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The Arduous Ordeal of the Abominable Progenitor

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The Arduous Ordeal of the Abominable Progenitor
A Steampunk Victorianish AU
by krisser

Spring Gardens

Building Seventeen

 

Young Master Arthur Jax burst into the parlour where Mr Doyle and Mr Bodie were playing piquet on a much deserved day to themselves. Once the young lad spotted the object of his search he exclaimed excitedly, "Mr Bodie, Mr Bodie, Mr Cowley wants to talk with you right away." He didn't stop moving until he was standing in front of the very man himself.

Mr Bodie rolled his blue eyes at his partner, Mr Doyle, who continued to sit back relaxed in the parlour side chair. Mr Bodie sighed as he thought to himself, 'There goes a lovely afternoon.' He turned to face the wiggly lad and smiled. "Am I to guess that your brother has already arranged the conveyance?" he asked as he withdrew a pouch from inside his specialised frock coat, then reached out and pressed several coins into the young man's palm.

"Yes, sir, Mr Bodie." The boy smiled and nodded his head in agreement, then lifted his hand in thanks. The bundle of energy that was young Master Arthur disappeared from the room as quickly as he had entered.

Mr Bodie stood as he clapped and rubbed his hands together. "Well, Mr Doyle, I believe that is our cue to make haste and discover what matter is so grave that we must attend this very day and not on the morrow."

Mr Doyle looked up at Mr Bodie and blinked owlishly.

"Well, we must be off to more fun and adventure." Mr Bodie motioned toward the door.

"What's this we? The message was just for you." Mr Doyle hadn't yet moved a muscle; the velvet cushions at his back were quite comfortable.

Mr Bodie tilted his head, touched a finger to his temple, and closed his eyes. "I believe that as my partner, the adventure I seek includes you as well."

Mr Doyle slumped forward as he made to stand, "I was afraid it was something like that." He stood and smiled. "Onward we goest."

"Ah, but not without our tools." Mr Bodie pointed upstairs to their room. On the trek up Mr Bodie nudged Mr Doyle’s shoulder with his own. “You really muddle those quotations, don’t you?”

A shrug and a smile were Mr Doyle’s only answer.

 

 

Once inside the room, Mr Bodie pushed the door closed and pressed Mr Doyle gently back against it. He leaned forward and covered his lips. His quest for entrance was answered with the same fervour. Mr Bodie moved away from the lips to nibble at the luscious ear after he nudged the curls aside.

Mr Bodie whispered hoarsely while he hovered there, "I had other, more entertaining plans for this day."

Mr Doyle arched his neck in offer rather than commenting.

Mr Bodie could not ignore the invitation and moved his lips accordingly. His hand shifted downward and cupped the magnificent hardness that promised to burst the fabric if not attended. Again, Mr Bodie could not ignore the invitation, and loosened the material trapping the glorious flesh. He gripped with a firmness that was known and well loved. The wetness that burst forth and covered his hand was proof enough that his attentions were appreciated.

That he found himself in the same rigid condition was not lost on him, but before he could move, he found himself turned and pressed against the very door that Mr Doyle had occupied just a few moments before. A warm hand snaked in and grasped his hardness with authority. Mr Bodie lost all coherent thought as he wetted Mr Doyle's hand in turn.

Mr Doyle eventually withdrew his hand and cleaned it with his tongue.

Mr Bodie's eyes were transfixed with the vision and made to grab his partner.

Mr Doyle side-stepped. "No, no, you have been summoned, and our carriage awaits. No more of this tomfoolery." Bedevilment coloured his voice. Mr Doyle stopped and faced Mr Bodie, "Besides, we have this evening to further investigate how to better utilise the door."

Mr Bodie smiled and rubbed his hands together again in anticipation of the coming evening, for the desire on Mr Doyle's face belied the words spoken. Mr Doyle moved out of reach and added, "After a quick tidy, we must be away."

Reluctantly, Mr Bodie agreed. He turned and retrieved his trunk from beneath his bed. He opened it on the floor and selected items to go. Once his toolroll was filled with the essentials, - particle beam long pistol, laser pistol, Webley, and trench knife - he straightened his Floyd side-button shirt and Highland trousers. With the brimming toolroll slung across his shoulder, he turned and followed his partner to the stable below.

Mr Doyle's toolroll, which carried the same equipment as Mr Bodie's, also managed to include chocolate digestives as well.

 

Morris Antiquities
Thames docks

 

Mr Bodie stopped the conveyance in front of the antiquities warehouse beneath a full tree to shade the horse while he stopped inside. His personal hansom was having its wheel repaired. While his own had a feedbox for the horses, this conveyance did not, but as he didn't expect that they would be here long the horse should be fine.

Messrs Bodie and Doyle entered together with a light step. They walked directly to Mr Cowley's office.

The mentah was seated behind his simple antique desk, busy reading through papers. He looked up at their entry and gave them a look that said they were already late. He pushed his glasses atop his head. "We have a meeting at the Army and Navy Club this morning at nine thirty with Lady Winston," Mr Cowley announced as he watched for reactions of recognition.

"Who is she?" Mr Bodie checked his inside pocket for the usual tools at the mention of the military club: goggles, ray gun, and kendo staff.

"You don't know? She asked for you specifically." The mentah checked carefully for any hidden signs that the name was a known entity.

"No, the name is not familiar." Mr Bodie looked up at Mr Cowley as he shook his head and shrugged at the same time.

"She knew to find you through me, but what she wants is still a mystery. This Mayfair address is a smoke screen for the general public. If they are in need of aid or the services of a mentah, they are directed to the Army and Navy Club. The public sees the military association and automatically concludes we are connected. It leaves our true purpose away from prying eyes."

Mr Bodie looked over to Mr Doyle, who gave a small shake of his head. So he, too, didn't recognise the name.

"From my old neighbourhood, perhaps?" Mr Bodie was as perplexed as his boss seemed to be.

Mr Cowley pulled out his timepiece, checked the time, and placed it back inside his tweed frock coat. "Then let us be off. We will use my carriage – more room."

Mr Bodie made to leave. He needed to care for his own horse and conveyance. The mentah second-guessed his intention and waved him back. "Master Steven Jax has shown an aptitude for listening and in exchange for training, he has agreed to maintain the carriage house that has been added between the warehouses."

 

Army and Navy Club
Mayfair
London

 

The carriage driver jumped down and opened the door for men. He scurried to the club entrance to alert the staff to the mentah's arrival.

The door opened with a military snap and the sergeant smiled broadly as he recognised the major. He stepped aside with a click of his boots. As soon as he closed the door behind Mr Doyle, the sergeant led them to a small anteroom, the same anteroom where they had first met the mentah.

