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Last Tango in Eastbourne


       The Ibbotson case had been a tough one, and Bodie's convalescence had seemed to go on forever...

       Ray had been temporarily re-assigned while I was recovering - which he hadn't enjoyed much - but he had still managed to spend a lot of time at my place. Which was a real help, since for a couple of weeks I hadn't been much use to man nor beast...
       It was the last day but two before I was due to report back for retraining. The ribs had healed, the wrist had healed, the bruises had long gone - even the scars from the flick knife were fading.
       We'd gone out for the evening, done the usual, ended up plastered back at Ray's, and I'd flaked out on his sofa. I woke up with the sun shining through the windows, a hangover, and the tempting aroma of percolating coffee drifting in from the other room; Ray must be up and making breakfast already.
       Clutching my blanket, I staggered through to the kitchen. Ray was shuffling sausages around in an old frying pan. He grinned at me. God, I really hate the way he never gets a hangover!
       "How d'you want your eggs - fried or grilled?"
       It took a minute to sink in. And even then it was only his grin that told me he was taking the piss. I groaned.
       "Scrambled."

       "Like your brain, you mean?"

       It wasn't the first time I'd seen Bodie like this, and I was sure it wouldn't be the last. His capacity for alcohol was legendary; but it seemed to be having more of an effect than it used to. Perhaps he was getting old. I saved that one up for later.
       "Coffee's ready. Pour me one as well, will you? If you think you can manage that?"

       Sarky bugger. I maintained a dignified silence and poured two mugs. Unfortunately the effect was spoiled by my nearly tripping over the end of the blanket. As coffee splashed over the work top and dripped onto the floor, Ray turned, hands on hips, expression exasperated.
       "Go and get dressed before you wreck me kitchen."

       Clutching his mug in one hand, the blanket in the other, and grinning ruefully, Bodie disappeared. I returned to the frying pan, reflecting on how good it would be to get back to normal in a few days. Granted I'd have to put up with Bodie's moaning whilst Macklin gave him a refresher, and he was definitely out of condition, so there would be a lot of moaning...
       But being out in the field without Bodie just wasn't right. I tipped the sausages onto plates, and scooped bubbling baked beans out of the saucepan. Rattling a knife in the empty tin in imitation of the Wild West, I hollered. "Come 'n get it!"
       Out of condition or not, Bodie shot into the kitchen, eyes gleaming. His appetite had been the first thing to mend...

       ...and naturally, following breakfast, he was still hungry. I dumped the plates in the sink.
       "Don't have any more sausages." Bodie was wearing 'little boy pitiful'; and I relented, rummaged in the cupboards, and checked in the fridge. "How about pancakes?"

       Pancakes. Sounded good. I could just go something sweet and sugary right now. But it looked like Ray expected me to help. I tried acting helpless...
       "But I can't cook!"
       Might have known it wouldn't work. "Course you can! You just never tried. How'd you manage in Angola?"
       "Benny used to do the cooking."
       "And you never offered to help?"
       "He never asked."
       Ray rolled his eyes and slapped a spoon and a measuring jug into my hands.
       "Stick half a pound of flour in that."
       "In which?"
       "In the jug, you berk!"
       I put the jug down on the work top and poured flour from the bag. It came out rather faster than I'd expected - as I hastily righted the packet a cloud of flour dust erupted up into my face.
       "You all right?"
       "...yeah..." I gasped, in between coughing and spluttering. "Wish... you'd told me... it was a deadly weapon, though..."
       Ray sighed. "You're supposed to pour it, not wear it... Give it 'ere."
       He grabbed the bag of flour and the jug and lifted them up to the light. He glared at me.
       "You've used the measure for sugar, you moron!"
       I frowned. "What difference does that make?"
       "Flour's lighter..." he stared at me, expecting a wind up, but I kept my face absolutely serious. Though it was a bit of a struggle. "Never mind. Get the milk out, will you?"
       As Ray decanted the flour into a large mixing bowl, I grabbed a milk bottle from the fridge. Ray handed me the bowl.
       "Right. Now put two tablespoons of milk into that."
       "How much is a tablespoon?"
       I could see his patience was beginning to fray. He rooted in a drawer and slapped a large metal spoon on the worktop. I looked at him, all innocence.
       "And is that level or heaped tablespoons?"
       It took a second or two, then Ray slammed the jug back down on the worktop and reached for the eggs, an ominous glint in his eyes. I grinned widely and made for the door...
       As I reached it, I heard a tapping from the other side, and peered through the peephole. Cowley? What was the Old Man doing here? I grabbed for the lock and swung the door open as Ray hared through from the kitchen, egg in raised hand - and threw it at me.
       I ducked - and the egg hit Cowley full in the face, just above his nose...
       His bellow would've raised the dead.
       "DOYLE..."
       At this point I retreated to the kitchen, desperately trying to choke down a fit of the giggles. No one had ever seen Cowley with egg on his face before...

       Oh, shit. Goldfish had nothing on me as I stood and groped for a suitable apology. Nothing came to mind. "Sorry, sir."
       "Just what - " Cowley paused to wipe egg from the end of his nose " - do you think you're doing, 4.5?"
       "Umm ... making pancakes, sir."
       "Do I look like a mixing bowl?" Sounds of Bodie giving free reign to his hysterics echoed from the kitchen, and I felt my own mouth beginning to twitch. Hastily I began to back away. "I'll - er - fetch you a towel ..."

       A short time later, slightly mollified by a damp sponge and a large glass of my best malt - a very large glass; Bodie had poured it (and one for himself) - Cowley explained why he was there.
       In spite of Bodie still being on sick-leave, and it being my day off, Cowley wanted us to run an errand for him.
       "I was supposed to be attending a funeral this afternoon, but I've been called to an important meeting with the Minister and MI6. I'd like you two to represent me at the funeral. Unless you have any more culinary efforts planned for later?"
       Hell. He knew how to make you feel guilty. "Um, no sir. Nothing planned." Bodie's face fell, which made me feel better. "We'd be delighted," I added, rubbing it in.
       After another glass of whisky - smaller this time; I poured - and a detailed set of instructions of where to pick up the wreath, and where the funeral was, Cowley left us to it.

       Ray frowned at me. "Eastbourne? Isn't that where all the old 'uns go to retire?"
       "Yeah. Bath chairs on the Promenade, Sunday afternoon brass bands in the bandstand, tea on the lawn and bed by nine..."
       "Sounds just wonderful."
       I grinned. "Make the best of it, sunshine. It's a lovely day - nice run down to the seaside'll do us a power of good. Let's go and collect the wreath. You can check your hearing aid and walking stick out of the armoury while we're there."
       Ray looked me up and down. "You can do that - I'm off to collect me pension..."

       An hour later, soberly dressed in black (slightly mismatched in Ray's case), wreath ensconced in the back of the motor, we headed off for Eastbourne. Ray was navigating.
       "OK - which way're we going?"
       Ray consulted the map. "A21 - down through Bromley. Then we can go either through Pratt's Bottom, or Fickleshole. Which do you fancy?"
       His face was absolutely deadpan - I couldn't work out whether he was joking or not.
       "You what? You're having me on ..."
       Ray flapped the map at me. "Straight up. Both here on me map."
       "Yeah, right. Along with the Ugly Women's Institute ..."
       He nodded. "'s right. Not that you'd want to go there; Ugley's in Essex." He frowned, pensively. "There's always the Loose Women's Institute, of course, but that's a bit out of our way..."
       This I just couldn't believe. "Now you are joking. You've got to be."
       He shook his head, grinning. "Nope. Loose. South of Maidstone."
       I gave up. "You a walking guidebook to the rudest places in England or something?"
       Ray smirked and switched on the radio, and for a while we motored on, music blasting into the afternoon air. Then, just past the little village of Horam, we hit a problem; a police diversion. I pulled over.

