C1 Hiding: Chapter One
The heat was oppressive, even at eight in the evening. Langham wiped his brow with the back of his hand as he stepped out onto the hot Caribbean street. The air was laced with the scent of coconut—all that suntan oil, he reckoned—and the tang of brine from the ocean.
It should have been perfect. Ideal. The loveliest place on Earth. Except their haven had turned into a nightmare location, and although he knew what had happened that morning was a rare thing, their holiday—yet again—was tainted.
This town didn’t get much crime, it seemed, going by the size of the police station they’d spent all day in. No one else had been brought in for questioning, and the only people occupying the cells out the back had been Langham and Oliver. There didn’t appear to be much call for law enforcement at all. This place was so damn quiet. After what Langham had found floating in the sea around their holiday shack that morning, it meant the officers in these parts would be stretched to the limit if they worked anything like Langham and his team did. From what he’d seen, though, only two policemen plus a detective had been working all day—and not very hard at that.
He’d found a dead body. Bloated, it was, and had undoubtedly been in the water a while. It shouldn’t have been a shock that crime had followed him and Oliver once again, but he’d been shocked all the same. Murder dogged their every step at home, so why would here be any different? But was it too much to ask to be free of it when taking a Caribbean break?
Bloody seems I did ask for too much. One sodding holiday without interruptions, that’s all we wanted.
The first couple of days of their other holiday, back in the UK, had been taken over by death too—some old woman wreaking havoc and a man messing around with software that could kill then make bodies disappear.
Was that only yesterday—or was it the day before?
Time had been skewed since they’d landed here and them being holed up in a cell meant that the day had dragged on relentlessly. He didn’t know whether he was coming or going.
He cuffed his brow again. Sighed.
What the fuck’s the world coming to when even coppers get treated like criminals?
Yeah, Langham knew some coppers were dodgy, but he wasn’t one of them. It had taken the better part of two hours for Langham’s detective status to be confirmed by the UK—or maybe the police worked slowly here. During those two hours of waiting, Langham had watched the detective—Beckford, his name was—lounging at a desk through a doorway, no sign of a rocket doing wonders up his arse. The man had seemed oblivious to Langham and Oliver sweating—oblivious to the urgency a murder would have filled Langham and his colleagues with in London. The phone had trilled, Beckford had answered and a low conversation had taken place. The detective had ended the call, doodled on a notepad then stuck his hands behind his head and had a nap. Langham and Oliver had been left in that stuffy-arsed cell until Beckford had been good and ready to talk to them—to let them know their identities were confirmed and that they weren’t suspected of murder.
Can’t believe he didn’t look at the obvious. If we were home, I’d have put in a complaint but…
No use in moaning about it—it was over now. Beckford had finally realized Langham and Oliver couldn’t have killed the man in the sea because he’d been killed a couple of days ago—when Langham and Oliver hadn’t even been on Caribbean soil. Statements had been taken, long and laborious, and Langham hoped that would be the end of it. He doubted it, though. Oliver had heard from spirit earlier, and he’d told Langham this morning’s body wasn’t the only one they’d get wind of while here. Wasn’t the only death that would occur.
Fuck. We need that like a hole in the head.
Langham turned to see Oliver joining him on the pavement. Oliver was worn out, that much was clear. The lines around his eyes were back and deep crevasses bracketed his mouth. He looked older than his years. That morning, before the body had floated by and changed everything, Oliver had been almost wrinkle free. Langham found it amazing that the signs of tiredness he’d had before they’d arrived had all but vanished just by them flying away to this place.
Now look at him. Shit.
And if spirit were right, there were more wrinkles to come.
Langham cleared his throat. It was dry. There had been a distinct lack of water and food inside the police station—for them, at any rate. Beckford had certainly enjoyed a hearty lunch and several cans of Sprite, the selfish bastard. It seemed people didn’t have any basic human rights here when held by the police. Back in London, if the arrested person wasn’t offered food and drink within a certain amount of time, heads rolled.
Fuck all I can do about it anyway. We’re not in London. No, we’re stuck here—and God, it feels like we’re stuck. I didn’t think I’d say it, seeing as I just wanted to get away from the damn city, but shit, I wish we were back home.
He thought about the promise of hearing about another body and shuddered. He hated to ask the question that was waiting to come out but it had to be done. “You know what you said earlier, about me finding out about another body? Could it mean in general or did you mean here, while we’re away?”
Oliver puffed air out, his cheeks ballooning. His breath jostled the hair covering his brow. “Here. Sorry, man.”
