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The Cat Came Back

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ANGELIQUE, South Central Africa--February 1974

 

‘The Tabard Inn’ was popular with English-speaking expats in Angelique. Exposed beams and heavy oak furniture made it a bit of Merry Olde England in the heart of Africa. The air conditioning put up a valiant fight and with enough gin on board, it was possible to forget the shoddy tatters of the French-colonial city outside.

Bodie stood in the doorway, letting his eyes adjust to the darkness, assessing the changes six years had brought. Not much on the surface but there was the shoddiness of things left unpainted and un-repaired. And there had been the tension and covert looks as he had walked in. The patrons in here were waiting for something -- an end or a change. General Mosombe’s rebels up in the mountains would bring both. Inevitably.

There was no sign of the man that Bodie come to meet so he walked over to the bar.

“I’ll take a lager, please, whatever you have on tap.”

The barman put down the glass he’d been polishing and swung around.

“My God!” he said. “It’s never Bodie! What’s it been? Six years?”

“Yeah, Dolf, all of that.” Bodie took the proffered hand. “How‘ve you been keeping?

“Well. I’ve been well. This is a surprise. You come to sign on with Van Owen?’

“If I can find him. I was supposed to meet him here tonight. You seen him?”

“He’s in the back. Should have told me he was expecting you, of all the bastards in the world. Go on back. I’ll send Gracie along with your lager. When you’re done with him, come visit.”

“Thanks, Dolf. Count on it.” Bodie slipped around the bar.

And there was Van Owen in the back room of the Tabard, sitting at a table in close conversation with two men Bodie didn’t recognize. He leapt to his feet, grinning like a loon, at the sight of Bodie

“Man, it’s good to see you,” he said. “I was beginning to think you’d changed your mind and headed west. I’m damn glad you’re here. Come and sit. Let my buy you your first drink back in Africa.”

“Too late, Van.” Bodie took a seat as Gracie arrived with the promised lager. “Don’t let that stop you from paying for the next one, though.”

“Still a cheap sod. Let me introduce you.” Van Owen gestured at the other men at the table. “Emil Fouchon,” a small, slender man veiled in blue tobacco smoke. “and George Perit. George’s with Six Commando. That’s Geddes’ group now. You remember Geddes?”

“I remember,” Bodie said, taking each man’s hand in turn. A vicious bastard is what I remember. He took a drink of his lager. It was warm.

Perit was a big man in fatigues. It was early in the evening and he was already boozy. Bodie noted with distaste the fine network of veins that mapped his nose and cheeks and cursed; he’d hopped to find Van Owen by himself.

“You like jungle bunnies enough to come back for more? Dutch’s been telling us about the times you guys had up in the Congo.” Perit’s accent placed him in the eastside of London. “’Sit true them bitches’ll fuck the dog-balls of you for a cigarette.”

“I wouldn’t know, Mr. Perit. I’ve never been interested in sleeping with whores. Much less black whores.”

“Aren’t we posh,” Perit said. “So what did you do for fun, Bodie? Or are you waiting for the wedding?” Perit leaned forward breathing alcohol fumes. “It’s all right. We’ve all heard about the games you boys play.”

Bodie could feel himself growing tense; he wanted punch the man’s leering face.

Fouchon, the third man, stubbed out his cigarette.

“Jack, Mr. Bodie, here, is letting his good manners inhibit his natural impulses but, let me assure you, that is a handicap I don’t suffer from.”

Perit froze.

“Didn’t mean no harm, Major. Just taking the Mickey out of Bodie here; thought he’d maybe like to party later…celebrate bein’ back.”

“You heard him say it was too late for that,” Fouchon said. “You need to be somewhere else, Jack.”

Perit was backing and filling as fast as he could. Bodie had seen men look at cobras with less fear than Perit was eyeing Fouchon. Being a man who casually equated size with masculine superiority, Bodie was surprised.

For his part, Van was making shooing motions.

Perit decided to take the hint. Lurching to his feet, he stumbled against the table, spilling Van Owen’s drink. “Sorry ‘bout that. Sorry Bodie. See you ‘round, Van.”

And then he was gone.

“I’m sorry about that, Bodie,” Van Owen said. “Perit was army. Got cashiered for being drunk, but he’s one of the brighter sprouts in Six Commando.”

“Remind me to avoid the turnips,” Bodie said.

“It’s not like the in old days. Half of the new recruits are criminals and the other half are boys out of South Africa who imagine it’s a great way to get off the farm and impress the girls.”

Van Owen righted his glass and stood up.

Bodie made to rise, as well. “Buy you another?”

“Sit,” Van Owen said. “I’m going to make sure he gets out all right.”

Van Owen went, leaving Bodie with the man who’d intimidated Perit.

“You certainly put the sign on him, Mr….ah, I’m sorry.”

“Fouchon, Emil Fouchon.”

The man offered his hand again, almost shyly, and Bodie took it. He found it callused and warm and, to his surprise, pressing back with an equal force.

He looked to be in his mid-thirties, painfully thin, with a face that was all sharp planes and angles but relieved by a wide and sensuous mouth and startling green eyes.

“Mr. Bodie?”

Realizing that he’d been staring, Bodie let go.

“Just Bodie. I don’t use the rest of the baggage.”

He took another gulp of his drink.

“So, you’ve come back to join Van Owen’s command,” Fouchon said. “A glutton for punishment?”

“Not at all. Just wasn’t finding anything satisfactory back in England and had nothing to hold me. I heard they were recruiting for Angelique and decided to come on. I got in touch with Van and here I am. You too?”

Bodie didn’t think it was likely; the man was too effete—too precisely groomed.

“No. I’m in business.”

“Mining?”

“Personal security.”

“How so?”

Fouchon pulled a blue pack of Gauloises out of his pocket and lit one. He held the cigarette between the first and second fingers. Like a woman, Bodie thought, conscious of an itch to pin the man down and put him in his place—if he could figure out what that was.

“Europe’s ongoing withdrawal from third world countries has created an indigenous demand. I’m in the process of setting up an agency to meet the needs of officials and businessmen.” Fouchon took a deep drag, tipped his head back and exhaled. “Kidnapping, not to put too fine a point on it, has become a popular fund raising technique.”

As Fouchon spoke, Bodie calculated: take the man’s clothing, immaculate grooming and effete gestures and add the way he had put the wind up Perit with a few soft spoken words. There was a lighter on the table next to the cigarette pack. It was gold and engraved with a grenade and seven flames. He remembered Perit had called Fouchon ‘Major’ and the penny dropped.

“Foreign Legion,” Bodie said.

“Retired,” Fouchon said.

“Major Fouchon was second to Blanchard in Katanga.” Van Owen was back with a round of fresh drinks.

Bodie made a silent whistle. “I’m impressed.”

“Actually, other than special projects for Blanchard, I was doing keenie-meenie work. Not very exciting.”

“Not true,” Bodie said. “Your group was doing the only effective work in the area. We were convinced your people were behind T’’shombe’s kidnapping.” He couldn’t resist probing what might be a difficult subject. “I heard Blanchard was a hard case to work for.”

“I never thought so. In fact, I always thought we had a comprehensive understanding of each other.”

Fouchon;s smile was so curiously sweet, so completely at odds with what his rank and service implied, that Bodie could feel himself blushing. He recognized that he had been on the offensive ever since Fouchon had dealt with Perit. The contradictory little man had gotten right up his nose but there was no excuse for bad manners, he had to admit, in fairness.

“Beg your pardon, Major,” Bodie said. “I have no business giving you the third degree. Guess I’m more jet-lagged than I thought.”

“No offense taken.” Fouchon said. “I know it’s hard in England right now, but Van tells me you’re a natural soldier. Couldn’t you get into the Paras or the SAS?”

“They don’t want ex-mercs.” Bodie let the bitterness show. “I haven’t the connections to get around that.”

“That’s too bad. But there are opportunities all over Africa for men with imagination. Anything’s possible.”

“I hope you’re right, Major,” he said.

“Please, Emil to my friends.” Fouchon picked up his glass. “Friends?”

Bodie touched his glass to Fouchon’s. “Friends.”

“Just before you arrived, Van and I were talking about going to a hunting camp up in the game park next week. If you’ve the time while you’re here, why don’t you come along?”

“I’d like that,” Bodie said. And discovered that he meant it.

“Well, good.” Fouchon finished his drink and stood up. “Drop by my bungalow tomorrow and we’ll make plans?”

Fouchon left and Bodie turned to Van Owen. “I wouldn’t have thought he was Legion. He looks more like a…how big a prat did I make of myself?”

“Relax. Believe me, if Fouchon were pissed, you’d have known it,” Van Owen said. “I asked him here to meet you, as a favor.”

“So, exactly why did you want me to meet this Major Fouchon?” Bodie demanded.

“Let me tell you about Fouchon, first. When were up in Katanga and too many civilians were being killed, Blanchard orders his men to shoot only if they see a weapon. The first time I met Fouchon, he had a jeep full of spears so that he could issue one to each man he shot and Blanchard never reprimanded him.”

“Blanchard’s fair-haired boy,” Bodie said. Van Owen nodded.

“Blanchard was killed last year and Fouchon’s living in his house.”

“Blanchard’s boy then”

“Shit, Bodie, watch your mouth.”

“He said they ‘understood’ each other.” Bodie cocked an eyebrow. “Why shouldn’t I assume the obvious?”

“Because, it could get you killed. With Fouchon, nothing is obvious.”

“All right, he’s ‘mad, bad and dangerous to know.’”

