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HUNTED BY DEVILS

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NINETEEN

 

It was late evening when Kilroy returned to Whitehaven, fog reducing visibility to a few yards by the time he pulled onto the drive. Despite the damp chill, the house felt oddly welcoming as he fell into bed.

Needing hard physical work to help blank out the need for thought, he spent the next day clearing debris from the soggy garden. Hunger reminded him to go into the village to buy food. Becoming increasingly conscious of the echoing emptiness of the house as the evening crawled by, he decided to go to the pub. Going upstairs for his wallet and wondering if he had imagined the gleam of light through the bank of conifers which separated the house from the stable block, he shrugged into his sheepskin jacket and went to investigate.

His breath hung in white streamers on the still air as he loped down the lane, the ridged, muddy track already hard with frost. His old training standing him in good stead, he checked the front door and windows for any sign of forced entry, knowing the sophisticated security system he had recommended would defeat amateurs. The moment he slipped round the side of the workshop, he relaxed; the vast, uncurtained windows gave a clear view of Griffin bent over a workbench. Anger followed hard on relief when Kilroy realised what an easy target Griffin made. He waited until his temper had cooled before he let himself in with the spare set of keys Griffin had left behind.

While the workshop looked much as it had the previous day, there was a chair Kilroy had not seen before. Unfastening his jacket in the warmth, he inhaled the spice-sweet fragrance of the various woods, the sharp pungency of glue and sealer, and a hint of polish: scents that had come to mean Griffin to him.

Abruptly Griffin began to cough, harsh, tearing spasms of moist sound which seemed to go on for ever. Swinging away from the workbench, his face congested, he slowly unfolded when the fit had passed and tensed, obviously sensing the presence of someone else in the room.

"It's only me," Kilroy said quickly, stepping into the light.

Griffin's left hand unclenched from the gimlet he had grabbed. "So it is," he acknowledged, his voice still husky. The unnatural flush of colour continued to drain from his face until under the artificial light his skin seemed a greenish-grey, circles of black beneath his eyes.

"I've no right to be here, I know," continued Kilroy, "but I was worried. No-one knew where you'd gone after you gave the police the slip."

"So you thought you'd come snooping. It's all right, I'm used to that by now." His breath catching, Griffin fell silent, holding his right arm unnaturally still.

"You bloody fool," sighed Kilroy, recognising the signs. "If you had to discharge yourself from hospital, a press conference and a stint in here weren't the wisest things to do next."

"I didn't think I had much choice about the press," said Griffin shortly. Sweat was springing up on his temples and upper lip.

"You didn't have to swan down here alone. How d'you know the bastards won't come after you again, but for revenge this time?"

Griffin stared at him for a moment. "What a happy thought. It would never have occurred to me."

"Sorry. Franklin didn't know you'd bought this place," Kilroy added more moderately.

Griffin looked up from studying the polished floorboards. "Did you tell him?"

"I should have done," said Kilroy grimly. "When I didn't find you here yesterday I... Where were you?"

"I arrived sometime in the early hours."

Kilroy frowned. "You knew I'd check here first?"

"I didn't give you a thought."

It was so obviously the truth that it silenced Kilroy. "Why bury yourself down here, never mind getting back to work so soon?" he asked after a while, fiddling with the edges of his jacket. His gaze slid to Griffin's motionless right hand. "I didn't think. Will you be able to work?"

"Of course." But the flicker in Griffin's eyes betrayed him.

"How bad's the pain?" asked Kilroy quietly.

"I'm fine," dismissed Griffin, who was still standing with unnatural rigidity.

"And if you were bleeding to death you wouldn't tell me. I suppose it's the phantom finger playing up?"

Giving an infinitesimal nod, Griffin sank onto a chair in a careful movement obviously designed to avoid jarring his hand. "It wears off."

"In how many hours? Alcohol's out because you must still be on antibiotics for the chest infection. Can I make you a coffee or something?"

His eyes closing, Griffin shook his head, then gave an involuntary grimace.

"Bugger this!" exploded Kilroy in frustration. Three impetuous strides took him to the phone.

"Who are you calling?" asked Griffin tightly. "I'm not going back to hospital."

