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The Promise of you ( seven chapters)
by ozfanfreak or lalioz
summer of 1943.....
Somewhere in a distance a train screamed through the night just as a young woman fell into the black waters of the river Stour. Seconds later she came up gasping for breath, grabbing hold of some rope dangling from a wooden pole of the pier. Her eyes widened in terror as her killer draw nearer, slowly leaning over; his glowed hand keeping her under; his hard stare the last thing she saw.
They found her in the morning; her body cold and still among the waterlilies; loose strands of her black hair caressing her pale lips.
.......three years later.........
"Mr Poirot!" a dainty southern belle rushed through the lobby of the Regent hotel, keeping her golden silk straw hat from falling with her hand, light muslin of her pink dress playing around her anckles.
"My dear Miss Bellinger!" a short man in an expensive linen suite and a dandy looking hat quirked his painstakingly silly mustache in a warm smile."It's so nice to see you."
"Oh, it's Clutier now." She smiled, kissing him on the cheek. Flicking her fingers happily she showed him her wedding ring. "Mrs Jeremiah Clutier." Her smile was radient, her head cocked flirtingly. "And this is my Jeremiah..." she said as a tall bearded young man joined them. "Mr Poirot, this is Reverend Jeremiah Clutier..." she snaked her hand through the young man's, gazing into his eyes dreamily, "...my husband. Darling , this is wonderful Mr Poirot who came to my rescue in Calais."
"Congratulations my dear ." Hercule Poirot touched the rim of his hat with a gloved hand. "Monsieur."
"Pleasure to meet you, Mr Poirot." Rev. Clutier extended his hand in greeting. "I've heard so much about you."
Poirot gave one of his little smiles at that.
"Uhm-hm." A tall birdlike man standing patiently behind Poirot during all this tried to get their attention; obviously successful for Poirot, looking a tad embarrassed burst in a flury of exclamations both in French and in English.
"Oh, mon dieu, my manners, pardon mon amie. Je suis tres impoli. Madam Clutier, Monsieur..." he turned to the young obviously amused couple . "This is my friend and associate Captain Hastings. Hastings. Reverend and Mrs Clutier."
"How do you do?"
"How do you do?"
"Would you join us for tea?" Young Mrs Clutier offered.
"Mais oui, absolutemant."
The Regent had one of the best tea houses on the coast. Their chocolate eclairs were Poirot's passion. Along with the strawbery tarts. And raspberry cake, as Miss Lemon so often noticed. Mr Poirot did not find that particularly amusing. Needless to say, Cpt. Hastings did.
Waddling between the tables in his jolly company Hercule Poirot noticed the two well dressed ladies, obviously American, pretty and pretty loud.
"Let me talk to him, I could at least..." The older one started.
"No, Peter Marie, it's useless, he will never leave me alone..." The younger one interrupted her, desperation thick in her voice.
Falling silent they both sat there, sipping tea and staring through the window blankly.
"Is that...?" Shirley leaned in, whispering, "Oh, my...it is..." She glanced at the two American ladies over her cup of tea surreptitiously. "It's Gloria Nathan."
"Pardon?" Poirot quirked his eyebrows at her.
"Gloria Nathan, that famous American singer." She said putting down her cup. "Oh,my God..... Gloria Nathan." Turning to her husband she said keeping her voice low. "Remember, we saw her in Paris."
Cpt. Hastings joined in, leaning over to her,conspiratorially . "She's married to that famous surgeon, what's his name?"
Shirley threw him a smile and a name. "Preston Nathan."
"Yes, Preston Nathan..." he reached for the teapot, "...and what a voice." He sighed closing his eyes dreamily, pausing with a teapot in mid air. "She sings like an angel."
"Uhm-hum, Hastings?" Poirot interupted , looking straight at him, holding out his cup. "Tea." He eyed the teapot in dismay.
"Oh, uh,yes, tea."
two months later
"Hastings, that American singer you've been telling me about...." Hercule Poirot sat behind his desk going through the morning newspapers.
"Hmmmm..." Cpt. Hastings sat in his armchair, ruffling throug his.
"Remember that time we met lovely Mrs Clutier in Brighton..." He smiled fondly at the memory.
"Oh, yes..." Cpt.Hastings raised his head to look at him, "Gloria Nathan. What about her?"
"Here says her husband was found dead yesterday at their London mansion."
"You don't say..." Cpt. Hastings got up from his armchair to join him at the desk, peering over his shoulder at the papers.
"Apparently he hanged himself." Poirot kept reading.
"Dreadful thing, old chump, dreadful thing." Cpt. Hastings sighed. "Poor girl."
"Yes, mon amie, poor girl." Poirot sighed going back to his newspapers.
Couple of minutes later Miss Lemon entered the room hurriedly. "Mr Poirot, Captain...Your taxi is here. You should get going, you'll be late."
Miss Lemon handed him his hat, gloves and his cane, Hastings trotting along after them, donning his sports jacket in a hury and grabbing his hat from the rack.
"See you soon, Miss Lemon." He yelled getting into the elevator. "Give my regards to your sister." Minutes later he was standing on a curb with his and Poirot's heavy bags in his hands, Poirot giving directions to the cabbie in his sing-song voice. "Victoria Station please."
"All aboard!" The strong voice mixed with the scream of the siren, London mist giving the experience almost an eerie overtone.Autmn in London.
Sitting in his compartment, Hastings chatting up a lovely young lady, Poirot noticed the two tall, dark and handsome American soldiers standing in the hallway, and discussing something, rather animated, their voices raising occassionally.
"The press would have a field day..." said the taller one. "Trust me. " he grabbed his friend by the nape of his neck, shaking him a little, his eyes searching his.
"Ok." Said his friend.
"I said Ok, geez K-boy, you're pain in the ass sometimes, ya know ."
The taller one gave a dazling smile at that. "C'mon." He drawled throwing a hand over his friend's shoulder. "I need a drink."
Poirot watched the little scene, his little grey cells working overtime.
Emerald Hall was a lovely Victorian building surrounded with majestic oaks. Heavy iron-wrought gates opened quietly, welcoming the black 1937 Phantom III to the grounds. The gamekeeper nodded his head in greeting, raining his dogs in. Sun shone from the bright September sky, and Victoria Beecher's auburn hair gleamed in the sunshine in lovely contrast with the silver gray and green of the ivy hugging the limestone walls of the manor.
"My dear Mr Poirot!" She greeted them with a smile. "Harrison will be so pleased to see you."
