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Any Other World

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Bodie looked at himself in the hall mirror and grimaced. So much for a dinner, show, then early night to celebrate their first anniversary. While the dinner had been adequate, the play had failed to capture his complete attention, his thoughts drifting back to the unwanted visitor the previous afternoon.

He thought he had made it quite clear he didn't want anything to do with that rat bastard. After all, if he'd wanted to see him, he'd known exactly where he was for the last two years. He had been grateful to George for giving him warning that Doyle had been on his way. It would've been deeply ironic to have his own unexplained shooting on his hands after all Doyle had done. As it was he had barely hung on to his temper and was even more grateful to George for intervening before he had bodily thrown the ungrateful tosser out on his ear.

His fingers fumbled the knot he was tying and he sighed and started again. They were running late, thanks to his restless night. Like it or not, Doyle's fleeting reappearance in his life had opened up old wounds, ones that he'd thought had been long healed over. Thoughts had tumbled over and over in his mind, chasing away sleep. He'd finally moved to the guest room out of concern that he would keep George awake, and he had been glad he did. For when he finally drifted into an uneasy doze, he had been plagued with such nightmares that he had conceded that it had been better for both the occupants of the flat that he be awake.

He frowned at his puffy, blood-shot eyes as he pulled the end of the tie through the knot. Perhaps some strong, black coffee would do the trick.

The phone rang and he casually reached an arm out to pick up the receiver.

"Alpha-Two."

"Alpha-Two, this is Control. I've got a man on the other line asking for you."

It was the delectable Sally. Normally Bodie would lay on the charm for such a perfect specimen of womanhood, but today he was just too tired. "Who is it?"

"He says he's Inspector Taylor, from Cambridge."

"Never heard of him."

"He says it's urgent. And he says he can only speak to you."

Bodie sighed, some sort of self-important copper, obviously. "Okay, I'll speak to him."

The man had probably had found spurious evidence of a plot to kidnap one of the Queen's corgis using an overdue library book or something. Normally Control was able to pass these calls on, but the more self-important they were, the more difficult it was to fob them off.

"Hello," he said as he heard the clicks that meant the call had been transferred.

"Is that Mr. William Bodie?" the disembodied voice on the other end of the line said.

A shiver ran down Bodie's spine at the formal use of his first name and his voice did not seem to sound as gruff as he meant it to. "Yes."

"My name is Inspector Taylor of the Cambridgeshire Constabulary. I'm afraid there has been an accident."

Accident? In Cambridge? There weren't any ops in that area at that moment. “I don't understand.”

“You are Mr. Raymond Doyle's next of kin, yes?”

Next of kin? Of course, he had been once. Neither man had family, each other had been enough. But he'd changed his records after the trial. It seemed that Doyle hadn't.

“Of course. What's happened?”

"I'm afraid that I cannot discuss Mr. Doyle's case over the telephone," Inspector Taylor's voice sounded very far away. "If you could meet me at the hospital? He's been admitted to Addenbrookes."

"Okay."

"Fine.. I shall see you there."

Bodie hardly registered the click as the other man immediately disconnected the call. He dropped his hands to his side, still grasping the receiver.

"Andrew? Are you okay?" George's voice sounded over the sudden roaring in his ears.

Bodie didn't turn around. "That was the hospital. Ray's been in some kind of accident."

"My God. Is it serious?"

"They wouldn't say. But they need me as next of kin. I've no idea why Ray never changed that."

"He didn't have anyone to change it to, Andrew. All his family are deceased, you know. Of course you must go. Take as much time as you need."

"I need…?" Bodie gave a hollow laugh. "I thought I'd seen the last of that bastard. Yesterday. Got him out of our lives for good. And now this." He looked at the other man in the mirror.

A brief smile flashed across Cowley's face and Bodie blinked. But when he looked again, only deep concern showed in Cowley's face and Bodie decided he must've imagined it.

"Yes, I will go. I'll drop you off at Headquarters first, and then drive straight to Cambridge. I won't be that long. Hopefully I'll be able to make it back in time for this afternoon's briefing."

"Och, you're a good lad, Andrew."

“Are you ready?”

“Almost. I need to get my papers together.”

“I'll give you a hand with that,” Bodie said. More in the spirit of helping out than out of a desire to get going quickly. Truth was, he didn't particularly want to go to Cambridge and find out exactly what had happened.

 

* * * * *

With a little bit of effort, Bodie found the Intensive Care Unit at Addenbrookes Hospital and was curtly informed by the young girl there that the doctor would talk to him shortly. An orderly soon showed up to direct him to a small waiting room and he paced the length of the cramped place, measuring out the long minutes in feet.

"Mr Bodie?"

Bodie turned around, expecting the doctor. But instead he saw a tall, fair-haired man in an ill-fitting suit. Copper, his instincts told him.

“Yes?”

His instincts were as unfailing as ever.

"My name is Detective Inspector Michael Taylor. I spoke to you on the telephone earlier." the other man said. "I've been assigned to Mr. Doyle's case." His speech was clipped and Bodie got the distinct impression that Detective Inspector Taylor did not like him.

