"Nearly there. Sure you won't change your mind?"
"The answer is still no. I'm just along for the ride; to make sure you go through with it. You're not wriggling out of this bet."
His partner laughed. The extent of Doyle's amusement was making Bodie suspicious. He'd been winding Bodie up ever since they'd seen the poster on the board...
They'd had a couple of days off duty, and on arrival in the VIP lounge Bodie had found Ruth just leaving, Doyle laughing behind her.
"You'll help, I'm sure, Bodie. Ray will explain..."
"Explain what?" Bodie glanced around, but couldn't see anything that needed explaining.
Doyle gestured towards the noticeboard. "Another one of Ruth's charitable events."
"What now?" He was sure he was as philanthropic as the next man, but there always seemed to be something Ruth was doing... Groaning inwardly, Bodie turned to look at the board. He read the poster and boggled. There was really no other word for it.
'Strip for Charity on Friday.
All those wanting to take part, please see Ruth.'
He read it again. Boggled again. No, he hadn't misread it. He glanced at Doyle, amusement written clear over his face. "Strip? As in, stripping?"
"Ruth thinks we're going to stand up on some stage, and take our clothes off? For charity?"
Doyle's grin stretched from ear to ear. "Strip for Charity. That's what the poster says."
Bodie read it again. "And you've agreed?" Impossible. Doyle just wouldn't do it. No sane man would.
"Not just me. Murph, Lucas, McCabe - "
"What?" He was hearing things.
"Most of the team, in fact," Doyle finished. "So you'll be helping out too, yes?"
"Oh, come on Bodie. It is for charity - and it'll be a laugh."
Bodie stared at him. A laugh? Doyle was clearly deranged. "You, mate, have lost your marbles," he advised his partner. "You have lost the plot, are round the bend and well on the way to the funny farm. Particularly if you think you can persuade me to join you." It might well be for charity but Bodie wasn't stripping for anyone, even if Doyle's charitable streak had led him to make rash decisions.
Doyle shrugged. "Well, OK. We'll miss you, of course. Won't be the gang without Bodie there..."
"You're not sucking me in that way." A nasty suspicion struck Bodie. "You're not just having me on? You're really going to do it?"
"Bodie, I'm going to do exactly what Ruth has asked me to do."
"Nah." Bodie considered the possibility for a few more moments. "I don't believe you. You won't go through with it; you'll back out at the last minute."
"I've promised Ruth. Later tonight, I'll be stripping."
Bodie shook his head. "No. Twenty says you'll back out."
"You want to bet on it? Taken. Of course, you'll have to come along and - watch. Make sure of your money..."
Bodie cringed. Watch? Fleetingly he wondered whether the team included Sally, Susan and Ruth; he wouldn't mind that. But his partner, and the rest of them, stripping? Yuck. But the bet was made now...
"Where exactly are we going, anyway?" Bodie didn't recognise the road.
"A big, old house, Ruth said. She's organised some signs - ah, there it is." Doyle swung left into a narrow driveway which opened into a wide gravelled circle, already occupied by several cars.
Doyle leapt out - with almost indecent eagerness, Bodie thought - as he followed more slowly. He recognised most of the vehicles; Doyle hadn't been joking about the rest of the team then.
He caught his partner up before he reached the door. The sounds of laughter and music emanated from within. "Look, Ray - I'm not sure about this... I mean, we can forget the bet - are you sure you want to do this?"
"I never realised you were so inhibited, Bodie." Doyle didn't give him a chance to back away, seizing his arm and dragging him through the half-open door.
The group within hailed them with various comments, as Bodie stared around, mouth hanging open.
"Ray, Bodie!" Ruth appeared beside them and thrust a wallpaper scraper into Bodie's hand. "Glad you could make it. You can make a start on clearing the front bedroom; there's about three inches of wallpaper to be stripped off those walls..."