They came at midnight, the witching hour – when the moon was full and shadows cast ominous shapes. Doyle stared from a window in the drawing room of the mansion, having just completed a tour of the rooms and inspected all the windows and doors, again. A set routine but one he varied every third or fourth round, just to make the boredom more interesting. Cowley occupied the study, prodigiously going through papers because, as everyone knew, he never slept. Johnny and Nicole were settled by the fire in the far corner of the drawing room, sitting close and talking quietly. Bodie was upstairs in their room, catching some sleep because he was due to relive Doyle at 2.00am. All was right with the world, until the single gunshot that shattered the silence and punched a hole in the window beside Doyle’s head.
While the gunshot made Bodie stir, it was the RT next to his ear and Doyle’s insistent voice that brought him to full consciousness.
“4.5 to 3.7. Wake up, Sunshine. We have company.”
Bodie grappled momentarily with the RT, fighting off the cobwebs of sleep to give his partner a mumbling reply. “The bad guys?”
“Can’t think who else would be shooting out the windows, mate.”
“Shit. On my way.”
The lights were out when Bodie arrived in the drawing room, apart from the minimal glow from small lamps atop the fireplace and from the flames of the fire itself. He could see the small, neat hole in the front window though, and its cobweb design of radiating cracks.
Doyle had taken up position on one side of the window, Cowley on the other and Bodie didn’t like the look of concern on their faces. Doyle was speaking into his RT giving the call signs for Murphy and Mitchell while Cowley checked the immediate area with a pair of binoculars.
“Och no, these are hopeless. It’s too dark out there. They could be right outside the window and I’d no see them.” Anxious and irritated he jerked the binoculars from around his neck and tossed them onto a nearby table, before turning back to Doyle “Well?” he asked.
Doyle shook his head, “No answer.”
“Just the one shot so far?” Bodie queried and Doyle nodded. “Where the hell are Murphy and Mitchell?”
“Don’t know. But I do know it would take someone very clever to take Murphy out. Maybe they’re just not in a position to answer yet.”
“Aye, maybe,” Cowley agreed. “But we can’t count on that. To all intents and purposes we’re on our own, gentlemen.”
“Oh, and before you ask, Bodie, the telephone wires have been cut. Tried it before you got here.” Doyle added the information for his partner.
“I can handle a gun, Mr Cowley.” Johnny and Nicole had moved away from the fire and closer to where the three CI5 men stood, though making sure to keep well away from the window.
“And you know I can as well, Uncle George,” Nicole told them.
“Yes, yes. I know Nicole. And thank you for the offer Johnny. But it’s our job to protect you. So for the moment its best you leave us to do just that.”
“They’re being awful quiet out there,” Doyle commented.
“Perhaps they’ve given up and gone away,” Johnny suggested.
“Would you? After one shot?” Bodie asked and Johnny shook his head.
“I don’t like it.” Doyle was staring though the window again, his eyes glinting in the reflected moonlight.
“Neither do I.” Cowley’s voice was grim.
Bodie remained silent for a moment, considering. Finally he came out with what he thought was a logical conclusion. “Only one thing for it. Try the front door, shall I? See if I can’t draw them out of their hidey holes.”
Doyle looked at him as if he were mad. Cowley’s look was more considering. He ignored Doyle and concentrated on Cowley. “What do you think, Sir?”
“Perhaps not the front door, Bodie. But if I remember correctly the cellar has an outside access. It may be possible for you to slip out that way without drawing a gunman’s attention.”
“We don’t even know where these gunmen are, let alone how many there are!” Doyle argued.
“No, we don’t. But Bodie’s right, we need some idea of the forces arrayed against us. A careful reconnoitre could give us that information.”
Doyle still looked unconvinced, angry even, but Bodie wanted to try it. Anything to break this edgy stalemate.
