THE COURTSHIP OF EDDIE HOUSEMAN
(or...That Thing That Eddie Did)
Based on events in the original "Thunderbirds" television episode ‘End of the Road.’
It was getting harder to concentrate.
Four months cutting road through the jungle was doing my head in. My focus was off, and I was finding myself, more and more often, tormented by the memory
It snuck up on me at first. I'd be preparing charges, and something about the colour of the casings, or the way the fuses curled around my fingers, would
trigger memories buried by bitterness and time. A vision of her tempting, painted mouth would drift into my field of view, and I would almost feel her
fingers twining into mine. And then I'd open my eyes and find myself hot and sweating in the jungle dampness, perspiration stinging in my eyes, a nutomic
charge gripped tight in my clammy hands, and Bob's voice, burning in my ears, loud and grating and pulling me away from whatever place my mind had taken
me, 'Eddie. Eddie! Watchit will ya! You're gonna blow us all to kingdom come!'
This was no good. I needed to focus. I didn't need to be plagued by masturbatory fantasies when I had a stick of explosive in my hands. But for some reason
I couldn't get Tin-Tin Kyrano out of my head. Maybe it was the jungle that did it. The scent of earth and jasmine, and the hint of wildness - it all
reminded me of her. And while I'd spent every day for the last four months conquering the jungle wilds, taming it and stamping it with the tar-black
imprint of Gray and Houseman Constructions, I had never, in the short time she and I had been together, conquered Tin-Tin.
They say it takes a wake-up call. A single defining moment to clarify your thoughts and make you find your purpose in life. For me, that moment was as
dramatic as it can get - a misplaced charge that brought a rush of boulders crashing down towards the survey truck. There was no time for talk, for panic.
No time even for fear. There was only time for Chang and I to exchange a glance and brace ourselves for an impact that ultimately never came, the boulders
deflecting on an outcrop and thundering further down into the valley. But in the echoing silence that followed I stared at the clouded sky beyond the
windscreen of the truck, listened to Chang breathing hard as the adrenaline drained from his body, and thought about how fucked my priorities had become
and what the hell was I doing here, in this goddamned stinking jungle, when I could be - should be - with Tin-Tin?
'Chang,' I said, when my heart had stopped pounding against my ribs and I had enough control over my tongue to speak, 'I don't want to die in this
Chang turned to look at me, his face pale and his shirt soaked in perspiration.
'The minute this job is done,' I wiped at my face, grimacing as my fingers came away covered in sweat, 'I'm getting out of here.'
A month later and I was still working on bringing down the mountain, but at least the end was finally in sight.
'Eddie,' Bob boomed in that hard-edged nasal twang of his, 'you did wonders! I never thought you'd get through the mountain this side of the monsoon!'
I slid down into one of the hard-backed chairs that Bob kept in the site office for guests. They were annoying fuckers, with painful wooden arms and
upholstery that made my ass itch even through my underwear. 'Well,' I said, 'with any luck, we're going to make that date.'
Bob grinned. 'Let's drink to that!'
'We gotta make it,' I said, watching as Bob produced a half-empty bottle of VSOP from the cupboard beneath his desk. 'It's our first big contract.
We fall down on this one, and we've had it.'
'Well, Eddie, you played your part and I'll play mine. Providing I can get the road finished before the rains, we'll be okay.' The cork squeaked as he
prised it out of the bottle with his thumb.
'Yeah.' I'd done my bit, and blasted a hole through the mountain big enough for Bob's crew to get through. 'I guess it's over to you, now.'
'You just go off and enjoy your vacation. And don't worry!' He busied himself pouring the brandy into a pair of champagne glasses, the only glasses he had.
He used them for everything, from whisky to orange juice to that revolting cow piss he was always sculling down. 'Oh!' he said, like he'd forgotten
something important. He hadn't. 'Where ya goin' to?' He put the bottle down on the desk and looked at me, as though the answer to that question was the
most interesting thing on the planet. 'Anywhere special?'
'I, ah, er…' Suddenly, with the brandy sitting just out of reach and Bob staring at me, anticipating my response with way more interest than was
necessary, my grand plan to get back the woman I loved seemed somehow… ridiculous. 'Ah,' I hedged, looking for the right words. 'Just, ah, looking up
an old friend.'
