Actions

Work Header

HUNTED BY DEVILS

Chapter Text

TWELVE

Despite Kilroy's optimism about the weather, it poured with rain for the next five days. A crusading light in his eye, Griffin ignored pointed hints and dissuaded Kilroy from spending all the time in bed (or rather on the mattress). By Wednesday night, exhausted and filthy, they had filled the ten large skips sitting in the driveway with the contents of four rooms only because Kilroy had the forethought to hire a couple of labourers for their muscle. The heaviest pieces of furniture had required the combined strength of at least three men to move. Having discovered the coach-house, which would make a huge garage, to be in a better state of repair than much of the house, Griffin had cleared out the junk of decades. They used the space to store the few pieces of furniture which Kilroy liked and which were in a state worth salvaging.

Rentokil had come and gone, but only after the team had made numerous pointed comments about the conditions in which they were expected to work. Kilroy's charm, and the cash Griffin slipped them when Kilroy wasn't looking, ensured the house was baited from attics to cellars and fortnightly visits promised for the next six weeks, after which time it was hoped Whitehaven would be free of rodents - live ones anyway.

"Let's hope they don't all crawl behind the wainscots to die," remarked Griffin, for whom the novelty of surfaces sticky with mouse urine was wearing thin.

"Happy thoughts like that I can do without," said Kilroy, coughing as a large chunk of plaster came away with the wallpaper he was stripping.

Perched on top of a stepladder, the saucer he was using as an ashtray in one hand, a cigarette in the other, Griffin looked unsympathetic. Smudged with dirt, his nails torn and filthy, and his sweater sporting two new holes, his five-day growth of beard added to his disreputable look.

"Are you sure you wouldn't be more comfortable staying in a hotel?" asked Kilroy, experiencing one of his periodic surges of guilt.

"I know I would be," said Griffin frankly, stubbing out his cigarette. "But there are compensations."

"There are?"

"At least I get to grope mine host. Besides, I've never done this sort of thing before."

"I bet you haven't. Don't say I don't know how to give my guests a good time."

While he grinned, his teeth looking white in his grimy face, Griffin's expression gentled. "Oddly enough, you are. I'm enjoying myself."

"I've never thought of you as a domestic animal. Slippers in front of the fire," Kilroy prompted.

"I wouldn't go that far. Perhaps it's the novelty value but I don't think so. There's a certain satisfaction about all this. While the work might be basic, at least you see results quickly."

"This is you talking, isn't it? We could start a new fashion in minimalist furnishings. Four upright chairs, two tables, a wardrobe and a mattress. It'll take years to get this place looking right."

Griffin had been thinking exactly the same thing; knowing he could achieve the desired result in months, he was wise enough not to suggest it. "Then do it room by room instead. Watch your back, I'm going to take the last of these curtains down. Then you can take me out to dinner, pour quantities of fine wine into me and bring me home and fuck me legless. We've been too exhausted for anything but sleep recently."

Scraper in hand, Kilroy paused, turned and gave him a smile of blinding sweetness.

Griffin eyed the sight with the gravest suspicion. "What are you looking so fatuous about?" he grunted, having begun to struggle with rusting curtain hooks. He tugged, and narrowly escaped concussion when he brought down the heavy brass rail holding the hooks, together with a quantity of plaster.

Accustomed to such mishaps, Kilroy's mood remained sunny. Griffin had worked like a navvy, fucked like an angel, and displayed every sign of enjoying himself. The real test was the fact he had just referred to Whitehaven as home. Knowing better than to mention the fact, he gave Griffin an injured look. "I was only leering at your arse."

"Yes?" Having left the stepladder to shake pieces of plaster from his hair, Griffin rubbed first his chin, then the area in question. "Then why don't we call it a day now, so you can give it a closer inspection?"

 

The following morning the hard work they had put in over the last few days showed every sign of having caught up with them.

"It can't be time to get up," moaned Griffin pathetically as he sank back under the covers, having woken to aching muscles and a strong disinclination to do anything but sleep. The rain hitting the windows added to his reluctance to shift, that and the cold air whistling past his nose.

Kilroy killed the alarm and quickly tucked his arm back into the warmth. "It is if you're intent on keeping to that back-breaking schedule you worked out."

