Waking up with Bodie was Doyle’s favourite pastime. Make that his second favourite. Making love with Bodie was definitely in the number one spot. Stretching from his toes to his fingertips, he arched from the bed. He sank back onto the mattress, sighing happily. Doyle felt marvellous. He had been well and truly fucked, and he loved every second. Bodie was no doubt the best lover ever.
Rolling to his side, he faced the object of his affection, enjoying the view of his sleeping partner. Doyle agreed with Bodie’s own assessment of himself from the nighttime chat they'd had during the Parsali debacle: he was tall, dark... and exceedingly modest. His dark lashes fanned against his pale skin. His messy hair stuck up here and there. It was longer than usual, and Doyle liked that he had more to card his fingers through. Bodie’s nose was strong and his lips knew exactly how to bring Doyle to a screaming orgasm. That mouth was deadly!
Further examination revealed a body kept in good shape as if the owner’s life depended on it. Doyle smiled. Bodie’s life, and in extension Doyle’s own, depended on both of them being fit.
Doyle reached out, laying his hand on Bodie’s shoulder. He watched intently as Bodie slowly woke. His eyes fluttered several times, and he licked his lips. It was like watching the sun rise, beautiful in its own right, but deadly, with the ability to burn straight into your heart.
“Morning,” Doyle said, gently rubbing his lover's warm flesh.
“Hmm. Is it?” Bodie smiled, rolling to face Doyle.
Doyle laughed. “You’ve been awake one point five seconds, and you’re hungry.”
Patting his flat belly, Bodie said, “I’m a growing boy.”
“In more ways than one.” Doyle chucked, low and dirty.
“You’re insatiable,” Bodie said with a grin. “Come here.”
For the next few minutes the only sounds in the room were sighs and kisses and groans. Doyle loved a morning orgasm. It gave his day a welcomed start.
Bodie didn’t seem to mind his own orgasm. He hummed happily, something that had surprised Doyle the first time he’d done it. Bodie never hummed that Doyle had ever heard before they'd become lovers, nor did he sing often to any of the pop tunes on the radio in the Capri. But when he was happy and satiated, he hummed. It was a special sound Doyle loved hearing.
Doyle loved a lot of things. He loved Beethoven and iced buns and a good handgun and a fast car and Bodie. Life was good.
“Breakfast is here!”
Doyle rinsed the shampoo from his hair. After a final turn under the nicely hot water of the shower, he turned the taps and snagged a thick snowy white towel. It was large enough to cover him from under his armpits to his knees. He used a second towel to fluff his hair. Draping it on his head, he sauntered out into the sitting area.
The hotel was nice. He’d pooled his expense money with Bodie’s and after adding a few quid each, they’d upgraded to The Milford. Located a few blocks off Times Square, it was an easy walk to New York City’s beating heart. Not that they’d seen much after they’d escorted their charge to the local Central Intelligence Agency’s clandestine offices, happily without incident. Granted five days’ leave, for the first three days they’d never left their room.
Loving with abandon, first one of the two double beds that occupied the room, and then moving to the other when the sheets finally could take no more. They lived on room service, which proved more than adequate to meet Bodie’s needs and far exceeded Doyle’s desires.
His only desire was Bodie. Thankfully, Bodie was happy to accommodate him. Multiple times.
On the fourth day, the men showered and ventured forth. Visiting the usual tourists haunts in twelve hours, they hit the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Staten Island Ferry, the Statue of Liberty and rode to the top of the Empire State Building. They ate local style pizza and hot dogs. They had to have something to tell Cowley and their friends back in London. Couldn't tell the lads how they'd spent seventy-two hours in bed together. That wouldn't do.
Doyle sat at the table. “Ta,” he said, taking a long drink of the tea Bodie had prepared for him. “Christ, that hits the spot.” He buttered a slice of toast and added a thin layer of blueberry preserves. Crunching, he watched Bodie devour two eggs and five crispy bacon strips, along with two slices of toast. He enjoyed his own egg and limited himself to a single piece of bacon. He had to mind his figure.
“Saving the last slice for you,” Bodie said around his crunching of bread. He tipped his head towards the plate holding the final piece.
“You’re too good to me.” Doyle obliged, eating the offering with relish.
Bodie gave a toothy grin full of breakfast.
“Charmin'.” Doyle smiled, shaking his head in fond exasperation. “Why do I put up with you?”
“It’s for my big, thick, long-“
“Not hardly. What’s on for our last day?” He waggled an eyebrow and looked suggestively at the bed.
“You are a slag.”
Doyle put a hand over his heart, fluttering his eyelashes outrageously. “And your point is...”
Bodie laughed. “Nothing at all, mate. I’m right there with you. However, I was perusing the newspaper just now and my little eye spies something that's right up your alley.” Before Doyle could respond to that suggestion, Bodie held up a hand. “Do not respond to that!”
Doyle stood up, grinning mischievously. He dropped the towel and bowed low. “I am but your lowly servant.” Then he ran giggling into the bathroom to get dressed. He hoped his lover was gaping at his bum. It was one of his best assets.
Doyle knew that walking arm in arm down a major city street was something he’d never get used to. Yet in New York, no one glanced their way. In London, they had to be careful about their relationship, but here they were anonymous. He enjoyed being able to touch Bodie’s arm or hand and not worry about anyone pointing their way. No one seemed to care about two men walking together, arms locked. Things were changing in some places but it still required caution, especially while in Her Majesty’s service.
It surprised him that he could touch Bodie in public after a lifetime of conditioning. He was happy 'for the times they are a-changing', as the Bob Dylan song said.
New York was an all right city. It had the hustle and bustle Doyle was used to. Except for all the yellow cabs. The streets looked out of place without the normal black cabs of London. The yellow was too bright a colour for a car, especially a hire car. He was about to make this brilliant observation to Bodie when his partner tugged his arm, steering towards a small bakery. Wonderful smells wafted over Doyle the moment Bodie pushed open the door. He breathed in the fragrance of wheat and rye, sugar and spices, citrus and herbs.
“What’s your speciality?" Bodie asked the young woman behind the long counter of glass cases who had greeted them as they entered.
“The orange streusel muffins,” she said, smiling. She pointed to a tray of delicious looking baked goods on the top shelf behind the curved glass of the display case. “People come from miles around for them. They’re my favourite.”
“We’ll have six, please,” Doyle said, returning her smile. “They look fantastic.”
“They are,” the pleasant girl said, sliding the six muffins into a white-coated bag. “That will be $3.45.”
"My treat." Bodie handed over a five-dollar bill. “Keep the change.”
"Generous today?" Doyle asked.
"Being with you..." Bodie shrugged. "If you tease me about this, I'll make you pay for the next dozen takeaways," he threatened.
Doyle grinned, following Bodie out of the shop.
On the pavement, Bodie dived into the bag. He pulled out a muffin and held it out to his lover.
“Cheers.” Doyle peeled away the paper and bit into the treat. The cake part of the muffin was perfect, soft and buttery, with a faint flavour of orange. The topping was amazing. It was crunchy, with brown sugar and nuts, along with orange zest. “Oh, my God.”
Bodie was already on his second. “Wow,” he mumbled as he chewed. “Nice. Kind of like a great Victoria sponge with nuts and citrus.”
“And no cream or jam.” Doyle balled up the paper liner and put it in the nearest bin.
“Another?” Bodie held out the bag. “Four for me and two for you.”
Doyle laughed. Bodie looked like a five-year-old, crumbs clinging to his lips and dusting his chin and jacket. “You’re incorrigible. Hand over the bag before it ends up being five for you and one for me.”
The men resumed walking. Bodie kept glancing over at Doyle, a silly grin on his face.
“What? Do I have muffin on me face?” Doyle asked, brushing his hand over his mouth.
“Nah. 'm happy. It’s nice, being with you, no worries, no Cowley. Just us.”
Doyle looked at Bodie with a sidelong glance. He could see the wheels whirling in Bodie’s brain and he knew what his lover was thinking. “We have to go back.” To temper his comment, he slipped his arm through Bodie’s.
“I know,” Bodie said with resignation. “But it proves that we can do this.” He waved a hand from himself to Doyle. “Us.”
“‘Course we can do us. Moron," Doyle said affectionately. “No question.”
Bodie let out a happy sigh, squeezing Doyle’s lower arm with his free hand. “None from me either. Glad that’s settled.”
They walked for another fifteen or twenty minutes, chatting idly about everything but work.
“We must head back,” Doyle said. “Plane leaves in four hours. We’ll need at least two hours for clearance on the flight.”
“Five more minutes. Besides, we have special security clearance. Two hours is plenty of time. From the map, the place I want to take you is up ahead.”
Understanding Bodie’s reluctance, Doyle nodded. He was also enjoying every minute away from the mayhem that ruled the life of an A-list CI5 agent. Holidays at home were always subject to cancellation at any second. It was nice that they couldn't be called out on a moment’s notice. It was an eight-hour flight back to Heathrow. Those eight hours were still theirs even if Cowley called their hotel this second and ordered them home.
"There it is," Bodie said enthusiastically, waving a hand. "Your kind of place. An art gallery.”
“Want to take a gander?” Doyle asked, instantly interested.
“Yes. That's why we came this far. We've got a good fifteen minutes, then we’ll catch a cab back. That will save us thirty minutes.”
The men stopped in front of the gallery’s window. Several large posters advertised what was on offer inside. One brochure caught Doyle’s attention: Dreamland by Lanse Masad.
It must have seemed interesting to Bodie also because he said, “Strange way to spell 'Lanse'.”
Doyle smiled. They were in tune on many things. “Maybe his mum never wanted him to buy stuff pre-made with his name on it,” he offered. “Like any of those interesting key chains or miniature licence plates of New York at those high class Times Square shops.”
Bodie snorted with amusement. “What I want for Christmas in my stocking. ‘Bodie’ on a magnet for the fridge with the Statue of Liberty in bright green.” He elbowed his partner. “Come on.”
Inside the gallery, it was bright and airy. CI5 training demanded that he observe his surroundings, and Doyle unconsciously did so with ease. There were about a dozen people in the gallery. Patrons walked here and there, studying the art. Doyle noticed three other people, two women and a man, wearing black. Gallery employees, most likely. It proved him correct when one woman approached them with a greeting and to hand over exhibit brochures.
“Cheers,” Doyle said, taking the pamphlets with a nod of thanks.
It was a place that invited exploration. Wandering along, Doyle, with Bodie close to his side, studied the art. They looked at paintings and sculptures, along with several hanging mobiles made from what looked like drainage pipes. He made comments about what he liked and why. Bodie offered his own observations, and they spent a pleasurable ten minutes enjoying themselves.
