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Anomalous Odds

Chapter Text

Title: Anomalous Odds (Part 1)
Pairings/Characters
: No immediate pairing. Neil Griffon, Alessandro Rivera, brief appearance by Primeval team.
Rating: Introductory
Fandoms: Primeval/Bonecrack

* * * *

Its eyes were brown, but the rest of it wasn't right at all!

For one thing, it had no right to be wandering out of Lancat's box, just as if it owned the place!

For another – no pony that I'd ever seen wore thin white zebra-stripes on its brown hide, nor sported that stiff, upright crest on head and neck where a mane should be flowing.

And for that matter, we didn't house ponies of any kind here at Rowley Lodge. Our expensive guests were all thoroughbreds – the cream of the crop! Even the hacks that Etty and I rode to the gallops were retired aristocracy.

I regarded the odd-looking interloper with puzzled exasperation; and it looked back with mild and milky curiosity.

"Where did you escape from?" I asked it; not daring yet to make any sudden move, or physical overtures in case it was only half tamed, or came from a zoo.

It dropped its neat head to crop an errant tuft of grass that had somehow snuck through the flagged stones of the yard (I must speak to George about weeds!) then shook itself leisurely and gave out a sound.

It wasn't a whinny – not quite. It was as if that sound might one day be a proper neigh; but at the moment was more like the sound of wintry old stable hinge.

In reply, six further ponies trotted out of Lancat's empty box. Startled, I peered inside.

I caught a fleeting glimpse of some kind of weird, fractured light; and then the place was quiet and empty, just as Lancat had left it, two seasons ago.

I'd never used that box again. Etty kept making pointed comments whenever a newcomer appeared; but somehow I couldn't bring myself to house anyone else there.

It was a reminder; and a memorial.

But now – baffled – I watched the string of ponies troop out; and wondered if – like Enso Rivera – I was slowly going mad. At least, I reflected, if I was it wouldn't be for the same sordid reason as Enso!

The shoulder-high ponies crowded around me. They looked to stand about twelve hands – barely respectable for riding. I was more and more convinced that they were escapees – but how had they managed to find Lancat's empty box?

"Hey, Boss!"

I turned in some irritation. Ever since Alessandro had discovered my habit of rising earlier even than the stable-lads to wander round my little empire alone in the pre-dawn, he'd started to appear as well. Slight, perennially underweight and gaunt, he was the best stable jockey in Newmarket; also the most self-contained and difficult.

"Sandro! Looks like we have visitors."

Alessandro quick-stepped through the striped herd to my side.

"Hoo-ey! What ARE they, Boss?"

"I've no idea! They're not a breed I've ever seen before."

"Hmm…"

He bent and ran an imperious hand down the right fore of the nearest specimen.

"Hey, Boss! Look!" he called, lifting the pony's leg to cradle the hoof in one hand.

"What?"

"Got three toes! Middle one – hoof; but two others, much longer than usual. Pretty little things; but no use!"

Alessandro's only obsession was to win as many races as possible; on the best horses available. Therefore, a small herd of ponies – however strange – wasn't going to interest him at all.

However –

"Wait a bit! I check …."

He was gone back in the direction of the office and its computer facilities.

I waited, feeding my full emergency store of pocketed carrots to the herd, in strict rotation.

* * * *

It didn't take long for Alessandro to reappear, waving some sheets of hardcopy.

"Here!" he panted, moving dainty horseflesh out of the way with impartial carelessness and holding the paper high in case one of them decided to test it for edibility.

I looked from the colour illustration to the living beasts.

"That's them alright, but …."

Merychippus; I read; Ancestral horse, Miocene period. The first of the equines to have the distinguishable head of today's horses. At about 12 hands, it was the tallest equine so far. The foot was fully supported by ligaments, and the middle toe developed into a hoof ……

"Not possible!" said Alessandro positively.

"No!" I agreed, "Unless …. An experiment with fossil DNA at the Equine Research Institute?"

Alessandro looked sceptical; but then his face blanked in thought.

"If so – don't send them back; keep them!" he suggested, adding simply, "Need freedom!"

He was a great one for "freedom" was Alessandro Rivera. It was the one thing his overwhelming and violent father had denied him.

I looked thoughtfully at the milling herd; and temporised.

"Let's get them into the summer paddock anyway!" I suggested, "That way, they'll be out of sight of the drive, and out of Etty's way when the first shift starts!"

He nodded.

"Good idea!" he replied seriously.

As I led off, with the remaining carrots prominently displayed, I thought (but not aloud) that SOMEONE would want to know where these pretties had got to. There was trouble looming on the horizon again!

* * * *

They came midmorning, just as the string had taken off to the gallops; and I was about to turn back and get myself spruced up for the afternoon's race meeting.

With a screech of tyres and harsh spraying of gravel, a big anonymous truck plus an attendant motorbike outrider halted just outside the yard gates. I observed from the office window as Alessandro, half-transformed into respectability in his dark suit trousers and track-suit top erupted from the lads' hostel.

The leather-clad biker sprang from his machine and loped towards my stable jockey, removing his helmet. He was a raw-boned redhead who looked like he wouldn't stand for too much nonsense.

Behind him, the truck discharged its load – an army team, led by a young professional complete with dark shades and matching hardware, the muzzle of which was pointed vaguely in Alessandro's direction.

I sighed. Not again!

Then I walked out to meet the guns.

Chapter Text

Title: Anomalous Odds (Part 2)
Pairings/Characters
: No immediate pairing. Neil Griffon, Alessandro Rivera, Danny Quinn, Captain Becker, Connor Temple, Abby Maitland, misc soldiers.
Rating: Exploratory
Fandoms: Primeval/Bonecrack

* * * *

As I came out into the yard, the redhead made a move. Striding up to Alessandro, he spoke.

"Good morning, sir! We need to know ....."

"No shoot!" interrupted Alessandro, putting both hands in the air, "I come quietly!"

I bit my lip. He was playing the idiot foreigner again. I'd seen him do it with members of the sporting press in reply to questions he'd no intention of answering.

The redhead, somewhat taken aback, hastened into reassuring speech.

"No, no, sir, you misunderstand, comprenny? We're here for your protection! We ..."

"Rather a spectacular show for our 'protection', isn't it?" I intervened, strolling forward, "I'm Neil Griffon, the owner of this establishment. Would you mind telling me what the hell this is all about?"

"Danny Quinn!" replied the redhead, "We're members of a specialist Government body formed for ... erm .... public protection! This is Captain Becker in charge of the Army team. Tell me, has there been any untoward animal activity in the area?"

"Untoward animals?" I mused aloud, "Well, Traffic unshipped Ginge again befor they were even out of the gate. But that's hardly 'untoward', eh, Sandro?"

The jockey shook his head, bewildered.

"What exactly were you expecting, Mr Quinn? From the look of Captain Becker's firearms, I'd say a brontosaurus at least!" I joked.

I was unprepared for the response. The Army contingent tensed up and became more obvious with its guns; whilst from the back of the truck, two further figures appeared at a run, their hands full of complicated equipment.

"Brontosaurus!" gasped the boy, "Where?"

"Easy on, laddie!" I said in some surprise, "It was a joke."

"Oh!"

No one looked as if they appreciated my sense of humour. My danger-vibe, which had begun to subside, came to attention once again.

Danny Quinn, however, ignored me; instead addressing the boy.

"Anything showing up, Connor?"

"Ummm ... it's closed now anyway; but it was certainly open earlier. Half a jiff, and I'll find out where it was!"

"Did anyone see ANYTHING strange?" Quinn turned again to me, "Anything at all? Movement? Lights? It would have been quite early this morning, I should think; before your first stable-round, sir!"

He clearly knew and understood a racing stable's routine. I decided that the geeky kid with the equipment would probably be able to trace Lancat's box anyway; and came clean.

"Lights, did you say? Well - of course I never thought anything of it at the time - but there was a rather sparkly effect in one of the horse boxes around sunup."

The invading team exchanged glances.

"May we take a look, sir?"

The polite request was in fact rendered redundant, since Connor, toting some kind of antenna, had set off in the right direction immediately.

"Erm .... Capatin Becker, sir? If there's no call for our services immediately - Permission to make a brew, sir?"

The young Captain looked at his troop-sergeant with resigned exasperation. Scenting an opportunity, I forestalled him.

"Please - allow me!" I turned to Alessandro, and spoke in Italian, "Sandro, could you sweet-talk Evie at the Hostel? Ask her to make an urn of tea, and lay on the sugar biscuits!"

Whatever differences I'd had with Alessandro in the past, I'd never had to complain that he was slow in the uptake!

"Certainly, Boss," he replied in the same language, adding with a wink, "I've got her eating out of my hand!"

Of the team waiting to follow Connor, it was Becker who acquired a look of concentration. His only reaction to the conversation, however, was a faint look of ... was that disapproval or disappointment? .. at Alessandro's macho conceitedness.

I allowed the government team to trail off in Connor's wake; following them only after Alessandro reappeared to give me the thumbs-up sign. I snatched a quick, quiet word, aware all the time of pretty Captain Becker, politely waiting for me.

"Get yourself changed and get to Yarmouth!" I instructed my jockey, "Use your own car - DON'T get yourself killed - and tender my apologies to The Owner. Say I'm entertaining government officials at short notice; and will get to the course as soon as I can. In time for the race, I hope!"

"Yeah, Boss!"

"Good luck! Ride him as you and I discussed, and watch for his little habits! Until later!"

I watched him turn back, and devoutly hoped that he would heed my warning about his driving. Ever sinc he'd passed his test last year, he'd been a menace on the roads.

Then I took a deep breath, and returned to our other little problem.

Chapter Text

Title: Anomalous Odds (Part 3)
Pairings/Characters
: No immediate pairing. Neil Griffon, Danny Quinn, Captain Becker, Connor Temple, Abby Maitland.
Rating: Exploratory
Fandoms: Primeval/Bonecrack
Disclaimer: All Rights Reserved. No copyright infringement is intended and no money is being made.

* * * *

Rounding the bay that contained Lancat's box, I stopped a bit short to wait for Captain Becker to catch up. He'd taken a great interest in the stable layout; and I had the impression he might be casing the joint.

This corner possessed a strange sound-effect. For some reason you could hear a lot of what was being said in the boxes, whilst apparently still being out of earshot. I'd never gone into the acoustics; but found the effect very useful.

"It was here alright; probably at about the time the guy said!" I heard.

"Maybe," said Quinn's voice, "Nothing came through the Anomaly! There's no evidence of anything!"

"Wouldn't be too sure of that!" the tone was muffled, and female – must be that little blonde girl-geek.

"What is it, Abby?"

"See – here on the floor? And on the doorpost there!"

"Horse-poo? Well, that's not uncommon, I'd say, in a racing stable! As for the hairs …" began Connor.

"No! Wait!" this was Quinn again, "Abby's right! Didn't you notice the brass name-plate over the door? Take a look, Connor!"

The geek appeared briefly, clocked me, and shot back inside.

"The stable-boss is coming! And all the brass plate says is Lancat. 2005 – 2007!"