“Right,” Cowley said, issuing orders with the precision of the military commander he was. “Doyle, you go with Bodie to the cellar, cover him. Don’t waste any time out there, Bodie. Find out what you can then get back in here. No heroics. I’ll cover you as much as I can from here.”
Bodie nodded and drawing his gun from his holster, headed for the kitchen and the stairway that led down to the cellar, Doyle close on his heels. Small, with no other function other than to store unused furniture and a boiler, the cellar was a single dust and cobweb filled room. Bodie knew from their own reconnaissance that as the house sat on a slope the door at the far end of the room exited on level ground at the side of the building.
The door was solid and locked but the key remained in the keyhole and Bodie breathed a sigh of relief that there was no unwanted squeak of hinges as he cautiously eased it opened and peered outside. Doyle, the rifle he’d picked up on the way held in steady hands, stood close behind, the comforting feel of his breath soft on Bodie’s neck.
Everything was quiet and still, no sign of bad guys or movement. Holding his gun out in front of him he made to move further but Doyle, covering him now from the other side of the open doorway, stopped him with a look. “You heard the man. No heroics.”
Bodie nodded. “Just make sure you’re right here when I get back. I might need you and that rifle of yours.”
“Not moving till I see the whites of your eyes, Sunshine.”
Bodie grinned and edged out of the doorway, flattening himself against the outside wall. The garage was opposite, forming a small alleyway to the front of the house and he had a good line of sight both in front and behind him. A slight breeze ruffled through his hair but otherwise the night was still and perhaps too quiet. Glancing back he could just make out Doyle’s shadowy figure, poised, ready as always to cover his back. He edged along the wall until he reached the front corner of the house. Taking another second to survey the area and decide on his best option, Bodie chose the shortest stretch of empty ground to cross before reaching the relative safety of the beginning of the wooded area of the grounds. He covered the distance in a few long strides.
Moving swiftly now he wove a cautious path through the wild tangle of shrubs and trees, trying not to trip on exposed roots, heading towards the front of the house where he hoped he’d find what he was looking for.
He could smell them before he saw them, the pungent odour of cigarettes and barely visible tendrils of smoke reaching him long before he glimpsed the two figures crouched in a small clearing not far from the front wall of the property. They were talking quietly but not so quietly that Bodie couldn’t make out most of what they were saying.
“How many you think are in there, Fanie?” The speaker was slightly smaller than his companion and more rotund, his Afrikaans accent thick and guttural. A cigarette dangled from his lips and he was holding an Uzi.
“The boss’s information was that there’s no more than two, besides Nkosi and the girl.” The one the man had called Fanie was pulling cylindrical objects out of a bag and placing them carefully on the ground in front of him.
“Don’t like it, man. We should be on the plane to Jo’burg right now, nearly home. That’s the way it’s supposed to go – do the operation and, whether we hit the target or not, we get out before anyone knows we were there. Why’d the boss change it? Why now?”
Fanie shrugged. “When I know what goes through that cold bastard’s mind I’ll let you know. In the meantime we do as we’re told, nê?”
Uzi holder removed his cigarette long enough to spit on the ground in front of him. “Bladdy rooinek, not his head in a noose if things go wrong, is it?” he muttered.
Fanie ignored the comment. “Pity Nico let that shot off though,” he said instead. “They must’ve heard it. They’ll be waiting for us. Told him no guns. That ou doesn’t listen!”
“We’ll have a few surprises for them, nê!” Uzi holder sounded pleased with himself. “What about them?” he asked, nodding towards a nearby tree. Bodie followed the direction of the nod and caught his breath. Two figures were sitting propped up against the tree, heads lolling forwards onto their chests. They seemed to be tied securely in place. At least Bodie now knew what had happened to Murphy and Mitchell.
“They’ll keep,” Fanie answered him. “We can take care of them when we leave. And put that bladdy stompie out!”
Uzi holder obediently took the cigarette from his lips and mashed it into the ground. It was down to the butt anyway. “Where the hell’s Nico? What’s keeping him?”