“Time to head out,” Bodie reminded.
“Yeah. Wait. Where’s that one exhibit from the window poster? Dreamland? Sounded interesting,” Doyle looked around.
“There.” Bodie nodded towards an archway set in the back wall. “Make it quick.”
Doyle hurried through the archway, pausing once he’d entered the room. The walls were a dark blue colour. There was a soft light above each framed photograph beckoning the eye to observe what was on display. He walked over to the first item and studied it.
Doyle nodded, turned on his heels and followed in Bodie’s wake when he looked at the photograph on the wall directly opposite. He halted, frozen to the spot.
“Mate?” Bodie asked.
Unable to speak, Doyle slowly walked over to the photograph. The spot light cast a soft, warm yellowish glow on the subject. Dumbfounded, speechless, he stared at the art.
Doyle didn’t know how long Bodie had been shaking his arm. It took every ounce of strength he had to tear his eyes away from the photograph to stare at Bodie. Whatever Bodie saw in his face had his partner blanching. He didn't understand why Bodie seemed so out of focus. He swayed. Bodie cupped his elbows and firmly spun him around, away from the photograph.
“Ray!” Bodie said roughly, shaking him.
Blinking rapidly, Doyle shook his head. He came back to himself in a rush. His stomach lurched. Ready to vomit, he stumbled from the room and ran through the gallery towards the door. He pushed someone out of his way, ignoring their startled cry. Bolting out the door, he ran a few steps to a wrought-iron fence and threw up in the bushes at the railing’s base.
Rapid footsteps from his right made him close his eyes. Bodie.
“Are you sick?” Bodie demanded. “Doyle, for Christ’s sake, say something!”
Spitting out the foul saliva, he shivered in the late afternoon's coolness. After swiping at his eyes and spitting once more, Doyle raised his head to meet Bodie’s panicked gaze.
“They’re- all of them... they’re all dead,” Doyle whispered.
“What the fuck are you talking about?” Bodie asked angrily.
Doyle’s suspicions terrified him. “Don’t you get it, you fucking moron?” He waved a hand towards the gallery. “The people in the photographs! They’re all -dead. The baby. The old lady. My sis- Fucking dead!”
“How in the world could you know that?” Bodie asked, stepping closer to put a hand on Doyle’s shoulder. “Blimey, Ray, you scared the shit out of me.”
Doyle gritted his teeth. “They’re all dead, Bodie, and I know because the photo of the girl, the young woman in the Egyptian garb, was of my s-sister.”
Bodie’s eyes narrowed. “Wait. Your sister, the one who’s been dead for 20 years? That was your sister? Are you sure?”
“Don’t you think I’d know my sister?” Doyle snapped, anger flooding through him. “You think this is my imagination? That I’m lying? What? What the fuck, Bodie.”
Huffing out a breath, Bodie rubbed his forehead. “I’m not sure... You never said how she died. I reckoned it was a car crash, or she got sick.”
“No.” Doyle looked over Bodie's shoulder at the gallery entrance. It was with a force of will he made himself calm down. “Bodie, she disappeared; we never knew if she ran off or was kidnapped. We never found her body.”
“Why didn’t you say?” Bodie demanded. “Christ, don’t you think that’s useful information?”
“Why?” Doyle cried, throwing out his arms. “It was long before I met you. You knew she died. How she died was irrelevant.”
“Until now,” Bodie growled.
With an anguished cry, Doyle nodded. He put a hand over his eyes. “I don’t know what to do.”
Bodie pulled Doyle into his arms. Doyle stiffened. “Relax. Nobody cares. We’re not home.” He rubbed Doyle’s back for a moment before he released him. “So let’s think this through.” He was quiet for a moment before he said, “Let’s say it’s her.”
“Okay. It’s your sister. How old was she in the picture, would you say? Is it possible she posed for the photograph before she passed? She’d be about-“
“She looked older... not like she did when she disappeared. She was sixteen. The photograph... it felt older to me.”
“All right. She looks older, which could mean she was alive a few years after she went missing." Bodie gave Doyle a sidelong look. "Wait. You said you felt the subjects were dead.”
“They’re not sleeping. They’re not in sodding Dreamland! Can't you see it? I can bloody well feel it, Bodie!” Doyle snapped angrily. Catching himself, he exhaled, hanging his head. “Sorry. Not your fault, is it.”
“Nothing to be sorry for.” Bodie chewed on his lower lip.
“I’m going back in and demand to speak to the photographer,” Doyle said, slipping past Bodie.
“That might work.” Bodie touched Doyle's sleeve as he passed. “Direct but polite. Right? We have no jurisdiction here, and we need information.”
“Do you still have that Minox I gave you for Christmas last year?”
Doyle patted his jacket pocket. “Yeah. Here.” He pulled the small metal camera out. Barely two inches long, with an unused film cassette inside, he passed it over. When Bodie had given it to him, it had puzzled him. It was for true covert ops, a James Bond type spy. It wasn't the best sort of camera for normal photographs on holiday but Bodie loved a good gadget so he'd brought it along. Now it seemed it would come in handy.
“Good lad. A true agent goes nowhere without his camera and his Swiss army knife.” Bodie waggled his eyebrow. “Besides, if we don’t get the information we need, we need proof about those photographs. We’ll need Cowley to do a check or get one of his American blokes to do it for us. If all of those people are dead, who knows if any of all of them might have been the victims of foul play. We don’t know who could still be listed as MIA.”
"They will not let you go in and take snapshots."
With a raised eyebrow, Bodie asked, "Who said I would ask for permission?"
Gratitude flowed through Doyle. Bodie will help, was making a plan. “Thank you,” he whispered. “Good thinking.”
“One of us has to think straight. So you play it cool and calm. Right? Catch more flies and all.” Bodie gave Doyle a firm look, along with a poke in the chest. “Got it?”
“I believe you, Ray, about all of this.” Bodie waved a hand towards the gallery store.
Doyle closed his eyes and squeezed them tightly to stave off any tears that threatened to fall. A warmth coursed through him despite the circumstances. Bodie believed him. Bodie was beside him. Bodie loved him. That’s all that mattered. He had to keep his emotions in check or he’d be useless. The most important thing was to figure out what was going on. After giving himself a second to regroup, he waved Bodie ahead and followed.
A man about their age approached them when they re-entered the gallery. He was the same fellow Doyle had seen earlier, wearing a nicely cut black suit with a white shirt and black tie. He had a small pin in his lapel with the gallery's name on it. No name tag, Doyle noticed. He approached them warily. He must have seen Doyle bolt, with Bodie close behind. His tone was cool. “Yes?”
“Sorry about that earlier,” Bodie said. “Me mate ate something bad at lunch. I apologise for causing a scene.”
The bloke eyed both of them before he nodded. “You’re welcome here as long as there are no further incidents.”
Bodie said, giving the fellow his best smile. “Thanks so much.”
Doyle plastered a smile on his face. “Thank you. We came back because we’re extremely interested in the exhibit by Masad. It’s so-“
“Fabulous. Masterful,” Bodie picked up instantly. “We’d like to speak with the artist.”
The man shook his head. “That won’t be possible.”
“Why not?” Doyle asked, clenching his fist. He ordered himself to relax, flexing his fingers. “Is he still alive?”
The man looked from Doyle to Bodie. “Honestly, I don’t know. We’re one of three galleries worldwide exhibiting the artist’s work.” He walked a few steps to a table and picked up a brochure. “We are selling agents only. The artist has his own agent who sets up the works, signs the contracts, is the go-between. Past that, client confidentiality is utmost in our gallery. So even if I had that information- which I do not," he said firmly, "I couldn't pass that out willy-nilly."
Bodie took the brochure.
“Ray.” He pointed to the line of text.
At the bottom it stated, ‘New York, Geneva, London.’ Each gallery had the location of the exhibits. London. There was an exhibit in bloody London!
“Who is the agent?" Doyle asked.
“I’m afraid that’s confidential information as well. We do all sales through our management team," the man said emphatically.
“I’d like to buy one,” Doyle said before he realised the words were out.
The man brightened considerably. “I can arrange that. Which one are you interested in?”
“I don’t know the title,” Doyle admitted.
“I’d be happy to assist you. Please show me which item you’d like to purchase.”
Doyle looked over at the entryway to the Masad exhibit. He wasn’t sure he could walk into the gallery once more and look at the photograph of Arabella, his dead sister.
Bodie put a hand on Doyle’s arm. He gave Doyle a sidelong glance conveying he would negotiate the buy. Doyle gave a slight shake of his head. He had to do this. He owed it to Arabella. He swallowed hard before walking over to the exhibit room.
From behind Doyle the man said, “If you purchase the piece, delivery is in two weeks when the exhibit ends.”
“What?” Doyle spun on his heels. “But we’re leaving for home tonight. I must take it with me.”
“I’m sorry. It’s not my rule; it’s a negotiated item in the agent’s contract.”
Doyle gritted his teeth. “That won’t work for me. Are there copies of the photographs in the other galleries?”
“Oh, no,” the man said, shocked. He put a hand to his throat. “Each is a Masad original.”
“Yeah, right,” Bodie muttered. He cast a glance at Doyle, sliding the camera out of his pocket. He cocked his head back towards the main part of the gallery.
Doyle stepped between Bodie and the assistant. “Could you at least call the agent and ask if he can make an exception? It’s very important.”
The man sighed theatrically. “Yes, of course. Right this way.”
Doyle followed the man through a doorway into a small office while Bodie slipped into the exhibit room. It was no surprise that the call proved fruitless.
“I’m very sorry,” the man said, not seeming contrite. He looked like he couldn’t wait for Doyle and Bodie to leave.
Bodie approached Doyle. “Come on, mate. Besides, the bloody thing was two thousand US. Way out of your budget.” He grabbed Doyle’s hand and hauled him from the gallery.
“Wait, Bodie! I want that photograph!” Doyle came to an abrupt stop on the pavement, hands on his hips. Righteous indignation flowed through him.
Bodie leaned close. “Listen. If you want to come back tonight and pull a Sammy, I’m in. I’ve got good snaps of the piece, plus the other seven. The pieces aren’t going anywhere for at least two weeks.”
“But they might be sold to other people by then!” Doyle said angrily.
“Not if we get Cowley on it, and he can get New York’s finest to possibly confiscate the art as evidence in a crime.”
Doyle glared at his partner for a minute before he curtly nodded. “We missed our plane.”
“There will be another one. Let’s get the film developed.”
“Saw a one-hour photo place in that souvenir shop on Times Square.”
Bodie raised an eyebrow. “'That' souvenir shop? I think I saw two dozen on Times Square!”