"My dear Lady Beecher." Hercule Poirot smiled his most pleasant smile at her. His smile grew even wider as he noticed the tall grey haired man coming down the front steps to meet them.
"Darling, look who's finally here." Lady Beecher smiled to her husband.
"My dear Hercule, how long has it been?" Harrison Beecher shook his friend's hand earnestly.
"Oh, " Poirot smiled,his mustache twitched.
"Let me see...ten years...Is it my darling?" Harrison said turning to his wife.
"Well, my, I believe it is. " Victoria smiled wounding her arm through her husband's. "Last time you were here was.....well just before our Toby got married."
"Oh, mais oui, how's young Tobias?" Poirot asked.
"I'm afraid not so young anymore Monsieur Poirot." came the answer as a tall blonde in a dark grey sweater, jodhspurs, and high riding boots joined them.
"Oh, my dear young man, how are you?" Poirot extended his hand to him. "And who is this lovely young lady?" He continued noticing the blonde little girl hiding behind her father.
"This is Holly, my daughter." Toby's blue eyes glinted with pride and love. "Holly, say hallo to MrPoirot."
"How do you do?" She whispered shyly, accepting MrPoirot's hand in greeting but keeping close to her father's side.
"Au chante, madmoiselle." Poirot said with a smile and a curteous bow of his head.
"What a charming family." Cpt Hastings said, standing by the window of the lovely and comfortable guest room. "They seem so happy."
"Mon ami..." Poirot paused by the door connecting their rooms. "What is it that Tolstoy said about families?"
"You mean...." Hastings turned from the window giving him a sad worried look.
"I'm afraid so." Poirot nodded waddling along to finish unpacking; a task he would trust to no one. "Guenevieve, young Toby's wife, she was found dead, three years ago."
"Dear Lord." Cpt. Hastings gasped.
"They say she killed herself." Poirot paused placing his shaving kit carefully on the dresser.
"Tragic." Hastings shook his head.
"Yes, mon ami, most tragic."
"He didn't have a bite to eat. Again. " Mrs. Killarney, the Beechers' cook, huffed putting the dishes from the breakfast away and going over to the sink.
"Leave the lad alone, Mary." Mr. Killarney grumbled getting up from his chair by a window, and lighting his pipe.Letting out a gusty sigh, and a puff of smoke, he mumbled more to himself than to his wife.
"I don't like the look of those clouds, Mary. It may rain yet." Knotting his eyebrows he added. "Someone ought to tell Vern to bring the dinghy on shore."
"You tell him yourself." Mrs. Killarney huffed exasperated rolling up her sleeves and submerging her reddened hands into the hot water to start with the dishes.
He threw her a peeved look, but just as he was about to venture a snarky retort the doors opened with a slam and Dorcas entered the kitchen.
"I swear to God, Mrs. Killarney, if that man says another word to me I...I..." She slumped down in a chair throwing her arms in the air, huffing in defeatist realization." I don't know what'll I do!"
"Here luv, have a nice cup of tea." shaking her head Mrs. Killarney dried her hands up to place a cup of fine Darjeeling in front of her, rich aroma permeating the air." There."
"Thank you, Mrs. Killarney." Dorcas sighed, taking a handkerchief out of her dress pocket to wipe her nose. Pouring some milk into her tea she sniffed. "I'm a good girl Mrs. Killarney. A good girl!"
"I know lass, I know." Mrs. Killarney sighed turning back to the sink, throwing a look and a sigh at her husband. "Now drink your tea, dear. Milady wants you in the morning room."
"Yes, Mrs. Killarney." Dorcas sighed taking a sip.
Mr. Killarney looked out the window at the cloudy grey sky shaking his head.
"It's going to rain, Mary. I'm telling you. It is going to rain by nightfall."
"Roses look lovely, my dear." Harrison Beecher smiled fondly to his wife.
"Thank you." Victoria smiled offering her cheek for a kiss." How was your walk?"
"Wonderful. Saba had a great run." Harrison sat down on a sofa, and ruffled the rich hair of the golden retriever in question.
Reaching for a fumidor, he frowned.
"It looks like it's going to rain, though." He leaned back into the soft cushions lighting his cigar.
"Ring for tea, dear, would you?"
Pulling at the service bell Victoria sat next to her husband.
" Our Mr. Poirot is not up yet?"
"Country air does do wonders."
Harrison chuckled idly going through his newspapers.
With a knock on a door and a curtsee Dorcas entered the morning room.
"You rang, Milady? Milord."
"Yes. Tea Dorcas, please. Thank you."
"Is Mr. Poirot up yet?"
"Yes, Milady. He wanted his breakfast in his room."
"That would be all, Dorcas ,thank you."
"Milady. Milorde." With a nod, and a curtsee Dorcas opened the door.
"Oh, master Toby. "She squealed running into Tobias, and smiled nervously, coyly, looking down at her feet. "You scared me. "
"I'm sorry, Dorcas." Toby gave her a smile, his blue eyes and his mere presence sending shivers down her spine. She felt herself blushing as she hurried to leave the room.As she was closing the door she heard him speak to his parents-the rich timbre of his voice filled her ears making her knees weak.
"Mother, this came with the morning post for you."
Toby handed her a letter and slumped down into an armchair, absentmindedly gazing through the window.
"It's from Katherine." Victoria said opening the letter and starting to read. "She's coming tomorrow with the 10.56. Darling you have to tell Robson to have the car ready by 10. You know there is full half hour drive to the station. I don't want her to have to wait." She said, her eyes flying across Katherine's fastidiously perfect handwriting. "You know how she gets."
Toby gave a wry smile at that.
"Apparently," Victoria continued, "she's bringing a friend along." She sighed. "That's Katherine for you."
Toby closed his eyes with an exasperated sigh.
"The more the merrier, hey, Saba, old girl?" Harrison smiled fondly petting Saba's golden head oblivious of Toby's annoyed look.
"I'll have to send Mary to the butcher's. "Victoria started thinking aloud, going over all the details that had to be taken care of.
Neither her son nor her husband actually listened to her.
Harrison enjoyed his cigar. Toby seemed lost in his own thoughts.
Dorcas returned carrying a trey. Placing it carefully down on a coffee table she asked. "Shall I pour, Milady?"
"No, thank you Dorcas. I'll do it. That would be all."
"Yes, Milady." Dorcas said adding in a small voice, not really looking at Toby. "There's a call for master Toby."