If finding the whereabouts of Tin-Tin Kyrano had been like finding a needle in a haystack, then finding an uncharted island in the middle of the South
Pacific had been even worse. Even before I'd set off in the company jet - Bob's impulse purchase when we were just setting up - I'd had to scramble through
all my contacts, and some of Bob's, before I could pinpoint Jeff Tracy's island retreat on a map. And even now, as I approached a chunk of rock located
smack bang in the absolute middle of nowhere, I wasn't a hundred percent sure this was the exact chunk of rock I wanted. But a brief pass over the western
end revealed a tree-lined runway that ended neatly at the base of a rock wall, and a series of white-painted buildings that outright screamed money, so I
figured, well, this had to be the place.
There was one person waiting for me at the edge of the tarmac as I brought Bob's impulse purchase in for a neat three-point landing, and though I
recognised the man instantly, for some reason he pretended he didn't remember me at all.
'May I help you?' he asked in a clipped accent that was nothing like the dulcet tones of his beautiful daughter.
'Mr Kyrano?' I dropped my carryall to the ground and extended a hand. 'It's me, Eddie. Eddie Houseman.'
Kyrano's hands remained folded tight in the sleeves of his robe as his eyebrows ascended in perfect arcs over his deeply lidded eyes. Was that recognition?
Or was it plain old irritation at seeing my face again? 'You are here to see Mr Tracy?'
'Er…' I dropped my hand, wondering if the old guy was suffering from some kind of senile dementia. 'I guess.'
'Then please follow me.'
I collected my case as Kyrano turned and led the way along a narrow jungle path. I followed his blue-robed behind through a patch of palms and flowering
hibiscus and onto a flight of stairs that wound its way along the side of a white-stuccoed villa. Below the stairs I glimpsed the glimmering reflection of
a pool in bright sunlight, and the feet of somebody reclining fully-clothed on a lounger. It seemed a bit odd to be lying fully-clothed in the blazing
Pacific sun, and as I craned my neck to see more of the individual in question I misjudged the next step, stumbled, and fell face-first up the stairs with
a loud 'oof,' followed by an even louder 'shit.'
Kyrano turned to look inscrutably down at me, his hands never leaving the voluminous cavities of his sleeves.
'I'm okay,' I said, more to fill the awkward silence than to assure anybody I was okay. I picked myself up and glanced over the railing. The shoe-clad feet
were gone, but I caught a glimpse of smooth brown hair ducking back behind a patio umbrella.
'I'm okay,' I said again, brushing dust from my knees, but Kyrano apparently didn't care because he'd already disappeared onto the landing above. Shit. I scooped up my bag from where it had fallen and dashed the rest of the way up the stairs just in time to hear him say 'A gentleman here to
see you, Mr Tracy. A Mr Eddie Houseman.'
I paused on the other side of the door, dropped my bag to the tiles, tidied my hair with my fingers and straightened the jacket I'd bought in Singapore en route and just for this occasion.
It was then that I heard it.
The voice I'd been dreaming of for all this time. And it was saying my name.
'Eddie? Eddie Houseman!'
My hands fell to my sides and I swallowed, hard, my adam's apple catching on the collar of my turtleneck. I couldn't speak. Couldn't think. But I knew I
had to see her. Smell her perfume. Hear her voice saying my name again. I walked into the room and looked into the dark liquid of her eyes, and it was like
I worked in a man's world. Lived in a man's world. Was used to the alpha-dog bullshit games that men forever played with one another. Hell, I was no slouch
in the alpha-dog department myself. But here, in this broad expanse of room with the sun shining bright outside and the endless expanse of sea beyond and
the girl of my dreams looking on, I was alpha-dogged like no man has been alpha-dogged in his life.
Jeff Tracy looked at me, looked at Tin-Tin, and even though it was clear she knew exactly who I was, Jeff Tracy was planning to chew his way straight
through me regardless.
'Houseman?' He came to stand in front of me, sizing me up with the clear grey blaze of his eyes. He took my outstretched hand, shook it, tightened his
fingers around mine, and said, while I was still trapped in the warm, dry hardness of his embrace, 'I don't believe we've met. To what do we owe this
Emphasis on the 'unexpected.' And from the pressure of his fingers it was apparent that he didn't think my appearance was a pleasure. At all.