“And, fortunately, he seems to like you. Nobody has better connections in this part of Africa. You could do worse than ask his help,” Van Owen said.

Bodie made a moue. “In exchange for my virtue?”

“Knock it off,” Van Owen said. “If anyone can get you to Mosombe—he can.”

Bodie landed back on earth.

“Christ, when…?”

Gracie’s head popped around the door. “Dolf says you boys come and join him for a drink-up.”

 

* * *

 

It was dark outside and still hot. Most of the street lamps had been broken but the moon was just past full, so Fouchon decided to walk. As he strolled past closed shops and businesses, he thought about the men he had just left.

Van Owen’s stolid exterior hid more imagination than appeared at first, but Bodie was just as described—a man who, obviously, thought himself as hard and smart as they come, every thought he owned flitted across his handsome face—ice blue eyes and coal black hair—Fouchon let himself dwell on Bodie’s looks. Clever enough to notice the symbol on the lighter, but those blue eyes had gone as wide as any 14 year old reading Beau Geste for the first time. Fouchon would have thought he’d have known better. It would never have crossed his mind to hope for that sort of naiveté, but he wasn’t above taking advantage of it. He smiled, imagining himself fucking that arrogant mouth, swelling pleasantly at the thought. Soon. He made a bet with himself that Bodie would be on his knees for him within the week.

It was a pleasant thought and he paused to light another Gauloise and blow smoke at the moon.

There was a hunched figure in the shadow of the doorway. A lilting voice said, “Spare a fag?”

“Sure,” Fouchon offered the pack.

A grubby hand plucked one out and a dark head bent over as Fouchon snapped his lighter. He held the flame to the cigarette below the man’s—no—the boy’s bowed head.

When the tip of the cigarette was aglow, black eyes flashed a speculative look up at Fouchon.

“You want to fuck?”

The words were extravagantly accented. His mouth was lush and pink, though he had a smile like a scimitar—not as conventionally handsome as Bodie but—very interesting—and very young. But there were deep shadows under his eyes. He smelled of sweat, unwashed clothes and…

“No, thanks. You haven’t washed off the last dozen men. Good night.”

Fouchon turned away. He hadn’t taken three steps and the only warning he got was a hiss and a soft ‘snick.’ It was enough. Fouchon’s head snapped around as he pivoted, kicking high and hard. The blow caught the boy on the side of the head and slammed him back against the brick wall. A knife clattered to the pavement.

“Not good enough,” Fouchon laughed. “Try again.”

The boy slid down the wall, as if in surrender. Then he bared his teeth at Fouchon and lunged for the knife. Fouchon kicked him in the ribs. He gave a grunt and rolled into a protective ball. Deliberately, Fouchon kicked him again. Then he picked up the knife. the blade was razor sharp. He leaned down, stepped on it and broke it beneath his boot.

“’M going to kill you.”

Fouchon laughed out loud. “I don’t think so.”

“’M not a whore,” the boy said.

“Well, you’re not much of a thief, and I don’t see any other possibilities.” With a booted foot he pushed the boy over on his back and pressed down until he heard a moan. “You can’t afford that temper,” Fouchon said. “So take some advice and be a little more careful who you pick on. You might live to grow up.” He pulled a couple of bills from his pocket and dropped them on the ground. “That’s for the exercise.”

“’M going to kill you!”

“I don’t think so.” Fouchon laughed out loud and the good mood stayed with him until he got home and found his lighter missing.

 

* * *

 

Dear Emil,

 It’s confirmed—the quack has given me six months. I don’t expect I’ll let it play out that long—too humiliating. I’ve left you the North African property—that was mine to dispose of as I please and I know Emil wanted you to have it. As for the house in Angelique—sell it quickly. Mosombe looks like the inevitable winner there and he was never well disposed toward your father.

I don’t mind dying, but I do mind leaving you alone with the business unfinished. I can’t begin to tell you what a comfort you’ve been these last two years. Please, mon petit fou, don’t stay alone. You worry me, with Emil gone—and who would have thought, from where we started, that I would ever say that.

Yours,

Robert Pauling, Cmdr., SAS

 

P.S.. Bodie’s arrogant and self-centered and still believes that heroes always win. Time, at least, will cure his, so try to send him back with all of his body parts attached.

Fouchon tucked the letter back into its envelope and closed it inside the back cover the book he’d been trying to read. As much as he knew it had cost Pauling to make that last admission, he resented that it had taken him twenty years to do it. He put the book down on the lamp stand and picked up his whisky glass. Bits of light refracted off the faceted crystal and went flashing around the library.

There was a sound outside. Probably Serafine, but it was too much trouble to get up and check.

He looked around the library. There were gaps on the bookshelves where books and mementos had been removed. Here and there on the walls, there were lighter spots in the plaster. He wanted to hurt something. The furniture, the books and pictures, none of that mattered but the gold lighter…

Blanchard was dead and the last gift that he had given Fouchon was now lost. He wished he’d killed the clumsy little whore.

 “M’sieu Emil, do you need anything?” His housekeeper had slipped silently into the room.

“No, Serafine, I’m going to read a little longer.”

“You are sure?”

“Yes. Go home, Serafine. And thank you.”

“Goodnight.”

He watched her leave, grateful that she never smothered him, but thinking of the concern in her mahogany face. Arrangements had been made, even though it was almost too late and tomorrow Van Owen and Bodie would come and they could begin playing out Pauling’s last mission.

The French doors that opened the library to the garden were open. Fouchon went over and looked out. He sipped his whiskey and listened to the night sounds. All quiet, except for the chirping of insects and some small animal in the Chico tree. He should go to bed. Instead, he went to the piano, putting his glass down, sat and began to patter on the keys. His fingers found the chords of Straus’s Death and Transfiguration and he let his mind go with the music until his fingers stumbled. He stopped, disgusted with himself.

From his seat on the piano bench, he could see through the arched opening and down the hall to the bedrooms. It was an old, comfortable house and he was going to miss it.

A bath would wash away this maudlin funk. He got up and walked to the hallway, pausing by the gun case—the house was quiet.

In the bathroom, he started the water running and almost down on the edge of the tub while it filled but his glass was nearly empty and the bottle was back in the library.

This time there was no warning—the boy jumped him outside the bathroom door and got a choking grip around his neck.

It took Fouchon a few seconds longer than it should have to jab an elbow into his ribs and shove them both back into the bathroom where they grappled clumsily on the floor. The boy was fast and he managed to get his teeth into Fouchon’s left arm before Fouchon could knock him out. Furious with pain, Fouchon picked him up and dumped him into the tub. The resulting wave drenched the room, soaking them both. The boy came out spitting and lunged for Fouchon. He was slippery as an eel and managed to get in a few blows before Fouchon could get a hold on him. Eventually, he was able to twist both of the boy’s arms behind his back and bend him over the tub. Unfortunately, there wasn’t enough water left to drown him, so he settled for cracking the boy’s head against the side of the tub until he collapsed.

“Oh, shit.” Fouchon stood up and then sat down hard on the toilet seat, glaring at the sodden heap on the floor. His arm was bleeding and it hurt like hell. He pulled down a towel and pressed it against the bite.

The boy was curled into a ball and moaning.

“Hey!” Fouchon nudged him ungently.

“What?”

“Do I need to get a rabies shot?”

“What for? I’m going to kill you.”

“Oh, great,” Fouchon said. “You’ve tried to hustle me, knife me, strangle me and you’ve probably robbed me. Is it something personal?”

“You hurt my feelings.” Each word, pronounced in that baroque accent, was sincere.

Fouchon could only stare at the boy. This infant believed himself dangerous. Fouchon wanted to hit him, hurt him badly, but there was a giant bubble of laughter welling up inside him. He had to move. Not knowing what else to do, he reached out and ruffled the boy’s damp curls.

The boy reacted by flinging himself at Fouchon and wrapping his arms around his waist, squeezing so tightly that it was painful.

Speechless with astonishment, Fouchon could only look at the dark head buried in his lap. Finally, he managed to say, “I’ll be much more careful of whom I offend.”

The boy didn’t budge.

Fouchon realized he was crying. After a moment, he said, “Answer a question for me.”

“Ekskuuse tog?” The words were muffled.

“Why didn’t you hit me in the library?”

The boy turned his head a little, although, his arms stayed tight around Fouchon’s waist, as though he were a life preserver.

“I was listening to the music,” he said. “It was beautiful.”

Fouchon blinked. “I see.”

Then he unwound the arms around his waist. Pushed away, back against the tub, the boy wrapped his arms around his own shoulders.

U gann polisie ontbied?” he said.

“English. I don’t speak Afrikaans.”

“You going to call the police?”

“Probably not. The phones are out today. Do you want something to eat?”

Ja, ek is verskriklik honger.

“Yeah. Well, if you eat in my house, you aren’t allowed to kill me. Understand?”

Ja ne,” He said, as Fouchon threw him a towel “You’re tougher than you look anyway.”

“Remember that. Dry yourself off.”

Tomorrow, no doubt, Serafine, would have something to say about the condition of the bathroom.

In the kitchen, there wasn’t much on hand; Serafine went to the market daily. Fouchon did find a can of bacon and set some slices frying. He found some eggs and whipped up four of them with a little milk.

“You’re South African,” Fouchon said.

“Ja.”

“You come here to be a mercenary?’

“I was with the mercs.”

“Where’s your unit? Who’s your commanding officer?” His questions were met with silence. Fouchon removed the bacon from the pan and began scrambling the eggs in the dripping. “You couldn’t get into the country without a contract and a return ticket, so why were you outside the Tabard, turning tricks?”