"Case?" Bodie murmured.

"The Porsche Mr Doyle was driving was stolen last night in Soho. Even without taking into account the extent to which he had been drinking, that is a serious parole violation. He's looking at quite a stretch back inside."

"Come on, Ray's not even out of intensive care yet."

"No, he isn't." Taylor looked him up and down with a badly disguised sneer. "Not that you particularly care."

"Oh, come on," Bodie protested, taken aback by the audacity of the man.

"I call it as I see it," Taylor retorted. "This is all damned inconvenient for you. I can tell."

“Inconvenient?! You don't even know who I am!”

Taylor rounded on him, the marked indifference sloughing away in the face of his obvious fury. “Oh, I know who you are, CI5-man. I don't pretend to know what Ray was working on, but it had to be big. And he had to be close, for you to take him down so hard. What was it, Mr. Bodie? What had Ray discovered that his mere death wouldn't make the problem go away? What had he discovered that you corrupt bastards were up to that you had to take away everything – his honour, his reputation, his name – leave him with less than nothing, leave him with the knowledge that that's what you'd made him?”

The man's sudden change in attitude startled Bodie. “Now look here. I don't know what...”

“You would say that wouldn't you? But I tell you, I've known Ray for many years. We were at Hendon together and a straighter man you wouldn't meet. To do what it's said he did, well. He had to have a damn good reason. It's just a pity that he didn't manage to wipe you all out completely.”

The door of the waiting room opened and Bodie turned to face the entrance. A doctor, in his fifties and balding, entered.

“How is he?” the two men spoke in unison.

“Mr. Doyle is out of surgery now. We managed to relieve the pressure on the brain. Inspector,” the Doctor addressed the blond man, “would you mind giving myself and Mr. Bodie a little privacy for a few moments?”

“No problem. I've got to go and set up the roster. Have you made the usual arrangements for a twenty-four hour guard?”

“Not yet, but my assistant is on to it. I'll make sure you and your colleagues are accommodated.”

“Thank you,” Inspector Taylor said, shaking the doctor's hand and he left without acknowledging Bodie at all.

Once the door had closed behind the policeman, the doctor turned back to Bodie. “My name is Doctor Francis. I'm Mr. Doyle's surgeon.”

“Of course,” Bodie shook his hand. “Thank you for speaking to me. What happened?”

“Mr Doyle lost control of his car just outside Cambridge. Ploughed into a field. Luckily, he was ejected from the vehicle and landed relatively safely in the mud. It has been raining hard this last week. He's fractured his knee, hitting it against the steering wheel, most likely. He cracked his ribs and dislocated his shoulder when he hit the ground. He also bashed his head quite badly. Apart from the head injury and the breaks, the rest is just cuts and bruises. We'll need to keep an eye on that knee. He's a very lucky chap. Overwhelmingly, this sort of incident kills the driver outright. Contradictorily it helped that he was very drunk when he lost control of the car. While it obviously caused the initial skid, he was relaxed enough that he only sustained the injuries he did.”

“And the head injury?”

“Well, we caught the swelling immediately and we were able to relieve the pressure. There's no reason why he won't make a full recovery. That said, he is in a coma and there is always the chance that other complications will present themselves over time. All we can do at the moment is watch carefully and wait. The next couple of weeks will be crucial to Mr. Doyle's recovery.”

“Thank you,” Bodie said. “Is there anything I need to do at this time?”

Doctor Hunter frowned. “Very little, I'm afraid. But of course, we can make arrangements for you to see him as often as you wish.”

“We're not close. Any more,” he added. “We've lost touch over the last couple of years. I just wanted... I mean, if there's anything I need to sign, treatments and such, you can call me and I'll come over and do so. But I don't think I'll be up here unless you need me to be.”

“I see." The Doctor's tone of voice grew rather frosty. "Well, thank you for being candid with me. But, as Mr Doyle is an adult, you can't give your permission for anything, even if he is unconscious. You can always call my assistant if you want an update on the situation. I'll advise her to leave you a message if that becomes unnecessary."

Unnecessary? Oh. “Oh, of course, thank you.” Bodie said weakly.

“You're welcome,” the other man said in a tone which plainly said he wasn't, spun on his heel and left.

Bodie thought more about the annoying inspector as he made his way out of the building. Twenty-four hour guard on a comatose man whose crime had been car theft and a parole violation was a little excessive. He doubted that Doyle would be considered a flight risk at this time. The only place he was able to hide was in his own head. Sure, it was technically a right thing to do, but it wasn't commonplace. Not even common sense, really.

He shook his head. It wasn't really his concern. Doyle could look after himself.

 

* * * * *

By the time Bodie had made it back to Headquarters, the afternoon briefing was almost over. Bodie was glad. He hated every single one of the smug, condescending civil servants and minor politicians that made up the committee that now oversaw every action and decision that George made. Not that much had changed. George was a past master at the string-pulling necessary to initiate any CI5 investigation, the only difference being that it was six men instead of just the Home Secretary he now needed to persuade. It was the unfairness of the squad being turned into a political football ground that hurt more. George had enjoyed total autonomy over the way they were run until Doyle had run blabbing to the papers. George could've fought it even then, but the depth of Doyle's betrayal had shocked the old man so much that he had been powerless to stop the changes. And Bodie hated to see George Cowley powerless.

