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When Hope Despairs

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Title: Chapter 1: When Hope Despairs
Author: lbc (longstrt)

Paddington
King’s Cross
Euston
Marylebone
Victoria
St. Pancras
Waterloo

William Bodie finally got off at Waterloo after hours of riding around some of London. He remembered seeing the signs for various stops and yet he remembered nothing about the stops. He felt such
despair, but he had felt that for months. He had taken to riding public transportation more and more – not that he liked that mode, but he needed to think and quite frankly he was apprehensive about thinking and driving because the thoughts that kept going through his mind were distracting enough without having to concentrate on driving as well.

As he left Waterloo station, he felt disorientated – after all, riding around for hours would do that to a person. He had always been proud of his ability to navigate through London, but for the last several months, he had felt totally befuddled in whatever he did. He knew the moment that he had lost his ability to feel comfortable in London. It was the day that he had lost his foundation in life; the very root to his existence - - Raymond Doyle.

Chapter 1

Bodie and Doyle seldom took the various forms of public transportation that the great city offered. The use of a car was one of the perks of working for CI5, but it was one of very few perks, to say the least. Making the island a bit better and smelling faintly of lavender; it wasn’t always true. The two men had had to do some pretty harsh things that seemed to have nothing to do with helping the island or its people, and certainly their trust in Cowley had been tarnished over the years what with Operation Susies and various other activities which had bothered them, especially Doyle.

 

Bodie had learned many years ago in Africa and other far flung places in the world that a person couldn’t dwell on the more wretched things in life or the abyss of insanity would prevail, but Doyle was constantly taking the burdens of the world on his slender shoulders and trying to keep the dream alive. It wasn’t that Doyle saw the world through rose-coloured glasses, but he still believed that people like them, working for organizations like CI5, made a difference in the world. Doyle still believed that they had to keep up the good fight, no matter how personally devastating it became.

 

But, on this day, as Bodie began to walk away from Waterloo station, the ex-merc knew that it was no longer true, that the good fight had been lost, or that’s how it seemed. He had known Ray Doyle for almost eight years and during those years there had been some very good times and unfortunately even more bad times on the job, but in the near future it would all be over. William Bodie’s hope was gone.
He had lost everything that had made him go on. Normally, he stayed in one place for a few years and then moved on - - the mercs, the Paras and the SAS had taught him that. He had even taken the job with Cowley on the understanding that he would stay as long as he personally wanted to and that a contract was just a piece of paper that could easily be torn up. Well, he was ready to tear up the paper now and the CAUSE could be summed up in two words - - Raymond Doyle.

 

When Hope Despairs: Chapter 2

It was strange how a relationship could change so quickly. Bodie would have sworn that their friendship and partnership could weather any storm. Of course, it had been pretty rough when Ann Holly had blown through like a storm: the Nine Days Wonder, as Bodie liked to think of her, but now Bodie recognized that Ann Holly was a symptom of the deeper problem that Ray and Bodie’s relationship suffered from.

William Bodie had been in love a couple of times, or at least he thought he had been. The names Marikka, the girl in Africa, and maybe even Jimmy Keller brought forth visions of affection, but now he knew that he had not been in love, merely fooling himself. It wasn’t a coincidence that his moments of straying in the mythical land of love also coincided with some of the worst times in his life. Germany, Africa, and the SAS were no picnics and, perhaps . . . perhaps he had so desperately needed something . . . someone to cling to that he had fallen into the trap of telling himself that he loved certain individuals when actually they were only superficially attached to his feelings. Maybe that was why he was so vulnerable when he arrived in the domain of CI5 . . . when he met Ray Doyle.

The scruffy, slender, snarky man with the haunting face had disturbed him from the get go. He had tried to fend off his feelings by matching boast with boast and superior snarky with the ultimate in snarky. He made his feelings about working with a copper quite clear, hoping that would turn off the amazing sensual aura of the man who sat in the seat next to him on so many ops, but it hadn’t worked. Even Doyle’s taunts about Bodie’s activities in Ireland hadn’t turned him off. Almost from the very moment Bodie had started working with the hot-tempered angel-faced man, Bodie had wanted to throw him to the ground and ravish him, but he had managed to keep his hands off of him, until after the Kathy Mason case.

Somehow . . . somehow by the time that Kathy Mason had betrayed his partner and Doyle had declared that “You’ll save me”, Bodie had fallen hard for the skinny, unkempt dumb crud. Bodie kept telling himself that it wasn’t true, but, maybe his perception was actually wrong and the turning point in his feeling had begun with Doyle, still wearing his dark suit with the open white shirt blurting out his pain when he asked Bodie how he would feel about losing a partner as Doyle had done in his Met days.
Bodie could empathise, but stupidly had answered that he didn’t know and then Jill Hayden had betrayed Doyle.

Yes, certainly Bodie realized by that time that he should have built higher and thicker barriers against the charm and comfort of Raymond Doyle. Bodie now knew that if he had been more honest with himself that he was already lost when he had been stabbed in Blacktown and Doyle actually cried . . . cried as Bodie was being rolled into hospital after the stabbing. What a fool I was! Should have got out then.

They had been lovers briefly . . . well, not actually lovers but they had had great sex. Bodie knew from the first moment with Doyle in his arms that they would have mind-blowing sex, but it had only lasted several months and then Doyle had seen the light and that had put an end to that.

Bodie hadn’t wanted to end the intimacy with Doyle, but it was obvious that Doyle did, so the two men had agreed to continue being partners and friends but the days of having sex were over. Of course, it didn’t help when Ann Holly entered Doyle’s life.
All of these thoughts and more rushed through Bodie’s mind as he walked the streets of London, but he knew that he had finally made his decision. Eight years was a very long time to stay in one place, but Doyle had made it easy, and now . . . and now it was Doyle that had made it easy for Bodie to leave.
The past few months had been hell, much like the NINE DAYS OF ANN HOLLY. Bodie always capitalized that time in his own mind. The red-haired woman had seemingly mesmerised his partner. The man had met her in her father’s building after she had witnessed a shooting and within days was totally infatuated with her. Cowley had told Bodie to investigate her after Bodie had deliberately expressed his concern that Doyle might be planning to marry her. In his heart Bodie knew that it probably wasn’t true, but he had been so heart sore at the time that he had told Cowley something that wasn’t yet true.
The whole situation had run amuck when Doyle had been caught investigating Holly and then been suspended for observing Ann’s father, but it was Doyle striking Bodie when his partner had tried to tell the stubborn man some home truths that had led to weeks of tension between the partners. After Holly had left, Bodie had deliberately left Cowley’s office to be with his partner but for a moment Doyle walked away from him. Although Doyle eventually stopped and waited for the man he had worked with for seven years, the frost stayed on the relationship long after those moments in the alley. For weeks afterwards their lives hadn’t been easy, but somehow they had overcome their differences and returned to be Cowley’s best.
Now the same thing was happening again. Only this time it was the scenario that Bodie had been most afraid of: Doyle was infatuated with a man, a man that he had known in art school, a man who had everything and was handsome besides: Justin St. Hilary. Bodie’s hope had reached such a level of despair that he now was ready to contemplate the previously unthinkable decision.

Chapter 3
What seemed like hours later Bodie dragged himself into his flat. He couldn’t remember how he had got home . . . the time was like oblivion as he put one foot in front of the other, much as he had done in earlier times, but this was far different, or maybe it wasn’t . . . no, maybe he was still just running scared from whatever scenario was occurring at the moment or whatever feelings that were threatening to tear him apart.

Although he had endured several forms of physical as well as emotional torture in his relatively young life, nothing had been as formidable as what was occurring now. The image that kept looping through his mind over and over again was like plunging the knife of seppuku in over and over. Was staying at CI5 to protect Doyle’s back while on the street worth such agony?

No sooner had Bodie entered his flat than his R/T began to blare with an all-agent call out. Although it was Bodie’s first day off in a month, it would not pay to ignore the call out. Normally, Bodie thought nothing about going back on duty when he was called, although many of his birds would not say the same thing and certainly a great many of his birds had tossed him out after one too many broken dates. No, this time there was no bird; there was only Doyle and seeing Doyle again would only open the wound even farther than it had already been stretched.

Within minutes, Bodie was at CI5 headquarters. He had been expecting to be sent to the site of the trouble, but the message had told him to report in immediately. As he rushed into the well-worn building, he suddenly felt a chill. Hopefully, CI5 wasn’t under siege again as it had been by Wakeman and Catrell. Heading for Cowley’s office, Bodie looked for Doyle or Murphy to find out more background information before bearding the lion’s den. Fortunately, he saw Murphy, who was also heading towards Cowley’s domain.

“What’s happenin’? I just got the call in but haven’t heard a thing.”

The handsome Irishman stood several inches taller than Bodie, but today he, somehow, looked smaller.

“I’m not sure, but I think there’s been trouble at Marks and Sparks.”
“What’d ya mean . . . trouble?”

“Apparently, some nutters entered the store with grenades and began to destroy various displays, not exactly caring what or who else they blew up.”

“Don’t tell me they are the vanguard against socialism or something and that’s what this is all about?”

“Don’t really know, but Cowley’s giving us a briefing in five minutes in the meeting room.”

Five minutes later George Cowley entered the meeting and began speaking to all of the assembled agents; ten minutes later all of the agents were departing to their assigned areas - - all that is except William Bodie. Bodie had been called into Cowley’s office for a private word and this delay didn’t help his temper. He and Doyle should be out on the street, but now he was being delayed by Cowley. What was going on? Finding Cowley’s door wide open, Bodie walked in with barely a knock on the door with his knuckle. Finding Cowley putting on his overcoat in preparation for leaving; it quickly became apparent that Cowley was once again going into the field as he had done so many times before, including the rounding up of the Turkel gang.

“You wanted to see me, sir?”

“Ah, Bodie, yes I want you to stay here and command this operation as Alpha 2. You will keep in constant contact with the various agents who will report to you. You are authorized to make whatever decisions and assign whatever personnel you deem necessary to whatever task in order to keep this episode from spreading beyond our control. Is that understood?”

Bodie stood there stunned. Why wasn’t he going out the street, and where was Doyle? “Sir, I should be out on the street with Doyle; we’re your best; you should use us now.”

Cowley’s blue eyes hid something unfathomable as his voice held both hardness and despair. “Questioning my assignments again, 3.7? I need you here as coordinator for the various problems that are going to occur. You have had lots of experience and right now I don’t have time to argue with you. Just stay here and do your job, do you understand?”

Still disgusted with the turn of events, Bodie nodded. Before he could do more, Cowley was out the door and on his way to the scene of the chaos, Marks and Spencer. Bodie began to settle in and familiarize himself with the assignments of the various agents. Looking down the list, Bodie quickly flipped up to a totally new sitting position as he realized that there was one agent’s name obviously missing from the assignments list - - where was Ray Doyle’s name? He had been off-duty just as Bodie had been; he had been given a leave of absence? Why hadn’t Ray told him that he would be gone?

Bodie wiped his right hand over his forehead and face. A few years ago, even a few months ago, his partner would never have thought to go anywhere without notifying Bodie where he would be. In fact, most of the time, Bodie would be with Doyle. What was going on and why hadn’t Cowley told him about Doyle?

The other name, missing on the assignments list was Anson, but he soon heard from the missing agent, who had been assigned to an op in the north and would only return later in the afternoon. Bodie spent the afternoon checking and re-checking what the various street bound agents were doing. Not all of the agents were assigned directly to the Marks and Spencer shooting, but enough were so that headquarters was consumed with the successful ending to the threat to individuals and property. The Minister had phoned twice to get more information. He didn’t seem to be upset that Bodie was in charge; in fact, it sounded like he had been expecting George Cowley to lead the CI5 forces into the field.

Anson showed up in Alpha 2’s office just about the time that Cowley contacted Bodie on the personal line. Thankfully the news was good. The various men who had rendered such chaos and turmoil in the famous store were in custody or dead. In fact, as Cowley told it; the vast force of men who had gone into the building weren’t really necessary because a customer at the venerable store had acted efficiently and decisively and had rendered almost all of the shooters harmless within moments of shots being fired. It was the cleaning up and searching for any further individuals involved that had consumed a large part of the afternoon. It was a large store and there were many customers who had to be interviewed. Fortunately, there were few casualties. Two of the thugs were dead, the other three only injured. The customer who had so brilliantly quelled the danger was also injured, but the injuries didn’t seem to be too serious.

Bodie sat there, listening rather perfunctorily to Cowley’s report, until Cowley in an almost hesitant and reluctant tone mentioned the name of the heroic customer: Ray Doyle. As soon as Bodie heard the name, he broke into Cowley’s continued rhetoric by demanding to know the name of the hospital to which Doyle had been sent. Without really thinking about what he was doing, Bodie hung up the phone’s receiver, called for Anson to take over control of headquarters until Cowley returned, and made an Olympic quality dash to his car to race to the hospital to which Doyle had been taken.

Bodie made also record time to the hospital. As he blasted his way into the area near the A & E, he slowed slightly as he spotted Murphy. Murphy looked as tired as Bodie felt, but the former Alpha 2 wasn’t interested in that, he was only interested in Doyle’s condition.

“How is he?”

Murphy wiped his face and tried to pull himself up into a straighter posture but failed miserably, “You better wait for Cowley to tell you more, but he was damn lucky. He got nicked on the head which gave him quite a headache and took a superficial wound in the left shoulder. He was crazy to take on all five of them. Luckily they weren’t trying to kill anybody else until this crazy, curly-haired nutter started putting them down single-handedly.”

Bodie let out the breath that he hadn’t realized he was holding; only now noticing how rapidly his heart was beating and how scared he had been. It seemed like that was all he had felt these last few months - - running scared, is that how it would be for him if he stayed with CI5 any longer?

Seeing Cowley in the distance, Bodie rushed up to the tired looking man and demanded, “Can I see him?”

He’s being treated in A & E so it would be a good idea if you . . .” Cowley didn’t get to finish because Bodie took off for the treatment area without really waiting for Cowley to finish. Pushing his way into the area, he saw the slender, almost gaunt figure of his partner sitting on one of the gurneys. He had a bandage patch on his head and his left shoulder was wrapped. Other than that, Ray Doyle looked about the same, but Bodie had known him a long time, so he could easily tell that the man was exhausted, but there was something more than that about this man who had come to mean so much to him.

“What the hell did you think you were doing . . . trying to take all five of them on at once?”

Doyle tried to smile but failed miserably, “Seemed like a good idea at the time, but you know me, I’m stubborn and I wasn’t about to let those bastards wreak havoc and scare everybody.”

Bodie’s face became a grimace of disbelief and pain as he said as sarcastically as he could. “Yes, we all know that Doyle the Do-Gooder has to go to the rescue of the blind, lame, and shopping deprived.”

“Well, I didn’t know then that they were just trying to make a statement against the capitalism of buying what you don’t need, did I?”

“Now, whatta ya mean by that?”

“Didn’t Cowley tell you? They were just five individuals who wanted to call attention to the stupidity of buying things in these big box stores that you don’t really need. I guess they want us to buy from mom and pop stores or something.”

“No, I . . . uh didn’t really give Cowley a chance to tell me, but that doesn’t matter, does it? I suppose you were in there to add to the capitalistic tendencies of the British shopper, were you?”

Doyle’s face turned slightly red. Dropping his chin down to his chest, he hoarsely whispered, “Nah, I was just looking for a birthday present.”

Bodie was stunned. It was his birthday in a few weeks and Doyle almost got himself killed, buying him a pressie? Bodie had seen many gut-wrenching things in Africa and other parts of the world, but the spasm that hit his entrails at that moment threatened to send him to the loo. Fury crossed his handsome face. “You dumb crud, you took on five of the baddies, just to get a birthday present?”

“Well, Justin’s birthday’s coming up soon, and I don’t get much time off.” Doyle stopped there as he saw the devastated look on Bodie’s face. He knew immediately that he had said the wrong thing. “I . . . I just thought while I had a few minutes . . .” Doyle stopped stammering and looked into the face of a man he barely knew at the moment. The look on Bodie’s face was totally off-the-wall. It was filled with embarrassment, pain, and something else - - something that Doyle couldn’t read.

Bodie took a step back, “I see. Well, of course, that makes a difference. Are you free to leave? Let’s get going if you’ve been checked out?”

Doyle’s face became beet red. He had had a very long day. He had been read the riot act, first by Cowley and then by Bodie; then he had had to admit that he was buying a pressie for another man, and now this. “You don’t have to take me home, Bodie. Cowley told me that you were Alpha 2 so I figured that you’d be to be busy so I . . . I called someone else.” Here Doyle ran out of steam because he knew how his next words were going to be received. “Justin’s coming to pick me up.”

Bodie stood there staring. Never in his wildest dreams had he figured that Doyle wouldn’t expect him to come and pick him up. Were they so far apart now that Doyle automatically put Justin first and his partner second? What could he say? A roaring epiphany of comprehension hit Bodie in the face in those nanoseconds of realization. He had stayed with CI5 for over seven years for one reason and one reason only and now it was obvious - - there was no reason to stay anymore. Trying to play down the devastating pain that enveloped him, Bodie replied as normally as was possible, “Right, well I’ll see you then after you get off sick leave.” With those short words, Bodie turned and hurried out of the room.

Since Justin did not arrive immediately, it was a very long half hour that Doyle sat waiting and thinking about what had just happened.

Chapter 4
Doyle’s arm had really begun to ache as the pain killers began to wear off. He had not wanted to take them, but Justin had convinced him to do so. Now Doyle was glad that he had because all he wanted to do was forget - - forget what a muck-up he had made of this whole thing with Bodie. He knew that he had said the wrong thing, but his tired mind could not fathom why Bodie was so upset. Bodie had been acting so strangely ever since Doyle had renewed his friendship with Justin. Was Bodie jealous of the time that Doyle spent with Justin?

As Doyle headed towards his bedroom, tearing off his clothes, he stopped in the middle of the hallway and the thought, ‘Duh, of course, he’s jealous, you nitwit’, crossed his mind. Bodie had always been a loner and let few people get through his barriers and yet over the past seven years, Bodie had taken him into his most private moments and now he must be feeling left out. What a fool you are, Doyle!

Doyle collapsed into bed, pulling the cool sheet up around him. He and Bodie had even been lovers, of a sort for a while. They had had months of the most mind-blowing sex imaginable, but Doyle had ended it. He had ended it because he knew that it would never be anything more; Bodie had made that very clear. It was better not to endanger their partnership and friendship by continuing a sexual relationship that had no future - - so Doyle had walked away, and Bodie seemed fine with that. The partnership had continued, and yet when Bodie found out about Justin, he seemed to act as if Doyle was doing something wrong, violating some unspoken agreement or something.

Doyle’s mind was becoming fuzzier so he snuggled down in the bed, trying to stop thinking about the enigmatic Bodie. Justin came to the side of the bed and whispered, “You all right?”

When Doyle merely mumbled, saying something unintelligible, Justin smiled, “You want to be alone or you want some company?”

Doyle was too tired to even answer; he merely drew the duvet back so that the spot beside him was available. Quickly, Justin undressed and lay down beside the injured man, carefully taking Doyle into his arms.

They had made love several times in the previous months. They had even fucked each other, something that he and Bodie had never done. Justin was a wonderful lover, but he wasn’t Bodie . . . no one was, and Doyle missed the sheer sensuality and excitement of sucking Bodie and all the other things they had done, but now wasn’t the time to compare Justin to Bodie. Bodie had chosen his path and now Doyle had to choose his.

Doyle was on sick leave for a week so he didn’t have to get up early, but that didn’t mean his bladder had got the message. After several hours of needed sleep Doyle felt the call of nature so he managed to untangle himself from Justin’s arms and make his wobbly way to the loo. His shoulder was hurting slightly and he still had a headache but, in general, he felt pretty good. He had to admit though that he was feeling all of his 37 years after yesterday’s rough and tumble efforts.
Standing in front of the toilet, Doyle felt relief as the pee flowed, but suddenly he was cognizant of someone standing in the doorway. Doyle looked up at Justin and raised one eyebrow. It hadn’t taken Justin very long to realize that Doyle was an amazingly modest person. He didn’t mind stripping quickly or to make love with another individual, but he didn’t like doing certain intimate body functions in front of another person. Justin smiled at the upset man and said, “Sorry, mate. I forgot. Just wanted to make sure that you were all right.” With those words, Justin returned to the bed.

A few minutes later, Doyle returned and began to cuddle in beside his bed partner. “Sorry about that, you’d think with all the shower rooms and the like that I’ve been in, I would have grown accustomed to peeing in front of people.”

“No problem, but are you sure that you feel like that in front of everybody?”

“Well, I haven’t peed around everybody.”

Justin laughed. “You, berk, you know damn well what I meant. I think it’s strange that you’re even reluctant to pee around your lovers.”

Doyle thought for a moment then laughed. “Yeah, they thought the same thing. I had several of them mention me idiosyncrasy.” Doyle suddenly stopped. This was certainly a strange topic to be discussing in bed with your lover. Then a chilling thought came to mind, It’s a good thing he didn’t ask if I had this problem with every one of my lovers. Doyle knew very well that he had never been hesitant around Bodie. Doyle told himself that it was because they worked together, and it was all part of the job, but Doyle knew deep down that he wouldn’t hesitate to do anything with Bodie. Bodie would never judge or condemn him for weird or strange behavior, and yet . . . Bodie was condemning him . . . condemning him for taking another lover after they had broken up.

Doyle settled into Justin’s arms and began to kiss and caress him in the way that Justin liked so much. Within seconds, the two men were hungrily demanding each other’s body.

BDBDBDBDBD
George Cowley sat staring at Bodie, the agent he hoped he would be able to groom to take his place when he retired. Now, he was hearing Bodie announce that he was leaving CI5. It was strange how life took the plunge into an abyss, just when you thought you had a bit of breathing space. Cowley prided himself on being a realist, but he thought he had Bodie figured out - - knowing so much about Bodie’s past with the army and the mercs, Cowley had expected that Bodie would leave CI5 service after a year or two, but then along came Doyle and Cowley quickly realized that he had the anchor that might entice Bodie to stay on longer. It had worked for eight years, but now it was all falling apart and just when Cowley felt that the day was near when he would retire.

“I don’t understand, Bodie. You did well acting as Alpha 2 and now suddenly, you talk about leaving, why is that?”

“I’ve come to realize that I stayed too long. Under my contract, I have three more months of service. I am willing to work those days, sir.”

“Have you told your plans to Doyle?”

Bodie’s deep blue eyes turned to sapphire, ice chips. “I will tell him when I think the time is appropriate.”

Aha, so the problem is Doyle, is it? Might have known. “All right, Bodie, Doyle is on a week of sick leave, so I’ll expect you to take me to my club today. Be here at 11 00 sharp.

For a few seconds both men stared at each other. As early as day 1 of Bodie’s employment, he had received the concession that he could leave CI5 without the usual formalities, but neither man spoke about that now. Bodie knew that Cowley would honour the agreement that had brought the ex-soldier into the CI5 fold, but protocol had to be honoured and honour it they both would.

Bodie got up to leave as Cowley threw out casually, “I’m having lunch with the Minister there today. “

Bodie held back the smirk that threatened to break out on his face; after all what was there to smirk about? He was losing Doyle and the closeness that he had become used to in the last eight years.

Several hours later, Bodie was waiting out in the foyer of Cowley’s club. Bodie had left his boss and came back because quite frankly, he could not stand hanging around such posh. A thought entered 3.7’s mind that Doyle had truly converted him to a socialistic way of thinking – over the years he had broadened his outlook, thanks to Doyle. The wealthy had everything and the ordinary individual paid for it. Cowley’s club was just one more symbol of the inequity that existed in Britain’s society.

Maybe it’s time I got some of me own wealth? After all I’ve done me time for Queen and country so why not use some of the merc money I’ve got and get rich me self. That thought brought a near-smile to his face, but then his face fell as he noticed three men walking towards him - - three men that he immediately recognized. No one could fail to notice George Cowley or the Minister, but it was the third man that made Bodie’s heart drop to the floor – the man’s beauty almost took your breath away, it was no wonder that Doyle was fascinated with him. Justin St. Hilary was the epitome of wealth, beauty, and power and now Bodie knew that he circulated in very high places indeed.

“Ah, Bodie, right on time. Minister, I’m sure that you remember Bodie?” The Minister nodded at the man who had done many things in the service of his country and murmured, “Hello,” but then he continued, “This is Justin St. Hilary, a good friend to the government and my special guest today. This is William Bodie, who works with Mr. Cowley.”

Justin St. Hilary watched his rival very carefully. As soon as Doyle had introduced him to Bodie, St. Hilary had known they had been lovers. He had drawn his breath at the handsome man. Within seconds of the meeting, the two men were already crossing swords with their eyes as each acknowledged that possession of Doyle would be a duel to the death, but so far the two men had had very little contact with each other. Justin remained rigidly formal and polite and said, “Happy to meet you again, Mr. Bodie.”

Bodie merely acknowledged the comment, but George Cowley looked askance at the remark, “Oh, you’ve met Bodie, have you?”

Now St. Hilary flashed a brilliant smile at two of the three men, “My yes indeed. I grew up in Derby and I have the pleasure of knowing one of your men, Mr. Cowley. We were at art school together, and I just happened to run into him a few months ago here in the city. Ray Doyle, of course, works with Mr. Bodie so I have definitely met the gentleman.”

Bodie almost visually cringed, but for Cowley it was an eye-opening revelation. Although he made no sign about how important this new information was, George Cowley was no fool; he now completely understood why William Bodie had decided to leave CI5 in three months, and the cause, Justin St. Hilary, was standing directly in front of him in all his glory.

In a small amount of time Cowley took leave of the Minister and St. Hilary. Cowley understood why Bodie was reticent about talking about what had just occurred, but Cowley was convinced that he had hit upon the problem that had developed between his best team. Since Bodie was leaving in three months, many individuals would have left well enough alone, but George Cowley was not that sort of leader. He had known these young men for almost nine years and was probably fonder of them than any other individuals in CI5 so he made up his mind to interfere one more time. After all, they merited his concern after all the Operation Susies that he had put them through as well as the injuries they had endured for Queen and Country.

“I didn’t realize that you were acquainted with Justin St. Hilary. I was, of course, aware of his advent to London, but I didn’t realize that you and Doyle travel in the same circles with the gentleman.”

Bodie was silent for a moment, thinking how pompous the word, ‘advent’ sounded; only Cowley would use it; then Bodie risked an answer, “I don’t travel in his circle, only Doyle does. He’s begun painting again, thanks to the bloke.”

Cowley became very thoughtful and then as the car pulled into the CI5 parking area, “Cowley turned to his favourite agent and said thoughtfully, “Maybe Doyle’s thinking about his future, just as you are. Perhaps I should be concerned about losing him as well.”

Cowley said nothing as he watched Bodie turn a peculiar shade of grey. George Cowley had always prided himself on being able to read William Bodie, and this time he was dead sure that he could read the heartache and dismay that his recent words had brought to the younger man.

Chapter 5
Bodie had been right that Doyle had started dabbling in art again. Thanks to Justin St. Hilary’s influence, the ex-copper had decided to try his hand at painting again, but it hadn’t been easy. He had met St. Hilary at art school when he was 19. He didn’t have Justin’s talent, but they had maintained a close friendship, and it was doubly hard to leave the art school, not just because his talent was minimal (at least in his own opinion), but it was in his second year of school that he had had his right cheek smashed in. He had been forced to stay out of school for weeks, and quite frankly couldn’t face returning to the school where the other students would immediately notice his different appearance.

He had left without telling anyone that he was leaving which hadn’t bothered him except leaving Justin St. Hilary behind. It had, therefore, amazed him when he saw Justin in London by accident. The man was still just as beautiful and looked almost exactly the same even though almost 15 years older. The two men had embraced and looked at each other fondly. The St. Hilary that Doyle saw was remarkably the same, but Doyle would have been even more amazed to know that St. Hilary looked at the slender, curly-haired man and thought him even more beautiful than before.

It had been part of Doyle’s make up since those terrible days in hospital with the mind-numbing pain of the fractured cheek that his features had changed for the worse . . . much worse. Not even looking in the mirror could persuade him that he was a beautiful man who anyone, both male and female would be attracted to. He always assumed that people, including Bodie, looked beyond his facial features because they were too polite to call attention to the irregular lump below his right eye. In fact, Bodie was the only one who ever made comments about his face and that was usually in reference to how he liked to be around Doyle because, what with his features, Bodie’s handsome face looked even better.

Until recently, Doyle had always taken those words with a grain of salt, knowing how Bodie liked to provoke him, but perhaps, he had been throwing off Bodie’s words too easily and the man meant them more seriously than previously assumed.

Doyle sighed because these thoughts were getting him nowhere. Since he was on sick leave, he had been working in Justin’s studio on a painting that he liked to call, “Watching”. It showed a nude man lying on his side, facing away from the viewer. You could see a great deal of his anatomy, but the enigma of the painting was that the unknown man was watching something in another room, but what he was watching could not be seen.

