Doyle stood at his office window, let the long net curtains billow around him, and the breeze wander its way through his hair, closed his eyes and took a deep breath. Even London smelled like summer today, the grass three long floors below recently cut, flowers from the garden next door a riot of sweetness, and that certain something in the air that made him want to be out amongst it all, wandering the streets and parks with Bodie.
Instead he’d had the Minister on the line insisting that he rearrange three other meetings to ensure that he could be cooped up in a no doubt overheated room in the depths of government buildings somewhere.
He took another deep breath.
Bloody budgets – it should have been Bodie’s turn, but some mandarin who didn’t yet understand the way they ran CI5 had insisted it be him, had all but hung up on him when he’d tried to explain. He’d ‘simply won’t do, it must be you’ him when he met the man…
Which would be in twenty minutes time.
With a last, wistful sweep of the world outside, he turned and strode back to his desk, packed up his laptop and hesitated by his jacket. He could leave it, turn up in his shirtsleeves – no written rule said that he had to wear one to walk the corridors of power… It might almost be worth it to shake them up a bit, though it was more depressing to realise how shaken they’d probably be, especially compared to the last lot. With his luck it’d make the next press release.
“I’m off, Salma!” he called as he passed her desk, frowning at the pile of papers he saw building up in his mail tray, all waiting for his return. “Tell Bodie I’ll see him at home, okay?”
Salma looked up and nodded briefly, returned to her telephone call.
“Tell him yourself, 4.5,” a low voice suggested as he passed the door to Bodie’s office.
Doyle started, turned, couldn’t keep himself from smiling. “I thought you weren’t back until later!”
“Time off for good behaviour,” Bodie said, backing into the room and drawing Doyle with him through sheer power of being himself. “Or,” he raised an eyebrow, “for some potentially bad behaviour?” He reached out and pushed the door shut, turned and pulled Doyle towards him.
“Bodie, I haven’t got time…” He went anyway, it had been a long six days, and it was good to see him, and... and you’d think he was too old to enjoy kissing this much still, but Bodie always tasted of Bodie, and… He let his arms slide around his waist, under his jacket. And he felt like Bodie, everything in just the right place, and that was as good as being at home, no matter where they were, and what hideous meeting was in his future.
“You know something, 4.5?” Bodie asked, after a hushed and warm minute, and Doyle knew what was coming, because it was Bodie, but he let him say it anyway. “You’re going to be late…”
“I’ll sort you out later,” Doyle said, but he couldn’t manage to sound stern. “How was Washington?”
“Too far away, the food’s lousy, and so’s the sex.”
Doyle rolled his eyes. “I’ll give you… far away. I bet you put on ten pounds over there…” he glanced down at his watch. “I’m going to be late…” he said again, turning to open the door. Then again, in for a penny… He turned back, used his free hand to pull Bodie towards him by his tie, and kissed him again, a promise.
“Hop along then, white rabbit,” Bodie called, as he finally managed to get on his way, but he sounded breathless and that, Doyle thought more happily, letting his briefcase swing at his side, was a result.
If he didn’t know that their flat was one of the safest places in London, he’d have un-taped the Glock he kept behind the seascape by the door, and gone in gun first. He paused, listening. He might do it anyway.
Bach hushed to dull murmur, but nothing else moved. He was in the lounge at least, driving himself deaf right beside the speakers, no doubt… Bodie waited a moment longer, then took off his jacket, decided he might need to keep his shoes on, and paced up the corridor to the closed door, opened it, and stepped inside.
Doyle was standing by the window, hands in pockets and gazing vacantly down the street, dressed in jeans and a jumper as though it was cold, as though…
“Doyle?” No answer. “You alright, mate? They decrease the budget for paperclips again?”
Doyle looked at him, briefly, and then away again, and his face was empty.
“Ray?” Had someone died? But who? He couldn’t think of anyone still left that Doyle would mourn this badly. Bodie crossed the room and stood beside him, wanted to reach out and put an arm around his shoulders, didn’t quite, somehow, dare.
He had a feeling, spreading its heavy, dreadful way from his stomach to his heart and through his bones, that this was something worse than death.
“I’m out.” Doyle said at last.
“Out of what?” he asked, before he could help himself, although surely he should know... But he needed more information, needed to know what they were dealing with.
He gaped, could feel himself gaping, his mouth open, his eyes too wide, couldn't stop it. It wasn't something that was possible. "What d'you mean, ‘out of CI5’?"
"I'm to take early retirement," Doyle glanced at him, then away, as if it hurt to look. He said, almost conversationally, "They're giving me a decent package - and I've got six months to clear me desk."
"You're not even close to sixty-five... Who's they?" he asked, belligerently, as if Doyle was a suspect, and Doyle heard it suddenly, his fear, because he looked up properly then, met his eyes.
"Early retirement," Doyle said, patiently. "Turns out they didn't want to discuss paperclips, this afternoon." He took a breath, pursed his lips. "This new lot… there's going to be changes, Bodie - big changes. They're restructuring from the bottom up, the Force and all, and beyond that…There's going to be a new agency..."
"You should be in charge of that, not..."
Doyle was shaking his head. "They're closing us down - oh, it'll take time, and you'll have a year or two after I've gone, but... I might as well've left my jacket off after all."
"You what?" He had to think, he needed to think... "They can't close us down, they need us too much." It had never mattered which party was in power, they'd all, ultimately, understood that they needed CI5, with its particularly special remit to get things done. "Look, they've come along, thinking they're going to start fresh..."
"This is different, Bodie." His name came out a rumble, though Bodie could see Doyle was trying to clench down on it. "They've had to watch from the sidelines for eleven years, and god knows how long they've got this time - they're determined to make changes, and we're just one of the first to go. There's spending cuts, the kind we've never seen, on the way – and they’re starting with us."
"But why you...?" he began, broke off. He knew why Doyle - Doyle was the one who could push his way through the mandarins and the Ministers to get the funding they needed, who had learned to play like a virtuoso on the media for public - and therefore Ministerial - sympathy. He was the one who still thought, after all these years, that there were ordinary people, and that they were worth sticking up for. He'd almost made Bodie believe it too of course, him and his social conscience, but at the end of the day Bodie knew that you could only look out for yourself - and the ones you loved - because no one else really wanted to do it for you.
And didn't this just prove it.
"There's got to be some way..." he began, but Doyle was shaking his head again.
"There's not. It’ll be alright. Look, I'll go put the spaghetti on - fifteen minutes, okay?" He brushed past Bodie, reaching out to touch his arm, a bare whisper of a moment and then it was gone, and the door had closed again behind him.
In the background, Bach played on.
It didn’t seem real. This time yesterday he’d been contemplating the apparent mishandling by SVR of the Chapman case and its impact on their own security, had been planning the next stages of the Luckman op, and considering the pros and cons of sending Sophie and Younes to October’s security conference. He’d been looking forward to having Bodie back under his feet at home, and now… Now.
Now he’d be the one who was underfoot at home, wandering aimlessly around the flat all day.
He’d tried looking on the bright side, as he lay wide awake in bed through the endless night – all those lie ins, time to work on the bike properly, get it going at last… Maybe he’d go off and tour the country on it, see another side to the lavender and roses, do a Billy Connolly. Even Cowley’d had to retire, in the end…
Of course he hadn’t lived long after that.
The sun was shining down on London again, somehow lighting it up so that even the dust and graffiti took on a perky aspect, looked like hope and optimism rather than mindless, badly disguised despair. Maybe all he needed was some sunshine… after all, everyone retired, sooner or later.
No. He could still do those things, he could do them for another six months, and then he’d be buggered if he let them sideline him after that. He’d find something – he’d only be sixty. He could tap the private market, he’d had more approaches to help with private security over the years than he could count...
At least he had when he was younger.
He turned into the CI5 carpark, swiped his card across the reader, and waited for the barrier to lift. He wouldn't miss this, the endless bureaucracy of who was in work at what time and doing what, performance assessments and personal logs, and long operational justifications. He was sure there was more paperwork than Cowley had ever had, for all he'd rarely seen the old man without some file or folder open in front of him.
Cowley must have known they'd close the department one day - he'd seen enough changes in his lifetime to realise that nothing lasted forever, and surely to roll his eyes at Doyle for kicking against this one. Cowley’d moved from one agency to the other to the next himself, he’d only settled into CI5 when he was already an old man.
He took the steps two at a time, just to prove that he still could, and then the lift up to the canteen to get himself a coffee. It was very early, staff not yet gone home from the long night shift, and he fell into their dream rhythm as moved along the counter, taking a large cup, filling it full and dropping a handful of sugars into his pocket. He shook his head at the till, no, there wouldn’t be anything else, and took the stairs back down to his office, still shadowed and dark and strangely still without Salma’s eternally busy presence outside.
The pile of paperwork-to-do was still in his mail tray, and he took the whole thing in with him. He should come in early more often, it was good to have the extra time to get it clear, especially since he was on the new weapon assessments this morning, and they were supposed to meet about the new intake this afternoon… He paused to let his computer start up, leaned back in his chair and took a sip of coffee. Maybe he should let Bodie work with someone else on that one – Kelly or Dyer, now that they were in off the streets… It wasn’t as if he’d be able to see them all the way through himself now, and…
Bodie’d have to get used to it too.
The day moved on around him, report to assessment to debriefing to report. Bodie refused to consider the new agents without him, and so they went down to the Training Centre together, watched as this one and that proved their worth on the shooting range, or the mats, or the killing shed. Two of them were outstanding – not only physically good, but already looking to work together rather than in competition with their colleagues. A good team, maybe.
For as long as that might last.
He let Bodie bully him into going home on time, ate the meal Bodie cooked, let himself be pulled onto the sofa beside him and the sounds of the Chelsea Flower Show wash over him. They watched a film then, some action dvd that Bodie’d been saving, argued briefly about whose turn it was to put the bin out, and before he knew it, deep in pages drenched with South African sunshine and wit, it was nearly one in the morning. He took himself up to bed, where Bodie already lay deep in dreams, and settled there beside him. He should turn the light out, tuck himself against Bodie and try and get some sleep – tomorrow would be another busy day, meetings that would save people’s lives, send them into danger, analyse what had or might have, or one day would go wrong. Instead he picked up his book again – work would still be in front of him in an hour’s time, and after all, he didn't need to rush to get there.
Doyle looked up from his computer, still frowning. “I’ll be a while yet, someone’s been messing with the…”
“Nope, I mean we’re out of here for a whole week, so get yourself sorted out then come home and pack or I’ll do it for you.” Doyle wouldn’t let him get away with that – not since that time they’d gone to Cyprus and he’d filled Doyle’s suitcase with nothing but his tightest fitting, oldest and skimpiest gear. He’d worn his travelling clothes straight to the shops and bought new, but Bodie’d managed to persuade him to wear the rest of it in various combinations, privately… Half of it had been too damaged to bother bringing back. He grinned, cheered at the thought. “And no excuses, Raymundo – we’re both officially booked out as of 5pm tonight.”
“You want to take a holiday now?” Doyle’s frown was minutely darker, determinedly fixed.
“The sun’s out, the forecast’s set to fair, and you’re frightening the children. Younes thinks he’s about to be fired.”
“He is, remember? We all bloody are…”
“I don’t see the point of going on holiday when I’ve only got another six months left anyway! There’s too much to do…”
“The point is, mate, that we’re owed more holiday than we could take in six months, and right now it’d do you good to get away for a week.” He looked up through his eyelashes at Doyle’s uncompromising face, changed tack. “Do me good too – you’re not the only one who needs to think things through, you know…”
Doyle stared at him for a moment, then seemed to relax all in one go, shoulders slumping, lifting his hands to rub them across his face and through his hair. “You want a holiday?”
He did his best to look put-upon. “Isn’t that what I just said? Come on, it’s been ages since I ‘ad you at the mercy of my every whim.”
“Oh is that what you think’ll happen?”
Bodie was perfectly sure it would happen – put Doyle in a bed and point him in any direction at all, and he was almost always compliance personified, ready to turn on to any sensual stimulus, to try anything once… though that almost always added extra spice to things. You never quite knew, with Doyle, when he might want to be the one surprising you…
“Well, it could always happen the other way around, if that was what you fancied,” he offered with his best look of promise, and then he turned away and left Doyle sitting there, thinking whatever he wanted to think, knowing that by tomorrow morning their cases would be solidly packed.
Salma raised an eyebrow at him as he came out, and he nodded, paused by her desk. “We’ll be back a week on Monday – did you find that number for me?”
She held out a finger, pink post-it on the end, and he peeled it off. “Thanks.”
“It’s about time you had a break – you shouldn’t wait until this sort of thing happens.”
He’d let her think there’d been bad family news, that they were taking time off to deal with it and that she should send out the whisper as a kind of damage limitation. Better a bit of sympathy for Doyle’s lousy temper, than justified grumbling. It was as good as true, anyway.
“Yeah, I know – try telling him that…” They shared understanding smiles for a moment, and then Salma’s phone rang, and his mobile went off at the same time, and no his agents couldn’t wait until after the budget for the decision about the Stevenage case…
“You’re telling me people actually live down here?” Doyle winced as another branch from the hedge smacked hard against the window beside him. “Can’t bloody get out, I suppose.”
Bodie shot him an injured – but brief – glance, then stopped abruptly and began backing up so that yet another dusty Land Rover could get past them. “It’s a hidden gem, is The Half Moon, right off the tourist track.”
“In disrepair and with the prices hiked right up then?”
Bodie managed to look reproachful, even while concentrating hard on their narrow excuse for a road, and Doyle hid a smile. Contrary to the tradition that if he went on holiday it was bound to rain, the sun was shining just as brightly on the narrow Dorset lanes as it had on London, and at the end of them he’d been promised a pub with accommodation right upstairs, sea view windows, and breakfast that could be served at any time at all, since the owner was an old mate of Bodie’s.
The road climbed briefly, so that there was nothing but a patch of brilliant blue sky and the Spring-green of the hedges in front of them, and then it opened out and forked between fields that swept with lush promise towards the horizon. To the left he could see the beginnings of a row of houses, to the right the road continued seawards, although surely they’d drop off the edge any moment now… And then there was another right turn, into a driveway that curved around a cluster of tall, dark trees but was marked with a pub sign that swayed a little in the breeze, and then revealed a rambling, somewhat weatherworn but bright looking building.
“Home sweet home,” Bodie announced with a grin, drawing the car up to half a dozen others that were parked in front of the low wall that ran down one side. “Well, for this week, anyway.”
“Could do with a lick of paint,” Doyle said, though there was something about the place that he liked straight away. It might be old and a bit tatty around the edges, but it looked solid, friendly – even if the wind probably did rattle the rafters, come a long cold winter. It’d be alright to be holed up somewhere like this, roaring fire in front of them…
“We’re getting this for free, you know,” Bodie returned, mock-defensively, “You’ll be demanding Burt brings up breakfast in bed, next…”
“Nah, you can do that… or breakfast-on-Bodie…” He gave in and grinned broadly back. Maybe this was what he needed after all, a bit of distance from Town to work things out. Maybe it would work out. “Come on, what are you waiting for?”
They dragged their cases from the boot, and made their way to the arched doors that stood open and welcoming under a vine-entwined porchway. He paused inside to let his eyes adjust to the shadows of the room, taking in the small family groups clustered at tables, a couple of locals perched against the bar, and finally the white-bearded man, big-bellied and jovial, who called a greeting to Bodie across the counter.
“Me mucker! About time you showed up – I’ve been short-handed all morning!” He laughed delightedly at Bodie’s momentary look of surprise – and worry. “Getting slow, Bodie, you’re getting slow…” He leaned across the bar, grabbed Bodie and slapped him cheerfully on the back. “Good to see you, mucker, good to see you!”
This man had been a mercenary in Africa?
“You don’t change, Burt,” Bodie was saying, surprising Doyle even more, and then he lowered his voice. “Sorry to hear about Sally.”
Burt sobered a little, though his face still beamed, he still smiled. “She was a good girl,” he said. “She’d’ve been sorry to miss you – your name came up in a story or two, you know!”
“I’ll bet it did. Burt,” Bodie turned, gestured to Doyle, who stepped forward and held out a hand, “This is Ray Doyle.”
“Pleased to meet you, Ray. Good drive up?”
They sat down at the bar, surrendered to small talk, and a pint pressed on each of them, and Doyle let his eyes wander as he half-listened to the rags and tags of gossip that were fit for public consumption. It was a decent, traditional pub, with dark, polished wood, heavy tables and a vaguely coastal theme. There were pictures and newspaper cuttings hung in frames, most of them to do with the local lifeboat, and a shelf with a row of ancient books on ships and sailing. But there were also horse brasses in a row down one beam, what looked like bits of farming implements scattered around and hung from various hooks, and he rather thought that was a butter churn in the corner by the fire…
“You boys hungry?” Burt asked at last, as Bodie drained the last of his pint. “Cook’s got a good beef stew on today, and he’s still serving…”
Doyle caught Bodie’s eye, tipped his head in easy acknowledgement. It was warm for stew, but if that was what was on offer he'd take it.
“Sounds good,” Bodie said, looking down at their luggage. “Shall we take these up first…?”
Burt took their cases himself, led them up red-carpeted stairs and then down a long corridor lined with windows overlooking the front garden of the pub, to the room at the very end.
“You should be alright in here,” Burt was saying, as Doyle followed Bodie through, giving him a little shove to get him out of the doorway. “We’ve a few other rooms booked over the week, but I’ve put them up the other end.
Doyle’s eyes widened. It was a nice enough room, with a big bay window that framed the promised “sea view” and had been flung open to let in wafts of salt-edged breeze, an en suite with a bath and shower, and… a double bed. He knew he was blushing despite himself, strolled to the window and inhaled to try and cover. He managed to turn and nod to Burt as he let himself out with exhortations to get themselves a move on, because Cook was quick on a day like today, and then he glared at Bodie.
“What did you tell him?”
“About…” He nodded to the bed, and was rewarded when Bodie blushed – just a little - in turn.
“That we’d want a double bed,” Bodie said defiantly, trying to sound matter-of-fact. “It’s true, isn’t it?”
“Yeah, but…” But he still wasn’t used to being outed to total strangers. He gave up. “You’d better not eat biscuits in it.”
Bodie smirked at him, then sat on the bed with a bounce and reclined back to his elbows. “Do whatever I like in this bed,” he said, and waggled his eyebrows in invitation. “I’d like to see you stop me.”
And he wanted to lie down beside Bodie, wanted to let their lunch get cold, and prove every embarrassing understanding of Burt’s true, but… he couldn’t. Not yet, not in the middle of the bright beaming daylight and the gentle summer breezes.
“Come on,” he said, trying not to see the look in Bodie’s eyes. “There’s a beer down there with your name on it, and a merc who looks like Father Christmas about to tell me some very interesting stories about your past…”
He followed Doyle out the door, along the corridor and back down the stairs to the bar, breathing in the smell of furniture polish and sea air. Out of habit he watched Doyle’s bum as he strode, long-legged, ahead, and perversely, since he’d resigned himself to being patient, wanted him then and there. Up against the solid wood of the banister, leaning over the broad window ledge at the bottom of the stairs, over the bloody bar itself…
He inhaled again - cool it… An instruction to take early retirement was a pretty worrying thing after all, especially when said instruction came from the very top. He’d done some discreet telephoning, over the past few days, this civil servant to that civil servant, and it wasn’t looking good either – Ray was right about one thing, there was a big upset on the way, for everyone. Bloody politicians. And yet surely something could be done, it was crazy to chuck away someone like Doyle, for the sake of saving a few pounds and a bit of awkwardness…
They emerged into the bar room in time to hear Burt’s young waitress calling “Two beef stews?” somewhat forlornly, and Bodie claimed them with a smile before they could be sent back to the kitchen. Burt was nowhere in sight, and the tables still crowded around with young families, children in full and voluble Saturday mode, so he gestured Doyle towards the arrowed sign – Beer Garden – over the back door, and followed him again.
There were fewer customers outside, the sun perhaps too bright or the breeze still too cool – either way, it suited Bodie. Doyle chose a table in the far corner of the garden, which was really just a vast open space scattered with wooden furniture and not an umbrella to its name, and Bodie set their food down with a grin. Beef stew, solid with dumplings and gravy…
Doyle was looking around, out to where the land fell away, presumably to the beach, across the blue sea of the bay to a smudge of an island with some sort of ruin at one end, and then on and on to where the horizon met up with the sky. More blue, Bodie thought happily. It was going to be a beautiful week.
“Go for a walk after this,” he suggested, gesturing with his fork to Doyle’s so far untouched plate, was rewarded when Doyle picked up his cutlery at last. “There’s a path down to the cliff that joins up with that South West Coast thing you reckoned you wanted to do, comes out in the village by the river and back up to the pub.”
“I thought you ’adn't been out here before?”
“Not for years, not since Burt bought the place.” He thought a moment. “Seventy-four, seventy-five? Something like that. Not long before I joined our mob, anyway. Now that was a weekend…” They’d had a reunion that would have turned Cowley’s hair grey and stopped his heart, half the men wanted by Interpol, another quarter probably wanted by Cowley himself. They’d not talked about work though, Burt was getting out once and for all, as he’d always promised he would, and so they’d stuck to wine, women and song the whole time, except when they had a game of football out on the cliff, and Badger’d nearly run himself over the bloody thing trying to stop a goal... “This is the other end of it – he’s selling up, inviting everyone down for a final freebie.”
“Thought this was the sort of place people retired to?”
Bodie shook his head. “Something up with the taxes – as in, he forgot to pay them. It’s sell or spend a few years with Her Majesty, he reckons.”
Doyle was staring at him. “He didn’t pay tax the whole time he was here?”
“Ah, you know what it’s like – no one paid tax in our mob, nice little off-shore accounts, nothing to do with Lizzie. Wasn’t on his radar.”
“Wasn’t on his…” Doyle began, incredulously, shut up at Bodie’s amused look.
“Such a law-abiding soul, aren’t you?” he said cheerfully. “Are you eating that, or not?”
“Get your own,” Doyle said, distracted by Bodie’s empty plate. “You’ll get indigestion, scoffing at that rate…”
The bickered back and forth for a few moments, so that Bodie left the table, cheered, to get them some beers and to look at the dessert menu. By the time he got back with a lemon meringue pie for himself, a board of cheese and biscuits for Doyle, and two pints of Palmer’s Best, Doyle had finished his meal and was leaning back, looking thoughtful.
“Off-shore accounts, eh?”
“Long gone, you little gold-digger, long gone…”
“You mean I’ve put in all this effort and you’re broke? Knew I should’ve gone for Susan instead.”
“I’ve just spent me last coppers buying you lunch…”
Doyle looked at him askance, knowing as well as Bodie that Burt wouldn’t charge them a penny while they were here.
“He’s got a funny way of trying to make it up to Inland Revenue,” Doyle said thoughtfully. “He can’t be doing that badly if he can afford to give out freebies over the summer.”
Bodie shrugged. “He’s not broke, but I don’t think this place does brilliantly in the winter. It’s not a big village, and when the tourists are gone…”
“Yeah…” Doyle sliced absently at some cheddar, didn’t even rap his knuckles with the knife when Bodie pinched a piece. “What’s he going to do, then?”
“Dunno.” He couldn’t imagine Burt doing anything other than making grenades or serving beer – he’d always done both as if born to them. “Find somewhere smaller, maybe… Reckons it’s not the same now that Sal’s gone anyway.”
Never – Burt had never sounded less than entirely happy, when they spoke, and it was always Sal’s name that came up more than anything else. “Cancer.”
Doyle grimaced, and Bodie knew what he meant. Didn’t seem right for anyone to go like that… He’d always assumed he’d be finished long before now – the fact that he wasn’t, that he was now safely behind a desk and unlikely to find himself in the way of a nice, quick bullet ever again wasn't always the happy thought it should have been.
“That island’s theirs as well,” he said, gesturing into the distance, not wanting to think about that sort of future too hard. Bad enough they had to think about retirement. “He bought it for Sal when they got married.”
“Some wedding present…” Doyle whistled and squinted out over the water. “What’s that on it?”
“Castle or something – ruined now.” Burt had wafted poetic about taking Sal there, camping under the stars, surrounded by the twinkling lights of the bay and the sound of waves lapping. You’d have thought it was a tropical paradise, the way he went on about it.
“And he couldn’t pay his taxes?”
Bodie blinked, then grinned broadly at him. “That’s my Doyle – man buys his wife an island, maybe the most romantic gesture ever, and you think he should have spent it on his taxes.”
“Yeah, well…” Doyle took a mouthful of his beer, eyed Bodie over the rim of the glass. “You’ve never bought me an island.”
“You rubbed off on me,” Bodie said, “And then I paid me taxes, didn’t I?”
And, to Bodie’s delight, Doyle laughed at that, the first real, out-loud laugh he’d heard for days, and then he kicked him under the table, swallowed the last of his beer, and insisted they head off down the coast path.
The path down the cliff to the beach was manageable but steep, so that they went carefully, watching their feet and making sure there was something close by to grab when they wanted to pause and gaze out to the sea. Eventually they reached a sort of rocky plateau, into which was set a hole, criss-crossed with ancient and rusted iron bars – presumably to stop anyone falling through. Peering down, he could see sand, dark and wet, and trails of seaweed, in the pale beam of light from above, and then all was shadow.
“Martha’s Blowhole,” Bodie said, joining him to stare. “When the tide’s in the water spouts right through here, on a good day.”
“And by a 'good day' you mean a bad one…” He couldn’t imagine the sea that rough today, that there was strength enough in it to force water so far up the cliffs. For now the tide was far enough out that when he wandered to the edge of the plateau, he could see a wide strip of golden sand below. On either side was a stretch of rocks, arms reaching into the sea, and shining with pools of water. Crossing them to the left would bring them to Downsey Sands, to the right and they’d be walking all the way along the Jurassic coast to Lyme Regis.
He followed Bodie the rest of the way down to the cove, which turned out to be finely-ground pebble interspersed with sand, took off his shoes and rolled up his trousers, to Bodie’s amusement – “You’ll be putting on a knotted hanky, next!” – and wandered down to the water’s edge. It was cold enough that he winced when the first wavelets flooded over his feet, a sharp, stinging cold, but the next rush of froth wasn’t so bad, and he paddled out a bit further, just for the sake of being in the sea in the sunshine on holiday. Bodie paced him along the shore at a more decorous distance, there with him, quietly.
If only they could wander the summer shores of England forever… well, no – he’d only get bored. They’d only get bored. But it was alright that Bodie’d brought him now, even if he was trying to distract him from things that couldn’t be helped. He glanced around them, up to the ledge by the blowhole, saw only distant figures, and trudged back through the wet sand until he was striding along beside Bodie, took his hand and squeezed gently. Bodie glanced sideways at him, squeezed back, and they made their way as far down the strip of rocks as Bodie could get with dry feet, together.
“Portland lighthouse over there,” Bodie said, pointing with his free hand at a distance dash of darker blue on the horizon. "There were smugglers all up and down here.”
“Oh yeah?” Trust Bodie – more stories of romance and adventure than you could shake a stick at. “Fancy it, do you?”
“With a Revenue Man like yourself at me heels?” Bodie leered at him, eyebrow raised, and Doyle chuckled.
“Come on, get yer shoes off and show us what you’re made of…”
“Why Raymond – and on a public beach! We’ll be arrested!”
“Fool…” Doyle grinned, reached down to grab Bodie’s leg to tip him over, and then they were off, a long chase back up the beach and across the sand, until Doyle finally tackled him to the ground and set to poking at his most ticklish places, just because it was good to hear Bodie giggling. Finally he leaned back on one elbow, looked down at Bodie’s eyes, crinkled from laughing, a steak of sand stuck to one cheek, didn't bother looking for an audience, bent closer and kissed him.
It was still good, to kiss Bodie. He couldn’t be that old, if it was still this good to kiss Bodie.
"Feeling better?" Bodie asked when he'd finished, but he asked it softly, so that Doyle could just blink at him in confirmation, because right now, right this second, he did feel better.
They got up, dusting sand from their clothes and each complaining about the other’s weight and tactics. Doyle pulled his trainers on, though he left his trousers rolled up, and tucked his socks into a pocket. It was too warm to bother being civilised, and anyway, this was the seaside – you could get away with anything at the seaside.
They clambered over the rocks, and strolled in the direction of Higher Downsey, pausing now and then to point out this or that. The village sprawled around a small pebbly curve of shore, and lifted scattered fingers into the hills all around. To one side a small river let itself into the sea, surrounded and controlled by breakwaters to form a neat harbour. A scattering of vessels were tilted on the puddled harbour floor waiting for the tide to come in, mostly small leisure craft of one kind or another, and half a dozen sailboats stood in row beside the stone wall, but there were a couple of fishing boats strung with brightly coloured floats, and a tidy looking lifeboat so that it seemed more like a working harbour still, rather than some quaint sailing club. Doyle wondered how they’d gotten away with that, here on the bright Dorset coast.
He turned to search for The Half Moon, but it stood out so brilliantly in the afternoon sunshine, at the west end of the village, that it was hard not to see. From this angle it looked both an integral part of the cluster of buildings and houses that were Higher Downsey, and yet somehow separate – pushed off just to one side, not quite belonging.
“It can’t be the only pub in town,” Doyle said, scanning the shore for another, but although there were buildings from one end to the other of the small bay, none of them looked like pubs.
“It’s not exactly a bustling metropolis,” Bodie said, reaching down to pick up an undistinguished-looking pebble from amongst all the others, and brushing it carefully with his thumb. “Except in the summer it’s probably dead.” He held out the pebble, and Doyle took it, automatically, absently.
“Bet the locals can’t wait.” They turned from the shoreline and made their way up to the small sea wall that separated beach from village, and Doyle glanced down at the stone Bodie had given him.
It was small and grey, with a single white stripe wavering from side to side – and it was the exact shape of a love heart.
The campaign, Bodie felt, for Doyle’s peace of mind, was so far going well. Some fresh air, a bit of a laugh to take his mind off things, and then just a hint of the romance that Doyle pretended he couldn’t be bothered with, and things were looking up. He just needed a more positive frame of mind, something to remind him that they were in this together, that they’d fight it together. Politicians came and went, they were there for the duration.
Burt texted as they wandered the few streets of Higher Downsey, Bodie’s phone ringing the Funeral March loud and clear through the small general store and chandlery they’d popped into, so that the woman behind the till jumped and frowned at them, and Doyle had to turn away, sniggering. Better and better.
Cum 4 dinner at 7, the message read, so that Bodie suppressed his own grin and held it up for Doyle to read.
“I ‘ope not,” Doyle said, “I’d rather have a steak.”
Bodie made a shocked face, didn’t see Doyle reach out to run long, ticklish fingers across his stomach, and spoiled it by giggling again.
They left the shop, Bodie giving the woman his best conciliatory smile as they sidled out through the rows of ropes and cleats and bits of flag and sailcloth. She gave them a brief nod back, which was probably more than they deserved since they’d obviously not come in to buy.
It was already past six, so they wandered up the steep hill towards The Half Moon, shoulder to shoulder, not bothering to say much. They’d have dinner with Burt, Bodie thought cheerfully, get some more beer down Doyle’s neck – or maybe a decent bottle or two of wine, if Burt had any - and he’d soon have him mellow enough to confide any secret Bodie fancied prying out of him. Not that he did, much – a man’s past was his past, and that’s generally where they should stay. Unless of course they were about birthday presents and surprise evenings out, which was the only kind Doyle made much effort to keep from him.