Mr Cowley entered the room and immediately moved behind the simple desk that was not quite the same as his own but similar enough to be comfortable and waited for his men to enter before speaking. He focused on the lady before him and watched her intently. A woman of middle age, but not too weathered to give the appearance of untidiness. She held herself almost regally, but it was practised not inherent.

Mr Bodie entered the room only to misstep and stop abruptly. Mr Doyle, who had been close on his heels, ran right into the back of him.

Mr Bodie stared at the woman with abhorrent shock. "Mother," he said flatly. All emotion drained away from his face and was replaced with a stoic resolve that seemed impenetrable.

Both Messrs Cowley’s and Doyle's heads whipped around to stare at Mr Bodie.

Mr Cowley recomposed himself quickly. He was generally not caught off guard quite so effectively. Once collected he looked to his man and asked, "Mr Bodie, would you care to introduce us?"

"No." Again his tone was flat.

"You never were much for manners," Lady Winston admonished in a tone that spoke of ease of phrase.

Mr Bodie showed no outward emotion whatsoever. He stood at parade rest. The years of practice standing him in good stead to aid him now. "We may have parted ways when I was eleven, but you never saw me enough before that to judge that assessment accurately."

Mr Doyle watched his partner's mouth move and the words did seem to be coming from his direction, but Mr Doyle knew without doubt, that he had never heard that cold tone before, ever.

"You haven't done much to gladden my heart in your life. Nor have you ever done a thing to make a mother proud up to this point, but now, it seems you may yet be able to change that malady," she said as if her son had not spoken.

Mr Doyle was positive that this was indeed a day of surprises. Mr Cowley's face tightened and he was sure that he had never seen such a show of this kind of emotion, though be it only fleeting. He was also quite sure that the mentah's expression was close to saying – over my dead body. He could query him later.

Mr Doyle had to admit to great fury within himself on Mr Bodie's behalf as well. To say he was appalled would be an understatement of colossal proportion. Many images of his partner's expression when he had visited with his own mum flashed through his thoughts. Mr Doyle understood them better now. Mr Bodie had loved her pies; she had loved feeding him.

"I am Major Cowley, ma'am." He stepped forward and extended his hand in a false show of civility. "In what way can I or my men help you, Lady Winston?" Mr Cowley used his formal military tone. She couldn't recognise that it was much colder than usual.

"I read the royal announcement that mentioned a Major Cowley and his intermediaries, Mr Bodie and Mr Doyle. That they were instrumental in keeping Britannia safe was the main substance. Since the Queen saw fit to thank him for good service, I have come to ask for aid in stopping the thievery that is plaguing the Bodie holdings in Warrington. I'm sure her endorsement is quite adequate." Lady Winston's tone more than implied that Her Majesty's good words were barely a sufficient recommendation.

"My men are excellent at what they do," Mr Cowley assured her without warmth.

Lady Winston looked at Mr Cowley alone. "I expect him to stop at my London house before journeying north. He will need the keys and a letter of introduction. Half past nine on the morrow will do." Lady Winston placed a card with the address on the desk. She turned away without a by your leave and exited the office.

The sergeant was waiting on the other side of the door to escort her from the building.

Mr Bodie did not move a muscle. He stared at the wall until he was certain that she had vacated the premises. "Just as I remember her." He turned once the sergeant returned.

"Do you require anything, Major?" the sergeant asked.

"Just the carriage. Thank you." The Major saluted him.

The sergeant returned the salute and turned briskly to comply with the request.

As he waited, Mr Cowley furiously made mental plans as he watched his man furtively. First he knew he must assess how Mr Bodie truly felt. Then he must research Lady Winston, to be better equipped to deal with the woman. Her callous treatment of the lad quite irritated him. The maligning had been unwarranted. Mr Bodie was a man of honour today and just a wee lad when she last saw him.

Mr Bodie, on the other hand, was never more grateful for the years of practice at not allowing internal emotion to be on display. That woman, he could not quite bring himself to call her mother, was self-serving and conniving. She was not here in fear of any problem on the Bodie estates. She had something else on her mind. Her eyes were as he remembered, cold with no joy. In contrast, his partner's eyes were electric, a sparkling green that flashed ire and joy. Eyes so expressive with happiness and love that he felt bathed in that joy.

Mr Doyle stepped closer without touching and smiled his support.

The sergeant signalled them from the entrance. The carriage was waiting, door open, the three men exited the club silently. Mr Cowley entered first with Mr Doyle following. Mr Bodie stepped up and sat next to Mr Doyle, facing the mentah.

Mr Bodie hung his head, then took a deep, steadying breath. "Not quite the client one could hope for." Mr Bodie's tone was almost normal. "Some death and mayhem would have been preferable."

Mr Doyle snorted.

"To be honest, sir, she is not on the up-and-up," Mr Bodie felt compelled to warn. "Never has been; never expect her to be.

Mr Cowley silently agreed with Mr Bodie's statement. He sighed internally, then addressed both men. "You will assist Lady Winston. Treat her as you would any citizen of Britannia. Give her no recourse to besmirch your reputation. I will handle the rest. You are good men. The Queen knows this as well." Mr Cowley looked out the window of the carriage. "Use as little of our specialised equipment as you can in her presence. It would behove us all to allow her to remain believing that we are a military assignment for Her Majesty."

Mr Bodie shook his head, ran his hand through his hair, then shook his head again. "I am sorry about this. I never entertained a thought that I would see her again. After my father died, I went away to school, and later left her keeping completely. She never questioned the decision, nor spoke with me again. There was never anger on her side, just apathy. I stopped caring just after I turned five. I just can't shake the feeling that she is out to cause trouble of some kind. My father would say there is always an angle to better herself. I have no reason to think she has changed." Mr Bodie shrugged. "My gut tells me there is more to her request than is apparent in her words."

"You've not heard from her since you were eleven?" Mr Doyle asked, thinking how different from his own mum.

"No. Father paid for school and after he died, his trust paid. I left school at sixteen searching for adventure." No tell-tale markers for pain or sadness were evident on Mr Bodie's face.

This was much more than Mr Doyle had ever expected to learn and tucked it away for examination later.

"A good mentah never ignores such a feeling and I am more than adequate. Keep a watch. Now, be-gone and prepare for the trip to Warrington as well as the London visitation. All other duties suspended."

 

Morris Antiquities
Thames docks

 

Once they arrived, Mr Bodie quickly jumped out of the carriage and made his first stop to restock his weaponry. More than likely, this assignment would prove to be most mundane.

Mr Doyle, who followed close on his heels, opened the standard weapons locker. He looked over at his partner, who nodded his agreement.

Due to the nature of the visit they decided that they would both keep to the standard style of weapons. Mr Doyle pulled out his Baker rifle, and Webley pistol. Mr Bodie had his Webley pistol, and Navy colt. They both packed a few luminous lights; those could be stowed out of sight but still accessible if needed.