Both men looked up as another figure appeared, making its way through the bushes from the front area of the house.
“About time! You set it?” Fanie sounded anxious, edgy. The man nodded and held something up.
As Bodie looked at the object in the newcomer’s hand then glanced again at the canisters and finally it all came together and he knew exactly what these goons were planning. It took another moment to calculate the odds. He couldn’t take them all out, at best he would get their obvious leader and maybe the new arrival, but the Uzi guy would be sure to get him and he had to get back and warn the others, otherwise they would never know the danger they were in.
But he was too anxious, too careless. The snapping of a twig was enough to alert the men and he was too exposed, caught on an open patch of ground, to gain cover. They saw him straight away their questioning voices and shouts followed by a volley of gunfire. He ran, fast and hard, body tense, waiting for the inevitable impact of a bullet in his back, trying to zigzag though the undergrowth and bushes, heading for the cellar door where he knew Ray would be waiting for him, ready. There was no returning fire from the house and Bodie knew his boss wouldn’t dare fire without knowing where his man was.
He could hear the men fanning out behind him, moving to cut him off before he reached his refuge. The gunfire continued but it was sporadic, more calculated now rather than reactionary. A shot kicked dirt into the air in front of him. A second one zinged past his head and hit the tree next to him, spraying out bark chips that stung the side of his face and he felt the blood run down his cheek.
Finally he could see cellar doorway, it was a dark empty hole with no sign of Doyle and for a moment Bodie’s heart stopped. Had they beat him to it? Was Ray even now a bleeding, lifeless form on the cellar floor? He picked up speed, sending his body forward in a last desperate dash; so fast, so out of control that he was overrunning the doorway and skidding, trying to stop the headlong rush, in danger of ending up a tangled heap on the ground until a strong arm reached out from the doorway and, latching on to the collar of his jacket, hauled him into the safe darkness.
“Didn’t tell me you were bringin’ company.” the familiar voice was a balm to Bodie’s shattered nerves as Doyle stepped back into the doorway, rifle up, sending bullets into the darkness.
“Weren’t invited, were they,” Bodie said as he joined him. But there was nothing now to shoot at, an ominous silence having settled and no sign of Bodie’s pursuers.
Doyle pulled back. “Where’ve they gone?”
“At a guess, the front of the house.” Bodie was panting, trying to catch his breath. “Ray, they’ve got explosives. And tear gas. We have to get up back up there. Now.”
“Shit!” Ray had the presence of mind to slam the cellar door shut and lock it. Keeping his rifle in one hand, he drew his handgun from its holster with the other and followed his partner up the cellar stairs at a run.
They made it to the top of the stairs before the explosion hit. Gunfire followed almost immediately and the slightly acrid odour of gas began to reach them. Urgent now, they bolted through the kitchen, fanning out automatically as they reached the passage. The front door had been taken out with the explosion, as well as most of the drawing room window as far as they could see through the swirling cloud of tear gas. A shadowy figure was silhouetted in what had been the front doorway, the head odd-looking, distorted and it took Bodie a second to realise the distortion was a gas mask. Both he and Doyle fired simultaneously but the figure was too hazy and already out of the line of fire and in the drawing room so all they had succeeded in doing was giving their position away.
Turning as one, eyes already beginning to sting from the drifting tendrils of gas, they ran back towards the kitchen and down the passage to the rear entrance of the library. Reaching the doorway Doyle glanced at his partner and Bodie nodded. Together they swung into the room, guns outstretched and ready.
The gas hadn’t quite reached the centre of the long room; in fact it seemed to be dissipating slightly, so the tableaux that greeted them was clear and terrible. Nicole - terror written on her features, her eyes red and tearing - turning towards the doorway and possible safety; Johnny directly behind, attempting to shield her, and Cowley, leaning against one of the couches, trying to bring his gun up to fire left handed at the gas-masked man advancing on them, the other arm hanging uselessly by his side as a patch of red at his shoulder spread rapidly out across his shirt.
