If you are interested to know what happened next, Tim "Cocky" Sparrow, as he states himself, rather fades out of James Graveney's life. However James's later career in the Army can be traced in Max Markham's Richard Finch Novels. In the first of these, The Indigo Bird, set soon after Eau d'Orange Verte, James is posted to Belize, still a British colony and under threat from expansionist Guatemala. In Belize, James meets his fate, in the person of Lieutenant Richard Finch of the Parachute Regiment, a strong minded, charismatic younger man who wants a full and committed relationship with James and damn the consequences. Richard will stop at nothing, including murder, to achieve this desirable outcome. Here's how they meet:

Extract 1

A Para Advance Liaison Officer (ALO) called Lieutenant Richard Finch would be coming out from the UK and we would work together on a suitably challenging programme for the training visit. This included ten days' R & R at the coast after the main exercise. However, while he gave an arrival date, Mr Finch did not say whether he would want to be met at the airport. It emerged that he would be travelling down by public transport (train and bus) from the USA, like Paul Theroux, so his adventures had already started.

So, on the day, I learned that he had turned up, checked into the rather austere Metropole Hotel, and would like me to take lunch with him at the Mess to discuss ideas for the training programme. The Mess was very informal; a club with a swimming pool; you could eat and drink on the terrace beside it. (There was also a more formal dining room; air conditioned, with waiter service). He would wait for me there. When I arrived, I did a double-take. Firstly, I was surprised at how smartly he was turned out. He did not look like a man who had just been on a picaresque Theroux adventure. He was in well-cut 'stone coloured' tropical No 2 dress. Secondly, for a weird moment, I thought that it was Cocky Sparrow. I actually said aloud 'It's Cocky'. There was a facial resemblance in the dark curly hair; the upturned nose; the supercilious air and the amused eyebrows. However closer examination revealed that he was older; closer to my age and more muscular, though still slim and young-looking. He was also a bit taller. The hair was shorter. He was quite aloof; he had made no attempt to chat to the people at the bar and was sitting by himself at a table under a sun-shade, sipping a gin and tonic and skimming The Spectator. He seemed to be there to speak to me, and for no-one else.

When he saw me walking towards him, he stood up to shake my hand. He did so long before I got to the table, so I had a good long look at him, and vice-versa. He clearly knew exactly who I was. He had a disarming smile, but above the smile Cocky Mark II had machine-gunner eyes. He was a fighting-cock, no mistake; as hard as nails. This chap had no, or little, gentleness, but great charm and élan. His voice was cultured; slightly hoarse and very pleasant. I was later to discover that he spoke excellent French, Russian and Spanish. We shook hands. He had a good, strong grip and held onto my hand a fraction longer than usual, while looking me firmly in the eye. With his free hand he made an odd little gesture: he patted my biceps. It was almost a token embrace. This was - quite literally - touching. While he made no other gesture, I thought of French officers kissing me formally on the cheek on ceremonial occasions of Anglo-French togetherness.

"Major Graveney, Sir, I am delighted to meet you. Thank you for your help in organising our training."

"Mr Finch, likewise. Please call me James. We are leaving tomorrow on a recce. We shall be together a great deal over the next few days."

He smiled. "I look forward to that. I'm Richard; not Dick, Dickey or Rick." It emerged how he had recognised me so easily. "Well," said Richard, "I looked at your portrait every day for three weeks in England before I flew over to the States." This was intriguing. Then Richard explained that, in addition to being his Company's Adventurous Training Officer, he had also become its Physical Education Officer. He had therefore to attend a crash course at the Army Physical Training School at Aldershot, whose corridors were lined with photos of winning athletic and sporting teams. "And there you were," he said; "Captain of this, that and the other. In rugby shorts in one photo; stripped to your swimming trunks, arms folded, in another; in cricket whites...and then I learned that you would be here."

"Well, I hope that the reality lives up to expectation," I said. "I'm a few years older now."

He leant back and looked me up and down almost insolently. Suddenly, he wasn't smiling anymore. He was almost expressionless. His dark eyes had fixed mine and he seemed to be looking deep inside me. I could not read him at all; he wouldn't let me, but he was reading me. I could not even tell whether he liked what he saw. I found that I could not look away. I thought of all the occasions when I had fallen short of glory: acts of meanness and cowardice. It was slightly frightening. And I strongly suspected that he knew this. I frowned at him. I had to break the spell.