Doyle had spent much of the morning at the studio working. He was just cleaning his brushes when Justin St. Hilary entered the premises, “Ah, I thought I’d find you here. I tried to get in contact with you several times, but I figured you either ran off on a luxury junket or you were here.”

Doyle smiled, “Of course, with all my millions, you know that I’d be on the QE2 or some other such rowboat if I wasn’t tied down at the moment.”

St. Hilary looked at his longtime friend and recent lover, trying to decide if he was being confronted with Doyle cynicism or something else, equally frustrating. Figuring that now was as good a time as any, he pulled a large rectangular package from behind his back and handed it to Doyle. “I went down to the country house this weekend and picked this up. Thought you might like to see it.”

Doyle’s left eyebrow shot up as he began opening the package. Doyle drew in his breath as he realized what it was. He had been working on this particular painting when he had been injured and never returned to the art school. Doyle figured that it had been lost in the vagaries of life over the last 15 years and now here it was. “How . . . how did you get it?”

“I never told you, but I tried to find you when you didn’t return, so I went to the school and gathered up your gear and this painting and I’ve been saving them for you all these years.”

“But, how did you know that I was even alive?”

“I didn’t know for sure, but I kept hoping, and then . . . I found you, and I thought you might want your painting back. Do you know how many times I thought about hiring a private investigator to find you, and then you just pop up?”

Gently putting down the long-ago memory, Doyle walked over to St. Hilary, looking him in the face; then Doyle hugged him with a rarely used intensity. “Thanks, mate. I . . . I guess I owe you one.”

“Probably two or three, but who’s counting?”
The two men stood suddenly conscious of the emotional atmosphere that filled the room. Doyle turned and walked back to pick up the painting again, choosing to stare at it for a very long time, almost as if he hoped to return to those days when he had painted it. They weren’t the happiest of days, but the memories of art school filled him with a liberation that he hadn’t felt in a very long time. He had had many burdens on his shoulders in his relatively young life, but the painting of a mysterious silhouette standing on a hill waiting for someone still filled him with hope, just as it had done 15 years before.

“I can’t believe how bad I was then.”

St. Hilary came around Doyle’s slender body to look at the painting with him. Putting his arm around Doyle’s shoulder, St. Hilary whispered in his ear, “I always thought you were pretty good. Why didn’t you try to contact me?”

“With this mug?”

“You’re the only one who thinks that. No one else would have said a thing.”

Doyle stood staring at his friend in a stunned manner, “Oh sure, can you imagine the other students staring at me in our life classes - - me with a bare bum and a smashed face? No, it was better that I got out of there. I kept telling myself that I would contact you, but you know how things go? I decided to become a copper, and it seemed easier to make a final break with the past - - after all, you see lots of ugly things walking a beat so I would fit right in.”

“Who’s been telling you things like that?”

Not mentioning Bodie’s name, Doyle whispered, “Just have to look in the mirror, don’t I?”

“Doyle, you are the biggest berk, I’ve ever seen. Remember, I’ve seen you before and after you got the cheek messed up, and I say you are as gorgeous now as you ever were. In fact, you’ve got a maturity about you now that makes you even more attractive, if you want my opinion?”

“Pull the other one, cause this one’s drooping, mate.”

“You’re hopeless. Now how about you tell me about what you’ve been doing?” St. Hilary walked over to the painting on the easel and stared at it for several minutes; then he turned and asked, “What’s he staring at?”

A certain wariness entered Doyle’s green eyes as he responded hesitantly, “Don’t know, yet. Have to decide.”

“Hmmm, I like it though. It shows how far you’ve come in 15 years. Listen, I’m having a major showing in three months, why don’t we put the two paintings in as a separate exhibit?”

“Are you nuts? I’m no professional. I would be laughed out of town.”

“I happen to be much admired for my taste, and I’m telling you that you are good. Why don’t you do one more when you get the other one done and I’ll exhibit them.”

“I’m not selling them.”

“I’m not asking you to. I just want to show them to people and let them tell you what I already know - - that you have a lot of talent.”

Doyle looked at St. Hilary warily, “All right, I’ll think about it. I don’t know if I can get another one done in so short of time though.”

“I have every confidence in you, my son. Now, how about we go across to my apartment, order in some takeaway, and then go to bed and rest our weary bones?”

“Oh yes, I keep forgetting that you’re older than me and you need your rest.”
Justin St. Hilary smiled evilly at the man who could provoke a saint and said, “I’ll show you how much rest I need, my little chicken.”

“Can hardly wait. I definitely want to get in on this action.” With those words, the two adjourned their serious discussion to walk across the corridor to St. Hilary’s luxury apartment.

Much later in the evening, after much wine, very little song, and no women, the two men were cuddled up in bed together. Doyle hadn’t felt so comfortable in ages. It was becoming more and more obvious to him that his time on the street was coming to an end. He wasn’t a young man anymore who could easily recover from injury or emotional trauma as he had done. Being shot in the chest and back had opened his eyes to the real problem of aging and trying to stay on the street and still be Cowley’s top team seemed more like a dream as the days went on. It really hadn’t seemed a problem as long as Bodie and he had remained close, but now there was definitely something wrong, and he suspected that it was his relationship with Justin which was a major factor.

When Bodie and he had been having sex, Doyle had looked at their future and thought they could adjust to the problem of sleeping with one’s working partner, but then Doyle had made the mistake of expecting more from Bodie, and when he realized that that wasn’t going to happen, Doyle had made up his mind to get out before their relationship was irreparably ruined. It had been a couple of years since he and Bodie had slept together (not that there was a lot of sleeping) and somehow the partnership had weathered all kinds of turmoil - - even Ann Holly, but now Doyle was no longer sure. Doyle had had several birds since breaking up with Bodie, but somehow being with Justin had made things different, at least to Bodie or that’s how it seemed.

Lying in bed snuggled with Justin, Doyle’s thoughts turned to his future. If he did have some artistic talent then maybe he did have a future outside of law enforcement, but what about Bodie? Somehow he had always thought that the two of them would come off the streets together, but the two men barely seemed to talk these days. They still worked well together, but Doyle had noticed that Cowley was putting them together less and less. What was going to happen to them? After all, Doyle was now 37 and Bodie just a year behind, could they stay working together, if he and Justin became even closer?

Although Doyle’s mind was fuzzy as sleep began to overtake him, another thought entered his mind - - Justin was holding something back from him. Doyle had become so wrapped up in receiving his long-ago painting and then their intimacy that he had forgot to ask Justin what was wrong, but he told himself that he would have to do so because he didn’t want suspicion and secrets to invade their relationship as it had done between himself and Bodie.

Now suddenly very tired, Doyle tried to return to sleep, but the call of nature first invaded and then pervaded his thoughts, so he carefully unwound himself from Justin’s arms and headed for the loo. After finishing his task, Doyle tried to quietly sneak back into bed, but was stopped when the loved voice said, “Can’t sleep, mate? I would have thought I wore you out?”

Doyle tried to make light of it as he said, “You did, but I’ve got an old bladder which can’t take all that action anymore, so I had to go to the loo.”

St. Hilary propped himself up on his left elbow to get a better look at Doyle. One of St. Hilary’s idiosyncrasies was keeping a night light on so it was relatively easy to see Doyle’s anxious face. “What’s the matter, Ray?”

“What makes you think there’s something wrong?”

St. Hilary smiled a vaguely sad smile and said, “Because I think I know you pretty well, and I can see there’s something . . . perhaps you want to ask me a question?”

It took Doyle’s breath away sometimes the way Justin could read his mind . . . almost as well as Bodie could . . . or, at least the way he used to be able to do so. “All right, I’ll admit it. I think you’re hiding something and I would like to know what it is.”

“You’re a very perceptive young man. All right, it’s not really anything that big, but I was introduced to your partner today by none other than George Cowley himself.”

“Bodie was with Cowley? Where was this?”

“Well, I was at my club and your big boss, the Minister, invited me to have lunch with him and ‘lo and behold, who should appear but George Cowley? Do you think I should assume that that was a coincidence?”

“George Cowley does nothing by coincidence; it was obviously planned, but why did they want to include you?”

“Good question, one that I fear to contemplate too far. Anyway, at the end of the meal we were walking out together when your partner showed up. It was obvious that he was acting as chauffeur for Cowley, but Cowley seemed to be amazed when I said that I already knew Mr. Bodie. He was even more amazed when I said that it was because I had been acquainted with you since our Derby days. I guess I was wrong; I always thought Big George knew every detail of his men’s lives.”

“Well, I do keep a few secrets.” Doyle sat there in obvious contemplation then returned to the original topic of discussion - -“ Did Bodie say anything?”

“Not much, but that young man ought to patent the ice chips in his eyes; he could make a fortune in desert countries.”

“Whatta ya mean by that?”

“Just that your Bodie does not like me one little bit. I suspected it when you first introduced us, but it was very obvious this time. When I mentioned knowing you from Derby and then had re-discovered you here in London, those deep blue eyes were throwing ice lances at me, left and right.”

“You’re imagining things, that’s what you are.”

St. Hilary looked lovingly at the curly-mopped man and thought how blind Doyle was to Bodie’s feelings, but St. Hilary was not really interested in Bodie at the moment so he drew the quite willing body into his arms, “Come on you sensual satyr. I have to get up in a few hours and go to work. How about we discuss some very important current events for a few minutes?”

“Oh good, that will give me a chance to show you how much I retain from all that reading that George makes us do.”

Pulling Doyle’s lips to his mouth, St. Hilary whispered, “I’ll get you for that, you provocateur,” and he did.

Chapter 6:
Four days later, Doyle returned to work, but only to the less-than-thrilling job of manning the records division. He was down in the great abyss of CI5 trying to sort some of Anson’s less-than-handiwork when an extremely recognizable voice came floating through the records room from somewhere beyond Doyle’s line of sight, “Whoo Hoo! Is the creature of the CI5 lagoon of trivia and nonsense lurking down here somewhere? His fair knight of all knowledge and wisdom is looking for him.”

Doyle grimaced but was secretly happy to hear Murphy’s voice - - well, any voice for that matter. It had been a dismal couple of hours trying to decipher Anson’s calligraphy. Smiling Doyle replied, “Whoo Hoo! I’m back here, lover mine, hoping to devour you before all these records devour me.”

Suddenly, the tall, well-built body of Colin Murphy appeared from the gloomy corridors, almost as if by magic. “Well, well, look who’s here - - the creature himself with his busted flipper.”

Trying to sound perturbed, Doyle carefully repeated, “It-is-not-busted, you moron. I was just wounded in the line of duty because I was doing my job, unlike some others I could mention.”

Murphy’s handsome face turned into a pouty mouthed look as he stared at the green-eyed tempter who Murphy had once hoped he could seduce, but as soon as he had seen the way Bodie protected his partner and the equally revealing way Bodie looked at the green-eyed satyr, Murphy knew there was no hope so he had become both men’s friend and often partnered one or the other if the partner was not available. Unfortunately, this happened quite frequently, especially during those long months when Doyle was recovering from May-Li’s bullets that had almost killed him.

Murphy smiled at one of his favourite people in the world. Doyle had always been the enigma of the two men. He liked his privacy and rarely tried to charm anyone. He was amazingly honest and, still, after many years on the street, an idealist, but Murphy knew that the years had taken their toll on Doyle, and he wouldn’t be surprised if one day soon, Doyle would decide to leave the streets.

Doyle looked slightly frazzled and definitely exhausted which was not surprising since he had been off work for a week with this injury. The angel face looked up at Murphy and stared for a moment; then Doyle asked, “And how may I help his Majesty today?”

“I’m looking for the Oppenheimer File, Number 234155, if you please, oh slave of mine.”

“I think I saw that here somewhere, but it’s hard to know since Anson did most of the filing with his toes and certainly not his brain.”

“I’ll bet the Cow just loves it when Anson does the records work. I’ll bet Anson’s IQ has never got out of single digits.” The two men laughed at the expense of their fellow agent while Doyle began the momentous task of finding the requested file.

As Doyle handed the now-found file to Murphy, Doyle made a pretense of normal conversation and asked, “You and Bodie going to try and work on that bee-in-Cowley’s-bonnet again?”

“Yeah, he says that two supposedly intelligent men ought to be able to find one missing person, even though numerous other agents have tried. He wouldn’t be so persistent if the missing person wasn’t a friend of a good friend.”

“Yeah, well, he’s certainly put his best men on the case this time. If anybody can find the guy, it’ll be you and Bodie.”

“What are you talking about? You and Bodie are the best, but I think Cowley looks at my bloodhound face and figures I’ll be persistent enough to find the guy. Oh, well, it’s relatively easy work, while we’re waiting for you to get the okay to return to the street, and it’s really nice to have fairly regular working hours. Speaking of regular hours, how about you and me going to a pub after work? I’ll even pay.”

“What’s brought this on? I thought you and Pat were a hot item?”

“Nah, that’s all over. We could go to that one near to your flat and then I could drop you off.”

“How’d you know I didn’t have my car?”

“Saw Mr. Hunk drop you off this morning at the door, just like he was your chauffeur.”

“Doyle tried to avoid blushing, but he didn’t do very well, “Oh, should have known, Mr. Eagle-Eye of CI5 never misses a thing. That would be really helpful, wasn’t looking forward to catching a train to get home tonight. What time you leavin’?”

“His lordship has deigned that Bodie and I can leave at 6 00 ce soir.”

“Is . . . Bodie going as well?”

“Nah, he’s got something else on for this evening.”

“Oh, so I’m your second choice, am I?”

“No, of course not, actually you’re my fifth or sixth choice, but a guy’s got to learn to take the bad with the good.”

“Gee thanks, I guess I’ll see you outside then at 6 00 tonight.”
As Murphy left to peruse the Oppenheimer file, Doyle sat in the dim area where the files of CI5 were kept and thought about his relationship with Bodie. One question kept rolling over and over in his mind, what did I do wrong?

Certainly Doyle recognized that things had begun to go sour in their longtime relationship after Doyle had found Justin St. Hilary, but Bodie had always been pretty laid back about most of his relationships , but with Justin something had happened and Bodie’s indifference and lack of caring had turned into open hostility. The two partners stopped hanging around together and truthfully, Doyle was so busy with his painting that he didn’t have as much time for Bodie, and then, of course, Doyle’s connection to St. Hilary had taken on a sexual side, just as it had done so many years before. Maybe that was it? Was Bodie upset that Doyle and St. Hilary were lovers? That would be so typical of the man. All Bodie had ever wanted from Doyle was sex; he had made that very clear, and now when Doyle had found someone else, Bodie was upset. Doyle sighed, what a mess this was.

Looking at his watch, Doyle noticed that it was 6 00 so Doyle closed up shop quickly and raced to the side entrance of CI5. Within minutes, Murphy had pulled up and the men were on their way. The pub was within walking distance of Doyle’s flat so the two men were able to find a parking spot within walking distance of the flat as well as the pub.

The two men spent an enjoyable hour, drinking, talking and playing darts. Neither man was an expert, but that made it all the more interesting. Several other patrons challenged them to a game but everything ended quite friendly. Doyle noticed that it was getting late and decided to head to his flat just as Justin St. Hilary walked in the door. Seeing Doyle he smiled, “So, here you are, my wandering artiste. I thought you were going to the studio this evening?”

“I was, but I met Murph, and we decided to inaugurate my first day back on the job. I really needed to get the dust and heavy-worded wisdom of a certain Scot out of my lungs, so Murph brought me here.”

Murphy and St. Hilary stood staring at each other. When two handsome men meet for the first time, they obviously size each other up, and that is exactly what the two men were doing. Doyle noticed the instant interest that the two men had and said, “Pardon my manners - - Justin, this is Colin Murphy, who works with me. Murph, this is Justin St. Hilary, who is a longtime friend who foolishly thinks that I have some artistic talent.”
The two men acknowledged each other and shook hands. Murphy politely asked Justin if he would like something to drink and the evening went well from there. Justin St. Hilary was a master in many areas and promptly took on both men in darts and wiped the floor with them. By the time, all bets and debts were settled the sobriety of the three men was suspect. Since Doyle’s flat was so close, the three managed to find the right direction to the flat, and even though weaving and giggling badly, they arrived without too much damage.

Murphy found himself enjoying the camaraderie between the two old friends. Their banter was hilarious and it was quite evident that they liked each other. It was also quite evident to Murphy that Doyle and St. Hilary enjoyed an intimate relationship as well. Murphy had known about Doyle’s sexual orientation almost from the first time he had met the green-eyed satyr, and it hadn’t bothered him a bit. In fact, he had hoped to take advantage of Doyle’s bi-sexual nature, but it wasn’t to be. William Andrew Philip Bodie had been the main stumbling block and Murphy, recognizing Doyle’s feelings for Bodie, decided to put his friendship with the two men first. It had worked very well for the last five years, but Murphy had noticed that something had changed between the partners and now Murphy knew exactly what or rather who it was. Now Murphy understood why Bodie was so quiet when they were working together. Previously, Bodie talked about Doyle all the time, especially the antics they got up to and what they had recently done to get the Cow to pull out more hair, but that hadn’t happened in months and Murphy’s epiphany made him vaguely nervous. Did Bodie know about Doyle’s intimacy with St. Hilary? Even though Murphy was pretty tipsy, he mind and his body felt apprehensive about what the end result would be for Bodie and Doyle. Remembering the lingering effects of Ann Holly, surely this relationship would be even more explosive to Cowley’s best team.

Managing to sober up slightly, Murphy was able to get a taxi to take him home after an hour or so enjoying Doyle and St. Hilary’s comedy act. The night was very short indeed as Murphy’s alarm seemed to ring only minutes after he laid his head down.

Realizing that he had left his car at Doyle’s place, Murphy promptly called Bodie to be picked up. He would have to go by Doyle’s flat and pick up his car at the end of the shift. Now if he could just think of some way to avoid explaining to Bodie why he didn’t have his car.

Fortune favoured Murphy for the first few hours. The two men were so busy chasing a real scum-bag named Jamison that Bodie seemed to be totally distracted by the op, but after lunch, fortune deserted Murphy. Jamison was now in custody and Cowley, ever conscious of keeping his men busy had ordered the two men to be the back-up on stakeout. Unfortunately, that meant that the two agents now had some time on their hands and Bodie, being the master interrogator that he was, used his expertise to grill his temporary partner.

“You know you really look like hell. When you got into the car this morning, you looked worse than a guy I saw once who had been dead for three days, what were you doing last night?

Oh brother, here it comes! “I went for a couple of drinks with Doyle, mother dear.”

“Doyle, you got drunk with Doyle? He’s just got off sick leave, and you enticed him into drinking?”

“I did not entice him, he felt like going out and you were busy so we went to his local, and well . . .”

“And well, what?”

“We were enjoyin’ ourselves, and we sort of over-indulged and then Justin came in and challenged us to darts and it sort of got out of hand.”

“So St. Hilary was there too?” Although Bodie noticed that Murphy was calling St. Hilary by his Christian name, he said nothing to Murphy although his pique was really aroused.

“Yeah, he’s really good at darts. Beat us both handily. Well . . . anyway, we couldn’t walk too well so we walked to Doyle’s flat, and well after a while, I took a taxi home; my car is still at Doyle’s though so that’s why I asked your gracious self to pick me up.”

Bodie said nothing, but Murphy registered the white knuckles that gripped the steering wheel. The temperature in the car had dropped several degrees, as Murphy resigned himself to a very uncomfortable day on the job. If those two maniacs didn’t resolve their differences soon, Murphy suspected that something dire was going to happen.

Chapter 7

Ray Doyle lay under the heavy weight of his bed partner. Wouldn’t you know it, I got to go pee. All of this weight is really pressing on my bladder. Doyle tried to move gently from underneath the weight, but it was no good. His partner was wrapped around him but good. Doyle fondly remembered their love making of the night before or rather the early morning hours after Murphy had left. Their orgasms had left both men exhausted and sleepy, but now the call of nature became imperative so Doyle shoved.

Justin St. Hilary immediately sprang awake. He had trained himself to wake up immediately, but as he quickly orientated himself to the fact that he wasn’t in his own bed, he turned to the beautiful man beside him and asked in a muffled voice, “What’s happening; the place on fire?”

“No, you berk, I got to go pee so get that lard butt off me.”

St. Hilary moved swiftly off the smaller man and as Doyle made a dash for the loo, shouted, “Can I come look?” Getting no answer as was expected, St. Hilary turned over and cuddled down into the warm bed, waiting for Doyle to return.

Hearing the familiar flush, St. Hilary watched the glorious slink of the most gorgeous body in all of England move towards him. “How come I can’t watch?”

Doyle looked mildly put out by the question but quickly jumped back into bed and cuddled up next to his bed partner. “I told you; I’ve always been modest about peeing in front of others. I can shower and that, but I just can’t do it with someone watching.”

“I find that hard to believe, lover mine, what with you disrobing in record time every time I have my wicked way with you. What’s different about this?”

“I don’t know; just is.”

“You mean that a grown man of 37 can’t pee in front of anyone - - that must have made your mum find it difficult to potty train you.”

Doyle sat up and turned on his lover. “I’ll have you know that I was potty trained as you put it by one year old. Me mum said that I was the best she had ever seen at knowin’ when and when not to go. I only started having this trouble as I grew up and went to school. Havin’ all those prurient cock grabbers around all the time while at school sort of . . . well, inhibited me. I wouldn’t say that the so-called adults who work for CI5 are as bad as those twits in school, but I just don’t like anyone looking at me.”

“It’s a good thing that you weren’t in the military; I don’t think you would have had much choice there.”

“Could be, but could we discuss something else ‘cause I’m getting kind of sleepy and if I don’t have something else to entertain me, I guess I’ll just go to nighty-nighty land.”

Justin St. Hilary didn’t have to be hit over the head; he immediately remedied the situation to the ultimate satisfaction of both men.

BDBDBDBDBD

Ray Doyle walked into the hallowed halls of CI5 a few days later and went straight to the assignments board. For several days, he had been expecting to be re-assigned to the street, but finally it was happening. There was his name: Ray Doyle and next to his name was Bodie. They were being assigned to the Williams’ case, a case that had been on the books for weeks. Doyle had even done some prep work on it while in records, so maybe there was some method to Cowley’s madness. Now if he could just find Bodie, and hopefully . . . hopefully he could get his close-mouthed partner to tell him what he had done that had caused this estrangement.

It didn’t take a genius to know that Bodie was upset. Normally the two men were in each other’s pocket. They virtually saw and talked to each other every day. They enjoyed each other’s company. Doyle was willing to admit that he had been neglecting Bodie while he had been painting, but he had thought Bodie would understand how much painting meant to him. There was always the niggling doubt in Doyle’s mind that their sexual relationship had put too much of strain on their lives and that he had been a mistake in the first place. Clearly, Doyle had been wrong to want more from Bodie than the man had been willing to give. Doyle knew that he was to blame for most of the trouble, but why was Bodie so sensitive about Justin? After all, the ex-merc had thrown several of his past lovers, both literally and figuratively at Doyle in the past, so what was different now?

Searching in the rest room for Bodie, Doyle found a number of agents sprawled around on the furniture. Seemed strange that CI5 was less busy than usual, but maybe the Cow had some big mission planned and was giving the usually overworked personnel some breathing space. Doyle stopped before he entered the room, however, as he realized the total insanity of his recent thoughts. His days away from the action had definitely softened his brain if he ever thought that Cowley wouldn’t cook up something for his men to be doing. The reality of that thought was the fact that Bodie and Doyle were being assigned to a seven year old cold case that Cowley had had a thing about for as long as Doyle could remember. Cowley had even had Doyle go over the case while he was doing time in Purgatory better known as Records so Doyle was somewhat familiar with the previous investigations that had taken place about the missing man.

Walking into the restroom, Murphy looked up and gestured for him to sit down next to him. “Sit yourself down; your partner will be back in a minute or two. He’s getting us all some tea out of that decrepit vending machine on the third floor.”

“Why isn’t he getting it from the second floor one?”

Anson broke into the earth-shaking discussion and informed Doyle that that particular vending machine had been taken away to the morgue when it died sometime during the week that Doyle was gone. Doyle nodded his head to indicate he understood, but he quickly noticed a gleam in both Anson’s and Murphy’s eyes as they exchanged glances with each other. “What’s so funny?”

Murphy smiled and said, “Oh nothing, but be sure you ask, how the vending machine died.”

Doyle looked at the two maniacs, expecting some major joke was being pulled on him, but he said, “Okay, I’ll bite, how did the vending machine die?”

Anson took up the story, “Well, Tuesday week, our beloved leader went to the vending machine to get one of those pearls of gourmetdom by putting in his carefully stocked shillings. Nothing happened for a moment; then our strong willed, and self-controlled leader, tiring of the waiting, hit the vending machine. It promptly spewed out every known and unknown liquid it possessed all over our leader’s new £300 suit that he was wearing in order to meet the Minister. Frankly, I never knew that George Cowley knew words like that. I mean . . . well, I know he was in the military, but I thought his Christian principles wouldn’t permit such . . .”

Anson’s words came to an end as Bodie came strolling into the room, carefully carrying three mugs of tea. Doyle, Anson, and Murphy sat staring at the handsome man in awe of the fact that he had real mugs of tea and not that stuff from the vending machine, but it was Murphy who asked the question, “Where’d you get real tea from?”

A smirk crossed the handsome face, “Oh, I just told the girls in the computer section that I needed tea for two down and out agents who hadn’t had anything to drink or eat for several days, and would they be willing to share their food goodies with them? Of course, they immediately responded with sympathy, but when I told them it was for you and Anson, they changed their mind. Of course, when I used all me charms and told them that I could use a cuppa as well, well . . . what can I say - - here’s the proof of their regard for me.”

Anson began to hold his nose in reaction to Bodie’s story, but before anyone else could say anything, Betty came to the door of the restroom and told Anson and Murphy that Cowley wanted to see them immediately, leaving Bodie alone with three mugs of tea and Doyle.

Bodie stood staring at Doyle, seemingly almost daring him to say something; then the handsome ex-merc put one of the mugs to his lips and promptly swallowed the entire contents. Winking at Doyle, Bodie promptly drank down the second mug, but handed the third mug to Doyle, who leisurely sipped at the hot liquid. Doyle could not tell if Bodie had scalded his throat with his theatrical display, but knowing Bodie, Doyle was sure that Bodie would never show any discomfort anyway. Bodie smiled one of his more sheepish smiles, an obvious indication of the stunt he had just pulled, but demonstrated his fortitude by asking in a full voice, “What’s up, mate? Why’s the Cow got us working on the Williams’ case again?”

So that was how it was going to be, the two men had barely talked to each other over the last several weeks. In fact, Bodie had not even come to visit Doyle while he was recovering from his wound, and yet it was business as usual. Well, Doyle could play the same game. “Cowley had me catch up on the Williams’ investigation while I was down in Records (You did know that I was down there, didn’t you?), so he must have figured that we could solve it where so many others have failed. It’s almost statute of limitations time, so I guess he figured he’d give it one more shot. You know how he hates to let any criminal get away with his crime?”

“Yeah, but why CI5? Can’t the coppers take care of it?”

“Well, it’s true he’s a missing person, but he also has some ties to gun runners and some other pretty suspicious activities so it isn’t beyond the realm of CI5, besides we all know that what George Cowley says is CI5 jurisdiction, is CI5 jurisdiction.”

“Yeah, I guess you’re right; besides it’s been pretty quiet around here so he wouldn’t want us getting paid for keeping the sofa in the restroom warm. Guess you’re right though. You can fill me in in the car. I’ll drive while you fill my sweet, tender ears with your golden words.”

Doyle quickly looked at Bodie to see if he could detect any hint of sarcasm, but there was none. Doyle got up and the two men headed towards the car park. Within minutes, they were heading out of their parking place with Doyle updating Bodie.

As they came to a red light, Bodie turned his head and said, “I remember the case; what evidence do we have that can help us now after all these years?”

Doyle quickly summarized what information they had and the information that they did not have.

Bodie’s left eyebrow shot up as he asked, “Where do you want to start?”

For some reason, there doesn’t seem to be much work done on Williams’ early years. I know he didn’t spring full-blown from the head of Zeus so what did he do before he came to the city and started his wicked ways - - maybe that’s a place to start?”

“Okay with me.”
They spent the rest of the day tracking down Chester William’s early years. It was Doyle who stumbled on the fact that William’s had once lived in Derby and spent several years at the same art school that St. Hilary and he had attended. Shocked by the lackadaisical investigation of William’s early years, Doyle immediately contacted Cowley to complain about the situation. Cowley, however, ignored the poor investigation angle, and immediately asked, if Doyle had known the man. Doyle promptly informed Cowley that Williams had left the school the year before Doyle had entered so he had not known him. Doyle’s heart sank when Cowley, less than casually, suggested, “Perhaps your friend, Mr. St. Hilary could give you some information?”

Alarm bells went off in Doyle’s head as he quickly realized that it had really rankled Cowley to be informed in front of the Minister that Justin St. Hilary knew one of his agents and that that agent had not informed him of the acquaintance. Cowley was definitely getting his payback. Doyle was sure that there was more to come. “I’m sure you’ll be seeing Mr. St. Hilary again, I would suggest you ask him about his knowledge of Mr. Williams.”

