'But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness,
goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.'
GALATIONS 5:22, 23
It was antipathy at first sight. It could not be anything so strong as hate - they had only just seen each other and hadn't even exchanged names - but it was close. All it took was a slight curl of the upper lip, a disdainful look and a quirk of a crooked eyebrow, and Raymond Doyle knew he had gained an enemy.
It was rare for Doyle to feel such animosity and never so quickly on such little provocation. It was shaming that his temper could be so easily roused by a single sneer. He tried to quash the feeling but it bubbled up inside him, blind to reason. He didn't like the arrogant tilt of the man's head or the coldness in the blue eyes. Irritation prickled along his nerves when he saw conceit in the smooth, unmarred perfection of his face. Doyle's judgement was swift: smug bastard.
The man had to be a soldier - the dark cropped hair, the oh-so-elegant blazer and impossibly shiny shoes spoke of military neatness and precision. He probably even ironed his underwear. In Doyle's book this was as great an offence as putting ketchup all over his home-cooked Spaghetti Bolognese. For some things they really should bring back capital punishment.
As for William Bodie, it took him a few minutes to notice the lean curly-headed scruff staring at him as he was too busy eyeing up the competition - sod George Cowley's speech about teamwork, put a group of highly trained men under fifty in one room and they'd soon be trying to prove who was cock of the roost. A couple of the men looked like they were ex-army and might be useful in a fight - the tall, brown-haired bloke with the mild face could be worth getting to know - but he was sure he could take on any one of them. Then the tall man moved to one side and Bodie found himself pinned by an intense glare, one that seemed to burn right through his super-confident front, exposing the uncertainty and apprehension he had felt since accepting Cowley's offer to join CI5.
Resentment burst forth at such perceptiveness and Bodie swept searching eyes over his examiner, looking for flaws, determined to banish the ridiculous notion that here was someone who could see into his soul. Three seconds later Bodie realised that the intense look had more to do with weighing him up than uncanny abilities. Ten seconds after that, he had examined the man from the top of his curly head to the bottom of his trainer-clad feet. The ex-soldier's assessment was lightning quick: scruffy bugger.
An army 'barber' would soon restore order to those ridiculous curls. As for the clothes! He couldn't help but notice how the faded jeans outlined every curving muscle of the long legs, how the tight denim drew the eye to the parts of a bloke another red-blooded man wasn't supposed to notice. The tightness and smoothness of the denim over the area he was trying desperately not to look at could only mean one thing. The thought voiced itself in loud, outraged tones inside his head: Bloody hell, he's not wearing any underwear!
His groin twitched in sympathy.
Narrowed eyes returned to the over-long curly hair that looked about as natural as snowballs in the Sahara. Another follower of the Kevin Keegan school of fashion perhaps? He noted the cant of the hips, the half open shirt that revealed dark chest hair and the glitter of a silver chain from which dangled two rings. Or did the posing little sod just fancy himself?
Cranking up his sneer a couple of notches, Bodie felt a stab of satisfaction when he saw the other man's mouth thin in response. Now where, he thought to himself, did Cowley dig you up from? Not army, you wouldn't last five minutes. Yeah, you just keep looking at me. You know when you're outclassed, don't you, petal?
Macklin was talking. Bodie listened to the instructor but his eyes remained fastened on Curly Locks. The skinny little bastard wouldn't look away and Bodie was damned if he'd be the first to break eye contact. At that moment the tall agent he had noticed earlier moved in front of Doyle, enabling Bodie to shift his attention to Macklin without any loss of face.
Rather less grateful for Murphy's unwitting intervention, Doyle was tempted to shove the taller man aside so he could match glares again with Smug Bastard. He took a step to the left so that his view was unrestricted but, as he'd expected, the other man was no longer paying him any attention and instead was watching Brian Macklin intently.
Teacher's bloody pet, Doyle sneered to himself, ignoring the tiny inner voice that pointed out he'd left the school playground behind a long time ago.
Doyle was suddenly aware that the instructor was talking to him.
"Just to show you've been listening."
The words 'Oh shit' sprang to mind.
