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WAP Bodie stared at the face in the mirror. Although his jaw was covered with soap, his deep blue eyes
reflected an emotion that he was neither used to nor comfortable with - - uncertainty. Throughout his 32 years, he had always prided himself on his ability to make decisions rapidly and commit to them, but for the past several months, Bodie had begun to feel that something was wrong, deeply wrong.

 

Wiping away the remaining shaving cream, Bodie began to strip away the towel covering his slender waistline. He had thought that Derrick had broken him of this tendency towards modesty while he stood alone in his own bathroom. Derrick would snort if he saw him now, but he wasn’t here. It was so easy to fall back into old habits, especially ones that had been drilled into him at a young age.

 

Bodie had not always been the head of a major corporation with all the good things of life readily available. When his father and he had parted ways over fifteen years before, Bodie had left English shores for a life that still had the power to traumatize him. He never mentioned those days of oppressive heat and rot in Africa and the East where his body sweated, his mind decayed, and his soul almost died. Somehow he had survived a Congo prison and the horrors that lurked within, but the nightmares of those years were indelibly imprinted on him even now more than a decade later.

By the time he returned to England, his body had aged significantly, if not in years, in experience. His constant nightmares undermined his confidence, especially when he found himself screaming as he had in the barracks of the SAS during the nighttime. The SAS had been a hoped-for refuge when he realized that fighting was the only activity that he really was good at. He resisted psychiatrists and psychologists and whoever else the military tried to throw at him, but it was all too apparent that his past had decisively impeded on his future.

He spent those long years in exile from his family running away, fearing to commit to anyone or anything. The SAS and the Army fit in perfectly with his plans. He would stay as long as he wanted and then move on to something else with credentials that would permit him to travel the world, in some military or paramilitary role. He would be his own boss, and he would take on acquaintances or drop them as needed.

Bodie had seen in the years since he had escaped his father’s clutches the mind blowing depths of corruption and inhuman behaviour that the world offered. This tainted life had made him rigid in his principles and the demands he placed on himself. Never again would he be manipulated by a human being. He would take a lover on his own terms and never look back when he chose to move on.
For a few years, Bodie adhered rigidly to these principles, and finally his life seemed to be neatly regulated into the various carefully delineated compartments that he had set up. Lovers came and went, but Bodie managed to remain above all the cares of a busy life. And then, his father dropped dead (no doubt from sheer meanness) and Bodie, sitting in front of old Turnbull, the ancient solicitor, was told that his father had left him 75% interest in BodieCorp and that he had to man up (his father’s words) and take control of the vast corporation which employed thousands, who needed their jobs even if Bodie didn’t.

Strangely enough within a few weeks of taking over the corporation, Bodie felt himself blending in. He found that as he had been manipulated for so many years that he could turn the tables and manipulate equally well. He could turn on his charm as easily as he could be cold. He let no man get truly under his skin, but always was honest enough to admit that if it hadn’t been for Freddie and Derrick, he wouldn’t have survived the first few years as CEO of one of the large corporations that played such an important part in Britain’s economy.

He had felt totally inundated when he arrived in the strange offices of BodieCorp, but there was Derrick Collins, the Senior VP of the organization, right hand man to Philip Bodie and now to his son. Within weeks, Derrick also occupied Bodie’s bed. Both men were realists who knew what they wanted from their relationship and expected that it would be to their mutual benefit, otherwise why bother?

Bodie enjoyed a man’s body but that didn’t mean that he would fall in love or get all giddy about anyone. He may need others in his professional life, but he didn’t need anyone in his private onel, and he would choose carefully who he would permit beyond the barriers that he had erected so long ago. Bodie knew that he was a hard man; he had had to be during his years overseas and while serving Queen and Country. He had had to be hard to survive holocausts he had seen in various parts of the world during his time as a merc. It had become routine to erect every day a new, thicker barrier to keep anyone from breaking through those walls and destroying him from within.

Strangely enough, the other person that he owed a great deal to was Frederica Martin, better known as Freddie. Before Bodie had left the UK to go off on his own, Freddie was the one person that the younger Bodie looked to. The woman, then in her forties, was Mother Confessor, disciplinarian, referee, and everything else that Bodie had needed while growing up in a life he hated and a father he hated even more. If anyone could break down the walls that protected him as well as isolated him, it would probably be Freddie, but Bodie kept telling himself that he would never let that day happen.

When Bodie drove to BodieCorp, Freddie was there to welcome him. A bit more grey, but still the down-to-earth individual who made it clear that she would back him to the limit in his efforts to restore a badly needed lustre to BodieCorp. Bodie was never sure what Freddie’s feelings had been about his father. She was a remarkably blunt woman, but she could keep her feelings to herself and her face was such a blank register that even when Bodie took Derrick to his bed, the young man never knew of her private dismay. Freddie knew a lot and guessed even more so, while she was concerned about the relationship, she remained in the background, preparing plans to meet whatever would come.

Bodie suddenly broke free of his thoughts when a long, tanned, hairless arm circled his waist and expertly pulled the towel from his naked body. Bodie’s military instinct had begun to kick in when he realized who the arm belonged to. Still facing the mirror, Bodie’s left eyebrow shot up into the air as he said with careful neutrality, “I thought you were in New York, working your fingers to the bone for your beloved boss?”

Derrick laughed and quickly turned Bodie around to face him, “And I thought you had broken yourself of that silly modesty that you have. You’ve got a great bod, Bodie; why do you cover it up?”

Derrick had asked him that just before they had had sex the first time. Bodie had fed him the excuse that he had handed out to all of the people who might be in a position to see his body - - something about being raised by Catholic nuns who preached modesty unto death, but no one, not even Freddie knew of the real reason that he felt the need to stay covered in the harshest climates or the most private moments.

Bodie stood staring at Derrick. He had known the tall, brown-haired man for almost two years but he had never revealed anything about his past to him. Smiling timidly, Bodie said, “You know why - - those nuns have got a lot to answer for.”

“Well, they must ‘cause this body is a sight to behold, sweetheart so let’s both put on our birthday suits and have a party.”

“It’s 6.30 in the morning and I have to get to the office. Got lots on the agenda; besides I want to hear your report on the New York trip.”

“Well, do you mind if I clean up and catch a nap before showing up to give details about my genius in dealing with the Americans?”

Bodie’s blue eyes sparked as he asked carefully, “What time did you get in? I would have met you if you had let me know.”

“I didn’t want you to have to get up since I took the red-eye. I just landed a while ago, so WITH YOUR PERMISSION, I will go to my apartment and then report in an hour or so.”

Something in the way Derrick said this sent bells ringing in the back of Bodie’s mind, but he smiled, patted the man on his butt, and said in a mildly imperative voice, “Now get out of here so I can shower in peace. See you IN AN HOUR at the office.”

Derrick walked towards the bathroom door but turned suddenly and gave Bodie a pathetic, innocent look, “Since my apartment is just down the hall, we could go in together, if you just delay your departure by a bit.”

Bodie froze briefly then told himself that he had to stop reacting that way, just because someone seemed to be manipulating him. Derrick wouldn’t do that. Smiling his most charming, Bodie said, “Sorry, can’t do that. That slave driver, Freddie, has set up three appointments for me and threatens to stick bamboo under my fingernails if I’m not there on time.”

Derrick laughed and waved as he headed out the door. “See you later.”

It was a good thing that Derrick did not turn around and look at Bodie’s sheet-white face at that moment because the words that the ex-merc had just spoken had brought back memories that he would far rather forget but were still raw in his memory. Bodie stood there shaken as his insidious past overwhelmed him in waves. Would he never be able to forget what had happened in that Congo prison? Even the mere thought of it, made him nauseous. How he had stood those months in that hell hole he would never know, but that experience had made him stronger and harder. He now knew that he could endure anything and he could do it on his own terms.

Taking a quick shower, he rapidly got dressed and went to the office. As he walked into the reception office where Freddie vetted all comers, Bodie nodded at her and headed directly to the meeting room which was attached to his private office. Three people were already there, obviously waiting for him.

The respect in their eyes was obvious. Bodie found himself wondering time after time how he had managed to gain that respect, and had his father possessed that same ability? More likely, Philip Bodie had instilled fear in his employees but it had seemed to work since the BodieCorp had started out as a two-man business and now employed thousands.

“Morning,” Bodie said quietly acknowledging the three individuals seated around the table. “Could I have your reports, please?”

Quickly, the usual business was taken care of. Everything seemed to be on track in the day to day running of the large corporation so Derrick’s recent trip to America to negotiate a trade agreement could be dealt with as soon as Derrick appeared.

A few minutes later, the Senior Vice-President showed up not looking as if he had been on the overnight red-eye flight to the UK. Smiling, Derrick entered the room followed by Freddie whose countenance was scarcely a happy one. It seldom was when she was around Derrick Collins.

“Good morning, ladies and gentlemen, I bid you greetings from across the pond. I am ready to answer each and every question about Carlisle Tech’s business.”

Bodie’s blue eyes flashed briefly as Derrick’s levity seemed to grate against his temper this morning. Speaking in a very quiet voice, Bodie asked, “Perhaps, we could have your report first so that we will have some foundation for our questions?”

“Of course,” Derrick’s solemn face registering Bodie’s obvious displeasure. Collins immediately handed out a brochure to each person and began a well-prepared presentation which was easily understood. After his presentation, the questions and discussions took up another hour. The meeting was just about to break up with the general feeling that the new contract was moving along well when two things occurred that jarred the atmosphere and increased the tension in the room.

Just as Collins was wrapping up the discussion, he threw out the statement that he would have to return to the United States sometime in the future to complete the plans. No one in the room was terribly surprised by this because it was a multi-million pound deal and it was Collins’ responsibility to make sure that everything went smoothly, but then the other event occurred when Thomas Torrence walked into the room, out of breath and obviously keyed up.

Bodie looked at the number one auditor of the firm with a frosty glare since he had been expecting him at the meeting at a much earlier time. Torrence was so agitated that he failed to notice the frostiness of Bodie’s glance and burst out with the words that would soon stab the CEO of the BodieCorp in the heart and render major wounds to the corporation itself.

“Sir, I’m sorry I’m so late. Just as I was leaving for this meeting, Stuart Bishop arrived and let me know that his accounting firm would do their annual audit next week, not when we planned in a few months.”

There was silence for a moment then Mark Sallinger, the corporation’s solicitor spoke up and said, “Well, that’s no real problem is it since we’ve been planning their audit for several months. It will just be a little bit earlier than usual. Did he say why they were coming earlier?”

Torrence opened his mouth to reply when an unexpected voice burst out with, “That can’t be. We pay them to do the service, why can’t we just tell them we want the audit later?”

Everyone turned to watch the white-faced Senior Vice President as he squeaked out this question, but it was Bodie that answered, “I’m sure there’s a good reason for this change. What did they tell you, Thomas?”

“Well, that’s the strangest part; their representative said they had got a request from Inland Revenue about our books.”
“Inland Revenue! What the devil are you talking about? We pay our taxes; we’re up to date, aren’t we?” Bodie didn’t really have to ask this question because he knew that the corporation was up-to-date, but the others needed to hear the response.

“Yes, of course, but the representative said that . . . well, there had been rumours floating around about certain activities, and they wanted our auditors to do an audit right away so that it could be compared with theirs.”

“Rumours, what are you talking about? What kind of rumours?”

“I don’t really know; they said that they would be contacting you with more information, but I gather that it might have something to do with . . . your father.”

Bodie’s notorious left eyebrow shot up into the air, but he said nothing. Everyone was looking at Bodie or the table except Derrick Collins whose face was now beet red with anger. Before Cynthia Cresswell, one of the Junior Vice Presidents could speak Collins broke in again with, “Your father? That’s just great, who knows what that could mean?”

Suddenly, the temperature in the room dropped several degrees as Bodie asked quietly but in a frosty tone, “What do you mean, Mr. Collins?”

Derrick Collins got a sheepish look on his face. He had not missed the fact that Bodie had addressed him as Mister and that his words had been suggestive of some knowledge that Collins possessed. Stuttering and stammering a bit, Collins rapidly backed down by saying, “I didn’t really mean anything, but everyone who was here several years ago must remember that we had some trouble over a couple of contracts that . . . your father had negotiated.”

Bodie knew about this trouble. In fact, he had studied everything he could about the business when it was under Philip Bodie’s control. Derrick Collins had been Senior Vice President even then so Bodie had deliberately talked to Collins about the troubles among other things. Was Collins talking about the things that Bodie had already found out or was this something new?

Jamison Carr, the other Junior Vice-President, spoke up when the discussion seemed to be floundering, “I think it’s a waste of time to speculate. Why doesn’t Thomas contact our firm’s auditors again and see what he can find out? Let them do the audit next week, the sooner the better, and then we’ll be more prepared to deal with Inland Revenue if they decide to become involved, and we’ll have the facts to present to them, if they do ask to check the books.”

Everyone but Derrick Collins seemed amenable to that suggestion. When asked for his opinion, Collins seemed to have to force himself to break out of his thoughts by responding, “I just think we should delay the audit for a while. I’ll be in the United States by next week and might be there for quite some time. I usually try to be here for all our audits so I would prefer that it be delayed.”

Cynthia Cresswell looked at the obviously agitated Collins and said, “I thought you told us that you wouldn’t have to return to the United States so soon? Is it absolutely necessary that you be here; I’m sure that Jamison and I can stand in your place? After all, the rest of us will be here.”

Collins wiped his left hand across his face, suddenly looking very tired, “Yes, yes, of course, you’ll do fine. I guess I’m more tired from that overnight flight than I thought. If you don’t mind, and if there is no more discussion, I think I’ll leave for a few hours and get some rest.” The obviously exhausted man stood up and headed to the door. Without looking at anyone, including Bodie, he opened the door and walked away without saying anything further.

A few minutes later, the others left the conference room so that only a thoughtful Bodie and Freddie sat in the room that now seemed less cold and hostile. Bodie turned to Freddie and said, “Will you be sure that Derrick’s flight and lodging are arranged?”

Freddie nodded and immediately got up, leaving the perplexed man alone in the large room.

BDBDBDBDBDBDBDBDBDBDBDBDB

Bodie returned that evening to his top floor apartment disturbed and apprehensive. He knew something was badly wrong, but until the audits had been done and further investigation had been completed, he decided he would just have to be patient, but there was one thing he could do - - ask Derrick why he was returning to the US so soon. It had been hours since Derrick had left headquarters so he should be expecting Bodie to contact him.

Picking up the phone, Bodie dialed the number he knew so well, but the only answer he received was 20 unanswered rings. Of course, Derrick was his own man and he certainly could have gone out for the evening, but it was also very strange that Derrick had not contacted Bodie before going out. Sighing, Bodie scrounged up some snacks from the food that Freddie always made sure was available in the apartment; found a book he had not read for a long time, and settled in for one of the few quiet nights he would have for many a month.

The next morning, Bodie walked into his office much as he did every day, intending to go to Collins’ office to discuss his projected return trip to America. Before he could do so, however, Freddie found him heading to Collins’ office and stopped him. “He’s not in there. He’s on his way across the ocean to the New York.”

“What? I thought he wasn’t going to later in the week?”

“I don’t know, but I contacted the airlines and when I asked for a ticket in his name, they informed me that he had already arranged for a return ticket several days before.”

“You mean he had arranged for another set of tickets to return to New York while he was still in the US?”

“NO, I do not mean that. The airline told me that he picked up the tickets personally at Heathrow three days ago!”

Bodie’s handsome face scrunched up in confusion, “Now how did he do that when he only got back to England yesterday?”

Freddie looked at her boss with concern and confusion, “I don’t know, Mr. Bodie, but I was told that he returned to the UK three days ago on a flight and that’s when he purchased the return tickets with an open date so that he could take whatever flight he wanted.”

Bodie needed the formidable barrier that he had erected over the years to ask the next question without showing any obvious concern, “Did you check with the hotel he’s usually booked into in New York?”

“Yes, sir. There is no booking for him at that particular hotel for anytime in the future.”

Bodie’s blue eyes took on a look that Freddie could not read, but a shiver went up her back because she could feel the trouble that was coming. She never thought of herself as psychic, but she could read the young man who stood in front of her very well, and she could read trouble in his face.

“Very well, I’ll be in my office for an hour or so and then I’m going to go see Torrence and find out what is going to happen about the audit. Let me know if our wandering VP contacts us, please.”

Unfortunately, Bodie did not get his hour because Thomas Torrence entered the office after being announced by Freddie. “Sorry to bother you, but our auditing firm will be here tomorrow to begin the audit.”

“Why so soon? I thought they were going to do it early next week?”

“It seems that things are moving faster than expected and Inland Revenue has made it known that they will be here in the middle of the week for what they call discussions as well as the audit.”

“What is going on here? What do they mean by discussions? What do we have to discuss with them except the audit?”

Torrence had not sat down; in fact, he was moving his feet back and forth in an extremely restless way as if he had something to tell Bodie and that he would have preferred to be on the other side of the planet.

“What is it, Thomas? Sit down and tell me.”

Torrence finally sat down, but even then he dropped his head and stared at the ground for a few seconds before he raised his head and looked at Bodie with extremely apprehensive eyes. “Sir, I think we may be in more trouble than just the audit. I have several friends who are somewhat peripherally connected with the security area and one of them told me that somehow BodieCorp had stirred up the interest of CI5 as well as Inland Revenue.”

“CI5, what the hell would they want with us; we’re not terrorists.” Everybody in Britain knew of the legendary security agency. In fact, during his years with SAS, Bodie had even met the even more legendary head of the organization. He doubted that George Cowley would remember him, but Cowley certainly had made an impression on Bodie.

“That’s just it, sir. I know we’re not terrorists, but my friend says that whatever George Cowley wants to investigate he does so; therefore, we could be investigated for . . .”

At that moment, Freddie walked into the office with barely a knock. “I’m sorry, sir, but a Mr. George Cowley would like to speak to you on the phone. He’s from CI5 and I didn’t feel that. . .”

Bodie nodded and waved away the rest of her statement. “All right, put him on.”

“Hello.” The conversation took less than 45 seconds from beginning to end and it was obvious that Cowley dominated the conversation. It closed with Bodie’s response, “All right, see you then.”

Bodie carefully returned the receiver but said nothing for several seconds then he looked up at Torrence and said succinctly, “George Cowley will be here next Tuesday at 10.00 in the morning.”

Torrence looked totally confused and managed to get out the question, “Why is he coming before the audit is even done?”

Bodie’s voice was filled with a message he didn’t attempt to explain as he replied, “It seems, Torrence, that Mr. Cowley is interested in other aspects of BodieCorp and not just our audit.”

Practically everyone in the echelons of BodieCorp worked straight through the weekend in order to be ready for the coming audit and, of course, the advent of George Cowley. Bodie tried to maintain a level of calmness that said he was not worried because their books were always ready for anyone to check, but what bothered him most were Cowley’s visit and the potential for some other deep-seated problem that no one could have foreseen.

Their auditors arrived as expected on Monday and began their investigation. Bodie assumed that if there was anything wrong, Torrence would immediately contact him. When Monday closed with no messages from Torrence, Bodie went home and felt a measure of peace until he realized that he had not yet heard from Derrick Collins. His apprehension was further stirred up when he tried to reach Carlisle Tech which Collins should have contacted by now about the contract that they would both sign.

After several failed connections, Bodie finally managed to talk to New York but found out quickly that Derrick Collins had not been in contact, and they were not expecting to hear from him for several more weeks due to certain necessary delays that they thought Mr. Collins had understood before he left almost a week before.

As Bodie hung up, Freddie’s previous words about Collins coming back to the UK three days earlier than they had been told ran through his mind as the Carlisle representative confirmed that Collins had left New York much earlier than previously thought. What had Derrick been doing in those three days?

Bodie slept little that night. His busy mind would not let him rest so he got up early, shaved, drank some coffee and headed into the office, never realizing that he had just spent the last peaceful day he would have for a very long time.

Part II

Bodie arrived at the office with plenty of time to spare before 10.00 am. He figured that he needed to be at his best with George Cowley sitting in front of him. The man was a legend and though it had been more than five years since Bodie had actually met him, Bodie sincerely doubted that Cowley’s intelligence had deteriorated in any way. While Bodie was not impressed by legends, he was not prepared to underestimate the man, especially if he knew something that could threaten his corporation.

Promptly at 10.00 Cowley was announced by Freddie along with a tall, handsome younger man with brown shaggy hair. Bodie was surprised to see another individual with Cowley, but the Controller of CI5 promptly introduced him as Colin Murphy, a senior agent, who would from now on be acting as liaison between the security organization and Mr. Bodie personally.

Inviting both men to sit down, Bodie changed his mind about offering refreshments because it was quite obvious that this meeting was to be all business. From that moment on Bodie decided that he would have to be very careful with his words and the messages that they would convey, so he decided that he would try to begin on the offensive by asking the reason that Cowley had wanted to see him today, but Cowley registered a pre-emptive strike by saying,

“If you don’t mind, Mr. Murphy will take some notes so that we will both have some documentation about what was said today?”

Bodie shook his head no, but then was rocked by the realization that Cowley obviously knew that he was taping this conversation. The thought immediately crossed Bodie’s mind that the man in front of him was good, very good indeed.

“First of all, Mr. Bodie, I want to be upfront with you. I am not here to discuss the ongoing audit that is taking place, except as it possibly could reflect on the investigation that we are conducting with regards to a vessel which is owned by your corporation.”

“What is the vessel?”

“The Bodie Queen.”

To say that Bodie was surprised and stunned was to minimize Bodie’s reaction; he certainly had not expected this, but he was aware of the tactic in which silence was often rewarded with more information than with just talking so he said the minimum, “The Bodie Queen?”

“We believe in the past year that it has been hauling certain contraband cargo which is being sold to various para-military groups around the world but especially in Africa.”

“Gun-running?”

“Yes, that’s definitely one possibility. Are you saying that you had no idea of what was going on in your own corporation?”

Bodie was furious at the insinuation, but he managed to hold back his temper because he knew that would give the advantage to Cowley. “Yes, that is exactly what I’m saying; there are other officers in this corporation and while I would not pass the buck, as it were, off onto someone else, because I take final responsibility for all that goes on here, I have not had any direct dealings with the export side of BodieCorp, so my familiarity with the cargo of one particular ship, the Bodie Queen is very limited.”

“I see, and just who would be able to take responsibility for answering some of our questions about the shipments that the ship has made in the last year and a half?”

Bodie felt a monstrous headache slamming into his brain, completely taking over the area behind his eyes. One name came to mind and stayed there as if STUCK in his brain like a sliver of glass had punctured the delicate organ - - Derrick Collins.

Bodie did not pretend that he needed to look up the name of the individual, he said quietly, “Derrick Collins, Senior Vice-President of BodieCorp.”

“I see, could you tell me where he is at this moment so that we could talk to him, with your permission, of course?”

Bodie felt as if he were sliding into an ever deepening abyss that was sucking him further and further into problems for which there might not be a solution. “Mr. Collins is not in this country at the present time. He is in the United States, dealing with the Carlisle Tech organization about some business we hope to complete with them.”

“All right, could you put me in touch with where he is located at the moment?”

“No, I cannot. I know that he left late last week to return to the US, but we, rather I, have not heard from him since then. I don’t really understand what has happened. Perhaps, he has had an accident, but I cannot give you that information and Carlisle’s liaison does not know either.”

“I see.”

It was amazing how much George Cowley could convey to someone with just two words. Bodie felt like he was a small boy again failing to meet the standards of his demanding, sanctimonious father who had looked at his son as a personal failure in his life, starting with his inability to be potty-trained at six months. How many times had Philip Bodie driven it into his son’s head that the father was a success while the son was a real disappointment? Was it any wonder that William Bodie had left home at age 14? The even bigger wonder, however, was why Philip Bodie had left his vast holdings to the wayward son.

“I will, of course, do everything I can to make contact with Derrick Collins, and I will see that you are provided with any information you need, but I cannot honestly explain what has occurred with the Bodie Queen. I sincerely hope that this can all be explained to your satisfaction.” Bodie knew that the words sounded cliché-ridden, but he was treading water for the moment. He had to talk to Derrick and find out what was going on.

“Very well. I think that will be all for the moment. If you will provide the documentation that you mentioned and these other things that we have warrant for, we will go from there. As I have already mentioned, Agent Murphy will be dealing with you about this situation so if you will see that he gets everything we need, that will be fine.”

Cowley quickly stood and took his leave of Bodie; Murphy merely indicated that he would contact him about the expected documents.

Bodie sat staring at nothing; his mind in a whirl with the center of the vortex being one name - - DERRICK COLLINS. What had the man done? He had been responsible for the export side of the corporation for years, even before his father had died. Had he known all along about the guns? How deep was his involvement in the whole situation, and how much had he profited from this, if anything?

Bodie knew that he had to find Derrick Collins and get this straightened out. Calling in Freddie, he began a search, using their in-house investigators who would leave immediately for the United States to find the man who had made such a fool of him. Of course, being made a fool was humiliating but Bodie’s prime concern right now was getting out from under the cloud of the audit so that he could deal with the very real threat of a criminal action against his corporation.

Twelve hours later, Bodie was still at the office. The investigators were on their way to America and the US authorities had been contacted about locating the missing man. Bodie had read and re-read the documentation regarding the Bodie Queen. He knew he had been lax in keeping an eye on Collins’ handling of that area of his business, but there had never been any trouble and in the past two years, Bodie had had so many other concerns to deal with that he had let this one area slide and now everyone would pay the price of his negligence. Well, no more. Bodie had made an important decision. He would hire an Executive Assistant who would be responsible only to him and be responsible for checking and re-checking every aspect of the business that Bodie dealt with. Bodie needed an extra pair of eyes and ears, and Bodie was ready to hire someone right now.

Calling in Freddie who was still in the outer office, Bodie’s deep blue eyes were troubled but sparking from a new feeling of commitment to get to the bottom of all this trouble, Bodie looked up at Freddie and said, “I want six applicants in this office tomorrow morning to fill the position of my personal executive assistant, do you understand?”