Langham stared across the road at a table where local cuisine could be had for the price of a Coke back in London. A roof, created out of what looked like huge black refuse sacks, gave the chef plenty of shade. Langham envied him. Scents of ginger and cloves wafted over on a hot breeze that did nothing to cool and everything to make Langham more uncomfortable. Those scents had tormented him all day.
“This place…it’s too hot,” he said, knowing he only had himself to blame for their destination. He’d booked the holiday. He’d insisted they come. And look where his stubbornness had got them—a stint in the nick and tongues as dry as a deodorized armpit. “If I have to wipe my forehead one more time…”
“Want some food?” Oliver stepped out into the empty road, checking left then right even though no traffic was about. He glanced back over his shoulder and smiled. “May as well eat here. Fuck all in our shack except fruit. And I don’t fancy waiting until we’ve showered before we go over to the resort restaurant. Too hungry for that.”
Langham followed Oliver, his mouth aching for something cool and wet. Their breakfast of fruit seemed so long ago now, another lifetime away. What would he give for a cold piece of mango straight from the fridge? Or an ice cube that had been floating in vodka and tonic? His mouth watered at the thought of it—but not enough to soak his arid tongue.
At the table, Langham eyed cans of soda that sat higgledy-piggledy in a large, blue plastic tub that was partially filled with ice. The high temperature had melted the majority of it, creating a pool with floating chunks. He had the urge to scoop water up in his hands and douse his face. Heat from the cooking food billowed at him, the aroma from the spices stinging his eyes. He was tired, on the verge of being grumpy and had the sense to strive for Oliver’s more chipper mood.
Behind the table, the man tossed rice, peas, onions and prawns in a steel drum that had been cut lengthways. It reminded Langham of barbeques in England or the fires the homeless built up on freezing nights. On another drum, sitting on top of a metal grill, was a large bowl of curry, the sauce dark brown with even browner pieces of meat. They looked as though they’d been chargrilled prior to being added to the bowl. Chopped red and yellow peppers and coarse-cut onions peeked out of the thick gravy. Langham’s stomach growled.
“I’ll have some of that,” Oliver said to Langham, pointing to the curry. “And a couple of those.”
Beside the large bowl in a rectangular tray were what appeared to be chunks of chicken on skewers. Langham ordered the same for both of them, plus a couple of cans of Coke each. The chef gave them a wide smile that lit up his face and changed him from what Langham had first thought of as a surly fucker into an amenable friend. Someone you wouldn’t mind having a beer with, or a game of darts. Snooker, maybe.
Langham wondered how he could be so cheerful in this bloody weather.
“You like the goat, then?” the chef asked.
“Goat?” Langham frowned, unsure how to answer. If he was negative, he risked offending and the last thing he wanted was to upset a local. But goat? He’d never tasted it before in his life and hadn’t intended to. Weren’t those things supposed to prance about on the hillside, bleating until milking time? He hadn’t even tasted goat cheese. “Err, I’ll give it a go. Thanks.”
Oliver turned away to hide a smile that Langham saw anyway.
“And this?” Langham asked, pointing at the kebabs. It looked like chicken but he never knew these days, what with the Asian stalls cropping up on the market where they sold insects and all manner of weird shit.
“Chicken.” The chef laughed. “Just chicken, man, I promise.”
After paying for the food then accepting plastic spoons and the cardboard trays their meals were served in, Langham nodded his thanks to the chef. Oliver took the cans, slipping them into the pockets of his shorts. Langham passed Oliver his meal. Oliver smirked but held it together well, managing not to laugh.
They walked over to a low wall to sit and eat.
“Goat?” Langham said quietly. “I don’t know if I can.”
“Just try it. Might surprise you.” Oliver grinned. “Might surprise yourself. I mean, you might even like something different. Change can be good, you know.”
“Yeah but…” Langham stared at the curry. It could have been beef. If he told himself it was…
“Just eat it, for fuck’s sake.” Oliver tucked in.
Langham took a deep breath then did the same. It was surprisingly good. Tender, like it had been cooking for a long time. While they ate, he studied the street. There were shops reminiscent of the quieter London boroughs, houses turned into stores, except here their outer walls were painted garish colors, something he couldn’t imagine the London councils allowing for listed buildings. Bright yellow, lime green, stop-light red—everything was brighter here.
While he watched the scant passers-by and also checked the street, out of habit, for anyone suspicious, he thought of what Oliver had said. About change and it being good. Yeah, it was—and hadn’t they booked a holiday in order for them to embrace change? Their plan to try new things in the bedroom had been fucked up by the recent murders in a village called Marsh Vines they’d chosen to stay in, and the killing here had the ability to do exactly the same. If they let it.