The old bastard! It’s just like Ann Holly all over again. He wants me to use Justin just like he wanted me to use Ann Holly. He would do anything to get Williams.

Doyle’s thoughts continued so long that Cowley began to think that he had pushed his agent too far. Cowley was well aware that he had lost a great deal of Doyle’s trust over the Ann Holly affair, but he was also a pragmatic man and knew that he would do whatever he took to get a man like Williams in custody. The man had eluded him for too many years to become sentimental now. If Doyle didn’t like it, he would just have to . . . Here Cowley stopped as he realized that he was reluctant to even contemplate what Doyle might be willing to do.

The day proved to be long and not really successful, especially since most of the information had been passed on almost seven years ago and apparently had not really been acted upon. By the end of the day, Doyle was ready for a quick visit to a pub and then maybe some time working on his canvas for the art exhibition. When Doyle asked Bodie to go along to the pub, however, it was perfectly obvious that the freeze was still on as Bodie refused without indicating what his plans were.

Doyle watched Bodie pull away from the car park where Bodie had dropped him, vowing that he would find out what it was that he had done that had made Bodie so frost bit. Unfortunately, Justin was also not available to entertain him because he was now involved in a series of negotiations with various artists who would be presenting their artwork at the exhibit in less than three months’ time. Sighing, Doyle decided to go by the studio and see if he could find the inspiration for completing the ‘Watching’ painting.

Several hours later, Doyle crawled up the stairs to his flat. His effort to find inspiration had been for naught. He kept looking at the painting but couldn’t understand what the figure was actually looking at. That’s pretty bad when the artist can’t understand his artwork, but then I’m not an artist. Guess that’s why I quit art school. Doyle knew that that last thought was not really true and felt ashamed that he had gone so far as to begin lying to himself.

The hunt for Chester Williams continued with each and every piece of evidence about Williams examined and re-examined. The two men were just about prepared to tell Cowley that they believed the man dead or out of the country when Doyle finally received a message from Justin, who told him that he was back in town for a few days and wondered if Doyle had time to get together with him.

Doyle practically ran over to St. Hilary’s expensive and very impressive apartment. Hugging the man with great enthusiasm, Doyle immediately began stripping the older man so that he could get to his skin and essential body parts.

“Heavens man, you must be starved? Didn’t you get any action while I was gone?”

Doyle gave him a questioning look and then shook his curls and whispered, “I’m a one-man man, haven’t you figured that out?”

St. Hilary looked faintly astounded, but smiled and took Doyle’s beautiful face in his hands and kissed those alluring cupid’s bow lips. After a lengthy kiss, the two men found themselves unable to breathe so they broke apart and promptly headed towards the bedroom.

Their lovemaking was frantic and exhausting as usual, but it was also very comforting and fulfilling, especially to Doyle, who had hoped to find this kind of relationship with Bodie, but it was not meant to be because Bodie didn’t want it. Bodie needed sex regularly and Doyle had been happy to give it to him, but after a while, Doyle had realized that he wanted more and that was the problem. Now, with Justin, he had what he wanted and art was thrown in as well.
Suddenly, Doyle realized that he had done it again. Somehow he always seemed to start thinking of Bodie, even when he was in the thrall of lovemaking with Justin - - something was definitely wrong with this scene, but, unfortunately, now that Doyle was thinking about Bodie, he was also thinking about what Cowley had not-so-subtly had suggested that he do.

Doyle had bitterly resented Cowley telling him to spy on Ann Holly and this new op, with the need to question Justin St. Hilary seemed much like the same old idea, but it had to be done and Justin was no naïve, innocent woman. Cuddling closer in St. Hilary’s arms, Doyle found an opening to broach the less-than-appetizing subject when St. Hilary asked, as he almost always did, “Well, what did you do today? Any bad guys now facing the silver tongue of George Cowley?”

Doyle usually laughed and vaguely told St. Hilary what he and his partner had been doing, but this time Doyle decided to be more detailed. “We’re trying to find a guy who’s been missing for several years. The statute of limitations is almost up, and Cowley, who’s more like an elephant than a cow since he never forgets, asked us to look for him.

“Gee, where do you start with something like that? Of course, computers might help, but I wouldn’t have any idea what you’d have to do.”

“It’s interesting that you mentioned computers ‘cause the previous investigations into this guy’s whereabouts didn’t really have computers so I checked our database, and found that this guy once attended our art school.”

“What, you mean the one in Derby?”

“Yeah, do you remember a Chester Williams?”

St. Hilary thought for a moment and then began to shake his head; then he stopped and sat up straight in the bed, “Wait a minute, you don’t mean, Chessie Williams, do you? We always called him that beause of the way he kept smiling all the time. You don’t mean that you want Chessie, do you?”

“Well, we’d sure like to talk to him if we could find him.”

St. Hilary grabbed Doyle in his arms and gave him a major kiss and then pushed him back against the pillows so that he could give him a lengthy episode of mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, but before that could happen, St. Hilary sat back up in bed and looked faintly confused. “You know now that you mention it; I think I saw Chessie the other day in Birmingham. You remember when I had to go north to see some art exhibits?”

Doyle merely nodded in agreement in fear that he would distract St. Hilary, but now agent 4.5 was totally tuned to the job. “Well, I was at this one exhibit, and I saw this guy standing looking at a painting and he just seemed, I don’t know enraptured. I studied him for a few minutes admiring how wrapped up in that piece of art he was, but I thought I knew him. I was going to go over and say something to him, but he disappeared before I could get there. He had on a really bad reddish-haired wig and had put on a lot of weight, but when you mentioned the name, Chester Williams, it helped my brain put two and two together. I really think it could have been him. Isn’t that a coincidence?”

Doyle now was sitting close to his lover, alert, green eyes blazing, “Tell me everything you can remember. This might really be important. Start at the beginning.”

For the next 45 minutes or so, Justin did his very best to elaborate about what he had seen and where he had seen the fugitive. Doyle was now on the scent, and promptly after getting all the information he could, totally forgot about St. Hilary as he placed a call, first to Cowley and then to Bodie. Within minutes of those calls, Doyle was dressed and ready to leave Justin’s apartment.

St. Hilary watched the whirlwind depart, suddenly seeing a new side to his lover. As Doyle left, he gave his lover a kiss that was semi-distracted, but mentioned that he had finally completed the ‘Watching’ painting if St. Hilary wanted to take a look. With those words, Doyle headed out the door and onto an op which took the next several days of research and leg work but resulted in the capture and arrest of a man who had very close to escaping justice.

As for Justin St. Hilary, he laid back in his bed, telling himself that he would have to get used to this kind of behaviour from his lover, if they wanted to stay together. It was only later after he had finished shaving that he decided to slip across the hallway to see Doyle’s now finished painting instead of going immediately to the gallery. As he unlocked the studio door, another thought came to St. Hilary’s mind I wonder how much George Cowley had to do with what just occurred?

If Justin St. Hilary had known what was about to occur, he would have been less worried about Cowley and much more worried about his relationship with Doyle.

Chapter 8

Justin St. Hilary let himself into the studio that Doyle had been using for the last couple of months. St. Hilary knew that Doyle felt himself to be a born copper. Doyle had been an idealist even when he had known him in art school. Doyle’s unexplained disappearance and then those long years of not knowing about Doyle had bothered St. Hilary a great deal, and though he had tried to find Doyle, he had given up after a few months. If Doyle had stayed in school, St. Hilary kept telling himself that maybe . . . just maybe Doyle could have had a career in art. Doyle was now 37; his days at CI5 were numbered and St. Hilary badly wanted to give his friend and lover an alternative future, but quite frankly St. Hilary had been shaken by Doyle’s seeming absolute dedication to his job.

St. Hilary wasn’t really surprised that Cowley would decide to make him Doyle’s snitch. St. Hilary was a very practical, pragmatic man, and he would have probably have done the same thing. It certainly cleared up why the Minister and Cowley had approached him that day at the club, but what was Doyle’s part in this whole thing? Was he merely following orders? How far would Doyle go for George Cowley?

Entering the still brightly lit room, St. Hilary stared at the two covered canvases that stood upon their easels. Sitting on a table nearby were several blank canvases that St. Hilary had brought by days earlier in the hopes of encouraging Doyle to get started on his third painting for the art exhibition. After all with less than two months to go, Doyle couldn’t really afford to take his time deciding what his subject would be.

Removing the cover from the ‘Waiting’ canvas, St. Hilary stared at the early efforts of Ray Doyle. The figure waiting on the hillside wasn’t a silhouette and yet it wasn’t a completely formed person either, but there was something very familiar about the individual. What was the person waiting for?

The second painting, ‘Watching’ was even more enigmatic. The clearly nude figure was watching something, but it had appeared that the figure was almost staring into space. It was immediately clear that there was something different about it. The nude figure was still lying on a bed on his left side with his left arm propping up his body, but he was no longer staring into space; he was looking in a doorway located across the room. The room wasn’t familiar to St. Hilary so it couldn’t be Doyle’s own flat, but was this a real place or was it just living in Doyle’s imagination? Starting to put the cover back, St. Hilary decided to take a closer look at the painting because it was definitely different and that difference made the art patron feel decidedly uneasy.

Studying the painting carefully, St. Hilary suddenly realized that the dark figure wasn’t actually staring at the vague figure standing in the other room, he was seeing the figure as a reflection in a full length mirror that was probably hanging on a wall. The dark figure was watching someone in the other room by using the mirror hinted at in the painting. St. Hilary was amazed at the detail Doyle had incorporated into the work. St. Hilary’s pride in his friend’s talent grew exponentially as he realized the effort that it must have taken to get that almost hidden figure correct.

Continuing to admire Doyle’s ability, St. Hilary took a step towards the painting to gain an even closer look, when he suddenly stopped his mouth literally dropping open. He had looked at this painting in all of its stages of development, but it was the adding of the figure in the other room that suddenly opened the art expert’s eyes to what he was really seeing. Why didn’t I see it before? I am such a blind fool. It’s obvious.

Seeing the entire painting without blinders on, St. Hilary realized what he should have known all along: the nude figure was Bodie and he was watching . . . watching Ray Doyle, who was using the loo and his slender body was being reflected in the painted mirror. St. Hilary gasped for air as if the knowledge that he had just gained had thumped him in the solar plexus so hard that he could not breathe. Taking a step back, St. Hilary felt around for something to sit on. He felt as if he was going to black out. It wasn’t so much the subject of the painting that disturbed him so much as the revelation of just what Doyle was doing in the loo. St. Hilary had known that Doyle and Bodie had been lovers, even though Doyle had never actually told him. It certainly was none of his business. After all he hadn’t seen Ray in over 15 years so it wasn’t strange that the two lovers would be naked around each other, but this painting . . . this painting was living proof that Ray Doyle could perform that most intimate of bodily functions in front of the person that he trusted absolutely. That was the secret to what was being seen. Ray Doyle was boldly and brashly proclaiming the trust that he felt for Bodie . . . and perhaps, yes perhaps, his feelings of love as well.

St. Hilary quickly threw the cover across the canvas as if he couldn’t stand to look at it any longer. Without a second thought, he rushed to the door, locking the door as if that would isolate him from what the painting had revealed. Ever since he had run into Ray Doyle a couple of months before, he had hoped that their relationship would bloom into the permanent kind, but now St. Hilary knew that it would be impossible. No matter what happened that dark figure would always be between them . . . that his hope had died, perhaps this was Doyle’s unconscious way of telling him that he would never take Bodie’s place in his life.

BDBDBDBDBDBD

Several days had passed and nothing had changed: Doyle was unable to discover what he wanted to paint for his third painting, even though the time grew short; Bodie was still tight-lipped and uninterested in seeing Doyle beyond the work day, but something had definitely changed: Justin St. Hilary. He was still coming around the studio to see Doyle about the third painting, but their intimate time together had definitely been curtailed. It seemed as if St. Hilary was always going somewhere, seeing some new exhibit out of town, or travelling on some major mission for his gallery. At first, Doyle thought he was paranoid because this was the way that it had started with Bodie and it seemed to be happening all over again. What was it about Raymond Doyle that caused his lovers to tire of him after a while? Maybe I expect too much and they just can’t give it?

Doyle had had enough. Bodie was acting like an arsehole and Doyle was determined to find out what he had done wrong that had cost him his best friend and partner. Riding around in their car all day had not helped at all. Doyle had tired of the game that Bodie was playing. Doyle had decided that he no longer cared what Bodie wanted. Doyle had decided to confront the stubborn ex-merc and find out the truth, even if he had to thump him.

It had been another long day, chasing down leads and trying to find one particular snitch and both men were exhausted. It was Bodie’s turn to drive so Doyle knew he would be let off at his flat. It wasn’t going to be easy, but Doyle was determined to get the bastard up to his flat so they could talk.

Bodie pulled up in front of Doyle’s flat. Miraculously finding a parking spot but it was quite apparent that Bodie wanted to get going, but Doyle wasn’t going to let Bodie get away with it this time. As the car came to a stop, Doyle reached over and pulled the keys out of the ignition. Bodie tried to grab them; Doyle held them away from him. “What the hell did you do that for? I got to be with a bird in less than 15 minutes. Hand them over, you dumb crud.”
“Call her up and tell her you won’t be there; I want to talk to you, now.”

“What about?”

“Lots of things, but mostly about us.”

“There is no us; at least, not after working hours. Thought I had made that perfectly clear.”

“Oh you have, you definitely have, but I want to know what’s the matter with you? Why have you been avoiding me?”

“I wasn’t aware I had been; I thought you had a new interest and couldn’t be concerned about me. Now give me those keys.”

“You’ll get them after we talk.” With that Doyle got out of the car and headed towards his flat.

Bodie knew that he could have hotwired the car, but how could he have explained that to Cowley if he found out. Besides, maybe it was time that Bodie told Doyle the truth; after all, he was leaving CI5 in less than two months. Bodie followed the slender man inside the building and into his flat.

After sitting down with a cold lager, Bodie decided to let Doyle make the first move so he sat there and stared around the room, watching Doyle with his peripheral vision. He could tell to the moment when Doyle decided to begin the conversation, but what Doyle had to say totally surprised the ex-merc.

“Did I ever tell you how I got this?” Doyle gestured to his broken cheek and waited.

So surprised by the question, Bodie merely shook his head no, too dumbfounded to reply.
Doyle had thought long and hard about how he was going to talk to Bodie. The two men were so far apart these days that Doyle felt he needed to share something of himself with Bodie so hopefully Bodie would reciprocate. His broken cheek had remained one of the few subjects he had never shared with Bodie . . . maybe it was time to do so.

“You know that I went to art school. I was around 19 when I entered. It was like a whole new world to me. I had been a punk kid who had used the streets as my home ‘cause I really didn’t get along with me dad. The one and only thing he had ever done for me was sign my application to get into the school. Still don’t know why he signed. Maybe he was hoping that it would keep me out of his sight. Anyway, like all the students, I did some life study posing. I didn’t mind takin’ me clothes off, and it earned me an extra month of classes. I had had to work a lot of jobs to get the money to pay for the classes so I was glad to do anything I could to get some money to stay in school.”

Doyle unconsciously caressed his cheek as he thought about what happened next. “Anyway, one day me dad found my sketch book. There were sketches in there of other students that had posed for the life study class. Me dad hit the roof. He was as mad as I’ve ever seen him. ‘Course, he had been drinkin’ quite a bit but that wasn’t unusual for him. He started screamin’ and yellin’, calling me whore and all other kinds of names. I tried to explain to him that all the students did it and it helped with the tuition, but he wouldn’t shut up and listen. I should have got out of there then, but I could be just as stubborn as he was. My mum came into the room, trying to find out what was going on, but he just shoved her away and said something about her son bein’ a fag and a shirt lifter. I moved towards him to try and make him listen to me when he lifted his hand and belted me across the cheek. I don’t remember much after that . . . just the pain and then I blacked out.”

Doyle was sweating heavily now as those agonizing memories came back so vividly. “The next thing I remember was waking up in hospital. I was told that my cheek had been shattered, and they had stuck this plastic thing in to give me a face on that side. I was so drugged up that I didn’t really understand for several days, but when I finally did understand, I was told that my dad was in gaol for assault and that my mum was so furious with me that she didn’t want to see me. I stayed in hospital a while longer and then I left. I didn’t even try to go back to the school ‘cause I didn’t want anybody to see my face which was still pretty messed up.”

The silence continued for several minutes. Bodie didn’t know what to say. He could see what the episode had done to his partner, but what was there to say about something that had happened so long ago? Doyle had never seen or understood how beautiful he was, and Bodie realized now that he hadn’t helped with his constant teasing him about his looks, so the only thing that he could do was ask, “Why are you telling me this now?”

Doyle looked suddenly very tired, but he had to see this through. “I was hoping if I told you something then you would tell me something; you know sort of quid pro quo.”

“Oh, and what is it you want me to tell you?”

“Why you’re mad at me. What did I do wrong?”

“Don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Don’t give me that bullshite. You’ve been ignoring me; treatin’ me like a leper. You’ve treated Justin like dirt, and you’ve made it very plain that you don’t care if you work with me or not. So give over and tell me.”

Bodie was always proud of the fact that he could keep his cool; Bodie could stay calm under the most demanding situations, but this time he couldn’t. Bringing up Justin’s name and knowing that Justin had seen Doyle in those life study classes infuriated him. Justin had seen Doyle before his cheek had been shattered as well as after. Justin St. Hilary shared something with Doyle that Bodie would never be able to share. That knowledge loosened his tongue and tipped the scale towards a revelation that Bodie had never thought to reveal.

Barely controlling his anger and his hurt, Bodie took a breath and asked, “Do you remember when I had to go north on that Simmons’ case?” Doyle nodded that he did but said nothing more. “Well, I got done early that day and I decided to drive back so we could go to that cinema that you’d been wantin’ to see. I entered your flat with my key and heard some noise comin’ from the bedroom. I thought you were in there with a bird when all of a sudden I heard some moanin’ and some muffled words. The door was partly open so I crept forward and looked in.” Doyle knew what was coming next but kept silent.

“I looked in and imagine what I saw? Justin St. Hilary was fuckin’ you through the mattress and you kept sayin’, ‘Harder, harder’. I was so . . . well, I don’t know what I was, so I turned around and walked out.”

By this time Bodie was breathing harder, almost gasping for breath. He could see that Doyle was upset, but truthfully, he didn’t seem as upset as he should have been and that infuriated Bodie even more, so Bodie took up the gauntlet once again, “Are you a moron, having unprotected sex with a man that you haven’t seen in years?”

Now Doyle’s green eyes were flashing, “You think Justin would do that to me? I knew him long before I knew you, and I asked him about his bedmates before we did . . . well, what we did. Besides, it’s none of your business, is it?”

“I don’t give a tinker’s dam who you have sex with, but I do care about your health, and if you contract some disease, I care what happens.”

“Why? We’re not havin’ sex anymore so how does it affect you?”

Bodie took a breath as if he was having an attack. Doyle knew right away that he had said the wrong thing, but it wasn’t the first time that he flew off the handle and said something without thinking. Bodie gasped out, “So that’s what you think of what we had together? Remember you’re the one who called it off, not me.”

Now Doyle’s hot temper was really up, “Sure blame it on me, just because I wanted more and you didn’t. I know we never fucked, but that was your decision. Every time I tried to pin you down about doin’ it, you backed off ‘cause, as usual, that might mean commitment and that’s not what you ever wanted. Well, Justin’s given me that and more, so back off, Bodie. I guess I’m sorry that you saw what we were doin’ , but you’re the one who entered uninvited so you can’t really complain, can you?”

Bodie stood straight up, his deep blue eyes absolute icicles, “That’s right, Doyle. I don’t have any right to have a sayso in your life. If you want to act like a whore, a fag, and sell . . .” Bodie never got passed those words as Doyle’s right fist impacted Bodie’s jaw, laying him out on the floor.

For a moment, Bodie laid there then carefully got up while wiping away the blood from his split lip. Looking at the blood for a second, Bodie whispered, “Well, I guess that puts you two up on me.” Ann Holly quickly flashed across both men’s minds as Bodie headed toward the door. Turning around at the last second, Bodie announced defiantly, “You certainly know how to pick ‘em, Doyle, I hope you two will be very happy together. Just for your information; I’ve turned in my resignation with CI5. I’m leaving at the end of my contract in two months.”

Doyle was so amazed at Bodie’s words that he failed to react as the ex-merc opened the door and headed down the stairs to the outside. Doyle finally reacted by rushing to the door and watching Bodie’s strong back and muscled body head down the stairs. Calling Bodie several times, the ex-soldier didn’t even turn around. The image of Bodie walking out of his life became imprinted in Doyle’s mind as he closed the door and slid down the wall to the floor. Never in all his life had Doyle felt like he did now. Doyle had taken many blows in his life: his smashed face, losing Ann, being shot in the heart and almost dying had all been devastating, but losing Bodie was the worst feeling that he ever had. How do you lose yourself and survive?

Doyle’s desolation was so total that he sat hunched on the floor for several minutes, his knees pushed up against his body as if to give himself some comfort, but nothing would help comfort him now. Even Justin was not available since he was, once again, on one of his scouting trips as he called them. Perhaps even that was for the best. Doyle prided himself on being strong; he had survived many things that would have broken a weaker man, but most of things had occurred when Bodie was at his side. Now things would be different. If Bodie asked Cowley for a new partner for his remaining two months, Doyle wouldn’t protest. It was his fault that most of this had happened and he would just have to deal with it. The question was: what to do now? Fortunately, he had tomorrow off work. Suddenly the image of the studio came to mind; it had become his refuge, his haven, and with Bodie out of his life, maybe he should close the door on CI5 and return to the art world that he had abandoned so long ago.

Chapter 9:

Doyle walked into the studio, telling himself that he was ready to paint, but that wasn’t as easy to do as just saying it. Unfortunately, the ‘Watching’ painting lured him to its easel just as the mythological Sirens had done for so many. Gently removing the cover, Doyle stared for several minutes at the painting of Bodie. The emotions and story that he had painted into that canvas tore at him. He had less than six weeks to paint something else to put on exhibition for Justin’s big night, but his mind was in such turmoil that he had been hesitant to commit paint to canvas, but now looking at his two previous efforts, he began to see a pattern to his thoughts, and, of course, they all centered around Bodie although he hadn’t known that at the tender age of 20.

The words: ‘Waiting’ and ‘Watching’ kept running through his head as he now realized something about the paintings that he hadn’t really noticed before. There was a theme beginning to appear because of . . . Doyle finally had to admit it to himself - - Bodie. When he was a teenager with a less-than-happy home life, he had hoped for someone who would be his best friend, his lover, and his confidant. At first, Doyle thought it might be Justin, but then Doyle’s cheek was shattered and that left him feeling bereft of everything that had once been important to him. He had lost his home (as meager as that was), his family, and his art work. Doyle told himself that Justin would not want a freak around as he worked on his art and so he had left the life that he was most familiar with and eventually ended up a copper.

Now that loss had come full circle because Bodie was leaving him. Doyle didn’t remember when he first realized that he was totally comfortable around Bodie, even to the extent of not minding if Bodie was in the loo at the same time as Doyle or that Bodie even took the time to watch him piss. No, Bodie was just comfortable to be around. Maybe it came from the total trust of the workplace. After all, if you were on the streets for a number of years, you either, put your trust in your partner and backed him up or you died. It hadn’t been easy at the beginning, but Doyle had meant every word when he had told Bodie that he knew that Bodie would save him during the Kathy Mason/Preston case.

Sighing Doyle picked up one of the blank canvasses that Justin had left behind for him. Justin had been amazingly understanding and a real comfort to Doyle. Their lovemaking had been wonderful, but, and it always came back to that, it hadn’t been Bodie. It wasn’t fair to Justin, but until recently, Justin didn’t seem to mind that Doyle had had other men, but something had occurred and Doyle couldn’t understand what, and now, not only was Bodie walking away, but Justin seemed to have a problem as well.

Those words, ‘walking away’ crawled through Doyle’s mind. Suddenly a vivid image of Bodie’s body storming down his stairs came to Doyle’s mind. The image was so vivid and such an expression of how Doyle felt at the moment that the painter in him couldn’t resist putting it on canvas and so Doyle began to paint.

Feeling relatively content with the amount of painting he had completed, Doyle, several hours later, dragged himself to his flat. Never had he felt so deflated about everything else though. He was no fool; he knew what had happened with Bodie was mostly his own fault, but now that he knew why Bodie was so angry with him, what was he going to do about it? He could apologize, but would that make a difference? Bodie could be extremely stubborn when he wished to be. The thing that mystified Doyle was why Bodie was so upset at the physical aspects of his liaison with Justin. If it was simply a matter of trust, Bodie must know that Doyle trusted him completely, on the job. After all, their partnership had kept them both alive, but Doyle also knew that Bodie had been extremely upset when Doyle was shot in the heart in Bodie’s absence. He had never said anything, but it was perfectly obvious to Doyle that their relationship had begun to change after that shooting. Doyle’s life on the streets had seemed to be totally entwined with Bodie so now what was Doyle going to do? He was not naïve enough to believe that he could make a life for himself based on art. He might be able to sell a few paintings, but Doyle was realistic; he would have to begin thinking about what he was going to do with his future.

Right now, however, Doyle had to think about his immediate future; what was going to happen tomorrow when he reported to work? The fact that Bodie would walk into Cowley’s office and demand a new partner was a very distinct possibility, and what would Doyle answer in return? Cowley was good at reading his two best agents; had he already figured out that the stumbling block between the partners was a gentleman named Justin St. Hilary? Remembering the work he had just completed on the third painting, perhaps the answer was already obvious and that Bodie had already made the decision for him.

BDBDBDBDBDB

The next morning dawned early but certainly not so bright. Although Doyle had been exhausted, he had not slept well and the tension that he felt over what was coming made him reluctant to even eat toast. Walking into CI5, Doyle’s shoulders’ slumped as he read the assignments’ board. Sure enough, Doyle was assigned to work with Murphy for the day. Bodie must have come in early and convinced Cowley that the partnership was over.

Seeing Murphy wander down the hallway to the restroom, Doyle stopped him and tried to put on the face of knowledge, as if he knew why he and Bodie weren’t working together at the time. “Well, Smurph, I see you’re lucky to be working with a true professional today?”

Murphy, taking up the gauntlet as well as a very poor Irish accent said, “And now who would that be, boyo?”

Doyle looked sternly at him and pretended to roar with anger, “Me, you clod, the only true professional in this whole building!”

Suddenly Murphy got a devious look on his face, “Oh, so you’re the only true professional, is it? Does that mean that Cowley is less than professional in your opinion?”

“Well, he’s probably next behind me, . . .” Suddenly, Doyle stopped as he realized that he had been set up and looking at the smirk on Murphy’s handsome face, Doyle turned around and saw Cowley standing there looking at him. Giving Murphy a look that promised his premature death as soon as he got done with Cowley, Doyle said cheerfully, “Morning, sir, how are you?”

Cowley, as usual, could read his agent very well. He knew that although Doyle tried to be cheerful, he was aching on the inside and the chief cause of his pain was one, WAP Bodie. Deciding to be gentle with the man this morning, Cowley said, “Come with me, 4.5. 6.2, why don’t you do something to prepare for the Wilson case instead of practicing holding up the walls?”

Murphy beat a hasty retreat as Doyle followed the Controller to his office. Both men sat down and stared at each other for a moment; then Cowley began. “3.7 has already been in to visit me; he has hinted that you and he have had a serious disagreement and that you might be interested in going with another partner. I’ve brought you in here to see what your thoughts are on this.”

Doyle was faintly surprised about the wording of the question: hadn’t Cowley already made the decision if Doyle was now working with Murphy? “Well, sir, I don’t know what to say; it seems you’ve already decided since I’m now working with Murphy.”

Cowley’s blue eyes twinkled and then sobered as he realized how truly serious this alienation between the partners was. His two favourites (although he hated to admit it) had had many disagreements over the years, especially in the early months of partnership, but this one boded no good, but since Bodie was leaving, maybe he could jury rig some sort of working arrangement for the next two months.

“Is that what you thought, that I had already re-assigned you?”

“No, sir, but that’s what the board said.”

“Well, it isn’t true. Bodie was sent north this morning to aid in the identification of a certain individual that he is well-acquainted with. He will return in a few days and be assigned at that time. The question is: do you wish to continue to work with him or shall I re-assign you both?”

Doyle was truly amazed. After what Bodie had said to him, why didn’t Bodie immediately ask Cowley for a new partner? Maybe it was because he only had less than two months left and figured he could put up with Doyle for that long. Doyle thought for a moment then said, “You know that Bodie has told me that he’s leaving CI5?”

“Yes, he so informed me, but the question is what do you wish to do?”

The fact that Cowley was giving Doyle an option rather than making the decision himself absolutely stunned Doyle. “Well, sir. Since you are asking me, I want to continue to work with Bodie when he returns.”

“Very well, I’ll assume that you two can be mature enough to make this work for the next two months. Now go find Murphy, and he’ll brief you on the Wilson assignment.”