"Come on - Doyle, isn't it? - I'll be gentle."
Doyle gave a knowing smile. "Yeah, course you will. I believe in Father Christmas an' all."
Catching sight of disdainful blue eyes Doyle stepped forward, taking a few moments to warm up. Determined to prove himself he cast aside his usual caution and went straight for the throat. Twenty seconds later Doyle was on the mat seeing stars.
"I'm surprised you lasted long on the streets if that's your usual method of fighting. You're not Bruce Lee and we're not filming a thirty second fight sequence. In real life you use your head - you think you can do better?" Those latter words were directed at a smirking individual who Macklin had noticed taking great delight in Doyle's defeat. "Bodie, right? You're about Doyle's height, bit heavier but I'm sure he'll not complain. Doyle?"
Doyle smiled. A few of his fellow recruits saw that smile and shivered. "Fine by me. Wanna dance?"
"Warm up first, Bodie," Macklin warned when it looked as if the recruit was about to launch himself at Doyle. "Same goes for the rest of you. No, don't bother stripping off," he said as a couple of men unbuttoned their shirts or removed shoes. "I want you fully clothed, just as you'll be on the streets. I can't see some terrorist halting his escape so you can change into your best tracksuit and trainers your mummy bought you for Christmas. Let's pair you off, see if we can make anything other than punching bags out of you lot."
"Remember, this is just a practice bout, I'm not looking for blood. What I am looking for are strengths and weaknesses." Glaring at the men he threatened, "Get carried away and I'll take you apart personally. You watch your opponent, watch their moves, then we have a little chat and see if you've learnt anything."
Warmed up and ready to dismember, Bodie eyed his opponent measuringly. Close up, Doyle was taller and broader than he'd thought. The slim waist and hips and the long legs gave him a slender look, but now about to take him on he saw the breadth of the shoulders and the honed strength in the arms. He was pleased - perhaps Doyle would give him a decent fight.
Then he remembered the uncontrolled manner in which the other man had taken on Macklin.
"Okay, Doyle, let's see what you're made of. Sugar and spice and all things nice, I'll bet." Keeping in mind how quick Doyle had been in his brief bout with Macklin, Bodie stalked him warily, wearing his most evil grin, knowing from past experience that it often unsettled opponents.
Doyle circled, equally wary, never stepping back but always keeping the other man directly in front of him.
Barry Martin, the senior trainer, had just entered the gym when Macklin became aware of raised voices to his right. Correctly guessing a couple of recruits had got a bit keen, he signalled to Martin then shoved his way past half a dozen men who were either shouting encouragement or warnings. Making a mental note as to who was doing what, he reached the over-enthusiastic combatants and found them battered, bloody and about to kill each other.
"Bastard!" Doyle swore as a fist nearly caught him in the throat. "Wanna play rough, do you? Two can play at that game you know."
"That right? Go home to your Sindy doll. You might get hurt playin' with the big lads."
Managing to land a good solid blow to Bodie's mid-section, Doyle had to twist out of the way when he was almost butted. "Nice try, for a brainless, clockwork, bully boy." His leg came up, as if aiming for Bodie's groin. When the other man twisted back and aside to avoid the kick, head lowering with the move, Doyle lashed out, aiming to use the flat of his hand to break the perfect nose, aware that too much force could kill a man.
Bodie swung his head aside, barely evading the blow. Doyle's hand brushed against his cheek, like a brutal caress. He's fast, thought Bodie. And sneaky.
Eyes narrowed to slits, Bodie's accent thickened. The cool front he assumed slipped away to reveal the dangerous hunter that lay beneath the surface, the killer that circumstances had so often forced him to be. "Playtime's over, Doyle. I'm going to make you sorry you ever heard of CI5."
Training took over - gutter fighting, mercenary fighting, armed forces. The leash slipped and Bodie moved in for the kill.
Doyle knew the exact moment when the practice bout turned deadly, knew it when all expression was wiped from Bodie's face. His guts should have turned to water; instead he felt exhilarated.