“Only need one, mate.” Doyle went to the kerb, waved a hand and flagged down a yellow cab. “Cabs should be black,” he muttered climbing into the backseat. “Times Square, please,” he told the cabbie.
Bodie slid in beside him, not leaving an inch between them. “We’ll figure it out.”
“I hope so.”
“Look who’s talking. You don't believe in any deity.” Doyle looked over at his lover. Bodie gave him a grin full of teeth. He looked ridiculous. Shaking his head, Doyle patted Bodie’s knee. He leaned over and whispered, “Love you, you know."
"Believe in you, you know." Bodie smiled, warm and loving. “Besides, it’s the outside that slays ‘em.”
They rode in silence for a few minutes before Doyle visibly started.
"What?" Bodie asked.
"Lanse Masad. It's a fake name."
"Not unusual for artist types. How did you know?"
"Because it's an anagram for Ansel Adams. All those gorgeous photographs of the Western US, and this moron sullies a true artist's name."
They spread out the photos on the table in the hotel room. Doyle stood over them, examining each one in minute detail. He distanced himself from the ones of Arabella and looked at them as if it were someone else’s case. He had to, or he’d be crying every two seconds.
Bodie had a magnifying glass he’d bought at the souvenir shop. It wasn’t great quality and the gaudy plastic handle was in the shape of the Staten Island Ferry.
“Nothing much,” he stated, handing Doyle the glass.
The phone rang. Bodie grabbed the receiver. “Hello?”
“Cowley here. Why did you miss your flight, 3.7? I have need of you here!”
“Sir, a situation has come up and I- we feel it’s important. We need your help.”
“It had best be life or death, Bodie.”
Doyle picked up the extension phone. The annoyance in his Controller’s voice came through the long distance line loud and clear.
“Sir, it’s Doyle. It’s about my sister.”
“Your sister? It’s been two decades since she disappeared. What could you have found in New York relating to your sister?”
Cowley’s voice change to concern. Doyle had told Cowley when he was first recruited about Arabella. He explained how important she’d been in his life, and how his anger over her disappearance had led him into his downhill slide into delinquency, albeit short-lived.
“We were in an art gallery,” Doyle explained succinctly, “and we saw a photograph of Arabella. She looked older than when I last saw her, maybe into her twenties.”
“How odd. Were you able to acquire the piece? Bring it home, and the lab boys will examine it.”
“Thank you, sir. The gallery will sell the art-“
“-for two thousand American dollars,” Bodie said.
“Right,” Doyle said, “but they won’t release it until the exhibit ends, in about two weeks.”
“We’ll see about that! I’ve a friend placed highly in the New York City constabulary and also several acquaintances at the FBI. I'll see what I can do from this end. In any event, bring yourselves and any other evidence you can home as quick as you can.”
Doyle breathed out a sigh of relief. “Thank you, sir.”
“Sir?” Bodie asked. “I’ve a brochure that said there’s an exhibit here, in Geneva, and also in London. It’s at the Whitechapel Art Gallery, sir.”
“I know the proprietor. I’ll have a word with him.”
“Mr Cowley,” Doyle said, “I have to tell you something important.” He paused.
When the silence stretched, Cowley barked, “Come on, man, spit it out! I haven’t got all day!”
“Sir, I feel the subjects in the photographs are dead. All of them. I don’t know if they’re victims of foul play but it’s possible. Isn’t it?”
Now it was Cowley’s turn to be silent for a good thirty seconds. “You’ve good instincts, 4.5. We’ll look into it. Betty will book you on the next flight tomorrow. Cowley out.”
Doyle stood still, phone in hand, until Bodie gently removed the receiver and cradled it.
“Cowley will help, especially since this could be international. That gallery had eight photos. If the other two each have eight that’s a lot of dead bodies. Even if half of the subjects are listed as missing or...” Bodie rubbed his eyes. “Or are dead, then that’s a lot of evidence. We’ll track this down, Ray.”
Doyle clenched his fists. He longed to punch something. To scream at the injustice of it all. But none of this was Bodie’s fault, and he didn’t deserve the sharp edge of his tongue. “I’m taking a shower.”
“I’m with you on this; you know that,” Bodie insisted, grabbing Doyle’s arm. “Don't be a berk and shut me out!” He dropped his hold. "In other words, don't be like me." He ran his hand down Doyle's arm. "Remember King Billy? What a wanker I was and how much it hurt you? Please, Ray. We've worked past that shite." He held Doyle's gaze. "At least I hope we have."
Doyle squeezed his eyes shut, then opened them. A contrite Bodie was a thing of beauty and it made him get emotional. “Ta, mate. If I get too stroppy, remind me, yeah?” He gave his lover a pat on the shoulder.
Bodie snorted, putting his hand on his heart. “You, stroppy? Never!”
Doyle had taken the comfort Bodie had offered. Their lovemaking was slow and sweet, and afterwards he was pleasantly tired. Sleep was elusive, however. The photographic images took over his mind's eye, and it wasn't until dawn approached that Doyle finally dozed for a brief time.
Rising, he phoned to room service for strong coffee, along with a repast for his partner. Bodie was always famished and despite the gloomy prospects of the day regarding their upcoming investigation, he would eat as if it were his last meal.
Doyle envied Bodie his ability to forge ahead, to function in the face of death and destruction. Bodie was of much sterner stuff than he, and he was glad of it. He needed Bodie's yin to his yang. Two halves of a CI5 whole.
He washed and dressed, leaving Bodie to sleep until the knock on the door awoke him. Doyle let the porter in, tipped him and sat down with a cup of hot brew in his hands. Bodie rolled over and smiled.
"Morning." Doyle forced himself to eat a piece of dry toast. It helped settle his roiling belly.
"Morning," Bodie said, climbing from the bed, starkers. He sauntered over, giving Doyle the full show.
Bodie was a fine creature, with a muscled chest and thighs. While he complained constantly about jogging, it toned his body into an admirable figure. Doyle drank his fill, smiling into his cup. Bodie was sensual and sexy, and much to Doyle’s delight, had a more than adequate cock.
"I'm starving!" Bodie sat down and dove in. Poached eggs, ham steak, croissants, strawberry jam, and coffee soon disappeared.
Satisfied, he sat back with a second cup. "You need more than a single piece of toast, mate. You'll blow away at this rate."
Doyle shrugged. "Not hungry."
"If you expect me to pick you up off the pavement after you faint from hunger, you're sadly mistaken. I'll cover you with a newspaper and leave you to the pigeons."
"Oh, ta, mate," Doyle said sharply. "Nice to know you have me back."
"You eat that last croissant, with butter mind, and I'll certainly have your back. And your bum. And your-"
"All right!" Doyle picked up the pastry and tore into it. He chewed noisily. "Happy?"
There was a knock at the door.
Bodie looked down at his naked self.
"Go and get dressed. You're not exhibiting yourself to anybody but me these days. And hurry up."
Bodie scarpered while Doyle answered the door.
"Telegram," the bellhop said, holding out the envelope.
Doyle handed over a tip. The lad gave a jaunty salute.
"Cheers." Doyle ripped open the note. No useful news to impart. Return flight information below. Tickets at check-in counter. Betty.
Bodie came from the bathroom, towelling his hair.
"Got our tickets from Cowley. This afternoon, 4 pm departure." Doyle waved the telegram, rubbing his finger along his upper lip.
Bodie eyed him carefully. "I know that look. What are you thinking?"
"You offered to do a Sammy with me, remember?" he said, raising an eyebrow.
"Ahh, yeah. You think it's a good idea?"
"Do I have a choice?" Doyle ran a hand through his hair, making it crackle with static electricity. It stood wildly from his scalp. "Doubt Cowley will roust any American cavalry in time."
"We have the snapshots."
"But we don't have the original so we can study it, let the lab see if it’s been altered." He threw out his hands. "I don't know but I have to do something!"
Bodie sat down, draping the towel around his neck. "It could be wired. The second we touch it, zap. And what about our flight? Cowley will murder us if we miss this plane."
"Wasn't thinking of missing the plane." Doyle paced to the window and stared out. It was a great view, with tall buildings reaching for the blue sky dotted with white clouds. Traffic below zipped to and fro, the yellow cabs sticking out like little colourful ants dashing about. He sighed. "I'll do it in broad daylight, with you and a cab waiting outside, with a straight dash to the airport after."
"You think that bloke at the gallery will let you get within ten feet of the photographs? Bloody hell, Ray, he won't even let you inside the place."
Doyle turned. "You think he'll let you inside?"
Bodie shrugged. "I'll wear my best suit and a hat. And I won't take the whole thing. I'll cut the photo out and roll it up, shove it inside my coat."
"I can do that, Bodie," Doyle snapped.
"Nah. You're not the cool and collected sort, are you."
"Right. I keep forgetting. You bury your emotions beneath that cold shell."
"Don't get stroppy with me, mate. I'm on your side, remember?" Bodie snapped back.
Bodie had called him on his attitude, like he'd asked. Doyle’s shoulders slumped. "Bastard."
Grinning, Bodie stood up and snapped the towel at Doyle's rump. He missed. Doyle grabbed the material and yanked, towing Bodie along until they were chest to chest. He wrapped his hands around Bodie's neck and mashed their mouths together.
Bodie returned the favour, arms binding Doyle's chest. He gave as good as he got, returning Doyle's kiss roughly. Finally they parted, both breathing hard.
Doyle touched Bodie's redden lips with a fingertip. "Like that we're lovers. You can take what I have and return it. Rough when I need it. Sweet when I need it."
"Yeah, you too," Bodie said. "We're good for each other. Most of the time."
Doyle let out a wry chuckle. "Never even thought I'd have 'most of the time'. I'm happy with that."
Bodie pulled Doyle close by his shirtfront. "Speaking of time... Get those clothes off."
Doyle did as bid.
Bodie looked smashing in the new suit, grey with a thin pinstripe of black, along with a black felt Fedora. He'd charged it on the CI5 expense card. Cowley would have a meltdown, but it couldn't be helped. Doyle swore to repay CI5 every pound. This was, after all, his op.
The cab ride seemed to take forever when it was only fifteen minutes. Doyle fidgeted, chewing on a fingernail. Bodie gently took his wrist and moved it to his thigh, covering it with his other hand.
Doyle glanced at him. Bodie patted his hand. They were quiet on the drive. As instructed, the cabbie stopped down the road. Bodie climbed out, leaning back in the open door.
"Back in a mo," he said cheerily.
Doyle gave him a wan smile. Bodie closed the door and Doyle leaned back, closing his eyes. He wanted to look at his watch, count the seconds, but that wouldn't help. Not at all. With an annoyed grunt, he opened his eyes, looking down at the sweeping hand on the dial face.
Five... Six... Ten...