“I was in hospital. I got out last week. I needed the money.”

“Why? Your C.O. should be holding you ticket and back pay.”

“I can’t go back there.”

“Why not? You try to knife your C.O.?”

 “No, the sergeant.”

“I see,” Fouchon said.

The boy didn’t even look up as Fouchon handed him a plate. He just started forking bacon and eggs into his mouth with the concentration of hunger.

Fouchon remembered what it felt like to be hungry.

“You didn’t happen to find a gold lighter after our, ah, discussion earlier, did you?”

“No.”

Fouchon studied the boy. He had a remarkable face: large dark eyes, sharply curved cheekbones, a full, soft mouth: a profile that could have come off of a classical Greek vase. By the kitchen light, he was even younger than Fouchon had first thought.

“Can I have the rest of the bacon?”

“Here. Did the sergeant hurt your feelings too?”

“That pampara led us directly to the rebels and we were taken prisoner. We were in a prison stockade at Mosombe’s camp. He got bored one night and raped me with a couple of his friends, so I kill him. Then I got sick and when the Red Cross got us out I was sent to hospital.”

“At least you’re thorough. What’s your name?”

“Pik. It’s Pik Van Cleaf.”

“Pik suits you.” Fouchon smiled.

 What’s yours?”

“Emil Fouchon. So, you couldn’t go back to your unit and you didn’t know anyone in Angelique who would help you?”

“No. I want out of this blikkiesdorp.”

“What’s your hurry?”

“I saw and heard things when I was at the clinic at Mosombe’s camp. He is better armed than the government knows. If I were him, I move on this place. It look to me like he is getting ready to move”

“You saw arms stockpiled?”

“Yes, he had assault rifles, lots, rockets and transport. Nothing like what intelligence said he has.”

Fouchon could feel a headache coming on.

“Listen to me, Pik Van Cleaf—I want you out of my house and out of this country. You know the airfield outside of town?”

Pik nodded.

“I’m going to give you a note; you take it to a man there named Johnny Congo. He’ll see you get on a transport to Johannesburg without giving you a hard time about it. You understand me?”

“Yes. I understand.”

* * *

Fouchon slept late the next morning. He was just sitting down to breakfast under the Chico tree when Serafine came into the garden.

M’seiu Emil, you are expecting someone?” she said, shortly.

“Yes, I told you I was. Send them out here and, please, make a pot of coffee.”

“Very well.” Serafine sniffed.

As she walked away, Fouchon made a face at her disapproving back and took a bite of fruit. Despite having expressed herself full, he was still not forgiven for the messes in the kitchen and the bathroom.

When she returned, it wasn’t Bodie and Van Owen Serafine conducted into the garden, it was last night’s young intruder. He was carrying a small pack.

“I knew letting you live was going to be a mistake.” Fouchon growled. “I told you to get lost.”

“Yes, but I have a talk with the boaz who sits on your street. He says you hire men. I got the jump on you last night, so you should hire me.’ Pik set his pack on the table, pulled out a chair and sat. “I am good with a gun, a knife and a fundi tracker. An expert, see.”

“Pick up your stuff and get out; the phones are working this morning.”

Pik gave him a hurt look.

“You are making a mistake, you.”

Fouchon’s fist clenched in his lap. He was going to have to throw the boy out.

Serafine returned.

“M’seiu,” she said. “You have more guests. I put them in the library.”

Fouchon stood up and threw his balled up napkin on the table.

“Listen, I have business to take care of. I don’t care how good a tracker you are. Get out of my house and don’t come back.”

“You are making a mistake, you. I’ll wait.”

Damning the brat, Fouchon stalked into the library.

 

* * *

 

Bodie watched appreciatively as Fouchon strutted into the library.

The man was wearing light khaki slacks and a faded cotton shirt, this morning, and to Bodie’s eyes seemed composed of shades of cream. Even his hair had gone pale in the morning light. It seemed to be a soft copper instead of last night’s burnished bronze.

“Gentlemen,” said Fouchon. “How are you this morning?”

“Good, Emil,” Van Owen said. “I know it’s early, but I’ve been ordered up to Sango. I won’t be back in time to go up to the game park with you but Bodie’s still free to make the trip and I wanted to show him where you are.”

“I’m sorry to hear that, Van. Mosombe’s not causing trouble, I hope.”

“God, no. That black bastard must be about ready to come to terms. We’ve been blocking the routes the Cubans were using to supply him. They’ve got to be starving up there.”

Van Owen’s curiosity was caught by of something in Fouchon’s garden; Bodie moved to where he could see. That whore, the one he’d picked up yesterday, was sitting at a table in the garden—just as though he lived here.

What is he doing here?” Van Owen said.

“Eating my breakfast.” Fouchon turned to look also. “You know him?”

“He was with Six Commando until about four months ago—part of a squad that was taken by Mosombe. They were gotten out, but part of the deal was that the men be repatriated immediately and their passports proscribed. Geddes said he’s a psycho; he cut up Rickman.”

“I saw him outside my hotel yesterday” Bodie said. “You’re not thinking of giving him a job, are you?”

“I hadn’t considered it,” Fouchon said. “Excuse me for a moment, I have to talk to my housekeeper.”

“Sure,” Van Owen said.

And Bodie nodded. He felt a prickling on the back of his neck. It had been fun, picking up the boy, but he’d been late to the meeting with Van Owen and now in Fouchon’s neat library, he felt seedy. It had been a sudden impulse inspired, perhaps, by the smells of Africa—dust and dung, coriander and lime—these things inspired vivid memories of the pleasures he could never indulge in England. He was glad when he saw the housekeeper escorting the boy out of the garden.

And Fouchon was back.

“When are you leaving, Van?”

“Soon as I can get a ride to the airfield.”

Fouchon’s eyes flicked between them.

“Let me give you a lift,” he said. “I’m going there anyway and we can reacquaint Bodie with the countryside.”

“Thank you,” Van Owen said. “I’d appreciate that.”

They made the trip in Fouchon’s Land Rover.

Leaving the old colonial center of town, passing the outskirts, shanties and open-air markets. Nothing had changed. At every intersection, little boys and old women proffered baskets of gum, warm sodas, fruit and bits of military paraphernalia from several armies.

On his side, Van Owen waved the vendors away impatiently. Fouchon just ignored them.

Angelique had been built on a plateau. In the last century, it had supported the mines that had provided the country with much of its wealth and were the reason for the political games still being played in the region.

As the Land Rover came down the escarpment, the road they had taken joined a wider highway and they turned south. But, for a mile parallel to the highway, there was an unpaved overgrown dirt road turning back into the hills. Bodie could see buildings on a ridge in the distance.

“What’s that?” he asked.

“Gold mine,” Fouchon answered, “those are the sheds for the settling pools. It’s closed. The ore here isn’t high enough in grade to justify the expense of deep digging. Damn it!” He maneuvered the Land Rover around a family with a herd of skinny cows.

They were down on a flat plain covered with dwarfed trees and low buses. Most of the vegetation was light green and dusty under the African sun. The taller trees cast black shadows that spotted the landscape like an animal’s hide.

There were many people on the road—walking. They were all carrying bundles and driving what stock they had. Here and there a man or woman had stopped and simply lain down by the road to rest. With a shock, Bodie realized that an old woman, who had seemed at first to be asleep, was dead, and looked away.

“What is this?”

“DPs,” Fouchon said. “The government is supporting the northern tribes’ territorial claims. These people have lost their homes and are moving south or trying to get to Mosombe.”

“Lot of good he’ll do them,” Van Owen said. “France has been out of here less than ten years and look at it! These people aren’t capable of running a country.”

“Mosombe graduated from Oxford,” Fouchon said. “The current ‘President For Life’ went to Harvard.

“Mosombe’s says he’s commie. What he really wants is a shot at slaughtering his tribal enemies.”

“Ignorant spades,” Bodie muttered.

The airfield was one paved runway. Parallel to the field was a small block of warehouses. Beyond the other side sat parked a number of vintage cargo planes.

As they approached the fence, a soldier at the gate nodded at Fouchon and waved them through.

In front of one large building that served as a terminal, was a helicopter with government markings. Its rotors were slowly turning and Fouchon stopped the Land Rover near.

As Bodie and Van Owen got out, Fouchon said, “I’ll be over at number eleven, when you’re done.” Fouchon pointed to the row of warehouses. “Take your time.”

Bodie and Van Owen watched him drive off.

“I get the feeling our Fouchon isn’t completely indifferent to Mosombe,” Bodie said. “What’s with him?”

“I expect a bit of the tar brush somewhere,” Van Owen said. “Listen, Bodie, there’s a chance I may pick up something on your man up in Sango. If I do, I’ll send word back through Geddes.”

“Thank you, I appreciate the thought. I’d go see him myself this afternoon. I don’t like him, but I never had a problem with him and he’d help a man find an old pal.” Bodie offered his hand. “You have a good trip, Van.”

When Bodie got to warehouse 11, Fouchon was having a heated argument with a man in faded American army greens.

“When I give an order, I expect it to be carried out!” Fouchon was yelling.

“It was, Emil!” The other fellow, who could have been a member of Fouchon’s tribe of small cocky man, came right back, “Who you going to believe, me or your own lying eyes?” Catching sight of Bodie, he said, “Here’s Charlie,” stuck a cigar in his face, climbed the office steps. Before slamming the door and leaving Fouchon scowling in the dust, he said, “All right. All right. I’ll check it out!”

