The Long Trick
‘’And just where d’you think you’re going, Casanova?’’ demanded Bodie, making a grab for his partner’s arm.
As mercurial as ever, Doyle slipped through his fingers, pirouetting round on his cowboy boots and grinning like a baboon. Having turned full circle, Doyle bounded up the steps of the summer training college and disappeared through the heavy swing doors at its entrance.
Bodie sighed the sigh of the long suffering and went to lean against the bonnet of his capri. To anyone who cared to take an interest, leaning against his capri signalled that he was a nonchalant man of the world, who just happened to find himself with a few idle moments on his hands. Actually getting in and waiting, suggested that he was Doyle’s poodle, and any impartial observer only had to look at Doyle to know which of them resembled a poodle.
The college doors swung open again, but only a gaggle of visiting Nigerian nurses emerged. Bodie straightened instinctively, but they were the studious type, all shiny faces and starched uniforms. Bodie subsided and folded his arms.
The next time the college doors opened, a man in a white coat emerged and hurried across the gravel driveway to disappear through a green door set in an imposing privet hedge. Bodie knew the neatly clipped wall of greenery screened the staff car park, but he didn’t hear an engine. For a few minutes he entertained himself theorising possible explanations for this, then the green door opened again and the man hurried back into the college.
Bodie spent a few more minutes concocting increasingly implausible motives for the man’s behaviour, after which, he gave in and checked his watch. Admitting to himself that Doyle might as well have tied his lead to a lamppost, and that he was actually more bored than nonchalant.
When the next swing of the college doors still produced no Doyle, Bodie gave up and went in search of his errant partner.
The corridors of the august institution were full of international students, gathered in small earnest clusters, nurses sporting a variety of uniforms, and other medics wearing indistinguishable white coats, all speaking a babel of languages. Doyle should stand out like a sore thumb, but he was nowhere to be seen.
Bodie popped his head round a few classroom doors, just on the off chance, but garnered nothing but a few blankly incurious stares. Almost at the point of giving up, and calling Doyle on his radio, he found Doyle sitting alone in one of the common rooms.
Doyle didn’t look like a man who had just netted the nurse of his dreams. Bodie sat down next to his partner. Upon closer inspection, Doyle looked like a man who required a nurse more for her professional talents, than her romantic ones.
‘’Strike out with Nitty Nora?’’ asked Bodie, hoping he’d misread the symptoms and Doyle was just wallowing in one of his lovelorn melancholies.
‘'Not yet’’ replied Doyle ‘’Something came up.’’
‘’Thought that’s why you wanted to see her’’ suggested Bodie with impish salaciousness.
‘’Leave it, Bodie’’ warned Doyle ‘’I’m not in the mood.’’
‘’You were in the mood half an hour ago’’ objected Bodie ‘’What happened?’’
‘’Cowley’’ snarled Doyle, almost spitting the word.
‘’Ah’’ comprehended Bodie sagely ‘’ What’s he stuck you with?’’
‘’I need time to think’’ answered Doyle distractedly ‘’I’ve got to get me head straight, figure out my next move.’’
‘’Who are you kidding?’’ scoffed Bodie ‘’You do what the Cow tells you to, mate, no choice about it.’’
‘’Not this time’’ countered Doyle, rising to leave ‘’This time the duplicitous, conniving old bastard can go do the other thing.’’
‘’Splendid’’ replied Bodie, rising to join his partner and rubbing his hands together cheerily ‘’I look good in black, just tell me where you want to be buried.’’
What little colour was left drained from Doyle’s features, and he looked as if he might throw up on the spot.
More alarmed than he cared to admit, Bodie demanded ‘’How about, you stop pratting about and tell me what’s going on?’’
‘’What do you see when you look in the mirror, Bodie?’’ obfuscated Doyle irritably ‘’And don’t give me all that guff about being irresistible, I don’t give a damn. What do you see?’’
‘’I’m not playing twenty bloody questions’’ countered Bodie argumentatively, concern gnawing at his patience ‘’What’s this all about?’’
‘’I just found out I murdered a man’’ snapped Doyle, though the bile seemed to be inwardly directed, as if Bodie was incidental to the outburst.