Langham swallowed the last of his curry. “We’ll go back and shower, yeah? I know we were meant to go out on one of those piss-ups organized by the holiday company, but after today…”
Oliver nodded. “Not in the mood for getting drunk. The people in our travel group are nice enough but…not tonight. Shower then bed for me.”
He gave Langham a look that, despite Langham’s tiredness, sparked a flurry of excitement in his gut. If he didn’t know better, he’d have thought it was the goat playing him up. Oliver pulled a piece of chicken off his skewer, popped it in his mouth, staring at Langham all the while.
“Fuck you,” Langham said, smiling. “This isn’t the place to be playing games with me.” He shifted, drawing his tray farther up his lap in case his dick had any embarrassing ideas.
Oliver chewed then swallowed. “Who’s playing?” He winked, pulling off another bit of chicken.
Langham shook his head. “Pass me one of the Cokes, will you? It’ll give you something to do. Take your mind off filth. I mean, who thinks of fucking when they’ve been in a bloody police station all day?”
“You, maybe? The other coppers you work with? I seem to recall we’ve fucked after you’ve been at the station, so people do think of sex when they’ve been in one…”
“Smart arse. You know what I meant. People being holed up in a cell, that’s what I was referring to. I doubt they’d think about sex much.”
“It’s mainly what I thought about while we were in there today,” Oliver said. “I got bored so…”
Oliver half stood, cocking his hip at Langham, who pulled a Coke from Oliver’s pocket. It would be easy to graze Oliver’s dick with the can, to let him know he was up for whatever Oliver had in mind, but doing so in a public place wasn’t the done thing.
Unless you’re in a BDSM club watching a show .
Embarrassment stabbed at Langham’s cheeks. He still couldn’t get over what they’d done in that club. He didn’t usually get discomfited about sex. He was at ease with it and, as Oliver had once pointed out, had had enough lovers that it was clear Langham knew a thing or two. But he’d never really ventured too far into the Dom/sub arena, apart from a slap or two to Oliver’s arse. What they intended to try on this holiday went much further. He looked forward to it, yet shame still niggled at him about how the pair of them had got swept away watching a show and had let themselves go too far.
While I was working a case, no less.
Oliver narrowed his eyes. “What’s wrong?” He sat on the wall.
“Nothing much. Just beating myself up about the club again.” He put his food tray on the wall beside him then opened the can. “Yeah, I know what you’re thinking. We’ve said it before, haven’t we? What’s done is done. Move on. It’s just that sometimes it shocks me a bit when I think of it.”
“I’m glad you answered your own question.” Oliver raised a hip and tugged the other can from his pocket.
“What question?” Langham took a long sip of his drink.
“Christ, you only just asked it. The heat getting to you, is it?”
Langham frowned, searching his memory. I mean, who thinks of fucking when they’ve been in a bloody police station all day? He smiled. “Oh, yeah. So you want me to admit it, right?”
“Okay, evidently I do. My name is Langham, and I think about sex when I’ve been in a police station. There, you happy now?”
“Yep. And are you planning on doing anything about those thoughts? There’s a lot of pent up energy inside me. Being cooped up does that.”
Langham raised his eyebrows. “Might do. Depends.” He smiled inwardly.
“On what?” Water from the outside of the can dribbled over Oliver’s fingers.
I want to lick that off. “On whether you’re up for what I have in mind.”
Langham thought of the toys he’d packed. Of how he’d been nervous at the airport in case someone called them over after their cases had been scanned and questioned him about the contents. Not that they would have. People took stuff like that away with them all the time, he reckoned. The things the airport workers saw were probably just a common part of their job. Nothing to get their boxers in a wad over. But for him it was deviating from the norm, doing something he’d never done before. Explaining arse plugs, a paddle and a flogger, amongst other things…
The thought of them heated his cheeks some more.
Oliver laughed quietly. “I never thought when I first met you that you’d ever be like this.”
Langham went to go off on one about how he wasn’t shy, never would be, and that he hadn’t displayed anything sitting on this wall that could give Oliver the idea he was. But Oliver knew him, spotted signs and facial expressions.
Langham smiled. “And I never thought anyone would be able to see past my exterior, to know shit about me just by looking. As for shy…”
“Yeah, whatever. Deny it if you like. I know better.”
“Seems you do.”
“I do.” Oliver stood. “So, time to go back. Time for you to show me you’re not shy after all. It’s meant to be me who acts that way.”
Langham smiled, stood then threw their rubbish into a nearby bin. He stared at Oliver and realized how much they had changed since being together.
How much would they change in the future?
Jesus, who knows? But I’m sticking around to find out.