There were things that Doyle could do for the department that didn’t involve him mucking up the government’s budget, and there was no reason Bodie could see why he couldn’t just do them. There was the training facility that needed work, and… His mind wandered methodically from avenue to avenue, ignoring, for now, the advice he’d been given off the record, to let this one go.
They were both just a little out of breath by the time they reached the top of the hill and made their way along the driveway to the pub. They wound their way through the scattering of families having their own dinners and up the stairs to their room. Bodie collapsed onto the bed, and Doyle eyed him scathingly.
"We only got here this morning, you can't be knackered already!"
"All this sea air, 'm not used to it you know. Missing me dust and pollution." He gave a poorly cough, but sat up to pull his shoes off and then rummaged through his case for a change of clothes while Doyle was in the bathroom. He actually felt better himself, than he had for a long time, it was oddly relaxing to worry more about Doyle than about anything else, felt strangely like being back on the streets again. Focussed. They kept telling themselves they'd get away more often, very rarely did, maybe Salma was right without knowing how, maybe this was another one of those wake up calls.
Doyle came out of the bathroom in just his jeans, threw the t-shirt he'd been wearing into a corner - that'd be the laundry corner then - and then pulled off his jeans. Bodie watched interestedly until he was caught at it, grinned unrepentantly and took himself for a quick wash and shave. He enjoyed himself, pottering around the bathroom, looking forward to the night, to the whole week ahead. Their room was comfortable, Burt was a good bloke, and he had Doyle all to himself for what felt like the first time in months - yeah, life was looking up, not down.
"Oriental Steamed Fish with Ginger, Soy and Sesame," Burt said as he set plates down on the table. "Summer Fruit Millefeuille to follow."
"Bloody 'ell," Bodie looked impressed, "You never managed this lot when we were out in Kananga!"
"Didn't have Delia in my repertoire then." He tipped his head to a collection of cookbooks on a shelf beside the cooker - not just a cooker, Doyle realised, but one of those Aga things, all cream-coloured front and solid-looking doors. "That was Sal, that was - used to love Jamie Oliver and all that, on the telly. When she couldn't cook any more I did it for her." He said it matter-of-factly, took a bottle of wine from the fridge and sat down to join them.
"Did her Tom finish his time?" Bodie asked, and Doyle settled back to let the conversation flow over him while he enjoyed his food. He learned more, he'd found long ago, from not asking Bodie anything than he ever had with his best interrogation techniques. Tom, it turned out, was a son from Sally's first marriage, violent as her first husband, but bright enough that he'd decided to give the anger management classes a go rather than chance being banged up all his life. He'd moved to New Zealand, found himself a sheep farm and a local girl, and Burt and Sally had spent six happy weeks there, before coming home to the wind and rain that was their usual coastal winter.
He'd never really thought about going as far away as New Zealand - he was happy enough with the odd foray to the Continent, dousing himself in art and culture and sunshine, but he wondered, listening to Bodie's questions and watching him smile at this anecdote and that description of the holiday - "jellyfish covering the beach, like bloody measles they were!" - whether Bodie might have preferred something a bit more exotic. Then again, how could they take six weeks off together, for something like that? It was surely all but impossible.
Not any more... a tiny voice whispered, so that he frowned into his wine, took a bigger mouthful than he'd meant to. He might be able to go now, but Bodie still wouldn't be able to get away, and he could hardly leave him in London at risk of god knew what while he went gallivanting. It was all he could do at the moment to keep him in off field operations - though to be fair, Bodie had the same problem with him. They'd been better at confining themselves to HQ over the past few years, letting the young bucks go out and do the - interesting, more fun, the voice whispered - legwork and take the risks, but... It was the only way to stay sane, he thought, to stay truly alive. What was life without a bit of risk?
It was just that he didn't want Bodie taking risks when he couldn't do anything about them.
Talk wandered back to the Congo for a while, distracted him away from his depressing future in his curiousity about Bodie's dodgy past. He'd mentioned being in jail in the Congo once or twice, some misunderstanding or other, but that was all he'd ever said. Doyle knew what had gone on out there - had heard of Denard and Schramme and Hoare, and looked into their trails of chaos and mayhem, knowing that Bodie must have been there somewhere, must have been following one or the other of them. But he'd come home, Doyle had always thought, and he'd not gone back again - he'd joined the army instead, sided with the angels, no matter what he said about pay and excitement. SAS or none, if that was all Bodie had wanted, he'd have gone back to Africa with the rest of them.
"...only place left he could retire," Burt was saying. "Brazil wouldn't have him, and he didn't fancy Down Under."
"Yeah, but Ireland - hardly an oasis of tranquillity..."
"Oh, I think he enjoyed all that - adviser to the Sons and plenty of Guinness on tap. Shame they didn't see it the same way."
"To Jimmy," Bodie proposed, raising his glass, and Doyle tilted his only half-willingly. Jimmy must have had some redeeming qualities, or Bodie wouldn't be quite so blithe about him, but still - adviser to the lads? It was all blood spilled, in the end. Then again - how was that so different to what he did? Jimmy no doubt thought he was on the right side, they all did...
He wouldn't be doing it soon...
He looked up, caught Bodie's eyes on him, a slight frown creasing his forehead.
Bodie swigged his own wine, let Burt top him up and took a mouthful of that too. He was going to have words with Ray when they got upstairs, moody bugger. How could he cheer him up if Doyle refused to be cheered? He knew it was the two of them together, he bloody knew it, and yet he kept pretending he didn't affect anyone else...
By the time they'd wavered their way back to the pub, and upstairs to their own room, Bodie had worked it out. Doyle wanted to retire, but he didn't want to own up to it. It was the only explanation, because otherwise he'd be out there fighting, scheming and plotting with Bodie about who had to be knocked on the head and reminded that CI5 were more necessary than any temporary government.
"Right - what did they say to you?" he asked as he shut the door behind him, no other preamble. Doyle didn't deserve one.
Doyle had walked across to the window again, flung it wider open, and leaned out to breathe in the night air, but he turned, put his hands on hips, and tipped his head at Bodie's question. "Who?"
Playing for time, he was, and it just enflamed Bodie further. "Queen Elizabeth - who do you think I mean?" he snapped, "What did the Home Sec say to you last week, and if you don't give me a straight answer, I'll..."
"You'll what?" Doyle asked, raising an eyebrow, as if he wasn't serious, as if he hadn't had it up to his neck with Ray bloody Doyle's secrets.
Bodie strode towards him, past him, and closed the window, pulled the curtains. They'd have this row with no excuses about people hearing, no... "Just tell me."
"I told you what they said - that I'm to take early retirement and you're to go on and close down the department."
"That's not all though, is it?"
"What do you want, a transcript?" Doyle's voice rose, and Bodie was pleased. A mad Doyle was an incautious Doyle - always had been, and apparently always would be.
"If you can't manage to paraphrase, then yeah - I want the transcript." He crossed his arms, feet planted firmly apart, and waited.
Slowly and precisely, as if he was reciting, Doyle spoke. "They said that they were making major cuts in all areas, and that in order to rationalise home security they were doing away with CI5." He paused, and there was a nasty glint to his eye suddenly. "Doing away with - that's paraphrasing."
"Thank you, Lynne Truss. Keep going."
"They'll let you stay on to close it down if I take early retirement. You've probably got two years to do it, and then..."
"If I take early retirement?"
"And I take early retirement," Doyle corrected himself. "You stay on to close it down and I take early retirement. I told you already. Then it was just..."
Bodie shook his head slowly. Doyle might play the fool, he might forget what he'd had for dinner the night before, and he might on occasion lose his car, but he didn't make slips like that.
"You're not telling me something, Doyle. She's wound you up tight and you're not telling me how."
"Of course I'm wound up - do you think I want to toddle off and spend my days..." His imagination seemed to fail him. "Of course I'm bloody wound up!"
"Then don't retire - they can't make you do it!" They could, of course they could, but not if the two of them put their heads together and thought...
"Of course they can make me do it!"
"Since when did you lie down and let someone get the better of you?"
Doyle rolled his eyes, took a pace away and then spun back to face him again. "Even I know when I'm outnumbered!"
Bodie dropped his stance, took a deliberate pace forward so that they were face to face. "The government's never outnumbered you before - what did they say?"
Doyle had clenched his fists, was keeping his temper only with difficulty. One final push, Bodie thought, and he clenched his own fists, knowing Doyle would see it, would read it correctly. "Or you'll wish you had."
And Doyle laughed. It was a short laugh, not really amused, not really anything except over-angry and fed up, but it was a laugh, and Bodie saw red. On a breath he lifted his hands, grabbed Doyle by his lapels, and shoved him back against the wall, hard enough that Doyle's head hit the plaster and bounced back.
With a growl of rage, Doyle lifted his own hands and shoved him off, and Bodie was caught enough by surprise at what he'd done that he let it happen.
And Doyle, his moody, berserker-tempered Doyle, followed it through by taking Bodie by his own shirt collar, spinning him and pushing him back against the same wall. "You only get to keep your job if I go quietly!"
"What?" Bodie caught himself from continuing the fight, from taking Doyle and knocking him down, stared as Doyle rolled his eyes, let him go, and turned away from him. "What did you just say? You've already made a deal with them!"
"Oh it wasn't a deal mate, it was an ultimatum." Doyle took a deep breath, closed his eyes and buried his face in his hands for a moment, recovering some equanimity, then he looked solidly at Bodie. "If I go quietly now, they'll keep you on for two more years to oversee the move, maybe take you with them."
"And if you don't?" But he knew the answer, he already knew the answer.
"Then we're both gone, and sooner rather than later."
Doyle was convinced, he was completely and utterly convinced, and that gave Bodie pause.
Doyle, being Doyle, followed up on it. "Think about it - better that one of us is there, keeping an eye on things, making sure they don't make a complete hash of it. I'll find something else to do - I won't like it, but I can do it."
"Not as if you're over the hill," Bodie said, to give himself time to think. Doyle was rubbing at the back of his head, and that was distracting too. He remembered the way it had bounced from the wall, the way he'd heard it hit. "Not as if your head's that thick any more either. Come here..." He drew Doyle towards him, gently this time, reached up and brushed Doyle's own hand out of the way. No blood, but there was a lump forming already, and Doyle hissed under his touch.
Live by violence, die by violence... His mum's words, vicious as when she'd said them, came back to him, and he closed his own eyes, rested his cheek against Doyle's, continued to hold him until the tension had left them both, and Doyle's hands slid their way under his jacket and around his waist.
It wasn't going to happen, there were better things in the world, he knew there were.
He kissed one of his better things on the cheek, then whispered a sorry in his ear. Doyle's arms tightened around him, so Bodie kissed his ear, his cheek again, and began to undress him. Jacket off, one arm at a time, while they kissed properly, Doyle's lips always warm under his own, then Doyle's shirt, so that he could pause his hand, fingers spread, to feel Doyle's heart beating. He slid his hands around, down his back and over Doyle's denim-clothed arse, and that was one of the better better things too.
"Ray..." he whispered this time, meaning to tell him that they should turn the lights out, go to bed properly, but it was too late for that, because he didn't want to let him go, not for a second. Instead he manoeuvred them across the room, one step at a time, one piece of fallen clothing at a time, until they were both naked and the darkness cocooned them around, until the bed was firmly against his legs and he could draw them both down onto it.
Doyle followed, Doyle always followed, so that he was straddling Bodie, was above him and kissing him, hands stroking and caressing, and... Bodie pulled him down, so that the air between them was gone, so that he could feel him from chest to stomach to heavy, urgent cock against his own. This was theirs, this was them and this was how they were going to die, he thought, and he clutched Doyle suddenly to him, so that there was nothing but their warmth and that shouting moment when he came, with Doyle, always with Doyle... and then he slept.
Doyle woke to Bodie's weight lying heavily against him, to warmth and lethargy and the feeling of sunshine all around. The room was still dim, though the curtains were outlined with palely shadowed light, and it took him a moment to realise that the sunshine had come from his dreams, from knowing that Bodie knew what was going on now, that he'd told him, and that he understood after all that there was nothing to be done. He still didn't know what he was going to do, but... but he'd told him, and it would be alright. He'd always known he'd manage better than Bodie would, without CI5, and so he'd manage to keep them together through it as well. Somehow.
And it wasn't, after all, going to properly happen for another six months, and that meant that Bodie was right, there was time for a single stolen week before it all fell apart properly, and Bodie deserved this week. He looked down to where Bodie's head lay on his shoulder, past greyed hair to closed eyes, eyelashes still long on his cheeks, for all they were paler now, too, with age. There were lines on Bodie's forehead that didn't go away, and around his eyes and his mouth, and Doyle had been beside him for every single one.
He'd be beside him for the rest of them too.
He thought back to his mood of the day before, to the pebble that Bodie had given him, still sitting somewhere in his jeans pocket. He'd make them as a joke, these little gestures, but he meant them as well, because at heart Bodie was a romantic, despite the world trying to knock it out of him. He'd run away to sea, he'd fallen for a film star, he'd given Doyle a heart - his heart.
Bodie shifted against him, snuffled into his shoulder, and pressed their lengths together, so that Doyle pressed languidly back. Sometimes, he decided whimsically, warmly, contentedly, you needed to give your treasures a bit of a polish... He'd take Bodie out somewhere today, romance the stuffing out of him, show him properly that he was sorry for being such a bugger to live with. That he was loved too.
He gave Bodie a squeeze at that thought, lifting his wrist to check the time as he did it. They'd slept in, it was nearly nine o'clock. Bodie sniffed, mumbled something, and tightened his own arm around Doyle's chest, on his way at least to be being half-awake. Let him sleep, or start the day?
Or maybe a compromise... He shifted, pulling his arm from under Bodie's shoulders so that Bodie frowned and wriggled, and turned onto his back, pulling the duvet up in irritation. Doyle let him slide back a little way to sleep, then he leaned down and kissed him, lips, beside his nose, gently over each closed eye, and then back down to lips again, coaxing them to open, tugging softly at them, and then away, leaving Bodie's breath a little more ragged, a slight moan in his throat.
If that didn't do the trick then Bodie needed the sleep. Humming softly, he stepped into the bathroom and turned on the shower, slid under the water and felt it on his skin like music - a drum tattoo here, a sliding violin there, the tickle of a flute solo down his neck. Today was going to be a good day.
Bodie thwarted his plans to bring him breakfast in bed by being not only awake but up and exercising when he emerged from the bathroom, a series of stretches and push ups and sit ups under the window, curtains flung open to let in the day. He eyed Doyle from under his lashes for a moment, then grinned and sprang to his feet.
"Now you're in a good mood," he said smugly, and Doyle blushed, cuffed him quickly about the head as he went past, and then pulled on a pair of fresh jeans without bothering with underpants, which earned him a quick grope, which led to another kiss, which almost led to... Doyle extracted himself and steered them through the door, both smiling. A good day.
They strolled down to breakfast, shoulder to shoulder, managing to get in just before the 9.30am cut-off, and Doyle glanced briefly at the menu and then ordered for both of them.
Bodie eyed him suspiciously as the waitress brought them a cafetiere of coffee. "You've ordered me hash browns as well as bacon?"
"I've ordered me hash browns as well as bacon," Doyle corrected him, "I just ordered it for you as well to save the cook messing around. If you like I'll..." He half turned, raised an arm as if to call the young girl back, and was rewarded when Bodie reached forward, grabbed his shoulder and pulled him back around. He swivelled in his seat, grinning, and then grinning purely at the outraged look on Bodie's face.
"Bastard," Bodie muttered, and Doyle had opened his mouth to reply when Burt strode into the bar room, spotted them with a pleased “Ah-ha!” and came to sit down at their table.
“Sleep alright?” he asked, reaching behind him to another table for a spare coffee cup, helping himself from their cafetiere.
“Like a log,” Bodie said, “Righteous living, you know.”
“That must make a change.” Burt eyed their toast as it arrived, and Doyle gestured him to it. “Ah, you’re a good un – I’ve been up since five, stocking up in Bridders for tonight’s chaos!”
Doyle raised an eyebrow at that, and Burt laughed. “It’s always chaos around here, no end to it!” He crunched energetically on a piece of toast, and with his mouth full, “What you lads up to today, then?”
Bodie shrugged. “Hadn’t thought yet – what d’you recommend?”
“Depends what you like… Bridport's a nice old town for a wander, or you could go up the coast to Weymouth with the rest of the grockles… tourists,” he added with a grin, when they both blinked at him.
Bodie rolled his eyes. “How about something a bit less… grockley?”
Grockley? Doyle grinned, snorted, and Bodie pulled a face at him.
“Something less grockley...” Burt joined in, rubbing thoughtfully at his beard. “You could take the boat out, if you fancy – have a look at my shipwreck?”
“You wrecked a ship?”
“Did I bol-" he glanced at the occupied tables around them, "… heck! Best boatman out there, I was! Here, you remember that cat' we borrowed, off Dakar…?”
“You should have seen it, Ray,” Bodie reminisced with a will, “One of the Tornado prototypes, she could cut through the water smooth as anything…” He clapped his hands together, face one great smile. “What d’you reckon, day out on the water?” He didn’t pause, didn’t wait for Doyle to say yes. “What’s this shipwreck then, if you didn’t do it?”
“Belonged to Sal’s family, once upon a time, went down… oh, eighteen-something-or-other. Eighteen twenty four, that’s it – bad hurricanes, dozens of ships lost from one end of Dorset to the other! The Caroline was on her way home from Peru – she’d stopped in London to unload a fortune in Spanish gold and treasure liberated from Bolivar’s lot, and rumour has it that it didn’t all end up in the Treasury, if you know what I mean.” He paused to take a breath, and another piece of toast, took advantage of Bodie’s distraction to pinch a rasher of bacon too. Bodie barely noticed, wrapped up in his own forkful of sausage and egg, and in Burt’s story.
“It’s never still down there,” he said cynically, “After all these years?”
“It’s never been found,” Burt said, waxing mysterious. “There’s a curse an’ all.”
“A curse!” Doyle scoffed, before he could help himself, but Bodie barely glanced at him.
“What the storm took,” Burt intoned dramatically, “The storm will restore, but…” he waved his toast about, “…something-something-something, nevermore!”
“Pretty pathetic curse!” Bodie said, “Is that it?”
“Can’t remember the middle bit.” Burt was unfazed. “Besides, I suspect it’s a load of bunkum.”
“’fraid so, me mucker – there’s been hundreds of storms since then, and the bloody thing’s still stuck down there. Wedged in, they reckon.”
“No treasure then,” Bodie said sadly, but he mopped the remains of his breakfast onto a final piece of toast, ate it anyway. “Worth a look though, is it?”
“They do tourist trips round it in high season, it’s a nice little earner for Jimmy down the village.”
“Yeah, alright then,” he looked at Doyle, “Fancy a bit of treasure hunting?”
A day spent in the sun and the sea and with Bodie? “Why not?”
Bodie grinned, stole Doyle’s last rasher with a wink, and turned back to Burt. “What kind of tub've you got? Can we dive it?”
Bodie was content to feel the air on his face through the cuddy's top hatch, to let the harbour slip behind them and the village grow small in the distance, and to watch Doyle's bare shoulders as he sat beside him in the cabin, sun shining through the screen and the hatch both since it was after midday by the time they got themselves sorted and away with the blessing of the village's unofficial harbourmaster.
It was a Saturday, so there were other boats out on the water, but it was still early enough in the season to be relatively quiet, and they chugged on undisturbed. Further out were a few intrepid souls in sailboats, tiny triangles of red and white and yellow darting and ducking in and out amongst themselves. It was the weekend, everyone off enjoying themselves, taking it easy. He'd dreamed, when he was a kid, of living this sort of life full-time - well, of sailing around the world, entertaining beautiful women on glamorous yachts... This though - he eyed Doyle from the corner of his eye, grey-haired and still pale from too long a winter in London, one arm stretched out along the side of the boat, lazy and sunsoaking - this was close enough.
Eventually they drew close to Sal's island, and Doyle roused himself to take a closer look, moving to sit beside Bodie so that he was facing the right way without bothering to turn. Bodie luxuriated in the feel of their arms brushing, their legs warm together, and gazed at the outcrop of land. There were sharp rocks all around it, although Burt had told them there was a way in to land, and in the very middle, on a low hill, rose a ruined castle. It had been built of big white stones, now tumbledown towers, ruined walls and broken archways were all that was left. Seagulls lined the topmost stones, squabbling now and then with half a dozen ravens who'd come across from a small crop of trees at one end of the island.
"Who'd build that out here?" Doyle asked, leaning around to see more clearly as the boat curved, supporting himself with a hand laid firmly on Bodie's thigh.
"Folly," Bodie said, distracted for a moment from architecture and exploration.
"Too right it was..."
"No, it's not a real castle - Sal's great-something grandfather built it for a bit of a wheeze, way back when. Used to take parties out for decadent lunches on the lawn."
"Oh yeah?" Doyle looked at him, a spark in his eye.
"Yeah - quite debauched some of 'em, too. Well, according to Burt." Not that you could believe half of what Burt said, but still - some of it had to be true, just by the law of chance. "D'you fancy a bit of debauching?" He let go of the wheel with one hand, slid it from Doyle's knee upwards.
Doyle let him for a moment, then took his hand firmly and put it back on the wheel. "Not in the middle of the ocean without our lifevests, I don't."
"Arrh, my pretty," Bodie did his best pirate, "Just let me find me anchor and we'll worry about life vests then..."
"Maniac," Doyle said, "I thought you wanted to find this shipwreck?" But he was smiling, and Bodie turned back to steering the boat in a pleasant haze of anticipation. Could he have Doyle out here, anchored in the blue water, on the deck in the open air? It'd be madness to chance it, to chance another vessel passing too closely by, or some keen weekend sailor with a pair of binoculars or a telephoto lens to take pictures of the wildlife... But it was tempting.
"Oi, are we far enough round yet to line up the wreck?"
"'ey? Oh..." Bodie let the engine fall to idle, checked their position. They had to line up the steeple of the village church, with the hill over there, and... between the towers of the castle... He took them a bit further to the left, watched the drift, and then waved Doyle to set the anchor, managing another quick grope as Doyle leaned up through the hatch to reach the cleat. He slowed it down when they were clearly secure, standing so that Doyle had to slide down and his hands were on him every inch of the way...
They were both breathing slightly raggedly by the time he stood on the floor of the boat again, and Bodie grinned unrepentantly.
"You..." Doyle aimed a mock-punch at his arm, pulling a little at his jeans with his other hand. That'd teach him not to wear underwear...
"Right, where's this shipwreck?"
They gazed down at the water surrounding them, surprisingly clear and smooth now that they'd stopped trying to push their way through it. It must be deep though, if there was no danger to the hundreds of little craft that plied the harbour waters...
After a few moments Doyle nudged him, pointed into the water slightly to their left. "That it?"
Bodie stared, and slowly began to make out a darker blur where the rest of the water seemed lighter. Was that a mast? "Come on, let's take a closer look!"
Doyle looked at him.
"Get yer kit off," he said, more clearly, "Let's see what we can see!" He suited actions to words, stripping off his jeans to reveal his swim trunks.
"But I didn't..."
"...didn't? Didn't think to change into your cozzie after breakfast? Tut-tut, Raymond..." He dropped his shirt on the deck, stepped up to balance on the railing, and dived into the deep blue sea, the water cool on his skin, cold on his skin, but breathlessly, beautifully, enveloping and buoyant. He didn't bother looking for the wreck, opened his eyes to gaze down towards the sandy seabed, then let himself rise up to the surface just in time to see Doyle dive, naked as the day he was born, into the water a short way away.
Better and better.
Eventually, worn with it all, they collapsed back into the boat, drank pop and drenched themselves in the warmth of the sunshine, tried not to drop off to sleep. They could take The Lucky Girl further out, see some more of the coast from the water, they could try and work out for themselves how to land at the island, they could take themselves up to West Bay and find a pub for the late afternoon hours... But they didn't. Just for once Doyle didn't want movement, and he didn't want action, and he didn't want anything that would distract him from being lazy with Bodie.
There were too many other vessels around the bay and occasionally passing by to chance anything more than the odd snatched kiss, but when they lay on the deck their legs touched, or their shoulders, or Doyle let his hand rest in Bodie's, and when they roused themselves and ate a late lunch he felt as if he'd been on the simmer all day. He felt like a kid again.
Time to go home.
He let Bodie sit lazing by the tiller, shirt off, back to the sun, took the wheel himself and headed them in, feeling Bodie’s eyes on him all the way, playing to it, hips slightly tilted, one hand, now and then, rubbing down the side of his leg, over his arse. Shame he’d had to get rid of those patched jeans…
The harbour was busier when they got back, and the beach as well, full of families and kids and dogs splashing about. The ice cream van was doing a roaring trade, and Doyle scribbled that on his mental list – buy Bodie an ice cream – as he steered his way to Burt’s mooring.
“Come on then, I’m not doing all the work!” He gave Bodie’s leg a gentle kick. The sooner they were tidied up, the sooner they’d be back at the pub, and the sooner...
Bodie roused himself, stretched an imperious arm to be helped up, and managed to slide his hands half a dozen places where they wouldn’t necessarily have gone in the process. Lines secure, deck clear and shirts back on, they ambled along the harbour wall with their strawberry Whippys to watch the fishermen and crab catchers. Doyle gazed innocently into Bodie’s eyes as he took the Flake out of his ice cream, sucked it slowly into his mouth, and let it melt on his tongue, sucked just a little more until it was gone, and then licked his lips.
“Should be ashamed of yourself, respectable city gent like you,” Bodie said, he but looked coyly away when Doyle dropped his eyes questioningly to his crotch and nudged him with his elbow. “Come on, back to Burt’s before you get me arrested.”
Doyle grinned, let himself be herded back to the village and up the hill.
"Shall we 'ave a look at that island tomorrow?" Bodie asked, as they slipped up the stairs and into their room, "I still think we should look into this debauchery they had going on."
"What, make sure they were doing it right?" Doyle stopped in the middle of the room, tilted his head, put his hands on his hips.
"Check it out for historical accuracy," Bodie suggested, "Test the castle for... the best positions..." He crowded Doyle backwards, so that his legs hit the side of the bed and he had to either sit down or fall down, and Doyle let him press his advantage until he was supine, looking up into still dark blue eyes.
"What sort of positions?" he managed to ask, and Bodie grinned, took Doyle's hands and guided them above his head until he was grasping the wooden rails of the bedhead, then took off his t-shirt and tied it carefully around Doyle's eyes.
"Whatever positions I like," he whispered, and Doyle felt a shiver run through him, despite the warmth of the day. What was Bodie thinking, what was Bodie thinking of now...?
He felt Bodie's breath for a moment, across his lips as though he might be kissed, over his ear, down his throat, and then Bodie paused, licked a nipple so that Doyle breathed in sharply. Another pause, and Bodie's weight shifted, there were fingers at his waistband, his jeans were undone.
His zip was pulled slowly down.
Bodie hummed happily to himself as they went down for dinner, feeling stretched and relaxed, and as if all was right with the world. Doyle walked sleepily at his side, there was a decent meal in his near future, and this holiday wasn't half bad...
Burt was nowhere in sight, so he sent Doyle off to nab a decent table and went up to the bar. There was a young girl there this time, especially for Saturday night he thought, eyeing her figure with a mixture of appreciation and smugness. He didn't need to bother working out his best lines, chatting her up, spending a fortune to wine and dine her - hadn't for years. Then again, she was young enough to have been his daughter, had any such disastrous thing happened, and there was a certain naive air to her that meant his smile was gentler than it would once have been, maybe even a little protective, for all he didn't know her.
She looked up at him, all blue eyes, mascara and make up without any edges, without saying anything at all.
"Two pints of best, please," he managed, cheerfully disinterested, wondered how long it would be before she was happily pregnant to some local lad. There was something to be said for growing old - he'd have to send Doyle up for the next round, might remind him of that too…
"Five eighty, please," she said, as the beer settled in front of him, and he gave her a tenner, thinking back to the days when there would have been not just a fiver, but pound notes in the change.
Doyle was looking at the menu when he got back, neither seething with jealousy nor full of questions about the girl he'd been smiling at, and he considered momentarily, decided that he quite liked it that way. They'd played their games long ago, there was a lot to be said for a peaceful and pliant Ray Doyle sitting beside him...
"What looks good?" he asked, peering over his shoulder at the menu Doyle was holding, and when Doyle just looked at him and smirked, before turning back to the list, he found his own smile growing, felt the smugness and enjoyed that too.
He was hungry after their day on the water – it was good to be away from his desk, away even from the occasional stuffiness of London. Used to be they’d spent their days anywhere from one end of the home counties to the other, London the hub of a fairly wide wheel, but over the years… Despite being out to the Training Centre and meetings and liaisons all over the place, it wasn’t the same any more. Then again, what was? He sipped his beer, which was at least a decent pint.
And this time next year, he wouldn’t even have Ray in the office next door, if that lot got their way…
“D’you still fancy the island tomorrow?” Doyle asked suddenly, and he let himself be distracted – time enough to worry at it all next week.
“Sal’s island? Yeah, why not?” They didn’t get out on the water much these days either, not even on the Thames, and it’d been years since he’d taken a bird rowing. “Take a picnic, explore the castle…”
“You’ve not had dinner yet, and you’re thinking about lunch already?”
Bodie tilted his head in dignified silence, chose the whitebait for starter, and the lamb for main. He’d worry about dessert later on, and all. “Here, why do they call it jus instead of “juice”?” he asked.
“No one fancies lamb juice?”
“It’s all dead animal…”
“Yeah, I think I’ll go for the asparagus tagliatelle, myself... What about the island in the morning and then take the boat over to Bridport?”
The pub ebbed and flowed around them as they ate, drank and claimed the dartboard for a game. Early evening families gave way to a younger crowd, the demands of children and snaps of harried parents for the giggles of a local hen party, and then the low hum of people making themselves comfortable until closing time.
Burt showed up, just in time to cost Bodie a triple twenty and let Doyle sneak a win with an easy eleven, and they ceded the board to a group of younger lads who’d been watching them hopefully for the last half hour. Day had finally faded to twilight, and the lounge was quieter now, visitors mostly gone home to their caravans and bed and breakfasts, just the odd holidaying couple entwined together in the corners. They settled at their own corner of the bar, where they could talk to Burt when he was free and watch everyone's comings and goings.
“You’ve met Brooklyn?” Burt asked, nodding to where the young blonde was now standing quietly, one hand twisting a strand of hair round and round one finger, the other tucked into the pocket of her hipster jeans. In the gap between jeans and t-shirt, a silver belly button ring gleamed in the light. “My right hand girl on a weekend, couldn’t do without her!”
Brooklyn smiled brightly at them, managed a husky “Hiya!” before she was called away to the other end of the bar.
“Be a shame to give all this up,” Doyle said, “It’s a nice place you’ve got here.”
“Yeah, it will, but it’s different without Sally around, nagging me to change the barrel or clear the pipes. Not the same, you know? Always thought we’d stay and just retire, but…” For the first time since they’d arrived Burt looked tired, spoke without a smile to his voice. “Truth is, I’m not sure I’d stay now even if Her Majesty wasn’t after her share.”
Bodie nodded. It was tough to lose your other half, no matter how it happened. There’d been a time when he thought Doyle was lost to him, really lost to him, shot by a girl barely old enough to have fallen in love herself. “You got plans?”
