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HUNTED BY DEVILS

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NINE

Emerging from the bathroom the following morning with a towel tucked round his hips, Kilroy paused when he heard footsteps on the stairs.

"It's only me," called Griffin, just before he came into view.

"Hello. I wasn't expecting to see you so soon. Did you manage to get the work done?"

Griffin shook his head and headed for the kitchen, his hands full of paper bags. "I didn't get the chance to start. Having spent the night on the phone, I need a break. This is it."

It was then that Kilroy realised Griffin was wearing the clothes he had left in the night before; unshaved, his eyes looked bloodshot and heavy, and he reeked of cigarette smoke. "Is anything wrong?"

Slumping onto a chair, Griffin shook his head. "Nothing drastic, just a royal cock-up, possibly by a fellow trustee back in Hong Kong. The others are busy panicking. I'm trying to sort things out from this end rather than having to fly out there. Do you have any orange juice? I've brought coffee and warm croissants."

"Great. There's juice in the fridge. I'll go and get dressed."

"Not on my account, the towel suits you."

"Only because I haven't turned blue yet. It's cold in here."

Griffin looked smug. "I keep telling you that you don't have the heating high enough."

"Up yours," retorted Kilroy amicably. His exit lost dignity when the towel he was wearing unravelled.

"Nice," remarked Griffin, enjoying the view.

Kilroy pretended not to hear him.

"You don't sound very enthusiastic about the idea of going back to Hong Kong. Don't you miss it at all?" he asked when he came back, tying the belt on the bathrobe he had pulled on.

The question taking him by surprise, Griffin told the unconsidered truth. "Given that my last memories of the place are of my father's murder, followed by learning he'd disinherited me - " He stopped, obviously regretting that disclosure.

"No, I can see it wouldn't be top of your list of favourite destinations," conceded Kilroy, sitting opposite him. "Is this my coffee?" He helped himself to a beaker before unfastening the bags Griffin had left on the table. "Croissants and Apple Danish. You're a man after my own heart."

"No, but I'm learning what you like."

"True." While Kilroy smiled, the effort of not asking all the questions hovering on the tip of his tongue was almost choking him. "Here, you must be starving if you were up all night."

"I am," Griffin admitted, his spirits lifting in Kilroy's company. "I've just thought...if I can't sort things out this end, how about flying over with me? I won't be tied up for more than a day or two and there's plenty for you to do."

His mouth full, Kilroy gave an enthusiastic nod and began to chew vigorously. "Love to," he confirmed, when he could speak. "More to the point, I might be able to sort out some leave."

Griffin picked up a croissant and tore off a piece. "Good," he said with satisfaction. "What time is it? Hell, I must get back once I've finished this. I'm liable to be on the phone and fax most of the day."

Realising that Griffin, whether he knew it or not, had come to him for comfort if not moral support, a pleased smile spread across Kilroy's face. "I've never been to the Far East," he offered, when Griffin gave him a questioning glance.

"Then you've no preconceptions to lose. I'll enjoy showing you round - give you an idea of the diversity the area has to offer. Though Hong Kong isn't typical. Nor is Manila. There's a beach in Malaya that has to be seen to be believed. The developers haven't discovered it yet. The trip might be better in two or three months' time though, some visitors find the humidity at this time of year hard to take, especially in Hong Kong and Macao."

"Whenever you like," said Kilroy, licking sticky icing from his fingers with gusto, his gaze never leaving Griffin.

Griffin's eyes narrowed with suspicion before comprehension dawned. "You're a smug son-of-a-bitch. I'm not moving in with you."

"I didn't invite you to," returned Kilroy happily. "But you wait and see, I'll creep up on you in slow stages."

"Yeah?" Draining his coffee, Griffin replaced the lid and tossed the beaker accurately into the waste bin behind him. "Sounds more like woodworm to me." Affection counteracted the asperity in his voice.

"I don't have to sit here to be insulted, I can have that pleasure at work."

"Speaking of which, I should get on with some." Getting to his feet, Griffin leant across the table and kissed him briefly. "Would you like to go to the movies tonight?"