So he had stepped up to the plate and had helped the man. Professionally at first, ensuring there would be a CI5 to go back to after George had been finally forced to take the long-put off operation on his leg. Then personally when it had become clear that the operation had not been a complete success. George had fallen into a deep depression, convinced that it was all over. Bodie had provided the emotional support to lift George back into the saddle and he had provided the interference so that the new oversight committee hadn't even realised how much George had doubted himself in those first few months of the new regime.

It had been a hell of a six months after the newspaper revelations and Bodie had pushed his own feelings and sense of betrayal down, throwing his all into saving CI5 and George. It hadn't been long before their relationship had turned more intimate, both seeking emotional connection and companionship, they had found it in each other.

And now their partnership was solid, both professionally and personally. Bodie was sure that this new issue with Doyle would not be a problem to them.

Deciding that that it wasn't worth interrupting the briefing for the last ten minutes, Bodie instead making his way over to George's office, confident that the Old Man would wish to brief him on the briefing as soon as possible.

He smiled at Betty as he walked past.

“Bodie?” she questioned, “Are you all right?”

He frowned. “Why wouldn't I be?”

“There's rumours going around the building. About that doctor who rang up this morning. Then with you not showing, well, you know what this place is like.”

Bodie knew all too well; the finest grapevine, the bitterest grapes. “It's fine. Nothing to worry about.”

“It's Ray, isn't it?” she whispered.

Bodie stared. “Have you become psychic, Betty?”

“I saw him yesterday. When he came in to get your address from Mr. Cowley. He had that look in his eye. I just knew something was going to happen." She sniffed. "What did happen?”

“Traffic accident. Near Cambridge. He's out of surgery now, doing okay, all things considered.”

“I should go and visit him, if they'll let him have visitors.”

“Why?”

“Well, there's no-one else, is there?” She glared. “Well, if you’ll excuse me...” and she turned her back on him, reaching into the filing cabinet behind her.

Summarily dismissed, Bodie carried on into the inner office. Betty was acting rather strange. Come to think of it, she'd been cool with him for a long time.

He poured two drinks, sipping at his own and setting one in front of George's empty chair. He was bound to want that when he got back from the 'match'.

On cue the door opened, and the man himself limped in, leaning heavily on his cane. “Ah, Andrew,” he said pleasantly, easing himself into his chair. “You're back. How were things up in Cambridge?”

“So, so.” Bodie waved his hand in a rocking motion. “He's still alive, but in a bad way. Busted his head, and other parts of his body. The quack is convinced he'll back back in the land of the living shortly, but he's going to smart for a few months until he heals.”

“That's good. And how are you feeling about it all?”

“Fine. Truly,” he added at a penetrating look from the other man. “How did the briefing go?”

“Not very well, I'm afraid. I'm still having problems convincing Mitchell to support the Miller Op. He's still not convinced we've got strong enough evidence to justify the surveillance.”

“But that's what the surveillance is there for. If we had sufficient evidence in his eyes, we'd have enough to prosecute!”

“I know. But he's not budging. We need another lever. Which brings me to the most pressing item. The domestic security conference is tomorrow.”

“I'm packed ready to go.”

“I don't want you to. Not now. I'm sending Davies instead.”

“That clown? You can't. He'll undo half of everything we've achieved this year in one evening. He's about as subtle as a sumo wrestler at the ballet.”

“He's all that's available now. He'll have to do.”

“No, we'd decided that I was the best man to go. There's one or two things I need to discuss with Rand at MI6. Even if I brief Davies fully, he'd still cock it up. The situation is delicate there.”

“You have to stay here. You're all that Doyle's got now and you need to be in easy reach of Cambridge, just in case.”

“No! I'm not having him wreck this week. It's been planned for ages and we need this opportunity.” Bodie clenched his fists. “Why does he have to go on spoiling things like this? First with his vendetta against Willis, then the leaks. And now this, it's almost as if he's deliberately making my life as difficult as possible.”

“Now Andrew, we talked about this. Doyle's motives have been far from understandable, but it is clear he was, at least at first, only operating out of concern for you. Of course, once it all went horribly wrong, he tried to save his own skin, at the expense of CI5. Any fall out for you, for us, was entirely coincidental. And now this, well. He was very upset when he left us yesterday, but I fail to believe he deliberately set himself up to survive such a horrific crash.”

“I know, but it would've been easier if he'd just died.”

George shook his head. “You don't really believe that, do you?”

“Of course I do. It's almost as if we can't put all this past us while he still lives. While he still exists, he can pop up like Banquo's ghost, reminding us of what had happened, drawing us back into it.”

George winced. “Guilty conscience, Andrew? No. You're all he's got now. You can't abandon him completely.”

