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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.

Chapter Text

It didn't take long for Bodie to find the name of the reporter who had broken the story of CI5 'mismanagement'. An hour at the British Library, looking through their records, was enough. And armed with a name, he walked immediately down to Fleet Street to track down his quarry. The receptionist at the paper referred Bodie directly to The Harrow, where it was likely that the journalist in question would be found.

Armed with a description charmed from the receptionist, Bodie easily identified the journalist from amongst the various other hacks and sub-editors that made up the early evening crowd in the little pub. Portly and red-faced like so many of his profession, Tom Courtney was sat on his own at a small table, staring into a glass of whisky.

Bodie detoured to the bar and ordered two more of the same before walking over and sliding in to the seat opposite.

"May I join you?" he inquired solicitously, ostentatiously putting the glasses down on the table.

Tom looked up, "I'm sorry," he started before catching sight of the two glasses. "Who are you?"

"Bodie," Bodie replied, pushing one of the drinks towards him.

Tom ignored it for a moment. "And what do you want?"

"Just a little bit of information."

"Difficult, that. I never reveal my sources."

"You don't need to. That is a matter of public record."

"Oh? And which particular story do you want to question me about?"

"The CI5 leaks."

"Oh, that's old news."

"And, as such, it won't matter you answering a couple of questions about it then?"

"You're a bit late, aren't you? I would have thought CI5 would have tried this two years ago."

"And what makes you think I'm CI5?"

"Do me a lemon," Tom snorted. "I know who you are, Mr. Andrew Bodie. I've watched your rising career with interest." He drained his scotch and pulled the one Bodie had placed on the table in front of him.

"Just Bodie, and will you answer a couple of questions?"

"And what's in it for me?"

"Twenty quid?"

Tom snorted.

"Fifty, then. You won't be betraying any deep confidences, you know."

"Okay, but I reserve the right not to answer. If it will compromise my integrity."

Bodie internally rolled his eyes, but nodded. "Fine. Now we know the who and we know the why. What I want to know is how you got hold of the information."

"It was easy enough. The informant told me that he had papers, but couldn't hand them over in person. He was being watched, or something. Said he'd left them in a safe place and that all I had to do was retrieve them. No hassle on my part, just wait until he'd sent the ticket and then go to Kings Cross station and retrieve a case from Left Luggage. It was that easy as well. The chit came through the post, I retrieved the case and the rest is, well, history."

"That easy? Your informant must've been collecting evidence for a while."

"Yes," Tom paused for a moment, running a finger through an old spill on the table. "But, I only got half of it to start with."

"Half?"

"Yeah. He called me up about a month later."

"When was this?"

"About a fortnight after the trial had finished. He said that he had more, if I was interested. Of course I was interested. So we agreed a price, and he made another drop."

"Kings Cross again?"

"Not this time. He said he'd left them in a lock-up in West London. I was to go there and leave the cash agreed in the same place. Said he'd send me a key. The key arrived next morning, and I immediately went up there and picked up the papers."

"Did the key come through the post, like the ticket?"

"No, someone dropped it off at reception. No one saw who did it. Of course, by this time the big CI5 story had broken and we knew who it was, so we reckoned that he'd got a friend to make the drop. Probably didn't even know what he was handing over."

"And your informant never revealed his identity?"

"Nope. Called himself 'Bill', but it was bloody obvious that it was an alias." Tom lit another cigarette. "Good one, though. Water tight. Even the lock-up in Putney had been taken out in that name. We did a bit of digging around, you see. It had been taken out four years before in the name of 'Bill Huskisson'."

"What?!" But that was…

"Yeah, he'd been planning something like this for that long."

"What's the address? We can possibly get more out of it than you could."

"Unlikely," Tom chuckled. "But there's no harm in it. I emptied it when I took the papers. Radcliffe Square. Number Six."

Bodie swallowed. "You took everything?"

"Well, that's all there was. Just the papers in an interdepartmental envelope, sat on the floor in the middle of an old oil stain. Well, that and the usual spiders and rats."

"And nothing else?"

"Nope. You seem surprised."

Bodie shrugged. "Seems a little far-fetched, that's all. All very cloak and dagger."

Tom looked at Bodie speculatively. "You think there's something fishy going on," he stated.

"Not at all."

"Come on, reporter's instincts here. There's definitely something more here. I can feel it. Why else would you be questioning me so long after the event?"

"Call it professional curiosity."

"Really? Look, I'll do you a deal. You can keep your fifty quid, if you let me in on any follow-up. "

Bodie stood and reached in his pocket for his wallet. Extracting two twenties and a ten, he placed them on the table. "Sorry Tom, there's no story."

Tom snorted. "Sure there isn't." But he picked up the notes anyway. "You know, that CI5 story was the best I'd ever written. A real coup. Doubt I'll get another one like that."

"Once in a lifetime," Bodie agreed and, turning on his heel, left.

Bodie walked along Fleet Street, deep in thought. Funny that Doyle would be using his lock-up to store official secrets. Especially when Doyle had been in jail for months, having been refused bail, by the time Tom had collected the envelope. And most especially when Bodie knew exactly what had been in that lock-up a fortnight before when he'd emptied it of his own property.