Mr Bodie was very much afraid that if he kept a lightning cylinder within easy reach that he would overwhelmingly have the desire to use it on her.

Mr Doyle paused in retying his toolroll, "Will you need to contact Mr Martell?"

Partners on the same wavelength. It brought a smile to Mr Bodie's face. "Can I trust you anymore with a cylinder than I can trust myself? Which is nil, by the way."

Mr Doyle paused for a less than a heartbeat. He shook his head. "No."

Mr Bodie couldn't help smiling.

Mr Bodie thanked Master Steven for the excellent care given his horse and carriage. All the caked mud was cleared from the spokes and the doors and seats had been wiped down. He offered the lad some coins, but was turned down.

"Mr Cowley and I have an agreement," Master Jax assured him. He handed Mr Bodie the address card and map that Mr Cowley had thought to provide.

Mr Bodie flipped two coins the lad's way. "Mr Cowley is sure to be getting the better deal!" He jumped up on top and Mr Doyle joined him.

 

Spring Gardens
Building Seventeen

 

Master Mark, Mr Jax's middle son, greeted the returning gentlemen with a wave as he ran towards them. When Messrs Bodie and Doyle jumped down he jumped up and waved again as he drove the conveyance to the stables.

Mr Bodie followed Mr Doyle into the parlour, intent on mapping out the best route for the upcoming journey. To his surprise and pleasure, spread out on the long tables along the side wall, Mrs Jax had provided a repast of meats, assorted cheeses, kidneys, sweet pickles, hard bread and cream butter. A small section contained sweet confections and cake.

Mr Bodie heaped his plate as though he were afraid that this was indeed his last meal. Mr Doyle, on the other hand, filled his plate but it seemed paltry in comparison to his partner's.

Since they were the only occupants of the parlour, they decided to use the larger tables to lay out the maps to pinpoint their journey to Warrington and ultimately Grappenhall and the Bodie estates. Mr Bodie gathered the maps while Mr Doyle dashed upstairs to collect the various train schedules north of London.

Poring over maps and schedules together, they determined that the Northwestern to Crewe Station in Cheshire would be the closest stop. It would be approximately a three-hour trip, and they would arrange for horses to be ready for the two-hour ride to the Bodie holdings. They would want to leave shortly after the morning meeting with Lady Winston.

"You wanted to contact your lightning thief, and we need to contact Mr Cowley so that he might arrange the horses and that way we don't have to pay for it," Mr Doyle summarised the afternoon errands.

Mr Bodie tapped his lips with his drumming fingertips absentmindedly several times before speaking diffidently. "I don't believe that a leopard can change its spots, but to be absolutely fair I would be indebted if you could talk to Benny. He would most likely know how she treats staff." Mr Bodie shuffled awkwardly from heel to toe as he looked about the room.

He missed the momentary softening of Mr Doyle's countenance. "It's no trouble to include a stop at Hyde Park on the way to the docks," Mr Doyle replied without teasing or censure.

Mr Bodie gave a brisk but sincere nod before heading out to re-hitch the horse. Mr Doyle collected the travel information and moved it upstairs to their rooms. On the way out he picked up a couple of apples to store in the outer pocket of his frock coat.

 

Hyde Park
London

 

Mr Bodie parked the conveyance in the shade of the ash trees along Carriage Drive. They walked briskly together, shoulder to shoulder, to the park centre. There were several pavement artists working furiously to please the patrons in the hope that their hats would fill with coins. Sounds of laughter and awe filled the air with delighted squeals as young and old found themselves immortalised in chalk for a short time at least.

Messrs Bodie and Doyle waited off to the side until Benny looked up. He excused himself after he finished up the current drawing and made straight for Mr Doyle.

"What can I do you for, guv?"

"Have you ever had the opportunity to work for Lord or Lady Winston of Arlington Street?" Mr Doyle asked.

Benny stepped back and nodded reluctantly. "Yes, a few times, many years ago. We now just send the young sweeps so as they can learn a little humility, and how to work for the mean-spirited."

"Difficult to work for, is she?" Mr Bodie asked wanting clarification.

"Yes, guv, she is. The Mister is fine, even tips. She, on the other hand, always tries to get out of paying. She expects sweeps to do other chores and yells when they refuse." Benny shrugged.

"Thank you, Benny." Mr Doyle pulled out a pouch of coins and handed it to the sweep.

"Didn't do nothing, guv," Benny protested as he bounced the bag in his palm.

"You helped us plenty," Mr Doyle assured the sweep with smile.

The pouch disappeared into the folds of his clothes and with a tip of his cap, Benny returned to his chalk drawing.

Mr Bodie waited until they were well out of earshot. "No surprise there. The leopards don't change; the mean-spirited don't become charitable. I didn't expect different." Pragmatic as ever, Mr Bodie shrugged. “I’m sure talking with Marty would yield the same.”

They walked back to their transportation.

"Next stop, Mr Cowley. I'm betting that he can get word to Crewe and arrange for the horses." Mr Doyle nudged Mr Bodie as they sat on top and pointed to the Thames. "That way."

Mr Bodie turned the conveyance toward the docks and signalled the horse to hurry up.

 

London Bridge
Old Swan Pier

 

Upon Mr Cowley's assurance that steeds would be waiting for their arrival on the morrow the duo headed for Mr Martell's bridge. They didn't have to be close to see that the barge was absent. Mr Bodie stopped anyway.

Mr Bodie reached inside the inner folds of his side-buttoned shirt and withdrew a pouch of a green hue. He shook the contents into his hand and selected two markers, brown and green, along with a shiny black stone. He stabbed one marker into the mooring stump and the other marker and stone directly below.

"More code?" inquired Mr Doyle.

"Indeed. He'll understand."

"Well, what does it say?" Mr Doyle said, clear exasperation in his voice.

Mr Bodie half smiled. "Two cylinders. Usual price."

"Perfect! One for each of us. It's been a few days since we blew something up. We're due," Mr Doyle replied as his partner sat beside him once more.

"Careful what you wish for."

"Oh, I'm sure that will be later this evening!" Mr Doyle grinned as he looked down at Mr Bodie's crotch and licked his lips.

The afternoon sun was on a downward trail when the protectors decided that they could still get an hour or two off duty. They headed home.

 

Spring Gardens
Building Seventeen

 

Mr Doyle left a request for bath water in the morning before he locked the door tight. He closed the drapes in his rooms as he shed his clothes. He appeared on Mr Bodie's side of the rooms completely naked. He walked boldly across the room and proceeded to close the drapes there as well.

Mr Bodie stared for a heartbeat, mouth open, before he shed his clothes as well. He watched as Mr Doyle cracked an illuminary and left it on the window table.