Toby lifted his his blue eyes to her. "Who is it, Dorcas?"
"Doctor Caddell's office,sir." She said feeling the unmistakable heat of a blush coming to her face.
Toby jumped to his feet, startling everyone in the room with the sudden movement.
"Toby? Is everything all right?" Came his mother's worried query.
"Everything is fine, mother." Toby huffed heading for the door. "Thank you, Dorcas. I better get that."
"Toby...."His mother started in a worried tone of voice.
"I said everything is all right, mother." Toby cut her off nervously, hurrying out of the room.
Hercule Poirot was never much of a morning person. To be perfectly honest he loathed mornings, and mornings in the country were particularly tedious. He huffed in dismay at the hearty English breakfast that assaulted his every sensory organ as the young maid handed a tray to him. He mumbled his thanks.
"Shall I open up the curtains, sir?"
"No, thank you..." he lifted his eyebrows questioningly at her.
"It's Dorcas, sir."
"Thank you, Dorcas. That would be all."
With a smile and a nod she was gone.
Getting up from his bed he trotted into the bathroom.
An hour later, his perfectly groomed and well-dressed figure came down the stairs and into the main hall just in time to catch the last sentences of Toby's telephone conversation.
He didn't mean to pray on privacy of others- it was just that he couldn't help himself.
"I'll be there.........No, tell him I'll be there....In an hour. .........All right. Thank you.....I mean it. Bye."
Putting the receiver down Toby turned and noticed Poirot standing at the bottom of the stairs, and looking back at him obviously having overheard his conversation, but seemed utterly unabashed with having been caught.
"Mr. Poirot, good morning." Toby greeted him politely feeling his own face flushing with a tinge of pink. "I'm off to Clare. Medical appointment. "He cleared his throat. "If you need a lift..." his voice trailed off.
"Good morning to you too, mon ami. That is awfully kind of you, but where is Capt. Hastings?"
"Still asleep, I'm afraid." Toby chuckled, seeming to have relaxed somewhat . "I think father's Porto was just too much for him."
"Ah,oui..."Poirot mulled that over. "Poor Hastings...Ah, very well, it's you and me then, mon ami. Lead on!"
"I'll tell Robson to get the car ready. You could join my parents in the morning room for tea while you wait." Toby said starting down the hallway towards the servants' quarters.
"Ah, mais oui." Poirot smiled. "Tea."
"Mary said he didn't touch his breakfast." Victoria threw a worried look at her husband.
"Leave the boy alone, Vi." Harrison huffed. "Stop fussing."
Victoria rolled her eyes with a frustrated sigh. "Why does he need to see Dr. Caddell?"
"Maybe his leg is acting up again." Harrison said immediately regretting his words.
"He didn't say anything." Victoria sighed, the look in her eyes intense with worry.
"Oh, Hercule!" She smiled, distracted for a moment noticing Hercule Poirot in the doorway.
"Come on in. Would you care for some tea? It is fresh. Dorcas just brought it in."
"Ahh..."Poirot smiled, his mustache twitching, "That would be lovely, my dear Lady Beecher!"
"Thank you, Robson."Toby nodded his thanks to the chauffeur as the man handed him the keys of a dark silver Phantom.
"Sir, I'm sure your parents would prefer if I drove...I..." Robson started.
"Thank you, Robson." Toby interrupted him impatiently. "Mr. Poirot, shall we? "He called out as he noticed Poirot who was coming down the front steps.
He didn't notice the dark look Robson threw him- the look that didn't go unnoticed by Hercule Poirot, however.
Climbing into the car he watched as the young Beecher started the engine and eased the Phantom out of the courtyard his thoughts obviously miles away.
"Your man, Robson...he has been in your service long?"
"Sorry..." Toby flashed him a wry smile. "Robson.....yes. His father was our chauffeur before him. He died in October 1940.....just before James enlisted. He was a good man." He smiled glancing at Poirot- a smile that seemed to suggest that, unfortunately, he did not think so highly of the son. "James was wounded at Tobruk. Almost didn't make it." Toby fell silent, his eyes glazed over, his strong reliable hands squeezing the steering wheel.
"Your parents are worried." Poirot said, keeping his voice soft. "You visiting Dr.Caddell got them worried."
"They worry too much. Mother is like that." A rueful smile curved Toby's lips. "She just worries too much."
He glanced at Poirot shrugging his shoulders. "I'm fine. It's just a routine check up." Forcing a smile he glanced at Poirot once again. "So, how do you find our little corner of England?"
Returning the smile, knowing very well what the young man was doing Poirot decided to play along. "Tres charmant, mon ami. Very charming indeed."
notes: 1)for the obvious reasons Stanislavski is now Stanislawski,
and he is from Poland 2)I don't know what's the proper procedure but
I think that the man receiving the Purple Heart would wear it the day
he received it 3)I hope I didn't make any stupid mistakes, if ya
notice any feel free to tell me, please( English is not my mother
17th January 1944
"Fuck the flacks. We lost 60 B-17s." Chris squeezed through gritted teeth. Squinting his eyes against the winter sun streaming through the window he took a long drag of his cigarette. Exhaling he leaned against the wall in front of his hospital room. "Fuck if I know how Hanlon managed to land that baby." Turning to O'Riley he asked. "'Guerra going to make it?"
"Dunno." O'Riley frowned. "Shit, the fucker better pull through, he owes me 20 bucks." He exhaled a puff of smoke eyeing a pretty little nurse passing by.
"You know she's a nun?" Keller whispered leaning in.
"Fuck she is!" O'Riley turned to take a better look. "Ya shitting me, right."
"Nope. " Keller grinned. "The bride of Christ, ball and chain, the works."
25th January 1944
He entered the darkened hall, heavy cigarette smoke biting his eyes and stinging his throat, making him run his hands nervously surreptitiously down his thighs. Quitting smoking in the middle of the war was certainly not the smartest idea he ever had.
Noticing Stanislawski at the table in the middle of the room he started over there stopping at the bar to grab a pint. As he reached the table the Pole was in the middle of the poker game with two Americans and some local chap he knew he had to have remembered by now but simply couldn't be bothered. The Americans were interesting, though. They flew Mustangs. Enough said. He noticed the wings, the stripes, the Purple Heart the taller one was wearing. He noticed the dark blue eyes looking back at him, making him waver and look away. He noticed the shit eating grin as he found his balls and glanced back.
"And that would be two pairs gentleman, queens over jacks." He heard Stanislawski purr as he parted the rest with their money. "Read them and weep."