"Cinema," corrected Kilroy. "Sure. I'll come round to Brown's about sevenish and we can decide what and where."

"So long as it's not the fifth sequel to something, I'm easy," said Griffin from the doorway.

"Not Rambo?"

"Or the Teutonic body-builder with sharp canines who grunts."

A look of mistrust crossed Kilroy's face. "You don't go in for those subtitled films in grainy black and white, do you?"

"Damn, you guessed. Kit, I must go."

"So go."

"You're not making it easy, flaunting your assets like that."

Kilroy gave an unrepentant grin.

Sighing, Griffin re-entered the room. "Anyone would think you're irresistible."

"So resist me."

"I'm trying."

"True," said Kilroy who never ignored the predictable response when it happened to be true.

Shaking his head, Griffin laughed and then, his eyes darkening, bent to kiss Kilroy. It was forty-five minutes before they went their separate ways.

oOo

Because he knew Griffin was up to his eyes in work, Kilroy accepted the breaking of their date with resignation and when two more days went by without hearing from him, resisted the temptation to go round to Brown's. For reasons he preferred not to analyse, he ignored the tapes awaiting his attention in the office. About to go to bed late on Thursday evening, he almost leapt on the ringing telephone.

"Kit, sorry to disturb you at this time of night. I'm flying to Hong Kong tomorrow." Griffin's voice sounded flat. Initially Kilroy put it down to fatigue.

"More problems over that business with the Trust?"

"In a manner of speaking. Mike - the guy involved - shot his wife, then himself earlier today. I got the news a couple of hours ago."

"Did you know him well?" asked Kilroy gently.

"Obviously not as well as I thought. I haven't seen as much of him recently as I ought to have done. May I ring you when I get back?"

Kilroy was already shrugging out of his dressing-gown, fishing for the nearest clothes. "Now I know you must be tired. When's your flight?"

"Uh, hang on while I check. Just before midday."

"OK. Fine."

"Right," said Griffin, obviously taking Kilroy's abstraction for a lack of interest. "I'll see you in a week or so. Don't work too hard."

Hearing the dialling tone, Kilroy stared at the telephone in disbelief. "You dumb fuck," he muttered, returning the receiver to its cradle. Pulling on a sweater, he shoved his feet into a pair of slip-on shoes and grabbing a jacket, quickly left.

Greeted by the night porter of Brown's like an old friend, a fact Kilroy was too preoccupied to notice, let alone feel self-conscious about, he arranged for champagne, tea and food to be taken to Griffin's suite before hurrying up the stairs. The door opened to his knock almost immediately, Griffin staring at him in astonishment.

"What are you doing here? I thought - "

"No you didn't, you're too wound up. Have you had any sleep since I saw you last?" Kilroy added, closing the door.

"There hasn't been much time. I'm fine."

"No you're not. You've just lost a friend. I thought you might be glad of some company."

"Yes. I...yes. Thank you." Griffin brushed a hand through his lank mane of hair, then across his chin, causing a rasp of stubble. "I'm a mess. D'you mind if I freshen up?"

"Take your time. It'll give me a chance to do something about this room."

Still staring at Kilroy, as if unable to believe he was here, Griffin gave an oddly helpless-looking shrug. "I'm not going to be much company," he warned, his voice roughened by hours of talking, lack of sleep and too many cigarettes.

Kilroy gave him a look of exasperation. "We're past the stage of having to worry about crap like that."

Too tired and disorientated by shock to possess his usual control, Griffin stared at him. "Yes, I suppose we are. Thanks for coming round. I'll be with you in a minute," he added vaguely, as he headed for the bathroom.

Kilroy used his lengthy absence to good effect, grateful that Brown's were traditional enough to have windows which opened as well as air-conditioning; the air was thick with stale smoke, the floor and every piece of furniture littered with crumpled waste paper, computer printouts, overflowing ashtrays and stained coffee cups. The staff at Brown's inured to surprise and genuinely helpful, he soon had the room looking more welcoming. Setting to one side the trolley bearing the food, he had just sat down when Griffin emerged.