'I, ah…' I tried to extricate myself from his grasp. 'I actually came to visit Tin-Tin.'
Tin-Tin had left her chair by the window and was standing close by a tall, dark-haired man. There was the faintest expression of alarm in her eyes. I
looked at her, silently begged her for help.
'Eddie and I met while I was in college, Mr Tracy,' she said.
'Oh?' Tracy dropped my hand and turned to gauge her expression. 'Is that so?' He turned to Tin-Tin's father. 'Is that so, Kyrano?'
Kyrano stared impassively at his employer. 'I do not remember Mr Houseman, Mr Tracy.'
'Is that so,' Tracy said, in a curious tone, as though he had only just discovered they were making liquorice in rainbow colours and that he might like to
I turned incredulously to Kyrano. Was he fucking with me? 'How could you not - ' I shut my mouth. Now was definitely not the time. I looked again at
Tin-Tin and implored her with my eyes to help me, to get me out of this crazy situation. Instead, she stood frozen in place, uncertain, as though my
unexpected appearance had shaken her into awkward silence.
Of course. I was an idiot. I should have called first. Shouldn't have surprised her by sneaking up on her like that. But I was so certain she'd take me
back. So certain…
She lowered her eyes, as if all the hopes and dreams she read on my face had embarrassed her. She leaned towards the guy standing next to her, the movement
spurring him into sudden action.
If I'd been alpha-dogged before, I was now up against the king of the alphas, and all that was left now was for me to roll over and die.
'Scott,' Mr Dark-hair said, coming forward and reaching out for the inevitable handshake. I looked at the broad hand as Scott leant in towards me, glanced
back at Tin-Tin and immediately felt even smaller, even stupider than I'd felt a few short moments ago. Maybe Tin-Tin was with Scott? Or with the
brown-haired man I'd glimpsed down by the pool? A good looking gal like Tin-Tin… I shouldn't have expected her to stay single. I shouldn't have
expected her to be waiting around just for me. Christ, I was such a lame-ass, clinging to a stupid, pathetic dream.
I looked away from the uncertainty in her eyes and turned to face Scott just as his hand slid into my outstretched palm and sent a jolt of electricity
sparking from his fingers into mine. I looked into his eyes, made direct contact with the dynamo of the Tracy family, and felt my knees weaken and threaten
to drop me to the floor.
'Eddie,' I said, or tried to say, without the help of my rebellious tongue. 'Eddie,' I said again, weakly, caught a smirk forming at the corner of his
It was cool here, under the balcony. And dark.
I tapped a cigarette from its pack, lit it, and leaned back against the adobe wall of the house, listening to the sounds of the Tracys as they moved about
up above. There was distant laughter, footsteps on a timber floor, and the sound of fingers pressing aimlessly against piano keys.
I inhaled deeply on the cigarette, shoved both hands into my pockets and tried to forget the memory of a dinner that had, quite literally, sent me
screaming out here into the dark.
Jeff Tracy's mother had hated me from the minute I walked into the dining room. Oh, she disguised it well, fussing over me, making sure I had enough
cutlery, a glass of water, a glass of wine, and was there enough potato on my plate? She bustled her huge bosoms around me, made a production of handing me
the gravy boat, then clucked sympathetically when her finger caught in the handle and the gravy tipped in a warm brown cascade all over my lap.
'Oh dear,' she said, in that croaky old grandmotherly voice of hers. 'I'm so sorry, Mr Houseman. Dear oh dear oh dear,' she tsked theatrically as she
dumped a pile of paper napkins on top of the sticky mess, followed promptly by her fussing fingers.
'Please, Mrs Tracy,' I said, grabbing hold of the napkins and doing what I could to get her bony hands out of my lap. 'Call me Eddie.'
'Oh no, I couldn't.' Her fingers were like knobbly, wriggly spiders in my hands.
'Please, Mrs Tracy.' I glanced up, a handful of gravy-stained serviettes in one hand and Mrs Tracy's freckled fist in another, and caught a glimpse
of Tracy's youngest son, Alan, grinning around a forkful of beans.
