Bodie was knackered, despairing and desperate. He’d searched everywhere for his missing partner but was starting to conclude that Doyle had, in his New Year’s Eve’s desolation, taken the ultimate, irrevocable step and killed himself.
He’d been through anger: black rage at his partner for being so weak and selfish, fury at himself for failing Doyle so badly, and outrage that Doyle had slipped away without a word. He’d vacillated between utter denial that his partner would take such a step, and the faint, uneasy doubt that just possibly, in his darkest moments, Doyle might well yield to the demons he kept shackled deep inside his soul.
He hadn’t called Cowley, but had put in a tentative call to Murphy, reaching him at his girlfriend’s flat. Murphy was irritated but understanding. He’d ask around a bit, he’d said, and rung off. Bodie continued searching on his own, checking all Doyle’s haunts, ranging further and further, criss-crossing London throughout the day and into the night. All unsuccessfully.
He’d finally come back to Doyle’s flat in a faint hope that just perhaps his partner might be waiting for him, but the flat was as he had left it, cold and empty. Bodie sat in brooding silence. He was going to have to ring Cowley.
When the doorbell rang he leaped up as if shot.
‘Yours, I believe?’
The sodden, reeking, disgusting specimen of humanity deposited over the doorstep was Doyle. Bodie stared, gobsmacked. Anson continued impatiently, ‘Don’t just fucking stand there, Bodie, let us in.’ What seemed to be the entire A-squad trooped in behind Doyle, some of it equally sodden and reeking.
‘Don’t you ever let him off the leash like that again,’ said McCabe, glowering at Bodie.
Bodie blinked. Doyle staggered further down the hallway.
‘Yeah, you pillock. You know what he’s like on New Year’s Eve,’ said Murphy witheringly. ‘If you can’t keep a better eye on him next year then you can’t come with us. We’re not going through this again.’ He shrugged out of a revoltingly filthy jacket and deposited it on the floor.
Doyle subsided with a groan next to it, curling into it as if it were a goosefeather quilt. ‘Oi, don’t you dare!’ said Murphy, grabbing the jacket back and upsetting Doyle’s precarious equilibrium.
‘Watch out!’ yelled Jax.
Macklin would have been proud of the way the entire squad of agents leapt with balletic precision out of the way as Doyle vomited over the floor and Murphy’s jacket impartially.
‘Fucking hell! My foot!’
Doyle vomited again.
‘I’ve cut my fucking foot open!’
‘My jacket! He’s puked all over my jacket!’
‘Sod your jacket! What the fuck ‘ave I stood on?’ Lucas was clutching one foot, Murphy was holding up a dripping jacket and Doyle had rolled to his hands and knees.
‘He did this all over my car. I don’t know why you’re worried about a jacket. Looks like it’s had it anyway, Murph. I’d just chuck it if I were you. Ha – that’s good, that is! Chuck it!’ Allison was charmed by his own humour but the rest ignored him.
This was surreal, thought Bodie. One moment he was mourning his partner, the next, the flat was full of agents either complaining, puking or bleeding. He shook his head. Focus. Doyle – that was the important thing. He bent over his partner with a blinding grin on his face.
‘Hello, sunshine,’ he murmured confidentially into Doyle’s ear.
Doyle groaned. Bodie beamed.
‘I don’t know what you’re moaning about,’ groused Lewis, glaring at Doyle. ‘You had a high old time. No point complaining now.’
‘Par for the course, innit? said Jax morosely. ‘Last year, he got drunk, climbed on the table in front of Cowley and started declaiming bits from some Russian book about glasnost and censorship. Could ‘ave got himself hauled off to GCHQ for a right kicking.’
‘The year before, he sobbed down Ruth’s blouse and it went completely transparent all down the front. Remember that? She’s never forgiven him.’ Corrigan’s eyes glazed over with reminiscent lust.
‘No, that was three years ago,’ objected Allison. ‘The year before last, he got up onto the roof of HQ and started lobbing bottles of beer towards the river, saying it was filthy and didn’t have any fish in it. That was a nasty one because he lost his temper and it took four of us to get him down, remember?’
‘Anyway,’ said McCabe crossly, ‘the point is, Bodie, he’s your partner, therefore he’s your problem.’
Bodie looked up from his rapt contemplation of Doyle. ‘I can’t believe you found him, lads. I’ve been looking everywhere. Where was he?’
‘Ha! You were looking everywhere? After your call to Murph, we were all looking too – the whole bleeding day and night, mate,’ said Pennington dourly.
‘We even had to drag Stuart in.’
Bodie looked around. Indeed, Stuart, the undercover King of South London, was there, glaring at him.
‘So where was he?’
‘Hammersmith Bridge. Leaning over. The stupid sod was so drunk he couldn’t work out which foot to put on the railings first. When I caught up with him all he could say was, “Are these my feet, Stuart? ‘Cos they’re not working right.” Daft bugger.’
There was a pitiful groan from the daft bugger under discussion.
‘My head hurts.’
‘It’d hurt more if I’d been allowed to knock your block off. I should have been out with Sandra last night. If she gives me the push, Doyle, I’ll take you back to Hammersmith Bridge and I’ll throw you in myself!’
‘Does nobody care about my sodding foot? I’m bleeding to death here!’ Lucas, never one to suffer in silence, had been examining his wounds.
McCabe was well used to his partner’s ways. ‘You’re not bleeding to death, you’re bleating to death.’
‘Oh, very funny. Look! There’s blood everywhere! Something’s gone right through the sole of my shoe!’ The pathetic look Lucas aimed at McCabe made him roll his eyes to the ceiling.
