Bodie woke in the dark, flat on his back, with blood in his mouth. He prayed the blood was his own and that the end would come quickly.
Fucking Cowley, sending them here. He should have fucking known better. A secret research facility in Essex that wasn't answering its calls? Fuck. And Cowley had ordered a general call out: all available agents to attend. He might as well have sent a flock of lambs into a pack of ravening wolves.
Lucas and McCabe had been the first to die, cut down moments after they'd entered the installation by things none of them could understand. There had been movement and speed and blood, and then they were running, all semblance of training and discipline gone to hell.
Anson had been the first to turn. He'd barely had the time to wipe the blood out of his eye before the change had started. The rest of them had watched in disbelief as a trusted, if irritating, colleague had torn into them. There was more blood, more screaming.
They'd fallen back, then, the few of them left. Attacked on all sides, waiting for their own to become the enemy, whatever that enemy was. Then Bodie had been struck and blacked out, and now he was waiting for death, or not-death, hoping Ruth would put a bullet in his head if he turned until he remembered what Ruth had turned into.
Something grabbed the back of his collar and started to pull. He struggled and thrashed, realizing he still wanted to live, that all hope had not left him.
"Bodie." Murph's voice was tense, panicked, as far from his usual unflappable calm as was possible. "Get up, you stupid fucker. Run!"
Bodie got up. He ran. They cleared the facility, breaking into the weak sunlight with those things on their heels, nearly the entire A squad fitting into one Capri. Bodie held his head in his hands as Jax climbed in beside him, Murphy pulled out of the car park with a squeal of tires, and Sally called Control. Bodie only heard a few words in his haze. "All lost" and "firebomb" and "nuke".
Ray, he thought, closing his eyes tightly against the images of bloodshot eyes and bared teeth ravaging his memory. Where the fuck are you, sunshine?
Doyle swam up through a sea of confusion, pain and thirst and screaming and red and fear flowing and crashing over him, threatening to drown him. Panic drenched him, swamped him, made him fight through the darkness until he emerged at the surface, emerged into the light, gasping and blinking, struggling to make sense of the place in which he found himself.
It was a hospital room. He could tell that by the stained ceiling tiles above him, the hulking machines surrounding him, the lumpy mattress under him. But there was something wrong.
He was alone for a start. No nurses, no doctors, and, most importantly, no Bodie. Few were the times he'd woken up in hospital without the half-Irish son of a bitch sitting beside him.
He was also surrounded by silence.
He'd been in a lot of hospitals—rather too many, really—and the one thing he knew about hospitals was they were never silent. There were always nurses chattering about pills and treatments and the nearest wine bar, and visitors nattering on about how the roses had blight this year. There were always machines beeping, and lights buzzing, and some poor bastard down the hall moaning in pain.
But not now. The machines surrounding him were silent, the lights weren't on, and there was no human voice chatting or moaning. Bloody power must be off, he thought. But hospitals always had backup generators. He knew that much, even if he didn't have a fucking clue how he'd ended up in this bed.
Doyle blinked and fought to focus, to think, to remember. He tried to sit up, gasping in pain as he caught the IV line running into one arm. He gritted his teeth and pulled the needle out, the empty IV bag just one more thing that was wrong about this day.
"Hello," he tried to call out, but his voice was dust in his throat. He grabbed at the jar on the stand beside him, his arm shaking from the effort as he greedily swallowed the water it contained.
The water helped. He eased out of the bed, and crossed to the door, only to find it locked.
"Hello!" His voice was coming back, but he could hear the panic in it. Who the fuck locked a hospital room? And why? He pushed against the door, but the only thing that gave way was his own strength, and he collapsed to the floor, the flimsy hospital gown flapping around him. Frustration nearly overwhelmed him, but then he caught a flash of metal on the floor beside him. The key.
More grateful than a raw recruit who's just been bought a round by George Cowley, he unlocked the door, and found more nothing. No nurses, no doctors, no patients, no visitors. Nothing and no one.
He moved to the nurses' station and picked up a phone. He had to call Bodie. Or Cowley. Or anyone at CI5. Surely they'd know what was going on. But the phone line was as dead as the lights. He tried every phone on the floor, and not one of them worked.
He had to get back to HQ, and not in this fucking gown. He found a set of scrubs in a linen cupboard, a pair of too-big shoes in a locker room, and changed in front a mirror that offered some explanation of why he'd found himself in a fucking hospital: his face had the fading remnants of bruises down one side, and half his curls had been shaved to reveal a half-healed jagged scar. He touched the scar gingerly, wondering how the fuck he'd got it when the last thing he remembered was being behind the wheel of his Capri and hearing Cowley himself order a callout to a secured facility in Essex. Had he been in a car accident? Had he been injured in the raid? Was it something to do with the mysterious absence of all people in the hospital?
Well, there was no way of finding out here, so he headed for the stairs.
It took him a long time to reach the ground floor. He'd been overwhelmed with dizziness twice on the way down, and had to sit down once when his legs had given out. When he finally emerged from the stairwell into the lobby, he found it in worse shape than the ward. Furniture was strewn about, curtains had been ripped off a window, and there were suspicious brown stains on the floor. But there were no bodies, and still no people who could answer his questions.
He emerged into the light of an overcast and eerily silent afternoon in front of Guy's Hospital. The building was surrounded by a chain link fence, one that was nearly torn down in places, and there were buses and vehicles parked haphazardly on both sides of the barrier.
He turned west, towards Westminster and headquarters and, so he hoped, Bodie. Bodie would know what was going on. Bodie would help.
Bodie was all the safety he needed.
They made it to headquarters in one piece, and without a bomb dropping on their heads, though later Bodie would wonder if it wouldn't have been better if some RAF Air Marshall had decided to nuke Essex and London from the face of the earth and be done with it.
CI5 was buzzing with activity, with the surviving A squad looking grim and the B squad looking like they were about to throw up. They delivered their report to Cowley directly, Bodie, Sally, Murphy and Jax, though none of them could quite agree on the details, and all of them made it sound like they'd lived through a penny dreadful novel. Which they had, really.
"Has anyone heard from Doyle?" Bodie asked, breaking into Jax's narrative of Anson's transformation. "Was he there? Did he make it back?"
"4.5 has not been heard from since the incident," Cowley said sharply, the expression on his face enough to drain all hope from Bodie's heart.
"But was he there?" Bodie pressed, willing to hear a hard truth, as long as he heard the truth. He wanted to be sure Cowley wasn't protecting him from Ray's death, wasn't ensuring one of his agents would work to full potential when he needed him most. As if he wouldn't always be a professional.
"He was responding, like the rest of you. But he had further to go. He was following up a lead in Hammersmith. Thought he'd caught wind of those IRA bombers you two were chasing down."
"And after? When Sally reported in?"
"After I heard from Sally, I pulled all remaining agents back to headquarters. Doyle should have heard the recall." Cowley took a deep breath and looked at Bodie with a gaze that mixed steel with a small dose of compassion. "If he was able to hear it."
"But he's not here?"
"No. We've had no word from him." Cowley waved off Betty as she brought in a stack of folders, giving Bodie more time than he probably deserved. "There are half a dozen agents missing, besides the ones you've accounted for."
"But you'll let me know. If you hear anything."
Cowley nodded, before he pushed them out of the office. Bodie was already planning out his search for Ray as he overheard Cowley ask Betty to get Downing Street on the phone.
Things were bad, and looking to get so very much worse. If this was how London, how England was going to end, Bodie was going to make very sure that he faced that end with Raymond Doyle at his side.
Someone had given Doyle a book when he was a teenager, something about giant plants taking over the world. He'd thought it was a bit of a laugh at the time, but it came to mind now as he walked through a London completely devoid of people, living or dead.
He'd often complained about the crowds and the traffic of central London, but now he'd have given anything for a proper traffic jam. For horns sounding and yobbos shouting at each other. The only sounds he could hear as he reached the Embankment were the wind whispering through alleys between buildings and the caws of a few stray crows. He wondered if the ravens had got out of the Tower. He'd had a teacher, old Mrs MacGruder, who liked telling them the legend of the ravens. How if the ravens ever left the Tower of London, a great disaster would befall England. It looked like the old girl's disaster had finally arrived.