The growl which issued from under the covers indicated a certain lack of enthusiasm.

"Thank god for that," sighed Kilroy with relief. "I've been knocking myself out trying to keep up with you."

Griffin's head turned on the pillow. "I wish you'd mentioned that earlier. It's your fault we've been exhausting ourselves."

"How d'you work that out?" asked Kilroy with a trace of indignation. "It wasn't my idea to work an average fourteen hour day."

"I can't say it would have been my first choice but I knew what you thought of effete city slickers." Griffin spared a scraped and calloused hand a rueful look, holding it out. "Rite of passage," he mocked, wryly amused at his own stupidity.

"Prat," said Kilroy, tucking the hand in question between his thighs. "We take the day off, then?"

"Two, if you like," said Griffin generously. He was asleep within minutes.

 

It was mid-morning before they got up. By the time they had devoured a leisurely brunch from food left in the mouse-proof containers, the rain had finally stopped.

"How about a look around the estate?" suggested Griffin. "Apart from visits to the shops and the odd restaurant we haven't stuck our noses out of doors for days."

"Have you got any boots - Wellingtons?"

Griffin shook his head.

"What size do you take?"

"Uh, I think it's a nine in Britain. Hang on, I'll look at this pair." Hauling off one of the Gucci loafers he was wearing, Griffin said, "Italian sizing."

"Well, I take eights and I've got a spare pair in the boot. See if you can get into them. It'll be sodden out."

So wrapped up that he bore more than a passing resemblance to the Michelin man of the tyre adverts, Griffin followed Kilroy into the weak sunshine, his legs looking matchstick thin when compared to his bulky torso.

"Watch yourself on the steps down from the patio," Kilroy warned, "they're slippery."

"So are the flagstones," noted Griffin, saving Kilroy when he skidded on the moss.

Of necessity their progress was even slower when they left the patio, hampered by thigh-length grass matted by the weather, brambles, nettles, ground elder and unexpected potholes.

"Moles, I think," said Kilroy, just before he tripped over a concealed branch, the rotting trunk covered by about a decade of vegetation.

Giving an absent nod, Griffin forged ahead with the dedication of a born explorer. Since arriving at Whitehaven he had visibly shed much of his reserve. Relaxed and at ease, he had the look and sound of a man who had been reminded how much fun life could be. It didn't occur to Kilroy that some of the change could be attributed to his own behaviour now he was no longer required to act a part.

"Dr Livingstone, I presume," intoned Griffin, making Kilroy jump when he came up behind him through a tangle of rhododendrons in a soggy woodland dell. One cheek bearing a long scratch, the knees of his torn jeans wet and muddy, two dead leaves were caught in his hair. Exertion had brought colour to his face. "This must look gorgeous in spring. But I can see why you dragged me down here - cheap labour."

"Damn, you guessed. Oh, watch yourself once we get out of this thicket. Some of the fencing must be down and cows get in. I haven't had a chance to work out which farm they're from yet."

"They don't bother me," said Griffin, just before he skidded. Something shot up from the undergrowth in front of them.

"Pheasant," said Kilroy, grabbing Griffin.

"No, a cow-pat," he corrected, his nose wrinkling as he tried to clean his boot on a tuft of grass. "Pheasant, eh. Well, that's dinner taken care of."

"Not on my land it's not."

Perching on a greenish tree stump, Griffin lit a cigarette. "No huntin', shootin' or fishin'?"

"That's right," said Kilroy, his manner uncompromising. "I've seen enough of all three."

"Yes, I expect you have," agreed Griffin. Reaching out, he caught hold of Kilroy's forearm. "Look. Don't move," he whispered. "We must be downwind of them or something." Delight on his face, he remained motionless until the three rabbits, probably catching a whiff of nicotine, disappeared.

"You're not usually that patient," Kilroy remarked, allowing himself to be urged on toward the lake.

"You'd be surprised. Astronomy isn't a hobby for anyone who's in a hurry."

"You're into astronomy?"

"Afraid so. Watch out, this is a boggy - shit! - bit. Help." Wobbling on one foot, Griffin waited for Kilroy to rescue the boot he had inadvertently left behind him.