“Yes, sir. I will ask them to be here by 10.00, is there anything else?”

“No, but I want you to go home now; it’s been a very long day.”

“Yes, sir, I will as soon as I put this in motion.”

“Good.” As Freddie walked towards the door, Bodie spoke quietly as he said, “Freddie?”

“Yes, sir?”

“Have I told you lately how much I value you and your loyalty?”

“No, sir; it’s not necessary, but thank you.”

Bodie smiled affectionately at the woman and then surprised himself and Freddie by asking, “How would you like to be my new Executive Assistant?”

Freddie smiled, but then shook her head and said, “No thanks, boss. You need someone who is on the right side of 40. This old place has some rough times coming and you’re going to need help. You’ll need someone with the ability to do certain things that I’m not trained for. Let me be the old She-Dragon who guards the gates to the place, and find someone else who will be whatever you need.”

Once again, Bodie smiled and said, “Thanks, Freddie.” As the older woman walked towards the door, Bodie called out again, “Oh, Freddie?”

“Yes, sir?”

“Be sure all the applicants are women.”

Freddie’s time worn face registered nothing, merely nodding as she headed out the door.

Bodie was about ready to leave for the evening. It had been a very long day, but it was to be even longer because Thomas Torrence was waiting for him as he left the office. “Sir, I need to speak with you right now.”

“What is it, Thomas? Can’t it wait until tomorrow?”

“No, sir. I don’t believe it can.” The two men entered Bodie’s office. Torrence placed a folder on Bodie’s desk and said very quietly, “As you will see, sir; the auditors have found a £2 million shortage in various records that are being audited, and they believe that it will eventually be more.”

Bodie felt like his heart had stopped, but he managed to control himself enough to say in a fairly calm voice, “What records?”

Torrence looked beaten down and embarrassed as he whispered, “Quite a variety but most were major accounts and records that Mr. Collins dealt with.”

Bodie felt his guts tearing into small shreds, but somehow he had known that that Collins was somehow involved in this whole fiasco with the audits. That’s why he took off on Friday as soon as he heard about the audit. Bodie knew that he shouldn’t condemn his former lover without more proof but after the hell that he had been put through since last Friday, he no longer wanted to be fair and impartial. If Derrick Collins had stolen from his company and then put it in danger by profiting from gunrunning, William Bodie wanted Collins’ hide nailed to the wall in his office. He didn’t care if there were any justifying factors; the man was quickly destroying him and more importantly his company.

Bodie wiped his slightly shaking hand across and then asked, “When will the auditors know all of it?”

“They told me to tell you that they thought it would be two hours or less so they were going to finish this evening and they would let you know as soon as they knew.”

And that is exactly what happened, The representatives of their auditing firm walked into Bodie’s office approximately two hours and 15 minutes later and gave a detailed report which boiled down to one line - - the BodieCorp could not account for £5.25 million.

They continued to discuss the matter for several hours until finally sheer exhaustion sent everyone home to try and grab a few hours rest before the auditors would begin the inclusion of the authorities as well as Inland Revenue in the proceedings. Everyone left except Bodie, who tried to bed down in the small bedroom which was attached to his office. It wasn’t elaborate but it had the necessities and it allowed him to freshen up before beginning another awful day.

Walking into the reception room to his office, Bodie stopped, slightly stunned by the sight of six women sitting patiently waiting for him to arrive. I should have told Freddie to cancel the appointments. Looking at his watch, he saw that it was exactly 10.00 am so he looked at Freddie and said extremely politely, “Miss Martin, give me five minutes and then please show the first applicant in.”

Freddie handled the next two hours efficiently by allowing Bodie to have enough time with each woman, and without appearing to rush; she got the next woman in for her time. The only trouble was that another applicant showed up about an hour into the waiting period and Freddie was definitely flummoxed. She knew that she had contacted the agency about sending six women but now there were seven and the seventh was definitely not a woman. Freddie had tried to make it very clear that they were not looking to hire a man for the position as Executive Assistant but every time Freddie looked at number seven, she felt breathless and helpless. The gorgeous man who stood in front of her with the silver tongue and charm that that could make a stone weep, with the most penetrating green eyes she had ever seen, made her feel unsure of herself and almost floating above the ground. She told herself that she was a mature woman who shouldn’t be feeling this way but it really didn’t help.

Therefore, when Bodie finished with applicant number six, Freddie escorted her out and before Bodie could say anything, Freddie opened the door wide and announced, “There is a seventh applicant today, Mr. Raymond Doyle.”

The air seemed to suddenly be sucked out of the room as the slender man with green moleskin trousers, a burgundy shirt, and a stone-coloured jacket entered the room in a mesmerizing way without doing anything at all. Both Freddie and Bodie stared at the man whose side job must have been as a satyr because as both Freddie and Bodie stared, they felt the draw of his attraction in different ways. Freddie finally pulled herself together and rushed out of the office while Bodie did not have that luxury so he continued to stare at that man for another few seconds.

Finally, feeling overwhelmed by too little sleep and too many problems recently Bodie had to admit to himself that that was the only reason why the man had made such an impression on him. Taking a deep breath, Bodie opened his mouth to dismiss the man from his sight when the glorious creature opened his own mouth and spoke, “Don’t blame Miss Martin for allowing me to see you today. I heard about the position being open, and since I knew I was the person for the job, I thought I would come and help you.”

Bodie blinked several times, a faint glimmer of amusement entered his blue eyes. “You certainly are modest, aren’t you, Mr. Doyle?”

Doyle gave a grin that made Bodie’s heart flutter even faster. Telling himself that he was being ridiculous, Bodie straightened his spine and spoke coldly without any hint of sympathy, “Mr. Doyle, I do not want a male Executive Assistant so you have wasted your time. I suggest you look elsewhere.”

“Have you read my resumé? I think you will find that I have the qualifications that you need for the problems that you are having right now.”

“What do you know about my problems?”

“Unfortunately, rumours abound all over the place about BodieCorp. You definitely need help, and I’m absolutely trust worthy, and I already have some ideas about what should be done.”

“Mr. Doyle, you weren’t listening. I DO NOT WANT A MALE ASSISTANT.”

“My sex definitely won’t be a problem, sir. I have been in this business for several years and I definitely have nothing to do - - sexually - - with the boss, if you know what I mean. I am here to do the job and that’s it.”

“And how can I take your word on that?”

Doyle’s face took on a look of consternation and pain as he uttered words so quiet that Bodie could hardly hear him. “You wouldn’t doubt me if you knew of the experiences I have had to deal with over the past few years. Men think that just because of this face, I want to go to bed with them, but I don’t so you’re safe, SIR.”

“You certainly are arrogant as well as blunt. Well, I can be just as blunt. Are you a homosexual?”

Doyle’s eyes shuttered immediately. “I really don’t think that is any of your business. Sorry, I disturbed you.” With those words Doyle turned and headed towards the door.

“Wait.”

Doyle turned to face the tall, handsome man, saying nothing, just waiting.

“Mr. Doyle, you are correct, it is none of my business, but it is BodieCorp’s business and with the problems we face, I have to be absolutely sure.”

“If you’re sure about yourself, then we will be fine, because I can assure you that I just want to do my job, and nothing else.”

Bodie nodded. “All right, I plan to have second interviews with those applicants who I want to see again. Please keep yourself available until you do or don’t hear from me.”

“Yes, sir. Oh, by the way, here is my resumé, Miss Martin seemed a bit . . . preoccupied . . . so she didn’t ask for it.” Doyle then promptly walked out of the office.

Bodie stood staring at the folder for several seconds only now feeling that he had just made a very bad mistake. Forcing himself to re-focus on the job at hand, he buzzed for Miss Martin.

She came in immediately, wanting badly to ask what happened, but she bit her tongue and waited.

Bodie looked up at her, his blue eyes giving off an almost haunted look but he said sanely enough, “Freddie, I will need to see the following people for a second interview, will you see to it?”

“Of course, sir.” Freddie took the folders that Bodie handed her and left. Only when she had reached the sanctuary of her own office did she look at the names: Rita Sinclair and Raymond Doyle.

Freddie stood there for a moment, with her eyes closed. Then, not for the first time since she had gone to work for BodieCorp and the younger Bodie, she said a small prayer that Bodie had not made another mistake.

The day closed with no more crises so Bodie permitted himself to think about his new Executive Assistant position. After another restless night, Bodie had made another decision which he put into effect as soon as he entered his office. “Freddie, I’ve changed my mind about Mr. Doyle. I would like to have a second interview with Miss Sinclair later this afternoon, if possible?”

Freddie’s face, usually neutral even in the height of crisis took on a dismayed look as she hesitated a second then announced, “I’m sorry, Mr. Bodie, but Miss Sinclair sent a message as well as calling to apologize because she has taken another position. She thanked you for considering her, but she will be unable to have another interview.”

Bodie felt himself grinding his teeth, a habit he had had since boyhood, but all he said was, “Very well.”

Walking into his office and shutting the door, he realized that he was trying to avoid facing the inevitable, something he had not done in a very long time. He had looked at Doyle’s resumé very carefully. He had even checked some of Doyle’s references, and they were all excellent. He could, of course, choose one of the other applicants, but then he would have to admit that he was a coward. He could handle Doyle, there was no question of that, but the question was: did he really want to?

Picking up the inter-office phone, Bodie spoke quietly to Freddie about when Doyle was expected and then collapsed into his chair to get some work done.

25 minutes later, Raymond Doyle arrived and was shown into Bodie’s office. Doyle’s suit was extremely businesslike; the very model of what an Executive Assistant should wear. He had obviously tried to tame the riotous curls by a shorter style but the incandescence of the man still showed through his green orbs that fairly radiated with zeal and determination.

Indicating that Doyle should take a seat, Bodie immediately took control of the meeting by saying, “I have decided to forego a second interview. I believe it would be better if you begin work for the company right away on a trial basis. You will be placed on full salary for one month; at the end of that time, either one of us can make the decision to terminate your employment.”

Bodie sat waiting for Doyle to react to the proposal that had just come to him a few minutes before, but Doyle said nothing, but he stood up and remained in a faintly canted position which seemed as natural to him as breathing. After several seconds, Doyle’s cold voice said, “Why put us both through a month when we both know how it will end? I thought you really wanted to deal with the problems you’re facing, but I guess not, so I won’t bother you anymore. Good-bye, Mr. Bodie.” Without another word, Doyle walked out of the office while Bodie watched the delicious bum sway slightly as the slender figure departed.

Bodie tried to regain his equilibrium but found it amazingly difficult. Knowing that Doyle had called his bluff, Bodie’s first reaction was to let the man go and then, without really thinking, he picked up the phone and rang the security team at the front door to the building. “Matt, a young man will be leaving the building in a just a few minutes; he’s got a visitor’s badge on and is dressed in a grey suit and has brown curly hair.”

Listening for a moment, he replied, “Yes, that’s Mr. Doyle. I want him stopped and escorted back up here.”

Listening again, Bodie replied with a great deal more vehemence that he had planned, “I don’t care if you have to arrest him for shoplifting, I want him back here, do you understand?”

Less than five minutes later, Doyle was once again announced by Freddie. The curly haired man was no longer the epitome of the well-dressed Executive Assistant. He looked extremely perturbed with his collar out; his shirt loosened, and his tie had disappeared. He also looked ready to do battle. In fact, he looked ready to take on Bodie and had his mouth open to do so, when Bodie held up his hand, and stated quite emphatically, “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have done that. I deserve you walking out on me, but please don’t. I need help, and I want to hear what ideas you have. I mean . . . if you are willing to do so?”

Waiting for the roof to fall in, Bodie stood across the desk from the man who was a total enigma to him. He didn’t understand Raymond Doyle, but he had finally recognized that he badly needed help. He had deluded himself for the last two years that he could run BodieCorp and didn’t need anyone. What happened with Derrick Collins obviously showed that he had been wrong. Raymond Doyle might just be the one to help save BodieCorp.

Bodie had previously thought himself excellent in reading people, but he had never met a man like Ray Doyle before; he was totally confused by the man, and didn’t know what he would say so for the next few minutes, Bodie stood there and waited, but he wasn’t sure what he was waiting for. Fortunately, Doyle took the initiative.

“I don’t trust you anymore than you trust me, but that’s got to change if we’re going to overcome BodieCorp’s problems. I figure that will take a while, but we’ll try three months. If I can’t help you in the next three months, you’ll decide if I should stay or if you’ll find someone else.”

Bodie’s blue eyes reflected an emotion that was difficult to read as he whispered, “All right.” The two men sat down, staring at each other hesitantly for a few seconds; then Doyle took control as he often would in the next several months by saying, “All right, here are some of my ideas for getting us out of this fiasco.”

Bodie would have rather died than admit it, but he was extremely grateful for Doyle using ‘us’ in reference to getting out of trouble. There had been very little “us” in Bodie’s life before now.

Part III

Bodie listened carefully to Doyle’s many ideas. The need to find Derrick Collins seemed obvious enough, but when Doyle suggested that it might be necessary for him to go over to the US to follow the Collins’ trail, Bodie reacted decisively. “I have complete confidence in the men I sent over; you will stay here and be my assistant and that’s it. Let the investigators investigate and let the Executive Assistants assist; do you understand?”

“Yes, sir, but it seems that your investigators have not done much in the week since they got there. Have they brought in all the enforcement authorities they can? How often do you talk to them? What exactly have you heard?”

“You’re right. I need to find out more details. Why don’t you talk to them after I introduce you on the phone?”

“All right, that’s a beginning. Now tell me about the problems with The Bodie Queen.”

“CI5 is investigating that, and I have not heard much from them. I know that Agent Murphy has been talking to our people in export, but he’s been pretty closed mouth about it.”

“Maybe you should get him in here for a heart to heart. After all, CI5 has a certain reputation, doesn’t it? How far back has CI5 gone into the records of The Bodie Queen and your other export dealings? Are they sure it’s just one ship?”

Bodie suddenly looked very tired. “You’re right again; I’ll put a call into them this afternoon. I can’t answer any one of those questions. Anything else?”

“I definitely think you should contact Inland Revenue right away now that you have a pretty good idea about how much money is missing.”

“Right away, why?”

“We want to make the best impression that we can. Half of a corporation’s troubles come from trying to hide things. We want to be open and honest about the whole thing, especially since we know nothing about Derrick Collins’ involvement. I know you may want to protect him, but now is not the time.”

Bodie’s face hardened while his blue eyes shuttered, “Do you honestly think that I would try to protect a man who has opened my corporation up to such problems? He might have been my lover, but I can promise you, Mr. Doyle, that I would do nothing to protect an individual who had caused me or my business the troubles that we are suffering now.”

“Of course, sir. What would you like me to do while you are making all your contacts this afternoon?”

“I want you here. I think you should hear everything that’s happening up front.”

“Very well, I’ll go see Mr. Torrence now. I want to get to know as many individuals as I can. When you want me, let me know.”

When you want me. Bodie took several deep breaths as he heard those words. Oh, Doyle if you only knew the truth. With that thought crossing his mind, Bodie shook his head and got to work.

The two men spent most of the afternoon contacting those individuals who could aid in the plans that they were making. Several times, Doyle needed to stand behind or near Bodie as they looked over documents; the pure essence of the man almost drove Bodie crazy, but he had sworn that he would not fall into the trap like he had done with Collins. He needed Doyle, it was true, but he only needed him to help with the business; then the two men would part company, and that would be the end of it.

By 7.00 pm both men were exhausted as their calls and meetings seemed to be winding down. Even Freddie had left, but unexpectedly, there was a knock on the door. Doyle sauntered to the door and opened it. Standing in the doorway was Collin Murphy, still with shaggy hair, looking quite disturbed.

Bodie stood and invited him in. “I thought we had made arrangements to meet tomorrow, Mr. Murphy? This is my Executive Assistant, Mr. Raymond Doyle.” The two men nodded to each other, but Murphy immediately turned to Bodie and said, “I have some rather bad news to tell you, Mr. Bodie.”

“What is it; more of our ships suspected of gun-running?”

“No, sir, nothing like that. I have been in contact with the authorities in the US as well as your own investigators in the last week. I am sure that they will be contacting you soon, but I asked them to wait until I had informed you myself.”

Bodie stood up even straighter as if he were preparing himself to face a firing squad as he whispered, “What is it?”

“We were contacted by the New York authorities less than an hour ago to inform us that the body of Derrick Collins has been found floating in the East River.”

Bodie said nothing, repeatedly blinking and slightly swaying. He had seen death many times over the years, and even sometimes, it had been his lovers, or at least, people that he was having sex with, but he was still badly shaken and unable to form any words in response.

Ray Doyle waited a moment and then took up the gauntlet so that Bodie could have a moment or two to recover. “Could they tell how long he had been dead?”

“Almost a week. The water distorted some of their investigation but there is little doubt of that.”

“How did he die?”

“Once again, the water affected the post mortem, but it seems that he was . . . stabbed.”

Doyle stared at Bodie for several seconds then asked, “If there isn’t anything else, we will contact you to tomorrow to find out further developments.”

“That’s fine. Just one thing, do you know if Mr. Collins had any relatives that we could notify? The body will be held for a while, but if there is anyone who should know, I would be willing to contact them. We couldn’t find anyone in his corporation files.”

From nowhere, Bodie’s hoarse voice whispered, “No, there is no one. This corporation will take responsibility for anything that needs to be done when the body is released.”

“Well, thank you both. I will expect to hear from you tomorrow.” The tall man turned and left the office slightly faster than he had entered.

Doyle started to follow the agent, but Bodie said, “No, stay.”

“I’m sorry, is there’s anything I can do.”

“Let’s finish up what we were doing, and then we’ll put an end to this . . . day.”

Doyle could almost visualize Bodie gathering up the barrier of pain around him. Bodie had been upfront about Collins being his lover, but what did that mean? The ex-merc gave the appearance of needing no one; in fact, he seemed to love no one so what did the death of Collins really mean to Bodie except the greater difficulty in finding out just what had happened to all that money, and who exactly was involved in the gun-running operation? Was the BodieCorp an innocent part of the criminal operation or did the insidious operation go much deeper into the business?

The two men worked for an hour longer then Doyle decided enough was enough. He knew that Bodie had been stalling, probably to avoid having to think about Collins, but the tired man in front of Doyle was going to have to deal with it. Bodie was an enigma to Doyle. The man clearly had barriers and had made up his mind not to lower them for any reason. Was his relationship with Collins only sex or had Bodie developed some sort of feeling for the now dead man?

Looking at his watch, Doyle casually announced, “Think it’s time to go home. If you have to meet with Mr. Murphy tomorrow, you don’t want to look all dragged out like you do now.”

For a moment, Doyle thought he had succeeded in distracting the other man but Bodie only nodded and said, “You go home. I’ll see you at 8.00 tomorrow.” Bodie’s blue eyes remained impenetrable as he briefly stared at Doyle.

Doyle intertwined his fingers, crossed his legs and stared back.

“All right, ask what you want so I can get out of here as well.”

“Are you really cut up by Collins’ death or is it just what he might have done to this company?”

For a moment, Doyle thought he might have gone too far, but somehow Bodie drew strength from Doyle’s bluntness and smiled slightly. “No man means that much to me, but what Collins did to this company is unforgivable, and that’s my concern right now.”

“You’re sure then that he took the money and was involved in the gun-running?”

“Let’s just say that I’m not holding my breath, waiting to find out he was innocent.”

“You certainly appear to be a cold, hard man, Mr. Bodie. I hope you never look me in the face and render judgment without any proof, only suspicions.”

“I’ve been lots of places and done lots of things; I haven’t always had the luxury to analyze before acting, so I guess you’ll just have to be a good boy so I don’t have to make a judgment about you.”

“Well, on that note, I think I’ll take you up on your offer and go home. Don’t forget that I’m meeting with Inland Revenue tomorrow.”

Bodie nodded and waved him away, but once Doyle was gone, Bodie sat staring, wondering if it was already too late. After a few minutes lost in his thoughts, Bodie shook his head; then stood up and walked out .the office.

Once again, Bodie’s night was short and restless. He walked into the office promptly at 7.55 am expecting to see Doyle and Freddie but neither was there. He waited not-so-patiently for a few more minutes and then hit the proverbial roof. He remembered very clearly telling Doyle that he would see him at 8.00 am. Where were they? He might take that from Freddie but definitely not from Doyle.

Sitting down at his desk, he tried to do some work, but by the time the inter-business phone rang, Bodie barely had control over his temper. The voice on the other end of the line was immediately recognizable. “Mr. Bodie, I’m sorry that I’m not there but there’s been a problem and . . .”

“Is Doyle there with you?”

“Uh, no sir, he’s left with Mr. Torrence. He’s taking him home.”

“HE IS NOT TORRENCE’S CHAUFFEUR; HE IS MY ASSISTANT AND HE’D BETTER REMEMBER THAT!” The words seemed to reverberate across the phone line as well as the office space.

For a second Freddie was silent then she replied in an obviously upset and perturbed voice, “Sir, IF you will LISTEN, Mr. Torrence has been taken ill. Mr. Doyle wanted him to go to hospital, but Mr. Torrence asked Mr. Doyle to take him home, so that’s where they are. I came down here when Mr. Doyle called me to help make the arrangements. I’m sorry I couldn’t call earlier, but WE were rather busy for a while. I’ll come right up.” Freddie hung up the phone without giving Bodie any time to say anything.

Bodie knew he was in big time trouble with Freddie. It took a lot to get Freddie mad at him, but it was easy to tell that she was very angry this time, and to tell the truth, he couldn’t blame her. Why was it that anything that involved Doyle always seemed to irritate him just like poison ivy or something?

The phone rang so Bodie answered it to give himself time to avoid thinking about that question. It was Murphy requesting a meeting in an hour or so. Bodie asked for a bit more time, explaining about Torrence’s illness so an early afternoon appointment was arranged.

By that time Freddie knocked on Bodie’s door. Bodie called out “Come,” although he really wasn’t sure that he wanted to beard this lion’s den. When Freddie entered, it was obvious that she was unhappy, but Bodie stood and directed her to a seat and asked with a great deal of concern, “How is Thomas? What exactly happened?”

“Apparently, it’s sheer exhaustion. Mr. Doyle went down to see him about 7.00 am when he arrived because Mr. Torrence had asked for him. Almost as soon as Mr. Doyle got there he realized something was wrong, and called the company doctor. Dr. Chambers got here quickly, and they gathered that Mr. Torrence had been working almost every day, well into the night, dealing with the audit and the problems that the company was having over the export situation.

The doctor wanted to send him to hospital, but agreed that Mr. Doyle could drive him home if there would be somebody there with Thomas and that he would take a complete rest. We arranged for someone to be there and . . . well, here I am.”

“I’m sorry that I was so heated with you, Freddie. I was upset that nobody was here, and I let my temper get the better of me. I do wish, however, that Doyle had contacted me about Torrence’s illness so that I could have been some help. Mr. Doyle really needs to learn that he doesn’t run this company, and that I am the one who must take final responsibility for what happens here.”

Freddie was about ready to open her mouth to defend Doyle’s actions when there was a noise at the door. Looking up, Freddie and Bodie saw an exhausted Raymond Doyle standing in the open door. He had obviously heard what Bodie had said. Doyle looked at Bodie with blazing eyes, and then he said, “Don’t worry, Mr. Bodie; I have definitely learned that I do not run this company.” The slender figure turned to walk away but before Bodie could rush after him all hell seemed to break loose in the outer office.

By the time, Bodie got to the outer office, Doyle was being attacked by an older man whose face was red from the exertion. His breath was strained but a few words could be understood, including a great deal of profanity. Within seconds with the combined efforts of both Bodie and Doyle, the overweight man who must have been in his sixties was being held down by strong arms.

Before Bodie could say anything, Freddie said in a clear voice, “Mr. Jenkins, what on earth is the matter?”

The violence that Jenkins had initiated seemed to have disappeared as the man lay on the floor, trying to regain his breath. A faintly embarrassed look covered his face but he was obviously unable to say much for the moment.

Doyle turned to Freddie and asked quietly, “You know this man?”

Freddie nodded, looking at Bodie, not Doyle. “Yes, he is one of the stockholders in the company; he has written several letters indicating his unhappiness with what has been going on.”

Jenkins, by this time had enough oxygen to gasp out, “You’re damned right; I’m unhappy. I live by the interest from my investment and when I hear that we’re missing over £5 million, I’M EXCITED that’s what I am.” That was all Jenkins was able to wheeze out for the moment, but he was able to sit up and sip a bit of water that Freddie handed him.

Bodie stood over the man and quietly said, “I’m sorry that we are having these problems, but I can assure you that they are being dealt with. We have made quite a bit of progress already, but I should have contacted you and kept you updated. I’m truly sorry.”

“Well, I wish you would have; then maybe I wouldn’t have made such a fool of myself, but when I walked into the office and saw your lover or whatever you call him swaggering out of the office; I just hit the roof. Everybody knows he’s the one . . .” Jenkins got no further as Bodie took his strong hands and grabbed Jenkin’s collar and dragged him up to a standing position.

Putting himself nose to nose with Jenkins, Bodie glared into Jenkins’ red face and enunciated very carefully, “I’ll-thank-you-not-to-bring-up-my-personal-life. You attacked my Executive Assistant. The man you maligned has died. You better get the facts before you start smearing an innocent man.”

Dropping the man back into a chair, Bodie took a step back, and told Freddie to get Jenkins out of there. Freddie and a security guard who had appeared on the scene managed to get Jenkins up and walking out the door. Bodie turned to talk to Doyle and try and explain, only to find the room empty. Doyle was gone.

Bodie returned to his office and began calling around the building, trying to find his wandering assistant, but the only information was several minutes old and that was something about Archives. Having to admit to himself that he didn’t even know where the Archives were, he sat down and tried to work, but Doyle’s stricken face kept flashing before him. Talk about bad luck: first, Doyle hearing what Bodie had said and then Jenkins drawing a very wrong conclusion about his relationship with the slender man.