He still felt weak, but he'd been trained to ignore weakness. He crossed the river at Charing Cross Bridge, then carried on toward Westminster, walking in the middle of the road and wishing more than ever before that he had his weapon with him. Having no one, absolutely no one, around was even more unnerving than being surrounded by enemies.
As the Houses of Parliament drew closer, Doyle found himself hoping that he'd find soldiers and barricades. He found the barricades, an imposing metal fence, but no soldiers, which only added mystery upon mystery.
And then he found a partial answer.
A newspaper drifted in front of him, just one of the millions of pieces of paper he'd seen since he'd left Guy's, one of the many pieces of detritus that was building up, now that there were no workers to clean them up. He wasn't sure why he picked up this particular newspaper, but he did. It was the front page of the Standard, and the headline was one word: Evacuation.
England was being evacuated. Had been evacuated.
There were references to a virus and infection and violence, but none of it made sense to him, not while he was still dealing with the impossible become reality.
England emptied of her people. Jesus. Cowley must be apoplectic. If he was still alive.
And the possibility of a world without Cowley brought thoughts of an even worse possibility: a world without Bodie.
What if Bodie hadn't survived this disaster, whatever it was?
Doyle crushed the paper in his hand, even as he was buffeted by waves of shock and fear and possible grief.
Bodie couldn't be dead. He fucking couldn't be. He was too mean to die, too canny to fall to any virus or garden-variety riot. He had to be alive. Doyle wouldn't have it any other way.
Throwing the newspaper aside, and ignoring legs that threatened to buckle underneath him with every step he took, he started running.
Bodie had been catching what sleep he could, what sleep he had time for, in the rest room, when Murphy had burst in and shaken him awake.
"What the fuck, Murph? I haven't slept in days." Bodie tried to shake off the exhaustion that now permanently clung to him.
"I haven't either, Bodie. None of us has. But I thought you'd want to know. Someone's seen Doyle at Guy's."
"What?" Bodie sat up, a spike of adrenaline doing what pure force of will could no longer do to wake him up fully. "Who's seen him? Are they sure it's him?"
"It was Lena. Nurse I dated a while back. They just rotated her to the trauma ward, and she saw Doyle. Said he's been there since the day of the attack."
"Is she sure it's him?" After so many days of wondering, of suspecting Doyle was dead, even as he refused to give up hope, he didn't want to find this was just another blind alley.
"Yeah. She said after that last Christmas party, she's never going to forget the pair of you."
Bodie remembered a night of too much lager, a sprig of mistletoe, and Murphy's latest bird giving him a wink.
"Yeah, I guess she'd remember us." Murphy gave him a look, but didn't ask for an explanation. But if it were Doyle in the hospital… "Why didn't he call? Why didn't the fucker at least let me know he was alive?"
"He couldn't." Murphy collapsed on the sofa beside him and put what he must have thought was a comforting hand on Bodie's arm. "He'd been in a crash. He's in a coma, mate. Has been from the start. Things have been so crazy that no one had time to track down his next of kin."
"Jesus." Bodie shook off Murphy's hand and stood. "I have to go, Murph. I have to go there now."
"You can't mate. There's no leaving the Whitehall safe zone just now, and crossing the river is nearly impossible. The infected are everywhere. When Lena called, she said they're thick around Guy's. The only thing saving the hospital was that the Met were actually on the ball over there and set up good barricades. You'll never get in."
"I don't care. I've got to try, Murph." It didn't make sense. If Doyle were in a coma, there was nothing Bodie could do for him. But he had to see Doyle, just one last time before this fucking impossible fight took them both down.
"Christ," Murphy whispered, looking down at the ground like nothing so much as a man who was about to do something he was going to regret so very much. "Well, you can't go alone, now can you?"
"You don't have—"
"Shut up, Bodie. Just shut up. I'm going to help you, and you know it. Just like I know you're going to try to get to Guy's whether I help you or not."
"Thanks, Murph." Bodie punched him on the shoulder. "You're a brick."
"You can thank me when we're back in one piece." Murphy blew out a big breath and set his shoulders. "Now, why don't we see if the army has a tank going spare."
The street where CI5 headquarters was found looked much like the rest of London: dead, deserted and desolate, though perhaps with a few less random bits of paper drifting down the road.
Doyle approached the building warily, not knowing quite what to expect. Bodies strewn in the corridors? Offices booby-trapped by agents long since vanished or dead? Cowley himself, still working to make an empty England safe for its missing people?
The reality of the place was more mundane. It was empty, as the hospital had been empty, as the streets had been empty. Dark corridors were home to nothing more than dust motes and echoing memories.
Doyle checked the rest room, Cowley's office. He even broke down and checked Records. He found no one, living or dead, and no indication of where the remaining members of CI5 might have got to.
But if the halls of CI5 held no answers, there were others things to be gained. Doyle headed for the locker room, relieved to find it still held his change of clothes and a spare pair of boots he'd always meant to take home and had never got around to. He shed the scrubs and the too large trainers that had already begun to blister his right foot, and gratefully shrugged into his own clothes.
With the clothes, boots, and a leather jacket he nicked from Anson's locker, he felt slightly less vulnerable than he had. A handful of biscuits from the rest room weren't the freshest things he'd ever eaten, but they filled the hole in his stomach and gave him a bit of raw energy. There was only one more thing he needed before he could leave this place and find Bodie: a weapon.
He didn't feel right, going about unarmed. Never mind there seemed to be no one to aim a gun at, let alone shoot at. But just in case…
He headed downstairs, to the armoury.
The lower levels of CI5 were more unsettling than the upper floors. With no electricity, no lights, and no windows, he could barely see a thing. When he finally managed to find a torch, it almost made things worse, since here were more obvious signs of the disaster that had struck England than the empty streets above.
The weapons cage had always been a tidy place, with neatly stowed weapons and boxes of ammunition all in their proper places. Now it was a right mess. The weapons were mostly gone, and the few remaining on the shelves were strewn about randomly. The ammunition boxes were worse. They'd been kicked to the floor, and tossed to the dark corners of the cage, as if whoever had last gone through this room had done so in a panic.
Doyle suppressed a shudder, and tried not to think about how the torch made this chaos worse, how its weak light made the surrounding darkness seem even blacker, more impenetrable.
But it was stupid, he told himself, being afraid of the dark. He hadn't been bothered by the dark since he was a kid, and even then he hadn't been that fussed by it. He shook off the feeling there was something lurking out there, just beyond the reach of his torch, and got to work.
He poked about until he found gun he could live with, even if it didn't fit his hand as well as his own, a holster that wasn't nearly as nice as the one Bodie had got him last birthday, but would serve, and as many spare boxes of ammunition as he could find. He put the holster on immediately, slipping the gun into it. The ammo he loaded into a duffle he found under the sign-out desk.
He was zipping up the duffle when he thought he heard something.
He stopped, flashing the dimming light of the torch around the cage, but saw only near-empty shelves and the debris of the tools of CI5's trade.
"Hello?" he called out. The only response was the echo of his own voice, bouncing off the concrete walls. "You stupid fucker, Doyle," he muttered to himself as he slung the duffle over his shoulder. "You'll be seeing ghosts next."
He flung open the weapons cage, and the door made the same tortured shriek it always had, a noise he'd never really paid attention to before, but put his nerves on edge now. He began the walk back to the stairs, to the light.
And he heard the sound again. Louder this time. Definitely not the product of his inflamed imagination. A sound like an animal in distress.
"Hello?" he said, louder this time, swinging the torch madly around, trying to pin down where the noise had come from.
The noise grew louder, and he could tell where it was coming from now. He turned the torch behind him, and that's when he saw her.
"Betty?" he said, though he recognized the clothes, the sensible skirt and practical blouse, more than the person. Because Betty didn't move like that, like a rag doll animated by strings, pulling her this way and that. And Betty didn't make that sort of sound, a growling, snarling, snapping sort of sound, the kind of sound a rabid animal might make just before you shot it.
She, or it, cocked her head, and the light of the torch caught her eyes. Her eyes were red. Not just bloodshot red. Blood-soaked red.
It was all he had time to say before she leaped at him, her lips peeled back in a horrific snarl, her fingers curved like talons, poised to rip him into shreds.
With his hands burdened by the duffle and the torch, he knew there was no way he'd reach his gun in time. He was going to die. And the worst of it, he realized, was that he would die without ever knowing what had become of Bodie.