Grinning wide the blue eyed American leaned across the table. "Not so fast boyo." He growled his eyes glinting blue steel. Grabbing Stanislawski by the hand in a wise-like grip he jerked his head. "O'Riley."
Reaching for him the other American rolled up Stanislawski's sleeve revealing a hidden card.
And that's when the shit hit the fan.
Tightly coiled and ready to pounce, overstressed, overtired and sleep deprived airmen jumped to the opportunity to release the tension.
The opportunity to cool down in a jail presented itself with the swift arrival of the MPs.
Sitting in a cell with ten other airmen Toby rested his elbows against his knees and buried his face into his hands hissing as his fingers grazed over the cut on his forehead.
"I lost my Purple Heart." He heard the American say. "I just received it today." He huffed leaning back against the wall, his eyes closed.
They were the only ones still awake, the rest scattered on the floor, sleeping tossing and turning, snoring and all.
"What did you get it for?" Toby asked looking at him, finding it so hard not to.
The guy shrugged his shoulders. "The flacks." He pointed to his side. "Hurt like hell. The nurses were fine, though." He winked, and a grin he shot him was positively lecherous
Shaking his head Toby gave a little huff at that.
"It's Chris, by the way." The American offered his hand and a friendly smile. "Chris Keller."
Feeling a funny little shiver crawling down his spine Toby took the proffered hand returning that easy smile. "Tobias Beecher." He said his throat dry all of a sudden.
Letting go of Chris's hand, but keeping his eyes fixed on him, Toby leaned back against the wall.
"Chris..."he smiled at the taste of the man's name," where are you from?"
"New York." Chris grinned. "Brooklyn." He stretched his long legs in front of him, crossing them at the ankles. "Ryan and I," he jerked his chin in a direction of one of the sleeping men, " we go way back. Grew up in the same street."
Toby smiled looking at him with great interest. "What do you think of England?" He asked mentally slapping himself for the inanity that slipped of his mouth.
Chris shrugged his shoulders, smiling not seeming to mind, though.
"It's raining all the time. What's to think?"
"Now, that's what you'd call a prejudice." Toby grinned leaning close, their shoulders touching.
"Noooo," Chris dropped his voice conspiratorially, his breath caressing Toby's cheek"that's what you'd call a fact." He winked sending shivers down Toby's spine.
Feeling his heart jump and desperately needing to put some distance between them Toby leaned back against the wall. Carding his left hand through his close cropped hair and gazing up at the ceiling rather than into those mesmerizing blues he sighed. "What do you think, how long are they going to keep us here?"
He heard Chris's flat "Dunno." And as he looked at the other man he found him leaning back against the wall with his head thrown, his hands folded across his chest and with his eyes closed-distant, shutting him off completely.
Confused, Toby kept his eyes on Chris for a long while, but eventually gave up as Chris turned his back to him to try and catch some sleep.
The moment he saw him he wanted to fuck him. Those eyes beckoned to his soul and that body...God that body made his cock twitch.
The guy was funny and snarky, and had a mean left hook. Chris ran his fingers absentmindedly over the shiner forming on the side of his face. Oh, God, and that smile...that low husky timbre that went straight to his cock every time he heard it. His mellifluous voce sent shivers down his spine as they talked, and he couldn't take his eyes off of him.
Oh,yeah, damn right he wanted to fuck him.
And then he saw the ring.
Gold caught the light as Toby carded his hand through his hair and in that moment Chris felt his heart sink. Toby was married. Not that he had any scruples, but Toby might, and that sure put the damper on the things.
Disappointment washing over him he closed his eyes and turned his back to Toby resolved not to care.
"The story is told of how, when the American forces first arrived over here, our troops - puzzled by the officer-like appearance of the U.S. enlisted men - found themselves smartly saluting soldiers of a rank similar to or lower than their own. This caused some mirth among the Americans and a certain embarrassment to the British."
January 26th 1944
Putting his cap on and saluting with fluid grace Captain Christopher Keller turned on his heels and left his superior's office. Only in the street he allowed himself a sigh. He got away with only a slap on a wrist for his involvement in the mess hall incident.They didn't even revoke his two day leave.Turning the corner lost in his thoughts he ran into an RAF officer. The man's hand was quick to rise in a salute causing the smile on Chris's face to grow even wider. Shaking his head in amusement he lifted his hand to his forehead.A trill resounded through his body as glancing across the street he noticed a tall blonde that was haunting his every conscious thought from the first moment he laid his eyes on him less than 24 hours ago.The internal debate whether to approach the guy or not quickly became the moot point as Toby smiled and greted a petite brunette that run to his arms with a hug and a soft kiss on the pliant lips.
The wife. Chris thought gloomily striding off down the street.The bitch.
"It's desperately boring. You can't do absolutely anything. I simply needed to get away."Katherine McClain grimaced pouting her lips and leaning against Toby, wounding her arm through his as they walked down the street from the train station.
"Besides, I felt terribly lonely."
"You have Adam." Toby said looking into his cousin's dark brown eyes.
She frowned at the implied accusation in his soft voice." I was so lonely." She was looking at some passers by now, deliberately avoiding his gaze.
"You do realize he's a cad." Toby sighed.
"So I'm told." She shrugged her shoulders leaning against him, gazing up at his deep blue eyes." I sometimes wonder..."She started then stopped herself, her tinkling laugh sounding so phantasmal." I want you to take me dancing tonight ! I'm dying to wear something other than this ghastly uniform." She glanced at her reflexion in the shop window frowning unhappily. She really hated that stupid uniform.
Watching her with fondness in his eyes Toby let out an exaggerated huff." All right then, I guess I'm taking you dancing."
She leaned into him planting a soft kiss on his lips. "You are a darling, Tobias." She caressed his cheek with a perfectly manicured hand. "I have a perfect dress. You'll die!" She smiled taking a swirl on her high heels under Toby's appreciative gaze.
Jive was loud enough for him not to hear the word she said, and her body was soft and pliant. Chris smiled looking at his dance partner's lovely blue eyes and nice oval face. Just the way he liked them lately. Quiet and easy, so pianfuly easy.He sighed like the black hearted sinner that he was.
He couldn't remember the time he even had to make an effort. Not that he minded; a warm body, a comfortable bed and a good night sleep afterwards.That's all he wanted nowadays. Now if he were to be totally honest with himself he should be calling himself a big fat liar.