Time, external movement, seemed to slow down. The noise around Doyle faded. Voices muted. Eyes locked on target. He was conscious only of himself and his opponent - the heat and scent of their perspiring bodies; the sound of their breathing, now a steady rhythmic pant; the dull thud and smack of flesh striking flesh and bone; strength meeting strength.
Instinct took over, the same instinct that had kept him safe as a kid fighting older kids on the streets, as a copper pounding the toughest, meanest beat the city could offer.
Doyle felt someone pulling on his arm. He was aware of a voice yelling close by. But it wasn't Bodie and nothing else mattered, every nerve, every atom was focussed on the man who aroused such irrational fury within him. Carelessly, casually, as though swatting a fly, he freed his arm and struck out, ridding himself of the obstructive presence.
Hoping to catch Bodie off balance, Doyle aimed for the eyes. As Bodie twisted his face aside, he landed a neat chop to the soft flesh of the exposed neck.
Bodie cried out, the sound choked off, hands coming up to cradle his throat.
Seeing the other man's distress and that his guard was down, Doyle darted forward, hands like blades ready to chop at the kidneys.
Too late he realised he'd been fooled into thinking Bodie was seriously hurt.
Doyle fell to the ground, the other man's weight landing on his stomach, driving the air out of him. He was intensely conscious of Bodie's face very close to his own, of the panting breaths gusting, hot and moist, against his neck, loud against his ear. Arching up, he fought to free himself of the powerful body that straddled him, his failure to do so making him acutely aware of his powerlessness and vulnerability. Then fingers were wrapped around his throat, digging into the flesh towards his windpipe, and for the first time he felt fear. Desperation lent Doyle strength and he managed to get his own hands around Bodie's throat.
Not strong enough.
Striving to draw air into his starved lungs, he released Bodie and clawed at the hands around his throat. Even as he did so he knew it to be a futile effort. Lights sparked yet it was growing darker and there was a roaring in his ears, in his head ... and what a bloody stupid way to die.
Bodie was aware that someone was trying to pull him off Doyle but he resisted in an absent way, simply maintaining his hold and ignoring the interference. Doyle's eyes were green, he noticed, was unable not to notice at this distance, so close he could smell traces of the man's aftershave. The pulse in Doyle's throat was a frantic pounding beneath his fingers. Blood was pouring from Doyle's nose and Bodie watched intently as a thin stream reached the parted lips. Fierce triumph and heat exploded within him. Raising the other man's head a little, he leaned closer, eyes fixed on that thin crimson trail. It trickled off to the right, across the flushed face and the broken, now bruised, cheekbone. He had been lucky to land that blow, Doyle was as quick as anyone he'd ever fought. Stronger than he'd expected too, that slim body writhing beneath him was all honed steel - he was getting light-headed from the grip Doyle had around his throat. Then Doyle released him and he could breathe properly.
Taking a few deep breaths, Bodie was vaguely conscious of the hands clawing at his fingers. He became aware of Macklin and Martin shouting at him at the same time as he realised Doyle was about to pass out. His killing fury gone, he released Doyle just as steel fingers dug into the tendons of his wrist. He pulled away with an effort, shooting a murderous glare at Barry Martin.
In front of him, Macklin was helping Doyle to his feet. All around him recruits were eyeing him with varying degrees of awe and disgust. Meeting their stares with indifference, his attention returned to Doyle. Martin was saying something and he forced himself to concentrate on the words.
"You stupid bastard, Bodie."
Oh. Insults. Well he'd heard enough of them in his life-time, he really didn't need to hear any more, particularly from Martin who he suspected wouldn't have any new ones to offer.
Doyle was recovering now and being lectured by Macklin. Poor sod. Didn't seem fair, he'd almost been killed ...
Christ, he'd almost killed ...
You stupid bastard, he castigated himself. How to win friends and be successful at work the Bodie way. Well, that was it then. It was over. He would be out on his ear, deservedly so. And Macklin was still lecturing Doyle. "Give it a rest. If you want to give someone a bollockin', pick on me and have someone look at Doyle."
The look of outrage Macklin gave him and the accompanying choking sound almost made him laugh. Almost. Doyle looked up then and Bodie braced himself for anger.
Doyle's gaze was thoughtful, measuring.