They chatted, low-voiced, drifting into reminiscences of this and that time in their lives, of who had done what and gone where. Halfway through one of his better-known stories, Bodie looked up, aware that they’d probably been leaving Doyle out of it again, saw that he’d turned away and was talking to one of the men who’d been propping up the bar for the last couple of hours. He was around their age – old Bodie thought, involuntarily – with a shock of white hair and a black motorcycle jacket. Doyle was frowning slightly in concentration, trying to explain something that involved sketching some sort of diagram in the air above the beer pumps, much to Brooklyn’s bemusement.
When he turned back, Burt was gazing at him with deep blue eyes, assessing, measuring.
Bodie opened his mouth to twist it lightly into a joke, but Burt beat him to it. "He's a goodun, that one, isn't he? You keep hold of him, mucker." He nodded slowly, "You keep hold of him."
"Yeah," he said, and turned to watch Doyle listening to his companion, tilting his head dubiously to one side, starting to speak and gesticulating across the air again. Doyle caught his eye, gave him a wry grin, but didn't falter. "Yeah, I will."
"The odd tractor gone missing, that's what I had to deal with," he said to Doyle, winking at Brooklyn as she brought them each another pint, "A bit of a fuss about horse botherers one year, which turned out to be an artist from the next town getting too authentic about his brushes, and someone deliberately setting Lord Muck's hayrick on fire out of spite because he'd been sacked. Apart from that, it was rescuing the odd cat, turning a blind eye to the local lock in, and a talk each year at our little primary school - everyone knew me, I got on with everyone. Then they built that new estate on the end of the village, turned old Mrs Redmond's place into a halfway house, and that was the end of that... Marijuana they had out there, bold as brass..."
Doyle, who knew he'd have withered away in the sticks like that, nodded as if he understood, as if he couldn't think of anything worse. In theory it sounded like the world he wished for everyone - peace and quiet and nothing to do but chat to your neighbours all day long, but somehow... He thought about it. Somehow he'd needed the pushers and the thieves and the villains and the kids gone wrong, needed them so that he could tell he was making a difference. The Club he'd started down Chancey Street - that had made a difference, he'd seen no end of kids sidle in there with their mates, expecting to make a grab for the jukebox money and be gone, and instead they'd stayed, turned their lives around... Was there a sickness to it, he wondered, as Ron chuntered on about the endless paperwork involved in taking the panda car out of a night? Or if the kids hadn't been there, hadn't been needing help, would he have been happy with the quiet life? Which came first...
"...mind you, they gave me a Saint then - only had it a year and..."
"What, a Thunderbird?" he interrupted, perking up. "They were great bikes - always wanted a Harley myself..."
"Money for marketing!" Ron scoffed.
"I grew out of it," Doyle said comfortably, "Got myself a Norton next..."
"My dad had a Norton - Manxman, beautiful thing..."
Doyle cast a guilty look over at Bodie, but he was engrossed in telling Burt some larger than life tale, from the way he was waving his hands about in emphasis. Couldn't hurt to let him have some undisturbed time with his chum, and Burt sounded like he'd had a tough time over the past couple of years. Losing his wife like that... He thought about losing Bodie, thought about never seeing him again, hearing the rise and fall of his voice, the way he sounded when he was trying not to laugh out loud...
Nah - had years left in him, did Bodie, they both did, no matter what the Home Sec thought. And he had every intention of being right beside him until their very last one.
Doyle was gone when Bodie woke next morning, wincing against the dull pounding of his head and yawning widely. It'd been well after one in the morning when they'd finally come up, and they hadn't gone straight to sleep then... He started to smile, stopped when it reached his temples, a stretch too close to his headache.
Where the hell was Doyle, anyway? He reached for his watch on the bedside table, squinted at the tiny hands. Barely eight - what was he doing at this time of morning? The bathroom door was wide open, the shower silent. Had the mad bastard gone for a run? No - there was his tracksuit, still in his suitcase...
He'd have to get up.
Brooklyn was waiting at the still-empty breakfast tables when Bodie stuck his head through the door, all tight white jeans and a diamanté studded union jack t-shirt; there was no sign of anyone else.
“Morning!” he said, as brightly as he could. “You’ve not seen my mate, have you? Skinny legs? Curly grey hair? Was with me last night?”
"He's out with Ron," Brooklyn said, pointing vaguely behind him, "But I don't think he means anything by it."
Bodie bit back on an eh? and glanced towards the door. "Out gone away, or..."
"Out in the carpark, I think." She glanced over at one of the tables, set for three. "You will have breakfast with them, won't you? Ron's nice."
Bodie frowned, but nodded. She'd made alot more sense behind the bar.
The front door opened onto another glorious day. Blue sky stretched above, and though a breeze had got up overnight, it wasn't cold. Somewhere, seagulls were calling into the wind - another day by the seaside.
In the carpark, Ray Doyle stood with his back to Bodie, facing three other men, and holding his hands in front of himself defensively.
Bloody hell - how'd he manage that out here? And couldn't they ever have a non-eventful weekend away? Bodie pushed away from the doorframe, face glowering, one hand already fisted in readiness. One of them had seen him coming...
"...the other frame was only this big, so how he thought he was going to get the... oh, 'ello Bodie!"
"Alright?" Bodie said, letting his fist uncurl slowly. Ray had an oily rag in one hand, and what looked like a piece of exhaust pipe in the other.
"Yeah - you met Ron, didn't you?"
Only to say goodnight, Bodie thought, shaking hands.
"That's Phil, and that's Modger." Doyle nodded at the other two, who smiled pleasantly, and looked back at the old bike propped on its stand beside them. "Phil's got the same problem as I did..."
No one knows what he's talking about? Bodie looked enquiringly around.
"Needs a spring between the two rings across the front of the cylinder head."
"Ah yeah," he managed intelligently, sure that he should probably have been listening harder on some other sunny occasion in Ray's garage. "On the..."
"Norton," Doyle agreed patiently, but there was a smile at the corner of his mouth just for Bodie. "Breakfast time, is it?"
That was more like it. "Brooklyn's got the table set and the coffee's on." And if they were up this early they could get out on the water that bit sooner, get on with some decent lazing around in the sun.
Doyle nodded. "Be there in a minute, I'll just get this back on..."
"And you didn't have a problem with the exhaust rings after that?" Modger was saying, as Bodie half turned to go back to the breakfast room. When he glanced back, Doyle was shaking his head, launching into the kind of explanation that made Bodie's head spin. Bikes were for riding, and garages were for fixing them - it'd been years since he'd had to do his own, though Doyle's penchant for being up to his elbows in grease hadn't even begun to wear off over time.
And now he'd apparently found the local and ancient chapter of Hell's Angels...
Brooklyn was still on her own when he stepped back into the shade of the bar room, disappearing into the kitchen when he gave her a smile and nod. He picked up one of the papers from the table by the door - when had Burt started reading The Observer? - and began flipping through the sections, finally settled on starting with the front page. Doyle, no doubt, would be just a little longer than he'd said...
Two cups of coffee later, and with a new understanding of why rat fur was going to be the next big thing on the catwalk, he looked up to find Brooklyn hovering.
"Would you like me to go and...?" She gestured at the door again, stopped awkwardly.
Bodie raised an eyebrow at her.
"Go and fetch your mate in?" she said in a hurry, " I could say his breakfast's getting cold..?"
"I haven't had any breakfast yet," he said, deciding abruptly that it was about time he did. "What about..."
"Oh you don't want to start without him!" Brooklyn looked shocked, all big blue eyes, and mouth a smooth pink oval, reminding him of... Well, of something pretty indecent, actually - and her young enough to be his... bloody hell, probably his granddaughter, if he'd ever had a daughter in between... "I'll go and call him in for you!"
Bodie watched after her for a moment then shrugged, poured more coffee and considered the merits of Diego Maradonna versus Beckenbauer. Not much point thinking about the English squad, after all...
"I'll get Cook to put your breakfast on," Brooklyn said cheerfully when she returned, ignoring the irate glares from the table behind Bodie. "He'll be just a minute..."
Doyle was three or four minutes, but it was close enough to be impressive. He came in wiping his hands dry on a dozen paper napkins, and with a frown for Bodie. "I said I wouldn't be long..."
"Not me mate - you've got a fan, there." He tipped his head to where Brooklyn was finally taking an order from the family of five. "What did you say to her last night?"
Doyle glanced across, shook his head. "Please - thank you - another pint - barely a dozen words, she just pulled the beer..." He grinned suddenly. "Speaking of beer, you're looking a bit tender."
Bodie, who thought he'd been doing well, crossed his eyes and stuck out his tongue at him, causing the three year old at the next table to burst into tears, and Brooklyn to smile gently in his direction. "Don't tell me you were perfectly fine this morning," he said defensively, "Load of rubbish!"
"Clean living and..." Doyle broke off as the cook brought two plates piled with sausages, egg, bacon and beans, and placed them on the table, one each. "Full English again?" he asked, "You wouldn't have a hangover if you didn't keep..."
Bodie tuned him out without any guilt, knowing every word that he'd be saying. Cholesterol this, and saturated fat the other - but Doyle tucked into his own breakfast nonetheless. He concentrated instead on the way Doyle's red t-shirt was still just slightly too small for him, the sleeves rolled up as usual, his hair just brushing the back collar. There were better things to think about than cholesterol... How to work it off, for a start. The water was calling him, just as it had when he was a kid, and he might not be living the glamorous life, but this was still a sight better than the sodding Mersey.
"...Chapman hit the papers?"
He roused himself - Doyle was onto something else at last... "Oh, no!" he said, realising, "Not work! Leave it to Jax, he'll do a good job - he always has before."
Doyle tipped his head in agreement, though he looked as if he was about to argue. Instead he mopped up the last of his egg with a piece of toast, leaned back in his chair to swallow the final mouthful of his tea, and then sat there staring as Bodie buttered one last piece of toast. "Are you going to take forever over that?" he asked, "Or are we going to get away to this island sometime today?"
"Keep an eye on the horizon," he said instead, "Modger reckoned there was a storm coming in later today."
Bodie looked knowledgeably to where sea met sky, and nodded slightly. Either he recognised something, or he was pretending to - either way, Doyle thought again, he looked like he belonged out here. Maybe they should get themselves a yacht later in the week, if the weather held out, try a little sailing... He looked again at the line of blue against blue. Was the water a little choppier than it had been yesterday? Maybe... They could take her as far as Bridport after lunch, explore the town and wait for it to blow over, if it did get a bit damp. He couldn't see it lasting, and if it did there was bound to be a bus, they could pick the boat up tomorrow...
The engine dulled to a grumble as Bodie came around to the back side of the island, began to weave his way through the rocks as Burt had told them. Doyle got up and stood by his side, watching the water carefully, but it stayed clear, the only safe channel to the only sandy cove on the whole heap of rocks, as Burt had described it. He hadn't blanched at the thought of them trying to land, though he'd told them that even the locals didn't bother much with it.
Finally they rounded a low wall of sharp rocks, and the cove appeared before them, a natural harbour with a smooth inlet of water running up to a stretch of sand, entirely sheltered by the maze of rocks they'd wound their way through. Bodie slid the boat through the final channel and cut the engine - she glided on smoothly, the water like glass, barely wrinkled by wind or tide.
They took the boat in as close as they dared, anchored fore and aft, and splashed into shore, shoes tied around their necks, trousers rolled up. Doyle paused when he got to the sand, stared up at the ruined towers of the castle.
"Bit impressive for a folly," Bodie said at last, pulling his shoes back on and grabbing first their backpack full of lunch and then Doyle's hand, pulling him up the beach towards the higher ground.
Doyle let himself be tugged along, gazing about in amazement. "How the hell did they get rabbits over here?" Invisible as they’d been from The Lucky Girl, they seemed to be everywhere now, and barely shy at all, doing nothing more than freeze in place or hop a short distance away as they were approached.
“Great Grandfather brought them to match the folly?” Bodie suggested, as they approached the ruined castle. “Give ‘em something to shoot at before lunch?”
Doyle looked up at the building. An enormous broken archway stood in front of them, and behind it ruined stone steps that led to the centre of the castle. There were two towers, one nearly gone, barely a thin stretch of stones into the sky, but the other still rising solidly, impressively above them. Jackdaws rose in a flutter and circled with harsh cries, as they walked further into what must one have been a courtyard. The remains of a wall encircled the whole structure, and with the slight rise of the island they couldn’t see beyond to the mainland at all from where they stood.
They explored the small maze of rooms with lazy interest, now and then trying to climb higher, to reach what they could see had once been a second floor, but the stone crumbled too easily, wouldn’t give them purchase. There was only one room even vaguely intact, though even that had a hole in one corner of the ceiling. It let in a little more light by which to see at least, and along with the two slits of windows meant that they stood in a shadowed stone room. An enormous niche at one end had presumably been a fireplace, tall enough that they could stand inside it and look up into darkness. Presumably nests blocked whatever chimney there was, judging from the guano-stained stonework and the crunch of dry twigs under their feet.
“Can’t you just see them, dandying it up while the rest of the world starved,” he said, trying to imagine Great Grandad Sal. “Servants to fetch and carry…”
“Pretty impressive toy house,” Bodie agreed, came over and slid an arm around him, pulled him closer and leered. “Fancy playing daddy and daddy?”
Doyle gave him a look, then a kiss, and tugged away. “Let’s at least see the rest of the island before we start in on the debauchery…”
It was perhaps nearly a mile long, and half that across, and patched with brambles and the odd gorse bush. A clump of trees rose at one end, taller than they seemed at first, having taken root in a low dip in the ground, all conifers. They smelled like Christmas – “Like toilet cleaner,” Bodie said, so that Doyle cuffed his head, and Bodie ducked and tackled him to the ground. After a few moments, Bodie gave up and let himself be straddled, his wrists pressed into the pine-needled ground above his head, let Doyle bounce his weight up and down on him. He wriggled suggestively, smirked.
“You’re sex mad, you are,” Doyle said, giving him one last bounce and then sitting still. “The only thing that takes your mind off it…”
“Picnic!” Bodie sat up smoothly, tipping him off in the process, and looked down at him, rubbing his hands together. “Sun’s high in the sky, and my incredibly accurate body clock tells me it’s…”
“…time to eat,” Doyle finished for him in his turn. He rolled his eyes, but he’d built up an appetite himself, could probably manage a sandwich or two... He retrieved the backpack from where Bodie'd left it, lifted it with a whistle. "What d'you put in here, half Waitrose?"
Bodie took it off him, started pulling out separate packages of ham, cheese, boiled eggs and salad, tomatoes, Branston pickle, an entire french stick, broken into two halves, a tub of olives and one of hummus, and finally a bottle of red wine and two paper cups.
"You did bring half of Waitrose..."
Bodie just grinned at him, handed him half the french stick and a packet of brie, and unscrewed the top from the wine. They ate cheerfully, talking about everything and nothing, wondering what had happened to Sal's ancestor's millions.
"He must have been pretty loaded to build this little lot," Doyle said, "Unless it all went down with his ships."
"Risky business back then, shipping. Only take one shipwreck..."
They could just see the sea past the trees from where they were sitting, tiny white caps tilting this way and that, sparkles like diamonds in the sun. Doyle imagined the waves grown to a size that could bring down a ship, thought about the rocks of the little island, wondered that there wasn't more than one wreck nearby. "It must have had a lighthouse once, surely..."
"Even with a lighthouse, the fog comes in and you get yourself turned around - disaster..." Bodie sipped his wine meditatively, "How many did Burt say were sunk that one night? Twenty-odd?"
"Yeah... " Didn't seem possible, now. He thought back to the hurricane of eighty-seven, to the trees torn up, the rooves pulled off, tried to picture what that might have done to a wooden ship out at sea. "Oi, what're you doing?"
"Getting comfortable, what's it look like?" Bodie had moved so that he was lying in the shade, eyes closed, hands genteelly folded over his stomach. "Care to join me?"
"I thought you wanted to swim after lunch?"
"Not directly after lunch - get cramp," Bodie said virtuously. "Nap first, let it all digest, then swim. C'm'ere..."
Doyle looked at him, stretched out on the pine needles, felt his own eyelids drooping. Shouldn't have finished the bottle, he thought, shifted himself so that they were lying side by side, so that he was close enough that he could smell the faint scent of Bodie's aftershave, could feel the warmth of him there beside him, and then he fell asleep.
Bodie awoke to a low roll of growling thunder, and his mobile phone playing Ten Green Bottles. He gazed around, felt Doyle start to consciousness beside him, then dug into his pocket to answer the bloody thing. Grey clouds raced above them, and when he stood up the wind was sharp, buffeting.
"Bodie! Just checking you're tucked up somewhere, mucker - did you get to Bridders?"
"Er..." Bodie stared at the waves, which were rolling in towards the land as if chased by the demons of hell, smashing at the shore, and each other in great sheets of spray. "Not exactly... We're still on the island. Fell asleep."
"Hellfire," Burt sounded impressed and amused in equal measure. "You're in for a night of it then - I wouldn't try to get back now, The Girl isn't built for this sort of sea. You'd better get the storm anchor on, hope for the best - I've seen waves come halfway up to the castle in a bad'un. Or it might blow over. There's a survival kit in the stowage, use what you like from that. You might find some gear up in the castle too - Sal and I used to keep bits and pieces there. God knows what state it's in."
Doyle had already grabbed the remains of their food and tucked it in the rucksack, and Bodie set off towards the inlet, fighting against the wind. "Cheers Burt - we'd better get the anchor on then..."
"Good luck, mucker - see you tomorrow!"
He hung up, broke into a run, Doyle at his heels. Their tiny harbour had come alive, sheltered enough that the waves weren't yet very big, but it was a mass of white froth that they waded through to the boat just the same, and a hard push as they got closer. She rose and fell grumpily in the extra swell, felt solid enough to withstand anything, but they were on the lee shore...
He found the survival pack Burt had mentioned, and they set to securing her as best they could, the clouds building steadily above them. Thunder grumbled again, and with a final look around he slapped Doyle on the back to get him going, followed him over the side and back to the shore. There was no question of worrying about rolled up trousers now, seaspray blew up at them so that his eyes stung, and he tasted nothing but salt.
They made for the castle, with its one intact room, and had just ducked safely inside when the sky finally broke itself open, big slow drops falling at first, gradually building in size and speed until they were bouncing back from the ground, as if to relaunch themselves and fly homeward once more. The wind howled and moaned around the castle and its towers, and the waves crashed against the shoreline in a steady background rush. They watched as lightning flashed across the sky in the distance, counted until thunder rolled.
"Fire!" Bodie yelled, over the noise of it all. For all its fervour, the wind wasn't bitingly cold, but they could do with dry clothes if nothing else, and he didn't fancy a whole night spent shivering.
Doyle nodded, a dark shape against the now much darker shadows of the room, and opened the bag they'd brought up from the boat. There was a torch, which he flicked on, a couple of survival blankets, a pack of firestarters and a tub of waterproof matches, which he passed to Bodie. Trouble was, what could they set fire to...?
"Eh?" Bodie frowned at him. "We need something for the fire!"
Doyle just turned the torch to one side of the room, illuminating the chimney and...
"Brilliant! We'll make you a boy scout yet!" Deciding to chance the chimney - there'd be smoke anyway, but between the door and the hole in the ceiling it might be drawn enough to clear the air - he began to sweep the mess of twigs and other detritus together with his feet. It might not outlast the storm, but it would be cheerful, and by the time it went out they could be huddled down in their blankets...
Eventually he settled down with the matches and firelighters to get it started, watching the tiny blaze click and spark away until he was sure that it had caught properly. He was just getting up from his crouch - a little more slowly than he might once have done - when there was a sudden deluge of sticks and branches at his feet. Doyle stood grinning at him, hair dripping, brushing bits and pieces of bark and muck from his shirt.
"I noticed earlier - the tower's surrounded by sticks, birds must have dropped them coming around to build their nests."
"You sure you took ballet lessons?"
Doyle just winked at him, stopped dusting himself down and rubbed his arms instead.
"Here," Bodie handed him one of the survival blankets, wrapped the other around his own shoulders, and crouched down to feed some of the bigger pieces onto the fire. It hissed and spluttered at the rain-wet wood, but settled to a decent enough orange blaze. "Burt said he and Sal left some kit around here somewhere - did you notice anything?"
Doyle shook his head, looked more interestedly around their chamber. "What sort of stuff?"
"He didn't say - tins and condoms, knowing him, maybe some ciggie papers..."
Doyle raised his eyebrows, joined him in his search anyway. Eventually they unearthed a small wooden box from an almost invisible wall niche, shone the torch dubiously inside. He'd been right - there were half a dozen tins, the labels faded but revealing long-gone sell-by dates, a tin opener and some cutlery, a box of matches, some candles, and a paperback book. Underneath it all was what looked like tent canvas.
"Must have used 'em up." He lifted out the book, a novel whose cover was graced by a rather smug looking pirate and a pair of breasts that he was pretty sure would be heaving at some point. "Bed-time reading, anyway!"
"How long are we going to be out here?" Bodie looked at him, eyebrows raised, and Doyle made a face. "Yeah, alright..."
"Ah, it won't be that bad - not with the exploits of..." he checked the back of the book, "Luckless Lucy Brown to keep us going!"
"If it gets you all excited, you look after it yourself..."
He grinned reminiscently - it never stayed by himself for very long - and glanced at his watch. It was after six, they'd slept for hours... Doyle was staring moodily into the fire, so he moved to stand behind him, slid his arms around Doyle's waist and rested his chin on Doyle's shoulder. "Alright?"
Doyle shrugged, and Bodie moved his chin hurriedly, nuzzled his ear instead. "We overslept."
"We're on holiday, there's no such thing as oversleeping..."
"Getting old, more like..."
"Oh here we go..." This time he lifted his head the better to speak. "Look Ray, we're on holiday, we fell asleep in the sun, that's all - alright? Come on..." he nuzzled his ear again, affectionately - sodding Doyle - "We've not been camping for years - it's an adventure."
"I'll take my adventures with a decent bed at the end of them," Doyle growled back, but he didn't nudge Bodie away, turned his head slightly so that Bodie could kiss his cheek properly.
"Right then," Bodie said, and moved away with a smile, "I'm hungry - what've we got left in there?"
Doyle rolled his eyes, but he smiled wryly back, pulled the rucksack closer to the fire and reached inside for what food they'd had left. Bodie took Burt's candles from their box, lit them and stood them on the floor in puddles of their own wax for stability.
"For your dining pleasure tonight," Doyle intoned, more in the spirit of things - funny what some candlelight could do - "Le pain," he waved an uneaten length of breadstick, "le...tomat, jambon et fromage... er... olives and hummus and some fruit."
It wasn't much, but it would do... They sat by the fire to eat, facing the open doorway through which they could see the rain hammering solidly down. Now and then the world was lit a strange electric blue as lightning sheeted across the sky, silhouetting the broken stone archway, and revealing heavy dark clouds rushing past. They fed the fire, leaned against each other quietly. Their corner of the room stayed dry, though a small stream appeared under the hole in the ceiling at the other end, rain trickling down from above and running along the wall and through a gap into some other part of the castle.
"Can't you just see Grandad and his cronies coming out of the shadows now..." Bodie whispered dramatically, and felt Doyle shiver slightly.
"I'd rather not, thanks all the same. You want to sleep with tormented souls, you do that!"
"Got you for that, haven't I," Bodie grinned, and put the last of Doyle's sticks on the fire. "Did you say there were more out there?"
"To the right of the tower," Doyle said. "D'you want me to go?"
"Nah, you stay here with Grandad and his cronies..." Bodie dodged as Doyle aimed a punch at his shoulder, and ducked out into the storm. If he kept to the comparative shelter of the walls to edge his way around, it shouldn't be too bad...
There was something strangely compelling about being out in the weather, feeling himself buffeted as he left the protection of the wall to cross to the tower itself, and he gathered the wood - wet, but small enough that it should still burn - feeling surprisingly content. Them against the hells of nature made a change from them against the hells of Whitehall, anyway...
He paused, arms full of kindling, and looked out to sea. The storm had stolen their long summer day, but there was enough light to see the heaving mass of green-grey waves, white-foamed and angry, battering the rocks that led in to the island, swelling and roiling around. He frowned suddenly, squinted into the distance. What was...? Something darker than the waves rose up against the sky for a moment, then sank back into the depths. Was that a ship out there? Surely not - there were no lights, and it didn't look right, but... He shook his head to clear it of dripping water and seaspray, saw the shape rise up again, and sink away...
If it was a ship... But it couldn't be... He left the shelter of the tower, dashed back to their room, and dumped the wood unceremoniously by the fire. "Come take a look at this," he said, and Doyle, unquestioning, let his blanket fall to the ground and followed him outside.
"A ship?" he asked, when the dark mass rose and sank again, "Doesn't look like it..."
Bodie shook his head, "That's what I thought, but..." As he spoke, the shape was lifted again by the waves, being brought closer and closer to the rocks at the end of the island, was twisted around until they could see its jagged outline. It was no ship he'd ever seen, he'd swear to that, but...
Doyle grabbed his arm suddenly, moved as if he'd set off into the storm, and then turned back to Bodie. "It is a ship," he said, remarkably calmly. "It's the wreck we swam around - the storm's pulled it up from its grave after all."
"It's going to..." One final lift of the waves, and The Caroline turned around yet again and then smashed heavily down upon the rocks, the crunch of it loud even against the wind and waves.
"Fucking hell..." Bodie breathed, and Doyle had to agree. He imagined that happening the first time, two hundred years ago, imagined terrified screams and people desperately trying to drag themselves to the beach. They watched a while longer, but the ship seemed to be caught now on the teeth of the rocks, rising and falling a little, shifting only when bigger waves ran under and around it.
Eventually Bodie nudged him, they scrabbled around for more sticks for the fire while they were out there, and made their way back inside. Almost as if it had done its job, the storm seemed to quieten, the wind to calm.
"Well there's a surprise for Burt," Bodie said, "Good job we went down yesterday."
"All those tour boats out of a job," Doyle agreed, and then stopped. "Until tomorrow, anyway - they'll make twice as much showing people around a grounded ship..."
"Treasure hunters... Hey, we can beat them to it!"
Bodie's eyes were alight with what Doyle always thought of as trouble. "They won't know it’s there until tomorrow when they come out for their first run - we can get over and explore before they even know there's something to explore!"
"Hey, you never know - maybe the gold's still aboard after all. Difficult to see anything when a ship's sunk - they could have missed it, hidden away beneath the sand..."
"It's a death-trap! You're not seriously wanting to go wandering around on an ancient wreck? It'll be rotten right through, you'll kill yourself."
"Can't be that rotten if it's still intact out on those rocks, can it? And there's rope in the boat, we can take it easy... Come on, Ray," Bodie gazed at him, like a bloody puppy, Doyle thought. "You know you want to..."
Trouble was, he did want to. He'd never explored a two hundred year old wreck before, and it wouldn't be long before it was a no-go area, the government bods no doubt wanting their shot at treasure trove before anyone else had a look in...
It was government bods that decided him.
"If you fall in and kill yourself, I'm not going to save you..."
"If I've killed myself, then I'm already gone, aren't I?" Bodie hugged him exuberantly to make a lie of his words, then pushed him so that his back was to the stone wall, kissed him with intent. Doyle managed a token protest - too cold, too wet, too old - then pulled Bodie hard against him, because they were warm when they were together, and Bodie's skin when he slid his hands under his shirt was smooth and alive as always.
The cold was romantic around them, the roughness of the wall at his back was just what he wanted to counterpoint having Bodie in front of him, Bodie kissing him and undoing his trousers, and letting his hands slide down to rub and squeeze and massage his arse. He fumbled for Bodie's own zip, pushing his pants roughly down, feeling himself moan deep in his throat as he took Bodie's cock in his hand, as Bodie did the same for him, as their own private storm rushed upon them, and then they were still in its centre, and then sliding down the other side, breathing heavily, breathing happily, breathing together.
Monday dawned softly and early, the skies lightening in a pale pink glow and a chorus of excited seagulls. Doyle woke, feeling stiff but strangely alive, breathed in the smell of salt air and of Bodie curled behind him. They'd laid what had turned out to be a canvas groundsheet beneath them, and it had kept out the damp despite its age, and the worst, perhaps, of the cold. The fire had run out of fuel even before they were ready to settle for the night, and they read the rest of Ocean's Wench by candlelight, before that too guttered and left them in the dark. All in all, it hadn't been a bad night.
And now it was morning.
He wriggled out of Bodie's arms, stretched and relaxed, and then sat up, glancing at his watch - barely five o'clock. Beside him Bodie stirred, groaned, and then there was silence for a moment before he sat up abruptly.
Doyle looked at him, amused. "Worse than a kid, you are. Don't you even want breakfast first?"
"Nothing to 'ave, is there?"
"Nothing good, I'll grant you, but Burt did keep supplies in his boat, you know." He pulled the survival kit over, found the small bag he'd noticed last night, of teabags and instant coffee sachets, and UHT milk. "Boil up some water," he passed over the fold-up pan, "And we can 'ave tea before we start."
"You didn't get this out last night!"
"Meant to - was distracted, wasn't I?"
"Oh yeah..." Bodie looked pleased with himself. "Tell you what - look at the wreck first, nice cup of tea when we get back?"
"You mean you..." he broke off as Bodie found the cereal bars for himself, stuffed one in his pocket and tore open the other one, then passed Doyle the rest of the box.
"Best of both worlds - come on, before the fishing boats are out and see it!"
It was too late for that, surely, Doyle thought, but he followed him out into the clear morning air anyway. It was a day freshly laundered, and he would, he thought, walk anywhere beside Bodie, even into the bowels of an ancient and probably rot-riddled shipwreck.
The sun was warmly orange on their backs already, as they made their way down to the inlet. He was half convinced they'd find The Lucky Girl dashed into pieces on the same rocks that clutched the shipwreck, but she floated serenely just where they'd left her, the water like a millpond once more, so that she was reflected perfectly on its surface, surrounded by a cloudless sky. They disturbed her peace by splashing out to claim a couple of lengths of rope, gave her a quick once over and then eyed The Caroline from where they stood.
She was sitting, peculiarly, almost upright as if she was sailing along on the water that lapped around the rocks, but a closer look showed that her hull was so badly holed as to be almost bottomless, a jagged skirt encircling her. She'd settled down overnight, and there was no movement as the water lapped carefully around her.
"Take the boat out?" Doyle asked dubiously.
"Easier to get out there over the rocks," Bodie suggested, and Doyle nodded. As long as they didn't kill themselves before they made it to the ship...
In fact it was easier than he expected, the rocks washed clear of seaweed and more than big enough for decent footspace. Halfway there they paused, standing on the same rock, and looking behind them, towards the island, and beyond to Higher Downsey. They were too far away to see any of the boats launching, but it wouldn't be long.
They carried on, until the ship towered over them, covered in barnacles and strung about with seaweed, brown and green. It smelled old and salty and slightly rank, but Doyle caught the gleam in Bodie's eyes, knew it wasn't going to deter him. They circled it carefully, chose the prow with its slight tilt as being the easiest place to climb, looped and tossed one of the ropes up over a jutting spar. It caught and the spar held firm when Bodie tugged on it. Then they argued over who would go first.
"I'm lighter," Doyle said, "If it's going to give, then..."
"...then it'll give with the heaviest person on it anyway - and you won't be stuck up there with no rope."