As pale as the bathrobe he wore, his newly shaved face increasing his look of vulnerability, Griffin shivered while he studied the improvements Kilroy had made, the billowing curtains betraying the fresh air which had been bombarding the room.

"Was it very bad?"

"Worse." Kilroy closed the windows before pouring Griffin some Earl Grey tea. "The tobacco industry needn't worry while you're around. Here, drink this. Not that you need any more caffeine from the look of you. You'd better eat something."

"I couldn't," said Griffin with revulsion. His mouth twisted when he saw the champagne. "Are we celebrating something?"

"If there's to be a wake, the least you can do is see your friend out in style," said Kilroy, perching on the sturdy coffee table in front of him. "How long had you known him?"

"Years, at least twelve," said Griffin, beginning to sip his tea. "I was his best man. He and Cathy... I can't believe he killed her. I didn't even know he was going through a rough patch financially. And I should have done. But I let old friends slip away during the last year or so."

"That happens sometimes. He could have contacted you."

"Not if he was in trouble. Mike is - was - a great believer in sorting out his own problems. There's no way he was milking the Trust. He's been set up. It would take at least two, probably three, people." Unblinking, Griffin stared into the middle distance, his predatory stare familiar from the photograph Kilroy had first seen.

"Is that why you're going out there?" he asked with caution.

"Of course." Griffin took an absent mouthful of smoked salmon sandwich.

"Can I help at all - the agency?"

Griffin grimaced. "I doubt it. Bankers are notoriously reluctant to part with information. But I've got a few contacts, people who owe me favours." The thought of taking some positive action was visibly bringing him to life. Encouraged by Kilroy, he sketched the complexity of the fraud he suspected had been perpetrated, seemingly unaware of the fact he was eating hungrily. Suddenly he stopped, setting the plate down. "I cried off the last two meetings with the trustees. I couldn't face the memories it would stir if I went back to Hong Kong. If I had...I know it's self-indulgent, but I keep wondering if I'd been around whether I would have been able to stop it happening."

"You know better than that."

Griffin grimaced. "Yes, I do. And guilt is cheap." Pouring himself more tea, he sat back, but now one hand rested on Kilroy's corduroy-clad thigh, rubbing it absently.

"What do your fellow trustees make of it all?" asked Kilroy shrewdly.

"I'll give you three guesses. Relief mainly, I think, at having such a handy scapegoat."

"Listen, you watch your back. If any of them are in on it... You think they are, don't you?" Kilroy realised.

Griffin shrugged. "It's possible, but not probable. There are other candidates. I intend to find whoever was responsible." There was a flat certainty in his voice now.

Kilroy gave him a worried look. "Well be careful. There's big money involved. If they've killed once, they won't think twice about doing it again."

"Believe it or not, I have had some practice in the art of survival. It feels odd to have someone worry over me," added Griffin absently.

"Get used to it. Strawberries?" Kilroy held out a frosted dish.

"No thanks. I've eaten your sandwiches as well as mine as it is," Griffin realised, giving Kilroy a shamefaced look.

"I've already eaten. But I can cope with these." Ignoring the cream and sugar, Kilroy began to eat the luscious out-of-season fruit with his fingers. "Shall I fly out with you? For business, not pleasure."

"Better not. It could get messy. I got used to publicity after... I'm used to it. And I've no reputation left to lose." Griffin's face scrunched as he gave an uncontrollable yawn.

"Come to bed," coaxed Kilroy, extending a hand to help him up. He knew Griffin must be exhausted when he took it without a murmur.

Having acted on instinct alone, it wasn't until Kilroy was driving back from Heathrow airport the following day that he realised he had lost any pretence of objectivity where Griffin was concerned. Loathing himself, he waited three hours before telephoning Pius Cheong in Hong Kong to request an immediate report on Griffin's activities when he arrived in the Colony.

oOo

 

Familiarity having bred contempt years ago, Griffin absently watched as the plane seemed to aim itself at the rooftops of the skyscrapers which surrounded Kai Tak airport, his casual manner in stark contrast to that of his neighbour, who had turned green.