       Pulling out my ID, I showed it to the officer. "What's the trouble? Anything we can do?"
       "There's a car gone off the road just ahead - not sure if it's an accident or not. We've closed the road while we investigate, but it's just a short diversion. Take this road - we've got signs up."
       Shrugging, Bodie indicated and turned right as I pulled out the map again.
       "OK, Dr Livingstone, where the hell've we got to go now?"
       I found our position and took great relish in telling him. "According to this, we go through Gun Hill, Muddles Green and end up in Lower Dicker."
       Bodie gave me another disbelieving glance. "You're serious, aren't you. I'll never live this down..."
       "From there we can get back on the main road for Eastbourne. Shouldn't take us long." I cursed as I tried to put the map away. "What's the best way to refold this bloody thing?"
       Bodie gave me a look and repaid me for some of the wisecracks during the journey.
       "Differently!"

       Just past Gun Hill, Bodie slowed the car. "Look at that couple on the verge."
       I'd had my eyes closed, dozing, and opened them as I came out with what I thought was a highly witty riposte, preparing to roar with laughter, both at my own joke and Bodie's reaction. "On the verge of what?"
       I cut off my burst of hilarity (not without difficulty I might add) at the vision that confronted me; two pairs of very shapely buttocks atop long slim legs, clad identically in tight, dark blue denim jeans. As we passed, a pair of heads emerged from the open bonnet of a car and I glimpsed blonde hair, framing faces which appeared to match the rest of their bodies, and I managed to drag my gaze back to Bodie. "We should do our 'Knights in Shining Armour' bit..."
       Already pulling in against the grass, Bodie got me back for the previous comment. "Or in your case, slightly tarnished..."

       The car was an Aston Martin Volante, V8 engine, 0-60 in 6.2 seconds, or so the ads said, and costing nigh on as much as a Rolls Royce. The bonnet might be up, but the girls - who on closer inspection were revealed as twins, near-identical twins - looked sweet and helpless, and probably stood as much chance of fixing the car as we did of winning the pools.
       "Can we help?"
       They exchanged a glance. "No, we'll be OK."
       Bodie flashed me a quick look. "Sure? We can take a look at the car..." He carried on past them to the vehicle, taken as much by the car as the girls, I was sure.
       "What happened?"
       The twin on the left smiled, ruefully. "I had to swerve a couple of miles back, to avoid a maniac who swung round the corner at us on the wrong side of the road." The accent was definitely upper-class. "And I went over the grass. There was a bit of a bang, but the engine was still running, nothing seemed damaged - we got as far as this when the car slowed, and there was a strange noise..."
       Bodie meantime had peered briefly into the engine bay, before dropping flat on the ground, and he got straight up, dusting off his hands. "Well, you won't be going any further in that. You've ripped out the oil sump; engine's probably seized."
       I winced. Replacing the engine in that particular vehicle was going to cost plenty; Daddy - or whoever had paid for it - wouldn't be pleased.
       The girls were looking worried.
       "No problem. We can take you on with us." Bodie was nodding his agreement, and the twins yielded.
       "OK, then. Just as far as the next town, where we can use a phone, and organise a hire car."
       Following a bit of reorganisation, where the wreath was consigned to the boot, we set off. I suppose Bodie and I looked quite respectable in our sober suits, and despite their initial reserve, the girls seemed friendly enough.
       The first place we reached was Muddles Green; a two-house, one-shop sort of place, and Bodie didn't even slow down. "They won't have a hire-car place; you'd be lucky to even find a phone-box."
       I caught the slight grin he gave me. Bodie wasn't about to let the girls disappear that easily. "He's right. We're going right into Eastbourne; it'd be best if you came with us."
       Glancing into the back seat, I got a pair of simultaneous nods, and wondered if the girls did everything together... Bodie tossed one of his famous smiles over his shoulder. "So, since you're going to be with us for a while, what are your names?"

       "She's Abigail..." the left hand twin nodded to her sister.
       "And she's Belinda. " The right hand twin did likewise. I grinned at them in the rear view mirror.
       "Pleased to meet you. I'm Bodie - this disreputable article is Ray Doyle."
       Ray mock-glared at me, then swivelled in his seat and switched on that irresistible smile of his.
       "Ignore 'im - he's incorrigible." The girls giggled, and one of them - Belinda, I think - laid a hand on my shoulder and brought her mouth close to my ear. Very close. Just as well I was driving slowly...
       "Hello, Incorrigible."
       The other twin giggled again, and prodded her sister in the ribs. "I think he's very handsome."
       I preened: Ray looked most put out. Abigail (I think) leaned forwards, snaked her arms around Ray's neck and nibbled his ear. He nearly shot through the roof...
       "And I think you're very sweet."
       As her lips moved to his neck, I flashed a quick glance at Ray, who was wriggling slightly in his seat. Trying to get comfortable, I reckon. Gets stimulated easily, does Ray. Have the same problem myself, on occasion. Like now. Belinda had undone my shirt buttons and slipped a hand inside, and was playing with my nipple, pinching and scratching while her other hand was stroking through my hair. I swallowed hard and managed to pull the car back into a straight line.
       "Umm, sweetheart, much as I hate to say it, you'd better stop that."
       She rested her chin on my shoulder and pouted into the mirror.
       "Why?"
       "Because I'd like to get us there in one piece."
       "Ohhh, Bodie..." she caught my earlobe between her lips. My eyes flickered to Ray in a mute appeal for help, but his were closed. He was lapping up the attention Abigail was lavishing on his neck and ear, his body pressed back into the seat, lower half shifting uncomfortably. I wondered, fleetingly, if he actually owned a pair of trousers that weren't too tight for this sort of situation.
       No help there, then. OK. Think of something unpleasant...
       The funeral. Yes, that should do it. Think of funerals.
       It almost worked too - until I got this sudden vision of Abigail dressed in nothing but the wreath - and since Cowley had bought it, it was a very small wreath...

       Bodie pulled up as directed outside the Cavendish Hotel, and I climbed awkwardly out of the Capri, reaching back to help the twins out, while Bodie fetched their cases from the boot.
       The hotel was large, and looked classy. "Sure this is OK? It looks expensive."
       They both smiled; Abigail answered. "This is fine. Daddy stays here all the time; they know us, and will send the account onto him."
       Belinda smiled back at Bodie, eyes raking him up and down. "Are you staying locally?" Up to that point nothing had been mentioned about later, but Belinda's question was as good as a green light.
       "We've not made reservations - but here's as good as anywhere." Bodie shot me a questioning glance as he answered her, but I nodded and followed the twins up the steps. Expensive, maybe; but hell, the bank account could stand it for once.
       And right at that moment, I had something more pressing to deal with, that probably wouldn't wait until we found a hotel room elsewhere...

       They were right - they were known here, although whether that meant they were popular was open to doubt. At any rate, the receptionist didn't seem too pleased to see them. But perhaps that was just jealousy. We had no problem booking two twin (excuse the pun!) rooms, facing each other across a corridor. I turned to Ray to give him one of the suitcases, then paused: he had a most peculiar expression on his face.
       "You all right?"
       "I will be when we get to the room..."
       Puzzled, I lugged both cases up to the girls' room and left them to unpack, then unlocked our room and ushered my partner inside.
       "OK - you going to tell me... Oh." I grinned. Ray was in a right state, hand clamped tightly over his bulging groin. Well, that explained a lot.
       "Really got you going, did she?"
       He groaned. "Gotta do something about it. Right now."
       "Need a hand?"
       "Think I can manage by meself..." He dived for the bathroom, slamming the door behind him. I chuckled. Not that I blamed him - I wasn't exactly taking the twins lying down myself... In fact, it might be useful to follow Ray's example, if I wanted to be comfortable this afternoon. Hard-ons and funerals aren't exactly a good mixture.
       A sound from the bathroom, half sigh and half groan, announced Ray's imminent reappearance - and then there was a tap on the door... The twins stood there, wearing identical smiles.