At twelve, the door opened and Bodie hopped in. He didn't look at Doyle. "JFK, driver. Please."
The cabbie nodded and put the still running vehicle into drive.
Unable to contain himself any longer, Doyle grabbed Bodie's sleeve. With a gleeful grin, Bodie gently patted his jacket over his heart. Doyle breathed a sigh of relief. Bodie had done it! He'd get the details later, when they could speak privately, but for now, he held his tongue (something that was a rarity for him) and tried to breathe calmly. He was moderately successful in his endeavour.
Doyle had been undercover enough times to know how to play it cool. But his stomach still churned, and he had to wipe beads of sweat from his forehead twice. The bored customs' agent stamped his passport with barely a glance.
Finally ensconced in his cramped economy class seat, with Bodie beside him, he was able to breathe normally once his racing heart had slowed.
After a glance about to be sure they had privacy, he leaned close to Bodie. "Tell me," he whispered.
"Nothing to tell," Bodie said, mirroring Doyle's tone. "Sauntered in, smiled, looked around. Didn't see that bloke from yesterday. There was another woman I hadn't seen before working. I walked into the exhibit room, took down the photo, and I didn't even have to cut it from the frame. Only pried up a couple of clips and voila! Mine!" He took the purloined photo from his jacket.
Doyle unrolled the paper, staring down at it. If it hadn't been his sister, he would have said that the subject looked so peaceful! It made his arms prickle with goose flesh to look at Arabella's serene face. She made a beautiful Queen Cleopatra, dressed elegantly as any Egyptian princess, with a headpiece that wrapped around her forehead, the front graced by a cobra. The sheath dress appeared to be a creamy muslin and about her neck was a wide collar that could have been made from many coloured stones. Even in black and white her radiance shown in full color to Doyle.
But she had to be dead. Doyle had convinced his teenaged self there wasn't a scenario he could conceive that would have kept Arabella from her family by her own choice. He had to believe someone had taken her against her will. Doyle knew that they’d both been loved and cared for at home. It was only after his beloved sister had disappeared that he'd hated the world, to run the streets, and to defy his parents. As an adult, he deeply regretted the trouble he'd caused, and he was relieved he'd turned his life around.
Still, Doyle had to wonder if deep down, because he'd lost his beloved Arabella, that it was one of the reasons (if not the reason) he did such a dangerous job, willing to die at any moment for Queen and country. He snorted ruefully. It was something Doctor Ross would love to dig through, burrowing into Doyle's brain for all the nuances of how his mind worked.
"What?" Bodie asked.
Doyle tore his eyes away from Arabella's sweet face. "Just thinking. Remembering."
"Remember the good stuff, okay?"
"Tell me about her." Bodie touched the back of Doyle's hand with a fingertip. He dragged it down Doyle's skin before tapping lightly.
Looking at Bodie's finger, he smiled. Bodie loved to touch, to stroke, to pet. He needed a cat, apparently. Doyle chuckled, imaging Bodie with a large tiger-striped cat lounging on his leg, purring loudly. Somehow it didn't seem silly at all. It was a comforting thought. He leaned closer to Bodie and spoke quietly, sharing his memories of long ago.
Cowley waved his agents to seats. Doyle leaned against the file cabinet behind Bodie's chair. He wasn't sure what Cowley would reveal, but he needed some space to take in whatever knowledge Cowley would be imparting. Giving himself stern instructions to remain separate from the case (or Cowley would tear strips off him!), he waited as patiently as possible.
"Sir?" Bodie asked, resting the rolled photograph he'd carried with him on the edge of the desk.
Cowley sat back and gazed from Bodie to Doyle. Doyle fidgeted under his controller's intense scrutiny. Doyle knew that Cowley was deciding whether he could keep his cool. He must have decided because he leant back and sighed.
"We'll dispense with the pleasantries about your trip and get to it. I'm sure Doyle is ready to explode."
"Hate to have Betty have to clean that up," Bodie snarked.
Cowley gave him a gimlet eye. "At least you got 4.5 home. I've confiscated all the artwork from the Whitechapel gallery."
Doyle perked up his head.
"Ah, I've got the same instincts as you, 4.5. Also, I am not hampered by the same regulations as the US authorities that prevented the confiscation of the New York pieces. My authority in anything that keeps our nation safe is tantamount, and if any of these subjects were part of foul play, I want the truth discovered. I also agree with Doyle. Something is not right with the photographs." Cowley picked up his glasses and skimmed a paper. "The lab is using some new computer program for facial recognition to go through the items but it will take time. I've also assigned several agents to skim the police records for missing persons, unidentified bodies. I will widen the search to Interpol and the FBI/CIA if we get any positive results."
"Doyle, I understand your position but I work with facts. It is a fact that your sister is missing, presumed dead. It is not a fact that this photograph has anything to do with her disappearance, not as yet. I am doing this investigation on your word. You will do nothing rash." Cowley leaned forward. "You will conduct yourself impartially or you will find yourself on surveillance duty in the Outer Hebrides. Do I make myself clear?"
It thrilled Doyle that Cowley hadn't taken him off the case. Determined to do as ordered, he vowed to himself to keep his temper in check and to understand everything about the case. He wanted to know what had happened to his sister, although he dreaded the inevitable conversation he must have with his mum. "Yes, sir. I want to see this through, not just for me."
"Good." The telephone rang. "Yes?" Cowley listened for a moment before he hung up. "The photographs are ready for examination in the first floor file room. I've word that one has been identified. Find any relatives and discover the circumstances of their disappearance. Murphy will liaise with the locals for files or records, and you will conduct the interviews. Together I expect you to prepare a full report on each subject. Dismissed." He picked up his pen.
"Sir," Doyle said. "What about the artist or agent?"
"The agent's name is in the file on Betty's desk. He'll need interviewing. I'm sure you will use your powers of persuasion to discover the artist's information. On your bicycles, lads."
Doyle nodded. "Yes, sir. Thank you, Mr Cowley." Under his anxiety and sadness concerning his sister, a thrill of excitement raced through him. He liked the stages of an investigation, how information formed into facts, how he and Bodie could build a case, much like a child's box of blocks, one piece at a time, until they formed a whole skyscraper.
"Yes, sir," Bodie said, following Doyle from the room. In the hallway, he asked, "You okay?"
"Yeah. I want to do this, Bodie." He met his partner's gaze.
Bodie was as serious as he when he said, "I know. Partner." He shoved his hands in his pockets.
In a single word, Bodie relayed that he was with Doyle all the way to the end. And not merely regarding this case. Doyle smiled.
Bodie grabbed his sleeve. "But before we go off and save the world," he whinged, "I need a cuppa and a biccie."
"You are a prat." Doyle turned to head towards the restroom.
Bodie trotted behind him to catch up. "But you still love me."
Doyle sighed, rolling his eyes heavenward. "Give me strength."
Doyle struggled to suppress a shudder more than once as he scrutinised the photographs Cowley had confiscated. The lab had not finished their analysation, but he and Bodie wanted to have a close look at them. Each subject in this lot was a girl or woman, posed. No babies, thank the gods. One young woman appeared to be a Sixties fashion model. As Doyle studied her photograph, Bodie leaned over his shoulder.
"Eh?" Doyle asked.
"She's wearing an original Mary Quant dress." At his partner's raised eye brow, Bodie explained, "Big icon of the fashionable gal in London in the Sixties. Worldwide actually."
"How would you know that?"
"Dated a bird who collected her stuff. Pattie had dozens in her flat, hanging on the walls and on mannequins. An entire closet was full of originals. She said it would all be worth a fortune some day."
"Pattie?" Doyle paused before the light bulb came on. "Good grief. Don't tell me you shagged Pattie Boyd!"
"She was between husbands. I've the same scruples as you, Doyle," Bodie said loftily. "You know I don't do married birds either. Was Christmastime, 1976, I believe-"
"Spare me the details." Doyle returned to his study of the photos. The next was a Renaissance scene, complete with gown and accoutrements. "The so-called artist doesn't spare expense, does he? This one," he tapped a frame, "looks like he raided the British Museum."
"Boudicca, it looks like." Bodie said, shivering. He shook his hands before rubbing them together.
"Someone walked over your grave?" Doyle asked.
"Don't joke. The more I look at these the creepier they get. Come on, let's get to it." Bodie turned away from the framed photographs spread out neatly on the long table.
After a glance around to be sure they were alone, Doyle put a hand on his shoulder. "I want this bastard."
Bodie gave a curt nod. "I'll load the gun. Bet you wouldn't object to dumdums this time around."
Doyle held Bodie's gaze for a moment. It was wrong to wish anybody dead but this pervert? He closed his eyes for a moment before he said, "You won't hear a word of protest from me."
Bodie started the Capri and mashed the accelerator, tyres squealling away from the kerb. "Agent or relative?"
Doyle opened the manila file and scanned the contents. "Agent's address is closest, then onto the relative."
"Being methodical, eh?" Bodie quipped, shifting from third to fourth.
Doyle turned in his seat. "We are nothing if not efficient and competent agents of Her Majesty's service." Bodie flashed a toothy grin before he returned to his driving. Doyle leaned back against the door, one foot propped up on the dash.
He watched the wind ruffle Bodie's dark hair, and he studied his handsome profile for a moment. He admired Bodie's hand as it closed around the gearshift lever to switch gears. It was a strong hand, capable of causing pain and death while being able to render tenderness and pleasure. Unbidden the image of that same hand stroking his cock, making him writhe and moan, danced across his brain. He smiled, pushing away the image and the feeling to return to the here and now. Later, at his flat or at Bodie's, he would bury himself in Bodie's body. He would pound away the anxiety and fear about the case in that welcoming heat. He would be rough tonight, and Bodie would encourage it, meeting Doyle's passion with his own.
Doyle slammed his fist against the car's dash. "Why in fuck's name would anybody in their right mind agree to be an agent for somebody whom they've never met? It's bloody ludicrous!"
"Money. Follow the money. Father always says that and Father knows best." Bodie directed the car towards their next destination. "That bloke admitted he was making thousands of pounds a month setting up the exhibits. He didn't even need to make any sales!"
"Did he think all artists sent wire transfers from banks in Switzerland and had expensive lawyers as intermediaries? Christ, the artist could be a fucking Nazi for all he knows or cares! He could be a bloody multiple murderer." Doyle punched his right fist into his left palm. "I could have put my fist into his teeth. Can you imagine not knowing who you're working for?"
"I know mercenaries when I see them, and that fellow wasn't fighting in any jungle but he's a paid merc all the same." Bodie signalled a left turn. "While you putting your fist into his teeth would not have been helpful," he said in his best posh accent, "I would have thoroughly enjoyed watching you do just that. I did highly appreciate it when you accidentally tipped over that marble statue." He laughed, deep and dirty. "Sent it into a thousand pieces, mate. Work of beauty."