Bodie frowned. What the hell - ?
Martin had finally shut up and Macklin was talking to the rest of the recruits. Bodie paid no attention. Doyle was rubbing his throat absently, still gazing at Bodie.
Feeling uncomfortable before that intense scrutiny but determined not to show it, Bodie muttered in reluctant enquiry, "You all right?"
Doyle shrugged, winced as the movement pulled bruised muscles. Then, unbelievably, he smiled.
Bodie wasn't quite sure why but he smiled back. Macklin was talking again, he realised distantly.
"Right you two, I'm to take you to the infirmary. If it was my choice I'd see you in the morgue but Barry's got a soft heart. Come on, stop glaring at each other and shift yourselves."
Wondering how Macklin could possibly interpret smiles as glares, Bodie and Doyle shifted.
Two hours later found them about to go into the lion's den, aka George Cowley's office.
Eyes fixed ahead, determined not to so much as glance at Doyle, Bodie knocked.
They obeyed, Doyle with a faintly challenging look in his eyes that disguised his nervousness, Bodie feeling like a naughty schoolboy about to face the wrath of his headmaster. The tough ex-mercenary had a sudden mental image of himself aged nine shoving a Maths text book down his pants prior to being caned, and hastily banished the thought. Now was not the time for showing signs of amusement - safer to dip your arse into a tankful of piranhas. He had George Cowley's measure.
Regarding the man seated behind the plain serviceable desk, Bodie saw the thinning sandy hair, the sharp, penetrating eyes that could see right through a lie or a bullshit facade, a lined intelligent face that could charm with a smile or slay with a frown. So serious was George Cowley, or so he seemed to Bodie. He had yet to have a smile directed at him, though stranger things had been known to happen. The Controller of CI5 must be at least fifty, possibly fifty-five though a care-worn face was no indication of age when the man in question had gone from army Major to MI5, from Head of MI5 to sole Controller of Criminal Intelligence Five.
The penetrating gaze was currently fixed on some papers Cowley had in his left hand; clearly of more importance than the two miscreants standing before him. Bodie stifled a grin. Cowley was using an old ploy to create discomfiture; he had expected better of him. Then again, maybe the old dog knew the best tricks were the proven ones. Though far from comfortable with the situation, Bodie assumed the 'at ease' position, eyes fixed at a point some four inches above Cowley's shoulder, waiting until his boss deigned to notice them.
Doyle knew he was scowling and he made a real effort to control his expression. Glancing over at Bodie to see how he was handling the prolonged silence, his scowl slipped free for a second before he could suppress it. Bloody tin soldier. He knew when Bodie would glance his way, though he didn't question the knowledge, and forced a smile onto his lips. He received a very slight smirk in exchange and against his will his smile became genuine. Then he shot a look at Cowley and noticed they were being observed.
"I see despite this morning's violence you both came off lightly. Undeserved luck, I'm sure. I trust the bruising around your throat hasn't affected your speech, Doyle?"
"No, sir." Stick to monosyllables, Doyle told himself.
"Good. Perhaps you can offer an explanation."
So much for plan A. "We got a bit carried away, sir."
"I see. I hear you got so 'carried away' that only the intervention of your trainers prevented murder." Cowley's glare switched to Bodie as that gentleman flinched. "Yes, murder. Unlawful killing. Perhaps you have an explanation since you are the one who inflicted the most damage."
"No excuse, sir."
The smooth tones acquired an edge. "I'm not asking for excuses, Mister Bodie. I'm demanding an explanation."
The perfect soldier mask slipped, expression and body stiffening when he realised there was no answer he could give. Examining his behaviour he saw his reaction to Doyle had been irrational. How could he explain that the moment he saw Doyle glaring at him, radiating aggression despite the casual pose, he'd wanted to smash his face in? He wasn't prone to extreme behaviour. For most of his adult life he had practised his cool assured facade after he'd had the natural self-confidence that comes with youth ripped out of him by the harsh realities of life. He prided himself on staying cool no matter what situation he found himself in. Yet one look from Doyle and he was going for the throat.
Cowley was waiting for an answer.