He was spinning her around on the dance floor, the soft material of her blues dress caressing her butt cheeks as he lifted her up, and that's when he saw him for the second time that day. He was standing by the bar and was talking to the brunette. Must be the wife. They look miserable enough together, Chris thought stubbornly ignoring the green eyed monster clawing into his chest mercilessly.
As the music stopped he slid his arm around the girl's tiny waist pulling her close, looking down into her smiling eyes. "C'mon, let's get you something to drink."He purred leaning in, his head tilted close, his breath caressing her cheek, making her shiver. She smiled lifting her hand to rest it against his chest, pressing her firm little breast against him. A sultry smile curved his lips; the smile soon to die as he looked up and met Beecher's eyes across the room.
What the fuck are you looking at, he thought aiming a narrow eyed glower at him, satisfied as Beecher blinked then looked away.
Some masochistic impulse propelling him forward Chris wounded his way up to the bar, trailing the girl with him with an arm firm on her waist.
"Toby! Imagine running into you here!" He drawled all smiles, his eyes flicking from Toby to the woman standing next to him, her dark eyes leveling him with the look of pure indifference."How's it hanging?" He went on mentally snarling. What's yer problem, bitch?
He threw his arm round Toby's shoulders pressing into him."I see they didn't ground yer ass neither." Pointedly ignorring utterly puzzled Toby, Keller leaned towards the dark lady with a proffered hand. "I don't think we've met."
Pushing back a bit to look at Chris, puzzled beyond words Toby managed to fumble through the introductions. "This is Katherine McClain. My cousin." He said noticing the way Chris's eyes raked over her body. "Katherine, this is Chris..." He faltered, looked at Chris.
"Keller. Chris Keller. " Chris said with a dazzling smile curving his lips.
Unthinkable jelaousy flaring through him Toby huffed then pushed Chris's arm off his shoulder.
"Chris....I thought we were leaving."" he heard a small impatient voice behind them, then watched Chris grinning, snaking his arm round the girl's waist.
"Sure. Sure thing, baby." Chris smiled then glanced at him. "Sorry, Tobe. I guess I gotta go, girl knows what she wants." He winked leaning into her. "Don't you?" He drawled gazing into her dazed eyes all the while sensing Toby's eyes on him, though. Pulling her closer he threw him a curt "See ya ,pal." and swaggered out of there feeling somehow hollow inside, though.
What for the love of God was that? Toby thought frowning down at his beer not even listening to what Katherine was saying, and apparently she had plenty to say. In a matter of fact she was yapping incessantly.
"Who was that person?" he heard as Katherine's voice finally penetrated.
Looking at her as if he saw her for the first time and not particularly liking what he saw Toby let out a huff. Shaking his head he turned back to his beer. "He's a friend." He smiled ruefully taking a big gulp of his beer. "We sing in a choir together."
McClain. Katherine McClain. Chris spun that name in his head over and over again as the girls soft lips ghosted over his throat trying to work him up. A cousin. really, Toby? Well, well, well. What are you doing Toby, taking another woman out dancing? Trouble in paradise? He groaned as he felt the girl's hand on his crotch. Later, Toby, we'll get to you later, To-bi-as. He grinned wickedly. Oh, we'll get to you later.
Returning to Emerald Hall, Toby jumped out of the car, throwing the keys to Robson and hurrying through the hall into the back garden.
"Mother!" He called out. "Mother!...Oh, there you are." He said as he noticed her standing in the middle of the flower bed among her prized roses."I was thinking..." He paused to give her a kiss hello," I was thinking of inviting some friends over for the weekend..." He felt the unmistakable heat rising to his face as he fumbled on. " I mean, since Katherine is coming and with Mr Poirot and his friend already here..."
"That's great darling." His mother smiled, just a tad perplexed with her son's sudden enthusiasm. "I shall ask Mary to get the rooms ready."
The smile that appeared on her son's face was positively beaming. Sending Mary to butchers once again seemed much less of a trouble all of a sudden.
In mid March 1944 the allied forces started with the attacks on every airfield within 350 miles of the invasion zone, rendering them nearly unusable in the last weeks before D-Day.
March 10th 1944
Wave upon wave of Mustangs, Spitfires and Hurricanes returned to safety. B-17s were tucked neatly to bed, their crews shedding their gear and heading to the 'house' for a hot meal and some rest.
Walking across the field, bone weary Miguel Alvarez rubbed his eyes with the back of his hand then glanced back stopping suddenly as he noticed something in a distance.'Sweet Jesus! he shouted frozen to the spot. "Jesus! He lost his engine! He lost his engine!" He yelled watching a Submarine Spitfire struggle to reach the airfield.
"Who is it? Can you see the markings?" Sean Murphy run to his side peering at the distance.
" It's 7-65.It's ours." Beecher's ground crew stood frozen in terror.
"He's not going to make it." Elsworth shook his head in panic his eyes riveted on the glinting silver fighter dithering against the grey sky.
"Shut the fuck up!" Alvarez shot a furious glance at the newbie. "Fuck, he's going to hit the trees." He cried out his face tense in concentration, ."Pull up, pull up. Pull the fuck up." He muttered to himself as if he could pull the fighter up with the shear force of his will.
The ambulance rolled in,the fire crew was ready, and for one horrifying moment everybody stood frozen with their eyes on the Spitfire, watching as Beecher struggled to reach the safety.
Crushing to the ground in an unfathomable glissade of rubble, metal and dust the Spitfire turned on its nose, and caught fire.
Opening the eyes, Toby realized, was turning out to be quite a task.
A groan and a whimper penetrated his dazed cocoon.
"Mother..." he heard a voice begging. ""Mother........please."
It took him a while to realize-that voice, it was him, begging for deliverance; the pain flaring through his body, a searing agony of hot steal spearing his arms and legs.
"Please..." he whimpered. Gasping for breath he felt tears sliding down his face. "Please..." His voice trailed off. "Somebody......Please. Help me!!!" He howled with all he got and something snapped deep inside of him and the blissful darkness descended upon him and he passed out.
Squadron leader Tobias A. Beecher, RAF No. 8765.
Starring stupidly at the list of casualties Chris read and re-read the name over and over again.
"That guy's a cat." He heard a voice behind him.
"What?" He turned starring at the familiar face of Sean Murphy.
"Beecher." Murphy pointed at the one of the names on the list. "Guy got more lives than a cat."
"He's alive." Chris muttered looking at the list again.
"Yeah. Hard to believe." Murphy shook his head. "Broke every bone there is."