"I'll take the second rope up with me," he began, stopped when he saw Bodie's determined look. "Well it was your idea, I suppose..." he said, pushing down his own misgivings. It had been a long time since either of them had been up and down a rope on a regular basis, for all that they passed the annual physical each year, just to prove that they could.
Bodie grinned. "Besides, I don't want your solid lump falling on top of me from up there..."
In the end they both made it to the deck without incident, though Doyle could feel the strain in his arms where once his body would barely have noticed the work. From the way Bodie was casually rolling his shoulders, he felt the same way. They caught each other's eyes, grinning wryly in confession.
"Right then!" Bodie clapped his hands together, "What d'you reckon?"
The deck slanted slightly, and was slippery with seaweed, but strangely enough the barnacles helped their purchase, and the wooden planks felt solid under his feet. Towards the centre of the ship the remains of the mast still stood, shorter now than either of them, and just forward of them was what had perhaps been the main hatchway. The rusted remains of an iron ladder descended into the lower decks, and Bodie eyed it gleefully before making his carefully way over, testing, Doyle was glad to see, each step as he took it.
"Solid as a rock," he pronounced, looking back at Doyle. "Ladder seems to be too - I reckon it'll take our weight, anyway."
Doyle pulled his torch from his pocket, crouched down and swung its beam down the hatchway. Amazingly enough, what looked like ships corridors were still intact, and he could even make out doorways coming off them. He wondered uncomfortably if they might find any former residents.
"Be just a mish-mash of bones if we did," Bodie said practically, "It's not like they'll be sitting in their chairs at the dinner table waiting for us, is it?"
Doyle insisted on going first this time, and Bodie let him. It wasn't a long drop - barely six feet - but they looped rope into a safety harness anyway, just in case the floorboards were rotten through. The rungs held though, as did the planking, and Bodie followed him down.
They had to duck to move about, the deck was low-ceilinged, of thick oak that had survived its submergence well, though the smell was concentrated, drying seaweed and other ocean muck. It was quiet, too, all sounds muffled, even the circling seagulls sounded distant, respectfully hushed. Another hatchway led to the hold, a vast space flooded with water. Something moved in a back corner and Doyle flashed his torch in that direction - a couple of barrels bobbed about.
"Rum ration!" Bodie said, "What a waste..."
"Or salt pork..." He'd seen his own share of pirate films when he was a kid.
"No gold though," Bodie said sadly, "Or if there is it's down in Davy Jone's Locker..."
"Or underwater there," Doyle fought back, more prosaically. "We could be looking at it."
"Nah - if it was in the hold the divers would have had it out by now. If it was ever here it's long gone."
"Ah come on, we've not checked all the cabins yet - you never know..." He wanted, ridiculously and against all the odds, Bodie to find something exciting, some piece of seamanship that they could take back to Burt and... "'ey, what about this one? It's bigger than the others - bet it's the captain's cabin. If there's anything worth finding it'll be in here."
Bodie, who'd been gazing mournfully around a smaller space to one side, came to stand beside him, shone his torch around with Doyle's. There was a bunk in one corner, on which a large crab rested. Some old piece of furniture - once a table, perhaps, leaned drunkenly against it on two legs, and the walls were lined with wooden shelves, encrusted now with greying shells and festooned with still more seaweed.
"Pirates of the Caribbean," Bodie grinned, and stepped inside. "Hey look, what's this?"
It was a cup, wedged between the waterlogged wood of the bed and the ship's walls, and tucked behind it was half a saucer. "Bloody hell, d'you think he was having his tea when the ship went down?"
"You'd want him to have noticed trouble sooner... Bring it with us - would Burt fancy seeing it?"
"He would," Bodie tucked the pieces carefully in a pocket of the rucksack, then shone his torch across the walls again. "Shame Neptune's had most of it... 'ang on, is that a cupboard?"
Doyle turned from his inspection of the bunk to look. It was a keyhole that had caught Bodie's eye, although there was no key in it, of course. Bodie reached out and tried to prise it open with his fingers, but it was solidly locked. He grinned. "Got your knife on you? If it's locked there just might be something in it..."
Doyle dug into his back pocket, handed over his Swiss Army. Bodie inserted the blade between the door and the cabin wall, levered it back and... the lock of the cupboard snapped open, rotten all the way through.
On the shelf inside, were half a dozen objects, all water-soaked and raddled with age. There was a wooden box, swollen and traced with brine, two or three old pulpy books, an ornate but cracked drinking glass, and an old silver portrait frame, the picture inside long since vanished to the years and the sea.
Doyle reached up and took out the box, half expecting it to fall apart in his hands, but it held. There were initials carved on the top, H.J.K, and despite the state of the wood, wet and slightly slimy to the touch, it was locked solidly closed.
"Captain's private box," Bodie grinned, "Now that's where the treasure will be."
"Small treasure," Doyle pointed out, "You might get a couple of Spanish doubloons in there, but," he shook it gently, nothing rattled, "Then again, you might not..."
"No, Kirrin - that was Sal's maiden name, and if this is her family's ship..."
"Was her family's ship," Doyle said, not wanting Bodie to steer too far from reality. "It'll belong to English Heritage or someone now..."
"Burt'll know - he worked in salvage for a while," Bodie said absently, examining the glass with careful hands. "Look - H.J.K. here, too. Vain lot, weren't they..."
"Wary of thieving buggers like you, more like..."
Bodie looked up indignantly. "Returning this to its rightful owner, we are!"
Doyle watched as Bodie started tucking the other objects in to the rucksack, box first, then the glass in a separate outside pocket. He eyed the books dubiously, picked one up to try and prise apart the pages, and pulled a face. "Don't think that's going to be read again."
"You never know, these days, got conservationists, haven't they," Doyle said, and Bodie shrugged, dropped them into the rucksack as well, and gave the room one last look.
"Reckon that's it," he said, "All that's left of Great Grandad's treasure... At least Burt'll appreciate it, especially if he's selling up."
"If?" Doyle asked, as they scrambled their way back onto the upper deck.
"Ah, you know - I think he wants to, but whether he'll get around to it... He misses Sal."
Doyle tried to imagine their Kensington flat without Bodie, whether he'd want to stay or go, couldn't.
The morning sun was almost blinding after the dim depths of the wreck, and condensation had started to rise from the surface of the ship, so that they walked through a fine layer of mist back to the railings. They hooked the rope carefully back around the spar, tested it, then Bodie swung down, the rucksack with its treasure securely on his back. Doyle waited until he was safely on the ground, then followed, feeling eyes on him all the way.
"Only problem is," he said, looking up at the hulk, "We're going to have to leave that there."
Bodie shrugged. "So whoever finds it'll know they weren't the first up there." He grinned. "We were. Come on - shall we give the UHT a miss and get back to the pub for a decent feed?"
"You never stop having decent feeds - we'll be rolling you around, the way you eat..."
They bickered happily all the way back across the rocks, pausing only when Doyle lost his footing to avoid an unexpected starfish and ended up sitting down in the rock pool, water soaking unpleasantly through his jeans and into his trainers. Bodie doubled over laughing while he extracted himself, too wary to offer him a hand until he was standing upright again. Then he threaded their fingers together, led him the rest of the way back to The Lucky Girl.
By the time they'd docked the boat and were walking up the hill alongside the Monday morning commuter traffic - most of it leaving Higher Downsey - the sea was dotted with tiny vessels, some of them having rounded the other side of Sal's island. They'd stopped to report the wreck to the harbourmaster, who'd immediately rolled his eyes and grumbled in advance about the extra water traffic it would bring, then had them fill in a form and taken their details. Under Owner of Wreck If Known, Bodie'd written Burt's name, hoping it would be more a blessing than a curse. You never knew - there could be gold bars under the water line, missed by all the divers through the years... well, probably not, but even one errant gold bar could set Burt up where ever he liked...
The Half Moon was quiet when they got back, a tall dark-haired girl presiding over the tables this morning, and no sign of Burt. They dashed upstairs to shower and change, Doyle still squelching slightly to Bodie's amusement, and then took themselves down for breakfast.
Bodie ordered bacon and eggs again, with extra toast, and Doyle, despite looking up at him disapprovingly, did the same.
"Something about life at sea..." He beamed at Doyle, until Doyle unwillingly broke into a smile himself, "I could eat a horse!"
"Not in my place you couldn't, and don't you be telling the customers otherwise!" Burt appeared from the kitchens with an extra large cafetiere of coffee, amiably joined them at the table. "What's this I hear about you beaching Sal's wreck, eh? Can't leave well enough alone, can you..."
"How'd you hear about it already? We only reported it twenty minutes ago!"
"Small village, mucker, and they don't get much smaller than Downsey. Had Jeff on the blower nineteen minutes ago - and then young Sam who delivers the papers wanted to know whether I'd been out there yet!"
Bodie whistled, not sure whether he was impressed or horrified. "Well it's true - sea threw it up last night, saw the whole thing."
"Much left of it?" He handed Bodie a coffee, poured one for Doyle and then himself.
"Seems to be in pretty good condition - we could walk around on her..."
"You could...? Trust you, mucker! So what's she look like?"
"Like a bloody great wreck covered in seaweed and crabs and stinking to high heaven," Bodie began, just as their food arrived. He looked down at the rucksack, and back at his plate - the box would have to wait. They chatted instead about the layout of the old tallships, about Sal's ancestors, and in particular about Henry James Kirrin, and the rumour that there'd still been gold on board when the ship left London.
"It does belong to you, does it?" Doyle asked, around a mouthful of sausage, and Burt nodded thoughtfully.
"There's no one to dispute it - Sal was an only child, and I suppose I'm all that's left now. Everyone round here knows the wreck - half of 'em probably had great grandparents out on the beach that night, with an eye out for what might wash up. Sixty-odd bodies, amongst other things - they buried 'em alongside the churchyard, and you'll still not get anyone to build on that strip of land."
"Superstitious lot, are they?"
Burt considered. "Long memories," he said finally. "You ask any of the locals - the proper locals, mind, not someone like Ron - and they can tell you a tale for every inch of ground around here."
"Yeah, I don't suppose I'd fancy living on top of sixty drowned sailors," Bodie said, earning himself an amused glance from Doyle. "And now you own an island with a shipwreck on it."
"So I'm told..." Burt looked more glum than anything. "Don't suppose you want to buy an island with a shipwreck on it..."
"You'll have the National Trust beating your door down," Bodie said and caught Doyle's eye. He glanced down to the rucksack enquiringly, and Doyle nodded. "And Antiques Roadshow, too..."
"Antiques..? Why, what you got there?"
Bodie took the items out one by one, the cup, the silver frame, the ornate glass and the pulpy books - at which Burt wrinkled his nose, and looked quizzically at him. He shrugged - maybe it hadn't been such a great idea to bring them, smelling of the ship and unpleasantly soggy. It would certainly take an impressive book restorer to bring them back to life, no matter what tv shows Doyle had been watching.
He left the box until last, placing it in pride of place on the table, watching Burt's face. Burt raised an eyebrow, but he had a gleam in his eye that Bodie remembered from the jungle, that look that said something might just happen... He hefted the box, shook it gently, tried to get his fingers under the lid to pull it open - nothing.
"Henry James Kirrin, eh? I wondered why you were asking about him." He picked up a knife from the table, began to inveigle it between the two pieces of wood.
"What are you doing?"
Bodie looked up from the box, released the breath he hadn't realised he'd been holding. A tall fair man looked down at them, and Burt was putting the box down on the table, rising to pat him cheerfully on the back.
"Devvo - what are you doing in these parts? Thought we'd seen the last of you!"
"You know me, can't stay still. Have you got time for a coffee?"
"Sit down, sit down!" Burt pulled another chair up to their table, waved at the dark-haired girl for another cafetiere. "D'you want something to eat?"
"No, no - realised I was on the road past your place, thought I'd drop in on the off-chance." He nodded to the box in front of Burt. "You lost your keys again?"
"Nah, the lads brought it... Here, this is an old mate of mine, Bodie - and that's Ray Doyle. They're up from London, been dredging up shipwrecks for me! This is Devvo - Malcolm De Vonney if you want to get fancy about it."
"Mal's fine..." They shook hands, then Mal looked back at the box. "Shipwrecks?"
"Sal's ship, off the island - you remember, I took you diving out that way a few years ago!"
"That's right," Mal smiled, "Looking for treasure, weren't we? And that's it, eh?"
"Depends what you call treasure, I suppose," Doyle offered, and Bodie looked up, surprised. Doyle was tense, alert, and he wondered if Burt and Mal could feel it. His eyes on Mal weren't hostile, exactly, but they weren't friendly either.
"Right enough," Mal said, unoffended. He reached out, touched the wood around the initials. "H.J.K, eh? One of Sal's lot?"
"Henry James Kirrin," Burt nodded, and Bodie could practically hear Doyle hiss in a breath. "Great great grandfather, I think he was - his father built this place, so the story goes, though it was a house back then of course. The family owned the island too - it went out of ownership for about a hundred years, then me and Sal bought it back. Meant alot to her, that place..."
"Sally Kirrin - she was a good girl." Mal smiled gently, nudged Burt with an elbow. "You remember when we came back from that midnight fishing expedition, all made up from having caught that massive bass, and left it in the sink overnight...."
"Ah, Christ yeah," Burt leaned reminiscently on the table, a distant look in his eyes. "She got up early and found him down there, didn't blink an eye, picked him up, walked into Mal's room and laid the bloody thing on his bed, right beside him!"
"I woke up, eyeball to eyeball with this nine pounder, stinking of the sea, and we'd had a few bevvies before we went to bed..."
Burt had subsided into teary-eyed laughter by this stage, grasped Bodie's arm and shook it. "But the best bit - the best bit - was that she had one made up in plastic, real realistic looking it was, and for years after, whenever he came to visit, he'd find that bloody fish somewhere he wasn't expecting it..."
"I'd forget about it, get all relaxed, and it'd turn up the next day in the shower, or falling off the wardrobe, or..."
"I never did find where she hid it in between neither - I never saw it unless Mal was here..."
Doyle was smiling politely over his coffee. "So were you in the same line of business as these two, then?" he asked, shark-like.
"What, the jungle brigade? No fear - I like my home comforts too much..."
Doyle stared at him, waiting for him to go on.
"I do a bit of this, a bit of that - gotta stay diverse these days. It's helped in the recession, anyway. Yourself?"
"Civil servant - about as far from diverse as you can get," Doyle said easily. "More coffee?"
"Not for me, thanks, I'm down to Weymouth in a bit."
"Bit of this, bit of that?" Doyle asked pleasantly, but Mal just nodded again.
"You know, I know someone who could take a look at that for you, if you like," he said to Burt, nodding at the wooden box. "He's keen on anything nautical, might know someone who'd pay a good price for a captain's treasure chest - even without any treasure in it. Could tell you about it, anyway, probably get it open without damaging it, dropping the price."
"Yeah?" Burt looked interested. "Anyone I've heard of?"
"Dunno - he's got a place in Weymouth, but he lets his partner do most of the work. He's there now though - in fact that's who I'm off to see."
"Can take it with me, if you like..."
"I can't come down today, the brewery's delivering - we're gonna have a talk about things... Tell you what, are you back this way tonight?"
Mal nodded. "No hurry, my diary's empty after this until Wednesday in Bristol."
"Well how about you stop over here tonight, then we'll go down and talk to your man tomorrow - any time you like!"
"Sounds like a plan to me - I might even let you cook for me, how's that?" Mal stood up, reached out to shake hands again. "Nice to meet you..."
They watched him leave, a cheerful Burt by his side, and as soon as they'd stepped out the door, Bodie turned. "What was that about, then? You met him before or something?"
Doyle shook his head. "Not met him - met dozens like him. He's a con man if I ever saw one - an' he'll have it over your mate if he takes that box away..."
"What? Don't tell me you think there's treasure in it now? Spanish Doubloons, was it?" But it wasn't like Doyle to take against someone for no reason - that copper's nose Cowley'd valued so highly had been valued for a reason. As long as she wasn't female, Doyle was usually right about a bloke.
They eyed the box, still sitting on the table, somehow right at home beside the cruet set and the toast rack. Bodie picked it up, shook it again and looked at the other things they'd found. "He wasn't very interested in the silver, was he?" he said thoughtfully.
"Not at all interested, I'd say..."
"What d'you want to do?" He couldn't see that there was anything they could do - Mal was obviously a good mate, and there was no reason why he shouldn't know an expert on sea chests, if he lived out west and did a bit of this, a bit of that. It didn't sound very kosher, but lots of blokes didn't - most of them were no worse than Del Boy Trotter.
"I want to open it," Doyle said, looking directly at him. "I think we should see what's in there first."
The only thing to do was open the box themselves, make sure there was nothing Burt would be losing out on if Mal did try and spirit it away. They must be able to convince him to pry it apart, he'd seen the look in his eyes when they'd taken the box out, he'd looked just like Bodie did at Christmas with a particularly big present in front of him, all sparkle, as if he still believed in magic.
He caught Bodie's eye as Burt strode back into the bar, and Bodie nodded minutely.
"It's a long time until tomorrow," Bodie said, as they all three stared down at the things on the table. "We could get that open, no problem - old crook like you?"
Burt picked the box up again, held it to the light and tilted it this way and that, squinting at it. "I've not got me gear any more, mucker, gave it up years ago, didn't I, just like you did. I dunno..."
"Burt!" A shout interrupted him, and Doyle cursed inwardly. His skeleton keys were tucked as they always were in a pocket of his suitcase, all he needed was permission and he could be in and out of that lock in no time. Couldn't be that hard, even with the wood sodden and probably distorted inside. "Truck's here early - you wanted to see Marshall, didn't you?"
"Damn..." Burt swung his head around to the kitchen. "Be right there, Cal!" He eyed the box again, then the silver and the glass. "I need to see to that. You off out today?" He didn't wait for them to nod or nay. "I'll only be a couple of hours with the brewery if you want to hang out here today - help yourself to the big screen at my place, there's films in the cabinet, and some good stuff at the back that you won't see on the high street."
He gathered the treasures together, nodded towards the bar. "They'll be safe enough back there - don't suppose anyone else'd want them anyway," he said, and then he was taking them away, tucking them on a shelf somewhere under the taps, and vanishing off into the kitchen.
Bodie caught his eye across the table, took a breath and let it out with the same frustration Doyle felt. It shouldn't be urgent, opening a box that had lain under the ocean for hundreds of years, that didn't even belong to them, and yet somehow it was, he could feel that it was.
Still, Burt seemed keen - they could go for a walk, or go and crash in front of one of his no-doubt blue movies for a couple of hours, wait for him to finish his business...
"Let's do it now," he said instead, wasn't surprised when Bodie raised an eyebrow at him. "Look, that bloke could be back any time - you saw him, he knows something..." It sounded melodramatic even to his own ears. "He might take a couple of hours, but Burt's invited him back, and..."
"Three or four," Bodie interrupted. "Burt never could estimate time - if he reckons he'll be a couple of hours then he'll be at least three or four."
"And De Vonney could be back here by then..."
"Whoever he's going to... " Doyle broke off, aware that he'd won the battle without even trying.
"Okay then - where's your little bag of tricks?"
He rubbed his nose, disconcerted. "Upstairs. You're not going to try and talk me out of it?"
"He's your mate - shouldn't you be protecting his stuff a bit better?"
"You're my mate - I trust you. Stop trying to talk yourself out of it, and go and get your..." he broke off himself as the waitress came to clear their table, then leaned over and resumed in a whisper. "The sooner you get on with it, the sooner we'll know, won't we?"
"There's probably nothing in there any..."
The waitress looked sideways at them as she passed them to clear the last remaining table, and Doyle got up hurriedly, smiled as sunnily as he could at her. "Sorry, his fractured eyelash is giving him bother again..."
He took the stairs two at a time, his muscles complaining after their night at rest on the hard stone floor of the castle, let himself into their room and rummaged straight away for his picks. He turned around, had his hand on the doorknob before he paused, took a deep breath and let it out, ran his fingers through his hair.
He was about to break in to the property of a bloke who had as good as told them he wanted them to wait - an old mate of Bodie's, someone who trusted Bodie and therefore trusted Doyle.
When he opened his hand, the long thin lines of the lock picks shone in the sunlight from the window, innocently silver. Maybe he'd been playing god too long, maybe... He blinked, and De Vonney's face flashed before his eyes, the way he'd looked long and hard at the box, the way his finger had traced under the initials...
No - they had to know if there was something in there that could help Burt.
When he got back downstairs, Bodie was standing behind the bar, idly flicking through a local history book that had been on display in a rack by the till. He affected not to notice Doyle come around to join him, though he was standing exactly where Burt had tucked the box.
"Story of Sal's shipwreck," he said, tapping the book with a finger. "I might have to buy a copy of this."
"Yeah? What does it say?" He nudged Bodie along a bit, leaned beside him as if he was also engrossed in reading history.
The waitress had finished clearing the tables, and the bar wasn't open until eleven - Burt was out back and there was no one else around. He let a hand slip into his pocket, keep a light hold on the lock picks and then feel along under the bar for the box. He found the silver frame first, spidered his fingers along it until he came to the sponginess of the books, and finally what he was looking for. He looked warily up from the book, nudged Bodie again, and then ducked down behind the bar.
He tried one after another of the picks in the lock, trying to get the fit right. He could feel muck and grime scraping against the mechanism, fighting with the bloated wood, and twice he thought it was about to give before realising that it wasn't going to happen. At last there was a minute catch in the lock, and then it turned, the tumbler lifted into place, and there was a spring as the everything was released.
"Oi..." he hissed, giving Bodie's leg a poke, and looking up the length of his jeans to the soft cotton of his shirt where he leaned on the bar.
Bodie shifted, looked back down at him with a questioning quirk to his lips. "Been watching too many bad films, Raymond?" he asked.
No one around, then. After a moment Doyle stood up, though he kept the box low in his hands, out of sight of casual observers. Maybe he had been watching too many bad films, but...
But Bodie was grinning at him properly now, and there was that look in his eyes again - the same look he'd had out on the island, when he'd woken up just this morning and remembered the wreck was out there...
Doyle held the box out to him, gestured more forcefully when Bodie didn't seem to understand him. "Go on then - open it!"
They looked around one more time, and now he felt like he was in a Carry On sketch - or more likely, Fawlty Towers, just waiting for Sybil to round the corner. The lure of the box was too great though, and they were both concentrating on that alone when Bodie carefully lifted the lid.
There was nothing to be seen - there was another tin lining packed tightly inside.
He looked up at the same time Bodie did - the tin was solid, whatever was in there would be perfectly preserved.
The lid, however, was on tightly, and there was a line of rust all around the edge, so that no matter how he pried away at it, it wouldn't lift. Bodie wafted fingers at him - give it here - and he did, frustrated. More wafting fingers, demanding something... his Swiss army knife...
Doyle leaned on the counter in his turn, the book between his arms, watching Bodie's progress impatiently. Come on, come on... He could hear the low hum of Burt talking to his man from the brewery, the occasional clang of metal on metal as the kitchen prepared for the lunch time rush.
Bodie swore suddenly under his breath, lifted a thumb to his mouth. He took it away striped with a thin red line, put it back again, and passed the box back to Doyle to hold while he lifted the tin lid away.
Doyle bent eagerly lower to see more clearly. Inside lay some old papers, rolled up like scrolls, and a book of some kind with a black cover. There was nothing else at all - no doubloons, no single ingot, not even a pair of paste earrings.
So much for that, then.
"It's dry," Bodie said, sounding pleased, "Not a drop on it after all this time..." He picked up the book and flicked through the pages. "It's a diary - H.J.K's diary of the voyage." He squinted at the writing, made a face. "Can't read more than one word in ten..."
Doyle picked out one of the rolls of paper, thick parchment, yellow with age. He unrolled and then unfolded it carefully, half-expecting it to disintegrate in his fingers, but it survived, and he tried to make out what it was, frowned. A map of somewhere? The coast, or...?
Bodie's breath hitched suddenly, and Doyle looked up, then back at the map. It resolved itself slowly into meaning, a line here, a word there...
"Tell me," he said, still staring at the parchment, "That's not what you think it is..."
"Bloody hell," Bodie breathed, "It's an actual treasure map - and that's Sal's island!"
They studied the sketch carefully, trying to make sense of it. The shape of the island was clear, and the lines shaded in for the rocky entrance to the inlet, but laid over that were two separate plans, apparently the same size and shape, but otherwise very different.
"If that's the island," Doyle said finally, "That's got to be the castle. First floor, second floor?"
"Towers are only marked on that one," Bodie shook his head, indicating the top sketch with a flick of his finger. They stared a while longer.
"Doesn't make any sense," Doyle said finally. "Unless the towers didn't go all the way down... but we know they did, we can still see them. So..."
"They didn't go all the way down..." Bodie said slowly.
"Yeah but we know they did..."
"No - I mean, they didn't go all the way down through the castle. Into the dungeons."
Doyle looked at him, eyes wide. "You mean... That's crazy - who'd build dungeons for a folly?"
"Someone stupidly rich? Or maybe it's not a folly after all... maybe they built the folly on top of what had been there originally."
"And then people forgot about the original castle?" He tilted his head at the plans, as if seeing them from a different angle would help.
It was definitely the island, and it was definitely one floor of the castle - he could see where they'd spent the night, the actual room with the fireplace clearly marked. The only thing that made sense was that the second plan was a plan of dungeons.
And marked in one corner of that second plan, in old-fashioned but clear lettering, was a single word.
It couldn't mean what it said it meant, surely - not after all these years...
"Rumour has it that it didn’t all end up in the Treasury, if you know what I mean..."
Without thinking about it, he lifted the map to the bar, weighted the corners with the rubber Guinness bar mat in front of the pumps, pulled the book they'd been reading towards him, and reached to the till for a biro. He began carefully copying the map onto the blank pages at the back of the history book, carefully marking the island, the castle, and especially the plans and the ingots themselves.
"Very nice," Bodie said admiringly after a minute. "You buying me that, are you?"
He didn't answer, but he handed Bodie the book, then let the map spring free, rolled it up properly and fitted it back into the box once more.
"Do you think...?" Bodie asked, and they stared for a moment at the second roll of paper in the box. The world around them could have vanished, could have ignited in a final nuclear sweep for all they cared. Eventually Doyle reached in with careful fingers, lifted the second parchment out, and unrolled it.
It was a title deed for the house and the island, Henry Matthew Kirrin written boldly and clearly as the owner - H.J.K's father, presumably, he thought, and then he let it loose too, and put it away.
Trouble was, what to do with it all - they'd found a map marked with treasure that didn't belong to them and was centuries old; it would be passed to a man he didn't trust who was a good friend of a man who needed the money in order to keep hold of the pub and the house where his wife, where the love of his life, had died.
What could Mal do with an old map of the island, even one that had Ingots written on it in big, inviting letters? He still wasn't sure that they could anything, without starting to worry for their sanity... Was he so scared of losing CI5 that he was making up children's adventures to fill the gaps? Before he'd even left? It wasn't as if there could really be ingots on the island, just lying around waiting to be found after all these years.
"If we take it with us, he'll wonder why it was locked, won't he?" Bodie said, reasonably. "We've got the copy..."
They had the copy - but was it safe to leave Mal the original? But it belonged to Burt...
"Bodie, me mucker, what are you lads doing tonight?" Burt swept into the bar room, the day's till in one hand, a towel slung over his shoulder. Doyle let the lid of the box close, took out his lock picks and palmed them, grinned amiably and questioningly over the bar. "You gonna join me and Devvo for some grub, or have you got plans?"
Bodie shook his head, just as Doyle was about to take him up on his offer. They could keep an eye on Mal, maybe ferret out what his game was....
"No can do - I've booked us a table in town, thought we'd dirty someone else's dishes for a turn."
"You've never done a dish in your life," Burt said agreeably. He swung around the side of the bar, hooked the drawer into its place in the till, and pulled the dishwasher open all in one smooth movement. "You're on the right side of the bar for a job, though..." He raised an eyebrow at Bodie. "Fancy a career change?"
Doyle winced, just a little, just enough that he knew Bodie had seen.
"You must be joking... Nah, I wanted another look at this..." Bodie reached down to the shelf where the box and the other objects sat, lifted out the cracked glass. "Wondered suddenly if there was any writing on it - you know, the name of the ship, or a year or anything. Couldn't see anything..."
"The ship went down in '24," Burt reminded him, grinned as Bodie's face fell. "Forgotten that, hadn't you!"
"Ah well, can't be expected to be this good looking and brilliant all the time - you'd all be topping yourselves in despair..."
"Get out of here," Doyle gave Bodie a shove to get him on the other side of the bar, anything to take Burt's attention from the box, and give him a chance to think. "Let me give you the money for this as well," he waved the book at Burt. "It's an interesting place, innit?"
"That? That was written by old Joseph Coombs down the village - I'd take it with a pinch of salt, but it's not a bad read..."
"You're in it - or at least Sal's ship is," Bodie said, and Doyle could hear the hint of enquiry inflecting up.
"Told you she was famous, didn't I! It'll tell you about the missing gold and the curse as well, mind you - pinch of salt, mucker, like I said!"
"Did you get squared away with your man?" Bodie asked, tipping his head in the direction of the kitchens. "He serves a decent brew, I'll say that for him."
"You should try the Silent Slasher if we've got any left," Burt replied, but he shook his head. "We've just stopped so I can get this place ready for Mike when he comes in, then I'll get back to it. They don't like you selling up, you know..."
"You've made your mind up then?" Doyle asked, a strange pang to the thought. He was going soft, they'd only been here three days.
"I don't know," Burt began, and then, eyes focussing suddenly behind them, "Devvo - you're back early, thought you were away up town?"
Malcolm De Vonney was strolling through the bar, all business suit and slick blond hair, and a smile to charm the devil. "Bastard rang as I was halfway there - had some sort of archaic telescope emergency that he couldn't fix without a visit, so I figured I might as well turn around and chill out for the day. We're on for tomorrow though - and he'll stand us lunch at Perry's while we're there. Business is good, apparently."
"Great stuff, great stuff - hell's teeth, is that the time? Where's that bugger Mike, he's ten minutes late already!"
Doyle glanced at his watch - it was twenty to twelve, though there was no apparent demand for service, the place was empty except for the four of them propping up the bar. Even as he thought it a small man with red hair dashed in from the front door, all Irish accent and apologies, to Burt's scoffing rejoinder.
"Time we were away?" he muttered, sotto voce to Bodie while the other two were distracted, and Bodie met his eyes, nodded minutely.
"We'll see you blokes later," Bodie said, clapping Mal matily on the back, so that Doyle tried hard not to wince, not to want to hit him hard to make up for it. "Used to be I could stay up all night and go straight through the next day too..."
"Ah, I remember those days, mucker!" Burt said cheerfully, "Long gone, old man - long gone! Sleep well, eh? And if you change your mind about tonight..."
They escaped up to their room, and to his surprise Bodie went straight in, drew the curtains and heeled his shoes off, and threw himself down on the bed.
"You asleep again already?" he asked, despite the fact that their early morning and uncomfortable night was telling on him too. Used to be I could stay up all night and go straight through the next day too...
Bodie shifted minutely on the bed, looked up at him with a hard gaze. "Doyle?"
"Shut up and come here." He stretched out an arm, waiting.
Doyle considered. It wouldn't hurt to lie down for a few minutes, try to think it all through, and if Bodie was tired...
He was asleep within ten minutes.