"Shhh! The horse is dead – has been for two years. So why the fresh dung, eh?"

I swore. Stupid! Stupid! Stupid of me not to have thought about the habits of horses – ALL of them.

"Trouble, Mr Griffon?"

The estimable Captain Becker had caught up. Without a word I led him across the bay to Lancat's box. He stopped at the door, and looked up.

"Lancat! That's the one that died on the gallops. Isn't it? The one that got shot instead of you. And instead of that youngster – who speaks very decent English, by the way."

"You're a racing man yourself then?"

"Not any more; but I like to keep up. The Rivera case was in all the papers. Shame about the colt, though. I won a few grand on him in that one race – it's how I know who your jockey is. Hello? Danny? Anything?"

"No, nothing at all!" Danny strolled out nonchalantly, "There was certainly some Anomaly-activity earlier, but nothing to worry about! Now, we shouldn't detain Mr Griffon any longer, as I believe he has a race to attend! Why don't you go and forcibly part your troop from its tea and sugar biscuits!"

He winked at me, as the Captain did an abrupt about-turn, annoyance evident in every line of his body.

"Becker's a damn fine soldier, you know; but the Troop doesn't do him any favours. They need to get rid of that Sergeant – he's the fanatic for tea. The lads would go much quieter if it wasn't for him. Ah, well! Not my problem! Thank you for your hospitality and co-operation, Mr Griffon; and good luck this afternoon. Snorri, isn't it – in the Nursery Stakes for colts? Is he worth an each-way punt?"

"That's what we're at Yarmouth to find out, Mr Quinn! Goodbye!"

I watched the whole circus out of my yard before strolling over to my own vehicle. I supposed I would have to hire in more security in case they came back for a quiet snoop. Not for a moment did I think that Quinn and Becker would leave this be.

Why on earth had I got involved with this possibly dangerous and criminal course of action anyway? Were a few pretty ponies worth all the trouble I could foresee?

It took me several minutes to remember that I'd done it all because Alessandro had wanted me to.

Chapter Text

Title: Anomalous Odds (Part 4)
Pairings/Characters
: No immediate pairing. Neil Griffon, Alessandro Rivera, Sir James Lester, Captain Becker, Original Male and Horse Characters.
Rating: Apprehensive.
Fandoms: Primeval/Bonecrack
Disclaimer: All Rights Reserved. No copyright infringement is intended and no money is being made.

* * * *

By blinding it like hell (rather in the manner of Alessandro's habitual driving style) I managed to appear in the Winner's Enclosure in time to greet Snorri's taciturn, Icelandic businessman Owner. Just seconds later, Alessandro was led in, to moderate acclaim, on the winner.

The colt (known as Snorey to the stable lads) plodded round in a world-weary fashion, giving the impression that he'd seen it all before, and holding his head so low that his chin-hairs almost brushed his knees. He was both bone-idle and vindictive; and Alessandro had done wonders to coax the bugger home!

The jockey caught my eye as the winner shambled to a halt in approximately the correct place; and refrained from a Frankie-Dettori-style flying dismount.

I'd made it quite clear that, although I grudgingly tolerated "Boss" as a form of address (taken from Dettori's way of talking to Sheikh Mohammed), I wasn't happy about acrobatic stunts that risked injury. I recalled that I'd mentioned 'circus tricks', after Alessandro – glowing from some kindly words of praise from The Great Man – had attempted a practice-leap from the back of tolerant old Cloud Cuckoo Land, during his first year.

Now, descending decorously, Alessandro treated me to his usual blinding winner's smile.

"Yeah, Boss!" he said softly, before wiping all expression from his face to receive The Owner's stilted compliments.

Accustomed now to the rigmarole of winning, he then submitted to the attentions of the press photographers – a procedure cut short by Snorri's abruptly vigorous impatience with the whole business – and took himself off to the Weighing Room.

I fielded a couple of loaded questions from The Racing Post, saw Vic and Faddy out of the enclosure leading the feted and blanketed winner; and led The Owner across the enclosure for the presentations.

We lined up before the rather sketchy dais where a couple of bigwigs waited.

"And – to present the awards –" announced the tannoy, "We're delighted to welcome a surprise guest from Whitehall. Sir James Lester represents a family tradition in racing circles; and many of us will remember his father as a noted Sporting Man! So now, to receive the award for the Icarus Nursery Stakes, please give a big hand to Dr Byleist Laufeyiarson, the owner of Snorri!"

James! A name from the past. He'd have been about my own age when his father and my father had been as thick as thieves – a sporting owner and rising trainer.

I'd trailed around father's stables after young James, and shown him a little of the nuts-and-bolts of a working racing establishment. It wasn't quite Master/Servant; because he'd had the sense to acknowledge the independence of craft, creativity, and of course, my father's unconquered arrogance.

But I wasn't my father; and he wasn't his landed grandee of a parent either.

The spattered applause gained in strength and purpose as I walked up to the rostrum for the Trainer's presentation. I'd accrued the beginnings of popularity over the past eighteen months – in my own right.

"Neil! The sins of the fathers, eh? Lovely to catch you again; and – Congratulations! Clearly a chip off the old block when it comes to horses – of all ages – eh?"

My brain processed all the humbug; and got stuck on that last bit.

"Thank you, James!" I responded woodenly.

Alessandro was next up. He received his accolade with complacent pride. This was no more than his due, after all!

"I like your boy .. your jockey!" announced Laufeyiarson ponderously as we huddled in a group for the photographers, "He possesses the old-style European gravitas! Not like some …. What is the word? …. Chavs of today!"

"Erm … yes."

"Quite so!" interposed James Lester smoothly, "Now why don't you and your team join me in the Members' Bar, Neil? And yourself, Dr Laufeyiarson, of course! Bring your lad along too, Neil! I'd like to discuss some possible .. ah … additions to your establishment! It's time I took an interest again, wouldn't you say?"

"Thank you!" I murmured, "But I have to go …. "

"Oh, DO come! I'm sure we have a lot to talk about, Neil! And we have so MANY mutual acquaintances ….."

Lester smiled like a hyena. Behind his shoulder, the black-clad form of Captain Becker – dressed now in mufti, but still exuding an air of suave menace – materialised.

"Why don't you go and round up that talented young jockey, Hilary? I'm sure Neil will allow a soupcon of champagne after all his efforts! THIS way, gentlemen!"

He led off inexorably, leaving me little choice but to follow.

Chapter Text

Title: Anomalous Odds (Part 5)
Pairings/Characters
: No immediate pairing. Neil Griffon, Alessandro Rivera, Sir James Lester, Captain Becker, Vic Young.
Rating: Distinctly underhand.
Fandoms: Primeval/Bonecrack
Disclaimer: All Rights Reserved. No copyright infringement is intended and no money is being made.

* * * *

It was, I thought, by a stroke of Special Providence that Lester suddenly found his route to the Members' Bar blocked by a bulky form: a FAMILIAR bulky form! Before he could act on that out-of-my-way-Peasant look that was gathering on his face, I intervened with joyous alacrity.

"Excuse me just a moment, James. This is Vic Young, my Travelling Head Lad! I expect he'll want to get the horse back home. Do take Dr Laufeyiarson through, won't you? Don't hold up the champagne on my account!"

I let out a mental "phew" of relief as Lester growled a bit in discontent, but courteously led my Owner through. Hurrah for British Public School Manners!

"Something's goin' on, Mr Griffon!" opined Vic, as soon as they were out of earshot, "There's some poncey pretty-boy gone and collared Alex; an' I think there's a tout on a bike on our case! Some blasted redhead in leathers. Ever seen 'em before?"

"Hmmm. Yes, I rather think I have, Vic," I admitted, "Still – they can't have got much from just seeing Snorri do his reluctant stuff. Tell you what – I've got an idea! Faddy drives, doesn't he? Good! Then I'll try to extract Alessandro's keys, and Faddy can take his car back. Tell him to dress up a bit, so the tout might mistake him for Alessandro at a distance; and to follow the scenic route back home, eh? That should put the tout out of the picture for a while. Better leave the rest to us! That pretty boy is with Sir James Lester – the one you nearly clattered into just now!"

"Ah – an' I remember 'im an' all! I'll bet you do too, Mr Griffon! Always thought 'e was a sneaky little sod! What's 'e after?"

"Wants to talk about additions to our establishment."

"Hrmph! Wants ter be 'is Dad, more like! Well, we don't need 'is sort ….. "

"Shhh!"

Alessandro was coming up the shallow steps towards us, followed closely by Becker. No chance of a private word there, then. Damn! I should have to do something really … misleading to extract those keys.

The jockey had changed back into his good suit. Actually good was a rather inadequate description. Alessandro's clothing was always of the finest quality; and tailored to fit his trim figure like a glove.

I was happy to note that his right-hand jacket-pocket showed the slight, distinct distortion that could only be a bunch of keys. Thank God for that! This was going to be cringeworthy enough, without having to grope in trouser side- or back-pockets!

As Alessandro came abreast of me, I put my right hand on his shoulder and reeled him in a little closer. Not too far – just close enough to ensure that Becker couldn't see anything.

"Vic told me you'd done a clever job with Snorri, Sandro," I effused, rather breathlessly, "So well done, lad! Very well done!"

Alessandro froze, and his dark eyes found my face. Fortunately I'd managed to slip my left hand into his pocket and now quietly extracted the keys. He felt that; and his winged eyebrows shot up.

"Tell you later!" I breathed.

"Thank you, Boss!" he replied, in a public voice; though somewhat higher in register than his usual tone.

"I must just get Vic off … I mean SEE him and the horsebox off to Rowley Lodge! Go in and join the bigwigs now. I won't be long!"

I smiled reassuringly, and ran down the steps to where Vic waited.

"Well done, Mr Griffon; even though that guy'll think yer a coupla poofs now!" he said encouragingly, "I'll tell Faddy to lead that redhead a right old dance! Wish I could do it meself with that flash car, but I'd better cuddle up to old Snorri all the way back! Wish us luck, eh?"

"Sure thing, Vic!" I called; and followed my mystified and embarrassed jockey into the bar.

Just a few minutes ago, I'd thought there was no alternative, and that I'd have to come clean to Lester and Becker about the Merychippus herd. But now – if I could just trust Alessandro to keep Becker at bay – damn it, I wasn't going to tell the Whitehall man anything I didn't have to!

Chapter Text

Title: Anomalous Odds (Part 6)
Pairings/Characters
: No immediate pairing. Neil Griffon, Alessandro Rivera, Sir James Lester, Captain Becker, OMC owner.
Rating: Suavely Combative.
Fandoms: Primeval/Bonecrack
Disclaimer: All Rights Reserved. No copyright infringement is intended and no money is being made.

* * * *

Entering the Members' Bar I first encountered the sight of Captain Becker and Alessandro, seated on tall stools at one end of the long bar. They appeared to be talking together in confidential undertones; and had their heads together in a manner that shouted Not To Be Interrupted!

I frowned; and started forward, intent on doing just that.

"Neil! Over here, man!"