       Fortunately, I heard Bodie letting the twins in, and managed to emerge wearing my most innocent expression, although the fact that the girls were wearing knowing smirks was a little off-putting.
       "We wondered if you had plans for this evening?" one of them - Abigail, I think - asked.
       "That's a coincidence - we were just wondering the same thing about you," Bodie grinned. "Do you fancy going to dinner?"
       The smouldering look he got from both girls seemed to indicate they'd rather have him for dinner, and if I was lucky I'd be dessert; but they nodded and answered together. "We know a lovely little restaurant - not too far from here - we could make a reservation - they know us - we'd be sure to get in..."
       Another place they were well-known. I exchanged a glance with Bodie, wondering just who Daddy was, anyway. "Sounds fine. Shall we say 8.30 in the bar?"
       It was just after 2.00. The twins glanced simultaneously at their watches, as if checking how long they had to wait, and I moved forward to usher them out when they seemed inclined to linger. "We'll see you later, then. We have to get to this funeral on time."
       Shutting the door behind them, I turned to see Bodie disappearing at high speed into the bathroom. "Bodie - we've gotta get going..."
       His words floated back to me. "In a minute... should only be one stiff at a funeral..."

       A few minutes later I joined Ray in the car. "OK, then, Sherlock - how do we get to the cemetery?"
       The grin on his face should have warned me....
       "Head for the middle of town. Cemetery's bound to be there. It's the dead centre..."
       I bit off a groan and glowered at him. "Just check the bloody map, will you?"
       After a bit of hmm-ing, Ray finally decided the best route, and within moments we were heading off to Hide Hollow.

       An hour and a half later we'd seen General Wolstenhulme off on his final campaign, paid our respects, laid the wreath, tendered the Old Man's apologies and made polite conversation with the other mourners, and were heading back to town.
       As we parked up, back at the hotel, I caught Ray's grin and could tell he was thinking the same thing I was. It was 4 o'clock. We still had four and a half hours to kill. Never ones to pass up an opportunity, we headed in step to the girls' room.
       Unfortunately, they were out. Ray looked as disappointed as I felt.
       Ah well. We'd just have to wait till later.

       "Shall we see what else Eastbourne has to offer?" After all, it was summer, and there was a beach... who knew what else might be sitting on it? "Fancy a paddle?"
       Bodie gave me a sideways look. "Didn't bring me towel..."
       Despite the lack of enthusiasm, we wandered out to the seafront and looked out over the beach, but the scope of gazing material was limited to a few old codgers in deckchairs; Eastbourne wasn't Brighton, after all. Bodie pointed along the front. "Fancy a flutter?"
       It was a strange way to describe an amusement arcade, but I grinned. Bodie could feed a condom machine and still get change he wasn't entitled to, so who knew what he might win from a machine that was supposed to pay out...
       Half hour later, Bodie's pockets bulging with pennies, we emerged. I hadn't won anything; my pockets were decidedly lighter.

       I took pity on Ray. "I'm going for a hotdog. You want anything?"
       "Get us a pint of winkles."
       I stared. "You're joking! And you complain about my eating habits?"
       "Nothin' wrong with winkles. Good wholesome seafood."
       "They're snails. You're eating snails, Doyle."
       "So? The French do it."
       I couldn't believe this. "You're not French!"
       Ray shrugged. "'S'only twenty odd miles away..."
       I gave up. There was a seafood stall next door to the hotdog place, so I bought him his winkles - and for good measure, threw in another cup of mixed mussels, scallops and jellied eels...
       Ray took the offering with every indication of enjoyment. "Ta, mate!"
       I watched, horrified, as he wolfed the lot, then looked up and grinned at me.
       "Your hotdog's gettin' cold..."

       With some time still to kill, we wandered back to the hotel, and got a drink in the bar before heading for the room to get ready.
       "So, which one do you fancy?"
       "Which one's prettier you mean?" Bodie grinned at me.
       "With twins, you moron?" I grinned back. "Seriously. Got any preference?"
       "Nah, I'm easy."
       "I know that. But which one do you like best?"
       Bodie thought this over and shook his head. "Right now, I've no idea. Does it really matter, anyway?"
       "OK, just let them choose then?"
       "Yeah, but what if they both choose me?" I threw the towel at him. He caught it and looked hurt. "Is it my fault I'm tall, dark and ..."
       "Big-headed?" He threw the towel back...

       We were still arguing the point on the way down to the bar: when we reached it we saw that the girls were already there, perched delicately on bar stools, sipping expensive-looking cocktails. From the corner of my eye I saw Ray's eyes widen, and he stopped to take in the scene. Flimsy little summer dresses and strappy sandals, skirts right up to their...
       "Wow."
       They grinned at each other, sliding off the stools, then one - Belinda, I think - dropped a creditable curtsey.
       "I think we'll take that as a compliment."
       "It was meant as one. You look terrific!"
       Ray swallowed, audibly. "We ready to go?"
       I pulled the car keys out of my pocket...

       The restaurant was exclusive and suitably expensive. The evening wore on and the level in the wine bottles lowered. The twins were fun to be with, seemed slightly giggly and fluffy but cute, for all that. (Though let's face it, right then I'd have found a female traffic warden cute, I'd been without for so long.) At one point they'd disappeared to the ladies together - why do girls always go in pairs, anyway? I'd mentioned it to Ray, idly, and he'd shrugged, grinned, and made an obscene suggestion... - and when they came back they were both smiling identical smiles. One of those slightly wicked, teasing smiles that starts a sweet ache low down in your groin... I saw Ray's eyes flicker from one to the other, then to me. He grinned. I grinned back. Looked like it was going to be a good night.

       We cut short the meal and made our way with almost indecent haste to the exit. Outside I had to stop for a minute and think where I'd parked the car - by now one of the twins had snaked her hand deep into my rear pocket and was squeezing and scratching my rump. Made thinking a bit difficult, that. I glanced at Ray for help but the other twin had wrapped him up like an anaconda and was rubbing herself slowly from side to side across his groin... His eyes were closed, his face flushed, and his expression a cross between despair and ecstasy. I could almost hear him groan as he gently pushed her back a little and kissed her nose.
       "Later, darlin'. Let's get back to the hotel first."
       The twin pouted, but subsided. Unfortunately, mine then decided to shift her hand into my hip pocket, scratching lightly at my thigh through the lining...
       My trousers suddenly felt too tight. I pulled her hand out - not that I wanted to, but I was supposed to be driving...
       She didn't make it easy for me. Just as well the roads were quiet.

       If I'd been in any fit state to think about it, I would've been proud of Bodie, managing to drive without crashing. As it was, I was too busy trying to restrain Belinda, who had slinked across the back seat to me and seemed disinclined to wait until we got back to the hotel. I managed to subdue her slightly - if letting her get her tongue down my throat was subdued - but at least keeping her hand locked in mine. The trousers I was wearing might not be as tight as my jeans, but I was still in danger of doing myself a mischief if I let her loose...

       The restaurant wasn't that far from the hotel, probably no more than 20 minutes drive even on the winding country roads, and preoccupied as I was with Belinda, I registered Bodie pulling over with surprise, and raised my head to see what was going on.
       Abigail seemed to be attempting to join Bodie in the driving seat, and grinning to myself, sure that the Highway Code had something to say about the dangers of two people in one seat, I returned my attention to my twin, whose hand had escaped and was busy with my shirt buttons.
       Her earlier slide across the backseat and subsequent wriggles had dragged the fine dress material part way up her thighs, and I had no hesitation in assisting it still further. With little surprise, my fingers met soft, moist curls...