She was reaching for him, this thing that used to be Betty, so close that he could feel the heat of her, when he heard the shots. Five shots, in quick succession, four in her body, one in her head, so that as ferocious as she was, she collapsed, her rag doll puppet movements stopped as effectively as if someone had cut her strings.
"Are you hit?" a man's voice was asking him suddenly. Doyle could only gape stupidly at the dead woman on the ground.
"Was that Betty?" In the back of his mind, Doyle was disgusted with himself for sounding like nothing so much as a dazed civilian.
"Probably. I'd wondered what happened to her."
Stuart. The portion of Doyle's brain not occupied with the fact that Cowley's secretary had just attacked him like a, well, a zombie out of one of those dreadful horror films Bodie was always making him watch, offered up the identity of his saviour.
"What did happen to her?"
"Never mind that. Are you hit?"
"No." Doyle shook his head, as much to make sense of all this as to respond to Stuart. "No, I'm not."
"Did she bite you? Did you get her blood in your mouth? In your eyes?"
"What?!" This was fucking insane.
Stuart grabbed his shoulder and shook him hard.
"This isn't a joke, Doyle. Did you get her blood on you?"
"No! I don't know!" He pulled out of Stuart's grasp. "What the hell is going on?"
"She was infected, and the infection is blood borne." Stuart was practically yelling at him now. "Get bitten, get blood in your mouth, and you're gone." Stuart grabbed his arm again and shook him none too gently. "Do you understand?"
"Yeah," Doyle nodded, even though he was having trouble taking it all in. It was too much like one of Bodie's dodgy movies.
"Good." Stuart abruptly let him go. "You can't have got any blood in you. You'd have turned by now. But we'd better get out of here fast. More infected always come when one of them attacks. The longer you're in any spot, the more of a target you are."
Stuart holstered his weapon, and then went back to the weapons' cage and stuffed the pockets of his jacket with as many boxes of ammunition as they'd hold. Doyle hefted his duffle onto his shoulder, and shifted from foot to foot, trying to take it all in.
"Well, come on then," Stuart said when his pockets were filled to overflowing with shells. "Let's get the hell out of here."
The army did not, in fact, have a tank going spare. But Bodie and Murph did manage to cadge an old jeep that looked like it had been nicked from the Americans for the run to Guy's.
It had helped that 2 Para was in charge of the cordon. One of the sergeants knew Bodie by reputation, and the lieutenant was a friend of Murphy's. A little good will, and the fact that the jeep was just sitting there, not doing anyone a bit of good, and it hadn't been difficult to convince the bloke in charge to loan it to them.
The trip across the river to Guy's was one that was going to be burned into Bodie's memory until the day he died, whether that was tomorrow or fifty years from now. There were the infected, and bodies, and buildings burning. Bodie lost track of how many infected they had to kill.
The worst patch was when they'd tried to help a woman being hunted down by the infected. They hadn't reached her in time, and had to watch as a pack of the infected tore her apart and then turned on them. They'd barely made it out alive. After that they'd killed even more of the infected, as if more blood could expiate the sin of not being fast enough to reach that woman, of not being able to save the thousands, the millions, who'd already been turned or killed.
Once they made it to Guy's the next hardest thing was getting in. The constables guarding the hospital were surviving on adrenaline and too little sleep, and they also weren't keen on letting anyone new, anyone unknown, into the place they'd been charged with protecting.
Bodie had cajoled, and joked, and finally threatened to get past the barrier. A gun in the face turned out to be remarkably helpful in explaining the situation to the young PC they were arguing with.
The inside of the hospital was in stark contrast to the outside world. It was clean, for a start. There were no infected here. But there were plenty of those wounded indirectly by this virus. Plenty of sick and dying.
It was hard to distinguish the staff from the patients. Everyone inside had a grey look to their skin, had a hunted look in their eyes. Bodie suspected a mirror would show him the same expression.
Bodie let Murphy ask the questions, let him lead the way, until they finally made it to the trauma ward, finally found Lena.
"How did you get here?" Lena asked, though she barely showed any curiosity in her haunted, exhausted eyes.
"A bit of luck," Murphy said. "And a lot of ammunition. Is Doyle still here?"
"Is he still alive, you mean." Bodie wondered if she'd been as blunt with patients' families before the virus. "Yeah. Barely. He's this way."
Bodie trailed behind Lena and Murphy as they made their way through the trauma ward. Bodie couldn't help looking into each room as they passed, and in each one he saw a patient surrounded by machines and violated by tubes. As they drew closer to Doyle, he felt any hope he'd had leeching away.
"He's in there," Lena said, stopping before the last room on the corridor.
Bodie couldn't look. Not yet. He focused on Lena. "How did he end up here?"
"He was in a traffic accident the same day the infection started. He's got some assorted bumps and bruises, but the real problem is the head wound. He had a skull fracture and a subdural hematoma. They opened him up, drained the pressure, but…" She trailed off and shrugged before continuing. "Normally, you'd only have five minutes, but no one cares about the rules anymore. Take whatever time you need."
There was no avoiding it. Bodie took a deep breath and opened the door to Doyle's room.
At first Doyle looked no worse than after he'd been shot. He was surrounded by machines that breathed for him, tubes that pumped liquids into him and tubes that pulled liquids out of him. But then Bodie moved further into the room and saw the full extent of the damage.
"Christ, Sunshine. What have they done to your hair?"
The left side of Doyle's head had been shaved to reveal a jagged, red incision, the stitches holding it together still visible. The stubbled skin on the left side made his curls look more riotous than ever. Add in the spectacular bruising, and he looked fucking awful.
Bodie had seen a lot of fucking awful things in his life, in Africa, in Northern Ireland, in London. He'd seen even more in the last week. But it seemed he'd reached his limit on what he could handle. His legs buckled under him, and the only reason he didn't fall on his face was that Murphy, good old Murphy, caught him by one arm and steered him into the one chair in the room, right at Doyle's side.
"Are you all right, Bodie?"
"'Course I'm not all right." He couldn't look at Murphy, couldn't look at Doyle. Which left him the not-very-interesting–to-look-at floor. "What sort of a stupid question is that?"
"Is there anything I can do?"
"Just fuck off like a good lad, would you?"
Murphy had the good sense not to argue with him. Bodie heard his footsteps and the door opening and closing, and then he was alone with Doyle.
Only then did he manage the courage it took to look at Doyle again.
But for the rise and fall of his chest as the machines breathed for him, he looked dead. His skin was waxy, and his face showed not a flicker of movement. It wasn't like after Mayli had shot him at all. That time, Bodie had been able tell Doyle was in there, struggling with his conscience, deciding whether to live or die. This time it looked like he'd given up, like he couldn't be bothered to fight anymore. Like he'd already left the building.
He took Doyle's hand in his, its warmth telling Bodie there was some life left in his partner.
"I'm here, Ray. I would have been here sooner, but I didn't know where you were."
Bodie closed his eyes, tried to bring up images of Doyle in better times: Doyle laughing at his own filthy jokes; Doyle tipping back his head to drink a pint, his throat exposed; Doyle looking down at him, a wicked smile on his face and not a stitch of clothing on his body. But he couldn't keep it up. The images kept twisting into a horror show. Finding Doyle shot. The raid gone wrong in Essex. That woman screaming as the infected tore into her. He finally opened his eyes when the inside of his head got too much to handle.
He squeezed Doyle's hand tightly, too tightly, hoping the pain might provoke a reaction, but Doyle's face remained impassive.
"You've got to pull out of this, Ray. You've got to get better. 'Cause I don't think I'm going to last long without you."
He leaned forward then, and kissed Doyle's forehead, not giving a flying fuck if Murphy or Lena or anyone else saw him. It was too late for camouflaging his feelings, too late to hide how much he cared for Doyle.
Murphy and Lena were in the corridor, waiting for him. Murphy raised an eyebrow, and Bodie could only shake his head in response.
"You look after him," he said to Lena. "You'll do that for me, won't you?"
"It might-" she began, then cut herself off abruptly.
"What?" Bodie said, his voice sharp as the wind of a North Atlantic storm as his eyes dared her to continue, fearing, knowing what she was going to say.
"It might be better," she said slowly, "if he never woke up."