Working with Murphy was like a breath of fresh air. Doyle’s relationship with the Smurph was so uncomplicated that it seemed like paradise sometimes. They even enjoyed some of their off-work time together, and that helped Doyle ameliorate the loneliness that had haunted him since he and Bodie had become estranged. Doyle was anxious to have Justin home, but it seemed as if his trip to the outer realms of the kingdom was taking him far longer than expected. In the meantime, Doyle spent his time finishing his third painting and going with Murphy to one of their two locals. Doyle had heard from Cowley that Bodie would return tomorrow and would be back on duty the day after so the two men planned to have a celebration on the successful completion of the Wilson case and their working together.

The two men had been “enjoying” themselves enormously even if they were trying to stay on the right side of sober when Justin St. Hilary walked into the pub. The handsome entrepreneur smiled at both men as he walked in, knowing full well that he drew eyes to his sleek frame and attractive face. “Well, if it isn’t two of my favourite drinking buddies? I thought I might find the two of you here. Have you been fleecing any patrons of their hard-earned pounds at darts?”

Both men were happy to see the good looking man. Doyle felt a definite reaction in his groin but told himself that it was only from a much longer absence than usual. Murphy’s reaction was much more dignified, but Doyle couldn’t really tell what else Murphy was feeling.

“Mr. St. Hilary, good to see you. I guess I can leave you in the hands of this curly-haired fellow.” Murphy downed his drink and began to leave, but was promptly stopped by St. Hilary.

“Let me buy you a drink, my friend. It’s been quite a while since I’ve seen you.”

Doyle still on the right side of sober, quickly added, “I don’t think Murph wants to get beaten at darts like the last time.”

Murphy quickly turned around and announced, “As I remember it, you were the big loser the last time, but you’re right, I don’t want to be humiliated like last time, but, of course, Doyle is always humiliating himself so he might as well stay.”

Doyle’s thoughts at hearing the word humiliating immediately associated themselves with Bodie. Bodie’s abrupt departure from Doyle’s flat hadn’t faded one iota, and tomorrow Doyle would be seeing his longtime partner for the first time since that incident. Justin St. Hilary stared at the man who was his lover and read that something was wrong. What it was he couldn’t tell, but he suspected that it was Bodie, and since St. Hilary’s discovery of the secret of the ‘Watching’ painting, St. Hilary had been expecting something to have happened, and now it looked like it had.

“Are you ready to go, Ray?”

“Yeah, might as well. Save meself some quid.”

Since Murphy had driven the two men to the pub, it was a simple matter of Doyle switching to St. Hilary’s car. After saying good-bye to Murphy, the two men headed towards St. Hilary’s apartment. Once there, Doyle tried to relax but found that he couldn’t. Walking around the room, Doyle was the epitome of the “nervous Nellie”. St. Hilary’s eyes followed him around the room. “What’s the matter, Ray?”

“Nothing, I guess I’m just wound up. The job is getting to me, and I’ve been working on the third painting, and I’m just not sure it’s right. Would you mind taking a look at it?”

“Of course, why don’t we go across right now before the takeaway gets here?”

“Good idea. By the way, you never mentioned what you thought of the ‘Watching’ painting.”

St. Hilary wanted to scream at Doyle, “Do you have to rub it in? I hate it . . . I hate it because it tells me everything that I didn’t want to know. You trust Bodie and not me,” but, of course, he said nothing like that. “Well, I think it’s very good. The coup d’oeil that you revealed using the mirror was excellent. It shows you have real talent and in just a few weeks, other people will tell you the same thing.”

Doyle blushed slightly amazed at the praise from St. Hilary. “Well, thanks, hope you like what I’ve done so far on the third painting.”

“I’m really glad that you’re making progress because I’m going to have to get them all framed and ready to present in just a few weeks.”

Walking into the studio, St. Hilary walked by the first two paintings and went directly to the third one. He really couldn’t face seeing the ‘Watching’ painting again. Removing the cover, he immediately recognized Bodie’s figure but then St. Hilary realized what he was seeing: it was Bodie walking down some stairs that looked very much like the stairs of Doyle’s flat. Why had Doyle chosen to paint that?

Doyle’s voice had changed; his voice was filled with emotion and pain, “I call it, ‘Walking Away’. St. Hilary continued to stare at the painting for several minutes; now he knew why Doyle was so upset and feeling such pain. Bodie had chosen to walk away from Doyle, but why? What had occurred while St. Hilary was gone?

St. Hilary looked at Doyle, trying to ask his next question in a non-hostile manner. “Ray, do you have something to tell me?”

For a moment, Doyle looked at the painting; then his shoulders slumped as he dropped his head to his chest and took a deep breath. When he raised his head, his green eyes were swimming with moisture, but he wasn’t crying, “Bodie’s leaving CI5 in two months.”

St. Hilary looked carefully at the painting, “It looks like he’s leaving in a huff or something; what happened?”

“He saw us together, doin’ . . . well, you know and he got upset. Can’t say no more.”

“I’m sorry, Ray. I thought you and he were a done deal, I didn’t realize that there was something between you two yet. What are you going to do?”

“Nothing, he’s made up his mind, and he’s so stubborn that he won’t change it. I just have to get on with things, I guess.”

“Well, I know you’ll do the right thing, but it’s getting late, and I bet you have a very busy day tomorrow. How about staying over?”

Doyle thought a moment then replied, “Nah, I think I’ll go on home. I have to be in at 7 00 tomorrow and well, it might not be an easy day so I’m going to get going.”

“All right, Ray. Let me know how things go. I’m really glad that you got started on the third painting; I’m just sorry that this had to happen to give you a subject to paint.” St. Hilary suddenly realized what he said and began to stutter, “God, Ray, I’m sorry I didn’t mean that the way it sounded. You know I want you to be happy. I’m not in this just to get paintings out of you.”

Doyle smiled slightly, “I know, Justin, I understand. I don’t blame you or . . . anyone. It’s just the way things are in this world.” Giving Justin a hug, Doyle left the apartment.

St. Hilary walked out onto his balcony into the fairly warm evening. He stood there drinking some wine and thinking about what had occurred. Bodie was leaving in two months. It was the dream that he had hoped for ever since the art dealer had met up again with Ray Doyle. He had been too young when he had known Doyle the last time to realize how important the man was to him, and now he was successful and could do the things that he had always dreamt of, and maybe . . . just maybe, he could have Ray Doyle as well, but Ray was in an emotional turmoil right now. Justin could see in Doyle’s demeanour and behaviour how important Bodie was to him and how Bodie’s treatment had hurt him. Justin told himself that he would have to go slow with this. Now that Bodie was leaving, the last barrier to including Doyle in his life was going to be eliminated, but was that what St. Hilary wanted and even more important would Bodie continue to be a thorn in the side of their future relationship?

Sighing, St. Hilary stood outside thinking for a long while. He had always heard ‘be careful what you wish for’, now he truly understood what that phrase meant for him and Ray. Ray meant a great deal to him, but St. Hilary was in a quandary: is what I want for me and Ray the same thing that Ray wants?

The next morning, Doyle walked into CI5 definitely NOT bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. He had not slept well at all. He felt something was wrong between him and Justin, but he KNEW that there was something wrong with him and Bodie. After the scene with Bodie storming out of Doyle’s flat, what could he expect from Bodie this morning? Were they through as partners?

Looking at the assignments’ board he and Bodie were still assigned as partners so the dumb crud hadn’t made the decision to ask for another partner. Suddenly feeling tired all over, Doyle headed towards the restroom in hopes of finding Bodie there so that the confrontation could be put off for a few more minutes. Finding Murphy there, Doyle raised his eyebrows and looked around the room, “Seen my errant partner, have you?”

“Yeah, he’s in with Cowley right now. I guess Cowley hit pay dirt when he sent Bodie north. Came up with quite a haul and Bodie was in on all the fun.”

Suddenly noticing Anson sitting in the corner, Doyle heard Anson mumble, “He’d find gold if he fell into a urinal.”

Murphy turned to the older man and said, “Tut, tut, Anson, such language for the delicate ears of our Doyle here. Besides remember, although they are the Cow’s favourites, they’ve really drawn the short stick this time what with getting the Shardwell case.”

Doyle’s eyebrows flew up in the air. “The Shardwell case! I can’t believe it. Nobody can solve the Shardwell case - - it’s been on the books for years, hasn’t it? What’s going on?”

Murphy shook his handsome head and said, “Well, I don’t know if no one can solve it, but guess who volunteered for it?”

“Who?”

“Me.” Doyle turned around upon hearing the well-known voice of his partner and stared straight into Bodie’s face. “I figured I’d give it a try before I leave these hallowed halls; after all, everybody else has tried.”

Doyle’s heart sank; Bodie was sounding like he had taken the job on and really didn’t need Doyle’s help, so in a total quandary, Doyle said, “Oh, I didn’t realize that it bothered you that much. Is this a two-man job or are you going to go it alone?”

Bodie’s face hardened as he said in a cold voice, “We’re still partners as I understand. The Cow hasn’t separated us, yet. I’ll expect you outside in five minutes.”

Less than five minutes later, the two men were on their way. It was dead silence in the car for several minutes, until Doyle managed to dig around in the car and find the Shardwell file. He began reading, growing intrigued with the man who had so befuddled Scotland Yard, Interpol, and George Cowley. Finally, Doyle put down the file and looked at Bodie. Doyle’s handsome face scrunched up in confusion as he decided to try to breach the barriers of utter silence that Bodie had thrown up. “Might one ask, why you volunteered to take on this case when it has been cold for so long?”

“Very simple, but I guess you haven’t got to page 15 of the file? Read it very carefully.”

Doyle sighed and turned to the mentioned page. Basically, it was a list and information about known associates of Charles Shardwell. Doyle was reading quickly through the names until he came to one that was very familiar: JUSTIN ST. HILARY. Doyle stopped and stared at the page, not believing what he was reading.

Bodie’s peripheral vision had always been excellent, and he knew to the second when Doyle came to St. Hilary’s name. “Just thought I’d like to know what kind of mess you’ve got yourself into with your boyfriend. That is, of course, if you’re interested in finding out what ‘your fuck buddy’ has to do with a gun runner who’s probably done even worse?”

Doyle was seething, but he knew that’s what Bodie wanted. Bodie was a master provocateur; he had been taught by the best, starting with his own innate ability to get under anyone’s skin. Now he was using these techniques against Doyle and Doyle knew it, so he couldn’t let Bodie get to him, but the unease that Doyle felt made him feel sick to his stomach. Doyle could see where this was going, and he could now see how they had got here. This was the connection that Cowley had known about when he had met with Justin and the Minister. Cowley never rushed anything if he thought it would get him what he wanted and what he wanted was Charles Shardwell and Justin St. Hilary was going to be his weapon to get the man who had so long eluded him.

It was in that moment that Doyle began to think seriously about his future. He knew that St. Hilary wasn’t guilty of anything, but that didn’t make a difference to Cowley. Cowley would use St. Hilary and, once again, Doyle, in any way that he could. Blowing out a frustrated breath of air, Doyle knew that Bodie must be enjoying this enormously. The barrier between Doyle and his partner seemed to have grown ten feet in just seconds.

“Let’s keep personalities out of this. If you can’t behave professionally then I’ll go to Cowley and tell him that I want a new partner.”

“Oh no, you definitely have a place in this investigation. Why do you think Cowley put us together on this case, just like he did the Williams’ case? He wants you to be the go-between with CI5 and St. Hilary. He practically pushed this case down my throat, but I have to admit I would have taken it anyway so you don’t get your arse shot off by your so-called friend.”

“Why don’t you trust Justin? Just because I’ve slept with him doesn’t mean that he’s got any ulterior motives about being with me - - he’s not like you.”

If Bodie hadn’t been driving, he would have stopped dead right in the middle of the street, but he waited until he pulled over and then he let loose with all the venom he could must. “What’s that supposed to mean? What ulterior motives are you talking about?”

“You know damn well that you never commit to anything. You got me into your bed and all you wanted is sex. Well that was all right for a while, but I got sick of it, and I called it off. You’ve been riding my back ever since then. You’ve stuck it to me anyway you could, and then when I renewed my friendship with Justin, you started in on our relationship. What right do you have to say anything about who I go to bed with? You’ve flaunted every one of your so-called conquests in front of me. You’ve made fun of me, and you’ve humiliated me so now I’ve had enough. If you want to stay partners for the next few weeks then shut your mouth about Justin. We investigate him and the rest of the case just as we would regularly and we go our separate ways the rest of the time, is that clear?”

“Very clear, 4.5. Your trust in that art idiot is so touching; I hope you really don’t believe all he tells you, but I’ll abide by your rules - - that is, I’ll abide by them until we really find out what he really wants from you and how he’s using you. Just too bad that you haven’t had the same trust in me that you’ve had in that dick since I’m the one guarding your back.”

Doyle’s green eyes iced over as he said quietly, “Yeah, will you shut up now and let me read the rest of this file, especially since I remember a time when you didn’t do such a hot job of watching my back.”

Doyle immediately realized that he shouldn’t have said that last phrase because the hurt and pain he saw in Bodie’s face was absolutely terrifying. Bodie immediately got out, quietly saying that he would be back in a few minutes.

Doyle was visibly shaken. How could he have said that to Bodie, knowing how the man had carried a great deal of guilt for not being there when May-Li Kuolo had put two bullets in Doyle’s body? Doyle could have kicked himself but knew it would do no good. After a minute or two to try and restore normal breathing, Doyle opened the Shardwell file again and began looking through the remaining materials. There wasn’t much else new, but he did find a picture of Shardwell. Doyle studied the photo for several minutes finally deciding that he knew that face from a long time ago, only he knew that face as a man called Chad Sharpe, and he had attended the same art school as St. Hilary and Doyle. Was this how St. Hilary knew Shardwell? Why was he called Shardwell? Where was Bodie so that he could give him this information? Using his R/T, he promptly put a call into his partner and then waited not really looking forward to telling Bodie just how he knew Chad Sharpe.

Chapter 10

While waiting for Bodie, Doyle contacted CI5, hoping to speak to Cowley. It was important that immediate research begin on Chad Sharpe. It was also important personally to Doyle to talk to Justin St. Hilary. If St. Hilary’s name was associated with Charles Shardwell, then someone had put that information together and obviously Cowley had known all about it. No wonder the Cow and the Minister had deliberately set up the rendez-vous with Justin at their club. I’ve been a real idiot not to spot Cowley’s machinations in this whole thing. First Williams, now Shardwell. Well, I’ll get to the bottom of this. Talk about the final straw; this might be it.

Cowley wasn’t at headquarters so Doyle asked for an immediate search of the files about Chad Sharpe and that all information be sent directly to him or Bodie. Looking around, Doyle suddenly spotted Bodie heading towards the car. His heart sank as he realized that the explanation he would have to give Bodie would put another nail in their partnership, but he had kept enough secrets from Bodie so it would have to be done.

Bodie got into the car, handing Doyle a coffee just the way he liked it. “What’s on?”

Figuring it was better to be totally professional, Doyle took a deep breath and started, “Well, I looked at the rest of the file, and I found a picture of Charles Shardwell. I know him . . . not as Shardwell, but as a real creep named Chad Sharpe. I guess he slipped by in the investigation because he was at the art school at the same time as I was, but . . . well, he wasn’t actually attending classes or anything. He was strictly doing life studies modelling.”

Bodie’s forehead wrinkled as he tried to understand what Doyle was telling him. “You mean that he was posin’ in the nude for you students?”

“Well, technically, he wasn’t nude; he wore a very small pouch to cover the vital area, and believe me he didn’t need a very big pouch.”

“But, I don’t understand, you mean he was just a civilian who came in and took off his clothes and stood there? Did he get paid?”

“Well, no actually he didn’t. He was hoping to be admitted to the school for formal training and so he was doing the modelling in order to get a leg up on his application to get into the school. He would work on various paintings and drawings and submit them to the powers-that-be, and well, you know . . . he hoped that would impress them and he’d get a scholarship or something. He had a reasonably good body and they really needed models so that’s how I knew him.”

“You mean that he modelled for your classes?”

“Well, I . . . I wasn’t in classes at that time.”

“Whatta ya mean, you weren’t in classes? I thought you attended that school and that’s why your dad was so mad?”

“Well, that’s true, but before I actually got into the school . . . I was doing exactly what Sharpe was doing and hoping they’d let me in. Well, it worked and I got into the school, but Chad Sharpe didn’t. I think he was pretty mad at the school, and I’m sure he probably blamed me ‘cause they only accepted one of those special students a quarter and well, Sharpe disappeared soon after I got accepted.”

Bodie sat there in silence for quite a while. Suddenly, the radio began to blare out their call numbers. Soon, Cowley’s voice was heard, “What is it, 4.5? I got a message that you needed to talk to me.”

Doyle quickly delivered the information that Chad Sharpe and Charles Shardwell were one and the same. “You’re sure, Doyle? It’s been a long time since you’ve seen this . . . Sharpe, isn’t it?”

“Yes sir, but it is him.”

“All right, come back to headquarters; we’re gathering the information that you requested, and I would like to talk to you before the two of you go any further on this case.”

“Yes, sir. 4.5 out.”

The two men glared at each other knowing perfectly well that this was going to lengthen their day considerably because George Cowley was already in triple-think mode and before this was all over, a whole bunch of individuals were going to feel the weight of George Cowley’s obsession with Charles Shardwell.

Within minutes of arriving at headquarters, Bodie and Doyle were sitting in front of Cowley’s desk, perusing reams of paper about Chad Sharpe. Cowley was discreetly studying both men behind his horn-rimmed glasses. The tension between the two men was radiating and reflecting back in his direction. Cowley suspected a lot of things about his two agents, but he had not permitted himself to acknowledge his thoughts because it would have meant losing his two best agents, but events had swept past him and now he was losing Bodie anyway. Sighing Cowley asked, “Do you think that this Chad Sharpe had the brains and brawn to become a world-class gun runner, Doyle? I know this is speculation and you haven’t seen him in a long time, but I have to know.”

“I really couldn’t stand the man, sir. I was only 19 and well, this guy did whatever he could to make a favourable impression on the staff. I suspected him of sabotaging some of my work and talking about me behind my back. I really wouldn’t be the best person to talk to, but I would say yes that he could get into some pretty sordid business dealings since he was definitely ambitious and then he didn’t get into art school so . . .” Doyle stopped there, hoping Cowley would read between the lines.

 

“Very well. I would like for you to talk to Justin St. Hilary. He was very helpful in the Williams’ inquiry and since he attended art school at the same time as Sharpe, he might be able to give you some new information about him. I want you to see what you can find out.”

Although Doyle knew that this is what was coming, it still didn’t make it any easier. The name Ann Holly popped into his mind. The years of working in CI5 made the burden of using people harder and harder. Justin St. Hilary was special to Doyle, and now, once again, Doyle was going to have to use St. Hilary.

Doyle sat silently for a brief moment, and then quietly said, “Yes sir.” The very fact that Cowley knew that St. Hilary was ‘a known acquaintance’ of Shardwell’s told Doyle what he had suspected. Cowley and the Minister had manufactured the meeting with St. Hilary and were now bent on using him in whatever they wanted to.

“Very well, Doyle. Bodie, you are dismissed. Doyle, I would like to speak to you for a moment.”

For a minute, it seemed as if Bodie would refuse to leave, but then he nodded his head and got up and left.

“Doyle, I know what you’re thinking, and I will admit to you here and now that I deliberately made the acquaintance of your friend, St. Hilary that day at the club. The Minister and I discussed how best to tackle Shardwell. I’m sure it comes as no surprise to you that we are often forced to use people, both innocent and the not- so- innocent in our work. Doyle nodded remembering the use of Terringham’s daughter all those years ago to finally destroy Rahad. “Yes sir.”

“I want you to talk to St. Hilary about Shardwell, but if you feel uncomfortable, I would suggest that Bodie take the lead. I will, of course, be available if you find that St. Hilary is reluctant to talk to you.”

“I can do it, sir. I’ve had some experience, if you’ll remember?”

Cowley stared at his agent, trying to decide if Doyle had actually put some emphasis on those last words or not. Cowley was well aware that he had used up all his markers with both Bodie and Doyle. The Operation Susies that he had sent them on had badly damaged their trust in him. Asking men to spy against their friends or lovers was one of the truly rotten things that they had been forced to do, but these men knew that when they signed on, and George Cowley would do it again if it meant one more man like Charles Holly was off the street.

“Very well, please use my private line to let me know what you’ve learned. In the meantime, what are your thoughts about a new partner . . . I mean after Bodie leaves?”

“I’ll let you know in the near future, sir. By the way, you should be receiving your invitation to the exhibition that Justin St. Hilary is showing. I only have three paintings in the exhibit, but I hope you will find time to view them.”

Cowley could clearly hear the irony in Doyle’s voice. Cowley knew that Doyle was on the cusp of a major decision and decided not to push him any further for the moment. The invitation was meant to send Cowley a message, but for the moment, the Controller wasn’t sure what it was. “Very well, Doyle. You better go and find Bodie. Please be aware that this matter is considered to be of the highest importance, and that any requests within reason will be granted. We want Charles Shardwell off the streets.”

Doyle mumbled a quiet, “Yes sir,” and left Cowley without looking back. George Cowley sat staring into space for a moment then picked up the phone and requested a number. Within another few minutes, he was talking to the Minister. “Doyle will be talking to St. Hilary soon. It seems that Charles Shardwell used to use the name Chad Sharpe. Hopefully, we can pick him up in the next few days.”

Cowley listened for a moment then replied, “No, I don’t think that St. Hilary has anything to do with Shardwell’s nefarious dealings, but we can’t take any chances. “ Waiting again, Cowley nodded his head and said, “Yes, it did seem quite a coincidence that St. Hilary appeared in the city and just happen to find Doyle, but it still could just be a coincidence. I’ll let you know how we are progressing, sir.”

Hanging up the phone, Cowley stared at the instrument, lost in thought. It was truly strange that Cowley had received an anonymous tip about Justin St. Hilary soon after Cowley had found out that St. Hilary was long ago acquaintance with Ray Doyle. That information had led to an all-out investigation of Justin St. Hilary’s background. It was that search which had brought up St. Hilary’s connection to Charles Shardwell. That connection had seemed very vague, but now it wasn’t so vague, if St. Hilary had known Shardwell when he was at the art school. Sighing, Cowley pulled off his glasses and rubbed the bridge of his nose. Feeling his years, Cowley had always told himself that whatever he did, he did for the good of his beloved country, but it was moments like this that he began to have some doubts about whether his perceptions were what they once were.

Down the hall from Cowley, Ray Doyle was looking for his partner. Finding him in the restroom, drinking some tea, Doyle smiled. Looking at Bodie’s exhausted face, Doyle could almost believe that their partnership was as strong as it had once been, but Doyle knew it was not. In just a few short weeks, Bodie would be gone, and then what would Doyle do, especially since he was planning to go and interrogate the man, who until just recently, Doyle had been thinking he might have a future with.

Bodie looked up and asked, “Can I guess what Father wants you to do?”

“Yeah, he wants me to talk to Justin St. Hilary.”

“Does he want you to do this on a professional or personal basis?”

Storm warnings immediately began to fly as Doyle heard the innuendo in the question, “What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Nothing . . . absolutely nothing. I just wondered if we were supposed to question him together or if this is a solo assignment for you?”’

Doyle banked down his temper and uttered through almost gritted teeth, “I guess I’ll talk to him tonight.”

“Sure you’ll see him then, are you?”

Doyle’s eyes turned a darker green as he stared at the master provocateur, “I have to finish up me painting for the exhibition, probably see him at the studio.”

“The exhibition - - that’s comin’ up, isn’t it? Well, why don’t you take off early and see what you can get done. I’m going to percolate a few more computer documents on Shardwell and then I’m heading home meself. Got a hot date tonight.”

For a moment Doyle was going to protest but then he imagined Bodie bedded down with some long-legged, big chested babe and that image pushed him over the edge. Nodding his head, Doyle said, “Good, I’ll just do that. Let you know what I find out.”

Bodie said nothing more as he watched Doyle leave the room. For a man who had documents to run and a “hot date”, he didn’t seem to be in any hurry to go. In fact, when Murphy wandered in a few minutes later, the handsome ex-merc was still in the restroom drinking another mug of tea. “Ta, Murph, and how would you be doin’ this fine evening?”

Murphy smiled although he could see the distress in Bodie’s face, “Well, I’ve just had a day with Anson’s cigars, locked in the buggy-boo; now how do you think I would be doing?”

“Hmm, you are a saint, my man . . . a saint. How about going to have a lager at the local?”

Murphy’s eyes squinted as he tried to get a closer look at the dark man standing before him. He couldn’t decide if this was the real WAP Bodie or not, but he was dreadfully thirsty so he decided to take a chance, “You buyin’?”

Giving Murphy one of his sweet smiles, Bodie nodded, jingling some money in his pocket. Murphy immediately jumped on the opportunity and said, “Then I’m drinkin’, and I want you to know that I’m very thirsty after being gagged all day by Anson’s cigars. I’ll meet you downstairs in five minutes.”

“Murphy, you are a pearl beyond price, but I warn you that three rounds are my limit so bring your own money as well.” Bodie headed out the door totally ignoring Murphy’s very clear shout,

“It’s usually the policy to buy all the drinks when one invites someone out to a pub, you cheapskate.”

Hours later, Murphy arrived at his own flat. The get-together with Bodie had gone well, but somehow during the evening it had come out that Murphy had spent some time with Doyle and St. Hilary at another pub. The evening had immediately gone downhill from there. Murphy knew how close Bodie and Doyle had been, and it dismayed him what was happening between his two friends. Murphy liked Justin St. Hilary, and if, as he suspected, St. Hilary and Doyle were lovers; then he figured he understood why Bodie was leaving CI5 and what the burden was that he carried. If only his two friends weren’t so stubborn and blind, but who was at fault?

Everyone at CI5 had expected that when one of the Bisto Kids left the street the other one would do so as well, but now it seemed as if the Bisto Kids were breaking up for good: one to go out on his own, and the other to bed down with someone else. Murphy sighed as he got ready for bed, why did life have to be so complicated?

Ray Doyle would not have been so troubled if he had known that Bodie’s “hot date” was with Murphy, but, of course, he knew none of that as he let himself in the studio where his paintings resided. He only had a small amount of time to finish the final painting, but his floundering relationship with Bodie was so troubling that Doyle’s mind was tired and he really didn’t expect to get much done.

The basic painting was there, but Doyle wanted to work on the details of the painting. He had spent quite a bit of time studying the stairway to his flat. He wanted to convey the feeling of desolation that he had felt that night that Bodie had walked out on him. Every detail was sharp in his mind and he wanted to reveal that in his painting. Removing the cover from the painting, Doyle studied the painting for a long time. Bodie’s rigid body as he stormed down the stairs was certainly there, but something was missing. How did one paint the very essence of William Bodie from the back?

Doyle began to dabble at the peripheral details of the stairs and the shabby wallpaper that had covered the walls of the flat since the Blitz or whatever. George Cowley never spent a great deal of the budget on agents’ flats so who knew how old this building really was. It was ironic that something as old as his stairway had managed to contain and amplify the destruction of the best friendship that had ever happened to him. Bodie was even more than that, but Doyle would not permit himself to think about what Bodie really meant to him. Doyle readily admitted that he had been stupid to end his sexual relationship with Bodie, but as each and every time, he had felt Bodie’s smooth skin, taken him into his mouth, or caressed him in as many intimate ways as Bodie would permit, began to feel more and more like a one-night stand which had an extended run, Doyle knew that it couldn’t go on.

Justin St. Hilary, at the time, seemed to be the answer. They had been lovers many years before and their reunion seemed to re-ignite the passion they had felt when they were younger, but, like Ann Holly before, Doyle had confused love with lust and commitment with convenience. Within a very few weeks, Doyle would show his paintings and his relationship with St. Hilary would change permanently from sexual to professional.

Lost in the detail of the painting, Doyle did not hear St. Hilary’s approach until the door swung open and the handsome older man entered the studio. With a sinking heart, Doyle knew the time had arrived to broach the subject of Charles Shardwell.

St. Hilary smiled but there was a look of wariness in St. Hilary’s eyes that spoke of apprehension. “Hi Ray, wasn’t sure you’d be here. How’s the painting going?”

“I’m trying to paint in the detail, but something’s wrong; I just can’t seem to get it right.”

St. Hilary sighed, knowing full well what it was: the subject itself. Bodie walking away was difficult for Doyle and while he felt the emotion of that moment deep in his heart, St. Hilary knew that Doyle was having trouble portraying that haunting scene on canvas. Doyle was a perfectionist and that very perfection was what was partly troubling Doyle. How did one paint something that filled the painter with such pain?

“Well, let me take a look.”

Doyle stepped back and let St. Hilary study the painting. Doyle trusted St. Hilary’s opinions and since the man had met Bodie maybe he could offer a suggestion. St. Hilary stared at the painting for quite a while and then turned to Doyle and asked, “Do you want me to be perfectly frank, and please take a moment before you answer because you might not like what you hear.”