Fortunately within a minute or two, he heard Freddie in the outer office and called her in. “Is Jenkins taken care of?”

“Yes, he’s been having a bad time of it, and let his temper get the better of him. The Security Guard is staying with him until his wife shows up.” Freddie turned to leave but whirled around again as Bodie asked, “Did you by any chance see which way Doyle went after the Jenkins’ episode?”

Freddie’s face was its usual neutral demeanour, but Bodie could tell from her voice that she was unhappy with him. “No, sir, I assumed he returned to his office.”

“All right, do you know where the Archives are?”

“Do you mean the documentary archives or the computer archives?”

“I’m . . . not quite sure.”

“Well, they aren’t too far from each other. After telling him where both could be located, Freddie left to return to her desk, hoping the rest of the day wouldn’t be as traumatic.

After a few more minutes, Bodie headed towards the general archives area, hoping to find Doyle. He knew he had that meeting with Murphy in a little over an hour, but he had to see Doyle first. The building seemed larger than he remembered it but finally he found the Documents Archive and stuck his head in the door, and there was Doyle sitting at a table with a huge amount of paperwork piled up in front of him. Walking into the room, Bodie suddenly was reluctant to approach the man but Doyle looked up just in time and motioned him to come over.

“I’ve been looking over some of the old archives about The Bodie Queen and some of the other ships and what information is available about exporting goods, and I think I’ve found a name, Carl Webster. Have you ever heard anything about him?”

Bodie shook his head and asked, “Who is he?”

“He was Senior Vice President before Collins. In fact, he set up most of the exporting contracts during your father’s time period, AND he’s also the one who brought in Derrick Collins, when Webster decided to leave the company and move over to the States.”

“Really, I didn’t know that. What else does it say?”

“Well, considering that BodieCorp was starting up its export trade from zip, it did very well . . . extremely well, right away. In fact, it made so much money that its success was virtually financing the business for a while, and Carl Webster was the hero of the day.”

“That is interesting; have to wonder what they were exporting that was so successful? I assume there are records about that in the archives?”

“Yes, there are but they are so extensive that I haven’t had the time to go through even a small portion of the paper documents, let alone see if anything has yet been converted to computer. Maybe if you mention the name to Mr. Murphy, the heavy hitting power of CI5 can be turned towards these archives?”

“Good idea. I’m supposed to see Murphy in a few minutes so I’ll mention it to him.” Bodie stood up and took a few of the documents with him; then he turned and looked at Doyle for a few seconds and then said, “I’m sorry.”

Doyle looked up, staring at the younger man, slightly nodding, he whispered, “I’m sorry as well.”

Strangely, Bodie felt relief spreading through his body at this miniscule step towards restoring his relationship with Doyle, but as he walked to the lift to return to his office, the thought came to him with the impact of a sledgehammer hitting him, what did Doyle really mean by his last statement. What was he really sorry about?

Murphy was right on time, and as he was making himself comfortable in the chair that Bodie indicated, Bodie said, “Do you know if you’re agents have looked through our paper and digital archives about the background with exporting and The Bodie Queen?

“Archives? Let me look a minute. I have everything listed.” The papers seemed to disappear behind the shaggy hair that was busy looking into the papers before him. “After a few minutes, Murphy sighed and looked at Bodie with his cool eyes, “The Cow . . . er . . . Mr. Cowley is going to skin me alive. It seems the agents that we sent over to look into all documentation didn’t do the archives. I suppose they thought that anything from the past wasn’t relevant, but that’s going to be my problem, not yours. Did you find something?”

“Well, to be totally honest, I didn’t, it was my Executive Assistant, Mr. Doyle who did.”

“Mr. Doyle? What did he find?”

“It seems that about eight years ago when my father was still CEO, his Senior Vice President was a man named Carl Webster and that he was responsible for all the exporting and the documentation dealing with The Bodie Queen, and then about three years ago he decided to move to the United States and as a result he brought in Derrick Collins to take over as Senior Vice President as well as dealing with exports. All, of course, with my father’s backing.”

“Carl Webster . . . Carl Webster . . . that’s very interesting, Mr. Bodie. I’ve been keeping in contact with your representative in the states as well as the law enforcement officials and it seems that Derrick Collins was seen with one Carl Webster at various times during his previous trips to the US, AND . . . and this is a pretty big AND, according to Detective Gentry, Carl Webster is one of the major criminal contacts for the entire east coast of the US. I would say that Mr. Collins had become involved in something that got him killed and Webster’s organization was just the one who could handle it.”

Bodie stared at Murphy with his eyes almost glazed over. He had been having sex with a man like that? Bodie was a realist, knowing what his own background had been like, but to be so blind to what Collins was really like. Good thing I only had sex and didn’t do something stupid like ‘fall in love’ with him.

“I see. Would you like me to show you where we keep our archives so that you can get started on the documents?”

“I’d like to talk to Mr. Cowley first; I’m sure he’ll send some more agents over right away, but I really appreciate your information, and, of course, Mr. Doyle’s help.”

“Have you found out any more about Collins’ death?”

“No, but with Webster’s name; I think we’ve got a new lead to deal with. We have found out that Collins had an uncle living in the US so we have contacted him and he has told us that he will be making the arrangements once the body has been made available.”

“That’s fine, but . . . well, to tell the truth, Derrick never mentioned an uncle, especially in the US so . . . well, maybe, if you don’t mind a suggestion . . .”

“Look more closely into the uncle’s background, is that what you’re going to suggest? That’s an excellent idea; things are so confused right now; I don’t think we can take anybody at face value.”

“I totally agree. By the way, Mr. Doyle has done quite a bit of research already from our Archives so you might want to talk to him; he is very observant.”

“Thank you for that suggestion as well. I really appreciate your cooperation. I’ll leave you now so that I can give Mr. Cowley a chance to chew on my tail for missing those Archives.”

Wondering where Doyle was, Bodie got up and wandered out into the corridor in front of his outer office. As he walked into the corridor, he spotted Murphy and Doyle at the far end of the hallway. He could not hear what they were saying, so Bodie assumed they were making arrangements to meet to discuss the Archives. Bodie decided to return to his office so Doyle wouldn’t think he was being spied upon.

Several minutes later, Freddie announced that Doyle was there to see him and with Bodie’s acquiescence, Doyle entered the office, looking strangely upset. “Mr. Murphy told me about this Carl Webster; what do you think that means?”

Bodie wiped his hand over his tired eyes and shook his head slightly, “I honestly don’t know, but it’s looking more and more like none of us really knew Derrick Collins at all.”

“I assume you talked to Miss Martin about Webster so she might be someone else that CI5 will want to talk to.”

“I should have thought of that when I was talking to Mr. Murphy.” Bodie sat back in his chair and smiled at Doyle, you’ve missed your calling Mr. Doyle, you would make an excellent agent or detective.”

“Thanks for the compliment, I think, but I spent my formative years in art school. Haven’t you noticed my prize-winning doodles?”

Both smiled at each other as Doyle turned to leave, but Bodie asked him to wait because he wanted to talk about something. Doyle seemed hesitant, but he sat down and waited.

“I was wondering if you would be offended if I would call you Ray instead of Mr. Doyle?

“I don’t have the right to be offended, Mr. Bodie. Go right ahead, if it pleases you.”

Bodie wasn’t happy with the answer, but he had been the one to complain about Doyle not knowing his place so he would have to take what he could get. “Is there anything else we need to deal with today?”

“I thought you might want to know about Mr. Torrence?”

“Of course, I’m glad you remembered to check on him.”

“Yes, his sister is just what he needed. She’s fixing him good food and making him rest. The company doctor has checked on him and says he is getting better but probably will be out on sick leave for several weeks, even though Mr. Torrence wants to come back next week.”

“I will contact him right away and make sure he understands that he has to follow both the doctor’s and his sister’s orders.”

“Good, that should do it. I’ll see you tomorrow, sir.”

Part IV

The name Carl Webster seemed to open up new vistas in both investigations. Clearly Webster had the where-with-all to effectively deal with Derrick Collins, and with Webster’s connection to the BodieCorp it was not beyond the realm of him being able to be involved in both the smuggling of guns to various ports of call that the corporation dealt with but he could have been a part of various schemes to embezzle money from the corporation as well.

Bodie was not sure how close a watch his father had kept on the various financial affairs that BodieCorp was involved in. Doyle had been keeping him up to date on what Inland Revenue was doing and it seemed that their in-house auditors as well as Inland Revenue agreed about the total amount of money missing and had now developed a theory that some of the money had disappeared more than three years before so certainly that fact could be another connection between Webster and Collins.

Bodie sighed as he realized that once again he had spent much of the day dealing with Derrick Collins’ impact on his business. More and more of the everyday business had to be done by Doyle, Carr, and Cresswell, who were certainly all carrying their fair share of the heavy weight that the business imposed right now. He had always got along with Carr and Cresswell since they had been Junior Vice Presidents for several years. It was Doyle that he wasn’t sure about. The man had been his Assistant for less than two months and yet he felt that he was walking on hot coals when he was around him. The man was excellent at his job, and his work in researching the Archives had really helped further both investigations, but Bodie was well aware that the three months agreement was rapidly coming to an end. Considering the really rough spots the two men had had, would Doyle wish to continue being his Assistant?

Doyle had rigidly maintained the work-only relationship that Bodie had set up. There was little of the old camaraderie and easy-atmosphere in the office. Even Freddie seemed to have erected a curtain around her feelings. Bodie’s clumsiness in blurting out derogatory statements about Doyle had not helped the whole situation and both Doyle and Freddie were obviously not totally comfortable with being around him, even though Freddie had known his failings much better than most people.

Bodie kept telling himself that once the investigations were over and successfully resolved, he would have time to re-establish his rapport with Freddie, and, hopefully, establish one with Doyle. Without really realizing it, Bodie had to acknowlege to himself that Doyle had become important to him - - in the work place only, of course.

Bodie was about ready to leave for the day when Mark Salinger, the company solicitor, walked in the door unannounced. Smiling he said quietly, “Sorry, but your watchdog is not at her post. I was just contacted by Inland Revenue and our auditors and I may have some good news. They think they may have found some of the accounts that the missing money was deposited in. They are going to start the required procedure to check out the accounts, and if we are lucky . . . very lucky, we might get some of that money back.”

“That’s really great. Of course, you won’t know how much is there, but it is a real beginning. How did they latch onto the deposit sites?”

“I’m not really sure, but I’m meeting with them tomorrow since Thomas is still out, and I thought you might like to be in on the meeting?”

“Good, let me know when you’re ready to meet, and I’ll be there. Thanks a lot for the news; I appreciate it.”

“Should be sometime in the morning. I really appreciate Mr. Doyle keeping me up to date; it really helped when Inland Revenue and the auditors came by to talk about what was going on. See you tomorrow.”

Once again Doyle was doing something that he should have been doing. Can I really handle this job?

Bodie’s doubts in himself had led to a momentous crisis in self-confidence. He had spent most of his life, telling himself that his father was wrong about him, and that he was every bit as good a businessman as Philip Bodie, but now he began to wonder. How much had Philip Bodie known about what was going on at BodieCorp? Not only was there embezzling going on, but the export portion of the business had been badly compromised, and now it seemed evident that Derrick Collins had been involved in both and that his father had brought Carl Webster on board, and it looked as if the early problems might have been at Webster’s instigation.

For one of the first times in his life, Bodie wished that his father was there so he could talk to him about what had happened while Webster was still there, but since he was not, Bodie would have to take advantage of having Freddie available to contribute her knowlege to the ever widening investigation.

Bodie looked at his desk calendar; the weeks were speeding by quickly. It had been than less than eight weeks since the abyss had opened up, resulting in Collins’ abandonment of BodieCorp and its CEO, the discovery of £5 million missing from the coffers of BodieCorp, the revelation of gun-running aboard at least one of the corporation’s ships, and worst of all the trust that had been destroyed by the discovery of Collins’ and Webster’s involvement in the successive crises which had hit BodieCorp. The only good thing that seemed to have happened was that he had met Ray Doyle, and even he might be leaving in less than a month. It took Bodie a moment to notice that he hadn’t included Derrick Collins’ death in his list of events. Was this a further mark against Bodie that he could so easily toss off lovers like that?

The inter-com device on his desk restored his attention to what was going on as he answered Miss Martin’s buzz. “Sir, a gentleman named Cesar Crawford is on the phone. He is actually looking for Mr. Doyle, but I can’t find him anywhere. I was wondering if you would talk to him.”

“Well, did you find out who he is?”

“Yes, sir, he says that he is Mr. Collins’ uncle, and Mr. Doyle had contacted him about Mr. Collins.”

Doyle has struck again. “All right, put him on and then see if you can find Mr. Doyle.”

Bodie talked to the older man for several minutes. As soon as Crawford heard that he was talking to Mr. Bodie, he became very excited. It took Bodie quite a while to finally convince him that he was the son of the man who he knew as the leader of BodieCorp, but once that was cleared up, Bodie finally understood that Doyle had contacted Crawford to establish Crawford’s bona fides as it were. Bodie was totally mystified as to why Doyle was concerned with talking to Crawford so he spent his time making sure that everything had been done with regards to Collins’ service and chosen site of interment. Bodie felt that he had stalled as long as he could when Doyle came bursting into the office, totally out of breath.

“Sorry, sir, I was doing some research and that’s why . . .”

“All right, all right, Mr. Crawford is on the line so will you please speak to him?”

Doyle took the line and quickly identified himself and then began speaking in rapid and fluent Italian . Bodie could follow none of the conversation so he pretended he was working on some documents. After five minutes or so, Doyle hung up and sat down in the chair opposite Bodie. He sat pensively for several minutes or more then looked up at Bodie and said quietly, “I think we might have found some of the missing money.”

Bodie sat there stunned, not believing that some more of the money had re-appeared. “How did that happen?”

“Once I found out that there was a relative, I contacted him. It seems that he has been holding on to some suitcases for his nephew, expecting him to return for them, but, of course, he never did.”

“How did you get in contact with this Crawford?”

“I contacted your investigators, Tyrell and Mason in the US and found out who they visited with in the US and one person was Crawford. He is an older gentleman and evidently is quite anxious to dispose of the suitcases that seem to be quite a burden for him.”

Bodie’s left eyebrow shot up, “I don’t understand why did Crawford call you?”

“Well, that was a bit of a misunderstanding. I talked to Tyrell and Mason earlier and asked them to talk to Crawford, and after what he told them about the suitcases, they decided that you should know about this right away, but when they mentioned that a Mr. Doyle had asked them to talk to him, Crawford insisted that he wanted to speak to Mr. Doyle. As soon as the authorities take control of the money so everything is totally legal, we’ll know how much money Is still missing.”

“Right, that is really good news.”

The two men smiled at each other; then suddenly stopped smiling as they realized that the atmosphere in the room had changed. Wanting to take advantage of the difference in the condition, Bodie bravely said, “Well, maybe we can breathe a short sigh of relief that at least a portion of the investigation is getting some results. Would you consider meeting at The Toreador for a meal after we get finished?”

Doyle sat there, casting his beautiful, perceptive green eyes at Bodie, seeming to hesitate. “Do you like pizza?”

“Well, as a matter of fact, I don’t. “

“Well, that’s good, ‘cause I was planning on serving spagh bol. How does that sound?”

“Are you inviting me to dinner at your place?”

“Well, I am if that doesn’t violate your non-fraternization policy.”

“I think we can overlook the policy if the reward is spagh bol. I didn’t know you could cook.”

“There are many things Mr. Bodie that I can do, but I tend to keep them behind certain barriers.”

“Now why is that?”

“Well, my background is not exactly the stuff that I spread around, but I do like to cook so I am inviting you on the condition that we do not discuss missing money or gun-running for one night.”

“It’s a deal.”

“All right, I’ll have everything ready to go by 6.30. By the way, there might be another guest; I haven’t asked her yet.”

Bodie said nothing because he found himself filled with so much jealousy that bile filled his throat. Knowing that Doyle might be seeing someone filled him with pain. He wanted to cancel his visit, but he couldn’t think of a decent excuse at the last minute.

“All right, I’ll see you at 6.30. Now let’s see what we can get done on the Donovan deal.”

Promptly at 6.30, Bodie arrived at Doyle’s small flat which was certainly not very elaborate. Bodie was vaguely surprised since he knew that Doyle had worked for some of the wealthiest men in the city; Doyle must be a very frugal man. Telling himself that he would leave soon after the meal so that he wouldn’t have to be a fifth wheel, watching Doyle entertain his other guest.

Remembering to bring some appropriate wine, Bodie knocked on the door, just as some laughter broke out behind the closed door. Within seconds after hearing the knock, the door opened and there stood Ray Doyle, dressed in a skin tight pair of jeans, an emerald green silk shirt and some boots with heels that made him the equal of Bodie in height. Bodie was stunned and felt tipsy from being too close to Doyle’s private space. Doyle seemed to use up all of the oxygen in the room, and Bodie found himself gasping as he entered the lounge, while handing over the bottle of wine.

Doyle’s smile was very alluring, and when he looked at the wine’s label, he gave a grin that caused Bodie’s heart to flip-flop. The two stared at each other for several seconds until a well-known voice said, “Good evening, Mr. Bodie.”

Bodie was already aghast at his gorgeous Executive Assistant, but when he heard Freddie’s voice, his neck whipped around to stare at Freddie Martin in total surprise. So this was the extra guest that had been invited. I should have known that he would not want to be alone with me.

“Well, Miss Martin, so you like spagh bol as well?”

“Yes, I love it. I don’t make it for myself so I really appreciated Mr. Doyle’s invitation.”

The rest of the evening went very well. The only business spoken was to make sure that Freddie set aside some time so that the two men could discuss her knowlege of the Webster-Collins relationship from the time period before William Bodie arrived.

Bodie volunteered to take Miss Martin to her home since she had come by taxi so that put an end to the possibility of the two men spending anytime alone together. As Bodie drove to his own apartment, he contemplated what he had expected from this evening. It probably eased the tension between Bodie and Doyle but he now realized that he had had a lot more hopes for this evening than what really happened. Raymond Doyle was the epitomé of the perfect Executive Assistant, and he had already made a major impact on the BodieCorp to say nothing about the impact that he had made on the CEO. The only trouble was that while Raymond Doyle was being the perfect Executive Assistant, he was maintaining the rigid distance between him and his boss that Bodie had insisted upon earlier in their relationship in a moment of total and absolute stupidity.

Bodie kept telling himself that it was his own fault, but that didn’t make him feel any better. Doyle was THE IMOVABLE OBJECT that Bodie found himself pounding his head or maybe other parts of his anatomy against.

Part V

Freddie was able to tell them very little new except that she believed that that Carl Webster’s relationship with both Philip Bodie and Derrick Collins went well beyond a work relationship. They had tried to be discreet, but Carl Webster had often times shown less discretion than the other two men. In fact, Freddie said that she wondered sometimes if Webster hadn’t used extortion to get some of the things that he wanted. Philip Bodie often seemed to depend too much on Carl Webster.

While Bodie kept seeing repeated scenes of himself in bed with Collins, who might have also had sex with his own father, Bodie felt dizzy and unable to ask any further questions, but Doyle asked, “Did you get any sense of ways that Webster had got what he wanted through possible blackmail.”

Of course, Freddie didn’t know positively, but she had always thought that Webster had got control over BodieCorp’s export business through questionable methods. When asked why, Freddie told them about James Levitt, who had been brilliant at dealing with the expanding export business. In fact, he had been the one who originally purchased The BodieQueen, but within months of Webster’s arrival, Levitt was out and Webster had control over the vast new area of export.

Bodie gave a knowing glimpse to Doyle but both men said nothing. Freddie was surprised that Webster decided to leave the company after several successful years as Senior Vice President and Philip Bodie refused to elaborate except to say that Webster wanted to explore new possibilities in the growing markets in the United States. Within a few months, Philip Bodie was dead, and Bodie knew the rest.

Doyle announced that he had a meeting scheduled with Cynthia Cresswell and James Carr to talk about some specific responsibilities that Bodie wanted them to deal with so Doyle left the meeting, but Freddie stayed behind to continue talking to Bodie.

“I’m sorry that I had to tell you these things about your father. I know that you didn’t get along with him, so I’ve always tried to not mention this sort of thing, but it could very well be that the trouble you are having today, stems from whatever happened several years ago.”

“Thank you for your loyalty, Freddie. I’m just sorry that all of this had to break out now. I must have been totally blind. You knew about me and Collins, didn’t you? I just wish I had known what was going on because it makes me look even more gullible to have believed in Collins and left him in control of so much of the company.”

“Your father made his own mistakes, but I still don’t have any proof. It’s all speculation.”

Bodie nodded in agreement, not telling Freddie what the auditors had found in the earlier books about money missing and the dealings on the export side of the business. Freddie had been very perceptive; too bad I hadn’t been the same.

The next day was a big day because Thomas Torrence was returning to his job as auditor. He now appeared relaxed and ready to involve himself further in what had been going on. There was a small celebration, welcoming his return which was still going on when Colin Murphy appeared in the cafeteria of BodieCorp.

Doyle noticed him first and motioned him into the room. Murphy joined in the festivities for a few minutes and then Doyle, Bodie, and Murphy left for the privacy of Bodie’s office.

“Sorry, I interrupted your party, but I thought you might be interested to know that CI5 has made an arrest of some of the major participants in the gun-running scheme, including Oscar Stanton, who you know is Captain of The Bodie Queen. He has already begun to talk when presented with the documentation we have. He has implicated several individuals who we hope will lead us directly to Carl Webster.”

Both Bodie and Doyle stared at the handsome man, waiting for the other shoe to drop, because it was obvious that Murphy had something even more important to tell them.

“In addition, with the help of Mr. Crawford, we were able to get into some of Derrick Collins’ safe deposit boxes and found some additional money . . . and a note, revealing how the money was embezzled and how the gun-running worked. It directly implicates Carl Webster. You have to assume Mr. Collins did not exactly trust Mr. Webster.”

Bodie nodded, “I remember that day that he said he had just returned after having been in New York. When he found out about the audit, he looked so strange. I didn’t understand it at the time. No wonder he rushed back to the US because that audit would certainly reveal that there was money missing. No wonder he told me when I took over that there wasn’t any need for an immediate audit after my father’s death because the automatically scheduled one would take care of all that. What a total moron I was.”

No one said anything for a moment, but then Doyle said quietly, “Mr. Collins might not have transferred all of his money to the US yet when he found out about the audit.”

Murphy and Bodie looked at the slender man, trying to read the message in those expressive eyes. “I’ve had several meetings with both Cynthia and James. They are the Junior Vice-Presidents here, Mr. Murphy. Between the two of them, they deal with almost every employee in the building. We did some checking and found out that while his visits weren’t logged in officially, Derrick Collins was actually in the building the three days before he officially returned. We interviewed various night personnel and a few of them remembered him being here but none of them thought anything about it because of his position.”

Bodie’s eyes sparked as he said, “So, he had access to the building for three days before he heard about the audit officially. He could have done anything he wanted. We always keep some cash available and nothing would have stopped him from getting into the accounts.”

“Thank you, Mr. Doyle. I would very much like to talk to Miss Cresswell and Mr. Carr as well as the employees who gave you information. With Mr. Collins’ note, I think we are a long way towards dealing with Mr. Webster as well.”

“What makes you think that Webster won’t try to get out of the country or just pay some rich solicitors to get him out of this mess?”

“Well, we have tried to deal with some of this. Fortunately, wire-tapping is quite prevalent in the US, and Mr. Cowley has used his influence to have Mr. Webster’s passport lifted, and I gather he’s under 24 hour surveillance.” Looking at his watch, ”And I believe with the difference in time zones that American law enforcement officials are right now serving Mr. Webster with several different arrest warrants for him as well as some of his men.”

“Do you think that they can prove that he had Derrick . . . Mr. Collins murdered?” Bodie looked embarrassed at his slip of the tongue but the other two men seemed to overlook it and went on with the discussion.

“I think that everyone has done a splendid job, given the really short amount of time that the major investigation has been happening.”

“Thank you, Mr. Doyle. You’re right that with the widespread complications and various goings-on, less than three months is a relatively short time to have already made some arrests, but, as you know, the justice system often moves a lot slower, so please don’t imagine this is the end, but it is certainly a start. I must go now. I’ll be back later.”

Bodie had said very little in the last few minutes. It was obvious to the two other men that the many facts that had been revealed in the past three months had to be very upsetting and painful to Bodie so Murphy nodded to him as he was escorted out of the office

Doyle did not return to Bodie’s office because he felt that the man needed time to be by himself. Briefly filling in Freddie on the general outline of what had happened, Doyle went to his own office and began to contemplate the end to his work for BodieCorp. When he had arrived there he had wondered if he would still be there three months later. He kept telling himself to keep this whole thing impersonal and he might last the three months. It had been difficult, but he had made it, but now he had a great deal of thinking to do about his future - - a future obviously without BodieCorp.

Doyle was so engrossed in his thoughts that he almost jumped when Bodie’s voice spoke, “How come you didn’t come back?”

For a moment Doyle contemplated prevaricating, but he didn’t, “I figured you might like some time alone after hearing what Mr. Murphy had told you so I came in here to work on the Miller file. The Miller contract could really do this company a lot of good so you need to think carefully about who you’re going to have deal with Mr. Miller.”

Bodie smiled barely holding back the affection he felt. “To tell you the truth, I was thinking that you might do a very good job, and I know you work well with Miller.”

Doyle’s eyes almost twinkled at the compliment, but he tried to make his voice both skeptical and disbelieving, “Now how would you know that?”

“Because he called me on the phone and told me how pleased he was with the initial meeting and that he was very impressed with your knowlege about his company, and hoped that you would be able to work with him in the future.”

“Why didn’t you tell me this before?”

“And swell that head even more than it is now?” Bodie’s grin took away all of the sting from the question.