Bodie didn't say anything, didn't trust himself to say anything. He simply stared at her, desperately trying not to give in to the temptation to strike her.
"He's not getting any better," Lena continued, clearly not aware the danger she was in. "The consultant has given up on him. And even if he does wake up, the way things are, he's not likely to last long."
Something inside Bodie, the thing that kept him civilized, the thing that kept him from acting on the savage impulses that sometimes overwhelmed him, snapped. Without forming a conscious thought to move, he had Lena pinned against the wall, his forearm tight against her windpipe as he felt Murphy try to shift him off her.
"Listen to me. Doyle wouldn't give up, and I'm not giving up on him." He put just a fraction more pressure on her delicate throat. "I need you not to give up on him." He fixed her with as fierce a stare as he could manage. "Do you understand?"
When she nodded, her eyes wide with fear, Bodie released her. She recoiled from him immediately, rubbing at her throat, as Murphy caught him roughly by the arm.
"She's only trying to help."
"I don't need that kind of help." Bodie shook off Murphy's grip. "Neither does Doyle."
"I'm sorry," Lena said, her voice was barely loud enough for him to hear, but her eyes showed more spark than they'd done since they'd found her. "I know what he means to you."
"I do." Lena held his gaze with her own, and Bodie recalled exactly when it was he'd met her. Sally had drawn the short straw, and was hosting the CI5 Christmas party. Everyone had been drunk, and he and Doyle had let their guard down slightly more than they should have done. Lena had been searching for her coat in Sally's bedroom, and had come upon the two of them just as Doyle had pushed him against the wall and snogged him rotten. They'd frozen when Lena had entered the room, all three of them. Then Lena had smiled slyly, and given them a wink, and Bodie had known it was all right. She wouldn't give them away.
If anyone knew what Doyle meant to him, it was Lena.
He felt a sudden shame rise up in him that he'd attacked this woman, simply for telling her version of the truth. Because he could understand why she'd said what she had. Could even see the sense in it, though he was selfish enough never to consider what she had suggested.
"Can you forgive me?" he finally asked.
"We're none of us at our best," Lena said with a shrug.
Bodie had no response for that, so he simply turned and started down the corridor. He heard Murphy murmuring something to Lena, then his friend was beside him.
They were nearly off the ward when Lena yelled "Bodie!" down the hall. He turned, and Lena ran down the hall.
"Give me a number where I can reach you. I'll let you know if he wakes up."
"It'll never work. The phones are going to fail soon. The power's nearly gone as it is."
"Give me the fucking number."
In the end, he gave her three numbers: the CI5 general line, Betty's, and the secret number for Cowley only agents were given. Cowley could give him a bollocking if Lena used it, but at least it gave him that much more of a chance of getting news of Doyle.
"Thank you," Bodie said.
"C'mon," Murphy urged. It'll be dark in an hour. We need to get back to the Whitehall zone before then."
The trip back to headquarters was even more hellish than the journey out had been, but for the first time since Essex, Bodie had a tiny shard of optimism caught in his heart.
Ray was alive. There was someone who knew him looking after him. And if everything else in this fucking world was trapped in fucking darkness, then at least he had that slim ray of hope to light his way.
Doyle had to hand it to Stuart: he'd aimed high when choosing a bolthole. Stuart led him away from CI5 headquarters at a trot Doyle could only barely keep up with, zigging and zagging through streets Doyle knew, but seemed alien in their desolation, until they fetched up in front of Westminster Abbey.
"You're never staying here," Doyle said with something like awe. This was a choice worthy of Bodie.
Stuart only gave him a smile, and led him through the great doors. They made their way down the nave, through the cloisters, and into a windowless room Doyle hadn't even been aware existed in this place.
There were no tombs or crypts in the room, which Doyle could only feel grateful for, and apart from the ancient tile on the floor, there was nothing to show how old it was. Supplies were stacked in every corner. There were cases of food, and bottles of water and lucozade, and even a nearly empty wooden box with a few wizened apples rattling around in the bottom.
And there were weapons.
Pistols, shotguns, machine guns, Stuart had them all, and the ammunition to go with them. Doyle imagined he'd got some of them from CI5, but others would have had to have been nicked from army supplies. Either way, they wouldn't suffer from a lack of fire power.
As Doyle surveyed Stuart's small kingdom, Stuart wrestled a high wooden screen into place at the door of the room. It wouldn't keep out a concerted attack, but it hid them from view, and would slow down the sort of unthinking monster they appeared to be fighting in this war.
Stuart waved him over to the only chair, a rather magnificent carved wooden affair, and then proceeded to open a tin of stew and place it in Doyle's hand. It didn't matter that it was cold, or that he would have complained about the taste mere weeks ago. Here and now, it was the best meal he'd ever had. He devoured it all, then wiped down this inside of the tin with his fingers and licked them off. When he'd finished it, Stuart threw him a tin of peaches and the Swiss Army knife he'd used on the other tin. Doyle ate the peaches slightly more slowly, but only slightly.
His body fed, Doyle began to worry more about other things. One other thing in particular.
"What happened to Bodie?"
Sitting on a crate of ammunition, Stuart only shook his head.
"What happened to him?" Doyle pushed further, torn between wanting to know where Bodie was and wanting to live in blissful ignorance for a little while longer.
"I don't know, Doyle. I really don't know. He wasn't around when everything went pear-shaped. I don't know who made it and who didn't. I don't know if Bodie made it out of the country, or to Scotland. I don't know anything."
"He's still alive." Doyle spoke mostly to himself. "He has to be alive."
"Well, if anyone survived what happened, I'd put money on it being that stubborn bastard. I don't know how you managed him."
"I told you once before. Bodie's all right."
"Bodie may be all right, but you're not. You look like death warmed over, Doyle." Stuart threw him a blanket and nodded at the camp bed hidden at the back. "You should get some sleep. We'll talk more in the morning."
Doyle didn't want to wait until morning. He wanted to know everything now. But even as he was about to voice those thoughts, he was stopped by a jaw-cracking yawn.
He wrapped himself in the blanket and collapsed onto the camp bed, the physical effort of the last few hours finally taking their toll. In moments, sleep had nearly claimed him.
But old habits die hard, and he was too much the good agent to forget proper protocol.
"Should one of us keep watch?" he asked, poking his head up.
"One of us is going to," Stuart replied. He was sitting cross-legged to one side of the wrought iron gate, a shotgun balanced across his legs. "But it's not going to be you. Now go to sleep, you stupid man."
Doyle was too tired to object to the insult, and he was asleep before he'd quite pulled the blanket back around him.
Through the long days and longer nights that followed, Bodie clung for comfort to one lone fact: Doyle was alive. In a coma and banged up, but alive.
There wasn't much else to cling to.
Cowley had very quickly seen the danger of the infected, and had been instrumental in setting up safe zones around the city. The army, the Met, anyone who could use a weapon or learn to, had been drafted to protect those zones, and the people in them. But every day the infected grew in number. And every day, they seemed to lose another safe zone.
It had been Greenwich last night. Bodie had been in the Communications room, talking to Benny, when the call had come in from the command post at the Maritime museum. The bloke on the other end of the call had been panicked, had begged for reinforcements. There wasn't much they could do for him, though. There was no way they could have got extra men to his location in time, assuming they had any to spare. Which they hadn't. All they could do was stay on the radio with him as he waited for the end to come, and listen to his screams when it did.
Cowley had arrived midway through the call, listening to everything with a clenched jaw and a cold look in his eye. When it was all over, he'd gone back to his office and stayed there for the better part of a day.
In between manning the safe zone cordon and going on patrols, looking for a decreasing numbers of civilians who needed rescuing, Bodie had gone to check periodically on the Old Man. He hadn't liked the look of him when he'd left Communications, but Betty wouldn't let him through. She did tell him Cowley had been on the phones nearly non-stop, talking to what was left of the government and Her Majesty's forces.
When Cowley emerged from his refuge, it was with a plan.
Deals had been struck with their European allies to evacuate every healthy person in England who could make it to a departure point. Ports, airports, they were all to be used.
It was a mad scheme. It was hard enough to get a well-armed team out of the safe zone. It was going to be nearly impossible to get hundreds of civilians through London to Heathrow or Gatwick or Dover, and onto the planes and ferries that would take them to safety. But that was exactly what Cowley was planning.