Having avoided any delay at customs by the simple expedient of travelling without luggage, knowing he could buy all he needed, Griffin tried to relax when he got into the stretch limousine. Even at the airport familiar scents and sounds engulfed him, memories jostling for attention in their wake. Lighting a cigarette, he took the first step towards facing his ghosts when he leant forward to change their destination, the hotel at which he would be staying.

oOo

"James! Where are you?" exclaimed Kilroy with obvious pleasure.

"The Malmont Marquis in Hong Kong, much to the embarrassment of my successor. Is this a good time for you, or am I interrupting anything?"

"It's perfect," said Kilroy, and Griffin found himself smiling at the tip of his cigarette, a knot of tension easing. "How's it going?"

"OK."

"Well that tells me a lot."

"Things could be better," conceded Griffin.

"I should have come with you. How's your investigation going?" added Kilroy, with an audible trace of anxiety. "I hope you aren't making too many waves."

"Not so much as a ripple. I could have saved myself a journey."

"How d'you mean?"

"There's no need to get excited," said Griffin, reaching forward to pour himself some more coffee. "I should have given the authorities more credit. The papers are having a field day, news of the arrests and financial scandal broke this morning. Mike had got wind of what was going on. That's why he and Cathy were killed. Their supposed murder and suicide was a clumsy attempt to make it look as if he was the guilty party. What they didn't know was that he'd already gone to the police. They killed him for nothing." Bitterness coloured his voice.

"That's a bastard. Have the police got all the people concerned?"

"It certainly looks that way."

"Are you all right?"

"Of course."

"James..."

"No, really, I'm fine. Just tired and a bit flat, I suppose. It's probably anticlimax. My skills, such as they are, weren't needed."

"Then come back where they are."

"Kit..."

"And you can take that look off your face," said Kilroy with asperity.

Griffin gave an unwilling smile. "If there's any justice, you're sitting in a blizzard."

"Blue skies and sunshine. Don't tell me, you're basking in a heat-wave. And just when I was getting you acclimatized, too."

"As a matter of fact, there's a hundred per cent humidity and it's pouring with rain."

Kilroy chuckled unsympathetically before saying, "Not a fun few days."

"Not noticeably," Griffin agreed, knowing they weren't discussing the weather. "I'd forgotten how claustrophobic this place can be. Or maybe there are just too many memories lying around waiting for me to trip over them. How are things with you?" As he had hoped, Kilroy took the hint. They chatted comfortably about trivia for the next hour.

"When are you coming home?" asked Kilroy abruptly.

"The funeral's tomorrow, but I couldn't get a flight until the day after. I should be back sometime Thursday evening."

"I'll keep the home-fires burning for you. This call must be costing you a fortune," Kilroy added, some time later.

"It's OK," teased Griffin, "I reversed the charges."

"You didn't! Well, it doesn't matter if you did," Kilroy added in a different tone.

"Good god, I believe you mean it."

"Get out of here," growled Kilroy gruffly. "While you're at it, get some sleep. You sound knackered. Oh no, Paul's come back and this time I don't think I'll be able to get rid of him."

"Life's hell," said Griffin, sounding far more cheerful than when they had started the conversation. "I shouldn't have kept you," he added, accepting there had been no reason to ring Kilroy save for the fact he wanted to hear his voice.

"Bollocks," said Kilroy amicably. "Take care, I'll see you Thursday."

Replacing the receiver with a smile, it occurred to Griffin that he didn't want to be away from home any longer than he had to be.

oOo

"Yes?" snapped Kilroy, irritable at this the third interruption in ten minutes.

"I'll come back later," said an amused voice.

"James!" Staring into the smiling face, Kilroy leapt to his feet, then swore as he knocked an unsteady stack of thin files to the floor. "Never mind. Come in. This is great! I wasn't expecting you till tomorrow."