“All he's got?” Bodie laughed, mirthlessly, “That's what Betty said. Next of kin. It's a joke, that's all it is. But he hasn't even got me. I refuse to let him drag me back into this. Look, if I go to the conference this week, I can put pressure on Jenkins. He's a good friend of Mitchell's. He would be the perfect lever to get the Miller Op okayed.”

George thought for a second. “It would work, as long as you're gentle with Jenkins. I don't want to break him yet. He's still got years of use in him, if we're subtle enough.”

“I can do it. Davies can't.”

George sighed. “Aye. Okay, you can go. But I want you within easy reach of a telephone at all times. And if anything changes in Doyle's condition, you're to come straight back. I'll not have you neglecting your duty, even to Doyle.”

Bodie drained his glass, immensely glad he'd got his own way. “Great. That's settled that then. I'll leave for Newcastle first thing in the morning. Anything else?”

“Nothing at the moment. Though, if you've got time this afternoon, you can check up on Anson's surveillance. There's a couple of interesting faces cropped up there. Lisa's pulling their records at the moment. You can take them along to him, if you want.”

“Great, I'll get going then.” Bodie stood and walked to the door.

“And Andrew?”

He stopped, one hand on the door handle, and turned, raising a quizzical eyebrow at his lover.

“Be careful.”

“I always am.”

 

* * * * *

The bar at the hotel was mostly empty, pre-dinner; the delegates still changing into their best suits and Bodie took advantage of the lull to take a break away from the crowds before starting the real work of the evening.

Conferences like this were more networking opportunities than learning experiences to him and socialising at the bar and at dinner were vastly more important than attending the workshops. It was amazing what a person could learn when the scotch ran free.

It was all about leverage. The right word in a person's ear at the right time could bring down a government. And so Bodie provided the lubrication to keep the confidences running freely and occasionally dropped a word or two back.

Bodie had been disconcerted to realise that he was as good at this type of verbal warfare as he had been the physical side.

He contemplated his scotch. His life now was so different to the one he had imagined it would be three years ago. Then he lived for being on the streets, chasing down the bad guys. Now he cultivated them, used their secrets against them. Life was a lot more shades of grey than it used to be.

A shadow fell across him and he looked up. A rather attractive woman was standing over him.

"Hello, Bodie" she said.

"Doctor Ross," he replied, warily. "Fancy running into you here. I thought you had left the service."

"That's right. I'm working in young offender rehabilitation now. "

"Ah, attempting to stop young thugs becoming old thugs." the 'like me' falling silent between them. "Well good luck with that."

"Thank you. I'm giving a seminar on agent psychology tomorrow morning. A favour for one of the organisers. Will you be there?"

"Unlikely."

"Yes. I suppose so."

Not wishing for the following pause to continue, Bodie drained his glass and stood up. "Well, it was lovely to catch up, Doctor. But I have to go and get ready for the dinner tonight."

"Yes of course." She frowned. "Have you heard from Ray recently?"

Bodie's stomach plummeted. "Ray?" He managed to keep his voice even.

"Ray Doyle." Her voice became icy. "You remember him, I presume? I thought you were friends at one time."

"That was a long time ago. Now he's a traitor and a convicted criminal."

"He was due out on parole a couple of weeks ago. He told me he was going to talk to you."

"You saw him while he was at Her Majesty's Pleasure?"

"Tried to. He didn't want visitors. Or, at least, the wrong kind of visitor. But I did speak to him on the phone. I told him to look me up. But I've not heard from him. I just wondered whether you had. But Ray obviously had more sense than to chase ex-friendships."

That stung. He shrugged nonchalantly. "He did come to see me actually. And I sent him away with a flea in his ear."

"And you've not seen him since? Have you any idea where he went?"

Bodie didn't answer, just moved to push past her.

"How can you be so bloody callous, Bodie? He was your..."

"There was an accident." Bodie cut across her accusations. "After he left me. He got steaming drunk and nicked a car. Crashed it somewhere outside Cambridge."

Kate's hand flew to her mouth and her eyes opened in shock. "Is he...?"

"It'd been better if he had. He hadn't got anything left before. He's in a coma."

"Oh God."

Kate's knees buckled and Bodie caught her as she began to fall. He deposited her in the armchair he had vacated.

"This is my fault," she whispered.

He indicated to a hovering waiter and ordered a brandy. The waiter was gratifyingly quick and he pressed the balloon glass into her hand.

“Drink this.”

Kate took the glass automatically and downed the liquid in one. She coughed and grimaced. “God, I hate brandy.”

“It's good for emotional shocks, or so they tell me.”

“Never believe what 'they' tell you, Bodie. But thank you.”

He perched himself on the edge of the low table. “What do you mean about Ray's accident being your fault?”

The faint hint of colour that had started to creep into her cheeks vanished. “I... I should've tried harder, that's all.”

“When?” Bodie pressed.

She looked up at him. “What do you care, anyway? You're obviously happy to get Ray out of your life."

Bodie rubbed at his forehead. "He's not out of my life. That's my problem."

"Yes, it is," Kate agreed. "You can't let go, can you? Despite your anger. Or because of it. Interesting."