The placard on the door said, ‘Johnny Congo, Air Transport.’

“It’s good to see that there’s somebody in this country who isn’t scared of you,” Bodie said. “Who’s Charlie?”

“I’m Charlie, you’re Charlie, and whoever annoys him is Charlie. Johnny’s a good pilot, but he spent too much time in-country. Do I scare you, Bodie?”

“No. I’m fascinated. Everybody seems to jump when you look at them.”

“Like Johnny?” Fouchon grinned.

“Johnny is the exception that proves the rule; even the guard at the fence didn’t stop us,” Bodie said, as they walked to Fouchon’s Land Rover.

“I’ve lived here a very long time and the colonial system won’t disappear overnight. Are you staying at the Intercontinental?”

“No, the Semeramis.”

“Well, I’m hungry, let’s get back to town and I’ll buy you lunch at the ITC. The restaurant is still good.”

As they passed the turn off to the mine road, Bodie said, “An abandoned gold mine?”

“Yes,” Fouchon said.

“Nobody ever goes out there to look around. See if they can find a little gold?”

“Not often. The shafts are closed and the settling pools are laced with cyanide. Most people around here know that.”

Lunch was an elegant affair, with white linen, fine china and heavy silver on the table. Bodie observed the respect with which Fouchon was treated by the maitre d’ and Fouchon caught him.

“What?” he said.

“You seem so comfortable here. It’s hard to imagine you slogging in the mud with the rest of us mutts. What made you join the Legion?”

Fouchon laughed.

“I was raised in the mean streets of Algeria. There was a man I respected. The Legion was his choice, so it was mine. I like the fact that one’s past truly doesn’t matter. Every man starts as equal.” Fouchon set his elbows on the table and rested his chin on his hands and smiled. The gesture was so blatantly feminine, Bodie was taken aback. “But, please, believe me; I have never once gone back for the body of a dead comrade.”

Briefly, Fouchon’s nose twitched.

Bodie saw the gleam in Fouchon’s eyes and realized that he was being teased. He found the idea that Fouchon might be flirting with him exciting.

“Why did you come back to Africa?” Fouchon said. “You don’t like it, do you?”

“No.” Bodie said. “After Katanga, I swore I’d never come back.”

“What brought you here in the first place?”

“”I was fourteen and wanted to get away from school. I stowed away on a merchantman. Fetched up three years later in Dakar. Jumped ship there and worked my way to Leo on the trucks. I was a big, strapping lad, and the mercs were recruiting, so I signed on.”

The waiter brought brandy and coffee.

“I was in the Congo for two years—never could figure out who the good guys were, except we all hated the Belgians.”

“Yeah,” Fouchon acknowledged the almost universal hatred of the colonial Belgians, “What then?”

“Back home and the army, but that was a dead end,” Bodie said.

“So what are you doing here?”

Bodie put an elbow on the table and nibbled lightly on the knuckle of his index finger, trying out a gesture of his own. “I’m looking for a man,” Bodie said.

Fouchon’s smile broadened.

“Does he own you money?”

“Blood,” Bodie said.

Fouchon stopped smiling and began feeling his pockets. Then he signaled to the waiter, who brought a polished mahogany box of Cuban cigars.

“Do you know where to look for this man?” Fouchon asked, after accomplishing the ritual of lighting one.

“I’ve got some leads to check out, but it’s likely that he’s up with the rebels.”

“With Mosombe?”

“Exactly,” Bodie said.

Fouchon tapped his cigar against the ashtray. He looked at Bodie through half-closed eyes.

“Sounds like you need a favor,” he said.

“Yes,” Bodie said. “I have a name, Wesson, and I have photographs.”

Fouchon sighed.

“Give them to me and I’ll see what I can do.” Fouchon’s tongue moistened his lip. “Listen, this will take a few days; why don’t you move over to my place? I know ‘The Semeramis’—the food’s awful—and I’ve got plenty of room. I’d say come today but I’ve got to meet with a client and I won’t be home until late tonight. Come along tomorrow.”

Bodie found himself on the horns of a dilemma and grateful for the delay. Staying at Fouchon’s would certainly be convenient and far more comfortable than the hotel. But, it implied that Fouchon’s teasing was more than whimsical flirting. Bodie wasn’t sure how he felt about that. Picking an urchin off the street for a quick blow job was one thing, Fouchon was another. Bodie couldn’t afford to be distracted. Honestly, he was fascinated by the man power of the man, despite his small size and teasing ways, and it was impossible to imagine that Fouchon had ever been anybody’s ‘boy.’

Bodie shivered and said, “Thank you. That’s fine. The timing works out well; Van suggested that I talk to Geddes and I was planning to do that this afternoon.”

 

* * *

 

There was a light on in the kitchen, but the rest of the house was dark when Fouchon got home that night. He knew Serafine would have left hours before but he had told her to let Pik have a cot in the room off the kitchen that she used for a pantry.

He found the boy asleep, naked on top of the blankets, sprawled with a natural grace. There was a book open beside him. It was open, as though he had fallen asleep reading.

This gave Fouchon the opportunity to look him over. The evidence of sickness was there. Fouchon could have counted every rib. But his shoulders were and there was the promise of future elegance in the long hands and narrow feet. The sex was ruddy and full. Full. The cock gave a twitch. Fouchon put his foot on the edge of the cot and tipped it over, spilling Pik on the floor.

“What did you do that for?”

“You were hardly sleeping.” Fouchon was amused by the lack of embarrassment. “What were you reading?”

He reached down for the book that had tumbled out of the bed with Pik. Tarzan and the Jewels of Opar. It was one of a well-worn set from the library. Fouchon remembered reading them himself, although he had been younger than Pik at the time.

“Serafine said you wouldn’t mind.”

“Nobody has read them in a while; you may as well have it,” Fouchon said.

There was a flash of something like wonder in the boy’s eyes, as Fouchon handed him back the book. He made it disappear under the blankets.

“That Sarafine,” he complained. “She burn my clothes.”

“I told her to. Here, these are for you.” Fouchon dropped the package he was carrying into Pik’s lap. “Get dressed and meet me in the library; we need to talk.”

Fouchon had poured himself a scotch over ice and was sipping it when Pik came into the room. He had only put on the jeans.

“Sit.”

Pik sat.

“Were you serious about wanting that job?”

Ja, fully.”

“All right, this is it,” Fouchon said. “You were correct. Mosombe will be here sooner than the government is prepared to admit. There will be no fight to hold this place and things will deteriorate quickly. I can’t leave as soon as I was planning to; something has come up.

“Now, Serafine is getting old; I want you to help her. Anything she wants you to do, you do. Your job is to obey her and look after her and anything of mine. You can take maintain the vehicles—there’s a Land Rover and a Mercedes—make sure they are in running condition. You watch the house when I’m not here.

“There is a small bedroom you can move into. You get paid and I’ll get you out of Angelique when I go. If you want to go back to South Africa, I’ll see that you get there, but you should have taken my suggestion and gone yesterday.”

“No, I want to stay with you.”

Fouchon was starting to recognize the stubborn look.

“There’s one thing more. Tomorrow, a man is moving here for a few days. His name is Bodie—” Pik’s widened, slightly. “For God’s sake, did he hurt your feelings too?”

“He’s cheap; wouldn’t even buy me dinner, ‘ni?’ Pik said.

“Oh, that’s just great. Well, I want you to keep and eye on him anyway—if he leaves the house or has any visitors, you make it your business to know about it.” He saw Pik relax as he spoke. “And nothing to happen to him. Understand?”

Pik flushed.

“Understand?”

“I understand.”

 Pik rose and came over to where Fouchon was standing.

“I love you,” he said, and tried to kiss him.

His mouth. His neck. Pik’s hands were up and down his back, clutching at his buttocks. He could feel the heat of Pik’s body through the fabric of his shirt and pants.

He took hold of Pik’s arms and pushed him away.

“Stop that.” He gave Pik cuff on the side of his head—hard.

“Why? You want it. I can tell. I want to pay…”

“Shut up!”

This time Fouchon slapped him hard enough that he rocked back.

“Don’t you ever try to pay me with sex! You got your job, now leave it!”

Pik’s face was stricken, his eyes luminous with rage and unshed tears and he was holding his cheek.

“I don’t buy sex from anyone.”

“I just want to show you I was grateful.”

“That makes it worse,” Fouchon said. He took a deep breath, “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to hit you but nobody has made me as angry, in years, as you have in the last two days. Come here.”

He reached but Pik shied away.

“Let me see that.” He caught Pik’s hand and pulled it away from his cheek. “You’re going to have a bruise. Go put some ice on that and go to bed. Your room is the one at the end of the hall.”

When Pik had gone, Fouchon sat down and poured himself another whiskey. He made it a double.

 

* * *

 

Waking the next morning to the rattle of china, Fouchon had more reason to curse when Serafine plunked the coffee tray down next to his head. The noise vibrated in his brain like a Chinese gong. He opened his eyes and found Pik pouring his coffee.

“What are you doing?”

“You told me to make myself useful to Serafine, so I’m bringing you coffee,” Pik said. “You’re very skinny,” he added.

Fouchon pulled the sheet up.

“That’s okay, you look nice.”

“Get out of here and go tell Serafine to come see me.”

“She’s gone shopping; I told her about Bodie,” Pik said.

“Get out then.”

 Pik wandered over to Fouchon’s dresser, instead.