“That was very kind of him, but there are other people who would do a much better job dealing with Mr. Miller.”

“Now, why would that be?”

Doyle took a deep breath and asked, “Have you forgot that we made a deal that my tenure here was three months unless there was an extension. The three months will be up next week, so I just thought you might want to get someone who will definitely be here to deal with the Miller situation.”

Bodie’s deep blue eyes became haunted with concern. “Are you saying that you’re not going to agree to an extension of your contract?”

“I’ve been thinking about my future, and I haven’t made any decisions yet. Besides, you are also a part of this so you have a lot of say so as well.”

“Well, as of this moment, I can’t think of any reason to not ask you to stay on. You . . . do like working here, don’t you? I’m sure I can get you a salary commensurate with the work you’ll be taking on.”

“Thank you, but let’s just not do anything about it yet; after all lots of things can happen between now and next Wednesday.”

Bodie nodded his agreement, but Doyle’s words upset him a great deal. It was true that the two men knew very little about each other, but what could happen in less than five days which would change Bodie’s mind about Doyle?

Part VI
Three days later, Collin Murphy walked into Bodie’s outer office and demanded to see Mr. Bodie and Mr. Doyle. Freddie was about ready to put him in his place when the handsome man winked at Freddie and melted her heart. “Of course, Mr. Murphy, I believe they are in Mr. Doyle’s office so I’ll buzz them.”

“Now ma’am, tis sure I am that I’ll be able to find me way to that place. Thank you, kindly.”

Freddie laughed as the tall agent walked out of the suite of offices and headed directly to Doyle’s. Not even bothering to knock, he burst in and announced, “We’ve wrapped it up.”

Green eyes and blue eyes stared at the maniac who had just barged in but said nothing.

“Didn’t you hear me? We’ve wrapped it up. Stanton cracked and gave us everything about Webster and Collins’ involvement in the gun-running aboard The Bodie Queen, and Inland Revenue has worked with the US authorities to come up with most of the money, AND MOST IMPORTANT, we found a witness who is can place Webster in the location of where the murder took place.

Both Bodie and Doyle stood up and moved to where Murphy was standing. After several minutes of pumping each other’s hands, Bodie felt his heart plummet as Doyle, Mr.-No-Touch-Doyle briefly hugged the handsome agent’s body, saying at the same time, “What great news. You and CI5 deserve a lot of credit.”

In a much less exuberant tone of voice, Bodie quickly said, “Doyle’s right, please give Mr. Cowley our compliments and thanks.”

Murphy and Doyle were still standing next to each other as Murphy broke out in a smile, “Don’t you worry, you’ll get to do that yourselves. Mr. Cowley plans to come by tomorrow and give you the complete details about the whole thing.” And then in a horrendous Irish brogue, Murphy said, “Tis a vain man; I’ll be thinking.”

Laughter filled the office as the three men contemplated “the vain man” himself, George Cowley.

Hours later Bodie and Doyle sat in a small booth that had been reserved for them at an expensive restaurant named La Chance. Their meal had been everything an expensive restaurant should be able to serve, but William Bodie had spent very little time in eating his food. Instead, he had spent every precious moment staring at Doyle.

Finally, the most glorious green eyes in the entire country looked at him penetratingly as Doyle asked, “Why did you choose such an expensive place to eat? I could have fixed us some spagh bol.”

“I wanted us to celebrate; I know it’s not over yet what with all the trials that still have to take place plus having to deal with the money stashed away in various accounts, but I didn’t want us celebratin’ and you have to go out to the kitchen to check on the sauce or something.”

Doyle’s eyes lit up at the thoughtfulness. “That was very kind of you, but who knows what is going to happen? Apparently, Webster has beat raps before so it might be a very long time before anything is finally resolved.”

“Well, with Mr. Cowley’s reputation for hiring only the best; I’m bettin’ that he won’t let anything go wrong and everything will be wrapped up in just a few months.”

“I didn’t know you were such an optimist, Mr. Bodie.”

“Could you possibly call me Bodie tonight, Mr. Doyle?”

“All right, for tonight I’m Ray and you’re Bodie, and we’re celebrating your optimism.”

It was Tuesday morning, and, as usual, Bodie stood in front of the mirror in his luxurious bathroom. He remembered all the years that the only facilities that were available was a hole in the ground, or a primitive loo that was not much more than a hole in a board, and now he had all this. Just a few short weeks ago, it had looked as if WAP Bodie and BodieCorp were going to come tumbling down caught in the net that was dragging him closer and closer to criminal charges at the very least and years of gaol time more likely.

He had been by himself most of his life; sex had been a device that he used to manipulate but not to gain intimacy and affection from any individual, and yet now . . . now, he was actually thinking of going out beyond the walls that he had constructed with such dedication. What had caused this change in attitude? Bodie, above all, was a realist. He could answer his own question in two words: Ray Doyle. Just having dinner with the man the night before had made him feel so different.

In his almost 32 years, he could honestly say that he had never trusted anyone, and he certainly had never expected anyone to believe in him. Bodie couldn’t commit to anyone or anything, but becoming the CEO of BodieCorp had been the first step in building a new foundation for his life. Being responsible for hundreds of personnel, and more than million pound business had made him see himself in a different light.

Remembering how Derrick Collins entered the bathroom some three months before and putting his arm around Bodie’s trim waist had been an illusion; he knew that now. He had gone through three months of hell, oh not the hell of the Congo prison, but an abyss into which Derrick Collins had helped drop him, but he had come out the other side with a very special knowlege in his possession. He knew now that he needed someone; someone that he would ask tomorrow to sign a major extension to his contract so that he would remain at Bodie’s side for years to come.

Bodie told himself every day that he was so glad that he had not settled for just sex with Doyle. In fact, he wasn’t even sure that they were friends. Doyle had kept rigidly to his word that he was only interested in the job, but now that the pressure of the missing money and gun-running had successfully been dealt with, maybe the two men could begin to break down the barriers which had held them apart.

Almost humming, Bodie quickly dressed because he wanted to get to the office before Doyle did. He had some work on Doyle’s new contract to do before the true work day began. Tomorrow Doyle would sign the new freshly-printed contract, and they could begin a new relationship, not blemished by Philip Bodie or Derrick Collins.

Bodie had left the door open to his office so he knew when Freddie arrived, but he continued working because, for some reason, the contract was taking longer than he had expected. Suddenly, there was a buzz on the intercom which disorientated Bodie for several seconds. Finally, Bodie responded, “Yes, Freddie.”

“Mr. Cowley of CI5 is here, Mr. Bodie. He would like to see you for a moment.”

“Send him in.”

Courtesy demanded that Bodie open the door and be waiting for the older man. Bodie was surprised to see Murphy heading out of the exterior office while Cowley approached him.

“Getting an early start, sir?”

“Och, yes. Seems like that’s all I do. Actually I have several meetings for today, but I wanted to come by and speak briefly with you about all that’s happened.

After both men were sitting, enjoying fresh tea that Freddie had brought in, Cowley broke the silence with, “I want you to know how pleased I am with the results of our investigations. As you probably figured out, there was a great deal of conjecture about how far you were involved in what was going on. I was glad to find out that you were totally uninvolved, but we had to know. Agent Murphy has been most complimentary about your cooperation in this unfortunate situation. You and Mr. Doyle were most cooperative and helpful. Indeed, Mr. . . . Doyle helped with his research and certainly showed us that CI5 was not thorough enough, but now that’s basically all over. Thanks to Mr. Collins’ minute and detailed records we even have the serial numbers of the money that disappeared. It seems that Mr. Webster knew the names of some of the banks where the money was stored, but he couldn’t get his hands on the rest because Collins had taken the precaution of hiding it with his uncle.”

“If Webster was such a wealthy man; why did he have Collins’ killed? You’d think he would have just written it off.

“Webster is wealthy but Collins made him look like a fool by getting away with most of the money. I think it was more of a lesson to anyone else who thought about trying the same thing. Well, I won’t take up anymore of your time. Of course, we will continue to update you as we proceed to deal with the money still deposited in various banks, but Collins’ records are most thorough so that should help us a great deal. We will keep you fully informed. Thank you very much and I certainly hope that the next time we meet won’t be under similar circumstances.”

Bodie escorted the Controller of CI5 to the door, murmuring appropriate responses. After he closed the door, however, Bodie suddenly felt depressed. The last three months had been horrible, but there had also been some very good moments. Looking around, as if he forgot where he was, Bodie’s mind turned to the question that was plaguing his mind, Where is Ray? Surely he can’t be with Murphy; why hasn’t he come here so we can discuss Cowley’s visit.

Without really thinking about why, Bodie walked over to his office window and looked down at the small garden that had been constructed by his father to accommodate the various personnel who liked to eat their lunches in the open air when it was warm enough. Immediately, he recognized the two figures standing facing each other. There was no sign of Cowley but clearly Doyle and Murphy had not finished discussing business. About to turn away, Bodie eyes opened wide as he saw the two men hug each other with a great deal of enthusiasm. They looked so comfortable together that it made Bodie hurt inside to see the affection they obviously shared.

Closing his deep blue eyes, Bodie felt a headache coming on, like he had not had for many years. Bodie went over and collapsed on the overstuffed sofa in his office. He tried to analyze what he had seen even though thinking about what he had seen, merely aggravated his headache. Were they lovers? How long had they been so close? How could I have been so blind? Does Cowley know?

Bodie forced his mind to go absolutely blank. After several minutes, he finally realized that he had to be honest with himself. He had been the one who had set the rules: no personal involvement between boss and Executive Assistant. How could he now blame Doyle if he had managed to find someone whom he wanted to be with? After all, he kept telling himself that he didn’t need anyone one, but the corporation does need Doyle, so I’ll still ask him tomorrow to extend his contract. Our working relationship can survive this; we don’t even have to be friends. After all, he even said that all he wanted was to come to work and do his job, and that’s fine by me.

Part VII
A little more than three months before, Raymond Doyle had walked into the main office of BodieCorp, not really sure what his expectations were, but he had to get the job, no doubt about that. After overcoming that hurdle, Doyle had been extraordinarily successful in resolving many of the problems and questions that faced BodieCorp, but, perhaps, the most important thing that had occurred was that Doyle had become convinced that William Bodie was not involved in the missing money or the gun-running. As quickly as Doyle had determined Bodie’s innocence, he began to work to clear, not only BodieCorps’ reputation, but Bodie’s as well.

And now it was the last day of the three month agreement that Doyle had proposed. He suspected that Bodie would suggest, at least, an extension of the proposal, but Doyle knew without a doubt that today would be the last day of the relationship which had only been hanging by a thread since he had arrived at BodieCorp.

When Doyle arrived at his office, he rapidly began boxing up the few items that he had brought with him. Luckily he did not have much to take so that he could depart the place without much difficulty, even if his departure created a heart-rending pain throughout his body.

Doyle had always been a man who faced the difficult first. During his younger years, he had never had the luxury of having easier times so facing the difficult had been a necessity of survival. He tried to never put off what had to be faced, and that was never truer than the forthcoming meeting with Bodie. True to his expectations, Doyle’s intercom began to buzz with a vehemence that sent an obvious message to Doyle.

“Yes, sir?”

“Would you please come into my office, Mr. Doyle?”

“Of course,” but Doyle continued to stare at the receiver for several seconds after hearing Bodie call him so formally. Closing his eyes for a moment, and rubbing the narrow bridge of his nose, Doyle knew that he could no longer avoid what was to be.

Walking into Bodie’s office after winking carefully at Freddie, Doyle was not cognizant of how alluring he looked in a new grey suit that he had worn expressly for the occasion. He would certainly never have the need to wear this suit ever again.

“You wanted to see me, sir?”

“I’m sure that you realize that this is the last day of the three month-agreement I have had an extension to that contract made up, and I was wondering if you would like to sign it?”

Doyle reached over and picked up the contract and read it carefully. It was certainly a fair, in fact, overgenerous document which included a mind-blowing salary as well as other benefits that anyone would really appreciate. Doyle stared at the various sheets of paper, trying to stall for time, but finally he gently replaced the contract on Bodie’s desk, and said in a firm but quiet voice, “It certainly is a fair contract and most generous of you, but I cannot accept it.”

Although Bodie was an expert at hiding his thoughts and emotions, Doyle could see him grinding his teeth and trying to cover up his dismay. After a few seconds, Bodie asked with tightly gripped lips, “Could you tell me why you have refused? Is it something I have done?”

Doyle shook his head, his curls wiggling slightly. “It’s not your fault at all, Mr. Bodie. It is definitely my fault. I must move on, and it’s for the best that I do so right away and not space this out.”

When Bodie was angry, he often became extremely cold in his delivery, and in the next few words, his voice was almost polar, striking back at the hurt that filled his body. “Is it because of your lover, Mr. Murphy?”

Doyle immediately sat up straight in his chair and stared at Bodie with his mouth open. “What are you talking about? What makes you think that Murph and I are lovers? What have we ever done to give you that impression?” Doyle stopped abruptly, realizing that he was only making it worse.

By using the diminutive of Murphy’s name, Doyle had unconsciously revealed his closeness to the agent. If Bodie needed proof of his suspicions, he thought he had it now. “You didn’t answer my question, Mr. Doyle. Bluster is not a response. Are YOU refusing my offer because Mr. Murphy is your lover?”

Doyle stood up and walked around the room several times without saying anything, but it was obvious that he was trying to come to a decision. Bodie felt his heart beating rapidly as he expected to hear the answer which would badly dent his plans for the future.

Suddenly, Doyle whirled around and stared at Bodie as if a light bulb had been turned on, “You saw us in the garden yesterday, didn’t you? You saw me . . . hugging Murph.” Doyle dropped his head to his chest, canting his hips into a stance so provocative that Bodie couldn’t help but stand up, stare at the glorious satyr and try to surreptitiously adjust himself.

“Yes, I did, but that doesn’t mean a thing. I still want you to be my Executive Assistant. We work well together, and I think we can really do a lot to get this corporation through the next several months.”

Doyle raised his chin up so that he could stare directly at Bodie’s eyes. “Thank you for believing in my capabilities, but it won’t work, sir.”

Bodie studied the man’s beautiful face, only now noticing the damage below Doyle’s right eye which seemed to give his eyes a slightly oval contour. Bodie only whispered one word, “Why?”

By this time Bodie was standing only a few inches from Doyle so it was easy for Doyle to feel Bodie’s warm breath cross his face. “It will never work, because, Mr. Bodie, I already have another job, waiting for me.”

Bodie stood there stupefied - - what . . . the man hadn’t even waited for Bodie to offer the new contract; he had gone out and looked for a different position?

“So, you couldn’t wait, you . . . you bastard. Who did you sell me out for? Whose bed are you jumping into now - - what’s Murphy going to think of that?”

Doyle took a slight step backward because he could feel the heat from Bodie’s rage, but he refused to back down. “No, Mr. Bodie, it’s nothing like that. I worked for CI5 before I came to work for you. I was assigned by Mr. George Cowley to, let us just say, investigate and keep an eye on what was going on. Mr. Murphy is . . .”

Doyle never got the rest out as a brutal right cross slammed into Doyle’s left jaw, and the second punch with his equally powerful left hand seemed to catch the man where the lump was under the eye. The one-two combination which Doyle was definitely not expecting sent him to the floor of the office. Slightly groggy, Doyle looked up at Bodie but had trouble seeing as his right eye and left jaw had taken most of the impact.

“Get out, right now, you bastard. You really are good. I’ll bet you were laughing like crazy when I told you that you would make a great investigator after all the things you discovered in your research. Get up and get out before I throw you out, and if I ever see you again, you’ll find out what I would really like to do to you, do you understand?”

Bodie was breathing hard, his face beet red, his anger barely held in check. He could hear a roaring sound in his head and the desire to hurt the man in front of him seemed to consume Bodie. It took all of his control to stop himself from launching his body at the smaller man. Doyle slowly got up and began to stagger towards the door. By the time he reached the door, he was upright and steady, but as he opened the door, Freddie came running into the opening trying to find out what all the noise was. Doyle kept going, without looking at the older woman.

Freddie stared at Bodie whose right hand knuckles were bleeding and began to open her mouth to ask what had happened, but seeing the look in the haunted blue eyes; Freddie stepped back from the rage and left the office.

Bodie continued to walk around his office, not really realizing what he was doing. It took several minutes for him to feel the pain in his hands as the right fist continued to pump blow after blow into his left palm. His mind kept repeating as if in a video loop, ‘Damn him, damn him, damn him’.

Although he never said a word aloud, his mind was overwhelmed with the thought, I believed in him. After saying this simple phrase over and over, Bodie finally collapsed on the sofa of his office, too traumatized to do anything else. And though his mind was no longer functioning adequately, Bodie knew that he would have to resort to liquor soon to wipe out the aching pain which completely filled his body.

CI5 . . . CI5, and that blasted Cowley. I wonder if THE CONTROLLER knows what Doyle is doing behind his back. Suddenly, Bodie felt nauseous and virtually had to run to the loo attached to his office.

Freddie decided to follow Doyle into his office so that she could find out what was going on. Maybe one of the morons who ran this company could explain why the Executive Assistant looked like he had just had his lights punched out by the CEO of the corporation.

Walking across the hall, Freddie very lightly tapped on the door, but there was no response. Pounding harder, Freddie finally gave up and tested the door knob. It opened with well-oiled precision to a state of total chaos. Doyle was throwing certain items into a box, while quickly going onto the next shelf or drawer to be searched.

Freddie took her life into her hands and asked very carefully, “Is there something I can help you with, Mr. Doyle.”

Doyle barely acknowledged her, but he drew a breath and said, “I want you to take that box with all of those documents and put it in a safe place. I don’t want HIM, accusing me of stealing.”

Freddie couldn’t comprehend what Doyle was talking about, but it was apparent that a very bad rift had occurred between Bodie and Doyle. Bodie must have found out the truth. Reaching for the box, Freddie merely nodded and started to walk out the door, when they heard Bodie’s voice on the intercom. A voice which was filled with venom saying ,”Miss Martin, could you please come to my office, you are not to have any dealings with . . . that person starting immediately, do you understand?”

Freddie automatically nodded. She knew this day would come but had never expected this.

Raymond Doyle left BodieCorp with no fanfare whatsoever. In fact, it was more like he was a leper with his small bell, ringing to warn the denizens of the giant company to hide themselves while the lowlife went through. Doyle refused to think about anything or anyone. He had known this might happen, and he had taken the chance. Now he was going to have to pay for it. As he shifted gears to get out of the parking area, he forced himself to focus only on his driving, the moisture in his green eyes a mere result of the pollen in the air.

Inside the building, WAP Bodie was taking his revenge on everything that he saw, including anything that Doyle might have touched during those three months. The office and the whole building might have eventually looked like the Second Siege of the Vandals on London, if Bodie had not launched a particularly fragile glass filled with scotch at the white wall across from his desk. When the glass and amber liquid splattered all over the wall and surrounding area, Bodie seemed to realize what he was doing. He stood there staring at his stupidity, pulled himself together and buzzed for Freddie.

The older woman practically seemed to be running into the office, almost out of breath, as she said, “Yes, sir.”

Looking around the badly smeared wall, Bodie calmly sat back down in his luxurious chair and said, “Miss Martin, I think that we’ve had a small mishap in here, could you arrange to have it cleaned up?”

Part VIII

Bodie had often thought that his father was the most difficult man in the world to trust, but then he had only been around him for 14 years before Bodie had walked out, so he could be wrong because Raymond Doyle easily seemed to be able to compete with his father in the realm of BETRAYAL.

Why hadn’t Doyle just kept his mouth shut? If he had not mentioned CI5, Bodie would have never found out, about his treachery. He just could have said his farewell and Bodie would have figured that Doyle didn’t want to be around Bodie. Why did he tell me about CI5? Oh hell, I don’t give a crap about him so I’ll find someone else who can do the job better - - A LOT BETTER. Maybe that Miss Sinclair is available now?

He reminded himself to have Freddie contact Miss Sinclair. That was the surest way to get past this fiasco - - a gorgeous blond who was intelligent, and had experience in handling the difficult job of dealing with various parts of a big corporation like this one, was just what BodieCorp needed. Bodie breathed in deeply, already feeling better.

The next several hours were quite peaceful. Bodie was pleased that he had only thought of Doyle two or three thousand times, and that glorious body another ten thousand times or so. He was just about ready to head home when like a bolt of lightning, George Cowley, burst into the office with Miss Martin, sauntering in after him.

Cowley’s beet red face stared into Bodie’s across the desk brazenly putting both hands on Bodie’s desk, he asked in a voice that had broken many men when faced with a Cowley interrogation. “Where is my agent, Ray Doyle?”

Bodie stared at Cowley as if he had just escaped from some asylum. “Do you really expect Doyle to be here after his betrayal? I have already promised to throw him from the top floor, so why would he be here?”

Cowley stood up straight, trying to catch his breath. “Are you trying to tell me that Raymond Doyle did not come here after breaking into my office and throwing his gun and badge at me, followed by a ten minute rant about what he thinks of me? And if that wasn’t enough, in order to make sure I understood, he threw a carefully typed resignation letter onto my desk.”

Bodie could barely keep himself from smirking but the snarl he gave Cowley made it perfectly obvious that Bodie was pleased to hear that Cowley got what he deserved. In an extremely polite voice he muttered, “Now why do you think I would care what Mr. Doyle did; HE’S YOUR BOY, isn’t he? He’s certainly NOT mine. Now I suggest you leave immediately and go look for him in some other place.”

Although Cowley stood above Bodie’s seated position, it was quite evident that Bodie had held his own, so Cowley decided to leave while his dignity was still intact.

Cowley stopped at the door; his back to Bodie when he heard the younger man practically shout, “And keep Murphy out of this building; if I ever see him again, I plan to cut off his shaggy bangs somewhere around his knees, IF YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN?”

George Cowley said nothing as he exited the office, but a very small smile appeared on his lips, Well, maybe things went better than I originally thought, but I wonder what Murphy has done? George Cowley walked out of the office with a faint limp and a wink for Frederica Martin.

The next few days did not go very well. More and more information was available with regards to Webster and the gun-running, but Bodie was pretty much kept out of the loop. On the other hand, Bodie was subjected to numerous calls from individuals in and out of the company who JUST HAD to talk to Mr. Doyle. Bodie almost dropped his teeth when he heard that Gregory Jenkins, Mr.-I –own-2 –per-cent –of-the-business, was calling to interrogate Bodie about why he had been such an idiot to let that young man go who knew more about the business than anyone else? Mr. Bodie could definitely look forward to a deep probing investigation of what was going on.

Bodie sighed; his head ached, his back ached, and mostly his heart ached. Pressing the buzzer, Bodie asked,” Miss Martin, did you find out anything more about Miss Sinclair?”

Freddie hesitated for a few seconds and then said, “I have been informed, sir, that she is quite happy in her new position.”

Bodie grimaced, just briefly responding, “All right, let’s start the process again for an Executive Assistant, and be sure you get all women this time”

“Yes, sir.”

Bodie continued to work later and later in the evening; he had interviewed numerous potential assistants, but there was always something wrong. Of course, Bodie could have told them right away what was wrong with them: they didn’t have the most glorious bum in the UK, their eyes were washed out, not effervescent green, they didn’t have smiles that practically dragged a person to their bed, they weren’t sex on two legs, and most of all THEY WEREN’T DOYLE. What was he going to do?

He had not seen Doyle in over a week and it felt like half of his body had been chopped away. If he didn’t take action soon, there would be a revolution at BodieCorp with Gregory Jenkins leading the crowd.

Going home slightly earlier than usual, Bodie walked into the cold and dreary apartment and poured more than a splash of Scotch into a glass. Trying to focus on the almost empty bottle Bodie couldn’t figure out why it was so empty, after all, he had just opened it the other night. He worked late everyday so he knew that he wasn’t putting a lot of time in at the apartment; it didn’t make sense, but then Bodie looked at the mirror, hanging above his small bar. There was a man he didn’t recognize - - a man who looked disheveled, tired, and most of all inebriated. This can’t be right. I’m not drinking much, at least, not like I did in Africa. He had gone on several benders while in Africa and the shortest one had been four days so he knew that he couldn’t be drunk.

Well, what are you then, you idiot? You don’t have to start crawling on your knees and throwing up to prove you’re sozzled. Unfortunately, that is exactly what Bodie did next in his bathroom so he had complete verification in his supposition.

After several minutes cleaning the porcelain, Bodie made his way to his bed, stripped, and fell into it in a prone position. He seldom lay on his stomach since several of his bed partners questioned him about the long thin knife wound on his left shoulder blade. Bodie immediately shut down and refused to answer intimate, personal questions about his past. Those kinds of questions were usually the death knell of that particular relationship. His feelings about his past as a merc and with the Army were his business, and he didn’t want anyone trespassing on what he had seen and done in his younger years.

After a few minutes, Bodie got up and showered, feeling about two steps below the primordial ooze, but he was getting there. He did not consider himself a coward, but he knew at this moment, that he was not feeling very brave. He was avoiding the inevitable, but a 10-man firing squad would have been a lot easier to take than what he had to do now.

He heard his chiming clock in the next room and couldn’t believe it when it only rang nine times. There must be some mistake, but finding his watch, he realized he had come home earlier than usual so now what was he going to do? He certainly couldn’t just lie in bed. Cursing himself for something, he really couldn’t remember what, he got dressed casually in some tan cords and a dark green polo. Brushing his hair, he grabbed a leather jacket and headed out to the one place where he might find some answers.

By the time he got to The Upper and the Lower, Bodie felt a bit better. Afraid his head would explode on him; he took it slower than usual and chose to stay away from the bar until the man he was looking for appeared. It didn’t take long to find him. After all, the man stood at least six foot six; reminding him of a skyscraper among miniatures. Slowing moving to his side, Bodie said in a confident voice, “Mr. Murphy, could I buy you a drink?”

Murphy’s eyes were like two glaciers concealing most of what he thought, but not all of it. “I don’t want anything from you, Mr. Bodie except for you to drop dead.”