Alas; Lester and Dr Laufeyiarson were seated at a table in comfortable lounge chairs at some distance from the bar. Reluctantly I changed tack to join them.

"Neil! WONDERFUL show today! I'm sure Dr Laufeyiarson won't mind me saying that colt is one of a kind, so to speak! Undoubted ability of course; but with a rather dodgy temperament – am I right?"

Dr Laufeyiarson blinked slowly.

"You say my horse is .. how? … of a difficult temperament? This is fine! He has ability, Mr Griffon, yes?"

"We think so, sir …."

"Good! This is all I demand! Soon, I shall buy another, which I shall name Sleipnir! I shall telephone the inestimable Margaret, and arrange to see you before I return home! And so – I salute you and the boy. He will ride ALL my horses, if you please – when I get them Now – " here he drained his champagne flute, placed it with precision dead-centre on the beer-mat before him, and rose, "I waited only to say good afternoon, Mr Griffon! Sir James!"

He surged to his feet, lumbered over to the bar to speak briefly to Alessandro; and exited with ponderous dignity.

Damn! A tête a tête with James Lester was the last thing I needed right now.

"Bloody nice fella!" James was saying blithely.

"With questionable taste in horseflesh!" I rejoined.

"Ah, ah, now, Neil! We both know that ability and temperament are two very different things. DOES that screw of his have bags of ability, after all; or is it merely your talent at race-placement combined with your jockey's riding skills?"

"There's that, of course. But ….. I don't quite agree with you about ability and temperament, James! See; that colt has a turn of foot; but if he can't be bothered to put it in – well, there's no point in counting on the speed. It's unusual to find the degree of world-weariness that he displays in a two-year-old. Usually their faults spring from lack of experience and babyishness!"

"Hmm. I heard your jockey describe him as a mule to Hilary Becker. I take it to mean that he possesses a stubborn streak a mile wide! Just like his Trainer in fact!"

Oof! Touché! I riposted as best I could.

"Yes, but what might be seen as a fault in a two-year-old colt could be regarded as an asset in a Trainer. If I didn't have that, I'd never have taken over from Father, or pulled the business round."

"Or indeed, wrested the makings of a decent jockey from the spoiled offspring of a crime-lord, I suspect. Oh, yes – it's all in the files, Neil. I suspect there's a LOT more to that story, than the rather sketchy account of events you gave to the police and Jockey Club two years ago!"

"If you mean the fact that I had to sort out his public manners a trifle - well, yes; I gave some pointers of course; but it's really Alessandro's driving ambition to become a good jockey that's been the saving of him!"

"That's NOT what I meant, Neil; and you know it! Tell me – are Alessandro's residency status and work-permit all in order?"

Now that was a blasted left-hook! James had given up with the fencing and resorted to something much cruder. Why was it all so important?

"Is that a threat, James?" I therefore asked lightly.

"An enquiry merely!" he smiled, "And a further one for you, Neil. What do you make of the fact that my people were crawling all over your place this morning?"

"Surely," I was bewildered, "They were for our protection! I admit I had no idea against what; although," I grinned suddenly, "Etty in a tizz is a fearsome sight!"

"Is she still with you?" James was momentarily diverted, "Remember when we tried to climb into the hay-loft via the ivy-growth on the wall? Even Quinn would have quailed at the dressing-down she handed out!"

"Yes, but she didn't give us away to Father! She's a decent sort, Etty."

James nodded and took a sip of champagne; to break the conversation, I suspected.

"At anyrate – " he returned refreshed to the attack, "It wasn't Etty they were worried about because she wasn't there. But what ELSE wasn't there, that's what I'd like to know!"

"All the horses!" I said, with what I hoped was the face of an angel, "Because they were out on the gallops!"

"Hrmph! But you're not drinking, Neil! There's plenty …. "

Change of tack! But a bit crude to try and make me drunk. I'd suspect that was more Becker's line with Alessandro.

Reminded, I glanced uneasily across to the bar, in time to see Becker laying his hand on Alessandro's arm, and drawing him into even closer confidentiality. Damn! I'd have to break that up sharpish if we were going to get out of here with the secret still intact.

"Just the one, then, James!" I replied, "But that must be the last! I have to drive back to Newmarket. Plus we'll both be out with the first string tomorrow! I should collect Alessandro, I suppose!"

"Oh, come, Neil; don't break up their party yet! They seem to be getting on so WELL, don't they?"

Double-damn! He'd caught me on the raw there! I'd just been thinking that what Becker was doing looked very much like seduction.

James was watching closely for a reaction too! He must think – after my virtuoso key-removal – that we were ….

I took a rather too large gulp of the fizzy stuff to give myself time. Providentially, James' mobile suddenly trilled the opening bars of Land of Hope and Glory. He excused himself and turned half-away to answer it.

"Yes. Where are you? What? No – he's here; talking to Becker in the Members' Bar! No – I don't want excuses! Get back to the ARC now – I'll deal with you later once I've resolved this Situation!"

He pocketed the phone and glared at me. I gazed back with all the limpid innocence I could muster.

"Trouble, James?" I asked airily.

"I won't keep you!" he announced abruptly, "You have, as you say, an early start tomorrow! And I have … business as well. Hilary!" he bawled suddenly, "Put that lad down and come here! Mr Griffon is leaving; and so should we!"

There was a flurry of activity, which found me and Alessandro making for my modest car in double-quick time.

They'd probably been hoping to hold us for a while yet; I thought; whilst they tried to take a further look around at Rowley Lodge; and set Danny Quinn to follow Alessandro's car, in case it led them to where the Merries were pastured. I devoutly hoped that Vic would have returned in time to deal with any prowlers at the Lodge.

In the meantime, Round Two; I felt; had gone rather decisively to me!

Chapter Text

Title: Anomalous Odds (Part 7)
Pairings/Characters
: Neil Griffon, Alessandro Rivera.
Rating: Action-packed, but withal, Just Plain Grumpy.
Fandoms: Primeval/Bonecrack
Disclaimer: All Rights Reserved. No copyright infringement is intended and no money is being made.

* * * *

"Keep a lookout in your side-mirror. They may follow us!" I instructed curtly.

Alessandro, after a thoughtful glance at my profile, nodded wordlessly. Perversely, this irritated me, although part of me knew that, had he ventured a comment, I'd have bitten his head off.

Now, in hopes of provoking a response, I addressed him challengingly.

"Aren't you going to ask me why I took your car keys?"

"Quinn rang Becker before he spoke to Sir James. I heard enough to understand what you'd arranged!" he paused, and with a hint of a glancing smile, added, "Otherwise, I'd have decided you just wanted to grope me, Boss!"

"You must have me mixed up with Becker!" it was out before I could stop it.

"Don't be like that, Boss! It was a good plan. It worked – didn't it?"

"It did!" I conceded grudgingly, "What was going on with Becker anyway?"

"I was merely trying to convey to Captain Becker that I am a jockey with a narrow world-view, whose limited attention-span stretches only so far as the next ride!"

"Well it looked from where I was sitting, as if he was coming-on to you!"

"He was!" that was a full-fledged grin this time, "And he's very pretty; so I enjoyed flirting with him. He went away with the rooted idea that I am a lightweight with an obsession. The conversation didn't get anywhere NEAR the little horses … where ARE they, Boss? Not in the summer paddock, when I looked!"

I knew he was playing me a little; sliding past his activities with Becker and being a bit flattering to keep me happy; but the fact was, he was the only person I could share my plan – my complete plan – with.

"I spoke to Etty!" I confessed, "And she sensibly pointed out that wherever the Merries come from – even the Equine Research Centre – they'll pose a health risk to our regular stock. They'll need to be quarantined, just the same as visitors from abroad. So – during breakfast she went and took a look at them; got hold of one of the lads who could be spared; and transported them all – plus dear old Sergeant Smallweed, y'know, the retired Derby winner, who was sharing the paddock – down to the Water Meadow on the Cam. It's just the other side of Cambridge; and we often use it for isolation cases."

"Clever, Boss!" he breathed.

"So now," I continued, "I'm expecting a tail on us by James' lot – the Ark or something, he said to Quinn – in the hope that we lead them to the hiding place. I'll leave the A11 as soon as we can; and take us by the back roads!"

"There's a people-carrier about twenty eight metres back – keeps weaving around to keep us in sight!"

"Oh God! The Platoon! I'll get us on a clear stretch; and try to dodge onto one of the side-roads. I may have to park up somewhere hidden for a while. Don't be surprised at anything!"

"That's always been the way with you, Boss!"

"Don't try to get around me! Becker was STILL coming on to you!" I grumbled, "And you encouraged him!"

"Yeah – but only for The Cause!"

"You set-up as a honey-trap!" I accused.

He sighed.

"It was your .. key-removal .. that gave me the idea! Now just drive, Boss! We can discuss it later!"

Rather to my own surprise, I saw it his way; and we sped off down the A11; seeking a quiet exit on a blind corner for a convenient get-out.

Chapter Text

Title: Anomalous Odds (Part 8)
Pairings/Characters
: Neil Griffon/Alessandro Rivera.
Rating: Preliminary, but leading who-knows-whither.
Fandoms: Primeval/Bonecrack
Disclaimer: All Rights Reserved. No copyright infringement is intended and no money is being made.

* * * *

I killed the engine and turned off all the lights. Around us the small sounds of a willow-wood at nightfall began to exert themselves.

With luck, it would be full dark soon, and even the slight risk of being seen from the adjacent B-road would be gone. I'd give it an hour; I thought; and then make for home.

Beside me, a brief stir and the click of a seat-belt release told me that Alessandro was making himself comfortable.

"Boss? Suppose they've put a trace on the car?" he asked hesitantly.

My heart skittered; then steadied as I thought this through.

"More likely to have been on your flash number!" I said, "I parked mine at the back of the stables. But … well they might have seen it outside the house this morning. On the other hand, they've been with us; or haring off after Faddy for most of the afternoon. There's the rest of Becker's platoon, of course ….. "

Alessandro snorted.

"Them! They could barely put a trace on a tea-urn without help!"

"We'll have to risk it!" I decided, "Unless we ring Rowley Lodge, ask Vic to come and collect us, and leave the car here. But if they've got people watching the Lodge, he might just lead them here. Not that there's much to see – it just depends what we think they might do; them and their blasted 'protection'!"

"Sit tight then?"

"On balance, yes! We'll give it an hour; and then if nothing's happened, we'll go on home. D'you want to climb in the back and try for a kip?"

"Kip?"

"Sorry – I forget sometimes that English isn't your mother-tongue – Sleep."

"Hmm. No. I'm not good at that; especially if others are still awake around me. That's why I was happy you gave me the flat at the Hostel, Boss; even though it made Vic grumpy for a week! He wanted it to entertain the tarts, Ginge said."

"Well, now you can use it to entertain Captain Becker!" I said acerbically.

"Boss!" he was being very patient with me, "I don't ….. Becker was only … using that technique to try and gain information. And I played back to him so that I didn't have to give him any. And I think … " he paused, took a deep breath, and finished in a rush, " … Sir James had asked him to do it that way because – after your trick with the keys – they thought it would upset you! Because we might be .. An Item, is the term Andy uses."