He felt better after a quick kip and a lazy afternoon both in bed and out of it. They'd gone out for an hour or so and walked the other way for a change, away from the water by common consent, through fields and along hedges on the public footpaths that were neatly signposted. They'd neither of them said much. For his own part the map was imprinted too hard on his brain, and Burt's worries about Inland Revenue, despite what he did or didn't say, and the look on Doyle's face still, when Mal had sat down at the breakfast table with them, had spoken perfectly pleasantly, and shaken their hands.
"What d'you reckon, lobster or sea bass?" he asked, having stared sightlessly at the menu for long enough that the waiter had been back twice, and Doyle was glaring at him over their Chassagne-Montrachet.
"He'll 'ave the lobster," Doyle said to the long-suffering twenty-something standing by with his apron and his notepad, who scribbled it thankfully down and dashed to another table, pen at the ready. "Too much sleep addles the brain, you know..."
"Hark at you," he replied virtuously - it was the sound of kids shouting and screaming outside that had woken him around three-thirty, and Doyle had slept through it, head heavy on his arm, just where he should be.
They'd go treasure hunting the next day, or the day after that, but for tonight he had bigger fish to fry. Doyle had jumped on De Vonney so fast, so hard, and it wasn't that Bodie didn't trust him to recognise a crook when he saw him, but...
But what would Doyle do when he wasn't allowed to chase the crooks anymore?
"What d'you reckon, tell Burt tomorrow about the map?" Doyle was asking, leaning over the table towards him as if their lives depended on it, as if it was one of their state secrets, bigger than Anna Chapman, or Litvienko himself.
They'd not been able to get Burt on his own long enough to confess when they saw him, Mal a constant companion, cheerful and friendly. Phil and Modger had been in the bar as they left too, worrying at Doyle about restrictor kits and exhaust fittings and christ knew what, until Bodie had practically outed them just to get away.
"If we can," he replied half-heartedly, turning his head to follow the scent of something sweet and dessert-like in the hope that Doyle hadn't noticed his distraction.
"Or we could just spill the beans and offer Burt a place on Strictly Come Dancing, see whether he could do a decent cha-cha?"
Doyle, being Doyle, had noticed.
"There's not much chance that the..." he paused, searched, "...items will be where they were marked on the map," he said, just in case he could catch and cover up in retrospect. "Even if the...rooms actually exist, someone probably lifted the... items long ago."
The restaurant clanked and muttered around them, and after a moment he realised that Doyle hadn't yet said another word. He looked up, straight into green eyes.
"And the red geese fly south in the Spring?" Doyle said, one finger running round and around the rim of his wine glass, so that it hummed a low hum and all Bodie wanted was to knock it to the floor.
"If you retire, what d'you reckon you'll do?" he asked instead, and was gratified to see Doyle suddenly still all over, as if even his heart had stopped. After a moment he took his finger off the glass, raised it to his lips and drank.
"What d'you mean, what will I do?"
"You must have thought about it."
"And it's only just occurred to you to ask?" Doyle took another mouthful, was gazing steadily at him.
"No, but..." He was still sure it wouldn't come to that, they'd do something between them to fix this, but Doyle must have thought about it.
"The private sector..."
Doyle snorted, ever unimpressed with the idea of security companies outside the aegis of the public service.
"Look, they're not all bad you know - you could consult, work with the Met and CI5 and...whatever this new agency might be from the outside, without them breathing down your neck!"
He tipped his head and twisted his lips wryly at that. "Yeah, you're right - it's an option, anyway." Then he let out a breath, put down his glass and leaned his elbow on the table, his head on his hand. "Look, we 'aven't talked about it, but the one thing I won't be doing is sitting at home cooking you your tea and getting stroppy when you come in with blood on your shirt collar, okay? And that's a promise, mate."
Bodie smiled. "Never thought you would, mate, never thought you would. Just wondered what was going around in that fuzzy head of yours."
"Yeah, well, there's lots of things aren't there? Could open up me own detective agency, set up as Phillip Marlowe and find myself a sugar-mummy..."
"Take care of us both, will she?" Bodie asked, not liking the way his heart still gave a jolt when Doyle said things like that, even though he knew - he knew - they were no more than a joke.
"You get your own... Or maybe a bike shop..."
"A bike shop? You want to get your own scrap metal sorted first!"
And they were off then, sifting through a thousand ways to spend time away from CI5, not one of them serious, not one of them something that would ever happen in the future.
Because Doyle knew, deep inside, that he wouldn't leave CI5, Bodie thought, and he was glad that he'd confronted him, despite the look in his eyes when he'd first asked. They both knew where they stood, now.
Tuesday dawned as bright and full of sunshine as every day of their holiday so far, and Doyle paused while dressing to gaze from their bay window at the diamond-shining sea, the tiny scuds of cloud that floated lazily across the sky, to peer for the glimpse of Sal's island that could be seen beyond the headland. He could make out the two castle towers, and with imagination the distance-blurred hulk of The Caroline lurking just beyond. There couldn't be dungeons out there - could there?
And ingots, his subconscious whispered at him, if there's dungeons there might be ingots...
He pulled on a t-shirt, then his trainers without bothering with socks, strapped his watch around his wrist. They'd talk to Burt, maybe take him over to the island when De Vonney had finally left, have a nose around and convince themselves it was nonsense, then get back to the more serious job of enjoying the last few days of their holiday. He'd have chance enough to poke about after villains after that.
For the next six months, anyway.
"You ready?" he called to Bodie, who he could hear in the bathroom, slapping on aftershave and pausing in his tuneless humming to hiss at the sting. His own voice came out more deeply and harshly than he'd meant it to, and he winced, tried to make up for it. "Nice outside again - go down the cliff to eat?"
"Yeah, why not?" Bodie joined him by the window, looking at him steadily for a moment, then slapped a hand on his hip, rubbed vigorously up and down. "I can chuck you off if you nick my share of the toast."
"Gerroff..." Doyle wiggled, put his hands on Bodie's shoulders and turned him around. "It's for your own good, trying to take away some of that fat you call a stomach..."
"I am not fat," Bodie complained as they emerged into the corridor, almost directly into the arms of a young couple heading back to their room. They shot him an openly amused look, and to Doyle's delight, Bodie blushed.
"Nah, it's all just... muscle, innit?" Doyle taunted, because Bodie might be a little softer than he once had been, but he was still fitter than most blokes their age. They jostled the rest of the way downstairs, ignored the tidily made up breakfast tables, and went straight to the kitchen.
Mike was clearing away the debris of cooking food for half a dozen guests, piling bowls and pans onto the sink beside a sullen looking teenager, but he looked up cheerfully enough when they came in.
"Is Burt around?" Bodie asked, "Could do with a word, if he is."
Mike shook his head. "Nah, he was off early with that Malcolm, down to Weymouth I think he said. He's got his phone with him."
Doyle felt his heart unaccountably sink - no, he knew exactly why he felt like this, no use lying to himself. He didn't trust De Vonney, and now De Vonney had... Bugger. They shouldn't have left last night, should have stayed, spoken to Burt when De Vonney had gone to bed...
He slipped back out to the bar room while Bodie arranged breakfast for them - bacon sandwiches, by the sound of it - and glanced under the bar. Sure enough the box had vanished, though the other objects were also gone. He stared at the empty shelf for a moment, wrestling with his conscience, then strolled outside and through the door in the wall to Burt's cottage, used his credit card to slide past the Yale lock, and searched the place. He didn't need to rummage far, there was no reason Burt would hide the things they'd found on the wreck, he wasn't expecting them to have any value more than sentimental, and they weren't, of course, anywhere to be seen.
Bodie was emerging from the kitchen laden with a couple of polystyrene boxes, two big mugs of coffee, and a newspaper tucked under his arm, when he got back, met him with a raised eyebrow. Doyle shook his head in reply, and they strode wordlessly out through the back door and across the grass. They didn't stop at even the farthest table, but walked down past the low white fence at the end of the garden itself, to where the land vanished into air, plonked themselves down a little way from the edge.
"Look at this," Bodie said, thrusting the local paper at him.
Tourists Watch Wreck Thrown From Water!
Doyle rolled his eyes, took a deep breath, and started reading. Bodie flipped open their boxes, passed him a sandwich and Doyle took a bite absent-mindedly.
The paper didn't mention them by name, didn't say anything about them at all, in fact, other than that they had been on the island and seen the ship washed up from its grave, had, like conscientious citizens, reported it to the Harbourmaster as soon as they could. Then it told the story of the 1824 storms, of how fifteen ships were lost that night, The Caroline among them. Henry James Kirrin was mentioned, as were Burt and Sal, as owners of both the wreck and the island, but there was nothing about the rumours of lost gold, the report faded into a discussion of the provenance of ancient shipwrecks, the possible interest of English Heritage and maritime archaeologists.
"That's something, anyway," Bodie said, around a mouthful of breakfast. "At least we won't have to fight our way through hundreds of gawkers and treasure hunters."
Doyle glanced at him dubiously. "Yeah, but Burt's taken the box to De Vonney's mate, hasn't he - they're going to know about the ingots." He couldn't make himself say gold, somehow - "ingots" seemed more innocuous, less romantic and more realistic.
Bodie didn't seem to have any such problem. "So we'll have to get over there first, won't we - make sure that if there's gold to be found Burt's the one who finds it. De Vonney's supposed to be in Bristol sometime today remember - he'll have to shift if he's having lunch in Weymouth first."
Doyle thought about it. Burt should be back, then, this afternoon, and they'd have hours of daylight left in which to go and explore the island for non-existent dungeons.
"You don't really think there's anything over there, do you?" he asked, couldn't decide whether he wanted Bodie to say yes or no.
Bodie waggled his free hand, gazing out to sea, munched his sandwich thoughtfully for a moment. "Probably not," he said, "And if there was it'd probably be treasure trove anyway - you heard Burt, the gold was supposed to have been off-loaded in London so it was probably stolen by Kirrin to start with."
"Yeah, but they'd have to prove it - that'd be impossible after all this time, surely?"
Bodie shrugged. "Maybe. Most likely it's not there to begin with, and the map was someone's idea of a joke."
The trouble was, that didn't sound any more convincing than the thought of Kirrin syphoning off the ingots and hiding them somewhere only he knew about.
"It's either this or go and play on the beach with all the other grockles, isn't it?" Bodie continued, flicked a smiling look at him and held it, until he tipped his head and smiled back.
"Alright - so what'll we do until Burt gets back then?" he asked, rolled his eyes as Bodie automatically leered across at him. "Get your mind out of the gutter," he said, though the thought wasn't un-tempting. "Go down the South Coast path, shall we?"
"Christ no!" Bodie shook his head in horror, "I didn't bring my gaiters, or my Alpine knitted hat - you don't want me to be embarrassed in front of the proper walkers, do you?"
"Alright, grockle, what do you fancy?"
"Let's have a stroll around Bridport, see if we can find something good to send back for Salma and the girls - nice bit of seaweed fudge or a bucket and spade set."
"I am not going to see a bloody kids film!" Doyle said, when he realised what Bodie had done.
"Why not, you've seen the others!"
Doyle spluttered. "Only because you insisted..."
"Well, I'm insisting again now," he replied reasonably, "Come on, I want to see what happens next!"
"Who cares what... you can't eat that much popcorn!"
Bodie passed him the extra large bag and picked up the drinks he'd bought them. "Come on, we'll miss the start!"
The film was, as he expected, big on magic and slightly disturbing in that Hermione was starting to fill out in a somewhat distracting way.
"Nineteen, twenty?" Doyle answered absently when he was asked, and Bodie gave him a double-take for knowing the answer. "Was on breakfast telly one morning, wasn't it," he added defensively, steering them through the crowd of mostly mothers and children towards the theatre café. "Sit down and shut your gob, or I won't buy you a cake for being so good."
Bodie kicked him swiftly on the ankle before he left for the queue at the counter, which earned him a glare, and surveyed the tiny room for free tables. Unsurprisingly there weren't any, and when Doyle came back with a couple of baguettes and two teas he steered them to the seats outside on the pavement, just as two smokers got up to leave.
"Oy, where's my cake?" he asked, waited for Doyle to glare at him again before he took a happy bite of his ham salad baguette. "Not bad this, is it?" he added through his mouthful, appreciatively eyeing a young mother with short dark hair and cowboy boots who'd just emerged from the cinema clutching two children and the remains of a bag of malteasers, looking slightly harassed.
Doyle followed his gaze, and he wasn't surprised to feel the sudden thud of a trainer on his own ankle, under the table. He grinned unrepentantly. "Hermione Grainger, eh?" he said with relish as Doyle rolled his eyes, and took another bite from his sandwich.
Seagulls wheeled in the sky above them, and he was feeling holiday-relaxed again - a temporary reprieve, he knew, with their confession still to be made to Burt this afternoon. Burt wouldn't mind them having opened the box without him - he was practical about things like that, always had been - but trying to explain exactly why they'd done it was another thing altogether. See, Doyle doesn't trust your mate, and he's usually right... wasn't going to sound good however he phrased it.
"You know, he's going to know about the map when we get back anyway," Doyle said, interrupting his thoughts and reading his mind all at once. "If we get him to show us we can make a big deal about X marks the spot, suggest that we go out in the boat just for the lark of it..."
It might work, Burt seemed happy enough to leave the bar in the capable hands of his employees when he needed to, and he could always play the last-chance-to-see-you card if necessary, Burt generally unable to forgo doing his duty as a good host. And they'd avoid owning up to the b and e...
He absently watched the cowboy-booted mother head off down the street, shooing away seagulls and chatting with her children, then nodded at Doyle. "So - Hermione Grainger..." he said again, not wanting either of them to sit brooding while the sun was out and there was nothing they could do to hurry Burt on his way home, "How long have you fancied..."
Doyle threw a piece of baguette at him, and he caught it, looked consideringly at it for a moment, and then put it in his mouth and chewed with a grin.
They wandered the streets after their late lunch, neither of them wanting to break and be the first to suggest they head back. They bought Salma her box of fudge, and searched out the postcard they would have sent to Cowley if he'd been alive to receive it. Old habits had died hard, and they'd finally decided to let this one survive, a bit of harmless fun and Cowley had always loved it, pinning the cards with a straight face on this or that noticeboard around HQ.
Eventually, having exhausted the wonders of the small town, they looked at each other and by mutual consent turned for the carpark. It was getting on for four o'clock, surely Burt must have returned by now, and if they left it much later they wouldn't have enough time to get out to the island and back before it got too dark to see.
They headed back down the A35. The trees lining the road were the fresh green of early summer, as if they would burst with an overload of sunshine and energy, and they drove with the windows down, the sunroof open, not saying much. Bodie let his free hand rest on Doyle's thigh, steered with one hand and his mind on the world around them. He wondered what it must be like to live down here all the time, your life a part of the rhythm of either holiday-makers come, or holiday-makers going, and the sea nearby a constant thrum of tides and waves and wind. He'd imagined his house, when he was a kid, somewhere on an exotic seashore, his yacht tied up at a private berth, a constant laze of breakfasts with beautiful women - or men. And he'd ended up in London, with Doyle... so he was partway there, anyway.
They pulled off the main road into the shadowy, hedgerowed lane towards Higher Downsey, and he gave Doyle's leg an affectionate pat before reclaiming his hand for the steering wheel. They pottered along behind a tractor for a while, eventually turned into The Half Moon's driveway, pulled up against the carpark wall.
There was no sign of Burt's car, but he could have parked over on his own side of the pub, no reason why he shouldn't. Doyle, he noticed, was also looking around as if he'd lost something, and he caught his eye, grinned. They walked, shoulder to shoulder, into the dimness of the pub itself.
"Alright, Burt," Bodie said casually, strolling across to where he was standing by the back door with Brooklyn. She smiled shyly at them, then slipped out to join a small group of girls lazing on the grass outside, a couple of prams by their side.
"She's a good girl, that one," Burt said, gazing after her. "Works hard, looks after her mum."
"Did you have a good trip out this morning?" Doyle asked. "We thought you might fancy a day off, taking the boat out, but you'd gone by the time we got down."
"Great day - I've had a great day," Burt agreed, practically bouncing on his toes. He gestured through to the bar. "Sold all that old gear to Devvo's mate in there - even those books, he collects rubbish like that, has some private museum down Land's End way or something."
Bodie smiled weakly, trying to look happy for him, and impressed by the deal of getting money in exchange for waterlogged tat and ancient tableware. Beside him Doyle had tensed, had clenched his fists and was staring at Burt.
"That's not all though - he only had a contact who's looking for land. He wants to open one of those posh boo-teek hotels - he's going to buy the island off me, we've all but got the contract signed and sealed! How's that for quick work, then?"
"You can't sell the island," Bodie said before he could help himself, wasn't surprised when Burt raised his eyebrows. "You always said Sal loved it..." he added, as gently as he could.
"Yeah I know, mucker, but... There's no one in her family left to pass it on to, and if I don't sell it, it'll just go straight to the anti-inheritance buggers anyway. Devvo's right, I might as well get the cash and pay off Her Majesty before they get their hands on it and what with the recession and all I'd be a fool not to jump at an offer like this."
"Decent amount of cash then?" Doyle asked, through what sounded like clenched teeth, and Bodie shifted his weight so that he was slightly closer, reached out a surreptitious finger and ran it across his fisted hand. Cool it, Ray...
"He's got money to burn, and he wants to spend it on somewhere unusual - been looking at islands off Scotland apparently, but he's not keen on the local scene."
"Or the rainfall quota," Bodie said, trying to lighten the conversation. "I could feel myself tanning by the second out there - it always like this?"
"I should have had you up in November," Burt said cheerfully, "Howling winds and the waves practically washing over the cliffs at the end there. I'm having dinner with Devvo and Simon now - come and join us."
Bodie glanced at Doyle. "Yeah, why not? Let's meet your saviour, make sure he's not just wanting to harvest the bunnies."
"Ah, part of the charm they are," Burt said, leading the way through to the bar, to where Mal was sitting with another man at a table by the window. "Simon, I want you to meet a good mate of mine - this is Bodie, and this is Ray Doyle. Simon Jenkins."
They sat down, flicking quickly through the menu and ordering fish and chips so that it shouldn't be out too long after the other men's steaks. Burt vanished into the kitchen himself, returned with another bottle of red and one of chilled white wine, then sat down with them.
Simon spoke at length, and passionately about his plans for the island, and when Bodie caught Doyle's eye he could tell that he believed it as much as he did himself. It was too much of a coincidence that Devvo's mate should decide he wanted to buy the island just after The Caroline had been wrecked, when Devvo had got hold of the box and the map that Burt thought were worthless.
"You think the boutique hotel is a good risk these days?" Doyle asked, watching Mal as Simon launched into what sounded like an extremely competent answer. Either he really was a property developer, no matter what else he was up to, or he knew enough to make it sound good. The only thing Bodie knew about property was that their own flat had been bloody expensive, and he'd never thought of selling it. Maybe Doyle knew more, would catch him in some peculiar claim - you never knew what Doyle took notice of, look at Hermione...
Bodie tried to draw Burt on what had been in the box, but apparently they'd not even tried to get into it. "Lock was too old, Ellis broke his skeleton key on it and that was that. We could have hacked our way in, but the value's probably in the design more than the contents. He's got a contact at the Brit Mus, reckons they should be able to get in open there, just in case it does turn out to be full of diamonds and black pearls."
"You've been watching too many films," Mal said with a grin, "It's South Sea pearls you want these days, not that Hollywood rubbish."
"I dunno, I don't supposed I'd turn 'em down," Doyle said lazily, passing his plate to Brooklyn who'd come to clear the table. "What if it turns out there is something worth money in there?"
Too close, Bodie thought, too close, but neither Mal nor Simon seemed to think anything of the question.
Mal sipped his wine, sniffed and shook his head. "There won't be," he said. "Couldn't hear anything solid in there when we shook it - did you? Most likely it was the ship's log, and that'll be in the same state as the other books, well beyond rescue."
The night wore on, and to no avail it seemed. Neither man slipped, neither of them said anything to make him think they were anything other than what they claimed to be, and Burt was full of the joys of getting clear of his Inland Revenue debt, of the relief it would be and the plans he might start to make afterwards. They veered from handing over management of the pub and staying on in his cottage, building a boat in the back garden, to packing it all in and heading off around the world. None of them would happen, Bodie thought, all of them too far away from where Sal still was, imbued in his memories of The Half Moon.
Eventually Mal and Simon made their farewells - the appointment in Bristol had been conveniently forgotten - and headed back to Weymouth. Burt waved them off, then came back to the table with a glass of decent brandy to finish the night, and they sat in the soft glow of the lights, the night outside warm and dark, the emptying pub a pleasant buzz around them.
"So when d'you hand over?" Doyle asked, sitting back and letting his hands warm his glass.
"Not officially until we get the paperwork sorted," Burt said, "Why?"
"Well... when we were over the other day I fancied coming back with me sketch pad, do some drawings of the castle, maybe looking back to Higher Downsey - but I don't want to step on Simon's toes, if he's in the process..."
"You should have asked him," Burt said, and for a hideous moment Bodie thought he was going to offer them Simon's number, or worse call him for them. "No, you get over there - he won't mind, and he can't mind anyway until it's legally his. When did you want to go?"
"Tomorrow?" Doyle raised an eyebrow at him over his glass, and Bodie shrugged careless agreement. "Might as well go while the weather's good - see if I can catch the dawn even." He grinned wickedly at Bodie. "You can bring your fishing rod, get us some breakfast - and dinner, maybe spend the day over there, camp out properly this time."
"If it's up to me it'll be bunny," Bodie said, "Fresh on a spit with its little nose intact..."
"You're a heathen," Doyle complained, looking disgusted and turned back to Burt. "'as he always been like this?"
Burt grinned and stood up. "As long as I've known him, mucker, as long as I've known him! You lads want another drink before I close up, or...?"
They shook their heads, and Bodie swallowed the last of his brandy, shifted in his own seat. It was already late, and if Doyle wanted them up and on the sea for four in the morning, then he wanted to be in bed sooner rather than later.
"Camping and painting, eh?" he asked when they were safely in their room. "You just want to go treasure hunting!"
Doyle grinned at him. "Yeah - you do too, don't give me that!"
"'course I do - always knew I'd have a fortune one day..."
He watched suspiciously as Doyle approached, stood in front of him and looked him up and down. But all he said was, "Yeah - me too," and then he pulled Bodie to him, ran a hand over his head, ruffling his short hair, and down the side of Bodie's face, and then he began to kiss him.
"Doyle?" Bodie's voice from the bed was husky with sleep.
"What?" He looked around the room, tried to decide whether they'd need anything else. It was a single day, a single night - they couldn't need much.
"Was there a reason we're getting up to do this before it's even light outside?"
"It's light outside," he said, glancing past the glow from the lamp at the vaguely grey line around the curtains. "And we don't want De Vonney and Jenkins getting there before us."
"How can they get there before us?" Bodie asked, "They're sane..."
"Bo-die!" He surveyed the sheet-draped figure still lying with his eyes closed, and in a single smooth movement pulled the cover from him.
Bodie winced slightly, wrinkled his nose and sniffed, didn't move any further.
"Alright then..." Doyle stepped closer to the bed, looked down in fond appreciation for a moment, then he bent over, took Bodie's cock, full and hard even in the early morning air, into his mouth, slowly sucked the length of him so that Bodie gasped and arched up, and then he released him, slapped him solidly on one naked thigh, and stepped back.
Bodie lay breathing heavily for a moment, then sat up on his elbows. "You bastard," he said, wide awake and glowering.
"Up, Bodie - get up!"
"I am," Bodie said, clutching himself, but nevertheless lifting himself finally out of bed. "You just wait..."
Doyle looked at him from under his fringe, stuck his tongue out and licked quickly at his lips. "Oh, I’m waiting."
Properly awake now, Bodie grabbed his towel from the chair, flicked it so that it caught him viciously across one buttock, and strode muttering into the bathroom.
Doyle clicked his fingers, snatched up the local history book from his bedside table, and thrust it into their bag. "Come on!"
"Keep your hair on, Grey-dilocks," Bodie growled, but he emerged wet-faced, pulled on jeans, t-shirt and jumper, and shoved his feet into socks and shoes all in less than a minute. "Happy now?"
Doyle looked him critically up and down, then he stopped smirking, stepped over and kissed him quickly. "Happy," he said, because he was. "Now 'urry up!"
They crept as quietly as they could downstairs, detoured quickly into the kitchen for supplies, and then let themselves out into the fresh morning air. A star or two clung to the denim blue sky, winked out before they'd even left the driveway, and to the east the world was a sweep of pastel colours. Doyle took a deep breath, smelled salt air and a slight tang of pine as they passed a cluster of conifers.
"D'you ever think you missed out, living in town all your life?" he asked whimsically, not sure he could have given up the speed and the noise and the rush of people, but wondering, just a little bit, if it might have been worth trying.
"Ah, but I didn't, did I? Spent years in the bush, me, communing with nature..."
"...grubbing about with the other little soldier boys," Doyle finished for him. "It's nice this though, isn't it?"
Bodie's voice softened slightly as he looked around, as they tramped their way through the quiet streets, surrounded by hills and sky and seashore, to the harbour. "Yeah, it is."
The Lucky Girl was bobbing peacefully on the water when they reached the harbour, and they stowed their gear, checked the petrol and engine, then released her from her mooring and set off. Near the end of the breakwater a small trawler was preparing to get under way for the day, its occupants nodded pleasantly as they passed, and Doyle smiled back. Bodie was at the wheel again, and Doyle alternated watching their surrounds with watching the way his shoulders sat, the minute flex of muscles as he turned the boat this way and that in the direction of the island and around towards the rocky inlet. This is the life, a small voice whispered, right here, right now.
The sun rose slowly into the sky, a warmly golden glow without much heat yet, but with cheerful promise for the day ahead. If he really had been going to sit sketching whilst Bodie fished, this would have been the perfect day for it - maybe he should even give it a go, since he'd packed his sketchbook and a box of charcoals, just in case anyone asked to see...
He'd imagined, once, sitting on a seashore somewhere with an easel in front of him, surrounded perhaps by interested - and impressed - onlookers, roughly sketching in some vista that he would later spread with watercolours, or maybe even oils. It hadn't lasted long, that imagining, long enough to see the hard work and level of talent that was required even to be a seaside artist, never mind someone who made a living at it, but there was a tiny corner of his mind that perhaps hadn't quite given up the fantasy. Maybe just one day was all it would take to turn it into a holiday memory rather than a failed dream.
The calm water of the inlet was the same pastel as the sky, and they anchored the boat, gathered up their gear, and waded through its chill as if in a dream. Everything was quiet with the motor off, even the sea hushed, the gulls low-pitched. The island rabbits glanced curiously around as they passed, wandered a few steps further away, and turned back to their patches of grass.
A boutique hotel out here, full of slick couples from town complaining that the grass was too dirty, that the rabbits really shouldn’t be allowed to shit just anywhere? Doyle frowned. It was sick…
They reached the castle, with its crumbling walls and towers, the jackdaws sitting as silent watchers now, on their high perches. Or maybe they were asleep too, dreaming of distant summer worms and airy nests. He shook his head at himself – wake up, Doyle…
“Alright?” Bodie asked, letting the bags he carried drop to the ground. “What d’you reckon, set up here where we can see all round?”
“Yeah, why not – get the sun for most of the day too.” Bodie was still watching him, so he gave him a quick smile, put down the box of food they’d brought to keep them supplied for barely twenty four hours. He stretched, looked up at the sky and out over the sea as he did it, wasn’t surprised to feel Bodie’s arms slide around him and looked down to meet blue eyes.
“I’m fine,” he said, and relaxed into his hold, put his own arms around Bodie’s waist and let Bodie lean into him, a solid warm length down his front, head heavy on his shoulder and breath ticklish against his neck. And they were fine, just for now, their world was at peace.
After a moment, Bodie squeezed him briefly tighter, then snored loudly in his ear, came up grinning broadly when Doyle pushed him away.
“Oy, we’re not here to sleep!” he said, lifted the bag with their tent and chucked it at him.
“What about breakfast first?” Bodie suggested hopefully, eyeing the bag with distaste.
“Set up first – breakfast when we’ve done,” Doyle said firmly, picking up the box again and carrying it to the relatively cool depths of the castle room.
When he came back Bodie had the tent half up, and Doyle left him to hammer in the rest of the tent pegs, and lay out their sleeping bags, whilst he set to lighting a fire. Twenty minutes later there was coffee in a cafetiere, bacon and eggs snapping loudly in the frying pan, and Bodie was holding two sticks at the side of the glowing flames, toast charring happily away.
"Don't get to do this often in town," he said, shaking the pan so that the fat sizzled even harder.
Bodie looked amused. "All those nice little constables not too keen on it," he explained sadly. "Tried telling 'em that Hyde Park was just an old-fashioned pantry, but they wouldn't have it."
"Yeah, but it's been years since I had a proper campfire," Bodie continued, half-seriously now, reminiscent, and Doyle pricked up his ears. "Was every bloody day for half my life - I could have murdered a decent roast dinner, you know?"
"Squirrel and elephant, was it?" Doyle asked a quiet moment or two, and Bodie turned a wry smile on him.
"If we were lucky. Mind you, nice bit of squirrel... How're those eggs?"
They were ready, and he nodded at Bodie to pour the coffee, tipped fried eggs onto the toast, and the bacon alongside that, and they settled down with their knives and forks.
"Bit civilised, this," Doyle suggested, waved his fork at the mugs they'd pinched from the kitchen, the paper towel they'd stuffed into the box as an afterthought. "What's elephant taste like, anyway?"
"Only had it once," Bodie said unexpectedly, so that Doyle tried to raise his eyebrows and glare at him at the same time.
"You've eaten elephant? One of the most intelligent creatures on this..."
"Gamey," Bodie interrupted. "Don't recommend it. Or whale."
"Whale? How the hell did you catch a whale?"
"We didn't," Bodie looked amused. "Was somewhere in the east Arctic on exercises one time, had to get from Point A to Point B, you know the sort of thing. Anyway, Jimmy Partridge had lost his longjohns somewhere along the way, well before we got up there, was too young and stupid to tell us - nearly lost his bloody legs too. We fetched up in some Eskimo village, they thawed him out, invited us all to the dance, fed us whale." He crunched cheerfully on a piece of bacon, gazed out over the sea.
"So what does whale taste like?"
"Like a bloody great fish," Bodie said. "Only smellier. And chewier. Not as bad as seal, though."
"Seal?" He paused, narrowed his eyes suspiciously. "You're 'aving me on."
"Straight up. Luckily they 'ad Rudolfburgers too - now they're edible."
"Enough to turn me vegetarian, you are," he said, watching the rabbits as they pottered about further down the hill. "I dunno 'ow you've got the conscience to..."
"No worse than moo-burger, or lambchop or..."
"Shut up, Bodie..." he said, before realising that yet again he'd been successfully distracted. Still - elephant...
He took a mouthful of good, clean coffee, reached into their rucksack for the local history book, and flicked it open to his copied sketch. Bodie shifted slightly beside him, put his plate down and crunched on his piece of toast, pausing to lick butter from his fingers as it trickled down. Together they stared, again, at their treasure map.
If there was any kind of scale to it, the dungeons seemed to run under the entire castle, and there were several sets of stairs leading down to their depths, stripes of lines that Doyle had sketched with a flick of the pen. One set seemed to begin somewhere near the intact room, another under the most derelict tower.
"So what's that, then?" Bodie flicked a finger towards a round hole that was shown not only in the plan of the dungeons, but in approximately the same place in the ground floor of the castle.