Bodie stood there staring at the man who held the key to Doyle. How had Murphy got Doyle in his bed? “I’m only here to ask one question, well, maybe two and then I’ll leave. Where is Ray Doyle?”

Murphy got a look on his face as he stared at Bodie that seemed to say he was looking at a maggot that had been chewing on some carrion. “Next question?”

“Are you good to him?”

Clearly thrown by that question, Murphy hesitated before he answered. Why would a man who thought Doyle had betrayed him have any reason to want to know if Murphy had been treating him well? Maybe there was more to this than Murphy originally thought. “Of course, I was. After all he saved my life lots of times. It would be stupid to treat him badly.”

“How long have you two been together?”

“Six years. Ray is very important to me, but why should I tell you anything after what you did and said to Doyle?”

“I’m glad you’re close and will take care of him. I have no right to ask if you love him. I believe he’s had some tough times in his life.”

“You’re damn right about that; if you only knew what his life was like when he was younger, but I don’t see him that often now that he’s left CI5, but I’m still his friend so don’t worry, I’ll be there if he needs me.”

“Wait a minute. If you’re his lover, why won’t you see him all the time?”

“Lover? Where did you get that from? We were partners at CI5, and I’m proud to call him my friend.

“I saw the two of you hugging and I just figured . . .”

“Well you just figured wrong. What did Ray tell you about our relationship?”

“Well, I kind of lost my temper after I found out that he worked for CI5, and I didn’t give him much chance to explain.”

“I know, you just socked him in the jaw. I wanted to come and tear you apart for that, but he wouldn’t let me. He hardly said anything when he came back from the op, and the next thing I know, he’s in seeing Cowley and then out the door like he’s being chased by two tonnes of ugly.”

“You mean he didn’t like workin’ for CI5?”

Murphy’s eyes took on a wary look as he said, “I didn’t say that; I think he liked it enough. It’s tough for a man to stay out on the streets for over six years. Dating is almost impossible. That’s why married men don’t stay on the A Squad. Ray was the best and Cowley knew it. I just think Cowley used him once too often.”

“Cowley dropped by and let me know that he wanted Doyle back.”

“I’m not surprised. Ray was his number one man, but if you want to know anymore, ask Cowley or better yet, ask Doyle if he’ll talk to you.”

Bodie took a step backward, “I’m not interested in talking to Doyle; it’s just that I wanted to be sure that he was all right and that there was someone who would be there for him.”

“Doyle’s a tough, hard man who can take care of himself. He’s had to since he was 14, but he is also one of the gentlest men I have ever met, interested in justice and saving lives. You’re damn lucky you got to meet him, and you ought to be glad he was the one sent undercover. “

Bodie stepped back two steps, suddenly seeing Doyle through Murphy’s eyes. Without another word, Bodie walked out of the pub.

As Bodie continued walking towards his own apartment, his mind was focused on the fact that he had failed to find out Doyle’s whereabouts. If Doyle had cut himself off from his CI5 connections then what was he doing? By the time that he had walked to his apartment, he had decided to forget the whole thing. Doyle had betrayed him; Bodie was just thankful that he had never had that body in his bed because he had known a time and a place when a betrayal like Doyle’s would have resulted in instant death.

Bodie lay supine between the sweat-soaked sheets, fearing to close his eyes again. The last time he had done so his unspoken dream of making love to Ray Doyle had created a wild set of images which turned into a nightmare, which always resulted in him slashing out Doyle’s heart at the moment of climax. He woke shivering and sweat-soaked. It had been the way he had once lived many thousands of miles from England, and he had tried to convince himself that he had foresworn that lifestyle when he had returned to England, but was it true? He had killed many men while fighting different wars in different countries, but the faint copper-smell of blood was almost impossible to ignore. It wafted over him now, even in this clean, sterile luxury condo that he called home. Sometimes it was a taste, sometimes a flashing vision, but usually it was sound that triggered a past moment into his nice safe world and forced him to live another moment of such horror and inhumanity that it totally gutted him and left him as a shuddering, drained hulk.

Derrick had told him once when he had had one of those moments while they were in bed that it had scared the hell out of him so Bodie quite coldly and decisively decided that they would not sleep the night through anymore. They would have sex and then Derrick would depart. Bodie lay there and in his mind’s eye saw Derrick’s reaction. Perhaps that was the beginning of the turbulent times for their relationship. Bodie was living a sterile life with a man in his bed, only when he wanted. Derrick had pretended to be upset that Bodie didn’t want him all night, but Bodie could see the relief that dwelt in his eyes, but frankly he didn’t care anymore about Derrick’s reaction. His nightmares were his own problem, and it disturbed him that Derrick had even had a part in it. This was the very essence of his fear. Derrick knew Bodie’s weakness, and that momentary break in the wall couldn’t be tolerated. Well, he would never have to be concerned about that with Doyle; Doyle was gone, and Bodie just had to get on with life.

Part IX
BodieCorp had been very lucky. With the gun-running debacle halted CI5 was suddenly out of his life, and the Inland Revenue had receded into the background as the details were worked out about payment of the late fees on the millions of pounds which had been embezzled. BodieCorp was weakened, but it wasn’t wobbling over the abyss of bankruptcy anymore. Careful surveillance by the auditors and the government promised to sort out the company without further chaos. So the corporation was semi-healthy, but the CEO was not.

The next stage of the intertwined crises was set on the legal stage. The charges, gun-running and embezzlement as well as murder became the property of various legal authorities. Bodie barely knew for many weeks what was actually going on so BodieCorps just got on with the everyday business of the giant corporation which was the way the CEO wanted it, but Freddie could see the change in him and finally, one day voiced her concern.

After signatures had been affixed to numerous documents, Freddie carefully lifted the documents to further deal with them, and then put them down, leaning over to look Bodie directly in the face and asked, “Do you want to talk about it?”

Bodie’s usual neutral look immediately replaced his exhausted expression as his cold blue eyes looked back at her, “I don’t have anything to talk about. Have you heard something from Torrence or the US that I should know about?”

“Why didn’t you hire a new Executive Assistant; I can’t really do the job and it’s putting too much burden on you. You’re totally exhausted; you’re working more than 60 hours a week, trying to keep us afloat. You need help; you need Mr. Doyle, and you know it.”

Suddenly, Freddie shivered as she saw the light in the deep blue eyes turn colder than she had ever seen them. They had never looked at her that way before. In that moment before disaster hit, a brief thought crossed her mind, So that’s how he’s handling the loss of Doyle - - don’t think about him.

Unconsciously, Bodie’s left eyebrow shot up and in a voice so polar that it seemed to make the whole room turn frigid, Bodie quietly said, “Miss Martin, I do not need your advice on how to run this company, and since I have already asked you not to mention that gentleman, I can only assume that you are not prepared to enforce my policies at this time.”

Freddie knew that Bodie had thrown down the gauntlet. She had worked for BodieCorp for many years under both father and son. They were both difficult men, ruthless and hard, but she had totally misread the younger Bodie because she now realized what the loss of Doyle had done to Bodie, but she had crossed the bridge and so she had to go forward.

“Mr. Bodie, I’m sorry I have upset you. You are absolutely correct; I am unprepared to enforce the policy of ignoring Mr. Doyle and wiping him out of your life. You need him and since you won’t take my advice, I will tender my written resignation to you by the end of the day.” Without saying anything further, Frederica Martin turned and walked to the door and then fled the room before she could completely fall apart.

The resignation ended the tenure of Frederica Martin as Bodie’s confidante and assistant, even though neither person involved had originally wanted it. The lessons learned from the fiasco were different for each participant: Freddie learned that she had been right that Bodie’s feelings for Doyle had gone much deeper than she had ever suspected and that his so-called ‘betrayal’ had wounded Bodie so badly that the only way he could hold himself together was by plastering another layer of barrier to his already formidable defenses.

Bodie’s lesson, on the other hand, was much more simplified - - Freddie’s stand just proved that anybody could betray him even the person he thought was most loyal to him. It was now completely obvious to him that he could believe in no one - - absolutely no one.

The whole dismal saga might have ended at that point except for one gnawing comment that continued to eat at Bodie’s conscience, and the very real efforts, being done on both sides of the Atlantic to prosecute the individuals in the various cases involving BodieCorp.

The legal side of the situation had been taken out of Bodie’s hands; he could do nothing but wait until all the evidence was in place and the myriad of trials were ready to begin, but the other problem which was gnawing at Bodie’s vitals could be dealt with by him, but would mean contacting Murphy once again. He had not wanted to see Murphy the first time because he had thought he was Doyle’s lover, but now knowing better, Bodie kept remembering a phrase that Murphy had used that Bodie had been damned lucky to have had Doyle as the undercover agent. What did he mean by that? William Andrew Philip Bodie didn’t want any reason at all to owe anything to that treacherous bastard, Raymond Doyle.

Bodie had gone to the usual places, including The Upper and The Lower, but he had not found Murphy. He was frankly bored and didn’t understand why he was doing this; he had just returned from the loo when he stopped almost running into another patron. Standing in the doorway of the comfortable pub were two men that everyone seemed to be staring at. The differences of length of hair, height, coloring and build played well in putting the two men together. Both were good looking, healthy young men who any woman . . . or man would be immediately attracted to, but it was the satyr with green eyes who Bodie was drawn to. He could barely breathe after not having seen Doyle for several weeks. Bodie could barely make himself walk across the open space towards the door; he sincerely hoped that his legs held out and he didn’t make a greater fool of himself than he already had.

As Bodie approached, both men noticed him. Murphy tried to persuade Doyle to get away from Bodie, but Doyle stayed his ground. As the slightly younger man approached, Doyle looked up at him with those penetrating eyes and said quite calmly, “I heard you were looking for me?”

Bodie looked up at Murphy with a message that obviously read, Thought you didn’ t know where he was? Clearing his throat Bodie’s attempt at the tough guy technique failed miserably under the siren gaze of Raymond Doyle. “I just wanted to know . . . I hadn’t heard if you were . . . I can see now that you . . .” Without another word, Bodie turned and walked out of the pub.

Thomas Torrence sat directly across from William Bodie in the heart modern workday London, but he felt as if he had just gone 15 rounds with Torquemada or one of his acolytes. Less than three months ago BodieCorp had looked like it was on the ropes with both its financial dealings and its export side being investigated. Now just a few short weeks later, the business seemed to be doing very well and most of the credit went to the man sitting across from him. The young man of 32 had moulded himself into a CEO who had fought for his corporation after a devastating betrayal from the former Senior Vice President. Even Torrence did not know all the truth, but he knew most of the financial side, and while he admired the younger man who had worked so hard, Torrence knew that something was wrong, still seriously wrong, not necessarily with the corporation but with Bodie himself.

Torrence was not the only person in the upper echelon who knew that problems still lurked for the corporation, but Thomas Torrence was able to put a name . . . well, really three names to the foundations that had, until recently, held the giant corporation in place: WAP Bodie, Frederica Martin, and Raymond Doyle.

Freddie had been with the corporation the longest and probably knew more about the inner workings that anybody; Bodie who had gone from a boy to a man in less than two and a half years, and finally, but maybe the most important, Ray Doyle who had barely survived three months of employment, but who had been the structure upon which everyone and everything coalesced. While Torrence had been ill during much of Doyle’s tenure, he had heard from Freddie and others the large part that Doyle had played in the crisis months that had almost seen the business leveled by murder and numerous others crimes, but BodieCorp was still here, only WAP Bodie of the great triumvirate remained to lead it.

People talked about Freddie all the time; she still had lunch and dinners with many of the staff of the vast network of personnel that toiled from day to day, Just her name brought a new vitality into the business, but no one . . . no one mentioned Ray Doyle, and while Torrence suspected much, he knew very little about why Ray Doyle really left.

Torrence continued to let his mind wander as Bodie went over and over every detail of the new audit that was coming out. Therefore, he almost fell out of his chair when, after two grueling days of review, he heard Bodie finally say, “Looks good, Thomas. I’m glad we’re on top of what’s going on.”

Feeling his heart expand with pride, Thomas’ small smile lit his face as he stood up with a giant weight lifted off him. William Bodie was pleased with the audit that would be submitted per regulation for inspection. “Thank you, Mr. Bodie, a lot of very tired people have worked very hard on this document. When you present it to Inland Revenue and all the rest, I hope they are as pleased as well.

Thomas Torrence exited the office with the smile still stuck on his face until he saw the giant of a man standing in front of the temporary replacement of the temporary replacement, etc. for Freddie. No one could replace Freddie so they decided to wing it for a while. Torrence heard himself mutter, “Mr. Murphy?”

Colin Murphy whirled around and smiled as he recognized Torrence. His Irish charm still upfront but slightly dimmed since he was not trying to con Torrence into doing something for him. “Tommy, good to see you, and how would you be this fine day?”

“Very well, BodieCorp is just about ready to file its audit so now I can relax for a while.”

“Excellent, this charming lass has just been tellin’ me that your boss is busy, and since I don’t have an appointment, I can’t be seein’ him, but since I can clearly see him (through the open door that Torrence had not closed), I was wondering if . . .”

The line of sight was mutual since Bodie could clearly see Murphy as well. Bodie wasn’t exactly surprised to see Murphy; after all it had only been last night that he had walked out on the former partners at The Upper and The Lower. Bodie grimaced to himself but decided that he might as well get this over with so he said, in a commanding voice, “Come in, Mr. Murphy; I’ve got five minutes I can spare.”

Murphy gave a major smirk to Torrence as if telling the older man, I’m sure I believe that, and headed towards his confrontation with Bodie.

As soon as Murphy entered the office and closed the door, the twinkle and humour left his body totally. He walked up to Bodie’s desk, standing all six foot six inches of him in as much of Bodie’s space as possible and waited.

“What is it you want, Mr. Murphy; I told you I can only give you five minutes.”

Murphy’s CI5 reflexes which had been honed to deal with men like this arrogant bastard, enabled the tall man to suddenly be nose to nose with William Bodie. “I don’t need much time to tell you that if you ever treat Ray Doyle like you did last night; you’ll deal with me before you take too many more breaths.”

“Are you threatening me?”

Suddenly, Murphy’s soft Irish lilt became more pronounced as it often did when he became agitated, “I’ll not be threatening you ‘cause you aren’t worth me time to threaten. Ray Doyle is worth a hundred of your sort. Do you know where you would be right now if Doyle hadn’t intervened on your behalf? GAOL, that’s where me boyo, so thank your stars that Doyle is the man he is and believed you to be innocent. He’s havin’ a hard enough time carryin’ the burdens of his own self-made guilt to have to shoulder your childish behavior as well. Now I’ll be leavin’; I just wanted you to know how lucky you are, and to make it plain to you what I think of you as an ungrateful sod, whose name doesn’t deserve to even be said in the same sentence with Doyle’s.”

With those words, Murphy turned and headed towards the door, but Bodie saw his opportunity because this was exactly the question that he wanted answered and only Murphy could answer it so he decided to take a suicidal step, “He betrayed me; why should I be grateful to him?”

Bodie could see Murphy stiffen and slowly, very slowly turn around. The handsome Irishman’s brown eyes were frigid, his muscular body poised to strike if Bodie said or did anything more to malign Ray Doyle. “You’ll never learn, will you, MR. BODIE?”

“And tell me, MR. MURPHY, what is it that I NEED to learn?”

Murphy stopped in his approach towards the desk (which allowed Bodie to breathe again) but the animosity that he radiated was on the very cusp of violence. Murphy had also been trained very well by George Cowley as Bodie quickly came to realize as he saw the tall, muscular man coil his power into himself and take a breath. “When George Cowley came to see you that first time, he was preparin’ to put you in gaol. He believed that you and your lover were both part of the gun-running racket and he wanted to arrest you, but he held off, putting Ray in place as his undercover agent to gather more evidence against you. It was Ray, who convinced him you were innocent; that you weren’t involved. It was Ray who worked night and day to investigate what had really gone on while you had been blind to the workings of your own corporation, and IT WAS RAY, who would not climb into your bed, even though Cowley had given him leave to do so as part of the operation, but Doyle refused so there would be no question of entrapment. He wanted the investigation to be clean with no weaknesses which could be used by the defense. You owe him a great deal, Mr. Bodie; he didn’t betray you. HE DID HIS JOB.”

“Well he might have done his job, but I should have been told that he was a CI5 agent doing undercover work.”

“And how did you find out who Doyle really was?”

“He told me . . . of course.” Bodie stopped there realizing once again that Doyle really could have walked away from BodieCorp without Bodie even knowing that he was CI5.

“And why would you be thinkin’ that Doyle bothered to tell you?”

“I assumed that Cowley ordered him to do so before he left my employment.”

Murphy smiled an all-knowing-smile. “You certainly don’t know George Cowley very well, do you, but no that is certainly NOT CI5 policy. Ray Doyle is one of the most honest, caring men in the world. He believes in what he’s doing. Did you know that he was a copper before CI5? He turned in some high important people ‘cause he caught them doin’ some pretty bad things, and he was ostracized by his fellow police for it. George Cowley hired him to be part of CI5, and now he’s given it up. Now why do you suppose he’d be doin that? You think he betrayed them cruds in the Met? Did he betray George Cowley? Figure it out for yourself, Bodie.”

Bodie felt his oxygen being sucked from him, as it had done one time in Africa when his scuba gear had been defective. What was Murphy trying to tell him? He saw Murphy heading for the door and made one more attempt to understand these past few minutes. “You want him for yourself, don’t you?”

Once again Murphy stood absolutely still and slowly turned as if he was trying to think of something to say, but what he came out with was totally devastating.

The brown eyes looked into blue, “Aye, I freely admit that I love the lad, and so would any man of our persuasion want that body in his bed, but it’s not me that Ray is seeing.” With that bombshell, Murphy left Bodie’s office.

Bodie sat staring into space for several minutes. His mind was filled with so much turmoil; it felt like the images conveyed through Murphy’s words were all trying to be played at the same time. How could he know which ones were to be trusted? How could he know which ones to believe?

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Part X

Ray Doyle tried to wipe some of the grease and dirt caked on his hands after a very long day. He loved working with the Norton that was now in pieces. He didn’t have a separate flat; he didn’t have his own car; he didn’t have an adequate paying job like CI5, but he did have a place to stay ‘cause his boss let him bed down in the back of the motorcycle shop where he worked. He didn’t have a car, but he had his Norton (when he got it put back together again), and he did have some money. Little did Ray Doyle think when he was younger that his love of motorcycles might become the mainstay of his income, but working for the Met and then CI5 had hardly been the blockbuster moneymakers that would have left him on easy street so he had taken the job working on motorcycles that his friend Pete had offered to him, and now he was glad he did. He felt truly independent for the first time.

When he was 14, he left home or it left him and since the time that he had entered art school, the Met, and then CI5, he had always felt obligated to be under someone’s control, but now he could come and go as HE decided. He hadn’t wanted to do the undercover job at BodieCorp, and it had cost him everything, including the loss of the good opinion of William Bodie. When he had left BodieCorp that day, he knew what it had cost him to deceive people in various undercover ops wasn’t something he wanted to do anymore so his time as Executive Assistant had become the breaking point. He didn’t feel badly about doing his job; that’s what he had done most of his life, but the guilt he felt about deceiving Bodie was truly the final straw. Working with motorcycles was a tonic to his battered soul.

When he had seen Bodie’s reaction to him at The Upper and The Lower, Doyle knew that he would never regain the respect nor Bodie’s belief in him ever again, so he had made up his mind; stay a few months, working for Pete and then he would be on his way and Bodie would soon become just another notch in his list of a lifetime of failures.

Doyle’s slender body was exhausted. It wasn’t the same type of feeling that he got from a day on the streets working for CI5 and certainly nobody was trying to kill him; this was honest hands-on work that Doyle, at age 35, knew he would probably do the rest of his life so he better lower his expectations and get on with making money so his plans to leave the London area could be accomplished as soon as possible.

Miles away, Bodie was also deep in analysis of what had occurred over the last several months. For most of his life, he had blamed his father for many of his decisions - - decisions which had really messed up his life, but nowhere in those years had he ever messed up his life so badly as in those few short months when BodieCorps was being banged from one crisis to the next. He told himself that he was so blind-sided with saving his company that he was now naturally suspicious of everyone. Hadn’t it been his recent bed partner who had struck the deepest wound? Of course it was, but Bodie was also honest enough to admit that the wound that Derrick Collins had thrust so deeply had barely scraped the core of the man named Bodie. Collins had hurt his corporation, but Derrick’s betrayal had not truly hurt Bodie. How could it be that Doyle’s betrayal had personally penetrated to such a depth after only three months? Doyle had been far more devastating in his treachery than Collins who had been his lover for over two years, but why was this true? Bodie feared the answer even more than the question.

Day seemed to follow day and temporary assistants followed one another and yet the corporation continued to run. Bodie’s body seemed to be running on automatic with the fearful events of murder, gun-running and betrayal still filling the back of his mind. Then one day, the temporary secretary announced that George Cowley wanted to see Bodie. Bodie felt like shouting that he did not want to see the man who had so much to do with saving his company and destroying his personal contentment.

“Send him in, Miss . . . James.”

George Cowley walked in, holding a thick folder. He stood near the desk, looking dignified but not as confident as usual. “Mr. Bodie, thank you for seeing me; I want you to know that the investigations have been completed and the trials, both here and in America, will begin in a few weeks. You will probably be called to testify. I have brought all the files that were kept by any of the agents while the investigations were being conducted. I believe that that concludes our need to visit BodieCorp for any reason. I am sincerely glad that you were not involved.”

Placing the folder on Bodie’s desk, Cowley turned to leave when Bodie said, “Are you indeed? You automatically assumed I was guilty; you planted an operative to spy on me, and you and your agents made me and my company miserable for three months. You were ready to arrest me, weren’t you? I’d hardly call that sort of behaviour an example of being unbiased and being glad that I wasn’t involved.”

Cowley turned to face Bodie, deep blue eyes staring at clear blue eyes. “If you are speaking about placing an agent in this office to try and determine what really happened, I will admit to doing that, but I do not feel guilty in choosing that method to determine the truth. I was doing my job, just as Mr. Doyle was doing his. You should be grateful that Mr. Doyle was such an excellent agent; he found many of the items that helped clear you and your company, and, for your information, he believed that you were innocent almost from the beginning; don’t forget that, when you berate him for all the other things that he did as part of his job.”

Bodie sat speechless for a few seconds; then he asked in a whisper of uncertainty, “Tell me Mr. Cowley, what would you have done if I hadn’t selected Mr. Doyle as my Executive Assistant; how would you have got your agent on the inside then?”

For a moment, Cowley seemed to hesitate then he said in a ringing tone that had terrified many a guilty person, “There would have been no problem at all, Mr. Bodie because your other candidate, Miss Sinclair, is a CI5 agent as well. Good afternoon, Mr. Bodie.” Cowley turned and walked out the door.

Part XI

Bodie looked at himself in the mirror as he was shaving. It was like a replay of the events of several months ago, only there was no Derrick to sneak into his apartment; there was no Derrick to provide sex in bed, and there was no Derrick to steal from him, run guns under the Bodie label or betray him. At one time Bodie had placed more value on trusting a person than any other personal quality, but then came the dark days when he trod the paths of the unknown in Africa, Jordan and many other places and discovered that trust and loyalty were hard to find commodities. That’s why Bodie had made the concrete commitment to trust no one and live a life dependent on himself without the need of others.

The recent events with Derrick Collins had hardened this resolve even more; hadn’t his own father betrayed him? The day he had walked out on the wealth that his father had always provided had not seemed necessary to the 14 year old Bodie. He had run away and ended up in hell, and even then he had not chosen to return to his father. It was not that he preferred to be in the clutches of some of the most sadistic and inhuman individuals that he had ever encountered, but, at least, he was making his own decisions, even the really stupid ones. Betrayal was so usual in the various areas where the leader had committed his small band of mercs to whatever side was paying the most allowed Bodie to pile his cynicism on cynicism. Nobody could be trusted as he so rapidly found out after playing his first “game”.

Bodie finally took his fate into his own hands, deciding that the money earned wasn’t worth what it had cost him. And then his father dropped dead. He still remembered the day that he had received the message which had turned his world upside down. He did not think that anyone knew where he was, but he should have known that Freddie would. Freddie . . . why had she put up with him? Without her BodieCorp would have collapsed within six months of Bodie’s arrival at the London office. Why had she put up, not only with him, but his father as well? As far as Bodie knew, she had never walked out on his father, but why then did she walk out on the younger Bodie?

Suddenly, Bodie was tired . . . in fact, he was beyond tired. He hadn’t taken a break in over two years; and with all that had been going on, he was now both emotionally and physically exhausted, but who would take over while he was on vacation? He had made himself indispensable . . . at least, he thought he had, but what was the use of having both Jamison Carr and Cynthia Cresswell as Vice Presidents, if they couldn’t do the job?

Rubbing the bridge of his nose, he felt a pounding in his head that he hadn’t truly felt since that hellhole in Africa. He wanted . . . what was it he wanted? Did he want to be free of the responsibilities of BodieCorp? That was like a dream that always disappeared as he tried to grasp for it. Is that why Philip Bodie had left the controlling interest in his vast corporation to the son he hated? Philip Bodie must have known that trouble was coming; that Webster and others were destroying the business. Hell, he probably even had a hand in the trouble on his own. Was this my father’s true revenge - - attach the anchor of the BodieCorp around my neck until it literally strangles me?

Well old man, you aren’t going to destroy me. I’ve made a lot of mistakes, but I don’t have to go on making them.

Later that evening, Bodie wandered into The Upper and The Lower. He knew that he was going to have to eat crow, but all his plans depended on one person, and he came here to find that person. Ordering a beer, Bodie found a table and waited and waited. Finally, the tall Irishman entered the pub and headed to the bar. After getting his drink, Murphy turned around looking for the person he expected to be here, but he quickly spotted Bodie and decided to ignore the man. Bodie, however, got up and walked over to meet the handsome agent face to face.