"And you didn't disabuse Becker, I suppose?"

"He would not have believed me if I had!"

This was undoubtedly true. I thought things through a bit, and calmed down. This really wasn't like me at all! I'd been trained not to let my feelings intrude on business in this way. Furthermore, if I hadn't been so damned smart with the keys …..

"I'm sorry, Sandro! This is all down to my clever idea, isn't it? It's bad enough you had to put up with the Captain's advances, without me bitching at you about it!"

"I didn't mind. As I said, he's very pretty."

"What? D'you mean to say …? HAVE you ever ….?"

I could see only his profile in the gathering dusk; but his voice sounded smugly amused.

"Oh yes! I expressed a certain curiosity one time, so Papa hired two people to give me the right …. Experience!"

"A call-girl and a rent-boy, you mean?"

"No. Papa let me deal with girls myself. And they were not … you couldn't describe them as 'rent boys'. The older one – the one who taught me – had all the airs of an aristocrat. He might even have been one; down on his luck, or in Papa's debt in some way."

"And the other?"

"To find out how well I'd learned from the first one. He came – visited, I mean – several times and I grew quite fond of him. But Papa said he might be unclean – diseased in some way!" he sighed, "Now I know why he was careful for me – in that respect."

I thought, but did not say aloud, that Enso Rivera might have considered his son was becoming a little too fond! I wondered what fate had befallen the hapless rent-boy.

"So – since then, I stuck to girls!" Alessandro concluded. He paused, then added, "But I think that, if I were to fall in love – completely, you understand – it would be with a man!"

Phew! My stable jockey had just confessed to bisexuality. It would be a difficult path to follow in the still predominantly masculist world of racing! I wouldn't, for example, like to think what some of the Jockey Club would make of it; or the more traditional Owners and punters. And Alessandro was so vulnerable in many ways; in spite of the surface bravado and arrogance.

"I'd feel weird," I said, "Looking at a man in that way!"

"Would you, Boss? It's a taste that can be acquired, like most things. People would like you – nice-looking as you are!"

I caught the glint of his dark eyes in the gloom; and with a crashing heart-thump, realised that he was daring me to …..

It was madness, of course! I had never … would never …. My pulse settled itself into a rapid beat at the base of my throat.

"Boss?"

Oh God! I should have to respond somehow! I'd say – Let's forget we ever had this conversation!

I swear, when I opened my mouth, that was what I was going to tell him.

"Yes!" I said.

Chapter Text

Title: Anomalous Odds (Part 9)
Pairings/Characters
: Neil Griffon/Alessandro Rivera. Cameo appearance by Miss Etty Craig at the end.
Rating: NC17
WARNING: Epic and hawt and very exciting Explicit Sex, with no holds barred and no punches pulled. OK?
Fandoms: Primeval/Bonecrack
Disclaimer: All Rights Reserved. No copyright infringement is intended and no money is being made.

* * * *

And – "Yess!" replied Alessandro.

He leaned forward over the handbrake and part of the steering wheel. My thoughts skittered between relief that the engine was off, a belated realisation that this had been on Alessandro's mind for some time, and a panic worse than anything his father had ever engendered.

Was this how girls felt when someone came-on to them? It would be useless to ask Etty because …. because ……

His mouth met mine, and finally stopped my brain dead in its tracks.

Later, it occurred to me that he might have deliberately kept it low-key, to reel me in gently. At the time, I was aware mainly of his tongue in my mouth, and the fact that neither of us had shaved since the morning. That was new, different, and rather titillating. I could get used to that!

We broke apart, both panting slightly.

"Shall we take this onto the back seat, Boss? The handbrake is inclined to cramp my style!"

"Yes, alright!"

After a frantic scramble over the back of our seats, we arrived together in an undignified heap.

"I've told you before about getting a Merc, Boss! The seat-backs go flat on those!"

"Stretch-limo!" I gasped, "With a bed already made-up!"

"Vulgar! And not your style at all!"

"I thought YOU could buy it …."

He shut me up again – rather effectively.

There was no doubt at all that he knew what he was about. He had my dark tie unknotted, and the understated blue silk shirt beneath unbuttoned to the waist, before he let me come up for air.

It seemed his hands (leather-hard on palms and fingers from the constant play of the reins) moved of their own volition, a little ahead of his lips and mouth. Thus, whilst his tongue was making acquaintance with the knot of bone on my left collarbone where the broken ends had knitted awkwardly, his nimble fingers were already at my waist, making short work of belt-buckle, trouser-fastenings and fly-zip.

My brain was still processing how this could have come about, when he slid one neat hand beneath the elastic of my briefs, and grasped me, lightly but firmly.

I bucked and, I'm afraid, squeaked. He was never going to let me forget that!

Suddenly his mouth was gone from my upper body. Those competent hands shifted to my hips, and the whole shebang – belt, trousers and briefs – was stripped efficiently down to my ankles in one smooth move. My exposed and engorged privates felt the cool of the night breeze, my naked buttocks stuck to the imitation-leather of the back-seat; and from somewhere between my knees, Alessandro spoke.

"We can't do much more than this tonight, Boss. It's too cramped; and in any case – you said only an hour!"

I'd opened my mouth to tell him that a few minutes more wouldn't hurt, when his took and swallowed me down to the root.

That did it for me; and I discovered that instant orgasm could be almost painful in intensity. The whole of my guts seemed to have got involved in it; and I swear there was even an echo somewhere deep in my fundament. A bit like an internal earthquake; I thought dizzily.

"Boss? You OK, Boss?"

"Ummm. I think so!"

I opened my eyes, which I didn't remember closing; and saw that Alessandro had retreated to the further corner of the back seat, and was dusting fluff off his knees.

"You didn't make a sound! I thought you might – after that squeak!"

"That's down to my impeccable Eton education!" I explained, "WHAT squeak?"

He treated me to his full-on smile.

"Just so long as it was good."

"Cataclysmic. You?"

"Don't bother about me, Boss. I …"

I looked again, and clocked the bulge in his dark trousers.

"You didn't …? Ah, now; fair's fair! You'd better tell me what I should do!"

"You don't have to! I meant this as a gift. I don't want for you to feel weird about ANYTHING!"

"Well – alright – but I have to do SOMETHING!" I averred stubbornly.

I received once more the full force of his blinding smile.

"Quoting Andy again – You are a gentleman and scholar, Squire!" he said, "Would you be kind enough to jerk me off, Boss?"

He wriggled out of his trousers and the briefest briefs I'd ever seen (barely a posing pouch, really), slid across the seat, and sprawled half over me.

I moved at last of my own volition, to pull him into a kiss tasting of salty milk that, I realised, was my own flavour. I expected that notion to squick me. Somehow if didn't.

Alessandro, seized my hand, took it southwards, and carefully wrapped my fingers around his erection. Even now he was patient with me; and unhurried.

"That's all, Boss!" he breathed against my lips, "Just leave it to me, now!"

Two long thrusts into my cupped fist, and he was done; coming almost peacefully on a long sigh that ended with a hiccup like a sob. I felt the wet spreading across my belly and groin; and wondered belatedly about the state of our clothing, and the car seat.

Alessandro – heedless as yet – clung a moment with one arm around my neck. His weight still pinned my torso; and his softening prick slipped between my fingers. My free hand, the arm already around his back, strained upwards to comb the strong, springing curls behind his ear.

If only my father – and his papa for that matter – could see us now!

I laughed; delightedly, but softly so I shouldn't disturb him.

* * * *

We arrived back at Rowley Lodge well after the time for evening stables; but Etty was waiting by the yard gate; and my heart – already in a turmoil – wasn't made to feel any better by sinking into my boots.

"There's been trouble, Mr Neil!" she greeted me ominously.

I sighed, and moved stiffly out from behind the wheel; very aware of Alessandro hopping ridiculously spryly out from the passenger side.

"Let's hear it, then!" I said resignedly; and she launched into her catalogue of woe.

There'd been snoopers; it appeared. Two kids – a boy and a girl; who seemed curiously obsessed by horse-dung! Vic Young – returning fortuitously with the horsebox - had summarily ejected them. And that wasn't all …..

Snorri, whilst being removed from the van, had contrived to whip his neck back and inflict a hefty bite on Ginge's arm. The lad had subsequently Gone Off On One; uttering dire threats about not getting a fair chance around here, and anyway why did HE always have to do the buggering mules? Why couldn't that-there Alex take Snorri – they deserved one another! Him and his snotty Eyetie ways …….

Ginge had been sent off to cool down; but that wasn't all …..

Little Joe, our youngest and newest apprentice, who still reputedly cried for his mammy at night, had been 'took bad with something'. In view of the current Swine flu scare-stories, Etty had taken the precaution of isolating him in the spare room at her cottage (which was often used as an additional sick-room in cases of emergency).

"So we're a lad down?" I surmised gloomily; and Etty concurred.

"Well, you did the right thing as usual, Etty! Let's sort out the rosters in the morning! And I suppose I shall have to Talk to Ginge! Ask Vic to see me and give me the lowdown on the intruders at the same time, will you? How's Snorri after the race?"

"Same as ever, Mr Neil. Can't understand it at all! That line never threw up any mules before – he's a one-off and that's a fact. Ate up pretty well this evening; but then – when ever didn't he?"

I turned a bland face to Alessandro, hovering in the background.

"WOULD you do Snorri? He goes for you as well as he goes for anyone!"

"Sure, Boss," Alessandro sounded a bit strained, "Anything to oblige! I'll say goodnight!"

Etty snorted as he stalked off into the night.

" 'Anything to oblige'? Does he think we've forgotten all about his snotty ways? If he wasn't such a good jockey ……"

"He did well today, Vic says."

"So he should – all the chances he gets! Well, you know your own business, Mr Neil. You look done-in! Go and get some rest! Night!"

Chapter Text

Title: Anomalous Odds (Part 10)
Pairings/Characters
: Neil Griffon/Alessandro Rivera.
Rating: Self-searching.
Fandoms: Primeval/Bonecrack
Disclaimer: All Rights Reserved. No copyright infringement is intended and no money is being made.

* * * *

Sadly, Etty's injunction fell on deaf ears. I got no rest at all; and at approximately 4.30am, gave up on a bad job, dressed and went downstairs.

There was no getting away from it; I DID feel weird.

I wasn't gay; I couldn't possibly be! I'd never seen other men in That Way; and I still didn't.

Not even Alessandro. ESPECIALLY not Alessandro!

I crept downstairs into the darkened office. I didn't feel like doing my usual early round this morning. I was too tired.

And anyway, what would I do if Alessandro made his customary appearance? I would have to TELL him ….

I couldn't do that!

He'd meant it as a gift – he'd said so. And it had been a damn fine gift; only it made me feel weird.

It wasn't Alessandro's fault if I felt weird; I told myself; half-angry on his behalf.

I switched on the computer that now sat on my father's desk. I could have done this upstairs on the laptop; but there was something comforting about the office, and the solid security of the older machine.

A plan to provide accommodation for Alessandro inside the house itself had sprung unbidden into my mind during the night. Now I reconsidered it, and decided it was a decent idea. Shame I wouldn't be implementing it!