"More psychology? You're not my Doctor any more."

"No, I'm not." She agreed. "Where is Ray at the moment?"

"Addenbrookes. Cambridge."

Kate nodded. "Well, I won't keep you. I'm sure you have lots to do." She stood. "Thanks for the drink, Bodie."

And she walked off, leaving Bodie with a frown on his face and a thousand questions on his lips.

 

* * * * *

Bodie sighed as the key turned and the door swung open. Home sweet home. He reset the locks and toed off his shoes, dumping his case in front of the coat rack and padded through to the lounge.

The conference had not been a success. Four nights of sleeping in a particularly hard, uncomfortable bed and rubbing shoulders with up-and-comings in all of the security services, all of whom who had a laughing contempt of CI5 had not been Bodie's idea of fun in the first place, Add in that strange meeting with Kate Ross and it had turned into five days that Bodie particularly wanted to forget.

Bodie poured himself a large whisky from the decanter on the sideboard and collapsed on the sofa.

The last time he'd seen her was at Doyle's trial. Pale-faced and angry, she had sat completely still at the sentencing, white-knuckled fingers clenched around her briefcase handle. Afterwards she had left, not speaking to anyone, and that had been it. He'd heard from Murphy later on that she'd handed in her resignation that day. George hadn't spoken about it at all. Hadn't wanted to.

So she blames herself for Doyle's incarceration, he thought. Why?

God, he was tired. He knocked back the amber liquid in one and leaned his head back, closing his eyes. Moments later the empty glass slid out of his sleep-slackened fingers and fell to the floor.

He was standing in a court room, just like the one that had been used for the trial. He instinctively knew that he was here for the sentencing – the same one that had hammered the truth of Doyle's guilt into him in a way that a mere arrest and trial had not.

Sure, innocent men had been convicted in the murky judicial past and undoubtedly would do so again. But not Doyle, his best mate, his.... No. If he had been innocent, fate could not have ripped the two men asunder like that. Doyle had to have been guilty...

The perspective had changed. He was no longer sat in the gallery, as he had been that dreadful day in August. Now he was stood in the dock, stood behind Doyle, his fingers wrapped around those slim hips, pulling them back hard against his own as he possessed that cherished body in a way he'd never had the chance to do in real life. It was sweet, sweeter than he had ever dared imagine, but Doyle was screaming. That wasn't right, and Bodie jerked himself back, pulling out in one swift motion, desperate to distance himself from Doyle's pain. But Doyle shot out a hand and grabbed hold of Bodie's wrist.

“You finish this now,” he said in a gravelly, hoarse voice. “Push it in hard and have done. I'm so tired,” he added, more quietly, his hand unclenching and falling to his side.

Bodie looked down at the curved back in front of him, shocked to see a wicked blade half-buried in Doyle's back. Blood was running freely from the wound, down Doyle's back and hips and liberally coating Bodie's hands. He recognised the dagger. It was...

“NO!!!” Bodie himself screamed, desperate to get away, but he was rooted to the spot.

“You do this now.” Dream-Doyle ordered, “you make this right, before...”

It was too late. A spotlight switched on, illuminating the judge's chair. George was sat there in a judge's wig and gown, a square of black cloth draped over the wig.

“For your crimes,” he intoned, “I sentence you to death.” He looked straight at Bodie, who realised then that he was now all alone in the dock.

Then Cowley smiled a peculiar smile that sent chills down his spine. Triumph and cunning reflected in his face as the hands of unseen adversaries grabbed at him and dragged him down...

Bodie jerked awake as his head hit the arm of the sofa. Christ, he should have expected this.

The dream was so clichéd it didn't really need an explanation. The dagger he'd last seen in the Congo, the last time he'd killed a friend out of necessity. And mercy.

His hands ran red with Doyle's blood, the act he had desired so long, the betrayal. Doyle's trial becoming his trial...

Guilty conscience indeed. George had it right. Bodie rubbed his face, vaguely surprised to find it damp.

But that smile. What was it about that smile?

"Andrew? Is that you?" George's voice called from the hallway.

He was getting slow. He'd not even heard the snick of the lock opening.

"Here!" he called, levering himself off the sofa. The room swam before his eyes for a moment before reality exerted itself. Before he could reach the hallway, George wheeled himself into the room.

"You're back."

"Been back about an hour," Bodie acknowledged. "I fell asleep on the sofa. It was a long drive." He took in the pinched look and red eyes. "You, however, don't look like you've slept at all. Is your leg playing up again?"

"As always," George conceded. "I don't remember it aching this much when the bullet was still in it."

It was an old complaint, and Bodie didn't answer it directly. "Well, let me get you into the armchair," he said suiting his actions to his words and supported the other man into the easy chair. "and get you a drink," he crossed to the bar and poured a genorous measure of the good single malt into a crystal tumbler. "and then I'll give you a massage."

He handed the glass to George who took it gratefully.

"What would I do without you, Andrew," George sighed as Bodie started to find and smooth out the knots in the firm muscle of George's thigh.