They met together in the middle of the big bed in Mr Bodie's room. Immediately bodies were worshipped with reverence, homage paid to lips and skin on a trail that led to heaven. Burgeoning erections were encouraged to grow, then met their fate willingly at the hands and mouth of their lover. Contented murmurings drifted off into snores.

 

Winston Home
Arlington Street
Piccadilly, London

 

Morning ablutions complete, they each packed a valise of necessities and an extra toolroll apiece that they would stow in the conveyance until after the morning meeting. Master Mark had the hansom hitched and ready and they made their way east to Piccadilly and the Winston home.

London was an odd mix of poor and affluent. One street appeared beat and ill used but more often than not, would find itself backed up to lush gardens and owners of opulence. When they turned onto Arlington Street it was easy to see that the division here wasn't quite that stark. This was an area of well-to-do and wealthy. The Winston house was a full three stories of patterned brick with a slate roof. The large bay window to the right of the door contained stained glass in bright colours. Mr Bodie wasn't surprised.

Mr Bodie stopped the carriage well away from their destination. He looked down and fiddled with the reins then stared straight ahead. "I think it would be best if you waited in the carriage and let me go in alone." The reluctance in Mr Bodie's voice was obvious.

"You don't want me to accompany you?" Mr Doyle's tone was flat.

Mr Bodie looked over at Mr Doyle directly. He hated the hurt look that darkened the green eyes, but he couldn't let it sway him. "Oh, I do very much, but it wouldn't be pleasant for you in the long run."

"Why so?" No reproach in his tone, only a sad curiosity.

"Now that she knows where I can be found, she would make life for Mr Cowley and you insufferable. So I go and hope to sour her on me, again. I fear that if you go, you too would be fodder for her vindictive ways. While she can appear shallow, she is quite sharp about what she can use against people."

"Then let's do it right. You get inside the cab and I will deliver you to the door." Mr Doyle was not happy, but he did understand his partner's need to protect him in this circumstance.

When he pulled up in front of the Winston residence Mr Doyle jumped down and opened the door with a slightly demure swagger.

Mr Bodie kept his face serious but he was giggling inside.

The footman had the door open before Mr Bodie could knock.

"There is no locality in London commanding a nobler view than that enjoyed from the windows of these mansions in Piccadilly, extending far and wide over the parks, and terminated only by the undulating outline of the distant hills of Surrey," the footman decorously announced as he ushered him in and bowed. It was obviously expected of him.

"I'm here to see Lady Winston," Mr Bodie told him politely.

"You are expected, sir. The lady will be down shortly. Please go down to the front parlour." The doorman disappeared in the opposite direction he had indicated.

Mr Bodie encountered a front hall, eight feet wide and twenty feet long connected to a staircase to the second storey. He knew that the decor usually indicated the character of both the dwelling and its inhabitants. He moved slowly through the hall, not caring about the pictures that hung on the walls, but he noted the ceiling work silently declaring her wealth. The magnificent hall tree that stood at the room's juncture was imported cherry and, more importantly, was a herald for the room to come. It was truly a magnificent piece of artistry. The craftsmanship was intricate and worth noting, but Mr Bodie knew that this owner cared nothing for the beauty or mastery but only what it would say about her.

He headed into a drawing room that was filled with mahogany wall mirrors that featured bevelled glass with perfectly complementing mahogany sideboards. His mother was nothing if not impeccable.

Mr Bodie knew that the unaided wandering and extra wait time was for his benefit. She needed to show him how far she'd come as though life with his father had somehow been inadequate. Mr Bodie surmised that for her, it probably had been.

He knew a fainting room would not be found within her dwelling. He could remember her biting comments even now. His mother would not tolerate one in her home; it only encouraged laziness. Any weakness was not abided; no fainting couches for the frail would be found either. He moved on.

Finally, at the end of the hall, behind closed doors, lay the showplace of her house. Her front parlour had floor-to-ceiling display cabinets filled with mementoes from places that she had never been, placed only for affectation. It was supposed to be the repository of a family's treasured possessions, but she treasured nothing but appearances, for appearances were everything. Feelings were beneath her and family was only for show.

Not surprisingly, her parlour furniture was gender distinctive. The gentlemen’s chairs were throne-like, higher than ladies’ chairs and with arms. Ladies’ chairs lacked arms, designed to reinforce the perfect postural requirements of women - to sit upright, away from the chair back, with one's hands folded in one's lap. She had said it enough times that it was emblazoned in his memory. His sister, Charlotte, had never lived up to expectations either. Of course, no children's side chairs would be found in the front parlour, probably none in the house. His mother was not fond of children.

Mr Bodie shook his head to clear away memories. These were not the walls he had dwelled within. The memories of neglect faded as he strolled through the rooms of possessions that meant nothing to him nor the owners.

He turned to face the window with his hands behind his back and waited for the confrontation. He relaxed his shoulders and steeled his backbone. This was endurable; his joy was outside waiting.

Lady Winston, formerly Mrs Catherine Bodie, entered as though she were royalty. If she expected a bow or kiss, she was gravely disappointed. She stopped far enough away to discourage touching, but Mr Bodie had made no move save to turn away from the window to face her and what he was sure was coming.

She looked him over head to toe and seemed to find him wanting. What exactly she would have said next was interrupted by a loud, continuous knocking at the door, and a voice calling out for Mr Bodie. It stalled Lady Winston's comments completely.

The footman could be heard hurrying to answer the summons. Mr Bodie walked quickly from the parlour into the hall. He recognised Mr Doyle’s shout and wanted to be on hand to forestall whatever he might have planned.

Mr Bodie was in the middle of the hallway when the footman reached for the knob. The door opened wide and there stood Mr Doyle. The angle of the sunlight illuminated him in such a way that Mr Doyle appeared as a harbinger of change. He quickly rushed past the footman, calling out in the direction he expected the entertaining rooms to be located. "Mr Bodie, we are needed at the Tower immediately." He tried to sound winded as though he had run far.

Mr Bodie called out an answer as he continued down the long hall, "Right here!"

Mr Doyle unerringly found him, which was easy, as his partner was quite close.

Lady Winston had followed Mr Bodie into the hall, albeit much slower.

"Our presence is required immediately before we are to journey out of London." Doyle kept his tone almost subservient. His partner had warned him that although vain, the lady was sharper than she appeared.

Mr Bodie turned to his mother. "If you have the keys?" He waited expectantly.

Thwarted from having a private conversation, she made sure to inflict embarrassment. "Keys and a letter of introduction. I don't want you to trade on the Bodie name."

"I am a Bodie, proudly."

"Nonetheless, there is no one there who would know you." She withdrew from her pocket an envelope that contained both a letter and a set of keys. "Please return the keys upon your report to Major Cowley." She extended her hand with the packet, nearly dropping it in her effort to avoid physical contact.

Mr Bodie took the envelope and turned to his partner. "Let's go."

They left without another word or a backward glance.