Doyle's shoulders slumped. "Cowley will have my guts for garters over that."
"Nah. Take it out of your pay, is all. If that moron talks." He paused, slowing down. "Sixty-eight? Don't think he will. He was a slime ball but he won't cause any waves."
"Sixty-eight. Here, with the yellow Rover."
Doyle was out of the car before Bodie had fully stopped.
"Doyle. Ray, wait a mo." Bodie trotted up beside him. "This isn't a perp or a suspect. At least not yet so kid gloves, eh?"
Doyle sighed. "More flies with honey," he muttered.
"Right. I can do it-"
"Fuck off, Bodie. And I mean that in the nicest way." Doyle gave him a half-hearted smile. "I'm okay. Truly."
Doyle snorted. "You're a cretin if ever there was one."
Bodie shrugged, grinning. He pressed the bell, and an older man promptly answered the door.
"Robert Wilson?" Doyle asked. "CI5." He showed his badge. "I'm Doyle; he's Bodie. May we come in?"
The man peered owlishly through his too large black-framed glasses. He rubbed his chin before he nodded and stepped back.
"Cheers," Bodie said. "Lounge?"
"To your left," Wilson said. In the room he asked, "Tea?"
"No, thanks," Doyle said. "May we sit down?"
"Please," Wilson said, sinking onto the reclining chair and looking at both men.
Bodie took out a photograph from the file he carried. "Do you recognise this woman?"
Wilson held the photo up to his face, peering at it first through his glasses and then over the top of the frames. "It's Agnes, my wife's stepdaughter."
"So your daughter?" Doyle asked.
"No, her da had died before I met my wife. We never had children." Wilson handed the photograph back to Bodie. "Why do you have her photograph?"
Doyle leaned forward. "Where's Agnes now?"
"Gone. Ran off with her boyfriend oh... must be twelve years ago now."
"What was his name? The boyfriend," Bodie asked.
Wilson rubbed his left temple. "I don't remember."
Doyle let out an annoyed grunt. "Do you remember how old Agnes was when she left?"
Wilson gave Doyle an impatient glance. "She was nineteen."
"May we speak to Mrs Wilson?"
"She passed. Three years this August."
Doyle exchanged glances with Bodie, rolling his eyes. "Did you hear from Agnes after she ran off?"
"No, not a single postcard or phone call. Mary, my wife, was so upset. The coppers didn't do a damned thing. Mary wanted to hire a private investigator after a year, to track her down, but I put my foot down. If the girl didn't want to contact us, then we were better off without her after all we'd done for her." Wilson wiped at his eyes. "Broke Mary's heart, it did. Agnes was the closest thing to a child we had."
Angry Doyle blurted out, "But you never bothered-"
"Ray," Bodie said, putting a hand on Doyle's arm. "Thank you. We'll see ourselves out."
Wilson didn't respond but remained in his seat, staring down at his folded hands. Doyle looked back at the dejected man before he followed Bodie out to the kerb.
"Not much help," Doyle said, acid in his tone. "The bloke could have cared less about the girl."
"He thought she'd ran off with her fella."
"Don't defend him, Bodie," Doyle said gruffly. "If I had a kid..." He laughed derisively. "I'd probably kill it like I did my angelfish."
"Ahh, Ray, you'd be a half-decent parent."
"Thanks for the glowing recommendation, mate."
Bodie grinned. "Always here to help, angelfish of mine."
Doyle gave Bodie a sideways glance. He scowled. "Does that mean you’ll forget to feed me?"
"Not a chance, darlin'."
Doyle punched him.
"Now what?" Doyle asked, watching Bodie tuck into his curry. He poked at his own food, nibbled an edge of naan then set the fork down in defeat. It was getting late, and he was exhausted. More from the emotional turmoil than from actual tiredness.
"Eat something or pack it up for later."
"What? So you'll have a midnight snack?"
"There are starving kids in Africa, you know." Bodie shovelled another forkful of spicy chicken into his gob.
"No chance of that happening to you, eh?" Doyle sat back, sipping at a glass of water.
"Hey, don't be like that." Bodie ran a piece of naan around his plate, sopping up all the juices. He ate his last bite with relish. "Listen, mate. I want to figure this out as much as you do." He eyed Doyle. "Almost as much. It's a challenge. What is going on? Who are the people in the photographs? How did this bloke have access to them? Did he kill them or did he trail along after some nutter, taking pretty pictures so they could both admire their handiwork for years after?"
Doyle chewed on his fingernail. "Access. Yeah, that's good. Maybe, just maybe the photographer didn't kill the subjects. Maybe he had access of some sort."
Bodie wiped his mouth on a paper napkin before balling it up and tossing it onto his plate. "Could be. Worked at hospital?"
"The morgue?" Doyle mused. "Perfect place."
Bodie laid a hand on Doyle's wrist. "But there is a better place. Fewer people walking through, less activity. More time to set up some elaborate staging."
"And it was elaborate. The woman dressed as Queen Victoria, complete with costume, furniture, even the plants. Old Queen V liked the occasional palm tree."
Bodie raised an eyebrow. "How do you know this? About the trees?"
"It was in her biography. I'm sure I read that. Well," he shrugged, "read it somewhere. Anyway, access."
"What a full and formative life you lead, Raymond."
"What are you thinking?"
"It's obvious, isn't it? Undertaker, of course," Bodie said triumphantly.
Doyle gave a derisive snort. "Yeah, right."
"Don't sound so skeptical. Why not the undertaker? They have access to the body and all the time in the world to set up an elaborate stage setting."
With a slow nod, Doyle said, "It is a stage setting. Undertaker." He met Bodie's gaze. "Yeah, undertaker. I can buy that. But how do we find which funeral director? There has to be several hundred in the country. Thousands in Europe alone."
"Don't know. Maybe we can put the computer to work tomorrow."
"You're brilliant sometimes, mate."
Bodie gave Doyle a bright grin, conveying that Doyle's comment was merely his due. He picked up the menu. "Pudding?"
"Haven't you had enough?"
"Nope. I'm thinking kulfi. They have pistachio."
Doyle leaned closer. "It's gone midnight. I'm thinking... you, me, and a bed."
Bodie dropped the menu as if it were a hot potato. In the next breath he was on his feet. "I'll drive."
Chucking to himself, Doyle tossed enough cash on the table for their grub and followed his lover out of the restaurant. In his rush, Bodie had neglected to get the rest of Doyle's meal to take away. It made Doyle feel warm inside. He was more important to Bodie than curry. Life was definitely full of wonders sometimes.
The simultaneous chirping of RTs brought Doyle out of a sound sleep. With a glance at the bedside clock, he groaned, swiping his palm down his face. After a satisfying session of sex, he thought he'd fall asleep quickly, but he had tossed and turned until almost four am before he'd finally drifted all.
"Wha' time?" Bodie muttered, his face buried in a pillow.
"Six bloody thirty," Doyle said, grabbing his own RT and tossing Bodie his. Times like this he was glad Bodie had marked who's RT belonged to whom. "4.5."
Betty's cheerful voice said, "Mr Cowley wants you both in his office in thirty minutes."
"I must get dressed and pick up Bodie."
"Don't bother, Ray. I know Bodie's with you so make it snappy."
There was a click showing that Betty had disconnected.
"Christ," Bodie sighed, "she knows."
"That means Cowley knows."
"Yeah. Do you think he'll kick us out?"
Doyle shrugged. "No saying. Guess we should report as ordered and see what happens."
Resigned, Bodie released a noisy breath. "Marvelous."
"Sir?" Doyle said, knocking on the door frame of Cowley's open office door.
Cowley waved them in with one hand, sipping from a china cup. He wiped his mouth with a linen napkin before he handed over a file folder. There were remnants of his breakfast on a tray. Doyle wondered how Cowley could eat, sleep and breathe CI5. It wasn't a fate he wished for, for himself or for Bodie.
"We've positively identified one of the other subjects. Catherine Perez. Local authorities have no reports of any foul play. She was never listed as missing and the constable I spoke with said he'd known Perez for twenty years. She died, apparently, of natural causes." Cowley looked from Doyle to Bodie.
"Okay," Bodie said. "What does that mean?"
Doyle opened the file. In the photograph, Catherine Perez looked to be about 50. She was artfully posed in a wedding dress, arrayed under an arbour festooned with many flowers. She had a matching bouquet in her hands. Bodie leaned over to look at the photograph.
Cowley said, "It's a replica of our Queen, then Princess Elizabeth's dress when she married Prince Phillip in 1947."
"This nutter spares no expense," Doyle murmured. "But if this woman wasn't a victim of foul play, then why is her portrait in the lot? She posed?"
"No, Doyle, she's definitely dead," Cowley said.
Doyle raised his head from his perusal of the photograph. "Bodie was right, then?"
Cowley glowered. "Right about what, 3.7?"
Bodie gave Doyle a self-satisfied grin. "Undertaker, sir. It's got to be. The bloke would have access and time to do as he pleased. Couldn't do it in the morgue at the hospital. Too many people about, even at night. Plus setting this up, getting all the staging, clothing, the rest." He waved a hand through the air. "Bloke needs a good day or two I'd say."
"Good thinking, Bodie." Cowley gave him an approving nod. "Probably develops the photographs as well," he mused aloud. "So it could be he's not killing these people but merely... using them." He took off his glasses. "Not a nice idea but far better than having to hunt down a multiple-victim murderer."
"There'll be no living with him now, sir." Doyle said the words before he thought about them. He winced internally. Betty. Her words on the RT from this morning. Would Cowley take his flippant remark as an admission of their relationship?
But Cowley met his gaze, held it for a moment before he said, "Run all the parameters through the computer and see what information you can glean. The technicians have several new programs that should be able to narrow down the possibilities."
"Yes, sir," Doyle said. "Sir, if we find this bloke what do we charge him with? He's making money doing this."
"Find him and I'll decide. While not pleasant, there may not be a crime here. If you don't get satisfactory explanations, bring him in and we'll have a chat." Cowley waved them away.
"Yes, Mr Cowley." Doyle hurried out of the office. No use hanging about any longer and giving Cowley a chance to question them about their relationship. If he knew. Of course he knows, Doyle mused to himself.
"Sir," Bodie said, trotting to catch up with Doyle. "That was close."
"Yeah, I'm sure. But he said nothing so let's enjoy us not getting a bollocking." Bodie rubbed his hands together gleefully "We live to survive another day."
"Day's not over yet."
It was bright and early the next morning when Bodie headed the Capri in a westerly direction out of London.