"You'd cope," Bodie replied gruffly.

"Thank God and thank you I don't have to just 'cope'."

Bodie bent his head over further, ostensibly concentrating on his task.

"So how did you manage this week?" he said, changing the subject.

"Well enough. I put Davies on the Red Doctor observation and he came up with some very interesting intelligence."

"Not his own, obviously."

"Andrew," George scolded. "Davies is a perfectly good field agent."

"Just as well you don't need brains to be one," Bodie muttered.

"Now, now, Andrew," George said, disapproving.

"Sorry," Bodie replied, anything but. "So, what else has been happening?"

"Well," and George proceeded to tell him about the week's events.

 

* * * * *

It took Bodie a further week to crack and call the hospital, only to be informed that Ray's consultant, Doctor Hunter was busy and there was no-one else that could help. It then only took him another two days of not getting any answers in phone tag to make his way up to Cambridge and present himself physically at the crowded and understaffed hospital reception.

His enquiry was finally heard and Bodie was quite surprised to hear that not only was Doctor Hunter was in the building, but he was also free and willing to speak to him.

A harried orderly took him on a bewildering tour of identical-looking corridors to a rather crowded office where Hunter seemed to be tackling case notes and a cheese and pickle sandwich simultaneously. The doctor put his sandwich down and wiped his hand on his trouser leg before standing up and indicating to a chair opposite.

"Mr. Bodie," he acknowledged. "How interesting to meet you.”

Stung by the insinuation and sure that the doctor had been talking to Inspector Taylor, Bodie started without preamble. "How is Ray?"

"Mr. Doyle is... Not doing so well, to be honest. He emerged from his coma a couple of days ago, but remains unresponsive."

"What does that mean?"

"Precisely that. He's awake, but will not speak or move. While this could be physical brain damage due to his accident, we've not been able to isolate anything yet. And from what I've been able to glean from his recent history, it's very possible this is psychological. Severe depression can have this effect."

"He's in hiding?"

"In effect. I've spoken to Inspector Taylor and from what he's told me, it's not unlikely."

Bodie gazed down at his hands, surprisingly blemish-free. "It's not unlikely," he agreed.

"We're not without hope. We've started Mr. Doyle on a course of Sodium Amytal. It can have some effect in a case such as this."

"Some? Not all." It was a statement of fact.

"No. Not all. But there is hope.”

"You will let me know, either way." This wasn't, quite, a question.

"Of course, Mr. Bodie. If that is your wish."

"Please."

"Then of course we will ensure you are informed before we start thinking about any further stages of treatment."

"Thank you." Bodie paused for a moment, before asking the next question that quite surprised himself. "Can I see Ray?"

"Of course. He's in one of our private rooms. Gerard can show you." Doctor Hunter picked up the telephone and spoke into it. "Gerard, can you come in for a moment."

"Certainly, Doctor," a crackly voice responded.

Hunter put the handset down. "Medical student," he whispered confidingly, "keen and his heart is in the right place. Clumsy as anything mind..." he broke off as there was a tap at the door before it swung open. "Ah, Gerard. Please show Mr. Bodie down to Mr. Doyle's room."

"Certainly, Doctor," the weedy looking man said. "this way please."

"Thank you Doctor," Bodie addressed the older man as he stood.

He held out his hand and Hunter shook it. "No problem."

Bodie followed the hapless Gerard out of the office, back down several more identical corridors and up several flights of stairs. Gerard proving Hunter's word by tripping over his own feet at least twice.

"We're here," Gerard finally said. "Second on the right, you can't miss it."

"You're not going to show me to the door?"

"Not with that Inspector sniffing around. Gives me the willies, he does, all that suspicious peering."

Bodie looked down the corridor and was surprised to see something of an altercation going on. He glanced back to thank Gerard, but he had disappeared. Bodie squared his shoulders and set off to see what was going on.

"Bodie!" Betty cried. "Thank goodness. This policeman won't let me in to see Ray."

"Well, you can come in with me."

But the fresh-faced, young constable held firm. "I've orders not to let anyone in this room, they have been cleared. Especially not if they're CI5 and especially not if they're you."

"Whose orders?" Bodie inquired.

"Mine," a familiar voice came from behind them.

Bodie curled his hands into fists. "And why?"

"I've reason to believe this man's life is in danger. And, as it's my job to protect it, I'm taking all necessary steps to do just that."

Bodie reddened with rage, but mindful of the fact Cowley wouldn't be very pleased if he was arrested for assaulting a police officer, he refrained from knocking Taylor into the middle of next week. Instead he glanced at Betty, who had taken a step forward.

"I understand," she said to Taylor, surprising Bodie. "Here, I hope you will give him these." And she handed a bunch of flowers to the even more surprised Inspector. She then stood on tip-toe and kissed him on the cheek. "Thank you." Then she turned away and started to walk down the corridor, her low heels making a regular clack on the polished flooring.

Bodie, ignoring the shocked policemen, ran after her.

"Betty, wait up!" He cried, but he didn't catch her until she had reached the lifts. "What was all that about? Why did you just thank Taylor?"