"My doctor. He'll be able to prescribe something for the pain."

"No need. There are tablets somewhere."

Tossing the cellular phone onto the sofa, Kilroy wheeled round. "Then why the bloody hell don't you take them!" Uninvited, he checked the pockets of the jacket slung over the high back of the upright wooden chair. "They're not here. Would they be in the bathroom?"

"It's all right, it's easing up," said Griffin, his voice confirming the truth of the assertion. "My fault for pushing it, but I needed to know - " Shrugging, he stopped.

"That you'll still be able to use your hand. Will you?"

"Of course. I might have to adapt my grip for a couple of techniques, but I doubt it. It's early days yet. I'll make it work." Flat conviction coloured Griffin's tired voice.

"I bet you will," said Kilroy, beginning to relax. "You must have been worried sick about it."

Griffin's mouth twisted. "You could say that." The unconscious glance he cast at his hand was more eloquent.

To cover a rush of emotion he could not express, Kilroy took his time in removing his jacket, hanging it over Griffin's.

"You're staying then?"

"Uh, I..."

Taking no pleasure in the sight of Kilroy floundering, Griffin made a gesture in which resignation and apology were combined. "There's tea and coffee in the kitchen if you want any."

Looking as if he was grateful for an excuse to escape, Kilroy disappeared out of the door which led down the hall.

Exhaustion washing over him, Griffin sat back in the chair and closed his eyes. He would have given almost anything to be alone. There were too many unresolved questions between Kit and himself and he wasn't equal to thinking about any of them at the moment. He'd had a gutful of everyone trying to control his life. The press conference had been the final straw, his picture plastered over every paper in the land. He had been recognised at both garage and motel as he drove down, and Alan at The Anchor had treated him like a long-lost brother. Yet to adjust to the interest of strangers in his welfare, and hoping it wore off quickly, Griffin could have done without company tonight.

A clink of china made him open his eyes to see that Kilroy had returned; a cup of Earl Grey tea had been placed at his feet, the saucer holding two bullet-shaped painkillers. Unaware that he was under surveillance, Kilroy was crouched beside the chair which Alan had been storing for Griffin. Watching the near-reverence with which the blunt-tipped fingers examined a scrolled hand rest, Griffin's eyes rose to Kilroy's profile. Abruptly their bitter exchange in his hospital room returned to him.

"You have nothing to blame yourself for," he said into the silence.

Kilroy visibly jumped, then self-consciously rose to his feet. "Don't I?"

"The fact I was kidnapped wasn't your fault."

"Just everything else."

Avoiding the uncomfortable intensity of Kilroy's gaze, Griffin shrugged, swallowed the tablets and continued to sip his tea.

"This is beautiful," murmured Kilroy, delicately touching the carved chair back before he lifted the chair to face into the room and seated himself. "Comfortable, too."

"There isn't any point in having a chair you don't want to sit in."

"No, I suppose there isn't. This is your work, isn't it. When did you finish it? I haven't seen it before."

"You wouldn't have. It's twenty-three years old. I saw it in the window of Raoul Langlois' gallery. He sold it back to me."

"Ah," said Kilroy with monumental restraint. "Your style's changed over the years."

Inexpressibly cheered by that example of Kilroy tact, Griffin set his cup down. "So I should hope. I was seventeen and still experimenting with form and style. I was going through a Gothic phase. The carving owes more to Grinling Gibbons than Griffin, not that Gibbons would be flattered by the comparison."

His gaze on the severely modern lines of the octagonal table he had watched Griffin complete, Kilroy nodded. "I'm glad. If I thought I'd done anything to fuck this up for you..."

"Leave it."

"James... OK," Kilroy accepted, belatedly drinking his own coffee. "Where are you staying tonight?"

"Here, of course." Griffin began to cough again. Despite the dust extractors which hummed in the background, inevitably a certain amount of fine wood dust floated in the air.

"Here! The flat isn't habitable yet."

"The sofa's comfortable," croaked Griffin, conveniently forgetting how little sleep he'd managed to snatch on it.

Kilroy's mulish expression made it plain he didn't agree. "You must be mad," he said with precision. "How did you get down here?" he added, having arranged for Griffin's Jaguar to be collected from the police pound; it was parked in the garage.