       No, this just wasn't working. Gorgeous as the twins were, I like my comfort, and the front seat of a car was not the most comfortable of positions... I grinned to myself, thinking fleetingly of Cowley and his insistence on the 'proper' CI5 position - back against the wall so you could see everything...
       Mind you, the thought of Cowley was enough to dampen anyone's ardour. Almost. Although with the twin's hands busy in my lap and her teeth wrapped around my ear... It was well past time to get back. Just as well the roads were practically empty. I didn't want another fine for speeding - not to mention trying to explain why I was doing 85 along a country road...

       Back at the hotel, I took Abigail's hand and pulled her gently to the twin room Ray and I had booked; Ray tried to lead Belinda to the girls' room. But they were having none of it. Belinda grabbed Ray by the collar and practically dragged him into our room. Exchanging disbelieving but delighted looks, we let ourselves be led.

       Once inside, the girls slipped out of their jackets, giggling, then started on us. Ray gave me a slightly startled glance as his twin ignored his jacket and tie and went straight for his groin, taking altogether more time and concentration over his zip and button than was strictly necessary. I saw him swallow hard, his eyes enormous, and shove his jacket off his shoulders himself - then my attention (well, my bum anyway) was grabbed by the other twin, who had, somehow, managed to slip her hands down inside the waistband of my trousers...
       I gulped and reached for my tie; my twin slid one of her hands back up to my chest and started undoing buttons; a quick glance in Ray's direction confirmed he was half-naked by now. Having got both of us undressed - mostly anyway - the girls stepped back a little and, as we hastily pulled off the rest of our own clothes, they began to strip, slowly, giggling lightly at each other as they watched our faces. Minutes later, naked, Abigail swayed slowly towards me - and I rose to the occasion...

       Belinda had other ideas - she beckoned me towards her, and I couldn't see any reason not to go. Vaguely conscious of the embrace that Bodie was wrapped up in, I was a little put out at first by the way Belinda held me at arm's length. Running her fingertips softly across my shoulders, she trailed them down my arms, a feather-light touch which made me shiver, down to my wrists, before pressing her palms hard against my stomach, and sliding them upwards, nails tweaking gently at my nipples on the way. Reaching my shoulders again, she took a half-step forward, still keeping a space between us, stretching her slender neck forward to kiss me.
       It was one, soft, open-mouthed kiss. Then her lips were gone from mine, placing the same open-mouthed kisses lightly down my throat and onto my chest, pausing at my nipple to lick and suck; moist tongue trailing across my chest to the other nipple - and I caught her wrists and pulled her upwards and firmly against me, pinning her lips under mine, forcing them open with my tongue. Her hands came up to snag in my hair, and I felt her fingers gently tangling in the curls as we both sank to the floor.
       Once there, I gave her the same treatment as she'd given me; light, teasing kisses, pausing to suck one hard, taut nipple, the pressure increased as Belinda pushed herself up to meet me, lithe body writhing under me, knee stroking sensuously up my thigh. The joining was swift and easy, and I sank into her with a groan, feeling her legs wrap around me, subconsciously registering that Bodie had reached much the same position on the bed with Abigail...

       Abigail squirmed slightly under me, satin-soft skin sliding against mine, so sweet, so cool... Then she glanced over at her twin, and my eyes followed hers irresistibly.....

       Belinda was surprisingly strong; her shove and roll initially knocking me flat back on the carpet, but she had somehow contrived to slide her legs out behind me, and pulled me into a sitting position against her. Whatever scent she was wearing was fragrant; mingling with the more erotic aromas, and I closed my eyes, allowing my hands to roam, simply soaking up all the elements...

       Ray was sitting upright, cross-legged with Belinda in his lap, those strong lean muscles in his thighs and flanks tensing as he curled and thrust upwards slowly and smoothly, slowly and smoothly, one hand cupping a breast, the other stroking long blonde hair, his head thrown back, eyes closed, lips parted.... lamplight glinted along his skin and tangled in his hair...
       I rolled over, pulling Abigail on top of me. She straddled my body, firm thighs holding my hips still as I quivered and fought down the rising surge... she ran her fingers down the fading scars on my chest, first licking then nibbling the healed pucker where Olson's knife had split my nipple, then I gasped as she pinched the other - hard - with long sharp nails, and leaned in to kiss, soft lips fluttering over my eyelids and lips...
       Seconds later she'd wrapped her legs around my waist, performed some weird but highly effective wiggle and shove, and I found myself sliding slowly off the bed onto the floor, Abigail still glued to me.
       Lying on my back, sheathed in hot dampness and with long blonde hair cascading around me, I gripped her hips and bucked upwards. She pulled my hands up to the soft weight of her breasts, pushing herself against my fingers, and began to make little circling movements with her hips... I held still, forcing myself to breathe deeply, my thumbs rubbing against large, hard nipples - control, Bodie, stay in control... She clenched hard for a moment, tantalising, making me throb within her - then quickly pulled off...
       Groaning, my body tried to follow her. I heard Ray's soft cry of disappointment - then suddenly we had women again.
       The twins had swapped....

       Belinda lowered herself gently onto me, wriggling slightly, and I moaned as I slid into her tight heat. Oh god... She was warm and supple, gently biting my nipples, her tongue and her hands teasing, licking, stroking... My head reeling I glanced quickly over at Ray, who had twined one hand in Abigail's hair, pulled her head back, and seemed to be trying to make a meal of her lovely slender neck... He was purring. I swear he was purring! And she didn't seem too unhappy either!

       There was a void... but then Abigail was there, sinking into my lap, replacing her sister... yet she wasn't Belinda; even with twins there were differences ... I licked at the nipple thrust into my face, then sucked, hand finding the other neglected breast and emulating my tongue...
       As Abigail gasped, I heard Bodie moan, almost as if they were still coupling; it hit me that less than a minute before she'd been with him... I thrust into her as her lips found mine, hands cradling my face...

       Belinda squirmed, lifting that lovely rear up and back until I almost slipped from her, then plunging back down in one smooth motion, her hands pinching my nipples, mine probing into the dark blonde curls tickling my belly as she leaned forwards to kiss me. I found the right spot and she moaned into my mouth, biting my lip as she shivered and then pulled herself upright, arching her back to give me easier access. She held still, quivering, as I played with her, then suddenly gasped and rubbed herself hard on my fingers. I felt muscles quiver like butterfly wings around me then clench hard, and nearly came myself. She hovered motionless for a moment, then flopped forward with a heartfelt sigh, resting heavily against me.
       It wasn't the easiest of positions, but then, I was too wound up to notice. Cupping my hands around her buttocks and pulling her tightly to me, I started moving, thrusting upwards and pulling back in short, hard strokes, feeling that prickling, glowing ache growing in my balls, and trying not to come too soon...
       Gritting my teeth and slowing down a little, I was aware of Ray and Abigail just a few feet away, still sitting upright, panting hoarsely, holding onto each other for dear life as Ray pounded into her. Without really realising it, I started moving in the same rhythm. Couldn't last much longer. None of us did...

       Belinda sighed as I slipped from her, kissing my jaw and resting her head for a moment on my chest, her head shaking slightly in time with my pounding heart. Ray had collapsed onto his back, gasping, lamplight gilding the sheen of sweat on his face and body. He spared me one quick glance and a swift, tired grin, then closed his eyes with a satisfied sigh.
       Belinda pushed herself up and climbed off, ignoring my murmured protest.
       "Going to the bathroom, sweetie. You've made me all sticky..."
       Well, hardly, since she was on top. But I was too knackered to argue.
       "Coming, Abigail?"
       "Already have, thank you.... Oh, you mean to the bathroom. Yes, of course."