"I'm just glad that someone is watching out for Ray," she said vaguely. "I better get back to the office. I'm only supposed to be out this morning. Katie's watching over everything and she's terrible at filing. Goodness knows what state the cabinets will be in when I get back."

"How did you get here?" Bodie asked.

"Train. From Kings Cross."

"Well, I'll give you a lift back, if you want."

"That would be kind, but no. I've got my return ticket. I wouldn't want to be any inconvenience."

"No inconvenience at all, Betty. I'm heading straight back there now."

"Okay then," she said, rather reluctantly, Bodie thought.

"We've got time for a cup of tea before we set off then. My treat."

"Lovely."

One quick look at the hospital cafeteria and, by accord, Bodie drove them both back into Cambridge, finding at a small café in the centre of the town, where Bodie duly paid for tea and a couple of slices of fruitcake.

They sat at a small table, and Bodie let Betty take a sip of her tea before asking "So why do you think Ray needs watching out for?"

Betty shrugged. "Someone has to, and I know that you won't."

"Won't I?"

Betty folded her arms and glared. "No, you won't. Now it's your business why you believed what they said at the trial, when any sensible person would know that Ray wouldn't do that kind of thing. But how you can believe that he set up that Schuman woman, after hearing those tapes, well. I know you were angry, but you must have realised that he was just doing his job."

Bodie blinked. "Tapes?"

"The tapes George Cowley gave me to transcribe. I listened to them once, to get a gist of the thing, before starting to type. Only he came back before I had a chance to start transcribing. He said he needed to make copies and that he'd bring them back once he'd had a chance. Only he never gave them back. I thought he'd given them to one of the girls in the pool to do them instead. I remember clear as day, after he'd finished questioning the woman, he said 'Sorry Bodie, but I had to be sure'."

"I don't remember anything like that."

"Perhaps you didn't listen to the entire thing," Betty said, archly.

Tapes can be doctored. That's what Ray had said. "Perhaps I didn't," Bodie mused.

"And then there was Brian."

"Brian? Macklin?"

"Yes. He had a right ding dong with Mr Cowley the day Ray was arrested. I don't know what it was about, but he believed Ray hadn't done it either. He even said he was going to the police."

"And did he?"

"Of course not. He was in that hit and run accident not twenty-four hours later. By the time he got out of hospital, he said it didn't matter any more. I've always wondered about that."

"Yeah, I'd've wondered too, if I'd known."

 

* * * * *

Bodie turned Betty's words over and over in his mind over the next week or so, while CI5 were rushed off their feet with a spate of ops. He didn't get a chance to do anything about Brian Macklin until Anson's surveillance of a cell of Irish terrorists had come to an abrupt end when they blew themselves up and gave Bodie an unexpected couple of days off.

Macklin had proved to be a hard man to track down and Bodie had been loathe to give the task to one of the girls in the computer room. Then he remembered Betty, who provided a telephone number and fifteen minutes after that Bodie had arranged a meeting in a pub on the outskirts of London that afternoon.

"Do you live round here?" Bodie asked Macklin as he gazed around the seedy, rundown pub, reflecting the seedy, rundown area it was located in.

"Nope," he took a mouthful of lager. "It's just a pub. And it's conveniently near to a railway station."

Bodie sipped at his own drink. "Terrible beer, though."

“Can't have everything, you know." he replied mildly. "So what about you then, Bodie. Still with the mob?”

Bodie nodded.

“Good, good.” He paused. “Just be careful – the old man... Well...”

“It's a dangerous job.”

“Yes, I know. Just watch yourself, eh? Though, I don't know. Cowley always did have a soft spot for you a mile wide.” He fiddled with his drink for a moment. “What can I do for you, Bodie? Nothing physical, I hope.”

“No, not physical at all. Can't a bloke chat to an old mate?”

“Come on, Bodie, we were never great friends. You want something.”

“Yeah, okay. Just a little bit of information.”

Macklin raised an eyebrow. “Information? About what?”

“Ray Doyle.”

The effect was subtle, but no less telling. The previous easy smile faded from Brian's eyes and lines of strain appeared at the corner of his mouth. When he spoke the tone of voice was guarded. “Why are you dragging up that old history, eh?”

Bodie shrugged. “Just that there have a few questions in my mind recently. Do you really think Ray did it?”

“What does it matter if he did it or not? He's paying the price and there's no point rocking the boat now. He should be up for parole any time now. Should make it too.”

“He did,” Bodie whispered.

“Oh.” Macklin leaned forward. “What happened?”

“He's...” Bodie swallowed. "There was an accident. 'Bout three weeks ago. Head injury. He's come out of the coma, but he's non-responsive.”

“Oh God. I didn't know. Poor Ray. Will he...?”

“I don't know. But the quacks aren't very hopeful. He came to see me, you know. Before. Well, anyway, he said some things and it got me thinking. I was too angry before. And everyone is telling me how he wouldn't have done any of those things he was accused of. But there's no evidence either way.”

“Unlikely to be any at all,” Macklin agreed. “But why talk to me?”