“You have a lot of stuff,” he said, poking among the bottles and bits of jewelry that were scattered over the top. Picking up rings and dropping them into an inlaid box. Pulling the tops off of bottles of after-shave and cologne.

“I like the way you smell.” He sniffed appreciatively at a bottle of sandalwood oil. “Is this what you like to use?”

“Just me some aspirin.” Fouchon pointed toward the bathroom. “Then get out of here.”

“Okay. I looked at your cars this morning. The Land Rover needs its oil change.”

“You do that.”

“First, I finish helping Serafine.”

Pik walked out, leaving Fouchon to get his own aspirin and reflect on the old truth that no good deed goes unpunished.

 

* * *

 

Fortunately the rest of the morning was peaceful.

Fouchon was amused at how quickly Pik had managed to worm his way through Serafine’s wall of reserve. He could hear them laughing in the garden and in the kitchen, talking in Zulu, making jokes that he couldn’t understand. It was clear that she adored him.

And everything was peaceful, until Bodie arrived.

Pik happened to be working on the Land Rover in front of the bungalow at the time and managed to splash oil on Bodie’s trousers—an accident that called for extravagant apologies—in front of Fouchon—to Bodie’s acute embarrassment.

“You didn’t tell me you knew each other,” Fouchon said when, after offering to pay for the dry cleaning, Pik had left the room.

“I didn’t know you were going to hire him,” Bodie said.

“He needed a job,” Fouchon said.

“Why? He’s a whore.”

“What’s that got to do with it?” Fouchon was irritated, finding Bodie’s arrogance hypocritical. “Didn’t anyone ever give you something you needed, just because you needed it?”

“A man should able to take care of himself. I always have.”

“Then you’ve been lucky. Not everybody has the luxury not to sell themselves. Please, be careful; he’s seventeen, very jealous of you and very good at hand-to-hand.”

That made Bodie open his eyes.

“He was the reason I was late to meet Van.”

“Relax, he didn’t tell any tales on you and I hired him because he has the skills to do the job. Seems to know his way around an engine.”

““Oh, I thought…” Bodie quirked an eyebrow at Fouchon. “Is there any reason for him to be jealous?”

“It’s possible.” Fouchon said. The man was attractive in spite of his arrogance. “Did you find anything out about your man yesterday?”

“I went to Six Commando and showed Geddes what I have. Said he’d been around there with some of the mucky-mucks. Going to try and get a line on him. I told him to send word here; was that all right?”

“Yes, that’s fine. It would simplify things if he were here. I sent word to my contact with Mosombe, but it will take a few days to hear back. In the mean time, all we can do is wait. Serafine has a room ready for you. Lunch is at noon. You had better go bring you things in.”

 

* * *

 

Bodie went to get his bags from the hall but he found Pik had been there before him and was helpfully putting his things away in a large sunny bedroom. In such a short time, he had been remarkably thorough and was organizing Bodie’s toiletries, including a box of condoms, on the dresser top.

“You don’t need to do that,” Bodie said.

Pik jumped and dropped the bottle of English Leather.

“Oh, I’m sorry! I didn’t hear you come in. I clean that up.” Pik went out and was back a few minutes later with water and rags and began to mop up the spill, while Bodie returned his things to his travel kit.

“Don’t worry; if you want some more cologne, I’m sure Emil will let you have some of his. It’s expensive. He smells good.”

“You didn’t happen to see a pair of gold cufflinks, did you?” Bodie asked. He knew a few items were missing but the cufflinks were the only things he was immediately sure of.

“The ones with your initials on them? They went well with your blue jacket, so I put them in the pocket.” The look that went along with that said, just being helpful.

“You didn’t need to do that.” You really didn’t. Bodie knew he was being bated but there were more important things to be concerned about. He started going through the dresser drawers. “You didn’t happen to see…?”

“A Browning Hi-Power automatic?” Pik pointed at the drawer of the bed table.

“My passport,” Bodie said. This time Pik pointed at the middle drawer of the dresser.

While Bodie was recovering it, he went over to the bed and bounced on it a few times.

“William Andrew Phillip—you have a lot of names. Do you go by Willie or Bill or…?”

“Just Bodie.”

Bodi could see Pik trying out Willie Bodie and Billy Bodie under his breath.

He knew the game; if he lost his temper. Pik won. And. to give the kid credit, he had hit on one of the few things that really annoyed Bodie about himself.

Pik lay back and stretched out on the bed. He was barefoot, dressed in jeans and a purple T-shirt. The color suited him. Bodie wondered what the real reason the fastidious Fouchon had hired him. It didn’t seem as if he were using him and was too bad; the boy was good. Maybe, the thought suddenly occurred, he’s a toy for me.

The kid had a small tight ass and, except for that appointment with Van, Bodie would have kept him for the night. Now, here he was stretched out like a feast on Bodie’s bed.

“Nice bed, ni?” Pik smiled. “Emil’s is nicer, he likes a hard mattress. And he has blue cotton sheets; they suit him. Too bad, you won’t get to use it—very long.”

The door was open, but either Fouchon would enjoy listening or he would find out what he’d let into his house. Bodie went over and sat down on the bed. He put his hand on Pik’s thigh.

Pik smiled.

Bodie let his eyes travel up Pik’s leg toward the bulge at the crotch of his jeans. He could feel himself swelling and cupped his own firmness in his hand.

“There’s nothing, at the moment, that you need to do for Emil, is there?” Bodie said.

“Ah, jah! Thank you for reminding me. I have to finish the car.”

Pik bounced off the bed and walked out without looking back

He left Bodie uncomfortably aroused.

The kid had talent, Bodie smiled ruefully. He had been truly suckered and, somewhere in the house, he could hear Serafine laughing. He looked at the box of condoms on the dresser, thoughtfully, remembering the dirty trick he had played on his brother. It was the reason that he was an uncle. He got up and threw the whole packet away.

At least the bed was comfortable. There was an open widow above it, letting the scent of bougainvillea into the room. Fouchon had said he had some paperwork to do and Bodie wasn’t used to Angelique’s climate. It was possible Van Owen’s contact would pan out tonight. He decided to take a nap and lay down.

Apparently, Pik thought he was competition for Fouchon’s attention. Bodie smiled; the kid had a lot to learn.

He didn’t know how long he’d slept, but he was woken up, literally, by a dash of cold water in the face.

 The bed was wet. Somewhere in the house, an angry voice rose. It sounded like Fouchon

“I’m sorry,” Pik was on the other side of the window and Bodie could make out Fouchon’s words now.

“What the hell are you doing?”

Bodie looked out. There was a parking pad on the side, where Pik, stark naked, had been rinsing off the Land Rover with a hose. He must have miscalculated, finally, and spayed Fouchon’s window as well.

“I didn’t want to get my clothes ruined. Don’t worry. I told Serafine, if she doesn’t want to see anything interesting to stay away. Okay?”

It must have satisfied Fouchon enough, because he didn’t reply and Pik looked straight at Bodie’s window and smiled. Then, slowly, he stretched out over the hood of the car to scrub at some spot only he could see. The pose spread his buttocks wide, giving Bodie a comprehensive view of his most intimate places. Bodie’s cock swelled and throbbed. He had to sit down and bring himself off, hard and fast, remembered how sweet Pik’s mouth had felt on him.

Lying flat on the wet sheets, recovering, it crossed his mind to wonder again what Fouchon’s motives could be. He decided to wash up and go find him.

Fouchon was in the library. He looked up from the papers he was sorting when Bodie came in. “How badly did he soak your room?”

“Just a little damp. Somebody should beat him,” Bodie said.

“I expect somebody has.” Fouchon closed a folder. “There’s an envelope for you in the hall; a boy brought it half an hour ago.”

“Thank you,” Bodie said, and went to retrieve it.

He was reading over when Fouchon came in to the hall to say, “Serafine’s serving tea.”

“It’s from Geddes. Apparently Wesson left the city today.”

“That’s too bad. Come have your tea. We can see about casting a finer net tomorrow.”

“Thanks, I could use it.” Bodie followed Fouchon into the library. “It’s frustrating to realize I may have missed him by hours.”

Pik, fully dressed now, was helping Serafine with the tea tray; the two of them chatting together in an African dialect. As Bodie and Fouchon came into the room, Pik said something that made the old woman look at Bodie and laugh.”

Would you care to share the joke, I’d like a laugh too.”

“I’m sorry; it was just a ‘Little Willie’ joke. I was trying to translate for Serafine,” Pik said.

“Would you care to translate it for my benefit?”

Fouchon sounded angry and Pik looked upset.

“You know ‘Little Willies,’ like ‘Willie and two other brats
licked up all the Rough-on-Rats…’” Under Fouchon’s gaze, Pik trailed off.

“Okay, I get the idea.” Fouchon let him off the hook. “Please remember that it’s rude to talk so that other people can’t understand you.” Pik was quiet. He didn’t try any more tricks for the rest of the afternoon, somewhat to Bodie’s surprise, but when he changed for dinner, he found the door of his bedroom had been locked from the outside, Bodie finally lost his temper. The damned little ‘whatever’ was getting to him. Any other time… he settled for kicking the door.

He was ready to lay into Pik, but it was Serafine who opened the door, scolding him, “What are you doing? You’ll make M’sieu Fouchon angry if you break the door. And M’sieu Fouchon does not like to be late to dinner.”

She scolded him all the way down the hall to the dining room. He felt about twelve years old and had to admit it was something of a masterstroke on Pik’s part. It had been years since he’d had to wage war at this juvenile level and, then, he had usually been the instigator.