"I think I'll invest," Bodie informed Doyle, shifting from third to fourth. He mashed his foot on the accelerator and entered the motorway. He kept gaining speed until Doyle's hair was flying in the breeze from the open window.
"In a hurry?"
"Nah. Just want out of RT range."
"Smart thinking. What are you investing in?" Doyle asked.
"Ahh. And why, if I may ask?"
"That program found us three suspects-"
"Not suspects. Lines of enquiry. Undertakers who may or may not be the proper ones to question."
Bodie didn't miss a beat "-in less than eight hours. Then it gave us the percentages of which one was the best choice. It would have taken three or four of Cowley's minions at least two days, or more, to find the same information." Bodie gave Doyle a grin.
"What makes you think computers are the future of law enforcement? They're useful to be sure, but I doubt they'll replace shoe leather and file research."
"Seems reasonable that they won't replace all the manpower but they will enhance it greatly."
"To use the information in all the old files, somebody- dozens of somebodies would have to input all that info into the program."
"True, but why not? I’m of a mind that it will." Bodie paused. "Read about this company-"
Doyle scoffed. "You read something other than the footie results?"
"I'll have you know, Raymond," Bodie said in a put-upon tone, "that I read the financials and the business reports at least once a week. I'm a man of the world."
Laughing, Doyle patted his thigh. "So tell me, oh wise one, about this company. I've got a few quid going spare I could add to your pile."
"Not with that snarky tone. You're merely humouring me. I will not be sharing my fruit with you." Bodie kept his gaze on the roadway. "And I thought you liked apples."
Doyle knew instantly he'd hurt Bodie's tender feelings. It made him laugh harder. "All right then. Keep your precious apples to yourself. But if you change your mind, I'll toss in some dosh." He gave a disinterested shrug before glancing out the side window. "I don't like the name Swindon. Don't ask me why," he muttered.
"Why? Perfectly respectable name for a town."
"I said don't ask me!" With an annoyed sigh, Doyle explained, "It's like a swear word. Bite my Swindon!"
Bodie guffawed. "The fair people of Swindon might have something to say about you disparaging their fair city. It's not fair."
"Nothing fair about it."
"Obviously." Sniggering, Bodie asked, "You've been?"
Bodie gave him a quick glance. "Ah, prejudice then. Merely from the name."
"Fuck off." Doyle slumped in his seat. "This is it, then. With any luck, we'll nail this bloody idiot who has been making big money off of people's dead relatives."
"You don't know that. Might all be tramps and bums who wouldn't have had a decent burial but for this particular fellow."
"It's not and you know it. Last lady wasn't a vagrant." He rubbed a finger across his upper lip. "Could be a bird," he offered.
"Bet you twenty it's not."
"Nah. More than likely a bloke. Don't fancy giving you me hard-earned cash." Doyle reached between the bucket seats towards the back, dipping a hand into the carrier bag resting on the rear seat. Retrieving a can, he popped the top and tossed the tab out the window.
"Yet you wanted to add your bit to my investments barely ten minutes ago. Fickle, Ray, that's what you are." Bodie gave Doyle a sidelong glance. "Where's mine?"
"You're driving. Not risking my life with a pissed driver." Doyle took a long swallow, making sure that Bodie could see his throat ripple as he drank. Nothing gave him as much pleasure as teasing his lover.
Bodie gave him a measured look. "You're a prat." After a moment, he asked, "How about a bag of crisps?"
With a put-upon sigh, Doyle retrieved the bag Bodie had bought when they'd stopped for petrol earlier. He opened it, putting it within Bodie's reach.
"Ta." Bodie munched. "Are you ready to do this?" he asked, spraying crisp crumbs as he talked.
Doyle ignored his ill manners while he took a long slurp of beer. Leaning down, he fished the file folder out from under his seat. He scanned the paper that the computer had provided. "Let's test the computer and see how well it did. We've got the name that has the 75.8 percent possibility of being our suspect. Sinclair Family Funeral Home." He studied the map with the Sinclair establishment circled in red. Betty was a treasure. "Anson and McCabe have the second, at 55.3 percent, and Jax pulled the loser, at 29.1. Betty was her usual efficient self. She marked the map for us. I'll direct you when we get close."
Bodie crunched more crisps. Doyle turned on the radio to mask the sound of Bodie chewing. Propping his foot on the dashboard, he tapped to the tune and sang along: "You put the boom boom into my heart, you send my soul sky high when your lovin' starts..."
Doyle was sure Bodie was staring at his foot. "What?" He looked down at his shoe to be sure he hadn't stepped in something disagreeable, but it looked clean to him. Bodie looked away quickly, like someone who was trying to look innocent. At what, Doyle hadn't a clue. He stared at the side of Bodie's face for a moment. Bodie ate another crisp. After he chewed and swallowed, he joined in the song mid-stanza. They sang their way to Swindon, together, through the top forty songs of the week, making up lyrics when they didn’t know the words. Bodie had a decent voice, but he rarely sang aloud. Doyle was glad of his presence. Beside him, partners, as it should be. On the plus side, it took his mind off the idea they were close to finding out about the creepy dead people in all those photographs, and possibly what had happened to Arabella. The thought of it made him want to scream or cry or hit something so he kept his mind busy through force of will.
He could shoot something (or someone) later today. The idea made him warm inside, sick as it was but Doyle didn't care. He wanted the truth or there would be dire straits in somebody's future.
"Sinclair Funeral Home, big red brick building it looks like, on your left."
Bodie flipped on his turn signal and entered the car park located alongside the building. He looked for a space to park.
"Must be services today. Car park's full," Doyle observed.
"Don't care." Bodie stopped the car in the centre of the lane, alongside a black hearse. He turned off the ignition.
Doyle climbed out, slamming his door. He stood for a moment, hands in pockets, scanning the building. "Nothing remarkable," he mused, surprised. He expected something but this was so ordinary.
"You expected a body laid out in the car park, decked out in velvet and the Crown jewels?"
"Would have made it more interesting."
Doyle followed Bodie up the carpeted entryway. A man in a Victorian mourning suit with a black armband opened the door for them. Inside, they both paused, looking around. It was what Doyle would call a normal funeral home. Reception area, vases of flowers on stands, soft richly colored blue carpeting to minimise noises, with hallways running left and right. Standing in the centre, he saw that each passageway had four doors. To the left were two that were closed, and to the right, one was closed.
"Left wall, hidden door," Bodie whispered.
Doyle followed Bodie's gaze, nodding. He was about to head over to the disguised doorway when it opened and a middle-aged man stepped through. Doyle noted his finely cut black suit and handmade Italian shoes. Otherwise, the only word Doyle could think of was bland. Balding pate, thin, unremarkable, with wire-framed glasses, and a clean-shaven face.
"You Sinclair?" Bodie asked.
"May I help you?" he asked.
"Answer the question," Doyle ordered, stepping forward until he was facing the man. "Are you Alphonse Sinclair?"
"Yes," Sinclair said, lifting his chin. "And I asked you if I could help. If you don't wish to pay your respects-"
"We need to talk somewhere private," Bodie said firmly, standing elbow to elbow with Doyle.
Together they presented a formidable front. Doyle unzipped his jacket to retrieve his ID from the inner pocket. For effect, he let the butt of his gun show for a moment. He watched carefully as the man's eyes widened.
"I'm Doyle, CI5. He's Bodie."
The man paused before he nodded and wordlessly turned on his heel, expecting them to follow. He headed down the corridor to a door marked "Private" and lead them inside. He didn't offer the agents a seat, but Doyle made it a point to sit in the chair directly in front of the desk. He waited for Sinclair to sit down.
All thoughts of a cordial or at least a civilised conversation flew out of Doyle's head. He took an instant dislike to Sinclair. It might not be fair but he didn't care.
Apparently Bodie must have felt the same way because he leaned over Doyle's shoulder before he sat down, and said in a theatrical whisper that Sinclair could hear, "Arrogant bastard." He dragged over a chair and sat beside Doyle.
"I'm a busy man so please state your business."
Doyle had to stifle a laugh of derision. If this were an old film, Sinclair would have sniffed his annoyance and put in a monocle to glare at them through.
"We won't take up much of your time," Doyle said. He grinned coldly. "Then again, maybe we will. I’d enjoy arresting you for desecration of a corpse."
"Multiple corpses," Bodie added helpfully. "Get off on doing dead women, eh?"
Sinclair rose to his feet. "Get out!"
"Not a chance," Doyle said. "You're in a lot of trouble."
"And you obviously do not have a thorough knowledge of the law of Great Britain!"
"Why don't you explain it to us, in small words that thick-headed blokes like us can easily understand," Bodie intoned, as if speaking to a not-very-bright child.
"I don't have to explain a thing to either of you, nor to the authorities," Sinclair said firmly. "Leave, before I call security."
Doyle held up a hand. Getting tossed out on their arses wouldn't help discover what was going on or any helpful information about Arabella. They needed Sinclair's cooperation. "We only want the truth." He paused, huffing out a shaky breath. Calmly, he added, "Please."
Bodie stared at Doyle, his gaze questioning. Doyle closed his eyes briefly before he opened them. "We need to know, Bodie. I need to know!"
Bodie gave a curt nod and sat down. "Mr Sinclair, are you the... artist of these photographs?" He pulled a small stack of snapshots from his jacket pocket and spread them out.
"It's not a crime."
"I didn't ask you about committing a crime. I asked if you were the photographer," Bodie said.
"So you admit to taking photographs of dead people, then displaying and selling them," Doyle asked.
"It's art," Sinclair insisted. "It's not illegal nor immoral. Art in its purest form."
"You make money from other people's misery," Doyle said, trying to keep condemnation from his tone. He wanted to ask about Arabella immediately, but he knew that they needed to be professional, conduct this interview for the good of the families and their deceased loved ones. "Did you ask for permission to do these?" he asked, tapping the photographs with a fingertip.
"I didn't need to ask permission. I prepare bodies for interment. I completed my end of the contract. I treat each one of my lovelies with respect!" Sinclair picked up a photo. "Look at this! The lighting, the flowers, the elegant dress, it's beautiful."
"How much have you made selling your," Bodie stumbled over his words, before adding, "er, art."
"I declare every pound to the government, and I pay all taxes due," Sinclair explained.
"Covered all the bases, eh?" Doyle snapped. "Aren't you the proper Lord Muck."
"I'm done being insulted. I've answered your questions. I've committed no crime. You can't arrest me. I should report you and your organisation. These works of art are private property and you have no permission to take snapshots of my work!" Sinclair rose to his feet. "We're finished here, gentlemen." He straightened his tie, patted down his coat, and began to walk to the door.
Bodie cut off his exit. "But you've made a fair packet of money, I'll bet. Pure mercenary through and through."