I touched his forearm. "Hey, Richard, what's up?"

He wasn't saying. Then he smiled again, in an amused way, with what my mother's generation would have called 'devastating charm'.

"Oh yes indeed," he finally said. I realised one of the things I was up against. This was an unreformed Cocky Sparrow, who had not had the benefit of my training and leadership, and had had none of the cockiness knocked out of him. On the contrary: he had made cockiness into an art form. This could be either amusing or very tiresome indeed. He didn't break eye-contact.

"I'm glad that you decided to wear Tropical No 2s," I remarked. "Because today I cannot deliver the working lunch that you requested. The Colonel wants us both to lunch with him and he should be here any minute. So your dress is exactly right. We should be moving indoors to greet him in the ante-room. Come on."

Richard continued to hold my gaze. "Don't worry; I was forewarned; it's very courteous of your Colonel," said Richard. As we rose from the table, his No 2 Dress, worn with long trousers and highly-polished shoes, fell into place in a single ripple of elegance: Beau Brummell in tropical stone-coloured. Despite his youth, I noticed that he wore a couple of medal ribbons, including a UN decoration. Where had he got those? He set his red beret firmly on his head and we marched indoors.

Extract 2

It does not take long for Richard to get down to business: the following day, in fact:

The drive up-country, bowling across the savannah and into the jungle, went well and we reached the safari lodge late in the afternoon. It was there that things began to get interesting. We were the only guests in the safari lodge, although more were expected at the weekend, so the staff were falling over themselves to look after us. Having done most of the driving, I was a bit tired; had stripped off, showered and was cleaning my teeth in my bathroom, when Richard came in. He was wearing a bathrobe and nothing else. He walked over to me. He smiled, touched my backside; said 'Bed' and walked into the bedroom, where he stood waiting for me.

"You've got a bloody nerve," I said, after I had washed out my mouth.

"I know," said Richard. "But I generally get what - and whom - I want. I always could; even before I got fit; when I was still a youth' (And before you started rowing, boxing, running marathons, lifting weights and (for all I know) honking steroids, I thought). 'It always works. Come closer, James. You'll see."

He was standing, naked now, confident, making that beckoning "come to me, bring it all on" gesture that wrestlers use, with both hands. Not only had Richard studied Ancient Greek; he even contrived to look like an ancient pagan Greek statue. The one defect was that his nose had been broken and re-set at some time and was now permanently retroussé. He was a damaged work of art. Most genuinely ancient works of art are damaged. His smile was mischievous and implacable at the same time; the smile of a capricious Greek god; with his impenetrable dark eyes, his close-cropped curly hair, his sensuous lips and his dangerous grace. Outside a museum of classical art, I had rarely seen anyone as good-looking or well-proportioned. He was obviously very strong indeed. He looked as handsome and assured naked, as he did fully-clad. There was something inhuman, even alarming, about such perfection: I could understand how, although only aged about twenty-six, he could be intimidating. I felt sorry for silly, tactless Roger Cooper: I would have felt still more so, had I known what Richard was planning for him. Luckily, I did not. I was however about to discover what he had planned for me.

"Come to me, James,", he called. "You can't escape!" My alarm bells rang softly, but I still moved forward. As I did so, he suddenly stopped smiling and gave me The Look. Once again he seemed to read me. I felt very naked. He knew exactly what I was feeling: It doesn't matter that I'm bigger than him: he's going to take me; he's going to hurt me; he's going to fuck my brains out. And I'm up for it. I want it. I want him more than I have ever wanted anything.

I came closer. Richard put his arms round me and kissed me. I noticed that his skin was smooth and hairless, which made his muscles stand out (in fact, he shaved all over), and his skin had an unusual and pleasant smell of honey. This turned out to be natural to him; not his after-shave. It became more noticeable when he was excited. At that point his personal aphrodisiac took effect. It was like a mild electric shock. Our breathing started to synchronise. I experienced a stiff erection; so did he. He stroked my cock and balls, then:

"Do you understand what I mean now, James?"

"Yes, Richard, I do. Blimey, yes!"

He chuckled again. "As I said, it always works; and now - to work!"

(Remember still the flowering of the amber blood and bone, The rippling of bright muscles like a sea...)