"I hired a car in London. It's round the side."

"You drove! No wonder your hand's playing up. You need a bloody keeper."

"Not now," murmured Griffin tiredly.

"No," agreed Kilroy, shooting a quick glance at him. "I'll drive you to the hotel of your choice."

"I'm staying here."

"You're too exposed. If you won't stay at a hotel, come to Whitehaven. I'm not leaving you here alone."

Recognising the stubborn set of Kilroy's chin, Griffin gave a dispirited nod and got to his feet, too tired to argue. As he approached the workbench, Kilroy waved him back.

"Out," he said firmly. "I'll make sure everything's switched off. What shall I do with this?"

"Junk it. It's only a practice piece. But I should - "

Kilroy handed Griffin his jacket. "Even I can switch off power points and put covers on," he said, making good that claim as he spoke. "We'll take your car. It's already three below outside and foggy." Setting the burglar alarm, he locked up, appropriated the car keys and drove them down the lane.

"Have you eaten recently?" Kilroy asked, as he closed the front door of Whitehaven behind them, the sound echoing across the immensity of the almost empty hall. Despite the rumble of the central heating, the house felt cold and dank after the warmth and light of the workshop. It belatedly occurred to him that Whitehaven was probably dustier than the workshop.

Shivering despite the jacket he wore, Griffin shook his head. "I'm not hungry, just tired." He headed for the stairs.

"Give me five minutes to make up the fire in my room."

"I'll use mine," said Griffin. The message was unequivocal.

"I thought we'd swop rooms. Mine's warmer and the chimney doesn't smoke." Kilroy slowed his pace when he realised Griffin was out of breath. "'Rentokil' seem to have done the trick. I haven't seen any of our four-legged friends for a while."

"Maybe you haven't been looking," said Griffin, as something scurried out of sight when the landing light went on.

"Oh, fuck."

Kilroy sounded so despondent that Griffin felt his mouth twitch. "Maybe you should think about buying a couple of ferrets."

He stopped dead in the doorway to Kilroy's bedroom, the atmosphere reeking of the sour-sick stench of rotting plaster where Kilroy had stripped away most of the layers of wallpaper. "The other room will be fine," Griffin managed, fighting not to gag.

One look at his face killed any argument Kilroy had intended to make. While Griffin was in the bathroom, Kilroy did what he could to make the room more comfortable.

"Maybe this wasn't such a good idea," he muttered unhappily, looking up from the sullen fire he was tending when Griffin came into the room. "I'll take you to a hotel."

Leaning against the door jamb Griffin was beyond any prolonged discussion. "I'll be fine."

"The clothes you left behind when you... They're in the wardrobe. 'Night," added Kilroy awkwardly, leaving because it was obvious that was what Griffin wanted.

 

Still awake at two a.m., thoughts worrying and chasing one another, Kilroy heard antiquated plumbing betray the fact Griffin was awake. Creaking boards announced the direction he took after the bathroom. Fighting an inner battle, Kilroy held out for nearly half an hour before he went downstairs. A thread of light directed him to the kitchen, which was blissfully warm thanks to the open door of the gas oven, which was on full. Griffin sat at the table, a mug between his forearms.

"I couldn't sleep," Kilroy said apologetically, as if Griffin had commented on his presence, or given any indication he had noticed it.

Making himself a mug of instant coffee, he sat opposite Griffin. "This house is too cold and damp for you. If you don't want to go to a hotel, you're welcome to stay at the flat. You'll have all the privacy you want because I'll be staying down here for a few weeks."

The idea of Griffin in London was preferable to this out of the way spot while his abductors were at large. Kilroy tried not to notice how Griffin's dressing-gown gaped, or that the flesh it revealed was mottled in varying shades from yellow to green according to the age of the injury.

"I'm not hiding from anyone," said Griffin, his voice containing the flatness of total fatigue. "I have a life to get back to and I don't propose to waste any more of it. But I'll move out as soon as I can find another workshop."

"What's wrong with this one?" asked Kilroy, rubbing his gritty-feeling eyes. He looked up to meet Griffin's sardonic gaze. "Ah, the fact I'm your neighbour," he recognised.