“What are you doing here; I thought you would never want to see this face again?”

“Where’s Doyle?”

“Why should I tell you?”

“I just want to talk to him, nothing else.”

“I don’t care what you want; I’m Doyle’s friend and if he wanted you to know where he was, he would contact you.”

“All right, I’ll admit that I made a mistake, but I can’t tell him that if I can’t see him.”

“Okay, I’ll tell Doyle you want to see him but he’ll have to make the decision. I don’t know why he would, but he plans to leave town in a few months so if you don’t hear from him then you’ll know he’s made his decision.”

“Whaaat? When’s he leavin’?”

“I don’t know, but to tell you the truth, I’m not sure I would tell you even if I knew. You’ve hurt him enough. Now, I’d appreciate having my drink by myself.”

Bodie gave the taller man a cold look and left the pub. He couldn’t really blame Murphy for his attitude. The truth of the matter was that Bodie suspected that Murphy’s love for Doyle could easily be bordering on a lot more. Well, don’t worry, Murphy; I’m no competition for you. In fact, I’m probably just one step above Doyle’s most hated enemy right now.

Bodie was prepared to wait a few days and then resort to hiring a private investigator to find the former CI5 agent, if he had to, but the very next evening as he was working in his office, he heard a light knock on his door. Looking up he saw the bewitching figure of Ray Doyle, standing there. From that moment William Bodie knew what a satyr looked like. In fact, Bodie would have sold his soul to have that siren in his bed and in his future, but he knew that he had burnt a lot of his bridges and that the path to having Doyle in his future would more likely result in a lot of disappointment and unhappiness.

Doyle took one step into the office since Bodie had said nothing. Doyle was dressed in the tightest jeans that Bodie had ever seen. They looked painted on but the burgundy shirt and the leather jacket completed a portrait that was so delicious that Bodie wanted to consume Doyle, who was totally unaware of how much he lured Bodie with no effort at all.

Realizing that he was looking like a stage-struck fool, Bodie forced himself to find his tongue which had slipped down his throat and said, “Yes, thank you for coming.” (That really sounded sophisticated, you idiot)

Doyle continued to stand there, waiting for some intelligence from Bodie, when the phone rang. Bodie intended to ignore it for fear that Doyle would suddenly disappear, but Doyle’s face broke out in a grin as he said, “Maybe you better answer that; I won’t disappear.”

Keeping his eyes focused on the glorious creature, Bodie waved Doyle to a seat and picked up the receiver. Although he tried to make intelligent conversation, it was the slouched figure across from him that drew Bodie’s attention. Bodie had heard about a deity named Priapus but had never exactly understood the reference until he looked at the groin area of his former Executive Assistant. Bodie finally understood the term, priapic monster. Oh to be on the receiving end of that.

As Bodie continued his conversation, he continued to watch Doyle as visions fast forwarded through his mind. By the time Bodie hung up, he had finally realized what he truly wanted from Doyle was not just his beautiful body but his friendship, his respect, his love, and most of all that Doyle would believe in him.

“Why did you want to see me?”

Doyle’s almost wooden voice brought Bodie back to reality. His deep blue eyes focused on Doyle for a few seconds before he was able to respond. “I want to apologize for what I said to you. I had no right to hit you, and I have no excuse but I felt so betrayed that I had to lash out at you. I’m sure you know about my background. It wasn’t easy to face another betrayal.”

“I’ve had to do a lot of betraying in my life. For some reason I seem to be very good at undercover work. It hasn’t been easy, but I guess my work has always come first.”

“Why did you leave CI5?”

Doyle quickly stood up, saying in an icy voice, “That’s my business, Mr. Bodie. If that’s all, I have to go. Thank you for the apology.” The lack of emotion in Doyle’s voice told Bodie that this had been a mistake. For Doyle to come to Bodie’s office, was shoving the incident in Doyle’s face. If Bodie only knew where Doyle lived or worked.

Realizing that Doyle was intending to leave, Bodie stood up quickly, reached out his arm as if beseeching Doyle as he said, “Please, Mr. Doyle, I didn’t mean it that way. I was hoping . . . well, I was hoping that you would be able to forgive me, and maybe . . . maybe.”

Doyle turned part way, canting his hip in that provocative way and waiting. Bodie knew that he was making a mess of this whole thing but Doyle was too important to lose so instead of continuing his longstanding reticence Bodie decided that he would tell the truth and hope for the best. “I was wondering if you would like to go out for supper . . . or something. I would like us to try to be friends, if you can stomach being around me after all that I’ve done.”

Doyle stared at him for several seconds then asked, “What do you want from me, Mr. Bodie? I know damn well that I betrayed you so why would you want to be my friend after I did that?”

“You did your job, but more important you helped save my company. You were supposed to be investigating me, but you believed in me, at least, that’s what Cowley said. You didn’t have to do that and I want you to know how I appreciate it.”

Bodie could see Doyle stiffen as he mentioned Cowley’s name; his eyes turning even greener as rage filled his slender body. “So, that’s what this is all about. Well, your gratitude is NOT necessary, MR. BODIE. I did my job, nothing more. You are now free from any obligation after that heartrending apology.”

Once again Bodie could feel Doyle withdrawing so he shouted out, “Murphy said that you were planning to leave the London area?”

Doyle turned quickly making his curls quiver to assess the reason that Bodie had thrown those words at him, “What’s that to you? What do you care if I leave? I figure in a few months I’ll have enough to go somewhere and start my own shop, IF YOU MUST KNOW.”

“I . . . I don’t want you to go.”

Doyle stood there, not quite sure what to do. No one . . . absolutely no one in his 35 years had ever said that to him. With his father it had always been the opposite until that awful night when the larger man had slammed his slender son against the wall of their decaying flat and shattered his jaw for good measure. The last thing that Doyle remembered of that episode was his father’s curse that he wished Doyle had never been born.

In a strangled voice, Doyle managed to gasp out, “Why not?”

Silence filled the expensive but practical office as the two men stared at each other; then Bodie said, “Because I need you.”

Doyle walked up to the desk, trying to study the features of the younger man. Was Bodie telling the truth or was this just one more scam that Doyle was being subjected to? He felt like he was standing on the edge of the trap that Bodie had just set for him, but his resistance was very low at this point so he decided to take a step to the very edge of the abyss, “Why do you need me? You’ve got your company on track, you’re wealthy, and you’re lucky enough to have employees who admire and respect you. What more do you want?”

Bodie licked his lips and then whispered, “You.”

Doyle went rigid; anger surged through him, he felt like slugging Bodie just as the other man had hit him, but instead he said with a sneer on his face, “Oh, so that’s it; you want me in your bed as entertainment; should have known. You had Collins for sex and now it’s Doyle? Well, no thanks.”

“Do you hate me so much?”

Doyle seemed staggered by the question. He had refused to let himself analyze his feelings about Bodie because he feared what he would discover about how he felt, but he definitely knew that he did not hate Bodie, but what did he feel for this enigmatic man? Sighing, Doyle turned to face Bodie face to face, “I do not hate you, Mr. Bodie. Perhaps, if I let myself, I could care for you, but that’s a losing proposition. You’re a wealthy man who is the head of an important corporation; me, I’m just an ex-copper who worked for CI5. I’ll leave in three months and that’s all there will be. I know that Collins’ betrayal must have been bitter. Well, I’m not Collins, but I don’t want to ever see you look at me like you looked when you realized what Collins had done. You’re a good man, William Bodie. You’ll find someone you can trust.”

“I already have; I just didn’t know it. You told me you were CI5 when you didn’t have to. Give me a chance to prove to you that we can be friends . . . I need that so much. Just give me a chance.”

Now Doyle was really was stymied. What was he going to do? He wanted to be part of Bodie’s life, but what would it cost them both in the end? “All right, Mr. Bodie; we’ve got three months before I leave; let’s see what happens.”

Bodie gave Doyle a smile that caused the ex-copper’s stomach to do flip-flops. Bodie decided to take a giant leap, “That’s great and I know just how to start those three months.”

Suspicion entered Doyle’s eyes as he asked warily, “And what would that be?”

“You call me, Bodie, and I’ll call you whatever you want.”

“Bodie? Why would you want to be called by just your surname?”

“Cause I hate my other names, especially the way my father would say, ‘ WILLIAM, come here boy’ or ‘WILLIAM ANDREW, what have you done now?’ I began to hate my names before I was six years old so after I ran away, I only used Bodie.”

Doyle nodded as if he completely understood the animosity and humiliation that Bodie had felt. “At least, he didn’t shatter your cheek in a drunken rage.”

Although Bodie was talking to Doyle when he said, “I was tall for my age; I don’t know why I didn’t retaliate.” He had thought that same thing a thousand times over the years.

“Are you saying that you understand why I got beat up since I was such a scrawny little fellow?”

Bodie immediately began to deny that as his intention when he noticed the gleam in Doyle’s eyes and realized that he was teasing him. “I think you turned out really well physically; I can’t imagine that you could do anything to deserve being injured so badly.”

A deep wariness came into Doyle’s eyes as he studied Bodie as if he was trying to decide if he could tell Bodie something that he had kept private from so many people. Finally, he took a deep breath as he said, “Well, it was pretty easy to become a target of a bigot who was born hating homosexuals.”

Bodie wrinkled his forehead in a frown as he asked, “You mean that he thought you were a homosexual and he beat you up for that?”

“Oh, he didn’t just think; he knew. When I was 14 he found me and my best friend together when he came home early one day. I don’t remember much after that except the pain and then him being arrested.” Doyle stood staring at Bodie, wondering what was going through Bodie’s mind. “Guess this makes you think twice, doesn’t it?”

“Yeah, I guess it does.” (Doyle’s heart began to beat painfully) “Up ‘til now I always thought that my old man was the biggest bastard in the country, but I think your dad had him beat by a mile. Is your dad still alive?”

“Nah, he died of the DT’s or something several years ago.”

Bodie smiled mischieviously, “Good, ‘cause I would have hated to go to gaol just for killing a scumbag like that.”

With those words, the panic in Doyle’s heart settled down into feeling comfortable with another emotion entirely. Since Doyle had been standing for quite a bit of time, he decided he better get going because he definitely didn’t want to wear out his welcome. “I’ve got to get going. I’ve got a bike that I want to finish tonight.”

“Wait, you didn’t tell me where you’re living or even where you’re working. How can I get in touch with you?”

“Well, you can always go to The Upper and The Lower and ask Murph. He seems to hang around there a lot.”

Bodie’s eyes contained a new emotion - - fear. Was Murphy still in this picture? “I don’t think Mr. Murphy likes me much; he might not tell me if I ask him.”

“Murph’s all right, but he always a mother hen. He’s always been that way. All right, I’ll tell you what I’ll do. I’ll contact you. Just let your secretary out there know that you’ll accept my calls or I can leave a message if you’re busy.”

Doyle studied Bodie carefully, hoping that that would satisfy Bodie for a while. Doyle badly wanted to know what had happened to Freddie, but he figured that this might not be the time to open a new Pandora’s Box.

“I guess that will have to do; how about we go to supper tonight; I’ll even pay. What do you like? I know you like some Italian but what else?”

“I can’t do it tonight; I told you I have a bike to finish, but I’ll eat most anything except lima bean casserole; can’t stand those little suckers.”

“Me neither. Okay then, let’s plan on tomorrow night. Can you meet me here after work and we’ll go do Thai food or something?”

“Okay, I’ll try; otherwise I’ll phone and let you know.” With that Doyle nodded his head and left quickly as if he were afraid to stay any longer.

Bodie continued to stand and stare into space for several minutes; then he shook his head as he realized that Doyle had won the skirmish hands down without having to fire a shot. Wiggling those gorgeous hips of his had levelled every barrier that Bodie had ever erected. It would only be much later that Bodie would remember Doyle’s words about Murphy and how the younger man had always been a mother hen. Just how important was Murphy to Doyle?

Part XII

The next evening after devouring Pad Woonsen and Pad Thai to their hearts content, the men decided to go to a pub and have a drink. Bodie was quite happy when Doyle did not choose The Upper and The Lower because quite frankly Murphy had become his bugaboo in his relationship with Doyle. Somewhere, in something that Doyle had said was a hint that had floated to the back of Bodie’s mind. It was going to bother him a great deal, if he couldn’t figure out what it was. He was sure that it had something to do with Murphy but what could it be?

Bodie was also bothered by Doyle’s reticence in telling Bodie about his work or even where he lived. Thinking about what Doyle had said, he decided to begin a search of bike shops, but considering there were hundreds of these in the Greater London area, Bodie didn’t expect to have any success right away. Obviously Doyle’s level of trust wasn’t to be taken for granted yet. Bodie was going to have to tread carefully and build up that trust. Bodie had to admit that after the number of betrayals he had endured in his life, believing in someone again, was not easy, and Bodie suspected that the same could be said for Doyle.

The next several weeks passed with several suppers taking place at various restaurants that both men favoured. Bodie even talked Doyle into coming to his apartment where he provided a catered affair which impressed both men, but Doyle was still silent about his workplace and housing.

Bodie spent several evenings trying to find the bike shop that Doyle worked for, but even with call after call, he had not had any luck. He told himself that he should hire a private detective since he couldn’t spend enough time looking for the mysterious shop, but he knew that if Doyle found out, he would be upset and that might alienate him so badly that Doyle would walk out on their barely blooming relationship. Bodie had actually circled a date three months on as sort of a target date that Doyle might be thinking about leaving. Sometimes Bodie thought their friendship (if one could call it that) was hanging on by a thread. He had to do something to keep Doyle in London, but what could he do?

Finally, Bodie decided he would take the indirect approach and see if he could find out some of the things that Doyle was interested in, maybe they could build a bridge that way. Bodie sent one of the many minions of BodieCorp who was also interested in bikes out to gather information. The more he knew about bikes the more he could talk to Doyle about one of his favourite topics. Spreading brochures and booklets around, Bodie hoped that Doyle would notice them since he was meeting Bodie for one of their get-togethers. Suspicion crossed Doyle’s handsome face as he entered the office, so he asked Bodie about them.

Bodie looked at him innocently, “I used to ride a lot when I was younger, but what with being in Africa and other places, I kind of got out of the habit. I thought I’d look at these booklets, and, well you know, check out the rating of the bikes and then maybe go out and look around.”

Doyle smiled at him, giving Bodie one of those smiles that made Bodie’s heart beat faster. “Hmm, why didn’t you ask me? I’ve mentioned working on bikes enough. I’ve even got a Norton that’s in pieces now, but it won’t be long and I’ll be riding it.”

“You’ve got a Norton? I don’t think you’ve ever mentioned a specific brand of bike. How do you rate them against other bikes?”

“You know when I was a copper I saw a Harley that I told Sid that I was going to own one day. It hasn’t happened yet, but if my shop is a big success maybe I can afford a Harley, but right now I think a Norton is a good bike, but it kind of depends on what you want it for?”

“You sound like a real expert. Maybe you could tutor me on what to buy. It’s been a very long time, and I’m kind of rusty.” Although Bodie was managing a basic conversation, his thoughts were totally focused on who Sid was.

Doyle grinned, “Were you a General when you were in the Army, Bodie?”

Bodie laughed, “You know damn well I wasn’t. I was a Sergeant, but why would you ask me that?”

Doyle winked and smiled again, “Well the way that you are maneuvering me, I figured that you must be way up there in rank, ‘cause you sure are an expert at strategy and tactics.”

“Are you hinting that I have an ulterior motive in wanting to look at bikes?”

Now Doyle’s eyes glowed with a teasing look that Bodie had never seen before, “I’m not just hinting; I’m coming right out and saying it, “Talk about the salesman’s product and you’re one step closer to getting him into bed.”

Bodie turned pale, as he stuttered out, “You . . . you don’t really think that’s why I’m doing this, do you? I just thought that riding bikes might be an activity we could do together.”

“Oh, so THAT’S THE KIND OF ACTIVITY you want to do together? Glad you told me; guess I was reading you wrong. Sorry.”

Bodie began to squint his eyes as he tried to focus on Doyle with a sinister look which didn’t exactly succeed, “You know damn well that I’ve never made a secret of what kind of activities I want to do with you, but I want us to be friends first so I’m willing . . . to wait.”

“Willing to wait . . . for what?”

“For you to give me the word that you’d like there to be an ‘us’ in our relationship.”

“Hmmm, that’s an awful lot to hope for in just three months. Maybe you ought to lower your expectations.”

“Are you going to show me your Norton or not?”

“You won’t expect this to be a trade-off where I’ll show you mine, if you show me yours, will you?”

“I don’t have one, Doyle.”

“Oh really, now that is a major announcement that must have disappointed a lot of people, especially some birds.”

With those words, Doyle stood up and took off towards the office door, but Bodie, exhibiting a speed not often seen in the CEO of a major corporation, caught Doyle before he could open the door. Bodie trapped the slim man by putting his arms on both sides of him but not touching him. Doyle turned to look at Bodie, a strange look in his eyes. Licking his cupid’s bow lips, Doyle stared up at the slightly taller man and whispered, “What are you going to do now, big fella?”

Suddenly, Bodie stepped back as he realized how close to the abyss he really was. Licking his own lips, Bodie said, “Nothing you don’t want me to do, but you have to pay a forfeit for teasing me like you’ve been doin’.”

Doyle looked up at him with his glorious green eyes and asked, “And what would the forfeit be?”

“You have to make me some of that spag bol that you do so well.”

Doyle’s head dropped to his chest. In a tiny voice, he whispered, “I . . . I don’t have a kitchen where I live.”

Bodie smiled leaning close to the fresh smelling curls and said, “That’s all right; you cook and I’ll pick up the supplies. How’s that?”

“That’s not fair; you’re always payin’. I can afford to pay for the food, you know?”

“I know, but this is a share and share alike friendship and I insist on doing my share.”

“What kinds of things do you prepare for a meal?”

“My specialty is Swiss Roll à la mode.”

“You serve Swiss roll with mud on top? I think I’ll skip that.”

“Not mud, you cretin. Ice cream!!! Are you sure you can cook anything but spag bol?”

“I make wonderful granola in the morning.”

“Well, let’s hope I get to taste some of that one of these days, but right now, let’s get going so I can get the provisions we need.” Bodie reluctantly withdrew his arms from both sides of Doyle, forcing himself to move away from Doyle’s personal space.

“I’ll make a list so that you won’t mess this up.”

“I have a brilliant memory; I don’t need a list.”

“Why haven’t I seen this brilliant memory before? Why have you been hiding it?”

“I only bring it out on special occasions, is why.”

“Hmmmm, I can hardly wait for you to bring it out.”

Bodie looked deeply into the green orbs, wondering why Doyle was being so provocative when usually he maintained a rigid impersonal demeanour as if afraid to provoke Bodie into crossing the line that they had so clearly drawn.

Bodie looked at Doyle leeringly, “If you don’t stop that, I might bring out more than you bargained for.”

“Are we going to go shopping for the makings of spag bol or are you going to continue to brag about your so-called assets?”

“All right, all right, let’s go find some food; think I’ll buy a Swiss roll as well. I’m in the mood for some of my specialty.”

“Don’t think that will be possible; it hasn’t rained in weeks, o maestro chef.”

As Bodie opened the door to let Doyle out, he whispered in his ear, “Just for that, you get to wash up as well.”

As Doyle walked through the door, he let out a little squeak as he very clearly felt a pinch to his bum.

Part XIII

Several days later the two men were lounging in Bodie’s luxurious apartment after gorging themselves on so many items from the menu of a nearby Chinese restaurant that it looked like the entire Chinese nation had been invited to the spread. Bodie lay back slouched on the sofa trying to remove his belt which was inhibiting his breathing while Doyle lay in a supine position on one of the large sofas that decorated Bodie’s lounge. Both men looked like beached whales. Finally, Doyle made an effort to gasp, “I think you ordered too much food.”

“I kept thinking of all the starving Chinese that my teacher used to tell me and I went overboard.”

“How did ordering all that food help the starving in China?”

“Didn’t, I was kind of hungry so I sort of lost control and went a bit overboard.”

“A bit overboard? Considering that you ate more than half of the goodies provided as well as THE SWISS ROLL THAT DEVOURED HALF OF LONDON, I would say that you better not go down to the beach ‘cause all the beached whales will be aggressively envious of you.”

“Well, just because you got that fast metabolism that allows you to gorge yourself and not show it, doesn’t mean that you didn’t uphold your half of the eating.”

“That reminds me; I have to get going soon.”

“Do you think the bus will allow you to get on; don’t they publish their weight limitations?”

“Ha! Ha! I really do have to go; Murph and I are driving north tomorrow. I’m hoping to find a place that I can turn into a small shop without having to completely squander my hard earned savings.”

Bodie’s humour and good feeling suddenly disappeared as he heard Doyle’s words. Why was Murphy going with Doyle?

Biting his lip so that he would not say what he wanted to, Bodie controlled himself and with as little emotion as possible, Bodie asked, “I thought you weren’t even close to having enough money?”

“I sold a really great bike and Pete rewarded me with a commission that’s helped a lot. Maybe I can make my goal. Besides, Murphy said he’ll help.”

Bodie quickly sat up even though his stomach was still aching, blurting out, “Whatta ya mean Murphy is going to help? I didn’t know CI5 paid that much?”

Carefully, Doyle sat up and looked sheepishly at Bodie, “I guess I forgot to tell you; Murphy is thinking of submitting his resignation and using his savings to help with the shop. You know we both come from the Derby area so we thought we’d look there first.” Murph wants to go look around our old stomping grounds. Not Derby exactly, but somewhere around there. I don’t know though; might be too expensive.”

“Too bad; might find more, nearer to London.

“Yeah, especially since I haven’t lived there for almost twenty years so it doesn’t really feel like home. Still watch their football club, but that’s about it.”

“You root for Derby County? Weren’t they relegated to the Third Division not too long ago?”

“What are you trying to say? After all even Chelsea was relegated to the Third Division so it can happen to anybody.”

“I hope nobody I know spots you as a Derby County fan. For Heaven’s sake, I knew you were stubborn, but don’t ever wear that logo of theirs or I won’t be able to show my face around London.”

“You’re so funny. I think I will make my departure now. After making so many meals for you, my poor hands are rough and red; I won’t be able to work on any bikes for weeks, if this keeps up.”

“I’ll buy you some fairy liquid, my dear, mistreated chef. How about we go to a match this weekend? I know a few guys who can get us some tickets.”

“Are you going deaf, too? Murph and I are driving to Derby where we plan to scout out buildings and then maybe we will catch a match.”

“Okay, if you prefer to see a Third Division match rather than the big boys; that’s your decision.”

“Thanks for the invitation, but I’m running out of time; can’t wait until the last moment, there’s so much to do and we have a lot to get organized.”

Bodie watched Doyle head for the door. “Let me know if I can help in any way.”

Doyle gave Bodie a beguiling smile as he said, “Thanks,” and then left the apartment.

Bodie stood staring for several seconds and then swept the remaining boxes of food across the apartment’s furniture and carpet.

Part XIV

The days passed quickly and while the two men saw more and more of each other, the image of Colin Murphy always seemed to come between them. It really grated on Bodie that Murphy knew where Doyle lived and worked; would Doyle never be able to trust Bodie?

Happily, Doyle reported that he and Murphy were unable to find a shop that they could purchase so the hunt was still on and Bodie decided to drop more blatant hints about looking for a shop a little closer to the London area, instead of the Derby area. If he could keep Doyle nearby maybe their relationship still had a chance.

Bodie was happy; he wasn’t sure exactly why but it obviously had something to do with Doyle. For the first time in several weeks, he was going to have Doyle all to himself. Doyle had told him that Murphy was going to be out of town and so they could spend the whole two days together. The deadline of three months was coming very soon, and he definitely wanted to get some things settled. He had rehearsed and rehearsed what he was going to say, but now that the time was mere weeks away, he felt as if a band of 500,000 butterflies was in his stomach doing maneuvres.

Doyle had brought all the fixins’ for spag bol so the evening was going to be a combination of Italian, Swiss, and, of course, German. Bodie had picked up an adequate supply of lager because he was hoping he could get Doyle sozzled enough to pump him for information.

Crashed out on the sofa, Bodie felt that finally his life was turning around and that with Doyle by his side, he could be contented. Delicious scents were wafting out of the kitchen. A nice full stomach, some lager, some wine and maybe . . . just maybe, he would be able to find out some things about Doyle.

Sitting down opposite Bodie in the huge lounge, Doyle looked across at the handsome man. A twinkle in his eye burst forth as he said, “You know I’m going to have to get glasses if I continue to come to your apartment?”

Deliriously content, Bodie barely raised his head from the slouching position that he occupied as he asked, “Now, why is that?”

“Well, this room is so big that I can barely make you out with my green peepers, that’s why.”

Bodie looked around and nodded his head, “You’re absolutely right; we’re way too far away from each other. How about I move a bit closer?”

“Are you sure you won’t burst if you move after that meal of three helpings of spag bol, and that Swiss Roll that was about the size of a baby hippopotamus?”

“It was not, besides you ate some as well.”

“Oh sure, my piece was like David and yours was like a Super Goliath.”

“I’m just a growing boy.”

Doyle took a moment to stare at the younger man, and then he took a deep breath and asked, “All right, what is it you want to ask?”

Bodie sat up so quickly that he felt like he had over tipped himself, but he regained his balance and looked at Doyle suspiciously, “How do you do that?”

“What?”

“Read my mind.”

Grinning mischievously, Doyle said, “Well, that isn’t really that hard.”

Bodie snarled and then laughed, “Nah! Nah! Nah! Haven’t you heard that I am considered the up bright and coming boy of the UK corporation world?”

Doyle leaned over and began to laugh so hard that he could not control himself. “That’s a good one, Bodie. I’m glad to hear that you’ve kept your sense of humour, and there is something up and coming about you.”

“I will ignore your perverted mind, for the moment. You ought to feel privileged that such a superior human as myself would even consider entering into a partnership with the two of you.” Bodie hadn’t meant to drop it on Doyle so abruptly, but he had been thinking about the idea so much that it had just slipped out.