"There you go, Cinders. Why the stars? I mean, what is it about space that hooked you?" asked Kilroy curiously as they squelched on, keeping their eyes firmly on the ground which was littered with traps for the unwary.

"I've never stopped to wonder why," mused Griffin. "Overriding curiosity, I suppose. And it was one of my father's passions, that probably had a large part to play initially. But I can't remember a time when I wasn't interested. Some stars have the most beautiful names."

"Such as?"

"Let's see - don't forget I've a northern sky to reacquaint myself with: no more Southern Cross. Betelgeuse, Aldebaran, Arcturus ...Zubenelgenubi," Griffin added wickedly.

"I wish I thought you made that one up. So you're a star-watcher."

"And planets, and the moon, of course. That's what most of us study. Don't get me started on the subject or I'll turn into a bore. But there's nothing like a couple of hours at a telescope for putting life more in perspective - and deepening the mystery. If I ever find myself a place to live and get my telescope set up you'll have to take a look. A few hours star-gazing is more therapeutic than almost anything you care to name."

"Sex," said Kilroy, predictably.

"You could have a point," Griffin conceded.

"Only could? I must be slipping."

"Very probably, given the state of the ground. The lake's farther away than I thought."

"And I don't think we'll get much closer to it until the ground dries off a bit. Now the sun's gone in it's getting cold. It'll be dark soon, and we could break a leg out here even in the daylight. I hadn't realised how much needs to be done," sighed Kilroy as they turned back, bearing right so that Griffin could get some idea of the other side of the grounds.

"There's no rush," Griffin comforted him.

"That's lucky, because there's not much cash either. It was only when we started to clear the house that I realised how big it is. Maybe I'll get a buyer for the stable block."

"Stable block?" Griffin's head turned, an intent look entering his eyes.

"You won't have seen it yet because it's tucked away to the right of the house, about two hundred yards down the lane. It's screened by that bank with the conifers on it. I was lucky there actually, because it has about an acre of land and a sort of drive and planning permission. All I need is a buyer. Where are you rushing off to?" added Kilroy, having to stride out to keep up with Griffin.

"To see it."

Bemused, Kilroy followed Griffin's single-minded passage, having to reserve his breath to keep up with him until they neared Whitehaven. "Funnily enough, the stable block was in far better nick than the house. It's got water, power and an old washroom and toilet. From its size, I think half of it must have been used for the coaches in the old days. It only cost me a couple of grand to fix up. Hold on, the only access is round the front now. I had the land fenced off. Would you like me to get the key?"

Griffin's impatient look spoke volumes.

An hour later, having made an exhaustive survey of the L-shaped building, Griffin stood in the echoing centre, staring about him with a mixture of delight and disbelief. "It's bloody well perfect," he breathed.

"For what?"

"A workshop and - given the height of it - a flat above. I'll want a lot of space, good light - and privacy. This has all three, with the added distraction of a wonderful view. I could work here. Do you have any idea of the hours I've wasted looking for a place like this? It has planning permission you say, for what?"

"Residential and light industrial use. You're welcome to use the place," added Kilroy, with the feebleness of one who felt himself being overrun by superior forces.

"I'm going to buy it," said Griffin in a definite tone. "Now. In case some other bugger suddenly decides to show an interest. I'll get my phone."

Kilroy started to lose track of events soon after that. Having listened to the first of Griffin's telephone calls, he began to understand how Griffin's business reputation had been gained. His socked feet to the fire in the study, which was empty save for two upright chairs and a Formica-topped table, Griffin was an unprepossessing figure. But he got things moving with a dazzling speed, using a mixture of charm, force of personality and the unconscious arrogance which came from always having the money to buy what he wanted.

"That's that then," Griffin announced, depositing the mobile phone on the floor. "The contracts and the architect should both be here tomorrow." He seemed visibly to draw energy back into himself but his eyes still gleamed.

Some of Kilroy's resentment faded. "You really want a workshop, don't you."

"Of course." Glancing round, as if only just reminded of Kilroy's existence, Griffin pulled a face. "I'm a selfish bastard. I've monopolised half the afternoon and evening. Not to mention ruining any plans you may have made for us tomorrow. I didn't think."