Sinclair guffawed. "I've made money. I'm quite the famous artist in genteel circles, and I account for every pence I’ve made, as I’ve already told you."
"How much?" Bodie demanded.
"That is personal business. If you don't leave this moment, I shall call security and have you removed." Sinclair snickered nastily. "Unless you have a warrant for my arrest."
Bodie shrugged. "No warrant. We're leaving."
"Wait. Please," Doyle said, unable to keep the pleading from his tone. "Please, Mr Sinclair. This one." He picked up Arabella's photograph from the stack spread out on Sinclair's desk. "Do you remember this woman?" he asked hopefully. As he held up the photo, he glanced over at Bodie, who stood quietly. Bodie must have been the consternation on his face because he gave Doyle a slight wink of encouragement.
Sinclair barely glanced at the photograph. He walked a step then paused. Turning back, he ungraciously ripped it from Doyle's grasp. Sinclair's haughty demeanour finally broke. His face softened, and he traced Arabella's face with a fingertip. "I've never forgotten this beauty." He raised his head to look at Doyle, all traces of disdain gone. "She was special. One of my first. I wish I had never put this piece out for sale."
"Why? Do you know who she is?" Bodie asked, keeping his tone moderate.
"Why, no. Not who she was. She was brought in by the constables. A drowning. 19..." he paused, "1968."
"That's not possible. She disappeared in '65."
Sinclair looked up from the photograph. "I’m sure of my date. Did you know her?" he asked Doyle.
"Yes. Her name was Arabella."
"Ah, fitting. It suits her. We've called her Jane. As in Jane Doe. I'm sure you're familiar with the term."
Doyle crowded Sinclair, grabbing Sinclair's lapel. "What did you do to her?" he shouted.
"Why, agent, I saved her life," Sinclair preened.
Bodie laid a hand on Doyle's wrist. "You'd best explain quickly before my partner here takes you apart."
Sinclair sniggered nastily "You both don't understand how to use diplomacy to get what you want."
"I'll give you diplomacy," Doyle snapped.
"Ray," Bodie said. "Let the man tell us what he knows. You can always bust his teeth afterwards."
Doyle pulled his arm out of Bodie's grasp, shoving his hands in his pockets.
Sinclair rolled his eyes. "True men of law and order, eh? If you must know, the girl- the woman is, in fact, very much alive."
Doyle exploded. He grabbed Sinclair's suit coat in his fists and propelled him backwards until he hit the wall.
"Alive? What the fuck do you mean? Did you kidnap her, you piece of shite!"
"Get him off me!" Sinclair demanded, directing his glower at Bodie. "Now, or I will have you both arrested for assault. I will speak to your superior."
"Ray." Bodie tugged on his shoulders.
"Leave off, Bodie!"
"Doyle," Bodie said, "I don't like this prick any more than you do but if he has important information, we need to hear it. There are other people in the building, paying their respects to their dead."
"Who says he's telling the truth?" Doyle growled, pressing his fists into Sinclair's upper chest.
Sinclair silently glowered at Doyle. Finally, Doyle stepped back. He caught Bodie's gaze. "Fine," he spat out.
Bodie straightened Sinclair's lapels. "Why don't we sit down and you tell us about Ara- Jane Doe. The full story. Please," he added belatedly.
Sinclair tugged on the hem of his coat to smooth it. He gave a loud sigh of exasperation. "If I tell you, you will leave and not return."
Bodie studied the man for a moment. "If you've committed a crime-"
"I haven't. I'm very much aware of my rights."
Bodie gave Doyle a sidelong glance. Doyle gave a small nod. "We're listening."
Sinclair swallowed, his eyes cold. “The girl's body came in for a pauper's burial. She was exceptional, with long red ringlets and creamy, pale skin. I thought she would make a wonderful Cleopatra, so I photographed her before I began my duties."
"Duties?" Doyle asked.
"Embalming, etcetera. I took wonderful photographs and when I moved the body back to the preparation room, she moaned. Believe me, it shocked me. She was cold and had no outward signs of life. The doctors at hospital said the water in which she'd supposedly drowned must have lowered her temperature enough to put her in a suspended stasis."
"So you called for help?" Doyle asked.
"Of course! I keep telling you I'm a respectable undertaker. I love beautiful girls and women, but only to photograph them! To suggest otherwise disgusts me. You have your information; now leave!" Sinclair demanded.
"Where is she?" Bodie asked.
Doyle leaned forward, held his breath.
Sinclair shook his head. "Unfortunately, she suffered brain damage from the drowning. She's never spoken, doesn't know who she is."
"She's in a coma?" Doyle asked in a whisper. His heart was pounding, his palms were sweating, and his stomach roiled. This was a dream inside of a nightmare. His brain tried to understand this unfathomable news.
"Oh no. She's functional as far as walking and eating. She can care for herself but she's like a child, loving and trusting."
"Wait. You've seen her?" Bodie asked.
"I've visited her twice a year for the past 16 years. I look on her as the daughter I never had." Sinclair sighed tiredly. "Are we finished?"
"Where is she?" Doyle asked, his hands clenched together.
"Chiswick. Care home. St Mary's."
Doyle's world spun crazily. Could this be true? Was Arabella still alive? He gulped around a dry throat. "Who pays for it?"
"Since she was a Jane Doe, I've taken care of any expenses not covered by the government since she woke up." Sinclair walked to the door. "I've made enough from my photographs to have plenty of money to take care of one girl." He opened the door. "Show yourselves out and don't return. I don't like either of you." He shut it firmly behind him, leaving the stunned agents sitting in their chairs, staring at each other.
"What the fuck?" Bodie said, manoeuvring the car out of the car park and through town.
Doyle hadn't said a thing since Sinclair had dropped the bomb about his sister. He sat staring out of the windscreen, his thoughts a tumbled mess.
"What?" Doyle looked at Bodie, his eyes narrowed.
"I'm- Don't shout at me. I only want to know what you want to do," Bodie said, annoyance in every word. "Christ, I know it's a shock." He blew out a noisy breath, pulling up to the kerb. "I'm going into this pub and having a drink and something to eat." He turned off the engine and got out.
Doyle watched in stunned silence. Bodie was abandoning him? The selfish bastard. Only thought about himself and his stomach. No wait. It had been what? A quick glance at his watch revealed it had been six hours since they'd left London and had driven to bloody Swindon. It felt like two weeks. He rubbed his eyes and huffed out a slow breath. Bodie wanted to refuel. The bag of crisps he'd munched on the journey wouldn't have assuaged his hunger for more than a few minutes.
Sitting alone, Doyle tried to wrap his brain around the news that Sinclair had delivered. Arabella was alive! He couldn't be more gobsmacked than if he'd discovered that Cowley was actually a little green alien from Mars. It was a shock, to be sure, but in a good way. Sinclair had said she'd been in a coma and now she had brain damage. She didn't know who she was. No wonder he and his family had never heard from her. Poor Arabella! His mum would be happy to discover that her daughter was alive no matter her condition.
Anxious to head to Chiswick and to St Mary's, Doyle's irritation grew. Bloody Bodie. All he thought about was himself. They could be halfway there, with Bodie's reckless driving and heavy foot on the accelerator.
Doyle climbed from the car and headed into the pub, ready to ream Bodie a new one. Selfish prick. He burst into the establishment, looked around, and spied his partner in the back at a table. He had two glasses and two plates of food in front of him. Doyle stomped over and stood, hands on hips.
"Hungry?" Bodie asked cordially.
"No! I want to-"
"Not going to Chiswick on an empty stomach." He took a sip of beer. "And neither are you." He looked up at Doyle. "In case no one has ever told you before, you're a dick when you haven't eaten." Bodie chuckled. "You're a dick generally anyway, but a hungry Ray is an even dickier Doyle." He gave Doyle a happy smile.
Doyle glared. "You're a sodding moron."
"So you keep telling me. No clue why you don't find another partner. One more to your liking." Bodie took a large bite of his sandwich. He chewed, eyes closed, enjoying his lunch.
"I suppose since you are not moving until you fill your gullet and I suppose since you've got me food, I should eat," Doyle said ungraciously.
"Don't do me any favours," Bodie snapped.
Doyle sank into a chair. "Sorry. I'm being a prat, aren't I?"
"You said it; I didn't."
Taking a large swallow of beer, he wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. Bodie passed over a napkin. Doyle ignored it and nibbled on the edges of the sandwich. Apparently his stomach had other ideas because he ate in earnest.
"I like cheese and pickle," Doyle said.
"Bully for you."
"I said sorry," Doyle said petulantly.
"So?" Bodie finished his sandwich, washing it down with the last of his beer. "I tire of the sharp edge of your tongue sometimes, which I get whether or not it's my doing."
"Am I that- unpleasant?" Doyle asked quietly.
Bodie wiped his mouth on a paper napkin. "Ray, you're my partner." He leaned closer. "You're my lover. But sometimes you are downright unpleasant. However, I'm a magnanimous fellow and I will overlook your temper because of today's circumstances." He stood up. "Hitting the loo and then we can head out. M' lord," he bowed.
Doyle finished his drink and joined Bodie in the men's room. He relieved himself and washed up, following Bodie meekly out to the car.
"Onward to Chiswick," Bodie said.
Bodie flashed him a grin. "I do sort of like you sometimes."
Covering Bodie's hand that rested on the gear lever, Doyle gently squeezed. "Me too."
On the highway towards Chiswick, Bodie glanced over at Doyle. "It was a bloody shock, wasn't it? Your sister, still alive."
"I'm gobsmacked. Don't know what to say."
"No need to say anything, mate. We'll assess the situation and forge ahead."
"I'm glad I don't have to go alone," Doyle said quietly.
Bodie didn't answer, but Doyle knew from the grin on his face he was pleased. Sentimental, was his Bodie.
The head sister at St Mary's carefully studied the photograph supplied by Doyle. It was one that he'd taken a few months before she'd disappeared. He didn't feel comfortable showing Sinclair's supposed artwork.
"Yes, I'd say that's our Jane," Sister Timothy said. "Very much about the eyes and mouth." She looked up from her perusal. "You say this is your sister, Mr Doyle?"
"Yes. Arabella Doyle. She disappeared in 1965. We understand Mr Sinclair has been taking care of her since about 1968. I'm eager for a reunion, as you can imagine."
Sister Timothy smiled. "I understand, but you should know that Jane- Arabella will not know you. She's permanently brain damaged, but she is a sweet girl."
"Does she speak," Bodie asked.
"Unfortunately, no but one of our sisters has taught her many signs. She certainly gets her message across with no problem," Sister said, laughing.
Bodie smiled. "I take it she has a forceful personality?"