"More the fact that I don't enjoy being reminded of my errors of judgement any more than the next man."

Leaning across the table, Kilroy lightly grasped Griffin's wrist. "Look, I know it began with a lie but I - "

"Found yourself overwhelmed by my charms?" Griffin slid his wrist free. The cynicism in his voice was shocking, his mask-like face offering few clues.

"Dammit, you know bloody well what happened!"

"And the extent of your trust in me."

"Haven't you ever been a prey to doubt? Done something you've bitterly regretted? When I heard that tape... It knocked me for six. I thought everything I'd been told about you was true. And it hurt so bloody much I could've killed you. Thank god you fought me off."

"If you think that makes a difference you must have a strange idea of me."

"Then teach me the truth."

"What the hell would be the point," said Griffin tiredly. When he got to his feet he was swaying with fatigue, but he paused, his gaze intent. "Tell me, when you first heard that Josh and I had been kidnapped, wasn't there a moment when you thought Langlois had been right all along in what he said about me?"

Trying to find the right words, Kilroy realised his delay in replying had been misinterpreted when he saw the expression on Griffin's face just before he walked out of the room.

"Shit," he groaned, sinking his head into his hands. For someone who was supposed to be an expert in counselling victims of kidnap he couldn't pretend he was making a good job of this.

oOo

His hand pressed to the dragging weighted sensation in his side, Griffin coughed, swore and slowly sat up, his eyes scrunched as he fought to subdue the spasm. Inevitably he failed. Slumping back on the sofa, sweat prickling his skin, he wondered tiredly how long it would be before the antibiotics took effect. Today had been even worse than yesterday, fatigue dragging him down. His brain was so sluggish that a decision whether to have tea or coffee required prolonged thought, and he was still jumping at shadows. A faint sound made him open his eyes. With resignation he saw Kilroy staring at him.

"Nothing to watch on TV?" Griffin asked acidly, tired of being a spectator sport.

"I wouldn't know, there isn't one down here. You look terrible."

"Thanks. Your bedside manner isn't that great either."

"Do you feel up to meeting a few people tomorrow morning?"

"The press?" A flicker of dread escaped Griffin's control.

"Not a chance. It's only a few blokes from the agency who've had a lot of experience in guarding people who hate the necessity of protection. They're discreet and good at their job and they'll be working in twenty-four hour shifts from now on. I thought it would make sense for you to meet them so you'll know who's lurking in the shrubbery."

"Don't be ridiculous. The last thing I need is - "

"You either put up with them, or I ring the tabloids and tell them where you're hiding out. Then you'll find out what being watched is really like. You're 'news'."

One glance convinced Griffin that Kilroy was not bluffing. He experienced a wave of anger so intense that it made him shake. "Do what the fuck you like. I'm long past the stage of being amenable to blackmail."

His precipitate rise to his feet was a mistake. The room tilting disastrously, a high keening sound in his ears, Griffin fainted, crumpling like empty clothing onto the sofa he had just vacated.

oOo

In the week after Griffin's collapse Kilroy saw his condition improve to a marked degree. While much of that recovery could be credited to antibiotics and his powers of recuperation, Kilroy suspected the fact Griffin had begun to eat helped. He had little chance to test his theory; they met rarely, only drying crockery in the kitchen, the empty brandy bottle in the waste bin and the sound of plumbing at night betraying Griffin's presence in the house.

After two days' enforced rest, Griffin spent all his time at the workshop. While he had made no attempt to leave the grounds Kilroy didn't deceive himself about Griffin's motives; with the hunt for his kidnappers continuing Griffin was still 'news', although he had relaxed to the point where he contacted Franklin. Kilroy hadn't felt it necessary to say he'd already done so; the police patrols were unobtrusive.

Heavy rain preventing work in the garden, Kilroy spent his time trying to clear rubbish from the attic; the activity gave him the illusion that he was doing something useful. Trying to shift a massive eight-legged table, he paused to catch his breath, making a mental note to recall Rentokil once there was room for them to get in to bait the attic properly. Realising the table would still be in the way, he braced himself for further effort.

"You'll give yourself a hernia," said a quiet voice.