"We have teams working on reinforcing buses to carry the civilians," Cowley told what remained of his squad. They were gathered in the briefing room, as if it were any other op. "The army will supply escort in their tanks."
"And how the fuck are we supposed to get planes off the ground?" A month ago, no one would have had the nerve to be so bolshy, not to mention profane, with the Cow. Now, no one batted an eye when Murphy said what they all were thinking.
"We won't have to." Bodie had to hand it to Cowley, he was as cool as ice when he needed to be. "The French and the Yanks are supplying the planes. Their satellites show the runways of most airports to be clear and in good shape. They'll be landing and taking off quickly."
"They'll need to," Bodie said under his breath, earning him a nudge in the ribs from Philips, and a glare from Cowley himself.
"Yes, they will need to, Bodie. And with our help, they will."
"What's our job, then? Sir." Bodie couldn't help himself, he responded to Cowley like he always did, and always would, like the good soldier, ready and eager to do his job.
"Our job, Bodie, is to make sure that the planes have enough time to make their landings, load their passengers, and take off. We'll be holding Heathrow against the infected. Other groups will be assigned to various airports and ports."
There was a whistle from the back, and Bodie heard someone, a new bloke he hadn't got to know before and sure as fuck wasn't going to bother getting to know now, whisper, "And who's going to make sure we get on a plane?"
Cowley looked right at and through the little bastard. "We can depend on no one but ourselves, Mr. Bannon. We will make sure we get on a plane, and we will make sure that plane takes off. Is that understood?"
"Yes, sir." At least the berk had the sense to look embarrassed.
"But I am putting a contingency plan in place, just in case. If our defences fall, we will rendezvous at Watford. We will then convoy north, to Scotland. There are several defensible locations I know of that might serve as a stronghold against the infected. And if anyone doesn't make the rendezvous, Betty will be supplying you with a radio frequency to check. I'll be broadcasting our location as soon as we're established."
Cowley paused, and looked at each one of them, his expression determined.
"Now, I don't need to tell you all what's at stake. We lost Greenwich last night. We lost Croydon and Earl's Court the night before. If we don't try something, we're going to be worn down and worn down until the infected finally win. And I, for one, ladies and gentlemen, refuse to let that happen. If we can't save England, we can at least save her people."
It was as rousing a speech as Bodie had heard Cowley make, a speech worthy of a true leader. And looking around the room, Bodie could see it had done the trick. A room full of despairing, desperate men and women had been energized into a room full of warriors, determined to do their duty and save what they could of their country.
"Betty has your assignments. I hope you've all slept recently, because there'll be no chance for rest from now until tomorrow, not until the last plane has left the runway."
"Yes sir!" said Bodie, and all the others in the room, and then scrambled to get his assignment.
It was only then, as he stood outside the briefing room holding the slip of paper outlining what he'd be doing for the next twenty-four hours, that he remembered Ray.
Doyle woke up with a start, surrounded by boxes, unsure of where he was or how he'd got there.
He held still for a moment, breathing rapidly, hoping it would all come back to him.
And then it did.
And he wished it hadn't.
He sat up, too quickly, and nearly threw up as a throbbing pain threatened to undo him totally.
"Fuckin' hell." He clutched his head and tried to blink away the tears filling his eyes.
"Aren't you a ray of sunshine in the morning." Stuart appeared from around a corner of boxes.
"Fuck off, Stuart," Doyle said without any real venom, all his energy devoted to not throwing up, and not taking a knife and cutting off his own head.
"And I thought Bodie was the unpleasant one." Stuart threw something at the end of the camp bed. Doyle looked up enough to see a box of cereal. "There's no milk for the cereal, I'm afraid, but you can wash it down with this." A bottle of orange juice was placed in Doyle's hand.
The thought of orange juice and dry cereal nearly did in Doyle completely, but he did manage to keep the meagre contents of his stomach down. The throbbing finally subsided enough that he could contemplate opening the juice, if not the cereal.
He downed the juice as Stuart watched him from a perch on an ammunitions box. After a second bottle of juice, a handful of dried cereal, and a couple of paracetamol, he felt almost human enough to ask a few questions.
"Now do you want to tell me what happened?"
"I told you last night."
"You didn't tell me much."
"You didn't look like you could handle much."
"I can this morning."
Doyle had hit men for less, for insinuating he wasn't tough enough, wasn't strong enough to handle hard tasks or hard truths. He held himself back from hitting Stuart. After all, the man had saved his life yesterday. And he looked to be his only ally in this nightmarish new version of London.
"Yes, I bloody well can," Doyle said through gritted teeth.
Stuart stared at him for a long moment, before he finally spoke. "What do you want to know?"
"Everything," Doyle said. "I want to know everything."
Bodie knew he was being selfish. He knew the survival of one CI5 agent shouldn't count more than the population of uninfected citizens of London. Knew he should just shut up and do his duty.
He knew all this, and he didn't care about any of it. Because as long as Ray Doyle was alive, Bodie was going to make damn sure he stayed that way, no matter the obstacles in his path.
Right now, the main obstacle in his path was George Cowley.
He ignored the other agents milling about the hall, clutching their orders, and engaging in the sort of pre-op banter Bodie had participated in a thousand times. He went directly to Cowley's office and into the antechamber where Betty, looking as ragged as any of them, stood guard over the old man's office.
Bodie ignore her and strode over to the inner door.
"Mr. Cowley is busy," Betty said, her voice steely. "He's not seeing anyone."
"He's seeing me, love," Bodie said without looking back. He didn't even bother knocking, just opened the door and strode in, to find Cowley sitting at his desk, his head in his hands, looking as vulnerable as Bodie had ever seen him. More vulnerable than when Barry Martin had put him in the hospital, more gutted than when Annie Irvine had broken his heart for the second time.
Bodie halted in his tracks, his momentum brought up short. Before he could decide how he should break the silence, there was a bustling behind him and Betty was there.
"I'm sorry, sir. I couldn't stop him."
"That's all right, Betty. I'll see 3.7." Cowley's voice sounded hollow, the voice of a man shouldering too many responsibilities on too little sleep. Bodie regretted more than anything that he was about to give Cowley one more responsibility, but he didn't allow even that to sway him from his purpose.
It was only when the door had closed, shutting Betty out and the two of them in, that Cowley raised his head.
"I have to go to Guy's," Bodie blurted out before his resolve left him.
"I assume this is about 4.5?"
"I want to get him. Bring him back here for evacuation."
"I don't suppose you've considered that he's in the place where he's safest?"
"Not with the evacuation going on, he isn't."
"Think, man. We've considered the hospitals. All hospitals that remain secure, and that includes Guy's, will be evacuated."
"I need to make sure he's safe."
"You may be able to keep him safe from the infected, but can you keep him alive? Do you know what treatment he's receiving? Can you keep him breathing until you get to Heathrow?" Cowley had adopted the tone of a schoolteacher who assumed his student was too thick to learn, and that stung. Bodie had encountered that attitude too many times on his journey through Liverpool's schools. It didn't sit well with him now, hearing it from a man he respected.
"If he's not safe from the infected, he's dead."
"You are not going, Bodie."
"Consider my position." Cowley fixed Bodie with a pointed stare. "There isn't a man or woman in this organization who hasn't got a loved one somewhere out there. Some are in safe zones. Some haven't been heard from for days. One or two are barricaded in their homes. If I let you go to Guy's, then what's to stop Murphy from retrieving his mother from the Wimbledon safe zone? Or Sally from trying to find her sister's children? I'd be left with no one, and no way of saving the hundreds of civilians who are depending on us in the Whitehall safe zone, who will be depending on CI5 to keep Heathrow secure while they're evacuated."
"But nothing. If you attempt to leave this building for any reason other than performing your assigned duties, I'll shoot you myself."
Bodie had always wondered if Cowley would have done it. If he'd have shot him for killing King Billy. He had no such doubts now. He knew, utterly and absolutely, Cowley would put a bullet in his back if he abandoned his post. And he understood, which didn't make him hate Cowley any less.
"Is that clear, Bodie?" Cowley's voice broke through the seething of his thoughts.
"Yes, sir." If he didn't quite salute, Bodie did snap to a military posture, his signal to his superior officer that he would obey, even if he didn't agree with his orders.
Cowley examined him closely, as if he could detect a lie from the cant of his head or the line of his mouth. Finally, he gave Bodie a curt nod.