He'd left behind an identical bag; containing gun, ammunition, spare clothes, fake passport and cash that had been meant for Doyle, no longer caring. The storm had already broken over the first set of revelations and George had been stalking round Headquarters like a vengeful ghost while Bodie had still been shell-shocked by the verdict. But the worst was to come, with what Bodie now knew to be the second hand-over of material.

It all made far too much sense. Doyle hadn't had anything to do with the revelations, but someone wanted it to look that way. There was no way he himself would've used the garage to pass on those documents, knowing that Bodie had free access as well. But if someone else believed that Doyle's key was the only one? Then they just might.

It would have to be someone who wanted to discredit CI5, bring it down. And it was an inside job. Well, they'd known all that to start with. That's why it made so much sense for it to be Doyle. He was, after all, the one who had made all the noises about being thrown to the wolves; obviously shocked and appalled that the law still applied even to killers such as themselves. It was the sheer foresight of it that had blown Bodie away at the time. He'd obviously been keeping a record of some of the more controversial incidents, ready to dump on a willing journalist at any time. Except that now, knowing that there were two drops and that the second one had been impossible for Doyle to make, well. It was almost inconceivable that there were two people wanting to bring down CI5 round its ears at the same time. Was this a man who had merely taken advantage of Doyle's actions or was this a man who had, perhaps, had more of a hands-on approach to the problem?

Doyle hadn't betrayed CI5 out of spite. He hadn't handed across those so damaging secrets. He hadn't shot Willis and he hadn't set up Marrika. Yet George had insisted all those things were true. His whole world had been turned upside down.

 

* * * * *

Early next morning, Bodie set off for Cambridge again. He needed to see Ray, even if he couldn't speak to him. Somehow, he felt, he could pull the truth from this web of lies if he only could see Ray.

Presenting himself once again at reception, he was, almost immediately waylaid by Doctor Hunter, who pulled him aside into one of the small private waiting rooms.

"It's bad news, I'm afraid. Mr. Doyle isn't responding to the medication at all. We've had no response whatsoever."

"So what does that mean? Is there no hope at all?"

"No, there is hope, but it's extreme. Do you think that your friend would consent to electro-convulsive therapy, if it were offered and he were in a state to consent?"

Electroconvulsive... "Isn't that rather ... Victorian?" Barbaric Bodie's mind supplemented.

"Not at all. Quite cutting edge in fact. It certainly has its place in modern psychiatric treatment."

"How soon would you want to perform the procedure?" Bodie whispered.

"Well, we still need to run some tests. We are now fairly sure that there is no physical element to Mr. Doyle's illness, but we need to be sure. And there are Mr. Doyle's physical injuries to consider. ECT can be quite demanding on the body."

Images of Doyle writhing in pain as electricity passed through his body filled Bodie's mind. "How soon?" he repeated.

"Two or three days. May be a week, depending on how his knee is healing. And depending on anything else we find. Oh, and on Inspector Taylor's plans, of course."

"Inspector Taylor? What has he got to do with Ray's treatment?"

"Mr. Doyle is still in police custody. So any requests he has with regards to that need to be taken in to consideration when looking at long-term treatment plans."

"But what is he proposing?"

"I'm afraid you'll need to discuss that with him."

"I will. Now. Where is he?"

"He was speaking to the constable on Mr. Doyle's door not ten minutes ago. You might catch him there."

"Thanks," Bodie said, already opening the waiting room door.

Remembering the route the medical student had taken last time, Bodie only managed a couple of wrong turns and dead-ends before finding the right room. Inspector Taylor was still talking to his constable outside as he strode down the corridor.

"Inspector Taylor," Bodie called as he drew near, just what are you planning?"

The inspector turned and glared at Bodie. "I don't think it is any of your business."

"Yes it is. I'm his next-of-kin. And his friend. I need to know."

Taylor sighed. "We're moving him."

"Where to?"

"Broadmoor Hospital. As soon as we can get the transfer papers signed."

"Broadmoor? But that's high security. Ray's not a danger to anyone like this."

"He's still in my custody. Or had you forgotten he's broken parole? If he were mentally capable, he'd be back inside by now."

"But you can't. You'll never get sign-off."

"I will if I have a couple of friendly doctors willing to sign off the recommendation."

Two? Well, there was Doctor Hunter of course. And... "Kate," he breathed.

"It's what your Mister Cowley was going to do, wasn't it? Some nice, secure place under his wing? At least Ray will be safe from CI5 at Broadmoor."

"Safe? But…"

"Don't be so bloody naïve. Don't you think that, if you obey your master now and take Ray with you, he won't be dead within a week? Shot during some escape attempt, perhaps. Or another suicide attempt. This one, unfortunately, successful. He's a liability, Mr. Bodie."

"Cowley wouldn't do that. He's just worried about Ray."

"So am I. And I owe Ray too much to turn him over to you without a fight."

"Why?" At Taylor's questioning frown, Bodie clarified. "Why are you so determined to protect Doyle from CI5?"

'"I've seen what happens when men do the decent thing and try to take down their corrupt bosses. For their decency and honour they deserve protection from the retribution that is sure to follow."

"You worked with Doyle on the Force," Bodie hazarded.