Taken by surprise, Kilroy swung round to see Griffin propped in the doorway. "I didn't realise it was this late," he muttered, disconcerted by the intensity of Griffin's gaze. Wiping his face, he inadvertently redistributed some of the dirt clinging to him.

"It's gone nine. You must be hungry. I found some packets from Marks & Spencer in the freezer - chicken something or other. They'll only take about twenty-five minutes," added Griffin, burbling because he had been inconveniently reminded of Kilroy's potent sexuality.

A shadowy figure in the poor light, wearing ancient khaki-coloured trousers and a sleeveless olive green tee shirt, Kilroy's animal magnetism had never been more potent. Never fat, he had fined down to hard muscles and sleek skin since Griffin had noticed him last. Prolonged physical exertion had brought up his muscles, which a road map of blue-green veins only accentuated; he smelt of fresh sweat and dirt, neither of which Griffin had expected to regard as an aphrodisiac. His gaze straying to the sweat-darkened tee shirt and the sharp definition of the nipples thrusting against the damp fabric, he experienced a pang of pure lust.

"You're offering to cook?" said Kilroy slowly, propping himself on the edge of the table.

"Heat up," corrected Griffin. Aware of the wariness behind the fatigue on Kilroy's face, exasperated affection mingled with the heat tingling in his loins. "Have you finished for the day?" he added, willing his erection away.

"I suppose so," conceded Kilroy, dragging on an old sweater.

Trying to account for that flat note, Kilroy usually positive in all he undertook, Griffin took his first good look at his surroundings. While the light was appalling, it was obvious the attic consisted of a number of rooms. If this one was anything to go by they were stuffed with furniture, bursting sacks of brittle newspapers, mouldy clothes and rusting metal implements; Kilroy had a mammoth task on his hands.

"I had no idea the attic was so big," he remarked.

"There's no reason why you should. Did you say something about food?" Clicking off the light, Kilroy brushed past him.

Frowning, Griffin remained where he was for a moment before he closed the door and followed Kilroy down to the kitchen. Sipping the tea he had made for them both while waiting for their meal to cook, he watched Kilroy have a sketchy wash at the sink. Kilroy's hands and face spotless, there was a tidemark under his chin and at his wrists.

Kilroy meet Griffin's gaze and looked away immediately, ostensibly to locate a towel. "How's your work going?" he asked, his back to the room as he took his time to dry himself.

"It isn't. My concentration's shit so I'm experimenting with various techniques, getting in as much practice as I can. It won't hurt. I've twenty-odd years to catch up on." Seeing Kilroy frown, he added, "Like a professional musician or a dancer I need to practise my craft, ideally at least once a week. It's too easy to let sloppy techniques slip in."

"Don't you get bored?" asked Kilroy, remembering Griffin's previous lifestyle.

"I haven't had the chance, there's too much I want to do. But speaking of bored, your men in the bushes - "

"Are doing fine," interrupted Kilroy, in more of his usual tone.

"Maybe they are, but it's driving me crazy watching them watch me."

"They're supposed to be watching everything but you," said Kilroy with a severity which took Griffin by surprise. "Still, this way, if you get abducted again at least I can have the satisfaction of saying I told you so. Who knows what they might cut off next time."

Memory lurched Griffin back to the acrid coal stink of the cellar, the metallic tang of the van, and the sickly stench of oil in the garage; and all the time the fear that next time he would lose a hand, if not his life.

"You could have a point," he conceded colourlessly.

His expression changing, Kilroy briefly squeezed Griffin's shoulder in lieu of an apology. "Maybe I did, but there are better ways to make it. Let's eat."

"You go ahead. I'm not hungry," said Griffin, pouring himself some more tea before he wandered out of the room.

oOo

 

Going into the study the next day to make up the fire, Kilroy jumped when he realised Griffin stood in the shadows by the French windows, watching the rain. "We can afford to put the lights on, you know. I wondered where you'd got to."

Desperation setting in, aware that he always seemed to be under surveillance from one source or another, Griffin took a steadying breath, clamping down on his irrational rage. "I'll leave you to it," he said tightly, heading for the door.

Kilroy got to his feet. "You can't carry on like this. Why not consider talking to a trained - ?"

"Just leave me alone."