Bizarrely relieved, Bodie softened his tone, filling it with warmth and understanding ‘’You’ve killed before, Sunshine’’ he cajoled gently ‘’Bit late to start letting it get to you now.’’
‘’I didn’t say killed’’ corrected Doyle obdurately ‘’I said murdered.’’
‘’What’s the difference?’’ asked Bodie ‘’Dead’s dead.’’
‘’You’re right’’ Doyle abruptly conceded, although he looked about a million miles away from being convinced ‘’Once you’re dead, why would you give a damn about how you got there? Only, thing is, Bodie – I’m the one who cares. Me, because if I didn’t, if I didn’t…’’ Doyle’s voice caught on a rough spot somewhere in his throat ‘’Because, if I didn’t, Bodie, what would that make me?’’
‘’When have you ever killed anyone who wasn’t asking for it?’’ chided Bodie ‘’Terrifies me sometimes, the way you give everyone a chance but yourself.’’
‘’Not everyone’’ said Doyle quietly.
‘’Okay, then’’ challenged Bodie ‘’Name one. Go on. Name one. Give me one bloke you put down when you shouldn’t have. One bloke. When it wasn’t you or him - or him or me.’’
‘’Paul Coogan’’ replied Doyle steadily ‘’Remember him?’’
‘’Don’t tell me you’re still harping on about that?’’ dismissed Bodie impatiently ‘’Get smart, mate. It was proved, his brother thumped him. Okay, so maybe you did as well, but that wasn’t the one that did the damage. Even that Mather bird had to accept that. ’’
‘’No’’ denied Doyle emphatically ‘’What she and her bloody inquisition had to accept was that no one could prove I killed him.’’
‘’So what makes you so special?’’ demanded Bodie ‘’I don’t know if you’ve noticed, Sunshine, but you’re not a lawyer - and I don’t care if you’ve shagged Florence bloody Nightingale herself - it still doesn’t make you a nurse. So how come the lawyers and the medics can’t say who killed him, but the righteous truth suddenly reveals itself to Saint Raymond of Doyle? Had an epiphany from on high, have we?’’
‘’Yeah’’ snarled Doyle contemptuously, though the contempt, like the bile, seemed inwardly directed ‘’Something like that.’’
Frustrated, Bodie fell back on a trusted remedy ‘’Look, let’s get out of here. Find a pub somewhere, drown our sorrows.’’
‘’You drown ‘em’’ retorted Doyle dismissively, rising to leave as a pretty brunette arrived at the door of the common room ‘’I have other plans.’’
Bodie smiled in relief and resignation, of course Doyle’s belligerent, existential soul searching would end in the absolution of the bedroom.
Following his partner’s lead, Bodie got up and headed out of the building. But, when it came to it, he found himself prevaricating about starting the engine of the capri. Minutely adjusting the wing mirrors, rubbing away smudges on the windscreen, picking lint from the upholstery and sifting through the glove box. All driven by the barely acknowledged hope that he’d catch a glimpse of Doyle, and be reassured that his partner hadn’t evaded the brunette’s company for a second time, and headed off on his own for a night of self recrimination and self loathing.
Ten minutes went by with no sign of Doyle. Finally, Bodie turned the key in the ignition and headed for home, unable to shake the disquieting feeling that in some obscure way he had failed Doyle.
On the outskirts of town, Bodie changed his mind about going home and decided to go to the pub after all. Some part of him craving the company of souls less complicated than his partner’s. He left the capri outside his flat, preventing anyone else nicking his space and, feeling better already, jauntily dropped the keys into his pocket.
Looking up, he caught the eye of his neighbour, a statuesque blonde currently graced with a main of soft curls that must have cost a bomb in some west end salon. She was putting a bulging bin liner in her dustbin with more satisfaction than the simple domestic chore commonly merited.
Bodie recognised the signs ‘’Slung him out, have we, love?’’
The blonde smiled at him sheepishly ‘’Always was a rotten bleeder.’’
‘’Fancy some company?’’ hazarded Bodie, nodding in the direction of the pub.
‘’Yeah, why not?’’ the blonde replied ‘’Just let me get me coat.’’
The blonde disappeared into her flat and emerged two minutes later in a fox fur coat. She locked the street door, dropping the keys into a beaded evening bag, and joined Bodie on the pavement.