The two men’s eyes locked as they studied each other; then Doyle said he a quiet voice, “Go ahead, tell me the truth.”

“All right, it’s a brilliant painting, but you’re holding back because you’re still in love with the subject.”

Doyle took a step back. “What are you talking about? I’m not in love with Bodie. I thought I was, but I was wrong. I do that a lot. I jump in with both feet and then find myself in concrete.”

“Ray, I’m not accusing you or anything. I know you were lovers. You have a great deal of love and affection to give to anyone, and I don’t know what happened between the two of you, but something did. If you want this painting to work, you have to reveal the true torment that you felt at the moment Bodie walked out. The painting is technically brilliant, but it’s just you observing the scene as if you were an outsider. Put yourself into it, and it will be fine . . . more than fine, it will be what you really want to say.”

Doyle nodded reluctantly, “I’ll try, but tonight’s not the night to do that. It’s been a rough day, and well . . . “

St. Hilary smiled for a second then sobered as he studied the gorgeous face of Ray Doyle. Over the last few months, St. Hilary had learned to read Doyle’s feelings and emotions pretty well, and he could see now that something was really bothering Doyle, well beyond the painting. “What is it, Ray?”

“Can I ask you something?”

St. Hilary was about to blurt out that of course his friend could ask him anything, but then a thought came to mind which St. Hilary now voiced, “Is this a question from Ray Doyle or from one of George Cowley’s elite agents?”

Doyle sighed as he realized how well St. Hilary read him. Doyle had always prided himself on being difficult to read and up until a few months ago, only Bodie was able to see beyond his barriers, now St. Hilary seemed to be able to do so with very little effort. “Sometimes I have to wonder if the two are really separate anymore, but I have to be honest because Cowley wants me to ask you about someone that we are investigating.”

“I see . . . why don’t you clean up here, and I’ll go across to the apartment and get us some drinks?”

The brief respite that cleaning and drinks preparations gave to the two men didn’t seem long because within minutes, the two men were seated across from each other in St. Hilary’s luxury apartment. “All right, now what is it you want to ask me?”

Doyle decided there was no reason to soften the question so he blurted out, “Do you know a Charles Shardwell?”

St. Hilary looked confused as he tried to think about the question, finally he began to shake his head, answering by saying, “No, I don’t think so. The name sounds vaguely familiar, but no I don’t think so. Why are you asking?”

Doyle now hesitated; he knew that St. Hilary was in the Shardwell file, but it looked as if he would have to throw out another name as well. “All right then, do you remember Chad Sharpe from art school?”

St. Hilary’s voice rose slightly as he bluntly said, “Of course, I remember that little prick. He’s the one who tried to put himself up your arse.”

Doyle’s eyebrows rose in height as he heard those words, “I didn’t realize you knew about that.”

“Of course, I did and if that little creep hadn’t left school soon after that, I would have nailed him to the wall.”

“You never said anything at the time.”

“Well, we weren’t lovers at the time, were we? What right did I have to interfere, but you handled it just right. God, when I think about that sleazy bastard’s hands all over you. I was ready to commit mayhem right there and then.”

Doyle smiled affectionately at his friend, “Yeah, it wasn’t too pleasant having him trying to grope me when I was takin’ me clothes off for a modeling session, but I didn’t realize that you had even seen what happened. Didn’t come to nothin’ though since his fingers got more of the damage than anything else except, as you said, that little prick.”

Both men laughed and the memory of Doyle kneeing the aggressive life studies’ model who thought he could persuade the 19 year old to give over. “You could always take care of yourself, and I imagine you can do even better now. Now, what does this all have to do with Charles Shardwell?”

Doyle’s eyes turned to ice as he replied, “Chad Sharpe is Charles Shardwell.”

“Fuck! Are you sure?”

“Here’s a picture of Shardwell.”

St. Hilary studied it for a minute then nodded, “That’s him all right. Seeing Sharpe has triggered my memory. A couple of months ago, I got two letters from a Charles Shardwell, inquiring about a painting that I had had in my gallery. I never met Shardwell so no wonder the name didn’t click right away.”

“He wanted a painting?”

“Yeah, he said that he had seen it in my gallery and wanted to buy it. Well I sent him a letter saying that it had been sold. He wrote back, trying to get me to tell him who had bought it. I replied that I would contact the present owner and tell him what Shardwell wanted, but that the owner would have to get in touch with him. That’s really all I can remember.”

“Do you still have his address?”

“I think I do; very seldom do I throw anything away. It’s at the gallery, I ‘spect.”

“That’s great! Would you mind if we went down there and got it now?”

“Is it that important?”

“Chad Sharpe is no longer just a little prick with groping hands; he’s a very evil man who’s done a lot of bad things. We want him off the streets.”

St Hilary nodded and stood up, “All right, let’s get going.”

What seemed like hours later, St. Hilary dragged himself into his apartment. He had given the address of Charles Shardwell to Doyle, who had immediately taken off with it so the information could be put to use. If Shardwell (a.k.a. Chad Sharpe) had given an accurate address maybe the man could be in custody within a day or so. St. Hilary was pleased that he could help, but now that his part in finding Shardwell was coming to an end, several thoughts came to mind and all of them were disturbing.

1) How did CI5 know that he had had contact with Shardwell if the only contact had been two letters?
2) Was Ray involved in targeting me?
3) Had CI5 suspected him of more involvement with Shardwell’s criminal enterprises than had been indicated?
4) Were Williams and Shardwell the reasons that Cowley and the Minister had taken the trouble to meet him?
5) Had Ray suspected him of collusion with this monster, Shardwell?
6) Did Ray only want him around as a snitch and liaison with his art world?
7) What did Ray really want from him?
8) Was there any future with Ray Doyle?

Although St. Hilary went to bed because his body felt exhausted, he did not sleep. He knew that he was going to have to make some major decisions about his relationship with Ray. It was obvious that Ray still loved Bodie very deeply and even if Bodie would no longer be around, would Ray be able to put the handsome man out of his mind? The next few weeks were going to be momentous for Ray Doyle what with the exhibition and Bodie’s departure; the major question lurking in the forefront was, after the exhibition what would happen to his relationship with Doyle?

As his eyelids grew heavy with the burdens he was carrying, another thought came to St. Hilary’s mind: was any of this worth the heartache that was sure to come?

Chapter 11

The arrest of Charles Shardwell came within a few days of receiving St. Hilary’s information. The painter’s block that had been causing so much trouble for Doyle on the third picture seemed to have evaporated so that the painting was finished and all three paintings were turned over to St. Hilary to be framed.

Now the preparation for the exhibition went into high gear. The goings on for Bodie’s departure also turned up a notch as various parties were planned. Bodie had really wanted little fanfare, but he didn’t get his way. Fortunately, most of the “parties” turned into evenings at various local pubs with only one large party at Bodie’s local.

The situation between Bodie and Doyle changed very little: they did their jobs.

Doyle’s relations with the three men in his life went from bad to worse, especially after Doyle marched into Cowley’s office and stated categorically that he was not going to use St. Hilary anymore. His green eyes had been blazing as he stared down at the Controller and, for once, Cowley’s eyes dropped first. “Aye, lad, I realize now that St. Hilary was an unfortunate mistake, but we had to be sure, and it was his lead that got us Shardwell, so cool down. Go get us a glass of scotch and we’ll talk about it.”

Doyle remained rigid; his thin frame practically bristling with indignation, but then his temper cooled enough that he was able to walk over and pour two drinks. Handing one to Cowley, Doyle slumped into the chair facing Cowley and promptly took his usual position of spineless slouch. Doyle took a sip of the smooth liquid while Cowley waited for what was coming next. Cowley had always prided himself on being able to do triple-thinking but this time he sincerely wished he had been wrong.

Doyle sat there for several seconds; then he whispered, “I don’t want to do this anymore.”

Deliberately not understanding, Cowley tried to distract the man, “Sometimes, we have to do things that are ugly and we don’t like very much, but it is necessary most of the time. You’ve known that. I am sorry that St. Hilary was used this way, but we had to get those two men off the streets, and, I think, that St. Hilary would agree.”

“I’m not talking about that, sir. I want out; I want to leave CI5 at the end of my months’ notice.”

Silence permeated the office. Cowley had known this was coming. He had known it since the day that Bodie had told him that he was leaving, but Cowley strongly suspected that the two men were leaving for vastly different reasons that stemmed from the same source: despair.

Cowley’s eyes softened as he looked at the man he had hoped would one day sit in his chair. With Bodie at his side, they would have been an unbeatable combination, but now that hope was ended. “What is it, lad?”

“I just don’t want to have to do what I did with Justin, with Ann Holly, with Diana Molner, with all the rest. I want off the streets, and I want a 9 to 5 job. I want to be able to wake up in the morning and not have to worry about looking over my shoulder, each and every hour of the day. I’m tired, sir, and I want out.”

Cowley sat there and heard the message behind the words. That had been one of the longest speeches Doyle had ever given in this office, but Cowley knew what was behind it: Bodie. Cowley had suspected for a long time that their partnership had turned into much more, and now the fall-out from their broken relationship had resulted in the loss of his best agents.

Intellectually Cowley understood the love and affection that these two men had shared. He had felt much the same thing for Annie Irvine at one time, but in the end, she couldn’t measure up to his duty and his dedication to what he believed was right. In the end, he had chosen his country, and she had chosen another way. Cowley hadn’t blamed her; she wanted more than Cowley could give, and now Cowley suspected that the same had happened to Bodie and Doyle. From time to time Cowley had had doubts about his decision, and now those doubts were thrown directly in his face - - Bodie was leaving because of Doyle and Doyle was leaving because of what . . . or was it whom? Maybe it was time that Cowley confronted the man who might know.

“All right, lad, you’ve got your month. I won’t do the paperwork for a while yet in case you change your mind, but I hope you’ll think it over. What will you do if you leave?”

Suddenly, Doyle’s green orbs got a wistful look in them as he muttered, “Well, I won’t be doing what you think. I’m not going to try my luck at painting; I’ve got some money saved so I might take a break. I want to get through this exhibition and then I’ll put my mind to what I’m going to do.”

“All right, we’ll talk again soon.”

Cowley sat for a long time then picked up the phone and asked Betty to place a phone call. Within seconds, a voice answered and Cowley asked to be connected with Justin St. Hilary. Three hours later the two men were face to face in St. Hilary’s luxurious gallery.

“Mr. Cowley, it’s a pleasure to see you again. What can I do for you?”

“As I said on the phone, I have some questions that I would like to ask you, but first I would like to see Doyle’s paintings if they are available?”

“Well, as a matter of fact, they’ve just been framed and we are getting ready to create their exhibit for the show which takes place in two days. Would you follow me?”

Cowley followed the tall, slender man into a separate, isolated room. St. Hilary turned and studied Cowley, “This is where they will be shown. Ray made me promise that they would not be part of the regular exhibit. I think that he has a great deal of talent, but Ray doesn’t agree so he insisted that the paintings remain apart. As you will notice, they are not even signed so this will truly be called, “blind judging.”

Cowley nodded; he had been worried that St. Hilary would be so anxious to sell the paintings that he would “out” Doyle as it were and then Doyle’s identity would be in jeopardy, but perhaps that wasn’t so important anymore.

“Without his name, can you still sell the paintings?”

St. Hilary looked quizzically at Cowley and said, “They are not for sale; this is merely an experiment to try to get Ray to realize that he does have talent, and that he can have a real future in the art world.”

“I see. Could I see them now?”

St. Hilary nodded and then removed the cover on the first painting. There was a card sitting next to the painting with the title: ’ Waiting’ on it. Cowley studied it for a few minutes. It was stunning. Although he heard St. Hilary say in the background that Doyle had done this painting when he was 19, Cowley did not acknowledge his words. From the first moment that Cowley had met Doyle, he had surmised that the younger man would do nothing without trying to make it perfect, and in this painting, Doyle was certainly well on the way to that perfection. Cowley could feel the emotion emanating from the canvas. ‘Waiting’ it was called, was it? Yes, I can see that, and I suspect I know what Doyle’s waiting for.

St. Hilary waited a moment then removed the second cover. St. Hilary suspected that if any of the paintings raised Cowley’s ire, it would be this one, but Cowley saw the nude figure reclining on the bed, Cowley’s face remained immobile and unreadable.

George Cowley was a master at not showing his emotions, but this didn’t come easily as he stared at the “Watching” painting. He didn’t quite understand the circumstances behind the painting, but he definitely recognized the two individuals shown. Now he had definite proof that, at least one time, Bodie and Doyle had been lovers. The pure essence of Doyle’s love for his partner was revealed in every brush stroke of the painting. Had Bodie seen the painting, because if he had, he could never have been in doubt as to Doyle’s feelings for him? Doyle’s mastery of the reclining figure was perfect. If you knew William Bodie, you knew that the figure in the painting was he. How lucky Bodie was to be so loved.

Finally, St. Hilary removed the cloth from the third painting and stood back so that George Cowley could study it closely. For once, Cowley’s emotional barrier was not thick enough; he was visibly shaken by what he saw. In the painting called, ‘Walking Away’, Bodie was doing just that, and Cowley could feel the total devastation that Doyle was feeling. No wonder Doyle had decided to leave CI5.

Saying nothing, Cowley stood back and gazed at the three paintings as an entire package. The entire piece was magnificent and disturbing. Doyle did indeed have talent, but then Cowley suspected that much of Doyle’s talent lay in the fact that what he was painting was lodged deep in his heart, and that the message he conveyed was being revealed on the three canvasses. Could Doyle create that much emotion in another set of paintings; Cowley honestly didn’t know. The other thing that confused Cowley was: how could Justin St. Hilary stand to exhibit the story of Bodie and Doyle that was revealed so succinctly in those three paintings? Cowley looked at the man who surely was Doyle’s lover now, and wondered what kind of man he was.

Justin St. Hilary’s deep grey eyes twinkled as he looked at the Controller of CI5, he could almost see what the man was thinking, but all he said was, “Would you like to ask me something?”

“I would like to apologize to you for suspecting that you were involved with Williams and Shardwell. I make no excuses; we do what we have to, but I’m sorry that I had to use Doyle to get to you.”

St. Hilary smiled but there was sadness in his eyes, “Ray’s a big boy; he knew what he was doing. Williams and Shardwell deserved what they got, and I would do it again. My friendship with Ray can stand a few bumps in the road.”

Cowley immediately noticed St. Hilary’s slight emphasis on the word, friendship. So St. Hilary understood only too well which way Doyle’s feelings were going. Maybe I’ve been wrong about Doyle’s plans to go into art; I don’t think St. Hilary is going to be the problem after all.

The two men stood staring at each other for another moment; each man easily understanding what was going on in their mutual world that included them and Ray Doyle; then, St. Hilary took a step back and said in his most professional, “I certainly hope to see you again at the exhibition. I know Ray will be pleased if you attend.”

Holding out his hand as a sign of respect, Cowley replied, “I’m looking forward to it, Mr. St. Hilary. I certainly hope Doyle finds the answers to what he is seeking at the exhibition.”

Now St. Hilary gave Cowley a pathetic smile that revealed how much his hope had been destroyed as he said, “Oh Mr. Cowley, you and I both know that it won’t be at the exhibition that Ray will find the answers to his questions.”

As George Cowley left the gallery, the thought crossed his mind that Ray Doyle could certainly have done much worse than to have chosen Justin St. Hilary to have spent his life with.

BDBDBDBDBDBD

Bodie was set to leave CI5 in four days and he quite frankly wanted it to be over with. The fact that Doyle was sitting next to him in their often-used car, slouching in his usual sensual and alluring way, bothered Bodie a great deal, but since Doyle’s exhibition was tomorrow evening, Bodie knew it was going to get much worse. Trying to put off the inevitable, Bodie clung tenaciously to the case at hand.

“Are you sure this is where Oscar the Ocelot hangs out?”

Looking at the run-down pub where his snitch, Oscar could always be found, Doyle nodded and then reply, “Yeah, it is, but it’s Oscar the Otter, as you very well know.”

“How did he ever get that name?”

“Don’t know, maybe he likes to swim.”

“Well, I wouldn’t give him a shilling for his chances to go swimming in the Thames. Of course, with some of the people he hangs around with, maybe he will go swimming in the Thames.”

Doyle grimaced and said in a voice reflecting a total lack of humour, “Ha! Ha! You know damn well, if we had to choose our snitches on the basis of their level in society we wouldn’t be in this neighbourhood.”

“Too true. Hey, isn’t that him now?”

“I knew what they said about you bein’ blind wasn’t true.” With those words the two men took off after the weasel-like man.

Several hours later they had finally released Oscar back to the streets. They had used every Cowley initiated interrogation technique that they had been taught and had pretty much drained him dry of information about several major jobs that were going on. The day had been exhausting and Doyle felt like a pint or two or three. After all, the two men wouldn’t be able to do that much longer. “You want drink or something; I’m buyin’.”

“What? Did your favourite auntie die or something?”

“Nah, just thought you might be interested.”

“Nice of you, but I’m expectin’ Murphy at my flat in less than a half hour. He’s helping me move me things to me new flat.”

In days long gone by, it would have been Doyle who would have helped Bodie move, but this time, Bodie wasn’t moving to another CI5 flat; he was moving out of Doyle’s life forever. Doyle felt like he had been hit in the heart with a cricket bat. He was as winded as if he had beat Roger Bannister in his epic run to beat the four minute mile. Trying to think of something to say, Doyle chose silence.

Bodie stared at his partner and waited for the axe to fall but it didn’t. Instead, Doyle asked, “You comin’ to the exhibition tomorrow night?”

“Nah, I’m sorry, but my new boss wants to meet with me to discuss what my new job will be like. Best of luck on the showin’.”

“Thanks, and with that word Doyle walked directly to his car and drove away. Bodie stood looking after his soon-to-be ex-partner, and sighed. He had known that it had been cruel to refuse to go to Doyle’s exhibition, but Bodie couldn’t face seeing St. Hilary and Doyle together during Doyle’s moment of triumph. Bodie never doubted for one second that Doyle would do well with his paintings and that would become his way of life after he left CI5, but what was more disturbing and heart-wrenching to the ex-merc was that Doyle would take up that new life with Justin St. Hilary so why not make the break as surgically clean as possible?

Chapter 12

The big night had finally arrived, but Ray Doyle’s mood was not good. Everyone at CI5 had expected the usually temperamental agent to be riding on a major high because he was actually having some of his paintings shown in a major gallery. Doyle had always been the agent of the Bodie/Doyle team that had been harder to get to know, but his friends on the squad knew him to be dedicated (sometimes almost too much so), loyal and a real pain in the arse sometimes, but there was no one better to have on your side. It was still surprising to many of the agents that Doyle’s partner, Bodie, was actually leaving the streets and leaving CI5 without his partner. Bodie had always been the one to go to if you wanted to shoot the breeze or go to a pub, but somehow, no one in CI5 could conceive of the two men without each other.

It had been a real surprise then to find out that Doyle was having a painting exhibition (well three paintings anyhow) that night with all the posh people attending the soirée, but those who knew Doyle were also well aware of his interest in art and had already figured that he would be a real success because Ray Doyle tried to do everything with the utmost perfection. No, the surprise was that he was doing all this without . . . well, without Bodie.

Practically since DAY 1 of their partnership, there had been speculation about the Bisto Kids. At first, it was a lottery on what day one partner would kill or maim the other partner; then, by their second year of partnership, the pool was which one of the partners would create the most devilish practical joke which both of them were masters at, but after three years, the pool was always, always about their sex life. It started out innocently enough: both men were voracious womanizers and the height of their competition for their having more women than their partner seemed to reach its zenith at about this time, but the last few years, this competition turned into speculation about when the two men would wind up in bed together. Only Murphy knew with absolute certainty when that had actually occurred.

The Kathy Mason treachery had been a turning point in many ways for the partnership. By that time, their trust in each other had become absolute. It had always surprised Murphy that Preston hadn’t gone after Bodie instead of Brownie, because Murphy knew that Doyle would give his life for Bodie and, if on that day on the crane, Doyle’s life had been sacrificed while Bodie was held in captivity, there would have been more than one death to follow.

It was with those thoughts that Colin Murphy entered Justin St. Hilary’s gallery. The exhibition and party had not begun yet, but since Murphy was expected on duty later, he figured he would come early and see Ray’s efforts.

When Justin St. Hilary saw the handsome agent enter, his face lit up. He had met Murphy several times and had enjoyed his time in a pub with Murphy and Ray. The agent looked even more handsome dressed in a black tuxedo. Holding out his hand, St. Hilary welcomed the agent.

“Welcome, Mr. Murphy, I imagine you are here to see Ray’s paintings?”

“Yes, I have duty tonight so I thought I might be able to see them early?”

“Of course, follow me.”

The three paintings were still covered since the exhibition had not officially begun, but St. Hilary quickly uncovered them and then stood back so that Murphy could study them more privately. Murphy seemed stunned. He, of course, started with the first painting, ‘Waiting’. After a few minutes, he went on to the remaining two. Since Murphy knew Bodie, it was quite obvious that he recognized the main figure in the two remaining paintings. Various emotions played across the handsome face, but St. Hilary said nothing, just letting the man study what Ray Doyle had done. Finally, Murphy turned and looked at St. Hilary and asked,

“That’s quite a story, isn’t it?”

St. Hilary drew in his breath, amazed that Murphy had picked up on Doyle’s message. “So, you know, do you?”

“Yes, I’ve known for some time, and . . . well, I suspected for even longer.”

“I see.”

Murphy turned to look at the paintings once again. “He’s got a lot of talent, doesn’t he? Is he going to sell them?”

“No . . . no, they’re not for sale. I’ve been trying to convince him of his talent, but he doesn’t believe me. I was hoping this exhibition will convince him of his talent and that it will help him to make a decision about his future.”

Murphy turned his body to look at St. Hilary, studying him for several minutes; then Murphy took a bold gamble and queried, “A future with you?”

Once again, St. Hilary drew in his breath as his amazement over how perceptive Murphy was caused him to be momentarily staggered, “Is it that obvious?”

“I’m a professional observer so I guess that made it easier to figure out, Mr. St. Hilary, but may I tell you one thing?”

“Of course.”

Ray Doyle is a born copper that George Cowley turned into a great agent. Ray’s sense of justice is almost at Cowley’s level, it will be very hard to lead him off that path.”

St. Hilary nodded, his eyes twinkling, “Yes, I noticed that, but I do think I have something going for me since Ray does love art so much.”

Murphy studied the handsome older man and then replied with a voice full of knowledge, “You’re right, Ray does love art, but there’s something that he loves more.”

“And what would that be, Mr. Murphy?”

Murphy turned his head towards the paintings, and said assertively, “I think you already know, don’t you?”

Murphy could see the defeat in St. Hilary’s eyes; he could see the acknowledgement in the brief look that St. Hilary gave him, but the art dealer made no other sign except to say, “You know your friends well.”

“You have to know who to trust on the streets, and the man who protects your back has a special place. That’s what Ray Doyle has and it will last a lot longer than his art, but that’s enough philosophizing isn’t it. I have to go. Good to see you, sir.”

Justin St. Hilary stood watching the tall agent leave. His thoughts were in turmoil as his eyes wandered around his gallery. What a remarkable man! Suddenly, St. Hilary smiled as he realized that for once he wasn’t thinking about Ray Doyle.
The rest of the evening went well. St. Hilary sold numerous paintings and other works of art for many of the exhibitors, but nothing of the Anonymous Collection. Ray Doyle looked incredibly handsome in his tuxedo. At first, he was going to wear his black suit, but St. Hilary had presented him with a tuxedo and he felt obliged to wear it. He followed St. Hilary’s instructions to the letter, wandering around listening to what people were saying, and surprisingly many of the words were about his paintings. Of course, his name wasn’t on them, but almost all of the comments were favourable. Justin told him some time during the evening that he had had bids for all three of them. Doyle could have made a handy piece of money if he had wanted to sell them.

Everyone wanted to know who had painted them, and an especially nubile, buxom blond wanted to know who the figure was in the two major paintings. Nothing was revealed and at the end of the evening, the three paintings were still sitting on their specially prepared easels.

The evening was over and the two men stood looking at them. “Ray, I could have sold them several times over. Even Cowley was quite impressed. (St. Hilary had not told Doyle of Cowley’s earlier viewing) You can’t think you have no talent now. Can’t you see that?”

Ray smiled; he was pleased that people thought he had done well, but his confusion and despair more than made up for his exhilaration at seeing his paintings displayed.

“Justin, you know I’m grateful to you for showing my paintings, but tonight’s exhibit has helped convince me about a lot of things. I’m leaving CI5 and I’m going to do something else. I don’t want to make my career just painting, however. Those three paintings were for a different purpose, and I guess I’ve finally realized that.”

“What are you going to do with the paintings?”

“You keep them; I don’t want them. That’s a chapter that’s closed in my life. I’m going to miss you, Justin, but we both know that you and I don’t have a future together. They are my gift to you. Now I have to get going ‘cause I have a very big day tomorrow, and I’m going to have to tell Cowley my final decision.” Doyle hugged his friend and former lover and left the gallery. Bodie had not shown up even though Doyle had kept hoping he would. Crediting himself with being more of a fool than he thought, Bodie’s absence had convinced Ray Doyle that it was time to leave because in less than three days, the man who was his life would walk away from him.

The next evening after talking to Cowley and telling him his final decision, Doyle decided to visit Bodie one last time. Of course, there would be the big final party, but then there would be most of CI5 there to see the ex-merc off. This visit would be their last privately. Even that was not to be, however. When Doyle arrived at Bodie’s flat, Murphy was there helping Bodie move some of his things from the flat.

Murphy seemed happy to see him even if Bodie was not. “Come in, come in, just what we need another pair of arms. We’re carrying this stuff down to the car so we can drive out to Bodie’s new flat.”

Doyle rolled up his sleeves and started carrying various items down to the car. Bodie said very little to him, but quite obviously noticed him and after the three men filled the car, Bodie quite formally said, “Thanks for the help; I’d buy us a drink, but Murph and I still have to drive out to the new place and unload the stuff. Thanks for stopping by.”

It was readily apparent that Bodie did not want him there so Doyle took the hint, shook hands, and rapidly departed. Murphy had deliberately left the two men alone so they could talk, but his thoughtfulness had come to naught. As Bodie stood staring at the departing Doyle, Murphy came up behind and said very deliberately, “You know you are a real bastard sometimes.”

Bodie didn’t turn to face his friend, but he did reply after a moment in a voice haunted with an emotion that it was quite easy to read, “Yeah, Murph, I know and it isn’t just sometimes. Now, let’s get going, if you still want to help me?”

With those words the two men left the flat.

BDBDBDBDBDBDBD

The next day Doyle saw little of Bodie even from a distance. Since Bodie would be leaving for good the next day, his final farewell party was planned for that evening. Bodie spent most of the day, saying good-bye to everyone in CI5 as well as being closeted with Cowley much of the time. Doyle was seriously thinking about skipping the farewell party although he had contributed a healthy donation to the fundraising.

He had finally decided to go because he told himself that he didn’t want Bodie to think that his departure meant that much to Doyle since obviously Bodie didn’t seem to care anyway so he dragged himself to the pub, intending on staying for a few minutes only.

As usual there were gag gifts and serious ones. Everyone seemed to be having a good time even the guest-of-honour. Cowley showed up and stayed longer than usual, almost as if he didn’t want to let Bodie go. Doyle hovered on the fringes, however, and except for Murphy and Anson spoke to very few.

Finally, the evening was over, at least for Doyle. He told everyone good-bye and even shook hands with Bodie, but it was very much formalized and in front of everyone, what could be said? The only payback Doyle took for himself as he walked out the door, leaving Bodie behind, was that this time, Doyle was walking away from Bodie, not the other way around.

The next day, Bodie left to go work for David Simmons Security and Investigations. The Bisto Kids were no more.

Chapter 13

During the last month of Doyle’s tenure with CI5, the ex-copper worked with numerous partners. It was as if Cowley understood that the incomparable partnership of Bodie and Doyle could never be duplicated so it was better not to try.

Cowley also had Doyle doing numerous ops, including breaking up a gun-running gang that had plagued the streets for weeks. During this time, Murphy was Doyle’s partner and it was a good thing that he was because Doyle’s nerves seemed to be running on high grade petrol. The man’s metabolism must have been off the charts because the slender form seemed to be diminishing rapidly. Quite frankly, Murphy was worried about his friend. Doyle never spoke of Bodie, and Murphy had come to the conclusion that Doyle’s conscious effort to avoid thinking about his former partner was part of the reason that Doyle was losing weight so rapidly.

Finally coming to the conclusion that he would have to confront the exhausted and still hyper ex-copper, Murphy spoke up near the end of an especially tedious day by asking if Doyle wanted to go to a pub.
The bags under Doyle’s eyes as well as their darkness seemed to have grown in the last few weeks. The man looked like he was ready to take on the largest predator in the world, or maybe, even Cowley so it wasn’t really surprising when Doyle turned down Murphy’s invitation.