"But he's alive?" Chris asked for reassurance forgetting all about his customary cool cocky mask.
Looking at him kind of strange Sean nodded. "Yeah. You know the guy?"
"Yeah." Chris nodded looking at the list again. Glancing back at Murphy he smiled feebly. "Kind of."
Wandering through the Emerald Hall's drawing room, with a fine glass of port in one hand and one of Lord Beecher's fine cigars in the other, Capt. Hastings took in the details of the spacious but cosy room; the hand painted wallpapers, the heavily patterned carpets in dark green and red with large design of flowers and fantastic animals, floorboards stenciled with rich floral design along the walls.
"You have a lovely home, Lady Beecher."
"My dear Capt.Hastings, sometimes it's just too much work, but.." she smiled leaning across the backseat of a sofa to pat him on an arm playfully,"thank you, we love it very much."
"Auntie,you can't have dear Captain all to yourself for the entire evening." Katherine slid her arm under Capt. Hastings' giving him one of her most dazzling smiles her vermilion red lips pouting. "Come, sit beside me," she slid her lean satin clad figure down on a ches lounge, patting a cushion with her braceleted hand, her perfectly manicured vermilion red nails in sharp contrast with the deep green of the velvet. "I want to hear all about your wonderful adventures in Africa."
Pretending to listen to Capt. Hastings' tedious account on his life in Africa Katherine searched the room for Toby's tall and lean figure.
He was standing by a fireplace with shadows dancing across his face, coppery strands glowing in his strawberry blond hair. He looked so good in his dark suit, she thought, so poised, so handsome, a perfect gentleman. She smiled to herself wryly. She should know. She practically threw herself at him any chance she got, but nothing ever happened. They kissed ,yes, but that was all. She could sense the fire burning beneath that cute boyish facade. She could sense it, yes, she even caught a glimpse or two, but to feel it-that was simply not in the cards for her. He said he was fond of her. She knew it to be true. She certainly was fond of him. The fact that he was the heir to the title factored into that considerably. The Beecher's owned half the county, land, stock and souls. Her vermilion red lips curved in a sultry smile as her thoughts turned to one soul in particular. Now, that one certainly was not a gentleman. Perfect or otherwise.Taking a sip of her sherry, Katherine decided on a little visit later that night.
Captain Hastings obviously finished with his tirade and was now asking for her undivided attention. She smiled, mildly amused.
"Now that was simply thrilling, my dear Captain. I do envy you so." She leaned closer, her dark eyes glinting with mischief. "Angus!" She called out to her cousin. "You must join us. Here darling. Sit. Do sit Gussie." She got up leaving her despairing cousin in the clutches of the dear Captain. "Let me get you another glass of that fine port." She smiled looking over her shoulder at the two,a loud chuckle escaping her lips as she heard Toby's soft whisper . "Katherine Margaret McClain, you are a wicked wench."
The house was quiet and still, the only sound the soft chiming as the heavily ornamented golden Victorian clock, the proudly displayed piece of the Beecher family heritage, heralded the hour, eleven.
Loosening his tie and shouldering off his dinner jacket Toby sighed and plopped down on a sofa.
"Damn it, Chris." he mumbled to himself," where the hell are you?"
As if on cue he heard a car grinding the meticulously kept gravel in the front yard.
Hurrying to the doors and yanking it open with impatient hand Toby ran out with a wide happy grin on his face.
Climbing out of a jeep and grabbing his duffel bag, Christopher Keller threw him a dazzling smile. "Hey Tobe, nice crib."
Throwing his arms around Chris' shoulders Toby crushed him into a tight embrace."Fuck you, Keller." He grumbled burying his face against Chris's neck."You are late." He whispered in a voice thick with emotions.
Pulling back to efficiently extract himself from Toby's embrace Chris threw him one of his patented shit eating grins. "Ooooh, ya missed me." He whispered, teasing. The tip of his pink tongue wedged between his lips for one maddening moment, he turned to pick his duffel bag from the ground."Ya coming?" He aimed a cocked eyebrow at Ryan O'Riley still sitting in the front seat of the jeep.
"Yeah." O'Riley groaned climbing out. "Ya have a bed somewhere in this place, Beech? I need my beauty sleep."
Giving him a nice once over Chris drawled. "You are a pussy, O'Riley, ya know that."
"Fuck you." O'Riley mouthed.
"Ladies, are you finished bitching?" a private behind the wheel of the jeep whined."I gotta head back,like, pronto."
"Garcia, thanks for the ride, man. I owe ya one." Chris finally acknowledged the grumpy looking private.
"Yeah, yeah, see ya, Keller." The man mumbled starting the engine. "Later."
"Later."Chris waved a hand to the guy, then turned to Toby. "The man's a peach." He chuckled at the look in Toby's eyes. "Ya jealous baby?Awww... Come here." He reached for Toby.
"Oh, for fuck's sake!" O'Riley groused rolling his eyes. " I. Need. A. Bed!" Aiming a glower at Chris's smiling face he hissed. "Zip it, Keller. I ain't shitting you. Zip it."
"What did I say?" Chris threw his hands in the air, his angel face bellied by the impish glimmer in his eyes."Did I say something?"He turned to Toby.
"Zip.It." Was O'Riley's final.
"This is your room."Toby opened the door for Ryan. "Tomorrow is a big cricket match. Try to get some sleep."
"Ya shitting me, Beech." Ryan gave him a genuinely surprised look. "Who told ya I know shit about cricket?"
Toby smiled. "It's a lot like baseball. You'll catch on quickly."
O'Riley snorted in disbelief. Keller chuckled.
"What are you laughing at, Keller?" O'Riley grumbled.
"Nothin'." Keller cocked his head eying the tall Irish."You'll look good all dolled up in that fancy ass gear."
"Fuck off, Keller." O'Riley growled. "Or you forgot you playin' too?" He grinned wickedly, his eyes narrowing.
"C'mon." Toby was smiling. He tugged at Chris' arm. "I'll show you to you room."
"Come inside." Chris drawled leaning against the wall next to the door of his room his lips curving in an sultry smile.
"No, we can't." Toby sighed, his hungry eyes roaming the length of Chris' fabulous body."Someone might hear."
"No, they won't." Chris grinned slowly.
"Chris..." Toby huffed.
"Just one kiss then." The sapphire blue eyes slid over his face as if in a caress. "C'mon Toby." Chris crooned. " Just one kiss, ba-by."