I Googled Ark and Anomaly; and found myself being presented with ten pages of nutters claiming that the Ark of the Covenant was really sunk in Lake Michigan, disguised as a 12-string banjo. I huffed impatiently, and tried again with Arc.

This time I got a neat message –

Do you mean A.R.C? – and a link.

I followed it to Anomaly Research Centre – and there they all were! Sir James Lester heading it up; and all the names of the team, including Quinn, Connor Temple and Abby Maitland. There was no sign of Captain Hilary Becker; and any further queries hit the 'classified' wall.

At least it was kosher. I must tell Sandro …. Except …

I stopped, and took myself firmly by the scruff of the neck. I couldn't go on like this!

Margaret – who now inhabited this very seat, as Rowley Lodge's Senior Administrator – had once told me that Alessandro was beautiful. I'd sneered a bit at that; and she'd informed me that I wouldn't see it – being a man.

Perhaps if I tried putting myself in Margaret's place ….?

I went quietly to the window and – as if in response – Sandro erupted into the yard outside, from the direction of the drive. He was wearing track-suit bottoms, trainers and a skimpy vest; and had obviously just finished a run.

He turned a couple of cartwheels in the centre of the yard, checked his watch, and peered around. I drew back hastily from the window.

You've either got it or you haven't! Margaret had told me about male sex-appeal; and now I could see that Alessandro had it.

The growing light showed me the elegance of those cheek-bones; the wonderful darkness of the eyes; the wild exuberance of the untamed curls. He was small, of course (as befitted a flat-jockey), but perfectly in proportion to himself. I hadn't seen half-enough last night, during the scrambled, wonderful session on the back seat. It had all been so rushed! Next time ….

I gulped air; and made my lungs co-operate. Next time I would like to see how even-more-beautiful he would be, without any clothing at all.

He'd turned away towards the Hostel. I hurtled out of the office directly into the yard. It was quite a feat, given my breathless state, and the ache in my groin.

He heard the door, and turned back.

"Boss …?"

"Listen!" I said, on no breath at all, "Would you be willing to move into rooms here – in the house? It would be your own self-contained suite – flat – of course, I wouldn't want you to lose your privacy; but you know what sort of a world we live in, we can't come out … make this public, I mean, and running between the house and the hostel would be …."

I realised I was babbling, and shut myself up abruptly.

He'd paled. Even in the sodden grey of a damp dawn, I could see that.

"I thought you might hate me …. "

"Just Tell me – yes or no?"

"Of course!"

"Good!" I panted, "Then leave the rest to me! Except – if you felt like engineering a row with Ginge, it would be quite … convenient!"

He closed the distance between us, and I received his weight – slight, solid and shaking with laughter – into my arms. It was me who took the lead in the kissing this time.

"It'll be my pleasure, Boss!" he promised, as we broke apart.

"Good! And, Sandro - never again in the yard, OK?"

He made a wry face as he bounded off towards the Hostel.

"Anything you say," he called back, "Neil!"

Chapter Text

Title: Anomalous Odds (Part 11)
Pairings/Characters
: Neil Griffon, Etty Craig, A Computer.
Rating: Informative!
Fandoms: Primeval/Bonecrack
Disclaimer: All Rights Reserved. No copyright infringement is intended and no money is being made.

* * * *

I watched the first string out of the yard with slight regret. I'd have liked to have been present at The Row. However, I'd faithfully promised Etty that I'd try to resolve the Merries situation as soon as possible.

"It's all very well, Mr Neil!" she'd said, "And I'm not saying you weren't right to take them in. But – right or wrong – they're here, and SOMEONE ought to be paying for their upkeep! And they can't stay in that meadow forever, y'know. They'll need a vet checkup, and probably some jabs. Maybe you should ask the Research people to see to it themsleves!"

"Yes, Etty," I'd replied meekly, "I'll deal with it this morning, if you can spare me from the first string."

Etty had consulted her list.

"Well, we agreed we'd try Miss Phoebe Laxton against the colts today. Let's see … Gordon Grimley, Mitchellthevampire , Midnight Charter … all fairly decent and should give us a good idea about Phoebe's ability. Hmph – Traffic! Well, bloody-little-Alex will have to work his charm on that one – he's GOT to ride it in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth in July! And Ralph Longshaft. We'll put Ginge up, and tell him to keep it well away from Phoebe! I never saw a two-year-old so damn forward before – in That Way!"

"Libido over ability!" I'd agreed, "That sounds fine, Etty! I'll want to run a trial later this week, mind … and in the meantime try and persuade Lady C. that Alessandro's as good as any Lady-jockey, any day!"

Etty – a traditionalist to her heart's core – had snorted.

"If there was a girl good enough, I'd put her up; you know that, Mr Neil! But this all-female team for the Derby is Political Correctness gone mad!"

"I know, Etty!" I said soothingly, "I'll talk to Lady C. when the time comes!"

Once the string had cleared the yard, I gave scant further thought to the titled and wealthy Owner, who happened to spring from a line of militant suffragettes; and who had demanded a filly trained for the Derby – that bastion of equine masculism – with a female jockey to ride her. That was a complicated series of bridges to cross once we came to them; the Derby was still over five weeks away.

In the meantime, I needed to find a way around Sir James Lester with his government-sponsored research facility; and decide what – if I were left any say in the matter – might become of the Merries.

Googling Anomaly on its own, brought up a huge variety of stuff, so I narrowed it by trying it with Lester, Danny Quinn, Abigail Maitland and Connor Temple.

It was under the latter that I struck lucky.

A rather chaotic webpage called Duncan @ traitor.org turned up a load of conspiracy theories, a memorial corner to a mate called Tom; and a load of invective about Connor who, the page claimed, had sold-out to The Enemy thus causing Tom's death-by-dodo, and the Constant Hounding of the writer.

Death-by-Dodo? What was all that about?

Duncan claimed that he had proof that the so-called Anomalies were gateways into past aeons; and that infected dodos – coming through one of these – had been the cause of Tom's death. He'd also accrued a chaotic collection of snippets and news stories to back up this mad theory ('Dinosaur Trashed My Truck: claims drink-driver'; 'Mammoth on Motorway Mystery').

What if they were all true?

It was at this point that the first string came back. I could hear a babble of voices raised in violent argument; and hurried out to see what was going on.

Chapter Text

Title: Anomalous Odds (Part 12)
Pairings/Characters
: Neil Griffon, Alessandro Rivera, Ginge, Etty Craig, Vic Young.
Rating: Fractious.
Fandoms: Primeval/Bonecrack
Disclaimer: All Rights Reserved. No copyright infringement is intended and no money is being made.

* * * *

My pleasure that they'd brought The Row all the way back to the yard for my edification, evaporated rapidly as I saw Alessandro plodding in on foot, leading Traffic. The volatile colt was walking head-down, heavily favouring his left-fore. Damn! Why couldn't they manage a simple quarrel without involving our expensive livestock?

"There wasn't no call for you to be putting your fucking big nose in at all, Rivera!" Ginge shouted, sliding down from the sober old hack that Etty had been riding before, "I 'ad 'im under control – 'e wus only playful, thassall! 'E warn't running away with me, Miss Craig – honest!"

"Oh no!" sneered Alessandro, "So you MEANT him to charge crossways on the gallops towards Phoebe with a massive hard-on, did you? Lucky I was there to intercept him, or he might have …"

"That's ENOUGH!" interrupted Etty, climbing off Ralph Longshaft, and checking his legs, "Faddy had to take evasive action on Phoebe; and between the two of you, you've probably set her training well back! AND Traffic got struck-into! Alex – I'm not saying you shouldn't have gone in the way you did; but it's not your place to be telling other apprentices what they did wrong! Ginge ….. "

"COURSE 'e thinks it's 'is place!" yelled Ginge in stentorian tones, " 'E's been the Boss's little pet ever since Day One! Why'd 'e go and get Stable Jockey, over everyone's 'ead? What d'yer 'ave to do then, Alex? Bend over the tie-up bar for 'im one fine evening?"

In the horrified silence that greeted this tirade, I closed the office door with an audible bang, and walked unhurriedly into the yard. Alessandro, starting forward, face pale and fists clenched, halted in his tracks. Etty's jaw dropped. Several other lads hastily found things to do elsewhere; and Ginge, his freckles blotched scarlet, froze with his mouth half-open.

"What's the problem?" I enquired innocently.

Since no-one seemed inclined to answer, I strolled across to Etty. First things first! I'd deal with the irrational rage and vestiges of panic later, when I had time.

"Traffic'll need a poultice on that!" I observed.

"Yes … yes of course! I'll ask George …"

"Good! Is Phoebe OK?"

"A bit shook-up, Mr Neil!"

"Hmph! I'll need to talk to Faddy, then! Now …" I allowed my gaze to sweep impartially over both combatants, "Alessandro – go into the office, and calm down! You can occupy your time checking the items I pulled up on the desk computer! Ginge – you'll go to the Owners' Room and also calm down! Miss Craig and I will talk to you both after we've looked at the horses!"

No-one argued – not even Alessandro. The two of them disappeared in opposite directions as fast as they were able.

"Etty – " I forestalled her before she could speak, "Go and get Vic for me, will you? I'll meet you at Traffic's box and, I suppose, we'd better get Ginge and Alessandro's horses put straight! That's the priority, after all!"

* * * *

It was nearly an hour later when we called Ginge and Alessandro into my father's lair in the house. To tell truth, I'd rather not have used the room from which I'd been abducted (twice) by Enso Rivera; but its very forbiddingness was going to prove an asset today for a semi-formal reprimand to both parties.

I'd spoken quietly and rationally with both Etty and Vic whilst we put the horses straight; and was confident that both were going to back me.

Ginge still looked distraught; but Alessandro had retreated into his customary impenetrable arrogance. It was a timely reminder; I thought; that he showed his relaxed, impish, humorous self only to me. To everyone else he was the same snotty little squirt he'd ever been.

I mustn't lose him; whatever happened!

"Well now!" I took my seat at the massive desk, and began, "This is a sorry business! You might be relieved to know that Miss Craig and I have checked the horses involved; and they're unhurt except for Traffic's swollen knee-joint, which has been poulticed by George so we must hope for the best. Also Miss Craig and I have put your Two straight for you!"

I gazed around repressively. Putting horses straight after exercise was distinctly NOT the job of either the Head Lad or the Trainer. I continued in measured tones.

"I've had enough of this ill-feeling. It's upsetting the horses, and making things difficult for all the staff. Therefore, Miss Craig, Mr Young and I have agreed that Vic will be moving into the flat over the hostel to keep an eye on things! Alessandro – that means you must move out today. I've asked Mrs Stemper to get the East-wing suite habitable and you can take your stuff there once it's ready. I've been thinking of opening up parts of the house itself for use by staff; so you may as well be the guinea-pig for the scheme. You and Vic can go now and start on the rearrangement …. Miss Craig …..!"

As Alessandro and Vic clattered out, I sat back and listened whilst Etty tore into Ginge about his attitude, his lack of talent, and his unheard-of insolence to the Boss.