"I hate seeing you like this. I love you," blurted out Kilroy with a helpless gesture.

"Love me!" exploded Griffin, allowing his rage full rein because it was preferable to accepting the truth; it spilled out anyway. "You don't fucking well know me! You're besotted with some half-arsed romantic image you've conjured up out of your feelings of guilt. That man doesn't exist. If you want to blame yourself, or feel sorry for me, I can't stop you, but I'm damned if I'll encourage it."

"Don't mince your words, just say what you mean," encouraged Kilroy sardonically.

Griffin made a sharp sound of irritation, his left hand moving in a slicing gesture of dismissal. "What's the use! You don't have a clue."

"Then give me one," challenged Kilroy, in a tone he knew Griffin wouldn't be able to resist. For the first time in a week he knew he had Griffin's full attention.

"There's no point," said Griffin in a quieter tone.

"Then why are you still here?"

"Because I have nowhere else to go!" In the abrupt silence which followed that brutal half-truth, Griffin exhaled noisily and ran a hand back through his hair; his glare was fading before he looked at the silent man opposite him. "Well, that's one of the reasons. All right, we'd better talk."

"Then let's go into the kitchen where it's warmer," said Kilroy. Hooking a bottle of wine from the rack as they entered the other room, he took down two stemmed glasses, giving the least chipped one to Griffin. "Are you off the antibiotics?"

"Days ago."

"You didn't say."

"There was no need for a grand announcement. I'm surprised you didn't pump the doctor."

Kilroy didn't feel now was the time to admit that he had tried and gave a noncommittal grunt.

"It's time you stopped thinking of me as a victim in need of rescue," continued Griffin edgily. "Take off your rose-coloured glasses. A lot of what Langlois' dossier said was probably true. I don't take kindly to being manipulated, as Raoul and Henri both have cause to know."

Alerted by that grim note, Kilroy looked up, his expression intent. "What have you done?"

"Reminded them there's a price to pay for meddling in my affairs." His tone detached, Griffin briefly detailed the action he had taken, making no attempt to whitewash his motives.

"Why?"

"Jungle law is the only kind they understand. I used such weapons as seemed appropriate."

"Like making Raoul believe you'd fist him?" There was a poorly concealed revulsion in Kilroy's voice.

"Whatever it takes." Griffin's tone was uncompromising. "It ensured I got his full attention."

"I bet it did. Let's hope you enjoy banking now you've gone to all that trouble."

"It was no trouble."

"What do you have planned for me?"

Coldly angry, Griffin said nothing for a moment. "After I learnt the identity of your father, what could I possibly do to you that he hasn't?"

"My father? You had me investigated?"

"Would that be so unfair?"

"You cold bastard." Kilroy's chair scraped across the tiled floor as he rose to his feet. "Is that all you've done?" he demanded, leaning over Griffin.

Untroubled by the invasion of his personal space, Griffin's expression gave no clue to his emotions. "I've never seen the point in killing the messenger. I read once that there's no greater misfortune that can befall a man than to have a famous father. In your case that seems to be true."

"While you don't have a single hang-up, I suppose. Well, there's none so blind. You really do know who I am," realised Kilroy, his expression hardening.

"Christopher Fallon, second son of the self-made multimillionaire bigot whose right-wing opinions grace the tabloids with monotonous regularity and whose - "

"You're right," interrupted Kilroy, "I don't know you." He sat down with a thud.

"Hallelujah! We have breakthrough. Are you sure you want to?" Griffin's voice was tinged with a wounding mockery for which Kilroy had no immediate answer.

Because he had no intention of thinking about his own troubled family history, Kilroy sipped his wine and watched Griffin turn to seek out the heat coming from the open oven door. The raw obscenity of the amputation marred the beautiful lines of his outstretched right hand, which Griffin usually kept tucked out of sight now; whether from vanity or because it offered too sharp a reminder of the kidnap, Kilroy hadn't decided, assuming it was a little of both. Out of the blue, it occurred to him that for a man who had gone to such pains to get his message across Griffin wasn't looking happy about the success of his tactics.

"I'm positive about wanting to know you," he said with a new note of determination, having realised that Griffin had ruthlessly presented himself in the worst possible light. "From what Langlois' dossier said, in Sydney you were able to identify the hitman who was photographed with Charlie Cassidy. Is that true?"