'Oh, Eddie.' Tin-Tin pushed her chair away from the table and came to help me out of mine. 'Your clothes are ruined. You must go and change. Let me help
The smirk abruptly fell from Alan's face, was replaced with a scowl almost identical to the one his grandmother had been wearing all afternoon.
'It's alright Tin-Tin,' I said. 'I can manage.'
She leant over me as she surveyed the damage to my pants, her dainty bosoms pressing almost into my face. The uncertain girl of earlier had vanished some
time between lunch and dinner, and this new Tin-Tin didn't seem to notice anything, or any one, but me. She certainly didn't notice the furtive glances
that snaked their way around the table. She was like a peacock on parade, the demureness of her expression betrayed by the wriggle of her fanny beneath the
silk of her dress. 'At least let me take you to your room - '
'I'll do it!' Alan leapt up from his chair, almost tipping it over in the process.
'It's okay.' I dumped the soaked wad of napkins onto the table. 'I know where it is.'
'Not a problem.' Alan smiled charmingly at me. At Tin-Tin. 'It will be my pleasure.'
I looked at him, looked at the rest of the family as they returned to studiously shovelling food into their mouths.
'Alright, then.' I headed for the door, Alan two steps behind me like an Alactraz jailer. I felt like I was being marched to the firing squad, and I was
overtaken with an urgent desire to get the hell off this rock.
'I can take it from here.' I stopped outside the door of the room they'd allocated me.
But Alan didn't seem to want to let me out of his sight. 'Are you sure I can't help?'
What was he gonna do? Change my pants for me? 'It's okay. I'm sure I can manage. I'll meet you back in the dining room.'
He stared at me, appraising me, and then he nodded his acquiescence. 'Five minutes,' he said, in unequivocal ultimatum.
'Five minutes,' I echoed, assuaging his mistrust with a smile. I stepped through the door and closed it behind me, waited until his footsteps had receded
down the hall. 'My ass.'
Five minutes turned to ten, turned to twenty as I decided I really couldn't face another moment at the dinner table with the secretive glances and the
stilted conversation and Mrs Tracy's gravy pouring endlessly into my lap. Who knew what other horrors she might have had in store for me, and I suppressed
a shudder at the thought of scalding pie and custard cascading onto the Houseman family jewels. So I snuck out of the house and into the dark, and found
myself a nice spot to smoke and think right here under the balcony.
I was never one for reflection - it weren't for nothin' Bob had christened me 'Impulse Eddie.' But standing here in the shrubbery beneath the Tracy's
balcony, I had to wonder what the hell I was doing. I'd been fantasising about Tin-Tin for months, but now that I had her right here in front of me, my
thoughts were turning towards, ah… other things. Things by the name of 'Scott.' Sheeiiit. My eyes closed and I fumbled a hand around inside my
pocket, oblivious to the cigarette falling from my mouth to land in the earth at my feet as my fingers fiddled around inside my pants.
I opened my eyes.
Was there no end to the indignities of this weekend?
It was the man himself. And it was obvious he'd been out looking for me - probably worried I might steal all their diamonds. Or whatever the hell else it
was they seemed to be guarding so carefully.
I took my hand out of my pocket. 'Hey,' I said, as footsteps sounded on the balcony above.
Before Scott could respond, the owner of the footsteps above us said, loudly, 'Say, where's Tin-Tin got to, Gordon?'
Gordon's voice floated out, even louder. 'Don't tell me you haven't heard, Virgil? This prince charming flew in and is really sweeping her off her feet!'
I closed my eyes, cringing, felt the blood rush to my cheeks.
'Yeah!' came Gordon's reply.
This torment was clearly never going to end. I opened my eyes, took out another cigarette and proffered the pack as calmly as I could towards Scott.
There was the sound of piano keys crashing discordantly, and then Virgil's voice floated again out into the night. 'Was he as handsome as I am, Gordon?'
'Nearly, Virgil. Nearly!'
I risked a glance at Scott as light chinked onto his face from above, and I saw in that moment that he seemed almost as embarrassed as I was. 'Thanks,' he
murmured as his hand closed around the cigarettes, his fingertips briefly brushing mine as I let the pack go.