Doyle shook his head, sucked thoughtfully at his cheek. "No idea... unless..." He frowned at it slightly. "Unless it's the well - didn't castles have to have their own well so that they couldn't be besieged?"
They both looked up at the towers, around them and across the grass and the bushes out to the sparkling, surrounding sea.
"Mmn..." Bodie was non-committal. "They'd have needed fresh water though, siege or none."
"Presuming it was ever a real castle," Doyle added.
"Yeah... and presuming there are ingots hidden in the dungeons..."
They looked at each other, grinned.
"Gold-digger," Bodie teased.
"Well you were no good, 'ave to take me chances somewhere else, don't I? Treasure hunter."
"I'll hunt treasure with you any day," Bodie said, "As long as you never cook me elephant for dinner."
Doyle snorted. "You catch it, I'll cook it. Come on, between us we must be able to find a massive great hole in the ground leading down to extensive dungeons..."
They left the fire to go out by itself, took a torch each, and headed back to their castle room. With the sun outside, rising steadily higher in the sky and warm on their backs now, the room looked cold and damp, uninviting. Doyle glanced at the patch of wall against which he'd leaned, his hand wrapped around Bodie's cock, Bodie's breath in his own mouth.
Maybe the room had its own charm, after all...
"How accurately did you do this, anyway?" Bodie wafted the book in front of him, open to the page with his plan.
"As well as I could in five minutes flat while I was stealing something from your mate's heritage!"
"We didn't steal it," Bodie said, "He probably still doesn't know it was there..."
"I bet De Vonney does. And it depends how accurate the thing was to start with, dunnit?" He glanced around the room, flicked on his torch and let the beam play across the floor. "Looks like the stairs should be... oh I dunno, somewhere in this room!"
"Well done, Christopher Wren... Alright, you start on that side, I'll start on this..."
They separated, each running their light carefully over the floor, along the cracks between the paving stones, now and then kicking at bits of moss and errant plant life with their shoes.
"Alright, so it's not in here," Bodie said at last. "Maybe Great Grandad paved it over for his ballroom."
Doyle straightened from where he'd been running a finger between two stones, testing the earth. Trouble was, they'd been all over the room on the night of the storm, they knew it was solid as a... well, as the paving stones they'd been all over. "Could try the tower," he suggested, with less enthusiasm. The second tower was almost completely collapsed, and grass and hummocks of gorse had grown up over the fallen stones on its floor.
"Let's have a look at that map again," Bodie said, stepping out into the sunshine and sitting down with it in the courtyard. "Look - if you look at it this way, the stairs in the tower line up with the well. If we could find the well, we could draw pretty much a straight line to the stairs."
"If the plan is accurate."
"If the plan's accurate... Come on then, Indy - just think, this time tomorrow you'll be a rich little gold digger..."
Trouble was, there was nothing that looked like a massive great hole in the ground in the courtyard, either. It was littered with fallen stones, sand had blown in from the shore, and scrappy seaside weeds and bushes of all kinds had taken hold. They gazed around, disillusioned, Doyle thought, even before nine o'clock in the morning.
"Oy, Ray..." Bodie reached out a hand, tapped his arm.
"What?" He looked up in the direction of Bodie's own gaze, didn't see anything different. Stones, weeds, bushes, rabbits... One of the rabbits disappeared under a big round gorse bush, white tail giving a final emphatic bob before it vanished. "There's nothing there, just a rabbit and it's..."
"...hole," Bodie finished, grinning at him.
"They can't make it easy, can they?" He frowned at the mass of golden flowers and sharp, spiking leaves. "There must be hundreds of rabbit holes in 'ere, it's a wonder we haven't broken our ankles."
"Yeah, but not many that are in line with the corner of that room," Bodie said. "And how much fun would be if it was easy? Right - you're the smallest..."
Doyle turned indignant eyes on him. "By an inch! If that!" He paused, looked at him doubtfully. "You're not seriously suggesting I try and climb into a gorse bush?"
"Two inches," Bodie argued," And why not? It's not that bad - we used to do it all the time in the army, make good OPs, do gorse bushes."
"Well if you're so used to it you can do it this time an' all. Besides - you're the one with a hide thick as rhino!"
Bodie stuck his tongue out at him, but he was still eyeing up the gorse bush. "Go on then, get me your jacket."
"If I have to go in, then it's your jacket I ruin, not mine," he said firmly, and Doyle, remembering that Bodie's jacket today was canvas and his own leather, went grumbling back to their tent to fetch it.
"You tear it an' I'll..."
"D'you want this gold or not?"
Doyle huffed a breath, held out the jacket.
Bodie did it up all the way, turned the collar up, and eyed the gorse bush. "Right - I'm going in..."
The bush was slightly thinner on the side by the wall of the castle, and Bodie pushed his way past the outer branches, nearly bent over double. "I'm getting too old for this, you know!" he shouted out to Doyle, then practically disappeared from sight as a branch snapped back behind him. The topmost yellow flowers, still early and pale, rustled back and forth with vigour.
"You alright in there?"
"Didn't think I'd need my torch!" Bodie's voice was muffled, but cheerful. He must be getting scratched to shreds, though...
The bush shook suddenly, almost violently, and there was a cut-off cry.
"Bloody hell.. Bo-die!"
What the hell had…? Think, Bodie, don’t panic – don’t ever panic… One minute he'd been rooting around in the dirt, he'd seen the rabbit hole and leaned towards it, and... and now here he was, half sitting, half lying on a teetering slab of solid stone. At least he knew it was solid, because his head had hit it hard when he landed. Christ...
He could hear frantic scrabbling up above, someone shouting his name... Doyle... Doyle was shouting his name...
He sounded worried.
The scrabbling stopped abruptly, and Bodie tried again, more confidently since his perch hadn’t given way with his first call. "Ray? I'm fine - be careful!"
If he turned his head – ever so carefully – he could see bits and pieces of the pure blue sky, criss-crossed with gorse branches and now-broken roots. The branches shook again, there was a sudden loud snap, and more detritus rained down. He closed his eyes and his mouth against it, waited for it to stop, but when he looked back up, coughing and sniffing, there was a bigger gap in the bush and then Doyle’s head appeared, a dark, silhouette of curls, followed by a beam of thin light as he shone his torch down the well.
“What the hell are you doing down there?” Doyle asked, voice rough.
Bodie coughed again, “Thought I’d go for a dip – trouble is, there’s no water…”
“Are you hurt? Can you get up?”
“No and no,” he said after a moment’s thought and a careful flex of his muscles. The stone tipped slightly again. It seemed to be centred on something protruding from the well wall, had perhaps been safely enough wedged until he’d hit it with his full weight on one corner. “You got a rope?”
“Oh yeah, I always carry…” Doyle began, then backtracked. “In the boat – can you hang on until I get it?”
“Have to, won’t I… Don’t get distracted though, eh?” He didn’t know how long it would all hold together, could feel the cold of the dark and the water below leeching up towards him.
More rustling, and Doyle was gone.
On the bright side, he’d found the well. He was getting too old for this…
After a little experimentation, where the stone tipped alarmingly but under his control, he managed to find its line of balance, and to shift himself until he was sitting more comfortably, could at least move his arms freely. He leaned against the stones of the well’s side, felt gently the lump on the side of his head. It was tender, but he wasn’t bleeding, and when Doyle reappeared there only seemed to be one of him.
For a moment he imagined two Doyles, or three, or four, all in their big bed at home, waiting for him…
“You still alive down there? If I’ve gone to all this trouble…”
He blinked, looked up and grinned, despite everything. One was enough.
“It is the east,” he said, to the shadow of Doyle’s curls, “And Raymond is the sun…”
“Shut up, Bodie.” Doyle vanished again, and the gorse bush shook and rustled once more, then he reappeared. “I’m going to drop the rope down – can you loop it under your arms?”
“Yes, mum. What’ve you tied it to?”
“Me and the bush, so don’t bloody fall.”
“No, mum,” he said again, but he was worried. “Don’t you fall in as well…”
“Ha-ha – that the best you can do? As well?”
Trust Doyle to pick a pun as bad as that. The rope appeared, a sinuous snake of a rescue, though he knew it was stronger than it looked. Doyle had tied it for him, and he let it slide over his arms, hitched the loop tightly around himself, and then wound his arm around it, made sure he had a good grip.
It wasn't far from his perch to the top of the well - if he'd been three times as tall he would have made it easily - what worried him was the stone slab. He needed to be clear of it before it fell, if that's what it was going to do. He sat a little straighter, pulled his feet as close as he could, ready to rise in as smooth a motion as possible when Doyle was ready to hold his weight. It shouldn't be for long, he just needed a grip on the well side, enough stones, and projecting far enough, to make finger and toe holds so that he could help his own ascent.
"Alright, I'm going to try and stand up!" he called, waited for Doyle's okay, and then took a deep breath, let it out.
He needed to lean backwards in order to keep the slab stable for as long as possible, so there was no chance of clinging to the walls if it went tumbling down, he'd have to hope that it didn't push him forward and take him with it, hope that Doyle could hold him.
His knees protested, but his thighs had worked so hard for so long that they didn't let him down - he stood, teetered with the stone for what seemed like long, long minutes, but managed to keep his weight evenly distributed around the slab's line of balance. The rope tightened quickly around him, Doyle taking up the slack, and sending trickles of debris down again, and then they paused.
He turned now, carefully, stretched up for a couple of decent handholds, and then tilted his head back. "On three," he called, and then he counted - one - two...
He clutched hard at the side of the well, felt the rope tighten still further around him, and scrambled for footholds as well. He could feel the air shifting behind him, the ponderous movement of the stone as it was released from centuries of hanging above the shaft, and then he was half-climbing, half being pulled towards the top of the well, until he could grasp the sharp trunk of the gorse bush, was being grasped in turn by Doyle, hands hard around his arm, and then he was lying, half tangled in gorse, half tangled in Doyle, back in the open air.
From somewhere deep below was the sound of stone smashing on stone, a dull echoing splinter of rock.
He opened his eyes to find Doyle's frowning face close to his, a thumb reaching for his eyelid. "What are you doing?"
"Trying to find out whether we managed to kill you or not - are you alright?"
"I keep telling you I am..." He sat up, dirt cascading from his hair, shook his head so that they were both showered in the stuff.
"Well how the hell did you fall down a hole that bloody big?" Doyle sat back on his knees, carried on frowning at him.
"Skill and concentration..." He paused, squinted through the too-bright sunshine. "What the hell happened to you?"
Doyle's arms were criss-crossed with a series of fine red lines, there was another across his face, and more across his neck.
Doyle reached out to him again, cupped Bodie's head in his hand and then ran his thumb along the bump by his temple. Bodie flinched, still trying to work out what Doyle was covered in.
"Stay still!" Doyle captured his head again, with both hands this time, and Bodie sat patiently for a minute whilst his eyes were stared into, a finger waved in front of them, his bump prodded again.
"Ow! Will you bloody get off! Why are you covered in blood?"
Doyle rolled his eyes. "You're fine..." he said, and sat back again. "Because gorse is bloody sharp!"
Oh. Doyle's jacket was suddenly heavy on his arms, and he shrugged out of it.
"You didn't think to put mine on?"
"Wasn't the first thing on my mind, no," Doyle said. He stood up, held out a hand. "Can you stand up?"
"Can I...?" He crossed his eyes at him, took his hand, and heard his knees click again as he came upright, putting out his own hand to steady himself on Doyle's shoulder.
"How's your head?"
"Aching," he said, realising that it was. "How about a cuppa?"
He didn't feel that bad, not for falling down a bloody great well, but he let his hand rest on Doyle anyway as they wandered over to the tents, didn't object when Doyle gave his back a brief rub and then a pat as he sat down by the remains of their fire.
They let the sounds of the morning wash over them whilst Doyle brewed up, the seagulls raucous as they floated on waves and eddies of wind too high for them to feel on the island, the sea shushing against the shore.
Bodie watched as Doyle's summer-brown, scratched arms moved smoothly between fire and water and cups and teabags and milk, caught him glancing over more than once, assessingly. "It's worse than being on the bloody streets, this," he said at last. "I'm fine - nothing a couple of paracetamol and a dip in the sea won't cure."
Doyle passed him a mug. "You want to go swimming, right after you fell..."
"Okay, okay - this afternoon then, when I can prove I've not keeled over for breathing too quickly!"
Doyle nodded, and they drank their tea.
"Besides," Bodie said, "We'll have found the dungeons by then, and the ingots - we can have a good... splash around to celebrate." He gave Doyle his best leer, knowing it would stop him worrying as much as anything else.
"I dunno - I'm beginning to think we must have the wrong island..."
"Nah - where's the map?"
"Back by the well - what d'you want?"
"Was gonna check the stairs again - but unless you were right off, they've got to line up with it. You weren't off - were you?"
Doyle chewed his lip, considered, finally rubbed his nose. "I don't think so - they should line up."
"Right then, come on!" He drained the rest of his tea, stood up. "What are you waiting for? There's dungeons to break into, gold to find..."
In the end he found the entrance to the dungeons himself, when they'd both almost given up hope, when he wasn't even trying. The courtyard was littered with tufts of bush and upturned rocks, even a couple of paving stones they'd managed to shift, thinking they were in a direct line with the tower and the well - but nothing.
"Do you get the feeling," Doyle asked, collapsing down to sit on the sunbaked ground, "That you've been sent on a wild goose chase?"
"You mean since Cowley left the squad?"
Doyle's face creased into a smile, he shot him a rueful look. "Yeah, since then..."
"Yeah..." He considered. "Be lunch time soon..."
"You're nothing but a walking stomach, you are - we've just had breakfast!"
Bodie glanced at his watch - "That was hours ago," he said in complaint, "And here I am, injured in the line of duty..." He eased himself down beside Doyle, feeling the sun warm, soaking into him and weighting him down, pleasant lassitude. "Alright, we'll have a rest first..."
"Morning nap time, is it?"
"Almost afternoon nap time," he said equitably. "If we'd had our lunch..."
"Alright, alright - sandwich do you?"
He opened his eyes momentarily, grinned happily. "And some of those roast beef and mustard crisps..."
Doyle turned towards the castle room to get the food, and Bodie slid over onto his stomach, watched him go. They'd both taken their shirts off as the sun climbed higher and blazed more fiercely, and he still liked to see the way Doyle's broad shoulders narrowed to his waist, until his hips were slim and his legs almost skinny - and his bum was still a pleasure to watch from behind...
He closed his eyes again as Doyle vanished into the shadows, tapped idly on the ground with one finger, some song he'd heard playing in the pub the other day... And then his finger hit an obstacle, something harder than the sand-scattered ground, something that wouldn't be flicked or pushed away. Something... He opened his eyes. Something perfectly round, something ring-shaped.
He brushed away at the sand and the dirt and pulled at the grass, until there in front of him was an ancient iron ring, attached solidly to the flat stone on which it sat.
Bodie sat up, looked around to see where they'd left the stick they'd been using to poke around the paving stones. "Ray!"
"What?" Doyle emerged from their makeshift pantry with a sandwich in one hand and a knife in the other.
"Put that down and come over here!"
He vanished into the room again, came back out with two halves of sandwich and strode over. "I've heard everything now," he said, "You want me to put your sandwich down and..."
"Shut up and look at this." He stood up, prodded the ring back and forth with his foot once or twice, and spotted the stick just a few feet away.
"You think that's...?" Doyle began, broke off and watched while Bodie scratched around in the sandy ground, clearing it roughly further and further out from the ring itself until he found what seemed to be the outline of the stone, traced it all around until its size and shape were clearly marked, the earth around it loose and crumbling.
"Hold this," Doyle said then, passing him the sandwich. He bent down over the iron ring, wrapped his hand around it and pulled.
The stone didn't move.
He tried again, leaning backwards with his full weight, muscles straining. Still nothing.
"It's stuck tight... Where's the rope?"
Bodie took his half of the sandwich and went to see what they'd done with his rescue rope. It was lying where they'd left it, and still tied around the gorse bush, and he grimaced, but went in to untangle it, stepping carefully around the earth that had given way and the exposed - and empty - well.
Doyle was crouching down when he got back, examining the ring more closely. "That's not going to give way, is it?" he asked, "I don't fancy going arse over tit twice in one day."
"Should be alright - looks pretty solid. Probably been protected from the worst of the weather by all this sand and muck." He paused, looked thoughtful. "D'you reckon it's the dungeons, then?"
"What else could it be?" He tied the rope to the ring with a good, solid knot, test it for strength.
"But why cover it up with a stone that size?"
Bodie thought a moment. "Why not?"
Doyle shrugged, and they grinned at each other.
"Come on then - get your hands on this and we'll find out."
Doyle did as he was told, and Bodie fell in behind him, wrapping the rope around his arms for the second time that day. On three, once again, they both pulled, leaning back to put their whole weight in it, straining... and just as Bodie thought it was no use, the stone gave a little, lifting just slightly and then dropping again.
"We might have to get help for this," Doyle gasped, panting. "Not as young as we once were, you know..."
"Rubbish - give it some welly!" It had moved - if they'd moved it once, they could move it again...
"Alright - one - two..."
And this time the stone moved properly, lifting and sliding just far enough sideways so that they could tug it clear of the space below, and when they looked into the depths of the hole they'd uncovered, they could see what was underneath...
A familiar tattoo pounded at his heart, his veins, into his stomach. It was like being a kid again, like running away to sea - and just when he'd wondered whether there was anything new left in the world to be excited about.
They peered cautiously down, half wondering, after the well, whether it would all give way and send them plummetting to a dark death, but once the dust and sand had settled down again, all was still and solid and safe. A steep flight of stairs, cut out of the rock itself, led downwards, disappeared into some underworld that can't have been seen for over a hundred years.
Bodie glanced up, caught Doyle looking down with wide-eyed awe. "Your map was off," he said, feeling pleased with himself, with Doyle, with Burt, pleased as punch.
"Fuck off," Doyle said, but when he looked up there was a light in his eyes that Bodie had worried he wouldn't see again. "What d'you reckon?"
"I reckon we'd better get down there, don't you?" He edged nearer the steps, prepared to lift one foot, to begin the descent.
"What?" He started at Doyle's voice, something important, an undertone of...
"Torches, jackets, mobile phones. At least if you end up buried alive again you'll be able to call for help this time..."
Bodie rolled his eyes, but he waited patiently, knowing that Doyle was right. They'd do this properly, make sure they knew where they were going and how they were going to get out... He pottered about while Doyle was scrabbling in the tents for their phones, tied the rope to the ring on the stone cover and looped it carefully so that he could play it out behind them, then pulled his t-shirt back on and took one last look at the plan that Doyle had drawn, pinpointing the supposed location of the gold.
When Doyle got back he gave him a quick, amused nod, handed him his jacket, phone and one of the torches, and then flashed his own light down the steps. They looked surprisingly slippery, damp and patched with sand in places, and the lights didn't reach far enough to see that there was anything further down there, let alone gold.
"What d'you reckon?" Doyle asked, and that light was still there in his eyes.
"I reckon the last one in's a rotten egg," Bodie said, and he took the first step down into the dungeons.
The stairs were as slippery as they looked, and made worse by being narrow, as if they'd been made for much smaller feet. Doyle followed Bodie down carefully, not seeing anything much more than their descent until they stepped from the final rise, came to a halt and were able to shine their torches in wider arcs.
All around them was rock, a room of it, with several openings leading off into tunnels that disappeared into yet more darkness. It was almost impossible to tell whether they were natural or manmade, but there were other signs that people had been busy down here. Barrels and boxes were scattered around the room, most seemed broken, iron loops akimbo, or sides collapsed, though a few were still intact. The one thing they had in common was that they all looked old, very old.
He gave Bodie a tap on his back to get him moving, and they walked into the centre of the room, directed their torches into the corners, and up to the ceiling. The air was chilled, even this close to the entrance and despite the heat of the day above, and he was glad he'd gone back for their jackets. He let his shoulder touch Bodie's for extra warmth, leaned in to him slightly.
"Bit queer, innit," he said at last, and loudly to dispel the sense of strangeness. Instead the walls and the tunnels took his words, magnified them and copied them and bounced them around, sent them darting into the darkness and then brought them back, dulled but determined to be heard. Bit queer... bit queer... innit...
Bodie gasped, and that was echoed back and forth around them too, as if they’d surprised people no longer there, were being watched from the corners and cracks of the underground. Doyle could feel his eyes widen, his breath become shallow.
"Oh I dunno," Bodie interrupted his own echo, - I dunno... I dunno... I dunno... "Think I'll stick to your type of queer..." Queer... queer... queer...
"Fucking hell..." Hell... hell... hell... Doyle lowered his voice to a half-whisper, rough on his throat, but quieter all around them. "Come on - it might be better further in."
They moved away from the entrance, and the comfort of its dim light, towards the back of the long room.
"So where do we find the gold?" Bodie asked, and the echo came back to them straight away, cheerful and enthusiastic: gold... gold... gold...
Doyle laughed, and his laugh split into a hundred other laughs, racing ahead of them into the passages and bouncing back, and he shook his head, strained to see further beyond their torchlight. He'd never been anywhere quite like this, all the echoing caverns into which he'd ever ventured were reduced to pale imitations, this the real thing.
There were three tunnels at the end of the room, each angling off in different directions, and they’d already passed what looked like other passageways as they advanced through the chamber.
"Great Grandfather couldn't have done all this, could he?" he asked more quietly.
"Eeny - meeny - miny... mo." Bodie chose a tunnel, and they peered down its length, straight for a dozen yards or so and then veering to the left. "Wouldn't have thought so. Must be natural - I wonder how far they go?"
"Can't be bigger than the island, can they? They'd hit water..." And that was a thought too. "Is the tide in or out?" he asked, and Bodie paused beside him, looked at him.
"High about 9.30," he said, "Going out, now. You don't think...?"
It was dry where they were, and the rubbish in the other room hadn't survived like that by being inundated, but still... "Watch out for stranded jellyfish, alright?"
Their tunnel began to widen out, and after a little further it split into two again.
"Stick to the left?" Bodie suggested, and Doyle was about to nod, swore instead.
"Hang about..." He reached into the inside pocket of his jacket, pulled out the local history book and waved it at Bodie. "Could always consult the map..."
"You're not just a pretty face, are you?"
"Not even a pretty face these days, mate - right, what do you make of this, then?"
They stared down at the drawing, torchlight shining yellow on the paper. The stairs they'd come down were clear enough, and the first room... except that the three tunnels seemed to have been drawn at the wrong end. Did that mean that they'd come down the furthest right tunnel as it was drawn on the map, or...?
"You weren't standing on your head for part of this, were you?" Bodie asked, putting his hand over Doyle's and turning the map so that he was looking at it from a different angle.
"I'll stand on your head in a minute..." He righted the map again, squinted at it, and then turned it back the way Bodie'd held it. "Why draw one floor one way and the other one backwards?"
"Well, if that's the tower..."
"Well if that's the room..."
They stood in the dark, close together, staring at the map. It didn't make sense.
"Maybe old Harry just wasn't very good at drawing maps," Bodie suggested at last. "Come on, we'll be more lost if we do try and follow that..."
"But..." He stopped, shrugged when Bodie looked at him. They were either walking directly towards the ingots, or in the completely opposite direction - and the ingots, he reminded himself, were no more than a sign of their fevered imaginations anyway...
They came to another turn in the passageway, rounded it, and came face to face with a stout wooden door, studded with great iron nails.
Doyle looked it up and down – the wood was greyed but solid looking, reaching just above their heads to a perfectly straight rock lintel, and there was a large keyhole on the right hand side. He found himself smiling. If you were going to keep gold in the dungeon, you’d want to lock it up, wouldn’t you?
“Well-well,” said Bodie, “What have we here then?”
Doyle reached out and gave the door a shove, it didn’t move. Locked? “What d’you think?” He looked at Bodie, back at the door. “Give it a go?”
“You’ll break your leg trying – they made ‘em solid back then.”
He looked at the door again, shrugged mentally, and then struck out with his leg, felt his bones reverberating all the way up from the blow. The door barely shuddered.
“Don’t sound so bloody cheerful about it – we’re treasure hunting, remember?”
“I remember – we’ll get one of those iron bars from the first room, see if we can lever the lock.”
He’d not noticed iron bars, but… “Good thinking,” he said, “Must be all those years working in Intelligence.”
“Oh yeah…” Bodie played Neanderthal, crossing his eyes for good measure, then flashed his torch back behind them. “Want to wait here, or…?”
“Might as well come with – too cold down here to be standing still for more than five minutes.” And despite working in Intelligence himself, he didn’t fancy waiting alone in this thick blackness, the weight of the castle up above, who knew what twinings of tunnels all around.
Their feet crunched and shushed along the stone floor as they walked back, so that Bodie paused to do a few soft-shoe shuffling steps, and Doyle nearly walked into him.
“Fool,” he said, and then paused as they came to the other side passage, reached and grabbed Bodie’s wrist, pulled him back. “Unless they all have…?”
Bodie grinned, a little boy exploring, for all his advanced years. “Yeah, let’s take a look!”
They ventured along the corridor, Doyle feeling more and more like he was descending into the bowels of some great, rock-carved creature. “Expect to see those Orchard creatures rampaging down any minute,” he said, “Or that big dragon-thing…”
“Big dragon thing?”
“That Galdalf fought… in the film.”
“Gandalf,” Bodie corrected him, “And Orcs not bloody Orchards. How’d you get an orchard down here?”
“I’m starting to think you could get half the New Forest down here – how far d’you think it goes?”
“You’re repeating yourself, Raymond,” Bodie said, but he stopped, shone his torch ahead, and then behind them again. “It’s gone a fair way already – no door.”
“Back,” Bodie agreed, and they turned, began to retrace their steps.
In the end they explored one tunnel after another before looking for a crowbar to use on the door. The passages mostly ran, with apparently random twists and turns, under the island, empty, although they passed the odd barrel or box as they trudged on. The first barrel they tried to examine fell apart as soon as they touched it, disgorging nothing more than ancient dust that made Bodie sneeze, the second was disappointingly empty, the third contained full only of sand, though Doyle sifted it hopefully through his fingers.
Eventually, as they wandered their way back from the fifth almost identical tunnel and emerged into the main chamber yet again, his stomach rumbled so loudly that he was surprised not to hear that echoed back at them too. His share of their sandwich seemed like a long time ago, and when he looked at his watch by the half light around the stairway, it was almost four o’clock.
“We’ve been down here hours – no wonder I’m hungry.”
Bodie shone his torch towards the unexplored three tunnels and agreed. “It’s all getting a bit same-y. Go up and get some fresh air, come back for the door later?”
Emerging into the sunshine was something like coming back to life, he thought, a slight breeze ruffling his hair after the stillness of the tunnels, a raven caw-ing loudly at the roosting seagulls, the distant engine of someone’s boat. He squinted into the light, reached for his sunglasses and pulled them on, turned to see Bodie shrugging off his jacket behind him, and stretching up into the open air, belly button bared. Behind him the sea sparkled blue-green, and if he peered past the arched entrance to the castle he could just see the inlet where they’d left The Lucky Girl.
Before anything else, he realised, hungry as he was, he wanted to see Bodie swimming starkers in that water, to hear him laugh and mess around, in the light above the ground. It had been, he thought, a hell of a day, what with one thing and another...
"Fancy a dip?" he asked, as casually as he could, but when Bodie looked at him he could see the same relief in the sunshine, the same urge to go dashing around as if they were twenty years younger.
"Yeah, why not? Make sure the boat's still there."
The boat was still there of course, and the wreck, hulking darkly in the golden warmth of the day. There were already signs on it warning tourists and other adventurers to keep off, No Trespassers in bold black letters. Would he have obeyed, he wondered, if they'd not gone in that morning? Now there'd be a news headline - CI5 Chiefs Caught Boarding Old Treasure Ship... They'd have been charged with piracy, hauled up the keel or whatever it was that happened to pirates.
"What are you dreaming about now, Raymundo?"
He glanced enquiringly at Bodie as they strode down to the inlet, stopped in front of the still, shining waters.
"Great soppy smile on your face."
"Ever been keel-hauled when you were off on your travels?"
"Me? I was a good boy, me!" Bodie looked affronted, but there was mischief in his eyes.
"You were never good - bet Father Christmas never came near you!"
"Always left me a nice big sack of coal - bought me first trike with the profits I made on that..." He grinned, returned to the subject. "Buggers from the customs office tried to nick our ship in Banana..."
Doyle raised an eyebrow.
"It's true - there was a misunderstanding about..."
"...about a girl," Doyle finished for him. "You know, if ninety percent of your stories didn't start out like that, I might actually believe some of them."
"Well never mind about that - get your kit off, and I'll race you out to the boat."
"You're on..." At least he'd worn underwear today - he stripped off and splashed into the water while Bodie was still yanking his trousers past his knees, realised belatedly that it was far colder than it looked, and managed to quash his shout by diving straight under, freezing it out of him.
When he surfaced and shook his head free of water, Bodie was still by the water's edge, and he was laughing.
"Bit cold, is it?"
"You..." Doyle advanced, and Bodie stepped back warily, held out placating hands.
"I didn't know you were going to jump straight in like that..."
Keep quiet was the trick, wait until he thought he could have you and then...
"...looks warm in the sun, doesn't it..."
...and when he was within arm's length, poised to run...
"...still, woke you up I expect..."
...do something he doesn't expect. Doyle reached out and grabbed him, pulled them together, and kissed him, on the sand, in the sunshine, under the bright blue sky.
He shifted onto his side, raised himself on one elbow, and looked down at Doyle's closed eyes. The scratch across his face was a vivid red-dotted line now, and he leaned over, traced it with his tongue. Doyle caught his breath at that, but he didn't move, and so Bodie found the marks on his neck, let his lips brush their length. Then Doyle murmured and turned his neck, stretched it out for Bodie to do his worst, so he kissed it, let his breath rush warm and ticklish over his skin, up to his ear, and then back to Doyle's mouth.
"Thought you were hungry," Doyle muttered, in between kisses, and Bodie smiled against his lips.
"Oh I am..." He ducked his head away, pausing to take a nipple between his teeth, to worry it in the way that made Doyle gasp and arch upwards, that made him reach for Bodie's hair and caress his back. Stomach... one hipbone and then the other, and all the time he was watching Doyle's erection, hard within his tight black trunks.
The cotton tasted of salt from the sea, so that although it made him moan, Bodie couldn't suck him through the material, much as he wanted to. He lifted the waistband, slid them down Doyle's legs just far enough that they banded his thighs, freeing and constraining both, and then in a single smooth move, he took Doyle's cock into his mouth.
Nothing else mattered.
Except... except that he was so hard now himself, and he could feel Doyle shifting, sitting up even as he was sucked, felt Doyle's hand on his back wanting him to turn around, and so he did. The Doyle's mouth was around his own cock, he could feel his lips and his hand slide around and his fingers stroke him and piece him and...
Bodie came, in the sunshine on the boat, with Doyle coming in his own mouth, and nothing to do but breathe and swallow and hold on tightly to everything in the world that was just right.
"Yeah..." Doyle looked away unselfconsciously, breathed in deeply. "How's your appetite?"
Bodie grinned. "Which one?"
"The one that's insatiable - your belly!"
He sat up, took in the position of the sun, beginning to lower herself to the horizon, and the slightly cooler feel of the breeze. "Could do with a bite," he admitted. "One of those burgers we brought, onions, tomatoes, ketchup..."