"Yes." Giving no reaction to the pointed change of subject, Griffin's attention remained on his outstretched hands.

"The incident was intended to panic her."

"That's right."

"Did you know in advance about the car which ran her down while she was out jogging?"

"Not in advance. She was in no danger."

"That's a comforting thought. It was you who searched her hotel room, I suppose?"

"Not personally. It was essential that she move to the Malmont Marquis, where I would have easier access to her - and where she could be watched. By that time I wasn't the only one interested in Charlie. Her arrival in Sydney with her father's records wasn't a cause for celebration amongst his...colleagues."

"Politicians always make handy scapegoats, particularly when nothing can be proved either way. Charlie certainly had cause for grievance, didn't she?"

"I don't deny it."

Kilroy slammed the palm of his hand on the table, making Griffin jump. "Then why the fuck did you get involved?"

"My father told me to do him a favour."

"So naturally you leapt to do his bidding."

"That's right. Charlie was safe with me."

"Apart from the odd car trying to run her down. How was that arranged?"

There was a small silence.

"In the usual way."

"What was that?"

"I don't know."

Kilroy made an irritable gesture. "Getting information out of you is worse than pulling teeth."

"Then why bother?"

"Call it professional curiosity. Was the car your father's idea?"

Griffin's mouth thinned. "He thought it might speed things up if Charlie felt the need for a friendly shoulder."

"And you went along with it."

"I didn't find out who'd arranged it until afterwards," said Griffin in a goaded tone. "If she'd had the sense to take my warnings about my father seriously... Even after Alice's death she didn't take him seriously. Nor he her."

"When did you fall in love with her?"

Griffin rimmed his half-empty glass in the ensuing silence. "How do you pinpoint the moment?" he said at last.

"Given your contacts with hitmen, why didn't you hire someone to deal with Raoul and Henri Langlois? Or Charlie Cassidy for that matter?"

"Oh, for god's sake! You sound like a bad B movie. Why d'you think?"

"I don't know. I'm waiting for you to tell me," said Kilroy, refusing to think about Griffin's investigation of his past. "You could have imported someone from Hong Kong or Sydney. You had the contacts."

"Of course I didn't. That man was hired by - Sod it!" Stopping, there was a bitter twist to Griffin's mouth.

"Your father," completed Kilroy.

"You should have been a policeman. Your interrogation technique is as good as Franklin's."

"Not quite. Which agency did you use to investigate me?" added Kilroy, sounding calmer than he felt.

"Agency?" The change of topic left Griffin looking blank. "None."

"Then how did you discover who my father is?" Having changed his name by deed poll over sixteen years ago Kilroy knew there had been no documents lying around his flat to betray him, even if Griffin had gone through his personal papers, which he couldn't imagine.

Rubbing the back of his neck, Griffin searched his pockets for the cigarettes he no longer carried before settling for fiddling with his wine glass again. "After the purchase of the workshop had gone through I glanced through the old deeds, which were part of the package I was given. I saw Great-Uncle Percy's surname and wondered aloud why it sounded so familiar. There are more apocryphal tales about your father than mine. Harry Towson, my lawyer, had heard them all. I took him out to lunch and let him regale me with the gossip. He sent a clerk to check the various registers. I saw a copy of your birth certificate. After that I began to understand why you're so bigoted against the rich."

"Only some of them." Kilroy became uncomfortably aware that he had gained Griffin's entire attention, an expression he didn't want to interpret in Griffin's eyes. The tables were being turned with a vengeance, and while he hated it, Kilroy could think of no way to stop it happening, short of walking out.

"What caused the split?"

"Can't you guess?" retorted Kilroy bitterly, before words began to spill from him. "If my father had his way degenerates and perverts - that's you and me - would be forced to take aversion therapy. If that failed, we'd be castrated. He kicked me out. I was sixteen, so it was legal. As you can imagine from his well-publicised views, he wasn't thrilled to discover I was one of those disgusting faggots. Because I was under twenty-one, he wanted to report me to the police. My mother managed to stop that, mainly because she didn't want the scandal buggering up her social calendar."