Mr Bodie followed Mr Doyle as he jumped up to take the reins.

"There is no immediate summons, is there?"

Wide-eyed and innocent looking, Mr Doyle answered, "Of course not. We have a train to catch and she didn't need to know that. Besides, I could feel the tension from out here." Mr Doyle motioned the carriage in the direction of the docks. "We have much to do before our journey."

"First we visit our lightning thief! Onward, driver," Mr Bodie joked. He received a jab in the side, just as he expected.

 

London & Northwestern Railway
London en route to Warrington through Liverpool

 

Two fresh lightning cylinders were all set to be delivered safely to their abode. They had depleted their supply on their last outing and Mr Bodie wanted to be ready; times of calm notwithstanding. Mr Bodie wished once again that he could keep them on his person, but knew it was much too risky and that his use of them might not truly be altruistic.

They waved to Master Steven as he pulled away from the Euston train station. They purchased tickets and boarded the train scheduled to depart at ten forty-five.

The sound and energy of a busy train station wasn't that much different from the port, just not as exotic. Mr Bodie jostled through the departing passengers so that he could slide into the window seat. It was so much easier to watch the people dashing about, looking for arrivals or seeking where to depart. From habit, he checked the ease of exits, along with faces of passengers. This was not seriously a work assignment, but it didn't do to be careless. Mr Doyle dropped in beside him with an amused looked upon his face. Mr Bodie gave him a blinding smile that was reserved just for him.

The first few stops had the heaviest exchange of passengers. Messrs Bodie and Doyle moved to more desirable seats that finally allowed them some private space.

Mr Doyle used the opportunity to ask a few questions. "It's difficult to think of Lady Winston as your mum. You are not alike whatsoever. If I say something in error that offends, I apologise ahead of time."

"Quite frankly, it's difficult for me to think of her as me mum, as well. Speak freely. It can't be worse than what I think of her," Mr Bodie disclosed candidly.

"You said she doesn't know you?”

"When my sister Charlotte died, my da thought it best that I should continue to attend a school out of my mother's reach. He was in the shipping industry, and was rarely home. He died a couple years later at sea. I stayed away at school.” Mr Bodie looked out the window. “My mother and I are not close."

Mr Doyle rolled his eyes out of view of his partner. As if that hadn't been obvious at the meeting this morning.

"When did you start boarding school?" Mr Doyle was very curious and Mr Bodie seemed to be forthcoming.

"Just after my eleventh birthday."

Mr Doyle was surprised. "What happened then when you were five?" he blurted out. He remembered at the first meeting with Lady Winston, yesterday, his partner had said 'I stopped caring just after I turned five.' He was more than a little curious as he had thought that going to boarding school had been the reason.

Disheartened by the memory, Mr Bodie shared it anyway. "I remember her talking with her friend. She said 'I wish I could say he wasn't mine, but he is. He's quite the lumbering lad and one I wished I didn't have.' I knew then the lack of feeling from her was indeed true and took it upon myself not to care."

"Your da?" Mr Doyle asked, thinking that had been a lot for a young lad to handle.

"Was proud of me. He was a good man." Mr Bodie smiled at the memory of his father. "The house staff were good to me, and I had fun in the stables. I learned early that not all beautiful things were good."

Mr Doyle listened, but his partner didn't sound forlorn or hard done by. He leaned into his partner's side, Mr Bodie answered the lean with a slight return lean.

They made it to the dining car before the journey's end. Mr Bodie growling stomach made sure it was not ignored.

 

 

Bodie Holdings,
Grappenhall
Warrington, Cheshire

 

Crewe Station was closer to Warrington than the Lime Street stop in Liverpool, and that would make their journey to Warrington and beyond an hour shorter than it could have been. Mr Bodie stepped off the platform to unfamiliar sights. Nearly twenty years had passed and much had changed. The few shops had given way to a small town that would only grow bigger.

The horses were waiting as arranged, and as no one was expecting them, they elected to ride easy. They headed east with fully stocked pouches. Mr Doyle couldn't imagine what Mr Cowley must have directed to get even a bedroll tied to the saddle.

The countryside was charming enough. The sandstone hills gave way to rolling hills with sheep placidly grazing among them. Hedgerows grew less and less as they left the township behind. They would bypass Warrington itself as they circled south for Grappenhall. Mr Doyle could tell that his partner wasn't up for conversation, but the silence was pleasant enough.

Not so pleasant memories of a long time past were refreshed for Mr Bodie as they rode on.

Mr Doyle knew this part couldn't be easy. "Returning home after a long absence is never comfortable." He remembered how he had felt a few months ago.

Mr Bodie wouldn't have disagreed.

Two hours later found them on the outskirts of Grappenhall, less than a quarter of an hour to the Bodie holdings. Unerringly, Mr Bodie remembered the way. There were vast green fields that gave the area a green and healthy looking appearance, but as with life, appearances can be deceiving. The riders kept moving forward.

Mr Bodie slowed almost to a stop as he crested a small hill. When his partner pulled up alongside, they both stopped.

"There it is. This should feel like home, but it doesn't." He sighed. "Let's get this over with." He motioned the horse onward as he slowed his breathing to calm a racing heart

The house was brick and pebbledash, with light-coloured headers used to decorative effect above the windows and doors. He vaguely remembered when the stone features were added to main door and horse trough. She had added them to increase the feel of quality and taste. They showed the dirt layers accrued since he was a child. Mr Bodie also noticed the telltale cracks obscured by dirt encrusted mounds lodged in between the layers. Overall, though, not much had changed in the years since he was last here.

They dismounted, tethered the horses at the water trough, and walked up the step. Mr Bodie knocked on the door. A young lad answered then ran off immediately shouting, "Someone's here."

Mr Bodie stepped inside and an uncomfortable feeling rippled through his thoughts and transferred to his skin. Just looking at the many rooms brought back unwanted memories of a time he'd mourned and buried. He was startled out of the bad memories by a long-forgotten yet familiar voice. He turned quickly as an older man approached with arms out stretched.

"Master William, my God, I mean Your Lordship. It's good to see you, so good to see you." He slapped Mr Bodie on the back, then pulled him in for a hug. "I never, we never thought we'd see you again."

Mr Bodie responded in kind as good memories of romping in the fields at the heels of the estate manager replaced the ill feeling that his old home had revived.

"Angus, it is good to see you.” Good memories of following him about as a child flooded in. “And I am not Your Lordship. Please. I'm surprised you remember me." Mr Bodie stepped back to introduce his partner. "Mr Alden, estate, my partner, Mr Doyle." Who had shadowed his partner silently and was standing by his side.

Mr Alden put out his hand to shake Mr Doyle's. He pumped it happily. To Mr Doyle he said, "William here is the spitting image of his father." He turned to face Mr Bodie. "As I live and breathe, it is good to see you. What brings you here after all this time? I despaired that I would ever be able to give you what your father entrusted to me."