They waded unhurriedly back to shore, shook the sand from their clothes and dressed, strolled up to their camp, arguing happily about the merits of raw tomatoes versus cooked, and whether whatever lycopene there might be in ketchup was worth missing for the sake of the Vitamin C. "Best of all worlds," he ended his argument, "Burger with both..."
They'd brought beer, and he opened a couple of bottles, passed one to Doyle and set about relighting their fire. It was just before six o'clock, if they'd been back in London they might not even be home yet. He'd have been staring gloomily at the sunshine they were missing, and trying to plot ways to avoid meetings and get outside in it the next day, Doyle would have been rushing efficiently around and snapping at everyone for the same reason. Maybe he should have tried to get into golf, followed in Cowley's footsteps and done the majority of his networking out on the links. Except he could never have let Major this and Sir that win just for the sake of it, would more likely have lost his job completely...
"That ready yet?" Doyle asked, interrupting his reverie, and waving their raw burgers at him, his other hand clutching a bag of barm cakes and assorted salad ingredients - and ketchup and mustard, he was pleased to see.
He looked at the fire, which had settled down nicely and passed over their frying pan. "Yeah - sling 'em on."
"Beats being back in the office," Doyle said, reading his mind and sitting cross-legged by the fire beside him. He started to compile their burgers, slicing the barm cakes, spreading them with sauces and then layering on lettuce and something that looked suspiciously like beansprouts or alfalfa or whatever it was he was partial to, presumably hoping that Bodie wouldn't notice. Still, he could pick it out later.
"We were supposed to meet with Perkins about building maintenance today," he remembered, "Christ, that man can talk - you wouldn't mind but it's all about ventilation shafts and health and safety directives."
Doyle chuckled. "Can you imagine what Cowley would have said about the 'ealth and safety lot these days? They'd have packed his scotch away for a start..."
"Did I tell you Perkins found a bottle I had lying around a few months ago? I'd forgotten all about it... One of the lads had brought it in when we finally caught McMurtagh down at his farm - you remember Figley was the one who sussed him? Well they'd photoshopped him his own label - Aberfigley, or something it was, looked great. I put it in the cupboard, forgot about it - Perkins finds it and does his nut about how alcohol's not allowed in the building, and..."
"Oh, I had the lecture!" Doyle interrupted. "I wondered why he'd brought that up - should have known it was you. Department regulations state that agents who are trained to use fire arms may not...blah blah blah..."
"That's the one - Cowley would have killed him..."
"Cowley would never 'ave 'ad him in the first place. We only got lumbered when Sir sodding Anthony insisted he be upgraded..."
"It's not the same, is it?" he surprised himself by saying. "Sitting behind a desk, steering it around Whitehall..."
"Thought you didn't mind that?"
He shrugged. "I don't, not really... Not the same though, is it?"
Doyle shook his head. "Feels like another life, sometimes - being out there, doing some good."
"We do good..." he started to protest, stopped when Doyle flapped his free hand at him, backtracked.
"Yeah, I didn't mean that. It's all..." He paused, stared into the frying pan, where their burgers were sizzling in their own juices. "Blue corner - right, red corner - wrong... The lines aren't getting narrower any more, they're..." He waved the fork he was using to prod their food, "...they're... hard to see, obscured by this bureaucracy and that bureaucracy..."
"Yeah - I know what you mean. Wonder if Cowley thought that when we were out there jumping around..."
The evening drew slowly in, they ate their dinner and chatted about this and that, wandered off the subject of work half a dozen times only to come back to it. They'd been away from it for barely five days – were withdrawal symptoms cutting in already? But then it was a bit like an addiction, he thought, the power they had to manipulate men and women around the country, to let this villain go because he was more use to them on the streets and cooperative, to bring that one in because he was threatening the wrong someone - and all in the name of justice, of doing the right thing... even, he thought, amused, of keeping the country smelling, ever so faintly, of Cowley's lavender and roses...
Eventually they took their third and fourth bottles of beer to the other side of the island, sat and watched the lights of Higher Downsey wink on in the dusk. The last time he'd done anything like that had probably been on some stakeout or other, unless maybe it had been from his window at HQ, escaping from paperwork and email... He took a deep appreciative breath of the fresh sea-touched air, another swig of his Wee Willy.
Then again he'd never have thought to just sit here doing this, twenty, even ten years ago - maybe there was something to be said for growing old after all. The sea was all soft dark chop and there were seagulls playing with the waves and the air currents on the shore, foraging maybe for bits of fish or whatever it was seagulls foraged for. His thoughts seemed to slow, to hush to the rhythm of the tide, and he remembered, then, nights spent on watch on ships, the peace and routine that would sink slowly into him, leaving him fresh and alert and calm...
It wasn't like that in London - couldn't be like that, although sometimes, come the small hours, there was a kind of peace to it, cars quietened, sirens distant... And then someone's mobile would ring, or he'd remember an email he hadn't sent, or realise that the sirens were for an emergency that CI5 would be heading up...
Darkness settles on roofs and walls,
But the sea, the sea in darkness calls;
The little waves, with their soft, white hands
Efface the footprints in the sands,
And the tide rises, the tide falls.
Who was that? Longfellow, that was it... Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. It had been a while since he'd thought of poetry too...
Beside him, Doyle shifted on the grass, so that their shoulders touched, a spot of warmth in the cooler evening air. Had he sat on the seashore when he was a kid, watching the waves and dreaming about other worlds? Nah - couldn't have, not from Derby and all those other inland towns he'd lived, surely no seaside holidays for him, with what he'd heard of Doyle's father... But perhaps he'd dreamed of running away, of doing what Bodie himself had done. One day, maybe, he'd ask, but for now their breath rose and fell together, and together with the sea and the stars that were starting to appear, and soon it would be time for bed.
Doyle woke to the green-lighted world of their tent, blinked and sniffed, and let life and memory come back to him slowly. He was warm and comfortable and Bodie was right here beside him... and outside was the sea, and birds calling and somewhere deep below them there was a dungeon with a locked door and ingots still waiting to be found...
He sniffed again, suddenly wide awake and full of a strange urgency to be up and out there, searching. Shades of bloody CI5, he thought, then shook it off. Nah - this was nothing like that, they were on this hunt for the sheer enjoyment of it, for the rush of treasure hunting when the end result didn't really matter - nice as it would be to find chests full of treasure. But no one's life depended on them, for all that Burt might be able to use some spare cash. If he'd paid his taxes like any normal person...
He sat up carefully, his back complaining more than it would have once, despite the airbed between them and the ground. Bodie slumbered on, so he peeled himself carefully out of the sleeping bag, unzipped the tent, and crawled into the daylight. It had clouded over since they had gone to bed, though they were high, harmless looking clouds, and there was still the promise of warmth in the air. He glanced at his watch - not yet six o'clock. That was trouble with going to bed early, you woke up early and all...
They'd used nearly all their gathered wood last night, so he took himself off to find some more, to the taller trees at the other end of the island where with any luck the sticks and twigs would be more substantial. He'd make Bodie his breakfast, maybe even let the lazy sod have it in bed because he liked being spoiled that way, did Bodie, and then they'd go down into the dungeons again - or sea caves, or whatever they were - and see what was behind that locked door. Even if it wasn't gold - and it couldn't possibly be gold - there would surely be something there worth finding. You didn't bother locking an empty room, after all, did you?
There were, as he'd vaguely remembered, a couple of fallen branches under the pine tree, small enough to drag back with him to their tent. What they didn't use they could leave in the castle for whoever came after them...
Not that Simon and his bloody boutique clientèle were likely to have much use for it. He frowned, remembering, thinking. Trouble was, he couldn't think of any reason why Burt shouldn't sell to the man, and it wasn't any of his business anyway... He was too used to thinking he could solve other people's problems, that was his problem.
Except there was something about Simon - and about Mal as well - that he just didn't like, didn't trust.
Bodie was up when he got back, confounding his plans to spoil him, but having made a start on the fire, with the last few twigs left in their pile, and a pan of their bottled water already on to heat.
"It's not on, this," Bodie said with a nod up at the sky. "Don't want rain, not on holiday..."
"Be alright as long as it holds off until we're done down there - we can go home and hole up with some of those naughty videos your mate's got."
"Now whose mind's in the gutter?" Bodie asked primly, but with that look in his eyes that meant no matter what, all was right with the world.
They pottered about quietly, making tea and breakfast. Bodie sharpened the end of a couple of sticks to make toast with a few casual flicks of his pocket knife, handed one to Doyle. His first piece caught fire, much to Bodie's amusement, and his second somehow gave up the ghost and fell abruptly into the flames, but by the time Bodie'd stopped giggling, his third was nicely done on both sides, the butter spread and melted so that it ran down his fingers and he had to lick them clean. Bodie grinned at that too, handed him another slice of bread.
Finally they took their last mouthfuls of tea, looked at each other, and stood up.
"Right," Bodie said, "This is it. Spanish treasure, fame and fortune here, we come!"
"Fool - we'll be lucky if it's full of old pennies. They were probably smuggling brandy in there, and it'll have leaked out the barrels like it has with all the others..."
"That's my Ray, optimistic to the end!" Bodie rolled his eyes and punched his arm gently, but that wasn't quite right. He wasn't being pessimistic, it was more... more for good luck, to say that the room would be empty, like carrying an umbrella to ward off rain.
Half a dozen rabbits, having grown more wary of them the longer they were around with their sudden movements and loud noises, darted away and into their burrows by the well as they approached, tails bobbing up and down in panicked escape. The rabbits at the other end of the island were still more laid back, but then perhaps they'd not had Bodie falling halfway past their warren, some giant crashing suddenly from the sky...
They'd surrounded the entrance to the dungeon with a ring of rocks the day before, just in case they wandered too close in the dark, and now he stepped over them, peered down into the darkness once more, and switched on his torch. Bodie close on his heels, he began a careful descent back into the bowels of Sal's island. It was just as dark, just as cold, and just as echoing when they reached the bottom, pressing closely, somehow, all around them.
Bodie shone his torch around, and then into a corner Doyle didn't remember exploring the day before. Sure enough there was a tangled pile of metal and bits of wood, even some odds and ends of ancient, thick rope.
"But is it still strong enough?" he wondered, as Bodie picked up a length of iron that actually seemed to be a crowbar.
"Feels alright - the rust's on the surface." Bodie paused. "We could go back to the pub, find some real tools, see what Burt reckons."
"Think we should?"
He held his breath, but Bodie was shaking his head. "Like you say - it's probably empty. Don't want to get his hopes up for nothing..."
"Gold digger. Come on, I'm freezing my balls off standing around here!"
They followed the echo back along the passage to the wooden door, stood looking at it for a moment. Now that they were here, just for this moment, Doyle let himself think that there might indeed be treasure in the locked room, hoards of gold and jewels and Spanish coins, just waiting to be discovered...
"Right then..." Bodie eyed the lock, then pried the end of the crowbar between door and stone wall as far as he could, braced himself, and pulled.
"Give me a hand..."
Doyle grasped the crowbar beside him willingly, and together they tried again. The lock was strong, but surely he could feel it give, surely there had been movement...
They paused, breathing heavily.
"Nearly there," Bodie said, with as much hope, Doyle thought, as conviction, but he wanted it too, wanted with a strange desperation to succeed at this, to have the door burst open in front of them just like any room they'd ever broken into...
"And again," he ordered, not wanting to wait, and they leaned their weight and strength against the crowbar again, began a series of rhythmic tugs to try and weaken the old ironwork, the nails or screws or whatever it was holding the...
There was a sudden creaking complaint from the door, and abruptly he found himself pulling against nothing at all, so that he mis-stepped, fell back against the floor with the crowbar free and clattering to the ground beside them. Bodie cried out as he fell too, a heartfelt Fuck! before the air was knocked out of him and they sat half-stunned together on the floor.
In front of them, in the light of the torches they'd left out of their way, beams directed so that they could see what they were doing, the wooden door gaped open.
Doyle gaped at it himself for a moment, then he caught himself, looked at Bodie. "You alright?"
"Yeah - you?"
"Getting too old for this," he said, felt like he'd said it far too often just lately - didn't really care. The locked room was open before them.
They scrambled to their feet, retrieved their torches, looked at each other.
"After you," Bodie said politely, so that Doyle gave him a little bow, and then a wide grin, and stepped into the room.
It seemed rougher, somehow, than the other rooms and passageways they'd explored, more like a cave that had been hollowed out of rock, though there were two more tunnels running in different directions from the far side. There were boxes and barrels piled together here too, as there had been in some of the other rooms, though many, many more of them.
And amazingly, most amazingly of all, in a small untidy stack at the back of the room, were perhaps two dozen or so strangely sized, brick-shaped objects of a dull yellow metal.
Doyle moved forward, feeling as if he must have overslept, couldn't possibly be awake, and picked one up. It was heavy, very heavy, and it was undoubtedly a gold ingot.
"Bloody hell," Bodie whispered beside him, and he too reached out to lift an ingot of his own. "They're actually here. A fortune in Spanish gold..."
"How much d'you reckon?"
"No idea mate - absolutely no idea. Enough. Enough to sort Burt out, anyway."
Shit... "We've got to stop him selling the island," Doyle said, "Boutique hotel my arse - De Vonney knew this was down here, he saw the map..."
Bodie put his ingot back on the pile, though his hand lingered a moment. "We'll call him - you got your phone?"
"Back in the tent..." And of course that's where Bodie's would be as well - he was bad enough when he had to carry it around. "Come on, we'll..." He paused as his torch flashed over the boxes and barrels, across one of the other tunnel entrances. "What d'you reckon's in these - more of it? Or...?" After all, if they'd found actual bars of gold, who knew what else Henry James Kirrin had secreted away here...
Bodie followed his gaze, and shrugged. "Worth a look," he said, taking Doyle's own ingot and replacing it. Together they began opening boxes where they could, sliding the lids from barrels.
Most of the barrels were, as they'd found with the others, long empty of whatever they'd been holding, but the boxes were another matter and they lifted lid after lid to reveal layers of fabric, what had once, perhaps, been fine silk and velvet. Another crate was filled with china, wrapped in pieces of hessian sackcloth, and another contained ancient bottles, clearly labelled - Champagne - Cognac - Jarnac - Charloupin.
"I dunno what these are worth in pounds," Bodie breathed, "But the historians will be biting his hands off to get hold of them..."
"Historians like De Vonney's mate?" Doyle frowned. "If we'd brought our phones we could have taken pictures at least..."
"We'll come back and do it," Bodie said. "Didn't Sophie say her fiancée was an archaeologist or something? We could send them to him, see what he thinks - he might know someone..."
"Right..." He shone his torch down one of the other tunnels. "You don't suppose there's anything else down here?"
Bodie sniffed and then sneezed as he opened another box, disturbing centuries old dust, and Doyle rolled his eyes, set off carefully down the right hand passage on his own. It turned a bend, ended abruptly in a roof fall, which made him look upwards nervously. Everything seemed solid enough now, the cave-in old and settled, but he turned back anyway, not wanting to risk disturbing it.
The other passage went on further, back, he thought, towards the main chamber itself. After twenty feet or so it opened out into another room, with what looked like a stone chimney shaft running from the floor all the way up through the roof. He stared at it for a moment, letting his torch play over the stones, and then clicked his fingers. Not a chimney - the well shaft, down which Bodie had nearly fallen... He circled around it, was surprised to find a large hole in its wall on the other side. Access for water to these dungeons, perhaps? He peered cautiously through, looked up and could see a distant gleam of daylight that slid down far enough that he could make out the jutting stone upon which Bodie's paving slab had balanced, saving his life. In the other direction, down and down, there was nothing to be seen but darkness. He found a stone on the floor by the shaft, tried dropping it and listening for the splash - nothing.
Otherwise the room was empty, with no other clues to its use. At least they'd not come across iron chains and manacles dangling from the walls, the bones of ancient prisoners piled in corners. More likely the dungeons had been for nothing more exciting than storage - even if it was storage for smugglers.
But there was no more gold - although really, twenty-odd bars was more than he'd been expecting in the first place... He still had a bad feeling about that, as though they needed to hurry and call in the authorities, make sure that Burt had done nothing more to advance the sale of the island. Who would it belong to, if he did that? De Vonney and his mate? De Vonney would no doubt think so, if he'd seen that map - and surely he must have, it couldn't be coincidence that he'd found a buyer for the island almost out of the blue like that...
Bodie, a poor man's Mortimer Wheeler, was still rummaging around in the boxes when he got back, had found an old book with pages that still turned, could apparently be read if his fascination was anything to go by.
"Look - it's records of who put in orders for what - couldn't be tidier if they'd had their own accountant! Eighteen twenty eight..."
"Bodie, I think we should go up and call Burt - maybe see if we can get Sophie on the case with her bloke..."
"Eh? Yeah, alright... give her my love..."
"She'll thump you again if I do that. You staying here, then?"
"Unless you're going to hang on for me to open the rest of these..." He looked up quickly, his face full of tease. "You really were just after the gold, weren't you? I'm cast aside now you've found that..."
"Fool," Doyle smiled back, knowing he probably looked as soppy as he suddenly felt, watching Bodie mucking around with their dusty treasure, happy as Larry... "I’ve just got a feeling we should let Burt know - sooner rather than later. I'll bring your phone back with me, we'll take a picture of you playing about with your accounts' ledger, and then one of me cuddling the gold, alright?"
Bodie grinned at him, then aimed his own torch back at the book he'd been reading, and Doyle turned towards the door, set off back up to the surface. For all he hadn't liked it when there'd been two of them wandering the passages alone, he liked it even less on his own. He passed the tunnel that led off to the side, gaping like a maw, its breath surely colder still than the air in the main passageway... Too many late night films, he thought, that's your trouble, my son...
He still felt like a mole emerging from the light when he reached the top of the stairs, blinking and breathing in the fresh air as if he really had been down there for days rather than - just after half nine - barely a couple of hours. It was humid above ground, but good to feel so much warmer again, and he left his jacket on this time to concentrate it, hugging it around himself as he tramped back to their tent.
His phone was right where he'd left it at the end of the airbed, but Bodie's was nowhere to be seen. Had he left it on the boat? Surely not... Had he even brought it with him? He looked speculatively at the dying embers of the fire, wondered whether it was worth brewing up and taking a cup down to Bodie. It'd warm him up - shame they'd not thought to fill a hip flask before they left the pub yesterday. Was it only yesterday...?
He found Bodie's phone at last, inexplicably with their supply of food in the stone room of the castle, pocketed a couple of the cereal bars they'd packed for snacks, and stepped back into the warmer outside air. He slid the mobile open, found Burt's number, and waited impatiently while it rang... and rang, and rang. It clicked through to the answer service, and he made a face, left a message and hung up. He was probably off on one of his shopping jaunts again, driving along with the radio full-blast...
He called Sophie next, at least managing to get through to her - down at the Training Centre by the sounds of gunfire and shouting in the background, or at least he hoped so. Trent was indeed an archaeologist, a finds liaison officer, whatever that was, and she'd give him a ring now, was it urgent, sir, or...? "Not urgent, but if he's not busy I wouldn't mind knowing as soon as possible," he said, swallowing a desire to say yes, he needed to know immediately...
He hung up, tried Burt again with no better luck, and had just decided he wouldn't bother making tea - Bodie could come up and get it, he couldn't stay down there all morning - when he realised that he was staring out to sea, and that there was another boat moored in the inlet.
Bodie thought, at first, that Doyle was still on the phone to Burt, when he heard the voices echoing along the passageway towards him, and he was engrossed enough in the accounts ledger - Henry James Kirrin's customers stretched the length of the county and most of the way to London, and they included a fair number of lords, and not a few ladies - that he didn't realise the impossibility of it until it was nearly too late.
There was no time to reach either of the side tunnels, so he ducked behind the nearest wooden crate, too close to the gold ingots themselves, but there was no choice, nothing else big enough, turned off his torch, muffling the click of the switch as best he could.
"This is it Si - what did I tell you? Right where the map said it would be!"
A beam of light flashed around the room, picking out the open and unpacked barrels and boxes. "Yeah, but someone's been here before us - I thought you said no one else knew about this place?"
"Must be Foster's mates nosing around - I told you that was his boat out there."
Bodie listened to the shuffling of feet getting closer, winced as the torch beam widened, became brighter, and then...
"This one of them, is it?"
The light was pointed directly at his face, blinding, and he squinted his eyes nearly closed, stood up abruptly and flicked on his own torch so that at least he could see, but he'd been dazzled already, and it took a few moments for him to focus on the other men.
One of them was Malcolm De Vonney, the other was Simon Jenkins, and they were holding not just heavy torches, but were pointing revolvers right at him.
"Alright Devvo - didn't know you were coming over today," he tried, "What about all this then? Burt's gonna be made up when he hears..."
But Mal was shaking his head, tutting gently. "This doesn't belong to Burt any more - it's ours I'm afraid."
"Which means you're trespassing," Simon added. "I don't like trespassers."
Bodie rolled his eyes at that. "You sound like a bad gangster film. Even I know it takes longer than this for a sale of land to go through - who are you trying to kid?"
"Well, it's true we don't need to go through with the sale now," Mal interrupted, letting his torch play over the pile of gold ingots and reaching into his pocket to pull out his own gun. "Now that we know it's here and it's ours for the taking, we don't actually need the island itself, do we? Uh-Uh, hard man," he added, seeing perhaps some minute movement that gave Bodie away, "Don't even bother trying. You might have been a merc once, but that was a long time ago - we're younger and faster than your old bones can do anything about..."
"What are you going to do - shoot me and carry this lot out one gold bar at a time?" His breath froze suddenly - he hadn't heard a shot, but was he too far underground for that? Where was Doyle...?
"Oh, I don't think we need to resort to too much violence," Jenkins said easily, "I think if we leave you down here, no way out, nature will take its course. And there will be no way out, though you're welcome to try." He glanced at De Vonney. "We'll tie him up, get Jack and Dancey down here to help us carry, be out of here in no time."
"Yeah alright." But De Vonney was looking at him suspiciously. "Where's your bum boy, then?"
Bodie flicked his eyes to one of the side tunnels, took a deep breath. They'd not found him then, Doyle was up above somewhere and he must have seen them arrive... He tried to look worried, which wasn't hard, wasn't difficult at all.
"Oh yeah? Off getting lost, is he? That works nicely for us - give me your torch."
Would De Vonney shoot if he...
"I said don't try it!"
The gun was aimed more determinedly, De Vonney's arm unshaking. Yeah, he might do it... Bodie held his torch out, dangling it from two fingers, showing how harmless he was. Just a little bit closer, you bastard...
But Jenkins didn't give him an opening, took the torch from him, and then gestured with his gun. "Turn around."
Shit... He waited for the shot, the cold explosion that would finish him off, but instead there was the sound of one of them rummaging in a box somewhere behind him, and then his hands were grasped, and what felt like a piece of old, dusty rope was being wound around them.
"Feet too," De Vonney ordered, as Jenkins yanked him around, but Jenkins shook his head.
"Don't need it - he can wander around as much as he likes in the dark, he won't bother us, not with four of us."
"What about the other one?"
"They're just a couple of old men - we'll put the slab back over the entrance, they won't be able to shift it, even two of them, not from down here. Make sure this one's not much use to start with and it'll be fine."
"You're probably right." De Vonney shrugged, and then he lifted the hand that held his gun, raised it high, and brought it down hard on Bodie's head, and though Bodie tried to duck, the butt of the handle cracked into him anyway, so that he saw stars, so that the world faded and swayed, and then he was given a push, his head hit something else with a dull thud that reverberated all through him, and he was falling, and all was pain and darkness.
Christ, but Burt needed to be more discerning about his mates.
He waited in case he was going to throw up again, decided that despite the spinning, ringing state of his head, he probably wasn't, and tried to sit up. It took him two attempts, the first aborted when he hit the side of the wall with his head again and realised he'd been lying right beside it, but finally he managed to get himself upright, to take a few deep breaths and sit still, to steady himself.
How long had he been out, and where the hell was Doyle?
He'd be doing his best, he tried to comfort himself, help would be on the way. He was out and he was free, and he must have seen them coming and hidden himself, must have done... He tried not to remember that De Vonney had said four of them, that they'd had guns for all they hadn't used them in the end. Yet. On him.
Yes, well - couldn't be sitting around here all day... He braced himself against the wall, and tried to push himself to stand, cursing muscles that had aged, desks that had held him, the pulsing pain in his head. When he was finally up, he couldn't move again for what felt like forever, not without losing his balance and falling back down, so he stood, breathing carefully, trying to catalogue the other things that felt wrong. His arms were pulled uncomfortably back behind him, one of his wrists was chafing against the ropes, and he'd banged his knee, amongst other things, presumably when he'd been knocked down.
He'd been standing near the ingots when he fell, which were by the back wall of the chamber. He closed his eyes to picture it, out of habit, conjuring everything into the place he'd seen it last. The wall itself had been clear of obstructions, so if he edged along it to the... to the left, he'd come to the corner that would take him along the adjacent wall, and eventually the one opposite, where the door had to be standing open, because they'd broken the lock. Then all he had to do was walk up the passage, sticking by the wall again, and he'd be in the main chamber.
Did he have time? How long had he been down there? Maybe they'd already been back for the gold and gone again... maybe hours had passed. He tried to breathe evenly. No sense worrying about that now, the main thing was to get moving before he froze to death.
And Doyle was still out there, Doyle would be on the way...
The back wall seemed longer than he remembered it being, until he wondered if he'd managed to turn everything around, if he'd somehow slid around the corner into one of the tunnels Doyle had explored, was wandering deeper and deeper under the island... His foot hit the adjacent wall, exactly where it should be, and he paused for a moment, kept breathing. One down, one and a half to go. He didn't know whether to be pleased or panicked that the tunnels were quiet around him, the only sound his own breathing.
His fingers scraped over the rock as he made his slow advance, until they felt raw and then numb. He wasn't moving quickly enough to warm up either, couldn't, not without risking another fall. Foot out - checking for obstacles - all clear - advance another step...
He thought back to all the tight corners they'd been in, all the predicaments they'd managed to escape, the villains they'd managed to foil.
Their luck had to run out one day.
Foot out - check for obstacles - advance...
Doyle was coming.
Instead they found the last couple of beers in the castle room, helped themselves and stood drinking and playing football with Bodie's washbag.
His phone vibrated in his pocket.
Thank god he hadn't left it on ring... thank god whoever it was had called him and not Bodie... He glanced down at the number, half an ear on the sounds behind him, and breathed in quiet relief. Sophie.
"Mr Doyle, sir!" she began, "I called Trent, and he says any kind of gold would definitely count under the Treasure Act, which means..."
"Soph," he whispered as loudly as he dared, "Shut up and listen. I need you get hold of some help for me..."
He winced as he heard more voices from behind, risked a look over the wall to see De Vonney and Jenkins emerging from the dungeons - without Bodie. His heart plunged to his stomach, and then upwards, as if it would force its way out of his throat, as if he'd be sick. Where the hell was Bodie...?
Resisting the urge to jump up, rush over and start throwing punches, he finished his instructions to Sophie, hung up and remembered to turn Bodie's mobile to silent, then he strained his ears to hear what was being said. He caught snatches of it, half-sentences and words, but the meaning, the meaning was clear enough.
"...too heavy to carry... all go down... bloody tourists... left him there... won't be getting in our way..."
Won't be getting in our way...
He had to breathe deeply, had to hold himself together, that could mean anything. He closed his eyes again, but they stung and they burned, and so he opened them, pursed his lips tightly together, listened.
Won't be getting in our way...
"...boat and have some lunch... let Brocky know we're coming... give us a hand with this stone..."
He peered over the wall again, barely caring whether he'd be seen, barely bothering to keep his head down...
The four of them were doing something to the paving stone that had covered the dungeons - they'd kicked the ring of smaller rocks away, and were...
They were pulling it to cover the entrance.
Bodie was still alive.
He had to be - they wouldn't bother trapping him down there unless...
...unless they thought Doyle was down there too, unless Bodie had died protecting him, refusing to give away his position, unless...
No - there was no point thinking like that, not until he knew for sure, not until... Bodie could be unconscious, could have been hiding, maybe they'd not found him at all, maybe they just meant that no one could get out of the dungeons with that great rock in the way.
Of course, he thought, as he watched the four of them stroll unconcernedly down the slope towards the inlet, no one could get in, either.
He glanced at his watch - how long would it take Soph to get hold of the Coastguard, to get things mobilised and get help? Too long - if Bodie was hurt down there, it would take too long... He looked frantically over the wall at their ruined tent, at the stone blocking the stairway, at the rope still tied to the iron ring.
Without thinking any further he leapt over the wall, retrieved his rucksack from the tower and his gun from its hiding place, shoved ammunition into his pocket. They'd left their torches by the dungeon entrance, and he picked one up, noting dully that it was Bodie's, emptied the other of its batteries and put them back in their places, as if they'd never been touched. Then he undid the rope from its anchor, wound it around his elbow and took it over to the gorse bush where the well was hidden.
God knew what he'd do if Bodie was alive but too injured to climb up the rope. Help would come, but it might never find them down there, if there was no way of signalling when it arrived. No way of signalling? If they didn't find the entrance and come down searching for them, he'd never even know if help hadarrived, wouldn't be able to hear them, buried in the depths of the sea caves, as trapped as De Vonney had meant them to be. And any signal he left would be seen by De Vonney and his crooks when they came back...
He took a quick photograph of the dungeon entrance on his phone, sent it in a text to Sophie because her number came up the fastest. Dwn here. Then he secured the rope to the gorse bush, threaded the loop of his torch through it and tied the end into a harness around his chest, hoped it would be long enough to get him as far as the entrance to the dungeon level. Hoped he wouldn't fall to his death trying.
And when he got to Bodie, and Bodie was alive and well, he was going to glue his bloody mobile to his bloody forehead. Even without a signal they could have pinpointed him, could have found him if he'd been alone, would have tracked him down in time... He concentrated on anger, let it blast away any trace of fear that the rope would fail and he'd plummet a lonely grave before he could save Bodie, that Bodie might already be lying dead in the cold dark dungeons, that if he was nothing, nothing would matter ever again.
Better, far better to think of the thousand ways that he was going to punish De Vonney for this, that he was going to make Jenkin's life a misery.
He gave the rope a final tug, flicked the switch of the torch so that he had some light, and wished it had been a cold enough summer to have brought gloves. Then he let himself over the edge of the well, and began searching for footholds, began the long climb down. The well, the deep empty well, gaped darkly below, just waiting for him to slip.
But he wasn't going to slip, he'd made this sort of climb a hundred times before, and he might be old enough for early retirement, but he was still healthy and he was still fit. He tried to let his mind clear, to let it be calm the better to focus on the stones projecting, if ever so slightly, from the side of the well. Foot out - test for safety - find a handhold...
Bodie had made that chimney climb once, years and years ago, when that mad man had a gun aimed at the hospital. They'd had pitons and carabiners and the proper equipment, mind, the sort of stuff you'd take up Everest, if you were going... Bodie'd said it was cold up there too, the sort of wind that wails around your house on a winter's night, shredding through his clothes as if they were nothing... Of course that's when Murph had been shot too, had fallen and ended up dangling over hundreds of feet of empty air, nothing but tarmac and death below him...
Foot out - test for safety - find a handhold...
And there was the solid length of stone jutting halfway out across the well. He let go of one handhold to clutch the rope, reached down to it and let his weight cautiously onto it. It didn't move, stayed solid as... well, as solid as he needed it to be, and he paused, rested, realised that he was sweating under his jacket, despite the cold air.