Seconds later, we were at it. Utrinque Paratus (ready for anything) is the Paras' regimental motto, but I was not ready for what was coming to me. Athletic, untiring and inventive were the words for Richard's love-making. If I showed signs of flagging, he would sink his teeth into my neck, pectorals, armpits, buttocks, or the sensitive, loose skin of my scrotum. This produced a convulsive reaction from me, and multiple orgasms. Finally, when we were incapable of any more, we lay side by side, exhausted. I caught my breath and managed to speak:

"What sort of animal are you? You're insatiable! You almost drew blood!"

He laughed. "I can answer that. A 'randy little monkey' is what a big friendly US Marine in Quantico recently called me when I topped him. I should fit in well in Belize; I gather that there is no shortage of monkeys here. Ask me another?"

"Well, for fuck's sake, why me?" I asked.

He chuckled once more. "An easy answer would be 'You were there' but, to be truthful, I had determined to make a pass at you even before I left England. Are you really unaware how attractive you are? You have a few admirers in 4 Coy: all three of us who have been to the Army Physical Training School, plus one or two others who have seen the photos of you that I managed to acquire there by devious means. I fancied the shorts off you, James, just looking at your team photos. I have jacked myself off in front of that photo of you in your trunks. And there were other promising indications. I made a few enquiries. I now know a lot about you."

"This is unhealthy. You're a fucking stalker."

Richard was contemptuous. Again he gave me The Look. "Of course I fucking am! Haven't you ever been there yourself? What is any amorous, fuck-struck young man, straight or queer, but a stalker? And you are eye-candy! How do you feel about that?" He grinned mockingly.

"What if I'd turned out to be straight and married, for Chrissake?"

"So you admit you aren't straight, or not completely? You ought to be more careful. It would have made no difference. Believe me, straight men get fucked! Anyway, they do when I'm around and I have not had many complaints. I can usually pull straight men if I really want to. I've had a lot of married men. Shall I tell you what the straight men always say the morning after? 'It's along the lines of: 'God, I was so pissed that I can't remember anything about last night' - so unoriginal. To which a true gentleman always replies 'No; nor can I!'"

We both laughed. Then he became serious again.

"'I'm crazy about you," he said quietly. This came as a surprise: it was hard to imagine Richard being crazy about anyone; apart, possibly, from himself. "I have wanted you so much, ever since I saw those photos. I cannot believe that it is just a coincidence that we have been thrown together here."

"Thanks for the compliment. Be warned though, I don't do Love. Sex I enjoy; I have no problem sharing my body with you. I have already shared it with quite a few, male and female'. (He looked annoyed at this). 'Kameradschaft I can offer; in my experience it usually lasts longer than the other thing. But that's all. When we get back to Belize City, we'll have to be a lot more careful. I have a reputation to lose, even if you do not. I am also your superior officer, so we shall have to observe the customary courtesies in public. Moreover this is a conservative and religious society, in which the British protecting forces are guests. The only reason the country is not independent; the reason why we are here; and the reason why we are tolerated, is the threat from Guatemala. In Belize gay sex is both illegal and offensive to God. We have to respect that. Finally, you fell for a photo; probably a flattering one. You have as yet no idea what I'm like inside."

"What's Kameradschaft? I never studied German. Does it mean 'shafting my comrades?'" asked Richard hopefully.

"Not exactly: It's the same word as comradeship in English or camaraderie in French, but stronger. Male bonding; strong friendships; military loyalty: that sort of thing."

"Well, I guess that I might have to settle for Kameradschaft' said Richard 'though ideally I want more; a lot more. And talking of male bonding experiences, it's time for our evening run."