"No explanation, sir."
"That isn't good enough. All recruits are hand-picked by myself, but I'm only human and I make mistakes. It would appear you are one of them, Mister Bodie. Now how do you think I should rectify that mistake?"
There it was, the killer question - emphasis on the word killer. He would be grabbing the back of his own collar and kicking himself up the arse out of here, but in all honesty he couldn't say anything else: "Dismissal, sir." Deserved, too. They would send him back into the service, but the thought of being ... ah. He was forgetting, he no longer had that option. He had very few options if truth be told. He suspected CI5 had been his last chance at a legitimate life. He'd thought he was finished with Africa for good but ... No, that was over, he couldn't ... He realised Doyle was talking.
"...so if we're equally to blame, does that mean we're both dismissed?"
Bodie frowned. What the hell was the stupid sod on about?
"I've not said anything about dismissal. However I'm somewhat surprised to hear you defend Bodie after this morning."
"I'm not defending him, just stating facts. Anyway, it's like this, we've had a talk - "
Bodie's eyes opened very wide but his expression remained neutral.
" - and everything's okay with us now. You could call it temporary insanity."
"I hope to God it is temporary! I cannot have men acting like boys fighting over who is king of the playground. Save your posturing for Friday nights to impress your girlfriends, I'll not have it in CI5, d'ye hear?" Both men murmured affirmatives.
"Now get out of my sight, the pair of you, before I come to my senses and get rid of you both. You're in the lecture room, Doctor Rigby will be giving a talk on first aid out in the field, something that should be of use to you if you're usually so quick to lose your tempers." He glanced down at the papers he had placed on his desk then looked up again at the tense figures before him. "I thought I gave you an order."
Bodie snapped to attention, barely resisting the urge to salute. "Yes, sir. Thank you."
Doyle regarded his boss thoughtfully, knowing there was something other than luck or the milk of human kindness behind this mild reprimand. Cowley matched him look for look then turned up the intensity of his frown by a couple of degrees. Doyle refused to look away but gave a reluctant, "Yes, sir."
Together they left Cowley to his files then headed down the corridor towards the lecture theatre. No words were spoken but Doyle was aware of the puzzled looks Bodie kept flicking in his direction. Inwardly he was gleeful. He had Bodie thoroughly confused - the stupid cretin was taking his smiles at face value and thought he was forgiven. Not bloody likely. Doyle could still feel the imprint of the other man's hands around his throat, felt anew the thrill of fear when he thought he was about to die.
Oh, no. Bodie was far from forgiven, only Cowley kept him from pounding the bastard's head into the nearest wall. So violence was out. Well, that was fine, irritation was just as much fun and left no visible marks. And if he could get Bodie to lose his temper again then nothing would stop Cowley from giving Bodie his marching orders.
It was a pity his sense of justice and fair play had made him speak up for Bodie, but perhaps that was all to the good. No point having Bodie kicked off the training programme without Doyle being able to savour it. No, more fun to see Bodie sweat. A little goading was called for, just let him relax then catch him off his guard.
At least it would liven things up around here.
They arrived at the Lecture Theatre just ahead of Doctor Rigby. When they entered, Murphy signalled to Doyle and indicated the empty seat next to him. There was a slide projector on the desk at the front of the room and Doyle groaned - not another bloody slide show.
Bodie could not help but be aware of the cool looks several recruits sent his way. He feigned indifference and, resisting the temptation to take a seat alone on the back row, he deliberately chose a seat in the middle row, next to the recruit who had that morning introduced himself as Jax - though whether this was his first name or surname was unclear; very big on surnames was this lot. He waited for the man to say something or give him a look and was surprised at the relief he felt when Jax merely flicked a brief curious glance at him.
Lunch had been a hasty affair, a speedily gobbled sandwich after leaving the infirmary prior to seeing Cowley. Their boss had kept them waiting for nearly an hour before seeing them. Now his stomach was growling its discontent and he found himself counting the minutes until the lecture was over.