“Someone told me that you had seen Ray that night. The night Willis was killed. I... What happened?”

“This happened,” Macklin muttered cryptically, rubbing his hip.

“Please, Brian. I need to know.”

“Macklin sighed. “All right. But I'll have another pint first.”

When Bodie got back to the table, two foaming glasses in hand, Macklin had changed seats.

“How's the hip?” Bodie asked, putting the glasses on the table and sitting down opposite.

“As well as can be expected for something that is more metal and plastic than bone. I still have the stick and it aches terribly in cold weather. But I was lucky.”

“Luckier than Ray, anyway.”

“You think it has something to do with his conviction?”

“That it wasn't an accident? In a way it wasn't. More suicide-by-proxy. He was blind drunk, wasn't even capable of standing straight let alone controlling several tons of metal at high speed.” Bodie frowned. “You mean you don't think yours was an accident?”

“Know it wasn't.”

“But...”

“Leave it, Bodie. We're supposed to be talking about Ray here, not me.”

Bodie conceded, but still determined to get that out of Brian before they left the pub. “Okay. So what happened that night?”

“There's precious little to tell, to be honest. I found Ray in a run down pub in the East End, dead drunk and about to start a fight. He'd collected a few bruises before I dragged him out of there. I poured him into a taxi, and when it became obvious he wasn't going to be able to get out of it again unaided, I took him home and poured him into bed. He was practically unconscious, definitely unable to drag himself over to Willis' house, let alone take him out with a sniper. No, I don't think he did it. I don't think he was capable.”

“And that's it? Nothing else to tell?”

“That's about the size of it. I know Doyle wasn't capable, so he's not your man, is he?”

“I've seen him do some quite surprising thing over the years. And he could've been playing up, been less drunk than you thought. He could've gone back out after you left.”

Silence greeted that pronouncement, so Bodie tried another tack.

“Why were you in the vicinity of the pub Doyle was in? Not your usual kind of establishment, is it?”

"What? Like this one is?" Macklin sighed. “Cowley sent me. He said he was worried about Doyle. After you'd gone storming off after the stand-off at the gas tower, Doyle gave a verbal report and then vanished. Cowley said to find Doyle and get him out of sight. Make sure he didn't do anything stupid. So I did."

"So you tucked him in and left. With no evidence, I have no leverage to get at the truth. I'm never going to get to the bottom of this."

"Why"?

"What do you mean 'why'?"

"Why are you dragging all this up again. Why does it matter? Time has been served, punishment dealt. There's no point raking over old dirt, is there?"

"It matters to me," Bodie whispered. "I need to know whether I was right."

"So this is just an exercise to relieve your conscience. If Ray did it, you're right. Right to shun someone you were friends with, even more," Bodie felt panicked for a second but Macklin carried straight on, "Do you really think Ray deserved your betrayal when you turned your back on him? Even if he did it?"

"I couldn't bear what he did to..." Bodie's voice was thick. "Look, it's not that. If we were right, well, that's one thing. But if we were wrong? There's someone out there who set Ray up. Don't you think I should do something about that? Ray is lying in a hospital bed, he thinks his life is over. If I can do something, set things right..."

"You can bring him back." Macklin stared at Bodie for a moment. "It's rather a vain hope."

"I know. But I have to try, don't I?"

"And even if it did work, it wouldn't set things right between you."

"I know that too. This is about what is important. Not personal." Bodie was rather suprised himself to realise that was true.

That piercing blue stare seemingly bored into Bodie's soul for a few seconds. "You're right."

Bodie blinked. "So have you any ideas at all?"

Macklin leaned forward and grabbed his wrist. "Ray didn't do it. He couldn't do it. I was there."

"You were? Where?"

"At Ray's. I stayed. He couldn't have left to shoot Willis as I stayed with him that night."

"You stayed. So Ray didn't... Why didn't you...?"

"Say something at the trial? I was scared, Bodie. Terrified at what would happen."

"Happen?"

"I told you this hip," here Macklin knocked at it with the heel of his hand, "was no accident. I was warned off, Bodie. I spent months in hospital and I came to the conclusion that it wasn't worth speaking up."

"Who?"

"Bodie. I was wrong."

"Who?"

"I... don't know." Macklin finally said.

"You must have your suspicions."

“Just leave it, Bodie. I don't want to discuss it.”

Bodie opened his mouth to argue, but thought better of it. It couldn't be that important, if Macklin didn't want to say anything further.

Bodie drained his glass and stood. “Thank you,” he held out his hand and Macklin shook it. “I'll keep digging.”

“Good luck with that,” Macklin said. There was a look on his face which Bodie couldn't identify. Acceptance maybe.

As he walked out of the bar, Bodie thought back to that afternoon before his world had been shattered. He should have kept on at finding the truth out back then. Now he knew Ray hadn't killed Willis. From Betty, he knew that he hadn't betrayed Marikka. And if he hadn't done those things, what else might he have not done? While it was common knowledge within CI5 that Ray had been the one behind the leaks, his name had never been formally mentioned. Perhaps it was time to track down the truth.