Taylor nodded choppily. "We were in CID together. Stepney. Ray'd only transferred a few months before. He spotted that there was something dodgy going on almost straight away and he finally persuaded me to tell him the little I knew. I couldn't testify against my bosses. I had a wife and a new baby. Ray understood and took it all on himself, left me out of it. Got the conviction as well."

Bodie grimaced. He remembered Preston well. "But?"

"But I saw the way that the rest of the squad treated Ray after that. He was never afterwards quite one of the lads. I backed him up as much as possible. Ray had saved my family, but it wasn't enough. He transferred to the Drugs Squad quite quickly after that and, sick of the hypocrisy of the squad, I found myself a nice little country station to hide away in." He sighed. "Ray's a good man. Whatever he did, he did it for the good of the country, not for selfish reasons. I stood by and watched him vilified for his actions all those years ago and I won't stand idly by and watch him brought down this time. I've been given a second chance and I have to take it."

Bodie gripped Taylor's shoulder. "I know. And thank you, for what it's worth. We were partners for two years before this all happened and I know what kind of man he really is. It's just taken me time to work out exactly what has been going on. I still don't know completely, but I will make sure I get to the bottom of this. I think, I know that Ray didn't do those things he was accused of and I will prove it. But it's going to take time. It's good to know that there's someone else looking out for him."

Taylor unbent a little. "Good luck with that."

"But Ray needs to stay here. If he goes back inside, he'll never come out."

"It's not like that, Mr. Bodie. And he will get better treatment at a specialist hospital."

Bodie conceded that, ruthlessly stamping on his misgivings for the moment. "Then I need to see Ray now. Just five minutes." He took in Taylor's sudden stiffened stance. "You can come in if you want. Make sure I don't stab him through the heart or anything. I've spoken to the Doc. We've agreed that electroconvulsive therapy is his best chance."

"Oh God," Taylor whispered.

"There's a life waiting for him, if he just would come back to us. And I intend to try my hardest to make that happen."

Taylor finally capitulated. "Okay, but five minutes only. Or I'll come in." He stepped aside.

"Thank you," Bodie replied and pushed the door open.

To the casual observer everything seemed normal in the room. An empty bed on one side of the room, a table and armchair to the other, sat under a window. The occupant of the chair was angled towards that window, ostensibly gazing out of it, looking at the flat, open countryside spread below.

But on closer examination, the unnatural stillness of the man in the chair gave a lie to the semblance of normalcy in the room. His hands clutched tightly at the ends of the armrests and his fixed gaze was of such intensity that whatever he was staring at was obviously not of this world.

Bodie crouched down next to the chair and tentatively put a hand on Ray's arm. There was no reaction and this, if nothing else, would've convinced Bodie that all was not well with the man.

"Ray," he started. "I don't know if you can hear me, but I wanted, I needed to say that I'm sorry." He took a deep breath. "I'm sorry I didn't believe you enough at the trial, I'm sorry that I turned away from you afterwards and I'm sorry that I treated you so badly when you came to see me that day. I loved you, you see and I couldn't bear..." He broke off. This was not the time for recriminations, this was not a time to be understood. This was a time to understand. "I know that I can't make everything right between us, but I can clear your name, fight for you in a way I should've done three years ago. You just do your bit and hang in there, eh?" He stood in one fluid move and bent over the silent man, pressing his lips to Ray's forehead. "I'm so sorry, Ray," he whispered. "I love you."

And with that Bodie turned and strode out of the room, desperate to get away from the place before he broke down completely.

 

* * * * *

 

Dinner that night was a fairly sombre affair. Bodie brooded on the day, yet was loathe to talk to George about it. But any topic that was brought up failed to grasp his interest and he picked at the meal, ignoring the growing concerned looks on the other man.

Finally, after retiring to the sitting room with whiskies after dinner, George broached the topic.

"What's wrong, Andrew? Has something happened to Doyle?"

Bodie heaved a sigh. "Taylor's moving Ray. Says now he's awake, he needs to be in a more secure unit."

"Oh? Where's he moving him to?"

"Broadmoor."

"Broadmoor? He really thinks Doyle is that much of a risk, then."

"Don't know. He could just be a jobsworth. By all rights, Ray should be back inside after breaking his parole. Catatonia is classified as an acute mental condition, it's perfectly within his rights to do so, even if it does seem a bit extreme."

"Aye. Well, perhaps we could do something for him. I'll see if I can get him moved to Repton instead. They'll take better care of him there."

"Repton?"

"Doyle was CI5, Andrew. Who knows what he'll say or do while he's away with the fairies. No, for CI5's sake, not that he hasn't already spilled a lot of what he knows, to the papers no less. The wrong person might be listening. It could compromise any future operations we, or MI6, might run."

'Why not put a bullet through his brain and have done,' thought Bodie, bitterly. And he thought again about Taylor's reasoning for the move.

He took a deep breath and asked the question that had been running around his head for days. "What really happened that night?"

"Which night?"

"The night Willis was killed."

"We went through all this at the trial." George sighed, but went on. "Doyle apparently waited until Willis got home, and then fired a rifle through his bedroom window, killing him instantly. He managed to get away, but was apprehended at his own place next day."