“Whaat?”

“Well I was just thinking if you stay around the London area with your shop then I wouldn’t have to be such a silent partner. If we each put in a third, we ought to have enough for you to open up your shop in just a couple of months.”

“That’s very generous of you, but if you and Murph both put in money then I can’t really call it ‘my’ shop.”

“Well, it isn’t a done deal, is it? I mean, we can work it out any way that you want, but I definitely want to put some money into this venture. Let’s see what Mr. Murphy says about the whole thing. Besides that I’ve got a few acquaintances who have empty shops available that you might want to take a look at. No strings attached – you can take a look and if you don’t like ‘em then youcan go somewhere else. I won’t be involved with what you choose.”

“I’ll talk to him tomorrow. He’s been keeping all the records and how much we have saved. He’ll be thrilled to hear that you’re going to be a partner. I’m sure he’ll want to check out your friends’ shops if you leave me their addresses.”

While Doyle looked very excited about the threesome, Bodie wasn’t so sure that Murphy would be that excited. Bodie and Murphy had never got along so it might be a no-go from the very beginning

Thanks to Bodie coming over and sitting near Doyle, the atmosphere in the large room had warmed up considerably. Bodie figured that this might be the time to make a few moves that would take their relationship to the next level.

“How long did you say that you and Mr. Murphy had worked together at CI5?”

“Well, I started there just after I turned 27. I spent a long time with the coppers until they kicked me out. I’m now 35 so I guess we’ve been working together for about six years. Murph went into the army . . . after he left Derby so I didn’t see him for quite a while.”

“I can’t get over it that you both are Derbians. Talk about a coincidence. Did you go to school together?”

“Murph’s family was a bit better off so he went to a boy’s school when he turned 14.”

“I’ll bet you missed him.”

“I was in hospital by then so I didn’t really think about him until I got out. That’s how I met . . . Cowley. He came by almost every day to see me and just talk.”

“That’s strange; how did he know about you?”

“I’m not really sure. He sort of just showed up one day. I know he knew Goldie, but he didn’t ever really say. He was really good to me, even got me into Art School, but I didn’t really have much talent.”

“Did you see Mr. Murphy then?”

“No, I didn’t see him until he joined CI5; his parents were reluctant for us to be together.” Doyle turned his head to look directly into Bodie’s blue eyes and asked, “How come you call Murph, “Mr, Murphy” all the time?”

“I don’t know him very well, and my only real acquaintance is through the investigation so I guess I just think of him that way.”

“You don’t like him very much, do you?”

“I’m sure that the feeling is mutual. He’s dropped a few hints so I figure it might be a good idea to stay away from him.”

“Well, he is a Mother Hen, as I told you. He even snuck out on his parents just to come visit me in hospital. He never told me what they did when they found out.”

Bodie lowered his head slightly to get a better view of Doyle as he asked in a puzzled voice, “Murphy knew you at that time?”

“Of course, he did. I remember when I saw him sneaking into my room, I tried to laugh but it was too painful. He was dressed - - you know, like he was much older. That wasn’t easy to do since he was only 14 but he was pretty tall even then.”

Bodie grinned at the thought of that, and then he frowned. “Wait a minute, you both lived in Derby and Murphy was 14 and you were 16, and you said that your dad had beaten you up about that time. Is that why you were in hospital?”

Doyle’s handsome face quickly turned wary as he could see Bodie trying to analyse what Doyle had just said. “Yeah, Murph came to see me a lot on the sly ‘cause the crazy idiot was feeling guilty, and then one day I heard his family had moved away, and it wasn’t too long after that Cowley showed up.”

Suddenly, Bodie’s voice turned cold; his blue eyes had frosted over as he said in an aggressive nature, “Why did Murphy feel guilty?”

“Hmmm. What are you talking about?” Doyle’s obvious prevarication served to further irk Bodie.

“You just said that Murphy visited you in hospital and you thought he did that ‘cause he felt guilty, why is what I’m asking.”

Doyle closed his eyes; his face grimaced in pain. “Cause . . . ‘cause he thought it was his fault that my dad caught us.”

Bodie could see it all clearly now; Doyle’s dad had caught Murphy and Doyle together and that was why he beat up Doyle. The two had been together a long time. No wonder Doyle had been reluctant to tell him anything about his background with Murphy. “Are you saying that Murphy and you were fuckin’ each other and your dad caught you?”

Doyle’s face turned red, but his whole body was one of defiance. He bristled almost like a bantam rooster, “We were not fuckin’. We were kids; it was more like comparing body parts. You know how all kids are curious and if you can’t trust your best friend, well who can you trust?”

Suddenly, Murphy’s words came crashing into Bodie’s mind as Bodie remembered Murphy declaring his love for Doyle. “God, have I been a fool!”

“Now what is that supposed to mean?”

“You two were working together at BodieCorp, weren’t you? What’d you do, slip him information about the business when you were havin’ your pillow talk? No wonder you two are such great ‘partners’.”

“You can’t just forget that, can you? THAT WAS MY JOB. I believed you were innocent, but you always get stuck on my betrayin’ you.”

“Well, why didn’t you tell me that Murphy was the one you were havin’ it on with, IF YOU WERE BEIN’ SO HONEST WITH ME, and why haven’t you ever told me where you live and who you work for?”

“All right, here’s the truth I work at Pete’s Sales and Service which is pretty small, and I don’t make much money, but I get to work with the bikes and once in a while I sell one of them. Since I can’t afford a separate flat, Pete’s letting me sleep on a cot in a small back room. I don’t have a lot of clothes so it works out pretty well, but that’s the reason I can’t invite people over. Murphy helped me move my stuff over ‘cause I don’t have a car anymore, and that’s why he knows where I live and work. Now, Mr. Bodie, it is obvious that you do not trust me and probably never will so I would say our experiment has ended.”

Doyle got up quickly and exited the apartment without looking back at Bodie.

Bodie sat there on the sofa for quite a while just looking at the floor, his body thrust forward to the very edge of the sofa. Why didn’t I say something? Why did I just let him walk out without trying to stop him?

After a long while, Bodie finally got up, walked into his expensive bathroom and splashed some cold water on his face. Looking up at the gilt-edged mirror above the sink, Bodie stared at the image he saw and yelled in his mind, ‘YOU BASTARD!’

Bodie was strongly tempted to find out the location of Pete’s Sales and Service, but he was sure that his reception would not be welcoming. How could he repair the damage that he had so casually inflicted?

Part XV

Doyle was adamant; he was going to leave Pete’s shop even though he still didn’t have enough money. Even Murphy failed when he had tried to talk him out of being so hasty; after all, Bodie wouldn’t be so crazy as to show up at the shop, and as long as he didn’t, where was the problem?

Colin Murphy had loved Ray Doyle as a friend and could easily have been his lover if not for meeting someone else. They had known each other since they were teenagers in Derby, but he still recognized Doyle’s stubbornness. Sighing, he looked at the enraged man who was putting the finishing touches on his Norton so that it would be ready to move when he was. Murphy knew that Doyle wouldn’t listen to him, but maybe he knew somebody who he would listen to.

Murphy shrugged his shoulders and asked, “All right, all right, when do you plan to move?”

Green eyes looked up into Murphy’s brown ones and conveyed so many emotions that it was difficult for Murphy to read any one of them, except maybe the anguish. “I’ve got at least two more days work on the bike, and Pete can’t get a replacement for me until mid-week so let’s say Wednesday, would that be all right?”

“Sure, of course, that depends on the bad guys not going haywire and running amok so my personal assistance is needed.”

“I’m sure the Cow can handle even a world crisis, but let me know if you can’t make it, ‘cause without your car I’m going to have to rent a lorry or something.”

As Murphy walked away, the thought came to his mind that even Cowley might be able to handle a world crisis better than this foul up.

On the other side of the city, Bodie sat at his desk working, just as he had for the last two days, since losing Doyle. He was furious with himself. He had only been jealous for a moment or so when he had seen in his mind’s eye, the image of the two beautiful teenagers together in an act of lust. He had not believed it when Murphy had told him that although he loved Doyle, it was someone else that Doyle cared for? What was wrong with him; why couldn’t he believe anybody? Why was it so difficult for him to trust anybody? Did it have anything to do with his father, the man who taught him to doubt everyone? After all, what right did he have to be furious with Doyle when Murphy and he had been together as teenagers?

He was exhausted after virtually working for two days straight; he had sent everybody else home, but part of his punishment for hurting the man he loved was to work himself into the ground. He had already started the process for turning over most of the corporation work to the Vice Presidents and promoting others to do the jobs that were needed. He was setting up a trust fund for himself so that he would have an income, but he was going to step away. He no longer had the right to run BodieCorp full time. Now if he could just find . . . .

Hearing a noise out in the outer office, he quickly went to the door and opened it. Standing there looking as dignified and beautiful as the day he had first met her so many years ago was Frederica Martin.

“Fr . . . Miss Martin. I’m so glad to see you.”

“Are you young man; I suppose you expect me to pull your irons out of the fire, AGAIN? Well, what is it you want to talk about?”

As Freddie walked into the office, Bodie smiled affectionately at her and thought, how much she reminds me of someone, if I could just think who.

Instead of sitting down on both sides of his enormous desk, they sat down on the large sofa at the back of the room. Sitting upright and looking suspicious, Freddie regarded Bodie for several seconds and then asked, “Is this going to be a staring match or what?”

Smiling, Bodie said, “No, I was just wondering how you knew that I wanted to talk to you?”

“Well, I could say that I figured that you would need to talk to me by now, OR I could be truthful and say that I have several moles in this little old organization who keep me pretty much informed about what goes on. You choose which one you believe.”

“I suspect a bit of each, knowing how popular you are, but you’re right I’ve messed up everything.”

“I hadn’t heard that the corporation was in such bad shape now after that disaster with Derrick Collins.”

Bodie slightly flinched after hearing that name, but Freddie was not the type of person to pull any punches so Bodie wouldn’t prevaricate either.

“I’ve totally messed up my relationship with Ray Doyle.”

“I don’t believe that is news, is it? I believe that was part of the reason I left this corporation.”

“No, I don’t mean that time; I mean I’ve done it again. We were working at becoming friends after I talked him into giving us three months to try and build a friendship, but I . . . I . . .”

“You let your jealousy get in the way and offended him?”

Bodie’s head shot up, his eyes widened, as he stuttered out, “How . . . how. . .?””

“How did I know? “It was quite obvious that you had fallen in love with the young man; it was also quite obvious that you couldn’t keep your feelings to yourself. I know you felt that Doyle had betrayed you so I’m surprised to hear that you were able to talk Doyle into trying again, but you’ve always had a silver tongue; you could always get me to do anything for you.”

“I couldn’t that last time. You were so angry with me over what I did to Doyle that nothing I could say would stop you from leaving.”

“Yes, I have to admit that’s true. I knew you were hurt; just the way you were hurt when your mother left you, but you drove him away just the way your father . . . “

Silence spread in waves across the room as Freddie’s face turned pale while Bodie’s face turned to puzzlement.

“What . . . what do you know about my mother? I didn’t know you were working here when she left? I was only six or seven, but I just know one day she was gone.”

“I’m sorry I shouldn’t have said that, but I guess you deserve to know.”

“I have always wondered about her. My mind is confused about her; I just see her almost as a dream. Every time I asked my father about her; he turned so strange.”

“That’s probably because he drove her away with his cruelty and his words - - the words doing the most damage. When you were not quite six, she came to me and said that she couldn’t stand it anymore. She was going to leave Philip Bodie and she wanted to take you with her, but she knew that he would never stop hunting the two of you so she was going to leave you behind. She had managed to save some of the vast fortune she had bought to the marriage, so she was hoping in a year or two, she could get you back. In the meantime, she made me promise to look out for you and be there for you. For the next two decades and more I regretted that promise, but I kept it as best as I could.”

“I don’t understand. I don’t remember you being around the house after my mother left?”

“That’s because Philip Bodie wouldn’t allow any of your mother’s relatives to visit her so we only saw each other in less-visited places. He didn’t know what I looked like so it was easy to tell him later when he needed a secretary that I was Frederica Martin and I stayed at BodieCorp until . . . recently. It wasn’t easy, but . . .”

 

“It must have been hell, working for my father. Why didn’t you leave when I left at age 14?”

“By then I was trapped, he needed me and so I stayed, always hoping that one day you would return. I tried to find out where you were, and I was lucky I had a friend who had some connections and once in a while I would hear something about you. It’s what kept me going.”

“What . . . what about my mother?”

“I kept in contact with her, but she was never able to come back for you. She was sick even when she left and she got worse, until one day when I called on her, she was dead. She had left me a letter, renewing her request for me to look out for you which I’ve tried to do to the best of my ability . . . until, of course, I walked out.”

Bodie said nothing, totally in despair at the things he hadn’t known or had forgot about his mother. Finally, he looked at Freddie with moisture in his eyes. “And my father never suspected about your connection to my mother?”

“No, fortunately, we don’t share that great a family resemblance.”

“I call you Miss Martin or Freddie, is that your real name?”

“I’m really Mrs. Martin, but I’ve been a widow for a long time. I once was Fredericka Stoneworth: I was your mother’s younger sister, Bodie. I’m your aunt.”

Part XVI

The time was getting close to leaving Pete’s friendly garage. It wasn’t much, but it had kept Doyle sane. What would there be now to stop the ache of losing Bodie; the feelings of despair each time that he saw the name of BodieCorp in the news, and who could he trust now besides Murphy? It wasn’t fair to Murph to put the burden on him all the time. He had his own life to lead, and Doyle knew that Murphy was only resigning from CI5 because of him. Doyle felt a massive headache pounding in his skull. He had always thought of himself as an independent person. When he had taken a man to his bed, it had always been on his terms. There had been no real love and no true lover - - until Bodie. He had hoped they would become the lovers that he had dreamed about, but it was too much . . . way too much to keep putting up with his suspicions and insults just to have that body in his bed. It was better to get out now rather than to be crushed again.

Doyle was so deep in thought that he hadn’t heard the noise of someone walking into the shop. Suddenly a well-known voice said, “I hear you’re leaving, lad?”

Doyle stiffened and then turned around to stare at George Cowley. “Mr. . . . Cowley, how did you find me?” As soon as he asked the question, he knew the answer. After all, Colin Murphy was still CI5 for a few more days. “I should have known, Murph, always a bundle of information.”

Cowley smiled, “You were always my best agent at double think. I’m not here to stop you, but your pension funds have finally been cleared so I have brought along a check to cover what CI5 owes you. It isn’t a lot for all your work and loyalty, but I wanted to be sure you got it before you left.”

“Thank you, sir. I really appreciate it. It was kind of you.”

“Haven’t you learned by now that I do nothing because I’m kind? If I could have, I would have held up your pension so that you would have had to come begging for it, but knowing how stubborn you are, I would have probably have been an even older man than I am now, waiting for you to show up.”

“You’ve done more for me than most people have. I knew you didn’t want me to go to Art School, but you still made sure I got in. Why did you do that?”

“I made a pledge to someone I value dearly that I would do my best to look after you, but being a bachelor made it difficult, but in the end, you turned out pretty well. I have to be honest though I never dreamed that you would leave me for William Bodie.”

“I . . . I didn’t . . . I . . .”
“Of course, you did - - oh, not directly because of him even though I knew how you felt about him. It was the chance I took. If Mr. Bodie had chosen Rita Sinclair for his Executive Assistant, it might have been different, but I always knew it would be you, and that I would lose you, but that’s the way life goes, and your loyalty meant a great deal to me all those years. I wish you the best of luck with what you choose to do. I thought you were playing a dangerous game of triple think when you told Mr. Bodie the truth about who you were, but you have always been the most honest man I have ever met. Even when you were sixteen and lying in hospital so injured, you didn’t hesitate in your honesty about what had happened.

Cowley held out his hand which Doyle took and held briefly and then they parted. Doyle took a deep breath, and asked quietly, “Why did you care about what happened to me; I didn’t even know you.”

Cowley turned and stared at the man but was really seeing the teenager wrapped in bandages, his right cheek bone shattered, lying in the whiteness of the hospital. Smiling slightly, he asked, “Do you remember Goldie the nurse who took care of you?”

Doyle thought a moment and then said, “I remember her voice, but, of course, I didn’t see her since they had both of my eyes bandaged for a lot of the time I was in hospital.”

“Yes, of course, I had forgot that. Well, she spotted you for the special young man you were, and she asked me to watch out for you. I had met Goldie many times over the years what with various agents who had been hurt or worse. She was always interested in her patients so she called and asked me to visit you. And as the saying goes, you know the rest of the story.”

Doyle studied the older man for several minutes. He had always thought that Cowley had never aged, but for the first time, Doyle could see the changes in him. The man must be near retirement age after years of public service. It suddenly became important that Cowley understand absolutely why Doyle had quit.

“Sir, I just wanted to tell you that I didn’t leave because of Bodie; in fact, we aren’t even together anymore, but I have been involved in so many undercover ops, and somehow, THIS TIME, when Bodie told me that I had betrayed him, I just couldn’t accept it as my job anymore. I felt like betraying Bodie was betraying myself in some way, and I just knew I couldn’t stay.”

Cowley nodded, “So even if I promised you that you would never have to do another undercover op or pretend to be someone you weren’t, it wouldn’t make any difference?”

Doyle thought a moment and then nodded, “I guess I am burnt out - - you always told me that I was an idealist. Maybe I betrayed someone once too often.”

“Or maybe you betrayed a person you found that you valued more than . . . me and the job?”

Doyle stood there stunned and speechless. Suddenly, Doyle saw that Cowley was right. William Andrew Philip Bodie had become more important to him than the man who had literally put his life back together again. “I . . . I . . . didn’t realize . . .”

“It’s all right, lad. At various stages of our life, we need various people to be there for us. It is time for you and Bodie to make a new life for yourselves. Don’t let pride get in the way now. You have both been very lonely men over the years; take your chance now or you will regret it forever. Best of luck, lad.”

And George Cowley was gone.

 

But he didn’t go far. Knocking on a door a few blocks away. Cowley waited patiently. Finally the door opened. Frederica Martin stood there with a welcoming smile on her face. “George, how did it go?”

Motioning him to come in, Freddie motioned Cowley to take off his coat so she could hang it on the hook thoughtfully provided. “Well, I think our wayward lads still have a way to go, but I have my hopes that they will finally see the light.”

“Well, I don’t know about your lad, with those fiery green eyes and that hot temper, he might prove more stubborn than we think, but I know my lad is definitely on the verge of doing something about it. He’s miserable. Just think, he’s giving up BodieCorp because he’s found someone more important to him. I’ve known the lad a very long time, and he’s always been afraid of commitment, but I think he’s ready to take the plunge if Doyle will just cooperate.”

Handing Cowley a large portion of Scotch malt, the two friends sat down across from each other and smiled. “Doyle has always been hard to predict. He’s suffered a lot, but I think he’s sure of his feelings if they can just get over all those betrayals they’ve had to endure. How did Bodie take it when you told him you are his aunt?”

“Surprisingly much better than I expected. I thought he would see it as just one more betrayal, but he didn’t. I think we’ll enjoy getting to know each other. Thank goodness, he’ll be staying in the area if everything works out all right.”

Freddie poured a refill for Cowley as he laughed, “A toast to you, Madame, you are the premier quadruple thinker in history. How could you possibly have known that when you called me to hospital when Doyle was so hurt that it would one day lead to an eventful meeting with Bodie some two decades later, I’ll never know, Goldie.”

Laughing, Frederica said, “And I’ll never tell, George. And you know you promised to never call me that again.”

 

Part XVII
Doyle was furious with himself more than with Bodie. Although he had known for several months that he was interested in Bodie; he also knew that he had a job to do, and yet he had let himself fall into the trap neatly set by the handsome ex-merc. He should have kept his resolve and never fallen in with Bodie, not even as a friend.

Remembering how Bodie looked when he realized that Murphy was the other body when they were teenagers which had resulted in Doyle’s cheek being shattered was the epitome of betrayal. It was just one more betrayal piled onto the undercover treachery which had gone before. Doyle had never liked to do undercover operations where he had to pretend to be someone else and then use his whiles to seduce the target into revealing closely guarded secrets. Only this time, Doyle was sure that Bodie was not involved in the embezzlement and gun-running aspects of the criminal charges and so Doyle had worked aggressively to produce evidence which would demonstrate Bodie’s innocence, and yet look what it had got him - - William Bodie’s hatred. The irony of that fact was appalling. Bodie held Doyle’s CI5 activities as a betrayal that couldn’t be forgiven, and yet there had been an overture by Bodie to re-establish some communication between the two men.

Why did Bodie do that if he was going to ruin the whole reconstruction of their relationship by throwing Doyle’s past with Murphy at him? Doyle couldn’t understand; he wasn’t ashamed of what he and Murphy had done as boys so many years ago. Bodie had had a male lover until recently, so why was he so prickly about something that had occurred two decades ago?

Doyle was at the end of his patience. He had made the effort to re-start communication with Bodie by offering the three month deal, but that had now ended in chaos and humiliation. When Bodie had slugged him several months ago, Doyle had sworn to himself that he would have nothing to do with Bodie. Doyle admitted that he had betrayed the handsome man, but then he broke his own resolve by making that deal with Bodie. Enough was enough - - Doyle wanted nothing to do with Bodie now and yet . . . and yet, Cowley’s words kept running through his mind. For many years Cowley had become his family as well as reinforcing his values. Much of what Doyle felt about justice had come from Cowley. Cowley had always been the person that Doyle put his faith in, until Bodie. Now he didn’t have either of them, even though it had been Doyle’s choice to leave CI5.

Doyle was intent on trying to figure out if they had enough money to set up the shop without Bodie’s help. Doyle did not want to use Bodie’s money, not when the man had turned out to still not trust Doyle. In fact, he wasn’t even sure that he wanted to set up the shop in a place that had been offered by one of Bodie’s acquaintances. It was best to have nothing to do with Bodie both now and in the future.

Suddenly, Doyle shivered as his future, without Bodie, loomed before him. He should never have become involved with the tall, handsome man. Doyle knew his weaknesses and yet had still fallen for the untrusting sod. Fortunately at that moment, Colin Murphy walked into the small space that Pete had set up as an office in the shop.

The tall Irishman could read Doyle better than anyone, and he could readily see that Doyle was upset and on edge. “I’ve just come by to see if we’re going to start hauling stuff over to the new shop tomorrow. I’ve got the day off so it would be . . .”

Doyle’s enraged green eyes looked at Murphy with such venom that Murphy stopped in the middle of his sentence, waiting for Doyle to tell him what was the matter. “I think we should think again about moving into that shop.”

“And why is that?”

“Because we don’t have enough money to cover the costs of getting an inventory as well as equipment and fixing up the place.”

“Are you sure? I figured we’d have enough with Bodie’s share and . . .”

Once again Murphy’s words were stopped when he saw Doyle shut down completely and being Doyle’s friend, Murphy immediately knew what was wrong. “You had a fight with Bodie, didn’t you?”

Doyle’s shuttered look immediately changed to disgust and anger, “As a matter of fact, I DIDN’T FIGHT WITH HIM, he just accused me of having it on with you and demonstrated his total disgust with us because of our behaviour when we were teenagers.”

“Wait a minute, how did he find that out?”

Doyle looked faintly embarrassed as he whispered, “Well, I did drop several large hints and he finally figured ‘em out.”

“YOU’VE been hinting to him and when he figured it out, he got angry. Why did you do a dumb thing like that?”

“I’m not ashamed of what we did when we were younger, and I kind of figured that we shouldn’t have any secrets from each other, if we were going to be together, but I was dead wrong.”

“Doesn’t he realize that that was a long time ago and there’s nothing like that going on now? I told him that.”

“He thinks that you and I were working together on the BodieCorp case and sharing secrets during pillow talk. I don’t need that kind of attitude. I should have known not to trust him.”

Now he had none of that because he had lost Bodie, gave up his job, and had chosen Bodie over Cowley and none of it . . . none of it mattered and all was lost, and all because of one William Andrew Philip Bodie. I am one gigantic idiot, thought Doyle. I have a future of his own making by setting up the bike shop, and once again Murphy would be there, but if I take up Bodie’s offer of buying into the small company, what problems would that cause and could he even count on Bodie to want to buy a share in the company now?

“Are you real sure about this, Ray? I’m not sure if we have enough money to pay the rent, get the inventory, and pay out salaries. You know that John and I are with you all the way, if you want to cut all ties with Bodie, don’t you think you ought to tell him that face to face?”
Doyle stared at his longtime friend for several seconds. He knew that Murphy was right. Since Bodie would not have any connections with the building they chose, maybe they could move into the building they had chosen, but he had to face Bodie and tell him that they didn’t want his money; it was the only fair thing to do.

“I guess you’re right; I should go see him and tell him about our plans.”

“Ray, before you do that, do you really know how Bodie feels about you? What did he actually say that caused the fight this time?”

“It was none of his business, but he finally figured out that you were the one who was with me when me dad caught us checking each other out.”

“Well, why would that upset him? That was more than 20 years ago so I don’t see . . .”

“He figured that we were still doin’ it while we were workin’ at BodieCorp. You know I was slippin’ you information while havin’ pillow talk. You should have seen his face; if I didn’t know better I would have thought he was a homophobe.”

Doyle looked at Murphy expecting to see his usual understanding and sympathy, but instead he saw AMUSEMENT. Doyle’s legendary temper almost kicked in, but he held himself back because he knew that Murphy must have some reason for seeming to enjoy Doyle’s misery. “What’s so funny, you dumb crud?”

“Doyle, you are the biggest idiot in the whole kingdom. Of course, Bodie isn’t a homophobe; he’s jealous, that’s what he is.”

“Jealous - - of what?”