“No thanks, Murph. I’m going home and begin packing me goods. You know I only have another week to go, and I’ve still got a lot to do.”

“What are you going to do once you leave?”

Doyle, looking as if he hadn’t slept in five years, replied, “I’m going to sleep for two weeks, and then I’m going to take a nap.”

Murphy smiled, but knew that wasn’t true because while Doyle was exhausted, he was too tired and too on-edge to really rest. Doyle needed to work out his grief in losing Bodie before he could really start a new life. “Have you thought about running a marathon or something? You look like you could take on a herd of cheetahs and outrun them every time.”

Doyle laughed for a moment then said, “It’s amazing how a 37 year old body can be so exhausted and so hyper at the same time, isn’t it? To tell you the truth, Murph, I’m glad I won’t be carryin’ a gun anymore because I feel so edgy who knows what I might do with it?”

“I don’t believe that. If there’s one man on Earth that I would trust with a gun; it would be you. You are the best, and you don’t take that responsibility lightly.”

Doyle looked at his friend with a great deal of affection. The thought suddenly came to Doyle that he would truly miss Murphy. Feeling every one of his 37 years, Doyle said quietly, “Well, to tell you the truth, I’ve got me a job and a place to stay for about six months.”
“Wow, I had no idea. Where is that?”

“Well, me Aunt Sue, me mum’s sister has this cottage up north. She wants to sell it, but she’s let it fall into a really bad condition so I’m going to go visit me mum for a few days and then I’m going to go live in Aunt Sue’s cottage and get it in shape. It will probably take me longer than six months, but that’s what I’m set for now.”

Doyle stopped there because he noticed Murphy’s mouth dropped wide open. Thinking that the tall Irishman was having a seizure or something, Doyle blinked several times, shook Murphy’s arm and asked, “You okay, mate?”

Murphy came out of his glazed condition by shaking his head and replied with a devilish twinkle in his eye, ”I can’t believe what I just heard, coming from a man who can’t hammer a nail into a wall without having to go to the A & E and having major surgery afterwards.”

“I’m not that bad. In fact, I’m pretty good with tools, but next to Bodie . . . “Doyle stopped as he realized what he was saying.

Murphy sat staring at Doyle, seeing the real pain in the deep, green eyes. Murphy knew how much it had cost Doyle to let Bodie go. Both men had been stubborn fools, and Murphy was frustrated with both of them, but right now Bodie seemed to be leading the race for who would get thumped by Murphy first.

“Speaking of Bodie, I went to see him the other day. He seems to like what he’s doing and Dave Simmons seems to be a really nice guy. Do you want his address so that you can go see him or maybe call him?”

Doyle’s cupid’s bow lips tightened into a grimace, his green eyes blazing with emotion, “Keep out of it, Murph. Bodie made his decision and he certainly made it plain that he wants nothing to do with me.”

Murphy often kept a low profile around his two highly volatile friends, but he realized now that if he didn’t say something, he would lose both of them so he decided to go out on a limb, “Why doesn’t Bodie want anything to do with you? Could it be that he got tired of having you flaunt Justin St. Hilary in his face?”

If the two men hadn’t been in the front seat of the small Capri, Murphy knew that Doyle would have thumped him, but as it was Doyle held his temper, and then miraculously swallowed the bitter words he had been about to say. Looking at Murphy for several seconds, Doyle seemed to make an important decision and then in a hoarse voice said, “You’re right; it was my fault. I never realized that Bodie was like that. Should have known not to push him so far.”

Now Murphy was totally confused, What was Doyle talking about? “I don’t understand, Ray, ‘What is Bodie like’?”

“He’s homophobic.”

“Whhaaat? How can that be with you two gettin’ it on like rabbits all that time?”

Doyle sat staring at Murphy, his eyes blinking over and over. Finally finding his voice, Doyle asked, “How did you know that Bodie and me were . . . doing it?”

Murphy smiled, “Oh come on, Ray. I’m paid to observe closely and I could see how you felt about each other after that fiasco with Kathy Mason. “

“Did anybody else figure it out?”

“I don’t think so, but maybe Cowley has since that time.”

“What makes you think that?”

“Well, he saw the paintings, didn’t he?”

“YOU COULD TELL THAT FROM THE PAINTINGS?”

“Hey, don’t shout; I’m right here next to you. I wouldn’t say everybody could, but those that knew the two of you well could tell, and I’m tellin’ you that it wasn’t well-known so don’t go addin’ another stone to the burden you’re already carryin’.”

Doyle seemed to relax a tiny bit when he heard Murphy’s words, but he was still confused, “Why didn’t Cowley say something?”

“Because if he didn’t ask, he didn’t have to do anything about it.”

Doyle’s head dropped to his chest as he nodded slightly, “What . . . what did you think about . . . what we were doing?”

“The only thing that bothered me was why you broke up?”

Doyle’s head quickly shot up as he stared at Murphy, “You mean it didn’t bother you?”

“No, you two are absolutely perfect together. It wasn’t Justin St. Hilary, was it?”

“Nah, he came along later, but me being friendly with him sure didn’t help. I realize what a major mistake I made, but I never dreamed that Bodie was such a hypocrite. How could he have sex with me, and then when he found me with Justin, say some of the things that he said?” Doyle stopped as he realized what he had just admitted to; his handsome face blushing furiously.

“So that’s what it was? That doesn’t mean that Bodie’s a homophobe.”

Doyle looked at Murphy like he had just grown another head and asked, “It doesn’t?”

“No, I would say, from careful analysis of Bodie over several years, that it showed that he was rip-roaring jealous.”

Doyle’s eyes opened wide in disbelief, “You’re wrong, Murph. Bodie doesn’t feel that way for me. We had good sex . . . hell, we had great sex, but that’s all he wanted, and when I tried to get more, it was over.”

“How do you know he didn’t want more?”

“He backed away so fast that he was doin’ the three minute mile.”

“You two are so blind. Maybe he was afraid that you were wantin’ Justin St. Hilary and not him and so he walked away . . . sort of like in your paintin’.”

Doyle shook his head with such vehemence that it started his curls wiggling. “No, no, you’re wrong, Murph. He couldn’t have said what he did to me if he had cared at all.”

Murphy studied Doyle for a moment. He would have to tread carefully because he didn’t know what the two men had said to each other. “Is it because of what he said that you’re leaving CI5?”

“No, that hurt to the core, but I’m leaving because I’m tired. I have been in law enforcement of some kind and on the street for over 15 years, I need a change. I thought it might be art, but I know now that that isn’t what I need. I need time, and I need to do something that doesn’t threaten someone’s life if I screw up. That’s why I’m leavin’.”

“Did you tell that to Cowley?”

“Yeah, and after a while he seemed to understand. I hope you do too.”

“Did you tell Justin that you were leavin’ CI5?”

“Yeah, he tried to convince me that I had enough talent to make it in the art world, but that’s not what I really want. Those three paintings are about it for me.”

“Speaking of Justin . . . well, are you two through?”

“Yeah, it was great to be with him, and for a while I thought maybe we could make a go of it, but I was fooling myself. So we’re just friends now and that’s the way it will stay.”

Murphy nodded, “Well, it looks like you’ve thought a lot about this. I want you to know that I will miss you. You’ve been a great partner, but I hope you’ll be happy with whatever you decide to do.”

“Thanks, Murph. I think I see our relief comin’. I’ll drop you by your flat, and then I’m going to do some more packing.”

BDBDBDBDBD

The days passed quickly after that. Doyle’s time was soon gone, and he left CI5 much as Bodie had with several pub visits and a large party. Through it all, Murphy continued to observe his friend. It was obvious how much Doyle missed Bodie. As Doyle’s face became more and more haggard with the loss, Murphy made up his mind that he had had enough. Those two loonies were so stubborn they were going to ruin their lives because they couldn’t come together and admit how much they cared about each other, therefore, Colin Murphy must take a hand in the situation and the place to start was at Justin St. Hilary’s gallery.

Murphy showed up at the gallery, hoping to find Justin St. Hilary available. Luckily he was, and the handsome older man welcomed Murphy much as he had done earlier. “Mr. Murphy, it’s good to see you. What can I do for you?”

“Ray told me that he left his paintings with you. Do you still have them?”

“Yes, I do. I put them away, thinking that Ray might want them one of these days.”

“What did he say about their disposition?”

St. Hilary shrugged, “Not a lot. He told me that I could have them; I could keep them or sell them, whatever I wanted to do because they had no place in his life anymore.”

Murphy shook his head. “Talk about stubborn. Well, I have an idea, if you’re willing to go along with it?”

St. Hilary looked like he knew where Murphy was going with this idea, but all he said was, “Go on.”

“I was thinking that since the artist didn’t want the paintings, maybe the inspiration for them would want them. After all, he’s never seen them. They might mean a great deal to him if he saw them.”

St. Hilary smiled, “I see what you mean, and I think it’s an excellent idea. Do you . . . uh, know where the inspiration might be found?”

Murphy smiled one of his most knowing and devastating smile, “I believe I do. I could take them to him and see what he thinks about them.”

“Yes, I can see how that might be beneficial to the two individuals involved.”

“Why don’t I give instructions to have the paintings wrapped for transport while you and I go to this restaurant I know to celebrate your brilliant idea?”

“Excellent, but I really need to know about your feelings about this idea. You and Ray have been very close and well . . . I just wondered if this would be a problem?”

“Thank you for your thoughts, but above all else I want Ray to be happy. Hopefully, these paintings will help break through both men’s barriers and lead to a successful resolution. A happy Ray Doyle makes me happy. Now shall we get going?”

“Great, I’ll wait here for you.”

“I will be right back, Mr. Murphy.”

“Why don’t you make it Colin?”

Justin St. Hilary smiled his most alluring and devastating smile at the tall Irishman, “And could you call me Justin?”

Murphy’s smile equaled the other man’s in intensity as he said, “I think I can handle that.”

Chapter 14:

It had been three weeks since Doyle had left CI5, and over seven weeks for Bodie. There wasn’t a day that Murphy didn’t think about the two men, even when he was exhausted from the sheer volume of work that was being thrown at him. Of course, being shot at several times didn’t help, but he had grown somewhat used to that over his years at CI5, but without the BistoKids CI5 seemed different somehow. Even George Cowley seemed to notice it, but he said nothing, as usual. Everyone just seemed to labour on, but the situation wasn’t good. Nevertheless, Murphy was glad that his two friends had left the streets; it was just too bad that it was the break-up of their remarkable relationship that had caused the two men to part.

Murphy had driven out to see Bodie a couple of times when he could manage a few hours of freedom from the constant work. He, of course, had only been able to talk to Doyle on the phone since he was so much further away. Nevertheless, Murphy refused to give up hope that the two most stubborn individuals on the face of the planet would finally haul down their barriers and talk.

After all these weeks, however, Murphy had decided that enough was enough, and he knew that he had the weapon which could breach the walls of one William Andrew Philip Bodie, and he was determined to use it.

Managing to get an entire day off, Murphy appeared at Bodie’s doorstep without announcement. One of the real advantages of doing security work was the regular hours. Murphy expected Bodie to have the evening off and so he went at that time, hoping to find the ex-merc home. Fortunately, Bodie was there.

Planning this invasion like a major military operation Murphy arrived, prepared to carry the action forward. Carrying his three secret weapons with him, he knocked on the door. Bodie quickly opened the door, smiling in welcome to his friend, “Murph, I didn’t expect you; you usually ring me when you’re going to travel out to the Wilds.”

“Ha! Ha! This doesn’t look much like the Wilds, does it? Bodie had found a house that was isolated but certainly near enough to the train line that he could easily commute into London if needed although he had managed to finance a car as well. Murphy suspected that Bodie had stashed away some merc money and was comfortably well off after working for CI5 for years.

Bodie’s left eyebrow shot up as he noticed what Murphy was carrying but since they were covered up, he couldn’t be absolutely sure what Murphy had brought. Showing his friend into the large lounge, Bodie got the two men some lagers, and then they proceeded to shoot the breeze for a while, but finally Murphy got around to what he wanted to say.

“Brought you some pressies.”

“I noticed them; are they what I think they are?”

Murphy took the offensive, sensing Bodie’s hostility in the question. “I can’t hardly understand what you think anymore, mate, but I suspect you do know what I’ve brought.”

Bodie studied him for a moment then said with cold eyes and an even colder voice, “I don’t want to see them; besides, why do you have them anyway, they belong to . . .” Here Bodie stopped as he realized the implication of Murphy having Doyle’s paintings. In a voice filled with panic, Bodie demanded, “He isn’t injured, is he?”

Realizing that that was the natural thing to think, Murphy immediately reassured Bodie that Doyle was fine, but secretly Murphy was pleased that Bodie was still so concerned about his ex-partner.

“As a matter of fact, Doyle left CI5 about three weeks ago, and he left these behind, saying that he didn’t want them anymore. I thought you might want them since they are about you.”

Murphy wasn’t sure why Bodie looked so confused: was it because Doyle had left CI5 or because he had left the paintings behind?

“What’s he going to do? Guess he’s a big time painter now, is he?”

“Nah, he’s left that behind. His paintings were well received, I understand, but that was a one-time thing; he’s gone north for a while.”

“What about . . . well, you know?”

“St. Hilary?”

Bodie nodded but said nothing more.

“That’s all over and has been for a while. They are just friends now.”

“Since when?” Bodie asked in disbelief.

“I suspect it was sometime around when St. Hilary saw the three paintings.”

Bodie glared at Murphy and threatened, “If you’re havin’ me on, Murph, so help me.”

“I’m not; they’re just friends and Doyle is workin’ up north.”

“Why’d you bring them to me, if Doyle left them behind?”

“I told you; you’ll realize as soon as you see them; so stop being such a bastard for once and take a look at them.”

“All right.” The tone in Bodie’s voice, however, sounded much like a petulant little boy doing something which he totally did not want to do.

Murphy carefully removed the covers on the three paintings. He had put cards with each one, labelling each by name. Bodie looked at them briefly, gradually turning grey then white as he went down the line of paintings. When he got to the end, he whirled on Murphy and yelled, “Everybody saw these?”

“No, but the important people did . . . if you mean Cowley?”

“What . . . what did he say?”

“Ask St. Hilary, I wasn’t there at that time.”

“Fuck off, Murphy as if I would ask that bastard anything.”

“Why are you so mad at St. Hilary? Is it because he got what you didn’t want?”

For a moment, Murphy thought he was going to meet with Bodie’s famous right cross to the jaw, but the blue-eyed man suddenly turned ashen and sat down. He lowered his head as if he was going to pass out, but finally pulled himself together, and said in a hoarse whisper, “So you know, do you?”

If you two meant to keep it a secret, you did a damn poor job. Those weeks after the Kathy Mason fiasco, the look on your faces told all. Of course, it would take a person who knows you as well as I do to pick up on it, but practically all of CI5 had been bettin’ when it would happen so I don’t think anyone was surprised. The real surprise came when Doyle broke it off.

Bodie stared through Murphy as if he were seeing something ugly, “How’d you know that Doyle broke it off?”

Murphy looked at the older man as if he were a total moron and kept his mouth shut; to tell the truth was the way to a punch in the mouth. “You mean you broke it off?”

“Well, it was kind of mutual.”

Murphy’s look of total disbelief told Bodie everything. “If you say so.”

“Well, why couldn’t it have been a mutual decision?”

“Take a look at those paintings, you ignoramus, it’s obvious that something happened and Doyle couldn’t take it anymore. After all, he’d been waiting for you since he was in art school.”

“Now, what are you rantin’ about?”

“Are you tellin’ me that you can’t figure out what he’s tryin’ to say in those paintings?”

“There’s no message, Mr. Know-It-All, Doyle’s just paintin’ to get back at me.”

“Yeah, that’s why he included himself waitin’ when he was 19.”

“Who told you that?”

“Ray did. He said that he painted it when he first got started in art school. He had always hoped someone would come along. I guess you know that his family didn’t get along too well?”

“He told me that his dad smashed his cheek when he found out what Ray was doin’ at the art school.”

Since Murphy had not heard this fact, he was so stunned that he practically stuttered out his question, “How come . . . how come he did that?”

“What? Told me his dad did it or that he told me anything about his past?”

“When did you ever tell him anything about your past?”

“This isn’t about me; it’s about Doyle. He’s the one who can’t trust. I’ve known the man for over seven years and yet he won’t tell me anything.”

“Can you blame him? I’ll bet you’ve been as close-mouthed as he ever was. I know you’ve had a rough life, but have you ever committed yourself to tell Ray anything really important about your past? Look at how he had to find out about Krivas, Marikka, Jimmy Keller, King Billy and all the rest. Your past kept showin’ up like a battering ram and smashing him in the face all over again.”

“I trusted him, and look what he did.”

“And just what did he do that you would walk out on him?”

Bodie had held back his fury for most of the evening, but now it seemed to pour through his skin as if a plague was breaking through his body. He could no longer hold back, “How would you feel, Murph, if you walked into your partner’s flat and found him being fucked by another man?”

Murphy studied Bodie for a moment, noticing the red face and difficulty in breathing, “Did it bother you ‘cause Ray was being fucked or because the man doing it was St. Hilary?”

Bodie’s fury seemed to accelerate as the image of Ray Doyle face down in the bed, being ridden by St. Hilary, swam in front of him. “We never did that; I’ll bet he’s done it hundreds of times, but not with me.”

“Did you want to?”

“NO, it’s dirty; it hurts, no man should submit like that!!”

A sad look came over Murphy’s handsome face, “Is that what happened to you?”

Murphy didn’t see the right cross this time; he hit the floor and laid there for a moment, wiping the blood from his lip as he stared at the shaken man. “I’m sorry, Bodie, I should learn to keep my big mouth shut, but fucking doesn’t always have to be that way. I’m just saying that maybe Ray and you should have talked it over, but since you didn’t want to, Ray . . . well, maybe he felt that you wanted to call the shots and didn’t care what he wanted.”

Bodie was still breathing hard, but he had calmed down. Putting out his hand, he helped Murphy to his feet. “You’re crazy if you think that Doyle cared. He could hardly wait to get out of my bed and in with St. Hilary and all his bullshite about an art career.”

“That’s not true and you know it. You and Ray got together after the Kathy Mason fiasco, and yet Ray didn’t even get back together with St. Hilary for another two years.”

Raising his left eyebrow, Bodie looked coldly at Murphy and asked, “You so sure about that?”

“Yes, Ray Doyle doesn’t lie; not about you.”

“He . . . he told you that?”

“Yes, you moron, I listened to him, maybe that’s what you should have done. Anyway, I’m tired and I have to drive back to the city.” Heading towards the three paintings, Murphy carefully covered them and took them into his arms.

“What are you doin’ with them?”

“I’m taking them with me. It’s obvious that you’ve made up your mind. I was wrong; I thought Doyle meant something to you, but you’re more interested in your own pride than how Doyle felt, so I don’t think you deserve these. I’ll see you sometime.”

Murphy headed towards the door, saying nothing further. The stretch of floor from the lounge to the front door seemed as long as the gallows walk, but Murphy kept going.

“Wait.”

Murphy kept walking until Bodie’s rough hand grabbed his arm, halting him in his forward progress.

Bodie sought the sight of Murphy’s face as he asked, “Where is he?”

“Why do you want to know, just to walk out on him again?”

“I need to talk to him; I’ve made some mistakes, but I need to talk to him.”

“You couldn’t even go to see his exhibit even though he came to your farewell party. What makes you think that he wants to talk to you now?”

A stricken look covered Bodie’s face. The sheer cruelty of that remark both shocked and stunned the ex-merc. Murphy was right; ever since the moment that he had seen Doyle and St. Hilary together, Bodie had behaved like it was all Doyle’s fault. The former 3.7 realized for the first time how little he had given to Doyle over the years, and yet how much he had expected from him. Why should Doyle talk to him?

Bodie sighed, “What can I do Murph?”

“Frankly, I don’t know, but I would make damn sure I knew what I wanted before going to see Doyle, ‘cause if you don’t, Doyle is going to smash your face in. You’ve hurt him enough so don’t take his forgiveness for granted ever again. Think it over and let me know what you’ve decided.”

“Don’t take the paintings; it’s all I’ve got of him . . . please.”

Murphy studied the stricken man for several minutes strongly leaning towards walking out with the paintings and then just keep on going, but he didn’t. Finally, he gently put the paintings on the floor and then without a word, walked to the door. As he reached the door, Murphy turned to Bodie and said in a hushed voice, “Study them, Bodie. Study all of them carefully, especially ‘Watching’. If you can’t see the trust then you might as well burn them. Ray let you see something of himself that he has never let anyone else see. You are so lucky; don’t throw it all away.” With those words, Murphy left.

As Murphy walked to his car, his back was turned towards Bodie. He knew the ex-merc was watching him. Years of CI5 training had given him a sixth sense about such things. Suddenly a small smile came to the handsome Irishman’s lips. Good thing I left the address in with the paintings!

Chapter 15

William Bodie stared at the three paintings that had turned his world upside down. Was Doyle trying to send him a message or was it only a matter of Doyle seeking retribution against his former partner?

Bodie had a headache. In fact, his entire body ached. He had been on the go for the last seven weeks, trying to prove to Dave Simmons that he had made the right choice for a new operative. Of course, it hadn’t been that hard because Dave and George Cowley had been friends for twenty years, and any recommendation that Cowley made certainly aided in Simmons’ decision.

What was he going to do? That was the question that kept streaming through his mind. Murphy was right; he had to know for sure what he wanted before he decided to approach Doyle. He had stormed out of Doyle’s life because Bodie had been so sure that Doyle wanted St. Hilary. You don’t let a man put it up the arse, if you aren’t serious about how you feel about him.

Bodie still felt a shiver down his spine when he remembered his encounters with anal intercourse. It hadn’t been loving, and it wasn’t kind; it was rape. The memories of Africa and the other places that dotted his past had changed Bodie forever, and now that past had come back to colour his perception of Doyle and what he had seen.

What did he feel for Doyle? Did he even know?

How could he contact Murphy after the way that he had behaved and ask his friend for Doyle’s address? Leaning back on the settee, Bodie gently picked up the smallest of the paintings, the one called, ‘Waiting’. What was Doyle waiting for? He was only 19; he barely knew life, and yet within a small amount of time, his father would smash his face so badly that his life would be changed forever as well as putting him on the path to law enforcement. What was Doyle waiting for?

Bodie stared at the second painting. God, Doyle caught the moment perfectly. He hadn’t even known that Doyle knew that Bodie was watching him. Murph said that Doyle never allowed anyone else to watch him. That was crazy, Doyle was always stripping in the locker room and other places; it’s what men do. Bodie continued to study the minute details of the painting. He remembered this very scene occurring so many times while he was at Doyle’s flat. They had just had sex, and afterwards Doyle would get up and go get a cloth to clean them up; what was so special about that? Bodie continued to stare, his eyes almost glazing over; then it dawned on him - - Doyle didn’t just go get a cloth, he usually had to pee as well after all that physical activity. Is that what Murphy was talking about? That was even more ridiculous - - Doyle pee’d in the urinals of CI5 all the time, didn’t he?

This was stupid and ridiculous, trying to remember if Doyle pee’d in front of others, but like a lightning bolt it struck Bodie that Doyle didn’t pee at the urinals if there was anyone else in the room, he would go to a stall. Only when he was with me did he use the urinals. I never really noticed that before now ’cause he always did it in front of me.

Bodie shook himself at the memory of Doyle’s intimate acts - - that’s what I was watching and Doyle knew it all the time. What a blind fool I’ve been. Why would Doyle do that in front of me and no one else?

Finally, Bodie looked at the third painting - - it made him feel like he had committed the ultimate betrayal - - maybe that’s what Doyle wanted me to feel. Of course, how would he know that I would even see the paintings . . . unless Murph was in on this? Bodie dropped his head, a multitude of thoughts crisscrossing his active mind. Of course, Murph was in on this; he had to be, but Murphy was right. I have to make up my mind; decide what I really want. If St. Hilary and Doyle aren’t together any more, does that make a difference to me?

Bodie sat for several minutes thinking about the situation with Doyle, and then the thought came blazing through his thoughts - - OF COURSE, IT MAKES A DIFFERENCE TO ME!

The world seemed to clear a great deal once that thought took prominence in Bodie’s thinking; now what am I going to do about it?

Sighing, Bodie sat back again on the settee and it was in that position that he noticed a small piece of paper that had fallen out from the back of one of the paintings. Picking it up, Bodie read it carefully. It was in Murphy usual scrawl but the words were like gold: it was Doyle’s address up north.

Damn that Smurph, knows me better than I know myself..

Okay, you dumb crud, what are you going to do? Bodie asked himself out loud, and the answer came back just as loudly - - see Doyle.

BDBDBDBDBDBDBD

As Bodie was driving north, his mind was not on his driving. He had learned the skill of thinking while driving during his time with CI5, and now he put it to good use. He kept asking himself what he was going to say to his former partner. Doyle had no real reason to even see him, much less talk to him. He had brought the paintings with him; perhaps they could be the lever which would pry open Doyle’s closed heart.

After many hours, he finally pulled up in front of the small cottage; a feeling of trepidation filling him with dread. Bodie knew that the next few hours would be important, but what words would clear the path to getting back into Doyle’s good graces?

Knocking on the door with more bravado that he really felt, Bodie stood on the steps not knowing
what to expect. After several minutes, the slender figure of Ray Doyle appeared, but the look on his face spoke volumes about his feelings when he realized that it was his former partner who was standing at the door. Opening the door warily, Doyle continued to stand staring for so long that Bodie felt compelled to say something first.

 

“Hello, Ray, could I come in and talk?”

 

Bodie stood there his mind adrift with all kinds of thoughts, including the thought that his less-than-brilliant opening probably put Doyle off completely. If he doesn’t thump me in the next ten seconds, I might live to see the end of this little talk.

Bodie could see clearly in the cold green eyes that Doyle was having a real debate about what he was doing to do, but finally the older man motioned Bodie to proceed into the cottage. It was only as Bodie started to enter, however, that Doyle noticed that Bodie was carrying what looked very much like three canvasses. As Bodie got into the interior of the dwelling, Doyle demanded, “What have you got those for?”

Bodie decided to take the offensive by saying, “Murph gave them to me.”

Doyle looked totally confused then he burst forth with, “Whatta ya mean, Murph gave them to you? I told Justin St. Hilary that I didn’t want them anymore so he could do what he wanted with them.” After a minute, Doyle added for good measure so that Bodie knew that Doyle could take the offensive as well, “You do remember St. Hilary, don’t you?”

Bodie gritted his teeth as he fought to quell the need to thump the man standing two foot in front of him. He gave Doyle a look that said that he wasn’t going to fall for Doyle’s provocation so easily and said, in a voice as mild-mannered as possible, even when you’re feeling like grinding the dumb crud in front of you into pulp, “Murph must have got them from St. Hilary ‘cause Justin gave them to me since I was the major figure in the paintings.”

Bodie felt good that he had used St. Hilary’s first name in front of Doyle; it was all he could do to hide the smirk that he felt coming on after having stuck it to Doyle.

Bodie would have felt great in knowing how that one word had wounded Doyle, but Ray Doyle was made of stronger stuff and would not allow the rising gorge in his throat to become apparent on his face so all he said was, “What are you doing up here?”

 

“I want to know the truth about these paintings.”

Now Doyle was really wary; Bodie had driven several hundred miles just to find out about these paintings? He had refused to even look at them in the months they were being painted and then afterwards when they were being exhibited. What was going on?

“I would say it was pretty obvious. Waiting, Watching, and Walking Away seem to tell the story pretty well.”

“That doesn’t cut it, Ray. Why’d you paint me? By the time, you started these paintings we weren’t getting along too well. You knew Cowley would see them. Were you trying to get me in trouble?”

“I see you’re getting paranoid in your old age. I didn’t even know you when I painted that first one. They’re just paintings, and, for your information, I painted the first one when I was just 19 so that proves that I wasn’t obsessed with making you look like the fool you are.”

Bodie squinted as he heard those words. Instead of making him more furious, they made him think, “What makes you think I’m a fool?”

Now it was Doyle’s turn to scramble for the right words, “You’d have to be a fool, if you can’t see what I’ve painted.”

“Are you saying that I should take these literally? So these are just three paintings showin’ you waitin’, me watchin’, and then me walkin’ away? Pull the other one, Doyle. Tell me what you’re sayin’, and I’ll get out of your life.”

Doyle shivered as if a cold wind had just blown across his body, but he pushed his fears to the back of his mind and took up the gauntlet. “I was upset that you’re such a homophobe and hypocrite so I painted my feelings at the time.”

Bodie scrunched up his forehead as he tried to understand what Doyle was saying, “What the hell are you talking about? I slept with you for better than a year; how can I be homophobic?”

“Havin’ sex with me doesn’t mean a thing. The way you reamed me for being with Justin, I would say that you were a major homophobe.”

“Where do you see my homophobia in those paintings?”