"I managed to get a seat on an earlier flight after all. Having fun?" Griffin added, his eyes on the paper-strewn desk.

"Ha bloody ha. It's staff evaluation time, ready for the Christmas bonuses, such as they'll be this year."

"Cash flow problems?" Griffin sat down, stretched out his legs and lit a cigarette.

"Only one way. It floods out with no problem at all. It would help if our bills were paid on time." Collecting up the files, Kilroy locked them in his desk drawer. "These can wait, the review meeting isn't until November. I just thought it would be a novelty if I got myself organised ahead of the game for once. What would you like to do to celebrate your return?"

Exhaling smoke with slow luxury, Griffin eyed him up and down, amusement and something more in his expression. "Several things."

"Sold. I'll sneak off early."

"Ah, Kit." A mellifluous voice met them as they reached the reception desk. "Oh, I'm sorry, I didn't realise you were in conference with a client."

Turning, Griffin studied the newcomer with bland interest, aware within seconds of the antipathy between Kilroy and Paul Douglas. Giving absolutely nothing away, Kilroy escaped with Griffin after only five minutes in Douglas' company.

"That was Paul," he said unnecessarily, as he and Griffin walked back to his flat, "our Finance Director."

"And the possessor of a vaulting ambition to go higher."

"I see you sussed him out. He suits some of our clients."

"He wouldn't suit me," said Griffin positively. "Do you always give your clients such personal attention?"

"Only the ones wearing gold ear studs. Welcome home."

oOo

Trying not to salivate too obviously when he glimpsed the food being served to other diners, subtle aromas tantalising his taste buds, Griffin lit another cigarette and glanced at his watch, hoping Kilroy would arrive before he fainted from hunger. The fact he hadn't eaten today had not occurred to him until he entered the restaurant, since when his gastric juices had been clamouring for material on which to work.

Having set off early that morning, intent after a frustrating week of house-hunting on finding a workshop, even if he couldn't find a home, Griffin had got lost in a maze of back streets and so had seen the sign advertising workshops to let under the railway arches just outside Peckham. Ten minutes there had been enough to convince him that the vibration and thunder as trains passed overhead at three minute intervals made the place unthinkable as a long-term location. But desperate for somewhere he could begin work, he had struck a deal with the cabinet-maker occupying the unit next door. An extortionate sum ensured he had immediate occupation and use of the tools and materials for the next week; he had paid it without blinking.

The first few moments alone, facing a familiar workbench, had been horrendous, every doubt resurfacing to haunt him. Then he had taken up a length of cheap pine, the soft wood all that was immediately available. While turnery was one of the most basic of skills, Griffin was still high on the rush of euphoria he'd felt when he realised his hands remembered what his brain had thought forgotten. Hesitant at first, he had set himself other simple tests, then telephoned a timber merchant to order a supply of cherry or oak to be sent by express delivery. His confidence sky-high, he now sat radiating an almost palpable aura of contentment.

It was going to work.

He had never needed to agonise over a drawing board or scaled plan - indeed, he found the latter impossible to work from - but it seemed uncanny that eye, brain and heart should have united so completely after all these years. Today the floodgates had opened, releasing a creativity repressed since his dream had been stifled under the inexorable weight of Marius Melville's will.

Because his father had chosen to study architecture, as well as structural engineering and business administration, Griffin had assumed Melville would understand his own passion. To a degree Melville had, considering it to be a suitable hobby when allied to the business career he had mapped out for his clever son. So Griffin had walked the wire, caught between the force of Melville's personality and sphere of influence on one side, and the need to be his own man on the other. As was so often the case, his attempts at a compromise had satisfied no-one. While the years hadn't been bleakly miserable, there had been few consciously happy days.

Until today, Griffin reminded himself, raising the hopes of the bored wife of a diplomat when she caught the fallout from his smile. Staring at his interlinked fingers as if seeing them for the first time, it was an effort to keep them still. His hands itched to take up their proper work - to feel a piece come to life. Lost in blissful contemplation of the future, in which a certain blue-eyed man persisted in hovering, another fifteen minutes went by. His stomach growling, he was on the point of caving in and ordering when he saw Kilroy stride toward him, oblivious to the maitre d' dragging behind in his wake.