An hour later and Bodie was going cross-eyed from staring at the projector screen. His notepad remained untouched, Bodie having learned nothing new. Just as Doctor Rigby finally shut up about arterial bleeding, his stomach gave an extra loud rumble, and he flicked a self-conscious glance to his left to find Jax grinning sympathetically. He gave an answering grin, praying that the lecturer would run out of things to say and let them go.
Another two hours passed before Doctor Rigby finally ended his talk and the recruits were free to go. They were due to go out on the firing range in half an hour so there was just enough time to grab something to eat.
Bodie left the room ahead of the others, not wanting to be around when they paired off or formed their little groups, certainly not wanting to be there while they eyed him as though he were some new disgusting form of life. He didn't see it as running away, it was simply a waste of time to hang around when he had better things to do. Nor did he waste energy getting angry; what the other men thought of him was of no consequence, and if he'd been hoping to find friends amongst this group, well he'd always been something of a loner, he had a few mates from the Paras, and there was life outside CI5.
Busy watching Bodie, Doyle was surprised to find himself being herded towards the canteen. Wondering how Murphy had managed to lead him somewhere he hadn't intended to go without resorting to strong-arm tactics, Doyle seated himself at a table while the other man fetched coffee.
Absently he looked about him. Spotting Bodie eating a toasted sandwich at the far end of the canteen, he willed him to look up. He felt no surprise when Bodie looked his way. Doyle gave a slight smile and had the satisfaction of seeing Bodie's perplexed expression. At that moment Murphy arrived with the coffee. Doyle switched his attention to the mud-coloured liquid that tasted marginally better than that dispensed by the drinks machines located in the corridors. Having experienced CI5 coffee during their pre-training assessment, this was a prime example of desperation and determination winning over common sense.
He took a cautious sip, glancing up to give ironic thanks, when he noticed for the first time that Murphy's nose was swollen and had been bleeding. "How d'you do that, Murph? Not looking where you were going?"
Murphy touched his nose gingerly and looked pointedly at Doyle. "This is what happens when you try to stop a pair of idiots from nearly killing each other."
Doyle frowned, recalled the fight, then remembered someone trying to pull him away from Bodie. He'd lashed out. Guiltily, he made an apology. "Sorry about that, thought it was Macklin."
"I see. And that would have made it all right then?"
"I suppose not." Doyle grinned. "But I wouldn't be sitting here feeling guilty if it had been him, probably be celebrating or something."
Refusing to be charmed by that grin, Murphy asked, "Have you met Bodie before?"
"No, only lads I saw before today are you and Lawrence, when we had our assessment."
"So what was all that about this morning? You and Bodie hadn't spoken a single word to each other, yet the next thing I see is the two of you literally at each other's throats. What happened, you didn't like his taste in clothes?"
Doyle shrugged. "Something like that." Leaning closer to Murphy, right elbow propped on the table, his fingers idly rubbed his right temple and the curls that fell there. His eyes flicked back and forth, from the circular pattern he was making in some spilt water, to Murphy. "Have you ever seen somebody, someone you're sure you've never met before, and had such a strong reaction to them that you've wanted to - ?" Doyle broke off, frowning to himself.
"Smash their face in?"
"I suppose so. I dunno. It was just the way he was looking at me, like I was nothing, you know? Well, no, that's not it either, I was watching him before he spotted me. It was the way he looked, arrogant, so full of himself, like he thought he was better than everyone else."
"You wanted him to admit he wasn't, that he was as human as the rest of us?" Murphy asked.
"Yeah. And then he looked at me, like I was beneath his notice, like I wasn't worth noticing because he'd never have need of me, I mean my help or anyone else's. Like I was nothing."
"And that annoyed you."
"I just wanted to wipe that smug look off his face. I could feel the anger boiling up inside."
"Out of control."
"Yeah. You ever felt like that?"
"Oh." Taken aback, Doyle looked about him for a diversion, uncomfortable with the topic. He caught Bodie looking their way and gave him a beaming smile that made the other man blink.
"Hmm?" Doyle recalled his attention to the man opposite him.
"What are you up to?"
"Don't know what you mean, mate."
Murphy fixed him with an impatient look. "You keep smiling at him."
"Just being friendly," Doyle said blandly.