“ME, YOU GREAT GALOOT. He’s coe out and said it to me several times when you weren’t around, but when he heard that you and I were playing ‘I’ll show you mine if you show me yours’, that convinced him that we were beatin’ the sheets together. “ Murphy stood and stared at the amazed Doyle and then continued, “Don’t you know, sunshine, that the man is crazy about you and has been for months? That’s why he hates my guts ‘cause he thinks I’m makin’ time with his fella.”

“Murphy, I’d say you need a head shrink except that head of yours is so bloated that it’s beyond help.”

“What a silver tongue you have, Doyle. Have you told him about John?”

There was a moment of silence and then Doyle whispered, “No.”

“Why not?”

“Thought it was none of his business, besides you’re wrong. He made it very clear when I went to work for him that he wanted nothing to do with men after the Derrick Collins’ fiasco.”

“Doyle, I don’t know why everybody says you’re so smart. He fell for you the moment that he first saw that body. If he wanted to keep away from men so badly why didn’t he hire Sinclair? He took one look at you and that was it. If you had wiggled that cute bum at him, he would have had you in his bed in the time it would take to strip you of your clothes and since you don’t wear knickers, that would have been pretty fast.”

“You’re wrong.”

“Am I? Then go see him tomorrow and tell him that he’s not needed as a partner for the new business. He’ll be grateful that he doesn’t have to put out the money and let you walk away with no hesitation. Okay?”

Doyle tried to look resolute when he answered in a determined voice, “All right, I’ll prove you wrong.”
As Murphy left, however, Doyle’s face registered both concern and doubt about the task he had taken on.

Part XVIII
On the other side of the city, Ray Doyle was just stepping up to knock on the door of the vast apartment when the door flew open as William Bodie rushed through the opening and almost ran Doyle over. Bodie stopped suddenly and stood there staring as if he wasn’t sure what to do next.

For a few seconds Doyle was just as stunned but then he found his voice and said, “I . . . Why are you giving up BodieCorp?”

“I’m not sure this is the place to discuss that.”

“Well then, how about I come in and you can explain it to me?”

Bodie backed up and then made a sweeping wave with his arm as if to indicate that Doyle should enter at his leisure which Doyle promptly did. As Doyle entered the large entrance way, Bodie took his time gazing at the most glorious bum in the realm. The first time that Bodie had noticed the Doyle callipygous region he knew that he was lost and now this delectable attraction was only a few feet away.

“Can I get you something to drink?”

“No thanks, I’m driving, and I need to talk to you about something once you tell me why you’re cuttin’ and runnin’.”

Bodie’s body stiffened as he heard those words; it was not the first time he had been accused of running, but he was determined to tell Doyle the truth and then their relationship would really be at an end.

Doyle’s gaze quickly swept the room and while almost everything seemed to still be in place, it was quite obvious that Bodie had removed many things from the area - - it was a room that was being taken apart by the removal of personal items; the result of Bodie’s decision to move. Doyle sat there waiting for an explanation.

“It’s simple; I’ve come to realize that I’m not competent to run a large corporation like BodieCorp. Look at the mess I made by being blind to the machinations of Derrick Collins. Fortunately, Cynthia Cresswell and Jamison Carr are well experienced and will do an excellent job of running the show.”

“I don’t doubt that at all, but you’re wrong about your competence, but I won’t debate it with you. I thought that running BodieCorp was what you had always wanted to do?”

“Maybe when I was in that Congo gaol or risking my neck in Jordan, BodieCorp became my dream, but the reality is that I’m not ready to do the job. There are other things that hold my interest more, and, I think, the new CEO of BodieCorp heartily agrees with me.”

“New CEO, now who would that be?”

“Miss Frederica Martin, actually she’s Mrs. Frederica Martin, but it’s going to take a while for me to get used to that.”

“Miss Martin? I thought she had left the corporation; how did you manage to talk her into coming back?”

Bodie hesitated slightly as if he was trying to decide what to say; then he decided just to blurt it out - - “She’s my aunt.”

Doyle blinked his eyes several times as if he hadn’t heard correctly, but he finally replied, “I thought you didn’t have any relatives?”

“I didn’t know anything about her until she came by recently and told me about my mum and my early years. That’s when I began to think about leaving BodieCorp.”

“What are you planning to do?”

“I was hoping that you would - - well, you and Murphy would still let me be a partner in your new shop. I could provide one-third of the funds to set up the business. I could stay in the background and be a very silent partner, if you wanted it that way. I mean, I know you’re mad at me for what I stupidly said about you and Murph, but I promise I really would stay out of the business so that you wouldn’t even have to see me at all. What do you think of that?”

“That’s what I came here to talk about,” Doyle said with seemingly little interest.

The seriousness in Doyle’s voice caused Bodie to sit there almost choking; he dropped his eyes to the floor, absolutely devastated by Doyle’s lack of enthusiasm for having Bodie in his life.

“I have talked with Murphy and John Crandall about the partnership.”

Bodie raised his head and looked at Doyle, “Who’s John Crandall?”

Doyle slightly smiled, “Well, you might call him, Murphy’s partner.”

“Murphy’s partner? I thought you were Murphy’s partner?”

“I don’t mean his work partner; they’ve got more of a social partnership going, if you know what I mean?”

Bodie looked puzzled for a moment then he smiled and said, “Oh! And how long has this been going on?”

“Almost a year, I believe.”

“You’re a bundle of information.”

“I came here to give you a chance to get out of your offer to become a partner. I didn’t think you’d want anything to do with us after the things you’ve said and hinted at. I don’t want you to feel obligated to put money into the shop just because you might feel a bit guilty after the insults you’ve hurled at me. I can understand if you can’t forgive me for betraying you, but I won’t have Murph subjected to innuendo and insults just because you don’t like what we did or didn’t do in our friendship.”

“You are totally blind, Doyle. It doesn’t upset me a bit that you have taken on male lovers or whatever you did with Murphy twenty years ago; what I was upset about was that you two might STILL be lovers and that I didn’t have a chance. It was jealousy plain and simple.”

Doyle stared at Bodie for quite a while then whispered, “That’s what Murphy tried to tell me. He said it was obvious how you felt about me, but I just couldn’t believe it ‘cause you made it very clear that the fiasco with Derrick Collins had coloured your mind about men, and YOU made it very clear that you couldn’t trust me.”

“All right, all right, can I help it if I’m a total idiot, but as soon as I saw you that first time, I knew that I wanted you in my life as my friend, my associate, and hopefully as my lover? I still want to be your associate in the shop, even if you don’t want me to be anything else.”

“Well John Crandall wants to join as a partner, and he has a tremendous amount of practical experience with the mechanics of various bikes so that would make me and John the get-your-hands dirty partners; Murphy is interested in handling the finances , so I guess that leaves you to be the Senior Vice President in charge of salesmanship. Everybody knows that you have a silver tongue and can sell anything so I guess that might be the place for you.”

Bodie looked faintly puzzled, “Sounds fine to me, after all being tall, dark, and handsome I am sure I could handle the job. So I’m going to be the upfront man; you couldn’t choose a better person to be the face of the business, but does that mean that you still want me in your life?”

“You’re so modest, but are you sure you want to lower yourself, Your Highness, to mingle with we peons?”

Bodie gave Doyle a very smug look and then said as he polished his fingertips, “I definitely want to mingle with the CEO of the business.”

Now Doyle looked puzzled as he said, “I hadn’t planned on there being a boss man; we’d all just work together.”

“No, no, there’s got to be a CEO; I’m willing to work closely with the CEO, assuming that you are our CEO and that Murphy and John keep their hands off you.”

“Well, I guess I could be the CEO, but I will expect all of you to follow my instructions exactly.”

“And what would those instructions involve?”

“Pretty much whatever the CEO wants done. Oh, and there’s one stipulation or condition.”

“And what would that be?”

“The employee who occupies the Senior Vice President position is required to make love to the CEO whenever the CEO demands it.”

Bodie looked faintly amazed and then bemused as he grinned and asked, “Isn’t that called sexual harassment, and isn’t that illegal?”

“You gonna file a complaint?”

“No, you’re right; I don’t think I will.”

“Good, very good. Now let’s see if you can pass the first test Mr. Senior Vice President; get ‘em off now.”

“What?”

“Much too slow,” as he gently pushed Bodie back onto the sofa and sat on his knees; his hardening and lengthening penis bulging inside his skin tight jeans. Doyle’s cock was aching for relief so he sat gingerly on Bodie’s knees and began to disrobe the stunned man in front of him. “We’re going to have to work a great deal on getting you disrobed. Those jumpers have got to go; they take too long to get off of you, and you must be VERY happy to cooperate by that bulge in your pants.”

“How about we disrobe you first; then I can do a better job?”

Doyle leaned forward, rubbing his aching manhood against Bodie’s groin area and whispering in a strangled voice, “I’m the boss here and I need you out of those clothes; I’m startin’ out with less on than you’ve got so I’m already way ahead.” Doyle suddenly tried to stand up due to the near strangulation he felt; Bodie quickly followed. They never made it to the bedroom as clothes flew everywhere and their bodies locked in a sweaty embrace and orgasm swallowed both men.

Several minutes later, reality returned as the two men found themselves cuddled up together naked but feeling very much alive and ready for another round. Bodie came up on his elbow and looked at the sweat dampened curls that lay near him. “How about we make it to the bedroom while we can?”

Doyle looked up, his green eyes glowing, “Sounds good; I haven’t felt so ready for a second round in a very long time - - must be you macho men that inspire me.”

An emotion entered Bodie’s blue eyes that spoke volumes. After a few seconds Bodie leaned over and kissed the cupid’s bow lips and said with a great deal of intensity, “Ray, I want it to be me and only me that inspires you. I mean . . . well, I want it to be just us and no one else. I won’t share, and if that isn’t okay then I think we better know that now.”

Doyle smiled and hungrily kissed Bodie’s mouth and entire face. “That’s what I want too.” Staring intently at the man who held him, Doyle felt loved for the first time in his life. “I wish I could marry you, but I am telling you right now, that I want to wake up every morning for the rest of my life with you next to me. I want to make love to you and show you how much you mean to me.”

Bodie smiled and then whispered:

“When I from hence away am past
I shall not find a bride,
And you shall be the first and last
I ever lay beside.”

 

Doyle looked into the face of the man he had learned to love and wistfully asked, “Who wrote that?”

“It’s called A Shropshire Lad by A.E.Housman. There’s more to it but that’s the important part ‘cause I mean to lay with you all my life.”

“My feelings exactly. Now, my dear Senior Vice President; let’s say we adjourn this meeting to the bedroom?”

“Motion moved and seconded, and definitely all are in favour.”

BDBDBDBDBDBDBDBDBD

Hours later after exhaustive lovemaking and a drenched bed, the duo slept and then, feeling the need to make up for lost time, made love again. Doyle always being the go-getter led the way and then took his lover in his arms and they slept. Finally, Doyle woke and moving carefully from Bodie’s side decided to take a shower since his body had the odour of semen and sex. Bodie had told him he smelled wonderful, but Doyle frankly doubted his sincerity.

Feeling more refreshed after a lengthy shower in Bodie’s deluxe bathroom, Doyle went out to the large, luxurious living area and sat down by the photo albums that Bodie had told him about. Freddie had brought them with her when she had seen Bodie. They contained photos of his mother that she was sure his father would never have shown him.

Doyle was enjoying them immensely, even though he could not really recognize anyone except the very young Bodie. All at once long arms surrounded his slender body and a tender kiss was planted behind his left ear. “Hmmm, you smell so good.”

Doyle turned part way around and kissed Bodie and put his arms around his lover. “Oh really, do I smell better than I did when you told me I had a wonderful fragrance when we were in bed?”

“Weelll, I might have exaggerated just a bit then, but you smell just like my Doyle now, and I wouldn’t trade that for the world. What ya doin’? I expected you to have a gourmet meal fixed for us.”

“You’ll get your meal as soon as the delivery man gets here. I’m busy looking at those albums that Freddie left you. You were such a cute, little. itty bitty boy.”

“Whatta ya mean, WERE? I’m still tall, dark, and handsome.”

“I AM so glad that I have such a modest Senior Vice President.”

“Listen, Mr. CEO, you may have the brains of this venture, but I have the charm and charisma that’s going to draw in the customers by the hundreds.”

“Are you sure it won’t be the birds and the laddies looking at that gorgeous physique of yours?”

“You’re the one with the gorgeous body, but it is reserved ALL FOR ME, do you understand?”

“Definitely, there will be NO undercover ops for either of us, unless it’s both of us who are undercover.”

“You got it. Now who you lookin’ at?”

“Who is this?”

“That’s me Mum, standing next to . . . that’s Freddie, her sister. I guess that was when she had blond hair. I never really got to see her ‘cause me dad wouldn’t let me mom have anything to do with her family. They had to hide their meetings, but she would tell me about her sister, only she called her Goldie. Now I can see why.”

“Goldie? (Could’t be the same person, could it?) Talk about a small world.”

“Yeah, Freddie said she used to have the most beautiful blond hair . . . that is, she said, before she ran into me and I gave her all them grey hairs.”

“Oh, that’s just great. Is that what’s going to happen to me?”

Bodie errant left eyebrow rose in a supercilious way, “What are you talking about?”

“Tell you what, my beloved Senior Vice President; you go see if that’s the delivery and I will tell you something as we eat, how does that sound?”

“Okay, okay, but we better purchase some more fairy liquid because my delicate, dove-white hands are taking a beating doing all this slave work.”

“How about I reward you later on for all your efforts?”

Bodie leaned back over and gave Doyle a kiss that threatened to turn into another marathon session, but Doyle’s stomach growled at that moment recalling his amourous lover to his duty. “How about I get a promotion for all this?”

“And what promotion would you be wanting since you’re already Senior Vice President?”

As Bodie headed towards the door, he shouted out without turning, “TOYBOY EXTRAORDINAIRE OF THE CEO!!!!”

Good thing this apartment is well-soundproofed or security would have got an earful. Doyle began putting the albums away for the moment. How was he going to tell Bodie that their meeting and subsequent relationship was definitely in the hands of two very real gods named, Martin and Cowley? Sighing Doyle wiped his forehead as he quickly realized that this really was a simple problem, but he had another question to ask Bodie that would be far more difficult.

After gorging themselves on the takeaway, both men relaxed for a while in each other’s arms then Bodie mentioned that he was going to take a shower and relax in bed. Doyle realized that he had to tell Bodie about his discovery but he was suddenly reluctant to do so in case Bodie was upset by the fact that Freddie and Cowley had interfered in the Doyle/Bodie relationship. Somehow Doyle had to delay this knowlege for a while. Doyle had never been in the military, but he definitely was well aware of the art of distraction and the very best way to distract Bodie was easily at hand.

Bodie was sitting on the large bed, waiting for Doyle to appear. He had been promised a reward for all his work; and he knew the time had come. Even with that knowledge, Bodie’s sight of the naked figure that waltzed into the bedroom with total nonchalance almost knocked him out of the bed. There was Doyle parading around with only a ribbon around his neck and a come hither look on his face. “I’ve come to see your etchings, big boy. Are you ready for your promotion?”

Bodie was practically drooling as he studied every inch of that delectable body. The hair on Doyle’s chest was in a neat pattern that drifted down his taut stomach into the groin area. There his manhood was beginning to show a bit of arousal so the green-eyed satyr began to stroke himself so that his cock would cooperate to the maximum. Bodie reached out to try to get the man closer to him, but Doyle remained just out of arm’s reach.

“You like what you see, blue eyes?”

“You know I do, you devil. Now come over here and give me an up close and very personal experience.”

“Bodie, I really need to talk to you.”

“Sounds serious, but if you want to talk, how come you came in here dressed . . . er, undressed like that?”

“Well, I hoped to distract you for a few minutes, but that seems kind of disingenuous or something, and I don’t want you ever to think that I’m holding anything back from you.”

“Come over here right now, and I’ll show you what I want to hold back.”

“Is that all you think about - - sex?”

Bodie’s handsome face suddenly changed into despair as Doyle realized almost too late what power he had over this vulnerable man. He knew now that he could hurt Bodie with a just a few words so Doyle promised himself that from now on he would be very careful what he said and did around this man. He knew he would have to earn Bodie’s total trust by being honest and not taking him for granted.

Climbing onto the huge bed, Doyle took the crestfallen man into his arms and kissed him. “I didn’t mean it the way it sounded; I want you to think of sex and making love, but I’ve got some things to talk to you about and I’m scared to tell you the truth. We’ve had such a rough time getting together and I don’t want there to be any misunderstandings between us - - not ever again. I want you so bad that it hurts, and we’re equal partners in this relationship so you decide what we do next.”

Bodie’s despair had obviously not lessened. He looked at Doyle and said, “I knew it would come to this; I knew we couldn’t avoid it. What is it you want to know?”

Doyle’s face scrunched up in a puzzled frown as he couldn’t figure out what Bodie was talking about, “What are you talking about, big fella?”

“Oh come on, Ray. I’ve done some very bad things in my life, and I knew that you would want to know about them. Did Cowley have me investigated? He must have told you a lot about me.”

“I saw a brief dossier when the op got started so I had some background on you in hopes that you would hire me. Rita had the same information, but that’s all. I never made inquiries about anything else so I don’t know what Cowley knows about you, but that isn’t important to me. If you knew some of the things that I did as a copper, you would feel pretty disgusted with me. I wasn’t too popular when I reported the goings on of some of my superiors, but that’s not what I wanted to talk about.”

Bodie closed his blue eyes as if he couldn’t stand to remember certain images of himself from his past. “All right, what do you want to talk about?”

“Well, it happens that I knew Freddie when she was known as Goldie.”

“What? How did that happen? You mean you and she colluded with each other against me while at BodieCorp?”

Doyle pulled back a bit and said with irritation in his face, “Now see that’s what I mean; you go jumpin’ to conclusions. I never saw Freddie when she was calling herself Goldie. It was when I was in hospital with me smashed cheek. My eyes were all wrapped up and I only knew Goldie as the voice of the nurse who helped me get through a very rough period. The point is though that Cowley came to visit me he said because a nurse had called him in to talk to me. So I think that Freddie and Cowley have been good buddies for a lot of years, and so they have been communicating between the two of them, and I’ll bet our meeting wasn’t exactly an accident. I’d bet anything that Freddie contacted Cowley when you started having trouble with the audit and Inland Revenue and asked for his help.”

“Those double dealin’ manipulators; I’d be really furious with ‘em except, of course, look what my prize was. I’ll bet Cowley suggested you and when Freddie saw you again she knew that I’d fall for you right away, and, of course, when I saw you, I walked right into your schemin’ trap .”

“Whatta ya mean, my schemin’ trap, I’M THE ONE who told you that I was there for the job and nothing else? I made it very explicit that I didn’t want no hanky-panky going on.”

“And just why didn’t you want any hanky-panky goin’ on between us; were you disgusted by my stupidity over Derrick Collins?”

“No, you great sod. I didn’t want to compromise the case. I knew you were innocent, but Cowley wasn’t drooling after those deep blue eyes like I was so I wanted to make sure that we had an airtight case against the guilty so you wouldn’t be dragged into the whole thing just because you, sort of, looked guilty.”

“Oh, I didn’t think about that. Well, I can live with Freddie being a matchmaker, but I do find it kind of hard to see Cowley going along with it.”

“Well, he’s the one who convinced me to think again about leavin’ town without talkin’ to you one more time. You got to thank him for that.”

“Okay, okay, the next time I see him, in ten years or so, I’ll thank him. Now is that ALL ‘cause I got a lot of more interestin’ things I could be doin’ than talkin’ about Cowley.”

“Well, as a matter of fact, there is. John and Murph have found a flat near by the shop that you found for us so it’ll be easy for them to get to and from there ‘cause we’ll all be sharin’ a small lorry, and the landlord told me that I could move in to the flat above the shop we’re going to set up, but I was wondering what your plans are for finding a place to live?”

Bodie had been holding Doyle loosely in his arms, but he quickly dropped his grasp and moved to the other side of the bed. “I was figurin’ on movin’ out of this place and maybe findin’ some place closer to the shop.”

“Oh, that’s okay then. I was just worried about all your beautiful stuff in this apartment so I didn’t know what you wanted to do about moving. Have you found a place?”

As soon as Doyle asked the question, he could see that he had made another major mistake because the look in Bodie’s eyes showed total devastation. “Bodie, what’s the matter? What have I said?”

Bodie quickly turned around so that his back was facing Doyle, “Not a thing; I’m glad you brought this up. I’ve got so much stuff that it might be difficult to move all of it. How about I just stay here and not worry about tryin’ to move closer to the shop? After all, you, Murphy, and John will all be there.”

Looking at Bodie’s back with the long scar on the left shoulder, Doyle felt like he was being swallowed by quicksand. He knew that their relationship was in trouble, but it was true that Bodie had so many expensive, nice things that he would not want to stuff them into the small flat above the shop. Doyle had thought it was only practical to discuss what Bodie wanted to do, and yet that obviously was the wrong thing. Sighing, Doyle felt like a deep abyss was sucking him into destruction.

Bodie stood up; his gorgeous posterior on display for only a few seconds as his modesty came into play. Reaching for a green robe that he kept near his bed, Bodie put it on before he turned and looked at Doyle. “Ray, I’ve got a lot to do tomorrow. Would it be all right if we adjourn this meetin’ so I can get some work done before I go to bed?”

It was obvious to Doyle that Bodie wanted him to leave. A few minutes ago Bodie had been hot to have the ex-copper in bed with him; now he was anxious to see Doyle leave. Doyle felt his heart sink in his chest. Why was Bodie so hostile all of a sudden?

“Of course not, I can still get a bus, but what is it that I said that’s made you mad at me?”

Bodie’s cold eyes stared right through Doyle as he whispered, “I’m not mad; I just got a lesson in reality that’s all. I’ll stop by the shop tomorrow to see what’s needed in the way of changes so that you three can get started as soon as possible.”

“But what about you, I know you haven’t finished with BodieCorp, but we need your input on any brochures, or adverts we put out since you’re going to be our front man.”

“Ray, let’s be realistic. I’ll put up my share of the money and then let you three go at it. You’re the experts; I’d just be more of a burden than a help. The best way I can help is with money. That way I can help Freddie, Cynthia, and Jamison at BodieCorp make the transition. It’s ridiculous for me to abandon them until we get everything ironed out. They need me.”

“But we need you too.”

“I’ll be right here in my ivory tower so all you’ll have to do is contact me.”

Doyle’s face was a picture of wariness. He had thought Bodie had wanted to be a part of the team, but now it seemed as if he hardly cared what happened. What had gone so wrong?

“Bodie, please tell me what’s wrong. I want you to be with us at the shop all the time. We need you there; there will be plenty of work for all of us; we’re going to be really busy.”

“Ray, what you need from me right now is my money. It’s going to take a while to get everything ready; just as it’s going to take a while to make the final transition at BodieCorp so let’s be realistic. You three work together, and I’ll stay and work with Freddie and the others.”

Doyle got out of bed and went over to where Bodie was standing, almost as if he were getting ready to run away. Putting his hand on Bodie’s face, Doyle’s moist green eyes looked up at Bodie and asked, “You’re not running out on me, are you? I need you so much. I know I’m not in your social class or up to your standards. I’ve always been poor, and even my job with CI5 didn’t exactly fill my pockets so I’ve had to spend my life pinchin’ shillings, but I hoped that we could bridge the gap between us. I don’t blame you if you’re havin’ second thoughts about being together or even livin’ together. My flat couldn’t even hold one room of all your beautiful things. I just don’t want you to get tired of me some day and look around and ask yourself why you gave up all your treasures just because of me. I live in fear that you will one day realize that I don’t measure up to what you really want in life.”

Bodie pulled the slender man into a bear hug, and whispered into Doyle’s curl covered ear, “I would live with you in a cave as long as I could sleep with you every day of our lives.”

“Oh Bodie, I just don’t want you to be the one who has to give up everything for this relationship. We are equal in everything we do, but right now, you have the money, the beautiful apartment, and a good income. That’s why I asked you about where you were planning to live. If you have to give up everything, you’ll come to hate me one day and I couldn’t stand that.”

“I might have been raised in the house of a wealthy man, but I had nothing . . . absolutely nothing once my mum left. My father didn’t love me, Ray because he thought I wasn’t his son. Freddie told me that for many years he thought that my mum had cheated on him, and that I was her lover’s bastard child. Only a little while before he died did he find out the truth, but by then I was long gone and mum was dead. I guess that’s why he left me the business. I carried the Bodie name and that’s all he really wanted from me. Neither of us have had such great pasts or families so let’s bury those memories and start again. We’ll build a business that all four of us can be proud of and you and I will share the love that we always wanted to have. How does that sound?”

“Great, and you’re right, you and I are family now, along with Freddie, Murph, John and maybe even Cowley. What does it matter where we live? I just want to make you happy. How about we keep both places and that way on nights we’re dead tired, we can stay above the shop and other days we can stay here or wherever you set up an apartment, once you’ve had the chance to look?”

“I think that’s great; you’ve got the Cowley triple think exactly. One day I want to tell you some things about myself. I’ve always been afraid to talk about some of the terrible activities I’ve been involved in, but you deserve my trust and that includes some of the ugly secrets that I’ve tried to hide all these years.”

“We both have secrets so let’s plan over the next fifty to sixty years to reveal what we feel is necessary, but I also want you to know that it’s our future that is more important. Now I’m going to go get us something to drink and then we can cuddle up together and talk about our new shop and our new life.”

Doyle wandered out to the kitchen to get some wine to toast their new life, but he got sidetracked in the dreams about their future so he did not return to the bedroom right away.

Bodie finally got impatient, wondering where his lover was so he yelled at the top of his lungs, “Hey, Mr. CEO, your toy boy wants his reward right away.”

Doyle smiled as various images of their lovemaking popped into his head, “Running all the way so get your motor running.”

Later in the night as the two men neared the abyss of sleep, Bodie leaned over and kissed Doyle’s ear, “Just one more question, sunshine, so don’t get mad, “Who’s Sid?”

 

The End