"Sorry I'm late," said Kilroy tersely.

"You're here now. You look as if you could do with a large drink," noted Griffin as he reseated himself.

"Make it two. Vodka and fresh lime, no ice. Anything," Kilroy added, when a second waiter presented him with the menu. Shooting him an all-encompassing glance, Griffin ordered for them both.

"You're looking pleased with yourself," noticed Kilroy, mellowing after the speedy despatch of his first drink.

"I feel it. I've had a good day. The best."

"Doing what?"

Griffin ignored the question. "Can you talk about what's bothering you?"

"No."

Kilroy had spent the day reading a box of newspaper cuttings, which together with Cheong's report had arrived from Hong Kong that morning. While the bulk of the cuttings had concerned Marius Melville, the remainder were about the illegitimate son no-one had known he possessed until his death. Griffin had attracted a lot of media speculation; it wasn't difficult to imagine the pressure he must have been under at that time. Every facet of his life had been placed under the public microscope. But it was the reports from the financial press which had added a new dimension to the man opposite him. Allied to the charitable Trust Kilroy already knew about, Griffin held various directorships, none of which were connected with the Melville group of companies. He had a reputation for being a tough negotiator, with a steady nerve and an appetite for work which suggested he tried to occupy every waking moment. While the tabloid press had had a field day when he was disinherited, the stories had tapered away after he vanished; his recent visit to Hong Kong had escaped media attention. Gossip apart, either Griffin had got off extremely lightly, or there was no real dirt to be found. Cheong had found none, beyond the directorship Griffin had resigned from with the Melville Leisure Corporation, which owned the chain of hotels he had managed.

Kilroy ignored the baby lobster placed in front of him. Griffin must have known that Melville's companies laundered money for the Mafia and Triads - an unholy alliance if ever there was one - but for the life of him, he couldn't imagine Griffin playing power politics in that world. He didn't try to tax his imagination, wanting to believe in Griffin's innocence with an intensity which might have worried him had he stopped to think about it. His own investigation into Griffin in Britain had drawn an equal blank, revealing little beyond a wealthy man frittering away his time - except for his puzzling obsession with wood. The arrival of the main course roused Kilroy from his abstraction as his first course was removed untouched.

"I'm not going to be very good company tonight," he volunteered, rimming his glass with the tip of his finger.

"That assumes you are on others. Have you eaten today?"

Kilroy's vacant look answered for him.

"Then try, if only to soak up the effects of the vodka. It'll top up your blood sugar, too."

Picking up his fork, Kilroy managed to destroy the artistic arrangement of vegetables without eating a thing.

"What's wrong?" Griffin finally asked, point-blank.

"Nothing."

"OK," said Griffin, equably accepting the snub he had expected.

Kilroy found the ensuing silence remarkably comfortable. Sitting back in his chair, he watched Griffin dispose of his meal. "What have you been doing today?"

Aware of the trace of condescension in Kilroy's voice - the unconscious superiority of one who worked for his living - Griffin let it pass. "I've hired a workshop for the next week, and spent some time familiarising myself with the tools."

"Workshop! For what?"

"I - er - make furniture," mumbled Griffin, with a diffidence which would have attracted Kilroy's attention at another time.

At a loss to understand why that should have lit Griffin with a visible glow of contentment, Kilroy made polite noises of interest.

Undeceived, Griffin grinned. "It's all right, you can stop trying to be tactful. It isn't at all in character."

Kilroy absently ate a mouthful of cooling creamed spinach, pulled a face and abandoned any pretence of eating. "Probably not. I've spent the last few weeks trying to ferret out grubby secrets best left hidden - always presuming there's a skeleton to find. Poking, prying, bugging private telephone lines. I feel like a Peeping Tom!" he burst out, self-disgust harshening his voice because he knew he would read reports about Griffin's day, unless he closed the case.