It was almost worth it! And making Ginge's continued employment at Rowley Lodge conditional on his attendance at a course on Anger Management was, I thought, sufficient revenge for one day. It might even do a bit of good.

Chapter Text

Title: Anomalous Odds (Part 13)
Pairings/Characters
: Alessandro Rivera/Neil Griffon
Rating: NC-17-and-then-some (well - hotness was requested)
Fandoms: Primeval/Bonecrack
Disclaimer: All Rights Reserved. No copyright infringement is intended and no money is being made.

* * * *

It felt like a week later by the time I finished evening stables with Etty that day. Luckily it was a thin Sunday. We didn't have any runners and Alessandro had no bookings from outside Rowley Lodge. I dropped into the deserted office and found a note by the computer.

Boss – check this and then read this. Sandro.

I took a quick look, and discovered an outdated eBay site, offering a 'rare lizard'. And a description that fitted the eBay picture – of a Coelurosauravus from the Permian period. Under his terse message, Alessandro had scrawled – If it IS true they're at it worse than us!

I ran off a copy of the oddly-crested green lizard before locking up, and going back to the house. I'd had enough for one day and would return to the ARC problem tomorrow.

The house felt different to me when I entered it, even though everything looked the same. It seemed alive in a way it had never been during my growing years! I could almost feel it breathing.

Nonetheless, I'd never been so glad that I'd eschewed both my Father's old bedroom and the one I'd had as a boy, once I had free choice of living quarters.

The one I'd picked was on the first floor, sited conveniently on the corner of the Frontage and the East Wing. It had windows on the two outer walls so that from the large one I got a view of the yard and office, whilst from the smaller side-window the rising sun greeted me each morning, gilding the roofs of Newmarket; and beyond the town a hint of the rolling green country and wide horizons that had inspired Tennyson.

The room also boasted one of the few modern-built four-poster beds in existence. It had been crafted by Viscount Linley in the 1980s and was a miracle of curved, planed posts and tasteful furnishings. It had cost me an arm and a leg, but I'd used my antiques contacts to place the order and my winnings on Alessandro's races during that dreadful time when I was juggling his Father, my Father and the whole racing world, to pay for it. I felt I'd earned it!

It would therefore be fitting to entertain Alessandro here – if he wanted to visit. I wasn't taking anything for granted yet.

I killed the overhead lights leaving only the soft, twirly eco-bulbs in their fittings above the bed-head. I took a shower, then slid beneath the crisp linen. I wouldn't – I told myself – expect anything. That wouldn't be fair, especially after this morning! But what if Alessandro didn't know the way to my room? Or which room I was in ….?

Sighing, I rooted out the Times Crossword. With Gillie I'd always done it in bed before … before ….."

"Boss?"

"Wha ….?"

I blinked owlishly. Alessandro was sitting at the foot of the bed in a sumptuously understated robe in primrose raw-silk.

"Boss!" he said in a rush, before I'd fully recovered from the doze I'd clearly dropped into, "I wish to apologise about Traffic's injury. Please forgive me!"

"Well, this is a First! And that's quite a respectable apology! Accepted of course. After all, I told you to instigate a row, and I can't complain when you did a stonking job!"

"Ston – king?"

"Heavily brilliant!" I explained, "How's the East Wing accommodation? Adequate?"

"Antiquated!" he corrected, "But I LOVE its situation, Boss!"

"How did you find me … this room, I mean?"

"Watched for you, and then followed you of course! I thought – best not to be asking anyone! Boss – what Ginge said ….."

"He didn't know ANYTHING!" I said forcefully, "That was just his idea of the worst insult he could think of! It made ME angry, so I can imagine how you must have felt."

"No – " he waved away my objection but leaned forward, deadly serious, "Boss, if you WANT me to bend over the tie-up bar for you – I will!"

"Well now, that's one heck of an offer, Sandro! How long did it take you to psyche yourself up – nerve yourself, I mean – to make it?"

"I mean it, Boss!" he said doggedly.

"Why don't you lose that garment, and come here under the covers? There's plenty of room, and we may as well be comfortable if you want to debate this!"

I watched covertly as he dropped the robe. Nude, his body was olive-skinned, solidly-muscular, and absolutely smooth. There was no body-hair in evidence anywhere except the customary six-o-clock shadow on his jawline.

"How'd you manage that?" I couldn't help asking, "Waxing?"

"Electrolysis, Boss. More permanent, and a lot less painful."

"It feels great!" I said sliding an experimental hand across his chest and belly as he settled beneath the covers.

"Wouldn't suit you, Boss!" his determined expression was oddly prudish, "So don't get any ideas!"

"Alright! I wasn't on my agenda anyway. Now …" I reeled him in until we were curled up together with the maximum amount of flesh in direct contact, "As regards that offer of yours – three things! One – the tie-up bar is far too public and this bed is much more comfortable. Two – if anyone's going to be bending over, it'll be me – at least in the foreseeable future! Clear?"

"Boss!" he was shocked, "That is not .. fitting!"

"In what way?" I asked nonchalantly.

I wasn't deceived. Couldn't be at these close quarters! At the very mention of it, his cock had twitched against my thigh.

"It's an act … an act of submission …. Isn't it?"

"Your father told you that, did he?"

"He said … that is, he would not allow the others – Those Two to fuck me. It was always the other way round. He said one would lose status .. manhood."

"Hmm. And did you ever disobey?"

"Yes, once; with the boy. Things went further than we'd intended."

"And soon after that," I guessed, "your father stopped the experiment?"

"But that was because ….." he paused, clearly adding up times and event-sequences.

I didn't labour the point; there was no need. Instead –

"I'll tell you the reason why it has to be that way for us, if you want to know." I offered.

"You do not need to, Boss. It will be the racing, won't it?"

"Yes. We owe it to the stable, the Owners and the horses not to do anything that's going to impair your efficacy as a rider. We even owe it to Etty, Vic and Ginge after today's little contretemps."

He sighed.

"You said there was a third thing!" he recalled.

"Yes, and you've just outlined it yourself. You know all about this stuff. I don't – yet!"

"Well, Boss," he shifted against me, "No time like the present for your first lesson, do you not think?"

I firmly quashed all the qualms I'd had before I'd managed to make my offer.

"Well, let's see how far I can get before you have to take over," I suggested, "For example …"

I pulled him half over me, combed my fingers through the curls behind his ears, and kissed him; relishing once again the rasp of his unshaven jaw against mine.

His robust response rather took me aback. Women generally would be more melting, but Sandro's kisses were insistent, combative, and ultimately irresistible.

His eagerness was infectious and I relinquished control, allowing him to trail his lips the length of my throat until he came to my collarbone. He paused to run his tongue slowly around the imperfectly-healed break.

"Sandro!" I gulped, struck suddenly by an unwelcome thought, "This isn't all about Gratitude and Recompense, is it?"

His ministrations stopped. He raised himself up on one elbow and leaned down to place an almost-chaste kiss on my cheek.

"No, Boss. It's all about love."

"Well then that's OK! Love I can live with! Gratitude would be unacceptable!"

He snatched a laugh.

"I PROMISE I'll never be grateful for NOTHING, Boss!" he declared; and swooped.

I had no time to cry out, or even to breathe. His chin swept my chest; paused to titillate my nipples, and proceeded downwards. He dipped a sly tongue into my navel, sped onwards, swirled it around the head of my cock, and stopped.

I repressed a needy squeak and he huffed a bit, disappointed; then applied himself once again to what he was doing.

"I won't last if you keep doing that!"

"Good!" he mumbled around me, redoubling his efforts.

Well, I'd warned him! I succumbed soon enough, bucking upwards into his mouth in several sharp, silent convulsions. He swallowed me down neatly and raised his head.

"I will not catch you unawares ever again with that squeak, will I Boss?"

"Not," I said, "If I see you … um … coming first!"

That made him roar with laughter.

"But you did not, Boss! – see me coming, I mean! Now …"

He leaned across my leg to reach for his discarded robe, rummaged briefly and emerged triumphant with a discreet tube of gel.

I tensed slightly.

"Boss – " he addressed me in instructional mode, "It would be sweetest to do this face-to-face, but it's easier – first time – to do it like horses do. Is that OK?"

"But I came already!"

"If I do this right, you will again! That was just so to get all those muscles there … " he swept my lower belly, " … and here …" one hand slid behind my balls, " … totally relaxed! So now, would you please turn, and …"

I knew what he wanted; and felt suddenly like Miss Phoebe Laxton, pushed to win the Derby under his unremitting drive.

"You're going to ride me to a finish?"

I looked up into his eyes, and saw the dark pupils dilate. My stomach cramped. I wanted this as much as he did!

"Yes!" I murmured, and scrambled round onto my elbows and knees.

Once again he was into action before I had time to think. Which was just as well, because if I'd known he was about to press the opened gel-tube firmly into my arse and then slowly squeeze out what felt like a good half of its contents, I should probably have objected.

"Christ!"

"It will be OK, Boss."

He laid one hand flat on my lower back, withdrew the tube slowly and replaced it with a carefully probing finger.

I wasn't sure what I was supposed to feel, or how to react. It wasn't unpleasant, but then again, it wasn't anything else either. Then he touched something deep inside, that caused me to jump.

"Good!" he murmured.

The finger was withdrawn. He knelt behind me and leaned along the length of my back murmuring incomprehensibly, in just the same way as I'd heard him calm the horses. I was about to tell him so when he probed me again, quicker and fuller this time, laying his hands on either side of my hips.

It was only then that I realised. By the time I'd caught up with the swiftness of the manoeuvre, he was fully inside.

"And that's that!" he said smugly.

"It doesn't hurt!" I said, half in wonderment, "It feels like defying gravity somehow, but it doesn't hurt!"

He bit back a gust of laughter, gathered himself and finally began to move with intent.

He'd made me so slick with the gel that his thrusts were smooth and easy; finding that tender spot irregularly, but often enough to keep me on an edge of anticipation. I could feel a storm gathering in the pit of my stomach.

His right hand, also slick with gel, crept around my hip, reached, and enclosed me. The rhythm increased to a killing pace – that burst of speed a jockey always hopes to produce in the final furlong if the mount doesn't falter.

Well, I couldn't falter if I'd wanted to! His hands on me were guiding, encouraging and goading me to an inevitable conclusion. It came in a series of spasms so strong that I thought I'd turned completely inside-out.

Muffled by the pillow, I sobbed aloud; and a moment later heard Alessandro cry out too. Sprawled across my back, he finally stopped the motion, and my heart remembered to beat to a calmer stroke.

"Did we win?" I asked faintly.

Chapter Text

Title: Anomalous Odds (Part 14)
Pairings/Characters
: Neil Griffon, Alessandro Rivera, Vic Young, 2 intruders
Rating: Action packed
Fandoms: Primeval/Bonecrack
Disclaimer: All Rights Reserved. No copyright infringement is intended and no money is being made.

* * * *

It was three nights later when the alarm bell shrilled from Vic's direct line at the hostel.

