost-ripe pears hidden in amongst them. 'Well,' he thought, 'since the man said the damn tree had been raised in a hot-house, I suppose I'd better bring it in from the cold.'

As he was moving the tree, he heard a soft sound. He looked carefully in the branches and saw a small cage with an even smaller bird in it. It was a round brown bird about the size of his clenched fist. There was a tag on the cage that said 'partridge.'

Doyle started laughing. 'A partridge in a pear tree?' he thought. 'Someone's having me on. Bodie? Nah, couldn't be. Maybe it's Murph. That's it. He and Bodie have plotted all this between them. Well, at least I know now why he wanted this drive clean.' He looked more closely at the partridge cage. Right on the corner, in tiny print, it said 'To: Ray, From: Bodie.' Ray laughed again. 'It really was my twit of a partner. Pity it was just a joke. Guess I'd better go find him.'

Bodie was sitting in the drawing room eating a sandwich and drinking tea. He looked up when he saw Doyle. "Have a sarnie and a cup of cha," he said. "I made extra." There was a tray on the table with a plate of sandwiches, tea pot, creamer, sugar bowl, and an extra cup.

"Thanks," Doyle said and helped himself. He took a large bite of sandwich, chewed it thoroughly, swallowed, then turned to Bodie and said, "Thanks for the present--I think."

"Oh, good, it was delivered," Bodie said. "I thought I heard the doorbell. Did you like it?"

"Sure. Just what I've always wanted," Ray said. "And you're my true love, are you?"

"'Course I am. Didn't you know that?" Bodie asked.

"I'd never have guessed," replied Doyle. "Never in a million years."

"Ah, my heart's broken." Bodie said, reaching for another sandwich.

"Yeah, I can see that," Ray said. He finished his sandwich then said, "Anyway, I know what I'm going to do with them."

"Yeah? What's that?" Bodie asked.

"Oh, I'm going to cook the partridge and eat the pears, then I can chop up the tree and burn it. Yeah. That's what I'll do." He took another sandwich then sat back to eat it with a pleased expression on his face.

Bodie grinned. 'Cheeky sod.' he thought. He knew bloody well Ray wasn't going to do any such thing. At least Doyle wasn't angry--yet. Anyway, for right now, there were more practical matters to be taken care of.'

"What've you done with 'em?" he asked.

"Left them in the entryway," Ray answered. "I wasn't too sure where I should put them."

"Well, take everything to the conservatory," Bodie said. "There should be a cage out in the stables we can use for the partridge. I'll go look for it." He went out and got the cage, then took it to the conservatory. They carefully transferred the partridge to the larger cage and gave it food and water. "There. That should do it," Bodie said. "Did you say something earlier about a game of billiards?"

Ray's eyes brightened--this was much more up his alley than birds and trees. "Yeah. I've been waiting to get my revenge. I'm gonna slaughter you," he said.

"Oh, you think so, do you?" Bodie asked, "That'll be the day."

And they went off to test their prowess.

Just as they were entering the room, Ray looked at his partner speculatively. 'A partridge in a pear tree, huh?' Then he shook his head. 'Naaaah. Never.'

-- THE END --

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