"Is phone tapping legal in Britain?"

"Not without the permission of the Home Secretary, and that's only given to the police and security services. Which is why shops specialising in state-of-the-art audio systems are enjoying a booming trade. Boardroom bugging is big business."

"I know. I've experienced it first hand. Ordered it to be done, too. It's a grubby world we live in. There's no such thing as privacy nowadays."

"Why do it if you disapprove?"

"Sometimes it's necessary," replied Griffin, pointedly not asking Kilroy the same question.

"Yes. Sometimes. Only in this instance... I'm not sure why I took the job in the first place," muttered Kilroy, his conscience goading him into telling the unvarnished truth.

"I'd hazard a guess. Even if you are a different white knight from those I'm accustomed to meeting in my world. Kilroy, the caped crusader."

Slumping in his chair, Kilroy's expression relaxed. "Not Batman, I don't have the legs for tights." He stared moodily at the art nouveau table decorations.

"Is this disenchantment with the agency in general, or one job in particular?"

"The job. I should have known better than to take the case." Feeling trapped, Kilroy tossed his scrunched napkin on the table. "Do you want the next course?"

"No," lied Griffin with heroic sacrifice, paying for their meal with a haste which earned him a frosty look of suspicion.

Already heading for the door, Kilroy was oblivious to subtle undercurrents. "I'm going for a walk. D'you want to come?"

"Sure," lied Griffin, but with less conviction; the breeze was cool, the drizzle pervasive.

Striding out at Kilroy's shoulder, he made no attempt to break the silence as they left the bright lights and main roads for seedy side-streets packed with parked cars. Eventually even their fast pace failed to keep him warm, his overcoat insufficient protection against the steady downpour. Giving his disintegrating cigarette a look of disgust, he tossed it into the gutter, shivered, and stopped in his tracks.

"This is ridiculous. Kit!"

Already several yards ahead, Kilroy turned, impatient with any delay. The rain driving into his face roused him; ruefully shaking his head, he walked back to where Griffin stood. "Don't tell me - you're cold, you're wet, you're probably still hungry, and you're wondering why you were crazy enough to get involved with a selfish bastard like me."

"Close," Griffin allowed. Ignoring the downpour, he studied Kilroy's face. "You've decided what you're going to do about that job, haven't you."

Unblinking, Kilroy stared at him and knew that right or wrong he was going to trust his instincts. "Yes."

"You don't look very happy about your decision." Griffin drew Kilroy into the shelter of a doorway.

"I'm not, because it's based on personal preference," said Kilroy, accepting that he lacked the detachment necessary to make an objective decision.

"What are the consequences if you make the wrong choice?"

"Good question. I wish I knew. At worst a child could be kidnapped, injured, killed even." Kilroy stared at the boarded-up shop window, then at the soggy rubbish on the cracked paving stones; they had left Knightsbridge far behind.

"Have the child guarded. For twenty-four hours a day. Not that it guarantees their safety, of course. It's always open season on the rich."

Alerted by Griffin's change of tone, Kilroy swung back to him. "James?"

Griffin shrugged. "Where do you think I got this from?" He gestured to his face. "Contrary to popular belief in some quarters, I wasn't born with a silicone implant in my cheek."

"You were the victim of a kidnap attempt?"

"Actuality. Only their car crashed when they were changing safe houses, injuring them and freeing me. It was a long time ago. Let's go home."

"How long ago? Exactly," asked Kilroy with a quiet insistence.

"Nineteen sixty-nine. The fifteenth of June. I was held for sixteen days - not counting my time in hospital afterwards. Can we go home now?"

Careless of who might be watching, Kilroy lightly touched the cool solidity of Griffin's broken cheek with the side of his thumb before kissing him lightly on the mouth. "We'd better try and find a taxi. The exercise might help warm you up." Tucking his arm in Griffin's, he established a brisk pace.

"If it's exercise you need to drive your troubles away, I can guarantee to wear you out. But only when I'm warm, dry and fed to capacity," Griffin warned. His lightness of tone seemed more genuine this time.