Cursing, I disentangled myself from Sandro in the post-midnight darkness and wrestled the receiver to my ear.

"Yes, Vic?"

"Intruders, Mr Neil. Two – carryin' a ladder, and makin' for the 'ouse!"

"Thieves? Seems a bit obvious and amateurish if so! Meet you at the dark end of the yard soonest!"

"Roger and out!" responded Vic importantly.

"Boss?"

"We've got company, Sandro. Time for you to go back to your quarters and forget you were ever here! No!" I added as he voiced an inarticulate protest, "I'd rather you stayed out of it!"

"Boss!" he said fiercely, "It might be some of Papa's old associates! I would never forgive myself …. "

And that – I thought, whilst pulling on a tatty old sweater, tracksuit bottoms and soft-soled shoes – was the very reason I wanted him out of sight.

"Please, Boss!"

There was a desperate note in his voice. He had his pride, too.

"Alright, alright! You can come along. Go back to your quarters and get dressed in something dark. You know where to meet with Vic!"

We both made it in about three minutes. I devoutly hoped that Vic would notice that we'd arrived from different directions.

"There y'are, Mr Neil! They're over by the corner of the 'ouse. Looks like they're targeting your bedroom!"

"That's mad! I don't keep anything …. "

"Well, they're not to know that!" replied Vic comfortably, "Shall we go get 'em then?"

"Let's do that!" I said lightly, although a horrible thought had just occurred to me, "And thank our stars for the surveillance equipment we set up in your flat, eh, Vic?"

"Right Mr Neil! Look 'ere now – Alex – you go back where ya came from an' then rush out an' make a lot of noise! I'm gonna do the same from the driveway. Mr Neil, you go first, dead quiet an' right into the yard. Open up Lancat's box. What we want is to cut off their retreat and kinda herd them into that box. Then, Mr Neil, you locks 'em in, quick as ya please! OK?"

"Good planning, Vic!" I murmured appreciatively.

"We aims ter please! Off yer goes then!"

I followed his plan, keeping to the shadows and moving silently. Looking back from the shelter of the nearest bay, I could see the long line of a ladder against the side of the house and a shadow moving on it. From the darkness below a voice was muttering although I was too far to catch the words. However, if Sandro came from the back of the house, he'd be able to hear everything.

I knew the layout here like the back of my hand; and it took very little time to open-up Lancat's box and then conceal myself between door and wall. From there, I couldn't see any of the action, but would have to rely on my reflexes if the plan worked.

I could hear sounds quite clearly too. It wasn't long before Sandro's voice was raised in an urgent shout, followed by Vic's response.

Next came the crunch of running feet on gravel; first going off towards the drive, then coming closer, with accompanying imprecations from the two fugitives.

"Fuck – they've cut us off! In here, Sarge! We c'n lose them around the boxes!"

"Shut it, idiot! There's horses! They'll start making noises if we disturb 'em – that's what Captain Becker said!"

"Fuck!"

"Hey – look! We c'n hide-out in there!"

"Unh .. Sarge … won't they come lookin'?"

"If all these bloody critters stay quiet, we may get away with it. We wait till they come checkin', an' then make a break for it! C'mon!"

They made no more ado, but crept into Lancat's inviting, empty box. I thanked my stars, as I banged the door to, and shot the bolts top and bottom, that Becker's troop was so stupid. I wished I'd had time to bait the trap with the tea-urn. We would probably have been spared the racket they were making, if I had.

I made my way back to where, now, there were muted sounds and torchlights. Sandro was removing and collapsing the extendible ladder; whilst Vic ferreted through a pile of stuff that lay abandoned on the ground.

"They left their weapons, Mr Neil, can you believe it?"

"Easily! We've met this lot before – it's that tea-sodden sergeant again, Sandro! What have you found there, Vic?"

Vic's voiced came back muffled and diffident.

"Cameras and recording equipment, Mr Neil!"

"Dear me! What on earth did they think they were going to catch? Margaret's too classy for the likes of me; and Etty's too … dedicated. And Becker should have told them that it's not the Trainers who get the groupies!"

I looked significantly at Sandro. Vic, taking the obvious implication, guffawed and made a passing comment about getting the location wrong in that case. Sandro, however, looked distinctly uncomfortable.

"All's well that ends well!" I parrotted, "We'll leave those beauties for the night; and first thing, I'll ring Sir James Lester! He's behind all this, I'm sure!"

"Yeah," agreed Vic, "'im and that tame grunt of his! Proper cosy little setup, eh? Dunno why they've got it in fer us though …."

"Oh, I do! And I've had enough of it all. Tomorrow they can come here, take their head-cases away, and sort the problem once and for all! I'll need the horse boxes, and a long talk with Etty. Could you warn her, Vic?"

Sure thing, Mr Neil!" he said puzzled.

"I'll say good night then. Sandro – I need a word! We'll use your side door, and lock up as we go."

I strode off sharply. As soon as we were inside with the door firmly closed, I turned swiftly and pinned Sandro against the passage wall.

I nuzzled his ear, and he relaxed fractionally. I could smell fresh sweat and the remains of expensive cologne. Nowadays that was more than enough to set all my senses fizzing and demanding more; and I could tell he was fast becoming ready too. At that point I nipped his earlobe sharply with my teeth.

"What did you tell Captain Becker?" I breathed.

He jumped.

"Damn, Boss! You picked up on …. Listen! I never meant to …."

"Sandro," I said resignedly, "You never do! Just tell me, eh?"

"I know I should have thought it through! We got a bit carried away with the flirting, and I said …. I said I had hopes .. and then he asked if I was trying to make you jealous with him," he gulped, "And I said yes I was, but wasn't even sure if you'd notice or … or want to think about it! Then he wished me luck and that was it!"

"Hmmm. I wonder if, after all, we WERE followed from Yarmouth," I squirmed internally at the thought, "Or if this lot just turned up on spec! Either way it would have been attempted blackmail. Damn! Well, I shall have to put a stop to this, Sandro. It might mean they'll take the Merries, but I have a couple of ideas we can try!"

"You do all this, Boss, just on my whim! I still have a lot to learn, haven't I?"

"Try applying race-jockey tactics to your ordinary life!" I suggested mildly, "And let's get to bed for what's left of the night. We've got a busy day tomorrow!"

Chapter Text

Title: Anomalous Odds (Part 15)
Pairings/Characters
: Neil Griffon, James Lester, Captain Becker. Mention of Abby, Sarah, Connor and Danny, Alessandro Rivera, Vic Young, Etty Craig, Margaret and (OMC) Little Joe. Also Horses: Sergeant Smallweed (retired champion), Snorri, The Merries.
Rating: Action packed
Fandoms: Primeval/Bonecrack
Disclaimer: All Rights Reserved. No copyright infringement is intended and no money is being made.

* * * *

At 11.30am precisely, a Ministry car swept up to the yard gates, crushing the gravel beneath its lordly wheels. The uniformed chauffeur alighted and made a production number of the passenger-door-opening routine.

I watched appreciatively from behind the curtains of the Owners' Room. This was my old friend James Lester at his theatrical best. However, if he thought I was going to be impressed by this charade, he would just have to think again! I had my own little pantomime all ready to upstage him!

About five minutes passed before Margaret appeared and announced Sir James, looking disapproving as he entered with his chauffeur in tow.

"Now, you see here, Griffon …..!"

"Thank you, Margaret," I interrupted, "That will be all for now! Good morning, James; and to you, Captain Becker!"

The 'chauffeur' removed his uniform-cap and intimidating shades, shrugging apologetically to his boss. I continued quickly before James could intervene.

"You'll find your men in Lancat's box. They'll need to be weaned gently off the breakfast tea-urn, but they're essentially unharmed. I have their equipment too; but since that's part of the … um …. negotiations, I'm sorry that I can't hand it straight back!"

Captain Becker's impassive façade cracked suddenly into a beguiling grin. Now that I was in some sense an initiate, I suddenly saw how amazingly hot he was.

"Mr Griffon! I can't thank you enough! NOW, Sir James - perhaps you could implement that ever-pending request for a change of personnel in my squad? I told you it was useless under that damned sergeant!"

"Captain Becker! You forget yourself! Please retrieve your personnel and await the rest of the team at the driveway!"

I swear Becker winked at me as he saluted smartly and went out. I turned blandly to James.

"Griffon!" he barked, "You're in breach of the Official Secrets Act and …. "

"Nice to see you too, James. And before you tell me I'm a traitor like poor old Duncan, may I say that this is no good way to treat an old friend!"

"That has nothing to do with it, Neil! And if you choose to believe all Duncan's Ripleian nonsense …."

"If it's nonsense, why are you making it an issue of national security? I think you should review my evidence first James, and then listen to my suggestions before you condemn it out of hand! I am, after all, trusted by a number of highly influential Owners to take care of their investments!"

"That's …. " James stopped, his mouth flapping like a line-caught trout.

"That's just logical, James. Ah – here comes my evidence! And – if I'm not mistaken – your team as well."

Several horse boxes had crowded into the yard; followed in straggly procession by Quinn's motorbike and a people-carrier.

Just to make matters even more chaotic, the second-string arrived from the gallops, led by Sandro who appeared to be coaxing one last heroic effort from a somnolent Snorri.

"What's all this?" asked James, staring as Vic Young jumped down and began to unload the first box.

"The casus belli, James; what else?"

We watched the undersized lad leading elderly Sergeant Smallweed down the ramp. The old trouper bore himself with a distinctly self-important air as he clopped stiffly to the open gate of the summer paddock. There he stopped dead; refusing utterly to go through.

"What the hell's up with Smallweed?" I muttered.

"NOT such a good advertisement for your … what was it again? … highly influential Owners, is it, Griffon?" sneered James.

"Experienced Owners know that horses aren't machines!" I retorted.

The lad had tied the old horse to the paddock rail; and now returned to the depths of the box. He reappeared backwards, his hands full of carrots.

"Honestly, Neil!" James had forgotten his freezing formality in his haste to ram the point home, "CARROTS as a training aid? Just a mite BASIC, isn't it? Your father …."

He stopped dead, mouth and eyes agape.

"They're rather a basic species!" I explained apologetically.

The two youngest Merry-mares had appeared on the ramp, pirouetting their small, vestigially three-toed hoofs across the slats, in Little Joe's wake. The smaller one was clearly in-foal. Another potential Ace in my already-strong hand!

"Whatwhatwhat … what ARE they?" James had found his voice.

"Well James, I was hoping that YOU could tell me that! But at a guess, I'd say Merychippus – the earliest equine that's recognisable by today's standards. I have to admit that The Cute Factor is WAY up! It's almost nauseating , in fact!"

We watched in silence as Vic pulled his van away to allow Etty – driving the bigger box – to replace him. From this came four more dainty chestnut and white-striped mares; and – with a final flourish – the strutting little bantam-cock of a stallion.

At this point the people-carrier erupted. Abby, Connor and another female figure could be seen dancing about in excitement.

The stallion reached the gateway, surveyed his harem, and trotted neatly through. He turned immediately along the fence where Smallweed was tethered, approached him and brushed noses. The old champion received the caress, bent the length of his serpent-neck and dropped his grizzled chin down as far as the tie-rein would allow.