There it was again. A spark that sent my hand recoiling, sent a surge of lightning speeding straight into my pants. I took a step back in the pungent
earth, surrounded by the peaty, mossy smell of the night, and the faint sting of electricity lingering on my fingers. I looked into his eyes, saw nothing
there but sympathy. Well, at least there was that.
The piano keys crashed again, and then Alan's voice said 'knock it off, eh, fellas. What's got into everybody? Seems the only thing to talk about is Eddie
and Tin-Tin.' There was a brief pause, followed by a plaintive groan. 'They're just friends. That's all.'
This time Scott played the role of jailer, escorting me from my haven beneath the balcony and into the bright expansiveness of the living room above.
'Eddie!' Tin-Tin exclaimed, tripping lightly across the room to grab hold of my arm and pull me further towards the gathered family. 'Where ever did you
get to? When you didn't come back to dinner - '
'I'm sorry, honey, I, ah, needed some fresh air.' I brushed her hand away from my arm, trying to deflect the multitude of stares away from that tiny moment
of familiarity. But the gesture was clumsy, filled with all the awkwardness of a lone wolf wandering into marked territory as the pack circled, ears
pricked, sniffing the air, scenting me, targeting me for attack.
'Eddie,' she said, as her fingers clamped again around my arm. 'I thought we'd go for a ride on the ocean. The moon is full and it's beautiful out there.'
I brushed my hand lightly over hers, my eyes taking in the sea of silent, staring faces that surrounded us. 'That sounds wonderful, honey.' I squeezed her
fingers in silent supplication. Get me the fuck out of here!
'Good!' She tugged me playfully towards the door, oblivious to the horror on Alan's face, the smirk on Gordon's, the scowl that wrinkled Mrs Tracy's face
even more than it already was. Only Kyrano's expression remained blank and inscrutable as Mr Tracy dismissively returned his attention towards the bourbon
he had been funnelling into a tumbler over ice. Mr Handsome had apparently disappeared not long after his declaration of awesome good-lookingness, which
left only Scott, somewhere still behind me as I turned at Tin-Tin's insistent bidding and we moved on past him and back out the door. I didn't dare look at
him, feigning obliviousness to the pounding of my heart and the rush of blood to my groin as a cloud of aftershave, mingled with the musky scent of his
skin, wafted briefly past my face.
When Tin-Tin said we were going for a ride on the ocean, I kind of expected we'd be going on a yacht. I mean, this was the private playground of the most
filthily rich family on the planet, and the best they could come up with was a tin boat with an outboard? Although, it kind of fit with everything else I'd
seen so far during my day from hell. The house wasn't made of marble, the pool wasn't lined with sapphires, and the toilets sure as hell weren't plated
with gold. Tracy might have been a gazillionaire living on a tropic island, but everything else about him screamed 'normal.' I didn't know whether I should
have been disappointed or impressed.
I waited in the silver darkness as Tin-Tin untied the tiny outboard from the jetty and leapt nimbly in. She looked beautiful in the moonlight, strands of
dark hair falling across the glowing porcelain of her face as she fiddled with the starter button, and I was grateful for the familiar stirrings of the
lust I'd been wrestling with for so long in the jungle. What was I doing obsessing about Scott when I had Tin-Tin, right here in front of me? The engine
kicked into life and she looked up at me and smiled, an innocent gesture that fairly took my breath away.
'You look beautiful,' I said, the words drowned out by the roaring of the outboard. She must have read my lips, or the expression on my face, because her
smile broadened into one of pure happiness as she reached a delicate hand towards mine.
I stepped into the boat, twined my fingers into hers and brushed my lips lightly against her cheek. She didn't object when I moulded my body into hers and
curled my arms around her. 'You look beautiful,' I breathed into her ear, and she laughed and pushed me playfully away.
'Oh, Eddie,' she reprimanded, taking a seat in the stern of the boat. But the glint in her eyes indicated it was not a reprimand at all.
I settled down next to her as she guided us out towards the open ocean. The sea was ethereal beneath the pale light of the moon, but it was nothing
compared to the otherworldly beauty of her, and I glanced at her often as she steered us expertly over water that was dark and calm. She pretended she
didn't notice my glances, her eyes on the distant horizon, her profile open and exposed to my lingering gaze. Finally she took her hand off the tiller,
leaving the boat to describe wide circles across the surface of the sea.