Three shots rang out as one and the man staggered back. Doyle started on his way towards Cowley and Bodie began to ease from his shooter’s stance. It was then Bodie became of aware of three things. The first was that Johnny was inexplicably rolling across the coffee table with such amazing fluidity that, if he’d had time, Bodie would have admired it; the second was an awareness of the man in the far doorway leading from the drawing room; and the third was that the man’s gun pointed directly at Doyle, there were two gunshots, and it was too late for Bodie to do a thing about it.
The explosion had taken them by surprise, their attention diverted by the sounds of gunfire coming from the grounds. Seconds before the front part of the house disintegrated Cowley had shouted for them to move back, some premonition perhaps or just the experience of an old fighter, Johnny wasn’t sure which, but whatever it was it had saved them. That was when the tear gas canister had rolled onto the ruined carpet, spilling out its noxious fumes.
The bullet hit Cowley in the shoulder as he herded them back through the drawing room to the library, the shooter appearing out of the swirling mist of gas like a deadly apparition. Barely a minute later they were trapped in the library, a wounded Cowley trying to turn and fire at the gas-masked monster. At the same moment both Bodie and Doyle appeared as if my magic, their guns blazing and everyone’s attention was riveted on the sole gunman.
How or why Johnny noticed the other man moving into the library from the other doorway leading from the drawing room and lifting his firearm to aim at Doyle, he could never explain afterwards. But see him he did and his reaction was almost instinctive as he took a rolling dive over the coffee table to reach the gun he knew Bodie had hidden underneath, coming up, gun in hand and already firing a second later.
The man in the doorway fired just as Johnny’s bullet took him high and threw him backwards, the shot impacting harmlessly against the bookshelves behind Doyle.
The sudden silence was deafening. Doyle was looking with surprise at the man Johnny had shot. Bodie was looking at Johnny intently and when Johnny returned his stare Bodie nodded once, slowly and smiled. Johnny returned the smile. Cowley was by the couch, Nicole holding him steady.
Then the man with the Uzi walked in, followed closely by another man – a man Johnny was sure he recognised.
Fanie thought he was in a dream, a hallucination. It had to be that, why else would everything have gone so horribly wrong. Nico was down, vrek. The kaffir had got him with a shot out of nowhere. Didn’t even know the bastard had a gun. No more girlie magazines for Nico, or TV cartoons either. Never saw it coming did he? Stupid doos. When he turned his head the right way Fanie could just see Nico’s body and the bullet hole in the gas mask, right between his eyes. No walking away from that.
Fanie thought he was dead too, or would be soon, the way he was bleeding. He could feel the blood seeping out of him, spreading wet and warm, leaking out his life force. He could taste it too, metallic and sour - maybe that was why he was hallucinating. At least a couple of bullets had hit him when those two souties appeared and opened up on him. He’d know them again, those two, would remember them if they met up again. The thought was satisfying for a moment but was followed closely by another. Ag, man, what was the point of remembering, he was dying anyway.
There was no pain yet though, just a far away feeling – like he was about to float off somewhere, free and light as a bird. He’d had the kaffir right where he wanted him too, and the girl. The old man wouldn’t have been a problem, he wasn’t supposed to be there anyway – not according to the Controller at any rate. Damn, he wished he were back home, watching the rugby at Loftus, drinking Castle beer, taking his girl to the bioscope. Anywhere but in this bladdy cold country where the sun never shone. He didn’t want to die here. Or worse, live and end up in the hands of those CI5 bastards. The Embassy wouldn’t help him or his Controller. Shit! Why him? It just didn’t seem fair.
But mainly he thought he was hallucinating because he was lying on the floor in his own blood, but his Controller, the man who had set the whole mission up, had set Fanie up, was standing behind Cyril, speaking in that plummy lisping voice to the people Fanie had been trying to kill but who had killed him.