Doyle stood staring for a moment then he shot back,” I’d say walkin’ out after you found me and Justin together is one great example”

Bodie couldn’t believe what he was hearing. He was about ready to spout out his fury when he stopped in mid-thought and remembered what he had said to Doyle that day. His brain had become disconnected from his mouth and he had spewed forth a lot of guff that he didn’t mean; he was just so angry and, if truth be told, hurt. He remembered calling Doyle a whore and a whole lot worse. What else could Doyle think but that Bodie was a homophobe?

Suddenly Bodie was very tired; he hadn’t been expecting this meeting to be easy, but now he realized that Doyle had a lot of reasons to ask him to leave and then he would never see his Ray ever again.

Backing off, Bodie asked quietly, “It was a long drive; could I have a drink?” It was playing for time at its finest.

Doyle went to the small kitchen and got him a lager, but he did not ask Bodie to sit down almost as if he were saying, “I don’t want you getting too comfortable.”

Bodie guzzled down the lager and sat it down carefully. He put the three paintings against the lamp table and looked around the room. “Sure got a lot of work to do, don’t you?”

Doyle stood staring cold-eyed and immovable, but he allowed himself to take the bait. This was Bodie and though the man had hurt him in the past, he told himself that he had provoked much of the problem by being with Justin. “Yeah, me aunt figures it will take a good three months or more to get everything done, especially the garden which is really just weeds and stuff.”

“She goin’ to sell, is she?”

“Yeah, she hopes to.”

Bodie nodded and then decided that he couldn’t put it off any longer, but Doyle beat him to it, “Bodie, what are ya doin’ here?”

Bristling slightly, but holding back any cutting remarks, Bodie tried to be as neutral as possible, “I wanted to talk to you about these three paintings.” The paintings were still leaning against the lamp table so Bodie carefully uncovered them.

Doyle studied them briefly as if they had re-shaped themselves into something dangerous and then asked, “Okay, what is it you want to talk about? After all they are just paintings.”

That gave Bodie an opening, “Are they really? Why did you include me in them?”

Suddenly all of Doyle’s pain became very apparent when he said, “Because I painted the last two after you had started acting like a real arsehole and showing your true colours.”

Bodie decided to take on his”true colours” first. In a quiet, almost despairing voice, Bodie replied, “Ray, I am not a homophobe. I know I must seem like a hypocrite, yelling at you, calling you . . . what I did after sleeping with you myself, but I am sorry, and I want to apologize.”

Doyle had heard none of the apology; he immediately jumped on one phrase, “WILL YOU STOP SAYING THAT WE SLEPT TOGETHER? As I remember it, we did very little sleeping, it was practically all sex, and that’s all it was!!!”

Bodie blinked his eyes several times as it suddenly came to him what part of the problem was, and how truly blind he had really been. “Sunshine, did . . . did you want more than that?”

Doyle took the time to look at Bodie like he the biggest moron in the world, and then replied, “It was perfectly obvious what you wanted. I don’t know why you didn’t just go to some of the houses in the city; it would have saved us both lots of hurt.”

Steam practically came out of Bodie’s ears as his blue eyes blazed, “How dare you say that? You don’t know what I wanted and you sure don’t know now.”

“Of course, I do. You want me name on me paintins’ so they’ll sell for a lot more.”

Bodie opened his mouth to blast away, but then he stopped as he could see the defiance in Doyle’s green eyes. So that’s the game you want to play, is it? Well, I can play the same game.

“Now that I’m retired from CI5, a bit of money will come in handy. After all, you painted me without my permission so I ought to get something for helpin’ you with your efforts. How much do you think I can get for these?”

For a moment Doyle wasn’t sure if Bodie was serious, then he decided that Bodie meant what he said so he replied, “How do I know that you got those legitimately? The last time I saw them; they were with my lover.”

Doyle could see the frost in Bodie’s deep blue eyes and knew that he had gone too far so he did the only thing that he could, he smiled and asked, “Want another beer?”

Bodie shook his head in the negative, re-covered the paintings, and headed for the door; then he whirled around and spoke in a voice that Doyle had never heard before, “Did I ever tell you how I met Jimmy Keller?”

Doyle was so stunned that he merely shook his head. He stood across the room from Bodie, but it felt like he was many miles distant.

Bodie dropped to the settee with his chin lowered to his chest. For several minutes there was absolute silence then Bodie started to speak in a hesitant style, “We were both working in Africa at the time, but I was a merc and he was with some organization that was trying to put down a local uprising or something. My group had got caught up in the uprising, and I had been captured. I was “interrogated” for several days about what I knew about the white men who were involved. I didn’t even know anything but that didn’t make a difference to them. They liked my arse quite a bit and probably would have killed me, but Keller and his group showed up, killed them, and freed me. I was pretty young, but I knew how to pay my debts so I gave Keller what he wanted. Bodie looked up at Doyle with such despair in his eyes that Doyle felt bile in his throat.

Bodie sighed, “Well, anyway, he taught me that it wasn’t so bad to have someone put it up me arse so I went along with it for a while; then I told him I had repaid the debt and got the hell out. I don’t know which was worse, to tell you the truth: being forced as a captive, or being forced due to obligation. Anyway, I never would submit ever again to anybody. The filth, dirt, blood and pain I felt coloured my thinking, and that’s all I could see that day at your flat.”

Standing up, Bodie walked to the door then said with a deathly quiet, “I’ve never told that to anyone. When Keller showed up on that op, you thought I was his pal, but it was the same all over again. He expected me to be loyal to him, and then he fucked my arse, only not literally this time. Take care, Angelfish.”

“Bodie, wait . . . please. You’ve got a long drive; you have no business driving back tonight. You’re right we need to talk, but we’re both too drained to do it now. Stay and I’ll cook you a Doyle breakfast.”

Bodie’s handsome face took on a wariness that it had worn all too often the past few months. “What’ll I have to do to re-pay you for breakfast?”

Doyle smiled, “I’m not Jimmy Keller, mate, but now that you mention it, there’s a tree stump with your name on it out there that’s just beggin’ you to pull it out of the ground.”

“What makes you think that I don’t have to be back at work right away?”

“Knowin’ you, I’ll bet Dave Simmons gave you several days off so that you could go after your crazy ex-partner, am I right?”

Bodie grimaced but nodded, “I see you’re still practicing triple-think.”

“Nah, I’m the one who really does quadruple-think, but don’t tell Cowley.”

Bodie smiled as the memory of their op in which double-think and triple-think played a big part. Nodding Bodie smiled again and said, “I am kind of tired, but if that stump is as bad as I think it is, no granola or toasted wheat germ for me. My beautiful body needs a bacon butty, sausages, tomatoes, beans, eggs, and toast as a starter.”

“I’m not sure I have that in the house, but I’ll do me best. Would you like something to eat now?”

For a moment, Bodie contemplated saying yes, but he was afraid of destroying this momentary respite from the hostility that the two men had endured for so long. Shaking his head, he asked, “You got another bedroom or do I get this settee?”

“There’s an attic that’s fairly well-furnished, that should do.”

“What’s that mean, ‘fairly well-furnished?”

“It’s got an old army cot . . . should do you nicely, soldier boy.”

With a grin which would have done Raphael proud, Doyle smirked and then headed towards the bedroom to find bedclothes for the army cot.

Bodie stood staring at the part of Doyle’s anatomy which had attracted him in the first place, and which he still considered the best in all of Britain. He was bone tired, but, at least, he was still here. Tomorrow would be another tough day, but maybe, just maybe, they would get through this.

The next morning came early and it found Doyle up and ready to go while Bodie was expecting breakfast first. Doyle looked at him as if he were growing two heads, but went ahead and fixed the enormous breakfast, previously ordered.

By noon the two men had the stump out and a bit of clutter from the garden cleared. Both men were hot and sweaty and looking rather down in the energy when Bodie said, “I’m hungry; how about going to the pub and having a ploughman’s?”

“I can’t believe that you can still eat after putting that breakfast away.”

“I’m a growing boy, and I’ve been working very hard all morning. I need re-vitalizin’.”

Doyle shook his head, but began to put his gear away. After both men cleaned up, they headed to the pub where Bodie put away a healthy portion of the local ploughman’s while Doyle sat eating a lesser amount and studying Bodie. Doyle was apprehensive about what was going to happen when they returned to the cottage.

A contented Bodie returned to the cottage, expecting to be asked to stay and help with the cottage clean-up, at least for a few days, but Doyle stood in front of him with his canted hip provocatively leaning towards him and asked, “Bodie, why did you really come up here?”

“I told you that I wanted to talk to you about the paintings.”

“And that’s all?”

“Yeah, what else?”

“All right, sit down and I’ll tell you.”

Bodie sat down, suddenly apprehensive, wishing now that he had not asked about the paintings again, but he had started this and he sincerely hoped that he would not regret it.

“I painted the first painting when I was 19 and trying to be admitted to art school. You had to prove you had some talent and since I was just doing the life modelling at the time, I needed something to prove myself. Unknown to me after I was . . . injured Justin saved that painting and after I started painting in his studio he brought it by for me to see. You can imagine that I was surprised to see it, but it sort of fit in with an idea I had for the exhibition that Justin was going to have. He had mentioned that he would like to exhibit some of my art and since he already had this, he thought it would be a nice contrast with what I was doing today, more than 15 years later.”

Doyle stopped to take a breath, watching Bodie all the time. Bodie said nothing only grinding his teeth every time Doyle mentioned Justin St. Hilary’s name. Since it was obvious that Bodie was going to say nothing, Doyle continued, “I had been thinking about what to paint and I decided on seeing my early painting that I would try and tell a story with a second panel, and that’s how ‘Watching’ came about. It had a lot of meaning for me, and Justin seemed to like it, but I really didn’t know what else to do until . . . until, well you saw us together and then you walked out. And that’s it - - the story of the paintings, not so very sinister or mysterious is it?”

“So that’s it, is it?”

“Yeah, just wanted to have three pictures for the exhibit.”

 

Disappointed but not sure why, Bodie sat staring at Doyle for a few seconds and then he stood up. “Okay, if I keep them?”

Doyle’s eyebrows shot up and a faintly confused look covered his face but he shrugged his shoulder in a “couldn’t care” attitude and say, “Go ahead, but I don’t know why you’d want them, unless you think that someone might recognize you?”

“Nah, nothing like that; just thought if you ever did go into paintin’ I could say I have three genuine Doyle’s!”

Doyle smiled sadly, “That’s a hoot, Bodie, but you’re welcome to them. The only painting that I’m likely to be doing in the near future is upstairs.”

Bodie then took a chance, “You need me to stick around and help with the stuff around here, for a few days?”

Although Doyle was secretly pleased with the question, he told himself not to fall into the trap of trying to keep Bodie around, the man standing in front of him, had hurt him badly - - the words spoken in anger engraved on his heart. He had to get Bodie out of here before he succumbed to the succubus who would draw him in once again to his bed but little else. “Nah, no need, I’m just going to do it a bit at a time. Thanks though for the work on the stump. If you get on the road now, you can still make it home by later tonight.”

Bodie felt slapped in the face; he had offered a truce and Doyle had thrown it in his face. Might as well get out of here before he was humiliated further by the obviously uncaring Doyle.

Bodie stood staring at his former partner, then nodded his agreement and picked up his paintings. “Good-bye Ray.” With those words he walked out the door which he had already opened. He didn’t even try to hear if Doyle said anything to him.

Chapter 16

About an hour into his drive south, Bodie decided to stop at a transport café because his mind wouldn’t stop thinking about Doyle. The Doyle that he had seen recently was not his Ray Doyle; this man was different as if he were a doppelganger or something, and Murphy had been so sure that there was a story behind the three paintings . . . and yet there was nothing. It was quite obvious that Doyle wanted nothing more to do with him, and yet Murphy’s words kept coming back to him that in the ‘Waiting’ painting, Doyle was waiting for someone. What did Murphy mean by that?

Feeling hyper, Bodie got back on the road again and continued south, but finally he could take it no longer stopping at another rest area. He told himself that he was hungry, but he only pushed his food around on his plate. Why was Murphy so sure that the paintings meant something? He called them a story.

As Bodie headed back to his car, he felt the hope that had come north with him disintegrate with each mile that he traveled. He had asked for five days and yet he was returning in less than three, Dave would know he failed. What was Doyle going to do with his life? What am I going to do without him?

Suddenly, Bodie made a decision and rushed back into the rest stop where he placed a call to a number he knew well. After several rings, he heard an out of breath voice finally answer with the phone number, relieved, Bodie immediately identified himself and asked, “Murph, you remember when you told me that in the Waiting painting, Doyle told you that he was waiting for someone to come along?”

For a moment, Murphy failed to answer, obviously confused as if he had entered a conversation already taking place, but finally he answered, “Yeah, of course, he was waiting for someone - - you.”

“How do you know that? Did he tell you that?”

“He said he was waiting for someone to come along in his life. Then the next two paintings were of you, so of course, you’re the one he was waiting for.”

 

Extremely disappointed, Bodie felt let down if that’s all Murphy was basing his opinion on. “Oh, he didn’t say anything more than that?”

“He didn’t have to, you bloody fool; it’s been obvious from the beginning that he’s in love with you. You can see it in his eyes. How else would I know what the story was he was trying to tell you? If you weren’t so willingly blind, you’d have already known the truth. Now, I’m busy so I’m hanging up.” And he did.

Bodie stood staring at the phone receiver in almost a stunned catatonic stupor. His mind refused to think or comprehend for several minutes. Finally, Bodie seemed to break out of his mindless state and headed back to his car. Collapsing in the driver’s seat, Bodie laid his head down on the steering wheel, his heart beating rapidly. He felt himself gasping for breath. That’s what Doyle wouldn’t tell me. How blind I’ve been, and it was in front of me all of this time.

Bodie thought back over his life and realized that until now, he had never really known anyone who had truly loved him. Of course, there had been the girl in Africa, as well as Marikka, who he had thought he loved, but no one . . . no one had truly loved him, except Doyle and he had thrown that love back in his face. No wonder Doyle was so disgusted with him and found his solace in Justin St. Hilary’s arms. You’re a fool. I’ll bet that was what Doyle was waiting for you to see in the paintings. Really great when Murphy could see the truth and you couldn’t.

Bodie felt himself shivering although it was a relatively warm evening. He was several hours from his home and a couple of hours from Doyle’s - - what should he do? He still had three plus days left of his leave, he had to convince Doyle that he meant more to him than anyone else, and that it had been jealousy not homophobia that had made him act the way he did.

Hopping in his car, he turned it north once again and began the long drive back to Doyle. Arriving at the cottage late in the evening, it suddenly dawned on Bodie that Doyle might not be too thrilled to see him again. Their last meeting hadn’t gone too well, and Bodie’s departure left a lot to be desired. After all, Doyle made sure that Bodie knew that he didn’t want him to stay. How was he going to explain why he had returned?

Bodie would have been even more insecure if he had seen Ray Doyle two hours previously. Bodie’s departure had convinced Doyle that he had seen the last of his former partner; all of his hope finally crushed. Of course, he had done very little to persuade Bodie to stay. Doyle knew that he was on the cusp of pleading with Bodie to spend his leave with him, but he feared doing so because he knew that nothing good would come of it. Bodie could always seduce him into bed; his silver tongue was legendary in the seduction of his partner, but Doyle didn’t want that anymore. He had hoped for so much more, and yet, here he was again, by himself because Bodie wanted something much different than Doyle.

Sighing, Doyle stood for several minutes looking out the cottage window, hoping Bodie would return, but finally Doyle told himself to be realistic and forget the handsome, ex-merc and all the heartache he had caused.

Going out into the garden, Doyle tried to work himself into exhaustion, but it wasn’t the same as when Bodie had been there. He kept seeing the void left by the tree stump’s removal, and that reminded him of Bodie. Finally, he gave it up as a bad job; ate a bit of food, and after taking a shower tried to read, but the page images failed to hold him as the face of the most important person in his life kept appearing before him. About to extinguish the light, Doyle heard a car pull up in front of the cottage. Although he had been out of CI5 for several weeks, his instincts and perceptions were still so super sensitive that he immediately bounded up out of bed, prepared to meet whatever was outside, even though he told himself that an enemy would hardly make so much racket. Throwing on a robe over his nude body, Doyle rushed down the corridor to try and stop the pounding from breaking down his front door.

Opening the door wide, Doyle stopped in complete surprise at seeing Bodie standing in the doorway. Doyle told himself that he knew it was Bodie because otherwise he wouldn’t have been such an idiot as to open the door without checking first, but Doyle never lied to himself so he had to admit that his hope was so high that it was Bodie that he had gone ahead and done a very stupid thing indeed. Staring for a moment, Doyle tried to pretend indifference by asking, “You get lost?”

“No, I want to talk to you.”

“Thought we’d already done that?”

“Yeah, but now I understand what you wanted to say in the paintings, and I think that changes everything.”

Doyle seemed singularly unimpressed by the statement; either that or he was trying very hard not to react to Bodie’s words. Bodie wasn’t sure which was true so he decided that he better get inside first before he tried to convince Doyle that he was seeing things differently. “Is it all right if I come in; I know it’s kind of late?” Though he said these words in a diffident manner, Bodie, after realizing that Doyle was naked under his robe, wanted to walk up to the man with a Raphael angel’s face and rip off his robe, throw him to the floor and make love to him, something that he had never really done during that year they were together.

Doyle seemed to be debating his answer which proved to Bodie what a long way he had to go to restore Doyle’s trust in him. Sighing heavily, Bodie tried again, “Look I noticed a B & B in the village with the pub. I’ll go there tonight, just so you’ll let me talk to you tomorrow?”

Doyle knew that Bodie was a master with a silver tongue and that he was very vulnerable to the Bodie charms so he told himself to go carefully, but it would be ridiculous to make Bodie go into the village. Deciding that it was already a foregone conclusion that he would have to listen to Bodie, Doyle said merely, “Come in.”

“Thanks, I’ll go get the paintings, and my duffel.”

“Why do you want the paintings? They’re not valuable.”

Bodie’s face scrunched up in confusion as he said, “Don’t be so modest; Murph said that they were worth several thousand, and besides, they’re important to me.”

Once again, Doyle didn’t say anything, but a tiny portion of his frozen heart seemed to melt a bit with those words from Bodie.

By the time Bodie had the paintings and his duffel in, Doyle had Bodie’s cot made up with fresh linens. Handing Bodie some fresh towels, the curly-headed man asked, “Is it all right if we talk tomorrow, I’m kind of tired, worked outside after . . . this afternoon, and I’m feeling it now.”

“Sure,” walking to the stairs, Bodie turned and said, “Goodnight.”

The next morning Bodie got up at what he thought was an early hour, but he couldn’t find Doyle anywhere in the house. Looking in the garden, he quickly noticed how much work Doyle had done after he had left. Slightly smiling, Bodie felt comforted by Doyle’s method of stress relief - - pulling weeds, a hundred times more effective than liquor. Hearing a sound, he turned to see Doyle walking up the pathway from his car. “Been out early, have you?”

“I thought you might like a big breakfast, but I was practically out of everything since a rampant horde of carnivorous Bodie laid waste to my larder yesterday.”

It was so good to hear Doyle’s light-hearted banter that Bodie almost wanted to cry; instead, he said, “I saw that herd headin’ south yesterday so I think you’re out of danger today. There’s only me; the only civilized, modest-eating Bodie in the crowd.”

Doyle snorted through his perfect nose, continuing into the house to put the food away. Bodie followed him after a moment, “You got a lot done yesterday. Really beginning to shape up.”

“Yeah, the garden is, but I’ve still got a lot to do in the house. I’ve got some workmen coming in tomorrow to help with the really essential things that I don’t know how to do. I’m really only good for the brainless work. Got the muscle but not the know-how.”

Silently, Bodie watched the slender figure before him, thinking about how much Doyle was really worth - - especially to Bodie. “Well, let’s get eatin’ then we’ll go out and work for a while and then . . . we can talk, if it’s all right with you?”

“Good enough.”

The rest of the morning was spent eating and working. By the afternoon, both men were exhausted. After cleaning up, they sat down in the lounge with cold lagers in hand. As usual Doyle could not sit and just relax, he wanted to face the problem, not put it off. “All right, Bodie. What do you want to talk about?”

“Us.”

Doyle’s green eyes turned a brilliant emerald green; his cupid’s bow lips pursed together in consternation, “There is no us, is there?”

Suddenly, Bodie looked exhausted, since, as usual, Doyle had gone to the heart of the problem much of which Bodie had caused. “You’re right; there is no us, but would you like there to be?”

“Considering your reaction when I broke it off the last time, I didn’t think you really cared one way or another.”

“That’s what you thought, is it?”

“My memory might not be perfect, but when I told you that there would be no more sex, you didn’t seem to mind.”

“Oh, I minded all right, but I was terrified, and as usual, I was relieved I didn’t have to commit myself.”

“Well, that’s more honest than usual. What were you terrified of?”

“You, you twit. The entire year we were together, I kept telling myself that you would get tired of me and leave, and sure enough that’s what happened. You mean a great deal to me, Ray, but I’ve always had trouble committing to someone because something has always happened to them. You know that almost as well as I do: the girl in Africa, Marikka, Jimmy Keller, they all betrayed me by either dying or turning on me. I . . . I just didn’t want anything to happen to you, so I kept my mouth shut, and look where that got me?”

“You still could have said something; you know . . . about our relationship, if it was important to you or not.”

Bodie wiped his face with his suddenly sweaty hand, “Yeah, and in a perfect world, you would have seen what was bothering me and given me some more time.”

“Is that what you wanted - - more time?”

“Yeah, I guess . . . I don’t really know, but all at once you were gone and then you found . . . St. Hilary. Is it . . . is it over with him, Ray?”

“Yes, we’re just friends. Why do you suppose he sent those paintings to you?”

“Open me eyes, I guess. I guess I was wrong about him. I mean I didn’t like him up your arse, but I . . . I am grateful that he sent the paintings. If Murph hadn’t brought them, I’d have thought that . . .” Bodie hesitated; realizing that he had come to the crux of the whole situation.

Doyle sat staring, puzzled by what Bodie was trying to say. He decided to remain silent because if Bodie couldn’t tell him now then their future was hopeless.

“Ray, I want you to know that you are important to me. When I saw you . . . with Justin, I wanted it to be me that you were with. The fact that you were lettin’ that man fuck you, hit me hard. We never even talked about doin’ that. It was like you were throwin’ your lack of trust in me face, and I couldn’t stand it. That’s why I said those awful things. I was so jealous that I let my mouth rule my head, and I don’t blame you for hatin’ me.” Since that was one of the longest statements that Bodie had ever made in explanation of his feelings, the ex-merc suddenly felt abashed. Real men didn’t talk like that, but today Bodie threw out all the rules that had been drummed into his head into the past; he had to get Doyle back, and if it meant being totally honest then that’s what he would do.

“Bodie, think about it, that’s why I painted the ‘Watching’ painting. Don’t you realize even now the total amount of trust that I have given you? I knew all along that you were watchin’ me, but still I let you do it. Don’t you know that you’re the only one that I let do that? Haven’t you heard the comments by the other agents when I use the stalls instead of the urinals? That’s what I was tryin’ to show you. Murph and Justin realized it right away. Are you so blind to what I let you get away with that you don’t realize the trust I give you and no one else?”

Bodie was shaken by Doyle’s words. Somewhere he found the courage to ask, “Not even Justin?”

“Not even Justin. On the streets, when you have a partner who protects your back each and every day, you learn who you can trust, and you’re that man. That’s why I was so upset when you walked away after seeing Justin and me together. I realized that I had lost you, and it hurt so much I painted it, hoping you would see my pain, but you didn’t even come to the exhibition.”

“I couldn’t face seein’ you two together. Him all over you, claimin’ you, possessin’ you. Just the thought ate into me gut somethin’ fierce. I know you think I was a coward, but these last few months have shown me what’s really important to me, and if you can stop hatin’ me long enough to think about us being together again, I . . . well, I would really try a lot harder to make our relationship work.”

“Haven’t you forgot something? I’m workin’ up here for the next three months or more. You’ve got a good job and a great future; you need to get on with that, don’t you?”

Bodie sat there stunned, not sure what Doyle was tellin’ him, was Doyle asking him to make a choice? “I guess I had forgot that. You’re right; you do have your own future to think about; I’m the one who walked out. Serves me right for lettin’ you go in the first place.”

Now it was Doyle who was stunned, Bodie was just giving up? “Is that all there is to ‘us’?”

“I don’t understand; you’re the one who pointed out that we have two different occupations now.”

“What were you plannin’? Did you think that all you had to do was come up here; explain your feelings, and I’d rush into your arms, forgivin’ you, and we’d live happily ever after?”

Bodie had always done pathetic very well, and this time he exceeded his previous attempts, but Doyle had seen Bodie’s golden charm many times before and decided that he had to make sure what Bodie was willing to do for this relationship and what he was not so when Bodie whispered, “I hadn’t really thought about it, I guess. Just want us to be together,” Doyle refused to cave in as he had done so many times previously.

“Bodie, when we were together after the Kathy Mason fiasco, I found myself loving you very much, but you made it well-known that you only wanted sex. Do you remember what I told you when Preston was hunting me?”

Bodie immediately thought about Doyle’s words in the boat yard, ‘You’ll save me.’ “Yeah, I remember.”

“Did you think that I didn’t mean that? Did you have so little trust in me? I know I should have explained how I felt, but you didn’t want to hear it, and then we broke up and you didn’t seem to care. Bein’ with Justin helped heal what I was feelin’. I never meant to flaunt him in front of you, but you thought I did. I’m so tired, mate of feeling guilty for needing someone in my life who loves me, needs me, and won’t walk away. That’s what I was waitin’ for when I was 19, and I guess I’ll just have to wait a bit longer.”

Bodie was hurt and confused. Didn’t Doyle understand that what Bodie was trying to tell him? Of course, when Ray Doyle went stubborn, nothing could change his mind. “Of course, I knew you trusted me; life on the street with you backin’ me up was the best thing that ever happened to me. I want to be with you. I realize now that it was as much my fault as yours for not tellin’ you how I felt, but I don’t want to rush you into anything. We were so hot for each other after the Kathy Mason affair that we practically jumped each other. If anything had happened to you, I swear I would have . . .” Suddenly, Bodie stopped, realizing what he had been about to say; he had never told Doyle about his threat to Kathy Mason. Doyle already thought him to be uncivilized sometimes; he didn’t need to hear that.

Doyle’s concerned face stared directly into Bodie’s blue eyes, “What would you have done?”

Recognizing the cusp of time that had finally arrived after almost eight years of partnership, Bodie felt like the condemned in the tumbrel must have felt as they arrived at the guillotine. His big mouth had alienated Doyle and led to this and now he was going to have to step into the abyss and tell Doyle of his greatest fear. All hope was gone and he had brought it on himself.

Bodie wiped his face several times with his callused hands. He had once told Doyle that he was afraid all the time, but this was a different type of fear; this wasn’t physical fear, but an emotional fear that he was going to lose the one person that meant the most to him and it was entirely his own doing.

“Ray, do you remember what you said to me when I was fighting Krivas after we had taken out his gang?”

Doyle looked confused for a moment at the seemingly non sequiter question, but he nodded his head and finally replied, “Yeah, I said that you were no better than he was.”

“Well, you were right, and that’s haunted me all these years. I’ve done a lot of things that I’m not really proud of and some that were even worse than that. I know you don’t care much for me now, but if you knew . . . if you knew what I’ve done you’d hate me even more.”

“I . . . I don’t understand.”

“I’m tryin’ to tell you that I threatened to slit Kathy Mason’s throat and maybe a lot more if she hadn’t told me where you were. I would have done it too, if anything had happened to you.”

Bodie sat back and waited for Doyle to react; knowing the man and his sense of justice and need to protect the innocent. It didn’t matter that Kathy Mason wasn’t an innocent; the mere fact that Bodie would have harmed her was enough.

Doyle sat silently, watching Bodie, as if analyzing the man he thought he had known for over seven years. Now he was seeing a stranger, a stranger than he could neither understand or like very much. “I see, so what you’re saying is because I was in danger, you would have tortured her to find out the information to save me?”

“Yeah, and I would have done it without guilt. I’m not you, Ray. I don’t take the burdens of the world on my shoulders, or, at least, I didn’t until I met you then I started thinking differently, but I won’t make excuses, you’re more important to me than anyone, and Kathy Mason meant nothing to me. So I guess you were right when you said I was as bad as Krivas. He killed an innocent girl, and I would have killed Kathy if she hadn’t talked.”

“Is that why you returned last night, to tell me this?”

“Yeah, I guess so, or maybe I just wanted to be honest with you. Ever since I was young, I’ve let the world go by with very little commitment from me - - the Paras, SAS, and the other things don’t really count ‘cause I knew I’d leave them behind one day, but leavin’ CI5 has meant something to me ‘cause you were there. I . . . I was just wonderin’ what you were plannin’ to do once you’re done renovatin’ this place?”

Doyle was slightly stymied; Bodie had just thrown news at him that was truly disturbing and now Bodie wanted to know something so mundane as what Doyle was planning to do with his future? “I’ve had some offers, but I’ve got a bit of money so I decided I would think it over carefully before I make any decisions. Could I ask why you’re wantin’ to know?”