"Oh, yes," Sister acknowledged.
"I believe it runs in the family," Bodie said.
Doyle rolled his eyes. Bodie grinned.
"May I see her?" Doyle asked.
"Yes, she loves visitors. All visitors. She believes every visitor is for her."
"Thank you." Doyle breathed in before releasing his breath. "I'm ready."
"This is a nice day. They're in the garden."
Sister Timothy led the way. It was a pleasant facility of old red brick with white trim and a conservatory of white-framed windows. The gardens were in full bloom, with stretches of green grass surrounded by bushes and trees of various varieties. Flowers blossomed, pink, red, purple and yellow.
Doyle heard the sounds of voices in the distance and as they grew closer, he saw about a dozen men and women of various ages gathered. Several nuns were in attendance. Three of the residents were in wheelchairs. Several others were walking and talking. Some were sitting on blankets. Everyone seemed to enjoy the day.
A young woman broke off from a group of four or five people. She ran up to Sister Timothy, giving Doyle and Bodie a bright smile. Doyle recognised her instantly. Shocked, he stared. There was no doubt it was his long-lost sister. Alive!
He held his breath, afraid if he moved the woman would disappear. She looked healthy, with a head of reddish-brown ringlets that fell to her shoulders. She had the Doyle lips, with the pronounced philtrum like his. He had a flash of memory of Bodie telling him how sexy his lips were. He'd looked up the bits and pieces of a mouth in an encyclopaedia after that.
Bodie touched Doyle's shoulder. "Definitely your sister, mate," he said for Doyle's ears only. "Has your mouth and hair. Much prettier, though."
So surprised, Doyle didn’t snark back at Bodie. He probably looked like a dolt, mouth gaping and eyes wide.
Sister Timothy signed to the young woman. She shyly looked at Doyle, then Bodie. She signed something to Sister Timothy.
Smiling, Sister said, "She wants to know if you brought her any sweets."
"Next time," Doyle said, finding his voice. "Hello."
Arabella smiled at Doyle, then looked at Bodie. She gave him a bright grin, moving closer to him.
"It's the outside that slays them," Bodie reminded Doyle. He gave Arabella a wave. "Hello."
She took his hand and tugged. Bodie glanced at Sister Timothy. "She wants to show you off to the other girls. She may have the mental abilities of an eight-year-old but she still knows a cute bloke when she sees one," Sister explained.
Bodie shrugged at Doyle, following Arabella. Doyle could hear Bodie chatting up the group that Arabella had abandoned earlier.
Doyle focused his attention on Arabella while he asked, "Sister, is it possible for her to live at home? With our mum, if she was able to care for her."
Forcing his gaze back to Sister, he waited while she studied Doyle intently for a minute. "I don't see why not if she had adequate care. We would have to consult with her physician and have some family meetings. But this is all new to you, Mr Doyle. Why don't we see how it goes for a few months, with visits and time spent together? I understand how you must feel. Have you told your family yet?"
Doyle shook his head. "Not yet, but I'll do that this week. Mum will want to see her immediately. It's been so long." His breath shuddered. "Sorry. It's quite the shock."
"After all these years, I can imagine!”
"She seems happy."
"I believe she is."
"Thank you." As he watched Arabella look up at Bodie with what was quickly becoming adoration before signing something to one of the other residents, Doyle swiped at his eyes.
"We serve the Lord here, and all of these residents are God's creatures."
"It doesn't matter. God loves each of us, regardless of whether we return that love." Sister smiled. "He brought you to your sister. It is God's will."
Doyle smiled. "She's making a conquest."
"He is a good-looking man."
She laughed. "I'm a bride of Christ but my eyes still can appreciate the handsome fellow."
Feeling light and happy, Doyle joined her in laughter. "Just don't let him hear that. It will go straight to his head. It's already too big for his shoulders!"
The second they walked into Bodie's flat, Doyle turned on his partner, slamming him up against the door.
"All right, spill it. You've been giving me queer looks all day long. What is it? Do I have snot on my face?" Doyle hit his palm against the door. "What?"
"It's late and you're imagining things." Bodie pushed at Doyle.
Doyle stood his ground, putting his weight to it. "You'd better tell me what's going on in that large, empty space between your ears." He poked at Bodie's forehead.
Bodie batted his hand away. "You're asking for it."
Snorting with derision, Doyle said, "Right. As if you could give me what I'm asking for."
"All right." Bodie grabbed Doyle about the waist with both hands, his eyes narrowed. "As if you didn't know."
The intensity in his tone made Doyle pause. "Eh?"
"You flounce yourself in front of me all bloody day and you don't expect me to notice? I'm not dead, Ray!" Bodie pushed hard, propelling Doyle backwards.
Doyle planted his feet. "What the fuck are you on about? Flounce? You're a first class nutter!"
"Don't play innocent with me, mate," Bodie said, pushing against Doyle once more.
"I'm not!" Doyle studied Bodie's face. He was dead serious. What the fuck? "Explain it in small words, so I can understand what's going on in that thing you laughingly call a brain!" He slapped the side of Bodie's head.
Bodie caught Doyle's wrist. He forced his arm behind him, making Doyle grasp. "The shoes, Doyle. You know what those bloody red shoes do to me."
Doyle stared at Bodie. Really? He had no idea, and he said so.
"Not likely." Bodie guided Doyle to the bedroom, not letting up on his hold. "And for your efforts, you will get what you want."
Doyle saw the look in Bodie's eyes. He got hard so fast it took his breath away. In less than a minute, Bodie had him stripped, including those shoes he didn't realise turned Bodie on so badly, and was splayed out on the bed. Never taking his gaze from Bodie's, his partner stripped, his cock full and ready the second he shucked his trousers and pants.
"Bodie," Doyle whispered. "Christ, mate."
"Shut it," Bodie ordered. He opened the bedside table drawer and got out the lube. With no preambles, he coated his prick.
Doyle liked how Bodie had to close his eyes and bite his lower lip to keep from coming, so great was his excitement. He closed his own eyes in anticipation.
"Up!" Bodie ordered.
"Eh?" Doyle blurted out.
"My show, my way."
Bodie climbed onto the bed and waved Doyle over. "Fuck me."
Doyle shuddered, tossing one leg over Bodie's thigh. Bodie held his cock at the ready. Doyle planted a hand on either side of Bodie's head and impaled himself in one slow slide.
Bodie grinned, latched onto Doyle's cock with one hand, grabbed Doyle's hip with the other, and pushed his hips up off the bed. When he had buried himself into Doyle as far as possible, he lowered himself to the bed, bringing Doyle with him. "Now, damn you."
The tightness around Doyle's prick made him gasp. He closed his eyes and levered himself up and down on Bodie's hardness. Bodie matched his thrusts with each stroke on Doyle's cock. He brought Doyle to orgasm in seconds.
"Fuck, Bodie. Christ, I didn't stand a chance." Doyle muttered, shivering as he recovered his senses. Bodie was still hard, filling him. The sensation made Doyle wiggle his bottom.
"Lean back." Bodie brought up his knees, giving Doyle a place to lean. He held Doyle firmly about the waist, pushing his hips up.
Doyle didn't think it was possible but Bodie's cock went deeper as he sat back. He shuddered, moaning softly.
"Bodie, Jesus. I fucking love you, you know that." Doyle closed his eyes, running his hands over Bodie's chest.
Bodie returned the favour, exploring Doyle's body thoroughly. After a few minutes, he lightly ran his fingers over Doyle's balls, teasing and playing until Doyle's cock responded. He kept up his ministrations until Doyle was once again hard.
"Didn't know you had it in you," Bodie said with a grin.
"You're sitting on it."
Doyle laughed. "I noticed."
Bodie let out a shuddering breath when Doyle chuckled. "Fuck me harder. Make me come," he demanded.
"I think you have that backwards, mate. I'm the one being done here." Doyle wiggled to make his point.
Bodie gasped. "Then make me come. Now." He stroked Doyle's cock.
Despite of his recent orgasm, Doyle felt himself hardened even more. Bodie ran his thumb over the slit, gathering the moisture up before he noisily sucked on his thumb.
"Christ, but you're bossy.," he said breathlessly. Before Bodie could protest, he levered himself onto his hands, bum rising. Bodie's cock slid out.
"Hey!" Bodie cried in protest.
Bodie did an commanded. Doyle settled between Bodie's spread legs. He dumped a handful of lube onto his palm. He knew if he coated himself he'd come, so he dipped his fingers into the cool gel and pushed as much as he could up Bodie's arse. With no preamble, he held his cock steady and seated himself in Bodie's heat.
"Ray," Bodie whispered, his hands clenching fistfuls of sheet. He raised his hips.
Doyle latched onto Bodie's hip bones and pushed hard. He fucked Bodie until Bodie was keening constantly, hips snapping back as much as Doyle's grasp would allow.
"Make yourself come," Doyle ordered.
Bodie let out a grunt as he reached under himself. In seconds, he was coming all over the sheets, arse cheeks clenching around Doyle's cock as he came. Doyle orgasmed. Together they sank onto the mattress, breathing heavily.
"Can't breathe," Bodie said. "You've gained weight."
Doyle chuckled, sliding off onto his back. He ran his fingers through Bodie's hair, tickling the nape. "I need a wash."
"You've made a right mess of the bed."
"Me? I think you were a willing participant." Doyle slapped Bodie's bum.
"Ouch!" Bodie leaned over and kissed him. "Hungry?"
"Go run a bath. I'll join you with tea and Swiss roll."
Doyle smiled. "Cheers." He climbed from the bed. "We can change those sheets after a cleaning. Bodie?"
"Still right here, mate."
"For what?" Bodie got up to skirt the bed. He pulled Doyle close.
"For believing me. About all the photos and such. For not thinking I was a nutter."
Bodie smiled. "I never said I didn't think you were a nutter. Happen to like nutters. They're delicious under the proper circumstances. But you're welcome."
"Will you go with to see Mum on Friday?"
"Of course. Let her know we're coming so she can make her Shepherd's pie. It's bloody marvellous!"
"I will. Cheers." Doyle hoped he wasn't blushing. Sentimental moments between them weren't the normal way of things. He stared down at his toes. "I'll go run that bath."
When Doyle raised his head to meet Bodie's gaze, he shrugged, embarrassed.
Bodie snickered, kissed him and sauntered away.
Christ, but Bodie had a marvellous arse. He was a good lover, the best. He was a good mate and partner. He was annoying and arrogant. But he was all Doyle's from the top of his head to the soles of his feet. With a satisfied grin, Doyle made a mental note to buy at least one more pair of red trainers the next time he went to the shops. And those red cowboy-style boots he'd seen last week at Selfridge's.