       I felt Abigail slide away from me, and heard the girls giggling as they made their way to the bathroom, and sat up, stretching and focusing on Bodie with difficulty. He was still flat out, eyes closed; and I got up awkwardly and made my way to the further of the twin beds before flopping out. "Why is it you don't notice how hard the floor is until you get up?"

       Bodie peeled open an eye. "Dunno. But you're right." He didn't bother getting to his feet, simply crawled and flipped himself onto the bed.

       I dozed. Not sure for how long, but it was the girls emerging from the bathroom that disturbed me. They were still giggling. They didn't sound sleepy and I roused myself slightly, catching them standing over us, still wearing those identical, teasing smiles. Spotting signs of life in me, they both descended onto the bed, and I was treated to two pairs of soft lips, kissing and sucking... the only thing I regretted at that moment was that I didn't seem to have enough hands...

       I'd dropped off, just for a moment or two. Limp, glowing - sated. There was definitely something a bit on the exotic side about the circumstances. It hadn't been the first time we'd been in this situation, of course - but the twins were.... stimulating...
       I was woken by what sounded like a whimper. A whimper accompanied by soft cooing sounds. Disorientated, I pulled myself half upright and looked in the direction of the noises...
       My jaw dropped and I nearly fell off the bed. Ray was on his back on the other bed, one twin licking and nibbling at his neck and jaw while the other...
       I stared. I'd never been able to work out quite how girls can do that. I mean, neither Ray nor I are exactly small when aroused. Must be one hell of a mouthful. Yet it looked like she'd practically swallowed him whole...
       I felt myself growing hard again, imagining what it must feel like.
       Ray was writhing, his breath coming in little gasps from his open mouth, bucking upwards into his tormentor's throat, his back arched off the bed, eyes screwed shut. His hands hovered, moving over silky naked skin indecisively, and I had to grin as one settled on a firm breast and the other in soft blonde hair - then swapped to a creamy buttock and a softly rounded shoulder, then to a long slender thigh and... He just didn't have enough hands...
       I rolled onto my side, ignoring the ache in my balls in favour of watching the action on the other bed. And then the twins swapped again! Ray moaned as the other twin ran her tongue up his length and took him into her throat...
       I pressed my hand hard over my own painfully throbbing erection. It was about time someone realised I was awake.
       "Want a hand, sunshine?"
       Ray was too far gone to hear me, but the twin making a meal of his nipples and neck looked up and grinned.
       "We'll get to you in a minute, darling..."
       Oh, the promise in that husky voice! As I watched, the twin at Ray's groin began to move, sucking and sliding up and down, up and down... Ray's hands clenched in her hair as he bucked upwards one last time, trembling, back arched and head pressed hard into the bed, hissing though tightly clenched teeth. He subsided, slowly, quivers running through the muscles in his legs, sweat gleaming on his skin, a long, sweet sigh escaping from his lips....
       Both twins kissed him, lingeringly, licking and stroking him, settling him back onto the bed.
       And then they turned to me...

       As I drifted off, I felt the girls slide off the bed, and heard Bodie's grunt of delight ... He must've been awake all along. I felt a spark of annoyance, I wasn't sure how I felt about him just lying there, watching... but mostly I couldn't care less. The twins were fantastic, and now it was his turn...

       I've no idea which twin started at my mouth and which at my groin - well, I mean, I don't know the name of which one started where, I knew which was which in relation to what they'd just been doing... But it didn't matter. I tried to join in, but one twin caught my hands in hers as she started nipping and nibbling at my mouth and throat and chest, while the other got busy with her tongue... Could make a fortune with that tongue, she could. I felt my willpower draining away and just lay back and let them lap it up. England was the last thing on my mind... And then they swapped, and I was sucked into a hot, wet mouth, with just a hint of teeth to add a frisson of danger, while the other twin's clever tongue was in my mouth... I groaned and just gave in...

       Later - much later - lying with my eyes closed, absolutely knackered and even a bit sore (the twin with the teeth was nothing if not enthusiastic - which had the added bonus of delaying things a bit - and the other one seemed to have an obsession with nipples) I felt rather than saw one of them leave me and slide into bed beside Ray. The other was stretched out beside me, her head on my shoulder, arm lying heavily across my belly. My last coherent thought - if you could call it that - was that we really must get their phone numbers...

       Sometime later, much later, I think, I felt one of the girls slide onto the bed beside me and curl up kitten-like by my side, and partly relieved, I settled into a deeper sleep, my last conscious thought that there was always the morning...

       Slowly returning consciousness the following morning was accentuated by one of the girls straddling me, and gentle fingers stroking life into more than just tired muscles. I smiled. Knowingly. And dragged my eyelids open; ready to make some banal comment about starting without me... The words died in my throat.

       The twin - I think it was Belinda - had my gun, and she had it around two inches from my jaw. Stroking it gently up my cheek, it came to rest at my temple. And all the while the fingers of her other hand were stroking and massaging. Perverse. Or perhaps it was perverted.

       I glanced at Bodie, still slumbering, completely unaware of our current situation. Abigail had his Browning in one hand, and she ran her fingers down his chest. Since that was achieving only partial success, I added my own wake-up call. "Bodie..."

       Sharp nails scratching lightly down my chest and belly slowly roused me. I stretched, then stiffened as I heard Ray's voice.
       "....Bodie..." He sounded tense. I frowned and cracked open an eye. To find myself staring down the barrel of my own gun.

       Belinda (or was it Abigail?) was sitting on Ray, straddling his thighs, one hand holding his Walther steady against his temple, the other cupping his genitals, nails visibly pressing into him - painfully, to judge by the expression on his face. She glanced over at her sister, grinning widely.
       Tell you something, you can't fault Ray's bravado - or sense of humour. Flat on his back, in danger of getting his head, or his balls, blown off, faced with two complete lunatics, he stared up at the twin and said,
       "I don't perform very well with a gun stuck in me ear."

       Both girls burst into peals of laughter, and I took the opportunity to try to overpower Abigail (or was it Belinda?). To my eternal shame she was quicker than me - though to be fair I hadn't properly woken up after a pretty tiring night; I was at the end of a protracted recuperation, slow, out of condition, and hadn't yet been subjected to Macklin's tender mercies; I was staring down the barrel of my own gun.... Ah hell, who am I trying to fool? She made me look a complete idiot and I'll never live it down.
       As I tried to move, she grabbed my balls and twisted. Hard.
       "Naughty naughty." I heard through a white blaze of pain. "Do that again and my sister will shoot your friend."
       "And if you move," added the other twin, shoving the Walther's barrel between Ray's thighs, "my sister will shoot Bodie."
       It was a minute or two before I could move again. Ray was staring over at me, worried.
       "You OK, mate?"
       I groaned. "Never wanted kids anyway..."
       He glared up at the twin still sitting on him. The gun was now back at his head.
       "What the bloody 'ell do you two tarts want?"
       Belinda (or was it Abigail?) glanced at her twin and giggled.
       "Oooh - 'tarts'! I've never been called that before!" Her hand shifted again, and I saw stars.
       "Ray," I gasped, "will you just shut up!"
       He winced and flashed me a shamefaced look. "Sorry."
       "Actually," said the other twin, "we want you to take us to London."
       Ray sounded surprised. "Is that all? Why didn't you just say so? No need to go through all this palaver."
       "We rather enjoy the 'palaver', as you so charmingly put it."