He won a round at dinner, though. Aware that Pik was watching him like a snake across the table as Serafine served out the salads, when he saw the gaudy and hugely iridescent beetle struggling through the lettuce, he locked eyes with Pik and ate it. As he chewed it, deliberate and slowly, Pik turned pale but nodded his head as if to a worthy opponent.

 

* * *

 

Torn between amusement and exasperation, Fouchon watched the skirmishing throughout the day. He knew that they were fighting over him but couldn’t decide which was worse: Bodie for clinging so tightly to his dignity or Pik for his adolescent antics. To give Pik credit, he’d had Bodie on the defensive until the incident with the bug. That finally seemed to establish some respect between the two combatants but, then, they acted so insufferably pleased with themselves that Fouchon was sick of them both.

By the time coffee was served, there were dark circles under Pik’s eyes and he was yawning. Fouchon recalled that how recently he had come out of hospital and decided.

“Pik, please tell Serafine that we’ll have brandy in the library. Then you can go to bed. And, I would appreciate it if there are no lizards or other livestock in anyone’s bed tonight.” Pik’s look was too but he went without argument.

Fouchon and Bodie went into the library.

“Maybe I shouldn’t have said that. I don’t think there are any mambas here but I’m not sure and I don’t want to give him any ideas. I had forgotten how exhausting seventeen can be.” Bodie’s mouth quirked. “For twenty-seven, you weren’t behaving much better. I hope it tasted good.”

“I’ve had worse at home,” Bodie said grinning.

Fouchon went to the sideboard and began to pour drinks.

Bodie paused in front of the gun case.

“That’s quite a gun,” he said, pointing to the Thompson Contender on a front shelf. The single-shot was resting in a well-oiled holster. “You use it for target shooting?”

“No,” Fouchon said. “For personal protection.”

“You must be very sure of your self.”

“Yes,” Fouchon said. “I am.”

He walked over to the case and handed Bodie a round-bellied snifter. “I like the flexibility of the Thompson. It can accommodate over a dozen different calibers. Guns are sublime machines.”

“I use a Browning myself,” Bodie said.

“Most Special Forces do,” Fouchon said.

Fouchon ignored the sideways look that Bodie shot him. There was a photograph on the walls by the case. Three men: a much younger Fouchon and two others. One of them, old enough for his hair to be going silver, had an arm around the other and his hand on the young Fouchon’s shoulder. He was smiling proudly. Behind them was the Great Pyramid of Geza.

Fouchon touched the glass.

“That’s Emil Blanchard…and his nephew,” Fouchon said.

“You were close?” Bodie risked the asking.

“We were.”

“Was that a lucky guess? About the Special Forces, I mean.”

“An educated guess.” Fouchon let it appear he was giving the question due consideration. “You’re a man on a mission, not a fantasist or a revenge seeker.”

Fouchon walked over to his favorite reading chair and dropped in to it. He selected a cigar from the humidor on the lamp stand and lit it, breathing in the thick smoke, enjoying the rush in his head. He took a sip of his brandy and Bodie, watching, thoughtlessly mirrored the action.

Fouchon had dressed for comfort tonight, khaki slacks and a cotton shirt so thin one could almost see through it. He brushed the bulb of the brandy snifter absently across his nipple and Bodie licked his lower lip. Fouchon smiled. “But tell me the truth,” he said.

“I’m SAS. Two years ago, a deeply covert operation against Gaddafi was grassed. Twelve men were landed on an isolated shore east of Tripoli. The Libyan army was waiting and they were wiped out to a man.

“It turned out that one of our own, that’s Wesson, had sold them for two million pounds. He managed to disappear, quite successfully, until recently, when was spotted in Angelique. I’m going to bring him back to England to stand his court martial.”

“Two million is a lot of money,” Fouchon observed.

“I’m to recover that, if I can,” Bodie said.

“You wouldn’t, say, be tempted to kill him, take the money and just go?”

“No!” Bodie looked shocked.

 “With that kind of money, you’d be able to do whatever you wanted to do.”

“I’m SAS nothing! A man has to stand for something, otherwise we’re just animals. Look at this country—people left to die by the side of the road! Nobody with power here looks beyond themselves.” Bodie stopped. His face was flushed with anger. “Are you still willing to help me?”

“Why not?” Fouchon said. “I like your—I guess the best word would be—passion.”

He took a deep pull on his cigar, brought the brandy glass to his mouth and breathed the smoke out slowly, a creamy layer on top of the garnet brandy. He held the bowl of the glass cupped it in the palm of his hands, warming it, and then sucked the smoke back into his mouth, flared his nostrils and blew it out again.

Bodie watched the entire performance and swallowed.

“Come over here.”

Fouchon set his glass down. He placed the cigar on top of it. Bodie’s glass clinked against it, as he sank between Fouchon’s legs. Fouchon seized him by the back of the head, the black curls felt crisp between his fingers, and kissed him.

Bodie’s mouth opened easily. He thrust inside, tongue tasting brandy and the man’s metallic nectar. By the time he broke the kiss, Bodie’s hand were clutching at him but he just tilted his head back, encouraging Bodie to nuzzle the sensitive skin of his throat, holding him when he fastened on the exquisite spot just under the curve of his jaw.

While Bodie worked, Fouchon undid the buttons of his shirt, letting it fall open. Then he pushed Bodie’s head down to suck wetly at his left at his left nipple. Little jolts of electricity arched to his groin and Bodie’s weight was a pleasurable pressure against his cock. Loving the sensation, he let his head loll back.

When Bodie released the nipple and began kissing his way down Fouchon’s belly, biting his belt, Fouchon shoved him back to sit on his heels. Bodie’s blue eyes were dilated under their hooded lids. His mouth looked swollen and hot. Fouchon his thumb to the lower lip and Bodie sucked it in. “Do you want some more of that?” Fouchon whispered, pushing deeper. Bodie’s assent was an inarticulate growl. Fouchon stood up, unbuckled his belt and freed his cock. Bodie leaned in eagerly, but Fouchon held his head, teasing his mouth. He rubbed his cock over Bodie’s’ cheeks, leaving glossy trails, then shoved it in his mouth. Fouchon pushed deep, Bodie devoured it greedily and Fouchon began to pump, looking at Bodie’s face. Bodie’s eyes were closed. He was surrendered to Fouchon’s rhythm. The breeze carried the scent of the flowering plants from the garden

Fouchon looked up, beyond the library doors, and straight into Pik’s hate-filled black eyes.

How long had he been standing there?

It didn’t matter. From the look on Pik’s face Bodie was a dead man. Fouchon cursed.

You little idiot. He took a grip on Bodie’s head, willing Pik not to look away, and began to thrust deeply, brutally. Bodie started to choke and buck, trying to pull away but Fouchon held him rigidly in his place and kept on thrusting until he subsided and accepted the inevitable. Look at him! Fouchon willed. Tears were leaking from the sides of Bodie’s eyes. He’s nothing. Look at the way I’m using him. He’s a convenience, nothing else. Look at me, Pik.

Pik didn’t move.

Keep looking.

Fouchon thrust over and over into Bodie’s mouth, never breaking eye contact with Pik.

Only be looking at me.

He was panting. The muscles of his stomach clenched. Orgasm, inevitably, was overwhelm him.

Look!

He could see himself through Pik’s eyes, his body arching and convulsing—and the man at his feet, a mindless mirror to each spasm.

Then he was empty and Pik was gone from the doorway.

He let go of Bodie and sat down in the armchair.

A clean handkerchief in his pocket. He cleaned himself and tucked himself in.

Curled on the floor at his feet, Bodie lifted his head. His voice was hoarse.

“You’re a bastard,” he said.

“Yes,” Fouchon said. “I am.”

He offered bandy.

“Drink.”

“Thank you,” Bodie said, ironically. He sat up, took the glass and drank. When it was empty, he ran a hand over his face and tugged distastefully at his pants where they were wet. “What was that?”

“A mistake.”

Fouchon was exhausted.

“Go to bed. We’ll talk tomorrow.”

Bodie almost out of the room.

“Lock your door tonight.”

Bodie didn’t resply.

Fouchon sat by himself, drinking and thinking.

Despite Bodie’s arrogance and bigotry, it would have been enough to have Bodie his knees, sucking Fouchon’s cock. It would have seemed to have been a little diversion, an undemanding exchange of pleasure. Now, there would always be the fact that Fouchon used the man, between them.

He got up and checked Pik’s room. It was empty, the bed undisturbed. He went to his own, feeling just as empty, and lay in the dark, cursing himself. What was it was that had made the young Afrikaner matter enough for him to have treated Bodie that way. Some men loath being dominated; some discover a taste for it, a need they hadn’t known. But no man was indifferent. Fouchon did not want the complications of Bodie’s emotions, whatever they were.

Damn them both; he should have been out of here weeks ago. Emotions made people unreliable and the situation was dangerous enough. With any luck, the kid had taken his hurt feelings and gone for good; it would make life so much easier, but, if he were being honest, less…interesting.

Choose between them, for a brief affair, and Bodie would be by far the better choice—attractive, sophisticated, and, God knew, more emotionally stable. Fouchon rolled over and pulled a pillow against his stomach. But he didn’t want Bodie—when did that matter?

His ears pricked at the sound of the bedroom door opening.

Bare feet slipped over the floor.