'It was such a surprise to see you today, Eddie.' I could barely hear her over the motor as she turned to look at me.
'I know. I, ah…' I leaned in close to her, trying not to shout. 'I should have called first. I'm sorry.'
She smiled a Mona Lisa smile, then turned to look back at the ocean. 'I'm sorry how it ended.'
I looked at the dark rosebud of her lips.
She seemed to want to apologise. 'I shouldn't have done it the way I - '
I touched a hand to her face, lifted her chin with my fingers and kissed her perfect mouth.
'Eddie…' She pulled away. And then she said, 'I have missed you, Eddie.'
I leaned in again, looked at the moon reflecting in the dark pools of her eyes and brushed her lips lightly with my own. I slid a gentle hand along her
stomach… ah, there it was, that reticent yield that I remembered so well. Her head tilted back, lips parting ever-so-slightly, the gesture begging me
to defile her with my tongue. I dove into her, moved my hand beneath her sweater, the pressure in my pants so high I thought I was going to explode. Oh God…
I sat back, wincing at the interplay of rocking boat, cotton briefs, inseams and turgidity.
'What?' I said again, because what the fuck had I done?
'You're moving too fast,' she said, straightening her parka and making sure her little breasts were tucked well out of the way of my big, sunburned hands.
Too fast? Christ! I'd once eaten my lunch off her naked body, and now she tells me a harmless grope is going too fast?
'Okay,' I said, not understanding but agreeing, because I was so desperate to be with her. I curled an arm around her shoulders, pulled her close and gave
her a grandmotherly peck on the temple. 'Okay.'
The unravelling of my plans commenced at precisely 6:47pm the next day.
Tin-Tin had disappeared with Mrs Tracy to try on dresses for our evening in Viti Levu - an attempt at a date I'd organised in order to (a) get Tin-Tin off
the island, and (b) me out from under the suspicious glares that were continuously snaking my way. I'd returned to my room to wait when an intercom in the
wall activated - how come I'd never noticed that before? - and Jeff Tracy's voice said, through it, 'Eddie. Can you see me in my office?'
I slipped my shirt back on, took a minute to drain the python, checked my hair in the mirror and found my way to Tracy's office, tucked away in a little
corner of the lounge.
Tracy didn't even look up. 'Phone call.' He pointed a pen back over his shoulder, indicating the vid phone on the wall behind him.
'Oh,' I said, wishing I'd hadn't taken so long in the bathroom. I moved around the desk, turning sideways to shuffle through the small space between it and
the wall. Tracy made no move to give me any room or any privacy as I squeezed awkwardly into the space behind him.
I stood, staring at the vid phone.
'Green,' Tracy supplied without looking up from his paperwork.
'Thank you.' I pressed a sweaty thumb against the button in question, was rewarded with Bob's face full on the screen.
'Eddie! Glad I got hold of you. What took you so long?' Bob's nasal twang seemed louder than usual in the space behind Tracy's desk.
'Bob? What's up?'
'Eddie,' Bob said, his voice serious. 'It's bad. We've been having tremors.'
'So?' I was confused. Tremors weren't anything to worry about - the site was famous for its seismic activity.
'We've had a few falls on the cuttings,' Bob continued, but he must surely have seen the confusion on my face. 'Nothing to worry about, sure, we can clear
those no problem. But - '
Here it comes.
' - Eddie, the rains are here - '
' - and combined with the tremors there's a real chance they're going to bring the mountain down.'
We couldn't let a landslide ruin everything. 'Bob - '
'Eddie, I know what you're going to say, but it's no use. We'll never finish the road in time.'
'We can't give up now, Bob. We can't!'
'It's too late, Eddie.'
'Eddie, listen. We can wait 'til the spring - '
'We can't wait, Bob! If we don't make that date, the company's nothing!'
Bob closed his mouth.
'I'm coming back,' I said, into the silence.
Bob shook his head. 'Eddie… there's no point - '
'I'm coming back,' I said, more firmly. 'I'll be there in six hours.'