Realising that the odds of a man choosing a method of extortion which had cost him a terrifying two weeks and some painful corrective surgery were in his favour, Kilroy's spirits rocketed. "Wear me out, eh?"

"I guarantee it."

"Is that your teeth I can hear chattering?"

"Probably. It's bloody freezing."

"Don't exaggerate, though it is chilly," conceded Kilroy. "Relax, I've just realised where we are. Turn left at the end of the road, then right and right again and we'll be on Hammersmith Broadway. Civilization. Well, the chance of a bus or taxi."

"Bus?"

"Don't panic," said Kilroy with a grin, "they're a rare breed at night, especially when it's raining. It's only a ten minute walk away. Less if we run. I'll race you," he added, in the tone of one offering a great treat. High as helium with the certainty of Griffin's innocence, he was impossible to resist.

"Give me the directions again first."

"Are you suggesting I'd stoop to cheating?"

"I'm happy to state it categorically. Left, then two rights onto the main road?"

"That's right," teased Kilroy, taking off without further preliminaries.

It was a moment before Griffin thought to follow him. "Call this a run?" he scoffed, as they loped along, shoulder to shoulder.

"It's better than running flat out with cold muscles. I'd rather not spend the rest of the night in Casualty waiting for them to patch you up."

"Me?" Catching hold of Kilroy's arm, Griffin drew him to a halt. "You'll be wanting to escort me across roads next. Or are you afraid I'll beat you?"

"No chance. Not with the number of cigarettes you smoke. OK, you're on. We'll race. On the count of three?"

"Three," said Griffin instantly, sprinting across the road and only just avoiding a cyclist on an unlit bicycle.

Kilroy made no effort to match his speed. Pacing himself, he won by a comfortable margin. Victory was all the sweeter because he flagged a passing taxi as Griffin approached.

Winded, Griffin collapsed on the seat, his wet face flushed and alive with laughter. "We must be mad," he gasped, one hand pressed to the stitch in his side. "But you're right. I am smoking too much. I'll have to start jogging regularly again, too."

"We'll have a rematch in a few weeks' time."

"When I'm in better shape."

"I've no complaints."

"Ah, but you won."

"I hadn't forgotten. I'll claim my prize when we get home," promised Kilroy.

"Oh, you have something in mind?"

"More than one thing."

"Then you'll have to feed me first. I'm still hungry."

Kilroy looked vague.

"Wonderful," sighed Griffin.

Once inside the flat, Kilroy stripped off his leather jacket, finding the heat overpowering. "I hope this is warm enough for you. My gas bill's going to be astronomical, and it's only October."

"Poor Kit. The things you suffer for me. I'll try to make it worth your while. After I've eaten," Griffin added pointedly. He dropped his sodden jacket on top of his coat, his turquoise shirt marked with the damp over his shoulders.

Kilroy unfastened it for him, his hands sliding inside so his thumbs could caress already peaked nipples. "I could eat you," he murmured, finding the nubs of flesh cool to the warmth of his tongue. "You really are cold, aren't you. Go and warm up under the shower. I'll see what there is to eat."

"I like a man who gets his priorities right," said Griffin with approval, undressing as he headed for the bathroom. Waiting outside the shower because bitter experience had taught him the water took time to warm up, he had the grace to look abashed when he saw Kilroy picking up the clothes he had abandoned in his wake. "Sorry. I forgot."

"That you don't have any servants here?" Kilroy joked.

Unfastening his watch, Griffin tossed it to him and stepped under the shower. "Old habits die hard."

Only just catching the Rolex, Kilroy set it down and handed Griffin the soap. "You really had servants?"

"It went with the lifestyle. Don't worry, I'm not totally useless." Griffin's sarcasm went unnoticed.

"Great. In that case you can wash my back." Kilroy stared at the hand raised to prevent his entry under the water.

"It's usual to wash your clothes separately," Griffin pointed out gravely.

"Traditionalist," accused Kilroy. He made the tactical error of bending to unlace his shoes.