"He couldn't have done."

George smiled. "Now I know that you're the better sniper, Bodie. But it was an easy enough shot. I probably could've done it. Willis was careless."

"I didn't mean that. Doyle could've have done it sober, no problem. But dead drunk?"

"Doyle had been drinking, yes. That's probably what motivated him to make such a foolish decision."

"That's not what I meant. There's a witness to say that he was close to passing out."

George sighed. "Brian Macklin. True, Brian did find him in the Red Lion, angry and bitter. Drinking far too much. Especially for a man who was due on duty next day. Brian took him home for his own good. Doyle must've have gone over to Willis's place after he left."

"Nice answer, George. But Macklin stayed over. Was worried, you see. Thought Doyle would do something stupid, so made sure he didn't. He was still there when Willis was shot and he was there for hours afterwards." He lent over, resting his hands on the arms of the chair. "Doyle didn't set up Marikka and he certainly didn't kill Willis. What really happened, George?"

George looked up at Bodie. There was a touch of the look of a cornered animal about him. He sighed and the look faded. "You're right, Bodie. But you don't want to hear what really happened."

"Humour me, George."

"You're right. Doyle didn't do either of those things. It was a set up. But Doyle agreed to it all at the time. It was only later when he realised what it all meant and decided to fight it. He wanted assurances, you see. And more money."

"Ray was paid to take the fall?"

"Aye, and very well, I might add."

"I don't believe it."

"MI6 had me over a barrel. After Willis was shot, most likely by one of his own men, Nigel Dawson came to see me. Said that they might not have been able to stitch you up for the killing of Biermann, but they could certainly make Willis's murder fit. And they could as well. They had… well, it doesn't matter now. But it looked black, Andrew, very black. I discussed it with Doyle and we agreed that he would be arrested instead. The original plan was to muddy the waters. MI6 were gunning for you. If I gave them Doyle, whom they didn't want, they might make enough of a mistake to save you both."

"Except?"

"Except, they decided that Doyle was good enough. And we'd stitched up the case so tight at that point, in an effort to be convincing, that it was impossible to do anything else."

"And the leaks?"

"Doyle was very angry by that point. He thought I'd betrayed him. I don't blame him for that. I had miscalculated and he was paying the price for my error. But it was a foolish, foolish thing to do and I won't forgive him easily."

Bodie frowned. So George still didn't know that the leaks had come from elsewhere. He considered mentioning it, then something else struck him. "You asked me to ask him if he had enough money. When he came round before."

"I was just trying to remind him of the bargain we had struck."

"Why didn't anyone tell me? I was his partner. I was involved. He did it for me!"

"I didn't want anyone to know. And when MI6 settled on Doyle, he didn't want you to know. Said you'd do something idiotic."

"Damn right, I would've." Then Bodie sighed. "God, what a mess."

"That's why we need to do right by Doyle now. See him safe and comfortable at Repton, where he can be cared for properly."

"I suppose you are right."

"Well, I'll get the transfer approved tomorrow." George leaned over and patted Bodie's hand. "It'll be all right, Andrew. Trust me."

 

* * * * *

But next morning, Bodie regretted trusting so blindly. Inspector Taylor's warnings came back to him at every opportunity and the more he thought of it, the more he was sure he was missing something. So he started to stall any attempts to get Ray moved. Inspector Taylor proved surprisingly adept at this, once Bodie had given him names and information to block George's increasingly impolite requests.

And in the meantime, he started to plan how he would confront Nigel Dawson.

It took nearly a week, but breaking into a security chief's home was easier than it should have been and Bodie was immediately suspicious. But it was the only way to talk to the man without it getting back to George, at least immediately. And he had to talk to the man.

Nigel Dawson, the current head of MI6, had arrived home an hour ago, Bodie had watched him climb the steps to the mansion block that his flat was located in alone. He gave him some time to settle in and night to fall before pulling on a black balaclava and gloves and following.

Mrs. Blackburn at number 36 happily buzzed Bodie in on his report that there was a leak in the flat next door and he was here to fix it. He swung on to the fire escape from the stairwell's first floor window, climbing up the next two floors that way, until he was outside what he knew to be the bedroom. Although it was a chill night, the window was cracked ajar and Bodie was glad that he didn't have to contend with a working alarm system. He eased the sash up slowly, wincing every time it made a slight sound and then gently swung into the darkened room.

He didn't dare risk a torch, knowing that Dawson was somewhere on the other side of the door, so he let his eyes adjust to the gloom, gently lit by sodium street lamps the other side of a small park that backed onto the property.

A faint sound made him jerk round, pulling his gun from his holster as the room was flooded with light.

Half-blinded, it took a few moments to realise there were two figures in the doorway to what he now realised was a small study. The second man must have entered the flats after Bodie had started his move. The two men stood there, the companion ably backing up his chief, Brownings trained competently on the intruder.

"Well, well," Dawson's voice was full of humour, "what have we here? The second in command of CI5 breaking and entering. And I thought you chaps had given up the spying game."

Bodie bit back his instinctive reply and took a deep breath. "I just need to talk to you, Dawson."

"And breaking into a man's home was your preferred method, I see. You could have just set up an appointment with my secretary, you know. I'm always happy to speak to other members of the same profession."