"Very well. Dismissed."
Bodie didn't say another word, simply turned on his heel and left. He passed Betty, passed the other agents, strode down the stairs, ran down the stairs, and finally burst out of the front doors, and stood, panting on the front steps of CI5.
He paused there, taking in the scene in front of him, the soldiers in combat gear passing by the building, the reels of barb wire at the end of the street, the smashed in windows in the building across the street, the one that had been overrun before the safe zone had been completely sealed.
Cowley was right. He couldn't hold Ray's life above all others. He would do his duty.
And yet, if what he feared happened, if Ray was killed, or worse, was turned, he knew he would hate himself even more than he hated George Cowley at this very moment.
Stuart settled into a chair opposite the camp bed Doyle occupied. He folded his hands in his lap and stared at Doyle, looking for all the world like George Cowley sussing out whether an agent was up to the job.
Well, two could play at that game. Doyle sat up straighter and looked Stuart over. He was thinner that Doyle remembered, for a start, and he'd always been on the lean side. He seemed to have developed a nervous tic in his right hand, kept drumming his fingers on his leg. And his expression, always somewhat serious, had become outright dour.
"You said you wanted to know everything," Stuart finally said. "Well, here it is."
He told Doyle about the start of the outbreak, and how quickly it spread. How every part of Britain was soon affected. How the dead and infected were everywhere. And how CI5 and George Cowley worked to stem the tide of the virus.
"Things would have been ten times worse without the old man. He got the safe zones running. He came up with the evacuation plan.
"And it worked? You got the people out?"
"We got some people out. More than we might have, but not everyone. Not by a long chalk. And it all went to shit at the end."
"We didn't have enough buses to take everyone in the safe zone in one trip. So we had to make multiple trips. And it worked for a while. The army blokes made three or four trips, got people to the airport, saw them onto the planes while we held the infected off the runways. Not an easy job, but the flamethrowers helped."
"Then what happened?"
"It was like the infected worked out what we were doing. Worked out how to attack. They massed and surged. Took out the blokes with the flamethrowers first, then came after the rest of us. They got into the buses and from that that point forward it was like my old parish priest's vision of hell. There were bodies and more infected, and more blood than I've ever seen.
"We got one last plane off safely. Cowley managed to notify the rest of the planes not to land, and then we ran. Most of us made it to the vehicles. Those who couldn't make it were killed. Or turned."
"Where did you go?"
"I just drove. Susan and Gregson were in the car with me, and we made it back to Whitehall. I don't know where the others went. Cowley had some mad scheme about setting up a stronghold in Scotland. He even set up a rendezvous point at Watford."
"You didn't try for the rendezvous point?"
Stuart shook his head. "It was nearly impossible to move through the city, let alone get out of it. The three of us decided to wait it out here."
Doyle looked around Stuart's refuge, tried to find some sign of Susan and Gregson's existence and found none. "What happened to them? Susan and Gregson?"
Stuart stared at him for a long time with eyes that had seen far too much. When he finally spoke, his voice had changed, become huskier than usual, and his fingers beat an even faster tattoo on his leg. "Susan didn't last long. Maybe three days. One of the infected bit her when we went outside for supplies. I had to kill her myself. She was still herself when I pulled the trigger, but you have to act fast. Thirty seconds or less after someone is bitten, they turn."
Stuart swallowed hard before continuing.
"Gregson lasted the longest. Until…" Stuart's voice faltered and he blinked several times before continuing. "Until three days ago. Did you know Gregson?"
"No. He was another undercover specialist, wasn't he?"
"Yeah. We worked together a few times. He was good at sussing out the Irish. Not so good with the infected, though. He got cornered in a blind alley. I couldn't help. There were too many of them, and they'd already bitten him. I had to run or they'd have got me next. I could hear him screaming for a long time. Too long."
"I'm sorry," Doyle said. The words were inadequate, but they were the only comfort Doyle could offer.
"Not your fault."
They were both quiet for a time, the silence and the darkness seeping into Doyle's bones.
"Do you know if Cowley made it to Scotland?"
Stuart shrugged. "There was a radio frequency to check, in case you didn't make the rendezvous point. I've listened to that frequency every day and there's never anyone on the air. Just static."
Doyle clenched a fist and tried to summon his courage, tried to find the bottle to ask the one question he should.
"And Bodie? Was he with Cowley?"
"No. The stupid bastard wasn't even with us at the airport."
"Yeah." Stuart's mouth twisted into an ugly shape that could have been a grin or a grimace. "He went after you."
Bodie zipped up his jacket and checked his supply of ammunition one more time.
He was more grateful than ever that he'd had the foresight to go back to his flat and grab his riding leathers when things had merely been serious and not fucking catastrophic. He was hoping they'd save his life now. They were flexible enough that he could move well in them, but tough enough to resist a bite from one of the infected.
"You trying out for the Hell's Angels, Bodie?" Jax asked.
"Fuck off," Bodie said, and moved a bit further away from the crush of agents in the room.
He didn't want to engage in the usual pre-op banter. Wasn't interested in the typical agent backchat. Because all that did was remind him of the man who was missing from his side. It reminded him Doyle was across the river in a fucking hospital bed and he couldn't do a thing about it
He saw Murphy glance his way, and then give Jax a concerned look, but that just made him angrier. He didn't want their concern, didn't want their pity. He just wanted this day over and done with. He wanted to be on a plane off this fucking island, hopefully at Doyle's side.
He pushed his way past Benny and burst from the locker room to emerge, staring and wild-eyed, needing to run even though there was nowhere to run to. Slumping against the wall, he stared at the ceiling and threw a prayer up to a god he didn't really believe was listening to keep Doyle safe.
That was where Betty found him.
"Bodie, there's a call for you on my line. It sounded urgent."
"I didn't think the phones were working," Bodie said as he pushed himself off the wall.
"Sometimes they are, sometimes they aren't We can't depend on them, that's certain."
"Who is it?"
"She didn't say."
"She?" A wash of panic sloughed off the fog of exhaustion and self-pity Bodie had been existing in for nearly twenty-four hours. He was running down the hall before Betty could say another word.
At first he thought Betty had got it wrong, that it wasn't a call, just static on the line. "Hello?" he tried, not expecting anything. But a voice answered him. A panicked female voice that he immediately recognized.
"Bodie? Thank God I've got hold of you. You have to get here now."
"Lena? What's going on?"
"We're supposed to be evacuating, but the infected are massing and they think the barriers around the hospital are going to fall. We're not going to have nearly enough time to get all the patients out." Lena was talking so fast, all her sentences seemed to be merging together in one grand poly-syllabic word. "You have to get here now, Bodie."
"I can't, love." Bodie hated this, but he'd promised Cowley, had sworn to do his duty. He wouldn't back down on that.
"You have to." Those three words weren't delivered at the breakneck pace of her previous outburst, but very slowly indeed.
"They've triaged the patients. They're only evacuating those with the greatest chance of survival. The walking wounded. Those who'll require the least amount of care."
Lena paused, as if she was hoping Bodie would pick up on her meaning without her stating it directly. But Bodie wasn't feeling that charitable. He needed her to say the words.
"What do you mean?"
"Ray didn't make the list. He won't be evacuated. They were even going to, well, make sure he didn't suffer, but I wouldn't let them. I didn't let them, Bodie."
"Jesus," Bodie said softly. He could feel his breath coming in sharp gasps, could feel the blood pounding through his veins, could feel the panic he'd thought he was immune to overwhelming every nerve in his body.
"Did you hear me, Bodie? You have to get here. You have to get here now."
"I will, Lena."
"I've locked him in his room." She continued on as if she hadn't heard him, and given the turmoil he could hear over the line, she might not have. "I slid the key under the door. I didn't want the infected to get him."
"I'm coming, Lena," he shouted into the receiver, unconcerned now whether Cowley himself heard his declaration of treason.
"You have to come, Bodie." She broke off, and Bodie could hear someone else talking in the distance. "Oh God." There was another pause. "Come soon, Bodie. Come-", and the line went dead.
Bodie felt as if all the blood had been drained from his body. He nearly dropped to his knees in despair, but kept on his feet out of sheer bloody-mindedness. This wasn't going to happen. It wasn't fucking well going to happen. Doyle was not going to die at the hands of the infected. He just wasn't.