‘If you wore decent shoes instead of these fashion things, you wouldn’t – Oh, give it here. Bodie, where does Ray keep his first aid kit?’
Bodie was beaming at Doyle and wasn’t paying attention. McCabe, muttering, headed for the kitchen to search.
‘Why isn’t there any heating on in here? It’s bloody cold.’ Having restored Doyle to his partner, the A squad was now bored and in need of food, gossip and praise for a job well done.
‘Yeah, get the kettle on as well. Any chance of a fry-up?’
Bodie looked pityingly at his colleagues. ‘Unfortunately, lads, dopey here turned the heating off and cleared his fridge out before he left. There’s nothing. No milk, no bread, nothing.’
They looked at him disbelievingly. ‘Nothing?’ Murphy’s puppy-dog eyes failed to raise any sympathy in Bodie’s heart.
‘Right.’ Anson’s military background kicked in. ‘John – go and get some supplies in. There’s a shop round the corner that’ll be open.’ Anson was cold and hungry, and foraging came naturally. Unless there was a junior officer present, in which case command came even more naturally.
‘Why me? And how do you know it will?’ Rivers was indignant.
‘You’re the junior on this squad. And I used to have this flat. Go.’
As one, the senior agents turned on the hapless Rivers a look of such concentrated malevolence that he capitulated without further protest.
‘I haven’t got any money though,’ he pleaded meekly.
‘Here,’ Jax said, tossing him Doyle’s wallet which was still lined up neatly on the table next to his Browning and ID. ‘Take this. It’s the least the sod can do for us.’
As Rivers left, Bodie grabbed Doyle by the arms. ‘Ups-a-daisy!’ he said, hauling carefully.
‘Yep. Come on, let’s get you cleaned up a bit, before we tuck you into bed, eh?’
In the bathroom, Bodie parked Doyle on the loo and made a swift evaluation of the disaster zone in front of him. The worst, he decided, was on his clothes, and in his hair, which was stringy with vomit. Stripping Doyle briskly, he wiped him down with a damp flannel and rinsed his hair off in the sink. That would do, he thought.
‘Right, sunshine, bedtime.’
As they lurched down the corridor again, there was a buzz at the door bell and a cheer went up from the assembled crowd. ‘It’s Johnny with the grub!’
The agents were less than pleased to see the intrepid explorer’s empty-handed return.
‘What’s up? Couldn’t find the shop?’
‘Couldn’t find his dick with a map, that one,‘ growled Stuart.
‘No,’ said Rivers indignantly, although with a wary eye on Stuart. ‘Doyle’s bloody wallet was empty, wasn’t it?’
There were howls of protest from the hungry agents.
‘Why am I not surprised?’
‘Here, take Bodie’s wallet. He’s used to forking out for Doyle.’ Murphy grabbed Bodie’s jacket as he came past.
‘Hmmm? Oh, yeah, take what you want.’ Bodie manoeuvred Doyle into his room and into bed, trying not to fuss.
There was a cheer as Rivers returned. Someone had turned the heating on, someone else had cleaned up the puke and the glass, and Doyle was now tucked up safely. Bodie started to relax.
In the sitting room, everyone’s attention was diverted by the reappearance of Rivers, who had taken the opportunity to change out of his vomit-spattered jeans into a pair of Doyle’s. ‘How the hell does he get these things on?’
The assembled agents looked at the skinny white legs revealed in the doorway, and then up – pointedly – at the grubby white Y-fronts that appeared to be slightly too large to contain the insignificant contents.
Rivers blushed, and retreated. ‘Seriously, though, these won’t even go over my knees. What ‘m I gonna do?’
Murphy shook his head solemnly. ‘Penn, you have to have a word with the lad.’
Pennington shrugged. ‘I’ve tried, mate, believe me. There’s only so far I’m willing to go.’
‘Oh, sod off,’ came a fading voice. ‘Look, it’s fucking cold in here, all right?’
Giving it up as a bad job, Murphy turned his attention to more important matters. ‘Bodie! Where does Doyle keep his frying pan?’
From the bedroom Bodie shouted, ‘It’s a kitchen, Murph. You’re a trained CI5 agent. I’m sure you’ll find it.’
‘No bacon for you, you bastard!’
Bodie tuned out the chorus of laughter, smiling. He couldn’t say it, but he deeply appreciated what they’d done. They’d turned out, all of them, on a rainy New Year’s Day. They’d combed London to find Doyle. They’d searched until they found him, keeping going through the night, passing information backwards and forwards. And they did it even though Doyle was a ratty-tempered, miserable sod who’d brought all this on himself, and caused them to miss the day or the afternoon or the evening with their girlfriends or families.
He turned back to Doyle, now curled under the quilt. There was one thing left to clarify.
‘Ray, what did you mean, you can’t do this any more?’ He watched the pale face anxiously while Doyle struggled to process the question.
‘What…? Oh, my note?’
‘Yeah. You had me worried, sunshine.’
‘I meant… I’m fed up of being such a miserable bastard on New Year’s Eve. I wanted to come and find you –‘ he was overtaken by a massive yawn ‘but I got a bit confused –‘ another yawn ‘an’ I didn’t know where you were, an’ then the next thing I knew was… I dunno, really. Stuart was there, I think.’ His eyes closed and his face relaxed into sleep.
Bodie sat back and regarded him with exasperation. Would it help if he thumped him? The rest of the squad wouldn’t mind, in fact they’d probably cheer him on. He shook his head, marvelling at the utter stupidity of this man that he loved. At his own stupidity, for loving him to the point of forgiveness for what had been a very nasty 36 hours. Next year, he vowed, would be different. Bodie smiled, brushed a kiss over the filthy curls and went to join the party in the kitchen.