Richard and I became fuck-buddies. Once he had seduced me, we could not keep our hands off each other. I never slept alone; I never ran alone. I seldom got to shower alone; he would be there with me, arms round me, usually wanting sex and not taking 'no' for an answer. We had a fight early in the relationship, as he seemed very reluctant to let me fuck him, but there has to be reciprocity. That is part of the deal. He was as arrogant as a Spanish hidalgo; as tough as nails; as self-willed as Lucifer: a real alpha male. For all that I was bigger than him, I had a hard time wrestling him down. He fought like a tiger, in complete silence. Finally I took him. That was the only time that he made any sound; a strange, desolate cry as I forced my way in. I think that I hurt him. Afterwards, completely exhausted, we lay there looking at each other. It later occurred to me that this might be how he liked it; the only way he could take it: a savage fight, then rough sex, culminating in his rape by a bigger man. Despite his 'film-star' looks, there was nothing remotely feminine about Richard. He was a very hard man; even a dangerous one. He was gay because he was so masculine; could not relate to women at all, although they found him attractive. He could only ever have been a soldier and had the makings of a brilliant one, but the British Army regarded him askance because of his suspect sexuality. That was how he, and others like him, had ended up in 4 Coy. So there was no question of Richard meekly letting a friend take him, however much he might have loved the friend. There had to be a fight first; a real one.

Extract 3

After an exciting time during the Falklands Conflict, James and Richard find themselves together again; this time in Africa. The Vertical Land, The Inner Land and The Maverick Strain chronicle what happened there. Here is an example. In this episode, James is being seduced in Nairobi by a charming Irishman, Adrian Lalor, who has links with the IRA.

My attention focused on Lalor. He was seated in a garden chair, with his feet on the balcony railing. He was naked apart from a pair of very brief black swimming trunks and a layer of sun-tan oil. He waved me to the vacant chair beside him. On a small table was a jug of iced orange juice, tumblers and a bowl of salted nuts.

"Hello, Colonel. Would you look at that, now! You are elegant; like Robert Redford in The Great Gatsby! Have a seat, have some juice; nibble my nuts! As you can see, I'm topping up my tan. In a moment I shall have a lightning shower, dress, and then ring for our lunch. I've taken the liberty of choosing the menu for us both; I hope that you'll like it."

I had expected him to be fully clad, possibly in a suit. This near-nakedness was something that I had not foreseen. Lalor was bloody attractive, if you did not mind red hair and freckles, which I did not. These, with darker brows; keen, green eyes; and a flashing, big-toothed smile, made a pretty good combination. Naked, he showed a really hard body; no visible fat and plenty of muscle. I am a 'leg' man; especially for masculine legs. Now I was sitting beside one of the finest pairs that I had seen for ages; Richard's and the England rugby team's included. I would need to exercise self-control. The last thing I needed was to end up in bed with Lalor and then get blackmailed. There was a question whether he knew that I was bisexual and had planned this, or whether it was pure mischance. I thought it unlikely that mercenary captain Baron von Celle would have told him about our fling at Highgate.

"What is this interesting message from the Baron?" I asked expectantly.

"Ah, yes. Michael von Celle has taken a shine to you. A big shine, I might say. He says: In at most ten years you'll be finished with the Army. Why not come and work for him? The private military sector will be expanding; someone with your experience could do very well in it. Not personally overthrowing governments or leading troops in battle: researching and planning at HQ."

I answered, "When I finish with the Army, I have to become a farmer. My father cannot be expected to manage the family estate indefinitely. He'll want to retire some day."

"Really? My father's a farmer, too! I know a bit about farming: very hard work for very little pay. The Baron would pay you much more than you're earning at present. In fact, he'd like you to come on board soon. You could easily pay a farm manager from the proceeds."

Over my dead body, I thought. Hireling farm managers are usually bad news.

"You know, Adrian, you may be talking to the wrong man. Richard Finch is a much more promising potential mercenary than I. He has SAS experience."

Adrian looked pretty pissed off. "We're talking about you; not Mr Finch. The Baron likes you."

"I'll need to think it over. It's not an offer to be turned down lightly. I'm sure he'd allow me a week or so to think it over. I'll have a word with him. Is he at home in Germany?"

"No; in London."

"Well, I've got that number as well. I'll ring him. But on the last occasion that I met him, here in Nairobi, he seemed to take quite a shine to Richard too, I assure you."

Lalor looked really annoyed. "There is no question of the Baron's offering a job to Richard Finch. I am one of his senior executives; I could not work with Finch. I sometimes wonder whether you know what your Assistant Military Attaché is really like. Are you aware what he used to do in Northern Ireland? I suppose that he was wished on you by the Ministry of Defence?"

"It doesn't work like that anymore, Adrian. People have to apply, show an interest in, and aptitude for, the job. Richard was the best candidate. I saw his CV before I agreed his appointment. Anyway, I've known him on and off for several years: he's quite an old friend."