Bodie returned to the locker room, deliberately ignoring the stares of the other agents, slung his holster over one shoulder, picked up his shotgun, and left the room as quickly as he'd entered it.
He was hoping he'd make a clean getaway, but he heard footsteps behind him.
"Where are you going, Bodie?"
"It's none of your business, Murph." Bodie made his voice as cold as he could manage.
"I'm afraid it is." Murphy ran to catch him up and grabbed his arm to stop him. Bodie spun around, his back tense, ready to attack if necessary. "Cowley told me to keep an eye on you. Told me to stop you if you tried to leave."
"They've just about lost Guy's," Bodie said, not even trying to make a rational argument. "Lena just called, and the infected are nearly through the barricades. So they've made the decision that they're not evacuating everyone." He paused and looked Murphy directly in the eye. "They're not taking Doyle."
Murphy stared back at him for what must have been a minute. Bodie wondered what he was thinking. Whether he was wondering why Bodie should be allowed to save Doyle when he couldn't save his mother. Whether he was trying to decide if he had it in him to shoot a fellow agent.
"Let me go, Murph." He wasn't above begging. "Please."
Murphy swallowed, then let go of Bodie's arm.
"Go," he said. "Just get the fuck out of here."
Bodie didn't wait for him to change his mind. He strode down the corridor as quickly as he could manage without drawing attention to himself, and left Murphy standing there.
"Bodie," Murphy called behind him. "Find Lena, if you can. Save her too."
Bodie stopped for a moment, nodded, and then ran down the stairs, leaving CI5 behind him.
He grabbed a Capri from the motor pool when no one was looking, and got out of the cordon by talking shite to the sentries about Cowley wanting a final recce of the area surrounding the safe zone.
The drive from Whitehall to Guy's was better than it should have been. There were no infected about, no attacks to avoid. Nothing. It was as if the city had already been evacuated of everyone, healthy and infected.
When he drew closer to Guy's, he saw where all the infected had gone.
The barrier surrounding hospital was encircled by the infected, twenty deep. He could see where the barrier had been breached in several spots, but so far the Met blokes seemed to be keeping the infected in check.
Bodie knew he had to act fast. There was no time for subtlety, no time for a meticulous plan. It was brute force or nothing. Fortunately, he'd always had a talent for brute force.
He picked his route, picked his targets, then floored the Capri.
As he hit the outer edges of the infected, he could hear the bodies go down, could hear the crush of bones as he drove over them. He ignored the sounds, ignored their screams, their howls. He just drove until he hit the barrier. He grabbed his shotgun and was out of the Capri before he could consider how fucking insane he was. On the bonnet, up the fence, and over the top before one of those fucking bastards had even laid a finger on him.
Of course, he hadn't reckoned on how the Met would react. One of them nearly put a bullet in his head until they realized he wasn't infected. Even then, it took them a minute before they let him pass.
Getting inside the hospital was almost as difficult as getting past the barrier. There were buses, and patients, and more members of the Met, and a palpable sense of panic everywhere. Bodie tried not to think about how he was getting out of here, what with his vehicle now surrounded by the infected, and hundreds of others waiting to get on the pitifully few buses they seemed to have laid on.
He pushed his way past two patients--one holding tightly to the cane keeping him barely upright, the other trying to keep her IV line from getting tangled—and entered the hospital.
Inside the hospital, chaos truly reigned.
There were patients and nurses and doctors in a crush it was almost impossible to get through. No one seemed to be in charge, and everyone was terrified. The stink of their terror clung to them in a way Bodie hadn't sensed since Africa. Not since he'd seen a truck full of refugees caught between his troop and a group of rebel fighters. That had been nearly the last straw, the thing that had finally driven him out of Africa, and home.
Now home was significantly worse than that African road.
Bodie slung the shotgun on his back and pushed further into the crowd, further into the hospital. He kept reminding himself that each footstep took him closer to Doyle, but his progress was pitifully slow. The crush of people was overwhelming, and they were all moving out, pushing Bodie back in the direction he'd come from.
He increased his efforts, pushing harder, not caring who was in his way. He was beginning to move forward, to get closer to the stairwell that would take him to the trauma ward, to Doyle, when the mood of the crowd changed.
They stopped. Moving, talking, crying. Everything. It was as if everyone in the hospital was straining to hear the same faint sound.
Bodie felt a prickle down his back, a prickle he'd felt before, in the heat of the African sun, in the rain of Belfast, in the backstreets of London. It was a sensation that had saved his life more than once.
He was unslinging the shotgun from his back when the silence broke and the screaming started.
He could see a frenzied movement near the doors, people trying to run where there was no place for them to go. There was a churning of the crowd, like the churning of the ocean near a ship's prop. And then Bodie saw a spray of blood arc into the air.
That was when the screaming began in earnest, and Bodie saw the first of the infected inside the hospital.
"Fucking hell." He pushed forward harder, his movement hampered by the people trying to escape from the infected he was trying to reach. If he could get there fast enough, get there before too many of them had turned…
But he was already seeing signs of people turning. The thrashing movements, the inhuman sounds.
He aimed at one man with telltale bloodshot eyes, but a woman ran in front of him before he could pull the trigger. Then she was down, was turning. He pulled the goggles he usually used on his bike from his pocket and fitted them in place, slim protection against the blood of the infected, but protection all the same. Then he swung at the newly infected woman with the butt of his shotgun, ignoring the blood that sprayed up with each blow, and hoping none got in his mouth.
He worked through the crowd, bludgeoning the infected as he went, but there was always one more infected to kill. His arms were growing heavy from the effort, and his goggles were steaming up, making it hard to see.
He saw some members of the Met in riot gear enter, and hoped they'd be enough, that between them, they would get things under control. But then he was surrounded by a group of the infected, and he knew this was it, his last stand.
"This is for Ray, you bastards," he snarled as he struck one of the infected in the head. Then there was a blow, and pain, and he was falling into darkness, falling into the pit, and he knew there was no winning this time.
Doyle was forced to learn a whole new set of rules for survival.
"We travel by day, not night. The infected don't seem to like the daylight much."
"I don't know, do I, Doyle? I'm not a fucking scientist." Stuart was always short tempered. He never seemed thankful for the presence of another human being, seemed to view Doyle as just another weight to slow him down. Which Doyle might have resented more, except that he knew he wasn't at his best.
The one look he'd taken of himself in a mirror was enough to tell him that. The scar on his scalp was still prominent, and the shaved patch looked ridiculous. He'd found a set of barber's clippers the next day and had Stuart shave the rest of his hair down to match.
"Don't get bitten. Don't get infected blood in your eyes, or in your mouth."
"How much blood? How big a bite?"
"It doesn't take much, and it doesn't take long. Thirty seconds, and you're one of them."
He had to learn new habits, had to become even harder than he was. And he hadn't been soft to begin with.
"If I start to turn, you kill me immediately, Doyle. You don't fucking wait. I won't if you're bitten."
"Why don't you kill me now?" Doyle asked, overwhelmed by a bitter helplessness. "Save yourself the trouble later."
"Don't think it hasn't crossed my mind."
Their days were spent foraging and avoiding the infected. They visited every Tesco, every Sainsbury's, in walking distance, scavenging what they could find. Tinned beans, tinned, stews, tinned spaghetti hoops. If Doyle never saw a tin again in his life, he would be eternally thankful.
They cached their bounty of tins at different locations in the city.
"They might find us here," Stuart told him one night in their Westminster vault. "We might have to move."
They saw no one else who wasn't infected. Not one person who didn't have blood red eyes and an appetite for human flesh. Doyle killed his first infected the second day after he woke, a wild-eyed creature in the remnants of a business suit who attacked them in a Marks and Sparks food hall. There were more after that, but he tried not to think about them.
"There must be others," Doyle insisted one day as they loaded up bottles of Lucozade from a chemist's shop off Piccadilly. "Other people. Healthy people. We can't be the only ones left."
"I haven't seen anyone," Stuart said without looking at Doyle. "Not since Gregson. And no one but him for days before that." He tossed the last of the bottles into the shopping trolley they'd liberated for their supply raids. "Face it, Doyle. Everyone in London is either infected or dead. We're the last uninfected people in the city."