       Belinda slid the gun down my cheek again. "But what we really want to know is why you two are carrying such dangerous weapons."
       Bearing in mind Bodie's predicament, I attempted to make my response reasonable and moderate.
       "We're police - CI5."
       The twins exchanged a single glance which I swear was disappointed, and it struck me that they had been expecting the 'bits of rough' they had picked up to be criminals. It was a dangerous game they were playing, if so. When we overpowered them - which we eventually would, despite appearances to the contrary at that moment - we'd simply take the guns off them. Players on the other side of the fence wouldn't be so lenient.
       The same thought had obviously occurred to Bodie. "Thought you'd found yourself a couple of villains, girls?"
       Abigail pouted at him, Bodie's heavy-eyed, unshaven look obviously appealing to her just as strongly as the previous day's clean-cut appearance. "It's you two who found the villains, lover."
       What did that mean? Belinda slid off me, allowing me to sit up, but kept the gun pointed at me. "Were you sent after us?"
       I could almost feel Bodie willing me to give the right answer. "Course not. We're just down here for that funeral, like we told you yesterday." The next obvious question was to ask what they had done, but I'd prefer Abigail to get off Bodie first.
       Another brief look passed between them, and Abigail joined Belinda at the other side of the room for a whispered conference, our weapons still holding us at bay.
       Bodie sat up in painful relief, and looked over at me. "She's done that before..."
       I grinned in sympathy. "Better hope she doesn't do it again." I wondered what the girls were discussing. Belinda was making a point; Abigail seemed less convinced.
       Ah well. They could only shoot us once. I stood up and started to move towards my clothes.
       "What are you doing?" Belinda's finger was hovering over the trigger, and I stopped.
       "Getting dressed. If you want us to drive you to London we'll need our clothes."
       Belinda looked undecided; Abigail disappointed. I finished the journey across the room and picked up my trousers. Bodie followed me; so far so good, the girls were looking less sure of themselves now.
       In fact, as Bodie got dressed, Abigail was showing unmistakable signs of lust; the reverse of what might be expected perhaps, but a rumpled and unshaven Bodie gave the word dishevelled a whole new meaning.
       As he pulled on his trousers, Bodie winced, and I flashed him a glance, thinking it was because of Abigail's attentions, but he caught the look and grimaced. "Carpet burns," he muttered. Come to think of it, I knew what he meant...

       Whilst Abigail distracted the male receptionist and signed us out, Belinda kept us back, covering us with the Walther under her jacket. She then directed the positions in the car, ordering me into the backseat first, followed by Abigail, who still had Bodie's Browning although it was looking less likely that she would use it.
       Bodie had settled himself behind the steering wheel. "So - where to, ladies?" Belinda looked at him coldly. "Don't try to be clever. Head for London."
       "Got the directional sense of a hamster. You'll have to give me an idea of which roads to take." He nodded at the map on the dashboard.
       Barely looking at it, Belinda picked up the map and tossed it at me. If Bodie had hoped to distract her with map-reading he'd failed; and I unfolded the map.
       "Retrace our steps from yesterday, Bodie." I was fairly certain Abigail wouldn't use the gun, but not so sure about Belinda yet; it was probably better not to rile her.
       "We really want Sutton," Abigail told me helpfully, earning herself a scowl from her sister.
       I saved up the information without comment. We didn't know the twins' surname, but it would be easy enough to track them down if we had to; knowing roughly where they lived would make it easier still. "Just a short diversion for us, then."

       Under my direction, Bodie had taken the A22, but as we approached Uckfield, it was clear the girls were unhappy about something, and Belinda put it into words. "I don't like these main roads - find us a country road."
       Bodie exchanged a brief glance in the mirror with me, but since Belinda's order had been accompanied by a wave of the Walther we didn't argue, and I instructed Bodie to take the B2026 past Ashdown Forest.
       Reading ahead as we took a spur road, I grinned, and imparted my latest map 'find' to Bodie. "You realise this road takes us past Balls Green?"
       He grinned resignedly into the mirror as Abigail giggled delightedly, and Belinda smiled.
       "You starting that again?"
       Abigail leant over, and began to trace the road we were on, looking for other place names. "We could go through Limpsfield - oh, and Titsey!"
       Bodie's response was lost as I twisted the Browning swiftly out of Abigail's fingers. Taken by surprise she gasped, and Belinda began to turn, awkwardly trying to point the gun at me.
       Flinging his left hand out, Bodie caught the barrel and pushed the gun upwards, whilst trying to steer one-handed. And whilst normally that wouldn't be a problem for him, he hit a patch of wet mud. The car skidded, spun and crabbed sideways as Bodie let go of the gun and fought with the wheel ...

       Belinda - I knew it was Belinda; her sister was sobbing her name - was out cold, a nasty bruise already purpling her forehead. I managed to kick the door open, wrenching my knee in the process, and hauled myself out, pulling Belinda with me. Ray dragged himself over the back of the seat and squirmed from the car, closely followed by Abigail. Limping a little way from the vehicle we stopped and collapsed to the grass to take stock.
       We'd been quite lucky, all told. We were all bruised. Ray was bleeding from dozens of glass cuts - the window had shattered inwards - but none were serious. Apart from my knee, glass cuts on my neck and a battered hand, I was fine. Abigail was practically unscathed. And Belinda, though unconscious, didn't seem to have any other injuries. Of course, she could be concussed: we wouldn't know until we could find a doctor. We all looked a mess, though. And the flying glass - not to mention the blood - had ruined Ray's one good white shirt...
       He frowned at me.
       "What do we do now?"
       "Can you get the map?"
       He nodded and pushed himself up. Tried to, anyway: his arm buckled and he fell back down with a yelp, left hand clutched to his right shoulder.
       "What's wrong?"
       "Dunno. Think I've pulled something."
       Oh, that was just great. Between my wrenched knee and his injured shoulder we were right up shit creek. Cowley was going to go spare. Trying not to imagine what the Old Man would say I winced my way upright and hobbled back to the wrecked car.

       Abigail was still trying without success to wake her sister, and I levered myself to my feet with my left arm and joined her, feeling for the pulse in Belinda's neck. It was strong and steady, and I tried to smile reassuringly at Abigail.
       "She'll be OK. I don't think it's serious."
       Still limping, Bodie returned from his foray to the car, tucking the Browning into his waistband, and passed me both my gun and the map. "Where are we?"
       I shook a few shards of glass out of the paper folds and scanned the map, pointing out our position. "There. Roughly."
       "Roughly?" Bodie sounded sceptical but he wasn't really being critical; the map wasn't detailed enough to be that precise. "Do you think we're closer to the town or the village?"
       "Village. We're definitely on this road." I glanced at the girls. "Can we call for help?"
       Bodie shook his head, having already tried the obvious solution. "Radio's bust."
       "So should we wait here?" On the face of it that was probably the better option, with his twisted knee and my shoulder, not to mention a still-unconscious Belinda, but the road looked pretty quiet.
       "Better start walking." He lowered his voice. "Doesn't look too bad, but - "
       I nodded my agreement. Sooner we got Belinda to a doctor, the better. "You up to carrying her?"
       Bodie straightened up and tested his leg, wincing. "Maybe."
       Abigail was still in tears; she looked very scared and suddenly very much younger, and I took pity on her. She really wasn't up to playing such dangerous games. "It's OK, Abigail. We'll get you home safely."
       Bodie's barely suppressed snort showed what he thought of my softheartedness, but then given what she'd done to him earlier it was hardly surprising he was less than forgiving.