A weight fell on his bed and Fouchon smelled the lemony scent of his own cologne. Then soft lips and quick hands were thieving his senses more quickly than he could have thought possible. “I thought you had gone.” Pik was climbing on top, pushing his knees between his legs, spreading them, pressing their groins together. Fouchon could feel his heat through the stiff denim of new blue jeans. “I’m staying with you, jou now. I know you didn’t want to hurt my feelings, but I am going to kill that Englishman. Ag, shame.”

Fouchon caught his breath.

“You can’t do that,” he said. “I promised I’d keep him alive—if I can.”

“No,” Pik said. “I’m prettier than he is!”

“That’s debatable. He is definitely more tractable.”

Fouchon pulled the t-shirt over Pik’s head, wanting access to the little brown nipples he had admired that afternoon as Pik was washing the car outside his window. He one a hard pinch. “You’re a pest.”

Pik laughed, arching, and Fouchon took advantage and rolled him over.

Now he was on top, straddling Pik’s thighs.

He leaned down and kissed the full soft lips. “You infuriate me,” Fouchon said.

Pik took hold of Fouchon’s cock.

“No,” he said, “you love me. See.”

Fouchon closed his eyes and let Pik stroke him to the root of his cock, fingering the sensitive spot behind the tip.

“No, I don’t” he said. “But I am surely going to fuck your ass.”

By moonlight, he could see smiling and his hands never faltered. Fouchon leaned down and kissed his eyes. He kissed Pik’s mouth, pushing in to feel the sharp edges of his teeth and drawing his tongue back into his own mouth. He sucked hard until Pik broke away panting. Then he began to licking the sweat that beaded in the hollow of Pik’s throat.

Asseblief,” Pik panted. “Don’t make promises you can’t keep.”

Fouchon undid the jeans, pulling them down over Pik’s thighs.

The same bottle of sandalwood oil that Pik had played with that morning was on the nightstand. Fouchon splashed some of it on the palm of his hand, warming it, smelling the spicy odor. He ran his hands down Pik’s belly, tracing a finger around the rim of his navel.

“You wanted to know what this was for,” he said. “Roll over.”

Pik squirmed beneath him and Fouchon ran his hands over his ass, probing between the tight hard cheeks, spreading the lubricant. Then he smacked him, hard and Pick gave a soft grunt.

“That is what we do with bad boys,” Fouchon whispered.

He smacked him again, and again, until he could feel the heat of Pik’s flesh. The boy was making little whimpering sounds.

“What do you want?”

Asseblief, please,” Pik begged.

“Oh, yes, baby.” Fouchon said, and slipped his oily fingers into Pik’s ass. He let one press into the tight opening, rotated it, slipping his fingers in and out, playing until he was sure the muscles were supple enough. Then positioning himself between Pik’s knees, he pulled him up and, taking hold of his own cock, placed it at the opening and began pushing into his lover’s body for the first time.

Pik yelped.

“Sorry, baby. I’m sorry. Do you want me to stop?” Fouchon kissed Pik’s neck. “I don’t want to hurt you.”

“Don’t stop. I want you.” Pik giggled. “You’re just bigger than I expected.”

“We’re all getting surprises tonight. You sure?”

“Ja.” Pik’s weight shifted as he took hold of Fouchon’s hand and placed it over his cock. “Fuck me.”

Fouchon began to move, slowly, in short thrusts until he was sure Pik could accommodate him. When he was sure, he began to take long deep thrusts. He felt Pik’s cock swelled in his hand. Pik was keening, “dit is likker, likker.”

He continued thrusting, slow and deep. There was a soft buzzing began in his ears. Pik’s voice rose above it in an inarticulate howl. The flesh enclosing him began to pulse and hot, thick wetness spilled over his fingers.

He came like lightning, flaring into oblivion.

And woke with Pik’s arms around him.

Bokkie, bokkie, bokdrollekkie.” Laughing softly, Pik kissed him on the ear.

“Are you calling me an antelope?”

“Ja, little antelope.”

Pik’s tongue snaked into his ear and he twiddled two fingers around a nipple.

Too sensitive.

Fouchon smacked Pik’s hand, impatiently.

“Little antelope. And what else?”

Bokdrollekkie. Because you smell so sweet.” There was a disturbing edge to Pik’s laughter.

The lingering odors of sex and drying sweat are not particularly sweet.

Fouchon sat up, turned on the bed lamp and was struck again by how young Pik was.

“Listen to me. Tomorrow, I’m putting you on a plane to Johannesburg.”

“No, I’m staying with you. I love you.”

“You don’t know what you’re talking about; it’s dangerous here.”

“I don’t care. I’m staying with you.”

“No.”  Fouchon was tired. “Go to sleep. We’ll talk about it tomorrow.”

Fouchon tried to bring Pik beside him.

Pik shoved him away. He said, “I have to pee,” got out of bed, went into the bathroom and closed the door.

Fouchon turned off the light and lay there in the dark, listening. Then he sat up with a sick feeling in his stomach. He tried the bathroom door. It was locked. Fouchon stepped back and gave it a sharp kick in the center. When the door blew open, he stopped the rebound with his forearm.

Pik was sitting on the floor with a bloody razor in his hand.

“Jesus Christ! Is it that bad?”

“I am not going back,” Pik screamed at him. “You don’t understand, they’ll send me home.”

He made to slice the other wrist and Fouchon knocked the razor out of his hand.

“No, baby.” Fouchon grabbed a towel and pulled Pik to his feet, holding his wrist tightly while he wrapped a towel around it. “You don’t have to go.”

“You don’t mean it.”

“I do. I don’t want to explain anymore stains to Serafine.”

Then Pik was crying into his shoulder and Fouchon held him.

“Let’s get you cleaned up,” he said, when the storm was over.

Fouchon bandaged Pik’s wrist. He got the bandy, made Pik drink a glass and lay next to him with the light on until, finally, Pik fell asleep. The cuts had been shallow, but not across the tendons—lengthwise—he had meant it.

He felt the weight of Pik’s head on his shoulder, wondering when did I fall in love?

 

* * *

 

What time is it?”

It was still dark out and Pik was shaking him.

Fouchon’s first thought was,

“Are you all right?”

“Yeah, really, but listen.” Pik’s voice low. “I think that Bodie he’s stealing your sliver. I hear him get up and walk around the house. Just now he went out and got into a car.”

“Shit!” Fouchon erupted from the bed. “Get dressed. Now!” He went to the closet and quickly began selecting bush clothing. “I didn’t think he would make a move this soon.”

“Why did he go now?” Pik was pulling down his t-shirt. “It’s just gone three.”

Fouchon stopped what he was doing, went to Pik and gave him a quick kiss.

“You make a lot of noise when you come. Don’t think for one minute that he slept through that performance last night. You have your shoes? Good. There’s a jeep parked at the end of the street. You run down there and tell the man in it to come inside.”

“What are we doing?”

“We’re going to follow Bodie.”

Pik ran out.

Fouchon finished dressing and hurried into the library. He had the gun case open and was loading a cartridge belt, when the quick pounding of tennis shoes announced the return of  Pik. He had Johnny Congo with him.

The first thing the blond man did was head to the sideboard and start sorting through the bottles there.

“Fuck that! We haven’t got fucking time!”

“Emil, relax. I got Eric following them.” Congo’s head tipped in Pik’s direction. “Who’s this?”

“This is Pik; he’s coming with us. Pik this is Johnny. Don’t try to kill him.” Fouchon buckled the Thompson’s holster across his chest. “Who’s with Jack? And will you stop stealing my scotch!”

“Sipho’s with him. We’ve got plenty of time, Emil, I don’t think you’ll be coming back here.”

“You mean tonight?”

“I mean ever, so stop fussing about your damned booze.”

“Did you send somebody to get Serafine?”

“Bendi’s gone,” Johnny said. “He’ll join us later. You know you couldn’t shave this any closer if you tried.”

Fouchon knew.

“I promised Pauling that I’d get Bodie out alive, if I could. I didn’t think he’d go on his own.”

“Give me a gun,” Pik said.

“Are you okay with an automatic?”

“I’m good,” Pik said.

Fouchon tossed him an M-16.

“You had men watching the Bodie.”

“I like to cover my bets. And, all things considered…” Fouchon gave Pik a meaningful look as he buckled an ammo belt around his waist. He hung another two over his shoulder. “We’ll take the Land Rover. And, Johnny, for the last time, lay off my booze! Take this!” He threw another rifle to Congo. “Let’s go, gentlemen. Move! Move!”

Fouchon hustled them impatiently out the door. He took the driver’s seat of the Land Rover and Johnny swung in beside him. Pik scrambled into the back.

“They were heading for the southern road—maybe the airport,” Johnny said.

“Did you see who was with him?”

“That fat Dutchman, Van Owen, and some other guy.” Fouchon nearly put the jeep on two wheels taking a corner. “Hey! Take it easy!”

“Shit, no. Bodie’s been sold. They’ll be up at the Krieger.”

Silently, he drove out of town, turning off at the mine road where the macadam gave way to dirt and cut the lights. He down-shifted up the switch-backs, cutting the engine at the top of the ridge. Below, in the darkness, a flashlight blinked once. Putting the vehicle in neutral, he coasted to where two jeeps were parked in the high brush. There were two other men.

Johnny hopped out, calling softly, “Eric, are they up there?”

“Yeah. They went up to the sheds under the catwalk a few minuets ago.”

“All right, gentlemen. Pik, stay by me or Johnny. I don’t want to precipitate anything regrettable.”

“Who are we looking for?” Pik said.

“A man named Wesson and anyone else who may be with Sgt. Bodie.” Fouchon felt the need to add, “Please, try not to shoot the sergeant.”