Mr Doyle took point in discussing the assignment that had brought them here as Mr Bodie seemed a bit off-kilter. "Lady Winston pulled her influence to have us investigate art thefts."

Mr Angus Alden shook his head. "There have been no thefts. Your father left money for the servants’ pensions and if that were to become inadequate, then we were granted permission to sell the artwork. Besides, nothing here is hers. The tapestries have been sold to create a pension for the old caretaker. He served for forty faithful years. She never understood the need for that. She has strong anti-humanitarian views. She took whatever monies she could when she left, but your father had left enough in the business trust to cover the yearly taxes, your schooling and some pensions. I'm glad to see you're doing well, William. Lost track of you after you left school. She never knew where you went. She was vexed by that."

"Well, yes, I believe that was the whole point." Mr Bodie smiled. "She discovered me purely by chance because of my employment."

"The Queen thanked our boss and us by name and she saw the announcement," Mr Doyle supplied, knowing that his partner never would reveal that much of their circumstance.

"Our bad luck." Mr Bodie not only smiled, but relaxed as he realised that this property would never be hers.

Mr Alden motioned the men to the kitchen and to sit down as he set about to make tea. He pointed to the chairs. "There is something happening here, but it has nothing to do with art theft."

"Explain and we may yet be able to render aid," Mr Bodie volunteered. He found that he did indeed wish to repay the kindness the servants showed him when he was young.

Mr Alden placed cups with tea strainers before each man, then poured the tea for them and himself. He placed the cozy over the pot before he set the sugar and milk on the table, then sat himself down. "There are mysterious flooding problems here. Not all the time, just before crops are to be harvested. Some stock has been lost or stolen, making farm profits marginal at best. We just try to keep everyone dry and fed, but there's nothing left to make improvements."

"Flooded you say?" Mr Doyle asked for clarification. "Excessive rainfall?" He fixed Mr Bodie's tea before he took a sip of his own.

“That’s what’s odd, the floods happen but no rain to explain it,” Mr Alden answered.

"Do the aqueduct gates still rest above the north fields?" Mr Bodie asked after taking a sip of tea, remembering the swordplay atop those walls.

"Yes. Hasn't been operational for years," Mr Alden answered as he scratched his head. "Are you suggesting that someone has rigged it to release water?"

"You must have some suspicions," Mr Doyle said.

Mr Alden scratched his head again. "The neighbouring property owner has been after me to sell, but I can't imagine that he would deliberately try to harm the land. We’re not like that here."

"We'll ride up and check," Mr Bodie announced. He stood, drained his tea, and set the cup down as he looked to his partner, who did the same.

"I'll have the master bedroom and guest room aired and the beds made up for you both," Mr Alden told them as he left the kitchen.

Messrs Bodie and Doyle collected their horses from the courtyard and Mr Doyle motioned his partner to lead the way. Mr Bodie turned his horse north and did just that.

All around them were rolling hills, which in turn surrounded tilled fields. The hillside ground cover consisted of a golden clover that contrasted with the bluebell cover that filled all other nooks and crannies of the hillside. The little bit of cowslip visible made searching for it similar to a game of hide-and-seek.

When they reached the top of the hill, they could see the entire aqueduct system before them. “This is nothing similar to the new building project of the Barton Swing Aqueduct in Salford. What you see before you started as small ditches cut into the earth, then transformed with stone until the aqueduct became much more efficient.” Mr Bodie moved his hand across his body as he turned to encompass the entire landscape. “Some time during my grandfather’s time there was a water dispute and the back aqueducts were left to ruin. We played there as children. No water travelled there. Now you can see that is no longer true. See the ropes, here and here?" Mr Bodie asked of Mr Doyle as he pointed to the rope between the pulleys. "They are all new with little wear. They have been replaced, the estate manager did not do it, so that poses the question - who?"

Mr Doyle looked closely at the entire system. "For that matter, the wheels look new as well."

"Repair for deliberate malfeasance?" Mr Bodie shook his head. "We need to search the area for any tracks that are well worn. Someone has gone to a lot of work to repair this system."

They separated and each man took a side, searching the ground for evidence of use. They both worked diligently until Mr Doyle called out. "Here! Look down there. Ruts deep enough to be a cart. Had to have travelled this route many times to make a track such as this."

Mr Bodie walked along the top edge of the stone and earth aqueduct to join him, then jumped down to examine the wheel tracks more closely. Mr Doyle followed suit.

Mr Doyle stood and looked all about him. "My guess is that neighbouring farm.” Mr Doyle pointed to the silo and barn directly above them. “This is a bit much for competition of crops." Mr Doyle pointed out the track's path up and down the hill on the south side.

Mr Bodie picked up some dirt and let it fall from his hand. He looked out over the countryside. He surveyed the Bodie farm and compared it to the neighbouring farm. "My guess is the Lady Winston herself is the culprit. She must have some scheme to get this property. My da never had any intention for her to gain control of these holdings. They had been in his family a long time. She never understood that."

"They should be yours," Mr Doyle suggested quietly.

"Nah. Unfortunately, I never felt anything for the land. My mother notwithstanding, even at a young age I yearned for adventure, and now I have exactly what I want." Mr Bodie looked his partner in the eyes to make sure he understood his full meaning.

Mr Doyle nodded. “So what do we do about it?”

Mr Bodie brushed the dirt from his hands before he swung into his saddle. “The owner of the neighbouring property is probably the best place to start.”

Mr Doyle mounted his horse and they headed in the direction of the neighbouring farm. They followed the deep ruts to the field barn but remained steadfast in their decision to speak with the owner.

The main house was much the same as he remembered it as a youth. The stone work looked worn and solid, but not maintained. The dirt of the decades remained. Mr Bodie dismounted and knocked on the door. Mr Doyle stood at his side.

The door opened to a housekeeper who looked vaguely familiar to Mr Bodie. She opened the door wide with a smile on her face. “Why as I live and breathe, Mr Bodie, you have grown into a fine young man.”

“Mrs Hastings, how are you? And Mr Hastings?” Mr Bodie was surprised himself at how easily the memory slipped into place.

“He passed some ten years ago, God rest his soul. My bairns are nearby so I am well.” She reached and hugged Mr Bodie.

“I am sorry for your loss,” Mr Bodie replied sincerely as he hugged her back.

Mrs Hastings led the men into the parlour without introduction. “Mr McGuire, look who I have here.”

A past middle-aged man, with receding hair and slight paunch stood, startled. Then pleased recognition dawned. “Ah, the young Mr Bodie, how good to see you. Mrs Hastings, some tea please.”

“Of course,” she said with a twinkle and headed for the kitchen.

“Mr McGuire, my mate, Mr Doyle.” The men shook hands.