"God help us both," Doyle said, with not a trace of humour. Because if he had to be stuck in a deserted London with only one other person for company, Stuart was pretty fucking far down his list of preferred companions. Which only made him think more about the one person he'd rather be with.
Not that Stuart wanted to talk about Bodie, or anyone else in CI5.
"Why don't we leave? Get out of London? See if we can find the others?"
"There aren't any others, Doyle. They must all be dead."
"Not Bodie. Bodie can't be dead." Doyle knew he sounded delusional, but he wouldn't be convinced Bodie wasn't out there, somewhere, alive and healthy.
"I've already told you, before Heathrow was overrun, a few buses came through from Guy's. They'd seen the barricades fall at the hospital. They said no one could have survived."
"You were locked in your room. I don't see Bodie hiding in a locked room. Do you?"
"No," Doyle agreed reluctantly. "No, I don't." Bodie wouldn't hide. Wouldn't play it safe. Bodie would fight until the end, and would take as many of the bastards with him as he possibly could.
Stuart wanted to stay in London.
"There's plenty of food, plenty of places to hide. And the infected can't live forever. We're their food. If there's no one left to eat, they're going to start starving. Staying here is our best chance for survival."
"I don't want to survive. I want to live."
Every night, when he was on watch by himself, when Stuart had succumbed to the unquiet sleep that seemed the only sort of rest either of them could manage, Doyle would listen to the radio.
It was a short wave set Stuart had scavenged from CI5 headquarters. They'd found enough batteries in the camera stores on the Strand to keep it playing for months, if not years.
At first, Doyle only listened to the frequency that Cowley had given in his final briefing. He listened to static on that frequency for so long, he nearly went mad with it. He started hearing human voices in the inhuman buzz, started hearing it in his sleep.
So he started scanning the dial. The static was the same, but at least turning the dial gave him something to think about. Kept him from thinking he heard Bodie's voice in the static.
It was all more static, punctuated by the occasional faint voice in French, or German. Once he even heard something rather Scandinavian that he thought might be Norwegian. And then one night he heard someone speaking English.
He almost missed it, thought it was another of his audio hallucinations, but he went back just the same. Turned the dial, slowly and carefully, until the voice returned faintly. He couldn't tell if the speaker was a man or woman, couldn't make out more than the occasional word, so he brought his ear closer to the radio, and listened harder.
Then something changed—the earth's magnetic field, the subsidence of a solar flare, who knew—and the voice came in clearly. A male voice. With a distinctive Scottish brogue.
"There is a sanctuary from infection. We have secured Dumbarton Castle in Scotland. We can provide food and safety. If you are listening to this message, we can help."
The voice provided directions to the castle from all directions and then began to repeat.
Doyle nearly wept with relief. Cowley was alive. What's more, Cowley had created a stronghold against the infected. And if Cowley had survived, then maybe Bodie had too.
He listened to the message three more times before he could move, then shook Stuart awake.
"Cowley's done it," he told a still weary Stuart.
"Listen." He shoved the radio at Stuart, and listened once again as Cowley declared the existence of a refuge, as he gave directions and offered dry encouragement. When they'd listened several more times, he snapped off the radio and put it down.
"We're going to Scotland," he told Stuart, and this time he knew he was going to accept no argument.
Bodie awoke to the sound of crying.
The sound was quiet and restrained, as if the person weeping was trying desperately not to be heard. It was the sound of furtive despair.
As more senses returned, Bodie could feel the hard floor beneath him, could smell blood and vomit, could hear the thrum of an engine.
He cracked one eye open, and found that he was on the floor of a bus. From where he lay, he could see the feet and legs of the passengers surrounding him, crowding him. Legs in surgical scrubs, bare legs exposed by hospital gowns. Black clad legs in police uniforms. His strength began to return, and he sat up, only to find the source of the crying. It was not a patient, nor a nurse, but a young police constable in riot gear, who clutched the seat in front of him and let the tears roll down his cheeks unimpeded, even as the other passengers looked away from him.
"You woke up," a gruff voice said. Bodie turned to see another policeman nearer his own age and with a look of bland curiosity. "We weren't sure you would."
"I have a hard head," Bodie said as he tried to sort out how he'd got here. "Bodie," he said, holding out his hand.
"Cameron," the policeman said, shaking the offered hand with a sure, callused grip.
Bodie nodded, then closed his eyes against the nausea that threatened to overwhelm him. Why was he here? He traced the path back. CI5. Lena's call. The infected. "Ray." He opened his eyes and tried to stand, just as the bus lurched around a corner, knocking him off his already unsteady feet. Cameron caught him with one arm and pulled him down on the seat beside him.
"We have to stop," he said. "I have to go back."
"For this Ray?"
Bodie nodded. "He's my mate. My best mate." And so much more he could not admit to in front of this gruff stranger and a bus full of traumatized civilians.
"Was he at Guy's?"
"In the trauma ward."
"Then he's dead."
The words were delivered coldly, without feeling. A part of his brain, the professional part, the part that could make jokes after witnessing cold-blooded murder, reckoned this man had seen so much death this day that the death of one more hardly mattered to him. But the rest of him had a sudden sympathy with the still weeping police constable.
"He can't be."
"The hospital fell," Cameron said clearly. "Only a few buses got out, and none with seriously ill patients. Your best mate is either dead or turned.
"No." Bodie knew it must be true. Doyle could not have survived if the infected had taken over Guy's. He must be dead. But he couldn't accept the truth without the impossible: a body to mourn and bury.
He recovered enough to look out the window, only to find a landscape he didn't recognize.
"Are we going to Heathrow?"
"Heathrow fell too. We're heading to Dover."
"Some think the ferries might still be running." Cameron's tone of voice suggested he didn't share the belief, but had no other suggestions to offer.
"If Heathrow's gone, the ports won't be any better." Bodie put away his grief for the moment and tried to think like a soldier, like one of Cowley's best men. Cowley… "We need to make for Scotland."
"Scotland?" Cameron sounded completely incredulous. "That blow you took did more damage than I thought. There's nothing up in Scotland. Nothing but sheep and the infected."
"I'm CI5. We were in charge of Heathrow. If the airport fell, we were to rendezvous at Watford, then make our way to Scotland.
"Scotland's a worse choice than Dover. We're not going there."
"Then stop and let me out. I'll go myself."
Cameron shook his head. "I hauled you out of Guy's because you're a fighter. I need you fighting for us. Not up in Scotland where some sheep-shagging infected can turn you.
"Stop the bus."
Bodie took a deep breath, ignored the dizzying pain that was threatening to bring him to his knees, and acted.
He drew the pistol from his holster, knocked off the safety, hammered it back, and pressed it against Cameron's head. Shusai would have been proud of the fluidity and conviction of his action, if not necessarily of the action itself.
"Stop. The. Bus." He didn't shout; the weapon did his shouting for him.
"This lot could use your help."
"I take my orders from George Cowley," Bodie said, ignoring the fact he was only here now because he had ignored Cowley's orders. "Now are you going to stop the bus, or am I going to put a bullet in your head?"
"Mickey," Cameron yelled forward, without taking his eyes off Bodie. "Stop the bus, would you."
"You're joking," called back the unseen Mickey.
"No, I'm not. Stop the fucking bus."
Mickey put his foot on the brake and the bus came to a screeching halt. Bodie made his way to the front, ignoring the stares of its frightened passengers and Cameron's judging glare. He glanced outside, thankful that they'd stopped on the outskirts of some Kent market town, with no obvious signs of the infected. There was a pub car park across the road with the choice of a few cars to nick. Though he wondered if it counted as stealing if the owner was never coming back.
He gestured to the unlucky Mickey to open the door, and looked back once at Cameron.
"I'm sorry," he said, and then he was out of the bus and on the street.
Mickey barely waited till his feet hit the pavement before he had the bus on the go again, the lumbering thing roaring past Bodie, nearly running him over.
He stomped down on the feelings washing over and through him: the anguish of not saving Doyle; the grief at Doyle's death; the despair that anything he did would have no meaning. He would go on. Because he always had gone on, and because Doyle would expect him to, and Cowley, if he were still alive, needed him to. Continuing was the only meaning he had left in the world, and he would cling to it.
He did a quick check that there were no infected ready to attack, and took a deep breath.
"Right," he said to the sky, to the pavement, to no one at all. "Scotland."