“Oh, he’s not so bad.” Pik said. That had to be a magnanimous concession.

The mine buildings were black. They moved quietly down the disintegrating structure of catwalks and tramways between them. As quietly as possible, given the footing made treacherous by the piles of core drillings rolling under their feet.

“Hush,” Johnny said.

There were voices.

On the terrace just below them, a light went on in one of the open-roofed settling sheds.

Fouchon signaled for Johnny and the other two to go further down where a stairway would let them come up on the other side of the shed.

The harsh white light of an electric lantern, reflected off a stagnant pool inside the shed. By their silhouettes, Fouchon counted four men. He was close enough to clearly hear Bodie’s voice, raised in anger. Fouchon didn’t blame him.

“Sorry, Bodie.” That was Van Owen’s voice. “Perit recognized you back at the Tabard. You never told me you were SAS”

“Why, for God’s sake?”

“I’m getting old. This is more money than I’ll see in a lifetime.

“We were friends.”

“Don’t worry; you won’t have to suffer from disappoint for long.”

Fouchon saw Van Owen’s shadow start to raise a gun.

A shot took Dutchman in the back.

As he fell, Bodie’s shadow came to life, ducking.

The lantern went out.

Fouchon could hear men shouting—the gurgling of Van Owen dying—but he had lost track of Bodie in the dark. Johnny was yelling something about Charlie over there! Off to his left was the red-orange flash from the muzzle of a gun. Someone was running up the cat walk toward him! Fouchon waited. He thought Pik was behind him, but he had ducked back under the catwalk. Fouchon saw the running figure coming toward him. Twenty feet away, Pik swung onto the catwalk behind him. The man was almost on Fouchon, raising a gun. In ones smooth motion, reach out, yank the man’s head back and cut his throat. The body dropped at Fouchon’s feet.

“I thought I told you to stay with me!”

“I told you, I’m good. Don’t worry,” Pik said, “it’s not Bodie.”

Pik’s smile was a scimitar in the night. There was blood spray on his face. Suddenly, horribly aroused, he clapped Pik’s head in both of his hand and kissed him. They were both breathing hard. Fouchon wanted nothing as much as to have him, right there. Right there. But Johnny was coming up.

“Emil? Bodie’s got Wesson. We got the other two. You got that one?”

“No.” Fouchon stepped over the body. “Pik got him. Let’s go see what’s what.”

“Sorry to break up a moment,” Johnny said, as he passed.

“Go to hell,” Fouchon said.

As they entered the shed, there was a muffled Goddamn from Jackie and the lantern came on again.

Beside the settling pool, Bodie and Eric had Wesson between them.

As the light came on, Wesson stopped trying to shove them into the pool and settled for glaring at Bodie.

“You have no right—” he started to say.

Bodie knocked him down.

Eric let go of Wesson’s arm and went to help Jackie, who was bleeding from a deep cut on his hand, while Bodie pulled Wesson to his feet.

“I’m taking you back to stand trial, you son of a bitch. Now, shut up and hold still or I swear I’ll knock up you out. How did you know—?”

Bodie would never get to finish the question.

Fouchon pulled the Thompson from its holster and, from five feet, put a bullet through Wesson’s head.

Bodie stood there, covered with blood and gray matter, as if he had thought Fouchon were going to kill him, too.

 

* * *

 

Bodie felt that he was standing on a great height. Around him, men moved with unnatural slowness. Tinny voices reached him from a distance.

Then, with a sensation that felt like air sucking into a vacuum, on the ground, with the feel the warm spatters on his face cooling rapidly, and the bloody odor.

Ach Gott!” Pik was laughing. “Bodie, he has brains after all.”

“Johnny?” Fouchon said.

Johnny Congo appeared from somewhere. “That’s enough.” He took hold of Pik’s arm and started pushing Pik outside.

“But don’t you see? It’s funny.”

Bodie bent over was violently sick in the dirt. Fouchon just stepped back from him, broke open his gun and tossed the shell casing away.

“I wasn’t going to shoot you,” Fouchon said.

“What did you have to kill him for?” Bodie finally asked; he voice sounded thin in his own ears.

“You would have taken him back to England. I couldn’t let that happen,” Fouchon said.

“Why not? What’s he to you?”

“Nothing. But one of the men he betrayed in the Libya massacre was your Commander Pauling’s son. He wasn’t going to take a chance of Wesson getting away. I’m sorry, Bodie.” Fouchon turn away. “Try to pull yourself together.”

A man Bodie didn’t know was dragging Perit’s body into the shed. Perit’s throat was cut from ear to ear.

Fouchon was snapping orders.

“Put them in the settling pool,” Fouchon said. “Nobody’s likely to go fishing in there. Johnny, I want to get out of here as soon as possible.”

Johnny came quietly up to Bodie, took him by the arm and led Bodie out of the shed.

“Come away from here, Sergeant. You don’t want to stay.” Once outsiede, he produced a large handkerchief and wiped Bodie’s face for him.

It was becoming light enough to see. One of Fouchon’s men disconnected the lantern. A little way off Bodie could see Pik with a rifle tucked in the crook of his arm. He was watching the road below the ridge. There was blood on his face. Bandages on his wrists. As if he could feel Bodie’s scrutiny, Pik turned. He said, “I’m sorry I laughed, Bodie, but you looked so funny.”

Two men came out of the shed, one of them carrying the extra rifles; the other a duffle bag. Fouchon came was last, tucking something into his pocket.

Fouchon looked to Pik who tilted his head toward the main road.

In the distance Bodie could hear the deep rumble of engines.

“Johnny,” Fouchon said. “Are we going to have a problem?”

“No. I left the choppers safe near Otabi.”

Bodie was shivering with reaction. It was hard to get the word out but he had to ask. “What’s happening?”

“Mosombe’s making his move on Angelique. Come on, we’ll wait by the jeeps.”

“Emil, you lost, by the way.” Johnny sounded smug. “Pay up.”

“Go to hell,” Fouchon said.

With Johnny’s help, Bodie wasn’t sure if that was stop him if he tried to kill Fouchon, Bodie climbed back up the terraces to where Fouchon’s men had the jeeps and the Land Rover hidden in the scrubby brush.

They hunkered down between the vehicles and Johnny pulled a silver flask out of his pocket.

He offered it to Bodie. “You look like you could use this, Sergeant.”

Bodie took it and drank the whiskey gratefully.

Johnny continued to talking.

“We’re going to wait. Mosombe owes Emil big time, but he might decide to clear the debt by pretending not to recognize us out here. I should have been out of here region two weeks ago but Emil wanted to wait for you.”

“Shut up, Bambi.” Fouchon crawled over to them and took the flask. “That’s my liquor, anyway. Now, go somewhere,” he said to Congo. “I want to talk to Bodie.”

Johnny went and sat beside the other men.

Fouchon’s red hair was dark with sweat. He smelled of blood and gunpowder. Nothing like the man Bodie had met at the Tabard. He remembered the dead woman he had seen lying in the dust beside the road

“You’re a mercenary.”

“As I said, I’m a businessman.” Fouchon smiled. “An expediter if you will.”

“Is that worth expediting?” Bodie nodded toward the roadway.

“I have no idea—Mosombe is inevitable. I’ll leave the judgment to history. The rest is just business.”

“And me? I was a job?”

Fouchon shrugged. “Not entirely.”

“How much did Pauling pay you?”

“Oh, son, it’s none of your affair.”

“How much?” Bodie insisted.

“The bill was settled a long time ago. Pauling was Blanchard’s nephew. He’s dying.”

“I feel sick,” Bodie said.

“Put your head between your knees,” Fouchon said.

Bodie took the advice. He didn’t want to look at them man any longer but he didn’t shrug off the hand with which Fouchon gripped his shoulder.

“Listen to me, he didn’t send you in without cover.”

The hand released him.

There was the rattle of cellophane, Fouchon calling to Pik, “Can I have my lighter back now, Habibe?”

Bodie recognized the word for beloved in Arabic.

“Sure. Teach me savate.” Pik said. “Johnny won’t tell me why you call him Bambi.”

“No of your business.”

There was the sound of a match striking and tobacco in the air.

When Bodie looked up, Pik was on the other side of Fouchon, drowsing with his head on the older man’s shoulder. At least Pik had seen Fouchon clearly than he ever had. Much as it hurt to realize how much he had been used, it occurred that he might have been lucky.

Fouchon, as ever, seemed to read his mind. “I’m sorry, Bodie; it could have been good between us. I wasn’t expecting Pik.” He made a sound of amusement. “It’s disconcerting to see yourself in someone that young.”

“He’s a stone killer,” Bodie said.

“So am I,” Fouchon said. He offered his flask again.

Bodie took it and drank.

“I don’t know,” he said, “where, or how or when but I’m going to find some way to stop you.”

“You can try.” Fouchon took back the flask and raised it in salute. “To ambition,” he said. “I won’t make a point of getting in your way.”

Johnny and the other men were talking together in low voices. Pik was frankly snoring. Fouchon lit a cigarette and leaned back, blowing smoke rings.

And out on the road, Mosombe’s army moved on Angelique.

Bodie couldn’t remember ever feeling so alone.

 

Ode to a Mercenary Army

These, in the day when heaven was falling,
The hour when earth’s foundations fled,

Followed their mercenary calling
And took their wages and are dead.
Their shoulders held the sky suspended;
They Stood, and earth’s foundations stay;
What god abandoned, these defended,
And saved the sum of things for pay.

by A. E. Housman

 

 

Finis