       I hoisted Belinda into my arms, trying to take most of the weight on my unhurt right leg. Ray instinctively positioned himself on my left, ready to steady me if my other leg gave way (though how he thought he'd manage that with a buggered shoulder I didn't know. I sighed to myself and resolved not to let my leg give way...), his left arm around Abigail, who was weeping into his chest. And we set off along the road, me limping, sweating and gritting my teeth against the hot, fiercely stabbing pain that shot through my whole leg every time I put weight on it, Ray half supporting Abigail and, as I could see from the tightness around his eyes and mouth, trying hard to ignore the pain from his shoulder. How - or rather, why - do we get ourselves into these situations...?
       To take my mind off the steadily worsening pain from my knee, I listened to Abigail's half-incoherent sobbing. Without her stronger sister to keep her in check, she'd collapsed into a puddle of miserable ineptitude.
       "..and then Daddy bought them off.... paid them so they'd forget..."
       Ray was doing his fatherly confessor act, comforting the girl, gently pulling responses from her. He's very good at that, is Ray. I swear he could have persuaded Lucrezia Borgia to confess. He amazes me sometimes. He must have made one hell of a good copper...
       Gradually we got the story. Daddy was Sir Benjamin FitzBaron of the Foreign Office, a well-known (though not to me) ambassador with the diplomatic corps. Mummy had run off with an American millionaire when they were ten. They'd spent a lot of their lives in boarding schools, ending up being expelled (if that's the term they use at these fancy places) for 'unruly behaviour'. Since then they'd travelled around the world with Daddy, who thought the experience would do them good. They'd managed to get into trouble everywhere Daddy had been sent, most recently South America, where they'd been arrested for trespass... But Daddy had waved 'diplomatic immunity' at the local police, along with the contents of his wallet... Daddy always made things OK...
       Ray was still soothing the crying girl, encouraging further confessions. I looked down at the one in my arms, sorely tempted to toss the spoilt little brat over the nearest hedge. Ray - of course - read my mind and frowned at me. I bit down the impulse and grimly carried on limping down the road...
       Their latest exploit had been to steal the cheque book and accompanying card from one of Daddy's guests at his last party, two days ago. Belinda was, apparently, very accomplished at forging signatures, and thought it would be fun to take off on a spending spree. (At my partner's mild, "Bit hard on him, wasn't it?" Abigail had looked up at him in astonishment and said, "But he's got pots of money. He wouldn't miss a few thousand..." Ray and I exchanged glances. I really do wonder, sometimes, why we bother...) They 'borrowed' one of Daddy's cars (I saw Ray wince as it became clear that neither girl had a driving licence: they'd learned to drive on the family's country estate, yes, but had never needed to take the test. They were chauffeured everywhere) and simply taken off...
       "But it's all Belinda's fault!" Abigail had worked her way through fright, remorse, and into blaming someone else. She sounded very young right then. Glancing at Ray, I asked how old she was.
       "We'll be nineteen next week." She sniffled, and I nearly dropped Belinda. Oh god. We'd taken them for at least twenty-four...
       Luckily the sound of an approaching car distracted Ray from starting what was sure to become a prolonged guilt-ridden bout of self-recrimination. We stopped, and Ray flagged down the Land Rover with his good arm. The driver - a middle-aged and fairly wealthy farmer, by the looks of him - leaned out of the window and looked us up and down.
       "Your car, then, was it? The one on its side back there?"
       I nodded. "Can you give us a lift to the village? We need to get to a doctor."
       He opened the door. "Hop in. Try not to bleed on the upholstery."
       Charming! Still, I wasn't about to argue... "We'll do our best." Manoeuvring myself plus still-unconscious burden into the passenger seat proved painful - my knee was really giving me grief by now - but I managed it: Ray and Abigail slid themselves into the back seat with sighs of relief. Our saviour was disinclined to chat, which suited us just fine.

       Belinda was coming round as we reached the next village, which I vaguely remembered from the map as being Coleman's Hatch, and I heard her murmuring confused questions to Bodie, catching the words police and roadblocks but not much else. Abigail began to cry again, from relief this time, and I gave her another hug. We might not have discussed it but we'd thought they were in their twenties and the revelation that they were only just nineteen was bothering me. Oh, it wasn't as if we'd had to talk them into anything; they'd been ahead of us in the rush to the bedroom, but they were little more than kids...
       When the farmer stopped at the small unkempt cottage which he said was the doctor's place, I was half-tempted to ask him to drive us onto the nearest town and casualty department, but the man who was opening the door was young enough to be competent. Bodie was already sliding awkwardly from the passenger seat, and I ushered Abigail out, nodding my thanks to the farmer.
       "Crunched the car?" the doctor asked briskly, as he waved Bodie (now carrying a conscious but confused Belinda) to the front room he obviously used as his surgery.
       "Something like that." I exchanged a glance with Bodie, having decided some time ago that it wouldn't be a good idea to make a fuss. Discovering who Daddy was, and how young the girls were, we should try and keep the whole thing quiet. CI5 couldn't afford this sort of publicity - what the hell would Cowley say? - hopefully, neither could Sir FitzBaron. "Belinda took a bit of a knock - she's been unconscious for about half-hour, just came round a few minutes ago."
       I could see Bodie was looking a bit cynical but knew he'd understand my reasons when I explained. The doctor was gently probing Belinda's forehead, and asking her questions, to which she seemed to be giving the right answers, and he turned back to us, not looking too worried.
       "Nasty bruise, but she doesn't seem to be concussed." He glanced over us, taking in cuts and bruises. "What's the damage to you?"
       Normally, we'd never admit to injuries, but in the circumstances it was only sensible to get checked out. "My shoulder; his knee."
       The verdict - as we'd expected - was that nothing was broken, or dislocated, but we'd have to get a few days rest to recover. I could read Bodie's mind as he grimaced; Cowley was just gonna love this...

       The next problem was transport. Our car was in a ditch - God, something else to explain to Cowley - and we were in the back of beyond. "Don't suppose there's a hire car place around?"
       "There's not even a taxi in the village." The doctor grinned. "Do you really think either of you is in a fit state to drive?"
       That was the other problem...
       Abigail piped up. "I could phone Daddy. He'd send a car for us."
       Seemed like our best option at that moment. Though what he was going to have to say to us...

       All the way back to London I could feel Ray growing more and more tense. The girls were subdued, Belinda nursing her aching head, Abigail alternating her gaze between Ray and myself, unsure and troubled. With my knee strapped the pain in my leg had diminished to a growling ache: Ray's arm was in a sling. We looked like we'd both been in a minor war. We had yet to face Daddy. And god alone knew what Cowley was going to say...
       The car scrunched up a short, immaculate gravel drive and stopped outside Daddy's large and very expensive looking house. A couple of what I could only assume were servants bustled out and hustled the girls inside as Ray and I climbed out.
       "How the other half live." He muttered, frowning up at the house, then turned to me. "You wanna let me do the talking? You'll only muck it up."
       That was unfair - and not altogether true - but I have to admit Ray can be more diplomatic than me. And frankly I didn't feel in the least like sweet-talking anybody right then. I'd be more likely to tell Sir Benjamin exactly what I thought of his daughters...
       A butler ushered us into a small but comfortable drawing room and asked us to wait; a few minutes later Sir Benjamin entered.
       Prematurely grey, with worry lines permanently engraved on his forehead - courtesy of his daughters, no doubt - he shook our hands and offered us both a large whisky, which I promptly accepted. Well, we were still, officially, off-duty. And even if we weren't, we bloody well deserved a drink!
       He poured them himself, gestured to us to sit, then perched himself awkwardly on the edge of a sofa. He seemed nervous. I began to feel a bit less apprehensive. For a moment there was an awkward silence. Then Sir Benjamin smiled, hesitantly.
       "I really do hope the girls didn't cause you too many problems..."
       This was not what we were expecting. I relaxed a little, glancing at Ray. Never backward at coming forward, he put on a stern expression and began to speak...
       I was proud of him, I really was. In short, concise sentences he told Sir Benjamin what his daughters had been up to (well, most of it, anyway) and let it be known that he did not approve. And Sir Benjamin just sat there and took it.
       "Do you realise how much danger they'd have been in if we hadn't been CI5? Next time they could end up raped or dead. Or both. Don't you have any way of knocking some sense into them?"
       Daddy winced, and Ray took pity on him. But not much.
       "Look, I know they're headstrong, but you're going to have to do something about them. Theft, fraud, driving without a licence..."
       "Assault. " I added for good measure. I was still sore. Ray glanced at me and nodded.
       "That too. We should arrest them both."
       Sir Benjamin paled, visibly, and his hand went to his pocket. I nearly dropped my tumbler as he pulled out a cheque book and reached for his pen.
       "How much?"
       Ray gaped at him.
       "You what?"
       "How much to... 'forget'..."
       Ray was too outraged to do more than splutter. I took over.
       "Are you trying to bribe us? CI5 operatives? You do realise that's a crime in itself?"
       Sir Benjamin's hands were shaking. "But..."
       Ray had gained some control over himself, but his voice was cold.
       "Money doesn't solve everything. If you want to do something useful with it, give it to charity. Even better, send the girls to work for Oxfam or something for a couple of months. Perhaps if they see how the other half lives they might appreciate their own luck. And have a bit more respect for other people." He pushed himself upright, trying not to make his contempt too obvious. "We're going. We have to report in. Christ knows what our boss is going to say..."
       Sir Benjamin hastened to usher us out, promising to pay for the Capri to be repaired - or replaced if necessary - and declaring his intentions to 'do something' about the girls. As we climbed back into the car and Sir Benjamin gave instructions to the driver to take us wherever we wanted, I glanced up - to see Abigail hovering at an upstairs window. She waved and blew a kiss. I ducked my head, pretending I hadn't seen...
       The car stopped in a side street not far from HQ, and we both climbed out. I could tell Ray was still fuming - he stormed off without waiting for me.