Toby felt himself blush, his heart jumping to his throat; he swallowed hard, but before he could throw caution to the wind and reach for his lover and touch to card his fingers gently across that smooth shaven cheek and those tempting mouth he heard a door creaking open somewhere down the hall.
"You better go." He heard Chris sigh looking at him with regret so clear in his eyes.
"Yes." He said not ready to leave just yet, though. "I should."
Shaking his head at him and giving a small laugh Chris whispered. "Good night, Tobe."
"Good night." Toby said, not moving. "Sleep well."
"You too." Chris smiled turning just a little ways, grabbing a doorknob, but reluctant to turn it.
"Chris..." came Toby's urgent whisper.
"Yeah." Chris smiled looking deep into Toby's cornflower blue eyes.
"I love you." Toby said, a smile so gentle, so innocent and sweet spreading over his face.
"I love you too, baby." Chris whispered, his throat feeling tight; all he wanted in that moment was to go to him and kiss him with all he got.
The next he knew,though, Toby was there planting a quick chaste kiss on his mouth, murmuring a low, hushed,Good night,Chris, his gentle hand squeezing his shoulder, sliding down his pecs as he reluctantly stepped away from him. "My room is right above yours. "He whispered heading towards the stairs, not paring his eyes from Chris's."Night."
"Night." Chris whispered back.
"Love you." Toby mouthed disappearing round the corner.
"Love you." Chris leaned back against the wall closing his eyes. "I love you so much, baby."
Opening his eyes to a perfect morning Toby smiled feeling happy, ecstatic, ready to jump out of his bed bare ass naked and run outside declaring his love for one Christopher Keller from the top of his lungs. He chuckled imagining his father's stunned reaction. Closing his eyes and hooking his hands behind his head he decided he didn't care. Silly idea forming in his mind he jumped out of his bed.
The morning sun streamed in through the light fabric of the bright yellow curtains. Blinking open his eyes and feeling confused for a moment Chris quickly became aware of the two things; the morning hard on, and the strange clinking sound, the both demanding his immediate attention.
Realizing what the clinking sound actually was he climbed out of the bed to open the window his eyes gleaming with delight. Bracing against the windowsill he peered out and looked up, his happy smile growing even wider as he saw Toby leaning through the window above.
"Good morning beautiful." Toby smiled looking like an angel with the blond curls framing his face.
"Morning gorgeous." Chris winked perched on the windowsill gazing up at his beautiful lover.
"'Sleep well?" Toby asked hurriedly pointedly trying not to drool at the sight of Chris Keller in nothing but the pair of boxer shorts and feeling the unmistakable heat of the blush creeping up his pale skin and desperately trying to mask it.
Chris cocked his head to a side winking playfully. "That a blush, Beech?"
Giving up all the pretenses and smiling with glee Toby shook his head. "What will I do with you?"
"Awww, Beech." Chris smiled "Is that whatcha call a rhetorical question?"
"You said it Keller.Race you downstairs?" Toby chuckled.
Growing serious at that Chris dropped his gaze. Clearing his throat he started. "Beech..."
"Chris...They will love you like crazy,you'll see."
Toby huffed, hating the panicked look in Chris' beautiful sapphire eyes.
"No, Chris."His voice was firm."They will love you." His lips curving in a soft smile he whispered. "What's not to love, baby." With a huff and a soft laugh he tore his gaze from Chris'. "C'mon, cut the theatrics Keller. Grab a shower and I will meet you downstairs in fifteen."
"Key." Chris smiled, shaking his head.
"Key." Toby blew him a kiss. "In fifteen gorgeous.That doesn't leave you a lot of time so....."Toby aimed a pointed look at Chris' crotch.
"The same goes for you, Beech."
"Ooooh, I already took care of that ." Toby threw him a wicked look disappearing inside, a wild chuckle escaping his mouth.
"Yeah, like I could anyway." Chris sighed to himself coming away from the window and heading to the bathroom, his heart clenched with anxiety despite Toby's loving words. In fifteen minutes, give or take a few, he's going to meet Toby's parents. He sighed trying for a calming breath. "God, help me."
March 12th 1944
"...both of his arms and legs were broken. I'm fairly confident that, in time, he will be fine though. He might experience some problems with short-term memory,though.That's not unusual in cases like this.He had a concussion, you see. You should be prepared for that."
Young Red Cross nurse leaned closer to Chris Keller planting a reassuring hand on his arm. "Your friend is going to be fine."
Looking past her Chris searched the room for Toby.
"He's in the last bed in the row on the right. "She smiled. "I think he is asleep now, but I guess you can go and see him."
"Thank you..." he stopped to read her name tag, "nurse Caldwell."
"You are welcome." She smiled gently." And it's Joan."
His lips curved in one of his trademark 1000 watt smiles. "Thank you, Joan."
Walking between the hospital beds Chris noticed the wounds, the pain, the anguish all suspended in somehow eerie whiteness as the pale sun filtered in through the milky white windowpanes.
He stopped at the foot of Toby's bed looking at the still figure, feeling sad and unnerved.
Toby's head and face were all cut up and bruised, his nose was broken, his arms and legs in casts. Lifting his eyes to Toby's face again he met his blue gaze- glazed and drowsy with pain medications.
"Hey." came Toby's weak voice.
"You are awake." Chris said through a tight throat.
Chris thought he saw him smile, but couldn't be sure, not with all the bruising and swelling.
"What are you doing here?"
"I just...I wanted to see if you were OK." Chris muttered playing with his cap nervously.
Blinking his tired eyes Toby managed a low huff. "Well, I'm alive."
"Yeah." Chris huffed his eyes stinging with incongruous tears.He blinked them away, cleared his throat. "I better get going." He leaned to place a gentle hand against Toby's leg. "They said I could only stay for a couple of minutes, not more. Best not to piss them off. See ya, Toby."
"Thanks." Toby said in a voice weak and low, fighting sleep. "Thank you for coming."
"You are welcome, buddy." Chris smiled sadly watching him drift away.
P-51(Mustangs) escort fighters provided protection for bombers.
March 19th 1944
"You friend is feeling much better today." Nurse Caldwell greeted Chris with a wide smile on her aristocratic pale face."He's awake."
"Thanks Joan." Chris winked leaning across the reception desk to plant a soft kiss on her cheek. It was a friendly kiss. Everything in that young woman's dignified and noble demeanor demanded respect.
He sauntered away to Toby's bed pretty much aware of Joan's appreciative gaze that followed his every step,though. She was a lady. She was not dead.