Not having heard the other man swear, even mildly, Doyle was so taken aback that he had no smart reply ready.
"You don't like him just as much now as this morning, and I don't think you've forgiven him. Just what are you plotting, Ray?"
"Scared I'll hurt the big butch soldier?"
"Concerned you'll get yourself kicked off the course because you can't control your temper. And maybe I'm concerned you'll get a good man kicked off it as well. You know how picky CI5 is, nothing but the best for George Cowley. Like it or not, Bodie is good, and from what I've seen and heard about him maybe he is better than us - for now. Whether he'll still be the best at the end of training remains to be seen, we'll all get better if we can last the course. But we'll all be on the same side, working together, and there's no room for rivalry in this game."
Doyle's tone was mocking. "You sound just like Cowley. Introductory speech number three, right?"
Eyes narrowed, Murphy pushed his chair away from the table, about to leave.
Repentant, Doyle sighed and said, "Sorry. That was uncalled for." Waiting until Murphy sat back down, he added, "Look, thanks for the advice but I know what I'm doing. I won't do anything that will get Cowley riled, just a harmless little joke to get even with the Scouse Louse and I'll feel better about things. No blood. Scout's honour."
Smiling reluctantly, Murphy said, "Bet you were never in the Scouts."
"True, the Brownie's was much more interesting. You should've seen Brown Owl, first female without tissues stuffed down her bra I ever fell in love with ..." His eyes on Murphy's laughing face, he was very aware of Bodie approaching their table. When Bodie stopped at his side he waited a few seconds before looking up.
Bodie had been watching Doyle from the moment he'd entered the canteen. Try as he might he couldn't ignore him, watching his expressions though he couldn't hear what he and the tall man were talking about.
Doyle puzzled him, all glowering hostility one minute, all quick, warm smiles the next. Hot and cold. He could deal with one or the other, but this abrupt swing from aggression to apparent forgiveness threw him. He suspected Doyle was still angry about their fight in the gym, and he was a little aggrieved since it hadn't been entirely his fault though Doyle had, admittedly, got the worst of it. He regretted losing his temper as he had, still couldn't quite believe the violence of his response to Doyle; he found it disturbing.
Time to swallow his pride, he thought, show Doyle he was man enough to offer him an apology. Surely the man who had told Cowley he was equally to blame for the fight, had lied to Cowley saying they had sorted out their differences to smooth things with their boss, surely such a man would see that nothing could be gained by open hostility?
Having finished his tea, Bodie stood up to dispose of his empty cup and plate, then headed towards the other men. "Doyle."
Green eyes lifted and gazed at him enquiringly. Ignoring Murphy who was watching him closely, Bodie said, "I owe you an apology for this morning. Got too involved in the fight, forgot it was an exercise."
"You always try to kill your opponent?" Doyle's tone was bland, free of hostility as was his expression. To the casual observer they might have appeared to be talking about the football results or the weather.
"Not always. Not unless provoked," Bodie replied, his look pointed, remembering the kick to the groin that would have done more than take his breath away if it had connected.
Acknowledging the point, Doyle replied, "Yeah, we both went a little crazy."
Bodie nodded once, glanced at Murphy, then left them to drink their lukewarm coffee.
Men such as Doyle liked to work hard and play hard, taking the occasional risk if only to prove something to themselves. There was a distinct difference between taking chances and a death wish, and some things were simply not worth the risk. This was the case with the toxic substance known as CI5 canteen coffee. Doyle braved one final sip and gave up. "Come on, we'd better head for the firing range."
Still highly suspicious but reluctant to press Doyle further, Murphy nodded his agreement. He wrinkled his nose at his coffee but, in a grand show of bravado, gulped it down, to his own and Doyle's distaste.
It wasn't until they were halfway down the corridor that the faintly frowning Murphy realized what had been so wrong with the conversation between Doyle and Bodie. While Doyle had acknowledged a mutual loss of temper, he hadn't offered a reciprocal apology.
This did not bode well. Murphy knew the budget for CI5 must be reasonably substantial. Would it stretch to pay for the soon to be necessary earplugs and bomb shelters?