"You had other things on your mind," said Kilroy, aware that he had not been one of them. "Thanks to you, I'll have the money to get some work done around this place. There's a hotpot cooked if you're ready to eat. I put it on while you were busy on the phone."

Getting up with alacrity, Griffin paused to draw Kilroy back into the scanty light. "What's wrong? I know I haven't given you a chance to say much. If you've got second thoughts about my moving next door, it isn't too late to - "

"It isn't that." Going into the kitchen, which was by far the warmest room in the house, Kilroy took the hotpot from the oven, setting a loaf of warm French bread onto the breadboard and placing both in the centre of the old pine table he had scrubbed clean the day before. "Help yourself." He had already opened the bottle of claret.

"Then what's wrong?" pursued Griffin, sitting at the table and serving first Kilroy, then himself, with generous portions. Breaking off a piece of the crusty bread, he dunked it in the rich, meaty gravy. "This is good," he mumbled, his mouth full.

Kilroy received an incongruous mental flash of the sleek, groomed businessman he had picked up at the jazz club. Yet the mud-stained figure eating neatly with his fingers was little different, save that he seemed to have come to vibrant life, visibly revelling in all his senses rather than going through the motions.

"Your table manners are horrible," he remarked dispassionately.

"Who do you think I learnt this technique from?" retorted Griffin, helping himself to some more bread. "I'm serious, Kit. I didn't intend to thrust my way into your life the way I have this last week. Today must have been the final straw for you. Whitehaven - that's a stupid name for a red-brick house - means too much to you. Don't let me fuck it up. If you'd rather not have me living next door, say so. I won't take umbrage."

"Then you don't really want the stable block?"

"There'll be other places," shrugged Griffin, his gaze fixed on his plate despite the fact he was no longer eating.

There was a short silence.

"Of course I don't mind you moving in," said Kilroy roughly.

"Thank god for that," said Griffin, with the directness Kilroy found so refreshing. "You had me worried for a moment. And not just because of the workshop," he anticipated smartly.

"It's not like you to suffer from false modesty."

Griffin looked self-conscious and picked up his glass. "No. Well, if it isn't the thought of having me for a neighbour that's the trouble, what is bothering you?" He fished a breadcrumb from his glass of wine, ignoring the implication behind Kilroy's statement.

"I suppose it's the fact I hadn't appreciated how accustomed you are to getting your own way - buying whatever you want: workshop, car, people. It's all the same to you, isn't it."

His fork poised halfway to his mouth, Griffin set it down with precision. "No, it isn't. If you mean do I take people seriously when they claim to offer a twenty-four-hour-a-day service, for which I pay handsomely, then yes, I do. They can always say no."

"But they never do, do they. Money talks."

With some deliberation Griffin took a mouthful of wine. "Crudely put but essentially correct."

"I'm a crude bloke. Not in your social - or monetary - sphere at all. Or does Whitehaven make up for my other deficiencies?"

Gently pushing aside his half-eaten meal, Griffin rummaged in his pockets before lighting a cigarette, using the time to control his temper. When he looked up his expression was unrevealing, which was a warning in itself. "Was that a serious question?" Steady-eyed, he held Kilroy's gaze.

Only then did it occur to Kilroy how offensive his question had been. "No," he said with an apologetic grimace. "If I'd been on the other end of that first phone call, I'd've told you to get stuffed. You virtually told him how to do his job."

"No, I gave him all the facts he needed and made it plain I was in a hurry. He's a pompous windbag but a good lawyer, that's all that interests me. I'm damned if I'll pretend I want to socialise with him. We are not, and never will be, friends."

"You don't believe in wasting time, do you," remarked Kilroy, realising his remark must have stung; Griffin never usually bothered to justify his actions.

"Not when it's something that's important to me. I can't say I've noticed you being any different in that respect. Or maybe you didn't listen to yourself giving that mechanic a bollocking after he fucked up the service to your Renault. It's about time you put that bee in your bonnet about money being the root of all evil to rest," Griffin added irritably, pouring himself another glass of wine.

"Old prejudices die hard," muttered Kilroy, toying with a piece of parsnip on his plate.

"Then put them out of their misery, kill them quickly. You still don't like me very much, do you." It was not a question.