"And since then?"

"What do you think?"

Griffin had no intention of saying what he really thought. "What about the rest of your family?"

"I see my youngest sister about once a year. Lucy's OK. The rest are...chips off the old block. Is there anything else you want to know about my private life? I've got off lightly for my part in humiliating you, haven't I. Why? Wasn't I worth your bother?"

While his tone was mild, it pulled Griffin to his feet. "Oh for - "

"Well?"

"Work it out for yourself," said Griffin tiredly.

"I already have. What you've just told me hasn't changed my mind. You knew my identity long before we split up. Why didn't you say anything earlier?"

"Because I hoped you'd tell me yourself."

The bitterness in the quiet voice brought Kilroy up sharply. "I would have, some day," he said defensively. "God, I used to hate the bastard."

"And now?"

"I've made my own life. I hardly ever think of them."

Able to imagine all too clearly what Kilroy's formative years must have been like, Griffin's expression gentled. Reseating himself, he leant his elbows on the table, but avoided staring too obviously at Kilroy.

"You've had one piece of luck, you don't look a bit like him," he offered, keeping his tone light. It had the desired effect, Kilroy's face relaxing.

"Silver-tongue."

"You've got your rose-coloured glasses back on," recognised Griffin with resignation.

"No," said Kilroy simply. "I'm under no illusions. Why would Raoul Langlois visit his would-be rapist in hospital?"

"The fact Henri made him."

"Yeah?"

"That's what Raoul admitted."

Kilroy let that pass. "And Henri? He still runs his bank, with your blessing. More, he trusted you enough to ask you to meet Josh on a regular basis."

"How do you know that?"

"He told me. Strange behaviour for a victim of yours."

"I've been wasting my breath. You haven't listened to a word I've said."

"You'd be surprised. I stopped seeing you in terms of hero or villain a long time ago. Like the rest of us, you're a murky shade of grey. The same could be said of the colour of your face at the moment," Kilroy added critically. "Are you getting any sleep?"

"Enough."

"It doesn't look like it. Do you need a painkiller?"

"Only tranquillizers to cope with you. I'm fine."

"No you're not. You're depressed, irritable and as jumpy as hell. Not sleeping, drinking too much if the empty bottles I've been finding in the bin are anything to go by, rapid mood swings. Classic signs. And they won't improve until you can put events of the last couple of months behind you. That won't happen until you accept what they meant to you. You've got to learn to let go. Come to terms with the anger. Talk it out."

"A little counselling to stave off Post Trauma Stress Disorder - or do you call it Syndrome? I don't think so." Griffin spared him a shrewd look. "Why are you so surprised I know the jargon? I've been here before, remember? Only back in sixty-nine the experts didn't have a convenient name for it. I'll handle any problems in my own way, thank you."

"How, by ignoring them? They aren't going to go away."

"Nor will you, it seems. Haven't you had enough for one day?" It was becoming obvious that Griffin had.

"No."

"Figures." Griffin took a patient breath. "Look, I know what you're trying to do, and I'm sure your motives do you credit, but I don't need counselling. I don't need babysitting and I certainly don't need to rehash the kidnap again."

"You'll have to if they ever catch your kidnappers."

"I fucking know that!" A moment later Griffin had control of himself. "Look, all I need is privacy - and some peace. A chance to deal with things in my own way. By myself."

Kilroy eyed him shrewdly. Griffin was too accustomed to emotional self-sufficiency to think of any other option, and too proud to accept what he regarded as pity.

"And what about my needs?" he asked quietly. The fleeting surprise on Griffin's face was all the spur he needed. "You've just told me what you need. It won't have occurred to you that I have needs too."

Afraid of what else he might say, he abruptly he left the room, going to the study where he busied himself with the fire, jabbing the glowing logs and creating a flurry of sparks.

"You'll bring the whole lot down on you if you're not careful," said Griffin from behind him.

"That's my choice," said Kilroy, savagely skewering a half-burnt log on the poker and having a job to free it.

"But not mine."

"I hardly need reminding again." Dropping the poker into the hearth, Kilroy got to his feet and strode from the room.

Staring after him, it began to dawn on Griffin that he was not the only one in need of some help.