How far had he come - how much lower was the exit to the dungeon? Barely a third of the way, he thought, probably twice the distance still to go.
What if the men came back before he got down? What if they found the well, if they reached out with a knife and a laugh and cut the rope..?
He had to hurry. He stepped off the support onto the side of the wall again - foot out - test for safety - find a handhold...
No, nothing, his imagination.
Right - the door was on the left as they came down the tunnel, he felt his way across its width, stood facing what had to be the way out, the wall on his right hand side. Tentatively he kept his fingertips touching the stone, sidled towards the middle of the passage, his other arm stretched out to find the opposite side. It had been wide, wide enough for them to walk easily side by side, he was going to have to let go to find it...
He teetered for a moment, touching nothing but the uneven ground through the soles of his feet, nothing frightening in the light of day, of torchbeams, with Doyle by his side, so he could do it now, here... leaning to the left, a shuffling step further, and then... there - there it was, the other side. Right, so he'd walk along here until he came to the side passage, and he'd be about a third of the way along. He'd time himself. One - two - three...
Foot out - test for...
There was nothing there. He flailed for a moment, his fingers gripping reflexively more tightly on their stone holds, and his heart bashed against his chest in fear, then he realised what it must be. He was coming down straight over the hole that led to the dungeons.
Carefully, breathing steadily, evenly, he altered his course until he was descending to one side instead, and eventually, finally, he reached out with his left hand and felt the edge of the gap, with his left foot he felt the sill at the bottom, and with a final lurch he got himself away from the wall entirely, and was through into the dungeon room.
Crouched on the floor, balanced lightly on his feet and a single knuckle, his heart thundered, blood pounded around his body. He took a deep breath and soared - he'd made it, he'd done it!
Now where the fuck was Bodie?
It took too long for his own breathing to quieten, for his hearing to return to normal and when it did there was nothing to hear.
He stripped out of the rope, the last fifteen feet or so slack on the ground behind him, and after a moment’s thought tucked it carefully into the well, let it dangle down into the depths, hidden in case they needed it again.
Carefully, as quietly as he could and holding his torch aimed at the floor, giving light enough only to see the path he was taking, he began making his way down the passage and back to the room where they'd found the ingots. It was all he could do not to run, but if the men had returned while he'd been dangling on his rope, if they'd left a guard there with Bodie, one of their guns...
But there was no torchlit glow to warn him when he reached the chamber, no one there waiting for him, or even huddled unconscious on the floor.
It was a good sign, he thought, it had to be a good sign. Maybe they'd come back to get him, maybe they were even now taking him up the stairs into the fresh air, away from this deep, dark cold...
He froze, snapped out the light of his torch, pressed himself back against the wall of the side passage.
No sound, no light, nothing.
After a heart-pounding moment, he turned his torch back on and crossed the room, shining light into every corner and cranny, just to be sure. His beam paused on the entrance to the second side tunnel. Could Bodie be hiding up there? But there was the roof fall, and surely it made more sense to go forward than back...
He approached the door as he would approach any enemy, from the side and with his gun drawn - but when he shone his torch into the passageway it was empty, quiet as... No, not as that - quiet as something very quiet indeed, wasn't that what they said nowadays?
The good news was that he'd apparently beaten De Vonney and his mates back, the bad news was that probably meant the entrance was still blocked. And the good news and the bad news was that Bodie must still be down here too - he just had to keep going, and he'd find him.
Another step, and then another and then his fingertips were no longer pressed safely against the solid stone wall, they were afloat amongst nothingness, adrift, unanchored, he'd fall...
No, it was just the side tunnel, that was all it was, it was what he'd been waiting for, hoping for, because it meant he was getting closer. Step back, find the wall again, take it easy, take it easy, take it easy...
Something flashed in the corner of his eye, and he whipped his head around, almost did faint then, the blackness inside him reaching up and up. Deep breath... slow breath... steady.
Was it De Vonney coming back already, or had he imagined it?
He slid around the wall into the side tunnel and waited, hating the dark, hating his uncertainty, hating what was probably two day’s worth of concussion. The dark stayed the dark, though he reached up to his eyes to make sure they were still open, and then, just as he was about to set off again, to launch himself across to the other side of the smaller tunnel and onwards towards the main chamber, the light came again.
Shit - he'd managed to turn himself around after all, it was a torch and it was coming from the other direction, it was coming from behind him, he'd been walking away from safety the whole time, deeper and deeper into the caves, further under the island...
And then it was Doyle in front of him, Doyle staring horror-stricken at his face, Doyle with his arms reaching out and pulling him to warmth and safety and rest at last...
"Don't you dare pass out on me - Bodie!"
"Hmmn..." He managed to rouse himself, lifted his head from Doyle's shoulder and stared into his eyes, smiled. "Knew you'd come... Took your..." What was that word? "Took your time didn't you, su'shine?"
"Christ Bodie, what happened... are you...?"
"Fine," he managed, "I'm fine... Just need a bit of a sit-down..." He breathed in deeply, not because he needed to now, but because he could smell Doyle, his shampoo and his sweat and his... "D'Vonney's out there somewhere, d'you see him?"
"Oh yeah, I saw him... Look, Bodie, d'you think you can walk a bit further? Just up to the big room, by the stairs, and then you can rest, alright?"
It was Doyle, and he could do anything for Doyle.
It was slow going, he knew it was slow going because Doyle kept stopping and hitching him up a bit straighter, as if he was the one lurching sideways, when it was Ray kept losing his balance, and...
And then they were there, and Doyle was letting him slide down to sit on the floor in a corner by the stairs, was tucking him into his good, Doyle-scented leather jacket. It was the one he'd worn when he fell down the well, but you couldn't tell, you couldn't tell, and that was poetry too...
Doyle was whispering to him, and through the words that ran hapharzardly through his brain, he tried to listen, to pay attention.
"They're coming back, Bodie, and when they do, when they've gone down to get the gold we're going to go up and get past them - alright? Bodie?"
He nodded, because Doyle was asking him to do something, and he could do it.
"Alright - rest now, okay, just rest..."
And then Doyle let him close his eyes, and he pulled him close and wrapped both arms around him, and Bodie held on, safe at last because they were both there together.
There was nothing he could do but let Bodie sleep, though he didn't like it, he didn't like it at all. He was up to date with all his first aid courses, he knew that it wasn't imperative to keep waking someone with concussion, despite what he'd been told for more years than he could count, but... He listened to Bodie's quiet breathing, and he worried just the same. If he closed his own eyes he could see again Bodie's face suddenly there in the darkness, streaked with blood, wavering unsteadily...
But there was nothing they could do but wait. He'd checked his phone, and Bodie's, and of course there was no signal here underground, even so close to the entrance. He had his gun out, and he'd have the advantage of them looking up from the dark to the light, but even so... If they decided to leave a guard at the entrance, if they didn't all go in...
If they didn't show up at all.
He breathed a deep breath, feeling Bodie's head rise and fall with his chest, heard him snuffle slightly and took comfort in it. The longer Bodie slept, the better he'd feel when they finally had to move, the sooner, perhaps, it would be that the cavalry came charging to the rescue. Two hours, going on three - would they make it to four?
He'd no sooner thought it than he heard muffled voices from above, and then the sound he'd been waiting for - the dull grind and scrape of the paving stone being moved away. Would they notice that the rope had gone? That the... shit. He thought he'd been so clever at the time, taking the batteries from their torches, but all he'd done was alert them to the fact that he was loose somewhere, that...
Nothing for it now – and he had his gun, and the element of surprise, if he couldn’t take out four men in fast succession then he should never have been in CI5 in the first place.
“Watch the steps – don’t want to leave you here, do we?” Jenkins said, and Doyle heard the dull click that should have been his torch going on. “Shit – bulb’s gone, give me your light Zach.”
Zach grumbled, but must have handed over his torch, because a yellow beam streamed suddenly to the bottom of the stairs, dull glow spilling over so that Doyle held his breath, could only hope that it wouldn’t spread too far over the sides, catch them cowering in the corner. Unconsciously he tightened his hand on his gun.
“We’ll take the bottles too – they’ll be worth something – don’t bother with anything else. Whatever you do, don’t drop the bloody things.”
Feet slapped their way down the stairs, a cursing De Vonney bringing up the rear, then there was a plastic crash in the far corner of the chamber, that made the others pause at the bottom of the stairs, swear at him in turn. “Cheap Tesco crap,” he said, in apparent explanation, “Come on, we’ve hung around here too long already…”
“Got to keep our strength up,” Zach protested, “You want us lugging stuff around for the rest of the fucking night...”
“You just remember what that stuff is - it's solid gold,” Jenkins interrupted, “And remember what’ll happen to you if a single one of those ingots is lost…”
“Yeah, yeah…” Zach said again, and they continued on to the end of the chamber, disappeared into the darkness.
Doyle waited another moment, until he was as sure as he could be that they hadn’t forgotten something, wouldn’t turn around and run right into them, and then he began to rouse Bodie, who’d worryingly slept through the whole thing. His eyes were hazy when they opened, but not as bad as they'd been, he thought, and he frowned and groaned complainingly.
"Shhh!" Doyle shushed him, a finger to his lips so that Bodie was instantly silent, eyes taking in their surroundings, and he pushed himself to sit up straight. "Come on, they're in - we've got to go, remember?"
Bodie didn't say anything, but he nodded, wincing a little as he did it. He managed to stand steadily enough, and together they moved to the bottom of the stairs, Doyle holding tight to one of Bodie's arms, began the ascent to daylight. If they could get up there, could get to The Lucky Girl before De Vonney and his mates came out again...
The stairs seemed to go on forever, Bodie swaying slightly on each one, though stepping determinedly upward, so that Doyle's heart was in his mouth as much in case Bodie fell as anything else. The overcast sky appeared gradually above them, the chill of the underground suffused with daylight warmth, and he thought that he didn't want to be indoors ever again.
He'd just pushed Bodie ahead of him, out and onto the sand and weed-strewn castle courtyard, when there was a shout behind him.
"Hey!" It wasn't De Vonney, some corner of his mind recognised, nor Jenkins nor Zach - it was the other man, the one he'd not yet put a name to, and he was shouting through the chamber, racing up the stairs, gun drawn, gun lifting, gun aiming at...
Doyle practically leapt the last few steps, threw himself to the ground and fired, heard the man's dull cry as his bullet struck home, as he began to fall backwards down the stone steps. It was too late though - too late for anything. De Vonney would have heard the man's shout, would certainly have heard Doyle's bullet, and they would be here any minute.
There was no time to get Bodie away, no time to race down to the boat and through the water and out to safety...
Bodie was on the ground, and he was heaving at something - at the paving stone, he was shoving at the stone slab that covered the dungeons... Doyle scrambled to his side, gun dropped beside him where he could snatch it up if he needed it, but for now he pushed, he put all his weight into moving the stone, because Bodie'd been hurt and for all that they'd managed it before together, now they were tired, and stiff from the cold, and...
The stone moved, just as there were shouts from below, scraping its way across the grit and the sand and the rock, though it let a bullet through, it let a single bullet through to spit harmlessly up and into the air beside them, and then they were safe, on their hands and knees, pant and gasping from the effort, and Bodie was half-laughing, and then holding his head and scrunching up his face.
Except that they weren't, Doyle realised, out of the woods yet - the shouts had grown louder, for all they were muffled, the other men were at the top of the stairs, and there were three of them...
"Come on!" He scooped up his gun, grabbed Bodie's arm and pulled him to his feet, and then they were half-staggering half-running across the courtyard and down towards the sea, towards the calm waters of the inlet to where The Lucky Girl was waiting for them. He tried not to imagine the paving stone lifting, the pounding feet of De Vonney and his mates behind them, the sound of bullets chasing them faster than any man ever could.
The water slowed them down, though it seemed to rouse Bodie even further - he was up the ladder and into the cuddy, getting the engine started as if he'd never been hurt, and Doyle raced from one end of the boat to the other, pulling up the anchors. Not far away De Vonney's fancy motorboat bobbed up and down, and if it came to a race...
"Go!" he shouted, the last line finally clanking against the side of the vessel, and then safely in his hands, and then he was catching his balance as they began to accelerate away, just as the figures of three men appeared in the inlet, began splashing out to their own vessel, guns firing over and over again.
He returned fire steadily, not trying to hit anyone, just to keep them in one place, stuck on the island, and it was a minute before he realised that The Lucky Girl wasn't on a course out of the harbour, was instead curving around into a tight circle, was heading back towards De Vonney. He looked back to the wheel, sure he would see Bodie collapsed over it, sliding to the floor, but Bodie was right there, standing upright, looking clear and lucid and shouting something to him, the engine and the wind around them conspiring to whip away his words.
"The boat!" he roared, "Hit their bloody boat!"
He couldn't do any harm to the hull, to the body of the boat, but if he could get the right angle he might be able to damage the controls enough to slow them down... He fired, again and again and again, until he felt a sudden burning sensation at his shoulder, and then Bodie was taking them away once more, opening the throttle in a straight line out towards the rocks this time, so that he didn't even have time to reload, to do anything more than hold onto the side and then make his way, crab-like in order to stay upright, back to the little cabin.
"You alright?" he called over the engine, and Bodie nodded, without taking eyes off their path. He looked behind them - De Vonney and Jenkins had made it to their boat, Zach was casting off...
Their speed cut dramatically, and then they were among the rocks, Bodie zig zagging them competently through the safe stretches of water.
Trouble was, De Vonney knew the channel too and now he and his mates were safely hidden behind their fibreglass, they were advancing. Once they were out into open water again...
The Lucky Girl swung around the last stretch of rocks, and Doyle turned to look out at the sea in front of them - found himself staring at half a dozen solid-looking craft: two coastguard boats, a police boat and... and wasn't that Merrick from the SBS? Bloody hell...
But Bodie was grinning at him, and guiding them to safety between a couple of intercept craft, the third peeling away towards De Vonney's boat, and then they were being hailed and ordered to cut their engine, and all he could think was that Commander Winterton back in Town was going to have a field day over this.
They had at least been given blankets under which to huddle away the shock of the chase, and without bothering to explain that they'd been doing this for more years than the young paramedic had been wanking hopefully in bed at night, Bodie had taken one and leaned wearily back in his hard plastic seat, just waiting for the moment when they would be chauffeured back to The Half Moon could fall into bed and stay there for the rest of their break.
"D'you ever think," he began in a low voice, turning his head towards Doyle, "That we weren't meant to have holidays?"
Doyle gave him a wry smile in return, had just opened his mouth to speak when the door of the small room burst open, and a single man strode in, hands rigid by the side of his mess dress.
Bodie looked up. "Dinky!"
"What the fuck are you playing at now, Bodie? Counter-terrorism? No! Major drugs operation? No! You drag me out here in the middle of fucking rush hour, and you're holed up with a pair of fucking hoodlums with a boat full of gold fucking ingots!"
"Yeah." He was all bark and tiny sharp teeth was Dinky. "Good, innit? They on the wanted list?"
"They are as it happens - right down at the bottom of the food chain." He looked down at them disapprovingly. "Why were we called in exactly?"
"Don't think you were, were you?" He stood up, aware of Doyle pressing slightly against him, probably thinking he was about to keel over. "Ray says our lot called the Coastguard, Merrick probably got a bit excited at the thought of some action and rushed right out..."
"Yes, well - that sounds about right. For two pins I'd have him off on Holiday, but he buggered up his knee four months ago and it still isn't right."
"He's wasted in Poole - even training."
"I know..." Dinky turned to stare back at Doyle, after a moment he stuck out a hand. "Reg Dixon."
"Ray Doyle - I take it you two've met before?"
"Ah, that was years ago," Bodie interrupted hurriedly, "Oceans far away and blue..."
Dinky looked at him suspiciously. "Who wrote that one?"
"Me I think - so are you going to let us out of here?"
"Do I have a choice? The bloody papers have got hold of it - your mate at the pub's got a loud mouth..."
"Burt?" That didn't sound right. "Not him - you know Burt, he was out with us in..."
"Burt... you don't mean Doctor Foster?" Dinky raised what eyebrows he had left. "I wondered what happened to him!"
"I do..." He flashed a look at Doyle, realised that if he didn't pack in the old boy's network he'd be needing his own room at the pub. "We'll have to have a drink one night while we're down here - you still on your old number?"
Dinky nodded. "At the weekend, I'm up to my ears in dinners this week - going to be late now, as it happens." He didn't look particularly upset. He narrowed his eyes and looked a bit harder at Bodie, then glanced at Doyle's shoulder. "You need patching up?"
"Just his shoulder..." Bodie began, at the same time as Doyle said, "He could use a check-up..."
"I'll send in Peters and then you can be off," Dinky said. "File me a fucking report before the end of the month, will you?"
"Easy enough." Bodie reached out to clap him on the shoulder as he left the room. "Good to see you, mate."
Doyle was glaring at him when he turned around again, and he held up his hands. "I didn't know he was down here - thought he was still out in the desert..."
"Not that, you prat - what d'you mean you don't need a doctor? Even your thick head's not shatter-proof you know..."
"Don't start, Ray - I'll see Peters if you do, alright?"
Doyle shrugged, winced and nodded, and Bodie sat down again, but in the end Dr Peters was in and out in five minutes, prodding at Doyle's shoulder and pronouncing it a scratch, peering into Bodie's eyes and tugging at his hair and telling him he'd got concussion and should take it easy for a few days.
"Brilliant - I could have told him that..."
"Save it, House. Let's just go 'ome, shall we?"
Dinky had organised a car for them, so that they arrived back at The Half Moon not only while dinner was still being served, but without having to phone Burt and beg him for a lift, warn him that they were coming. It wasn't that he thought Burt would mind having the gold restored to him, it was more the fact that they hadn't actually mentioned its existence in the first place, and while there’d been good reasons for that, Burt could take it into his head to be pissed off about the strangest things…
Except that Burt was lounging casually on the bench by the front porch, as if sunning himself in the last of the evening’s rays.
“I hear you’ve had one hell of a day.”
“Has it only been a day?” he asked vaguely, “Feels like four or five… Come and have some dinner with us, eh?” He didn’t think he’d eat anything ever again, the way he was feeling just now, but at least in a crowded bar room Burt was less likely to go off the deep end and frighten his customers.
“Ah no,” Burt heaved himself to his feet, “You come and have some dinner with me – won’t take me a tick to throw something together the cottage…”
“Sorry, mate.” Doyle was shaking his head. “What about breakfast tomorrow morning instead? I’m out on my feet and this idiot wouldn’t know he was unconscious if he fell over.”
Burt tilted his head at them, looking from one to the other, then leaned forward to peer more closely into Bodie’s face. “Thought you were looking a bit peaky – then again that’s how you got out of Penang that time, isn’t it?”
Christ yes – a twenty foot climb down the side of a building when he really had been concussed. He’d paused to vomit halfway down the rope, watched it splatter across the pretty garden below.
“Penang?” Now Doyle was looking at him suspiciously too, and suddenly he’d had enough.
“Pack it in you two - Burt, I’m not going anywhere, never mind out a window – forty years’ll slow a man down a bit. Doyle… If your next sentence ends in a question mark you’ll sleep alone for the next fortnight.” He took a breath. “Right - I’m going to bed.”
And then, mortifyingly, he found himself swaying instead of taking the dignified step he’d meant to take, and Doyle and Burt were catching him together, and half-carrying him up to their bedroom, peering at his pupils and muttering about doctors in the Special fucking Services, and then all was dark and quiet and peaceful.
Everything hurt. Back, legs, arms, shoulders... especially his shoulders. Even his fingers felt stiff and scraped raw. Half-asleep he groaned, somehow managed to turn onto his side to lie, aching, in a different position. Still too sore for comfort, he opened his eyes. Bodie slept on beside him, face turned to the pillow, eyelashes ever long against his cheeks. How many hours had he spent lying in bed watching Bodie's eyelashes over the years? Too many, he thought, as his back protested again, seemingly at nothing, and then - not enough. He wriggled to try and settle it back down, it didn't help. He felt every one of those years, and more, saw them in the lines around Bodie's eyes, his mouth, in this scar and that scar along Bodie's skin.
The stiffness seemed to be spreading its way, vertebra by verterbra, up his spine, blossoming into his very veins - it was no good, he had to get up and move about, otherwise he'd be crippled for life. A hot shower, he'd have a long and very hot shower to loosen him up... If only he could lift his arms far enough to reach the taps.
He managed to turn over again, so that he was facing the side of the bed, to slide his legs out and somehow sit up and then get to his feet. It felt, as he'd known it would, better to be standing up, and he tried a tentative stretch, winced a little as his shoulders protested and his neck gave a kind of crunch, and then shuffled his way to the bathroom. When he looked in the mirror his face seemed almost to blend with his hair, grey both of them. Worse than his worst days still active on the squad, this was...
Retirement... a little voice mocked him, it's time you retired, old man...
Hot water helped, pouring and sluicing down his body, from the crown of his head to his very toes. He felt his muscles start to relax in the steam of it, to loosen up and move more freely again, though it still took an effort to step up over the side of the bath. The pale blue bathsheet was soft, felt good wrapped around him, and he let it envelop him for a moment, doing nothing but stand in the remnants of the steam and condensation of the room.
When he emerged into the freshness of their bedroom, breeze stirring the curtains, Bodie was still asleep, so he dressed carefully in his softest, loosest pair of jeans and a long-sleeved t-shirt, didn't bother with socks and slid his feet into an old pair of Converse, half-wondering if he should try a slow jog and see if that would get him moving again.
Or maybe just a gentle walk.
He was far too late for an official breakfast, but Cal was in the kitchen making what looked like cannelloni for the lunch crowd, and waved him in the direction of the fridge and the toaster. "Burt says to stick your head in the cottage when you're ready," he said, "He'll be back from town before lunchtime."
"He's back from town now!" Burt roared, entering the kitchen through the back door and dropping half a dozen carrier bags onto the work surface beside Cal. "Is that not in the oven yet?"
"Did the goulash first," Cal said, apparently unperturbed, "Gives it longer to sit - better that way."
"Should have done that last night," Burt said, as if it was an old argument, eyeing Doyle as he buttered his toast. "Have some of this cherry jam on it, needs using up. Full of sugar."
"Sweet enough," Doyle said, "Thanks."
"Right, mucker - come over to my place with that, we'll get some sun whilst it's still going."
"He could sleep for England when we were down south," Burt said, leading the way back outside and through the beer garden to his own side of the fence, holding the gate for Doyle and then closing it firmly behind them. "Some things don't change..."
There was a garden behind Burt's cottage as well as in front of it, the sun shining brightly on borders and swirls of colour, flowers interspersed, Doyle realised, with patches of vegetables, all attended now by a gentle buzz of bees. Burt waved him to a table and benches set up on a patio by the back door, concrete paving stones below bright and sun-soaked so that he could feel their warmth through his rubber soles.
Burt disappeared into the house momentarily, came back with a couple of mugs and a packet of sugar. "Forgot to bring the milk over," he said, "Can you do without, or shall I go and fetch you some?"
"This is fine..."
"You know, I never would have pegged Devvo for something like that."
Doyle looked up from his toast, met Burt's eyes square on.
"Might as well get to the point," Burt said, "We could waste half the year dancing around it."
"Most people would." Much better to get straight to it, he thought, and he liked Burt more because of it. "You've known him a long time, then?"
"Years - more off than on, of course, he's always been all over the place drumming up business."
It was Burt's turn to look directly at him, a straight stare over his coffee mug. "I always thought so. What made you think differently?"
Doyle shrugged. How did you explain it to someone who'd never worked at his job, at the job that he and Bodie had done for so long, so well? Cowley'd had a name for it, copper's nose; Bodie'd always scoffed, but he'd known what it was well enough - an instinct, intuition, call it what you would. "Just something about him," he said in the end, "When you've been in our line of business long enough..."
"Second sight, is it?" Burt asked, reaching casually over and taking his final, untouched piece of toast. "Mad Andy round the corner had an exorcist in, once - you'd better watch your step." But when Doyle looked up, he was grinning behind his beard, and the smile reached his eyes.
"Look, I'm sorry about your box..."
"No you're not."
"No I'm not, but I'm sorry you lost out because of it."
"With all that gold over there?" Burt raised an eyebrow, smile even broader, "Don't be too sorry, mucker."
"Doesn't treasure belong to the Crown or something?" he asked, puzzled. "Is there some sort of finder's fee?"
"Don't you read the papers, about all these metal detectorists? I own the land so the gold's mine - I've already had some bloke on the phone explaining how Queenie buys it from me with my agreement or without it - but she buys it from me, Ray, she bloody buys it from me."
"So you're not..."
"I'm not anything but richer than I was yesterday and out of trouble with Her Majesty - well, and short a mate who I don't suppose ever was one."
Doyle thought back to the men and women he'd known turn face at CI5, turn their backs on Cowley or the government, or the way their lives were going. Martin, Meredith, Alice and Alf, Sabonnier and old Rob - too many. "No, he was," he said slowly. "Back before it all went bad for him, whenever that was, he was your mate."
"I'm going to go and see him tomorrow, they've got him up in Dorchester. We'll see what he's got to say for himself. So tell me what happened out on the island - I only know what the fuzz have told me. D'you know, copper's uniforms were coloured with piss from Newcastle?" he added, inconsequentially - at least Doyle hoped it was inconsequentially. "Saw it on QI, so it must be true."
"There was a map in the box..." he began, leaning back against the warmth of the stone wall behind him, feeling his shoulders loosen a little further, letting the story come as if it was a dozen years or more ago and he was giving his report to George Cowley, yet another mad accounting of villains and greed and the way the world was.
"I'd never have thought it," Burt said wonderingly, when he was done. "You know, there's maybe half a dozen people in the country would have gone looking for treasure they'd found marked on a hundred year old map."
Doyle shrugged. "Busman's holiday - half the time we go away we bump into someone on the make. I dunno about second sight, feels more like being the wrong end of a magnet."
Burt guffawed at that. "You know, we always used to say that Bodie could get us into trouble faster than any other bugger - we'd be holed up nicely in some village, having a bit of a rest, and..."
"You're not listening to this old reprobate, are you Ray?" Bodie appeared from inside the house, a mug in one hand and what looked like a plate of sandwiches in the other - a fried egg and bacon butty, Doyle realised when he could see it properly. He was walking carefully though, and there was a frown between his eyes that was more than squinting at the sun.
"You alright?" he asked, at the same time as Burt got up, took the plate and mug away out of his hands and set them down at the table for him.
Bodie made a wry face at them. "Don't shout above a whisper and I'll be fine. And yeah, I took some aspirin already, thank you mum."
"You'll take more if I say so," Burt growled, "Let me see your pupils."
Doyle watched, amused, as Bodie let himself be peered at and his head prodded. "Are they still one bigger than the other?" he asked, "And spinning like a fruit machine?"
"He'll live," Burt pronounced, "Again. How many lives is that, now?"
"Twenty three," Bodie squeezed himself to the far side of the bench, beside Doyle and in front of his breakfast, took a mouthful of his tea. "Look, I'm sorry about your box..."
Doyle being Doyle and Burt being Burt, though, his peace didn't last long. Burt was bounding up to fetch the box with the map in it, returned to him last night by the investigating copper - another local mate of his - and they were unrolling it and staring at it and tracing corridors and passageways with their fingers, arguing gently and without conviction. Bodie leaned back and rested against the stone wall, closed his eyes and wished he'd brought a hat down with him, then wished he owned a hat, even if it would make him look like someone's doddering grandfather.
"'ang about..." There was a rustling, and Bodie looked up in time to see Doyle turn the map carefully over, squint at something, then turn it back and fold it in half. "It wasn't two maps on the same page, it was two maps on two separate pages - only on the same piece of paper..."
Eh? He made an effort, leaned forwards again and rubbed at his eyes, tried to focus on what they were doing.
"Look, that's why the thing looked backwards when we were down there - and better when you held it upside down..." Doyle was grinning at him, and Burt was nodding. "The pencil or whatever it was was drawn on the other side - it must have sunk through to the side beside the..."
"Too many sides - you mean we were looking at the wrong side?"
"Yeah, well I know it doesn't matter now, but..."
Bodie shut him up by smiling at him, right there in front of Burt. That was his Doyle, whatever it was he couldn't let it rest, never would...
"You know," Burt said, interrupting, "There’s a lot to explore around here, if you're into castles and that sort of thing. D'you remember the bloke with the bright red hair and three ginger kids in the pub the other night?"
Bodie thought back, vaguely remembered one of the rowdier families of the Saturday night crowd. "His wife was blonde with big..?"
Burt guffawed. "That's Clarry alright! Well, they live over at Firrester Farm, and the whole place is supposed to be riddled with secret passages - not that Sam's ever bothered looking - if he's not out and about doing something organic with the place, he's sat in front of one of them computers. Bet you could find him some gold ingots - he's gonna need 'em with those three to feed, and another one on the way! Or there's a lighthouse round the bay that's supposed to be haunted, or the mystery of the old..."
"Yeah, yeah..." Doyle said, flapping a hand at him, but Bodie looked up and grinned back.
"You never know," he said, "You never know..."
"You'll have to be quick about it, mind - I'm selling up, mucker, I've decided."
"Yeah?" He caught Burt's eye, properly awake again, held his gaze for a moment.
"Yeah. Thought I might head back Down Under, see how Tom and Queelie are getting on. They'll be having their own little uns soon, and Sal loved it down there..." He nodded slowly, almost to himself, "I could do some good there, mucker, be useful again."
You do good here, Bodie wanted to say, because he'd seen faces light up when Burt walked into the bar, or the lounge or even the kitchen, but he knew it wasn't the same. There was something about having people of your own. He glanced at Doyle. A person.
"Tell you what," Burt stood up and glanced down at his watch, "I'm off to coach our local lads this afternoon - the Under Eleven Eleven - if you're feeling up to it you should come with. You'll need your box, mind, they're right buggers with the aim, some of 'em, and the devil's in the other half..." He swung his legs over the seat, gathered up their mugs and plates. "Alright if I leave you to it?"
Bodie nodded, raised a lazy eyebrow when Doyle reached out a hand and shook Burt's own. "What was that all about?" he asked when they were alone, but he couldn't be bothered fighting back when all Doyle did was shake his head, a small smile on his lips. The island was saved, the gold was saved, and Burt's pub was saved - even if it turned out he was giving it up after all. Maybe now he could enjoy the rest of his holiday...
The afternoon unwound gently around them, they sat quietly side by side and drifted in and out of conversation, piecing it all together until the day before was a bright, clear jigsaw picture in front of them. Eventually Bodie led them back upstairs to their room, and pulled Doyle down to sleep beside him again, never mind his protests about afternoon naps, watching his eyes droop once... twice... and then closed, his breath coming quietly and regularly, so that Bodie could fall asleep too, listening to him.
And when he woke, his head was clear, his heart was clear, and he knew what they were going to do.
That was his Doyle - whatever it was, he couldn’t let it rest...
Doyle could let CI5 rest if Bodie was there beside him, and if they were both too old to be doing what they loved best any more, then maybe it was time to settle for something else that made them happy, some other way of being useful. Something brand new and unexplored – a fresh challenge, a leap into the unknown…
"Oi, Doyle," he whispered, wanting to share his idea, wanting to laugh with him and to celebrate, because he'd finally, properly worked it out. He watched Doyle's eyes open, kissed him more properly awake, and then pulled back. "Want to buy a pub?"
Doyle's eyes widened for a moment, and then slowly, a warmth of summer sunshine, he smiled.