Startled, Kilroy looked up. "Don't be ridiculous."

Shrugging, Griffin let it pass and drained his glass, turning it absently between his hands.

Reaching out, Kilroy took a firm grasp of Griffin's wrist. "If I didn't, I wouldn't have given you my key, never mind invited you down here," he said in exasperation. "I liked you even before I knew much about you. I know that doesn't make much sense but that's the way it was."

"Lust and logic never go hand in hand." Griffin eased himself free.

The corners of Kilroy's eyes crinkled when he smiled. "Maybe they don't, but I haven't changed my mind. And it's not just because I still fancy you something rotten," he said confidently. His abrupt change of expression betrayed the direction of his thoughts and he glanced at Griffin in obvious question.

"You're not the only idiot," Griffin admitted, without enthusiasm.

Kilroy poured them both another glass of wine. "A while ago I saw a new side of you - like a rocket after someone lit the blue paper. Only no-one warned me to stand clear. All of a sudden I felt, I don't know, like a stranger. Why is getting a workshop so important to you? It can't just be so you can play carpenter."

"Play?" Griffin's voice lost its edge. "This isn't a rich man's hobby, more like an obsession of mine."

"But you're a businessman," said Kilroy blankly.

"For eighteen interminable years. It wasn't my first choice of career. Maybe I'm going through a mid-life crisis, but now I have the chance I intend to take it." Griffin extended his strong, long-fingered hands; scraped and calloused from recent labour, they were still beautiful. "These might be useless when it comes to cooking but put the right tools in them and... What the hell, furniture design's a hobby of mine." Refilling his glass, he drank deeply from it, avoiding Kilroy's eye.

"Why do you want to design furniture - for the prestige, the money?"

"Don't you ever think of anything else? Of course I want to sell my work, or to know others think enough of it to pay to own it. But it's more than that. It's the joy that comes from creating something from nothing, of enhancing the beauty of the wood I'm using. I want to create pieces which give pleasure every time they're used. I want the satisfaction of knowing that work I've done will still be bringing pleasure to someone three hundred years from now."

Caught in the blaze of Griffin's fervour, this the last ambition he had expected to hear Griffin voice, Kilroy didn't know what to say, his every preconception crumbling. "Posterity rather than a cheque book," he murmured without mockery. "Are you that good?" He wished he knew something about the subject.

The face Griffin turned to him was suddenly naked, haunted by self-doubt. "I don't know," he muttered, running a hand back through his dishevelled hair, most of which had escaped its elastic band. "I could have been. I might have left it too late. But it's more probable that I'm deluding myself because I can't stand the idea of mediocrity. I don't know. And I have to find out. For better or worse I need to know. I've wasted too many years already. Can you understand?"

Driven by his own needs, haunted by his own doubts, Kilroy understood with an uncomfortable, empathic clarity. "Is this why you didn't tell me what you were doing before?"

Looking as if he wished he was somewhere, anywhere, else Griffin nodded and lit a cigarette.

Suspecting that Griffin would have found it easier to stroll naked down Piccadilly than volunteer that closely-guarded secret and the hopes which accompanied it, Kilroy opened a second bottle of wine, refilling Griffin's glass. "I suppose it was your father who wanted you in the family business?"

"That's right."

"And you turned him down?"

"Of course. But it was only a partial victory. Marius Melville wasn't a man it was easy to ignore. The corrupting power of money, you see." Who it was Griffin mocked wasn't clear.

"You could have insisted on going your own way," Kilroy pointed out, remembering the choices he had faced.

Griffin's mouth twisted. "Of course I could." He topped up his glass with wine.

"From all I've heard, your father had a strong personality."

"That's one way of putting it. I wasn't equal to the struggle." Looking up, and correctly interpreting the expression on Kilroy's face, Griffin shook his head. "Save your compassion for a worthier subject. I knew what I was doing."

"Never made a mistake, eh?"