"My God! Look at the string!" breathed James in my ear.

Every rider was dismounted in the face of the string's obdurate non-response to any cajoling. The whole million-quid's worth was planted in a line at the paddock rails. As I watched in total disbelief, every neck – including Snorri's – was bowed. The Merry-stallion bobbed his bristled mane in acknowledgement and trotted off to join his mares. The throroughbreds shifted suddenly, as if awakening from a trance, and turned back to their boxes.

"It would appear," said Sir James Lester in hushed tones, "That horses are ancestor-worshippers!"

Chapter Text

Title: Anomalous Odds (Part 16)
Pairings/Characters
: Neil Griffon, James Lester, Captain Becker, Abby, Sarah, Connor, Danny, Alessandro Rivera, Etty Craig, and (OMC) Little Joe.
Rating: Penultimate
Fandoms: Primeval/Bonecrack
<Disclaimer: All Rights Reserved. No copyright infringement is intended and no money is being made.

* * * *

When first I'd taken over the Lodge on my father's sudden death, I'd made a bigger effort with The Owners' Room than with the rest of the house. Assuring the comfort of our source of income was, after all, a higher priority than my own freezing, undernourished arse.

Therefore, in addition to the comfortable seating area that I'd inherited, I'd also set up a conference centre boasting a large oval table with places for up to sixteen people; each provided with its own computer console and a variety of more traditional stationery. Centre-table could thus be given over – as it was today – to bottles, glasses and piles of upmarket sandwiches, spring rolls, dim sum and home-baked mini-macaroons.

Right now, this setup was occupied by Sir James Lester, Becker, Quinn, Connor, Abby and Sarah on one side; and Sandro, Etty and Little Joe on the other. I perched uncomfortably on the narrow top-of-the-egg curve and pretended that I was chairing the meeting.

"Another macaroon, Mr Temple?"

"Yay – they're ace! Can I grab some for Sid and Nancy?"

"Of course – speak to Mrs Stemper our invaluable housekeeper! She'll put you up a bag to take with you."

James downed his Laphroaig in one, held out his glass for a refill, and opened negotiations.

"Now then – we need to know how these … these Merries, as you call them, came to be here!" he cleared his throat, and added sheepishly, "Reminds me of Robin of Sherwood – that name!"

"You always made me play Guy of Gisborne!" I recalled.

"Best role of all of them!" responded James shiftily,

"How d'you make that out? Especially as you always chose to be Sheriff!"

"Hrumph! Guy had a very loyal fanbase, I'll have you know …."

"Boss!" this was Sandro intervening, "Maybe we should …. Miss Craig and Joe need to be elsewhere soon!"

"Yes, of course! Well – I think we might owe the ARC an apology. We've inadvertently created an … erm … anomalous situation!"

"What are you trying to weasel out of now, Griffon?"

"Nothing at all, Sir James! I'm actually confessing. You see – when the Merries came out of that sparkly light in Lancat's box, we – Alessandro and I – thought they might be the result of genetic experiments by the Equine Research Laboratories. And so Sandro .. um … that is, WE thought that they'd do better if we liberated them into our paddock. However …."

"Where WERE they?" burst out Connor.

"Somewhere safe, Mr Temple," I replied uninformatively, "But if – as I suspect after a close perusal of Duncan's website – this rather endearing little species have escaped from – ahem – a specialist environment – then we have rather scuppered their chances of a successful return by holding them here. Therefore I suggest …."

"They CAN'T go back! They've been compromised!" stated Abby, the light of battle in her eyes.

"Precisely, Miss Maitland! So now let us consider what we have here! Maybe you'd like more details? Joe – who has valiantly been pretending to have Swine Flu in order to take charge of the Merries – has collected a large amount of research-data. I'd like you to see what he has! Joe …..?"

I sat back and watched whilst homesick, lachrymose but computer-literate Little Joe whizzed us through a dazzling Photobucket-full of Merries shots. He'd managed close-ups of all the important bits of their anatomy, including the hoofs with their prominent (and clearly semi-mobile) extra toes; good shots of leg-conformation (front and back), and the narrow stripes on shoulders and rump acting as camouflage in the shade. He'd also managed some footage of them in action.

" …. and I think it would be good to get some X-rays!" he concluded.

"We could set that up easily enough in the ARC, couldn't we?" Connor appealed to the two women.

"Definitely," concurred Abby, her eyes lingering on the screen before her, "But I don't know whether we could keep them – we haven't the facilities for a whole herd! Maybe a mobile X-ray unit here? We could sort that, eh, Danny?"

James broke in, clearly annoyed.

"Now wait just a minute, young lady ….. "

"Oi!" broke in Danny, his face adorned with a broad grin, "We've told you before about sexism in the workplace, Boss!"

"Terrible team-discipline, James!" I noted sadly.

James became alarmingly purple in the face, and opened his mouth for a blistering retort. I hastened on.

"Why don't I ask Miss Craig and Joe to take the geeks for a closer look at the Merries whilst you and I get down to the nitty-gritty? Ladies and gentlemen, could I request that you don't touch them – even in the face of overwhelming temptation? If they're to stay here – in the present, I mean – they'll need all kinds of special injections. But before that, it occurred to us that you – or the Equine Research people – might want blood and tissue samples. So, in the meantime, it's only Joe who can handle them, I'm afraid!"

Abby was nodding approvingly. The others looked disappointed but understanding.

"Good! Lead off then, Miss Craig! Sandro – could you stay please? Ah – and I perceive that Captain Becker will be remaining too. Excellent!"

So the decks had been cleared for the really dirty bargaining! I crossed my fingers surreptitiously beneath the table, and hefted the Laphroaig.

"Well then James?" I said, "We need to talk!"

Chapter Text

Title: Anomalous Odds (Part 17 - Conclusion)
Pairings/Characters
: Neil Griffon, James Lester, Captain Becker, Alessandro Rivera.
Rating: Conclusive!
Fandoms: Primeval/Bonecrack
Disclaimer: All Rights Reserved. No copyright infringement is intended and no money is being made.

* * * *

"You can't do this, Griffon … keep them, I mean!"

"Give up, James!" I suggested, "You know damn well the Merries won't find a better berth than here! All I need is a grant to cover their upkeep and …."

"Now you stop right there! You're in breach of the Official Secrets Act and that makes you a traitor …."

"Rubbish!" I said baldly, "I haven't signed it – yet! And if you attempt to prosecute me, I'll get the Jockey Club on your case and tie you up for years! They're bigger dinosaurs than anything you've ever met! And before you say it'll all be done in camera, I should tell you that I sent a full account of this Government Persecution to my lawyers in London this morning, with instructions to copy to the Countryside Alliance unless they hear to the contrary from my personal mobile number by four o'clock today. And, by the way, that includes the Army's blatant infringement of privacy last night; so I included Captain Becker in the deposition!"

There was a long pause.

"The Merries appeared on my property, after all!" I added persuasively, "And even Abby admitted that my facilities are better than the ARC for them."

"Bloody scientists - giving the game away!" muttered James, "No grasp of the Larger Picture! And as for the Army – that definitely comes under National Security and ….."

"Hilary," I asked blandly, "What's your opinion ….?"

"That's Captain Becker, with due respect, sir!" interrupted the Captain.

"Ah! Apologies! Such an embarrassing name at Sandhurst, eh? But since James called you by it, I naturally thought …."

"That's because I'm his bo ….." began James.

""Boyfriend?" guessed Sandro innocently.

"BOSS!" yelled James.

"Quite understandable, Captain. I shall henceforward take care to address you only by title! But let's consider your agenda here. You have a rather inept sergeant who has been wished upon you from On-High. James won't take your requests for his transfer seriously. So your only option is to show him up for what he is – a tea-swilling grunt. Congratulations! You succeeded admirably. Please take charge of all the firearms and photographic gear your men abandoned. You'll find them – if I may say so – in pristine condition!"

Becker gave me such a dazzling smile that my heart almost flip-flopped.

"I can't thank you enough, Mr Griffon! Please! You – and, and indeed Sandro here, are welcome to use my first name anytime!"

"It will be an honour; and by the way, my friends usually call me Neil!"

James, now totally isolated, cleared his throat.

"Well then – suppose I DID arrange a grant – what could you offer?"

"Everything you've already seen. I think the Equine Research Lab should be involved with the various jabs – we can say the Merries are a specialist breed bequeathed to me by a South American drugs baron. And Abby might be made responsible for collecting the unadulterated blood and tissue-samples. The whole team will have to be involved in the X-ray."

"And what do you want in exchange?" asked James suspiciously.

"Oh, very little. Virtue brings its own rewards to the stable! For example, it's obvious that the Merries will have a beneficial effect on the temperament of our racers. Take Snorri – he'll be much more biddable if we assign one of the Merries to his box every time he races. It's not unusual, you know, for top race horses to adopt a close friend – sheep, goats, ponies! The punters love stories like that!"

"And that's all?"

"Well, James, if you decided to take an interest again – even become an Owner – it would look much more natural when you came visiting. Or maybe – here's an idea! Since you made the effort at Yarmouth, maybe you should schmooze some of the local stewards and racecourse-management and become a sponsor?"

"That would be … well, let's say it would get me out of the office every now and again! And semi-legitimately too, if I was checking on the Merries. I like that idea!"

"I think, then," I pursued, "That Hilary should be the Owner!"

"On my Army pay? If you think I can afford …."

"Not you personally, of course! The highly useful Family Trust Fund that your grandfather, Lord Guiting, set up for you. He'd have approved, you know! My grandfather trained Vita-Violet to win the Oaks for him back in '49 – I checked my records. "

Hilary Becker burst into delightful laughter, in the midst of which, he descended on James, and planted a kiss on the end of his nose. Lester batted him away irritably.

"You checked me out in Burke's Peerage, I suppose? Look here, James, he's a match for both of us! Do let's go along with this – it'll be such fun! Neil – a further proposition for you! Next time you're in Paris for the Arc de Triomphe – you and Sandro must take a few days off afterwards in Grandfather's hunting lodge in Brittany! We …. James and I …. Might join you if you feel it's not an intrusion! What d'you say?"

"Sandro?"

My stable jockey looked a bit askance at Captain Becker; and I realised with a bit of a thrill that he was jealous of Becker's recent interactions with me.

"OK!" he said, just short of surly.

"James?" I asked.

"Oh … I can never resist Hilary in one of his enthusiasms. Very well, I'm in!"

I hefted the Laphroiag and poured for all of us – recalling, however, that Sandro had a race this afternoon and must therefore take his with plenty of water.

"To us!" I toasted, "D'you know what my dream-scene would be? Hilary's colt winning the Derby; with me training and Sandro on board. And you making the presentation, James!" I drained my glass and added recklessly, "And we all have a group-cuddle on the rostrum!"

James gathered his rather drunken dignity around him like a vampire's cape, and got in with the last word.

"Really, Neil! Under the current Jockey Club, and the present ethos? You must be in Denial to envisage THAT particular scene!"