Miss Lang (he tried to avoid remembering that her name was Annie) opened the car door for him, mercifully confining her greeting to "Good morning, sir," refraining from any banal comment about the incessant rain.
"Anything from the office?"
She would normally have handed him the small selection of his post which Betty deemed worthy of quick attention once he had settled into the back seat, but this being Easter Sunday he was expecting none.
"Just this, sir. Betty says she meant to give it to you on Friday but you were away at the conference."
A hand-addressed envelope. Doyle's writing.
He sighed. Something trivial. Angling for a salary increase, no doubt, or complaining about unapproved expense chits.
"Any word about Gresham, Miss Lang?"
"No change, sir. His parents are there. And Bodie said to tell you he and Doyle have a team following a couple of leads."
"I should hope so," Cowley snapped.
It had been a miserable disaster of a weekend. Four men dead, three in hospital, Gresham not expected to live. No real clue whether the bombings were down to the IRA or the Libyans or some other unconsidered agency. If there were more to come...
He looked at the envelope, grateful that those two had been away from the slaughter. He valued them more than it would ever do to let them realise. He recalled that they had the weekend off, but here they were, pulling the investigation together. They might so easily have been among the dead.
He slit the envelope open.
Dear Mr Cowley,
You will find our resignations enclosed.
Mentally winded, he slid the sheet of paper back into the envelope and tucked it into the inside pocket of his coat. The last damned straw! He couldn't face knowing why just now.
The car drew up in front of the church and delivered him to one more duty.
After the service of joy and resurrection, during which he could only think of the four funerals he'd soon have to attend, he stayed sitting in the inconspicuous corner he favoured these days. He had resigned his formerly active participation last year, pleading pressure of work, but resolutely attended every Sunday, hoping that some gleam of the old sustaining faith might return. It had been a slow draining away until now his soul felt as grey and dreary as the weather. He hadn't taken communion for weeks.
He kept his head bowed to ward off any well-meant inquiries until there was silence except for a few unconcerned church personnel going about their post-service duties, then he ventured a glance up at the dull rose window. He couldn't remember when its glory of blue and red and green had last been illuminated by the sun, or when he had last seen the sun, for that matter.
"They'll be going into the ark two by two any minute," someone had joked yesterday, and later he had lost four of his men, two partnerships, two by two.
A tentative twiddle of notes sounded from the organ. A couple of scales. A testing of the stops. Nothing to afford any satisfaction.
When had he last been to a concert? (The opera he had flinched from since Annie had...) Occasionally he would put a record on but always as an almost unheard background to work, the heaps of papers that never seemed to diminish. When had he last listened properly? When had he last had a game of golf? Had lunch with a friend at his club? Taken Elizabeth up on her standing invitation to drop in any time?
Four funerals. Probably five.
Better see what it was all about. He fished out the envelope and spread the top sheet.
Dear Mr Cowley,
You will find our resignations enclosed.
We have been involved for over two years, against your known wishes, for which we apologise, but have decided to commit ourselves to a permanent relationship.
If you feel able to keep us on we'll assure you of our continued utmost discretion and loyalty, but understand if you do not find this possible.
For a moment he couldn't comprehend.
Involved? Those two?
He stared up at the mosaic patterns of the rose window, lost in puzzled thought for long minutes while his brain shuffled and rearranged pieces of what he'd believed to be reality.
All those women...
The new reality clicked into place.
He didn't have to lose them. Even if their resolution of utmost discretion were to be breached by some astute troublemaker he had his own discretion, established at the beginning of CI5, that in his hands alone lay the decision to hire whomever he considered necessary, up to and including convicted murderers. A couple of homosexuals presented no problem.
A couple, indeed. Those two?
Doyle, perhaps. He'd shown a bit more of a tendency to longer relationships. There had been that nurse, Claire, and the Holly woman.
They must be very sure, the pair of them. Very certain.
Had he ever been certain of Annie, even before she left him shattered?
He brushed away the pain which would never really die, glanced at the formal letters of resignation, and tucked the envelope back into his pocket.
Those two. He didn't have to lose them. The one saving grace of the day.
"Thank you," he said to the unhearing absence, and as if in acknowledgement a few bars of Bach he couldn't immediately identify fell into the silence. Almost involuntarily he murmured, "Into Thy hands..." All of them who passed through his own hands, the living and the dead.
It was still raining, but as he headed for the waiting car there was a sudden watery gleam of sunlight. Sunshower, fox's wedding the Japanese called it.
"Oh, look, sir!"
A rainbow spread across the sky, obedient to immutable physics long before any covenant was proclaimed, more glorious than any rose window.
Chesterton, was it? - The shining silence of the scorn of God. Cowley's lips twitched. "Aye, very funny."
"Nothing, nothing. Well, Miss Lang, I fancy paying a call on Miss Walsh. Do you know the way?"
"I think so, sir, but you may have to give me directions once we're out of town."
Those two. So very certain. And he wasn't going to lose them. Not from this cause, anyhow.
He settled back into the car.
He'd find a way to let them know casually that they were still on the strength, but if they expected a benevolent smile they'd be out of luck.
Four funerals. Five...
A second fainter rainbow echoed the primary for a few moments, a last blessing of brightness before the rain closed in again.