"Show me a forty-year-old who says that and I'll show you a liar - or a fool. Just as it trapped me, the Melville power cushioned me. His empire was vast. Do you have any concept of the kind of power it brought him? And he knew how to use it." Griffin licked a spot of wine from his hand. "He always said the word 'no' wasn't in his vocabulary. It was no idle boast. What he meant by it, of course, was that he never accepted no for an answer - unless it suited him. Not in business, not in his private life, although he had difficulty in separating the two. He wasn't a man given to compromise. Getting your own way can be habit-forming."

"For you, too?" asked Kilroy, uncertain what he was being told.

"Me?" There was a corrosive self-mockery in Griffin's voice.

"James..."

"Save it," said Griffin with a humourless snort. "I lost any illusions about myself years ago." Devoid of self-pity, it was a bleak statement of fact, speaking of lessons bitterly learnt.

"You're too hard on yourself."

"You think so? As an accessory to murder, I damn well should be." Hunched over the table, his glass between his hands, Griffin was staring at something only he could see.

"Who was murdered?" asked Kilroy practically, keeping his voice level only with some effort, knowing that Griffin could close him out at any time.

"Robert Wong."

"Who was he?"

Silent for a moment, there was a distant quality to Griffin's voice when he replied, "My lover, many years ago. We were green as grass. Sweet sixteen and in love for ever. As you can imagine, we didn't actually announce as much to the world. We already knew what it would have to say. There were so many pressures at that time, not least the fact we'd both realised we were expected to go into our respective families' businesses, without being able to see any way out of it. God, we were so naive. We decided to run away to live happily ever after. While that wasn't bright, even more stupidly we did it in Hong Kong rather than waiting until we were back in England for the summer term."

"What happened?" Kilroy asked, hoping his intervention wouldn't halt the reminiscent flow for good.

"We fled into the old city - Kowloon. Locals called it Hak Nam: the City of Darkness. For obvious reasons. It was an ants' nest. No place for two babes in the woods. Back in the sixties, the police wouldn't enter the place, with good cause. You don't know what poverty means in the West."

Force of will kept Kilroy quiet. Without looking up, Griffin gave a wintry smile. "Ironic, isn't it, me lecturing you about poverty. In Hak Nam you couldn't mistake it. But even there you saw varying degrees. If you were lucky, you lived in one of the tenements. Stack upon stack of shifting matchboxes linked by a maze of twisting corridors, bare wires hanging from the ceilings, with water dripping from them as you waded ankle-deep through the rubbish on the floor; cockroaches and rats were everywhere. Twelve people sharing a room six foot square, having to sleep in shifts because there wasn't the space to do anything else. One tap between fifty families, the destitute left to rot when they died. Life was cheap, except to those to whom it belonged. Robert and I got jobs in one of the twenty-four hour sweatshops; we made ping-pong balls. I've never cared for table tennis since." Looking up, Griffin's eyes pinned Kilroy where he sat. "Don't ever try to tell me there's nobility in poverty. The only nobility is in people despite it, never because of it."

"How did you both survive? They don't sound the ideal surroundings for public schoolboys." Training came to Kilroy's rescue, his tone as prosaic as he could make it.

Swirling the dregs of his wine in his glass, his expression distant, Griffin shrugged. "With the arrogance of youth it never occurred to us that we wouldn't. I found out how we managed to survive - later. My father traced us within twenty-four hours, even in Hak Nam. Although on reflection it wouldn't have been difficult. There weren't many occidentals living there. I must have stuck out like a sore thumb. He left us alone for seventeen days. If it was supposed to teach me a lesson, it backfired. God knows what he must have paid the Triads to keep us alive. It would have been far cheaper to have us killed."

"Is that how Robert died?"

Lighting a cigarette, Griffin shook his head. "I don't know. I was 'hijacked' by a couple of my father's bodyguards on my way back from the market one morning. After a stormy few days, going crazy worrying that Robert would think I'd abandoned him, I heard he'd been found floating in the harbour. At the time I believed my father when he said he'd done all he could to find out what had happened. Maybe I just needed to believe him. There was nothing else left. It was only later, several years later, that doubt set in."

"What did the police say about Robert's death?"

"Murder by person or persons unknown. Unofficially it was attributed to a Triad killing. The Fourteenth K and the Ging Yi were in the middle of a power struggle and Robert's family..." Griffin shrugged. "As the only son he was a natural target."