"Hey." He stopped at the foot of Toby's bed with a huge grin on his face. Toby looked much better. Chris thought as he took a mental inventory of the lying man; bruises were gone and the swelling subsided, and even some color returned to Toby's pale cheeks.His cornflower blue eyes no longer had that sickly feverish gleam.
"Joan tells me you're fillin' better." He said sitting down on a chair beside Toby's bed.
"Yes, I'll be on my feet in a jeefy." Toby grinned. "If only they aimed higher I would sit this one out. Drat." .
"I admire yer spirit,pal,but you ain't going nowhere." Chris leaned closer to Toby lowering his voice to a conspiratorial whisper." I suspect Joan wants you around for a sweet little while."
Toby let out one of his huffs. "Joan's cute. Alas,she's not my type."
"How come? I thought you were into brunettes?" Chris winked playfully, masterfully feigning indifference.
"Why, yes...yes I am." Toby let his eyes lock to Chris'."You?"
"Me.." Chris cocked his head, his eyes never leaving Toby's, not entirely sure what if anything was happening just then and there between the two of them."I've been always partial to blondes."
"I think she's engaged to be married."Toby flicked his eyes at a cute blonde nurse passing by."Sorry." He grinned wickedly.
"Damn my luck." Chris winked.
"Maybe, you should try thinking outside the box." He didn't know why he said that, but it was there now hanging in the air between them.
"Yeah." Chris nodded pointing at him with his index finger and a cocky grin."But, ya see, that's what always gets me into trouble- thinking."
Toby let out a soft chuckle at that.
"I hate to interrupt,but it's time for your medication, Toby." came nurse Caldwell's throaty voice from her place at the foot of Toby's bed.
Getting up Chris ruffled Toby's short curls. "See ya, Tobe."
With a huff Toby smiled. "See you."
Looking at the tall American leaving he called out after him. "Chris!"
Chris turned on his heels with a smile. "Yeah?"
"Thank you." Toby chuckled as Chris bowed with exaggerated grace. "At your service mi lord."
Shaking his head Toby let out a chuckle. "You are crazy."
"Yes, that he is." Joan cut in shooing Chris off. She aimed a stern look at Toby.
"The both of you."
Closing his eyes and leaning back against the pillow Toby had to admit he agreed with her.
April 10th 1944
"I hope you don't mind my asking....but how come I'm the only one visiting you?" Chris shifted on his chair trying to get more comfortable.
"How do you know that?" Toby' eyes narrowed questioningly." Ah, Joan." He groaned.
"My family is in Scotland. It's safer that way."
"But your cousin..." Chris said avoiding Toby's eyes." Katherine."
Toby huffed, his face scrunching."Katherine is...It's complicated."He paused.
"I do have friends, though. Francis is a friend."
"Who's Francis?" Chris frowned.
"My doctor."Toby's eyes were downcast now as he mumbled to himself.
"Come again?" Chris' eyes held an amused glint as he leaned closer, his head cocked to a side.
"My doctor, Dr.Caddell. He's a friend." Toby hated how pathetic that sounded." We were at Eton together." He lifted his chin stubbornly." What about you?"
"What about me?" Chris grinned.
Chris sighed. "Ryan's what ya'd call a close friend."
"How close?" Toby had to ask.
"Pretty close, I guess." Chris hooked his hands behind his head, closing his eyes." I married his sister. Twice."
"How do you mean twice?" came Toby's incredulous huff.
"Sorry, I didn't mean to pry."
Chris opened his eyes to look at him, then shook his head, smiled wryly."I sometimes wonder...You know, the second time round I really believed we could have make it." He sighed watching some patients and nurses passing by-anything to keep him from looking at Toby's soulful eyes.
"I thought my marriage was perfect." Toby started, not looking at Chris. "And then Genevieve killed herself. Last summer."
"Oh, God, Toby." Chris blinked in surprise." I thought...." He stared stupidly at the blonde.
"She never did say why.I..." Toby closed his eyes, a strained huff escaping him."She didn't leave the note. I came home that weekend...I was on a 48 hours leave, you see,and we argued. There I was at home for the first time in months and we were arguing." He shook his head in disbelief.
"Toby..." Chris tried, but his voice trailed off as he looked at the broken man beside him not knowing what to say.
"They found her the next morning. She drowned." Toby finally looked at him, his face scrunching up." I think I could forgive her, but every time I look at my children's faces I hate her for being so selfish, for leaving them..."
"How many kids do you have?"
Toby smiled realizing very well what Chris was doing."Three."
Chris whistled genuinely amazed.
"Two boys and a girl." Toby jerked his chin towards a nightstand. "First drawer. Gary's the oldest. He's 7." Toby said watching as Chris took out the framed picture." Harry is still just a baby. He turned one last month. Holly's five. She's already a perfect little lady."
Chris listened to Toby's soft voice looking at the kids' smiling faces. The blonde angels; all of them the spiting image of their father.Toby sure had strong genes."They look like you."
"Yeah. Holly may end up resenting me deeply for that." Toby grimaced.
"Yeah,right." Chris grinned." With those eyes and that cute nose of yours. Yeah. I can see her with a paper bag over her head in few years time."
Looking at Chris, not really knowing why he felt that funny little flutter in his stomach, Toby huffed."My nose is not cute."
"Yeah, Beecher. It is." Chris said teasing him.
"Men are not cute."
"You are kinda cute." Chris cocked a mischievous eyebrow at him.
"I'm not." Toby mumbled, feeling shy all of a sudden.
"When are the casts coming off?" Chris decided to drop it. He was only setting himself for more grief.
"In a week. I think."
Frowning at the thought Toby added. "They are going to move me to St Leonards."
"So you are leaving in a week?"
"I think so, yes."
"And...how long are they going to keep you there?" Chris swallowed hard.
"I don't know."Toby dropped his eyes to his lap." I'm going to miss.... this." He whispered.
"Yeah, me too." Chris sighed, then got up abruptly."Listen, I havta go. Joan is gonna have my hide. She said half an hour."
"Yes." Toby's lips curved in a small rueful smile. "Am I going to see you tomorrow?"
"Nah. I don't think so." Chris couldn't bare to look at Toby's eyes." I'm on the raster."
"Oh, I see."
"Well, see ya Beech." Chris made a production of putting his cap on, and with a glance at the laying man he was gone.
"See ya. Chris." Toby said his sad eyes on the strong back of Chris' retiring figure.
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