"I needed to talk to you privately. About Raymond Doyle."

Dawson chuckled. It was a mirthless sound and made Bodie's blood run cold. "Charles," he addressed his companion, "it seems you've lost your bet. Charles here," he smiled at Bodie "was convinced you'd never figure out what was going on. I had more faith in your abilities. Although you did take your time. I expected you, oh, about three years ago?"

Bodie winced. "I just need a few minutes of your time. Clear up a few things."

"Why certainly, my dear boy. Now if you just put your gun down on the floor in front of you slowly, then we can sit down and chat like old friends."

Bodie, realising he had no other option at this time, did so and Charles stepped forwards, picking up the gun, keeping his own trained on Bodie all the time.

"Charles, you can leave us now. Mr. Bodie here isn't going to make a fuss." And, as Charles moved past his boss and stepped out of the room, Dawson motioned to a desk in one corner. "Take a seat, Mr. Bodie, make yourself comfortable. I'll even let you have your weapon back when you leave."

Bodie stepped across the room and sat down stiffly on the indicated chair. Dawson slid behind the desk into his own, rather more plush, chair and unlocked a small drawer, sliding the gun into it and closing it.

"Now that's a little more civilised, don't you think? Although I would caution you against doing anything rash. Charles is no more than a raised voice away. Drink?"

"No thanks."

"Now, what can I do for you?"

"What happened the night Willis was killed?"

"Direct. I like that in a man. Nothing, really. Willis was shot by a sniper from a roof opposite his bedroom window. It was a daring shot, quite remarkable, actually. The sniper got away and we had to track him down later."

"No, I mean what happened between you and George?"

Dawson smiled, shark-like. "You mean, my version of events. Ah. Well, we agreed that in exchange for certain favours, certain concessions could be made."

"You mean that in exchange for me, you'd take Doyle?"

Dawson's smile grew wider. "Not quite, dear boy. Not quite. Are you sure you don't want a drink?"

"Positive," Bodie ground out.

"Well, you won't mind if I do?" He stood and walked over to a small sideboard and poured himself a small scotch and soda. Sitting down again, he took a sip. "Let's try a different tack here. What did your George tell you of our arrangement?"

"Just that you went to see him and threatened him. You wanted me to take the fall, George gave you Doyle. All nicely stitched up."

Dawson threw his head back and laughed. "My, my. George Cowley really has fed you a line. For the record, dear boy, I didn't go to see him, he came to see me. Before Willis was murdered," he added at Bodie's disbelieving stare.

"I don't believe you."

"It doesn't matter. It's the truth. Said if I could arrange a little... accident for Willis, he would supply the fall guy. Naturally, I jumped at the chance at restoring MI6's standing and consolidating my place within it."

"George... Why would he do that? What had he any hope to gain out of it?"

"My unswerving loyalty, perhaps? Well, may be not. He has always been such an astute fellow. Of course, I did ask him what advantage it gave him at the time and he said... What was the phrase he used? Hmm. He said it helped him get rid of a 'long standing problem'."

"'Long standing problem'? What on earth does that mean?"

"I'm not quite sure," Dawson said in tones which clearly indicated he did. "Perhaps dear George was as keen to get rid of Willis as we were. Who knows? His reasons could've been a lot more... personal. Your guess is as good as mine."

"There's no proof of this. You can say what you want, it's just your word against George's."

"And that's where you're wrong." Dawson reached into one of the drawers in the desk and drew out a cassette tape. "A little insurance."

Bodie drew a breath. "Tapes can be doctored."

"So they can. But I'm sure you've got methods to prove to yourself that this one isn't. Here." and he slid it across the desk.

Bodie pointedly didn't take it.

"Why are you giving this to me now?"

"I've been slandered. I have the right to defend myself from accusations, haven't I?"

Bodie raised an eyebrow, not believing a word.

"George Cowley is becoming more and more erratic. And he still holds considerable political power. His increasing use of that for his own, personal, ends is becoming embarrassing to the service and something must be done."

"But why now? You could've used this," Bodie jabbed at the accusing tape with a forefinger, scraping it along the desk "at any time."

"I am implicated also, remember. No, for this to come out openly would not do either myself or the wider security community any favours. Better that it is used as leverage. Get old George to step aside, perhaps for someone younger," here Dawson saluted Bodie with his glass, "He would surely keep his mouth shut to keep his most loyal... servant highly placed."

"And if I don't use it?"

"You came to see me, remember. You wanted the truth. And here it is, in one very neat package. If you don't want to use it, well. That's your business. But George Cowley is only going to get worse from here on. Do you want to stand idly by as he pisses away every advantage until, at last, he makes a mistake that cannot be ignored? And mark my words, Mr. Bodie, he will. It is only a matter of time."

"Why me?"

"You have the ability to do this. George Cowley doesn't listen to many men. He … listens to you. You have the best chance to actually use this and succeed."

"I don't want his job."

"Your personal loyalty does you credit. If you don't want to take over, you can instead share George's retirement with him."

The insinuations and snide comments were setting Bodie's teeth on edge. But his curiosity over what, exactly, was on the tape was increasing. If it had the proof of Ray's innocence...