Beginning to suspect this was a world whose complexities he was never going to understand, Kilroy poured himself a drink. "Then what makes you think your father was responsible for Robert's death?"

Griffin drained his glass as if it contained water. "Robert was the gentlest of boys. The only two things which interested him were sex and art - although not necessarily in that order. My father was far more single-minded. He loathed any disruption to his plans, for whatever reason. And he always wanted the best for me. His 'best'. Those who didn't meet with his approval had a habit of disappearing from my life."

"Murdered?"

"Nothing so crude," dismissed Griffin in the same detached tone, obviously lost to his memories. "We're back to the corrupting power of money. After Robert's death I went crazy for a while, got myself suspended from school and sent home. Hong Kong's the ideal place to run wild. The kidnap sobered me up. It also made me understand why my father never publicly acknowledged me as his son. We became a lot closer - until I discovered he'd bought off the next love of my life. It was supposed to be a warning, to put me on my guard against fortune-hunters. I took it as a warning of a very different kind. There was no limit to what my father would do to safeguard a plan of his. And he had a number of them for me."

"Was it the fact you're bi-sexual he couldn't accept?"

Looking up in surprise, Griffin shook his head. "He had no choice but to accept it," he said simply. "It's what I am. Or perhaps not. If I hadn't gone through a period when I wanted to conform maybe I wouldn't have discovered women. My sexuality wasn't the problem. While he didn't understand my passion for boys, my father found passion and all the emotions that can accompany it a difficult concept to accept in himself, never mind anyone else. After he'd told me that he'd paid off Anita we argued fiercely - or I did. I never knew him to lose his temper. When I asked if he'd tried to buy Robert off he said that some people just wouldn't be warned, and couldn't be bought off. And because I was afraid he might tell me the truth if I pushed it, I never asked the obvious question. But I was careful after that in my choice of lovers. I didn't want to risk another sea-green incorruptible who might inadvertently get in the way of his plans."

"Did your father ever threaten you?"

"Never, and I certainly gave him the provocation, especially in those early years. That was the trouble," Griffin's eyes were haunted. "I soon realised that I would never be the one to pay the price. And so I became adept at rationalising the favours I did for him: a seduction here, a question there, never asking why in case he told me and I had to admit the truth. Sweet christ, why am I telling you this," he muttered in horror, as if only just realising what he was saying. He peered at his glass. "How much have I had to drink?"

"About a bottle and a half of claret."

"That must account for it." Picking up the bottle which sat between them, Griffin frowned when only a few drops emerged.

"You'll need a clear head for the architect tomorrow morning," said Kilroy mildly, his expression giving no sign of his inner turmoil, caused as much by what Griffin had left unsaid as by his revelations.

"At all costs. I'll call a taxi and book into a hotel." Griffin's restless, too-bright gaze flicked around the room, settling everywhere but on Kilroy. His chair scraped noisily over the tiles as he got unsteadily to his feet.

"Who is it you're running away from this time - me, or yourself?"

Staring at Kilroy for dangerous seconds, unexpectedly Griffin began to laugh, if without amusement. "Who d'you think?"

"Then you may as well stay here. The lack of comfort should suit your masochistic leanings."

Obviously finding it difficult to concentrate, Griffin abandoned the attempt and slumped back onto his chair with an abruptness which suggested necessity rather than choice. Tilting his chair back on two legs, he fished behind him for the only bottle remaining on the side. He pulled a face after squinting at the label.

"This brandy deserves better, but that's life."

"Will it help?"

"I'll let you know later." Pouring a large measure into his empty wine glass, Griffin lit another cigarette. "Are you planning to sit and watch? I've concluded reminiscences for the night. Now I'm going to wallow in even more self-indulgence and get drunk. You can do what the fuck you like."

"Then I think I'll join you," said Kilroy, a certain grimness to his voice.

"Why?"

"Why do you think?"

"I'm trying not to."

"What is it you're so afraid of?" asked Kilroy, a glass of brandy later.

"You - and myself," added Griffin almost inaudibly, a slight slur in his voice by now. While he looked away immediately, Kilroy had seen the fear in his eyes and wondered what memory had been stirred for Griffin. After some more brandy any questions Kilroy may have had had become blurred.