His Controller’s face was the last thing Fanie saw before the hallucination (if that’s what it was) began to fade out and a stark whiteness take its place. It wasn’t long before the whiteness faded to black.
It was almost like a movie, a James Bond film perhaps, only in slow motion. His limbs had felt like sludge when he tried to turn and fire at the man shooting at Ray. But the film had speeded up and Ray was safe because of Johnny Nkosi. And Bodie knew he owned the man a debt he could never repay – his lover’s life. Only then there was one more baddy, as there always is in shoot ’em up thrillers, and a quick calculation told Bodie they had run out of luck, at least some of them were about to die.
That was when the Director yelled “cut”. Or more precisely the peculiar little man who walked in behind the Uzi toting gunman yelled in a commanding voice, “Stop. Hold it. All of you.”
And surprisingly enough everyone obeyed.
“Gentlemen, lower your weapon please.” The man was exceedingly polite, his tone brittle. The gun in his hand was incentive to obey, as was the Uzi still being held by his companion.
Bodie, Doyle and Johnny looked at each other, then at Cowley who nodded to them. They lowered their guns but didn’t drop them.
“I think you can lower yours too, Cyril,” the man said. “As a sign of goodwill.”
Cyril looked hard at the man for a moment, before obediently dropping the muzzle of the Uzi so it pointed to the floor. The stranger, however, kept his own gun level and steady.
“I know you, don’t I?” Johnny said, uncertain but more positive as he carried on. “Craig Roberts. You came to my office yesterday, said you were a representative of International Educational Fund.”
“I think you’ll find, Johnny, that the International Educational Fund Have never heard of Mr Roberts.” Cowley was swaying slightly but still on his feet.
“Oh, on the contrary, Mr Cowley they know me quite well. I’ve been working for them for some time, gave me quite a good cover as a matter of fact. Shame that’s gone to waste now because of the incompetence of my men.”
“You set the bomb yesterday, you tried to kill us.” Nicole accused.
“Not exactly. The purpose was more of, shall we say, a warning to those who set themselves in opposition to a legitimate Government; to let them know that we can find them, and their friends, anywhere in the world. You really should be more careful who you mix with, Miss Goossens. Certain … associations might lead you down dangerous paths – place you in the field of danger.”
“And now you’ve come to finish the job? Is that it?” Johnny was moving slightly, trying to position himself in front of Nicole and Cowley.
“Do keep still, Mr Nkosi,” Roberts admonished. Johnny stopped moving.
“My men were under a watching brief only,” he continued. “They were instructed not to endanger British subjects during their activities. We don’t want the wrath of the British Government brought down on our heads after all, do we? However, we do have the right to keep a watch on our dissidents and enemies. Its no more than what The British Government, your own department, does, is it not, Mr Cowley?”
“We don’t plant bombs or kill those in opposition to our policies.”
Roberts looked impatiently at his captives. “As I already implied, Mr Cowley, we were merely trying to ascertain the extent of Mr Nkosi's support within sections of the British Government and Miss Goossens’ activities are also a concern to us. A watch and wait policy. Regrettably my men took it upon themselves to exceed their instructions.”
“He’s lying, Mr Cowley.” Johnny was adamant.
“Of course he is,” Bodie backed him up.
“Prove it Mr Nkosi and Mr … Bodie is it? I think you will find it very hard to connect me, my men or the South African Government to recent events or to tonight’s shambles. In fact I think you will find it hard to even identify us.
“Well, it’s been nice chatting, but my arm is getting a little tired and I really must be going.” Roberts stepped slightly away from Cyril, giving him more space, but keeping his gun trained on his captives. “Cyril, would you be kind enough to check your colleagues?”
Obediently Cyril moved to where Nico was lying and, crouching down, checked him quickly. Looking back up at Roberts he shook his head. He checked Fanie next, pulling off his gas mask and feeling for a pulse. “He’s still breathing,” he told Roberts.