Mr McGuire indicated the chair and waited until they were seated to sit himself. Mrs Hastings brought in a tray with tea things and tiny sandwiches. She placed the tea things close to Mr McGuire, but set the plate of sandwiches in front of Mr Bodie with a smile and a pat on the shoulder.

“He was always hungry as a boy!” She left the way she came.

Tea was poured, fixed, and sipped before Mr Bodie asked, “Did you commission the abandoned aqueduct to be repaired?”

Mr McGuire paused, frozen mid-bite. He placed his food down and sat back nervously. “No, it was not I.”

“Then who did?” Mr Bodie asked gently, already expecting his answer.

“It was Lady Bodie herself. I hadna seen her since your da passed. You are the spitting image of him. I was surprised to see her standing at the door. Fine carriage out front, driver and all. She came calling with a proposition. She wanted to restore the old aqueduct between our properties. She paid me handsomely for the privilege to do so. I needed the money, costs are so much higher. I had no idea she planned to ruin crops.” Mr McGuire wrung his hands over and over again before adding, “I didna know until after. I fear they plan to do it again.” The man deflated in his seat with relief that he had finally confessed his transgression.

"They?” Mr Doyle asked immediately sitting forward.

“Two men not from here, they come just before crop harvest. I expect they’ll show up within the week,” Mr McGuire added trying to be helpful. “I don’t want it to happen again, but I donna know how to stop it. They carry weapons.”

Mr Bodie looked to Mr Doyle and saw the same resolve he felt himself. “Never fear, we will mediate this situation and it will not happen again.” Mr Bodie finished his repast. “My compliments, as ever, to Mrs Hastings.” Mr Bodie stood as soon as Mr Doyle had finished.

“Thank you for the refreshments. My mother will not bother you again, nor will you be associated with this dispute,” Mr Bodie assured the anxious man as he gave Mr McGuire a slight bow.

They took their leave and rode back to the Bodie holdings.

 

 

On the way back from Mr McGuire’s, Mr Bodie took the time to share childhood stories of antics that most children experienced. They stopped at the barn to care for the horses first, putting off heading into the house to explain the reason behind the recent events.

Mr Bodie stood at the barn entrance and took a few moments to reflect on how little the stable had actually changed.

“Gathering a lot of wool, are we?” Mr Doyle teased as he brushed down his horse.

“Just remembered one of my better memories.” Mr Bodie’s tone was light and carefree.

Mr Doyle looked inquiringly at his partner.

“My first foray into sex. I already knew which way I was bent. One of the stable hands was handsome and curious. We were just two young lads who had barely discovered what their pricks could do - we experimented every way we could imagine – she caught us."

"Where? Here in this old stable?" Mr Doyle perused the interior, trying to imagine what it looked like to a child.

Mr Bodie nodded. "This very place. In the last stall to be precise. It usually had the extra hay bales stored there. Good place to hide."

"I must erase all thought of that prick," Mr Doyle said masterfully.

"Pray tell, how would you do that?" Mr Bodie asked wide-eyed.

Mr Doyle's look of mischievous intent was hard to misunderstand. Mr Bodie's trousers displayed his immediate reaction to his partner's silent suggestion. Mr Doyle's lascivious expression belied the deliberate attempt to close the gap between them like stalking prey. That Mr Bodie yielded and backed up just enough to rest against a hay bale seemed to imply that he was well aware of his partner's resolve.

Mr Doyle took full control. He moved them to that last stall, still filled with hay. He bent Mr Bodie back onto a hay bale, the farthest from the door, and lowest to the ground. He rained kisses over the exposed neck, while his hands had Mr Bodie’s trousers opened wide forthwith. Mr Doyle's fingers immediately played with the sensitive skin exposed, and he marvelled how dark the colour grew. Mr Bodie's manhood burgeoned to the point of bursting and Mr Doyle sank straight down to his knees and sucked the entirety into his mouth.

Mr Bodie lost himself in the multiple sensations that assailed him. His lover’s lips branded him, claimed him, then sucked him in tighter. Everything fell away except the escalating need to seek out more. He arched to get closer only to have sensations pulse away and he rode the tide into oblivion. The climax was only part of the joy that suffused his system. Most of the joy was from feeling truly loved and with that the bindings of the past tore free and the hurt dropped away.

He opened his eyes to see his partner wiping away evidence of his own pulsing expression. Mr Bodie smiled. It was a smile of a contented joy and one that only Mr Doyle had ever seen.

Mr Doyle treasured the moment.

They finished setting their attire right before finishing with their horses, then walked back to the main house contented.

 

-----------

Mr Bodie took the few days of waiting for harvest to reacquaint himself, and Mr Doyle, with the remaining people who had worked the estate since he was a child. Pleasant memories of carefree days that his mother had not known or cared about replaced lonely memories of time in the house without his sister. The sting of that motherly abandonment lessened as he remembered the kind and happy people he had actually spent his time with back then.

After the endless meals during which many a reminiscence was shared, they spent the rest of their time in view of the entire aqueduct system. They fashioned a makeshift hideout of tree branches and leaves with wood stumps for seats and several small viewing holes where their spyglasses could rest. They placed the bedrolls in the corner. They decided to monitor everyone who worked even close. Mr Doyle drew all their likenesses in case they needed Mr McGuire’s identification. Mr Bodie could eliminate several as staff who had been there for decades. They stayed well after dusk, their night-goggles more than adequate to meet the needs of their investigation.

Much later in the night, after a thorough perimeter check, they met back at their makeshift hideout to plan. Mr Bodie drew the aqueduct in the dirt. “Your accuracy is deadly, beautifully deadly, and trustworthy. You should take the high ground and I will take the gate area, in case they can get in a way we have not spotted.”

“No unnecessary chances,” Mr Doyle warned.

“No unnecessary chances, agreed. I would rather arrest the men, but we do what’s best.” Mr Bodie nodded.

When the two men they had been waiting for appeared, it had been quite easy to identify them. They looked and acted out of place. They entered the aqueduct during midday when all other workers would be taking the noon meal. Suspicious from their entrance, they wore dock worker’s clothes, which made them stand out even more distinctly than if they had worn gentlemen’s clothing.

The protectors moved into action. Mr Bodie followed stealthily behind both until the men split up. One man carried tools, most likely intending to damage the valve ring so that it would not close, the other man carried a gun to be on watch. Mr Bodie followed the man with the tools.

Mr Doyle, high above the ground, followed the man and his weapon with his night vision gun-sight. The man kept his rifle down to his side, but Mr Doyle never relaxed his vigil, his bead steady and true.

Mr Bodie got the drop on his man before he even had a chance to inflict any damage to the valve. The man tried to resist, but Mr Bodie subdued him with ease as his elbow hit him dead centre in the chest. He was about to hog-tie him when he heard the shot behind and knew that his partner had made sure of his safety by taking out the accomplice. He dragged the man down to where Mr Doyle and their horses were waiting.