"I'll take it," Bodie declared, snatching the tape up from where it lay on the desk as if Dawson might wrestle it back any moment. "But I can't make any promises that I'll use it."

"That is as you wish. I can't expect any more. Charles will see you out." The last bit was said only slightly louder than the preceding conversation, but it was enough to summon the other agent immediately. The man had probably heard every word.

Bodie stood and turned, ignoring Dawson's proffered hand.

"It's a pleasure doing business with you," Dawson called after him. "And Mr. Bodie..."

Bodie stopped at the door and turned to face the other man.

"It is only a copy. Good night."

Face hard, Bodie stalked out into the night.

 

* * * * *

Bodie wandered down to the Embankment in a daze. He already knew and accepted that Doyle hadn't assassinated Willis, that he had been set up. George had laid the blame at Dawson's door and Dawson, in his turn, had accused George.

As a CI5 man and as George's lover, Bodie knew whom he should believe. But there was something, something he couldn't put his finger on, that gave him pause.

He ran a finger over the cassette tape in his pocket. Dawson said he had proof and had given Bodie that proof.

Tapes can be doctored...

The phrase echoed in his head, in Ray's voice as he had spoken it that afternoon. Of course tapes could be faked. Whatever was on that tape, it didn't have to be true. Cowley had faked the tapes Ray had made. Of course Dawson could fake that one to incriminate Cowley and CI5. The sensible thing would be to ignore it.

But what if it were true?

The insidious thought curled through his mind and took root there. He had to know.

Bodie glanced around him, surprised to find himself not five minutes walk from Headquarters. The sky was lightening as he turned in that direction and walked the short distance.

The building was quiet at this hour. While agents came and went at all hours, and some support staff were on call twenty-four hours a day, it was a quiet time at the moment. He bypassed the agents' lounge, instinctively avoiding anyone in there, and instead headed straight to his small office.

He switched on the light and closed the door in one swift move, shrugging out of his jacket as he crossed the floor to his desk. In the bottom drawer was a cassette recorder and he dug for that, putting it on his desk as he sat down in the chair. He slid the tape from its box and into the deck with shaking hands, still not quite believing he would hear anything other than a blank hissing or, if he were very unlucky, a selection of some composer's greatest hits.

He took a deep breath and pressed play. The voices came over the tinny speakers clearly.

"Major Cowley, it's a pleasure to see you again. What can I do for you?"

"Nigel, it is indeed a pleasure. And it's more what I can do for you. I have a proposition for you.

It was undoubtedly George's distinctive Scottish burr on the tape. And it was as Dawson suggested, George had gone to him with the plan, not the other way round. No names were mentioned, but it was clear what the two of them were talking about.

"I'm listening."

"We have a common interest, I believe, Nigel. One that we could both work towards, if you are amenable."

"I see. And what would you have me do?"

"Well, for your part, if you could arrange a simple solution to our mutual problem, I can supply the sacrificial goat with very little trouble."

Bodie listened with increasing horror as the full plan was agreed between the two men.

"And what do you get out of, it Cowley? This could see CI5 finished, if you don't play it the right way."

"Removing our mutual thorn in the side would be reward enough. But, for the sake of it, let's just say it helps me get rid of a long standing problem."

Bodie stopped the tape and rubbed at his temples. Long standing problem, that was the phrase Dawson had used. But what was George's long standing problem that could only be solved by setting up Ray in such a way? Something that was much more important to the old man than CI5? And how did the leaks tie in with this? Bodie was unconvinced they were mere coincidence. Had Dawson done a little undermining of his own?

But no. The leaks had to have come from inside CI5 itself. The revelations had been so specific when they had been published and the reporter had made it clear that he'd had to do very little research over and above publishing the most juicy bits of the documents that had been handed to him.

He rewound the tape.

But, for the sake of it, let's just say it helps me get rid of a long standing problem."

Well, for the sake of it, assume that the problem had been solved by the actions agreed in that room. Or had been soon afterwards. What had George got now that he hadn't, and couldn't have before?

The answer, as it presented itself was at once both shocking in its simplicity and devastating in its personal horror.

Bodie himself.

He shook his head, trying to dislodge the thought. That wasn't possible. But it stayed there, the implications of what had actually been done unwinding in his brain. When Doyle had been arrested, Bodie hadn't believed it. He had worked ceaselessly to try and uncover the truth, desperate to clear the name of the man he loved. Cowley had finally suspended him, deeming him not fit for duty and advised that he use the time to support Ray at the trial. The mass of evidence sowed seeds of doubt every day as he sat there in the gallery, in a way that mere reading about it hadn't. Kate's evidence had been damning in particular, though he now believed it kindly meant; surely that's why she had felt so guilty at the conference. But it had certainly meant the difference between five years, with parole possible in two, and a full life sentence.

It certainly hadn't driven him into Cowley's bed at that time. Not for want of Cowley trying, he remembered now. All those late suppers, those shared bottles of scotch. He had thought at the time that the man was just being supportive, kind. And it had been his own turn to be supportive weeks later when the first newspaper articles hit the stands.

What if Cowley had leaked them himself?