“Very well. Give me the Uzi and take him out to the vehicle – it’s parked near what was once the front door.”
“What about Nico?”
“You said he was dead. We have no need of a dead man. Now give me the Uzi, I’ll cover you.”
Reluctantly Cyril handed over his weapon and bending down he lifted Fanie and hoisted him over his shoulder. Roberts watched as he headed outside with his burden, still keeping the Uzi trained on his hostages. When Cyril had disappeared he shook his head and said with a frown. “It’s so hard to find good men these days, isn’t it, Mr Cowley.”
“No, I find my good men very easily.” Cowley was ashen now and sweat was running down his face. Nicole had found a cloth somewhere and was holding it against his shoulder trying to stem the flow of blood.
“Yes, I’m sure you do.” He began to back towards the doorway, still keeping the Uzi level. “You know enough not to follow me I assume.”
As soon as he had disappeared both Doyle and Bodie started forward but Cowley called out urgently. “No! Wait.”
Bodie turned a furious gaze on his boss. “Are we just letting them get away?” But his words were drowned out by the roar of a car engine and a spray of gunfire. Seconds later they heard footsteps advancing through the remnants of the drawing room. Bodie and Doyle brought their guns up, as did Johnny, who still had hold of the weapon he’d retrieved from beneath the coffee table. Ready for action they waited as the hurried footsteps reached the doorway breathing a collective sigh of relief as Murphy entered, gun levelled.
“Everyone okay in here?” Murphy asked, lowering his gun.
“Cowley’s been hit,” Doyle told him, glancing over to where his boss had now passed out on the couch, Nicole leaning over him anxiously. “What about Mitchell?”
“He’s fine. Sent him off on foot to the village down the road to find a phone box. The bastards disabled all the cars after they got us with that bloody tear gas. We’ve no hope of chasing them.” Bodie noticed Murphy’s eyes were red and watery. “When we came to they had us tied to a tree and all hell was breaking loose but we managed to get the ropes off.”
Bodie looked around at the destruction. They’d been lucky, only one of them down, but the house was a mess. A quick check of Cowley revealed his pulse was slow but steady. Nicole had managed to slow the bleeding. After that it was simply a case of waiting for the ambulance.
The clean-up at the safe house was quick and efficient once reinforcements arrived, led by the Minister himself. Cowley recovered consciousness enough for a brief but intense exchange with him, after which the Minister took complete charge of proceedings. Murphy and Mitchell accompanied Cowley to the hospital so they could be checked for any residual effects of the tear gas and arrangements were made for Johnny and Nicole also to be checked before being taken to another safe house.
The Minister released Bodie and Doyle from further duty for the time being and they hitched a ride to Cowley’s hospital with Anson, who was one of the agents called out for duty, and hung around long enough to be told their boss was out of theatre and would make a full recovery.
There wasn’t much else for them to do but go home, which in this case was Bodie’s flat as it was closer, tiredly undress each other, too exhausted to do anything more than touch and caress lightly, and collapse into Bodie’s bed in a tangle of limbs.
They slept for ten hours.
Doyle carried the flowers, Bodie the chocolates and grapes. Which Doyle realised was a mistake when they were in the lift and half the grapes were already gone. They both hesitated in the doorway of the hospital room.
George Cowley was sitting up in his hospital bed, right arm and shoulder impressively bandaged, a drip attached to his left. Nicole stood beside the bed. Johnny was propped by the wall, legs crossed, looking very much at ease. The room was full of flowers and fruit baskets.
“Well, don’t just stand there gawping. Hope this isn’t just a social visit mind and you’ve brought some information on Roberts and his men, along with those grapes.”
“Pushy old sod,” Bodie muttered as they entered. Nicole took the flowers from Doyle, saying she would find a vase for them.
“So, any sign of Roberts?” Cowley demanded as soon as Nicole had left.