Bodie seemed to turn sheet white then green at Doyle’s tone, but he took a deep breath and then jumped in with both feet, “If you can find it in you somewhere to be around me, I’d like us to remain friends, and maybe . . . maybe one day we could get back to a better relationship. I just thought if you were thinkin’ about takin’ a job near London, well . . . well, maybe we could see each other once in a while.”

“Oh.” It wasn’t much of a comeback, but Doyle didn’t really know what to say.

Bodie realized the position that he had put Doyle in and stammered out, “I didn’t mean sexually or anything, not if you didn’t want it, but you’re the only real friend I’ve got, and if you could stand to be around me, I just thought . . .”

As Doyle continued to stare silently at him, Bodie stopped talking, realizing how utterly ridiculous his request had been: he had walked out on Doyle; he had called him a whore, and he had told him some things about his past that no man could ever forgive. What was I thinkin’?

Doyle stood up and walked around the room, his slender body tense, his muscles aching with the tension that filled him. What could he say; what did he want to say to this man who had meant so much to him and then had walked away?

“If this is how you treat your closest friend; then what can I expect if I stick it for the course?”

Bodie’s heart hit rock bottom; he knew it was over, but he had to try. “Ray, what do you want from me? What can I do to stay in your life?”

“Give me my three months; stay here for another two days and help me with the house. I know you can’t go back in time, but I want us to try and rebuild what we once had, but I need time. I don’t know if you will be a part of my future, but I’m willing to try, if you are.”

Grateful for that much, Bodie stood up and approached the man who had become the rock of his existence, “I’m willing to try. Now, what jobs have you got for me to do?”

Chapter 17 – Epilogue

Two months, 21 days, and some hours later, Raymond Doyle was ready to leave the cottage. He had left most of his personal things in storage in London because he needed only a few clothes and a few personal articles to keep him going while he was renovating the cottage. His aunt had been very pleased with what he had accomplished; she had even had a handsome offer for the place and was now in the process of closing the deal.

With money in his pocket, Doyle was ready to leave, but he was also reluctant to do so because as long as he stayed at the cottage, he could put off a lot of decisions that he had been trying to avoid for the last three months.

Almost every weekend, Bodie had driven north to help him work on the cottage. The outside help had proven a godsend so that the work went well and they got done slightly ahead of schedule. That was why Doyle was now ready to leave. He had leased a car for the duration of the renovation so now he had to make another decision about what to do about a car. Much of that decision depended upon what job he decided to take. Having been connected with CI5 had certainly proven to be an advantage in getting a job, several offers had been made and there was one especially attractive one. He had been grateful to Bodie for not trying to interfere in his job search, but he knew that his former partner was extremely concerned about what decisions Doyle would make about his future.

Since Bodie had to work, he had not been able to come north so Doyle faced the long stretch of road south as a time to do some thinking about his relationship with Bodie as well as what dimensions his future might have.

Doyle had forbidden himself from looking back at the cottage as he drove away. He had not inquired who had made an offer for the place because he was determined to put the cottage behind him and forget the refuge that it had offered.

Many hours later, he pulled in front of Bodie’s house in the outskirts of London. He had had to promise Bodie that he would stay at his house for the night rather than look for a hotel or something. Doyle hadn’t been sure this was a good idea, but he was really too tired to argue at the moment. He didn’t even have to knock as the door burst open with Bodie’s smiling face there to welcome him, “Welcome, you made good time.”

“Yeah, what’d you do, get Cowley to nuke all the traffic so I could move faster?”

Bodie smiled, “I cannot take credit, mate, but I did have Dave put in a good word with the Cow so I guess it worked.”

“Thanks,” said Doyle as Bodie took his luggage.

“I’m putting you in the back bedroom for now. I’ve got supper ready; you must be hungry?”

Looking at his watch, Doyle was surprised to see how late it was, “Isn’t it a bit late to be havin’ supper?”

Crestfallen, Bodie turned and said, “I didn’t think about the fact you might have eaten. ‘S all right, can always freeze it.”

“You crud, I have not eaten; I’m starved. Where’s the food? I was merely surprised that you saved any food for me.”

As Doyle ate ravenously, it was perfectly obvious that Bodie had not eaten either. The idiot must have waited for me. Extremely grateful for Bodie’s thoughtfulness, Doyle proclaimed, “That was a great casserole, did you make it?”

Bodie tried to look hurt, but there was a twinkle in his eye, “Well, actually Dave’s partner made it; he’s a great cook. Dave told him to make it because he might get more work out of me if I didn’t try to spend my day cuttin’ and slicin’.”

“Yeah, it would be a good idea to have all your fingers and toes for the job you’re doin’. By the way, how is Dave’s partner?” Doyle knew that Dave and Geoffrey were living together. Bodie had mentioned them both several times. Doyle had said nothing, but he truly envied the two older men. They had an obviously loving relationship and they had made comfortable lives for themselves in a time when a relationship between two men wasn’t always easy. That fact had stared Doyle in the face several times during the last three months.

Doyle wandered into the kitchen to see if he could help with the clean-up. Bodie was looking very domesticated as he stood at the sink washing up the dishes. “Need me to dry?”

“Nah, you’ve had a long day. I’ll just leave these to the air. Why don’t you get yourself a drink or if you prefer, you can head to bed.”

Relieved, Doyle asked hesitantly, “You sure you don’t mind?”

“Not at all, I’ve got a case which should only take the morning to finish up so what say we meet around noon at the pub around the corner, and I’ll buy you lunch?”

“Great, I’m going to spend the morning looking at places to stay. I got a list from a friend so I should be able to visit a few of them before I meet you.”

Doyle could see Bodie’s shoulders slump, but the ex-merc only said, “That sounds good; if I’m gone before you get up, there’s food in the frig and some of your muesli in the cabinet.”

Doyle could hear the sadness in Bodie’s voice, but he didn’t know how to deal with it; he was too tired and too confused about his own feelings to do anything now. He knew if he stayed here with Bodie that his confusion would grow even worse.

The next morning, Doyle left to make the rounds of the job offers he had received. They all sounded good, but several would obligate him to leave the London area. For the hundredth time, he thought of going to talk to Cowley, but knew that wouldn’t be a good idea until he had decided what it was he did want.

By lunch time, he was at the local pub near Bodie’s house. The handsome man who walked in was the epitome of savoir-faire and sophistication, but Doyle realized that he was still his Bodie and that it was good to be with him.

“Well, have you got a job to support yourself with?” Although Bodie asked this light-heartedly, Doyle could see the anxiety in his deep blue eyes.

“Nah, not yet. I’ve got one coming up this afternoon that looks really good.”

“That’s great.” The rest of the lunch the two men talked little so they made an early departure to accomplish their respective plans.

When Doyle got to Bodie’s that evening, he was bubbling with excitement. He had almost decided to take the position that he had been offered that afternoon, but there were a few hang-ups that needed to be worked out.

“Bodie, I think I might take the job that I was offered this afternoon. It sounds good, but I would probably have to re-locate north. It seems that they are opening a new branch in the Huddersfield region and well . . . I thought that might be a good idea.”

The despair that filled Bodie’s eyes spoke volumes, “I was hopin’ that you would find something near London. You know so that we could see something of each other.”

Warmth unexpectedly filled Doyle’s entire body as he heard those words, “You . . . you really wanted me to stick around?”

“I was even going to ask you if you wanted to stay here for a while . . . at least until you got settled in your new job and found something you liked for a flat. I know how expensive they are, and we’re not usin’ CI5 accommodations any more so that might be a drain on your budget. Of course, I don’t know what you would be paid?”

“That’s very generous of you, but are you sure that you want me around that much?”

Without thinking, Bodie blurted out, “Of course, I do. I want you around all the time. You said, Huddersfield? Maybe I could find somethin’ around there ‘cause I’m pretty sure there would be a job opening up there I could get.”

Realizing what he had just said, Bodie’s handsome face turned red as he started to stammer and make excuses, “I’m . . . I’m . . . I’m sorry, Ray. I didn’t mean to impose myself on you. You should do whatever you want; forget what I said, will you?”

“No, I will not forget what you said, thank you for wanting me around you. Your friendship means a lot to me and we’ve had some rough times lately so there’s no need to rush. I want to take my time and make sure I make the right decision. I’ve been so hung up thinking about housing, a job, and moving that I really haven’t taken the time to thank you for your generosity in having me here, and especially all the things you did to help me with the cottage. You know that cottage isn’t too far away from Huddersfield, talk about a coincidence.”

Several days went by with more thinking by Doyle, he had received that job offer and it was perfect, but it was definitely up north. What would Bodie say?”

That evening Bodie lay propped up in bed reading when there was a gentle knock on the door. After telling Doyle to enter, Bodie looked up at the man dressed in pajamas. Knowing from their days of having sex that Doyle seldom wore pajamas, Bodie was faintly amused and also bothered by Doyle’s need for modesty. Looking at the curly-haired man who was obviously nervous, “What is it, Ray?”

Handing Bodie a cup of tea that he had just made, Doyle stood staring at Bodie, trying to get up the courage to tell him of his decision.

Bodie’s heart sank because he knew what words he was going to hear; trying to make it easier on the man he cared for so much, he said quietly, “You’ve taken a job.”

“Yeah, I have.”

Motioning Doyle to sit on the edge of the bed, Bodie sat his cup on the side table and said, “Tell me about it.”

“It’s the one up north near Huddlersfield. It’s a great job. I’ll sort of be co-manager of the firm with someone else. Since it’ll be a whole new show, we can pretty much set it up the way we want with security and surveillance being our main functions. I’m going up there in a day or two and look it over before I make my final decision. Too bad, I didn’t know about it before, maybe I could have leased the cottage to live in?”

Bodie tried to look pleased and then said, “Go on, tell me more, who is your boss?”

“Can I hold off tellin’ you until I go have my look-see? I wouldn’t want to make too much of it in case, it doesn’t work out?”

“Of course, good thing you didn’t take a flat here if you’re goin’ north.”

“Yeah, thanks again for lettin’ me stay here; I would like to pay you something for using your water and facilities?”

“How about you take me out for dinner? My appetite is feelin’ pretty healthy; that ought to about make up the difference?’

Doyle smiled, “Done!” Doyle felt relieved that Bodie had taken it so well, but he was less pleased about the whole thing when he saw the effort that Bodie made to eat the meal that he had ordered. Doyle knew now that his news had really hurt his friend. It was only now that Doyle realized that Bodie had once again become his friend. They had been so estranged for months that Doyle now knew that he had found his friend again. It was too bad he was going north just when he had had this epiphany. Maybe I can still change my mind? After all, I haven’t given my final agreement; I’ll go north and then after I meet the other manager, I’ll decide.

Two days later Doyle entered the small office that had been set up for the new security office. It wasn’t exactly in Huddlersfield, but it was near enough that much of the clientele would be drawn from that area. Doyle had wanted to drop by and see the cottage, but he had timed his drive too closely so that he had had to go directly to the office to be on time for his appointment. He was of two minds about the other manager, if he liked him would he want to stay? If he didn’t like him, would that mean he would turn down the job? Doyle felt a headache coming on over the dilemma he faced.

He had not seen Bodie yesterday because Dave Simmons had sent him on a case that would take a few days. Perhaps, it was better that way because Doyle could almost feel Bodie’s anxiety. He would truly miss his former partner. The words, ‘what if’ entered his mind frequently when he thought about what had had happened. What if Bodie had never seen St. Hilary fuckin’ him? Maybe things would be all different.

Doyle introduced himself to the middle-aged woman who seemed to be working at setting up the new office. “I’m Ray Doyle, and I hope you’re Mrs. Marston?”

“Indeed I am. I am so glad to meet you. Mr. Simmons has given me instructions to help you as much as possible. The other gentleman, you know the other manager has already arrived. He said he would return in a few minutes. He wanted to get something to eat.”

Doyle smiled, Sounds like this guy and Bodie would get along great. “Very well, I’ll just look around here, if you don’t mind?”

“Of course, the place is in a mess, but I’m sure the two of you will put it to rights in no time. “

Doyle began to wander around, losing a sense of the time, when he suddenly realized that it was 15 minutes later and that the other man had not returned. Moving quickly to the outer office, Doyle stopped in his tracks as he saw who was standing talking to Mrs. Marston - - Bodie. What had happened, had the other manager changed his mind and decided not to take the job?

“Bodie, what are you doing here?”

“Oh, you know Mr. Bodie. So you know Mr. Doyle, do you Mr. Bodie?”

Bodie’s smile was devastating to both the woman and the curly-haired man who was standing staring at the living symbol of his affection. “Indeed, I do. Now why don’t you take these to the post, while I talk to Mr. Doyle for a while, Mrs. Marston?”

Reading the look between the two men, Mrs. Marston, immediately agreed, deciding not to hurry her return.

Bodie turned to his former partner and asked, “Why didn’t you tell me that your offer was from Dave Simmons?”

Doyle turned slightly red as he lowered his eyes then raised them in defiance, “I knew the job was up north, and I didn’t want you to think that I was trying to avoid you.”

“Are you trying to avoid me?”

“Yes . . . no, I don’t know. I want to be with you, but I don’t want it to be just like it was. That wasn’t enough for me. I figured if I could work with Mr. Bentley before I told you about what I was thinking of doing then maybe I could find out if the job was right for me.”

Bodie smiled strangely and asked in a voice that it was hard to read, “And can you work with Mr. Bentley?”

“I don’t know; I haven’t met him yet. Mrs Marston said that he would be back . . . he would be back . . . he would be back . . .”

“You’re repeating yourself, Angelfish. “

“By any chance is this new manager’s name, DAVE BENTLEY?”

Bodie’s smile broadened as he nodded and said, “Yes . . . yes, I believe it is.”

Doyle’s handsome face turned beet red as he yelled, “You, bastard, why didn’t you tell me? Was there ever a real second manager or was this all a plot between you and Dave Simmons?”

“Now, now, sunshine, such language. Your mum and the Cow would be shocked at such language. I swear on my integrity that there was a real manager named Wilfred Higgins, but he didn’t care much for the north so he asked to be sent south and, of course, I volunteered to come up here and tell you the news.”

Doyle seemed to slump, “Oh, so there isn’t going to be an office? “

Bodie’s blue eyes twinkled as he said, “I didn’t say that. As a matter of fact, you are looking at your new co-manager . . . that is if you still want to take the job?” The fear and uncertainty in Bodie’s voice spoke volumes about what the man was feeling.

“You mean . . . you mean . . .you mean”

“You’re stuttering again, Goldilocks. I want to be your partner in this office, but if you feel you can’t work with me, I’ll understand.”

“You mean that you volunteered to work up here when you could stay in London with your house already set up? I don’t understand.”

The look Bodie gave to his friend was haunted as if something inside of him was withering away. “No, no, I don’t suppose you do understand ‘cause I haven’t given you much of a reason to understand.”

“Why don’t you explain it to me then?”

“All right, but let’s do it somewhere else, shall we?”

Doyle nodded, expecting to be led to a pub or somewhere that they could talk, but instead, Bodie directed him towards his car which was parked a short distance away from the office. Driving for a short while, Doyle barely noticed the surroundings because his mind was in such confusion about what was happening. Did he really want to work with Bodie again?

As Bodie began to slow the car, Doyle began to notice the surrounding countryside and realized that he recognized it; after all he had lived in this area for several months not too long ago. “Where are we going?”

“I would have thought you would know; have you forgot your navigational skills since leaving CI5?”

Suitably distracted by the provocation Doyle immediately retorted, “No, of course not, but this looks like the way to the cottage. Why are you bringing me here?”

Suddenly, Bodie turned a curve and there, indeed, was the cottage, looking all new and comfortable as a result of its renovation. Stopping the car, Bodie turned off the engine and sat staring at the awe struck man beside him.

Doyle suddenly turned and with a surprising aggressiveness demanded to know, “What are you playing at, Bodie?”

“I’m not playing; very definitely not playing. I wanted to show you the residence that the firm has set aside as living space for its agents here in the Huddersfield area. What do you think of it?”

Practically putting his perfect nose in Bodie’s face, Doyle burst forth with a vehement, “You know what I think of it!” Then backing away slightly with a downcast head, he whispered, “I love it; was sorry to leave it.”

Bodie smiled lovingly, “Well, now you don’t have to. Take the job with the Simmons’ firm and you can live here as long as you like.”

“How can Dave and Geoffrey afford to let one agent live in this place? I don’t know what they paid for it, but me aunt got a good price for it.”

Bodie sighed, “Well, it wouldn’t exactly be just one agent; there would be two.”

“Two . . . you mean as in two people?”

Sighing as if he thought Doyle’s brain had petrified, Bodie said affectionately, “Yes, since there would be two of us with the office, we would each have our own bedroom, but essentially we would be living in the same cottage.”

“Oh.”

Bodie waited for Doyle to say something else. Definitely disturbed by Doyle’s lack of enthusiasm, Bodie figured he better not push his luck, so he asked if Doyle would like to go inside. Doyle agreed so they got out of the car and were soon inside the cottage that both men knew so well.

Doyle promptly wandered around, looking at the familiar rooms. As he returned to the living room, he asked, “Which bedroom is mine?”

“Well, I thought you could take the smaller room.”

Doyle’s eyebrows flew up as he demanded to know why he should get the smaller room, why not the master bedroom? “I thought, as the junior manager that would be better for you.”

“Who says I’m the Junior Manager?”

“Well, since I’ve been working for Dave and you haven’t I just thought . . .”

“Yeah, well think again; we’re equal just we’ve always been or I don’t take the job.”

“Well, then if we’re equal who should take the master bedroom?”

“I guess we could toss for it.”

Quickly the thought, I’d like to toss you all right, came to mind, but it did give him an idea. “Well, how about this? You and I are equal, right?”

Doyle nodded, his green eyes wary of Bodie’s idea since he had run into lots of them over the last eight years. “Go ahead.”

“Well, since we’re equal how about we share the master bedroom and use the other bedroom as our office/den/box room, whatever?”

“What! I should have known. That’s how you got me into your bed the last time. In a falsetto voice, Doyle mimicked Bodie, “Oh, Ray, why don’t you stay over tonight. You’ve had a rough couple of days what with Preston and that bitch, Kathy Mason, I’ll even make us breakfast in the morning.”

Bodie had the grace to look faintly embarrassed but said nothing.

“Should have known that when you started talking that way that you wanted to have your wicked way with me . . . me being vulnerable and all.”

Bodie suddenly looked anxious and shy, his voice filled with hesitancy asked, “Are you sorry we slept together?”

 

“Stop saying that. We did a lot more than sleep together and you know it.”

“Yes, I do and it was wonderful. Didn’t you enjoy it?”

Doyle wiped his face as he replied, not looking at Bodie, “You know I did, but I wanted more and I still want more.”

In a tender, slightly hesitant voice, Bodie asked, “What is it you want from me, Ray?”

Looking up quickly, Ray Doyle looked soulfully at his friend and replied in an equally hesitant voice, “I want commitment; I want you to love me as much as I love you.”

Bodie walked slowly and carefully towards the slender man, his eyes filled with emotion, “Ray, I’m sorry that you ever doubted how I feel about you. When you said that you loved me and then I messed everything up, I thought that meant that you stopped loving me. When I saw you with Justin, all my hope was gone that you and I could get back together. I couldn’t stand to see you two together. I behaved like a fool and it made me think. I want you to know how much I love you and I want you to know that I’m committed to a relationship with you, if you’ll have me?”

Doyle stood there staring; then carefully raised his right hand to caress Bodie’s face, “Are you sure that you want to settle down and stay in one place with me? If we take this job, you know that Dave Simmons will be depending on us to make it work? Can you stay tied down for the duration; after all, you’ve never done that before? You’re like a willow wisp that gets the urge to move on after you get tired of being in one place or with one person?”

“I’ll never get tired of you, Angelfish, and I’ve already taken steps to prove it.”

-What you goin’ on about now?”

“I’ve never owned a house before, but I do now. I want you and me to live in it for the next 60 years, and I want us to be as happy as Dave and Geoffrey have been in their lives.”

“What? You’ve bought a house; where is it? How close is it to here? How can we live here if you own a house somewhere else? Why do we need to stay here?”

Bodie effectively stopped the questions by kissing the cupid’s bow lips until both men ran out of breath; then he released the slender man and stepped back in case, in the next few seconds, Doyle decided to throw a punch.

“For an ex-CI5 agent trained by Cowley in double-think, you sure are slow-witted today, 4.5. Can’t you figure out what house I bought?”

For a few seconds, Doyle blinked repeatedly then the light of inspiration filled his face, realizing what Bodie was talking about, Doyle looked around the room and then, with eyes filled with love, Doyle whispered, “Oh Bodie, why did you do that?”

“I knew how much you loved the cottage, and I hoped if I bought it that might influence you to come and live in it with me . . . one day. When I found out that Dave Simmons wanted you to come north, I figured that was an omen that I still had a chance.”

Doyle seemed to sway slightly, as he was overwhelmed with the thoughtfulness and love that Bodie had shown towards him. Thrusting himself forward, Doyle threw himself into Bodie’s arms and gave him an embrace that almost drove the breath out of the ex-merc’s body. For several minutes, the two men stayed in each other’s arms; then Doyle moved back and stared into Bodies still fearful eyes. “I should apologize to you. I flaunted Justin in front of you. I wanted to make you jealous, but it did exactly the opposite and drove you away from me. When you walked away from me that day, I felt crushed. You were so distant after that, all my hopes were gone. Thank goodness, Murphy gave you the paintings or we might never have got back together - - the Cow always told us we were stubborn.”

“I take it then that you’ll take the job, the house, and. . . me?”

A twinkle entered Doyle’s green eyes, “I will definitely say yes, but not necessarily in that order. Don’t want you thinkin’ that I’m takin’ you just to get the house or the job.”

“That’s good to hear, now how about we drive back to the office, and get started on our new life. I’m supposed to call Dave and let him know what we decided.”

“Sounds good to me, but tonight we are going to sleep in your house.”

“Uh, that reminds me of something else I should tell you.”

Wariness entered into Doyle’s eyes as he heard those words, “What is it I should know?”

“I put the deed to the house in both our names so we both own the house.”

Doyle was speechless, but he soon got his faculties back again as he grabbed Bodie’s hand and dragged him into the master bedroom. Swiftly removing all their clothes, the two new agents of Dave Simmons’ security firm were several hours late returning to the office.

BDBDBDBDBDBDB

“George, just thought I’d let you know . . . it worked; Bodie just let me know that they have decided to accept the job up north. From the tone of Bodie’s voice, he seemed to be very pleased so I think that relationship has been mended.”

Although George Cowley couldn’t see his longtime friend, Dave Simmons’ face, he knew that he was smiling. “Excellent, I would say our plan worked very well. Sending them north to iron out their differences was a really good plan. Thanks for letting me know.”

“No problem, George. By the way, if you have any other lads who are having . . . uh, problems with their partners . . . let me know, I can always use some good former CI5 lads.”

George Cowley could almost see the smirk on his friend’s face, “Now, now laddie, I need all the agents I have. You don’t fool me - - I train them and then you try to lure them away. Talk to you soon. Keep my lads safe.”

Dave Simmons laughed as he heard George Cowley call Bodie and Doyle, his lads, “Talk to you again soon, George.”

BDBDBDBDBDBD
Several weeks had passed and a lot of hard work had taken place. Both men were exhausted as they curled up together in each other’s arms in what was now their master bedroom. Although Doyle was extremely tired from the lifting and moving end of the business, the efforts to help new clients had proven satisfactory. The cottage was also taking on a more personal aspect with their furnishings and various other personal items now in place.

In the master bedroom, the three paintings that had done so much to bring the men back together again took pride of place on one vast wall of the bedroom. In the extra bedroom which was now acting as a studio for Doyle was a fourth painting which Doyle had only begun a few days before. He had already decided to call it, ‘Welcome Home’. It showed two figures in a welcoming embrace of each other. The taller figure would be more muscular with almost black hair, dressed in cords and a turtleneck. The other man would be slightly shorter with curls and a slender build. When it was finished, this painting would take centre stage on the wall in front of their large bed so that they could see it when they lay in the bed.

Doyle could feel Bodie shifting slightly and knew that his lover was awake so he moved closer along the entire length of Bodie’s naked body. The ex-merc was radiating heat and sexual attraction even now after the two men had made love twice within a few hours. This is what I had been waiting for. This is what I was showing in the painting. Thank God, it’s finally happened.

Suddenly a tongue poked inside his ear as Bodie whispered, “What ya thinkin’ about, Angelfish?”

“You, I guess. How long I’ve waited for you. Thank you for not makin’ me wait any longer.”

Bodie gently caressed the body that he loved so much. Although Doyle was sweaty, his aroma was so intense and alluring that Bodie could barely contain himself. I haven’t got it up so many times in the recent past; can’t believe I want him again. Instead, Bodie whispered lazily, “Easiest thing I ever did; I’m just sorry that I made us wait so long; was stupid of me.”

“Don’t want to talk about that anymore. It’s just you and me now, lover. Want to talk about our future.”

“Do you mean our immediate future or our long term future?”

“What you ready again?”

“I’m always ready when I’m with you, sunshine.”

“And I thought you were gettin’ to be a mature man who could control himself, guess not, huh?”

“Can’t control meself around you.” As proof of his words, Bodie immediately began nibbling at the delectable body splayed before him. Starting at Doyle’s brown nipples Bodie began to lick and kiss each nipple, rolling one then the other around in his mouth. Doyle’s moans only fed his desire to lick and kiss every inch of the beloved man’s body. Doyle’s chest and lower body hair seemed to act as a guide for Bodie in his journey down the body. Gently fluffing then wetting and blowing on the body hair, Bodie sent Doyle into ecstasy as he traveled down towards Doyle’s groin area. When he reached the auburn pubic hair, he deliberately put his nose into the enticing area to smell the clean, fresh scent of the man he was obsessed with. How close he had come to losing him due to his own stupidity. Now was the time to correct some of his mistakes.

“Want you, Ray. Want you now and as long as you want me.”

 

“Sounds good to me, like what you’re doin’ now.”

Seeing the dark red cock rise up to meet him, Bodie leaned over to kiss the tip, whispering to Doyle, “How about puttin’ that in me?”

Doyle’s reaction was not what Bodie expected; the excited man seemed to back off a bit although with his arousal it wasn’t easy, “You sayin’ that ‘cause you think that’s what I want to hear?”

“Nah, I’m sayin’ it because it’s what I want to do.”

“You sure? I’m not askin’ that of you. I want us to be comfortable with everything we do. If you don’t want to bottom; I can understand that. Now is not the time to sign up to be a martyr.”

“Ray Doyle, you are the biggest ignoramus in the world. I want you. I’ve always wanted you, since the day I met you. This isn’t about bottoms or tops or what happened in our past. This is about a new start for both of us, and I hope you want the same.”

Doyle smiled lovingly at the adored face, “Of course, I do, but I think I’m too close. How about I put this somewhere warm and wet right now and we’ll get to doing the other thing later on? We’ve got lots of time.”

Bodie smiled, “Right you are, mate. Now come here and let me love you.”

What seemed like hours later after resting from his mind-blowing orgasm, Doyle got up carefully to avoid waking his sleeping lover. He had to use the loo and couldn’t really wait for more ‘action’ before doing so.

Moving quickly to the loo, he began to relieve himself when, with the sensitivity that so many lovers have, he felt himself being watched. Turning towards the doorway, he saw Bodie staring at him with great interest.

“You want to share?”

“Nah, me bladder isn’t as old as yours, ‘sides I just like watching you.”

“Become a voyeur, have you?”

“You’re the only one that I want to see performin’ his bodily functions.” Hesitating for a moment, Bodie asked shyly, “Is it true, Ray that I’m the only one that you let watch you . . . you know?”

Finished with his need, Doyle shook himself then washed his hands and walked over to the naked man leaning against the doorway. Reaching up to caress Bodie’s face, Doyle smiled. “You know I never really thought about lettin’ you or not lettin’ you. It just seemed natural. Guess that shows how much I trust you. Strange way of showin’ it, isn’t it?”

“Don’t care whether it’s strange or not, just like it that you do trust me. Hope you always will.”

Quickly kissing Bodie on his luscious lips, Doyle whispered as he put his arms around Bodie’s neck, “Now what do you suppose I can paint to show that you trust me as much?”

“Well, how about what we did early this morning? Of course, that’s one paintin’ that won’t ever be seen in no gallery, I guarantee you.”

“Sounds good to me, but you know that I’m a perfectionist so we’ll have to practice several times before I’ll feel good enough to paint that.”

“Sounds like a plan to me. Hope you’re ready for all the exercise you’re going to get.”

“No hope about it, Bodie. I’m always ready for that kind of exercise.”

As the two men cuddled in bed, Doyle whispered in his lover’s ear, “Thanks Bodie.”

“What for, sunshine?”

“I’ve been waitin’ for this for such a long time; I’m glad it was you that I was waitin’ for.”

Bodie was speechless so he did the next best thing and kissed the man that he had been waiting for as well.

The End