It was certainly possible. Cowley had ordered Doyle's flat cleared himself, at the time refusing Bodie's help. He would have found Doyle's key to the lock-up. He had the resources to find out which particular garage it fitted. And he certainly had the opportunity to organise the drops.

Did he over-extend himself with the second drop because Bodie wasn't sticking to the timetable?

Bodie ran his hands through his hair. It was all so fantastic, so Machiavellian.

Ray had always commented that Cowley was a master at triple-think.

Bodie rewound the tape again.

"A long standing problem."

Ray had stood between Cowley and his heart's desire. Once Ray had been removed, Cowley had played a masterful game to get Bodie exactly where he wanted him. In his bed.

And he had all but sacrificed CI5 for it.

No wonder Ray had tried to kill himself when he had realised the depth of Cowley's deception. And Bodie's own deceit. No wonder he didn't want to come back from whatever recess of his mind he was hiding in.

Bodie wiped his hands across his face, shocked to find it was wet.

How could he make this right?

Vague voices from the outer office percolated through his thoughts. George was here early with Betty.

Go away, he thought savagely. I can't cope with you now.

There was a knock on the frosted glass and then Cowley himself opened the door.

"Ah, Andrew. I wondered if I would see you here. You didn't come home at all last night." The tone was faintly accusing and Bodie, with his new perspective, could hear the possessive and domineering tone in the other man's voice. It, more than anything, shook him up.

"I had to see a man about a case I'm working on at the moment."

"Oh, is the one you've been so secretive about for the last few weeks?" Cowley enquired solicitously, sitting himself down in the chair opposite without waiting for any kind of permission.

"Yes," Bodie said, curtly.

"Did you get what you wanted from him?"

"And more besides," Bodie chuckled without humour.

"So, are you ready to share?"

Bodie didn't say a single word, but pressed rewind on the deck for a second before pressing play.

"We have a common interest, I believe, Nigel. One that we could both work towards, if you are amenable."

"I see. And what would you have me do?"

"Well, for your part, if you could arrange a simple solution to our mutual problem, I can supply the sacrificial goat with very little trouble."

Cowley stared at Bodie for a few seconds, a look of surprise on his face. Then it was gone and he laughed.

"My, that man sounds rather like me doesn't he?"

"Yes, he does," Bodie quietly agreed.

"You really don't think...?"

"Yes, I do."

Cowley stared at him for a moment. "Don't be stupid, man. Dawson is obviously pulling your leg. Or, of course, it could be a plan to destroy CI5 once and for all. You're not going to fall for this, are you?"

Bodie stared back, impassively.

"This is ridiculous. Why would I set the whole thing up?"

"To get rid of Willis. He had almost pulled one over you, that must have rankled. And, ah, what was it, it helped you 'get rid of a long standing problem'. That was the phrase, wasn't it?"

Cowley shifted in his seat. "Well, it had something to do with Willis, of course. The man had stood in my way once too often. He needed taking down a peg or two, for the good of the country."

"And Ray?" Bodie's voice was hard.

"Doyle?" Cowley sighed heavily. "I did that for you, Andrew."

"For me?"

"Aye. I could see what was going on. Your infatuation, his encouragement of the same. He never loved you, you know. Not like I love you. It was inevitable that he would use your feelings, twist them to his own ends. And then, before long, you would be making mistakes, thinking more of him than the job. You would be killed or worse, he would persuade you to leave CI5. Leave me."

Bodie laughed bitterly. "So you set him up."

"Removed his influence for your own good, Andrew. You can see that, can't you?"

"All I can see," Bodie said angrily, "Is a bitter, twisted old man who believes his obsessions are so important that he is willing to sacrifice anything for them."

Cowley straightened up in his chair and sat forward. Like a switch had been thrown in him, the mask of integrity and competence fell away. "This is what you get when you're a fool and act on compassion," he snarled. "If I'd sent you North on a long operation instead of letting you stay close to Doyle, then you'd never have questioned me like this."

Bodie shivered at the utter hate etched on the other man's face. "Give it up, George, it's over."

Cowley stood up, straight and unwavering and Bodie had a flash thought that Cowley could easily have been lying about the extent of his disability as well as everything else.

Bodie rose as well.

"It's not over until I say so." Cowley whipped out a gun and pointed it straight at Bodie. "You're going to leave aren't you? Go back to him. Well, I won't let you, Andrew. I won't. And if I can't have you, nobody can..."

It was all happening so fast, he saw Cowley's finger start to tighten on the trigger as he dived for the only cover in the room, behind the desk.

Too late, too late, his mind chanted as he heard the bang of the gun going off.

It took several seconds before Bodie finally realised it wasn't him who had been hit and that Cowley hadn't, actually followed up the shot. The smell of cordite and blood was heavy in the air as he peered over the desk at the room.

Cowley was lying face down on the floor, a spreading pool of blood around his head while in the doorway, no longer obscured by the other man, Betty stood frozen, her gun still pointed at the space Cowley had been standing.

Bodie hiccoughed. "Good shot, Betty."

She turned her wide-eyed gaze towards him, rigid arms starting to shake.

Bodie picked himself up off the floor quickly and, stepping over the still-warm corpse, put his arm around Betty, supporting her and took the gun out of her hands.