“No, nothing. We’ve got the airports covered, ferries, the lot but he’s vanished and that sidekick of his … Cyril?” Doyle looked the question at Bodie who nodded confirmation. “Nothing on the wounded guy either and the dead one had no identification and his fingerprints aren’t on record.”
“Aye, I thought as much. The man has friends. They’ve gone to ground, probably got new passports by now, new identities.”
“Must be damn good, these friends,” Bodie said
“Oh, yes. Very good indeed. And unless I miss my guess, they reside in very high places.” Cowley told them, adding. “But not too far out of reach that they can’t be brought down.”
“We’re going after them, are we?”
“No, Doyle. Our job is finished for the moment. It’s up to the Minister now. Amongst other things he’s contacting the South African Embassy as we speak regarding the delicate issue of weapons and explosives being transported onto British soil via diplomatic pouch.”
“So that’s how they brought it all in,” Johnny said, pushing himself up from the wall and coming to stand beside Bodie and Doyle.
Cowley nodded. “It’s the most likely scenario. My concern is still Roberts, though. Especially as he’s still on the loose.”
“Who, exactly, is he?” Johnny asked.
“Funny you should ask.” Bodie grinned at him. “Doyle and I have been doing some checking and it appears Craig Roberts doesn’t actually exist.
“Well, not under that name,” Doyle jumped in. “We got onto Intelligence and they managed to trace him back through several aliases but what his real name is, is anybody’s guess. Seems Mr Roberts is, or was, a member of a special operations section of BOSS. One of its founder members in fact.”
“That insignificant little man!” Johnny sounded a little sceptical.
“That very dangerous insignificant little man,” Cowley corrected. “I’d be much happier having both you and Nicole remain under CI5 protection until he’s traced.”
“No, Uncle George.” Nicole had returned to the room, vase of flowers in hand. “Johnny and I are going, by ourselves, to spend a week in Lewis before I fly back to Jo’burg and as much as I like Bodie and Ray, they are not coming with us, finish and klaar.”
For a moment it looked like Cowley was going to object, carry the argument further and Bodie, Doyle and Johnny watched with some interest … and anticipation. But wisely the old man remained silent.
They discussed the implications of any further BOSS activities until the night nurse intervened and shooed them all out, demanding rest for her demanding patient.
It was close to twilight when they emerged. They talked for a while on the hospital steps, making arrangements to meet up after Johnny and Nicole returned from Lewis and before Nicole left to go home. Then Nicole kissed Bodie and Doyle on the cheek while Johnny shook their hands and they left, wrapped in their own world and each other.
Bodie watched as the pair disappeared into the night, their forms appearing to shimmer, ghostlike, in the fading light.
“What’d you reckon?” Doyle’s voice cut into his thoughts, bringing him back to himself with a start.
“Think they’ll make it?”
Bodie kept his eyes on their friends until distance finally swallowed them. “Dunno. Got a lot against them, haven’t they. Prejudice … a Government even.”
“You think Roberts will come after them again?”
“Not here and not now maybe. But eventually …” Bodie didn’t want to continue the thought so he turned to his lover and because it was dark now and there was no one else around he slipped his arms loosely around Ray’s waist. “There’s a bottle of champagne in the fridge in my flat, the real stuff – French.”
“Yeah?” Ray leaned in just a little. “How do you know it’s the real stuff?” he asked, his lips tilting up in the start of a smile.
“Cost a fortune didn’t it, has to be real. Got some strawberries and cream too.”
“Uh-huh, guaranteed fresh by the girl in the supermarket,” Bodie told him. “So, what do you say we go back to my flat and we drink champagne and eat the strawberries, then smear each other with cream, lick it all off and I make mad passionate love to you?”
“Could get messy,” Doyle suggested, the smile full now, eyes shining.
“It could,” Bodie agreed.
“Sounds like a plan. Let’s go.”