They collected the other men’s horses, draped the hog-tied men over the saddles, and returned to the house.

Mr Bodie let Mr Alden contact the authorities and handle the altercation as they wished. He answered their questions, was recognised by a few and thanked for his swift resolution of the situation all before the evening meal. He hoped it could be traced back to the Lady Winston, but Mr Bodie thought not likely as she was sure to have used intermediaries.

Mr Bodie wanted to leave as soon as possible but he had one more situation to take care of before he could do as he wished.

While the horses were being saddled for their departure, Mr Alden wanted a word. He shook Mr Bodie’s hand with sincere thanks. ”You are truly your father’s son. He would have been proud.”

“Thank you for that. I have fond memories of him.” Mr Bodie coughed.

“Sir, I have the deed and patents for the Bodie holdings. Your father entrusted them to me before he left that last time. Even he didn’t believe that she would do right by you. Your father’s solicitors have copies as well. They were to be given to you only if you returned home.” Mr Alden tried to hand Mr Bodie the papers he held out.

Mr Bodie held his hand up but not out to accept the papers. “You all have run this property faithfully through all the years. It is yours to divide amongst yourselves. I have a life elsewhere.”

“But, sir, your lordship, that’s not done!” Mr Alden protested.

“Be that as it may, I prefer to set new traditions. I will accept ten quid in exchange for the deed. That way it cannot be refuted. I sell it free and clear of debt.” Mr Bodie shook the stunned estate manager's hand; the legal conveyancing well worth this recompense.

Mr Alden hurried away to collect the monies, his face full of emotion.

Mr Doyle turned to his partner. “Are you sure you want to give up all this?” Mr Doyle swept his arm around indicating everything around him.

Mr Bodie smiled. “Yes. I told the truth. My life is elsewhere. You and the inscrutables are quite enough to keep a man active, busy, and happy.” Mr Bodie managed a serious and lascivious look simultaneously.

That Mr Doyle was pleased was evident by the beatific smile he bestowed on Mr Bodie. Which for Mr Bodie was recompense enough for the loss of holdings.

 

Messrs Bodie and Doyle headed out on fresh horses for the train station and home.

 

Winston Home
Arlington Street
Piccadilly, London

 

 

Mr Bodie entered the library alone. This distasteful confrontation should be faced alone.

"Mother."

"William."

"What was the actual purpose of this whole charade?"

"Have you heirs?" She turned to face him.

"No."

"Ah, still a queer boy, then?" The tone was young-girl condescending.

The only expression change was raised eyebrows.

"Your father's holding should have been left for me to administer.” She stamped her foot on the floor.

"You were not eligible to inherit. Never have been." Mr Bodie’s tone was not confrontational. It was almost bored.

"You can give the properties to me." The haughtiness in her tone grated.

"Already sold them." Mr Bodie smiled for the first time. “Your plan to force the estate in to foreclosure or to be sold so you could buy it failed.”

"How sharper than a serpent's tooth it is to have a thankless child. I will make your life hell. Your secret will trade nicely. I'm sure your Mr Cowley will not want to be tainted by someone who will end up in gaol." Lady Winston turned and flounced away, a she-devil in planning.

Mr Bodie left alone and unaided. He jumped up into the saddle and did not look back. He met Mr Doyle at the gate with a smile of relief. Together they rode away.

 

Army and Navy Club
Mayfair
London

 

Lady Winston waited at the door. She demanded of the sergeant who answered that she be announced.

Mr Cowley appeared at the door instead. “Please follow me.” He led her to the office he used while here. He sat behind the simple wooden desk that belied the importance of the man who used it and indicated that she have a seat. No refreshment was offered.

“What can I do for you today?”

“The matter that I approached you about has not been handled satisfactorily. Your man, William, failed.”

"Mr Bodie, like all my men, has comported himself as I require.” Mr Cowley answered easily.

“I highly doubt that, and I will make sure the Queen knows this as well,” Lady Winston said haughtily.

“The problem at the estate was handled with aplomb. No outsiders were even aware of the problem, let alone the solution. You specifically requested that.” Mr Cowley recounted the handling from the report.

Lady Winston’s faced contorted into a sneer. “Your fine Mr Bodie, my son, has been known to indulge in the love that dare not speak its name.” She looked to the door, hoping others were listening. “Goodness, are you shocked? Have I spoken out of turn? Did I confess his sins to his employer?” Lady Winston demanded without actually looking at Mr Cowley.

Mr Cowley displayed no shock, no ire, no dilemma whatsoever at her pronouncement. Forewarned by the man himself, Mr Cowley had at that time, assured the fine Mr Bodie that he had already been well aware that she had planned to cause trouble of some kind or another, and steps had already been taken to ensure that Lady Winston would be thwarted. Mr Cowley did not share that his commitment to his men of true calling was absolute.

Mr Cowley leaned forward. “I promised my men that all others will be denied the chance to judge and that includes you, Lady Winston. Any affaire de cœur within my ranks has already been approved by the Queen, herself. This is a futile path you wish to embark upon. To prevent any harm you may wish to render, Her Majesty, has suggested a solution herself. It has been completed as we converse, and it will get you out of the country.” Mr Cowley sat back in his finely crafted oak chair. He smiled a smile that would make his men squirm and feel ill at ease.

Lady Winston took it at face value so didn’t know what was coming.

“Your husband, Lord Thomas Winston, the current director of the East India Company has been appointed Governor General of India. You will be departing forthwith and you will not be welcomed back.”

Her faced reddened and she appeared to have swallowed a fish. She couldn’t even sputter, her anger so overwhelming, she was so very livid. Her son caused this and he wasn’t even here to bear the brunt of her anger. “How dare you! You defend that vile creature?” She stood and stamped her foot.

“The Queen has thanked my men on more than one occasion for their aid. They are men of honour and dedication; you will not besmirch any man within the ranks. Now, your carriage awaits ready to deliver you to your husband. Good day and goodbye.” Mr Cowley motioned the sergeant to escort her out. He closed the door on her outraged protestations. Mr Cowley smiled to himself.

 

Derby, Derbyshire
East Midlands

 

 

Mr Bodie never took a day for granted. His life of adventure and joy was only made possible due to the man at his side through it all. He paid the driver, collected their holdalls, and turned with a genuine smile. He nodded to Mr Doyle.

For most, a mother held a special place in their hearts. Mr Bodie’s mum might not but Mr Doyle knew that his had more than enough room for them both. He opened the gate and his mum was already at the door brushing flour off her hands. She moved to greet them and spied Mr Bodie behind her son. She beamed.

"My sweet Bodie, we will have a feast!" Mrs Doyle held on to both men's arms as they walked into the Doyle cottage.

 

fin