       I paused on the steps, waiting for Bodie to catch me up. He limped to a halt beside me.
       "What're we going to tell him?"
       "Little as possible?"
       "Well, yes, naturally as little as possible." I turned to walk on. "But that little is going to have to include what happened to the car, as well as us. Any ideas?"
       "If you're determined to keep the girls out of it - "
       "I am. I don't particularly want Cowley finding out a pair of kids took our guns off us."
       "Well, we just tell him we had an accident."
       "You had the accident; you were driving."
       "We tell him I had an accident." Bodie repeated my words with exaggerated patience. "He won't believe it, of course. He'll think you were driving."
       As we reached Cowley's open office door I was unable to argue the point, and the Old Man took in our appearance with some alarm. "What the devil happened to you two?"
       "Ah - we had an accident, sir."
       Cowley looked from Bodie to me. "The car?"
       "In East Sussex - in a ditch..."
       "We've only just got the car repaired and you've damaged it again, Doyle!"
       I threw a furious glare at Bodie and opened my mouth to deny it, but Cowley didn't give me a chance. "I can't even trust you to do a simple job like taking a wreath to funeral without you wrecking another car. And I suppose you've both damaged yourselves as well, and will need to take time off?"
       The phone rang before we could reply, and as Cowley answered it we began to edge towards the door, but he looked up and signalled a halt before we could escape.
       It didn't look like good news. "I see. Yes, I understand. No, thank you." He replaced the handset and glared at us. "That was Sir Benjamin FitzBaron." Oh. Shit.
       "He wanted to thank me personally for the help you extended to his daughters earlier today, since you wouldn't accept the cheque..."
       There was a pause. "Would you care to enlighten me as to exactly what's been going on?" I glanced at Bodie, knowing he wouldn't answer; he'd leave it to me, as if I hadn't dug us out of enough trouble today.
       "Did this accident involve Sir Benjamin's daughters as well?"
       "Er - their car was damaged." Well, that was true. There was no reason for Cowley to know everything - after all, he never gave us the full story.
       "I trust you weren't speeding?" Cowley was still glaring at me; why did he always assume it was my fault? "I wasn't even driving. But no, sir, Bodie wasn't speeding."
       I could see Cowley was getting more suspicious the longer I prevaricated.
       "The girls were slightly injured, as we are. We got them to a doctor, and Sir Benjamin sent a car for all of us. We didn't do much - " beside me, Bodie almost sniggered " - just saw them home safely."
       "Good." As Cowley glanced between us, I wondered whether he knew Sir Benjamin - or the girls. Whichever, he wasn't stupid. He knew there had to be more than we were telling him, and I wondered if he'd follow up on it later. "Well, I'm glad you upheld CI5's reputation for being incorruptible, at least. Go on, get out. Get someone to retrieve the car and I'll see you both in a couple of days."

       I was still stewing as we made our way out. Granted we'd got off lightly with both the twins' father and Cowley, but that didn't make me feel any better. Oh, I knew we hadn't exactly corrupted the girls in any way, but I almost would've preferred it if Sir Benjamin had cut up rough with us; maybe then I wouldn't feel so bloody guilty. Nineteen...

       "That wasn't as bad as I was expecting."
       "Good." Ray was preoccupied. We'd managed to find a taxi and were on our way back, but he was frowning out of the window, lost in his own thoughts. I tried again.
       "Look at it this way. We get another few days off, we didn't have to pay for the hotel, and Daddy's going to get the car sorted out. And no real harm was done."
       He glared at me.
       "No harm? You nearly lose your family jewels, the car's probably a write-off, we both get hurt - and we weren't even on a bloody case!"
       I sighed. Ray was in that sort of mood where it didn't matter what I said, he'd still snap my head off. I couldn't really blame him. After all, he was right - we hadn't exactly come out of the affair looking good. And I could tell - though he'd never admit it - that he was feeling guilty about what we'd got up to with the twins. Best to just stay quiet for a while. Ray's not stupid: he'd work it out himself and realise it wasn't his fault - nor mine, come to that. A quiet evening and a couple of pints would help. Speaking of which...
       "Want to stop off at the pub?"
       He looked down at himself in disgust. "What, looking like this?"
       I counted to five, silently. "Well, I was thinking of us getting changed first. Maybe washed and shaved, too."
       He scowled, but I could tell the idea was appealing. He nodded slowly.
       "OK. Stop by mine first?"
       I think I still had a couple of clean spare shirts in his wardrobe...

       Ray piled out of the taxi and headed for the door of his latest flat, leaving me to pay the fare. Groping in my pocket for some money, I found a folded piece of paper...

       Turning to see what was keeping Bodie, I could see he was staring at a slip of paper. "S'that?"
       He gave me a bemused grin. "I think it's a phone number..."
       Now it was my turn to stare at him. "Not the - "
       "Twins? Think it must be..." The grin got wider, and he carefully folded the paper and returned it to his pocket, an action which left me gaping.
       "You have got to be joking. You're not seriously thinking about calling them?"
       "Well - "
       "You're nuts." My words made me grin. "In fact, think about your nuts. Think long and hard - "
       "Oh, I am..."

       ... And I probably never would ring them anyway. Although the memory of what Abigail (or was it Belinda?) could do with her tongue... Ray shook his head sorrowfully. I know - sometimes he despairs of me. But at least he was now smiling. And the pub was calling. And - now that I came to think of it...
       "Uh, Ray?" He paused in the process of disabling the alarm, and glanced up enquiringly. I tried looking helpless again.
       "You got any eggs left?"
       He frowned, suspiciously. "S'pect so. Why?"
       I tried for mournful. "I never got me pancakes..."



© May 2000 Carol Good and Joules Taylor.

Special thanks to Sue Tier for the correct CI5 position, and to our partners Ken (for the grilled eggs episode - yes, it really happened) and Adrian, for his knowledge of cars and seafood... And in case you're wondering, Joules makes a mean pancake - you can tell; it sets off the smoke alarm! - while Carol doesn't do kitchens but watches the arcane procedures with a distinctly Doylesque fascination.....


"Getting into character..."

Alias 4.5 & 3.7