"He's a lot of other things as well. But let us not talk of Finch. Excuse me a second. I'm going to change."

Lalor unhooked his feet from the balcony rail and went indoors. I had time to notice that he had a nice ass, partly exposed by his brief trunks. I got a hard-on. Damn. Remarkably quickly, he sluiced off the suntan lotion and dried himself. AS he probably intended, I caught glimpses of him naked as he messed around, getting his clothes. He soon reappeared in chinos and a vividly striped short-sleeved shirt hat brought out the luminous green of his eyes. Lunch was now brought in. It was exactly right for that warm day: iced Malindi oysters, followed by poached salmon-trout with vegetables and salad. Cheeses followed, and a dessert of fresh strawberries and pineapple. We drank cold White Cap beer; it was too warm for wine. I suddenly, not entirely irrelevantly, thought:

"We'll sport and be free with Moll, Betty, and Dolly, Have oysters and lobsters to cure melancholy:

Fish-dinners will make a man spring like a flea, Dame Venus, love's lady, Was born of the sea!

With her and with Bacchus let's tickle the sense For we shall be nothing a hundred years hence!"

It had definitely been a fishy, and aphrodisiac, lunch. The conversation however turned serious; we spoke about Sudan and the military situation there. Presently:

"I have to increase my team in Sudan," said Lalor. "The situation demands it. Security has deteriorated. So I've been doing a bit of recruiting in Ireland; north and south. I need to bring my new guys in through Kenya. Can you foresee any problem?"

"No; I am fairly sure that Irish citizens do not need visas; you should know. British ones certainly do not. My only word of caution is not to mention the M-word. The word 'mercenary' sends a neuralgic shudder through all insecure African governments. And the Kenyan one is very insecure at present. They'll need a cover story; tourists or business visitors, perhaps. When do you expect them?"

"Within the next two weeks; probably exactly one week from today. Look, if there's a problem and I cannot get down here could you help?"

This was pretty cool. I was being asked to facilitate the passage of some of the IRA's finest into southern Sudan, to set up a terrorist training camp: and no doubt to compare best practice with such humanitarian luminaries as HE the rebel Governor of Western Equatoria; he of the mass castration of prisoners. Evidently Adrian thought that I was not aware, or not fully aware, of his own past.

"Does the Baron know about this?" I asked.

Lalor looked annoyed again. "No; I did not consult him about this particular recruitment. But it is well within my delegated budget. He's delegated considerable authority to me because of the remoteness of the area in which I am working at present."

"But it is not just about budgeting, is it? There must be policy considerations too. I wonder what he'd say if he knew that you'd recruited the likes of Kevin Doylagan? For that matter, I wonder what the Quadrilateral Oil Company would think?"

"You are well-informed! Well, the Baron trusts my judgement. I consider Kevin Doylagan very well suited to the job for which I've recruited him."

"Hmm... really? I too know quite a lot about him; not all of it reassuring."

"Look", said Lalor, "I can see that there are two subjects on which we shall never agree. One is Richard Finch and the other is Kevin Doylagan. So let's not talk about them. I wasn't bullshitting when I said that I wanted to enjoy your company. I had a business reason for seeking this meeting and now we've discussed that. I'll let the Baron know that you'll be in touch directly. End of subject. Now, tell me how you came to know Tony and Caroline Masters? And I've a really good bottle of single-malt here; I also have Highland Spring water and plenty of ice. Or would you prefer a spritzer?"

For the next thirty minutes Lalor tried hard to get me drunk. He did not succeed; I am versed in this technique. Whenever he looked away I would empty my glass into a potted plant nearby; a deplorable waste of spritzers, I know. He also did his best to charm me. In this he was rather more successful. His ready smile; the vivid green eyes; the soft Irish accent, the infectious laugh, were all very seductive. He clearly knew or had guessed that that I was AC-DC. While happy to be charmed, I had no intention of letting it go beyond that, and was starting to think of excuses to make before leaving. Lalor suddenly stood up and kissed me. Oh fuck. He was a good kisser. His tongue was inside my mouth and he was making a noise like the murmur of innumerable bees. Hands explored. Against my better judgement, I was enjoying this. I did so for several minutes.

"D' you often do this to casual acquaintances?" I gasped.

 

Max Markham

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