She sagged against him. "I heard everything," she confessed. "The door was ajar and I heard everything. I couldn't let him..." she stopped, gulping in air as tears began to flow down her cheeks. "I couldn't believe what was happening... George Cowley..."

"Hey," Bodie spoke softly, pulling her close. "It's okay. It'll be okay."

He glanced back down at his former lover as he heard the sound of running feet coming from the direction of the agents lounge and spoke his thoughts aloud.

"Suicide, I rather think."

 

* * * * *

Epilogue – Three months later

Bodie stepped into the small room and glanced around. An empty bed, covered with a colourful bedspread, stood to one side of the room. To the other side a table and two armchairs sat under a large picture window. The late afternoon sunshine streamed in through that window, casting its red-gold glow over the room. A gentle breeze followed in its wake, billowing the curtains and scenting the air with the faint perfume of the roses and other summer flowers blooming beneath.

One of the chairs was angled towards that window and the occupant ostensibly gazed out of it, looking at the open countryside and rolling hills beyond the small convalescent home.

"'Lo, Sunshine," Bodie said as he walked towards the table, carrying two cups of tea. He put one in front of the occupied chair and sat down, uninvited, in the other.

"Tea?" inquired Doyle, mildly, sitting forward and reaching for the cup and saucer.

Bodie shrugged. "You know how Belinda is. 'If you're going to see that nice Mr. Doyle, make sure you take a cup of tea with you.'" He imitated her high-pitched nasal whine almost perfectly.

"Any biscuits?"

"Do you think Belinda would let me get away without bringing some up? Bourbon or Custard Cream?"

Doyle thought for a moment. "Custard Cream."

Bodie dug into the pocket of his jacket and pulled out a small packet. He slid them across the table. "There you go, mate. Just what the doctor ordered."

"Then he's not a very good doctor," Doyle replied mock-sternly. "All that sugar and fat. Not good for you at all." But he still picked up the packet and opened it, pulling out one of the pale biscuits and crunching down on it with evident satisfaction.

Bodie pulled a second packet, this time of chocolate flavoured Bourbons, out of his other jacket pocket and placed it on the table between them. He sat back.

"I met with the Minister this morning," he said carefully.

"So that's why you're late," Doyle replied without heat.

"Yeah."

The two men lapsed into silence for a few moments. Doyle picked up his tea and sipped at it slowly.

"So what did he say?"

"Who?"

"The Minister, of course."

"It's all done and dusted." Bodie's voice became sneering. "George Cowley, distraught over the failure of the operation he had set up so carefully, and with the loss, to all intents and purposes, of the operative he'd sent in, committed suicide rather than admit to that failure."

They had discussed the cover story of course. Bodie had been quite willing to confess to the lot, and more besides, if it had kept Betty in the clear. Had done so, in fact, to the Minister. But the official story had the advantage of doing more good than that.

"They'll never buy it," Doyle shook his head.

"'They' did, as a matter of fact. The oversight committee were quite disgusted with the way Cowley had pulled the wool over their eyes. And were rather upset with the way they had been taken in, I rather suspect. They signed it off, quick as you please."

"Everything?"

"Up to, and including, your back pay. And twice the same again, in way of a little compensation."

"Twice the same again?" Doyle looked surprised. As he should have been. Bodie hadn't told him about that bit.

"Yup, Sunshine. Of course, it's not that much in light of what happened. But it's enough to tide you over. You're out of a job now, remember."

Doyle grimaced. "Have been for years. But twice as much again. That's over eight years worth. How on earth did you get the committee to agree to that?"

"They signed everything in sight, just to be rid of it of it all." Bodie paused. "They also voted to disband CI5. Told you, you're out of a job."

"We're both out of a job," Doyle countered.

"We all are. Most of the lads that were left will probably get snapped up by one of the other security services. Or one of the private firms."

"And you?"

Bodie shrugged. "Rather lost the taste for it, in the last couple of years. I'll find something. Might even become a proper civil servant."

Doyle laughed at that and it was a welcome sound. There had been precious little laughter for either of them in the last couple of months.

"What about you?" Bodie asked, seriously. "Your record has been expunged. Taylor's cleared up the little business with the Porsche. You'll be out of here soon. Have you got any thoughts about what to do next?"

Doyle shook his head. "It's not that I haven't thought about it. Have had to, in session. Part of the moving on process, you know. But I've not reached any conclusions yet." He gazed back out of the window.

Bodie perused the profile of the man sat beside him, the profile of the man he loved. "I've been thinking," he started.

"You have?"

"First time for anything, I know. But what if... what if we look for something together?" Bodie's heart thumped wildly as he finally gave voice to those myriad questions, layered with meaning and intent and pleas for forgiveness, he had been yearning to ask. What if Ray didn't want to? What if he didn't understand.

Doyle answered them all.

"Sounds like a plan," he said with a smile and took Bodie's hand, entangling those blunt capable fingers with his own. He leaned towards him.

Bodie met him halfway and sealed the pact with a kiss.

The End

 

In any other world
You could tell the difference
And let it all unfurl
Into broken remnants
Smile like you mean it
And let yourself let go
Cos it's all in the hands of a bitter, bitter man
Say goodbye to the world you thought you lived in.
Mika – Any Other World