We stared at each other over the connection. 'Alright,' he said, finally. 'But it won't do us any good.' And then he leaned in and cut the connection.
I stood a moment in the cramped space between Jeff Tracy and the phone as the anger and the frustration washed through me, staring at the screen where
Bob's face had recently been and wishing desperately I could put my fist through it.
'Problem?' Tracy said into the silence.
I narrowed my eyes at the question, angled my head to look down at the top of Jeff Tracy's head. Of course there was a problem. He'd heard every fucking
word I'd said.
'Yeah,' I said as I navigated my way back out from behind the desk, trying hard to keep the anger from my voice. I came around to stand in front of him,
and he looked up with curiosity sparking in his eyes.
'It looks like we're not going to make our contract date,' I told him, 'and we've got everything riding on it.' I shook my head dismally. 'More than
'What's the problem?' he asked, with the first hint of interest towards me that he'd shown for the past two days. So I told him, briefly, and could
practically see his mind working, wondering if Gray and Houseman and their road building machines and their nutomic charges could be of any use in his line
of work. And maybe they could, but right now I had to go.
'Thanks, Mr Tracy.' I extended a hand, had it enveloped in his warm, dry grip. 'I appreciate your hospitality. And, ah, I guess I'd better go find Tin-Tin
and say my good byes.'
'Good bye, Eddie,' he said, with his grey eyes locked on mine, still sizing me up after two days of careful scrutiny.
I nodded. There was nothing else to say, anyway, and I was overwhelmed with my need to get away, to get back to the site and get the project back on track.
I walked out into the hall, my mind on the task ahead, my eyes on the parquetry of the floor, and somewhere inside me a nervous fear of my farewell with
Tin-Tin. In the space of one day and night I hadn't really got anywhere with her. She ran hot and she ran cold, and it was painfully apparent she was
hiding something. Our time together had been a confusion of mixed signals, and I was completely incapable of deciphering them.
I felt in my pockets for my cigarettes, cursed when I remembered I had left them in my room. I paused for a moment, standing undecided in the hallway and
staring at the floor beneath my feet.
I looked up.
Scott stood several paces away from me, clothed only in a pair of shorts and with sweat clinging to his bare, well-muscled chest. A dirty gym towel was
draped over one shoulder, a damp t-shirt flung carelessly over the other.
I really didn't need this. 'Impulse Eddie' was having troubles enough today, without having a hot and sweaty Scott Tracy shoved into his face.
He waited in the narrow passageway, looking awkward in his state of undress, and struggling with his urge to be polite. 'Is everything okay?'
'I, uh…' I looked at him, taking great pains to keep my eyes away from his naked torso. 'I, um, I have to leave.'
'Oh?' He raised a surprised eyebrow at me, and there was the faintest hint of relief in his voice. 'Emergency?'
'Kinda.' I blushed beneath his gaze, feeling like a schoolgirl nursing a playground infatuation. 'Business. I, ah, have to get back to the site.'
'Sure.' He nodded understandingly, lifted a corner of the towel and mopped at the sweat on his brow.
'Anyway.' I stepped towards him, reaching out for a handshake. 'I just wanted to say thanks.'
'No problem.' He wiped his hand against the back of his shorts before placing it firmly in mine.
There it was again. The moment our hands locked together my whole body went weak, and I held my breath a moment, savouring the feel of his fingers resting
And then I acted on this singular, same-sex attraction, leaned forward, and planted the Eddie Houseman special right on his moist, sweaty lips.
'What the hell?'
Scott lurched back, away from me, his voice echoing loudly along the corridor. 'What the fuck?' He glared at me, equal measures of confusion and
fury in his eyes. 'Seriously,' he said, like a record needle caught in a groove, 'what the fuck?'
'I didn't -' I said. 'I mean, I wasn't - ' Oh, what the hell. I lifted my chin, turning my face slightly for the inevitable sock to the jaw.
But Scott didn't need to punch me. The expression on his face had impact enough.
'Um,' I said into the silence, when the inevitable didn't come. 'I suppose I should go.'
'I suppose you should,' he said.
I looked at him, at the swelling thunder of him, and knew there would be no time for good byes with Tin-Tin.
Not after that.